Why do we all keep going on and on and on about Play? Is it really that important? Isn’t it something that kids just do anyway? Why do we need to be so mindful of it? Isn’t play natural and part of every childs everyday experience?
Those are all really great questions and as I’ve been reflecting on my childrens lives and what I read about in articles, blog posts and social media in recent times, I felt I had to voice some of my own reasons for why I’m passionate about Play.
We’ve always used the label Unschooling for our choice of lifestyle and I wanted to clear some of the misconceptions surrounding the term. I’ve recently noticed many families shy away from using the term Unschooling to describe their home education choices because of the seemingly negative connotations attributed to it. Here’s my take on the label.
As a parent, choosing to Unschool means choosing to be responsible for your child’s entire education right?
I don’t believe so. A child is an individual and therefore their education will be unique to them. Children are not a vessel to be filled with information and facts, rather they have their own ideas and thoughts that ideally need to be respected, trusted and encouraged and essentially this is the parents role in facilitating unschooling.
So what does that look like? Within an unschooling paradigm a parents role looks like :-
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you want to know what gets me excited to wake up in the morning?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
Tuesday was spent at our city farm haven again with lots of book reading, playing in the sandpit and imaginative play with friends.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Blake started off the week helping to clean the lounge room.
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.
Hannah was also proud to discover that she can now easily use the monkey bars.
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.
That night we checked out the beautiful natural light show in the sky by the moon…
And also some beautiful man-made light shows on the car drive home.
Monday was spent crafting,
shopping list writing,
and we started work on our homemade Christmas cards.
I loved seeing Daisy inspired by all the writing going on around her to make her own mark on paper.
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.
There were wheelbarrow rides on Tuesday.
And Bob was kind enough to read a few stories to tired kiddies in the heat of the day.
On Wednesday we continued working on our Christmas cards,
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Blake happily played with the horses – one of their favourite games at the moment – in the background.
They then worked together to create a few towers to display on our shelves.
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.
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.
The white shelves contain all our art and craft materials which are freely available to use anytime.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.