Creating a lifestyle of learning: Why we do ‘school’ differently

One of my more unusual YDR "jobs" - going to a Gino's restaurant in King of Prussia for a meetup! (Yum!)

During my 13-plus years working at the York Daily Record/Sunday News, I’ve worn a lot of hats.

I’ve been an obituary clerk, a copy editor, a reporter, a web producer, the Weekly Record editor, the online editor, a blogger, a columnist… the list goes on.

Last December, though, I decided to try on a new hat. I requested permission to reduce my schedule to 18 hours of work a week – and to do most of that from home. It was a huge change – and, in some ways, an incredibly scary one.

But we had a good reason, as a family, for making this decision. We wanted to be in a position to homeschool our daughter, Sarah.

Sarah, who is now 12, left public school on Feb. 29 – in what I call our “Leap Day leap.” As of last week, we were done with the paperwork needed to show that Sarah officially “completed” what would have been her sixth-grade year, and I guess now we have a seventh-grader!

I phrase it that way because we’re not really “grade” people. We don’t look at Sarah as working at one particular grade level, and she doesn’t get graded on her day-to-day activities, either.

We fall into a growing group of homeschoolers who “go with the flow” – often called unschoolers, but also “child-led learners,” “relaxed homeschoolers,” “interest-directed learners,” “lifetime learners,” or any number of other terms.

The idea is simple: We don’t use a particular curriculum. We don’t separate “school time” from “the rest of the time.” We learn about what Sarah’s interested in, we share OUR interests, and we do it all as a family.

When I launched our new homeschooling blog, Our School at Home, I shared more about our relaxed approach. From that post, here’s a brief look at what we are and aren’t:

We ARE informal.
We ARE trying to grab teaching and learning moments as they come.
We ARE letting Sarah make the decisions in as many cases as possible.
We ARE trying to find what works for us, and are willing to change as we go if something isn’t.
We ARE actively engaging with our daughter and with the world around us.

We AREN’T using any “textbooks” at this point.
We AREN’T judgmental about other schooling approaches, including public school.
We AREN’T worried (well, at least not too much) about what goes into our portfolio at the end of the year.
We AREN’T comparing our days to what Sarah would have done in her former school.
We AREN’T experts.

Impromptu trip to the Jersey shore? Just a normal unschooling day! That's Sarah (right) giving Chris a wet hug.

As we began our hoomeschooling/unschooling journey, it amazed me how much of what we do is applicable to anyone. Certainly, the activities we do and the things we learn would be of interest to most parents. But the idea of a “lifestyle of learning” can – and SHOULD – be attractive to adults as well.

So when new Smart editor April Trotter asked me to share some news from “our school at home” here on Smart’s blog each week, I was thrilled.

We’ll talk about learning – and when it does and doesn’t happen. We’ll talk about some of the fun projects we do and trips we take. We’ll talk about life with Asperger’s and sensory processing disorder, both of which contributed to Sarah’s struggles to succeed in public school despite being gifted in some areas. And we’ll share some resources on the particulars of homeschooling in Pennsylvania that we’ve picked up along the way.

I hope you’ll learn right along with us.

I’ll be back next Tuesday, but until then, you can always check out more of what we’re doing at Our School at Home. We’d love to hear your thoughts!


My name is Joan and I'm a lifelong Yorker. Throughout high school and college, I swore I was getting out of here as soon as possible. Now, a few years later, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. I love my town, and I hear every day from readers who love their towns, too. So please, connect with me and let's share what makes life in York County great. I'm here to help you enjoy this place as much as I do!

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Buffy Andrews says:

    Looking forward to your weekly posts, Joan. You’re an amazing person and an amazing family! Good luck with your journey.

  2. Joan says:

    Aww, thanks, Buffy! :)

  3. Dennis Hall says:

    What a journey for you and your family. Sounds like a lot of work and fun and what an adventure of doing it together. Such a brave step in your life. Thank you for writing about it.

  4. Pam says:

    I can’t wait to read more about your family’s journey with unschooling! We will be embarking on our own journey very soon. I’m so glad I caught this post– I visited your site and can’t wait read all of it! Thanks for writing!

  5. Joan says:

    Thank YOU for the support and kind words! :)

  6. Joan says:

    Pam, that’s awesome!!! Definitely stay in touch – and I’m glad you caught this too! :)

  1. June 13, 2012

    […] Follow along on a homeschooler’s journey Posted on June 13, 2012 by Angie Mason ShareTweetIf you’re interested in alternatives to traditional schooling, head over to the Smart blog and read a post from Joan Concilio. […]

  2. June 19, 2012

    […] mentioned in last week’s post that I’d be checking in here on Smart each Tuesday with more thoughts on […]

  3. July 3, 2012

    […] I went from homeschooled student to homeschooling mom Posted on July 3, 2012 by Joan ShareTweetWhen I introduced us as a homeschooling – actually “unschooling” – family, I mentioned a little about our relaxed style, and in a later post, I shared some of Sarah’s […]

  4. August 7, 2012

    […] our unschooling family, we’ve been back, as it were, since July 1, the date the state of Pennsylvania allows us to […]

  5. September 18, 2012

    […] worth it Posted on September 18, 2012 by Joan TweetWe consider our family homeschooling style unschooling – learning entirely led by our daughter, Sarah, and without assignments, tests or […]

  6. October 23, 2012

    […] Homeschooling doesn’t just mean “teaching” my 12-year-old daughter. (In fact, I really don’t think it means that at all.) […]

Leave a Reply