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An example of unschooling: how children who aren't taught learn

Beverley Paine, November 2019

The grandkids came over today (age 4 and 6) to 'play'. Over four hours we:

  • made papier mache bowls using balloons
  • painted our bowls
  • child-led science experiment: do eggs crack if they are frozen?
  • found a blue tongue lizard, checked for ticks
  • played Junior Monopoly
  • played Beetle
  • did a puzzle
  • talked about and played with Fabuland people
  • ate lunch
  • wrote letters and numbers on the deck with chalk
  • pretended the chalk was make-up and 'made up' our faces in front of the mirror, pretending to be characters from literature
  • designed and created a 'trap' using rope to trap granddad
  • played in the pool, demonstrated new skill of going under water in the pool, created novel moves for a 'parade' in the pool
  • checked on the progress of growing crystals
  • made models from plaistocene using illustrations in a book as a guide
  • counted 'eyes' on plaistocene monster creation

Our grandkids live next door so it is easy for them to visit when they feel the need for burst of grandparent energy. Today they walked in the door and we simply got busy doing whatever...

This is unschooling. It's busy. It flows. The only hassle is keeping up with the tidying up afterwards. If there are any hesitations or reluctance we 'flow' a different direction. It's very flexible, open to change.

And I know they're learning. It's so obvious that they are.

There is so much of the early childhood curriculum across all subjects packed into those four hours. That's why I love natural learning and unschooling so much.

I am 90% engaged during these sessions - and it is great that I can send the kids home to their parents, but I also know that our time together works because they've done what they wanted in their way at a pace that works for them. My only suggestions were the bowls and the pool. My guess is that they probably watched TV when they got home, or played computer games or watched Youtube, or simply got busy individually playing with their toys - balancing that burst of busy time with down time (consolidating, reflecting, resting).

I find that when I take the time to notice and track what the children are saying and doing over a day it is easy tick off curriculum outcomes.

Unschooling works because it grows out of the child's needs. Once we let go of our expectations, assumptions and investments in what we think they should know and be learning unschooling gets easier and easier. :-)

I am glad my grandkids haven't experienced school and only know this learning lifestyle.

Not everyday with the grandkids 'flows' as well as this, but because we know them well we know when to back off, make adjustments, offer 'backdoors' (escape routes), etc. The less organised and structured I am the better the 'flow' happens. What I find critical is to be organised with materials - to have things on hand, easy and quick to find. My role is much more a facilitator and materials gatherer/provider, but mostly I sit and play with the kids, do what they day. Really, I'm just a big kid.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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