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.
Our radical unschooling days
Last week, on the first day of classes for our neighborhood public school, Sarah 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.
Sarah 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 Sarah’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 Sarah 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, Sarah and I start working together on dinner – whatever’s on the menu, plus substitutions for personal preferences.
During this time, Sarah 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, Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah 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 (Sarah 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 Sarah’s show animal, Gia.
Most weekends, Mom, Sarah 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 Sarah’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 Sarah 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 Sarah 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 Sarah might like it. The husband of my best friend, who fixes his motorcycle in our driveway and shows Sarah 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!
- From homeschooled student to homeschooled mom: Going full circle, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 (This series details everything from my own educational background to the earlier years of Sarah’s life, and really is the best way to get to know us and why we’re in the place we are!)
- Our 10 homeschooling/unschooling must-haves (The library. I almost don’t need to say any more, but in true Joan style, I did.)
- 5 things I learned NOT to do in our first month of homeschooling (Well, that’s pretty self-explanatory, right?)
- 10 unexpected benefits to learning together from life (Among other things, we’re not bound by age or grade levels!)
- 10 great books about learning from life (Some are obviously “about” learning, but others simply inspired me to think differently about knowledge.)
- How we deal with critics of our radical unschooling lifestyle (This is also kind of a Q&A that addresses everything from “But all she does is play video games!” to “How can you tell if she’s learning?”)
- 5 days of real-world math (This series that I wrote in July 2012 continues to be one of the most detailed looks at how we talk about learning in real life!)
- 5 days of video-game learning (Yep, we play a LOT of video games. And we learn at the same time. Here’s how!)
Join the NOT Back-to-School Party!
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!)