Although this is my nineteenth autumn in North Carolina, fall here still surprises me. In the midst of leaves turning colors and falling, the garden is still producing food we can eat–including peppers and eggplant, not just frost-hardy broccoli and kale. And our front yard is still full of flowers, including an abundance of zinnias. Although mostly of late I’ve let the flowers be, these zinnias called out to me and I brought a bouquet inside.
Perhaps because I’m still a novice gardener, I get a huge thrill of harvesting plants that I’ve grown from seed. In the case of these zinnias, I cast a LOT of seeds in various places in our garden. Most of them didn’t take, and they were slow to grow. Now, as frost looms, they are thriving, giving us exuberant bursts of red and pink and yellow in the garden.
This reminds me of another bloom that happened on that same afternoon. Our friend Judith put on an art show in our living room as part of a neighborhood event. She asked Maggie to help her make a sign, and this is what she made:
Here’s the thing. Maggie was an early reader and continues to be a voracious devourer of books. But her own writing has been slow to follow. The disconnect between her ability to decode language and produce it has been frustrating for her, so ironically her precocious reading has probably hampered her composition. And so she also doesn’t get much practice with the mechanics of writing. Generally, her writing is all in capital letters, and she struggles with letter reversals.
I have tried various games and strategies to help her keep writing, but my efforts have been less than consistent. And Maggie is not always interested. I often wonder if I should be doing more, encouraging her in particular ways, setting up systems to encourage her to write. My best-laid plans mostly seem to fall by the wayside, as we both tend to gravitate to learning that comes more easily and feels more fun.
And then this sign. Legible and with beautiful lower-case letters. It’s just like the zinnias….I’ve thrown out a lot of seeds, made sure there was adequate watering, shown a little patience…and eventually there were flowers–though perhaps not in all the places I planned. With Maggie, we write a little, play a lot, practice some lettering, explore the world. When the time is right, it all starts to come together.
Unschooling requires so much trust! Trust that I know my kids well enough to judge how much to guide/support/interfere and how much to just hang back. Trust that my kids have an innate drive to learn what they need to know to thrive in the world. And trust that deviating from that deeply ingrained school-based trajectory is OKAY and that, yes, they will be able to go to college someday. If they want to.
So it’s such a blessing when there is a little bloom to remind me that my instincts are right, my girls are getting what they need, and all is well.