18 June 2012

unschool monday :: when you are five

Cafe date with Little Owlet #loveher

These days, according to the world outside our nest, five is the general age by which there are things you should be able to do. By now you should be learning to read and write. You should be able to sit still for a period of time. You should be able to answer questions and think logically. You should eat your lunch, stand up straight and learn to tie your shoe laces. You are deemed able and willing to leave the nest, at least for the biggest part of the day. For some children that last 'should' happens much sooner... As a parent, you should be encouraging all these things and find a way to place your trust in others to provide an education and the right kind of care for your child. But where I live, not all five year olds are the same...

In our nest five means playing all day and making friends and learning about the world you inhabit, just by inhabiting it. It means much the same as four and three meant, only you can do much more stuff now. It means wearing a paper tiara to afternoon tea and long days spent imagining and negotiating with friends. It means eating when you are hungry and sleeping when you are tired. It means learning to listen to your own body. It means knowing yourself and getting to the 'shoulds' when, and if, you are good and ready for them. For some children, this happens much earlier than five, for some it comes later. And that's ok.

Unschooling gives us the space to live removed from the word 'should'. Instead, we acknowledge where we are at and observe it and encourage growth. In an unschooled world, children of all different ages spend time together. The comparisons of where you 'should' be up to don't apply. At five, you are striving to catch up to the big kids and be like them, do what they do. And you will.

My little fashionistas. #mykids #scarf

So, as parents, how do we know our child is doing ok? Is it even legal to just give them that kind of space? If they don't read now, will they ever? These are questions I'm always asked as an unschooling parent... Home education is legal in Australia. In Tasmania, we have a body called the Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council (THEAC). They are made up of representatives from the education department, and home educators. They recognise Unschooling and Natural Learning as a legitimate form of education.

At the beginning of each period of registration (2 years for us), we write up an outline of our program. This is a little tricky, but generally we list all the things we hope to do and the resources we have available to us. Then later, we have a visit from a monitoring officer to chat about how things are going and make sure that we are monitoring and keeping track of our own child's development. They want to see that we are aware of the 'shoulds' and are working towards them in some way, although they understand that not everyone gets there at the same time. They let us be the best judge of what our own 'shoulds' are and whether we are meeting them.

In other states in Australia this process is trickier, with Home Educators expected to stick to a particular curriculum, while in Victoria you just have to let them know you are home educating and everyone is happy... There are also a number of non-registered home educators out there and I expect that freedom and autonomy is behind the reasoning there. There may be a little extra creative license at play when preparing family reports for registration in some states. I'd like to hope that one day Unschooling will be accepted in all states as a legitimate method of learning and that parents will be trusted to keep tabs on where their child is at, without the help of NAPLAN tests and such like.

Squishy sisters.

Personally, if an owlet is lagging behind in some area, they'll probably notice it first, or we will, when we see them amongst peers and we chat amongst friends. At that point, we can work to rectify it, or nurture said owlet in an encouraging setting until they get there under their own steam. There's time later on for life to get hard and for children to measure up, but right now, at five, it is time to be free to play and to dream and to learn about life just by living it.

Thanks for joining us again for Unschool Mondays. I'm loving re-connecting with such a wonderful community of peeps doing their own awesome things in their own way. As Helena's post last week pointed out, no two 'schools' are alike and that's what's so exciting about what we do. I'm excited to see more and learn more about what unschooling looks like at your nest. Please add your link if you'd like to join in. xx


  1. I loved reading this! My oldest is 4 years and 3 months (a baby!) and SHOULD start school next year! I am having a hard time digesting that I am being told that this is the best age for him to go... He has never been cared for outside our home and spends most of his day play and cuddling Mama. A fair bit different than what he'll experience at school. I just go with the his flow when it comes to learning. He has started asking about the time, so when he does, I try and give him the information that he needs (I didn't realise that teaching time was so hard!), he asks about colours and what things cost, so we talk about that.... I think this way of learning is best, child-led at their individual pace.... Also, just reading the word NAPLAN makes me want to vomit.... I'm enjoying your unschool monday posts!! x Shara

  2. So glad you've brought back 'Unschool Monday' - my little Z is now just 4 and a half. She's just starting to tune into the fact that all of her kindergarten group will be heading off to school next year. I've been starting to talk to her about the alternative. I continue to think that unschooling is our best option, but also have little cracks chipped into my confidence by...well, mainly by my mother (a prep teacher for 30years). So glad to read this post. I recently realised that as home/unschoolers we are able to let Z take 'classes' at the local state school that she might enjoy - which is an option I, for some reason, find comforting....

  3. A wonderful read, it is such a joy to liberate ourselves from the "shoulds". Unschooling is such a blessing in this respect for we parents as much as te children. It makes me feel for all the parents bogged down with "shoulds" focused on making it through, doing it "right" and missing the joy of simply being, the ease that is unschooling.

  4. heading out the door but will have unschooling dirt to link to tonight!! I love THEAC and think that unschooling in Tassie makes us very very lucky. THEAC are very supportive of 'us'

  5. I recently found out that VIC has the highest rate of registration amongst home educators. Probably not a coincidence that we have the least amount of looking over our shoulder....

  6. You can probably guess how much I love this post :D

    Can't wait to hear your goss, K ;)

  7. The "should's" are so interesting. If I had my time again (oh, the benefit of hindsight!), I wouldn't have sent my kids to school at 5, but they still would have been reading and doing maths (because that is the sort of kids they are). I look back at their "first day of school" photos, and I feel kind of sick to my stomach - soooo young!

    Anyway, NSW is OK with unschooling/natural learning - you just have to be aware as you so eloquently put it. Great post!!!

  8. Your last sentence was so good, I'll copy and paste it here:
    "There's time later on for life to get hard and for children to measure up, but right now, at five, it is time to be free to play and to dream and to learn about life just by living it."
    Five is really so sweet, let no one take it away and try to change it!
    Great post!

  9. Great post! I'm so pleased your unschooled Mondays are back!

  10. I'm happy to see unschool mondays again. I have a 5 year old who is in no hurry to grow up and get 'book-learnin', and an almost 9 year old who was reading before 4 without me 'teaching' her. I love this post, and letting go of shoulds in favor of meeting each child where they are at.

  11. I love letting them grow at their own rates. In Illinois there are no regulations, so I wonder at how I would present myself to a query if it were to arise...

  12. Great post! I kept saying EXACTLY! in my head the entire time I was reading. We also have a five year old here and it's such a lovely age it would be a shame to tie it down to an antiquated system.


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