A day in the life of radical unschoolers

Earlier this month, I’ve shared our “un-curriculum” for the coming year and a look at our learning spaces 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.

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 radical unschoolers

Our radical unschooling days

Last week, on the first day of classes for our neighborhood public school, Ashar got out of bed at 1:15 p.m. When I told her, “Happy first day!,” she laughed and said, “Or afternoon?”

Generally, Chris (and my mom) are up earliest – sometime between 8 and 9:30 a.m. I’m NOT a morning person – so while I’m often awake at 9-ish, I like to lounge, talk with Chris (if he’s writing at his desk in our room), play on my iPad, check Facebook and email, and do all of that good stuff before getting out of bed.

By about 10:30 or 11 a.m., I’m downstairs answering emails and doing work tasks that I couldn’t do as easily from my phone or tablet; Chris is usually writing, puttering around the house or getting ready for work; and my mom, an earlier riser, is looking for lunch.

Ashar gets up any time between about 9:30 and 1:30 – often she’s “up” and hanging out in her room before she comes downstairs, sometimes for hours. (Us introverts need our quiet time – especially when we’re sleepy!)

Once Ashar’s up, she’ll come down, check her phone for Kik and Skype and text messages, and make herself something to eat. If we’ve got any errands to run, generally we’ll see if she wants to come along and we’ll head out pretty quickly, because by about 2 p.m. at the latest, we’re dropping Chris off at work.

During the summer, or when homework isn’t heavy, the neighborhood public-school contingent shows up around 4 and sits in my living room to play video games, or Ashar goes with them to skateboard around the neighborhood or walk to the convenience store or generally “hang out” by sitting in our driveway, often perching on the trunk of my car.

Other than that, our afternoons are filled with work (me), gaming and Netflix-watching (Sarah) and doing stuff around the house, like laundry and dishes. Around 4:30 or 5 p.m., Mom, Ashar and I start working together on dinner – whatever’s on the menu, plus substitutions for personal preferences.

During this time, Ashar and I usually get a couple of emails from Chris. He sends us links to interesting things he finds online, random facts about things we’ve seen or talked about, photos of cats and monkeys, whatever. These are often good for a fun rabbit-trail conversation.

In the evenings, Ashar and Mom hang out (often watching NCIS or Star Trek) and I head to tae kwon do (most nights). When I get back, I do one last round of online tasks, including blogging, and by about 9:30 p.m., Mom heads to bed. At that point, things are usually quiet, so Ashar gets some uninterrupted World of Warcraft time while I sit next to her and write.

If I’m in the middle of an online course (right now, I’m juggling two – Virology and Animal Behaviorism), I’ll sit and watch the video lectures, and Ashar will often stop what she’s doing and lean over my shoulder. We snack a bit, tidy up, and when we start to wind down (any time between 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.) we head upstairs.

Our radical unschooling nights

This is our time. We are night owls – oh, so much so. If you watched us from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., you’d maybe be tempted to think, “OK, that’s neat, when do they start doing things?”

First, let me say that I very much believe that we’re all learning a ton through all of those things above, even though none of them look a bit like school.

Second, I wish someone could be a fly on the wall as we sit on the bed in our master bedroom, either Ashar and I if we’re waiting for Chris to finish work, or all three of us on the awesome days when he’s off.

Sometimes, we watch movies or TV shows on Netflix, sitting in bed (Ashar in the middle, laptop on her lap, Chris and I on either side).

Sometimes, we read aloud together – right now, rotating between Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology and The Titan’s Curse in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. (As a note, while Life of Fred is described as a Christian series, we are a secular homeschooling family and haven’t had any problems using the fairly few spiritual references we’ve found as talking points about what different people believe, which we like to do anyway.)

Anyway, also during our evenings, we often play iPad games; logic puzzles like Rush Hour and all sorts of trivia apps are our current favorites.

On occasion, we draw or color – maybe something like fractal art I’ve printed from a website, maybe just a drawing on blank paper to accompany one of our favorite stories.

And we talk. We talk about what we read, weird facts from trivia questions, ideas for projects we want to work on together, news from the day. We pull up Wikipedia articles on how animals are classified and talk about the garden toad we found. We go down a rabbit trail about biology, classification, being a carnivore and speaking Latin.

By about 2 to 3 a.m., when Chris gets home from work (if he’s not there already), we’ve usually spent 4 hours or more just being together, talking, exploring, creating, and, yes, learning.

The extra-special stuff

Once or twice a week, we head to the alpaca farm for a few hours of work with Ashar’s show animal, Gia.

Most weekends, Mom, Ashar and I (and sometimes a collection of friends) can be found making art on our dining-room table. You’ve actually been seeing some of our art in recent posts – and the graphic with today’s post comes from a work of Ashar’s that won a pretty special award this weekend! (Yes, more to come about that!)

When Chris is off, we often all “skip out” for the day and road-trip – to state parks, to antique stores, to the used bookstore, to a town baseball game, to the mall, to a new restaurant in a neighboring town for lunch, to museums (the latest being the International Spy Museum, which was perfect for James Bond fan Sarah!)

On the way, we do exactly what we do in the evenings – play together, chat together, ask questions together, and generally enjoy being what we call “The Us.”

People sometimes think it’s funny that we do mundane stuff together, but even grocery-shopping becomes special when it’s family time. We do that every other week, and believe it or not, it’s a LOT more fun as a team.

Sometimes, an episode of MythBusters or a book we’re reading will spark an idea for a science experiment, and the dining-room table will be transformed.

Sundays, we might attend an event like a martial-arts tournament for me or visit Chris’s mom or – honestly – sleep in (when he works until 3 a.m., it’s occasionally a problem to get up)!

We visit friends. We go to art galleries. We go to farmers’ markets.

And all along the way, we make it a point to seek out interesting people and experiences, not just for Ashar but for all of us.

Our teachers are all the people we meet, day in and day out. The coworker friend of mine at the baseball game who talked to Ashar about her job, getting ready to move, her recalcitrant cat and her favorite brands of clothing. The bookstore owner who sets aside a newspaper replica because he knows Ashar might like it. The husband of my best friend, who fixes his motorcycle in our driveway and shows Ashar the parts of it as he’s disassembling them. The artist and gallery-owner who takes the time to show a new work to us because it fits our style.

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!

Not Back to School Blog Hop calendar 2013Want 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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12 thoughts on “A day in the life of radical unschoolers

  1. You make me feel much better. After reading all these Day-In-The -Life’s where people get up at 5:30 and the like, I was beginning to feel like we were loafers or something. LOL

  2. Wow, this was a GREAT read! There I was panicking about declaring to the world my crazy intention not to differentiate between “school time” and non-school time… and your post lands in my inbox like a gift from heaven 😀 Thanks, Joan!

  3. I was also fairly horrified by all the 3.30am and 4am wake-ups – I already knew you guys didn’t live on that schedule but it’s good to have it reinforced again 🙂 I think I’ll be somewhere in the middle if/when I home educate my hypothetical future children, so it’s great to see all the angles. Your days sound awesome. Do you or did you ever have moments of guilt about them? Having had a very conventional education myself, I find it hard to just let myself be on days off and not fuss about “getting things done”.

    • May, somewhere in the middle is probably the BEST option, but at least you know there are two extremes to find a middle between! 🙂

      As far as moments of guilt go, I’m not sure. I think the thing I feel guilt about are the missed opportunities – the days where Sarah is interested in something and I put her off because I’m “busy,” or tell her we’ll do something in some nebulous “later” that doesn’t come. Those, I feel guilty about. Other than that… less so.

      That’s maybe easier for me, too, because Sarah wasn’t having a ton of success in a more conventional setting. I was definitely someone who was a conventional-school achiever, so that was hard for me, but it was hard THEN, when we were dealing with the public school system, not now, if that makes any sense?

    • Marci, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad to see all the ways in which you incorporate a lot of the same ideas in what you do, too – I know we’ve found a lot of cool resources for our science explorations through you! 🙂

  4. Sounds a lot like our days, except we have 4 kids and have a more traditional sleeping schedule. But we just take each day as it comes. I don’t know how it works, but it does! I get nervous sometimes, but then I just take a look at how much the kids are learning, and then I’m okay… for a while, lol

    • We’re used to driving people around us a little crazy, but thankfully, we tend to attract people who are at least just as unusual in their own ways, if not quite the same way we are! 🙂 Good luck with your relatives!

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