How many of these have I already skipped this year!? Anyway, today I remembered, and I even took some photos!

This morning I was up at 7.45am. Only because Brett forgot his phone and had to wake me to get back in the house! Kai was up around 8.45am. He played some Minecraft. We played some Uno together and he won (as usual). He did some whittling outside.

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Then we went out to the swimming pool as it was a friends birthday.

The pool has pretty cool inflatables going on, as it’s school holidays…


Kai enjoyed them, but was annoyed he still isn’t allowed on the slides, even though he passed their swimming test, because he isn’t yet 10. I also think it’s unfair. He’s tall enough, he swims well enough – why have to be 10 too! Made worse by the fact that his friend was having his 10th Birthday today, so he went on the slides….

Anyway – so, after that, we stopped at Hungry Jack’s on the way home to cheer him up about the slide fiasco…

Back at home, he skyped and played Minecraft with his friend Astra for a while, then watched some TV, and had spinach pasta and broccoli for dinner…

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Minecraft and Hungry Jacks…multi-tasking!

Tonight was the ‘blood moon’, a total eclipse. The total eclipse happened just at moon rise here, so by the time we could see the moon, part of it was visible again, but it was still cool…

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Terrible photo on my phone, but there it is!

I went to the gym…When I got home he was skyping with Astra again…bedtime could be any time at the moment, probably around 10.30pm though.

So that was our day. I hope you all had a great day too – we are enjoying this week of autumn sunshine!


This is an abridged and illustrated version of the talk I gave at ALL Adelaide and ALL Melbourne. Mostly, it’s the same!


I discovered there was a possibility called homeschooling when I was around 14, when I saw an interview on a very cool Channel 4 show (in the UK) with a very young Cailtin Moran (who had been homeschooled). I declared there and then that I would homeschool any children I might have in my future.

When Kai was 2, I first heard of the word unschooling. I looked into it, and when we moved to Colorado, when Kai was just 3, I found a large group of unschoolers and our life changed forever.

Although we haven’t since found a group as big, or as active as that one in Colorado, we’ve nevertheless been a part of unschooling and homeschooling groups in all the places we’ve lived since – in Tasmania, and here in Adelaide, and we’ve been to homeschool and unschool meets on trips to other states too.


Throwback – Unschool Park Day Colorado! Little Kai with his Star Pants on!!

One of the concerns when people learn that you homeschool, is that your child will be ‘missing out’? Often, when quizzed what this actually means, they don’t actually know! But sometimes they’ll say ‘diversity’ – meaning, I guess, that homeschooled kids won’t be exposed to as many different people, as many different experiences, as children in school would be.

That seems to be the view particularly in the case of an only child; people imagine Kai shut up in the house doing maths at the kitchen table all day, never seeing any other kids or doing anything much else.

Early on, I had similar concerns – particularly because Kai was likely to be an only child. I was also an only child, and very happy that way, but I was in school – I saw my school friends every day. I worried he’d feel isolated, lonely, and that might lead him to seek school in order to find more friends.

I’m happy to say our experience so far has been nothing like that at all, but I won’t say it doesn’t take effort to make sure Kai has a wide range of friends, social outings and experiences.

Kai is a very social kind of child – he’d be classed as an extrovert for sure. He thrives around other people, other kids, and enjoys being in large groups. Absolutely nothing like I was as a child.

He is also enthusiastic and passionate about many things. Some of those passions have lasted years – like dinosaurs, and medieval history, others seem more fleeting. But his passions have led to a massive diversity of experiences and people over the last 5 years since we began incorporating unschooling principles, experiences I would never have had either, had it not been for unschooling.

Unschooling has given us the freedom to follow courses and passions that just wouldn’t have been possible if Kai were in school and I was at work.

Last year, Kai became interested in surfing. He wanted to sign up for the Surf Groms program down at Moana beach (although admittedly I think that was more about the backpack and hat he got in the sign up package!). It was a week of intensive surfing every morning for two hours – early, for us – 10.30am! Kai enjoyed it, made lots of new friends, and wanted to keep surfing afterward so we got him a board.

During the program, I received an email about a photo competition – send in a photo of your surf grom, and you could win a trip to the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, and a camera! Heck it was free and I had plenty of photos, so I sent a few in.


This was one of them….

Not long later we got a call telling us we had won the trip to the Gold Coast (with the above photo!), and the camera, and a bunch of other goodies. The trip was soon, but – with no work and no school, we could leave at the drop of a hat!

The weekend on the Gold Coast was hectic! The kids were pushed around for ‘photo opportunities’ eating plates of Vegemite – one of the sponsors, with famous surfers, climbing up climbing walls…but the second day was the best – the kids got one-on-one surfing instruction with famous surfers at a beach on the Gold Coast.


 Kai surfing on the Gold Coast…helped by Mark Richards and Tom Carroll!!!

I was so impressed with how Kai handled all the pressure, all the photographs and direction, and how he interacted with the other kids who were winners. It was an exhausting weekend, but so amazing. He still surfs regularly, though didn’t do the program this year.

The surfing world is something I never expected to know anything about, let alone go to watch a pro-competition, it’s just one of the many ways unschooling has opened up not only Kai’s world, but mine and Brett’s too.

A few months down the line, we saw another competition advertised – nature photography. The prize was a $100 JB-Hi-Fi voucher – which was a strong motivating factor for Kai, who wanted the money for new games.

We had the time and flexibility to take lots of different photos to enter in the competition, and – thanks to the surfing competition – Kai had his own cool camera! We experimented mostly with plants and macro and using the mini-tripod. Well. He won that competition as well! His macro shot of a carnivorous sundew won in the primary section for plant or fungus.

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 The winning image – Dew of Death!!

 We were invited to attend the opening of a ‘Kids and Nature’ photo exhibition in the city, which was going to feature the winners of the competition. There were 8 winners, the cards beneath the photographs identified that three of the children, including Kai, were homeschooled.  I thought that was pretty amazing, although probably not that surprising really – homeschoolers have the time to photograph all day if we want. Choose the best lighting. The best sunny days. Watch for when the flowers bloom. When the carnivorous plant catches an ant (in our case).  Just another plus of the flexibility of unschooling.

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 The winning images at the exhibition – huge percentage of homeschoolers!!

When we found out Kai had won the competition, someone in the family expressed some concern to me – ‘You must let him know that it’s not this easy to win competitions, Jo.’ they said. ‘He needs to know its not real life to win every competition.’

I understand that concern. I think they were worried that he’ll think that winning competitions is easy, and wanted to save him from disappointment if there came a time when he lost something. But, in essence, they wanted me to tell him something that , in his experience, isn’t true. Kai’s real life experience is that he has won in competitions, and that winning doesn’t have to be that hard.

I thought about where that idea comes from – that children need to taught about negatives, or possible disappointments. It’s like the way some parents quash dreams or aspirations – by saying it’s too hard or you aren’t smart enough or it’s not for people ‘like us’. Brett’s parents told him he wouldn’t get a job from catching lizards, his lifetime passion, but that he needed a trade. They were understandably worried about his future, they didn’t know any herpetologists. But lucky for him, he pursued it anyway, and now does indeed have a job studying (and catching!) lizards!

It seems to be a very-schoolish idea – something that needs to be taught – that kids need to learn that things don’t come easily. That life is hard. Perhaps to protect them from some imagined failure or disappointment in the future.

I recently discussed this idea with Schuyler Waynforth – trying to clarify my thoughts for this talk. She mentioned a quote of Meredith Novak’s that fits well with this seemingly schooly idea of avoiding failure.

‘If you’re thinking in terms of lessons, you’re not thinking about decision making or learning. With lessons, there are right and wrong answers. But in real learning, a “wrong choice” isn’t inherently worse than a right one – in fact, it’s often more valuable.” – Meredith Novak

Aside from the extra time we have, on reflection, maybe that’s why so many homeschooled children entered the photo competition. Perhaps homeschooled children don’t have the deeply engrained fear of failure that many schooled children have? Schuyler suggested that maybe homeschooled entrants were less likely to think competitions were a losing endeavour.

An addition to these thoughts came from Sandra during the Melbourne ALL – she suggested that homeschooling/unschooling parents might also be more willing to let children use a decent camera, while other parents might see good, expensive cameras as only something adults would be allowed to use…

I don’t want Kai to ever think there is something he can’t do. But he doesn’t live in a vacuum, he lives in a world where he knows you don’t win competitions every time – even from playing Daily Spin on Animal Jam – which he’s never yet won!

Before we’ve entered any competitions, we’ve discussed the fact that he might not win. In fact, together we came to the conclusion that we should focus on local, small competitions, where our probability of winning is greater simply because less people will enter. A real life example of odds and probabilities!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the flexibility that comes with unschooling. Recently Kai went through a period where he was intensely interested in dinosaurs. He has always been interested, but this phase was full-on for weeks – we had every dinosaur book from the library, dinosaur models and kits, dinosaur DVD’s and you tubes.

Because Kai doesn’t go to school, because we don’t require ‘school-at-home’, Kai was able to completely immerse himself in dinosaurs and related learning for weeks. He watched Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts, Walking with Monsters and Prehistoric Park over and over and over. He poured over the Dinosaur encylopedia…the amount of information and learning that occurred over those few weeks of intense dinosaur research was staggering.

That same week someone, somewhere, posted a quote from John Holt, that resonated so well with our experience during that time…

Children do much of their learning in great bursts of passion and enthusiasm. [They]….rarely learn on the slow, steady schedules that schools make for them. They are more likely to be insatiably curious for a while about some particular interest, and to read, write, talk and ask questions about it for hours a day and for days on end. Then suddenly they may drop that interest and turn to something completely different, or even for a while seem to have no interests at all. This usually means that for the time being they have all the information on that subject that they can digest, and need to explore the world in a different way, or perhaps simply get a firmer grip on what they already know.” (paraphrased from How Children Learn, by John Holt)

Unschooling and our flexible schedule has also allowed us to go on numerous field trips with Brett to catch lizards – we’ve been to Alice Springs, up to Queensland and in the back of beyond for weeks on end – we help Brett dig in pitfall traps and check the funnel traps for lizards. Kai and I have been able to spend long periods overseas in the UK, and the US, visiting friends and family…time we wouldn’t have if he were at school, or even if we did school-at-home.


 Kai releasing a goanna, Alice Springs, 2012

When Kai won the photography competition, he rushed out to JB-Hi-Fi to buy some new games. Gaming is a big part of our life, and the flexibility of unschooling means we can play and skype with local friends, and overseas friends, and not worry too much about time-zones, bedtimes and having to leave the computer for dinner. In our house, dinner and snacks go to the computer. Or the couch.

Kai has a good friend who lives in Arkansas. They’ve never met in ‘in real life’, although they’ve spent countless hours playing Minecraft, Animal Jam and Pirate 101 and skyping together, so if that’s not ‘real life’ I don’t know what is! People sometimes ask how homeschooled kids will learn to work in a team situation. This is just one way Kai works as a group to achieve a real aim, not one made up in an artificial school situation.  Listening to them working as a team to solve problems in games, and to help each other get to new levels and get prizes, truly is wonderful.

And in the process, without even really realising it, we’ve learnt about time zones, about American states, where Arkansas is, as well as all the learning and co-operation going on in the games. Kai’s friend is also unschooled, and the flexibility at her home means that she can skype Kai throughout our day, and then she goes to bed in Arkansas pretty late.

The flexibility and choices that unschooling bring have, I’m happy to say, pervaded every area of our life. From food, to sleep, travel, dinosaurs, surfing, photography. Kai’s world is big. Huge. To steal a line from Sandra – his world is ‘bigger and more sparkly than school’ – bigger and better than school could ever be. I have no doubt.

People new to unschooling often ask what a typical day looks like. They wonder what we actually do all day. But we’ve found that there is no typical day when you follow passions and make better, happier choices. Or maybe every day is typical – typically happy, full of fun and learning.  One day may be full of Prehistoric Park and the dinosaur encylopedia. The next month a typical day might look like skyping and gaming with Caitlyn most of the day. Still other days might be hiking, going to the zoo, the museum, visiting friends. Long hair, short hair. Soccer, sword skills class, stunt monkeys. Adelaide, Arkansas. We have the flexibility to explore the whole world. I’m always excited to see what our next ‘typical’ might turn out to be.




Continuing on from our trip with Sandra over to Melbourne for the Melbourne ALL event.  We arrived in Melbourne on Thursday 20th March, and after dropping Sandra we headed to Nana’s house….

We had one day to recover – the Friday, during which we did very little! Kai played Skylanders in the newly refurbished room at Nana’s – he had his own fold out bed, his Wii, a big flat screen TV with DVD player! We called it the ‘boy cave’!


Nana and I went to Spotlight to buy birthday gifts – two of Kai’s cousins had birthdays the week we visited! And Nana bought Kai a Rainbow Loom. I’ll say I was sceptical it was ever going to get used – she said his cousins were doing lots with their school friends, but Kai’s not usually into crafts…anyway…Rainbow Loom it was! In the afternoon after school, we went to visit said cousins, and Kai saw the loom in action, and wanted to make a bracelet NOW!

He went home and did so – made about 10 of the things, and a necklace for himself! Just goes to show what I know!


On Saturday, I was up and out early, a friend picked me up to go to the Melbourne ALL symposium! Then we all piled into Karen’s  big van to drive to the Elwood Early Learning Centre. Melbourne had a lot more people than Adelaide, maybe 40 or so, so had a different vibe immediately.

Melbourne also contained a lot of people I already knew from Melbourne park days on previous visits, and also people I knew very well online, but had never met ‘in real life’ – including the lovely Kim from Feather and Nest! We also caught up with Tan, who we had met previously in Sydney!

So that made Melbourne very exciting and there was a great vibe to it from the start….

Sandra spoke on similar topics as in Adelaide, but with a new audience and new questions and experiences, I still learnt a whole lot of new stuff! Also on the first day Karen spoke about her experiences with having had some kids at school, and coming to unschooling later, with older children, and some of her stumbling blocks and mistakes, which was super-awesome, and I hope Karen – you will put your talk on your blog soon!


While I was immersed in unschooling that day, Kai was at his cousin Lola’s 7th birthday, where they did African drumming and dancing!


We re-convened on Sunday morning for our last day at ALL Melbourne. I spoke again that day – blabbing on more about our unschooling life with Kai – which contrasts well with Karen’s experiences, I guess, since Kai’s always unschooled and an only child! I took the opportunity to take some photo’s of the audience while I was speaking, and I got to say I have a photo of Sandra in my audience!

Here they are…


The right hand side of the room! Hardly anyone looking at the camera!!


Middle of the room – much better smiley faces!


Far left of the room…not many looking again!

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone at the end, and it was kind of crazy too – as the media were calling for someone to go on Morning TV to talk about unschooling opposite an ‘expert’ in education. Sandra kindly agreed, after being not to subtly railroaded in to it by everyone! Despite being exhausted and having talked for two full days already….

The interview was a follow up to the 15 minute 60 Minutes section on Unschooling aired that night – you can watch that here (i’ll find a link, I promise!). They had the same ‘expert’ opposite Sandra the following morning – you can watch that here.

Some of us made arrangements to meet at a playground the next day, for a last catch up. That was really super awesome, Kai was happy to see his buddy Angel again – who we’d met once before in Sydney…

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And I got to hang out will a load of awesome unschooling Mom’s (and a Dad or two!) for four hours! Until Kai cut his knee open again and we headed home, exhausted!

So. After all that, we had home days (Nana’s home!) on Tuesday and Wednesday! Kai played Skylanders, I did some work that I was offered out of the blue…Brett was away in Canberra working on something lizardy!

On Thursday we went to Old Melbourne Gaol. Kai was keen to visit, and see all the Ned Kelly paraphernalia. We got the train in, and walked up. The Gaol was awesome and creepy!


The rack where they strapped people to be whipped!!!

And we read all the stories and looked at all the casts of the heads of hanged prisoners! Then we walked to China Town for lunch, and went home on the train – exhausted again, but after having a great day in the big city!!

On the train on the way, Kai completed 4 levels of the Age 12+ Dragon Box app! On the way home, we played some other games and he surprised me by being able to spell some short words – surprising since he doesn’t read much still….but cool!

On Friday we went to Kai’s other cousins 8th Birthday – 8 7-10 year old boys…crazy madness!


Crazy, testosterone fuelled musical statues!! Shirts optional!

They were having a sleepover, though Kai chose not to sleep over in the end. We took them to see ‘Mr Peabody and Sherman’ which we absolutely LOVED! What an amazingly clever movie! I want to see it again!

Brett came back Friday night, and while Kai had a quieter day Saturday, Brett and I went miles away to collect in some lizard models! Sunday we drove home – a last stop at Keith – where Kai loves the crazy Minecraft cart train thing in the playground!


It doesn’t look that crazy in the photo, but it goes like the clappers, believe me! I wish I could upload the video!!

So that’s about it. Up until we got home. Which was a week ago today!

I failed once more to keep up with my blogging. Life got in the way, was waaaay too sparkly, and led me astray!

But. Exciting things have been afoot that I want to talk about! As I’ve previously posted, Sandra Dodd has been in Australia and did a number of visits and symposia, and I was lucky enough to attend two ALL Symposiums, and have Sandra at our house for nearly a week – oh, and we all drove from Adelaide to Melbourne too!

This time i’ll cover the Adelaide ALL Symposium, and then I’ll get to Melbourne – so much happened along the way!

Sandra arrived in Adelaide on the 13th March, and Kai and I picked her up from the airport. On the way back to our place, Kai spotted a koala moving up a tree, so that was pretty cool and we stopped to take some photo’s!

I’ll admit it. I was VERY nervous having Sandra stay at our home! Honestly, who wouldn’t be!? When I first came to unschooling, I didn’t gel with Sandra’s writing or website. I found it overwhelming, and found her direct manner off-putting. It took me a while of investigating other writers, meeting other unschoolers, and living unschooling, to realise that Sandra’s information, websites, links and writing bring together the very best of information available on unschooling, together with Joyce Fetteroll and Pam Sorooshian (and the contrast between Sandra’s chaotic website and Joyce’s orderly website is not lost on Sandra!).

But, despite reading and writing at Always Learning and the Radical Unschooling Info group on Facebook for a couple of years, I was still nervous!

Well, Sandra is absolutely delightful and lovely! An easy house guest, warm, and very funny! She was understandably exhausted and had a few well earned early nights, but we shared many stories, went out for dinner and saw a little bit of our local area….

Adelaide ALL Symposium happened on Sunday and Monday - 16th – 17th March. We ended up with a much bigger turn out than we’d imagined – 20 people!! Who knew there were so many unschoolers in the Adelaide area. One family even flew in from Perth – which was wonderful!


Sandra spoke about making better choices, about being your child’s partner, and told many anecdotes and stories about her life with Marty, Kirby and Holly, her three now grown children.

Some notes from Adelaide can be found here. I also spoke at Adelaide – my first time talking about unschooling in front of a live audience!

I was very nervous, and wondered what the heck I could talk about, having only one kid who isn’t quite 8 years old! But, it turns out it’s easy to babble on about your own awesome kid!! Much easier than trying to convince skeptical scientists of esoteric life history theories at an academic science conference!

When i’ve finished editing it, i’ll post my talk as a blog post, but it needs a bit of tweaking before it goes ‘live’!

On the day after the conference, Sandra, Kai, and I went to our local wildlife park, and Donna, Martin, Liam and Quinn – all the way from WA, also joined us….we had a very lovely, but looong day there…we all had a bit of a rest in the cafe for a while though!


The boys reading the wildlife park map and deciding what animals to see next!

That evening Sandra showed Kai a few games on her iPad!


He liked her Simpsons game!

On the following day (a Wednesday – try and keep up!), Sandra, Brett, Kai and I started the road trip to Melbourne. Since we had a visitor, who had never been to Australia and so far had only travelled by plane, we had an excuse to go the ‘scenic’ route to Melbourne – which involved going to Mt Gambier, via Naracoorte Caves and Fossil Centre (which we’ve wanted to do for ages, but keep putting it off!).

We all LOVED the Wonambi Fossil Centre – full of awesome mega-fauna!!!


I promise I didn’t plan that Kai would be wearing that shirt, it literally was the first in a pile I picked out!!

The caves were super cool too, although we only ventured into the ‘Wet Cave’….


After the cave, Kai wanted to go back into the Fossil Centre, Sandra had a rest on a bench, and was apparently visited by a couple of kangaroos!

We then drove on to Mt Gambier where we got a motel, very generously paid for by Sandra…and went out for dinner….next to the restaurant was a sinkhole – of which there are a few in Mt Gambier…


Sandra at the top, Kai down on the balcony thing!

After dinner we drove to the biggest sinkhole – Umpherston sinkhole, as our brochure in the motel said it ‘comes alive with possums after dark’ – so we figured we’d show Sandra some possums! Well, I don’t have the photo’s, but i’ve never seen so many possums in one spot! And one bit Kai on the finger!! Oh, we also took Sandra to her first Australian Macca’s, where she took a photo of the menu, and Kai got a happy meal!

The next morning we headed onward and eastward, stopping at Waarnambool for lunch….there we found some cool WW1 machinery and weapons…I can’t find the photo’s though!

And then the last push to Melbourne where we dropped Sandra at Claire’s house – then we headed on to Nana Bev’s!

And that’s where I’ll finish this for now….next installment – Melbourne!!


Start as I mean to go on, right! First Day in The Life of 2014! (now a day late…but hey – at least I wrote it! I just didn’t have this laptop to publish it!)

It’s not real exciting, I gotta tell ya! But hey – not every day can look picture perfect can it? Monday would’ve looked better – we went to the museum to see The Permian Monsters exhibit!

Tuesday however – was still pretty much a typical day….I got up about 9am. Kai got up about 10am. Brett worked at home, which is not so typical….although he has been doing that a fair bit lately.

Kai immediately wanted me to find a documentary on you tube for him, which is also fairly typical at the moment. Last week it was every episode of Prehistoric Park, over and over….this week, it’s all three episodes of ‘Walking with Monsters’ by the BBC, and over!

He watched all the episodes, showed me some of his favourite bits, then watched Episode 1 and 2 again.

He ate some cereal. Then he ate more cereal…

The internet kept going out a bit later, which was very frustrating for all members of our household! But it tends to do that when it’s a bit hot.

I spent the day doing housework and tidying up – last week’s heatwave meant the housework got forgotten for a while – because NO WAY am I putting on the vacuum when it’s over 40 C!

Kai watched some TV, and then played some Call of Duty Black Ops II, and then some Skyrim IV – the Elder Scrolls.

I went for a nana nap and left the boys in the lounge – Kai watching TV. When I got up, no-one was here!  They had apparently gone for a walk into the national park and to the post office to buy ice creams! Kai was proud to tell me he tied his own shoe laces TWICE today, including when he walked to the post office! He’s been practicing and after having trouble tying them the way I do it, we found a you tube of a MUCH easier way and he was doing it almost immediately! (I’m trying to find the you tube we watched, but can’t find it! If anyone is interested, I guess we could make our own!?).

We had tofu stir-fry with rice noodles for dinner (I’m only telling you because people seem interested in what unschooled kids eat!)…then Kai had ice cream. Then some more ice cream. Then at bed time cucumber, bread and tomatoes!

I went to the gym. When I got back Kai played more CoD Black Ops II. He fell asleep around 11pm, after watching a few episodes of Redakai!

And that was our day! I don’t have nice pictures, so here’s a picture from the Museum yesterday….and it’s tangentially related to watching Walking with Monsters at least!

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I’ve been blogging (intermittently, I admit!) for 3.5 years here…that’s almost half of Kai’s lifetime! As is the way of things, my thinking on unschooling, and lots of other things, has changed and evolved a fair bit over those 3.5 years…especially as Kai has grown, and learnt, and turned school age – a constant process of deschooling. So I figure it makes sense to go back and look at a few posts and see how my thinking has changed over that time.

I found a post from almost 3 years ago – January 2011. In it, I wrote this: ‘Maybe people tend to over think unschooling because in fact its underlying premise is so simple. Just be. Live in the moment. Live life.

NO. NO. NO!! Now, I completely disagree with my own statement! Unschooling is NOT ‘just’ living life. Unschooling is far from simple. Unschooling requires constant thinking and re-thinking as you and your children grow.

Calling unschooling ‘just living life’ is a complete insult to good unschoolers! Unschooling takes patience, effort, and time as you continue to work on your own deschooling, facilitating your childs interests and family harmony and joy….Unschooling isn’t ‘just’ anything. It’s a thing – only unschooling is unschooling. It’s hard work! -  here are some tips.

‘Unschooling is *much* harder than school at home because it takes a great deal of self examination and change in ourselves to help our kids and not get in their way!’ —Joyce Fetteroll

By saying unschooling is just ‘living life’ that post also implies anyone can unschool, because everyone ‘lives life’. Maybe back then I thought that was true. But now, I don’t. Theoretically, yes – if you have the finances and health to do so, everyone *could* unschool. But I guess what I mean is, not everyone can do it well. If you can’t do it well, if you can’t make unschooling better and ‘more sparkly’ than school (I stole that from Sandra Dodd ) well – then it’s time to rethink it. Sometimes school is better than home. For some kids. Just sayin’.

‘Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school. If it’s smaller and quieter than school, the mom should do more to make life sparkly.’—Sandra Dodd

Unschooling isn’t ‘doing what’s best for your family’ either. Yes, unschooling looks different in each family, and even for each kid in a family with more than one child. But from reading unschooling lists for well over 4 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘doing what’s best for your family’ essentially seems to mean doing what’s best for Mom (or the parents) and/or doing what the parents feel comfortable with…that’s not unschooling. Some parents think spanking is best for their family. Some think time-outs are. Some think workbooks and maths at the dining table are. None of that is unschooling.

And that is why I think this definition of unschooling is a REALLY bad one I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.’ Pat Farenga.

THAT definition is about parents, not about kids. To be the best unschooling parent you can be, you will be (and probably should be!) pushed out your comfort zone on numerous occasions, over one thing or another (such as food, TV, computers, gun toys, barbies…..the list could go on and on!), and then reassess and analyse your discomfort before your can move past it to fully embrace your children’s interests and passions.

The word freedom in that definition is also problematic….too many people new to unschooling thinking unschooling = freedom, and there are unfortunately a number of prominent unschooling advocates that push that idea. Often those parents do tend toward the side of unparenting, rather than unschooling, at least in the beginning..…

Letting kids swear, be obnoxious, generally run amok in public is not okay. Hurting or harassing other people or animals is not okay. Damaging property is not okay. None of that is anything to do with unschooling….these two links are awesome to think about these ideas….Misconceptions about unschooling, and freedom.

Another thing i’d like to analyse from my old post (read it if you must! At least my thinking has evolved, right?!) is the fact that back then Kai was only 4.5 years old, not officially ‘school age’, but I was still saying what we were doing was unschooling….

I’m still unsure on the whole idea of whether we can or should say we are unschooling from birth, or before compulsory school age…lots of people do. Heck, I did!

My reasons to now doubt this practice are thus – firstly, the definition of UNschooling, is NOT school…so until a child really is legally supposed to be in school, there is no school to UN! In that case, I guess you could call it respectful, attachment parenting, and say you plan to unschool, come school time?

Secondly, in the past 4 years we’ve lived on two continents and in 4 states, and I’ve known a lot of unschoolers – or at least a lot of people who have called themselves unschoolers! I’ve known even more people who were calling themselves unschoolers with toddlers and young kids, who then ended up sending their kids to school when they got to school age. So were they actually unschooling at all? It’s an interesting question….

For those (very) few adults who were always unschooled themselves, if they plan to unschool their children, then I think it’s probably safe for them to say that from birth – they know what they are in for! And ditto for those with younger kids who are already unschooling older, school-age, kids…..

But for people like me – not unschooled ourselves, with no older kids – I think it’s prudent to wait until school age until you declare yourself unschoolers…… But hey – I already did it – so who am I to judge!? But if you only have small kids at the moment – just know this – things WILL change when they become school age. The pressure WILL mount from friends and family. You WILL need more deschooling, more reading, more re-assessing. I’m assuming that the same will be true when Kai gets to High School age too….but I guess we’ll wait and see!

Finally, I want to recommend the best places to read about unschooling. The best places I’ve found, as time as gone by, and I’ve explored many other writers and options…..

Pam L: http://livingjoyfully.ca

Sandra Dodd: http://sandradodd.com

Joyce Fetteroll: http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/

Pam S: http://learninghappens.wordpress.com/

Yes, they are all in North America. Yes, some of the things they say may sound harsh and/or make you feel uncomfortable.  If you have a problem with that, may I politely suggest you get over your xenophobia and step outside your comfort zone in favour of becoming a better unschooler.

All of the above writers radically unschooled their now grown children; they have more experience, and write with more clarity on unschooling than anybody else anywhere (and I’ve read a lot of peoples writing on unschooling…..a couple of other prominent unschooling writers have been shown to be liars, untrustworthy, and false….I’m not in the business of naming names, but suffice to say – do your research before taking for gospel the words of any writer!)

I went through a phase a few years ago when I wasn’t reading much; I guess I thought I knew it all already! It was to our detriment for sure. Now I read lots. I re-read links I’ve read before. I look for new links. I read, read, read – as much as I have time for! If you think you are beyond reading accounts and advice from more experienced unschoolers, you are just plain wrong! I was wrong, when I thought that…..

I’m lucky that currently I have a back room full of boxes of Sandra Dodd’s books (for her to sell at ALLive Australia) – The Big Book of Unschooling – which I’ve already read, and also ‘Moving a Puddle’ which I’ve never read before. Moving a Puddle is a collection of essays written by Sandra over the years she unschooled her three (now grown) children. It’s really lovely…and if you think Sandra seems ‘harsh’ in her groups, I suggest you read the book – actually, I just suggest you read the book anyway!…and even more, I suggest you come to Always Learning Live somewhere in Australia in a couple of months and meet Sandra in real life!

(See how I got another plug in for ALLive Australia….that was pretty tricky, you gotta admit!)

I don’t make resolutions. But I hereby declare I shall blog more often in 2014. It’s less about resolve than about remembering and getting access to a decent computer!

I also declare that I’ll blog about more unschooly stuff, rather than just updates on what we’ve been doing – though I’ll likely blog about that too!

For now, to get me started, I’ll blog about what we’ve been up to in the long period since I last blogged….

Dinosaurs and prehistoric life has been a BIG deal here lately…Kai’s been watching Prehistoric Park on youtube…over and over…

We went to Adelaide Zoo to see Dinosaurs Alive! Exhibit that’s on for the school holidays…

dinosml*Almost* life size Triceratops!


Kai bought Zoo Tycoon 2 game for the PC with some of his Christmas money, and has been designing his own Prehistoric Park in the game (it has extinct animals) and been happily breeding Sabre Tooth Cats and Sivatherium (an extinct giraffe!).

He’s also played a bit of Fossils and Archaeology Mod in Minecraft – but we are getting frustrated they haven’t updated the mod in ages!

We also had fun with Tagxedo – a free app/program online, and Kai shouted out some adjectives and we made an adjective T-Rex!



In fact, we had so much fun, we did another with words Kai used to describe himself…

kai describes


I LOVE the words he uses to describe himself!

Oh, and during last weeks heatwave, we chose to go to the air-conditioned comfort of the movies on cheap Tuesday and see Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie – which we loved, loved, loved! Kai also bought the new Dinosaurology book with more Christmas money, and we got a cool Dinosaur encyclopaedia from the library that he likes a lot.

It’s been pretty cool to watch him going through another dinosaur phase…the last one was more than two years ago, and this one has been much more in depth as he’s got into evolution and mega-fauna and lots of other cool stuff! This John Holt quote was shared last week, and it’s absolutely our reality…

“Children do much of their learning in great bursts of passion and enthusiasm. [They]….rarely learn on the slow, steady schedules that schools make for them. They are more likely to be insatiably curious for a while about some particular interest, and to read, write, talk and ask questions about it for hours a day and for days on end. Then suddenly they may drop that interest and turn to something completely different, or even for a while seem to have no interests at all. This usually means that for the time being they have all the information on that subject that they can digest, and need to explore the world in a different way, or perhaps simply get a firmer grip on what they already know.” (paraphrased from How Children Learn, by John Holt)

Prior to all this, we spent a lovely Christmas in Melbourne with the in-laws, and Kai had a lot of fun with his cousins…



Over Christmas, rather surprisingly for me, Kai got into Lego. First time ever! Prior to this he’s always disliked Lego intensely! If it weren’t for Nana buying all the boys Lego, I wouldn’t have ever bought him any!! Despite never doing Lego before really, he managed to put together an impressive Ninjago kit marketed for 8+ Years of age!


Other than all that, he’s also been pretty into Call of Duty: Black Ops II on Steam, Beast Quest and Sea Quest Books, LOTR and The Hobbit movies, surfing, snorkelling, and all of the ‘ology’ and ‘pedia’ type books, including Dinopedia, Dragonology, The Secret Book of Trolls, Monstorology and more…pretty much anything like that we find at the library!! (although we do own The Secret Book of Trolls!).

So, that’s about it for now. I hereby vow to blog more. To write more about unschooling specifically. And to read more often the blogs of my buddies, especially Kimmy and Karen!

Oh – and finally – for anyone in Australia reading and interested in unschooling – SANDRA DODD is coming to Australia this March! True Story! Adelaide, Melbourne and Gold Coast venues. Please visit this page to check out details, and to sign up. I’ll be at Adelaide and Melbourne, and I’d love to see lots of you there!!