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DIY, Thrifty

Easy DIY Cloud Shelf (Yurt Life)

2 December, 2014

I haven’t done much DIY for a while – but when I began imagining a shelf that looks like a cloud I couldn’t hold back. (Ah, bladdy Pinterest kinda beat me to it. Remember the pre-Pinterest days, when you believed you’d invented everything?)

Anyway this cloud shelf filled my dreams. It would be like a cloud, floating on my wall. AWESOME.

“Hold me back, man…Where’s the jigsaw? WHERE’S THE JIGSAW HOLD ME BACK.”

You know I love a novelty shelf.

Exhibit A – shelf made out of a vintage suitcase.

Exhibit B – shelf made out of a book.

Shelves are expensive, and so are brackets. Even second hand ones. So why not just DIY something out of stuff you have lying around that is also just a little bit more beauty than a plank of wood, too? Why not, eh?

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

It was my first time using a jigsaw, and, my word, those things are flipping cool as. I felt like the world was my oyster, with that in my hand. I just pencilled the shape of a cloud onto a bit of MDF and then flipped the switch and buzzed it out. I started nervously and then I could see the bumps and turns forming under the saw. Ten minutes later I was holding a cloud in my hand.

*God complex*

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

Once I had the cloud shape – drawn so that the open bit fitted perfectly onto an existing box I had (an old wine crate would actually be ideal.) I then glue gunned it on. Because the cloud shape is just a facade it really doesn’t need a sturdier fixing than that. Glue gunning it also meant I avoided having nails on show. A few licks of  white paint made it the perfect canvas for my brightly coloured shelf occupants.

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

I used wire around the box to hang in on the trellis of the yurt. But you could equally just hang in on a nail.

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Then I filled it with my favourite little bits and pieces.

There is no coming back from this. Jigsawing out a shelf for every whim and fancy. A shelf representing every one of my favourite things. I could make a rainbow shelf! A shelf like a fox! A GOSH DARN FRIED EGG SHELF!

And I know I will never have a plank of wood for a shelf again.

Family Travel, Parenting, Thrifty

Yurt Sweet Yurt – Family Life under Canvas

8 April, 2014

Yurt Sweet Yurt – Family Life under Canvas

Waking up with something crawling on my face has pretty much been a lifelong fear of mine. A fear that was finally realised last Wednesday when a tickling sensation on my cheek pulled me from my dream (my dream was probably about sleep – both my day time and night time reveries are basically about getting more sleep…)

I pulled the tickling thing off my face and flung it on to the floor, I hunkered under the duvet and begged my dream to return quickly, quickly, quickly. But it was too late, I was wide awake and needed to know what the Thing was.  I grabbed the torch and peered under the bed.

I was actually relieved to find an enormous Praying Mantis. Far, far better to have a goggle eyed, try hard stick insect having his devout way with my face than his cruel, shiny black scurrying cousin, the Cockroach.

We have a lot of cockroaches and other members of the insect community in our place. ALOT. There isn’t much you can do when the outside is so inside, y’know? Little cracks where the canvas wall meets the floor and gaping holes in the tree house kitchen. There are some serious blurred lines between our home and nature right now. family living in a yurt

If the rest of it wasn’t so darn perfect it would definitely be too much.

family living in a yurt

But fortunately (unfortunately?) we LOVE living here.

We love the yurt which feels like an almost sacred space with it’s circular fluidity. The few things we lugged over from England just fit in it so ideally. The look is retro-yoga-retreat-chic, yeah.Yurt Life

We actually love having nature all up in our grills. We spend 90% of most days outside, which is what life is meant to be like I think. It is still HOT here so we eat our meals on the deck. Both the girls have swings that fly off the deck too.living in a yurt

We have a sort of kitchen cabin off the deck, and through that an old caravan which has become a bit of a play / craft room. We don’t have a bathroom (we smell more than usual) and have a little walk to the composting loo which takes a bit of getting used to.
living in a yurt

We love living cooperatively with the other two families on the farm. It is making us fairly certain that we want this community life for our family.living in a yurt

We are surrounded by these little native owls called Moreporks and they sing us to sleep cooing “morepork! morepork!” There are plenty of nocturnal possums too but they have an unwelcome, evil witch cackle.family living in a yurt

We love milking the cow (Yep! I am rubbish at it as I have way too much empathy) and collecting the chicken eggs and eating whole meals with 0 food miles. family life yurt

We will have to see how we get on with the winter. It will involve waking in the night to put a log on the pot belly stove and pinning up wooly stuff all over the inside to insulate. It will be cold but hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, eh? We will be so jolly hardy by the end of it.family living in a yurt

I just need to be more assertive and get on less intimate terms with the local bugs.

unschooling

Beginning to Unschool (Why We Chose Unschooling)

27 March, 2014

Beginning to Unschool

We are spending almost everyday just hanging around the farm we live on at the moment. We slog up the paddock to feed the chickens and Ramona climbs into their coop to collect the eggs. We pick up the other kids and take a for walk to visit the cows. We forage for chestnuts and roast them. Ramona swings, bounces, negotiates games with the kids. She bakes biscuits, she plants flowers and we read. She paints her whole arm blue, they all watch a movie then they set a rat trap.

It is life and it is learning and it is Ramona’s school.

State school is the only right education for a left wing family, right?
I have always known that my children would go to school. My socialist lean towards good state schools for the masses grew alongside my awareness that I would one day have children that would attend them.

I just knew that the only way schools could meet the needs of a whole community was if all members of that community, rather than the poorest who couldn’t do better, supported them. Even as a teenager I scoffed at Labour politicians who educated their kids privately.

This was despite ALWAYS hating school myself. I was bullied for most of my primary school years and spent ALOT of my secondary school years absent- lazing about the beach getting a well good suntan (I’d come home and shake the sand out of my bag and mum would sigh and ask “Good day at school, Lu?!”) or playing Snake on my Nokia on the back row of desks. (I was a champion at Snake.)

Since actually having children, like so many of my opinions, I have changed my mind.

Beginning to Unschool (Why we chose autonomous learning)

Beginning to Unschool (Why we chose autonomous learning)

A child has a natural instinct and ability to learn
I first questioned our faith in our education system when I read about one of my favourite authors lack of ability/desire to read until she was eleven, at which stage she taught herself and began reading and writing novels ferociously. She didn’t go to school, she simply hung about with other kids at their commune. WHAAAT? People can become successful novelists without school?

I began reading up on children’s development and learning and I began to trust that intuition I had about my child’s natural ability to learn.

It was through reading John Holt’s “How Children Learn” that I found my instincts shored up. Through spending time with Ramona I had become fairly convinced that her curiosity and sponge – like mind was enough of a combination to give her all the learning she would ever need in life. Just like I *never* taught her how to speak (really; we never once corrected her talking or pronounced items to her, we simply spoke to her a lot) I became sure that she wouldn’t have to be taught anything.

The times that I tried to teach her stuff fell flat on their face- for example, when we found her a secondhand scooter and I tried to show her how to turn it and use the brake. She completely ignored me and continued to use it all wrong but then one day, about a year later, she was just ready and she got it out and in the space of half an hour could turn and brake, and charge WAY TOO FAST down massive hills, just like a pro. All without a peep of advice.

Through John Holt I discovered hundreds of examples from home life and the classroom (he was a teacher for many years) of children taking their own learning into their own hands and discovering SO MUCH. And most of all, delighting in it.

Unschooling Blog

I actually feel sad that for most of my life learning for me has been completely devoid of joy. It was only when I was 17 and went to college, where I was given a choice of subjects, and crucially, an enormous amount of autonomy, that I discovered how much I loved to learn. And then, despite not knowing any algebra, or even knowing what different clouds are, or who was the reigning king in 1703, because I was far too busy mastering Snake, I went on to become a fully functioning adult! And I got A-levels, and then a diploma, then a Bachelor of Arts and then a Master of Science!

As soon as adult-led, compulsory education got out of my life I fell in love with learning.

I feel that for far too much of the time an adult’s interruption in a child’s learning process actually hinders that learning. That we try to teach something in a little box , the boxes that all our schooled, adult minds work within, and the child then learns to put that discovery in to a box, rather than what they were originally going to do with it which was probably explosively creative and intelligent and linked up to all other bits of knowledge they have in their amazing brains.

With a nurturing, supportive environment children are fully able to complete their own learning journey.

The term for all of this? Unschooling.

Unschooling - delight driven learning

Unschooling – delight driven learning

Unschool in every part of life
I recently realised that we have always been unschooling. For unschooling isn’t just “Not sending children to school” – it is really a whole life philosophy of trusting children. Trusting their own natural learning process but also trusting things like their eating (Baby Led Weaning is a great example of unschooling with a baby!) and their sleeping and their playing.

A few weeks ago we trundled along in big old Bert (our bus) to the New Zealand Unschooling Retreat. We bowled in through the gates and found a whole field full of tents, the whole place strung up with flags and a big craft marquee in the middle. (It is what heaven is like.) There were way more people then I thought would be there and we met so many people on this journey. Most unschoolers I knew by then were through online forums like Facebook groups- and the internet can be quite a polarising, angsty place, eh? To meet unschoolers in real life and to see how gracious and understanding and embracing they were was awesome.

And to spend time with so many families who work outside of the common control based relationship that can define quite a lot of other families made us feel normal!

Beginning Unschooling - delight driven learning

It really did feel different to another gathering of families. There were no threats called across the fields, no bribery at the shared dinner, some kids up as late as the adults, all kids treated with as much respect as the parents.

It was a sort of mini utopia of peaceful adult- children interaction, a place where the children were autonomous and the adults supportive.

Here is a video from the latest unschooling retreat from a whole bunch of people who unschool:

School’s out for… Ever?
And I guess that’s the funny thing… It is fully possible to be an unschooling family whilst having children at school. Some parents will do all this stuff- this trusting their child, communicating respectfully, allowing full autonomy- but not feel able to have their children at home full time, or their children will even choose to go to school.

If you encourage the sparks you see in your child’s eyes, give opportunities for them to dig deep into the things they love, and give them space from pressures to read and add and write then you are unschooling, even if the go to school.

We have heard of a local preschool that is completely child-led and even have one full day in the local woods and we have begun thinking about Ramona going there for a day or two. She LOVES hanging out with other kids without us and I think she would thrive.

And if we manage to set up a Forest School ever, then we would happily send the girls there – that is basically unschooling under trees!

But I do feel that at this stage, a classroom led by adults where tests and homework and a disjointed curriculum are not for us.

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If you unschool you are laying the groundwork for utopia
And I guess I am left with the same question I began with. Can you really be a lefty and unschool? Are we not ditching the rest of society? Being uncaring about the state of state schools?

The way I see it is that ultimately schools *will* get there. They *will* eventually understand and put into practice the fact that a child’s learning journey is best undertaken free from pressure and that a child has the right to be treated respectfully and given autonomy. It might take a while but eventually schools will be up to it. (There are already some amazing schools in Germany; Democratic Schools and Forest Schools that look this way and preschools sometimes practice this stuff.)

We are on the cusp of a movement that will allow children freedom and rights and responsibility. But to get there we need families already acting in this way.

The Unschool Life is part of the movement – by supporting natural learning and respecting the full rights of children we are revealing it! We are saying “this can be done!” And we are building a world where schools can too.

So long term I am becoming convinced that choosing to unschool is one path to a socially just society. (Which is what all us raving commies want, eh?)

Have you heard of this unschool malarkey? Do you do it in parts or fully? Would love to hear from you. (I don’t have much internet in my life so can’t reply to each comment but I do want you to know I read and value each one.)

Further Reading:
Our Muddy Boots– I love this radical, free family life blog.
Sandra Dodd– one of the very first people who ever put into words my instinct for unschooling
Joyfully rejoicing– be challenged and get excited about all the potential!
Unschoolery.com – short snippets of inspo

 

So for others thinking about whether to unschool or not – take it slow, find a tribe, and consider the holistic, life approach to learning.

Further unschool reading on this blog: What is unschooling?

Feminism

Annual International Women’s Day Link Up

5 March, 2014

Calling all bloggers!

Who are the women who have inspired YOU to change?

What are the most exciting projects happening that are changing the face of equality?

What issue facing women do you most want to see serious change on?

It is International Women’s Day on Saturday, 8th March, and once again I would love you to blog on the topic INSPIRING CHANGE and come over here and link your blog up.

On the day I will post a blog with my own thoughts and there will be a simple form for you to add yourself to a growing list of blogs. Simply include a link to my own International Women’s Day post so all your readers can come here and read all the linked up blogs.

This will be the third year this has happened and it is an fantastic way of meeting other equality loving bloggers!

Look forward to reading your thoughts.

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Thrifty

Oh, yeah, also: NEW BLOG! You are going to want to marry it…

1 January, 2014

Probably as a way of distracting myself from all the emotions of moving, like, literally FURTHER THAN IT IS POSSIBLE TO MOVE, I have been working on a brand new blog.

It is thrift, frugality and moneysaving utopia but especially for people who love the planet and enjoy being generous, having a cool home and eating well. I’m aiming to post (nearly) daily, short tips and tricks on everything from travel, recipes, craft and fashion.

It’s the opposite of being a cheapskate – it’s Wonderthrift! New thrifty blog Wonderthrift

Find it here on Wonderthrift.com

Join on Facebook

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It doesn’t look that beaut at the moment- I tried doing it over Christmas whilst on the loo/ nursing Juno to sleep but I’m planning on snazzying it up (unless there are any designers out there who want to help me with it?) But, OOF, the thrifty fun to be had on there over the coming months- eeeek!

See you at Wonderthrift, you thrifty wonders!

Family Travel

New Year, New Home, New Zealand

28 December, 2013

Today has been our last full day in England for a while. Tomorrow we fly to New Zealand to begin something wholly new. We don’t know what, but we have a few (billion) ideas.

The last week has been a bit emosh, to say the least. My heart jumps into my throat at the littlest thing- my nephew Hudson reading Ramona her bed time story, looking at photos that have captured fun moments from the last few years, saying weepy, snotty Goodbyes to friends who’ve been my besties since I was seven.

It’s been the most overdrawn goodbye in some ways. We began properly telling everyone that we were moving to New Zealand at the start of the summer, mostly through, er, this blog. *note to self- best to tell employers about such a big move before blogging about it*

Then we said Cheerio and galavanted about Europe, than came back with a broken van, then said Laters again and trundled to Spain, then had a leaving party last week, and now, after a million farewells and six months of preparing to go, it’s here for real, quick as a flash, the time to leave.

I fall in love with New Zealand when I’m there. I really do. I moved there when I was 18 and lived there until I was 24. I met Tim there and when Tim and I were having those hypothetical conversations with each other about the possibility of marriage (you know, “If two people had only just met but really loved each other should one, like, ask the other one to get married? It’s just for a friend…”) he asked me which place I considered home. I didn’t think twice. I’d lived in New Zealand for five gleeful years already, three with my folks about and two more without them, without any family at all; “New Zealand! I never want to leave!”

We left about 18 months later, in response to an urge I had to be close to my sister while she had her first baby. And we’ve been here almost seven years…

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My sister and I this week- matching blankets, coats and babies! (She is on her third now.)

For about five generations my family has been fairly nomadic- staying in places for just a couple of years at a time. Every generation, until us, have been ministers of religion, living all over the UK and the world for different vocational roles.

My grandparents, whenever anyone asked them what place they loved the most, which area they called home, would always reply, wherever they were, “Right here!”

I guess it’s in my blood a little bit, eh? This love-the-place-you-are thing.

20131228-194147.jpg My folks, this week.

Because right now I really feel I am tearing myself away from here. I feel like the London that I spent much of my childhood in has been in my bones all along. That returning to the neighbourhood I grew up in, and raising my girls for a bit here, has kind of unlocked a deep sense of home, a primal “This is my land! These are my people!” kind of thing. (Also, “These are my fried chicken bones! These are my fallen out hair weaves!” – not a patch of ground exists in South London free of these. But they weren’t actually mine, you see…)

We have just had the most wonderful 7 years here. We’ve made so many good, new friends and have rekindled old ones. We’ve had such a lot of adventures, riding our bikes, joining in protests, communal living, wandering streets, going to festivals, picnicking, swimming in rivers.

We arrive in New Zealand at 11:45pm on the 31st December- that is quarter to 2014! It’ll be weird celebrating the New Year with strangers around the baggage carousel (but I’ve had weirder, especially the one involving lots of elderly Scots and bagpipes.)

So, a new year and a new home, and lots of new adventures awaiting us. I just need to find out what a Zealand is, then I’ll get a new one of those too.

Have a lovely celebration yourself, and I wish you a great sense of hope for the year ahead.

*looks around the room at my family, has a bit more of a cry*