Am I returning to blogging – not really sure….I just felt the urge to write something, so here I am. Lately it seems like Kai is SO grown up – of course he’s not – he’s still only little, only 9, but in terms of unschooling, my role in this partnership, this dance, has changed, and I wanted to write about that….

In order to really understand what I mean, I feel like I need to go through some old blog posts – as generally embarrassing as that is!

When I first started this blog, Kai was 4. We’d been learning about unschooling for about a year or so, but of course – since Kai wasn’t school age we weren’t really – because there was no school to ‘un’ at that point! But – it was still an advantage to start that early….because, looking back at some old posts, like this one (cute picture of Kai on the table, but maths workbooks, not unschooling – not in our house at least!), and this one – yeah – I hadn’t really got this whole deschooling thing down just yet!

And that’s ok – unschooling and deschooling are a process, a process that takes a LOOONG time – and yep – lucky to start when Kai was so small, because by the time he WAS school age, we were pretty set, although I possibly still had some awkward schooly ideas lingering (mostly the forced tessellations conversation in there…). But, reading through most of 2012, it seems like i’d pretty much ‘got it’ by then, though we had yet to experience full on gaming, and I had a few crises about reading after that! I will say though, that a lot of my apparent re-occupation with documenting more ‘schooly’ stuff was a result of living in a state that required extensive reporting – now we live in Victoria, that’s not an issue J

While I’ve been looking at old posts – I found this one, and it kind of says a lot about what I’m thinking about, about how we’ve evolved, and how unschooling and our understanding of it has evolved, so i’ll avoid repeating it all!

So, back to unschooling NOW…unschooling an increasingly independent, reading, 9 year old with ‘tween’ interests!

Now Kai is increasingly independent – he doesn’t need me to read things for him, or even google that much for him (he does it himself), I sometimes feel like i’m ‘not doing enough’ – or actually – ‘not doing anything’!

He has his own You Tube Channel (more subscribers/likes would make him very happy, just FYI!), and when I go look, he has all these ‘likes’ of things he’s been looking at. He’s posted some stuff on his Facebook page from gaming….these are all new things i’m learning to get used to – independent things, things he doesn’t *need* me for!

Lots of his interests have stayed the same, though – gaming is his very favourite thing, and gaming has led to all sorts of other stuff. We attended our first ‘Comic Con’ on the weekend, and did our first real ‘cosplay’ – Kai and I went as Lori and Carl from The Walking Dead (actually I just looked like me with a side-part in my hair!) – but Kai’s outfit was pretty popular and he got asked for some photo’s – which he LOVED!

Kirby was SO excited to get her photo taken with Season 2 Carl! She was very sweet!

Kai said it was the ‘BEST’ day, so I expect we will be going to more ‘cons’ in cosplay soon!

Aside from gaming, Kai is still interested in paleontology, chemistry and experiments – once known as ‘potions’ – but we’ve expanded the interest somewhat with some new experiments and reactions – you can see a couple here and here!

Since we moved to Victoria, we go to weekly park days, and Kai has a big group of friends that we see a lot. There has been interest in hair dying (blue), they skype together, and in general are exploring tween interests together.

There isn’t a lot written on unschooling tweens, unfortunately – most of the writing jumps straight to unschooling teens…For the record – Kelly Lovejoy gave a talk on Unschooling Tweens that i’m trying to get a hold of! I believe you can buy it as a podcast.  Maybe my next post should focus on unschooling tweens then!?

So my role as facilitator remains, but what I facilitate has changed, and is constantly changing….I find and download new games, I help sell old books and toys to make money for new Xbox games, I research experiments and buy the chemicals, I find cool dinosaur and palaeontology stuff, I help make the cosplay outfit (the amazing self-confidence of Kai while wearing it is all him though!), I find out about the conventions and when they are on….I buy the blue hair dye….

Having a tween is super cool – who would have ever thought i’d go to Comic Con!!?? (I also put blue streaks in my hair a few weeks ago!)…

Kai is reading. He’s still learning (but aren’t we all – I still see new words I’ve never read before – most days!), but I wanted to write this while it’s still fresh and I remember all the details….(and I edited this to add a time-scale – he started ‘getting it’ around October. It’s now December and he’s reading almost all things, albeit slowly..)

Since Kai was around 4 or 5, I’ve been reading accounts of how and when unschooled kids learnt to read. On the whole, those accounts have helped me relax and chill when I’ve started to get stressed about it. But some of them also gave me some funny ideas about what his learning to read might look like….It hasn’t looked how I imagined it was going to, based on a large sample of those accounts!

So, I wanted to summarise what it has looked like for us….

Until he was nearly 8.5 years old, Kai couldn’t read jack squat!

I thought he was reading words he commonly came across, in gaming (like ‘Play’, ‘Exit’, etc…) but he tells me now he wasn’t. He figured things out in different visual ways (which is super cool all by itself!) – like by colour – the ‘play’ button is often green, etc. He also couldn’t remember most of the letters of the alphabet, didn’t write and couldn’t spell.

There has been/is an ‘awkward’ sounding out phase

A lot of accounts of unschoolers learning to read describe kids going from no reading to reading Harry Potter in the blink of an eye. As Kai has never ‘got’ phonics, I kind of expected him to learn as a whole word reader, and just ‘do it’. Lots of unschoolers say their kids didn’t have an awkward sounding out phase. But that’s not what happened for us.

It was more like he suddenly got letter sounds overnight, and so then he started sounding out words. And that’s what he’s still doing, though he is getting so fast at it doesn’t sound so slow or awkward any more. Once he ‘got’ phonics, he seemed to remember all the letters of the alphabet, and is already able to spell most things he needs to. I don’t know when he’ll be up to tackling a whole book. I’ll let you know though!

However, this ‘sounding out’ phase, might be because of this next point….

All Kai’s learning to read was done ‘out loud’

A lot of unschooling accounts say their kids kind of kept their reading progress to themselves until they were confident to come out and say they could read. That didn’t happen here! But Kai is a very ‘out loud’ kind of kid in many ways. ALL of his reading has been done out loud – all the sounding out – pretty much all of his reading is like that. Right now when he’s playing Skyrim, he’s reading the instructions out loud. When he’s in the car anytime at the moment, you can hear him sounding out passing words on shops and signs under his breath – it’s pretty cute!

Kai didn’t learn to read ‘by playing video games’

That might seem a surprising thing for me to say, for anyone who has read any more of this blog, as you’ll know I’m passionate about the learning involved in video gaming and we have never limited video games, and Kai games all the time – but, bear with me (I promise I’m still the worlds biggest proponent of video gaming!)!

On LOTS of unschooling discussion, you’ll see variations on that sentence – ‘My child learnt to read from video games’, ‘my child learnt to read because he needed/wanted to get to the next level in his video game’….etc…

Oooh, that makes me cross! No-one’s kid learnt to read ‘because’ of video games! That’s like saying ‘my kid learnt to read by looking at flash cards’! It’s on a par with the annoying ‘My child learnt to read because they wanted to’!! Grrr!! Children learn to read when their brains are ready. Not before. I’ve seen parents write frustratedly that they ‘let’ their kids play video games and ‘expected’ they would learn to read because they’d need to get to another level….Brain. Ready. Period!

PLEASE, if your child isn’t reading yet and needs help in their video game, for the love of all things good – help them and read for them!! Kai happily gamed for more than 3 years before he learnt to read, and I read out any instructions he needed me to – he was still learning all the time – video games have plots, stories, characters, numbers, design….


Once Kai was ready to read, video gaming meant his progress was very fast, and he was exposed to far more complex words than your average ‘Let’s go to the Park’ book!

Once Kai’s brain was ready to decode words, gaming means he’s reading almost ALL day (currently that is in Skyrim) and the words he’s reading are far more sophisticated and complex than anything you’d find in a ‘grade level’ reader! For example ‘Alchemy’, ‘Arcane’, and yesterday ‘Shellbug Chitin’ (we discussed how Chitin is a weird word because the CH is pronounced as a ‘K’ not the usual ‘CHU’ sound! We also discussed what chitin is – I’m pretty sure I never had heard of the word chitin till 2nd year undergrad zoology – I was 28!!).

And it’s also definitely true that, once a kid is reading, gaming offers a lot of motivation to read and understand instructions– you read an instruction, you do it, you immediately get to a new level, or get a new achievement. There is also a lot of literature around gaming – manuals, fan fiction, etc – though Kai hasn’t gotten into any of that…yet!

On a related note, so I’ll add it here – there has never been any distinction here between ‘learning to read’ and ‘reading to learn’. ALL of Kai’s reading is to learn – mostly about his games – his reading and his reading comprehension aren’t separate entities.

So. That’s how it was here….Now some advice, which you can obviously choose to take or ignore!

Keep calm, and keep reading (you, not your kid!)!

The thing that helped me relax the most about reading, and really, truly believe it would happen, was reading about how other unschoolers learnt to read. Also, we have unschooled friends older than Kai who I also watched learn to read – that really helped too! That’s not to say I didn’t have periodic panics…but when I did, I went and read some more and distracted myself! Kai also has never liked to be read out loud to, only on very rare occasions – so I’m here to tell you that doesn’t matter either, if your kid doesn’t like to be read to!

Don’t set your kid a deadline based on other peoples stories or experiences!

I’m only including this because I kinda did that! When we first found unschooling, and had friends with older kids, I said (jokingly, back then!) that I’d keep calm about reading until Kai was 9, then I might freak out! Lucky for me, Kai’s brain kept nicely aligned with my randomly imposed schedule! But I realise now that that ‘joke’ really was important in my head…..and I think if Kai hadn’t have been reading by 9, I would have freaked out more than I would had I not set that deadline. Kids learn to read anywhere between 3 and 13, and sometimes older….

Don’t expect your kid will learn to read from video games because they ‘have to’.

Let them play video games because video games are awesome, not because of some deluded idea that they will learn to read ‘because’ of them or ‘from’ them.  They will learn to read ‘with’ them (and only when their brains are ready!)!

Don’t expect your kid learning to read will look the same as any of the stories you have read about other unschooled kids learning to read!

I did. And it didn’t! Though it might! Read more stories about unschooled kids learning to read here!

Lo and Behold, this turned up in my email this evening, so I edited to add a link :)

A quick post. I recently did the 100happydays hastag challenge, and it was fun – I kinda miss it…Someone just alerted me to the #100homeeddays, but it’s all too schooly…workbooks and writing and what-not. So I thought about #100unschooldays…I can’t see that anyone has done it yet (and if they have, I apologise – but I searched FB and Twitter!)…I’m starting tomorrow – join me!

Our 4th Learn Nothing Day was 3 days ago. Goodness me – time flies!  I took photos, and recorded it, but only just got back to internet, so here I am!   As usual, our day of trying to learn nothing has been a huge failure. But it started out promisingly….

We have been on holidays in Wales with my cousin Gary, his wife and 4 of his 5 kids. In the middle of nowhere in a cottage. I figured if we didn’t really go outside, and tried to minimize other activities we might not learn tooooo much. We got up late-ish…the kids watched a movie. A new movie for Kai – eek! Called Dinosaur Hunters….double eek… I didn’t watch it, so I can surmise maybe he learnt nothing new (but I doubt that!). After the movie, Kai played some games on his iPod…hmmm, nothing to see here…

Then it went from bad to worse….some of the kids were playing 4 Kings in the lounge…


And Kai decided to show Poppy how to play 5 Crowns outside….


Aggghhh! Damn those learning kids!

Then me, Kai and Poppy played Uno…



And Kai and Berry played some soccer in the back garden…


By now I figure it’s a lost cause….but we add insult to injury by going out. We went to Pwllheli (which is pronounced pith-elli – go figure – crazy Welsh!)..On the way, Gary was playing some music, and Kai learnt some dance movies from his cousins in the car…and has memorized the words to #thatpower by Wil I Am…

We walked all around the shops. Went to the fun fair…


Went to the fancy sweet shop (no pics, I was in a different shop!)

Then we went to have a BBQ at the beach…At the beach there was swimming. Kai’s freestyle improved dramatically…


We found a shark egg (which is next to my finger as a size guide so we could later ID it….it was a catshark (dogfish) phew – thank goodness we couldn’t google on Learn Nothing Day!)


We BBQ’d on weird disposable BBQ’s and the kids made plates from rocks – and Kai used a jagged shell to cut his bread!



They went climbing……really, terrifyingly, high!


More swimming, rock and shell collecting, and a drive home with more music and dancing. Kai looked through a bit of his new gaming magazine when we got home, and now he’s going to bed…

Yeah. So. Epic fail….see y’all next year!!

I don’t know where the time has gone. Or my instalments! We have been here nearly 3 weeks…we’ve been to Birmingham, Somerset and now we’re in Wales! We have done LOADS of stuff! Here’s some of it!

We went to Kinver Rock Houses – last known occupied troglodyte houses in the UK…(and apparently where my mum spent her 21st birthday getting drunk!!).


We went to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens – next to my old school, and saw the National Bonsai Collection – plants so fancy they are under lock and key!


We went to Sarehole Mill – opposite the childhood home of JRR Tolkien, and known to be part of the inspiration for Lord of The Rings…


We went out for dinner with Grandma!


We went to Wren’s Nest – a ‘ classic geological site of exceptional importance’, and found fossils….


Then we went to Somerset to see my Dad and step Mom…

We went to Stonehenge (not in Somerset – in Wiltshire….but we were taking Brett for a day fly fishing to decided to visit Stonehenge too!)


We went to the beach…


We had pub lunches in the sunshine….


Kai found a wheat field…(seriously, notice all this sunshine!? Hard to believe it’s England!)


We went to visit my cousin in Taunton – he has 5 kids, some are in this photo!…


He also has a lot of slow worms in his garden! Brett was overjoyed!


Dad got us free tickets for Splash Waterworld (yes, hot enough for outside swimming and my bikini!)


And free tickets for Brean Leisure Park…Kai is REALLY into amusement parks at the moment!


We drove back to Birmingham and my Mum….went for an evening walk in Clent, found a badger sett and saw the sunset

We went to the West Midlands Safari Park….zebra, giraffes and deer put their heads in the car! We fed them!! Kai took the photo’s!


It has an amusement park adjacent to it – I went on all the rides with Kai, including this roller coaster…I’m seriously getting too old!


Then we drove to my Mum’s caravan in Wales….weather still good….Kai had fun in what was Grandad Roy’s favourite river while Brett fished…


We went to Lake Vyrnwy yesterday – a man made reservoir that was created by flooding a village in a valley to harness enough water for Liverpool….


And we walked to the Rhiwargor waterfalls at the top of the lake…


Other stuff in our ‘downtime’ has included Kai playing a fair bit of DS Pokemon and Assassins Creed on PC. We’re currently on our 3rd Beast Quest book. He bought a Minecraft book and a How to Train Your Dragon ‘(in)complete Book of Dragons’.

Today is Brett’s last day – he flies home tomorrow, so I think we are having a quiet day with maybe a pub lunch/dinner, some Beast Quest and maybe some time down at the river. Kai and I drive to somewhere else in Wales tomorrow to spend a few days in a cottage with my cousin and his kids….

Phew. And we keep wondering why we are all so tired!!

Oh and a reminder – it’s Learn Nothing Day in only 4 more days!! Get ready!! I think we are destined to fail already – but we’ll give it our best shot – Kai is trying to cram in all new knowledge before the 24th!!






I haven’t been very good at keeping up in England! We’ve been here 16 days and I posted once! Anyway – it’s Day in The Life Day…so I tried hard to keep a track today.

We woke up about 8am at my Dad’s house – in Somerset England. We’ve been there 6 days, weather has been amazing! Kai watched some Pokemon, then played DS Pokemon, and ate some cereal. We packed our bags, and left them around  10.30am to drive back to my Mum’s in Birmingham – about a 2 hour motorway drive…

Kai played DS Pokemon the whole way back…



…backseat complete with Monster Munch!

About half-way we stopped at the Motorway services near Gloucester. It was brand new, and very fancy. All locally sourced food and bread made on site, etc….I got sushi. Brett got a sandwich. Kai got his very first baguette with smoked salmon and cream cheese! (don’t ask about the price!!)


He also got his usual juice, and some fancy chips/crisps…he looked at the packet of chips, and said (quizzically!) ‘Salty Dog?’ – they were called Salty Dog crisps….and he read the packet….I know his reading has improved heaps lately, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised!

We got to Mum’s around 1pm, and I went with her to the doctor around 2.30pm…the boys stayed home, Kai back to to Pokemon DS…

We had dinner and Kai, Brett and I decided to go for a walk at Clent Hills since the weather was so lovely and it doesn’t get dark till around 10pm! We parked at the pub, then hiked up the hill, where we think we found a badger sett, which was pretty cool….


Kai spent a lot of time looking for real evidence – poop and hairs – to no avail, but i’m pretty sure it’s a badger sett, not a fox hole…

We walked back to the pub, and had a drink each. Despite it being such a lovely evening, we had the gardens to ourselves!


Kai went straight to bed when we got home – with a Yorkie (chocolate bar!) and a glass of banana strawberry innocent smoothie…oh, and watching Fanboy & Chum Chum!

That was our day, hope yours was full of sunshine too!


We’re in England! We made it….28 or so hours in transit from Adelaide airport to Birmingham airport….Kuala Lumpar and Amsterdam airports on the way!

So. I hope to keep up what we’ve been doing, so i’ll start as I mean to go on – we’ve only been here two days and i’m just emerging from the fog of jet lag…

Kai photographed some of the journey from Adelaide….



Kai’s first photo was his Hungry Jack’s cheeseburger in Adelaide Airport (he had another Hungry Jack’s in KL, but was too tired to photograph at that point!)



This was our plane from Adelaide to KL….



He was fascinated with all the clogs in Amsterdam Schipol Airport!


By the time we got to Amsterdam, despite sitting down for so long, we were happy to use the moving walkways!


No photo’s of my face – I looked shocking by this time! ha!

But all flights were on time, and uneventful, and our baggage arrived with us – so we were pretty happy with all that! I walked to the shop on Tuesday, and that was about it! We both slept through the first night though, and Kai slept 9pm – 9am! (I was up at 4am….)

Yesterday we went for a walk to Clent Hills….it’s one of our favourite places when we are here….it’s very bushy at the moment, it being summer!


Check that tree out!!!


I think my eye’s are closed behind those glasses! But anyway – check how warm it is! Singlet weather in England!!


Flake Ice-Cream! So – it was nice to get out in the sun, and have a walk….other than shopping again, that was all we did yesterday too…last night we both slept through the night again, although we were both up at 6am watching Man of Steel this morning!

Today we went into Birmingham. We had a quick visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. They have a really awesome exhibit called the Staffordshire Hoard – Medieval artifacts that have been found locally…We saw it two years ago, but they’ve added more stuff…Kai liked the swords (no surprise there, then!)



After the museum, we went to the shops in the city….we finally found Steve Backshall’s book that we’ve been looking for – we love Steve….and hopefully we will love his first fiction book! In the same shop Kai found Minecraft books and chose the Combat one, which we browsed through in a city Starbucks over a cookie!



After all that, we were about done, and got the bus home (Kai likes double decker buses!)…This afternoon we lounged about and watched Iron Man 3…My computer tells me it’s 3.47am in Adelaide…but I think i’m finally starting to feel like i’m on UK time now – although I doubt i’ll be having a late night!

More soon…