Guidance for New Homeschooling & Unschooling ParentsJan 03, 2022
With the recent announcement of children not going back to school in person, I wanted to give you a quick dose of inspiration. I'm here to share a bit of our experience as home learners, to guide parents who have chosen this new journey, or for those who feel overwhelmed and were suddenly thrown into this homeschooling and unschooling world - again!
First, breathe. Everything will be ok. It is indeed a big change, for children and parents. It can also be an exciting change if everyone is gentle with themselves.
I can’t even believe it myself, but we’ve been homeschoolers/unschoolers for almost 10 years now! It first started with a need to figure out what the heck we were going to do at home with our own child, when we missed the deadline of signing up our Caribbean-born child to private school before she was even born! It didn’t feel right to me to send her off after she could barely walk.
The adventure began…
First and most importantly, I can say that child-led and project-based learning, following the interest and curiosity of our children, is always what led us to true learning. When in doubt, or if I found myself micro-managing my children, with the resistance building up, the trick was to sit back, observe and listen.
There are days when I stuck to Waldorf based curriculum, but whenever tension arose, I listened to my kids and this opened up so many possibilities for us. It organically led to a beautiful life of freedom - for both parents and children! My kids always showed me which direction to flow in, and how they wanted to learn.
If you’d asked me pre-children if I’d ever considered homeschooling, it would have been a hard no. My perception was flawed, and I barely even knew this life existed. It's definitely a transition, but well worth trusting and listening to our children.
I don’t consider myself a teacher, but more so a mentor. In fact, my children have taught me more than I could ever “teach” them! It took me way longer to “deschool” myself from old ways, and going beyond the simply memorizing, and then forgetting method of "learning". My children show me what they want to learn, and I mentor them. This way, the knowledge sticks. And it always leads us into rich conversations, and all the traditional “subjects”, which I knew from my schooling days.
Some people might imagine our life with children running wild, climbing walls, and fending for themselves. Ok, maybe the running wild part is true on some odd days, but as parents, we have an important role in deeply connecting and allowing our children to show us their gifts, and then facilitating and guiding them into a direction to further explore and go deeper.
“The function of education is to help a person from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be true to his/her own self all the time. Freedom is the basic motto of Education.” - Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
We also pride ourselves on our deep commitment to connecting our children with the natural world through nature-based play and projects. Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health. There is growing evidence that children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Without direct experiences in nature, research findings suggest that children are missing opportunities to enhance their health and well-being and to develop responsible long-term environmental behaviour. So whenever tension arises, and learning seems to be stagnant, we head outside!
As all of life is interconnected, so is the life learning “curriculum” within our home….
I would love to give you the magic formula. That step-by-step guide that worked for us. But really, it’s non-existent. Every family is different, and heck, even my own family is different every year, as my children grow and their passions and interests change.
Our unique approach and dynamic life learning “curriculum” has evolved over years of listening to those who matter most: our kids! We literally have changed our approach every single year, and it’s been accompanied by lots of field trips and worldschooling (living in other cultures) experiences, which are another key component to learning other ways beyond our own. Our curriculum emphasizes holistic learning values such as: understanding our place and potential within the universe, physical health and nutrition, energetic health and mindfulness, and connection to the natural world and dynamic communities.
Trilingual literacy is integrated into everyday life, rather than being taught as an isolated, disconnected discipline. Even though I’d love the pride myself on children who are trilingual, it’s been a rocky road in this area, and I’d have to say the best language tool I’ve found is full emersion in a country which speaks only this language! This is where worldschooling came in as my teacher’s aid! And of course, loving family and friends who spoke their native language to my kids.
Empowering children (and parents) to develop their authentic passions, purpose, and life path requires an approach that is led by the child, and then facilitated and guided by the parent. And a whole lot of trust to "swim with the current" during consistently uncertain times. Just like nature, life is beautifully impermanent.
Project-based learning theme ideas...
Mindfulness/Bucket Filling, Community Development, Rewilding & Nature Connection, Permaculture/Ecoliteracy, Holistic Health and Nutrition, Herbalism & Sacred Earth Medicine, Cooking and Baking, Body Wisdom (Anatomy/Body Awareness/Sacred Sexuality), World Geography, Natural Home and Body Care, Sustainability, Sacred Geometry, Ancient Civilizations, Spirituality and Religion, Quantum Physics/Cosmos/Astrology, Animal Friends (Animal Care: Homesteading/Conservation), First Nations/Indigenous Cultures, Creativity, Art, Spirituality, Money/Finances/Budgeting/Cryptocurrencies, Love, Integrity, Happiness, Relationships, Leadership, Purpose and Following Dreams, Etc.
Life learning skill ideas...
Camping, Knitting/Sewing, Cooking/Baking, Boating/Fishing, Hunting, Mechanics, Robotics, Gardening/Permaculture, Farming/Animal Care, Foraging, Yard Maintenance, Carpentry, Kayaking, Bike Riding, Horseback Riding, Crafting/Building Projects, Painting, Fire Building, Primitive Skills, Beading (Hair & Jewelry), Weaving, Playdough (Surprise Balls), Clay Sculpting, Music/Jam Sessions, Singing, Sharing Circle, Meditation/Mindfulness, Etc.
My favourite homeschooling and unschooling books...
- How Children Learn (Canada / USA)
- How Children Fail (Canada / USA)
- Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (Canada / USA)
- Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling (Canada / USA)
- The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming the Wonder in Your Child's Education, A New Way to Homeschool (Canada / USA)
- The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom (Canada / USA)
- Radical Unschooling - A Revolution Has Begun (Canada / USA)
- Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling (Canada / USA)
- Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Canada / USA)
- Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World (Canada / USA)
- Life Through the Lens of Unschooling: A Living Joyfully Companion (Canada / USA)
All the best on your home learning adventure!
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