Homeschool Highschool Carnival

This month’s Homeschool Highschool Carnival is the inaugural month for the carnival. The topic?

The big picture .ImageHomeschool Highschool Carnival

How does my family’s “big picture” affect what our highschool homeschooler does, on a daily or weekly basis?

It occurred to me that the best way to show this big picture was to show a week in brief. This week, in fact.

Monday, I arrive home after morning work  to a pot of freshly made tea, and after picking up the extra boy, a friend, who homeschools with us. Tea made by my last homeschooler/unschooler, Anthony, newly seventeen. I know that he will have tidied the kitchen, begun laundry, practiced piano and done some reading and Facebooking by now. How do I know? Past experience. And how does this fit our big picture? We value self direction and self regulation. We value independence. And I don’t believe in micro managing the life of a teen. Here is where our years of doing chores together and learning together and spending time blossoms into a teen who can be trusted to make wise decisions on his own.

And the even bigger picture is that it is fine to try new things, make mistakes, fall, pick yourself up, especially now in the teen unschooling years , in the safety and support of family.

Anthony and his friend are joined by another homeschooling friend and they spend the day playing role playing games, reflecting our philosophy of everything counts as learning and learning happens all the time. And the day closes with mass together after my evening work and Anthony choosing to review some work for his New Testament Greek class, which he attends through the Catholic Adult Education Centre. Faith as a priority and interest lead learning.

Tuesday we met at the local library after my morning work. Living books have been our core unschooling curriculum and libraries are hang out places for us. An older university aged son and I tutor young twins at the library and Anthony and friends read and research and borrow books. That vision of self motivated learners again. We have morning tea with a friar. We look up recipes for the feast day. I drop off Anthony to his part time job as a Kumon Education Assistant on my way to work… we value earning your own money and working as a team and experiences in the community. We attend mass in the evening again, Anthony as altar server. Living books and living faith.

Wednesday we discuss Anthony’s course through Open University. He has just completed first year Spanish and is now studying The Archaeology of Ancient Israel. History and languages are big interests for Anthony. Our goal has been to expose and strew and to allow children to pick and choose and try many activities and areas and experiences. That’s the generalisation part. The specialisation then seems to arise naturally over time, in the teen years. In between my work, I teach Catechism at the state school, Anthony and his friends and I talk about many things, we do housework, they play games and listen to music and read, I do my university assignment. Having passions and interests as a mother, being a learning role model, has also been part of the vision and has helped me practice what Charlotte Mason calls masterly inactivity, simply because I have been busy with my own passions, too busy to be a “hover” parent.

Drama class and baking a cake for the feast day and watching and discussing science fiction rounds the day and the learning…yes, that interest lead, social life is important, faith is a priority and everything counts philosophy again.

Thursday brings friend and Anthony planning their day – games in the morning and more formal work after lunch they decide. Anthony’s formal work? Study for his NT Greek class and reading for his uni and reading more of Jane Austen, his current reading craze. NT Greek class is skipped, however, for a Beach Boys concert with his university student older three brothers still living at home. Family time and building strong sibling ties was one of the reasons we chose to homeschool, its part of the vision of strong family and childhood memories that I have held dear, since  my childhood reading of books such as Little House on the Prairies and Vanload to Venice and Ballet Shoes and I Capture the Castle.

Friday? Pride and Prejudice on DVD with our extra homeschooler  friend ( those living books again). Food technology – cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for lunch. Games. Piano lessons and taking public transport there and back while mum and brothers at work. Attend a Holy Hour (okay, with work and picking up brothers, its more of a Holy Half Hour!). Youth group at our parish. Dinner and talking and then gaming with brothers and their friend. Family and faith  and independence yet again.

The big picture in the teen years? Building on the memories and experience and strewing of the earlier years. Experimenting with more and more self regulation in the warmth of home. Branching out with work and interests in the community and with following interests, in preparation for future study and work and for joy right now. Emphasising family and faith and friends.

Life, Unschooling

Discipline and self discipline

“So, the most important aspect of discipline isn’t discipline at all. It’s this: Find the love. Find what you love about what you do, and channel that each and every day.”
~from The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I have always thought of myself as a lazy person, as someone who wouldn’t do all the things that I do unless I made myself.

I am slowly discovering that this isn’t really true. Not for the most part.

Instead, I see that I do the things I do, I am self disciplined, because of love.

I may not love everything I do but I love parts, or the process, or the end result.

It has been love, then, that gives me self discipline.

A surprising lesson for me. Just as I see now that I don’t have to do it all, do everything, be perfect…just as I see now that I can trust in Mary, her  mother’s love  instead of rushing to do everything, even in my faith life….So now I see the role of love in discipline and in self discipline. It doesn’t have to be a  harried, must do To Do list. It can be a “I want to do” To Do list.

So how does this translate to unschooling? Where is the role of love, and of self discipline?

They are inter-related even here. We encourage our children to find areas they love and as they pursue their love, the self discipline kicks in. The love for piano and for the music helps make practice less of a chore, for example.

Or we model and encourage our children to find love in the process of undertaking something that of itself may not be a love. Enjoying music while cleaning and then bringing out a new toy or book or sitting down together to relax in the now cleaned room is one activity that springs to mind.

Self discipline, then, springs more easily when we focus on love. We can learn it along the way.

Reminds me of those stories I used to read to the boys when they were young, stories of virtues. Image

I should have listened to them myself. Slow learner that I am.

Life, Unschooling

Intuitive Eating and Unschooling

Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss 

As I read  more about intuitive eating, about being a “natural” or “normal” eater, about trust and mindfulness, about dealing with emotions, about the nice girl syndrome, I am struck by many parallels between intuitive eating (IE) and unschooling.

And, perhaps most perturbing, is the fact that practicing intuitive eating with the expectation of weight loss really screws up your ability to eat intuitivelyThe truth is that you can’t be intuitive when you’re looking for a particular result. 

The same could be said for unschooling strewing. We strew with intent but if we strew with strings, if we are anxious about our children picking up items and getting involved, it screws up the unschooling. If, however, we trust  that children ( and adults!) are natural learners and strew with no strings attached, if the children are free to peruse our strewing or not, to follow our ideas or to find their own passions, then learning and curiousity and wonder and joy are more likely to flourish.

Intuitive eating is not about control, it’s about trust.  It’s about trusting your body’s signals of hunger and fullness, desire and satisfaction.  It’s about trusting your body enough to know that it needn’t be so controlled.When you allow yourself to eat intuitively, you will get results. Those results may or may not include weight loss, but they will definitely include something more.  They will include a letting go of the daily stress of worrying about food and weight.  They will include feeling at peace with your body and it’s needs.  They will include a new spaciousness in your life for joy, an openness to possibilities, a willingness to love and approve of yourself and be the fully-embodied person you were born to be.

The same could be said of unschooling. You “get results” when you focus on your child, your family, your environment, your community, your interests and passions, your life and not solely om educational or other outcomes.

Can you tell I am enjoying my Intuitive Eating journey, that its principles resonate with me, with what I have already learned by unschooling?


Nice Girls Finish Fat

A little breakthrough today, in my nice girl, food and feelings explorations.

I was upset by something. Pretty upset. I felt a headache approaching. I wanted to curl up or go away. And most of all, the rocky road ice cream and chocolate biscuits called.

Eating tends to make me feel good, temporarily, and puts off dealing with the emotion. I eat, I delay thinking and feeling.

Knowing this about myself, I told myself that I could delay eating. I could have the food I wanted later ( to say no to the comfort of food altogether would have been an added stress). But first I sat with the feeling, head in hands. I thought it through. I allowed myself to get angry. I got up and did a few things from my To Do list. I took a rest, still knowing I could have the food later.

And did I ? Well, I didn’t binge eat and I didn’t die from letting myself experience the upsetting emotions and I ended up being satisfied with one coffee and one biscuit.

A breakthrough.

Still working my way through:

Nice Girls Finish Fat

The Rules of Normal Eating

The Food and Feelings Workbook

Fed Up

Intuitive Eating

Catholicism, Life, Unschooling

What are we teaching our kids?

We unschoolers like to say we learn from life?

I find that my sons learn from me.

Not from my wonderful didactic moments. Not always from what I strew. But from me and from my life. . My actions and life speak volumes. Teach volumes.

I am a hard worker, I never give up, I keep on keeping on, I pray. These are my good qualities and much of these I see replicated in my sons.But what about the rest? What about the woman who is nice at all costs, who eats her emotions, who kills herself trying to do everything and be everything. Yes, I see some of my sons following this same route of pushing themselves to do everything and do it well.  And it’s not always good.

We all learn from life and from our families. In this sense, one could say we are all unschoolers. Yet unschoolers try, or should try, to do this unschooling with intent and not by default.

Which is why prayer and self reflection and introspection are necessary for unschooling mothers. For this unschooling mother.

“The teacher thus needs a basic education in dogma and asceticism. Apologetics is certainly also good, but the former seems more important to me: ready arguments, as right as they may be, often do not have penetrating force. But she whose soul is formed through the truths of faith — and I call this ascetic formation — finds words which are proper for this human being and for this moment respectively.” St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)



Faith, from our Unschooling Catholics email list, hosts a regular Strewsday  blog post.

We unschoolers strew our books, our resources, activities, life, for our families…with no strings attached but with the hope that something will be perused, that some spark will be ignited.

To strew.

To spread here and there.

This week, my sons have strewed to me.

What have they strewed?

A new recipe. A red wine chicken and mushroom risotto, which I was too tired to eat but which looked truly scrumptious.

Songs on Singstar…”Come on, mum, sing this one with us.”

A story of Socrates and of conviction.

A synopsis of Beowolf.

And a trip to the Opera House to listen to Brahms.

One thing most definitely leads to another.Image


And to finish….On Books

To finish off this roll of posts, to piggy back onto the Nice Girls and 33 Days posts…have you noticed a theme?

What all these posts have in common is BOOKS.Image

Have a life issue? Read a book.

Solve a problem? Read a book.

Relax ? Read a book.

Hang out with your kids? Read a book. Or talk about a book. Or watch a  movie based on a book.

Unschooling? Share books. Live books.

Books have been the core of our unschooling adventure.

When the boys were little, I used to say, semi tongue in cheek, that all our homeschooling happened at bed time. I would read bed time stories or chapter books and before we knew it, we would be talking and looking up words in the dictionary and finding up facts in the encyclopedia or on Google and looking at maps…

Even now. Even tonight.

As most people drift to bed, Anthony debates the merits of reading more of Jane Austen’s Emma or re-reading A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh wins tonight, with chuckles and reminisces and Alexander talking of his recent reading of our edition of Winnie the Pooh in Latin and sharing of phrases..Christopher Robin, walk around with an umbrella and say tut-tut, it looks like rain.

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” Maya Angelou


33 Days

As a piggy back to my Nice Girls post below….I am reading not just Nice Girl books but also a book on Marian consecration.

As the author of “33 Days to Morning Glory”, Fr Michael Gaitley writes, “…the heart and hands that nurtured Christ are the same heart and hands that nurture us, forming us into other Christs.”

Hold on. Doesn’t this make me fall into the nice girl, be nice at any cost trap?

No, to the contrary. As we read of St Louis de Montfort, St Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, Blessed John Paul II and their devotion to Mary, their following of Christ, we are reminded of the love of Our Blessed Mother, and of her Son, for us all.

This preparation for Marian consecration has truly been a turning point for me. Many,many things have happened, easy and hard things.

But, to quote Fr Gaitley again, ‘ One of the greatest aspects of being consecrated to Mary is that she’s such a gentle mother. She makes the lessons of the Cross into something sweet, and she pours her motherly love and solace into our every wound.”

She does.Image


Nice Girls

“You are reading a lot of nice girl things, Mum” remarked son number six, perusing my reading pile.

Nice Girls Finish Fat by Karen Koenig.

The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel.

Yep, I am.

Recent events have made me question my niceness.

Being nice is good. Being nice at all costs is not-so-good.

At all costs?

You’re here because taking care of others at your own expense keeps you trapped inside the cookie jar. Because wanting everyone to love you, putting your needs last, not knowing when enough is enough, being driven by guilt and inadequacy, and aiming for perfection 24/7 may be causing your eating and weight problems.

Mmmm. As a friend would say.

Take the Nice Girls Test. My score? Over the top! And so my current reading. And prayer. To be the nice me but also the take-care-of-me me. The goal is not to be un-nice but to remember my worth and dignity as a child of God.

Needs prayer. And reading. And reflection. And little steps.

Oh, the test?

__  1.  I jump in and take care of family members when others could but don’t or won’t.

___  2.  I feel guilty whenever I say no to family members or disappoint them.

___  3.  I avoid burdening family members with my problems.

___  4.  I put family members’ needs before mine at my own expense.

___  5.  I take care of friends more than they take care of me.

___  6.  I feel guilty and bad whenever I say no to friends or disappoint them.

___  7.  I am there for friends even when they’re not there for me.

___  8.  I put friends’ needs before mine at my own expense.

___  9.  Even though it stresses me out, I push myself to give my all at work.

___  10. I pick up co-workers’/bosses’ slack and rarely get credit for it.

___  11. People at work take advantage of my good and giving nature.

___  12. I stress myself out by saying yes to people when I know I should say no.

___  13. I feel in the wrong and apologize automatically even when I’m not at fault.

___  14. I keep silent about what’s on my mind rather than speak up.

___  15. I feel that whatever I do isn’t enough with friends, family, at work, and at play.

___  16. If I don’t do something perfectly, I feel like a failure.

___  17. I’m mortified when I make mistakes because of what people will think of me.

___  18. I have an overwhelming need for people to like/love/accept/approve of me.

___  19. I avoid making waves.

___  20. I go out of my way not to hurt people’s feelings and end up being dishonest.




My blog was hacked.

And so I have moved here to WordPress.

Coincidentally, there have been many changes in my personal and work life. So that I almost feel like my life has been hacked. Pulled apart. Changes made. Changes needing to be made.

What helps?


And unschooling.

Praying daily, praying at mass, Marian consecration, God opening up doors and teaching the cynical me many, many things.

And living and learning daily. Talking about Austen’s Emma and Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. Arguing about Milton’s Paradise Lost. Listening to Baroque music in the car.

The little things that help us through life. Prayer and shared experiences.

Now that’s Catholic unschooling.Image