two seasons in our homeschool: formal studies or unschooling

I’ve got two seasons in my homeschool. I mix the eclectic with the unschool, a dab of formal studies and smidgeon of Charlotte Mason.

How to decide? Formal studies or unschooling? I choose two seasons in our homeschool.

Radical unschoolers don’t insist on anything prescribed. So I cannot call myself a radical unschooler because there is a season when I pull out workbooks and insist on essay writing, exponents, or French verb conjugations. (Depending on my child’s age).

I’m sure I might still change my approach because I’ve done this homeschool thing long enough to know I always grasp for something more true to my children and me.



There are two seasons for our family over the last few years: the formal study season and the unschooled season.

We’ve put the books away. We’ve packed them into boxes even: the grammar books, the formal French and Latin, spelling lessons, and history lessons. We’ll see you all sometime in September. (Though the math books will stay in our care, spending a tiny portion of each morning continuing to be used until the end of June. Gotta stay fresh.)

This unschool season is not for increased screentime in our household.

In fact, I’m tighter on screentime. (If the kids become computer programing coders, it will be a remarkable feat as I’m not giving them enough time to pursue that.)

They have fought for the computer.

Yes, ironic, a screen. Even before I sat down to write this, I was asked how long I would be because two of the kids want to write their own fictional stories. Despite my daily writing practice, they’re lapping me at one thousand words a day. Each evening they read their continuing sagas to us. (I know I’m their mom, but they have written authentically listenable stories.)



Madelyn on the computer in the garden: is this formal studies or unschooling?

They have entertained me with their music.

Piano. Guitar. Vocal offerings. I think I hear something from iTunes coming from upstairs, but then I go upstairs and discover it’s one of my kiddos singing. I’ve even asked one of the girls for guitar lessons. (My girl isn’t nearly as patient as her mother, ha ha ha, as she insists I can play A minor, C, and G in thirty seconds or less, but I’m sure I’ll soon be strumming along with her present favourite, Vance Joy.)

They have found employment.

One of the kids gets paid to iron clothes, which is certainly a payable job, as I have a love-hate (no just hate) relationship with ironing. Another kiddo waters the greenhouse plants every morning, while also tracking and drawing the growth of the pumpkin seedlings. Yet another has written her resume and cover letter, circulating it in hopes that she’ll land a library shelving position. One of the kids is catering for the monthly emerg staff meeting, making a couple of dozen breakfast treats, and learning about capital costs and interest on her new investment: a twenty-cup coffee urn.

They have indirect lessons on floatation and physics.

These lessons are found on playground equipment and in outdoor activities. The boat must first be inflated before they take it on the pond. Science!



Rachel and Zach on the pond: formal studies in botany or unschooling science flotation concepts?

Despite a leaky boat, they’ll row anyway…

Do the kids want to know if they can charge for rides in this contraption? No, no they can’t, because that contraption won’t stay together.



Can play be considered formal studies or unschooling?

They learn home economics.

Bread baking, dessert preparation, muffin making: everyone gets a turn each day to create. And with all the ingredients required for baking, my oldest gal is taking on a full grocery shop independently too (with my credit card and all.)

They have afternoon quiet time.

With a screen. Every afternoon they can watch an episode of SciGirls or Animal Planet or Planet Earth. All are found on Netflix.

It’s downtime, but also discovery time.

And there are also extracurricular activities, and games, games, games.

Soccer, dance, gymnastics, music lessons, playdates, and youth groups. (With this extra time, I am even surprised to hear that my eldest daughter says she’ll play chess with her little brother every day. Wow.)



Are games like Stratego considered formal studies or unschooling?

Of course, when September arrives, I’ll reconsider this unschool season and be eager to create a formal routine for our days. But I know these quiet, unprescribed days allow a bounty of discovery.

Either season, formal studies or unschooling, can breed a heap load of learning.


“What is essential is to realize that children learn independently, not in bunches; that they learn out of interest and curiosity, not to please or appease the adults in power; and that they ought to be in control of their own learning, deciding for themselves what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.”

John Holt

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