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.

 

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unschooling is not exclusive

A lot of my unschooling posts could very easily be labelled “parenting”, “things my kids do”, “kids”, “learning in general”, “journal”, “day in the life”… you get the idea.

That’s because natural learning isn’t exclusive to unschoolers. Everyone learns naturally, whether they’re 8 months old, 8 years old, 18 years old, 80 years old (again, you get the idea). Everyone learns naturally, whether they’re full time unschoolers, full time schoolers, full time workers, part time workers, part time schoolers, you know? Learning is one of those things we can’t escape, even if we wanted to!

I don’t mean to come off as exclusive when I write unschooling posts, and I certainly hope that I don’t. My aims in writing posts about unschooling are to explore (and record the development of) my own unschooling philosophy, and to share with my readers how boringly normal unschooling can be. Facilitating our children’s natural learning is not rocket science, it’s just parenting* really.

Obviously, my children are still quite young. If we were sending them to school Sprout would only be in kindy this year, and Moe wouldn’t be going for another couple of years, so while they’re not officially “school age” there’s probably going to be a lot of similarities between many of my unschooling posts & many other “Mummy blogger” posts. The posts where I discuss the evolution of our unschooling philosophies will be more typical of an unschooler’s blog, but those posts that describe how our days go, those “unschool Monday” posts where I waffle about painting, playdough, craft, story time at the library… well they’re just not exclusive – all Mummy blogs have those posts.

*Some days I do wonder whether rocket science is actually harder than parenting…

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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 – 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.

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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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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)

Play in the Park

This morning we went to the local library “story time” which is held at a park each Tuesday morning at the same time as a YMCA run program called “Play in the Park”.

It was nice for the sproggets to have other children to play with & it was nice for me to have a bit of breathing space from the unrelenting expectation they have had lately that I be solely responsible for their entertainment & enjoyment.

Aside from a brief “Hello” to a woman I know from activist circles in Perth, I didn’t really speak to anyone. All of the other people there clearly knew at least one other person, the parents had all separated off into smaller groups they obviously felt comfortable being in & it felt too hard to attempt infiltrating one, or more, of the groups.

I sat with the sproggets while the story was being read. It was hard to hear the voice of the woman reading the story because it was being drowned out by the voices of parents standing around the perimeter of the gazebo talking. I thought that was inconsiderate & can’t imagine going along to a story time only to be talking over the presesnter.

I had thought it would be a good opportunity to meet some local parents, and I suppose it is, but today I didn’t see anyone who felt likeminded. Every single one of the little girls was in a pink “little girl uniform”, head to toe pink with lots of frills, sparkles & impractical pouffy bits. I know pink is the accepted colour code for “girl” in Western countries, but I do still feel a bit alien when I’m at family events teaming with children in their gender uniforms. It’s not what I’m used to & it’s not what feels right to me. There was no one else there with a sling, no one breastfeeding older babies & children, no one who looked like a “kindred spirit” as Anne Shirley would say. I felt a little odd breastfeeding Babyman there, which is not something I ever felt at the playgroups we went to in Perth. Granted they were all natural learning & natural parenting playgroups while this one is open to anyone, but I never thought I’d feel so alien around other parents.

We’ll go again to the story time at the library this Thursday, and we’ll return to the park next week in the hope of meeting some friends because any socialising is better than none, but it’d be a lie to say I’m not a bit disappointed. I suppose I expected too much.

I have asked Bean to go around town & pull down the flyers we put up a couple of weeks ago calling out for other homeschooling families to make contact. I had a call today from the previous tennant of Wonderland asking me to take his dog for him! He got my number from one of the flyers & I’m a bit put out that he contacted me actually. The flyers we wrote were clearly requesting homeschoolers to contact us, there was no mention of my number being a free-for-all. I don’t appreciate receiving an unsolicited call from a virtual stranger (we met briefly at a store he works at but we didn’t even exchange names, just made the connection that we’d moved in to the house he’d just moved out of) asking me to take his dog simply because we live where he used to live! Feeling a bit vulnerable to more unsolicited contact I’ve decided I don’t want my number “out there” anymore. That will make it harder to find other unschoolers in the area, but it will give me piece of mind.

It might be time to register a new email account for a Great Southern unschooling collective & make up some new, more annonymous flyers.

posted by wildecrafted in education,journal and have No Comments

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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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.

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