What does unschooling really look like? How does a homeschooling family run smoothly without schedules, learning structures and curriculum? Join our family — for just one day.

Last year, I recorded our family’s activities throughout the day on the prompting of Heart of the Matter’s Not Back to School blog hop. One year on, I find it fascinating to look back at a typical day in our household last August and see how things have changed for us (although Aisha wears exactly the same shirt for part of the day)!

We have four daughters and unschool quite deliberately. Aisha is 6 and a half. Brioni turns 5 this week. Calista is 3 and a half. Delaney is 19 months old and starting to talk. I’m six months pregnant. We’re living a nomadic lifestyle and are at the end of a six-month stint of travelling in New Zealand. Our mobile home is a tiny horse truck but yesterday we arrived at the home of a new friend with a 3yo daughter and will spend a couple of days here.

7ish

David and I wake and lay in bed talking. We’re wallowing in comparative luxury at the moment because we’re sleeping in a bed in a house and have access to an ensuite. The girls are sleeping by themselves in the truck. When they wake up, they join us for a cuddle — the older ones carefully helping baby Delaney out of the truck and escorting her to our door.

David in bed with the girls around him, August 2011
Today was a special treat for us all. It's not very often (these days) that the girls get to join us in a large, soft bed for a morning cuddle.

Brioni’s first game is to re-create a little home for a rubber frog. She fills a plastic tub with water, adds a rock and then puts the frog in. After David names the frog “Brog”, we start silly rhymes. David and Aisha end up discussing the difference between jogging and running.

After a little while, it’s obvious that the house’s other occupants are awake, so the girls ask to go to the main living areas. 3yo Marama is having breakfast before she heads out with Deborah for a day of shopping and errands in a nearby town.

Aisha with
Aisha arranged the hula-hoop around the big ball and identified it as "Saturn".

When Marama is finished, we serve breakfast for our four daughters — cereal with some muesli sprinkled on top. Aisha is in a bad mood and sits by herself on the couch without breakfast — her choice. Later she retreats to our bedroom so she isn’t disturbed by her sisters.

Brioni has found the magnetic words that are on the fridge and is asking what some of them mean. Calista doesn’t want to finish the last two mouthfuls of her breakfast. Instead of forcing her, I ask her if she would like to have more milk in her bowl. The extra milk is enough for her to finish it up.

When I start cleaning up the kitchen, Delaney approaches me, grizzling. She just wants to hang off my legs as I do the washing up. I leave the hot, soapy water and go to the couch with Dell. She sits on my lap as I sing through about five songs with her, accompanying the Bible verses set to music that is playing on our stereo. Then she’s happy enough to crawl down and play.

Calista grabs the opportunity for a cuddle, and I remain on the couch for a couple more songs. I know that the dishes will be there waiting for me and it’s important to fill up the girls with love so they’re well-equipped to handle the day. Time and attention is what they need and then they’re better behaved during the rest of the day.

Filled up with the extra loving, both Calista and Delaney move outside to play. Brioni is happy inside. I ask her to pack up a puzzle that she’s moved on from. I don’t command, I make it a question, and I only ask once. She happily complies — she’s not forced to do it.

Truck parked in Baylys Beach, August 2011
Our mobile home is parked just outside Deborah's house.

Delaney and Calista playing outside, August 2011
Delaney and Calista locate the tub of chalk and add to the drawings on the driveway.

10.30ish

David is outside helping Andy from next-door finish assembling the trampoline. They end up talking for hours, and the trampoline is also completed. I finish the kitchen chores and wander around to check on the girls’ whereabouts. They’re reading together in Marama’s bedroom except for Aisha.

After bringing her breakfast, David has set her up on our laptop, and she’s browsing through Sparkling Adventures. We’ve previously given our girls very little computer time so I’m impressed at how quickly Aisha has mastered basic site navigation.

David and Andy, August 2011
David helps Andy finish assembling the trampoline.

Delaney reading a book, August 2011
Just like her sisters, Dell enjoys looking at books.

Soon Delaney is grizzling at me again, but this time she’s also rubbing her eyes and saying “no” for no reason. She’s ready for a nap. I take her to the truck and put her in her box. She’s protesting as I go out the door, but I also notice that she’s carefully arranging her precious fishy rug so she can suck her thumb and fall asleep. She’s asleep within minutes.

Delaney asleep in her box, August 2011
Delaney is soon fast asleep in her box. She usually sleeps for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.

Aisha looking at the computer with her sisters, August 2011
When they discover Aisha on the computer, Calista and Brioni join in on the trip down memory lane. They love discussing the photos and remembering the places we've been!

With three girls on the computer and the baby napping, I lay on the carpet in the living room and pick up a book that I found on Deborah’s shelves and which has haunted me from childhood. The warmth of the sun is lovely on my back, and I eventually lay the book down and snooze.

The girls' drawings, August 2011
At some point in the morning, both Aisha and Brioni drew these dinosaurs. The girls have clarified that Brioni's drawing is not of a real dinosaur, but a coin-operated dinosaur-ride.

1.30ish

I get up from my impromptu nap and check on everyone. David’s talking to Nathan via Skype, and soon Delaney wakes from her nap. I serve up sandwiches for lunch. Today I just don’t feel like making elaborate meals.

Aisha eating lunch, August 2011
Lunch is a simple affair.

After lunch, I decide to take advantage of being in a house with a bath and ask Delaney if she’d like a bath. She always loves baths! Soon Calista joins in.

Calista and Dell in the bath, August 2011
We started out with two girls in the bath, then it multiplied to four. Soon after, David and I had a shower — so our whole family was in the generous bathroom, getting clean together.

The afternoon progresses at a leisurely pace. The girls take turns playing inside and out. We don’t monitor them too closely — even with Delaney.

Calista's drawing, August 2011
Calista loves to draw her funny little people. Today's man was sad because he was all alone, and Calista said we needed to "go into" the paper to be his friend and bring God to him and then he wouldn't be sad anymore.

Playing outside, August 2011
When they want to play outside, David helps Aisha get up on the trapeze swing while also pushing Delaney and Calista.

Brioni playing inside with a doll, August 2011
Brioni was happy to stay inside at this point, creating elaborate scenarios for her doll.

Jumping on the trampoline, August 2011
Now it's assembled, the trampoline is ready for a test-run!

Reading books, August 2011
Soon the girls are back inside, reading books and taking turns playing with magnetic faces.

Playing the piano, August 2011
Brioni and Calista gently test out the sounds on the piano.

5ish

David starts to make dinner. During our time on the road, he’s taken upon himself the primary responsibility for meals, and he’s gotten better and better. We’re vegetarian, and David entices all our hosting families with his superb cooking!

David rolling out dough, August 2011
David uses left-over cooked vegetables and atta flour to make chappatis for dinner.

Having dinner, August 2011
Tonight, dinner is a very informal affair. The kids come up and help themselves.

After tea, the girls finish up their paper crafts. They’ve used scissors, and I ask them to help pick up the bits of paper so the dining room is tidy when Deborah gets home. I help pick up some bits, but Aisha and Brioni are pretty good at tidying up.

Paper clothes for the doll, August 2011
Aisha puts the finishing touches on the doll's outfit. She and Brioni worked on clothes and accessories together.

Calista with Leapfrog magnet, August 2011
Throughout the day, the kids have listened and played with this Leapfrog magnet that sings the alphabet and identifies each letter. Now it's time to put it up out of reach and enjoy the silence.

David reading the Kindle, August 2011
After serving dinner, David relaxes with the Kindle.

Deborah and Marama arrive home. Marama immediately goes to try out the trampoline but doesn’t last very long — she’s tired and comes inside to play with our girls.

Girls playing, August 2011
Marama was very interested in putting her dolls to bed and carefully laid out a soft bed for them with several layers of napkins.

6.30ish

I announce that we’re going out to the truck to read stories. It’s early tonight, but I want to give Deborah and Marama some space in their home. We don’t have a set bedtime for our girls and sometimes Aisha stays up very late on her own. Each evening is different, and without an enforced routine, the girls go to bed easily.

The girls choose some storybooks to read for our bedtime stories. We’ve finished our last chapter book and I’m delaying starting a new book until I can browse our home library. So we’re thankful to have a range of great books to choose from Marama’s room.

Getting in the truck, August 2011
After climbing into the truck, the girls congregate around the electric heater for warmth.

In the truck, we read through all the books. Delaney sits on the big bed for these stories and I’m constantly manoeuvring the books so everyone can see the pictures. My favourite pose with storybooks is the “librarian” pose where the children sit on one side of the bed, and I sit on the other side and read with the book facing towards the children. With chapter books, the kids snuggle up alongside me.

After the stories are finished, the girls play around on the bed. Aisha and Brioni start performing some addition on the abacus, seeking clarification on the answers from David or me.

Counting with an abacus, August 2011
After arranging them somewhat randomly, Brioni adds up the beads as quickly as she can, and turns to me for confirmation. She hasn't yet learned the knack of using the abacus properly like Aisha does.

We put Delaney into her box and leave the Aisha and Brioni chatting. Calista is already sucking her thumb and will be asleep soon.

Bedtime in the truck, August 2011
The three girls share a bed and I leave them talking, knowing that they'll fall asleep when they're ready.

7.45ish

Back inside the house, I do the dinner dishes and catch up with Deborah. Soon I’ll have time to hop on the computer, check my emails and update the blog.

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I hope you enjoyed following us around for a day. Although we’re visiting someone else’s house, I hope you get a feel for our relaxed style and are encouraged to let your children play and learn naturally!