As an unschooling dad who works in a corporate environment everyday, I miss a lot of the amazing moments of unschooling. Recently, however, I had one of those eye-opening experiences that illustrated the power of an unschooling environment.
Here’s what happened. I was throwing away some wood scraps from some recent construction. My twin girls suddenly just had to have the scraps. Sure, no problem. They then asked for a hammer and nails. Sure, no problem. Next thing I know, they want me to build a wagon for them (from a 4-foot piece of molding and a few squares of 1 by 8 pine). Problem!
“Build a wagon?” I exclaimed. “Yes!” they yelled excitedly. “The kind with a pull-handle and everything!’
It just wasn’t possible. We didn’t even have half the materials necessary. Nor did we have any wheels or axles. “I’m sorry, I can’t build you a wagon,” I answered. I thought that would be the end of it.
I went back to my work, but the girls got busy arranging the wood. They lined the scraps up on the driveway in the form of a rectangle – about the size of a welcome mat. Then they called me over to nail it together. Once again, I stated it wasn’t possible.
“We can do it! We can do it!” they started chanting.
Trying to be present and engage with their enthusiasm, I began thinking about whether there was anything we could build. Nothing was coming to mind. But I did suggest we at least nail the platform together. The girls were ecstatic. I honestly had no idea what we would do about the wheels, axles and pull handle, but I figured if I was able to piece together the platform, it might be enough to satisfy them. It wasn’t. They wanted it all.
Meanwhile, Thomas arrived and suddenly had to build something as well. What did he want to build from the scrap wood I gave him? A skateboard!
There I was standing in the middle of my driveway with three ambitious kids. I wanted to give up, but I stayed in it. I started thinking of ways we could achieve these incredible feats, despite such limited resources.
Still not knowing quite what to do, I trudged into the basement in search of more nails. Inside, I spotted a dusty old crib in the corner. It was the push-in roller wheels that caught my eye. I found a solution! I grabbed my drill. Suddenly I had as much enthusiasm for this project as my kids.
I drilled 4 quick holes and popped in the wheels. From here, the rest fell into place. We found a rope pull-handle from an old sled and attached it. We nailed some sides on from the few last remaining scraps. We had our wagon! We were all pumped!
You see, I’d been focused on the “can’t.” I do that all too often. But my kids were focused on the “can”. It was this belief that turned scraps into toys. I know the can-do spirit my kids possess would be crushed in school. I will not let that happen. My kids have the kind of ambition and drive to change the world, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep that alive.
~Ted, Nicole’s husband and partner on this unschooling journey