Unschooling: Our Winter Rhythm

The cooler weather here has us snuggled up inside more than usual so I thought I’d share what our days have looked like lately. Yes, I know, living in Queensland, Australia we don’t actually know what real cold feels like, haha, but it’s cold for us!

You can read about what our weekly rhythm looked like in summer here. I don’t think things have changed dramatically, but there is definitely a different feel to our days. Summer saw us spending lots of time outside, and with that being not as appealing for the last few months I’ve found the older girls have been much keener on diving deeper into interests. They’re spending a lot more of their days working on projects, while the little ones are playing imaginary games inside more than their usual big outdoor play.

Here’s how our days have looked through winter…

The girls wake up first and wander out to watch some favourite shows on TV. This is always how their days start. I think they probably watch it for a bit longer currently as it’s snuggly weather. When I come out I find them all squished under a blanket together taking turns picking what to watch (or arguing about it, let’s be honest). It gives me time to wake up properly and have a cup of tea. They record shows they like that are on during the day and watch them at this time which works well because they rarely watch it during the day so it doesn’t interrupt other things we are doing.

When I’m ready I’ll simply say ‘let’s have breakfast’ and they turn it off and go get dressed while I make breakfast for them. Sometimes the big girls will make it for me!

After breakfast they’ll all go and discover something I’ve left out for them on the art table. I put out a simple little activity for them that they get into while I clean up and do whatever else I need to do. I surprised them like this a few times and they really loved it and ask me now to leave something out every night before bed. Some days I forget but most of the time I’ve been leaving out a little something. I used to do this when they were littler when I was full pinterest Mum, ha! These days it’s not so much about what I think is cool but what they are actually interested in and enjoy. I’ll leave out something they’ve been working on, something they’re interested in, or some art materials that they don’t usually use together to try, etc. The big girls have been into digital escape rooms lately, and the little ones once spent the whole day playing with play dough and figurines that I left out.

I think I’ve found the middle ground with this now. In the beginning of our unschooling I was sometimes trying to provide activities that would get my kids to learn things, if they were interested or not. Sometimes they loved them, sometimes they played with it for 30 seconds then wandered off. I think that was telling. When I realised, I backed right off ‘activities’. Where I’m at now is a place where I know my children, I’ve spent a lot of time learning who they are and what they like, and I can authentically provide little things I know they’ll enjoy, without any ulterior motives. You know what I mean? And they love it, because it feels like love really. When someone has taken the time to think about something you will enjoy, it’s clear they know you well, and you are free to do what you wish with it!

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Everything that came before was an important part of deschooling and learning for me (and I’m sure there’s more to come too!). I couldn’t have gotten here without making mistakes and trying new things and we’re all better off for it.

Anyway, I went off on a tangent there. Next up we have a bit of morning tea and the kids play for a bit, move their bodies, maybe get a little sunshine. Then it’s read aloud time.

We have a basket of books that we read a page or two from every morning. We read some story books first, and then some of our non-fiction books on different topics. The younger ones (6 and 5) wander off to play after a while. While they listen they often draw about what we’re reading in their journals, or work on something else quietly like macrame, clay, embroidery, painting, etc. We pause for questions and take breaks to google more info. It’s always a time of really awesome discussions.

When we’re finished everyone needs to move for a bit! Then they’re ready for project time. I just wait until someone says they want to do it, but it’s usually not long as I think this is one of their favourite times of day.

You can read more about project time here. In the last few months some of the things they’ve been working on include: macrame, story writing, art, fashion design, learning to read, creating a news program and editing video, planting a garden and looking after it, drawing comics, craft, knitting, creating their own businesses, learning about famous fashion designers, speaking french, aboriginal history, doll making, and learning about ancient civilisations. Yep, a lot! There has definitely been a lot more time delving into interests, especially because there was a period of much more time at home through the Covid-19 lockdown.

After project time we have some lunch. And then it’s quiet reading time while our tummies settle. We all come together in the lounge room to read our books quietly for half an hour. Miss 11 is currently reading Wolf Girl 3, Miss 9 is working her way through Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, and the little ones are listening to The Enchanted Wood on Audible. I’m reading Outlander if you were curious, ha!

After reading the kids will either want to continue on with whatever they were doing at project time, if they weren’t finished, or go and play together. I find that because we’ve started the day with a lot of togetherness, their buckets are all filled up and they’re much more likely to be doing things independently now. Now I’m able to check up on my blog, messages, emails, have a cup of tea, read some articles, or whatever I want for a little bit.

In the afternoon I like to just see what happens. If they’re really into a project, sometimes that continues for the rest of the day. The same with play. If they’re off in an imaginary world that can keep going for the afternoon. I definitely don’t want to interrupt either of those things.

Sometimes after some play they’re ready for something different. On Tuesdays we always do Poetry Teatime together and this is a favourite part of the week, so we might cook a treat and then do that. We can actually have hot drinks without sweating at this time of year!

On Wednesdays and Fridays we spend all day out with our unschool group having fun playing outside.

I have a list up on the wall of things that we have access to if people are keen for something in the afternoon, so that I don’t forget! They might want to do an art class from Masterpiece Society, play minecraft, do some writing, play prodigy, a science experiment, more reading, or ask me for another activity, etc.

In the late afternoon we have dance classes most days, or Netball training, so we are back and forth to those things.

When they get home it’s time for dinner, showers, and either some TV or read-aloud time with Dad until they’re ready for bed. The little ones get sleepy around 8pm and we lie with them until they fall asleep. The big girls also like to go into their bedroom at this time, but they don’t sleep straight away. They’ll listen to an audiobook for up to an hour before they drift off. They’re currently enjoying book 2 of ‘A Wrinkle in Time‘.

And that’s our days right now! We are nearing the end of winter now and looking forward to spring! I’m sure that means things will change again, but I’ve really enjoyed this time of snuggling in at home and really digging into some interests. I didn’t realise they had done so much until I had a look back over my notes. It’s been fun!

You can read more about creating a rhythm that suits your family here. Are your days similar, or very different?


August 14, 2020 at 5:51 pm

It’s always so inspiring to hear about your routines.

I can’t believe how much you get done before lunch. Our morning routine only have room for two-three things 🤣 At what time do your kids get up? And when do you eat breakfast?

August 20, 2020 at 4:50 pm

I loved reading this – thank you for sharing! Some lovely inspiration X

September 16, 2020 at 8:12 am

Thank you for sharing this…I think this is the perfect way to provide some structure within the unschooling day! I have always resisted the ‘sit around the table in the classroom while mom teaches at the blackboard’ kind of learning…it just isn’t my personality at all. But I struggled with exactly how to structure in a learning time while keeping it more interest-led than parent-led. I wish I had thought of your project time idea years ago!

September 16, 2021 at 2:08 pm

This sounds so, so lovely. Believe it or not, this sometimes-primary school teacher is gaining inspiration for life with my future grandchildren.

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