We’re doing school.


We've been unschoolers since the start.

That means we follow the leads of our children with our learning. We don't work off of a curriculum. We don't "do school" at all. Instead we learn as we go, day by day. Their interests lead the direction in which we travel.

Some days around here look pretty schoolie, with text books and experiments scattered around the kitchen, but most days do not.

Instead we learn while we cook, while we garden, while we travel, and while we play.

Frankly, we love it. Unschooling has been a perfect fit for our family.

And now Sage is ten. He's ten!

Ten feels big. Not because I'm remembering who I was or what I knew by ten, but simply because of the accelerating I'm feeling with his growing up. As he put it, "In that much time again I'll be 20!" Right? I'm not even sure how that is possible, but I checked his math and he's spot on.

And during the past few weeks I decided that he is old enough to be pushed our of his comfort zone and into some of the learning he has been less enthusiastic about. A loving nudge that will lead to leaps in understanding, while still (mostly) unschooling.

And we've never done this before.

We have never ever done school.

Sage was not taught to read. He learned organically, not unlike a child learns how to walk or talk when given a nurturing environment in which to grow. We were all trust and allowing and he learned when he was ready.

But now… now I want to balance all of that trust and allowing and ease with a little nudge towards long division. I think he's ready, and after ten years with this boy I think I understand how he works.

That the initial discomfort is holding him back. That he'll need to get it wrong before he gets it right.

And maybe unschooling means following their interests first and then noticing how their temperaments are holding them back and work with both.

So we've done it.

We've scheduled a block of time each day to, well, to "do school". Starting today. I am focusing on the areas where I think we have gaps (spelling, math, and handwriting specifically) and then we'll fill the remainder of the morning with the lessons they are so excited about they could hardly sleep. (That would be chemistry for Sage and portrait drawing for Lupine.)

And for me this is a new path. I'm as nervous/excited as the kids. I woke at 5 to have time to check email and post the blog. Because I don't want to be distracted during the day by all that I didn't get done.

We'll hit the ground running in a couple of hours and see how far we go.

Starting something new is simultaneously exciting and uncomfortable. Change is like that. Sage was resistant to the idea of something too structured. But once we went over the rhythm together and he saw the built-in free time and reading time and outside time he embraced it. With gusto even.

I expect that he'll be up by 6, ready to get started.

Yes, today is a nudge into the discomfort for me as much as for my kids. We're all in this together. Stretching, growing, changing.

And I think that's right where we belong.



19 thoughts on “We’re doing school.

  1. Dark Blue Dragon says:

    The beauty of home schooling!! I love it. Once you get the hang of it, you will make it work for all of you, in your gentle, loving way. You always seem to do that, you are amazing like that.

    good luck and have fun.
    Happy “Not back to school”!!!

  2. Tameka says:

    this is so timely! today, my son began kindergarten and although i like the school and his teacher, i wish, i wish, and i wish i could home/unschool him. boy would i love to travel, hike, garden, play, etc. and have each activity, especially his favorites, be an educational opportunity that’s not tied to the conventional school calendar. i am currently working on my finances and hope to leave my job within a year.
    best wishes on your unschooling adventures!!

  3. Ginny says:

    Rachel, this is very much how we school at my house. We work on a few important areas, the ones that present a struggle, and most of the rest is a bit more organic. It works for us! I hope your day goes well! We are in the middle of a two week break, picking up the math again next week….

  4. Gem says:

    Thanks for sharing your unschooling story. I find it so inspiring, as I watch my one year old learning to walk and exploring the world so voraciously. I want so badly to protect that spirit of curiosity, bravery and excitement in her.

    Your Story about learning to read organically reminds me of my father, who at four years old stood at my grandmother’s shoulder and began reading the newspaper out loud. No one knew he could read, and they were flabbergasted. Sixty years later, and I know few people who love to read as he does. As a little girl, I was self-taught as well, all those hours sitting with my dad pretending to read like he did just let the words seep right in to me. A lovely way to come to a love for the written word.

  5. mommymita says:

    We take it year by year, child by child and no two years or children are alike…….this year we are shifting from unschooling to a little more structure, we just added an “f” and call it funschooling!

  6. L*Joy says:

    I love this. Sage is blessed to have parents that see his abilities and potentials, and know how to lovingly encourage them to grow! “Nudging” is a great word for it…
    There are so many things in life that I did not know I even should or could be interested in learning, but after being exposed to them, realized the beauty and benefit of learning those things. I hope to be the sort of parent for my daughter that shines a light into unknown corners to help her figure out why it is worth navigating over there. Keep up the good learning work.

  7. kimberly says:

    I love the freedom of homeschooling. This time of year is crazy busy on the farm and so we will be a bit more purposeful come October about our learning. Right now, we’re all busy harvesting and preserving and working on what must happen before winter descends.
    And of course, we are learning. In the middle of it all, we learn.
    It’s also wonderful as we work through this journey as a family to evaluate what does and does not work in different seasons and times. I think it’s so important!

  8. Hillary says:

    This is *exactly* where we are at this year. My oldest is 8 and over the past year I’ve been feeling like he needs some nudging. Much like a mama bird would encourage her baby. Unlike your son mine has not learned to read on his own. He’s really struggling with it which prompted me to make it a priority in my end to walk him through a system and stick with it. I’ve learned so much about him and his learning style. That he shys away from anything that he hasn’t already mastered and needs lots of encouragement when he’s tackling new skills. We’re doing a lot more planning to make sure his needs are met and we’re already finding that we are able to do a lot more interesting things/crafts/activities by using some curriculum for inspiration. Anyways, loved eating that you are in a similar place and look forward to reading along!

  9. Aimee says:

    I am nudging my 8th and 7th graders along this year too after many years of relaxed learning. They are ready though! They are not burnt out of “school” or learning so they are tackling math and grammar and other skills really quickly and well!

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