Monday, May 28, 2012

What sort of school IS this?

I wouldn't be surprised if someone walked in one day and asked that very question. Sometimes I laugh and think the same question myself! Because this homeschool of ours sure doesn't look like any school I've ever been to (and I went to 7).

What do you think of when you hear the word


A few years ago, I would have pictured… a desk for a child to sit behind. A blackboard for the teacher to write on. A space between the teacher and the child. The teacher standing before the class, or sitting on a chair with the children in an obedient semi-circle at his or her feet. I would have imagined learners listening and a teacher speaking. I would have imagined it as I lived it, because that was all I knew.

When we began homeschooling, I got a white board. A big, beautiful one where I wrote the day's plan. I also bought a lot of workbooks. Books for spelling, comprehension, maths, history. I pored over curriculum, lesson plans, education outcomes. I searched to find something to hold onto, some recognisable and sturdy structure to build in a land that was completely new to me. This new land had a horizon too far away to see, signposts I didn't know the language to read, roads that twisted and rearranged themselves as I walked. I remember a day when I bamboozled myself—by reading so many ideas on what to do and how to do it that I had to take myself to bed.

I tried a daily structure, and dismantled it. I tried rebuilding different structures, but they fell at my feet, or the children stepped out of them. I tried schedules and textbooks and plans and packaged curriculum. I relaxed and had no structure. Then panicked. I lost my way, found it, lost it. The new world sometimes seemed just too large. There were days I doubted myself. I worried that the children would be behind, or not learning what they needed. I worried that somehow, in some way, I was making terrible, unfixable, mistakes. I wept. Sometimes, I would rant. Sometimes I did all of this in a single day.

But a lot of days, in fact almost all of our days, were actually magic.

Those days, when I let go of the worry and the doubt and the expectation and…just watched my kids and listened to them and said yes to their ideas and we walked and talked and read and explored and created and… we went to the library and to the beach and the art gallery and…sat in our pyjamas all day reading or writing our novels or playing games and music and…we went to hang out with friends,

those days were (and are) unbelievably amazing.

They are why we've homeschooled this long.

Three years! It feels long, and it feels…
like a blink.

And just recently,

I had myself a little epiphany.

It suddenly hit me, finally—big and wild and hard in the gut—that

our homeschool never has to look like school.

Not in any way. Not even remotely. I really, truly, can let it go. The teacher teaching, directing, deciding everything. The child listening, passively. "School"—this enormous, impossible entity—didn't need to be here. Not the structure, the look, the feel, those books, the invisible wires that were my idea of "School" holding me still … none of it needed to be in our home.

Then I looked around, and saw

we'd actually already been living my epiphany. For years, we have been loosening the wires, stepping away and forward.

But I don't think I'd realised.

After my epiphany

I could see clearly

 that our homeschool is already our special, particular, walk of invention.

Instead of accepting a land already made, we have made our own. We found roads that turned corners we liked then built new roads that branched away; we entered buildings that were interesting (but we didn't always stay inside). We have written our own street signs, made our own rising towers and glorious bridges, and we have strung the streets bright with lanterns. We found fields to run in and silken beaches and we painted the world in technicolour. We have sung and written and drawn and dreamed our own school into being and as we have, the word "school" has grown fainter and fainter…until with the slightest, quietest, 'pop!' it has disappeared. We have made our land a land of learning, made it so it fits us, built it so we grow finer and greater, every single day.

It's so beautiful here. Not always perfect. But it's ours.

A daughter on the couch, looking at Science For Kids on the iPad. A boy lying on another couch, writing page after page of his story. A girl lying in her bed with the computer, designing her website. A boy discussing the existence of oak trees ("if you have a 700-year-old tree that has a new, week-old branch, can the tree really be said to be 700 years old?"). A girl writing about bald eagles at the dining table for her blog. A boy juggling and juggling, inspired by numerous TED talks and his circus class. A girl lying in the big bed with her mum, discussing long division and playing book stores and making up change. A boy playing Words With Friends with his mum (and beating her! She will have to lift her game.) A girl drawing cartoon cats and reading books on animation. A boy poring over Greek history. A girl reading every Warriors book under the sun. A boy and a girl and a mum, walking on the beach almost every day the sun is out.

A boy. A girl. A mum. A dad. Thinking, dreaming, creating. Talking, all the time. Playing in the land we made. The land we made. 

It is so beautiful here.

linking up with the lovely Owlet's 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

how can one person change the world?

My daughter asked this the other day, as we walked along the bike path, the sea murmuring at our side, low bushes thick to the east and west. A small wren darted near our feet, its tail erect and bright blue. A new housing development sat squat on the headland, looking over a dense history of waves, of spirit, of sun and moon rise, and the endless calls of birds.

Here is where deep spirit lies, the local Aboriginals say. There is an indigenous tent embassy set up by the beach, by the water. People are still listening to the living, breathing land, here and elsewhere.

"How can one person change the world?" my daughter asked. "I'm just one person. Humans have done so much damage—it makes me sad. I can't change it."

"You already are changing it," I said. Her hand lay small and soft in mine. Her feet walked in time with mine, her eyes watching everything, noticing, listening. "You are changing it by living your truth," I said. Which sounded so very ambiguous and new agey but that's how we talk. We talk like hippies in our house, and idealists and impossible adventurers.

"But," she said, "I can't make a difference. One person can't."

"One person can, and does, all the time. Their voice speaks out, then it adds to another person's voice and another person's voice, and all of a sudden…"

People start to listen. It can begin with a single voice. Think of Gandhi, and Buddha, and Jesus, and Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks. Think of people camped in treetops trying to save old growth rain forests. Think of a girl baking cookies to raise money for the RSPCA. Think of an Israeli man posting a message of love to Iranian people on his Facebook page, and then it spreading, Iranians posting messages in return, a great sweep of peace rising. Think of a President speaking out for marriage equality.

Think of the small acts people do every day— smiling at others, including others, listening to others, sharing with others. Think of passionate people, creative people, questioning people, people who care so much about this planet and the living things on it that they can't help but speak out. They make a difference by living their truth, by spreading compassion, by loving others. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

My daughter is changing the world with her small voice. She submitted her vegan essay to Youngzine, an online current affairs magazine for kids. It got accepted for publication and is on the front page of their U-Write section!

She is making a difference at the age of 9 — by raising an idea she believes in passionately, by stating her opinion, by presenting sources, opening up conversation, talking with others…by speaking her truth. 

And she is making a difference simply by inspiring me. 

I am so proud I could burst

Love and peace to you all! May all your feathers be fluffed and your tails bright blue, may the land whisper under your feet and your songs sing out over the sea.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

… and Click

There are some moments in life, moments pure and perfect where you stop and take a photograph with your mind.

Notice this, I say to myself. Mind this. Remember this. Feel this.

Those moments are like spotting rainbows, or a child's hand quietly slipping into yours. You hold them close. You remember them always.

I still remember breastfeeding my son under the trees when he was less than a year old.

I remember the very last night I breastfed my daughter, at almost three years old and how she fell asleep tucked against my skin.

I remember, clearly, kissing my husband on the dunes in San Francisco when we were new to each other. The wind rising, the waves turning, crashing, turning…just for us.

I remember 13 years ago, standing under cold stars on an empty street in Lake Tahoe. I remember singing in harmony with a friend, singing over the North Sea in Yorkshire when I was 24. And just the other day, I remember walking towards my children, and suddenly feeling the deep invincible burn of loving them.

You take note in moments like these. You stop. Click.
Stop, click. Stop. Click.

And… some days I also pull out my phone and take a picture,

to make doubly sure a sweet moment sticks.

'Cause it's nice sometimes to have an actual photo to look back on.
(As lovely as the memories are, and as much as they make me glow)

And sometimes because I think, perhaps my memory won't always be enough. Everyone has those days, don't they, when you look back and go, "What was it we did again?" or "What did we do yesterday?" or… "I don't remember that at all."

Plus, well…it's always good to have a record for the homeschool diary :)

We've been so busy the past few weeks. A beautiful man has gone away then returned. (Hooray, hooray, hooray). We have tripped to Sydney, and returned. We have gone to the beach and gone to the beach and…gone to the beach. We have walked the dog. The kids began juggling class. They made an online story forum for people who want to write about cats. We have done our computer science class. We have cooked and eaten scrumptious vegan food. The kids have scootered (and I have watched). We have read. We have written. We have walked. We bought an iPad!! We have been in the newspaper. We have laughed and we have played and we have learned.

Can I show you how our days have been…?

I'd like that, very much.

Our Sydney Adventure
Including: Ladybugs, Chinese Gardens,
Views Down and Around,
and DeepBookDiving

Our Outdoorsy Days

Our Learning
Story Writing
Game Playing
Computer Sciencing (with the cat!)
Box Building at Bunnings
Card Workshopping
Ball Juggling

Our Music
A Jazz Concert
A Classical Indian Music Concert
A Boy's First Jazz Piano Gig!

And oh, it was so cold out!
My boy kept rubbing his hands together to keep them warm between songs.
Then played his heart out. 

Our Vegan Life
Lasagnes and Quesadillas!
(plus we ate Pizza… and Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew…and Vegie Burgers… 
and Almond Pancakes…and Lentil Bolognese! Yummilicious)
Plus some
Vegan Essay Writing (by a girl)
Vegan Poster Making (by a boy)

My boy showed me his (done on Paintbrush) drawing with his typical mischievous grin…

then he decided to create a series of posters using quotes from different faiths and philosophies 

(Christianity, Buddhism, Confucious, the Bahaii faith, Hinduism),
all quoting the Golden Rule. Pretty beautiful. 

I am so proud of my kids for reading up about veganism, 
for becoming informed, and expressing their views. 
They inspire me to do more, say more, speak more. 
And publish more pictures of scrumptious vegan food :) )

Our fame
We were in the paper!
I was interviewed via email recently for a Mother's Day article coming out in the local paper.
I was asked about homeschooling and mothering…
and wrote lots and lots of words in response :) 
The photographer came to our house and snapped a thousand photos. It was a lot of fun.

When the article came out yesterday
 (along with lovely interviews with 6 other mums), 
I was so pleased to see that the points I felt strongest about were kept in. 
I was so glad to see homeschooling (specifically unschooling/life learning) 
shown in such a positive light. 
It made me so happy. 

Our Together.

I love these kids.
I love being their mother.
It's a cup-runneth-over kind of love.
The best kind of love there is.

I hope all is as well for you, on this Mother's Day,
as it is (and it beautifully, magically is)
for us.