Zephyr Ogden Jones hated being at school.
There were so many rules: you couldn’t climb trees, couldn’t play, couldn’t run. It was, he says, boring.
His dad, Patrick Jones, says that at school the 14-year-old just “crumpled”.
“And that’s a hard thing to see as a parent,” Mr Jones says. “He is a very physical learner, schools are not often designed for kids who learn more experientially.
“We wanted to attend to his declining self-esteem.”
So they took all his screens away for six weeks and put some tools in his hands.
His new role was to be an “apprentice” to his father. His job was to build a tiny house measuring just 10 square metres on his family’s Daylesford property.
“He just came alive,” Mr Jones says.
Constructed from mostly scavenged and donated materials, the building cost less than $500.
Zephyr says he learnt “10 times more” building the tiny house than being at school.
“I didn’t learn much at school,” he says. “I was just going there to hang out with my mates.”
Also involved in the project, which started in mid-July, was a trained lawyer James Krumrey-Quinn, a “SWAP” staying at the permaculture property in exchange for providing labour.
Mr Jones, who officiated as the project manager, says the 28-year-old proved to be a valuable mentor for Zephyr.
“James was coming to learn for himself … at the same time, Zeph was learning a lot … being able to talk to another young man about life,” Mr Jones said.
“At the same time Zeph had things to teach James, because Zeph has grown up with a hammer in his hands, where James has grown up with a book.”
The tiny house finished last month, giving Zephyr a place to call his own.
But with Zephyr aiming to become a carpenter, there won’t be any going back to his old school.
He will continue his education through “unschooling” – a sometimes controversial method of learning based on a child’s interests.
Mr Jones says education has become too bureaucratic with an assumption that learning can only happen in an institution.
“A lot of boys, in particular, are falling through the education system,” he says.
“They are not good at sitting still in classrooms so they become the naughty boys, and they can’t shake that label off.”
He says the traditional method of “informal apprenticeship”, of parents passing on their skills to children has lost its “status”.