Our Unschooling Journey

Travelling to Europe With Kids // Flying With Kids

This post is part of a series of our preparations for travelling with our 3 kids through Europe. You can find the rest of the posts here.

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We’ve been to Europe twice before. Once in Summertime before we married and once in the winter of 2009/2010 with Hannah when she was 14/15months old. Before that trip when Hannah was a toddler, I researched as much as I could to find ways to entertain her on the flight. I was SO nervous that she would scream the majority of the time and that we would annoy the other passengers. It turns out Hannah is an ideal travelling child, and that hasn’t changed even as she’s grown up. This time she is obviously old enough to comprehend what is happening and what we’re about to experience. Plus she remembers a few of our domestic airline trips and is a road-trip child from way back.

It was very different travelling with only one child to look after and worry about. We even had my parents and brother and sister on that trip, so we had many pairs of hands. This time it’s just Brian and I and our 3 children on a flight that takes 29 hours, so we’re outnumbered and in unfamiliar territory. Since we can be pretty sure that Hannah will be mostly comfortable with this new experience, we are hoping that Blake will follow her example and find it enjoyable.

Blake often struggles with transitions so we are aware of that and we are talking about the trip and different aspects of it every day in order to develop some security around all the new experiences for him. We hope that his overall excitement about the trip will help him move into feeling more comfortable more easily, but we’re also remaining understanding that this could do the opposite and actually create more overwhelm. We’ve also watched quite a few YouTube videos about the flight process and role-played the security checks etc in an effort to make that all as familiar as possible. No matter what, we’ll be right alongside him, to support him with whatever he needs.

Daisy is a typical 21 month old toddler. She wants to explore everything and enjoy her new found freedom and independence. Her personality is not in the least bit shy or withdrawn so we are wondering how that will balance out with the restrictions of flying, staying in unfamiliar accommodation and driving for long distances. Even though I am bringing a few toys and activities for her to play with, I know they won’t hold Daisy’s interest for long. She is a people-person and a true explorer, she rarely plays with toys even at home! I know I’m going to have to use all of my mummy-tricks to help her stay seated for that 20 minute take-off and landing every time! I’m thinking yummy snacks will be the winner here!

So after all that crazy analysing of what may or may not happen, we did prepare for the flight as much as we possibly can.

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Luggage –

Checked-in luggage – Each of the kids have a small wheeled suitcase of their own clothes (it felt easier for me to pack it this way) that will be checked in. Brian and I are sharing a large suitcase with our clothes plus we have another suitcase filled with booster seats for Hannah and Blake for the hire car, a soft booster seat for Daisy to use instead of a highchair, Turkish towels for our beach stay, nappies and wipes and a few other bits and pieces.

On-board luggage – Hannah and Blake each have their own backpack to take on board filled with a change of clothes, an individually chosen toy/play item, two small books, headphones, their camera, colouring/sticker books, their journal and their pillow. I bought Daisy a tiny back pack as well, but it will probably just have one toy and book in there so that I can easily pack it away if she gets annoyed with or bored of it. I have an overnight style bag to take on board which will carry a change of clothes for Daisy and a t-shirt for me just in case of spills, nappies and wipes, headphones for Daisy as I know she will want them since Hannah and Blake have some, a pashmina in case it gets chilly on the plane, medications, water-bottles and snacks, and all the extra toys/books/activities for the flight and airport entertainment. Brian is bringing all the electronics in a backpack that we will use as our day pack when we arrive at our destinations.

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I’ve really tried to pack light – as much as I possibly can for 5 people – because I know if we need anything we can always buy it there. However, we are going in Spring/very early Summer time so the temperatures can be unpredictable. We need jackets and jeans as well as swimmers and shorts. So I’ve tried to cover for almost a week of all-weather situations and pack as light as possible. I have also though carefully about what activities/toys to take. I hope I’ve hit just the right amount to hold each of the different age interests plus packing things that can be versatile enough to use in the car (we’ll be doing a lot of driving) and at our destinations too.

I’m sure we’ll pick up a few more toys along the way as is always the case on holidays, so I didn’t want to start out with too much because of that. The airports that we’ll be in transit in for the longest times – Singapore on the way over and Hong Kong on the way back, for 6 and 8 hours respectively – seem to have a huge variety of activities to entertain the family with so I hope this really will help to endure the long waits with relative ease (I know they seem like long waits and they are, but the price we paid for our flights is worth it!).

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The activities/toys I have packed for the trip include

  • Headphones –  because I doubt the little earphones the plane gives out will fit the children’s ears and I want them to be able to hear their movies/games. Hannah and Blake’s each have pens to customise the sides with their own artwork which adds another activity – bonus!
  • Journal – I really want to try to make time to write/draw in this every day on the trip to help them keep these memories for their lifetime. I will be bringing my journal too of-course, and a special holiday one, so I thought it might be a nice activity for Hannah, Blake and I to do together.
  • Colouring/Sticker books – There is one each for each child and these will be used in the car while we’re driving between countries as well. Daisy is at an age where colouring doesn’t really interest her of-course, but she can just scribble on the paper to her hearts content while she emulates her siblings. She is however, at a great age for beginning to grasp the skill of stickering so we’re hoping this will hold her interest for some time. Hannah is very much into colouring at the moment so I’m pretty sure she’ll have her nose in her book for most of the flight and airport time.
  • Oragami paper – This is for Hannah, Blake and Daddy to work on while Daisy and I nap ;).
  • Small Dollhouse dolls – This was an idea I borrowed from another blog somewhere in travel-blog-land, and I think this will be a hit, promoting imaginative play.
  • Finger puppets – These were rarely played with at home but I could see their value in a small confined space so instead of donating them when we culled most of the toys, I saved them in our holiday box.
  • Deck of cards x2 – I think if your kids are able to play Snap or are even just learning it, cards are a great way to extend that game and also help the kids learn new ones like Go Fish.
  • A magnetic Ludo game travel set – I bought this from a stationary store would you believe? They had them at the counter for $5.
  • Books – A necessity.
  • Plasticine/play-dough
  • Magnadoodles – These were something I was really wanting to find in this compact size as they fit so well in the bag. I bought one for each child from the $2 store, and they had to open and use them as soon as they saw them – even Daisy – so I think these will be a favourite on the plane and in the car.
  • Balloons and a balloon cover – for the airport.
  • Inflatable swords – I saw these at the $2 shop and thought they would be great for the airport to help Blake get energy out. He loves pretending to be a knight or a pirate and I know he will miss his swords that we have to leave at home. I bought 2 so Brian and Blake can continue their duels!


    That sounds like a lot written in a list like that, but it really all fits easily into my bag and theirs, and there is 3 children to amuse after all. I know that Hannah and Blake will enjoy the airplane games and entertainment -and we will have our iPad – but I want to be reaching for these activities first. Of-course, I’m packing some non-perishable snacks along too and hopefully all of this preparation means a smoother flight for all of us. I guess we’ll find out in just a few days!

 

 

 

 

How To Homeschool in Australia

This post aims to answer the questions we get asked most, “Can I home school my child? Is it legal? Do I need a degree?” by briefly explaining the registration details by state, and the different home education options each Australian family has.

Home education is legal in every state in Australia, although each state has their own variation of registration and reporting requirements. The parents do not need to have attained a certain level of education in order to home educate. We often get asked if it is free to homeschool and technically it is, as there is no fee to home educate (unless parents choose Distance Education, then they do pay the provider) but there is also no current monetary supplementation or bonuses from the government paid to Australian parents in order to help them purchase resources or supplies. Electing to home educate is a valid legal alternative for every family in Australia and there are several different ways that this can happen.

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Facilitating Unschooling // Cards & Notes

Writing or drawing cards and letters for friends is one of the easiest and most common ways that I encourage writing in our home. We don’t do workbooks or worksheets, so all the writing the children do comes from opportunities created by what is going on in our life. This illustrates to the children that writing is a skill that is a necessary and useful part of everyday living and is something they will do as an adult too.From an early age I have asked them to participate in the gift giving and card writing for someone’s birthday and because birthdays are fairly frequent there are many chances to do this.

I will also always mention that they can write their name at the bottom of their picture so that the person knows who it’s from and often it’s just a little scribble to start with. Over time they realise their name has recognisable letters and they might ask for some help to form those letters. Then I’ve noticed there seems to be a variation of their name always used often just a letter, eg H or B or for about 6 months Hannah signed of as HAN and recognised that as her name. Once they had the hang of writing their name in the way they wanted, I’d encourage writing to that person on the front of that card or at the top of the picture, and then Happy Birthday or a message inside.

Through observing their natural learning patterns I’ve noticed that the desire to master a particular skill comes in phases and writing is no different, so there are times where they would rather not write that card or even draw a picture. Which is totally fine, I always give them the choice though. I don’t push it, because as with everything, the process has to be meaningful. They need to be intrinsically motivated to do the drawing even if it was my suggestion. Without that internal motivation creating it is almost pointless.

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Over Christmas I posted that Blake and Hannah were both very much into creating and writing Christmas cards. This was one of those rare times where their interests and desires for that type of learning meshed. Continuing to encourage them to participate in birthday cards and letters means that the gap between those phases of bursts of desire is not completely devoid of generating an understanding that writing is useful in everyday life. It’s not about perfecting the skill of writing itself, but about reminding that even in this world of technology and short-cuts, handmade and handwritten notes are so important.

This is another reason why they’re so encouraged here, it feeds into altruism, thoughtfulness, and giving – al very valued principles in our family. Creating something from your own hands for another person is the simplest act of love one can do for another. Even if the children say no, I always write in the card in front of them and wrap the present with their help so that they can use my example as a reminder that giving feels good not only for the receiver but for us as well.

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Of-course this is not the only time my children draw or write letters – most of the time that comes through in imaginative play and I also have a post on how our Writing Centre has encouraged writing and posting letters as well. This is just another example of how as parents we can help facilitate meaningful writing opportunities for children in our daily life, while still giving plenty of freedom and choice.

Travelling To Europe With Kids // Unschooling Geography

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

As I mentioned in my last post, Hannah and Blake have been very interested in learning about the world they live in for over 18 months now. Having this trip to look forward to has served to increase their knowledge and fascination through real-life practical explorations. Today, I thought I would share some of the resources we use in our unschooling journey that have really helped extend this interest and generate lots of fun learning about all things geography related.

A map of the world is a necessity in any home and so is a globe. Seeing how far Australia is to Croatia on the world map really solidified for Hannah and Blake why we would need to use an airplane to get there. However, maps are one-dimensional and looking at a globe allowed the children to understand how the Earth is shaped. They were fascinated by the realisation that the masses of land on the top and bottom of the Earth had freezing temperatures while the middle, along the Equator, was incredibly hot. Antarctica for some reason also became the second continent – after Australia – that both of them committed to memory.

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Flags have been captivating for over a year now and this flag activity has been played with many, many times. It doesn’t include all the flags for all the countries of the world but it is enough to satisfy a child’s interest (ours has about 30 flags). As Hannah is a visual learner, she very quickly remembered quite a few of the flags and was able to relate them to real life experiences such as noticing the Swedish flag while on a shopping trip in IKEA and that our maple syrup must have been bottled in Canada as the Canadian flag contains a maple leaf. These sorts of connections never fail to surprise me and it’s also been a great divergent lesson in marketing and advertising!

And although she isn’t a proficient reader yet, Hannah is able to use this activity on her own by matching all the letters on the flag with a country. As she gets older she will be able to read the short facts about the country on the back of the flag which will lead into other interests I’m sure, so I love that this activity will evolve with the children as they grow. This is definitely one of my favourite resources and one I am asked about each time I post a photo with it in it on Instagram, so I am excited to be able to offer a link to all those who have asked me for one!

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As a lead on from flags, I found an activity pack like this at our local op-shop/thrift store and it includes stickers of flags, a mini passport, information about different countries and even postcards to ‘send’, so this created lots of space for imaginary play. It was especially fun once we received our real passports and they were able to use the play one to stamp and pretend to fly to far of places with.

We have all enjoyed putting together the world map puzzle that we own several times over the last six months. Although it has 500 pieces I really love how much time it takes and that it requires us all to interact to complete a goal. Because there are a lot of tricky blue pieces, we were able to spend quite a bit of time discussing the different oceans and the smaller islands and countries that are often unheard of. Lots of patience is required with this puzzle of-course, but it is easy to find puzzles with far fewer pieces which are especially great for smaller children.

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Of course books have featured prominently in our discovery of the world and this book in particular we have spent many hours poring over. I wish they would make more books like this, it is so fantastic for children to easily see how other children in the world live. Hannah was shocked that the girl from Brazil often wears no shoes or a shirt and occasionally eats  Alligator meat. I then reminded her that in Australia you can purchase Crocodile to eat in some areas and Kangaroo is sold in shops too! A movie I would recommend for highlighting more cultural differences is the documentary Babies.

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When I noticed the children drawing maps constantly – initially sparked by a pirate movie – I asked my parents to buy a special book for the children for Christmas which is incidentally named Maps! I explained to Hannah and Blake how the maps they are drawing to get from one place to another can also be interpreted a different way as a map of a country. I particularly loved that the book includes Croatia since it’s such a small country it doesn’t always get mentioned. There is so much detail in this book and it is again another resource that will grow and evolve with the children as they do.

And this book is one we borrowed from the library recently and we were able to use  with our Around the World models to match some of the famous sights Isabella sees on her adventures. The book also includes detail about each sight, for example the Eiffel Tower and The Statue of Liberty, at the end of the book which was a pleasant extension.

As you can tell, we don’t shy away from technology and an app we have used to extend our geographical knowledge is called Map the World which Hannah and Blake both enjoy playing. It’s a simple puzzle app where the user has to put the countries in the correct places on the continent and a voice calls out the names of the countries. This is a really great way to get to know all those smaller countries in different regions and Hannah can now easily find many countries on a map or atlas.

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At the end of my last post I received a question about languages and whether or not we were teaching the children Croatian (I am bi-lingual as I grew up in Croatia). As with all new things, we are guided by the children’s interest and motivation because coming from that perspective means we know the learning will be meaningful to the children. Hannah and Blake are aware that I know Croatian and we speak to my grandmother in Croatia at least monthly via Skype. We also often say Good Night in Croatian to my parents when we leave their house so they’ve picked up on a few phrases here and there just from those sorts of interactions.

After learning that we were going to visit my grandma for a couple of weeks on our holiday, Hannah asked me how she would speak with her since she doesn’t know much English. I explained to Hannah that she could learn some Croatian if she wanted and she then spent several weeks asking me all sorts of Croatian phrases. She then realised that the chef on a cooking show we often watch is French, and decided that she would like to know the words he is using so that she can know some French. In the last month she hasn’t been interested in learning any more of any language but I am not concerned. She will be immersed in other languages on our trip and it is up to her, and each of my other children, to decide for themselves which languages they naturally gravitate too.

So although that wasn’t an exhaustive list, it is a good overview of how preparing for this trip has helped accentuate and bring together the passions Hannah and Blake have already shown us. It shows how quality resources support unschooling, but it also doesn’t need to be complicated either. There are more things we have done in regards to learning about the world we live in and even more that we will do in the future as travel becomes a major focus of our lives.

 

This post contains affiliate links that I recommend and have used myself in most cases.

 

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!

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 

Our Christmas Family Road Trip

The end of one year and the beginning of another are always busy for our family not only because of Christmas and New Years but because mine and Brian’s birthdays are so very close to those big days! My birthday is 28 December and Brian is 3 January so there were lots of celebrations, adventures and memories made in the last few weeks!

We started off December buy deciding to jump into our desires and we bought a Jacyo Swan campervan!! We had been talking about doing this all year in preparation for our trip around Australia in 2016 (more info to come in another post) and we decided to bite the bullet and just do it!

I’m not in the photo but believe me, I was just as happy as Brian!
Introducing… Joy!

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On the weekend before Christmas, we hitched our camper up and set off toward Brian’s parents house which is 8 hours north from ours. We planned to stay overnight at a free rest area halfway up to break the trip up and try Joy out for the first time.

Our overnight stop was simple and just off the highway at a popular traveller rest area but were there  in golden hour which made everything glow with light.

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Apart from a hungry and frustrated toddler at dinner time we all had a great sleep for our first night and it felt like pure luxury after camping in a tent all these years!

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The next day we drove to 1770, a tiny town in Queensland close to Agnes Waters on the coast. Brian had been camping there with his parents as a child and had many great memories so we were excited to check it out. We tried to find a space at a free camp but it was full so we moved to a local caravan park for 2 nights.  The afternoon was spent enjoying the calm inlet at 1770.

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Watching the little crabs all over the beach.

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We discovered some beautiful surprises on our walk along the beach – mangroves shining in the sun and an abandoned (or was it left there on purpose?!) hammock with a stunning view.

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It was so relaxing to look at the boats on the water while the children splashed, and this local and his dog seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the slow pace of life here.

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We spent a lot of time studying the patterns the crabs left in the sand and then it was time to gather our towels and head back to our camper. The sky gave us a lovely cloud formation as we said goodnight.

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The next day we decided to be explorers looking for adventures as we drove through the small towns. We followed a sandy track that we noticed and we wondered what we would find at the end. We hoped for a beach and when we stepped out of the car we were excited to see this sign. Immediately we set off down the many stairs in search of the sea.

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Although it was quite a trek down, our explorer hearts were truly excited when our feet finally landed on the sand and we noticed that we had the whole beautiful beach to ourselves.

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We even discovered a few turtle nests!

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We desperately wanted to stay longer and enjoy the natural beauty and peace that we found at this special, hidden beach but more adventures were waiting… on the LARC!

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The LARC Tours at 1770 are one of only a few tourist activities you can book in the area and we decided it would be fun to experience it as a family. As the vehicle made it’s way through the shallow waters of the inlet and over the ridge to the sand flats created by the low tide, we were able to see what the ocean floor looks like and it was mighty bumpy! Daisy didn’t mind though, she fell asleep immediately!

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The tour guide was fantastic and asked us some quiz questions about some of the wildlife we were able to see from the LARC. We learned that crabs ‘scuttle’ and create those little balls of sand through their mouth as they eat the micro-nutrients found in the sand.

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We also spotted some Pied Oystercatchers which were fascinating birds to learn about, and we especially liked that they mate for life (so that is a male and female pair in the photo) and are territorial, ‘owning’ their own section of beach. The guide mentioned there were two other pairs on the same beach but they all kept to their own areas.

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As we turned around the tour guide asked if any children would like to drive the LARC! We were on  board with only one other family who had a teenager and a younger son so he was first to drive. Hannah and Blake both had a go too and it was so fun seeing them steer the vehicle and try to follow the lines the guide had created on the way up the beach. Hannah was basically a pro and looked very comfortable with that big steering wheel (the guide controlled the brake/accelerator).

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It was such a fun experience to do with the kids and very family friendly. Daisy slept through almost all of it and was so relaxed at the end, she didn’t even want to get off! We would definitely recommend a LARC tour if you’re ever in the area 🙂

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But our adventures didn’t stop there! We drove to the point (about 2 minutes drive!) and discovered something very special. Brian vaguely remembered an anchor during his camping trip here with his parents and suddenly we had found one! Brian wasn’t sure if this was it but we decided to take a photo anyway and ask Brian’s mum once we arrived at their place for Christmas (it turns out this was definitely it! And Brian had been here as a 4 year old boy – the same age Blake is!!!)

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We could see the sea and walked past the anchor to gaze at the view. I even managed to set up the self-timer so we could capture a family snap of what was a magical family day full of fun and adventure!

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The next day we arrived at Brian’s familys house and the kids quickly discovered a few water guns and the wading pool. Queensland summers are hot, hot, hot so there is always some sort of water play for the kids every Christmas.

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On Christmas Eve we spend the day preparing for the annual party Brian’s mum and step-dad always host. We baked some cupcakes together and Hannah kindly insisted on washing up almost every pile of dishes over the 4 days that we stayed!

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Christmas Eve was lovely, full of good food and fun games.

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And finally it was Christmas!!! (I took a lot of video with my camera of the present opening and the rest of the morning so there is no other photos. )We tried to capture a nice family photo but this was the best we could get!

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Lunch was at Brian’s Nanna’s house. She is now 94 and still lives in the house she has lived in all her married life (Brian’s grandad passed away a few years ago aged 91). Most of Brian’s childhood memories were made here, especially Christmas ones, and he remembers often playing on the slip and slide after Christmas lunch. So we made sure it happened and it was special to see how much happiness it gave Brian and his Nanna 🙂

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And just like that it was time to head home. I didn’t really document the trip home even though we free-camped again over night, it just felt like it dragged and we had a lot of rain too. But we made it home safely and spent the next day celebrating Christmas with my family and going out to lunch for my birthday.

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My parents had a party for New Years Eve so we decided to stay over and help out and the sky even gave us some love for the last day of 2014…

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Brian then went away for work for a few days and when he came home we celebrated his 30th birthday! Since it’s summer and we have a pool we went with a Hawaiian themed party and it was so much fun! My dad used his special traditional Croatian BBQ to cook the meat and that added a really unique touch! Everyone dressed up and we gave away a prize for best-dressed and then we did a ’30 questions about Brian’ quiz which was so funny! I would love to go to more themed parties they really feel like a celebration!

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And that’s it! We’re taking a break from celebrating now! But we’re not taking a break from travelling… there will be more family adventures in February so we are very much looking forward to that!!

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Our Unschooling Journey – The Week in Review

Blake started off the week helping to clean the lounge room.

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We use a similar approach to Happiness is Here in her post about cleaning up and find it works wonders.

Our nephews birthday party was held at a gorgeous park and Daisy had fun challenging herself with stair-climbing and sliding on her own.

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Hannah was also proud to discover that she can now easily use the monkey bars.

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There was an old steam roller in the park which caught Blake’s attention and he remembered a similar train in a book we had recently bought from the op-shop.

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That night we checked out the beautiful natural light show in the sky by the moon…

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And also some beautiful man-made light shows on the car drive home.

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Monday was spent crafting,

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shopping list writing,

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and we started work on our homemade Christmas cards.

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I loved seeing Daisy inspired by all the writing going on around her to make her own mark on paper.

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Learning about the countries and flags of the world has been an ongoing interest here for the last year. We have a trip planned overseas in 2015 so I recently downloaded this app called Map the World which they have been really enjoying.

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There were wheelbarrow rides on Tuesday.

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And Bob was kind enough to read a few stories to tired kiddies in the heat of the day.

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On Wednesday we continued working on our Christmas cards,

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And Blake decided to join in. He was invited to join Hannah and I to work on the Christmas cards several days ago and he declined. Hannah has been writing, cutting and glueing on them since but still Blake has chosen to do other things. This hasn’t been a problem, I know craft isn’t his forte.

Hannah was writing inside the cards so she showed him how to write ‘To’. He scribbled some other letters and as I was dictating the letters of people’s names to Hannah (her preferred way to write) I saw that he was getting discouraged that she was able to write letters that he couldn’t.

So I asked Blake if he wanted to write his name. He nodded excitedly and I suggested he write a B which he did easily! (B is obviously not an easy letter for young children to write and Blake has only shown interest in writing his name about a dozen times all year. Generally he lost interest after A so we hadn’t really even discussed K before.) He initially wrote the letter L upside down and added a H so I wrote his name on another piece of paper do he could visually see and copy it while we were saying the letters which he happily did. He was so proud of himself when he did it and could wait to show Daddy this afternoon!

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It’s interesting watching Blake learn new skills as it’s very different to Hannah. It’s always very easy to see Hannah’s progress as she practices any new skill a lot before she masters it. Blake has always been the type of person to not visually or physically show any evidence of advancement until he surprises us with the learning all at once! Obviously things are connecting in his mind all the time but until he shows it to me I have no idea it’s happening!!!

This is where trust comes in. Trust that everyone learns new things when they’re ready and in the way that perfectly suits them as an individual.

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I am so honoured to get to watch this process in action every day. There is nothing better than being the person who gets to see my children’s face light up with pride and excitement! Of course any new skill from crawling to riding a bike to writing a word are celebrated here But I do like to share posts like this in detail because the most common question I am asked is, “How will they learn to read and write without being taught/instructed/forced to?” And this is just our example. Two kids happily learning how to write and third who is loving putting pen to paper already so I think learning from life is definitely working for us!

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We also received our first Christmas card in the mail and after writing Merry Christmas on the front and inside all of our homemade cards,  Hannah was happy to be able to read it easily!

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We visited the library on Thursday morning and when we got home lots of fun Lego Duplo play ensued. Daisy is loving taking things out and putting things back in boxes and containers so she loved doing this with Hannah.

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Blake happily played with the horses – one of their favourite games at the moment – in the background.

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They then worked together to create a few towers to display on our shelves.
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Later, they re-constructed a game they have played on and off all year. They stand on our stool and tie a long piece of string or ribbon to our coffee table and then take turn ‘racing’ a plastic bangle down the string. Lots of incidental learning about velocity and angles in this game and they constantly experimented with how taut to pull the string in order to make the bangle go faster.

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My sister was able to come over on Friday to give me a hand tidying up all those messy shelves you see in the photo above!!

Here are a few peeks at some of the items we have available.
The brown shelf usually contains wooden blocks, small animal toys, musical insturments and Daisy’s toys on the bottom shelf, and then puzzles, reference books and some maths, english and geography based materials which cover the main interests the children have at the moment.

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The white shelves contain all our art and craft materials which are freely available to use anytime.

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Blake then decided to do some more writing on the cards and managed to write ‘To Harry’ on his cousins card. Hannah wrote the rest and decorated it too. Such great teamwork!

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We squeezed in a little Christmas crafting too. I initially saw this idea from a fellow Instagram mama, and since we have some gorgeous gumnuts at the park down the road we decided to put them to good use.

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I wasn’t feeling the best on Saturday so not too many photos but I did notice Hannah working on this Fairy house she created earlier in the year. She added a path and some furniture to the house.

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To end the week we were invited over by friends for a lovely lunch and we exchanged Christmas gifts. Hannah and Blake particularly loved their real Christmas tree and they had fun playing with their friends.

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This afternoon Daisy discovered a Christmas Beetle in the backyard, and it was another lovely reminder of the different natural changes that happen at this time of year.

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Make sure to head on over to Memoirs of a Childhood, Racheous – Lovable Learning, Happiness is Here and An Everyday Story to check out what they’ve been up to this week and to get a taste of how natural learning happens in different families.

Thank you for joining me here once again and sharing in our week! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to leave them in the comments, I love to hear from you!
Our unschooling journey is ours – it’s a representation of how we live and therefore, how we learn. Our children have the freedom to question, wonder, experiment, play, create and explore at will. The photos and words in these weekly excerpts are just an overview and based on the memory I have of the weeks events. There will have been more learning than I could possibly cover here happening in the minds of each of my children every day. And there is a lot of ‘real life’ that happens in our weeks too – lots of negotiation, compromise, frustration and tantrums – because all of that is a part of living and learning, together.

Our Unschooling Journey | The Week in Review

Our week started off with beautiful weather and a fun outing. We were invited by a friend to a ‘mama haircut day’ where all us mums were going to take turns getting our haircut while the others supervised the children and prepared lunch. These friends have a very cool backyard with a kid-sized zipline between trees, a flourishing veggie patch and a gorgeous group of chooks. Although we’ve never had chickens as pets, several friends of ours do and one friend in particular has hens that are very friendly and tame and Hannah has enjoyed cuddling them in the past. So after collecting the eggs with her friends, Hannah assumed that these chooks were just as friendly as the ones she is used to, and proceeded to try to pick them up and give them a gentle hug. I call her my “chicken whisperer” as she honestly has the touch!

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Two out of the four chooks were happy to be patted, held and talked to by her even though the family who owns them doesn’t generally engage with them like that. Hannah was truly in love and in her element. She explained to the smaller kids how to pick up and hold the hens gently and made sure they were all safe and comfortable. Us mamas kept an eye on the chickens and when they started getting a bit hot and tired we asked the kids to put them back in their coop which they happily did.

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When it was my turn to get a haircut, Hannah asked if she could get ‘just a little’ haircut first. We worked out that she wanted a trim and after a chat with the hairdresser about her preferences, she sat down for her cut. I was really surprised she chose to do that as she hadn’t said anything beforehand, but Blake had had a haircut on the weekend so maybe she had been considering it already. I love when I see that my children are comfortable making choices like this about their bodies of their own accord. I think that’s a really important lesson to learn.

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Later I spied some sweet moments between siblings in the hammock.

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On Tuesday – which as I mentioned last week is generally the biggest day in our week – we spend the morning at the city farm as usual.

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Daisy enjoyed having her feet painted with clay by Hannah and a friend and later used the paintbrush to give it a go on her own.

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As I was talking to Bob who volunteers at the farm and is an amazing guide and additonal influence with the children, I noticed something moving in the grass. At first I thought it was a snake but then I saw the little legs and the striking blue tongue.

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It was a Blue Tongue Lizard!  Of-course we kept out of the way but it walked around the perimiter of the childrens area  for about 10 minutes enabaling us to get a great look. I haven’t seen one in the wild since I was a child and Bob mentioned he hadn’t seen one at the farm before either so we very very lucky to see one! We talked a little about what the lizard might eat, where it might be going and wondered why it has a blue tongue. Such a gentle and interesting creature. I tried hard to take a photo of it with the blue tongue sticking out but it was near impossible!

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That afternoon we headed to my parents house as usual. Grandpa was setting up the train that circles the Christmas tree so Hannah and Blake asked to help out. They needed to work out how to fit the batteries to make the motor work by matching the + and – and then there was some trouble with the track layout so they needed to fix that as well. It was interesting watching them try to solve the problems and develop solutions and they were so proud of themselves once they figured it out.

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My sister then pulled out the craft box for Hannah and Blake and using the materials in the box and their imagination, they made these gorgeous snowmen. This was fabulous as I hadn’t added a Christmas craft to their advent calendar that day! I found some letter cards in the craft box and picked out the ones for Snowman. I then brought them out all mixed up and then Hannah and I sounded out the letter sounds to make the word together.

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Next, Hannah began work on a special painting. About a month ago at a friends place, Hannah drew a picture of a mango tree and I had an idea. Brian’s Nanna (the children’s great-grandmother) who we will be visiting for Christmas, has a mango tree in the backyard that has been the centrepiece of many family memories and his Granddads ashes are scattered around the base. I asked Hannah if she would like to do a painting of the mango tree, based on her drawing, to gift to Nanna for Christmas and she agreed. I later suggested she ask for my sisters guidance with the project as she is an artist and works with canvas and acrylic paints frequently. My sister agreed and Hannah learned a few new skills about painting while also creating a memory that we hope Nanna will love and treasure.

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That night we had to stay at my parents house because I had locked my keys in our house that morning. Brian was away for the week for work and he has the spare set! Lucky I always keep some spare clothes for the kids at my parents house and I am the same size as my sister!!! Hannah and Blake thought it was great of-course and reveled in the extra treats and staying up late.

On Wednesday we headed to a friends house for a playdate where there was a lot of glitter crafts for the kids and much discussion and play about their mutual love of the movie Frozen! We also received some stunningly thoughtful Christmas gifts from our friends and were sad we couldn’t give ours to them as they were locked safely in our house!

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In the afternoon Hannah, Blake and Daisy all helped my parents in the garden with varying degrees of actual helpfullness by Daisy darling…

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Hannah was then inspired to do a quick painting of Grandmas garden.

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And you can see in the background of the above photo a couple of pine-cones painted with yellow paint which I started doing while we chatted and then Hannah chose to make her own and decorate it with petals from the garden.

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We decided to do some op-shopping on Thursday morning with my sister (so handy now that she is finished school and has plenty of time to hang out with me and my kids!) and managed to get to a few before things started to fall apart.

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Blake always finds it quite hard when Brian is away and his emotions were hitting their peak. We cut the op-shopping short and then Brian called me to tell me he had made it back home a little earlier than planned which was music to my sore, tired, worn out ears!

Brian and I also celebrated our 12 year anniversary since we became a couple on Thursday and he bought me these gorgeous blooms! I love yellow, and I feel like it’s a bit of a theme colour this week!

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It was late night shopping and I really wanted to get our Wishing Tree gifts organised so we all went to the shops together to choose a few gifts. This was a complete disaster as everyone was in meltdown mode, and in hindsight wasn’t the wisest choice to make. I took time that night to really re-centre myself and remind myself of the type of parent I wanted to be, rather than the one I had been at times during this stressful week.

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So on Friday we chilled out at home and I made sure to tune in, listen up and re-connect. There was a lot of movie watching together and quiet play on the floor.

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When Daddy came home from work we all walked to the park. We took the time to notice our neighbours beautiful Frangipani tree flowering and I mentioned to Hannah and Blake that like the Poinciana that we saw last week, this tree also blooms in December and is a nice way to recognise Christmas is on the way. Last year Hannah was quite distressed to realise that we would never have snow to enjoy during Christmas time, so I researched what seasonal guideposts there were in this state of long summers and little variation from month to month. Frangipanis were just one of the flowers I found that flowered this time of year and as we collectively love trees, this was a lovely way to introduce the local changes we’ll see every December.

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At the park, Blake decided to re-attempt swinging himself on a swing and was filled with pride when he was able to coordinate it. You can see he is concentrating especially hard in this photo!

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As I was taking photos of Blake, I noticed next to me that Daisy had decided to do some experimenting and taste-testing.

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On the walk back home we collected some fallen gum-nuts to use for a Christmas craft activity I have planned for next week.

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We noticed another storm rolling in over the rooftops of neighbours houses.

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 On Saturday it was time to celebrate St Nicholas Day! This is a lovely tradition my family did all through my childhood as we are European. We totally forgot about asking the children to put their boots out the night before but luckily I had put a few little treasures away earlier last week, that I quickly wrapped up for Hannah, Blake and Daisy.

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The kids were so excited to receive these little gifts and after they had had a little play we took the time to talk about what the story of St Nicholas means to us and how we admire and choose to emulate his kind and generous spirit every Christmas by giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. So we jumped into the car to put our lovely gifts under the Kmart Wishing Tree.

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Blake felt a little sad that he couldn’t give his gift to his chosen child personally as he didn’t quite understand this year that it was almost an anonymous process. He wrote his name on the card and we reminded him that the child who receives his gift at Christmas would surely send a lot of love to Blake in his heart.

Back at home Daisy and Blake had a long nap, so Brian and Hannah indulged in some Kinetic Sand play.

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It’s Sunday now, we have spent the morning hanging out at home doing some housework and now we’re off to our nephews birthday party. I will add the photos of that to next weeks post!

Please pop over to see what Happiness is Here, Racheous – Lovable Learning, An Everyday Story and Memoirs of a Childhood are up to in their weekly learning wihtout school adventures!

Thank you for joining me here once again and sharing in our week! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to leave them in the comments, I love to hear from you!
Our unschooling journey is ours – it’s a representation of how we live and therefore, how we learn. Our children have the freedom to question, wonder, experiment, play, create and explore at will. The photos and words in these weekly excerpts are just an overview and based on the memory I have of the weeks events. There will have been more learning than I could possibly cover here happening in the minds of each of my children every day. And there is a lot of ‘real life’ that happens in our weeks too – lots of negotiation, compromise, frustration and tantrums – because all of that is a part of living and learning, together.