A New Unschooling Year Begins

Andy returns to work tomorrow. He’s a primary school teacher.

“This is Dad’s last day of holiday,” I say to the girls.

They are quiet for a moment, and then it suddenly dawns on them. “You mean the new school term starts tomorrow?” says Sophie, a smile appearing on her face.

I nod, and Gemma-Rose shouts, “Hooray! You can read to us again.”

“Well…” I begin. “I didn’t say our term begins tomorrow.” The smiles disappear.

“But there’s so much we want to do,” says Sophie.

“You don’t have to wait for me,” I say. “You’re good at learning things by yourselves.”

“I know but what about reading?  We like you reading to us… and everything’s much more fun when we do things together.”

Sophie presents me with a list…

Things I want to do:

  • Watch Space Odyssey,
    Voyage to the Planets
    . Read the book too and play around on the website.
  • Learn all about planets and space.
  • Read A Little Bush
  • Learn about New Zealand.
  • Learn about the Second World War.
  • Learn about Australian birds.
  • Watch more Gilbert and Sullivan musicals
  • Learn poetry.
  • Read Little Women.
  • Learn more about maths.
  • Learn about water.
  • Learn to play the organ.

It looks like my lazy days are over. I need to think about how I can help the girls learn all they want to know. Maybe I should take a walk around the house looking for appropriate resources. Perhaps I can make another half an hour ‘plan’ for next term.

I love Sophie’s and Gemma-Rose’s enthusiasm. I love how they are impatient to acquire more knowledge. After a long relaxing summer, they can’t wait until we return to our usual school term routine.

When I was a child, I also looked forward to the start of the new school year. I was eager to wear my new uniform, meet up again with my friends, find out who my new teacher was… A few days later, all that enthusiasm would seep away. It was business as usual… back to the grind. I tried looking ahead to the next summer holiday, but all I could see was week after week of tedious work. I sighed.

I can also remember, years ago, sighing as a homeschooling mother. I’d start the year off with great anticipation, armed with new resources and ideas, and then a few weeks into the term, my enthusiasm would die. Teaching my children no longer seemed like an exciting adventure. It was just one long hard struggle. But that was in the days when we weren’t unschooling.

My girls won’t be sighing in a few days’ time, or even a few weeks’ time. I’m sure they’ll still be bouncing around full of the joy of learning. Their enthusiasm won’t have disappeared. I hope mine won’t have either. And I am very grateful for this. I am very glad we found our way to unschooling.

Sophie appears again, a book in her hand. “This looks interesting,” she says.  “Perhaps I can add this to my list of things I want to do.”

I read the title: Aircraft of Australia and New Zealand. “Aviation… Amelia Earhart, Charles Kingsford Smith, The Wright Brothers…” I pause as I try to remember more.

“Can you spell those names?” asks Sophie. “I’ll go and look them up.”

The new unschooling year has begun.

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    • Anonymous
    • January 28, 2013

    I know what you mean about quickly the enthusiasm wanes when you follow a curriculum. It was like drudgery trying to make it through my list of subjects for the day and then dealing with one or two children who do not want to do what I asked.


    1. Reply


      I suppose most of us feel a little excited as each new school term begins. If things haven't gone well in the past, we still have such hope that things will be different this time around. Drudgery? Yes. I am thinking about a quote from A Little Way of Homeschooling… something about how we automatically assume that homeschooling will be arduous for both parent and children, but it needn't be that way. I shall have to look it up! Suzie's words are very wise.

      Gina, did you stop using the curriculum? I never actually used a written curriculum but I did make plans of my own which I wanted my children to use. I hated the battles though! I have found that kids are very good at leading the way on their own. Life is much more peaceful these days.

      I hope all is well with you. I keep you in my prayers.

      God bless!

      • Anonymous
      • January 29, 2013

      We are not using a curriculum this year but I did have a plan for many months. Then it dwindled into making the kids do math everyday and maybe some sort of writing. This works well with my seven year old who is learning to read and write and do basic math, but the other two are fighting me more. These are some days I feel like my thirteen year old does nothing, but he does rad voraciously, does Boy Scouts intensely, takes a class at the branch campus, fences, has a paper route, etc. When I look at it that way, he seems fine. I just wish he would get interested in math again. My ten year old fights me when I suggest lessons, but today he spontaneously did several mad libs, played chess, worked on his marine biology coloring book. And he asked me if we were doing school today 🙂

      I think that is part of the problem right now….the kids talk about doing school because I ask them to do math or to write something. I try to explain to them that what we do isn't really like school. Maybe it doesn't matter what they call it.


    2. Reply


      It sounds like your 13 year old is doing a lot! I love real learning experiences like little part time jobs, or passions such as Boy Scouts or Girl Guides. At the moment, I'm investigating Guides for my younger girls.

      Maybe if you back right off with the formal lessons, your children may relax and then decide for themselves they want to know more about writing and maths. It looks like your 10 year old is keen to learn, just not 'school lessons'. Backing off is of course hard for parents. We tend to worry our children will never get there on their own!

      For me, the constant battles were just not worth it. I could see my relationship with my children deteriorating. Once I 'gave in' things improved so quickly. When our relationships are good and we have mutually trust, we can then suggest activities and children will be more open to listening. At least this is what I have found!

      Could your children set up their own blogs for writing? They could keep them private if you are worried about safety. Learning how to blog, and then writing content and taking photos would be a wonderful experience. It wouldn't look like school at all but I bet they'd learn heaps while doing it. I think it is much more valuable doing a real activity like blogging (real work), rather than learning through artificial learning methods such as formal lessons. Much more fun too!

      "the kids talk about doing school" I am smiling! The word 'school' is forbidden in our home. It's a bit of a family joke. Sometimes I will use the word without thinking and the kids shout me down, "We don't do school work, Mum!" Yes, it's a totally different way of looking at education. Learning really is just part of life. Everyone does it, not just kids.

      It is always good to chat. Thank you for stopping by!

  1. Reply

    Lovely to read of your wonderfully relaxed start to the new school year, Sue. I can so relate to that (unsustainable) "start of term" enthusiasm! But the good news is I can feel myself letting go of layers of "schooling" all the time… I'm definitely headed in the right direction 🙂

    I'm looking forward very much to following your unschooling adventures over the year to come. Thank you for taking the time to share them with us.

    Oh and thank you for sharing about Imogen's passions (and thank Imogen, too) – so refreshing and inspiring to read!


    1. Reply


      It is lovely to see you on my blog! Didn't we chat a while back about Syke Penderwick and maths? My daughter finished the book. I wonder if your children did too.

      "letting go of layers of "schooling" all the time." That is a great way of describing it! I think that's what happened to us. We didn't just wake up one morning and decide to unschool. Instead, I gradually threw out everything that wasn't working, and that was getting in the way of my relationship with my children. We arrived at unschooling without even realising. I'm also thinking it is a good way to do things. Sometimes changing things abruptly is too much to cope with all at once, especially for parents!

      It is very kind of you to read my posts. Thank you! I will pass on your message to Imogen. What I like about her final year of 'school' was that her passions didn't look much like formal school work – they were her interests rather than 'lessons' – but she learnt so much from indulging them.

      Please stop by and say hello another time. I'd like that!

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