My husband and I met later in life, which is really the only way it could have happened. In school, he was a “bad boy”, and I was a “good girl”, and our personal compatibility would have been unable to overcome the borders school social structures impose. Luckily for us, life is not so rigid about who can, or should, or might, get along well.
I came from an intensely academically-oriented school, where four out of eight periods were AP courses, and I was 12th in my graduating class with a weighted GPA of 4.2. My friends and I used to sit around at lunchtime and discuss our ulcer medications. We were pretty much isolated from the rest of the school, and once I got out in the world, I realized that I’d been pretty much isolated from anything that resembled practical knowledge of how things work outside a focused academic framework.
My husband Jason was at the absolute other end of the spectrum. Coming from a troubled family in a rough town, my husband learned how to survive, was immediately labeled as a troublemaker, and as less worthy of obtaining an education. He was shuffled off into less and less challenging courses as his home life became more and more rocky, until eventually he ended up at a continuation high school, where their only goal was to keep him off the street.
Jason has worked all his life in the family construction business, and has a real aptitude for building and an excellent eye for function and durability. But since that kind of practical talent isn’t readily measured in standardized aptitude tests, his talent went unrecognized. Upon graduation, he continued on in the building trades, doing a series of apprenticeships, becoming familiar with carpentry, plumbing, tile, and brickwork.
Fast-forward many years; we met and did the Happily Ever After. And while awaiting the birth of our second child, we decided to have the backyard landscaped. The centerpiece was to be an expanse of lawn to play on.
We left while the installation was happening. And when we arrived home, we immediately noticed that it was… off. Visually, the “straight” lines wobbled, and the edges formed something decidedly more parallelogram than rectangle.
Jason and his Grandfather looked at each other, nodded, and asked Rowan (who was two and a half at the time, and had been going to jobsites with his Papa since before he could walk) to fetch the tape measure. The three of them were a well-oiled machine, and I watched as they measured off the corners of our lawn. Finally, Jason stood up and announced that the corners were 5, 7, 4, and 8 inches off.
I was stunned, as I realized that Jason and I held two sides of a puzzle, and were not able to connect them with the knowledge held in just one of our heads. “Did you know that what you just did is an application of the Pythagorean Theorem?” I asked. “Nope,” he replied. “But I know how far off our lawn is.”
Theory meets Practical Application head-on. Theory lends Practical Application the language it needs to express itself well; in this case, to the contractor who did such a rotten install job. And Practical Application provides Theory with the facts needed to make itself more substantial; in this case, the precise numbers of the misalignment.
The ramifications of this have been rolling through my mind for quite some time. It’s likely that they’ll reverberate for as long as it is that someone with a tape measure is valued less in our culture than someone with a $10 word. Or for as long as people assume that “educated in school” means something more than “educated in the real world outside school.” If we continue to allow the world to become so specialized, and so compartmentalized, our pool of available information is lessened, and what we as individuals, and as families, are able to accomplish together is lessened.
And you couldn’t ask for a clearer example of why unschooling is perfect for us. Rowan was right there, up to his ankles in brand-new lawn, soaking in the lessons, one and all. I think the results speak for themselves.
Laureen is a writer, a professional editor, a scuba instructor, a beginning sailor, a traveller, and an obsessive researcher who's chiefly focused on, and delighted with, her husband Jason and her sons Rowan and Kestrel. She's a lifelong Californian, which lends a very distinctive spin to both her ideas and her politics, and she's discovered, in her peregrinations, that the world is far smaller yet far more fascinating than anyone gives it credit for being. She holds forth her opinions on that in her blog, The Elemental Mom.