This is what self directed learning looks like for my eldest (12 year old) these days.

Today, when discussing our plans as a family for the day, my eldest told me that last night he made a list of 10 things he wanted to get done today.  And that going to the library (an idea I suggested to him that he could do) with his little brother was not part of the plan and it may put his goals at risk.

On his list were things like reading, going outside, calligraphy, video editing, video marketing…etc.  I don’t even know the whole list.  Not sure I want to, or whether it’s my business.  He’s getting on with stuff he is interested in.  He keeps himself busy.  I talk to him about stuff that is relevant and he comes to me when he needs help. And we always do what we can to ensure he gets the support he needs.  It doesn’t always happen straightaway, but we make a true effort (as parents) to help things happen for them.

Not every day is like this.  Some of his days are not very filled up, some are utterly busy.  Some our planned in detail so we can fit everything, others not so much.  Some days involve lists, others we just go with the flow. Weekdays blur in with the weekend.  Our family life doesn’t differentiate much between them.

Overall, though, he decides what he wants to do. We support his choices, it doesn’t mean he gets to do what he likes all the time, but he knows he gets listened to.  And sometimes he just needs to do stuff that he doesn’t really want to do, cause life is like that!

Self directed learning for the others kids…

It looks different for my other (younger) kids.  They haven’t really written stuff down.  For them it’s more a case of understanding how we operate as a family, planning and discussing things on the day.

  • How can they help out?
  • What would they like to do (today)?
  • What has already been planned (for today)?
  • Do they have the right balance of activities?
  • What do we need as parents and a family to keep things ticking?
  • What do we do, as parents/carers, to support them in their activities?
  • Is there anything that we believe they are ready to tackle?

Overall, it’s mostly a case of considering everyone’s needs.  Who needs what and how can we try to ensure everyone gets what they need?

For example, Codie, my four year old has decided he wants to learn to read.  He can read some things and knows many of the sounds of letters.  He is ready for the next stage - he knows that and we as parents feel the same.  He also wants to know what the words say on the games he plays.  He has the motivation!

The above is an example of acknowledging that we need to take some steps to help him.  As a family we will all become aware and support Codie to read.

Just like we have all become aware of the needs of Eloise (1 year old) who is almost walking.  We will all support her to get to the next stage.  It’s important to her.

We all have needs and much of our unschooling life is about the whole family attending to and respecting them.

On a more basic level, there are every day needs that need to be taken care of.  This generally evolves around basic human and household needs.  Are things and people acceptably clean, fed and rested?  You may laugh at this, but these things are important!  We play close attention to the food we eat. The rest/exercise we get. And of course being acceptably clean…especially with stinky boys! It’s a constant learning process for us all to figure out and attend to all the things that need doing.

It doesn’t have to be a free for all…

The thing about unschooling, I feel, is that often people think it’s a ‘free for all’ for the kids. People outside of our world think the kids do what they like, when they like and without enough consideration to others around them.  I’m not saying this is not the case for others, it probably is, but this is our story. This is how we do things.  We don’t worry how others do their thing.

This is the beauty of unschooling.  It often perplexes people.  Just like all people are different, people who unschool do things their way.

Communication and structure is important for us as a family. We like to operate in a positive, supportive and productive way. We are finding what works for us. The above is a glimpse and I’m sure it will look very different in a few months time 🙂