Literally, Figuratively, and Metaphorically Speaking…
So there I was, high in the Wasatch mountain range with my kids, explaining the brilliance of a Utah autumn. “In a few weeks, these hills will be on fire with all the golds, oranges, and reds from the trees changing colors!” I enthused. Naturalist nodded her head while looking out at the vista, then turned and caught Golfer’s face which must have registered some kind of confusion.
“Not literally, Golfer. She meant that the colors would make it look like it was on fire, but it won’t really be on fire!” she clarified.
“Right.” I said, distracted by my daydreams about eating tortilla soup for lunch. “I was speaking metaphorically by using similes.”
Golfer spoke up. “that doesn’t even make sense! Metaphor and simile are two different things. You didn’t say “the colors of the leaves will be like a fire spreading on the mountain” or “the leaves will be as colorful as a fire on the mountain” or even “the hills will look like a fire when all the leaves turn colors”…”
Naturalist backed him up. “You were speaking figuratively, mom.”
“Or maybe allegorically!” I said, to throw them off the trail of my own idiocy.
“Nope, you weren’t telling a story or singing a song or anything. It was definitely figuratively.” They both agreed.
Looking doubly ignorant, all I could do was play the trump card. “Well listen here, I don’t know where you all got your information, but I went to school and spent hours upon hours upon hours in language arts classes learning all about this stuff! And everyone knows that you are speaking metaphorically when you use “like” or “as” to compare two things!”
“That’s a simile.”
Golfer is very observant.
“Right, so obviously I was speaking figuratively!”
“That’s what we just said!” they both laugh yelled.
“Ok then. Now that we’re all in agreement, lets go have some soup.” I paused for dramatic effect. “It will be the best thing we’ve eaten all week, and I mean that very literally!”
This kind of thing happens all the time. Not just me being wrong about things, but my kids knowing things that…being unschoolers and curriculum free…I know they’ve never had formal lessons about. People ask me how I know if my kids are learning if they’ve never taken a test in their lives, and here’s how: they correct me all the time. I’m a reasonably intelligent woman with a college degree; but some things I just didn’t care too much about to remember, and other things I remember wrong, and still other things were sucked into the black hole of temporary amnesia created in the perfect motherhood storm of fluctuating hormones, lack of sleep, and extreme multitasking.
Luckily my kids are here to help me out.
I don’t know when and where they come across their vast assortment of information and knowledge. But I’ve been corrected enough to know it happens. Give a kid the freedom and space to learn whatever they want whenever they want to, and you would be amazed at the voracious appetite of their curiosity. Without the stress of tests, the worry of failure, or the tedium of writing boring papers on things they don’t care about, my kids have a surplus of time and energy to devote to answering questions like, “What if…” “What about…” “Where is…” “How do I…” “Why does…” “What does _____ mean?” They use things like Khan Academy, Google, Wikipedia, video games, books, and other people to figure their world out and everything that fascinates them.
Now that it’s 2013, the age of the internet and freedom of information, everything that’s ever been thought and studied in the world is open sourced if you know how to look for it and where to find it. Like a gigantic neverending game of knowledge hide & seek!
I may not know how they know what they know, but it’s a lot. So I keep on unschooling and we keep on having fun along the way…although I’d like it a little more if some of that enjoyment wasn’t at my own expense so much of the time…