Some may perceive unschooling as zero structure and not very goal oriented or that the students are “getting enough.” And to some extent they are not getting everything someone in public school grade level is getting that year. The student is probably behind in some subjects but ahead in others.
Here are some suggestions on how ensure you are making progress without completing a formal curriculum or having grades or a completed binder, etc.
1. Mom needs to be learning along with the kids. Learning can be contagious.
- I think it is good for mom or dad to be reading lots or watching documentaries on various topics. This leads to mom being able to talk with her children throughout the day, teaching them informally. I have really enjoyed watching some history documentaries that go along with their history sentences. I have learned so much and then when they have questions, I can actually answer them and elaborate on what they are learning.
- Reading to our children is also very valuable. For example, we are currently reading missionary stories together as a family at night. We now all have the same context when discussing missions and then when we are reading something about Africa in a different book, we can say to them, “hey, remember what happened in Africa with David Livingstone?…” A common context with books, movies, sermons, Scripture, etc certainly accelerates learning.
- It is also helpful for mom to be learning about education in general – reading blogs or books about learning styles, curriculum, what are other kids learning or what books are they reading at various grade levels.
2. Making use of everyday life as opportunities for learning. Make it a point to talk with your children during lunch or snack time. Read together at night. Have conversation while doing chores together. Play word games or other games together. Have the older kids teach the younger kids something. Sing together. Watch TV together (and this doesn’t have to be just “educational” TV). Go for walks or get outside together.
3. Create some structure, habits, expectations with your children. Just because you are not having school at the same time every day, does not mean there is no structure. My children expect that most days we will do math, have some reading time, and work on AWANAS. Make monthly or weekly assignments such as: write in your journal three times a week, or read a chapter book a week and write a summary, or complete a handwriting sheet on a Bible verse a few times a week. We make these type of assignments into habits so that there is not fighting or stress about doing school and many of these type of assignments are expected to be somewhat independent work.
4. Being part of a homeschool group. I feel like this can fill in the gaps of things we might not get to at home. These groups can be more formal ones like Classical Conversations, or could be a group that goes on field trips or that focuses on one area like science, music or athletics. Our church also provides an important outlet for our children – they get the social environment, the structure of a classroom, and get to have other adults teaching them.
5. Being flexible and teaching your kids to be flexible. Some weeks we don’t accomplish much. Those are usually weeks when someone is sick (or all of us) or when we aren’t sleeping well. And maybe some days we take off just to have a fun day or to catch up on other projects. We as a family try to plan for these days. The kids are usually motivated to do a little extra work on some days if they know we will have a playdate later in the week.
6. Have access to some learning resources. These do NOT have to be expensive.
- internet access
- books (we use the library lots!)
- a few general reference things to own (like an atlas, a Bible)
- math manipulatives
- lots of paper, pencils, crayons