This post follows on from Why Some Kids Are Willing to Help With the Chores.
I’ve been thinking about how our life does look rather conventional. What makes our life… different from any structured homeschoolers’ life? Is it any different? How do we tell if someone is unschooling or not? We don’t stay up really late at night, we don’t drift through our days doing exactly what we want at all times, we get up very early in the morning, we work as a team to get the chores done… We don’t share these things with some unschooling families. Does that mean we’re not unschooling?
I think it’s all to do with choice. It’s not what you do. It’s not about what time you get up or when you eat your meals or when you go to bed or what type of activities you’re involved in. It’s all to do with the question: Do children have the choice to do what they want? They might choose to do things on a family’s timetable, (rather than on their own). They might choose to do chores when everybody else is doing them and work as a team…
On to our typical unschooling morning…
My older girls Imogen and Charlotte have their routines. They’re both doing university work (Imogen has finished her course since I made this podcast). They know what they have to do. They have reading to do and assignments that must be completed before certain dates. They can organise themselves to do that. But they also have music lessons to go to. They both have singing and piano lessons. They have choir practices and concert performances. They always want to make time to go running with the younger girls and me. They might want to go to town to do some shopping, go out for coffee, or meet a friend. Charlotte likes to spend time drawing, playing around with her animation software. Imogen might want to write blog posts. Maybe they’ll work on their novels. There are DVDs to watch. They could just want to spend time sitting and chatting or reading their books. They live a really full life…
I spend the mornings with my younger girls, Sophie and Gemma-Rose… doing what they want to do… There are certain things the girls have to do every morning. When I say ‘have to do’ I mean they choose to do them. These are such things as piano practices. They choose to practice the piano because they know if they don’t, they won’t improve their skills, and they want to learn to play like their older sisters. That’s not a problem. They each just need to put aside about half an hour every morning to do that. Their practice time is in the morning because the older girls get the use of the piano in the afternoon. Practicing in their allotted and agreed upon time: That’s just being considerate.
Every morning, there are certain things that the girls insist I do. They want me to read to them. If I don’t read to them regularly, books don’t get finished, and that can be frustrating. So, yes, I have some commitments as well.Sophie has also got some commitments. She set herself the goal of finishing some coding courses. She realised that she wouldn’t make much progress if she didn’t work at these courses on a regular basis. So she’s being trying to do a little bit each day to work towards the certificates of each course. She has finished a few of those courses recently and has moved on to some other ones.
So I don’t think unschooling is necessarily about drifting through life from one thing to another as it occurs to you. We need to put work into certain things on a regular basis. I’d never finish any of my novels if I didn’t work on them regularly. The same with the girls. They wouldn’t finish theirs either.
Wednesday morning… We’d finished saying our prayers. The house was nice and tidy, organised for the day. And I said, “What do you want to do today?” Gemma-Rose had a couple of letters that she wanted to post… so we decided we’d start the day with a walk up to the post office. We got the dog, and put her on the leash. I had a couple of things I wanted to post as well. Sophie had a little bit of shopping she wanted to do. We headed out the door just after 9.00 am.
It was really quite cool at that time of the morning. This is the first week of spring. We all wore our coats. As we were walking along, I dived into my pockets for my gloves. It was cold, but it was lovely and fresh as well. We could feel the coldness on our faces. (I like that feeling!) We arrived at the village, and posted our letters. The girls then wanted to go to the chemist to buy some nail polish. They had some ideas about decorating mugs with nail polish art, something I’d never seen before. Sophie had discovered this on Pinterest and wanted to give it a go. So they went into the chemist, and there’s a big display in there with loads and loads of colours and they’re all reasonably priced. The girls spent some time choosing half a dozen bottles and then we set off for home together.
By the time we were walking home, the sun was shining more strongly. I took my gloves off. We could now feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. (That felt good too!) I looked at the girls and the dog ahead of me. I looked at the bush that surrounds our village. The sun was shining out of a clear blue sky. And I thought: how fortunate we are that we’re doing what we’re doing at this particular moment in time. Other children were in school. They weren’t outside enjoying the spring day. Other homeschoolers were inside maybe working on their workbooks (or planned work). We were walking up to the village and back, enjoying ourselves.
When we got home, we put the kettle on and made some coffee and some hot chocolate for Gemma-Rose. We sat down. I checked my emails. We spent a bit of time chatting together, just relaxing. I didn’t think, “Look, we haven’t got anything done yet today. It’s already 10 o’clock. The day’s moving on.” I used to think like this in the past. I’d worry about filling up the day as efficiently as possible. (I’d watch the clock, and want to cram in as much learning as I could. I’d get to the point where I’d wonder if we’d done enough. How much is enough? Could we finish for the day?)
I felt that all the experiences we’d had that morning were very valuable. We need to take time just to be a family and to enjoy the outdoors. I knew we’d get on with the ‘real work’ – the things we have to do – in time. So once we’d had our coffee, the girls did get on with their piano practices which did have to be done. And then they wanted me to read to them…
Before we knew it, it was lunch time. I guess that was a typical morning.I spend a lot of time saying things like, “Shall we watch this…” or “Would you like me to read you that…” or “I found this…” I make suggestions and the girls pick up on some of these things, and other ones don’t interest them at all. So we could watch DVDs together. We might read non-fiction books. We could sit side-by-side while I show them a website. Maybe they will then go off and use the website by themselves. Lots of different things make up our days…
Typical unschooling days change naturally over time. If you read my other typical unschooling day posts you will notice this. I suppose that’s because our children and their needs change. But our days still reflect the same principles even if the details don’t remain the same. I recorded this podcast only a few months ago, but I can see that our typical day is changing yet again.
I am sure that this year Sophie won’t be looking to me very often for learning suggestions. She might choose to join in with whatever Gemma-Rose and I are doing, but she will also do lots of things on her own. Instead of me tempting her with different experiences, she’ll be tempting me: “Mum, do you want to learn how to use Lightroom? I’ll teach you.” Already, she’s doing this. Sophie works from one end of the day to the other, writing blog posts, taking and editing photographs, doing research on the Internet, emailing friends, working out, watching Youtube videos, reading books… She has lots and lots of ideas of her own, and she is motivated to work at them. Perhaps I’ll write another typical unschooling day post about Sophie’s day very soon.
Just in case you have forgotten: Sophie is 14 and Gemma-Rose will be 12 tomorrow!
So that’s a bit about our typical unschooling days. Are they like yours? Or do you spend your time in a very different way?
and here on my blogI did promise a new episode today, but I haven’t actually got anything to publish. I did record an episode, but I wasn’t happy with it. I felt I was repeating myself. I’m going to try again on Wednesday. (Tomorrow is a birthday and not a podcasting day!)