structure in a child-led learning environment.

After a Summer with a full house (and lawn) of visitors, Gunter at home and a few trips away in the last month, the girls and I are craving for a bit of peace with our weekly rhythm and looking forward to sinking into the steadiness of the framework of our home days.

People often assume that because we cultivate a child-led path of learning that our days are unstructured.

'Structure' can be a bit of a loaded word, especially for those of us who identify themselves as being on the unschooling spectrum. People pull away from using it, assuming that it implies rigidity and is imposed from the top down. But structure in and of itself is not the baddy in the room. . For us who have chosen such a path of freedom, we may be afraid that a schedule may morph into mimicing or imposing on our days that which we have freed ourselves from: the stifling routine of school.
We forget that a structure can be designed, custom-made for us and in this way, serve our needs and desires.
Talk to your children, trust their lead and in doing so prevent rigidity. Watch and listen and then befriend some rhythm to your days if you or your children are craving some.

In a child-led learning environment the issue is not the existence of a structure but rather who designs it. 

Our framework is one we have co-created and flexes easily with the natural ebbs and flows of our full life. As well as it serving our individual needs (and not the other way around) it also serves the needs of the family as a whole: it supports our happiness and contentment and it supports us in our various learning pursuits.
It also punctuates our days with times to come together and times to move out by ourselves: times to rest and times to be busy.

Breath in.
Breath out.

We have always had a rhythm to ours days but over the last couple of years we have moved away from days brimming full of imaginary play, spontaneous art expression and stories, and moved deeper into intentional time to work on other self-chosen "projects." I have written a little about this here. 
This shift has paralleled their transition from young childhood into middle childhood.

For now, Ruby has decided that she wants a firmer schedule for herself. She has been asking for me for a while to wake her at 7am. I have been slow on the buy in as I treasure the early mornings for myself and for my quiet coffee with Gunter before he leaves for work.  
Then she has set herself 9am to get started on some more "formalised" learning that she wants to make progress on so that she then still has enough time in the day for lots of free play, her many other interests, friends and outings.
Progress on some more formalised learning? 
When exactly did Ruby become so goal-orientated?

My role in our partnership will be the same as it always has been: to support her ideas, remind her of what she had wanted to do, offer new directions, find resources, observe and help trouble-shoot. My role also includes being clear about what my needs are and making time to get those needs met. 
You can read about how I help co-create pathways here and here.

And so we will begin tomorrow: we look forward to it.
Our rhythm will keep evolving, a schedule may come and go. Sky will continue much  as she has done, Ruby has a chance to try out some of her new ideas and I will find time to write during the day.

It seems that the dreamy early years are over :) 


  1. love how you’ve written about this — will share on the pbh forum <3

  2. Fabulous post Jacinda. I just shared it on my facebook page. I love how you explain the process of using structure to meet our goals, and to help our children meet their goals.

  3. love this post, jacinda. i’m writing about schedule, routine, rhythm, agenda, etc., from the conversations we’ve been having in the master class — i’ll link back to this post and share it when i publish. :)

  4. Love this, Jacinda. I think you know that we approach homeschooling in a similar way. :-) It's great to hear people like you sharing your stories, because it's so easy to assume that homeschooling is either radical unschooling or school-at-home.

  5. This is very helpful Jacinda! I always thought it was all or nothing - school-at-home or completely child-led-unstructured. What you're saying makes good sense.

    I've started journalling too and we completed a "project" yesterday - a letter to Holly's grandmother. The letter was Holly's idea but she needed my help to get started and get it finished!