Rachel’s homeschool day in the life (with a 6- & 10-year-old)

thevalleyWritten by contributor Rachel Wolf of Lusa Organics and Clean

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

You can see our homeschooling rhythm from years past here (2012) and here (2011).

Does your family thrive with more structure or less? Describe a day of flow for you and your children.

About Rachel Wolf

Rachel Wolf woke up recently and realized that she's living the life she has always wanted. Her days are spent with and two spunky unschoolers, running LuSa Organics (her small business), and hanging the laundry out on the line. Rachel writes about her homeschooling, homemaking, and non-violent parenting path on her blog Clean.

Comments

  1. My kiddo is still young but we’re headed in more unschoolingish direction. With so many starting formal preschool – either homeschooling or in a traditional setting, I’m intentionally staying laid back and following my daughter’s lead. I love that we have time to pursue our interests and it’s amazing what my kiddo learns this way!
    Steph’s latest post: Giveaway & Review: Unseduced & Unshaken

  2. I loved this post, Rachel. Inspiring and well put. I haven’t found a label for our brand of homeschool, which is fine, but I do know that it feels best when I suspend my agenda (which can be tangled with fears and doubts) and let my kids show me their natural inclination towards curiosity and practice.
    Rachel @ 6512 and growing’s latest post: The Good News and Giveaway!

    • I have a friend who calls their family “eclectic homeschoolers”. I like that. Because in some ways what we do is not unschooling to the letter. (Like limiting media for example.) Each of us finds our just-right fit, don’t we?
      Rachel Wolf’s latest post: At the cabin.

  3. I am so glad to find your blog. I am a brand-spankin-new homeschooler to my 9 year old this semester. We are now in the process of de-schooling after spending a few not-so-successful weeks “jumping right in” to homeschool curriculum. I am now contemplating unschooling her because of a myriad of learning differences she has (ADD, ODD, and dysgraphia among others). I am excited to read more about your unschooling lifestyle!
    Jennifer’s latest post: Weekly Update – And Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  4. This is a beautiful day. Just what I hope my family’s days will look like as our (now seven month old) daughter and other future children grow up into life-long learners! I was home-schooled my entire life until college, loved it, and now am excited to start a second generation of learning at home. Thank you for sharing!
    Lyssa’s latest post: The Question of Titles

  5. I just wanted to say I enjoyed this post. Many people ask me how I do it if I have a curriculum for my kids. I have 5 children ages 4-12 what curriculm would fit in our family? The unschooling one best suits us because we get to dive in into something each day and learn it in depth together for the older ones it more focused longer. I find it’s easier to teach my kids with a more hands on approach which could be an experiment, discussion, day trip etc. I remember being drilled in school (bored silly )and always think how much easier it is to experience something tangible in their learning experience or have an experience that becomes a teachable moment. It’s been especially helpful when there is a concept that’s hard to grasp or a child with special needs.
    Luisa’s latest post: Wednesday Yarn Along-Hat Revamp

  6. I am drawn to unschooling have been for a long time. My husband was not until he saw our oldest go from fighting me daily about school work to being eager to learn.

  7. I always enjoy hearing from Rachel. This is a lovely post. It at once gives us a feel for her average day and touches on the freedom of their unschooling lifestyle. Thanks!
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: made me

  8. Rachel, your days sound just lovely. I’m glad to read this sort of example here. This is the life I envision for our family as well. Ours looks a bit busier, as my work is “teaching” other children (I put it in quotes, because really, they’re unschooled, too, just in my home), but I strive for this relaxed feel.

  9. just a thanks for this series…it is inspiring me to do LESS outside the home- and to wake myself up earlier!
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: Sex & the Married Priesthood: Ceasing Marital Relations within Marriage a "Praiseworthy Thing"?

  10. Thanks so much for writing this up. I love, love, love seeing a productive blueprint for an unschooling family’s day. I am just starting to unschool in earnest with our oldest student at the ripe old age of six. I have figured out that I need to get up early, I love the idea of trying to limit computer time and unplug the machine for the remainder of the day after morning business is accomplished. Brilliant.

  11. Love this look at your day. Such peace there.
    amy@tolove’s latest post: to finally write that stinking homeschool post

  12. I love the concept of unschooling – it sounds so good on paper, asking the children “What do you want to learn today?” and then proceeding to go do some wildly creative project or experiment. The thing I’ve never been able to figure out is how you can possibly be prepared for whatever they might come up with. I like to think that after 5 years of homeschooling, I’ve got a pretty well-stocked supply cabinet, but inevitably if I ask the kids “what do you want to do today?” they come up with a long list of interesting projects – none of which I have the supplies or materials for! How do you handle that aspect?
    Tricia Ballad’s latest post: The King is Called Home, Part 5

  13. This I do understand! If my son wants to – off the top of my head – build a full-sized cannon, we often take a step backwards. We may research cannons and perhaps build something small from what we have on hand. Research and exploration is often key. We have a tiny house, so we don’t have a ton of supplies.

  14. On a side note, where did you get that fantastic mug?

  15. I really love the idea of waking up before the rest of the house for some quiet “me time.” In fact, I think I’ll go adjust my alarm clock and start tomorrow!

  16. Oh, I long for the day when I wake before the rest of the house. An early riser at my core, I’m always a little bummed when my youngest is so very eager to join me in my early-bird ways. A small business owner myself, I would feel so much more together if I had just an hour or so to get myself together before the day began. Thanks for the glimpse!
    Danielle : : In Stolen Moments’s latest post: A Little Attention

  17. This was very special :) Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to take risks and be courageous to live outside of the “system”. I needed that today.

  18. This is a lovely post! My two favorite things: that your 10-year-old son still sits on your lap, and your emphasis on turning off your computer and cellphone to be “mindfully present” with them all day. What a beautiful gift you’re giving them

  19. This was such an inspiring post Rachel! We are homeschooling our six year old and are starting down the unschooling path. Unschooling seems a bit scary to me. I know I just have to trust in the process. Your post helped me to see how learning takes place this way and it was really reassuring! We Started out with Waldorf, but my son is only enjoying certain aspects of the first grade curriculum. He is a natural unschooler. It fits his strong willed personality. Thanks for sharing your rhythm! I am very excited to have found your blog!

  20. I love your days. I felt relaxed just reading this post. We, too, are new to homeschooling our 10 year old. She is a prime candidate for unschooling. I, however, am a former public school teacher. The toughest thing so far has been for me to break out of the strict schedule mindset. I’m getting there…but it’s harder than I thought.

  21. We are unschoolers too but literature based. My daughter is 13 and in the 8th grade. We are in our 4th year of homeschooling. Every 3 or 4 weeks she chooses a topic that interests her for both science and history and researchs it. She also with my guidance reads quality lierature each month. She is very independent and I mostly only help with math(her least favorite subject). I am an accountant that works from home.

  22. I would so love to homeschool my kids like this, but they are loving school and refuse to quit! I keep hoping for the day that they will want to stay home , but I am letting them be free to make thier own choice.

  23. THANK YOU for this post! we are unschoolers: 9, 6, 3, & 6-mo., too. i was super encouraged reading how you approach your days, that you have rules for yourself & then let your day be.
    i still struggle with a schoolish need to direct my kids, though they wake up every single day with direction & without a need from me. even with a 3-year-old & an infant, i still find myself wondering what to do because the kids are so inwardly focused on their projects. what they DO need from me is presence, & my interest to fuel them & give them courage. & sometimes that’s it.
    people ask me all the time how i do it. i don’t do a thing! not really. i’m support tech, i break up fights, i nudge them outside, i feed them & get them involved in chores. but that’s it. then i pursue my own learning. it’s fantastic.
    i can’t wait to read more of your story! thanks so much for sharing it.
    jill’s latest post: my happiness project.

  24. Christen Kee says:

    I have a few concerns about unschooling. This is our 1st yr homeschooling. I have two 12 yr olds, a 10 yr old and a 3 yr old. Unschooling sounds great and idealistic, but my biggest concern is how prepared for real adult life would you be? Life has a lot of unexpected mishaps including illness, death, divorce, job loss, career changes, etc. Most of us don’t have the luxury of letting our days unfold as they will. How does this prepare kids for time constraints? Or deadlines? Or college? Are they going to be able to work with irritable people or a demanding boss? How will they learn to be on time? How will they learn that sometimes you just flat out have to do things you don’t want to do because they have to be done?
    I was extremely relaxed in my style of teaching and was stressed out bc my children were definitely taking advantage of me. Now we have a pretty strict schedule with consequences and our days flow much more smoothly. We’re no longer running late for church or trying to find the book we were reading yesterday or doing chores in the dark. I’m loving my schedule and my husband for insisting that we needed one.

  25. Good morning, Rachel. Thanks for your wonderful description of unschooling. I was more than a little unclear, concerned, and skeptical when my darling daughter began unschooling her kidlings. But I soon discovered several important facts. 1)She is perfect for the “job.” 2) Her daughters are loving it and “growing” like crazy, and 3) I was mistaken. Oh, yeah, one more important thing, 4) unschooling is not for everyone and its critics are many and vocal. Such is the cost of being true to one’s self. You’re in good company!
    Respectfully,
    Thom Schwarz RN CHPN

  26. Love this day! I was interested to hear you say “What do you want to learn about today?” as opposed to “What do you want to do today?”. Have you always done it this way? I find my kids talk about activities they want to do – eg read a comic book, play tag, watch a documentary – not say ‘I want to learn about x’. But I don’t ask them straight out what they want to learn about! Maybe I should! :) I wonder if they would feel pressure to perform though ?? (my kids, not yours)… hmmm…

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