31 May 2010

unschool monday :: holiday mode

Its school holidays in Tasmania right now. What does that mean to an unschooling family? Not much, but the playgrounds, library, museum, swimming pool - all our regular haunts - are busy with children and families everywhere! On top of that there's all the school holiday activity programs available and the owlets schooled friends are ready to play too. Its busy!! I overhear mothers saying how they can't wait to get back to the school routine and get some flow back to their days - us too!! We start to long for those quiet weeks where there's not much on and we can spend occasional days in our pyjamas, reading books, playing board games and puddling along with our craft projects... Ah well winter's upon us so it won't be long I'm sure...

As we're so busy, this post is a tad brief, but we could all do with a holiday from time to time, huh? If you watched the link I put up last week to Sir Ken Robinson's talk on creativity in schools, here's the follow up. Its about starting a revolution in education, personalising education to kids needs and helping them work with their natural talents. Sounds like unscooling to me ;)

27 May 2010

my creative space...

My week has been spent helping owlets with their creative pursuits and getting ready...

I'll be at The Market on sunday week. There's lots to do... My sister will be visiting that weekend too... In the words of little owlet "I'm so e-cited! Lets clean up!!"

We're also taking inspiration from the first frost and the Bridgewater Jerry and remembering to tuck the garden in for the winter.

The ground is easier to dig, the weeds have slowed and its a good time to plan. Its an improvement. We've been dreaming up ideas for an enclosed chook run and owlet treehouse in the walnut tree. We're not builders. It could take some time. But we've been getting loads of inspiration here. If kids can do it, surely we can, right?

Pop on over to Kirsty's and see what other creative types are up to this week.

26 May 2010

An owlet favourite...

We're enjoying the short bursts of sun during the day and the warmth of the fire by night... hibernating a little and watching autumn come to an end... Here's something the owlets love to watch and dance to. If you have time, watch the whole triptych. Its lovely. Hauschka is a fave in our little house too. Do look him up.

24 May 2010

unschool monday :: creativity

I'm going to wander with you through my own creative learning, if you'll indulge me for a little while... My memories of time before school include learning to write my name and play kiss chasey at kindy and spending days at the gallery or at home with Mum. She encouraged me to draw, to scribble to experiment, draw patterns, play with colours. Dad worked from home and he reminded me that I could colour inside the lines from time to time if I felt so inclined. A perfect balance. Then came school. My first gold star emerged after a moment of frustration inspired genius. Finger painting. I was relishing the sensation of paint between my fingers, all squidgy and cold. I played with squiggly pattern, beautiful shapes and the faint texture of my tiny finger prints. "I've finished" I proudly announced to Mrs. Green. She was unmoved. "It doesn't look like anything, Lauren. You need to do a picture of something, like a house, or a flower..." Deflated, I sat back down and thought for a minute. With the side of my thumb I drew a circle around it. "Finished!!" I called out again. "What is it?" The teacher asked. " A bowl of spaghetti." She couldn't argue. A creative compromise and most certainly gold star material. I soon learned that houses and flowers and such things are what's expected at school. I learned how to draw houses from my friend Jane. She'd been taught at her kindy. My next gold star came in the form of a painting of a girl with a dinosaur. The dinosaur was tartan. Lots of pattern and colour. More creative compromise. And so it continued...

Mum supported my many craft projects and occasional interest in backyard sketching at home. The various craft and art teachers I encountered attempted to demonstrate the correct way to do things... Leading to my almost fail in year 7 craft... By the time I reached year 11, I felt like the creative wind had been beaten out of me. Then in year 12, we were asked to find our own personal creative style, develop it and make something awesome out of it. With a lot of nursing, suggesting and experimenting, my teacher managed to help me figure something out, eventually. I did well. Really well. Now what? It was expected I'd go to Uni and become an art teacher, or do an arts degree. To my teacher's surprise, I followed my heart and went to art school. I did a year 13 folio building course to help me figure out a direction. I got to spend all day, every day learning about art and design. We did drawing and ceramics and printmaking, photography, 2D and 3D design and art history. I was in heaven. I was supported by an amazing bunch of mentors. I got to play with all these different mediums and look for my passion, then develop it. It was there that a teacher noticed that I always incorporated pattern into my work. Had I thought of textile design? And so began a new creative journey.

I suppose reflecting on that was one of the motivators in choosing to unschool the owlets. All those years of being told how to do it, lead to uncertainty and floundering. The school I went to aimed to turn out academically successful young women and did, but if you were interested in something slightly off the beaten track, you were rather on your own. Such is the case in many schools where there just isn't the time or the space or the facilities to cater to every child's particular interests or needs. You need to work within the system. As such, creativity dies. Or at the very least is suppressed. We feel that our children need to follow their own creative interests and be encouraged in them. They need to be exposed to whatever life can offer them and find their own way.

The pictures are of the owlets creative pursuits this morning. Big owlet is into monsters at the moment, so when I suggested we make some felt monster puppet toy type things, naturally she leapt into it hammer and tongs... and made an elephant. Little owlet also thought it was a great idea and designed a psychedelic rabbit, somewhat reminiscent of Donnie Darko. They drew the characters, chose the colours, cut the felt, sewed by hand and on the machine, stuffed the toys, sewed again and played for the rest of the afternoon... Then made movies on photobooth in which their heads swirled around with said creatures. Had I imposed my own creative aspirations upon them, they'd have lost interest almost immediately. Unless the creative process is their own and they are entrusted with it, the creativity dies right at the start. Think of what we'd miss out on!


Two of my favourite clips on creativity and kids, in case you feel like watching rather than reading... I know I do sometimes...

20 May 2010

my creative space... the story of twosuh

It began with a quiet house. Just two people, a cat, a long winter and a need to make something for the first belly babe. Huz and I knitted squares each in pinks, purples and blues. We sewed them together to make a blanket with lots of character, made with much love and anticipation. She loved it. Its still her favourite thing, along with the red cardigan knitted by her nanny. She loves it best cold and wet... not something us mere mortals can understand. It needs fixing...

When there was a second belly babe, the house was different, on an island far away and not so quiet. We found the time though, to knit. Different colours this time, greens and blues for our new green and blue home. Huz didn't quite finish. There's a square missing. This twosuh is loved, but not a part of her. What is loved now is the tradition and that we made it. For her.

And now there is a third. I've had the yarn for a while, waiting for the right time to begin. Looking forward to working with the red, navy, grey and cream... I got very close a couple of times. Now the time is right. This week we begin work on the new twosuh.

See what lovely things others are up to at Kirsty's. x

17 May 2010

unschool monday :: learning from nature

Yesterday we held the annual owlet fungi fossick. A tradition we started a few years ago and now that the world is our classroom, one that we intend to continue..

I'm forever surprised at the variety. I mean why do they all grow so individually, so beautifully? Some delicate, others strong and tall or like plates in the side of a tree...

We marvel at each one and imagine the kind of faeries that might live nearby. We walk and talk and look at the little things, down around owlet eye level, or lower.

There's lots of time for observation... and questions!! Oh the questions!! I'm sure every parent alive knows about the questions and this is the magic of a day wandering outside for an unschooling family. "How do rocks form?" "What started the first fire?" " Why do trees fall down?" "What did it look like when all the trees were very tiny?" "How did the trees get there?" Some require some imagination. Others are fairly easy and some we have to google when we get home. Sometimes we'll find a new area of interest through conversation, borrow a book from the library, watch a documentary and learn what we can.

It works differently to school, this style of learning. There is no checklist. There's no list you can look at and tick off to make sure the subject is covered. The subjects that are relevant to the child will be covered. But perhaps not in the traditional order. They'll be covered when they are important to the child. They'll grasp whatever they can if there's an interest. Sometimes they'll come back to it over a period of years, or just learn it through further reading when they are ready. The same way we do as adults. If we want to learn about something, we ask, read, watch, find out. We don't wait for it to come up in conversation or class in a few years time when its no longer relevant.

So far big owlet knows more about evolution than I did when I was 12yo. She asks the questions, we answer as best we can. We read and learn with her. Sometimes she asks again maybe a year, aweek or an hour later and we know we need to be clearer, more specific, or more interesting... I'm glad we're there to answer the questions as they do come up. I'm glad she doesn't have to compete with a group of 30 kids for our attention. I'm glad we have the time to explain things as she needs to learn them. I'm just so glad we can be there to guide her and little owlet along this journey and help them maintain that interest, the desire to learn, that awe for nature.

This last photo is an oldie but a goodie. Its my favourite from a few years ago taken by Huz when he and big owlet went camping together. It captures that awe that is one of our reasons for choosing unschooling. We never want to lose that.

** All photos in this post were taken by Huz**

13 May 2010

my creative space...

Making stuff for my owlets today... Here's the pile of fabrics big owlet and I are sorting through for her quilt. We'll need more red though I'm told..

And this is little owlet's scarf. Finally on its way to being finished sometime later today. She loves grey. The brooch has been requested to hold it all together. Fortunately for me the owlets are wild about garter stitch. It works well because I'm a lazy knitter and do it for the therapeutic quality, but find counting and keeping track all too hard...

See oodles of creativity an d some beautiful spaces at Kirsty's.

12 May 2010


Well, the weather has turned. There's snow on the mountain today and the last of the autumn leaves are turning from bright golden and red to brown. Time to light the fire!! While we all settle into the cooler months, I've popped a couple of new bits and pieces on Etsy today.

Shades of brown...


And a springtime blossom to remind us there's light at the end of the tunnel!!

10 May 2010

unschool monday :: support

I am fortunate to share my life with a very supportive partner. My soulmate. Huz was the one who yelled "yeah!!" from the other couch on the day when I said "you know, why don't we just unschool?" He's been into it from the beginning. While I spend 70% of our weekdays with the owlets, he often takes over when he comes home. He'll answer questions, spend the time on google earth, tackle the hard stuff or the silly stuff when I'm needing to get on with other things. He has the science, geography and music background where I'm more art and humanities, with a smattering of music too. We make a good team. This is perhaps why unschooling works so well for us. We share it because unschooling happens all the time. I can take the girls to a movie on a monday morning because we've been busily learning about other cool stuff at 8am on a sunday and will probably work on something else major later on. Really, unschooling is just parenting and around here, that's shared equally too.

I suppose it also works for me because I don't have the feeling that I'm doing it alone. I think parenting and unschooling completely alone is just too difficult for anyone to achieve. You need support around you. Whether that be in the form of a partner, family or friends. Like the African proveb says; "It takes a village to raise a child". It does. We're just not meant to do it alone. I'm often surprised when I speak to people who are home schooling their kids and have no support from parents, friends or family. I suppose it can seem like an odd choice to many, but it must be truly daunting to be the only one who believes in what you are doing. Then at the same time, I know single parents who are home/unschooling and have oodles of supportive friends and family around them. It can take a while to build that support and community around you. We're still building ours. We spend time with a bunch of different people and among those, we are striving to build a strong group who we can share this gig with. I'm looking forward to days where skills are shared and kids learn and play happily together. A village. We're getting there. But for now I'm thankful for the support I have here and hoping that you out there get the support you need too. x


Related article:

Can a Single Parent Unschool? By Jan Hunt

9 May 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Little owlet's card for me... Her favourite thing about me... Can you guess what it is?

Hope your day was spectacular. x

6 May 2010

my creative space...

A little moment of creative pondering over breakfast... The quilt mum made for my cot when I was a babe... it needs some mending... And the first instalment of my birthday present!! A subscription to selvedge! I'm in love. Its all about quilts this issue, which has been the main topic of crafty conversation around here too. Quilty plans afoot.

My creative space will be moving to the Botanical Gardens for the remainder of the day. More Autumn love to follow...

See some more lovely spaces at Kirsty's.

3 May 2010

unschool monday :: trust

Every now and then I catch myself in a moment. We've been travelling along just fine. Hanging out with friends, getting out, looking at stuff... or pottering around home doing our thing. Then the doubt creeps in. I might be on the phone to someone describing our day... "Oh, we went into town and did some shopping, stopped for morning tea. Then we came home and had lunch and the girls have been playing in the garden all afternoon..." Doesn't sound very educational. It sounds like fun, but what have they learned?!! I'm responsible for making sure they end up well rounded and knowledgeable about stuff and we went shopping?!! Then I think some more. What I forgot about was the conversation in the car on the way to drop Huz off this morning, about the moon, stars and sun. About how light travels and how we explained the concept of light years to big owlet. I forgot how her eyes expanded when she thought about looking back in time when she looks at the stars at night. She got it. Really understood it and will probably be processing that one for a while to come!! I also forgot about the counting money, multiplication to work out how many candles were in the box, fractions of a sandwich, the obligatory letter to the faeries and the craft the owlets concocted after they had played in the garden with big owlet's best friend. Not only that, their games are so involved they are actually long winded dramatic sagas which can go on for days!! Ok, so where's that checklist in my head... Literacy : check. Numeracy : check. Science : check. Creativity and self expression : check. Got that one in spades. Physical stuff? Ballet class and walking all over town... check! Socialisation : check. So really it was a well rounded day. We covered loads. The owlets never stop talking or asking questions and as long as I never stop answering them, we are fine. Phew! It seems I have a little more deschooling to do...

It comes down to trust. Trusting that they have an inbuilt sense of what they need to learn. Also a trust that I can recognise and help them access what they need. Trust that little owlet's lines on paper and occasional circles will lead to words one day. They will. Also a trust that allowing free thought, creativity and self expression will keep that spark for learning alive and set them on the way to a lifelong passion for the pursuit of knowledge. How can it not?


Some bits and pieces on trust and creativity that may interest you...

TED Talks - Sir Ken Robinson SaysSchools Kill Creativity
How do Unschooling Parents Know their Children are Learning? - By Jan Hunt
You Have to Trust that the Child will Learn - By Rosalind Rossi
Deschooling a Parent: Learning to Trust - By Jan Hunt