When Our Help and Strewing Are Rejected

My daughter Charlotte used to be openly enthusiastic about everything. Every evening she’d be eager to tell me about all the things she’d discovered that day. She’d listen to my ideas and ask for resources. Then things changed.

During the last year or so of Charlotte’s official homeschooling years, she stopped turning to me for suggestions. If we did get together and mull over ideas for learning, she never followed up on anything. My help was often rejected.

“What did you do today?” I’d say. “Did you have a look at that book we were talking about? No? So what exactly did you do?”

Charlotte was never very forthcoming about what she was doing. In the end, I gave up asking because I was beginning to sound like I was interrogating her, checking that she’d actually done something worthwhile (according to me) with her day. I didn’t want to get to the stage where she might say, “Do you think I’m doing nothing? Don’t you trust me?”

So I stepped back. I let Charlotte get on with her learning by herself. I had to trust she knew what she was doing.  But sometimes I felt frustrated because I wanted to be more involved. I admit it: I felt a bit unneeded.

Looking back, I don’t think things could have been different without causing a break-down in our relationship. Charlotte just did what suited her personality.

So did my daughter give herself a good education? She did! I talk about this in this week’s podcast.

I also answer the following questions:

  • What mistake have I been making when strewing for my daughter Gemma-Rose?
  • What criteria do we use when deciding if unschooling is successful?
  • When did I go splat and embarrass myself?
  • What does ‘cowboy up’ mean?
  • What Pinterest board did someone pin my blog post ‘Bite-Sized Pieces of Unschool Maths‘ to?

I told a lot of stories in this episode, but I did manage to squeeze in a resource segment too!


Blog posts


Kids’ Website

DIY: Kids Learning Skills and Being Awesome


Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Explore, appreciate and understand Shakespeare’s collection of love poems like never before. An app iPad app.
Shakespeare’s Sonnets: All 154, Reimagined Through a New York Lens
The Sonnet Project:154 sonnets, 154 NYC locations, 154 actors

The Shakespeare Trilogy by Gary Blackwood:

Shakespeare’s Restless World: An Unexpected History In Twenty Objects by Neil McGregor
the website

The Play: a poem by C.J. Dennis
A strange animation of C.J. Dennis reciting The Play

Romeo and Juliet, the ballet

My Shakespeare Pinterest board

A Spiritual Talk

Beyond Belief: Following Christ Today: Fr. Mike Schmitz


How Minecraft and Duct Tape Wallets Prepare Our Kids for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet
by Zach Klein, CEO of DIY.org and co-founder of Vimeo

Novel Writing

NaNoWriMo: The world needs your novel


The photos were taken on Charlotte’s recent 18th birthday.

Thanks for listening!

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  1. Reply

    I LOVE this post and the accompanying podcast. 🙂 Thank you for your continued mentorship and encouragement. I really value your sharing and transparency.

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for taking the time to tweet and leave this comment. I love getting feedback! It encourages me to keep podcasting. So good to share with you. I hope all is well with you and your family.

  2. Reply

    Congratulations to Charlotte! I love it when our children discover their strengths and passions.

    Lots of encouragement here, Sue. I enjoyed listening and pondering your experiences.

    Thanks for sharing all the resources. xxx

    1. Reply


      That moment when a child discovers her passion is so exciting. I love sharing that experience too. It's kind of you to always listen and support my podcast. Thank you! I hope you find something enjoyable in the resource list. I'm going to listen to a sonnet or two today. I hope your day is happy!

  3. Reply

    Great podcast, I didn't mind it being a little longer (got all my cabinets sorted out!).

    I've been thinking a lot about what counts as success. For so many people the bench mark seems to be a lucrative job (with the "right" college being seen as essential to this). I think you're right that the true measure of success is holiness (although you didn't use that word- maybe character).

    I keep thinking how (comparatively) easy it is to learn new things, and how hard it is to change your character. It's easier to grow your brain than your heart, if that makes sense. Is your life a "success" if you make lots of money but can't sustain personal relationships? Not that you shouldn't be able to prepare for a life filled with good work and good relationships, you should.

    Still the times I've had to decide (push this kid academically at the cost of our relationship?) I've erred on the side of relationship, and then later found the academics were "added unto these."

    1. Reply


      I knew at the time of recording I wasn't going to be able to explain what I meant by unschooling success in just a few words. I just touched on it, but you seemed to know where I was going. Holiness, yes, though many people would think more in terms of character. If we are encouraging our children to be the people they are meant to be perhaps that means they should develop and use their God-given talents (they were given for a reason) and at the same time grow in virtue.

      There is no doubt that kids have to be able to make a living of some kind and we can't ignore this. Yes, they need to be prepared to live a life filled with good work, as you said. They need to find their place in the world and be able to support themselves. That love I was speaking about could include love of learning, love filled relationships and of course, love of God. If our kids have these I think they'll be okay.

      I feel really sad when I hear parents pushing a child to the point of their relationship being affected. I've done it myself so I know there are good intentions behind it. We feel we have to be tough. It's our duty as a parent. But I agree with you: err on the side of relationship and everything will fall into place.

      I'm going to keep mulling over this topic, try and find the right words to express what, I know in my heart, success actually is.

      Enjoy your tidy cabinets! Thank you so much for listening!

    2. Reply

      Yiu have kept me company whilst dealing with a migraine and accompanied vision problems :-). I should have been swimming this morning!

      Thank you for sharing about the difficulties in letting go and trusting. I really need to listen and take to heart this concept. Not easy when all around me the emphasis is on grades as a measure of success. Doubly hard when Pip is part of a system that I am unhappy with but that she is on the whole happy to endure. Not only do I have a foot in both camps but they are also polar extremes of each other!!!

      Thank you for keeping me sane! If you would ever like to Skype send me an email and let me know.

      Thank you for being a dear friend.

      San xx

    3. Reply


      I'm so sorry to hear you've been suffering with a migraine. I'm glad I was able to keep you company. I'm imagining my voice on the other side of the world and you listening. That's a lovely thought!

      Yes, there's only one measure of success at school. Everything is geared towards high grades and not much else matters. Have you read Ken Robinson's books? I think you'd enjoy them. He writes about people who were deemed unsuccessful because they failed in the school system, but when they were able to do what they were really good at, their passions, they were incredibly successful indeed. Very interesting and encouraging.

      San, I haven't got my computer set up for Skype at the moment. I'm tempted to phone you instead! In the meantime, I will email as soon as I get a free moment. There's lots I'd like to share. Thank you for your friendship. Sending you a hug and love. xxx

  4. Reply

    This sounds like a podcast made for me. I'll have to try and listen. Maybe this will be the time when my half deaf ears can be made to collaborate.

    1. Reply


      I'm so sorry I spoke rather than wrote. I find I can say much more when I'm making a podcast. It always takes me far too long to write everything out as a blog post It must be very difficult for you not having full hearing. I hope you are able to listen to at least a few minutes of my podcast. Thank you so much for stopping by. I always enjoy catching up with you!

  5. Reply


    Gemma Rose sounds a lot like me at her age. I would have loved to spend the day reading and having someone read to me! I wouldn't have tackled Charles Dickens at 11, but I love him now. One thing that has worked really well in our family is listening to audiobooks together. We listen while eating lunch together almost every day. We enjoy a meal together while sharing a story. It's not the same as a parent reading aloud, I know, but it works really well for us. If your voice tires out, and Gemma Rose still wants to hear a story, she might enjoy an audiobook. I love listening to the works of Charles Dickens, because all the accents and dialogues come alive in a way that they don't when I read the books.

    1. Reply


      I like the idea of listening to an audio book while eating lunch!

      I listened to part of an audio book of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. (I ended up reading the second half of the book.) I discovered I paid more attention to the descriptions when listening. When I read, I passed over so many things and missed out on a lot of Dickens' witty humour. If the reader has a good voice I really enjoy audio books. Yes, accents make the words come alive. I'm going to listen to some of Shakespeare's plays as audio recordings for the same reason: Hearing, rather than listening, makes the speeches come alive and they are so much easier to understand!

      I shall look out for some audio books for Gemma-Rose. Thanks for this great idea!

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