Yesterday, a lovely reader commented on one of my unschooling posts about feeling inspired, but struggling to imagine how a day would look. I can remember feeling exactly the same. How would I accommodate different interests between my kids? Would they just want to watch tv all day? Would I miss what my kids were really interested in?
I feel a little bit nervous starting this series. I feel like it is focusing on the traditional things that we value when we think of ‘learning’ when this is woven in with so many other important things as well. But for those who are considering unschooling, I think it is useful to see examples of how learning naturally happens. This is by no means a blueprint, and all of our days go differently. We actually covered a lot today, and I want to stress that not every day looks like this, nor do I aspire for it to. To demonstrate this, I am going to try and do this post every second Tuesday so you can get a feel for how different days play out. Some days are very relaxed with friends, some days we spend a lot of time on screens, other days we are out of the house all day doing different things, and some seem to follow learning in a more formal way. My husband is away for work at the moment, and this always shifts things a little bit as well.
So, with that disclaimer, let’s see what happened today.
Everyone woke at a similar time this morning, around 7:30am. My six year old was excited about trying a new mod on Minecraft, so he sat down at the computer and found what he wanted to download and install.
My eight year old and three year old played with some blocks in her playroom and then hide and seek while I made breakfast for everyone.
After breakfast, my daughter used our water filter for some water play filling bottles and pouring into cups while I cleaned up.
She wanted to paint so I put out some liquid watercolours. My six year old was also interested so we all painted together for a while. This is a new medium for us which they are just starting to explore.
I popped upstairs to see what my eight year old was up to and he was looking at some of his favourite fossils. Fossils are a big passion of his. He has left this interest alone for the last couple of months and I wondered if maybe he had moved on, but it has really picked up again in the last few days. I find that is often the way with their interests. They are all consuming for a period, and then it is like they hit the pause button while they work out where they want to take it next.
He told me about a couple of them and then decided to watch an episode of Walking With Dinosaurs: Sea Monsters.
My daughter called out for me. Her brother had a packet of sweets that he didn’t want to eat today and she was sad about that. I sat with her while she worked through that disappointment (which involved a lot of tears and ‘please’) until she was ready to build houses in her play room. She built a slide for her grandma which was surprisingly stable and a bed for her uncle.
There was a problem downstairs, I could hear frustration coming from my six year old. I left my daughter to keep playing and went to see what the problem was. He was back to Minecraft and couldn’t work out how to get a mod that he wanted. I sat down to help him and realised the problem was that he didn’t know the name. After trying many variations, we couldn’t find what he wanted. He was frustrated and decided to move on to something else.
He wanted to play a board game and chose ‘dino maths tracks.’ I want to stress here that we play board games for enjoyment, not to learn anything. However, we love this game and it is very maths based. It is something I bought a couple of years ago when we thought we would be homeschooling in a more traditional way, but even though the aim of the game is to teach maths concepts which I don’t usually find to be done in an enjoyable way in games, it is really fun! Initially my daughter wanted to play, but she changed her mind and played with the playdough and kinetic sand that were out on the table.
Usually when we play Dino Maths Tracks, we just play with the ‘action’ cards and not the ‘problem solving’ cards as some of them are quite difficult and it takes away from the fun, but he wanted to play with both today. The first problem solving card he got was a maths problem that required multiplying 1001 by 3. He knew it was 3003 straight away. I was amazed. There is something about problem solving math in a ‘real world’ setting that makes a lot more sense.
Dino Maths Tracks has ‘dinosaurs’ as the central characters, and I was the ‘long neck’. He asked how tall long necks were. We went and got one of our dinosaur books which I remembered had measurements and we discovered there were lots of dinosaurs that could be called ‘long necks’. He was excited to see a page about ‘Argentinosaurus’. We went on a ‘dinosaur’ driving holiday last year and went to the region in Argentina where Argentinosaurus was found and we talked about the museum we went to and how big the fossilised bones were.
My daughter had moved on to playing a submarine game with a washing basket and some of her stuffed animals.
My eight year old came down stairs and reminded me that he wanted to cook dinner tonight. Yesterday at the supermarket he had decided he wanted to learn to cook fried rice and had chosen the ingredients for it. I remembered that we had a playdate in the afternoon and would be home late so I encouraged him to get started now.
We got out the ingredients and he cooked the rice and chopped the vegetables so it would be easy to put together when we got home. When he was measuring the rice ‘2 cups’, the one cup measure wouldn’t fit in the big jar. He found the ½ cup measure in the drawer and said, ‘I will just use four of these instead.’ He then needed 4 cups of water, and just filled the half cup 8 times. I have noticed that the boys have a really solid grasp of fractions, because the way that they have used them has made a lot of sense. We have a couple of fraction resources that show the difference in measurement in a really concrete way as well which helped in the beginning when they asked what ¼ cup meant etc.
I asked him if he wanted to write down the proportions for the rice so that he would have it for next time. He started to write the directions and then asked me to finish which I was happy to do. He wants me to make a recipe folder for him.
While I was helping my eight year old, my six year old came into the kitchen and found a toy measuring tape. He played with the tape, pulling it out and retracting it, and then started measuring things. After measuring a couple of things and saying the first one measured 8 and the second taller item measured 5, he realised he needed to read the ‘big number’ first and then add the small number. He measured the height of our stove and looked for the 80 and then the 9 to make 89cm. He was interested in the difference between the sides of the tape so we talked about how different countries use different measurements and the difference between centimeters and inches.
My daughter asked to watch an episode of Mister Maker, so I put that on while I got lunch ready for everyone and started typing out this post before I forgot everything!
The boys decided to connect to each other on Minecraft. There was a lot of troubleshooting while they made sure they had the right mods, downloaded the things they needed, moved things around in folders etc until they had the same set up. It is incredible how quickly they have picked things up on the computers they got for Christmas. I am also amazed watching my six year old type commands or type to his friends. He called out a few times asking how to spell words. I always ask him ‘what have you got so far’ and then I can say, ‘that’s it!’ or we can talk about why that sound is put together in a different way. He doesn’t like handwriting yet unless he is making cards, but he types a lot and really enjoys being able to communicate and find what he needs that way.
Everyone had something to eat and then we got ready to go to our play date. My daughter chose to wear two fairy dresses over her clothes and my son decided to wear shorts and a tshirt in sub zero weather. I packed other clothes and a jacket in case he changed his mind.
Our beautiful friends live about forty minutes drive from us. I find there is always a lot of discussion on the way and then not so much on the way home when everyone is tired. On the way there, my six year old wanted to know if we could go ‘full speed’ and then wanted to know what ‘full speed’ on our car was. He wanted to know how we knew how fast to go, so we looked at the signs.
My eight year old wanted to know how far two kilometres was after he heard it on our GPS. He knew it was 2000m but didn’t have a feel for how far that actually was so he kept track and I told him as we passed each 500m.
There was intense discussion about money and what my eldest son was going to buy my youngest son for his birthday. He said he wanted one hundred bottles of Coca Cola. I felt mildly mortified, but resisted the urge to talk about teeth haha.
They asked how much one bottle was. I estimated and then they realised they didn’t have enough saved for one hundred and worked out what they could afford. My eldest son is saving for a large lego set, so he talked about what he was comfortable parting with. My six year old said, that to make it last he was only going to have half of a half each day. I asked him what he meant by ‘half of a half’ and he said ‘a quarter’. He then explained that if you cut a bottle in half and then cut each half in half, you would have four pieces which are quarters. He said this would mean his loot would last four times as long. Given it is another seven months of anticipation before my six year old becomes a seven year old, I am sure there will be much to-ing and fro-ing before then!
We had such a lovely afternoon at the home of another unschooling family. The kids played for a few hours and I got to spend time with the wonderful mama. I am so grateful that we are starting to connect with this community in our new city.
We got home late at around 6pm. My eldest son decided he was too tired to make dinner this evening. So I finished cooking dinner while the kids played the kind of manic chasing game that exhaustion tends to bring on. After about fifteen minutes they all collapsed on the couch and put a movie on.
My daughter lost interest in the movie and went upstairs to her playroom again.
My six year old is a night owl. His sister was really tired from the playdate and got really upset close to the time she usually goes to sleep. She didn’t want me to lie down with her, so my eight year old offered. She calmed down and was excited about a sleep over. He read her some things from his ‘8000 things you should know’ book. Normally she wouldn’t be interested, but she was so tired she lay there and listened. After this, they fell asleep really quickly by 8pm.
I went and lay down with my six year old and we read some books. He wasn’t tired. Late at night is when his mind becomes active. He had lots of questions about diamonds and where you find them and how they are made. I suggested we go and find a documentary to answer his questions. He came downstairs and snuggled on the couch watching a documentary about diamonds while I watched a trashy HGTV renovation show with a cup of tea.
It was after 10, so I went and got everything prepared for bed while he finished his documentary and then he snuggled in next to me and went to sleep.
I like staying up for a while in the quiet after everyone is sleeping, so I stayed up and finished this post.
Just an average day and I am sure there are things that I missed, but hopefully it gives you an idea about how we move through the day and how questions and interests inspire the way things go.