A day in the life 2013
26 August 13
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.
For the past couple of years, I’ve documented the details of a whole day in the life of our family as part of a homeschooling link-up. A couple years on, I find it fascinating to look back at a typical day at home in our house in 2010, on the road in New Zealand in 2011 and while living out of our shed in Queensland to see how things have changed for us!
I’m an Australian single mama, living permanently on the road in a housebus with four daughters and unschooling quite deliberately. Aisha is 8 and a half. Brioni turned 7 yesterday. Calista is 5 and a half. Lana (Delaney) will be 4 at the end of the year.
Today, we are visiting friends in the very centre of Australia: Alice Springs. We first met the Edinborough family at their home in New Zealand sixteen months ago. Pip and Grant Edinborough unschool their three children too: Tom (7), Kate (6) and Meghan (3). Although it’s Monday, today feels more like a Sunday for the Edinboroughs because Grant is home all day and no activities are planned.
I get up when Brioni needs help finding a new roll of toilet paper. One of the characteristics of living in a tiny space like The Gifted Gypsy is that essentially we sleep, cook and toilet in the same room.
Brioni has been up in the night vomiting, and so her first question this morning is “Can rats vomit?” We already know that rats can’t burp — this information was gleaned when we first got the rats and read through their dietary restrictions — but I hadn’t thought about vomiting before. I reach for my phone and google the question. The answer is no.
This is the beauty of home-educating in the age of information technology. We don’t need to consult a textbook or visit a library to discover new facts, we simply look them up online. Our home-educating tools are mostly technology-based: the girls each have their own tablets (which we call kipis), and I’ve recently subscribed to a mobile internet service and set up wi-fi in our bus. The girls have unrestricted access to Skype and YouTube, but they aren’t yet using email programs or a web browser.
Three girls are sleeping with me in the bed we share. In the early morning, Calista decided she wanted to move and made a new bed for herself on the floor of the bus, underneath our suspended bed. Brioni comes back to bed, and we doze for a bit longer.
Brioni and Lana have both woken. I hand my phone to Brioni — a birthday message to her has come during the night — and she reads it while I use my laptop to bring up the other good wishes that appeared via email and on Facebook. We talk about our lovely friends Delcie and Alan and browse our blog to see where we last camped with them to which we will be returning to camp with other unschoolers next month. We like using our blog to remember our friends and reminisce over good times in the past.
At this time, Brioni asks another random question: “When is lychee season?” She loves the fruit and is looking forward to having it again. We google that, discover that Australia has a long lychee season (from October to February) and this leads to a discussion on hemispheres and opposite seasons. 3yo Lana looks at the map of Australia and asks where we are. Already she has an understanding of cartography because we refer to maps often during our travels.
I enter the house and greet the occupants. Lana has requested porridge for breakfast, and so I ask all the children if they would like some so I know how much to cook. After I set the porridge going, I move into the laundry to continue the never ending process of sorting, washing, hanging and bringing-in the clothes.
Calista is still sleeping in the bus, and Brioni has just gotten up and is playing with a rat. Late mornings aren’t entirely unusual for us, as the girls sometimes stay awake until the early hours of the morning. With Brioni being sick in the night, I wonder if Calista is feeling unwell too. Everyone else is fed, and the kids are pretty chilled, playing quietly together. Yesterday was a high-energy day with Brioni’s birthday celebrations. Lana is partially watching a movie at the same time as playing with toys. Pip is baking her youngest daughter’s birthday cupcakes, and the kids move in and out of the kitchen, helping where possible.
By now it’s clear that we have several kids who aren’t feeling very well. Calista is up, but she’s not 100%, and even Tom is more mellow than usual. Only Kate is her usual, exuberant self, and now that the bus is not occupied, she can play in and out of it — interacting with the rats.
We were planning an outing to one of the terrific national parks around Alice Springs, but can see that today is better spent at home. One of the beauties of home-educating without an agenda is that we can be flexible instead of forcing our children to fit to a schedule.
I start doing some repairs on the bus which includes giving the bus an oil change. This is my big lesson for today, for this is the first time I’ve done an oil change, and I use my bus manual to make sure that I’m doing everything correctly. I open up the engine hatch inside the bus which gives the kids something to examine and discuss. While I’m inspecting the underside of the engine, Lana crawls under the bus to see what I’m doing. I’m pleased that my girls see me working on mechanical maintenance, it demonstrates that mechanics are not necessarily a masculine field.
With three out of seven children not very well, we’re all in a mellow mood. The kids are playing quietly with Lego, on their kipis or in the playroom. Calista is napping in the bus again, and both Lana and Brioni have had baths. Without a daily routine, our girls are just as likely to have baths in the middle of the day as they are to have them in the evening.
Without being asked, Brioni checks the rats’ cage and tops them up with food and water. She loves to play with Shadow, and Kate loves the rats almost as much as she does! Brioni asks me to clean the cage, so I take it out and wash out the bottom tray with plain vinegar before rinsing it with water from the hose. We like to minimise our exposure to chemicals, and this means that we clean with natural products — even for rats!
It’s Meghan’s third birthday today, but she’s not inclined to celebrate it today, perhaps instinctively responding to the fact that not everyone is well. A present is left untouched on the dining table and Meghan doesn’t want her cupcakes today. It doesn’t matter — we can have a party tomorrow! But Meg has requested pizza for dinner, and so that’s what we have!
The kids all watch a movie together after tea, and then I move our girls into the bus. The Edinborough children wake early and go to bed early, and taking our children out of the house instantly makes it easier to put Tom and Kate to bed.
Usually I go to bed at the same time as the girls, lying alongside them in our bed, sharing their movie or using earphones to listen to an audiobook. But tonight I decide to stay up late with Pip. It’s our last planned night together (at least for a little while), and we still have lots of stories to swap!
I’m using my computer at the dining table while Pip knits, and we both don’t get much done because we’re talking so much. It’s lovely to be living alongside friends — even if it’s just for a short while.
Today has been a quiet day for all the children, not necessarily typical of our more adventurous style, but the respect and freedom which we have extended to the children has been the same as every other day. I’m glad to have recorded this day, especially because it has been shared with such good friends, and I look forward to seeing where we are this time next year!