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I'm sure there are many people investigating unschooling. But not everyone who considers unschooling will actually decide to give it a go. Why's that? What holds people back? Do they like the sound of some aspects of unschooling but aren't sure about others?

In this week's podcast, I talk about the things that could be stopping people from unschooling.
  • I also share some of our unschooling story. Why did we start as unschoolers but then go in a different direction? How did we make our way back to unschooling?
  • I discuss the question: Who can we trust when we're looking for unschooling info online? 
  • I tell a few family stories while pondering joy.
  • And I share lots of resources

Podcast Notes

Imogen's Youtube Channel

My children's fiction blog: Sue Elvis Writes

My children's novel: The Angels of Abbey Creek (The Kindle version will be available for free from Fri 5th - Sun 7th February.)

My grief blog: The Baby Loss Club

My Instagram account: Sue Elvis

Sophie's photography blog: The Techno Maid

Sophie's blog post: How a Famous Musician Followed Me on Twitter


Miss Austen Regrets (Rating is PG, not G as I reported in my podcast.)

Miss Austen Regrets on PBS

Miss Potter


Coal House

Coal House at War website

Coal House at War: episodes on Youtube

Youtube channels

NumberphileNew World's Biggest Prime Number

Periodic Videos: Four New Elements

Standup Maths

Peter Hollens; Loch Lomond

Lindsay Stirling


How They Sell Music: Lessons from Celebrities on Creating Your Own Success

Photography Podcast

Picture This on Youtube

Picture This on iTunes


Cook It! History Cookbook

Podcast Music

60's Quiz Show by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on 
and here on my blog.

If you listen to my podcast... Thank you!

And if you'd like to comment on this week's episode, please do. I'd love to hear from you!

When I signed up for Evernote so did my children. Yes, we all have our own accounts. This allows us to share our notebooks. Why would we want to do that? That's what I'm going to talk about today!

Whenever I create a new weekly homeschool records notebook, I invite my daughters Sophie and Gemma-Rose to share it. I give them the ability to not only view the notes but to edit them as well. And my girls do the same, sharing some of their notebooks with me.

Here are a few reasons why we choose to share our Evernote notebooks:

1. The girls have access to all the links in my notebooks. For example, whenever we watch an online video, I clip the link into my records book. If the girls want to watch it again, they can access my notebook and follow the link.

2. I constantly add extra information on things we've been discussing to my notebooks. I might say, "You know how we were discussing wind farms? I found a great article that covers all the things we were talking about. I clipped it into this week's notebook if you want to take a look."

3. Sharing notebooks means my girls can add their own learning experiences to my notebooks. I can't keep up with Sophie's learning. I used to say, "What did you do today? I need to add some notes to the records book." Now I ask her to add her own notes to my books which is a more efficient way of doing things. Sophie clips Youtube video links, photography and other articles, screenshots of her online coding course, blog posts, screenshots of her blog design work, photos, books, podcasts etc. into the appropriate weekly notebook.

4. My girls can add information into the records book for my interest. The other day, Sophie watched a Youtube video on the latest Mercenne prime number. I couldn't remember what differentiates a Mercenne prime from an ordinary one, so I asked Sophie if she could find a definition online and clip it into the notebook for me. (She enjoyed reading the article too.)

5. My girls can share their own personal notebooks with me which helps with the record keeping. Sophie spends a lot of time researching photography online. She reads articles, watches Youtube videos, and recently she's even started listening to podcasts. She has an Evernote notebook where she collects links to everything she has discovered. She keeps this notebook for her own interest, but I asked her if she'd share it with me for record keeping purposes. The notebook shows up in my side-bar amongst my own notebooks. 

Sophie also shares her book notebook with me. She is keeping records of all the novels she reads for her own interest, but I can also use the notebook for record keeping. 

I could ask Sophie to add everything directly into my record keeping notebooks (see point 3 above) but there are loads of links and other info. She'd flood my weekly notebooks with her photography discoveries. Sharing her whole photography notebook seems an easier way of doing things.

I have a Premium Evernote account, but my girls only have free ones. Well, that's not quite true. Sophie had a free account until a few days ago. Then on Monday she said, "Mum, I've reached my upload limit for the month. I'll have to stop adding things to my notebooks until next month." And I replied, "You can't put learning on hold until then. I'll upgrade your account." So that's what I did. Sophie now has a Plus account. 

It might seem rather inconvenient that I now have to pay for Sophie's Evernote account, but I look at it this way: She must be learning a lot. All those notes and links, photos and articles... I think she's giving herself a wonderful education!

So these are a few reasons why my girls and I share our Evernote notebooks. If you have any more ideas about sharing notebooks, please share!

This morning I felt very discouraged. Perhaps it was the result of being overtired. I don't know.

It's strange how grey the world looks when we're tired. Earlier today, nothing excited me. I didn't want to blog or podcast. Sharing unschooling didn't seem important. All I wanted to do was close my computer and forget everything.

"Are you going to record a podcast today, Mum?"

"I've got nothing to say," I replied. "I've said it all before. I'm just repeating myself."

"You could work on your novel."

"I don't feel like doing that either."

Yes, this morning, I lost my way. I might even have felt a bit (or a lot) sorry for myself.

Then something totally unexpected happened: The postman arrived with a very special letter from my 'biggest fan'  who'd recently read my children's novel The Angels of Abbey Creek. Oh my, it's a good letter. It made me smile. It put me back on track. Suddenly I felt like doing something. I decided to record a podcast after all.

This week's episode is a bit of a ramble. I went from thought to thought, covering lots of ground in a short time. I spoke off the top of my head, which is usually a big mistake. (Perhaps I should have made some notes!) Anyway, I hope you'll listen to ep 56. These are a few of the things I talked about:
  • my fan mail
  • tiredness
  • discouragement and encouragement
  • talking to kids
  • trusting and respecting kids
  • chores
  • how we need to have patience when trying new things
  • why you should try unschooling
  • how we all have something valuable to offer
  • Facebook
  • plus other rambling thoughts

Podcast Notes

Blog Posts

Why Some Children Are Willing to Help With the Chores
Getting Kids to Help with the Chores
Memories of an Inexperienced Mother
Because I Am a Mother
Time to Unschool


Ep 41: Chores and Our Typical Unschooling Day

My Children's Novel 

The Angels of Abbey Creek


60's Quiz Show by Podington Bear(CC BY-NC 3.0)

A nine-year-old boy wrote to me and changed the course of my day. I've been thinking about that. Could I touch someone else's life in a similar way? Perhaps I could write a few encouraging notes of my own. What do you think? Have you ever had a similar experience where someone's kindness made a difference to your day?

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on 

I've been thinking about how our life does look rather conventional. What makes our life... different from any structured homeschoolers' life? Is it any different? How do we tell if someone is unschooling or not? We don't stay up really late at night, we don't drift through our days doing exactly what we want at all times, we get up very early in the morning, we work as a team to get the chores done... We don't share these things with some unschooling families. Does that mean we're not unschooling?

I think it's all to do with choice. It's not what you do. It's not about what time you get up or when you eat your meals or when you go to bed or what type of activities you're involved in. It's all to do with the question: Do children have the choice to do what they want? They might choose to do things on a family’s timetable, (rather than on their own). They might choose to do chores when everybody else is doing them and work as a team...

On to our typical unschooling morning...

By about 8:30 am each day, all the boring sort of work has been done in our family. It's out of the way. Gone. Now we can get on to the more exciting part of the day. The next thing we do is have a chat about what everybody wants to do that day: What plans do people have? Plans? Of course, there are some things on our timetable that are planned such as music lessons. Someone might want to go to town for some other purpose. And then we all have our own projects that we are working on. We might plan to do some work on them. Yes, we always have so many things we want to do. We have to make some decisions about how we are going to spend this particular day. 

My older girls Imogen and Charlotte have their routines. They're both doing university work (Imogen has finished her course since I made this podcast). They know what they have to do. They have reading to do and assignments that must be completed before certain dates. They can organise themselves to do that. But they also have music lessons to go to. They both have singing and piano lessons. They have choir practices and concert performances. They always want to make time to go running with the younger girls and me. They might want to go to town to do some shopping, go out for coffee, or meet a friend. Charlotte likes to spend time drawing, playing around with her animation software. Imogen might want to write blog posts. Maybe they'll work on their novels. There are DVDs to watch. They could just want to spend time sitting and chatting or reading their books. They live a really full life...

I spend the mornings with my younger girls, Sophie and Gemma-Rose... doing what they want to do... There are certain things the girls have to do every morning. When I say ‘have to do’ I mean they choose to do them. These are such things as piano practices. They choose to practice the piano because they know if they don't, they won't improve their skills, and they want to learn to play like their older sisters. That's not a problem. They each just need to put aside about half an hour every morning to do that. Their practice time is in the morning because the older girls get the use of the piano in the afternoon. Practicing in their allotted and agreed upon time: That's just being considerate.

Every morning, there are certain things that the girls insist I do. They want me to read to them. If I don't read to them regularly, books don't get finished, and that can be frustrating. So, yes, I have some commitments as well.

Sophie has also got some commitments. She set herself the goal of finishing some coding courses. She realised that she wouldn't make much progress if she didn't work at these courses on a regular basis. So she's being trying to do a little bit each day to work towards the certificates of each course. She has finished a few of those courses recently and has moved on to some other ones.

So I don't think unschooling is necessarily about drifting through life from one thing to another as it occurs to you. We need to put work into certain things on a regular basis. I'd never finish any of my novels if I didn't work on them regularly. The same with the girls. They wouldn't finish theirs either.

But there's still plenty of time in our days for having fun, living in the moment, taking advantage of whatever comes along. Even though we all have things we're working on, life isn't planned. We don't live life to a schedule. It's an adventure. Our time's our own. We can choose what we want to do. If we want to start the day with reading, we can. If we have music lessons, we're free to drive to town for them. And we can go shopping while we're out. Or go to the park and visit the lake. We don't have to hurry home because we don't have workbooks that are waiting for us. (We're not going to get 'behind'.) We can walk around the lake. We can go for a run. We can just sit and chat and have coffee. I think these are all really good learning experiences in themselves. So some days we stay home and other days we go off and have our adventures elsewhere.

In my podcast, I described a particular unschooling day that happened a few months ago. It was early spring...

Wednesday morning... We'd finished saying our prayers. The house was nice and tidy, organised for the day. And I said, "What do you want to do today?" Gemma-Rose had a couple of letters that she wanted to post... so we decided we'd start the day with a walk up to the post office. We got the dog, and put her on the leash. I had a couple of things I wanted to post as well. Sophie had a little bit of shopping she wanted to do. We headed out the door just after 9.00 am.

It was really quite cool at that time of the morning. This is the first week of spring. We all wore our coats. As we were walking along, I dived into my pockets for my gloves. It was cold, but it was lovely and fresh as well. We could feel the coldness on our faces. (I like that feeling!) We arrived at the village, and posted our letters. The girls then wanted to go to the chemist to buy some nail polish. They had some ideas about decorating mugs with nail polish art, something I'd never seen before. Sophie had discovered this on Pinterest and wanted to give it a go. So they went into the chemist, and there's a big display in there with loads and loads of colours and they’re all reasonably priced. The girls spent some time choosing half a dozen bottles and then we set off for home together.

By the time we were walking home, the sun was shining more strongly. I took my gloves off. We could now feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. (That felt good too!) I looked at the girls and the dog ahead of me. I looked at the bush that surrounds our village. The sun was shining out of a clear blue sky. And I thought: how fortunate we are that we're doing what we're doing at this particular moment in time. Other children were in school. They weren’t outside enjoying the spring day. Other homeschoolers were inside maybe working on their workbooks (or planned work). We were walking up to the village and back, enjoying ourselves.

When we got home, we put the kettle on and made some coffee and some hot chocolate for Gemma-Rose. We sat down. I checked my emails. We spent a bit of time chatting together, just relaxing. I didn't think, "Look, we haven't got anything done yet today. It's already 10 o'clock. The day's moving on.” I used to think like this in the past. I’d worry about filling up the day as efficiently as possible. (I'd watch the clock, and want to cram in as much learning as I could. I'd get to the point where I'd wonder if we'd done enough. How much is enough? Could we finish for the day?) 

I felt that all the experiences we'd had that morning were very valuable. We need to take time just to be a family and to enjoy the outdoors. I knew we’d get on with the 'real work' - the things we have to do - in time. So once we'd had our coffee, the girls did get on with their piano practices which did have to be done. And then they wanted me to read to them... Before we knew it, it was lunch time. I guess that was a typical morning.

I spend a lot of time saying things like, "Shall we watch this..." or "Would you like me to read you that..." or "I found this..." I make suggestions and the girls pick up on some of these things, and other ones don't interest them at all. So we could watch DVDs together. We might read non-fiction books. We could sit side-by-side while I show them a website. Maybe they will then go off and use the website by themselves. Lots of different things make up our days...

This transcription was taken from episode 41 of my unschooling podcast: Chores and Our Typical Unschooling Day. (I made some minor changes to the original words for clarity.)

Typical unschooling days change naturally over time. If you read my other typical unschooling day posts you will notice this. I suppose that's because our children and their needs change. But our days still reflect the same principles even if the details don't remain the same. I recorded this podcast only a few months ago, but I can see that our typical day is changing yet again.

I am sure that this year Sophie won't be looking to me very often for learning suggestions. She might choose to join in with whatever Gemma-Rose and I are doing, but she will also do lots of things on her own. Instead of me tempting her with different experiences, she'll be tempting me: "Mum, do you want to learn how to use Lightroom? I'll teach you." Already, she's doing this. Sophie works from one end of the day to the other, writing blog posts, taking and editing photographs, doing research on the Internet, emailing friends, working out, watching Youtube videos, reading books... She has lots and lots of ideas of her own, and she is motivated to work at them. Perhaps I'll write another typical unschooling day post about Sophie's day very soon.

Just in case you have forgotten: Sophie is 14 and Gemma-Rose will be 12 tomorrow!

So that's a bit about our typical unschooling days. Are they like yours? Or do you spend your time in a very different way?

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on 
and here on my blog

I did promise a new episode today, but I haven't actually got anything to publish. I did record an episode, but I wasn't happy with it. I felt I was repeating myself. I'm going to try again on Wednesday. (Tomorrow is a birthday and not a podcasting day!)

I said that I have to be a good example if I want my children to help me get the house organised each morning… I have to jump out of bed and go out there and dive into the chores. I have to be willing to help so that my children are willing to help me.

Sometimes when I go to the kitchen and see the dishes (waiting to be washed), I don't want to do them. I think: Somebody else will come along and do that in a minute and they probably would. I have to fight the temptation (to ignore the dishes) and go off and do what I prefer to do. I could get away with that because I’m the mother.

Sophie once said to me, in an interview, that sometimes she gets the feeling that parents think they're better than children, that children have to do all the hard, dirty, uninteresting work of the family. They do all the chores while the parents just make all the decisions. She was saying that she's glad that I help and that my husband helps. We all dive in and are part of the team, and she's thankful for that because she doesn't mind working when she knows everyone else is working as well. We're all in this together. We support each other.

And working together has great benefits. It draws us together. Even though we might not like the work, it does strengthen family bonds...

It took me a very long time to work out how to get kids to do chores. I guess I was of the mind that kids have to do the work while the parents do the organising of the chore list. I thought that for quite a long time and I was always doing a lot of shouting about it: “You haven't done your chores. You haven't done your jobs on the list. Come on, you're lazy. When are you going to get them done? You're letting the family down.” And then when the chore list didn't work, I would try bribery: a reward system.

I tried lots of different things before I worked out exactly how to get everybody to cooperate.

It was very, very simple. I have to be a good example. I have to help others if I want them to help me. It's a very, very simple idea, but it's a very, very difficult thing to do because all of us are tempted to be lazy. It isn't easy to keep on being a good example. Sometimes I get fed up. I want to be lazy. I just want to sit there and do nothing. Being a mother can be very difficult.

I had a moment… where I let myself down, where I just didn't want to be that good example for my children. And I didn't even realise it at first. It happened one lunch time. My daughter Imogen had decided she wanted to go shopping after lunch and she invited Gemma-Rose to go with her. Now Gemma-Rose was drying dishes and Imogen told her to hurry up: "Hurry up and get those dishes done because I want to go out. You're holding me up."

And I told Imogen that instead of nagging her sister to dry the dishes more quickly why didn't she pick up a tea towel and help her? The dishes would get done a lot faster and it would be a lot more pleasant. There was some truth in what I said, but what I should have done was get up off the sofa myself and say, “Look, you want to go out shopping? You go. I'll finish those dishes for you." That would have been the better thing to have done. Because I ended up nagging in my own turn.

Now, Imogen, because she's a very nice person, didn't complain. She just went and dried those dishes with Gemma-Rose, but I felt bad later. I thought, If I'm not willing to step in and do something above and beyond what I'm expected to do, how can I expect my children to be generous as well? We want to teach our children to do, not only what has to be done, but to go beyond that, and be, as I said, generous. 

I had another occasion... Every Saturday morning, Imogen has a singing lesson. She has to leave the house just before 9.30 in the morning. The rest of us have a leisurely morning. We might get up a little bit later than we do in the week, get in the shower, potter around doing the morning chores because they still have to be done, but do them at a more leisurely rate.

Anyway, Imogen dashed out of her bedroom. As she was thrusting on her shoes, and pulling on her coat, I said to her, "What chores have you done this morning?" And she said, "I haven't had time to do any." And I said, "You didn't get up early enough to get yourself organised. You should have got up a bit earlier to get some chores done to help the family.”

Imogen didn't say anything. She just went out the door. But afterwards, I thought, no, that wasn't very nice. What I should have said was, "Don't worry about the chores. I will do them for you." Kids don't need to be told that they have to get up earlier. And the act of me doing her chores for her would have, I am sure, inspired her to step in and help somebody else in a similar situation another time.

It's not about doing things evenly. It's about helping each other out and doing things in a loving manner.

Helpfulness begets helpfulness. I wrote that in a blog post once...

This transcription was taken from episode 41 of my unschooling podcast: Chores and Our Typical Unschooling Day

The next section of this podcast starts with the words:
I've been thinking about how our life does look rather conventional. What makes our life... different from any structured homeschoolers' life? Is it any different? How do we tell if someone is unschooling or not? We don't stay up really late at night, we don't drift through our days doing exactly what we want at all times, we get up very early in the morning... We don't share these things with some unschooling families. Does that mean we're not unschooling?
I could answer that question next time.

My children are always asking me, "Can I do anything for you, Mum?" I get asked that question dozens of times each day. Do I have exceptional children? Maybe I'm just lucky. Perhaps this simple idea of being a good example won't work for everyone? I don't believe that. I think all kids are capable of being generous. (It just might not happen overnight.)

That's my opinion. But what do you think?

I'm sorry about the poor sentence structure in this transcription. I didn't say things perfectly in the original podcast. I was tempted to rewrite the whole thing, but maybe you can understand my thoughts without me doing that.

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on 

Just before Christmas, Karen asked me if I could write about our typical unschooling days.  I spoke about this topic in a podcast a few months ago, so I thought I'd share some of what I said in a short series of posts.

Today, I'm starting with our morning routine. Routine? That doesn't sound very unschooly, does it?

We all get up early in the morning. If it's one of the warmer months of the year, we might go for a run together. Usually, that's the girls and me. When we get back, we shower, breakfast, do the chores, say our prayers together before getting on with the more exciting work of the day. We meet up for morning coffee. We eat meals together. We spend time together in the evening if there are no after-dinner commitments, and we all go to bed at reasonable times, so we can get up early again the next morning and do it all over again.

Now that sounds really ordinary, doesn't it? It could be anyone's life. Don't we want to be like some unschoolers and lie in bed late in the mornings? We could read books without getting out of bed just because we can. Don't we want to get up and wander around in our PJs, turn on the computer and play computer games first thing in the morning? Why do we look at the clock and decide it's lunch time? We could just grab something to eat while we're working, whenever we feel like it. If we're in the middle of doing something interesting late at night, why stop and go to bed? We could sleep in the next morning, couldn't we? There aren't any rules. We could unschool like that. That sounds much more exciting (than what we do). I also think it sounds much more typical of an unschooling life.

Sometimes I do feel like living that type of life, doing things when and where I feel like it. But I don't. I think that there are advantages to living the type of life we do. Of course, each family is very different. But for us, this type of lifestyle suits us very well. We have a rhythm to our days. Everybody's individual timetables are in tune with each other, so this means we spend a lot of time together. I think we would miss out on so much if we lived a more haphazard type of existence. 

For example, if we all got up at odd times of the day, we'd miss out on running together in the cool of the morning in summer. That's a really lovely time of day. It can get very hot in summer and the days are draining. You don't feel like exercising when the sun's beating down. But first thing in the morning, on an Australian summer's day, it is beautiful. We get outside before the sun has really warmed up the day, and walk down to the bush and hear the kookaburras laughing. We might see a kangaroo if we're early enough. We've seen a few lyrebirds in the trees. They are all very special sights, and we get to see them because we're up early. Sometimes we're up so early we see the sun rising over the gum trees. And then we exercise our bodies, come home tired but feeling very satisfied. Yes, we've started the day off well. I find it's worth getting up early to experience all of this…

… Now I've told you how I feel about it, and I assume my girls feel exactly the same way because they freely choose to get up and come with me. Sometimes I say, "I can go on my own tomorrow. You sleep in. You must be tired. You were out late." (They might have gone to a choir practice or some other function.) I don't expect them to come running with me. I get up. I get myself ready. I go out to the kitchen to get my water bottle and there they'll be, lacing up their shoes... I guess it's important to them as well.

We don't always run first thing in the morning before our breakfast. We find it's too cold in winter. It's also very dark. Not good running conditions. So we prefer to run in the middle of the day. That's when it's warmest…

…But we still get up early even though we don't get up to run. We get up to do our morning routine: to shower, have breakfast, do our chores, say prayers together before we get on with what we really want to do.

Do we like doing the chores? Perhaps it's easy for us because we all really love doing them? But that's not true. I don't like doing chores at all. But we do like getting the chores out of the way. Get all those necessary household jobs done as quickly as possible so that we can do what we really want to do with our day. I think that's how we look at it. Let's all club together. We're all part of the team. Let's work hard for a little while in the morning, get the chores done... It's freeing I think. We don't have those niggling thoughts in the back of our minds that we've still got to get the washing on the line, or we've still got to think about what we're going to have for dinner. We don't have to think about that. We've done it all. Now we're free to do the exciting things.

I said it's not easy... When I wake up in the morning, all I really want to do is get on with the things I want to do. My head’s always buzzing with things that I could do doing: some blog posts I want to write, a video I want to make, something I want to do that is much more interesting than the morning routine. I don't even really want to hop into the shower. I just want to get out of bed, stay in my pyjamas and go off to the family room, start up my computer, get going with my work. 

I wonder if my children feel the same way. Do they want to stay in bed and read all those books that are piled up beside their beds? And maybe if I did wander around in my pyjamas, ignoring the chores and just doing what I want to do, my children would then choose to do what they want to do as well. But they seem to follow my example. They won't let me do the chores by myself. They want to pitch in and help.

We all know that our day is going to run smoother if we have done those chores first. We like living in a clean and tidy house. We like being able to find things. It's very frustrating when you can't find things because there's a mess everywhere. We like things in their place. We're not perfectionists. We have a certain level of untidiness, but that's work in progress. But basically, we do like to sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, have the dishes washed, have some plans for what we're going to cook for dinner, have the washing on the line. And then, yes, the day is ours. The adventures can begin.

Of course, we're all different, and other unschooling families might not want to have a morning routine like ours. They survive quite nicely without it. They’re quite happy to do the chores in a more relaxed way, maybe leave the dishes to be washed up altogether in the evening. Yes, get around to things whenever they feel like it. But we don't work well that way, and so we have made the decision to make the sacrifice every morning of spending an hour and a half or so working together as a team to get these things done.

This transcription was taken from episode 41 of my unschooling podcast: Chores and Our Typical Unschooling Day

The next section of this podcast starts with the words:
I said I have to be a good example if I want my children to be part of that team in the morning, to help me get the house organised... 
How do we encourage our kids to help with the chores? Next time, shall I tell you what I said?

If you'd like to share what your family does each morning, please do!

I should add, we no longer have little children in our family, so it's easy for us to have a morning routine. Also, even though this routine is typical for us, we do occasionally have days when everyone is overtired or in need of some slow time, so my kids will stay in bed a little longer and we'll work through our morning chores at a slow pace. Being flexible and seeing to everyone's needs... Perhaps that's very important.

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on 

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