Thursday, October 28, 2010

lows and highs

Today had all sorts of highs and lows,

the lows consisting of:

feeling stressed when I turned up, on time, to see my lovely counsellor (who is part of my safety net and has helped with The Lows a lot)…only to discover that I'd got the time wrong and was not supposed to be there for two hours.

feeling more stressed when I realised that in two hours I would be busy, and therefore I would miss out on chatting with her.

feeling even more stressed because I'd been feeling kind of overwhelmed recently (all right, fine, a LOT overwhelmed) with some Stuff and I suddenly thought, "How am I supposed to manage now?"

(I should mention that part of the reason I've been feeling overwhelmed is because we're going away, just my husband and I, for THREE WHOLE DAYS and THREE WHOLE NIGHTS. Without kids. And that had recently hit me, and suddenly I thought there were way too many WHOLE DAYS and WHOLE NIGHTS between seeing my kids and seeing my kids. I know lots of people do this, but THREE WHOLE DAYS AND NIGHTS is longer than I've ever been away from them. Panic!!

Plus there was a bunch of Messy Stuff connected to going away, both logistic and emotional, and for a second or two (or more) it looked like we might not even go. So by the time I rocked up to my lovely counsellor, I was ready to dump it all in her lap, sift through it for any nuggets of wisdom, and have a good cry.)

But today's low meant:

no counsellor, no dump, no cry.

I was all set to feel sorry for myself. You know that feeling? All ready to be, "This is too hard." "Stop, I want to get off." "Why me?" "This sucks." And, "Blah."

Before kids, and before responsibility, and before the life I have now, I would have happily settled into that feeling, that general unfocussed feeling of Blah, for a good day or week, or more.

I would have probably listened to Too Sad Music and done some mournful walking in a park or by the sea. I might have gone for a bike ride, and I might have watched really awful t.v. I might have wallowed and written some sad stuff in my diary. I might have sat in my room and howled.

I remember doing all these things, before kids, responsibility, before entering the Life that I have now (aka the Life that I Love).

But on this day, I had to be somewhere.

I had to go to today's Lego League meeting, where I would be helping with the group's big presentation. I was expected and I was needed. My son would already be there, and my daughter would be coming soon. I knew I couldn't walk in weepy or useless. I had to have my game face on.


I drove and leaked some tears, and drove some more and leaked some more.

I arrived. Took a deep breath.

And entered my Life.

I was greeted by bounding, bouncy kids, all saying, "Helena! You're here! You made it! You're just in time! We just finished the thing we didn't need you for and are about to start the thing we DO need you for! How did you know?"

I got hugs. I got talked to, laughed with; I got high fives. I got to help these awesome kids (young people) with their project. I got to play games with the group while eating popcorn in my friend's backyard. I got to listen to everyone's ideas and be excited for them. I got to put smiley faces on post-it notes and, with my fellow Fun Fairy, plaster them everywhere.

I was welcomed and then some.

It was warm. And kind. And real.

Then we went to Homeschool group, where more fun was had. Lovely women were there, and at one point I reminisced about how scary Homeschooling seemed in the beginning and did they remember that one day I was so overwhelmed by all the Government Jargon about Educational Outcomes that I took myself to bed for two hours? Yes, they remembered, and we all laughed.

It has become a funny memory now. It's amazing to think that more than a year has gone by since that moment. Amazing to think that homeschooling rarely scares me now. And how much more confident I feel about so many things.

It's also a reminder that things get better.

They get better.

This is the high. If you take all the highs that my day had,

you end up with this

one true thing.

The "one true thing" being my constant Life Lesson, the one I'm always learning, and relearning, and then learning again.

The lesson being…

that sometimes things are overwhelming.

Sometimes that's just how it is.

Sometimes it's so overwhelming that you take yourself to bed for two hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes it's so overwhelming that you leak tears (you don't howl, or wail, or sob—you simply leak) as you drive your car.

Sometimes it's so overwhelming and messy and tricky that sometimes you think, "How am I supposed to manage now?"

But then sometimes…

if you are lucky, or open, or brave, or

not brave at all and are—quite simply—just putting one foot in front of the other,

Life finds you.

It finds you keeping on.

Keeping on









And it finds you

being loved right back.

It finds you

being needed, and welcomed and found.

It finds you

dipping, and rising, dipping and rising.

Dipping and rising. Dipping and rising.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Is it an irony when someone asks you to join their blog hop,

a blog hop specifically about finishing something,

and you don't join the hop

(at least, you don't Hop when you were meant to Hop, which was yesterday),

not because you haven't finished something,

but because you can't manage to finish the blog post about finishing something?

I think it might just be.

And was that or was that not a very long sentence?

(Which I finished, by the way!

See, Deb! I CAN finish something already!)

Not Inadequate Blog Hop

And for the record…

I just finished sorting through and clearing out all the cardboard box creations that my daughter has made over the past couple of months.
There have been MANY (like, they covered almost every surface of the house!).
I saved some and took photos of the others as I went,
because they were and are precious.

(Since tidying up, my daughter made a couple more things—
like a boat, another boat, a toy for the cat, and last night she made
an egg-carton turtle called Malachite
who can give little friends rides inside her)

Malachite, the friendly turtle

I started and finished making my son's Mighty Spartan Outfit
(thank you, Pillowcase, for being in the right place
at the right time when I needed you!).

I also

finished making dinner


finished eating it

with my girl,

while my son and husband were out,

at my son's first gig

playing for a private function

(where he got fed some delicious spaghetti, played music,
and got doughnuts for dessert.
A seriously good day for him).

I even finished cleaning up the kitchen

(which, along with doing laundry and going grocery shopping
is one of my least favourite things to do).

Most importantly

at various times

in the past couple of days,

I finished


in a chair

with the cat on my lap.

Both of us


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3 things

Three images (and moments) I am in love with today

A wild Spartan warrior

who has been asking for a Greek tunic for ages

and after reading Story of the World yesterday

(and learning about Alexander the Great)


'I really want us to make that Spartan costume now,'

and I said, 'Okay then'

(there being nothing scheduled for the day and
nothing that had to be done).


we made it,

just like that,

and then he charged, and stalked, and leaped about the garden with his home-made spear and shield,
pretending to be at war with the chickens. Very funny.

A fox sniffing a daffodil

which my sister sent me via email,

and which made me think of all these things at once:

of Fox being a cherished family name,

of me loving foxes since I was a child,

(there always being a fox on the christmas cake when I was little,
toy foxes given as presents and my whole family once receiving
an orange t-shirt with a fox on it for Christmas—a gift from my sister),

daffodils being my, and my grandmother's and my sister's
favourite flower,

of my grandmother,

my sister,




(that being the exact look on the fox's face and how I feel when I am breathing in my kids).

And finally…

a cat on the lap of a girl on a lap

making a neat sandwich,

and making my girl the happiest little girl in the middle ever.

Editors note:

my daughter just looked at this blog post and said,
"But that's not my favourite picture!"
So we looked for her favourite, and here it is—

photo taken by my boy

Saturday, October 23, 2010

a saturday morning

I had to get on and write down what my kids are doing


It's Saturday morning, 9am. The world is my kids' oyster.

Neither has had breakfast.

And they are both at their desks.

My son is doing Life of Fred—Fractions

My daughter is making a phone with a little box.

They are in their element.

And that brings me JOY.

(and them.

They don't even realise it—

how gorgeous they are, how easy it is for them to find happiness,

how effortless their learning is.

They're living inside their simple joy and to them, it's just life.

They are simply being.

Which makes it all the more beautiful)

(As for my husband, on this lovely Saturday morning?

He is playing Bop-It, his new birthday toy. It's really really loud!)

Have a beautiful weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010

news and such

So I've got some fun news.

Simple Homeschool asked for some guest post submissions back in July, and I sent off a couple that I thought might fit their site. Then I forgot I'd sent them and life went on.

Then a couple of days ago, I got an email from Jamie, the editor, saying they'd like to publish my post on Socialisation. How cool is that?! And it's on the site right now—I'm officially a guest blogger!

I think the site is a great, supportive resource—full of information, inspiration, and how-tos. It's definitely worth checking out.

The regular writers have their own lovely blogs too. One writer is on my blog list already, Amida from Journey Into Unschooling. She's definitely worth checking out, too!

Just you wait: I'll thrill everyone with my awesomeness and insight and all the homeschool sites will say, "Oh, Helena, please please come and post with us regularly and share your wisdom," and I'll say, "Must I?" and they'll all say, "Oh, you must!" and I'll say, "Well…if you insist!"

And then I will skyrocket into fame and fortune until finally my picture will grace the cover of Time magazine, with the headline: Helena. Wise. Awesome. And ever so Humble.

At least they'll be right about my name!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Freedom Experiment…


I haven't told the kids that I'm experimenting on them.

I haven't said, "Oh, we're taking the term off to see what happens."

I haven't mentioned that I plan to leave it up to them—to decide what they want to do, when to do it, and how.

I haven't declared anything, or put up any banners.

I have simply decided…very quietly and without any fanfare…

to watch and

listen and

play and

talk and

answer and

help and


alongside my kids.

(with a lot of quiet excitement, a feeling of incredible freedom, and just a sweet sense of this being right.

Cue: Small clinking of glasses, between myself and myself, as I toast this lovely beginning.)


It is the end of Day Two of the Freedom Experiment.

What's been happening in the "Lab" with my gorgeous specimens so far?

Well, my girl has made a boat for her toys, and sewn two pairs of pants for her toy cat. The first pair did not work. I introduced two words into my girl's vocabulary. They were: "Trial" and "Error". She decided not to be afraid of either word. She learned how to create a pattern, thread a needle and perfect her running stitch. The second pair of pants rocked.

PLUS she did science on the computer and wrote a diary of her day. PLUS she played tennis then frolicked with her friends for 8 straight hours.

PLUS she did a watercolour in art class and barely noticed when I stepped out to buy pens in the shop downstairs.

PLUS she told me about a book she'd read called, A Mouse and His Child. She loved it, and told me why she loved it. (I think I read it when I was a kid, and on my girl's review, am totally going to read it again.)

PLUS she talked to me about wanting to design an elevator, and what she needed to make it happen.

She said, "I'm thinking a lot about how things work and about all this Science stuff. Sometimes I think so hard about it, it makes my head hurt!"

PLUS she said, "I want to do woodwork. I want to build a house for my toys."

And I said, "Okay. Howabout you draw up your plans, and then we go to the hardware shop and see what we need?" (at which point my son said, "I want to build a house too!")

My girl ALSO decided she wanted to start going to bed earlier from now on. Up into bed she's hopped, for the last three nights, without a word of complaint.

And last night

she said, "Mum, we've been doing a lot of natural learning, recently."

I said, "Yes, we have, haven't we."

And she said, "Maybe we really are unschoolers!"

(and perhaps we are, my sweet girl…

with all the possibilities inside and outside the boundaries of that word)

As for my boy

he has spent hours drawing comics—painstakingly copying, by eye, Asterix, Obelix and Julius Caesar from the Asterix comics. When he got to Julius's insanely difficult head, he traced it, created a grid over the image, and then drew it, on a larger scale, on a separate piece of paper. It looked awesome. Getafix is next!

He said, "Mum, I really need some different pens, so I can do the fine lines and the thick inking. Maybe I can get them for Christmas?"

I said, "Maybe I could get them for you today?"

(And I did, because I thought it was important and because Christmas is just so far away, like whole days and weeks and months… Much too long to wait, don't you think?)

Also, my boy has decided to start Life of Fred—Fractions. He began yesterday and by tonight, had completed a third of the book.

He worked on it from dinner until 9.30 last night; today he worked away at it from 8 to 3, stopping only for meals, snacks, tennis and to organise a ball game for our homeschool group. (Plus he got a spot of trampolining in, and belted out some jazz tunes on the piano.)

Somewhere in his new maths notebook are the words, "THIS IS AWESOME!!"

(how cool is that?)

And today, on the drive home, my boy and I talked.

my boy: "Tomorrow, I want to draw Getafix. And you know the short comics I've done? Well, I want to write a longer comic this time. I'm going to practice drawing tons of comics until I feel like I know how to draw and then I want to write a story about a Roman refugee running away from the soldiers."

me: "That sounds great. You also mentioned you wanted to write a story about a Spartan pacificist one time. I wonder if you'd want to make that into a comic, make it like a graphic novel?"

my boy: "Oh! Yeah! YEAH! That's right! That's what I'll write about. That's totally what I'll do.
Okay. So that'll be my English and my Art. And for my Maths, I'll do Life of Fred and MathsBuddy, and for science, we'll keep doing what we're doing, and for history we'll keep doing Story of the World. That's everything! And for PE, we'll walk the dog."

me: "And if you don't feel like doing any of that, you could just read a book for the whole day."

*stunned silence *

my boy (practically in a whisper): "Could I really do that?"

Yes, my sweet boy, you really could.

(Bring on Day 3 of the Freedom Experiment! I can't wait.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

an ending and a beginning

Today saw…

us saying good bye to our house guest

who managed in one short week to

• almost break his arm doing jumps on his bike

• fall into a creek just before tennis (which he then played, left handed and dripping wet)

• go on a hike where he…

ran down a very very very steep hillside

swung from vines (so that everyone else had to swing from vines…).

and looked at a view.

He also managed to

• play hours and hours and hours and hours of piano (left-handed) and drums (left-handed).

• teach my boy two new piano pieces, composed by him

• be outwitted (but only barely) by me in countless games of Abalone (well, I counted, and it was 8 games, of which I won 5)

• swim and dive and frolic (when his arm was better) two days in a row (which meant my kids swam and dove and frolicked too)

• help my kids make a board game for my husband's birthday…

which involved planning, designing, discussing, inventing, enjoying, laughing

and which my husband loved
(that's my husband concentrating because the game is complicated!)

• give my girl's soft toys whole new personalities

(like her favourite husky dog who, in his hands, became a rapper with a profound fear of corn and a need to sing, non-stop, songs about his fear of corn)

• enchant my kids so that bedtime became later…and later…and later

• and make us laugh so much I cried

(yeah, he enchanted me too. He's a good, good kid.)

Today saw…

us going to the Big Smoke,

for our first ever baptism,

…where we watched a gorgeous, two-toothed baby smile delightedly to the gaggle of kids crowded at the pastor's feet

…and where we listened to a sermon,

…which was my kids' first time, and which led to a big, rambling talk with them on the drive home about faith and judgement and Jesus and differences and Christians and Muslims and Holy Books, and good and bad and truth and forgiveness, love and kindness

(and I felt full-to-bursting with pride at how much my kids aren't afraid to wonder, and question, and embrace, and respect. I do love them so)

and us returning

from the Big Smoke

…where the kids instantly went to their favourite things in the world:
My girl, her art. My boy, his books

…and where my girl designed a wedding chapel for her toys, complete with flower arbour, so that Silver and *other doggy I don't remember the name of* could get married

…and then she could barely eat her dinner

and had to go bed…

at the not-even-dark-out hour of 7pm…

because she was an incredibly over-tired, over-swum, over-laughed, over-hiked, over-art-ed and over-happy-ed little girl.

And my boy stayed up late to draw…

a near-flawless picture of Obelix

and then he went to bed.


today sees

us here.

With a busy, beautiful week behind us…

in which the kids "didn't do any school work!"

(this being what they kept saying, as they described their week with our guest. Like it was extraordinary, insane, just plain kooky.)

And I wonder…

Will they ask to do school work tomorrow?

Will they want to be free in the way I imagine and hope?

I have a list of all the things they want to do this term—make things with clay, finish writing a book, make a car with a motor, sew a skirt, draw cartoons, read history, discover graphic novels, play games.

Will it count, for them, as learning? Or will they marvel at the end of the day, "We didn't do school work today either!"

I wonder…

will they ask for structure or will they relish space?

will my son seek out his workbooks and timetable?

and will my daughter do any maths ever again?

I wonder…

What will the Freedom Experiment bring?


It sure will be a lot quieter than the week we just had.

It could be scary.

It might be extraordinary.

Or the most unusual, unexpected,

amazing combination

of both,

and of everything that is


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

what if we let go?

So it's a new term… but what does a new term really mean?

Does it mean new lesson plans, unit studies, workbooks, projects? Does it mean a return to "regularly scheduled programming"? Does it mean renewed interest in learning? Does it mean School Time has begun again? Does it mean life as usual?

Others might have a quick answer to those questions. For me, I don't really know. I feel a bit unsettled now that the school term has started.

I felt the change the moment Monday morning came. I thought, as my kids woke up and wandered downstairs at 8.30, "there are kids who would be at school by now."

There was something in the air, stirred up perhaps by the bustle of all those kids going off to their classrooms, the energy of parents hustling to get their kids to and from and from and to. But also from my husband going back to work after taking a break and the resumption of the kids' classes. That "go go go" feeling returned. We went back to Busy.

And we went back to being different.

On Monday we had to take a guest, a fellow homeschooling boy, to the doctors (he had a suspected broken wrist—awesome timing to fall from his bike just as his parents flew off to Vanuatu!). The doctor said, "I thought school went back today." No, I said, We're all homeschoolers. Then at the x-ray place, an older woman muttered something to her friend and the friend said, "I guess the schools are going back tomorrow." Then another woman asked, "No school for them today?" And I said, No, they're homeschooled.

It felt like we were rare beasties, wandering from place to place, to the curious looks of outsiders. The kids being cute little curios, escaped from the zoo.

I've had this all before, the sense of difference, the busy, the go go go. I actually don't mind it. I mean, we chose to be different. The kids chose their lessons. We chose homeschool. We freely chose a life that I love.

But I still kind of want my holidays back.

And in mulling it over during the holidays, and then writing it down here, I think I have figured out why.

I think I want "school" to leave our Homeschool Land.

I don't think I want it to be part of our identity, or mentality, any more.

(And I wish I'd said to all the people on Monday, "Oh, we don't go to school" without elaborating. Or said, "Oh, we learn outside the Institution known as School." Or, "Oh no, we're just a bunch of loony anarchists. Don't mind us." Or something!)

"School," for me personally, has come to mean "teaching" as opposed to "learning." It has come to represent all the "shoulds." The shoulds of: The kids should do maths every. single. day. The kids should learn grammar/spelling from a nice workbook that fits the NSW requirements for Grades z and q. The kids should learn about the Gold Rush in Australia, but only in Year 5. The kids should know their multiplication tables by the age of x. The kids should learn Text Types (narrative, explanation, procedure, information report, blah de blah). The kids should be at the exact same level as their schooled peers. The kids should fit.

It represents the feeling that without a set plan, and me teaching them, the kids won't really learn, and I'll have done it all wrong, the kids won't realise their potential and I'll end up the mother of two Modern-day Neanderthals.


It's a feeling that's really hard to shake.

We have let go of a lot of this, by following the kids' interests. By letting my kids choose the schedule they like. By doing less bookwork. By going off on adventures whenever we choose.

We really are, mostly, free.

But the spectre of "should" still lingers inside me. It's a tenacious little sucker—even a year and a half into our journey, it's still sitting there, saying, "Oooh, you didn't do maths today. This is a baaaad sign. No university for your two!"

I really want to shake that sucker free.

I want to have a grand clearing out; a Spring Clean, if you will.

Right now, in this moment, I don't want to say, "Time to do some work" to my son. I don't want to suggest a workbook or a set plan to either of my kids. I definitely don't want to struggle through maths with my daughter, with her feeling fearful and resistant.

I want them, and us, and me, to be free.

I want to watch them read, create, think, plan, play and be. I want to release the kids from any sense of obligation and see what happens. I want my boy to find his schedule if he desires it, but I don't want to remind him to stick to it. I want my girl to find her love for maths but I don't want to make her do it.

I want to see what journeys we could go on if we just let go.

So…what does that mean?

What would our new term mean, if we just stayed "on holiday"?

What if we sewed, and built and drew?

What if we designed and read and discovered?

What if we wrote and talked and walked and ran?

What if I just stood back and watched and helped when they asked and took them places—

places they needed to be and places they asked to go?

What if we didn't feel we needed to be home to learn?

What if… what if…?

What if we grew wings and flew?

Ah. It might just be magical.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

our holidays…

Our holidays…


one word:


We got outside a lot

mostly to

one beach




ice cream was enjoyed

cliff paths were followed

rock forts were built

and rock boats were rowed

a dog was walked (and then rested)

rocks were wandered on

tree bridges were traversed

water was waded through

shark eggs were gathered

yellow met yellow

dolphins were found frolicking

the sky was held

waves were watched

(and swum in, and run from)

smiles were smiled and grins were grinned


joy was jumped

Friday, October 8, 2010

if you were small…

If you were very very small

and you wanted to go somewhere big

would you go here

and see the world like this?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

are you okay?

my feeling on this is:

this is a good


so good in fact that

why not make it 'r u okay day' every day

if you can

check in with friends and loved ones who might be struggling

let friends and loved ones know you care about them

even when (it seems) they aren't struggling

let friends and loved ones know that they


to you

This simple act

has made a world of difference to me

in my own journey


because of that kindness and care

I am