So, in continuation of my last post – even though I didn’t plan it that way….Kai learnt to tell the time on an analog clock today.

And yes. I mean today. From not knowing anything about it when he woke this morning. To telling the time to the minute by the time he goes to bed!

I don’t know about you, but school made telling the time some kind of BIG deal! It seemed impossible to grasp. An abstract concept. Is it 12.30 or half past twelve? If you understand half-hours, lets move on to quarter-hours. They made you think you had to learn it all sequentially. That it takes years to master. And it did take years. Because they tried to get you to understand it before your brain was ready…years before your brain was ready.

So. My story, before I get sidetracked! Well. Kai’s story, really!

As I’ve said, he has suddenly become more number literate, and had been reading the digital clock on his computer, working out how long till x’oclock, etc.

But he’s never read an analog clock. We used to have one, but now we don’t.

It’s his 10th birthday next week, and we met friends at an indoor play area today and they gave him his gift, which he opened.

Well! Slight diversion to show said AWESOME gift! A Harry Potter wolf patronus locket/pocket watch! That glows in the dark!!

So. My Harry Potter-, Pop Culture-, Wolf-loving child was over the moon with his gift!!

After we all marveled at it for a while, he said ‘I’ll have to learn to read the time using this now.’ And I said ‘Sure. Just put that clock next to your computer and then you will figure it out.’

He asked a few questions, which I answered. Then went to play. In the car later on the way to Nana’s, he said ‘I don’t get how this works.’ I tried to explain, then heard myself saying ‘This is 10-past, that is 10-to, but that could also be 3.50, not just 10 to 4….’ and it sounded terrible to me! And it sounded terrible to him….he told me to stop, that it was confusing him more!

So. We got to Nana’s, and he disappeared into the spare room to watch TV….or so I thought (I’m pretty sure he spent most of it figuring out the clock).

We headed home in the car, and he got his watch out again. He said ‘I think I have it. Each one of these is 5 minutes (it was), and each little mark is 1 minute (it was)’…Then he said ‘I’m going to figure out the time without looking at the car clock (digital)’.

And he counted in 5’s, then 1’s, to 5.34pm. Exactly. Quickly. In less than an hour he’d pretty much gone from having no idea to mastering telling the time to the minute! WHaaaattt!!!

He did it a couple more time on the way home. He got it right. I said – ‘You know what, you also used your 5 x tables.’ He asked how….I told him you counted 5, 10, 15 as you went around the clock – that’s counting in 5’s…..he said ‘Oh! So THAT’S what times tables are! I always wondered when Will and Tommy talked about them’ (his cousins).

So yeah. I know I shouldn’t still be surprised by these things…but I am. More surprised than I was with him learning to read….because this was QUICK! So quick! And it seemed so hard at school….


I’ve been thinking, reading and listening to a lot of things about maths lately….and maybe as a consequence, or maybe it’s a chicken-egg thing, I’ve been seeing a lot of maths in Kai’s life, too.

But i’ll get to that later.

Firstly, I was thinking about maths ‘readiness’. You see SO MUCH about reading readiness, and even the schools are finally starting to realise that kids all learn to read differently, and at different ages, but you don’t see a lot about maths readiness.

I was thinking about it because, suddenly, number ‘literacy’ seems to have twigged for Kai. At nearly 10. Calculations that would have stumped him only a few months ago, he can do quickly in his head. Complex addition, subtraction, money…he’s even figuring out telling the time, down to how many minutes to x’oclock, etc.

In lots of ways, it mirrors how he learnt to read. But the numbers thing has come later…about 18 months later, to be exact.

Like reading, it wasn’t the linear progression that schools make-believe happens…it was sudden, and it was all areas of understanding. He went from not being able to do simple calculations, to doing complex one’s in a matter of months. All of which suggests, to me, that number literacy is like letter/word literacy – you can’t do it until your brain is ready – and when it is, it happens naturally and painlessly.

For someone who found school maths absolutely impossible to comprehend, this comes as something of a kick in the butt! All those years spent struggling when actually it’s likely my brain just wasn’t number literate until later than many kids. Which also explains why, when I went back to Uni at 25, maths was easy and fun!

In the meantime though, after I left school at 16 (I failed my maths GCSE, for the record!), I was using maths ‘in the wild’…I really love this term, and I’ve heard and read it a lot lately! I think Joyce maybe coined it? I saw her writing at this awesome page on math where she mentions it…But Pam Sorooshian also said it in a recent podcast I listened to. Anyway, whoever it was who first used it, it wasn’t me. But I’m going to use it now, all the time!

Back to my meanderings as an older teenager and in my early twenties. At 16 I was working in a typing pool in an office, typing share certificates (yes. I’m *that* old!). We had to tally everything up at the end of a round of certificates. My boss said I had a ‘head for numbers’. This was news to me…and all my maths teachers!

After that, I worked at the RSPCA. I looked after dogs that had been mistreated, often starved. As part of court cases against owners, I logged how much weight they gained each week. I weighed them, subtracted my weight from theirs (I picked them up to stand on the scales!) and converted pounds to kilo’s. If that’s not wild maths, I don’t know what is!

Then, I travelled around the world for 6 years. I negotiated time tables for buses, trains and planes. I converted money from one currency to another (back then, in Europe, that was a LOT of conversion!). I managed my finances, bought food, paid for rooms. I worked in bars adding drink totals in my head. Wild. Maths.

And when I went back to college to do the course that allowed me to go to Uni as a mature age student, at 25 – I whizzed through the basic maths. And was soon enjoying (yes, you read that right!) algebra and differential equations! In first year Uni I also loved statistics! The wild maths I’d been doing, and the fact that my brain was now ready to be number literate, made all the difference in the world!

So. On to Kai and unschooling and how he’s learning maths in the wild. I’ve seen a bunch of graphics showing how kids learn maths through unschooling, like the one’s Sue Patterson has at Unschooling Mom2Mom (scroll down for it, but the whole page has great resources, too!).

But I thought i’d try something different – a side-by-side comparison. ‘School’ (or ‘caged’?!) maths beside ‘Wild’ maths. I picked school maths examples from Grade 4, as that’s what grade he’d be in (I know this because his cousin is the same age and goes to school :p ).

The examples are all from Kai’s actual life – he plays a lot of video games, so a lot of our examples will come from gaming, but i’ll try and think of some others too (in case you don’t have a gamer….erm…I’m sure there must be kids that don’t like gaming?! Right!? Yeah, nah…doubt it!).So. Let’s begin with addition and subtraction – caged vs wild.

Addition and Subtraction


Now, I have taken steps to make sure to also include school maths that is, in essence, trying to masquerade as wild maths – like the Minecraft worksheet in this example.  But guess what – actual Minecraft is addition and subtraction too, for real reasons! And dice/money games like monopoly, Pokemon game cards (or any cards with stats and powers on them), stat pages for games like ARK: Survival Evolved…and even a bit of actual schooly looking maths in Naruto!

Multiplication and Division

Yep. I have an App in the school side. It’s an app we used to have (eek!!), even ‘fun’ looking apps aren’t wild maths though. And they aren’t really fun, either! So – wild math – yep, we divide up chocolate blocks ALL the time! In order to build symmetrical buildings (well, any building or structure, really!) in Minecraft you need to use multiplication and division. We love playing Yahtzee and that uses multiplication all the time…In order to build enclosures, feed animals, and balance the books, Zoo Tycoon uses heaps of multiplication and division.

Measuring and Weighing 


Like really – why would you measure a jug on a worksheet when you need milk to make waffles in your real actual life!? The Cave Bear example is (as are all of these) real examples from Kai’s actual real life lately. He watched a few YouTube doco’s on Cave Bears, and the comparison size between a cave bear and a grizzly (including that it’s skull is 2 x bigger – also multiplication!). We use the geocaching app, which tells you distance to the cache, weighing and measuring in the kitchen, measuring our caterpillar to see how it fast it grew, and measuring a koala skull we found to try and determine if it was male or female (we think male, for the record!).

What about maths that seems more complex? More advanced? Like those pesky percentages that plagued me as a school girl (that’s a neat alliteration…just as an aside!). Turns out fractions and percentages are WAY more fun on the wild side! Pizza anyone!?

Fractions and Percentages


I included the ‘school’ example on the bottom left, as I thought it related to Zoo Tycoon on the right. The exercise on the left is just that – meaningless work making a grid into different habitat types. In Zoo Tycoon, you do that (choose the percent types of cover/vegetation) but it costs different amounts of money, and helps keep your animals alive! Way more interesting!

Most video game stats charts are full of percentages, fractions and decimals – like the one’s in ARK. And seriously- what kid hasn’t watched their game load or checked the percentage uploaded on an app, on Steam…almost everywhere!  Oh, and the cute dragon in the top, it makes you 1,963 coins/1 hour!

What about geometry, map reading and coordinates? Well…we *actually* do a lot of that wild math in the wild….geocaching and hiking!

Mapping, grids and coordinates


Nearly every video game Kai plays has a map. That one at the top left on the ‘wild’ side is from ARK, but Zoo Tycoon, Wizard 101, Dragon game apps, every game I can think of, has a map! In Minecraft, you can install a Mod called REI’s Minimap that lets you plot home coordinates…Battleships is all coordinates (and strategy!), Geocaching is coordinates and map reading. And let’s not forget Google Maps! Kai is my primary map reader in the car these days!

Moving right along….Telling the time, estimating time, converting time. Wild time isn’t like school time – for one thing, it doesn’t go excruciatingly slow (haha!) – and analog clocks are likely to be the very last way an unschooled kids learns to tell time.

Telling Time


Telling time is something I stressed about somewhat, since Kai only just recently learnt to tell the time at all. But since it *just* happened, the how’s are something fresh in my mind. Mostly the how was YouTube! Watching YouTube videos – if we are going out, i’d say ‘How much of your video is left?’ – YouTube handily lets you know that in a fraction/proportion format at the bottom of the player. Many games make you wait until your creature matures, or egg hatches, and it gives you a count-down..We skype with friends all over the world, but mostly Canada, so Kai has a good idea about differences in times across the world (also the UK, for my family). You can change the time in some games, like Minecraft, which can help you do stuff….and finally…the computer has a clock on it ALL the time!

And lastly – I made a kind of general category for *other* mathematical concepts and mathematical thinking…including algebra, patterns, probability and chance, and more…

Probability, Patterns, Algebra etc…


Jigsaws, chance games like Uno and Backgammon, card games, geometry/pattern games like Blokus, strategy games like Chess….all awesome fun things that, as a side effect, build mathematical thinking and algebraic reasoning skills…In the middle, crossing the line, I’ve put the App Dragon Box. We like it here, I like it more than Kai, though. But we’ve deschooled for a looong time. It might be too schooly for newbies who haven’t deschooled….which is why I have it straddling the two sides… it’s a fun game, if you can see it only as a fun game ;)

So. That’s it. Hopefully the graphics illustrate what I wanted them to – that schooly math is  dull, uni-dimensional, not related to real life and arbitrary.  Wild math is ,well, Wild! It’s inside, outside, dice, computer games, cards, jigsaws and more….it relates to your real life, and helps you get stuff you want  – like cookies, dragons, pizza, geocaches and road trips!

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 :)