What unschooling means in my family

To traditional homeschoolers, we would be seen as unschoolers, and to radical unschoolers, we would be seen as relaxed homeschoolers. But to simplify things, I am using the term unschool because I feel like that fits my philosophy.

What I strive for each day is exposure and engagement. Exposure to good books, helpful resources, supplies, instruments, truth, ideals, beauty, adventure. I'm a fan of the strewing method of unschooling, which takes planning and intention. By creating an environment conducive to learning, the kids have freedom to move within that and choose what interests them. Engagement is where I like to see everyone moving towards something, engaged with their interests and passions. It is action, and productivity. It's fine to have days where we lack motivation and/or need extra rest. But too long of that, and you've gotten yourself into a major rut.

We don't do the library because it adds extra stress to my life with due dates and late fines. So, usually twice a year, I go over my favorite booklists and wish lists, and stock up on fresh new reading material. I am blessed that all of my kids love books and audio stories as well. I talked more about what we read here. (*Update: The kids have finally learned how to be responsible with checked out materials, so now every 2-3 weeks, we check out tons of items according to interest.)

They prefer planned reading times, and I try to keep a daily rhythm about our days. Everyone is calmer when choices are limited. Facing a day with many hours to fill can be daunting, even for us moms. Telling my kids, "No, we aren't leaving the house today" often brings feigned disappointment and underlying relief. Screentime is limited here. With multiple children and sharing a computer with daddy who uses it for business, letting each child have a turn at the computer for games will stretch on forever. My concerns with excessive screentime are mostly health-related - headaches/eye strain, posture, etc. I feel that screen use as we now have it available is so new, and we are just now discovering how it changes our brains and ways of thinking. With my bouts of health problems, I've fallen into screen addiction, where I'm craving it, my ADD type symptoms became much worse, and I find it difficult to multi-task at all.

I encourage lots of outdoor playing, bike riding, hanging out in the tree fort, shooting nerf guns, bows and arrows. We take a nightly bike ride as a family after dinner.

If they are bored playing outside, or if it's too hot or cold, and they aren't getting along, I have them choose something from a few options: music instruments, naps, drawing/coloring, reading, spool knitting, or something else crafty.  None of my kids take formal lessons yet, but we have a keyboard, guitars, xylophone, drum set, bongos, tambourine, toy accordions, lap harp, and maracas to explore with.

Writing is a big chore for my boys, so I tread lightly, but they often practice their skills by writing fun lists about their favorite Lego sets, what they want to buy with their allowance, future plans or whatever. Geneva loves copying animal names from books. She love worksheets, so I keep them around for her when she wants to do 'school.'

We discuss everything as it comes up, and it sometimes leads into deep conversations. They are curious kids, and my enthusiasm for a subject often sparks an interest in them too. If not, no big deal! We move on to the next thing.

I'm not a morning person. I am at my best in the evenings, so often that's when we read books together. They might not have been interested in anything learning oriented all day, then bedtime comes, and I have a big pile of books they want me to read them and topics to discuss. Bedtime is another area that is limited. My kids are impossible to live with without enough sleep, so I do us all a favor and try to get them asleep by 9, though in the summer, it's often near 11pm.


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