A Lifestyle of Discovery: 3rd Grade Unschooling “Curriculum”

First, a definition:

Unschooling is, for our purposes, an educational philosophy of providing rich, engaging resources and support but allowing the child to set the pace and have significant control over what he wants to learn and how he chooses to pursue this learning.

All analogies fall apart eventually, but it’s like providing a rich buffet including some “make your own” stations instead of cafeteria-style menus with pre-prescribed options and portion sizes.

If you want to read more, Fearless Homeschool has a great write-up here.

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This year, I will have a 3rd grader and two preschool/kindergarteners in the house.

We live in New York State, which requires that we submit a curriculum plan (IHIP) before the start of the year.

The problem is: boxed, do-the-next-page curricula don’t work for us. Based on our kids, their learning styles, and our family rhythms we have chosen an eclectic, unschool-y approach. So far, it’s working pretty well.

My kids wake up ready to learn. They’re reading or exploring before breakfast. They’re asking questions in the car and at bedtime. We don’t have school hours as much as we have an ebb and flow of active and focused time.

It’s what works now. If (when) things change, we will adjust.

What we love:

Read-alouds

I love our library.

LOVE our library.

They’re amazing, and they make this homeschooling journey possible and affordable.

Instead of using a prescribed list, I’m constantly on the hunt for good literature. My son, J, has a very low tolerance for anything suspenseful, sad, or mean. He loves humorous, gentle stories.

We use Give Your Child the World and Read Aloud Revival for inspiration, and I’m constantly on the lookout for good, engaging, gentle stories.

Some of our most recent favorites have included

The Littles

Gooney Bird Greene (Kindle Edition currently free with Amazon Prime)

Curious McCarthy

Zoey & Sassafrass

Math

For the last couple of years, we’ve been using Life of Fred as a math resource. My son loves the books and devours them, but this summer we changed things up and tried Beast Academy.

With Life of Fred, J never wanted to stop and do the “Your Turn to Play” practice questions. With Beast Academy, he seems to enjoy the workbooks and want to complete the puzzles, so when he finishes his current book, he will “earn” the next series.

Gameschooling

We practice lots of skills using games. The kids go through phases about what they want to play, and we have learned not to push it. When they’re ready, they’re ready.

We love single player logic games like Kanoodle and Laser Maze.

We love the Gamewright card games like Sleeping Queens and Too Many Monkeys.

We love geography games like The Scrambled States of America and math games like Prime Climb.

We love language games like Scrabble, Apples to Apples (Kids), and Boggle.

Everything Else

Beyond that, we usually pick one skill to develop (typing, cursive, etc), while periodically remembering to practice the others. One of my hopes this year is to introduce piano and music reading. We tried last year, and he wasn’t ready, so we will try again.

We participate in German school, Sunday school, sports, play dates and field trips.

We have a small homeschool coop where we practice public speaking and collaboration/teamwork in a supportive environment.

We follow rabbit trails and dive deep into areas of interest (like chemistry).

We take care of the house, run errands, and practice kindness in our environment.

Because we don’t have a strict schedule, nice days are filled with beaches, parks, and watercolors on the back deck.

I keep a daily journal of what we’ve accomplished, and it continues to convince me that we’re on the right path. My kids love learning. They don’t dread “doing school”, any more than I regret going to a Thanksgiving dinner. Learning is an amazing feast, and our kids deserve a rich variety of high-quality fare.

Want to read about other experienced homeschoolers’ curriculum choices for this coming year? Check it out here!

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