Category Archives for Family life

‘The Vast Unknown: Worldschooling our family of five’

When Daphne suggested to her husband that they pack up their lives, sell their house and take their kids on a daring worldschooling adventure, his response was remarkable.

Children playing in water happily

By Daphne Earley | dearleybeloved.com

One morning, early in the beginning of 2016, I woke up, turned over to my husband, Matthew, who was already half-awake and said, “Last night, I had a dream and I am certain that dream meant that we should sell our house and travel.”

He looked at me through half-lidded eyes, weighing the seriousness of my words and, after only a moment’s pause, said, “I think that makes more sense for us right now than anything else.”

This is how we have always done things in our household. There have never been grand gestures or elaborate, carefully coordinated and meticulously planned events. After several years of being together, one morning he looked at me, bright-eyed and excited, and asked, “Do you want to get married?” I didn’t say anything. I just kissed him. And just like that, we were a family.

We have always ridden the wave of inspiration when it hit us and when it felt right – so, the fact that in that instant, we decided to sell what we once thought would be our forever home and leave for exotic destinations, was just us, being ourselves.

The Philippines

We put our house on the market and left it in the hands of Fate and our realtors, packed our three children who at the time were ages 7, 5, and 8 months and headed to the Philippines. I’ll never forget the first morning we woke up at 4am Philippine time, stepped out into the balcony of our room, and heard a rooster crowing, welcoming us into our new reality. Matthew and I sat out there, in silence and awe of what we had done, and watched the sun slowly unveil the glittering sea.

Our children woke up, joining us one by one, and we saw fishermen in the early dawn, checking their nets, wondering what treasures the ocean had brought them.

We found ourselves laughing at the thought that we were not unlike them, casting our lives into the vast unknown, not quite certain what lay waiting when we pull ourselves back in.

It was in the Philippines where my 7-year-old, Aleksander, experienced heartbreak. We visited a beautiful church, filled with filigreed statues of saints with the priest himself wearing an ornately gilded attire. Upon seeing this, Aleksander began to cry profusely, sobbing, and was completely inconsolable. Matthew and I were at a loss as to exactly what was going on.

We sat in silence on one of the pews, waiting for the crying to subside. When the tears finally stopped, Aleksander took a deep breath and said, “Why is the church so rich, but there are so many poor people out there?” And with that, he was lost in tears again. We said nothing – we just held him.

I felt an immense sense of guilt. Had we, on a selfish whim, ripped our children from the comforts of normalcy and predictability only to show them the ugly side of the world? Children Aleksander's own age back in the United States were currently in school, innocently going about their day, unburdened by the problems of the world.

And here we were, blindly leading our children, right into the heart of it. But, as it turns out, children have this incredible sense of understanding that an experience, even negative ones, aren’t meant to darken our view of the world.

Experiences serve as our inner mirror, bringing to surface the most sacred parts of us that need reflecting on.

“Who do you think is happier? The guy with lots of money but is alone or the guy who has no money but has a fun family?” Aleksander asked not long after.

Singapore

In Singapore, our 8-month-old daughter, Kennedy, decided to claim her right in the world and walked. Actually, she stood up, screamed both in delight and fear, and ran.

Singapore, with its impeccably dressed men and women and equally pristine architecture, showed us the incredibly kinetic force that is money, when it's dispersed in the world rather than being hoarded and sitting idly in a bank account. There is an affirmation that I love, and it goes along the lines of, “Every dollar I spend enriches the Universe and returns to me manifold.”

Bali

Bali, Indonesia is where destiny caught up to us. Unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, we chose a hotel that was situated right next to a Balinese temple. It also just so happened that during our stay, the monks at the temple were preparing for a full moon festival.

At night, we would hear the rhythmic hum of crickets mingled with the hushed voices of the monks chanting their prayers, pleading yet grateful, ushering any soul who would listen, into the welcoming dawn. We knew, with certainty, we were meant to be there. And, we also knew it was time to head back.

Humans have a tragically comical way of doing things. We sit in a classroom for years, learning about all the different places in the world and the myriad of people who live in it, while only a few of us will actually ever go and see those places and even fewer of us still who will actually say hello and meet the people who live in them.

Let me teach you, my sweet girl, so that one day, you may live what I teach, and love this world as much as I love you.

A post shared by DearleyBeloved (@dearleybeloved) on

Many of us will get up every morning, go through our day-to-day routines - sit in our cubicles, sit in traffic, sit in front of the TV - and call that living. Until one day, an opportunity knocks, your spouse turns to you and says, let’s do something different and try something new. You muster the courage to say yes and, suddenly, your whole life changes and nothing is ever the same.

Canada

When we returned to the US, we did what any student of the unknown would do – we bought a pop-up camper and drove 11,000 miles across the country and into parts of Canada. Our house in New Jersey did sell. But that isn’t where our story ends.

We are not a religious family, but when we were hiking in Sedona, Arizona, my 5-year-old, Gavin, in a moment of divine imagination said, “When we are born, we each take a piece of God’s soul and keep It always with us.” Perhaps he is not so far from the truth.

For when we travel, we each carry the experience of every place we’ve gone to with us, so that when we return, the place we call home suddenly resembles the world.

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This family's motivation for worldschooling is just as remarkable as what they learned.
Jenny Diaz

Daphne Earley

Contributor

Daphne is a wife and homeschooling mom of three who has a passion for taking photos and telling stories about her adventures with her family. She loves to find magic and wonder in the everyday and is grateful for the chance to share it with others. She blogs at dearleybeloved.com and is on Instagram @dearleybeloved

A day (or two) in the life of a FIFO wife and homeschooling mama

Join FIFO wife and new homeschooling mum of three, Megan, as she shares a typical day in the life of a deschooling family.

Day in the life of a FIFO homeschool mum

By Megan Ngatai 

We are the Ngatais’. Our family consists of my husband Dylan, a FIFO (fly in fly out) worker; one STAH-ish mum (me!); our 7-year-old Leon, 22-month-old, Mya and 7-month-old, Kendrick. We have ventured into our first year of homeschooling after three years in mainstream, with little preparation but a lot of trust. We’re still in the deschooling process with minimal expectations on ourselves. We love the outdoors and seeking the fresh air.

Day One

Today we ventured out to the beach to take full advantage of our glorious autumn weather. Once we arrive, the kids play. Leon’s running up and down the sand dunes, Mya’s exploring the textures of the sand and seaweed and Kendrick’s feeding in my arms. Dylan is home from work and we’re catching up with friends. Leon spotted some sea snails and abalone on the rocks. We even found a jumping spot but took note of the ‘slippery when wet’ sign, observed the power of the waves crashing onto the concrete and decided to stay on the sand.

We then joined our friends for a juice. Leon sat and played Pokémon with one of them. Honestly, I don’t get Pokémon, but I have to give it some credit - he will happily add up the numbers which are in the tens and hundreds, yet when I sit down with him and ask him the same, I’m met with frustration and ‘I don’t know’. So I guess it’s good for something.

Playing Pokémon can be a great maths exercise

Afterwards, we head home to let the babies sleep. We’d been doing a little bit of research on what’s best to grow in Autumn so a few days ago we had bought seedlings and were preparing to plant. We took the opportunity to plant while the babies slept.

I still battle with Leon to eat healthily, so I’m trying to encourage him to take care of these plants. I’ve not yet succeeded, but I don’t give up easily. I love that just through growing these veggies we can observe plant cycles, measure their growth and experiment the conditions that suit their growth best. What an awesome tool, huh?

In the afternoon, our friend pops around to give Leon a guitar lesson. Leon's still quite a beginner, and we switch up between my father in law and our friend teaching him. Our afternoon is slow because Mya decided to sleep for hours, so we just take the day in our stride. After Leon's lesson, we get onto dinner prep, which tonight is pizza. Food prep is becoming one of my favourite resources for maths, especially pizza. Oh, the possibilities! After dinner, some quiet reading, then off to bed.

Day Two

The next day we spent the day at our local aquarium thanks to a generous friend, there was lots of learning opportunities there and lots that we took into our next day at home.

This day I would say is slightly more common, a slow start... just how I like it! Leon is usually the first one up so he tends to read quietly in bed until the rest of us join him. We sit around the table together, discuss the weather and date, eat, laugh, talk, worship and read together. While one of us reads, the rest eat and draw.

Mya mimics a lot of what Leon does, which I adore! She will sit there quietly for quite some time, as long as she’s beside him. And I find Leon will sit longer when his hands are distracted. You may notice a book of sharks on the table, since our trip yesterday it’s all he has talked about. He’s been dispersing shark facts like an expert, so I can tell a lot of our day/week will revolve around underwater creatures.

We look at Artventure and Leon decides to paint an octopus, so happily goes about his business while Dylan plays his guitar and I sit with the baby.

I noticed earlier that Leon often writes some letters backwards, so I ask him to count in 5’s as high as the blackboard will allow him. He chooses to sit next to his little brother. Perhaps it’s more interesting this way. In-between this he’s also completed a few more stages on reading Eggspress, had some fun on Prodigy and written out some cool shark facts for other kids to read, complete with his own diagram.

Day in the life of a FIFO homeschool mum

As you can see, our days kind of just flow and roll into the other. We haven’t established much of a rhythm and are truly taking it day by day. We love that when Dylan’s home, he can join in. And our kids love being around each other. And I love not having to get up for the school run! Thanks for joining us for our day (or two!) in the life.


Megan Ngatai

Megan Ngatai

Contributor

Megan is a FIFO wife, mama to three and makeup artist to some. When she's not taking photos of her sleeping children, she's sneaking chocolate. If feeling overwhelmed, she turns to her God, the ocean or lifting heavy things.

Homeschooling during a big move

A mother of three from Texas shares how her family made the big decision to move their family interstate and kept homeschooling on the way.

Homeschooling during a move

By Marlo Renee 

If life hands you an opportunity

When Phil and I decided to move our family of five to Texas I was more than a little nervous about it. After all, we’d be leaving the comfort and familiarity of our hometown and heading into something wildly unfamiliar. Making the decision to move had been rolling around in our minds for the last year, so when a friend’s house suddenly became available, we decided to make the leap. At the same time, we also had family in town that we wanted to hopefully drive back with. Which meant we would need to pack, rent our house, and be ready to leave in a few weeks. Crazy, right?!

All this change can wreak more than a little havoc on a homeschool! Luckily my husband was there to bring me back down to earth and remind me that I can be a chronic over reactor at times and should look at the bright side. We get to go on a road trip! I was thrilled about this because I’ve always envied the families schooling from their awesome RVs. Who doesn’t want to be THAT family?

How we packed up and left within weeks

Armed with box tape and a deadline off I went to make our dream a reality. The first thing I did, and this is so important no matter what stage of schooling you’re in, was to ask for help. I put out an SOS on every platform I could and asked for help packing and planning. It’s so difficult to admit we can’t do something on our own and I think often we leave ourselves in a hole because of it.

boy playing with fire truck book

If you’re struggling, reach out. Our circle of loved ones rallied around and took shifts helping us pack and watching our toddler on certain days. Don’t be afraid to ask for help whether it’s for a move or to just get coffee.

We also decided to get rid of as much stuff as humanly possible. Now I know most people do purge when moving but we really had to take this to the next level. Rental trucks are very expensive when going to another state so we really wanted to stick with a certain size to stay within our budget. In the end, we ended up letting go of half our belongings. This mindset translated into cutting down on any unnecessary curriculum we found didn’t fit with our homeschool vision.

books in a basket

Cutting back on everything... even curriculum!

Along the way, I somehow picked up subjects I read about “because that’s what everyone else is doing!”. I was constantly on a hunt for the new shiny 900-page curriculum that was going to save me. This physical and mental clutter will overwhelm you whether you’re moving or not, so why not use a move as a good excuse to start fresh? In the end, we stuck with what we love and works best for us; living books, good art journals, and a couple of math books. This all went into a basket that was readily available on any given day. This 'less is more' routine became the centre of our homeschool after our big move as well.

Learning to let go

At some point during our move learning took on a different feel. It was impossible to have any kind of schedule let alone lay our subjects out on a table. Not having a table drove me a little wonky at first. Luckily, kids don’t need a table to read a delightful book! When things got too hectic and reading wasn’t in the cards, nature journals and a blanket outside did the trick.

To know learning was taking place, though I wasn’t next to my children or at a table, gave me a new-found sense of peace. The shift in what learning looks like proved invaluable during our move and afterwards. Letting go of homeschool comparisons can sometimes make all the difference in our sanity.

When we were finally ready to go, we picked up some maps at the market, and headed towards our new home. The days were long and the nights even longer but we learned that schooling can take place anywhere, if you let it. We learned there is value in nature, the changing landscape is soul quenching, and sometimes the only things you need are God, family, and a good book. Even if you’re crammed in a sedan, living in hotels for almost a week.

Have you ever homeschooled while moving house, state or country? How did it go?​

Marlo Renee

Marlo Renee

Contributor

Marlo is a homeschool mom of three who loves documenting her days. If she's not busy reading a book, you can often find her behind a camera. Her family recently relocated to Texas and they enjoy meeting new friends and fishing. Marlo is on Facebook and Instagram. 

These kids do something called Earthschooling

When a single mum of two children was told to look at 'alternative education options' for her son with Autism, she began a unique journey towards 'Earthschooling' that has changed her family's life.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Interview with Dana Atkinson

Hi Dana, thanks for chatting with us! Can you introduce us to your family?

We are a family of three living and adventuring in the beautiful Wet Tropics of North Queensland. There is my daughter Nala (Rylee), the little chief of our house Jarli (Kellan), and myself. When we are not busy attending appointments or activities, you will find us mountain biking through fern gullies, swimming amongst the rocks at secret waterholes, or even foraging for bush-tukka while walking in our luscious rainforest community of Paluma, the little ‘Village in the clouds’.

*Australian indigenous people may have a number of names. For example, a person may have a European first name and surname (Rylee), an indigenous name (Biralee - which means beautiful baby), and a skin name (Nala).

Earthschooling family

Tell us about what brought about your decision to homeschool your kids

Our journey began after Jarli had finished his preparatory year of school. There were multiple reasons for my decision to withdraw him from mainstream, but the overall reason was that there just wasn't another option better suited.

When Jarli was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with high functioning Autism, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Non-compliance aggressive behaviour, which later manifested into Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Having spent two years in early intervention, he was finally making progress and was able to graduate from AEIOU, a school for children with Autism. I had spent the last year of his program, meeting with school advisors and administrators, trying to find the best environment, as there were no autism specific schools available.

Earthschooling boy playing with toy train

The school system was not able to provide support for Jarli.

The majority of the schools I had met with were zoned, which meant he would be placed on a waiting list. As for the private schools in the area, they were able to assist, however, it came at an extra cost that was financially beyond our means. The more I interviewed, the less confident I became that his needs would be met.

At the time I was working within the state education system at Nala’s school, so it seemed an ideal situation to have Jarli there with us too. I thought that at least then I would be available to provide assistance when needed. I could never have anticipated that he would actually regress at school.


Life became all about putting out a succession of fires - absconded behaviour, aggressive meltdowns, classroom disruptions, then suspension after suspension. It had become evident that the classroom setting was not a suitable learning environment for Jarli.

The final straw came when the authorities of the school advised me of their concerns for the next year. They told me that they would not be able to provide the much-needed support in the classroom nor would they be willing to apply for the extra funding that was available. They made it very clear to me that they didn't want my son at the school. Their final words to me were “perhaps you should look at alternative education options… “

So here we are, two years into our ‘alternative education’. And while I might add how frustrated I was towards the school having given up on my boy, the truth is, I am very grateful for their honesty.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Just like many families starting out, finding the learning style and rhythm that best suited the needs of my children was the biggest challenge. Initially, we began to homeschool via distance education. That lasted a term before we found our feet and I realised that it is important to me that my future adults have input into what they would like to learn. It’s also just as important for me to provide them with a learning environment that will inspire them.

After much research, I became inspired by the Waldorf philosophies. I was, however, looking for a secular approach to learning that enabled a flexible but natural process. That was when I discovered Earthschooling.

I think that what it basically came down to was finding a gentle approach to learning based on the needs of my family but also being able to provide them with the freedom that enables the natural learning process to unfold.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

How do you define your unique blend of homeschooling called 'Earthschooling'?

Earthschooling is a complete but flexible curriculum that follows a holistic and earth-based approach to education. While it is a secular Waldorf methodology, the education is based on learning from nature, cultural aspects, natural rhythms, real-life experience, handwork with natural fibres and arts.

I favoured this approach for many reasons. Jarli is extremely imaginative and is a kinesthetics/tactile learner, while Nala prefers auditory stimulation. So, the idea of introducing more creativity into their learning seemed very appealing and I felt the earthschooling elements would suit both their needs quite well.

I was impressed by the cultural aspect that the earthschooling curriculum honours. It introduces input from people from other cultures who make a place at the common table of our shared humanity.

Earthschooling children reading a book

Can you share some influential books or resources have you read that helped you decide on earthschooling?

I would say that our community has been the most influential. Having the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef a stone throw away, the use of the World Heritage Area as an educational landscape seemed like a wonderful and rich environment to learn from. But there have been some inspirational books too.

Taino Earthschooling in the Diaspora: My Early Days by Anani Kaike.

This is an inspirational chronicle written by 8-year-old Anani, a Taino child who shares with us her rather unique homeschooling environment, and the strong connection that her family teaches her about respecting our Mother Earth while at the same time honouring her ancestors.

Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability by Michael K. Stone

I found this an aesthetically pleasing resource that is eloquently written and contains inspirational images.

In my efforts to raise environmentally aware children, both of these books have not only been influential and inspiring, but have also been an excellent addition to their learning. It scares me to think of the environmental burden that my children will face in the coming years but more, who will lead the movement to the sustainable future.


Share with us what a day in the life of an earthschooling family looks like

Ha ha!! It’s not always rainbows and unicorns with my tribe.

One of the things that I love about where we live is that we are in close proximity to adventure. Exploring the different environments from beaches to the outback and of course the rainforest.

Each day we have a different focus for too much structure would inhibit, rather than help, especially when it comes to Jarli’s requirements. Suffice to say, numeracy and literacy are the two core areas we fit in daily through real-world learning, as this is a procedural requirement through the home education unit (HEU).

Because every day is so different for us, I love that education is anywhere learning occurs, and that even unintentional learning can be powerful.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

What do your kids think of earthschooling and have you noticed any changes in them since they left school?

The biggest change I have noticed is the step back they have taken from the fast-paced world that we were once part of. Being able to breathe in and out with a rhythm that suits their needs.

I find that Jarli is calmer, happy to engage with learning but most importantly his behaviour has improved.

For Nala, it has encouraged deeper discussions on topics that are of importance to her, such as her indigenous heritage.

Overall, they love the freedom, and I love the flexibility to be able to approach their learning in ways that will work for them. If we’re having a bad day then we ditch our plans and head into the forest.

Interview with an Earthschooling family

Nala and Jarli - learning to love and care for their country.

What is a mantra you live by?

“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.” - Zenobia Barlow

To me, building my children’s love of nature and cultivating a deep emotion to their ways of thinking and behaving is a major factor when it comes to teaching them about their place in nature but it is also an integral part of their identity.

Dana was interviewed by Grace Koelma.

Did you find Dana's story as inspiring as we did? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Dana Atkinson

Dana Atkinson

Contributor

Dana is an Earthschooling mother living in North Queensland with her two children. When she is not running from snakes, shooing spiders or removing leeches, you will find her tucked away in the hammock with a nice cup of brew! She's on Instagram @the_education_of_little_tree_

The marvellous work of childhood

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers

Children playing in water happily

By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com

I used to believe that I had to teach the girls, and I felt an immense amount of guilt when I "left" them to play, or didn't feel like we'd done enough structured activities. But after finding our daily rhythm, stepping back, and taking life at a much slower pace; I realise just how ignorant I was before. Play is learning! In fact, now I believe that the girls learn more, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them just through playing together.

It has really taken the stress out of homeschooling for us and made our lives so much more enjoyable. I still try to carve out specific time to focus on maths and literacy at least three times a week (although this usually involves a game or manipulative materials so some may say this is still 'playing'). But the rest of our time is spent playing and exploring the world around us.


Learning through play

Some of the girls best learning experiences have come from ideas that developed during play.

Our recent project - The Borrowers - is proof of this. All I have to do as the adult is to provide the stimulating environments, real life experiences and plenty of lovely open-ended materials to aid in their play.

It is hard not to worry or compare when children the same age as the girls, who attend school, can write reams and reams of pages and read much more. But what is the point in all of that 'work' when it leaves children (and adults) tired and stressed - there is plenty of time for them to be tired and stressed when they reach adulthood!


What is this huge rush to have our children know everything by age 7? In my experience it leaves everyone feeling pressured, they eventually forget most of it, and it definitely doesn't benefit the children.

I trust myself, and them, that when they are 16 they won't be illiterate. They will be accomplished in all of the core subjects. Exactly the same as the majority of children who attended school. But I am hoping that by giving my children this magical childhood full of experience, travel, wonder and joy, that they will have a little more sparkle within them. A special zest for life that I am rediscovering every day as I share their learning journeys.

This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.

Natalie Goodacre

Natalie Goodacre

Contributor

Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.

5 unconventional ideas about relationships with teens

Unschooling author and mother, Pam Laricchia, explores the ways we can support our teens and help them write a different story—their own story. Not a shadow of ours.

teenage girls

By Pam Laricchia | livingjoyfully.ca

One of the biggest fears I see mentioned over and over by parents is that their teens will make the same mistakes they did growing up. Parents of teens have, at this point in their lives, gained a certain perspective and feel pretty confident about the thread of actions and consequences that wove through their own teen years.

The dreaded 'If Only'

Even beyond that, many imagine that if they could go back and do it all again knowing what they know now, they’d do a better job of it. Mired in what they see as the perfect vision of hindsight, their mind starts each flashback with “if only …” “If only I’d hung out with a different crowd, I would have made better connections.” “If only I hadn’t wasted my time, I could have made more money at my job.” “If only I had studied harder, I could have gotten into a better college.”

These are simplistic appraisals, but given what they see as a second chance, parents are confident they can engineer a better outcome for their teen, “if only they would listen to me.” (There it is again!)

woman thinking silhouette

While I am suggesting that we as parents try to avoid projecting our personal experiences too deeply onto our teens, I don’t mean to imply that we keep our thoughts to ourselves and leave them to figure out the world on their own. Far from it!

Parents have experience and wisdom to share that can be very helpful. Yet, to be truly helpful, it’s important that our teens receive it in the “no strings attached” spirit we intend, or else our motivation is suspect and the information understandably discounted. So the atmosphere of communication is important—the relationship.

Hands off or helicopter parenting

Conventionally, relationships with teens are painted as either/or: either you focus on maintaining authority (tough love) or you avoid challenges altogether (let them run wild).

Unschooling families have found the beauty of living inside the spectrum of those extremes. We continue to cultivate the strong and connected relationships we have built with our children over the years—it’s a relationship paradigm that serves us well no matter our children’s age.

Let’s look at some of the ways unschooling parents view relationships differently and what that can look like in the teen years. Notice how they all boil down to how we relate to them: as people, not possessions.

We drop the expectations

Unschoolers don’t share their experiences or perspective with the expectation that their teens will reach the same conclusions. That’s hard, isn’t it? We know what we know! To us—for us—our experiences are fact.

For me, it’s a kind of philosophical detachment. Not a detachment as in disengagement, but in appreciation of their individuality. Almost paradoxically, when I’m not living my life through them, I feel even closer to them, because it’s not about me—their life is theirs to live—so I can detach from the outcome and drop my expectations.

They are not younger versions of me, but unique beings in their own right. So though the experiences I share may be helpful to them, useful pieces to the puzzle of their life, I don’t expect my stories to mean the same things to them: we are each building different puzzles.

teenage boy tree

We realise that the circumstances of their lives are different than ours

Speaking of different puzzles, take a moment to consider just how different their childhood has been from our own. The pace of change has been accelerating at breakneck speed over our lifetimes.

This is a new thing! Comparatively, the pace of change from one generation to the next even just a few decades ago was almost negligible. What an exciting time in human history to be living! But it also means that the passing down of generational experience is more about bigger picture human issues, like empathy and morality, than any day-to-day advice to “do this and get that outcome”. The nuts and bolts of our stories are often no longer applicable because the world is changing so rapidly.

For example, even mainstream society is starting to question the typical counsel to “go to college and get a good job at a big company.” That was the conventional definition of success in the industrial age, and even deeply into the information age, but we are swiftly moving beyond that now. That advice, so adamantly passed on to us by our parents, has become hopelessly out-of-date as our teens move into the adult world.

teenagers on jetty

We don’t presume we know better than they how they experience their lives

This can be a hard one, too. We have more life experience. We remember a time when they were young children and totally dependent on us and we came through for them—here they are!

Yet we can also acknowledge that we don’t always know what they are thinking and feeling, how they are experiencing and interpreting the day-to-day moments of their lives. Sure, maybe we really enjoyed camping at the lake as a family over the last long weekend, but that doesn’t mean they did. And they are not “wrong” to have disliked it. Different personalities and outlooks are just that: different, not wrong.

As I said, none of this is intended to suggest disengagement—that we don’t share our experiences, or that we leave them alone to figure out their own lives. What I hope people get out of this discussion is the inspiration to listen to teens: they have intelligent information and insights about their own lives to share!

Don’t discount what they say just because it’s different from your thoughts and perspective. Again, it’s different, not wrong. Instead, if you try to connect what they’re saying with what you already know, you just might create a bigger picture of the world for yourself. You’re learning too. Which leads to …

We don’t assume that, as parents, we’re always right

This seems to be at the crux of so much parent-teen conflict. At some point, teens are ready for more responsibility, more independence, more freedom. So often parents are determined to keep them in that conventional childhood box as long as possible, the box where parents are 'right' and their children need to do what they’re told.

With this new perspective—that their childhood environment is radically different than ours, that they are experiencing life in their own unique ways, and that our expectations are entangled with our life experiences—it is presumptuous of us to believe that our worldview will fit neatly into their lives. What was right for us (or what we imagine would have been right for us), may not be right for them.

teenage girls talking

Which leads us back to where we started:

Teens are people, too

Just because they are our children, they are not our possessions. They are people. And just because they are our progeny, doesn’t mean we intimately understand them. We need to get to know them. And be open so that they get to know us. Build lasting relationships. And from there we have lasting impact on each others’ lives. My kids have inspired me countless times! I have learned things from them that have made me a better person. We continue to learn from each other.

From childhood, through the teen years, and beyond, everyone wins with strong, connected, respectful relationships.

This post was originally featured on livingjoyfully.ca and has been republished here with permission.

Which part of this article resonated with you? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Pam Laricchia

Pam Laricchia

Contributor

Pam Laricchia is a Canadian unschooling author, speaker and podcaster. She started unschooling her three children in 2002, and now her three young adults are exploring the world in their own unique ways. Her website, livingjoyfully.ca is a treasure trove of resources for families who are travelling an unschooling journey.

Habit training: how to do it with your kids

Jessica Welsh walks us through the concept of habit training, why it's valuable and how to try it with your kids.

Habit training

By Jessica Welsh | themakingofdays.blogspot.my

Charlotte Mason was a British educator whose philosophy regarding children and education was revolutionary for its time in the late 1800’s. She had a firm belief that children are born persons and that therefore we are to teach the whole child, understanding that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

Habit training is part of that discipline. Charlotte Mason's writings are full of practical insights into the challenging task of cultivating good habits in your children, or 'habit training.'

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

Volume 1, page 118.

If you’d like to start habit training with your children, here are a few tips that might help you get started.

Choose a habit

Choose one habit you want to work on with your child at a time. This doesn’t mean everything else falls by the wayside, but you are setting aside a time where the primary focus is on a single habit you wish to begin or strengthen. Perhaps you’ve noticed your child isn’t using their manners, or they struggle to pack away their toys after playing with them. You may already have a habit in mind to work on with your child. If not, this list might give you some ideas.

When we started habit training with our son, Leo, we started small. Something we thought he could do at age 2 ½ was to take his plate to the bench after mealtimes. A small habit, yes, but, from little things…

Prepare

Take some time to think about how you are going to introduce, practice and enforce your chosen habit.

Our initial attempts at habit training with Leo were poor, to say the least. One day I decided that he should start saying Please and Thank You. I then found myself in a standoff with him as he wanted to go outside but I wanted him to say please first. My expectation came without warning and Leo was confused and frustrated. I realised that I should have introduced the habit first, explaining what we are doing and why it is important.

“’Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile.”

Volume 6, p. 102.

Don’t be afraid to tell people what habit you are working on with your child and how they can help too. I’d also suggest having some redirecting ideas up your sleeve for those times when your child will simply refuse. And trust me, they will.

Start with patience

Choose a day and start. A habit cannot become so without repetition so be sure to allow for plenty of opportunities for your child to practise. And of course, praise your child for their efforts. Your enthusiasm will be contagious.

It will take time for your child to establish a new habit, think six-eight weeks at best. It felt like it took forever to teach Leo to say please and thank you but now it’s second nature to him. Of course there are still times when he needs reminding (he’s three after all), but for the most part, he’s got it.

Anticipate reluctance

It will happen that your child will refuse or shirk the habit you are working on with them. Deciding how you will handle that before it happens will ensure you are still moving forward and you won’t be left feeling like a failure.

Initially, Leo wasn’t at all interested in taking his plate to the bench after mealtime, so we did it alongside him. At first, he grudgingly took his plate to the bench; a few times he yelled his refusal and then promptly ran from the table.

Because we had anticipated reluctance, we were able to remain calm on (almost) all of these occasions. In recent weeks we’ve seen just how established this habit has become as Leo has needed less prompting and even surprised us by asking if he can take our plates at the end of a meal.

It will change you

My husband and I have seen our habits with fresh eyes and where we both need to retrain ourselves. Getting outside has been a big one for us. We are homebodies by nature. We love finding a cosy spot in which to relax with a good book. Add some cloudy weather, a cup of tea and some banana bread, and you’re describing our perfect Saturday.

Habit training has pushed us outside and early morning runs, bush walks, gardening and time spent outdoors together as a family have found a way into our daily rhythm. We certainly feel the better for it.

Habit training is worth every effort. Whether you’re just starting out or have already begun the journey with your children, I’d love to hear your experiences and insight.

Have you tried habit training with your children? How did it go? Share in the comments below.

Jessica Welsh

Jessica Welsh

Contributor

Jess lives with her husband, Joel, and children, Leo and Phoebe in Gympie, Queensland. She spends her days doing her best to soak up these early years at home with her little ones but can sometimes be found enjoying a moment's quiet with a cup of tea she prefers not to share. She's on Instagram @themakingofdays

Homeschooling with adopted and foster kids

Lauren and her husband Joe have four children, some fostered, some adopted and some biological. Lauren shares about her unique experience working within the government foster system and outside the public schooling system.

Lauren Jones homeschool adopted foster kids

Interview with Lauren Jones | mixingplaydough.com

Hi Lauren, thanks for making the time to chat. Can you tell us a little bit about your unique family and where you live?

My husband Joe and I live in the US (the Colorado Front Range) with our four kids ages 9, 6, 2 and 1. We spend quite a bit of time outdoors exploring, racking up huge library fines and causing a general ruckus just about everywhere we go.

We’ve been fostering for the past three years. In that time we've had seven kids come through our home. Some for as little as a few days, some for 6-7 months and one we've adopted. We are also waiting to finalise the adoption of our littlest one this summer.

I am the primary home educator/money spender and my husband spends quite a bit of time travelling in his job designing and installing AV systems. We started an organisation, Treasured Kids, this year with the mission of getting heirloom quality picture books into the hands of foster children in the US.

Lauren Jones foster homeschooling

What has fostering and adoption looked like for you?

I think we've had just about all the experiences you can imagine. We've had kids live with us and be reunited with their mother. We've had an open relationship with the bio mom of our boys we've adopted. We've also had foster kids live with us for a little bit and move on to another foster home to be with siblings. They all have their stories and adventures attached.

It’s been in many ways a huge period of growth as a family unit. Both impossibly hard and wonderfully good. It’s never been easy to say goodbye to any of the kids and we have been grateful for time to heal in between each one. We can’t imagine life without our adopted boys, and I wouldn’t have ever traded that - even knowing now what it was like to go through.

A post shared by Lauren (@mixingplaydough) on

How long have you been homeschooling for?

While we legally aren't allowed to homeschool foster children, we can still homeschool our biological and adopted kids. We’ve homeschooled our eldest from the beginning. It's been a learning experience of what is realistic and what is too much in both areas - homeschool and foster care.

What considerations and factors came into your family's decision to homeschool?

If I’m totally honest, the real reason we didn’t send our oldest to preschool was that we couldn’t afford it. Turns out, it was a really good fit. When he was old enough for Kindergarten he had a very scattered skill set, and public school didn’t seem to fit the bill.

We had quite a lot of discussions and what it came down to was time. We wanted our kids to have an exorbitant amount of time to just 'be' and grow and learn and felt like homeschool was the way to do that.

Homeschooling fostering adoption

There have been seasons when some of your children have been enrolled in school, while you've homeschooled others. What was that like?

It was super crazy hard. Part of the problem was the school. They weren’t supportive of our foster kids, and everything seemed to be a problem - from 'lovies' (security blankets or toys) to schedules. Having them in school though was the best fit for them. It was one of the consistent parts of their life, and we knew that long term they were going to be in public or charter schools.

It also made that particular season a little bit more bearable for us as a family with five kids under eight. We did pretty well with getting them to school on time and picking them up, but it was extremely disruptive. My daughter had a hard time not getting to go to school with her foster sisters, and in retrospect, we should’ve tried a few more options with that.

Our family felt split. I refer to it as our time as a tale of two families.

The adventuring/the world is our classroom during the day and the pack lunches/eat dinner/take a bath/bed by seven during the night.

A post shared by Lauren (@mixingplaydough) on

Do you gravitate towards a particular style of learning or home education approach? Why have you chosen that style and why does it work for your family?

We started off with Montessori as I have a certificate in Montessori Early Education for 2 to 5-year-olds and it was a good fit for the early years.

We have played around with a few ideas for my daughter including unschooling and Waldorf. In the end, Charlotte Mason (specifically the program put out by Ambleside Online) has seemed to be the best approach for us as a whole family, and we’ve used that for the past few years. We love the short lessons and massive amounts of literature along with the emphasis on time outdoors.

Foster adoption and homeschooling
During really busy seasons of fostering we’ve been able to pack up our books and do school on the road or in coffee shops.

It’s given us the freedom to stack subjects if we need or spend more time on subjects as well.

On occasion, we’ll get calls for some last minute care, and we can shelve our studies for a bit for what we call “service days.” Those days are spent loving on kids in our community that need it.

Your situation is unique in that you're working inside the government foster care system, but outside the public schooling system. Can you unpack the complexities of that?

It’s so complex! In a way, when you opt out of government schooling you are making a statement that you feel you can do better. At the same time, when we signed up to foster, we ultimately surrendered quite a bit of our life to be under their watchful eye. We had to parent in ways that they approved of, and have our home regulated to the highest of safety standards.

A post shared by Lauren (@mixingplaydough) on

It’s hard for me to have to fill out paperwork every day with medication reports or statements about how new bumps and bruises came about.

We also have to log our miles or go to the doctor for every fever or rash. I think a lot of times we end up in little bubbles of homeschool world and fostering bursts that every single time with every single kid that comes through our home.

Homeschooling fostering adoption

One of our fears going into homeschooling was that we would be removing ourselves from the community. I think that by opening up our home to fostering we negated that concern. I’m not sure there is a better way to be fully involved with your community than by opening up your home to the kids that don’t have one.

What does your typical home learning day look like? Is there a routine or is it different every day?

Each season has its own routine. Right now, we aren’t taking any more kids for long term placements, so we’ve been able to find a good rhythm. We have about three days of lessons, one day of an enrichment program and one day of nature study a week. We can usually fit in everything we need in that time!

Homeschooling fostering adoption

The kids have lessons outside of the home for music and foreign language, so that becomes part of our routine as well. Some days we don’t start school until 4 pm (seriously!) but those days are my favourite. Other days we are done by 10 am and I’ll never complain about that either. We do well with weekly goals and generous margins to get it accomplished, so we have lots of time for adventures.

If you had to pick one, what is a mantra, quote or principle of education that you live and plan your homeschool days by?

Always Make Brownies.

What is the primary belief, attitude or value you hope your children will take into adulthood, based on the unique upbringing you’re giving them?

I think a lot of foster parents worry about what fostering will do to their biological kids and a lot of homeschool parents worry about what homeschooling will do as well. I hope that they grow up to become compassionate leaders with an eye for change and a heart for the hurt.

I think that they’ve loved and lost just as much as we have as adults and while I don’t know what that does, exactly, to them as children, I think they will have an incredibly unique perspective on the world. I cannot wait to watch!

Lauren Jones Homeschooling fostering adoption

What advice would you give to families considering fostering or adoption?

Do it! I’ve spent most of my life jumping in head first and figuring out how to swim after the fact.

Fostering will change you forever but in a ridiculously good way.

Adoption is its own beautiful adventure, and even though it’s sometimes sticky, we are so over the moon to have the chance to love our boys.

What advice would you give to families considering homeschooling their children?

Don’t overthink it! You are more than equipped to education your children simply because you are their Mama (or Dad). Don’t ever think that you aren’t qualified. Give yourself, and your kids grace to figure out the best method and the best timing. Find a community that supports and encourages you - Mulberry Mama’s are the perfect way to start.

A tricky season is not reason enough to not do it. We’ve had seasons where we just didn’t do any lessons at all. But as I look back I can see that those are the seasons I think we learned the most.

Lauren was interviewed by The Mulberry Journal Editor, Grace Koelma.

Have you had experience with fostering or adoption, and mixed that with homeschooling? We'd love you to share in the comments below.

Krista Lii profile photo

Lauren Jones

Contributor

Lauren is a Bio/Adoption/Foster Care Homeschooling Mama of four kids 9 and under. If you can't find her adventuring in the mountains or baking in the kitchen, Lauren is probably scouring vintage shops for beautiful books. As a family, they founded Treasured Kids, an organisation that gets beautiful books into the hands of treasured foster kids in the US. You can follow Lauren at @mixingplaydough on Instagram.

If I knew then what I know now…

An Australian mum who has been homeschooling for eight years reflects on what her concerns were early on in her journey and what life without school looks like for her children now.

Girl taking photo of beach

By Rachel Parkinson

We started on this home educating journey eight years ago. At the time I had a shy six-year-old, a bouncy four-year-old and a chubby baby boy of eight months. Looking back, life was simple. My oldest loved to read, and being at home gave her the freedom to read widely. The other two were happy to buzz around, play, go to the park or just do whatever.

Taking the leap

We left the formal education system during April’s grade one year. It was a lot like jumping off a cliff. There was a lot of fear associated with taking that leap. There were a lot of unknowns and a lot of what ifs.

I was one of those mothers who never got used to “the system”. I thought I would, as everyone told me I would. I did think that talking with the school and having meeting after meeting might all lead to some happy solutions, but alas, no.

The theory was, to try home educating for a term and see how we went. If it didn’t work, we could find another school. As that one term came to a close we were having such a lovely time with it that we didn’t even consider another school.

Now that the little grade one child is almost 15, I realise that there would never be another school and that it was the system itself that we had a problem with.

There was quite a lot that I worried about at the time, but now I see how those things have panned out. Some of my major concerns were around making friends, learning, getting time to myself, what they might be missing out on and how they were going to turn out as people.

They will make friends at all ages and stages of life

They may not be a kid of the same age. They may be a grandparent or another grown-up or someone who is way older or younger than them. Friendships happen through commonality, not necessarily because you are the same age.

They will learn

Learning happens in so many ways. The notion that kids learn only when sitting in a classroom or when a qualified teacher is with them has slipped away. Having gone to school ourselves, we are heavily indoctrinated that this is the case. Changing our own beliefs around this is the first step.

Learning happens everywhere

Where you least expect it. Car conversations, chance meetings, quiet time alone, reading… not just in a classroom. Interests are ignited and fed. Dreams are born.

They aren’t missing out

They really aren’t. Well, actually they are missing out on the rushing, the lining up, the forced curriculum, the Naplan testing. You get the picture.

Time alone to pursue your own interests comes eventually

If you need it to come sooner, there is always a way. If you ask it of them, they will learn to give you the space you need.

It’s so worth it

Even for the sacrifices you have to make. The relationship with your kids will be the reward. The gift.

I don’t feel I am their teacher. I facilitate their learning. At times I teach them things. Other times I stand back and let them figure something out, or I stand aside and bring in an expert.

Those precious days when they are little are so fleeting. If I could go back I would stress less and play more. Go on walks, beach trips and bake and just drink in their curiosity.

We have a groove now

I was concerned that being with them all the time could drive me batty. At times, yes it has. But, as humans to hang out with, I enjoy the company of my children. Over all this time we have moulded and melted into a group/team/thing that chugs along at learning, discovering, eating, playing, sleeping, working.

What I try to tell myself now as they get older is that swimming against the tide is hard, we all get worn away by the constant ebbing of water when we are the minority. But, there is a plan for my girls, and their life will unfold, regardless of what I do or say, regardless of their music lessons or art classes, and the beauty of their curiosity will have flourished.

What were your worries early on in your home educating journey?​ Share in the comments below.

Rachel Parkinson

Rachel Parkinson

Contributor

Rachel is a mother to four children. She lives on the beautiful coast of southern Australia and spends her days home educating her family, cooking, gardening and adventuring. She's on Instagram @rachel_parkinson.

How homeschooling supports social-emotional development in children

Learning is intertwined with the personality and inner life of the individual, and children need to know that their emotions and behaviours, both the desirable and undesirable, are welcome in their learning environment.

Boys drawing outside

By Ashley May

The idea for this article came to me while on an early morning stroll - just a stolen moment to ground myself and find some calm in anticipation of a full day on my horizon. As a work at home mother, with a toddler and a preschooler, these stolen moments stand strong and protected. They are all a part of the delicate dance of in-breaths and 'out breaths' that keep our hearts and bodies sound when we could otherwise lose touch and succumb to the often strong undercurrents of our day.

Sharing my thoughts on home based education and social-emotional development grows from my awareness of the power of 'in breaths' and 'out breaths' in helping little ones find their centre. I do a lot of work in the area of emotion, cognition and self-regulation, so, I'm pretty sold on the science behind it. It wasn't until I started intentionally weaving these ideas into the days spent with my children, that I could see the magic.

Holding the Space

It is a tremendous burden to have to hold onto strong feelings--can you imagine doing that? Most often, this burden manifests in undesirable behaviours or a lack of interest in learning. Children need to know that their emotions and behaviours, both the desirable and undesirable, are welcome in their learning environment. They need to know that it is safe for them to feel and to work out the emotions they may be experiencing with the support of a parent.

When children are educated in the warmth and security of their own home, led by a parent with whom they have formed a secure attachment, they can express themselves freely.

When we hold a safe space for children's emotions, good and bad, we open up the world to them, and as educators, we can view learning from a different perspective. Learning that involves the whole child.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

I guess you could consider my home Waldorf inspired. While you don't have to be doing Waldorf to support social-emotional development, there is wisdom in this philosophy when it comes to the rhythms of the day.

Children need opportunities to connect with their self and with the world around them. Each day balances expansive, outward activities with those that draw awareness inward.

My children wake needing to expand; after breakfast, we are thrust into an imaginary world among the trees. We often create while outside because I know how much their little bodies need to be in nature. I can't bring them in just for the sake of art. In fact, they won't let me!

You will most often find my children drawing, moulding dirt, or climbing trees outside. One of their favourite late afternoon activities is to paint while I prepare dinner. During the golden time of day, with the late afternoon sun peeking through the window, my children sit almost in a trance watching the watercolours blend.

My heart knows they are working through their feelings. So, I have learned that my children are most balanced when their day begins with the freedom to explore outdoors and ends with quiet reflection via some form of artwork.

Meaningful Interactions

A young child's ability to manage emotions, cognition, attention and social behaviours emerges from the daily interactions between parent and child. Home based education provides the foundation for validating emotions and guiding children to find ways to manage their feelings and behaviours.

The truth is, it takes a lot of work to guide a child through his emotions on a bad day - what may present as big, strong feelings and disruptive behaviour are much more below the surface.

It takes meaningful, individualised interactions to give children the skills to effectively manage these situations and to get to the root of the problem. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of naming emotions and validating our children's feelings. We have the unique ability to work together with our child to give that child the tools to be mindful of his or her emotions and behaviours.

Avoid dismissing emotions or seeking assistance from others, which often leaves children unsettled and insecure. Our kids receive consistent guidance and support from a parent who is invested in his or her well-being.

The Legacy of Our Moments with our Children

A home-based education rich with opportunities to connect with the self, others, and the world around us, imbues children with a strong emotional foundation - one that they will carry with them for a lifetime. As home-based educators, we have this incredible opportunity to provide our children with the wisdom to navigate the world, and the legacy of our interactions will live through them as they walk through life.

Ashley Msed

Ashley May

Contributor

Ashley lives in Southern California with her husband and two small boys. After working for many years in educational research and evaluation, Ashley made the decision to stay home with her children. She currently spends her days immersed in play with her two little boys and her evenings working from home as an educational consultant specialising in early childhood education and teacher development. She's on Instagram @chasingwildones