This year is the first year that all my children are school aged! My oldest even high school aged now! How different our life could have been. Full of expectations, deadlines, assignments, stress, anxiety. How glad I am that it is none of those things.
Our days are filled with freedom, pursuing interests, laughter, play, reading good books, interesting questions and conversations, hanging out with friends, connection, and generally just living life together and taking in all the learning that provides. I can’t think of a better way to spend a childhood.
When you have been to school yourself, and are surrounded by people with a schooled mindset, it’s hard to imagine how that would work! Most people don’t know many kids who don’t go to school. Let me introduce you to some!
Here is a day in the life of four unschooled children, aged 12, 10, 7, and 5. No curriculum, no forced learning, no distinction between work and play. This is what it looks like for us right now…
A day in the life of an unschooling family
We start the day off with some TV. Well, the girls do. They wake up early and while others are still sleeping they just chill out with some TV for a bit. When I get up I have a cup of tea and sit with them. Eventually I make breakfast and we turn off the TV and eat, clean up the kitchen, and get dressed. Now we’re ready to start our day!
At about 8.30am everyone grabs their books, finds a comfy spot inside or outside, and reads for half an hour. The little girls listen to their audiobook (currently The Enchanted Wood). While they are doing this, I set up a little activity for them on the art table.
This year when we were discussing our rhythm, they asked me to set up a surprise activity every day. They love it. After reading, they run out to see what it will be. Today we’re doing some Picasso inspired portraits with black ink and soft pastels. We look at some of Picasso’s paintings first and some of them like the style, while others really don’t! Everyone is keen to paint a portrait though. Miss 12 currently has a broken right arm, so I’m trying to make sure activities are not too frustrating, and things that she can do with her left arm. Painting abstracts works!
Everyone gets started with the ink. This is something new that they have only used once, and everyone loves how satisfying it is. The black is so dark and bold. It doesn’t take long to dry, but while they wait they run outside to play an obstacle course game they made up yesterday.
The ink is dry and now they colour them with soft pastels.
Some of them like their pictures, and some don’t, and we have a discussion about if art always has to be beautiful. The verdict is ‘no’.
10am and everyone is getting hungry again so it’s morning tea time. We always have a shared fruit platter for morning tea. While they eat I read a couple of pages each from a few of our current non-fiction read alouds. We’ve broken read aloud time up into two smaller times during the day this year as people were needing a change.
Read aloud time always means many interesting chats. Today we read and talk about: the Mars Climate Orbiter disaster, how our galaxy will collide with the andromeda galaxy eventually, wormholes and the possibility of time travel, samurais, the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the terracotta soldiers, personal power and what effects how much you have, how we develop world views, what views we hold now that future generations might think are wrong, the migration of the bar-headed goose, and great white shark hunting and migration.
After we have finished reading, the girls go outside to run around and play for a bit.
11.30am and they’re back inside requesting we do project time now. This is a time we have where they work on whatever interests them and I’m there to help with whatever they need. You can read more about it here.
Miss 7 starts by checking the rocks in her rock tumbler. They have finished their third cycle and are getting pretty smooth! She rinses them and spends time looking at them all and noticing the changes. Then she puts them back in the tumbler, adds the grit and water, and sets it to tumble for it’s final cycle. They will be ready next week!
Miss 12 and Miss 5 get out the computers. Miss 5 asks me to get her into reading eggs. She is very interested in letters right now.
Miss 12 has got an idea from the obstacle course game they were playing. She has a club with her friends where she organises different events and things. We are all going camping next week and she has decided to plan a fun obstacle course event for everyone. She can’t participate in it because of her arm but she gets a lot of joy from planning! She uses facebook to set up the event, write a description, and invite people.
Miss 7 is now outside doing some whittling and making things for a ‘wild game’.
Miss 10 is currently into making her own body products. Today she is making moisturiser. She does the whole thing independently, just needing my help to remove the hot jar from the pot on the stove when the beeswax has melted.
12.30pm and everyone is requesting lunch. While we eat we listen to a podcast from Short and Curly. Today we’re listening to one called ‘Who Owns a Forest?’ This sparks discussion about the idea of sovereignty, how to protect important parts of the world like the Amazon rainforest, sacred indigenous sites in Australia that have recently been destroyed, how humans impact nature, if it’s ok to pick flowers or take home sticks, etc.
After lunch everyone wants to get back to project time. They’re not done. Miss 10 has now moved onto planning things for her own club (a cooking club). She messages ideas to friends, writes notes for things she wants to talk about in their first meeting, and comes up with some ideas for events.
Miss 12 is now making things for her obstacle course. She’s doing pretty well one handed! She uses clay to make medals, and paints signs she will take to mark out the course.
The little ones really liked the painting and ask for more ink and watercolour paper so they can do more.
Miss 10 then decides to do some cooking. This is another one of her interests she has been spending more time on this year. Today she’s making a quiche we can use for lunches.
The little ones move outside and are now both playing the wild game. They’ve collected lots of things from nature and are making many props for their game.
Miss 12 has made tons of things by now!
While the quiche is in the oven, the older girls and I do some of the Arrow for Pax, our recent book club book. We sit outside where their sisters are playing too. Because Miss 12 can’t write, I take the weekly passage and print it out with lots of spelling mistakes so instead of writing it she uses a marker to find all the mistakes. Miss 10 wants to write it out instead, so she uses the one with mistakes and writes it all out, correcting it along the way.
This week the arrow talks about: lyrical language, similes, oxymorons, and using nouns as verbs.
We really enjoy doing the arrow together. We just go through it and chat about the concepts, have fun with the activities, and use the book club party ideas to hold a party with friends at the end of each month!
While we’re chatting about the arrow, the little ones are still absorbed in their game.
A storm arrives so we have to move to the table inside to continue. The little girls suddenly appear with books and pens and sit near us writing letters they know.
It’s late afternoon now and we’re all done for the day. Usually, we have more read-aloud time with afternoon tea but we skipped that today because everyone was so into what they were doing. They ate snacks on the go. We have a general rhythm to our days but it is also super flexible and changes depending on what is happening.
At the end of the day we have clean up time and everyone takes a different area of the house and puts things away, then I sweep the floor.
The big girls have decided to chill out and watch a minecraft youtube video. They might usually play minecraft at this time, but with the broken arm situation that is difficult!
I’m relaxing with a cup of tea when Miss 7 and Miss 5 ask me to read this book with them. It’s an Usborne lift the flap maths book with problems to solve. You lift the flap to see if you’ve got the answers right.
Time to make dinner! Miss 10 is back in the kitchen cooking Chicken Tikka Masala for us from scratch. It’s been a big day of cooking!
The storm has passed and it’s just raining a little, so they’re back outside! They play out here until it gets dark.
Then it’s time for dinner, showers, and eventually sleep. We lie with the little ones while they go to sleep. The big girls listen to an audiobook for an hour or so. They’re currently loving Keeper of the Lost Cities a lot!
And that’s our day. It was quite a busy one, as Monday’s often are. Everyone is always full of energy on a Monday. This is what unschooling looks like for us. We absolutely love it. Our home is a place bursting with creative energy and ideas, parents supporting and guiding children to learn in whatever way suits them best, and strong connected relationships. This kind of learning feels so right.
If you’d like to see more of our daily life as an unschooling family, come and join me on Instagram. I share a lot of what unschooling looks like for us in stories.