Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

This post is part of a series of posts documenting our day-to-day life as an unschooling family. Sometimes it’s hard to picture what unschooling looks like, so here I hope to provide a little window into the kid’s life and learning. This is just an example of what unschooling can look like, but it’s very different for each family. It’s not designed to be read as an ‘activity idea’ that you can set up for your child, but an account of four inspired young people who have the freedom to learn how and what they desire.

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My 5-year-old will not be my 5-year-old for much longer! Tomorrow she turns SIX! I can’t quite believe it. I thought it was a good time to share one of the things that she got up to when she was five.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

It started with this little picture of a Cheetah. She decided that she would quite like her own cheetah costume and she was just the person to make it!

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

A quick trip to the shop to choose the perfect material and she was ready to go!

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

Both my 7- and 5-year-olds use the sewing machine and are often making bits and pieces of their own invention. As yet, they have never asked to be taught how to sew. I think in the future when they would like to know easier or more accurate ways to make things they will seek out that information but for now they are happy experimenting with what does and doesn’t work on their own. And that’s just what Miss 5 did here. She decided to trace some of her clothes on paper to make a template to help her cut out the pieces she wanted.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

The cutting begins! She started with the tail first because she thought it would be easiest.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

Onto the sewing! You can see the tail there on the table, which she also filled with stuffing. The pants turned out to be really tricky to sew! The stretchy material made it hard to sew straight and the pants kept moving. When she got to the end she found that she couldn’t fit her legs in. After unpicking them and trying again, she got the same result. It was really frustrating and she decided that she needed a break. After this she actually didn’t come back to the project for another two months. I find this happens often with projects and interests. They will have times where they concentrate intensely on something only to seemingly give it up for a while, but when they come back to it they are ready to move forward again in another leap. It’s so interesting how it works when you don’t interfere with it. I often wonder what damage is done by making children practice certain skills daily, whether they are feeling inspired or not.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

Two months later and she was ready to try again! She ditched the old pants and cut out an entirely new pair. She asked for my help keeping the material straight while she sewed and I also had to sew a few tricky bits for her.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

Pants and tail done!

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

It took a few evenings of the two of us sitting together and working things out.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

All done! Even a zip, which she was adamant she wanted. She even worked out how to sew it on.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

I don’t share photos of the kids faces on my blog, but sometimes I really wish I could show you the joy on their faces when they discover or accomplish something. Natural, self-directed learning is so beautiful to watch. Here’s the massive smile I caught when she’d finally completed her costume anyway. She was so happy with it and prowled around the house for the rest of the day and many after.

Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

Here’s to another year of magical learning, on your own terms, in your own way, my 6-year-old! I can’t wait to see what you discover next.

10 thoughts on “Everyday Unschooling: Cheetah Costume

  1. I absolutely LOVE this for too many reasons to count! My unschooled kids are the same age as your eldest two and have been hand sewing and cross stitching themselves recently (after watching me and asking to try) Now I’ve been *totally* inspired to get my machine out (for my own huge repair pile; it’s long overdue) and see if they feel like taking their creations to a whole new level! Thank you!!! This is just wonderful wonderful stuff! <3

  2. This is inspirational. my just-turned 5 year old sometimes asks me to sew things but I don’t own a sewing machine and am not very good at it myself so all I’ve done so far is get him a plastic children’s needle and one of those projects where the holes are already made….but I would much prefer to let him go at it like this! I am just nervous becuase I have no idea how to use a sewing machine myself and remember from my childhood just constantly getting the spool stuck and not being able to progress with anything….do you have any advice for me!? Like maybe a cheap-ish sewing machine that you would recommend? Thank you so much in advance for any suggestions.

    • Hi Lois!

      I was just thinking, do you know anyone who owns a sewing machine and knows how to use it? Perhaps a relative, friend or neighbor?

      If your 5 year old is keen, maybe ask to come over to use it under their supervision.

      If not, maybe borrow one and ask if they wouldn’t mind answering some of your questions as you learn off of internet resources. There are some forums and youtube channels with great resources, if you’re comfortable, perhaps find one you like and dive in?

      If not, and there is a cultural center, library, or community center near you that offers sewing, you could always ask to use their machine after hours. Find emails and ask around 🙂 I find that there are many people who are willing to accommodate when they find out a child is wanting to learn 🙂

      I have not had the particular experience about sewing, but I have found with other interests where a complex and expensive piece of equipment is involved, often a possible course of action is borrowing or looking into community resources. Hope this is helpful!

      • Great advice Faith, thank you! My immediate reaction was to try and find a cheap machine to buy – but this makes more sense as a first step. Cheap machines are probably not worth it anyway I am guessing….I am not sure I know anyone with a machine, but I’ll ask around, maybe I’ll be surprised!

  3. What a fabulous process and result. Your daughter has complete ownership of her project. I miss my sewing machine a lot now we’re travelling full time and sold our house, car and pretty much everything else just over a year ago! Our natural learning path looks a lot different xxx

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