I have been reading Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling, and I have found it challenging and enlightening.

Several of her ideas I have already put into practice in our home this week, and I am sure there are others which have taken root and will grow. I am inspired, actually. The book is very readable and accessible, with short chapters which make it easy to pick up and put down. It is actually based on her extensive website, so if you fancy a browse yourself, click here! There are links from her site to others' writings, too.

If I have taken one thing away from the book, it is "SAY YES MORE!" Such a seemingly simple thing. I am trying to do that. Another very practical idea is MONKEY PLATTERS. These snack selection plates have gone down a storm with my boys, and are far better (and more fun) than frequent dipping into the biscuit tin!

I have also taken down a poster of our "FAMILY RULES" which we compiled some years ago and which has been displayed on our wall for ages. Unschooling emphasises principles over rules. This is an idea I have thought about before, following my reading of Alfie Kohn's excellent book, "Unconditional Parenting" (Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason). Rules > Principles ... It may seem a small shift in words, but actually requires quite a major mindshift. Rules, you see, can be broken. You fall on the wrong or right side of them - and face the consequences. Prinsiples are different, more like values. They invite discussion and self-examination. They focus not just on the behaviour, but on the heart and the motivation. I would prefer to be a family who act and speak according to our principles than people who merely follow the rules. Although some of our family rules reflected principles, it was time to change the poster!

I read books like Sandra's and am challenged again to 'deschool' ... So much of our thinking as parents and as educators is shaped by our own early institutionalisation. Unschooling paints a picture of a better way, a way to live freely and autonomously. I am inspired, actually.