Saturday, 16 June 2012

At the time of living, did you consider yourself learning?

Have you ever been stopped by people in the street holding questionnaires?

I couldn't do that job. I would have to pull the right facial expression. Not desperate, like my day's pay or my career in street vox pop depends on you, stopping to answer. Not uptight, nor aggressive, not pleading. And my body language! Not ambushing you in your stride; not holding my clipboard like a cudgel to your face; and not unassuming either, like I'm inviting all-comers to vent their anger issues and grind me into the gutter.

And what type of person stops at the sight of a clipboard? I would worry about that. It's a self-selecting audience. Would the emotionally unstable seize the opportunity? I'm so glad you stopped me for a chat about your fifty per cent reduction on replacement windows. Does it show? How my husband walked out on me this morning? For that ugly uptight bitch! I'm so glad I can talk to you about it.

You see? Nothing can be right about the questionnaire process. Nothing. Not even when it's done for a bank of academic research rather than the sale of replacement windows.

2. At the time of learning at home where were (are) you living? (Please specify town and/or region) 

Well, I tried to answer this question, Charlotte. I DID. I made a promising start. Buckinghamshire

Plus a bit of Northumberland. 

Add Suffolk. And Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. 

Except if living means sleeping and having a shower, in which case exclude Bedfordshire, but count Devon and Dorset. Add Hong Kong. We stayed with Soo in Dubai. The disastrous time we occupied a house with a glass-topped table in Sorrento?

Everything went downhill from there. Two hours in, and I was wrangling with Squirrel about the definition of alive. Is a tree alive? Is an apple alive? 

(We decided the apple was indeed alive, but only when it clung to the tree. Did we kill it when we plucked it or ate it? Did we conspire in murder when we bought six apples from Tesco home this morning? I can tell you, that discussion became disturbing.)

So you can see how question number 2 quickly became unwieldy. To answer, we had to agree not to unpick all the assumptions about time, learning, and location. And home, town, region - staying put, moving about - and, um, living.

Now, I'm glad you stopped me for a chat about home education! Does it show? How this choice can be so emotionally exhausting! Like swimming against the tide? We have to question everything when everyone questions us! As a way of life, it's hard to explain. Sometimes a sacrifice and sometimes a joy, and sometimes a damn great roller-coaster, it's thrown me about something rotten, fundamentally upheaved my own ideas on every belief I had about myself, other people, society, the world, the reason for a family, the idea of a partner, the choices I made, the space of my house, the role of a garden, the point of a car with sliding doors, and the logic of hanging on to an outdated video recorder just to play five hundred more reels of Ice Age 2

I don't know what you do when the world flips topsy-turvy, but I hold to the fixtures of life - these people I'm caring for - and I watch how they crumble soft soil into their fingers, how they inspect the grey line threaded on white paper by a simple pencil, and how they question a fleeting expression on a stranger's face. 

These experiences, if they can be learning, need active participation and wondering minds. Watching that has led me to believe how learning is a process intimately connected to time and place, yet simultaneously requiring imaginative leaps of thinking, transcending both. With an engaged and exploratory mind, an unhindered, unbound child can explore shifts in perspectives, discover fresh understandings, instigate new ideas, and create their learning from moments and places we never expected.

So to answer your question on time, location, and learning, we were living the moment we paused to choose one woodland track from another; the minutes we spent thinking about one word in all thousands; and the day we stopped to wonder what was behind that door in the wall.

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