Our Unschooling Life So Far…

We’re going into our third month of unschooling now and I finally have the time to write a proper blog post about our journey so far. Needless to say, it’s been pretty darn busy.

I’ll be honest right upfront. This journey is definitely not for the faint of heart. In fact, this is by far the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Yet, at the same time, it’s  also been the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. Strange, I know. But parenting is kind of like that too.

So what’s our life like now? Well we went through the recommended “detox” period in January and half of February. That means we used the time to “unlearn” our regular school routines and the academic life that we’ve been so accustomed to. (Note: Learning is actually very easy; unlearning on the other hand, is extremely hard!) We decided to spend most of that time in Hong Kong, since the dates bridged over several celebrations–Brianne’s birthday, my birthday, Bridgette’s Chinese birthday, and Chinese New Year. That’s right, any excuse to spend time with my family there… 😊

We had a wonderful time in Hong Kong, and even took a short trip to Taipei, which I will blog about in a separate post. When we returned, the reality of our new unschooling life sank in, and the “now what?” struck me hard. The planner in me naturally wanted to go through the motions of planning our days out in an efficient and productive manner. But the unschooling mom in me convinced myself to “go with the flow“. We hadn’t met any other unschooling families yet, so for the first couple of weeks, despite having some amazing mother/daughter outings day after day, I inevitably felt isolated and lonely at times.

I also faced the same self-doubts from time to time that most other unschooling parents probably felt at some point in their own journeys, because the truth is, unschooling requires a whole lot of trust and faith. It’s trusting that our children are learning no matter what they may be doing. It’s trusting that your instincts about your own child/children are better than what others may tell you about them. It’s faith that our children may need our guidance, but they are way more bright and capable than they are given credit for. Unschooling is giving children the liberty to learn in ways that inspire and encourage them, and trusting that those ways are more natural and effective than a “controlled environment” inside a classroom.

Now, 3 months in, I’m at a much better place. We have several homeschooling groups that we meet regularly to keep an active social life. New friendships are being developed. Routines are being tossed out the window. Trust is being built. Faith is progressively stronger. And most importantly, we are enjoying the journey. There’s still so much to learn, and so much to work through, but I truly believe this journey is God’s intention for our family. He is using this experience to push us way beyond our comfort zones, to build our characters, and to show us what faith really means.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.”

–James 1:17

With that, I’d like to share the top 3 highlights that I’ve found from our new unschooling life!

-We all know time is finite, and unschooling now gives us a lot more time than we’ve ever had to do things we enjoy. An example: We made plans one morning to visit the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. On our way there, Bridgette caught a glimpse of the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden next door. Without any time constraints, we were able to take a detour to visit the garden first, and had a leisurely time exploring the lovely grounds. After that, we continued our way to the De Young and spent an hour there before we decided it’d be fun to go back outside to explore more of Golden Gate Park. We stumbled across a huge playground and spent a little time there. Later, while we were en route to retrieve our car, we saw that it was free day at the Botanical Gardens and ended up spending another 2 hours there! That’s how many of our days are….and we love not having to rush (most of the time) while we explore.

-Our mornings are now slow and intentional, which gives us a healthy start to our days. Gone are the mornings when we have to drag Bridgette (and ourselves) up from bed at 7am and rush through the morning routine to get her to school on time. We still have a bedtime curfew for her right now, for health reasons, but it’s at a reasonable time (9:30pm) and she typically gets a full 11 hours of sleep to wake up at 8:30am. I have time to cook healthy, nourishing breakfasts for us and it gives us another meal in the day where we can chat and enjoy each other’s company. 

-I am learning so, so much alongside Bridgette! Yes, I have come to realize how incredibly time consuming it is to be an unschooling parent, because for every topic/idea that sparks Bridgette’s interest, I have to do a lot of legwork on the backend to create opportunities for her to pursue those interests. But, I am really appreciating this learning opportunity for myself.

On our way to the De Young Museum one morning and had an impromptu detour to the Japanese Tea Garden next door.
On our way to the De Young Museum one morning and had an impromptu detour to the Japanese Tea Garden next door.
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Our favorite part at the Japanese Tea Garden– their lovely tea house with Japanese sweets and tea for guests to enjoy, with a beautiful view!

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Admiring the Strontium mural at De Young Museum
Admiring the Strontium mural at De Young Museum

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Exploring inside the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park
Exploring inside the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park

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We made the most out of our jet lag mornings by doing things we normally may not do, like driving out to San Francisco at 5am to watch the beautiful sunrise!
We made the most out of our jet lag mornings by doing things we normally wouldn’t do, like driving out to San Francisco at 5am to watch the beautiful sunrise!
After watching the sunrise, we ate the "best bagel ever" at 20th Century Cafe and got to stroll around Farmer's Market
After watching the sunrise, we ate the “best bagel ever” at 20th Century Cafe and got to stroll around Farmer’s Market by the Ferry Building
Impromptu visit to San Francisco City Hall, where Bridgette even got a tour of the Mayor's office!
Impromptu visit to San Francisco City Hall, where Bridgette even got a tour of the Mayor’s office!
Bridge was so in awe of the beautiful architecture there, and even more in awe of the fact that her mommy planned weddings in such an extraordinary space! :)
Bridge was so in awe of the beautiful architecture there, and even more in awe of the fact that her mommy get to plan weddings in such an extraordinary space! 🙂
Sometimes, she gets recruited to help mommy on wedding work, where she learns all about organization and presentation. :)
Sometimes, she gets recruited to help mommy on wedding work, where she learns all about organization and presentation. 🙂
To stay active, we try to do a lot of walking and park days. Bridgette almost always brings a sketch pad along to take sketch breaks.
To stay active, we try to do a lot of walking and park days. Bridgette almost always brings a sketch pad along to take sketch breaks. I love seeing what inspires her artwork!
We love taking advantage of free art and craft sessions at our local library!
We love taking advantage of free art and craft sessions at our local library!
Hanging out with some of her new homeschooling friends on park day.
Hanging out with some of her new homeschooling friends on park day.
Looking for butterflies in the rainforest at the Cal Academy of Science
Looking for butterflies in the rainforest at the Cal Academy of Science
Underwater beauty at the Cal Academy of Science
Underwater beauty at the Cal Academy of Science
Benefit of homeschooling--no crowds at museums! :)
Benefit of homeschooling–no crowds at museums! 🙂
Bridgette joined Girls Scout to stay in touch with her old classmates
Bridgette joined Girls Scout to stay in touch with her old classmates
We took a really fun sand sculpting class to learn how to effectively build sand structures!
We took a really fun sand sculpting class to learn how to effectively build sand structures!

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Like our sand monsters? 🙂
Morning hike to Deer Hollow Farm with our friends!
Morning hike to Deer Hollow Farm with our friends!
Another perk of homeschooling...Bridgette gets to spend more time with her grandparents! Took my MIL to Flora Grubbs in the city one day and she was in gardening heaven!
Another perk of homeschooling…Bridgette gets to spend more time with her grandparents! Took my MIL to Flora Grubbs in the city one day and she was in gardening heaven!
Hiking in the Presidio and learning about plants, flowers, and bee habitats.
Hiking in the Presidio and learning about plants, flowers, and bee habitats.

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So excited to eat pretty flowers!
So excited to eat pretty flowers!

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Kids running wild in the woods!
Kids gone wild in the woods!
Our nature guide had so many fun games for the kids throughout the hike!
Our nature guide had so many fun games for the kids throughout the hike!
Learning to make bee habitats
Learning to make bee habitats

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We are so incredibly lucky to live in an area where there are a ton of resources for homeschoolers. From Meetup to Outschool to Facebook groups, we could sign up for a different field trip or activity every single day if we wanted to. Last week, we signed up for a skydiving simulation class, where the kids got to learn about force and physics, and then do a skydiving simulation. Now that’s learning the fun way! Bridgette loved it, and I was entertained just watching the kids! 🙂

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Getting geared up!
Getting geared up!

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And she's flying! :)
And she’s flying! 🙂

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A little "classroom style" lesson after the activity, but the instructor was funny and engaging so the kids really enjoyed it.
A little “classroom style” lesson after the activity, but the instructor was funny and engaging so the kids really enjoyed it.

So…I think it’s safe to say that despite the challenges that come with big changes in life, we’re starting to really enjoy our new journey, and look forward to all there is to learn and experience ahead. My wise sister tells me that children are God’s gifts to us to teach us, and not the other way around. I cannot agree more!

 

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