Tag Archives: Unschooling

Snaps From Our Unschooling Week

Throughout this post you’ll see snaps of our unschooling week that I recorded using the app Snapchat.

Unschooling on Snapchat - 3D drawing

Unschooling on Snapchat - learning lines

My daughter’s scout troop leaders are a whizz on social media. When the scouts are off on camps we enjoy vicarious adventures thanks to a stream of messages and photos they send on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

When Cordie joined Scouts I didn’t know how to use any of those apps. Scouts gave me a reason to learn. (Though I confess I still don’t really understand what Tumblr’s all about.)

On their last summer camp the scout leaders branched into Snapchat stories. Their tongue-in-cheek blog warned us:

“The scouts are absolutely appalled that their parents have set up Snapchat accounts in order to see our stories there. The last thing they need is you on their social media of choice. They’re demanding that we tell you not to friend them on there. Just view our stories from the camp and then delete your account, delete the app, and throw away your phone.”

(I tweeted back, “Tell Cordie she’s safe. Every time I open Snapchat I’m convinced I’m going to send the world a picture of my nostrils.”)

Unschooling on Snapchat - Spanish pairs

Unschooling on Snapchat - playing Monopoly Empire

Snapchat lets you annotate, filter and share photos and video clips (snaps) over a 24-hour rolling period.

If you’ve ever looked over a teen’s shoulder and wondered in bafflement why she looks like a dog in all her smartphone photos, you’ve seen Snapchat in action.

Unschooling on Snapchat - trigonometry

Unschooling on Snapchat - blowing into red cabbage water
“What happens when I blow carbon dioxide into red cabbage indicator water?”

Photos and videos are deleted from your Snapchat story after 24 hours, so your story’s always up to date. You can choose to save your snaps to memories, though.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Creative Constructions with Geometry

Unschooling on Snapchat - balancing equations with polymods

These days I can safely navigate my around Snapchat (there were a few nostril shots on the way). And – with a bit of tween help – I’ve even made some Snapchat stories of my own.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Reading Harry Potter

Cordie and Jasper were left to their own devices for much of this week while I recovered from a headache. Thanks to Snapchat I was able to record some of what was going on around me. Looking back over my snaps, I was reminded that unschooled kids can not only cope with a little benign neglect now and then – they can thrive on it.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Hama Bead maths
Jasper explaining the maths of his Hama bead design

I know most of you don’t use Snapchat, so I thought I’d share a few of our Snaps here.

Unschooling on Snapchat - vegan pancakes and The Elements book
No eggs? Make vegan pancakes!

Instagram recently released an alternative to Snapchat – Instagram Stories. I think a few more homeschooling parents are probably on Instagram so I’m going to have a play with that next.

Unschooling on Snapchat - reading the Angles of Gum Tree Road
An exciting new book arrived this week 🙂

Do you unschool on Snapchat or Instagram?

Do you share your homeschooling life using Snapchat or Instagram stories? If you do, leave a comment with your username – I’d love to follow you. Find me on Snapchat and Instagram as lucindaleo.

I’ll leave you with a 10 second video snap of Cordie singing and playing a song she taught herself. You can see the full version over on YouTube.

Have a great weekend!


I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap Up.

Unschooling Writing

unschooling writing

We’ve been homeschooling in very relaxed way this year. Surprisingly, I’ve probably put in more homeschooling “hours” than ever – unschooling is more parent-intensive than I’d anticipated. But both the children and I are thriving.

I’ve started dozens of blog posts about what we’ve been doing, so I thought I’d better get around to finishing one. I’ll start with sharing how C(10) and J(9) are learning how to write.

General approach to writing

I don’t require any writing as part of my children’s everyday learning. Nor do we study grammar or spelling as separate subjects. I don’t teach them how to write five paragraph essays, but they love to debate ideas and make reasoned arguments. I never ask for written narrations, but after we read about the slave trade, or how Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church, for example, there’s plenty of spirited discussion. And we read and listen to so many fiction books together that we’re always comparing and contrasting plot structures, analysing character motivations and discussing the use of different viewpoints as we chat about the novels we’ve enjoyed.

Despite – or perhaps because of –  this, both C(10) and J(9) love to write. Here are some examples of the types of writing they’ve been doing recently.


C(10)’s passion for the Divergent books and movie has inspired a ton of learning. She spent most of April reading Divergent fan fiction, and last week she uploaded the first instalment of her own story to FanFiction.net. An hour later she excitedly announced that 28 people had read it. The following day she added another instalment. Readers left reviews. More people read it. Her story is now over 3000 words long. It’s had more than 1000 views, and it’s been followed and favourited by readers.

I contrast this encouraging, peer-supported writing environment with the writing opportunities I had when I was young. I wrote stories on subjects decided by my teachers. The stories were read and judged by the teachers alone. If a piece of writing happened to appeal to the teacher it might be published in the school magazine. (Mine never were. The teacher liked long descriptive paragraphs filled with adjectives and adverbs. That wasn’t my style.)

Writing, like any skill, improves with practice. C(10) knows her words are going to be read and appreciated by real people. She gets almost real-time feedback. No wonder she spends so much time writing!

Unschooling writing


C(10) has also just started writing a fantasy novel, “Circle of Fire”. (Actually a trilogy, apparently.) The title was inspired by this brilliant name generator site recently shared in Julie’s Daily Writing Tip.

C(10) is at the faltering ownership stage of writing – she often enjoys writing alongside an adult.  Not so long ago, the idea of that adult being me was met with a derisive snort. Then for a year she was mentored in writing by an adult friend of ours, until the friend moved away. So when C(10) recently asked if I could help her write a story “in the way that Gaynor used to” I did a little jig inside.

I like this flipped way of working. Instead of me teaching C(10), C(10) is showing me how to help her. “Okay, so now we set the timer and I do a free-write about the characters”, she says. “Now I read you what I’ve written and we talk about it.” It’s fun being part of her writing process.

Blog posts

J(9) has been writing, too.  He is fiercely autodidactic, so working in the same room as me when I’m busy doing something else suits him perfectly. When he saw me working with C(10) on her story the other day, he grabbed his computer and wrote a review of his favourite DS game on his blog, Video Game Reviewer.  When my attention is elsewhere J(9) can safely shoot questions at me – “How do you spell enough?” – without me getting carried away and subjecting him to an un-asked for spelling lesson (“What other words can you think of that end in -ough“?)

Unschooling Writing
J(9) working on a blog post

Mad Libs stories

“Shall we make up Mad Libs?” J(9) asks enthusiastically, several times a week. We all enjoy Mad Libs, so C(10) and I grab our computers and join J(9). We each write a few paragraphs on any theme we choose, leaving plenty of gaps.

Then we take turns eliciting from the others words to fill our gaps: “Adjective?”, “Verb?”, “Plural noun?”. Plenty of suggestions are offered for each missing word, and the writer selects their favourite. Then they share their story, usually several times, to much hilarity.

Unschooling writing
Writing a Mad Libs story


All the writing I’ve mentioned so far is spontaneously initiated by the children. Copywork, meanwhile, is part of our routine. C(10) loves writing out her favourite poems, and paragraphs from books she loves. She does her copywork by hand, using colourful gel-pens.

Because J(9) struggles with the physical act of writing, I tend to forget that as he copies he is also learning how to spell, punctuate and use good grammar. Although he needs the practice, the laborious process of writing by hand makes it difficult for him to copy more than one short sentence at a time.

I think of his last blog post – beautifully conversational and funny, but with barely a comma or full-stop (period) in sight. “I wish there was spell-check for punctuation,” he said.

“Would you like to type out your copywork sometimes, instead of using a pencil?” I suggested. “That way you might be able to manage longer sentences … even paragraphs. You might remember to use full stops when you’re writing if you put them into your copywork.”

Copywork will help , but I expect J(9) will learn to punctuate when he feels the need, just as he taught himself to read and spell. He knows I’m eager to help whenever he needs me, but he needs to do things his way.

Both  my children choose their own copywork. Sometimes I strew resources, like websites with quotes from their favourite books. Or I buy kindle copies of their favourite audiobooks, like Anne of Green Gables or the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series. Often I do copywork alongside them – writing out great literature is always inspiring.

What are your children’s favourite ways to write?

For more writing inspiration, see 5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love.


I’m appreciatively linking up with:

Weekly Wrap-up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

The Hip Homeschool Hop

Almost Unschooling History

unschooling history

We may not be doing school time this year but that doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying learning history.

Here’s how we do it. It’s not much different from the way most homeschoolers do history. The key point for me is that my kids choose whether or not to participate in each activity we do.

History – How I prepare

Researching history resources and activities is one of my favourite pastimes. My aim is not to create perfect lesson plans. I don’t want to end up with something I’m so attached to that I can’t scrap it in favour of where the children’s interest leads us.

I save what I find in Evernote so that I can easily pull up everything relating to the topic when we need it.

1. The Story of the World

I pre-read a chapter of The Story of the World, which we’ve used as our spine since we began homeschooling. We’re now two-thirds through volume 2 (the Middle Ages).

2. Other books

I read about the topic in the Usborne Encyclopaedia of World History and do a library search for other books to strew.

unschooling history

3. Online research

* Google search for “hands-on activities” relating to the topic

* Google Images search for pictures of people, places, art, artefacts, architecture etc

* You Tube – our favourite videos include Crash Course World History and Horrible Histories

* Evernote & Pinterest – for resources I’ve bookmarked in the past

* Brainpop

4. Geography

Studying world history is the perfect way to show children how the world links up.

* I flag relevant pages in our World Atlas

* or print a map using Wonder Maps

* or I find a historical map online – e.g. I needed a map this week showing the Kievan Rus

* Google Maps and Google Earth – good for seeing where places are in relation to each other (and us), what they’re like today, and even “visiting” historical landmarks

* Geography Through Art – this book is full of mini-project ideas. It’s black and white so I usually browse it and then find examples of the projects online

unschooling history
C(9)’s map showing how first Australians and New Zealanders arrived

5. Collating resources

I save what I find to Evernote. One advantage of digital filing is that if we don’t use something now, I can easily find it next year {or in three years’ time}.

6. Printables

I print any materials I want the children to see close-up, and store them in a clear document wallet in our everyday homeschool materials crate.

unschooling history planning process

History – What we do together

Reading Aloud from SOTW

When we have a free fifteen minutes, I ask the kids if they’d like to hear a chapter of The Story of the World.

We’re a family of multi-taskers so I’m happy with the children doing other things as they listen. Ideally this means something hands-on like play dough or drawing. In practice it might mean J(8) playing Minecraft. I’m okay with that. His comments as I read and throughout the days afterwards let me know me he’s taken in what he’s heard.


Depending how much time we have and what else the children have planned, we either do an activity straight after I read from SOTW, or in the next few days.

We almost always chat informally about the topic throughout the week. This helps me gauge their interest in any activities I have in mind, and gives me ideas for other learning tangents.

Our activities usually inter-relate with other subjects, especially geography, art, science and maths.

We watch videos when we can fit them in throughout the week.

We might make notes on our Timeline Builder app.


C(9) will read almost any library book I leave on the table. J(8) looks at the pictures. This is one of the reasons I like the Usborne Encylopedia of World History, which I leave open on our topic.

Unschooling History
Usborne Encyclopedia of World History

When do we leave a topic?

We stay with each topic until we’ve learned everything we want to know. Sometimes spin-off projects continue while we move onto a new chapter of The Story of the World. Other times we get halfway into a project and decide we’ve done as much as we want to. There are schedules and no rules. Only enjoyable learning.

unschooling history
C(9) had the idea to make a guidebook for medieval travellers wishing to follow in Marco Polo’s footsteps

Check out our history curriculum 2013-14 to see some of our unschooling history activities.

Coming soon: our activities relating to medieval Russia.

unschooling history

To see how the other Homeschool Help ladies teach history, visit:

Hammock Tracks – Finding Your Way as you Explore History

Highhill Homeschool – History with Activities at Highhill Education

One Magnificent Obsession – A Glance at How we do History

Every Bed of Roses – Teaching History Revisited

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Historically Speaking: A Barefoot Hippie Plan for Studying 1600-1800


This post is linked to:

History and Geography Meme #91

Unschooling History

Deschooling Myself

We’re having a quiet week. I’m enjoying feeling well rested but a few times I’ve caught myself  feeling anxious that we should be doing more.

I know from experience that using the word should word is a sure sign I’ve disappeared from the joyful here and now and into too much thinking – never a good place for me to hang out for long.

We spent most of yesterday at home apart from a visit to the park.  C and J spent the rest of the day drifting happily between the garden and house. From time to time they’d ask me for things, but they mostly contentedly did their own thing.

Looking back, it’s obvious the kids had had a great day (and of course learned heaps). But  that  insecure part of me (the schooled part) couldn’t help seeking reassurance.

‘Have you had a good day?’ I asked C at bedtime.

‘I’ve had a perfect day,’ she replied.

Then she  added, ‘No, not perfect.  If it had been perfect I wouldn’t have had time to create’ (C’s word for the many things she does at the craft desk).

One of the creations she had time to make in her happily imperfect day – this Be Happy sandwich board – is a handy visual reminder for me!

A 'Be Happy' sign - deschooling

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