An Unschooling Week – How Natural, Passionate, Interest Led Learning Occurs

I get a lot of people asking how our son can learn through unschooling. Am I qualified to teach him all he needs to know? How does learning happen without set lesson plans in place? Well it occurred to me that the best way to explain how natural, passionate, interest led learning occurs, was just to simply show you a little of our week. You see, where learning is concerned, every day is different and opportunities to learn can be found in almost everything we do. So here is a look at what we have been doing (and learning!) this week…

Monday:

Wonderful morning of adventures with Little Cat, all unstructured living and playing but packed with learning opportunities! We went to investigate the new soft play at the local pub, where I drank hot chocolate and read a book while LC befriended twin toddler girls in the ball pit.

Then off to the beach to throw pebbles in the sea, climb and balance on the sea wall, investigate a very old ship wreck and prod a dead crab. We then ran into this chap washed up on the jetty, which led to a very interesting discussion on the difference between manta rays and sting rays and how things can be washed up.

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We also had a long talk about how clouds are formed and the weather cycle, inspired by the fog first thing.

Tuesday:

We had a slow start to the day, with a long and lazy breakfast followed by a few books on the sofa. Then we headed off to a new group which is based on the forest school model despite being right in the middle of the city. It was a gorgeous little haven with a lovely wooded area to play and explore in, and lots of little activities such as painting, bricks and a mud pie kitchen to delve into.

Little Cat is massively passionate about climbing at the moment, and there was plenty of opportunity for him to practice this skill. Then we collected some acorns and talked about how they can grow into an oak tree in the right conditions.


We explored the little vegetable garden and the giant pumpkins, one of which was rotten underneath. This led to a discussion on why and how things rot.

After the group we visited our local library to return a pile of books and choose some new ones. We spent about an hour there reading and then headed home to relax and recuperate after a busy morning!

In the afternoon he watched a documentary on chimpanzees, and then spent some time exploring the different settings on the hose and watering the garden.

Wednesday:

I was childminding today so Little Cat’s friend who is only a few months younger than him and who has been coming for over three years, came round for the day while his Mummy had to work. The two of them did a lot of role playing together at home and then we headed off to the countryside for a different forest school. This is one we have been to lots of times and is a gorgeous place to play and explore.

LC enjoyed creating a tunnel out of tubes with the other children, which they then used to roll balls and other objects down. Some things got stuck and some parts of the tunnel fell apart, which led to lots of opportunity for problem solving, critical thinking and working together, communicating instructions clearly. The children mainly took control of this with the adults stepping back and letting them work things out between themselves.


We sat round the bonfire for a snack and a drink, did some digging in the dirt and enjoyed a little rest.

Then LC and his friend were off to the painting table, collecting big sticks from the forest along the way to turn into snakes. He mixed paint, chose different brushes and experimented with pipe cleaners, asking for my help to wind it around his stick.


He also spent quite a while reorganising and rebuilding this den he discovered in a clearing. He can never resist one of these – they always lure him in to investigate and play!

Thursday:

Today was one of my favourite kinds of days, where we chilled out at home, pottering in the garden and relaxing! (We have quite a lot of these type of days usually and I find that when we do “nothing” the best learning happens!)

We slept in until 9am then after breakfast we went out to the garden, where I lounged around with a book and LC explored. A tiny fly flew into the dregs of my cup of hot water, so we tipped it out on the ground and Little Cat rushed off to find his magnifying glass to see if he could find it. He then went on a bit of a bug hunt in the garden with his magnifying glass.

After that, I continued to read while he had another play with the hose, fixing different parts to it and adjusting the settings, finally filling up his activity turtle with water so he could float his boats. He did some climbing and some sitting doing not much, then I went inside to make a bracelet for my etsy shop. He came and helped me, and this time was able to thread the fiddly beads onto the thin elastic, which is something he has not managed before. Usually he uses a thin shoelace and much chunkier beads, but he wanted the good stuff today. We took photographs of the bracelets, then he went off with the camera to take some more photographs around the house.

After lunch he watched a programme about black bears, and one about elephants too.

Around 4pm we got a bit stir crazy, so we decided to walk to the local shops. Little Cat helped me choose some fruit from the greengrocers and then helped to get the things we needed for dinner. On the way back from the shops we went to the park where LC did some climbing and then we wandered home to see Daddy.

Friday:

We spent a good chunk of the day in the woods today, where we met a few friends and had fun exploring. LC climbed up a slippery rocky waterfall, fed the ducks with raw oats – we had previously talked about the kinds of foods which are good for ducks and the kinds which are not, and looked up what we needed to find out – played on the bridges, explored the different piled up rocks and investigated all the plants growing through the woodlands.

In the morning before we left, he helped me prepare breakfast, collecting strawberries and grapes from the fridge, counting them into the bowls and then choosing and counting out apples for our picnic.

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There is plenty that I haven’t mentioned of course – it would be impossible to fit it all into one post, but he has also been on several night time bike rides in the dark with his Daddy, we have read a mountain of books, and also created our own imaginary stories out of characters he comes up with, we have built with lego and he has joined in with me while I was painting with watercolours. He has played with trains and other vehicles and done A LOT of climbing.

I never plan activities for him, and many of the things he enjoys the most are just simply being allowed to join in with the activities we as adults enjoy doing. With his Daddy that is often fixing things, DIY, and cycling. With me it is often crafting, painting, reading and walking. He also loves to help with cleaning and housework with both me and his Daddy.

Since this post is getting quite ridiculously long now, I think I will stop there, but this weekend will be lots more of the same. Walking in the woods or at the beach, working and relaxing in the garden, reading, crafting, and pottering around at home doing whatever strikes our interest in the moment. Simply following our passions and learning naturally.

Let me know if you enjoyed this post and you would like to see more insights into our unschooling weeks, either broken up into shorter posts or in the same long format as this one.

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2 thoughts on “An Unschooling Week – How Natural, Passionate, Interest Led Learning Occurs”

  1. We were unschooling up until this year. This year, my daughter is 4 and we are doing about 1 hr a day of “lessons”. After that the day is pretty unstructured. LC sounds like he loves his days! I’m not sure what we’ll do for kindergarten. DD and I seem to need a small bit of structure to our days just to get us focused. (We can be a bit adhd 🙂

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