Archive for the ‘Days with Friends’ Category

So, this is just a quick story. Not really a post even. More to remind myself it happened, because it was so super cool!

On Tuesday we went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past. We loved it. It was awesome. In the beginning, Wolverine and a young Prof. X need to break Magneto out of prison in order to stop something happening that will lead to a terrible future for the mutants.

Here’s a gratuitous picture of my 3 favourite X-Men!


Turns out Magneto is in prison for the assassination of JFK….but later he states that he was actually trying to save JFK by bending the bullet, because JFK was a mutant, like him.

On Wednesday night, we all started watching a movie called ‘The Help’ – wonderful movie about a young woman in the south who decides to write a book documenting the experiences of the African-American men and women who work as ‘the help’ in the homes of rich people. Kai watched a little bit of it, and I answered some questions about how African-American people were treated (segregated bus seats, and a different entrance to the cinema, were shown in the movie), and about the civil rights movement in the 1960’s….then he fell asleep on the couch.

The next day, we drove to a park day that was over an hour away. On the way, he asked me what happened in the movie. I told him that something happened that made lots more people agree to tell their story – that Martin Luther King Jr was shot (in real life, and coinciding with that part of the movie), and that the book came out, and was very controversial. He asked me who shot Martin Luther King and why.  I told him I didn’t know the name of the man, but I expected that he shot MLK Jr because he was a racist. I explained what a racist was (when we got home I looked up more details on the shooting, and realised I did remember the name of James Earl Ray…but we found more interesting stuff too).

Then I mentioned that the 1960’s were a time of a lot of civil unrest and that the then US president, JFK, was also shot in the 1960’s and that he was in favour of equal rights. He asked who shot JFK – this I did know! And why – that led to my trying to explain what a conspiracy theory was! Then I remembered the X-Men, and how it bought in the conspiracy theory with the bending bullet thing (there’s whole webpages on it…seriously!)…

Somehow, and here I lost track of this amazing conversation….we started talking about World War II and Hitler – I think Kai compared Hitler to a racist, maybe? That led to questions about how WWII started, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing and the Aryan race….

So, from two seemingly unconnected movies – X-Men and The Help (that many parents wouldn’t have let an 8 year old watch in the first place), we covered so much history it’s mind-boggling!  Google and the internet meant that we could look up the questions I didn’t know the answers to in the car when we got home (there were a fair few – my history knowledge – especially with respect to the US, is pretty shonky!)…Kai commented how fast the hour drive to the park was, because of all the things we talked about.

At the park (with another unschooling Mom) – I talked about our conversation and was reminded of Sandra’s ‘Connections’ page….it seemed such a perfect example of that…

That is all. Just wanted to record it all before I forgot it!


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Wow. This little blog has never had so much traffic! I’m happy to see so much interest in the video games post, although also a little overwhelmed too!

This post is just a little update on life. Non-controversial (though I do have another possibly contentious post waiting to be finished!)…

Things we’ve been up to lately…


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Park Day

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Solar Eclipse chasing…..


First ever soccer match against another team…..


Having an 8th birthday……


Enjoying a new Xbox and Titanfall (and Halo 4, and Lego The Hobbit!) – we rearranged the lounge chairs to make for easier gaming!






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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!


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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.




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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!

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Ok, so one more, just because we’ve done cool stuff and I should make sure I get it in here before we get home!

Yesterday arvo we did a bit of fishing…and I caught 6 little fishies (all returned to the water unharmed!)…




The weather was lovely and the kids mostly played in the park, although Kai did try his hand at fishing for a while….



A rare moment of peace and smiles between cousins!


Yep, that’s how big my fish were!

Today we went to MovieWorld, which was pretty awesome…we had three rides on the Log Flume….


And we loved the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster, although  not so much the 1 hour wait!


And we ate some Ben and Jerrys…oh, and went into the Harry Potter shop and got some Bertie Botts All Flavour Beans!

So, I think that is really it. The last holiday post. Home tomorrow afternoon, Wreck It Ralph downloaded for the flight for Kai, and I might even get through some of my Game of Thrones book, finally!

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Kai has had control of the laptop most of the week, so I’ve been slack at updating! But we are now back at my cousins and he’s on the PS3, so laptop control is miiiiinnnnneeeee!!

Here’s our week…


On Sunday we went on a drive to Springbrook National Park and visited the Natural Arch. It was pretty cool, and lots of beautiful rainforest…although we didn’t get to see any glow worms, I think it was too light..

On Monday we headed north to Brisbane to stay with our friends with the yurts…there was lots of trampolining, running around, catching chickens, and here’s Kai on an egg hunt in the wilds of the ferns!




We stayed there Monday and Tuesday, and then headed to another unschooling friends house on Wednesday morning. We headed straight for a Park Day! Hooray….





There was a lot of this:


Which is Kai playing L4D2 and his pal watching (because unfortunately his computer wasn’t playing it :()

There was some of this…



On Friday we headed into the city and Kai and I spent a lot of time in the Queensland Museum and Science Centre (which are both AWESOME btw!)..


Hahahaha! Hours of Fun!


Check out his facial expression!


We also caught up with my dear friend Tanya and her family, who luckily are here visiting family at the moment – since they currently live in China! It was a wonderful, but all too short, catch up…

The kids enjoyed fish and chips…




And Kai and Arlo had a lovely time in the playground….


Then we went out with our unschooling friends to celebrate a 9th birthday! Lots of eating out!

Saturday was Kai’s friends official 9th birthday party in the park. It was a cosplay – Kai went as Frodo Baggins….


So, after the party we headed straight to the train station and headed back to the Gold Coast, and we head home on Tuesday…So, there may or may not be another holiday update before then!




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