A Day in the Life of an Unschooler

So what does day to day living look like when you’re unschooling? Pretty much just like living life and having fun, and not worrying too much about the learning part, because learning takes place constantly, just through life experiences.

Our days are flexible so we are able to take advantage of different opportunities that come our way, but for the most part, we do our activities away from home in the mornings and early afternoons, when we have the most energy, and afternoons are generally spent at home for self-directed learning time. 

No two days are the same, as we have more opportunities than we seem to have time for, but here’s a general example to give you an idea. Our days usually start with the kids waking up when their bodies are ready to. They have a light snack and then they might play with Legos or Brainbox, do some artwork, make a stop-motion video with Legos and our digital camera, or some other quiet activity while we get up and around. The kids will then help me make pancakes or scones, or a similar breakfast. This is a great practical lesson in reading, math, science, and teamwork, as well as an opportunity to learn some very important life skills. After breakfast we do dishes and then, depending on the day, either go to karate or swimming lessons, have a playdate, go on an outing, or meet up with our homeschooling group. The above photo is from when our homeschooling group went on a pony-riding outing.

After lunch we are usually back home, and we usually have a quiet/create time, when the kids might read, write a story or in their journal, do online art lessons or artwork, do some activity/work books, do some beading or crocheting, make something out of origami,  or a similar quiet activity. (This started when at least one of my children still took an afternoon nap, and it was beneficial to all of us, so we continued it even once everyone had outgrown their naps.) Later, they might play Minecraft or other video game, or play an imaginary game together, often using costumes, Lego, Mobilo, and props made out of whatever they can find in the art closet (we collect paper towel rolls, egg cartons, cardboard, bubble wrap, bits of fabric, lace, etc. for such purposes) to accompany their play. We might play a game or go outside and play in the backyard or park across the street, or we might watch a documentary or other educational show. Sometimes we’ll make cookies and watch a movie. Usually we’ll have a tidy-up of the living areas before starting dinner, and the children help me with chores as needed as well throughout the day. Basically, we hang out and have fun.

My husband cooks the majority of dinners, and the kids like to help him, and occasionally make up their own “creations” for dinner as well, which allows them to have a strong involvement in the family meals. We always sit down and eat dinner together and talk about our day. After dinner we might watch a show or movie together, and we usually all read a bit before we go to sleep.

Throughout the day, the kids will often tell me something they’ve just learned. I remember when one of my sons was about six, he came out from playing Legos and told me that six times eight is 48, which he discovered by counting all of the bumps on a 6×8 Lego piece. Whenever they say something like that, I will take that as a cue to ask them further equations (finding another Lego piece and figuring out the number of bumps the same way, for example). I’ve found that the kids all want to share with me what they’re learning, as their exploration of life is fun and exciting.

While most learning happens organically and is in context with where the kids’ interests have taken them, we do also provide science experiment kits, as well as often finding ourselves in the middle of impromptu collective learning when one of the kids asks a question about something that the internet can offer a lesson for. We will Google their question and learn all about whatever it is they’re wondering about, and we might take a trip to the library down the road to get more books on the topic. Even though they have different interests, the kids often pay close attention to what we’re learning about when we’re Googling something that one of the other kids has found interesting. I have learned lots of new things right along with them! 

So as you can see, learning is something that happens all day, every day, effortlessly and organically. 

How Unschooled Children Learn About the Arts

It is important to us that our children are able to find ways to express themselves and be creative. My children thoroughly enjoy drawing, painting, and sculpting, as well as lots of different types of arts and crafts. They will often use paper, scissors, tape, markers, string and whatever else they might need to make all sorts of things – signs, airplanes, costumes, weapons, fishing poles, binoculars, etc. They love using modelling clay and we have a family annual membership to online art classes as well.    

My husband is a musician and was the guitar player and back up vocalist in his band when we lived in NZ. He collects and even builds his own guitars, so the children have been strumming guitars since they were infants. We have many friends who are musicians so the kids have access to other instruments as well, and we have recently been discussing the idea of starting music lessons so they can properly learn to play an instrument, although so far the kids have not been terribly interested, and that’s fine. All of our kids love to sing and tend to sing or hum throughout much of the day, and they have all enjoyed making up their own songs at one point or another. 

Other opportunities for children to express themselves creatively may include dress up and imaginative play; going to the theatre to see shows; going to concerts; making up songs; singing songs; making music videos; putting on plays; playing freeze dance; taking photos; making stop-motion videos with Legos; taking on decorating and sewing projects; knitting and/or crocheting; making jewelry; and taking lessons for art, acting, singing, instruments, dance, and photography.

How Unschooled Children Learn About Health and Wellbeing

It is important to us that our children understand the importance of, and how to obtain, emotional and physical wellbeing. We talk a lot about how the foods we eat affect our bodies, both positively and negatively. We talk about how to keep our immune systems strong, and make sure that we support them with vitamins and minerals, and limit the toxins that suppress them, for both prevention and treatment of illness. We talk about the importance of physical activity, adequate sleep, proper hydration, limited screen time, massage therapy, etc.

We talk a lot about our feelings and help our kids work through big emotions. I want them to be able to identify their feelings, and to be able to work through emotions in a healthy manner. When another person is upset (in the case of a dispute between siblings for instance), we talk about how each person is feeling, and how our actions can affect other people, so the children can learn to be empathetic and respectful of others.  

Other opportunities for my kids to learn how to take care of their emotional and physical health may include reading nutrition information on food labels; shopping for and preparing food together; experiencing a variety of physical activities such as swimming, karate, gymnastics, sports, etc.; practicing peaceful conflict resolution; learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation; taking walks and going on bike rides; playing at parks on playground equipment as well as throwing Frisbees, kicking balls, and flying kites; and having discussions about our health, self-esteem, personal safety, listening to our intuition, elements of nutrition, etc.