Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Day As An Unschooler

Yesterday Curly had a wonderful day filled with learning all day long. In my mind, this is exactly what unschooling should look like, although Hubby and I don't have the energy to do this much every day. If we did, Curly would be thrilled.

In the morning, Hubby had the kids. He pulled out freezer paper for an oversized coloring project and let them free-color whatever imaginative things they wanted. Curly has finally decided she wants to color inside the lines after years of random scribbling. So she drew pictures of Mater tow trucks and sunshines and people with thought bubbles, then colored them bright colors. As I suspected, it was not lack of ability to color within the lines, but rather lack of desire because she is quite proficient despite never doing so previously. The two kids and Daddy also baked peanut butter cookies together, learning to measure and mix and of course taste the result!

Hubby also did a math workbook page with her, which she loves, and had her read aloud to him from an easy-reader book about butterflies, sitting snuggled together on the couch. She is about a first-grade level, I'd say, but she's not a voracious reader and only does it when we ask her, so it's not very often. I hope she decides to read for pleasure on her own at some point, but part of me is relieved she doesn't read as much as I did at such a young age since I think that contributed largely to my current eyesight problems. I remember my parents fretting about the amount I spent reading and whether my glasses were harming my eyes, but back then I ignored them and read for hours anyway. I was an addict. So far it's not the case with my daughter; given the choice of activities she's much more likely to choose a toy or her coloring.

Before he left for work, hubby did a few minutes of violin practice with Curly as we've discovered lately that a few minutes repeated several times a day goes much better with her short attention span than a prolonged practice. There will be time to build endurance later. When it's quick and fun, she asks to do it rather than dragging her feet.

At rest-time while Mister took a nap, Curly did PBS computer games, both fun and educational.

When Little Mister awoke, we went to the park to meet three other homeschool families from church. The kids played pirate ship and the moms yakked. I think we all enjoyed the fresh air and exercise, as well as the social time. Although this was our "recess" there was no bell, no lining up and it lasted about three times as long as a recess at school might last. Plus, every kid was included and had friends as well as watchful moms preventing unwanted rough play or bullying.

We left the park in time to come home and fix dinner; while I cooked the kids listened to Bible story tapes. Those hold fond memories for me as I remember many happy hours of listening to the same tapes as a kid. We also went over the first two sentences of the newest memory verse: 1 Corinthians 13. Curly likes to dance around or climb on the couch while learning memory verses, making me suspect she has quite a bit of kinesthetic learning style in her makeup. Sitting in a desk all day certainly wouldn't do anything for that!

After dinner I had to leave for a Chiropractor appointment and a meeting with my boss, so Hubby had the kids again; it's unusual for him to have so much time with them in a day and he said he was tired by the end. I can't imagine why! I think they mostly played in the basement with toys and with the Wii. Their imaginative play lately has revolved around the play kitchen. They fix dinner for us or each other or the stuffed sheep that lives in the basement.

When I got home, Hubby had to go into work for his evening shift to make up for the time he takes off in the mornings. He says he loves going in to work when no one is there. He's a night-owl and no one bothers him, so he accomplishes more off his to-do list than at any other time in the week. He does so much with the family that we both have to remember to make sure he gets some time to himself each week, to hang with friends or read his many theological tomes he carries around in his backpack.

I put the kids in bed and after the long, busy day, they crashed immediately. I reflected on the amazing amount of learning that went on during the day, happy busy kids absorbing the world around them, not in set school hours but in the real world. They didn't just learn reading or memory verses or math, but kindness to one another and to friends, the value of imagination and curiosity, or the pleasure of making something with their hands. In music Curly is learning to push through difficulty or fear of failure to learn new skills. A gentle encouragement to try, try again is enough to spur on her natural ambition and the look on her face when she accomplishes a skill she thought was impossible is priceless!

Some of the things I love about learning at home in this easy, relaxed manner is the way we can enjoy the emerging skills of our children without forcing them into the "right way" box. For instance, if Curly wants to color outside the lines, she is able to do it without anyone telling her it's wrong or that she's bad. As her mother, I know her well enough not to confuse desire with ability and I enjoy her creative artistic pieces rather than scolding her for not doing it the "right way."

Another development this year is the closeness that has formed between the siblings from being together during the days. When Curly was at Preschool, she learned from the other kids that only kids her own age were worthy of her friendship and she began to scorn her little brother. Now that her social groups involve kids of every age all playing together, she values her brother as a friend and ally instead of a cootie.

I don't know if we'll homeschool as a long-term plan. We only did it this year because she wanted to learn to read and the kindergartens wouldn't accept her since her birthday is after the cutoff date. But it's working so well this year, it may continue longer than I thought. I know Curly would love school, she's such a extrovert, but right now she is as happy a kid as I've ever seen simply doing what we're doing.


  1. You are such an awesome Mom! That is so cool that you and your husband have been able to be there for these first schooling adventures. Sounds like Curly is a really fast learner!

  2. Glad it's working so well for you! And as you found , there can be just as much(I would say more) social aspect in homeschooling as there is in public school.

    It's nice to be able to work with them on the pace they want to learn at and with the style that works the best for them individually.

    I would go the unschooling route if I wasn't so afraid that I might let my kids down somehow or get lazy or whatnot.

    God bless you guys! Maybe if we end up moving back, you can introduce me to your other homeschooling friends.