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 play with Legos, Brainbox, draw, or 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, unless it’s a home day. If It’s a home day, the mornings are usually spent reading together; playing games; doing an art project; playing at the park across the street or in the backyard; or playing Freeze Dance, practicing their karate sequence, or other indoor physical activity if the weather prevents us from going outside.
After lunch we are usually back home, and we usually have a quiet/create time, when the boys might do Reading Eggs, art lessons, activity/workbooks, do some beading or crocheting, origami, a collage, or a similar quiet activity. They might play Legos for a little while, building cranes, police We also have a Lego Ideas books for inspiration on what kinds of things to build. The kids might 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. If it’s been a full-on day with lots of physical activity, we might watch a documentary or other educational show. Usually we go back outside for a little while before having a clean-up of the boys’ room and living areas before starting dinner, which builds teamwork, encourages responsibility, and again, teaches important life lessons on self-care.
My husband Matt cooks the majority of dinners, and the boys 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. During dinner, we discuss as a family the highs and lows of our days, and something that we appreciate that another family member did that day. (I originally started that in response to some sibling rivalry issues the boys were having, and it has been great for every member of our family.) The boys will tell Matt about what they did that day and some things they learned, and he will usually offer additional information that we hadn’t discussed, to help further their understanding. After dinner, we all write and/or draw in our individual gratitude journals and talk about the things we are grateful for. Evenings are spent reading books together or individually (both boys have recently started reading Evy her bedtime stories), and then lights out.
Throughout the day, the boys will often tell me that “five plus eighty-five is ninety” or “three times four is twelve” or some other math equation that they have figured out. I will take that as a cue to ask them further equations. When the boys were learning how to spell, they would tell me that “S T O P spells stop” for example, or that they could read most of the words on the front of the milk bottle, which they would then read to me.
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 boys 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. Michael, who is two years younger than Gabriel, also pays close attention to Gabriel’s organic learning experiences.
One such time, Gabriel wanted to know exactly how many stickers were in his sticker book that boasted, “More than 1,000 stickers inside!” So Michael watched as Gabriel and I either counted the stickers on each page (sometimes as few as 12 stickers), or on pages that had over 100, because they were lined up nicely in rows, Gabriel counted how many were across and multiplied that number by how many rows there were. We wrote down the number of stickers on each page, and then Gabriel added them all up, coming up with 1,056. This was a little advanced for Michael, but he watched with interest and we explained each step to him, and why we were doing what we were doing. He understood why we multiplied the columns by the rows, because he’ll often count the bumps on a large Lego rectangle and then count only the top row by the side column, and then tell me that six times eight is 48.
So as you can see, learning is something that happens all day, every day.