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Posts tagged ‘learninginourownenvironment’

How do they learn?

When people ask me this question, it could mean a couple of things:

The actual nuts and bolts of how they learn – what happens with their brain – I’m pretty sure they’re not asking about that.

The circumstances of how they learn – what opportunities will they have to learn – that could be what they’re asking. I’ll try and answer that question.

Everyday they wake up and they’re learning from that point on. They’re learning in ways I can’t see – how their body responds to the environment. What it feels like to walk around with no socks on on a cold morning. How hungry they are after not eating much at dinner last night. Whether their arm hurts after swinging off the fort yesterday. All of this is going on without my involvement, and to some degree without my input.

Sometimes the learning is more visible. We get water in these 15L canisters with wide mouths at the top. One of our regular drinking glasses fits over the top of the mouth. A couple of weeks ago we had some people over for dinner and Louis got up to get himself a drink of water and he (incorrectly) estimated that the amount of water left in the canister would fit in his drinking glass (well, I think that’s what happened). And he rested the mouth of the canister in his glass. Like, inverted the whole thing. Then, when he saw it wasn’t going to fit, he lifted the canister off and water went EVERYWHERE. One of the dinner guests’ eyes went wide and he started to panic a bit and I turned around to catch the end of what had happened and turned back to the guest saying, “Oh, it’s ok, that’s science. He’s learning all about physics right now. Honey, just go and get a big towel from the rags and soak it up.”

This is the circumstance of learning most of the time in our house. It’s usually messy.

Imagine if I were to try and capture these for a day? I would run myself ragged and annoy the crap out of my kids saying, “Hang on, hang on, I gotta get a photo of that!”

Here’s one that happened last night:

We got given a box of ripe bananas, which we love because we make ice cream and smoothies out of them when they’re frozen. After dinner, while I was milling around doing something, unbeknownst to me, Louis was hauling the box of bananas to the table, and he’d grabbed a bag to freeze them in.The first I knew of it was when he asked, “Could someone help me with this?” And I turned around and saw it all and was like, “Holy hell, he’s really keen!” So we did it together. Some of the bananas were too ripe even for smoothies/ice cream though, so we made a seperate “cake” pile. As we were finishing, I asked him to go and get a sharpie and write “cake” on the bag of bananas that were over-over-ripe. He’s NOT a keen writer. His relationship with a pen is fraught with difficulty. I asked him in a way that gave him 100% recourse to say, “No, I don’t want to.” Which he did. And I said, “Ok, I’ll get Joss to do it” as I was writing “c-a-k-e” on our blackboard (did I mention I made this blackboard??!!). It might have been his pride, or it might have been he saw me write it and thought he could manage it, but he said, “Oh, no – I can do it.” and he did. He wrote it in clear, beautiful letters that look like I could have written them. And now, when he goes to the freezer to get bananas to make a smoothie, or a cake, he’s going to look for that group of letters, and he’s going to know that they make the word “cake”.

These are the circumstances in which they learn.

Louis asked me if I could have another baby when he was 12 years old. I said, “No, I’ll be too old to have a baby when you’re 12.” Which sparked a conversation about eggs, and hormones and egg deterioration. And in an eight-year-old-appropriate way, he’s added to a small foundation of knowledge of reproductive organs, upon which to build at a later date. This is biology. And it’s sociology. This is how he learns.

I could go on forever. These kinds of things happen every day.

They learn about pollination by dreaming of plums while looking at spring-time blossom.

They learn about germination by listening to me swear when my seeds fail to grow yet again.

They learn division when deciding how big the pieces of cake can be while still having enough for one each. They learn multiplication when we pack a lunch and we each want two mandarins.

The learning is non-stop. It can happen on Sunday evenings or Wednesday afternoons and every moment in between.

I am not worried about how they learn. It is not something I occupy my time with. Or theirs. We honestly just live life.

My Fantasies About Living in a Camper Van for the Summer

The last time the children and I went away in a camper van it was a small van, with a double bed, no toilet, and a two burner stove.
We went to a delightful little camping ground just north of Palmerston North, in the Pohangina Valley.
I thought we’d park up and the kids would start climbing trees and I would sit in my deck chair reading books whilst drinking gin and tonics.
Then, in the middle of all this camping glory, I got my period. Let me see a show of hands for all the women in the audience who have had this happen.
It hurt. The toilet was ages away. Sometimes, that shit is urgent. I was grumpy. The kids fought. The kids needed me, for everything. “Mum, there’s a fly on my hand.” “MUM!!! THERE’S A FLY ON MY HAAAAAAAAAAAAND.”
All I wanted to do was curl into a ball in the sun and have a little time to myself. Instead, we all pissed each other off, immensely. Joss was about 14 months old at the time. When I look back at the photos I think, “Naw!! how could I have been so grumpy at her??” But I really was.
One of the days I bundled us all back into the van and headed off to do a walk. I was determined to do something other than sit around the camping ground being grumpy. It actually worked. We had about four hours of pleasantness, and a picnic in the dappled light of some… I think the were gum trees. The photo of the three of us was taken on this walk.
If you’ve read the About section, you’ll know we’re planning on buying a camper van and taking off for the summer. This afternoon I was clearing out the kitchen cupboards – one of a long list of things to do before we hit the road. At the top of that list is Buy A Camper Van. Anyway, I took the sauerkraut crock out of the kitchen cupboards and checked it for mould – didn’t have any, Yuss! And then I thought about what I should do with it. I love my crock, it was made by a lovely friend of mine. It hasn’t had any use since… probably March. But, I thought, when we’re in the camper van, I’ll have so much more time! When the kids are off climbing in trees and chasing rainbows, I’ll be able to sit quietly at the table and chop up cabbage til my hands go wrinkly.
I’m ok if there’s sniggering at your end.
My other fantasies about living in a camper van for the summer are:
That I will have an endless supply of breezy linen tops
and cool, frayed jean shorts,
and gorgeous tanned legs.
I will be just the right amount of hot, and all the windows will open and there’ll be bug netting on all of them.
I won’t ever be kept awake by the whine of a (fucking) mosquito.
I will read a lot.
We will park next to a lot of waterfalls.
There will be no sand.
All the toilets will be clean.
All the children we meet will be gentle, and kind, and not freak out if my son has his hair in a French plait.
The children I bring with me will not fight.
We will enjoy charming adventures across swing bridges to see glow bugs and more waterfalls, and maybe an old artefact that will make such an impression on their impressionable minds that they’ll remember it for ever as “That time we went for that walk across the swing bridge.”
Dinners will be easy, and effortless, and the children will eat it all and be amazed at my culinary prowess in the face of a two burner stove and no oven.
The dog will stop shedding.
My husband will come and join us and we’ll sleep outside, naked under the stars. Still with no whining mosquitoes.
Tui Balms will sponsor me because I will basically bathe in their anti-bug cream, every day, several times a day.
2017-18 will be the most epic summer yet. I’d like about 32ºC please, most days.
That the photos will be fabulous, the videos legendary, and that by the time we get back to civilisation You Tube will have been trying to get in touch for weeks to ask where they should send the gigantic cheque.
That, in a way I’ve never been able to achieve in my life thus far, my tea towels, my duvet cover, my pots and pans and my crockery will all charmingly mis-match and yet look like it was all meant to be. And they’ll be perpetually neat. With no sand anywhere.
As you can see, this trip is all about exploring the natural world on our eastern-most doorstep. It’s about expanding my children’s world, and giving them a sense of place in it. It’s about them. Really.

Diary of an Unschooling Family, Day 10

It’s DAY 10!! I made it! I posted every day for 10 days and at least one person read it every day (thanks Ron!).

I started this blog as a way to illustrate what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Then came the challenge of writing 10 blogs in 10 days, and it seemed to align with that – what better way is there to see what we’re doing than for me to write about the day-to-day.

What has emerged for me out of this exercise is the need to de-mystify unschooling, or any kind of home education. People frequently say to me “I couldn’t do it!” and the implication is that I’m some kind of ever patient, ever supportive, ever talking-in-my-kind-voice supermum. Clearly, I’m not. I also think people assume that I’m super organised, and super motivated, and ready at all moments for the teachable opportunities, and just thinking about being all those things makes me exhausted, so if people think that’s what home education is about, then no wonder they think they couldn’t do it.

The reality is that in the history of humans, children have been raised to adulthood in their own environment much longer than children have been raised to adulthood in the artificial environment of school. We’re not doing anything new. I think that needs to be really clear. What we’re doing is nothing extra-ordinary, nothing earth shattering, but definitely radical.

All the times people ask me, “But what about …?” there are a hundred ways I can ask them back, “But what about …?” Our kids aren’t missing out on anything that’s not being made up for in a myriad of ways that mostly only fellow home educators understand.

Today we spent a couple of hours in the sunshine up at the beach.
When we got home, Joss beat the eggs for our omelette, and Louis toasted the bread.
They watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Kratt Brothers, and played Minecraft.
Louis helped me spread compost and hay, and water the garden. Joss floated around doing something I’m oblivious to. One time I walked in from outside and she was sitting quietly at the dinner table watching a fly walk over her hand.
We all ran around like ninnies trying to grab anything that might blow away in the wind, and we missed one of our vacuum cleaner’s filters, so that’s a goner.
We did jigsaw puzzles, played cards, and then Louis made creamy mushroom sauce, Joss ate an entire raw potato, and we all got dinner on the table, whereupon Joss ate more potatoes.

The thing about this way of life is, most days, it feels like we’re on holiday.

Whakāro mai te Whānau Ako i to Ratou Ake Taiao, rā tuaiwa.

This week is Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, and it’s galvanised me into action to do a couple of things I’ve been meaning to do for ages. The first was to gather up some very pretty resources, pool the reo Māori knowledge and posters of our unschooling group and make little signs to put up all over the house. I had lots of fun, and while I was at it I made them in Dutch too. I will endeavour to post photos when I (finally) get them up around the house, which will involve buying blu-tac, which will involve a trip to the shops… so it might take a while. Donations of blu-tac welcome.

When I made a website for my homeopathy business, on my list of things to do was to get it translated into reo Māori, because, well, it’s a national language! I never got it done. And I’m a bit gutted about that, but I’m making up for it in a minuscule, nano even, kind of way by getting the title of today’s blog post translated. It actually translates to:

Thoughts From a Family Who Learns in Their Own Environment, Day 9

Isn’t that beautiful??!! Thank you to my friend Liaan and her cousins for their poetic translation.

Unschooling as a name for what we do has always sat uneasily with our group. I quite like it, it appeals to my defiant side, but for others, their ill-ease was about not framing up their learning with the terms of some-one else. I didn’t really get that until I read that Ancestral Schooling piece I linked to before as well. When Liaan told me the “Learns in their own environment” thing, I thought, BINGO! and now I just have to master, ako i to ratou ake taiao, so that it rolls off my tongue effortlessly.

Ka kite apopo.

Raising a Revolution

I feel really strongly that raising children outside of the conventional education system is one of the most politically active things I’ve ever done. The only thing that comes close is lobbying to get the drinking age lowered to 18 when I was a Youth Councillor. Priorities.

It’s my firm belief that in order to change the world we live in, we have to change the way we live in it. For some, this takes the form of zero waste, for others, veganism, for me it’s raising free-spirited children who aren’t cowed by the system. That’s my truth. It might not be yours, in the same way that veganism isn’t my truth but I respect that it might be yours. See, we can all be friends.

A lot of people get completely wigged out by our unschooling.

  1. “But, what do you DO all day?” Whatever we want.
  2. “How do they learn?” The same way they learned to walk and talk.
  3. “Will they go to high school?” I don’t know. They don’t have to. They don’t have to not to.
  4. “What about socialisation?” Oh, I just can’t even. But. We have lots of friends who don’t go to school and if we feel like it we can hang out with them. And I can get socialised.
  5. Pause.
  6. “What time do you get up in the morning?” Whenever the fuck we want!!!

And for people starting out questioning whether or not to send their kids to school, there are a lot of questions:

  1. All of 1-6 above, plus:
  2. How do you get time for yourself?
  3. How do you support your child’s interests?
  4. How do I make sure they’re learning to read and write, while supporting their interests?
  5. How do I know whether they’re learning?
  6. Will they have friends?
  7. How do I know if I’m doing it right?
  8. Who are your inspirations?
  9. What books can I read?
  10. But, My kid will want to play Minecraft ALL DAY, that’s not ok, right?

This blog, together with our You Tube Channel, is aimed at answering those questions, starting with our first video Our Week Plan

We’re about to embark on a 3 month holiday around the North Island of New Zealand. Follow us here, on Facebook, and on You Tube to learn more about what unschooling looks like in the day to day, and maybe whether you’re up for Raising a Revolution with us.

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