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!
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.
Further reading on the why of gameschooling:
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!
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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:
In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
“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:
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:
“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:
“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!
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.
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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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!)
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.
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.
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.
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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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
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.
By Ally Blase
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.
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.
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 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!
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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, 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.
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.
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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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
Join FIFO wife and new homeschooling mum of three, Megan, as she shares a typical day in the life of a deschooling family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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_
"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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
Which leads us back to where we started:
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 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.
Jessica Welsh walks us through the concept of habit training, why it's valuable and how to try it with your kids.
By Jessica Welsh | themakingofdays.blogspot.my
Charlotte Mason was a British educator whose philosophy regarding children and education was revolutionary for its time in the late 1800’s. She had a firm belief that children are born persons and that therefore we are to teach the whole child, understanding that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”
Habit training is part of that discipline. Charlotte Mason's writings are full of practical insights into the challenging task of cultivating good habits in your children, or 'habit training.'
“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”
Volume 1, page 118.
If you’d like to start habit training with your children, here are a few tips that might help you get started.
Choose one habit you want to work on with your child at a time. This doesn’t mean everything else falls by the wayside, but you are setting aside a time where the primary focus is on a single habit you wish to begin or strengthen. Perhaps you’ve noticed your child isn’t using their manners, or they struggle to pack away their toys after playing with them. You may already have a habit in mind to work on with your child. If not, this list might give you some ideas.
When we started habit training with our son, Leo, we started small. Something we thought he could do at age 2 ½ was to take his plate to the bench after mealtimes. A small habit, yes, but, from little things…
Take some time to think about how you are going to introduce, practice and enforce your chosen habit.
Our initial attempts at habit training with Leo were poor, to say the least. One day I decided that he should start saying Please and Thank You. I then found myself in a standoff with him as he wanted to go outside but I wanted him to say please first. My expectation came without warning and Leo was confused and frustrated. I realised that I should have introduced the habit first, explaining what we are doing and why it is important.
“’Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile.”
Volume 6, p. 102.
Don’t be afraid to tell people what habit you are working on with your child and how they can help too. I’d also suggest having some redirecting ideas up your sleeve for those times when your child will simply refuse. And trust me, they will.
Choose a day and start. A habit cannot become so without repetition so be sure to allow for plenty of opportunities for your child to practise. And of course, praise your child for their efforts. Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
It will take time for your child to establish a new habit, think six-eight weeks at best. It felt like it took forever to teach Leo to say please and thank you but now it’s second nature to him. Of course there are still times when he needs reminding (he’s three after all), but for the most part, he’s got it.
It will happen that your child will refuse or shirk the habit you are working on with them. Deciding how you will handle that before it happens will ensure you are still moving forward and you won’t be left feeling like a failure.
Initially, Leo wasn’t at all interested in taking his plate to the bench after mealtime, so we did it alongside him. At first, he grudgingly took his plate to the bench; a few times he yelled his refusal and then promptly ran from the table.
Because we had anticipated reluctance, we were able to remain calm on (almost) all of these occasions. In recent weeks we’ve seen just how established this habit has become as Leo has needed less prompting and even surprised us by asking if he can take our plates at the end of a meal.
My husband and I have seen our habits with fresh eyes and where we both need to retrain ourselves. Getting outside has been a big one for us. We are homebodies by nature. We love finding a cosy spot in which to relax with a good book. Add some cloudy weather, a cup of tea and some banana bread, and you’re describing our perfect Saturday.
Habit training has pushed us outside and early morning runs, bush walks, gardening and time spent outdoors together as a family have found a way into our daily rhythm. We certainly feel the better for it.
Habit training is worth every effort. Whether you’re just starting out or have already begun the journey with your children, I’d love to hear your experiences and insight.
Have you tried habit training with your children? How did it go? Share in the comments below.
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