The Beauty and Magic of a Home School

Non Linear, Integrated Learning is Easy As Pie!

   Today is a sunny day and we are going to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to study the amazing Jelly Fish.  We have watched National Geographic Videos; examined in minutiae our ZooBooks, our three oldest students took turns reading to us from more books in the library, we made a big wall map of the world and mapped their territories and NOW, finally, we heard that there is a big exhibit on Jelly Fish happening at the aquarium and we are going to go see real live Jelly Fish.   We pack our art pads and pastels, charcoals, and other dry and portable mediums and park ourselves on the floor in front of one of the smaller glass enclosed cases featuring a colorful variety of jellyfish; a tiny thing that makes its own light.  It has a natural florescent of sorts.

 There are dozens of varieties of Jelly Fish.  We sit for a while and draw pictures of our favorites, which will later be displayed on the cork board in the hall of our home.  We examine them from every angle, how they move…explain their propulsion system, why they glow…how they eat. We count them, point out their unique details, we see if we can tell them apart.

After a while we peruse the rest of the aquarium (especially the sharks, and decide that next month we will study them!) and eventually maneuver outside for lunch on the grass where we share our favorite moment, what else we want to see, and what we are so excited about. Small children are always seem excited when learning.

 This is a Home School and Life is Our Classroom

This small band of students is a home school consisting of a 2 year old, a 5 year old, a 7 year old, and an 8 year old.   Three of the students can read, they can all count, and they are cooperative, supportive, and tender with each other.

We begin our adventure each month sitting across the kitchen table with books and pictures from the different subjects that we might study.  We studied forts, their construction and design (we even built a couple).  We used cooking to practice math (fabulous for counting and fractions), as well as safety lesson, tending to food, the cycle of life, teamwork and chemistry lessons.  We learned to knit, sew, weave, and tie-dye. We plan, plant, and harvest a large organic garden and we learned to put up food.  We buy used small appliances at garage sales to be taken apart and put back together.  We have posters of the human body and start studying nutrition and how the body works at the earliest ages.  We do puzzles for concentration practice plus learning to observe detail and spatial composition. We play games for strategic thinking and fun. We ski in the winter and swim in the summer.  We have been to the theatre, aikido lessons, learn languages, and piano. They learn to play chess when they are 5 years old.  Art, writing, music, and history are components of almost every lesson.  Reading and writing come naturally as we research whatever subject we are learning.

Resources Are Abundant and Many Free!

Resources are abundant with memberships to the Seattle Science Center, the Woodland Park Zoo, the Tacoma Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, and Seattle Art Museum (SAM) which all offer events and announcements about special events.  Each month we get a newsletter from most of these places and we look for what we want to see and many times build our lessons around these  events.  We go to the Science Center and a Museum once a month and we usually visit a new place, like a local historic site or the Conservatory in Volunteer Park.

 The Beauty Occurs When the Kids Decide What They Will Be Learning

The monthly planning meeting is as much a learning experience as any other lesson.  We have to listen to each other, look at the congruence of our choices, plan a schedule and what resources we have for these lessons.  We sometimes have to vote or make hard choices, but usually everyone gets to have their first choice and only has to wait on their second or third choice.

 The Magic is Alive Everyday

And the magic, well the magic is alive everyday.  I find them always eager to learn the next hardest thing;  excited to find out about the world and explore the very edges of their environment, how it works, when it doesn’t.   Many times I have found that I have to give up my own conservative point of view about something and learn to trust them.  For instance, I remember teaching my 6 year old to break eggs on the edge of the hot frying pan.  She was standing on a chair in front of the stove and she was going to make the breakfast eggs.  She was so excited and I was right there with her.  She hit the first one too hard and it went everywhere, some in the pan and some on the stove, even some on her.  She lightly touched the edge of the pan with her finger and it was hot.  My first reaction was to be afraid for her, that she might get hurt. The touch so slight it did not even faze her, but for me…I was nervous and tempted to end the lesson.  But, I  evaluated the moment and knew she could do this. She had baked with me many times and knew how to break eggs very well.  She was careful around the stove and very respectful of our safety rules.  I could see that for her to have this accomplishment I was going to have to be courageous and let her try again. And after several broken yolks, she triumphantly made breakfast for six people.

 Learning to Let Them Stretch and Learn

The very nature of a student is to always be at the edge of their abilities and always stretching to the next level.  Loving to learn and striving for excellence is something I would want for them for the rest of their lives.  How then could I let my fear stop them from attempting what I would be afraid to attempt myself?

One of the major joys and challenges has been to allow my children to excel way beyond my own abilities and brilliance.   Their ingenuity dazzles me daily, their delight in learning never ceases to amaze me, while their courage has left me humbled and inspired innumerable times.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to show them the world and have them hand it right back to me, enlivened and enhanced tenfold.


Tawn Holstra Auston is an author, speaker, and an educational consultant specializing in curriculum design.  She is a parent, a former preschool teacher, and was a segment host for Intuitive Parent on Conscious Talk Radio 1150am at 7am the third Wednesday of each month.   Please send questions and comments to Tawn 


Science Accidentally Proves: We Are Who Others Encourage Us to Be

Finally, It is Proven, We are Shaped By Our Environments!

For years, more like decades, it has been argued that infants are not aware; that they cannot learn anything complex; that they do not communicate or have memory; even that they feel no pain.  It was thought that fetuses and infants had no language until they learned to talk.  For all that time, and for eons before, parents have known otherwise.  However science has been determined to prove that human beings are genetically determined and have almost no ability to diverge from their genetic programming.

Recently the Human Genome Project completed and released their long awaited results.  It was originally postulated that there would be well over 120,000 genes; a number high enough to allow for our almost limitless human variations.  Shockingly (at least to the scientists that designed the study), the research isolated only about 25,000 genes (about the same amount as a lab rat). Leaving us with the unexpected scientific evidence that we are primarily influenced by our environment and there is minimal hard-wiring that makes us who we are.

 New Research Confirms Our Cellular Learning and Responsiveness Begins Neonatal and Even Prenatal

In Dr. Bruce Lipton’s book, the Biology of Belief, he further illuminates the discovery until it ripples through our cells.  It turns out that every human cell has its own ability to adapt to its environment and responds to positive and negative influences…just not with its genes.  Contrary to popular belief, even cells with their nucleus removed (which means that all of its genes and DNA have been removed) continue to live, function, and adapt to external information.  The cells without nucleus continue to respond and learn until they die (which means the cell retains the response for future use, commonly referred to as cellular memory).  This finding solidifies the notion that human beings are adaptive and responsive to whatever stimulus is in their environment; love and nurture, as well as, neglect and abuse.  In the 1981 breakthrough text by Dr. Thomas Verny, The Secret World of the Unborn Child, there was early evidence that even neonatal and prenatal human beings are learning and responsive to their environment such as their parent’s voices.

This may be news to scientist, but for mothers and fathers all over the world this news simply reinforces what we already know.  Our children are responsive from before birth.  How we talk to them, take care of them, refer to them, tend to them, nurture them, or not; all provides the oxygen for their development and education.

 Early Learning is Happening 24/7 from Day 1

In The Schools Our Children Deserve, education activist Alfie Kohn says that the learning state of 0-5 year olds is remarkably absorbent and deeply resonant.  There are four states of consciousness for human beings, Delta, Theta, Beta, and Alpha.  Each state allows for a different ability to screen out input.  Children under 5 years old spend almost all their time in Delta and Theta states and these states are the states of someone under deep hypnosis. (Kohn, 1999)

Thus, before five years, our children are like sponges and acquire cellular learning directly from their environment without consciously agreeing to take on those lessons.  One could even go so far as to say that children absorb energy levels directly into their cells, such as unexpressed resentment, condescending comments, domination and force; as well as, love, understanding, compassion, and wonder.  In a Delta or Theta state, baby human cells absorb the energy around them without discernment, good or bad.  According to Dr. Lipton, this cellular learning becomes the basis for our unconscious mind, which, some believe, is permanently stuck with these lessons.

Science has made a huge leap forward, all but concluding that our environment is the fundamental influence on our development.  How our parents raised us actually made a difference.

 The Learning Environment of American Schools

A recent essay out of Amsterdam suggested that what was once an American right to an education has become a confinement punishable by fines and jail time (in extreme cases) for lack of compliance.  For example, if my child does not want to go to school for a couple of days, I have to get a doctors note before the school will allow him back in class.  The kids have to have written permission on their person to walk down a hall.  There is no conversation in any class about what the kids want to learn, or what they are up to in their own lives that might make the lessons relevant.   And this is at a really good elementary school in a really nice neighborhood.   In high school it is far worse.  It is no wonder kids resist this authoritarian approach and associate learning with being controlled, not trusted, disrespected, and ignored.

But what about alternative schools? Absolutely, there are break-away schools with refreshing approaches and encouraging results.  For instance, there is a small school in Sudbury, MA where the kids get to choose what they do each day.  They are allowed to wonder the grounds, work at their own pace, request instruction when they want it, even sleep on the couch all day, if they choose.  With 100+ students that might seem unruly and unreliable.  Yet, 78% of these kids are going on to college, which is way more than our public school college bound.  However, these schools are not the norm, nor are they broadly accepted.

For the record, most teachers in our public schools are kind, well intended, and they work hard.  It is not necessarily the teachers, but the system.  We cling to a teaching system that is familiar, albeit stifling.  It is not news that our schools are not preparing children for the future, but the system is stable.  And stability is comforting.  After all, we turned out alright and most of us went to public school.  But this need for the familiar is the flat line on our educational advancement.

 Our Children Are Way Smarter Than We Are, and Meant to Be

In my work I have come to the conclusion that all children are genius, and I mean all children.  They are way smarter than we are and they are meant to be.  Each generation carries with it everything we know and the ability to develop beyond that.  All children, from all cultures and income brackets have the ability to innovate and create.  All children rich or poor have remarkable ingenuity. However, our current schooling system is designed for compliance, not deviation.  It is an environment that is meant for fitting in, not standing out.  Standardized testing demands right answers not creative solutions.  And being talkative, needing to run around, and having more energy than you know what to do with is considered anti-social and completely unacceptable.  All of which flattens out the sparkling, probing, messy genius of most children by the time they are 12.

 The Right Environment Can Feed Their Hunger to Learn

So, the right school is important, but not necessarily because it teaches three year olds to read.  The right school would be full of love and encouragement.  It would have a great learning environment, with lots of areas of activity, not rows of chairs all facing forward.  It would have lots of children’s art displayed, not commercially printed posters.  It would have good quality materials for children to help themselves and quiet areas for rest and reflection.  The right school would center on and respond to children’s desire to learn. And how we would know we were in the “right school” is the children would be delighted to be there.

Ultimately, the right school nurtures and supports brilliant beings to explore, expand, and discover their special contribution to the world.  A contribution that we hunger and long for.  A contribution that was born to be expressed.

So You Want to Have a Breakthrough… Well, How Bad Do You Want It?

Anatomy of a Breakthrough Series:

Project: 60 and Smokin’ Hot!

A few months ago I turned 59 and I started to think about where I wanted to be by my 60th birthday, generally a milestone in a person’s life. So I looked at all the different domains of my life, Body, Love and Relationship, Travel, Home, Car, Business Growth/Work, and Projects/Lifestyle and immediately I could see that there was something that I wanted in each of those areas AND that I was somewhat complacent about being able to have that result. Either I had already been trying and not getting there, I felt tired or resigned about actually getting some of these areas to move in reality, and I was afraid I was going to take on too much and not have a breakthrough in any of them, by trying to have a breakthrough in all of them.

However, I remembered from all of my work with different transformational work that if I cause a breakthrough in any area it will allow for breakthroughs in other areas. So I chose one area and got to it. The area was my body and my project is 60 and Smokin’ Hot!

The Project Result to Accomplish: To be the fittest I have ever been in my life and look fantastic in a bikini, (yes, at 60).

Conditions (Where I am starting and the facts): I have had 4 children and I have not seriously worked out for years. I go to yoga when I can, which means 1 a month (or less) or once – twice a week when I am on the east coast. I would go to the gym once or twice a month. I was/am very active in my life so have connected that as my idea of working out – working hard.

Inside my commitment and passion to look and feel great at 60 years old I could see there were actions I was taking that were NOT aligned with that commitment AND I really liked doing them. Drinking wine, eating chocolate, and not going to the gym. I also saw that I was only using one metric to determine how I was doing in the domain of my body and that was fitting into my clothes. If I fit into my tiny jeans then I was in good shape (for having 4 babies and being 59)!

Might all be true, but not good enough to cause a breakthrough. Certainly, for 59, have four kids, and not working out seriously, I do look good. But that is not the result that I want. That is the justification I have used for not getting what I want.

Lastly, I noticed that I had to make room to fail. What would happen if I did not get to that goal? I will have worked hard toward something/a goal and I will have some great results. Will it match exactly, if I do not have a breakthrough? No, probably not… will it be worth it? Absolutely. I know what will happen if I continue how I am… nothing and likely get less in shape as I age… definitely worth it!

So here is the restructure:

I stopped drinking alcohol altogether, for 12 months
I got a trainer and had my measurements done at the gym by a 3rd party (not me!) and put in my chart (I started to measure for results)

I listened to the trainer!

This one was harder than I thought. My trainer said to accomplish my goal in 12 months I should be working out 4x a week and eating 80 grams of protein a day. I laughed out loud, I really thought she was kidding.

She was not kidding. I had to completely re-constitute my thinking about what this was going to take and then commit to it again – If I wanted to have a breakthrough in this area of my life there was a reality to what it was going to take of me daily.

So the real question came down to: How bad do you want it? Do I want it enough to give up time, energy, things I like, and what appeared to be any fun? Did I want it that bad? Well,  YES, YES I do!

An added benefit for me is I also get to use the game as a laboratory for the Anatomy of a Breakthrough, which makes it even more fun.

The game is on! I invite you to let me know your goals that you want to have breakthrough in.

GreenLife Foundation and GreenLife Project One

I am so excited to announce that we are formally starting our first GreenLife Community Project!

I will be announcing more specifics soon, but for now here is a bit about the organization and what we are about.

GreenLife Foundation’s mission is to educate and inspire others to live committed lives, contributing to their families, communities, and the world.

GreenLife is a laboratory for exploring and designing creative communities and social solutions.


The GreenLife Project One:   To design long-term sustainable communities for NO INCOME residents.   NO INCOME CONTRACT HOUSING allows participants to stabilize their lives, learn marketable skills, recover, and contribute to their new community.    Potential communities are homeless, refugees, and addicts.

Again, the specifics of our first project will be announced within the week!

A GreenLife Community is designed as a co-operative integrative system.  Version 1 will house 108 people, include organic gardens to feed 200 people, run on sustainable energy, gray water, and each participant will have a contract for full time work inside the community.   Participants will be trained to maintain the buildings (including plumbing, electric, handyman skills, and painting, etc), take care of the food and animals (chickens to start), and work with  the children or elderly who might live on site, as well as specific industries where they can get jobs off site (appropriate to that area).   Recovery work is part of the program for all participants.  The Peer Recovery model is the intention.

It is intended that once a GreenLife Community is stable and the participants are able to run it, that the staff and team of trainers are moved to another location to start again.

Will keep you posted as things develop!

Build Your Own Ark — Explorations of Working From Anywhere

About 5 years ago I started conjuring a plan to retire in 5 years. Well I have not gotten to that, yet… but oh so close! I, of course, had other dreams too…

1. To be bicoastal and live near a tropical beach
2. To have enough passive income to be able to be out of the country at least 6 weeks a year
3. To be out of debt, including mortgages
4. Extreme health and fitness
5. To make a lasting difference in the world

Five years ago I was getting married and some of my 5 kids were still living at home, I had a fledgling construction company (2 years old) and we owned a couple of rentals that we managed to get and hold on to.

So I started building my empire in 2008, at the start of the real estate crash in the United States. I just saw so much opportunity and I jumped in with both feet.

Now I have 13 rentals that pay both my mortgages, one on my house on the west coast and one on the shore in Florida, plus all the utilities. That being said, I wanted more. I wanted to be free to be anywhere (bi coastal) and although I am still building that asset and have an excellent track record for picking the right properties, I felt geographically stuck. There is no getting around it, construction and real estate is a hands-on business.

So I launched into, what has turned out to be, a multi-year exploration about generating income from anywhere. I have been at it for about 5 years now and I have learned so much.

This blog is about those lessons and how they unfolded. Honestly, this is a dream life and I hope you find yours!

How To Start a Business Without Losing Your Job

Small start-up businesses have had a huge resurgence in the past 5 years. Since the US recession and ever so slow recovery, people of all walks of life have started needed additional income or are so worried that they will be laid off that they are turning to self-employment at unprecedented numbers.


At the same time, you really want to give your business time to develop before leaving your steady paycheck so here are a few tips on how to start your business without having to lose your job, especially if your “job” is something that you really can’t or don’t want to lose, such as being a stay at home mom or dad (which is most definitely a full time job!)


#1. Start small. You can start almost any business at home. It is important that you plan for being bigger, but in the really expensive things, like offices, phone systems, equipment leases, etc. you do NOT need to do that. What are the things you must have?


1. A great business card (VistaPrint is my go-to for all this type of printing, first 250 FREE)

2. A great printer, scanner, fax machine (an HP All-In-One is my personal choice, about $400)

3. A business license from the Department of Licensing in your state. $59-ish

4. A computer – you can get a decent computer for under $500

5. Internet access — about $50 a month at its most basic level

6. Website — WordPress $0

7. Blog — if you are doing on line marketing this is a must have $0

8. Facebook page and Twitter accounts, Linked In profile for a professional

#2. A budget

What is your plan for making money. If you are a weekend cabinet maker, then how long will it take you to make cabinets for someone once they order them? Can you take 2 orders and get help if needed? How much money do you need to make to make ends meet? In other words, how much do you want to make from your business and how long do you want it to take? Then double the amount of time. Remember to include your materials and build your hours into the cost of making the cabinets at the expense it would be to hire someone to do it. To make that clear, cost of the labor is no more than what you could hire someone off of Craigslist to do it for (plus taxes and insurance).


#3. A Plan

This is more about the time. If you have a job you will have a harder time marketing at networking meetings and other mid day opportunities. So you will have to be creative in finding your niche market and reaching them. So get creative and make a plan that works in your schedule.


#4. Wardrobe

Look the part. If you are a house painter, do not go do bids in your suit straight from the office. Never tell folks this is your hobby business. You can show up in your nice car but make some comment about the truck being in at another job site. You are a house painter, that is who you need to be when you are with your customers.

If you are a house painter and you are trying to change to something more business suit like, then go to Nordstrom’s (or you best local department store) and try on some outfits. Get a sense of what makes you look and feel like a million bucks. Then take a picture and go to Good Will, or your local Value Village and find the pieces for pennies on the dollar. You can look fantastic for under $50 with the right wardrobe choices.


#5. An Offer

What do you do? What can you do for your customers? This is the most important piece. You need to have a strong, compelling offer that soothes a pain your customer is experiencing. Remember that we are all over busy, so saving them time, stress, or $ are easy top-of-the-pile issues. Then there are, looking or feeling better.


#6. Boldness

Call this whatever you like, courage, chutzpah, confidence, or boldness… you must find that spot in yourself where you can approach strangers and open your mouth with a smile and build a relationship.

Practice your opening in the mirror. When I get started on something new, I always write out a 1 sentence way of saying what I do. That is the most common question you will get, and sometimes you will only get 1 sentence – or 30 seconds at some networking meetings. So you need to be prepared to say it really well and get your point across. Give them benefits, not services. If you clean gutters for your new business, you want to tell them that you will prevent water damage and flooding, quickly, and leave the place spotless.

Tell Everyone you know!

Just make an announcement when you are ready to get started. Tell everyone. “ I am starting to do roofing on the weekends and if you know anyone I will give them a great deal and great service. “

They may not know anyone right away, but give lots of cards out and you will surprised how many calls you will get if you keep going.


#7. Stay Focused on What Matters

To not lose your job, you need to stay focused on it. So keep your attention where it matters. When you are at work, be at work and do not try and sneak other business in on company time. That is the single most common reason that bosses don’t like people to start other ventures. It takes your attention away from what you are doing. So keep doing a great job there.

At lunch, before work, and after work, you can return calls, follow up and plan marketing meetings. Use the weekends to fulfill your promises to your customers. And take at least 1 day off to rest. Exhaustion is not going to work in the long run.


Have Fun!!

Butterthief Gardens, A Sacred Place

Nestled among 40 acres of pristine old growth cedar high above the rambunctious Chehalis River this fantabulous spot is a sacred



place for me to find clarity, write without distraction, breathe, discover inspiration, and just be among nature at is finest.


Home to nut trees, wild blackberries (of course), huckleberries, exotic   vining fruits that hang from the cedars, amazing medicinals, this rich   corner of the universe is full of faeries, gnomes, and all likes of natures helpers.

Costa Rica White Water Rafting

For those of us who love adrenaline, this trip was worth the effort.   It was quite a hike down to the river and fortunately they float the boats down from up river.  We have good class 4′s in the Pacific Northwest during the spring, however the water is just above freezing and it is loaded with boulders.  Helmets and wetsuits are a necessity.   In Costa Rica the water is warm and if it were not for the fall of the river, the white water would not be slower, just not as bouldered.


Started with a few days trip to Panama City, then a day hop in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.  Looking for an adventure beyond the amazing banana fields and wild toucans (with real striped beaks!) we found a river trip that turned out to be one of the best day trips of my life.



Class 3! Really? Amazing day with amazing friends!



You work up quite an appetite after a few hours of this kind of work.

Schoolhouse Earth —

Love, love, love Schoolhouse Earth.   A 501(c)3 parented by Transformation of Education to develop innovative programs that interface with schools, support teachers, and design powerful and impactful stewardship education that leaves contributing adults who are responsible, creative, and engaged in life.





With programs like Edible Rainbow, Local Growers Program,  Body Logic, Schoolhouse Gardens, Sugarfree Schools, Dreambuilders, and Guinea Kids Education Fund… this organization is playing big for fun and making a difference.



Ahh, Italy

Two and half weeks of blissful travel.  In the dead heat of August, started in magical Venice, and trained to Florence.  Never was there a city like Florence.  So beautiful, so full of art and architecture.  Everywhere you look is a wonder of craftsmanship.  The people are lovely and warm (except when I asked for ice for my coffee, ouch!)


Trekking to the top of Michaelangelo’s hill and having fresh caprese with wine at a little cafe that overlooks the whole city, so lovely and perfect.  Every bite of fresh basil and summer fresh tomatoes sprinkled with sweet balsamic and olive oil that tastes like it was pressed yesterday.   The sun, the slight breeze, and the site of olive trees, castle walls, and a walled river that twists on to the Mediterranean.   Like a postcard, it was.



Every day was a new treat, from Florence we went to Rome and climbed the tower inside the Vatican Doumo.   The Vatican Museum, the trains, we walked every where to get a better taste of the cities themselves.   I was in heaven until my son went on strike from museums, palazzos, and really anything old… finally, we had to seek out a Hard Rock for the boy… and he deserved it.






However, since there is no Hard Rock in Florence, we had to make a bolt to Rome!  Oh, poor babies… more old stuff for me and hamburgers and english for David.