Archive for the 'education' Category

unschool monday – paint for breakfast

Early this morning, right after drinking a breakfast smoothie we got out the craft box.

We started the day with paint. Distinct & separate blobs of colour on paper plates left over from a long ago party. The blobs didn’t stay separate for long, soon the plates were brown. Then bodies were a streaky, stripey, splotchy brown.

When the streaky, stripey, splotchy bodies appeared to have had enough of painting we packed away & had a warm shower.

Running around laughing, shrieking, whooping with delight as the clothes monster tried to dress the no longer streaky, stripey, or splotchy bodies.

Finally dressed.

Some more food. Food dictates the day, you know?

Some “reading” to each other.

Wrapping babies up in colourful play cloths.

A special lunch with Bean joining us at home because Mondays are Tafe days.

Some more baby wrapping after Bean left. Babies eventually abandoned on the bedroom floor.

Drawing with crayons & then textas over the top. Some writing demonstrations from me. Writing in colours I’m asked to use. Writing names, the alphabet in upper case, the alphabet in lower case, the names of the colours in the order they are naturally in a rainbow…

Some Playschool on iView while dishes were washed & vegetables cut for dinner.

Some stories read by me.

Bean came home.

The whole family went to the shop to buy some cous cous.

Dinner was ready when we returned.

We ate together.

The clothes monster chased the sproggets around a little more.

Ready for bed.

Asleep.

A lovely home day for sproggets who have the sniffles & coughs, and for a mother who is still a bit tired from the weekend’s gardening efforts.

 

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet

posted by wildecrafted in education,journal and have Comment (1)

unschool monday – exams

Oh goodness I am SO PLEASED my children will not be subjected to exams until they’re old enough (& foolish enough?!) to decide to undertake formal education.

I have just sat an exam for one of the units I’m studying. My first exam in more than 6 years…

Oh the nervousness. The churning in my belly. The fluttering in my heart. The negative self talk rattling in my brain.

Admittedly, this unit is one of the harder units & it’s one that doesn’t make my heart sing like aromatherapy does, nor does it fuel the passionate fire in my belly that herbal medicine does. It’s just anatomy & physiology. It’s big words. It’s complex concepts. It’s something I find hard. It’s something my memory just doesn’t want to remember! Despite all this though, it’s a foundation unit. It’s concepts I need to grasp so I can better understand the aromatherapy that makes my heart sing & the herbal medicine that fuels the fire.

While I know I have to do this, to get what I want in the end, I am just so very, very pleased that my children won’t have to sit exams at any time during their childhoods. So, so pleased.

 

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet

 

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unschool monday – literacy

Sprout has suddenly become very interested in reading. She has asked Bean & I to teach her to read. We have told her that she will learn in time. She says she wants to know now. We tell her we understand she’d like to know now & that she’s getting closer & closer to being able to read every day. We’ve told her we trust she’ll learn to read because she wants to learn to read.

The alphabet blocks she’s had since her first birthday are now appealing again, and for different reasons than when she was one. She wants us to sing the alphabet song to her & she’s beginning to remember letter sequences from the alphabet.

She’s much more interested in her library books now also. She’s asking to borrow more books at a time & each evening she’s pushing for three, four and five stories a night instead of the usual one or two. She is also spending each evening “reading” herself to sleep. She pores over each of her library books, recalling the stories we’ve read from their pages & embellishing the stories a little with her own observations from the pictures.

When we’re out & about, she notices signs around her & wants to know what they say. She’s recognising particular letters & remembering signs.

Just last week, Bean’s Mum wrote Sprout’s name on a page & Sprout copied the letters & they were legible.

So, we do trust she’ll learn to read. We trust she’ll learn because the evidence is right there, in front of us. She is learning to read right now.

 

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet

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unschool monday – between big & little

At the weekend we painted the shed (& it looks fantastic). I have hurt my back quite badly. I’m unable to lift Babyman & any movement hurts, even just a little.

We are unable to afford for Bean to take a day off today so this morning, before leaving for work, he explained to The Bubble that my back is very sore & asked her to be gentle with me today. I was still laying in bed with Babyman when The Bubble came in to tell me,

“Mum I know your back is sore today so I won’t run away from you so you can chase me or jump up and down on you.”

I thanked her, knowing she wouldn’t be able to keep her promise because she’s is just so full of joy for life & suggested she may like to choose her own clothes and dress herself today.

At first she told me she wanted me to choose her clothes, as she usually does, but I pushed her a bit today. I gave her the suggestion that she may like to wear tracksuit pants instead of jeans because today would be a home day since I can’t drive anywhere or walk far. I told her it would be cold, like all the days in recent memory have been so she may like to choose a long sleeve shirt. She finally decided on her clothes & I gave her some tips as she got dressed,

“Turn that one around, so the tag is on the same side as your belly, then step into one leg…”

She often gets stressed when she’s dressing herself & she gets her knickers in a knot (literally!). She’ll throw her clothes down & tell me it’s no good, she can’t dress herself because she doesn’t get it right. Yet some other days she will happily dress herself before I’ve even realised she’s done it.

She’s at a point now where she wants to be independent, she wants to be “big”, and she’s also a little afraid of losing being “little”. Some days she’ll want to do something on her own, telling me not to help, other days she tells me she can’t do the very same thing she did independently just yesterday. I think she needs to know we’re still here, ready to catch her if she falls. I think she’s worried we’ll turf her out on her own, ignore her, if she doesn’t need us.

Along with this quite sudden desire for independence has come a very strong desire to help. When we make dinner, she wants to help. When we were painting the walls yesterday, she wanted to help. When we’re selecting apples at the food store, she wants to help. She asks if we can make cake she has no intention of eating, just so she can help. Things she never used to seem very interested in are now things she wants to help us with.

Yesterday, when she asked to help paint the walls we worried momentarily about paint drips & uneven marks, then we decided that, for us, fulfilling her desire to help is more important than smoothly painted walls. Where she ended up painting is going to be behind the fridge & pantries and I think we managed to go over it with a roller before there were any dried paint drips anyway. She had a wonderful time. She told us over & over how much she liked painting, how much she liked helping.

Today, well, she has managed to keep her promise to be gentle on me, she has helped a lot with Babyman, even carrying him to me when he hurt himself & I couldn’t move fast enough to get to him in time. She’s only jumped on me once, too…

 

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet.

 

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unschool monday – adventures in autonomy

Sometimes I find it quite hard to parent the sproggets respectfully & gently. I’m trying to parent in a way that is quite radically different to the way I was parented. My beliefs about children, since becoming a parent, are also radically different to the beliefs I held about children before I was a parent & they are radically different to the beliefs commonly held by adults in our society. The beliefs I hold are constantly evolving, our choice to unschool is a perfect example of that evolution. We began our parenting journey a little left of centre with my choice to homebirth our first child. I then discovered some reading on why it’s a great idea NOT to praise children. From there, the snowball effect has lead us on a journey through attachment/natural/instinctive parenting philosophies, then natural learning/unschooling philosophies to where we are now. As we journey further along this path I know our belief system will evolve further & I don’t know where that will lead us. Something I do know now though, is that I struggle almost every day to reconcile the difference between my ideal parent-child relationship & my actual parent-child relationships.

When the sproggets are behaving in ways that challenge me I battle with the voice in my head that tells me to yell, to intimidate them, to make them do what I want them to do. That voice is the voice of authority. The voice of the inner authoritarian parent who wants to govern, & to govern with fear. The inner authoritarian parent who wants unearned authority over another person. If I’m honest, there’s probably also the voice of a petulant inner child egging on that voice of authority. The petulant inner child who thinks the sproggets should have to put up with another person having unearned authority over them, just because I did…

The thing about this voice of authority is that it demands respect for behaving disrespectfully. Oh the irony! Only, it’s not respect that is granted in return, it’s fear.

I see it, those times I’m feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, unsupported, those times I do give in to the demands of the inner authoritarian parent.

My children don’t respect me for yelling, for demanding through gritted teeth that they go. to. sleep. right. NOW(!), for creating artificial consequences (if you do that one more time I won’t read you a story)… it’s not respect that inspires them to comply with my requests, it’s fear. Fear of witnessing (or bearing the brunt of) an unhealthy expression of anger & frustration, fear of artificial consequences, fear of punishment.

A parent-child relationship is a complex relationship. A relationship with many expectations attached to it, a relationship more people feel entitled to comment on than any other interpersonal relationships. I find my parent-child relationships harder than others to put on display, especially when on display 24/7.

We’re staying with Bean’s parents at the moment. We’ve been here one week already & we’ll be here until the shed is finished, in a couple of weeks. When the shed is done, we’ll still be on their property, but we’ll be in our own space. It’s hard, for all of us, sharing their space. They want to live their way, we want to live ours. There’s a lot of compromise.

Since being here, a place that just isn’t our own, we’ve compromised a lot on our values with regard to parenting.

Unfortunately, staying with Bean’s parents has amplified that voice of authority so it is louder than the voice of the reasonable parent, the respectful parent, the unconditional parent.

I have found myself behaving in ways that make me cringe, as I’m doing it!

The expectation that I will control my children is a hard one to ignore. The overwhelming majority of adults in our society view children as people who are ignorant, incompetent & simple. People who need to be controlled because they are incapable of independent thought, responsibility, maturity, selflessness or autonomy at any level. That behaviour just comes magically when you become an adult, apparently.

Our society tells us not to reason with children, because children are unreasonable. Don’t give children the choice to eat something, or not to eat it, because children don’t know what’s good for them. Make your children share their most precious possessions because children are selfish, they’ll never be motivated to share without having it forced upon them. Ridicule children for expressing emotion, or at least ignore them, otherwise they’ll be too soft.

It’s hard to go against these attitudes, held by the majority of people in Western society.

The part of me that so desperately wants approval, the part of me that wants to please others at whatever cost, the part of me that was told I was a “good girl” for behaving conveniently as a child… that part of me is scared. Scared of offending or upsetting someone else by simply living differently in their space.

It’s fear that drives me to parent from a place of authority. Fear that motivates me to scare my own children!

Living in this space, that is not mine, I find myself feeling stressed, flustered, by the sproggets “mess”, their toys strewn around the place during the day. The toys that always get put back into their baskets at the end of each day so there is no evidence of the play & the learning that took place earlier. I feel so worried that we’re being too much of a burden that I work myself into a heightened state of stress, following the sproggets around, picking up after them before they’re ready to pack away, before their game is over, before they’d probably pick the stuff up themselves anyway.

I ask The Bubble to pick up her clothes & she doesn’t do it, so I stress. What will these people, who can’t relate to our way of parenting, think of me? Do they disapprove because I’m not making her do what I ask?

Of course, I’m usually asking at the wrong time.

“Hey Bubble, stop playing that game you’re perfectly happy playing right now so you can pick up your clothes that wouldn’t hurt anyone to be left where they are for another 15 minutes, or even for the rest of the day! Pick up those clothes that I know you’ll pick up later, do it right now because that’s going to make us all look perfect, that’s going to prove we’re doing it right.”

Oh yeah! Really inspiring…

In our own space, these things wouldn’t bother me. In our own space, the sproggets can play freely. Our space is safer, more free of hazards, less littered with breakable, “precious” things in places the sproggets can easily reach. In our space I don’t feel the need to follow the sproggets around picking up after them, telling them “no”. In our space, I don’t feel the need to make excuses for their sleep patterns that don’t look like those described in text books. In our space I don’t feel awkward for “letting” the sproggets leave food on their plate at the end of a meal, or “letting” them put that food in the fridge to eat later. In another person’s space, I find myself making excuses for their existence & making excuses for my values.

So that there, that was my confession, my acknowledgement of the suboptimal way I’ve been relating with my children for this last week or so. Here then, is my pledge:

I’m going to do my very best to just not care!

It’s still important to me that we compromise, while we’re in someone else’s space. It’s important to me that we make this experience as positive as possible for these generous people who are helping us out in the best way they can.

It’s also important to me that we stay focussed on our values with regard to unschooling & parenting with respect. Our relationships with our immediate family, Bean, myself & the sproggets, they’re the most important relationships. This is not the last time we’ll feel pressure to conform to majority held views so we’d best get used to staying solid, standing firm in our beliefs. We can’t be swayed because we’re afraid of ruffling feathers simply because we’re living according to our values. If we’re not hurting anyone, & in fact we’re doing quite the opposite, then why should we care if others view our choices in a less than favourable light because they’re not in line with the way “everyone else” does it?

It’s time to begin ignoring the (internal AND external) pressure, no matter how great.

Last night, or rather, this morning at 2.15am The Bubble sat up in bed & reached for her big book Thousands of Things to Spot. I asked her what she was doing & she replied, as if it was the most normal thing for an almost-4 year old to be doing at 2.15am,

“Reading my book.”

That voice of authority shouted in my mind,

Make her go back to sleep!”

So I said, “Ok.” and rolled over, falling asleep again within seconds. No argument, no stress.

I don’t know how long she was awake for, I know she was asleep again when I woke at 2.45am to breastfeed Babyman.

This morning she mentioned to me that she really enjoyed her midnight reading adventures. We talked about it in the kitchen, there were raised eyebrows, and you know? I don’t care. The Bubble was happy, I was happy, no one was hurt. Looks like a perfect adventue in autonomy to me!

 

Unschool Monday, with Owlet.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (3)

unschool monday – weakened resolve

We moved from Wonderland at the weekend. We’re temporarily camping in the spare room at the outlaws place until we finish The Shed & can move our stuff up there (a whole 100 metres!).

Being that we were busy, we didn’t have a lot of time to really focus on the sproggets. They helped pack things & they amused themselves with the ramp up to the trailer when heavy things weren’t being loaded on it, they were involved, but we were all mostly preoccupied with moving.

Last night, when we had finally flopped in to bed after moving everything & cleaning Wonderland, The Bubble told me she needed to chat, not sleep. I asked her what she wanted to chat about.

“When I’m a big kid I can go to school.”

My heart stopped.

I believe so strongly that unschooling is the right approach for our family, and yet I know we’re not “doing it” to the best of our ability at the moment.

I know. I know. There’s no way to “do it” right but in this new town where we know no one, where there is no prominent unschooling community, where even the general homeschooling group doesn’t meet regularly for unstructured play, I have to admit I’m very worried about socialisation.


TheĀ  Bubble is lonely. She wants to play with other children. She wants to play with the same children regularly. She wants to make friends. Real friends, who know her by name, who she knows by name, friends who she can get to know.

I take them to several program days. We go to “play in the park” Tuesdays, Rhyme Time at the Library (more for Babyman’s benefit – he LOVES it) Wednesdays & Fridays, story time at the Library Thursdays, the monthly museum program for 1-5 year olds (this Wednesday is the next one) but it just doesn’t feel enough because there’s no other unschoolers there.

After the sproggets were asleep last night, with heavy hearts Bean & I spoke again about our family’s future.

We’re both in agreeance that this place doesn’t feel like the right place for our family long term. Right now, it is probably a good place, with our new plan to live (rent free) in The Shed we’ll be able to wipe our debt, which will make a huge difference to our wellbeing. We’re keeping open minds & open hearts, we’re open to the possibility of that sentiment changing, while also very much looking forward to the end of Bean’s apprenticeship.

We are looking forward to traveling, to looking for “our place”. Maybe traveling will show us that this is our place? I have a feeling I know where our place is though, & that place is not here. It’s not even close to here.

I know, wherever our place ends up being, it has to be a place where other unschoolers are easy to find. It has to be a place where the sproggets can find community, because they really, really need it. My poor, lonesome children.

While I know this isn’t enough (yet?) to kill our passion for unschooling, it’s certainly weakened my resolve. I don’t want my children to feel so lonely & isolated.

The learning is still happening, naturally. Most of the time I don’t even notice it until The Bubble makes a statement of fact & I wonder where, when & how she came to know that? Babyman’s vocabulary is expanding daily. He’s able to express his needs & wants very effectively both verbally & non-verbally.

I just wish there wasn’t such a big void where community could be.

 

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet.

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unschool monday – back to school!

I wagged unschool Monday last week. I can’t remember my excuse, but I’m sure it was a good one!

This week I’m a day late… I’m sure that’ll be a red mark on my report card…

This last week, while the sproggets have been merrily ticking away with their own learnings, I’ve been thinking about my education & I’m going back to school!

When I finished high school I went to uni, I didn’t really want to go to uni after finally escaping 15 years of school, but I went anyway because it’s what my Mum thinks successful people do & I couldn’t really suggest a better alternative at the time. I did the first year of a production & design course majoring in lighting at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. I decided it wasn’t for me. I could see a career full of antisocial work hours & unhealthy takeaway dinners laying ahead of me if I pursued that path. I just wasn’t as passionate about it as I first thought.

My elder sister had discovered aromatherapy when I was still in primary school. She’s 8 years older than me. I remember staying with her at her place in the country when I was 11 or 12 & she had this amazing smelling ceramic pot looking thing with a candle in it. She was vapourising oils. As soon as I could, because I idolised my sister, I also explored the world of aromatherapy. I discovered that I felt pretty passionate about it, so when I reached a cross roads with my first uni course I decided to pursue a career in natural medicine. To be frank, I didn’t want to be at uni at all. I wanted to be young & free, I wanted to have fun! I decided though, that since I couldn’t disappoint my parents & be a drop out without transferring to something else, that I would do a course that I was at least a little bit interested in. I decided to do an Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy.

 

With only 12 weeks left of my 3 year course I changed to an Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine because I’d recently had surgery on my hand & couldn’t sit the deep tissue massage exam.

When I graduated, I didn’t feel qualified. Technically I could run a clinic of my own, practically I knew I couldn’t do that well enough to make it financially viable or well enough to feel that I was doing people a good service. I decided to take some time out from natural therapies. I’d been on an amazing journey of self healing through my course & I needed to just sit with it for a bit. What I really needed, after being in formal education for 19 years by that stage was to be young & to have fun! I worked for a while at a chocolate company & a cafe in a surfing town in WA, then I traveled a bit, did some permaculture training, had no real idea who I was or what I wanted so I came “home”. Back to Perth. Shortly after arriving in Perth I had a fling with a friend (Bean) & The Bubble was conceived. That defined my path from then until now, I have been a stay at home parent to one & then two children.

Recently though, the passion I have for natural medicine, particularly herbal medicine & nutritional healing, has been reignited. I want to work as a natural therapist, but I don’t have the confidence…

I didn’t have the confidence when I graduated, so now after 6 years of not actively studying & working in the field I most certainly don’t have the confidence to work as a natural therapist. My solution? I’m going back to school!

I’m going to upgrade my Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine to a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy). I’ll still specialise in Western Herbal Medicine, but as a naturopath my clients will be able to access health fund rebates which is apparently good for business…

 

On one hand it seems ironic to be returning to formal study after embracing unschooling, yet it feels so perfect at the same time. Perfect because this is vocational study, this is study I want to do because I feel so passionate about it, not because I’m being told I have to & not because I’m trying to please someone. I have some life experience under my belt that I just didn’t have then & I have a real desire to learn the things I’m choosing to study, a desire that just wasn’t really there when I first went to college. Back then, I had student fatigue. I didn’t want to be chained to a desk, doing more assignments & I certainly had a bad attitude toward exams. Now, I feel so excited to be returning to study, I’m doing it purely for me & because of that I have the “right” attitude.


Unschool Monday is brought to you by Owlet.

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changing education paradigms

This speech by Sir Ken Robinson is one I really enjoy, I listen to it periodically & it renews my resolve to unschool when I’m feeling unsure. Enjoy…



 

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Writing postcards

Today we wrote 5 postcards for the postcrossing project I signed us up for last night. The kids & I worked together to write & decorate the postcards.

Even Babyman drew a little picture on one of them.

The Bubble dictated what I had to write, here’s what she asked me to write to Helga from Germany:

Hello. O is a baby. I am nearly 4 years old. I live in Albany. Sometimes people go fishing on the jetty at the beach. Goodbye. From Z. It rained today.

Margarete, also from Germany will receive a postcard with a picture of a humpback whale, a blue wren & a picture of Little Beach with this note on the back:

Hello. My name is Z. I am nearly 4 years old. I want to say “Hello” to a humpback whale. My little brother is O. I live in this house in Albany. I live with my Mum & my Dad & O. Mum is writing for me. Humpback whales sing. Have a nice day. From Z.

Jinhui from China got a postcard with a humpback whale on it also, it reads:

Hello whale! I am almost 4 years old. I have a baby brother. From Z

There was no room for anything else, The Bubble had drawn a big picture.

On a large card with a picture of the natural bridge I write this to Miklos from Germay:

Hello. I have a purple pencil. I also have some fat pencils. I have all the pencils. I am nearly 4 years old. How old are you? My Mum is 27. My Dad is Liam. I live in Albany. Ok? Goodbye from Z. See you later on.

Finally, Alex from the Netherlands gets a card with a photo of the main street of Albany, it reads:

Hello. This is Albany. I live in Albany. I am nearly 4 years old. My little brother is a baby. I live with my Mum & my Dad & my brother. Have a nice day. From Z.

At the post office, while buying stamps, I had a fantastic discussion about unschooling with the woman serving us. It was really refreshing to have someone respond so positively when I explained the lack of curriculum. She was very positive about my explanation that postcrossing would be an interesting & spontaneous introduction to various parts of the world, therefore covering geography quite effectively.

So now the postcards are done, we’ll put them in a postbox tomorrow morning before storytime at the library & then we wait for them to be received & registered so we can receive postcards from someone else! Yay.

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Postcrossing (strewing geography)

A member of the forum at Natural Learning Australia linked to a site called Postcrossing last month. I finally got around to looking at it today & I’ve decided to join up in The Bubble & Babyman’s names.

The basic idea is that you register then request an address, with each address request you are given an ID number. You send a postcard to the address you’ve been randomly allocated & include the ID number on the postcard so the recipient can enter the ID number on the website once it reaches them. Once you have sent a postcard you’ll then be eligible to receive one. You can request 5 addresses at once, the more postcards you send out, the more postcards you can send next time.

I think this is a fantastic way to strew geography. The sproggets will receive postcards from places all over the world, places they’ve never heard of, places they may like to learn more about once they receive a postcard from there.

Initially I will send the postcards without any input from the sproggets, I think they’re too young to understand what it’s all about at the moment, but I have entered their names on our address card along with our family PO Box number so the postcards received will be addressed to them. When they’re a little older I’ll explain the reciprocal nature of postcrossing & they may like to send postcards themselves. Until then, I think they’ll delight in receiving special mail addressed to them & I’ll delight in the opportunity to learn about other parts of the world with them.

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