Practical Unschooling

Email of the Day:

This is hard. I can believe the principle but there is so little practical advice out there for parents on how to do it. At least that’s how it seems to me. My boys would lay on the couch all day, playing video games if I let them. How do I know? It has happened. I know video games have some value too – Minecraft motivates my six year old to read – but of course they’re not enough.

I think this is one of the common misconceptions about unschooling — that it’s hands off.
I think for most of us who embraced it, just laying on the couch all day playing video games was only a small portion of a much larger, bigger, fuller life.
nschooling’s not about leaving your children to their own devices — if you do that, it’s certainly possible that the only thing they’d do is lay about playing video games — children are resourceful with what they have, but they don’t have a lot (discretionary spending, transportation, etc.) and have to make do with what they do have.
Our lives were full of lots of different things — livestock, projects, gathering with friends, art, reading, making things, traveling, exploring — my daughter had periods of time where she spent a LOT of time gaming, but it was always just another thing in her life, and not the only thing.

I think of myself and my role as a facilitator, cheerleader, chauffeur, guru, guide, mentor, and sometimes instructor. I’m there for the things she needs, and I get out of the way the rest of the time. Here’s a bit of our week, circa March of 2008, when my daughter was 12:
Saturday: Apprenticed with local florist. Continued our 52 Churches project with a visit to the local Kingdom Hall for the annual “Memorial Meal.” You can read about that here, if you’re inclined:
Sunday: Hid Easter eggs. Cut and stacked wood from 3 trees for fire. Found Easter eggs.
Monday: Worked on reports from Sat. and ongoing US history project (reading). Ballet. Unloaded ton of hay into barn.
Tuesday: Attended knitting group.
Wednesday: Worked with local homeschool family, assisting children with lessons, and playing. Visited local produce/grocer. Ballet lessons.
Thursday: Went to museum, picked piece of art, and sat and drew for 1-2 hours.
Friday: I don’t know what we did on Friday. Spring was slowly trying its darnedest to sprung, but we could as easily had snow as sun that week.
Saturday was the annual Spin-In, an all-day conference meeting, and an evening of pizza and dance fun at the ballet studio.
That’s what that week looked like for us. But we’re weird and live in the woods–so I would expect your week to look different (unless you’re also weird wood dwellers).
Get engaged. Your role here is not silent observer and chauffeur.
You’re the guide, the guru, the nudge, the muse, the facilitator.