Please introduce yourself.
Hi! I’m Mandy Jones. I live in Murfreesboro, TN and I have three kids, Hunter 8, Ronin 6, and Drayken 3. My husband and I run a small vegan chocolate business. I am a homebirthing, placenta-eating, extended breastfeeding geek who loves television. My husband, Michael, works for Walgreens by night and is a trained professional fencer and swordfighter. Also, a geek.Hunter was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2010. His sister gave him her bone marrow four months later. This journey doesn’t define us but it has certainly shaped every aspect of the way we live. I blog at a bona fide life.
What does your typical day look like?
As many people say, we don’t really have a typical day. But on a day where we stay home, it looks something like this: Wake up. I make breakfast while kids watch television and take out the dog. Eat breakfast. Kids play while I bake something or prepare something for dinner. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We settle in for some reading or a science lesson or a Bible lesson or watching a movie with some popcorn. Play outside on pretty nice days. Do lunch and dinner in there somewhere. Maybe take a bath or shower. Clean and do laundry. Settle in for more tv or reading or games. Snuggle up in bed. Sweet dreams.
What does the term “unschool” mean to you?
It means rejecting the idea that learning happens only in a “schoolish” setting. It means adopting a lifestyle of learning all of the time, together. It means thinking of each member of this family as teacher. It means listening for the Holy Spirit’s voice when deciding what next to introduce in the home. It means believing that one cannot be forced to learn but rather that learning takes place when there is passion, motivation, and engagement. It means following our bliss.
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 unschooled my children. None of my kids have ever attended a school or a preschool, though I must admit that when times were tough a few years ago, I seriously considered signing my daughter up for a program. In the beginning, I started out doing more typical “homeschool” types of activities or lessons but quickly abandoned those ideas … at first out of survival due to chaos in our lives but later because of an honest belief that it was unnecessary and possibly even harmful. Today we still have a math curriculum that we use and we do Bible lessons together. But none of it is forced and we only get those things out whenever there seems to be a lull in our day and we have space for quietly sitting together on the sofa for some focused time together.
What interests do your kids have that you never would have guessed they would develop?
Hunter has suddenly developed an interest in weapons. I am surprised by this only because before he had leukemia, he never showed an interest in anything related to violence whatsoever. But after he came home and was on predinose (blech, what a nightmare), he became interested in guns, swords, and most recently archery. So, he changed dramatically between the ages of six and eight. I am also surprised that he’s the one who has taken up performing. He was always so quiet and reserved but the theater has given him a confidence about him that was not there before.
Ronin loves high heels and make up. Gymnastics, cheerleading, and horses. Chewing gum and candy. These are all things that elude me but further solidify in my mind that children truly are their own person. I love that she is free to be herself, whatever that looks like.
What are some of the benefits of unschooling that you have seen?
I’ve seen so many benefits of unschooling but the lack of stress is by far, to me, the most valuable. I see how stressed out other homeschool moms are and I even put stress upon myself at times (when I start to make a mental list of all of the things I should be doing with the kids), but then I’ll default back to radical unschooling and remember how much happier we all are when we can just go about our day, doing exactly what we want to be doing.
What are some of the negatives?
It’s tough on my marriage. The kids are always around and involved with everything I’m doing so there is very little time for my husband and me to be together.
It’s also hard when I never get any time alone. Luckily I have insomnia occasionally and I can carve a little time out to blog or read or exercise once in a while.
Tell us about your best day (or your worst).
Thursdays are the best. We have a standing playdate with a group of friends every Thursday and we’ve been doing that for almost four months now. It’s wonderful. We’ve all made friends and we really enjoy the socialization. It’s been life changing and empowering for each of us.
Favorite definition of unschooling:
I really like everything that it said here: What is Unschooling?
Thank you, Mandy, for this unschooling portrait!