I thought it might be time for another unschooling on Tuesday post.
I stopped writing these for a while for a few reasons. Firstly, it is impossible to capture everything that happens in a day. This has really been highlighted for me recently. All of my kids have had a few moments in recent weeks where they tell me about something (bees, mythical creatures, maths, architecture have been a few) and I think, I am with you all day and I have absolutely no idea where you learnt that! They are surrounded by books, the internet, movies, friends, life. Learning comes from so many different places and no matter how involved you are or how closely you feel like you are watching, it often doesn’t involve you. And, as I have learnt, sometimes the learning is instigated, researched, absorbed and then life goes on without you even noticing.
Secondly, it is hard not to make these posts sound too contrived. I’m not trying to make my kids out to be some kind of prodigies or try and make everything they do have some higher learning purpose. This isn’t the motivation. I can see how for someone who isn’t living this life, it might seem implausible for a child to suddenly really want to learn how to write in cursive, or learn about multiplying fractions or delve into the finer details of evolution. But on the other hand, this may very well be what kids get up to when everyone else gets out of the way of their learning. So even when I talk about my kids doing something quite ‘academic’, it isn’t because I care at all about the comparison, it just is what it is. Their questions and curiosity in that particular moment.
So here we are. I do think these kinds of posts are useful for people who are wondering what unschooling might look like. Or if you are like me and you take on some voyeuristic persona when it comes to reading about what other families living this wonderful life are doing, you will probably enjoy it too! I love hearing about and reading about how other families are spending their days.
We were thinking about catching up with friends today, but there wasn’t consensus amongst the ranks about what we should do, so we decided to stay close to home. I thought it might be a good day to record what we got up to.
My three year old and six year old were first up today, so we went downstairs and organised some breakfast together. My three year old got straight into modelling clay which she is enjoying spreading on the floor right now. It is the new kinetic sand invading my life. I have suggested plates, trays, boards but there is something about standing on clay on the floor that hits the spot for her right now. Precious creations are not so readily parted with when I would like to clean which I find hard, but it is pre-coffee for me so I take a breath and move on.
My six year old wanted to spend some money he had saved on something in roblox so I helped him with that while he ate his breakfast.
I heard my eight year old upstairs. He has been waking up and heading straight to the shower and brushing his hair which is very curly each day so that it doesn’t get tangled. He comes down each morning, showered, dressed and with his teeth brushed. He has come up with the self care routine himself and it is VERY different to what it looked like eighteen months ago when bathing was minimal, hair brushing was off limits and clothing optional. It is so interesting watching them come to these decisions in their own time.
My daughter wanted to bake a cake. She doesn’t really like eating cookies or cake, but she wants to bake each day. She likes having a few mouthfuls of batter before it gets to the oven. We made her favourite thing to mix up, ‘Camilla Cake.’ She calls everything vanilla, Camilla, which pulls at my heart every time. So many things in the world named for her.
The cake went in the oven and she wanted to head upstairs to build with some blocks. This was pretty short lived before the sunshine called us outside. Her brothers wanted to join as well so we all went into the backyard. At some point before we moved into this house, small plastic pellets were scattered across part of our yard. My kids think they are jewels and spend a lot of time hunting for them.
They had a plan to sell the jewels reaping thousands of dollars of profit. We discussed the fact that people can buy these for a relatively small amount of money in large quantities. My eight year old decided that he would sell them for $0.01 each. He said ‘if I sell 100 I will get a dollar and if sell 1000 I will get ten dollars.’
This lead into a discussion about what other things they could do to earn money. They talked about selling art. My six year old wanted to know what was the most expensive artwork ever sold. We learnt that it was Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci for $450 million dollars.
They couldn’t understand what made this particular painting so expensive compared to others. We talked about technique, the fact that it had survived hundreds of years well preserved, the significance of Leonardo da Vinci and supply and demand.
They were interested in this last one, so we delved further into supply and demand and how this affects price using a few examples.
Maybe I got a bit excited about economic theory, because suddenly, the conversation turned to skunks. Our dog got sprayed by a skunk last week and my eight year old wanted to know where the smell comes from and how it is sprayed. Oily spray from anal glands. My kids were equal parts disgusted and delighted.
All of these conversations took place while there were some epic swing moves, obstacle courses and stick battles. Learning on the move.
My eight year old had had enough and took himself upstairs. My younger two stayed outside to play. He got out laser maze which he hasn’t played with for a while and figured out some of the logic problems.
After that he called out to me and wanted to talk about drawing. He wants to be good at drawing. He tried a complicated youtube drawing tutorial over the weekend and got very upset and frustrated that his didn’t look like the artist’s and decided he wasn’t going to try anymore. He brought it up again today. ‘Will I ever be good?’
We had a discussion about what drives our interests and if we are following something we love, the results usually come naturally. Enjoying the process is just as, if not more important that the outcome. We sat down with some paper together and I suggested that he just draw patterns to get a feel for the pencil and what it looks like with different pressure and movement, with sketching and more solid lines.
At the end, he said, it doesn’t really look like anything. That wasn’t the point, which we talked about, but we also talked about abstract art and how a lot of artists create images that leave the meaning up to the viewer.
We have a great book, ‘What Is Contemporary Art? A Children’s Guide’ which we went and had a look at together. We looked at a bunch of artists that create art works that don’t really look like anything and are often untitled so that there can be many interpretations. He found this really fascinating and looked at the book for a long time. He also revisited a few of his other favourite chapters. It has been at least a year since this has come off the shelf and I was really amazed by how many of the artworks and their techniques he remembered from the last time we read it together.
Downstairs, his sister had made her way inside and was looking at some sand paper letters that were still out from yesterday. She wanted me to read some books with her. While I read she drew on my arm. I realised she was drawing letters and she started telling me their sounds. Once I was sufficiently tattooed and she had gotten her fix of flowers drawn on her, we headed back outside. My six year old was still outside on the swing.
My eight year old wanted to make up a new bo-staff vs katana routine. It is his favourite thing right now. We watched some of the star wars light saber rehearsals and he understood that it was something that was choreographed and practised. We are now practising new routines each day. I need better knuckle protection.
My younger two saw a bee and sat and watched it collect from the flowers. He told his sister about the two stomachs a bee has and how it creates honey. She thought it was gross but cool.
The boys headed inside to play Minecraft together. My daughter declared that I was the mummy mermaid and she was the baby mermaid and we needed to make a mermaid castle. This lasted about 45 minutes (which felt like a lifetime. Make believe is hard work for me) and then it was time to head inside and make lunch.
We all had some downtime over lunch. My daughter watched some paw patrol. My eight year old started a documentary about the creation of star wars and my six year old and I sat down to eat our lunch and chat.
He wanted to know what is the most powerful thing in the universe. He is going to knock it out of the park at trivia one day. He is constantly asking me ‘who is the strongest person in the world? Who has the second longest arms in the world? etc. His guesses were a laser, a black hole or a nuclear bomb. We did a bit of googling and it turns out that it is gamma-ray bursts from a hypernova. And a hypernova will form a supermassive black hole eventually so we looked at that as well. After looking at the size of a super star compared to our sun, we looked at the size of the earth in comparison to the sun. It is mind boggling. And the conversation continued into why there is life on Earth and not on Venus. Distances from the sun and what this means. What it would be like to live on Mars.
After this, he went and watched some dragon ball Z cartoons. I put a few things together for dinner to make prep a bit easier later before I was summoned again. The boys wanted to teach me some more Minecraft building techniques. I have been trying to learn so that I can play with them. It is actually really difficult! My eight year old showed me some of the commands he uses and some of the objects he has created with coding in his realm and the work involved is so intense! He has taught himself how to do this with a lot of online tutorials and some web pages that write out the command lines you can copy. We only played for a little bit because their sister was feeling left out and wanted to push lots of buttons, so we decided to head back outside to play.
My eight year old suddenly asked me what number 9 9 9 9 is. I was a bit surprised by this because he readily reads very large numbers. I got out some wooden number cards we have to demonstrate the place value of the numbers in case he was confused. He said, I knew it was that, but I am wondering why this character in the game that has this power is easier to defeat than one that has 1034. He thought it should be the other way around. We had a bit of a chat about what those numbers could mean in the stats.
The afternoon was full of lots more outside time, more magical mermaids and roblox for my six year old with his friends before their dad got home.
And that’s it. I am always surprised when I take notes about how much we cover even though today felt like a chilled out day. Today had a really beautiful rhythm and it didn’t feel like I was being pulled in too many directions. Sometimes when I think about our days it feels like we haven’t done a lot, but I realise that the depth of the conversations we have, the books we read, the games we play cover so much.