Help me out here please - Mothering Forums
Unschooling > Help me out here please
homeschoolingmama's Avatar homeschoolingmama 09:41 AM 06-14-2011

We have 6 children under the age of 8, the littlest being 3 weeks.  I haven't had much time in the past couple of months to engage my children.  Even if they have had an interest I just kind of said mm hmm and that was it.  I had a hard time feigning interest because of being sore and tired.  I feel that unschooling involves an active parent (me) and they didn't have that.  I am starting to feel better now but am pretty busy with the little ones. 

I never force anything on my children but anything I suggest they love.  They love to have fun and interact with me as well as each other.  (Dad too :) )  I don't think there are specific things my children should know but just that they need stimulation and engaging sometimes.  They never say they are bored but I do want to introduce ideas and follow through on theirs.  This is where we are lacking right now.

I need some ideas of fun, educational things to do that don't involve a lot of time and prep.  I cannot walk around and nurse so I have to be able to stop to nurse when babe wants to.  Activities for my children that they can all get involved in as well as individually.  Tall order...I know. :)

I apologize for the rambling. 


SundayCrepes's Avatar SundayCrepes 11:48 PM 06-14-2011

I only have two--5.5 and almost 3--and I feel overwhelmed at being able to provide stimulating activities (though it's getting better as my little one gets older.) So I can only imagine how overwhelmed you feel.


I am buying secular books off the list. I don't get the instructor's guides because I don't want to follow a curriculum, but they have such wonderful books that allow my kids to read about subjects that I wouldn't even consider presenting to them. I have gone through the list and read the reviews at for each book. I then create a list for each level to decide which books I think would work for our family. I don't accept all secular books and I don't necessarily reject a book just because it's religious (though so far I have rejected all the religious books because I think they're over the top for us.) There is a group for secular users of sonlight.


I also wanted my son to be able to do science experiments he finds interesting. He is a pre-reader so looking through science experiment books would require a lot of my time. Then I found Neil Ardley's experiment books. Each experiment has step by step photographs so the kids can look through and see what is happening in each experiment. My son can look at these and see which experiment he wants me to help him with. Of course, your older kids might be able to do these independently or even help the younger kids with them. Here is just one of his books:


Somewhere around here we have a craft book with drawings of the craft. Sometimes my son looks through it and says which things he wants to make. However, mainly he just has an art dresser and he makes whatever he feels like making. (His paintings are stunning abstracts. He just has a way with colors. I don't know if he would have been like that if we did a lot of mom-directed craft projects.)


Then there's screen time. He gets to watch screens during his sister's nap. He loves "How it's Made" on youtube. He can also watch kids' documentaries. We have a few or he gets them from the library. I've heard netflix only charges $8 a month and you get unlimited internet usage. Supposedly they have TONS of documentaries. When our son is older we may sign up for this. I don't want to do it now because he is only 5 and I'm just not ready to go there. He is also allowed to play on as much as he wants. 


A couple friends have One schools at home and it is the bulk of their curriculum. An unschooly friend simply has it for when her kids feel like using it. She said sometimes they'll go weeks without using it then one day they'll spend 8 straight hours with it. It costs $20 a month for the first kid and about $15 a month for each additional kid so we are holding off until our son is older to do this. 


I also have looked at the website for and it looks good. Last time I looked it was $10 a month so we're not signing up just yet. In another thread someone suggested and And I found this list of highly rated websites:


And you can get an internet option emailed to you each day by Each day of the week has a different theme (science one day, math another, etc.)

purslaine's Avatar purslaine 07:06 AM 06-16-2011

Originally Posted by homeschoolingmama View Post

I need some ideas of fun, educational things to do that don't involve a lot of time and prep.  I cannot walk around and nurse so I have to be able to stop to nurse when babe wants to.  Activities for my children that they can all get involved in as well as individually.  Tall order...I know. :)

I apologize for the rambling. 



Buy lots of paper, crayons and put them in the box.  If you can add, tape, scissors and stickers tot he box.  Craft supplies in one area seems to inspire my youngest to get busy.  Keep it simple - just get together the supplies you can.


Straws and connectors are our all time favourite building game.  My cut and paste is not working, but google "straws and connector building kits" and you will see what I mean.  You could also try marble run kits or gear kits - all have some building science attached to them.


Are they allowed outside by themselves?  Sidewalk chalk, butterfly nets, etc.


You could go tot the library, pick a few books that have ideas that may spark or inform?  A bug book so they can ID what they find, ditto for rocks,  craft books to give craft ideas.....



midnightwriter's Avatar midnightwriter 04:30 PM 06-17-2011

Hugs. Your kids are still very young, and your littlest won't stay little for too long. If your kids are happily playing together, I think you're doing wonderfully. They are learning and living, and maybe this is exactly what they need right now, rather than 'new' things and academic learning. Does your eldest read? My newly 9 yo searches for videos on youtube, sometimes 'educational'. If you have parental controls, they could surf the web. National Geographic for kids has great videos and games, and there are plenty of sites where they can find out new things and learn. Hang in there.

greenthumb3's Avatar greenthumb3 06:10 PM 06-18-2011

Be easy on yourself. You just gave birth and you are caring for a new baby and 5 little ones! You are doing a great job just by being there with them and being kind and nurturing toward them.


About unschooling: The great thing about home/unschooling is that it is a long-term kind of learning journey. That means, some days/week/months may be 'slow' and others will be 'quick'/full of lots of more academic-y activities. It may be due to a new baby, or an illness, or just because you feel like taking it easy, but we all have those normal rhythms. Besides, it's summer! Summer-y things are great and there is a lot of learning to be found in simple things like that. It really is okay to not delve into their interests in depth for a time, they won't be harmed at all. (Or recruit Daddy or another trusted adult to serve as their "mentor" for a day)


If it helps, one idea is to make a list on the fridge, or wherever is handy for you, of things your kids want you to do with them or want help investigating. In the coming weeks, when you are more recovered from childbirth/the hormones are settling/you are getting more sleep, etc, you can pick a few things to do with the kids around their interests. One day, one part of the day, invite one of the children to do that one thing with you, whether it's bake cookies or read that book aloud or surf the net for fun cat videos. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. That is one thing that helps me to relax in the meantime because I have a plan, I know it will get done at some point, so I can stress less.


An article that helps me keep it in perspective when we have a new baby is "The Baby is the Lesson."


Find ways to enjoy this time, it goes by so quickly!

matte's Avatar matte 12:22 PM 06-20-2011

My brother and I were unschooled and one thing that we benefitted from ALOT at elementary school age was watching PBS documentaries, for example Nova, Connections, etc. We did a lot of projects inspired by what we saw on these shows: drawing things we saw in the shows, writing about them (journaling), explaining them to each other. If you are really wiped out -- and I would be if I were you! -- consider the possibility of watching a few of these documentaries with your kids. They are oddly accessible to small children, and really fun to watch (also, they can be oddly relaxing to watch too... soothing music, etc). I think many of them are available to stream for free on the PBS website. Many are also available on Netflix streaming, if you have that. 


If you are not into screen-mediated activities, I would suggest some 'found objects' projects. cardboard, masking tape, and markers can become anything (if your kids are into it). They'll learn a lot from trying to build stuff. Give them challenges (build a playhouse for the younger siblings! build a car that can roll! etc).




Have the older ones teach the younger ones how to do something (anything! make scrambled eggs, count by threes, write their names) and then have a 'show' for mom in which they perform their new skills. 




Create a picture book together collaboratively. Create a play about what life would be like if they were pirates/mice/frogs/if the oldest were the youngest and the youngest were the oldest. Perform the play for you.


Or, bonus points for:

Have them create a book about themselves for the baby. Each kid does a page (collage, drawing, writing for those who are old enough, etc). Make the pages individually (on some heavy paper of same size) and then you can bind it afterwards or put the pages in a book with clear sleeves.








The category game. One child names a category and all others name things that belong to this category (this is infinitely adjustable, from 'easy' to 'HARD': animals, things bigger than my head, mammals, presidents, etc etc). When someone cannot name an item in the category that person is out/becomes a judge of others' answers. The last person left gets to pick the next category. You can add a literacy component to this if you feel like it: have the kids who are old enough to write keep a list with the category as a header.




Find a youtube video of kids playing double dutch, challenge your kids to figure out how to do this on their own. You provide rope and some bottles of water.




Alphabet scavenger hunt: kids find something in the house that begins with each letter of the alphabet. If some are too young for this, have them be partners with older kids. You could do a colors scavenger hunt. You could also make a list of things to find (or have the older kids do it) and then challenge them to find the items. Or, for a more literacy based activity, do a book treasure hunt: create a list of things to find (5 words ending in -ing, 6 characters in a book) etc. Have them work together to find them. 


hmm, let me think some more...

homeschoolingmama's Avatar homeschoolingmama 12:39 PM 06-21-2011

Thank you so much for the replies!  I am not finding it too hard adding the baby into our family but the "schooling" has been lacking.  I guess I should call it facilitating.

I am definitely going to use some of these ideas!  I am trying to give myself a break but you mamas know how much we put on ourselves. ;)

Thanks again!!