Tag Archives: unschooling

Dearest Hannah – Happy 6th Birthday!

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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

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Facilitating Unschooling // The Writing Centre

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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 3 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.

All Rights ReservedAll 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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All Rights ReservedAfter 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.

 

 

An Alternative Education – Learning Without School

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In January this year when most children Hannah’s age were donning their uniforms and backpacks and heading off to their first day of school, Hannah slept until 8am and then we headed to our local city farm to explore, learn and hang out with our friends.  We had the most amazing day and as I watched my 5 year old running around in her dress-up tutu and painting with clay, I knew we had made the right decision.

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During my pregnancy with Hannah I became obsessed not just with preparing for birth but for everything related to parenting, and this eventually took me down the path to Alternative Education. I began to use little bits of all the different philosophies and methods I had read about, in our day to day life. I love so much about the Montessori approach and our home is designed to be very child friendly and is influenced by many Monetssori principles. Some aspects of the philosophy were missing for me and so I adopted what could easily be termed Steiner ideas into our home as well.  As Hannah grew though, and as we watched her take her first plunge into ‘academic’ learning just after she turned 2 by learning to write the letter ‘H’ we – well, mostly I! – felt a little lightbulb go off that quietly said ‘She is learning, not by force or compulsion, but naturally‘. And so I did what I have always felt was right and I followed my child.

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As Hannah grew, we watched her learn. She learned from the moment she woke up to the time her eyes closed and we were even speculating that she was learning in her sleep (which is actually true!). As I watched this process happen I started to question everything I had known or read or accepted about education. I began to see that children are born to learn. I mean, everyone knows that, but I began to see this for what it really is – a completely natural state for a child. A state of constant inquisition with the driving force being a need to learn how to grow into a competent adult in the society they have been born into.

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When Brian and I sat down and discussed what we wanted for our children in the future, we decided we wanted to find a way where our children could learn with joy, with desire and with a thirst for knowledge. Where we could be there next to them as a companion that could answer questions when asked, supply materials if needed and offer different perspectives when required. We wanted to be the person who could offer inspiration and varied experiences and then leave them to learn for themselves like we knew they could. We knew this because we had watched them learn since the day they were born.

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No one taught my baby to crawl or babble or reach for a toy or touch her toes. She noticed the toy and felt the desire to touch it so she strived to reach that goal until she did. It was an insatiable need and she wasn’t going to be satisfied until that toy was in her grasp. And how did she feel when she held that toy and moved it to her lips to finally begin to recognise exactly what it was that she had been looking at that whole time? Absolute delight! And satisfaction. And then she moved onto the next thing, the previous knowledge safely tucked away to be used in the future. She never did anything before she was ready and never until the learning was meaningful to her.

Everything my children have learned happened in the right way, in the right order and at the right time. For them.

And we trusted it to happen that way.

We expected it.

And it did. They learned. And they have never stopped.

And you know what?

I still see that same delight in their eyes when they reach a new learning goal  – whether it be climbing a tree or writing a word – that I saw when they were just babies. Their desire for knowledge has never been disapproved of or feared. We have always welcomed it with open arms even when it seemed frightening to us. We knew they were ready to learn it because they wanted to try. We trust that they will want to learn the things Brian and I know – such as reading and writing – because they see us use these skills in every day life. We trust that when those skills become important to them that they will become interested in learning them and we have no doubt they will.

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And so in the last 5.5 years, Brian and I have been witness to something spectacular – our children learning all about life, through life itself. It really is a beautiful thing to watch. To see the opportunities that are created every hour to learn and to watch children take on the challenge with an enthusiasm that is essentially unremarkable because it is their everyday. That is the true beauty of this approach to learning, to life. When we began to look very closely into our childrens world we began to see that learning is everywhere and in every thing and this is what makes us confident in our decision to unschool our children.

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I won’t go too much into what unschooling is as a philosophy as there are many other sources of that information elsewhere. But basically it is all about what I described above. This is a quote from a blog called The Path Less Taken that sums up unschooling really well – “Unschooling is a philosophy that allows that given a rich, interesting environment, and attentive, supportive parents, that learning will happen naturally.  To believe in unschooling is to believe that true learning happens best when it arises from the experiences and interests of the learner, not from an imposed curriculum or a teacher or a parent.  As unschooling parents, we don’t act as teachers, but as facilitators and partners.  We do not separate the day into subjects, or into school time, or play time, or learning time.  We live as if school does not exist.  We live our lives and we learn from it.

I am not pedantic about labels though. Our life is what it is. We know why schools exist and we don’t feel that they will need to be a necessary part of our childrens lives. We feel that learning cannot be contained or explained or tested. It cannot be trained or directed or controlled. It is a personal, individual and unique experience that every person travels through themselves. Learning doesn’t only last for 12 years! It should continue for a lifetime.

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As an example – which was prompted after hearing Dayna Martin speak at the Conscious Parenting and Natural Learning Conference we attended in 2012 – I realised just how much time and effort I had put into learning about pregnancy, labour and birth. I knew almost as much as a midwife and yet I wasn’t going to be be tested on this information. I was reading, researching and memorising because I desired to do so. I had a goal and I was meeting it. It was entirely self-initiated and therefore it was self-activated. My satisfaction came from the learning itself. I was educating myself because the learning was meaningful to me. This is the key to unschooling.

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This realisation affirmed for me how much I wanted my children to keep that love of learning burning in their hearts. I wanted them to feel that if they wanted to know about something that all they had to do was follow that desire and seek the required knowledge. Keeping our children home from school makes sense to us. We are living in the real world and our children will learn from living every day, following their passions, experimenting, asking questions, travelling and experiencing new things. We don’t need to teach our children how to learn. That is an oxymoron. They have been learning since they took their first breath and we know all we need to do is step back and let them live life. And for us, that just happens to mean life without school.

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[I will be blogging more of our unschooling journey in the near future but if you want to see more real-life updates then follow us on Instagram via ‘hippyhappymama’ and check out the #ourunschoolingjourney hashtag]