A big part of radical unschooling, for me, is finding a way to help the kids pursue their ideas. Sometimes these ideas are larger adventures, and sometimes their just small curiosities. I’m really learning lately, that even the small requests are a big deal, and I’m trying to find a way to say yes.
Sometimes saying yes is easy. Other times, the kids have ideas that seem impractical, impossible, or for some reason or another unable to be unaccomplished. Some ideas get talked about and thought out and the kids see the logical fallacy upon further reflection, some ideas get lived through only through imagination dream board style. This journey, however requires flexibility and creativity, and I’m trying to get better at that.
Hailey has been talking about having a camp out in the yard again. It has to been warm enough (or we don’t have the appropriate gear for the weather), and Papa has had some health issues that wouldn’t have made it possible this week. No Hailey, is the definition of creative, and never short of ideas. She came up with the idea of a living room camp out and was determined to make it happen tonight. However, her brother wasn’t feeling up to it, so we came up with a way to get the tent in her room and she is happy with the idea of sleeping in that as a bed alone. But they really wanted to roast marshmallows, and of course they came up with that idea at 8 pm, and we have no wood, and a wet ground and a fire just wasn’t happening. We talked about other similar treats that could meet that need. We decided on chocolate covered marshmallows instead. It was a big hit! This has led to a fun night.
I was sitting here thinking if we had just said “No we can’t camp out, it’s not possible, no we cant make a fire, sorry another time” and left it at that. The fun and yummy treats wouldn’t have happened. So be open, creative, and flexible and you can end up in some great places.
Our day started out by meeting up with some new people for the first meet and greet of a local family friendly hiking group. We met at Starbucks, got a treat, and headed on a walk to the park. Hailey met some new friends who she spent much of the time with, and Elijah mostly played with me or by himself. After a while of play, we walked back and headed home.
We had some lunch and the kids played pretending to be the chef/waiter/customer at a restaurant.A bit later Elijah played in the water in the sink a bit while Hailey and I played Rory’s story cubes. Which is a game that must have been made for her. I laid the baby down for a nap and Elijah fell asleep too, which means it will probably be a late night here, so maybe a movie after dinner.
There are many different explanations out there to describe what unschooling is. I view it as living life, pursuing interests, having fun, and exploring new places. When doing this, learning naturally occurs. I am certianly no expert seeing as my oldest is not yet 6. However, for now, I feel this path is what makes the most sense for us. It feels right.
My kids have already learned so much, often from places that I did not expect. I am still surprised when my daughter tells me some fact she learned from a TV show. I see my 3 year old constantly learning and experimenting. I am also learning right next to them. Learning is viewed as fun and very normal in this house. it just happens. It is not complicated. I just learned that there are two mammals that lay eggs (I had previously thought there was only 1). That was from a book my oldest asked me to read while waiting for an chiropractor appointment; certainly not a place one would be expecting to learn about animals. But life is filled with new things to learn, it is everywhere, unavoidable.
I went to traditional school. I loved the academic part. I hated most everything else. What do I remember from it? The stuff that I enjoyed. I forgot almost everything else. All those facts crammed into my head were instantly forgotten after the test. I don’t want that experience for my children.
We do not use a structured curriculum. I do not believe there is anything wrong with using one if that is what works for you and your family. My choice is not a judgement of anyone else. The only workbooks we have are the ones my daughter has asked to have because she actually enjoys doing them sometimes. I do not encourage them over the other activities in our home. They have free access to the TV, board games, playdoh, crayons, books, toys, and many other tools of learning. They naturally tend to spend most of their time with their own interests. My daughter likes to create through many different mediums. My son likes to play cook, build things, play in the water, and lately his trains.
If I looked at our week in schoolish terms, I can easily see reading, math, science, art, and history covered. Often times, they are learning things naturally that are above the level they would be learning at school.
I love this path. To me if feels like a natural extension of our attachment parenting. It just flows nicely. If something changes, we will change and adapt right along with it. That is the beauty of unschooling.
Today’s homeschooling has actually been building upon the things we have done the past few days. Hailey has started to enjoy me reading her longer books, so while Papa is putting the toddler to sleep, I have been reading her longer books. Her favorite so far has been the Frog and Toad series.
In one story, Toad decides to make a to-do list and rigidly adheres to the list. This started an interesting conversation about what to-do lists are for and how we try to stick to them, or if we can just add things as we think of them, or when it is okay to decided something on your list isn’t worth doing, etc. Hailey decided to make her own to do list, so she had me tell her how to spell what she wanted to write.
Listen to a chapter
Do a show
Go to sleep
It was getting late and I was tired so we agreed we would do that list the following day. So we read another chapter, and then she pretended to put on a newscast from inside a big cardboard box with the front cut out used as her TV. She is currently watch Netflix, and I hope sleep is to follow.
My daughter has taken a sudden interest in creating “recipes”. This shouldn’t surprise me I guess, since she likes to create in general. She has found much joy in mixing together different flavors of applesauce, fruit pouches, and yogurt.
My initial reaction did go to food waste and mess. But truth be told, she has eaten most of what she has made and even helped clean up the mess without hesitation. The first time I walked into the kitchen and she explained that she wanted to pour milk into a popsicle holder and freeze it to make a “milk pop”, I almost shut it down and told her how flavorless that would be. I am glad that I caught myself and instead of letting that slip I forced a smile and said “That sounds like an interesting food experiment.” I really love fostering her since of creativity and curiosity. I try to just think of the temporary extra cost as homeschool supplies, after all learning is in all the things.
Also a huge bonus is that she has tried some new things, which is actually a big achievement for the kid who has trouble with anything new or different.
Oh and if you are wondering how the “milk pop” turned out, she offered it to her little brother who did not seem to think it was gross or flavorless at all. She had an ear to ear smile as she told me that someone liking her experiment made her “kind of like a chef”.
Some people say unschooling starts at birth, some say at school age. For the sake of this page, I am going to say school age (and before that is just living and parenting). Where are we? My daughter is home this year for “kindergarten”. but opting out of public school isn’t mandatory in my state until age 6, so next year will be our first official year and the start of our unschooling.