When I was trying to picture how homeschooling worked in real life, one of the books that really helped me was A Patchwork of Homeschooling which provides vignettes of different homeschooling styles by following 30 families’ activities for one day. So when I saw that Heart of the Matter had themed A Day in the Life for their blog carnival, I was prompted to share what happens in a typical day in our house.

We have four girls and unschool quite deliberately. Aisha is 5 and a half. Brioni turns 4 this month. Calista is 2 and a bit. Delaney is 7 months old and still breastfeeding. I stay at home, and my husband runs a business (selling and installing floorcoverings) from home.

As a new Christian unschooler, sometimes I still feel a bit defensive about our style of non-teaching, and as I started the day, I wondered if I would be able to tick all the appropriate subject boxes. As it happened, we did have a bit of formal reading and writing today, but it was all initiated by the girls, which demonstrates that bookwork will happen in the natural course of events.

4 am

David wakes without an alarm and starts his day while it is still dark. He lights a fire to start warming the house and then heads down to the shed at the back of our property. It’s still technically winter, although we’re in a warmer part of Australia, and we rarely even see frost on the ground.

At dawn, he takes a brief walk out the back of our property, breathing in the crisp air and enjoying a time of prayer before returning to his shed just as his favourite worship song starts to play on his mp3-player. He loads his truck with the carpet and tools he’ll need for today’s installation.

6 am

I hear Delaney crying in the room she shares with Calista. When I rise to get her, Calista is already up — yawning sleepily on the couch.

As I feed the baby, Calista snuggles next to me. When I’m done, Cali brings a picture book and we talk about the pictures and the letters. When I open my notepad and start taking these notes, Calista finds a pen and a piece of paper and does some pretend writing (Cs, circles and poking holes as well as good, ol’ scribble).

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
As the sun rises, we sit in front of the fire in the lounge room, looking at books.

7 am

After Aisha wakes up, we feel like breakfast. It’s good timing, because as soon as we sit around the kitchen counter, David comes up to pack his lunch and grab a bite to eat. After he leaves, driving away in his big white truck, I read a Bible story and an extra story, showing pictures and discussing each.

After breakfast, because she knows we are going to the shops today, Aisha pulls a book from the bookshelf and starts writing out a list of the things we’ll need for the craft she wants to do this week. I use this time to check my emails. Calista reads herself a book and Brioni sits by herself at the kitchen counter, too distracted to finish her breakfast.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
Calista reads her own book (laughing at the pictures) while Aisha writes out a shopping list.

Before putting the baby down for her morning sleep, I change her nappy and notice the puffed-up sultanas that Dell’s obviously not digesting. I call the girls over, and we examine the pooey nappy together, talking about the food Dell ate and which ones she’s unable to digest.

9 am

I’m showered and dressed. Aisha’s still working on her shopping list, copying each word from her book. We discuss how she could write A in three ways — capital A, ball-and-stick A and mummy-with-a-baby-in-her-tummy A.

Calista requests some music on the computer, and once playing, it broadcasts through the living room, further distracting Brioni who is still eating breakfast! A skink runs across the floor (What is it doing inside?), and Aisha and I scramble to catch it.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
After finally finishing breakfast, Brioni meets our temporary pet — a skink.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
Wool, tissue paper, balloons, glittery stars, brushes.

Getting out of the house today takes a long time. It’s complicated by my realisation that Calista has out-grown her shoe size. So I go down to the shed, locate the box of shoes in the next size up and bring them up.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
Oooh, look, ladies — new shoes!

10 am

We’re out of the house and browsing through a little supermarket. I’m just in here to grab a couple of things that I can’t normally buy at my regular shop. The checkout lady (who has three sons herself) asks if I have “triplets? — no, twins?”.

We buy a pair of ripe pineapples, and this leads to a discussion of how pineapples grow. I share about the pineapple plantations I saw in Ivory Coast, and I tell the girls to remind me to look at the pineapples and other bromeliads we have growing in our garden.

We visit three op shops on our way to our regular supermarket. At each one, the girls play nicely together in front of the toys, and I breastfeed Delaney, sitting down in a comfortable chair (which is for sale), watching the girls play with the toys. Our lovely time is only cut short by an urgent need of Calista (and Brioni!) to use a public toilet.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
My op shop finds: books, a circuit kit, a cross-stitch kit, Tupperware and an oven mitt. Total spend: $8.45.

At our supermarket, we talk about a lot of the food that we don’t buy. The girls know not to ask for things, but they still want to know what everything is. Aisha and Brioni like leaning against the refrigerated shelves, inviting me to buy them. I pretend to examine their price-tag and sometimes reject them as “too expensive”. Undeterred, they simply move down the aisle in hopes I’ll buy them later!

We make a special purchase of for David, and when I tell the girls who it’s for, they ask if they can wrap it up as a present. Sure, why not?

12 noon

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
When we get home, the girls wrapped little lights as "presents" for their Daddy, using tape and wool abundantly and creatively.

We’re home, having a lunch of Vegemite sandwiches and fruit. I pack away the groceries and tidy the kitchen again. After lunch, the girls disappear outside to play for a while, and Brioni reluctantly lets her lizard go.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
At my urging, Brioni finally lets the skink go (after first giving it a good ride on the swing).

Delaney, 7 months old, August 2010
Whoops, I lost track of this one and found her eating from the bin!

1 pm

Calista and Delaney are in bed for their afternoon siesta. Our friends Kerrie and her two sons D (almost 4) & A (5 and a half) arrive. They’re homeschooling friends who have been at a local homeschooling co-op for specialty classes. Kerrie says she has already had something for lunch, but the boys take some fruit to keep them going.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
The two boys and the two girls played separately at the start...

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
...Before chasing each other around the house.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
... And playing random games on the furniture.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
... And digging under the swing-set to create a "stage" for their elaborate imaginary game.

The afternoon proceeds at a leisurely pace. Kerrie and I stay indoors, chatting in the living room. The kids alternate between inside and outside games. We intervene when Aisha bosses the boys too much, but mostly it’s calm and peaceful.

I really love visits like these. They allow me to relax with a friend, the company stimulates my children, and Kerrie is comfortable enough in my house to help herself to a sandwich when she decides she is hungry after all.

5 pm

David arrives home.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
When David arrived home, the first thing the girls wanted to do was to give him their presents.

Kerrie discovers that her husband will be working late, so we invite her to stay for dinner. (We love to have people over for meals and will offer food to anyone who’s around at eating-time.)

I make pita-bread pizzas — fast, easy and well-received by everyone! The kids sit at the dining table and the adults are parked around the kitchen counter. After dinner, Kerrie cleans the kitchen for me (thanks, Kerrie!) while I sit on the couch and chat with David.

A day in the life of an unschooling family, August 2010
Revived by food, the kids started playing again after tea-time.

7 pm

Kerrie packs her boys into her car, and we wave good-bye. We always enjoy their company and are reluctant to see them go. We brush the kids’ teeth (yay, a good day!), and David and I talk privately for a while before he goes to bed.

8 pm

I have finished reading the three girls a story and have tucked them in bed. Aisha is allowed to keep her lamp on, reading books. I give the house a quick tidy-up and then sit down at the computer for some more email and blogging time.

9 pm

Aisha has just turned out her light but is asleep within five minutes. She and Brioni are sharing a room, and Brioni has already been asleep for an hour. After checking on them, I go back to the computer, where I will download the pictures from the computer and write until about 11 pm, when it’s bedtime for me!

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I hope you enjoyed following us around for a day. If you’re visiting from Heart of the Matter, please leave a comment so I can visit you too!