Macadamias for sale
29 October 12
Ever since the girls saw children their own age running stalls at a homeschoolers’ Spring Fair, six-year-old Brioni has been thinking about what she can sell and how she can sell it. Today, she set up a table on the side of the road to sell the macadamia nuts that she collected yesterday and de-husked.
Although Brioni only serves one customer this afternoon, she displays her priorities by deciding to close her shop when friends come and are available to play. I wonder when and where we’ll be when she next wants to make a little bit of money!
Brioni’s stall is a good example of how unschooling integrates the learning of math concepts. Some homeschooling parents lack the confidence that their children will learn a full set of life skills if they are not also forced to do some schoolwork.
We must remember that schools are an inadequate imitation of the learning that happens in the real world. Schools first formed when knowledge was the domain of the well-educated elite. Now knowledge is available freely to whoever wants to ask the questions.
Instead of learning in a classroom, homeschooling gives children the option of learning in context. Given freedom and encouragement, Brioni is learning about money without having to colour in arrays of coins in a workbook.
We inhabit a literate and numerate world. If raised alongside loving, mentoring adults, there is absolutely no way that a child will not absorb the skills necessary to decipher script and process numbers.
Money is only a small part of everyday maths. Time, fractions in baking, calculations in distance while travelling, percentages in battery power, vehicle speed, dividing items equally among siblings, weighing ourselves, birthdays — all these rely on math knowledge and skills.
Our children are willing and able to learn the skills they need to grow into adults who can function in society — we just need to be as willing and able to step out of the way to see what society they will form. Will it be the heavily marketed, consumer-driven, tightly-budgeted economy of the last couple of decades, or will it be a gentler, generous, more equal cooperative where people can take what they need for $2 — provided they save some for the next person?
For our children’s sake, I hope it’s a nicer world — the world that Brioni is selling to right now. Let her bring the change we want to see in the world. Let me be that change too.