Thursday, October 24, 2013

A long awaited update

Stylish has reentered formal education. She is studying Captive Animals Cert III through Open Universities. It's a course that the Sydney TAFE offers. She's completed two subjects and really enjoyed them and we're about to re-enroll her for the next term. She is also exploring art. We have discovered that she is really artistic. She loves painting with water colour and she draws very well too. We buy a second hand frame at the tip shop and frame her favourites.

Spike is enjoying his reading eggs in fits and spurts. He's keen to know how to read but not so keen on the learning process. I figure the former will override the latter sooner or later. He's also taking a keen interest in gardening but not fruit and veg like the rest of us, he likes growing flowers. We made him a shelf out the back so he can put his pots there. So far he has remembered to water them everyday. 

Angus is entering that real imaginative play age. He loves pretending to cook food and telling us it's hot so we burn ourselves. He's quite interested in learning to read and he loves reading stories with us too. He's just stared going on Poisson Rouge but it's slow going. I'd forgotten just how slow going it is. The hand eye coordination to use a mouse is tricky for beginners. 

And since I last blogged we have welcomed A new person into the family. Hamish joined us on my birthday which was also Mother's day. He's a very jolly fat thing who likes gargling and rolling over. He also likes his brothers, sister, the chickens and booby. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Angient Egypt meets lego

Last night Spike was inspired to build a lego pyramid so we did just that! He insisted we have a picture of a pyramid to base out building on which wasn't too hard since I've been stockpiling books about Ancient Egypt since before the pyramids were built. 

We built our pyramid and then decided we needed a Pharaoh and a burial party and a selection of goodies for the Pharaoh to take into the afterlife with him. 

Here you can see the Pharaoh's Eye of Horus Amulets, his precious jewels, his statues of Anubis, his throne, his canonic jars containing all his organs (they're the lego heads) and his torch.

The pyramid, burial party (complete with slaves who are ready to drink poison and serve the Pharaoh in the afterlife) and all the afterlife necessities. 

The Pyramid

So a fun time was had by all, and today we're going to print out some colouring in and prepare a paper pharaoh for burial since you just don't get tired of this stuff ....

A long awaited update!

I've been so slack updating blogs this year! In my defence it has been a big year for writing other things, including some unschooley articles amongst other stuff. 

So life has been continuing as it does even when you don't update your blog. The kids have really found their feet in our new house, they've met friends, explored the neighbourhood, helped grow food (some of them even help eat it) and I feel like they're really growing into themselves, it's a joy to behold! 

This weekend Stylish is away on a youth group camp with a bunch of local kids. She's been going to the youth group every friday night and she seems to have a great time despite all the religious talk which she seems rather resistant to. 

A month or so ago her and a friend were browsing in a local second hand shop when they were asked if they could do some modelling in a fashion show that evening. I nearly choked on bile but figured it wasn't about me and if she want to do it I'd trust her judgement. She had a great night modelling some very nice clothing and since then she's been doing some work in the shop tagging clothes and doing other general jobs. She's only 14 so seeing her get all dressed up in work clothes and head off to the shop has come as a shock for me, but I can't help but feel a sense of pride at how responsible she's becoming. 

We took Spike to see the local production of The Wind in the Willows yesterday and despite grumbling about it beforehand he had the time of his life. He thought Toad was hilarious and he clapped along to all the songs with a big grin on his face. 

A few weeks ago we were in a department store when we found mini frying pans that were all different colours. Of course Spike wanted a blue one. That night he very proudly made his own scrambled eggs with corn and peas (as illustrated above). He's also made crumpets (below) and small pancakes in it and at some point I'll help him make some fried rice. He also loves cooking in the thermomix and often asks me if we can make something in it so we whip up a cake. We're hoping his love of cooking will at some stage morph itself into a love of eating!

Angus has grown so much! He's two now and walking and talking up a storm. He's still a climber and a chucker much to our "delight" and he has a horrible penchant for thumping people at the moment - which we assume he will grow out of some time before he's 15. His current obsession is the movie Cars and all the characters. Most nights he goes to sleep while he plays racing tracks on the boob with Lightening McQueen or Mater. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The School Year Begins, Unschooling Goes on as Usual

Spike would be heading off to school this year if we were a schooling family. Instead he's teaching himself to read and write, playing cricket, and gardening. We just got home from a holiday with fishing, canoeing, much sight seeing, wildlife everywhere, swimming, and lots of precious family time. Seeing him doing the stuff he does just makes me so certain that unschooling is the way forward. There's no way I could take him somewhere full of strangers, wearing strange clothes, wave him goodbye and leave him there. It wouldn't feel right.

I remember when Stylish started school I felt wretched. It felt wrong on so many levels but I couldn't have begun to understand why. I wasn't an attachment parent - although I tried hard to be gentle and thoughtful I didn't understand attachment - and everyone I knew sent their kids to school. My parents were teachers my partner's parents were teachers, school was normal and expected. It was a new stage in life to be embraced. But I never really embraced it, I just kept forcing myself to keep sending her, denying the rumblings from every fibre in myself.

Now I've been unschooling for over three years I just squirm when I hear about children crying on their first days at school and mothers with broken hearts waving bravely from the gate. How have we come to deny our feelings to such an extent that we ignore primal instincts to protect our small children? Why do we believe that forcing children so small and helpless to be independent of us is the only way they will ever learn independence? I understand that children adjust to schooling and it becomes their way of life, but that still doesn't make it right.

My heart really goes out to those mamas and babies who have no choice but to school. I am painfully aware that I'm extremely lucky to own my own house and have no debt that would require me to seek employment for money. I work from home and earn a small amount of money that I hope will one day be a little more generous but I've chosen to go without financial glory because being rich doesn't mean my life is enriched whereas unschooling, vegetable gardening, living slowly, does make me richer!

I really hope that all the children who have just started school will enjoy their years within the institution, and I hope that the mothers of unhappy schooled children will find their way home ... to unschooling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dora the What?

When I was a kid I loved my My Little Ponies (MLP). This is one I used to have It's kinda pony like, it's got a mane and a tail,  maybe it's a bit sappy, but you get the idea. I had a play set that went with them too, it was an apple stand, ponies like apples so that kinda makes sense. I really wanted the hot air balloon so my MLP's could go adventuring but my mum said it was too expensive for a pile of plastic that was made by child slaves. 

This morning I had kids tv on and there was an ad for a MLP. It looked like this.

That's not really pony like, unless it's a pony from the far reaches of outer space. Admittedly the MLP of the 1980s is a rather abstract interpretation of an equine creature but the MLP of the 1980s was seriously lacking in one area. SEX APPEAL. Yes that' right. The modern MLP has been SEXIFIED!  Its body is thinner, its legs are longer and thinner, its eyes are ... well they're kinda hard to describe given that they're on a pink plastic pony, but at a stretch they're sexy!

Wow! That's pretty stupid right!?

So the next ad was for a Dora the Explorer toy. 

But I think I must have missed something somewhere, because Dora is an EXPLORER, not a ballerina! And Dora is a chubby little girl, not a skinny long legged thing. Call me crazy, but isn't exploring, and going on adventures more interesting than ballet? Granted some ballerinas have wonderful careers, and ballet is fantastic, but it's not about cutesy, fluffy tutus, it's about strength, creative expression, often a tragic love story, but not frou frou.

Soooo the next ad was for some strange rodent like thing. It's probably a hamster but we don't get them in Australia as far as I know, we get guinea pigs so for the sake of familiarity I'll refer to them as such.

Finally something that's not sexified! Unless there are some sexy legs hiding underneath that fur. But! There had to be a but (or two in this case) when you look at the play sets, these are apparently SHOPPING guinea pigs! Guinea pigs who like fashion and accessorising! Perish the thought of them just living like normal guinea pigs! ALL little girls love to shop and wear fashion so it's appropriate that toy guinea pigs like it too if little girls are going to play with them. You wouldn't want to stretch the imagination would you. Adventuring guinea pigs would be uncool, no one would like them EXCEPT

BOYS!!! Boys like guinea pigs that BATTLE and have missiles strapped to them!

Yes, that's right. Angry, armed to the teeth, battling guinea pigs!!!

Gee. I wonder why there is such a high divorce rate? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How big is a whale and other important questions.

For some time now Spikee has been comparing how big thing are to how big a whale is. I decided it was time to actually show him how long whales are so after some quick googling we found measurements for bluewhales, hump back whales, orcas, whale sharks, great white sharks, and finally the humble dolphin. 

We wrote all our information down on a bit of paper and headed to the park with some chalk and a tape measure. We drew a chalk line to mark the place we started measuring from and then drew another line every 5 metres until we hit the 30m mark, and the length of a blue whale, then we added all the other animals to our line.

He was quite impressed by how big they are, even though he had believed they were bigger, and the rest of us were rather daunted by the length of a great white. I knew they were big at 6.5m, but looking at that distance made me even more certain that I love swimming in pools!

I'm reading the first Harry Potter book to Spikee and he's really loving it. He has traded in his Superman cape temporarily, in exchange for some Harry Potter glasses and a wand. We're going to see if we can find some material and sew him a cape. He loves dressing up so much, far more than Stylish ever did, and this week he is refusing to answer to any name but Harry (given we'd only just gotten used to calling him Superman it's presenting us with quite a challenge)

Stylish has finally decided to give Harry Potter a go, and has read The Philosopher's Stone in two days flat. She's starting The Chamber of Secrets tonight. I think that seeing the movie really piked her interest. We've seen all the movies together, but the final one really seemed to awaken something in her. When asked this morning if she preferred the movie or the book, she had to confess to thinking the book was better. 

Stylish has been so creative with her frog tanks lately. She really adores her frogs. I'm told there are 7 of them, two species. She's been finding all her ferns and mossy branches at the park down the road, and she found a heap of good stuff when we had our snow hunting picnic. 

She also has a scorpion that came home on some drift wood she found at the beach. The scorpion is quite fascinating, it's quite enjoying its' diet of cockroaches (stow aways from Sydney), and we all love seeing it grab hold of them and poison them - maybe we're sadists, or maybe we've just lived with a few too many cockroaches!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Word Count

It seems that Angus has really started talking and I thought I should write a list of his words while I can still count them!

Na Na Na (which is booby for some reason!?)
La la la (like Elmo's song)
Ernie (Bert and Ernie)

Most mornings he wakes us up by saying La La La, so we end up singing Elmo's song to him, every time he's anywhere near the fire he says "ot ot ot ot" very seriously,  and when I'm carrying him he likes to say "up" lots. I just love this stage! I can't believe we're planning a 1st birthday party already.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My kids could have been at school

Today we woke up with next to nothing planned. We decided to make the best of the winter by taking a picnic lunch and setting out to find some snow. We drove towards the Tahune rainforest and took the Hartz  Mountain turnoff.

It's all dirt road from the turnoff. We probably drove about fifteen minutes up the narrow road until we turned a corner and suddenly there was snow beside the road. There was no shortage of excited squeals from the back of the car. 

We kept driving until we couldn't go any further. The front bumper bar was dragging through snow and it was thick on either side of the tyres from 4wd vehicles before us. We left the car in the middle of the road and clambered out of the car to have a look.

We all threw some snowballs and climbed up the side of the road in the slippery white snow, loosing our footing when we weren't expecting it. Then we built a snow person and decorated it with bark, stones, and my scarf. Angus told us that the snow was "hot" which we assume was because his hands were burning from holding a little piece of it.

After we tired of snow we had to drive in reverse to get down again, there was nowhere to do a U turn safely in the snow.  We reversed a couple of km's and then found somewhere dry to turn easily. Then we headed for the picnic ground.

The picnic ground is such a pristine area, just outside the national park. We set up camp at a table there, ate our lunch, which was sausage sandwiches on homemade bread with baby rocket and home laid eggs with balsamic vinegar, chocolate and shortbread. 

Then we lit a fire using lots of wood that we found on the ground. It was quite wet so it took a good while to get it going, but once we did it definitely took the chill away. It was probably about 5C.  Then the big kids ran around and explored, finding lots of cool stuff down by the river for Stylish's frog tanks, and playing with toy cars, and Angus and A and I kept warm by the fire. Angus had lots of booby. 

In keeping with out new unschooling of food, I handed out liberal servings of shortbread biscuits as we headed to the picnic spot, and Spikee happily ate two home laid boiled eggs for his lunch.

THIS is why we moved here! In Sydney 20mins driving would take us to a large shopping centre ... here it takes us to a National park and in winter, to snow. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unschooling all of life

Banana and chocolate muffins

I often say to people that unschooling is easy, it's just LIFE, and with all of our lives we do unschool except one. Food. So now I've decided to take the plunge. What clocked me over was when I caught myself saying "but that wouldn't work for my kids". 

I was instantly reminded of all the people I've heard saying exactly the same thing only about unschooling. It was a light bulb moment for me. Since then I've been going over it in my head quite regularly. I've come to the conclusion that it might work with my kids!

They self regulate bed time, dressing themselves, computer time, TV time ... the only thing we don't unschool is food. I've had the "that wouldn't work for my kids" broken record playing over and over for quite a while now.

Bliss balls with cacao, berries, and coconut

So why do I think it won't work? 
Because my son has a damaged gut and he maintains the unhealthy flora with sugar, yeast, and carbohydrate cravings. However he will willingly eat quite a number of healthy foods, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, eggs, and nuts to name a few. 

So why do I think it will work?
Because the idea that children are unable to self regulate is not supported by common sense, nor any facet of my son's life. 

Why do I want to do it?
Because I believe it will self regulate his eating, and balance his cravings for unhealthy food with healthy food.

So now that I've gotten that off my chest I have to learn more about how it works and do some planning so that we can start soon!

Sugar free berry cheesecake 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Natural Learning: firing on all cylinders!

Yesterday Spikee spent half an hour quizzing us about fire so today we did an experiment to show him how fire needs oxygen.

We got a 3 litre milk bottle and sawed the bottom off it. Then we stuck an candle into a jar so it wouldn't fall over. We filled the sink with water, put the candle / jar in it and lit the candle. Then we covered it with the bottle and watched as the flame went out. We did it again, and this time, as the flame dimmed we took the lid off the bottle and watched it spring back up again.

(Goofy grin anyone!?)

After that we went for a walk to the park. We did the platypus walk along the river and as we walked out onto the lookout we spotted a platypus! We stood transfixed, watching it dive down and come up somewhere new, for about 10 mins before Spikee announced that he wanted to go to the skate park. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ebb and Flow

I get about the online unschooling traps a bit, and one of the things I notice is a certain level of guilt about not facilitating consistently at all times. I know that I've felt it too! So lately I've been dissecting it a bit and I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

First off let's compare unschooling with school for just a moment. When children attend school there are holidays and weekends, and schooling parents don't feel guilty that their children aren't learning during those times (well some might, but we can't cover all bases). Also, schooled children take mental breaks throughout the day, every day they attend school! After all who can sit in a room being talked to non stop and not zone out, at least occasionally? So it's probably safe to compare the ebb periods with week ends or holidays or just plain daydreaming. There's nothing wrong with daydreaming! I bet some of the greatest inventions, novels, scientific theories etc were dreamed up when their creator was tuning out. 

Unschooling parents are most commonly schooled parents. I can make that assumption because the overwhelming majority of people in our society attend the institution for their education. To that end, we tend to have ingrained ideas of what education and learning should look like, and deschooling ourselves is a complicated and ongoing process that I suspect takes longer than we know, and may not ever be truly completed, although we may come close. (actually I think deschooling ebbs and flows too, but that's another post). Sometimes our kids are hell bent on extracting every bit of knowledge they can possibly attain through all manner of sources, and in those times we feel involved, virtuous, we feel as though our choice to unschool is paying off because we can measure their progress. But when they hit that brick wall and the ebb stage take over, us parents often feel a bit wobbly about it all. But you know what? It's impossible to live in a state of "nil learning". IMPOSSIBLE! Even though what they're learning may not outwardly appear educational, or it might not appear at all, they are still learning stuff. They really are!

School analogy: A kid may go to school all day and learn "nothing" (many of us have asked a schooled child what they learnt only to be told "nothing") But on the bus on the way home they learn about bus route, bus fare, reading timetables, it's just that the schooling parent might not notice that and assign it any value, but the unschooling parent does. Using public transport to navigate your way around the world is a really useful and worthy skill.

Right now we're on an ebb period. Sometimes I feel like I should go and razz the kids up, get them off their computer games and make them do something that my previously institutionalised, schooled self deems appropriate. And sometimes in the past I have done just that. But this time I'm not doing anything. I'm not standing in their way, I'm not banning them from Mario Brothers, I'm not telling them to go outside and play, and I'm certainly not handing them text books and expecting them to complete set exercises. Why? Well strike the text books off first, simply by saying that they voluntarily complete work in text books when they feel like it, if I go and force them to do it they won't enjoy the books anymore and they won't learn from them if they're just using them to get me off their case. As for going outside and playing, well they do that every day anyway. They walk the dog, they play chasings, they sometimes play a ball game and most days they engage is some loud wrestling match that disturbs the overall peace of the household significantly. 

I have a feeling we'll soon get flowing again.

the ebb, sleeping near Mario Brothers

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our classroom this week

our classroom is where the faeries live!

our classroom is where the frogs live

our classroom is cold!

our classroom is reflective

our classroom is in the kitchen

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gladiator fights in Antarctica!

Spikee has always been interested in history, and he recently discovered Gladiators. In keeping with our "channeling revolting habits into good things" modus operandi we thought this was the perfect outlet for his rough play.

We hired a book about gladiators from the library and discovered that people used to hire gladiators in the days before dvd hire shops. We learnt all about diet, life for fighters, training, various types of gladiators and how they fought and defended themselves and a whole heap of other stuff.

Then we found ourselves in possession of some foam swords and in order to "channel revolting habits" we organised a gladiator day!

The kids made shields and practiced sword fighting, and then A and I took denarii (chocolate melts) and chose which gladiator we'd like to hire. We examined their muscles and asked them what type of fight they entertained with. Then we took them to the Colosseum, placed our chocolate denarii bets and they fought while we cheered from the comfortable seating by the arena. A fun time was had by all ... even those involved in the dramatic throes of death.

Examining the Gladiators for hire. I selected a fine, fit gladiator and named her Gladiola.
The fierce and entertaining fighting!
A's gladiator Titus, is victorious whilst I jeer at Gladiola for her poor fighting performance.
At the end of the games I had won 8 denarii and A had won 10. We were kind ... we fed it all to the gladiators.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Literacy taking off!

Today we went for a drive to the shops and out of the blue Spikee piped up from the backseat "S is for Snake isn't it, Mum". Then he went through lots of words and told us what letter they started with for about another half hour. He is also getting really good at reading numbers thanks to all our UNO playing lately.

Stylish is enjoying guides more every week and starting to form some friendships with the other girls there, and her other friend will be coming to visit for a few weeks at around the time she turns 13. I'm sure they are already planning lots of mischief and steamy talks about spotty boys.

Angus is completely mobile now and crawls about the house baby proofing it for us. He has a new push along walking toy that he loves because he is able to stand up on it and hold on, but he's even starting to let go and balance for a very short time now. He is just off 8 months and is getting his fourth tooth in two weeks (top left), he isn't an easy teether, he's been miserable the poor little thing. He's currently fast asleep in my lap, wearing an all in one polar fleece suit with dinosaurs on it. I'm sure it's the height of baby fashion!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Adding to the family

Today we got some new furry friends for the kids. They really wanted something small and cuddly so we got them a guinea pig each. Spikee has called his "Atomic Betty Rat" and Stylish has called hers "Guiness" although owing to the beer reference she's thinking of renaming it when she thinks of a name.

Poor Spikee came off his bike at the park yestersay and has a HUGE bruise on his face, grazing and a cut the size of a 20c piece on the inside of his cheek. He's also got a badly grazed knee and a cut on his forehead from where the helmet hit the ground and quite frankly I'm very relieved he had it on. I was reading something not long ago about how helmets are no use. Well maybe they aren't in a collision with a car, but for falling off the bike when the dog wants your pink crocs .... they're ace. He would have cracked his skull without it, no question in my mind.

Stylish is very pleased about the guinea pigs, she's been hassling me to get rats for ages and I kept saying no because she used to let them run around the house, but now we have the pink croc chasing dog that's not really an option. The pet shop said the guinea pigs were skittish, but they look pretty tame to me, one in each lap as the kids watch a movie!

Angus is crawling all over the place, he has two teeth through and it threatening to get a new top one any day now. He is really miserable with the teething. He stands up on furniture now and is close to stepping around holding onto stuff. He is making all sorts of baby babble noises and is starting to wave. He loves it when we sit out in the garden and he can crawl around.

Yesterday we took advantage of a glorious Autumn day and drove down to Southport for a picnic. The kids ran up and down the beach finding shells and feathers. We also found dead squid like things that when you walk on them they ooze purple ink. That's why I assume they were like squid, they looked like seaweed other than that! We saw a starfish, and wallaby, penguin, crab and dog footprints which we're sure was edumacational for them. A has drilled holes through many of the shells and the kids are making necklaces out of them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Welcome to our classroom!

Our teachers are our family!
Our classroom is in the air (cable cars at Taronga zoo)
Our classroom is at the park

Our classroom is in the back yardOur classroom is in the chook shed
Our classroom is in the sun
Our classroom is in the mud

Our classroom is out the front

Our classroom is in the rain forest
Our classroom is a boat in the garden

Our classroom is in the bath.
Our classroom is in the creek
Our classroom is in the SPA BATH!
Our classroom is in the frog tank