26 November 2012

unschool monday :: free

Big Owlet. Poet. #unschooling #poetry #owlets

Big Owlet has discovered poetry. It seems to have followed on directly from her fascination with jokes. She's very quickly used poetry to express her own view of the world and to accompany her drawings...

It's very gradual and slow like that, Unschooling. Before you know it there are things they have picked up and are doing without you even noticing...

Like when they learned to walk and talk and sit and draw and read and... It's all gradual and each time there's a point at which you notice that they can do that new thing, that they get it...

But it doesn't happen overnight. There's a process and it's different for each child. I suppose that's one of the scary and exhilarating things of making space for learning to happen outside of a measured school system. There's security in measured and organised learning. But there's a huge amount of joy that comes from watching your children discover new things for themselves as they explore their world and exercise their freedom.

Big Owlet feels free. She loves the life she lives and she expresses that regularly. But there is one sadness for her.

That everyone else can't be free too.

She wishes that "every child could try unschooling, for one year at least, so they can see how great it is". It's not an entirely selfless wish. She does feel lonely at times. As a hugely independent and sociable kind of girl, she adores spending time with lots of friends, and at this age, we notice that the pool starts to dwindle as friends go to school or move away. We fill her days with as much activity and friendship as we can manage, but it's not always possible everyday. The gaps we fill with skype and Minecraft contact with friends far away who are "free" too. And we are working to grow a community of big kids around her... but until then, it is wonderful to read her thoughts as she expresses them and see that she is happy with who and where she is in the world. It's all a parent can hope for, really.

16 November 2012

this moment...


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama

12 November 2012

unschool monday :: try all the things!

Run... Jump! #littleaths #littleowlet

The owlets thought they'd have a go at Little Athletics a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing and fun and challenging and eye opening all at once. Some parts they loved and some parts they didn't. Some parts of the experience pushed them harder than they've ever gone before. We're waiting to see if it'll be a thing that they stick to, or a fleeting thing, complete in the lessons it taught them about themselves.

One of the benefits of being school-free is that they have lots of time to participate in lots of different things. So they try lots of different things as the inspiration and opportunities arise. Sometimes they take to the activity straight away. They find a friend, have a go and they do alright. Maybe they keep going until they find something else they'd like to try...

Little owlet tries little aths #saturdaymorning #sport

Sometimes the owlets find it a little harder. Maybe they come last. Or they don't find a friend. Big Owlet is finding that friend-making with local school kids, who often have firmly built friendship groups, isn't so easy at her age. She makes the most of it and continues on, hanging out and watching and learning, on an anthropological level. Then wondering how the friendship circle widens and if it will and how groups of girls who are all the same age work... It's challenging and interesting and I can relate stories of my similar wonderings when I was her age and in school... Often she persists.

Big Owlet ran the 1500m in her first week at Little Aths. She was lapped twice. But she finished and the whole athletics club cheered her name as she crossed the finish line, with the rest of our little family following and running the last laps alongside her. She grew that day. And she learned just how far 1500m is and that it might be a while before she tries it again.

I had fun, Mama! #thatsthemainthing #littleaths #littleowlet #vortex

Sometimes the owlets have a fantastic time, despite coming last and not finding a friend. They just enjoy trying something new and having a go. Sometimes they stick with it when we least expect it. Or they have a fantastic time, make lots of friends, connect with the teacher/coach, show they are competent... and decide to leave it at that. And not go again next week. And we have to go with it and trust that they've gained what they need to from the experience. Maybe they'll come back to it when they're ready. Or they won't and they'll move onto something else. And that's ok because it's their life to live and it's so much more fun when you have a go and you try all the things!

If you'd like to join in with Unschool Monday, you can add your link below, or perhaps join in on instagram with the #unschoolmonday hash tag. xx

11 November 2012

5 November 2012

unschool monday :: rules and regulations


Did you have a chance to read Shae's post last week? I hope you did. It sums up where I'm sitting with unschooling right now. I've been here a while actually. Since I had a break from Unschool Mondays and felt like letting go of the labels. Within the unschooling community there is certainly a drive towards letting go and embracing radical unschooling philosophy. As if we are all at different stages on a journey to that destination. Towards supporting and going with your child's needs and towards removing all regulations and restrictions from your child's existence. Life without limits. Essentially, you are treating with the respect you bestow upon other individuals and you are going with their flow. In theory it's fantastic. In theory I agree with it. In theory it may be an approach that suits the average unschooling family. But what if it doesn't?

I live with two individuals who, for their whole lives, have been unable to self regulate one particular thing. For Huz, it's sugar. Try as he likes, he cannot, for the life of him, self regulate it. If sugar (particularly chocolate) is on the menu, he will always go for that first. He will eat vast quantities of it and still not be satiated. Even if he feels unwell for it later. If he allows himself to eat one tiny bit, he may as well eat all the sugar, right? Try as he might, making sugar legal just doesn't work and rather than self-regulation, he has enforced self-restrictiction, accepting that life without refined sugar is healthier for him and better in the long run. He needs a bit of help to stay on the right track, a nudge toward healthy alternatives, but otherwise self restriction is working well. He's healthier and happier now.

Big Owlet is my other one who has always struggled with self regulation. I've documented well our ups and downs with her attraction to the screen. If you've been reading here a while, you'd have seen us waft and wane between lifting and placing restrictions and regulations on screen use... We've talked and thrashed it out over and over. We've sat and listened and watched and waited. We've lived with lots of screens and only a few and right now, we seem of have found something that works. Rather than lifting restrictions, rather than providing a life without limits, here we are firmly setting them. And we have a much more happy household for it.

Big Owlet could watch all day. Everyday. We can walk into a shop and if there's a screen there, the world stops. She's like a deer caught in the headlights. Sometimes it's not such a bad thing. She absorbs a huge amount of information. She can remember facts about animals that I've barely heard of, just from watching documentaries. She's found a happy, constructive and creative social world on Minecraft and manages to tick several of the education department's boxes at the same time. Theoretically it's brought her a lot of great things. But what it also does is disconnect her from her body. She has forgotten to listen to herself more times than I can count. She has forgotten to eat and sleep and sometimes toilet. She emerges from her time on the screen angry, aggressive, unhappy. Her body stiffens and she is difficult and moody. Dark circles appear around her eyes and she loses her spark. It's the first thing she thinks of and the last thing at night. She loses big chunks of time, and it affects all of us.

So a couple of weeks ago, we sat down, as a family, and talked about regulation. About self regulation and the type of regulations that are imposed on you. Big Owlet could see how that many hours at a screen were making her feel. She didn't like it, but she couldn't stop. She was frightened. So she asked for help. We bought a little timer and set a framework and away they went. One hour per day for play. One hour for watching. Then the computer goes off. If it doesn't and Big Owlet requests extra time, it is often given, but we'll remind her when it's time to move on. And so she happily hops off again and moves on with her day. And our house has found harmony again, thanks to a kitchen timer.

For Little Owlet and Tiny, I can see that  life without limits works. Remove restrictions and they self regulate beautifully. They have done since birth. But for Big Owlet, and Huz, it's different. They need support and a framework. They need guidelines and even rules and within that they find what works for them. When they allow themselves to stray too much, they fall right off the wagon.

I can hear the advice on the radical unschooling forums drumming loudly in my ears. We need to let go of our expectations, we need to let go, shift our perceptions... We're doing it wrong... This is our Waldorfy leanings talking... We need to deschool some more... We are seeing her passion as obsession... But I can also hear the sound of a child in turmoil, who feels helpless. Who needs (pleads for) her parents to set clear boundaries for her and show her the way forward. This time, she wants us to tell her what to do. Sometimes embracing or children's freedom and autonomy and true selves can lead us to places we didn't expect to go. Sometimes it can steer you away from popular thinking, or even towards the mainstream. And to truly embrace it, you have to go with it. There is no rule book.

So, here I sit, like Shae, unsure of what to call this type of life and learning journey we have chosen. I'm sticking with Unschooling and I'm happy with it as it stands. I firmly believe there is no right or wrong, or more enlightened, way to do it and that we are not on a journey to becoming better at it. We are living it right now with our individual families and there is no advice to give, other than to follow our hearts and listen and learn together with love.

1 November 2012

Our holiday...


A couple of weeks ago, we were exhausted, wrung out and needed a little break. We needed to slow down. We needed to get things in order. We needed to get things done. We needed to give each other time to take time out and we needed to spend time together. So Huz used up all of his remaining leave and we took a deep breath and hoped that a holiday at home would be just the ticket.


Things got off to a wobbly start. Little Owlet was unwell and the day to day running around and catching up meant that there wasn't much time for relaxing... And we were very short on cash, which cancelled out any hopeful wanderings... So we lit a campfire in the back garden and felt like we were on holidays. That night everything was simple and lovely. We expected the rest of the time to flow like it did from that moment. That was our holiday right there...


The next day it rained... for two whole days. I'll spare you the details of the night we found the cause of our smelly vaccum cleaner was down to a nesting family of mice... And the night we spent violently ill after nibbling some dodgy chicken sausages. And the week we spent recovering while the owlets overran the house... Ok. So this holiday sucked.


Huz goes back to work tomorrow. And we are exhausted, wrung out and needing a little break. Possibly more than before... We are needing to get things in order. We are needing to get things done... So we are just puddling along as we always do.


Today we began decluttering again in earnest. We're looking forward to removing the overwhelm and living a much more orderly, simple life. For some reason it feels like exactly what this year has been all about in so many ways. Letting go. Moving on. Starting afresh. We know we need to let go of lots more. And we need to let go of perfection and help our environment suit the lifestyle we want to lead.


So that we can puddle on and make the most of these beautiful, imperfect moments that pepper our days.


So that we can relish these moments of space, clarity and love.

Have you ever had a holiday that didn't go as you'd hoped? 
Do you like to holiday at home? xx