We don’t do school. We don’t do anything that resembles school either. This isn’t quite what I had in mind when we started home educating. I love timetables, lists, goals, projects and workbooks, but it turns out that my children don’t share my passion. So we don’t try to replicate school at home, it just isn’t necessary when an individual has choices about what and how they learn. We have no curriculum, targets or testing. Learning happens all the time, every day, for any person who is open to new ideas and knowledge. Adults don’t stop learning because they have left school, and in fact I feel like I only really started learning in the true sense of the word (not just memorising facts) once I was in my late 20s and I started to explore what I was truly interested in. I have followed a number of interests and hobbies as an adult, some have stayed with me and I find myself wanting to go deeper and know more and more, whereas others have dropped by the wayside. The knowledge and understanding I have gained hasn’t been taught to me or picked up from textbooks. Instead I find myself learning from reading fiction and non-fiction, watching documentaries, looking things up on Google or youtube, talking to experts (friends and family members all have their own specialised knowledge), and visiting places of interest.
And that is what we do all day. That is how my children learn. It might look nothing like a school education, but it is an education nonetheless. My eldest is fascinated by animals so I try to record as many nature documentaries as I can find. Sometimes she just watches, absorbing facts and ideas, repeating episodes that are particularly fascinating, at other times it leads to a drawing session, art project or fact-finding mission. She doesn’t have a plan of which animals to find out about or what concepts she needs to learn, there are no workbooks to complete at the end or tests of her knowledge. We read stories about animals, have visits to petting zoos, go horse riding. I have arranged a visit to a Dog’s Trust and to an organic farm. And she plays, she plays all the time. Either by pretending to be one of her favourite animals or with the many animals toys that are strewn around our house.
My youngest daughter is a creative little thing. She draws every day, loves painting and makes handmade dresses for her dolls. She loves to dress up and has an endless thirst for imaginative play. She doesn’t write or read yet, but when she draws she is developing her fine motor skills and I have no doubt that written storytelling will develop naturally as she moves beyond imaginative play. She also loves counting and numbers. Most days she chooses to play an online Maths game on the computer; sometimes she plays for just minutes, other days it’s for an hour.
Sometimes we enjoy doing things together, sometimes spend most of the day engrossed in our own tasks. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we stay in. We take classes, attend workshops, meet friends, visit museums, walk in the woods. This is what an autonomous or unschooling education looks like. This is what we do all day. No, it doesn’t look like school, but it suits us just fine for now.