What, You Learn on Saturdays?

When I got to kind of introduce myself to the Christian Unschooling community through the Unschooling Portraits series, I described myself like this:

I’m Joan Otto, wife to Chris and mom to Sarah (who’s 12). We live in central Pennsylvania in a house that also includes my mom, a large dog, 5 cats, and a hamster. We’re new to homeschooling of any sort, sort of – I was homeschooled for several years, but our daughter had been in public school until Leap Day – Feb. 29 of this year. We blog about our life at Our School at Home. (Which was a funny choice for a title, really, given that we aren’t “school at home” types at all.)

That’s us, Chris, Joan and Sarah Otto, on another recent Saturday excursion. Unschooling win: Learning is EVERY day!

That was back in July, and I made that whole interview sound like I had half a clue what I was doing.

Oh, are you in for a surprise if you think that’s true. Not only did we start homeschooling of any sort only a few months ago, but we leaped right from the structure of public school to no-assignments, no-curriculum, no-workbooks unschooling. Oh, and I also quit a full-time office job I’d had for 13 years to work from home at about the same time. Oh, and we did all of this while coping from the fallout of Sarah’s Asperger’s diagnosis.

The unvarnished truth is, most days, I have no idea what we’re going to do, when we’re going to do it or how on earth I’m ever going to get the laundry caught up or the floors vacuumed. For a lifelong control freak like me, that’s a pretty scary adjustment. 

There are days when I go to bed thinking, “What on earth HAPPENED?”

But then there are days like a recent Saturday where I think, “THIS. This is the life we’ve been praying for.”

It’s Saturday. In our world, uh, YEAH, that’s a school day, because it’s a life day! On this particular one, I picked Sarah up from a sleepover at our new church… an hour late. Because I thought she was being dropped off by friends, and we totally just got our wires crossed! So we started off by learning why it’s OK to speak up and ask questions if you’re not sure what’s going on – like your best friend’s dad leaving without you! 🙂

After that, we…

  • Designed a poster together to help promote our 4-H club, and sent it to the club liaison (with a note from Sarah asking if we could consider starting an art club!).
  • Balanced my checkbook, reconciling our records against what the bank showed online (and talked about why some things have an X, and Sarah spotted how we ended up off by $87!). Then we got to talk about why that was important to do, and why there might be differences.
  • We started talking about solar energy, and I drew out, at Sarah’s urging, a chart of how much our electricity costs now over time, versus how much we might spend up front for solar and how long it would take until we were in the black.
    Sarah’s abstract art color study!

    (Oh, and she knows what “in the black” means!)

  • We went on the Life of Fred website to see what books come next.
  • Somehow, we ended up looking up the Japanese and Chinese New Year celebrations. I blame my husband for this, but I can’t recall quite HOW we got there!
  • While running errands, we figured out percent-off savings at Kohl’s.
  • When we came home, I decided to take a nap – and Sarah sat on the bed with me and worked on the abstract art project you see at right, which she did as a color study. (Telling me, apparently, while I napped, the significance of each color. Oops.)
  • Sarah chatted with a friend on Google Talk on her phone.
  • We measured every wall in my bedroom as part of a furniture-rearranging project – and soon discovered our arrangement options were limited!
  • Sarah and Chris watched Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (for about the third time) and talked about the upcoming Hobbit movies.
  • … and we finished up the day with me reading to Sarah from Life of Fred: Edgewood (the fifth book in the elementary series) before bed.

Did I pick “a day in our life” that looks better than some do? For sure. (Case in point: For all that “mathy” stuff above, my daughter sometimes claims to hate math, so that’s way more than the usual!)

But the other unvarnished truth is that our worst unschooling day is better than our best public-school day by a long shot, and these awesome times are getting more and more frequent – and we’re getting better and better at seizing the opportunities they provide!

How has your day been awesome?

~ Joan

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