not school camp

One morning earlier this month Bean called me from work to tell me he was not supposed to be at work because his 5 day break was scheduled to start that day and they’d just forgotten to tell him!

I was irritated by the news because had we known earlier we could have gone to the WA Natural Learning Network camp that was due to begin the following day. Bean suggested we still go.

The camp was at Donnelly River, 720km from Geraldton.

“Yeah!” we thought, we can totally pack and drive there in one day. And you know what? We did it!

It was so very, very worth it. We made the decision at noon, by 3pm we’d eaten a decent lunch, packed the kombi and were driving toward Perth. We got to my Mum’s place in Perth at around 8.45pm and we stopped for the night. We left for Donnelly River the next morning and we got there around 1pm, a couple of hours before the rest of our group started arriving. We drove in rain the whole way from Geraldton to Perth and then from Perth to Donnelly River, but the rain stopped when we arrived at Donnelly and didn’t start again until we were leaving a couple of days later. Perfect!

As soon as we arrived we were mobbed by very friendly kangaroos and emus, all wanting to know if we had anything edible in our pockets.

After some time spent patting kangaroos & being gawked at by much more cautious emus we managed to get up the stairs and away from the wildlife, drop our stuff inside our cottage and go for a walk around the village.

Most of the rest of the group arrived that afternoon and evening, with a few arriving the following day too.

That night we had a shared meal at the old mill worker’s club which was fun, chaotic, LOUD and very fulfilling for the sprogs.

After dinner we visited our old friend who is the relief manager for the village and drank cups of tea around his fire while the sprogs played with his drum kit and drew pictures at the table. Quite late at night we trotted back to our cottage for a very, very cold night’s sleep.

The next day our group hired the flying fox for a few hours and the children all ran in and out of each other’s cottages, rode bikes along the street, fed the animals from brown paper bags full of food from the general store and bottle fed some orphaned lambs.

That second evening, which was to be our last, we asked the managers if they had a heater we could use in our cottage because our fire was not heating the space. The cottage next door, which our friends were staying in, was very warm where ours was cold and our fire had been going all day while they’d lit theirs just an hour or so before. The managers couldn’t find a heater and offered to move us to a different cottage as well as reimbursing us for the night and giving us two bottles of wine.

We accepted their offer to move, and gave the wine to our friends who had been sharing their wine and beer with Bean and sharing their warm loungeroom with all of us for the evening.

That night we all slept so well in our new cottage that we decided to request an extra night rather than a reimbursement for the previous night. Our request was granted so we spent the day hanging out with the group rather than packing and heading home.

The next day rain was forecast so we decided to pack early and head off once the rain set in.

The drive back to Perth was pretty scary. A storm had hit and trees were being uprooted in the paddocks next to the road, trees had fallen over the road, large road signs were ripped out with footings still intact and we passed a caravan that had been blown on its side while being towed in the other direction. We made it back to Perth in one piece though, where we had dinner with some old friends before heading back to my Mum’s place for the night.

For the return trip to Geraldton we took the new Indian Ocean Drive, a much nicer drive than the inland roads. The sprogs were so tired after the weekend they were happy to stop infrequently and Van Halen (the white kombi) didn’t miss a beat, sitting comfortably at 60mph on the open roads, so we made it home in good time.

It took me over a week to get to the bottom of mount washmore once we were home, but luckily the post camp high lasted just as long.

A brilliant spontaneous weekend. We’re looking forward to the next camp.

 

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Thank you all for your kind comments for my last post both on the blog and via email. I tried to respond to you all, however some of the emails were eaten in cyberspace as both I and my computer got used to the new mobile phone internet connection.

This camp came just after I wrote that post and vastly improved my state of mind.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (2)

reality check

The post I’m about to write is in part inspired by this post written by Cybele of Serendipity in Chaos which had me nodding along in agreement, but the real catalyst for me writing about it myself, instead of just reading Cybele’s words and nodding was a discussion I had with a friend this morning.

In fact, this post could really just be an open letter to that friend, with the hope that other readers might take some comfort in it too.

We hung out with our friends this morning for another meet up of the Denmark natural learners crew. We’re rocking that by the way, we’ve caught up quite a bit in the last couple of weeks and it’s been nice. I’m sure it’ll be even nicer when my family moves closer than 50km away from the rest of them too!

On the way to the meet up Bean and I talked about how refreshing it was to spend time with people who are very real. People who authentically express how they’re feeling, where they’re at, what’s going on for them. These people are people we don’t feel a need to put on a face for, because they’re just real so we can be too. There’s no feeling like we’re imposters around them, we don’t feel inadequate, we don’t feel that we have to put on a “perfect family” facade. We feel accepted and honored for being us, not for being something else. We can admit that homeschooling is hard at times (a lot of times!). We can admit that we sometimes wonder why the hell we’re doing it. We can admit that we’ve fantasised more than once this week about our lives in a parallel universe, the lives of us without children! We can admit that we’re not traveling so well and we don’t feel weak or inadequate for that. We don’t feel judged, we just feel understood.

So there we were, talking about the realness of that particular family when we pulled up in their driveway this morning.

We greeted each other, the sproggets all settled in to play with each other for a couple of hours, and we adults chatted.

My friend, this Mother I had just been admiring told me she’d read my blog and cried. She thought she was getting it wrong and I was getting it right. Which is just oh so wrong! I’m not doing it “right”. I’m just doing it the best I can. I’m doing it like an ordinary Mother.

One of my main motivations in keeping this blog is that I am such a damned pessimist that I need something to prompt me to be positive. Writing this blog forces me to look for the positives in my life so I can document them here. I want to write about the good things so when I look back on this time that my babies were so little I can be reminded of the wonderful bits. I find it easy to remember the bad bits without writing them down, but the good bits take a little more effort to remember. In a haze of exhaustion, feeling isolated and undersupported, I have a tendency to spiral into depression and while a private journal and my art journal have been places I’m able to write without censorship, this blog is the place where I write while wearing rose coloured glasses (most of the time!). Optimism doesn’t really come easily to me. I tend to be negative, and it’s a pattern I’m trying to change. I seem to be more positive now than I used to be, so this conscious effort to change is working, but it’s not easy and I find that I slip back into a pessimistic mindset like I slip into my comfortable old jeans.

Trying to focus on positives has been particularly hard for me over the last few months as we’ve navigated our way through financial stresses, employer induced stresses, study induced stresses, family induced stresses and the big one of living in a weeny little shed with a camp toilet and no washing machine (with a baby in cloth nappies) for 5 months. I yelled at my sproggets more than I want to remember. I yelled at their Dad too. I even told them all that having a family was the biggest mistake I’d ever made. I’ve done that more than once too! Oh how I needed this blog then, inspiring me to find the joy in my life over a long, wet Winter cooped up in this little space with two understimulated sproggets and a glorified bucket for a toilet. It was a glorified bucket that made a tough situation a little easier, a glorified bucket that I was extremely grateful for the loan of, but it was still not a patch on a real toilet. Nor is the shed a patch on a real house with room, a house with rooms! There’s only so many times I can fall over my children while they play in the too small living space we have before I start to lose my sense of humour and feel very smothered.

I don’t want anyone to read my blog and think for a second that I have it all together. I’m as fractured as the next person, parent or not, I just don’t blog about those bits so much. I yell, I swear, I say hurtful things, I cry, I rage and I have Mama tantrums. I have really hard days, and I have some days that just work. I like to write about the days that work because those posts are a bit of inspiration for me to read over the times when it’s not working, the crappy days. Also, it’s a bit embarrassing to write about the times I’ve sworn at Moe when he poked my chest and requested another freaking breastfeed, or how I told Sprout to just bloody well leave me alone because I didn’t want to listen to her whinging anymore. Those memories are etched in my mind anyway, I don’t want to write about them. The burning shame of being nasty to my babies because I just felt so overwhelmed by the enormity of parenting them. It’s not a nice feeling. It’s one I’m sure every parent knows, and one that’s hard to shake.

When Sprout was a newborn and my midwife was still visiting quite regularly for my antenatal appointments I told her I felt guilty about something I’d done (or not done?). Today I don’t even remember what it was, I’ve done so many more things in the time between then and now that I feel guilty about, but what I do remember is what my midwife said to me. She welcomed me to motherhood and told me I’d have a multitude of things to feel guilty about for the rest of my life! She was right, you know. I constantly question whether I’m doing the right thing, whether I’m giving my children a million and one reasons to be in therapy when they’re adults. Whether I’m giving them enough, or even too much.

All of that makes for kinda heavy blog fodder though, so while there is the odd post about the hard times and the inner turmoil, I try to keep it positive.

The thing I took away from today is that we can admire someone so much and not really let them know. You know? I had just been talking about how great this woman is, how much I enjoy being with her, and she was feeling down on herself. Someone might be bumbling through their life thinking they’ve got it wrong, thinking they’re pretty terrible, and all the while someone else might be simultaneously admiring them. So, I’m going to try to open up a bit more, to tell people what I love about them. I’m going to express my admiration because I think everyone needs a bit of admiration now and then.

I’ll start with the friend who has inspired this blog post because I don’t think I did a good enough job today of telling her how much I admire her.

I hope you’re reading this, friend, and I hope that if you’re crying this time it’s tears of joy and love for yourself because I think you really are quite wonderful!

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (5)

happy new year… we’re still here

Hi folks! I hope 2012 has been off to a fabulous start for you all, it certainly has been for us.

We have some fantastic news.

Bean is now a licensed sparky! The apprenticeship is officially over and his licence is in his hot little hands. It truly is a wonderful gift to begin 2012 with, so many more opportunities lay ahead of us today than we had imagined just one year ago.

What a rollercoaster ride 2011 was! I probably say that every year, but 2011 really was a test and here we are on the other side of it… Still together, still ok, and much happier.

Bean’s boss called him Friday afternoon just before the Christmas weekend and asked him if he’d mind taking the week between Christmas and new year off, Bean agreed and so that’s why I’ve posted diddly squat since Christmas day. Tomorrow is the last day Bean has off before returning to work for a four day week, then another week of holidays. That’s my idea of a good work/life balance – 17 days off and four days on every 3 weeks!

Anyway, back to last week…

It was a big week. Moe turned two (more on that in a post to come), we had the second meeting of the Denmark Natural Learner’s (more on that in another post to come), we had hot beach days and we had rainy, cardigan wearing days. I discovered a new hobby that’s been occupying my evenings and keeping me from the computer (you guessed it, more on that in yet another post to come) and we’ve spent a lot of time chilling out together, just enjoying the slow days.

It was really lovely to have Bean home. When he’s home I’m not outnumbered by the sproggets and he’s pretty fun to hang out with anyway!

So, our little break has almost come to an end which is a bit sad, but oh how lovely it’s been. I’m feeling refreshed and ready to take on the awesomeness that will be 2012.

Happy, happy new year to you all.

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the first meeting of denmark natural learners

Yesterday we got together with some natural learning families at the home of a lovely family who are testing the waters after their eldest child expressed a desire to homeschool. Some of the families live here already, and some are moving here in the coming months. It was such a lovely gathering that we’ve decided to get together again next week while most of us are still around. One of the families will have to return to Perth befoe then which is unfortunate, but the rest of us are able to come along. Each family had both Mum and Dad there, since it’s holiday time, and it was really lovely to connect with other natural learning families in a group situation.

The sprogs had a great time, and Sprout has told us how much she’s looking forward to the next gathering. I am too, and I’m also really looking forward to it being a regular occurence when we’re all living in Denmark.

After the gathering we went back to the home of one of the families and had some lunch together. Our children play well together and we really enjoy spending time with them all so it was a nice segway from larger group gathering to smaller group to just our family group again this evening.

I borrowed a book about pagan celebrations from them after a bit of a chat about our desire to bring more seasonal celebration into our lives. My sister owns the book, but I’ve only quickly flicked through it before. It was nice to talk about the nature of celebration with other people, especially these people because they’re just so open.

I really enjoy spending time with other natural learning families, I come away feeling energised and inspired.

 

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (5)

farmer’s market – an invitation

This morning we were at the farmer’s market early enough to get the pick of the produce. A lot of the stalls sell out early, especially the organic stalls, so it’s good to get there as its opening.

We’re passioate about sourcing organic food, and prefer it to be local, so the farmer’s market is our best chance of finding great food in this town. Winter at the markets was a bit slow and disappointing, meaning we had to shop at the (too) expensive organic store or the (awful, awful!) supermarket to supplement what we could compensate for what we couldn’t get at the farmer’s market.

Today though, we had such a brilliant haul that we won’t need to shop anywhere else for fresh produce all week. Hurrah!

We got some more of the delicious local macadamias. I actually had a dream nightmare last night that we got to the market too late and missed out on them! We also got some lovely new season Norland potatoes, 3 bunches of carrots, some cabbage, some baby spinnach, and some broccolini from the lovely Bathgate Farm stall. From the Payneham Vale Organics stall we got delicious jumbo eggs, some sausages, gravy beef, and olive oil. From Gilgie Farm we got some leaks to make potato and leak soup with. Altogether now… YUUUUUUUMMM!

While at the market we ran in to a woman I knew in the years before we both became mothers. Her sprogs are the same age as our sprogs. We were quite pleased to find each other, both living here now, and she’s invited us to their place for a Moroccan dinner tonight.I love the farmer’s market. It’s a place to get delicious fresh food, with very low carbon miles but it’s more than just that. The farmer’s market is a place with soul, a place for the community to gather and be together. It’s so enriching to buy the food we’re currently unable to produce for ourselves from the wonderful people who produce it for us. Shopping at the supermarket is a chore, and shopping at the farmer’s market is a joy.

As the inspiring (and sadly, no longer blogging) Farmama says,

“Communities that support farms have farms that support communities!”

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falling into place

Since I’ve been back from Perth, this whole living on the south coast thing has felt like it’s falling into place. Finally.

The first few days back here were a bit of an emotional blow. I was feeling isolated and cynical.

It rained that Monday, so we stayed indoors and spoke to no one outside our mother-children triad all day.

It also rained Tuesday, so we had a repeat of Monday but with slightly more resentment because Tuesday is a “play in the park” day and we were missing out because it was too wet. Cabin fever had set in. The sprogs were cranky and I was too.

Wednesday saw our spirits pick up though and we’ve been on a high since…

The sprogs and I went to the museum for the monthly mini muses program Wednesday morning. There we met an old friend who has one extra child than the last time I saw him but otherwise hasn’t changed much. I knew he lived down this way, I just didn’t know how to find him and I’d hoped we’d just run into each other eventually… we did, yay. He introduced me to his partner and we had a little chat while our sprogs ran about (excepting their littlest sprog who is just a wee baby). Knowing they’d understand my plight, I complained to these friends about my poor luck sourcing good food down here. I told them I was shopping at stupormarkets down here, and that it was destroying my soul to be doing it after so many years of doing all my food shopping at small, locally owned businesses back in Perth. They understood, like I knew they would, and they had some solutions to suggest. Hurrah! They told me about a little bulk food store down here and they told me about a biodynamic farmer that sells his meat from big chest freezers in a park! I told them about my friends who deliver fresh milk in reusable glass bottles, and we all smiled. Wednesday afternoon we went home feeling happier than we’d felt when we’d left home that morning, so we’ll call it a successful outing.

Wednesday night was my first night back at college since my trip to Perth and it was really nice to be back among lovely people and playing with nurturing essential oils. I got home to sleeping children and a clean home, how wonderful.

Thursday morning the sprogs and I decided to check out the food store our friends had recommended and it certainly impressed me. It’s small, it’s really a little too small to contain all the loveliness within, but it was still great. There were bulk dry goods and there were completed quilts hanging up too, they were for sale. It made my heart sing to see good food and beautiful quilts in such a visually appealing store. It smelled yummy and it looked unique. We bought some biodynamic flour, some organic rolled oats and a small lot of banana chips for the sprogs to munch on the walk back to the car. The woman who served us was warm and friendly, and she was interested to hear about my delight at finding the store. So much nicer than a large stupormarket!

Come Friday morning we were back at boobie club (Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting) for some good company and sunshine, our week had well and truly turned around. Friday night I got to go to a one off night time booby club, and I got to go without sprogs too. I owe Bean for that, it was nice to have a chat without having to entertain the sprogs too.

Saturday night we went to our milkman’s birthday party which was nice. Our milkman is also a carpenter and he just happened to knock up a patio to party under that day. Fabulous! The food was nice and, as always, the company was lovely. Sprout and Moe had a lovely time cruising around with other kids, getting thoroughly filthy in a big pile of black sand, and generally loving every minute of the party!

photo by www.liamwilde.com

Then, after I had a Sunday of study while Bean took the sprogs fishing, I got an email late last night from my aromatherapy lecturer. I’ve been sending her some raw food recipes and generally talking up the awesomeness of young coconuts so she invited the sprogs and I around for a play date today, so we could make some raw goodies and the sprogs could play. Her son is the same age as Sprout and they got along so well! Moe was a bit out of sorts after a rough, sleepless night, so he needed a bit of extra help today. Thankfully I was able to give it to him when he needed it because Sprout was so beautifully preoccupied playing with her new friend. Even when meeting Moe’s needs was taken into account, my friend and I still managed a remarkable amount of adult conversation, fresh juice, herbal tea, young coconut smoothie, roast veg & salad wraps, and a bit more adult conversation. It was a fabulous day and I’m feeling really great after it!

photo by www.liamwilde.com

Yes. This south coast thing is starting to work out ok.

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“home”

I don’t have a home.

Of course, I have the shed, that’s where I live right now. I have a roof over my head, but I don’t feel “home” anywhere. No where feels like that place where I just belong.

If I do have a home, I certainly don’t know where it is and I’ve spent most of my adult life searching for “home”.

It’s definitely not where I grew up.

One of the many places I’ve lived at since leaving my Mum’s place 10 years ago came close to feeling like home. I had community, I had a fabulous social life, I felt like I belonged there at that time.Now? I don’t know. It’s still a beautiful place. My community have long since moved on. Perhaps there’s community there now who are more relevant to my lifestyle now? (read: not spending my nights knitting scarves and playing pool poorly while drinking pints of water (I’m a non-drinker, remember?) at the local pub then walking out to the carpark where my kombi was parked & crawling in to bed)

I’m loathe to keep moving around trying to find home. I have young children, one of whom has made it quite clear to me that she’d like to stay put somewhere, she’d like to make some friends and not move away from them.

I’ve justĀ  spent the last two weeks “back home”, you know, where I grew up.

Being in Albany these last few months I’d begun to think that where I grew up could actually be my home, since Albany so plainly isn’t.

All it took was two weeks back there to remind me that is fool’s thinking!

So, we’re back to the drawing board. Luckily we’ve got a few half devised plans still scribbled on the drawing board though and they’re worth revisiting.

We’ll stay put, for the time being, in “not-home”. We have to, Bean’s got to finish what he started here. It’s nice, in a way, having something that anchors us to this place for now. We can’t run away before we’ve formed a new plan and thoroughly researched it before acting on it.

I could view it as being trapped, and I’m certain there’ll be days when I do, but I think I’ll just spend my energy viewing it as an opportunity to pause and reflect for a while instead.

The bed on wheels that was my “home” for several months

 

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making friends

The sproggets and I had a wonderful morning today. We went to the local Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting. It was just delightful. I left feeling ever so much better than I did when I arrived.

Both The Bubble & Babyman had a lovely time playing with the other children, inside & outside, while I had a lovely time speaking to other mothers in a sunny, warm room.

Just today they decided they’d probably start meeting weekly, instead of fortnightly. I do hope that happens. We now have something fantastic to do Friday mornings.

There were women there who I share mutual friends with, women who I really, really enjoyed meeting.

Through today’s meeting we’ve also been invited to a small Steiner inspired playgroup which I’m stoked about. The networking has begun & this evening I feel a little more fond of this town than I did when I woke this morning.

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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: Community & Empty Cups

We’ve been really feeling the lack of community around us lately. Coming from Perth where we had bi-weekly natural learner’s meets and a weekly natural parenting playgroup it has been a shock for all of us, but particularly for the sproggets, to have no organised meet ups with other homeschoolers in the area.

We have been scoping out regular kid haunts like playgrounds (indoor & outdoor), the library & the museum in the hope of happening upon other homeschoolers. This tactic has been successful once already, we met another unschooling family at a playground, which was very exciting. They left for an 8 week holiday to the east coast about a week after we met though so we managed only one catch up before then. They weren’t able to hook us up with any other unschoolers because they’d not found any prior to meeting us also!

We hope to meet more natural learning families really soon because we’re very aware that in order for unschooling to work we need community around us. A community of like-minded people to mutually support each other through the challenges & to share the joys of unschooling. I’m not sure how long we could sustain unschooling without a community. We all need our cups filled, and in a closed circuit such as we have now, we’re just not able to refill our cups when they empty. Bean & I can’t be everything to the sproggets & the sproggets can’t be everything to us.

This week we’re hoping to find community at the local library’s storytimes tomorrow & on Thursday, and at the museum Wednesday morning for their monthly workshop for under-5s. Please, Unschool Mondayers, cross your fingers for our lonely little family…

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