A Day in the Life of an Unschooler

I get asked most often about what we do all day as an unschooling family, and the answer is always ‘it depends’. There really is no typical day, and there is no format to follow to unschool. But that’s not really a satisfying answer, I know this because before we started on our unschooling journey it was the question I asked and googled most often!

So we figured we’d semi-regularly post our Day in the Life to give a general idea of what our unschooling life looks like. By the by, check out this post on the Quick Start Homeschool blog about the term ‘unschooling’, which I found by reading the informative twitter feed of Laini Liberti. Timely as I write this and cringe a little every time I type the word because I know people are confused about school equating learning and education. Unschool sounds like un-learning, un-educated, to many who aren’t more informed about the philosophy and practice. Really why wouldn’t it? Mainstream institutionalized education is mainstream for a reason, it’s all most people know.

I jotted down everything that occurred yesterday, and here it is for better or worse!

    A Day in our Lives

Morning: We wake up. This can happen any time after 6 and before 10 depending on what we did the night before and what we’re doing that day. Today it just happened to be around 8:30, because we all stayed up a little late to read the night before, then I stayed up to watch Revolution on tv.

Breakfast happens, my husband eats first as he’s got to get to a morning class. We all come around in our own time, our youngest doesn’t like to eat right way, while our oldest needs food and yesterday! Usually we have toast with honey, or oatmeal or eggs. Today it’s soft boiled eggs with toast for dipping, a glass of almond milk for the kids and coffee for me.

Recently the kids have taken an interest in birds and birdwatching, so right after breakfast we perch on the seat in front of the window and whip out a pair of binoculars to start watching. We see bluejays, chickadees, juncos, and a new bird that looks a little like a sparrow. After browsing the bird identification guide we think it’s a Northern Waterthrush .

After birdwatching, we go outside for a bit of fresh air. It’s misty and rainy so we don’t stay out long. The kids do try out their bird call whistles and practice different calls. We talk a little about birds, weather, migration and habitats.

We come inside for pot of tea and to read. Everyone reads their own books, then I read aloud to the kids, we’re reading a couple of books at the moment but today it’s Shakespeare Can Be Fun: Hamlet for Kids . They always choose what to read, depending on what they are interested in. Recently we read some history about William Shakespeare and they continue to be interested in his life and work.

Afternoon: Lunch time, and we want something hot because it’s a cold day. Soup it is.

A few days ago we went for a walk and discovered a well maintained pioneer cemetery dating back to the mid 1700’s. This provoked a lot of discussion about what life must have been like for people in those days, and how it compares to our life. We talked a lot about things we do that are similar, and things that are very very different. A big topic was how the people from hundreds of years ago ate, and the food they grew and made.

Today, continuing on with the discussion I suggested we try our hand at making butter. So we got some cream, and we made our own butter! It couldn’t have been easier and the kids were delighted. The conversion of the liquid cream into a butter solid by whipping and draining was fascinating to them. We’re also baking a fresh loaf of bread and tomorrow they want to look up a pioneer recipe and recreate it, preferably something candy-related.;) I’m thinking molasses taffy might be tasty.

Later, our oldest wanted to do some calculations regarding his anticipated savings and current financial situation. He sat down with pencil and paper and worked out how much he would have by the end of the year, taking future allowances and expected purchases into account. His sister decided to join him in this and emptied her piggy bank, counting up all her pennies and nickels. She also wanted to talk about what the money from different countries looks like, so we researched this online and also got out Daddy’s coin collection. Oh and she made this nifty picture of a shark:

pennies aren't just for counting

Both kids then decided they needed some time to play a video game, currently Pokemon on DS. This gave me some time to clean up my studio and get ready for working on a new piece. I’m exploring a couple of new ideas and recently set up a new studio space with more light, more storage and room for larger canvases and supports.

Next up, some planning for Halloween! We made a list of what we’d like to do for decorations, and started getting the house and front yard ready. We love Halloween. A quick trip to the store procured some black paper for bats to cut out and hang everywhere, and we got a couple of fresh pumpkins for the front steps. We live in the country and probably won’t get many trick or treaters, but it’s nice to make things look a little spooky. My favorite part of Halloween is waiting until the kids are asleep, raiding their candy and watching a scary movie by the glow of the jack o’lantern.

Decorating evolved into conversation about the origins of Halloween. We looked up some info online and talked about celtic festivals, where the tradition of trick or treating comes from, why we carve pumpkins, and what does a turnip have to do with it anyhow?

Evening: Supper, in keeping with the talk about jack o’lanterns and Halloween, is homemade roasted pumpkin soup. More holiday and halloween talk ensues during dinner, and the kids tell dad everything they did today.

After supper someone wants to watch tv, someone wants to play a game, and I go to the studio to get a little work time in. There’s a documentary on about volcanoes that the kids ask to watch, so they do. Then one of them sneaks away to watch a cartoon online.

Almost bedtime, and we read a story together curled up in bed in our room, then the kids go to their own beds with books to read to themselves. The youngest has a beautiful book about dragons, and her brother is reading The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey, though he starts out with a Pokemon book from the library first.

Eventually they sleep. 🙂 My husband and I pour a glass of wine and relax before heading off to bed ourselves.

So there it is, one day in the life of an unschooling family. No two days look the same, and the next time I do a ‘Day in the Life’ I might only have three sentences to write, and will attempt photos too, but I hope cumulatively it might give an idea of what it means to unschool, at least for us.

5 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an Unschooler

  1. I loved reading this! My husband and I were both educated at home, and I’m so grateful that my parents gave me liberty to pursue my interests and passions. In childhood, it took me into my backyard and my community – today, that same liberty and inspiration and thirst for learning has literally taken me around the world!

    • Thank you! Sounds like you had fantastic childhood experiences that have stood you well, and that thirst for learning is exactly what we wish for our kids too. If they are inspired and encouraged to experience everything life has to offer we’ll have done our job!

  2. I’m here thanks to Lainie feeds. Thanks for this post, my daughter is only 11 months, so it’s not for now (in some way), but I’m amazed to see how much you can do in just one day !

  3. Pingback: What Life Learning looks like | Living Differently

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