Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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!!







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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…


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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.

Dew of Death2

 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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Oh my! I’m really behind! Life has been crazy hectic, amazing, wonderful and exhausting!

So. Where to begin…..Well, prior to our trip to the Gold Coast, we did drama rehersals, read a lot of Beast Quest, played some Gallows (game like Hangman, but with plastic letters! Another Op Shop find!), went to the beach – Kai and I had a surfing lesson together (yes, I stood up – only for a second though!), and went snorkeling….

Then on Thursday, we headed off to the Gold Coast on our competition winners trip! We arrived Thursday night and spent two nights with my cousin and his family. Kai loved playing with the boys (ages 6, 12 and 14) and they did a lot of Minecrafting, some COD, scootering and swimming! The rain didn’t let up, although I admit it was nice to feel some humidity after a summer in Adelaide!


Minecrafting Cousins….

On Saturday morning, we were dropped off at the Mantra hotel in Coolangatta for our prize-winning two days…it was still raining!

We met the other Surf Grom winners, and all headed off in a bus to visit the High Performance Surf Training Centre. The kids received their prizes (Quicksilver stuff, and a Nikon Coolpix camera – super awesome!), and then we had lunch (and they all took a lot of photo’s!).


Kai collecting his prize bag!

After that the plan initially was to go to the Quicksilver Pro, but it was cancelled because of rain. So then it was to go to WhiteWater World, but then that got cancelled because they shut down because of the rain! (yes, It was really raining that much!). So they took the kids for a surf….conditions were pretty rough and choppy, but they all had fun anyway! Parents got just as soaked! Then we had about 15 minutes to check-in and get changed into dry clothing, and went to an indoor climbing centre for another hour or so. All activities interspersed with much brand name photographing, much posing by kids, and lots of photo taking by kids with their new cameras!


After another brief 15 minutes to change, we met all up for dinner in Coolangatta near the hotel. Dinner was lovely, although heavy on the carbs! (Pizza and pasta!). Then we returned exhausted to our hotel room, which had a view over the ocean from the balcony, and watched some TV before falling asleep!


View from the balcony on the 8th floor!

 Oh, and Kai lost one front tooth in a tussle with his cousin Ben on Friday, and his second at dinner in Coolangatta on Saturday night! He is UBER gappy, as you can see from the above picture!

Up early on Sunday, we went for breakfast with the other Groms at 8am. Kai had pancakes and ice cream and a chocolate milkshake….


Then it was off to the Quicksilver Pro site, as apparently the ‘Ambassadors’ (Quicksilver sponsored famous pro surfers!) were waiting for us! Another quick change at the hotel and back in the bus. Raining still, but not quite so bad!

First up the kids met Tom Carroll, the first ever surfing millionaire (thanks to sponsorship by Quicksilver!)

Then they also met Matt Banting, Mark Richards and some other surfers I’m ashamed to say I don’t know who they are!


They had a personal tour of the VIP areas with Tom (while parents stood in the rain!). Then got to go for a surf….THIS was the most awesome part of the whole weekend! 8 kids, 7 FAMOUS pro-surfer instructors, in front of the viewing platform at the Quicksilver Pro!


Practicing the ‘pop’ with Matt Banting!

They surfed for at least an hour, and Mark Richards really helped Kai a lot…so did Tom Carroll. What an amazing experience!!

After that we had lunch in the surf club, and watched Kelly Slater out in the surf, although it was easier to watch on the live TV Cam in the surf club! The kids had to go for one more photo shoot in the Quicksilver shop and on the beach, where they did see Kelly come out of the water and Kai got a blurry photo on his new camera! Us parents saw Kelly walk past briefly too, from the balcony of the Surf Club!


Kai and Tom Carroll waiting for a wave!


Mark Richards giving Kai some Zen surfing advice!

Then we were done. Kai and I had a last walk around the Quicksilver Pro site, then walked back to the hotel. We were soaking wet, sandy, and had already checked out, but I managed to quickly get changed before we drove to the airport! We got home around 10.30pm Sunday night! What a whirlwind! How exhausting!! But how utterly fantastic!!

After all that, we headed out early on Monday morning, back to the beach, for Clean Up Australia Day. Since I had organized it, we kinda had to be there! Kai didn’t really want to go out initially, and to be honest, neither did I, but we made it there and had a great morning, we filled up a couple of bags with rubbish on West Beach and the kids had fun and got their certificates!


Kai and Zach cleaning up the beach

Kai was keen to experiment with his new camera, which is waterproof to 10m and (apparently) shock-proof. So after everyone left we stayed and he took some underwater shots….


We also found this jelly thing…


And Kai wanted to know what it was – when we got home we looked it up and were surprised to find out it’s actually the egg sac of a conical lsnail! Who knew!? We thought it was some kind of sea jelly!

So…that’s pretty much it. Yesterday we stayed in all day. I caught up with work and cleaning, and Kai Minecrafted most of the day…and today we had a busy town day – Australian visa office, buying Call of Duty (Black Ops) from EB Games, and the Scolastic factory book sale! But all trips were a success, despite having to hike around the city in 36 C!

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We love Nutella in our house (well, I don’t, but the boys do!). We used to like to tell people that Lance Armstrong likes Nutella….we don’t say that so much anymore though!

Anyway. What we also love is our retro 1970’s Thick Shake Maker! A hand-me-down from Nana. We use it all the time to make Nutella thickshakes! I decided this one should be black and white, to go with the retro theme! Although one of those fancy app’s would probably have worked better to give it more a 1970’s colour look! But I don’t have one. Boo hoo!

So, i’m a week into the December Photo Project, and i’ve actually managed to post every.  single. day. Longer than I lasted on the smoothie challenge, or any other daily challenge. Ever. Still, I have another 17 days to go….so lets not get too excited! (and I filed this under concious/eco-living because the milkshake maker is a hand-me-down! ha! And yes, I know Nutella has palm oil :/ but Kai doesn’t like the other kind!)


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Regular readers of this blog will know Kai’s not a great fan of story books. Nor being read to in general. But we do love Christmas. And he does love these two Christmas books in particular! We’ve had them both since he was very little, both sent to us from my Mum in the UK – Merry Christmas Little Mouse, and of course, The Night Before Christmas.

We usually start reading them nightly around now, and we’ll take them to Nana’s to read on the actual Night Before Christmas. They are also both hard back and such beautiful books!

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Our Nature/Seasonal Table is now our Christmas Table. It holds a small tree that used to be a fibre optic one, but this year it’s just got tinsel and deco’s – as I think it’d be a fire risk! Kai drew a picture of santa (we are apparently ‘doing’ santa this year!), and that black thing is his toy sack. I love Christmas decorations! As a kid, I always thought our house looked so magical when it had the christmas decoration up! And I was always bummed out when they went down in January! Tinsel is just so sparkly and happy!

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