Sunday, December 19, 2010

a smorgasbord of thoughts

Thought 1: Samoa

I am slowly going through our Samoa pictures. There are so many!

The one above is the view from our ferry—the one we took from the "mainland" of Upolu, to the bigger but less populated island of Savaii.

There, in the photo, is Savaii, looming in the distance. (Not the little island on the left, but the really big fuzzy one far, far away!)

On this island, my daughter got pretty sick and we had to take her to hospital. On this island, I too had to go to hospital, 30 years ago. On this island we swam and ate and rested and on this island
spread the ashes of my father.

In this photograph, all of that is looming: expectant, promising, waiting.

It carries weight and hope and heft. And when I look at it, I actually feel tired!

But complete, too.

In these days of having returned and still feeling afloat,

I am sorting, finding, organising my thoughts, processing,

not just the many photographs,

but also the journey

which began when we were first deciding whether or not to go, back in September

and ended when the plane touched sweet, beautiful ground last Thursday.

Because it wasn't just a holiday
and it wasn't just a time to say good bye to my father
and it wasn't just a family reunion
and it wasn't just a homecoming
and it wasn't just relaxing
and it wasn't just complicated
and it wasn't just emotional or
difficult or
tiring or

… it was

of these things


I still feel like I'm on/in a boat/plane/car and I still feel like I'm not quite home! And yet, it's also
so so good to be home. To have faced fear and accepted adventure and to have embraced hope.

And, now, to have it behind us. It's been a long, long journey,

and I am ready to rest.

Thought 2: Now

My Samoa Diary: Days 5 - 10 is coming very soon! I promise.


in the meantime, the kids are super busy here with learning, and thinking and writing and making and playing and being and talking and I want to share a little.

Yesterday, my daughter wrote and made a book called, The Little Yellow Kitten. It's just awesome.

I read it just now and marveled, "It's just like a real book!"
My girl gave me a look. (You know the type.) And she said, "Mum. It IS a real book."

Sorry! Of course it is.

I totally want to post the whole story here. I've asked my girl if that's okay, and she's "thinking about it."

Which means I have to wait. Which is kind of hard for me. Do you think I should ask her again? It's been five whole minutes…!

While we were away, she also filled her writing book and her art book with stories, poems and art. Filled them. So she got a new notebook in Samoa, and it's already half full of stories.

She has become a writing maniac. Her stories are so rich, full of wonderful characters, dialogue, adventure, and awesome words like "agile," and "tumbled." This is the girl who at the beginning of the year said she didn't like to write stories!

As for my son, he finished all the books we brought to Samoa on day 5, just after we'd arrived in a tiny village in Savaii, far away from any book shops. The very rustic and lovely hotel we were staying in had a "library" room somewhere. My husband and son scouted for books and came back with a book from the '70's about diving for treasure, a musty copy of Lord of the Rings, and an old, old Encyclopedia Brittanica Volume 1 (the letter "A")

I didn't know which of these my boy read. I was in a blur with looking after a sick girl and saying hello to dear family friends and spreading my father's ashes. I still feel blurred by it.

But two days ago, my son blurted out, "I can't believe that encylopedia didn't have an entry for Arrhidaeus!"

Um? What? Who?

"Oh, Arrhidaeus, the dyslexic brother of Alexander the Great, who looked after his son after Alexander had died.I can't believe they didn't mention him!"

Really? They didn't have that? Say it ain't so!

I googled Arrhidaeus afterwards, to learn a little, and my son was spot-on. Though he wasn't dyslexic, he was epileptic. (I guess my son would have failed that in a test?) My son said, "Oh, yeah, that's right—I knew there was something different about his brain; I just forgot what."

Yeah, my beautiful boy. Rock that knowledge!

Thought 3: Unschooling

I have one last thing to share today. (So many thoughts, tumbling, tumbling!)

Someone, a very nice woman, mentioned my blog in her comment on a post on unschooling. It's a fascinating post, by The Pioneer Woman.

This post has literally hundreds of comments, and they make for an amazing, rich read, with hundreds of different perspectives given on this Thing Called Unschooling/Life Learning/Natural Learning.

I managed to read about fifty, before my brain petered out. I've bookmarked it and can't wait to go back for more. It's also a very respectful thread, which is refreshing! I highly recommend anyone interested in this method of homeschooling go and check it out.

Anyway, something someone asked in the comments section was this:

"What IS unschooling?"

And it got me thinking.

I think that is a near-impossible question to answer!

Unschooling, by its very nature, is a fluid thing—it's organic, highly personal, and can't really be pinned down. For me, I believe unschooling is based on respect—listening to and respecting how a child learns and wants to learn. It is built on following a child's passions and interests, and on finding ways to help learning happen, ways that are individual and infinite in number.

But that's my version of what unschooling is (and it's pretty dreamy and unspecific, I know!). In fact, I'm not even sure I'd call us "unschoolers," because by my very nature, I avoid being defined, or pinned down. For someone else, their definition of what unschooling is might be very different.

I believe there is no one, "right" way to unschool, or to homeschool for that matter. Because homeschooling is a deeply, deeply personal journey.

Our homeschool journey incorporates all methods of learning—at least, the methods that work for us. It allows for leaving a day completely open to see what comes up, but it also allows for using curriculum, incorporating schedules and routines, and having mentors make suggestions and offer up ideas.

Our journey, ideally, is "personalised, non-coercive, and interest-led" and it is built on respect. Sometimes our homeschool doesn't fit this goal—it gets snarled up in outside worries and expectations, in the sense that we "should" be doing this, or we "need" to do that to get it right. Then we take a deep breath (or at least, I do!). We talk, we pick ourselves up, we focus, and move on.

Homeschooling is such an individual journey that really no label or definition is right for us. Or…maybe…every label is right?!

So, we are unschoolers, and proud of it. AND, we are life learners. AND method dabblers, curriculum tasters, idea brewers, plan makers, learning lovers, people respecters, rule avoiders, skills learners, open-hearters, skills teachers, heart-on-sleevers, judgement skippers, life livers, mistake makers and belly laughers.

This is who we are, and this is our journey.

And it makes us so happy. It feels right to our very bones.

And now…

I think I'll stop thinking

(That is, until I start again!)


  1. Your 'unschooling' inspires me all the time. I want to let go, I am trying.

    Love this post.

  2. I found your blog through the "Unschooling" post on The Pioneer Woman. It's very inspiring to me. It's helping me think about what I want our "school" to look like. The thing I can't seem to get past though is what you do if your kids don't seem to be interested in anything but the TV or the computer or playing with Star Wars guys. My 7-year old son would spend all day learning nothing if I let him. What would you do in a situation like that?

  3. Thanks, Karen! I think letting go is something that happens all the time, don't you think? Like we let go of our expectations when our parenting and life journeys change from what we thought they'd look like. We let go of fears, when we need to (right? Or at least we don't let them boss us around!). We let go of attachments, as much as we can, when they are unhealthy. Life is a constant release. So you are letting go, in your own way, all the time.

    Your journey inspires me too, Karen. It is built from love and respect and a joy for learning, just like my journey, and I love the stories you share. So, thank you, for inspiring us and being part of our lives!

    And Beth, that's a good question, and something a lot of people ask about unschooling. There are many blogs and articles about this, about the pros and cons of tv and computer use in homeschooling, and it's worth searching those opinions out. But be mindful that for every opinion and life choice one way, there'll be an opinion arguing the opposite. The debate can spin you out, if you let it!

    So my personal feeling on it is this: do what feels right for you and for your kids on your learning journey. We don't spend a lot of time on the computer, unless it's for looking stuff up or writing and creating. My kids know I'm not a big fan of playing games on the computer for ages, so they get off after about a half hour each. I probably would ask them to do something else if they stayed on much longer. We don't watch tv because it's simply not in our life: we literally never turn it on unless it's movie night. So it doesn't occur to my kids to watch it. (I know, we're cave dwellers!).

    If tv and computers are something you don't want your son to go overboard on, then perhaps you could steer him towards other things; you could go to the library, read to him, play board games, suggest he do something else if he's been immersed for a while. I don't think there's anything wrong with making alternative suggestions, or even, simply saying, I'd rather you do something else now. If he disagrees, you can talk it through together, hear his side, and try and find a consensual, respectful solution. Sometimes I've said "No," to something only to have my kids give me a really reasoned, sensible argument for why I should say "Yes"! In my journey, the more open I've become to trying new things, and saying yes to things I might have once said no to, the more my kids and I have blossomed. It's been amazing.

    About your last comment, the thing about learning is, it happens all the time, and without us even realising sometimes. Sometimes, just when we think our kids aren't learning, is exactly when they're brewing up ideas, ruminating on something they've experienced, learning through play and exploration of the seemingly ordinary—their minds are always, always ticking!

    I think sometimes the only way to see how "unschooling" might work in your day is to try it as far as it's comfortable for you. Letting go of things here or there, watching how much learning they do in the "holidays" (which is how our life learning journey began), and remembering kids have a hunger to learn. We all do, don't we? I mean, you're learning right now, in your homeschooling adventure. It's awesome, isn't it?

    I don't think there are any rules you need to adhere to: everyone's life and homeschool journey is so personal. And is made of trial and error, always. So enjoy, and don't be too tough on yourself as you try things out! I hope my stories help you, and that you find other stories to inspire you on your travels. Thanks so much for coming by, Beth.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.