When I was 7 my best friend in the whole world lived behind me, across a clothesline and an alley. We were separated by more than that at school and less than that at home. At school she was athletic and well liked, but not in the gifted program. I was small, picked last at everything, and thriving in the gifted program. These demarcations defined us on the playground.
The thing was though, I was actually good at sports. Really good. I won the free throw competition for my age group in the 4th grade. I could out shoot the big kids in any game of HORSE or PIG and I was fast. I loved soccer and was an awesome goalie. When PE time came, I was picked last at everything and trailed behind the runners during laps. Why? I think it is obvious. Edited to add****For those who don't know me, I have always been really, really much smaller than my peers. As an adult I am only 4'9". I was also poor growing up and dressed funny. Ok, I still do. Sometimes I don't even bother to match socks and I always wear them inside out, seams are itchy!
Sage asked me why one day. I had beaten her in a long sprint to get to the swings at a park, and out of breath, she wondered why I didn't run like that at school. She just didn't understand. I loved school so much, but at recess I would sit at the fence and read books. I didn't have an answer for her then.
When we moved away the next summer I had to give up sports because in Illinois the school charged a fee and required camps. My family was too poor to afford that just for a 5th grader to play after-school basketball. So all I was left with was riding my bike around the neighborhood and the humiliating sessions of school PE. I grew to hate sports.
I still love to run and swim, but I loathe "working out", I will never jog, and the mere thought of going to a gym makes me want to vomit. We don't own a treadmill because the going joke is that we already pay (in taxes) for the public sidewalks plus you get the benefit of fresh air. If I have extra energy to spare, I use it to mop and vacuum and haul bins to storage. Yard work is awesome too. The thought of walking to nowhere seems silly.
And yet, I totally get the whole working out/sports drive. It feels good, it is alone time, and it is lovely to feel so perfectly human. I just can't run on demand.
So that got me thinking about unschooling. I've mentioned before that I am a product of the public schools and also that I have unschooled myself my whole life. That duality is similar to my friendship with Sage. School was a refuge from my turbulent home life, but so was my own imagination. I could run like the wind when not confined, I devoured books, and loved the sunshine, but in school I did what I had to, excelled, but it was simply a way to spend time in between my other life. It changed how I viewed myself and changed how I found joy in things.
Lil'Bug loves her art classes. She is learning and working with mediums I cannot provide her here at home, but I can't help but notice that her creativity with her at home artwork has changed. It is not as free, not as expressive. Maybe that change would have happened naturally, but I can't help but wonder if the situation of sitting with peers and seeing what they are doing and coloring inside the lines on demand isn't changing her view of herself and her world, much like what happened with me and sports.