We live in incredible times. Thanks to pioneering people and constantly evolving social constructions, most of us can not only legally educate our children in our own homes, but we can do it in any way that we see fit. Increasingly, families turn to the concept of “unschooling”, or outdoor learning, as the method most aligned with their family values, structures and schedules.
By deciding to drop out of school, we commit to trusting that we are all capable of learning what we need to learn when we need to, despite endless social messages to the contrary. Out of school means a commitment to allowing everyone to direct their own learning, while also providing a constant influx of enriching opportunities to keep everyone motivated and engaged. It means not allowing complacency or boredom to rob us of vital opportunities for authentic learning. One way to achieve balance is through a daily commitment to five open practices. These practices have the potential to provide a comforting framework that can help families fully relax on the blank canvas of non-school life.
- Turn on your game. Not only will you get more family connections by making a daily commitment to playing a game, but you will have the opportunity to teach and model many other concepts in real time: math, reading, logic, problem solving, and of course the ability to lose gracefully. Engagement is the key to authentic and powerful learning and connections = engagement. Setting aside a small block of time to play with your children, giving them your undivided attention, is time well spent and the payoff far outweighs the investment. Board games, card games, games that don’t need equipment – the learning opportunities are limitless and easy to find. Find what works best for your family, try to set aside this time in your daily routine. Maybe after dinner, before each person leaves, and spend an hour or so in our personal free time before bed. In the summer, take the games outside and use great body movements. In winter, take advantage of the wide variety of amazing board games available these days, there are many more than Monopoly and Life, although both are still great games! A daily engagement with the game will support engaging conversations and create multiple opportunities to model more refined strategic planning.
- Create. Committing to creating every day can greatly enrich the unschooling experience, while allowing each person to pursue their own passions. Someone who really enjoys creating food has the opportunity to develop essential safety skills, practice reading and math, and play with chemistry. Art lovers will find concrete ways to share their feelings and emotions, practice a multitude of gross and fine motor skills, and honor and practice. intrapersonal skills. And don’t forget to take the time to create yourself too! It is important for children to see their caregivers take time and honor their own creative process, which looks different for each person, but brings comfort and comfort to all. Modeling is a powerful teaching and learning tool. The sky is the limit when it comes to creation. Legos, Minecraft, magazine paper dolls. Visit a retirement home and create some joy. Take out the tools and create an aviary. If you can dream it, you can create it. And if you can create it, you can learn from it.
- Be still and silent. Interestingly, this could be the hardest of all. However, there is no shortage of studies to suggest that adding a mindfulness / meditation practice to your day is extremely beneficial. It may take a small start, but results will show up quickly with dedication. Start with two minutes of silence and work your way up. An easy way to start is to take one quiet car trip a day. No music, no talking, just looking at the changing scenery and letting the thoughts come and go, noticing them but not acting on them. It will be challenging at first, but a commitment to silence, even for a short time, not only creates a wonderful opportunity to hear our own inner wisdom, but also provides us with a powerful tool that we can return to in times of overwhelming and disgusted.
- To write. As a means of self-reflection and exploration, writing is hard to beat. Even something as mundane as simply recording the events of the day can not only get your juices flowing, it can also provide a cherished memory later on. It doesn’t matter what you write. Depending on the mood, energy level, and interests of the day, the time could be used to journal, write letters, do field guides, or write a daily menu. Set aside a 10-20 minute block each day to write down what your hearts dictate. It is a time of meditation, calm and quiet. This is not a time for perfection or overthinking. The emphasis is on capturing thoughts and feelings to preserve moments and generate ideas.
- To go outside. If you’re only following one piece of advice, this is the one. Get out, even when it’s raining, even when it’s cold. Invest in rain pants, good dry boots, and other necessary gear. On days when all you want to do is sit, tell yourself that you will only go outside for five minutes. On some days, five minutes may be enough, but on others you may want more. Fresh air clears our minds and Mother Nature calms our spirits when we forget the simple things. Exercise gets our blood pumping and exploration inspires our souls. Honoring time outdoors is a critical component of health, happiness, and learning.
The above guidelines present just one of many possible roadmaps for the out-of-school that honors the slow and easy pace of a self-directed life, while providing daily opportunities for growth and inspiration. These five practices may not resonate with your family, and that’s okay. But taking the time to define three, four, or five core values and commit to including them in your daily life will help your family develop a routine that calms the spirit and excites the mind.