I’m often asked what a typical unschooling day looks like.
What does a typical unschooling day look like?
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There is no one answer
Quite simply, there is no one answer to this question. That’s because no two ‘homeschooling‘ or ‘unschooling’ families unschool the same way. And even the same ‘unschooling’ family doesn’t always ‘unschool’ the same way all of the time.
But if there’s any strand or glimmer of commonality in what a typical unschooling day looks like among unschoolers, it is that the child’s interests lead the day.
In my family
In my family, a typical unschooling day with three teens and one tween, varies depending on where we happen to be. A typical day also varies depending on what the kids generally hope to accomplish.
If you follow the Wanderschool blog, you already know that we spend a lot of time on the road traveling and adventuring, like in the mountains. So, if we have adventure goals in mind, that might influence a typical day.
We also spend a lot of time thinking and talking about dreams–and how to pursue or implement them. Accordingly, what unschooling looks like any given day in our family also often revolves around those dreams.
Year Round Unschooling
In our family, learning never stops. It most definitely doesn’t run on a school calendar. It’s fair to say, we ‘school’–errr…unschool–year round. 365 days a year. Yep, even on Christmas Day.
Every conversation, every news headline, every interaction, every new book, documentary, tv show, gadget, toy, game, song, or place offers a learning opportunity.
We spend a lot of time together as a family. Whether we are on trails in the Alps hiking together, visiting a museum in Spain, or wandering the streets of New York City, we spend our days talking, asking and answering questions, and ‘filling our buckets’ with information, new perspectives, knowledge, and cool experiences.
Each New Day is an Opportunity to Soak Up Something
The kids and I pretty much look at each new day as an opportunity to soak up as much of everything as we can. To know something more, even if just a small bit more, at the end of the day than when we began it.
Kids are like sponges. Give them opportunities, resources, and positive support from which they can learn and discover, and they will. They will soak it all up.
This becomes apparent when you unschool. In case you’re wondering, it might not seem obvious immediately or in the beginning, but it will. Kids want to learn. They are also more capable of learning, inquiring, imagining, and teaching themselves than we (schooled) parents can easily believe–at least until we’re immersed ourselves in the unschooling world.
What a Typical Unschooling Day Looks Like
When we are at home, a typical unschooling day with three teenagers and a tween sometimes looks like this:
In the morning, my kids often wake early. Usually they are wide awake and busily engaged in their own activities before I get up. It is quite typical for me to awake to amazing smells coming from the kitchen, as my kids love to cook, book, and create their own recipes, .
So, my teens and tween often get up early, get dressed, game, check social media, watch a favorite tv show episode, and then make themselves (though typically they cook together) breakfast. French toast, crepes, and pancakes are morning favorites. They each have their breakfast specialties. My tween rocks French toast making.
Typical Mornings Filled with Interest-Led Learning
After eating, and usually by 9am they typically begin doing something that they’ve wanted to do. See the dreams and goals mention above.
For one of my teens, that typically means computer programming. He loves to fill his days learning new programming languages, programming, and graphic design. He also adds other ‘schooling’ projects of interest to him throughout his day. For example, he recently completed a geometry course that he found online–because he ‘felt like’ learning geometry. He’s also no stranger to teaching himself science because he loves it.
Another one of my teens, typically spends her mornings developing recipes, posting to her blog, practicing her guitar, and working on her language studies (she’s currently studying French and Hindi…yep, Hindi, her interest). Sometimes she’s busy and engaged taking an Outschool class or another online course. It’s also not unusual to find her writing a research paper on some interesting topic–she has a knack for churning out essays and she loves to research.
Another one of my teens, who graduated high school at sixteen, typically spends her mornings studying (she’s in university now), writing, practicing yoga, and working on her blog, including editing her own videos.
My tween typically spends the morning working on ‘core lessons’ typically chosen by him, but typically with suggestions by me to help guide him. For example, to help with his handwriting and spelling, I might encourage him to do some copy work from a book he read the night before. He enjoys quotes and poetry, such as Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, so he might spend some time copying verses in his journal.
For social studies, I sometimes give him suggestions based on what he has expressed interest in learning about. For example, he is very interested in the news and current events, so he might read headlines online, read from a relevant book, or watch a YouTube video or documentary to further his knowledge. He recently read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (Young Adult Version) and took it upon himself to do a lot of research related to the book, such as Googling Soweto and learning more about the township.
Afternoons Filled with Interest-Led Adventures
Typical afternoons often reflect time away from the kitchen, dining room table, or living room–adventures. We love to spend time outside!
Most afternoons, we try to get on trails for a hike or trail run. Pre-Covid, typical afternoons were spent going to museums, workshops, meet-ups, or other ‘learning’ events. Depending on the time of year and where we are, many afternoons or evenings also involve sports or extracurricular activities, like swimming, windsurfing, or Nordic skiing. My oldest teen (and my second oldest) spend a lot of afternoons running.
If we’re home in the afternoon during the summer, my kids are typically found somewhere outside. My tween likes to garden, so it’s typical to find him in the garden watering, harvesting veggies, or replanting. When local kids are around in summer or during holidays, it’s typical to find my crew playing soccer or games with neighborhood kids.
Evenings…And They’re Back at It
By the time evening rolls around, my kids are usually back at it…doing the things they love or have interest teaching themselves.
Lucky for me, my kids love to cook. They often spend time during the day scheming up cool dinner recipes, so when dinner time rolls around, my crew is typically gathered in the kitchen talking, prepping food, and making healthy, made-from-scratch, real food.
After dinner, they typically return to computer programming, social media projects, arts & crafts, guitar practice, yoga workouts, reading, writing, texting friends, and watching documentaries or fun tv shows.
They typically self-decide when they want to go to bed. My tween and I typically read together before he dozes off. Sometimes he chooses to spend time drawing or journaling before bed. My teens typically read or write before they go to bed. For example, one of my teens likes to write poetry, letters, or texts. Another likes to compose song lyrics before calling it a night.
Always Busy Learning
The bottom line is this: my unschoolers are typically very busy learning and doing throughout a day. Their natural curiosity and self-led interest in soaking up their world comes through every. single. day.
Whether we are at home, on the road, on a bus, in an airport, in a coffeeshop, or waiting in the car, I can be certain that my crew is soaking up whatever they can.
Wherever we go, my kids typically carry a backpack filled with their electronics, notebooks, and books. They are equipped for learning on the fly, wherever. Whenever. Rarely willing to waste a minute to learn.
The Best Part of A Typical Day of Unschooling
The best part of unschooling and interest led-learning: my kids rarely, if ever, complain about learning or ‘schoolwork’ .
When you’re spending your time discovering and learning about things you love, how can you really complain anyway?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you thinking about unschooling? Are you currently unschooling your child? What does your typical day look like? Drop a comment below.