For Some People, It’s Just Natural

I pondered my options for the June Unschooling Blog Carnival submission. I could share a tribute to my dad, something I wrote last Fall called Holding Onto the Side of the Pool.

Or I could share the photo montage that the kids did for Ron last Father’s Day. It was really sweet and if you want to take a little visual walk down memory lane with us, I’d love to snag this opportunity to share it again! So here you go:

But I didn’t really feel like that was what I wanted to share. Sure, Ron’s a good parent – he’s involved, he listens to them (sometimes), he has helped, driven, chaperoned. Heck, once he even agreed to be in one of Katie’s plays since he was waiting for her during every rehearsal – probably sleeping in the back row of the theatre. But they needed a Mr. Slugworth in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, so he took a deep breath and stepped up onto the stage.

Double Piggy Back Rides

Instead, what I really think is remarkable about him is that he is The Quintessential Unschooler. He just loves to learn. It’s what he does. And when he decides to learn something, it’s full immersion.  Sometimes the kids’ interests or opportunities sparked his interest, or his sometimes sparked something in them.

Ron & Michael

When I was busy reading about unschooling and how to raise children, Ron was simply… living. Playing with the kids. Exploring whatever was around.  I followed him around the house, reading snippets from various books. I even bought him Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down and Guterson’s Family Matters. He read a little and said, “Yeah, well we all know this about schools. Um, we were there.” Then he put down the book. He felt no need to have any battle cry go up about the injustices of institutionalized learning. A simple, “Bring’em home,” was what I got after a long list of why I thought it would be a good idea to try homeschooling after Michael finished 1st grade.

I continued to connect on the internet, reading and learning about this new world we were stepping into. But all the while, he was simply connecting with our kids on topics that interested them. It was just the natural thing to do. And once they were home so much more, he had a lot more opportunities. More reading, more game playing – more adventures out in the community and out in the world!

Ron & Katie hiking in North Carolina
Never too young to hike Enchanted Rock!
Typical evening…or anytime

Ron’s not the kind of dad who just sits around with the remote control and waits for someone to bring him a beer.  His TV watching is deliberate – the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sons of Anarchy, and his John Wayne & Clint Eastwood video collection. But even with those, he’s Skyping with Michael in Nicaragua to talk about Martin Brodeur’s latest goal save, or he’s playing the Movie Line Game with Katie or Alyssa as they pass through the room. I’m sure you know it… you pick a line from a movie and say it, then the other person has to guess which movie it was. For a while, we had quite an extensive movie watching period, so they could come from anywhere: Monty Python, Three Amigos, Beetlejuice, The Blues Brothers, Jeremiah Johnson…. just to name a few. It used to drive my mother crazy when she’d come to visit. They could spend an entire dinner playing that game! She wanted them to have “meaningful” conversations. I just smiled because I knew the connection that was happening between them was the real goal.

Backyard Hockey with Katie & Michae

When we lived in Alaska, where our homeschooling started, Ron took up hockey. He always enjoyed watching the sport, but he was born and raised in Mesquite, Texas. Not a lot of hockey there. So even though he was 20 years older than most of the guys playing, at 44, he signed up for a little boot camp, and figured it out. He started going to pick-up games, the kids tagging along to watch. Next thing you know, they’re all signing up for hockey teams, we’re trekking across the state to tournaments,  and even building an ice rink in our back yard!

Dry Ice Experiments turned into Mad Science!
Next stop would be California. Sadly, the ice rinks weren’t nearly that important to Californians, so it was time to shift gears. Alyssa and Michael were really interested in horses, so Ron took them to find a stable that offered lessons. He picked the brains of the ranchers and horse owners every chance he got.  The kids were always with him out there, so they watched and listened and learned. He helped Alyssa figure out how to drag feed through the stalls to give to each horse. He bartered for horse leasing, and agreed to help build a giant riding arena. So he and Michael climbed ladders, measured and sawed for weeks until it was finished.  All three learned so much there.
Michael learning to ride Gilly
Once when they were out riding horses together, they found a little injured barn owl.  He showed
them how to wrap it up in a towel and get it to the local raptor center. A few weeks later he was taking them out to see it be released back into the wild.
Learning to sail with Katie & Alyssa – Folsom Lake

Ron was always interested in sailing, so while we were still in California, he bought a little Venture 22 sailboat. He and Michael worked and worked on it. All three kids learned to sail at Folsom Lake.  So when the homeschool group in Davis needed chaperones for a sailing charter through the San Francisco Bay, he was the natural choice to step in. Ron, Michael and Katie all sailed on the Gas
Light, a 50 foot Schooner – what a trip!

Helping Alyssa pet a Bat Ray (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

His interest in history took them to Angel Island for a group overnight trip. His love of science led to a Halloween party full of dry ice experiments.  His fondness for the outdoors took them on mountain hikes, snow cave adventures, camping trips, and beach excursions.

I could list one adventure after another that Ron experienced with each of the kids. But that might take a little longer than a typical blog post. Suffice it to say that Ron did not stand on the sidelines. He was a hands-on, involved dad. Not because someone told him it’s good to do that, but simply because it was the natural thing for him to do. The kids were curious – about everything – and so was he. So when opportunities presented themselves, he was right there with them – guiding, listening, and stepping up to “give it a try.”

Learning is simply a part of life for him.
For Ron, unschooling the kids was just a natural extension of that.

Just a cute picture of Ron & Michael (1991 Welcome Home)

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