Monday, April 21, 2014

An Unschooling Day

One of the hardest things to communicate to people is what unschooling actually looks like from day to day. Some people think it looks like un-learning. Nope. Some people think it looks like chaos or kids in charge. Nope.

So, that tells a few things it's not.

But what is it?

Well, there are some days when my kids prefer to have a little structure. We have done the unschooling where I give them absolutely free rein all day every day. They have trouble finding enough to keep busy, even busy with stuff that looks like all video games or playing outside. Too many Saturdays in a row becomes too much of a good thing.

So I've been giving them lists lately.

They aren't legalistic "do this or get punished" type lists, and they aren't tied to a time of day. But the kids have all agreed that a few ideas from Mom work pretty well to make the day go by. Curly especially has discovered that she likes to have specific tasks to do, and likes to know that she is working parallel with her peers so that she won't be behind.

Here is what their lists look like today:

Little Mister (aged seven, handwriting: first grade, math fourth grade, reading third grade, Piano book 1)


Curly (aged nine, reading sixth grade, math fourth grade, handwriting fourth grade, violin Suzuki Book 4)


Abi (aged six, reading and math first grade)


Reading practice, math lesson, social studies lesson


Bean (aged four, preschool)

No list. ;)


Today, the neighbors had the day off from school, so the lists pretty much got scrapped in favor of social playtime. Often, Curly's list gets shortened or adapted depending on what else we are doing.

One of the coolest things about unschooling is also observing the learning that goes on when the kids are not "doing school." Everything is learning! No matter what they are doing, there is any combination of exercise, social skills, reading, counting, handling money, writing, analyzing and composing stories, drawing, having conversations about history or other cultures or science, experimentation, doing chores, caring for animals, etc! The list goes on and on.

As a teacher, I am most impressed with the quality of learning that goes on when I am NOT the one directing the activity. Kids often try an idea, but then come to me for help or tips on how to do it. I can then use those teachable moments and we learn together.

It's a spontaneous, flexible, playful, fun, rich way to learn, and we love it. I think the toughest part is communicating to curious friends and family how it works. :)

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