What School Looks Like Right Now

by: Sarah

This kid (the one you can partially see at the bottom of the photo there) has worked hard on focusing and finishing some basics (math, grammar, writing) this week. We unschool for the most part, but to make sure he’s learning what he needs to, we require a little work for four days a week toward sharpening math skills, grammar, writing, and reading.

It was tricky to come to this when we had decided to take an unschooling route years ago. We didn’t want to force August to work on things he didn’t want to. We still don’t. But then we found that he would be perfectly content going multiple days without picking up a book, be intimidated by a basic math problem, and unfocused and annoyed when we’d ask him to write something like a sentence or thank you note. We decided that August might need a little more structure.

We cut a lot of the extras that most curriculums have. We don’t push any subjects but the necessary for functioning ones. This means history, science, geography, and art are a lot more organic (he leads these lessons with interest and we try our best to dive into them with him and provide what he needs to understand them as much as he wants to). It’s not that they’re not important, but they don’t hold the weight that being able to read, work out a math problem, and write sentences do. We don’t push him to be advanced or at any level but the one he’s at. The one expectation we have is that he make an effort.

On a “regular school day,” when August finishes the basics (usually takes an hour or so depending on the day), he is free to do whatever he wants–video games, monitored Internet surfing, chasing the dog around outside, playing with legos and stuffed animals inside, etc., etc.

We introduced all of this at the beginning of the year. At first, it was tricky for all of us (it still can be), but he’s finally realizing the freedom he can have by just doing what he needs to for a small fraction of the day. At the same time, Mark and I are learning patience and acceptance for where he is and what he needs, as well as what we need in this process. It’s not always easy. We still struggle with doubting ourselves regularly, or comparing August to others his age (there are areas he’s ahead, behind, or right where they are); we are trying to be graceful with all of us and remember that we are homeschooling so that he can be any and all of the three and that it would be okay, and our family can have the daily freedom we’ve worked so hard to have.

So, we agreed that if he finished his work with focus and a good attitude four days a week (he has a chart to keep track of progress), that he would have three days that he wouldn’t have to pick up a single workbook or worksheet.

This week he’s busted his little ass. He’s woken up and started his work without being told and focused on and finished it without griping Monday through Thursday. So, today until Sunday he can do whatever he pleases, which is usually play video games until he’s sick of ’em or watch Voltron to his heart’s content, and what is he doing?

He’s two hours into a book.

8 comments

  1. Comment by Cassie V

    Cassie V Reply March 3, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Love this! I think more homeschoolers do this than not, it’s just that they may be intimidated by those Ultra Homeschoolers who like to tell you all about their complicated curriculum and scheduled days and don’t speak up as often. I’d never consider myself an unschooler, because we *do* do workbooks for things like math, language, and handwriting, so that we can get the basics down and I have some motivation to give a little structure to our learning, but our days look a lot like yours. Lots and lots of reading, lots and lots of Legos, lots and lots of playing, and lots of talking together. It’s pretty much the way I grew up as a homeschooled kid and it really was a great advantage to me and my siblings. It wasn’t a perfect education (but who gets one of those?!) but it jumpstarted me into a love of science and people, my brothers into engineering and math, and my sister into teaching and special needs kids. All from the basics and the freedom to explore each of our own special interests and passions. You are giving August a huge gift, and you’re doing this homeschooling and parenting thing in one of the best ways possible (in my opinion, of course :)).

    • Comment by Sarah

      Sarah Reply March 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Cassie, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and leave such a thoughtful note; that in itself is incredibly encouraging to this momma who, half the time, is worried I’m doing it all wrong. Your comment did Mark and I both some real good to read and get a small “peek” into how you guys do it. To know that someone who comes from a family of kids who were successfully homeschooled and is currently using similar methods to educate her kids is a relief and encouragement. We appreciate you, lady and love seeing your sweet homeschoolers doing their thing, at home and on the adventures you and Mark take them on; they clearly have such a full life.

      PS- I share your pictures of your kids homeschooling with August sometimes and I can tell that that, too, is an encouragement to him. ❤

  2. Comment by Sarah

    Sarah Reply March 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Cassie, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and leave such a thoughtful note; that in itself is incredibly encouraging to this momma who, half the time, is worried I’m doing it all wrong. Your comment did Mark and I both some real good to read and get a small “peek” into how you guys do it. To know that someone who comes from a family of kids who were successfully homeschooled and is currently using similar methods to educate her kids is a relief and encouragement. We appreciate you, lady and love seeing your sweet homeschoolers doing their thing, at home and on the adventures you and Mark take them on; they clearly have such a full life.

    PS- I share your pictures of your kids homeschooling with August sometimes and I can tell that that, too, is an encouragement to him. ❤

  3. Comment by Meg

    Meg Reply March 8, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I’m glad I found this, today. Our family is a constant mixture of homeschooling/unschooling/deschooling. We work in waves. And like your son, my 9 year old also works well with some form of structure, but definitely not in the conventional sense.

    Your post was a great reminder that learning isn’t or at least shouldn’t be measured in terms of hours spent with rote memorization or even in a linear way.

    Great post!

    • Comment by Sarah

      Sarah Reply April 29, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      Meg, your comment was so good to read as a homeschooling mom of a son who seems to learn in a similar way. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your experience. ❤

  4. Comment by Melissa

    Melissa Reply April 3, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Thank you for sharing this Sarah, I needed to read this! I have the same struggle with my three, and I just recently came to terms with the fact that we are indeed an unschooling family. It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one going through this.

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  6. Comment by Sarah

    Sarah Reply April 29, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Melissa, your comment helps more than you know. Admire mommas like you homeschooling multiple kiddos. It’s hard enough with just the one! You’re awesome. Wishin’ y’all all the best.

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