Ever since she saw Soul Surfer, my little girl is hooked on the idea of surfing. She wakes and sleeps surfing. It doesn’t matter that we are living in the middle of Colorado and that she has never seen the ocean. She is going to be a surfer, and she knows it.
She started a “surf collection” where she hangs every picture and item that could possibly relate to surfing on the wall. She reads every surfing book she can find.
Her surf obsession has been one of the most remarkable proofs of the concept of unschooling and child-led learning that I have found. Before we began unschooling, she didn’t have a lot of time to spend on “learning” to surf. We were too busy with worksheets and other activities.
But since we began unschooling, she has all the time in the world. This may seem lazy. But it’s actually one of the best things that has ever happened to her learning. She never enjoyed reading quite as much as my other girls. But with time to study surfing at her liesure, she reads all the surfing books she can find, even very technical how-to-surf books. She absolutely hated writing and any spelling or handwriting practice of any kind before. Now, she is writing her own “guide to surfing.” In her little book, she takes notes and writes things she wants to remember about surfing technique. The writing flows more freely, because it is interesting and enjoyable now, and she doesn’t keep asking how long she has to work on it. Her handwriting and spelling are coming more naturally, because they are being practiced naturally, rather than in a rote, grudging, repetitive manner. (She’s motivated to get the words correct and legible so she can read them later.) Math comes into play, as well. (How much longer is the long board than the short board? How much taller than you is the “gun” board?) Any subject of interest can be used to learn all of the “necessary” areas of academics. And learning them in a natural way prepares your child much more for real life.
For her last birthday, we bought her a real board, and it only added to the excitement and motivation to learn. With her love of surfing, I’ve come to learn more about her than I have ever been able to. I no longer worry that she doesn’t like science or technical subjects. I’ve learned to love that she loves surfing and water and waves. I have learned from her surf obsession that it is okay that we are all different. It’s okay not to love every academic subject. It’s okay to find something you love and go for it. It’s okay to live your life instead of wasting time, and by doing so, you find what you need to learn.
I’ve learned another very valuable thing. I know nothing, and I mean nothing about surfing. I can barely dog-paddle in a swimming pool. Yet, I have a daughter who is dying for me to teach her every possible thing there is to know about surfing. So we read and learn together. (The Girl’s Guide to Surfing is our favorite.) We practice together and we learn together.
“There may not be a lot of teaching that goes on around Raimana, but there’s clearly a lot of learning.” -Kelly Slater
It made me think of my daughter and I. I know nothing about surfing, so I can’t possibly teach her a thing. But there is an incredible amount of learning going on, for both of us. And it spans far beyond surfing.