You know that picture that some people have in their heads of the homeschooler chained to a desk in the kitchen, or worse, the unschooler who just watches television all day long, eats junk food, and can only handle social interaction by unsocialized grunting?
Erase all those preconceived notions and come and meet my kids. I have four children: Noa is 17, Colter is 15, Kyler is 11, and Mica is 9.
We are unschoolers, but we have have a fairly rigid schedule we follow … because my children have chosen to engage in a number of activities outside the home. Most are casual or fun, some are formally academic. When we’re home, we often just collapse to relax!
Here is a taste of our typical week and the activities my children enjoy.
Colter belongs to a nearby martial arts gym where he can go punch bags, work on core strength training, or take classes in self-defense called krav maga – that’s the self-defense practiced by the Israeli special forces. Being a specialty gym means somewhat limited hours, so whenever a class is offered that fits into our schedule, he heads in.
We are fortunate that our city has a large and well-run homeschool theater group directed by a professional theater teacher. I’m usually involved in costuming or sets, so this is not free time for me.
(For three years, Noa has been our backstage manager, but this year she is enjoying having the house to herself for several hours while the rest of us are out.)
Noa is in a teen girls’ writing class at a local bookstore with several of her good friends. Fortunately it is not far from the play location, so the younger kids and I can grab a bite at a nearby sandwich shop while we wait for her class to be over so that then we can go pick up Colter.
Colter has been in a teen improv comedy group for the past year. They have a class each semester with two performances. Being on stage and unscripted has been such an amazing experience for him – he has really grown in his self-confidence and ability to express himself. Several other kids from the play are in the improv class, so we can carpool there and back home again, which helps with all the driving.
Drive Time Tuesday
My cleaning help comes. Yes, I have cleaners! They do the scrubbing, floors, and dusting while we pick up all the flotsam and jetsam that has collected in the corners of the house during the week.
Colter is enrolled in a homeschool Apologia Biology science class with his best friend. It’s part of a formal co-op at one of the local churches, with multiple classes to choose from. I just have to drive him there. (Whew!)
Kyler and Mica (11 and 9) are in an informal science co-op class with their friends, taught by another mom in my homeschool group who loves science and includes some of her daughter’s friends to make it a fun group. She is in no way an unschooling mom, but she’s a great teacher and makes the class fun, so my two wanted to join. I pick up Colter and drop off Mica and Kyler in one trip, then take Colter back home.
Several families have hired a teacher who comes to my house and conducts a class in formal logic for our teen children. Last year they did Logic I and this year they have just started Logic II.
Here is a good example of the give-and-take of parenting and unschooling. Neither of my teens came up to me spontaneously and said, “WOW, Mom, I really want to take a logic class!” But when the opportunity arose and I explained to them what the class was and why I thought it would be beneficial for them to take it, they were pleased to be able to take part.
Mica stays at her friend’s house after science co-op ends at 4:00, eats her brown bag dinner, and goes to choir with her friends. This is her first year in choir and she loves it! Of course, I still have to drive over there again at 4:00 to pick up Kyler because …
Kyler has discovered the joys of fencing. Thankfully, with so much other driving to do on Tuesday evening, my husband is usually home in time to at least pick him up afterward.
Back downtown to pick up Mica after choir practice! Thankfully, Tuesday is my only day with so much driving!
Blessedly, after all the driving on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday is a day we can catch our collective breath! The ones who have homework for classes also usually get it done this day. But it also provides Colter’s second opportunity of the week to attend another self-defense/exercise class.
Colter has another self-defense/exercise class opportunity.
Kyler’s drum teacher comes to our home for his drum lesson. I have to zip out for a few minutes to pick up Colter from the gym, leaving 17-year-old Noa in charge.
Sisters Noa and Mica have back-to-back piano lessons (with voice mixed in there). I have an opportunity to get some shopping done as there is a mall nearby and it’s not convenient to go all the way back home.
Noa has joined the same choir as her younger sister Mica, but naturally their age divisions don’t meet on the same day. Darn it. This is the first semester my kids have had ANY evening activities, and they seem to be never-ending! Most of the young women drive themselves to choir, but fortunately another 16-year-old choir member lives near us, so I’ve arranged carpooling with her mom, and only have to make the drive every other week.
(Of course Colter plays an instrument too: bass guitar. He took lessons for a year and a half, but now he is exploring on his own, or “noodling around” as he calls it.)
Toastmasters! My sons Colter and Kyler are both in a homeschool Toastmasters class with about twelve other boys from our homeschool group, led by a sweet elderly gentleman we call Toastmaster Mike. We are meeting every other Friday until Christmas.
Constitution Co-op! The weeks we don’t meet for Toastmasters, we are starting a co-op at my house (taught by me) on early American history and especially on studying the Constitution. My three oldest are all involved, though I don’t know if Kyler’s interest will last as we get into reading the actual historical documents.
Our homeschool group meets. This is not a co-op situation, but a support and play group, which we all are in great need of by this point in our week! We have regular park days, field trips, and parties as a nice way to wind down.
As you may imagine, with such a busy schedule, when we’re home, we relax: reading, video games, quiet projects. We all (except Mica) are introverts to one degree or another, so with such a social calendar, when we’re home, we each tend to curl up alone for the recharging time we need to for the next day’s assault.
You may have noticed that my oldest daughter, 17-year-old Noa, is not involved in very much. She has been more involved in the past, but right now she is concentrating on her art and music, and enjoying it when all the rest of us are out of the house at the same time, so she can be alone to create. She plans to enroll (with no high school diploma or GED) in our local community college to seek a two-year associate’s degree in art, so she’s preparing to take the placement tests for entry.
And there you have it: the story of my poor, unsocialized children and their unschooling week.