Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unschooling is Learning From Everything

Unschoolers say all the time that we learn from everything.  Even if it doesn't look like learning, even if at first glance, some people would think it was a waste of time (if they were the type of people who think "education" is more important than enjoyment, anyway).

We really do learn from everything, but as unschoolers, even if the learners and their parents know that there's learning going on, it's often hard for outsiders to see, or it's something non-academic enough to not impress most school-minded people.  Sometimes, though, the learning that's happening looks enough like what learning is "supposed" to look like, that even the stodgiest person can see it.

I want to share some recent learning going on in this house of the latter sort.  Not because I think it's more valuable than the non-visible learning, but because I love when things people often scorn (like TV) lead to things people usually hold in high standing (like learning languages).

My sister and I are obsessed with the TV show Supernatural.  What's it about, you ask?  The short TvTropes description: "two hot, dysfunctional brothers drive around the country fighting monsters, later accompanied by a hot male angel, with a revolving door of hot recurring stars/guest stars. They Fight Monsters." (and I feel a strong urge right now to assure you that it's better than it sounds).  There's an overarching plot that stretches through the entire show, not just each individual season, which culminates in season 5 with the biblical apocalypse (that's the last season we've seen, since season 6 is currently airing and we don't have cable).  Watching the show, with all the angels and demons and omens and horsemen of the apocalypse, it seemed, from my knowledge, like they'd really done a lot of research into actual Christian mythology while putting the show together.  Emi confirmed this, having done a lot of research herself for last years NaNoWriMo novel (a story with the working title of Soul, about the fight between heaven and hell, though not between good and evil...).

Sam & Dean Winchester, heroes of Supernatural.

They even used a couple of quotes in the show that we were pretty sure were actually from Revelation.  So, our interest piqued by the show, we pulled out Emi's bible (the story of which is mentioned here), and started reading The Book of Revelation.  Man, is that one trippy story.  But very interesting (and Emi is very good at reading dramatically aloud)!  As well as being entertaining, it says a lot about the culture of the time. 

Going back to the show, in all that apocalypsey stuff found in Supernatural, there are a LOT of demons, and the Winchester boys (main characters) are busy exorcising them and throwing around holy water left right and center.

So Emi did the logical thing in this situation: she memorized the entire most commonly used Latin exorcism found on the show.  She also translated it, and we discovered that it definitely isn't bullshit Latin, but actually makes sense (there's lots about unclean spirits and Satan).  She also translated the exorcism used in an episode of Angel (another favorite show...  Are you sensing a theme here?).  And with all that translating and memorizing of Latin, my very good-with-languages sister started telling me how interesting the grammar structure is, and how there isn't any punctuation as we know it.  She recognizes multiple words already, and was talking about the various Latin roots of multiple English words.

Oh, and in our reading of Revelation, she also read the translation notes (because she's fascinated by translation), and was telling me a bit about how the Greek version differs from the English one...

All this from watching a TV show.

Not to mention the friend who I've been lending my Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD's to.  He's been going through it very fast, and recently while making his way through season 5, decided to carve some stakes  (woodworking FTW)!  He named the first one Mr. Pointy, but then his dog ate it.  Anyway, he has a small collection now, and gave one to both Emi and me.  He's also learning how to draw a Devil's Trap (used to trap and immobilize demons in Supernatural), and Emi's learning how to bless holy water (I think you're supposed to be a priest to do it *properly*, but I suppose it'll work for our purposes.  Besides, Sam and Dean do it all the time!).  So when the supernatural apocalypse comes, you definitely want to be hanging with us!

Any Buffy fan knows how authentic this looks!

I think it's easy for people to feel guilty about spending their time doing something as "useless" as watching TV, and forget not only that enjoyment is worthwhile simply for enjoyments sake, but also that we're constantly making connections, and learning is ever-present.

When you let go of your preconceived ideas of what learning is and where learning comes from, a whole world opens up to you, a world in which anything can spark an interest, and where learning is truly exciting and just plain fun!

Which is why I try to keep the guilt away while happily watching, discussing, laughing over, learning from, and enjoying my favorite TV shows.


  1. I COMPLETELY agree, learning takes place everywhere! Thank you for this post!!!

  2. I tried to comment early, but the internet ate it. :)

    I loved this.

    And also, it made me realize again - as a christian homeschooler, I get double stereotyped!

    Christian unschooler? What's that?! Lol.

  3. Loved the post you just made me feel less guilty about the TV I love to watch, thanks for that.

  4. Just found this blog, and I'm so happy it exists! I agree that there is learning taking place in everything we really enjoy. And now I want to start watching Supernatural. Darn it.

  5. Hi! Been reading your blog for a while but I´ve never commented before. Last year I discovered this "unschooling" thing from the blog of a guy who taught himself Japanese! I liked it and began researching and I found your blog. I love your insights and Supernatural as well! (they had me at two hot guys fighting demons)

    Aniway, I wanted to comment today because I began too learning Japanese because I wanted so badly to understand Anime (that´s how I found that guy´s blog) and your writing has reminded me of the reason why I began learning it in the first place. I learned English as well by reading tons and tons of fanfics.

    I attended a language school for two years and quit because they were at a really slow pace and I felt that I could do more for myself.

    Since then I´m on my way to learn French (already fluent but no native) and German (I started this month) on my own! And Japanese!

    Sorry for this very long comment!

  6. Okay like others I was glad for this post and now I won't threaten (i know, i know not very unschooly -- I slip) to take the tv away because my boys are watching tooo much. I do see the connections they often make and think its pretty awesome when they come up with words that I definitely didn't 'teach' them or say ... thank you