Unschooling in black and white.

My Dad has flown in to help watch my kids during the days when I’m in Ohio for the next week. As a way to help both him and the kids get into a groove in my absence, I had the kids help me design our very own schedule. A guideline to help everyone’s days flow better.

When the kids and I finished collaborating and polishing up our first official ‘schedule’ and taped it on the wall, I suddenly realized why unschoolers aren’t typically ‘schedule’ type people. It’s because the schedule ends up looking like this:

Schedule

And then you end up having conversations like this, when hubby walks by:

Hubby: “So, wow. I see you only have a little bit of unschooling in your day.”
Me: “What do you mean? It’s all of our day! Can’t you read the schedule?”
Hubby: “Spelling isn’t exactly an all day thing.”
Me: “Oh, gosh no! Spelling is the schooly part of the day. It’s the rest of the blue stuff that’s the unschooling” (I gesture in circular motions a la Vanna White to show off the points of interest on the board.)
Hubby: “Uhh…..??? That just says free time. Seriously? That’s it?”
Me: “…let me go fix you a sandwich or something…”

And then, a similar conversation when my dad and sister (a trained teacher!) walk by:

Dad: “So, when do they do their math?”
Me: “During the day, you know, with cooking, or when they’re outside, or doing one of their experiments…” I taper off, knowing how lame that sounds.
Sister: “Well, when you need someone to teach them how to multiply fractions, give me a call.”
Dad: “And what does ‘with technology’ mean?”
Sister: “Like, Science Channel? Discovery Channel? Educational Games?”
Me: “Yeah, and video games.”
Sister: “ANY kind of video games?”
Me: “Yep. Any kind!”

It strikes me that unschooling, while easy to understand, is very difficult to explain. Much like religion, it veers steeply into ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ areas which oftentimes aren’t rational. I certainly didn’t feel rational when trying to explain the schedule.

And that’s just it. Unschooling defies common logic.

Our experience defies common logic. In school, Naturalist didn’t and couldn’t read. Unschooling? She’s reading 3 novels consecutively. In school, Golfer became bored with math and didn’t want to do it again. Unschooling? He’s multiplying multi-digit numbers for fun. In school: they were both uninspired and bored. Unschooling: they soak information up like a sponge.

I suppose the difference between unschooling and both traditional school and/or traditional homeschooling, is that rather than importing the curriculum onto a desk or kitchen table, we export ourselves into the world.

I love living it…I wouldn’t call what I am a teacher, per se, but a facilitator–someone to help find the mentors, programs, and experiences that excite and teach my kids. That part, I love! The explaining it to other people…I’m not so good at.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel really lame about defining what they do as ‘unschoolers’. And if you could share your own version of my schedule, that’d be great, too.

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13 Responses

  1. I’d say that explaining unschooling is the hardest part of doing it. ;-)

  2. Oh my. Lame? I feel SO incredibly lame every single time I try to explain what we do. Just yesterday someone said, “Sooooo, what is Emmett focusing on this year?” Me, inwardly: *sigh* It’s impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t do it or “get it” what it is that we do. I couldn’t even make a chart like yours (WISH that I could! I like it!) because we are so darn random all the time. Which I love — I wouldn’t change it — but it doesn’t make for a good explanation when people ask what we DO all day. I always try to get away with, “Ohhh, you know, this and that…” but sometimes people press for more. I hate that. No matter what I say it sounds SO HOKEY unless I really lay it on thick about what a genius my boy is and all the tremendous things he’s doing and WOW all the friends he has to SOCIALIZE with!!! That seems to be the next biggest worry after whether or not he can read… but what about socialization?! I will spare you my rant on THAT. : )

  3. I just avoid the conversation altogether. You can’t really do that when you are having someone else watch your kids for an extended time, huh?

    Our schedule looks a lot like yours except for the cleaning part. ;-)

    We also do park day all afternoon on Tuesdays, homeschool P.E. on Wednesday afternoons, our “boys club” activities on Thursday afternoons (usually a science class at a nature center, a live performance, or some fun outdoor activity like hiking or biking). We used to have a co-op on Fridays, but that fizzled this year.

    Most of the day is spent playing Runescape and watching science shows on TV. We also listen to recorded books.

  4. I’m with you on the whole explaining thing. And after I’m through trying to explain, that’s when the questions directed at the kids start ie. “Do you know what 12×7 is? You should really know how to spell such & such word! What EXACTLY are you studying right now? Haven’t you started doing school work yet?” blah blah blah.
    And then it is me that gets all worked up thinking, “Maybe they should work more on math; they need to know the multiplication tables. Hannah’s 4 now, time to start reading.”
    Then I come back to my senses, until the next time it happens!!!
    As for a schedule, I can’t even imagine trying that one. I think meals (not even times) and Dr. appointments are the only predictables at our house!!!

  5. Schedule? :) LOL. :) We have routines, but no schedules. And flexibility is pretty important. :)

  6. Thank you all for laughing at the idea of a schedule. :) You really are my peeps. This is the first time I’ve attempted to organize what we do during the day into something tangible, so we’ll see how it goes! And yes, the cleaning…it made it’s appearance on our schedule to respect Hubby who values order, schedules, and cleanliness. He gives on the unschooling, I give on the cleaning.

  7. My inlaws don’t even know we mostly unschooled – they’re just horrified at the thought that we’re homeschooling! I have to agree with Brandy – Why is it that they feel the need to quiz Master B every time we meet – do they do the same to his schooled cousins??!! I think not!!

    The only thing “scheduled” in our school life is external classes we do like drama.. The rest is pretty free-form..

  8. Wow. Yeah. Schedule? Well. Hmmmm. Nope.

    Cool that you have a family that can handle it, even if it is impossible to explain. We have family in education and we have not gone anywhere near an unschooling discussion. Homeschooling is as good as it gets in that department. They already say odd things or make analogies like our children are like lone flowers on top of a mountain and the only way they get pollinated is if some thing just happens to float by, blah blah blah. Uh. We live with electricity, technology, human beings, in a city, have friends. So. No. Not talkin’bout the unschooling! ;)

    I like that you actually tried to make a schedule and explain it…rather than saying, well, for the week you are here, no worries, don’t want to put it off on you, they have all kinds of things they are working on, no biggie, don’t worry about them, they will do their think while I am gone, etc. :)

  9. Hi, I just stumbled on your blog. We’re fellow unschoolers and I really enjoyed this post. I haven’t tried making a schedule for us, that would be…interesting.

    And I know what you mean about sounding lame, my 7yo told the receptionist at the dentist that unschooling means you don’t have to learn anything and you play video games all day. Awesome.

    Brianna

  10. We homeschooled a few years and will again, I know, and yes, I just sort of stopped explaining it. I do feel a bit self conscious when family is visiting. “Do you just let them read all day?”

  11. i have to say, amen to all!
    i WISH i could put our days into a schedule, especially the cleaning part!
    and i guess i do feel lame, maybe just incredibly flustered, when trying to explain to those not ‘in the know’, which is pretty much everyone on the planet, except the people i met at the unschooling conference a couple weeks ago.
    i find it difficult not to go off on a tangent with ‘the questioners’; anyone else have that urge?
    like- well, today my children learned to trust their own intuition, follow their own dreams, pursue their own interests, and be who they truly are meant to be; what did your kid learn in school today?
    of course i dont, but maybe rather than feeling pressed into a corner, next time i just might!

  12. [...] playing the game he didn’t like to play another game. One because my very strict schedule (yeah…this one…) was too [...]

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