Unschooling Portraits: Shannon


Shannon, tell us about your family.

Family can be found scattered on my once-in-awhile blog, Connecting the Dots. :D Descriptions of the family are on the right-hand side of the page (ages are 12, 10, 8, 4).

What does your typical day look like?

  • We’re grateful not to get up for a bus. (*grin*)
  • A LOT of reading – kids and parents all love to read. We usually have one audiobook going in the car (though we don’t listen every time we drive, because the kids love Kids Place Live on Sirius XM radio too), one book that we read together as a family in the evening (sometimes), daily devotional (doing the NT right now), and they all have books they are reading on their own too.
  • We always eat dinner together.
  • We try to get outside every day – we live next to a state park and have great climbing trees in the yard; when it’s not tick/mosquito season, we really enjoy geocaching.
  • We have a LOT of computer usage scattered among the six of us.

Everything else really varies by season (Sep-Nov and Jan-Mar we have homeschool co-op classes on Tuesdays; Jun-Jul and Oct-Feb my older daughter has swim team 3-5 days a week, etc).

What does the term “unschool” mean to you? Do you even use that word? If not, what do you use and why?

I think I’m more of a John Holt unschooler than a whole-life or “radical” unschooler – in “friendly company” I use the word unschool, but with others I tend to use “interest-driven” or “child-led / individualized” education. I also like the phrase “world-schooling” because I’ve been to a lot of different countries (I think 16 or 17 of them!) and we are trying to pass along what we learned (either through teaching or by travel) to our kids.

To me, it means trusting that my children will have the drive, passion, and interest to find the path that God wants them to be on if I know when to lead, guide, and suggest AND when to get out of the way. :D

Have you always unschooled or did you, like many, gradually move from traditional homeschooling (or public school) towards unschooling?

We started homeschooling in 2009 at our older daughter’s request. The mean girls thing had started the year before (in second grade!!), and school wasn’t meeting any of her needs, intellectual or emotional at the top of the list. The following year our two boys wanted to join us, so we have just finished our first year with everyone home. Our oldest came home instead of going to middle school, and our younger son instead of going on to second grade.

What interests do your kids have that you never would have guessed they would develop?

There isn’t much that surprises me. Even when the kids were in school, we encouraged a lot of “what do you want to try?” kind of thinking. I was surprised when my son chose Horsemanship as one of his four merit badges for his first trip to week-long Boy Scout camp, though. They’ve all been far more interested in/engaged by history now that it isn’t being rammed down their throats.

What are some of the benefits of unschooling that you have seen?

Fostering creativity and independence, a more collaborative environment in the home (we help and do chores together because we are a family team and we all want to have the free time to do other things), more time to invest in family prayer and daily devotionals, seeing the opportunities to learn in each day and situation…

What are some of the negatives?

It’s been a challenge for me to give up most of the “free time” I used to have. When the kids were in school, I would spend at least an hour every weekday at the gym (I really do love exercise! :) ). But because of their ages, stages, and needs, added to being their full-time mentor, I’ve had to put that aside for this season of my life. Sometimes I get frustrated not having a chunk of time (30 minutes, maybe?) to sit and think, because their energy levels have me “on duty” from 7A-11P sometimes! But, it’s worth it and it’s an investment in our family life and in their individual lives’ missions. :)

Tell us about your best day (or your worst).

Here are some of the best ones:

Four reasons I love homeschooling Part 1

Four reasons I love homeschooling Part 2

Thankful – Day 17

Plus, my kids REALLY loved attending the InHome Conference in St. Charles, IL, and the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering in Sandusky, Ohio – they all mentioned those as highlights of the past year of homeschooling. :)

Thank you to Shannon for this Unschooling Portrait!

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