A year ago we bought guinea pigs, on Faith’s request. I was reluctant at first, worried about the responsibility and time they would take up, as we’ve never had pets before, but I opened myself up to a “yes”. Faith (then 11) spent two weeks enthusiastically researching all she could about piggies in books and on YouTube, how to look after them, diet, behaviour, how to build a cage… It made my job of just buying them so easy! They have brought us so much joy and fun, we laugh together every day with them, and all four guinea pigs get cuddles every day.
Faith was then inspired by the piggies and piggie owner YouTubers to start her own YouTube channel, something else I was initially reluctant to say yes to. It has since morphed into mainly a Minecraft channel, and she has in the past 10 months learnt absolutely tons from it, more or less completely by herself, from recording, editing and uploading to bells & whistles like subtitles and in-video links, from managing comments to oratory skills, from music copyright issues to privacy issues; and she has personalised it with her own nickname, logo and catchphrase.
She is continually thinking of new ideas, googling to problem solve or to find out how to do something new. It’s fantastic!
If it hadn’t been for unschooling, we would almost certainly have missed out on all this wonderful stuff.
My eleven year old, Jenna, is sitting on my bed chatting to me about some Minecraft fanfiction she is writing. She just used such phrases as “passive voice”, “present tense”, and “third person” correctly in context. She has never had a grammar lesson in her life.
In other news, she has seen six Shakespeare plays this year (it was her stated year’s goal, unprompted, to see as much Shakespeare as possible this year), raves randomly about Chaucer, and emails me poems. This kid didn’t read until she was almost nine, and has spent most of the last three months watching YouTube on her phone almost non-stop.
I have had periods of thinking that Jenna would be highly unlikely to choose to do anything in the next few years that outsiders would perceive as having educational value. She has always been interested in history, but otherwise I have spent a fair bit of time “translating” into educationalese for grandparents etc. Who could have predicted that all of that intensive YouTube and Netflix would turn out to have taken a little detour into reading and discussing A Level grade English Literature materials, via Minecraft role play fan groups and Buffy references?! (For the record, I’m genuinely as delighted in her love of Kawaiichan and quoting Giles [from Buffy] and photo manipulation as I am of the Chaucer and Shakespeare – but it’s certainly easier to point out the latter as evidence that Something Is Happening.)
Another additional comment: Yesterday, I mentioned that I have a huge hardback Complete Works of Shakespeare. She said, “Oh I know! I found it months ago! I have read most of it, well all of the sonnets and lots of the plays – but I sort of skim-read the histories… I’m not SO keen on those.”