LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #11 | Mar 30, 2013
MARCH’S THEME: Unschooling Days
How is your day shaping up today? What about your children’s day? I imagine you guys are answering all over the spectrum, with little ones napping, maybe teens just waking up, some kids having a quiet and contemplative day, others diving into their passions, while still more are bouncing between many activities or are catching a ride to a job—paid or volunteer. Our lives are as diverse as ourselves. And it’s beautiful!
ON THE BLOG … this month
It’s kind of funny to think in terms of “typical” when talking about what unschooling days look like. I mean, one of the things I often emphasize is how different unschooling in action can look from family to family, even from child to child. Yet there is a basic motif that underscores our actions with our children, even when those actions vary widely: being available to talk, willing to help, and supportive of their goals.
Playing video games and watching TV. These activities are often part of the typical days of an unschooling family. Yet they are so maligned by conventional society that this week I want to talk about them directly. So let’s explore what these activities might look like in an unschooling family. There is so much fun and learning and connecting and life swirling through them. And it often looks very different than it does in the more conventional lives typically being studied.
The difference in family dynamics between unschooling and conventional families can be quite stark. That’s because there are different priorities at work. Unschooling parents work with their children when they are out and about in the world. Let’s look at three less conventional ways we work together as a family.
This week, let’s switch up our perspective. What about our children? What drivestheir unschooling days? One of the refreshing things about living with unschooling children is their enthusiasm for life. From the youngest age, children are driven to explore the world around them and learn. Let’s look at what a child’s day might look like if their curiosity isn’t constantly stifled.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … tools to support our unschooling days
When school has the responsibility of supporting our child’s learning, it’s easy to think of things we buy for our children as gifts. Hence when they see something they’d like, we often reach for the closest holiday: “Your birthday is in a couple months, let’s put that on your birthday list.” And the following day we write another cheque to the school to cover next month’s field trip, or supplies for the guest art teacher, or Friday’s pizza lunch. There is a distinct delineation between money spent for learning i.e. school, and money spent for fun i.e. gifts.
But with unschooling, fun and learning are inseparably linked. For deschooling parents this is another shift in thinking that happens as we ponder how to support unschooling days that are a beautiful swirl of fun and learning. You begin to see that any purchase they are interested in potentially supports their learning and their joy: their unschooling. And that realization begins to shift your spending decisions beyond artificial filters like learning into some real life variables like discretionary income and budgets. And spurs real conversations with your children like cost versus value and ways to save. Just remember not to derail their learning by presenting your perspective as the right one—help them explore the topic as it has meaning for them. It’s that understanding they will take forward with them.
Here are some of the tools that wove their way into our unschooling days:
Science Centre family membership—over the first few months the kids were home we visited quite a few local attractions and this one was a favourite; it also had reciprocity agreements with other centres across North America which we took advantage of when we traveled.
Local parks membership—we also found they really enjoyed exploring the local conservation areas, following the trails, climbing trees, playing in the rivers; it was wonderful to go often enough to watch the seasons change, and to spend hours watching the overflowing spring river or visit the maple sugar festival, or that one fun night they hosted a Harry Potter walk.
Blockbuster membership—the purpose of this one has evolved with technology, but we’d go browse the shelves for fun, old movies if we were into a particular genre or actor at the time, check out new releases since they weren’t keen theatre-goers, or rent video games to try out before deciding to purchase.
Internet access—certainly ubiquitous now, we’d find game walkthroughs, look up topics to answer questions as they occurred, and of course this was my only contact with the unschooling world!
Gaming accessories (keyboard, additional controllers, guides, Gameshark etc)—diving deeper into their gaming interests always brought new learning, whether through the challenges of the games themselves, or the social aspects of online gaming; just so much learning there.
Library—our checkout pile was always at least double those around us; the kids would head to the nonfiction sections of topics they were interested in, we’d check the movies, we borrowed the Harry Potter audiobooks many times, in the last few years we loved scouring their sales table, and we got online with them as soon as it was available: when something caught our interest we’d search for books, putting them on hold or requesting them from neighbouring systems, almost always having our max requests out—it was also a boon for tracking our many due dates. 😉
As they got older they’ve enjoyed searching for unique finds through thrift stores and ebay, participating in local activities like girl guides, karate, and trampoline, volunteering at the animal shelter and the dojo, and actively seeking out online communities formed around their passions.
What do your kids love to do? How do they like to explore the world?
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
You might like to check out a cool page Sandra Dodd has on her vast and informative website where she has collected stories posted over the years that detail typical unschooling days: sandradodd.com/typical. I notice she still has a day I wrote about back in May 2003! It’s at the bottom of the page. Lissy was nine, and had yet to settle on her current moniker. The day mostly revolves around her learning to ride a bike, mentions Mario Party 4 (yesterday we played a round of Mario Party 9!), and of course it ends with Harry Potter. 🙂
One of the wonderful things about brains is when you’ve got something on your mind you begin to see connections to it everywhere. I’ve loved having unschooling days on the brain this month! It has reminded me how learning is so connected with living, with pursuing our interests and what we find fun, regardless of our age. Anne Ohman posted this bit the other day and it connected deeply for me with how unschooling days flow, even when your kids are no longer officially school-aged:
“Oh, my. I have to tell you that I am completely OBSESSED with Angry Birds right now. I can’t BELIEVE the learning that goes on in that game!! And my boys (18 & 22 years old) *were* so much better at it than I was … and the KNOWLEDGE they had about physics and calculations and EVERYTHING ELSE just blew me away. But then I wanted to go back and get 3 stars on all of the levels, so I started looking up strategies and OH MY, I learned (and Am Learning) SO much … and now they are fascinated by what *I* have learned. It has been so much fun … the learning, the playing, and mostly, the connecting with my boys over something so fun and truly world-expanding.”
Learning is everywhere. As unschooling parents, supporting our children’s interestsnever needs to include the attitude of “sinking to their level.” Go with an open mind and an open heart; see things through their eyes. There is so much for anyone to learn, anywhere, anytime, if you’re open to it. At a very minimum there is their joy to wrap yourself in, there is their motivations to explore. And there is no limit to what you might learn.
Wishing you lots of fun with your family! And a happy Easter weekend if you’re celebrating.