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

Friday, April 1, 2011

School made me feel dumb

But I'm not!

When school started failing my daughter I started to see that I had been brainwashed, and what was worse? I was participating in the brainwashing of my daughter. I believed that the only way to succeed in life was to finish school and get good marks ... but I hadn't finished school and I was still alive! And my partner hadn't finished school, and he was still alive, and most of my friends had either not finished school or hadn't done very well, but they were all smart people who were doing well in their lives.

So why did we all leave school? I left because I was afraid to fail. I knew I was smart enough to do really well if I applied myself ... but therein lies the truth of it. I wanted to enjoy life! I was young and having fun, and school wasn't fun, it was anti social and boring. And my friends who quit had all quit for the same reasons, and those who stayed and didn't do well had failed for the same reasons. Schools aren't for everyone, some people will do very well within the system, but others need to get out and experience life in order to discover their authentic selves. Schools glorify certain subjects (maths and english) but completely devalue others like art, drama, and music. My friends were all smart kids but they preferred and even excelled at humanities, and the institution simply loses those children between the cracks. How sad.

So, back to the subject at hand, and why I believed I was dumb. I went to a school to learn all the things deemed crucial for modern life but I hadn't really learnt much - or so I thought. I was literate, I was perfectly competent numerically, and I had all the skills necessary to acquire any further knowledge I needed, but I hadn't learnt anything about myself or what I was good at. I had also had my literate and numeric abilities completely undermined by all the institutional measurements. But the things I had never learnt, or had forgotten had never caused me a moment's grief. After having a good look at all this I concluded that the emphasis schools placed on many subjects was not proportionate to it's usefulness in real life.

So if I'd gone to school to learn all that stuff, and hadn't learnt it, what was going to make it different for my daughter or my sons? What would ensure that they came out of school with a healthy self awareness of their abilities? There just weren't any answers for those questions, and so there was really only one course of action I could take. I began unschooling my eldest daughter after almost six years of institutionalised learning, and I will always unschool the youngest two.

I know that when they reach adulthood they will have a good and functional level of literacy and numeracy, and they will have a really solid wealth of knowledge on a multitude of other subjects too. Those subjects won't always be neatly divided into categories like maths, english, science, history and geography, but that won't make their knowledge any less valuable.

As a teenager (and even as a child) I thought learning was boring, and when I was reading a book about dinosaurs or animals and learning really interesting stuff, I didn't realise I was learning, because no one had graded this knowledge on a scale of worthiness. No one tested me on it, no one valued what I learnt unless it was taught to me by a teacher. I used to see adults learning and envy them because clearly they enjoyed learning. What didn't occur to me was that they only studied the subjects they were interested in. And they only retained their knowledge because their memory was fueled by interest and practicality. The same goes for children. That is why children forget long division but remember the names of dinosaurs.

But not knowing how to do long division isn't an insurmountable obstacle! You are never too old to acquire new knowledge or skills, and in the mean time there are calculators and the internet and libraries and many other sources where one can obtain the necessary information for living. If not learning stuff at school and not passing exams means that for the rest of our lives we are destined to fail then there are some pretty big problems with society!

When I was a schooling mother I couldn't keep up with the institution in a way that it approved of, I felt like I was forever striving and falling short of the ideals. Neat tidy children, perfectly completed homework, perfect lunch boxes, and so on. I just didn't have the same values, I wanted a happy family and I didn't see how forcing my kids to learn about completely useless and uninteresting things was going to make them happy fulfilled adults. I didn't see how fighting about homework was beneficial to education. I didn't see how any of it was actually going to work as a long term plan because it didn't inspire any internal motivation it was all external coercion and valuation - or devaluation.

So if school left you feeling confused, like you were a failure, like you were dumb or left you with no idea what you wanted out of life, maybe you would have done better unschooling. If your kids are struggling with maths but brilliant at computers, or they can't spell but they are excellent at painting or sculpting, maybe your kids would be better unschooled too! You know the expression "don't put all your eggs in one basket"? Schooling has been used as the only basket for far too long.