I’ve been on this unschooling adventure for a while now and I am the first to say that we don’t have much of a schedule. Part of our reason for unschooling is due to how extremely opposite it is to the traditional school environment. Our learning isn’t separated into subjects, and our day is not slotted for schooltime vs. playtime.
However, we’ve gotten ourselves into a pretty sweet routine this year and last, and I want to share an example of a typical week at our place. Remember, every unschooling family is different – and what we are doing now won’t be what we do forever. This is what works for us, and hopefully it will give you some ideas as well!
My two youngest go to preschool from 9-2. This is the last semester for Snugglepuppy who is 5, but it’s been a sweet experience for my oh-so-social girls and they love playing with their friends there.
While the girls are in school, my little Cap’n and I (we may have to officially change her from LadyBug Girl to Cap’n with her longlasting pirate – specifically Pirates of the Caribbean – obsession. She prefers Cap’n – meet the fam here). But, I digress. She and I head to the grocery store to get our shopping done for the week. We are doing the Fresh20 meal plan and LOVE it. 20 fresh ingredients a week, shopping list all laid out, easy-peasy. Our kids have been introduced to so many great new foods by trying this together as a family!
At the grocery, she works on her reading (grocery list), her math (price-checking), her economics (sales and marketing), her people skills (talking with the cashiers, employees, other shoppers), and more. She points out that all the cartoony and colorful cereal is at the bottom, and we talk about why that is (she’s a pretty savvy marketer already and can quickly identify what is simply selling vs. something she wants – I’d say her BS Sniffer is in great shape)! We discuss health and wellness while picking out the foods we want to eat that say “non-GMO”, organic, learning all the different words for sugar (and why it is disguised in our foods), etc.
Just in one simple grocery visit we cover more than what many kids get in a full day of school. Top that off with some quality time with my daughter and I’m a happy mama.
We’re trying to work more library visits in, as this is such a goldmine for learning. We grab playaway books which the girls love to listen to at night, new books to read together, and Spanish CDs for the car. Our family goal is to be fluent in Spanish this year (check out Duolingo.com. The website and app are awesome and I use it every day! Mindsnacks.com is another great app to brush up on your vocab in other languages).
At 12:30, our tutor arrives. We hit the jackpot with this lady. She and her best friend both come two days a week. She works with the big girls on math and reading (with other subjects integrated in) and her dear friend loves on my baby girl.
Now, before I go further, I need to discuss my tutor. This is where I do my own thing in regard to “unschooling.” Here are some very, very important things to me in regard to my childrens’ education.
- Everyone is a teacher. My kids are going to learn from everyone they come across – it may only be that they learn what they don’t want, but regardless, every person has something to teach my kids. I want to deliberately seek out people with various areas of expertise. Not only do I not know everything in the world, but the way I teach isn’t always going to sync with my kids. Sometimes a new face and a new perspective opens up the receptiveness that I may not be able to get.
- Learning can be achieved in many different ways. I want my kids to be exposed to many things, including different styles of teaching. My tutor is vastly different than I am personality-wise. She has a great attention to detail and planning, and brings structure and a more traditional-looking model of teaching to the girls. I intentionally chose her because I want them to experience this – to get exposed to worksheets and learning models that are taught in traditional schools, while still getting the benefits of one-on-one teaching. She is more quiet and reserved than our loud and boisterous family, and her low-key and calm approach is a welcome change to our sometimes wild and crazy home.
- It takes a village. Of course, if you think non-traditional schoolers (my way to lump homeschoolers, unschoolers, blah blah into one) don’t have a social life, you are crazy. But I want to make sure we are not isolated when it comes to our teaching methods as well. I want help – from other kids my children get inspired by, from family who brings not only their knowledge but our family heritage, from friends and others I meet who have amazing gifts in areas I may know nothing about. I want to learn and explore with my girls, and I welcome with open arms other influences in my girls’ lives that will help to motivate, inspire, encourage and further their own personal growth.
Back to our Monday. Tutor/babysitter stays with kids until 4:30 while I work in my father’s company, 48Days.com and PapaGray kicks butt as the most incredible real estate agent I’ve ever known (no bias at all, I swear).
At 4:30 I switch gears and start dinner prep. With the Fresh20 plan it’s typically pretty quick, and on my patient days the girls help out – BrightEyes typically sitting on the counter with me, SnugglePuppy loves to set the table, and Cap’n opts to spend the time chilling out alone in her room. After a full day of social engagement, she needs some down time. On my not-so-patient days, a movie or the iPad is not out of the question!
Our nighttime routine: This is new, and it’s been awesome. Transition to bed is still hard for little BrightEyes – she’s two, potty-training and in a big girl bed – she’s ready to show her independence! So this is what we do together as a family to help wind us down.
As a special treat sometimes when they are extra crazy and jumping on the trampoline isn’t enough, each kid gets to pick one song to dance to on the Wii. We have “Just Dance 2” but the kids are really getting into it now so I’m going to check out some more kid-friendly options. Not as thrilled about them boogying to “Toxic.” However, the dancing and crazy moves helps to get their wild streak out before bed.
Next up, Cosmic Kids Yoga. I love this – sweet little videos 15-20 minutes long, a fun story that integrates yoga poses. Watching all three girls do the poses and saying “namaste” completely warms my heart. We end with a Cosmic Kids Zen Den. These 5 minute meditations are so powerful. They are so great and I love ending our days like this with the girls.
On other days, we do a bath and “sleepytime tea” of tart cherry juice, apple juice and honey. There are days we don’t do any TV, and the Wii is more of a treat – so somedays it’s a bath and some tea before bed and that’s it!
PapaGray and I also both go in and give “special kisses” to the girls and say goodnight, and many nights, instead of TV, PapaGray plays the guitar and sings them songs. Sweet time with Daddy and such fun memories.
After that, from 7pm on, it is quality time for PapaGray and me. And we know quality time. The girls know that this is super important for us, and they have to respect that. Even though Ms. Cap’n is not tired at that time, she listens to playaways, draws, reads, or does any other creative thing in her room. After 7pm (ish – we aren’t die-hards here), our kid time is maxxed out. We need time to connect with eachother, relax, and be ready to renew for the next day.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I get up at 5:05am to head over to Fahrenheit Yoga. I assist the 6am class, which means I come early and stay late, helping at the front desk, doing laundry, and handing out those oh-so-awesome cool lavender towels after class. I love this time, as it’s my time to get out of the house and do something just for me. Assisting is something that has nothing to do with kids. It keeps me accountable to get there, no exceptions. And I love hot yoga. The change I’ve seen in my temperament and my body over the past six months has been incredible, and I attribute a good amount of that to hot yoga.
I get home to my incredible husband having a cappuccino made for me and we are ready to roll! Get kids and myself ready, and tutor/babysitter comes from 9-2pm. On this day, two other kids join us – a 5 and 9-year-old. It’s great – they bring variety to the day, playmates for the kids, and inspiration to check out new things. Ms. Beth the tutor takes the kids individually and does 1-1 lessons, and also incorporates some group activities that the kids love.
By 3pm on Tuesday I’m usually feeling pretty good about where I am with work, and I’m ready to play. The girls and I may go for a walk at the Agricultural Center down the road, meet up with friends, go to the Zoo, or just chill at the house. We always have some crafty project or home renovation we can do as well.
This is our flex day where we may do some more school things, like Life of Fred, Top Secret Adventures, all kinds of educational apps and shows, or simply sitting and reading. The girls love to read books. We could spend a lot of time simply doing that.
Then on to dinner, nighttime routine (sometimes varied by book time instead of dancing), and then hubby/wife time.
Morning yoga, and on my drive there, I listen to some awesome books through Audible.com. It’s hard to find the time to pick up a book lately, and I was an avid bookworm when I was younger. Audio books have been awesome for me. I love listening to them while I drive, clean, cook, etc. I’m soaking up the good stuff and posting most of the books I listen to here.
Then the younger two go to preschool and Cap’n and I head down to Franklin, TN for an art class held at my parent’s property. It’s an adult class, and Cap’n has been the muse for the class. Her art is incredible and her confidence in it has been an inspiration to everyone in the class. The teacher, Dorsey McHugh says Cap’n is her favorite student. Everyone is an artist, and this time for Cap’n is simply going to her creativity playground. She comes up with so many great pieces from here, not by direction but by inspiration. She gets ideas from the adults in the class, and she creates her own unique pieces. The support and encouragement in this group is so valuable and I love that she gets to be a part of it.
After picking up the girls at 2, we are free again to meet friends, go and play, or just chill at home. Same schedule for the rest of the day.
This is our play day. It’s PapaGray’s day off from work. The beauty of him being on a team is he can take a complete day off and know things can be covered. Sometimes we spend it working on “honey-do” lists for the house. Sometimes we go to a park, the Science Center, the Zoo, etc. Sometimes, we do a full day-trip somewhere. And sometimes, we start an extended weekend trip on Thursday knowing he doesn’t have much going on that day anyway. This is our Saturday as far as playtime with Daddy, and we don’t take it for granted. This also is the day that, if I need to do something work-wise, I know I have PapaGray to help out. We play together, cook together, and support each other if we need to get any work done. This is our fun day.
Now every morning that I am not doing yoga, PapaGray and I are getting up at 5am. Yes, we’re crazy. And we love it. Wow – starting out our day with typically at least an hour for us to do anything we want – it’s incredible how critical it is to how our day goes. We wake up at 5am, I get pillows up on the bed and lights on while PapaGray brews up a perfect cappuccino.
Then we sit in bed (go outside and sit on the porch when it’s warm) and we talk, we read, we meditate, we check personal emails. Whatever we want to do. It’s our time to intentionally decide how our day is going to go, and what energy we want to put into it. It’s our time to build up the positivity and excitement for this incredible life we get to live, and to stop and savor the moment of dawn.
Every other Friday, the girls and are have gotten involved in a Waldorf co-op. We’re still brand new to it, so I can’t speak from full experience yet. However, the deal is that we go before 10am and spend a full day with about 20+ other unschool families. They bring in various teachers and resources, and every other week we meet for classes in Spanish, Art, Drama, and doing handwork with the kids. The older kids work together to make the lunch and we all eat together, play together, and work to clean up at the end. These days can last anywhere from 9:30-5:30, and the girls always hate to leave at the end! The younger girls have been very focused on a play based on Winnie the Pooh – it’s pretty hush-hush as they practice and all us grown-ups are usually kicked out while they rehearse. We get to peek through the windows and see their creativity in action, and then pick up our hand-written programs and enjoy the shows…always, “to be continued.” On the off weeks, they do playdates by going to farms, woodworking, and all kinds of new adventures I don’t even know about. I’m very excited about this group and doing more things with them. It’s a perfect ending to our week and the girls and I truly enjoy the time.
Saturday and Sunday
These tend to be mommy/kid play days. It’s free play at the house, we go to events that are going on in the area, we do all kinds of playdates, and we generally just play and have fun.
This is our week in a nutshell. We are always open to changing things up, but these include some of our constants. There are plenty of opportunities for learning, and the conversations we have with the girls continue to blow me away. Just in this past week we’ve talked about sales and marketing, death and near-death experiences, foley artists, creating and producing a movie, mindfulness and awareness, playing upwords and keeping score, watching the moon and exploring the stars, tried new foods, learning about self-actualization and personal responsibility, etc.
Our life is full. It’s not simply busy, it’s full and rich. There is always time to stop and smell the roses if we want to, and that may be to drop it all and untangle a ball of yarn on the floor because that is the most important thing to my girl at the moment. We have a lot packed in and the privilege of not being forced to do a single bit of it.
We are all masters of our own universe. I have to say I think this universe is pretty beautiful, and I’m thrilled to explore it all with my family.