This year has seen us return somewhat to a looser, more unschooling approach to our days. At first, as usual, I found it hard to let the structures we had so carefully developed, honed and tweaked unravel! Unschooling does have a slightly unsettling chaos about it. It can also mean more mess and more parental facilitation ( at all hours of the day!) And yet there is also so much peace and joy in it too.
When the children were younger we often enjoyed seasons of unschooling but as they reached highschool age we began to structure our days around a curriculum.
Curriculums definitely have their benefits and we still incorporate curriculum material into our days ( see end of post for details) to keep the basics ticking over, but our kids seem to really thrive when given the opportunity to really focus on what they really live and have an interest in. Unschooling tends to lead to in-depth spurts of learning in specific areas of interest. This can leave ‘holes’ in some subjects which can be problematic but it’s amazing how many subjects one project will cover.Also, even in schools there are holes in the curriculum. Not all history can be covered and a lot of practical subjects aren’t covered. Taxation and mortgages aren’t covered in maths lessons and politics is often only briefly mentioned.
Even something as simple as an art project can develop and involve many other skills. For example, Seraphina has been working on creating colouring pages, downloadable prints and cards to sell online. This project began with art and ended with her learning IT skills, in order to enable pictures to print at different sizes without losing picture quality. It also involved her learning business skills and laws, accounting costs for time and materials and photography and social media skills so that she can present her artwork in the way she wants to. Here is a link to her shop.
This year has had a lot of loss for our family. The loss of my Dad effected the girls very deeply. It didn’t seem right to simply get back into our normal routine straight away. We needed time to grieve. My dear Mum has also needed a lot of extra care too which the girls have wanted to be involved with.
They have also had to navigate their own emotions surrounding the circumstances of this year. The fear that stems from loss and the deepening of faith that grows from greater clinging to God.
These are life lessons, real education, learning about values, learning about what matters most, learning what to put down in order to hold onto the most important things of all; faith in God, relationships, giving of self, supporting one another, work/life balance and meaningful work.
In the Spring, Seraphina really wanted to plant a garden in honour of her Grandad as he was a horticulturalist. She asked him lots of questions about what to grow and how to grow it which he loved to answer. She built a raised bed and put together a mini greenhouse. Some of her vegetables did very well while others succumbed to pests, blight, too much sun or not enough water. She learned how much physical effort goes into preparing and maintains potato beds. She also learned about how hard it is to grow your own food yet how rewarding it is despite the effort. I think these lessons were equally as valuable as anything she could have learned from a book.
This year, Boo has made the decision that music is going to be her main focus. She spends much of her day writing, recording and producing and has developed so much through that. Not just in terms of learning how to get a song out there, but also how the creative arts require as much discipline and effort as any other job if you want to create something of real and lasting value. She has also had to navigate the world of social media and has definitely become aware of its addictive effect. She has also experienced the rush and disappointment of gaining and losing likes and follows. Yet this has helped her understand the careful balance between allowing other’s ideas and encouragement to inspire without letting them effect the integrity of what she creates. She has had think about ‘relevance’ and ‘brand’ and how much she wants that to effect what she puts out there. Her song Good as Love was featured on BBC introducing last October. It was very emotional as she wrote that song for her Grandad who always supported and encouraged her in her music.
Tilly has also been doing lots of creative bits and bobs. During lockdown she has been learning guitar and piano, writing songs, crocheting clothes and making homemade balms and salves. She has also started writing a blog, got into calligraphy and has been designing journal pages.
Inspired by her big sisters Nola has written a song and with the help of her big sisters produced it and even made a little video for it. She has also discovered a keen interest in animals of all kinds and has made little projects and power-points on her favourite animal of the moment. This interest in animals was really inspired by a little wild baby bunny that we rescued and cared for earlier in the year. She has also been learning the recorder and realised that she actually enjoys writing stories contrary to previous experiences and is working on a children’s book.
Children will learn because it’s what they’re designed to do. They don’t have to be forced or coerced to learn. Unless, of course, it comes to subjects they really dislike. Everyone is made with unique gifts and individual quirks though. It’s unlikely someone will want a career in something they have never enjoyed doing and have no natural affinity for.
Still, we do keep up with maths, science, history and geography to ensure they know the basics in most subjects. But these lessons are done in a easy to digest way rather than through text books.
Below I’ve written down some of the more structured things we are still doing but bear in mind, although it looks like a fair bit on paper, we work through them at our own pace and only in the mornings so afternoons are completely freed up.
For Maths we use Life of Fred and Maths-watch.
Science is mainly kitchen experiments.
For geography we do map drawing, and learn about different countries and cultures through You Tube travel diaries.
For History we use Story of the World, Horrible Histories and the ‘You wouldn’t want to be’ book series. We also watch a lot of the Ruth Goodman documentaries. But even reading and watching period dramas, books and movies is a great way to learn history.
We also do a lot of Reading Aloud.
Matilda and Seraphina are enrolled on Catherine Mooney’s English Course. Matilda is learning French with Dreaming Spires and has virtual Violin lessons. Seraphina is working through her Lamda grades. Boo is doing singing grades and Nola is taking Piano lessons with her big Sis.
Nola also uses the free and excellent Good and Beautiful language Arts curriculum.
For Catechism, we are working through Our Lady of the Rosary Family Catechism and do Bible study as part of our morning basket.
(We don’t necessarily do a morning basket in the morning) ... ( in fact sometimes we do it in the afternoon or the evening or on weekends or not at all for a while) Sometimes, instead of Bible study we’ll learn about a Saint especially if it’s their feast day or perhaps play ( and try to sing along to) some lovely chants or hymns.
With things as they are in the world at the moment and with less ability to get out and about we’re putting our mental, emotional and spiritual needs first. We are being gentle on ourselves.
I hope you are all well too and being gentle with yourselves as well.