Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Back to School when you're an Unschooler

Unschooling sounds like a strange and radical term. 
Yet in practice it is simply the concept of life learning. 

Unschooling defines learning as a process, a becoming and something which enriches your mind, body and soul.

It is the way human beings have naturally learned for millennia.
 Learning through practical application, in response to natural need.

Learning by example from family and community in security and love.

Learning seems to happen effortlessly when we are all simply engaged in our own passions.
 Coming together at various times to share our pursuits and interests with another, or to collaborate on projects. 

 Often the main lesson of the day, for both the girls and I,  is a lesson in connection and authenticity.

When I find myself pushing and shoving the girls into work they find irrelevant, we all burn out.
 And all there is to show for the effort is a pile of scratched in worksheets for "proof"
And the peace  that is meant to be at the heart of it all is left wanting.

Am I motivated by fear or love?

Our learning journey is focused on priorities. I want to be mindful of what really matters most to us as a family and as human beings.

This usually means relationship, soul and authenticity come first.

Learning grows organically from nutrient rich soil.

The nutrients of our soil are
  • Gentle rhythms
  • Strong connections
  • Healthful food
  • Spiritual practices such as prayer, and meditation
  • Creativity
  • Handwork
  • Nature
  • Community
  • A wide variety of experiences and learning opportunities


When we trust our natural rhythms and our bodies needs things work out for the best.

Learning to integrate our bodies natural rhythms to seasonal rhythms is an important part of connecting with our bodies.  
We celebrate the changing seasons of the year with crafts, songs, nature walks and cooking.
Over the weekend we read "Children of the Forest" together and had much fun replacing the Summer nature table with treasures for the early Autumn nature table.
 Boo's Papier Mache rainbow bowl full of shells was replaced with Emmy's hand woven willow basket for acorns, conkers and all manner of Autumn treasures we shall find over the next couple of months.
We lit Matilda's lantern and sang an Autumn verse.
The girl's made a little fire out of sticks and yellow leaves and our friendly witch sat on a tree stump for a cup of tea!
We also made a felt leaf garland, and the girls had a lot of fun taking it in turns choosing and threading their own Autumn leaf.

autumn nature table

We read aloud, practiced pieces of music, wrote stories, plays, poems and baked good warm

From gently watered roots branch, leaf and bud grow strong.

books for autumn


  1. Beautiful! I have terrible panics every now and again, but always come back to "just" living. :)

  2. oh my goodness suzy, this is just lovely. and reflects my thoughts and attitudes exactly. blessings on your new "school" year.

  3. Lovely words. I too feel energised now that the schools are back. It makes it quieter where we live so we actually feel like going out and enjoying the beautiful area we live in.

  4. I get all excited by planning, although over the years we've ebbed and flowed between more structured Waldorf-inspired main lessons and a more autonomous approach. I'm feeling that gentle shift again to something a little more 'open' (although the over-arching themes of the 3rd grade year that my daughter is entering from a Waldorf pov enthuse me and will continue to permeate what we do, I've just been doing a lot of thinking re 'formal main lessons' *again* (I've been home-edding for a while now and recognise these natural changes in approach).

    We celebrated our 'first day back' (*cough*) with a walk in the fields - which was lovely as the children had been so busy playing out with their friends that we hadn't done that since before the school holidays and it was good to get back to it.

  5. Living and learning go hand in hand, I keep telling myself this as we begin our unschooling journey. I have a feeling I will have moments like yours in years to come, when I feel like I should be "teaching" more, hopefully my little man will remind me to calm down and relax :)

  6. Lovely post Suzy, and beautiful photos. I know what you mean when you talk about wondering whether we are acting out of love or fear, so easy to confuse the two...perfect love casts out all fear, I need to remember that :) (Oh and what lovely old books, a treat to take in) xx

  7. this being my first official year as an unschooling mum i can say i have similar feelings you do. i love new beginnings, freshly sharpened pencils and other school supplies. and the last two weeks i went a little nuts trying to make some kind of schedule for our days feeling unseen pressures from society and family now that my boy is kindergarten age. the tension it added to our days was not a positive influence for "school" by any means. i think i've scared my son from school forever now. we are back to doing what we've always done and are going to be a part of this larger unschooling family (near and far) that i've been so inspired by - you being one of my influences. i love all your sentiments on what truly matters. sending you lots of love, light, and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils.

  8. Oh nunu, thank you so much for these words :) They warm my heart and soul! So good to know that others are sharing the path with you. xx


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