22 March 2010

unschool monday :: rhythm

I often find myself sitting around a table with other home educators having the discussion about our different approaches. Usually they love the idea of natural learning or unschooling, but they feel like they need a framework to help them do it. Like a checklist or similar, so they know they are ticking all the boxes. It is hard I suppose. Being entrusted with the education of a person and making sure they learn what they are supposed to on time. It can freak you out if you think too hard. A bit like visiting the child health nurse when you have a tiny baby and seeing whether they weigh up... Are they doing everything on time? In my experience, they do things in their own time, but they usually get there. My owlets were slow walkers, for example. I mean really slow. They sat up quickly and learned to talk quickly too, but both just sat there observing, taking in the world. There came a point where we stopped listening to the health centre nurse and just trusted they would do it on their own. And they did. They both walk now just fine :)

I suppose its the same with unschooling. A leap of faith and trust in your child's ability to learn new things... So back to the framework. For us, there is no framework of lessons, schedules, subjects and unit studies to prepare. Learning fits in with life. That doesn't mean that there is no structure to our lives at all though. We don't sit waiting to hear from big owlet what the plan for the learning today is. We get on with life. For us, that means following the natural rhythms of our family days, of the weeks, the seasons, the years... It helps us to maintain some peace and regroup if we arrange our days around the steiner concept of in and out breath, one of the gems of wisdom I picked up in big owlet's time at the steiner kindy.

At the moment it works like this... Have breakfast, then big owlet jumps on the computer or does craft or activity books or reads or whatever she feels like while little owlet drags me to the kitchen (she's a trainee chef). Then we sit down to morning tea, as pictured which involves cups of tea and pikelets and seasonal fruit. As we finish I'll read a seasonal story. Then I do some sort of activity with big owlet while little owlet potters around. Then we have lunch together and go out for the afternoon, either to the garden, or the library or a planned activity. Its quite natural and simple, just a normal family day but it seems to have fallen into this easy structure and helps maintain peace. It helps me feel like we're doing stuff too, not just sitting around, although we do that if its needed.

So the weeks have a rhythm of their own... Monday ballet, Tuesday drama, Wednesday home or a friend's place, Thursday Nannie's house, Friday Huz works from home and its often visiting or the park, Saturday gymnastics, garage sales, market, whatever, Sunday lazy day... We're out and about, places to go, people to see, life is never dull... Then the seasonal rhythm happens and that's a big one for us. The seasons guide all of our activities. They are happening all around us and noticing change is what children do so brilliantly and naturally. As the seasons roll by, we notice new things. Sometimes we revisit a topic the next year as their awarenes and comprehension develops. Sometimes not. Here's an example of some of the activities we're thinking of doing this Autumn...

Collect Walnuts
Observe insects and leaf litter
Observe Fungi and plant changes
Observing and recording plants in our garden
Observing and recording insects in our garden
Observing and recording birds in our garden
Harvest Apples
Harvest Pumpkins
Collect Leaves
Leaf Rubbings
Leaf Pictures
Leaf and seed fabric printing (using sun dye)
Leaf pressing
Rainfall gauge
Sewing clothes
Candle Making
Earth hour (use candles!)
Drying apples
Cooking with apples
Seed pictures
Leaf window hanging
Stick loom
Easter tree
Egg decorating
Chocolate making + easter treats
Origins of easter
Make felt eggs and nests
Making bread
Visit Hastings Caves

It may not all be educationally based, but it sparks conversation and ideas and if we get stuck, or run out of stuff to do, a list like this helps us get inspired again. Its a framework of sorts, and based on the natural rhythms of the world around us. Our classroom.

As for the yearly rhythms... There are little rituals and festivals we have, as any family does. These are all opportunities to catch up, connect, take a breath, learn, play, appreciate. They help mark the years and create our framework, and life goes on...

As for the box ticking, I'm happy to say that we seem to have managed to tick them all so far. Today we overwhelmed the monitoring officer with an abundance of artwork, snippets of writing, a small reading list, some maths activity books (big owlet thinks they are super fun - go figure), well used Frankie calendars yanked off the fridge, a stack of photos and some dodgy home movies. She'll be back in two years to catch up with us when little owlet is ready for her first visit. Not bad for a rather relaxed approach, days that could have been spent more conscientiously and a very emotionally challenging year. And so we settle back into our rhythms and get on with living.


  1. Sounds like the best kind of busy. And I love that morning tea table, beautifully set and ready to sit and enjoy together. In fact, it's making me hungry..

  2. I love reading about your days. They sound so calm and full of love and homeliness. I feel so inspired reading these unschool monday posts.


  3. Your days sound lovely and along the same lines I would like to learn and discover with my little ones. So glad I stumbled upon your blog. I am creating a list of Homeschooling/Unschooling mommas for my sidebar, so we can all gain some insight, ideas and encouragement from eachother. If you know of any other mommas out there be sure to let me know so I can add them. I am just starting out and would like to learn all I can to make this a great experience for the whole family. I lean towards the unschooling aproach where as my hubby the "engineer/math whiz" leans toward a more structured format for homeschooling. Go figure ;)

  4. Oh I'm glad the visit went well! I'm grinning thinking of the overwhelmed look on the face of the monitoring officer. It's funny, in my head I often tick the boxes as we go about daily life, but I lose track! I'm getting much more confident with seeing the learning in everyday life.

  5. Sometimes I feel like your posts are your side of the conversation over a kitchen table. Thank you so much for this list of ideas. Will enjoy incorporating them into our life.


  6. So beautifully put Lauren... A leap of faith and trust in your child's ability to learn new things.


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