Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Unschooling works

We have always used an eclectic approach in our home education - mostly natural learning with a bit of Charlotte Mason approach thrown in (ie: loads of living books and nature walks).

But in the last couple of years my boys have been pushing the envelope even more and they have adopted a very unschool approach to their education, much to my dismay.

Well 3 years of stressing and letting them follow their own paths must have worked as I am seeing some wonderful developments in my 2 young men.

Jordan is naturally fairly shy and I have often wondered what job he would ever get!! We have had lots of discussions over the years and he has not shown an interest in study or a trade or for that matter retail of any of the "regular" jobs out there.

I was at my wits end and someone suggested AFL Umpiring. Well our family has never even watched an AFL game so this was a bit of a stretch to consider, but Jordan is very athletic and loves the outdoors. He doesnt even mind getting rained on which is common in this winter sport.

So I signed him up for an umpiring course and told him if he hates it he doesnt have to do it.

The course was not much of a blazing success as he was so shy, but he liked the idea of the money and so I talked to the local club. They explained that Jordan would be mentored as he went and that it was ok that he was shy, reassuring me he would gain confidence as he went.

Well he is 3 weeks into the season, and doing amazingly well. David and I have been to the games with him, and there are times when, if it were me out there, I would have run off the field in tears. But Jordan is philosophical, saying "oh, all the umpires get abuse from the fans mum".

So much for my shy little boy! He still get nervous but he takes the "constructive criticism" from the other umpires and turns up the next week to try and do better.

And even more surprisingly is how excited he is about the money. Even opting to stay home from Gym camp so he doesnt miss out on a weeks pay. (He has never been the slightest bit interest in money in the past, once even telling me that when he grows up he wants to be a "professional moocher").

So as my first little duckling takes his first steps into the wide world of adulthood, I feel much more convinced of the merits of unschooling than ever before. Trusting a child to find their own path is probably never easy, but seeing the fruits of that trust definitely makes it worth the risk.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Letter of the week

I found this wonderful article in our local Homeschooling newsletter, and the author has kindly allowed me to post it here. I wish I had found this resource when my kids were younger. Im sure it would have saved me a lot of time. Hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Letter of the Week - curriculum help for mums in the beginning years.

Our favourite for homeschooling our younger children has been Letter of the Week Preschool Curriculum by Katrina Lybbert, under the site name of Brightly Beaming Resources – Early Childhood Resources for the Home. The web site address is

It is a free curriculum for ages 0-11. There are many areas to this curriculum, including the Nursery Curriculum for Babies and Toddlers; the Preparatory Curriculum with Letter, Sound and Story of the Week; Science and Country of the Week; and a terrific Journal Ideas page. There are lots more, so it’s probably easier to just have a look at the site!

I have found that it provides creative learning for younger children when the older ones are doing their book work. My daughter, watching her older brothers, just wants to do schoolwork and this has given her something to look forward to each day as her special thing and she loves to show off her wonderful work!

The program is all set out and you can put as much or as little into it as you like. Basically, Letter of the Week Preparatory Curriculum, begins on Monday with the Theme eg Sheep, and a vocabulary word to learn and discover about eg. wool. Tuesday brings a shape or colour to do activities with. Wednesday introduces a letter. Thursday is number day and Friday has a nursery rhyme to learn.

The resources are all ready to find and of course Google images finds many more pictures to colour or relevant printables. I have backed up this resource with sites such as: and for great printables that complement Letter of the Week. It depends on the age and ability of the child on what you include.

We made a learning board to display the weeks learning and then we stick everything into an A2 Sketch Book. We bought ours from Neds for $12. It is a Mont Marte Sketch Book A2, 30 sheets and holds the whole Preparatory Curriculum. The children love looking back through their colourful work.

After Letter of the Week, we begin Jolly Phonics to learn the 42 sounds of the English language. For our children, this has been a fun, activity based way to learn and has enabled them to move on easily to the next level.
By Marie Tapscott

Monday, February 01, 2010

Magnificent South End

Recently we went away with our neighbours and two other families on a camping trip to "South End" near Millicent in South Australia.

Our neighbours had invited us every year for the last 5 years and there was always some reason or another that prevented us from going.... well now I wish we had mustered the money/motivation/time to go on those other years as we had the BEST time.

We took along an extra member to our family. Our 'surrogate son' and fellow homeschooler Calen. All together we ended up with 6 adults and 7 kids, boys outnumbering girls for the first time in about 5 years and Buddy the dog!

After setting up our temporary yet significant accomodation at the bush camp site, it was time to go off exploring. We were camped in the bush behind a large sand dune that led us right to the shore of an aqua blue beach. We climbed the dunes with the kids to take a look and didn't see them again until dinner time.... In fact, that became a theme at this camp. The children were always dune jumping or on walks through the bush to the store to pick up the all important lolly stash to last them the next day or so, or they were sitting by the fire or on their bikes somewhere lost in the trees. The only time we saw them is when they came back like baby birds, cheeping, because they were hungry.

Day two we headed away from camp to look at a wind farm. Our neighbour was sure we could enter the wind farm and stand at the very base of the windmill. Well she was right, but I'm not exactly sure that it was legal for us to be there. LOL. It wasn't exactly sign posted. It is a freaky thing to stand under a large swishing, vibrating, wind turbine! We parked our cars right under the blades and everyone got out to take a look. I jumped out briefly but just as quickly hopped back in the car, like that was going to save me if the blades went flying off!!

Day Three, we headed down to Millicent to go op-shopping. Millicent has some of the best second hand stuff around and our friends are die hard bargain hunters like us, so there was no rush. We went into one store that had EVERYTHING labelled as $1. We bought a brand new netball (and the boys used it to play soccor for the rest of the camp), David got a long sleeve shirt, as he hadn't expected it to be so cold (unlike me who packed everything except the snow gear!), I bought some kitchen gadgets, a few pairs of pants and some pretty shirts - including a Country Road label and a Colorado label and it cost us a grand total of $6. I was so chuffed.

As I mentioned the weather was rather cold but the kids were keen to go swimming at the Millicent spring fed pool regardless of the temperature. They had seen video footage of last years escapades (It has a pontoon in the centre that you can swim out to) and had been planning their own mischief and dare-devil stunts, all week.

So while us adults stood on the shore in our beenies and scarves the kids swam out for back flips and "throw her off" games and races.

In the first photo you can see Luke explaining a back flip while Jordan and Rebecca shiver. Calen is already in the water having just executed the said backflip.

Day Four was the highlight of our trip. We headed off to the 'Salmon Hole' and the pool of Siloam.

The water at the pool of Siloam or Salt Lake is 7 times as salty as the sea, so it was a blast for the kids to experience the extra boyancy that comes with such salty water. Of course we took the time to include a science lesson about why we float more in salty water!!

Kathee, Louise, Mal and Robbie all braved the cold water to join the kids on the pontoon - Sensible David and I stayed warm and dry.

The it was off to the Salmon hole.

I assume it is called the Salmon Hole because it is a great place to catch salmon but we went because the sand dunes are great for sliding down on your boogie board!!

Luke gives David a push            Is this really a sport for the over 40?

Jordan and David go for a tandem slide and end up in the water.

I also have a short (eleven seconds) video on youtube so you can really get a feel for how fast the slide down was.

The final day we headed home, vowing to stay longer next year, and take more of our friends. We only saw a few of the things that South End has to offer so next year should be a real blast!

Monday, January 11, 2010

One Old Dog

Today our 13 year old Collie, Wesley, died.

For the past year whenever we have been on holidays we have joked to the neighbour that looks after our pets that we fully expect him to die while we are away and that they are not to be worried if it happens.

Each time we have come home to a happy, healthy, old friend that can hardly walk and barely moves his tail anymore to tell us he's glad we are home.

This morning my mum got up and went out the back to feed the chickens. Wesley waddled over for his morning pat and then went back onto the patio to lay down by the door. Mum heard him whimper a few times and went over to see if he was ok. When she got there he had stopped breathing.

She came into tell me and I went to check. He is such a big dog and all I could think of to start with was how on earth I was going to move him.

I called David, all in a flap and I must have sounded desperate because he came home from work to help me.

The suddenness of it really shocked me and left me feeling guilty that there was something I could have done to prevent it. I had expected that he would go off his food for a while, and stop getting up for a pat when he was nearing the end.

We have been having a heat wave in Adelaide and while the dogs have been allowed inside during the day, they have to go out at night because Wesley in particular has a habit of pooping on the carpet. So when he died after being out in the heat all night I felt responsible.

I was talking to mum about it and she pointed out that he essentially just laid down and went to sleep, and what better way was there to die. This comforted me no end (good old mum!!)

As I thought about it further I realised that even though the heat might have contributed to his death, he was so old (mostly blind and deaf now) that it was going to happen and I would probably feel this way regardless of how it happened.

So they boys are in the back yard now digging a hole. Luke has been quite upset. Jordan said he felt sad but hasn't had any tears.

Probably the best eulogy for this old dog came from Jordan a few years ago when we were discussing whether we could keep the dog (some extenuating circumstances). Jordan's comment was "We cant get rid of him, he's part of the family. He's been in our family for as long as I have!"
So today we say good bye to one of our family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pouring, not raining

A couple of months ago I was moaning to a friend that I don't know what I was going to do with myself when the boys finished their "schooling". During that time I was also looking for some part time work so help pad out our budget. The whole process was a slow one and I was feeling very disheartened.

After applying for about 10 jobs without success I saw an ad for a " Home Sustainability Assessor" training course with the federal government. I was very excited and even though the course was expensive and I was trying to make money not spend it, I decided to go put it on the credit card with the knowledge that I would re-coup the money.

That was two months ago and this week I started my first batch of home assessments. (Hooray!) Government departments being true to form, it has been a long process with a lot of red tape, and a considerable amount of stress over the visa balance, as I am not used to living in debt.

While I was waiting for my paperwork to be finalised for the HSA I was invited to a teen life coaching talk. A group of homeschooling families were considering organising a group life coaching workshop for their kids so I went along to see if it might suit Jordan and Luke. As the Coach was speaking to the group, he mentioned that he was looking for extra life coaches as they are rolling out the group coaching sessions in the schools next year and are low on coaches.

It all sounded so wonderful and while I was a little nervous, I decided that this was an opportunity to good to miss.

So again I produced my credit card for the training fee, and blocked out another chunk of time from my diary.

Then last week as I was stressing about how I was going to fit all of this in with homeschooling excursions, camps, tennis 4 times a week, music and maths tuition etc, I got a call from 2 agencies that I had previously applied for jobs with, offering me a job.

Still living in hock (I haven't earned any money as yet), I was very tempted to take one of the jobs for the short term, but the first job was too few hours to travel ratio and the second had training to be held in Melbourne on the dates that I am in Sydney helping my mum move house. I declined both jobs and then in a sudden rush of uncertainty I called David to see if I made the right decision

I commented to him that there is something very comforting about just going to work and getting a paycheck at the end of the week, and the second job could offer me that. (Both Home Assessor role and the TeenLife Coach roles are essentially my own small businesses, and while some work is thrown my way, and next year in particular there will be TLC work in the schools, I need to generate most of my clients myself).

Once I calmed down and realised that I would have to work 20 hours a week in a regular job to get the same amount as I would earn with the HA or TLC roles in approx 2 hours, I knew I had made the right decision; albeit a more stressful one in the short term.

As a result my life has become a blur of appointments in the last few weeks. I have not read a book or watched any television and I have hardly seen David.

I really need a maid and a chef and a secretary to make all the phone calls I make each day! The boys have been great, picking up some of the slack.

This week I have did 5 home assessments and had 2 training sessions with the Life Coaching team.

Aside from being exhausting it is quite invigorating. I know what lies ahead for me and it is a wonderful path. I was so fearful that I would just end up in some office job. This is so much more fulfilling. The life coaching is really confronting and Im looking forward to the personal growth that it will naturally bring as I progress.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What is success?

This week I have been contemplating and discussing with anyone who is willing to enter my contemplative process, just what is the measure of "success" in our society, and is it something I want to participate in?

Being a homeschooling mum, I have already taken a step outside of what our society considers normal, but I have always thought that my children would follow a fairly traditional path into adulthood.... Uni, career, children etc.

Well neither of my boys know what they "want to do with their lives" and who knows about children!! but they are quite opposed to going to University and this has lead me to quite a bit of soul searching. I suppose I have been a bit of a snob, or atleast just another sheep following the herd, as I alway thought that a Uni degree was superior to a Trade or Certificate course as a way to gain employment.

I have been forced to question my beliefsby my children, and over the last year I have been talking to other homeschool parents who's children have taken a Trade or TAFE course. Slowly my mindset has been shifting and it has been such a revelation.

While talking to other homeschool parents I have started to realise that I am not alone in my disquiet of the status-quo. However when I talk to parents of schooled children it is still all about Uni. This has made me wonder what the cost to benefit ratio of Uni really is! Here are some of my musings:

Recently I began to realise that Tradespeople make a LOT of money! (Of course I have seen this from a far but never really considered it and let it sink in). There is some urban myth out there that if you get a degree you earn more money, and I am starting to realise that that is just not true.

This has lead me to question why there is such a push towards Uni, if a Trade, or other career path may be just as well paid. Which made me question what is success? If a person finds a job/career path that they enjoy, it pays them enough to live, and they have a fulfilling homelife as well would that not be considered a successful life? Is a Uni degree an essential part of this equation?

"Oh but it give you more options", I hear you say. But does it really. I know LOTS of people who have degrees and once they finished they didnt like the field they had chose, or they couldnt get work in said field, or they enjoyed it for a while but then had to change because of life circumstance (eg: my friend who trained as a nurses and then her back gave out and she had to change careers).

When I worked for Optus there were several people in our area that had degrees (even double or triple degrees) and had given up their chosen careers to work in a Call centre!

So is it considered successful to spend 30 or 60 or 90 thousand dollars on a degree(s) to earn the same as someone who has not spent a cent on one? My husband earns double what my girlfriend does. She has 3 degrees and dear hubby has none. Both are equally happy with their choices, however she had the bosting power of THREE Degrees which counts for a lot in our society, but she has spent a small fortune getting to her $40,000 job and we have spent nothing. (Dear hubby climbed the corporate ladder and most courses have been paid for by his employer).

Of course there are plenty of people that do a degree and find the career of choice a wonderfully fulfilling journey. I am all for that! If my kids wanted to study something because they were passionate about it, I would happily pay for them to do so. But doing a degree for the sake of some future "better job/accolades/prestige/better pay is not something I would encourage them to do.

I have also started to wonder about a young person going into debt before they even start earning money. I would like to encourage my boys to step out into the working world and decide what they enjoy before they commit to study, and while they are deciding they are making money and (if they take my advice) saving towards a house while they are still living at home. I have always believed that if you can pay off your house then you can make whatever choices you like about your career and study goals. Being financially free is the ultimate success surely??

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today my 16 year old passed the written component of his driving test and got his L Plates.

He has not very keen to learn to drive, primarily because it meant studying the Drivers handbook ad nauseum, and partly because he is quite happy to have me drive him around.

I have not been so enthusiastic about continuing this arrangement and so I have been pushing him for weeks to press on with his devotion to the handbook.

Well today was quite an event. I had no idea if he actually knew his stuff, but he seemed quietly confident so we went and gambled the $26 fee on the chance that he might pass. Once he passed (to all of our amazement!) we had to fork out another $47 to get his license processed. (Highway robbery!)

I offered him the keys as we headed to the car park, but he declined. As always, it will take him a while to build up the courage/enthusiasm/mental space to actually take the next step in his jouney to adulthood.

Baby step. But steps that are so exciting for me to see him taking.