Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Unschooling Schedule

So often people seem to come here looking for unschooling schedules. So I thought I'd just post up my thoughts about it. As annoying as this might be to some parents seeking a quick solution: I think it's really up to those involved to know what will work best for them. Isn't that the point of unschooling?

I think it's pretty much the same as baby sleep schedules: different for every family and for every baby, and it might change at any time, without notice!

Late Nights
Our family's sleep schedule was determined by our first baby... but it took me until he was about 5 to fully accept that. I used to be an early riser. Most of my life I've awakened with the sun, and gone to bed around 9 or 10. My son is a night owl. Tant pis pour moi. Since he was a very little baby he's refused to sleep until at least 10 PM; usually 11. Despite and because of this, I or Markus spent every evening rocking, singing, reading, and trying all sorts of guaranteed-to-work-or-destroy-you-baby-sleep-methods... to no avail. Taliesin went to sleep at about 11, and woke up around 9 or 10 the next morning. He enjoys breakfast about an hour later.

When Tal began preschool (the 3-year-old class started at 9AM), I would lovingly wake him at 8, dress him, and desperately try to nourish him with whatever few bites I could encourage him to eat before we left at 8:45. On non-preschool mornings I would wake him at 8 and feed him breakfast around 9. The next year, the preschool coordinator tried to convince me to put him in the afternoon class. But why? All his friends are in the morning class! "Well," she said, "I've been watching him for a whole year now. He doesn't really wake up until about 10:30, and the class is finished at 11:30. I think he'd get more out of the afternoon class. You could just let him sleep in in the mornings."

On to year two of preschool. The afternoon class went wonderfully (also partly because then his own Nana was teaching him!), and Taliesin got to sleep as late as he wanted.

And so things have continued. He has attended other early-morning things in the past few years, and for the most part they've gone all right. He just manages on less sleep, those days (but rarely falls asleep any earlier on those subsequent evenings). Rhiannon has always gone to sleep at more typical times: 7, and now 8 or 9. She wakes up at about 8. She has learned to get herself a piece of fruit or some cereal if she's up before anybody else is, and she's quite considerate of Tal, who sleeps in the top bunk. Mostly she uses her mornings for reading, crafts, or snuggling and talking in bed with us. Bedtime is technically still 8PM, but we only really push that if it's been a long exhausting day. Mostly they go to bed at about 10.

The huge benefit of this sleeping arrangement is that we are able to attend pretty much whatever late-night events we want, as a family. My kids are out until midnight or later at least once a month for music events, theatre, field-trips, or other such highly-valued and cherished homelearning experiences. We usually take it easy the next morning, but there's no serious repercussion.

The downside to this is less grown-up time. And it can be a bit rough on Markus, who gets up at 5:40AM, 3 mornings a week, to commute in to work. But he's always been a night-owl, himself, so he never complains. And it means he gets to spend more quality time with his kids, since they're up for a good 4 hours after he gets home. He makes up for it by sleeping until 9 or 10 on most of the mornings he is home.

Weekday Activity Schedules
Since we use our schoolboard-granted homeschooling allotment for various extra-curricular activities (ironic term, because in our case they are the closest thing to curriculum we have), we do have a fairly rigid weekday schedule, which just means a list of activities we need to be at, at certain times: Annie's theatre school, Tal's theatre school, gym games, our adult ballet class that the kids join for the barre segment, Tal's violin mentoring, a couple of weekly pre-arranged visits with friends, etc. That leaves most days before 3 wide open, and we use these for whatever activities strike our fancy. And that's the point:

Whatever Activities Strike our Fancy!
I think that's the joy and purpose of unschooling. Sometimes we might have to create a temporary schedule just to make sure that we have time to do the things which our fancy has been struck with, but that schedule is transient, and flexible, and prey to the whims of the moments it tries to define. A common plan for meeting with other unschooling families is: "Sure -- we'll be there sometime before lunch and I'll bring something to eat. We can go for a nature hike." We may get distracted at home with some exciting project or activity, finally arrive at the friends' house at noon to find that they've already eaten, and are highly engaged in, say, comic-making. Then my kids sit down and eat on their own, and spend the rest of the day in an intense comic-making frenzy, learning reading, writing, story-telling, layout and sequencing, and probably countless mathematical, social or scientific concepts that come up with their comic-making. No nature hike. But a wonderful, typical day of unschooling. Unscheduled.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this! :)

    When we first started homeschooling, I felt so strongly that we had to have a rigid schedule, just like they did in school.

    It didn't long for me to realize that we were all miserable and that having such a strict schedule kinda defeated one of the main purposes of home educating...flexibility.

    We are still trying out different ways to plan out our days. Some days have no planning at all, and those days work out just fine.

    I am also a night owl, but the hubs is a morning person. He's up at 5am every morning and he gets some of his personal time then. My personal time starts once I've tucked everyone in. :)

    Again, I enjoyed reading this post and I look forward to reading more!

    Trying to transition two boys, ages 11 and 6, from homeschooling to unschooling...and loving the results (and the stress relief!) so far.


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