Lifeschooling: Using the World as Your Classroom

Who needs textbooks when we've got the world?

Have you ever thought about what the word “curriculum” means? For years, the first thing that came to mind for me were books – textbooks, to be precise.

While books can – and usually do – fill that role, that’s not what curriculum specifically means. Curriculum simply means having a plan in place for an approach to education.

That’s it.

So today I’m going to talk to you about the most overlooked curriculum out there…not unit studies, not living books, not even the library.

What curriculum is that? Life. The whole world, to be precise.

Learning through Life

What is lifeschooling?

Lifeschooling is a bit like unschooling (an approach in which education is approached as if school never existed). In fact, many people would say that they are one and the same, and in many cases they are. However, one difference I myself have discerned is that lifeschooling is a bit more parent-led.

In many unschooling families, the children take the lead on learning. This can look different from family to family, depending on who you ask. In some families, parents wait until a child expresses a desire for help before stepping in and making suggestions for activities, learning ideas, books to read, etc.

In others, the child is still the one who decides what they want to learn about and how they want to learn it, but the parents may be more intent on helping a child to figure out how they will learn what they want to know right from the get-go.

To me, lifeschooling is the next rung on the unschooling spectrum. It’s a homeschooling approach that supersedes the use of traditional educational resources, in lieu of simply using the activity, variety, and abundance that can be found in everyday living.

Lifeschooling is about encouraging wonder, embracing opportunities, and valuing intentionality, and is more often parent-led than other unschooling philosophies.

What does lifeschooling look like?

When was the last time you looked at anything with wonder or stopped to smell the roses – literally?

We live in a fast-paced world that seems to take the beauty, curiosities, intricacies, and majesty of both the natural world and its Creator for granted. While we’re going, going, going, life passes us by, and we barely give anything of real importance a second glance.

If you’re planning on taking a lifeschooling approach, that will all change, because that is where that intentionality I talked about will come in.

Since no formal curriculum is used in this method, being in tune with the world around you and understanding the endless learning opportunities, in both the spectacular and in the seemingly mundane, is critical.

As an example, today I went for a walk with one of my daughters. Rather than walking with our heads staring into our phones, we talked. Not about Instagram or TV shows or music groups, but things that we passed by and thoughts they invoked in us.

We talked about the difference between tulip trees and cherry blossoms. We watched a group of water striders hopping across the surface of the creek water. We looked for minnows. We hypothesized what sort bird could have built a giant nest that we saw (and made plans to return with our binoculars to find out). We observed four hawks soaring overhead and discussed their role as birds of prey.

This is lifeschooling.

Yesterday the kids and I planted blackberry and raspberry bushes, potatoes, and wildflowers. We laughed together at my ineptness at gardening and vowed that we’d keep going until we got it right. And we did.

This is lifeschooling.

Later on we made pound cake together. The kids learned patience while waiting for their turn to add ingredients. They practiced fractions as I explained the difference between 1 1/3 and 1/3 cup. Afterwards, as they ate it, they got to experience the fruits of their hard work.

This is lifeschooling.

In a nutshell, lifeschooling is really about living every day as if it were your last. Yes, there is a time and a place for that down time we all need. But it’s about being intentional in not letting that down time take over your life.

One more thing…

I think it’s really important to point out that some people are lifeschoolers full-time, while others incorporate it in with a bit of structured learning.

How you do it is entirely up to you, and is about what fits your individual family.

I’ve found, at least where I live, that some seasons are easier to lifeschool than others. Here in PA, our winters are cold. It’s dreary, and we often just plain don’t want to leave the house.

Come spring, though, watch out! I’ve been known to throw out the day’s lesson plans in order to partake in the hustle and bustle of the great outdoors, come alive again after three months of mourning.

Whether you decide to embrace this curriculum of life full-time or just some of the time, the benefits to you and your family will be life-lasting and heart-changing.

And now is the perfect time to start.

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

4 thoughts on “Lifeschooling: Using the World as Your Classroom”

  1. I think I’ll bake cookies with my kids tomorrow! We’ve put it off long enough! This was a good read. Thanks. I personally enjoy the combination of life schooling and book work. I love getting to see my kids progressing in their skills such as learning to read, spelling words, learning math facts. If our curriculum fails to grab and hold our attention…then I take my cue to change things up a little. Spelling becomes hangman or a mental game…can you spell this?….what about this? And my kids like the occasional use of flashcards or counting those small mystery grab bag toys (my little ponies, Thomas the train ones, Trolls, etc. ). And then there’s baking, swinging, exploring parks, bike riding, and shopping. All these things can be avenues for teaching!

    Liked by 1 person

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