Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NEUC '11

A few weeks ago we went to the Northeast Unschooling Conference.

jumping on the bed 

There was lots of jumping on hotel beds (and jumping from bed to bed for that matter),

running with the pack 

and lots of running with the pack (homemade duct tape weapons in hand),

secrets of nature 

and the Secrets of Nature funshop (and many other funshops and speakers).

the littles loved the trampoline in the toy room 

The mini-trampoline was a big hit.

something you might see at an unschooling conference 

One thing you might see at an unschooling conference is a lot of bumper stickers! There are more photos over on my flickr.

One thing we have been thinking about a lot since the conference is a presentation on The Decline of Play by Peter Gray.  Lyle is the one who attended that talk, so I can't speak to the specifics (this article touches on the subject) but we have been thinking about the importance of free (and as unsupervised as possible) play with other children of mixed ages. It brings back my own memories of running around our neighborhood (and in the woods) with a group of children. We've seen how much Josh loves running around with a pack of kids and it is something we would love for him to have on a more regular basis.

Unfortunately, it seems like it is difficult to find places and kids where this is possible these days. Even in the summer when kids are out of school, we've found that they often aren't home (because parents are working so they are in someone else's care) or that kids aren't outside or don't have the freedom to run around without adult supervision (and honestly this is something I am still becoming more comfortable with as Josh gets a little older). Sometimes even at the playground it seems like kids aren't allowed to run around and play (how many times have I heard,  "don't run/climb/do that" at the playground, often followed by a comment about it being too dangerous). Also, when we do go to playgrounds (or when we drive by) around here they are usually empty, which seems to be a peculiarity of this area because we did not experience this back in Oregon.

Now, I'm not trying to say that things are all bad. We've been fortunate to go to several unschooling gatherings in the last few months where there is a lot of free play. We have a pretty wide group of local-ish unschooling friends. We've also found that the beach is a great place to find other kids even if the playgrounds are empty, and we are lucky enough to live across the street from a very nice pond with a sandy beach. We also have two great 8 and 10 year old neighbors who love to play with Josh. In fact, it was these two neighbors who gave Josh his first experiences running around without any adults. When we moved in last summer they were so excited to have a kid next door and they have been wonderful friends for Josh. We are really fortunate to have them right next door.

We love going places and particpating in some programs and activities, but we would really love to have places and kids to play with on a regular basis without a structured plan or adult-directed activity. I wish it was as easy as walking down the street to see if friends are home at any time of the day, but between kids in school, after school care (or someone else's care during the summer months), and homework it isn't that easy even when you do have kids nearby. We are going to have to be a little more creative than that!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I wish so much that we had kids in our neighborhood! There actually are a few, but they are never home...either at school or daycare. I remember spending all summer running around with the kids on my street, and after school during the year. On my street growing up I remember there were only two houses that did not have kids. I want that for our kids so badly! Like you said, here in OR there are at least kids at the park. Sean has such problems joining kids at play, but SJ does well. She found some kids a the library yesterday and had a blast. Otherwise, though, we feel lonely. Kids are either in preschool, school or daycare and just aren't available to play with.