Yes, we unschool/do natural learning, but I like a little bit of structure - just enough to suit the children - not too much, not too little.
And the feeling of having something planned to use in a loose and natural way helps me feel like we're covering some of the things that I think are important to introduce the children to according to their stage/interests.
One way I have found to do this, and have made available to other parents is:
The Adventures In Natural Learning Seasonal Journal
I have sold around 120 of these Journals since their release, and have had fantastic feedback from parents who are using them according to their own family's needs.
With a new year in front of us, I thought I'd take the opportunity to plan out my first month, and take photos of the way I'm doing it this month.
Just a reminder that the Handbook and the Journal are suitable for any age from baby to adult.
I currently use my books for my 15, 12, 10, 7 and 3 year olds.
I wanted to make this Journal look different to the others on my shelf (my 12 year old has his own Journal) - so I put Washi tape on the front.
Here is the contents page which I was itching to colour, but I'll come back to that another day!
I did allow myself to colour the apples on the tree on page 3. :) The paper I've chosen to have the Journal printed on is BEAUTIFUL to colour on!! Either felt pen or coloured pencil responds very nicely to this paper!
I'm wanting to start doing "Cozy Time" (our version of what might be called "Circle Time" at a preschool) again with our 3 and 7 year olds. Most of our children have enjoyed Cozy Time over the years, and they have effortlessly learned so much in the way of language skills, body parts, sign language, maths skills, memory, logic, general knowledge etc etc etc.
I went through our Adventures In Natural Learning: Handbook, and got some ideas for, poems, fingerplays and songs for the 3 year old, plus games I know our 7 year old will like.
Writing these on a separate piece of paper gave me more space, and I just used Washi tape to stick it to the page. There are four entries - one for each week. We will do Cozy Time two or three times a week, and repeat the songs and games, or I might throw a few more in - but at least it gives me a base to work on. With many children doing different things here in the morning I appreciate having a list I can just look at quickly and it gives me direction to start something off with the younger ones.
While I was at it I cut another couple of pieces of paper the same size and stuck them in ready for next month.
Underneath the piece of paper with my Cozy Time ideas I wrote some ideas from the Handbook on other games we can play - either during Cozy Time, or afterwards.
In the box headed "Right Now I Like:" I divided it into three for my 12, 10 and 7 year olds. I'll chat with them about what we can write in here.
One of the games I had chosen to play looked so fun that I wanted to try it out right away. I drew up the grids (and then made the game smaller because I guessed my boys would lose interest with 9 x 9 squares, and then I made a mental note that actually 5 x 5 would be better).
But back to the organising!
I was actually done for that session.
The next day I was making a trip to the library with just a few children, so I took a photo of the "Seasonal Curriculum Ideas" to refer to at the library.
My 24 year old was with me, so it felt like cheating actually because it was so easy!! He picked fantastic books according to my list and according to what the children like (he knows them very well!), and yes - the children DO love them!
We threw in some other books that we knew would be enjoyed even though they weren't listed. That's one major bonus of "Do It Yourself" education - make the resources WORK FOR YOU.
Here are some of the ones we chose.
The way we "study" these topics is by leaving the books for the children to look through, or I might pick one up and start to read it. Sometimes I just read the captions under the pictures for younger children to gauge their interest.
If something sparks an interest in a child they will let me know, and we might look something up on the internet, watch a video, or do something more hands-on.
I left my planning there as I'd run out of steam. When I come back to it I will fill in some "Potentially Interesting Subjects" from the massive lists in the back of the Handbook. These lists have taken me years to compile and contain many basic curriculum subjects, plus some extremely in-depth topics. It is the most comprehensive list I have seen, and is all a family needs to use as a spring-board for a very intensive educational experience!!
Please let me know via email (here) or message me on our FB page to order your Handbook and or Journal. The Handbook is $30, the Journal is $20. Or buy both together for $45 (only sold within New Zealand at this stage sorry).
FB - Adventures In Natural Learning