Thursday, 23 April 2015

Dreams, Talents, Working and Unworking

In a few months' time my daughter Imogen will finish her university degree. She's started thinking about what she would like to do next. 

"I have three lofty dreams," she says.

One of them involves a piano, a microphone and a box of make-up. Can you guess what she wants to do?

In this week's podcast, I talk to Imogen about her dreams for the future. We discuss the following questions:
  • What are Imogen's dreams, and is it possible for her to follow them?
  • Should I encourage her in these dreams?
  • Or should I point her in the direction of safe and secure employment?
  • We all have talents. Are we obliged to use them?
  • What might the word 'unworking' mean?
  • Using our own definition of the word, should unschooling lead to unworking?
  • Unschoolers are different. Can this be frustrating?
  • And what new adventure might Imogen and I be setting out on? 

Program Notes:

Blog posts about following dreams

Have you ever had a dream? I have. When I was a child, I wanted to write children’s novels. But somewhere along the way, I gave up the idea of becoming an author. There was no time for dreams. I had to be sensible and get a regular job with a regular income. That was what was expected.

I want my children to have the opportunity to discover their talents, and the freedom to pursue their dreams, whether or not I feel they will lead to a good career. Of course, they might make a few mistakes along the way, go down a few dead ends and have to start again. But that’s okay. They have my unconditional encouragement and support whatever they choose to do.

Passions, Careers and Time
There seems to be a minority of people in the world who say, “I’m really lucky. I get to do what I enjoy most each day… and I get paid for it!” Everyone else goes to ‘work’, and passions and interests have to fit into the leftover hours of the working week.

Imogen's blog
Imogen Elvis: Gossiping with Dragons

Music: Frammenti, by Andrea Carri, (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

I hope you enjoy our podcast: Dreams, Talents, Working and Unworking.

The photos show Imogen working towards one of her dreams.

To the left is Imogen's latest blog button, drawn by Charlotte.

You can also find me on...

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

Friday, 17 April 2015

Wild on the Inside

 “Do you think we look like unschoolers?” I ask.

“What do unschoolers look like?” asks my daughter Imogen.

“Aren’t they supposed to look rather wild? Or at least different? Unconventional?”

“Well, we don’t look wild.”

“No, we’re rather ordinary looking,” I agree. “No one gives us a second look as we walk down the street. 

"And you can’t tell we’re unschoolers by looking at our home.”

“You’re right,” says Imogen. “We don’t live in a campervan or in some wild and adventurous location.”

“Well, I think our bush is rather wild and beautiful, but I know what you mean,” I say.

“And our house isn’t unusual in any way," I continue. "We didn’t build it ourselves from mud bricks or glass bottles or some other recyclable material. We don’t live off the grid.”

“Our backyard isn’t overflowing with home-growing food. We don’t own a cow or a goat.”

“Yes, no one would guess there’s unschoolers living inside our ordinary looking brick house.”

“And no one at church would guess we’re unschoolers either.”

"No, we don't follow all the latest trendy ideas. We're definitely traditional."

"We look like we're living a very conventional life."

“We look just like everyone else.”

I grin, and my eyes twinkle, as I say, “But we’re not like everyone else!”

Imogen's eyes light up too. “If only people could see inside our heads!” 

“All those radical unschooling ideas!”

"All those possibilities!"

“Inside we’re wild!”

So can you lead a seemingly conventional life and still unschool? Can you live an amazing, exciting, unschooling life without anyone suspecting?

Oh yes! You can look ordinary on the outside, and not appear wild at all.

(Unless of course you’d like to have curly hair and haven’t got an electric hair curler. Then you might look rather wild, with your hair twisted into alien lumps.)

But of course, if you don't want anyone to know you're unschoolers, you might have to keep quiet, otherwise all those exciting, unconventional ideas could tumble out. And then everyone will know you're different. (And don't blog about it either!)

Are you wild on the inside too?

You can also find me in these wild places..

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Power of a Few Encouraging Words

Have you ever had a dream? I have. When I was a child, I wanted to write children’s novels. But somewhere along the way, I gave up the idea of becoming an author. There was no time for dreams. I had to be sensible and get a regular job with a regular income. That was what was expected.

Then one day, a few years ago, I found myself dreaming again. All it took was a few words written by a friend in a birthday card. She asked me if I’d ever considered writing stories for children. Her words went around and around inside my head. Could I write a children’s story? I decided to have a go.

A few days later, I had composed my first story. I faxed it off to author and friend, Father James Tierney, for his opinion. When he faxed back, I almost didn't want to read his words. What if Father hadn't liked it? But I needn't have worried. These were his words: “Write some more!” (Father Tierney is a very kind and encouraging person.) So I did. A few months later, I’d written my first children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek. Last year, I published that book. And a few days ago, I finished the sequel: The Angels of Gum Tree Road. I dedicated both books to my Goddaughter.

Several days ago, I saw my Goddaughter and gave her a parcel. She tore off the wrappings to reveal a home-bound copy of my new story. “It’s so cool! It’s so cool!” she kept repeating, as she hugged the book to her chest. Oh my! My grin was huge as I witnessed her reaction to my gift.

Charlotte is going to illustrate my new Angels story, and then I’m going to publish it. I hope everyone will like it. But if no one does, it won’t matter at all. My Goddaughter loves it. That’s enough reward for me.

It's amazing how powerful a few encouraging words can be. They can turn dreams into reality.

My children have their own dreams. They’ve had time to explore their talents, and now they have big ideas about their future. Do you think I should encourage them to look past what’s expected, what’s safe and predictable, and follow these dreams? Or maybe I should take the sensible approach and say, "Be realistic! Do something which will provide you with a safe and steady income." What do you think?

The other day, Imogen, my 20 year old daughter, and I were talking about her future. Her eyes were alight as she shared her dreams. She wants to continue following her two main passions: writing and music.

“Would you talk about your writing, your music and your dreams with me in a podcast?” I asked.

“Sure!” she replied.

So I’ve been making a few notes about things I could ask Imogen. Yesterday the word ‘unworking’ came to mind as I was thinking about the podcast. This word pops into my head at regular intervals. What does ‘unworking’ mean? I’m not sure. My ideas might be very different to other people’s. But maybe I could explore what this word conjures up for me in the podcast too.

Now that my novel is finished, I'm looking forward to having more time for blogging. Do you remember all those blog post ideas I jotted down a few weeks ago?

I did actually get around to writing the...
  • ... story about the very wild life of unschoolers... (involving)... multiple balls of wool and delicious iced finger buns (the ones covered with sprinkles!)
I wrote that one more than a week ago. It's called Maybe We Should Have Listened to the Critics.

And now I've written....
  • ... the post about encouraging words, and where they can lead.

My upcoming podcast will...
  • ... explore the idea of unworking.

But what will I do after that? Make another Evernote video? Or write a chore story? Tell you about those potatoes? No, earrings! I must definitely write about the earring disaster. But then again, before I do that, perhaps I should share my tissue story...

So many ideas! And I now have time to explore them. It's good to be back!

The Angels of Abbey Creek

The images were drawn by Charlotte. They are Annie, Celeste and Lizzie Angel.

You can also find me on...

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

Sunday, 5 April 2015

An Elvis Family Tradition

On Easter Sunday I say, "It's time to sing By Your Kingly Power O Risen Lord!" Gemma-Rose finds the hymn books, I set up my camera on the tripod, and everyone lines up. They know the routine. We've been singing our favourite hymn on Easter Sunday morning for years. It's an Elvis family tradition.

"Are you ready?" I ask. A moment later I hit the 'record' button. And everyone opens their mouths and sings. Several minutes later, I have my annual recording.

As usual, everyone has big smiles on their faces. We can't help it. We're all overflowing with Easter joy. 

We hope you're having a very joyful Easter too.

Happy Easter from the Elvises!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Changing People's Minds about Unschooling

Sometimes when I’m hopping around the unschooling blogosphere I stumble across places where I don’t feel I belong. As I read the posts, I can feel the high emotions: “No one can tell us what to do with our own children. Society is wrong and we’re going to fight the system.”

And although I agree, I don’t really see myself as a person who’s willing to put on my tough boots, arm myself with strong language, and head into battle. This doesn't mean I don't want to do anything about the situation. It just means I prefer trying a gentle approach, if I can do this without compromising my children’s way of life. For of course, if I ever do have to choose between my own family and outsiders who want to control what we do, I can be as tough as anyone.

Can a gentle approach be effective in changing people’s minds about unschooling? Sometimes just the word ‘unschooling’ can raise people’s hackles. They won’t even listen so it’s no point talking. They have misinformed preconceived ideas about what unschooling is. Most times I can shrug my shoulders and not worry about what other people think of our way of life. I don’t need to convince anyone that what we’re doing is actually okay. They have no influence over our lives. Or do they?

It is very inconvenient but there are actually some people in this world who do think they can make rules about the way we raise our kids and how we educate them. I'm talking about the educational authorities from our state governments. I can understand why they think they need rules. They don’t want any kids falling between the cracks and missing out on their right to be educated. The rules were made to protect children. But these rules can seem very unnecessary, especially to us who are living an unschooling life. 

So how do we deal with what appears to be an unfair registration process? Do we stand up and be very vocal as we fight? As a group, I think we should. But is there also a less confrontational way we can use as individuals? Can we unschool without compromise, and still remain within the system? Is there a way to present our children’s learning to the education department which ensures they are impressed, despite the fact our children are unschoolers? Can we change people‘s minds gently?

I talk about all these things in today’s podcast, as I report back on last week’s homeschool registration visit. I hope you'll listen!

(In my podcast, I know I sound like an Evernote salesperson. I did get a bit carried away with enthusiasm!! I do realise there might be other systems which are equally effective at showcasing unschooling!)

Program Notes

My Evernote and Homeschool Records Youtube playlist

My Homeschool and Registration Records blog posts

My video: Registering as Homeschoolers Using Evernote Unschool Records:

Podcast music: Twombly by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)

Photos: In my podcast, I mentioned how Gemma-Rose has been making notebooks. This one started life as a hardback novel. Gemma-Rose enjoyed showing her finished book to our Authorised Person when she came for our registration visit!

You can also find me on...

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Maybe We Should Have Listened to the Critics

Two girls: Imogen and Charlotte. One car: their passport to freedom. Where shall the girls go? What will they do? The possibilities are endless. My daughters grin as they set off on a wild adventure.

Hours pass.

“I wonder what happened to the girls,” I say.

And then I hear the sound of a car pulling up onto the driveway. A moment later, two girls, weighed down with big bags, appear through the doorway. They still have grins on their faces.

“Had a good time?” I ask.

“Fantastic!” they say.

“Where did you go? What did you do?”

“We went to our singing lessons…” begins Charlotte.

“… and then on the way home we stopped off at the library,” finishes Imogen.

Charlotte’s eyes are sparkling. “We borrowed heaps of books!”

“They’ll keep us busy for a week or so,” says Imogen, as she empties the big book bags onto the floor.

“Did you go anywhere else?” I ask.

“We went to the mall and bought coffee…”

“… and iced finger buns. They were dripping with sprinkles." 

Both girls lick their lips.

“Did you walk around the shops? Did you buy anything?”

“We only went to Lincraft...” begins Charlotte.

"... so I could buy some wool to finish knitting my blanket," finishes Imogen. 

Singing, library, coffee, iced finger buns dripping with sprinkles, and multiple balls of wool?

I wonder if we should have listened to the critics. Maybe they’re right. You never know what wild things our unschooling children might get up to when we’re not around.

“It sounds like you had a wild time,” I say to my girls.

“Oh yes!”

“We sure did!”

Sometimes I wonder how I cope with this wild unschooling life. 

Photos: some wild balls of wool!

You can also find me on...

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Funny How Things Change

365 photo by Sophie

Last Friday I was ready to swing into a new season of our unschooling year. “No more record keeping for this term,” I announced to my girls. No more looking out for educational experiences to turn into Evernote notes. No more strewing. No more reading aloud. 

No more...

“Would you like to…?”  
“Shall we…?” 
“This looks interesting…”
“Did you know…?” 

Time to take a break, relax, spend more time on my own projects, and look forward to Easter.

But on Monday morning, my youngest daughter, Gemma-Rose asked, "Would you like to read us another chapter of Return to Billabong, Mum?”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to do something of your own?”

“No. I’d like to listen to you read.” So I opened the book to read more of Mary Grant Bruce's novel.

After I’d closed the book, I opened my computer, hoping to edit a bit of my novel. But as usual, it didn’t take me long to get distracted. I rediscovered the Evernote Clearly extension, and wanting to try it out, I searched online for a copy of Banjo Paterson’s poem Clancy of the Overflow.

“Wow! Look at this,” I said to my daughter Sophie, showing her the ‘clean and easy to read’ poem I’d clipped using Clearly. “Isn’t this a great way to clip poems before putting them into a notebook?" A notebook? There was nowhere to put the poem because I hadn't created one for this week. I decided to create one after all.

But it’s no good just popping a poem into a notebook. The girls wanted to read Clancy of the Overflow before it disappeared into the records. So we read it out loud and enjoyed it immensely.

While I’d been searching for the poem, I’d also discovered a Youtube video of Banjo Paterson reciting his own poem. We watched this next. It was a rather strange animation of a photo. We were tempted to google ‘making animations using still photos’ but I decided to leave that for another day. Instead I clipped the video link so we will be able to find it again.

Clancy of the Overflow is related to another novel we’re currently reading: To Love a Sunburnt Country by Jackie French. Gemma-Rose placed the book on the table in front of me, but I overlooked her hint.

Instead I said, “Haven’t you got anything you’d like to do? How about drawing?” So Gemma-Rose hunted out her sketchbook and pencils. Half an hour later she said, “Do you think my dragon looks more like a horse?” Minutes later, we were on Youtube watching how-to-draw-dragons videos: "Wow, this looks interesting!"

And then Gemma-Rose, taking advantage of the fact we were on Youtube, said, “Shall we watch another episode of Secrets of a Castle, Mum?”

We settled down on the sofa together and enjoyed finding out about medieval weapons. When the episode was over, someone said, “I didn’t know some of our English words and sayings are related to archery.” Of course we had to do some further research. We found an article explaining the origin of ‘picking a quarrel’, ‘upshot’ and 'point-blank’. “Isn’t this interesting?” I said, as I clipped the info into this week’s notebook.

Next Sophie downloaded her own Clearly extension. “I could use it to collect photography articles,” she said. “Did you see the photo I put up on the 365 Project website?” And then she added: “By the way, I watched a video on the Beth-a-dilly blog. I learnt how she edits her photos to get her personal look. Did you know she began working as a professional photographer 6 months after teaching herself how to use her DSLR camera?” I didn’t. I could see Sophie was feeling inspired.

Gemma-Rose then said, “Sophie, you could do your piano practice while I read to Mum.” She hunted out The Far Side of the Loch by Melissa Wiley while Sophie opened her music book.

But sad to say, I had my head in my computer and I kept muttering,” In a minute… in a minute…” and Gemma-Rose gave up. She left the book on the coffee table and returned to her dragons.

Later, I noticed Gemma-Rose’s book. “Do you still want to read to me?” She did.

After the chapter had ended, I said, “Would you like me to read you a chapter of To Love a Sunburnt Country?” She nodded, as she ran off to get Sophie so she could listen too.

And so the day ended. It hadn’t gone as I’d expected. I didn’t drift through the day, doing my own thing. Instead I was very involved with my girls, as they kept saying:

“Would you like to…?”  
“Shall we…?”  
“This looks interesting…”  
“Did you know…?”

It seems we haven't moved onto the next season in our unschooling year after all, even though the official school term is nearly over. And that's okay. My novel can wait. So can my other projects. I'm still enjoying spending time with my girls.

In days gone by, we'd be hanging out for the end of each term."That's enough!" I'd declare a week (or two) early. "I've had enough."

"Hurray!" my kids would shout. They'd had enough too.

Funny how things change. 

The Angels of Abbey Creek

Despite being busy with the girls, I have almost finished editing my sequel to The Angels of Abbey Creek

Please feel welcome to join me at...

my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page, 
Amazon, and

You could stop by and say hello!