Their Secret Place

Our home forest

Our home forest


I read an article about a year ago about a family that unschools. We Don’t Need No Education was the title. Their approach was quite free. Their two sons spent the majority of everyday outside roaming the woods surrounding their home. They seemed to have very minimal if any academic “school” time. Their education was purely child led, independent, outdoors. The boys had breakfast, did their chores, then went outside by themselves exploring until the end of the day. The boys started learning to read when they were ready. They sounded like true outdoorsmen and had what seemed absolute freedom.

I have found that every family’s true definition of unschooling differs. It fits each family in their own unique way.

To me unschooling is defined as allowing personal freedom, choice, and expression in learning. Allowing learning in real life, without scheduled traditional structures that are routinely followed. Where interests are followed.

I thought about this article today because with the weather becoming much warmer, so many days have been purely outdoors. This morning both kids have been off on their own in the woods by our home. Playing, building, eating snacks, creating their own world. I can see their heads and colored shirts through the trees from where I sit outside. I can hear their voices. They are content that it is just them.

My husband told me today how Carl Jung talked about children’s desire and actions in the need to create their own “secret space.” It is a place for their “spirit” to go. I see that in the boys in the article. I see that in my children as well. As I look around, I wonder if we do enough of that for our kids? Allow them to be free, to be outside, and create their own spaces? A space their spirit can be free, and undisturbed from the “order” and chaos of adults?

I see the importance. I wonder if that is what happens to us as adults? Did we develop that secret place when we were young? If so, can we still find it? Do you go there?

A “secret” space where our spirit resides.

If you look hard enough, you may see a dog, and one of my children's heads poking through the bushes.

If you look hard enough, you may see a dog, and one of my children’s heads poking through the bushes.

Patterns and Living History

One of my wonderful nieces is the same age as my daughter and she currently attends kindergarten twice a week. The other 3 days we are lucky to have her join us for homeschool. Today was one of those days.

Both girls wanted to paint their nails and toe nails. They chose their colours and met me in the kitchen. The had chosen 4 colours. 2 for their hands and 2 colors for their toenails. They had decided on a set pattern for both theirs hands and feet.

Before I painted their nails I asked them what their pattern was. They instructed me how the pattern should be painted. For example, their fingernails were to be orange, blue, orange, blue, orange, starting with their pinkie finger.

Pattern Fingernails

Pattern Fingernails

2 Element Pattern Toenails

2 Element Pattern Toenails

It was a great time to talk about patterns and what makes up the elements in a pattern. They both understood that each of their chosen patterns had 2 elements.

I also had nail decals for them. Unfortunately I only had 12 in total. I asked them if it was possible to divide the 12 decals in half, or into 2 equal parts so they both had the same amount.

They counted out 6 each. Their plans for decals on their fingers were twarted though when we realized their fingernails are too small for the decals I had. We decided to put a nail decal on each thumb and big toe instead.

After a Lego session and lunch they decided to go outside for the afternoon.

They were pretending they were very poor and have a plot of land that they have to live off of. They have to hunt for their food, build a home from what they have. Homesteaders. Historically this is how many people in this region started their lives just a few generations ago.

Two of the Homesteaders. Their Homestead house in the background. Ronan was off hunting for them with his bow and arrow.

Two of the Homesteaders. Their “second” Homestead house in the background. Ronan was off hunting for them with his bow and arrow.

They later told me that Ronan was hunting and they were cleaning to get ready for the mayor’s visit. The mayor was going to have supper with them and would determine if their home was clean enough. If it was clean enough they would be allowed to keep it. They were baking blueberry pie, cherry pie, and baked salad for the visit. (Yes, baked salad) Ronan was catching fish and prairie chicken for the dinner.

When they decided to come inside they continued their adventure. They fished from their "boat" using their Japanese wind socks they made at the Fine Arts Centre. Zahra played the fish.

When they decided to come inside they continued their adventure. They fished from their “boat” using their Japanese wind socks they made at the Fine Arts Centre. Zahra played the fish.

This is not the first time they have been Homesteaders. It is a continuous game that they play.

Living History.

I love that they have the time to play freely, create and imagine.

This is a link to our local provincial homestead history including original maps and records.





One of the joys of homeschooling is the freedom that it allows. The kids are free to learn, free to play, free to engage in whatever route their curiosity takes them.

Yesterday felt particularly free.

Zahra woke up first and wanted me to read an Asterix and Obelix comic book to her.  Asterix and Obelix in Belguim was the chosen comic book of the day. ( Great old comics by the way. For us they always lead into discussion and research on history, politics and geography, plus explanations of satire, characters, vocabulary and language )

Ronan chose a book, The Class Trip From The Black Lagoon and read the entire book before breakfast. After breakfast the kids played. They let their imaginations take them away and create worlds and characters that they dressed in, renamed and acted out.

Freedom to read, freedom to play and freedom to learn.

After their play session Zahra decided that she wanted to do some math at the school table. We sat down and worked on that together. We talked about even and odd numbers. In her math journal Zahra listed even numbers by writing 2,4,6, 8, ..20..40.. She used the numbers on a ruler as a number line to help with her counting out by 2’s. We took out pencil crayons and she put them into even groups of 2. Using this method she decided if a number was odd, or a number was even. (Her idea after going through the definition of an even number) We looked at a hundred chart and chose random numbers to test to see if they were even or odd.

After that she pulled out her UmiZoomi Math box ( a gift from my mom that she loves as she is a huge fan of that program) and went through completing every book, activity and exercise. Then she pulled out another book from our “workbook” pile and started working on that. A book that I had first thought was beyond her current level, but that was where she completely proved me wrong. Adding large double digits, subtracting them, grouping by 10’s to count. She used her large stack of pencil crayons to help keep count and visualize her way through it.

We had a lot of fun working together.

When it comes to Math I am not a textbook, worksheet, testing -sit down and figure out exact equations type of parent/educator/homeschooler – whatever you want to label me. Sure we may have a few workbooks, but they are packed in a box combined with some math games and clipboards. We use a large amount of problem solving, natural application (a huge amount of cooking and games) and manipulatives in our homeschool math. If a project or curiosity takes us into math, wonderful, but I do not have a setup and assigned math time. Does this work for us? YES it does. How do I know? The answer for me is not complicated- my kids tell me that they “love math”.

They love math.

This day I felt that we were accomplishing what we set out to do with homeschooling. Making learning fun, making learning a regular part of life, and helping our kids know that as long as you have that curiosity and joy, learning can come to anyone, anywhere, on any subject or topic you choose. When I was a kid, I did NOT love Math.

As a homeschooling parent, I am re-learning.

Learning that “school” and “learning” can be different for everyone. It does not have to be the traditional approach.

Learning that regurgitating and memorizing the facts doesn’t necessarily mean you know it. It is about reasoning, application and flexibility. Really, isn’t that what the work world is really looking for in people?

Best of all, I am learning there are other ways to learn and approach math, and through that I am re-kindling my own love of Math.

There are some days that all Ronan wants to do is Math problems. Sometimes he will work on large math problems everyday for a week. Ronan never wants to do a Math worksheet or workbook.

That is cool with me.

This day he chose to read. That is also cool with me.

After completing that first book before breakfast he chose Flat Stanley’s- The Intrepid Canadian Expedition and read the entire book while Zahra and I worked together. It was nice to hear constant giggles coming from his reading chair.

Constant giggles from my son and big smiles from daughter. That is what learning is all about.

Having Fun With Math

Having Fun With Math


Geometry Anyone?


Math Class?