24 August 2015


Hello! Oh we've had a time of it lately! It feels like an age since my last post. So much has happened in our little world that it's made us think and re-think who we are and where we're travelling on this little journey. If you're feeling like some happy reflections on unschooling life in our beautiful Tasmania, I'll make sure to post some updates on the excellent fun we've been having, later this week, but this is a big one for us and marking it here feels important.

We're at a crossroads. The whole winter has seen the re-development of the street we live on. It's been noisy and muddy and inconvenient. We watched layers gradually peeled back, deep holes dug, paths strengthened and eventually renewed. It's been a bit of a metaphor for recent weeks in our nest.

We've watched friends move on, or make plans to travel, and celebrated their exciting news. On the flip side, we've uncovered some hard truths about people around us. About what they think of us and what that might mean. We've discovered what comes with the territory when you put your hand up to start something. We've had some hard conversations, had walls put up and then quietly put up some of our own so we feel safer (I'm on my first ever proper holiday from Facebook!). Our happy spaces are suddenly difficult and a bit empty. We're all down a bunch of friends and feeling very sad, raw and misunderstood as we've watched it all float away. And we're not sure how this started or why, but we're sure it must be for some reason or other, which we might find out about one day. And now there's a sense of quiet as we attempt to pick ourselves up and carry on as before…

But things are different now. It can be so challenging creating and keeping community. It's one of the more challenging aspects of home education, needing community around you to make it all work. Finding a balance in loving trust, understanding and clear and direct communication, when it takes all types and when you live in a very small place. When it's good, it's very good. And when it's bad, it's horrid. Humans can be so awful to each other. And we get it. We're human too. Hopefully this all leads to greater understanding.

Thinking about what all this might mean for the future is all a bit unknown and hard. So we're focusing on the right now. The good friends we have. The things we like to do. The nest we've created and the garden we're making together. What we're looking forward to. Rebuilding our beloved co-op. We're slowing down, marking days (and making handprints) and being better, gentler friends to each other.

Around about the time home educated children turn 12, friends start dropping off and entering the school system. We expected it. Perhaps not the day after Big Owlet's birthday, but we did expect it and had been making plans for what we might do if… So we're suddenly at a crossroads.

We've been spending lots of time discussing our choices. Travel, moving away from our beloved Tasmania to be with loved ones, SCHOOL, or continuing along as we set out. The Owlets are up for big change. They want a fresh start. So school is on the table. Forms have been filled out (!!). We've all shed tears at the thought of it and breaking up our little gang of 4 most weekdays, for the sake of a new community. Thankfully, one sleepless night led me to this article and gave us some fresh perspective. So we're trying all the things. Moving towards new opportunities, while staying put for now. Hoping all is not yet lost. Wondering where this new road will take us and looking forward to a smoother ride ahead.

Hoping smooth roads are ahead for you too.

Lots of love,

~ Lauren. xx

7 August 2015

How to host an Arternoon

Once a week, we gather with friends and play with art. One of the lovelier additions to our weeks recently, we get together with families from our homeschool co-op and set about making space for creativity and colour. We call it Arternoon.

At the moment Artenoon is one parent (mostly me), facilitating a group of about 6-10 children and joining in when I can. I'm hoping some of the adults will relax and feel inspired to join in and get creative too, because it's so much fun. Our group are a bunch of creative kids, mostly unschooled, and , interestingly, mostly girls right now. We'd love to have some of the boys join in, but for now they seem happier to run and wrestle, and that's totally ok. Our Arternoons began when a couple of parents in our group asked if anyone knew any good, inexpensive, art classes around. Sometimes when you look at the people around you, you discover you already have the skills and experience between you to facilitate all manner of things. You just need to ask and think laterally and make it happen.

We're loving the space to create alongside each other. As a designer, I loved the inspiration and support that came from working in a studio with others. The owlets are loving creating alongside their friends and together we've created a space where everyone's work is valued and appreciated and artists feel supported.

Each session happens just after lunch and runs for a maximum of 2 hours, by which time we're all bursting to run and climb, or down another cup of tea. It seems to be exactly the right sort of time for this sort of work, but I'd imagine an after school or weekend group could work well too. A theme is chosen, with some creative prompts, a new medium to explore or a creative hero to get to know, and off we go!

So far we've run sessions about: Line and contour drawing, Matisse and Collage, Altered Books, and Goethe and finding your own colour palette. Next week, we'll be exploring Kandinsky and circles, and the list of ideas should last us for years! Thankfully, Pinterest is there with loads of inspiration should the well ever run dry.

If you'd like to have a go at starting an Arternoon of your own, here's what you need to know:

  • Choose a space. Your dining table might work. Invite some friends over for some creative fun! If you're a bit concerned about mess, or you have a larger group than will fit in your home, consider hiring a space. 
  • Gather some basic materials. We have a stack of A3 cartridge paper, which is really versatile. We also have a backup supply of paints and drawing materials as well as glue sticks, scissors, coloured paper and old magazines if people need them. 
  • Ask everyone to bring along their favourite materials or art tools. Or suggest simple materials they might need for each week as you progress. Things like acrylic or watercolour paints, oil pastels, favourite pencils and paint brushes are a good start. It's always so much more pleasurable to create art using good quality tools and encouraging children to use them with care and respecting their own tools, as well as each others, is a great way to set them up for good creative practice. 
  • Make a big list of ideas and choose a theme each week. You might take inspiration from a technique or particular medium, or you might choose a creative hero. Maybe an artist or philosopher, or a great story teller. Think about what you can learn from their art and go with it! 
  • Find someone to help you facilitate. Even if it's only every now and then. Volunteer work can be pretty exhausting, so having some help or support and an extra person to bounce ideas off really helps. If your group is really big, you might like to ask a couple of parents to volunteer as helpers. If your group doesn't require much facilitation (maybe you're working with older kids or adults), you might like to decide on a democratic way to present ideas and take turns researching creative prompts. 
  • Give everyone the space to interpret the activity in their own way. There's no right or wrong way to approach making art. Great things can come from exploring tangents!
  • Encourage and give feedback, rather than lashings of praise. Tell each artist what you like about their work. Point out the great bits - maybe you like their interpretation or the colours they've chosen? Give them some ideas if they're having a hard time with something. Encourage them to tell the story behind their work and to support each other. 
  • Join in. Grab some paper and paint and sit down with everyone and play! Have fun! Make mistakes! You might find some creative inspiration frees you up for making more art through the rest of your week. Create some art together and have an ace time! 

If you decide to host an Artenoon of your own, we'd love to hear about it! Let us know how it goes!

~ Lauren. xx