I’m always in two minds about writing about reporting. On the one hand – some people have to do it, and I like keeping records, and I’m good at it, so I think suggestions are helpful for those people….

On the other hand, I know I’m weird. I know record keeping messes up most people’s deschooling – whereas it actually has (and still does) helped mine.

So.  I’m going to write this blog on record keeping in high school years!

But – firstly I want to get this straight – when I keep records, I work backwards to the way schools do it! Kai gets on with life, I take photos. Then, while he’s still getting on with life, I file the photos in my Evernote files, and find some learning outcome from the Victorian Curriculum to put next to the photo. The end.

Long long ago, I did already write a few posts about translating every day things into edu-speak for reporting purposes. That was when we did report, when we lived in a different state. There is access to one of our approved learning plans here, and some ‘unit studies’ here, and some other reporting ideas here.

But, translating day to day activities into edu-speak is pretty easy in the early primary years – cooking and board games = math – check. Drawing = art – check. Reading books to your kids = English – check.

But it can get more challenging translating things at higher school levels and making it sound sufficiently schooly to keep the department off your back!

First things first, if you are reporting, it (unfortunately) helps to be familiar with the curriculum recommended for your state. For me, that is Victoria Australia. Victoria is being weird in that it’s the only state not really following the Australian national curriculum – though they are similar. For the purposes of demonstration, I’ll use the Vic Curriculum jargon, though, and I’ll use Level/Year/Grade 7, as that’s what I’ve been using in my Evernote files this year.

So, for those in Victoria, if you want to see the ‘learning outcomes’ for each Key Learning Area for each grade, go to the ‘Scope and Sequence’ page for whatever subject you are looking for. For example, this links to the ‘Science’ page: http://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/science/introduction/scope-and-sequence

Then click on the link of whatever ‘grade’ you want to align your child against.

You’ll see each ‘subject’ is sub-divided into different sections, and each with a learning ‘goal’ or ‘outcome’ against it (or more than one) – in some states these are numbered, for the Australian Curriculum and Victorian Curriculum, they are not.

So, let’s have a look at Science for Level 7-8 in the Victorian Curriculum:


If you’ve been to a zoo recently, a science museum, an animal sanctuary, done a Clean Up day, visited a recycling plant….or anything similar, file those under ‘Science as a human endeavour’ and both learning outcomes for it..

Your kid plays Niche, Sokobond, ARK, Spore, Plague Inc involved, Zoo Tycoon (or any number of other video games!) – tick them off against Biological Sciences and most of the learning outcome statements, and some of chemical and physical sciences.

Watched the blood moon? An eclipse? Use a star app? – tick off against appropriate learning outcomes in Earth and Space Science, and so on…hopefully you get the picture.

You can be more specific in your learning plan with more explanations.

Okay, so what about MATHS!?, I can almost hear you saying!?

Yep – you got that covered too…no workbooks required, I promise!

Here are some recent examples I have in my Evernote files against Level 7-8 maths (which is split into 3 different Scope and Sequence Documents..because…of course it is!).

This is an image from something Kai was doing in ARK: Survival Evolved:


I figured there must be something I can put that under – and lo and behold, in Number and Algebra I found ‘Given coordinates, plot points on the Cartesian plane, and find coordinates for a given point…’

Recently, Kai also bought a VR headset with money he’s saved up from dog walking – dog walking neatly went under ‘Economics and Business’ in ‘Humanities and Social Sciences’….

But while we were VR Headset shopping, of course we compared different types and how much they cost – right there in Mathematics we’ve got ‘Investigate and calculate ‘best buys’ with and without digital technology’ – TICK!

He also had to set up his room to make sure the sensor reached the head set and draw the room dimensions in the Oculus Rift program….I managed to file that under ‘measurement and geometry’, including using units of measurement, areas of rectangles and geometic reasoning.

So, hopefully you get the picture. It works for all the ‘subjects’ – and don’t worry about being a bit fast and loose with their definitions – schools do it all the time!

When I say I file something under a heading, or ‘cross it off’, I mean in my Evernote files. I don’t often really write anything else – for example here’s a screen shot of the most recent item I put in – last week Kai wanted to make honeycomb (thanks Masterchef!) – and I literally copied and pasted the learning outcomes directly from the Scope and Sequence document for Design and Technology..

If I *did* need to write a learning plan or report, it would be easy to use the Evernote photos and learning outcomes to put it together.





I don’t know. I feel like I should blog more…people don’t blog about unschooling tweens and teens much. Maybe because most of them have given up and put their kids in school? Maybe their kids chose school? Or they just aren’t as excited about things as they were when their kids were only just school age??

Maybe they don’t want to post pictures of kids playing computer games all the time? Ha! Maybe people just don’t blog anymore??

But I will try. I will try, to turn the tide of the many, many blogs where they are calling what they are doing ‘unschooling’ and it isn’t. Those blogs look lovely. Kids in nature. Doing art with felting needles. You know the kind. I liked them too, once. Now they drive me wild…they are confusing to new unschoolers, they are unrealistic. They can make you feel crap, too!

So. I’m going to post the truth of unschooling a tween/teen. Not all tween/teens…just mine! But I think he’s probably pretty typical, honestly…And i’ll try and do it semi-regularly..I promise!

General ‘typical’ days…

A lot of time, it looks like this…(probably 90% of time, if I’m realistic!)

Image may contain: screen and indoor

Kai games a large part of pretty much every day. Usually for the earlier part of the day with his friends from Canada and the US, on Discord…they are super back into ARK again!

When he’s not gaming, he’s watching YouTubes on gaming, and other stuff too – he likes Coyote Peterson and animal stuff, dinosaur doco’s…

Oh – and he’s also decided he’s learning Spanish, so he does a lot of Google translate to learn new phrases (and ask me for noodles in Spanish!)

However…in order to get that awesome gaming computer, earphones, etc….some of the time it looks like this:

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Kai walks 2 dogs, 5 days a week. He saved enough over 18 months to pretty much buy that whole set up himself (which is good, because we could never have afforded it otherwise!).

It’s also summer, so a lot of afternoons look like this:

Image may contain: one or more people, swimming, pool and outdoor

And those are our typical days right now….pretty much. But there are other things going on, of course…

Tween stuff

I don’t subscribe to any kind of Steiner nonsense about 7 year cycles and what-not…but I do certainly think from 11-13 is a huge and difficult time in a kids life. I know this from my own life, from my son’s life, and from watching his friends of similar ages.

Kai’s back to co-sleeping right now. He doesn’t want to be in his room – he’s scared of all.the.things…

But that’s okay. He’s sleeping with Brett in our bed, I bed hop where I can!

This temporary situation has also resulted in him reading before sleep again, which he hasn’t done in a while. I think it stops the crazy tumbling thoughts and he falls asleep faster and more peacefully….this is what he’s reading right now (and I’m looking forward to reading it when he’s finished! And we are looking forward to the movie, too!)

Image may contain: one or more people

Dungeons and Dragons!

This is a relatively new thing, and who knows how long it’ll last – but we are having a lot of fun with it right now…and have brought many friends into the D & D fold (and who knew I’d love being a Dungeon Master!?).

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and indoor

I like making props – though not as much as some! And I love all the ages playing in that photo – that’s pretty awesome!

D and D is so creative, so collaborative. I love seeing what the kids do with the adventures – things I wouldn’t even have thought of to solve problems and fight monsters! Plus – we’ve never had that many people in our tiny lounge before!

So, there’s a quick update. If anyone still read this blog (or others, in fact!?) and has questions or ideas for a focus post…leave me a comment! I promise there will be no romanticizing the outdoors and felting needles here!

Hand-writing – that is all!

In response to a recent, lengthy, and at times, heated, discussion on Unschooling Q & A on Facebook, I am inspired to write a post about hand-writing.

Not ‘writing’, but the actual physical act of picking up an implement (biro, pencil, etc) and using it on a medium (paper, cardboard, whatever!) to make words. Hand-writing.

This card was written by my 11 year old a couple of weeks ago for Father’s Day. I have his complete permission to share it – he knows why i’m doing so.

(UPDATED – the card photo disappeared, and I can’t find the original – this writing is from Kai’s D & D character sheet, December 2017)



Does the level of his writing ability shock you? Are you newer to unschooling, thinking ‘Agggh! I couldn’t cope if my 11 year old wrote like a 4 year old on a bad day!’ Are you thinking, ‘But hand-writing is an essential skill!’.

If you are thinking any of those things, you are completely normal! And I certainly would have thought all those things myself when I was new to unschooling (probably a few years into it, to be honest!).

Our kids aren’t us!
I grew up in the 1970’s. I went to a private all girls school. We wrote with ink pens. Hand-writing was a BIG deal. There was always some unspoken competition about who had the best and neatest hand-writing in the class (it was never me, though my writing isn’t terrible!).

I still have that lump on the middle finger of my right-hand that you get from writing all the time. That’s a deformity that came in school and never went – not great, when you think about it! Most people my age have it.

Of course, with the advent of typewriters, then word-processors, then computers, laptops, iPads, hand-writing has become less and less used. Less and less important to every day life. I write my shopping lists on my phone. Even a lot of schools don’t focus on hand-writing skills anymore.

But, regardless, many people my age still think hand-writing is an important skill.

The person who wrote the post on Unschooling Q & A thought so for a variety of reasons. Her main argument was that people remember better when they write, compared to when they type notes (which, if it’s true, is only really important in school or college, and we are unschoolers…but still…). She referred to a study. I’ll get to that later.

She tried to convince us she used hand-writing in her real life all the time. But refused to give any examples.

Mostly, she was shocked at the notion that her son (11 – same age as Kai) might NEVER want to learn how to hand-write. This thought hadn’t occurred to her. She thought eventually it would just ‘come’.

The truth about hand-writing

In a house full of books, full of words, full of interesting people and things, reading will just ‘come’ – one way or another. Once a kids brain connects the words to their meaning and sounds – reading does just ‘come’ – and kids get better at it because they are surrounded by words, everywhere, all the time.

But, hand-writing isn’t like that. Hand-writing – to become neat and easy, requires repetitive use – linking the muscles and movement of the hand and remembering how to form letter shapes. This is known as ‘cognitive automaticity’ – the ability to make letters without concious effort. It doesn’t just ‘come’ without practice. Kind of like playing the piano. Or learning to skateboard. Or learning to swim. Or anything that needs a physical practice for you to become fast and good at it, and for it to be easy and ‘automatic’.

There are some studies that conclude that reading and hand-writing are linked. You can’t be good at reading if you aren’t hand-writing. I’m here to tell you (with my sample size of 1! But I know many other unschoolers too!) that that is bunk! Kai is a VERY fluent reader, and very good at spelling. He writes well, in complete sentences, and is using punctuation and correct grammar, all the time to his friends, texts, in game.

Not being able to hand-write has had no observable detrimental impact on his other literacy skills.

There are some studies that more generally say that kids learn to read when their manual coordination improves – when the left and right sides of the brain start talking to each other. That could be true, but that just comes with time. And hand-writing is not the only way of developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination! (we all know video games are awesome for that!).

But aren’t kids going to need to hand-write at some point?

The answer to that, honestly, is probably ‘yes’ – but not very often, and certainly not until they are older – maybe as teens? And, as we progress into a more technology driven future – less and less.

In the recent discussion, Jenny Cyphers asked people to list when they had needed to use hand-writing in the past two years. I have further split them into potentially ‘no other option than hand-writing’ and ‘could have used another option’ (like typing, printing, etc).

Here are some of the responses:
No other option

  • Doctors forms
  • Dentist forms
  • Immigration forms at airports
  • Application forms for licenses, etc (sometimes there is a ‘fill in online’ and print option, though)
  • Marking student work (tutors/teachers)
  • Signing deeds for new house, signing a cheque, signing credit card transactions

Could have used another option

  • Thank you notes, birthday cards
  • Grocery lists and other lists

None of the ‘No other option’ apply to kids. Possibly teenagers would need to fill in some forms – probably it’s likely a parent could fill it in, but the teen might need to sign.

A real life example that came up last year from our own lives – Kai’s passport needed updating. He last got one when he was 5 – they run out after 5 years. When we got the application form, it said he needed to sign it himself, or else we needed to get a doctors letter saying he was ‘incapable’ of signing.

So. We didn’t want to go down the road of the doctor letter. But…working on a signature was potentially going to be a big deal. After asking on Always Learning and getting some great ideas from Joyce, Sandra and others, we came up with a game plan for a signature based on his 3 initials.

He practised for a day or two, until he could mostly replicate it, and signed his passport application. We took it in to the Post Office. He had to sign again – in front of the Post Office guy – because some of his signature was out of the lines!


He used that same signature to open a bank account in his own name earlier this year. He says he can’t remember how to sign it now….but if he needs to, he’ll practice again.

So. We already know there are going to be instances when Kai needs to write, himself. Right now, they are very, very few and far between. In his 11 years, it’s only come up as a necessity twice, and we managed!

When and how will they learn to hand-write?

In the post that started all this – the Mom was looking for reassurance that her kid would eventually learn to write, the way he’d learnt to read. She wanted us to tell stories of how our kids had eventually come to writing.

Many people (myself included) couldn’t reassure her in that way. Some people with grown children also reported that their adult kids don’t really like writing, and find it hard. Honestly, i’m fairly sure we all know adults who went to school who are like that!

She said (in reference to when he’d pick up and/or need hand-writing) ‘I never considered ‘Never’ as an option’.

I get it. That is scary to contemplate! Especially when you went to school when we did and hand-writing was a big deal. I needed to deschool big-time around writing..and (shame, shame!) there have been times in the past where I tried to get Kai to write – cards, notes, shopping lists…

But I think, in reality, ‘never’ is NOT really a valid option. There will be times our kids, as they get older, WILL need to write for something or another. And they’ll manage. It won’t be fun. It won’t be easy. It won’t be neat. But they’ll do it.

And for some of them, for whatever reason, they WILL find a reason to improve. Maybe for a job, maybe for fun (calligraphy, etc), maybe just because they want to. And if they do, it’ll be fast. It won’t take 12 years of schooling and forced writing.

I currently tutor high school science (long-story – I know, I’ve been away a while!).

Here are some writing samples from my tutor kids – the top one is a 13 year old, the bottom two are 16 year olds.

No automatic alt text available.


These are kids that have been in the system of forced hand-writing for years. And I have absolutely no doubt that if Kai wanted to improve his hand-writing, in whatever way worked best for him, he could be at their level in days. Not weeks, certainly not years. He’d catch up – and fast! (and, of course, just think what your local GP’s handwriting looks like!)

What the research says

I honestly can’t find a lot of research on why hand-writing is or isn’t important. The Mom in the discussion cited an article that said they found college students retained more information from lectures if they hand-wrote notes, instead of typed them.

Firstly, even if that is true, it doesn’t apply to my 11 year old (nor hers!)…

Secondly, lets have a better look at the methods and data in that research (which you can find here, though it’s only the abstract unless you have a way to get the full text).

Their main ‘argument’ was that students using computers didn’t retain as much information when asked later as students who hand-wrote notes.

In fact, if you look at their results, the laptop users showed slightly higher scores (though not statistically significant) on factual-recall questions. The note takers did better on ‘conceptual-recall’ questions (which wouldn’t relate to performance in University as it’s almost all factual-recall in tests) – conceptual-recall was confounded by which lecture the participant watched also.

The rest of the results don’t really relate to any kind of memory performance, just a shonky correlation between number of words and type of medium (pen or laptop). So, in my opinion, I don’t think this is a well designed study, and I don’t find the results at all convincing.

Also, it was conducted in 2014, on then college age students – so an average age of about 20, let’s say. Those kids were therefore in primary school in the early 2000’s. Hand-writing would have still been predominant. There were no iPads, no iPhones. Computers and the internet were basically in their infancy. Those kids did NOT have the experience our kids are having.

I’m not the only one to question the study. This article examines the research and concludes ‘What can or should we tell students concerning laptop notetaking? We can say that based on a single study, in which students listened to short 15-20 minutes lectures on general topics, laptop notes tended to be more verbatim than handwritten notes.’

‘More verbatim’ is literally the only concrete finding. Laptop users wrote notes that were almost exactly the same as what they heard. Hand-writers didn’t have time to do that.

When I was at Uni, I took hand-written notes. But the only way I remembered what was in those notes, was to pour over them again the night before exams (and then promptly forget them again the next week!). I can’t compare because I didn’t have a laptop, but I can’t imagine the method of note taking in lectures made one jot (pardon the pun!) of a difference in the exam…it was revision the night before that did that!

Here is another article examining the same research.

Aside from this, I can’t find much else. If anyone still reads this blog and finds more, I’d love to see it.

Peoples highly romanticised personal opinions!
I can find plenty personal opinion though. Mostly from people my age (or even older!), reminiscing and romantacising hand-writing, the ‘good-old days’, and grappling at finding reasons why it’s still important.

Take this article in The Guardian, for example. The author states he had ‘posters of Debbie Harry and Kenny Dalglish’ – that makes me pretty certain we are of the same vintage, growing up in the same country! I also have old school books in my Mum’s house. I had a much less romantic reaction to mine, though!

To begin with, I thought we were on the same wavelength. The author said after he posted ‘why is hand-writing important’ on Twitter, “Everyone agreed that, yes, handwriting was important but few could pin it down to any one reason: and I think that is a problem when we are trying to convince our students.”

Then came …a paragraph of apparently ‘irrefutable’ proof that handwriting was important.

“it is ludicrous to say that teaching handwriting is irrelevant. There is far too much evidence out there which reveals the cognitive benefits. Handwriting improves the development of motor-skills and is absolutely crucial in enhancing hand/eye coordination. ….. the practice of slowing down and thinking about our thoughts in order to write them with a pen or pencil uses more brain power. Educationally I think the case is irrefutable.”

Yeah? Nope! There is little to no evidence that ‘reveals a cognitive benefit’. Hand-eye coordination can be developed in a myriad of ways, not least using a keyboard and mouse for various things (Kai’s also been doing a lot of whittling and wood burning…nothing wrong with his hand-eye coordination!). And I find no compelling evidence that writing things down with a pen uses more brain power.

But later in the article, it comes down to this – the author sees handwriting as a ‘very personal piece of art’. It’s a flowery view, clouded by his own upbringing and use of hand-writing in an age where he had no other choices.

Hand-writing can be quite beautiful. I love calligraphy (to look at – i’m not that keen on trying it out – though I do have pens!). But it’s not a good reason to force a kid to learn it when it doesn’t apply to their actual real lives.

It’s not the view our kids will have. They will probably see something completely different as a ‘very personal piece of art’ – their Facebook page. Their YouTube channel art. Their tattoo’s! Their piercings! Who even knows what they’ll look back on in nostalgia in 20 years!? But I’m fascinated to find out!

A brief Quora thread agrees with me, though it’s not particularly illuminating!

For another interesting view, and also some interesting history on cursive, from an educator – check out this piece in the New York Times.

Though she says handwriting doesn’t matter, she does cite the study I already critiqued, and another study involving only 15 kids, which isn’t even worth thinking about – that’s hardly even a sample size!

In the end – is it affecting my kid right now?

Kai doesn’t live in a vacuum. He’s out and about – with me, with his friends. He sees me write. He watches me fill in forms. He’s had to use his own signature at least twice already.

He KNOWS people hand-write and sometimes there are no other options. Right now, he couldn’t care less if you think his hand-writing is terrible! He knows it is…it’s unimportant to his life and his self-esteem – his self-confidence is good enough that he’s fine with letting random strangers see and judge his writing!

Not being able to hand-write isn’t affecting him …if it did, we’d figure it out. And as I said, I am absolutely 100% certain that if he needed to improve his hand-writing for whatever reason, he could do that in a day or two.

As an the parent of an unschooler – my goal is peace, joy and learning.

So, do *I* think not being able to hand-write RIGHT NOW is affecting Kai’s life so much that I need to force him to learn it? Even if it puts strain on our relationship, disrupts our joyful life, takes him away from the things he’s learning right now? No – absolutely not. I see hand-writing as about as relevant to his life as knowing algebra and balancing chemical equations – not relevant at all. And, similar to both those things, it’s something he can learn very fast, should he ever want or need to.

If anyone is reading – I’d love to know whether other people use hand-writing (with no other option) more often in their day to day life? And when and why has independant hand-writing been required of your kids?



Learn Nothing Day 2016

Our 7th Learn Nothing Day. Read that – 7th!!! Holy cow on a hill! I just went back through the blog (painful at the best of times!) and last year I missed reporting…so, hey, maybe we actually DID learn nothing last year?!

This year. not so much. I woke up to panic in the house. Kai had a virus pop up page come on his laptop. So – panic stations…download Malwarebytes, Avast, install adblocker, run scans…fail, then…in the non-learning department. Kai learnt that watching Kiss Cartoon is fraught with pop-up threats!

He then skyped with friends and played Overgrowth for a few hours. Maybe he didn’t learn anything…yeah, nah.

Then we decided we’d just give up, and make it a normal Sunday….so we went for a drive to a waterfall we hadn’t been to before (disaster right there!), hiked up it. Took photos. ID’d plants (my new hobby, to the immense boredom of everyone else!). Went back down to the coffee shop for hot chocolate and played some Pokemon Go (and caught our first Pikachu!)

Steavenson Falls – one of Victoria’s highest drop waterfalls – 122m (sorry if you learnt something new!)


Laccaria species fungi at the top of the waterfall (yeah, now I’m just showing off!)

It’s 7.13pm. Kai’s playing Overgrowth again – sorting his stats, resources, trying to level up. I’m about to watch Masterchef, so bound to learn something new too….Kai’s also reading Harry Potter before bed….and each night learning something different in the story that he’s seen a billion times in the movie (mostly that Dudley is even more obnoxious in the book, it seems!).

Oh! And we just played 3 rounds of TimeLine – I lost all 3, as usual…but learnt a heap…and so did Kai. We googled what started WW1. How foolish!? Surely that could have waited till tomorrow…

So. 7 years fail. At least we are consistent ;)

For now, I’m sharing this graph here as it’s the best place for everyone to see it.
Data is still coming in, and so it may change.

Reading age in unschooled children (from a survey on Always Learning Yahoo Group – currently n=85 children) spanned from 3 years, to 16.5 years. Reading was defined as ‘reading fluently -able to read anything they wanted to easily.’

As far as could be determined – all children included were always unschooled (Kinder/pre-school wasn’t counted, as it was unlikely to have hampered the reading process too much, but no children who had gone to school from first grade onward were included).

The mean age of reading is currently 8.4 years, the mode is 8, and median is 8.5 years.

32% of children were reading before the age of 8. Nearly 50% of children learnt to read between the ages of 8 and 10. About 17% learnt to read after the age of 10.


Another post!? I must have free time on my hands! And I do. And part of that is covered in this post!

I was also inspired (if you can call it that!) to post about helping and partnering with our kids as they grow up, because I suddenly kept seeing posts and comments about ‘protecting our children’s childhoods’ in unschooling groups and blogs.  Mostly this seems to involve photo’s of kids playing in nature in barefeet, not a ‘screen’ to be seen, and also ‘protecting’ them from the big bad world, over-sexualization and hiding them from all things to do with sex and sexuality!

So. Here’s the thing. We can’t protect our children’s childhoods, as much as we (me included!) might want to! We can’t know what will happen. Many things are out of our hands. What we CAN do, though, is help our children enjoy their childhoods right now. Help them follow their passions, see them laugh and play, and help them grow into awesome adults along the way.

I said ages ago I was going to write about unschooling a tween. And I already wrote a bit. I know some people don’t like the term ‘tween’ because they see it as commercialized and from a marketing background. I have no strong feelings for or against the word, myself, but I’ve yet to find another term that does actually distinguish 9-12 year olds from their younger and older counterparts. So, from that perspective, I’ll be using it. Because this age group is different – they aren’t little kids, they are developing teen interests, but there are still things they are learning to understand, and things they can’t do. They are learning to be more independent than they were a year or two ago, but need our help more than a teen. Their hormones are already playing havoc. They might be putting on a bit of weight before a massive growth spurt, or they might already have sprouted and be skinny beans! You can’t protect them from growing up – they are already doing it!

So. Here are some thoughts based on our (limited, as yet) experiences!

Recently, I searched high and low for writing and talks on cocooning. I didn’t find a great deal. I bought Kelly Lovejoy’s awesome talk from LiG, which does talk about cocooning quite a bit, and is where I stole part of my title from! I know Kelly used ‘The Dark Ages’ as tongue in cheek in her talk title, but even with cocooning happening here, there is also a lot of light in the dark!

Kai has been cocooning somewhat. I don’t have a metric to compare it to really. But he’s way more of a homebody than he’s ever been, right now. He just enjoys being home. I can hear him right now, giggling away at some YouTube or another. He’s busy, in there. He’s not still…not at all. He enjoys his own company. He equally enjoys skyping with his friends, which he does every day pretty much. But it’s all in his bedroom. He doesn’t come out often. We still go to park day, visit friends, and the occasional activity, but for the most part, he’s happy at home. And i’m happy he likes our little home so much that he wants to spend most of his time here.

From what I read about cocooning, it could continue in some form for a good few years until he emerges out the other side, all butterfly-like! But that’s okay, I think we will be okay…

But sometimes I feel like i’m not doing ‘enough’, or anything – really! So….on to those feelings…

Feeling redundant as a parent!
Before, Kai needed my help ALL the time. Read this. Type that. Look this up. I’m hungry. Let’s go out. Let’s watch a movie.

Those days are gone, my friend! He can read, type, research, and doesn’t much want to go out or watch a movie with us anymore! For a while there, I sat around twiddling my thumbs, and occasionally trying to emotionally blackmail him to come watch a movie with me or go out!

But I think (hope!) I’m moving on from those feelings. I’m finding other ways to connect and share things with him. Different, but not ‘worse’. I take him food, still, multiple times a day. Usually before he asks. I make him chocolate milkshakes. When I take things in, I’ll touch his head, or ask him what he’s doing/watching/playing.  I share interesting articles with him on Facebook, that I think he’ll like – usually on dinosaurs or wolves (then remind him to go check it, because he’s not really as in to social media as some of his friends are at the moment!).

And I started a new job. It takes me away from home for 2 – 4 nights a month, doing scientific field work. It’s something we all talked about before I applied, and it’s temporary….But Kai is fine with it. And fine with me being away for a few nights occasionally. Because he’s growing up and moving toward more independence…that’s what he’s supposed to do. And honestly, I enjoyed my first trip a lot – it’s nice to be doing something out of the house and that means something to me – and it means something to him too (I’m surveying areas for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum).

Sex: You won’t have ‘The Talk’, but you’ll probably have multiple talks over a long period of time!

We’ve been talking about sex since Kai was 7, and first asked me ‘What is sex?’ driving home from visiting friends where they had been playing ‘The SIMS’! I’m not sure I handled that conversation particularly well – probably too much biological detail and too much talking – eventually he said ‘Okay, that’s enough information! Stop!’ So I did!

Since then, topics arise and are discussed and we move on. Information is accrued in small nuggets over a long period of time. Some of the topics we’ve covered already include puberty changes, rape and consensual sex, same sex relationships (though this was covered years ago)…

And sometimes, I’ve felt awkward! For sure! And sometimes I’ve wanted to laugh! But didn’t! A couple of weeks ago Kai came in and very seriously said ‘Mom, can I ask you something?’ – my stock standard response ‘Yes, always.’ So, he said ‘Is beaver another word for vagina?’ Oh…it was hard work to keep a straight face….but I did, and nonchalantly replied ‘Yes. It’s kind of a slang word for it, used more in America than here. Why? Where did you read that?’ – answer, of course, YouTube! Never read the comments!!

Yesterday we had another eye-opening car conversation – where all the best convo’s happen! Kai : ‘So. This guy is doing a Genghis Khan challenge in SIMS. You might not know this Mom, but Genghis Khan had sex with a lot of women.’ That led to a long conversation on history, the genetic legacy of Genghis Khan, the fact he was almost definitely a rapist, safe sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, Heny VIII and syphilis! All in a 45 minute drive!


Unschooling – Where British and Mongolian history meets sex ed in the car!

Facilitating their interests – what’s different, what’s not

My role as facilitator has definitely changed over the past year or two, for many of the reasons I’ve already mentioned….My old role was tied up with helping a lot – helping Kai read things, find things, type things. He doesn’t need my help so much these days – so that part of my role is much reduced….he still does ask me to find things occasionally on Google, and I still do Minecraft downloads and Mods, because that is fraught with virus and adware worries and he rather me do it.

But just because i’m doing less helping, doesn’t really mean less facilitating. It looks different though. As I said, I share articles and other stuff with him online. We skype message each other. I’m more of a finder, than a helper now. If the museum has a great exhibit on something he’s interested in, i’ll tell him, and we’ll usually go. Last week that was Jurassic World at Melbourne Museum.


Kai and the raptors!

I book the tickets for Cons like Comic Con, Supanova and PAX. I sew the cosplay costumes. If I see new games out that i think he’d like, I tell him (though he’s usually heard of them way before me!). I buy him gifts that support his loves for pop culture, for wolves, for comics, for movies, for dinosaurs!


Most recent Cosplay – Kiba – to raise money for the Starlight Foundation

Finally, if you treat your tween with respect, kindness and trust they will return that favour to you and their friends in droves….

Though Kai is in a ‘cocoon’ stage, somewhat, he’s not surly or moody with it. It’s a choice, and he’s not doing it to ‘get away’ from us, he’s doing it, maybe, to get closer to himself?  A period of introspection as he approaches teenhood and then adulthood? He’s a still a fun and kind person to be around – even more so as he gets older, his sense of humour more sophisticated, and his ability to navigate social situations matures.

Yesterday, he told me something that was super cool. He has a friend he skypes with (who he also knows IRL) who has a tendency to take things personally. So a seemingly innocent comment can easily be taken the wrong way. He was telling me this yesterday, and said he is careful to try and not saying anything that will upset them. I asked how he does that. He said ‘It’s like choosing how you’ll say something in ‘SIMS’ – using moods and emotions. I have to make sure it’s happy and inspired, not anything negative.’ I thought that was pretty awesome that he is taking time to try and keep his friends happy, even though he realizes if they overreact, it isn’t always his fault.

So, I’ve written enough. Too much. We are going out to the Sanctuary now! If anyone still reads this blog, and has more questions on teens – leave a comment! :)


No. It’s not another post about learning to tell time. Kai’s got that down pat now!

Instead, it’s about changing activities by the clock. Many would-be unschoolers, and even homeschoolers, to a degree, cite school bells as one of their main reasons to abandon the school system. Anyone who has been to school, whether you generally liked it or not, can remember the frustration of just getting into the groove of something – for me that would have pretty much only been art lesson – and the bell ringing and you have to go off and start something completely unrelated, that you might hate (that would have been math…maybe geography – but mostly I just hated that teacher!).

There’s really not much that’s more frustrating that being forced to stop doing something you are really getting into. You found your groove…bang! Sorry. You need to stop that now!

Who hasn’t stayed up way too late reading ‘just another chapter’ of a great book? (guilty!) Or stayed up way too late binge-watching just another episode of their favourite show? (guilty!) Some people get into a similar groove with knitting (guilty – On rare occasion!). With drawing or painting. Any passion where you can dive in and time becomes irrelevant. For some activities, the more you focus and become engrossed, the more inspired you become. You might do your best work after hours of writing, or drawing, or painting, because you are fully focussed, you found your ‘flow’, or mojo, as we like to call it!

Flow is a real thing, which makes Mojo a real thing – which I like a lot! Flow, in terms of psychology, is also known as ‘the zone’ and is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does (adapted from here).

According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi , the Hungarian psychologist,  flow is a ‘single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and learning.’

So. It frustrates me when adults think it’s okay to still stop kids doing a beloved activity based on the clock. Mostly, this seems to be video gaming. Sometimes TV and other oh so scary modern technology. When my Mum was a kid, it was reading. My Nan would tell her to put her book down and go outside. Parents probably still do this….but overwhelmingly I find it relating to ‘screentime’ (agggh! That word!!) specifically.

Parents who have shown dissatisfaction with the school system of bells are essentially implementing the same system in their own home if they are arbitrarily telling their kids to stop gaming after an hour. Or whatever time allowance THEY decided upon.

Imagine if your partner told you put your book down after one hour? ‘Okay, that’s your allowed book reading time today. Stop now, or there will be no more book reading for you for the rest of the week.’ Imagine you were in the middle of a chapter? Would you be annoyed? Might you shout and fight this arbitrary and unfair ‘rule’ of limited time imposed by someone who is supposed to be your partner? Maybe your partner would deduce that reading books made you angry, after that, and limit them even more? Well, that’s how your kids feel – and so it’s not video games making then ‘aggressive and angry’ and all the other things parents say – it’s the unfair rule of limited time.

Aside from the false argument that ‘screentime’ causes kids to be aggressive and angry (when it’s actually you interrupting their flow that is likely causing that reaction), many parents also argue that ‘screentime’ makes their kids ‘hyperactive’.

Previously, in discussions, maybe even here on this blog, I’ve said that video games and TV don’t have magical powers to change peoples behaviour. I’m going to revise that statement.

In terms of psychology, flow, and what we just learnt about getting ‘in the zone’ – I think video games, TV, books, knitting, drawing…anything you can essentially ‘get lost’ in, will change what’s going on in your brain.

I know after finishing a great book, I’m sometimes kept awake at night thinking about characters and the story. Same with TV shows (for me, that includes Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and various others….all have had me kept awake thinking, thinking….!). I spend a lot of time looking fan theories, and thinking about plot lines – I love it!

When I used to do more freelance and creative writing, I’d get ideas and couldn’t sleep until I’d written them down and ‘got them out’. Even when I was doing my PhD, I’d find flow in doing data analysis (true story!) and then have more and more ideas of experiments I could do.

So. I’d argue that yes – getting immersed in anything can make your brain hyperactive. Flow is characterised by profound changes in brain function – when you are experiencing flow, your brain is literally lit up. But this isn’t a bad thing! This is a good thing!

A recent study in Australia, 40 research subjects were presented with an exceptionally tricky brain teaser—the kind that requires a deep creative insight to solve. No one solved it. But when flow was induced artificially (using transcranial magnetic stimulation), 23 subjects got the answer right and in record time.

By setting arbitrary time limits on your child’s access to superb learning resources like video games and TV (and books, and knitting and drawing…but I somehow doubt you are doing that :p ), you are stopping them reaching their flow state. So. Basically stunting their learning. Not allowing them to reach their full learning potential. And keeping them set within the arbitrary bell ringing school-world.  One of the key tenets of getting the most learning potential from reaching the flow state is:

  • Make sure that you’ve set aside sufficient time. It takes at least fifteen (uninterrupted!) minutes to start to get into the flow state, and longer until you’re fully immersed. Once you enter the flow state you want to make sure that you make the most of it, instead of having to stop prematurely because you have to go do something else (or something arbitrary because your parent says it’s time to stop).

If you want to truly move away from the limits of the school bell, and let your child learn as deeply and passionately as reaching a flow state, then all their passions need to be supported and facilitated – and that includes video gaming, TV and other ‘screentime’ – move away from the fear and into the flow!

More about learning and video games here

Here is a talk about flow state by Prof. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, called ‘Flow: The Secret to Happiness’

This is a really cool article about flow states in gaming, and game development.