Monthly Archives: October 2012

Un-learning – may the force be with you…..

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View MasterYoda-Unlearn.jpg in slide show

Thanks to the friend who sent me this thinking I could use it!
I am quite up on Jedi attributes having two Star Wars fans in the house.  In fact the other night, while trying to read in bed Charlie kept quizzing me from a book he was reading which was all about the Jedi order and heaps of questions to help you decide if you are more suited to the dark side or life as a Jedi master.  Even though I was slightly frustrated at being interrupted I was still glad that my answers always showed me to be poor Sith material and a good guy every time…Whew!

But this also reminds me that when we started to homeschool, after the older two had been at school for 2 years, I was told that they would need to “de-school” (honestly the jargin these days!). By this, it was exactly like Jedi training without the light sabers, well,  actually there has always been light sabers too…

That is, re train yourself to be independent.
To finish activities in your own time, do what you want to do when you want to do them.
Seize the day, seize the moment, your mum, your light saber, lighten up, chill out, pick more daisies and yes then make them into a potion if you want to, add baking soda?  Sure.  Vinegar? yep…..

I imagine there is a whole a lot of un-learning that has to occur post school too, When children arrive in the big wide world – the real world where no bell or timetable tells you what to do.
I see what we are doing , by unschooling, as giving our children the heads up, a good start to life.
It seems to be working so far, the dovetailing into ‘grown up’ stuff like working for money, buying your own clothes, getting on with people from all walks of life, all ages, all cultures all abilities, cooking, shopping, asking for what you need, knowing who you are, what your strengths are, why you are here….
(Copyright – the unschooling curriculum)

As adults we have so much to un-learn.  To re-learn too.
Which makes for an exciting time full of  surprises and of new ideas to assimilate and keep us well occupied as active life long learners.

I guess the less  time our children have to spend trying to un-learn or re-learn later in life, then the more time they have for other, perhaps more poignant things which is  a very exciting prospect indeed.

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Dale Stephens – Uncollege

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I have just been listening to Dale Stephens on National Radio-

http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20121029-1012-feature_guest_-_dale_stephens-00.ogg

I first of him recently as the founder of UnCollege and his new book – Hacking your Own Education.

http://www.uncollege.org/

So great to hear a young, but grown up unschooler talking so eloquently about education.
So inspiring to hear someone so sure of what he wanted to do from such a young age and then bucking the system to do it.

See what you think…

The risk of unschooling

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Just a reminder that I only use the term “Unschooling” (aka natural learning, life learning, life…) so others can stick us in a box, label us, and start to understand what that means.
I forget how strange unschooling as a concept must seem to those for whom it is new.  When I meet someone new, and get introduced as an unschooling parent there are many questions.

“Isn’t is a big risk?” is one.
Well yes.  Of course it is a risk.
I would counter that by suggesting that sending your children to school is a big risk, the only difference being that there is someone else, a system, to blame if  your child is seen as to  fail in any way.   (Which of course plenty of children “fail”  miserably  in the school system. ) If that is the only difference, and you live your life in an accepting and blame free way, then there is no reason to send your children to school, right??!

Unschooling is also an adventure.

It is also our lives and the lives of our children we are talking about.
For this I am prepared to risk everything, by doing the very best I can for them.
You can never get those 13 years of school-going back, or  their childhoods.  This is no dress rehearsal where if the school system doesn’t work you can go back next time and do it differently.  You know those poems that start -“If I had my life to live over again I would….” Well, you don’t, you just only ever have the NOW.

Is it OK to have your child in an institution for 13 years?
Especially if they are not happy. And  I meet a lot of children who actively dislike school.  The funny thing is that our culture is one where children are almost expected to not like school.  To not like their teachers or the work they do.  It is a part of modern pop culture there are tee-shirts reinforcing this, there are songs and jokes about it.
What does this teach them about the world?   About learning? About themselves?

In our homeschooling circles, most of the parents take their children and their feelings very seriously, that is to help them  meet their needs, keep them happy, help them to  make changes so they are happy.  If one of our kids is unhappy about something they are doing, then they stop.  We respect them, listen to them, talk about ways to solve the issue.

I am so glad I have never had to  tell them – “tough, you have to go and keep going for 13 years.”
It did take me two years to really hear them when they were at school – the older two asked regularly to be homeschooled.  I check in with Charlie too,  see if he wants to go to school.  Funnily enough he would be great at school, a  teacher’s dream as he is so organised, efficient, quick to pick things up, helpful….Still I am greatly relieved when he always answers that  -no thanks he does not want to go to school!

So I guess for me, seeing life in the big picture way I do, there is a risk in everything you do – getting out of bed in the morning, crossing roads, driving…… I love Helen Keller’s saying that “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”

I see no risk in loving my children, reading to them, showing them the world, talking, hugging, travelling, feeding them well, having adventures together and supporting them as they grow and begin to flutter in and out of the nest on their own adventures, taking their own risks.

So no, I guess not sending them to school doesn’t seem like a risk at all….

Life may be risky, but it is also beautiful, colourful and fun.
The colours of Spirits Bay – Kapowairua

Independence

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It is official.
All my kids are there.
They can all swing, ride a bike, dress themselves, swim, read and now go out alone and independent.
While making a cake last week (to take to the aforementioned Folk Festival) I told Charlie we didn’t have any icing sugar, so he said he was more than happy to go down to the local shop (dairy) to get some.  Alone.
I know kids let you know when they are ready to do a new thing and Charlie is ultra confident.  The shop is only down the road, a 2  minute walk.  It wasn’t that I was worried about him getting into strife.  He is a level headed problem solver.
It was more the fact that this was it.
The beginning of the end.
My last , my youngest hopping out of the nest, flexing his wings.
I know it was only a tiny trip, a mere hop, but to me it signified so much more.
Of course I am happy and excited as my kids stretch their wings, grow up, I am so into independence and love the change each new stage brings.  But there was a tinge of sadness as this, possibly  the lovely cuddle of a friend’s 2 day old baby didn’t help either….

“Apples and kingdoms ripen and fall and nothing matters nothing at all.”

My little kingdom is ripening….and it  is truly sweetened by its loyal and true subjects not to mention a huge and well iced chocolate cake!

Welly Fest 2012

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It has become a much loved family tradition that our Labour weekend is spent camping in Wellington,(http://www.brookfield.org.nz/) at the wonderful Wellington Folk Festival!  Lovingly called the WellyFest…..

http://wellingtonfolkfestival.wordpress.com/

There are so many wonderful things about this festival….The setting is gorgeous with mainly bushy, treed places to camp, wander in, or sit around a fire in….

These folk further beautified their site by “planting” dozens and dozens of very real looking plastic daffodils!

Hanging out with lots of lovely friends is one of the big highlights, sitting around the fire playing music with each other……

Sorry about the music stand Di! Still some lovely Celtic tunes to accompany our breakfast…..

The kids all love the place and seem to find a balance between music and other activities…..

There is a gorgeous lake with two large rafts, jetty, island, rope swings….need I say more!! I think this is where the boys spent the majority of their time during the day.

When I visited the kids on the raft they told me firmly “No adults!” It is really special that they have a kids only time and they certainly had some amazing games going on! That they are old enough to be independent now creates so much freedom for me!

Hannah attended the children’s workshop and then performed with the group at the kid’s concert. She played her mandolin for this.

And Charlie also performed in the kids’ concert,- solo!

Ollie has always loved the Saturday night Ceildh. He danced every dance just like me! Here we both are about to dance our hearts out!

A rare family shot after a busy night dancing at the Ceildh in the big marquee

Our little camping area. There is always such a lovely safe, family feel. Where new friends are made, folk drift between tents, children are off playing together, meals are big and communal…..A wonderful way to live, even if only for a long weekend.  Hannah is with Billie, who turned 4 during the weekend!

Here is her cake cutting and singing time! Talk about instant party! And never has “Happy Birthday” been sung with such gusto, harmonies and volume!

A few of the crew on our little patch.

The final night  is a huge show of the top 6 acts all in one big concert. The kids just love it as there is usually some great comedy aspect not to mention inspiring and wonderful live music. Charlie spent the whole concert up the front and here he is is weaving out of the mosh pit in a snake, dancing away to the final band – “The Wheeze and Suck Band”.

The last day jam session as we pack up in the sunshine.

Have to put a shot of Hannah packing up our gorgeous canvas dome tent. Also good for medieval photo shoots….

Meals are big, communal, yummy and always accompanied by live music!

I so love taking the kids to the Welly fest.  It is something we all enjoy as a family.  As someone who loves change and new adventures I am surprised how much I have enjoyed creating a tradition out of this for our family.  Every year is different, and also the same in many ways.
Hannah is already looking ahead to coming with her own friends and camping separately.  There are many young folk there who are wonderful musicians and it is such a great atmosphere to hang out in.

Thanks to such great friends and for the gift of music that inspires us to feel something  new….

Road trip north…

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So we headed off up north, swapping Hannah for my Mum – seemed like a fair enough swap at the time….

Me, Mum and Wayne sunning ourselves on the deck of the ferry over to Russell.

We went to Paihia, over on the ferry to Russell and visited Waitangi.  This is a part of the country that is steeped in history – Russell was once New Zealand’s capital city and was referred to as “The Hell hole of the Pacific” back in the good old days of sealers, whalers and  missionaries.  Hard to believe now. Although it does contain many gorgeous old and historically significant buildings.

Ollie driving the ferry. The Skipper was very laid back and it turned out he grew up only half an hour from where we live. He let the boys steer the ferry for ages, casually mentioning that they may want to keep to the right a bit, or steer away from those rocks…! I love meeting other people when travelling, it seems easier somehow and always confirms what a small place the world is and how we have more in common with others than we often care to remember.

Waitangi is often called the birthplace of our nation as this was where the founding document  – the Treaty of Waitangi – was signed in 1840.

We have had many discussions about the history of the Treaty over the years we have been homeschooling.  Usually  equivalent to a complete Social Studies unit, over a few hours of intense questioning, reasoning, querying and disbelief at what happened.  So it was awesome to visit Waitangi and for the boys to see where it all happened.  We had plenty more questions to discuss.
Charlie was horrified at the treatment of the Maori by the Europeans and spent the next day designing a true New Zealand flag, with no trace of a Union Jack on it!!

The great flag pole on the Waitangi Treaty grounds. The flags caused much debate in our family!

Charlie and his teddy “Furry Soft” inside the meeting house. This was built to balance out the overwhelming colonial presence at Waitangi, next to the Governor’s residence.

We stayed up at Puketi Forest where we had once lived in our bus (see “the bus trip”).  There is a great D.O.C hut there which we had booked.  (Department of Conversation).  The trip did become a bit of a “Oh do you remember that?”  and “this is where we…”  Mum was very tolerant!

Puketi Hut, sleeps 18! Gran and Charlie playing cards.

Tree huggers – one of the mighty Kauri trees at Puketi Forest. These amazing trees are truly giants and command a great respect.

Trying to see the top….

Keri Keri is a cool little town, well worth a visit.  We had a lovely walk along the river and a picnic by the Stone Store, the iconic building there.

Two nights in Maitai Bay followed, a beautiful golden arc of a beach with a DOC camp right on the beach.  We  walked  to the end of the peninsula, Charlie decamped to the beach with spade in hand and spent hours making defences against the sea.

Maitai Bay, KariKari Peninsula – not Rarotonga!!

Looking back from out on the peninsula.

Just so it is understood how beautiful it is…!

Then away and up to the very top of Aotearoa!  Cape Reinga now has toilets, parking, lovely landscaped walkways and information boards – oh and a post box!

I guess, like life, it is all a matter of perspective….
This is where the two seas meet – the Pacific and the Tasman. The sea churns and boils where the two sets of currents meet and clash, it is pretty dramatic especially on such a glorious day as we had.

The classic lighthouse-signpost-top of the country thing.

The coast sweeping west, the start of Te AraRoa – the Long Walk. I started it when I was 19 year old and then sprained my ankle 2 minutes in so abandoned it!!

Heading to our next camp we stopped for  a spot of sand dune boogie boarding – is there a technical name for this?  It was as though we had stepped into another world, a desert landscape at every turn.  It was stunning and surreal and heaps of fun as the boys surfed down again and again.

Ollie looking very Lawrence of Arabia as was fitting at the mighty Te Paki sand dunes about 20 drive from the Cape.`

Wayne in mid flight

This was the main hill we slid on, down to Te Paki stream. The dots are people.

Spirits Bay – KapoWairua has great significance to Maori as it is the launching place of Spirits as they leave on their journey to the spirit world.  I have been there a couple of times before and find it an incredibly alluring place that draws me back.  A huge and totally stunning beach, made up mostly of tiny orange and pink shells – I have a bottle of them from previous visits in our bathroom.

It was wild and wonderful! The colours intensely blue and golden and white….

And another wonderful, large DOC camp right there.    We managed to climb up onto an  island at low tide and had views right back along the sweeping beach.

On top of the island Ollie makes a very cosy bed out of the springy bracken. Spirits Bay out beyond him is huge, it takes two hours to walk along it!

The boys were like lion cubs, tumbling and play fighting at every chance – and there were many beaches and expanses of grass to do so. The favourite game was this Bull Game a type of wild rodeo ride. It was either this or full-on Tae Kwon Do mixed with play fights…. Mum and I would just be amused at such physicality and even though we tried to play fight once, rather half heartedly, we found that doing crosswords and eating chocolate were more to our liking!

More frolics at the incredibly white sanded beach, Rarawa Beach, on the way back down.

Through the beautiful Hokianga and crossing the huge harbour, way inland, by car ferry. This goes from the delightful Kohukohu (the sort of place I could live if I was taking a year off to write a book – and as Ollie pointed out it had a fire station and ambulance!) to Rawene. From there is it just a hop skip and a jump to the harbour entrance at Opononi.

Opononi was famous in the 1950’s when Opo, an incredibly friendly dolphin decided to spend everyday playing with the locals who would ride him, throw balls for him, pat him and generally delight in his presence.   The museum there has a very entertaining film from the summer, very dated now and quite amusing to watch for various reasons.  Worth a trip.  While at the museum we learned that the statue of Opo has been removed and amid much community debate is going to be re-cast in bronze.

Have a look at this!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSTozayartQ

We stayed in a “real” camp there, right on the beach still and had the most gorgeous sunset, I seem to have very few photos as was more concerned with the excitement of doing a load of washing!

This is the view from the camp of the entrance of the mighty Hokianga harbour. Beyond the gap you can see the white horses on the waves, whereas in the confines of the harbour the sea was smooth and flat. The Hokianga is known as an estuarine drowned valley and extends inland for 30 kms! Check out more about the area – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokianga

I need to also mention that for the duration of the trip Granny was self appointed “refuse officer”.  This meant while camping she sorted the rubbish – recycling, compost, landfill and then was responsible for getting rid of it.  She took her job very seriously, as befitting for a “R.O.”  and Charlie made her a badge…

Granny with her RO badge tucked behind her ear!

Imagine our RO’s joy upon arrival at Opononi to see a row of rubbish bins!! She could sort our rubbish to her heart’s content…..

Of course we popped in to see Tane Mahuta the undisputed King of all Kauri and of the forest – NZ’s largest Kauri tree!
Even while taking photots for other tourists and finding out where they came from Tane was as awe inspiring as ever, like all Kauri.

Impossible to capture the size really…..

Nearly there!

Just have to mention Goat island!  Very cool part of the world, out through twee and funky Matakana, and “music-central” Leigh, the end of the road takes you to Goat Island which is a marine reserve. A tiny island, only spitting distance from shore, which you can snorkel around, take out kayaks (even glass bottomed ones!) or a boat tour, all of which, along with hostel, and labs belonging to  Auckland University are found at the road end.

Goat Island! The weather didn’t inspire us to try snorkeling, but we will return in the summer.

The rocky shore stretching out at low tide, you can imagine how fantastic it would be to snorkel over.

Just before the end of the road you will find Goat Island Camping a lovely place to stay with views over the whole area. We stayed in one of these funky caravans.

They also had very cute little cabins to stay in…Very cute!

Moving on we had hot thermal swims and slides at Waiwera, pizza and kebabs at Orewa (sounding a bit like a song isn’t it…?) then a last night with our big kids in Hamilton.

It is always so inspiring to  hang out with them.  Dane is managing the temporary ice rink, so the boys all went ice skating.  Kim took the night off work from Chim Choo Ree to hang out with us.

Us girls…Lucy, (Dane’s partner) me and Kim. I always find it slightly confusing as I feel 25 inside still, yet these two actually are in their mid twenties. Strange.

Kim (currently ginger…)and Wayne. I know it is blurry – sorry! (one of the kids took it).

It seemed at though we were away for ages as we did so much.  It took a day of feeling resistant to getting home and all that entails, then I felt thrown back in to  our life and our lovely community, like a big warm embrace.  And that was a good feeling.

coffee and kayaking

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We have been away on an  adventure to the far north of our beautiful country.

First stop was to meet Lucy’s family (Lucy is Dane’s partner, our eldest).Lily and Ron own a gorgeous, luxury Bed and Breakfast in Taurikura bay, that is out at Whangarei Heads.  Lily is also principal and the most gorgeous little school there, tucked under Mount Manaia.

Check out “Shores”    http://shoresaccommodation.co.nz/.

They were such amazing hosts, and now part of our extended family, we had a wonderful time.  Gorgeous walks, beautiful beaches, kayaking, the regulation ukulele playing and heaps of yummy food.

For Charlie the absolute highlight was the coffee machine!  His eyes lit up and after a couple of lessons, he was never far from it, and amazingly had plenty of orders to keep him busy and totally happy.  He was a whizz.  He set up a shop and had prices for each type of coffee, tea, hot chocolate etc.  He  kept a running total for each of us – 8 thirsty customers and was in his element.  It was so lovely of Lilly and Ron to be so accepting and supportive of an 8 year old having free reign of the kitchen and letting him take over.  What a fantastic experience for Charlie.

Charlie as Barista and loving it!

Lucy with one of Charlie’s super-dooper creations!
This one had marshmellows and chocolate chips on the top I think…..

We had a gorgeous walk over to Smugglers Bay, via some old gun placements at the harbour entrance.

Up at the Bream Head Battery, right at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour. The old bunkers and gun placements left over from WWll were fascinating and well placed at the start of a gorgeous walk over the hill to Smugglers bay!

Beautifully restored, handpainted signal flags used in WWll inside the lookout bunker.

Running down the big sand dunes at Ocean Beach, just a 5 minute drive away

Bit of a sing along with Lily and Ron, Charlie and me on ukulele.

 

Kayaking on the bay – real mix of rural, beachy and ultra dramatic with the towering Mount Manaia – which unbelievable I didn’t even photograph…

Having Lucy in our family and meeting her wonderful family (most of them) just confirms my belief that the world is full of amazing people  just waiting to to meet you!