People often wonder what unschooling looks like.  

It’s a natural curiosity – since we don’t do curriculum  or schedules, what do we do all day?

Unschooling is a hard enough concept to wrap your brain around.  But trying to explain what we do all day makes things even more difficult because unschooling is so unpredictable.

The truth is, it looks different for every family, every child, and really every day.

Usually when I get asked what we do on an average day, I list a few things that we have done recently.  But we don’t always do all of the things I list each day, or even in one day.

Am I confusing you yet?

Let me try to explain what it is we do in a typical day:

An unschooling day is filled with life experiences

I try to involve my kids in as much real-life experiences as possible.  That means going out of my way to find opportunities for them to engage in maintaining our home, get involved in our community, and explore the world.

Maintaining the home:

I always invite them to join me in cooking, cleaning, fixing, building, shopping, planning, and preparing anything in our house.

Getting involved in the community:

I want my kids to be concerned about and involved in the community in which they live.

For that reason, we try to find learning experiences through volunteer work, interacting with neighbors, and local events.

Exploring the world:

Unschoolers have the world as their classroom.  On a typical day, you can find my kids learning about another language, catching bugs from the backyard to identify, walking through the neighborhood, watching shows about geography and culture, and much more.

An unschooling day allows plenty of time to pursue passions through play

You may be thinking, “So what?  We do all those things as well as our homeschool curriculum.”

And you are right.  Not a whole lot has changed for us either since dropping the curriculum.  We haven’t magically become any more interesting.

We still do the same things we did as homeschoolers, except scheduled schoolwork.

The difference is that now those things that we considered extras to our education are the learning experiences themselves.

My kids spend a lot more time pursuing personal interests and passions.  Some of those include:

  • Writing
  • Horses
  • Fashion and dress-up
  • Video/computer games
  • Painting and drawing
  • Computer programming

Yes, they spend a lot more time on the computer now playing games and Skyping with friends.  But that time is full of learning for them.

An unschooling day allows the freedom to play, uninterrupted.  It lets my kids dig deep into a concept, or an interest, and spend as little or as much time on it that they need.

A day of unschooling always leaves room for curiosity

Most people wonder how, if I we don’t have a set plan or course of study, my kids will ever learn what they need to know in order to go onto college and a career.

I have one word for them:  Curiosity

A typical unschooling day for us takes full advantage of curiosity.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine ask about a gazillion questions a day about seemingly random stuff.

They also want to know how everything works, what words mean, why daddy has to be in another country and what it is like, why the mailman comes at a certain time, what makes milk taste the way it does, etc. ad nauseum.

Children are naturally curious about the world.  Unschooling takes those questions and investigates them – and calls it an education.

And that is one of the main reasons we have no typical day of unschooling.  We go on so many adventures just trying to figure out answers to questions my kids ask!

They learn so much from those little rabbit trails!  I never just give them an answer.

Oh no- they have to work for it.

And in researching, discussing, reading, watching, experimenting, and exploring the topic. . . they learn how to read, measure, multiply, argue logically, present information, and so much more.

I hope this helps you understand why it is so difficult to explain what we do all day, and what a typical unschooling day looks like!


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12 Responses to Unschooling One Day At A Time

  1. Eddie@The Usual Mayhem says:

    It looks like a great life! Your kids must love it.

  2. Lauren says:

    Thanks for including your day in the link-up, Aedel. All those schedules make me cringe inside! Surely we can share the relaxed-learning love!

  3. Jacki says:

    We are intrest led homeschoolers and follow a light schedule.
    Wake Up
    Math/ State required work for the older ones
    Intrest Led Time

    • I can’t even keep that simple of a schedule – it seems our life is just one big kerfuffle! We have seasons where things are structured but right now we are flying one day at a time.

  4. Prairie Jenn says:

    Beautiful post! I’m back to read it for a second time:) I love what you’ve said about curiousity!
    And I never just give the girls an answer either;) Those rabbit trails are amazing opportunities to learn.

  5. So, question…what if you invite them to help with household chores or activities or to go volunteer with you and they say no? Can they decline? Are there certain expectations you have, and they understand, or is everything up to them? I’m working hard to wrap my head around this. Thanks!!

    • Great question! I’m going to try and keep this short (and not write another blog post in my comment section).

      1 – Yes they can decline. However, that usually brings natural consequences. If they don’t pick up their things and then something gets lost – it’s lost. If they don’t help with their laundry then they don’t have clean clothes. We have a lot of family conversations about this and my girls are pretty good at understanding how a household works more efficiently and peacefully when everyone is helping.

      2 – How are we asking? I had to get over the whole attitude that my children somehow “owed” me chore time. They are children, and while we ARE supposed to be preparing them for real life that can be done in a number of ways. They are human beings that don’t owe me anything. Again – up to the first point – we talk about this as a family. We ask them to help out, and we work together. I don’t walk around barking orders. So it looks more like a peaceful agreement rather than making my kids work for me.

      3 – When am I asking them, and what am I asking of them? Another thing I had to change in my thinking was that I could just stop them whenever and ask them to do something. If they are engaged and enjoying an activity I gently ask if they can help me when they are done. And I had to stop making mountains out of molehills. Some of their messes were not messes in their eyes – they were ongoing projects. One of my children has a lower standard of organization than I do (which is hard to achieve because I’m not very organized). When it comes to her spaces, I had to realize that she felt comfortable with how it was and it was really just my *feelings* about how her space looked that was upsetting to me.

      I hope those points help answer your question a bit! Feel free to ask more!

  6. JM says:

    Curious as to which benchmark you measure your childrens’ level of education against? Are you planning on them being prepared to enter college?

    • Good questions JM. Our benchmarks are basically those that you would use in life. Can they meet challenges and solve problems effectively? Are they gaining skills they will need to live satisfactorily on their own? As for college, if their goals include college then we will help them find all the resources they need to be prepared for it. I think it is sort of a myth that children have only a certain set of facts/skills that need to be learned at a certain time or else it will be forever lost on them.

      As of right now, my girls (12 and 8) can read and write, they can make calculations, they use strategy to solve problems, they create art, and they interact with those in the community. As their parent, I can see that they are thriving and have the resources they need to gain any skill or information they might need in the future.

  7. afutureeducator says:

    This is a crock. You are not preparing your child for the real world, this is preparing them for.a life of stay at home mom or husband do you really feel you.child could even test into college? You are handicapping them.

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