Yep, that is right, I stuck those two words together for clickbait purposes. Unschooling+curriculum is a wonderful example of an oxymoron.
But what about those parents and caregivers who are new to homeschooling and just can not wrap their heads around not using a curriculum, a guide, or framework for homeschooling? To them I say:
remember that the goal of homeschooling is NOT to recreate the classroom and institutional education within the home; the goal is to open as many doors as possible, have first hand & hands on experiences, and to provide your children with the freedom to pursue their passions and interests.
live life as though school did not exist. Ever. It is hard to NOT do school-at-home when you are constantly worrying about whether or not you are presenting the same materials/information as school would, but trust that life will be so much more rich when you forget about school.
parents and caregivers have a much easier time supporting children's passions & interests when they are not comparing a child's knowledge or performance to other children; to demonstrate knowledge or skills gained, a child only needs to be compared to themself in the past.
remember when your child was a baby or young toddler; did you have a curriculum that told you how to love them and how to interact with them on a daily basis? You might have had a basic routine or rhythm to your day, which is absolutely fine and helpful for lots of people and families, but a rhythm is not a playbook. Rhythm is something that helps maintain harmony and can easily adapt to changing needs, whereas a curriculum begs for adherence and often creates discord.
My advice for parents of very young children who come to me for advice regarding how to replace preschool or kindergarten with homeschooling or unschooling is always the same:
"In Pennsylvania you are not legally required to register for school or homeschooling until your child turns 6 years old. Use this time to just live as rich a life as possible, love one another fiercely, laugh as much as possible, and don't think about school even existing."
For the people who listen to me, they are fantastic unschoolers by the time they are required to answer to the state. This only works if both/all parents/caregivers are on board or willing to go along for the ride. For families with one or more parents/caregivers who are not on board and feel like a curriculum is necessary or that proof of learning if necessary, it may be impossible for the other adult(s) to provide space for unschooling if they are always worried about "having proof" or making sure things "look structured". This does not mean, however, that they can not still offer an incredibly relaxed & eclectic homeschooling experience for their children.
People will have anxiety. People will want to keep some kind of records, either for themselves or to fulfil their state's requirements for homeschooling. The more someone is able to lean into their anxiety and examine where their fears are coming from, the more they will be able to release those fears and trust the the process and trust that their children will shine brightly (in a world that needs as much light as possible).
In the early years of unschooling with my (always unschooled) teenager, I used to loosely keep a daily and then weekly "log" of the things we did and it provided me a way to share our lives with grandparents and it helped me recognise patterns and trends in my child's interests.
Because all life is connected, it became really clear by the end of the first week of my recordkeeping that recording activities under traditional "school subjects" like maths, english, social studies, etc., was not easy, nor did it make sense, since practically everything we did could be listed under each subject. Life is never easily cut up and stuck into defining boxes. So, I had to come up with a better way to organise or record our happenings.
What I came up with and refined over the years still shares some of the same aspects of utilising school subject headings, such as activities overlapping multiple lists, but it does eliminate the desire to categorise happenings and even prioritising them based on "school-think".
I present you with my, "Weekly Unschooling Lesson Plan/Activity Log":
Play: games of any and all kinds (video, card, tabletop, physical/gross motor, hide & seek, etc.)
Build: blocks, Lego, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, magnatiles, straws & marshmallows, popsicle sticks & glue, playdough, etc.
Art/Create: paint, colour, draw, cut & paste, sew, costumes, birdhouses, plays & skits, one-person-bands, forts, stories, obstacles courses, play instruments, etc.
Read: anything & everything (books, magazines, cereal boxes, receipts, signs, Lego instructions, etc.)
Investigate: magnifying glass, 5 senses, look it up on Google, ask an expert, make observations, have discussions, etc.
Write: grocery lists, get well & thank you cards, journals, wish lists, bucket lists, poems, affirmations, stories, etc. (dictation when & where necessary)
Watch: movies, shows, dance recitals, meteor showers, plays/ballets, fireworks, neighbourhood basketball games, clouds, people, etc.
Listen: music, audio books, podcasts, storytime, lectures, have discussions, crickets, etc.
Eat: try new foods, eat the rainbow, bake together, exchange recipes with friends/relatives, grow your own food, meal plan together, etc.
Touch: sensory bins/toys, pet animals, hand make biscuits or pasta, etc.
Smell: gather flowers, visit a plant nursery, identify spices, aromatherapy, build a fire for s'mores, etc.
Visit: libraries, parks, museums, lakes/rivers, pools, observatories, college campuses, playdates, playgroups, festivals, open markets, farmer's markets, antique stores, thrift stores, art shows, concerts, coffee shops, grocery stores, hobby shops, green ways, bike trails, other cities/states/countries, grandma's house, etc.
One of things I actually like about this list is how many of the suggestions overlap and are twofers, threefers, and more! I recommend for very anxious parents that they make a checklist with each category on it. If 3 or more of these categories are accomplished in a day, most days, then it is a pretty safe bet that you and your children are doing things, learning stuff, and living life.
Additionally, this list is easily adaptable for any aged children. Some of the suggested activities can change for older children and teenagers, but there is no age limit on it. It is also quite easy to look back over a month, quarter, or whole year and see patterns and trends in learning, skill building, and interests, which will help in both putting together a portfolio, creating a high school transcript, and in supporting children's passions. Hopefully, it can also be used to help put other parents/caregivers who are not on board more at ease.
*I do want to point out that despite the usage of "log" several times, for those of us in PA, I am in no way wanting to encourage folks to record everything that happens on every day and then provide that information as their "log... which designates by title the reading materials used" -24 P.S. §1327.1(e)(1), as required by the PA Home Education Law. That would be a gross overcompliance with the law and if there is one thing that is universally bad for homeschooling everywhere, it is when families over comply with the law. It sets a precedent and then school districts and superintendents begin believing that the overcompliance is the correct way to do things and this then leads to minimally complying families getting harassed. To be sure, the required log in PA is a simple list of reading materials or if little to no books are used in any year, a list of other resources used has sufficed during evaluations.*
Did you know that I offer support and help to homeschooling and unschooling parents/caregivers? I can provide suggestions for how to let go and live more in the moment, how to embrace chaos, and I can assist with putting together an end of year portfolio. I may not have all the answers, but I can help you (and your children) brainstorm ideas for how to make learning more fun and life more conducive for learning.
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