‘And where did it all come from?’
Mr James frowned. ‘Er…’
‘It must have come from somewhere, things can’t just appear can they?’
‘Tom…’ Mr James shook his head in confusion. ‘I need you to focus.’
‘…and there is so much of it! How much is there? A million? A billion?’
Mr James dropped his knee down next to Tom’s desk and slipped his pencil from his little hand. Tom, gazing at the picture of the Earth hanging next to the whiteboard, didn’t notice. He was utterly transfixed.
‘…It must be so heavy! My mum asked me to carry a big bottle of water from the car once, and it was really heavy! It’s weird though because I can swim in it, and it doesn’t feel heavy on me then… I feel really light when i’m swimming. I feel like i’m flying! Why is water so heavy when you carry it? Is it the bottle? Actually it can’t be the bottle because when I made that rocket out of a bottle it was really easy to pick up and I could throw it through the air and my brother had one too and…’
‘Tom! Please listen.’
Tom broke his gaze with the earth picture and looked down towards the pencil Mr James had in his hand.
Is that my pencil? He thought to himself.
‘Tom, You have done some good work here but you still need to write down your working out.’
‘But I do it in my head and…’
‘You won’t get good marks if you don’t write it all down Tom.’
‘I get really confused when I write it dow…’
‘You need to practice then.’
‘Did I get them wrong?’ Tom looked up at his teacher. Oh dear, he looked frustrated. He was a nice man. Tom liked him. He must have upset him.
‘No Tom, but we need to see your working out to make sure you are doing them in the right way.’
Tom was confused. Doing them in the right way? But he just said i’d got them right…
‘You can’t cut corners, you can’t be the only one who does it in this way, everyone is learning the same thing Tom. All you need to do is practice and focus Tom! You’ve always got your head in the clouds. You’re a bright boy! I know you can do this. You just need to concentrate on what you are doing and stop talking about all this other silly stuff or you’ll fall behind. Half the class has finished now. Get your head down and finish up.’
Mr James rests Tom’s pencil next to his work sheet and heads off to the other side of the classroom.
Tom lets out a big sigh. ‘Sorry Mr James.’
He looked hard at his paper. I know I got them right but I can’t remember how. Uh this is so hard. He always tells me i’m clever but he always tells me i’m getting it wrong. But I’m getting it right… it’s so confusing. Am I clever? Can I do this? I’m going to have to start again. I can hear my friends have finished over there and they are chatting now. They must be really clever. I can’t be the clever one if i’m not finished yet. Are they talking about Avengers? I’m going to miss it all. I wanted to tell them about the film mum let me watch at the weekend… hang on, what was I thinking about before Mr James came over? It was awesome! I really wanted to know the answers, it was so cool! What was it… something to do with space? Rockets? No, not that. My brother? Ugh what was it?
‘Ok everyone, bring all your worksheets to my desk and line up at the door ready to go to lunch.’
And just like that. The wonders of water disappeared from Tom’s mind forever.
What if Tom’s questions had been answered? What if he was able to pursue this passion? This passion that had him wondering, in awe, about our planet and the ways that it all worked. Where did it come from? Why is it heavy? How is it possible that we can get inside it? Why does it feel that way on our skin? How is it that sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s cold? Why is it that sometimes it’s cold but it’s water and sometimes it’s cold but it’s ice?
Why is it that a 7 year old is not ready to know this yet, but a 10 year old is?
He seemed pretty ready to me.
What if he gets to 10 years old, sitting in science class, learning about water, and can’t focus because he is transfixed with the poster of the grand canyon next to the clock?
Woah! That is huge! I’ve never seen rock that colour! I have only ever seen grey or white rock, how did it become orange? I wonder if people live down there? Or animals? Was it always like that or did something happen? Ooh maybe a meteorite landed and smashed the ground to bits! Maybe it was the one that killed the dinosaurs! Where is that? I wonder if I could go there… It says Arizona at the bottom, where is Arizona?’
‘Where is Arizona?’
‘Tom, for the last time, please get on with your work!’
‘Oh… sorry Miss Clarke.’
As I am typing this out I am reminded of all of those interviews with politicians on the news.
The journalist is asking a question. A question that everyone wants to know the answer to. It is important. We all want to hear the response. Thousands of people in their houses are eagerly awaiting.
The politician responds, answering a question the journalist did not ask, but the journalists actual question goes unanswered.
The journalist tries again. Reiterating the importance of answering the exact question that has been asked.
We all wait.
The politician avoids answering the question again.
The journalist gives up and moves on to something else.
It’s frustrating to watch. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to the journalist. I don’t blame him for giving up.
He won’t come back to it in an interview 2 years later, because many other things will have happened by then, and the focus will be on a completely different question.
We will be desperate to know about the Grand Canyon now, not oceans anymore.
Unschooling allows children to learn about the Grand Canyon and oceans and numbers and creepy crawlies and engines and satellites and music and football and gravity and how wearing different types of trousers made from different types of material changes the speed in which you zoom down a slide… because they have a desire to. They don’t lose the urge to ask through frustration because their questions never get answered. They retain the joy and innate need to learn because it is a wonderful process that opens so many doors to other things!
Unschooling is freedom. Freedom to learn.
This is one of the reasons we Unschool.