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)

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)

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

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comment (1)

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: Sick Days

The sproggets and I are unwell today. We all have head colds. Nothing major, but we’re snotty (Babyman in particular appears to have a fairly constant supply of thick, green snot on his upper lip), we’re a bit grumpy & we’re tired after a restless night.  All in all, a good recipe for a home day.

When I was at school I craved home days. If I merely had a headcold I was dosed up on vitamin C and sent along to school with a hanky & a packet of butter menthol lozenges, just like my class mates. We couldn’t afford too many days off school, we might fall behind! The only way to get a home day was to vomit, then I’d have a special bed made for me on the couch where I’d lie watching videos & sipping lemonade through a straw.

My children aren’t of school age yet, but already I know they can afford to miss out on school. Not just on the days they’re unwell, they can miss out on school every day because they’re simply not going to fall behind.

Our sick day today has gone like this:

We’ve collected some firewood from around the property to light the fire. Even though it’s not a particularly cold day I’ve decided to light the fire because I subscribe to Rudolph Steiner’s theories about warmth. The energy my children don’t have to put into maintaining their core temperature is energy they’ll have to put into healing, growing, learning & just being. Today, because they’re unwell I thought it was even more important to take care of their warmth & light the fire to take the chill out of the air inside our home. Wonderland is a chilly house, often colder inside than it is outside. The sproggets spent some time lazily basking in the Winter sun on the deck while I folded washing. Once the washing was folded & put away the sproggets played in The Bubble’s toy/bedroom while I started making a chicken soup for our lunch. The sproggets have just finished their soup & are playing very quietly while I finish my food & type this blog post. In a moment we’ll wipe our noses yet again & hop in to the big bed for a snuggly afternoon sleep.

They’re not going to fall behind anyone or anything, they’ve been learning all along, just like we all do.

The big bed, all ready for us to snuggle & get well together...

Playing along with Owlet’s Unschool Monday.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (2)

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…

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (5)

Spontaneous Learning: Alphabet Blocks

This afternoon as I sat down for a short rest on the couch between cleaning, (children’s) crafting & general sprogget parenting duties Babyman approached me whimpering & crying while climbing on me to poke me in the chest & tell me he wanted “more”.

I somewhat resentingly breastfed him, why can’t I have just 5 minutes peace?! My wish was his command, he promptly fell asleep & stayed asleep when I rolled him off me onto the couch. The Bubble had been playing in her room & noticed Babyman had stopped crying. She must have also noticed that his crying wasn’t replaced by his common Babyman chatter because she asked me if he was asleep, & then on hearing that he was, she asked me if I would like to join her in the game she was playing.

Even though I was tired & wanted nothing more than to stare at the wall for 5 minutes while no one talked to (or at!) me, I siezed the opportunity for some time to connect with The Bubble, who has found this transition to a new home & new town quite difficult. She’s feeling the isolation, & she’s acutely aware of the stress Bean & I are under at the moment as we transition to a (hopefully wonderful) life in the Great Southern.

The game The Bubble was playing was with some alphabet blocks my Mum gave her for her first birthday almost 3 years ago. The blocks have letters & numbers on them, as well as pictures of things beginning with the corresponding letters. She was arranging them so the pictures were all facing her. She asked me to help her with that. After I’d turned a few blocks for her she handed me a block with a picture of an igloo on it and asked me what it was.

I told her it was a house made of ice, which is called an igloo. She picked up a block with a traditional looking brick house on it & asked if it was like that house. I told her it wasn’t and explained again what an igloo was. I suggested we get my laptop and look on the internet for some pictures of igloos.

Looking at photos of igloos led to questions about who lives in igloos, which led to looking at photos of Eskimos in traditional dress. Feeling satisfied with all she’d learned about Eskimos and igloos The Bubble then handed me a block with a peacock on it.

We looked up pictures of peacocks and she was fascinated. I decided to check youtube for a video of a peacock doing a mating dance. Bingo! She watched the peacock strut about wiggling its bottom & ruffling its beautiful feathers, then watched the peacock walking about with its tail feathers down, scratching at the ground much like a domestic chicken.

Next up was an octopus. We looked at photos of octopi, which she told me reminded her of starfish. The first time The Bubble saw a starfish was in the water at South Beach in Fremantle, a small sandy coloured starfish. The next one was a larger, vibrant blue starfish in an aquarium at the WA Museum in Albany.

We also looked up pictures of icecream sundaes, snails, angels, nurses & other things she already knew about, simply because it was such a novelty for her to have a bit of control over what showed up on my laptop screen which is usually not something she has access to.

After about 15 minutes I redirected the play back to the blocks & packed the computer away. The Bubble’s interest in the blocks continued after Babyman woke up, while I vacuumed & mopped the loungeroom & until Bean came home from work much later than usual. After the initial excitement of Bean’s homecoming she was back to the blocks which she continued to sort into various groups that made sense to her, stopping only for dinner & a brief “Hello” when Bean’s parents came to lend us their car. She left the blocks on the coffee table in the loungeroom before she went to bed, so I did too. She’s obviously not done with them so I’ve decided to leave them where she left them & see if she picks up her game again tomorrow.

This was pure natural learning in action, I didn’t suggest the game, I had nothing to do with it until I was invited to. It felt great to observe, & I felt blessed to have been invited to be a part of it.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comment (1)

Unschooling unfolding

Last night we bought cupboard locks for the kitchen because I’m sick of saying “no” to my children & I’ve had enough of being hyper-vigilant in case they open the cupboards & play with the (breakable) crockery or the rubbish & (breakable) recycling.

As Bean was fitting them I felt a sense of calm & relief come over me, followed by a sense of uncertainty. Feeling calm & relieved about placing restrictions on my children’s freedom isn’t very “unschooling” of me. Shouldn’t I just be more calm about it & let them explore their environment with complete freedom so they can get it out of their systems & move on?!

This weekend we’re planning to erect a makeshift fence of chicken wire to enclose the large deck & a section of yard around the deck so the children can freely go outside & come back inside without me and so I don’t have to supervise their outdoor play.

There are 3 dogs, including our own, at the property Wonderland is a part of, there is a very large pond (verging on “small dam”!)  at the house closest to us & the 2 other houses may also have hazards unkown to us in their immediate vicinity so I feel reluctant to give the sproggets complete freedom to roam free range on the property. As vigilant as we are with Dave’s training, and as calm as the other dogs appear to be, dogs are still wild animals & either sprogget could easily do something that triggers a prey drive or a frightened or aggressive response in a dog so I like to supervise their play with the dogs. The pond is a big concern for me, I didn’t realise before we moved here that there was a path leading directly from our back deck to such a large, unfenced body of water. Babyman has already made his way to the pond of his own accord, and luckily he was followed by The Bubble who alerted the caretaker (whose house it is) to their presence. I was in the toilet at the time, it took Babyman less than 30 seconds to get there!  Hazards aside, I don’t want the sproggets at the other houses if the people who live in them haven’t explicitly invited them.

Thinking about this, these things we’re doing to make my life easier, I feel reassured that in restricting their freedom I’m able to give the sproggets more freedom, ironically. Making the areas of the kitchen that are dangerous, or even inconvenient, for them to access mean I can relax when they are in the kitchen area (which is right between their playroom & the loungeroom) instead of hovering over them being the oppressive “no” woman. Making an enclosed yard will give them the freedom to choose when they play outside & when they play inside. I can stay inside & do my thing while they play outside, knowing they’re not rolling about on a dog or putting their arms in his mouth to see if he’ll bite, knowing they’re not headed for the pond, knowing they’re in a safe area that still has plenty of interesting nooks for them to explore. As an added bonus, enclosing the yard will also give the guinea pigs a bit of relief from the salivating dogs who sit next to the cage watching them intently, trying to work out how to get in the cage & enjoy a guinea pig feast!

At first I thought unschooling was about total freedom which I feel uncomfortable giving to such young children, but on further thought, I see unschooling as freedom in widening circles. As I learn to trust our environment, & the children’s ability to be safe in that environment, I am able to let go of a little bit of control & they are able to gain a little bit more freedom – their circle widens. The sproggets are both still so young, and so their circle of freedom is currently quite small. I don’t believe it’s oppressively small though, in fact since moving to Wonderland where all of a sudden there is a lot more space available to the sproggets, I feel I’ve had to be more oppressive than I’d like to be in order to keep them safe. Their circle of freedom got too wide, too quickly & it’s been a bit of a shock to us all. In fencing the yard & securing the kitchen cupboards, we’re able to reign in the “too big” circle of freedom & get back into a “just right” circle of freedom.

Unschooling is unfolding in our home all the time. Slowly, as the sproggets get older, as Bean & I learn to trust. As we learn to trust them, learn to trust ourselves & learn to trust the journey.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (6)

Unschool Monday: New to this…

When I was pregnant with The Bubble I filled out an application to a Steiner school I’d long before set my heart on for my children, whoever they may be, and whenever they may come. The Bubble’s conception was not even a little bit consciously planned, and yet I’d known ever since I first heard of Steiner education that whenever the time did come for me to have children I would enroll them at this particular Steiner school. So the form, all filled out excepting our baby’s name & sex, sat on our mantel piece for a couple of months just waiting for the day our child was born so I would know what sex, and what name, to add before sending it off to secure our family’s place in that school community.

By contrast, when I first heard some friends were homeschooling I made the usual narrow-minded & prejudiced judgement that homeschooling is something dumb country hicks do…

“Ahhhmm goan-ahh teach mah kids evryfink ahhh noe, dey don’ need noe enyfing else.”

It took about a year, from then, for Bean & I to decide homeschooling, particularly unschooling, was for our family!

I’d known for a long time that homeschooling was an option some people chose. Some weird people… I had myself convinced that doing school work at home would be:

a) boring & isolating for the children

b) hard work for the parent/s

To be honest, I still have myself convinced of this. Following a curriculum would be boring, isolating & hard work, I think, which is why unschooling looked so perfect when we met people who were doing it.

At the time we decided to take on homeschooling we’d been taking The Bubble to playgroup at the Steiner school for a year. We felt disenchanted with the experience, it wasn’t what we had hoped, and we were also baulking at the cost of sending our children to that school. By then we had 2 sproggets, we’re not planning any more, but what if we do have more sproggets? How could we afford to send 2 (or more) children there?! We had been through the whole process of kindy application – interviews with the teacher, information sessions with someone else, more information sessions with another someone else – & The Bubble had been offered a place at the kindy for this year when we decided Bean needed to take a mental health day (skip work) so we could go along to a homeschooling meet up.

That first homeschooling meet was the last gentle nudge we needed in the direction of homeschooling. We went home & drafted our un-acceptance letter to the Steiner school. Thanks for the offer of a place at kindy, but no thanks.

At that meet we spoke with warm hearted people who gave candid, honest accounts of their experiences as natural learning/homeschooling/life learning/unschooling families. Feeling lighter for having made our decision, I took the sproggets along to the next meet, and the next, and the next… We have days where I wonder what the hell I’m thinking, doing this whole homeschooling thing, and yet most of the time I feel sure, just as I did at the beginning, that this is right for us.

As for “unschooling”, it’s a word I’ve struggled with. I don’t know why, I guess it just sounds too rebellious? Maybe it’s my “softly softly” approach, not wanting to offend people who choose school, they might think it negative? Maybe it’s simply that there is still the word “school” within it? Yet I don’t care for “homeschooling” as a description of what we’ve chosen either. “Homeschooling” is too broad. Homeschoolers take many approaches. There are at least as many different styles of homeschooling as there are different kinds of schools. Other homeschooling families in our natural learning network often refer to themselves as unschoolers. I still feel like it isn’t the greatest word to describe our approach, though reading this quote,

In response to the question, “Wouldn’t the term ‘natural learning’ be more affirming than the use of the negative in the term ‘unschooling’?” Suzanne Carter, a poet and homeschooling mom, wrote:

“Lots of people make this point, but I never see the negation as negative in a value-judgment sense when I use the word–to me unschooling is as positive as unchaining, unbinding, unleashing, unfolding, unfurling, unlimiting….”“All mean freedom and growth and vast possibilities to me.”

from here, has endeared me to the term a lot more. It still doesn’t feel like a perfect fit, no other description does either (natural learning, life learning, homeschooling, free-schooling) but it feels like the closest we’ll get to a perfect fit. It’s a simple, one word label to describe our homeschooling approach, at least to those who understand the term. Of course there will be differences in the way unschooling looks in our family to the way it looks in another family, but the basics of the approach are the same. Who knows? Maybe it’ll fit more comfortably as time passes, like wearing in a new pair of boots.

Inspired by Owlet.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (3)

Wilde’s in Wonderland

We have named our new home “Wonderland”. The whole property is named something else, yet we have decided to dub our part of it Wonderland because of a white rabbit that led us up the path to our home a couple of weeks ago, just after we’d signed the lease, when we brought the outlaws around to have a look.

We were driving up the bumpy, gravel driveway when we had to stop for a very white (obviously escaped domestic, not wild) rabbit in the path. The rabbit hopped off rather slowly, but we knew we were turning off the main driveway onto the track leading to our new place soon & thought it would continue along the main driveway. Just as we thought we’d be able to get past the rabbit it dashed across the front of the car & hopped up the path to our place. WONDERLAND!

So Wonderland is an owner built place on 12 acres about 15km from Albany and 40km from Denmark. A very beautiful spot. The part of the property that Wonderland is on is native bush, surrounding properties have paddocks which make good firebreaks so I feel more comfortable about having bush so close to the house. There’s 3 other houses on the same property. So far I’ve only met the caretaker, who lives closest to us, and Bean has met one of the people who live in the other house. The owners now live closer to Perth, and come to stay at the property for a few days each month. Wonderland used to be their family home. I’m told there’s quite a community aspect here. There is a shared vegie patch & there is a sweat lodge not far from the house we’re in. I’m hoping to see evidence of that soon, I’m craving a bit of community.

The house is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of little (& not so little) bits about it that I don’t like so much. There are a lot of energy guzzling downlights which can’t be changed to a lower energy light very cheaply & heaps of single glazed glass making the place cold which make it quite unsustainable, I find this challenging because we’re really keen to limit our environmental impact & I worry that we may actually use more electricity here than we did in Perth!

It’s also not as “safe” as I’d like, though we just have to learn the hazards and behave accordingly (children included). There’s decks on 2 sides of the house which get slippery when wet (which is often!) and Babyman fell backward off the lower deck into a bush yesterday morning & again off another part of the deck trying to navigate some outside stairs today. Inside, there’s stairs to a loft (baby gate already in place so that’s less of a concern now), there’s a tile fire, the kitchen is wide open which we’re not used to (getting cupboard locks for the glass containing cupboards tomorrow). I feel like I’m spending all my time at the moment saying “no” and “not safe”, or nursing an injured child. The Bubble split her lip open last evening, that was a production, she went as white as a sheet Last night she woke up in hysterics 4 times, taking at least 30 minutes to console each time, she was in a lot of pain. She was trying to ride the wheely bug from the kitchen into the sunken lounge. I’d told her so many times yesterday that the wheely bug isn’t to be at the top of steps in case it falls down the steps while someone is riding it, it always has to be on the low side because that’s safest. Each time she’d snarl at me & I’d tell her I’d take the toy away if she kept playing with it dangerously because I didn’t want to see her hurt. I put it in the lounge but last evening she got it up into the kitchen again while we were sorting out dry nappies for Babyman & she rode the it off the step at a fast pace and hurt herself. There was a lot of blood & she was clearly in shock. I suppose she had to learn the hard way though, she’s that kind of person, she often hurts herself doing things I’ve suggested she not do. I gave her a lot of homoeopathic arnica (after years of studying & practicing herbal medicine I still don’t know how much I believe in homoeopathics to be honest, but the pillules give an injured or sick child something else to think about for a short time so they’re effective as distractions if nothing else), & she eventually settled for the night with Bean in her bed cuddling & consoling her. This morning her lip looked much better already & she didn’t seem bothered by it.

Anyway, back to Wonderland… There are other things about the house that are amazing. I love the tile fire for being beautiful in the same breath that I don’t like it for its inefficiency & dangerousness! The bush surrounding the house make it a beautiful environment for a home. The loft looks out into the tree tops, which is simply beautiful and it has a window in the roof which is nice for star gazing, I will certainly do this when I build my own place although I’ll use double glazed glass. There is some beautiful stained glass about the place too. I’ll take some pictures another time & upload them to the blog, for now there’s no use because it’s night time & there is no sun streaming through the stained glass. The toilet is separate from the rest of the house (combined bathroom, laundry, toilet area) which I have wanted for ever so long because Bean is smelly! The water supply is from a spring fed dam, and is amazing to bathe in, I’ve noticed we all have softer skin & hair since being here. Dave loves it here too. There are other dogs for him to play with & with all those unsustainable windows he can see into the house well so he doesn’t feel so isolated from us when we’re inside. He needs a kennel though, he’s currently got a cardboard box with a sheepskin in it for a bed, which is warm enough now but it’ll get colder. He’s also slowly chewing the edges of it, so he’ll end up without a home soon enough at the rate he’s going!

My absolute favourite bit about Wonderland though, and this is very daggy, is that our street runs off a road called “Old School Road” – there’s a place for sale on Old School Road and if I was rich & frivolous I’d buy it just for the address (and the fact that it’s an alpaca stud & alpacas are quite awesome).

We’ve not connected with any homeschoolers down here yet, I have sent countless emails to the Albany group co-ordinator but had no response, and Bean’s spoken with her on the phone but she was pretty non-committal, & just told him to email her! I think the homeschool network in Albany is largely made up of curriculum homeschoolers, & the fact that we’re natural learners/unschoolers/life learners/whatever makes us not really fit the mould for that particular group. No matter, we’ve got a plan to write a little homeschooling “personals” note out & put it on noticeboards around Albany & Denmark calling for people to network with. If there’s a natural learning network down here I’ll find them & if there isn’t already a regular natural learners meet up in the Great Southern I’ll do my very best to get one happening!

I did run into an old friend at the petrol station last week, and she’s given me her phone number so I’d like to tee up a catch up with her. She homebirthed her children, co-slept, full term breastfed, & carried them in slings (except when performing her whip-cracking show) & though I have no idea of her approach to education (bearing in mind I’m looking for playdates during the weekdays), I always felt comfortable with the way she treated her first daughter when we hung out before I had children so I’m excited to have seen her so soon after we moved her. I knew she was living in Albany, & had hoped I’d run into her sooner or later.

It’s taking time to find our feet, and I feel like I started with my cup already empty after our stressful 2 week stay with the outlaws, so with no way of filling my cup down here yet I’m finding myself feeling pretty low and questioning the sanity of this whole move.

The children aren’t coping so well. Babyman is ok really, although he’s feeding VERY often, every time he comes near me he pokes my chest and says “more”, he’s very insistent. It’s doing my head in actually, it’s no secret how much I hate breastfeeding, and without exaggeration he’d be feeding every 20-30 minutes during the day with the longest night time breaks being about 2 hours. The Bubble is really struggling, she needs kids to play with. She’s such a social child, and she hasn’t been to a playgroup for over a month now! She’s been doing attention seeking things like drawing on the furniture & the floors after Babyman drew on the walls. She tells me she doesn’t like me, she snarls at me, she tells me her Daddy does everything better than me & that she doesn’t want me to live with her anymore, she yells & rages and then she cries, tells me she does like me and asks for a cuddle. She’s needing Bean in her bed most nights. Her bedroom is lovely, I’ve made a point of creating a safe space for her to play & relax, hers was the first room to be unpacked and set up when we moved in. She’s gradually telling me she likes her new house so I just need to organise some playtime for her.

My sister and her 2 children came to stay for a couple of nights last week, which was wonderful, the children had playmates & I had a likeminded & beautiful person to chat with, although it wasn’t really for long enough unfortunately. They have recently moved from Perth to the Margaret River region (they have lived there before) so she understands the stress of a long distance move. We ate such amazing food, my sister is a fantastic wholefoods cook & I think it’s such a treat to eat meals prepared by her. She has such a flair with flavours & she’s not afraid to try something bold, where I’m much more conservative with my cooking. It was quite inspiring.

Speaking of food, we’ve found a gorgeous little organic food store in Albany, organic fresh produce is more expensive here than we were getting it for in Perth, the prices for certified organic at the farmers markets are outright ridiculous & the other stalls don’t sell organic so it’s good to find the store which is open 6 days/week. The bulk produce is often cheaper there than in Perth. Rice is $8/kg there & it’s $10/kg minimum in Perth. The people who run it are lovely, they used to run an organic orchard in Perth & were involved with the City Farm farmer’s market from its inception. They sell Jersey bath milk that is at least 1/3 cream, some weeks it’s been 1/2 cream, it’s just divine!

Bean was officially signed up for his apprenticeship again today. No idea where he stands with Tafe stuff & how long until he’ll have his licence sorted out, but he’s getting closer to it every day obviously.

That’s about all the updating I have energy for tonight, it’s already getting late again.

posted by wildecrafted in education,home,journal and have No Comments