Category Archives for Homeschool Basics

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

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

Image by Leah Kua


By Kelly George | Fearless Homeschool

Lists are the only way I keep track of anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the indispensable homeschooling lists we keep.

Book lists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curriculum lists

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

I didn’t.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Podcast list

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

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

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

Film list

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

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

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

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


Kelly George


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

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8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool

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

Children playing in water happily

Image by Annie Spratt

By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal

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

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

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

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

8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool

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

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

2. ​Download and print some nature guides 

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

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

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

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

*Code expires 30th November 2017.

3. Practice mindfulness in nature

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

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

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

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

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

5. Start building a Cabinet of Curiosities

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

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

Image by Robyn Oakenfeld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grace Koelma


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

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

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

Children playing in water happily

By Sophie Copeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is freedom so important?

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

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

So where to go from here?

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

Of course, I have doubts

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

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

These are some BIG questions that I need to answer.

How to find the answers

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Diaz

Sophie Copeman


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

What deschooling looked like for us

The first months and years of homeschooling typically involve a lot of deschooling for your kids and yourself. Here's what it looked like for Caroline.

Young girl looking into a lake

By Caroline Silver

My epiphany in the woods | Sept 2011

Our four-year-old was pouring her usual wonder on the world as she inspected some dead leaves. Her questions led to a conversation about compost, the seasons and the sun. I paused for a moment... if everything was so intrinsically connected, why was school separating the universe into boxes and shutting kids indoors?

I did a tonne of research to find the answers and I wasn’t impressed.

A year later… we decided to send her to school anyway.

Why? We thought she might thrive despite our doubts.

After nearly three years in school, she told me how unhappy and bored she was that school was wasting her time.

So when everyone else went back to join the new academic year, she didn’t. Instead, we rocked up to a Home Education “Not-back-to-school-picnic” in a beautiful Park with about 50 other families. I didn’t know anyone. It was a perfect introduction.

The first few days and weeks

We started our days with me answering Isabel’s questions. It was such a delight. A spark of a particular curiosity would catapult her out of bed and off to make, write, draw or research something. I also kept a world learning picture book by the bed to introduce new topics if need be.

As she was so fired by her own curiosity, I treated Maths and Literacy as the only things in need of focused time.

I would do 20 minutes of Maths and then we took turns to read to each other, followed by some spelling games. The rest of the day she explored through books, DVDs or the Internet on the topics that most interested her – Space, Tsunamis, Hurricanes and inventions!

I based our weekly “schedule” around socialising at a couple of local midweek groups. Other days were a mix of spontaneous Museum or Gallery trips and Home Ed organised events. She refused to go to anything that had a formal learning environment.

The next few months

These were the same except for a few adjustments. I realised that even 20 mins Maths a day was not necessary. She loved numbers anyway so I waited for her to ask me questions or I used supermarket trips and cooking as my main vehicle. Maths is the art of measuring things, right?

She wrote tonnes of stories because she was inspired by books and movies and I learnt not to correct spelling as it was soul destroying for her to have her creations criticised. I just made a note of what kept cropping up and made spelling games for another time.

I also dropped asking her to read to me as she would read out messages or signs perfectly because she was learning this through everything else she was doing.

I always sat with her when watching the TV or DVDs because of all the questions she would have about the content. I used the Pause button a lot. Great learning time!

We travelled to a variety of countries. Holidays were just an extension of our everyday life of learning by now.

The end of our first year | Sept 2015

We had a very successful first visit from the Local Authority Education officer. We had covered masses of life knowledge in a year.

I started to become more focused on good parenting skills as a means to a successful Home education and by using Pam Laricchia's weekly podcast and the online conference run by I was and continue to be reassured when I have wobbles about, “Are we doing OK?”

A typical day | Nearly two years in

My role now is still to be available to answer questions but has evolved more into being engaged with and interested in her work and to carry on providing new vistas of learning at appropriate intervals.

On a typical day, Isabel still wakes up naturally and busies herself or comes to me for a chat and a cuddle. She is now nearly 10.

She’s almost completely self-reliant, using YouTube to research tutorials. Her favourite activity is coding, making stop-go animation movies and inventing cartoons. She is reading and spelling all the time to enable her own progression. At bedtime I still read to her to keep her love of new books alive and then she writes in her diary App and Spell-check helps her spelling. She drafts new game ideas on paper ready for the next day or reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Prompted by whatever questions she has, we also chat about anything and everything. Last night it was Alzheimer’s and Donald Trump.

These typical days are mixed with play-dates with a handful of good friends and peppered with outings like a recent one to see “The Lion King”. After the show, we caught the Thames River boat home so we’d see all the London landmarks. As usual, she had loads of questions…”Why was Simba going to be the next King? Who decided who would be the first King of England?” And on passing the Houses of Parliament… “What does the government do if the Queen is in charge?” And so on….

Which reminds me, a day’s outing to find a Geocache at the British Library started a discussion about “Mad King George III” because we discovered that his entire collection of 82,000 books was there.

Learning is truly everywhere!

Caroline Silver

Caroline Silver


Caroline was born in the lush green countryside near Oxford. She became a mum in her forties and lives in London now and homeschools her daughter. She's had many jobs - Tax Specialist (Ugh!), Fitness Trainer (Yay!), Architectural Designer (Finding myself at last) and now Artist (Yes!). 

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 |

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 and has been republished here with permission.

Natalie Goodacre

Natalie Goodacre


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 and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.

Why homeschool? Reasons parents choose to home educate

If you're starting homeschooling and want to read more of the research behind why parents choose homeschooling, this article by Dr Rebecca English is a good place to start.

By Dr Rebecca English | QUT university

Home education is a growing educational choice in Australia (Townsend, 2012). Like all educational choices, its legality is embedded in the notion of parents’ rights to choose an educational provider most suitable for their child. As I’ve argued elsewhere, home education is a choice that exists on a spectrum of legitimate school choices in Australia.

Home education choice is an interesting phenomenon to study, particularly for a university lecturer whose non-research work is in preparing pre-service teachers and who’s had a nearly 20 year career either in schools or in teacher education.

However, if it is growing, and evidence suggests more and more parents are making this choice, it’s important that governments, policy makers and the general community understand why parents choose home education, the types of home education and the impact or the effectiveness of this choice.

Why parents choose home education

There are many reasons parents choose to home educate in Australia and elsewhere. The reasons, while generally understood through stereotypes in the media and the general community, are many, varied and nuanced.

There’s a great quote from Ruth Morton, who says the stereotypes range from “social 'misfits': either 'tree-hugging hippies', religious fanatics or 'hothousing' parents determined that their offspring should achieve academic excellence at an early age” (Morton, 2012, pp. 45-46). We can see from this quote that Ruth believes the stereotypes of home education families are hippies, the religious or those who are determined to give their child every leg up (the snowplow, helicopter or tiger parents of popular parlance).

However, Ruth’s and my own research has shown it’s far more nuanced and individual than the stereotypes suggest. My work has suggested parents who choose to home educate do so for a number of, not mutually exclusive, reasons.

Glenda Jackson, in her 2009 PhD thesis, describes these reasons as push and pull factors (Patrick, 1999). These factors were evident in a Life Matters segment on ABC radio in 2014 where John Kaye, the New South Wales senator leading the inquiry into home education in Australia discussed the government’s interest in home education (you can listen to the piece here).


First, there’s the parents who are ideologically opposed to institutionalised schools.

These families would experience the pull factors. In the words of Jackson (2009), they may be enamoured with the “positive features of home education” or believe in the “negative aspects of traditional schools” (p. 14). These parents may choose for religious reasons, for example Christian families who do not want their children exposed to the small ‘l’ liberal, irreligious attitudes of teachers. These parents may also believe that schooling interrupts family relationships, is unnatural and does not facilitate socialisation with outside age peers (cf. English, 2013; 2014; 2015; Jackson, 2009).


Then, there’s the parents who believe they are pushed into home education.

These families may have had children who experienced high levels of distress in schools because of bullying, various intellectual and social impairments, achievement needs that cannot be met in schools or because they are ADHD, ASD or some other specific situation that the inflexibility of schools cannot address.

Many of these parents describe their children as “twice exceptional”, a term implying children are highly gifted but also have social and emotional needs that make mainstream schools unable to cater to their needs. These children usually start their education in a mainstream school at prep but may then be moved around to several other schools as parents search for a viable alternative. By year 3 or year 5, they may be home educating as their parents give up on the mainstream schooling system and find they have to DIY their children’s education.


Another group in the 'push' category are school refusers.

While there is a good deal of research on school refusal suggesting there are two groups of refusers (separation anxious whose mother was likely also a school refuser and phobic school refusers who have a phobia of schools), little of this research has been undertaken in the home education community.

Further, anecdotal experiences of friends and colleagues who’ve described their own children who either hate school or don’t want to go anymore and who “would love to stay home and be homeschooled” suggests school refusal may be a significant push factor toward home education choice. In my own experience, it is school refusal that means my children will be home educated for a few years yet.


Types of home education

In addition to the reasons for choice, some research does exist on the types of home education. The types were featured at the New South Wales inquiry into home education in 2014. Findings from the inquiry suggest the NSW senate categorised home education as “structured”, “unit”, “classical”, “Charlotte Mason”, “eclectic”, “unschooling or natural learning” and “other approaches”.

My work, mainly with unschoolers, suggests the categories are much more fluid than is suggested by the work of the inquiry which may have struggled to understand some of the approaches.

Structured and unstructured approaches to home education


Structured approaches are those that follow the curriculum more closely. These approaches may involve distance education (in Queensland, distance education packages can be purchased even where families are in close proximity to schools), purchasing curriculum from overseas (in many cases, religious home educators will purchase materials from the USA), or those who follow the Australian Curriculum closely in their approach. Some of those structured approaches would include the unit or classical models outlined in the inquiry documents. Many of these families have at least one teacher in the family (see my discussion here).


Unstructured home educators are generally understood to be “Charlotte Mason” or unschoolers whose approach is defined by Holt and Farenga (2009) as “allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear". While Holt coined the term, he preferred the label natural learning.

Scholars such as Carlo Ricci use terms such as self-determined learning (2014) or a willed curriculum (2012) to define the approach (Ricci and I are currently working on a special edition of a journal dedicated to the practice which will be available soon, the call for papers has recently closed).

In my research, I was mainly exploring the motivations of unschool families in Queensland. The results of my research have been published in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (2015), a book I edited about online connections among men and women (2016) and a piece I wrote with Karleen Gribble of the University of Western Sydney focusing on out of home care and home education families (2016).

I found most families who identified with unschooling did so because they were strong believers in their children’s natural motivation or inclination to learn, trusted their children, were able to see their children learning in a way that suited them and saw a noticeable improvement in their children’s happiness with the approach. However, I did not see many families who exclusively unschooled, many for various reasons, did a combination of unschooling and some book work, often motivated by snide remarks from family members.


Impact and effectiveness of home education

The effectiveness of home education in Australia is under-researched. In a field that is notoriously lacking in rigorous research, there is even less on the effectiveness of home education. It’s notable the Select Committee on Home Education findings focusing on student outcomes included an anecdotal section in the report.

The report listed research work by Cairns (2002) whose small scale study found 78% of graduates of home education went on to university of technical education securing jobs in technical, scientific, teaching or nursing. I cited the work of Ray (2003; 2014) who found, in the United States,

  • these children were outperforming their conventionally schooled peers
  • more likely to be accepted into prestigious colleges and courses, and
  • were more likely to stick with tertiary study because they knew how to learn.

Following from this inquiry, a study was commissioned by the NSW senate to explore NAPLAN results in home education and mainstream school students.

The findings of this study were that home educated students outperformed their conventionally schooled peers. On all six NAPLAN measures: reading, narrative writing, persuasive writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as numeracy, home educated students outperformed their conventionally schooled peers. It is significant that these effects persisted even if previously home educated students returned to school.

While the study was a small sample size, as few home educated students undertake NAPLAN testing, the study suggests home educated students are able to perform well on standardised tests and measures of effectiveness. You can see me talking about the report here.

As the norms and constructs of our society shift over time, and legislation on vaccination requirements and religious education in public schooling change, so too do parent's motives for home educating their children. The huge gap between home educating parents and the state and federal education governing bodies needs to close.

Like it or not, homeschooling is here to stay, and our government should be doing all it can to better understand the motivations and the effectiveness of home education, so that it can champion Australian homeschoolers to succeed and flourish.

What were your reasons for choosing homeschooling? Do you agree with Dr English? Share your thoughts in our comment box below.

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Dr Rebecca English

Researcher at QUT

Dr Rebecca English is a researcher and lecturer in Education at Queensland University of Technology. Her work is concerned with the reasons parents make the education choices they make for, and with, their children. After her PhD, she has focused on alternative education choices, in particular home education. Rebecca has published book chapters, journal articles and popular pieces on home education and was invited to speak at the New South Wales Inquiry into Home Schooling. She is a mother of two young children, one of whom has asked to be home educated.

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Labels, identity and homeschooling

Labels are a great way to find a like-minded community and search for resources, but they don’t define the way we educate our children.

In this article

By Jessica Pilton |

There are so many words for how we identify as home educators…


Natural learners

Reggio-inspired approach

Road schoolers


Project based homeschooling



Interest-based learning

Charlotte Mason education



Tidal schooling


Child-led learning

School at home

We’ve used a lot of these as we have steadied our feet and found our groove our the last couple of years. I know I will also label myself as we continue to homeschool our children.

Labels aren’t inherently bad in this context – they give us something to connect to.

They give us something to grasp when we need to find a way. They provide a place for us to find our people. These labels help centre our thoughts in regards to philosophies on how children learn and most importantly, we choose a style of homeschooling that we adhere to and believe in deeply as we do life with our children.

And were hungry. We’re hungry to see our children have the beautiful riches of a wonderful education. We want them to be self-motivated, curious, attentive, to delve deeply into their passions and have persistence.

These labels give us a hope to cling to.

Yet, labels, as great as they can be for all the above reasons, don’t define the way we educate our children.

At times I’ve felt a great distress feeling like I don’t fit in with any style of homeschooling. I’d read about something and totally agree with the philosophy but for one reason or another I wasn’t seeing it happen in real life – even when all the elements were right to see the desired process or outcome. Or I’d educate myself on another philosophy and agree with some aspects but not others.

Early on our journey I’d be so conflicted – and due to my personality type – I felt if I couldn’t do something wholeheartedly, I wasn’t doing it ‘right’, which lead to a whole lot of disappointment and I felt like I was doing my kids a disservice.

This year – three years after making the decision to homeschool our children – I have finally found my peace with my issue of ‘labels'

I’m simply doing life with my children and really there is no education apart from self-education.

I’m giving them rich experiences with nature, art and the written word. Together we problem solve and learn skills together. We garden, we do handicraft, we sew together, we read together, we watch documentaries together, we attend co-op with our friends and shop together.

We do life.

Yet, we are also somewhat structured. I choose books from Ambleside Online for us to read. Miss 6 narrates from Aesop’s fables and reads our Bible each morning – we are very new to narration.

Alannah (6) has started copy work a few times a week, and recently without much help from me, Alannah has become very interested in reading. We have slowly added more into her day and she is so enjoying it.

Tiffany (4), on the other hand, has no desire for any formal learning in the way of writing or reading, and that’s okay. She is only four. Her work is play. I have no desire for her to catch up – actually, I have no desire for any of my children to be where ‘mainstream’ children in the schooling system would be in regards to skills in academics. It's not something we're aiming for.


So mama, allow yourself the freedom to change your course if you need to.

Allow your heart to be prompted to change if something isn’t working for you or your children.

If the label isn’t fitting – take it off, maybe adjust it, restyle it and try it on again, or ditch it and start afresh.

Don’t be held within the label.

Allow labels to work for you – don’t work for the label.

How do you give yourself scope to breathe and just 'be' outside the defining nature of labels? Share your comments below.

This article originally featured on and has been republished with permission. 

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Jessica Pilton


Jess is a wife and homeschooling mother to three. She blogs about her life homesteading on a nine-acre property in Perth, Australia, with a focus on grace-based parenting and home education. You can find Jess' writing at and on Instagram and Facebook.

Homeschooling with a toddler in tow

By Jessica Pilton |

Alannah is focused. There is a certain ‘zen’ about her level of concentration as she circles and draws in her maths book. Usually things don’t look totally 'schoolish' here but Alannah really enjoys maths worksheets – something she didn’t get from me! She asks what the words are and I read them to her, or we read them together. Her little eyebrows crinkle as she thinks about the answer. Her hand makes the move to circle the pattern then – Watch out! Toddler alert!

“Mum! He’s coming! Get him! Get him!” she yells.

Homeschooling with a toddler is fun…

And slightly chaotic.

My lovely blogger friend and fellow homeschooling mama Kirstee over at Forage and Forge recently penned a post on homeschooling with a toddler. She had some fantastic tips, so when you're done here, do yourself a favour and go read her post, it’s really good. Her post inspired me to write some of my hints and tips for homeschooling with toddler, or as we say in our house 'The Destroyer'.

Get outdoors

This is what has been working for us lately. The girls will bring their work or colouring and drawing to a table I have set up just for them. Mason is enthralled by nature and the will to conquer anything taller than him, and this overrides his need to be up in their space.

Why not try working outdoors? A change of scenery could not only help your busy toddler, but give your child a fresh burst of inspiration and a change of scenery.

Connect with your toddler first

Filling their little love tanks before jumping into work with your older children can help. Imagine you're a tall glass of water and they are thirsty. If they have a “drink” (quality time) before you dive into the day with your older ones, usually they are inclined to play by themselves for sometime before needing another “drink”.

Accept the chaos

This might not be the answer you were hoping for. But accepting that things will be a bit crazy while having a toddler in the family is your best bet to enjoying the homeschooling experience a whole lot more. There will be good days when everything flows and everyone gets on well. And there will be bad days when the toddler tips out the jarred spices while you're reading books to your older ones (yep, my house smelt of cumin for days. Days.) It’s part and parcel of homeschooling with a toddler. Some days setting up activities to entertain your youngest will work, other days the repeated TV show will go on again so you will feel like you get something done. I feel your pain. I really do.

In the end, I was too late to save Alannah from 'The Destroyer.' Mason, our 2-year-old, got on the table. He loves ‘helping’ his sister. He loves drawing in her books. Loves throwing her pencils on the floor.


He also loves throwing her concentration. After he threw her pencils it was all over, red rover and she was off, on to the next thing.

Homeschooling with a toddler is fun… It is chaotic. But I’m accepting the chaos each day as it comes, or at least trying to enjoy these days that I will probably look back on fondly. Probably...

What are your tips for homeschooling with a toddler?

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Jessica Pilton


Jess is a wife and homeschooling mother to three. She blogs about her life homesteading on a nine-acre property in Perth, Australia, with a focus on grace-based parenting and home education. You can find Jess' writing at and on Instagram and Facebook.

Thinking of homeschooling in 2017 but don’t know where to start?

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for reflection... down here in the southern hemisphere it also marks the beginning of a new school year, which leaves many parents who've been sitting on the fence about homeschooling facing a big decision.

As we've discovered from almost every person we've interviewed in the pages of Mulberry Magazine, deciding whether or not to homeschool is the scariest part.

With this in mind, we're always on the lookout for clear, well-written resources that help parents become better informed, and high quality information about what homeschooling is really like, away from the perception that's portrayed in the media.

Zero to Homeschool has everything parents need to start homeschooling.

We were excited to find ​out that Kelly George, who we chatted to in a free audio interview late last year, has just created the perfect, one-stop-shop e-course for everything you need to know about transitioning into full time homeschooling. Even though Kelly's course is aimed at a global audience, she's an Aussie, so there's a bit of an Aussie flavour in there!

We've had a look through all the course modules, and it looks pretty great, though we'd love to hear what you think if you try it.

To get an idea of what kinds of resources Kelly creates, you can check out her blog Fearless Homeschool, and she's giving away a free e-book featuring stories of homeschooling family's days too. Goodies all around!

If you're interested in finding out more about the 8-week online course Zero to Homeschool, you can read more here. Since it's a brand new course, Kelly's opened up the first round to Beta-testers, so there's lots of bonuses to be had for early-birds too!

Zero to Homeschool 8-week online course - register here

That's it for now, Happy 2017!


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Grace Koelma


Grace is a wife, mum to 2-year-old Leo, and editor of The Mulberry Journal. She believes that home educating starts from 0 not 6 years, but is glad not to have to worry about registration... yet! You can find her sharing snippets of her love of real food, picture books and homeschool on Instagram at @littlesoulfires

Want to travel and worldschool your kids? Here are 5 things you should know

Worldschooling, travelschooling, roadschooling... there are so many ways to take your kids with you and see the world, so here is everything you need to know.

By Grace Koelma | Editor of The Mulberry Journal

* A quick note to readers: This article is based on my experience being 'worldschooled' as a teenager, and the things I found helpful for learning on the road.

The biggest mistake many parents make when choosing to take their family on the road and ‘worldschool’ is thinking that their kids’ education will occur in a similar way to school, or even like more structured styles of home education. But worldschooling is a law unto itself and will be an amazingly educational journey for you and your kids, if you let it.

Relax. Let your children process and digest what they’re seeing, the conversations they’re having and the new experiences they’re immersed in. Trust that the learning is happening beneath the surface. Every so often you’ll be the audience to an outburst and overflowing of this learning, maybe in a wonderful way you weren’t expecting.

Here are a few tips for how to plan your trip to best suit your children’s learning needs.

1. Consider what kind of ‘worldschooling’ you’ll be doing

How you choose to worldschool will depend on whether you are taking your kids out of school for a few months, or are planning on continuing to homeschool them when you return.

  • Putting them back in school afterwards

Some schools and teachers will want students to keep up with what’s being learned in class so that your child doesn’t fall behind. It’s valuable to practice mathematics while you’re away, if you intend on putting your child back into school (and therefore a set curriculum and learning pace). This is because many topics in maths are building blocks for other concepts, and if you miss a key one, learning future maths concepts can be hard. So perhaps take each child’s maths textbook with you. Other subjects like writing, spelling, art, history, science, geography and health/PE can all be learned organically on the road.

  • Homeschooling after you return

If you’re intending to homeschool your kids after you return from travel, then you can go at your own pace, and choose a learning style that suits each child. To be honest, I'm a fan of unschooling for travel, there is so much to be learned simply by being immersed in new cultures and cities (more on that later!)

2. Be open to seasons of learning

Regardless of the level of structure in your worldschooling approach, your kids will naturally form rhythms of more intense and less intense learning, and you will too! It’s okay to let this process happen organically, don't attempt to stifle or accelerate it.

As notable homeschool author, Wendy Priesnitz said, “Life learning is about trusting kids to learn what they need to know and about helping them to learn and grow in their own ways. It is about respecting the everyday experiences that enable children to understand and interact with the world and their culture.”

Worldschooling boils down to this. It’s living in the present, enjoying each new opportunity and experience presented to you, and immersing yourself in culture, history and new cuisines.

3. Embrace daily journalling habits

If you do want to encourage a learning habit, start journalling what you see on your travels, and invite your children to do the same. To get them excited about the process, let each child choose a special book to write in (some kids love leather bound, others want a book with their favourite superhero on the cover). This journal can be as structured or free as they like, and include recounts of events, drawings, photos, maps, keepsakes, postcards and nature finds. The opportunities are endless.

If you do need to provide proof of learning on your travels to a teacher or a school principal, this is a wonderful way to do that, too. When I was fifteen, my family homeschooled and travelled in a caravan around Australia for 11 months. The journals I kept every day while travelling are now one of my most treasured memories of my childhood.


4. Be immersed in the joy of discovering new places together

Worldschooling boils down to this… It’s living in the present, enjoying each new opportunity and experience presented to you, and immersing yourself in culture, history and new cuisines. Don’t force your kids to do this, just throw yourself into it and watch as they catch hold of your enthusiasm. You’ll find endless opportunities for learning on the road: a wealth of rich history in museums and art gallery. Explore National parks (on land and in the sea – remember that in many countries, coral reefs are protected heritage area too), stop at roadside stalls and talk to buskers and craftsman selling wares on the street.

The physical act of travel is a wonderful learning opportunity as well. Enlist your children’s help in calculating the cost of fuel to drive to the next location, or how much you’ll be charged for excess baggage on your next flight. Show them your travel budget, and tell them what your spending limit is each day. Get them to help you do grocery shopping and help you cook meals, book accommodation and flights.I believe the best education is steeped in the discussion of ideas. Talk about the customs of the places you visit and why cultural heritage is important. Learn the local language, and how to respect the culture as a visitor.


5. Resist trying to make every experience a ‘learning experience’

There are a lot of obvious opportunities for learning while travelling… every town has museums, art galleries, wildlife exhibits and information centres. But your kids will most certainly get information fatigue if they’re towed through one row of glass displays after another. Sometimes, even regularly, it’s okay to drive past the local tourist attraction and head to a local weekend market or go to the beach and sketch the landscape.

And then relax. Let your children process and digest what they’re seeing, the conversations they’re having and the new experiences they’re immersed in. Trust that the learning is happening beneath the surface. Every so often you’ll be the audience to an outburst and overflowing of this learning, maybe in a wonderful way you weren’t expecting.

This quote by John Holt sums it up perfectly: “What makes people smart, curious, alert, observant, competent, confident, resourceful, persistent – in the broadest and best sense, intelligent – is not having access to more and more learning places, resources, and specialists, but being able in their lives to do a wide variety of interesting things that matter, things that challenge their ingenuity, skill, and judgement, and that make an obvious difference in their lives and the lives of people around them.” ~ John Holt, Teach Your Own

Have you got any worldschooling tips? We'd love you to share them in the comments below...

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Grace Koelma


Grace is a wife, mum to 2-year-old Leo, and editor of The Mulberry Journal. She believes that home educating starts from 0 not 6 years, but is glad not to have to worry about registration... yet! You can find her sharing snippets of her love of real food, picture books and homeschool on Instagram at @littlesoulfires

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