adventures in unschooling

Notes on Learning

Freedom from Homework

Mars Kelsey is the fifteen year old daughter of friends of our family . She attends the alternative school Indigo Sudbury Campus in Alberta. Check out her beautiful music on her My Space Page. Her Biography states that it is “freedom fom homework” that has allowed her the time to develope her talents.

“Her participation in an alternative schooling program meant she was left to pursue her own interests at school and at home. More than anything, the freedom from homework allowed her to spend hours and hours alone in her basement bedroom listening to everything from the Beatles to Janis Joplin, Feist, The Rolling Stones and Radiohead, some of which were on scratchy old vinyl records culled from garage sales and thrift stores. These were her “History” lessons. A lover of almost all forms of music and a self-admitted “ham”, Mars enjoys each part of the creative process and is utterly involved in all aspects of her music, from writing and arranging to performing and even marketing. Her demo CD with 10 of her own songs was completed in January 2009. With her beautiful melodies and introspective lyrics, Mars provides an insightful look into the human experience that is seemingly well beyond” her 15 years.

Homelearning Community House Update

I haven’t made any posts lately about our Homelearning Community House. It is not because we haven’t been doing anything, but because we have been doing so much, I haven’t had time to write about it.

One thing we have all noticed is that we are having so much fun focusing on our community that other things are falling to the wayside – like laundry, grocery shopping, & cooking dinner. We also haven’t been driving much. Why bother with the trip to Science World, packing lunch and paying for parking, when we are busy dying wool with Kool-ade in the kitchen. In fact I have hardly gotten into a car all season and I love it.





One of the biggest thing we did this fall was Romeo & Juliet with our group, the Burrardview Homelearner’s Cooperative. It was a lot of work and there were many times we wanted to quit. It was frustrating when we had to stop something wonderful that was spontaneously happening and make the kids work on the play. It is difficult to balance structured and free activity. If you have too much structured activity it can really start to make things difficult. I realized that I really value having the freedom to follow things as they come as apposed to having to do something.

At the same time I feel that the kids really got a lot out all the hard work they put into Romeo and Juliet. It was very ambitious and we asked a lot of all of them. The youngest kids were six, and performing Shakespeare in front of over 100 people, remembering their lines, projecting and remembering when to exit and enter was a great accomplishment. I think they all had a lot of fun performing. Cassius needed stitches in his lip a few days before and could just talk by the time of the show. Despite it, he tried his best and had a great time.

Romeo and Juliet was a bit too real for Cassius & Anja, who both managed to play the title roles without looking into each other eyes. They adore each other but saying it in front of an audience was a challenge.

Cassius and Anja as Romeo and Juliet

All the kids also except for Paris and Thomas went over to the Northshore on Wednesdays for musical theatre, led by another homeschool parent. Our group performed our show and the musicals at the the Northshore Homelearner’s Winter showcase.

Cassius and Anja in “Oliver


It has been wonderful watching the kid’s relationships develop. Kate, Maia & Clara are stuck together like triplets. First thing every morning Paris(3.5) asks to phone Maia & Kate. He is in love with Rosalind and loves to go to her house on his own. Thomas(4) likes to come to my house and play Bionicles. He has suggested that perhaps we should trade children! It is wonderful to see what joy their feeling of Independence brings them.



We have missed a few wonderful activities at Rosalind’s house because my house doesn’t wake up as early as the other houses. Rosalind has managed to get us up out of our cosy beds for a morning of bike riding, so I ‘m willing to make the effort to change my ways for the right event.

Rosalind, helping Paris remove his trainning wheels.

Rosalind, helping Paris remove his training wheels

Speaking of physical activity. I think this is the number one thing the kids are getting out of being together.They swim, climb, wrestle, bike and hike together. They RUN constantly, inside, outside – everywhere! They can play hide and seek anywhere, and they play it running. I think it must be a very important thing for them to do or else they wouldn’t want to do it so much. The older kids are as involved as the younger ones, and they play together effortlessly.


Anja loves cooking and she is always interested in what I am making and gives me much needed tips. She likes to go over to Rosalind’s to help her bake. She is a wonderful help!

Making Cookies

Making Cookies


Rosalind is very good at getting involved with the community and is extremely inspiring. We bought a share in a local organic farm she is very active in, for 2009. I’m going to have to learn how to cook turnip,celeriac, and parsnips. I’m looking forward to visiting the farm in the Spring.


My Quintet of homelearning moms meets on Fridays. We often have nine kids playing peacefully in the living room while we play. Anja often listens at the door. Anja and I worked on jingle bells together (cello/piano) which was really fun, even if I did do the worst performance of my life at the Seniors Centre – Anja was great.

Rosalind had rented a child’s cello and would bring it along to rehearsals. Paris loved it!



The most wonderful thing that happened this fall is that I bought a dishwasher – Rosalind and Tamara must be very relieved after all the dishes they have washed! At one point the downstairs toilet wash plugged {playmobile}, there was no dishwasher of course, no facet on the kitchen sink , and when there was, there was no hot water. You had to get buckets of hot water from the bathtub, which doesn’t really turn off. Tamara and Dallas installed a new hot water facet in my kitchen as a birthday surprise!


Our plans for the New Year so far include an art class in the garage, crystal making, light experiments & playing games and the Noble knights of knowledge, and drinking lots of tea.

The beginings of a sugar crystal

The beginnings of a sugar crystal

Our Homelearning Community House

It is becoming clear to me that community (not what kids are learning or doing or how many wonderful classes they are going to) is one of the most important things for homeschooling and life in general.


This summer, my friend, neighbour and fellow homeschooling mom, Tamara, got very excited about Sudbury Valley School & The Little New School. She loved the idea of renting a house together with ten other families and having our own House School.

I wondered what we could do on a smaller scale with the few families that live near and the houses we had – since running a program would be expensive and time consuming. Then Tamara exclaimed,“Your house is Sudbury Valley School!” She was kinda joking but I really liked the idea. We talked about it with our other homeschooling friend and neighbour, Rosalind, and she was thrilled! It turns out she came to homeschooling through reading about Sudbury Valley School.

We talked about it and decided to give it try, using my house and Rosalind’s down the street.

I have a huge heated garage that we would like to set up as a workshop, pottery and painting room. We have a great yard and tree house that needs some improvements. Rosalind has a great big room in her basement and a wonderful backyard and garden. Rosalind was trained as a scientist and Tamara as an artist, and they both have a lot of wonderful knowledge and passion to share with the kids.

We moved our weekly drop-in from Strathcona to a room in hospice in a beautiful park a few blocks from our house and renamed our group Burrardview Co-op. We also have this space for three hours on Tuesdays. I have a background in theatre and am really enjoying working on Romeo and Juliet with the kids.616702f4njl_sl500_aa240_

At first we thought it would take a lot of planning and that we would have to have a lot of rules and guidelines – but so far things have fallen into space spontaneously and effortlessly. It is becoming impossible to separate Cassius’ and Paris’ learning from that of Tamara and Rosalind’s kids. They come over to our house most days Monday to Friday and seem to be in a constant creative state. Rosalind, Tamara & I are all amazed about how much easier our days are and how happy our kids are. We are doing hardly any structured activities and we’ve never been so busy.

For example, Last Monday we went over to Rosalind’s house and washed a whole bunch of fleece and lay it out to dry in the sun in her back yard. (I had a meeting and I was able to leave my kids there for a few hours knowing they were happy and safe, and not a burden on Tamara and Rosalind, since all the kids are so busy entertaining each other.) The kids would help us and ask questions when they felt like it and then run off and play.


talking to strangers

After our viking voyage Cassius commented that he had expected the crew to tell us more about vikings, because he had heard the crew were a wealth of information. I had been feeling the same, when I noticed the father of the other HS family we went with (who is very good at talking to people) sit beside the Captain and start asking all sorts of questions. I sat next to him so I could eavesdrop the answers. I’ve never been talented at talking to people I don’t know and extracting information from them. (Most parties are my idea of a nightmare). I don’t know if it’s possible to acquire the skill of talking to strangers when it goes against your general nature, but Cassius and I both agreed that it is a very valuable skill to have and that it can allow you to get more out your experiences.

little new school

Very amazing film on a off beat School near Copenhagen. John Holt the great pedagogue called it his dream school. You will love seeing the passion of the teachers and the children.

Cycling Motivation!

We now officially have a bike riding kid! I knew he could do it once he found his own motivation. I wrote this last January:

The main thing stopping him is that HE DOESN’T WANT TO. Why he doesn’t want to is in a way besides the point, because until he decides he does, it’s going to be a uphill battle to teach him. When he decides he wants to do it, he’ll be able to learn quickly, as it is obvious he has the ability.

It is us, his parents, that want him to learn to ride a bike. Why? Because a seven year old should know how to ride a bike! What if he never learns?!

After I wrote this Cassius kept trying, for us, to ride his bike, with many tears and cries of “this isn’t any fun!” We are carless again and are trying to find ways besides the bus to get around. So we got a trail-a-bike so we could take Cassius along on bike rides.

I was hoping that the feel of the wind in his face would give Cassius the motivation he needed. The first time he was terrified and miserable but had no choice but to hold on for dear life! Surprisingly he went with his dad again the next day, and this time he loved it! “I felt the wind in my face! It was so much fun!” It didn’t matter how many times we told him he would love it, he actually had to experience it for himself.

Right after his second ride he asked to try his own bike – and did it! He’s gone out everyday since then, and has had a few falls, but is now officially a cyclist!

Cassius’ Annual Review 2008

Mandala Area & Position in Learning Cycle (Spiral): Seed > Root > Plant > Flower >

LANGUAGING (LANGUAGE ARTS) Flower / Accomplished

Learning Successes:

Cassius joyfully and successfully surpassed all of the Learning Plan goals and completed many of the recommended Languaging skills and concepts for his age and beyond. He possesses strong communication skills. When speaking to Cassius over the phone and in person, it was a pleasure, he is very communicative and quite funny and friendly, he presented himself confidently, comfortably, and articulately. Cassius’ reading abilities have blossomed this year and have become integrated into his daily life. In September he was nervous reading out loud and now he reads books and passages out loud regularly with confidence. Cassius has blossomed this year with regards to his speaking and listening, reading and viewing, he has enjoyed a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books, games and presentations at levels that exceed all expectations. He has been growing his roots for many more age-advanced skills. Cassius has a great capacity to understand complex stories as well as to create his own characters and plots that are elaborate and imaginative yet incorporate a strongly defined structure and storyline. Although writing was much less of a focus this year, Cassius did express himself through poetry and comics. He also created stories to express personal responses and opinions about some frustrating experiences. Cassius worked on handwriting and calligraphy as well as typing. He enjoyed reading books about grammar and helped write and edit his weekly O4Ls (observation for learning). Most recently Cassius has recorded some ideas for a film. (more…)