Most of us can relate to what “back to school” shopping usually looks like and feels like, right? Different lists for different grades, new clothes to replace the ones that kids have grown out of, stalking the stores for the best school supply prices, and feeling the stress of getting everything ready just in time for school to start.
It can be quite overwhelming to have to purchase the supplies (and hope they don’t break your budget), organize and label them, hope your kids approve of them, and then lug them into school on the first day.
One of the attractive aspects of unschooling is that families can skip this stressful time altogether. While there are still some important tools and items that can help make an unschooling experience more enjoyable, families can customize their resources instead of sticking to a preset list.
In order to make the most out of your unschooling journey, we’ve compiled a list of seven unschooling necessities that can help make your family’s learning engaging, organized, and successful.
A Library of Resources
While the internet provides fast, at-your-fingertips access to most any resource imaginable, there’s something about being able to pull a book off of a shelf or cue up an educational movie on request.
Building a library of books, magazines, games, and puzzles are perfect for supplementing an unschooling day, especially when the weather doesn’t permit for an outdoor excursion. Books can be affordably purchased at garage sales or second-hand shops and can be organized by educational topics (such as history, literature, science, fine arts). Puzzles, word searches, board games, and card games can be an excellent and fun way to instill math skills, strategic thinking, collaboration, and fine-motor skills.
Putting together a ‘watchlist’ on media streaming sides can be a helpful way to organize movies for learning. These sites have categories – such as history, documentaries, educational – that you can search to gather movies that are perfect for additional teaching opportunities.
Unschooling affords families the chance to learn in many ways, including through hands-on activities such as crafting, art, building, science, athletics, science experiments, outdoor activities, and much more. Another trend that has risen with unschooling is the ability to teach kids a number of valuable skills through “tinkering”. Tinkering refers to allowing children to take apart, explore, and build things as a means to improve fine motor skills, problem-solving, teamwork, and creative thinking.
For tinkering, ideas of things to have on hand include old electronics (clocks, stereos, computers, etc) building supplies such as wood or metal, hand tools, and painting supplies. Always ensure that safety practices are followed and that electronic devices are unplugged prior to being disassembled or assembled.
Crafting supplies can include markers, crayons, construction paper, glue, pipe cleaners, scissors, paint, canvases, scrapbook paper, foam boards, chalk, contact paper, clothespins, fabric scraps, tissues paper, and so on. Organize and arrange the supplies in a way that is accessible and appealing to your children so that they can feel free to create at their leisure.
Whether we like it or not, digital technology is here to stay. While research shows that too much screen time can be a concern, it also finds that technology can be a vital addition to education.
Every family has its own rules and boundaries around use of digital electronics in their home and in their unschooling routine. But having these tools available can make a world of difference in your child’s ability to connect with others, find information quickly, and supplement their learning.
For those who travel often, having a tablet or a laptop can often be a simple way to organize and manage certain aspects of unschooling and offers kids a chance to learn independently and find resources on their own.
Research what forms of electronic devices would work best for your family, such as an e-book reader, a tablet, a laptop, or a smart phone. Some electronics are multi-functional and may be a viable choice for your educational needs.
Additionally, purchasing the necessary accessories such as chargers and charging cables, extra batteries (or solar chargers), covers, headphones, screen protectors, and cases will help you stay organized and take good care of the devices.
Consider setting up a charging station where all devices can be plugged in daily or overnight to be fully charged and ready the next day.
On the Go Learning
Because unschooling allows for the freedom to travel, visit educational sites, take field trips, meet people, and get out in nature, it’s important to ensure that kids have supplies handy when they are on the move.
Keep clothes, supplies, books, and snacks organized in your car for convenient access when traveling or driving. You can purchase car organizers online or in stores that can be installed over the back of car seats, in the trunk, or alongside seats. In these, you can place notebooks, writing utensils, headphones, cell phone chargers, travel games, crossword puzzles, stickers, and snacks.
Having an extra change of clothes, some sunscreen, hand sanitizer or wipes, and towels can also come in handy for those surprise rainy days, splash pad play dates, or hiking excursions.
Central Organization Center
With all of the supplies, resources, projects, and exciting plans you have as an unschooling family, it helps to stay as organized as possible. For families that have more than one child, this can become even more important as field trips and travel plans are made and children start diving into hobbies and extracurricular activities.
One helpful idea is to have a large calendar, bulletin board, or chalkboard visible in a learning area of your home. Parents and kids can practice organization and planning skills by helping add events, task lists, or chores to the calendar or board.
For those who do better with digital planning, consider having a Dropbox or Google drive where all project lists, calendars, upcoming field trips, homework, and resources are stored. This allows for easy access for all family members to the important information they need on a daily basis.
Another handy tip is to have general supplies available in this area of the home as well. Reserve a few drawers, cabinets, or shelves for things like paper, post-it notes, pens, pencils, workbooks, and other unschooling supplies.
Journal or Notebook
Having a journal can be a simple yet powerful tool for a child who is learning through unschooling. This can be the place they write down their ideas, thoughts, and dreams as well as a place to practice writing or math.
Journals can be used to take nature notes, as a travel log, a fitness journal, for drawing and doodles, or to write poetry or song lyrics.
Some unschooling families incorporate the practice of freewriting or journaling into their daily routine as a way to boost writing skills, encourage creativity, and instill mindfulness.
A journal can be a paper journal or an online version and is an excellent resource to use when on-the-go or traveling.
Let’s be honest: one of the greatest things about unschooling is the ability to learn while out in nature! Outdoor learning not only is healthy for the body and mind, but allows kids to explore, engages their curiosity, teaches them multiple life skills, and provides them a change of scenery. Having appropriate clothing and gear on hand allows for families to fully and safely enjoy immersion in the outdoor unschooling experience.
Depending on your local climate, it’s helpful to ensure that unschooling children have appropriate outdoor clothing. This could include snow/rain boots, snow gear, bathing suits, hiking shoes, trekking poles, hydration packs or water bottles, hats, gloves, outerwear, a flashlight, comfortable play clothes, beach essentials, sunscreen, backpacks, headlamps, and so on.
It’s also important to have a first aid kit in your vehicle as well as a small, travel-sized kit to stash in a backpack or purse. Include any pertinent medications in your first aid kit as well.
Many unschooling families also like to have small buckets or baskets for collecting things to study while in nature. Trash bags or leftover grocery bags are great to have on hand for outings as well and can be used for garbage, wet clothing, or simply to carry items.
Unschooling doesn’t have to follow any set of rules, which makes it a unique and appealing choice for many families. But being prepared with a handful of essential supplies, resources, and tools can make a child’s unschooling journey feel organized, stress-free, and full of possibility.