By Debora T. Stenta
We all “worldschool” ever since we are conceived: “worldschooling” to me means becoming and learning what we need to live in the world. This is what generally occurs and is accepted until those who take care of us decide that we have to be inserted in an environment intentionally meant for learning and “socialization”, in order to continue the de-velopment of our own nature and individuality.
Some of the features and capabilities of human nature and culture, like talking, moving, walking, autonomously feeding ourselves, are normally learned in an informal and spontaneous way, through imitation of the people who are around us and under the sense of community we live in.
On the other hand, there are other features and capabilities that, according to many people, need to be taught and that, without a specially designed environment, one can not learn independently or it is much more complex to learn. I observe this about writing, reading, numeracy and other aspects of life that have been encoded as fields of study.
The invitation I received when I became a mother was to consider what values were guiding me to continue to de-velop as a person and contribute to the existence of my and other species. Reflection on those values led me through a series of choices, and now that my daughter is 5 years old and my son 16 I realize that the natural consequence of those choices is “worldschooling”. Which means putting my children and myself in the condition to live and get to know what it takes, drawing it from the very source.
Instead of watching photos of a banana tree on a text and read where it grows and what features it has, we can be next to it, see how big it is, realizing that a banana leaf is so big that it can contain our body, and we see that with a banana leaf you can do many things, from a dish to a roof, you can cook food in banana leaves, and find a banana flower at the roadside, browse the petals to find out that it contains many banana “embryos”, and when you gradually get to the heart it becomes more sticky, then smell and see the changing colors petal by petal, carry it during the walk as my daughter (who collects many flowers) always does, but then abandon it because it is too heavy, and then find out that the banana plant dies after fruiting once, and play count all kinds of bananas that we can recognize, discovering later that there are always many more than those we can count, and by seeing a “fan-banana” learning that in the family of bananas there are lots of different plants, many of which do not even produce the fruits, and self-wind with a banana leaf in hot weather and take shelter down there when it’s raining, exchanging opinions on which are the sweetest, most floury, better, and see that bananas ready to eat are not as yellow as in our supermarkets but they are the ones with almost black peel (discovering how the ones we buy in Italy are collected, transported and stored) and that there are varieties of bananas that are particularly suitable to be fried, and that some are round like pumpkins and others as long as our arm, and eat them fried in super-re-fried palm oil (acquainting with the subject of deforestation linked to the production of palm oil and cholesterol that undermines the health of these people who eat so much fried food) and, when touching the banana plant, feel that it is soft and full of water, and imagine how to survive in a drought drinking from the trunk, and wonder how many bananas can be on a banana plant, and each time saying “this one has more than the other one!!”. And so on.
Being in the world and letting knowledge come like that, im-mediated, not pre-packaged, closely linked to what we experience, and opening all the doors that are beyond any door without containing the desire to deepen or ramble, it seems to me that the process of de-velopment of our personality is more vivid and rich.
When travelling and living in the world, history, geography, science, biology, geology, botany, chemistry, anthropology, arts, languages are an interdisciplinary and multisensorial whole that envelops us and never stops to stimulate us; we can not (and do not want to) close the textbook, there is no bell that disrupts the learning process.
My children “learn” the countries they visit through, i.e., the flavours of the fruits they had never tasted before, and, in doing so, it happens something that is much more important than the “knowledge” they accumulate: they learn that “fruit” is a much broader concept of what we learn if we always stay in one part of the world. That, on a broader level, means understanding that all information is not absolute. Understanding that the seasons are not four, the notes are not seven: all things that we can unlearn. They learn the critical sense. They learn to wonder where the information comes from and whether it is true. They learn that things are “true” and “false” depending on the perspective from which you look. They learn that anything is possible and that if it is not here, it can be there.
By travelling they also learn to be light on earth, both as for the impact of their person, and as for a mental attitude, and materially too: they learn that you need very little material to live, a backpack and some objects, and even a little money, if you are traveling in a certain way. They learn to adapt to different situations, to respect customs and traditions that may seem absurd, to keep clean and help when we are guests; by being hosted they learn to be hospitable. Meeting people who live in unimaginable ways allows them to flourish free from constraints and prejudices. They learn that every place is home, that the real home is in ourselves and that this is where it is important to feel comfortable first.
They learn all that, not because someone tells them, but because we are facing the issue.
These values are very important for me; whether we like it or not, every corner of the world, even the most remote village in the Himalayas, is a few hours away from any location; we are all part of the community-world, and “worldschooling” to me means honoring this opportunity offered by the time which we live in, and enjoy life.