If unschooling is about learning by following one’s interests, about being led by one’s passions, then I am unschooling myself as an adult, in much the way I did for the two years I lived my life without school as a teen.
As it was then, this is a journey of self-discovery. I am finding out what sustains me, or re-discovering what sustains me—reconnecting to things I had let go by the wayside due to “growing up,” and, later, the lifestyle change that came with having young children.
One my rediscoveries is bicycling. Twenty-five years ago, I sold the gas hog 20-year-old Oldsmobile my father gave me as a graduation/birthday gift, and used the cash to buy a ten-speed Schwinn. I rode from my apartment to work in the morning, sometimes hitting the 60 MPH mark while barreling down the big hill. After work, I would find pleasure in pedaling along country roads. Unfortunately, a leg injury sustained in an accident resulted in a painful condition that persisted for several years, and I had to give up my bike.
In early December of 2005, I went on my first real bicycle ride since selling the Schwinn. The bike, a lightweight twelve-speed Peugeot, was a gift from a friend who no longer needed it. It was a blustery day, which made the ride that much more invigorating. This excursion reminded me how much I enjoy biking, and I vowed to make room for it in my life.
Bad weather prevented me from riding much over the winter, but as the days warmed, I began to ride more frequently, and for greater distances. Each ride brings its gifts, whether encounters with wildlife or fellow human beings who flash the secret smile that is the emblem of the morning lover's club, the time to think and receive epiphanies, or enjoying the scent of flowers on the breeze.
Upon returning from a ride, I share some of its gifts with my children, telling them about the vulture that let me approach within two feet of it; seeing the beginning of life when observing a huge pond slider digging a hole in which to deposit her eggs; and witnessing the end of life, when a small hawk pinned a flicker to the ground; showing them the picture of the baby groundhog that let me pet it before it waddled off into the brush; relating the delightful conversation I had with an excited 4-year-old boy who insisted that I touch the bait fish in his father’s bucket; or that I hit the green light at a major intersection, which allowed me to tear through that light at an exhilarating top speed.
As much as my rediscovery of cycling has done for me, it has also benefited my children. My interest has sparked my older daughter’s interest; she has asked if she can have a bike, so she can ride with me. Cait’s interest prompted me to join a local cycling club that offers group rides on a regular basis, which has caused both of us to imagine a future that includes riding together.
My children also observe how I handle the wrinkles: what I do when the tide is so high that part of the trail is under water (ride through anyway, scattering minnows and drenching my shoes), how I respond when a portion of the trail is closed (accept it, and hope it is open tomorrow), and what I do when set back by a minor accident (quit the ride for the day, care for my injuries, and give myself time to heal before easing back into my full ride).
Beyond these is something greater; my daughters recognize that I am making time to enjoy this passion every day. I am modeling for them the idea of building my life around the things I deem important, putting those things first—something I hope will stay with them the rest of their lives.
This morning I rode high on the scent of mimosa trees and magnolias, and through the meadow where birdsong plays a 360-degree symphony. Barring heavy rain, I will be out on my wheels again tomorrow.
Shay Seaborne is an edgewalker, known to leap empty-handed into the void. Fun and magic are crucial elements in the design of her life. Shay filed her first Notice of Intent to homeschool in Virginia in 1995. She loves living and learning with her two daughters, who are turning out well despite being raised far from the turbid waters of the mainstream. Shay’s Web site is SynergyField.com.