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Is there such a thing as a typical unschooling day? What about a typical unschooling week? Do my children spend equal time on all the key learning areas? The answer is no!

We tend to get immersed in a few things at a time. This isn’t so good for my record-keeping, but it's a very enjoyable and effective way of learning. Recently I’ve had a lot of English and Creative Arts learning experiences to record in my records notebook, but no maths or science. Is this a problem?

In this week's podcast, I talk about the uneven nature of learning and how it affects my record keeping.

I also discuss the following:
  • blogging, podcasting and popularity
  • our passion for Shakespeare
  • learning to read:
  • how I thought I was a wonderful teacher
  • how I discovered I wasn't
  • the mistakes I made with my children
  • what I finally learned about learning to read

Program Notes:

Blog posts about learning to read

Shakespeare: Shakespeare Uncovered on PBS website


Sophie's blog: The Techno Maid

Please feel welcome to join me on my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page!

Everyone knows we need loads of trust to unschool. But how do we get it? Where does it come from? Trust isn’t something you can buy. It’s not something you can apply your will to: I want to trust therefore I trust. It’s something some people seem to have in abundance and others have great difficulty acquiring.

So where does trust come from?

I could tell you that all we need to do is observe the fruits of trusting. But not everyone has grown up unschooled children. Not everyone can say, “I was right to trust. Look at my kids! They did okay.”

I could tell you to look at other people’s grown up unschooled children. But you might think, “But they’re not my kids. All children are different. What if mine don’t turn out so well?”

I could tell you to read as much as you can about unschooling so you understand the principles. And this might be good except reading and real life could be two different things.

So what would I say? I’d say if you know, without a doubt, you are doing the right thing, then trust won’t be an issue.

But how do we know what's the right thing to do? How do we know if unschooling is the right choice for us? Should we try it? Or maybe not?

I don't think we actually have to make a decision to unschool. We don't have to 'give unschooling a go' to see if it works for us. All we have to do is stop doing all the things that aren’t working for our families.

It was easy for me to recognise the things that weren’t working for my family. There were many times when I thought, “My kids won’t do what I want if I don’t yell… threaten… punish…” Life was stressful. I was often angry and upset. And unkind.

Yes, I was often unkind to my children, but I felt my unkindness was justified. It was my children's fault I acted without gentleness. If only they'd do what they were told. It was my duty as a mother to persist pushing them, even when I didn’t like what was happening to our relationships. I had to be tough and teach them what was right.

But then one day, I’d had enough. I decided that unkindness is never justified. The problem wasn’t with my kids. And it wasn't with me either. (Things wouldn't be fixed if I smiled gently and refused to get upset when my kids protested.) I realised we just weren’t living life the way it is meant to be lived. I should have been listening to my kids, and not to all those outside voices that bombarded me each and every day. So I changed things. I stopped making my kids do all those things other people told me were important. The conflict dissolved away. And without me realising we became unschoolers.

Now some people might think I gave in. Could it be my kids rule the house? Perhaps they don’t do anything now I’m not pushing them. I might be a lazy mother who’s avoiding the sometimes disagreeable job of disciplining her kids. But none of that’s true. I could write a lot about how unschooled children work hard and are considerate and helpful. Those stories would back up my claim. But I won’t. All I have to say is this: If I were avoiding my duty and my kids were out of control, I would feel guilty. I wouldn’t feel at peace. There would be no joy in our lives. And we have loads of love and peace and joy. Things feel right. I know this is the way we should be living.

So I trust because I’m not willing to not unschool. I am not willing to give up the joy, love and peace we have. I am not going back to a life where I found myself being unkind so often because there was so much conflict within my family.

Where does trust come from? How do we get it? We consider the option of not trusting and choose to live the life that brings us peace.

So if someone said to me, “How will I ever trust enough?", this is what I’d suggest:

Throw out all the things that are coming between you and your children, one by one. And when you reach that peaceful state where joy and love reign, you’ll never want to go back. You’ll know what you’re doing is right. And trust won’t be an issue. You'll have it by the bucketful!

PS: When I talk about peace, joy and love, I'm not implying an unschooling life is a perfectly happy life. Oh no! Sometimes life is tough and full of suffering. Unexpected things happen. But when relationships are strong, we can pull together, encouraging and supporting and loving each other through the difficult times. 

Some people will tell you if you unschool everything except maths, you’re not really an unschooler. For how can we say to our kids, “I trust you will learn everything you need to know... but not maths"? We either trust or we don't. Nothing else makes much sense. So yes, I do understand that point-of-view.

But before I upset anyone with my opinions, I want to say I also understand how difficult it is to let go of maths. If you look back through my posts, or listen to my unschool maths podcast, you'll discover there was a time when I required my children to do some formal maths every day. I didn't trust enough either.

Were we unschoolers even though I required some maths? I certainly thought we were. I’d have been very upset if someone had suggested we weren’t.

Looking back to those days when my kids filled out worksheets or did online maths exercises, I know I still had lots to learn about the unschooling philosophy. But this doesn’t mean we weren’t on the unschooling pathway. The particular point we were at was the point just right for my family at that time. As I learned more, and listened to and observed my children, my understanding and trust grew, and I was able to throw off more of my insecurities and old ideas.

But what would have happened if someone had stopped by, after hearing about my insistence on maths, and said, “You can’t call yourselves unschoolers!”? I might have felt squashed and discouraged. I could have thought, “If that’s what unschooling is all about, then it’s not for us,” and given up. But no one challenged me. No one judged our unschooling and so we have been able to explore and grow at our own pace, and our unschooling way of life has deepened.

So if you’re ‘unschooling except for maths’, I think that’s quite okay. I hope you’ll stick around and keep sharing my posts, perhaps join in with the discussion. Who knows? One day you might, like us, throw caution to the wind, and let go further. I’d smile if you did, because I want everyone to experience what we have found. Good things should be shared! Letting the unschooling philosophy extend to maths, and then to all parts of our life, has been truly amazing for us.

But if you decide to stay where you are, that’s fine too. As Pat Farenga said:
I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.
We are all different and should be able to do what suits our families without criticism from anyone else. 

Being accepting and non-judgemental keeps the lines of communication open, and allows us to continue the unschooling conversation in an encouraging and supportive way. By sharing together, we all grow and learn.

What do you think?

PS: You might say, "Why worry about labels? They're not important. What does it matter if people think we're really unschoolers or not?" And I agree with you. But labels can be helpful. How would we find each other when we feel like sharing with like-minded people if we didn't have a label to start with?

Once upon a time, I knew more than Sophie when it came to our shared passions. But I have to admit, these days, her knowledge far exceeds mine. Now I'm learning from my daughter.

"How did you make that blog post graphic?" I ask.

"I'll show you," offers Sophie. Then she adds, "I could make a screencast tutorial video about it for you. It might help if you forget what you have to do."

So she does and I watch and learn, and soon I know how to make blog post graphics too.

I tell this story in this week's podcast. Episode 34 is a bits and pieces podcast. I tell some stories about what's been happening recently in our family, ponder some thoughts and share a few resources.

More specifically, I discuss:
  • something exciting that happened last Friday
  • whether or not we can prepare our children for an unknown future
  • why we are glad we have an active dog
  • how writing about Jane Fonda led to a new passion for Sophie.
  • the importance of encouragement and sharing children’s passions
  • how I discovered some muscles I haven’t used in a long time
  • how unschooling children persevere even when no one is pushing them
  • novel writing
  • how children’s knowledge can soon exceed a parent’s and how they can end up teaching us
  • how younger children can learn from older siblings
  • some of the DVDs and videos we’ve been watching
  • some of the things I’ve been working on

I hope you'll listen!

Program Notes

Blog posts

School didn’t prepare me at all for life as a 21st century woman. How could it have? No one knew what the future was going to be like. This makes me wonder what life will be like in another 5, 10, 20, 30 years’ time. What will it be like when Sophie and Gemma-Rose leave home? And what kind of work will they be doing? I'm sure, with the advances in technology, there will be many job opportunities we can't, at this present time, imagine.

Why Picnics Are Important
Many years ago, parenting and homeschooling could sometimes seem rather overwhelming, Some days my children refused to do what I asked. Or everyone needed me at exactly the same moment. Or I felt so tired I didn't want to do anything at all. It sometimes became too much and I wanted to run away. "I've had enough!" I'd yell before running outside.

How Younger Siblings Learn by Listening In
Gemma-Rose sits in the same room as us, playing or drawing… and listening. She’s also transported into that other world at Elsinore. Occasionally I notice she puts down her pencil or her toy. She’s thinking about something she's heard. Sometimes she even has her say when we’re discussing the play. And when we turn on the DVD to find out how the experts act out Shakespeare’s words, Gemma-Rose makes sure she gets a good seat. She is just as eager to watch as any of us. She doesn’t want to go off and play by herself. This is all much too interesting. 




The Phantom of the Opera: the stage version
Love Never Dies: the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera

on the PBS website


Sarah Mackenzie's Amongst Lovely Things
Kortney Garrison's One Deep Drawer
Sophie's The Techno Maid


Fitness Blender website
Fitness Blender Youtube channel


60's Quiz Show by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)

Photos: Gemma-Rose took the photos in this post with Sophie's direction. Sophie edited them and added the watermarks. And I stole them!

If you'd like to join me on my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page, please do!

“Hey, girls, come and look at my video!”

“It looks wonderful, Mum!” (My daughters know exactly the right words to say!)

“Do you like the slideshow? How about the pan and zoom effect? Does that work?” The girls nodded. And, of course, I smiled.

I love learning new things. It’s a wonderful feeling gaining a new skill. And it’s great having people to share my achievements with.

So what exactly have I been doing?

I’ve been making short unschooling videos, 2 – 3 minutes in length. I’m using snippets of podcasts or longer videos to highlight particular unschooling ideas. And I’ve been experimenting with my video software, learning how to use the various features, as I attempt to make the videos attractive.

“It’s a pity I'm not part of the homeschool records book,” I said. “I feel like writing down all I’ve learnt.”

I’ve been keeping homeschool records books for over 20 years. Many times I have sighed and wished keeping records wasn’t part of our homeschooling registration requirement. But record keeping isn’t going to disappear anytime soon so it's no use complaining. Instead, I’ve been trying to approach it with a positive attitude.

Last year I discovered Evernote and started keeping digital records and, for the first time ever, started to feel excited about record keeping. I no longer think of it as an unavoidable but necessary chore. Now I keep records for my own family's enjoyment. Yes, I actually enjoy adding photos, notes and links to my notebooks. It’s like putting together a journal of our life. There are lots of memories contained in my notes. Sometimes we scroll back through my notebooks. We roll back time:

“Do you remember watching that movie together? We should watch it again.”

“Oh look at these photos! Immy, your hair was much shorter then.”

“I enjoyed reading that book.”

“Do you remember that day at the lake when we ran 5 km before having a picnic?”

“Can we go to Canberra again, please? That was a wonderful holiday. We could go back to the art gallery and the museums.”

"I'd forgotten about that blog post!"

“Oh look! I remember how excited I was when I learnt to…”

Yes, we do get excited when we learn new skills. I also want to look back and remember my achievements such as how I learnt to make unschooling videos. But, as I said, I can’t record my new skill in our Evernote homeschool records book. That’s just for the girls. (Our Authorised Person won't want to read about my unschooling!) So it’s just as well I have an Evernote diary notebook of my own. The other night I went to Youtube and clipped my latest unschooling video into this diary. Now I’ll remember the exact day I made it. I’ll remember smiling as I shared it with my daughters.

Of course, you might not be impressed with my video making skills. Maybe you'll wonder why I got so excited and wanted to share my achievement. And you'd be right: I still have lots to learn. But think of the fun I'm going to have as I increase my knowledge further! What will I learn next? What other video software features will I experiment with? What new ideas will I have?

And what learning experience will I record next in my diary? 

Record keeping isn't all bad, especially if we use an effective method to capture all those wonderful learning experiences we'd like to remember forever.

If you'd like to watch my little video, here it is:

I've just had another positive thought about record keeping: It encourages us to be observant. We have to keep our eyes open for learning experiences, otherwise our notebooks could look a bit bare. And that means we notice every little stage of our children's growth and development, every small achievement.  Time doesn't pass in a blur. We live in the moment.

If you'd like to watch my Evernote videos, they can be found on Youtube. I'm thinking about re-recording them to increase their quality. Maybe one day! There are so many things I want to do!

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