Lament of a Homeschooling Mother on the First Day of the School Year

Farewell, Freedom! Summer is over and it's nothing but sweat, labour and tears for us, now... (sob, sob)

Or is it?

I think we've found a way of living the life we love without becoming illiterate buffoons along the way! (Eureka moment)

Of course, most homeschoolers have probably discovered this secret well before we did, but, for us, it's a bit like a light bulb moment - you know, the type of moment when you realise that the answer has been staring you in the face all along.

Unschooling, for us, has been a journey of discoveries. First of all, we found that it made learning easier and more relevant. Then, we discovered it allowed for more creativity and initiative. Unexpectedly, it took on a spiritual significance as I saw how this natural way of learning opened our minds and hearts to God in a spirit of trust and submission.

But, increasingly, as last year drew to a close, I began to get nervous about satisfying the official requirements of the education department. The standards and guidelines of the Board of Studies seemed alien and irrelevant to our own goals of spiritual perfection and Christian duty. A system of record-keeping which was both useful to us and acceptable to the authorities was easy to construct but how to incorporate their requirements into our chosen lifestyle was a tad more challenging.

As we get more experienced, I'm becoming more skilled at recognising real learning moments, as they happen. I'm also more trusting of the children's own ability to teach themselves. But, I have to admit to being a lazy strewer. I have bursts of enthusiasm where I fill the corners of the house with great educational stimuli but, then, I go off on my own little rabbit trails and forget about the environment that I'm trying to create.

Luckily, unschooling, for us, is about following God's will and though I may not have a plan, God always does. So, rather than leave us stumbling around in the dark, my little rabbit trails seem to have led me to a greater understanding of our vocations and how our duty to educate our children should fit naturally into our everyday lives of faith and service.

At the moment, this means incorporating the key learning requirements into our humdrum domestic activities. It may seem obvious but it really excited me to discover that I didn't need to drastically change the peaceful routine of our happy holidays. My rabbit trails are leading us to God and I think that my duty as a parent is to guide our children along the same path of discovery, and to encourage them in their own. Along the way, I can see a host of opportunities for learning in all the different areas of a standard curriculum.

So, this year, we'll learn together and, instead of sacrificing our interests and our freedom to toe the schooly line, we'll live our normal lives with minds open to the amazing truths that God has yet to reveal to us.

Here are some photos of what I - and we - have been busy with, this holidays, and the sort of activities from which we'll derive our learning experiences.
More knitting... (oops, this one's grubby! But well-loved)
Yet more knitting!
Making our own cleaning products
Homemade dishcloths
Trips to museums
Patchwork (we didn't make this one but we have ambitious plans of our own for quilting, this term!)
Kitchen science
Movie making
Play, play and more play...

(happy sigh)

Sugar-free, Chores, Unschool Plans and Homemaking - generally, just a jumble of thoughts...

It's been quite a while since I last posted and my poor, old blog is looking rather dusty. After a very pleasant break from technology, I'm not exactly sure where, or if, I'm going anywhere with this blog of mine. Maybe, a tidying up of loose ends and a bit of a revamp is all that's needed but, I suspect that my computer time will still be quite limited as I feel God leading us into a life of more old-fashioned togetherness and traditional homely activities.

When I wrote my last post, our family was in the process of becoming sugar-free. I wasn't sure how we would go but, happily, I can say that we are almost there. These days, I am using dextrose instead of sugar (for our twice-weekly baking) and we have adjusted to the point that most of us now prefer savoury foods - even our most extreme sugar addicts have found that sugar is too sweet for their taste-buds. We were helped in our transition by the fact that we all became sick and unable to eat a lot, during December and the beginning of January. One of our children ended up in hospital with pneumonia, for a week, and food was not something that we thought much about, for a while. Now, that we're well again, we seem to be craving fresh and healthy food which leads me to be cautiously optimistic that our sugar addiction is in the past.

Being sick for so long gave us an opportunity to test our system of house cleaning and, on the whole, I think it worked quite well. The children pitched in to help, when they were well enough, and I mostly stuck to my schedule of cleaning two rooms a day, though I only cleaned what was really necessary. Having the schedule meant that the house was in pretty good order so it didn't matter if some chores were rolled over to the following week. With a little adjustment, the system got us through our most challenging weeks, without any dramas or an overwhelming catch-up period to face, at the end.

And, that brings us to now. The house is sorted (or will be after our latest declutter which we're in the middle of), our diet is taken care of and I'm starting to think about the new school year. For us, the new year has started with the excitement of new plans and fresh enthusiasm - my mind is assessing the past and turning towards what is to come.

With our recent move to a more low-tech lifestyle, I've also been thinking more 'green.' I found a great Aussie blog called Down-to-Earth which is written by a lady who lives and promotes a more simple and natural life-style. She has written a list of recipes for homemade cleaning products which we are now beginning to use in an effort to live more naturally and to reduce our expenses. She has, also, written a book which comes out in February.

I must admit to becoming more house-proud, since I took the chores away from the children. I want to do the jobs the best that I can and the most efficiently. I enjoy making my own cleaning products and tools, and being less dependent on modern technology and big multi-national producers. At the moment, I am making my own dishclothes, using yarn which is 100% cotton. I am, also, looking forward to embroidering my own tea-towels and linen. The children aren't crazy about using handkerchiefs instead of tissues so that may have to wait - maybe, I can convert them with some pretty, lacy hankies for the girls and some big, oversized manly ones for the boys!

Finally, unschooling is on my mind. Over the past year and a half, I have been excited at how gentle and family-friendly this method of learning is in our lives. The children are more creative and self-motivated, and we are all much happier to 'school' this way. To make it work, I will be putting a lot of effort into strewing and record-keeping, over the next couple of weeks. I have heaps of ideas that I'd like us to try together and I think I've come up with a flexible means of record-keeping which will satisfy the school board and help us to stay focused. By maintaining a regular routine and an open, check-point type of schedule, I think we will be able to enjoy the freedom of unschooling and simplify our accountability responsibilities. There are so many opportunities to learn Maths and science through our household activities and crafts that I feel confident that we can continue to follow God's lead for a more natural way of living, within the confines of the Board of Studies' requirements. (One plan is to teach geometry by making a patchwork quilt together.)

In all of this, my art blog has undergone a bit of a demise. I miss my artwork and I hope to find time for it, at some stage, but, at the moment, I feel my heart is firmly focused on family and home. As I contemplate time spent happily reading together, creating together, homemaking and learning together, and following God's will for us all, caring for each other and the part of the world we've been gifted with, then I know that those things I used to see as sacrifices are really no sacrifice, at all.