Monday, December 14, 2015

More Thoughts on Natural Learing

As we progress through our home education experience, we still continue to use structure and natural learning as a blend for our learning experiences.  Increasingly throughout my life, I've come to value balance- finding the middle view and how to bring that to life.  It seems to me, that so many things that humans do are out of balance; it seems to be an all or nothing approach, success or failure, healthy food or junk food, etc, etc.  As complex creatures we have the ability to be many faceted, to be able to define ourselves by our own rules and intuition, to honour our own voices and our own journey.

The longer I have home educated the more this is important, but so is belonging and fitting in and knowing when it's appropriate to break or bend the rules.  Individualism has been taken too far IMO, and has lead to people feeling isolated and lacking in connection.  Around here our main focus of home education has always been family, but I understand it as a goal more clearly now, than I did when starting out on this journey around 10years ago.  We regularly discuss how to be an individual whilst still being a part of the group; how to support family and still be oneself?  How to express one's inner ness and still be connected outwardly.  To me these are important components in creating a balanced home education experience, and that family must always be at the core.  So as part of that, each and every person in my family has value, no one or other greater than any individual.  As an example since I am the person that manages the education and the home, I have a need for a peaceful and tidy home.  I'm more relaxed and better at focusing on everyone when our home feels and looks tidy.  So this is a priority that needs to be achieved- everyone takes part in home loving day (this year on Fridays) so that as a group we have a more peaceful life because I feel supported with our home and keeping it tidy, and as individuals we need to learn how to take care of ourselves.  Various members of the family have jobs to do during the week to help maintain the comfort of our home, and make sure home loving day doesn't become too enormous.

The more I consider natural learning in this sense, part of me feels that as a society we lost our way over the last 60-100years.  Day in day out at home children would have once learnt all sorts of useful life skills from their parents taking care of the home.  Modern natural learning, seems to me to still be pre-occupied in many cases, that the parents cannot teach the children anything, and that everything must be about the child's interests without regard for the fact that there are some skills that the child must learn for a healthful and useful life.  Perhaps in the early 1900s everyone was totally overburdened with the level of tasks that needed to be done to survive, but we now have an alternative extreme where there are few too tasks to be done that have meaning, and it seems to me that a life without meaning is filled with disillusion.  For me the structure of home ed, balanced with natural learning and following a Steiner path returned meaning to my life.  Thus for me, a balanced approach is still both, some natural learning and some Steiner.

As my two oldest go through the high school years, we are taking a more unschooling approach; as I guide them towards fulfilling their dreams.  However for me I feel satisfied that they are capable young people who can care for themselves in the world, and without any structure in the early years, I feel certain that we would not have achieved that as a family.  Both Willow and Gabriel are able to cook lovely meals, competently clean the house, babysit, do a variety of crafts, as well as follow their own interests- for them both  there is a love of circus, Willow has a passion for writing and music and Gabriel has a passion for gaming and finacial systems.  I feel like I have given them a solid basis as adults going out into the world, one where they have an understanding of how to support themselves, and how to look for support and guidance when it's needed, from that basis I feel that it's easier to then follow one's own interests, as the basics are covered.  I guess I see a lot of Steiner early education being on par with teaching a small child to use the toilet, be polite, eat a meal with the family.

With Arden I feel much more competent in regards to the journey, I know what's expected of Steiner education up through the primary years,and he's naturally guided towards various goals of the curriculum through our day to day life.  This year aged 7 1/2 he desired to have his own dinner night, as Willow and Gabriel do,  but due to our youngest , only being 2 1/2 I felt that I didn't have time to support that, but Dad (Damien) did.  In terms of Steiner education, this was perfect as we are approaching class 3- with it's focus on taking care of oneself- and it was linking naturally into life, because as a family we now have a solid base of understanding where we are going.  Something that was definitely absent in the early years of our home educating.

In case anyone's interested, these are some thoughts I had on natural learning, earlier through our home ed journey.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Excitng Times Ahead

We have quite a week coming up.  This week sees our annual homeschool review, Willow's audition at WAAPA, Arden's 8th Birthday, the Perth Christmas Pageant (it will be Arden's first time in it) and the Perth Screening of "Class Dismissed".

For anyone else that might happen to be in Perth-here's the facebook link to the event.
Otherwise here's a link to their webpage.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekend Fun

Willow finished her halloween skirt just in time for  our afternoon out to see WASO Perform music from Harry Potter.  The performance was wonderful and doubly fun, as it was our first formal concert to take Irving to.  He did very well during the concert.

Willow's skirt.

We had a rather hectic Halloween weekend out and about at various events around the city.  Saturday we went to a live performance of the radio show of "War of the Worlds" as well as a brief stint of rockabilly dancing, followed up by  watching "The Goonies".  Sunday we headed to the Harry Potter concert, stopped for a drink at Hula Bula bar after and in the evening watched the 1958 version of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" in the city.

Willow has been very busy participating in NaNoWriMo again this time.  Arden has been inspired by the idea of writing, and is now also carrying a notebook with him everywhere. 

Gabriel spent a lot of Saturday at Games Workshop; painting for their Halloween competition.  He was *very* excited when we met up later in the day as he came equal first in the competition!

Gabriel's ghostly figure.

The sets that he won.

Finally today we received our new washing machine.  We haven't had a front loader in years.  Our two smallest people have been fascinated.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Some recent occurences

Arden and I have been reading some Aesop's fables; and we've also been doing some modelling.  Here are some of our characters from "the Lion and the Mouse."

Arden and I were busy form drawing when Irving decided to get involved- form drawing and balancing!

Gabriel has been doing some baking.  Learning to make pretzels, as part of his geography block on Europe.  They've been delicious!

Gabriel's zebra project is finally taking form.  Now he's onto the detail stage- hair,eyes,etc.

I've been learning to sew my own bras; version 1 on the left was to get familiar with the process, version 2 on the very right came together nicely in the end, and I'm currently finishing the gingham one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vintage halloween skirt

Willow has been very busy working on her sewing project the last few days.  A pleated full skirt using a vintage pattern we picked up off ebay.  She's being particularly dedicated to it, as she picked up a yellow spider and star fabric to wear it on Halloween.(Here's the fabric and skirt pattern.)

And since Halloween (Here's the finished product!)

Both of us are still in our early days of machine sewing- I've been busy sewing bullet bras recently.  I'm currently doing my 3rd one- first one was just to get the feel for doing it, second one came out mostly as I hoped but I think I need a wider bra strap, and now I'm onto an orange gingham version(I'm hoping to *never* buy a shop bra again) and it turns out the bullet bra is incredibly comfortable.  I take a DD cup so this is important IMO.

Anway Willow is busy sewing pleats and needed some advice about basting.  In my brief internet search I came across this pattern, and I must say I love this scissor pleat skirt!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Timetables part 2

In our first year of home education we were using a pack from a Queensland Steiner school.  From what I understand it was their year 1 curriculum packaged up for use at home.  For my first year of home education this was great, as I was quite of the mindset that I needed someone else to teach my child and that I didn't know how.

Early days- exploring Regent Gardens in London.

Buying a pack that told me how to gave me confidence and guidance for finding a place to start.  I was already interested in Steiner education, from my experience working in natural skin care, and coming across Dr Haushka and learning about biodynamics and eventually coming across Rudolf Steiner.  The pack gave me somewhere to start;guidance with music, circle time, main lesson and craft.  Willow was 6 and Gabriel, 4, we did a lot of it together with Gabriel joining in the best he could. We had a lot of fun, and  very much did school at home, except in a more relaxed playful way.

When home educating became a permanent decision, on return to Adelaide, my first thought was to return to a kit.  However with a bit of searching I started finding resources and then I came across Shining Star school and their Waldorf Home Educators page.  Mrs M (who manages the page) shared so many wonderful resources that I felt that I could use her information and pull a plan together, and so for grade 2, that is what I did.

Exploring the parklands in Adelaide

In the early days I was quite regimented about sticking to her plan, I felt quite impatient to do everything!  However as time progressed, I started to relax as I came to realise that there was a time,place and season for everything and that we could fit in different work in different years.  (We also largely hung out with unschoolers in Adelaide, who frequently went on about "doing nothing" at that time and I share my feelings on unschooling here- for me my attitude to this has not changed over the years, though I am more relaxed now).  I also came to realise that I could create my own lesson plans, and that sometimes new opportunities that I had been wondering about quietly fell into place as we lived life.

Afternoon tea stall by Willow at our friend's garage sale- early foray into how to make some money. 

For the remainder of our second year home educating we followed a very similar rhythm to our first year- circle time, main lesson, craft.  Thursday was our outing day whilst we were settling into home education becoming a lifestyle decision.  Our third year was much more chaotic- Arden was born- and we did things as we could manage them.  There was a time early on when we were at home more, and we followed what I now refer to as baby rhythm.  We worked to Arden's needs and we fitted around him.  As he grew our need to structure the day around him became less and less, and we settled back into a rhythm closer to our early days.

One of our favourite places in Adelaide- Botanic Park- and particularly the Moretan Bay Fig trees

Hanging out with Alice in Rymill Park

Much of our work took place around the kitchen table, or in the garden, or at the coffee table.  We, as many home educators will tell you, became educate in pyjamas sorts of people (except for me).  I still joke that we really need to buy more pyjamas than clothes.

Kindy in the kitchen-learning to count eggs

When we moved to Perth, we started doing more classes, and this changed our daily rhythm a bit.  By this time Arden was getting bigger, so there was more time for me again, and some time for quiet each morning which was lovely.  By the time Arden was 4 3/4 I was pregnant again.  At this stage Willow was 13 and we were heading towards more self-directed learning.  We spent a couple of  years doing subjects when it suited everyone, and we gave up circle time (as Arden was not very enthusiastic for it) and with baby rhythm back in place with Irving's birth I found it easier for me to manage if we were all at least doing more or less the same work.  (I was starting to feel a little crazy jumping from craft to baby to english to baby to maths to baby,etc, etc) and so we came up with the plan of start the day with music, maths, lunch, main lesson, and craft.  This helped me feel much more grounded and centred and so made life calmer for everyone.

Arden was very pleased to discover Arden St near our home in East Perth.

Our first connection with the Swing music and dance scene in Perth- heading out for dinner and we found a great Swing band and live dancing!

That said this experience was brief for everyone and at the beginning of this year,  Willow and I sat down and came up with a plan for her to meet the requirements of the national curriculum and to cover all the musical work that she needed to do to get up to an adequate level to do further musical study.  We created some guidelines and divided up her work over the year, and on the whole I have acted as manager whilst she has got on with managing where she needs to be during the week and what she needs to do when.  It has been a very positive experience in learning how to manage time and projects to achieve goals whilst balancing free time and other interests.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


We've had a couple of fun weeks here doing woodwork with Greg from the Joy of Wood. 

Irving and I spent quite a bit of time wandering around a nearby lake in Canningvale whilst Gabriel and Arden did woodwork.  This was Arden's first lot of woodwork classes and he totally loved it.

Hanging out at the lake

Gabriel's step seat.

Arden's step seat.

Arden's planter box.

Friday, October 9, 2015


Over the last portion of term 3 Arden and I worked on a block about the elements.  We did lots of activities out of Earth, Air, Fire and Water- some with better success than others but all of them were interesting and fun.

Here we are selecting cotton spools to try running on a slopey surface.

Trying our rolling the cotton spools and seeing if we can get any of them to rewind back up.

Here we are selecting crystals to float- seeing how many and what sort we can put in before our boat sinks.

We made a basic waterwheel.  This was lots of fun and we're thinking of doing a better quality one.  (This was done whilst Irving was napping- so we were aiming to be quick!)

This was the start of our shadow puppet theatre.

Trying out with the light

Adding some scenery.  Later in the evening we had a full puppet show- featuring a serious of sea creatures and other animals that Arden created.

Arden had been continuing to work on his crocheting skills. so he and I worked on creating pentagon dishcloths.  This is my dishcloth.

Here is Arden's.

Arden has found crocheting a bit trickier than knitting, so we have decided to take a break from it for now and we are doing some more knitting.  Presently he is follow a pattern to make a knitted monster, and I am looking at doing a vintage roll-neck top with beading.

Arden and I finished the term working on Aesop's fables; doing some written work and practising his cursive, as well as doing some modelling.  Irving really enjoyed getting into this too.

Gabriel has continued to work on his zebra out of zebra fabric!  It has progressed a bit since here and he is hoping to finish it soon, and work at making a hand-sewn tie.

Willow is getting ready to make herself a Halloween circle skirt.  She selected this creepy fabric :)

And this is the pattern she is following.

I'm in the process of trying to make myself a vintage bra out of one of Damien's old cotton shirts.  I'm following the pattern from VaVoomVintage, hopefully my first try will be a success, but I'm realistic that there are a few skills in this that are new to me.                                                                             

Here we have an interlude into some spontaneous science.  My smartrider broke- so we chopped it into pieces looking for the chip- which is in the right of the picture.

Willow spent the last term working on science- reading about natural fertility  in the first half, and learn about immunity and eugenics, genetics and Francis Galton in the second half. Gabriel has also been working on science and has been looking at carbohydrates, sugars and proteins.  He's finishing off a block on European geography right now.

 When we headed to Fremantle to pick up everyone's pottery, we made a day of it and visited their gallery and the Maritime museum.  The Arts centre had a lovely Indian exhibition of fabric.

A kit for Indigo dying and making Jeans.

 We stopped for a look at the Submarine, before heading in to see the Pearl exhibit which was both beautiful and interesting.

Currently we're on holdiays- and enjoying the pleasant spring weather as well as trying to get through a few things.  Willow applied to attend WAAPA last week- she is hoping to get into a Diploma in Classical Voice next year- and we've been rushing around madly getting things sorted for it.  Gabriel had some basketball classes last week.  This week we headed to the Awesome Festival and went to The Exhibit on Lynley Dodd

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Pottery from our excursions to Fremantle arts Centre.  Arden tried out a basic pottery class whilst Willow and Gabriel went to use the spinning wheel.

Arden's work

Willow's work

Gabriel's work

Timetables part 1

In 2006 when I first started homeschooling I thought our homeschooling experience would be a year out of school whilst travelling back to Australia- something convenient and useful to make our transition back into school easier.  We started the year in Glasgow, Scotland (our home at the time), spent some time in London, and approx 2 months in Paris before arriving back in Adelaide in June.  It was a fabulous 6months of travelling, and over that time I came to love learning as a family.  (This process had really begun when we left Adelaide in 2004).  Not really knowing anything about home education; other than my sister-in-law had started educating her kids, I felt that I needed a curriculum on how to do it.  My SIL recommended a Steiner curriculum (that she was using) and we followed that 5 days a week for grade 1.  ( Willow had been attending the Glasgow steiner school's kinde class the previous year).  We spent that first year home educating in Glasgow, Paris and Adelaide.  We were all enjoying it, and I was finding it was bringing our family closer together.

Learning in Paris

At musee d'orsay

Off to see Monet

When we settled back into living in Adelaide, for various reasons, although we'd come to love home educating at the end of year 1, we found a school to send Willow to.  Sadly after a brief stint in one school (Willow normally ridiculously talkative was saying almost nothing after school), we tried a second school where even Gabriel was commenting at pick-up time that he didn't want to go there!  (There was issues with bullying).  During our six months in school-  I connected into the home education community in Adelaide and by the time the second term was coming to an end we decided that school was not worth the trouble, and that we had a much more pleasant time home educating.

Initially I felt that I would buy a grade 2 pack to help me with home education, but as I settled back into the idea of it, I realised that I mostly knew where Willow was up to with her work, and that maybe with some guidance I could figure it out myself.  In my hunting around I came across Shining Star school in Portland, and discovered the wonderful Mrs M. who shared knowledge and files on how to create one's own plan for home education.  In the early days we still stuck to doing 5 days- but gradually we transitioned to 4 days (as we went out once a fortnight on home education outings) and finally we settled on 3 as we found it best to have a home loving day and a catch up with other home educators.

For years now, we have more or less stuck with that arrangement, though presently due to be busy with Irving, we also do a half day of craft, as we have been struggling to fit it in during our other three days.  The biggest adjustment to our weekly rhythms has always been the time when a new baby has arrived, and this has involved adjusting how we work, and due to the ages of the children some great lessons on how to take care of babies!

As people have gotten older we've also added in extra classes here and there for things that we haven't personally got the skills to teach.  Initially when we arrived back from Europe, we did some French lessons (as Willow in particular had been picking up a bit of French whilst we were there), eventually we added in music lessons and sport lessons.  Otherwise we've done some one off classes such as woodwork, science, gardening.  We also attend a lot of arts events as Willow is interested in a career in classical music, and to cater to our desire to live learning as well as do some structured rhythms - we tend to have quite extended holidays (we used to take 3months over summer, and follow the general Australian holidays, now we take 3months over Summer, 2 weeks at Autumn, 6weeks over Winter and 2 weeks in Spring.)  This gives lots of down time for people to be unstructured.

That said we are now at the stage where Willow has been managing her own time and work, and Gabriel is heading that direction.  Willow, Damien and I have discussions and regular catch ups to discuss where Willow's work is at, and anything that requires review from us (such as essays, or written pieces is looked over together, discussed and reviewed until it is at a satisfactory level).  We've found many benefits in this scenario and lots of learning happening for all of us- but ultimately Willow is learning how to manage when and where and what she is doing all week.