Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Freedom Experiment…


I haven't told the kids that I'm experimenting on them.

I haven't said, "Oh, we're taking the term off to see what happens."

I haven't mentioned that I plan to leave it up to them—to decide what they want to do, when to do it, and how.

I haven't declared anything, or put up any banners.

I have simply decided…very quietly and without any fanfare…

to watch and

listen and

play and

talk and

answer and

help and


alongside my kids.

(with a lot of quiet excitement, a feeling of incredible freedom, and just a sweet sense of this being right.

Cue: Small clinking of glasses, between myself and myself, as I toast this lovely beginning.)


It is the end of Day Two of the Freedom Experiment.

What's been happening in the "Lab" with my gorgeous specimens so far?

Well, my girl has made a boat for her toys, and sewn two pairs of pants for her toy cat. The first pair did not work. I introduced two words into my girl's vocabulary. They were: "Trial" and "Error". She decided not to be afraid of either word. She learned how to create a pattern, thread a needle and perfect her running stitch. The second pair of pants rocked.

PLUS she did science on the computer and wrote a diary of her day. PLUS she played tennis then frolicked with her friends for 8 straight hours.

PLUS she did a watercolour in art class and barely noticed when I stepped out to buy pens in the shop downstairs.

PLUS she told me about a book she'd read called, A Mouse and His Child. She loved it, and told me why she loved it. (I think I read it when I was a kid, and on my girl's review, am totally going to read it again.)

PLUS she talked to me about wanting to design an elevator, and what she needed to make it happen.

She said, "I'm thinking a lot about how things work and about all this Science stuff. Sometimes I think so hard about it, it makes my head hurt!"

PLUS she said, "I want to do woodwork. I want to build a house for my toys."

And I said, "Okay. Howabout you draw up your plans, and then we go to the hardware shop and see what we need?" (at which point my son said, "I want to build a house too!")

My girl ALSO decided she wanted to start going to bed earlier from now on. Up into bed she's hopped, for the last three nights, without a word of complaint.

And last night

she said, "Mum, we've been doing a lot of natural learning, recently."

I said, "Yes, we have, haven't we."

And she said, "Maybe we really are unschoolers!"

(and perhaps we are, my sweet girl…

with all the possibilities inside and outside the boundaries of that word)

As for my boy

he has spent hours drawing comics—painstakingly copying, by eye, Asterix, Obelix and Julius Caesar from the Asterix comics. When he got to Julius's insanely difficult head, he traced it, created a grid over the image, and then drew it, on a larger scale, on a separate piece of paper. It looked awesome. Getafix is next!

He said, "Mum, I really need some different pens, so I can do the fine lines and the thick inking. Maybe I can get them for Christmas?"

I said, "Maybe I could get them for you today?"

(And I did, because I thought it was important and because Christmas is just so far away, like whole days and weeks and months… Much too long to wait, don't you think?)

Also, my boy has decided to start Life of Fred—Fractions. He began yesterday and by tonight, had completed a third of the book.

He worked on it from dinner until 9.30 last night; today he worked away at it from 8 to 3, stopping only for meals, snacks, tennis and to organise a ball game for our homeschool group. (Plus he got a spot of trampolining in, and belted out some jazz tunes on the piano.)

Somewhere in his new maths notebook are the words, "THIS IS AWESOME!!"

(how cool is that?)

And today, on the drive home, my boy and I talked.

my boy: "Tomorrow, I want to draw Getafix. And you know the short comics I've done? Well, I want to write a longer comic this time. I'm going to practice drawing tons of comics until I feel like I know how to draw and then I want to write a story about a Roman refugee running away from the soldiers."

me: "That sounds great. You also mentioned you wanted to write a story about a Spartan pacificist one time. I wonder if you'd want to make that into a comic, make it like a graphic novel?"

my boy: "Oh! Yeah! YEAH! That's right! That's what I'll write about. That's totally what I'll do.
Okay. So that'll be my English and my Art. And for my Maths, I'll do Life of Fred and MathsBuddy, and for science, we'll keep doing what we're doing, and for history we'll keep doing Story of the World. That's everything! And for PE, we'll walk the dog."

me: "And if you don't feel like doing any of that, you could just read a book for the whole day."

*stunned silence *

my boy (practically in a whisper): "Could I really do that?"

Yes, my sweet boy, you really could.

(Bring on Day 3 of the Freedom Experiment! I can't wait.)


  1. Gosh, I love this post. Isn't it amazing the learning that happens when you don't label the learning as "school" or "lessons". My girls mentioned that we are taking a step towards unschooling as well. They notice that many of our restrictions are being lifted, by chance and by design.

    Yesterday they wrote amazing stories. Today we are going to visit a book store I have always wanted to go, where the author of the Ivy and Bean series will be signing books. When my husband got home from work the girls were jumping up and down with excitement to read their stories to him. This morning, my oldest daughter (who has not thought of herself as an author before) came downstairs holding her journal, ready to continue the next chapter. I did not plan this.....it just happened. I am really finding the joy in that.

    Enjoy your next day in this wonderful, amazing, gift of an experiment!!!!

  2. Oh, Helena!

    I have tears in my eyes reading this story. You are an inspiration! Please keep telling us about the magnificently named Freedom Experiment.

  3. Sounds wonderful! I am loving this experiment right along with you! AWESOME!!!!

  4. Helena,

    Your writing is so beautiful

    and I love your freedom experiment


  5. Helena,
    I love to read your posts. I always end up with a huge smile on my face. I love your experiment and can't wait to hear more.

    You are convincing me more and more that this is the journey I want Kei and I to take.

    Just beautiful...

  6. Thanks so much, everyone for your comments. Your support and kindness is another sweet part of my day, and I am truly grateful for it.

    Wow, it's been a busy busy day, full to the brim with living, learning, being free. Hope you all had beautiful days too, wherever you are, and in whichever corner of the planet you're frolicking! :)

  7. When I got to your bit about your son saying "Wow - could I really do that?!"

    I cried.

    sweet sweet freedom

  8. I know I'm coming in to this a bit late, but I wanted to comment. I'm loving reading your posts, and what you're doing is what I would love to do (if only I could get my husband to understand...).

    The only thing I'm afraid of is my kids wanting to play computer or video games all day (and not the nice learn-y type ones, but the mind numbing ones). My girl probably would be able to find other things to do, but my boy is a bit stuck on the computer right now. How do you steer them to other things? And do you have curriculum from all subjects laying around for them to use whenever they have the notion?

    And how did you begin? Where did you gather your information to learn how to "unschool"? I'm so drawn to this way of learning, but I'm not sure I can convince anyone else (or even myself) that it will work.

    Sorry for all the questions. I'm very much in planning mode in my head right now, trying to draw it all together. Thanks for any advice you can give me!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.