Homeschooling, Unschooling…Or Something Else?

I take a deep breath, pick up the phone and dial. As the voice on the other end answers, I exhale, happy to hear an old friend on the line. We get chatting, catching up and making plans. I’m nervous and feel like I’m cheating…Is this really what we want? Shouldn’t we be making better choices?! But it’s too late now! I hang up, with the wheels set in motion. Whats done is done, and I know its time to put words into action…

Its monday morning. I get the kids ready and we head out. A lunch is packed, shoelaces tied, their backpacks at the ready. It’s different. We usually start slow, with not even a sideways glance at the clock. Gently ease into the rhythm of our day, no rushing, happy in the space we inhabit, with no real desire to leave. But not today…We have plans, and we need to be in integrity. Am I ready for this?!

We arrive. A small town, a handful of families….everyone greets us warmly, like old friends, even thought it’s been a while. We’ve been off, doing our own thing for some time now, embracing the freedom of home education and all that it offers.

I look at my boys- they’re so confident! They are exactly where they want to be! All through their young lives, I’ve held their hands while they led the way- I have supported their decisions the whole way through. Child led learning is empowering, watching your children grow, immersing themselves in their passions, ALL of their passions, whatever that may be! Sure, there are challenges, but overall it’s been a blessing.

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Suddenly, the bell rings and my boys tear off. Their names are called and they run, unsure of the process….we do what? Stand in a line….hmmm ok, its all good mum…we’ve got this!

They trundle off, a tiny classroom of 6 students, a reminder of the tiny town we call home. Their teacher is their friend, their classmates they’ve known since birth….I turn and head for the car.

It had been bubbling beneath the surface for some time. This curiosity at another way of life- a more ‘common’ and understood education. Try as I might, I couldn’t sway them from their desire. As a passionate homeschooling parent- I wanted to say ‘No’, to enforce continued home education. As an unschooling advocate, I knew I couldn’t take my children’s choices away from them. We spoke of the options; to stay at home, to learn in this free and natural way we do, how we could shift and change to meet each others needs better- but none of it helped. They wanted to know for themselves, what this ‘school’ stuff was like. To experience something that we talk so passionately about.

I pour a cup of tea and sit in the silence. I am lost…I cry, my tears run down my face, pool into my hands. The sobs echo, as I release all the feelings of inadequacy, impermanence, change. I feel useless and hopeless, like a failure. I try to find the positive in their choice- adventure, independence, freedom to explore, to be heard and supported. But my mind imprisons me- the times I shouted, lost my temper, was less than the parent I aimed to be…Did I cause this? Did I drive them away? But as the overwhelm subsides, I breathe deep. They are happy. And for today, thats all that really matters.

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Time=Irrelevant

A year ago (almost to the day) I broke my arm in a bad fall, from this guy- my soul mate and one of my favourite beings to hang out with. I got scared. I have three kids and having a broken arm was inconvenient (at the very least!) But I refused to put pressure on myself. I DIDN’T get back on the horse. I took time out and reflected on how I got into that situation. I released control and was reminded AGAIN that it’s the journey, not the destination. And you can’t rush a horse! Harlique truly is my mirror- whatever comes up for me when I’m training (he trains me, we train each other 💕) are some of my greatest lessons and insights. And today, a year on, I got back on the horse. No pressure, no goals. And I felt like I’d come home ✨ Thanks for sticking with me buddy- it’s time to really become one again 😘♥️😘

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Why we don’t do ‘bedtimes’

We don’t do bedtimes…And I’m glad we don’t! Otherwise I would have missed this time to connect and play. We sat up and did drawing, crafting a little treasure box, artventure, and stories. All past ‘bedtime’….

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And I’ll admit, we had had a busy, draining day. I really thought Chev (5) needed a hug, a good cry (to release those B I G emotions is a supportive way) and a cuddle while he got some restorative sleep. But he was adamant that he didn’t need it. Their collective behaviour was pretty ratty. They were arguing and getting erratic, trying to do big energetic games and failing, falling into tears and blame. So I grabbed some art supplies and plopped them down at the table where we really immersed ourselves into some creative connecting.

And all this would be missed if I adhered to strict 7:30 bedtimes.

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But if you’re thinking ‘I could never do that, my kids would stay up till midnight’,  don’t freak out! We don’t stay up late at all…Giving children the freedom to regulate their own body clock has meant that they’ve found a natural rhythm all on their own. They really do wind down around 7, and are usually asking for books and cuddles by 7:30/8:00. We do have a few things in place to support this- we eat dinner around sunset each night, they run around in the last of the light and then come in for some quiet activities like reading, art and music until the sleep fairy arrives! We also don’t do television, so theres no electronic stimulus affecting (or ruling) their needs.

Another reason this is successful is that we don’t have the morning ‘school rush’ that families who are educating outside of the home might face. The nights we are up later, may result in slower starts. But that works for us too, especially in winter, when our early morning essentials consist of a fire, some good books, and colouring pencils! One of my favourite parts of homeschooling is watching my children self regulate their wellbeing and personal needs. Its my attempt to raise free spirited and connected kids.

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Our switch to Waldorf Inspired Learning

I guess i’ve always been enthralled by the Steiner approach to education. We enrolled my eldest son in the (semi)local school before his second birthday, but then we moved away and decided to homeschool and i veered off track a little. Since we now have a beautiful dedicated learning room, and my middle child has taken an active interest in learning to read, I have decided to turn our room into a more naturally inspired place to be.

It was fun too. The first step was culling all the plastic, and rummaging through the wood heap. It involved lots of repurposing and creativity. We aren’t there yet, as I am still working on our nature table but I love it so far. No clutter!

Of course, my wish list is still epic- waldorf window stars, gnomes and a gnome tree house, grimms puzzles, a spielgaben set, lots of felted landscapes, and play silks too! Its ever evolving, just like life…but it seems to work for us!

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Small Worlds

smallSmall worlds play… It only takes a minute and some salvaged items (fallen tree branch blocks, thrifted dinosaurs, an old bread crate from the tip and some weeds pulled from the garden) to create an imaginative, interactive playscape that’s so far buying me more than 40 minutes free time!

 

Why I can’t WAIT for bedtime!

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All around the world- in homes, at mothers groups, the office and over dinner, parents are counting down the minutes until they can put their kids to bed…There’s memes ALL over social media, long running jokes with partners, a glass of wine waiting to be filled (or refilled!) to get us through the last hour…heck, theres even some pretty hilarious (if completely inappropriate) ‘children’s books for adults’ {remember ‘Go the F to sleep’} helping to cement the last few moments of our parenting day as a universal drama…

And I’m totally there too…I can’t WAIT for bedtime. But it might not be for the reason you’re expecting.

Our days are busy. They’re pretty much exhausting. We run a farm growing food, we have livestock and pets to care for. There are 5 in my family, including three boys under 7 that are homeschooled. We do all the usual stuff that most humans do, and sometimes I even find time to ride my horses (winning!!). So by 7pm I absolutely, like most of you parents out there, am checking my watch, reminding kids about teeth and helping button up PJ’s.

But here’s where it differs to the parenting memes. I actually LIKE this part!

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This is where the good shit happens…Its where my 3 year old caresses my face, tells me he loves me all the way to Austria and back (random, yes…previous life maybe lol). Where my 6 year old asks me to explain Evolution, the Big Bang Theory and find out who God is…Where my 7 year old {finally} gets a moment with me to himself. Where he’s been in the background for parts of the day with a threenager and a middle child all desperately vying for attention, Kalan, being his usual quiet self may have gone unheard in some instances, now finally whispers all his secrets to me…When I see him sit up at night and say goodnight to Mother Earth and Father Sun quietly before snuggling me, when he asks about the ice age and fossils and healing powers of crystals. When we tell jokes and hold hands and  I lay with him until his breathing slows and he falls asleep, keeping me present in this journey of motherhood, watching these lives unfold before me.

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So yes, I can’t WAIT for bedtime. And I’ll treasure these moments for as long as I’ve got them. Its not always a race to the end… It’s when we slow down, breathe deep and spend quality time deepening connections that the magic really happens.