I am always surprised when my children’s opinions and my own agree. I shouldn’t be really, given I have spent 24 hours a day with them since they were born. But Gary and I have for the last three or so years (since they turned ten) encouraged them to think for themselves and then deal with the natural consequences which arise from their decisions. It has always been important to us that the children become thinking adults and whilst we absolutely require obedience when we do put our feet down, so to speak, we often give them free rein, especially as they mature. More maturity = more freedoms.
But I am seeing really positive fruit from the values instilled in them during their childhood, never so much though as during this last week where I backed off completely during the day. Chores were done without me asking, devotions too and they had often finished their maths before I had even got out of bed!
So what did the children think of their week of complete freedom to use their time as they wished?
T is like me in so many ways. His brain works like mine and prone to brain hyperactivity, he questions everything, is very self motivated and very self aware. He is also fiercely independent, driven and was the only child for whom I would imagine unschooling to work for.
Funnily enough the two of us dealt with the unschooling week in much the same way. We both had plans of things we wanted to achieve, but with so much free time stretching ahead of us we both found it hard to settle down to any of the desired activities. By midweek we were both frustrated with ourselves because we had not achieved all we had set out too.
These were his thoughts:
- He didn’t like the fact that their was no reason to get out of bed. He is by nature an early riser and likes to get a head start on his day. During the unschooling week he was out of bed later (7ish instead of 6ish). He didn’t like this.
- He would not like to unschool full-time. He likes the idea of the balance between unschool and school.
- He has always been a child who likes to feel satisfied at the end of the day at being well occupied and learning all day long. He did not feel like he achieved that this week. He is going to plan his unschool weeks out a bit better to achieve more. He has asked me to find him an hourly scheduling sheet for him to fill out each day so he employs his time more efficiently.
- He did not like the fact that each morning he played Mine Craft for a considerable time. Although he thoroughly enjoyed the Mine Craft it prevented him doing other things he had wanted to do. But the pull to play was too much for him to control. He has asked that I give him some sort of accountability during his next unschool week whilst he attempts to control his own use of the screen.
- He was very pleased by all his biking mechanics and actual riding he did, as well as being able to do his physics GCSE home work in under an hour. He felt he was able to do that because his mind wasn’t weighed down with lots of other school work. I thought this was interesting and gave me a glimpse into how full time unschooling works.
L12 is my child who often surprises me the most. She is quiet, with a gentle determination. She is steady, enjoys most things, even maths (after hating it for years) and quietly plods on through life. She would be the tortoise rather than the hare and much like the tortoise always gets to where she wants to be eventually.
L has a very distinctive and instinctive taste in clothes. She finds second hand items and mixes and matches with flourish and style. She is also incredibly good at anything practical. Her loom band creations are brilliant and she has just started knitting with a loom, which she took to really quickly. I suggested she started to learn to sew to enable her to make her own clothes. Next unschooling week she will begin her sewing journey. These are her thoughts:
- Like her brother she felt she had no reason to rise early. I think it probably bothered her less though because there is nothing this girl of mine enjoys more than a lovely lie in.
- Last week whenever there was a video on, she would gather her handicrafts and work away whilst watching. She felt that she was productive during her screen time. We had an interesting discussion about being passive screen watchers and productive screen watchers. As she was able to knit hats at the same time as watching a video she felt that made screen time more acceptable.
- The children had decided amongst themselves that screen would only be used in the morning. L did not like this rule. She felt she was able to control her time on the screen so any kind of limitation was futile. She wanted screen time to be available throughout the whole day.
- She enjoyed using completely different resources and is really looking forward to using our sewing machine next week.
- L also felt the little ones were bored and needed more activities to keep them occupied. I have to say that I disagree with this. They may have been bored to begin with but I saw some excellent creative imaginary play between the two of them which I haven’t seen much of before. Poverty (in terms of preprepared activities) was the mother of inventions in this case and I was very happy with the results!
C12 is my highly creative, quirky young twin. I say young because she would be significantly younger in her outlook on life than her older siblings. She still thoroughly enjoys make believe play and using her imagination. She is fabulous with the younger two, but also in the past has been less able to keep herself occupied for long. I genuinely thought the unschooling week would not be a good option for her. That said, we have yet to find something that suits her really well. She does not like to be hemmed in and told what to do but she lacks the self motivation to carry out a project based learning to its conclusion.
So it is fair to say I was mildly flabbergasted (if one can be mildly flabbergasted) to see her work the very best I have EVER seen her work. She kept herself busy ALL week. Any screen time was spent on her murder mystery novella, she sung a lot, videoing some cover versions of popular songs. We had some very interesting conversations about using her voice for God’s glory rather than her own and she cooked almost everyday, as well as wandering into the kitchen to wash up/ tidy up etc without being asked throughout the day. She was completely in her element without any constrictions, remained self motivated to the very end of the week and, I think, really blossomed. These are her thoughts on our unschooling week:
- She loved it ALL, Every. Single. Moment.
- The children had decided to continue with an hour quiet time after lunch, which C12 said she particularly enjoyed. They were not required to read school books during this time (obviously). With the restrictions removed the girls listened to the radio together, chatting to each other quietly. C commented how much it had built up their relationship and how it reminded her of when they were younger. L completely agreed with C on this.
- She felt really, really productive.
- She did not feel she needed screen time limited because, apart from writing her story, she wasn’t that interested and therefore felt she was able to control it.
Finally we all chatted about changes they might like to see the next time they have carte blanche. They felt they had eaten more than normal and requested healthy snacks like cut up fruit and veg left in the fridge that they could help themselves to whenever they wanted rather than snacking on toast.
The balance between inactivity and activity was addressed with chat about morning walks, afternoon walks with Gary and I to the larger pond in our village (not the one we studied) and more gardening. I was pleased they included this in their discussion because it was one of my issues also.
It was also decided that there would be no limitations on screen time but that I would hold T13 accountable to his goals for the week (his suggestion, not mine) thereby training him to self regulate according to his own wishes and goals.
All in all I would say our week of unschooling was a success. I certainly learnt more about myself as well as about my children, and I think the children did too.
The whole one week on one week off could work. Watch this space!