Unschooling Portraits: Marisa

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Marisa, married for twelve years to my husband who runs a screenprinting/graphic design/embroidery business from our home. We have four children; Westen is 10, Noel is 8, Geneva is 6, and Jonas is 4. We live in Texas.

What does your typical day look like?

We try to follow a daily rhythm as opposed to routine. The whole family wakes around 8:30 or 9am. The kids get themselves breakfast, and we all go outside for some free play, while I write in a journal in the rocking chair. I usually make a hot lunch, and after we eat, I hang out with the kids, chat, and read books. After sending them off to go play again, I tidy the house. Everyone kind of does their own thing at this point according to their interests. We eat dinner, then go for a family bike ride or all hang out with daddy in the treehouse. After sending the kids to bed anywhere between 8:45 and 11pm, I spend a couple of hours catching up on blogs, reading books, or watching a BBC show with my husband.

What does the term “unschool” mean to you?

Unschooling means everyone has the space and time to enjoy living and creating memories. It means I let things go if they don’t work, instead of pushing and insisting. It’s the awareness of my own sin nature, my need for Jesus, and knowing that each of my kids are responsible for their relationship with God. They must choose to walk by the Spirit, and not by flesh. I create an atmosphere of grace and love where we can talk about those challenges.

Have you always unschooled or did you, like many, gradually move from traditional homeschooling (or public school) towards unschooling? If so, where are you in the process and how did you get there?

I have always been a relaxed homeschooler out of necessity because of my frequent health setbacks. We delayed academics because I’ve long felt that kids need to be kids, develop their imagination, and be active. I read Waldorf philosophy and books by the Moores when my oldest son was three. Once he was in second grade, we experimented with ACE paces and with Rod and Staff workbooks. They only frustrated us, and he wasn’t retaining anything from them. He really struggles with staying on task and focus. Fortunately, all my kids love books, and learn a great deal simply by reading and listening to them. Once I was confident in my children’s curiosity and appetite for books, I no longer searched for that perfect lesson plan, whether I planned it or bought it.

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

My oldest really does well with calm, steady handwork, such as wheel-thrown pottery and machine sewing; he also has an eye for design. He loves history. My second son is more physical; he does these graceful sword-fighting moves and catches a football like its nothing. He doesn’t get into competitive sports, so it will be interesting where that coordination and ability will lead him. They are both obsessed with Lego, but that is pretty typical for boys these days. My daughter is just like me when I was little, and lives in her world of animals. It remains to be seen what things my youngest will be interested in!

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

– Increases a sense of personal responsibility and ownership over their education and skill set

– More freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them

– Stronger sense of self and identity

– Deepened friendship between parent and child

What are some of the negatives?

– The social stigma, not generally accepted in our culture

– The will and good habits must be developed in order to progress, rather than become stagnant

– It is easy to fall into a rut, or become self-focused

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

A good day is when everyone is harmoniously working on their own personal projects according to interest. A bad day is when everyone wakes up cranky, annoyed, and speaking harshly to one another.

Favorite definition of unschooling:

I see myself as their guide. I believe in the strewing method of unschooling, and it means living intentionally. I offer suggestions according to their personality. Learning is an act of friendship in our house.

Thank you Marisa for this unschooling portrait!

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