Category Archives: The Big Picture

Letting go of those judgements and trusting…


I heard a homeschooling parent say that they don’t mind what their child does as long as it is “productive” or  looks industrious.

This is no different to school.
 In school, adults in positions of power (Government ‘experts’) have decreed what is acceptable for a child to be learning.  

As an unschooler I have learnt the biggest lesson is to trust our kids.  When, to me, it may look as though they are “wasting time” or being unproductive I have learnt to trust that they are doing what is right for them at that time.

They have always reminded me of this over the years and I may be a slow learner myself, but I hope I have got a handle on it now.

In this way unschooling is like life.  Accepting and trusting that others are doing what they need to do on their own journey through life.  There is great freedom is letting go of judgements and accepting others. We each of us are on our own journey and there is no one else that can tell what you should be doing, for they do not know where you are down that path.

I like it that our education philosophy has parallels in real life and the big picture.



natural learning milestones


Our life seems so normal, so natural.  I have no inclination to label us or it.  I feel as though questions about how our children learn like this are as if someone is asking us how we eat or breathe.

Just unnesscesary.
We just are.

But I remember the  uncertainty when we began.  I do.  The fear that our children would be “left behind” somehow, not know what others their age knew.
I have realised now how there is a whole set of unwritten milestones in our culture for children.

Sleeping through the night, being weaned, learning to talk, walk, ride a bike, swim, read, write….From birth there is, at times,  a competitiveness about keeping up with the pack.

Now I feel such a freedom from not even being in the pack let alone trying to live by it’s code of conduct..

Realising too that our children will set their own pace, reach their own milestones when they are ready. Most parents can cope with a baby not sitting or walking until months after it’s peers, so why not reading  at 4yrs or at 9yrs instead of 5?

I have seen children learn so easily and naturally when they are ready – be it 4 years or 14.
I just relish  seeing how happy children are in themselves and with their lives when they are left to do things at their own pace.
There is plenty said in spiritual literature about going with the flow, not resisting life.  I have felt strongly that from birth my kids knew what they needed and all I had to do was to meet their needs and help them when required. 

And still it goes on.  There is no difference to a 2 year old saying they do not want to wear something/eat something/ do something to a 12 year old knowing their own mind about what they need to do.

Going with the flow, with their flow, the path of least resistance  is always the happier route and naturally the best one to take.
There is still a lingering philosophy in our culture that life is hard, a struggle, nothing is acheived without pain, hard work, sacrifice…

Thankfully the emerging philosophy of many is that life is a joy.
Life should be fun.
That life should be filled doing the things that light your fire, your passions, the things that make you zing.

This is the very basis of what we do.
How do you teach your children to follow their bliss….?  Let them follow it from birth!  Then they don’t have to spend their adult lives trying to find out who they are, what they enjoy and what makes them tick.
The milestones are there still, but they are set by the kids themselves, not imposed by an outside authority.

So here we are following our bliss….at 10.30pm! The boys hard out wrestling for 2 hours, gloves on, martial arts moves discussed and practised.


Wayne playing the guitar while the boys roll around, dicussions of evolution interspersed with full on fighting…..



Gotta love the fact we don’t have to get up and make school lunches at 7am…
(ooops ,sorry Wayne!)

Living the dream


It has been interesting coming home and settling back in to normal life again.  I have been through several different phases.  The best thing has been the perspective it has brought me.
And guess what?  I am living the dream!

You know how sometimes in life it is good to look around and realise that you have everything you have wished for?  Life can be such a revelation when that happens.  I remember years ago as a young teacher doing this.  One day I suddenly realised that I was –

– teaching
– living by the beach in a cottage
-playing Irish music in a band
– very happy doing what I was doing

The very things I had been dreaming about and wishing for!
So it is good to take stock, look around and check out your life sometimes.

Having been home  7 weeks now I am really appreciating all the good things in my life.  I truly live a blessed life and am so very grateful for it.

One of the biggest insights I have had is about my work.
I have been teaching music, at home,  for 5 years now.  It has always just been a part of our weekly rhythm.  Suddenly, this term, I have been innundated with students, old and new and my two teaching days are pretty full.  WOW!!

I realise how fantastic this is.  I work at home, my kids can just be here doing their own things, I am  doing something I love doing and am good at (teaching &  playing music), it is flexible, fun, I get paid in cash each week, every student is a friend and I have  a relationship with each of them.  I get so much satisfaction working one on one, developing a programme to meet their needs and seeing their progress each week.
I have remembered how much I love teaching and surely private tution is the very best.

What a blessing!



Here is Charlie in the music room – our gorgeous red, instrument-filled room I teach in.  This night Charlie and I were boogying away to Old Crow Medicine show, using ribbons on sticks for extra effect!
“Music gives a soul to the universe,
wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination,
and life to everything.”
~ Plato ~


Trip Tally


Whoops, yes we are home, in fact today the Turkish Kilim has been put up on the wall, invoking fond memories of Selcuk….

So here is the trip tally.
Nine years ago when we travelled in our house bus we should have kept one.  I only thought this after we were accidently caught up in not just one , but two Crime Scene Investigations.  It seemed a unique category. This time the trip started with two punctures….and no more after that.  Still it was the very first thing on the list….

Punctures – 2

Aeroplane trips – 10

Beds slept in – 37

Long distance bus trips – 12

Boat/ferry trips – 11

Ice creams eaten –  Turkey – 50
England – 49  (please remember there was mostly 4 of us….!)
Not a single ice cream passed our lips in Switzerland, Paris or in Bali – too much fresh mango juice there…

Palaces and Castles visited – 10

Churches, including Mosques and Temples, but mostly Christian churches, visited –  39

People we didn’t know who offered affection to Charlie in the form of head patting, cheek pinching, hair ruffling, back slapping, tickling and hugs.  This was all in Turkey.  – 103

Tours taken -13

Times Hannah was hit on/potential marriage proposals (Turkey) – 3

Items lost – 9 (not bad!)
– 2 soap dishes, with soap, 2 watches, sunglasses, lipbalm, computer charging cord – this was only temporarily lost as it was kindly put on a bus and caught up with us, Ollies new knife he accidently carried through customs, but we did replace it, one Turkish spinning top – a Topac – well used for months by Charlie.  We were delighted to find some brand new ones we had sent home with the kilim.

Bags purchased for myself – 7   (A record low number for me, in nearly 5 months of travel too)

Postcards sent – 30 (that I had a record of)

Blog posts written – 87

Have you read them all?

Paris – better late than never


(Ahhh…’weee-feee’ at last……)

Pairs, like a trip to Africa, has it’s “Big 5.”

Une: Sacre Coeur


I even had my portrait sketched by an artist in Montemarte!  (Well it was a sketch of a young girl….)


Deux:  Arc d’Triumph…..and here the view from the top down Champs Elysees


Another view from L’arc…..


We only window shopped…..


Trois:  Oui, the Eiffel tower and yes we went to the top….bein sur!


And from the top…..the wonderful weather we have enjoyed everywhere continued.


Quarte: Notre Dame


Cinq: La Louvre!  Oh boy it was magnificent…and we only cycled around the outside!



The top 5 and then you add on other biggies…..Pompidou Centre, all the musee -Orsay, Rodin, les Jardin…..

The best thing we have done here is another cycle tour.  A few years I read an article about this Kiwi guy who had a company in Paris  and had filed it away especially for this trip.
For me there are many great things about a cycle tour.
A chance to hang out with other English speaking adults and have a laugh (we had two other Kiwis and 2 Americans  who were into homechooling, with us), this is really important for me.
Then there is the fact I can just sit back and follow, no decisions to make, no guide book to read, Marcel our guide just told us the stories and led us to fabulous places, nothing I had to do but enjoy it. Hearing a potted version of the French revolution on a bridge over the Seine while gazing at where the Bastille had been was priceless!
Riding around a city is such a superb way to see it.  Grand avenues, tiny alleyways, cobbled streets, private gardens, mini villages, Seine-side, food filled streets, bridges parks and the best ever – riding around The Louvre!  Yeeha!!  Such a huge and grandiose Palace.  That was ‘formidable!’  (En Francais).


We visited Victor Hugo’s house….


Even though we negotiated some major roads at times, riding along the Seine was fantastic!


Tracking down the latest Parisian  graffitti artist who leaves a “pacman”….


There are two bridges where couples buy a padlock, write their initials on it, lock it to the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. The bridges are totally loaded with padlocks of all shapes and sizes.


There was a Japanese couple in their wedding clothes doing this, all very romantic until they threw the key and it landed on the roof of a passing boat!!  Not sure what this means….

My 4th form French has flowed surprisingly  well.  The kids were suitably impressed with me the first time I conversed and was understood.  The man at the local vege shop, where we have bought stuff for the third day in a row, greets us like old ‘amies’ and tonight congratulated me on my French!  The absolutely very best way to learn the lingo, be here and buy things!!


Twice we  tried to visit The Catacombes, and twice we  failed.  They are very strict about the time they let the last people in to walk through the skeleton lined passages.  In fact it is the biggest queue we have encountered….and we were just third from the front when they cut us off. 😦

C’est la Vie!

The most peaceful place was La Pere Lachaise cemetery, yes Jim Morrison is buried here, but also Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Liszt…..The place is huge with tombs that range from public phone box size to mini cottages, very tranquil although Ollie got the creeps after a while….


Huge family tombs.


The leaves made it feel almost Autumnal….


Jim Morrison’s underwhelming grave….and Oscar Wilde’s flamboyant nouveau angel-topped one!IMG_3941

I contained myself buying artwork, only a couple of prints after a visit to Musee d’Orsay – the Impressionist biggie…

Ollie is happy as we have seen all the scams.  There are warning signs aplenty about pickpockets. There are pamphlets about all the scams you will encounter.  We had heard a lot about these from other travellers, which naturally fascinated the boys more than just ‘another old church’…..  So very exciting, that they are just everywhere….The fake petition, the ring, the 3 cup swindle.  Oui!

Charlie’s Paris trip has been interesting.  He had reached his expiry with regards to old buildings, churches and his very worse “ just wandering around the place.”  So as a soundtrack to Paris and  our sightseeing he has been plugged into “Harry Potter” (all 7 books!) being read by Steve Fry.  Good old mp3!  I am wondering how he will remember Paris though.  Will the Eiffel Tower be forever linked with Cedric’s death?  Will he only remember Voldemort’s return when he sees a photo of us up the Arc d’Triumph?  Mmmmm….

Still he loved the cycle tour and kept up the very front as per usual, being very attentive and admired by all. (Mp3 free)
The Metro is so efficient and quick.  We have been buzzing around.
Parisians do seem exceptionally well dressed, stylish .  So many women wearing ‘real’ shoes, high heels. Perhaps this is just in contrast to us in our well scuffed Teva sandals and after 4 months of wearing the same stuff.  Charlie’s 2nd pair of sandals is dying….just got to get to Bali….


Versaille was high on my list and I am so glad we spent a day out there.  Such a huge palace.  Such grand gardens.  Tres magnifique!


MInd blowingly huge and opulent….



We stayed for the fountain shows, dozens of different fountains, all very unique in it’s own  garden, each one designed beautifully.  Good to see and hear about some history on the other side of the channel, Marie Antionette et al.


The grounds were spectacular (oops I can feel myself running out of adjectives….)





We have been couch surfing in Paris.  Hosts here get inundated with requests as you can imagine.  So we were very grateful to Armelle for picking us out of all the others, especially as I have two kids and we wanted to stay for 5 nights.  She had a tiny apartment in the 12th   arrondissement (district) and worked such long hours – a self confessed perfectionist.  Also a great traveller and an artist in her spare time.  We managed some great conversations over a late supper  in her very good English and my careful, slow deliberate English.  As I described what we do about schooling she sat there frowning at me (as many have done before) I thought oh no…. Formal education is so very strict and so very important in Europe (no homeschooling in much of Western Europe).  She said how very different, how completely at the other end of the spectrum this sounded to French school.  Ten minutes later she touched me on the arm and said –

“What you were saying made me dream….”

I was touched.



So Paris was bonne indeed.



We spent 4 extra hours at the airport, as our flight was delayed, but we passed that playing with 2 youngsters whose mums were both French but had married Australians and lived there now.  Both had been ‘home’ for the summer  and now were flying solo back with their babies. Ollie had a ball with the 2yr old , well a balloon mostly….

Farewell London….Paris calling


While in London for our last few days we are saying our goodbyes.
This involves a mixture of things.
1. Returning to old haunts like in front of the National Gallery in Tralfalgar Square to watch the street entertainers,

2. Doing things on our list that we hadn’t done yet – the Science Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Millenium bridge, the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms – they were fascinating.
My map in is tatters now so it must be time to find my crisp new Paris one….


Charlie spent 3 hours on one thing at the Science Museum -The Machine.  It was comprised of tubes, pulleys, wheels, funnels and milions of tiny plastic baubles simulating sand.  Such committment and focus.  He was very happy and worked tirelessly with other boys as they came and went employing different stategies but always teamwork, communication, passion and so much pure physics!


Anyone who has visited this “unschoolers paradise” ( as Ollie called it) will know how much there is to see and do.  Ollie and I got plenty of time (three hours to be exact) to play with all the other hands-on things in the same area….

3.  Actually saying goodbye face-to-face, ringing family, emailing, writing cards…..

4.  Feeling the nights closing in, very quickly and a cooler touch in the air.

5.  Posting a huge box home, full of souvenirs, clothes, books, gifts…..

So, here in photos our last hurrah,
The unashamed tourists that we are
Although off now on a cycle tour
There is a chance there’ll be no more
Photos, for when cycling in London
Clicking and riding can cause a conundrum…..

Charlie earning some more dog money. Another inspiring session on Wimbleon Broadway.



Those poor boys will be quite happy if they never hear  those words again….”smile, boys…”


Getting to be more of a grimace me thinks….


The War cabinet Rooms were left as is when staff literally walked out in 1945 and  the doors were locked.  It wasn’t until the 1970’s they were rediscovered untouched and now you can see quite realistically what life was like for those who worked there….running the war alongside Churchill.


Our third visist to Buckingham Palace.  But first time without the huge crowds, ie just the normal hundreds….


The British Museum mummies….a got-to-see and I loved this little quote, especially when I saw the date…..


And  a little taster of home amidst all the history and granduer….


Last walk past St Pauls and over the Millenium bridge, where you could buy cups of freshly roasted sugary peanuts and buskers galore crowded the South Bank



As Charlie has been saying
– What-ho Chaps,
–  Jolly good!
– Top notch and all that.
– Suuuuper
– Too-dal- pip old bean…..
But I think as I change our pounds to Euros I must look ahead and bid London “Au Revoir…”

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.