Coincidently enough, two of my homeschool email lists had posts from moms wanting to relax their homeschooling and asking what a "typical unschooling" day looked like. Well, we never really have a "typical day" around here as much of the time we are winging it. I have general ideas of things that I want to accomplish each day and we have our activities schedule which drives the schedule somewhat. A lot of what I capture on my blog is "typical day" stuff and so I have added a "Typical Days" category.
Yesterday was not exactly a typical day, but I thought that I would write about it because I think that it illustrates what a lot of people worry about when they start becoming "more relaxed". That the kids won't learn anything if they don't "do school".
I woke up all set to get the kids moving to their dentist appointments at 11am. Kyle woke up not feeling well and said that he had a headache. Turns out that he was running a fever. Time to rework our plans! Luckily other then the dentist appointment, we had nothing that we had to do. We had a very busy week…drove back from the beach on Monday. Tuesday we had co-op and karate. Wednesday we went to a cool traveling show called Native Lands and spent the whole day outside. Thursday we got our hair cut (and man did we need it) and games class. So today we were going to hang out at home. Which I guess is what we wound up doing, just slightly different then planned.
Since Kyle was feeling so badly and I had some things that I needed to get done for VaHomeschoolers I decided that it would be fine to have a total veg day. Which meant that Jason played a lot of game cube and we all watched a lot of movies. And did nothing that looked like school. So what did we do all day? Let's see…
Jason spent a lot of time working on his Paper Mario game. The interesting thing is that in the course of playing that video game, he needed cheats. Which meant that he needed to use the computer to find them (I am letting him do his own research and typing with my help). And once he found them he needed to find the applicable part. Which meant not only was he reading but he was skimming (the cheat was over 100 pages long and had walkthrough and tons of other game information) and using the info that he was reading to figure out where he was. Not an easy task for a kid who has only been reading for a year. Oh and don't forget that since he was using my laptop he spent quite a bit of time using my touchpad (working his fine motor skills - this was not really easy for him!) At one point in the cheats they had written the answers to some riddles backwards…at first this really challenged Jason, but by the end he was getting the hang of it (this was a great use of his visualization skills - something that he works on a lot in OT). Then the game itself is just a series of problems to solve, trial and error. Lots of critical thinking and problem solving and experimentation going on there. At a couple of points during the day, Jason did go outside and ride his scooter and jump on the trampoline as well.
I read several books to Kyle while he laid on the couch and we watched part of the original Pink Panther movie. The boys did not really like it too much, so we switched over to Ice Age. I love that I now have a laptop because I can spend more time with the boys while they are playing or watching and I can get things done as well. It is fun to just hang out with them and we had some really nice and fun convesations. Kyle napped on and off throughout the day and I got some things done around the house. Then I remembered that we had taped a program off the science channel called the Unfolding Universe…all about black holes and space and cool stuff. We watched that until bedtime. Jason really got into it and was asking all sorts of questions and was surprised by some of the things that he learned (like how when the sun becomes a red giant it will engulf the earth's orbit so that the earth is just an ember rotating within the sun).
So here we basically had a day where "all" we did was watch tv and play video games. Yet I can see where learning did take place. Does this mean that all I want is for my kids to sit around and play video games and watch tv all day? No…but not because learning won't happen (because it does). Rather because there is so much to life and part of my job is to expose them to new and exciting things. So we do many different things, but those things also include video games and tv. For us, it is all about that ellusive thing called balance.
What I have found is that seeing the learning that happens when we are "doing nothing all day" helps me become more comfortable with relaxing my homeschooling. As my friend Shay likes to say, "there are no educational emergencies". If you "miss" something and it is really important enough, there will be plenty of other opportunities to learn it.
So my advice to you, if you want to relax your homeschooling, is to start small and ease into it. Start letting go of your "school work" gradually and start looking for the learning that is going on. My personal feeling is that everyone has their own comfort level and you need to work with that. Of course others recommend to go cold turkey at first…whatever works for you! There is no right way or right destination. Follow your gut, look for the learning and see where it takes you. That is the beauty of homeschooling. You are never stuck. If something is not working for you, keep looking until you find something that does work. It is up to you.
And now it looks like I caught what Kyle had. Joy of joys. I think that we may need to find a friend for Jason to go play with so us two sickies can crash all day. The fun never ends…