Pop Culture Day Out!

Last Sunday we had a huge day out in the big city (that’s Melbourne – can’t remember if I changed my front page yet!)…

First off, we headed to Silver K Gallery to see their Star Wars and Superheroes Art Exhibition….which was awesome!

We unfortunately weren’t allowed to take photo’s of the art works, but you can see a bunch on their site.

Next we got on the train and went to the Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival in the city. It was hot. And it was packed! But there were some cool things, drumming, noodles, and cosplayers!

Kai really wanted to eat noodles like Naruto!

Kai loved this Itachi cosplayer!

After that, we headed up the road to Minotaur – massive, ginormous comic/Anime/pop culture shop!

It was quite overwhelming! But Kai settled on buying a PoP! Vinyl Smaug!

He was pretty happy with his purchase, and we headed home on the train….


CosPlay #2 – Kakashi!

Kai went to a friends birthday party today – it was cosplay dress up! So, of course, he wanted to go as one of his favourite Anime characters from Naruto – Kakashi….

This cosplay was a bit trickier than Carl from The Walking Dead…but I think we did a pretty good job, and it cost about $15 in the end…



He wants to go as someone else to Supanova….but I kind of like making cosplay anyway!

Edited to add this photo – the comparison of real and Kai cosplay Carl Grimes from Comic Con 2015!


I feel like I should write more here. There is so much pseudo-unschooling nonsense around…bloggers claiming to be unschoolers, when clearly they are relaxed homeschoolers. Bloggers who used to be unschoolers, but have turned to curriculum. Bloggers with kids not even school-age, dishing out unschooling advice…

But quite honestly, we are busy living life and I don’t seem to have the time, energy or inclination to write much here anymore.

However, i’m going to try! Maybe if I start writing, i’ll be more inspired to write more!?

My Dad died, recently. I went to England to try and see him, but he passed away on while I was on the plane. The known perils of living so far away. Kai chose not to come with me, knowing that he would be spending a lot of time at Nana’s while Brett was at work, but preferring that option to a long plane ride and a, quite frankly, not fun visit to the UK.

Although it was heartbreaking to be away from him for 3 weeks, he was amazing – he was fully aware it was his choice, and was aware of the consequences of his choice. He didn’t complain or really get sad. I absolutely believe that having had the opportunity to make his own decisions, though unschooling, helped him while I was away. Skype helped too – so much! Some days we skyped for hours and watched Anime together while I was away.

Talking of Anime, Kai’s pretty into Anime right now – Naruto, Dragonball Z, Avatar: Last Airbender…it’s super fun to watch with him and learn all about it.

As per my last post (which was a while ag0!), unschooling a tween remains a very cool thing…pop culture is huge in our house…12592312_10153849317031168_4754127663419018341_n

These were a few of the goodies I brought back from the UK!

He’s also super into graphic comics (like the Darth Vader series above) and we’ve been getting a pile from the library….For those who might think comics are a lower form of reading material, this article crossed my path today…yesterday we visited an amazing local comic shop – I love that I get to experience things I would never have done had we not embraced unschooling…


Check out all the PoP Vinyl figures! Agggh!

What else? The day I flew back from the UK, we went to Not Back to School Party at Geelong Adventure Park. A friend drove us….since I don’t think I was safe to drive. It was an amazing day – from what I can remember!


As if that wasn’t enough to contend with with jetlag, we also went to our first homeschool camp last Wednesday! To Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park….Kai and I camped with our new tent – which I put up single-handedly!

We had an awesome, abeit exhausting, time with friends – much time spent on the beach, on the boogie board, reading, and playing board games at night…



This week we will be back to our normal park day, and have a cosplay birthday party….maybe stay-tuned, I might be back!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Aggghhh! Damn those learning kids!

Then me, Kai and Poppy played Uno…



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


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

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


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

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


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


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



They went climbing……really, terrifyingly, high!


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

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