A day in the life of unschoolers, 2017 edition

Earlier this month, I shared our “un-curriculum” for the coming year as part of the iHomeschool Network’s Not Back to School Blog Hop. This week, it’s Day-In-The-Life Week, where we’re supposed to show what a typical day looks like in our family’s particular style – in my case, a day in the life of unschoolers.

I don’t think we have a typical. Or a style. Unless haphazard and wonderful is a typical style. In that case, yes, yes we do, and you’re welcome to take a peek.

A day in the life of unschoolers: Unschool Rules

Different types of unschooling days

Our days vary a lot based on the work schedules of the various adults. Dan, Chris and I all work full-time about an hour away from home, with Dan and I heading in one direction (north) and Chris heading in another (east). Chris also works primarily evening shifts, getting home from work around 12:30 or 1 a.m.

But one to two days a week, Dan and I can work from home, and Chris often gets midweek days as his only off time. Add into that our commitments with 4-H, Sarah’s various theater groups, my grad school program, my tae kwon do lessons and more, and it can get pretty complex.

So while I want to show you one cool day in Sarah’s life, please know that they can all look very different – and that’s what we love!

A day in the life of unschoolers, as documented by Chris, Unschooling Dad Extraordinaire

When I told Chris I was working on this post before he and Sarah spent a “Daddy-Daughter Day” together last Wednesday, I was hoping he’d take a couple photos and make some notes. Instead, because he is a great blogger himself, in addition to being Amazing Unschool Dad, he wrote the most detailed look at a day ever.

Up around 10 a.m.
Dressed and ready to roll.
Gets her laundry.
Explains the story of “It” to her grandmother.

She and I drive to the Galleria (Note from Joan: This is the mall across town from us). Discussion includes:

Talk about Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico. She wants to know where it’s going and where the other hurricanes are.

Unprompted, she asks: “When were women first allowed in the military?” So I do my best to fill her in off the top of my head, starting, correctly, with the women who served as military nurses in World War II, moving through World War II, Korea and Vietnam and then correctly tell her that the first woman who fought in combat missions were during the Gulf War. She wonders why it took so long, especially if women can do everything men do.

Then she switches gears to: “Do women have equal pay yet?” I tell her no, and that it’s wrong that they don’t, and progress is unfortunately slow, but that speed is the reality, given all the years of institutional tradition in play. She think we should get to equal pay faster, but understands the obstacles that make it slow going. She understands that a lot of people – most people – want equal pay, but that doesn’t mean you can snap your fingers and make it happen.

Then, as we’re discussing the slow politics behind equal pay, she asks: “Would we be better off if the president wasn’t sexist and racist?” “Yes, yes we would,” I reply. (Note from Joan: Sarah is REALLY into politics – and has very strong political opinions and very little filter. You don’t have to agree – and I don’t normally share any of our politics, which vary widely in our household – but this was TOO “classic Sarah” to pass up.)

“We need people in Congress, too, who are good people and aren’t sexist and racist,” Sarah adds.

So that conversation happened. I wish I had taped it. But I was driving.

Unschool Rules Day in the Life of Unschoolers: Sarah loves Hot Topic. Really, really, really loves Hot Topic. Did I mention she loves Hot Topic?

Sarah loves Hot Topic. Really, really, really loves Hot Topic. Did I mention she loves Hot Topic?

Then we went to Hot Topic, one of her favorite stores. She likes The Walking Dead and heavy metal and Deadpool and she was hoping to find a Funko pop figure of Dustin from Stranger Things, but they had everyone but him.

Then we went to FYE and browsed more pop-culture stuff.

Then she ate McDonald’s for lunch and grilled me about Pennywise.

Unschool Rules Day in the Life of Unschoolers: Sarah's stamp book - and some of Chris' many postcards to send to Postcrossing friends.

Sarah’s stamp book – and some of Chris’ many postcards to send to Postcrossing friends.

After we came home and a short break, we added some stamps to her Stamp Book, including James McNeill Whistler, Booker T. Washington and a stamp from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. (Note from Joan: The Stamp Book is a cool project Sarah and Chris are working on with her stamp collection!)

Then she picked out a postcard to send to her pen pal Christina in Taiwan. And she specially picked all the stamps to put on the card.

Sarah wrote the note to Christina, mostly telling her about her burgeoning community theater career. I addressed the card.

Unschool Rules Day in the Life of Unschoolers: Sarah loves writing to her pen pal, Christina, in Taiwan! You can tell because it's her neat handwriting.

Sarah loves writing to her pen pal, Christina, in Taiwan! You can tell because it’s her neat handwriting.

Then we had to take a break to help Coby, who had been outside too long and was very overheated. (Note from Joan: Coby is our almost-14-year-old Goldendoodle, who is not in very good health.)

Then Sarah helped me pick postcards for about a dozen of my new Postcrossing recipients around the world. I read Sarah each recipient’s profile and likes and dislikes. Based on that, Sarah then chose which card to send them.

Then Sarah discovered that Norman Reedus has his very own custom postcard set, of his own photographs, for sale.

Sarah didn’t understand Reedus’ signature, but I showed her how it’s a fancy N and R.

Then I showed her how she should could sign her own name S O, in the style in the style of Norman Reedus, so she tried a couple.

Unschool Rules Day in the Life of Unschoolers: Norman Reedus' signature (top) is a fancy N and R together. So why shouldn't Sarah Otto try her hand at S and O together?

Norman Reedus’ signature (top) is a fancy N and R together. So why shouldn’t Sarah Otto try her hand at S and O together?

Turning our attend to the model cemetery that we have, we started a list of other items that we might want to build or acquire if we construct a small model railroad set and landscape that includes the cemetery. The things we came up with, so far, are train tracks, tunnels, a small town (which we will call Derry), a clown for the cemetery, a prison, a road, cars, a farm and a mountaintop. (Note from Joan: HARD NO ON CLOWNS. Nice try, Ottos. I’m terrified of clowns and you know it.)

(Another note from Joan: The week before, I received a text that says “We bought a graveyard!” I came to find that they’d visited the local antique mall and purchased a wonderful model cemetery. This has been SUCH a cool find, by the way, that it will soon be the subject of its own post!)

Then Sarah took a break to wind down before her theater rehearsal by playing Grand Theft Auto on the PS4.

Then she at salmon and french fries for dinner.

Went to rehearsal (Note from Joan: This is for Anthony and Cleopatra, which premieres this weekend!)

Came home.

Watched Stranger Things episode. (Note from Joan: This is something Chris, Dan, Sarah and I are doing together; Chris and Sarah already saw all of Season 1, but Dan and I are trying to catch up before Season 2.)

Spent 45 minutes in the upstairs bathroom laughing at videos on her phone.

Went to bedroom. Laughed a little while longer.

And, Chris concludes, “After that I don’t know because I fell asleep.”

Other things that make up our unschooling days

I don’t have too much more to add to Chris’ summary of a perfectly awesome day in our lives. When Chris and Dan and I are at work, Sarah and her Mommom (my mom) are home together and enjoy TV shows or movies or kitchen projects together. Interspersed with that, Sarah will sometimes take walks around our neighborhood, play basketball outside, hang out with our pets, work on Instagram photo edits for her fan account or read a book.

Then there was a recent Saturday when Dan and I took Sarah shopping at the big mall in the next town over to use some giftcards she had. On the drive, we happened to see a hot air balloon, so we followed it to see if we could see where it was landing, and ended up getting some cool pictures through our car’s sunroof. We talked all about how hot air balloons work and where you might go in one, then we finished it up with a restaurant dinner where we talked about how calories work for weight loss and weight gain.

Our teachers are all the people we meet, day in and day out. The woman at the doctor’s office who explains why you can’t have a fresh tattoo and get an MRI. Sarah’s Nana, who is an occupational therapy assistant and explains to her various stretches that help with muscle pain. Someone at the library who asks her about the kinds of books she enjoys and recommends others.

That’s what unschooling looks like for us. It’s funny in a way to write this post – we rarely look at the individual days. We don’t need or choose to “do math” or “do school” for a particular amount of time, nor do we “have to” accomplish much in particular in a learning sense, and sometimes, weeks go by where we’re all so caught up in our personal interests that we don’t have time for much else.

But over time, as the days build into weeks and months and years, we grow. It’s like watching a tree grow – maybe you don’t see the change each day. But when you step back, suddenly you think: This is so much bigger than it used to be.

That’s how we feel about our life. Our free approach, rather than limiting what we learn, has made it so, so much bigger.

And we love it.

Read more about our unschooling approach

If you’re newer to Unschool RULES, maybe you’re wondering about this radical unschooling thing we do.

Here are a few posts that tell more about our lives!

Join the NOT Back-to-School Party!

Unschool Rules: Part of the 2017 iHomeschool Network Not Back to School Blog Hop 2017

Want to see the typical or not-so-typical days of my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers?

Check out the rest of Day-In-The-Life Week at the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop here (and you can link up your posts, too!)

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4 thoughts on “A day in the life of unschoolers, 2017 edition

  1. I can’t believe this kid is seventeen, her handwriting looks like she’s in elementary school and there are spelling errors. Perhaps you should rethink this and send her to traditional school.

    • SS, I didn’t have to approve this comment, but I wanted a chance to publicly address this. I can tell you’re not a regular reader, so I hope you’ll take the time upon seeing this response to read a little more about both Sarah and our lifestyle in order to inform future comments. Yep, there are absolutely spelling errors. If you read for a while, you’ll find out that Sarah has multiple learning differences. When she was in public school – and she was, into middle school – she could not write even a sentence unassisted and have it be intelligible. Now, through a TON of effort on her part, she can and does write on her own, willingly and happily, and is fully understandable when she does. (And as far as handwriting? Her writing is as neat if not neater than most of the adults in our house, actually!)

      I’m posting this publicly so that everyone can see just how proud our family is of Sarah and all she has accomplished despite having had to work three times as hard as anyone we’ve ever met to do so. SS, I hope you and anyone else who sees your comment will take some time to read more about our family and our lives before replying in the future. We’d love to have you get to know us and know all that we do.

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