Welcome to a snippet of our world. We are a family of six, three teen boys and one 6yo girl, living, laughing, learning and loving in our own way via life learning, home education, unschooling, call it what you will. We have strong family values, are working towards peace and positivity, are constantly working on good communication, goal setting, healthy lifestyle and creating the life that we want. Please enjoy the snapshots of our life......

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unschooling moment

Or maybe a deschooling moment. T got me an iPad for my birthday (woohoo!!), totally unexpected and I couldn't talk for about five minutes. My jaw just hit the floor. It was one of those wish list things but not really on my current wish list - more somewhere in the fuzzy future wish lists. I have been so excited at the possibilities and freedom it gives us for work. That's our main goal at the moment - to set ourselves up so we can travel anywhere, anytime while still being able to conduct business. I love this technology.

I have been downloading podcasts to listen to and am soooo excited about this. It has taken me into a whole new realm of learning possibilities. I have always had in the back of my mind that I would one day go to uni - in my mind the only thing stopping me was the fact that I can't pinpoint one subject passion. I love psychology, history, forensic science, biology, anthropology, travel, languages - French and Italian, literature and more I can't think of just at the moment. Very hard to do a uni degree encompassing that lot :)

As I move more and more into unschooling and fresh off getting home from the First Ever Australian Unschooling Conference and reading Dayna Martin's book Radical Unschooling - A Revolution has Begun, I was up until 2am listening to podcasts! I literally had to give myself permission to stay up this late. I was lying in bed at about 11pm (late for me, usually 10pm) thinking passionately about all of the fabulous free podcasts I have downloaded and getting excited about listening and suddenly gave myself permission to get up and do it NOW, not tomorrow or next week, but NOW. I know this probably sounds bizarre but I had a very strict bedtime all through childhood, even into my twenties and early thirties (self-imposed then but deeply ingrained) and spent those years with the belief that I would be tired, I would be tired if I didn't get enough sleep and guess what? My refrain was always, "I'm so tired". I am feeling excited and joyful this morning after about five hours sleep and that is so against my normal mindset. I feel like I have had a breakthrough in both understanding myself and where I've come from and with unschooling/deschooling myself.

Uni is getting pushed further and further into my future, not with regret or disappointment, but with excitement, passion and joy at how easy it is to gain knowledge when, where and whatever you want with the technology that we have available to us. I love unschooling myself probably more than watching the kids learn freely.

Love Karen

Some fun stuff over the last three months

Lost teeth - three in two days!

Playdough peeps

Bath art - food coloring mixed with hand soap

Birthday girl - Miss 6

K loves her meditation pose - she called this lounge box her humming box. We were in a spiritual type book store the other day and while T and I were browsing she grabbed a yoga book off the shelf and started doing some poses in the middle of the store. People just graciously passed over or around her while she held the downward dog.

Back into nature

Bushwalking with Nanna

Fuzzy friends

Furry surprises

Giants Cave

Shell/rock collection from Henley Beach, Adelaide - added some weight to our baggage on the flight home!

Love Karen

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What kids say...

K was watching me very intently as I was getting ready to go out for the day. I don't use much makeup but a slick of mascara, a dash of lippy and my hair being brushed was all being taken in, or so I thought! I was having a feel good happy mother and daughter moment and as I finished I asked her "How do I look?", more to generate conversation with her than because I actually wanted her opinion. She said, "Well, you have a pimple on your forehead."

Moment shattered.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We have had a lot of changes in the last 3 months or so and sometimes life travels so fast it's hard to get your head around it. D (17) has been accepted into the army in his position of choice and leaves on 14th February, 2011. N (13) has decided he would like to go back to school so started about 8 weeks ago. It has meant he has gone to live with his mum as his choice of school (where many of his friends are) is a lot closer to her house, about 45 minutes to an hour drive each way from here depending on traffic. We speak to him on the phone every day and have reverted back to every second weekend here and all the holidays. M(15) has started OTEN Cert II in General and Vocational Education distance education with TAFE so is studying independently now. I am still supporting him as far as providing supplies, photocopying and other back up jobs but as far as providing educational opportunities/experiences myself, that has now been reduced.

It occurred to me today that I have had seasons in my life where it has been required that I focus more on one child than the others. When D was young, most likely because he was my first and I was so inexperienced or maybe because of his strong personality, I couldn't focus on ANYTHING else. He was so full on and took up so much of my time that when M was born two years later he really didn't have a choice but to be the placid, easygoing personality that he is.

As time went on that focus and need diminished and other things came and went in my life. When K was born, of course she was the focus for a good couple of years. Then N came to live with us and I put 110% into providing the same educational opportunities in his path as well as great life experiences that the two older boys had had. At times I was overwhelmed, all self-created of course, but I knew that I wanted to focus on him and seeing the results I am so glad I did. I would often chat with Tony about being overwhelmed and we would put strategies into place to deal with this but I still wouldn't have changed the intense focus on him for those three years.

This morning I got up at 5am to take M to morning tramp training. He is training up to 6 days a week, early mornings, evenings and some weekends, with fundraiser events, etc to raise money to help pay his way to the National Championships in a week's time. And that's when it hit me that it's his turn now for my focus. It's only taken 15 years :) Helping him get to his part time job (up to 25 hours a week sometimes), doing as much as I can to support his study without actually doing the work and running him to training, physio appointments and competitions.

This does not in anyway mean the other kids are neglected. The other kids' needs are just not as hands on and don't require me all of the time. D doesn't need to borrow the car as he catches buses and trains but I know it makes his life easier so I rearrange things to make this happen regularly. N loves to bring his homework on the weekend here and I make sure he knows I'm available for him. We sit and chat while he works through it. This is just the way it is at the moment. It's funny how most people share the time dutifully between each child to minimise jealousy and neediness between the children but looking back over the last 18 years, there has definitely been a season of parenting each child at different times of their lives. I find it really interesting to acknowledge this as a mum and think it reduces some of the guilt that we feel at times.

Love Karen

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Here is my new goal - more fun! I want to dance, skip, laugh, be myself without censorship. My daughter is playing T's guitar, singing songs - her words - "do you love me? I love you so much, we are friends, we will hopefully be friends forever." All to a beautiful tune. It is all so precious.

We had a lovely day today celebrating a little friend's birthday. The mums, dads and grandparents chatted and helped make the little girl's day so special. The 15 or so children changed dynamics on a constant basis - older boys being chased and playing with little girls, two girls playing together cracking macadamias, big groups of children playing on the trampoline, little groups playing dress up in the bedroom, snuggled up watchng a movie, joy at pass the parcel, enthusiasm, laughter, friendship, warmth, decorating cupcakes.

What more is there to life, seriously?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Interview with the Army

My eldest, D, has an interview to join the Army on 15th June. He is extremely excited as he has been talking about it off and on for about twelve months. He finally made the initial call in February (after he turned 17) and they told him it could take up to six months to get an interview. When they rang, he was shaking with excitement. It was lovely to watch, as if it was my excitement as well.

He needs to have an interview, medical and aptitude test on that day so I googled some aptitude tests and came up with this one. He wasn't here when I printed it off so I did it and got 18 out of 33 (feeling pretty pleased with myself) and M and N had a good go at it getting a few, then getting too frustrated, then kicking themselves as the answers seem so obvious once you know them. I gave it to D when he got home tonight and after priming him and setting up the challenge that anything over 23 is classed as "genius" status, he proceeded to get 26 on his own and 28 by giving a couple of very subtle hints.

So there ya have it - my boy's a genius! Let's hope the recruiting officers are reading this.

Love Karen

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tea Party

Having a girl is soooo different to the boys. They played a lot outside - jumping on the tramp, riding their bikes up and down the driveway, drawing with chalk on the concrete, making soup out of mud and all types of plants while stirring with a stick and playing imaginary shooting games. Maybe because K is on her own and the boys had each other to play with but she is definitely an indoor girl when at home, playing for hours with her teddies/puppies, colouring in, drawing and dressing up and dancing to music. A whole different kettle of fish to what I'm used to!

K made up a big list of things we had to include so we didn't forget anything and she marked them off as we went - she's her mother's daughter - I am the list queen! Cookies were on the menu, the more M & Ms, the better.
We set the table in the finest drapery with a single red rose from our garden.
The tea's poured, the delicacies are set out and it was time to wake D, the only other person at home, so he could join in. Mmmmm, cookies for breakfast, he said.
Then there was the fun of washing up. She did about half of them, I suppose I have to be happy with that. It was a lovely morning. I don't get much time with her one on one for a length of time so it was pretty special.

K watched a 3D movie the other day and I couldn't resist these photos. She looked so serious while watching the movie with these funny glasses on but, of course, ........

she had to play up to the camera as soon as she saw it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mums Know Everything!

After our movie, K was having a quiet play with her teddies/stuffed puppies so I thought I'd put on one of my 30 minute lectures from the Teaching Company. Of course, she then had to start crawling all over me and proclaimed in a very loud voice, "This is booorrring". I replied that I really enjoyed it and that I was learning. To which she came back immediately with, "But I thought Mums know everything!" It was so quick and very funny.

It has been a running joke in our house for years that Mums know everything. The boys were always surprised when they did something sneaky and I knew about it. I would just say mysteriously, "Mums know everything". And I would always add if I didn't know something I always knew where or how to find it. So the legend lives on with my daughter and, yet again, my words are coming back to haunt me.

Organic Learning

How can you ever record the learning that happens in everyday life (without driving yourself totally crazy)?

It is a rainy Saturday so we popped on a movie this afternoon that T picked up for two dollars yesterday. It was a cheaply done 2D cartoon type called Globehunters - an around the world in 80 days adventure.

Well, the conversations it generated. Firstly, there was the travel which we followed on our world map to see how far the three escaped animals travelled - Miami, China, Italy, France, Russia, Germany and India with references to the Himalayas and Mt Everest. Then there were the animals in the different areas - pandas in China, leopards and baboons in the Himalayas. Also the different countries' monuments - Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa. When the 'baddie' was chasing the three animals, K asked why he could catch the cheetah because aren't they the fastest in the world?

It had issues of animal cruelty as the animals escaped from a lab in America. When the chimp decided to join the circus after escaping, there were discussions about whether that was just trading one kind of cruelty for another and was the animal really free if it made the choice to work in the circus.

At one stage the parrot asked when they were going to be fed as it had always been fed while in the lab while an insect passed under its' wing which led to a discussion about the dangers of hand raised animals being let back into the wild.

I'm sure there were many more topics as well. So, how do you record all of this on a day to day basis to meet the KLAs?, Well, you could always blog about it.......

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Ever Australian Unschooling Conference

I am very excited to be able to go to this conference (find information here). I went to the Australian Homeschooling Conference a couple of years ago and came away inspired and energised to continue this journey. The last couple of months I have let go of a lot of bookwork type activities and am embracing a more natural approach with N (13). He is my step-son and so I have always felt the need to "produce" work, not only for his mum but also for registration. I am now recording things we do each day but have no expectations of learning required. I think it also helps that his two older brothers (my two boys) are reaching an age where they are self-directed, responsible, curious and intelligent learners and I know that they have a great grounding to be life long learners. N is working a bit with his dad, reading a lot, doing puzzles, playing Runescape, watching docos and movies and developing a passion for gardening, mainly growing fruit trees from seed. We will see where this takes us but I am very comfortable with it so far.

What I struggle with is radical unschooling. I LOVE the concept but it's like I don't have the energy to be always there for my kids. I like time to myself each evening, that's one of the things that keeps my energy levels up throughout the day, looking forward to my time of peace each night. I also prefer to feed them healthy options rather than eat what they want, when they want. I like to have a tidy kitchen after each meal, not have kids continually eat all through the day so the place always looks like a bomb - OK, as I am writing this it does sound terribly controlling, hmmmmmm......

So, I am open to learning and hearing about radical unschooling a la Dayna Martin. I have read a lot of books about it but am nowhere near that free yet. I say yes a LOT more often than I used to so slowly inching my way along the spectrum. By the time my kids are grown up, I will have let go of my control issues, I'm sure - lol! Anyway, I believe this opportunity is in my life for a reason, whether it is to show me a glorious new path and kick me out of my comfort zone or to cement my deep seated values that I believe children need direction with sleep, health, food, etc. We'll see......

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blue Mountains

T and I had to go to the Western NSW for a business trip so made our base in the Blue Mountains at Blackheath. We stayed in a house called Araluen - for all of you Ranger's Apprentice fans this was a nice touch of synchronicity. It had central heating, thank goodness as one night it got down to 2 degrees C overnight but it also had an open fire which we lighted each night. I don't know what it is about fires but they are fascinating to kids (and adults), especially when accompanied by the obligatory marshmallows to melt.

The weather had us tucked up early to play games with cards and do jigsaw puzzles. I don't know what it is about going away somewhere new, whether it's just the fact that you're out of routine, but we always spend great quality family time together, chatting, playing, having warm cups of tea, watching movies together and listening to music. I love staying in places that provide the homely touches. This house had a great library to trawl through, board games, old DVDs and videos, etc. We watched Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and National Geographic videos on Lions, Tigers and Volcanoes which were fascinating and probably not something we would particularly choose at home. Maybe it's the limited choice that makes it desirable, or maybe that you are having a sneak peek into someone else's tastes.

One of the days Mum and Dad popped in for a visit and we did a bushwalk from Pope's Glen near our house to Govett's Leap along a lovely river.
Lots of time to stop and enjoy the scenery and N took lots of photos of scenery and close ups of plants.
And there is always time to stop and play with a lady bird!
Another day N and I took a quick walk down Leura Cascades, absolutely magic spot and a great walk for kids.
N and I also took the Scenic Railway down into the valley, walked along for a couple of kilometres and then up the Giant Stairway (or we used to call it the 1000 Steps). I did it when I was 5 and a half with my dad and it has stuck in my memory all of these years. I have taken my two older boys a couple of times and wanted to share it with N. The views from the top of The Three Sisters is spectacular (see link for the legend behind The Three Sisters) - stretching on forever. It makes you feel so insignificant standing looking out at the vastness of our country's landscape, while at the same time feeling so powerful and energetic being part of it.
Back to the touristy spot, with busload after busload of people visiting for the day, with just enough time to snap a tourist shot like this one. Me, I prefer immersing myself in the bush, becoming a part of it for a couple of hours, breathing in all of that energy rather than standing separated from it and ticking off the view from my to-do list :)

Little Surprises

K loves familiarity and routine but gets a lot of joy out of surprises and spontaneity. I am always looking for ways to see her face light up and get a lot of inspiration from A Magical Childhood blog. Drawing funny pictures on her chalkboard at night time so she wakes up to it or faces on the bottom of her socks so she can walk around with secret smilies in her shoes all day are fun. Here are a couple of pictures of
things that have lit up her face:

Simply cutting out and blue-tacking some of her colouring-in just near her bed so she can enjoy them during quiet/sleep times. Her face lights up and she gets so excited saying "You are the best Mum in the world!" She has also been known to call me the worst Mum as well - oh, the drama of having an expressive princess!

We are still doing our chalkboard alphabet project - up to the letter I. Mostly she will draw the pictures but I surprised her one morning by helping out.
Saying yes more often led to this spontaneous autumn shower. We were watering N's new fruit tree seedlings and it very quickly changed into great water play. This was one of our first chilly days too. Kids just don't seem to care......
I just sat back in the nice warm sun with a hot cup of tea enjoying their high spirits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Update on our busy life

My eldest, D, has finally got his P's driver's licence. Aaah, freedom. I remember it so well. He has been getting up really early (for him) to take his brother to work - just because he can! He has spent the last week driving his Dad's car to and from places and drove our car for the first time today. I stood on the driveway, just like my Mum and Dad did the first time I drove off independently, and pretended to be biting my nails in fear but just so, so proud. I have really enjoyed seeing him grow up over the last couple of years. He is quite adamant he will join the army. Having already filled in the forms, we are just waiting for an interview and more information so he could be gone in two months or six months for at least four years or so. I am enjoying every last minute with my big baby while I can.

We visited a Macadamia Farm a couple of Fridays ago.
The staff got the children involved in a game of "collect the most macadamias" and you could win a prize - cheap labour, I call it - cough, cough.
They then had their buckets weighed. N, K and one of her little friends collected a bucket and a half which is a LOT of macadamias but, alas, were beaten by a group of teens. After that they were shown through the factory to see how it was all done.
Then it was time to browse in the shop to drool over all of the delicious products and enjoy a hot chocolate and cup of coffee. We had about 70 people turn up from the home school group - our group and support network is definitely growing.

Other than that, we have been doing more trampoling training with M with Qld championships coming up on the June long weekend, NSW championships in June as well and a couple of other qualifying comps just before then.

We have also bought an extension part for T's bike to make it a tandem for K to ride on. She still just fits in the baby seat on the back of my bike so we left that on my bike in case she got too tired on her first long ride but she loved it, staying on the back for the loooong ride and only hopping in for about a km or so. Looking forward to lots of long rides now with her on the back of T's bike. I was flying on mine, riding solo after five years of carrying her. She weighs about 20kg now, so the extra weight was great for my fitness and strength!

K's reading is coming along well. We are working through the Fitzroy Reading program which I have had for ages and involves a fair bit of phonics, practicing letter writing, etc. Yes, we are using curriculum, but she has always enjoyed her "schoolwork", loves the workbooks, so we are just going with it. Her face lights up when she recognises the letters or small words so that's joy enough for me.

Other things we've been loving are:

Ranger's Apprentice series - N is up to book 9 and whipping through it.

Horrible Histories on ABC3 - funny, funny, gross and funny

My Place on ABC3 - Australian history series about the same house that has different families living in it every decade or so. Set against cultural, political and economical issues at the time throughout history back to 1883. Fantastic series.

Fun Brain Institute - a group meeting fortnightly ages from 4 to about 10 run by a primary school teacher who has an absolute passion for teaching and it shows. She now home educates her two littlies and has organised a three hour session of art, craft, logic puzzles, maths, literacy, reading time, music, etc based around a theme. Last time it was puppets, next time transport and the time after that is dinosaurs and fossils. It is such a fantastic get together and to see the kids work in groups on projects or just playing with the games, puzzles and playdough is lovely. Of course, it is a great support time for the mums as well.

There's part of our busy life. Looking forward to the next couple of weeks as well.

Cheers, Karen

Our Chaotic Dining Room Table

I had made us a big pot of vegie soup for the cooler autumn days and as I served it up with lovely crusty bread I had to push and move things around the table to make room for us to eat. This is pretty typical of our days of learning. This particular day was on the go and as I served the soup over the top of art work, writing practice and science kits, I had a little chuckle about the choas some days bring.
I thought photos would say it much more clearly than I could but every home educator can relate to this, I'm sure. We had gone from doing a jigsaw puzzle on world flags to phonics practice to watercolour painting to putting a science kit together to running out and buying batteries for our new talking globe (we love it!!). There were books to be read, colouring to be done, paper planes to make, a motorbike meccano-type kit that was being put together, a game of 20 questions that has been lost for a while..... I seriously didn't have time between one enthusiastic thing to the next to make a clearing so it just kept getting piled on the table until I stopped and took a breath at lunchtime, served up the meal on top of all of the activities and had a good laugh.
Here's our new globe. K loves trying all of the national anthems, finding flight times between cities and practicing pronouncing the capital cities names. I love the busy, productive days.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Autumn Walking

Well, there goes my intense training for the marathon! I have hurt my ankle - a combination of too much enthusiasm over a short space of time, too little stretching and recovery time and recurring sports injuries from glorious sporting days gone past. But my spirits are not dampened. I am aiming to walk at least 35km around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra at the end of August so still have a way to go to improve my walking/running. I have read that 1.5km of cycling to 1km of walking is great for cross training so I am going on a bike ride tomorrow morning as cycling doesn't hurt my ankle.

I have it all strapped up and have been feeling really antsy about not being able to move much so decided to go for a stroll today while M was training trampolining. There is a new walk in Lake Macquarie that goes out over the water which has only just opened so we packed up K's bike and headed over.

We are so lucky to live so close to such lovely walks, scenery, cafes, etc.
Miss K's obsession with all things puppy came out today with us stopping for EVERY dog to have a pat - about ten all up. So it was definitely a stroll! It was lovely to be out in the fresh air again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I have had a few people emailing privately about wanting to leave a comment so have changed the settings. I am very new to blogging but loving it and learning about it as I go. Thanks for your patience.

Love Karen

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I have spent the Easter holidays spring cleaning the whole house and today it was K's room. We rearranged the whole room, moving the bed to underneath the window so she can now pull her table out (it slides under the bed) and creating a lovely space under the bed as well as room for her to colour in, draw and create on her table.

I decided to put one of her bookcases under the bed, along with her little lounge, some pillows and a snuggly blanket so she can creep under there and read in her "library". She loves her new hidey-hole.
Her toys were sorted into bin, keep and give aways and reduced and tidied dramatically. It was fun for her rediscovering things that have been hidden for ages, giving new life to old toys and favourite things reappearing. All in all, a very satisfying day.

Inspired by The Biggest Loser

I have to admit I LOVE The Biggest Loser. I don't watch much television but I love seeing those unhappy, overweight people go from life threatening obesity and depression to thinking more positively, changing physically and mentally completely, overcoming their biggest fears and achieving massive goals. It really inspires me. I was watching this year's competition and their goal was to run a 42km marathon after 12 or so weeks. Some of them couldn't even walk 4km at the start without throwing up so to see them achieve a marathon had me in tears over and over again as they crossed the finishing line. I was so excited for them.

Which gets me thinking. I know I don't have masses of weight to lose. I know I am quite fit and healthy compared to many women my age but I look at those people on the television, some who are still 20 or 30kg heavier than I am and they are finishing a marathon!! While that sounds like a doable task, while I was watching the marathon episode, I hopped on the walker for an hour and walked what I thought was quite a good pace and only walked 6km in an hour. That means it would take me at least 7 hours, that's if I could keep at the pace of 6km an hour the whole way, let along getting through the mental barriers. My admiration for these competitors increased immensely as some of them finished it in 5 hours. I was amazed.

So I have set myself another goal. I want to be physically and mentally strong enough to walk/run a marathon. First of all, I thought about doing it on my walker and just plod along. Then T suggested I do it around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra which is 35km around and would be not only different scenery so I would get less bored but I would be out in the fresh air as well. I would just have to make up the other 7km by doing a bit further.

I have googled beginner marathon runner websites as I have never been a runner, the furthest I have ever run is about 500m (gulp!) but I don't mind walking as much as I can and then break into a run where possible. I am going to train for the next three to four months and see what happens. Anyway, it's good to have lofty goals - even if I make half a marathon, it's more than I have ever done. I'm really excited about this and have the support of the kids and T so we'll see!

Great North Walk Hornsby to Crosslands

Yay, we started back working on one of my goals - to walk the Great North Walk from Sydney to Newcastle. The last time we did a leg of it was about 18 months ago. Last year we were quite overwhelmed with the trampolining commitment but this year we are determined to get quite a few legs done. After yesterday we have completed 51km out of 250km so a fair way to go.

We were laughing about our "date" as we had K minded and the boys just stayed at home. It was so lovely to have a day just the two of us, in the bush where it is so peaceful and quiet and just talk, walk and exercise without being interrupted.
The scenery as usual for this walk passed by and over a lot of water which always makes it a pretty walk.

This walk had a few extra challenges with a ladder helping us go down this tricky section.
Even though it was overcast most of the day and a lovely temperature, it was still humid and this little waterfall was a welcome relief for cooling us down.
This was the last section of the walk, lovely and flat, a nice stroll alongside a river. We really enjoyed it after the medium to hard grade up and down sections we had been through. This was the hardest leg of the walk so far, being 14km long and through Galston Gorge but we really enjoyed it. My perfect date - great company with my favourite man, exercising physically and mentally and walking surrounded by nature.