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unschooling

unschooling

One of the scariest and best things I’ve ever done

10 January, 2017

You might have gathered that our dog Zoe had puppies ten days ago. Ramona was cuddling one of those tiny little things, just one day old, and she had such a look of love on her face I thought I might explode. I said “Is this the cutest thing that has ever happened to you?” and she said “Nope. It’s the second cutest thing that has ever happened to me” and I said “Oh! What’s the first cutest?” and she said “I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet.”

Tim and I caught each other’s eye. We’d been talking a lot over Christmas about personality types, exploring the Enneagram. I am a blatant Number Seven. A huge enthusiast, but someone who is very much future focused, who can be doing something awesome in the present, but still pretty certain there’s always something better around the corner.

I had an inkling Ramona was a bit like me. That “second cutest” answer was about as seven-ish as you get!

But right here, right now, I can absolutely definitely say that this last weekend involved one of the scariest and best things I’ve ever done.  * and **

We had over a hundred unschoolers come to our farm for an off grid summer camp. (What is unschooling?) And I was QUITE nervous beforehand. I was worried that I had got our farm (me and my husband and the family we live with) in a little over our heads with my extravagant enthusiasm and gun ho-ness. I mean, who does that? Lives a rickety, bare-bones life on a bit of land for a year and then invites every unschooler in New Zealand for a sleepover?

Three days away from camp and we had no loos, no hot water, no kitchen. It was pouring with rain, our 28 ducks were wandering around quacking their HEADS OFF at 5am and the meadow that we were meant to be camping in was a construction site. I was quite terrified (you can see it in my eyes at the start of the video.) I don’t think it was fear of failing – I’ve tried really hard to give up on that fear since having children. I think I was anxious that we might end up letting a whole load of families down. Ruin their holidays.

I guess you might want to see how it turned out?

NEW VIDEO:

Before we all moved onto our land, we all knew that we wanted to share it. It was ours, but ours for sharing. Having this camp was probably the first major thing we’ve done along these lines and it went so well. The whole thing was pretty much one humoungous Site of Mutual Fulfilment and I think one of my aims in life is to create more and more SMFs.

I was sitting at the solar disco (oh, not sitting for long, don’t worry! Just a few seconds. All the other hours were completely occupied with cutting shapes. These days my style is almost entirely Hardcore Interpretive) looking around and I was feeling SO FULL. So, so, full.

Full of admiration of all these parents who have chosen a pretty radical life with their children, full of a sense of privilege that we get to live with people who are visionary and resourceful enough to pull this off with us, and full of the potential of dreaming and daring.

And I guess that’s what happens, a little dreaming and daring actually makes you MORE able to dream and dare.

What are your plans for 2017? I would love to hear what you are hoping and dreaming of.

Read more:
Why we began to unschool
Seven things you oughta know about unschooling
Our application to the government to get the official stamp on our unschooling- an exemption.

*Erm, but can I also say that I believe that our “best” is something that can keep blooming and growing? So I still think there are some best things ahead in the future?!

** It’s possible that giving up jobs and moving to New Zealand with a few bags of luggage ranked up here too.

PS Just so you don’t think our life is all blue skies and sitting at solar parties feeling fulfilled- my last day of camp was spent in bed spewing forth my guts. Sickest I’ve been in ten years, maybe a mixture of a tummy bug and exhaustion. Ugh! Is that the yang?

A couple of extra photos (thanks to the beautiful nomads from The Bus who took these!)

off grid unschooling camp New Zealand

unschooled camp new zealand nz off grid unschooled camp new zealand nz off grid

Parenting, unschooling

A day in the life of a family challenging adultism

15 May, 2014

WOW. So I wasn’t expecting THAT!

Yesterday I wrote a post, Could adultism be the concept that transforms relationships between adults and children?

And it appears I left many readers behind. Across Twitter, in the comments, and on Facebook, people were just like “Wha-at?!” People didn’t get it.

I thought it was going to be one of those “lightbulb” posts – where readers go “Aha! Yes! We must extend our love of fairness to our children!” If anything it was a post that threw people into darkness.

And then, this morning I remembered how I felt when I first read about these ideas. The idea that a child should be respected, allowed autonomy, choice and rights. I can remember being at a party and describing to my friend “I feel nervous…  like I am entering a rabbit hole!” I felt like this idea would change our whole life.

And in some ways it has. And in some ways it hasn’t.

I wonder if it will be helpful to go through an average day of ours. To show how we try and interact and respond in certain circumstances. Because I am not sure our day will look entirely different to yours. (Or maybe it will.) The biggest difference is probably the amount of dialogue and the amount of time afforded it.

So here it is, A day in the life of a rights-respecting/ uschooling/ adultism aware family!

Before we begin I need to say how NEW I am to all of this, months in, really. And I still have a real struggle with some areas – I default on control, for example, when it comes to TV. However, I am learning, with my children… It is slow but everyday we are asking questions and discussing and granting more freedom…

7:30 am We wake up, bundle together for morning cuddles.

7:40 am “Can I watch a movie?” Ramona’s request comes earlier than normal as she has spied me sneaking away to check my blog comments. So often she is prompted to watch movies only when spotting the lap top and ipad. I am reminded how one of the crucial ideas for this whole thing is MODELLING our values. If I want her to value life away from a screen I need to model it. But then, it kind of IS my job and passion. But then it is HER passion. But what about how manipulative movies are, how they lump emotions on to people, how they are like the ultimate school. But Ramona might become the queen of code and write world-changing programs one day! And thus begins my first internal monologue about control…

8:00 am The battery on the ipad runs out after only 20 mins of movie watching. Ramona suggests she watches it once it has charged again.  (Having only solar energy imposes natural limits that Ramona finds really easy to accept.)

The morning passes in porridge eating, bumbling about.

11:00 am I had been working on the lap top while Juno (1) has a snooze but I know Ramona and Tim will be back from a trip soon so I pack up and head outside to the mandarin orchard. If I want my children to love the outdoors then I need to improve my relationship with it. When they get home Ramona joins me and Juno and we eat mandarins and follow beetles and play Doctors and Nurses for aaaages.

At one stage Ramona looks through the window of our neighbour’s house (neighbours but they are also like family) and wants to go in. “I don’t think we should go in as they are not there and we need to be invited in.” I say. Ramona replies “But I can see the thing!” She dashes through their door and dashes straight back out with a toy she bought Juno from the charity shop. I consider how I would have gone in their house if there was something in there of mine that I needed and I am glad I didn’t “put my foot down!”

This kind of thing happens a fair bit. It seems a child has an irrational/ strange need or request but actually there is something important behind it, if we listen, or give them space to explore it.

12:00 pm – “I am a bit hungry shall we go in for lunch?” I ask. We start making our way to the house. I am glad I pre-empted my massive hunger pangs as this takes ages. Juno is learning to walk and wants to walk/ fall/ scramble/ crawl the whole way. It is really muddy and she is bare legged but I think she can have a bath in a bit so who cares. Juno pauses by the strawberry patch and reaches for an unripe strawberry. I find her a big juicy red one and pass it to her. (“I know all about ripe strawberries! Let me teach you!”) She takes a bite and discards it, reaching for another greenish- red one, enjoying it much more. It is like she is telling me that it is the foraging and eating that she enjoys and she knows what she likes, right?! We hang about the strawberry patch for a while.

12:45 pm Ramona want eggs for lunch so I crack them in a bowl. She wants to help so I set her up with the whisk and she whisks them. She loves to help so I make room as much as possible for that in our day.  She wants to cook them but I like my scrambled eggs cooked a certain way so I explain that I want to do it my way. (I’m not some kind of unschooling goddess, okay? I like my eggs creamy.)

Over lunch she wants to put her eggs in a tortilla so she does. She makes a messy egg tortilla present all over her bit of the table. She only eats half the tortilla and the chooks get the rest.

We have always been trusting and nonplussed about eating. I want every meal to be only pleasure for everyone, so no rules or coercion allowed! Just lots of yummy goodness and a nice bit of fried stuff too.

1:15 pm I have to head to town before 2pm so I start preparing the way! TIME is one of the biggest factors in addressing adultism, I think. We are so unprepared to give our children the time to choose their clothes, put their own shoes on, pack their rucksack, find a snack, climb into their car seat themselves (etc) that we do it all for them in order to get to the place we need to be on time. And all the while we are undermining their abilities and their desires to pick up the caterpillar they saw on the way to the car. Allowing a buffer of about 45 minutes means we can all get our needs met.

Me to Ramona: “Oh, you want to bring turtle?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, you forgot pony, huh? Better grab him!”
Me to Juno: “Ah, you’re not ready to get in your seat yet?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, those shoes are uncomfortable. Do you want me to grab your wellies?”
Me to both: “Oops, wait there a sec, forgot my wallet.”
(Sometimes I feel we impose higher expectations on our kids than ourselves!!)

Let’s go!

1:50 pm We are driving into town and I am thinking about all getting our needs met. Once again I turn to Non Violent Communication. NVC works perfectly with this parenting philosophy as, sure, Ramona has needs and wants that must be respected- but so does Juno and so do I and so does my husband. If it ever came to it, would we all stay home for the day so that my daughter could watch television? No. But then it has never come to it – we are nearly always able to come up with a solution together for getting all of our needs met. Ramona will often say “I’ll pause this and watch it later, yeah?”

2:00 pm Uh oh. I am in the gift shop buying a card for a new baby where there are a million precious things all balanced precariously on low shelves and Ramona wants to touch them all. I bend down and talk about how precious everything is and how I want everything in the shop to stay safe. Ramona gets more wild and wants to run around. It is in perfect syncronisation with my increased anxiety! I hold her hand firmly and we leave the shop while I explain to her about my worries. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done this. I wish I had talked to her sensibly before going in. Perhaps I wish I hadn’t even gone in. I guess I do sort of believe that I should only go to places where Ramona can be fully, uncompromisingly herself. More questions….!

Later on, I apologise to Ramona for pulling her out of the shop. “It IS your body, and no one should do things to other people’s bodies that aren’t wanted. I’m sorry.” Sometimes I make mistakes and instead of brushing them under the carpet (“she’s only three! She will forget!”) I apologise.

3:00 pm A cup of tea with a friend in a cafe. Juno wants to climb this wobbly thing. I kneel while she does it. After 10 minutes she does actually tumble off. It isn’t far but I consider the phrase “Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.” But I’m also blushing as I think most mums wouldn’t have let their baby climb. Mostly I try and keep an environment that is fully open to Juno to explore but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes I take swift action if it seems like something quite dangerous. For example the time she ate some berries and I didn’t know what they were. “Juno, I am going to reach into your mouth and take the berries out as I am worried they are dangerous.” The explanation took 2 seconds and then I got the berries out. Even a baby deserves an explanation when we are going to do something to them. We moved away from the berry patch.

3:30 pm “Ramona, shall we go to the loo together?” “No” I am fairly sure she needs a wee but hey, it is her body.

3:40 pm “Mum, I need the loo and I already leaked a bit.” Me: “Oh, I find it a bit frustrating that you did a wee in your pants as now I need to do more laundry!” I think being open with our own negative emotions is healthy as I wouldn’t want the children to think we have to put on a false happy, brave face for the world.

However, as I am putting her spare leggings on (we carry spares everywhere because I will never, ever force her to go to the loo – what does that tell her about people in power being able to do anything they want to her body?) I consider how just that very morning I had been running about, busy in the house, reluctant to interrupt my flow to go to the loo. Yes, my friends, I had leaked too. I wish I hadn’t told her I was annoyed about the leak.

Ramona doesn’t want to leave the cafe when I do. “I want to get home to make tea. When shall we go?” I ask. “In five.” “Okay.”

A day in the life of an unschooling/ child right's respecting family

Juno sits on the toy Ramona is playing with. Ramona shoves her over. “Ramona, I need Juno to be safe around you.” It’s pretty rare that Ramona gets physically agro, but it is one of my limits. I listen into arguments with my ears (not eyes, which can aggravate tension, I reckon) and if I think the kids are fairly matched and could have a little bit of a push and sort it themselves then I leave them to it. However, if it is unfairly matched or I see Ramona really getting enraged, I hover and speak to Ramona,  “I can see you’re mad and it is okay to be angry but I’m not going to let you bite him.” It is Ramona’s right to express herself but it is every kid’s right to be safe.

5:00 pm Home again. “Can I watch a movie please, mum?” Ramona is so polite, and always asks all the time, even though we have never told her to. When it comes to manners I am CONVINCED we just need to model what we want to see in our kids. If we are kind to them, they will be kind to us. And then also, sometimes they will shout. Just like we do.

Ramona is SO EXCITED to find bits of Frozen on Youtube. Seeing her so absolutely stoked with life makes me want to cry a little bit. How I love this wild one.

Mind you, I am glad she has found Frozen and not some other Disney princess crap. I would actually ask her not to watch that, I’d say “Can you find something else as that princess is well annoying.” I am worried about her getting Battered Wife Syndrome as a result of the princess propaganda that is marching stridently into our lives.  This is not unschooling and is probably adultist. I have issues. But then again, I want to provide an environment that promotes freedom and I think that the limited gender roles of Princess world is entirely inhibiting. *Thus begins 50 millionth internal monologue of the day*

5:30 pm The internet isn’t working so Ramona wanders about and finds a tub of my bentonite clay. She opens it and a bit spills “Oh, sorry mum! I’ll get a cloth!”  I am surprised every time when she is all polite and respectful like this. I don’t know where she gets it from, Tim and I are sweary louts. Ha. Just kidding. I sort of think it is just a case of her speaking to us in the way that we speak to her.

5:40 pm Tea is cooking but Ramona finds the chocolate “OOH LOOK CHOCOLATE I’LL HAVE ONE BIT NOW AND THEN ANOTHER BIT FOR PUDDING” During tea we have a chat about how caffeine in chocolate can keep you awake. I think it is worthwhile chatting to kids about the realities of things and then letting them make up their own minds.

6:00 pm Ramona only eats the kale on her plate. YUM, MORE PIE FOR ME! Juno puts pumpkin in her ear, on her head and squashes it into her toes. I think this way of life is basically like Baby Led Weaning but for the whole of life. Provide a good environment/ plate of grub, trust them with the rest.

7:00 pm “OOH REMEMBER THE CHOCOLATE! WOO! I really want a bit that is bigger than me… but I’ll just have one bit.” Would I have stopped her if she wanted a bit bigger than her? Actually, yeah… maybe.  Because then she would be awake at 10pm and Tim and I would have to be awake with her, even though we go to sleep at 9:30pm and we’d probably be grumpy about it which wouldn’t be nice for Ramona. I would have said “I’m worried this will keep you awake, can we come up with a way that leaves us all happy?” And she would have broken off a bit and hidden it in a secret place for her to have for breakfast. (This happened a few months ago.) When it comes to food… me and Tim LOVE CHOCOLATE AND CRISPS. We don’t often have it about but when we do we eat it all the time and at any time of day or night. So, if it is good enough for us, why not her? Seriously, why not?
(It’s not obvious that I am just typing out loud, is it?! Ha.)

7:30 pm “It is quite cold, do you want a jumper on Ramona?” “No.” Okay. Juno plays with a biro, covering her arm in ink. Ramona has a bath and turns the taps on cold. Would other parents stop their kid running cold into their bath, do you think? Why bother stopping that? “It’s cold!” “Do you want to put more hot in?” “Yeah.”

Ramona wanders about naked in the cold house. I just don’t agree with making kids wear clothes if they don’t want to. What is the worst that can happen? *thinks* Pneumonia? Really?  A cold that they were going to get anyway? Possibly.

8:00 pm “Mum, I want to go to bed!” Ramona has always just asked to go to bed when she is tired – is it possibly because we have never enforced bed time? Funnily enough it is nearly always around 7:30pm these days – classic bed time!

Me: “Shall we put pyjamas on as I am worried it will get even colder in the night and they you will wake us up because you are cold?” Am I imposing my need to not wake up in the night an extra time on her and thwarting her will? Maybe. If Ramona doesn’t want to wear pyjamas, and it seems like a big, emotional issue for her then I will let it rest. But it is always worth expressing my needs because we can so often come up with the answer to both, together.

“I want to wear my superhero suit to bed.”

“Okay.”

And thus ends the day of a family living in the middle ground between neglect and control!

Yes, there is a lot of internal monologue and daily discussions with my husband. There are mistakes, where we have moved closer to neglect and close to control at times.  Each day we are trying to find a better balance.  (Read this on finding that balance!)

I believe this journey we are on is an important one. I believe it is the one most likely to further social justice in the world, and the one most likely to result in a respectful child. (Read this lovely account of a mum to a teenager who raised her son this way.)

Now tell me- have I gone so far down the rabbit hole that I’m talking nonsense to you? Or is this not so different from the way you do things?

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?

Family Travel

The pockets of others

26 February, 2014

I was remembering recently some of those days when Ramona was a baby and my husband would go off to work, how I would look despairingly at the long day ahead, how it seemed to yawn on and on. 6:30pm, that exhilarating moment when Tim would open the front door, was so completely in the distance that it wasn’t even a speck on the horizon. It had dropped off a far flung cliff, like a suicidal Woody Woodpecker, a mocking laugh, a wisp of smoke.

And I LOVED being a mum. But, sheesh, those days alone just. Stretched. On,

People with one baby quite often ask “How is it with two kids?” and I begin to say “Oh, AMAZING and SO EASY!!” and then I remember that the four of us have been on the road together, in each others pockets, since Juno was four months old and really I barely have a clue about juggling the needs of two little people at one time!

How fortunate are the girls, to have their dad around so very much? And how fortunate am I, that when I am feeling a bit clung to I can easily take a breather? And that the days are full, chockablock, bursting at the seems with stuff to do, too MUCH to do?

It couldn’t be more different, these days.

(We weren’t really made to do this parenting thing solo, eh? We need gaggles of friends and neighbours and sisters to thrive. One of my friends, Jenny blogged beautifully about this very thing this week.)

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We have slowly etched our way around the coastline of the North Island (of New Zealand, that is, NEW ZEALAND, a whole other STRATOSPHERE! *googles stratosphere* Oh, actually, no, I mean, WHOLE OTHER HEMISPHERE) catching up with friends. And there are new family members, children and babies, oh, so many bonny babies. It has been amazing just bustling about with them, living in each other’s pockets, doing our days all together. Charity shopping together. Pretty much mostly just charity shopping together.

We’ve been hunting through possibilities of dining tables for the bus. We had our hearts set on a formica table but in this land awash with ancient woods they KNOW the value of a nice formica table. Pfft. We have looked high and low, we’ve had every friend on the hunt with us and finally, last week we found one, HURRAH! There was much back slapping and hooting, as if Tim and I had really succeeded at something. Yep, folks, our ambition has shriveled to this.

We’ve been so inspired by the stuff our friends are up to – our friends who have an organic bulk buying co-op thing casually going on, those friends who do a great bit of co-housing, the family with the beautiful home who Know The Way Of The Vintage Tapestry.

I made new friends in Wellington, bloggers I knew from the Internet who were actual Real Life People. Thalia from Sacraparental and Tasha from Maybe Diaries. Two awesome new feminist, attachment parenty, social justice loving friends.

We went to the New Zealand Unschooling Camp and met a crowd of people who stunned us with the simple ways they were fully living their dreams, growing food and having adventures. (A whole other post about unschooling coming soon!) A family who are travelling in a bus and unschooling their FOUR BOYS for OVER A YEAR, one woman who unschools with a little tribe, a kindred-spirit mother unschooling with her awesome lad.

Gosh.

We’ve been busy.

So busy that I sometimes forget this little ache in my heart that just wishes my sister, Jo, and her family were close by. Her taunting me by blogging amazing recipes involving cream cheese and salted caramel doesn’t help. I want to have a cup of tea with her and eat her baking.

We are coming to the end of our nomadic stage… we are thinking of heading back to Thames this weekend, a cool little town at the start of the mightily majestic Coromandel. We might nuzzle down for a bit. Perhaps learn about growing stuff properly, search for a bit of land to call our own. (Bit more serious than a retro table, eh?) We have not at all been swayed towards Thames because they have some of the best charity shops in New Zealand. (We have.) (What, dad?! That is perfectly reasonable criteria to base a new land ownership on!)

Life might start to look slightly more normal. But we are going to cling to our sense of adventure, seek a tribe to live life with, pockets to dwell in.

And we will try as hard as we can to avoid anything that might leave one of us staring at the clock willing the minutes to pass.

This is a featured post – please see my disclosure for more on that.