Today’s Real Homeschooling for Real Families post is brought to you by Talia from Our Crazy Joyful Life. She is writing about Whole Life Unschooling aka Radical Unschooling.
Talia is a local mom who heads up an unschooling facebook group. We haven’t met in person as of yet but I know how much she loves learning and growing with her kids.
Introduction to Whole Life Unschooling aka Radical Unschooling
When I think about how best to describe our homeschooling style, I run into a wall. How do I separate out our learning from our everyday life? Simple answer: we don’t. You may have heard of the term “unschooling”, which I would define as stepping outside of a set curriculum and trusting that we learn what we need to know, when we need to know it just by living an interesting, connected life. Whole life unschooling, sometimes known as radical unschooling, takes this idea beyond just an educational philosophy and applies it to, well our whole life. We apply the same foundational trust to other areas such as eating, sleep, and how much time they spend on their chosen activities. I hold the deep belief that children are capable of living without arbitrary limits, in partnership with me. Although my role seems to be ever-changing, I think of myself as a guide, a facilitator of awesome activities and opportunities, a safe space to bounce ideas off of, and a friend.
What Whole Life Unschooling Looks Like for Our Family
In practice, this looks quite a bit different based on our season of life. Right now, my kids are 9, 6, 3, and nearly 1. The past year has been a time of slowing down, as we adjusted to becoming a family of four. We spent much more time on home activities, intentionally prioritizing maintaining our connection. Some weeks looked like a deep dive into whatever their current passions are; while other weeks looked like jumping from activity to activity. Often, I can see the learning connections the kids are making, but sometimes it looks like a bunch of pieces. I can usually look back and see how everything worked together. We flow where their interests lead us, seeing all resources and interests as important.
I will use my 9-year-old as an example. She loves art and storytelling. She spends many hours each week drawing. She also likes to make art on computer programs and watch videos of art and storytelling. She stumbled upon a YouTube series that led her to an app in which she could create anime style characters and stories. Many, many hours each week has been spent creating these characters and stories. This led to her asking to watch some Japanese anime. We watch some together, and she finds more on her own. This grew into an interest in Japanese culture. Throughout the year we tried various Japanese foods, learned to make sushi, played around with google translate to learn words and phrases, browsed Japanese art, and checked out an Asian market.
Each activity flowed naturally into the next, and we explored at her pace and request. I did not try to manufacture learning or require anything specific. We just lived it and had fun. She used whatever tools she was interested in, including YouTube, magna pens, new foods, and costumes. Sometimes she stayed up into the late hours of the night to watch more of her favorite anime, other times she was up early for an activity. Sometimes she would drop all these things and take a detour into a different interest, but when she circled back around, new connections had still been made.
I help each child similarly. They don’t always have a theme guiding their interests. My 6-year-old has many things that catch his attention, such as Minecraft, sharks, dinosaurs, YouTube, cooking, and being outside. We spent many days at the aquarium looking, lots of time finding addon’s for Minecraft, tasting treats, and watched plenty of videos of people playing games.
My 3-year-old needs lots of time to play, pretend, and make a mess. We make slime and playdoh, dress up, and have made countless “potions” outside together. Learning is happening when they are binging Youtube videos, exploring a new park, or making slime.
If you are someone new to this idea, I would suggest you start with deschooling. Deschooling, is taking time to question what we think learning and school must look like. It is a period, think extended summer vacation, that is great for stepping back from everything that looks “educational”, and simply have fun with your kids. Try to drop expectations and give everyone space to just be. This is also a great time to locate helpful blogs, podcasts, books, and groups to ask tons of questions to. The most important thing in this process, and in unschooling going forward, is the connection with your children. If you prioritize connection, learning will follow. Be present with your kids as much as possible, and really watch them. Watch how they learn, what they like to do, what makes them smile, and bring more of that into their life. Say yes to their requests as often as possible, because when they are curious and interested; their brain is most primed for learning. This is a whole mindset shift, a lifestyle change really. It is so much more than school.
Much of my time is spent playing with them, listening while they tell me about their favorite things, watching shows together, helping research topics, and taking them to fun places. We all are involved with one another’s interests in some way. I take joy in watching my kids live a happy, full life. I see their learning in everything from TV to free play with friends. Life is our teacher, learning is fun, and we are a team.
Hi, I am Talia and write about our journey at Our Crazy Joyful Life. I am an unschooling Mama to 4 beautiful children. I believe in gentle, respectful parenting, learning through life. I am a bit of a hippy at heart but have let go of the list of have-to’s. We live our best life playing, laughing, and eating good food. I drink too much coffee, enjoy a good TV, and am a little obsessed with my husband’s beard.