Un-schooling- How do They Learn Without Formal Lessons?

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The idea of un-schooling often scares people. How on Earth can a child learn if you don’t have regular formal lessons? I thought I’d give a snapshot of one day to show exactly how this works in our home. Here is our day Tuesday (I chose Tuesday because I got some great pictures to share!)

Breakfast: The kids helped to set the table. First I asked them how many place settings we needed then had them each set one item and count out that item themselves. They learned teamwork, negotiation (who set what item, everyone always wants plates for some reason), counting, adding and subtraction (we talked about 3 boys plus 3 girls makes how many people etc.)

Outside play: Next up was outside play time. They decided to use a large bucket and fill it with mud and dirt and make soup for their restaurant. They learned teamwork, role playing, business principles, salesmanship, cooperation, negotiation, and got lots of physical exercise.

Therapy session: Next it was time to take the older four to their weekly therapy appointment. While we were in the car on the way there we kept the radio off and talked to each other. We counted how many “popcorn” trees we saw and when they were sick of counting (somewhere around 50) we discussed why trees blossom and how blossoms can turn into fruit. We then looked at all the construction vehicles we saw at one point and started talking about what it would take to build a building. At the session the oldest ones learned about nightmares. They were able to talk about their nightmares and draw pictures of them. they then destroyed the pictures and discussed how they could also “destroy” the real nightmares. While they were in the session Jack, Wally and I get some alone time in the waiting room. Wally learned about getting stuck under chairs now that he is getting mobile. Jack spent the first 30 minutes or so playing with a box of legos. He was learning about shapes, building, and refining his fine motor skills. After that he played some piano on my iPad and then watched an episode of Diego.

Lunch at the Park: Park time is one of my favorite learning activities. It gives the kids a chance to practice their social skills, not only with other children, but also with many adults. On this trip there was the added bonus of several families that spoke different languages. I heard at least three languages other than English being spoken while we were there. Ben made a friend with another child that didn’t speak English at all. This was no barrier for them. They communicated by using body language and had a great time playing together. The park is also a great place for kids to learn self confidence. They are given the chance to take managed risks by climbing all over the play equipment, build large and fine motor skills, and face fears of heights, things that spin fast, meeting new people, and more. I was especially proud of Jack on this trip. He watched Rachel climb up a playground feature that he had never seen before and decided he wanted to try to. He couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t lift him up or move him to a new spot. I used gentle touching to show him where to place his hands and feet in order to climb the feature. The first three times he needed help, but each time he needed less help. By his fourth attempt he was climbing on his own. Not only did he build his self confidence, but he also learned about balance, trial and error, and developed his large motor skills.

homeschool|unschool|education|teaching self-confidence
After a little teaching form mom he was able to climb on his own.

The kids were pretty quiet on the way home because they had expended all of their physical energy. We did have a small conversation about why your body feels tired after you play in the sun and the importance of drinking water.

Nap/Quiet time: In the afternoons the three youngest take their naps and the other three get to have quiet time. Sometimes we’ll watch a show, other times we read or do art. On this particular day the older ones watched an episode of “Nova Science Now” about the challenges of traveling to Mars. They were especially excited to talk to me about the special exercise rooms designed to combat bone and muscle loss in space as well as the ability to fly because of no gravity.

Free Play Time: Once the little ones woke up the kids had free play time. They chose to spend most of that time outside. Boy I love this nice weather! During this time I was bouncing the baby on my knee singing Yankee Doodle. This led to a fun impromptu conversation about why the American Revolution had occurred.

Dinner: Dinner went pretty much the same as breakfast with all of the kids assisting me in clearing and setting the table.

Bedtime Routine: Every evening after dinner we clean brush teeth and get into pajamas. We then have our family time. First we clean up the playroom together while I have music playing. We are learning to calm our bodies and minds as well as care for our home and work together. When that is done most nights we read a chapter from “The Story of the World” which the kids absolutely love. They usually request, “can we read more?”  and we’ll keep reading as long as attention spans remain in tact and the parent’s voice and eyes can hang on. After history it is scripture time. Sometimes we read from our Friend magazine, other day see practice or learn a new song or talk about a prophet or scripture story. We do whatever mom and dad feel is right for that day. Then it’s prayers and bed time.

As you can see there are plenty of opportunities throughout the day for our children to learn about a variety of subjects. Every day is different. Some days we go to the store and learn about prices and all the fun math that comes along with that. Other days we do art projects or go on field trips. We often read lots of books and write letters to our friends and family members. The world is our schoolhouse, and we never stop learning.

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