Tag Archives: Conferences

Make Your Own Homeschooling Toolbox

unschooling toolbox

Every homeschooler has a set of values close to their heart which are the foundation of their homeschool. They were the reason we started homeschooling, and they’re the reason we sigh with contentment at the end of a happy day with our beloved children.

But what about the not-so-good days? For me, those are the days when – for one reason or other – I lose touch with my  values.

It might be tiredness, or illness, or busyness, or insecurity after reading a blog post about some super-effective homeschooling family… whatever the reason, when I disconnect from what’s most important to me, I’m not the homeschooling mum I set out to be.

unschooling toolbox

Joyfully Rejoicing

unschooling toolbox

Joyfully Rejoycing is one of the places I turn when I need inspiration. This website is a treasure-trove of information and advice about unschooling and respectful parenting.

So I was delighted to meet Joyce Fetterol, the woman behind Joyfully Rejoycing,  when she spoke at the LTTL Unschooling Conference in July.

I confess I got so caught up listening to Joyce speak that I forgot to take any notes to share with you {oops}.

However, thanks to Joyce’s generous gift to each delegate, I do have an idea to share.

Unschooling Toolbox

What Joyce gave us was an “Unschooling Toolbox”, comprising:

* 48 double-sided cards, each containing a wise and loving quotes about parenting or unschooling

* a magnet

* a small rock (from New England – very exotic to us Brits)

unschooling toolbox

At the conference we were invited to pick out some of our favourite cards and use them as conversation-starters with our neighbours. (People sitting next to us, that is. I’m not quite ready to take them round the houses on our street.)

This was a wonderful opportunity for the shyer among us to make new connections. It certainly reminded me of the value of real-life community.

How to use your toolbox

Joyce suggested storing the cards in a metal tea tin and selecting one at the start of each day, fixing it to the outside of the tin with the magnet.  (In my house, I think the fridge will be a safer place.)

The rock is to carry in your pocket to remind you of your chosen card.

I just love this simple way of connecting with my values amid the hustle and bustle of a homeschooling day.

Make your own Unschooling/Homeschooling Toolbox

It would be pretty easy to put together your own unschooling/homeschooling toolbox.  (If you don’t homeschool, how about a parenting toolbox?)

1. Collect a bunch of quotes that resonate with your parenting values. If you’re an unschooler, you could search for John Holt quotes like these or these, or visit Joyfully Rejoicing.

You could also use bible verses, or your favourite Charlotte Mason or  Emelia Reggio-inspired quotes …  whatever connects you with your values.

2. Print your quotes onto card and cut them out.

3. Grab a magnet, and pick a card to stick on your tea tin or refrigerator.

4. Pop a pebble in your pocket to remind you of your special words of wisdom throughout the day.

unschooling toolbox

Don’t forget to come back and let me know if you make an inspiring toolbox of your own!

unschooling toolbox

I’m linking up here:

Homeschool Mother’s Journal

Share it Saturday – Teach Beside Me

Hip Homeschool Hop 09/03/13

TGI Friday #93




Tales From an Unschooling Conference

unschooling conference

When I heard that the LTTL unschooling conference was going to be held twenty minutes away from where I live, I jumped at the chance to find out more about unschooling from the experts (like Sandra Dodd) and meet some real-life unschoolers.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the highlights of the unschooling conference.

I’ll start today with the speaker who inspired me most –  Cathy Koetsier.  Cathy has unschooled her five children since 2002. Two of her adult children came along to the conference and shared their perspective on unschooling.

Cathy inspired me to trust my children to choose their own learning paths. She shared many examples of how well this has worked within her family. Here are just a few of my favourites.


Prior to 2002, Cathy homeschooled her children in a more traditional way. At that time, her 8-year-old daughter was struggling with maths so much that she was becoming withdrawn and depressed.

When Cathy discovered unschooling, after much soul-searching, she took the courageous decision to allow her daughter to quit maths. She was delighted to see the little girl quickly return to her former happy self.

Fast forward nine years –  this same young lady announced to her surprised mother that she wanted to sit maths GCSE (the public exams English schoolchildren take at around age 16). With the help of a tutor and a short but intense period of self-motivated hard work, Cathy’s daughter passed the exam with a B.

I wonder how differently that story might have turned out – for the young woman, and her whole family – if Cathy had persisted in requiring her daughter to study maths in a way that wasn’t working for her, back when she was eight?


Two of Cathy’s children struggled with reading because of dyslexia. Her son who came to the conference was one of them. He spoke appreciatively of the many hours his parents had spent reading aloud to him during his childhood.

Then, when he was about thirteen, his desire for book learning began to exceed his parents’ read-aloud-availability, and he taught himself to read fluently and accurately. He didn’t find the task easy, but thanks to his parents, he had grown to have a deep love of books, and by thirteen he had the self-motivation to take the necessary steps to overcome his learning difficulty.

unschooling conference
Photo by Tim Pierce

My own son J(8) was diagnosed by an educational psychologist as having mild dyslexia and last year we used the Toe By Toe multi-sensory reading programme recommended by the psychologist. I’ve heard many good reports about Toe By Toe, and I’ve seen improvements in J(8)’s reading since using it. Mostly our sessions are fine, but there have been occasions when they have induced in J(8) tears of frustration.

Cathy’s talk has given me the confidence to trust J(8) to know what is best for him. He loves books and he loves learning. Next year I intend to respect his wishes if there are days – or longer periods – when he doesn’t want to do Toe By Toe. He’ll get there in the end. Our relationship is more important than the rate at which he learns to decipher phonics.

Oh – and, to Cathy’s astonishment, her other dyslexic child was inspired by a love of mythology to take Classics GSCE at age 16 – she  passed!

Unschooling and family relationships

Cathy’s two grown children contributed richly to the conference discussion.

Cathy’s eldest daughter was unschooled for the shortest time. She commented that when the family homeschooling in a more conventional way, she envied her schooled friends their relationships with their mothers. When her friends had a problem with their teachers, they could talk it through with their mums. But while her mother was her homeschool teacher, Cathy’s eldest couldn’t do that – there just wasn’t the room for a normal mother-daughter relationship. When the family began unschooling, she said, “I got my mum back”.

To find out more about Cathy Koetsier’s unschooling experiences, visit her website, Christian Unschooling.

In my next post in this series I’ll share about Joyce Fetteroll‘s Unschooling Toolbox.

unschooling conference
Logo by Holly Dodd
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