A Rich and Varied Life for a Six Year Old

This description came in response to a specific question: In AlwaysLearning in early 2012, someone wrote:
Can someone illustrate a hypothetical unschooling day for me please?

I have a 2, 4, and 6 year old. I keep switching back from self-directed learning with my 6 year old, to me planning short "lessons", and back to self-directed learning (because "why are you forcing me to do this boring stuff!")..

Julie M responded:
I also have a 2, 4, and 6 year old, but am never remotely tempted to give short lessons. 😉

I'll describe our lives today:

Tyler (4) got up first, which is normal for him. He spent some time sneaking peaks at the painters working on our walls downstairs. He was too shy to go close, but was really interested in what they were doing. Audrey (2) got up next and I got them both dressed. James (6) sleeps late because he is on my (night owl) schedule and is a night owl himself. He wakes naturally 95% of the time, but today I woke him up to make lunch and a playdate with another unschooler and her son (Hi Marin!). We got in the car and met Marin for lunch. Afterwards, we went to a park to play on the playgrounds. It was sunny and very warm here and the kids were content for hours. James is typically introverted and has never been in any forced child-corralling situation, so I pay close attention at how he interacts with other kids and I was pleased that he was comfortable and happy to play. I wasn't "looking for learning" at the playground, but upon reflection now in writing this, it's clear that a lot was going on: Social dynamics, cooperation, compromise and problem solving, experiments in physics galore on equipment, tests of personal strength, toughness, and bravery, etc

When we left, the kids were wiped out and hungry and grumpy by time we get home. I made them something to eat when we got back - different things for each kid based on what they asked for. Dad came home and sat down and watched "Up" with them, a movie they have watched 5-6 times in the last week. They love for me to narrate the montage of the old man's life at the beginning since it has no dialogue at that point. After a little playing, food was needed again, so we got,them some more food. After that, everyone got baths and played happily. After the bath, they all wanted their hair dried (a new thing, just this week) and teeth were brushed and I put Audrey to bed. Tyler played with Dad and then they went to bed. I cleaned up downstairs and James was on the iPad.

When I returned upstairs, I tried to get on Minecraft to check it out from James because it's been mentioned here a lot lately and Marin said her son is enjoying it. The page wouldn't load for some reason, so we downloaded the free Minecraft app onto our iPads and explored how it works, a bit. We discovered,we can play in the same world over wifi. Now, James is watching YouTube videos about Minecraft and I am writing this. Next, I'll read Chapter 7 of the fifth Harry Potter book to him and we'll turn out the lights. At that point, he'll ask me everything he's currently wondering about and we'll talk, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes almost an hour. If we really get going and curious despite the lateness, I'll turn on the iPad and start looking stuff up. In the last few months, that has included Jupiter, frog dissection (there's an app for that, seriously), various geographical curiosities (e.g., I went to Phoenix on a rare business,trip and she wanted to know where that was, and about Korea because I spent the trip,with Koreans). iPad resources to satiate curiosities in the middle of the night in the last month have included use of the Internet and Wikipedia, a free NASA app, frog dissection, google earth, a dictionary app, a free science 360 app and you've to watch some Vi Hart videos.

All in all, a pretty rich and varied life for a six year old I think. I think sometimes how that, if he was in school, there'd be no late night talks and middle of the night questioning and looking stuff up. And if I was tempted to teach him "lessons" and make his connections for him, I don't think he'd so readily ask the questions and be so excited when he makes connections on his own. In a teaching environment, he'd be too busy being "taught" to read, doing math drills, and homework to even have the brain space to wonder about much else.

I read a great quote the other day that will stick with me forever. I think it was on one of the unschooling Facebook pages, but maybe not. I just googled it to get it right:

"When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself." ~ Jean Piaget
Ponder that. It's brutal and condemning and may help shut down the urge to give lessons. Spend the effort you would on lessons and beating yourself up later for giving lessons and questioning whether you should give another lesson on living a rich and varied life. There is no better life and no better education than that, especially when there is peace and confidence at home.

Julie M

More on Minecraft

Late Night Learning

The Deeper Effect of a Child Learning to Read: Confidence

Other typical unschooling days