Category Archives for Family life

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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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

This is probably our longest post ever (!!), so if you want to grab a copy to keep and refer back to, Cat Timms has kindly offered a free eBook download for Mulberry readers. Yeah, she's pretty awesome 😉 Thanks Cat! Pop in your email below and we'll send it over to you.

Note: There are no Amazon affiliate links here, just tonnes of resources, so click away. When you click through to some blog there will be some affiliate links. Using them is a way to help support your favourite bloggers.

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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.

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.

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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

‘What I did when my kids asked to go to school’

For children who are homeschooled from age 5, there will be a natural curiosity in what goes on at school. Here's how one mother handled it when her kids asked if they could try a mainstream school.

Kids looking out window India

By Ally Blase

Our tribe

Hey friends! I'm Ally, wife to Jeremy and mama to three great kids! As a family, we decided to homeschool the year our eldest was due to start prep. Our decision was based both on the lifestyle we preferred, and the fact that we thought our little girl was way too small to be at school! It turned out to be a pretty great decision! We loved the freedom that homeschooling gave us, and when we launched a charity based in South Asia in 2013, the fact that we could leave Australia whenever we needed was a definite bonus.

We travel often, spending months at a time living in Asia, our kids doing school work in mega cities, Starbucks, high rise apartments and dusty rural villages. They have shopped in chaotic markets, pumped water from wells, eaten strange food and been chased by monkeys! Kids learn so much from travelling and experiencing life in other cultures, and I felt as though we were creating an amazing life of learning for our kids.

And then they asked to go to school...

We had arrived home after four months overseas, and our eldest wrote us a letter outlining her reasons for wanting to try school. They seemed well thought out and consisted of things like “learning alongside other kids”, “making school friends” and “seeing what it's like to be taught by a teacher.” At first, we resisted, thinking that she may change her mind. The problem was, she didn’t.

One thing I have always loved about homeschooling is that education can be personalised, children can follow interests and exert control over what and how they learn. As our daughter continued to ask, and now our son too, we began to see that maybe by letting them try school it was perhaps just an extension of that personalised education.

Eventually, we concluded that going to school for a season did not completely detract from the homeschooling path we had chosen, it was just another part of life to experience.

Finding the right school

I had no idea where to look, I had never looked for a school before and all I knew was that I did not want to send them to our local school. In fact, I had a long list of things I didn't want in a school which made the decision that much harder! How do you find the right school for your kid, when you're convinced that home is so much better?

We called a few schools, most expressing a lot of disdain over the fact that our kids had never been to ‘real’ school before. Their immediate response was that our kids would need a lot of testing before they would be accepted or placed in a grade, and that was not what I wanted their school experience to be like. Eventually, we found a gorgeous little school with 50 kids located 30 minutes away from our home. The staff there were amazing and so welcoming. In contrast, they didn't want to place endless tests on our kids but wanted to come alongside them and support them in their new journey.

Our year-long experience at school

Our kids really enjoyed their 12 months at school. For all the backlash homeschoolers get over socialisation and keeping up academically, our kids managed to slip into school life well. They weren't behind academically and really enjoyed the social side of school. Sport, book week, art classes and peer group learning actives were some of their highlights, and they leave school now with wonderful memories and some great little friends!

Like all things though, there were some things we didn't enjoy. From our parent perspective, our kids were always tired. Our youngest, Tillie, started Kindy at the beginning of this year and has been emotional ever since. We often felt like we only saw them when they were completely exhausted. We were rushing out the door first thing in the morning, grabbing bags, lunches and trying not to be late, and then rushing around in the evenings with homework, dinner, and bedtime. Weekends were our only down time, and while that may be the norm in most households, I missed the slow mornings and quality time together that homeschooling gave us.

As the months at school went by, our kids started telling us that they missed being able to learn about the things they were interested in. They would often be working away at something they loved but had to put it away to start a new subject.

They began to notice the restriction of a school timetable and having to work around a classroom of other kids. As these conversations about what they missed continued, and our family made plans to travel more full-time we decided to finish this season at school and begin homeschooling again.

Looking back, I'm glad our kids wanted to try school, that experience has boosted their confidence, stretched their social skills and given them an understanding of what other kids do each day. It also gave me 12 months to concentrate on my work, and have uninterrupted coffee dates, which I must admit, has been pretty awesome!

The next step in our journey...

As we now walk into our next season, homeschooling and travel, I know our kids are excited to be back in control of their learning. They have a list of things they want to learn, and are eagerly anticipating spending more time in other cultures, perfecting their foreign language skills and in the words of my ten-year-old: ‘living the dream.'

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Homeschool mum: 'my kids asked to go to school'
Jenny Diaz

Ally Blase

Contributor

Ally is the director of Sparrow International and a homeschooling mama to three. Ally, her husband and children have the privilege of traveling a lot and love being able to work and do school in many exciting places! Some of her favourite things include adventuring with her family, good books, long walks on the beach and blank journals.

‘The Vast Unknown: Worldschooling our family of five’

When Daphne suggested to her husband that they pack up their lives, sell their house and take their kids on a daring worldschooling adventure, his response was remarkable.

Children playing in water happily

By Daphne Earley | dearleybeloved.com

One morning, early in the beginning of 2016, I woke up, turned over to my husband, Matthew, who was already half-awake and said, “Last night, I had a dream and I am certain that dream meant that we should sell our house and travel.”

He looked at me through half-lidded eyes, weighing the seriousness of my words and, after only a moment’s pause, said, “I think that makes more sense for us right now than anything else.”

This is how we have always done things in our household. There have never been grand gestures or elaborate, carefully coordinated and meticulously planned events. After several years of being together, one morning he looked at me, bright-eyed and excited, and asked, “Do you want to get married?” I didn’t say anything. I just kissed him. And just like that, we were a family.

We have always ridden the wave of inspiration when it hit us and when it felt right – so, the fact that in that instant, we decided to sell what we once thought would be our forever home and leave for exotic destinations, was just us, being ourselves.

The Philippines

We put our house on the market and left it in the hands of Fate and our realtors, packed our three children who at the time were ages 7, 5, and 8 months and headed to the Philippines. I’ll never forget the first morning we woke up at 4am Philippine time, stepped out into the balcony of our room, and heard a rooster crowing, welcoming us into our new reality. Matthew and I sat out there, in silence and awe of what we had done, and watched the sun slowly unveil the glittering sea.

Our children woke up, joining us one by one, and we saw fishermen in the early dawn, checking their nets, wondering what treasures the ocean had brought them.

We found ourselves laughing at the thought that we were not unlike them, casting our lives into the vast unknown, not quite certain what lay waiting when we pull ourselves back in.

It was in the Philippines where my 7-year-old, Aleksander, experienced heartbreak. We visited a beautiful church, filled with filigreed statues of saints with the priest himself wearing an ornately gilded attire. Upon seeing this, Aleksander began to cry profusely, sobbing, and was completely inconsolable. Matthew and I were at a loss as to exactly what was going on.

We sat in silence on one of the pews, waiting for the crying to subside. When the tears finally stopped, Aleksander took a deep breath and said, “Why is the church so rich, but there are so many poor people out there?” And with that, he was lost in tears again. We said nothing – we just held him.

I felt an immense sense of guilt. Had we, on a selfish whim, ripped our children from the comforts of normalcy and predictability only to show them the ugly side of the world? Children Aleksander's own age back in the United States were currently in school, innocently going about their day, unburdened by the problems of the world.

And here we were, blindly leading our children, right into the heart of it. But, as it turns out, children have this incredible sense of understanding that an experience, even negative ones, aren’t meant to darken our view of the world.

Experiences serve as our inner mirror, bringing to surface the most sacred parts of us that need reflecting on.

“Who do you think is happier? The guy with lots of money but is alone or the guy who has no money but has a fun family?” Aleksander asked not long after.

Singapore

In Singapore, our 8-month-old daughter, Kennedy, decided to claim her right in the world and walked. Actually, she stood up, screamed both in delight and fear, and ran.

Singapore, with its impeccably dressed men and women and equally pristine architecture, showed us the incredibly kinetic force that is money, when it's dispersed in the world rather than being hoarded and sitting idly in a bank account. There is an affirmation that I love, and it goes along the lines of, “Every dollar I spend enriches the Universe and returns to me manifold.”

Bali

Bali, Indonesia is where destiny caught up to us. Unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, we chose a hotel that was situated right next to a Balinese temple. It also just so happened that during our stay, the monks at the temple were preparing for a full moon festival.

At night, we would hear the rhythmic hum of crickets mingled with the hushed voices of the monks chanting their prayers, pleading yet grateful, ushering any soul who would listen, into the welcoming dawn. We knew, with certainty, we were meant to be there. And, we also knew it was time to head back.

Humans have a tragically comical way of doing things. We sit in a classroom for years, learning about all the different places in the world and the myriad of people who live in it, while only a few of us will actually ever go and see those places and even fewer of us still who will actually say hello and meet the people who live in them.

Let me teach you, my sweet girl, so that one day, you may live what I teach, and love this world as much as I love you.

A post shared by DearleyBeloved (@dearleybeloved) on

Many of us will get up every morning, go through our day-to-day routines - sit in our cubicles, sit in traffic, sit in front of the TV - and call that living. Until one day, an opportunity knocks, your spouse turns to you and says, let’s do something different and try something new. You muster the courage to say yes and, suddenly, your whole life changes and nothing is ever the same.

Canada

When we returned to the US, we did what any student of the unknown would do – we bought a pop-up camper and drove 11,000 miles across the country and into parts of Canada. Our house in New Jersey did sell. But that isn’t where our story ends.

We are not a religious family, but when we were hiking in Sedona, Arizona, my 5-year-old, Gavin, in a moment of divine imagination said, “When we are born, we each take a piece of God’s soul and keep It always with us.” Perhaps he is not so far from the truth.

For when we travel, we each carry the experience of every place we’ve gone to with us, so that when we return, the place we call home suddenly resembles the world.

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This family's motivation for worldschooling is just as remarkable as what they learned.
Jenny Diaz

Daphne Earley

Contributor

Daphne is a wife and homeschooling mom of three who has a passion for taking photos and telling stories about her adventures with her family. She loves to find magic and wonder in the everyday and is grateful for the chance to share it with others. She blogs at dearleybeloved.com and is on Instagram @dearleybeloved

A day (or two) in the life of a FIFO wife and homeschooling mama

Join FIFO wife and new homeschooling mum of three, Megan, as she shares a typical day in the life of a deschooling family.

Day in the life of a FIFO homeschool mum

By Megan Ngatai 

We are the Ngatais’. Our family consists of my husband Dylan, a FIFO (fly in fly out) worker; one STAH-ish mum (me!); our 7-year-old Leon, 22-month-old, Mya and 7-month-old, Kendrick. We have ventured into our first year of homeschooling after three years in mainstream, with little preparation but a lot of trust. We’re still in the deschooling process with minimal expectations on ourselves. We love the outdoors and seeking the fresh air.

Day One

Today we ventured out to the beach to take full advantage of our glorious autumn weather. Once we arrive, the kids play. Leon’s running up and down the sand dunes, Mya’s exploring the textures of the sand and seaweed and Kendrick’s feeding in my arms. Dylan is home from work and we’re catching up with friends. Leon spotted some sea snails and abalone on the rocks. We even found a jumping spot but took note of the ‘slippery when wet’ sign, observed the power of the waves crashing onto the concrete and decided to stay on the sand.

We then joined our friends for a juice. Leon sat and played Pokémon with one of them. Honestly, I don’t get Pokémon, but I have to give it some credit - he will happily add up the numbers which are in the tens and hundreds, yet when I sit down with him and ask him the same, I’m met with frustration and ‘I don’t know’. So I guess it’s good for something.

Playing Pokémon can be a great maths exercise

Afterwards, we head home to let the babies sleep. We’d been doing a little bit of research on what’s best to grow in Autumn so a few days ago we had bought seedlings and were preparing to plant. We took the opportunity to plant while the babies slept.

I still battle with Leon to eat healthily, so I’m trying to encourage him to take care of these plants. I’ve not yet succeeded, but I don’t give up easily. I love that just through growing these veggies we can observe plant cycles, measure their growth and experiment the conditions that suit their growth best. What an awesome tool, huh?

In the afternoon, our friend pops around to give Leon a guitar lesson. Leon's still quite a beginner, and we switch up between my father in law and our friend teaching him. Our afternoon is slow because Mya decided to sleep for hours, so we just take the day in our stride. After Leon's lesson, we get onto dinner prep, which tonight is pizza. Food prep is becoming one of my favourite resources for maths, especially pizza. Oh, the possibilities! After dinner, some quiet reading, then off to bed.

Day Two

The next day we spent the day at our local aquarium thanks to a generous friend, there was lots of learning opportunities there and lots that we took into our next day at home.

This day I would say is slightly more common, a slow start... just how I like it! Leon is usually the first one up so he tends to read quietly in bed until the rest of us join him. We sit around the table together, discuss the weather and date, eat, laugh, talk, worship and read together. While one of us reads, the rest eat and draw.

Mya mimics a lot of what Leon does, which I adore! She will sit there quietly for quite some time, as long as she’s beside him. And I find Leon will sit longer when his hands are distracted. You may notice a book of sharks on the table, since our trip yesterday it’s all he has talked about. He’s been dispersing shark facts like an expert, so I can tell a lot of our day/week will revolve around underwater creatures.

We look at Artventure and Leon decides to paint an octopus, so happily goes about his business while Dylan plays his guitar and I sit with the baby.

I noticed earlier that Leon often writes some letters backwards, so I ask him to count in 5’s as high as the blackboard will allow him. He chooses to sit next to his little brother. Perhaps it’s more interesting this way. In-between this he’s also completed a few more stages on reading Eggspress, had some fun on Prodigy and written out some cool shark facts for other kids to read, complete with his own diagram.

Day in the life of a FIFO homeschool mum

As you can see, our days kind of just flow and roll into the other. We haven’t established much of a rhythm and are truly taking it day by day. We love that when Dylan’s home, he can join in. And our kids love being around each other. And I love not having to get up for the school run! Thanks for joining us for our day (or two!) in the life.


Megan Ngatai

Megan Ngatai

Contributor

Megan is a FIFO wife, mama to three and makeup artist to some. When she's not taking photos of her sleeping children, she's sneaking chocolate. If feeling overwhelmed, she turns to her God, the ocean or lifting heavy things.

Homeschooling during a big move

A mother of three from Texas shares how her family made the big decision to move their family interstate and kept homeschooling on the way.

Homeschooling during a move

By Marlo Renee 

If life hands you an opportunity

When Phil and I decided to move our family of five to Texas I was more than a little nervous about it. After all, we’d be leaving the comfort and familiarity of our hometown and heading into something wildly unfamiliar. Making the decision to move had been rolling around in our minds for the last year, so when a friend’s house suddenly became available, we decided to make the leap. At the same time, we also had family in town that we wanted to hopefully drive back with. Which meant we would need to pack, rent our house, and be ready to leave in a few weeks. Crazy, right?!

All this change can wreak more than a little havoc on a homeschool! Luckily my husband was there to bring me back down to earth and remind me that I can be a chronic over reactor at times and should look at the bright side. We get to go on a road trip! I was thrilled about this because I’ve always envied the families schooling from their awesome RVs. Who doesn’t want to be THAT family?

How we packed up and left within weeks

Armed with box tape and a deadline off I went to make our dream a reality. The first thing I did, and this is so important no matter what stage of schooling you’re in, was to ask for help. I put out an SOS on every platform I could and asked for help packing and planning. It’s so difficult to admit we can’t do something on our own and I think often we leave ourselves in a hole because of it.

boy playing with fire truck book

If you’re struggling, reach out. Our circle of loved ones rallied around and took shifts helping us pack and watching our toddler on certain days. Don’t be afraid to ask for help whether it’s for a move or to just get coffee.

We also decided to get rid of as much stuff as humanly possible. Now I know most people do purge when moving but we really had to take this to the next level. Rental trucks are very expensive when going to another state so we really wanted to stick with a certain size to stay within our budget. In the end, we ended up letting go of half our belongings. This mindset translated into cutting down on any unnecessary curriculum we found didn’t fit with our homeschool vision.

books in a basket

Cutting back on everything... even curriculum!

Along the way, I somehow picked up subjects I read about “because that’s what everyone else is doing!”. I was constantly on a hunt for the new shiny 900-page curriculum that was going to save me. This physical and mental clutter will overwhelm you whether you’re moving or not, so why not use a move as a good excuse to start fresh? In the end, we stuck with what we love and works best for us; living books, good art journals, and a couple of math books. This all went into a basket that was readily available on any given day. This 'less is more' routine became the centre of our homeschool after our big move as well.

Learning to let go

At some point during our move learning took on a different feel. It was impossible to have any kind of schedule let alone lay our subjects out on a table. Not having a table drove me a little wonky at first. Luckily, kids don’t need a table to read a delightful book! When things got too hectic and reading wasn’t in the cards, nature journals and a blanket outside did the trick.

To know learning was taking place, though I wasn’t next to my children or at a table, gave me a new-found sense of peace. The shift in what learning looks like proved invaluable during our move and afterwards. Letting go of homeschool comparisons can sometimes make all the difference in our sanity.

When we were finally ready to go, we picked up some maps at the market, and headed towards our new home. The days were long and the nights even longer but we learned that schooling can take place anywhere, if you let it. We learned there is value in nature, the changing landscape is soul quenching, and sometimes the only things you need are God, family, and a good book. Even if you’re crammed in a sedan, living in hotels for almost a week.

Have you ever homeschooled while moving house, state or country? How did it go?​

Marlo Renee

Marlo Renee

Contributor

Marlo is a homeschool mom of three who loves documenting her days. If she's not busy reading a book, you can often find her behind a camera. Her family recently relocated to Texas and they enjoy meeting new friends and fishing. Marlo is on Facebook and Instagram. 

These kids do something called Earthschooling

When a single mum of two children was told to look at 'alternative education options' for her son with Autism, she began a unique journey towards 'Earthschooling' that has changed her family's life.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Interview with Dana Atkinson

Hi Dana, thanks for chatting with us! Can you introduce us to your family?

We are a family of three living and adventuring in the beautiful Wet Tropics of North Queensland. There is my daughter Nala (Rylee), the little chief of our house Jarli (Kellan), and myself. When we are not busy attending appointments or activities, you will find us mountain biking through fern gullies, swimming amongst the rocks at secret waterholes, or even foraging for bush-tukka while walking in our luscious rainforest community of Paluma, the little ‘Village in the clouds’.

*Australian indigenous people may have a number of names. For example, a person may have a European first name and surname (Rylee), an indigenous name (Biralee - which means beautiful baby), and a skin name (Nala).

Earthschooling family

Tell us about what brought about your decision to homeschool your kids

Our journey began after Jarli had finished his preparatory year of school. There were multiple reasons for my decision to withdraw him from mainstream, but the overall reason was that there just wasn't another option better suited.

When Jarli was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with high functioning Autism, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Non-compliance aggressive behaviour, which later manifested into Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Having spent two years in early intervention, he was finally making progress and was able to graduate from AEIOU, a school for children with Autism. I had spent the last year of his program, meeting with school advisors and administrators, trying to find the best environment, as there were no autism specific schools available.

Earthschooling boy playing with toy train

The school system was not able to provide support for Jarli.

The majority of the schools I had met with were zoned, which meant he would be placed on a waiting list. As for the private schools in the area, they were able to assist, however, it came at an extra cost that was financially beyond our means. The more I interviewed, the less confident I became that his needs would be met.

At the time I was working within the state education system at Nala’s school, so it seemed an ideal situation to have Jarli there with us too. I thought that at least then I would be available to provide assistance when needed. I could never have anticipated that he would actually regress at school.


Life became all about putting out a succession of fires - absconded behaviour, aggressive meltdowns, classroom disruptions, then suspension after suspension. It had become evident that the classroom setting was not a suitable learning environment for Jarli.

The final straw came when the authorities of the school advised me of their concerns for the next year. They told me that they would not be able to provide the much-needed support in the classroom nor would they be willing to apply for the extra funding that was available. They made it very clear to me that they didn't want my son at the school. Their final words to me were “perhaps you should look at alternative education options… “

So here we are, two years into our ‘alternative education’. And while I might add how frustrated I was towards the school having given up on my boy, the truth is, I am very grateful for their honesty.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Just like many families starting out, finding the learning style and rhythm that best suited the needs of my children was the biggest challenge. Initially, we began to homeschool via distance education. That lasted a term before we found our feet and I realised that it is important to me that my future adults have input into what they would like to learn. It’s also just as important for me to provide them with a learning environment that will inspire them.

After much research, I became inspired by the Waldorf philosophies. I was, however, looking for a secular approach to learning that enabled a flexible but natural process. That was when I discovered Earthschooling.

I think that what it basically came down to was finding a gentle approach to learning based on the needs of my family but also being able to provide them with the freedom that enables the natural learning process to unfold.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

How do you define your unique blend of homeschooling called 'Earthschooling'?

Earthschooling is a complete but flexible curriculum that follows a holistic and earth-based approach to education. While it is a secular Waldorf methodology, the education is based on learning from nature, cultural aspects, natural rhythms, real-life experience, handwork with natural fibres and arts.

I favoured this approach for many reasons. Jarli is extremely imaginative and is a kinesthetics/tactile learner, while Nala prefers auditory stimulation. So, the idea of introducing more creativity into their learning seemed very appealing and I felt the earthschooling elements would suit both their needs quite well.

I was impressed by the cultural aspect that the earthschooling curriculum honours. It introduces input from people from other cultures who make a place at the common table of our shared humanity.

Earthschooling children reading a book

Can you share some influential books or resources have you read that helped you decide on earthschooling?

I would say that our community has been the most influential. Having the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef a stone throw away, the use of the World Heritage Area as an educational landscape seemed like a wonderful and rich environment to learn from. But there have been some inspirational books too.

Taino Earthschooling in the Diaspora: My Early Days by Anani Kaike.

This is an inspirational chronicle written by 8-year-old Anani, a Taino child who shares with us her rather unique homeschooling environment, and the strong connection that her family teaches her about respecting our Mother Earth while at the same time honouring her ancestors.

Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability by Michael K. Stone

I found this an aesthetically pleasing resource that is eloquently written and contains inspirational images.

In my efforts to raise environmentally aware children, both of these books have not only been influential and inspiring, but have also been an excellent addition to their learning. It scares me to think of the environmental burden that my children will face in the coming years but more, who will lead the movement to the sustainable future.


Share with us what a day in the life of an earthschooling family looks like

Ha ha!! It’s not always rainbows and unicorns with my tribe.

One of the things that I love about where we live is that we are in close proximity to adventure. Exploring the different environments from beaches to the outback and of course the rainforest.

Each day we have a different focus for too much structure would inhibit, rather than help, especially when it comes to Jarli’s requirements. Suffice to say, numeracy and literacy are the two core areas we fit in daily through real-world learning, as this is a procedural requirement through the home education unit (HEU).

Because every day is so different for us, I love that education is anywhere learning occurs, and that even unintentional learning can be powerful.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

What do your kids think of earthschooling and have you noticed any changes in them since they left school?

The biggest change I have noticed is the step back they have taken from the fast-paced world that we were once part of. Being able to breathe in and out with a rhythm that suits their needs.

I find that Jarli is calmer, happy to engage with learning but most importantly his behaviour has improved.

For Nala, it has encouraged deeper discussions on topics that are of importance to her, such as her indigenous heritage.

Overall, they love the freedom, and I love the flexibility to be able to approach their learning in ways that will work for them. If we’re having a bad day then we ditch our plans and head into the forest.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Nala and Jarli - learning to love and care for their country.

What is a mantra you live by?

“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.” - Zenobia Barlow

To me, building my children’s love of nature and cultivating a deep emotion to their ways of thinking and behaving is a major factor when it comes to teaching them about their place in nature but it is also an integral part of their identity.

Dana was interviewed by Grace Koelma.

Did you find Dana's story as inspiring as we did? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Dana Atkinson

Dana Atkinson

Contributor

Dana is an Earthschooling mother living in North Queensland with her two children. When she is not running from snakes, shooing spiders or removing leeches, you will find her tucked away in the hammock with a nice cup of brew! She's on Instagram @the_education_of_little_tree_

The marvellous work of childhood

"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." - Fred Rogers

Children playing in water happily

By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com

I used to believe that I had to teach the girls, and I felt an immense amount of guilt when I "left" them to play, or didn't feel like we'd done enough structured activities. But after finding our daily rhythm, stepping back, and taking life at a much slower pace; I realise just how ignorant I was before. Play is learning! In fact, now I believe that the girls learn more, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them just through playing together.

It has really taken the stress out of homeschooling for us and made our lives so much more enjoyable. I still try to carve out specific time to focus on maths and literacy at least three times a week (although this usually involves a game or manipulative materials so some may say this is still 'playing'). But the rest of our time is spent playing and exploring the world around us.


Learning through play

Some of the girls best learning experiences have come from ideas that developed during play.

Our recent project - The Borrowers - is proof of this. All I have to do as the adult is to provide the stimulating environments, real life experiences and plenty of lovely open-ended materials to aid in their play.

It is hard not to worry or compare when children the same age as the girls, who attend school, can write reams and reams of pages and read much more. But what is the point in all of that 'work' when it leaves children (and adults) tired and stressed - there is plenty of time for them to be tired and stressed when they reach adulthood!


What is this huge rush to have our children know everything by age 7? In my experience it leaves everyone feeling pressured, they eventually forget most of it, and it definitely doesn't benefit the children.

I trust myself, and them, that when they are 16 they won't be illiterate. They will be accomplished in all of the core subjects. Exactly the same as the majority of children who attended school. But I am hoping that by giving my children this magical childhood full of experience, travel, wonder and joy, that they will have a little more sparkle within them. A special zest for life that I am rediscovering every day as I share their learning journeys.

This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.

Natalie Goodacre

Natalie Goodacre

Contributor

Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.

5 unconventional ideas about relationships with teens

Unschooling author and mother, Pam Laricchia, explores the ways we can support our teens and help them write a different story—their own story. Not a shadow of ours.

teenage girls

By Pam Laricchia | livingjoyfully.ca

One of the biggest fears I see mentioned over and over by parents is that their teens will make the same mistakes they did growing up. Parents of teens have, at this point in their lives, gained a certain perspective and feel pretty confident about the thread of actions and consequences that wove through their own teen years.

The dreaded 'If Only'

Even beyond that, many imagine that if they could go back and do it all again knowing what they know now, they’d do a better job of it. Mired in what they see as the perfect vision of hindsight, their mind starts each flashback with “if only …” “If only I’d hung out with a different crowd, I would have made better connections.” “If only I hadn’t wasted my time, I could have made more money at my job.” “If only I had studied harder, I could have gotten into a better college.”

These are simplistic appraisals, but given what they see as a second chance, parents are confident they can engineer a better outcome for their teen, “if only they would listen to me.” (There it is again!)

woman thinking silhouette

While I am suggesting that we as parents try to avoid projecting our personal experiences too deeply onto our teens, I don’t mean to imply that we keep our thoughts to ourselves and leave them to figure out the world on their own. Far from it!

Parents have experience and wisdom to share that can be very helpful. Yet, to be truly helpful, it’s important that our teens receive it in the “no strings attached” spirit we intend, or else our motivation is suspect and the information understandably discounted. So the atmosphere of communication is important—the relationship.

Hands off or helicopter parenting

Conventionally, relationships with teens are painted as either/or: either you focus on maintaining authority (tough love) or you avoid challenges altogether (let them run wild).

Unschooling families have found the beauty of living inside the spectrum of those extremes. We continue to cultivate the strong and connected relationships we have built with our children over the years—it’s a relationship paradigm that serves us well no matter our children’s age.

Let’s look at some of the ways unschooling parents view relationships differently and what that can look like in the teen years. Notice how they all boil down to how we relate to them: as people, not possessions.

We drop the expectations

Unschoolers don’t share their experiences or perspective with the expectation that their teens will reach the same conclusions. That’s hard, isn’t it? We know what we know! To us—for us—our experiences are fact.

For me, it’s a kind of philosophical detachment. Not a detachment as in disengagement, but in appreciation of their individuality. Almost paradoxically, when I’m not living my life through them, I feel even closer to them, because it’s not about me—their life is theirs to live—so I can detach from the outcome and drop my expectations.

They are not younger versions of me, but unique beings in their own right. So though the experiences I share may be helpful to them, useful pieces to the puzzle of their life, I don’t expect my stories to mean the same things to them: we are each building different puzzles.

teenage boy tree

We realise that the circumstances of their lives are different than ours

Speaking of different puzzles, take a moment to consider just how different their childhood has been from our own. The pace of change has been accelerating at breakneck speed over our lifetimes.

This is a new thing! Comparatively, the pace of change from one generation to the next even just a few decades ago was almost negligible. What an exciting time in human history to be living! But it also means that the passing down of generational experience is more about bigger picture human issues, like empathy and morality, than any day-to-day advice to “do this and get that outcome”. The nuts and bolts of our stories are often no longer applicable because the world is changing so rapidly.

For example, even mainstream society is starting to question the typical counsel to “go to college and get a good job at a big company.” That was the conventional definition of success in the industrial age, and even deeply into the information age, but we are swiftly moving beyond that now. That advice, so adamantly passed on to us by our parents, has become hopelessly out-of-date as our teens move into the adult world.

teenagers on jetty

We don’t presume we know better than they how they experience their lives

This can be a hard one, too. We have more life experience. We remember a time when they were young children and totally dependent on us and we came through for them—here they are!

Yet we can also acknowledge that we don’t always know what they are thinking and feeling, how they are experiencing and interpreting the day-to-day moments of their lives. Sure, maybe we really enjoyed camping at the lake as a family over the last long weekend, but that doesn’t mean they did. And they are not “wrong” to have disliked it. Different personalities and outlooks are just that: different, not wrong.

As I said, none of this is intended to suggest disengagement—that we don’t share our experiences, or that we leave them alone to figure out their own lives. What I hope people get out of this discussion is the inspiration to listen to teens: they have intelligent information and insights about their own lives to share!

Don’t discount what they say just because it’s different from your thoughts and perspective. Again, it’s different, not wrong. Instead, if you try to connect what they’re saying with what you already know, you just might create a bigger picture of the world for yourself. You’re learning too. Which leads to …

We don’t assume that, as parents, we’re always right

This seems to be at the crux of so much parent-teen conflict. At some point, teens are ready for more responsibility, more independence, more freedom. So often parents are determined to keep them in that conventional childhood box as long as possible, the box where parents are 'right' and their children need to do what they’re told.

With this new perspective—that their childhood environment is radically different than ours, that they are experiencing life in their own unique ways, and that our expectations are entangled with our life experiences—it is presumptuous of us to believe that our worldview will fit neatly into their lives. What was right for us (or what we imagine would have been right for us), may not be right for them.

teenage girls talking

Which leads us back to where we started:

Teens are people, too

Just because they are our children, they are not our possessions. They are people. And just because they are our progeny, doesn’t mean we intimately understand them. We need to get to know them. And be open so that they get to know us. Build lasting relationships. And from there we have lasting impact on each others’ lives. My kids have inspired me countless times! I have learned things from them that have made me a better person. We continue to learn from each other.

From childhood, through the teen years, and beyond, everyone wins with strong, connected, respectful relationships.

This post was originally featured on livingjoyfully.ca and has been republished here with permission.

Which part of this article resonated with you? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Pam Laricchia

Pam Laricchia

Contributor

Pam Laricchia is a Canadian unschooling author, speaker and podcaster. She started unschooling her three children in 2002, and now her three young adults are exploring the world in their own unique ways. Her website, livingjoyfully.ca is a treasure trove of resources for families who are travelling an unschooling journey.