Unschooling a “First Grader”

I have probably googled, “unschooling a first grader” over 10 times.  Each time, I come up empty.  There is much info out there about unschooling babies and much about unschooling teenagers, but unless you count the very reassuring, “My child learned to read at 10,” there is very little out there about the elementary age.

I know.  That “very reassuring” bit was miserably un-unschoolish of me. I’m sure the fact that a remark like this makes me go:

scared catis just proof that I lack wisdom.  I’m working on it.

Sooooo, I threw this little post together for that mom out there, who, like me, needs her shaky hand held a bit as she starts off down this path.  My hope is she will be encouraged by the following.  Maybe she will be horrified.  Who knows?  You know what they say: If you can’t be a good example then you’ll have to be a horrible warning.

Let’s see.  What have we been doing this week?

We finished our book, Christ in the Old Testament, a picture book of Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. (side note: I don’t link stuff up to get some percentage of a sale.  That is yet another thing I don’t know how to do.  I just want you to be able to check it out, if you want to.)  This book is so beautiful and leads to equally beautiful discussions.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  My girls almost always begged for another page to be read.

We learned about peanuts, penguins, plants, rabbits, and raisins from our Fact Book, which just so happens to be alphabetically categorized, as well as haters of the letter Q, apparently. (q talking to me?)

We practiced lots and lots and lots of American Sign Language, mainly telling each other that we are big, pretty, funny, tigers/donkeys/bunnies/bees, etc.

Funny-Donkey-76Ahh, shucks.

We practiced telling time on analog clocks.

We read many, many picture books, some silly, some serious, all enjoyable.  Okay, I never ever do this, but I’m going off on a tangent here.  I truly believe that a kid who was taken to the library twice a month or so could get a better education than in the local school.  Each visit we load up on biographies, art books, history books, science books, books about math and architecture and space and lizards and a million other subjects.  Right now, they are on a major Brad Meltzer kick.  Have you seen his I Am… picture books?

abeThis is the one we have right now.  Jolie is a big Abe Lincoln fan.  Ever since an author of another children’s book described him as “homely”, she has considered herself his personal defender.  We have also read the I Am…Amelia Earheart and Rosa Parks, both of which were awesome.

Some examples of the science books we’ve enjoyed are:




We read some chapters from The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, each ending with me forcing them to make an oath NOT to run away.

Jolie wrote a letter to her pen pal and started her own blog, As A 7 Year Old Sees It (which I didn’t help with. At all.  She made our laptop out of her old Legos, actually). Warning: if you start writing a blog, your kids will want to write one too.

Since apparently 100 Easy Lessons to Teach Your Child to Read is quote for sissies end quote, Jolie has been bringing me a book of her choosing to read me each morning.   Today was I am Fire (which sounds much more thrilling than a warning about playing with matches, doesn’t it?) and Frog and Toad Together.  Yesterday was Sophie and the Next Door Monsters and the day before was You Don’t Care Do You by Everyone Reading This.  (Side note: the thrill of hearing my girl actually read is the Ult. A. Mit.)

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary recommended by dear Miss Elvis (who has the coolest last name ever, btw) called What Makes Art Valuable.  I won’t say the girls watched it with me, that would be a bit of a stretch, but they did wander in now and then and say, “We know that guy!” when a Klimt, or Van Gogh, or Picasso was being shown.  Which made me smile, as well as mutter grumpily, “Shhhh!” (Another side note: did you know that the British pronounce it Van Goff?  What??)

We perused a book full of art from the Louvre, the highlight for the girls being the many, many naked people in it who, according to them, had wonderfully “bubbly butts”. They listened to their Anne of Green Gables audiobook for the googleplexian time, went to Kuk Sool Won, watched Hidden Kingdoms, Zoboomafoo, The Great British Baking Show (best show ever) and Wild Kratts.  We attended church, discussed feast days, baked cookies, played computer math games, did chores, blessed the house (a special prayer we do each Monday throughout the house), and did many other things that would probably entertain you as much as yet another discussion about the drought.

Now, despite the loooooooonnnggggg list I’ve so diligently complied above, I haven’t mentioned the girls’ Main Work.  By main work, I mean what they spend the great majority of their time doing, what they love doing more than anything else, and what is most interesting to them: House.  Yes, house.

IMG_0089 (1)


The girls spend so much time playing House I can hardly believe it.  Hours and hours and hours and hours.  It’s a game that never ends. I’m fascinated by it, really.  I never played at anything as a child with the faithfulness that my 3 girls play House. I wouldn’t have had the time! Most of the day, I am not even called “Mom”. I am “Grandma”.  Its very hard to keep up with who is Mom as it’s always changing.  Zoe is always the baby, appropriately, and is, as always, absolutely beloved.  The Dauphin wasn’t as fussed over as this four-tooth wonder (before the whole French Revolution thing, I mean).  Really, from a practical point of view, they will spend much more of their lives fussing over slobbery babies than dividing fractions (women’s lib be damned!) so I consider the education of House of the highest caliber.

So, there’s a summary for you.  What a “first grade” unschooler might do all day.  I think it’s pretty good.  It works for us, anyway and my daughter is interested in many things, which was my secret Master Plan all along.  Mostly, if you are a mom considering this road, if you are Casey (that’s my name btw, have I ever mentioned that?) from last year, I hope it gave you some ideas and a bit of reassurance.

Now, to answer your question: will this post ever end?  Yes, yes it’s ending now.  I never know quite how to end a post.  Maybe I need a signature.  Well, since “Stay Classy, San Diego,” is taken, I’ll try this:

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you and your family.


2 thoughts on “Unschooling a “First Grader”

  1. Casey,

    What a wonderful post! I really enjoyed hearing about your learning. Oh, I remember games that lasted for hours and hours. My girls had a Little House on the Prairie phase. Every day they hitched up the wagon and set out across the prairie… and were gone until dinner time. Van Goff… Don’t you find all the language differences fascinating? I do! We say mathS and not math. I’m sure many people wonder why I make that ‘mistake’ every time I talk about mathematics!!! Thank you so much for the link! God bless you and your beautiful family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember the Aussie saying Maths, lol! You also call McDonald’s, Macca’s, don’t you? Well, in the case of Van Gogh, I suppose the English have been saying his name longer than the Americans so maybe it’s us who are mispronouncing it. Thank you for the comment, and thank you for all your recommendations. I really enjoy checking them all out!


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