Unschooling November 2016

We arrived home from our year long adventure in mid October and throughout November settled back in; hibernating and nesting. The children have been thoroughly happy to be enveloped in the surroundings of their old familiar home; rarely, if ever, wanting to leave the house or go anywhere.

At first we undertook the rather large occupation of unpacking, reorganizing, cleaning, finding our places once again in our cozy, immobile home, and planting our feet on new, untrodden paths. But, as new rhythms began to gradually emerge, the children have been spending their days doing what they love.

Bear, after much anticipation and excitement, fairly launched himself at his Xbox, making the most of that crazy long unheard of stuff called electricity! Now that we agreed he was old enough, he began playing Skyrim, a game he has thrown himself into. Gaming is not something that sits too happily with me, especially violent games, but the passionate way in which Bear approaches them, his depth of involvement and thought, his evident learning in so many ways, and just the amount of absolute joy he derives from playing tells me how important this is to him.

Not long after our return home we gave Bear more responsibility and freedom with choosing the games he plays. It was something he asked for and we decided it was very important at his age that he be able to do this. We are now seeing a whole lot more zombies and guns in his game choices but despite my internal ‘eeeks!’, I can see from his enthusiasm and passion that in letting go we are allowing him to grow and experience what he needs to.

Scott has also been spending some game time with Bear. He enjoys playing games to some extent on his own but in sharing it with his son; discussing game strategy together, giving each other ideas and hints, getting excited about their latest awesome armour or weapons and how much strength they have, they are sharing a common interest. And I know this is just as or more important than what they are actually doing.

Bear also launched himself into his stored books; unpacking his eagerly awaited collection and creating his own personal library in what is now his own room. We have already visited our local secondhand bookshop to keep up with his voracious appetite, he has been rereading old favourites, and reading more adult fiction recommended by his father. At one point he was starting a new book each day, tallying how many he was reading at once. It is difficult to keep up with what Bear is reading, and even more difficult to stop him reading too late at night and prevent his resulting exhaustion!

Bear has always had an amazing imagination, and this hasn’t lessened in his growing years. Since being back home he has been thoroughly enjoying his Lego collection that he had been looking forward to resurfacing. He did have a small Lego collection that we travelled with but not to the extent of what was awaiting here. The creativity and technical ingenuity that he puts into his constructions is really awesome; recently his creations have been all about zombie apocalypses and weapons. Bear has also been heading outside to do battle either with one of his newly made Lego zombie guns or one of his wooden weapons made by his father that were also excitedly unearthed from storage. He is often followed by his 19 month old brother who adorably echos Bear’s war cries and battle stances, wooden weapon in hand.

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Bear and Star have been playing more imaginative role playing games together since being home too. This has been much to Bear’s joy as Star had not wanted to play these types of games for some months whilst we were away. It warms my heart to see Bear in his element.

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Star, also was very excited to return to our little abode and uncover her stored treasures. She began by unpacking and arranging her dollhouse with all it’s furniture and dolls, and then turned to her books, finding and organising them all on the bookshelves. Star is still to find her complete confidence with reading. I read on a blog post, unfortunately I cannot remember where, that homeschooled/unschooled children often say they cannot read until they can pick up any book they wish and read it fluently. This really resonated with me as up until recently Star had always said she couldn’t read even though we knew she could. We would always interject with, ‘but you can read!’ but realised after some time that this was not helping her. What she meant was that she couldn’t fluently read any book she wished. Recently though, Star finished a Tashi book quite easily and quickly and was very happy with herself. Proudly, she also said one night how now she could recognise some words that before she couldn’t even read.

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Star has also been making the most of the electricity. Screen games do not hold the same interest for her as they do for her brother but on most days she has been playing for an hour or two or watching a movie; invariably Annie, her favourite.

Art has always been something Star has really enjoyed and had a flair for. During the last three weeks of our adventure we stayed at a friend’s parent’s shearers quarters (quite luxurious for us!) whilst outside the largest storm in South Australia since the 60s blew, poured and thundered. Throughout those weeks Star spent many an hour with paintbrush in hand, completing over 20 beautiful watercolours. Since returning home she has painted less but turned her hand more to drawing again, pulling out her large sketchbook that was too big to take with us.

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At times she draws alone, and others loves to spend time with me, drawing together, Strong sometimes joining in too. Star often asks if we can spend the time when Strong is napping sharing a game or activity. We have been revisiting a lot of our board games that we left stored, awaiting our return. It is not often a long time but it is special to share these uninterrupted moments together.

Star has loved being outside too, back in her familiar bush home surroundings. When the weather has been fine she has loved riding her bike, bouncing on the trampoline (she too has a little follower; Strong calling and pointing as he runs after Star up the hill in the hopes of joining her on the trampoline), playing an imaginative magical game with her big brother, going for walks, and joining us in the garden. She has her own small garden bed in which she’s growing a tomato and some herbs. She is not fond of weeding but loves the process of garden to kitchen, and after helping me to plant some seeds to germinate inside, eagerly awaited and watched as Golden nugget pumpkins and calendula sprouted and grew. Star also has a growing interest in medicinal herbs which I love to share with her.

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Another thing Star loves to do is cook. Along our camping journey she cooked many a meal with her father and her interest, independence and skills grew. She has continued to cook since being home, mostly loving to cook meals that involve a lot of chopping, dough, or a batter. Recently Star chose two recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (our much loved and used cookie recipe book); making divine fig bars with her father and chocolate pumpkin brownies with me. She really enjoys doing as much of the cooking as she can by herself.

Strong has not missed a step since returning home. We feel that on some level he does remember his home and birthplace that we left when he was only five months old. When we arrived back we pulled out all of Bear and Star’s stored baby and toddler toys to add to his small collection that travelled around with us. He loves to build towers and stacks with blocks, exclaiming with joy as they climb higher. Strong loves animals and will eagerly bring an animal from the children’s collection over to us to hear the noise it makes, mimicking afterwards. Another toy he has been really enjoying is the play kitchen, cooking us delicious cake and food to eat, adorably eating some ‘nyum nyums’ himself too.

The luxury that Strong has most enjoyed since returning home would certainly be running water and regular baths. He loves nothing more than playing with water. In the bath he is so happy, needing only a couple of cups for entertainment. And when out of the bath any cup of drinking water (actually liquid of any form) can very quickly become his pouring vessel if Strong can get his hands on another cup or we give him one. With much concentration he pours water from one cup to the other until all the water is spilled, and then asks for more. If it’s a lovely day he can spend a very busy time with a large bowl of water and a few cups. This invariably ends with the bowl being upturned, pleas for more water, and a wet, naked bubba.

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Strong has such an affinity with nature after spending so much of his first and second year camping, that he really is most comfortable and happiest outside. He loves exploring our bush home, play fighting with anyone who will battle him with one of the children’s wooden weapons, now wielding his own little axe and staff his father made for him, riding his trike, pushing his big brother’s old Tonka truck around, joining his brother or sister on the trampoline, digging in the garden, inspecting interesting stones and sticks, watching our resident birds, and generally getting up to any mischief he can!

And of course, Strong just loves being around us, joining in whatever we are doing. He has developed more of a love for books and will now sometimes listen through a whole story, other times point at the pictures for us to name, often repeatedly. Now that we’re home and are able to listen to more music Strong has developed a real love for it and become a little groover; excitedly moving to the beat as soon as a song starts.

Then at night it’s hugs and beautiful baby-open-mouthed kisses for everyone as we make our way to bed. We climb the loft stairs, Strong calling ‘eeyah’ and ‘eye eye’ at each step until we reach the top and snuggle up for booby and sleep.

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