The Planning Unschoolers Need
Unschooling and planning… those two words aren’t supposed to go together, right?
Our children are free to follow their interests, there’s no curriculum, no plan to stick to, no boxes we must check. We are free!
While we do have a rhythm to our days, that really can change at a moment’s notice if we wake up and are feeling inspired to go somewhere or do something different. A strict plan would be impossible to stick to while also keeping that spontaneous spirit alive.
I’m often asked about what kind of planning I do. Do I plan interests? Activities? Curriculum? And while the answer is no, I don’t plan my children’s interests for them, there are other types of planning I do as an unschooling parent. Yes, life is our teacher, but at the same time wonderful experiences and learning don’t always just happen if you don’t plan to include them in your life!
Here’s the kind of planning that happens in our unschooling home…
We obviously have to plan where we’re going! For us it’s the same every week. We have two days out with friends, 5 days of afternoon dance classes, and one netball training and game. Around that we have to fit in any other places we want to go, things we want to see, etc. That takes some planning, ha!
We have a great group of unschooling friends and our kids do many different types of events together. You can read more about some of our favourites here. This obviously requires some planning too! It’s so worth it and they get so many valuable experiences from our group.
Planning how to support interests
I don’t plan what my children will learn about. Finding their interests is their job! But when they do become interested in something, whether it’s bugs, Netball, Ancient Egypt, wolves, space, or art, I do some ‘planning’ for myself. Or, more like ‘information gathering’. It is my job to be a resource for them. A bridge between an interest and pursuing it. So I want to be a little ahead of the game. We learn a LOT together and I love that, but I also like to know what’s available out there that might help them so that I can let them know if their interest takes them in that direction. Some questions I ask myself…
What books are available on this topic?
Do we know anyone in real life we can learn from?
Is there anything currently on at the museum/art gallery, etc relating to this?
What hands-on resources are available?
Are there any Outschool classes on this interest?
It’s my job to know what is out there to support them. Now that doesn’t mean I rush in with 10 books and plan outings and buy all the things relating to their interest! That would be taking over and that’s one way to kill an interest fast. What it means is that when they are wanting more information or experience in a certain area I can help them find it. Or if I see there is something on at the art gallery for example I can say ‘Hey! I saw this was on and thought you might like it. Should we go?’ Recently my older children were interested in writing more but didn’t know what to write and I was able to suggest a couple of journaling ideas I had seen. They said no to one and yes to the other!
So no, I don’t plan for them, but I plan for me so that I can be the best support for them that I can!
Planning our day together
We do a bit of day by day planning here. This is something that my older girls have wanted more of as they’ve grown. In the morning our rhythm includes reading books together and then casually talking about what we have on that day and what other things people want to do. We have a little whiteboard where we can write it down. They really enjoy this. I think it’s because it really shows them that what everyone wants to do is a priority and we will make time for all needs.
Planning for future events
Some of the events we do with our unschool group require future planning, e.g. talent show, project fair, book club, and markets. The kids often have to prepare things in advance or practice. I support them in this by making time to be able to prepare, reminding them, and letting them know how long we have until the event. Involvement in our events is always optional but my children love it and generally choose to participate. That doesn’t mean I can just leave them to it though! They are still learning how to manage their time and it can be hard for them to visualise just how long something will take and how long they have left to be able to do it! It’s my job to help them with that.
Yes unschooling means learning is self-directed but that does not mean we take a completely hands off approach. In this case it would lead to stress, overwhelm, and not wanting to be involved in the future therefore missing so many fun opportunities. When supported they are able to achieve their own goals and it becomes such a rewarding experience. As they get more practice they become more adept at planning and time management themselves!
Keeping track of questions and interests
On the wall we have a list of the kids current projects and interests, as well as this question wall! It is so easy to forget about things, especially when there are so many ideas and questions swimming around in those brains! Sometimes the kids want to do ‘something’ but aren’t really sure what and the lists are a really helpful reminder of things they have noted down that they want to pursue!
The homeschooling requirements are vastly different depending on where you live and you may have to do a lot or a little planning. Generally though, you will probably have to keep records. I keep a journal where I jot down things the kids are up to and take a LOT of photos. It can be a good idea at the end of each month to go through everything that has happened and collate it so you don’t have a giant job at the end of the year.
Continued reading on learning and education
There is always more to learn! I am still constantly reading more and more about learning and education. I read even from different perspectives and take what resonates, leaving what doesn’t. I never want to think I know it all. I want to continue to grow! Check out my latest read here.
We don’t plan in the traditional sense of mapping out our children’s education for them, but unschooling does require some amount of planning. We plan for amazing experiences, and supporting our children the best way we can!
Thank you for sharing how unschooling looks and works for your family. It has always looked so magical but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to elaborate in several posts on what occurs behind-the-scences. This helps me immensely to turn toward self-directed learning!
I always feel so inspired seeing how passionate your children seem about their interests, and how much that can blossom when you trust them to learn and discover.
What is your opinion on strewing, or leaving invitation to plays? My eldest is three, and I find that these can really help her to explore and focus her attention (to discover as she wishes). At the same time, I find that I can over-involve myself in her play, and not sure how to strike the right balance at times.
In the past I have definitely taken the lead too much in planning, but over time I’m learning how much happier she is/how much more she gains from experiences when I really trust her and step back.
I am trying to relax and follow her lead more, but I could definitely improve.
Thank you if you are able to reply.
Hi at ‘Happiness is Here’,
I have been reading in and am in awe of your experiences and your .site for the option of unschooling.
We are a family of 4, 2 children daughter aged 12 years and currently Year 6 and enrolled in school and son aged 14 years and currently enrolled in Year 8 at school. My first question is would it be too late to ‘unschool them now’. They are both completing and quite high academically which I know is not important but they do actually both say they enjoy and love school and the social side is also quite fine. So you may wonder why would we consider ‘unschooling’ or the other option of home schooling them now.
Well, we as parents are not happy or satisfied with the education system being so competitive and continually being about ‘results’ and what you want to be when you ‘grow up’. I know everyone needs to consider this at some time. But my son is already planning out his University or life path at 14! The school encourage and love this and to be honest nearly every other parent in my world apart from my friends without children think its admirable that he has direction. I think it is not self directed and merely a constant push, push to get his results higher, higher for the school statistics.
When I read your blog, all I think is how awesome. I have stopped my counselling work right now to sort schooling out and make a decision with the family. Deep inside I feel it would be the best option to opt out of their school they have been a part of ‘forever’. They will adapt won’t they? Whether it be at another school, home schooling, unschooling or travelling the world, tell me they will adapt (only if its true!) My biggest concern is taking them out and they are so used to following a curriculum will they be self motivated and as they are actually both in senior years is it too old to unschool. Would home schooling for a while be a better option at least they can still have a University path if desired and they can enter another school and still be up with curriculum but not constantly have to be above and beyond curriculum which for high achievers appears to be the way these days. This way we would at least get more family time, travel time, exposure to choose for themselves their interests etc.
I know a lengthy query and quite complex but we have been debating for sometime now. We really just want the absolute best for our children lives and our family. I believe in living in the present but I do know I need to balance that with responsibility of children in and entering senior schooling who, given their academic levels may one day want to pursue University path. As parents we want to encourage their social readiness for the world as independent livers, to be kind, loving, caring, follow their true path not ours or a teachers or a schools idea. Not be forever competing but knowing some completion is healthy. Oh please can you help us clarify a little please. Thank you so very much.
I would say a true unschooler would follow their children’s interest, not the parents’. You met them where they are at. Going to school can also be an unschooling decision if the child wants to go to school. So if your child is happy at school and wants to go that is their choice. Now if that doesn’t seem to be working anymore and the kid wants our then by all means unschool them at home. You can also adopt an unschooling lifestyle while at home in the evenings or weekends by slowing down. Don’t enroll them in so many activities, unless they are passionate about it slow down life’s pace. Connect as a family. Support their interests.
in a few months I will have children, how can parents help find things that interest a child?
Here’s the thing about teaching right or wrong by using punishment and rewards. If you teach a child to do something or not do something because they will be rewarded for doing or punished for not doing, then all the child learns is that if they do.
Hi! I’ve just started reading your blog and love it. It’s refreshing and so clear! I did wonder how you would think about a three year old? When did you start this process? Also, my child is very interested in sports and physical activities at this point. She also seems fickle – she’ll love her dance class for a month then decide she’s finished . Any thoughts on how to navigate interests that seem to fade quickly?