Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Giftmas!

I can't believe xmas came around so fast, I guess being pregnant, and raising two children makes the time fly by faster than is conceivable!

We had a wonderful family feast with turkey, ham, pork, and chicken that was all free range! And plenty of salads, a potato salad, a green salad, and a pasta pesto salad made from home grown rocket and basil.

To top it off we had chocolate chunk and berry ice-cream made by Stylish. We put the ice cream in mini cones, dipped them in melted white chocolate and turned them upside down (so they'd look like xmas trees) and the kids decorated their with m+m's. The ice cream tasted like very cold chocolate mousse, it was really yummy!

Stylish spent the day making videos of everything on her new ipod, and Spikee is in love with his new ambulance toy - complete with sirens. Tonight we downloaded Pink albums for her while Spikee and I played his new dice game. The game is with the characters from the movie Cars, and instead of having numbers on the dice it has colours so it's perfect for him.

Today he got a pencil on a mini etch a sketch and began doing some writing. He did a couple of tidy and organised little scribbles in the way you write letters! Then showed us all his writing, there was no doubting what it was! I was about to take a photo of it when he had to wipe it off - darn it! I'll see if I can get him to do it again.

Two days ago we got some pet fish for Spikee and Stylish, and they're going really well. The tank looks amazing! We have a crocodile that's mouth opens and shuts and bubbles come out to aerate the tank, colourful green rocks, glowing eggs, and a weird sort of decoration that looks like ancient pillars with coral growing off them (Spikee chose that ....). It was an early giftmas present. Spikee is really enjoying the job of feeding them each morning and night and he talks to them and gives them updates on everything from the impending arrival of Santa to the fact that I stored some clean rocks for their tank on top of the fridge.

In two days we head off on our camping trip! We're spending two nights in a hotel on the way to Eden, and we'll stay in Eden for a week of fishing, swimming, and fun family times!!! We're so organised it's ridiculous. We've bought roof racks off eBay, and a camp kitchen and chairs and tables this year to add to our already impressive collection of "make camping luxurious" accessories.

Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to see Where The Wild Things Are while A packs the camping stuff and watches cricket whilst consuming beer. I can't wait! I can only imagine how excited the kids would be ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

old school .....

We've been going swimming at the local pool late in the afternoon. Two days ago we ran into a lovely girl that used to go to all Stylish's parties and whatnot. They swapped numbers and email addresses, so hopefully they'll catch up for a play soon.

Then today we went to the pool again and ran into a different child. She told Stylish that one of the girls they used to play with is pregnant. She is 12yrs old and pregnant. Now, the truth is that we don't know if that's reality or not, but either way it's terrible. If it's not true, it's sad because kids are spreading such shocking rumours about each other, if it's true, well what more do I need to say.

One of the reasons I pulled my daughter out of school was to protect her from the trouble she was starting to get into. One day she and the girl from the pool, the one who is reportedly pregnant, and another girl left the school. They went to the pregnant girl's house, played at their neighbour's house (they climbed through a hole in the fence), were fed fried chicken from a well known source, and black fizzy drink from another well known source. The mother then told them it was the end of lunch and that they could go back to school if they wanted. My daughter did want to, and was caught by a teacher, re-entering the school.

The girl's were nearly suspended over this event. They were put on what the prison politely terms "withdrawal suspension" where they had to go to another classroom for two days. My daughter was sent to the classroom of one of the most ridiculously "strict" teachers in the school. He made her spend two days facing the back of the classroom and told her off for turning around at any stage. The girls were also banned from playing at recess and lunch and had to sit in a classroom in silence, writing out the school rules.

I pointed out the the principal that these girls were old enough to know the school rules already, and that perhaps the school would be better off to work out WHY they had broken them. But that's just how schools do things apparently, and those are the rules. The fact is that my daughter was happy to leave the playground because several of the boys were relentlessly teasing her ... and getting away with it. The boys in question were putting sexual letters in our letter box, and prank calling us until midnight on Saturday nights. And when I reported this to the school? they informed me that they couldn't do anything about it because it wasn't happening in school time, or on school property.

Personally I believe the parent who allowed the girls to play in THE NEIGHBOUR'S YARD and fed them CRAP should have been bloody well charged with something or another, because her actions were wildly inappropriate.

And furthermore, how schools can claim to deal with bullying "HEAD ON" bewilders me, but it's whole other topic, I just thought it was a question worth posing at this stage of my rant.

So that explains some of the reasons I removed my child from the institution. But I didn't "know" when I did it that it was the right decision, I made that decision on impulse when I was dealing with massive grief (I lost a son and a very close friend within 6 months). It was a knee jerk reaction to a very bad, untenable, position, but it turned out to be the best one I ever made for my kids! Interestingly enough, as the last 18 months have progressed I've thought of more and more reasons to un-school them! I realised that removing her from that particular school wouldn't fix the problem, because when you take a child who is bullied from one school and put them in another school .... the cycle of abuse and bullying continues. I figured she'd find the same old kids in the new school, just wearing a different uniform.

It makes me very sad to think of a 12yr old child in such an environment that she is sexually active already. This whole situation makes me brutally aware of how I can only save one child, and that child is my own. If I manage to do that then I can be glad, but I will always wonder what became of the other girls who left school one lunch hour and triggered our un-schooling journey .....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

100th post!!!!!

I thought to celebrate our one hundredth post, I'd do a list of things we love about un-schooling!

  1. no uniforms
  2. no cut lunches going soggy
  3. no homework
  4. no bullying
  5. no comparisons with other kids
  6. no testing
  7. no learning boring stuff!
  8. no peer pressure
  9. no drop offs and pick ups
  11. learning about things that interest us
  12. gardening!
  13. it's easy to be a non consumer family!
  14. visiting museums, zoos etc when they're empty!
  15. maths at midnight, but only if you feel like it
  16. REAL socialisation with children from all walks of life and all ages
  17. FREEDOM!
  18. learning to think for ourselves
  19. learning to read between the lines
  20. holidays any time it suits us, not just when every one else is on holiday
  21. real, genuine relationships with each other
  22. learning life skills
  23. no need to fill time, it fills itself!
  24. kids at midwife appts, not at school!
  25. helpful, responsible, participating, happy, CHILDREN!!! Children, not sheeple!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

rats and restaurants .... not all at once

Stylish is full of amazing ideas for decorating her new room, and most of them involve prettying up the rat cage and the frog tank. We had a bit of a worrying moment the other morning because she realised that she'd left the rat's cage open all night and only one little ratty was still home. After her old rat Pip had deserted her only a week before we were a bit worried that these ones, which are far less tame, wouldn't show up again.

After a few hours of worrying and crying, and insisting that they were gone forever she came into my room and - lo and behold! - was holding one of the escapees. Over the course of the next few hours she saw the other one running up and down the hallway numerous times but was unable to grab it because it was so fast and jumpy. Then yesterday afternoon she opened her desk drawer and noticed that there was a toast crust in there. She wondered how it had managed to find its way into the drawer so had a closer look inside, and right down the back, trying to look inconspicuous was the last little ratty.

This morning she made them a run in the corner of her room and put lots of inviting (if you're a baby rat) things for them to climb on, hide in, and explore. They've been in their play pen all day having a whale of a time.

I took the kids out for dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant tonight. It's too hot, and I was too tired and pregnant to bother cooking anything. It was nice to go for a walk in the evening air as everything cooled down. At the restaurant Stylish chose to have fish with ginger and shallots and I chose the deep fried bean curd with chili and lemon grass. We shared it all of course. Spikee had two big bowls of rice, and two cups of green tea, and refused anything nutritious or tasty looking (I'm so over his breatharian lifestyle). The tofu was so amazingly delicious that I ate nearly all of it, and even bothered to bring the last two bits home with us to eat later - as soon as I got home actually. Even Adam thought the tofu was delicious and he's not much of a tofu eater. fall that walking After all the walking I am way past my used by date. Stylish just brought me a very nice cu p of tea so I'm chilling out in the bedroom playing on the internet and drinking my tea. What a lovely summer evening!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

unlearning opportunities all around!

Stylish found some lizard eggs in amongst the bricks out in the back garden. She brought them in and kept them in a tank for about four weeks, then today she decided that they weren't going to hatch and she was going to stick them back outside. She picked on up and POP! it burst open and a mini lizard leaped out! Then another one hatched, and now we have quite a few tiny little baby lizards.

Yesterday in the garden we saw an enormous huntsman spider being dragged across the garden by a yellow tail wasp. At first we weren't sure who was dragging who, but upon closer examination it became obvious that the spider was paralysed. I called Stylish to come and see and she told us all about it. Apparently she saw them on a David Attenborough doco a few weeks ago. She said to us "it's injected poison into the spider and paralysed , and now it's dragging the spider back to it's nest to feed it's baby" .... and sure enough we watched as it dragged it all the way across the garden to a cozy little burrow under our rogue watermelon, heaved the enormous spider down the hole and was never seen again!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

more pics

dinner from our very own garden

I decided to uproot something in the garden that I was pretty sure I hadn't planted. It turned out to be the most lovely bunch of tiny little potatoes! We cleaned them, and boiled them, and ate them for dinner with fresh mint, chives, and parsley from the garden. We had them with salad that was all home grown (lettuce and cherry tomatoes), and free range chicken which I marinated in chili and lime sauce that we bought way back in April at the easter show from in the produce hall. As we ate there were many exclamations of "this is yum!" and "this is sooooooo YUMMY".  And one member of the family (who shall remain nameless) rolling peas off the table onto the floor and telling us all - quite cheerfully I might add - to shut up. 

There are two more bunches of potatoes growing in the garden now, and we'll leave them until xmas and harvest them for salad on xmas day. I discovered after a google, searching for cucumber plants, that our pumpkin is actually a cucumber plant! We have nearly thirty flowers on it and they're so pretty, but sooner or later they're gonna turn into a massive crop of cucumbers, probably not in time for xmas unfortunately.  

I discovered a rogue watermelon that has decided to spring to into life beside the trampoline. None of us have any idea where it came from!? But there it is, doing it's own thing, growing well! We may get fruit off it one day! The potatoes began in the compost heap that is now our garden bed, so we have rogue potatoes too. And they taste amazing!

Friday, December 11, 2009

a day at taronga

Today we spent the day at the zoo, we got up nice and early (8am on Saturday is early!) and drove over there. We would have caught a ferry if I wasn't pregnant, but I thought all the walking and waiting might be a bit much after a day wandering at the zoo. 

Stylish was very impressed with the Corroboree frog breeding program that was on display, and I was very interested in how many of them there are in captivity when there are only about 50 in the wild. Taronga is working on their resistance to a bacterial bug (the main reason they are critically endangered) to make their release back into the Alpine area where they live, more effective, and hopefully to replenish their numbers in the long term. She impressed us all with her reptile knowledge about various species which she rattled off before she had a chance to read the information next to the animal, she is such a wealth of information!

Spikee was kind of interested in stuff, and yet more interested in bolting about like a mad thing. he must have ran about two kilometres up and down hills. When asked what his favourite animal from today was he said "de effant" which translated into English is "the elephant". He also liked the part of the seal show where the seal was balancing a ball on it's nose and playing catch with the keeper. He was also really interested in the goats that he got to pat - don't get me started coz I really want a goat.

The zoo has changed so much since I was a child. One of the changes is the play areas that are kid friendly. There is a wading pool with a boat in it that Spikee loved, and we all dipped our hot feet in the cool water for a bit. There's also a large play area all constructed from wood, and it had a whole water play area with water wheels and water falls, and pumps, and a sand pit where we spent some time letting the kids just be kids without having to be interested in stuff! After half an hour there Spikee's mood improved notably.

Stylish got to climb inside the old bear enclosure and was horrified at the darkness and the tiny space that the enormous bears used to live in. it's probably less than three metres of floor space, and a large part of that is taken up with a water trough. 

All round it was a lovely unlearnt day! Now we just have to muster up the energy to cook something for dinner! We have our last lettuce ready to harvest, and we also have about 13 tomatoes. And on that note, I'm gong to go and water everything and get some dinner organised.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

isn't it amazing!

Every day Spikee requests paper and writing equipment to do some writing! He basically scribbles, but he calls it writing, and it's most definitely the beginnings of literacy. His computer skills improve every day, and the hand / eye coordination required to operate the notebook mouse are starting to surprise me. Stylish was his age (3.5) when she started using a mouse and playing edumacational games.

Stylish got two new pet rats today. Pip ran away two days ago, and for such a tame rat I'm quite surprised that she hasn't come home! Never the less, if she does there's plenty room in the house for them all. She called them Matilda, Grape,  and the first new rat we got last week end is called Electra. They're happily getting to know each other in their newly designed home, and eating the turkey stuffing that A brought home from work (we all ate the turkey). These rats are the best fed rats in this hemisphere. The more or less live off our kitchen scraps. Their home is decked out with things Stylish has collected from second hand shops (recently some plastic tissue box covers) and bedding hammocks that she has sewed by hand.

I can't decide what to do tomorrow, I was thinking we might go swimming if  I can be bothered dragging myself all the way out to the pool. Or maybe we'll stay home while it's hot and meet A after work for laksa and a look at the huge xmas tree in Martin Place. Spikee seems to be catching the xmas bug at long last, so that might be right up his alley!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Today isn't too hot so we spent a good deal of time in the garden weeding, and planting mustard which I'm hoping will be ready to eat by xmas. Spikee very enthusiastically waters his peas and corn each day, and was delighted when I showed him some of the pea plants we started ages ago now have flowers on them, so does our watermelon. Plus we have about ten or more pumpkin flowers, and twenty odd strawberry flowers too.  The kids (and the grown ups) have all been interested in the seeds we plant because they  .... look just like the seeds in the fruit or veggies that you eat. (pick the city slickers)

Stylish is really getting into the whole water saving thing now, and when the washing machine starts pumping out the water is often standing right there with the hose going into the watering can, ready to run it out to the garden and come back for more! It's rather therapeutic for me, so I suppose she finds it enjoyable too. We have such an elaborate system of bottles, buckets, and watering cans happening that we rarely waste a drop these days, which - owing to the size of our growing veggie patch - is great! 

The kids decided that they're not going to buy xmas presents this year, they're going to make them instead! Which I think is lovely, and will be pulling out all the stoppers to assist them over the coming weeks. Recently for Grandpa's birthday Stylish gave him a red pot of soil with seeds in it for him to water and discover what she had given him as it grew, I thought that was creative. They both made him cards which he loves.

I had a bag of organic black beans sitting in the cupboard unopened for a while now and I decided to do something with them so I googled black bean sauce. It was the easiest thing I ever made, and everyone (except the resident breatharian) loves it! We've made it four times since then. We did some food science with the bean soaking process, because you're meant to  use fermented black beans, so we soaked them over night and watched the yeast forming. Then observed how much it grew over the course of the second warm day until the mixture smelt disgusting - at which time we were hesitant to admit that the beans were ready to cook. 

Stylish has started her new blog and is enjoying the creative side as well as the writing side. As soon as it's got more on it I am permitted to post a link here. She is really showing some internet competency these days, enjoying a couple of reptile and amphibian forums, and her game (which seems to be under control thus far). 

Spikee keeps wanting to write, so today we sat down with a pencil and I wrote 'a' and he wrote it too! then I wrote mum, dad, Stylish, and Spikee, and he read them, and recognised them when written again! After that I took him to starfall where he enjoyed looking at the letters and saying what words he could hear the sounds in. Then after that he requested some 'nummas' so we went to poissonrouge and did their numbers a few times. He managed to more or less drive the mouse himself which is a huge development!

Monday, December 7, 2009

general happenings ....

Stylish has decided to start a new blog with animal information. I'll help her to do that tomorrow, stay tuned! She also has a new pen-friend which she seems to be enjoying. And she has recently gone back to her old on line game with horses, I'm hoping that now she's more de-schooled than she was when she first got involved with that, it won't take over her life like it did last time. Limits will be placed on it if it looks like it's getting out of control. I much prefer self set limits though .....

Apparently her male frog is calling early in the morning and waking her up, she's not impressed with his efforts  (I personally admire him, waking her up takes some effort!). We gave our old rat a few days to grieve, and then yesterday purchased a tiny little timid baby rat from some ghastly pet shop - it cost $20!!! Over the course of yesterday and today the poor wee thing is much less skittish, she's obviously not used to being handled. 

Spikee is asking more often about writing. He asks me to write a certain word, then scribbles over it, I figure he's heading for some more controlled efforts ... in the next five or ten years. He's also learning to read numbers, and gaining some competency bit by bit at number recognition. His counting is really taking off too! 

Yesterday he asked me if he could plant some seeds so I showed him what seeds we had and he chose some corn and peas, filled a pot with soil from the compost heap, dug little holes with his fingers, and the pushed the seeds in. He very enthusiastically watered them several times yesterday, and then again today. 

Tomorrow we're gonna be making a clock out of a lemon - don't ask me how - so we'll no doubt have pics to show off! And Spikee will be watering the garden again ... and again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

what do you mean you're not a teacher?

I often get asked if I'm a teacher when I say that my children don't attend the institution for their "schooling". No, I'm not, but they learnt to walk and talk from me, and they were pretty important things!

I went to school for twelve years, and I don't fondly remember much of it as "social". I also don't remember much that I learnt in maths, science, history etc etc ... but these days there's this funky little place of reference called THE LIBRARY. There is also the INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY aka the Internet, should we need to hone our skills on anything long forgotten - or never learnt. 

If school failed to teach me  grammar and spelling, complicated maths, or USEFUL maths for that matter, why will it now (when it's more under funded and classes are larger and teachers are more inexperienced ...) succeed in teaching my children those skills? 

Society has some very strong ideas about the education system. I fail to understand how on one hand we criticise so much of it (discipline, bullying, values, basic skills, playground safety, teaching skills etc) and on the other hand send all our kids there without batting an eyelid!  It's very similar to the way we view hospitals as unsafe, understaffed, dirty places .. and yet insist they're the only safe place for women to give birth. Our society has many contradictions running rampant and un-questioned. And it seems to me that as an "advanced" civilisation where the population is receiving such "excellent education" there really isn't much analysis being undertaken. 

I'm not a teacher, I don't do much teaching though ... the idea of removing the kids from school was to totally and radically alter the mode of their learning as compared to their schooled peers. I can't live without questioning things, as a thinking woman I can't avoid it,  as a media student I learnt to really deconstruct the status quo and one of the things I have totally deconstructed since those skills were imparted upon me, is the institutionalised method of educating children. 

Thus I find myself answering the same question over and over ... "no, I'm not a teacher, but I don't need to be one to home school". "No, I don't think my kids are missing out on anything, I think they're getting MORE from their day actually". "My children design their own curriculum, I don't follow one set by the state". "Yes, home school is legal". 

I hope that goes some way to answering some of the more pressing questions. Now I'd like to pose some to those who are so convinced that institutionalised learning is working for their kids.

  • Do you know what your child did all day today? (I know what mine did)
  • Do you know what your child learnt today? (I know)
  • How well do you know and trust all the adults that are in charge of your child 5 days a week? (my answer would be 100%)
  • How many life skills did your children learn today? (mine did life skills all day)
  • How interested in what they did were your kids? (mine were 95% - washing up is boring, but a useful skill nonetheless)
  • How intact is your child's self esteem after a day of constant comparisons to other children and bullying? (without the comparisons and bullying - pretty good thanks)
  • If your kids had a choice would they learn maths every morning or only when they needed it? (only as they need it here)
  • Have your kids finished their homework? (mine do maths for pleasure at 10pm Sunday night ... but they don't do homework)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giftmas fast approaches!

We have set up our xmas tree, and decorated it with some new decorations and some fairy lights. We have turned the lounge room into Stylish's bedroom, and made her old room into Spikee's play room / bedroom - he did sleep in there the first night but is now safely back in bed with his dowdy old parents. 

Stylish is loving her new bedroom, and Spikee is feeling terribly grown up and independent with his play room. We set up the plastic xmas tree in there, and will do present opening and whatnot in there come giftmas morning. 

We had some sad news this week, with the death of our favourite rat. last week she started getting frail and her breathing was odd, then on Monday afternoon she took a turn for the worse and died. Poor Stylish is devastated. She wanted to cremate the rat, as her grandma, baby brother, and cousin were cremated. So I breathed deeply and we set up a funeral pyre in the garden. Stylish helped collect fire wood, and then we dug a hole, put a wooden board in the hole, place the rat (wrapped up in furry rainbow material) on top of the board and built up the fire about her body.  It burned for about an hour before we let it burn out and doused it with a bucket of water.

The garden is going really well, but we have decided to move into our own house some time next year so we're hoping to harvest as much as we can before then! I would hate to leave it here after so much hard work. The strawberry box has 11 flowers in it!!!

Tonight, and most nights actually, we go walking around the neighbourhood enjoying the xmas lights on people's houses. The kids think it's the best thing ever, and I quite enjoy it too. Sometimes we even go to the park and they play for an hour or so first, it's been too hot most days to get out much, so going at night is our only option. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the process of de-schooling

When both of your parents are teachers, and both of your partner's parents are teachers, de-schooling is complex! One progresses through adolescence rebelling against one's parents, and grows into a person who begins to understand why their parents did the ODD things they did, or one who has a decent understanding of the intentions behind the behaviour of the parents anyway. Of course I am only referring to healthy parents here, not abusive or neglectful parents.

And that is what I did! I grew to respect my parent's belief that education was the best pathway to a chosen future. I always believed that public education was the best way for children to achieve their goals, and the best start for dream weaving. 

So when I put my daughter into a local public school I was surprised at the way I was treated by her teachers, as s single mother. The teachers I had encountered in my past life were all lovely, and they would never have judged me. No, not me - but they did judge others!  I remember a child at my primary school (where my mother was a teacher, and my father had himself attended school) who once handed in a late note that explained his partial absence with the simple notation "had to find pet snake". It was a well known fact that this child's mother was a stripper, so the snake was obviously a part of her act, and the child was late to school because of his involvement in her dodgy life style. Admittedly this excuse for lateness is funny, no matter what the context but ... Regardless of the link between the snake and her career, the teachers assumed, and discussed it all with each other! And I heard about it through my mother's conversation with my father. 

Upon my daughter's arrival at school we were experiencing on going problems with her father's presence in her life, it was sporadic at best and what small contact there was was coupled with maternal alienation. Whenever I tried to discuss this with her teachers I was met with stoney silence. I understand the teacher's duty is to stay out of the private lives of the parents and concentrate on the well being of the pupils, but surely taking into account serious events (such as my daughter being poisoned against me on an ongoing basis) would have HELPED them to meet her needs. 

The rest of her story in prison .... I mean SCHOOL! is documented in the earlier posts from this blog. Suffice it to say that things did not improve. When my daughter's father and I finally went to court to work out a permanent agreement, when her baby brother died, when her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer - and consequently died, the teachers refused to involve themselves in the welfare of my child. When there was so much going on at home that I literally sent her to school for a break from it all .... she did not get one. The way I view teachers is similar to the way I view check out staff at the supermarket. Some are helpful, some are useless. Some are good at what they do, some are not. To expect otherwise - with the number of students the education system is responsible for - is foolish.

De-schooling was a slow process for me. I first started to hear of homeschooling as a genuine option for my children from my sister - she planned to homeschool her two children. At first it was an odd idea that worked on an extreme rejection of everything we had both grown up with. 

The more crap I witnessed going on at the school where my daughter spent her time, the more I started warming to the idea of home learning. The more time I thought about home learning, the more time I spent wondering about the things that schools teach. The longer this went on, the more I de-schooled. All that remained was to convince Stylish of the validity of leaving conventional education. Sleeping in was a bit of a clincher. No stressing over maths was a big one. learning whatever she was interested WHEN she wanted to learn about it was pretty significant. And she eventually consented to being withdrawn.

It's been over a year now since I pulled her out of prison. In that time de-schooling has been an ongoing process for us all. Interestingly, I went through a huge leap towards de-schooling recently, only to encounter my daughter struggling with it herself. I thought she had finished the process, however after 5 years and 9 months in the institution it's hardly any wonder that she continues to question our current path.

I expect to keep going through this process for some time. It's no longer an emotional battle but there are still days that schooling comes to mind as an advantage, or as the correct way to go about raising children. For the most part I know, and genuinely FEEL in my bones that I have made the right choice, and I know my partner is getting to grips with it now too. The preschooler - who will forever remain a preschooler - tells strangers on the bus "I homesool" so he's clearly not struggling with the idea, and the child who spent years hating so much of her forced existence is slowly, ever so slowly, warming to the idea that she IS learning. I guess for her, learning was always about boredom, subjugation, a lack of freedom of choice - and bodily integrity (eat when you're told to, pee when you're allowed to) so it's normal and expected for her to encounter some doubts as she discovers her love of learning anew, and centres herself as a person, not a student with a teacher who holds the power of her whims against her.

Life is all about learning. Centurions are often quoted as saying that they have spent their whole lives learning, so why do we think that children will only learn if they are imprisoned? We do not teach children to walk, or talk, with Any method past simple demonstration, and yet they must be goaded into learning inside the institution which calls itself "school", and teaching methods are argued over by "experts" from here to Timbuktu

I, for one, am going to make an effort to relax, while I support my daughter to de-school herself. I am also going to work extremely hard on fully de-schooling the entire family before my son reaches the official age of institutionalisation, so that he never has to endure the life time of crap the rest of us have, and so we never have to go through the painful and complicated journey of de-schooling with him!

Friday, November 27, 2009

more de-schooling coming up!

Stylish spent the night with a friend of her Grandmother's who has this idea that homeschool is sitting at a table for 6hrs a day doing boring stuff like everyone at school does. It raised several things for her. Firstly it made her angry, secondly it made her fearful.

The anger is at one of the friends who has lost the charm bracelet that her Grandma bought for her 10th birthday, one week before she died. Stylish took off the bracelet at this person's house after her grandma's funeral and it has never been seen again. She is heart broken, I am heartbroken for her! They claim to have had some younger visitors over, and they blame them for it's disappearance. Personally I am so livid about this entire series of events that I am -and this rarely happens - speechless.  

The second thing - the fear - is based on the friend quizzing her about what she's learning. Stylish told her that she's learning lots about lots, but avoided details. It left her feeling very very worried about what she IS learning. She has requested more structure, and some more lists to help her feel like she is "learning". 

Instead of arguing I said that we could definitely do that. Today we went to the museum. I gave her the task of learning about The Stolen Generation. She went through the Indigenous Australia exhibit with a fine tooth comb, and learnt so much. She learnt about traditional living from pre white settlers, colonisation, black deaths in custody vs traditions indigenous community justice, and the Stolen Generation. I think it really moved her. Spikee enjoyed the dot paintings, which is good in keeping with this weeks art projects. 

Spikee also enjoyed the skeleton room, and spent a good deal of time looking at the different bones and guessing what they were from. then he went to the dinosaur room and played on the computer that lets children choose what type of dinosaur they want to create, and how to colour it. Then we went to the play area and played for a while, while Stylish went to the Search and Discover area and got some stick insects in a plastic take away container.

And one more thing that we did today .... we had Malaysian for lunch, Stylish and I had laksa, chicken and prawn respectively, and Spikee had a bowl of rice which he rubbed into his clothes and face like some sort of beauty therapy. 

All up it was a great day! I took pics to prove it, they'll be forthcoming. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

from Sydney to Brisbane!

artistic afternoon

First paintings

experienced painter

first painting!

pics of children not learning anything

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diff'rent folks, same strokes

As I process and displace my long held attachment to the institutionalised method of education, I think of more and more questions about the lifetime of belief systems that I have accrued surrounding what constitutes "a good education". The schooling system is the unquestioned expert in the field of children's tuition, and yet there are so many complaints about how it operates, from funding, to discipline, to what children should be taught and by whom. There is more and more empahsis on "learning" and the age of children who are supposed to BE learning is shrinking every day. It can't really shrink further than in the womb can it, and there are products available that are designed to help babies in the womb learn!

What a total waste of money right? it's obvious that this is a crock. But parents are so fearful of their child not being able to compete in the education system that they buy this product, and they are sold countless other TOYS under the guise of them being educational. What is wrong with children simply playing, and why don't we view play as a learning opportunity on it's own without having to empahsise the learning properties of plastic toys!?

Which brings me to the point of my gripe. As a beginner unschooling parent, I sometimes questioned whether or not my child would learn the same stuff as all the other children who went to school. I worried that her ability to do fractions, multiplication, spelling and grammar would be somehow dash her hopes of attending university and pursuing the career of her choice. After all, we were unschooling, and we did not spend 6 hours a day doing structured lessons, I did not lesson plan (or I did not intend to continue lesson planing anyway). What if my daughter were at some hideous disadvantage from not learning exactly the same thing that the other millions of children around the state are learning?

It's odd how ingrained this totally unrealistic ideal of the educations system has become in our culture! We pride ourselves as a multi cultural, all encompassing, difference celebrating, culture, the way of life we live is apparently full of freedom and it all begins with our education institution. The very same education system which children hate. The very same one that makes children so competitive they commit suicide in large numbers if they feel they are not going to achieve the marks they want, the system that so many children simply drop out of because it isn't working for them. This is the way of education that states all children are wonderful and different, and that they strive to be inclusive of all cultures, varying ability, and both sexes, and then insists that the children all learn, and be constantly compared to one another, and tested on exactly the same stuff.

Wouldn't recognising children as individuals mean that children had more control over what they learn? Wouldn't it mean that comparing the children to one another, creating either fierce competition or "drop outs" was obsolete? Wouldn't it mean that children were graded on individual achievments not a set level of achievements that is often too low, or too high for many of them?

So, based on the importance of all the children learning all the same stuff, surely when they leave school they will have all the same requirments and opportunities? Ahhh. No. That's not how it works!  Why? BECAUSE ALL CHILDREN ARE INDIVIDUALS!!! Some are good at maths, some are good at English, some are bilingual, some are artistic, some are historians, some are scientists, and the last thirteen years have done little to help them discover and explore their true calling in life. 

Bring in the un-schoolers! 

My daughter hated maths. And maths is one of the most ridiculously over emphasised subjects taught in schools. Maths teachers have tickets on themselves, and yet children across the board hate them and their classes. In reality, schools aren't really doing a great job of teaching the even the most basic maths skills, the most useful maths is the stuff that we use every day in our fast paced society. Fast calculations, times tables, estimation, some fractions and percentages, and time and graph reading are crucial skills. Un-schooled children may not be using calculus or trigonometry but they can read a bus time table. And to them, maths isn't a chore, it's just life. What an interesting approach! Maths is JUST PART OF LIFE! What a shame the maths syllabus seems to have missed the boat on the true importance, and genuine usefulness, of the subject. What a shame they've made children feel inferior to others, and most children hate it!

My daughter is learning about frogs. That's what she's interested in, and it's what she actively researches. But she's also learning to manage a house - from cleaning the toilet to budgeting the weekly shopping, how to get around in the city she lives in, current affairs - and expressing her views on them, growing her own food, cooking it, saving the planet, and lets not forget USEFUL MATHS!  

Sheesh. I hope she didn't miss anything good in school today that she can forget next week. I hope the life skills that school children learnt today .... oh, they didn't DO life skills did they ... well I hope they learn lots about REAL LIFE over the xmas holidays, coz they need to be prepared for life when it starts, and they need to be able to compete with kids who have been LIVING LIFE instead of learning useless stuff and forgetting it. They need to begin to learn about their chosen career path, whereas the un-schooled children have most likely spent the last eighteen years immersing themselves in the same stuff. 

Well I know I feel a little bit more de-schooled! What about you? 

my 80th post! my 150th rant

A friend posted a link to my daughter's blog on her facebook page and one of her "friends" contacted her to say that she feels sorry for the girl. That her parents are crazy. That the girl can't spell and has terrible grammar, and a few other choice comments. 

At first I was angered that she could judge my daughter that way. My daughter's language skills are excellent for someone her age! Then I was tempted to go and correct all the spelling mistakes on her blog, until I remembered that it is HER blog, and if she wants help she will ask me. 

Then it occurred to me that this woman has probably never MET a child who is un-schooled! And in fact, upon discussion with my friend, I discovered that she has little or NO contact with ANY children who are the same age as my daughter, so what cause would she have to involve herself with their literacy skill set?

How odd that someone with no knowledge of home learning, or of children in general feels so strongly about this! The fact is that my daughter WAS in school while the foundations of her reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation were learned. So in all honesty, that speaks more about the lack of success that institutionalised learning is having on children. My daughter was one of the top students in English. Her skills are better than some of the ADULTS who were schooled that she encounters on her reptile and frog forums!

All I can say to this woman, and the others who doubt the process of natural learning, is that they should walk a year in my shoes. In the last year my daughter has gone from a shy, self conscious child who was getting in trouble at school, and arguing violently at home, to a relaxed, confident (as confident as a healthy 11yr old anyway) who happily pursues her own interests without hiding them as she had to do at school. Frogs are uncool at school, hideous bratz dolls on the other hand are encouraged - and so is pointless consumerism, sexism, racism, and pack mentality.

You see, it's all well and good for school to SAY that they don't tolerate the less savoury behaviour of their students, but the reality is that they are largely UNAWARE of what happens in the playground - and many times in the classroom right underneath the teacher's nose! My daughter is still telling me stories of bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism, and overtly sexual conversations, and antisocial behaviour, from her days at school. She most certainly didn't tell me these things when she was at school participating in them!

I say to the parents who think they have good, close relationships with their schooled children "you do not know what goes on in the playground - you should be afraid, VERY afraid". If you Do think you know what goes on, take your self back to the playground when you were a child, and consider how much of your antics were duly reported over the diner table each evening. I know I didn't discuss taking time off school to smoke bongs in the abandoned  morgue at the hospital near the school. I know I didn't discuss some of the nasty catty behaviour that I was both the recipient of, and the giver of. It's not just at high-school nasty stuff happens. Don't fool yourself into thinking your child is too young or innocent to sling sexual ugliness around, or homophobic insults. 

As an un-schooled child my daughter's days were at first filled with time wasting activities. TV watching, internet games, arguing with me, refusing to participate in household activities, and finding interesting things boring - as a matter of honour. As she has de-schooled, she has grown into a really likable, interesting, smart, funny, articulate, young woman! Some of these changes may or may not have occurred in the prison system, but they would have been as a result of peer defined self analysis, not because she was free to be herself. 

So maybe I will, and maybe I won't ask my Stylish if she'd like some help to spell check her blog. And maybe she will and maybe she won't accept that help. But regardless of that, I will not EVER send her back to a school, unless she begs me. And even then, I will allow her to follow her own direction and leave school again if she chooses to. As I trust myself to instinctively know what is best for me, I also trust my children. I hope that by un-schooling them, the youngest will never grow to doubt his intuitive quest for health and happiness, and that the subconscious ability to do so comes back to roost in my daughter's life until she is a very old woman.  

Sunday, November 22, 2009

solar system link

That's a great link to a website with plenty of info, and a moving diagram of the solar system, showing how the planets all orbit around the sun! 

discussions of orbit over sultanas for lunch

Today Spikee asked me where the sun went to bed. I explained how we orbit around the sun to him while he ate sultanas and corn biscuits.

He wiggled his fingers at me, pretending to be the suns rays. I pretended to be the earth, and turned around discussing how I could or couldn't see the sun. Of course that was such fun that I ended up doing it about three hundred times!

Then he asked me where the sun had gone today, it's a very grey cloudy day here. So Stylish pretended to be the clouds and writhed around in his face while I pretended to be the earth, unable to see the sun!

Spikee was impressed enough to warrant some further research later, to show him some pictures of the solar system, the sun, the moon, and our measly planet Earth.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Summer taking over Spring

We've had some insanely hot weather for Spring, days nearing 40C and it's only Spring. Admittedly it's nearly Summer, but we seem to have bypassed Spring, which is a shame because I love the in-between seasons! Extreme weather is no friend of mine.

We have spent the week watering the garden constantly, and covering the more delicate of the seedlings over with umbrellas during the heat of the afternoon sun. The pet rats started behaving strangely this afternoon so we had to move them outside and spray them with cold water. They soon perked up and wandered about chomping on grass and other goodies.

Stylish has been busily decorating the indoor cage for the rats with hand sewn hammocks, and various things for them to climb on and rest in, they are loving life! And she learns so much from her little projects. Needle craft is such a useful skill, as is caring for pets, and providing all their sustenance, which she does with vigour!  

Her pet frog is starting to call for a mate. I think he should be re-named Pavarotti, but .... what would I know. Their names are Hansel and Gretel. She hopes they will breed and that she can sell them for billions of dollars. Owing to the fact that the two she has cost her $50 of her hard earned pocket money, I think it's possible that she can make something off their breeding habits. 

Spikee has developed a sudden interest in writing so I bought him a wipe clean numbers book and he is happily tracing the numbers (well, scribbling on them anyway). He amazed us all with his ability to circle certain things and draw lines between things that are connected - like a lamb and a ewe, a foal and a mare. He rather impressively understood their relationship of mother and child, which I was interested to see. Sometimes we forget how many things small minds can absorb in their daily existences. Who ever compared them to sponges was onto something. 

Watching the children learn by simply living reminds me each day that the natural learning process works! I know that I struggle with de-schooling myself, more than the children struggle with it, especially Spikee because he has never been institutionalised. I really wonder about how literacy develops without a structured system being imposed on the children, but from discussions that I've had with other parents .... it just does! How could a child grow to adult hood without learning to read in our culture? Our culture relies so heavily on reading and writing skills, that it would be impossible!  Having grown up with an English teacher as a mother, this is really departing from my own early belief system though, and that's why I often have questions or niggling worries. However in a recent discussion on a forum I frequent a member told me that an illiterate adult can learn to read, or learn the skills which make reading possible, in just 30 hours. With Stylish being fully able to read by the time she was pulled out of the institution, I never witnessed the amazing ability to self learn that so many natural learning families have experienced. I guess I just have to resign myself to a bit of waiting now that I have that information on board!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A day at the park!

We travelled to the not local natural learning group today. Believe me when I tell you that it takes dedication to get there on public transport with two children, a picnic and a pram in tote! That's why I want to get my license. The park is terrific, but getting there is beyond a joke. I'm absolutely worn out now, the kids are too. The spent all day running around like mad things, going on the giant slide, splashing around in the wading pool, walking on the beach, playing in the sandpit, and with other children as well as climbing up and down stuff.  I'm tired just thinking about it! It was well in the 30's today so it was HOT HOT HOT, add that to the insane public transport journey and .... I'm going to bed. I just have to convince Spikee to have a story and booby now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Another busy weekend!

This has been a busy week end! We did plenty of gardening as a family, and Stylish finished making the cover for her frog tank. We also put a lay-by on a heap of camping equipment for our upcoming xmas camping holiday! We are now the proud owners of a camp kitchen and a table with built in chairs. 

The frog tank looks amazing now! Stylish put so much hard work into it, and it really paid off. For some reason or another the lid that the tank came with (she bought it with pocket money, off ebay) was no good so she needed to make one. She did lots of research - google is her friend - and worked out that with some wood and some fly screen she could make a more suitable lid. It was an exercise in many areas .... but it was a PRACTICAL exercise in them, and she enjoyed it because she wanted to do it. The measuring is maths, the budgeting was maths, the whole process was artistic, it is a science lesson to care for frogs .... I could go on, but I will spare you.

After a trip to the local hardware shop to buy two planks of wood and a metre of fly screen, she set about measuring the tank, cutting the wood to size, nailing the planks together, and then attaching the fly screen. She was a bit disappointed with the finished product but I think it's great! She is unhappy because it is a tight fit over the tank, but it's not TOO tight at all! And it slides on tightly enough to keep the little froggies in!

The garden is going really well. We transplanted all our mustard and rocket seedlings yesterday. They're now in a big, was-unused, black recycling box, surrounded by organic sugar cane mulch. They seem to have transplanted really well. The only problem we had was the sun was too hot for them the last few days, so we put Spikee's umbrella over them and they were doing fine ...until our CAT SAT ON THEM!!! Suffice it to say he will NOT sit on them again because I have put bbq skewers all the way through the box. I suspect it will be an uncomfortable resting place now!

We also turned our compost heap into a new garden bed, planted rock-melon, corn, and pea seedlings in it, covered it in mulch and news paper and tied blue wool all around the patch to keep Spikee off it. We have started a new compost heap at the back of the garden and will aim to have it in use as a garden in the next month, as our current seeds sprout and get to a good size to go out into the wilds of the garden where there are snails, cats and children everywhere!

I feel like I spend my whole life saving water from our washing machine and carrying it out to the garden beds. We have an elaborate system of plastic juice bottles, and buckets, that I catch the water in, then I tip it into the watering cans and lug it out. It's a time consuming process, but I know that I've saved hundreds of litres of water simply by using our grey water on the garden beds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

garden pics