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.

 

A Love Letter to a Home

Dearest Home,

It’s a new moon today. Do you know what that means? New beginnings.

It’s time for us to part ways, to say our goodbyes and move on to new adventures.

It’s sad. And I’m trying not to cry writing this to you. At the same time though, I am, and forever will be, grateful to you and everything that living inside your walls has meant to our family. It’s completely bittersweet.

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I remember when we first met, do you?

It was 1995 and my parents were looking for a new house – they were ready to buy their first home in Australia. You were just a shell of a home, your carpets weren’t laid and your potential was untapped. My parents chose the house across the road instead. I visited you a few times over the coming years, playing with the children who eventually moved in.

Then one day, the most amazing thing happened. I watched from my house as a new family arrived with their trailer full of boxes and carried them through your door and I knew intuitively something special was about to begin. We watched each other for weeks, and finally, Brian and I spoke to each other for the first time in the middle of this street that was at once not his, nor mine, but ours.

Our first trembling kiss occurred in your doorway, not knowing what the future and that doorway had in store. Time marched on and eventually Brian and I decided to marry at the same time as his parents decided to sell you and move closer to Brian’s aging grandparents.  We took the opportunity and grabbed you with both hands.

That was 2007. Since then we’ve stripped you bare, removed your carpet and painted your walls, we’ve reassembled your kitchen and bathroom and landscaped your gardens. It has been a labour of love. There is not one part of you – inside our outside – that we didn’t touch and re-invent. We’ve rented you out in order to move closer to work and the city and we’ve moved back in, over and again, many times. You were ours, and owning you gave us the freedom to enjoy you however we chose.

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You’ve seen us at our happiest – enjoying endless birthday celebrations, days of laughter in the pool, and the smallest moments of simple household delight. You’ve reveled in the Friday night pizza and movie nights, and entertaining friends and family for dinner. You’ve delighted in the pitter-patter of little feet on your floors and photos of smiling faces have graced your walls.

But you’ve also seen us at our most raw, most vulnerable and most hurt. You’ve listened to our cries of despair as we lost our first pregnancy and later the months of difficulty as we adjusted to having two small children under one roof. You’ve witnessed our most passionate arguments and our most passionate love. Moments that became memories all because you were here to hold the space for us, and our evolution.

In the time that we lived away from you, we decided on new dreams for our family and you gave us your final gift… in letting you go, we are able to grab hold of our new journey of adventure. And that’s where we are today, dear home. Your new owners will move in, in a few days and you will be ours no longer. The physical presence that has held us on this street for over 20 years will officially be over, but the memories will always remain.

I couldn’t stop the tears dear home, you’ve been so good to us. We are so grateful for the opportunity to grow within your walls and you have embraced us with an acceptance I know will be hard to replace.

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I hope your new beginning is wonderful. I hope you are looked after the way you deserve to be. I hope your new family enjoys long lunches on the patio watching the children splashing in the pool like we did on so many occasions. I hope your floors once again know the pitter-patter of little feet and that you witness great love and great moments. We wish you only the best.

Thank you.

Good bye.

Here’s to NEW adventures.

xx

9 Top Tips for Mama Self-Love

Need some pointers on how to look after yourself now that you’re a mama?
It all starts with making yourself your top priority. These 9 tips can help.

#1 – Nurture yourself
Make time for you. I learned almost too late just how important VITAL this is. I had this strange idea that the people around me needed to nurture me. That I needed to be nurtured by my husband, by my parents and by my friendships and of-course this was only causing resentment and dissatisfaction on my part when they weren’t meeting my expectations. The nurturing had to come from inside me. Start small. Take baby steps. Make little goals. Mine were really simple at first – take my vitamin every morning, drink more water, journal more.

#2 – Value yourself
As above, if you don’t value yourself then who will? Value your time, your effort, your energy. Value your body, your mind, your spirit. Value the beautiful talents and gifts you bring to the world. Value your originality and unique features – there are 7 billion people in the world and there is no one else quite like you! That is a pretty amazing thought and you’re obviously something special. Feel it. Know it. And let yourself shine!

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#3 – Support yourself
Be that person for yourself. Start a project and encourage and motivate yourself. Bask in the joy of completion and internal satisfaction instead of external praise. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is so valuable, and I believe it’s been quoted that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. That is a very powerful thought. But often we need to be our own cheerleader too and that is even more powerful.

#4 – Comfort yourself
Take time to rest and check in with yourself as often as possible. Look after yourself in the way that you would have wanted to be cared for when you were a child. Especially if you are battling illness – mental or physical – take lots of time to care for yourself, to feel that comfort that comes from meeting your needs. And if your stress is emotional then soothe yourself, hold yourself tight, be your own friend instead of criticising, judging or worrying. If there is no one who will listen, then turn to what makes you feel good – write in a journal, sketch or draw or paint, do some exercise, get plenty of sunshine, indulge in comforting drinks and maybe bake a treat, turn on some beautiful music and dance your worries away or let the music inspire a restful sleep. Simple Lavender essential oil is brilliant for times of stress and anxiety. I desperately sniffed a handkerchief soaked with lavender oil in the late stages of my third pregnancy to help me sleep peacefully at night.

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#5 – Inspire yourself
Go to the art gallery. Take a walk in a forest. Sit at the beach and draw in the sand while the sound of the crashing waves hypnotizes your mind and lets your worries slip away. That’s when magic happens. Inspire yourself with everything that brings out your passions and reach deep down within yourself to recognise your true desires. From here, everything will flow.

#6 – Love yourself
Self-love. It’s something you know about and although I know there are mamas out there who are pretty good at continuing this throughout motherhood, it is something a lot of us leave by the wayside with our pre-pregnancy bodies, desires and interests. Becoming a mama changes you… there is no way around that. But under all those new layers are still parts of the ‘old’ you which is just another way of saying the ‘authentic’ you. The you who you truly are. Self-love is all about re-connecting with that part of yourself. If you take the time to re-discover your authentic self I promise you, amazing things will happen. You really will begin to love yourself in that pure, conscious way. The way we all deserve to be loved. And it all starts inside of you.

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#7 – Be kind to yourself
Show yourself compassion. Listen to yourself. Listen to your needs and try to communicate them to those around you as easily as you can. Realise that high expectations can put a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure on our lives, and you’re worth more than stress and pressure. Life is for living and yes, life does come with regrets and mistakes. That’s part of how we learn and as long as we keep living, we’ll keep learning and we need to be gentle with ourselves throughout that process. Use kind words when you see yourself in the mirror. Say, I love you. Say, I see you. Think kind thoughts about what is going on in your life – remember every day when you get up, you get the opportunity to start again. So do that. As often as you need to. Some parts of life are just plain hard. There’s no need to feel guilt about that. It is what it is. Treating yourself with the empathy and compassion you show others, is what you really need from yourself during the intense phases of motherhood.

#8 – Enjoy yourself 
Be a friend to yourself. Remember how FUN you are! I can be quite a serious person so this is something I need to remind myself of often. Life is so much more enjoyable when you can smile through it. Play your favourite music. Take yourself to the movies. Book that holiday. Buy yourself flowers. Dance in the rain. Bask in the sunshine. It’s all there for you.

#9 – Perfection doesn’t exist
I only wrote 9 tips because it’s not a perfect list, and being a mama is NOT about being perfect or having a perfect life. Perfection is impossible and unattainable. I encourage  you to take the word perfection completely out of your vocabulary. Stop apologising for your seeming ‘imperfections’ – actually stop saying “I’m so sorry the house isn’t perfectly clean!” or “I’m sorry I’m not the perfect mother.” – because you are not perfect. And neither am I. Or any other human on earth! We’re all just that… human. You are divinely human. And you are uniquely, womanly human, nurturing, valuing, supporting, comforting, inspiring, loving, kind and joyful. A mama – born from woman and as real as every other mama on this planet.

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Fall in love with yourself again. Try to see yourself as a child, the way that your mama looked at you when she was holding you as a newborn in her arms. Or the way that you stared at your new baby endlessly when you knew you should be sleeping instead. Find that love and peace inside yourself and feel that about yourself. I promise. You’re worth it.

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.

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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 

My Self-Love Shelf

Self-love and self-care have been incredibly important to me in the last year. I have a half-finished post in the works that explains my journey in more detail, but today I wanted to talk more about a very physical evidence of the inner work I’m doing. Over on Instagram this week The Little Sage suggested for readers to share their personal altars.  Creating a post about my altar – or my Self-Love Shelf – has been on my to-do blogging list for quite while so I decided to use take that instagram request as a gentle universal nudge to share it now.

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I started with a plain white shelf from the hardware store. And that’s where it stayed for weeks! I somehow felt I had to mentally prepare myself for what this would represent and how I wanted to achieve it. I decided I would let it come naturally and build up different elements as the right pieces found their way to me.

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Because I have little people around and I wanted this shelf to be purely for me to indulge in (Hannah and Blake each have their own shelf), I decided to place it up high where it couldn’t be climbed to. One day I’d love to have a shelf/altar lower down that I can sit and meditate at, but for now this is just fine. It’s placed between our bedroom door and the wadrobe door so I see it everytime I enter or exit the bedroom.

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I started with my crystals. I had only a few when I began, and although I have more than this now, this is the design I like them in at the moment. I have been using my clear quartz point crystal a lot, when doing my oracle card readings or journaling. Clarity is something I’ve been carving lately and indeed most of the time! The oracle cards that are always on my shelf are The Little Sage cards and the Doreen Virtue Daily Guidance from your Angels cards. On top of the cards are a bear-shaped stone Blake found for me and a key, to represent a key I was given as a gift by my guides in a meditation. The delightful candle was a gifted and handmade by a wonderful friend.

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The Alchemical Oils are from Sacred Self and were a self-love gift to myself. There are feathers collected from walks in the park, heart-shaped rocks that Hannah and I found on the beach and a wooden mother and child ornament given to me by a friend. This reminds me to practice gratitude for my role as a mother.

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 The ‘breathe’ and rainbow rock are from my blessingway when I was pregnant with Daisy and the blue pendulum was another little gift to myself. During this journey I have become a lot better at recognising that buying lovely things for myself is a necessity not an indulgence.

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Affirmations by Louise Hay and Danielle LaPorte surround a ‘Work In Progress’ painting I did with the kids one day and Oracle Cards that I wanted to see every day are above them. A beautiful angel from another friend is hanging beside the cards, reminding me I am always safe and protected. The butterflies are from another craft session Hannah, Blake and I enjoyed, representing transformation and change.

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And above all else is a visual depiction of our 5 year vision. Maybe I’ll save that story for another time. I hope this has inspired you to make your own Self-Love Shelf too, you’re worth something beautiful in your home just for you. Clear a shelf on the bookshelf, buy that gorgeous candle you’ve been coveting or try some meditations (The Little Sage have quite a few lovely ones) if you’ve never done them before. Sometimes us mamas neglect our spiritual and sensual side the most. Fall in love with yourself again.

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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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2014 Reflections // Gratitude

I chose GRATITUDE as my focus word at the beginning of 2014. Now, I am ending the year feeling more full, more thankful and more truly grateful than I have ever felt before.

Practicing gratitude directly and with focus over the last 12 months has meant that being grateful feels a part of me. I immediately feel grateful for even the littlest things – the salt water on my skin, the giggle of my children in my ears, and my husbands hand in mine as we journeyed through this years ups and downs together.

I now know what it is that I want to be grateful for. I now know that gratitude is about creating a life where EVERYTHING in it is something I can feel grateful for.

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2014 has been a truly blessed year, but also one that was full of challenges for me personally. I struggled, I fell down, I lost my way. I forgot to appreciate myself. This was a hard lesson for me to learn but I am slowly realising that it’s my most important lesson. I learned this year that I had put myself on the back-burner and that it wasn’t healthy or helpful to do that. I learned that letting my light shine wasn’t only important, but that it was a necessity.

Throughout this year I re-discovered myself. Sometimes it felt like I was finally on the right path and at other times it felt like one thing after another was going wrong, like all my hard work was pointless. In hindsight, I know it was all a crucial part of the journey and I learned to have gratitude for even the days that caused me stress and hurt.

My perspective began to shift once I started doing this and choosing joy was easier than before. I always tried to live my life by looking at the positive, on the bright side, and now I don’t feel that I have to try anymore. It comes easily now and this makes me realise how 12 months of really deep inner work has so many benefits.

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This year I worked on reconnecting with myself, and I felt so supported by Brian and my friends and family to really try new things and find myself again. I am so grateful for that.

Brian and I really felt into our deep desires for our family and allowed them to blossom. We made our family, our happiness and future together our first priority, and we refused to feel that we should settle for any less than amazing. We do live an amazing life and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

My children, oh, they’re beings of goodness and light and although as every mama knows the days are long, the years are so very short. Time passes in the blink of an eye and I just want to soak up every inch of time with these three amazing little people. I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to be their mama.

So thank you 2014, you set in motion a foundation I will continue to build on for the rest of my life and I cannot wait to see what 2015 brings. I know it is going to be epic and full of ABUNDANCE.