Monday, October 17, 2011

Unschooling Works! -Unschool Monday

I'm feeling happy and relieved, unschooling works ;) Last week Iris started writing numbers. No one has taught her how to do that. She saw some numbers on my desk and said "Look Mum, you have 1 and a 3 a, but no 2. I will draw you a 2" and then she got a crayon and wrote a perfect 2, I've never seen her do anything like that before. Then she thought she'd have a go at writing 3, found it a bit difficult but found it a bit hard so moved on to 4 and aced that first go.

Then she realised we live at number 24 so she put the two numbers together and wrote the number that we live at. She's very pleased with herself too.

I'm joining in Unschool Monday at Owlet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some Hope

Too cool for school
I've been pondering what our lives would be like if I hadn't discovered homeschooling. How different it would be.

I am so glad that I never took anyone's advice about putting Iris in childcare and kinder, or any structured environment. The only reason I realised that she is different and not just "being difficult" is because I spend so much time with her and am connected to her.

Iris would have already been at kinder for a year now, just as we're getting her diagnosis in our homeschool journey. If she had entered the education system she would've been labelled a "difficult child" and "Sarah's child and Sarah never coped with school". 

There would have been so many "justs". "She's just difficult", "she's just bad tempered". With hindsight I probably have Aspergers too. Instead, for my entire school life I was "just rigid", "just over emotional".

Understanding the similarities between Iris and I helps because you can almost call me a functioning adult in the world. Eventually I learned how to be a functioning member of society and have relationships. It gives me hope that Iris will be okay because I'm okay.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Quote For Sarah Jane

"Unschooling is simply a way to tailor learning to the specific needs of each child and each family. No two unschooling families follow the same path-and no two children within the same unschooling family are likely to go exactly in the same direction"
- Mary Griffith, The Unschooling Handbook, page ix

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unschool & Aspergers? Unschool Monday

Our unschooling journey isn't going to work the way I thought it would because Iris has Aspergers. In one way it's positive because four years of strange social behaviour, tantrums and obsessions are explained. But I'm wondering what this means for unschooling and our family.

For the past couple of years I've wondered why following the traditional radical unschooling approach wasn't working. Why she wasn't self-moderating, why she wasn't initiating play,  why any activities we participated in and excursions ended in literal tears from both of us. With her diagnosis these things are beginning to make sense. 

But if radical unschooling isn't going to work in our family, what is our homeschooling going to look like? Is it possible to unschool a child with Aspergers?

Rationally I can see why she's with me. I have resources others don't have. But I'm still really sad about it. The Godmother I chose for Iris is perfect, she has resources to help, with her own child on the spectrum. We have people in our lives who can offer support, who have experience with children like Iris.

One of the ideas I have to let go of is that if I put in enough effort, enough activities, enough love and resources it would look like what other unschooling families seem to have. I wondered why our days didn't just flow like other families. In other families it seemed that if they gave their children enough freedom  there would be less conflict and more harmony. But it wasn't like that for us.

I wanted the flow, the natural rhythm of the day. There is no flow in our house. Right now I am sad, mourning what can't be in our family.

I'm joining in Owlet's Unschool Monday.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Day in the Unschooling Life

This week I decided to record what Harriet did all day on a day when we did not have any plans to catch up with friends. A home day that included one short trip out (which she slept through lol).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unschool Uniform: one size fits all?

For a quiet day at home.
  • Mumma sized sun hat
  • Sundress which is rapidly approaching the too tight to wear stage
  • One of Mumma's purple croc boots
  • One of Mumma's red croc boots

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Share Your Monthly "Classrooms"

Following in Owlet and Yay For Home!'s footsteps, we've decided to create a meme. We're now doing one monthly "Our Classrooms" post, which tracks some of our daughters' learning spaces throughout the month. We've added the option for other bloggers to share a link to their own posts about their "classrooms". Hopefully sharing our links this way will lead to us discovering new blogs and getting inspired by the interesting spaces other families have learned in throughout the month.

To promote our meme you can copy the code from the box below and paste it into the sidebar of your own blog:

Head on over to our September classrooms post to add your link. For anyone wondering how we created a tile table of photos for that post, we used Big Huge Labs 'Mosaic Maker'. Feel free to do the same, but no pressure to come up with a classroom for every day of the month, even one is cool :)

While you're in the sharing mood, why not copy the code below and add an 'Unschooling Sarahs' tile to your blog's sidebar too?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our Classrooms: September

As natural learners we understand that the whole world is a classroom. Here are some of our daughters' learning spaces from the past month.

Click to enlarge

1. Garden 2. Sling 3. Kids section of the Museum 4. Farm  
5. Picnic table 6. Library 7. Kitchen table 8. Loungeroom  
9. Vet clinic 10. Trampoline 11. Vegetable patch 12. Museum  
13. Kitchen bench 14. Driveway 15. Plaza bench 16. Discarded box  
17. Friend's couch 18. Park 19. Friend's kitchen bench 20. Daddy!  
21. Great Grandmother 22. A friend's lounge room 23. Swimming pool 24. Family bed 
 25. A tree 26. The dining room 27. Brick fence 28. Bike trailer

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Doesn't Feel Like The Pictures Said It Would

in front of a screen again
Lately I've been feeling like I suck at being an unschool mum. Harriet has a great social life, there's no question of that. But when we're at home a lot of the time I feel like I'm failing her. There always seems to be a DVD on, when there's art the materials are a higledy-pigeldy mess of broken or dying textas, pens and crayons, if Harri's need for stimulation is being met then the housework is in chaos and if the house is clean then I'm clearly neglecting intellectual and emotional needs of little people. "Says who?" a saner person might ask and I know the answer is: the merciless critic inside my head.

What would I say to Sarah Jane if she were to let her merciless inner critic run wild? Well, much to her frustration I would call on her to reframe the lot of it: find the positive. Then I'd encourage her to find ways to change whatever she feels needs to be changed, so that she no longer felt like she were failing.

  • Everything is educational! 
  • The higeldy-pigeldy art supplies make for truly unique work
  • Harriet couldn't care less about the state of the supplies, so long as there's something to draw with and on (in truth she doesn't much care about the 'on' either, she'll use her body as a canvas!)
  • Harri is hardly lacking, she has: parents who give her their time and attention, a busy social life, many books, outlets for creativity, a baby sister who she delights in, outlets for movement, local resources including: playgrounds, the library, the beach, parks, friends homes, museums, art galleries, the aquarium, public transport, DVDs, other adults,  outlets for noise, etc.
  • She's not even school aged yet, so if I'm worrying about her missing out on something her school-going contemporaries are experiencing then I need not fear: they're all at home too!
  • A tidy house doesn't equal unhappy children, there's just a different between 'tidy' and 'immaculate' and you're adjusting to this new standard made necessary by the advent of reproduction.

So why am I being so hard on my self at the moment? I am coming to the realisation that unschooling doesn't look the way that I had hoped. I know that no matter which path we chose, it would look messier and be more demanding of me than I first expected. That's just life (for example, I thought having children would be predominantly fun O_o). So many beautiful blogs out there sporting glamorous snaps of their Montessori playrooms, Steiner toys and Unschool moments. And now friggin' Pinterest is shoving images of other people's perfection in my face constantly lol.  And this is where the ideas for change need to come...

There's only so many things we can work on improving at any one time. Lately I've been focusing on being more organised with household obligations and sneaking minerals and vitamins into my three year old. Now, I need to find a way to add: more proactive "strewing" into this mix. 

  • Finding activities and items of interest for Harri and setting them up before I go to bed so they're ready to go first thing in the morning.
  • In order to do dot point one I need to find mess-free (or limited) activities appropriate for a thee year old to do herself while I'm preparing breakfast.
  • Preparing meals and snacks ahead of time so we're not stranded at home until after eating or buying food out
  • Setting up a Harriet lunch box in the morning full of ready to go snacks so that by 2PM I'm not screaming "all you do is bloody eat! I haven't sat down all day!"
  • Get many washing baskets/plastic tubs to facilitate super swift tidying: chuck anything not in it's right place into the tubs to be put out of the way and sorted when time permits.
  • After moving house in the next month perhaps try washing dishes and folding laundry as items appear, rather than leaving it.
  • Find the yes with more commitment 
  • Organise the craft supplies and update them, set them up so H can get to them herself (don't pressure myself to do this before moving house!)
  • Blog here more often because it makes me reorder my thoughts and realise that we're actually doing a lot of great stuff regularly and I'm not a detached overlord of a couch potato. Goal: publish an "Our Classrooms" post once a month and "A day in the life" post once a week.
  • Read this often!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unschool Uniform: Beachwear

For a sunny day, maybe even a trip to the beach.

  • sunhat
  • bathers, worn backwards
  • gumboots
  • sundress (not pictured)*

*She was apparently too sweaty for the dress, and insisted that the line on her bathers meant that was the back of them, any suggestion otherwise was met with explosive tanty.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Our Classrooms: August

As natural learners we understand that the whole world is a classroom. Here are some of our daughters' learning spaces from the past month.

Click to enlarge
1. A rubber mat construct 2. The beach 3. The kitchen 4. The dinning room table 5. The bath 6. The kitchen floor 7. A stranger's front porch 8. The back of Sarah Jane's bike 9. Upon her own bike 10. A friend's playdough table 11. The dining room with bubble mix 12. A friend's desk

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paint Swatting

I first learned about paintings made using fly swats from a link shared by friends on facebook to Teacher Tom's Blog. Knowing Harri's love for painting and also for wacking her father and our cat ;) I had a hunch she'd like this activity.

All you need is paint, a fly swat and a big sheet of paper. A tray for the paint would have been a good idea too, we sacrificed some plates to the project.

We got a stack of sheets from our local fish 'n chip shop for $1. I bought a set of three fly swats, thinking she could have one for each of the the three colours of paint we had, that was fairly naive of me. She had heaps of fun using three swats and three colours at once.

And it just wouldn't be painting if we didn't up with a daughter who is her own canvas ;P

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Around the world in 80 Plates: Zambia

This week Harri chose Zambia, from a friend's poster map. Some Internet research taught us that a popular Zambian dish is Nshima (also popular in other African countries). Nshima is made from corn flour and water, to us Australians that is. To our foreign friends corn flour is known as maize and corn meal. Nshima is served with Ndiwo, a side dish (or two) known to Westerners as relishes, made with vegetables, peanut powder and sometimes meat.

It was interesting to learn that Nshima is more than a dish, it comes with a rich (and controversial) history. The way Nshima is prepared, served and eaten is steeped in cultural tradition. For example everyone eating the meal must wash their hand first, using a jug to pour water over their hands, which falls into a large bowl beaneath their hands. The order in which family members wash their hands and are served their Nshima is based on age and sex, with older males being first in line.
"Zambians are generally raised to believe that only nshima constitutes a full and complete meal. Any other foods eaten in between are regarded either as snacks or a temporary less filling or inadequate substitute or a mere appetizer. Lets say you meet a Zambian late in the afternoon and ask him if he or she has eaten. Most likely they will tell you that they haven’t eaten all day although they might have eaten a sandwich, peanuts, milk, and a few other non-nshima foods.

Nshima is such a key factor loaded with such emotional investment in the diet that many rituals, expectations, expressions, customs, beliefs, and songs have developed in the culture around working for, cooking, and eating of nshima. For example, nshima is best when eaten steaming hot. A Chewa speaking man in Eastern Zambia, in moments of great masculine exuberance might say:

"Ndine mwamuna ine, yikapola ndi ya mwana!"

"I am a man who eats only hot nshima, if its cold I give it to children."
We got together ingredients to make Nshima (corn flour and water) and two Nwido dishes. We did a beef Nwido which included onion, peanut powder (from peanuts we crushed ourselves), onion, cherry tomatoes, vegetable oil and a spinach one that included everything from the first, except the beef.

We prepared our vegies, crushed our peanuts, boiled our beef and then got started on the Nshima. First batch was a lumpy disaster. Second batch was looking good, but when we finished it we realised it wasn't thick enough, tried adding more flour and then ended up with another lumpy batch. By this time it had been a long time since we started cooking, so we decided to give up and eat what we had.

Before eating we did the hand washing ritual, which was the highlight of the meal. Harri barely ate a single mouthful, but spent a lot of time washing her hands throughout mealtime. Adults ate out of hunger, but agreed the recipes had gone horribly wrong, though we don't know how. It provided many laughs and we agreed to never eat it ever again.

Also, in the interests of natural learning and being open to cultures other than our own, I intentionally tasted a tomato for the for the first time in 22 years.

Tomatoes and I just aren't friends (big thanks to Huz for capturing these moments lol).

So that was Zambia night. Huz is hopeful that next week Harri might choose the US ;)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Poi Workshops

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Yule with some friends. Part of our festivities included fire twirling:

What better skill for our freakshow of unschooled children to learn?! Art that burns! Anyway, we asked Loz (our firey friend who organises local twirling get togethers) how to get started and she suggested putting tennis balls in the ends of knee high socks to create home made poi.

First we practiced at home:

It is a lot of fun, whether you're 3 years old or 28. But, you need more room than a lounge room can provide. Next we headed to the beach with Sarah Jane and her girls:

Sarah Jane about 2 seconds before she hit herself in the head
And of course, we practiced outdoors at home:

Using poi for elephant trunks is also a big hit

After practicing at home with our socks and balls, we joined the local fireies and had a go at glowstring poi, the fire staff, twirling glow sticks and we watched in awe at friends with fire poi:

5 of our fire twirling friends at play
Sarah Patrticia with poi
Loz dancing
Harri with glow sticks, Sarah Patricia with glowstring poi
Harri with the fire staff
Sarah Patricia with poi
Harri dancing to her friend's poi-ing
Bubby loved watching the fire
Harri twirling glow sticks, Mumma with poi
Friend with the glowstring poi

Someone also brought their drums along, Harri had a great time thumping out her own beats.

Our friends are hoping to get together one night every month for a fire twirling/poi/drum night, so we've decided a set of our own poi would be a wise investment. And maybe down the track some fire twirling gear too.