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Leaving the Quiet Growing Years of Homeschooling + Unschooling

The Term Four school holidays just finished here in New Zealand. We’ve had a busy few weeks of family visiting and my husband preparing for his university exams. With schooling wrapping up within the next few months, it would seem to be an odd time to be starting school (unless you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). But for us, in our family, this first week of Term Four heralds in a fresh start in schooling.

If you have been reading here for a little while, or following me on Instagram for years, you would know that we have – in general – been an unschooling family. That is, even when our children reached school age, we pretty much kept on living the way we had been since they were born: relaxed, following interests, reading lots of books, and spending time in nature. Charlotte Mason calls this “the quiet growing time” of the Early Years.

Charlotte Mason advocated enormous amounts of time outside, reading books, and letting the child grow naturally in their environment, with slow installment of habit training to make “smooth and easy days” for Mother (and her children’s good). Around six years of age, Charlotte believed children were ready for short (ten minute) formal lessons of a wide variety of topics, in the morning time.

Josiah is now seven and a half, whilst Rosalie turned six in July.

Some educational theorists recommend leaving formal schooling even later. Unschooling as an ideology, advocates only introducing formal lessons as the child’s interest bequests. But, as we all know, each family is their own family. We all have wisdom and insight into what is best for each child, regardless of theories, philosophies, and sub-cultures. It could do your head in to try and follow every thought about children and learning, even within your own extended family!

Thankfully, Tim and I are like-minded and open to what needs to happen for our children and their learning and living. Our “quiet growing time” for the last seven years has been so, so amazing. Truly, I have no regrets. Both children have had the freedom to be young children, to be in touch with their child-like wonder longer, and to be able to live a slow life with their mother (and this year, their father, too).

Yet, the time has come for change.

Both are in Middle Childhood, that interesting – yet often, neglected – time of childhood. I read this blog post about Middle Childhood today by The Woodsy Sort, which I so appreciated. These years before adolescence are just as crucial as the Early Years in forming and creating our children’s hearts and habits of hand and mind.

In this way, Tim and I have noticed that, now we are no longer in survival mode with living in a new city, with no family, in a renovation project, the hearts and habits of our children are in need of closer work. So much of this year has been about getting by and adjusting and being flexible to building and worldwide pandemics. However, now that we as parents are no longer barely keeping our heads above water, we are able to breathe and press in to our children and their cultivation again.

Though both children have been learning intently this year – and Rosalie has taught herself to read, and Josiah is now reading chapter books – their growth in character virtues is behind. Self-control, work ethic, and sibling kindness are needing our close attention and work. As Tim and I have talked, we’ve decided that helping the children apply themselves to the daily mental work of school will benefit them greatly.

We have had great success with Gather ‘Round Homeschool this year, especially during lockdown. So we will continue with that as our main curriculum. I will add on Morning Basket (basically, a daily hymn, Scripture reading, poetry, and read aloud). We’ll also alternate Math and Language Arts. And, for the first time in my homeschooling life, I have planned out our entire term. I seriously never thought I would say that! But I am learning that it is good to set goals and work faithfully toward them, rather than seeking perfection and giving up on Day 2 when things fail! The Lord is doing so much character work in me, as we seek to do the work in our children!

So, I am thankful. I am thankful for the flexibility of homeschooling, the ability to assess regularly the needs of our children and the family as a whole, as well as the necessity of being humble before God and those around us, being accountable and transparent. So far, we are one week in, which includes my Mother going back, and adding a puppy to the family! But, instead of throwing plans to the wind because “life got in the way”, I have remained steadfast to the pockets of time I have set out as our learning time. This is a big sign that I am growing, praise God! 🙂

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8 responses to “Leaving the Quiet Growing Years of Homeschooling + Unschooling”

  1. Best of luck! We didn’t really turn to more formal education until our kids were in middle school either and I don’t have any regrets with our unschooling days.

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    1. Thank you Joanne! I so appreciate your link up 😀

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  2. Thank you for sharing your journey Sarah. I love hearing how other parents come to important decisions about their children and life. I really respect that you’re so open to doing what you feel is best for your kids, even if that includes a change of plan for you. Good luck with this new direction you’re taking! I’m visiting from the Encouraging Hearts and Home link up today. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you, Marielle…The Lord definitely helps me keep my heart open to how He is leading us. Thank you for coming by!

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  3. […] Leaving the Quiet Years of Homeschooling-Unschooling because I am also in a state of transition, with only two students left in our homeschool high school! […]

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  4. […] of a child’s character and I see that so clearly now in our children, but especially our boy. I have written about our move from unschooling-style to a more structured way of homeschooling here… so I won’t go into depth here. But, suffice to say, we have been reaping the consequences of […]

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  5. […] At times through their childhood thus far, I have often felt that I was holding back the dam of the world and it’s values. Busyness, parenting styles, media, twaddle, pressures, surface relationships, status quo… Cracks have appeared when I haven’t been strong enough or when I haven’t been paying attention. Thankfully, the Lord helped me see when too much of the dam was starting to get through. And He always helped me repair the cracks through prayer, new habits, and changing directions (like our new season of homeschooling). […]

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  6. […] For where we are right now in our family, this feels really good and really right. (I explained here why we have moved away from unschooling.) I thought that I would share an update with you in how […]

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