Saturday, 31 December 2016

Good news for 2017 - price reduction

I'm receiving fantastic feedback about the Adventures In Natural Learning: Handbook, and the Seasonal Journal.



Handbook - (was $40) NOW ONLY $30 each
Seasonal Journal $20 each


One copy of the Handbook
PLUS one copy of the Journal only $45

- extra copies of the Journal for only $15 each

Postage $6.50 flat rate within New Zealand

This is proving to be a resource that is changing people's lives, and I am very blessed to hear how families are enjoying using them, so my goal is to get them out there to the people who will love them!

Remember that these books are the spring-board for your own personally-designed family plan.  I've given HUNDREDS of ideas, lists and points to jump off with as you journey forth together.  I really wish I'd had these books years ago!

The Handbook is also being enjoyed by people who work with children - it makes life so much easier to have a neat and tidy resource with so many commonsense, fun and easy ideas to cycle through with the children in their care.

Overseas enquiries welcome.  I have PayPal.

You can either email me on
visit my facebook page:   Adventures In Natural Learning  and message me there.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Little Boy by Helen E. Buckley

Someone reminded me of this poem, and thanks to the Internet I was able to find the whole thing.

I first heard it when I was about 13, sitting in assembly at college. One of the older boys was leaving school, and he had the opportunity to share some "wisdom" at assembly.  He shared this.  At the time I thought it was possibly quite true, but I'd been in the system since I was five, highly compliant and never a problem to anyone.  However, inside my timid, introverted little heart, the stirrings of discontent were starting.

Of course, over the years, the message of this story has come to mean a lot to me, even though I couldn't remember the actual poem.

But now, here it is.


Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.
One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he looked at his own flower,
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this,
He just turned his paper over
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said,
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks –
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this,
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again,
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait
And to watch,
And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
Than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.
He had to go up some big steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there, the teacher said,
“Today we are going to make a picture.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy,
She said, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, any way you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher,
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
“And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to draw a flower.
It was red, with a green stem.

~ Helen E. Buckley

Thursday, 1 December 2016


I have a dislike of the majority of purchased sorting boxes for children.   It seems that when a child is at the age of REALLY WANTING to post items through slots that they're too young to figure out which side a certain shape goes into, and it causes a lot of frustration.

So, six children down the track, I decided to do something about it.  I designed this sorting box, and my husband made it.

Then we went around the house and found safe bits and pieces to include in the box that were fun to post through the various holes.

It was very popular with our sixth child (and his older siblings).

He liked to slide the lid on and off, and post EVERYTHING through the biggest hole, or if he was feeling up to the challenge he would post the items through the most appropriate hole!

We regularly found new things for him to post through the holes so the game had new challenges.

Unfortunately I can only find the lid for this game now!  The box is hiding somewhere even though I've looked in every box-shaped gap, so our seventh child makes do with posting things into empty tissue boxes, and other cardboard boxes that I cut holes and slots into.  Almost just as fun!


Here are some old photos of a project I did a few years back.  This little cat still comes out to play games from time to time.


I find that handsewing is much easier to pick up and put down than getting the sewing machine out.  It doesn't interfere with the children too much. However, there is a certain desire to finish a project once I start!

Before I sewed a circular base on the bottom of the cat (see the orange felt shape on the right) I stuffed his top half with stuffing, and then put a small amount of barley in a plastic bag, to give him weight on the bottom.  Very nice to hold in the palm of one's hand.

Here's our darling Charlie Cat - much missed now  :(   but fondly remembered.



I’m using a medium-sized camphor box (like a miniature camphor chest) for our rainy-day-or-not-feeling-well-fiddly-things box.  I think it’s important that the box that contains the fiddly things is special and nice – it adds to the care the children take of the items inside.

Some children are extremely tactile and love to hold and feel things.  Other children are very orderly and like to sort and order everything they come across – both these types of children will love this idea.

In the bottom of our box I've cut a piece of purple fur fabric to fit so that everything sits safely in the box without sliding around.     
If you have room in the box include a nice piece of black felt or velvet, rolled up for your child to set the items out on.  

These are some of the items you might like to include in your box:
-          smooth glass shapes like marbles or glass sea-shells
-          acorns
-          chestnuts
-          bits of chain – various thicknesses
-          smooth or bumpy shells
-          wooden rings
-          bells
-          acrylic, enameled or wooden rings or bangles
-          deep sea shells
-          polished rocks
-          “sea” glass (bits of broken glass smoothed by the waves)
-          Beautiful old brooches (take pin out of back if children young)
-          Various old bits of beautiful costume jewelry (not junky!)
-          large beads of various shapes made from various things:
o        ceramic
o        acrylic
o        glass
o        wood
o        enameled

Another idea along this line is a button tin or button box.  It can take several years to collect items of interest to put in this tin, but it’s a lot of fun for a child to sort through the button tin, and it can calm a restless child as they look for all the dark blue buttons with the triangle shape on, or all the red car ones etc.

Saturday, 26 November 2016


Firstly what is a curriculum?

It could be described as:

means and materials with which a student will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes.

This is where some natural learning/unschooling/delight-directed learning families often want just a SMIDGE of assistance.

There are times when "strewing the path" with activities/equipment is easy - your child or children make it obvious what sort of thing they're interested in or definitely NOT interested in!

But having been in this home educating career for over 20 years now I've come across many families, including my own, where a bit of assistance (just the right degree) has been wanted, but I've never found just the right thing.

So I had to make my own!

And I called it Adventures In Natural Learning:  Seasonal Journal.

One of the recollections my husband has of his school days is that each year at school seemed to have no relationship to the year before - the new information seemed to BURY any previous information.

With a spiral curriculum many ideas are re-visited over the years and BUILT ON according to a child's interest/maturity level.

When we were reviewed by the Education Review Office (when they did regular visits to home educators) the officer asked me:

"If you don't test your children, then how do you know they are moving ahead academically?"

I thought for a second then said:

"Because every time we come back on a subject they've enjoyed in the past they are excited to tell me what they remember about it."

He was satisfied with that answer.

And it has become something I really want other parents to understand.

Over the years I gathered masses and masses of ideas from various educational methods, and have sorted them in an orderly and seasonal fashion.   If a family follow these suggestions over a few years they will have covered SO VERY, VERY MANY TOPICS AND SKILLS.

Start slowly, gauge a child's interest and drop the topic if there is no interest.   Try another topic from the same season and see if there is any interest.   Next year, come back with a fresh Seasonal Journal and look at the same subjects.  At your own pace.  Miss things that are not interesting.  Go deeper into those that engage your child.

As an example - above in 'Mid Summer' a suggested topic is Expansion and Contraction.   For a younger child, perhaps when the sun heats the corrugated iron roof of the shed in the morning and you can hear a crack it will be enough to say "The sun is heating the iron roof and it expands, that's the noise we can hear."   That's all.  Unless your child wants to take it further. 

You can quite happily then TICK Expansion and ContractionDon't be surprised if your child then hears a car backfiring (or some other explosive noise) and says "Is that expansion?"

Another subject listed is Making hay, various grasses.  Keep this in mind to talk about when driving past a tractor, or seeing haybales in a paddock.  Talk about why it is best to put straw on your garden rather than hay (too many seeds in hay perhaps?).  Look at a video of building a hay/straw/sand/mud house.  DO they use hay or straw?  Do they make haybales from wheat stalks?   

How to give and follow instructions - use landmarks can be as simple as a role-play game.  Pretend you're a tourist walking through town, standing at say the park, looking lost.  Stop your child and say "Whereabouts is the library please?"   Your child can have a go at explaining how to get there.   Or role play a phone call - you're a washing-machine repair man who needs directions to your house (his GPS is broken ...)        You could also look at a map and give your child a pointer.  Point to New Zealand.  Go to India - what ocean do you go over?  Now go to Japan.  What country are you flying over?

Open YOUR mind to questions about how the world works.  Your child may be interested too.

And next year, coming back on the same topics they will, more than likely, remember what you discussed, and they will BUILD on it.


Playing games is an AMAZING way to learn.

If you've been following my blog, or my Facebook Page (Adventures In Natural Learning) you'll know that I want everyone to realise the benefits of play for children (and adults!).

At the front of my Adventures In Natural Learning: Handbook I've said:

'I haven't listed each skill covered by the various activities - that is totally unnecessary in a natural learning environment, and can so often limit spontaneous and joyful learning.  Separating skills and forecasting goals and objects is an institutional way of thinking.'

I'll come back to this in a minute.

Just recently, due to some online and some real-life discussions, I've been thinking a lot about the "de-schooling" period that many children need/require/crave when they are taken out of school, and into a home education environment.

It's true that parents also need a "de-schooling" period.  And, it's patently obvious, when looking at society in general, that many adults who went to school EVEN WHEN THEY REALISED THEN/REALISE NOW THE SYSTEM IS FLAWED still hold to those same methods of "education" as being the right way to educate a child.

This can be a huge problem when a parent wants to home educate, but they are still ... can I say 'brainwashed' ... into thinking that the national curriculum, and the methods used by regular schooling are the best, the right and the only way to educate.

Many parents,who start out home educating using regular school as their model (even when they say 'We're going to do it our way, our own timetable, have a blast, a fun life, our rules ...) well, even with good intentions many parents have found, over time even as their  education methods have relaxed and their lives become more education-rich in a natural way - they still have a nagging thought that they're not doing 'enough'.

This can come from three main sources.  One is comparing themselves to other families.   DON'T.   Just Don't Do That.  Ok?

The second is not quite comparing, but seeing all the cool 'educational resources' that their friends 'like' on Facebook, or special offers that mysteriously enter their FB feed from curriculum companies ... and the feeling that perhaps they're letting their children down by not providing these wonderful resources.  Or the feeling that actually - yes - they are making things harder for themselves by having such a haphazard way of educating their children, and surely it would be less chaotic, more streamlined and successful if there were some sort of method or path mapped out by an educational professional  who obviously knew what they were doing.

The third nagging-doubt-maker comes from a parent remembering days and days of handwriting, filling in worksheets, reading text books, covering multitudes of maths concepts, report cards at the end of term, copying from the blackboard (I was at school prior to the whiteboard era!), having to give reports in front of the class, busywork, pretend tests for the up-and-coming tests, 'what I did in the holidays' ...   Well, that is what education looks like.  Isn't it?

These doubts may not be at the front of their mind when the sun shines, the washing is up to date, all beds made with clean sheets, vacuuming all done, the children are playing co-operatively, days are free and easy, everyone is smiling and laughing and happy, the children are playing imaginative games full of enquiry, freely theorizing and naturally separating fallacies, fact, and opinion, being kind to one another, dazzling your visitors with home-grown general knowledge, wonderful manners and sparkling conversation skills, the fridge is full of healthy food, there is baking in the tins, and there is a general feeling of bliss.

Then there are the other days ...  and the doubts creep in.

"We're not doing enough."
"Ok, I read all about play being good for children, but at what age does that stop?"
"Sure - they can learn stuff when they play, but it's really limited."

And now I return, finally, to my original thoughts.

The way most of us have been educated is just one way.

It might not have been the right way for you.  It might not the be the right way for your children.

And if you want another way - you can PLAY.  At any age!!

It's true, I haven't listed each skill a child can learn playing various games in my book.  But just as an example look at the game below:

I could list skills such as:  following instructions;  listening;  standing still;  being aware of someone else's space;  IMPULSE CONTROL (not shouting out the answer);  learning to not be disappointed when YOU know the answer but the person chosen doesn't know;  staying quiet; remaining standing;  waiting for your turn;  thinking of the answer and holding onto that thought (hard for some children); being graceful toward a sibling; respectfully disagreeing if you feel you are right; not being braggy or arrogant if you keep getting the answers right; accepting when the game is finished; and then there is the actual answering of the questions.

If a parent thinks it would be too challenging thinking of questions for this game then quickly write some ideas on the book.   Things like:

RELATIONSHIPS  (Who is nana's son's wife's daughter?) 
TIME (What two days make up the weekend/what is the fourth month of the year/what time is 14 hundred hours?)
GEOGRAPHICAL (Name one country on the border of Germany/name one of the major oceans/what is one of the longest rivers in the world?)

etc etc etc

If a parent doesn't have the confidence to think of questions on-the-spot then maybe print out a list of general knowledge questions similar to this and put it in the Handbook.   (NB  like all new things, it's a learning curve for a parent, and may take a bit of getting used to but it's worth it.  Quite a few children LOVE being asked questions in a non-threatening, non-embarasing environment.  Also, NB if you print out questions be sure to look through them first, it is rare that I find a list of GOOD questions - I can often see areas where the children would disagree with the "right" answer, or questions on subjects that we have no interest in right now!).

I was recently on holiday (first holiday in 10 years!!!!) with my Mum and three of my children.  The bach we stayed in had a big selection of games and books.  The children found a "general knowledge" type game which they played with my mum.  She called out (relevant) questions from the cards:  "Hands on buzzers - which is the highest mountain in the world?"  One of the children would "buzz" she would announce them (as per "University Challenge" or other TV quiz show).  We didn't keep score, nobody cared if they were wrong, it was just fun, built relationships and passed the time (and yes, if you want to label it as such - it was educational).

If you don't have my Handbook - then just find a list of a few games somewhere, print them out, put them on the fridge so you ACTUALLY PLAY THEM - and get on with some real learning!!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


(Photography by our daughter)

When our daughter was 13 years old she made some lists showing a few things she'd been interested in over the last wee while.  All self-directed learning.

I'm putting this on our blog not to boast, but to show people HOW MUCH much learning a child can do when they're not under pressure to PRODUCE something to PROVE they are learning, and when they're not driven down avenues they have no interest in, labouring hours and hours reading dry text books and writing papers ...

Not every child at 13 would be interested in researching and enjoying such a wide variety of things, sometimes I think she is truly the "poster girl" for natural learning.  And I enjoy that all the more because our other six children are all boys who have EXTREMELY different learning styles.  

But if they were to make lists about their interests and recent learning areas I know I'd be pretty impressed too.

Late 2015

Manners and General Must-Dos of the 1900s
WWII and Winston Churchill
Royal Family
Natural Skincare and Health Supplements
Essential Oils
Instruments and Reading Music
Typing and Computer Skills
Natural Makeup
Needle Felting
Making Doll's Clothes
Soap and Candle Making
Knitting and Crochet

Early 2016

Childbirth and Motherhood
The Viking Age
Natural Education and the reasons it Works
Foreign Languages
Making Short Movies
Fitness and Exercise
Natural Health for Pets and other Animals
History of NZ and other Countries
Making Clubs
Jewellery Making
Interior Design
Acting/Performing on Stage
Stamp Collecting
Lettering and Hand Design Elements
Gothic and Medieval Castles
Making Blogs and Websites
Writing and Illustrating Books

Mid 2016

Special Air Service
Search And Rescue
NZ Police
and Police Informants
Martial Arts
Self Defence
NZ Air Force
Civil Defence
Gun Handling and Target Shooting
Fictional Writing
Macro Photography
Natural Disasters
Making Computer Games
Poisonous Plants and Animals
Human Trafficking
Character Design and Animation
Designing Survival Electronics  -  i.e. GPS/Compass/Weather Forecast
Legal Studies
Armed Offenders Squad
International Contact and Codes

Sunday, 23 October 2016

So Much To Learn

It's lovely for your children if you, as a home educating parent, can endeavour to be like a wise and knowledgeable friend - patient and kind, welcoming enquiry and humbly acknowledging when you don't know something ... yes, you're still the parent - and you MUST parent, but how lovely for a child to feel they can come to you with questions and discussions on life.

Today one of my children asked me 'What's quarter-life chaos?" 

Rather puzzled I said "Quarter as in half a half?"


"Life as in the opposite of death?"


"Chaos as in the opposite of order?"


"Quarter-life chaos?  Where have you heard this?"

"You said it."

"Me?  When?"

"Some time ago.  People having a quarter-life-chaos."

My light bulb finally went on. 

"Oh!  Mid-life crisis!"

Indeed we had been speaking of the old sterotypical male mid-life crisis involving a new wardrobe of tight jeans, unbuttoned shirts, a new red sports car, girlfriend in her 20's or 30's, parties etc etc etc.

And then I thought of how our children can be taking in SO MUCH information sometimes that often bits get forgotten, or stored into their memory banks incorrectly.

I imagined myself at a conference where I needed to take in hours and hours of new information, listen, absorb, remember ... sometimes our children's lives are like a conference every day.  More and more information, loaded into the memory banks.  When I was younger, at school, I was continually wondering if the information would start to spill out my ears at some point.

So much to learn.

And it's always a comfort for a child to know if something has been half-remembered they can always come back to ask for more information.


Saturday, 1 October 2016


It is said that when a child plays they process past experiences, and make sense of the world (amongst other things).

I loved seeing this scene one of my boys made when playing with the dollshouse, furniture, random loose parts and Sylvanians.


Mrs Kangaroo, assisted by Mr Kangaroo and Mrs Dalmation (the midwife) had just given birth at home in the birthing pool.

Very, very precious.





Friday, 30 September 2016

Unschooling/Delight Directed Learning or NATURAL LEARNING

This means different things to different families, but basically these families do not used a pre-packaged curriculum, and they steer away from workbooks/textbooks, timetables, schedules, forced learning etc. This definitely works for some families, but is hard for those who have not experienced the success of it first hand to actually believe.  And this is the lifestyle that receives most criticism.

Our family have chosen what we call a “Natural Learning” lifestyle (this is no surprise to you if you've been following my blog or my Adventures In Natural Learning books!!) 

For us, natural learning means mainly unschooling/delight directed learning. Much learning is informal, but if one of our children want a workbook to go through from time to time then that’s fine with us - if it is natural for a child, then it works.

We provide many resources to be picked up and put down as appropriate. We “strew the path” (to quote Sandra Dodd) with interesting things and experiences and the children learn from these if they are ready/interested. 

This photograph (which is in the Adventures In Natural Learning:  Handbook)  taken a few years ago shows one of our older sons with his best friend on the top of a mountain where they both love to be!

A neuro-typical child learns to walk when they are ready, talk when they are ready and read when they are ready. If we build a relationship of love and respect with our children it is rewarding to see their love of learning grow deeper all the time.

Something that “traditionally educated” people may find odd is that many home educating families do not put various subjects into into separate “containers” (maths and geography can be easily found in history for example), and the learning is often very “deep” for a child due to the high level of interest in various topics. Also learning does not only take place between 9am and 3pm – 5 days a week with holidays off. The learning is exciting and constant: the games, reading, figuring out – it goes on all the time, and most home educated children delight in the increase of knowledge. 

 This aligns with how learning takes place naturally in an unobstructed life.

In its early days the Adventures In Natural Learning: Seasonal Journal was just a book full of sketchy notes taken from other educational systems and curricula, game books and other resources, interspersed with our own ideas.  I worked on it for several years, and then at the beginning of 2016 I started to get it into some sort of neat order.   I'm  so pleased it has been published now, for my own benefit and for the families who have bought it and are enjoying it!

I would hate for the Seasonal Journal to become a chore for a child to pick up and work on.  If a parent senses that it has become stale or boring, then perhaps THEY can keep the journal going in a skeleton form so there is still something there in the book for the child to look back on in the next year. 

When a child isn't interested in a topic, but I feel that they could be interested I will often start a project myself.  When they see me enjoying it they might become involved, but if not then there’s no pressure. Because of the lack of pressure they often pick up far more information than if they were forced to join in. I learned very early on that each child has their own way of being able to learn and retain information. Some need to bounce or move constantly when thinking or listening, others need to fiddle with things, others ask questions constantly, some are silent, some require NO DISTRACTIONS!!

Some families use what they call a “bus stop” system where they learn something together - with children of different stages, as is common in most families - and those who lose interest can “get off the bus” and go and do something else whilst the older ones (or those who are still interested) stay with the topic, delving further, or making an activity based on the topic.

It helps for the parent to keep in mind what the children show an interest in, and find more resources and present them to the child in a casual way.  Just recently one of our children became interested in knights and castles. I had a couple of fiction books suitable which were read and enjoyed, and then the learning went quite naturally for him into swords, knives and other weapons. We looked at the armour knights wore, watched a BBC documentary series about building a castle, he drew pictures, coloured pictures, played with the Playmobil re-creating parts of the story “Page Boy of Camelot”. We never “left” the subject, it is just dormant for a while and will come back up quite naturally when he’s ready to go further.

There is a very real danger of "killing" a subject by taking it further than the child is interested.  Keep the lines of communication open and watch where their interest is going.

High goals and low expectations often create a very healthy learning environment where the children thrive and enjoy life and learning. We have never given the children formal tests, it isn’t necessary. We’ve seen many times over that when home educated children who have been untested as children come across necessary tests (drivers licensing, entry exams for certain courses etc) in the adult world they do very well. I’ve recently seen a quote saying “Thinking that you can make children more intelligent by giving them tests is like thinking that you can make them grow taller by measuring them.” 

I hope you've enjoyed this wee chat about natural learning.  Of course, I could go on for hours, but I shall stop now.  


Various Styles of Home Education - not my first choices, but you might like to know about them!

Some of my readers may be at the very start of their home education journey, and wonder about different choices available to them.

In this article I'll briefly introduce just three of the home education styles that some families choose.


This is basically buying a box/folder/set of instructions and perhaps workbooks containing pre-prepared lessons. Some include fiction/text books, others have book lists for you to source your own books. Buying books isn't as hard as it used to be thanks to the internet and sites such as Book Depository, Awesome Books, The Nile or the excellent little bookstore run by my friend Michelle over on Facebook called Homeward Bound (Michelle's book destash).  However, some families really appreciate the book-lists or supplied books with various curricula - trusting that the books chosen will be valuable additions to their home libraries.

Some curricula are teacher intensive, others are more self-teaching. Most have extremely attractive websites – often with samples of the curriculum, or overviews of content for each Grade. This information alone is very valuable for the eclectic home education system (discussed in a minute).

I am not overly familiar with pre-packaged curricula as this isn’t our chosen learning style, but I have consulted with other home educators on this topic to bring you some up-to-date information.

Using a curriculum can give a sense of “school at home” which suits some families. Of course a curriculum can be a spring-board for learning: rather than using it in the prescribed way a family may pick and choose topics or certain subjects from within a frame of a certain curriculum.
 At this point I'd just like to insert a very personal comment:  The above image is from the internet.  It is perhaps what people may think of as a wonderful environment full of "educational" things for children to ensure a great homeSCHOOLING environment.  Personally I don't like the message this sends to new home educators - making them feel they must buy and store (and keep neat) all these supplies.  The overwhelming message I hear from home educators is that many begin this way, but after the first few years of trying to gather all this stuff together they realise it's not necessary, and can cause more problems.  "What to have" for natural home education is a blog I will work on soon!

The word “curriculum” can be defined as the means and materials with which students will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes.

Having said this, if you choose to have a pre-packaged curriculum you may feel you are short-changing your children as someone else has decided what “educational outcomes” are important. Nobody knows your children like you do. Once again, home education gives you the freedom to make your own decisions based on what works best for you all.

Some names to research on this would be Sonlight, Live Education, Oak Meadow, Math-U-See, ACE Curriculum, Christopherus, Weaver, ABeka, Saxon Math, Apologia, Tapestry of Grace, Rod and Staff, My Father's World, Christian Light Education, Robinson Curriculum (self-teaching), Ambleside Online (free) and Alpha Omega Publications.

I've heard that one of the hardest things about using a curriculum is being brave enough to get rid of it if it's not working. No matter how much a parent may love a particular curriculum/resource (and no matter how much it cost), if it doesn't suit the child's learning style/tastes then the child probably won't be able to absorb and retain the information presented.


There are two great resources I am familiar with for learning about Classical Education and the Trivium – The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise - and Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn.

In Classical Education three stages are recognised:

The Knowledge Level (or Grammar Stage) – before birth to approximately 12 years old. These are the years for receiving and gathering information.

The Understanding Level (or Logic Stage) – approx 13 – 15 years old. This is the age that (typically) the world becomes more arranged and information is connected in a logical order.

The Wisdom Level (or Rhetoric Stage) – approx 16+ where gathered information is put into practical expression.


Unit studies can involves taking one subject (chosen by the child, or by the parent) such as “pirates”, “trees”, “pond life” or “the undersea world” etc or a book “Little House on the Prairie” or “Young Buglers” and forming a study around that. There is some cross-over here, where “unit studies” can also be used in “delight directed" learning.

Notebooking pages can be made by a child, or printed off and filled in by a child.

Lapbooks can be fun to make - lots of free templates are available on the internet.  Children also like to look back on lapbooks they've made in the past IF they have fond memories of making the lapbook.  NOT if it was a chore they were forced to do (take note!).


Eclectic learners take whatever workbooks/textbooks/fiction/non-fiction books/resources/videos/audios/community resources (library, parks, museums etc) they like the look of and use them as learning platforms. There is a lot of freedom in this style of learning.   However, this very freedom is the thing that doesn't work for some families.  Members of the family may feel lost without structure, or perhaps because of the season of life the family is in presently they want to keep track of where the children are "educationally".

Eclectic learners, on the whole, feel free to chop and change their style of learning as their journey progresses - they may do a bit of notebooking, make a lapbook, use a few textbooks ... whatever is right for them at the time.

Some names to research if you're interested in adding great ideas to your eclectic learning are:

  • Charlotte Mason education
  • Montessori
  • Pikler
  • Waldorf/Steiner
  • Thomas Jefferson Education
  • Democratic schools
  • Free/liberal schools
  • Enki Education
  • Reggio Emilia
  • NZ Government curriculum or other curriculum outlines
  • Christian Schools
  • Institute For Excellence In Writing
  • Freya Jaffke
  • Mary Griffith
  • Sandra Dodd
  • Ruth Beechick
  • Dr Jay Wile
  • Alan Thomas

Many of these styles/people have a lot to offer – but we tend not to agree with everything. Ahhh – the freedom of home education!

My next blog post will be on the topic that is dearest to me - the wonderful world of NATURAL LEARNING!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

If something is easy then surely it isn't working? Is it?

There is a common misconception in life that something has to be HARD if it's going to work.

I have a few problems with that concept.

Even though we may feel a sense of satisfaction and assure ourselves of future success if we make BIG CHANGES, often we're only setting ourselves up for failure.  

Many people know the feeling of "Right!  Let's do this!" at the start of a project/diet/new schedule/set of rules for chores etc.   But when one encounters distraction, unco-operative behaviour from those close to us, illness, discouraging remarks, boredom etc etc etc it can be VERY hard sticking to the project/diet/new schedule or whatever the big change had been.

Sometimes that's ok -  better to let go of project if it's not working than to flog a dead horse.  Chalk the whole thing up to experience and carry on as you were before.

However, after this has happened a few times in a person's life it might be best to see if there is a pattern to it.  Does BIG CHANGE often equal BURNOUT?


If the answer is yes, then perhaps it might be best to go gently with any new project or change.

Some years back a physio gave me four sets of exercises for my back.  He said "Just do as much as you can, when you can, see how you go."  His relaxed attitude was just want I needed at that season of my life.  I did really well actually - a year or so later I was still doing those exercises.

The reason I'm writing this is two-fold.

1.   Something doesn't have to be hard to be worth it.  

2.  "Little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept" works.

I'm sad when I see complex "homeschool planners" filled with minute detail of what page someone was reading and what mistakes were made and need to be corrected, and who is completing which book, and how many pages they need to get done this term ...    I saw a picture of one such planner recently - an open double-page for one day's work - full of ticks placed by Mommy-Teacher and the caption for the picture was "Feels so Good!".    I don't disagree.  I'm sure it felt really good to achieve that much work - was the child co-operative and engaged?  I don't know.  Did the child retain everything that was covered?  I don't know.  But I do know that for MY family this would never work.

I could feel SO satisfied and actually enjoy setting up a system like that.   I like planners, I like books, I like writing things and filling in forms.   But the first day of actually getting the children engaged in the work, and carrying through ... it wouldn't work.    

The reason I am sad about this is because it's sending a message to other, perhaps newer, home educators - or those who feel they need to do more because what they're doing doesn't appear to be working.

 But listen:  


Yes I was shouting.  Shouting joyfully.  It's not a secret!!!  It's Good News!!!!!

If planners, timetables, schedules etc work for your family then - great!    If they don't work then - great!

This is one reason I created the Adventures in Natural Learning Journal - for the families, like ours, who needed something different.  It's not a planner, it's not a busybook, it's not a nightmare to complete, it's not limiting, it's not SCHOOLISH.    It's a way to record a child's year easily and gently - for the benefit of the child to be able to look back fondly on.  If the child doesn't want to complete the Journal then the Mummy can do it - no problem.  It shouldn't cause a chasm between mummy and child/children.

And the other part of my two-fold thought here was - little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept.

Take the "Memorization" part of the monthly page-spread.  You might think "Hmm... only room for one small poem or quote.  That's not worth doing".*

But I would say to you that one poem, verse, quote, equation learned per month equals twelve learned per year.  

And more than the NUMBER of poems etc learned is the fact that a child's "memorization" part of their brain is switched on, and if they find that fun they will take off on their own.  

Several of my children have set themselves the task of learning pi to about the 40th digit - just because it's fun.  One of my older boys memorized an entire rap song in Japanese because it sounded like fun.  He also recited something in Olde English to me the other day that knocked my socks off - and this had small beginnings - learning Robert Louis Stevenson poems, AA Milne, hymns, fingerplays, songs, quotes ... little by little, line upon line.

Start small.  Get yourself an Adventures In Natural Learning Journal.  Learn about one person a month, one place in the world, one thing to memorize, play a few games (as found in the Handbook), stick in a photo of your family from that month ...  

Life and learning don't need to be HARD to be EFFECTIVE.  Life can be hard enough on it's own without turning LEARNING into a chore and a drudgery.   Left on their own children LOVE learning.  Learning and breathing come naturally.  Who made it a chore and in some cases a PUNISHMENT?


*If your child is keen for more memorization then each piece can be written/typed onto a bit of paper the same size as the "Memory work" box.  Then run a bit of glue along the left-hand side of the bit of paper and press onto the "Memorization" box - creating a little mini-book on the page.