26 January 2018

Back to life + rose petals

Suffice it to say we've been extraordinarily busy for the past year. The last six months were particularly intense and when the flu arrived at our home in September, followed by a hospital run, our manuscript deadline,  photoshoot, the Spiral Garden end of year rush, and a house full of family visiting for Christmas, we abandoned more structured home educating days and embraced our unschooling ways again. Long days (and nights!) of work sat alongside owlets undertaking their own exploration and projects, meeting with us to discuss and reflect and assist as we were able, and peppered with the odd trip to the beach or play at the playground, while I frantically responded to emails on my phone. It wasn't what any of us felt was ideal. It was a slog. But we got all the jobs done and survived it in relatively good spirits. And now we're slowly creeping back to life as we knew it before. Slowly remembering there's a garden to feed us. Remembering the mending pile, the preserving season, the books to read, the wardrobes to reorganise, the tax to do, pictures we've forgotten to hang in their proper places as we've moved through a year doing only the basics.

This week the owlets requested a return to the more formal elements of their learning-filled days, that they've come to love. Workbooks and reading and discussion, art activities and exploration are where it's at for them. And the focussed time we spend together is dear to all of our hearts. It's still another couple of weeks before the Tasmanian school year begins, but we have the freedom to take holidays and end the year as we please, so we follow the enthusiasm when it arrives. On Monday at about 9.15am, we decided it was time.

We began with the regular milestone photo by the front door and a sprinkling of rose petals and cheers as owlets wandered back inside, filled with excitement and renewed energy. I gave myself a sprinkling of petals and owlets cheered loudly for me too, because we're all in this together. Then we gathered at our little round table, which was set with a jar full of flowers, a candle, and some new writing materials for the year. We've decided to use folders this year, because paper isn't wasted like it  often is in the unused pages of exercise, scrap, or main lesson books. The owlets chose their favourite Lyra pencils to write and draw with, and we took a little tour through the books and subjects they've asked to work with this year. I'm a fairly relaxed planner, but I've been gathering interesting resources and making plans for the owlets for the past few months, checking in on their own plans and wishes.

Big Owlet has asked to spend time delving into science, art history and witchy things. She also wants to improve her understanding of mathematical concepts, learn to write academically, gently explore literature, and poetry. Little Owlet is so inspired by storytelling right now, so Ancient History is where we'll begin with her, alongside the shelf full of books she's likely to devour this year. She's keen for some scientific learnings too, with a Harry Potter inspired slant of potions, astronomy and herbology. Tiny is desperate to read, keen on maths, and into whatever her sisters are doing, with a practical focus, and lots of play.

This far along in our home educating lives, we know with some confidence, what works for us and what doesn't. We also know to be flexible, and that you often can't plan the greatest opportunities to learn, and that the most valuable lessons usually come from life. Tangents are meant to be followed. So we began with the plan of science and craft on Monday. Astronomy for Big Owlet, biology for Little, chemistry for Tiny. Then Little and Tiny set about painting some small cardboard tubes to create families of people, before looking through my grandmother's button collection to find her old earrings. Tiny learnt to crochet, and Big began making prototypes for her small business. Before long, the owlets were catching up with their friends via Skype, while I snuck in a couple of hours work, emailing customers and fulfilling orders, as dinner bubbled away on the stove. Tuesday was much the same, with english, herbology, and the hours of gardening and cooking that seemed to happen as part of that, including spontaneous ANZACs and jam making for Little Owlet, who made what is probably the greatest backyard apricot and vanilla bean jam of all time! 

Life is full, messy, busy and ridiculously lovely right now, and I'm so glad we're finding more time again to notice it. So glad to spend my days with these owlets. So glad they're choosing to spend their days here together. And I'm aware of how soon these precious days will be behind us. A beautiful blur of questions, cups of tea, conversation, love, pikelets, creativity, and rose petals.

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