What Education Looks Like For Us Now |

What Education Looks Like For Us Now

admin May 15, 2017

I’ve been talking about our educational plans since I first started this blog, in late 2009.  Back then, I had just two kids, and my oldest wasn’t even 2.  I had “plans.”  But…other than having done some reading, what did I really know about education or how things would turn out?!

I didn’t.

I have to say this, because now that I’m a little bit on the other side (I have five kids, who are 9, almost 8, almost 6, 4, and almost 2), I see moms who are in those shoes and who are asking the same questions I did, and I cringe.

“What curriculum should I be starting my 2-year-old on?  How should I get my 3-year-old to sit down and pay attention to our reading lessons?  Why isn’t my 5-year-old writing more than he is?!”

Oh, please stop.  Please.  I really was the same way, I was.  And I learned the hard way.  That’s really a separate post, though.

For nowI just want to focus on where we are with our education.

What We Believe About Education

As I mentioned, my oldest is 9 and is finishing what would be her “third-grade”  year — if we counted grades, anyway.  We don’t.

What philosophy do we use?  I can’t even say anymore.  I’ve explored all different philosophies, and have found some I identify with more than others.  I’d say we lean to “unschooling” the most, as we don’t assign our kids curriculum or have defined plans.  It’s just not how we roll.  But I hesitate, also, to say we are unschoolers, simply because I fear I may describe some of what we do and face purists saying “That’s not really unschooling!”

I have no desire, at this point in my life, to answer to anyone who rigidly adheres to a particular philosophy and wants to tell me I can’t or shouldn’t claim a label because I don’t fit their understanding of the philosophy.

I fact, I felt so strongly about this, that I covered it pretty extensively in another post.

For that reason, I won’t use a label at all.  My educational philosophy, though, is fairly simple.  I believe that children will learn what they need, when they need it, if exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking on a regular basis.  How can they explore what they don’t know exists?  I believe in partnering with my kids for their education, constantly talking to them about what they need and where they are and how I can support them.  I believe in giving them time and space to discover what they need to discover, and not pushing them to do or learn things they aren’t ready for.  I also believe in asking them to do things that are meaningful and work towards something, gaining a better understanding of certain topics and the world around them.

It doesn’t really matter to me if anyone thinks that’s “too much” or “not enough” of whatever.  There are those who would say I should take a firmer hand in my children’s education, prescribing to them what they need to know and making them sit down and learn when I want them to, simply because I’m the parent and I know better.  And there are those who would say that asking them to engage in meaningful work ever is unacceptable because I don’t get to define what “meaningful work” is for them or push them in any direction whatsoever.

Meh.  I’m over it.

Look, every family is a bit different.  They have different personalities and desires and needs.  What works for one won’t work for another.  I’m beyond the point where I care about adhering to anyone else’s philosophy or trying to ‘belong’ to some kind of community.  We do what we do.

what education looks like us for now

What Education Looks Like For Us Now

So for real…what does this look like?

It’s kind of hard to even define, because every day is a little bit different.  But I’ll try to describe it all.

#1: A Rich Educational Environment

I’ll admit I’m still building this, but I’m sure that will be the case basically forever, as my kids grow and their needs change.  It’s my goal to have my kids surrounded by lots of different materials and options to dig into.  Right now, this includes:

  • Legos
  • Art supplies
  • Board games
  • Computer games
  • TV shows
  • Recycled materials
  • Science kits and experiment books
  • Math workbooks and sheets
  • Reading books
  • Outdoor toys (bikes, shovels, balls)

As my kids get older, we’re adding more hands-on projects (right now, we’re raising caterpillars), and more “special” stuff (like my husband kept some electronic components to show the kids how they worked).  It’s my goal to always have something for the kids to do.

#2: Regular Social Times

We think it’s important that the kids spend time with their friends, so once or twice a week, we get together with other families.  The kids have time to play inside or outside (depending on weather) and/or work on projects together…their choice.

#3: Outdoor Play Often

Our kids have a trampoline in our backyard, plus some outdoor toys.  They like to dig in the ground in certain areas and “grow” things or make things.  We also try to hit a park or playground a few days a week, so they can explore different toys, the woods, etc.  They’re encouraged to play outdoors as much as they want to.

#4: “Learning Time” Occasionally

We’re just starting to implement this, and it’s the kids’ idea.  We’re doing some short unit studies that are hands-on.  First, a study about butterflies (we’re growing caterpillars, learning about the life cycle, what they eat, watching Wild Kratts to learn more, etc.).  In a few weeks, we’re going to do a study on owls (dissect owl pellets, hike and look for signs of owls’ habitats, etc.).  It’s all very casual and hands-on and the kids and I choose activities together.

I also printed the kids some math and spelling sheets.  My 7-year-old requested to do spelling recently, which we’ve never formally done, so I thought — why not.  We’ll give it a shot.  The kids all really like doing math worksheets, so I’ve been printing those for them, too.  Our 9-year-old is working on 3 and 4-digit addition and subtraction with borrowing/trading as well as memorizing the basic times tables.  Our 7-year-old just started doing 2-digit addition with borrowing/trading.  Our 5-year-old has been doing 2-digit addition with no regrouping, counting and adding 10s, and some other stuff (he’s good at math and will be moving on soon).  We don’t do any formal math or spelling with our 2 or 4-year-olds.

We also read with the kids — not every day, but whenever they ask.  We have a variety of kids’ chapter books (that we mostly read to them) and early readers (that they read to us).  Each is building their skills in their own way right now.  Our 9-year-old does struggle with this a bit, but she has always struggled with things and then suddenly will “get” them.  Our 7-year-old is doing fine, sounding out words and building his vocabulary.  Our 5-year-old is just showing an interest in sight words and has started to pick up several that are important to him or show up frequently.  The little ones don’t read yet, of course.

For learning time, we’ll sometimes sit at the table, sometimes in the living room.  I’ll work with kids one-on-one if they need help, but they do what they can independently, too.  Reading usually happens at night, once the little ones are in bed.  (Otherwise, they like to interrupt and grab the books!)

#5: Following the Kids’ Interests

The kids often ask us random questions, and we try to honestly find them answers.  They’ll ask our phones questions so they can google the answers.  Or, we’ll pull up YouTube videos and show them how things work.  Or, we’ll go on a field trip, or do a project, or whatever makes the most sense.

They often get something in their heads and want to do them — so we facilitate.  For example, our 7-year-old decided he wanted to write and illustrate his own book the other week.  He asked me how to spell several words, and drew pictures for his story.  My 9-year-old wanted to create her own recipes, so we watched several cooking videos, I helped her spell the names of ingredients, and she began to write down recipes she hoped would work (and we talked about why the proportion of each ingredient is so important, what each does in the chemistry of baking, etc.).

Our Learning Materials

Next week, I’ll be sharing with you where we get all our learning materials!  I have a ton of them, so that any time my kids say “Hey, I want to know about…” I have something to pull out for them!  Be sure you don’t miss the announcement on May 22. 🙂

What does education look like for your family?

This is the writings of:



  1. If I am understanding unschooling correctly, doesn’t it dismiss the idea that there are concepts, ideas & truths that well rounded individuals ought to know? If the physical health of my children is importatnt, so much more the intellectual & spiritual health. I do think children need lots of free time for hobbies etc. and outside time but I don’t see why requiring study of certain bodies of knowledge infringes on this. For example learning astronomy & natural science gives them an appreciation of God’s creation, learning math paves the way for logic skills, and reading numerous good stories (Bible stories, fairy tales, classics, good picture books) helps them learn greatness, human character & beauty. I can’t imagine only having my children learn these things IF they want to; these things are just too formative to not be studied. Just my thoughts!


    • It depends on who you ask.

      In my opinion, and the way we practice, I purposely expose my children to a wide range of ideas and subjects. They do not have to explore in-depth if they do not care for the ideas (what good would it do? Many of us adults don’t remember the things we were “forced” to learn), but they need to know it’s out there.

      Not all unschoolers do this; some truly just leave their children alone to figure things out. But I partner with my children and work closely with them to explore new ideas and ways and help them go deeper into subjects they’re interested in. I believe this is my job and I must be heavily involved.


  2. Honestly we’d do 0 if I didn’t have a cur to whip my behind into action. I would happily do my chores then ve in silence outside while I ‘work’ on my animals/projects. Im like Heidi the Mt Girl’s g-father that way. That being said, we live learning informally, much of what you described is how we do stuff too, only add 1-2 hours of cur. Although I’m beyond happy we live in the country on acres and don’t have to go to a park honestly (ugh people are there). The kids go in and out and into the woods as they like bc everything’s fenced, ages 2-8. Charlotte Mason got nutin on us


  3. Btw thx for describing your semi-unschooling day, it was interesting.


  4. Great job on describing you philosophy…I enjoy your blog. I am much older and our boys(5) are grown but this is how we raised them and they are fairly well adjusted adults. The oldest is married and discovering all kinds of new life lessons having married a more traditionally raised girl. We made the mistake of sending the oldest 4 to public high school and have decided to home school through high school with him.


  5. Great job on describing your philosophy…I enjoy your blog. I am much older and our boys(5) are grown but this is how we raised them and they are fairly well adjusted adults. The oldest is married and discovering all kinds of new life lessons having married a more traditionally raised girl. We made the mistake of sending the oldest 4 to public high school and have decided to home school through high school with him.


  6. I hesitate to call what we do unschooling also. I consistently train our children in the area of the 3 R’s, but otherwise we have fun and learn through living. I use some curriculum, but it’s very basic. My one biggie that goes against the grain is we NEVER, EVER have required reading. We really don’t do required writing either, beyond light penmanship copywork. Math is our only real curricula as it is used every single day in one way or another. I married into an unschooling family and they are all successful people with wonderful work ethic and morals. Two of the children, however, have very strong feelings regarding their ‘lack of education’. They both wish they had had more formal instruction in certain areas, hence the reason I choose to emphasize the 3 R’s until they are mastered.


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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