It is usually dark (and cold) in the house when I wake up.
I wiggle out from under the covers, trying not to wake my husband nor any child who may have wandered in during the night.
I tiptoe downstairs to start the tea kettle.
The house is quiet except for the clicking of my dog’s toes on the floor as he greets me (and the day) with his dance of early-morning-canine-bliss.
As a homeschooling parent and small business owner my mornings are vital. In order to be truly present with my kids during the day I usually start work before I even get dressed.
My goal is to power off the computer by the time my husband leaves for work and leave it off for most of the day.
With tea in hand, I head to my home office to check email and write my blog.
Soon my ten-year-old son wakes and finds me at my desk.
He curls in my lap for a while, waking up slowly, then heads downstairs to fix himself a bowl of yogurt.
He grabs a blanket and a book and curls up on the couch. And there he spends the morning, lost in another world.
The quiet is broken when my husband and six-year old daughter awaken. Our day noisily bursts to life.
Our mornings – and the rest of our day for that matter – are slow and easy.
We treasure that homeschooling and self-employment affords us a life without alarm clocks or – for the most part – a rigid schedule.
My husband cooks breakfast while the children dress and head out into the cold to feed and water our chickens.
I usually quit work for the morning when breakfast is ready, between 9:00 and 10:00. Then Pete heads to work as we finish eating and clean the kitchen.
And then the day belongs to the children and me – wherever it takes us.
Our unschooling day has begun.
I will admit to cringing the first time I heard the word “unschool.” I envisioned feral children running wild and a hands-off parent asleep on the couch.
But that’s not what my life looks like at all.
(Okay, they do run wild sometimes, but I assure you I’m not napping!)
Instead of kicking back I set aside the bulk of each day for being mindfully present with my kids.
I turn off my computer, I turn off my phone, and I focus on their learning.
I am present for their education without any preconceived notion of what that might mean or where it may take us.
As an unschooling family our goal is to raise passionate learners, not to memorize facts.
Unschooling is built on trust, freedom, and the belief that when given the space in which to learn children will thrive.
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions — if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” – John Holt
It is not for everyone. For my family, however, it is a perfect match.
But enough explanation. Let’s get back to our “day in the life”.
Our unschooling day often begins with the question: “What do you want to learn today?”
And then we dive in.
Today that meant a game about medicinal plants, a hike in the woods, several craft projects, and lots of books.
Last week it meant (among other things) a visit to a nearby museum, embroidery, an afternoon poring over a new math curriculum that the kids requested, the construction of a cross-bow, the shooting of a rifle, and the creation of a new micro-business enterprise.
Unlike curriculum-based homeschooling that fits neatly on the calendar, unschooling begins and ends with the interest of the child.
So I don’t have a tidy schedule of our day to share. It simply doesn’t exist.
That being said, there is a rhythm to our life.
- We bookend our days with morning and bedtime routines.
- I turn off my computer to be present with my children for their learning.
- Our kids do not have access to television, video games, or other media. We do, however, use the Internet together for research and watch educational videos together on occasion.
- We eat and clean-up together (and often cook together).
- Most afternoons we pause our work to read a chapter aloud together.
- My children both participate in weekly lessons. We try to schedule no more than two classes per child per season to leave plenty of space in our rhythm.
- We go outside nearly every day.
- I model self-directed learning by seeking out new knowledge for myself along side my children.
And with that we’re laying a strong foundation for passionate life-long learners.
Does your family thrive with more structure or less? Describe a day of flow for you and your children.