Saturday, 25 May 2013

Laidback....or what happens when you're not trying!

Hey - how are you all?

Nice to see you here.

I just wanted to write a little post about the magic that can happen when you're not even trying.

Unschooling is pretty much a philosophy of actively rejecting school techniques as a means of learning, with the trust that learning is all about making connections organically, joining the dots in a random way. It's about treating workbooks and worksheets as something people should choose, not be forced to do.

Unschooling is about seeing past the usual labels of what is educational and seeing everything as inherently and potentially educational. Every experience. Every book. Every place. Every friendship. Every TV show. Every game. It's not about cherry picking things and splitting them out into  'educational' and 'non educational'. (Although this is a trap I still fall into. I'm trying not to! Nobody's perfect) Learning isn't portioned out neatly - it's seemless. It's a journey of discovery. It's not anyone else's to own or judge or comment. It just IS.

Unschoolers look beyond the usual labels, certificates, curricula but see the learning that spills all over the place in their own real lives, and trust that their kids will learn by simply being alive too. Being alive and having friendships, conversations, making and experimenting, trial and error-ing, going to interesting places, workshops, courses, festivals, fairs, museums. Watching TV and learning about animals and fashion and history and sea rescues and tribespeople and volcanoes and science discoveries and skateboard tricks and how cartoon sponges can live in pineapples under the sea! Piecing together what mass culture means. 

If it looks easy and sounds lazy learning like this. It is and it isn't. For someone very much 'educated' in the traditional way, this kind of learning still sometimes freaks me out. Particularly on those days when the Playstation seems more fun than maths or those other supposedly noble and worthy subjects - the ones we all hold up as THE BIGGIES.

And just when I start to wonder about this or that. The kids will astound me like Indie and Alfie this week.

Indie, the kid who I have inflicted the least amount of schoolyness on, the one who has been unscathed by earlier freak-outs of a school kind that involved workbooks and worksheets for his older two, has skipped along with his learning entirely organically really. Now 7, he has barely had to do any of the kind of mindnumbingly boring letterland type b*llocks that temporarily seemed like a good idea just a few years ago with the others. (Sorry Finn and Herb by the way)

I really haven't tried hard to 'teach him the basics' which seems an obsession with school. And yet he is reading. And using beautiful words. 

And this week, Pete picked up a maths book we had lying around, and tried Indie with it. He tried a page chock full of old-fashioned sums. Adding up hundreds. I didn't know Indie could really add in tens to be honest - he is still at the stage of counting to 89 and pausing as I say "90'! Anyway, I digress. 
Turns out, Indie sailed through an entire page of sums! As in 347+293 kind of sums. Written the old fashioned way. And he was so excited about it! I LOVE maths, he said! I'm a mathematician! And that night he took another worksheet to bed, because he wanted to do sums before he went to sleep. And he announced "This has been the best day of my life!' Which is pretty cool considering we have just been to Legoland and he has had a LOT of cool days! Seeing his unbridled joy at doing maths has made me laugh and smile and I feel really happy we didn't push anything with him. See what happens when you're not really trying?

And Alf. He is one smart little cookie. No preschool stuff with him AT ALL. No coaxing, no cajoling. No letterland-y type preschool educational crap whatsoever. No attempts to teach him the alphabet or anything that would be considered schooly. And yet he knows every letter. He can read the odd word. And the letters that are firing him up right now? The letters on the PERIODIC_FREAKING_TABLE no less. He has a beautiful old fashioned periodic chart on his bedroom all, a massive canvas that he likes us to talk about. This one is helium, it's the gas we put in balloons. This one is the symbol for gold. etc etc. Yep. Alf is a little scientist of the highest order! He goes round talking about elements, about solids and liquids and gases. Uses statements like 'This is really effective!' This is the kid who is making puddles and experiments all over the house and garden, mixing things to notice the change, his eyes lighting up when he says 'This is really sciency!' or 'If I squeeze this maybe I can get the nitrogen out!' 'Let's make a fire with the elements' (Um yeah Alf, but not inside the house darling).

So anway. Just needed to share in case any of you unschoolers are having wobbles. have faith! It's not a tidy and coloured in neatly between the lines kind of education, but it's a juicy way of learning that's for sure!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Festival fun!

This weekend we hung out with
Abi and Joe,
Dawn and Melissa 
and a Winnebago
And sixteen kids! One big family!
Having a blast at The Faraway Tree

A yurt in the woods
Was the base for our fun
All sorts of wee jobs and work to be done
Beer to be poured and car-parks to tend
Bouncy castles to watch and children to fend

Faces were painted, bubbles blown, wishes made,
At four in the morn we drank mint lemonade
With just a little bit of Gin
Which is also the name of a friend Herbie made!

The music was fab and the kids had a blast
Long may The Faraway Tree in Ringsfield last!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

So sang John Lennon. I like quoting him. And he's right.

We have had to let go of some of our  travel plans for a while, only a couple of weeks after we booked our Eurotunnel tickets for a much awaited trip to explore the mystic geological coastlines and standing stones of Brittany - Asterix country! Initially I was gutted and angry and felt like the world was against us.

Yet the financial reality is that we are still (yawn, yes totally boring) fighting for the rightful and hard-earned share of Pete's business and still going through all kinds of bullshit to get to it. The fight seems a bit unreal sometimes, it feels so unnecessary and unreasonable and hard to believe we are even having it. Just to get our own money which is rightfully ours! It's hard work keeping positive, and whilst we wait it out, I am feeling really challenged not to lose heart. I dip up and down. Feeling good for a while, then feeling angry and stuck and resentful. I think the person involved perhaps is hoping to grind us down completely, till we sign over our lives to him and perhaps give him some of our blood too.

But no matter how caught up our family gets in those moments of gloom when we feel our life is being dictated by this greedy person, the reality is, I actually believe in my truest heart of hearts that the universe is in perfect order. The laws of Karma are real. I am reminding myself that everything happens for a purpose. Nothing is ever by accident. Everything and everyone we encounter teaches us something so I am grateful for this one because it has taught us many things.

Moving with the flow of life and accepting it as it is and not what we want it to be, has been more of a challenge than usual just lately. But that's what going with the flow is. It's about keeping up. It's about rolling with it. It's about surrendering to the will of the gods above, living in the moment and moving on.

So this is where I am. Focusing on the journey and not the outcome.  Every single day of our lives is a gift. What will be will be!

Peace and love dear readers Xx

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Learning in loops and wiggles and circular labyrinths

Something I have realized lately is how completely non-linear our learning on this planet earth can be.

The school method of learning is to portion and ration everything into a 'logical' and prescribed and linear way, feeding information in a fairly predicable, spoon-fed fashion.

A child is fed a carefully-controlled diet of facts, which, is considered to be a meaty and well-rounded sort of approach to understanding the world - one curriculum topic at a time. It is all very neat and tidy. Accounted for. Enforced. Boxes are ticked as knowledge is supposedly widened. Whether you take it truly on board and fully understand it or not.

And yet....

There is another kind of knowledge that happens completely independently from all that academic stuff. Children in school obviously learn this too, some of it in school hours, some of it outside them.

The stuff I'm talking about is the other kinds of knowledge. The kind of knowledge that comes when you are on a journey of discovery. Of course we are all on this journey, but some of us have to deal with this whilst having very little time to daydream, process or own that process.

True learning, happens in invisible and unseen ways. They are internal Eureka moments. Moments of the heart. Moments when you suddenly see something very clearly. They can happen as subtle shifts or singular defining moments that change you forever. Big life events that go beyond curriculum.

There are no certificates for that. No pat on the back or congratulations needed. No ways of measuring. No need to measure. Moments of pure knowing, pure unadulterated understanding.

It happens at home. It happens in school. It happens in institutions. It happens everywhere. It happens in spite of school. In spite of institutions. It happens at unlikely times. In unlikely places. Via unlikely media. It's unpredictable when the truth of something strikes like a thunderbolt. It could be a flash of friendship, a recognition, a link made. The moment when true loves makes our stomach do a flip. A birth or a loss. An illness. A miracle. A marriage or a divorce. A heart broken or healed. The heart going into overdrive. Neurons flashing like crazy as the learner suddenly just understands something. How can you schedule that?

A typical school room is a fairly uninspired and unlikely place for such genuine moments to occur. But it can happen like that I suppose.

Perhaps our true understanding happens less in a linear way and more in loops and whirls and labyrinths? As we enter a labyrinth, we seek a path away to the centre, following twists and turns and what seem to be diversions and double-backings and round and rounds. Travelling in a seemingly illogical, non-linear way, sometimes very close to the final destination and sometimes very far from it, we eventually arrive at the centre! Then we retrace our steps to find our way out. Maybe this is more true to life and the real journeys we make. The inner voyages of understanding and discovery for which there is no curriculum, no need for extrinsic reward, no easy way of explaining or demonstrating.

Perhaps the real tools and teachers that help us on our labyrinth journeys are the friendships and guides and symbols and dreams and totems can perhaps guide the way rather instead of the conventional teachers and academic markers and milestones we think of as the light that guides us along.... it's something to think about isn't it?