Oh, my. It is all kinds of cold out there.
The sort of cold that chases even the sheep inside to escape the wind.
The sort of cold that has the eggs – just laid this morning – frozen solid before we can hurry them into the house.
Last night the wind shook the whole house, and I gave thanks for the strong branches and deep roots on the trees outside our bedroom.
That kind of cold.
Yes, this is Wisconsin. And yes, it's January. But still. That cold wind means business.
Enough so that schools are cancelled for the fourth? fifth? time this winter.
I briefly contemplated us taking the day off, too. A homeschool snow day! How fun is that?
And then my kids, just in from farm chores, set to work on their learning projects.
No one asked them to. Or told them to. Or even hinted.
It's just what they do. Day after day.
Sage is making a model of a nuclear reactor out of straws, bottles, and cardboard.
Lupine is creating her own letter book with each letter representing a country ("What 'I' words come from Japan?…ooh! Island!")
I guess that settles it. Homeschool as usual.
Because we don't follow a curriculum.
We don't sit down and "do school".
We learn – all day, everyday.
But that said, I'm not sure there is a name for what we do.
When the kids were small I identified myself as a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler.
I think mostly I liked the soft colors and the wooden toys, an understated contrast to the flashing lights and bright plastic found in most playrooms.
I loved the dolls. The blocks. The songs. The magic.
I loved that children are not taught to read until eight or nine years old.
Okay, mostly I loved the gnomes.
Love, love, love.
But as the kids got older I discovered that I wasn't really Waldorf.
What I adopted was mostly the aesthetic and the commitment to natural materials.
Waldorf homeschooling schedule for learning? Not so much.
I wasn't ready to dig in and do school at home in a Waldorf way.
But I took so much away from Waldorf that we still enjoy, day after day.
So I sat with it a bit and realized that what we were doing was much more like unschooling than Waldorf.
Everything in it's own time.
Math from real life.
Children in charge of their own reality; their own learning.
Oh, yes. That felt so right… at first.
But lately I'm realizing that we might not be unschoolers either.
Not in the "radical unschooling" definition that has become the norm anyway.
Because unschooling as a philosophy can bring with it a whole package of things we just don't do either.
We limit media.
We actively encourage projects (nudge! nudge! push!) that will help our kids acquire skills.
We make our kids do chores. (Lovingly, yes, but we make them do it just the same.)
And we hang out around the table every day, doing lessons – working on skills that we want to develop, even if they are hard and we sometimes want to quit.
I think I was drawn to the freedom of unschooling, but just enough to fit our personalities.
Maybe that still makes us unschoolers. But maybe not. I don't really know.
So today I'm not sure what we are.
Like other parts of my life, I'm happy to just make it up as I go along without having a name for it.
I think if I had to choose a name for what we do I would call us "interest-led, project-based unschoolers."
Because our days are driven by our interests.
And almost everything they learn comes through hands-on, real-life projects, of their own choosing.
Like the business my kids are starting (together).
Like the lessons they take each week in town.
Like the only "schooly" thing we do – math lessons – around our table each morning. They chose that. They wanted to take their skills further. And I'm pushing them along to stick with it.
And the thing is, even when we don't make time for math around the table learning is happening.
Through exploring the world.
Through walks in the woods.
Through projects and baking and crafts and books.
Through this life, lived deeply every day.
Because, you know what? We couldn't stop learning – even if we wanted to.