The Children’s Thoughts on our Unschooling Week

DSC_0117unschooling

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?

T13

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

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

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!

22 comments

  1. I am always so impressed with how thoughtful and mature the kids are – what a testament to how they’ve been raised. Your unschooling week sounds like quite a success!

  2. How completely fascinating! I love the way you’ve set out this post. I think unschooling teaches us so much about ourselves, and it sounds like this has been the case for all of you. I love how the little ones have been playing together, too 🙂 I’m really looking forward to hearing how your unschooling weeks develop.

  3. I smiled as I read about T13 and Minecraft. We have an unstated limitation on screen time during the day for the precise reason that Firecracker wants to to so many things, but the lure of the DS is stronger. It’s not okay with either of us because we both have goals for him, so I hold him accountable. I also loved the way that you guys had similar concerns about some things during the week and that you moved to a resolution for that together for the next time you have a more relaxed week 🙂

    1. I like the fact he asked for accountability, and it was very interesting for me to hear that whilst Mine Craft is a pull and very enjoyable, he would like to do something different with his time. It had never occurred to me that there was a battle raging inside him over his computer usage. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the accountability.

  4. Maybe you should suggest a copy of Whale and O’Hanlon’s “Adventures in Minecraft” or something along that line for T13, so he could turn his love of Minecraft into something more productive.

    1. It isn’t so much that he feels he is on too long and wasting time, but more that he had so many other plans and Mine Craft sucked him away from those. I think he just wants to make time for a variety of activities but finds it hard to step away from the computer once it is on.
      I shall have to look that book up. I’m guessing Amazon?

  5. It’s interesting to read how the week has gone so differently for each of the older children. It just shows that the success of any approach depends much on many factors, including each child’s personality.

  6. I love the diversity of personalities in your family, and I like the fact that you know them all so well. I love the fact that you were able to get so much from them about how they feel about it. I usually only get a shrug from my boys whenever I ask them a question about how they liked school. 🙂

    1. Sometimes a shrug would be a blessed relief (only sometimes!) I think I have five of the most talkative children in the whole of Great Britain. I can’t think where they get it from….

  7. Claire, thank you for this series of posts. We are pretty structured in our home education around here and I too am contemplating how this will change as my son gets older (he’s 11.5). I have spoken to my son about unschooling and he doesn’t want to do it! I found that fascinating because I thought getting to choose himself would be a huge draw card but he’s worried about wasting time or not learning really interesting things because he wouldn’t know to look into things he doesn’t know about (I guess that’s where strewing coming in?) but mostly he really enjoys what we’re doing at the moment and how we go about doing it and he doesn’t want to give that up. I enjoy it too, but am starting to feel really tired from all the work that goes into planning everything by me when I don’t get any kind of 4 week holiday (ha!) each year….
    Anyway, for this next year at least, we will keep doing what we’re doing and I shall reflect on your journey and see what happens next. Cathy

    1. It was the issue of school planning all year round which made me look into unschooling. Since I have started to sleep I have less and less time to plan. I like the mixture we are using at the moment with a bit of unschool, some project based learning, curriculum learning and the odd GCSE text book thrown in. It’s never boring, anyway!

  8. Claire, one of the many things I admire about you is how well you know your children. It sounds funny to think that a parent wouldn’t know their children, but I think in today’s society is is true, sadly. I find it wonderful that each child continued to do the things they knew they were to do; chores, devotions, maths. When left to their own, children (and adults) will show their true character, and you must be pleased. Even when they didn’t do as well as they expected of themselves, they recognized it and wanted to change. That, my friend, is exceptional, especially at their age and given the freedom they have during this unschooling week. You have instilled a work ethic in your children that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. This was a fascinating post. I would say your first week of unschooling was quite the success.

    1. Thank you Donna. Instilling a work ethic was probably one of my highest priorities when I started home schooling. Hard workers go a long way in today’s world.xxx

  9. This is such an interesting post! Isn’t it strange how differently your (one’s!) kids react to different learning environments. We’re unschoolers and the days just fly by with us floating from one activity to the next. After reading your post I’m very tempted to try doing a structured week to see what the girls make of it 😀

    1. Lol! Yes, one method doesn’t seem to suit every child. Half the fun of homeschooling is figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for stopping by!

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