It’s all too easy to get sucked into the school way of thinking. Everywhere you go you will see people trying to convince you about all the things you need. Stationery. Books. Equipment. Teachers or tutors. The need to socialise, cough, cough, cough.
I urge you to take a step back, actually take as many steps back as you can and forget all of that. And look at your child(ren), your family and your goals.
Create Your Own Rules
Every unschooler approaches unschooling in their own way. I speak from our experiences and what works for us.
I don’t necessarily believe in letting your kids do what they like. Saying that, however our kids mostly do what they like within the rules and boundaries that we co-create. I like to think that we guide and support our kids. We are there to help direct them, give them ideas, share our experiences and ultimately help get them to where they want to be.
Also, as parents, we lead by example. We have beliefs and ethics that are important to us. We live by them and mostly hope and expect our kids to follow our example. This is especially obvious with younger kids - they just like to copy their parents or older siblings. It is incredibly important to lead a life of positive example.
Currently, I find it incredibly cute how my 18 month old copies me doing gardening and sitting on a small side wall.
It’s incredible how easy it is to get kids to do something when you are actually doing it. Kids do often just get stuck in and try things out. It is the best way to get them trying stuff out. It will also help you realise what you are asking of them and whether what you are asking is reasonable. Would you want to sit down and practice 50 lines of handwriting? Or do an hour of maths questions if you are not in the mood? Think about it!
Our life is changing constantly, but these are our personal grounding rules:
- we all love screen time, but it needs to be balanced out for all of us
- we believe in eating real food and that from lots of research and experience sugar is mostly bad for us (this doesn’t mean we don’t eat sugar, we are conscious to limit it for ourselves)
- we believe in doing our best to keep fit and active - as parents we are learning the hard way, desperately trying to get more active for the benefit of all. We believe in an active lifestyle. It is beneficial both physically and mentally.
- we believe there are certain levels of skills that kids should have - mostly this evolves around reading, writing and basic maths. We make a conscious effort to make this stuff happen
- everyone should help out in the house, mostly on a daily basis. There are many ways to help out. Seek the ways!
- we should seek to communicate our needs with one another. We are all here to help each other out.
You should co-create rules that work for you and your family! This is about creating a ‘home environment’ that is suitable for all the family.
Decide What You Need
The truth is probably you don’t need very much at all.
We love books, but they come from the library or mostly sought second hand. However, the truth is I usually buy all of mine, mostly because they tend to be newer books or my habits are that I build up a collection of books to dip in and out of.
I encourage our kids to be creative, though it is often lacking with mostly boys in the house. I have a stash of art type materials that I try to use myself. Sometimes they will come up with an idea to make something, so it is handy having things to hand before the moment is lost.
Text books and courses. Mostly these don’t work (for us). We’ve followed through an online maths program once. Everything else we don’t seem to reach the end of, so we’ve mostly given up on that idea, for now at least. However, saying that, we are about to embark on a maths course with my eldest. Never say never.
As a parent, I believe it is important to educate yourself on ideas about how to teach your kids the bare essentials. Sure, kids can teach themselves, but with a bit of careful thought you can help them achieve more and in faster. For us the turning point is when kids learn to read - it opens so many doors for them, so we think this is incredibly important to achieve sooner rather than later.
Our 5 year old is on the verge of learning to read. He’ll be a happy boy being able to read stuff on his own - I know it will bring him lots of confidence and new abilities to become more independent.
The most expensive thing for us is tech, however we are quite a tech savvy family. My husband and I work in tech, so we kinda like having gadgets. Our older boys have their own MacBooks (which are hand me downs from us). We have an Xbox, PlayStation and iPads. For the past year or so we’ve been learning about making videos and podcasts so we’ve invested in some kit for that. My eldest wants to build his own gaming computer, so that’s next on the list. Not all of this is essential. And to be honest, things like the iPad these days are often just glorified TV screens to watch YouTube or Netflix.
The point on the technology front is that we’ve consciously invested as we have grown and learned what we need.
From my personal view, I’ve gone a bit made learning about all things unschooling, self-directed learning ‘n’ all that. I have so much I want to dive into and learn. To support my own curiosity whilst hopefully being able to support my family better.
Things Often Don’t Lead To Learning
One of the biggest things to get your head around is that investing in things doesn’t necessarily lead to learning. I still get caught in the trap sometimes. I buy stuff and it just doesn’t get used.
What leads to learning is the interest and desire of the person to want to learn. If they are not interested it is like pulling teeth!
Some ways of figuring out what kids what to learn could be by:
- Observing them
- Having real conversations to understand them better
- Leading by example
- Giving them choice
- Trying to get them involved with things you do
- Or trying to come up with ideas that might spark their interest
Learning can happen, anywhere, anytime and it most definitely will change as you all grow. A school environment is most definitely not required.