Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to (Un)School!

"When are you guys starting school?"   This has been the question of the past month.  It's on everyone's minds and on the tips of their tongues.  It's what everyone wants to know. It seems to be the question that every homeschooler weaves into every conversation with another homeschooler and it's blazing all over Facebook and other social media sites.

So...when do we start school??  

If only there was a simple answer to that question for us.  Like August 14th or August 26th or September 3rd.  But as unschoolers, the truth of the matter is that my answer to this question isn't really all that quick and easy to give.  Simple?  To us, yes.  It's delightfully simple.  But for folks wanting a quick and easy answer (a date)'s a bit more complex.  

To say we never stop or we learn all year round might give the impression to most that we "do school" all.year.long.  Ugh.  Not at all what I wish to convey.

To say we NEVER EVER start school gives a whole different negative impression.  Technically, it's true.  We never "start school".  We don't "do school".  Nope. Not our focus at all.  But we do learn.  Goodness, do we learn!  We joyfully pursue interests and passions, work on individual skills and projects, go to interesting places and meet up with awesome people, and focus on setting and achieving personal goals.

Our goofy attempts at a "Back-To-(Un)School" pic.
The answer I tend to give is that as fall approaches, our routine begins to shift.  Everyone else goes back to school (most homeschoolers included). Our homeschool co-op  and art class starts back up sometime in mid-September.  The tea set gets dusted off, new family read alouds are chosen and goals for the coming year are discussed as we go along our merry way.  

Honestly, by the time September is here, we all start getting restless for a little shift in the routine. Summer is full of friends and sports camps and swimming and nature study and the beach and family vacations.  Coming into fall, basketball and hockey season feels dangerously imminent.  And I have to say that while these sports are two of our children's chosen passions and we LOVE THEM wholeheartedly (borderline obsessively), they do bring about a temporary end to life as we know it.  So after the mix of wildly hectic and much needed lazy days of summer -and- before sports become the epicenter of our lives, we feel a strong pull for something *different*.  A bit of a different rhythm.  A tad different routine.  Not much different.  Just a tiny bit.  Just enough.

You may ask, "if you don't *do school*, what exactly do you do?".

Short answer:  We follow our interests and pursue our goals. 

Longer, more rambling answer:

For my 9 year old son, plans would include but not in any way be limited to - having me read aloud to him, watching lots of documentaries, playing video games (!), reading on his own (with a bit of help from time to time), learning to type and being able to spell some things without having to ask me or his dad all the time (not surprisingly, related to video game interest), playing games more often (Apples to Apples, Sequence Numbers, Bugopoly, Rummikub, Uno and the like), going to some more military battle/war re-enactments, having a regular tea time complete with yummy snacks and the aforementioned read alouds, learning to cook and bake (like his father does so well), riding his bike, doing some awesome experiments (time to open up the crystal growing kit), learning more about electricity, earth science, astronomy, military history, tanks, battles, wars, weapons, tornadoes, hurricanes, the Titanic and other shipwrecks and disasters, playing with friends, going to a natural history or other science museum, working on his handwriting (in his mind this is tied into the tea and yummy snack time), working on his drawing skills and possibly exploring cursive.  I'm sure there's about a gazillion things I've left out! 

My 12 (almost 13!) year old daughter will continue with her passion for nature study - drawing us all in as she goes. In addition to her nature explorations, she'll spend the majority of her time cooking, baking, cake decorating and devoting herself to her current all-encompassing passion for crafting, jewelry design and researching and implementing related business ideas...from the moment she wakes up till the moment she passes out at night.  It has been my experience that not many 12 year old girls express a need to have their own personal drill and solder gun! This middle child of mine is also curious about the Life of Fred math books so we'll be checking that out to see if it's a good fit for her pattern loving brain. :)

My oldest daughter has plans to pursue her interest in photography, devote a good portion of her time to fitness and nutrition in preparation for basketball season (basketball is her all-consuming passion), spend as much time as possible with her friends and listening to her beloved music, continue reading books of her choosing as well as some that I suggest (book selections that we read, share and discuss together), getting her learner's permit as soon as it is feasibly possible and filling out job applications in her quest for flexible employment (the "need" for funds has recently become highly important). She also has a couple of more traditional looking academic goals she'll be working on in a very relaxed and unschoolish fashion including algebra (insert a tiny shudder from me) and a living books based unit study on biology (about which the Charlotte Mason method groupie in me is super excited about).

Rounding out their learning, both girls also lend a helping hand with family projects, join in for our family read alouds, watch a variety of documentaries and enjoy our nature walks and trips to museums.

Another component that is crucial to this lifestyle of learning is my involvement.  I facilitate, expose, encourage, share, chauffeur, assist, involve and invite.  We've all found genuine enthusiasm to be wonderfully contagious...both theirs and mine.  And so we share our lives, our interests, our gifts, our skills and our passions.  We laugh together, discuss & debate anything and everything under the sun, wonder, ponder and ask lots of questions, seek answers, argue, fight & generally annoy one another, apologize, offer support, and overall delight in each other's company.

And there ya have it.  Our back to (un)school plans.  What we do. Shifting with the seasons, we continue to learn.  We live our lives, follow our interests and pursue our goals...without school.