Thoughts on our Unschooling Week

DSC_0117unschooling

If you regularly read my blog you will already know that we are carrying out an experiment this year by alternating schooling weeks with unschooling weeks.

All this week I have been jotting down my thoughts on everyone’s learning during this our first unschooling week.  I haven’t attached any judgement to these observations.  I will, but just not yet.  For now I simply want to record what I have observed.

  1. The first thing I noticed, and am glad I noticed on the first day, was that I place a different value on certain activities compared to others.  I was mentally patting certain people on the back for their choice of activity whilst berating another for theirs.  I didn’t vocalise this thank goodness, but I did wonder why it was so.
  2. The children did incredibly well with their devotions, their chores and their maths.  Every day they completed these tasks to a high standard and without me even asking them, too.  This is fairly normal but somehow I thought they would slack off during unschooling time and that wasn’t the case.
  3. They chose to spend a lot of time on their screens.  This is an observation not a judgement (or at least I am trying to make it so).  They did not waste their time whilst on their computers but it still jarred with me concerning the ‘rightness’ of having so much screen time.
  4. The children found a huge variety of activities to fill their time and it was definitely an eye-opener and a window into my child’s life/heart.  Somehow, by allowing the children almost complete freedom I have seen parts of them I have not seen before.
  5. The children, when they are not conforming to expectations, become more authentically themselves, which is really rather lovely.
  6. It was interesting to see them problem solve alone.  I have attempted to completely back off this week and wait until asked to help before I interfered.  On lots of occasions the children have chosen to figure out their own solutions rather than ask me.  And I have learnt to not step in and offer what I would consider a better solution.  If they are happy with their solution, why should I not be?
  7. The younger two have played endlessly together, filling their time with imaginative play, reading to one another and just being together.  It has been good to see a real blossoming of relationship between them.
  8. I thought I would see more arguing, problems with sleeping and general grouchiness.  This hasn’t been the case at all.
  9. I wonder if one becomes a better unschooling mum the more one does it.  I’m not very good at it.  I worry that they are not doing enough writing.  I worry that they are having too much screen time.  I worry that they are not having enough time outside.  I worry.  I do so because I have effectively handed over control of their lives to them and that concerns me.  Am I right to be concerned, especially given I work them like the Trojans during our school week?

So these are my meager thoughts so far.  I wonder if they will change as time goes on.  I, for one, am looking forward to finding out.

If you unschool, I would be very interested in your point of view concerning any or all of my observations.

26 comments

  1. Thank you for taking us on your journey into this experiment. I am always shocked by the amount of screen time used when I give them total freedom, too. They do love the outdoors and it usually beckons them out within a few days.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. It’s a struggle, but the children said as much as well. They don’t like how they feel after being on the screen all day so maybe they will choose not to spend as much time during our next unschooling week.

  2. I found your observation about placing values on activities really interesting! I wonder if that will continue as your unschooling experiment progresses. I’m going to watch myself on do-your-own-thing-days and see if it’s true of me as well. Thanks for being honest enough to mention it!

    You’re spot on about the arguing…..on days where I have given the kids freedom to do their own thing, the arguments seem less often and less intense. I’m not sure why but I appreciate it!

  3. This are very well thought out observations. You’ve really made me think about what I see around me – but it’s going to take me a while to process. I know I do see a huge amount of screen time, but I have a tendency to encourage that, because it’s led to so many varied and interesting things – that, and we’ve been really switching over to e-books, so now even reading is “screen time”, and I really hate to limit reading.

    Seeing the sense of self for each child is definitely true here too.

    I’m not as good at leaving them completely to it though. I jump in and get all caught up in their activities too. I really should leave them to it more. I really like your approach to letting the children solve their own problems!

    1. I wonder what the answer is to the screen time. I kind of agree with you that it is a great learning tool and one I really enjoy learning through. It will be interesting to see where these weeks of unschooling take us.

  4. Number 3 can be the biggest block to my homeschool. I’m not naturally a tv watcher or a video game player, so all the time that the children want to spend on screens can really bug me. Which is kind of ridiculous really because our world is so screen-driven that it doesn’t make sense that I place too many limits on the screens in their lives. Really number 3 is a part of number 1 though. I don’t see the value in screens because I need more deschooling and I often fall back into a traditional mindset of what is valuable and what isn’t….I was actually a little shocked about number two. We don’t do math (unless we’ve taken on a math review), and we don’t have assigned chores in our house. Do they realize that they’re free not to do it on their unschooling weeks?

    1. It was their choice to do maths, with some encouragement from me, because they find it hard to pick it up again after a break. They only do half an hour rather than an hour. Bible is non negotiable and chores are simply a part of being a family and for us have nothing to do with whether it is an unschooling or schooling week. They’ve been doing chores since they were three and it just wouldn’t occur to them not to do them. I still impressed that I didn’t have to ask though!

  5. I think those of us who grew up on the other side of the technology explosion (and I am only just on that other side; you only need to be five or ten years younger than me to not remember a time without ubiquitous mobile phones and internet access) maybe draw more of a distinction between screens and other activities, but I do see something of a difference in the way that children I look after behave when they’re either using or wanting to use a computer or TV, and when they’re doing something else. I don’t know if it’s something inherent in the technology (certainly I find it difficult to pull myself away from my laptop when I’ve got stuck into something) or just because it’s the “forbidden fruit” and they want to make the most of the time they’re allowed, but it’s definitely there. Who knows what the solution is? I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on how their behaviour and attitude differs during the schooled and unschooled weeks, especially in relation to screens – it’s a fairly unique approach you’re taking, and a fascinating one!

    1. I notice the same with my children usually, but this week not so much. It had been a bicker free week, which I love. I too wonder what the solution is, although I am certain we will come to one throughout the duration of the year! (at least I hope!)

  6. This is so interesting. I would like to try unschooling but like you I would worry. I shall enjoy it vicariously through you.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experience on your unschooling week. I am new to this and it shed some more light for me. I don’t think I could do it every other week, but maybe 4 wks of “school” with 1 wk of “unschool” in July, when we start our new school year. I am anxious to hear more :-). Again, thanks for being real. Blessings, Brenda

    1. Four weeks school and one week unschool sounds a great idea. We used to do five weeks school and one week off and then school all year round, which worked well. I shall be interested to see how this year pans out as well!

  8. I worry about screen time as well. Our boys have very few limits on screen time and they go through spells where they spend a lot of time with their computers. I’m comforted however when they explain new technologies to me or set up their own server. It’s also important to distinguish between being technology consumers vs. creators. Games like Minecraft that allow players to design their own experience seem to be a much more positive experience.
    I’m curious about your alternating week system. We tend to spend a few hours each day on structured activities and then open things up to more self-directed learning.
    Writing is probably a bigger concern to me than screen time even.

    1. Writing concerns me also, but I have plans to counteract that in our school week. We also tried a few hours unstructured time a day, but somehow it never worked out as there would be messes to clear or jobs to do which just absorbed all our time. So far the children prefer this!

    1. It is an unusual thing to try but really that’s only because I don’t have the courage to go the whole hog and completely unschool. This is sort of my compromise!

  9. I have been very interested in seeing how it all went. It sounds like you are really off to a good start. I am not sure I would be brave enough, but I did consider it at one point. I will be watching with keen interest through the rest of your year to see how it goes.

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