How Our Family Unintentionally Started Unschooling

There are many ways that parents choose to home-school their children and one of these methods is known as unschooling.

Unschooling is a very non traditional method which is mainly child directed. It allows children to learn through activities that they choose. There is very little or no time spent sitting at a desk doing worksheets or taking notes. I am not sure how it got to be called unschooling as there really is a ton of learning taking place, but I suppose it is just that it goes in the opposite direction of how we picture a typical public school classroom.

Children are able to learn in so many different ways. I want to give my children a chance to learn in a way that suits them best. When we give our children the tools they need to understand how to learn they will use these to go beyond anything we can imagine for them. It is my goal to instill a love of learning in my children because if they love to learn now they will continue to learn throughout their lives.

We have not always been an unschooling family.

It was a transition that took place after we decided to travel full time in our RV. The whole sitting down and doing lessons thing just wasn’t working for us. At first my husband and I were worried they weren’t getting the education they needed. However, after a few months we decided that they seemed to be learning more than ever. So we relaxed about sitting and doing lessons in a formal way, and let the unschooling begin.

Field trips have become the basis for our education. Visiting museums, parks, and touring factories are a large part of our unschool days. We love learning things by getting a hands on experience with them. History, science, and nature are weighted heavily in our children’s education. They also learn daily life skills by helping with chores, shopping, and meal preparations. A small allowance is given for their help, which teaches them money management skills as well.

There is definitely a lot of learning taking place in our unschool!

A typical day for us starts out with waking up, usually without an alarm, but we use one if we need to. We eat breakfast together as a family, then we get dressed. Most days we will get a picnic lunch ready to take with us on our field trip. These field trips will take us to places such as science museums, state capitol buildings, hiking trails, and many other educational destinations. Our outings usually have us out until dinner time. After dinner we might do math, write out some post cards or have a fire and tell stories. Last thing of course is getting ready for bed, but before the kids go to sleep we always read a story together. This is what an unschool day usually looks like for us.

Many of the places we visit often have school groups visiting while we are there. For us this means that other educators also feel these are places that children can learn in. By visiting state capitol buildings the children learn not only about how government works, but about the history of the state we are in. My daughter loves to learn the state facts, such as the state bird and state tree.

Science museums provide us with so many aspects of learning not just science. Many of these museums have staff members doing experiments with the children which my youngest loves taking part in. Participating in the Junior Ranger programs at national and state parks has also been an excellent resource for our unschooling education. The kids love doing the activities and often end up completing the entire book. We also enjoy that we can all learn from each other, especially while we are enjoying a nice hike in a beautiful location.

Traveling has given us such wonderful opportunities to learn together as a family.

Our transition to unschooling was unintentional, but we have no regrets or worries about it. The children are learning and to me that they learn is more important than what they learn. As long as we keep challenging them to be the best that they can be, we know them better than anyone else, and expect more from them everyday, they will rise to those expectations and exceed them. Public school, home-school or unschool, as long as children are learning and being challenged any method can work. If they are healthy and they are happy they can learn.


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Here are a few other articles about how we teach our children:

From Home School to Road School

Deciding to Home School in the First Place

Here are some links that you might find useful

Junior Ranger Programs

ASTC Travel Passport List

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13 thoughts on “How Our Family Unintentionally Started Unschooling

  1. I love the practical education that the child gets when they are traveling. I have seen my own daughter absorb so much more when we are out with her. However, I am so conditioned by the atmosphere around me that I cannot get her to unschool. I still send her to school but supplement it with field trips and travel.

  2. I don’t think school needs to be totally structured, but I have never been a fan of the way most people unschool (at least the ones I have seen on the news or people who home school for religious reasons).

    Some things like math, science, and English need some structure but they are specific skills with those subjects.

    History on the other hand. You can mix it up. Focus on the history of where you are and how its relevant to the nation. I learned far more Civil War history from my father while we visited the Civil War battlefields.

    Same thing with books, I might focus on some Mark Twain when visiting the Mississippi River or in Hartford and visiting his home. I like how you can tailor the lessons to where you are but keeping the education well rounded.

    • Math is one of the few subjects that the kids follow a structure on because it does all build upon previous lessons. Often times though people discount the math that occurs everyday and don’t realize that math lessons are everywhere. When we grocery shop, the kids figure out cost per ounce and what actual costs after a percent off sale. Getting allowance and counting their money also allows some financial math that can help them latter in life. Math isn’t a huge worry for us though because our kids are a grade or two ahead of where public school kids are when it comes to math. I think it is because we start earlier than most people, our 5 year old can add and subtract and we started teaching him math at the same time he learned to read (at 4).

  3. I’ve always considered home schooling when I have kids, because we like to travel a lot – though I hadn’t heard of the concept of unschooling. I like the notion of respecting that children learn in different ways, and letting the kids dictate which ways they learn best. And I love that through this method field trips and practical, hands on experiences have become a core focal point of their learning experience – that’s the best way to learn honestly!

    The more power to you – your kids will have a more well rounded education having learnt from the real world than many others who sit behind a desk.

  4. It’s great to read about the different ways you are instilling a love of learning in your children. I’m a first grade teacher, and this has definitely given me some food for thought. With a large class it’s so hard to meet every child’s individual learning needs. I think homeschooling and what you are doing is an amazing option for any parents who are able to make it happen. Your family will take these experiences with you forever. Good on you guys and keep going!

  5. This is the first time I am reading about someone’s first hand experience of home schooling. I think it is a great way to teach children what learning is all about. It is not important how many things they learn as long as they know the process of questioning, asking, researching, seeking – that is what learning is all about. Traditional school education was meant to create clerks and is very limited in generating curiosity in kids. Keep travelling and keep learning.

  6. Very informative post! My husband and I are newly-married and don’t have kids yet but we are definitely considering this option. We do have friends who also unschool/homeschool their kids and we’ve found that kids turn out to be so smart & well-behaved. I love that this method also teaches kids to think and other skills & facts they may not learn in a classroom.

    I think our only hesitation is the added responsibility on the parents’ part since we both have full-time jobs. I’m sure we will figure it out eventually, but it’s great to hear success stories from someone like you has first-hand experience.

  7. I’d never heard of unschooling before it is an interesting concept and it is good to hear how it is working for you. I do think children would benefit from being out and experiencing the world more than stuck inside a classroom – they are definitely getting lots of life experience!

  8. My husband and I are seriously considering this when my daughter is of school-age (it’ll be quite a while though, but I like it when I plan in advance.. LOL). This looks like a unique way of teaching kids. At what age did you start ‘unschooling’ the kids?

    • We have always home schooled our kids from birth (our oldest is 10 now). When we started traveling we were road school and it was a mix between unschooling and home schooling. It was a slow transition and I would say we only really embraced unschooling about six months ago.

  9. This is an interesting way of schooling your children! Travel can teach them so much, and you’re right that visiting museums can help them to learn directly, through experiments and games! Yet in Italy it’d be illegal: kids have to go to school, no matter what.

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