How Unschooled Children Learn

Life Without School: A Day in the Life

“We live without subjects, in a world where life is not separated into neat little pieces but instead swirls and flows together in ways we could never design.” – Rue Kream

I love this quote. It paints the perfect picture. Yes! This is what unschooling is all about! It saddens me that so many can not even imagine it. But, that’s why it’s important to share. Life can be so different!

Allow me to share a day in our life without school. A beautiful swirly ordinary day…

How Unschooled Children Learn

The girls start the morning snuggling and watching some TV. They each have breakfast whenever they’re ready, making it themselves or asking me depending on what they feel like that day.

How Unschooled Children Learn

We have no plans today and Miss 9 is excited because she has things to do! She’s working on a project that she plans to share here on the blog, but it’s top secret for now. I can’t wait until she’s ready to post about it. It’s so fun and will be a way for her to share her passions and connect with other kids around the world.

She’s been working so hard and is getting really good at typing now. She used to only write or type small amounts at a time before becoming tired. Suddenly she is now writing pages at a time. She has written so many plans for this project and done so much typing. It’s really exciting for her now to be able to bring her ideas to life by herself. It happened in her own time, when she was ready. There is no benefit to rushing these things.

How Unschooled Children Learn

After everyone has had breakfast and woken up, they all venture out of the lounge room. One of the first things they do is check on our little guests. We are raising Monarch butterflies at the moment. We’ve done this before and the kids really love it. Me too! It’s so amazing to witness. This morning we discover one caterpillar is hanging upside down getting ready to transform into a chrysalis sometime today. We’ll be keeping an eye on it!

How Unschooled Children Learn

Miss 9 also checks in with the stick insects! She loves all things nature and is really enjoying looking after them. She collects their food and mists the leaves with water every day. She’s hoping we get some eggs too. We got them from Minibeast Wildlife online HERE, and they came with an enclosure and everything we needed to know! Such a great thing for them to experience and we would definitely recommend!

How Unschooled Children Learn

It’s still only about 8.30am. We’re early risers. Now I clean up the kitchen, do some washing, and all that fun stuff, and the girls play. I put on some music and they all dance together. They all LOVE to dance and make time for it every day.

How Unschooled Children Learn

Miss 4 has a ballet lesson this morning so we all get ready to take her. She loves ballet, just like all her sisters. Just because we unschool, doesn’t mean they don’t do classes if they want to. The difference is that it is 100% their choice and they can stop at any time. And honestly, that makes all the difference. It is very obvious when children are there because they want to be, and when they are being forced.

How Unschooled Children LearnWhen we get home Miss 9 tells me that I can go and do anything I need to do because she is going to make everyone a sandwich. We don’t force them to help, yet they are helpful and thoughtful. Because children are, if you let them be.

How Unschooled Children LearnThe girls eat their sandwiches outside and notice a spider has made a web in the back yard. Then I remember that I have a new app on my phone for identifying Australian spiders. We haven’t used it yet and the girls are very keen to give it a try. It’s called Spidentify.

How Unschooled Children Learn

Turns out the app is really awesome and so simple to use that the kids can do it themselves. It takes you through 9 different questions to help you narrow down what type of spider you’ve found.

How Unschooled Children Learn

They answer questions about where the spider was found, the shape of it’s abdomen, leg length, colour, markings, features, and behavior.

How Unschooled Children LearnHow Unschooled Children LearnIn the end the app picked the exact spider! A Painted St Andrews Cross spider.

How Unschooled Children Learn

We had a read through all the info about our neighbour and then they were keen to try and find more spiders to identify.

How Unschooled Children Learn

Miss 9 found another web in a tree and got to work figuring out what it was.

How Unschooled Children Learn

After some more play outside they all wander in and Miss 7 decides to do some painting. Everyone else follows and starts on their own things.

How Unschooled Children LearnWe have all the art materials easily accessible so that anyone of any age can get whatever they want without waiting for someone else’s help. Miss 2 loves the tempera paints most of all.

How Unschooled Children LearnMiss 4 wants to do a painting of a caterpillar and sets herself up with a book to look at while she paints.

How Unschooled Children LearnMonarch caterpillar.

How Unschooled Children LearnMiss 7 is doing a spider picture and tells me a story about a Dad and Mum spiders, and their babies, and which ones are the big sisters.

How Unschooled Children LearnMiss 9 works on a painting that she will use for the project she is working on.

How Unschooled Children Learn

After lunch I decide to get dinner ready early because we will be out late with more dance lessons. Miss 9 asks if she can make it instead. She is very interested in cooking right now and is watching the current season of MasterChef every night. After every step she cleans off the scraps and tells me that “on MasterChef they said it’s important to have a clean workspace”.

How Unschooled Children LearnMiss 7 is wondering what to do while I’m busy helping with the cooking. She browses her things and decides to make some circuits. She loves this kit.

How Unschooled Children LearnThe little ones keep interrupting and Miss 9 is getting frustrated so I set them up a little picnic in the play room. They think it’s the best fun ever! After this they happily play many imaginary games together for over an hour.

How Unschooled Children LearnCooking is such a great example of how real life learning occurs. Miss 9 is measuring, weighing, adding, subtracting, learning about temperature, time, and more.

How Unschooled Children LearnShe reads the recipe herself and asks me for help when needed. It’s so absurd to think of teaching these things in isolation. There is so much meaning in learning from real life!

How Unschooled Children LearnThe girls spend the rest of the afternoon playing inside and outside, until it’s time for some more dance lessons. Miss 7 has a ballet lesson, and Miss 9 has ballet and tap.

How Unschooled Children LearnWhen you unschool, you go everywhere together! We all wait in the car while Miss 7 has her lesson. The little ones pass the time giggling and climbing around. Miss 9 and I read a book.

How Unschooled Children LearnMiss 9 has two lessons in a row so we have time to come home for a while. Miss 7 plays some Minecraft with a friend.

How Unschooled Children Learn

The little girls ask me to help build a marble run and they play with that for a while. Their Dad is home now and he starts getting dinner ready.

How Unschooled Children LearnI duck out by myself to get Miss 9 from ballet and we all have dinner together. The sneaky caterpillar changes into a chrysalis while we’re having dinner and we miss it!

How Unschooled Children Learn

After dinner we head outside to see the International Space Station. They love doing this. I get emails whenever it’s a good time to see it from where we live, and let them know.

The girls all have showers and brush teeth before settling down to watch MasterChef. Miss 2 asks to go to bed at 7.30pm and falls asleep within 2 minutes. The other girls go to sleep just after 8pm. We have no bedtimes and they are free to listen to their own bodies. This means they don’t fight bedtime and actually look forward to it.

And that’s it! A peaceful home day where the kids played all day. And people say that’s not learning. Luckily we know better hey?


May 16, 2018 at 11:05 pm

You have been such an inspiration to our family and our decision to unschool our daughter. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful family!

Ann Marie Wilson Crockett
May 17, 2018 at 3:43 am

Thank you for sharing. We have come to unschooling later – my boys are in their teens – so still shaking off some of the “what learning is supposed to look like” narratives – what a gift you have given to your girls and yourself to be a part of their learning in such a natural way. The beautiful moments that you have shared here resonate so deeply in what I want learning to look like for my boys – to recapture that time in their lives before they went to school when learning was fun and exciting. Thank you

    May 17, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Ann Marie Wilson Crockett I would love to hear more about your transition to unschooling with older boys, if you’d be willing to share.

      Ann Marie Wilson Crockett
      May 20, 2018 at 5:21 am

      Hi Natalie – I would say we are still in the process and are halfway between homeschooling and unschooling. I have three teenagers. My oldest graduated from public school and just finished his first year at community college. My younger two now 14 and 16 I decided to homeschool two years ago after both boys asked. They had an excruciatingly painful year in the public schools. I work full time, with a flexible schedule so I can work from home a few days a week – but my first reaction was that there was no way I could make this happen. Well we made it happen and out first year we used some curriculum from Oak Meadow – but I felt that all I was doing was “school at home” I saw the documentary Being and Becoming and so we took a step back and did some de-schooling and I observed – yes there was a lot of video game time…but then some interesting things happened….the child who HATED to read found books on tape and now I can’t keep up with his appetite for wanting more good books…Lois Lowry and Gary Paulsen among his favorites. I picked up a hands on science book and he was in his glory. He started doing some photography and he is just finishing up his first online Outschool photography class. My younger guy, was also not a huge fan of books…but was drawn to historical fiction and animal books – so I made them available and offered the audio option – but he likes reading the book….so again suddenly reading wasn’t required but seemed to always be the choice for how both boys liked to start the week. My younger guy is strong mathematically but finding material that didn’t always feel like school is tough. We recently found Lure of the Labyrinth an online math game that he loves and we will sit together at night or in the afternoon and go through the story and the problems together. He recently asked me about stocks and how they work so I found a site for kids that helps explain as well as providing suggestions for purchasing a stock and watching it. I am still learning to let go of what I think school is supposed to be and where we live I have to submit a progress report at the end of the year on what the boys accomplished in the core I am trying to find a balance. I still get nervous about what the future is going to be because we are travelling a different path.
      However my oldest who was SO against his brothers being homeschooled, came to me this year and said “So this homeschooling, they get to pursue stuff that is interesting to them?” When I replied yes, he said “You know I think for me High School was all about I did on a test or a paper, where I was going to go to school after HS and my GPA and what I don’t really know is what I’m interested in or how to figure that out, maybe this homeschooling stuff kind of makes more sense for figuring that out.”
      I wish that I had known more about homeschooling when the boys were younger, it was just never even on my radar. I guess what I am seeing and it does NOT happen overnight..but the enjoyment around learning coming back into their lives. When people ask – I always say remember when your children were little and they loved learning new stuff and asking questions. That’s what it’s like. My youngest said to me the other day, “when I was in school I just had so many questions, but there just wasn’t time and I think the other kids thought I wasn’t smart because I had so many questions. Ok so I could probably go on…but hopefully this is a little helpful.

        May 30, 2018 at 8:42 am

        This warmed my heart. Thank you. My oldest is a middle schooler and although I see how amazing unschooling has been, I do become afraid that I’m not doing enough. Reading this really made me smile and take a deep breath.

May 17, 2018 at 10:34 am

There’s an incredible level of activities available in your home… just curious what is that puzzle miss 2 is playing with? How do you stay informed and find all the supplies/ideas? Please and thanks!!

May 17, 2018 at 9:26 pm

I love this, your “days in the life” posts are really joyous and inspiring 🙂 thanks for sharing!

May 20, 2018 at 2:48 am

Thank you for sharing this. I’m curious. What book are you reading with Miss 9? I’m always on the lookout for good books for my daughter. Thank you

Jennifer L.
May 28, 2018 at 7:27 am

What is that crazy cooking gadget she is using?

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