I’ve had my first blog post topic request! And as I think I have about 7 readers, I thought I’d better honor the request lest my readership be reduced to 6. SARAH commented: Since you seem to have time on your hands, can I making a blogging request? I would love to hear more about your 3 month plan with the kids and unschooling. I find it super interesting but also kind of foreign to me. Also, please clean that dried crud off the stove and change your panties. This isn’t a college frat house.
Per her request, I cleaned the stove and am now writing the blog post. (The panties bit I could not accommodate. Sorry, Sarah.)
So, to explain, unschooling is a way of educating that encourages and champions child-led, natural, interest-driven learning. We don't utilize a fixed curriculum. We think of living and learning as the same thing, doing so together and pursuing interests as they arise. When you think about it, the way all of us learned before we went to school was organic. Learning to walk or talk—those things are encouraged but not directed by a curriculum of any kind. They are modeled and encouraged, yes, but allowed to unfold naturally. That is the basis of the concept behind unschooling.
In allowing interests to direct learning, those organic interests lead to reading texts and doing projects and, later, taking courses. But the important factor is that the energy and activity around an interest is chosen by the kid, rather than chosen and dictated via an all-encompassing curriculum, meant for all kids, when we know that kids and the ways in which they learn best are all different. Since unschooled kids are not on the usual time-table, you might find some that read when they’re 4 and others when they’re 10, for example.
When we started to think about this, I wondered how the kids could be different and think differently about the world and their place in it if the learning environment were less dictated by adults and more fine-tuned to their own interests and views. The hard part—coming from my school-learning perspective which spanned 20 years—is allowing my kids the freedom to learn from/in the world without worrying that they are learning the "right stuff" at a pre-determined pace. I have to “de-school” my own brain all the time, which is really challenging. Also difficult is being certain that I am doing “enough” and doing it “right.” There is no guide to follow and that’s hard for me. Which might speak to the influence of school in my life...
When I talk about my 3-month plan, I simply refer to my loose schedule of craft projects (for the girls, the boy HATES crafts for the most part), science experiments, cooking together and outings. I find cool stuff to do (tons of stuff online and in some of the books I have and check out of the library) and make sure I have the supplies on hand. Outings are very simple: from trips to the playground with other homeschoolers to activities at the library to nature walks to programs at Audubon sites, etc. I basically sign up for every email and Facebook update from sites and groups in my area. Then we do the stuff if we want to, or don’t. Or sometimes it gets replaced by an activity that comes up. Sometimes they simply want to play all day.
I like to make sure several things happen every day: reading aloud together, time outdoors and learning games (cards, board games, etc.). These are the anchors. At the beginning of each month, I check out a crapload of books from the library. Books that focus around their interests, the current season, stories that are simply fun and some surprises thrown in to potentially pique new interests. They are given a lot of time for free play, which I really believe is highly underrated for learning and development.
And let me just admit how often we don’t do the activities I plan, which totally freaks me out. But life gets in the way and their own ideas take over or people get sick and fight left and right, etc. It doesn’t take much to throw it off. And I am learning to be okay with that. I think of the 3-month plan as more of a guideline and an insurance policy that I have activities at the ready.
One of the best perks about unschooling is how it affects life: it becomes an entire lifestyle view. And we can do what we want when we want and that includes staying in bed until 8:30 every morning cuddling.
I have plenty of days when I want to run screaming and fantasize regularly about all the time I would have for writing and getting homemaking done and showering if they were at school all day. I also second-guess myself all the time—ALL THE TIME—about how we’re doing. But I wouldn’t change it. I know this is not for everyone and I have utmost respect for all the ways by which other parents choose to educate their kids. And I only hope for the same in return.
This is very much a simplified overview, but I think it might give you a sense of it. Following, please enjoy pictures of what the play and create area typically looks like. Enjoy!