Monthly Archives: September 2012

How unschooling works


I heard a very experienced homeschooler tell this story recently and it captivated me as  the perfect example of how unschooling works.  Where knowledge is acquired on a need-to-know basis.

Her daughter started a new job.  She was 32 years old.  Within the first hour she realised she would be needing to know how to work with fractions and percentages.  She didn’t have this knowledge.  So she rang her dad and asked him to talk her through it.  The conversations (and the learning) took 2 minutes.

This shows many things.

1.  When you are ready you will learn quickly

2.  When it is relevant you will learn quickly

3.  You do not need to spend 13 years at school to learn the most needed /used maths   concepts

4.  Learning never ends

It really is that simple.

Our children do this naturally.  They want to know something, they ask.
And let’s throw out the idea that by 18 years old a person should know everything.  Or that at 18yrs old you embark on a lifelong career.

People being  life long learners – that is what I am striving for!


Raw recipe – banana nut pie


A quick recipe we made recently…

Blend up the following
frozen bananas,                                                         (4-6 )
almond butter (just blended almonds)            (up to half a cup)
agave syrup                                                                 (2 tblspns – half cup

Pour into a greased pie dish and freeze – was supposed to be for a couple of hours, but we didn’t eat it until 4 days later!  I just put it in the fridge for a couple of hours and it was perfect to cut and delicious to eat!

We tried the frozen banana “ice cream” yesterday with added frozen boysenberries.  Possibly need to blend the bananas up first, then add the other fruit.

Another, savoury blend I like is made from cauliflower and avocado.  Blend up with lemon juice, spring onions, dash of chilli powder, coriander, capsicum or tomato, olive oil…..
I tend to chuck in whatever I feel like – soy sauce, sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs.
Then you can mix it in a salad, use as a dip, I used it in a nori sheet to make a sushi roll with salad.



I remember someone saying years ago that young children need to explore, play and have as much hands-on practical experience  as possible.  I am talking about “science” –  the hose in the sandpit, the paper planes, the catapults, the twisted paper clips with teddies attached whizzing down a high wire across the lounge…..

The theory is that with all the practical understanding firmly under their belts, then later in life when they want to put in the academic side, the theories just slot in very easily because the learning is all there.
This makes a lot of sense to me (the Arts student…!)

I have been listening for years to my boys (now 11 and 8) practicing pure science, a lot of physics.   I am always so impressed not just with the activity they set up, but the way they then play with it.  The querying, the questions, the discussions, the  improvements, the results analysed, the intense interest sustained, the  discoveries made and remembered, the extension.

It all just blows me away and shows me how they are so much better off without me in this area of learning!

Today Ollie built this cool experimental air pillow – a whole lot of Horrible History books (all extremely well read by the way!) holding down a lightweight travel towel and with a hairdryer poked in the end to fill it up with  hot air.

The hair dryer, bottom right, fills the balloon with hot air to balance various items on

It was so cool.  They then  tested different things to see what would stay on it while  was blown up.  Including a spinning “Bay Blade” .

He worked out if he made the surface area smaller it could hold up heavier things

I love the passion and energy the kids put into their play, all the discovery and FUN!!

As I write Ollie is outside in the dark with a rubber glove full of water spinning it around and we are all marveling (from inside) how different the shape is as it spins around fast.

Billy and Charlie have taken the glow in the dark Poi outside too……
It is all go….. and it is all science.

It is a good reminder that a child’s “play” is vitally important.  Play creates the foundation blocks of future learning.    It is their work, their main purpose as a child.

Many adults ask me if I shouldn’t be “helping” them more, directing them.   I do a lot of question-answering and supporting, resource gathering and other things to help them meet their needs.  But when they are actually playing, creating and experimenting they have shown me again and again how expert they are at extending themselves and in ways that I would never think of!

I have consistently been inspired by the creative way children think.  Unbounded by the fears and limitations we have has adults, they think right outside the box and keep asking “why”.  This alone is enough to ensure their success as life long learners.

Children are full of wonder.  They truly are wonder-ful.

I am so grateful our kids live the sort of life in which they can shine and be wonderful everyday.

Hot pool tramp


I have just had the most wonderful weekend away.  Another top-me-up.

It was a friend’s 40th birthday and she invited 3 of us to celebrate with her in style.  We headed into the hills,  and not just any hills, those with hot springs…mmmmmm

Krista, Rachel, Me and Tracy just lovin’ our weekend away!

We went up the mighty Mohaka river, camped Friday night by the road end, where there are some hot pools so we had a lovely soak in the  dark and again first thing in the morning.  Such a luxury.  The walk wasn’t too hard just 3 hours.

Walking with women friends is so great, so much to talk about!  Non stop, stimulating, “real” conversation- for me that is food for the soul!

Mixed with the  beautiful weather, a good leg stretch, great food for the body and the thermal dips it was a near perfect weekend….

The track follows the river, sometimes right next to it, sometimes high above with stunning views….

The Mangatainoka Hot Springs

We all had our party dresses for Saturday night! The air was freezing so we only wore them for a few minutes before our pre-dinner hot dip

The river beach by our campsite was gorgeous, almost white sand, tropical looking. The others all had cold dips then ran back to the hot pool. (not me!)

The hot thermal water tumbles over the rocks and is collected in a piece of guttering which can be moved to the side if the pools get too hot. The rocks surrounding it are filled with faces carved from bits of pumice……

We all marveled at the ease with which we can get away (thanks to the marvellous menfolk at home), the freedom to get in the car and head away.  We all felt so grateful that such beauty is just on our doorstep, that the hot pools are free, accessible to all.  That we had such yummy food…

Thank you!

The sun burns through the morning fog on the hills by our campsite

Borrowed words of unschooling wisdom


This is copied from Lauren Fisher’s blog (doesn’t seem to be a re-blog option sorry)

It has lots of yummy quotes in it to inspire all wanna be unschoolers and remind the rest of us why we are doing it!

Thanks Lauren for your inspiring words and compilation  of others’.   🙂

Any parent who looks into home education quickly finds a plethora of different educational philosophies that articulate how and what educating children from the home can look like. Unschooling is one such option, and anecdotes seem to indicate that it’s a growing movement within the wider homeschooling community.

Beautiful water lily, November 2011

“Learning to parent feels to me like a time-lapse photo of a flower blooming — you keep thinking it is almost done but there is more. If you froze the frame it would be a flower — but there is all this potential still ‘ungrown’.” — Pam Sorooshian

“Unschooling and natural learning unfold from the centre — our centres. Our kids’ centres. Our families’ centres. The question we need to ask each day is what is central to our needs, as individuals within a family, within a community, within a society, within the family of humanity.” — Beverley Paine

Unschooling as a home-education style needs to be differentiated from radical unschooling as a parenting style, as the term unschooling is used for a progressive pedagogy gaining credence as more unschoolers reach adulthood. Unschooling in home education is also known as natural learning, informal learning, organic learning, child-led learning, delight-directed learning, and auto-didacticism. As within every other movement on the planet, there are ranges of commitment to unschooling and no two unschooling families approach home education in the same manner.

“Perhaps both the greatest fascination and the greatest difficulty in studying informal learning is getting to grips with its sheer ordinariness… [I]nformal learning remains … a commonplace, unremarkable and yet astonishingly efficient way to learn.” — Alan Thomas

At its core, unschoolers truly believe that children are innate learners. Our society accepts the fact that children master many skills — including language — through immersion and imitation. Unschooling is a continuation of this concept through the traditional “school years”; children will keep learning the skills and knowledge they need in life if their interests are facilitated for and resourced appropriately.

“The act of placing the power over learning and life into the individual’s hands is both empowering and motivating. The ‘motivation’ people see in unschoolers is really a joy in learning that is seen far less often among the masses in school.” — Idzie Desmarais

As such, an unschooling parent’s job is different from other home-educators because the parent is not setting out the structure for the child’s learning pattern. Instead, as the child shows an interest in a topic, the parent provides resources that meet the child’s queries.

“When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.” — Jean Piaget

Unschoolers may follow curricula, they may undertake bookwork. They may sit tests, attend institutional classes and pursue certification. The difference between an unschooling student and others is that the unschooler is given the freedom to establish their own structure, set their own goals, choose their own paths of study and follow their passions.

“It is… nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreak and ruin. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” — Albert Einstein

One of benefits of unschooling is that the stresses of a institutional school are not simply brought back into the home because no learning is forced upon the child. Instead, as individuals pursue their passions and grow in knowledge and experience, relationships are strengthened. A lot of unschooling children’s learning is experiential — they experience every-day mathematics, they watch science in action, they research topics they’re interested in and move onto a new subject once their questioning mind is sated.

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorise lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.” — Linda Darling-Hammond

Will there be gaps in an unschooling student’s knowledge? Perhaps. However, the unschooling student will be equipped for and confident in researching anything they need to know in the future.

“Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever must be learned.” — John Holt

The learning of unschooling children can only be measured against their own personal progress. Just as our society would find it absurd to compare the knowledge of two 35-year-olds, no two unschoolers would have the same knowledge sets. This is definitely different to children who are all tutored in a linear fashion from the same curriculum.

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.” — Alec Bourne

Grown unschoolers — even those who have never attended classes, taken standardised tests, or been forced to learn something — have sometimes chosen to pursue tertiary education. Many colleges and universities offer entry options for home-educated students who do not have a high-school diploma.

“There were no sex classes. No friendship classes. No classes on how to navigate a bureaucracy, build an organisation, raise money, create a database, buy a house, love a child, spot a scam, talk someone out of suicide, or figure out what was important to me. Not knowing how to do these things is what messes people up in life, not whether they know algebra or can analyse literature.” — William Upski Wimsatt

Parents who unschool their children may use the same physical resources as other home-educators. Workbooks, iPad apps, computer games, books and the internet are all wonderful tools in expanding unschoolers’ knowledge.

“Because schools suffocate children’s hunger to learn, learning appears to be difficult and we assume that children must be externally motivated to do it.” — Wendy Priesnitz

An unschooling parent must be wily and resourceful to meet their children’s desires — air-bending lessons, anyone? Above all, with unschooling home education, the parent is the primary facilitator and encourager, willing to support their children’s learning paths and trust the child to garner the information that is useful for them in the time they need it.

“All I am saying … can be summed up in two words: Trust children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt

If you want to know more about unschooling as a home-education style, this is a good place as any to start.

All about Ollie


Ollie is a perfect example of  a child who  was born to be unschooled!

By four years of age he had his first army issue ration pack, helmet, and blanket given to him by  a friend.  His interest in the army has grown, expanded and endured over the years.   His passion for gear is phenomenal.   His knowledge of his passion and it’s surrounding subjects is huge and well used.

Ollie as an 8 year old soldier

Ollie loves survival.  He has had a consuming interest in army gear, rations packs, first aid and clothing.  His bedroom is bristling with knives, flints, lighters, rope and other survival gear.
It usually looks at though a bomb went off in an outdoors shop.

Then he discovered Survival Kits! Oh boy!  Check this out –

If you ever weren’t sure what passion looked like then come and see Ollie in action.  He is so sure about what he loves.  He doesn’t want toys – hasn’t done for years.  He only wants random things that can be use in a survival situation.  For years now I have been buying tin foil. cooking bags (good for water carriers), cotton wool, first aid supplies.  He is a delight to buy presents for as I get to shop at outdoor shops!  He only wears army issue clothing or good quality outdoor gear.

He reads autobiographies, alot of non-fiction survival books, some adventure books, but only those with a strong survival element – like Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchett” series – perfect!


Plus of course Harry Potter!

An 8 year old Ollie as Olivander from Harry Potter. He made all these wands and is selling them.

A few years ago he managed to round up a groups of willing local friends who would allow him to command them.  It was his dream he said to have  an army to lead.  He was in heaven and took the game very seriously, his eyes were seriously glowing and how amazing it was to here a 9 year old saying he was living his dream!


The Captain and his troops

The troops were all in uniform (we have a large supply of army issue stuff).  He made them march, salute, take on certain roles around the army camp they created – lookout etc.  The other kids all respected him and  gave it their best and have often asked if they could play armies.  They would go on route marches and practice various manouvers.


Ollie’s dream come true

Ollie has read voraciously on all related subjects.  He  seems to remember everything he has read, seen and heard about.  His of powers of observation are acute.

Bear Grylls?  Ollie is his number one fan and could be his  second in command at a drop of a hat (except for the eating bugs thing maybe….)

So he knows his knots, his first aid, his wild food, how to make shelters, fires and find water and food in extreme situations.
Professions that interest him are the police, army, customs, and anything ourdoorsy.  As a natural leader and great teacher he would do well in a teaching situation.

Another big role model for Ollie is Steve.  We have been lucky enough over the years to have “survival school” with Steve and Jenny along with our homeschool group.  Various places, ages, skills, activities and games all delivered with a gentle respect for the environment and for our own instincts, senses and love of nature,  Check out what Steve does –

You can see Ollie in the orange tee shirt if you open the wild child page!

Then we have Scouts!
Four years ago, Wayne and two other friends each with 2 boys, started a local chapter of cubs and then as the boys grew, Scouts too.  They have built up a great community group and provide a wonderful place for the kids involved to grow.


Cub and Scout mates

For Ollie , Scouts is the most perfect organisation.  And he just loves it.  He is in heaven now he is a patrol leader and spends alot of time thinking up schemes and plans  of things he could do with them.  He is such a leader and takes great pride in his patrol.  He wants to teach them to march and has researched and read about traditional Scouting practices that he would like to see re-instated.  Now he is focused on the Jamboree in a years time.


Ollie as a cub at a Zone activity

He has also started working as a trainee cub leader and takes a big role in teaching skills and organising games with the younger children (Charlie included!)   He reads about things other packs do and then gets to try them out. Such a fantastic opportunity for him.  He is up late at night writing away  – lists of things, planning the next cub session.  And he is an avid badge collector.  He just bought a new a Scout shirt and has started a Scout blanket for his old badges.  He has lists of what he wants to achieve and is motivated to get the work done for a badge.


At a local area Cub trolley derby!

As mentioned previously Ollie (along with Charlie and Wayne) has been doing Tae Kwon Do  this year…and just loves it!  The discipline, the physical-ness, the class structure, the belt system – they are all yellow belt green tip.


I have learned the following about Ollie in the last 11 years –
He thinks deeply and remembers everything.
He likes time to process things.
He does things intensely and for long periods of time (Titanic 4 months, army 7 yrs so far…)
He loves people and gets his motivation from others.
He is kind and nurturing to younger children and a worthy role model.
His main love languages are touch and time.
He is a night owl.
Him and I still cry if we talk about his first day at school and we both are so grateful that he isn’t at school.
He is very sensitive and feels deeply.
He can express himself well.

There are plenty of reasons why he would have curled up and died (metaphorically) at school,.  He often thanks me for homeschooling him.  He is so grateful for our lifestyle, it makes any hard days so worthwhile to have such great feedback.

Some more photos

Ollie with best mate and cousin Finn on one of many camping expeditions


Boiling up a billy on a hobo stove – pine needle tea as Bar Grylls has done


Ollie entered his first tri-athalon this year and just loved it!
He definitely wants to do some more this summer.



The man and his mountain.
A ten year old Ollie and Mt Ngauruhoe

A rebel without a cause


It is hard growing up –  I do remember.   Becoming an adult but existing for a few years in that strange ‘no mans land’ world of half adult- half child.  When you don’t feel like a child any longer, but you aren’t afforded all the freedom to do the things that an adult does.

Even Hannah with her perfect life choosing how she spends each day, having a secure home, her own room, laptop, bountiful food on tap, family and friends to hang out with when she feels like it…..says it is hard growing up!

And now she is spreading her wings and trying new things, it is such such an exciting time to be a part of.  Knowing she has a safe haven  to come back to.

For her impending 14th birthday she decided  she wanted a hair cut and to dye her hair!  Now those that know her will know her hair.  She has been growing it since she was 2 years old!  It was down to her waist.  So 6 weeks ago she had the initial cut.

New hair cut – old colour!

Now she has got used to this last week she announced she was ready for a shorter cut and to dye it.

She was really into me helping her and being a part of it.  When we were choosing the dye colour she said- “Mum you aren’t supposed to be encouraging me to do this, aren’t parents supposed to disagree with stuff like this?”     (I was suggesting the brightest and most outrageous colours mind you,  having always had a secret hankering to have electric blue hair…)

It was an honour to dye Hannah’s hair for her.
Here she is with the dye on and her fake fur coat as she was cold.

On Saturday night I was having a conversation about this with some other parents.   It made me realise how many parents still come from a place of fear in regards to their children. .  We were talking about what if she wanted to get a tattoo?  I said fine. Piercings?  Fine.   Those things are nothing.  Just expressions of self, a flexing of wings, external fluff.

I would be more concerned with knowing if  is she happy?  Does she get to do the things she wants to do?  Are her needs being met?  How can I help her achieve her dreams?    I totally trust Hannah and she is  so sure of herself she hardly ever asks for an opinion anyway.

I see my kids as individuals. By giving them the freedom to express who they are today and who they are becoming tomorrow is only going to help them learn what they need to learn in life.

My goal is to model that (what else can you do?).  So I too am learning about who I am, being the person I want to be.  While also supporting my kids in being the people they want to be.

I guess in terms of all the classic teenage rebellion – anything designed to shock, my kids would just tell me – “Mum if you don’t like tattoos (nose studs,clothing etc…)  then don’t you get one.”

Simple wisdom.  Let them live their own lives and vice versa – live your own life.
Be who you were born to be, show them how you do that.  Be true to yourself and support them in being true to themselves.

Hopefully they will be happy and well balanced individuals…. although  it will make rebelling extremely difficult!

As gorgeous as ever and RED!

Hannah looks so much like her big sister Kim
We will get some photos in a couple of weeks of them together.
Kim is also a hair style and colour enthusiast as changes her own regularly

A rare glimpse into Hannah’s amazing museum-like room.
She says she is ready for a major de-clutter soon though and is extremely good at moving on and making changes, so this will all change I think.