Saturday, 23 November 2013

Worksheets by moonlight

I love how flexible our life is and how we can do 'work' when Small feels enthusiastic, rather than to a timetable.

Tonight Small is doing his 'sleep is for the weak' routine and shortly before midnight he asked if we could get the project folder out.

The project folder is a ring binder that, every few months, I fill with print outs, crafts ideas and worksheets that I think Small might enjoy. The Nature Detectives website is great for seasonal print outs and I add ideas I have seen in books or online. I also use it to store pictures and work he has done when we change our seasonal display. It's a great way to show far away family members the things we get up to.

Tonight, at around midnight, Small asked to do a food chains worksheet we printed out from Nature Detectives. He had never done food chains before and was really proud of himself when he worked them all out. He even suggested an extra food chain and noticed that the chains seemed to start with plants and of course (most!) plants don't have mouths to eat other creatures, so I explained that plants get their energy from the sun. We finished off by drawing a food web, starting with a tree and looking at how lots of different animals can live on one tree and that one buzzard, for example, might eat several of the smaller animals. It helped him see that not everything is as linear as our initial food chains and that cutting down the tree could take food away from lots of animals, not just the ones who eat the seeds and leaves of that tree.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The perfect lesson...

It seems to me that baking is an ideal education tool.

• Maths is covered by weighing out ingredients or measuring them using fractions of a cup (often used in American recipes).

• Initiative is used when altering recipes - today our vegan chocolate cake recipe came to a standstill when we realised we had run out of cocoa powder! A quick think and we used coffee instead and added extra flour to compensate for the lack of cocoa powder.

• Science is found in all aspects of baking - combining ingredients and watching the effects they have on each other, seeing how heat changes their appearance and taste. Every step of a recipe is determined by the chemistry of the ingredients.

• Mixing cake batter, pouring, kneading and rolling out dough are good for coordination and give different sensory feedback.

• You can read recipes together with a young child and let an older child read them to you instead.

Most importantly, you get to eat cake at the end of it all!

Bug fun

A print-out from the Nature Detectives website had Small laughing today. There are lots of resources on the site and this one had lots of minibeast body parts, to be arranged and added to and allow you to create your own fictional bug.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Advent activities and introducing the concept of charity

What Christmas traditions have you started with your young family?

Last year we tried to do a seasonal activity every day during December and this year I have sewn 25 tiny stockings too. Each night, once Small is asleep, I will sneak back downstairs and place a small object or a clue in the correct stocking. I have tried to keep it flexible - if my energy levels are low it may be as simple as a packet of the mints Small loves but on a better day it could be Christmas biscuit cutters or new paintbrushes to lead us into an activity.

As well as our advent activity calendar we are carrying on another tradition we began last year. Last Christmas we had recently moved to a new part of the city so we decided that a nice way to introduce ourselves to the other families in the street would be to deliver a Christmas card to each house. Small and Big wrapped up warmly and posted the cards and we were really pleased when, over the next few days, cards came tumbling through our letterbox in return.

A new aspect that I hope will become a family tradition will be to visit a food bank. As a family we do not have a lot of money but we also know how much worse it can be - being made redundant or having benefits wrongly withdrawn is incredibly stressful at any time, but at Christmas it must be truly awful. We plan to take some food to donate, so that one less family will be worrying about feeding their family over Christmas. As well as the obvious reasons for donating, I hope it will help to show Small that Christmas is not all about him and that it does feel good to know you have helped someone, even just a little.

As always I would love to hear what you have planned :-)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Autism, respectful parenting and the Triple P course...

Every parent doubts themselves at times and for parents of children with additional needs this goes tenfold. We see other children meet their milestones while ours seem to be following their own bumpy paths. We face an often daily barrage of dirty looks, well meant advice and sometimes outright rudeness.

Choosing to seek help and a potential diagnosis for your child is an emotional decision. You are admitting that your child is different, that they aren't quite what you expected. The last thing you need is to feel as though your parenting is in question and, worse still, to be given advice that looks at your child as a naughty kid and not a good one overcoming complications.

Part of our journey through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) was to be sent on a 'Triple P Parenting Course'. We were informed that it is not compulsory and that our CAMHS worker was not concerned about our parenting. However, we got the impression that it was encouraged and that jumping through these hoops would help us be looked on favourably as we navigated the complicated referral system, so we agreed.

Now, I appreciate that we parent outside of the mainstream, but I have been really disappointed by the majority of the information given in the first weeks of this course. A few pieces have been worth some thought but the Positive Parenting moniker appears rather deceiving. It is positive with an undercurrent of arbitrary punishment and a lot of inane drivel masquerading as praise. Examples of this can be found in the handbook given out to parents.

Page 49 of the handbook states:
"Time-out is a positive strategy... the area should not have interesting things to do... Don't talk to your child or give them any attention until they have been quiet for the set time."

Please don't get me wrong. If you feel you are at risk of losing control of yourself and hitting out at your child then the sensible thing to do is to walk away. However, if you are using time out as your go-to punishment then I recommend reading books and articles by Dr. Laura Markham and Alfie Kohn (among others) who have written eloquently on the disadvantages of this technique.

The Triple P DVD shows a girl completing a jigsaw and the mother going over the top with praise - well done, clever girl, good girl, you did it, good job!

Your child knows when you are being insincere. We don't practice Unconditional Parenting (which Alfie Kohn is best known for) but we do try to limit our use of 'good job' or 'good boy' if instead we can describe what he has done or ask him if he is proud of himself.

Our overall aim is not to train our child to display certain behaviours for fear of reward or to receive a gold star. I want him to learn *why* we treat people kindly so that when I am not there to threaten punishment or tempt him with reward he will do the right thing because he is intrinsically motivated. I am not perfect, and sometimes I don't manage to keep to these principles. If I am rushed off my feet, tired, late and Small is not cooperating I should stop, take a deep breath and find out why. But yes, I have been known to offer a reward if it will get us through that tricky moment. However I know that the majority of the time we are taking a road that may not have instant results, but one that I believe is the best path to follow in the long run.

I am not trying to train a naughty child to be obedient, but raising a human being who has additional needs.

So next week I will be going armed with print outs of studies which explain why we parent the way we do. I will be politely explaining that I don't think this course is appropriate for us and that we appreciate the time spent but will be using that time to spend with Small instead.

We are very lucky that we have a community of friends who understand our methods and many who have been through this course before and also found some of it insulting and unnecessary. Some have implemented the advice, only to realise it increased their child's anxiety. Most parents do not need to be told to talk to and play with their child. We are not inadequate parents, we are families seeking help for our children.

Life is challenging enough when you are on the steep learning curve that autism brings. Perhaps the pressure to attend a parenting course could be removed for those who are not in desperate need of it and this could open up more spaces for those few families who really don't know where to start.

If you are the parent of a child on the autistic spectrum and have felt pressured to complete the Triple P course I would be very interested to hear from you.


Unschooling Definition

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

When your child hasn't read the same parenting books (forums, blogs, news articles, scribbled notes) as you...

I believe in our unschooling lifestyle. I believe that, given the opportunity, almost all children will learn to regulate their biological needs and their behaviours.

Of course, children rarely (if ever!) travel smoothly from point A to point B and often a leap forward may be followed by a step back. If there are additional needs, such as autism in Small's case, it can seem to take longer than the dreaded 'normal'.

Small appears to require less sleep than most five year olds and has always struggled to calm his body enough to fall asleep, despite me trying every trick in the book. He may never sleep 7pm-7am but recently we had a breakthrough. Rather than running laps of the house until he collapsed with exhaustion, he began to ask to go and snuggle in bed. He requested that the lights be turned off and simply cuddles up and falls asleep. I admit that I did wonder whether being on the spectrum meant that we needed to abandon our ideals of gentle parenting. I can't really imagine shutting him in his room or leaving him to scream, but at 2am the thoughts did creep in. I am glad that we trusted ourselves and most importantly trusted Small. He took more time than some children, but he can now notice when he is tired and ask to go to bed.

I believe that gentle parenting is even more important when a child has ASD or a sensory disorder. If the world is such an overwhelming place, then family should be a safe harbour in which to rest. I don't always stay calm when Small is on his third meltdown in as many hours, because his food/clothes/game isn't quite right, but I try. I hope that by modelling kindness and communication he will absorb this approach. I jumped for joy yesterday (well, I would have if I could!) when I heard a conversation between Big and Small. Small had done something to upset Big, so Big said he was going in another room to have some time on his own. Small piped up, "Let's talk about it, Dad." It is a phrase Big and I use daily to remind Small that communicating is important and it was great to hear him using it to sort out a situation.

So if you are expecting changes and they haven't yet occurred, don't lose faith! Maybe you or they need more time. Remember that how you parent now can be a factor in their whole lifetime, so a few more months of trust could pay off with a future of security and trust.

Our Autumn display

Our Autumn display is being added to regularly, some things suggested by me and some that Small came up with.

We made an Autumn banner which prompted a discussion on the peculiarities of the English language.

The clay and twig hedgehog is there too, along with a felt gnome I made for Small several years ago.

We did some leaf rubbings and were sent a lovely little apple lady from the owner of the My Little Atelier boxes.

Small made a felt campfire and a toadstool house using felt and a cardboard tube - surely the most widely used craft material in most homes!

When we were painting recently Small decided to create an Autumn tree picture and has since recreated it by sewing leaves and red felt 'apples' onto a felt tree.

What have you done this Autumn?

Alternatives to sleep training

Living Outside the Box
17 October
It can be hard when you feel pressured to have your baby sleeping through the night, but you do not have to leave your baby to cry. Here are a few alternative things to try:

● Feed on demand. Baby may be just hungry or thirsty. Breastfeeding is also a great comfort for your little one and can help them feel safe in your arms. If you bottle feed then take the opportunity to have a quiet cuddle and look into the sleepy eyes of your baby.

● Co sleep - either read up on safe cosleeping and bring baby into bed, or push their cot up against your bed so you can cuddle and comfort baby without feeling too pressed for space. Cosleeping has been shown to be very safe, but may not be suitable for you if any adult in the bed smokes or is sleeping abnormally deeply, perhaps due to alcohol or medication. Memory foam mattresses are not recommended as they can make it hard for baby to lift their head or roll over and try to keep pillows and quilts away from baby too. An infant sleeping bag can be good to keep your little one warm without needing a duvet over them.

● Remember that at six months old your baby has spent more time in the womb than outside it and they are still adjusting. The tiredness can feel overwhelming but it is a short period in the scheme of things.

● You will not look back at this time and regret giving your baby an extra cuddle. You might look back and regret withholding the cuddle.

● Ask for help. If you have family or friends nearby then there will usually be someone willing to cuddle your baby while you have a nap.

● If you don't have other children to watch then sleep when baby sleeps. We are told this when we have a newborn but it doesn't have to stop at 6 months or 1 year.
● If you have a 'high needs' baby, don't despair. Small cried a lot despite our best efforts to comfort him, and it can feel as though you cannot help your baby, but it has been shown that crying in arms is less harmful than a baby crying alone. Even though they are still upset, your baby knows you are present.

● If implementing a gentle routine will reassure you then try the 'No Cry Sleep Solution' by Elizabeth Pantley and read articles by Dr William Sears or Pinky McKay.

● Remember that 'sleeping through the night' is usually accepted to mean 'sleeping for five hours solid', not sleeping 7pm to 7am!

Journey into disability

How many of my readers are disabled parents?

Adjusting to any life changing event can be a journey, with mountains, valleys and plateaus. I feel that on my journey as a parent with a disability I have reached a rather peaceful plateau.

When I first used a wheelchair I looked at it as something to only be used in the worst moments of desperation, to be avoided if at all possible. It appeared to be a restriction, a limit imposed on me as well as the rest of the family.

Over time I have come to view my wheelchairs as my ticket to freedom. With my manual chair I can make myself a cup of tea or tidy up even when my legs won't hold me. I can once again do some of the shopping myself and browsing around a shop is very freeing. My electric wheelchair gives me the independence to take Small to the park or to nip out for a loaf of bread, without needing Big to chaperone us!

Last week I met with an Occupational Therapist, who watched me in my home and suggested some hand rails and seating to make the house a little safer and more accessible. A few years ago I would have resisted, not wanting to admit that I needed equipment that I would associate with my grandparents! These days I can see that saving a bit of energy and pain by using a wheelchair or a hand rail means I have more in reserve to do enjoyable things. It seems so obvious but it took a while to gain the acceptance I needed.

Each step on this journey makes me a more able woman, wife and mother.

Not Back to School Picnic

Our Not Back to School picnic illustrated why we love home educating so much and showed the diversity of the home educating community.

Families arrived, parents set out picnic blankets and food, while the children played at climbing trees, building dens, parachute games, football, hide and seek and taking photographs of each other.

The youngest there were babies, the eldest approaching the end of their primary school years.

Some families were at the start of their home educating journey, some have been doing it for years.

Some children had never set foot in a school setting, others started school then were withdrawn after several years.

Some families unschool, some follow a curriculum.

We all sat under the trees in the park and watched our children play together.

Beeswax and Scrabble

This afternoon has been one of discovery for both Small and me.

Having watched me play Scrabble online Small asked if we could play scrabble together, so I bought a Junior Scrabble set on eBay after nearly fainting at the price of board games. We helped each other by suggesting words and Small was thrilled to beat me!

A new activity for both of us was making candles from sheets of beeswax. While visiting family last week I stumbled across a shop selling waldorf-style materials and I took the opportunity to buy a few bits and pieces... I justified that I was saving money on postage fees so it was worth some spur of the moment shopping!

I had suggested making candles a few days ago but Small often resists trying new activities so I simply sat down and made a candle myself. Curiosity overcame him so he had a go himself and was proud of his creation. For a lad who finds new activities rather daunting it was wonderful to see him so pleased with his efforts.

No cook playdough

No cook playdough -

● 1 cup plain flour
● 1 cup cornflour
(Alternatively omit the plain flour and use 2 cups cornflour for a silky texture)
● 1 cup salt
● 1 cup water or enough to form dough
● Food colouring

Mix together the flour and salt with enough water to form a firm dough.

Separate into bowls, one for each colour you want to make.

Add food colouring and knead until smooth. If the dough is sticky or feels grainy, sprinkle some cornflour over it and knead well.

Unschooling housework?!

We don't insist on Small helping with housework, but we do explain that it is helpful when we all work together to keep our house nice to live in.

Sometimes I will ask if Small can help me with something and he will refuse, in which case I try not to force the issue.

Sometimes he is very helpful - in the last few days he helped me cook dinner, laid the table, took his dishes into the kitchen, helped me clean the bathroom, helped me put away clean laundry and put dirty laundry into baskets.

He may not do any housework for a week now, but that's OK. When he does help, he does it because he wants to and not because I have forced him.

Work in progress

To those who read pages about home education but are just lacking the belief in themselves to step into a new lifestyle... Take it from me, you are able to educate your child!

You are not replacing your role of 'parent' with one of 'teacher'. Life just carries on as it always has - your helpless baby developed into the child they have become. They will continue to flourish with you as facilitator.

But before you go any further, realise that it will not all be rainbows and unicorns. I remember trudging across the city in the rain, spending two hours on several buses to reach a home ed group and thinking, 'If Small went to school, I could be at home with a cup of tea right now.' You will have moments of thinking you must be crazy. Moments of doubt, wondering whether you do 'enough'.

And I'm afraid that embarking on a life of home education and respectful parenting doesn't mean that harmony will always reign in your home. There will be times you look back on the day and kick yourself for how you handled it. For us, today was less than perfect. We did some housework and crafts but in the evening we were all tired and under the weather. Small shouted at Big, Big shouted at Small, I shouted at both... In my short experience, this is par for the course. Parenting brings doubts and guilt enough anyway, without the added pressure of stepping away from the norm.

Get yourself online and find other families who HE and/or who try to parent similarly to you. They will remind you, when your confidence is wobbling, that you are doing fine. Then when they wobble, you can return the favour.

I love the autonomous life we lead and would recommend it to anyone who is curious. Just don't expect to click your fingers and everything to fall into place. It's all a work in progress.

Why schools are failing our children

"Schools are still organised on factory lines - ringing bells, separate facilities, separate subjects. We still educate children by batches, as of the most important thing about them is date of manufacture."

If you have never seen or heard this talk by Sir Ken Robinson, take ten minutes out of your day and watch it. He explains clearly and bluntly why the school system sets so many children up to fail.

Change of approach

The language we use to describe our children affects the way we think about them. If you describe your child as difficult, manipulative or similar adjectives, you are unwittingly affecting the way you view them.

If an adult figured out a plan to achieve a goal, you might call them determined. If a friend gets upset because something has gone wrong in her life you would comfort her, not ignore her because she is being manipulative and needs to 'learn'.

It can be hard to keep your cool when your child is having a meltdown over something seemingly minor, but to them it is important. If we can remember that, perhaps we can be more compassionate and choose less negative language to describe their behaviour.

Some of the characteristics of your child that make parenting hard work may be useful in years to come, when we hope they will choose a path in life, resist peer pressure and be true to their emotions. They just haven't learned to fine tune their reactions yet. It is not our job to train the determination or emotion out of them, but to model more appropriate ways to express those emotions.

Try switching from 'tantrum' to 'meltdown', or 'manipulative' to 'determined'. No-one is perfect and every parent has days where they know they could have handled things better, but a new approach might just help.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Homeschool Hangout

This evening I joined a group of parents who home educate their children, to film a conversation via Google Hangout. We all use different approaches to education, from my own unschooling methods to a virtual online school.

In this video we briefly covered the basics - legality, methods, socialisation, additional needs and our tips for people considering HE. Our host, Katie Spencer White, will be arranging more Homeschool Hangouts to look into specific topics in more depth.

If you would like to know more or get in contact with any of the people featured in this Hangout, there are details in the description for the video.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


I have finally managed to update my favourite posts from our Facebook page 'Living Outside the Box' to here and I have joined Google+.
Please bear with me as I try to coordinate the three sites and get them working smoothly.
In the meantime if you have any questions on home education, unschooling or respectful parenting, please contact me here or on one of my pages and I will get back to you.

Junk modelling!

This morning Small made two robots from boxes, cardboard tubes, packaging paper and a lot of masking tape. He is now eyeing up every piece of rubbish I throw away to see if he can recycle it into another junk model instead.

Making tape is better than sellotape for this, in my opinion, because it is easier for little fingers to tear pieces off and stick down.

This evening we started painting them but they have days of painting and playing to come.

Lighting a fire

If you can find the passion inside a child, there are no limits to the depth of learning possible. Find the spark and watch the fire take hold.

Communication... Static on the frequency

This poster summed up H yesterday. We don't make a huge deal of mother's day but the card and flowers for me, plus me rearranging the kitchen to incorporate my new bits and pieces was enough to make it a hard day for him. Must admit, I didn't deal with it very well myself and I may have joined in with the meltdown at one point, but nobody is perfect ;-)

Today he has done a great job of asking to be held or for cuddles when he needed it, chewing his new chewy necklace, using his weighted blanket and taking himself off upstairs for some quiet when he wanted. He even chilled out enough to sit down and watch some TV. That counts as a successful day to me.

Power struggles

Years ago, when H (Small) was a tiny baby, or perhaps even before, I saw an article on parenting and a response to it that has stuck with our family ever since. I cannot remember who wrote the article or the response, but it has become engrained into our family.

The article was staying that when you allow a toddler to sleep in your bed he feels powerful - he is physically in between you and your partner - so he feels he is between you emotionally too.

The response said something to the effect of: I'm looking at my child, lying between his parents, and can see how powerful he feels. Either that or he feels safe and is asleep. One or the other, it's hard to tell!

This has become a standing joke between my husband and I, when we are aware we are parenting away from the norm. One of us will pipe up with "I'm sure H feels really powerful in the relationship right now" and be greeted with "Or he's asleep, one or the other!"

Behind the scenes...

I saw this on Facebook and it rang true!

Q: How does a homeschooling family change a light bulb?

A: First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life.
Then, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles.
Next, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.
On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill.
Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed.
And there is light.


What does bedtime look like in your house?

Our approach has changed over time, because as Small has grown his needs have changed. Recently we have been in a strange situation where he had outgrown his previous 'routine' but not found a new one, so evenings were rather chaotic.

I spoke to a few people about it, who reminded me that it is not the end of the world if we don't have a conventional bedtime, just work with it and find out what suits us.

So now bedtime in or house involves everyone going to bed together, at the same time, in the same bed. If Small can't settle yet he chats to us for a while until he relaxes and falls asleep.

Everyone has wobbles, and sometimes we need someone to reassure us that we are doing okay.

Respectful parenting

One thing I love about the way we have come to live is that any 'rules' or family philosophies apply to everyone in the household. We don't have a list of rules pinned on the wall, essentially we just live respectfully of one another. Sometimes this is hard: when someone is angry or frustrated, or when those mainstream voices creep in to make us doubt our ways.

It means that it is not unheard of for our four year old to remind myself or his father that we are not being fair. We are happy with this and want our son to question things he feels are wrong. He has realised lately that staying calm and talking to us often leads us to a result that we are all happy with.

It means that just as our son should not lash out at us, we should not lash out at him.

It means that no one is forced to eat food they dislike - how can I make my son eat carrots when I won't eat peas? Out of respect for me and my limited energy I cook one meal, but I try to ensure that everyone has something they like on their plate. I trust that, by taking this approach, my son will grow up to have a healthy view of food and will incorporate an even wider range of foods as he grows older.

It means that while most things are for family use, it is right to ask before using someone's personal belongings and if possible they will honour that respect by saying yes. My son asks before using my phone, I ask before using his DS.

It isn't a philosophy that myself or my husband were used to or necessarily comfortable with when we first became parents. It isn't an approach we knew we would take. It is away from the 'normal' approach of parents ruling over children, the belief that children can't be trusted. It doesn't mean that if my son ran into the road that I wouldn't grab him, in the same way that if my husband was in danger I would grab him too!

It means that my son is not treated as someone who will one day be a person, but as a person already.

Evening astronomy...

... this is how we roll ;-)

Education space

Do you set aside a dedicated space for HE?

We have a small, open plan house and we had to get rid of a lot of clutter when we downsized last year. There is still more streamlining to be done but I have found that this small, shared space works well for us and our unschooling ethos. We learn together at the table, in the kitchen area, on the sofa, on the floor, even sitting on the stairs and in bed.

In our house there is an old gas fire that is missing a switch and is never used anyway as we have central heating and wear woolly jumpers! It has a large stone surround and seemed a waste of valuable space. Last Autumn we used it to hold our seasonal crafts and carried this on through Christmas. It gave a nice focus and we are now using it as a project base, so currently it holds a globe, books and samples of things Japan is known for - right now that includes a paper fan, Small's decorated koi, a Mario toy, chopsticks and some bamboo.

Here is our project space, I'd love to see yours!

Japan part 2

Continuing with our Japanese theme, I took an idea I saw on Pinterest (A very dangerous place. If you haven't already signed up, do so, but be aware you will lose hours of your day) and adapted it.

The idea is simple - edible architecture. We used big marshmallows and wooden kebab sticks and, after looking online at the Tokyo Tower, we set about building our own.

It turned out to be quite informative as we wanted it to stand up by itself so we had to add cross-struts to support it. I managed to get a quick photo before it was demolished and devoured... Rather reminiscent of a Japanese monster movie!

Japan part 1

We have been 'studying' Japanese culture at Small's request. He has been inspired by his love of Nintendo and Pokémon and is keen to absorb more information about the country that created his favourite things.

I have been lucky enough to get an electric wheelchair and yesterday we did a trial run to the library where we found a book on Japanese art and culture. We discussed how Japan's geography means it has limited farming space and Small helped prepare a dinner of fish and rice.

Today we have decorated a cardboard Koi cut-out and tomorrow we will make a paper fan. Impending activities include a marshmallow-and-toothpick replica of Tokyo Tower and an investigation into earthquakes!


"A family member asked my wife, 'Aren't you concerned about his (our son's) socialization with other kids?' My wife gave this response: 'Go to your local middle school, junior high, or high school, walk down the hallways, and tell me which behavior you see that you think our son should emulate.'" ~ Manfred B. Zysk

In or out of the box?

In schools, subjects are fitted into neat boxes, regardless of overlap. For example, social history and geography may cover some of the same material - when I was at school I found that traditional farming methods were studied in both, but different teachers, classrooms and times of the day all serve to separate the information in a child's mind. Lessons learned in one subject stay in the box labeled 'Geography' and are not easily applied to history, which has its own neatly labeled box.

In unschooling, there are no boxes. You live your life, absorbing information without restricting it to certain subjects.
Yesterday Small and I baked a vegan chocolate cake recipe. We are not vegan, but it is a tasty and reliable recipe that is very popular in our house. The ingredients are measured in cups and it is Small's job to add them to the mixing bowl. Working in cups gave me the chance to explain simple fractions to him - we need 1 1/4 cups of flour, so for the quarter we split the cup into four parts and fill one of those parts with the flour.
The fun in this recipe is that the replacement for eggs is a vinegar and bicarbonate of soda mix. When these ingredients are added they fizz, just like the classic volcano experiment using the same ingredients, but at slightly less spectacular levels - I don't want the cake mix fizzing out of the mixing bowl!

So in baking a cake you could say we had covered Home Economics, Mathematics and Chemistry. As far as Small is concerned we just baked a cake, anything he learned was just incidental. And I am more than happy for him to look at it that way. Who needs boxes anyway?