Articles about Question your thinking

Is unschooling turning out different than you hoped?

I hear people say “I see all those unschoolers with kids following their passion for art, science or writing …….. and all my son wants to do is to play video games all day.”

When I began unschooling my two sons 15 years ago, I had no idea about what I was doing or what unschooling was supposed to look like. I was completely clueless, and this turned out to be a blessing. 

When you have expectations about how home education or unschooling is going to look for your family, you run a high risk of becoming frustrated, stressed and anxious when it doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. 

When you have expectations, you have an agenda. This can feel tight, heavy or pressured – not fun to be around. 

There is also the danger of falling into painful comparisons between your family and those families who make it all look cool and easy.

It might not be video games. It might be that your child likes to watch movies on repeat or endless YouTube videos. Or they might be a daydreamer that doesn’t stick to any interest for long. Or perhaps they really like your attention and involvement in their day and they don’t seem to be “self-directed” enough for unschooling. 

Whatever the problem seems to be, I’d like to invite you to investigate further. I’m not suggesting that you try and “fix” or change your child or your own approach to unschooling. I’d like to suggest that the problem is in the way you are thinking about the situation. 

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What is deschooling and why does it matter?

Deschooling is not a clearly defined concept and means different things to different people. I’m going to share my own personal perspective on it after 15 years of unschooling rather than try and pull together what others have said. 

Some people use it to describe the process by which children recover from unpleasant experiences they have had at school and rediscover their natural love of learning. This is usually seen as a short term thing. I’ve also heard it used in relation to adults who want to take their education into their own hands rather than rely on universities or college. 

For others, deschooling is about parents getting out of a school mindset and actively supporting their children in a child-led or self-directed learning process. I recently saw it described like this in a post on Facebook: 

“Deschooling is an important process in the unschooling philosophy- it’s about you moving from viewing school-like activities as valuable learning through to seeing and understanding the value and connection in learning through all aspects of life.” 

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Will my unschooled child ever learn to read?

Do you have a child who is “late” to learn reading and/or writing by school standards? Do you worry about it? 

Do you try and push your child to do more reading or writing? 

Is it a source of stress or conflict in your relationship with your child? 

Are you interested in self-directed learning or unschooling? 

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, I’d like to tell you a little story. Not to brag. Just to encourage you to question your fears about your child’s learning and to trust in the process of self-directed learning (if that’s what you want to do). 

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Do you feel your child is more than you can handle?

Do you have a child that seems more sensitive, strong-willed or anxious that you thought a child could be?

Or perhaps you think they’re more demanding, spirited or express more intense emotions than other people’s children?

Maybe all of the above? 💥💥💥

I know from experience that this can mean more feelings of overwhelm, more exhaustion and a lot more tears of frustration.

It’s easy to get lost in the helplessness of believing that you can’t cope or to drown in self-pity and a story of:

“Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”

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Why I stopped trying to be a “good mother”.

I was taught, by my parents and society, that I should strive to succeed, achieve and do worthy and lucrative work. In addition to that I should try and look a certain way and have a thin, healthy body; I should add to my knowledge and possessions and grow into a good daughter, friend and partner by caring for and serving others. When I became a parent I projected all of this striving, seeking and trying onto my role as a mother. It was an arrangement that was doomed from the start. The way that we define the role of “good mother” is an impossible ask.

It is hard enough to succeed, learn, work, stay healthy as a single person without kids. There’s a LOT to do to maintain your self-worth. It’s another thing altogether when you tie your worth as a mother to some young, unpredictable humans with their own unique direction in life.

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Just listen – even though it’s hard.

We are obsessed with trying to fix problems. Especially with our children.

Have you noticed that when your child gets upset or scared that you leap in with advice or try and fix their problem? 

Have you noticed that when YOU are upset or scared that you dislike it when someone tries to fix you?

I’m keenly aware that I would much rather someone just listen to me. When I can speak freely about my fears, anger or frustrations without someone trying to fix me it’s a precious gift. There is something very special about getting our private and troubling thoughts out in the open with someone who can simply hold the space and listen without reacting. 

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CREATE A BUBBLE OF FREEDOM FOR YOUR FAMILY

If you have sensitive, free-spirited children like I do, then you know that rules and restrictions create problems. 

If you place yourself in the role of the controlling parent whose job it is to make and enforce the rules you create a lot of conflict and emotional pain. You’re also going to be the one inflicting punishments and “consequences” and I bet you know how awful that feels. 

But what happens when you get hemmed in by rules imposed by others? 

We live in a society with law-making processes and enforcement through punishment. It’s stressful to live in fear of punishment, so I aim to follow the law or at least to find a way to live in harmony with it. 

Living in harmony with the law doesn’t have to mean the end of freedom in family life. 

For over 15 years I’ve lived with my husband and two sons in a “family bubble” of freedom, play and learning.

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My deschooling journey: how I came to love home education.

I’ve been a home educator for a long time now. At the time of writing my eldest son is 18 and my youngest son is 14 and they’d both been home educated their whole lives, until my eldest son decided to try out high school when he turned 17. It’s been a very interesting, and a times challenging, home education journey and I’ve done a lot of deschooling over the years. This article is going to be about my process of deschooling over that long period. I’ll also be sharing the tool that I used to question my thinking and to dissolve my school mindset.

Starting from the beginning……..

I have a very “schooly” background because I come from an academic family. My Dad was a university professor, my Mum taught at university and I had a university education myself. I taught at university before I had children. So it was a very academic environment. Obviously, the “academic” type or style of learning was very highly valued in my family. I had kids quite late when I already had a career teaching Law. I had my eldest son when I was 35 and he changed SO much in my life. I’d never been more in love and I’d never been more emotional and sleep deprived.

Things changed even more when my son got to four years old. That was when he dropped out of preschool. He had been enrolled in preschool two days a week and had enjoyed it, but it had always been quite stressful for him. He’d started to have really big meltdowns after preschool and to resisting going and it was getting very stressful. When he was four and a half, he just refused to go anymore. He told me he just wanted to stay at home with me and his little brother. I was left thinking, well, what do I do now? I can’t get him to go to preschool. How’s he going to fit into a school environment?

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The most effective form of self-care for parents.

I used to believe that the best self-care was to have time away from my children. I was desperate for a break from their demands for attention and I felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

Getting away from my children, even if only for an hour or two was something I craved. I wanted walks in nature, relaxing baths, personal shopping, chats with friends and time with my husband. These were precious pleasures and I still very much enjoy them today.

As important as it was, this “me time” was not enough to sustain me in the long term, especially once I made the choice to home educate my two sons. We were going to be spending a LOT of time together and it was going to be a long haul. I knew that I wanted more than just coping strategies. I wanted my parenting years to be joyful. So I set my sights on discovering a life free from constant stress and emotional turmoil. I wanted inner peace – not just while I was in the bath or out of the house, but while I was with my kids in the thick of our messy family life.

These are my top 3 suggestions for self-care.

If you want self-care that’s going to bring long term transformation and joy into your life, here’s what I suggest:

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Nurturing trust and openness with your teenager.

I vaguely remember what it was like being a teenager. It was a long time ago but some things stick with me. Feeling self-conscious. Overseas trips. Being taught stuff. Kissing boys. Learning how to sail and sew. Acne. Such richness of experience!

I also remember not wanting to “get into trouble” with my parents. I was scared of their judgement, anger and disapproval.

As a young child I tried to be a “good girl” and I mostly succeeded. I did my best to meet my parents’ expectations and I tried to anticipate what they wanted. Do as you are told was the basic “rule” that I perceived and internalized. I can’t remember the details of what was said or done when I was little. But I do remember flare-ups of anger, yelling and threats that scared me. Sometimes there was spanking. I have no idea how often but I don’t think it was common. My parents were blameless. We were all blameless. And inevitably, patterns of thinking and reacting were established in my mind.

I don’t know why I was so sensitive to judgement, anger and threats. I never had a thick skin. I took it all in, and it felt awful. Deep down, I believed that it was my fault; that if I said the right thing and behaved the right way I could avoid those flare-ups coming at me. Self-talk started to appear inside my head to remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that I should try harder, that I was to blame. I developed a keen sense of what would trigger my parents judgement and anger and I did my best to avoid it. This logic seemed to work for a while.

By my teens my desire to explore and have new experiences overrode my desire to play it safe. That’s when I started to hide parts of my life from my parents out of fear of their reaction. The highly charged topic of sexual relationships, with all their physical and emotional challenges, was something that I didn’t want to talk to my parents about at all. I used to sneak out of my bedroom window at night and walk through dark Sydney suburbs to meet a boy. My secret nocturnal life eventually led me to sex and fun, then to heartache and then to other relationships.

I was fortunate. I never came to any harm and I never experienced an unwanted pregnancy. I guess if it had come to that I would have talked to my parents out of necessity. As it was, I went my own way and kept quiet about my fears, questions and insecurities.

Perhaps you can relate to some of this? Did you ever react to your parents in fear and hide or pull back from them? Did you try your best to comply with their rules and expectations? Or did you rebel and fight back? Did you ever sneak or hide your explorations of food, porn, drugs, relationships, sex or something else? Did you have problems that you felt you couldn’t share with your parents?

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How to help your angry child

This article is for parents that have a child that gets very angry.

Maybe your child also hits, or swears, or blames you when they are upset. Maybe they have wild, screaming meltdowns.

This article is for you if want to support your child to get past their angry outburst without it becoming a battle between you.

You know your child is suffering and you want to help them rather than just make them feel worse about themselves.

Warning: This article isn’t going to provide a quick fix. But it might change your life in unexpected ways.

You’ve probably tried everything you can think of, but it just keeps happening

I know. I’ve been there.

I have two sons and they both feel things deeply. They have both been through periods of their lives where they experienced explosive anger.

This has sometimes been abrupt outbursts of rage. There was intense screaming and crying. Often there was physical lashing out, hitting and blaming their upset on someone close; usually me.

These outbursts were triggered by something, but it was not always possible to work out what that was. Even if the trigger seemed clear, there may not have been a way to avoid it.

From the start, I was clear about what I didn’t want to do.

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What is Joyful Parenting?

You are a person who cares deeply about your children and who wants to support them everyday in a way that is loving, gentle and playful. You don’t want to be an authority figure who is obeyed or a stressed-out parent who yells all the time. You want to be a calm, open and available person that your child can trust with absolutely anything, knowing that they won’t be judged or lectured.

You don’t want parenting to be all hard work. You want to have fun with your children and delight in your life together. You want to learn and grow into a more relaxed and confident person, just as you hope your child does.

You are looking for ideas that are both practical and grounded in spiritual truth. You don’t want expert advice, but you are open to learning from the experience of others.

You are the sort of person who might be interested in Joyful Parenting.

What makes Joyful Parenting unique?

There are three core elements that work together to make Joyful Parenting a unique approach to raising children.

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What dolphins taught me about harmonious family life.

Swimming with Spinner dolphins

I recently had the privilege of swimming with wild dolphins off the Kona coast of the Big Island, Hawaii with dolphin researcher and advocate Roberta Goodman. It taught me a lot about family harmony and living in flow.

I’m not very familiar with dolphins. I’ve seen Bottlenose dolphins playing in the surf in Australia but I’ve never seen a captive dolphin show or been up close in the water. Hawaiian spinner dolphins are much smaller than Bottlenose dolphins and travel in larger pods. They hunt at night in the deep waters off the Kona coast and they come into shallow water during the day to play, sleep and socialize. This brings them into close contact with humans who use these crystal clear waters to fish, surf, dive, sail and swim. These wild dolphins don’t avoid human contact. Long stretches of coastal water are empty of people and yet dolphins linger in the area where boats are gathered and snorkelers are in the water eager to see them. Barbara has been swimming with these dolphins for 20 years and she confirmed that these dolphins seek out and seem to enjoy their interactions with the people who come to meet them.

My son and I were lucky enough to have beautiful calm weather for our morning of dolphin watching. We were with a small group of two guides and 5 visitors. The captain of the boat kept watch for dolphins and dropped us in the water just ahead of where they would swim past. The first few times we were in the water the dolphin pod swam past at their “travelling” speed. We had a short and delightful view as we swam hard to keep pace but we soon dropped behind them. There were a few other boats in the area and other snorkelers in the water waiting for a chance to see the dolphins swim past as they cruised up and down the coast. The dolphins obliged by slowing down and cruising around the gathered observers allowing us to swim alongside them for longer. They started playing with us, swimming up behind us and then zipping past very close. A few times we saw individuals leave the pod and leap up out of the water in a magnificent spin and then slip back into the flow of the dolphin group.

Dolphin consciousness

I lost all sense of time as I watched these delightful creatures. There was so much to take in!  The flow of the pod as they moved through the water was effortless and graceful. They truly moved as one, like a school of fish or a flock of wild birds. And yet, there were also bursts of individual expression as one or more dolphins swerved out of the group to do their own thing. It was clear to me after even this small time observing them that these dolphins experience both a collective consciousness as well as an individual consciousness. Continue Reading →

It’s time to have more trust in human nature

There is so much confusion about human nature in our society. We all know deep down that we are innately loving, kind, curious and have our own unique intelligence and purpose in life. And for most of us this deep knowing is obscured from an early age by learned beliefs. We pick up a worldview from our parents and the community around us and adopt beliefs that become part of the fabric of our identity. As children and young adults we may be unconscious or only semi-conscious of these deeply held beliefs and our thoughts are influenced by the collective unconscious of the society in which we find ourselves. We may follow a pattern of compliance and “fitting in” to mainstream culture unless something happens to disrupt our lives and throw our beliefs into question. Continue Reading →