Monthly Archives: August 2013

How is the unschooling going?


People do ask us if I am homeschooling the kids during our trip.
(I don’t mean to be picky ,but the technical term is now “Worldschooling.”)

Of course the answer is no, I am not homeschooling the kids while we travel.
No I am not making them write a journal every night, or sit and do maths equations and I am most certainly not nagging them to read a novel every night (who is carrying all the books??)
However if they mean am I answering questions not-stop as I have for 12 years now, then yes.
If they mean do I support them in their passions, then yes.
If they mean am I helping them to be the best person they can, to be happy, to show compassion, understanding and patience, well then yes I am.
If  they mean am I showing them the world…well,  the clue is in the label “worldschooling.”

Life is just same as ever really.
Except we are travelliing and visiting historical sites,


cathedrals, ruins,


castles, stately homes


and an unusually high number of tourist shops and tea rooms….


Charlie has kept tabs on all the exchange rates we have and will still use.  Over lunch today he converted between each for fun.  There has been plenty of spending going on so it’s great to see the kids getting to spend other currency and work out the denominations.

Reading timetables, bus routes, airplane departures lists, the underground map, converting time zones….all things I once wrote meaningless  unit plans for as a teacher. All things the kids are doing in context with maximum motivation.

Charlie has been watching Horrible Histories, The Pirates of the Carribean (savvy?) and listening to Steven Fry read Harry Potter on his mp3.
Ollie follows news feeds and keeps us updated on the Syrian situation, any natural disasters as well as any debate or proposed change to gun laws in the States…..
He has managed to read several Harry Potter books and many Chris Ryan (SAS) books while staying with people too.

But as usual much of the kids learning is  through conversation.
We have had some humdinger discussions while driving.  Usually this is Charlie and I.  As navigator he is in the front and keeps up a commentary…..

-Mum, it is about 5 miles to the next service
-If we take junction 15, then the A55, it should be easy to get there
-You are doing a great job Mum!  (he is a very positive  navigator and has never yelled at me once.  🙂
– This is fine this way don’t worry, actually it is probably the best way (see what I mean…?)
– OK turn left onto the B6318….yes this one, here…..good …..

Then when we have been somewhere that has sparked questions for him directions are interspersed  and added to the mix.  These have caused several unplanned routes for us as I seem unable to concentrate on English roads while remembering random facts I studied 20 years ago!
So it goes more like…._
-But how did Henry the 8th just make up a whole new church?
-About 2 miles until our turn-off Mum
-Why did the locals not use the Roman baths after the Romans left?
– Yes here, stay on the M5….left lane…..
– So was King Arthur actually real then?

Grappling to understand the reasons why humans have gone to war, have burnt and tortured ‘witches’  and condemned each other for their differing beliefs has at times been belittled.
Mainly this is due to more pressing things like navigating huge trucks and a myraid of road options off a massive round-a-bout.
But mostly because a 9 year old looks so perplexed and just asks “why?”




And so our worldschooling continues.


But wait there’s more…


Not only did we prolong our final goodbyes, but we saw and did heaps the next two days!  The two boys stayed together and got to play.
Karen and I with just the ‘big kids’ in tow met in Liverpool the next day for a big, fun-filled day out….


We soaked up the Beatles vibe…mostly in the Beatles shops where I bought postcards and stickers.  But it was very cool to see the Cavern and bump into Paul….


I was surprised at Liverpool, it is a beautiful city.



I loved the architecture, such a mixture of old and new.  The docks are stunning with the huge brick buildings, now transformed into amazing museums.


See?IMG_3627 We spent time in the International Slavery Museum, which was excellent, though hard to stomach.  There was also a very good Titanic exhibition, which was exciting as we have an enduing passion for the whole Titanic disaster in our family.

IMG_3644There seems much to celebrate and explore about Liverpool and it is done really well. The shipping history and  the Beatles rubbing shoulders easily.

We even managed to fit in a visit to both stunning and completely different Cathedrals.



The next day we spent in beautiful Chester, where we were staying….
“Walk around the wall” we were told. So we did.


It was a beautiful day and Chester is just gorgeous.  The wall walk is great.  There are places to stop  and get off, or view  things, old watch towers to enter, guides dressed as Romans (or later periods) to inform you of historical events.


The fantastic classic Tudor houses.



We saw the Roman garden and this, Chester Castle, from the Wall.IMG_3675


Charlie and Henry have had a great few (last) days together, after several years of friendship.  I know there will be a gap in our lives when we return.  Charlie, at least is getting a dog, whom I suggested he called Henry….

IMG_3665We also saw around Chester Cathedral (‘Churches visited’ is one of the largest on our trip tally), before what was dubbed our “last supper” together.

IMG_3683In reality it was a beer, a cider and a cup of tea…

We will miss you guys so much.  It has been  great to have some time with you on your new (and old) turf.   We have so many great memories of the last few years and all the adventures together….I am sure there will be more some day.



Silver lining camping


The weekend we left NZ, way back 4 months ago, our very good friends around the corner made the decision to return to the UK after over 5 years of being Kiwis.
These guys provide not only Charlie’s best mate, Henry, but also much inspiration for adventuring.  I think of them as some of my “Huckleberry friends” (from that line in the song Moon River).  Friends who are always up for a picnic, a camp, an adventure of any sort.  So you can imagine how sad we were when I heard via skype,  of their intentions.
But every cloud has a sliver lining.
The gods of selling houses, furniture  and packing up  were in top form working smoothly with them safely to  blighty’s shores while we were still here.
Thanks goodness.


In the midst of trying to buy a car, a house & a new life….they managed to come camping with us and we spent maximum time together, especially for the boys to play.  We stayed in a great camp with a coast, forest, large rocks, a cave and a gang of other boys.  (South of the Lake District, Northern Lancashire).IMG_3528

I will hardly mention the weather…only a couple of hours of rain the whole three days!!IMG_3538

We explored nearby Cartmel, a gorgeous old village with an equally old Priory where we had a tour.

Ollie volunteered to dress up as a monk. Bless him.IMG_3555

We had some great walks including the Fairy steps.IMG_3567

Walking up the narrow coffin route on carved stone steps was a challenge – if you could do it without touching the sides you would see a Fairy at the top though.

Instead of fairies there was a tree that had coins wedged into it’s trunk.  the kids all thought this was something to do with fairies and whipped out pocket knives to add their own coins.


Did I mention that we also play music together too??


We walked up hills and around a lake.IMG_3610

We pigged-out on blackberries which grow everywhere….the kids even fed them to these horses….IMG_3619

Ambled down country lanes (more blackberries)….IMG_3581

And enjoyed this view from our camp.  We laughed, played games, cooked amazing meals with the absolute minimum of (borrowed) camping gear and made plans for future adventures….


Road trip


In England it seems impossible to just go from one place to another, when there are so very many historic sites, old cities, Cathedrals,  ruins and  stately homes just calling out to be seen….(Not to mention tea shops….)

So upon leaving Devon for what could have been a simple 2-3 hour journey we turned off the M5 to visit Glastonbury…..



Hot on the trail of King Arthur, believed to be buried here in the abbey, home of the Holy Grail and famous for the nearby festival. For me there was more than that, Glastonbury was full of what the boys called “hippy shops”.  I could have spent many hours shopping here, my sort of town.
But we went up to Glastonbury Tor instead.  Plenty of atmosphere as we waited under a huge tree for the rain to clear and played united nations with the other wet assembled walkers – a chatty bunch of travellers representing 5 countries between us (and a dog).



The whole area is known as Avalon, the mystical island from the legends and it was a spectacular view when the rain cleared away…..


Plenty to return to see here, the Chalice Well Peace garden for one, which was crying out for a child-free time of contemplation…..maybe after a big shopping day in  all those hippy shops….


Next stop was Wells, just to see the Cathedral really.
We may be just about getting to the point of being a tensy bit blase about magnificent, old buildings…..Must be the fact we are near the end of our English adventures.  Historical saturation syndrome??


Well, no so fast because there is Bath!  Ah, look at these gorgeous buildings in the Royal Crescent….


Taking tea at The Assembly Room –  where is that Jane Austen dress when you need it??  I didn’t even suggest the Jane Austen Centre to the boys, after they had endured at least two of the aforementioned hippy shops, I didn’t think I should push it….


Amazingly gorgeous city.   Great award winning travel shop, (itchy Feet) .   Loved looking at the buildings, Many groovy street entertainers, especially these three who had lost the other 5 members of their folk band (as you do) and entertained us well while we had a break.   It was so good to hear folk music and has reminded me of the wonderful “Wellyfest” we will go to on our return to NZ!



So the perfect road trip?

It had all the right ingredients….Charlie navigating, the stop at the motorway sevices for Costas refreshments and even the unplanned scenic tour of narrow Cotswolds lanes when we were so very close to Northleach, my cousin and the dinner they had cooked us….

Getting that foot tapping again…


Charlie has started busking again, after lugging his banjolele around the world…


He really loved it, said he has missed it.   People here were certainly very taken with his playing as they are back home.  It brought  a smile to faces, set toes tapping and  those who enjoy a bit of Johnny Cash stood and watched while they sang along!


After just half an hour he made 34 pounds, which with the very favourable exchange rate is a decent hunk of the dog he is going to buy on our return!


Along with gathering the funds we have been hanging out with dogs as much as possible all in the name of research…In Devon Charlie was lucky enough to get to  take the lovely “Lolly” out and about, a good test to see if it is true what they say about Spaniels….It is!  She has an in exhaustible amount of energy!


Perfect for Charlie really.  She was just adorable and totally happy to come off wth us, Her owners were very generous too.



Charlie got the whole experience from doggy bags to bathing!

My treat


I wrangled things so that after three and a half months of travelling with my children I had a whole 24 hours alone…in London!

Post airport-drop-off I headed to The Tate (modern) for a quick look around. So much to see, I saw some and bought postcards, but the outside  was calling.

The building impressed…

as did it’s position on the banks of the river Thames, teeming with life…..
street entertainers every twenty paces, people sitting, eating, strolling….


Giant bubble making busker…..and a great little band that reminded me of the sounds we make at home…


Headless performer….


The Millenium Bridge was needing walking over as was the South bank.  Views to be had, places to put on a list for another time….

The next day from a mighty adventurous list I selected Camden Market  first, where I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes of present-buying.  Lunch at a funky vegetarian cafe overlooking the canal that had an array of raw delights too.


Then Tralfalgar Square where the National Gallery beckoned to me and I was happy to be absorbed by hundreds of years of some incredible art, gallery after gallery…..


The new addition to the 4th plinth in Tralfalgar Square…the giant blue rooster!
I just liked the symmetry with the London Eye behind…


This guy was great to watch, floating in mid air, except for the pole he was holding.

My “walking through parks” part of the day was so  wonderful and took so long, from St James’, to Green Park, to Hyde Park  and along to South Kensington, that the V & A only got a wistful glance, instead of the hour long visit I had imagined as I hurried past to catch my tube…..

IMG_3435And this squirrel the only photo….
A train trip to Devon in the evening was the perfect place to sit down after 8 hours on the go and contemplate the last 5 weeks of our trip.
(thanks to the boy-sitters in Devon.  🙂  )