Perhaps I Shouldn’t Have Told You about Our Typical Unschooling Day

Five Wild Turkeys

In my last podcast, I spoke about our typical unschooling day.

Every day we get up early, do our chores as a team, and then say prayers together before getting on with the work of the day. We eat regular meals, sitting around the same table at the same time. At the end of the day, none of us is reluctant to slip into bed and go to sleep. Many nights my two youngest girls are ready to turn out their light by 8.30 pm. And occasionally, I head off to bed even earlier than that.

I wonder if I should have told you about our days. You might now think our life is rather ordinary. Perhaps we don’t sound much like your idea of a family who has let unschooling spill over into all parts of life. Could we just be pretending to live an amazing unschooling life when we are in fact conventional homeschoolers?

What does a typical unschooling life actually look like? Is it more exciting than the one we’re leading?

I’ve heard of radical unschoolers staying up to all hours of the night and then sleeping in late the next day. They don’t move to anyone’s timetable except their own. They eat what they like when they feel hungry, and not when the clock or someone tells them it’s time for a meal. They listen to the needs of their own bodies and respond accordingly. Yes, they do what they like when they want to, because there are no rules. They are as free as the wind, not constrained by anything,

And our life doesn’t look like theirs at all. Or does it?

Four Wild Goats

I don’t think unschooling can be identified by such things as what time a child goes to bed or when and what she eats or even by the kind of activities she is involved with. Unschooling isn’t about doing particular agreed-upon things. It’s about giving children the freedom to choose.

Do some children choose to get up early? Could they want to say prayers and be part of the chore team? Perhaps they like eating family meals around the table with their siblings and parents. Is it possible they might choose to live what looks like a conventional life?

But why would kids choose to do this? Why would they want to fit in with their family and live on the same timetable? I asked my children this question:

“Because we value our family life.”

“Our family life is important to us.”

“We like doing things together.”

“We want to be part of the team.”

“We contribute to the family and want to do things together because we love each other and want to help out.” 

“When our life has some rhythm to it we achieve more.”

So in many ways, it might seem like we’re living a conventional life. But we’re not. Appearances are deceiving. We are as free as the wind. 

Why do we live the way we do?

Charlotte: “Because we want to!”

And so we do. Because we can.

Two Wild Unschoolers

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  1. Reply

    Your family life sounds very attractive to me. We as a family could for sure use more time working and parying together. The gettin up early-part not so much. I'm an Owl, you know, and Owls beget Owlets. But reasonably early mornings ie. after 8 o'clock are OK with us.

    1. Reply


      I'm sure you do spend lots of time working together as a family. I love reading about everything you do together in the garden. In the warmer months, you seem to spend a lot of time outside enjoying each other's company and working on family projects. The garden is one area we sadly neglect. We're not gardeners at all.

      I'd love to be a night owl. I never want to go to bed because it's hard to tear myself away from what I am doing, but I know I function better on an-early-to-bed-early-to-rise rhthym. Maybe our days here in Australia are better suited to early rising. We have much long hours of daylight than you. It must be hard to get up when it's still dark.

    • Faith
    • September 2, 2015

    When I listened to your account of your typical day, I was, I admit, a little jealous. My family dynamic is not like that. We are the type of family where everyone goes off on their own trajectory; where each person's daily rhythm becomes asynchronous with every other family member's. It put a real strain on our ability to do anything together. It is hard to pray, eat, housekeep, read aloud, talk, even just greet each other (!) when everyone is on their own timetable. It really is like herding cats! But after soul-searching about it I truly think it is just the way we function for various reasons. And so, we have to deal differently when it comes to managing things. So be it! It makes me think of what JPII said: Families, be who you are!

    1. Reply


      Yes, we are all different. I imagine it would be a real battle trying to herd your family into a similar rhythm as ours. And battles aren't good. They spoil relationships. Perhaps your days reflect your family's particular personalities. I know ours do. We all like getting up early and getting organised before the real work of the day begins. We don't all need to be the same, do we? "Families be who you are!" I like that very much!

    • Chris
    • September 2, 2015

    Nope, your fam life sounds anything but boring. Sounds wonderful. And I adore how your kids explain wanting to spend time with the family and valuing family experiences…being part of the team. You and Andy have instilled such positive values!

    Sue, on a different topic do you have any suggestions for a video rendition of MacBeth? timmy and I are beginning it today—1st day of school here in our house and when we wrap up I'd like to watch a film version ……..I just reserved Shakespeare retold at my library.- – it's apparently a modern version/play on the original script. ( )

    Also, I found this Patrick Stewart version : I res'd it from my library too— But it seems we can watch it here also:

    For some reason, I could not copy my library's link so I'm sending you the amazon links….Do you have any other goodies to rec to me about MacBeth? This MAY be the only Shskpr play we do this school year…I'd like to focus on other lit too….. I think I may have been too Shakespeare heavy to the neglect of other literature! Both American and world lit.

    Thanks for any advice Sue!

    How are the wedding plans coming? 🙂 Can't wait to see pics of the big day!

    Take care…I'll visit again soon! Enjoy this day!


    1. Reply


      We recently watched an interesting episode of 'Shakespeare Uncovered' about Macbeth. The presenter was Ethan Hawke. This series is available on the PBS website.

      After seeing this program, we want to see Ethan Hawke as Macbeth. I know he has starred in the theatre version, but we haven't been able to find a DVD version yet. Maybe there isn't one yet.

      There are lots of versions of Macbeth, of course. As far as I remember, Shakespeare Retold doesn't use Shakespeare's original words. The stories are also updated and changed a bit. Although I can't remember the Macbeth one, most have modern adult themes.

      Patrick Steward is always good! Wasn't he in Hamlet with David Tennant? I find more modern versions very interesting. It's fascinating how the plays can be set in so many different times and settings.

      We didn't like the BBC version of Macbeth very much. It's very true to the script, but we didn't like the main actors, Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire. Williamson's voice seemed hard on our ears, (a bit whiny?), and Lapotaire was overly sensual at one point which the girls found off-putting. If you want to see this version, it's on Youtube at the moment:

      I remember seeing the Franco Zeffirelli directed version many years ago, but can't remember the details. I do love Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. It's very visually pleasing and wonder if his Macbeth is the same.

      Then there's the Mel Gibson version of Macbeth…

      Have you seen Joseph Pearce's books about Shakespeare? 'The Quest for Shakespeare', 'Through Shakespeare's Eyes' and 'Shakespeare on Love'. I don't think any of the chapters are specifically about Macbeth, but the books are very interesting. Viewing Shakespeare through Catholic eyes!

      If I think of anything else, I'll get back to you. I don't think there's such a thing as being too Shakespeare heavy. We love his plays! Enjoy Macbeth!

      Thank you so much for stopping by with your encouraging words. xxx

      • Chris
      • September 10, 2015

      First of all Sue, I just found this at the HS Post website! Congrats on being in the top 10!
      Hurrah for SOAUF!!

      Second;;;THANK YOU for all the Macbeth details. I am copying and pasting your reply into my Shakespeare notes so I can refer back to them….nothing fancy on the notes, just notepad on my PC. I will def look into it all. I have never seen a Retold version…but I had heard it is not the original. I guess it's just a kind of fun interpretation of the plays to look at after really studying them. I have a copy of the Pearce book and love it! A couple of things…I did not know Mel made a version of MacB! i'll have to look into it ( We couldn't stand his Hamlet….uggh. Horrific…plus I don't care for Glenn Close; so I had a hard time getting past her as Gertrude. But that's just me.)
      And yes, I believe Stewart was Claudius, that's right! I had forgotten that!! oh my goodness, I absolutely love that rendition of Hamlet!! That's what got us into DW! I mentioned it years ago to a Mom of another cast member when the boys were in our HS group's production of Hamlet and she told me to watch DW if i liked Tennant in Hamlet.
      (BTW If you're heavy Whovian and I think you Elvises, are…… "The Professor" who regenerates into "The Master" in season 3 is Derek Jacoby, who plays Claudius in the ken Branagh version of Hamlet too. That's another awesome film version of the play…my kids flipped when we watched that bc they recognized Claudius from DW!) Apparently Jacoby is a well known English actor? I had not heard of him)

      THANK YOU again so much Sue for all the details! Always good chatting with you!!

      "See" you soon!

    2. Reply


      Thank you so much for letting me know about the HS post. I was only included in that top ten list because of your kindness. No one would have even heard about my blog if you hadn't taken the time to nominate it. I do appreciate you doing that.

      Chris, your comment about Mel Gibson and Macbeth… I might have made a mistake there. I'm not sure I got that right at all. Perhaps I saw him in Hamlet instead. Sorry about that! Sometimes I get things in a muddle.

      But I do know Derek Jacobi. He played Hamlet when he was a young Shakespearean actor. We don't particularly like him in this role because of the way he delivered his lines. Not natural sounding at all (in our expert opinion!). However, we liked him very much as King Claudius in a later production of Hamlet. Jacobi presented an episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, the one about Richard II. Also, recently he was in Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella as the king. You are right: He is a very well known English actor!

      It's great sharing resources with you. Enjoy Macbeth! xx

  2. Reply

    I think their is a difference too, between unschooling and unparenting. You seem to have found a nice balance.

    1. Reply

      An Almost Unschooling Mom,

      Oh yes, I do agree about there being a difference between unschooling and unparenting though I wouldn't want to imply families who live a less rhythmic life than ours are unparenting. Definitely not. Chores can still get done and values still instilled in children regardless of the routine of a family. It's hard to make generalisations because we are all different. Maybe however there's a difference between our seemingly conventional but unschooling life and our past conventional non-unschooling life. At one point in time I had to push my kids into helping out with the chores etc. Life used to be a battle. These days everyone is free to choose and they choose to be involved.

      Thank you for adding to the discussion!

    2. Reply


      I think some parents are afraid of unschooling because they think life will fall apart if their kids are allowed too much freedom. Maybe we underestimate the role of an unschooling parent. Yes, we definitely need to be involved and parent our children while unschooling! Thank you for your comment!

    3. Reply

      I like that distinction: unschooling and unparenting. I think that describes what Sue shared so well!

    4. Reply

      I like that distinction: unschooling and unparenting. I think that describes what Sue shared so well!

  3. Reply

    You have such beautiful family-team spirit! And I loved "When our life has some rhythm to it we achieve more…." that stands out to me as something I need for MYSELF.

    I was interested in Chris's comment about Shakespeare. I love how homeschoolers and unschoolers dive eagerly into his works, and often so early! My 9 year old homeschooled granddaughter told me, with great excitement, that she and Mommy (and 7 year old brother) are learning about Shakespeare.

    She said they talked about a play called "What To Do About Nothing."

    1. Reply


      I've been thinking about those words: "When our life has some rhythm to it we achieve more…." It's very true. It's nice to drift from one thing to another, taking everything as it comes along and maybe we all need times like this. But I know I won't achieve certain things, like writing my novels, if I approach them in a haphazard way. If I were more organised I would have written and published a dozen novels by now! We can all choose how we spend our time, children included.

      I was also thinking about why we are so eager to get up early and work as a team to get the chores etc done quickly. Apart from being morning people, I think we are so eager to begin the interesting work of the day, we hurry to get the boring things out of the way as quickly as possible. Once all the routine stuff is out of the way we are free to enjoy our day. That's when the adventure begins!

      I'm so interested to hear your granddaughter is learning about Shakespeare too. Maybe a lot of adults have been put off Shakespeare because of their own school experience and so think it's too difficult for children. But it's not! Do you like Shakespeare, Nancy? I can just imagine all the wonderful conversations you could have with your granddaughter!

      Thank you for your kind words. It's good to chat!

  4. Reply

    I DO know the actual title of the play I mentioned .. um, just so you know 🙂

    1. Reply


      I'm sure you did know the title though I often forget which title goes with which play. Some are very confusing: Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, All's Well That End's Well…. They could almost be interchanged between plays. Did I read Shakespeare didn't care much about his titles? Some titles do sound like they were the first words that came into Shakespeare's head!

  5. Reply

    And the family team is the brand that will keep them strong when they face the wider world. I have been watching a documentary about the degeneration of the family over the centuries and one of the identifiable issues was that lack of cohesion often found in small nuclear families. Your generosity to bear and raise a large family is in addition to God's spirit working within you, the glue that binds you together.

    Hope the wedding prep is going well, Sara and Tom celebrate their first anniversary next week 🙂

    1. Reply


      I love the chuckling emoticon. He obviously wanted to be in your comment to make me smile!

      Your comment gave me so much to think about. Yes, you are so right: We need strong families. Our children need to feel that sense of belonging. It does strengthen them for their lives in the wider world. Instead of feeling apologetic about having children who want to be part of the family team, rather than go their individual ways, we should be feeling thankful.

      "God's spirit working within you, the glue that binds you together" These words made me think of choices. We can choose to conform our wills to God, to be part of His Church, and this might seem constraining from the outside. But of course, it's not. It's freeing. In the same way, we can choose to be part of a family, and this can involve putting the needs of that family ahead of our own. Both are free choices. I don't know if I explained that very well. Lots of thoughts going around my head!

      It's just over a week until the big day. The girls are trying to decide on hair styles. They're trying on clothes and getting excited. Imogen is working on the Order of Service and Callum and Casey are doing the final arrangements with our priest. There's a music practice tomorrow and the wedding practice will be next week. And then we'll be ready for the wedding!

      Congratulations to Sara and Tom. Can it really be a year already? I remember how the day didn't go exactly to plan with the cake not being ready, and was Sara sick? I hope they have a wonderful perfect first anniversary celebration!

    2. Reply

      Typed the original on my phone so not sure why there is a chuckling emoticon in the picture … the rascal!!

  6. Reply

    God Bless you Sue for all your amazing labor and creativity in raising your children in unschooling ways and pro family!! I admire your vocation and the expressions here of your "ordinary" days that turn extraordinary in the full spectrum of all the the messiness that is family life. Thank you for being here and defending a beautiful way to live and raise children. Love your photos, especially the one of your incredibly gorgeous self of your profile!! Enjoy and embrace these moments always!!!

    1. Reply


      It's so lovely to see you back in the blogosphere! We are so blessed with our families, aren't we? Thank you so much for your encouraging words. It is a privilege being able to share the delights of family with friends like you.

      "ordinary" days that turn extraordinary in the full spectrum of all the the messiness that is family life." You have said that perfectly!

      I must admit I choose my profile photos with care! Lately, there haven't been very many photos that have passed my test. It's just as well my family don't pay as much attention to my appearance as I do!

      Sending love to you. Thank you very much for stopping by with your kind and uplifting words!

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