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.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Free Play On The Beach

We kind of stay away from the beach when the weather warms up - too many people for our children to cope with.  But today was PERFECT for a visit to one of our wonderful beaches.

One of the boys decided to plough a bit of beach, and sow seed (dry sand).

While his brother finished sowing the seed, he made a harrow to cover the seed.

Some beautiful beach finds.

 The tide goes out a LOOOONNNNNGGG way on this beach.  I love the freedom of the children being just that little bit older so I don't need to be right beside them the whole time.   The youngest of the "away" crew was 6 years old - the oldest is 14.   I kept the toddler with me!

And a publicity shot with the new books!


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Adventures In Natural Learning books are READY!

Our books are ready!   

If you've been waiting for the best natural education resource to come out - then wait no longer!!

Please email me on or visit our Facebook page  Adventures In Natural Learning and message me there to order your books.

I was blessed and extremely chuffed to give my darling Mum the first copy of the Handbook (and asked her to carry it with her and show it to everyone she meets of course!).

Look forward to hearing from you all.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Early Spring

When we learn to appreciate the intricacies of the seasons we can rejoice in all sorts of weather!

It is EARLY SPRING - there are going to be very cold days!  It makes me sad to hear people complain "I thought it was supposed to be Spring - what's happening to the weather?"

Where we live in the world we have lambs, daffodils, blossoms, catkins ... and today we awoke to a fresh snow-fall on the mountain we can see from our place ("our mountain").

But the sun was shining so we headed for a wee beach to play and climb for a bit till we got too cold.

Dressed for the weather (I DON'T LIKE cold ears!)


Bigger brother looking after little guy.  Warms my heart.  xxx

Today it was ME with the camera - so I got a rare photo of our daughter who usually takes the pictures for us!

The wind was cold, the waves were sparkling and the day seemed very REAL because of it all.

 A couple of locals.

If you are able to get out into nature this early Spring then please do!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Handbook and Seasonal Journal - detailed information

There has been so much interest in the Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook and Seasonal Journal - but I haven't done a very in-depth post on them.  

So, if you are wanting more information before you make a decision on whether or not to purchase these books, hopefully this post will help you decide if these books could help your family.

 Adventures In Natural Learning 
was $40 - new price from 2017    $30

Contains over 400 games, activities, skills to work on and lists of things to expand your knowledge.

Natural Learning to us means no contrived or forced learning, and allows a child to engage in topics, going deeply into areas of interest.

Many, many parents and children are weary of the traditional of methods education - and often the ineffectiveness of it leaves children with negative feelings of themselves and the world around them.

And so, as more families turn to natural education, or unschooling, it is often the adults who have the hardest time "letting go" of the traditional methods, and difficulty trusting the children that they WILL learn, they WILL want to deepen their knowledge in areas of interest.

And along with the difficulty comes a cry from the adult of 
"Well - what DO I DO?!?"   

So I've made this book for families to use:  suggestions for games, activities and lists of interesting topics, it's totally chock-full of years of research and trying things out.  Hundreds of nuggets of fun and interest neatly formatted in ONE book!

 An example of the contents page showing some of the games listed in the book.

 The start of the introduction.

 Some of the pages showing games you can play.  No flowery details - just the facts and good clean fun.

So many people recommend that our children should be encouraged to play outside more - but what exactly does "play outside" mean?  Whilst some children will happily find their own entertainment and games, others need a helping hand.   I have a section devoted to the wonderful world of "Outside Activities".

And another section devoted to arts and crafts ideas.

Some families are confident that their children can learn mathematical concepts without the use of a curriculum, but they'd still like a check-list to see if there are points they can look at to fill out the child's knowledge.   I have included lists for younger and older children.

Next is the area that a lot of naturally educated children will find really interesting.  There are lists of "potentially interesting things" to study.  "Study" might mean reading something or discussing it - every child will have their preferred method of study.   Often looking at one of these topics will invite a whole wonderful rabbit trail of learning new things.

These lists have taken me years to compile - but still, they are just a spring-board for your family to take in whatever direction they want.

And near the end of the book is a lovely little section for the youngest members of the family - or for someone who intends studying early childhood/effective babysitting.   Once again, nothing flashy, no studio pictures or lists of skills a child will learn, or expected outcomes - just the facts!   

When a child starts to do things for themselves it can be assumed that they know the correct way to do it, but then an adult can become cross with a child slamming a door, or ripping a zip down roughly.  If the child is willing to listen and receive instruction (if you wisely pick your moment) you can work through this list with them.


Adventures in Natural Learning:
Seasonal Journal 

Inside the Seasonal Journal you will find the contents page:  

An introduction:

And then one page per season for a child or a family to complete month by month.  Nothing overwhelming, no expected outcome.

Here's an example of a page we have started

At the back of the Seasonal Journal are lists of lovely things to look at during each season.  I have put so many choices of things to look at, and I wouldn't like to think that a family feels under pressure to study everything in one year.   The idea is that next year you'll get a fresh Seasonal Journal to complete and revisit favourite seasonal ideas, or study something that you didn't look at the year before.  In this way the learning will go deeper and deeper, and wider too as many more rabbit trails are discovered and enjoyed.

For example "Collecting rocks and shells" in the early years may mean just walking along the beach and making a collection of lovely shells.  The next year when this topic comes around again the adult might like to look at a shell guide before you go to the beach so when you find a shell you can say "I love the lines on this oyster shell".  Or a child may become fascinated by classifying rocks.   If an adult supports and encourages an interest (but doesn't kill the joy) then a child will naturally want to learn so much about the world around them.

If a family are worried about covering the "major curriculum areas" then rest assured, these topic lists will easily give your children an amazing education.

If you would like to order 1 x Handbook, and 1 x Journal the price is just $45!    Extra Journals only $15.

Postage $6.50 flat rate within New Zealand.


If you would like more information, or to order please email me on: 

or visit our facebook page on:
Adventures In Natural Learning and message me there.

Thanks for reading!