It’s back to school day here today.
Not for us.
Never am I more grateful for our life without school than on these days where the news is full of talk of nervous children, teary drop-offs, and new plans to combat bullying.
This year my 8 year old would be in Grade 4, my 6 year old would be in Grade 2, and my 4 year old would be starting pre-school. We would all be so….seperate.
Luckily, we’re not! Life today continued on as normal and I thought I’d give you a glimpse into a day in our life.
Instead of school… this.
The day starts with some TV. Everyone gets up and wanders out whenever they wake to play quietly or watch TV until all of us are up. This morning the older two are awake first and have put on the movie ‘Hook’ which their Dad taped for them a few nights ago. They haven’t seen it before but they are loving Peter Pan lately. They’ve listened to the audiobook 3 times and watched the movie a lot too. So they’re very interested to see another movie about Neverland!
When the little ones wake up, they have a game of Fairy Snap while I get breakfast ready for them.
We drop hubby to the train and hear on the radio that ‘many children will be feeling nervous having to face bullies again today’. I am outraged that this is a normalised part of childhood. It’s not normal, and it’s not ok.
By 9am, when everyone else is starting the school day, they decide on a swim! They are playing an imaginary game together where they seem to be training for something. I love that life without school for them means doing what they want, when they want. Following their joy and whatever makes them happy. We are often criticised for this and that it’s not preparing them for the ‘real world’. I disagree. This is exactly the adulthood I want to prepare them for. One where they do what makes them happy, not what other people think they should be doing. In fact, most adults are struggling to remember how to do just that, having had the gift of being fully present and attuned to their needs and desires squashed out of them at an early age.
An hour of swimming later and they are out and ready for ice blocks. Classic summer.
When everyone is dressed and warmed up we sit down to read some books. Miss 6 got this one for Christmas called ‘Where’s the Artist?’ It sparked conversations about cave paintings, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Gods and Goddesses, and more.
The girls all drift off and start some pretend play together. I clean up the kitchen from breakfast.
Miss 4 is feeling left out as the big girls don’t want her to play a certain game with them. Her little sister is busy playing by herself. She asks me to help her find something to do. I remember a few days ago we talked about drying some of the frangipani flowers outside before they were all gone, so suggest we do that. We can’t find the flower press so put them between books instead. We write on the calendar so we don’t forget which day we started, and she is excited to see what happens!
We all have lunch and then everyone seems to gravitate to the art tables, led by Miss 4. She is drawing a picture to send to a friend.
Miss 2 decides to do some drawing too. She surprises us by exclaiming ‘it’s a smiley face!’ and we discover she’s drawn her first ever face!
She’s super happy with her drawing and continues to do more pages full of eyes and ears and noses.
Miss 8 is working on plans for a cafe she wants to run with her sisters. She is going to invite some family around and cook them a meal. Today she’s deciding what she will write on the invitations.
Miss 4 wants to write her friend’s name on her drawing and asks me to write it down so she can copy.
Miss 6 has her snap circuits kit out and is trying some new things. She asks me to read some of the descriptions out of the book and we learn what an open circuit, closed circuit, and integrated circuit mean.
Everyone likes the circuits kit and they all end up watching Miss 6 work. The little ones want to play too so I get the smaller kit for them and they make a light and fan.
Miss 6 makes a few different things including this one that makes space war sounds.
Miss 8 decides to get back to her invitation planning. She notices that her handwriting has gotten much neater all of a sudden and comments that it was just like learning to roller skate. She practised and practised and seemed to make slow progress bit by bit until one day it just clicked and off she skated with ease. She says it’s the same with lots of things, you keep practising and then all of a sudden it happens all at once.
It’s definitely what I observe with their learning too. They practice here and there, not every day, sometimes not even every week. Yet one day it just clicks. I wonder what effect it would have had on them not to be able to learn in this natural way. To be made to practice bit by bit, step by step, every day, whether they felt like it or not. Slow steady progress at the same rate as everyone else. I can’t think of anything positive that would bring to their learning.
The other girls have wandered off to play now and Miss 8 asks me a question. ‘How come they can’t make the movie of Peter Pan exactly the same as the book?’ She wishes they didn’t change the story at all and included all the details. We talk about why movies differ from books and what things she would have changed about the movie. This leads us to a discussion about how we all imagine things differently when we’re reading a book and she tells me about how she imagined one of the characters in an audiobook that her and Miss 6 listened to, drawing me a picture to explain. Miss 6 joins the conversation and explains what she imagined and they compare the similarities and differences.
Eventually the conversation ends and they drift off to play again. They make this spy car and then start a game of Mum’s and babies.
Back to the pool again for swims and the Mums give the babies a swimming lesson.
Miss 6 has a ballet lesson so we all go to take her. We need to pick up some things from the shops while we wait for her but the little girls fall asleep on the way. They haven’t napped and I don’t want to wake them so Miss 8 suggests we just wait in the car and talk. She has brought her book and talks more about her Cafe plans. We got stuck in traffic on the way because of the end of the school day so we get onto the topic of back to school and work out that she would have been in Grade 4 this year. I remember being in Grade 4 and tell her lots of stories of things I remember from that age. We talk about her life and what she is happy with and if there is anything else on her mind.
It’s so lovely to sit and chat with her and I can’t help thinking about not only how much I love her but how much I really like her as a person. She is so wonderful. This time together that we get to have every day is so priceless. The thought of her spending so many of her waking hours at school is heartbreaking. I feel so lucky to know her in this way.
Back at home after ballet the big girls play some Minecraft. They chat with a friend, building things together, planning, discussing who would be best for which job, who can spell the words they need, and working through any conflicts.
The little girls also want to watch some TV, they are tired from the short car nap. This gives me a chance to put away the washing.
The last of the afternoon passes with Minecraft, more swimming, drawing, picking up Dad from the train, dinner, and showers.
After everyone is showered the big girls paint each other’s nails while listening to an audiobook. They’re currently listening to The World’s Worst Children.
At 8.30pm everyone is ready for bed and they lie with their Dad and go to sleep easily.
And that’s it. That’s what NOT back to school looks like for us. Like any other day. Incredibly hard to capture the many things that go on every day, but which honestly feel like nothing much at all. You don’t realise how much ‘learning’ is taking place when you’re just living life, you’re too busy enjoying it. But that’s the beauty of unschooling, it doesn’t feel like school in the slightest. It feels like a life you would choose.