Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holidays in la la land

Hopefully I'll be back with something interesting to say soon.  I have things to say now (about soccer, music, FBI, unit studies, bike riding, beaches and ... what else?)  It's just that my thoughts are kind of lost in the crush of busy days.  Oh yes, and I can't seem to string together a coherent sentence.

We've been sick with a sore throat, headache and swollen glands virus.  It has rendered me tired and without much intelligence to spare.  The kids and Pete are like me, up and down, so we're always juggling each other's moods and needs.  We're doing better than simply surviving each day, but I don't feel completely conscious.  It's a dreamy, happy but odd existence.

As a result, our fortnight of school holidays have effectively morphed into a month off (aside from the life-learning which of course, thankfully continues).  We've cancelled some activities when we all felt lousy, then really enjoyed others when we had a burst of energy.  Energy is a fickle thing at present.

And now for another holiday!!  We've just decided to go away for a week or part thereof ... heading north of course, to escape the bone-aching coldness which is creeping in each night.  Hooray!

See you again once we're back to normal (whatever normal is)!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comparing the incomparable

The backstory:  
Last week we went to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.  There are so many exhibits for the kids to interact with, so of course it's a fun place to go.  But I was stuck in a black cloud.  Pretty rare these days, but we were all out of sorts for a week after eating chocolate for a week!  For starters, I couldn't decide what to wear, because it had been raining so my jeans would drag in the puddles and I'd be wet all day.  Like it was the end of the world!  So then I was also ashamed of being so ... human?  Luckily Pete had enough patience for both of us, and with some prayer I was strong enough to soldier on, so we eventually all got in the car and set out for our adventure.  The kids had fun.

I survived the day and most importantly of all (just kidding) I have since bought some rainy-day jeans which don't drag in puddles.  Thankfully, I also found my sense of humour and smile again!

The journey:
I'm not actually comparing the incomparable ... I just liked the way that sounded.  It's really just me rambling!

So back to the drive through Sydney.  I'm not a city person ... I feel sorry for all those rushing, striving people (even though I know lots of them probably love it)!  But I'm always curious, intrigued and a little over-awed when I see big boarding schools, like Knox, Kings and Abbotsleigh.  I have often thought, hypothetically, about being a teacher or student there, comparing it to my small-town, public school experience.  This time when we drove past the private schools, I was imagining what it would be like to send our kids, our precious little darlings, there.  Into the big brick abyss.  I may as well have been looking for a rental home in an African zoo!  I just couldn't imagine it for us, nor begin to comprehend how people do it.

Now, I know that many people have no choice (at least none that they can see).  And that many others see these places as the ultimate educational environment for their children.  I also know the many virtues these schools claim for their attendees ... I have taught in one (though thankfully it was an old-fashioned country one, but still poles apart from my humble, happy childhood).  Tradition, social graces, academic excellence, sports, diverse subjects ... there is a lot of opportunity for children to have amazing experiences, find their talents and excel in every way, reach their potential and conquer the world.  And many do!!

But imagining MY kids there?  I couldn't form a mental picture of it.  These schools are so BIG, so SCHEDULED and PRESCRIBED.

Elite, private schools are not even the point really ... if I WAS enrolling my kids in school, it would have to be a small, family-like one, which probably doesn't exist yet, except perhaps in Finland or Sweden (a long commute from our island home, Australia).

The conclusion:
Perhaps it's a forgone conclusion, and of course it's not a revelation or lightning bolt moment.  My kids belong with me and other people who know and love them ... at home, in the park, library, rockpools, on a riverbank or in the bush.  I don't mind if they're missing the opportunities offered by public or private school education ... they're too busy living to care (!) and I have complete confidence they will one day know who they are and reach whatever goals they set.  I love the freedom we've chosen.  We explore overgrown paths, follow rabbit trails and marvel at shooting stars.  We learn wonderful and fascinating things about the world, ourselves and all kinds of subjects.  Not in the sequential, orderly way that schools often choose.  It's noisy, random and messy.

I'm not trying to be definitive or comprehensive ... just thinking aloud.  Here are some of the educational values I find important:

*  Inspire, challenge, trust, share
*  Provide a rich and varied diet for kids to taste and feast on
*  Children are people, individuals, the future, becoming who they are
*  Balance freedom and boundaries, always with love and respect
*  Time is a gift, not to be wasted or hurried
*  Nurture creativity, live in colour, discover rainbows
*  My children are explorers, but can ask for directions any time they like

I don't pretend to have all the answers.  We're not perfect.  I'm not claiming these values are unique to home ed, that all school is bad or all home ed is good.  I'm just reflecting, and I'm really thankful for our freedom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Backyard signs

Like many children, my son is enthralled by excavators, backhoes, cranes and other work vehicles.  Worksites, heavy vehicle yards, construction vehicle shops ... he would look, explore and talk for hours!

As he plays for hours in the gravel in our backyard, a sit-on excavator (not shown but gleefully received) was the perfect toy.  Well, the best would have been a REAL mini-backhoe, but we have neither the budget nor the space for one of those (and perhaps he's just a little to young).

To add to the fun and make the mess construction zone look more intentional, I decided to make him a few wooden signs.  We gave him a few for Christmas, but have only just finished mounting them (it doesn't matter, Elijah loved helping his dad with the drilling and cementing).

The signs are each set in an icecream tub of cement, so they don't fall over, but the children can move them to suit their purpose.  One is a blank canvas of chalkboard paint ... so far it has displayed 'bus stop', 'one way' with an arrow, 'fun this way' and 'work vehicles only'.  Jumbo chalk completes the picture, for drawing roads and zebra crossings all over the pavers.

More home-made, open-ended fun!