Thursday, June 2, 2011

how the flow goes

So. Our Flow. Our re-found, good time, happy days…

how and why has it come again? Is it simply that we were on an ebb, and like the tide, it's come back, serene and moon-lit?

Or is it a conscious reclaiming. A choosing?

I think it's the second.

I realised more than one thing when I was bottoming out.

One was:

I realised I was bottoming out. Once long ago, all I did when I felt like that was listen to sad music on my bed! This time, there were dinners to make, children to take places, smiles to smile, cuddles to give. I couldn't take a whole week of sick days (and oh, I wanted to). I had to find my way back to Good. Consciously, mindfully, return to being present with my children, present in the moment. Dig as deep and hard as I could. Find the light. Find the joy.

It took time. A lot (LOT) of thinking, mulling, talking, stewing.

Which led to realisation number


Life needs to be simpler. It needs to come down to the basics.

It needs to come down to doing what we love.

What is that?

Well, being together, as a family. Homeschooling. Reading. Music. Writing. Spending quality time with friends. Being outside.

…hmmm. I think it's that simple!

I want to move towards a less complicated, built-up life. I want to live in a way that these good, fine things are a priority, and not something we just do, without being mindful about them. I want to embrace them with our whole hearts, give them focus, rather then simply fitting them into a busy day.

Which led to realisation number


My kids love love love to read. But because I was in a state of Fret, I had started worrying they were spending too long reading.

I had begun to think, on many, many mornings, Shouldn't we be doing some kind of school work? What if we get to the end of our homeschool days and they don't know how to subtract or write an essay? (Yes, I was getting that panicky). What if I'm forever left waiting all day for them to lift their heads from their books, so we can do something else with the time? Those Shoulds and Forevers and What Ifs got loud and insistent.

So I had started saying, "Perhaps you're reading too long," and fussing out loud about work not being done.

And then one night, my son said, "Maybe we should put all our books in one room and lock it. Then you can tell us when we can read." He said it genuinely. Just wanting to help, wanting so much to please me.

Oh, wow. That was a bad, really stinky moment.

It was also my wake up call.

I realised I had forgotten something incredibly important:

that learning flows when doing the thing (or things) you love the most. 

I realised, actually,  rather than reading less,

they should read MORE. 

So we went to the library on Monday and got SO many books we had to buy two extra library bags to bring them home. We got Books about Space, and Science, and Geography, and Maps, and Myths and Legends, and Houdini, and Art, and so much Fiction!

Now the learning can happen any time, and happen for hours. And it has been happening—noses glued to the pages, looking up only to share. Last night, as my girl read Creation Stories, my boy was calling out information about earthquakes from the living room. I was cleaning the kitchen and couldn't hear him. I said, "Come sit on the stool here, keep me company" so he did. He perched by the kitchen bench, reading to me from the Usborne Geography Encyclopedia about the Mercalli scale. It was bliss.

Realisation Two also led to realisation


Which was, if we love something, and want to do it well,

sometimes it requires regular attention

(much like a plant needs watering, or a writer needs to write).

So we should consciously, mindfully,

turn it into a daily practice

(much like morning meditation, or walking every day).

So, because my kids play music, and love it, both need to practice, regularly.

We were forgetting to do this. We were getting to the end of almost every day, and realising no-one had touched their instruments. Then, trying to get the kids to practice was like pulling teeth—all hunched shoulders and frowns, anxious faces and, "Oh, I was about to do something…"

Making them practice went against my new-found philosophies—that learning is best when it's non-coercive, organic. How is a mum standing there, saying "You should practice now," while the kids moan together, a match for our learning style? It's not.

So the kids and I came up with a Plan, together. They would practice after breakfast every morning. Do it while they were fresh. Do it first, so then the rest of the day would stretch before us, with no sense of something waiting in the Must Do mental basket.

Well. It has made a huge difference! The kids go to their instruments, happily. They play, and work at new ideas, new skills. My daughter smiles so much when she hits a fine note on her violin, gets through only her fourth song ever. My son bounces down the stairs talking about the jazz piece he's creating on piano. (Which has, since I started writing this post, morphed into my husband showing him how to use Sybellius, an application on Mac, to write all the parts on computer. WILD.)

And afterwards, after they have filled up on music?

The kids seem sharper, brighter, more interested in everything, lighter, calmer, happier.

The learning day flows on so easily from there. And because a routine is now in place, it feels natural then, to gently ease into doing a little maths

For my girl, right now, maths is a new adventure—I photocopy a page, either in colour or on coloured paper, from the old, once feared maths workbook. We sit together, doing that one simple page, while at the same time having conversations about it, drawing on the work paper, me asking, "How'd you do that?" with delight, when she just cruises into answers like Cleopatra on her barge. It's a really happy time for us.
(We're also playing games, doing fun maths on the computer, and it feels like her love of maths, and openness to doing it at any time is growing. Her petals opening up to the sun. YUM.)

For my boy, who just finished his second Life of Fred book, and then did a series of assessments to show he was all done with Year 6 maths, it's all about The Number Devil. He loves this book. It gets him leaping up from the couch to check things out on the computer. He calls out information, runs over with the book to show me a theory, some fascinating fact. Again, it's a really happy time.

The result of all these realisations is

Our small routine, around an hour of practice and maths,
has given me, and my kids, a sense of peaceful rhythm.

It's like during this time, we centre ourselves. We have this concentrated time together before the day takes off, in whatever direction we choose to go.

And having had this mindful, focussed time, everything is just

flowing. SO beautifully.

Like, a new world map we bought while getting paper has lead to a geography memory game designed by my son. And him planning a massive round-the-world trip he wants to go on when he turns 18. And then looking up Google Earth, reading the Usborne Encyclopedia of Geography, looking up the history of Venice, and how it was built, talking talking talking about countries and cultures of the world.

We're back doing outer space, and the other day I was reading out loud to them from Space, black holes and Stuff, while the kids worked in their journals.

They illustrated their pages about the Sun, stuck in the crosswords they'd made a few weeks back, and started drawing the solar system (but not to scale! because then they found a website that showed it to scale and the distance between the planets is massive!!).

At some point I read from my book:
"beyond a certain point, the black hole becomes less dangerous as the gravitational pull is less powerful."

My girl looked up and said, simply, "That's the event horizon."

HUH? What's that you say?
I had no idea what she was talking about. I turned a page and there it said, "beyond a certain distance, the black hole doesn't suck in or destroy anything at all. We call this boundary the event horizon."

How did she know that? Well, it turns out

she read it somewhere in a book.

And we all smiled SO WIDE!

Because it's so clear.

It means: YES.

The way we are, the way we learn and live and breathe and be, fits.


to us. To our Freedom Experiment. And to having a Routine too.
To making our own rhythm and making our own rules.
To mixing methods and resources, to using what works and letting go what doesn't.
To NOT listening to fear.
To embracing how we learn and using the things we love to make learning Lighter, Happier, Bigger, More.

To letting go.

And remembering.

And loving everything we are.

Oh—I should also mention another change.

We realised that one crazy kitten NEEDS to get out, do some nature frolicking, not be in. So we've loaded both critters up with bells and collars (more bells coming), and let the cats outside. Aaah. It's helped SO much. Peace inside, happy cats outside (only in the day), no birds being eaten, contented cats coming in to sleep. It's that simple. Who'd've thunk it? Hooray for Flow!


  1. I'm so glad for you that you're feeling better, and that you've had so many wonderful realizations! It sounds like things are working really, really well for you all :)
    I'd like to share that my girls also LOVE to read, and spend so much time reading that I often feel much the same as you do...that I should make them stop to do something else. Your post is an inspiration :)
    Again, so happy for seems you have found the joy again!

  2. You are a very wise woman :-) I wish my kids would trade in their gaming obsession for books. It has always been my biggest belief that to give a child the gift of reading gives them the gift of learning anything they choose to learn. Glad things are flowing so nicely for you now. Hugs xoxox

  3. I learned so much from this post. First of all, thank you for your honesty. Secondly, I think we all - or at least I know I do - go through that. Moments of panic & depression in regard not just to homeschooling but to life.

    You are wise to take some time off to REALLY think and prioritize. I am learning that. I am learning it is ok to stop, to think, to take a break for a moment and refresh myself and not just get caught up in what I was doing, but to really take the time to think about what I want to be doing.

    I strive to lead a simple life. Nothing more than I need. I was good at this when the girls were small and it was wonderful. Now, things get complicated and I need to back up and examine and prioritize.

    Thanks for the reminder and making me feel less alone :-)

  4. Isn't it magical...

    Being home with your children makes you very mindful of your life. As parents we are constantly fretting over what did not get done and over the quality and quantity of what did. Yet through it all our children learn.
    Perhaps it is because there is not constant assessment as in school. No 100% on a weekly spelling test or a big smiley face on a forced essay that we feel we are not doing enough, learning enough or pushing them enough. Yet authentic moments of assessment happen throughout the day, like with the black hole comment. That is true learning. Learning at its finest.
    I loved your words today.

  5. Beautiful beautiful!! Inspiring and magical. You've hit the core of unschooling and have brought so much light and joy to how unschooling truly works. Thank you for such a wonderful post!

  6. Thank you Susan, Karisma, Theresa, Jessica, and MJ! It's so affirming to put my words out there, and to receive such warmth back, and to have what we do, and love, resonate with your lives too. I love the sense of connection and Right-ness that brings!

    It means so much to me to hear from you.

  7. Thank you for sharing so much with us! How fabulous that your kids LOVE to read! Mine do too, and I am constantly amazed at what they know and often wonder how they know it - reading!

    A teen I tutor asked me if our kids have "tests" and I said no, we don't need to. Tests are for the teacher to assess where they are up to in their knowledge - we already know that. Tests are for teachers to be able to tick a box on a report. Reports are to let the parents know what their kids know. We don't need to do that!

    I agree - a routine (of some sorts) helps ease through our days. And thank you for reminding me to take walks with my kids.

    And thank you for more inspiration to be "unschooly". It's not easy for me to come from a school environment and relax about our learning. But your posts help us in that direction. Thank you!

  8. I love the way you can understand and see your children. You know what they need and it is so magical to watch you all finding the right place. I love the reading...would give anything if my sweetie would love it, however as I type this she is reading...all by herself with no begging, threats or bribes. On a Friday night..reading. It just makes me smile so big.

    I love reading about you finding exactly where you should be..I love that you care so much, I love that your kids are always so happy. I love that I have found such an awesome friend, halfway across this big world.

    Hugs Helena...

  9. Ahh, this is so beautiful and you described the joys of learning so perfectly! I've been thinking about this a lot since we will officially homeschool this year...cause for anxiety? Then, I realized we've been doing fine all along by following our curiosities and loves! Thank you for sharing this and I'll be linking it to my post so others can read your beautiful insights and wisdom.


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