If It's Not Fun, We Don't Do It: Gail Higgins' Interview

Gail and her family live in Jacksonville Florida and she blogs about her life at Hummingbird Haven.

(In the family photo to the left is Brenna McBroom, Broc Higgins, Gail Higgins and Logan McBroom.)

Like a lot of families, they didn't start out having lots of fun with their education, but they soon figured out that if you just follow your interests and have fun, learning happens.

Like the title says, if it's not fun, Gail's family is probably not going to do it, unless you get stuck on a boat out in the ocean...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool?

We started homeschooling when Brenna was 8 and Logan was 5 and they are now 19 and 16. We started with a more traditional homeschooling approach and happily discovered radical unschooling when they were 13 and 10 and never looked back.

Logan is busy these days playing guitar, Rock Band, World of Warcraft, and enjoying both virtual and real visits with unschooling friends all over the country. He is very computer savvy and is my go-to guy with anything computer related. Recently, he has traveled with his good friend, Cameron Lovejoy, from Florida all the way to Rhode Island with many stops in between to attend an unschooling conference and visit with friends He is a weekly contributor to a Youtube vlog created by seven unschooled teens called Our Seven Cents.

Brenna is home for the summer from her first year of college at New College, a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. It's a perfect fit for her as it allows her to continue to explore areas of interest at a college with no grades. She's a potter, and is exploring acting, photography and becoming an ASL interpreter.

It is evident in spending time with them that they are both happy, content and confident.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

It has impacted every area of our lives and the freedom has allowed us the opportunities to have time to travel whenever we wanted and to explore every interest that we came upon. We have met other unschooling families from all over the world at unschooling conferences and we spend much of our free time getting together with them. The friendships that we have developed and the connections we each have made through them have enriched our lives in ways that I never imagined.

Our family life just flows naturally. We play games, we cook, we travel, we share ideas and things that we discover individually, we encourage each other's passions and usually that leads to another avenue that one or all of us wants to explore.

It sounds easy after all these years doing it but getting to that point was intense for me especially and it took a lot of questioning, reading, and just taking the leap of doing it every day. I often tell the story of how I met all these unschooling families at a conference and just knew in my heart that I wanted the kind of relationships in my family and with my children that I saw there. I trusted that we could get there. And we did.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

There really aren't many fun memories for me or for the kids when we were doing more traditional homeschooling. I think more damage came from that than might have come had I just put them in school.

This may make it sound simple, but it's mostly all been fun since we started unschooling and early on it became evident that if it wasn't fun, we just wouldn't do it. We just lived our lives, explored things of interest to each of us and learning happened continually.

It was a gradual realization that it really was a simple yet amazing and fun life.

We have traveled to Boston, New York, Niagara Falls,St. Louis, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Washington State and Washington,D.C. in the years of going to unschooling conferences.

Both Brenna and Logan have also attended Not Back to School Camp on the east coast for several years.

Some of our recent fun has been been playing Bananagrams, going to house concerts, playing Rock Band, getting a pottery wheel and throwing pots, building a square foot garden, and last evening our whole family went blueberry picking and brought home 12 pounds of blueberries. I can't think of anything we do that isn't fun.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We do just live our lives so it all counts and it's not separated into homeschooling and non-homeschooling times. The first thing that comes to mind occurred when we went to our second Live and Learn Conference in Peabody (close to Boston)Massachusetts in 2004.

We had been unschooling for only a year and so this was our first conference really meeting other radical unschoolers and we truly had the time of our lives and met people that have now become some of our dearest friends.

The last day of the conference, many of the families took advantage of going on a Whale Watch which sounds like so much fun! Just put a large group of people with lots of young children on a small boat and go out into the ocean and look at whales.

I had given the kids Dramamine in the hopes that it would keep them from getting seasick and it became evident quite quickly that was the kind that makes you drowsy! So Logan and I were both drowsy and nauseous and I think Brenna was asleep at a table on the lower deck.

In our drug-induced state we did catch a glimpse of a whale or two. The first one was cool but it quickly lost its charm as the boat would race to another area to see yet another whale and the people would run to the other side of the boat to see it while dodging spewing vomit from the upper deck as sick children and adults were throwing up! I'm not sure how long we were out there but it seemed like days!

Logan was maybe 10 years old and had spent much of the conference playing Yu-Gi-Oh until we went on the Whale Watch. Apparently though, he had used a post card from our hotel room to write a short note to his cousin back in Jacksonville,
Florida. As we were checking out of the hotel the morning after the whale watch, he handed me the post card to mail and I read this short message:

"Cailin, never ever ever go on a whale watch!" Logan

In September of this year, we're headed back up to Boston for the Northeast Unschooling Conference and I think there is another Whale Watch offered.

Logan is now 16 and I can guarantee you that we will not be going on that outing.


Frank said...

Great stuff, Gail!

Zenmomma said...

I love it all Gail! Great post with such a good feel for unschooling. Your kids are two of my favorites in the whole wide world. And don't even get me started on their parents. ;o)

Beverly said...

I'm going to follow the link to that college with no grades right now!