Friday, October 26, 2012


Ok, so here's the radical part of radical unschooling.  I do not require that my children do chores, have arbitrary bedtimes, limits on TV/computer time, or eat according to my preferences.  I trust them to follow their intellectual and creative curiosity to learn in our home and out in the world, and I trust their innate desire to be healthy and happy, to guide them with how to treat their bodies.

This is not to say that I just leave them to their own devices to eat whatever 'junk food' they can scavenge from the cupboard and watch TV in their jammies all day.  I am a more engaged parent for not simply falling back on rules to guide us.  I offer lots of opportunities for interesting learning opportunities (a science experiment, an outing, craft supplies, etc.), and I offer advice  (i.e. "You look sleepy, hon, let's brush our teeth and read some books together in bed."), and I offer opportunities to help in a meaningful way ("Wanna help me clean the livingroom and then have a dance party?").  All of these offers, really are offers.  They are free to say no, thanks, or not now, maybe later.

I say yes as often as I can, and I give reasons for my no's.  I believe that these children are not just potential adults needing to be filled with knowledge, but full-on human beings experiencing the world on their own terms.  I am here to guide them in matters of safety (their own and others), and to provide an environment that allows learning to flow freely both at home and out in the world.  That last bit is inspired by, perhaps paraphrased from, Sandra Dodd, a longtime radical unschooler who has collected a lot of inspiring writing on the subject of unschooling.

This radical unschooling gig plays out differently in each family based on the interests and temperaments of the family members.  A lot of what I share here is how these principles of trust and respect (and yes!) play out in our family.  So, here's what two more days of radical unschooling at the Verde house looked like.
 Yesterday, a rainy day, looked like soaking an egg in vinegar to see what will happen, via the naked egg experiment.

 While the girls were playing and watching a movie, I doodled with a Sharpie on watercolor paper to paint on later.
 Camille was similarly inspired.

It looked like me helping translate so that Camille, who has been poring through a sign language book to learn ASL can communicate with Sylvia without either of them getting frustrated.  They built a "musical fort".

After playing, and a run to the library, and reading, and swinging, and dancing, and watching Bill Nye, the Science of Music and The Pirates of Tortuga, and eating and playing on instruments, and Camille's play rehearsal, the girls decided to clean the living room.  It doesn't happen every day, but one of the beauteous things about not requiring chores is that children can choose to joyfully do those things which could otherwise be seen as drudgery.  Ayla loves to help with the dishes, Camille enjoys organizing things, and Sylvia is often happy to sweep and dust.

After Camille retired to bed to listen to Alice in Wonderland, Sylvia took advantage of the big, clean, living room floor by donning a bikini and rollerskates.  I put on some 80s music (not too loud, so Camille and Papa could sleep), and her and Ayla and I rocked out for a bit before going to bed ourselves.

Today was sunny, but cool.  We strolled down the road and into the woods.
 Sylvia had packed us a picnic of cheese, apples, baby carrots, dried cranberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and a jar of water.

 Nearing the end of our hike, we lay in the damp leaves and admired the blue sky, Camille and I snuggled up in one pile and Sylvia and Ayla nearby.

We gathered corn cobs left behind from the harvest in a nearby field.  Ayla 'grated' the cobs together while Sylvia grated carrots for Camille's egg drop soup (shredded carrot, garlic, sea salt, cumin, and beaten eggs in boiling water)    

Sylvia loves to chop and grate and Camille enjoys cooking on the stove, so the came up with a dessert soup as well.  "Mama, this is so good.  You should put this recipe on your blog!"
Apple Blueberry Soup

Chopped apples and fresh or frozen blueberries stewed in water with maple syrup and cinnamon.  Cook until fruit is soft but not falling apart.  There you go.

  We played catch with a felt wool ball.  The girls kicked a soccer ball around while I ran a load of laundry.
Some days are much more social than this.  Some days someone will eat a few too many mini marshmallows and decide their tummy doesn't like that.  Some days someone will get really interested in a new show on Netflix or a new computer game and be enthralled for hours (maybe in their jammies).  Some days I do all of the cooking and cleaning myself.  Some days sisters need space from each other or a reminder to treat each other respectfully.  Some days we meet friends, and go to museums, and run errands in the city.

Right now, the sky is dark, Camille and Sylvia just came in from playing and closing up the chicken coop for the night.  I started this crazy-long blog post sometime around the soup-making time and am just finishing it now.  Ayla is sleeping in my lap, Camille is reading Sylvia a Choose Your Own Adventure story,and I think it's a damn fine life we're living.

*linking up again over at Owlet's Unschool Monday.


  1. What a lovely "radical" day you all had!

  2. I always love reading about what you get up to, and even though we lead completely different lives I find it very inspiring. I don't understand how you can homeschool with different ages and needs though: my youngest is about 7 months and takes up so much of my time that I find it hard to give the other two the attention I would like - and I don't even homeschool! Lovely to see your day x

  3. Love your days!!! You are such a source of inspiration for me - I love coming here and remembering that I just have be engaged with my kids for us to be learning and living. Thank you!

  4. I think so too! mamacita

  5. I appreciate all of you and your kind comments here. Chloe, I definitely agree that it is not always easy, and I don't always get it right, but it is always worth it! I love reading about people living completely different lives from mine. It would be terribly boring if we were all saying the same thing :)

  6. Oh, Nikole, I adored this post!

  7. I loved this post too. While we live a similar's always nice to see how someone else "does it." Very inspiring, indeed. xo


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