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Lavanya Bahuguna


From Hikes To Spring Water Baths, Jolene From Australia On The Benefits Of Homeschooling Kids In The Wild

  • IWB Post
  •  June 8, 2019

Jolene and I are Instagram friends for a while now. Every morning, I eagerly look for her updates sharing the insights of her wild-wild life in Queensland with her five children and partner.


Having a house that’s surrounded by tall green plants, spending the day trekking and dipping their feet in the nearby river, lying on your back and observing the unhurried clouds, sigh, this lifestyle makes me want to do nothing except wander along the length of the woods and stay close to nature.

Ok. So we went on a bike ride and discovered Isabella creek about ten minutes from where we live. As a bit of a backlog to the story, we had previously been home, trying to encourage the boys to do some handwriting in workbooks. Mostly because it’s around this time that the pressure is on to produce a report to show proof of learning and we start behaving like we are trying to recreate school at home. It’s a massive fail. To the point that Milo is literally on the floor, completely uninspired, shoulders hunched, hating life. But I forget. I forget what real learning looks like. And what unschooling has to show us. True, passionate natural inquiry. All it took was for us to hop on our bikes and get out there discovering. Soon we were talking momentum as we went fast and rode hands free down the hills. We were talking bush survival and how to filter for water and how to make camp if ever stranded. We found giant spiders in arm span sized webs and respected them with caution from the boys. And once home milo grabbed my arm and sat me down with pen and paper, eagerly seeing what kind of camp I would create should I be stranded. This got us talking about the spire that Katniss uses in Hunger Games to collect water from trees. Archie types into the computer, spelling and sounding out the words and we read together and learn about the trees and sap that can be collected in North America depending on your latitude (which in itself opens up a discussion on the horizontal and vertical lines on a spherical globe) I need this reminder because lance and I were feeling like the sorest losers at this game. Not meeting curriculum standards at all. But fuck curriculum. I care more for my children’s happiness and desire to learn than some words in a box (mind you I still need to translate it all into ‘teacher speak’ for us to be approved to continue) But anyway. I felt it today. I needed it most today. To remember why we are doing this. And how it needs to be done. #unschooling #manvswild #mulberrychildhood

246 Likes, 50 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “Ok. So we went on a bike ride and discovered Isabella creek about ten minutes from where we live….”

Why am I narrating her story to you? So I can take you to the many fern-covered-hill-top locations that she uses to educate her kids – Milo (11), Archie (10), Jasper (7), and four-year-old twin girls – Frankie and Rosie.

Read the small conversation I had with Jolene the other day about the practice of unschooling, nature-schooling, and other stuff. Excerpts below:

Tell me a little about your occupation and where you come from.

I am an advocate of self-love and mama to five beautiful young wildlings. I was born in England to an English mother and a Filipino father. We moved to Cairns, Australia, when I was 15 and now, it feels more like home than any other place I’ve ever been to. I’m a stay-at-home mother, although I sometimes help my partner, Lance, with the family business of events and publishing.

Ma familia

45 Likes, 2 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “Ma familia”

Looking at the way you’re nurturing your litter, I’m pretty sure you’d received a pretty unconventional parenting yourself.

I had a very steady, simple and routine upbringing. My mother is an amazing woman who gave her whole self to parenting my brother and me. We never really went without anything. We always had food in our belly, a roof over our head, and there was always a lot of love and laughter in the home.

It’s interesting that I was brought up this way because in some respects I am a little different to the way I was raised. I am neither routine or organized. I’m not very good at all the homely duties my mother took such pride in. I’m spontaneous and messy. I seek adventure and encourage the kids to be wild and free. But I hope my children will always remember their needs being met and that there is plenty of love.


You’ve long been homeschooling your five children. Why do you think it is more beneficial than the conventional schooling?

We decided to homeschool because the boys were just not enjoying the regular school. They found the work boring and irrelevant. Also, it coincided with us wanting to travel as a family, so it seemed to be the right answer at the time.

I was keen to let them pursue their interests and teach them real-life skills through a method known as unschooling or natural learning, which is basically taking their lead and learning hands-on with things they need, use or are interested in, using our everyday life. I felt, by traveling across the land, they would see, touch and smell so much more than they ever could sitting in a classroom within the four walls, looking at a textbook.


By homeschooling, they could actually connect with the land and its people, and boy, that kind of experience felt priceless. Also, learning how to be self-sufficient and looking after themselves and each other was a massive pull. I really feel having that time together bonded us and strengthened our relationship.

This morning we had a very interesting conversation in the car. Milo opened up by saying he had met a girl when he was playing, that said she was a boy. Milo took it to mean that she wanted to play with the boys and be one of them. But it stuck with him, enough that he wanted to share this with me to understand it more. I found this great opportunity to talk about how some people are born in a body that they don’t identify with and choose to live their life the way they see themselves and feel that they are. Boys can be girls and girls can be boys. It felt like this conversation piggy backed easily off our discussions around same sex marriage as I’ve been keeping them in the loop about changes happening in parliament recently regarding the historic bill and marriage equality (which I’ve been so damn excited about!) Later that day I found out that this child infact was born a boy but had started living as the girl she felt she truly was. And can I take a moment to give kudos to her folks who have given space and let their child be. Makes me so happy to hear. So tonight I explained this to Milo. It was like it all clicked and it truly dawned on him. I asked him, how did he receive her words when she was telling him she was a boy. He said he felt confused and didn’t understand it. And he told me that he wanted to talk to her mother to get more information, which I felt was a really genuine and honest response. But he found he couldn’t at the time because the mother wasn’t available. I asked ‘What do you think we could learn from this experience?’. And for him the answer was easy. ‘Not to judge’ Yes! I exclaim. We need to listen and be open because sometimes things are not as they seem. And now we know that people are so fluid in their gender and expression. It was a massive, eye opening discussion for his mind and mine. We hugged and I told him I thought he was pretty fantastic. We really connected through this and I could really see how his mind was working in trying to understand it. And I’m glad he knows just a little bit more about the depth and complexity of humans as he goes to sleep tonight. #queer #transgender #transchild

724 Likes, 62 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “This morning we had a very interesting conversation in the car. Milo opened up by saying he had met…”

Being a mother is not something I take lightly. I know it’s my responsibility to help shape what we want the future to look like. And to make it happen now, in our everyday. It’s why I choose the path that I do. Of imagination, travel, nature, openness, natural learning and ultimately love. We all know I make mistakes. I fuck up. But I like to think that I own that too. And grow from it. I am a mother. I am human. I am strong and powerful and wise. I feel the love from my own Mother and the generations of women that came before us, so many women who gave me this opportunity to be here today. And what an incredible time to be alive. I feel the support of the great mother 🌿with whom I take solace and commune when I need. She is a powerful force indeed and without her I wouldn’t be who I am. So this coming year I pledge to give greatly and wholly to myself and my family, to deepen and enrich our bonds, our knowledge, our experience, our contribution and our love. Healing and revolution for the world begins at home. 💚 . . Jasper Riley Archie Alexander Rosie Winter Frankie Joy Milo Jasper . . #honestmotherhood # childhoodunplugged #mulberrychildhood #vsco #vscocam #tribedemama @tribedemama #cosleeping #familybed #unschooling #homeschool #mulberrymama

1,157 Likes, 54 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “Being a mother is not something I take lightly. I know it’s my responsibility to help shape what we…”

Were you scared in the beginning?

Umm, yes, it was scary to take the leap into homeschooling. I started by reading some literature by John Holt and working out what the regulations were in my area, and just took it one step at a time. Also, there are lots of great accounts to follow on Instagram that make you feel like you have a solid community.

(John Caldwell Holt was an American author and educator, a proponent of homeschooling and, specifically, the unschooling approach, and a pioneer in youth rights theory.)

Take us through your day of unschooling your kids.

We enjoy slow mornings. There is no rush to be anywhere, or do anything. We take our time to move into the day and work out what we want to create. Sometimes we go into the bush or connect with other homeschooling friends in the neighborhood. We use the galleries, museums, and libraries as resources and like spending days at the beach and the skate parks burning-off energy and breathing in fresh air. All this pretty much sums up our day.

🐉❤️🌿 Frankie J . #pizzeypark #girlswhoskate

511 Likes, 12 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “🐉❤️🌿 Frankie J . #pizzeypark #girlswhoskate”

I got pumping on the bowls this morn and it felt real good. Great workout. I also had me a decent face grating stack, just to keep me humble. Thankyou pads 🙌🏽 I always see the big skater boys zooming around the park, almost flying, and I’m like ‘man 😩I so wanna be able to do that’. One older guy, he said “are these all your groms?” ‘Yep’ I say proudly. ‘That’s awesome’ he reckons. He asks if I vaccinate. (?!) ‘Nuh’ ‘I can tell’ he says and I’m all like whaddaya mean? He says he knew it straight away, like he can see their spirit shining bright. ‘They’re different. Intact. Whole beings’. And we get into a convo about how his wife homebirthed twice 🙌🏽 and how she herself was born in a home birth, and how he feels so proud of this wisdom being passed down generations. It was so touching to see a man talk so dearly. Later milo asks the guy if he can teach him how to ollie. And it was the nicest moment watching the two of them over on the grass, the man giving his time as if milo were his own son. He had many words of wisdom to share, like how if you want to do anything in this world, you simply just begin. And skating is one of them. And Milo! Man that kid inspires me soo flipping much. He is really good on the board. And he keeps pushing himself a little higher, a little harder and nailing it. We got him some shoes today so he can save grazing his toes as he goes FNQ barefoot styles. There really is nothing he can’t do. I’m so amazed by him. He and I really had some beautiful connection going on today. Gawd I love that boy 💕 #mulberrymama #girlsthatskate #vsco #vscocam . . [Edit: and whilst I don’t agree with the mans perspective I am fully pro choice in this matter and believe all children are whole beings regardless. And just to add the boys are partially vaxxed and the girls completely not and he could not see a difference between either] @pizzey_skatepark

881 Likes, 85 Comments – * << j o l e n e >> * (@little.olive.bird) on Instagram: “I got pumping on the bowls this morn and it felt real good. Great workout. I also had me a decent…”

How do you make sure the kids are following the passions that require them to use gadgets, technology, etc. while they’re living a rather different life?

Unschooling doesn’t mean taking kids away from technical science or something that hasn’t got anything direct to do with Mother Nature. My boys like to spend time on the computer playing Minecraft and ROBLOX – something they are very passionate about. That’s why I took their lead and signed them into a robotics and coding class.

This another time when we were attending a forest school, traveling down the East coast of Australia, the boys spent time whittling sticks and drilling wood. The Bush skill is a favorite amongst my boys.


I see your kids are quite comfortable talking about gender and nudity. How do you normalize these rather sensitive topics at home?

We are a very expressive kind of family. Quite liberal, you might say. Everything is talked about openly, no subject is taboo. We answer as honestly as possible whether it’s about sexuality, body functions, gender, human behavior, religion, or anything else. It’s all open for discussion.


As a parent, I want them to hold their own ideas about things even if they don’t match with my own beliefs. I want them to feel they have a space to express. Sometimes it can be challenging to raise empowered free thinkers, but in the long run, I think it will serve them well.


First published on Apr 20, 2018.

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