For homeschoolers, there are all sorts of methods that inform our educational aspirations for our children. These may include the broad term ‘homeschooling’, but can be winnowed down to far more specific approaches like: ‘Charlotte Mason’, ‘Classical’, ‘Unschooling’, ‘Eclectic’ or ‘Project-Based Learning’ to name a few.
So far, I have found every approach to be lacking that satisfying *connect* factor for our family. We just don’t seem to fit anywhere; specific educational grids seem to exhaust and frustrate me after about 72 hours. Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over.
I suppose we have landed somewhat squarely under the ‘unschooling’ banner, but I don’t like to define our educational approach by a negative, and honestly, I like to keep the word ‘school’ out of things, because it’s just not a thing that I want to orient around whatsoever. We don’t do anything the way school does, but we love learning and make it a priority in our family life.
When asked recently about what our day looks like, this was all I could come up with: basically, we live life – together.
We wake up and the day gets rolling. Boy #2 makes breakfast and helps the little ones start off with a piece of fruit in the kitchen, while Boy #1 folds and puts away a couple of loads of laundry upstairs in the family closet. The other older children begin working through their daily list, which is different every day.
We have a morning rhythm that includes some combination of chores, music practice, Bible reading, writing of some sort, reading, sometimes a sprinkling of math, personal projects, outdoor work, meal help, hobbies, and other random stuff like swinging from the gym rings in our big room, or learning how to make a Light Sabre fight film on Adobe. Generally, what makes it on the list is what is most relevant and necessary for the forward momentum we are seeking for our personal projects in this season.
The children pick most of their reading and writing projects. Once son writes a blog and a quarterly hand-written newspaper, as well as keeps up on personal correspondence with a number of friends. My fourteen-year-old primarily writes music lyrics to go along with the music he writes, which are brilliant in their faith-filled simplicity, while he also reads a ton on topics that interest him: (mainly books he steals from my bedside table!) healing, faith, prayer, as well as some good old fashioned fiction. The children are keeping prayer/question/dream journals to record their thoughts as they read through the Bible and interact with God on their own.
Mostly, our time is spent discussing current events, history, literature, Scripture, faith, entrepreneurship, hobbies, relational issues, if the moon landings really happened, and so on, as we go about our day. Our days are filled with talking – face to face time, as we explore the questions and ideas in our hearts.
We eat breakfast and dinner together, while the children take their lunches to their own quiet places for a ‘rest time’ in the middle of the day, where they do what they like for a good chunk of time (this is when the babies sleep). This usually involves art, audio books, music recording, sewing, blog writing, reading, Lego, Kapla, dress up and forts (for the younger children), stop-motion picture projects, etc.
Mid-afternoon we gather in together over a snack at the table and discuss the rest of the day and whatever other brain-bursts should happen to explode into our conversation. We collectively clean through the main floor of the house, tidying, putting away, tying up loose ends from our morning lists and then the children are generally outside to play for the rest of the day, while I finish working on supper.
We currently have a couple of evening commitments, but we have fought to keep dinner sacred. That re-connect time with Dad is always so good, and we’ll often have the guitar out and sing a bit, read a Bible story, and have some animated discussions about the strangest things between all the chaos and shrieks of the youngest diners.
Then bedtime for the Littles while some of the Bigs clean up supper. Often, in the home-evenings Dad will read aloud to the older children before they too make their way up the stairs to bed, or they will do an outing to the library, etc.
Our days are uncomplicated and unremarkable in a show-and-tell sense.
I share the details only to encourage you to bliss-out in the freedom you have to be a family together.
A.S. Neil put it so well,
“I have never yet seen a lazy child. What is called laziness is either lack of interest or lack of health. A healthy child cannot be idle; he has to be doing something all day long.”
I have applied many curriculum band-aids over the years, to assuage my fears regarding the children’s intellectual outcomes. I have found, however, that the children thrive when life is simple, fun, adventurous and oriented around work they find meaningful. Children are not lazy; their play and exploration is not ‘wasted time’. It is critical time that our culture is all too ready to strip them of in the name of academic achievement. We are increasingly moving towards project oriented work (not from a boxed curriculum) that stems from their own internal motivations and interests.
This is a challenge for me, as it often requires “just in time” flexibility and is not easily planned ahead for. But, this too, seems to mirror real life, where things happen organically and spontaneously as we grow.