Today, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes on how I’ve sold well over $1 million in books.
I’ll share with you both the history and the how-to’s.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a book. If you had asked me when I was four what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said the same thing I was already doing: writing books and making art.
The first book I remember creating was a book called Cyclone Charlie. It was the true story of our cattle farm being hit by a cyclone. I dictated it to my Mum, and illustrated each page. I still remember the page where I described how the rain made small waterfalls down the mountains.
That’s me at about that age, baby sister on hip.
Writing and illustrating books was my destiny, the thing that was sure in my bones. It was just a matter of time before that would be my job.
I started blogging when I was 21, and wrote my first book when I was 22.
That book was like a graphic memoir – I just didn’t realise that was the name for it! I just did it intuitively, combining art and words as I have always done in my journals.
To get that book written, I set myself a really short, sharp deadline: write it and have it available for sale within one month. I was working full time in the public service, so the book was written in lunch hours, on the bus, at night and on weekends.
I think that’s the thing: everybody assumes that to write a book, you need vast swathes of time. You don’t. You just need to apply your energy to the thing and get it donesville.
I know that if I set a more “realistic” deadline of say, six months, I would NEVER get the book done. Too much would come up in the meantime, and the months would go by, and it still wouldn’t be done.
By using the Wild Donkey method, I devote my focus to being immersed in getting one project done and finished as soon as possible.
Here’s a little bit of what it looked like on the inside:
Doing the short, sharp deadline mode of creating doesn’t just work for graphic memoirs either.
I’ve also done a 40,000 word business book in that time as well.(That book was then turned into my Double Your Biz e-course. I’ve retired that now, but will release a new updated business course this year.)
Again – I wrote that 40,000+ word business book when I had a LOT of other things on my plate as well. I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, and horrifically ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. At that point, I spent most of my day bedridden, and got a small reprieve from the debilitating nausea by late afternoon. It was enough to be able to sit upright and be able to think somewhat.
I would set myself a deadline of writing 3,000 words before the sun set over the rainforest. I’d take frequent vomit breaks to run out to my office balcony and vomit over the lawn for the forest animals to eat. I’d keep writing as much as I could before the illness swallowed me whole again and sent me back to bed.
I would like to clarify here:
I am really big on sane, healthy working practices, good self care and great work/life balance. I don’t want to share this story to be a martyr of “Too bad if you’re sick! I was sick too!”
There’s all different kinds of life circumstances. In the earlier stages of my pregnancy illness, I was chronically debilitated and in hospital often, so this kind of project wasn’t going to work for me.
By the time I did take the project on, I was six months into the pregnancy and still fucked up but not AS fucked up. I also desperately needed SOMETHING to think about apart from the misery of my illness. So even though it was still challenging to pull off, it was what I needed.
I’m definitely taking the same Wild Donkey approach with my 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course… but it definitely still can be done whether you are working full-time, parenting or having “life stuff” going on.
Okay, that’s slightly off track.
Now where were we?
Ahh yes! My first book! I released it, and I sold a few hundred copies. At the time I was totally delighted. For me, it was less about profit and more about OMG! I actually DID THE THING! I WROTE THE BOOK!
Sometimes the reward of completing a creative thing is not the revenue or recognition, it’s about the pride and joy of accomplishment. As I always say:
Momentum breeds Momentum.
Completing a project like a book can help you become even more productive and feel even more fulfilled.
Honestly though, I was pretty shithouse when it comes to marketing the book. That was in the early days of my business. Now when I release books, I know the marketing of it is going to be the driving factor for its success.
I kept blogging, and started running retreats, doing coaching and running e-courses.
Come December 2009, I was working part-time at my government job and pregnant with my first child. I knew the coming year would be intense, and that the initiation into motherhood. By that point, I’d also started setting goals and discovering just how powerful that was. So I decided to give myself the gift of setting goals for 2010 to keep me sane and inspired during my first year of motherhood.
I looked around to see if there was any books out there that I could fill out to help me set goals. But everything I found had two major issues:
they weren’t comprehensive – I wanted to go deeper than just “set three goals!”
they were black and white and corporate and felt really masculine.
I wanted something that was inspiring to fill out and rainbowy AND also helped guide me through setting goals for every area of my life and business.
So I decided to create something FOR ME to use. I spent three days around Christmas time creating my goals workbook, and I loved it so much I thought it would be fun to pop online and sell as a PDF and see if anyone else wanted to use it. I thought it would be super cool if like 10 people bought it.
I went on to sell over 1000 workbook PDFs that year which was SO groovy.
hit #1 and #3 bestseller SIMULTANEOUSLY on Amazon AU for ALL FREAKING BOOKS (!!!!)
generated well over $1m in revenue (probably over $2m – I need to go back to count all the years!)
In that time, I’ve also gone through different types of publishing:
I started out selling as a PDF only
A couple of years later, I started selling it as print on demand through Amazon’s self-publishing service
A few years after that, I decided to try printing in China instead and using distribution houses in three countries. I hired a lot of staff to try and cope with the increased workload, and realised just how much I hated managing staff and logistics. I wrote about my decision to stop doing that here.
I went back to using Amazon’s print-on-demand service while I scouted for a publishing deal for the workbooks.
Me, stoked at no longer having to manage shipping logistics anymore.
There are pros and cons for all publishing routes, and what’s right for you will change over your business career. I’ll go through the behind-the-scenes details of the pros and cons of all of them in 40 Days To A Finished Book. I’ll talk about what’s more profitable, what’s easiest and what gives you the most credibility, and how to maximise all of these.
Now, let’s talk about what made the difference between selling fuck all books and selling a fuck tonne of books!
When I look back at where I started with book writing and the results I got then to the results I got now, there are some really big things I did differently.
Let me tell you the key pieces of creating book success.
#1: Writing the book is 10% of the job. Marketing is 90%.
That may make you groan, but it’s true. You need to spend WAY LONGER marketing the book than you think you need to.
If you think “if it’s a great book, it will speak for itself! I won’t have to market it at all!”… you’re wrong. Sorry mate, it just doesn’t work like that.
“Just putting it out there” isn’t enough. It’s lazy. And it is not of service to the world.
If you’ve spent all that time in creating something, you need to invest time in making sure that the people who would care about it and find it useful actually HEAR about it in the first place.
I’ll talk more about the how-to’s of book marketing in the course.
#2: The three most important parts of selling: Testimonials. Testimonials. Testimonials.
I once asked a very well-known copywriter what the three most important parts of a sales page were. Her answer? Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials.
The same is true for books.
Have testimonials for the book in the first few pages of the book – the more the better!
Give advance copies away in exchange for a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
Consider giving away books to peeps with a profile who have similar interests as your target market. You can even get a bit polished with it and do it up as a cute package. I’ve sent my books to bloggers with chocolate, tea and pens in wrapping paper – all the supplies they needed to have a gorgeous time with my book!
Ask people at the end of your book to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if they love it.
Collate all your testimonials and reviews on your sales page.
Speaking of which…
#3: It’s not enough just to give fucking links to Amazon. You need a sales page!
A sales page is a long, comprehensive page giving people EVERYTHING they need to know about in order to BUY!
There’s some REALLY important parts to a sales page including:
a sales video
who the book is for
how the book helps
why you are the best person to learn from
benefits and results
and a big call to action.
I’ll go into all these in detail in the course, but I really want to reiterate: STOP JUST SENDING PEOPLE TO AMAZON TO BUY. YOU NEED TO SELL THE FUCK OUT OF THE BOOK FIRST SO THEY WILL ACTUALLY BUY IT!
#4: Stay connected with your readers. They’ve got bonza ideas!
That way, I get to hear when people are confused by something, LOVE something and want more of it, ask about a certain feature or want another companion product in the future.
Your readers have great ideas. They love your thing, and they can help come up with ways to make it better and write even more books!
#5: Offer it both digital and printed
It’s SO much easier than it was 10 years ago to self-publish books both digitally and in print. I’ve tried a few services, but keep coming back to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They formerly were called Createspace, but it’s all merged into one platform now.
#6: This one tip will make you WAY more money!
This one is SUCH a simple tip, but can hugely increase your $$$ income.
Get your pen and paper out, and write it down!
When you do point to Amazon for people to buy your book, MAKE SURE you are using your own Amazon affiliate link.
On the book front, look for writers with a unique voice that attracts you. It doesn’t matter the genre – instead you are on the hunt for other authentic voices. Something in you knows when you’ve found one – it feels like the author is speaking directly to you. They carve language in a new way. The words are so thoughtfully crafted you hold your breath.
You might find it in different places from me. That’s PERFECT. Just find the voices that do speak to you. And let them be a soul lighthouse for your authentic voice.
They are proof that it is doable and possible. And that when you do, it will move great mountains.
4. Copy the EFFECT, not the STYLE.
When you DO find writers that inspire you, don’t just be a copy and paste of them. The world doesn’t need another JK Rowling… it already has one!
Instead, notice what it is you love in your favourites, and think how you can create the same. Dive a little deeper than just the surface into WHY they are great writers. Break it down to its scrumptious essence.
So, for example: I love Nikki Gemmell’s writing. Especially her non-fiction books.
What do I love about Nikki?
I love her searing honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable and unmentionable.
I love how she plays with words, makes them up, uses them in an innovative way.
I love how bare-hearted she is in her words.
Those are the things I hope to replicate and respond to, but in my very own Leonie way.
Another example: Trent Dalton:
I love how I can read an article and know within the first paragraph that it is his.
I love that he is unabashedly emotional, how he looks into the heart of people and shares his response to them.
I love how he loves people with his words. He is kind about almost everyone, no matter how odd they may be. He loves humanity.
Again: marvellous essences to tap into and aspire to, without becoming a carbon copy.
Copy the EFFECT of their words, not the STYLE.
5. Falling too much into the comparison trap? Go Full Hermit.
On the other hand, sometimes it can be unhelpful and even painful to read writers you love. You may find yourself comparing yourself viciously or wondering why you should even bother writing when there’s so many other great writers out there. Sometimes there’s so many voices in your head it’s hard to hear your own.
That’s when you know it’s time to go Full Hermit.
Unplug, unfollow and ignore all the writers that trigger you into comparison-itis, indecision and creative inertia.
Plug into YOU instead: journal. Write. Look back through anything you’ve written over your life – note what you love about it.
Do the inner work and self care so you’ve got enough quiet and confidence to share the birdsong that only lives in you.
6. Fuck the masses. Go full weird.
Don’t try and appeal to the masses.
If you try to appeal to EVERYONE, you end up appealing to NO ONE.
Instead, go hard with your own definitive way of writing. It will resonate more deeply with your right audience. It will amuse or touch you more. It will have its own special joie de vivre in its wily weirdness.
Some people, I am sure, think that my writing style is OTT and overly contrived and too sweary/blunt/what the fuck ever.
Even at school, I had some English teachers who would tell me my writing was too “flowery” or “emotional.” And I just remember thinking: NO DERRRR. AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT. YOU ARE WRONG AND I WILL CARRY ON MY MAGICAL WRITING WAY.
And that’s exactly what I did. With great and glorious gusto.Ha!
Here’s the thing: if someone doesn’t resonate with my writing, it means they aren’t the right personality fit for my business. The ones that DO like my writing like it a LOT. They LOVE that I swear, they LOVE that I make up words, they LOVE that I get deeply personal and emotional. If I tried to cull the weird out of my writing, it would have taken out the best bits.
And the people who DO love my writing? They are just the right kind of person for me: funny, compassionate, big-hearted creatives.
Being your own style of weird pays off in attracting people who ADORE your work, and who are just right for YOU.
7. The only way to write well… is to write.
I saw a friend recently. She is brilliant and wise and just a gorgeous person to know. She has SO MUCH to share in her fields of expertise, and has been wanting to start teaching online for years. She already has all her content written… it’s just that fear of actually getting out there and doing the thing.
“The thing is,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’ve got a great speaking voice yet. So I think I should go do Toastmasters or something before I can do anything.”
I looked at her and laughed.
“Fuck off, mate. The only way to learn the thing and get great at the thing is by DOING THE THING. Just start teaching, fuck ya! Start putting courses out already! People needs your work! You’ll learn as you go, and grow as you go. If I’d waited around until I was perfect at everything, I still wouldn’t have done anything! My speaking voice is still shithouse – it shits itself regularly, it’s raspy and I’m a throat speaker. But it is better than what it used to be, and that’s just from sheer practice! JUST DO THE THING ALREADY!”
Have I told you I am a very bossyblunt encouraging friend?
The same is true as well when it comes to writing. There’s no way to all of a sudden snap your fingers and become a great writer… without writing.
The only way to learn and grow and find your authentic voice is by PRACTICING. Write every day. Blog every day. Journal every day. Whatever form you want to take… the only way out is THROUGH.
No more waiting for perfect.
No more wanting to be anything but who you are. It’s time to use that voice of yours that only lives in you, and start sharing its gifts in the world.
Since I’ve launched 40 Days To Finish A Book, I’ve had a bundle of questions and conversations about the why + hows of book writing and publishing.
So I thought I’d take some time and write some posts for you to answer them.
First up: Why do SO MANY Successful Women Entrepreneurs Choose To Write Books?
Take a look around at your favourite women entrepreneurs, and chances are, they’ve written a book.
From global billion-dollar entrepreneurs like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Sara Blakely (Spanx) to your favourite online coaches and sometimes even your local yoga teacher… chances are, they’ve written a book.
WHY would they do that? Books can be a huge investment of time and yet are a lower-end pricing strategy. What are the business reasons behind writing a book?
In the post I’ll be sharing some of the most powerful reasons successful women entrepreneurs write books, and give some examples as well!
I’d like to clarify as well – I’m giving examples of how peep’s books work for them. I don’t presume however to know the reasons for them being written. Sometimes books are a strategic decision, sometimes they are pure gut instinct, sometimes they are a fire inside you that must be born into the world. Always, at their heart, books are a gift to the world.
Reason #1: Books give you “expert status”
Having a book with your name on it positions you as knowing more than most other people in your industry. It’s one thing to say you are a freelance monkey milker (can you imagine THAT JOB? HA!)… but it’s another thing entirely to be a freelance monkey milker AND the author of a book on the Art of Monkey Milking!
Brigit Esselmont’s Everyday Tarot is a great example of this. Brigit is the founder of an online school teaching people how to read tarot. By creating a book on it, she is showing just how much knowledge she has on the topic! Not only does it affirm to her existing audience that she is a teacher, it signifies to new potential customers and even mainstream media that she is someone to turn to in the marketplace.
Reason #2: A book is a giant business card people pay for
Let’s face it: business cards are NOT memorable, and they get lost/thrown out at the earliest chance.
Books however, are basically a giant business card. They teach people who you are, how you help and how to find you… AND they pay for the pleasure of having it!
Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Get Rich, Lucky Bitch is an awesome business card. DDT is a money mindset coach which is one of those unique jobs that people don’t instantly understand. Read it, and you’ll get to know exactly who DDT is, who and how she helps, and how hot she looks on a cream couch!
Reason #3: A book attracts more clients
I know sometimes entrepreneurs worry that by writing a book that shares their knowledge, they will cannibalise their own market. Why would people sign up for your coaching or course if they can read your book instead?
It’s a legitimate worry, but it isn’t one that is substantiated by evidence.
What ends up happening instead is this:
Your book becomes an easy, low-cost way for people to start working with you.
Your book helps them understand you, your process and the results you get.
They are more motivated and committed than ever to working with you, or buying your thing!
Kerry Rowett’s Align and Attract is a great example of this. Kerry is a kinesiologist who works with entrepreneurs to reach their goals. She has both coaching services and an e-course. Her book is a fantastic way of starting the process of working with Kerry’s methods and falling in love with her (it’s the only natural thing to do). And her existing customers (i.e. me) have bought it and it makes us even more thrilled to be working with her!
Reason #4 – A book can be a creative side project
Entrepreneurs are a kooky breed. We get bored and often need creative side projects to keep ourselves amused and our brain challenged.
I’ve had so many creative side projects over the years – from a network marketing company to retreats to podcasts to tarot card reading! It’s a beautiful thing to expand and express yourself in new ways.
This can be really useful as well when you’ve got a really large business with a very defined purpose, and you’re wanting to create something outside of that. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, did just that with her The Belly Art Project. Is it completely off brand for Spanx, a tight undie company? Yep! Is it something she wanted to do anyway? Fuck yaaaa.
These creative side projects can be an awesome way to test a new market or business model without affecting your existing one. Ariel Meadow Stallings, owner of the excellent and long-running Offbeat Bride blog, also produced a high-end erotic memoir as a way to do just that.
Reason #5 – A book helps you collect Amazon search traffic
Amazon is one of the most popular search engines in the world. It has more people searching for products on there each day than Google and other search engines combined.
There’s a LOT of people on Amazon searching for information on that very thing that you teach… and they are ready to BUY NOW.
Why wouldn’t you want to get in front of that traffic, and get brand new people falling in love with you?
Hibiscus Moon is a gorgeous crystal healing teacher and her book Crystal Grids is an awesome way for Amazon traffic to find her. It shows just one part of her expertise, and positions her as a teacher and expert to learn from.
Reason #6 – Books are a great way to Pay It Forward (and mentor while maintaining your sanity)
Once you’ve reached a certain level of success in your business, a LOT of excited peeps come out of the woodwork. They want to learn exactly how you’ve done what you’ve done, and how they can create some of that same success for themselves. They want to meet up for coffee to “pick your brain” or ask your thoughts on a new business idea.
And of course, we all want to be able to help as many people as we can. But we just don’t have hours in the day to give everybody what they are wanting.
Books are an awesome way to condense all that experience and hard-won lessons into something ANYBODY can access. It’s our way of paying it forward to anyone who is struggling, or wants guidance and support, but we don’t always have the time to be able to give.
Sonya Driver is really honest about this being the reason for her writing The Nudge. Founder of ECO TAN, Sonya sequestered herself away on a Byron Bay holiday to bang out this business manual just so she could give it to people who wanted to be mentored. I love that I found it serendipitously in a bookstore and got to hear her common-sense advice and success story… without it eating up her valuable hours! Plus, I could read it in the bath with a beer and chips. It probably would have been a bit awkward if I did that over a brain-picking sesh with Sonya! HA!
Reason #7 – Books are a great passive income stream!
Constance Hall is a straight-talking Australian mum who shares honestly and vulnerably about motherhood. She’s amassed a huge following online, and converted it into an income stream through writing books and designing a fashion label. Still A Queen is her second self-published memoir that has become an Australian best-seller.
Reason #8: Write the book you wish you could buy
If you go into a bookstore and can’t find the book you are longing for… CREATE IT YOURSELF!
It is 100% the reason I created my Shining Year goals workbooks. Back in 2009, pregnant for the first time, I knew I needed to set myself goals to hold onto when shit got tough.
But when I looked around, I couldn’t find ANYTHING that guided me through the process, step-by-step. And anything I did find was drab, black and white, and felt super corporate. It didn’t feel fun at all.
So I made the workbooks for myself. And after I was finished writing and painting them, I realised a few other people might find them useful too. So I put them online. Nearly 10 years, and 350,000 people later… that divine inkling has come true. You can find them right here.
Reason #8: Books are an incredible source of good in the world, and help people in so many ways!
At the end of the day, I reckon that’s why all books are created. Books have been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Reading business, marketing and finance books are the reason I’ve been so successful in business. I’m not someone who loves travelling to go to conferences. I’m way too much of a hermit to learn anything but in bed, with a book.
Self-help books have been just the thing I’ve needed at the right time. Memoirs have helped me feel less alone in the world. Graphic memoirs have given me the gift of empathy. Romance novels have brought me so much joy and sweet brain holidays over the years.
All of them. All of them. All of these books are angels.
And I want you to know: whatever it is that inside of you. Please know it will go out and help the world. That it will touch the people it is meant to help and heal. And it will heal you too as you birth it into the world. That is how it always works. Bringing your book into the world will heal you first, and then heal so many others.
We need you. We need your book. We need your story. We need your wisdom. It’s how the world will change.
All my love,
Want to start + finish your book in 40 days?
Want to find out how to market it for maximum success + abundance?
One delicious side effect of my No Spend experiment has been reading through my library of unread books. It’s been SO blooming good to dedicate so much time to reading. I’ve unearthed some real gems that have given me so many insights for the next stage of my journey. And it’s also got me really cogitating on all the books I’ve read across my lifetime… and those that have had the most profound effect on me.
What are the most life-changing spiritual books do I recommend for women?
Oh SARK… how do I count the ways? SARK was the start of life for me, in so many ways. Her whimsical, magical, illustrated memoirs of a life lived out loud lit a spark in me like no else. She was the first “Succulent Wild Woman” I had ever come across – a woman who was unabashedly herself. SARK truly is a soul lighthouse for so many… and I believe EVERY woman should read her!
I believe Byron Katie’s mindset methodology (she calls it “The Work”) is one of the most powerful tools available. Her four simple questions can alleviate suffering, increase contentment and inner peace. I adore every single one of her books, and have even done a two day intensive workshop with one of Katie’s teachers. It’s work that has continued to touch me over a decade later. Highly recommend.
Julia truly is the Archangel of Creativity. She has an extensive range of books – she is truly prolific, and they are all excellent. The Artist’s Way however is her seminal work. Use it as a three month course to rediscover your creativity. I’ve done this book over and over and return to it whenever I get creatively stale. It’s a fabulous book to do as part of a women’s circle, or in tandem with a dear friend as well. A must for all those wanting to be more creative.
Dr E is more well known for her best-seller Women Who Run With The Wolves, but I personally found this book of hers even more powerful. It is an ode to the unconditional love of the divine feminine…. but more than that, it is deeply touching stories that touch the heart. I can barely explain it without sounding like a wanker, but this book is holy.
Glennon is a beautiful teacher on so many levels, behind some of my favourite quotes:
Her memoirs are stunningly honest and tender accounts of being a sensitive human, trying to work out how to be okay in the world. I am so grateful for her vulnerability in sharing about the most difficult parts of parenting, marriage and being true to yourself.
Denise is one of my favourite teachers – wise, compassionate and insightful. Her books and oracle cards are powerful! I’ve used Soul Coaching like a 28 day personal exploration course/retreat… it’s a beautiful experience that brought me so much joy.
It’s tough trying to choose between Brené’s books – I have yet to not get huge insights from one! Brené is a social worker who gathers data on happiness and being a “whole-hearted” person. Her findings are extraordinary. I personally recommend getting the audiobooks on these. Brené is an excellent storyteller, and her wisdom has a way of living within you.
To be honest – I was resistant to reading this because it was so hugely popular. But then I read it – and proceeded to read all of her books at great speed. Turns out: it’s blooming popular for a reason. It’s GREAT! Insightful, thoughtful and delicious. It will encourage you to embark on your own Happiness Project and find what truly brings delight into your day.
If you have anxiety, bipolar disorder or mental health disorders (or love someone who does), this book is STUNNING. A profound book that celebrates the beauty of mental health snafus and fuckupperies (yep, those are technical terms). It was a balm to my anxious heart.
Those workbooks I made for myself back in 2009, just so I could set my goals in a rainbow, joyful way? They’ve become a cult sensation, used by over 350,000 people worldwide with more miracles than I can document. All I know is, I am so grateful for the gift of them coming through me. They’ve changed me in the very best of ways, and I am so grateful that others feel exactly the same way.
Books Are Miracles!
To all these precious books and teachers… I am so grateful they are in the world, making the magic they were meant to.
No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.
I’ve discovered I have over 200 blog posts in draft in various stages of completion… dating back to 2010 (!!!!!)
I’m going through them, killing off what doesn’t work, making beautiful those that do.
Here’s one I wrote over a year ago on becoming a homeschooling mama, and that tremendous transition.
I hope you find it useful!
Hey party people,
Six months in of homeschooling: what is it like? Did it measure up to what I thought it would be? Was it harder? Easier? Am I ready to quit? Do I miss school? What kind of homeschooling do I do? What are my surprise resources?
I felt like it would be enjoyable to sit down and share my thoughts and feelings about all of this. A little note for the time capsule of right here, right now. This moment, only once.
So, honestly, I can hand-on-my-heart swear:
This has been the best six months, EVER. Hands down, it’s been my most joyful parenting experience for me of my life so far. I was NOT expecting this.
I went into this purely as a 6 month trial. I decided to do it because it was something I’d always wanted to try, even since before babies. We also were considering moving to an area that didn’t have Waldorf/Steiner schooling options. We thought now would be a good time to try it, and if it didn’t work we’d happily re-enrol in a school (probably Steiner).
I had major doubts about how it would work. Mostly, that revolved around trying to know whether it would just kill me as an introvert, company owner and creative soul who loves nothing more than alone time. I wasn’t sure how I would go with juggling my own needs with running my businesses and homeschooling.
I recognise I am in a remarkably privileged position.
I’ve worked for the last 13 years to create income streams that provide us with more than enough income without having to work long hours. That was always my goal, and how I’ve set up my businesses. In 2004 when I first started blogging and exploring how to build a business, my goal was always front of mind: Make an income so that when I DO have kids, I never have to go to work and can just be with them. I was 22 at the time, and didn’t have kids planned for the next 5 years, but it was an obsessive, burning fire in me. What I wanted was crystal clear in my mind. That kind of fastidious focus and determination has paid off. My businesses HAVE to be Family-Focussed, or they need to be fucked right off and replaced with something that is.
So, yes. I’m privileged in terms of homeschooling because we don’t have financial concerns, and my co-parent is at home with us as well. I know those can be two big stressors for a lot of homeschooling families.
I still had concerns however about how I would manage to cram it all in, when I already felt like I was moving pretty fast through the day to get it all in. And if it would just crush me and give me anxiety because I LOVE ALL THE ALONE TIME.
Before I made the decision to do it, I talked to a bunch of my mates who homeschooled. I’m grateful that I know so many peeps who do!
I also joined a stack of Facebook groups for homeschoolers and asked for advice in there as well. All their support and sage advice helped make the leap so much easier.
Mostly, they reassured me that:
it was entirely doable
I didn’t need to sacrifice my whole self in order to do it
I could still build in self care and time for my business.
We talked to our children about homeschooling, what it meant, what it would look like, and whether they would be interested in doing it.
It was a resounding YES from them, and so we leapt into the great unknown.
Those first few weeks felt like a fragile kind of elation, like a baby bird just taking wing for the first time.
I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but we threw everything at the wall to see what it all looked like and felt like. Mostly, we were all just floating about on a great cloud of freedom. Suddenly… we had TIME together.
Time to go dance in the autumn leaves and inspect them up close.
Time to walk through the hills at a leisurely pace.
Time to go watch the sunset every day from the hill just above our suburb.
Drunk on joy and moments and each other.
Each evening, I would fall asleep early, exhausted to my bones. I felt like I had started a new job in a new industry with a steep learning curve. And I had! I spent any time that wasn’t homeschooling dedicated to learning about homeschooling… books, forums, videos, curriculum.
It eased as the days, weeks, months fell away and I found my rhythm and dance with homeschooling.
Most of all though, I felt like I had my eyes scrubbed clean and I could see
just how much my children had already grown. just how little time I do have with them before they will fly this nest of ours. just how much I want to be there, soaking up every moment with them.
Something even bigger happened:
I can barely explain it. I can’t say it was homeschooling. I can’t say it was anything but this:
I feel like I was given a parenting uplevel by the angels.
I felt like Divine Mothering Love was pouring over me, and through me to my children. It washed into every part of me, healing the disconnected mother in me, repairing the places where I felt frustrated before. Suddenly I went from the cranky mum trying to shake her kids off at bedtime to escape to the lounge for Mummy Time In Front Of The TV to being that mum who stays to sniff their heads and laugh a little longer with them. I became pierced open to all the loveliness and joy of childhood in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It was so real and powerful that each night I went to bed and prayed that it wouldn’t end.
Again: I can NOT claim that this was caused by homeschooling. I don’t know what in the holy fuck caused it. I only know that it happened, and I could cry right now just feeling how grateful I am that it did, and that it stayed.
I was sitting on my toilet (YEP) yesterday actually… and looked at the dreamboard that I have had sitting on the toilet door for 18 months… and realised with a start that I had called this in.
Along this whole path, I feel so grateful for all those that had already walked this path, and shared it with me, whether in books, forums or friendly chats.
Useful Books For Parents To Read
I immersed myself into reading about homeschooling… I thought I’d share the ones I found the most helpful!
Beverley Paine’s collection of books and booklets. I met Beverley years ago at an Unschooling Convention and was touched by her wisdom and grace. That echoes through in her books.
As most homeschoolers do, I bought a stack of resources and curriculum. Some worked great for us, others didn’t.
I thought I would follow an all-in-one Steiner curriculum much more strictly than I have (i.e. at all). To me, it has just felt a lot more alive + exciting for all of us to use a range of learning resources and adapt them as we need.
A basic outline of some of the resources we use for different subjects:
English – Reading Eggs (bought the whole kit with books, workbooks and software). One of my kids has developed an obsession with audiobooks – Borrowbox which is a free audiobook lending service provided by our library system has been invaluable. (Check if your local library offers it too!) The Alphabet by Reg Down was a fun intro book to letters as well.
P.E. – Horse riding lessons! BEST P.E. LESSON EVERRRRRRRRR!
Every subject – We do a lot of readalouds together, and created a Libib library catalogue of our home library (1200 books and counting). We registered as a homeschool with Scholastic and in the GREATEST WET DREAM OF MY LIFE, I now get sent those adorable book catalogues a bunch of times each year and fill any gaps we might have in our home library. I don’t follow their curriculum closely, but find that Build Your Library has good book recommendations.
This has been one of our most surprising “textbooks”.
I read it out to them over dinner, discussing each one, finding their country on the globe, doing further research on the people we are really fascinated by. It helps having Google Home too for dinner time research, we just say “OK Google play the music of Maria Callas” and listen as our little robot plays us her opera music from 70 years ago. Ostara begs to read more stories. She says it’s her favourite because “it is full of stories of girls doing brave things and it makes me feel good.” I just saw they are bringing out a second volume thank goodness… it’s been a revelation for all of us!
Things That Weren’t As Useful As I Thought They Would Be
Buying all-in-one curriculum. I made the typical rookie error of buying a lot to try and work out which one was best before realising that none was the right answer for us.
Borrowing books from the library. I thought we would be there a lot more, but honestly, I much prefer just buying the books. Less stress about losing them amongst the great piles of books teetering everywhere in our home, and having to finish them on time. The library HAS however been awesome in giving us a subscription to a bunch of digital services including Borrowbox so weeeeeee! WIN!
Want to know even more about our homeschooling journey?
I’ve had a few questions about how I do record keeping for homeschooling. Even though I’ve got one back at a school now after two years learning at home, I’ve still got one homeschooling. And if there’s one thing I freaking lurve about homeschooling, apart from being able to spend so much glorious time with my kids… it’s being an organisational fruitcake. I actually really enjoy the record keeping process!
I know it can feel like a chore sometimes to do homeschool records. I thought I’d share with you what I do… I find it quite enjoyable and I love that they double as amazing memory keeping of our lives. I’ll look back at these few years of homeschool records with SO much pride, joy and gratitude!
Check with what your state needs!
One thing I wanted to mention before I dive into my methods as well… your homeschool reporting requirements will change from state to state, country to country.
I know some people can feel pissed about having to do reporting, but I feel grateful that I live in a place where homeschooling is legal and has a fair amount of personal freedom. I know some countries in Europe homeschooling is illegal. And I’m also grateful that governments do check to make sure that every child gets access to education, whether that’s at home or school.
Again: Check with your state/country about the rules + reporting!
At the start of each year + term…
I also write a Google Doc of learning goals + ideas for that year.
Instead, I find it way more useful to buy these Student Goals PDFs from Teachers Pay Teachers. They are from an Australian teacher, and breaks down the Australian Curriculum into easy to understand goals and skills to develop.
Then I look at what resources I could use for all those areas, but I tend to add things in and take things out all the time, as I find them, love them, use them or find they aren’t working anymore.
I also ask my kids what THEY want to learn about, and we talk about how they might want to learn about it. (Like: books, documentaries, excursions, internet research, art projects, science experiments etc.)
You can read my free ebook hereabout doing a more project based homeschooling model. I do less time homeschooling than I did when I wrote that ebook, as I relaxed into seeing how much they were learning. I did however add in a more structured literacy program instead of a whole word approach, as that worked better for one of my kids. That’s the thing with homeschooling – methods, timing and resources change all the time. It’s the beauty of it! Complete customisation!
Here’s how I keep track of all the things we learn:
I keep daily lists in my planner (I use a Happy Planner – the biggest size) of what we did that day for homeschooling. I tend to write in the tasks as they happen, or shortly after as I have a fairly shit memory. I also take photos of activities as we do them and print the photos at the end of the week to add into the planner. The photos help remember anything I’ve forgotten.
The planner ends up becoming a really beautiful memory-keeping scrapbook of our days, weeks and months.
It’s probably overkill in terms of my actual homeschooling reporting requirements, but it works for me, and helps my brain feel across everything.
Plus, my kids enjoy seeing their learning adventures celebrated like this.
I do a quick weekly reflection on a card insert (it’s green in the above picture). I write on the back what worked that week, what didn’t, and what I want to change going ahead.
Homeschool legislation often requires that you do have regular teacher reflections, so something as simple as this can help.
If you’re looking for a guided resource to help you document your kids’ learning activities and your own reflections, Beverley Paine’s diaries are excellent. All of her stuff is!
I’ve met Bev years ago, and she is a glorious soul. She’s really one of the grandmothers of home education in Australia, and I so appreciate her and her work!
I also create lists of books we are reading through.
For a while there, I used a printed Reading Log that I created:
This year I don’t want to spend as much time documenting how much we read, as I know that we definitely read enough! I just keep note of the very best ones, and the ones that correlated well with learning a specific curriculum item.
I gather all our “learning evidence” in foolscap folders that I file things in daily.
Examples of learning artefacts:
Here’s an example of a learning artefact:
It was just starting to move into Spring. There is a curriculum area just on knowing the seasons of the year. I thought it would be beautiful to go on a walk to spot the incoming signs of Spring. We took an Instax camera with us to document.
Once we came back, we made a little book, and my kid wrote in it and illustrated it. And the whole thing covered so many subject areas: science, P.E., art, photography, writing + spelling. I love when projects can do that!
Then I pop all the artefacts in the foolscap folder once my kids are finished with enjoying them.
Then, at the end of term, I put the folders into a file box labelled with the term + year.
I also like to put together a list of what activities we did that term as a brief synopsis. Sometimes I did on a piece of paper, sometimes I did in Google Doc.
It’s really nice to look back over everything you do in a term – it always made me feel excited to see how much we’d covered and learned!
Then I put the file box in the cupboard with the rest of the year’s boxes.
That way, once it comes to doing a yearly report (which is compulsory in our state), it’s pretty simple for me to fill it out. I don’t have to remember anything – it’s all documented for me.
You’ll find a recordkeeping rhythm that works for you and your family (and what your state requires). What works for me doesn’t mean it’s the one right way. There’s never just one right way… just the one that’s right for you right now!
All these memories are such a happy place for me. Even if we didn’t need them for records, I’d still want to keep them anyway.
Start of a new school year in Australia, and one of my kids is trying out a new school. We’ve been homeschooling for close to two years now, and have been loving it. But then we checked out a little independent school and fell in love, and she wanted to try it out. It’s two days in, and so far so great.
It’s a big adjustment to all of us though – we all have to find our new routine in it all. We are still homeschooling one kid, and she is having to learn how to play independently for a few hours a day. We are still working out our schedule, and I’m looking for where to carve out some work hours.
I’ve had a snotty teared Start Of School Year Mama Meltdown (TM).
It must be a thing, right? I always feel panicked that I don’t have my optimum routine down pat on Day One! I don’t feel like I’m totally organised to be a school mama. And I don’t feel on top of our homeschool curriculum and work/life schedule either. But Mr D keeps reminding me… we have time, Leonie. Just take it slowly. One thing at a time. We will work this out too, just like we always have.
So here I am, at my little bamboo desk, chamomile tea on hand. Crafting out some time to create and write. Because if I don’t, it all becomes a bit too much. This life thing is INTENSE, yeah?
After we dropped off one kid to first day of school yesterday, we took the other one on a celebratory breakfast at a cafe. Then we strolled down to the river and watched fish glint in the water for a while.
The best thing I’ve learned from my parenting journey so far is to let go of the belief that things have to be a certain way. Let go of any cults of belief that there is only One Right Way to raise or educate a child. And instead just do what is right for you and your kid. And so often what is Right changes over time too, and what is Right differs for each kid too!
I’m just going to keep turning up. Keep doing the right thing for me, and for us. In whatever way that looks, whatever name that has. And trust in the great beauty and wonder of it all. That my kids will get what they need out of these experiences. And that we will too.
That doesn’t really have anything about what I wanted to talk about today, but I felt like I couldn’t NOT say it, yeah?
But then, that’s what we’ve always done here together: deeply personal with a touch of business/goals/life shenanigans.
I wish we could sit for a cup of tea in the grass and you could tell me about your intense life too.
Here’s what else I’ve been thinking of lately:
Now my Academy has closed to new customers + will formally retire in October, I’m in a place for the first time in eight years I can create something completely new outside of the Academy container.
E-courses! Group coaching! Books!
All the creative possibilities!
And there’s some ideas brewing there, but I must admit, for the first time in a loooong ass time I am feeling timid. Timid of jumping back in that creative saddle again, giving birth to a whole new vision.
I know it will happen, I just have to trust that I can ride the wild donkey… I’ve done it hundreds of times already! It’s gotta be muscle memory, right?
Now that spending is not an option for me, I just redirect my energies elsewhere. I’ve definitely managed to be more productive in the process.
Plus, I am REALLY enjoying the process of reading all my unread books at last. The only hiccup is that with some books, the reason they are unread is because I started them and they were shit. And I popped them down, hoping they’d improve over time, or that maybe I was just in the wrong mood to read them. Upon picking them back up, they are still shit. I forced myself through one of them just to finish it.
From now on, I will give a book twenty pages to improve, and if it doesn’t, it will go straight to my Book Release pile (these usually end up with a friend or charity).
The incredible thing I’m discovering is that SO many of the books are PERFECT for where I am right now. I’ve already read 50 books in a month, and feel like I’m giving myself a mini MBA as I’m doing it. My levels of knowledge + confidence are HUGE compared to where I was a month ago.
So – possums – if you’ve got books on your shelves… READ ‘EM!
They are there to help!
How am I, really?
I have a friend who says: “But how are you REALLY?”
And you know that you can let it all drop down and just be as you are. Just tell the truth, and let it be enough.
How am I, really?
Up and down. Around and around.
Life – in parenting, marriage, ageing parents and the rest – is filled with days of contentment and gladness, and days of complication, pain and mess. As Glennon Doyle would call it: “it’s brutal and beautiful – it’s brutiful.”
I want to cultivate grace and stoicism in all of it.
And fortify myself with lashings of time with myself and creativity. Those two things are the best medicine I know for all that ails me.
Plus I keep on thinking of what my darling Deb says:
Row, Row, Row Your Boat really gives you all the messages you need for your life. There’s so many layers of deep meaning in it! Listen:
Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream.
Research shows that 80% of people don’t set goals, 16% think of goals, 3% write down their goals and just 1% write down their goals AND regularly review them. And it is that 1% that sees the highest amount of success in all areas of life: from career to health to relationships. Not many people take the time to set their goals – they just hope life will miraculously take them there. The time spent in dreaming up and planning your year ahead can make all the difference. Setting goals is building a sail for your boat so you get to set the direction for where life will take you, instead of being buffeted about by the waves and tides.
Your workbooks tend to divide life into different elements – why is this important? Which areas are often overlooked?
When people usually think of goals, they think of maybe 1-3 goals. Usually generic ones like: lose weight, stop addictive or damaging behaviours, reduce debt or earn more money. Basically, it’s crisis management goal setting – only setting goals for the places that are most negatively impacting them. The workbooks instead take you through a guided process of looking at every area of your life instead of just the ones that are on fire. Most people neglect to set goals for their families, relationships, self care, home, time management, creativity and so much more. It’s the holistic approach to goal setting that means you’re not just putting fires out, you’re actively building a delicious dream life that fits you.