Category Archives for Writing Collective

We’ve never seen a worldschooling family travel quite like this…

This family of storytellers are giving their kids a global education, and creating something pretty amazing along the way to share with other families.

Enjoying a walk around crystal clear Hintersteiner lake in Scheffau, Austria

Interview with Tania and Matt Landin

Can you introduce your family, where you're from and what you're currently doing?

Tania and Matt (the parents), Maya (14), Mirabel (11), Lacey (8) and Elsie (our 4-year-old labradoodle)

We’re a full-time travelling/storytelling family on an 18-month adventure around Europe. Currently, we’re exploring Cornwall England enjoying the mild autumn and cream tea.

In June 2016 — after years of late night “what if” conversations — we quit our jobs, sold all our possessions and left Portland, Oregon to start our own company — Around the World Stories. We create original audio stories to teach kids about other countries and cultures, and we write the stories as we travel around Europe.

Hiking in the Austrian Alps wearing traditional dirndl dresses

Why did you decide to travel the world and write stories along the way?

We’d spent several years overseas, both before and after the kids were born, and learning about other cultures became a natural passion for us. We’ve always loved bringing other traditions into our own home, and as parents we think it’s vital for kids to have a broader view of the world and an understanding of different cultures.

When we moved back to the US, we didn’t find anything that really approached teaching about other countries in a way that was fun and memorable. We realised that engaging, fun stories were the next best thing to an actual foreign experience,  so we came up with the concept of writing original stories about other countries and turning them into audio stories. We absolutely love  writing and sharing the stories with other families! 

Breakfast in southern France overlooking the foothills of the Pyrenees

Which countries have you been to already? Can you some up each in a few words?

Germany - outdoor cafes and beer gardens, beautiful mountains and idyllic small towns

France - croissants that melt in your mouth, amazing lavender fields, Monet, Degas and that cool metal tower 😉

Denmark - positive Danish mentality, Hygge, kind people and the smell of cinnamon rolls everywhere in the morning

Czech Republic - magical

Slovenia -  beautiful countryside - definitely want to come back

Croatia - gorgeous coast, but a bit warm in July in an RV

Switzerland - one the scariest drives of my life over the mountains at night during a snowstorm. The hikes made up for it. 

Austria - The mountains, Vienna and the Danube all spectacular. Stunning views everywhere.

England - amazing cliffs and caves in Cornwall and endless wonderful places to see in London

The Netherlands - Van Gogh, biking and seas of tulip fields in April

Spain - Barcelona is so full of life, loved Granada’s flamenco shows, delicious tapas and Alhambra.

Portugal - surprised by the rich history and culture. Promised ourselves we’d come back.

Liechtenstein - Tiny. Bought a keychain to prove we were there.

Andorra - Great skiing in the Pyrenees. And another keychain.

Gibraltar (albeit also UK) - Mugged by a monkey.

Worldschooling at the H.C. Andersen Museum in Odense, Denmark

Your husband left a secure job as a diplomat to travel the world. What do you think the act of chasing your dreams is teaching your children?

It was a huge leap of faith for us. One of the great side-effects was how it has positively affected the kids’ ideas about their own life and potential. Particularly as things have worked out, it’s such an awesome feeling being able to show our kids a lesson about taking chances and following dreams. I can say that their dreams have gotten even bigger since we left. 

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What have been your favourite stories unearthed so far?

We’re not actually collecting stories, but creating our own original stories. That being said, many of our stories are based on our experiences on the trip. Two of our stories about France were inspired by a tiny French town in Provence. We ate in a plaza, watched locals play pétanque and saw the sun set over the lavender fields. So many of our characters are also based on people we’ve met. It’s a way to keep the stories authentic and rich in their descriptions.

The best kind of 'screen time' along a path in Nesslau, Switzerland

What drew you to Europe for this kind of journey? 

My mother is German and my father is Czech, so Europe has always been a second home for me. There is just so much here in Europe that we wanted to show our girls and experience as a family. One of the big advantages to travelling in Europe for us is how easy it is to jump from one beautiful country (and culture) to another. Just a couple hours drive can bring you to a very different culture — new food, language, traditions and an entirely different way of thinking. We love experiencing that. We’ve biked and even hiked across international borders.

Biking through the vineyards along the Danube River

How are your travels working in with homeschooling your girls? Do you have more of an unschooling or structured approach?

It’s been wonderful for us and the kids. As far as the approach, just the act of travelling and being exposed to so many new ideas really lends itself towards unschooling. It’s been one amazing field trip! We’ve found that, for us, it works best with an open mind and flexible schedule.  There’s just so much to learn everywhere — history, language, food, traditions. Getting outside as much as possible and meeting new people is a must. Our kids have learned more this year, even with little book work, than we even imagined. 

Listening to Around the World Stories in Garmisch, Germany

What's next for your travelling adventures? Do you have any plans of when to go home?

Right now we’re plotting our next big story-writing trip. We’ve not yet decided where to go, but it’s a frequent dinner conversation and everyone (minus the dog) gets a say.

Where can people find out more about you? 

To find out more about us, visit us at aroundtheworldstories.com or connect with us on Facebook or Instagram.

Try the audio stories for FREE!

We offer our 52-story Europe set and our 6-story Artists Around the World set. Until the end of Jan 2018, Mulberry readers can use the coupon code MULBERRY20 to save 20% on either of our story sets. Or for a one-month free trial of our Europe Story-a-week subscription, readers can use the code MULBERRYMONTH on our website.

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How I use lists in my homeschool (and why I love it!)

Kelly George has been homeschooling for over a decade and swears by list-keeping as the ultimate way to keep organised, stay sane, and plan and record her whole family's learning.

Image by Leah Kua

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By Kelly George | Fearless Homeschool

Lists are the only way I keep track of anything.

To-do lists, meal lists, to buy lists, wishlists – if it’s not on the list it really doesn’t get done. 

So it makes sense that lists are invaluable in our homeschool, too. We use lists to keep track of what we’ve done, to remember what we’d like to do and to make sure everyone’s doing as much as they planned.

Personally, I’ve found paper lists are my best friend. 

I’ve tried digital, but it’s just not concrete enough for me, and seeing as I usually don’t know where my phone is it didn’t make sense to keep important information on it. 

I was very happy to see the new Mulberry Planner has LOTS of list templates, and I’ve been busy filling them out and feeling virtuous about my gorgeous new lists (as opposed to the creased and crumpled bits of repurposed paper I usually use). I’ve also discovered an unexpected bonus of having a beautiful planner - I’ve been more intentional about looking after it, which means I can feel justified when preaching to my children about presenting their work well.

Homeschooling lists are also a great form of record keeping, saving hours of work when re-registration time comes around. You can quickly glance at the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve watched, and the curriculum you’ve completed, and expand on it to make a pretty good report.

Here are the indispensable homeschooling lists we keep.

Book lists

Books are our thing. We borrow 60 books at a time from the library, think books make the best presents, and book sales and well-stocked op-shops are our favourite places to shop.

We all keep a yearly list of the books we read – each child, myself, and my husband. They help us keep track of interests, remember which authors or series we wanted to read more from when it’s library ordering time, and remember what that book was called when we’re chatting about them.

Plus, it’s a subtle competition. Gabrielle always makes sure she’s ahead in numbers. She’s up to 139 books read as of November 20th, so it’s not likely she’ll be overtaken this year.

I also keep a read-aloud list, which I’ll adapt one of these for.

I keep a book journal for myself, but I’m using the Mama’s Book List to keep track of the homeschooling-specific books I’d like to read or re-read. 

Finally, I’ll also be using the Kids Book List for a to-read list for each child. I usually make sure I order or buy quality books regularly, so there’s always some available to choose from, but they don’t always get chosen.

I’d like to make sure they each read at least ten classic or high-quality books each year – dragons and battles are all very exciting, but should be balanced out by books that get the brain cells working, in my opinion.

If I give them each a list in January they can zoom through their requirements, and then return to reading Percy Jackson for the umpteenth time. And I can then give them another list in June – surprise!

Curriculum lists

There’s SO MUCH to keep track of! I used to save samples in a folder on my computer, assuming I’d remember what was in there.

I didn’t.

Most of the time I would forget there was even a folder, so when we wanted something new in a certain area I’d start researching again from scratch.

Having a curriculum list means I can keep track of what we’d like to try, what’s good now, what may be good in the future, and what’s not good for us at all. I’ll download and use each sample as we need it, and then either cross it off the list or purchase it.

If I get very organised, I’ll use another to keep track of the curriculum each child finishes.

Quotes

I’m a word lover, and I love quotes. Anyone who has visited my website or taken one of my courses may have noticed that. Homeschooling means I get to expose my children to what I think is important, and subjecting them to quotes is something I do enthusiastically. 

Right now, I put a new quote up on our whiteboard each week, and we chat about what it means. I choose quotes that make us think, that help us define our ideas or values, or show an everyday issue from a new angle.

This quotes list is replacing my Pinterest board (again, I fail at digital – I don’t even have the Pinterest app on my phone because I couldn’t turn off the notifications), and it’s so much easier to pull out the quotes list and choose the new quote. 

As a bonus, I don’t get stuck looking at quirky designs for vintage dresses, so the process is much quicker!

The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal

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Podcast list

I started listening to podcasts this year, and really like them (again, late adopter of digital). They’re a great way to get through cooking and cleaning without noticing what I’m doing. 

Unfortunately, the children aren’t as fond of podcasts about entrepreneurship as I am. I’ve found a couple of ‘educational but entertaining’ podcasts we all enjoy, like The Ancient World and TED Talks Daily, but I’d like to find more.

This is my list of podcasts to trial before adding to our regular listening list. We’ve already trialled Douchy’s Biology, and it’s a hit – Gabrielle has been geeking out to hominid evolution while cutting out sewing projects.

Film list

We fail at films. We haven’t had a TV in over a decade, and that pretty much sums it up. We find we have so many other things to do that we never get around to watching movies. 

But there are some things I’d really like to watch with the children. Generally, they’re adaptations of books, and our chief delight is shouting criticism at how much it deviates from the book (you really don’t want to watch Eragon with us, how did they get it so wrong?)

I’ve decided documentaries count as films, because we love nature, farming, and science documentaries. And because the sheet would probably compost before we got through that many movies.

I hope that gives you some insight and inspiration into how lists can be useful in your homeschool. The lists included in the Mulberry Planner are a great place to start if you’re new to list making – they’re extremely relevant to the core needs of homeschoolers. As well as the lists I’ve detailed, there are also lists for music, YouTube, and children’s lists for their achievements and things they’re proud of, plus templates for you to DIY. If you don’t use anything else except the lists, you can still have a well-organised homeschool.

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Kelly George

Contributor

Kelly George is a married mum to five adventurous children who have never been been to school. She runs Fearless Homeschool, which is full of articles, resources, and courses aimed at helping parents break away from the school model to craft their ultimate homeschool, and also organised the first Australian Homeschooling Summit. In her spare time she's a nursing student who enjoys juggling dozens of hobbies.

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A Disney animator’s advice for young artists on mistakes, learning and mastery

Chad walked away from an animation career at Disney because the pressure to perform had slowly robbed him of the joy he felt when animating and drawing. He shares his tips for budding artists and animators on embracing imperfection and looking for learning opportunities.

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By Chad Stewart | Founder of The Animation Course

One of the most heartbreaking things I see as a teacher, parent, or animator is a young person putting so much pressure on themselves that they lose the joy that attracted them to an art form (or activity) in the first place.

As a young animation student I was drawn into a sequence of excitement, opportunity, achievement, and comparison (to those more advanced than myself), and then to insecurity and frustration. Each time I saw someone’s animation I had to know if I could do better. If I could be more valuable. As if becoming more adept at a certain skill had any bearing on who I was or my value as a person. But I continued to put pressure on myself to understand complicated concepts instantly and execute them effortlessly. Little by little that pressure robbed me of the joy I felt when animating. And it continued not just through school, but well into my career. Until finally I couldn’t keep up with it.

Why I said goodbye to Disney

After four years working for Walt Disney Feature Animation in the late ‘90’s, I found myself cleaning out my desk and saying goodbye to the job that had been my dream since 6th grade. While I had talent, I couldn’t draw or animate as well as the other artists there, some who were my age, but many who had been animating for decades. And instead of approaching my position with a humble curiosity, I had instead withdrawn into myself hoping that I could somehow pull some animation off on my own that would ‘Wow!’ those around me, which of course I couldn’t.  

As a result, I found myself without a position on the newest film, without the opportunity to learn from those who had so much more skill than myself, and without a desire to continue animating, a process that had always fascinated me and something I truly loved to do.  

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What had I done wrong?

I had expected to learn too much too quickly. I had attached my character and self-worth to a skill that took thousands of hours to master. I had abandoned the joy of learning.

I finally gave up putting that unachievable pressure on myself and I have enjoyed animating in the world of film over the last 26 years, although I still feel it sneak up on me every once in a while. Now I see the pressure in new places, the eyes of my children and my students.  

I think with the technological advancements today it makes it even harder for this next generation. A world of information and opportunity is at their fingertips.  Almost everything is effortless… and yet there are still things in life that are truly hard to master. Growing up and maturing. Learning to interact with people. Knowing thyself. And, in the case of my students, animation.  

When the moviegoer watches an animated movie, they ingest years of work from hundreds of people in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, sometimes a student will expect the same level of skill and expertise from themselves that they see on the screen.  

I make it a point to always take the pressure off an assignment. Each of them is at a different point in their journey. Each is valuable. And it’s getting them excited about the journey that is the real key.  

If they're passionate, then doing something wrong becomes a fantastic opportunity to learn. 

And not a discouragement, but rather a moment to build momentum. If we embrace failure and mistakes as the catalyst for understanding and disconnect it from our value as people then we have a learning model that is powerful, and enjoyable!  At least it was that way for me.

Tips for budding animators and artists

1. Find a mentor on YouTube or Instagram, someone you can follow and be inspired by, who encourages artists to create.

2. Take the pressure off assignments or the marks you'll get. Focus on animating and drawing for the love of the art.

3. If you mess up or need to start an artwork again, see it as an opportunity to learn.

4. Know that it takes years of work by hundreds of creatives to make an animated movie that you watch in a few hours. Do not expect the same level of skill for yourself as what you've seen onscreen. That's a combined effort.

5. Watch animation or Disney Pixar behind the scenes for particular movies that show the process.

Chad had some great advice. What's your favourite tip? Tell us in the comments below.

The Animation Course

  • Chad runs a 5-level animation course and a 2-level drawing class for 11 to 18-year-olds. You can opt for live or pre-recorded classes, with or without grading.
  • Live classes include weekly meet-ups via Adobe connect, live chat and full access to tech support.
  • The introductory courses offer the underpinning principles of animation, while the later courses dig into storyboarding and learning about the software that produces animated film.
  • Courses fill up, so you can reserve your spot here.

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Chad Stewart
Contributor

Chad is an artist and animator who has over 27 years of experience in the feature animation world in 2D (hand drawn) and 3D (computer). He has worked with Disney Pixar on projects well-loved movies like Polar Express, Emperor’s New Groove, Tarzan, and the Smurfs movies. He has been a traditional animator, a 3D animator, and has supervised other animators on multiple films. Chad founded an online course for children called The Animation Course.

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8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool

Helping our children delight in the discovery of nature is one of our most important responsibilities as parents. Homeschooling offers the perfect opportunity to take learning into nature far more often. Here are eight ideas to inspire you...

Children playing in water happily

Image by Annie Spratt

By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”

I often contemplate the words of Richard Louv, author of Last Child Left in the Woods and coiner of the term 'nature-deficit'. There is no denial that our children face an uphill battle when it comes to spending time unplugged and unfettered by the alluring and incessant technology of our modern world. And yet, once we discover the rejuvenating and necessary power of nature for the soul, mind and body, we can't help but share our love of the earth with our children.

While it's unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful to completely cut our children off from all technology (and what does that even mean? Isn't an oven or a microwave technology too? What about the car you drive? But I digress!) many parents are resisting the pull towards swipe-able screens and glowing devices in favour of a pared-back, 'old-school' focus on spending time in nature. Nature in all its forms...

Homeschooling parents are among those leading the charge, with terms like nature play and earthschooling popping up more and more frequently. So, if you're feeling a pull towards nature here are a few ideas on how to incorporate more nature study and focus into your homeschool.

8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool

1. Join a nature co-op or homeschooling group in your local area.

Most often, these groups meet outdoors and often visit national parks or reserves. You can find out about local groups by searching for location-specific Facebook pages, or check out our (by no means comprehensive) Australian co-op directory here. 

2. ​Download and print some nature guides 

Nature Guides are a handy resource when venturing out into nature. Giving your kids a sense of purpose and sense of adventure in the form of a 'nature spotting checklist' can help keep them involved and motivated.

You can purchase fantastic nature guides from Brave Grown Home and print them off at home, like this gorgeously illustrated backyard birds set. Each Guide includes beautiful watercolour illustrations on easy-to-print posters, information cards full of fascinating facts, and smaller three-part cards for the littlest learners. The cards also tie in with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of nature journalling. 

Tip: Laminate the identification cards so they withstand dirt and water while you're out in nature, and last longer.​

Ashley from Brave Grown Home is giving Mulberry readers an exclusive 20% discount off all classic bundles in her shop. Just enter the code MULBERRY20.

*Code expires 30th November 2017.

3. Practice mindfulness in nature

The peace and quiet of nature provides the perfect setting for practicing mindfulness and meditation with your children. Mindfulness is something that can be modelled to kids at a surprisingly young age, and even very small children can learn to sit still and just 'be'.

Our favourite mindfulness resources for children are Leah McKnoulty's gorgeously illustrated picture book Making Mindful Magic, and Teepee Learning's Mindful ABCs Alphabet Book.

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4. Take art supplies with you and paint what you find in nature

Pack your paints and paper before you head out so you're ready to capture the beauty of nature in paintings, sketches or mixed media. If your kids lack artistic confidence or haven't yet found a passion, we can highly recommend Artventure's online lessons as a great resource to start with.

Issue 3 of Mulberry Magazine also features a wonderful step-by-step nature journalling tutorial to get you started.

5. Start building a Cabinet of Curiosities

Starting a Cabinet of Curiosities or Wunderkammer is a great way to motivate your kids to head out into nature and observe, delight and forage (where appropriate) curiosities to take home and display. For more inspiration, check out our article where three homeschooling mums share how they started their Cabinets of Curiosity in Mulberry Magazine Issue 7. 

Tip: Remember to check the rules in the area first (national parks often have limits on what you can remove).

Image by Robyn Oakenfeld

6. Go outside even when it's cold or raining

When the weather turns cold or icy, it can be tempting to put off outdoor adventuring until the warmer season begin again. But exploring nature with your children in the wet, mud and snow is vital. Many studies show that the winter months spent indoors can impact mood negatively, and getting outside in the fresh air is a mood-booster and improves the body's energy, vitality and immune system. It also 'toughens kids up', so they are not afraid of a little bit of rain or cold.

Observing the cycle of nature through different seasons, especially how many of the plants and animals hibernate or adapt to survive harsh conditions is a fascinating aspect of nature study that shouldn't be missed!

Remember, there's no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing!

7. Don't forget about private gardens, greenhouses and estates

While nature reserves and national parks are wonderful wildernesses to explore, they can often be a considerable drive or hike away. For quicker nature trips, don't forget about botanical gardens, private estates and greenhouses in your area. Observing finely cultivated plants and topiary is a wonderful aspect of nature study, too.

Tip: When visiting a private estate or botanic garden ask at the information desk whether they have a nature or botanical guide you can use that is specific to that garden.

8. Use films and digital resources as a launch-pad to explore nature​

A subscription to National Geographic’s Little Kids magazine is an affordable starting point for the 3-5-year-old set and audiences of all ages will be mesmerised by film series like Planet Earth with its stunning visuals and insightful commentary.

Global Guardian Project’s Learning Capsules are perfect for older children needing a mix of hands-on activities and informative content.

Tip: YouTube is a great resource for nature documentaries. Check out these fantastic tips on curating a YouTube playlist for your children here.​

What are your strategies for getting your kids outside and enjoying nature? Tell us in the comments below.

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Grace Koelma

Editor

Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.

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The importance of uninterrupted play

Sometimes it can feel like we shuffle our kids from one activity to the next. What if all they really need is time for uninterrupted play?

Children playing in water happily

Words and Images by Jenny Diaz | jennydiazphotography.com

During my career as an Early Childhood Educator, I had the privilege of working at a variety of different preschools. Many were terrific schools with good reputations and what were considered to be quality programs filled with extracurriculars and an academic filled schedule. However, not long into my career, something about this didn’t sit well with me.

What about the notion of letting young children explore their environment and have the opportunity to really dedicate time to their play? What about creating an environment to foster learning through play as opposed to a morning filled with required circle times, language lessons and music classes? Often our mornings felt like we were shuffling the children from one sitting activity to the next allowing them little time to really dive into anything and concentrate on what they wanted to do. Transitioning was an art form and often the staff members were left feeling exhausted trying to meet academic milestones.

One of my childhood heroes growing up was Fred Rogers. He had an amazing outlook on the importance of play in childhood.

He said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

I strongly feel children are innate learners and need little assistance from adults in the process. You don’t have to look much further than noticing how curious young children are about their surrounding environment. Often they are opening and closing doors and drawers around the house and are more fascinated with “everyday objects” than their own toys. I think it’s not only important, but necessary to allow this curiosity to nurture itself.

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We’re so quick to want to show a child the “right way” to do something as opposed to just letting them be and work through the process on their own. I’m guilty of this myself at times. I often have to remind myself that play can be frustrating for children, but that’s okay. It's working through those frustrations that will benefit them the most.

So how do we support and encourage uninterrupted play in our kids?

Here are just a few ways of doing so:

  • Choose open-ended play materials that foster continuous play.

An easy way to figure out what types of toys are best is to think of what might be considered “classic” or “old-fashioned” toys. Choose blocks, dress-up clothes or figurines as opposed to electronic toys. When buying a toy, consider if it will foster creativity and imagination.

  • Avoid having too much background noise.

Try not to have the TV or loud music playing in the background as it may distract your child’s concentration. Instead try to opt for a quite environment or calm, soft music such as classical or instrumental.

  • Play the role of the observer as often as you can, especially when you see your child really engrossed in play.

Magda Gerber explained it best when she said, “Do less; observe more; enjoy most.” When you become the observer, you allow your child the freedom they need to try new techniques, and problem solve while playing. Perhaps the best part is you get to marvel at what your child is capable of and watch that 'lightbulb moment' as it happens.

  • Allow enough time for play.

Don't try to hurry your child or transition them while they are engaged in an activity. Whenever possible, wait until an opportunity for transition arises such as when they are finished with a toy or look up from what they are doing. Allowing a 45 minute period of uninterrupted play would be wonderful, although Dr. Maria Montessori found up to three hours is ideal.

  • Get outdoors as much as possible.

You might be wondering when you could have time to dedicate up to three full hours of pure play for your child. Spending time outdoors is perfect for this. Playgrounds, parks and walking tracks are just a few places that allow opportunity for uninterrupted play. Allow your child to explore while you sit back and observe from a safe distance. Nature provides such a sensory-rich environment for children of any age that uninterrupted play will be a breeze.

There are endless benefits to uninterrupted play, especially in the early years and many ways beyond the ones I’ve mentioned to foster it. Next time you’re tempted to step in and help or show your child something without their asking for it, stop yourself and take a step back.

Remember to try and follow their lead and observe as often as possible, because after all, as Janet Lansbury once said, “Our child’s play choices are enough… perfect, actually."

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Dana Atkinson

Jenny Diaz

Contributor

Jenny is a former Early Childhood Educator and Montessori teacher of 10 years turned photographer. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, fur baby and 1-year-old daughter. She remains passionate about child development and education in the early years, and enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible with her little one. She's on Instagram @jennydiazhomelife


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The Ultimate Guide to Gameschooling

So you know about homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling. Maybe you've heard of hackschooling or gamification... So what on earth is gameschooling? Cat Timms has the ultimate (and we mean MEGA!) guide for you AND a bonus download!

Children playing in water happily

Words and images by Cat Timms | LightHeart Photography

Gameschooling is a term whose origin cannot be traced, but it has been around for a while. It has been more recently popularised into homeschool culture by absolute legend and lovely lady, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, educational psychologist and homeschooling mama of gifted kiddos, of My Little Poppies fame, who also created the international Facebook group Gameschool Community. Her blog is a literal treasure trove and is referred to several times.

In the homeschool community, gameschooling means to use tabletop gaming (board games and card games) in an intentional way, as part of your personal homeschool culture and educational philosophy. Rather than playing games occasionally just for fun, gameschooling families see them as essential to their homeschool daily or weekly for a variety of reasons (including fun!).

Let’s talk about the why, how, what and troubleshoot some issues.

Why gameschool?

  • Games are fun. I have a few overarching personal philosophies for my life, and one of them is “If it’s not fun, why bother?”. I can see the strict homeschool mamas rolling their eyes, “But life isn’t all fun!”. No, it isn’t. But we’re adults now; we can let them be little. We can make almost anything fun, or at least add an element of fun. We make chores into games; a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, as it were. Your kid doesn’t find games fun? Read on, I have a section for you coming up.
  • Games create positive family culture. One of my main motivations for game playing now is to create a thing we all do together, that will carry through the teen years (which my husband and I both had terrible times with our parents and it scares us, lol) and into adulthood. I like to imagine 20-somethings coming home for dinner with a partner and sticking around for a game afterwards. I’ll let you know in 20 years how it worked out Read this by One Board Family too.
  • Good games exercise your brain. Puzzling over strategies, watching your opponents or team members to figure out what to do next to get to a desired goal, problem solving, logical thought processes and more.
  • Games build interpersonal skills. Graciously winning and losing, discussing ideas, contributing as or to a group, taking turns, waiting etc. are all parts of playing tabletop games which are valuable lifeskills.
  • Games will teach actual things if you so desire. I’m not that into games always being super educational, though we certainly have our fair share. There are lots of well-designed tabletop games, also called hobby games, that happen to be educational as an excellent game (and I will discuss those later) and games you can get that are designed to be educational. So, if formal learning is your thing, games have you covered.
  • Things learnt joyfully are best remembered. Not much explanation required here. It just is.

Further reading on the why of gameschooling:

How do you gameschool?

This is asked ALL THE TIME in the gameschool groups and there isn’t a simple answer to that question, because everyone homeschools differently. If you believe in teaching and curriculums, then games will supplement that and add some fun. If you unschool, then you might research games you think your kids might like, then show them the ones that fit your budget etc and see if they’re interested, and games would be the most formal thing you do, probably.

We personally are secular and eclectic here. We do very little formal work, only in English and Maths, and we do a lot of excursions (field trips), workshops, classes and play dates. I encourage my kids to be open and interested in everything. We try a lot, and what doesn’t work for us we leave but we try not to say no to things for no reason, particularly if they’re new.

This adventurous spirit carries into gaming. We’ll try any game! We play 2-4 games a day. I usually choose one for an educational purpose and the rest are child-led. They often suggest we play a game, then choose one themselves. They’re at very different gaming levels currently which is challenging, and I have a whole section for you toddler mamas coming up, don’t worry!

The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal

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Choose the time you play games carefully, particularly when learning new games.

While “Family Game Night” is great in theory, maybe it needs to be at breakfast because tired children do not the best gamers make. We do play games after dinner, but only ones the kids know really well, plus they’re experienced gamers now. We often play games around mealtimes.

Because we don’t have a schedule, I’m not super helpful here. I know that homeschool mamas who do have a school schedule do things like:

  • Have one game be a focus for the week and play it each day
  • Use a game to start or conclude a lesson, to introduce or reinforce an idea or concept
  • Use games as quizzes
  • Use games as part of a unit study
  • Use games to teach one subject (maths is exceptionally popular)
  • Play games at the start or end of their school day
  • Ask teens to teach/play kindergartners games while they work with their in-between-age kids
  • Do game afternoons particularly with other homeschool friends

In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.

What games do you play?

Oh, brother. The dreaded question. This gets posted multiple times a day in the gameschool group. The answer is “infinity times infinity, pass the coffee/wine/chocolate.” Seriously. It’s not a bad question; it’s a great question! It’s just that there are a million answers. We could be here all day. Let’s start the beginning:

  1. How old are your kids and what stages are they at? Games can be great for various types of neurodivergent kids to learn or practice things, particularly for gifted kids to flex their muscles. There is a game for EVERYTHING. Also important is their reading level as some games require independent reading.
  2. What are their interests? I would always start with games you are confident your kids will be interested in, before introducing games you want them to play.
  3. How much time, energy and money will you spend on gaming? Obviously, you may not know this until you start, so I’d start slow with some simple, basic games to see how it goes, before investing. The other side to that argument is that there are some really great games out there that the whole family will love, and if you don’t try them you may be missing out thinking you don’t like games. Ideally, you’d borrow before some you buy as these bigger games can be very expensive. I’ve set up a group for Australian homeschoolers to discuss, borrow, buy, and sell games called Gameschooling Australia.
  4. Will you and your partner/friends play? There is a high replayability on those bigger well-designed tabletop/hobby games (that are usually not overtly educational) and they’re generally more fun for the adults. You can justify buying these for more than just homeschool purposes if that is the case. We have a lot of these and the adults around here play.
  5. Are there groups for selling locally? I’m always more willing to fork out some dollars if I know I can get some back if the game really isn’t for us. I have successfully sold all the games I’ve wanted to sell so far for 25-90% of what I paid in Facebook groups.

So, I've thought about all that, now what?

I suggest joining the groups and following pages on Facebook to learn and get ideas. I’ll also link to the blogs for those not on Facebook (Don't have Facebook? HOW DO YOU LIVE?! Kidding, it is useful for groups though!).

In addition to those homeschool blogs and pages, US families are going to find Amazon VERY useful! For the rest of us, it can be expensive and they don’t always ship to us. I do buy from there occasionally though. Board Game Geek is a great website for researching on, and serious gamers keep lists there. I’m yet to venture into it but I often check there for reviews and information.

Do we just grab Monopoly and get playing?

There are so many games to choose from. I know, it’s overwhelming. I would probably just head to Target or a good games shop and pick one. I haven’t yet mentioned the dreaded M word because that is what people think of when we talk about games. We do have a copy of *whispers* Monopoly somewhere I think, but we don’t play it. Because it’s not well designed and very boring; there are no interesting choices or strategies, and its very luck based. Outraged? Sorry. Check out this YouTube to understand more.

If you love Monopoly then your mind will be blown when you play a well-designed tabletop game! Gamers often talk about “gateway games”. These are the simpler but still well-designed tabletop that use game mechanisms that the bigger games do, have a high replayability factor, and are a great way to start games culture in your family if you are looking beyond the purely educational.

Here are some of my favourite gateway games:

  • Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where each person has a role and you work together (for 5yo+).
  • Carcassonne is tile building game (for 6yo+).
  • Sushi Go is a great gateway game for card drafting (for 5yo+) and includes addition.
  • Skip-bo is a surprisingly good card game and a great intro to strategy games (for 6yo+).
  • Dragonwood is a dice and card game which includes addition (for 6yo+).

All of those games are ones that the adults here really enjoy, so won’t bore you quickly. I could list 10 more, but I’m going to leave that list there. There are a million games lists you can Google. If you’re only looking for educational games that you can slot into subject areas for your kids then check out this ultimate games list. It’s comprehensive and well laid out, and we own many of the games on it.

A list of recommended games

Games we love to play
  • Alien HotShots
  • Alphabet Bingo
  • Alphabet Go Fish
  • Busytown
  • Carcassonne Big Box
  • Chess
  • Chomp
  • Colourama
  • Connect 4
  • Dinosaur Snap
  • Dr Eureka
  • Dragonwood
  • Forbidden Island
  • Go Nuts
  • Learning Can Be Fun games x 5
  • Legendary Inventors
  • Loonacy
  • Machi Koro with expansions
  • Math Bingo
  • Math Dice
  • Mousetrap Maths
  • Oceanos
  • Orchard Toys games x 3
  • Pandemic with expansions
  • Pass the bomb Jnr
  • Rat a tat cat
  • Scrabble Jnr
  • Skip-Bo
  • Sumoku
  • Sushi Go
  • Storycubes x 5
  • Takenoko
  • Uno
  • Upwords
  • Yam Slam
  • At least 30 homemade games from various places and my own inventions
Adult games we own but don't play with kids yet
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Innovation
  • Sentinels of the multiverse
Games we've put away and don't play with yet
  • 7 Wonders Duel
  • Apples to Apples
  • Brave Rats
  • Ion
  • Link It
  • Ringz
  • Sequence
  • Ticket to Ride Europe
  • Wildcraft
Great games we've borrowed from friends
  • Catan
  • Seasons
  • Sum Swamp
  • Zeus on the loose
  • Coup
  • Love Letter
Games on my wish list
  • Alhambra
  • Castle Panic
  • Dixit
  • Hit the Habitat Trail
  • Hive Pocket
  • MMRY
  • Pandemic Legacy
  • Prime Climb
  • Splendor
  • Xtronaut

Phew, that’ll do?! That’s not an exhaustive list, either. This article explains the different types of games in a succinct way and might be useful too.

A word on age recommendations

Most games include age recommendations which is a rough guide. Game makers need to be careful; if they put the starting age too young, then they won’t be bought for older children, and if the age is too high, people will think it’s too hard. Most gameschoolers take age recommendations with A CUP of salt. My 7-year-old can play games that say 13-years-old + but he is a weak reader. If there was a big reading component he wouldn’t be able to play. He also enjoys plenty of games that I’d put in the “Early Childhood” category.

If your 8-year-old child is new to games then they will find Dragonwood challenging at first, as it’s not a luck game; it’s a strategy game with interesting choices. But my 4-year-old can play with assistance because she’s been playing games since she was a toddler.

For Australian families!

A little section just for us Aussies. G’day, mates! (sorry, that’s for the rest of the world who think we talk like that, lol).

1. I have yet to find an Australian gameschooler who blogs about gameschooling so that’s why there isn’t one listed here. If you are one, then yay! Let us know. People keep saying I should start one but I have two part time jobs already so I just can’t. You can always find me on IG at @ahumanattempt and in Gameschooling Australia.

2. It’s really difficult to find games about Australia that aren’t caricatures of Australia, and sometimes a bit racist in my opinion. They seem designed for the tourist rather than Australians. If you know of one, PLEASE let us know! There are a few printables floating about, none of which are great, so making my own game about the Australian states is on my to do list. It’s listed right after “Learn about the Australian states.”

3. There are some great Aussie sites to know about, and support if you can! If you have more to add to this list, let us know!

What's the difference between gamification and game-based learning?

This one's for the nerds like me! Well, in a nutshell, gamification means applying game principles to something (for example, turning a maths sheet into a game) and game-based learning, means using a game that already exists to learn something (like the game Sushi Go to practice addition). Both ideas are useful in homeschooling, but that’s an article on its own! For further reading I suggest:

Many of these articles refer to online or digital gaming which has evolved from tabletop gaming. All of these, and the ‘why’ list, should be great fodder for anyone who wants to argue against game playing, or allocating funds to buy games

Common questions

“I’ve checked out the lists and blogs and now there are 3 games that I want. How do you narrow it down?”

Particularly when you’re on a budget, this can be important. What I do is search the game title and read what I find in the following places:

  1. the My Little Poppies blog
  2. the Gameschool Community Facebook group, and if I don’t find a post, I post on the wall. (This is why it’s really important to put your game titles in your posts in groups!)
  3. other Facebook games groups.
  4. Board Game Geek.
  5. Geek Dad.
  6. YouTube and watch reviews and play throughs.
  7. Read reviews on Amazon. I put this last because in Australia it’s often not cost effective to buy from there.

After all that, I will have an idea whether I think we’ll like it or not. Yeah, it takes some time, but all research does! I’m looking for interesting choices and replayability here, but if you’re looking for something purely educational then it should be simpler to figure out whether it will help with the thing you need. I only buy those types of games if I really need them, and think I can resell them; I am far more likely to find a free printable or make up my own.

“My partner doesn’t want me to spend money on games.”

Send them this article; there is a TONNE of good info linked here. This is a commonly asked problem by mamas in homeschool groups. In my house, if one partner doesn’t want to do the reading and learn about the issue to then have an informed discussion, then the other gets to go ahead using their best judgement. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that means trusting each other too. I am not going to learn about looking after the cars, so hubs just does what he thinks is best there. He is not going to get highly educated about homeschooling, so I’m boss of that. I make a lot of games, and only buy ones I think we’ll really love. I also sell games as I need too, to fund new ones.

“Seriously though, we are on a tight budget.”

Honestly, most homeschoolers are. Everyone’s version of tight is different, and everyone’s priorities are different. We too are on a tight-ish budget. We don’t spend any money at all on curriculums (ever) so I spend on books, games, workshops, classes instead. Tabletop games are not just a homeschool thing; they contribute to family culture too. So if you occasionally have a family day or meal out or trip to the movies, you can consider a good tabletop game in the same category but it’s reusable, and you should be able to sell it for around half what you paid when the time comes. Here are some other ideas:

  • Buy secondhand. I buy most of our games secondhand and I get good deals this way.
    • Facebook groups. I buy mostly in Facebook groups, occasionally from other local secondhand sites. You just need to keep your eye out, and also put up “want to buy” posts as sometimes people are thinking about selling a game but can’t be bothered, but if they can quickly PM you and get it done hassle-free, it’s a win-win.
    • Op shop/thrift stores/goodwill. You rarely find the better tabletop games at these places here in Australia (though the US mamas seem too all the time!) but you will find lots of staple games like Scrabble, and card games. I will buy very cheap games with some good pieces for reusing.
  • Buy when you see it. If you see a game you want on sale or secondhand, buy it if it’s good price, even if it’s a stretch. I put them away so then I’m not looking at paying full price come Christmas and birthdays or when I want a game to teach something in particular. I currently have 15 games in the cupboard for the future, lol.
  • Give them as gifts. Each birthday each one of us gets a game, preferably one we’ll enjoy (so I can justify that expense) and then at Christmas we get a couple. That means we’re getting 6-8 games through the year because we all love games in addition to ones I make.
  • Get some gameschool friends. I’ve introduced several local friends to gameschooling, mainly by lending them games, and they’ve soon bought their own, and so we’ve been able to swap games with them. I won’t buy games they have unless we can’t live without it (hasn’t happened yet!).
  • Buy copies. On Ebay there are many stores that sell copies of popular games. They’re not the legit version, and so the original gamemakers aren’t getting their dues (which is one of the reasons I don’t buy them) but you can buy copies of games very cheap and they tend to be OK quality and complete sets etc, most of the time, but not always, bear in mind.
  • Make your own! Homeschoolers tend to be crafty and resourceful. Read on.

“I want to make my own games. Help.”

You can make your own games very cheaply, and indeed I make TONNES of them. You can buy books that have things to photocopy and make, or get free printables from all over the internet. You can attempt to replicate popular games, particularly using game pieces and boards from games you’ve bought cheaply secondhand (this is where op shops/goodwill are handy). Remember that challenging your kids to make their own game is a great activity too.

There are links all over the place here – this is an ULTIMATE guide after all – so read back but here is yet another collection of links to get you started:

“My kid doesn’t find games fun. We have meltdowns over rules/winning/losing. It just won’t work for us.”

Ah, yes. I understand. I know a few kids including my nephew and son who have worked through game rage. I’d argue that these children may need to play games more than anyone else! Games are a great way to learn to handle and reframe ‘failure’, practice gracious winning and losing, handling disappointment, trying again etc. Not all things will work for all families, and you may want to use a few of these ideas in concert, but here are some things to consider:

  • Play cooperatively. This is my number one tip. Play cooperative games where you all work as a team. Forbidden Island, Pandemic and Wildcraft are all popular here, and Caitlin has this post with a huge list to help you. They’ll still be disappointed, but it’s a lot less than if they weren’t on a team.
  • Change the rules. Linked to playing cooperatively is: change the rules to suit. Games aren’t games if there aren’t some rules, but you can make them suit your family situation. Make it cooperative, quicker, lighter, less disappointing, whatever. You can build back up to regular rules later.
  • Choose quicker, lighter games. The less time your child has been sitting, the smaller the outburst is likely to be (just based on contained energy). The less energy they have put into trying to win, the less upset they’ll feel, hopefully. Think Uno, Bingo games, Go Fish.
  • Try strategy games. Maybe your child needs to feel more control so rather than luck based games, where you solely rely on the cards you pick up or dice you rolled, try games where they can work towards something. What you choose will depend on your child’s age. Think Connect 4, Carcassonne for older kids, and many others.
  • Play 2 player games. Try 2 player games where just a safe adult and your child play. Losing to just a trusted adult (maybe Grandma?) rather than siblings as well may help too.
  • Let them win sometimes! This is a bone of contention in the gameschool community; to win or not to win?! But as an adult who loves playing games, when my husband or friends constantly smash me at a game, it makes me want to play it a lot less. It’s boring and not fun. Let them win sometimes.
  • Model gracious winning, losing and game play. This should go without saying, but I have seen posts in groups about playing games with adults who have had tantrums in front of children. Oh my. Do not play with any adults that can’t be adult, lol! By all means express yourself, but only in a way you’d be happy for your children to do also. Monkey see, monkey do.
  • Discuss unpleasantness later. Game didn’t go well? Let them express themselves, empathise, and let it go. Lecturing or saying “It’s just a game!” won’t actually help when they’re feeling upset and disappointed, in fact they won’t feel heard. Later on, when they’re calm and have experienced success at something else they like, you can come back to what happened at the game and discuss it as appropriate to your family. Punishing game behaviour will only lead to not wanting to play at all so avoid that at all costs.
  • Try single player games. There are tonnes of single player games. Maybe your child would benefit from working through some things by themselves? Try ThinkFun Maze games, Perplex us, Caboodle, or Chicken Shuffle.
  • Let them create their own game. If they design a game, even just using some cards, counters, dice etc and teach it to you, and have to uphold the rules and game play themselves because they’re in charge, perhaps this will give them the control they need to handle the ups and downs of gaming.
  • Make them Game Master. In a similar vein, try giving them the responsibility for the setup, pack up and running the game. Not that they do it all themselves, but they’re in charge of everyone. Your children may need to take turns at this if it causes friction.
  • Play open. When we learn a game for the first time, we always play open. That means that rather than keeping our cards or whatever to ourselves, we play so everyone can see what everyone has, is doing, and why. Knowing how to play a game better may help with those big feelings.
  • Choose your time carefully. Maybe family game night needs to be family game morning? Tiredness is not going to help games go well. We do the majority of our family game playing before bedtime because we have a fairly traditional work schedule here, but if you can play when everyone is fresh, that may help.
  • Don’t finish. I can hear the gasps, but it’s ok to not finish! Try playing games but without completing them. Start a game when you don’t have time to finish. Enjoy playing, then pack it up and put it away. The fun and learning has happened, without the trauma of the ending. You can of course build up to finishing later.
  • Work on self-regulation. Emotional regulation is not something you can teach necessarily, but it is something you can practice. Of course, you need to model it, and don’t worry, we all lose it sometimes, but the more you model it, the better they will do at it. Also try some of these ideas from PBS, or these ideas from The Inspired Tree House.
  • Growth mindset. Remove the focus from winning and losing all the time. This may not work for competitive kids who are just naturally that way, but focus on the fact that life is a journey, and failure is a construct that really means nothing other than “This one time it didn’t work so we need to try again.”. We are Big Life Journal fans here, and have one of the posters on the fridge.
  • Leave it. And of course, games aren’t for everyone all the time. If you’ve tried on and off for a few weeks, and worked on all these things and it still isn’t going well, then leave it for a while (a season, a year) and try again. Maybe your kid just isn’t going to be a game person? I’ll be honest and say I’m really sceptical about this – I feel like anyone who says they don’t like games just haven’t played the right ones - but anything is possible, of course.

“My kids fight. We can’t play games together.”

Yeah this is a hard one! Caitlin has written a brilliant article at My Little Poppies that I cannot improve upon. She has a list of great ideas, and one I will emphasize is snacks. Lol! Seriously though. Eating a clean food (like plain popcorn, because you don’t want to get your game pieces super dirty) while playing is a great way to keep a game moving along and everyone calm. Read her entire article here. I’ll also add that we regularly play games 1:1 here. Like at least once a week with each child.

“I have a toddler who can’t play but wants to, and ends up wrecking the game in their earnest efforts.”

Mmm, also tricky! I have a few suggestions for this one that have worked here. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to play at nap time, but that isn’t always possible, particularly if mama is pinned under said toddler!

  • Snacks. Seriously, just snacks.
  • Play in teams. Toddler can sit on your lap and hold your cards/roll your dice and be on your team.
  • Give Toddler their own game pieces to play with alongside, or even on the board if they can be careful with the pieces that are part of the game.
  • Let them “play along” even if they’re not playing properly. Let them go through the motions. This requires some patience from your older kid/s and a relatively calm toddler.
  • Play two games at once. I have sat playing a big kids game on one side, and a little kids game on the other, lol. Have your coffee/wine handy.
  • Set up Toddler up with their own activity next to you. Chloe is often happy to draw or paint or play right next to us as long as she feels included.
  • Make them Game Master. Sit them up on top the table (yep!) and let them hand out the cards or roll the dice. This was our main strategy for months and worked well. Obviously, it won’t work for all kids!
  • Screen time. I know this will go against some belief systems, but setting Toddler up with a screen to get some 1:1 time with another kid might be your answer for a while. It’s only a season.
  • Game night. Play when Toddler is in bed for the evening. Less than ideal as we’ve already talked about how this won’t work for some kids if they’re too tired.
  • Play when someone else is around. Get together with a friend, and one of you play a game with the older kids, while one plays with the younger kids. Or wait until Grandma comes for a visit or your partner is available obviously.
  • Take turns to play. Older toddlers might be able to understand waiting their turn for their own game. There are heaps of actually good toddler games to consider. Colourama and Busytown are two that come to mind.
  • Snacks. Did I mention snacks?

Honestly, game playing with small kids around, particularly if you have a couple of them is not going to be easy, so only attempt when you have some patience available. You may decide to wait until everyone is older, and that’s ok, too. Chloe used to grab and throw all the pieces and think she was hilarious, *all the eyerolls*. We just waited her out and now it’s great. It’s a short season, mama, hang in there.

The last word

I trust you’re thoroughly overwhelmed and now have hours of reading ahead to check out all those links. If there is something I haven’t covered here, then please let us know. Have any other suggestion, comment, game recommendation, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

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The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal

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The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal
Cat Timms

Cat Timms

Contributor

Cat is an Australian homeschool mama to 2, Early Childhood Teacher, photographer, and game lover. Cat is passionate about play and uncomplicating home education. She's on Instagram @ahumanattempt and @lightheartphotog.

To my child: the only things you ‘can’t do’

Most kids go through a phase of thinking they "can't do" something. Here's a beautiful letter a father wrote to his son about saying "I can't."

Children playing in water happily

By Eric Koelma | Co-Founder of The Mulberry Journal

You can't believe one thing and do another thing and be authentic.

You can't stay where you are and go where you want to go.

You can't make a stand if you're sitting in a corner.

You can't swim against the tide if you're not willing to swim.

You can't blame everyone else if you're not first willing to look at yourself objectively.

You can't expect change to be as easy to deal with as the status quo.

You can't achieve great things if what you're focusing on is what you're diminishing (i.e "I'm going to lose 5kg" is never as good as "I'm going to fit into X and feel more confident").

You can't just want it. You need to be willing to work on it every day. One day pushing forward 50% is much harder to maintain than 50 days pushing forward 1% (and the latter is compound).

You can't expect success if you spend every night watching TV.

You can't give others advice if you're not willing to live out that same advice.

You can't win an argument. You either lose, or you win and then you lose them.

You can't please everyone.

You can't be responsible for change in the weeks of you only ever follow instructions. You've got to create.

You can't skip the life lesson on delayed gratification.

You can't be someone you're not.

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Eric Koelma

Co-Founder of Mulberry

Eric is the dark horse behind Grace's passion for bringing homeschooling communities together. He matches his wife's creative enthusiasm with the underpinning structure of business and digital strategy: he's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)

To homeschool or not: A mother shares her decision-making process

Taking the leap into homeschooling is a decision that may take months or years, but sometimes happens in an instant. So how do you know whether it's right for your family? A UK based mother of two shares her thought process.

Children playing in water happily

By Sophie Copeman

The decisions that we make will shape the futures of our children. This is not a new concept, but for me it is a profound one. On a daily basis we are making decisions; simple decisions such as what they will have for dinner, where shall we go today, who shall we meet... and bigger decisions such as child-rearing techniques, childcare providers and where they will be educated.

So what do people consider when it comes to education? For some this is about location, school quality, necessity. For others this is about exactly how their children will be educated and whom will do it; and this is me, this is where I am at.

My twin daughters are almost 3, so in the coming year my husband and I have a big decision to make, a decision that will affect our children for years to come and quite possibly the rest of their lives. I have lots of questions to ask and only the beginnings of answers.

Why would I choose NOT to put my children in mainstream education?

There are lots of valid arguments for not putting my children into mainstream education, but for me it boils down to these factors right now: 

  • the traditional educational model does not cater well for the individual
  • the UK's schooling system is largely geared towards exams, grades and targets
  •  each pupil is held up against their peers based on how they perform on standardised tests
  • teaching is reliant on external motivation as opposed to internal motivation
  • schools are hothouses of peer pressure, bullying and, in my opinion, unrealistic social interactions

Though I guess if I am 100% honest about my hesitation to put my daughters into mainstream education it comes down to one word: freedom.

Why is freedom so important?

Freedom refers to freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom to allow a child space to develop in a supportive environment, freedom to learn outside all day if the sun is shining not just go out between the lunch break bells, freedom to have an input into what and how they learn each day so that they feel empowered as individuals, and the freedom to take them places we couldn’t go to if we were restricted to term time.

Freedom, or the lack thereof is what puts me off mainstream education.

So where to go from here?

My husband is open-minded but also a traditionalist, so for him, the default decision is already made - he wants the girls to go to a mainstream school. So not only do I need to decide what route I want for the girls, if I decide I want to homeschool them I also have to put together a well-reasoned case to convince him that homeschooling is the better option for us.

Of course, I have doubts

On any given day hundreds of questions churn through my mind. Thoughts like:

  • 'Can I homeschool in a mid-terrace in the centre of a town?' (the picture in my head of homeschooling is in the countryside with acres of space around you)
  • 'Am I good enough to teach?'
  • 'Can I handle what other people will say about my choice?'
  • 'What if I miss out something important?'
  • 'What if deciding to homeschool them will be detrimental to them in the future?' 
  • 'What if they would not just survive at school but thrive?'
  • 'What if I am letting an overly negative view of school cloud my judgment?'
  • 'What if I just haven’t got the energy and intellect to keep them stimulated and engaged?'

These are some BIG questions that I need to answer.

How to find the answers

- My first step is going to be talking to homeschooling parents and their children and to adults who were homeschooled. Luckily enough I already know parents whom are homeschooling their 8-year-old, and a young woman who was homeschooled, went on to a top UK university and is now training to be a lawyer, so I’ve arranged to meet up with them to discuss their experiences.

- I’ve contacted a local homeschooling group to see if I can go to one of their weekly meetups and plan to contact more so that I can get an accurate idea from as many people as possible about the realities of homeschooling. I’m hoping those conversations will allay some of my fears and answers some of my questions.

- I’ve begun to look up the logistics of how to homeschool. For example, I’ve read through my local council's guidelines on home education and the laws around it, I’ve begun looking into homeschool resources, using websites such as www.educationotherwise.org for information and support.

- I’ve started calculating whether or not we can afford not only to provide resources but for me to continue only working part-time whilst homeschooling.

So that’s it, I have a plan, I have a way to find the answers and I have a belief and hope that freedom of education will be at the end of my search.

Jenny Diaz

Sophie Copeman

Contributor

Sophie is 32, lives on the coast in the South West of England with her husband and twin two-year-old daughters. She is a full time mum but also works part-time from home for a sea kayaking company. Undoubtedly her biggest passion is her children but she also loves the outdoors, gardening, crafts, photography and adventure. Sophie and her husband raise their daughters in an attachment parenting style, sharing on Instagram @life.as.a.twin.mum

4 ways to raise a young change-maker

Raising our kids to care deeply and passionately about the health and long-term sustainability of our planet should be one of our top priorities as parents.

Image by Coleen Hodges

By Rebecca Lane | globalguardianproject.com

Every single one of us can do something to make a difference. And collectively, we can change the world.

We all have a unique role to play in the journey towards sustainability and environmental stewardship. While climate change, pollution, and threats to biodiversity can feel like overwhelming problems, the reality is that small changes add up to seismic shifts. We all affect change in our own orbits, and parents are in a unique role to facilitate understanding that will lead to compassion and then to action.

Here are four ways to spark a flame in your young change-maker:

1. Reading and watching films are fundamental.

Young children will delight in and grow to care for animals, plants, and the natural world through video and text.

A subscription to National Geographic’s Little Kids magazine is an affordable starting point for the 3-5-year-old set and audiences of all ages will be mesmerised by film series like Planet Earth with its stunning visuals and insightful commentary.

Global Guardian Project’s Learning Capsules are perfect for older children needing a mix of hands-on activities and informative content. And right now you can get 10% off anything in store at Global Guardian Project by using our code MULBERRY at checkout

2. Press reset by spending time in nature on a regular basis.

The Japanese have this concept worked out — forest bathing is a national pastime with no goal other than reaping the health benefits of quiet contemplation among trees! Not only is this a positive model for stress relief, it's also a great opportunity for the whole family to learn the names and characteristics of local plants, trees, and flowers.

3. Adopt a cause as a family.

Whether you’re passionate about conserving grasslands, fostering an orphaned elephant, or protecting the grey wolf, the whole family can decide together on a cause to support. Trade the consumption of a typical birthday party by giving up your birthday for charity, help the kids with seasonal fundraising events like a lemonade stand, and discuss news from your chosen charity as part of your regular dinner time conversation.

4. Make advocacy part of your life and stand up for sustainability when it's under political threat.

Even young children will be happy to colour a postcard that can be sent to your members of congress. Older kids can write their own letters to government officials or to the local newspaper editor. Sign up for advocacy alerts about causes you care about and teach teens to use apps like Resistbot which will convert text messages into faxes sent automatically to your government officials.

We all know that we need to take better care of the Earth and better care of each other. We know we should be empowering our children so they can change the world for the better. Resources like the Global Guardian Project can be a platform for parents, caregivers and educators to teach children just that.

Want a FREE Ocean Conservation capsule?

Rebecca is kindly giving away this Ocean Conservation capsule from Global Guardian Project to anyone who reads this article. Pretty awesome, hey! Want to claim yours?

And if you choose to purchase form the Global Guardian Project store, don't forget to use our code MULBERRY to get 10% off anything in the Global Guardian Project store.

Jenny Diaz

Rebecca Lane

Contributor

Rebecca Lane is the founder of Global Guardian Project, and an artist and social entrepreneur whose passion for global education has sparked each of her art brand creations, all focused on environmental and social responsibility. A gypsy at heart, she created Global Guardian Project as a way to educate her children first hand, and to offer her family’s experience to parents who are raising their own earth warriors.
Instagram - @globalguardianproject

*This post contains affiliate links. We only ever recommend products we 100% back and at absolutely no extra cost to you (in fact, you get a discount here). Supporting us by using our affiliate discount code when you purchase helps us keep a free service like The Mulberry Journal running. Thanks for your support! 🙂

Sometimes we need a reminder to say ‘yes’ to messy play

Mess is a part of parenthood. Not just the toys and books on the floor. We're talking the wet, grass and mud stained variety of mess. So how do you cope when you're a neat freak mum? (We know you're out there!)

boy splashing in puddle

By Jessica Welsh

Let’s face it, life with little ones is downright messy. Aside from the obvious mess of that first year there’s the ongoing mess during mealtimes, the mess of sick days and toilet training, and -what I really want to talk about- the mess of play.

Now, I’m not referring to the toys and books scattered in the lounge room at the end of the day, that’s par for the course. No, I’m talking about the wet, grass and dirt stained children that have somehow lost half their clothes outside and are now standing on your (no longer) clean carpet asking you for a snack.

Surely, I’m not the only one who has heart palpitations at the mere thought of this? I’m getting much better though, and here’s why.

When the work of motherhood becomes a distraction…

Earlier this year we had on and off rain for two weeks. I counted one sunny day amongst it which meant for two weeks everything felt especially damp and muddy. I’m all for letting children play outside and get dirty but to have to clean muddy children every day for two weeks, and a few times a day at that? I was going batty!

My efforts to stay on top of the mess (mud-caked children included) were in vain. No sooner would I bathe my children, Leo and Phoebe, then they would be at the door begging to go outside again. My days were looking very ordinary and I resented it.

The turning point came one morning when I was, yet again, sweeping dried mud and leaves back outside. Leo appeared out of nowhere, presenting his toy car to me dripping in mud. To my shame, I didn’t enjoy his wide smile and bright eyes, but instead cried out, “Move, I’ve just swept here! Stay out!” Then, as if on cue, Phoebe walked around the corner covered head to toe in mud. She was quite the picture and just as tickled pink about it as her big brother. I could no longer keep a straight face.

My children were clearly having a great time but up until then I hadn’t been. In that moment, I was forced to face the larger problem – myself. I was allowing the repetitiveness of my day and the constant mess to distract me from what was really going on – the makings of a happy childhood.

It was a little shocking to realise all my grumbling about Leo and Phoebe playing in the mud was about myself. I was being drawn out of my comfort zone (rainy days signify happy hours reading with endless cups of tea, not going outside!) and kept digging my heels in at every turn. I began to wonder what Leo and Phoebe would remember about these rainy days as they lay in bed, eyes heavy with sleep. Would all my fussing cast a shadow on their memories? I hoped I wasn’t too late to set things right.

Remember the joy of motherhood and start again

I put the broom down and followed Leo and Phoebe outside. I let them put mud on my feet and they laughed at my obvious discomfort. I watched them relish the feeling of mud oozing between their fingers and running down their arms. Sure, it was messy and not at all my idea of fun but here was an opportunity to enjoy my children in all the unbridled mess of their childhood. I was not going to waste another minute fretting about the state of the house. For the remainder of those two weeks I turned a blind eye to the mess and instead, saw the delightfully messy and joyous children before me.

Now I don’t even bother asking Leo and Phoebe if they want to watch a movie when we see the clouds roll in. I know what they’ll want to do. Sit at the window and watch as the rain falls then, when the temptation to jump in puddles and make mud pies is too much to bear, race outside to get as messy as can be, sans clothes if possible. Instead of cringing, I fetch my camera and follow them because these are their days and their delights. I am simply fortunate enough to bear witness and draw the warm bath for later.

So Say Yes!

Since those two weeks I have found myself saying yes to messy play more often. I’ve also wised up; suggesting we save jumping in the mud for before bath time, that we finger paint in the bath tub (and clean it after), that we build bed forts before stripping the sheets for a wash. Little things like that have made for an easier clean-up which has allowed me to fully enjoy the play as it happens, whether I’m participating or not.

While I still sigh heavily at the chaos that surrounds me, I am getting better at looking past it. It’s what Leo and Phoebe have been doing all along and I’m finally catching up.

Do you struggle with embracing truly messy play? How do you find a balance between wrecked carpet/curtains and children who are happily using their all their senses to discover? Tell us in the comments below.

Want to save for later? Share to Pinterest.

Jessica Welsh

Jessica Welsh

Contributor

Jess lives with her husband, Joel, and children, Leo and Phoebe in Gympie, Queensland. She spends her days doing her best to soak up these early years at home with her little ones but can sometimes be found enjoying a moment's quiet with a cup of tea she prefers not to share. She's on Instagram @themakingofdays

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