A Typical Unschooling Day at Home


The phone alarm beeps at 6.10 am. A few minutes later, I swing my legs over the side of the bed, and pad down the hall to the girls’ bedrooms. I open their doors and say, “Anyone want to come running with me?” I can see vague shapes stirring in the semi-darkness.

Soon after 6.30 am, Charlotte, Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I are walking down the road to the park. It is quiet and cool, the best time of day. We run 5 or 6 kilometres of our bush track circuit, up and down the hills, in and out of the trees. Finally I say, “Good work, team! Let’s go home for breakfast.”

As soon as we arrive home, Charlotte grabs a large pan and begins making porridge. I disappear into the shower. Showers, breakfast, morning chores… We wash dishes, clean bathrooms, make beds, sweep floors and fill the washing machine before we say morning prayers together.

We gather in the living room. My eldest son Duncan joins us. He’s still on his university break. Andy and Callum are at work. Imogen is away from home visiting a friend for three days. Prayers, Bible reading and meditation… We chat about the day ahead of us. “What shall we have for dinner? Do we need to get some meat out of the freezer? Does anyone have any plans for the day? Does anyone need me to do anything special for them?”

The washing machine has come to the end of its cycle. The girls follow me into the garden and we hang out the clothes. It’s pleasant in the sun but it looks like it’s going to be a hot day.

The postman arrives with two books from the Book Depository. One of them is called Secret Garden. It’s a sophisticated colouring-in book, containing page after page of intricate drawings of flowers and leaves and birds… I show the book to the girls and tell them I am going to use some of the pictures as embroidery designs. “I saw this idea on someone’s blog,” I say as I open my computer to show the girls.

Charlotte disappears into her bedroom. She has things she wants to do: books she is reading, an online art class she is taking, a science DVD she is going to watch. Sophie and Gemma-Rose and I settle ourselves on the sofas in the family room.

“What do you want to do?” I ask my younger girls.

“Will you read to us please?” asks Sophie. I nod and reach for our current book, Jackie French’s The Road to Gundagai. Sophie takes up her sewing and Gemma-Rose grabs her sketch book. They like to keep their fingers busy while listening.

I come to the end of a chapter and I look up. I know Sophie is going to plead with me to keep reading. I decide to read until it’s time for morning tea. 10 o’clock arrives. It’s time to fill the kettle and make coffee, pour glasses of milk… Gemma-Rose opens a container sitting on the kitchen bench. It’s full of scones she baked yesterday.

While we munch and sip, I check my emails. I visit Facebook for a few minutes and ‘like’ a few posts. The girls open a book or have a look at their blogs. Charlotte appears. I close my computer and I invite her to sit down and tell me about what’s she’s been doing. She shows me some cereal box paper dolls she’s working on. She tells me how much she enjoyed reading The Drovers Road Collection. We all discuss the book, remembering how much it made us laugh when I read it to the younger girls a while ago. We compare what we know about New Zealand (the book’s setting) to our own country, Australia. “I’m going to write a blog post about the book,” says Charlotte.

Gemma-Rose already has a blog post ready to publish. She wrote it yesterday. It’s about a doll she made. She hits ‘publish’ and then I visit Facebook briefly to post a link to it on my page.

“Mum, did you read my chapter of our novel?” Sophie asks. I did. Now it’s my turn to write the next part of the story. We discuss the plot so I know what I’m doing.

I have another book I’m reading aloud to the younger girls: Refuge. This is also by Australian author Jackie French, but completely different to the one we were reading earlier. There are only a couple of chapters left in the book so I read them both. I also read the author’s notes at the back of the book. The themes of the book are immigration and asylum seekers. We find ourselves discussing these issues. We talk about why not everyone coming to Australia is allowed to stay. And who can stay and why. And aren’t we fortunate living in a free and peaceful country?

We wonder: What is Australia’s population density compared to other countries? We look up the population for Australia, Japan and the UK, and then the areas of each of these countries. Sophie takes a piece of paper and a calculator and soon she’s worked out the population densities.

“Wow! We have far less people per square kilometre than those other countries. Only about 3 people per square kilometre (using data from 2013). There’s plenty of room for more immigrants!”

Yes, we are a sparsely populated nation even though a large part of our country is desert. The girls can see that when we look at a map.

While the map is out, the girls find Christmas Island where there is an asylum seekers’ detention centre. Both girls use the grid coordinates to pinpoint the island. We notice a key to one side of the atlas page, and soon we are locating capital cities, major towns, airports, agriculture and industries.

Sophie is thinking about the Secret Garden book that arrived in the mail this morning. “Do you think I could embroider a design from the book too?” She decides to write a blog post about her plan.

I hop over to Facebook quickly and post a link to the book while I remember. I want to thank Kelly for recommending Secret Garden on her blog.

“Can I read to you, Mum?” asks Gemma-Rose. She already has her book on her lap: A Little House of Their Own. It’s the last book in the Caroline Years, one of the Little House book series. We sit side by side on the sofa and enjoy a chapter together.

Just before lunch, someone asks the question, “Where did the metre come from? How do we know all metres are the same?” I do some research while the girls make lunch, and then while we sit around the table eating, we have a great discussion about the imperial, the metric and the US systems of measurement. We laugh over the mental image of King Henry I extending his arm out to the side and saying, “The distance from my nose to my thumb is exactly one yard.”

After the dishes are washed, Sophie practices the piano. I find Charlotte sitting on the sofa rereading The Road to Gundagai. “Which bit are you up to?” she asks. She stole away our book a few days ago and read it to herself quickly. But the book must have been good because she is back for a second look.

I take some time to answer a few blog comments and emails. Before I finish, Sophie appears and says, “If I had some chocolate I could make some chocolate oaties.”

“Put on some sunscreen and when I’ve finished replying to these comments, we can walk up to the village and buy some.” Ten minutes later, Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I are enjoying a stroll up to the village store. Charlotte chooses to stay at home. She is practising her singing.

Sophie begins cooking as soon as we return. I’m not sure what Gemma-Rose is doing. She could be writing or reading or drawing. I know what Charlotte is doing. I can hear her. It’s her turn to use the piano.

I decide to edit another of my children’s stories. It’s been a long time since I last looked at the manuscript for my book The Angels of Gum Tree Road.

Charlotte interrupts me at my computer. “I’m about to start the dinner. What shall we have with our burgers?”

“Do we have any salad?” We don’t. “Do we have any potatoes?” We do. I volunteer to chop some potato wedges. Gemma-Rose decides to help me. Sophie has finished baking the oaties. We each sample one. Then Sophie makes some yoghurt. We wash a few dishes. It’s almost time for dinner. There’s just time to bring in the washing, tidy up a little, and set the table.

My husband Andy goes to the gym on his way home from work. Callum is at TAFE doing his welding course. Imogen isn’t due home until Friday. So only the three younger girls, Duncan and I sit down to eat.

More dishes to wash and then Charlotte decides to watch a movie. The other girls ask if they can borrow my tablet so they can play a game together. I return to my computer and my editing.

Then Andy arrives home. While he eats dinner he tells us about his day. Then he wants to know everything we’ve done. After relaxing for a while, Andy prepares his lessons for tomorrow. (He’s a school teacher.) The younger girls announce they’re off to bed. I ask, “Do you want me to wake you for a run in the morning?” They nod. I have my diary to write. Charlotte comes to say good night. We spend some time chatting about her day and what she has achieved.

It’s the end of another unschooling day.

But before I climb into bed, I grab my homeschool records book. I want to make sure I record all the day’s learning experiences. I  translate everything into schoolish language under the headings, English, Maths, HSIE*, PDHPE**, Creative Arts, Science…

I think about what we did today:

We ran and walked. We prayed and read the Bible. We cleaned and washed and tidied the house. We baked and cooked dinner together. We did lots of writing and editing, reading and listening. We discussed and researched. We looked at maps and manipulated real life numbers. We explored the world and its issues. We drew and sewed, practised the piano and sang. We imagined and dreamed and hoped.

Today we spent lots of time together. We learnt a lot. We laughed and enjoyed. I guess that makes today a typical unschooling day at home.

Refuge is available as a paperback book or an Kindle ebook.
The Drovers Road Collection is available as an ebook from Bethlehem Books as well as a paperback book.

* Human Society and Its Environment
** Personal Development, Health and Physical Education
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    • amy
    • February 7, 2014

    Love this look at your day! So perfect and inspiring.

    1. Reply

      Thank you, Amy!

    • Gina
    • February 7, 2014

    Sue, thanks for letting me know about your newest blog post. I am doing well. Although I do sometimes still question whether we are doing "enough" in terms of schooling, other times I feel comfortable (which then makes me worried if I am comfortable because I am being lazy). However, we do a few lessons per day and sometimes it takes several hours. However, I do find myself looking at the little bit of curriculum, we do use through the lenses of unschooling. For instance, I am starting to skip certain math lessons if they seem unnecessary and I also am starting to believe I could teach all of arithmetic through the RightStart math card games. Today we are being a little bit unschooly…..I read the story of David and Goliath to the kids and also more of Around the World in 80 days. My 5 and 8 year olds practiced reading to me for a little bit. My 5,8 and 11 year olds played a math game with me (mostly for the 5 year old's sake who asked to play it). My 11 year has a cold so he will probably just read today and then play his video game he ordered. My 5 and 8 year olds are busily making jewelry out of the new beads and stretchy cord that came today in the mail. I would bet they will also listen to more of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on CD. I read that book and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator to them a few weeks ago. We also watched the movie based on the book. Earlier in the week, we did do some spelling practice, grammar practice with my 11 year old (however, seeing how well he actually knows it, I may do very little the rest of the year). My 8 year old works on his 3 sentence writing assignment for religious education sacrament class (for making First Holy Communion)

    1. Reply


      It's good to hear from you! What a great day you had! My children enjoyed Roald Dahls's Charlie books too. I remember reading them aloud and I liked them too. I haven't heard about the RightStart math card games. I'll look them up. games are always must more fun than worksheets!

      Do you remember this quote from A Little Way of Homeschooling?

      'God will give each of us the time that we need to learn everything He wants us to know; this applies to both ourselves and our children. Why do we expect we must teach it all to our children in our homeschool? And why do we automatically assume that this burden of prospective learning will be painful for them, arduous for us? There is a less frightening way….'

      I think about these words often. Yes, homeschooling isn't meant to be arduous. I think it's quite okay to feel comfortable. Perhaps it's even better to feel at peace. If we feel like that, I think we are doing what is right.

    • Gina
    • February 7, 2014

    One more thing….so you see, I am finding myself more and more an unschooler. I am probably a "relaxed homeschooler" at this point. I think the reason feeling "comfortable" worries me is because I spent so many years feeling agony and misery while homeschooling. Therefore, I worry that if it is too comfortable, I must be doing too little. Do you every feel that way or are you way past that?

    1. Reply


      Perhaps instead of thinking YOU 'must be doing too little', you could focus on what your children are doing. Even when we take a back seat, they are capable of learning a great deal. By listening to them carefully we can see if their needs are being fulfilled. Would it help if you noted down all their learning experiences and what they are achieving, rather than what you are doing for them?

      I have felt miserable in the past about homeschooling but not since we've been unschooling. Thinking back to those difficult days, I am very grateful for what we now have. I like comfortable! It's a great atmosphere for promoting learning and good relationships! Saying this, there are times when I have to go outside my comfort zone… I have to answer questions when my kids ask them, I need to drop my own work when they ask for help, I have to read to them even if I don't feel like it on a particular day, I have to be there for my children even if I am tired… But I think everyone has to fight their own selfish inclinations at times, regardless of the type of homeschooling we are doing..

  1. Reply

    Oh, I long for Australian weather! Your day sounds remarkably similar to most of ours!

    1. Reply


      I'm guessing it's cold at the moment where you are. It's rather hot here today, too warm to do much. If we want to run, we have to get outside early in the morning. But I suppose this weather won't last for much longer. Three more weeks and we'll be going into autumn. That's my favourite season!

      I enjoyed reading your recent posts. I love your children's restaurant game!

  2. Reply

    You are an answer to many prayers I've been praying lately. I'm so grateful for the internet and how it connects people to each other based on their interests, passions, and drives with no concern for geography. 😉 You have encouraged me today for our next chapter of living and learning with growing girls (ages 11 & 13). Hugs and blessings to you and your family.

    1. Reply


      Oh I am so grateful for the Internet too. I have met so many wonderful people since I have been blogging. The Internet really does connect us all together, so we can encourage each other with friendship and support. I am so glad you stopped by today. Thank you for your very encouraging words.

      Your girls are very similar ages to my two youngest daughters. Such a great stage. I hope we can share more another day!

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