Unschooling Portraits: Naomi

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Naomi, I am 31 years old, and I have been married to my best friend, Joel, for 10 years. We have the three most amazing kids in the world (although I may be biased); Ella is 5 years old, Liam is 3, and Gavin is 1. We live in British Columbia, Canada, right near the lakes and mountains. We are blessed beyond measure! We are new to unschooling, so I have started a blog of our journey at growing. loving. living.

What does your typical day look like?

The older kids wake up much too early for my liking, so fortunately they are happy to play together until the rest of us get up. As my kids are so young, we are still working around the baby’s nap schedule during the day, so we do a lot of things at home: playing in the yard, playing in the playroom, reading, looking stuff up on Google, creating things, playing games, and lots of snacking. We usually go to the library every week, we go to the playground a lot, we go for very slow walks around the neighborhood, we work on whatever “projects” the kids have undertaken, and we run errands (which the kids love!). When my husband is not at work he likes to take the kids biking, and we find fun things to do as a family.

What does the term “unschool” mean to you?

It means that I allow my children the freedom to pursue their interests, play, have fun, explore, make mistakes, learn in a way that works for them, and mostly just be kids.

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 first heard of unschooling when a friend told me that she was doing it, so I started to research like crazy. I had been thinking about kindergarten anyway, since my daughter was almost five, but the more I read about unschooling, the more I liked it. When I really started to think critically about the compulsory school system (with some help from the amazing John Taylor Gatto), I realized that I didn’t want my kids to be a part of it. So after much discussion, prayer, and reading, here we are!

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

I am so amazed by the breadth of their interests! One day it’s seeds, the next week it’s bees, then the human body, then art, then airplanes, and always dinosaurs. They are interested in so many things! But what surprises me more is what they are capable of doing at such a young age. I think society gives kids a lot less credit than they deserve. My daughter, at age five, has already taught herself how to read. She has begun writing a book about the heart and circulatory system. She likes to discuss art. She knows more about planting a garden than I do. She reads books voraciously. Before having kids and starting on this journey of learning together, I never would have guessed that they would be able to do the things they are doing.

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

The list is endless! I think the best thing about unschooling is that we get to hang out together as a family; instead of living an institution-centered life, we get to be family centered. My kids are best friends. We get to spend whole days outside. We have the freedom to travel. I get to be there for every new discovery and accomplishment, and it is so amazing to witness. My husband and I will remain the most important influence for our kids, rather than a group of peers. My kids aren’t confined to a desk all day. We get to read Shakespeare together, even though they are only five and three. Seriously, I could go on and on and on.

What are some of the negatives?

I think the only negative might be that we have to actively seek out friendships for the kids, which is more work than just sending them to school. But, really, it is worth it because the friendships we find are with people we that actually have things in common with (versus kids in a school classroom who just happen to live in the same area).

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

I read a good quote the other day, by A. A. Milne:
“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

Honestly, I can say that about most days. There are the odd days where the kids are going crazy and I just need a break, and some days are better than others, but mostly I just love being together with them. The days we spend in the sprinkler in the backyard are just as good as the days we pack up and go to the lake or Science World. And I know that the kids are happy no matter what we are doing, which is what it’s really all about.

Favorite definition of unschooling:

I like what Pat Farenga has to say about unschooling in “Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling”:

I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an “on demand” basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work…. Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn.

Thank you, Naomi, for sharing this unschooling portrait with us! 

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