Saturday, 2 September 2017

Callum's Unschool Report 2017

Dear Callum,

As I just started to write I had a vision of reading this to you when it's done and how excited you'll be to hear it and I thought, doesn't that just sum you up in a nutshell! You are energy and excitement personified! You wake up in the morning full of joy and looking to find more, and so mostly you do! You are far too big and beautiful to squeeze into a few hundred words and so I won't even try to fully capture you, but I'm writing this anyway, so that we will have a precious record of you at 7 years and 4 months old, and so that you will have an insight into the things I was thinking when I watched you!

I'm deliberately writing your 'Report' first because in so many things I feel like you come last, or wait the longest. You have been blessed with an extremely easy-going nature, and from a very young age you began to give-way to your far less easy-going brothers. I've kept a close eye on this over the years, making sure you're truly happy and comfortable in your generosity, reminding you that saying no is ok, and ensuring that I don't take advantage of your nature myself in order to have an easier ride from time-to-time. You love to see other people happy, and I often think this has a lot to do with why you are so happy yourself. You are patient and forgiving, and in our busy home of complex dynamics this is a real gift - you are often an example to all of us!

You are also very sensitive and emotional, and this was one of the reasons that Unschooling felt like a better choice for you than school when we made the decision not to send you 3 years ago. Your spirit might have been easily broken at the age of 4, there was a chance you could have conveniently faded into the classroom paintwork in an attempt to keep everyone happy, but I know you and I know that's not what you need to thrive. The other thing of course is that you are almost constantly moving and this is not something that can simply be remedied by asking you to be still! Your body has a real need to move and as I've watched you grow I have come to see what an integral part of your learning this is. It has been less obvious to me how you are learning than it has  been with your brothers, and I've had to watch more closely and exercise a bit of faith! This has been a useful learning curve for me - I love to study, observe and reflect on how things are unfolding, but it hasn't always been possible to do this with you in the same way! You seem to absorb things in a way I struggle to describe or understand, but nonetheless you continue to thrive and expand and the faith I have put in your innate ability to learn has always paid off. You are like a sponge and your memory is awesome, so watching documentary style TV shows whilst standing on your head seems to be a particularly good learning mechanism for you!

You love to dance and make noise and you've been attending dance classes for the past year now which has been a great source of fun for you. You've taken part in several shows and workshops and I've seen through this both how eager you are to please, and how anxious you are about making mistakes. You like to address things from a logical perspective, so will often talk about building adrenalin in the run up to a performance, and describe how that makes you feel. You are so full of character that it can be easy to overlook the emotional side of you, but we make a lot of effort not to. You have been proud of your ability to perform and cope with nerves, and the rest of us have loved watching you flourish on the stage. I also love the dancing you bring to our our trips to the our trips to the supermarket....I could go on!

You are a natural scientist and engineer, and you are fantastic at theorising and explaining how things work. This, paired with your brilliant memory means that you can easily take knowledge and apply it to new situations. Just a couple of days ago we were in some wartime tunnels chatting about how the electric lights might be powered, and you told me how the bulbs were likely dim because there were so many of them on the same circuit sharing the same power source. I remembered a brief, short experiment you had done with an electronics kit a while ago and guess this is where you had got this idea. Whilst some people seem to need to learn the same thing in many different ways or repeatedly over a period of time, knowledge just seems to stick with you! It has become a joke between us how many times I say in amazement "Callum! How did you know that?"

You are enthusiastic and open to new experiences. You love visiting new places, and seeing new things! You are particularly interested in various types of performance, comedy and nature and wildlife. You are sensual and love whole body experiences! You love being in water and are always the first in the sea - whatever the weather and regardless of swimwear! As a toddler, whenever the paints came out you would always paint yourself, and this has proven a useful preference as you've grown older and been happy for your artistic twin to use you as a canvas for his 'tattoos'! You love practical tasks and outdoor activities - camping and gardening are both big hits with you! You are flamboyant and love to dress up in all sorts of different clothes, and love role-play games with your siblings and friends. Really though, life is all about the possibility of social contact for you - wherever there is the possibility of play with other children, that's where you want to be! Wherever we go everybody knows you are there, which has been difficult for me at times - I like to blend in when I'm out in public - but being dragged outside of my comfort zone has rarely proven to be a bad thing, so I thank you for that!

People really matter to you, and you love very deeply! Your family means the world to you, and nothing gives you more joy than having our house full of people, or celebrating someone's birthday or some other occasion. The two years we were in Sheffield were difficult for you because there were such a lot of people to miss, although now we're home you miss those you met there instead! You remember people you met only briefly years ago and still talk about them and hold them close in your heart. When I told you we'd be going back to camp in the Wye Valley soon, you immediately remembered by name the little boy you'd played with for a few hours there last year, and talked fondly about him. Wherever we go you make friends and get chatting to other adults and children. You are extremely warm and deeply accepting, and I often notice you befriending people who I imagine might struggle with social relationships or making friends. I am in awe of your openness and love for people - my heart is swelling in my chest as I write this and think about how loved and special you make people feel. This gift you have is a gift that the world needs, and I make it my job to protect it and see it safely into adulthood.


I can't pretend I don't sometimes struggle with your energy and exhuberance, the noise and movement that comes with living with you overwhelms me sometimes. But you are gloriously you, and as I grow in making space for you, so I see you growing in understanding me, and the peace and stillness I need. You are naturally good at learning about others and their individual needs, and this makes you a wonderful son, brother and friend.

Your family loves you Callum! You bring joy and energy when the rest of us are flailing, and we're all lucky to know you!

love always, M and D xx


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