Travelling To Europe With Kids // Preparing and Planning

This is the first post in a series, detailing our preparations for travelling to Europe with our three kids.

In just 3 months time we will be checking and double-checking our luggage and not sleeping with anticipation because on the 29th May we will be boarding a plane bound for Paris! We’ll be travelling through Europe with our 3 kids for 6 weeks and we couldn’t be more excited.

Maybe it’s because I was born in Croatia, but I have always felt a pull to see more of the world and we’ve been to Europe twice now – once as a couple, and another time when Hannah was a toddler. We were bitten by the travelling bug and this has always been something we planned to do more of as a family. Travel was a factor in our decision making process to unschool and something we spend a lot of time saving for and discussing together. And this time it’s been amazing to involve Hannah and Blake in the whole process.

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We booked our tickets last year in October, so we’re excited that the trip finally feels like it’s getting closer and closer. My grandma, uncle and aunty and cousins still live in Croatia so the majority of our 6 week trip will be spent visiting them but we’re also planning to indulge in quite a bit of country-hopping around Europe. Part of the reason for flying into Paris, instead of Croatia itself, is because we can hire a car in Paris and drive to Croatia while seeing a few more countries along the way.

Currently our plan is to stay a few nights in Paris, head to Amsterdam, then the Rhine Valley in Germany, over to Austria and then my grandparents place in Croatia. We’ll be spending a couple of weeks with my grandma and about a week on the Croatian coast so there will be a lot to see and do, but a lot of down time too. On the way back to Paris we plan to see Verona (and hopefully squeeze in Venice though we’ve been there before) and then a few days in the Provence area of France.

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We chose the kids Christmas presents with this overseas trip in mind and Hannah and Blake received a new backpack full of things they will need for the plane and travelling in general. This was a hit, as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how much travelling we’ll be doing in the plane and car overseas. Both Hannah and Blake have been in planes before but Blake’s last trip was before he was 2 so we’re making sure to discuss the technicalities of it as much as possible to create familiarity. They are so thrilled about it, I think they’ll love the whole experience.

And we do so much car travel and regular road-trips here anyway so I think the journeying in the car will just be something they’re already used to for all 3 of them. We’re realistic about it, we know there will be tough, hard and downright shit moments but they’re only moments and the joy will outweigh it all I’m sure!

I plan to write 2 more posts about our trip in more detail at the end of March and April as we countdown to this big adventure! If you have any specific questions jot them down in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in upcoming posts!

The Crux of Unschooling

Do you want to know what gets me excited to wake up in the morning?

This life.

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I am just so passionate about this way of living. And I say living because it is – it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a whole new way of thinking about learning and living.

Well, not really new, we all felt it at some point… probably in our early childhoods. Unschooling is not an educational method – unschooling is about seeing learning in a different way to how we are taught to see it in the western world.

Learning can seem complex and mysterious when we’re looking at it from the outside, but when we stop trying to analyse it, we realise what we already know deep inside – that learning is innate. It’s what we’re born to do. There is so much freedom and joy in truly living that knowing.

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This article really gets to the heart of why Unschooling is a Lifestyle – even though it doesn’t mention unschooling at all. It gets to the heart of how ingrained learning is. Learning is like breathing, we’re always doing it but we don’t often realise we are, until we put a specific focus on it.

However,  in our western society we like to put labels on learning. Labels like ‘school’ and ‘studying’ and ‘university’ and ‘classes’ and ‘courses’, it goes on and on. What about the learning we do when we drive down a new street? When we talk to a person we haven’t met before? When we taste a new food? When we try a new experience? When we try something a different way to the way we did it last time? When we spend time gathering resources and knowledge about a topic that we feel passionate about? Just every day things. Things we don’t really think of as learning. We don’t shout it out from the rooftops when we cook using a new recipe like we do when we complete a degree, but it’s all the same thing at the end of the day. A new learning in our personal evolution.

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Our children do that too. But at a much higher frequency, at a higher speed, and at a higher level. They are gaining so much new information every day we would have trouble naming it all. And the best thing is – we don’t have to! We can come from a place of trust, a place of knowing, a place that still lies deep inside us from when we were small children spending our days exploring and questioning and daydreaming and creating and learning.

So I unschool. My children unschool. My family unschools.
Because we live life and we learn, and we don’t separate the two.

Learning. It’s life!

Moving on…

Change.

It’s life only true constant.

When we moved back to this house that we own in late July last year, a lot of people were asking us if this was a permanent move, or at least our final move for a decent amount of time (we’ve moved almost yearly prior to this). I can understand their apprehension, but we couldn’t respond in any other way than to be truthful – we didn’t know…no one ever does!

I’ve learned people like stability, security, a sense of order and definition. I don’t know what it is about Brian and I, but we’re just not routine people! We find our security in being together as a family, where ever and how ever that may be. We don’t seem to find change scary anymore.

Our goal and #1 priority has always been the joy of our family and that truly runs our life. It’s that simple goal, no more and no less. Everything that is a part of our life – jobs, money, houses, cars, furniture, holidays, unschooling etc etc etc – is based on that simple foundation. We ask ourselves, “Will this help us to make this priority of joy for our family a reality?” and if the answer is yes, then we do it.

All Rights ReservedSometimes we’ve had to do difficult things. Hard things. Things that take a lot of sacrifice. Things that are uncomfortable. Things that made us re-think everything we thought we knew because it didn’t fit with our priority. Sometimes we’ve had to make changes that make other people uncomfortable… but our life is not about others.

Our life is about finding our joy.
Living our truth.
Being authentic as individuals and as a family, and making thoughtful and considered decisions.

So we’re making more changes. Another decision that from other points of view could be seen as unwise – and we’ve wondered that too. Originally, this house was going to be the one to set us up, to make us rich in our retirement days. So making the decision to let it go was hard. We met and fell in love on this street. I imagined having this house in our family for many years to come and as sad as it is to let that vision go, the one replacing it makes me even more excited. Ultimately, our answer to the above priority question still rang true; the answer was still yes. So we’re selling our house. We are committed to funding our life on the road – a life of adventure and exploration.

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Maybe we’re gypsies at heart. Maybe we’re idealists and dreamers. Maybe we’ve fallen hard and fast for wanderlust, that spellbinding goddess of travel. Either way, we’re sure about one thing – we know our priorities in life and if changes help us to achieve them then we know we’re onto a good thing.

So bring on the change, bring on the hard work. We’re used to it and we know the freedom we’re gaining will more than make it all worth it.

P.S. If you’d like to send us ‘selling house vibes’ we would gratefully appreciate them 🙂

 

Our Unschooling Journey | The Week In Review

So it’s already the second month of 2015 and this is the first time I’ve managed a week in review! Of-course there’s been lots of living and learning happening since the year began but this is just a slice of the last 7 days in our world.

Life is busy here at the moment. I had a real moment of overwhelm on Monday, lots of tears and a bit of a breakdown. We’ve been doing some work on the house and it had all become too much. Having three small kids at home full time with no outside help makes work like that almost impossible, and yet we had to struggle through. I decided taking the kids out for some fresh air with friends in the afternoon would be helpful, so we jumped in the car and off we went.

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I couldn’t have been more wrong! It was ridiculously windy, Blake cut his foot and then wet his pants, Daisy crawled into a puddle… which was all fine but then I had to get them back to the car to change them with the wind shutting my door on the back of my legs constantly while I tried to get Daisy changed in the front seat and Hannah running back to the beach to gather our shoes and waterbottles (what would I do without that child?!). It was all a mess. These photos are of the few minutes where it felt like I had made the right decision instead of the wrong one! But that’s life. Some bits are just hard.

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We finally re-planted our vegetable garden this week.  When we were watering, Hannah found a baby Christmas beetle which Hannah and Blake studied intensely for quite a while, remembering the Christmas beetle we discovered last month. We’ve all remembered to water the vegie patch every day too, so it’s been a lovely team effort.

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I asked Hannah which plant she thought we would be able to harvest from first – we have tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli, lettuce and purple carrots (plus basil, mint and parsley). She chose the capsicum as the most likely to produce fruit [or vegetable!)] first, and it looks like she was right. Although tomato is coming in a nice second 🙂

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Tuesday was spent at our city farm haven again with lots of book reading, playing in the sandpit and imaginative play with friends.

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There was also something else. A dead gecko. The interesting part about this story is that the children found this gecko in the cubby house, not moving and easily captured. They placed it in an empty palm frond and brought it over to us to ask if the lizard was alive or dead. We all discussed what signs we would look for in a dead animal but Bob also pointed out that a defense mechanism most animals have is to play dead in order not to get eaten. Someone also suggested that it may be really scared and therefore not physically able to move away. With all this information the children were left with a choice about what to do next.

They began talking with each other and realised that if the gecko was in fact not dead, then it would need to have the opportunity to continue on its way. Bob suggested they put it near the cubby and leave it for a while to see what happened. We all concluded that if it was still there after about half an hour then it must be dead.

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More play together ensued and then finally someone remembered the gecko. They ran off to retrieve it and sadly it was still there. A burial was discussed, the right tools to dig the hole found and a perfect spot under the big tree was chosen. We left them to it and when I walked over after about 10 minutes to take a photo I heard them discussing the lizards anatomy, how he has cold blood and how his tail might have been broken. One of the children wondered if she could do an operation to save it’s tail before he was buried, so that occurred before the gecko was finally laid to rest.

It was a fascinating process to witness and the children took it all in their stride with a matter-of-fact attitude. They were all somber about the fact that the lizard was not alive, although he obviously wasn’t a beloved pet so I assume this was why they were able to be more objective. On the way home Hannah brought up the topic of death and we chatted about it once again. Death has been an ongoing topic of interesting conversation here for over a year now. I might write about our approach in discussing death in more detail in another post if there is interest.

That night at my parents house, we had an unexpected blackout. Blake asked if we could have a campfire and although that obviously wasn’t possible, we were able to compromise with candles, mini-marshmallows and toothpicks = excellent blackout fun!

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On Wednesday and Thursday my sister graciously came over to help with the kids while I continued working on the house. I love being a full-time stay at home mama, but it IS hard work. It is also not realistic, in that humans haven’t evolved to live so individually. Having my sister around during the day, reminds me how much support and help really is necessary in order to truly enjoy this process of raising children. We all had a lot of fun together,  building block cities, befriending a neighbourhood cat, chatting about the full moon and going crystal shopping. And in-between all that I even managed to get some work done. Total win-win.

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Friday was spent hanging out at the park with more unschooling friends and I loved watching Hannah and Blake climb the trees instead of playing on the playground. I love knowing that they know they have the freedom to challenge themselves in this natural way.

After spending most of Saturday at Southbank (a family-friendly precinct in our city) watching the buskers perform and Hannah and Blake spending their money at the markets, I wasn’t surprised that money was a hot topic on the way home. The children both had just over $5 in their bags and I reminded them that if they chose something that cost $5 they would have no more money but would have that item instead.

Hannah asked how we earned money and what she would have to do to make some money. I suggested a few different ideas such as asking her grandparents if she could work on their garden or clean their cars to earn some more dollars. Almost immediately she asked if she could clean our car and we suggested that if they both cleaned all their toys out of the car they could have $1 each. After doing that Hannah was keen to make more so she asked if she could vacuum the car out and Blake was eager to help so they ended up with $2 each.

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Hannah is already planning how she can earn more. This money-making scenario has played out a few different ways in the last couple of years with the kids baking cupcakes to sell at events and garage sales to earn money previously. It will be interesting to see whether this is another short-term interest in money and business or whether now that Hannah is older, it will escalate to something bigger.

We ended our week by inviting Racheous – Lovable Learning, Memoiors of a Childhood, Happiness is Here and their delightful families over for a swim in the pool and a barbecue lunch. Of-course, there had to be a bit of a tinker with the Spielgaben set as well! I don’t think we could have fit more fun into one day! It was seriously adorable – albeit busy with 10 children under the age of 6 – watching them all enjoy their time together. Us adults had a pretty good time too!

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Make sure to pop over to Racheous – Lovable Learning, Memoiors of a Childhood, Happiness is Here and An Everyday Story to check out what their beautiful weeks looked like.

If you like what you see here please get in touch, I love supporting other families to make this unschooling lifestyle your reality and I offer a very personalised mentoring package to guide you through the process. Just email me via hello@hippyhappymama.com