A non-school challenge: In search of joy Unschooling


Every week in our Stories of a non-school family communityI am posting a non-school challenge. The challenges are a way for us to explore the principles of unschooling, reflect on some ideas together, and make unschooling a reality in our lives.

A few weeks ago I shared the following challenge.

A quest for joy challenge

Ever looking for ways to make your days happy? Well, that’s this week’s non-school challenge!

Here is an old Instagram post I wrote about joy:

“A mother recently told me that she only arranges special trips for ice cream, coffee or lunch with her children as a reward. You can earn a special time with her by working hard on her schoolwork. I felt sad. This family learns in ways that need rewards to encourage children to do so, and life’s special moments seem to be rationed. Maybe the mother thinks I am spoiling my children because I try to turn as many moments as possible into special ones. We always go to places, drink coffee, have picnics, chat … I intend to bring every drop of joy out of these precious Mother’s days as best I can because they won’t last forever. ‘

Turn as many moments as possible into special ones. Extract every drop of joy from our precious days of parenting. What do you think? Shall we do this? Or could we end up pampering our children?

Here are a few words from my college book: Radical non-school love::

“… Because life is unpredictable and we cannot protect our children from all suffering, the search for joy is essential. It is the joyful times in our lives – the smiles, the fun, the carefree days – that bring us together with strong love relationships. These bonds give us the strength to face the troubled times they arrive. Happy memories give us hope and move us forward when we want to give up. They lead us back to joy … ‘

We can bring joy to our days in many simple ways. Here are some of the things we did:

Instead of rushing home from the shops, stop at the playground to play on the swings. I also go on the swings!

Buy flowers for my children.

Arrange my girls’ afternoon coffee cups on a tray along with a small treat and flower and bring it all into their bedrooms instead of yelling “Coffee!”

Use a pretty tea set instead of the everyday one.

Have a simple picnic and go to the park on the spur of the moment.

In our day, take the time to stop and enjoy each other’s company and have tea or coffee.

Bake cakes and enjoy.

Cuddle up on the sofa and watch a movie.

Suddenly we say: “Should we go to the village and buy ice cream?”

When my kids were younger it was a joy to go out in clothes!

It can be fun to do things that we enjoy at a different time of the day than usual. Or in another place. We carried our dinner to the park and ate it on a picnic carpet.

Delights waiting to be discovered

Yesterday was the first day of spring here in Australia and we made our first picnic of the season. We went looking for joy. Four daughters, a mother and two dogs brought a basket of delicious food to the botanical garden. Sophie and I also took our cameras with us.

Sophie and I are trying to take a few photo trips before she leaves the house in a couple of weeks. My second youngest daughter moves north to the rural town where big brother Callum lives. She has a new job as a coffee shop manager. She also hopes to work at the local gym after taking two fitness classes.

In the past few days, Sophie has been sorting out possessions worth 19 years. Bags of recycling and rubbish as well as no longer wanted items appear from her bedroom at regular intervals. Sophie tosses everyone that has formed in the family room. Our soil is disappearing.

As I listen to the girls cry out about almost forgotten dolls, read out entries from rediscovered old diaries, and then giggle at the parts that now sound very funny, I feel a little sad. A phase in Sophie’s life is coming to an end. She goes on. It is an eight-hour drive away.

“I’ll be back for Christmas, mom,” Sophie reassures me. Yeah, that’ll be fine. At least Sophie doesn’t move between states. She can travel home whenever she wants. (Our state borders are closed because of the pandemic.) “And I’ll buy you a plane ticket so you can visit me at my own house.” It will be a great adventure for me.

But first I have to say goodbye. I will cry of course.

So Sophie will soon no longer be part of our everyday life. I will not be able to say, “Should we visit the river with our cameras today?” After our outing, I can’t ask Sophie anymore to fix all of my photo editing problems. But I will be able to remember. I have many memories of fabulous times with my daughter. Over the years I’ve squeezed as much joy out of our days as possible.

A new phase of life means new joys. What will they be? I do not know yet. They are waiting to be discovered.


These are some of Sophie’s photos from yesterday’s picnic. I haven’t downloaded mine from my camera yet!

So what are your favorite ways to bring joy to your days? Why not share some of your joyful moments in the comments?

And if you need more joy in your life, you might want to take on the challenge of “Looking for Joy Unooling”!

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