Friday, April 23, 2010

Oh, So That’s What They Call It...

Where We Began
I do admit that when Aidan started Kindergarten my goal was to do school at home, I thought that was how you were “suppose” to homeschool.   I wanted to teach him, I wanted to be a teacher.  I decided that we would do a language arts and math curriculum and do “unit studies” based on what we were interested in.  Our first unit study topic was discovered on a warm day at College Cove Beach in Trindad.   Aidan spent the entire day tide pooling.  He was enthralled with seeing, touching and smelling new things.  So we spent the next few weeks learning about tide pools and oceans.   I kept telling myself when he gets a little older we will do “real” science and social studies. 

Where The Change Happened
I realized all my children would not be exactly like one another.  Some will read at 5 and others not until 8 or later.  Some will love workbooks and eat up anything that is “doing school”, others will prefer to not pick up a pencil unless it is to create a sling shot.  Aidan was an easy one to “teach” to read, he picked up BOB Books and never turned back, Sing Spell Read & Write was the highlight of his day.  He loved to learn sounds and put them together.  Looking back I was not teaching him, he was ready to learn and needed guidance.  Coda isn’t interested in reading yet.  Could I sit with him for hours a day drilling and draining him, yes I could.  What would that accomplish?  In 20 years will it matter if he began to read at 5 or 7 or even 10? 

And then last August we began traveling full time.  We spent afternoons and weekends exploring new places and meeting new people.  I realized how much we would be missing out on if we were at home doing school for all those hours.  We’ve been to farms, citrus groves and gone hiking in parks.  We’ve gone swimming in the ocean and watched dolphins chase each other.  We’ve experience sunsets over the ocean and in the desert.   We’ve been to museums, aquariums and zoos.  We’ve made new friends, we’ve visited best friends.  We have experienced and learned the richness of life and of this world. 

Where We Are Now
We don’t sit down and do school on a daily basis.  I have stepped down from the role of the teacher and come along side my children so that we are able to learn together.  We still have workbooks and curriculums that are accessible and we use them when the interest is there.  We spend time reading, a lot of time reading.  We explore and learn about wherever we happen to be.  We take time to soak it all in.  Our day does not have specific time set aside for learning, instead we learn all day.  We learn on weekends and in the summertime.  If one of us is really interested in something, we learn more about it, whether that be Star Wars, cursive writing, princesses or knot tying. 

I always hesitate to put myself in a box.   I just don’t like the feeling, I get all claustrophobic and ache to get out.  I am not trying to be without an opinion; I just want to be open to others.  So I’ve tried not to put a label on homeschooling philosophy. I would tell people we homeschooled but just took a more relaxed approach,  I guess I'd call us kind of eclectic.  But as I have learned how huge of an unschooling community there is out there and how vast the differences are in each one of those families and how accepting it seems to be, I feel a sense of pride and freedom in saying that we are unschoolers.  Not saying we will be able to be labeled unschoolers forever (I have some commitment issues), but I will ALWAYS commit to doing what is best for my children and our family, right now its unschooling for all of us.  Who knows what the future holds...the only thing I can expect is change.  

I have been brewing this post for quite awhile and then with the media coverage that unschooling has gotten in the past week, I was going to hold off.   BUT, I am in an exciting place right now, learning more and more each day about unschooling, my children and the world.  I feel like a kid again, like I can enjoy life.  Given the fact that we traditionally homeschooled for sometime, we are all still adjusting to being free from lessons and assessments, something called deschooling.  Some days the children want to do "school" so we pull out the workbooks and curriculum and I let them choose what they want to work on.  The sense of pride in their learning is astounding when it is theirs from the beginning; they chose what they will learn, they learn it and now they can choose to move onto something else or continue.  

Here are some of the online unschooling resources that have been invaluable to me:
Child’s Play
Sandra Dodd
Walk Slowly, Live Wildly
Can A Christian Be An Unschooler


  1. WooHoo another unschooler!!! We too are in the process of deschooling and the blessings have been HUGE!

  2. Traveling is such a great way for children to learn so much they won't get the chance to fully explore in more traditional school (or even homeschool) situations! Plus I think actually getting to see things and experience things burns all that learning into their brains so they remember. I don't remember much US history from school, but visiting historical sites--that stuff I remember! I wish I had the opportunity to do more about that. Geology? Didn't really learn it in school, but a trip to Yellowstone as an adult taught me tons about it. I'm excited for my kids to learn that way.

    We're going on a 3-4 week road trip this summer (moving across the country) and I'm so excited for Josh to experience and learn all along the way, and me too!

  3. That's so awesome Stephanie!! This is the path that we've ended up taking too...though we are not nearly as active as you guys are, getting out and about. But yeah. I never did get around to ordering curriculum, but we do have some really good workbooks that use here and there. It's awesome to watch their minds develop and learn at their own pace. Trupie seems to be a lot like Coda...he "can" read...but it's like pulling teeth sometimes, and I don't want to push him and break his spirit. Ele on the other hand, well, I'd bet the farm that she'll be reading by Christmas at 4y4m, she's just SOOO interested. Thanks for sharing this...I too have been afraid of the label unschooler-even though it most certainly fits our approach to things...loosely. LOL

  4. That is so awesome Stephanie. Shasta is scheduled to enter Kindergarten this fall, so this topic has been very much on my mind too. I have started reading "The Unschooled Mind" and I really resonate with the idea...I feel like that's the approach we have taken so far...but it's hard for me not to be in fear when I am taking an unconventional path that will hugely impact my children. At this point, we are planning for Shasta to go to a Waldorf charter school, but, we'll see. Thank you for being open, inspiring, empowered, and brave!! Go Mama!!

  5. I am so captivated by your life right now. What a wonderful, brave thing you are doing with your family and children. I so admire you Stephanie! I love reading about your adventures and your exciting life! Next time you're in Santa Rosa or Eureka lets get together. I would love to catch up with you!

  6. It is so nice to read how you are schooling your kids. Life is an adventure, and they reap so many rewards from this.
    As a homeschooling mom who graduated her 1st last year, and now have 2 in public highschool, and 3 littler ones still at home, I appreciate what you are doing.
    I have had to go to work recently because of my husband being laid off six months ago...and I can definitely tell you, although some days may be challenging, you are definitely teaching your children well. Enjoy this time, they do grow up so fast!!!

  7. deschooling and rving here too! glad i found your blog! :)


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