Falling Into Unschooling

-Guest Blog Post by Satie Pungalia –

Please join me in welcoming Satie Pungalia as our next guest blog writer:

Satie is mum to 4 little ones. 3 boys aged 8,7 and 6 and a girl aged 2. Her background is in Occupational Health and coaching, and her husband is an Optometrist.

When they were expecting their eldest, Jai, they had thought they would look at a private school or possibly a Montessori. Never in their wildest dreams did they consider home educating, after all, neither of them were qualified to teach!

You can follow @satiePunglia

We put Jai in a nursery following the norm thinking we were doing the right thing. Two things happened that started us questioning.

First, was that the nursery nurses kept telling us how independent Jai was and he could get on with things all by himself. They could not wait for Hari to join him and follow in his big brother’s footsteps. This freaked me out. Hari was not like his big brother. He was his own person and I started questioning if Hari would grow up in Jai’s shadow. Hari has always been very physical and he reads books whilst walking or he would be jumping around while we read to him (it used to drive me crazy.) I am certain in a school he would be in trouble/detention every day.

The second thing that happened was that Jai became a shell of the person he was before we sent him to nursery. He started crying the night before it was a nursery day. He started having toilet accidents at nursery and being angry with me when I picked him up. 

So, we pulled him out and we decided we would look at alternatives and during my research home education came up and I loved the idea of it. 

Welcome to the LivePlayLearn guest blog post series. This series aims to share with you a diverse selection of families who are traversing the paths of life and learning with an unschooling mindset. The aim is to showcase how unschooling principles can be effectively implemented across the broad spectrum of lifestyles and yield a life of peace, joy, and learning. As well as this, participants will be sharing with you the stumbling blocks that have been overcome along they way, and the glorious variety of interests and activities that children access when they are living a life without school. I hope that it brings peace and encouragement to you.

I did not look any further than that, as to types and what it would involve. It just felt right. We have had a flexible approach and I suppose we kind of fell into the unschooling way. We probably took on the definition of unschooling when my husband, Satnam, was coaxing, a 5 year old, Jai to read a book to him.

Well let’s just say the pressure of it put Jai off reading for about 6 weeks until he realised that he was not going to be forced to read. Even now, as an 8 year old, he loves nothing more than snuggling on my lap and being read to. Yet, he has learnt to read, as I often find him reading to his little sister, or his own comic books. I cannot tell you how he learnt but just reading to him and not making it a big deal; it has happened organically and most importantly he still loves reading and has not been put off. I sometimes ponder what would have happened if he was at school and made to feel rubbish about not reading or forced into it?

We certainly had not planned unschooling but it felt right that we allowed the children to be autonomous and learn through play. 

Right now, our 8 and 6 year old are massively into Minecraft. Whether they are playing it or watching endless videos on you tube. We have developed that further by exploring “trump cards”, a minecraft sketch book and lego which they dip in and out of.

Hari who is 7 is into Roblox and you will find him playing the different games and then trying the challenges out like how many reps of weights he can do, his speed on the bike or running etc.

And Mya who is 2 follows her brothers but also loves the crafts (which her brothers have never been into.)

Our typical week will involve the kids getting up when they have finished sleeping (except for Forest school days), eating when they need to, activities like Forest school, Rock Climbing, Swimming, Parkour, Jiu jitsu trips to the beach or park. They do what they want in between. Some days they play the keyboard, gardening, reading but most of the time they are playing on the tablets or Nintendo Switch, if not on you tube.

This last thing was a real struggle for me. I had originally been strict about “screens” and screen time. I still have my days of “OMG what have they done all day?” 

And this is when I need to take myself away from them and do some self reflection. Question myself on why this is triggering me? And rather than looking at what they have done all day I think about how far they have come because of screens? If they wanted to spend all day reading a book (as I often did as a kid) would that hold more value for me? If they were playing Lego all day would I see that as better? Ah, the problem lies with me and my “rules” and conditioning.

At times it can feel like we have done nothing all day, week or month and then I reflect on their growth over that time period and I am always pleasantly surprised

Top Tips For Those Starting Out:

#1 The biggest tip I would give to families starting the unschooling journey is to be open. Be open and flexible to learn. Not the child to learn but the grown up. The kids will learn in their own way, at their own pace but as adults we need to unpack a lot of our conditioning. The conditioning around what is normal, expected and what stage the kids are supposed to hit certain milestones etc. 

#2 Be ready to learn from the kids because this is not just about their education but yours too. You are in a symbiotic relationship both growing and developing together, having mutual respect for one another.

#3 Trust the process. Trust your kids. Trust yourself. And most importantly enjoy it all.

I am really grateful to those who freely share their stories and contribute to providing a fuller picture of unschooling in action.

If you feel able, or willing, to share your journey, as a way of encouraging and cheering others along theirs, please complete and submit your own guest blog post here

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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