Struggles With Unschooling

We've been having so much fun on our week off and the boys have been engaged in so much learning I'm really thinking it might be time to revisit our unschooling goals.  I started homeschooling with the goal of becoming unschoolers and while we have had fits and starts of unschooling we mostly end up falling somewhere in the middle of traditional homeschooling and unschooling.

We've struggled with unschooling for a few reasons:

  1. I've been trying off and on for two years to embrace the unschooling philosophy fully.  It's hard to shake off that mindset that learning looks like school work.  
  2. The boys don't seem to enjoy this philosophy as much as I thought they would; They usually start begging me to take over, plan, and teach (dare I say entertain?) them in just a few short weeks.  
  3. It's not always as supported by my husband and family as I would like.  I feel much more defensive when we rely on unschooling than on more traditional homeschooling methods.
  4. I hardly know any homeschoolers who rely on an unschooling philosophy so I am not able to talk out my fears and find support as much as I'd like to out in the homeschooling community either. 
  5. We start to spend our days watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer as a way to fill our time and stop ourselves from becoming bored.  While all of those activities can be great when they're being pursued passionately; I find that they can be just a distraction too.
  6. The lack of a clear defined schedule makes us all feel a bit on edge and we tend to bicker more. 
This past week has been great though and the boys have found a good balance between video games, TV, movies, and active pursuits like digging in the dirt, building with Lego sets, painting, riding bikes, etc.  I've hardly even had to make suggestions so I'm wondering if now would be another time to try embracing unschooling.

Here's just a small sampling of ways they've been learning on their own this morning: 

  • The younger boys had a sleepover in Alec's room last night.  They had built a fort in Evan's room yesterday between his two beds and brought a battery powered light inside.  They wanted to sleep in Evan's room and use his fort but it just wan't big enough and since one of his beds is completely covered in Lego pieces we convinced the boys to sleep in Alec's room.  They were loud and up late and while part of me found it annoying I knew it was more important to let them make their memories together.  They've been spending all their time together for three days in a row and I'm amazed that they aren't sick of each other yet.  They were the first ones up in the house this morning and their playing and talking soon woke up everyone else. (socialization/ cooperation/ construction/ problem solving)
  •  They asked me to read Harry Potter during breakfast this morning so we read another chapter together.  (reading)
  • They all cleaned up after breakfast and went to clean their rooms, get dressed (in clean PJ's) and brush teeth.  Evan helped Alec make his bed and they all quietly went back to playing when they were done. (life skills)
  • Ian called me downstairs and asked if we were going to fill out a Year In Review page about 2014 and set a few goals for 2015.  He had noticed this page on my desk for a few days and kept asking me when we were going to get around to using it.  I told him he was more than welcome to fill it out.  I sat with him and listened to his answers, helped him think beyond his typical responses and learned about what we do for school that really sticks with him and what he'd like to change.  Evan also filled one out and I was glad to see the variety in the answers and know what they'd like to learn about this year so I know what materials to provide them with.  (writing/ setting goals).
  • Alec pulled his whole marble maze thing apart, sorted all the pieces out on our dining table and set to putting it back together the right way.  He got up to the step that had given him difficulty last time and then decided it was time to take a break.  He likes putting the whole thing together but the pieces really snap together quite forcefully and his hands start to hurt after awhile.  (math/ logic/ following directions)

  • Ian had been asking his brothers if they wanted to work with him to build a really big fort in the playroom.  He started describing what he wanted to do and got them excited and on board with his project.  The boys all worked together to put a huge fort together in the playroom.  They called me into their brainstorming session (which I believe they called their brain talk) and asked me for my opinion on their plan.  They gathered in our dining room and took all the cushions off our couch and chairs from the formal living room.  They told me they wanted a fort that stretched from the back of the couch to the top of the TV.  Evan suggested they stack the pillows and cushions to make pillow pillars but Ian though the kitchen chairs would make sturdier supports.  They decided what sheets and blankets to use and set to work gathering materials and supplies.  (cooperation/ teamwork/ building/ problem solving)

They all took a break from their morning activities and made lunch.  We sat down to eat together.  and listened to some more of our Harry Potter book (reading).

Once the fort was together and staying they clamored inside and asked if they could play Mario Kart together.  After a few rounds the winner was declared and the winner got to chose a movie for them all to watch.  They put Blank Check in, popped some popcorn and settled down for a relaxing afternoon.  I love knowing they'll have such wonderful memories of our day to day life when they get older.

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  1. I really identify with your struggle. And reading about your boys' activities reminded me of how much fun it is to have boys all under the same roof, doing things together.

    1. It certainly can be a lot of fun. I love watching them work and play together... when they're not fighting. :)

  2. I wish that I had been brave enough to try unschooling from the beginning. But I had been a classroom teacher in a traditional school, and it was so hard to get past those ideas!

    1. Me too and I found it SO hard to let go of my idea of learning! I often say that being a teacher first has hampered me more than helped me to homeschool.

  3. This resonates SO much with me and our experience. I've found a balance works much better for us. Good to know we're not alone :)

    1. It makes me feel good too to know we're not alone! :)

  4. This is my plythe currently. When I don't have a schedule or idea of what we should do (2 boys 8 & 7), we can sometimes do tons of things w/o trying. And other days, my boys play, play, play. Not that they aren't learning, but I feel I may not be giving them enough structure, direction or help with their passions. Which, I don't even think they've discovered yet.

    1. Yeah, it's hard when they have no set passion and you can't see the learning taking place. I often plan a few activities, art projects, science experiments, etc. just so I have something to suggest. Unschoolers rely a lot on strewing-- putting out materials, books, and supplies that entice their children to learn through play but I'm not that great at remembering to strew as I tend to focus more on picking up and organizing! How long have you been homeschooling/ unschooling? It might just take a while for you to find what works best for you and your boys. Maybe sprinkling in a few lessons/ activities each day would satisfy all of you as far as structure goes and feeling like you are giving them enough and it would still give them lots of time to play.


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