We are an unschooling family living outside a small town in the beautiful mountains of BC, Canada.
Chuck is a small-town GP, amateur blacksmith and amateur blues guitarist. Miranda is a very part-time GP, very part-time Suzuki violin/viola teacher, mostly stay-at-home mom who likes trail-running and playing viola and volunteers for a bunch of community organizations. Our children are Erin (1/94), Noah (9/96), Sophie (11/98) and Fiona (1/03).
Erin plays the violin and is planning a music performance career. Unschooled from the get-go, she chose to attend our local tiny public high school part-time beginning in the fall of 2008. She hopes to spend her "Grade 12" year living independently in Montreal, finally getting access to the kind of rich weekly musical experiences (lessons, orchestra, ensembles) she's never been able to get in our small remote locale. She's also a pianist, a choral soprano and a creative writer extraordinaire.
Noah is our computer guru. He enjoys tinkering with scripts and files and hardware, avidly follows the computer game development industry and is completely at home with modding, html, on-line communities and digital media of all sorts. He also plays the viola like an angel, and sings tenor in a fabulous youth choir called Corazón. Noah is a confirmed unschooler; recently he has been dabbling in some high school math and science coursework at home through the local school's homeschool outreach program, but he is not at all interested in attending school.
Sophie is handy, creative, self-starting and universally competent at life, putting the rest of us to shame in that respect. She can cook a meal in two shakes, makes a mean chocolate torte, has taught herself pretty cool sewing, knitting and origami skills, loves biology, downhill skiing, pottery, theatre arts, animation -- you name it. She plays the violin and sings in the local community choir. She too is fully homeschooled at this point, and like Noah is taking a couple of courses through our DL program. Whether she will want to increase her formal academics as she gets closer to high school age remains to be seen.
Fiona is cheerful, resilient, full of people-skills and and is up for almost anything. She especially enjoys math and science learning and is an enthusiastic exhibit A for unschooling. She plays the violin, and reads up a storm. She would love a part-time schooling arrangement where she was free to challenge herself intellectually as much as she liked, working at her own pace in an independent study lab like the one Erin uses. That's not available until the high school level, though, and bright though she is she's not quite there yet! So in the meantime she takes advantage of whatever challenge and outside activities she can, and runs with that.
We're a second generation Suzuki family, and though the prescriptive sequential nature of the approach might seem incongruous with unschooling we find a lot in common between the two when you look beneath the surface. We have a small but warm and friendly Suzuki program here and all four kids still participate in biweekly group classes with the littlest beginners and everyone on up. We play host to a summer Suzuki Institute in our town every August which is a highlight for all of us.
We live in a small log house with a mish-mash of extensions and outbuildings on an acreage in the forest, a few kilometres up a mountain pass from a village of under a thousand. Bears, coyotes, deer, hawks and various other wildlife wander through. Our village has a culture defined by tolerance, self-sufficiency and ecological awareness. We find ourselves straddling the line between mainstream and alternative in an area populated by hippies from way back and anyone looking for a slower pace of life. We try to live simply, with a sense of connectedness to the world around us and an appreciation of our global footprint. While we've made a lot of socially and ecologically conscious choices and kept our lives largely safe and simple, our big downfall is in the realm of motorized transport. Youth choir and some other weekly activities take us 90 minutes away; violin and viola lessons for the older kids are 8 hours away. We're nowhere near public transit and we just haven't found any other way around it. The kids' passions and commitments to these activities burn bright, so we travel a lot.
You can reach us at blog at nurturedbylove dot ca.