Strong’s Homebirth

~We named Strong on his two week old birthday so throughout this story, which I wrote over his first 9 days, he is still called ‘bubba’ ~

We waited eight years to become pregnant again. When we did I knew bubba would be born at our home in Lonnavale. Star was born in our last home in Adelaide and Bear in the Flinders hospital birth centre, and apart from having my waters broken with Bear, both births were natural and without intervention or pain relief, I was active the whole time, and birthed on all fours. For this birth there was no other choice for me apart from homebirth. The idea of birthing in a hospital being very wrong for me (although I know at times and for some women it is right and necessary and the place they feel safest); things such as, the impersonal environment with a very high risk of intervention cascading into more intervention, pregnancy treated as an illness, the baby an invader in the woman’s body compromising her health, and women having their power and intuition taken away from them, would greatly concern me if I were to need to birth in a hospital.

I had some difficulties along the way. A blood test at around 28 weeks showing I had low Iron and B12 levels (I had low Iron levels with all my pregnancies) and mild thrombocytopenia (my platelet levels which are needed for blood clotting had dropped). I was pressured by my GP to see an obstetrician regarding my platelet levels (I did not do this) but was reassured and supported by my midwife, friends who researched platelet levels during pregnancy, and my own intuition that my levels were not too low to still have a homebirth.

I began supplementing Iron and B12 and continued having as healthy diet as possible (my levels subsequently rose to within the normal range) and repeat blood tests showed my platelets were hovering around the same level.

Then at about 34 weeks I developed shingles, which were very painful and meant after finally getting it diagnosed in hospital after a wrong diagnosis at the GP, I had to take antivirals, which although were proven to be safe during pregnancy were not something I wanted to be putting into my or bubba’s body. It also meant that my other two children could have contracted chicken pox from me (neither of them having had it yet), not a good time with bubba’s estimated due date only weeks away. Thankfully neither of them did get chicken pox and I recovered well, but my partner ended up with shingles several weeks later! We were onto this immediately though and he also recovered quickly, but it was all rather stressful and a great relief when we were both completely healthy again.

In the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy we finished our final preparations for the homebirth, and settled in for hibernation and the birth of our beautiful bubba in our bush home…..

On the 9th of April, 2015, I woke up at 7am feeling like something was happening. I felt that my underwear was a bit wet and got out of bed to go to the toilet thinking, could my waters be breaking? As soon as I stood up I felt water trickling down my leg and noticed some drops on the floor were pinkish. I went to the toilet and realising this was the day had mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement, and also a bit of disbelief that the day had arrived. I went back to the bedroom to wake up Scott and told him that ‘I think my water’s are breaking ’cause I’m leaking!’ (unless I had wet myself!)

I decided to have a shower and when I got out Scott got up and lit the fire. We let the children sleep until they woke up normally, all the time my waters continuing to leak slowly. Scott and I both pottered around the house, doing bits of cleaning up. When I could see that Bear had woken up and was reading in bed I called out good morning and told him that bubba was coming today. He was excited to hear this and I was excited to be telling him, having wondered for a long time how this would happen. After a while Star surfaced and said she had actually heard me telling Bear about bubba but hadn’t said anything, I had a feeling she had done this, taking it in quietly by herself.

We continued on with our morning and at about 9am I rang our midwife Anni to let her know that things were starting. She was very excited to hear this, we had been due to drop in and see her that morning if nothing had happened yet. We decided I would ring her later when things were more progressed.

As the morning continued I continued to leak! The children were rather amused by my ‘oh oh’s’ as more water trickled out, and by my dashes to the bathroom. We were all feeling a bit anxious, especially the children, and wondered when things would progress further. To help things along Star and I went for a walk together while Scott and Bear stayed at home together reading. We walked up the drive and wandered through the plantation that borders our property, our last walk just the two of us. It was an absolutely beautiful morning, we looked at the gorgeous blue sky and the trees reaching up, their leaves silouhetted against the blue. The birds were singing and the sun was shining with warmth. Star gave me a leaf which I found days later, dried in my jumper pocket.

As we returned Scott and Bear were sitting out on the verandah in the sun. Scott asked how I was going and I told him I was still feeling the same, no contractions yet, just pressure.

The hours passed and we got the lounge and kitchen more ready; swept the floors, got the tubs out of the bedroom that held the towels, heat packs, sheets, and my birth mat, Scott got a pot of water ready to boil for the heat packs, and he put on a pot of soup for lunch. Slowly I started to feel very mild, irregular contractions, and at about 10:30am I noticed my mucous plug when I went to the toilet. After this the contractions slowly got stronger.

I rang Anni again at about 12pm to let her know how things were going and I said I would ring her again when the contractions were more regular and intense. We also rang family and friends to let them know bubba was coming today.

We ate some of the lentil soup Scott had made for lunch. I had to eat mine standing up and in between contractions as sitting was starting to become uncomfortable. Over the morning and early afternoon the children busied themselves by playing outside on the trampoline and then crafting at the kitchen table.

As the contractions became more intense I walked around the lounge and kitchen and occasionally outside on the verandah. My feet began to ache so I tried sitting in between contractions, first on Star’s little lounge chair, and then on a chair Scott put near the fire for me. I stopped doing this after not long though as when a contraction came on standing up was really unpleasant. We lit my birth candle and put on some essential oil to burn. The children and Scott began to worry about me and started saying perhaps I should ring Anni again now. I didn’t want to ring her too early though, but at the same time she was nearly an hour away and my previous two births had not been that long once contractions started regularly. I told them not to worry and we’d ring Anni soon, all the time walking around. At one point while out on the verandah Star said to me, ‘mum, I’m not hassling you but I really think you should ring Anni now’ – so sweet.

I began needing to breath through the contractions, stopping and leaning on the lounge and the back of the chair near the fire. Then at 2:30pm I felt like the contractions had become more intense and required more of my concentration, and it was time to ring Anni. Scott rang for me and she said she would mosey on down.

After this Star went around and lit all the tea light candles and we put the curtain down to reduce the light. I continued breathing through my contractions leaning on the back of the chair, and I also had another shower. This eased some of the intensity. I leaned against the bathroom wall, breathing and rocking from side to side and looked out our bathroom window at a beautiful big gum tree thinking of Mother Earth’s power to grow and the tree’s unfurling growth towards the sky. At times during my labour I also thought of and pictured my cervix as an unfolding, opening flower.
Anni and Liz (Anni’s support/our Doula) arrived at about 3:30pm. Anni got set up and I found out later that Bear and Star helped Anni set up the oxygen tank on the verandah. After the initial excitement of their arrival things settled down. Bear who is such a vibrant and excitable boy really quietened down as the atmosphere became more peaceful and concentrated. Anni, Liz, and the children sat around the kitchen table as I laboured, Anni checked on me periodically, taking my blood pressure and checking bubba’s heartbeat with a pinard, all was going great.

I began getting very hot so Liz and Scott got me a cold face washer which I found very helpful, and I cooled my face and chest, putting it on the back of my neck during contractions. Around this time I also started to feel a bit queasy and like I wasn’t getting enough air during contractions. I had some of the juice ice blocks Star and I had made and this helped to cool me down and give me a bit more energy.

As the contractions became more and more intense I needed the support of Scott to help me get through them. I leaned on him with my arms around his neck and shoulders and he helped me with his loving words and strength. I got close to transition and felt I couldn’t stand anymore. We had loosely planned that I would birth kneeling on the floor, leaning over the lounge with the fireplace behind me. Scott and Anni got everything ready for the birth, placing a sheet over the lounge and a blanket, towel, and my birth mat on the floor. I knelt down and stripped off my clothes and after breathing through a couple of contractions felt I needed to be a bit more upright. We piled the two big lounge cushions up for me to lean on and Scott sat next to these holding my hands and supporting me through the contractions.

Anni asked if I wanted her to use the heat packs on my lower front. I remember saying ‘maybe’ not quite able to think enough to decide, so she got them ready to give them a try. The heat packs really helped, dispersing the building pressure and intensity of the contractions. Liz also got me some water at this point as I was feeling thirsty.

It wasn’t long before I could feel the enormous pressure of bubba’s head as he started to move down the birth canal. I remember needing to calm myself at this point, telling myself that I could get through each contraction, one at a time. I would rest in between each contraction without fearing the next. As the pressure increased, bubba’s head moving down and my body opening, I rocked back and forth through each contraction, leaning back and down with Scott supporting my weight by holding my hands tightly.

As I labour I am silent, I turn inwards, close my eyes, and concentrate on breathing through the contractions. The second stage is the only time that I make any noise at all, and as the pressure of bubba’s head pushed down, the urge to push became irresistable, and I grunted and groaned through the contractions to help bubba out. Anni continued using the heat packs and as I began pushing she placed them from front to back on my vagina and perineum. This was extremely soothing and really helped me through the last contractions. I also remember her telling me I was doing beautifully and encouraging me through this stage.

Bubba’s head crowned and was birthed. As I birthed his head I pushed, groaned, and grunted, and slowed it down by panting rapidly through an open mouth. It was instinctual and his head was born with no grazing or tearing. With my previous births my midwives told me when to slow down and stop pushing as to not overstretch or tear but this time I followed my instincts and Anni was wonderful, supporting me as I was guided by my body. It’s a wonderful feeling to follow your body’s instincts, with trust and without fear, in the footsteps of generations of birthing women.

I remember either Anni or Liz telling me I could reach down and feel bubba’s head. I had not done this with my previous births, unable to move at this point, but I did this time. I can remember the feeling of his little head, a soft and wet covering of hair and beautifully soft skin. It was so lovely and I remember saying ‘Oh!’ I left my hand on bubba’s head until the next contraction came, then holding Scott’s hand again, pushed and grunted and saying ‘Ow’ birthed bubba’s body.

This photo is a photo of when I had my hand on bubba’s head before his body was born – a very special moment

Anni caught bubba, turning him as he came out to remove his cord from around his neck (it was wrapped once around his neck). She passed him to me through my legs and Scott said, ‘it’s a boy!’ Bubba gave one cry and was breathing. The cord was still wrapped over his shoulders and around the back of his neck. Scott unwrapped it for me and then I lifted our amazing little boy up to my belly. I then turned around and sat down with him, it was 4:42pm.

Star and Bear had been not far away in the kitchen and now came over to see their new baby brother, marvelling at him. They both told me afterwards that they had found the second stage as I birthed bubba a bit distressing and upsetting, not liking to see their mama experiencing pain but once their brother arrived they were in awe and couldn’t wait to have a hold of him. Throughout the earlier parts of labour Bear and Star were absolutley wonderful, Bear took all of the photos for me (apart from the ones of bubba emerging which Liz took), and checked up on me every now and then to see if I was okay. It was so lovely to have their reassuring, loving faces and smiles around during the labour. Liz was a fantastic support, sitting and talking with them at the kitchen table; they both appreciated that as well, and told me they chatted to Liz about family, friends, and books.

After bubba was born we cuddled and adored him, and I introduced him to my breast. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and I had a couple of attempts at birthing the placenta. We left it a bit longer while bubba had his first feed, waiting for contractions to begin again. Then at about 6:05pm we decided to cut the cord (Anni clamping it with a peg first then replacing it with cotton and I cutting it), I birthed the placenta onto a mat, and then Anni placed it in my placenta bowl. Despite having mild thrombocytopenia I only lost about 50ml of blood, a very minimal amount. Anni showed the placenta to the children, explainging all it’s details. Star thought it was cool, Bear thought it was rather disgusting (he’s not one for seeing other people’s blood, let alone organs!).

After this we settled on the lounge, I got dressed, Anni did some basic checks on bubba and me, and we weighed bubba. He was a very healthy 3.550kg. Eventually we got bubba dressed and sat around near the fire with cups of tea, and Anni and Liz left around 7:30pm. That night and for several after we all slept as a family in the lounge by the fire wanting to be close together as we started our journey as a family of five with our adorable baby boy.


Now as I finish this it is 9 days after bubba’s birth. We are all totally in love with this perfect little boy and still adjusting to the changes he has brought to our life. We have all gone through times of sadness and grief over the loss of our previous life as just the four of us and Scott and I have also experienced pangs of guilt over now needing to spread our love and attention around three beautiful children, even though we know bubba is a blessed gift for Bear and Star, and they are already so loving and caring, and have exceeded our expectations of how helpful they would be. We are slowly adjusting and taking one day at a time.

I have had some difficulties with feeding as bubba was not latching on properly. Soon after he was born we noticed with amusement that he was a very vigorous and noisy hand sucker, sucking on the side of his hands and fingers. This meant he was not opening his mouth wide enough and was sucking on my nipples too close to the front of his mouth. Over the first few days my nipples became very sore and blistered but with the help of Anni’s advice and using a nipple shield for about half of his feeds, my nipples have healed and bubba is feeding much better.

As yet I have not left the house as we cocoon ourselves in our little home for this very special, emotional, and magical time. I am so thankful and blessed to have had the homebirth I envisioned and to have had two amazing ladies, Anni and Liz, there to support us. It is such a natural and sacred time to share with your family in your own home and I am so grateful to have birthed our precious, healthy baby as nature intended.

Sharing My Babes’ Birth Stories

​I am going to share all my children’s birth stories on this blog.

I believe natural parenting starts with the pregnancy and birth of your precious babe. Pregnancy and birth is divinely sacred and a time in a woman’s life when her choices and needs should be shown the utmost respect; when she should be supported and loved. A time in a couple’s and family’s life that should be allowed the space and honour it deserves; where bonding and intimacy can bloom, and love be shared unhindered.

It’s frightening and deeply saddening to hear birth stories in which a new mother and father have had their birthing plans shattered through the disrespectful, patronising, misguided, selfish, or bullying behaviour of their caregivers that they have placed in the most important positions of trust, in their most vulnerable of times.

I hope by sharing my stories that I am sharing the beauty, love, and sacredness of birth, the inherent strength, wisdom, and fearlessness that lies within all birthing women, the importance of support and respect for the birthing mama and her loving partner, and the grounding magic of sharing birth with family.

My journey into motherhood began over 15 years ago with the birth of my first bubba, Bear. My first story is of his birth when I was only 22 years old, my second is of birthing my daughter Star when I was 26, and lastly is the story of Strong’s birth two years ago when I was 35. The stories reflect not only my experiences but also my personal growth, and the development of my knowledge and understanding of birth.

Strong’s story was written over the days following his birth, whilst Bear and Star’s were written many years later, relying on my memory. I regret not having written their stories earlier but it was simply not something I thought to do until discovering other women’s birth stories over the years, deciding to write my experience of Strong’s birth, and becoming more passionate about women’s birthing rights and the value of sharing positive birth stories.


Below are the links to my babes’ birth stories which I will add as I post each one; the first the birth of my beautiful girl Star who turns 11 this week.

Star’s Birth At Home

https://undereucalyptus.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/stars-birth-at-home/

Strong’s Homebirth

https://undereucalyptus.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/strongs-homebirth/

Star’s Birth At Home

~Written on the night before Star’s 10th birthday, 2016~

My dearest Star, on this night ten years ago I was heavily pregnant with you, awaiting your arrival, and very eager to meet you. At this time your father, Bear and I were living ina big old house in the Adelaide hills town of Nairne. Early on in my pregnancy with you your father and I had decided not to birth you at the birth centre in Flinders Hospital where your brother was born, but to birth you at home, wanting the intimacy of our home, continuous care with an independent midwife of our choosing, and the confidence that all our choices and decisions would be respected.

In the early stages of my pregnancywe had not yet moved to Nairne and were living in Bridgewater; it was here that we met with two midwives and chose Lisa to be the one that would support us. Lisa visited often, just like Annie did throughout Strong’s pregnancy, and we grew to know and trust her.

About six weeks before we expected you to arrive we moved to Nairne and settled in. I had been working at a health food store throughout your pregnancy, persevering through the morning sickness in early pregnancy and lower back pain and tired feet in later pregnancy, and it was at this time that I stopped to focus on preparing for your birth.

Your estimated due date passed and we looked forward to this beautiful little being joining our family. Your father also took time off work for your birth so we hoped you would come soon so he had as much time with you as possible after your birth. Your beautiful, sweet big brother who was only four years old then was also looking forward to meeting his little brother or sister.

On the morning of your birth I woke feeling very ready to meet you. I remember wanting the house to be all ready for your arrival and asking your father to make sure everything was clean and tidy. Early in the day I had a shower, willing you to come soon and encouraging the start of labour by massaging my nipples.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that I began to feel the first cramps and early sensations of labour. We had arranged to go to Mt Barker that day for your father to take Bear to the cinema whilst I did some last errands in town before your arrival.

The cramps were getting stronger but we thought we would still go, we would have enough time. But, no, as soon as we got in the car and began driving down the street I knew I could not go, the cramps felt like much stronger contractions once I sat down in the car, so we turned around and went straight back home.

Back at home we rang Noni and Pop as they were coming to support us with Bear, and Lisa to let her know that labour had started. She would not come just yet but we would keep in touch and let her know when the labour progressed.

Noni and Pop came and we decided it would be a good idea if they took Bear to the cinema as we hadn’t made it. So they went to see the Cars movie and your father and I stayed home as I continued to labour.

We had planned for your birth to be in our lounge room where it was cozy with the heater, so we spent most of the time in there. I also walked around alot and tried to go to the toilet several times to empty my bowels but with all the pressure nothing would move.

At around 4pm I went to the toilet and my waters broke. We rang Lisa again and she said she would come. When she arrived she brought in all her things, checked to see if I was okay, and started setting up the birth pool in the lounge room. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use it but I wanted to have the option, the only thing was I’d used up all the hot water in my long shower earlier in the day!

Noni and Pop came back with Bear and my contractions continued to become more intense as I walked around the lounge room. I remember my labour reaching a stage of intensity that brought back the memory of the overwhelming feeling of contractions. I felt fearful of what was to come and shed some tears, but I moved through the fear, summoning my  courage, knowing I would be meeting you soon, and focussed on walking and breathing through the contractions.

As I laboured everyone else worked on getting the water for the pool, carrying buckets of hot water from the Indian restaurant across the lane!

My labour intensified and your gorgeous big brother, whom we had planned on being at your birth was very full of questions and wanted to keep talking to me, curious as to what was happening. At this time I needed to withdraw into myself, to give my full attention and concentration over to moving through the contractions, but found I couldn’t let go and was feeling anxious with Bear there. We decided that Noni and Pop would take Bear to your uncle and aunty’s for the rest of the labour and your birth.

Following this the labour really intensified and after only about 45 minutes I was feeling the sensations that told me your birth was near. I attempted once to get into the pool but as soon as I got in and felt the sensation of floating I had to get straight out again and plant myself firmly on the Earth.

I got into my birthing position, kneeling on the floor in front of the lounge, leaning over your father who sat on the lounge in front of me. I held onto his hands, his strength and love supporting and grounding me, and as I breathed through each contraction I felt the enormous pressure of your head pressing down. Lisa was there helping me through and helping to ease you out. Your head crowned and I felt an intense burning sensation, Lisa guided me, telling me when to slow down and stop pushing as the contractions passed.

You were so close now and Lisa told me to push hard with the next contraction. I remember saying, “this is going to hurt”, then I pushed and you came into the world! Lisa caught you and passed you to me as your father told me you were a girl! What an amazing, wonderful blessing! I recall on seeing you saying, “she’s so chubby!” And, “she looks like Bear!” You were so beautiful, soft , a little chubby round faced gift! It was 6:45pm.

Anusha 2006 birth (6)

After you were born we loved you, held you, you had your first drink of booby, a natural at it from the start. We had a very brief wash together in the pool, Lisa weighed and measured you, and checked you all over. You weighed a very healthy 8 pounds 5 1/2 oz, or 3.91 kg. We waited a while and then I began trying to birth your placenta. This part I don’t find very easy but after a while your little sister was born.

We called Noni and Pop, and Bear and they came straight home. Your brother had his first hold of his beautiful new sister. We all adored you and I snuggled and rested with you on the lounge. We slept in the lounge room in front of the heater for several days, and after about a week we decided on your name – our gift from the stars.

 

Bear’s Love of the Fantastical

As I lay in bed in our loft with my sleeping bubba, I listen to the sounds from the kitchen below, of rolling dice, and the voices of Scott, Bear, and Star. They are adventuring in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Scott the Dungeon Master, Bear and Star playing several characters each. It has become a regular nightly activity recently, and a growing passion of Bear’s.

Whilst we were away on our road trip last year Bear sold his collection of Pokemon cards and used the money to invest in a trading card game Magic, The Gathering. As we travelled his love of Magic grew and he played in his first tournament at The Wicked Goblin games shop in Cairns. By the time we returned home late last year it was apparent that we needed to find a games shop so we could support Bear’s growing interest.

We found Battleaxe at Kingston, and shortly after started taking Bear to weekly game nights of Magic, The Gathering. His collection of cards grew, his knowledge and skills of the game increased dramatically, and he developed his own individual playing style and stratagem. During this time we noticed that there was also a Dungeons and Dragons game night at Battleaxe. Bear has had a long held interest in D&D, years before we had bought him a starter set, it is also a game Scott played when he was younger, and something we knew we could share as a family.  We couldn’t manage to take Bear to Kingston twice a week but after playing Magic for a few months he decided to give D&D a go.
Bear has now been attending the D&D game nights for a few months and he may love it even more than Magic. More recently we were able to purchase for Bear a Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s guide so he could really immerse himself in the world of D&D, be better prepared and knowledgeable for the campaigns played, and be able to develop his characters more easily and in more depth. He has devoured these books, having read them all completely, and astoundingly to me remembers all of what he’s read, able to call upon facts, figures, and information with ease.

A couple of weeks ago he also asked for special writing books. He is using these to create characters and monsters, write his own campaign, keep a book of spells and game notes, and one of his character’s Hannaman is writing a book of his adventures (Star also now has a special book that she too is using as a spell book and for game notes for one of her characters Hamfast). Bear’s writing, which has always been a source of laborious and tedious frustration for him and diligently avoided, has improved dramatically,  his Lego even packed up to clear his desk! It’s amazing how Bear’s passion has transformed writing into a useful tool that he is using to expand and further his interests!

Two nights ago Bear and his sister played D&D on their own. For several hours sounds of laughter, excitement, and exuberant enactment emanated from  his bedroom. Bear embracing the role of Dungeon master as they adventured in the beginnings of his own campaign.

In addition we also bought a campaign book (Scott, Bear, and Star had been playing a short campaign from Bear’s old starter set but needed something more) and after days of preparation; Bear and Star developing their characters and Scott reading and preparing for his role as Dungeon Master, they have started adventuring! I hope to join in and play soon, when Strong is a bit older, but for now it makes my heart glow to hear their adventuring and time shared together from above.

As well as Bear’s adventures through Magic, The Gathering and D&D, another fantastical love that he has been pursuing is Manga. He has always enjoyed reading Manga but his interest has grown in intensity over the past months and we have been supporting this as much as we are able. We gifted Bear several novels at Yule just past, after finding a much larger source at a shop in Hobart; Area 52. The only problem is how fast he reads them! He does come back to them though, reading them several times, and appreciating the artwork, his favourite of his new additions Biomega by Tsutomu Nihei. There’s something I also find particularly awesome about Manga, perhaps it’s the artwork and the way it conveys so much of the story, combining the art of storytelling with the visual art of drawing. We will endeavour to keep up with Bear’s insatiable appetite for Manga, which also extends to Anime!


Apart from these passionate interests of Bear’s he also, of course, continues to explore alternate worlds through his mainstay loves; reading fantasy and science fiction novels, gaming on his Xbox, role playing, and Lego construction.

Bear has always thrived when immersed within his very active imagination, and through his passion for the fantastical he is life learning in HIS way.

Star’s Reading Journey Continues

A year or so ago I wrote a post on my old blog about Star’s reading journey and how she was learning to read through life and her own determination. At that point she was 9 years old and was at a place in her journey where she could technically “read” but not at a place where she could read anything she wished fluently and with confidence.

Star’s learning to read journey has been mostly following an unschooling path. The only directed learning being when we were still homeschooling with a Waldorf curriculum and Star learnt the alphabet through Waldorf main lessons, and completed Waldorf language based main lessons when she was 7 years old. 

I explained in my previous post how we have always provided our children with a home filled with a love of language. We adore books. We have always read to our children. They have grown up on picture books, fairytales, folk tales, mythology, poetry, songs, and books of non fiction. As Star and Bear have got older we have read longer chapter books and novels; Bear only recently stopping listening to Scott and I read at night (it has been a gradual decrease over the past couple of years) at the age of 15 years old. And they are surrounded by as many books as we can fit into our tiny house!

Over the past year Star has been sporadically continuing to advance her own reading ability. At times it has been difficult for her. She has wanted to be at that place where she can read with the ease and confidence that she sees the rest of the family reading with but has struggled with frustration and not being ready to read books that are at the level of her maturity. During this time, as always, we have supported and trusted

Supported her by offering any help we were able to, in whatever form she wished. Whether that was listening to her read, helping her with words and sounds she couldn’t figure out, helping her with writing, spelling, and grammar, giving suggestions of books to read, visiting secondhand bookshops to look for a book she might like, encouraging perseverance without pressure or expectations, and always, always reading to Star.

Trusted in her. That she would follow her own path and find her way in her time. Showing Star our unshakable trust and certainty in her ability to learn to read with confidence. Reminding her we are all individuals, we all learn in our own way, and that it will happen for her.

To meet Star’s maturity and interest over the past few months we have delved deeper into the wonderful world of fantasy! Earlier in the year I read Star the ultimate classic of fantasy; The Lord of the Rings. This was so thoroughly embraced and loved by her, sparking a desire to learn more about Middle Earth and Tolkien’s amazing world. Star was gifted her father’s beloved Tolkien Bestiary, that was bought for him by his father, which she adores, and also his copy of The Silmarillion. We bought her her own copies of the three books, The Hobbit (which I have read to Star previously), and a Middle Earth Album of painted pictures which she treasures. 

Star began to learn and recite songs and verses from The Lord of the Rings so we bought her a special writing book which she is using to copy down her favourites, pasting pictures torn out from a secondhand Lord of the Rings address book her father found at a tip shop alongside each song. She even began testing us on the verse of the ring, getting us all to learn and recite it! She is now using her book to write down poems from other books, learning them and reciting them for her own enjoyment. 

Star watched the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies (looking away during the goriest parts), and we luckily found a secondhand copy of the old animated movie. We also gathered all of her father’s Tolkien books (Scott has had a passion for The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s books since he first read The Hobbit at age 10; The Hobbit being the book that began his lifelong love of reading) and Scott is currently reading Star Smith of Wootton Major. 

Following on  we read the Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks which Star says are now her favourite books besides The Lord of The Rings, and I am currently reading to her First King of Shannara; the prequel to the trilogy. I have also entered into the absolutely Stunning world of Ursula Le Guin with Star; just recently having finished the second of the Earthsea books, The Tombs of Atuan. Ursula’s writing is so well-crafted, original, and intelligent, and Star eagerly awaits the third book. Not too long ago we also found one of Brian Jacques’ Redwall books The Legend of Luke at a secondhand bookshop, Star and Bear both really, really enjoyed this. Since then we’ve been keeping our eye out for more and recently found The Pearls of Lutra, which I have just finished reading to Star, was likewise thoroughly enjoyed, and Bear has snuck away to read himself.

I must also mention that even though we have mainly been adventuring in the world of fantasy, over the past few months Scott has also read to Star books by Gerald Durrel. Her favourite was certainly The Bafut Beagles; at night whilst I was getting Strong to sleep in the loft I would hear Star and Scott rolling with laughter to the antics of Gerald and the Fon (the ruler of Bafut with an insatiable appetite for alcohol), and the little animal characters. Star also enjoyed A Zoo in My Luggage nearly as much, and less so The Aye-Aye and I as it contains much less humour.

In the last couple of weeks Star has started reading Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (a book I loved when I was young). And much to her delight and all of our happiness she is not finding it frustrating! She has been reading some most nights, has read more than she’s ever read of a book before, and tells me the title of each chapter as she reaches it. I’m so pleased she has found a book that is at a level she can fluently read and is also meeting her maturity and interest. I can see already that she is gaining in confidence and this is increasing daily as she reads with ease from books that previously she would have dismissed as too daunting.

Star has arrived where she is now through her self driven learning, in her time, and along her path, not according to someone else’s schedule and unrealistic expectations. I wonder how her reading would have progressed if she had gone to school; would she have been reading fluently earlier or would her self confidence and belief in her own ability to learn have been shattered. I am just so very thankful that we will never know.

One method of Making Soy Milk 

Since we have begun transitioning to a waste free lifestyle one of the more dramatic adjustments I’ve made in the kitchen is making our own vegan milks, and also tofu. I have attempted and succeeded making several different milks so far, our favourite being almond and soy; soy the most versatile in my opinion, and  what we are all used to the most as it is what we have predominantly drank In the past.

It was very important to me; a fundamental step in transitioning to waste free living, to stop buying tetra packs of long life vegan milks and plastic packaged tofu. Happily we have now reached the stage where I have been making our own milks for several months, and I have also begun making our own tofu, thereby drastically reducing our waste and recycling production. 

Making soy milk is very cost effective, and although more involved and time consuming than making nut milk, can be achieved quite easily every few days once you have practised it regularly and it becomes routine. I now use two different ways to make soy milk; the longer method I use predominantly for drinking as it is creamier and yields more milk, and the quicker method I use when I am using it solely for making tofu or in other cooking. I thought I’d share the longer method here first.

Soy Milk (This recipe is a slightly adjusted version of one found in How It All Vegan, a very much loved vegan cookbook in our home! I have also gained wisdom and knowledge from the wonderful Natural Tucker by John Downes)

(This recipe makes roughly 2.5 litres)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups organic dried soy beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water (they will swell up to approximately 4 cups when soaked), strained and rinsed well
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 7 cups cold water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract (optional)
  • 5-6 tbs rice malt syrup 
  • Nut milk bag or piece of muslin for straining

Method

  1. Begin by blending one third of the soy beans in 1 cup of the boiling water, and in a large pot add 6 of the 7 cups of cold water. Pour the pulp from the blender into the large pot, then repeat this process with the remaining two thirds of beans and 2 cups of boiling water. Use the last cup of cold water to rinse out the blender and add this to the pot also.
  2. Place the pot of raw gó puree (as it is called at this stage) over a medium heat on the stove and slowly bring to the boil, stirring often to prevent it from catching on the bottom. When the puree boils foam will rise to the top of the pot. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool until it is at a temperature you can handle with your hands. It is now called simply gó puree.
  3. When cool enough strain the gó through muslin or a nut milk bag (I made my own nut milk bag from cotton muslin, it is extremely helpful), squeezing as much of the milk out of the pulp or bean meal as you can. The remaining meal is called okara and is absolutely awesome kept in the fridge for up to a few days or in the freezer for several months and used in vegetable patties, soy loaf,deep fried balls or baking. When we have too much we sprinkle it over our garden beds, put it in the compost, or sprinkle it on the ground outside for our resident wallabies.
  4. Place your now strained soy milk back into the large pot (give the pot a wash first to remove any remaining pulp) and add the salt, vanilla, and rice malt. Place on a very low heat for half an hour, stirring often, you do not want the milk to catch or burn. Turn off the heat and the soy milk is ready! 

    I usually wait for the milk to cool a little, remove any skin that has formed on the top (another very useful and delicious by product of making soy milk called yuba), bottle, and place in the fridge. A creamy and delightful soy milk that will keep for up to a week in the fridge!

    Unexpected turns and bends along the road

    When we first moved to Tasmania from South Australia over 9 years ago it was a hard to believe dream come true. Scott and I had longed for years to buy a block of land to settle down on but our reality in Adelaide was moving from rental to rental each year trying in vain to find somewhere that brought us happiness; none of them ever quite right, and only ever earning enough money for what we needed to just get by. So when we saw a property in Tasmania advertised in the back of an Earth Garden magazine that we thought maybe, just maybe we could afford, it was like stepping onto an emotional train ride that was filled with near derailings, but that I knew would somehow get to its destination if we kept trying and persevering. And a little over three months later we had a hard won home loan, Scott had a chef position lined up in Franklin, Tasmania and we were in the throws of moving. I just couldn’t believe we’d done it, we had our long dreamed of block of land! 

    I do believe that Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we are so privileged and blessed to be living here. Over the past nine years I have grown and changed and my beautiful family has blossomed. We embarked on our homeschooling journey when we moved here, and what an amazing, incredibly rewarding, and eye opening journey it has been and still is! Tasmania has offered us so much and even though we have been through some very trying times we have learnt and loved so much together. I sometimes look back on the young me as I was growing up and dreaming of my future and think, I never would have thought this is what my life would be like and how I would be living it, but I am so happy this is how I am living my life and that I have listened to my heart and been open to the unexpected turns and bends along the road.

    Nearly two years ago I was heavily pregnant and getting ready for the homebirth of our little angel Strong. In April of 2015 he blessed our lives as he was peacefully born in front of the hearth in our small wooden house, and his beautiful presence brought a spectacular change to our lives. In the following months I fell more and more deeply in love with my adorable angel and if possible more deeply in love with Bear and Star; the most wonderful loving brother and sister. In other areas of my life though, I felt trapped, down, drained, and at times very anxious. I was unhappy with how we were living; with the practicalities of day to day, I needed inspiration, release, freedom, change, motivation, and some universal guidance! 

    It was around this time that a few pieces of our life ordered themselves into just the right positions and Scott and I knew it was the time for us to go on the camping road trip around mainland Australia that we’d been wanting to do for years. We got ourselves organised (well, mostly!) and when Strong was 5 months old set sail on the ferry to Melbourne.

    We didn’t end up making it all around the mainland but over the following 13 months journeyed through parts of South Australia, Victoria, NSW, and QLD, and made our way up the east coast as far as Daintree Village in far north QLD. It wasn’t a luxurious trip, we had hard times and awesome times, we travelled basically and simply, but it was an adventure, and was what we needed.

    Sitting in our Soulpad tent, June 2016, in a camp in Babinda, far north QLD, the wettest town in Australia, rain falling outside as it had been for a week during a late running wet season, the air wet with humidity, our clothes, bedding, everything(!) damp from constant moisture in the air, the ground outside turned to a sludgy mud swamp, we were discussing as a family our future plans. Get the hell out of Babinda!! Well, yes definitely that! But seriously, as we talked about exciting plans, directions we could possibly take, I felt it was the right time to mention an idea that had slowly been taking form in my mind;.to perhaps leave Tasmania, sell our beloved home and property, and move back to the mainland…….It was not completely out of nowhere, Scott had also been thinking these thoughts and we had touched on it in conversation as we drove through ever changing landscapes, but I was concerned about how Bear and Star would feel and react. But, they were really open to it.


    Going back to the land of South Australia and even certain parts of Victoria and NSW was like rekindling a deep connection that doesn’t ever diminish regardless of how long I am away. It is also where all of our family lives. But to leave Tasmania; the thought of it sends a wave of sadness rolling up my body.

    We have now been back home in Tasmania for about 5 months and have just recently put our block up for sale. I still question what we are doing, I think we all are at times, but then we also feel it is our next unexpected bend in the road that we need to follow. It is very exciting, scary, and unknown but a journey that has many opportunities for us. We want to be mortgage free, we want to start anew with fresh ideas, we feel that we need to be closer to our family again, we want to give our children new opportunities, and being back on the mainland will open so many new doors for us. We don’t know what’s going to happen; how long our place will take to sell, how much it will sell for and how much we will have to start the next stretch of our journey with, AND…….how it will feel when we leave our home of the past nine years; the place that made our first dream come true, the home I thought we would never leave……

    Starting EC Late

    Our nappy and toileting journey with Strong has been a very different one from those with Bear and Star. With both of my first two bubba’s we used cloth nappies for their whole nappying years. With Bear I also used homemade reusable wipes soaked in my own organic solution. With Star I was less diligent about this using organic or natural disposable wipes. 

    Bear went from cloth nappies to very quickly being toilet trained, mostly of his own accord, during the day at around two years of age and overnight soon afterwards; Star similarly doing so during the day but taking much longer at night times. With both however I did not give much thought to the possibility of not using nappies, however environmentally conscious I was, and had not heard of ‘elimination communication’ or EC.

    When Strong was born 21 months ago I was very determined to once again use cloth nappies. And this was how we began. But without our own washing machine this time round, and with a journey to the mainland fast approaching I found cloth nappies unsustainable and too draining to handwash, and impractical and unrealistic for travelling (I have become much more ready to acknowledge my shortcomings as I have become older despite my often very high ideals!) So, we regrettably fell into the regular use of disposable nappies, be as they were the most environmentally friendly we could find wherever we happened to be on our travels (this unfortunately meant sometimes buying the worst plastic disposables in small towns and less progressive places, adding further to my ever increasing waste guilt!)

    We left home when Strong was 5 months old and for those first months of journeying he was in disposable nappies, however we always embraced the warm weather and gave him plenty of hours nappy free wherever possible. I have always thought this important and likewise Bear and Star had many hours nappy free as babes. But It was not until he was 13 months old that I began to read more about EC, was inspired by what I read, and decided to embrace it. The ideas, reasoning, and practice of EC resonated with me very much; being connected to your child in a way so as to learn the signs, signals, patterns, and behaviour of their bodily functions more intimately and respectfully, eliminating the need for nappies.

    To begin EC at this stage was, as I read, more difficult as having worn nappies from birth Strong had learnt to ignore the signs of his body but I was very willing to do what we could in the ways we were able. We bought a pack of flat cloth nappies, a couple of pilchers from op shops, and nappy pins (which were very hard to find!) to use at night and when we were going out. Initially we just used a bowl (it was originally his placenta bowl) for a potty, holding him over it to wee and poo.

    Notes from my diary at this time explain how he first started weeing into the bowl,

    I’ve been catching his wees maybe half the time. This is usually when he wakes up in the morning, when he wakes up after a day nap in the ergo, and after a feed. I haven’t been that successful at catching his poos yet, only catching half of one so far. He’s adorable when I place him over the bowl; I say ‘wee’ and tap his willy, he smiles and wants to sit in the bowl. When he sits in it this is usually when he starts weeing, so then I pick him up again, holding him over the bowl and saying ‘wee’ again, telling him it’s come from his willy. The only thing is that afterwards he wants to play or touch his wee and poo and gets upset when I take it away! But I just explain that we are tipping the wee on the grass and putting the poo in the toilet, and do this so he can see. I then clean the bowl and put it near him so he can play with it if he wants.’

     I kept the bowl close by, in easy to grab reach, and he loved to play with it and sit in it. Then after a while we bought a potty he could sit on, which he loved, although I still held him if he was pooing as he didn’t like to sit for this.
    I began paying very close attention to Strong’s behaviour and any patterns that I could discern, and when at camp he wore no pants unless it was too cold, in which case I would put him in a cloth with no pilcher and pants, or just pants so that he would still feel the wet sensation when he did a wee. 

    I started to notice particular patterns, especially with wees, so at these times I started gently sitting him on his potty, saying ‘pssss’ and ‘wee wee’, at the same time tapping his willy so he would begin to connect where his wee was coming from. When he did a wee on the ground or in the tent I would also gently show him his willy and say ‘wee wee’.

    Excitedly and surprisingly quickly, Strong began doing some of his wees in the bowl and then on his potty, and we started to get into a rhythm. In early May 2016 I wrote, 

    On the 7th, night before we left Tyalgum, Strong did a wee and poo at around 6pm in the bowl! (Before bed).’

    And about a week later,

    ‘Today, the 13th, after I took Strong’s night nappy off I sat him on the potty before putting a cloth on him (it was too cold this morning for no nappy) and he began to get off but then remained seated and did a wee straight away. I think he is beginning to understand that the potty is for weeing in.’

    Soon I had discerned the main times when Strong regularly eliminated and wrote on the 17th,

    ‘I am getting better at knowing when Strong needs to wee and poo. He’s mostly weeing first thing in the morning, after he wakes from a nap, and after he feeds and boobs. I’m not catching all of them but he’s certainly beginning to understand that the potty is for weeing into, and if he wees during the day on the grass I’m not bothered at all.

    I have noticed he is needing to do a poo in the mornings but even though I’ve been watching for his signals he always seems to do one in his pants when I’m not looking, or as he did the other day, in his nappy before I’m properly awake. We’ll get there though, I’m so glad we made this change.’

    Poos were much more difficult to catch and it was some time before Strong began to understand the connection between his feelings of needing to poo and how to do this, but to start with when he began to do a poo I would take him to the potty to finish and say ‘poo’, showing it to him afterwards.

    After wees I would show Strong how we empty the wee on the earth and give a tree or the grass a drink and as he started to become used to this rhythm he really loved this part! Poos of course were a bit different, and as we were travelling we would wrap them in paper and take them to the toilet block, or bury them when there wasn’t one, but we always talked to him about it and told him what we were doing.

    Over the following 5 months throughout the remainder of our mainland journey our practice of EC with Strong was up and down. There were times that we spent up in far north Queensland, where we experienced an extremely wet and humid winter, that it was impossible for me to dry Strong’s cloth nappies and had to resort to buying disposables again but during this time we always kept him out of nappies as much as possible during the day. In this way I could more closely observe his signals and patterns, and he slowly began to understand his own body’s functions and feelings. ‘Wee wee’ was actually one of his first words which he still uses for both wee and poo. 

    At another time we stayed with family which made things a bit more difficult and Strong spent more time in nappies during the day, but the progress we had made was not lost. 

    During these months Strong would happily sit on his potty for wees but really didn’t like the feeling of sitting down for poos so I continued to hold him over the potty. When he became more aware of the sensation of needing to poo and what it meant he actually developed a real concern about the process, and for a while when he began to do a poo he would get visibly upset and seek support and comfort; the poor little fella. We of course gave him all the comfort he needed and I always spoke to him about how pooing was a good thing; expressing happiness for him that he had done one, and continued to say ‘poo’, telling him it came from his bottom. I think this fear came from the realisation of his bodily function of pooing; before the whole process having been covered up by a nappy.

    Once we returned home and Strong was 18 months old we were really able to embrace EC wholly again. And as we started transitioning to waste free I started using cloth wipes (we are all using family cloth) permanently. Due to Strong’s reluctance to poo on the potty I started just taking him to the toilet, holding him over the seat, and gradually his fear of pooing was overcome. Then, a couple of months ago I brought his potty out again and he was super happy to use it! Gradually, with our encouragement and by my communicating with Strong and having learnt his patterns and signals (signals such as becoming a bit frantic, clutching his willy, getting upset for no other obvious reason, my own intuitive signals when I just suddenly feel like its time for him to go, for poos certainly in the past he would start to look very worried and begin to get upset and seek support but once he moved on from his fear it became more of just a slightly concerned look, suddenly stopping what he was doing, a look of deep concentration on his face, saying wee wee, and of course a red face and starting to grunt gives it away!) he has become more and more independent with his toileting and all of his elimination.

    So now at 21 months Strong only ever wears a nappy at night and is almost completely toilet trained during the day. At home he goes to the potty mostly of his own accord (I just help him with his pants if he’s wearing any) when he feels the need to wee or poo, to the point where if he starts to accidentally wee he will stop it and run to the potty to finish. He will usually say ‘wee wee’ first and then go to his potty, sometimes running if it’s urgent! He has now even started standing over his potty to wee sometimes, gorgeously imitating his Dad and big brother. He is not concerned at all by pooing anymore and excitedly squeaks and points down at what’s in the potty. Strong also really loves a book that I’ve been reading him; a book we’ve had since Bear was a bubba, called Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. He particularly loves the last page and questioningly points at all the animals and their poops. 

    Sometimes I see that Strong needs to wee or poo and remind him to go to his potty or ask him if he needs to go, and before a nap and bedtime I will ask if he can please sit on the potty and see if he needs a wee before his sleep, which he does happily. If he’s outside he steps off the verandah and wees on the dirt! Strong still has occasional accidents but that’s totally not a big deal with wooden floors and he very adorably helps to clean it up by getting the ‘wee towel’ and wiping it up, or trying to help with the mop. He also loves to help carry and empty his potty into the toilet. 

    When we are out I just try and keep on top of regular visits to the public toilets where Strong wees or poos with no worries. If he does have an accident whilst we are out it is always in the car when we haven’t made it to a toilet or suitable stop in time and we’ll hear a little ‘wee wee’ from the backseat.

    Strong’s night nappies are now often close to dry unless I don’t get them off fast enough in the morning, which I’m pretty amazed by as he still boobys heaps during the night! And he never has accidents whilst napping on me in the ergo or on the lounge during the day. 

    Now, looking back over the years and our recent journey with Strong, it would have been lovely if I’d come to EC earlier. It really does bring another path to deeper communication and connection around your child’s bodily rhythms, and a heightened awareness and respect for their elimination needs. If I was to have another bubba I think I would practice EC right from the beginning. It really is no harder than having to wash countless nappies, or purchase and deal with the huge accumulation of waste produced by disposable nappies. But in saying that I did not start until later and cannot be sure of how the process would unfold in  those first few weeks in particular, after a bubba’s birth. My thoughts are though that it would be a much more holistic and pleasant way of managing a bubba’s waste and working their elimination needs into your daily rhythm, and blend another bonding ingredient into that most special of times getting to.know each other.

    Making Almond Milk

    As we have begun altering our lifestyle in accordance with living waste free there are changes I have made in the kitchen to meet our vegan needs and wants. One of these changes, which has been a dramatic one, is making our own milks.

    Preparing homemade vegan milks was an extremely important, and for me an essential part of getting closer to living waste free. The long life milk tetra packs that we were buying were a huge contribution to our weekly waste accumulation. I have always taken them to our local waste transfer centre where there is a recycling station, but as tetra packs require very sophisticated recycling equipment due to their multi layers, I always doubted they were being recycled and feared they were simply ending up in the tip pile with all the other rubbish. And, importantly, our goal is to reduce all waste including that which is recyclable, by preventing the need for its production in the first place, thus reducing energy consumption and lightening our footprint on sacred Mother Earth.

    Also, making any food from the raw wholefood ingredients, in my opinion, is always going to be the healthiest and most delicious option for my family. I can choose exactly what ingredients I use, how much to include, it is super fresh, and made with a lot of love!

    So, I thought I’d begin sharing the milk making journey that I embarked on several weeks ago; starting with almond milk.

    We discovered that Star loves almond milk whilst we were on our year long adventure, so this was one of the first milks I attempted. It is not one that I have ever made before, but thankfully it is very simple to prepare! It also tastes wonderful! I do not use it for all purposes, I do not think it works very well in hot drinks, but it has become our favourite milk to use in smoothies and milkshakes, and is perfectly fine as a milk replacement in other cooking. All the children enjoy it on its own, and I love that the almond meal you are left with after straining can be used in other recipes, such as vegetable patties or for baking.

    I have discovered though that it does not keep in the fridge as well as soy milk for example, and so have decided to just make it in small batches which we basically use in one or two days. This is totally okay though as it is so easy to make and there’s something very nourishing and holistic about using a milk you’ve just made to make your day’s smoothie!

    After some research and experimenting here is how I make it:

    Almond milk

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup organic (if possible) almonds, soaked overnight in water, strained and rinsed
    • 4 cups water
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup

    Method

    1. Place almonds, water, salt, and rice malt in a blender. Pulse to break up the almonds then blend on high for about 30 seconds.
    2. Strain almond milk through a nut milk bag (I made my own from muslin cloth that I already had) or a piece of muslin, squeezing as much milk out of the almond pulp as you can.
    3. Place the milk into bottles and refrigerate. Place the almond meal into a container and refrigerate for later use (it will keep for several days) or put it into the compost. 

    When we have an overabundance of almond or other ‘meal’ from milk making we either sprinkle it onto our vege garden beds or put it in the compost, so nothing is getting wasted! And there it is, an easy to make, delicious, and healthy milk that is now in regular rotation in our waste free, vegan kitchen.

    Unschooling; Why It’s The Chosen Education For Our Children

    Unschooling is a term that can conjure thoughts and images in people’s minds of children who do nothing and learn nothing, and of parents who essentially uneducate and unparent their children. When I originally heard the term I thought it was very negative, and of this style of homeschooling was very ignorant. Due to this ignorance I had pessimistic preconceived ideas about unschooling that I’m sure many other people have; children who are unschooled must be missing out on so much, there are things that they need to know that they can’t possibly just learn without instruction, and children shouldn’t have the daunting responsibility of choosing what they learn, and how they learn it, laid at their feet.

    For us, the path to unschooling has been a convoluted one; a journey through homeschooling that we have woven with evolving different styles and our own growth and experiences. We have now been homeschooling for almost 9 years, and I would say unschooling for the past 2 to 3 years. Prior to that we homeschooled using the Waldorf curriculum for about 3 years, and before that the Montessori curriculum, also for about three years; following on from Bear’s early education at a Montessori school. The way that we home educate, and my personal philosophy about home education, is now so far removed from those early years. We have arrived here, at our life together unschooling, not simply because of my self education about different methods of homeschooling, but largely through years of learning by experience what is the most authentic, individual, and efficient way for our children to learn and be happy. Unschooling is the best choice for us because it is about being us.

    I think when people have deep concerns about unschooling education it is because they are comparing it to the linear education provided at schools. How can unschooled children learn everything that is learned at school? Won’t there be gaps in their education? My answers to these questions would be; well, they most likely will not learn everything a child would learn at school, and yes, there will definitely be gaps in their education. There are gaps in every child’s education! BUT…… I am more than happy if my children aren’t learning everything that is taught in schools, and that there are gaps in what they learn, because what my children are learning through living their lives with freedom is so much more individualized and meaningful for them and for the lives they are and will be living. 

    Bear, Star, and Strong are learning everything that they need to know to navigate through their lives. Bear and Star did not lose their innate curiosity and drive to learn once they reached the age of five, or suddenly begin to need to be forced to learn. They learn so much more because everything they learn is either by choice because it is something they are really interested in, or they are learning simply by living and carrying out tasks that are needed for everyday functioning of our family life. We do not coerce them to learn information or skills that they will never use, or simply forget, and they are less likely to forget what they do learn as learning happens through ways that are specific to their individual personalities, and when participating in practical, real life activities and situations. They are also able to follow their passions and interests deeply and as extensively as they wish. Of course, we do have certain expectations of our children, and there are limitations that we work with, such as where we live, and our income. There are also important considerations, such as health, and our ethical beliefs incorporated into everything we do on a daily basis. But within our family dynamic Bear, Star, and Strong are encouraged and supported by us in every way we are able, to explore their interests as far as they need to.

    Just recently Star said to me how she thinks that she learns more through unschooling then when we followed a curriculum, and both Bear and Star have said how they prefer unschooling to how we used to homeschool. They are happy because they have freedom. Their learning is not separated from what they choose to do, it is an intrinsic part of their whole lives, and a natural, inevitable occurrence. They are directing their own learning simply by doing what they enjoy. That is not to say that they find everything easy, some things they choose to follow they find difficult but they continue to try because it is something they are driven to do. Star is not yet at a place where she finds reading easy but she continues to try and is most certainly improving because it is extremely important to her, and in our family she is surrounded by books and immersed in stories everyday. And, naturally, when the children do need help or guidance we give it lovingly, to the best of our abilities.

    Over the years Scott and I have needed to deschool to arrive at the place where we are now. The ingrained societal expectations; that one must go to school and must learn what is deemed necessary, or for the rest of your life be flawed and forever behind all your peers, are hard to shed. But we have shed them. And as a homeschooling mama I now find myself at a place where I am at complete peace and wholly confident and happy with the educational path we have chosen. I do not believe children need to spend most of their young lives at school. I do not believe what is taught in schools is needed for one’s happy and successful life, honestly I think the current school education system falls very short of this for most children. I am actually aiming higher for my children; higher in the sense that I believe every child is more than just another cog in the institutional wheel rolling towards its final destination of ‘Workforce’. Isn’t that a terrible word in itself ‘workforce‘, doesn’t sound very appealing to me! 

    I want my children to be able to follow their dreams and their happiness and I believe to do this they need their own space and time to learn what they need, when they need to. And, excitingly we, as parents are blessed to share this journey with our children; share their learning and our learning too! We certainly haven’t stopped learning since leaving school, personally I have learned so much more! I myself have been on a journey of discovery; discovering what I really love to do and learn, which I think I would have come to earlier in life if I’d had the freedom to do so. I believe school should be a choice; a choice that a family makes if it is the right one for them, as we have chosen unschooling.

    In essence, I believe unschooling is the best education for our children because they are able to direct their own learning in an holistic, authentic, and natural way that is specific to their individual lives, personalities, needs, and interests, live their days in a supportive, loving, sharing and respectful environment, and have the FREEDOM to be who they are and follow their hearts and dreams and happiness!!