Resolutions, Reading, Writing, and Coarse Language

I have a lot of questions…

  • What happens when we remain open to new experiences?
  • Do I have any good tips for anyone who has resolved to get fit?
  • What has running got to do with encouraging children to write?
  • Are there advantages to reading many books, on the same subject, by different authors?
  • Can I recommend some interesting novels to read?
  • What do I mean by the words ‘multi-directional learning’?
  • Why am I feeling very excited about writing?
  • Can I pronounce the word, ‘tomatometer’ or does my tongue get all twisted up? 
  • Do I say Cartload of Hay instead of Cartload of Clay?
  • What do I always do after reading a good book? 
  • Should we steer our children only towards books that portray the good?
  • Should parents preview every book a child wants to read?
  • Is there a danger with banning books?
  • Can some ‘wrong’ books actually be right?
  • Can punctuation rules sometimes be broken?
  • Is there a place for quick and easy reads? 
  • What if kids only want to read easy books with not much literary value?
If you’d like to find out my answers to all these questions and more, you’ll find them in this week’s podcast: Resolutions, Reading, Writing, and Coarse Language.

If you listen (to the end!) you’ll also discover I tried a new podcast feature for the first time.

Two final questions:

Am I full of my own opinions? Possibly!
And can you disagree with me? Of course!

Program Notes


video featuring mighty lilbumble bee: Do You Know What’s at the End of Our Road?

Blog posts about running:
As I lie here dying, I think about those old running days and I remember something: becoming a runner involves a lot of work. That I-can-run-forever feeling doesn’t just happen. It takes time and a lot of pain. I decide: running is a silly idea. I’ve been there and done that. I don’t need to do it again. I’m too old. Instead of going back in time, I am going to slide gracefully on into an inactive old age.

Will I be able to run 5K one day? I think so. But being able to run a certain distance no longer seems so important. That’s not the best bit.

A lap later I am still running. We weave in and out of the trees, our feet pounding along rhythmically. We come to a puddle and form a single file and then we spread out again. The girls glance over their shoulders. I am still with them. I am still part of the pack. 

Blogs post about encouraging children in their learning, and spelling
Is this another running story or could it be a homeschooling one?…

“Well, how will you learn how to spell?”

“I’ll pick it up as I go along,” she answered confidently.

“When did you learn to spell so well?” I asked.

Gemma-Rose shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I do read a lot, you know. Maybe I remember what the words look like.”

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay: the Book
Picnic at Hanging Rock: the Movie
The Shiralee: the Book
The Shiralee: the DVD
The Shiralee: The 1957 B&W Film
My Brother Jack by George Johnston
My Brother Jack: DVD 2001 version
My Brother Jack: DVD, 1965 version
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton: the Book
Cloudstreet: the TV series
I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington

Blog posts about trusting children to make the right choices
Can we give a child the freedom to choose but at the same time be confident they will make the right choices?
But do rules really teach children right from wrong? Or do they teach children how to avoid punishment? Could it be that the motivation to behave a certain way is coming from outside a child, and not from within?
We don’t make rules in our family, so how do my children know what is right and what is wrong, if they aren’t guided by clearly stated limits?  

Teenage Daughters, Books, Movies and Love
When it comes to books and movies, my 16 year old daughter Charlotte is very hard to please. Sometimes when we are watching a family movie together, we’ll realise she is no longer in the room with us.

Related Podcasts

Unschool Writing, Essays and a Few Panicky Moments!
Books, Music, Burnout and a Mystery!

I haven’t watched all the mentioned DVD mini-series and movies so I can’t guarantee they are good and ‘appropriate’!

The Angels of Abbey Creek

You can …

find more podcasts on my podcast page,

subscribe to my podcasts through iTunes.

and perhaps you’d like to join me on my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page!

Did you know there is a New Year’s Resolution story in my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek? Dad resolves to lose weight and get fit!

Thank you to anyone who takes the time to listen!

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  1. Reply


    I just had another thought! The books I mentioned in my podcast are for my own reading. I have discussed what I like and dislike about each one with Imogen, but I haven't recommended she read 'Cloudstreet' for example. Although this book could contaminate my mind because of the language and less than holy situations, I don't think it has. I have been comparing the families' lives, while I've been reading, with my own Catholic worldview and the end result is an increased gratitude for what I have. I am also aware that I am far from perfect, and in some ways, some of the characters are better people than me, and the circumstances of their lives are more difficult than mine. It's good to understand people different from us. At the right time, I think books are a safe way to increase our awareness of the world without actually experiencing it firsthand. Also, such books give us a good opportunity to discuss issues and reaffirm what we truly believe. Of course, we have to be discerning. Some books are written only to attract us to evil. The bad language etc is only there for one purpose: to lead us astray!

    1. Reply


      I think you have made a very relevant point: Parents have to be active participants in their children's education (and all aspects of their lives). We can't let our kids go their own way and assume everything will be okay. We have to know our children, what they are doing, thinking, reading, watching… But I don't think we have to demand our children tell us everything, we don't have to spy on them, cross examine them, censor everything, keep checking up on them. What we need is a close relationship with mutual trust, the sort we have been building up for years, and then our kids will talk to us openly about what they're doing, and we can discuss these issues.

      Trusting kids sounds far too easy and risky. I think many people feel the unschooling approach is irresponsible. Don't we just let kids do what they want? But it's not like that at all. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up trusting relationships so our kids will listen to us and believe in the same values as us, and trust us.

      Yes, it's a huge topic! I've been mulling over further thoughts since I wrote this post and made the podcast. And I've been wondering if there are really only two ways to keep our kids safe. The first is to be very diligent about policing everything they see, hear or watch. This might work if we stick close to them at all times which is easy when they are little but difficult as they become teens and want to be involved in the world outside home. There will be times when we aren't with them. We can't be sure they will be safe if we're not around. We might even have to make sure we stay in the same room as them. I have heard so many stories of teens especially, doing, reading, watching… inappropriate things as soon as they are away from the control of their parents. I know of some teens who have even practised deception within the home, in order to do what is banned and therefore very attractive.

      The second way, I think, of keeping kids safe is to ensure they control their own behaviour from within. They have to want to avoid anything which is inappropriate. Then it won't matter what situations our children find themselves in, we know they'll make the right choices and steer away from what is bad.

      The question is: Do we think it's possible children can develop that discernment and self-control? I am guessing a lot of people would say no, we can't trust children. Maybe some people don't want to trust them because really this is a huge issue and what if that trust is misplaced, what if something goes wrong? The parents would blame themselves and they could be labelled irresponsible.

      Despite the risks of being labelled by other people, I am choosing to trust. I look at my kids and I know we have to do things this way. We have a good relationship. They are good kids. I don't think I've allowed them to be damaged. But I can't speak for any family except my own. I'm just sharing my experience, giving others food for thought, opening up discussion… Maybe the way we are doing things isn't for everyone.

      Kelly, I do have something else to add as a Catholic. We are all consecrated to Mary. We have given her our bodies and souls to look after. Each morning we pray a special devotion which includes the prayer, ‘By thy pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy.’ Perhaps you do this too, but I'll add a link in case anyone else is interested.

      I think we'd be silly to think we could resist the temptations of evil by ourselves. But Mary does look after us. Maybe it's not just a case of knowing right from wrong and choosing to make the right decision, but actually being repelled by evil. We can't be harmed by something which holds no attraction for us.

      Thank you for the discussion. It's good to mull over thoughts with you!

    2. Reply

      I know you've mentioned trust a number of times and it's great that you really trust the girls to choose appropriate material. Our son, who is older than the girls, has the same level of discernment.
      What bothers me a lot these days is when parents are really unaware of 1. what their children are reading/doing/seeing and 2. the possibly damaging effects. I've seen many children in Catholic families around the age of 12- 14 have a complete personality change. I know there are many reasons for this change, particularly in school children – but I've also noticed that these children often have free reign on the internet and reading material. One family springs to mind with their "trouble teenagers". I noted a novel that their daughter was reading and pointed out (gently) that it may not be the most beneficial reading material for her and explained why, from a Catholic viewpoint. The mother laughed it off and said she didn't have time to check books before the kids read them. If the child has the discernment we mentioned before, they themselves would not continue to read something that they felt was not morally correct, but in families where the parents are not active participants in their children's education or where the children are too young to discern for themselves?
      But now I'm rambling! It's a big topic.
      Thanks for the discussion 🙂

  2. Reply

    A lovely and engaging podcast as usual 🙂
    I have found something that we disagree on. Actually, there are 2 things. One is allowing children use of the internet unless it's fully supervised. The other is "giving books a go" when you're uncertain of the value of content.
    Here is how I think of it, whether it's for myself or the children.
    I love a clean kitchen bench with only the necessary items on it. The best way to have a clean kitchen bench is to use what is necessary, use the bench for it's intended purpose and to clear away constantly things that don't belong there or that clutter up the bench. A mind can be similar. If you fill it with things that are inappropriate, bend your thoughts towards sinful things or compromise your set morals in any way, it can become cluttered with these unholy things. If however, I dedicate my time to reading lives of the saints and other books that increase my faith, as well as books that help me to learn more skills and good, useful things then my life will (hopefully) reflect that goodness. Maybe the kitchen bench is a silly analogy. And maybe I'm over cautious. But coming from an atheistic upbringing I know first hand the damage that certain reading material and other media can do and I'm determined to avoid that in my adult life and protect my children from it as much as possible.
    My thoughts anyway….. 🙂

    1. Reply


      I am glad you felt able to disagree. Disagreement can lead to discussion. And it's always good for me to consider other people's opinions. I know I am not always right!

      And yes, I can see you ARE so right about all the damaging things out there in the Internet and in books. There's no denying that. We want to avoid them hurting our children. It is so easy for damage to happen. Not so easy to get rid of it.

      If I thought my girls would be hurt, of course I would supervise them more closely. But I think the way they have been unschooled has given them discernment. Just because they have choices doesn't mean they are automatically attracted to the bad. The opposite is true. It doesn't take long for my older girls to realise something is 'wrong', when for example, they are reading. I'm talking about a few pages of a book, even a few words. (Some books are rejected just by looking at the cover.) They seem to sense it almost immediately and they back off. They don't persist. It's not attractive to them a all. I do trust they can make the right decisions. Imogen was talking about this with me the other day. I feel it is necessary for the impulse to do the right thing come from within rather than be imposed from the outside by me. But I don't leave this impulse to chance. I talk a lot with my children. We discuss everything and I think they have formed good consciences and can judge everything against the underlying base they have of Truth.

      The older girls (and I) tend to guide the younger ones. "This book is suitable… You'll like this…" I have watched them and have been happy with the way they pass on their recommendations.

      I do also agree with you when you say there is a need to fill our minds with stories of the saints and our Faith. Again, our basis of Truth is formed in this way, and this gives us a standard to judge everything by.

      My children are getting older. Imogen is a young adult, and Charlotte is almost there too. I am confident that they know right from wrong and read/ watch/ listen accordingly. The younger girls trust my opinion and that of their sisters. So for my own family, I feel happy with giving them the freedom to look for suitable reading and other material. But all children and families are different. We know our own children better than anyone else, and of course, each parent has to make their own decisions about such things, taking their own children's needs etc into account.

      I think extending trust into areas like this is an extension of the trust we have when we are talking about trusting as far as " will they learn all they need to know". I can see that this issue is too important for most people to leave to trust unless of course they really do feel confident their children will make the right choices. Which I do!

      Thank you so much for listening and being kind, despite the differences of opinion!

    • San
    • January 9, 2015

    Aw thanks for the mention! I only checked out the book because I have a dogged fear of making mistakes … a throw back from school days! The reality is we only learn from our mistakes😄

    Your book reviews and commentary on essentially book censorship is an interesting one. In recent years I have had to stop reading two books that are very well written due to their content. It sounds like your girls have a really good moral compass. It takes a great deal of trust and I know that Benedict due to his learning needs is very vulnerable to being easily mislead so not sure how he would fair at the moment. He is only 11 so we still tend to share the reading.

    Sending you a hug from wet and windy UK

    San xx

    1. Reply


      I hope you do put together a podcast. I would enjoy listening and sharing experiences.

      Oh yes, well written doesn't necessarily mean good. It's sad sometimes to see such good writing skills being wasted on immoral subjects.

      Benedict isn't much older than Gemma-Rose. I still share a lot of reading with her. I don't think she actually reads any books which haven't already been read by someone else. The advantages of having older sisters. They get to everything first! The other girls like sharing their favourites with Gemma-Rose and she always asks them for their opinions about books before she borrows anything from the library. No worries there!

      I was thinking more about older children, teens especially, when I was talking about trust, and previewing their books (by reading them ourselves). I don't think it's about saying, "Go read what you like" but rather building up our relationship so children trust our opinions and choose to do what is appropriate, or close the book if they do stumble over anything that's not good, because they do have that 'moral compass'. Trust is built on a solid foundation.

      There have been a few books other mothers have discussed as possibly being unsuitable reading for teens such as the Twilight series. I haven't read the books (so I can't comment specifically on the books), nor have my girls. We chatted a bit about them after I saw some discussion online, and the girls listened to their friends' opinions and they decided they didn't want to read the books. Banning them didn't even occur to me. It wasn't necessary. I do know of other teens who have read these books behind their parents' backs. I guess that's what I meant by saying banning doesn't work. It only makes a book more attractive.

      Thank you so much for listening to my podcast. The hug feels good. I'm sending one back!

    • San
    • January 9, 2015

    Also Iove the sign off!! Xx

    1. Reply


      Oh I am glad the sign off worked. I shall use it next time too! Now what is your catch phrase going to be?

  3. Reply

    This is rather embarassing. I consider myself well read, but as I checked the list of 50 must read Australian novels, I knew one of them – only one! I think it' s easy to guess which one. I think I'll really have to harrow my local library, but I'm afraid I'll only find The Thornbirds (the one I read) there.
    OK, I just looked at the full 2014 list, and I'm happy to see John Flanagan there. We have all read Ranger's Apprentice and Brotherband (# 5 not yet, as it's not translated into Danish). I have much reading to do in the long winter nights to come.

    1. Reply


      I haven't read many of the books on that list and I'm Australian. I haven't got much knowledge of my own country's novels and they are easily available! I'm busy changing this situation and I'm enjoying discovering more about Australian literature.

      I just had a look at the 2014 list. There's a lot of books that weren't on the other list. Lots more choice when it comes to choosing a book! It's my turn to admit something. I haven't read any of John Flanagan's books though my children have. Some more catching up to do!

  4. Sue, Thank you for this and your other recent podcasts. I enjoy them very much. It's fun being introduced to different genres of music, too!

    I think your photos of Gemma-Rose are my favourites of all your lovely photos. She is a natural model, isn't she? I just finished reading Tony Northrup's DSLR book today. I learned a lot – thank you for the recommendation!

    1. Reply


      I am delighted you enjoy my podcasts. Thank you for your kind feedback. Imogen, Charlotte and I recorded this week's episode this morning. I didn't end up having time to add much music but did include just a few seconds' worth of a piece by Podington Bear. Isn't that an intriguing name? I shall have to find out more!

      Gemma-Rose is a natural in front of the camera, you are so right. She doesn't get stiff and uncomfortable like I do. Sometimes I get her to stand with Sophie when I'm taking photos because she helps Sophie relax. I think Gemma-Rose would make a good actress. Her face is so expressive and she loves all the attention, I'm sure! Best of all, she is very patient when I am taking photos and never minds being my model even if I take a long time.

      I like Tony Northrup's book too! How are your photography skills developing? I got to a certain acceptable level and then I stopped experimenting. I must go back and reread the book and learn more about my camera!

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