Weekend Review: Our First Week of Unschooling

Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.



     We’ve officially completed our first full week of unschooling, and I’ll tell you what… John Holt wasn’t kidding when he said you’ve got to trust that your kids will learn because,honestly, it’s not so apparent.
     If I could give anyone considering unschooling advice, even though we’re new at it, I would tell them not to compare themselves to those phenomenal examples of unschoolers right from the get-go. It’s going to take time for your kids to get used to the fact that they’re in charge of their education. Chances are, your children will not build a rocket with parts from the junkyard, fueled with cow manure. They will not write and professionally publish a novel while painting a portrait that would put Da Vinci to shame. At least, not right away. 🙂
     Progress will happen in baby steps, and sometimes you may wonder if they’re learning at all, but, believe me. They are. I’m going to be honest and say that I’m writing this as much to myself as to you. Trust me, I’ve had my doubts this week. I’ve seen a lot of Minecraft activity and Ruzzle this week- more than I expected. Just when I started to stress over this fact, I overheard my son, Dillon, talking about how glass is formed. I asked him where he learned that, and he replied, ”Minecraft.” as if it should have been obvious to me. Minecraft,, duh!  That alleviated my fears a little bit and reminded me. Trust.
     Admittedly, I did end up giving them a little nudge, explaining to them what they already knew- that they will be evaluated at the end of the year, and while I know they’re learning, the school district may not look upon pure Minecraft learning too kindly.
     So what did we accomplish this week, besides lots of Minecraft?? Actually, more than it seemed. Lots of clay and play dough creations graced our home this week.


Dillon made baking clay and made a volcano, which he plans to paint and erupt. He may also research volcanoes- how they’re formed or where they’re most abundant. We did several science experiments involving the big bang theory, static electricity,


light waves, carbon dioxide, and even eggs!



Arianna made a lapbook on makeup- she’s been studying theatrical makeup. She also interviewed me and graced us with her cooking the other day. Caollin and London have spent time making play money and using their toy cash register/calculator to play store, and all the little ones from Caollin on down enjoy playing ”Little House on the Prairie”, our current family readaloud. We all also read independently everyday.
     My oldest daughter, Devin, has opted to continue on with her textbooks because she’s not too keen on change. That’s fine. I told her that unschooling is about child-directed learning- not a ban on textbooks. She does do other activities, as well. She loves star gazing and planet watching, she’s taking a flash animation class at the art school, and she’s just an extraordinarily creative girl.


Devin’s latest hair color-just dyed yesterday

     All in all, I would consider this week a success. We didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, but I keep reminding myself. Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.


How was your week?

Carnival of Homeschooling

Keeping a Clean(ish) House in the Midst of Chaos

”Clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.”


     Raising and homeschooling ten children can make housekeeping a bit… well, difficult. While my house will never be featured on ”Better Homes and Gardens”, I can assure you, it is possible to have a house that would be presentable for company, even when people are home all the time!
     Here are a few tips that may help you keep your sanity.

Assign chores to your children- even little ones can help. All of my children down to my 5-year old have daily chores.
     Our Chore List

– 14 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the litter box, cleaning
    the classroom, and washing
     dishes on Su, W, and F

– 13 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the dining room and washing dishes on M, Th, and Sat.

– 12 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the kitchen, bathroom (it’s tiny), and dishes on M, T, and F

– 9 yr. old- responsible for the living room and dishes on Sa, Su, and W

– 8 yr. old- She is our ”floater.” She covers the others while they’re washing dishes and dishes on Tu and Th

– 6 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the upstairs hallway

– 5 yr. old- He does the odds and ends jobs, like carrying dirty laundry downstairs, cleaning the landing of the stairs (our family’s catchall), or helping others if their rooms are especially messy

While our 2 & 4 yr. old don’t have assigned chores, they always ask where they can help, so I’ll just give them little things, like wiping things down with a rag, to do.

Do cleaning in short spurts throughout the day. I find it makes things so much easier to clean for a few minutes several times a day, rather than waiting until the mess will take hours. We usually aim for 9 am, 3 pm (before my husband comes home from work), and  sometimes after dinner. Most of the time I will do the after dinner clean-up myself. These cleaning bouts usually only take 10-15 minutes each. The kids will usually straighten their bedrooms 30 minutes before bedtime.

Let your older kids help with cooking and laundry. Having 12 people in the house means a lot of cooking and a lot of laundry. My 3 oldest each have a scheduled day to do their own laundry (I still end up doing a lot of theirs myself), and, as of right now, they each make dinner once a month. My 12 yr. old will often cook more than that because she loves being in the kitchen.


One of my daughter’s culinary creations

Have periodic ”deep cleaning” days. We honestly don’t do these very often (usually before holidays), but occasionally we will spend about 3-4 hours cleaning and organizing things that tend to get skipped. It’s like getting a clean slate. So refreshing.



Photos from our November deep cleaning session

With all this being said, though, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that ”clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.” While it’s important to have a home that is tidy, having a goal of perfection, especially if you have children, is only going to take you away from the things that are truly important.






A godly woman once said to me, ”What are your children going to remember when they grow up? How clean the house was, or how much you played with them?”

Visit http://raisinghomemakers.com for great tips on homemaking, cooking, and more!

Changes in the Air

Oh, how unexpectedly things can change; or, perhaps, how unexpectedly. For the past year I have immersed myself in blogs, books, and anything else I can find on unschooling. I’ve always felt drawn to it- drawn to the absolutely ironic simplicity of it. Children are natural learners. It’s so obvious. And yet, this method has always seemed like something I would only ever dream about, even long for.

As of last Friday, though, I’ve taken the plunge. We are officially unschooling. Why did it take me so long to do it? Maybe fear. Our state has notoriously strict homeschool laws. Maybe doubt- doubt that my kids would find productive things to do on their own. Perhaps the largest reason is control or loss of control. For 5 years I’ve been in charge of planning and facilitating my childrens education. Lessons plans, unit studies, language arts, math- everything was left for me to decide. And admittedly I do like to have control of things. I can blame the fact that I have 11 kids on my need for control. But in all honesty I was the girl in high school who actually used charts to decide what outfit she was going to wear. It’s just natural for me. I know God is in control. I do. I’m working on it.

Which brings me back to unschooling. I am no longer in charge of their curriculum. They are. That might sound risky, but I’m totally at peace with it. Will they learn? Absolutely. They will learn while they’re digging up slugs, snails, salamanders, and any other slimy critter in our backyard. They will learn as they research what these creatures eat and what type of spider they just discovered. They will learn while they’re fishing, making power bait, and catching crayfish at the creek. They will learn as they write reports and learn geography ON THEIR OWN.

What will they learn this year? Beyond confidence and independence, I have no idea. But I’m so excited to find out!

Intro to My Extra-Large Family

Since this is my first post, this is the perfect time to introduce myself and my family. So many people are so amazed at the fact that my husband and I have eleven biological children that they tend to look at us as a unit, rather than individuals. In all honesty, we’re all about as different as you can get.
I’m Shelly, the Mom of this crew. In case you’re wondering, I’m still sane (I guess that’s relative :)), and I absolutely love my extra-large family. This year I’m homeschooling 7 of my 11 children. My oldest graduated from public school two years ago, and my three youngest are two toddlers and a baby. We are eclectic homeschoolers, which I’ll get to in another post. I love to read- non-fiction, Christian fiction, fantasy, even the books in the Young Adult section of the library. I’m a bit if a nerd.
My husband, Shawn, is my complete opposite. (Opposites attract, right?) He’s an avid skateboarder and archery hunter, and he loves technology. About the only interest we share is Duck Dynasty. I’m not even kidding.
Brendan, 20, is our oldest and no longer lives at home. (sniff, sniff) He is in the army reserves (military police), and he works at an electronics store. Brendan is literally a boy trapped in a young man’s body. He is so full of energy and so full of life that he makes me laugh all the time.
Devin is our 14 year old daughter. She’s our artsy child. She dyes her hair odd colors every couple months, is teaching herself how to play guitar, loves anime and Cosplay conventions, and draws beautifully. She’s a bit of an introvert, which is difficult in our noisy house, but she manages well. She’s actually a lot like me.
Dillon is 13 and is my active risk-taker. He recently broke his finger while skating with his dad and still skated the next day. He was a bit upset when the orthopedic surgeon told him absolutely no more skating until it heals. He actually attempted to go skating again the day after his appointment, but my husband, his skating buddy, said no way. Dillon also loves drawing, and he’s great at origami.
Arianna, 12, is my ”little mom.” She is a homemaker at heart and is my right-hand girl. She’s very self-motivated and loves to learn. She’s written three reports this week, and we’re on Christmas break! She also loves to be in the kitchen and is currently obsessed with watching YouTube tutorials on applying theatrical makeup. More than once I’ve been alarmed when one of my kids has come downstairs with a bruised or bloodied face, only to realize that he/she was the makeup Guinea pig of the day.
Caollin is 9, and I often refer to her as ”Little Dillon.” She’s another energetic risk-taker. I can usually find her climbing,,, well, anything. Trees, walls, poles, you name it. She is, yet, another artist (they don’t get it from me), and she’s a great dancer. (I actually can be objective about that because I used to be a dance teacher.)
London is 8 and is the cuddler. She loves listening to stories, and she loves reading to her siblings. She has the most empathy out of all my kids and because of this she truly cares about people.
Bailey, 6, is yet ANOTHER artist. (I truly don’t know where they all get it from.) He is currently learning to read, and he loves it. You can usually find him with a Dr. Seuss book in tow.
Luke, 5, is the stereotypical boy. Everything about him is rough and tumble, which is a stark contrast to his white-blond curls and blue eyes. (If I’d put a diaper on him, he’d look like Cupid.) He’s the one throwing dolls up in the trees and jumping on the bed, but he entertains us all with his antics.
Ireland is 3 and is a sweetheart. She loves to help me with the baby and with cleaning. (Wait til she’s older!) Ireland also loves to cuddle and can sometimes get jealous of her little sister, Summer.
Summer, 2, is my little explorer. Her motto should be, ”If I’m quiet, you’d better find me!). She loves getting into Mommy and Sister’s makeup and drawing on her eyebrows. She’s also been known to re-tile the floor with um, wonen’s feminine products and drink out of the cats’ water dish like, well, a cat.
Kenzie is 7 months old and is just a blessing. She’s happy and usually very content. She’s currently fascinated with the lights on our Christmas tree.
So there’s the overview of my family. My next post will be about how we homeschool..