an Unschooling session – Bows and Arrows

ritter mit bogen ritterintarsien
ritter schnitzen ritter pfeiltasche
rittermahl ritter pfeilspannen

Subhanallah, you know, sometimes a simple film can lead to a whole lot of learning activities.

The interest our boys (and even the girl) have in knights and arms is since years like a long loving relationship.
They’ve always been interested in heroes, soldiers and chivalry. They’ve always wanted to read and know more about the middle age, the crusades and ancient battles.
Sometimes their interest moves towards other subjects such as dinosaurs, volcanoes, China, Native Americans or Harry Potter, but every now and then it shifts back to “knights”.

Just this weekend we watched another “Robin Hood” movie (the one with Kevin Costner – a really well-made piece and a wonderful film that even honours Muslims and shows how a real noble character and the love for one’s fellow man can surpass even the deepest religious and cultural boundaries). This movie, although heavy and violent in some parts but very funny and beautiful in general, was just right for our mood of the moment and led to a lot of new learning experiences.
The next morning a whole bunch of questions were asked, research done, pictures and comics drawn, things about Christian and Muslim history told and a lot of things made. Right after breakfast the boys headed out to the fields to get some willow. Our kitchen was quickly transformed into a bows and arrow factory where wood was carved, bags sewn, arrows pointed and cardboard shields and helmets cut. The children asked for a real middle-age-meal and so the lunch was taken from old pewter ware and out of wooden bowls. Then they began to organise a shooting contest and played “knights” inside and out the whole day. (No need to tell you about the mess they made and the learning experience that followed in the evening during the cleaning process, a great opportunity to teach housekeeping-skills and a good-project-finishing…)

I am always really impressed by the power and enthusiasm that brims over if the children really are into a subject, if they are free to discover and to work in an environment that encourages and nourishes many different things.

This is how my children learn and that is why I still would consider us as an “unschooling family” even that we have founded a free private primary school they attend.  In fact I think that this is the way all children would naturally learn if not stopped and reprimanded to do so.
And I think that our school is kind of an un-schooling-school because just as my children are enabled to learn at home, also the children in school are free to do so – this is mostly the way and method how we work:
taking the whole world as our classroom, leaving a lot of space and possibilities for self-guided learning, for global experiences through project-making, by making contact with the real world and by following individual interests.

Some of our pupils are still very young, they are still getting used to the freedom and possibilities we offer and they still learn to master the basic skills of being able to do things themselves. But they all mostly learn reading, writing and all the other obligatory techniques of civilisation, the mandatory subjects and many things more by just playfully training themselves in a respectful and loving atmosphere, by trying new things, by doing self-initiated projects and by following their more skilled colleagues.
We, the teaching staff, are seldom classically teaching them, we are mostly supporting, encouraging, enabling, facilitating and creating repeated situations of entire learning experiences.
And I am sure that this is the way how knowledge is really acquired and the process of life-long-learning is initiated.



11 thoughts on “an Unschooling session – Bows and Arrows

  1. Wow, your words hit my heart and I’m very impressed how you teach the children. This is how it should be – nothing else than this. And it makes me also sad when I think of how it works here, in the city we live in… What choices we have for our children? Realisticly – with the resources we have, including mine…

    But it makes me very happy to read your posts and get inspired for what you can do at home and during holidays.

    Many greetings and love to you and your family in the marocan mountains,

  2. how beautiful Itto! ..and subhanallah, just yesterday my son made himself some bows and arrows..I think they would have a great time all together as Robin hoods or so;)very inspiring!

  3. Salaam Itto
    This is really amazing. I dream of being able to live a life as simple and authentic and just beautiful as yours! Masha’Allah.
    I have a question though, how do you deal with all the nudity, intimacy and drinking scenes when watching an american film (or any other film that contains inappropriate behaviours for that matter, with regards to our faith) ? I’ve just checked the IMDB page for Robin Hood and apparently it’s not free of obscenity. That means I probably won’t be able to watch it even though I’ve always been interested in medieval times, just like your kids!
    God bless you and your family

  4. salam aleikoum oua rahmatullahi,

    thank you all so very much for the lovely comments, mashaallah.

    dear sister Umm Hurayra, thank you so very much for your thoughts about movies, may Allah bless you in your deen.
    Your words made me thinking a lot and I have to confess that my level of deen still needs to develop a lot in this case. I think the movie-making and the whole movie-industry in general is pretty much as bad as the music one and both are not appropriate to our Muslim faith at all, mashaallah. I think, to draw the logical conclusions, I should also quit watching movies at all.
    But astaghfirullah, at the moment I have just not reached that level of persistence in faith, mashallah.
    The children and I still watch movies, but very selectively. We don’t watch television, we only watch chosen videos that mostly promote the good, which tell healing stories, nourish our souls and encourage us to better ourselves in some way. We often watch fairy tales and stories about heal worlds.
    With the older one I sometimes see now movies that also tell stories about overcoming human failing and about heroes and fights between the good and the evil. But all within appropriate limits, which means that we are not watching movies that contain huge amounts of nudity, intimacy, problem solving, violence, music and drinking. With the remote control at hand we always skip the inappropriate scenes and my children are pretty well in closing their eyes when I tell them to do so, they have alhamdulillah a strong and healthy fitra, subhanallah.

    Yes, we also read books, we listen to audio-CDs and we sometimes watch movies that may contain subjects from western and Christian culture, such as Christmas, birthdays, extra-marital-relationships, alcohol-drinking and pork-eating. These things are part of my past and part of my familiar background. We are often confronted with these topics even in real-life and I think instead of running away and closing our eyes, it is important to honestly talk to the children about it, to explain our Muslim point of view, to teach about our faith and to tell why we chose a different lifestyle and religion.
    I think, when watching movies, it is not only important to carefully choose the film, but also not to leave the children by themselves. I always watch with them, ready to explain some scenes or to immediately answer questions. These are often great opportunities to talk about values and about the beauty of our faith and this surely is one of the reasons why movie watching can lead to a lot of learning instead of just being a quick passing fast-food-experience. Inchallah.

    By the way, our life might mostly seem beautiful, simple and authentic, alhamdulillah, but this is just one side of the reality, that is only what I pay attention to while reflecting our days and writing on this blog.
    You know, I do not believe that there is a perfect live or that we will find paradise on this earth, and I know that we all have to struggle less or more with hardship, tests and difficult moments.
    I just don’t want to write a lot about the hard times we often go through; I don’t want to mention the messes, the fights, the yelling, the doubts, the fatigue, the solitude, and the bitterness we also live. I don’t want to share it with the world for different reasons but mostly because I don’t want to pay too much attention to the negative, because I do not want to give it too much power – I think that weakens more than it would help.
    I believe it is much more worth to focus on the good, the beauty and the blessings that can be found everywhere, subhanallah, even in the midst of a difficult test.
    That is how I go through my days, that is what I mostly share here and that is what helps me surviving also the hard times. Alhamdulillah.
    I ask Allah to bless us all, to guide us and to show us His mercy here and in the hereafter.

  5. Dear itto, to read you’re blog and specially this one makes me so happy… And I wish simetimes, to be a child again, specially with a mum like you… Thanks a lot to share your inspired thougths about films, your background and how you handle this things… It let me think about it…
    Passt auf euch auf, ganz viele liebe grüsse an dich und deine kids und inshaAllah bis bald! Nadine – bin gerade in marrakesh, du auch? Wäre zu schön! Bussa

  6. Oh, just to make sure, my mum was also great, don’t get me wrong! I would’nt change her al hamdoulillah… 🙂

  7. Danke Itto für die Inspiration. Pippi Langstrumpf begleitet uns seit dem Sommer, dem Filmnachmittag mit Euch im Bougmez, tagtäglich. Noch will das neu erstandene DVD Gerät den Pippi Langstrumpf Film nicht abspielen, doch den Fernseher einfach wirklich “nur” für DVD nutzen und mit den Kindern bewusst diese Filmmomente gemeinsam gestalten und erleben, dies leben Du und Hibba mir wunderbar vor. Danke! Es ist vorbildlich und ermunternd, mutmachend, wie Du die Dinge/Situationen von der positiven Seite aus betrachtest und Gutes aus schwierigen Momenten entstehen kann. Ja, so romantisch wie es sich dann manchmal liest, ist es wirklich nicht, umso schöner, dass Du die kleinen Wunder siehst und uns beschreibst. Ja, das mit dem Lernen, mit der Art Schule, die spürbare Achtsamkeit und der Respekt im Umgang miteinander – wenn ich nur wüsste, wo “unser” Weg ist – für uns als Familie, für unsere Kinder, denen ich so gerne solch eine Art des Lernen können, dürfen, ermöglichen möchte. Ich wünsche Dir warmen Tee, ein gutes Buch, eine feine Mahlzeit, genügend Ruhepausen, erholsamen Schlaf, ein friedliches, geborgenes Herz und Euch eine stimmige Zeit.
    (Nadine: Hoffe, Du und Ihr habt eine gute Zeit, dass “alle angetan sind”, die Herzen sich verstehen).

  8. Merci Brigitte, ja, eine gute Zeit hatten wir, wirklich, durch und durch positiv – wieder mal für nichts schlaflose Nächte gehabt…
    Bis bald inshaAllah, wünsche dir viele Ruhepausen, ebenso einen warmen Tee, klare Gedanken, und bald wird sich sicher auch ein guter und zufriedenstellender Weg für deine Kinder und deren schulbildung ergeben… 🙂

  9. Salaam Itto!

    You are a beautiful light. I think you do the right thing by taking something beneficial out of what could be a mess (movie). That is the correct approach to life. We can avoid the world only as much. However if we can avoid the ill and get by, why not.

    The other thing: every now and then… a confession about the reality of life is worth its while. It keeps things grounded and real for the reader. However, I, too, have had your kind of approach to my writing and blogging: put forward what it more hopeful and positive. And yet, I realized that it was detrimental in some ways– some readers thought I was in cloud nine, and I sometimes had to put up with that half-appearance.

    Overall, though, it seems better to bite our lip and praise the Lord while in company, and let it be assumed that lives are ‘real’. I hope I make sense.

    Love & salaam!

  10. shalom & salam
    what means “RA”? :
    it’s an old egytian/pre-islamic word for/instead of “SUN”!
    buorre beaivi – all together

  11. I’m sure I have told you this before, but I just love the origin (and original concept) of the word “school.”
    school (n.1)
    “place of instruction,” Old English scol, from Latin schola, from Greek skhole “school, lecture, discussion,” also “leisure, spare time,”…The original notion is “leisure,” which passed to “otiose discussion,” then “place for such.” The Latin word was widely borrowed, cf. Old French escole, French école, Spanish escuela, Italian scuola, Old High German scuola, German Schule, Swedish skola, Gaelic sgiol, Welsh ysgol, Russian shkola. Replaced Old English larhus “lore house.”

    Reminds me of old etchings or urns with pictures of groups of young children leisurely chatting with an elder in an open field… boys most likely… but you know what I mean 😉 ❤

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