I want to keep track of what my family is doing during our unschooling journey, and to share it with others who may be curious.
When we first decided to go down this path back in Fall of 2020, I was online almost constantly trying to find out if there was some kind of recipe I could follow to ensure unschooling success for my two sons (ages 8 and 12 at the time of writing this).
What I quickly discovered is that this unschooling way of life looks different for everyone. It is quite literally the most individualized and unique "schooling" experience out there; so no two kids' days/experiences are going to be exactly alike. Even if you do things all together as a family, each of your children are in differing levels of interest, passion, and attention during each "activity." So they will come away from each experience with a different take away.
This is good. It's ok that they are deciding the personal value of what is being placed in front of them.
If nothing else, I'm choosing to be encouraged that I am teaching them how to learn, where to go when they have questions, and who they can talk to.
What path they choose, and how deep they go, is entirely up to them.
I want to keep track of what we are doing so that when the time comes I can create a transcript and graduate each of my boys based on their actual learning experiences. As I started writing out the "educational" activities and what could actually go on a transcript, I started to realized that I couldn't classify things as just "math" or "science" etc. Some of our activities are easy to classify for a transcript, like reading The Story of the World is obviously "history" as it is a part of an actual history curriculum. Most of the time, we would do something that would count for a little bit of math, a little art, a little history, a little _____ (fill in the blank). It got to a point where keeping track based on how it would be recorded on a transcript became too much of a burden. It made me realize that life isn't separated into neat subjects like it is in school. School does not emulate real life, so I have decided to stop trying to make real life emulate school.
All that being said, I am currently working with my husband to create a program that can keep track of our boys' real life learning and translate it into transcriptese, or a portfolio of sorts for when my boys are ready to "graduate." This will still require some sort of categorizing, but the intention is to make it very simple and intuitive and user friendly - and eventually sell it to other homeschool moms! Basically, to take the headache out of the homeschool transcript creation process. This project is still in the works, and may take a while to build, but I'm excited for it!
Our Unschooled Week
Monday, September 13 - Sunday, September 19, 2021
This morning was all about Fortnite. The boys had stayed up late last night (2:30am) to catch some kind of live event or new season premiere with a few of their friends online. I wasn't super fond of them being awake that late at night while I was asleep so I made a deal with them that if they went to bed after getting to at least experience the new season for about 30 min, I would be ok with them playing again right when they woke up. We normally have a general guideline that we don't play Fortnite before 4pm, so this was a deal they were happy to make.
After about an hour of playing, we had breakfast together and started on our daily chores. Pretty simple, my 12yr old unloads the dishwasher (which runs each night), and my 8yr old makes sure all the trash cans are emptied. They have other chores, but we aren't super strict about doing them all every day (except keeping their room in an acceptable condition).
I helped my 8yr old put his bed sheets in the laundry, and we discussed what temperature his fluffy blankets could handle in the dryer before the fibers would burn and turn scratchy. We also discussed the cost/benefit of extra rinse and soaking cycles to determine if either of those add-on cycles are worth the extra water use in this case. He determined it wasn't. While he waited to change the laundry, he listened to his favorite podcast, The Story Pirates.
My 12yr old and I read a chapter of The Story of the World and we discussed Pharaohs. After that, he wanted to watch a few DVDs we got from the library: two documentaries, one on insects, and one on rocks and minerals, and then my 8yr old joined us for the Little Mermaid prequel. Then we played Chess and Checkers.
This was also our first night at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) together at our new class. They loved their classroom, teachers, and classmates and are excited to keep coming back. There were foosball, pool, and ping pong tables there for them to enjoy with the other kids for a few minutes after class.
Today was a pretty lazy day. I went to help my sister and the boys hung around on the couch for a few hours watching movies (Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Meet the Robinsons).
We sat down together and did our BSF Lesson from Matthew 1:1-17 and discussed what a lineage is. We marveled at the fact that Jesus wasn't actually blood related to the lineage that is recorded in those verses, this is Joseph's line, His adoptive father. But God still sees Jesus as a descendant of all of these people. We talked about how God values family and adoption and that He counts us as His children this same way, grafted into His family.
Together we read a chapter of The Story of the World on Moses and discussed how the Bible and History are intertwined, the telling of the same story.
Then we went out to dinner for my birthday.
Today the boys had their dentist appointments. We talked about good oral hygiene and the consequences of not taking care of your teeth.
After leaving the dentist, we went to the library to pick up a book about Pirates.
The boys watched The Lego Movie 2.
We discussed altruism and read about it from the Young Person's Character Education Handbook.
Then we read a chapter from The Story of the World about Phoenicians and blown glass. We talked about how we used to watch a competition show about glass blowing and how cool that was.
My 8yr old was playing Battle Buddies online while my oldest and I read aloud. He likes playing this game even though it's an "educational" game. Before you're allowed to attack the enemy, you must correctly answer random math and language arts questions. He says "This is so easy! I am so good at this game!"
Together we watched an episode of Horrible Histories (which is a must for all homeschoolers, in my opinion). My oldest is constantly dishing out interesting facts that he learned from watching this show. Plus it's funny and I find it very entertaining, as well.
Today my 8yr old had his weekly swim class where he started learning the breast stroke. The instructor said he did so well that he might not need much more instruction before being able to pass this portion and get moved up!
Our "after swim class tradition" is stopping by Sonic and grabbing a pretzel twist. We talked about the price per pretzel and if it's worth it to keep paying $2/ea or if we should look at buying them in bulk frozen. We decided to continue the tradition for now.
We read a chapter of The Story of the World about Assyrians and discussed power struggles between different kingdoms and peoples.
Today we read from The Story of the World about Babylonians and the Hanging Gardens - which led into online searches about the other Wonders of the World. We learned that there are different sets of the "7 Wonders of the World" and not JUST 7! Did you know that? I sure didn't.
We did our BSF Lesson together on Matthew 1:18-25 and discussed what "consummation" means in regards to marriage (yes my 8 and 12yr old boys are fully aware of what sex is and how it works - and that it is made to be enjoyed between a man and a woman who are married).
My youngest suggested we watch the movies Joseph: King of Dreams and The Prince of Egypt (I think he was still curious to learn more about these ancient peoples, especially Moses, since we have been reading about them in The Story of the World.) We discussed the creative differences between the Biblical account of Joseph and Moses, and how their stories are portrayed in the movies. They showed interest in all the grain Joseph was storing, so I showed them some plain raw oatmeal and we talked about how the wheat berries are processed to become flour, oats, and more! A discussion about slavery also stemmed from watching these movies. We talked about how some slaves were treated very well, fed, and respected as a family member, while others may have been starving and beaten and sleeping in mud. My oldest and I read from the first four chapters of the book of Exodus because we needed a refresher on the actual story of Moses' upbringing and beginning of his mission from God.
My 8yr old played some more Battle Buddies while my 12yr old created a Glyph Chart Decoder made from a strange language from Fortnite. He then used this decoder to create message for his brother to decipher, and then they took turns. He also put Glyph messages all over his Fortnite Nerf Gun and beautifully customized it with metallic permanent markers.
The boys slept in till about 11am and around noon they went to a friends house to play for a few hours. They probably played video games for most of that time.
My youngest, watching me work on this blog post, saw me use two mouse clicks to open a new tab and open a bookmarked page. He decided that was too many clicks so he taught me how to open a bookmarked site in a new tab with one click! Where did he learn this?? He continues to impress me every day.
One of my sons neighborhood friends came by and they all walked to the park together. This is always hard for me, to let them go without me. But they are getting to that age where they need to be more self sufficient and do these things. The other kid's mom was already at the park, so really they aren't unsupervised. It's just the walk to the park that freaks me out a little bit. Once they get there, I know they are safe.
After the park, the other kid and his sister came over to jump on the trampoline with my boys, and play some video games. So today was a pretty full day of fun and friends!
We go to church every Sunday morning, and right now our church is hosting a viewing of an episode of The Chosen Season Two each Sunday night. So we went to that as well.
A little more
We don't have a very strict wake up or bed time routine. The boys wake when they are fully rested, and usually come out of their rooms around 10 - 11 am (so I never really know when they actually "wake up"). They are generally in bed around 11 or 11:30pm but they don't always go straight to sleep. We ask that they at least have the video games turned off by 10pm, and then start getting ready for bed. Sometimes they will read a book alone in their own beds until lights out, and other times they have "sleepovers" with each other and will be up playing, roughhousing, crafting, listening to podcasts together until I finally decide I'm ready for a quiet house. But I have seen that they are much more cooperative with "bed time" or "lights out" or "please be quiet" now than they have ever been before, and I think it is because they realize they have much more freedom now than they had before when they were public schooled (strict schedule, and all.) I believe this makes them comfortable with the little structure that we do have, and I think they actually appreciate and prefer it.
So there you have it! That is a full weeks worth of what unschooling looks like in our family. Obviously, we do so much more than what is just listed above, but this is the best record keeping I can do. For the most part, this is all "student led" with little coaxing from me. I do suggest things, but they choose if they want to do it or not. It works. What we have learned about our boys is that the most valuable learning happens through our daily conversations. They ask us questions, and we do our best to answer them right then and there, and if we don't know the answer, we look it up. For example, we talked about road signs and safe driving habits one of these days, I just didn't write it down. The point is, as long as you are interacting with your kids, and you are intentional to put good information and experiences in their path, they will succeed. Follow their lead. Find out what makes them excited, and do more of that.
My favorite quote right now is "Learning can only happen when a child is interested. Otherwise, it's like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it eating." I don't remember who said this but the point is so true. We all learn best when we are hungry for the knowledge. So just let the learning happen. Our kids are living in the world we are trying to prepare them for. So learn in the world that your kids are in, after all, that's how you'll make sure they're prepared for it.