Thursday, 14 May 2015

Just Not an Unschooler

If anyone was wondering where I've been, I apologise for my lack of blog-presence recently.  Further soul-searching about the developing educational needs of my family (as discussed in my previous post) collided with the sudden serious illness and subsequent death of a good friend, resulting in the part of my brain that I use to blog just abandoning me!  I am a Christian and so was my friend: she knew where she was going and I am glad for her sake that she is in Heaven - but the fallout here on Earth is still impacting us all.  Consequently I have struggled to focus in any insightful way on our home education for the last week or so, not even managing to make a note of what we have been doing, let alone strategise for the next season.

Anyway my mind, however preoccupied, has clearly been mulling over HE stuff in the background - and I have come to the conclusion now that I am just a rubbish unschooler.  I love the theory, the relaxed style, the friends who are great at it, the glowing examples of unschooled graduates - but I'm no good at it myself.  Whenever we try full-on unschooling it seems to end up with me not paying attention to what the boys are doing/ experiencing/ learning and we all get a bit listless and moody... and although an unschooler may probably say I am missing the point, it just doesn't sit well alongside the knowledge that I am the one legally and morally responsible to provide my boys with an education. My conscience says I need to be involved and encouraging them to fulfil their potential - and I personally don't seem able do that by unschooling.

What I am good at (just to prove I'm not being unduly harsh on myself) is planning, knowing how to play to my boys' strengths and weaknesses, and finding creative ways to make dry academia fun and appealing.  We have to stay casual with our structure because none of us do well with rigid timetables, shallow incentives, monotonous worksheets and the like.  We all like space for plenty of autonomy, but we also all thrive on having an idea of where we're going and what we're doing - as long as we are free to change it if it doesn't work for us that day.

Apologies if such educational navel-gazing isn't your thing, although I can't imagine there are many home educators who don't frequently review their progress as they go along.  I always wanted to be honest with my HE journey, and I have been blessed by people kindly saying that they have been encouraged by my random thoughts - so I keep sharing!  Hoping to get back to the day-to-day practical stuff soon though!

For example, today we reverted to our previous style - agreeing up front on the thing we wanted to do, and mixing it with some essentials like Maths, making it as fun as possible thanks to a friend's recommendation of the Medieval Maths Challenge app.  We ended up with a mix of maths, minecraft, music-inspired art (we listened to the Firebird by Stravinsky and then drew or painted pictures that we had imagined as we listened - suitable PDF here), and baking (muffins by Middle and Youngest) and an experimental three-part cake made by Eldest...

Youngest's interpretation: a wolf in the hills that got wounded and then an angel healed it (painted on the back of the watercolour paper because he likes the texture)

Middle's interpretation: a field of sheep with a river (during the peaceful start to the music)

Eldest's interpretation: a pirate island where everyone is going about their business before pirates attack and then the goodies win and everyone has a parade

Mummy's abstract interpretation: trying to show the boys that sometimes music can make you think in colours and patterns, not necessarily clear pictures

Youngest's chocolate muffins

Middle's "Fudgins" (fudge muffins)

Eldest's "Pinwheel cake"

I strongly suspect there is more planning needed, however, with the awareness of incorporating distinctly different levels of learning.  In order for our HE to remain flexible and fun, it is inevitably going to get a bit more complicated.  I thrive on that though - and for today at least we had a good, fun day - the boys were active and learning, and I was aware of it.  Those things combined make for a happier Home Ed family in this house!


  1. I'm so sorry about your friend.
    Regarding unschooling, I think from what I've learned about it, that it's not really the sort of thing you can try for a week or so, or dip in and out of - you need to almost deschool all over again and be prepared to give it months. We are still working on it, parts of it don't sit well with me but it seems to be the best way for J, so I'm happy to keep trying. Having said that though, there is no single, "right" way to home ed, the right way for you will be whichever works best for the whole family, mum included! It sounds like you have found the right balance for all 3 of your boys, and for you, which is wonderful. Rx

    1. Thanks Rachel.
      Yes, you're right - I think it's a lifestyle that has to be fully embraced and probably takes quite a while to adjust to, rather than experimenting for a few days at a time. I do love the idea and support those who go that way, but I don't think it's for us. I always return to what we started with: light and flexible parent-led structure, with LOTS of space for autonomy and the boys' own interests :) Glad to hear you and J are still progressing and finding your way :) x

  2. Hello, I have been reading your blogs and am so glad to have found them. I have three children (10, 7 abd 6) and I took one the 7 year old out of school last year as he was not getting the help or care he needed. In meeting up with lots of lovely people and beginning to learn about what lies outside of the schooling world I feel that I want to take all three out but I'm scared. It was easy to remove my little boy who was clearly so unhappy but it's more difficult with the thought of three levels of education. I struggled with the organisation and structure and constantly felt I wasn't doing enough. I love your honest writing of how you think and feel it has helped me feel like I'm not the only one.

    1. Hey, Scaredycat, thanks for your kind reply! Not sure how I missed it as I have only just found it now - sorry about that!
      So, months later, I hope HE is progressing nicely for you and yours... did you pluck up courage to remove the others from school or are you sticking with the one for now? Either way, I sincerely hope it's going well for you :)