A Day in the Life of an Unschooling Family

I’m going to describe a typical day in the life of my family when we were unschooling.  This however, will not give you insight into every unschooling family since every family is unique.  It will probably not even give you a good insight into my family’s unschooling experience because every day was unique.  But, I will try to share with you a typical day.

6:00 am  Alarm clock goes off and hubby gets up, gets dressed, grabs a cup of coffee and goes out in the backyard to commune with nature, drink coffee, smoke a few cigarettes and contemplate life.

6:30 am Hubby is back inside showering and dressing for the day as I get up, throw on my robe and head to the kitchen to cook hubby a hot breakfast.

7:00 am  Hubby heads off to work and I either go back to bed to read or watch some tv and maybe even fall back asleep.

No later than 9:00 am I’m up doing some volunteer paperwork or maybe raking leaves in the yard.  As the kids start waking up, I head to the kitchen to make them a hot breakfast.  Depending on what day of the week it is we either have certain chores which need to get done, laundry and cleaning the bathroom are the major ones, or we have a park day to go to, or a teen activity to attend.  The chores might take an hour or two (laundry was an all day, twice a week ordeal).

Throughout the day, the kids might grab a math book and do a lesson, or they might read or they might be outside playing.  With five kids and one game system (Nintendo 64 had the longest life span in our home) there was almost always one or two kids playing video games.  Because it is human nature to hog the controller, a signup sheet was instituted.  It was on a clipboard with a pen attached and was always in the vicinity of the living room t.v.  It was literally a signup sheet for turns playing on the Nintendo.  First one up in the morning could sign in for a 30 minute slot.  If no one had gotten up when the 30 minutes was up, he could sign up for another slot.  As soon as someone else got up, they would sign up for a slot and so on and so forth.  You couldn’t sign up for more than one slot at a time.  When there was a new game in the house, they would all be up early and sign up for slots as soon as their time slot was up.  The frenzy would last for a couple of days, a week at the most and then the sign in sheet would get forgotten.  The sign in sheet allowed the kids the freedom to go do something else while waiting for their turn and not have to hover near the game to vie for a turn when the current player finished playing.  Often what would happen is that the kid would get interested in another activity and forego their turn when their slot opened up.  It was a great way to avoid arguments about so-n-so hogging the game.  It was also an incentive to be the first to wake up.

In between cooking and cleaning, I would read aloud to one or more of the kids.  I know my kids spent more time playing video games than doing academic busy work, but that didn’t hold them back from attaining college degrees.  They wanted to get college educations so they did.  Just because they hadn’t done much academically during our unschooling days didn’t mean they were dumb and couldn’t learn.  They learned plenty, just not the traditional algebra, geometry, and maybe they didn’t learn the same American history curriculum that was taught in public schools.  When they needed to learn those things, they did.  They just didn’t get it on the same timetable or the same format as public schoolers.  Most kids don’t remember most of what they learned while in school anyway.  At least mine were getting the sleep they needed, home-cooked foods and the freedom to pick and choose what they did with their time, what they read, what they created or what they worked on.

Sometimes one of them would be bored and ask me what they should do.  One time when Second son did just that I handed him a road atlas and said, “Plan a road trip.  Pick a place to go, figure out how far away it is, how long it would take to get there, where you might stop along the way, how much gas it would take, what provisions you’d need to pack, how much money you’d need for gas, food, lodging…”  He worked on that for a few days, had it all mapped out and wrote up a two page paper detailing the whole trip.  Most of the time when they were bored, they didn’t ask me what they should do, they just found things to occupy their time, draw, read, write, build, play…  Here’s an example of an afternoon of creativity, probably born out of boredom:

1999  22 - Copy

I know, I know, you are cringing at the thought of children and plastic bags.  Don’t worry, they were well aware of what not to do.

Animals in need of our help had a way of finding us.  Oldest son rescued a baby bluejay who had fallen out of the nest before he was ready to fly.  He fed it with an eyedropper and put it in a cage outside.  His parents found him and brought him food, too.  It was a joint effort between the bluejay parents and Oldest son, each of them bringing him worms and water.  When he was strong enough, he began leaving the cage door open and soon the baby bird joined his parents.  For years the blue jay would land near my son and sing to him.

1997  20 - Copy  Oldest son and bluejay when it was pretty young.

1997  21 - Copy  1997  22 - Copy  And when it was a little older.  It would fly down to him to eat an offered worm or just sit on his shoulder.

There were similar stories with two squirrels, four baby bunnies, and our favorite was a baby screech owl.  We took the owl to a rehabilitator because it’s illegal to keep or care for a raptor without a license.  She had more creatures than she could handle at the time and she could see how interested we were.  She allowed us to work under her permit accepting supervisory responsibility for us.  After checking out the owl, she gave us instructions and a follow up schedule.  Over the next few weeks, we fed him and watched him grow strong and reported in to the rehabilitator. He regained his ability to fly and like the bluejay, we would occasionally spot him in the branches.  It was very rewarding when the following year we realized he had found a mate and enticed her to join him in the trees in our yard.

Ok, so I didn’t exactly spell out one typical day, but that’s just it, there isn’t one typical day.  Each day brought something different.  Sometimes you do the same things over and over, but not really.  There’s always something that makes every day unique.

Life, live it!

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