Tonight, the kids wanted a mint leaf each-the horrible things were still hanging around in the fridge from my birthday cake. So D pulled the bag out and there were three left. 'OK' he said to the kids, sitting them on the bench. 'There's two of us parents and four of you kids-how will we share three mint leaves?' With barely a second's hesitation Gabrielle replied 'Chop them in half and then there'll be six!' I am so impressed-she's two months shy of five years and this is about the fifth example she's given us of being able to work out fractions. She can do basic addition and subtraction, and even added up 8+4 the other day-in her head, no fingers or manipulatives required.
The bit that impresses me the most is that no-one has ever sat down with her and attempted to teach her maths. Never. We do a lot of cooking with all its half and quarter cups, and we talk about maths we encounter (like adding up all the bits of fruit we have, or dividing up items so everyone in the family gets some), but that's about it. But they just seem to absorb everything intuitively, process it all then apply it properly-they don't need to be 'taught' in the conventional way, simply exposing them to lots of different things really does do the trick.
I was so dismissive of unschooling to begin with. How on earth could simply being give you an education? Don't you need textbooks and tests, rote learning and spelling lists, and experts to tell you what you 'should' be learning at each stage? But since deciding to try unschooling (after all, they're so young that if it all fell apart it wasn't going to put them behind-they're still not supposed to be at school) i've gained a lot of confidence in it. Kids really do just learn massive amounts from being given quality items and experiences and some basic guidance and explanation-and what's better, it's all retained. They want to learn it so they do, and because they're applying the knowledge in a practical way it sticks with them. It's given me lots to think about in relation to my own education, but i'll save that one for another day. For now i'll just continue to wallow in pride at what my kids can do :D