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I am so excited to bring you a new series on my site this summer about homeschool methods. Today is all about unschooling! I have been wanting to write a series like this for a while now, but felt inadequate to give the best descriptions of all of the methods when I was not doing them all myself. Instead I reached out to some of my homeschool blogging friends to share their passions about how they are homeschooling. Everyone’s journey is different which is part of the magic of homeschooling. Today’s post comes to you from Katrina who writes at Rule This Roost. I love her site and hope you will stop by for a visit.
Homeschooling Methods: A Peek Inside Our Unschooling Journey
When you make the decision to homeschool, there are so many things to take into consideration. One of the things you have to think about is what style of homeschooling you will utilize.
From a classical approach, to radical unschooling, and everything in between, there are a variety of ways that homeschooling can serve different types of families and learning styles.
As a former public school educator, I never imagined myself homeschooling (let alone unschooling) my kids. I had it all figured out. I would climb the ranks of my career ladder and my kids would happily go to my sister’s house to be take care of.
Obviously that idea didn’t last long. At the end of the school year, I quit my job as an instructional coach for the school district and the rest is history.
Unschooling has become our way of life. For our family, it is not just an educational philosophy, but a reflection on who we are and what we believe is best for our kids.
What is Unschooling?
The philosophy of unschooling is based on the idea that learning should be child-focused, and never ceasing. This means that there isn’t a set curriculum, or a set calendar year. Learning takes place all the time, at the child’s pace.
Instilling a love for learning in your kids is the ultimate goal of unschooling.
With unschooling, parents don’t plan out lessons and do not require their children to complete assignments that have been chosen, solely, by the parents. This doesn’t mean that when you unschool your child can’t use workbooks, or worksheets. However, it should not be something that is forced, and your child should be showing interest in the topics at hand.
Your child’s life while unschooling can still be intentional and purposeful. You can (and are encouraged to) set goals with your kids about what they want to accomplish for the day (or week, for older kids). Reflecting on these goals is equally as important as setting them. This teaches kids to be intentional in all things.
Unschooling is an excellent way to help your child become (and stay) passionate about learning new things.
Why Did We Choose Unschooling?
I knew that I wanted to homeschool, but I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to homeschool.
Although I was a public school educator, it honestly never occurred to me that if kids were given a choice in their learning experiences, they would then have a vested interest, would be more likely to absorb the information AND (huge bonus) would also enjoy the process. It’s embarrassing to me now that this just didn’t click for me as a teacher.
When I started researching different homeschooling styles, the one most compatible with our lifestyle and long-term goals was unschooling.
Even though I had always been trained to plan, plan, plan, the unschooling approach made sense to me as a life-long investment in my kids’ education. Was my goal for my kids to memorize information, or to LOVE learning? I went for the latter.
I also knew that I wanted to do a lot of character building with my kids. Not that you can’t do this with other homeschooling styles, but I knew that I would feel pressured to stick with a curriculum calendar and didn’t want academics to come before teaching generosity, kindness, and being humble.
Though my kids are too young for a lot of volunteering opportunities, we still take part in litter pick up, giving out bags to the homeless and donating to different charities.
Another huge goal for our family is to travel. I don’t want to be tied down to a curriculum calendar where I felt like I would fall behind if we went out of town for a week. I want my kids to know that learning takes place everywhere, even on vacation. It doesn’t have to be during a set time of day, with a certain set of books.
Ultimately, I knew that unschooling was a lifestyle choice that I really believed in. I don’t think I will ever look back and regret the decision to unschool. It has already been a wonderful way for our family to grow closer and learn more together.
A Day in the Life of an Unschooling Family
Unschooling is going to look different for each family (though the idea still remains the same), and will even look different for each kid within a family. With our kids being 3 years old and 6 years old, their individual needs are met differently throughout the day.
For our family, our day might begin at 9 a.m. or 7 a.m., depending on when our children wake up. Sleep is so important for the healthy development of kids, and being able to honor that is something that we really appreciate about homeschooling.
While I’m making breakfast, our kids are either playing or watching their favorite show on TV.
During breakfast, we talk about what we will do that day. Whether we have errands to take care of, or if we are staying home for the day, we get an idea of what our day will look like.
After breakfast, the kids usually play together while I am cleaning up from cooking. They might build a tall creation of mega legos, or play “baby”, with my daughter being the mom to my son. Their imaginations truly run wild.
Sometimes my daughter will sneak off to her “learning table” (a small desk) and read in her BOB Books, write in her journal, or draw and color, while my son plays with his tray of moon sand and his toy bulldozers.
After we are dressed and ready for the day, we usually go outside, start running our errands or go on an outing. One of the best things about unschooling is flexibility and the constant learning that takes place in every situation.
At the grocery store, we might weigh the fruit to see how much it will cost, or my daughter will count her money to buy something that she wants. We take every opportunity to learn and have conversations that ignite curiosity.
Our favorite time spent is outside. Sometimes that means exploring around our own house, or heading to a local park to feed ducks. If my husband is home from work, he sometimes jumps in with a lesson on arrowheads or quartz rocks. The kids love it. What is most important to me, is that my kids are being inspired to learn and enjoy nature.
Another favorite is art time. Kids LOVE being creative. It is a cornerstone of childhood development. We don’t usually do “cookie-cutter” crafts, but if my daughter finds something on Pinterest that she wants to do, we go for it. Usually though, it’s free-style and unstructured painting, drawing, coloring or clay sculpting.
As our day comes to a close, we discuss our favorite parts of the day. We have conversations about things that we learned, or something that was interesting.
Although the majority of our reading happens at bedtime, we also read throughout the day. We read pamphlets on animals, bugs and seashells, signs as we are driving and books that my daughter has created in the past. We don’t require a set amount of reading and this makes a huge difference in our kids’ attitudes toward reading.
The majority of my kids’ day is spent playing with an indefinite amount of time to pursue what they are interested in. This unstructured time allows them to dig deeper into their interests and sparks conversations that encourage more discovery.
Resources for Unschooling
Resources for unschooling your kids are going to be different depending on what your kids are interested in. My kids LOVE science (as most kids this age do), so most of our resources are based on a lot of nature and science experiments.
We have grown caterpillars into butterflies, watched a tadpole turn into a frog, and created our own ant farm. The wonderful thing about these types of activities is that they are very affordable. A simple investment in a bug box and butterfly net can provide endless learning opportunities for kids.
As soon as my kids show an interest in a subject, I research what different activities I can show them to support their learning. At their young age, they are enthusiastic about pretty much everything.
Most of the time, my daughter will initiate her own experiments. This might be an outdoor activity or mixing ingredients from the kitchen to see what happens.
Providing a lot of opportunities and resources for reading is also important. A library pass is an awesome way to encourage kids to read and could turn into a favorite outing.
As an unschooling parent, it is important to be the resource provider for your kids. Resources can be planned and chosen together, especially with older kids. This is a great way for kids to learn about budgeting also!
Final Thoughts on Unschooling
We love unschooling because we see our how children thrive when they have the opportunity to direct their own learning. We believe unschooling will help our kids to learn about themselves and find their true passions early in life.
We have based our decision to unschool on the idea that it is what is best for our kids. We see the learning that takes place every single day, in the most unique ways. We see that our kids truly love learning because of this type of homeschooling.
Unschooling might not be the answer for everyone’s homeschooling journey. We have found that unschooling provides our kids with more opportunities than we could ever gain from a curriculum.
The real-life experiences they have will shape their brains and their futures.
About the Author:
Katrina is a chaotically organized unschool mama who blogs at Rule This Roost. She loves all things nerdy, including a lot of non-fiction reading and working on her side-hustle with classical music playing in the background.
Want more homeschool support? Check out my post How to Homeschool.