our unschooling journey

Our Unschooling Journey | The Week in Review

We had a busy week lined up. We’re a family that likes to be pretty busy socially and this week was one of the busiest ones we’ve had in a while.

Monday started with watching the movie Frozen and spontaneously Hannah decided that she would take the washing off the line. I asked her how she would reach the clothes and she told me she would figure it out. Blake quickly followed her outside and several minutes later Daisy and I went to see how they were going. This was the scene that greeted me….

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I had to laugh. I had initially imagined them standing on chairs but they obviously had a better idea. They worked really well as a team, negotiating how to hang the clothes and balancing on the cars at the same time.

Hannah began folding the dry towels and tea-towels off the line from the age of two and half, she always enjoyed it and now chooses to help fold the washing about once a week on average. A couple of years ago when she was 4, she went through a stage where she hung the wet washing out, took it off, brought it inside, folded it all, and then put all the dry washing aways. That phase lasted a few weeks and Blake who was only 2 at the time, often helped her as much as he could. It was very sweet and recently that seems to be an interest area again. Hannah has now taught Blake how to fold the towels and sort the clothes and all this week they have done the washing together. They’re putting another load out right now as I’m typing this! This is incredibly helpful to our family as a whole, not to mention a very important living skill to learn. Inside, Daisy was learning a life skill too – eating yogurt from a spoon ūüôā

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Later, we had planned to go to the a library screening¬†of Class Dismissed that a local unschooling group had organised with friends. On the way in the car the kids and I discussed bushfires and back-burning which has been a hot topic for the last few months. I then mentioned how beautiful the clouds looked as they were all swishy in the sky, which lead to a question about how rain is formed and we did a re-cap of what we already knew about rain. Hannah wondered why it fell down to the ground and I told them about gravity reminding them about the recent movies we had seen about space and how there is no gravity there. After a few minutes of thought, Hannah asked what would happen if the rain wasn’t able to fall down on the ground and I asked her what she thought would be the case. She hypothesized that all the plants, trees and grass would become too dry. I told her this term has a name – drought – and that currently many regional areas in Australia are experiencing that reality. Weather has always been a keen interest here for a number of years and is something we discuss again and again every couple of months as new questions arise and old information is solidified.

Tuesday is our regular meet-up day with our conscious parenting group and we always look forward to being outdoors and enjoying the day with our friends. After a few months of meeting in the national park, we’re back to discovering at our local city farm.

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Hannah was really looking forward to being able to paint her face and body with clay. There was also lots of mixing with sand, water, dirt and clay with friends, experimenting with making different concoctions. Their favourite was making them look like chocolate milkshakes.

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Tuesday’s really are our constant in our week. We always meet with our group during the day and then go to my parents house that night for dinner. My two younger siblings still live at home, and Hannah and Blake are currently loving learning about video games from my brother.

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Hannah also took a quiet moment to do some reading. She isn’t reading full sentences yet but lately she is really picking up a lot of books and I’ve really been trying to model reading my own books in front of them more too along with our regular reading we do every day.

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Wednesday was our home day. Playing with our toy animals is a current favourite and they’ve also set up an animal hospital so they’re always checking over their soft toys and healing them of their various ailments.

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On Thursday morning we visited with friends. The kids just adore coming here and exploring the different toys, activities and arts and crafts that are freely available. We don’t currently have any smaller Lego at home, so Blake is always quite drawn to building with it.

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Hannah always gets stuck into the art and spent most of her time in there creating alone and with her friends. Us parents enjoyed a lot of great conversation while the kids played, and I really believe because they all have a lot of autonomy, respect and freedom in their homes, this extends to their play too as it was and often is very peaceful and collaborative.

That afternoon a storm rolled in which ended up being incredibly fierce and causing a lot of damage closer to the city. Thankfully we had no damage and because the kids were all at the shops with Brian when it came, it felt like a big adventure to Hannah and Blake as they got wet on the run to the car. The storm of-course sparked questions about storm formation and  hail, which connected nicely with the weather conversation we had had earlier in the week.

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We had planned a park play the next day with a friend but it was still raining on and off so we met at a kid-friendly cafe. On our drive we saw a few houses who had had trees fall on their roofs which really surprised them. As we said good-bye to our friends, Hannah decided to collect some of the fallen blooms from the Poinciana trees for our nature table. On our walk back to the car we found some more flowers, seeds and leaves and discussed the names of the ones we knew and decided to check our nature encyclopedia for the ones we didn’t at home.

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Hannah and I painted some trees back at home and made a nature mandala with the collection she had acquired that morning.

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Saturday was a very busy day. The kids watched Brian fix a car, and asked a million questions about radiators and engines. After all their questions had been answered they settled in for a spot of cloud-watching on the cardboard box.

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As always there was lots painting, much of it reflecting what we’ve been talking about or doing during this week.

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That night we went along to the local Christmas Carols and met my parents there. Hannah and Blake were so excited to go on the rides. They each chose two rides to do together and one that they preferred to do alone because the other didn’t particularly like that ride. I really like seeing their individuality coming out in different ways as they get older. Blake really dislikes heights so it was the motorbikes for him and the ferris wheel for Hannah, who loves them!

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We settled in to watch the carols when it got dark and Blake chose to go to sleep on the rug soon after dinner. Hannah was getting tired but desperately wanted to see the fireworks and her expression when she saw them was worth the wait! I think it’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen fireworks at an event so she would have been too young to remember previous experiences. Blake and Daisy slept right through them

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On Sunday morning we decided to put up the Christmas tree and our advent table. Our tree is quite large and the branches are letter coded to make it easy to put up so this year Hannah and Blake put up most of it and they were really proud of themselves.

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We then decorated the tree and set up our advent table. All the fun starts tomorrow morning and we’re really excited for our month-long December celebrations. You can read more about our Christmas traditions here.

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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. I hope you enjoy our week in review, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them :).

Don’t forget to check out Memoirs of a Childhood, Happiness is Here, Racheous – Lovable Learning and An Everyday Story to see all the fun and discovery happening in their week too!

Dearest Hannah – Happy 6th Birthday!

To my dearest, darling Hannah,

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The cold days of Winter have come to an end and with them so has your birthday. My winter blossom, already 6 and growing up magically before my eyes, blooming into a young girl with her own ideas, thoughts, questions and wonderings. You are creating your own story Hannah darling, and I am so grateful to be on this path with you. Even though you rarely reach for my hand anymore, I hope you always know I am here for you today, and every day, forever.

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You’ve matured so much this year. There have been many changes and adjustments to make, from welcoming a new sibling, to moving house and you have accepted it all with an understanding and wisdom far beyond your years. You have been helpful, considerate, patient, kind, loving and thoughtful when I needed you most. Being the eldest is not the easiest of roles Hannah – believe me! – but just as I know you chose your birth order, I know that you have the ability to make the most of this time, even when it is challenging. So thank you, for being my most devoted assistant and responsible leader of the pack with Blake and Daisy. I hope in the future, these character traits will serve you abundantly.

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This year, we walked the talk and committed to unschooling. We went against the grain – as we’re prone to do – and you have flourished. Watching you learning every day, delighting in all the wonders of life, humbles me. Your dedication to yourself, to your own learning adventure is inspiring and seeing you confidently attempt and succeed in all manner of tasks is pure joy to your Daddy and I. We love seeing you so comfortable and free. Free to be yourself, to make choices, to take risks, and to begin to navigate this journey of life.

I thought I’d add a list of things you’ve been interested in and/or learned to do this past year for you to look back on. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, you do this and much more every day but these stood out –
learning to blow up a balloon; teaching yourself to hula-hoop; ¬†horse-riding; taking a term of gymnastics classes; learning about countries and flags and general geography; teaching yourself to tie knots; choosing to have your ears pierced; so many home science and art projects; learning circus skills; attempting crochet; a deep interest in evolutionary theory, what happens when people die and the wonders of the universe; gardening; your ever growing interest in the human body; you lost your first tooth; your passion for writing has only increased and your mathematical skills are growing ever sharper; you participated in a television commercial and you spent more time immersed in nature than ever before. ¬†You’ve covered this and more and wow, we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

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Your star shines bright Hannah. It’s obvious to me that your purpose here is beyond anything I could have imagined, guiding us to think about our lives differently than what we did before. You inspire me with your passionate nature, your willingness to jump in and give everything a go and even though I try to think of words that perfectly describe who you are, I just can’t. You can’t be put into a box or a category, you’re above that. My whole world changed during my pregnancy with you and the last 6 years have spun me 180 degrees. Life is different for us because of you and we wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re truly a beautiful soul and I can’t wait to get to know you even better in the coming year, and hear more of your thoughts on this wonderful world we live in.

Hannah. I love you. I hope your 6th year is just as amazing as you.

Love Always,
Mama xx

Facilitating Unschooling // The Writing Centre

I am often asked questions about how unschooling works in our family and sometimes people have trouble imagining how our home is designed if we never do any structured, sit-down bookwork. As unschoolers, we do believe that learning comes from all things in everyday life and we do not need designated learning areas in order to learn. However, this concept was something my children valued and enjoyed and this is the reason we have decided to continue with the addition of specifically tailored areas in our home that address the childrens needs. In our new house I have¬†set up a bigger, more permanent, more inviting space designed around the childrens needs and I will blog about those areas in seperate posts. First up, the writing centre –

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We have recently moved back to the house that we own after renting closer to the city for a few years. I knew this move was going to happen since around March this year, so I have spent quite a bit of time considering how I will organise the house to suit our entire family. Since we share a family bedroom, we have always had the room to have a dedicated play/learning space in another bedroom. However I quickly noticed the children rarely played in that room for long amounts of time and generally just brought items out into the lounge room. So I began setting up little corners of play where we all gather, as Lori Pickart from Project Based Homeschooling calls it – the heart of the home.

Hannah has always loved to write, doodle, draw and make marks on paper. She first put pen to paper at age 2 and hasn’t stopped since. I’m not sure where I first saw the idea of a writing table/centre but it was probably on Pinterest. ¬†I immediately knew Hannah in particular would love it and as I was planning on buying her a journal for Christmas that year, I knew the writing centre would compliment that nicely. I didn’t have any expectations of how and when they would use it though, rather I set it up as an invitation. Both children took to it with gusto, and Blake wrote his first recognisable letters sitting there for the first time. They have both used it regularly since then and it’s been great to have a specific space for our writing supplies.

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Since moving, I have added a few new parts to our writing centre. I was really excited about the addition of this simple wooden ‘mailbox’ (I bought this from a thrift/op-shop) and judging by the amount of mail and letters we have been inundated with, the kids like it too! ¬†Hannah has always loved writing little letters to her friends and grandparents and this is a nice extension on that activity. When her grandma was sick recently she was able to write her a ¬†real letter, address it accordingly on the envelopes we have available, and send it off. She was even more excited to receive a reply addressed to her.

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All our white and coloured paper, notebooks, post-it notes, staplers, rulers, and extras are all housed and easily accessible in this shelf to the left of the writing centre. This shelf – just like the writing table, chair and most of the baskets – was sourced from thrift/op-shops.

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A better look at the baskets which house stamps, stickers of all shapes and sizes and Montessori sandpaper letters in lowercase.

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After watching the children use the writing centre and their mailbox for a few days I realised they were constantly asking us how to spell particular names. I needed to find an easy way for them to find the names of the members of our family so they could have more independence with their writing and this was my quick solution. I cut up some recent photos and wrote our names in upper and lowercase next to them. I plan to add grandparents and extended family soon too.

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¬†This simple project has had a tremendous impact on both children. Blake’s confidence with using pencils and paper has improved and he is excited to write or draw his letters and put them in the envelopes. He is recognising his own name better and attempting writing more letters. Hannah has begun to remember common words used in letter writing such as ‘To’, “From’, ‘And’, ‘Love’ and of-course all our names. She has also begun to use questions in her letters which has been a good jumping off point for talking about punctuation. But the table has been used for more than just writing letters. Maps have featured prominently as have puppets, painting, card-making and all forms of art.

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Having a writing centre in our home has shown our children that we value communication in all it’s forms, and that their attempts at writing, drawing or any way they choose ¬†to use these materials is important to us and they have the freedom to use them whenever and however inspiration strikes. Making sure our children feel comfortable, valued and respected in our home is one of the keys to unschooling, and having spaces that inspire and recognise their needs is just one way that we do this.