Kestrel

The house is quiet, I'm watching the sunrise while the rest of the family sleep. This hour or sometimes two is very precious. In finding my own rhythm, alone, our family life is finding its. I wobbled badly last year with this journey we're on, with the overwhelming relentlessness of family life to say nothing of living a school free life. A year of illness, a fifth house move in as many years, resettling into a new area, opportunities for me to do something different, the realisation that if we continue this particular path I will be 60 before I can realistically choose another path for me. Those wobbles and worries and fretting niggles rolled right over in a mighty wave to this year.

By the time we settled back into something resembling a "school" year the children were begging for table time, for structure and for a daily, weekly and from the Eldest, a yearly rhythm. I was more resistant than I've ever been, kicking back like a recalcitrant toddler. I did no reading. I did no lesson plans. I set up repeated meeting times with the Husband to discuss breaking down the curriculum sharing we'd tried at the end of last year and then subconsciously sabotaged each one. I realised right now, I really didn't want to be a homeschool mom, I wanted that empty house in the middle of the day, I wanted to walk back in the front door of an afternoon and see the house exactly as I'd left it to do the school run in the morning.

I realised, what I wanted most, was to be normal - to not be the person who caused the room to feel awkward when the inevitable questions were asked "which school do your kids go to?" or "so where do you work?"

I've spent my whole life slightly left of centre, I've never been normal in terms of what society might call everyday, even when our kids went to school we couldn't pick an ordinary one, we chose some weird, hippy, pastel colours in the kindy school. I don't eat meat and I don't give birth in a hospital (well I did, but I also birthed at home). Got me beaten up at school my differences, found me a huge group of interesting and diverse friends at university. Suddenly, in my mid 40s, I found myself with a fierce and unquenchable longing to just fit in with the world around me, choose the standard and understandable route. It's safe, it's understandable by the wider community and with that safety comes comfort and acceptance.

And here I sit, on a Sunday morning, breakfast and two cups of tea past the hour with my books and blog posts and lesson plans in hand. There was no sudden epiphany, no movie land consciousness raising moment, I'm not the heroine who finally earns the adulation of family and friends who understand how incredibly special it is to have a maverick in their midst. I wish I could relate a story of gut wrenching heart warming brilliance...

Instead, I still struggle with living a school free life, I am chafing from the demands of four children who need such different things from me, I work daily to carve out time to remember the other threads of me, the ones that are not mother and formal educator.

What's working to support our family choice to be school free?

*I'm a grown up - I took on the major responsibility and whilst I'd dearly love some days to throw it all in and go live in a small apartment in Edinburgh and work as an archaeologist, I won't.

*My Husband is a grown up - when I wobble or lack inspiration he's there to pick up the slack but more importantly we are finally working as a team to offer our children the knowledge and life skills available.

*The children - they quite clearly see me struggling with being the pivot and have sat down and explored with honesty what they'd like to do and learn and how they can take charge of their own learning - I don't mean by this that the four year old has decided on astrophysics as a career path and is currently hand making her own telescope - but that the 13 year old and I have sat ourselves down and sketched out a weekly plan, she's examined the year's curriculum for herself and discussed with her father and I how she might achieve it all in addition to her extra curricular activities. The 11 year old has chosen not hurl himself about in agony when asked to write more than one or two lines for each main lesson. The eight year old is helping set the table in the mornings and taking a deep breath when her creations don't work quite right. The four year old may be induced to not sing loudly about poo while we're doing morning circle.

*Continuing our community building. All communities are dynamic and our friendship circles wax and wane.

*Acknowledging our choices, owning them warts and all. Remembering the lessons learned from other paths we took that were not quite the mainstream norm. Remembering that whilst all paths are not created equal, people's journeys should, in the main be respected, and to not elevate our choices over others. To be humble and honest.

*Taking a step back when overwhelm sets in and taking a step forward when things need tweaking. Not giving in to the paralysis which can set in when it all feels not quite right. To wit - the two eldest children are having their four one hour sessions a week with their father to concentrate on maths, politics and grammar; the smallest and I are going to give a local home schooling co op a go whilst the three big ones work away on workbooks; I am going to honour my need for a hour to write each morning rather than wallow in lifestyle magazine induced guilt that I am abandoning my children. I will push my children to try something new and model that so they can see me work through my own fears.

It's going to be an interesting year.



Kestrel

We've been participating in a weekly Eurythmy class for the past two years, as well as seasonal festivals with the wider Waldorf homeschool community... this spring, with a lot of planning and readjusting dates due to the wild weather, over scheduling of many people and the actual availability of the space... we managed to wedge the spring festival in right on the last calendar day of Spring and to our surprise the weather co operated (we've had a riotous very wet and stormy spring indeed).

Numbers were perhaps smaller than the other festivals but given the proximity to Christmas and all of those tremendous end of year events it was to be expected. Our beloved Eurythmy teacher led the day and made it beautiful. Both the younger and older classes showed off their efforts - I've tried walking the figure 8 movements with the older kids and I found myself challenged - probably because I tried the movements using my mind foremost rather than my body, once my feet found the rhythm I loved the flow.

We sang spring songs, listened to a quiet and beautiful story and shared afternoon tea. Was great to catch up with old friends and new and stretch in the now unfamiliar sunshine, we could almost feel ourselves photosynthesising.

Starting on the garlands
The medium sized kids' class telling the story of the Mandarin Duck
The older children, with the help of the adult attendees start to plait the maypole.
Yes, there were tangles and multiple directions but success was achieved.
There was dancing too!
And feeding Rosy the cow.
We are ever so grateful to have Lisa in our lives.
There hasn't been a summer festival, due mostly to the impossibility of scheduling in a festival in the midst of holidays, Christmas and people going away. Perhaps in a year or two but for now, we are content with managing to get a group of people up to an out of the way farm three times a year to celebrate the turning of the wheel.
Kestrel

My apologies, heartfelt ones, for the extended absence, it's been eight months since I blogged. I feel almost like I should begin with a paragraph of penitence.

Partly blogging has not been part of my life because our school free life became so ordinary. I began the blog as we started to walk a new journey, absenting ourselves from main stream schooling. The blog helped me chart our voyage, refer to old successes and remind me of interesting results. Journaling our school free adventures began to feel like a food journal, for lunch I had.... I couldn't fathom how to repeat certain experiences without sounding stale and uninteresting. But also I've had to come to grips this year with an absolute nuisance of an auto immune disease, so much so at the beginning of the year that reading was almost too difficult, never mind expressing creatively what we were doing as a family. I'm not dying, just struggling with it and that health challenge has made us all rethink what and how we live our lives.



We've moved house yet again (yes, that's three moves in three years) but this time it feels long term and just perfectly right. We're right in the centre of things, the city, the grocery store(s), the library, the beach and the forest are all a walk away rather than a drive. The Husband can walk to work each morning and pop home for lunch if it suits him. We have neighbours, parks, art galleries and theatres. We really feel like we have "come home".



This in turn has altered how we "do" school as it were. The Eldest and The Son now spend two lunch hours a week at The Husband's work, doing math and english intensives which eases the workload on me and how much more fun is learning when mama is not exhausted and feeling overwhelmed? So much more space and time for other adventures, from joining in archaeology digs, to gym classes, craft groups and Eurythmy. Entire days given over to baking or drawing or sewing. A park to run just three houses away with a fascinating rivulet and tunnels at the end of it to spend hours exploring. Trees for climbing! A giant slide! And our house comes complete with a spooky labyrinth of a basement that requires torches and a tolerance for spiders' webs.



As we segue into our favourite part of the year, Advent and that great journey, we find we are already in thanksgiving mode, feeling absolute gratitude for the friends who have come together and supported our family through illness and house moving; for the house which made life wonderful again; for the amazing people who live in our new street; for the incredible vistas that we can see from our home and all the adventures we are anticipating.




Kestrel


The three eldest children started eurythmy classes shortly after we returned home. As they come into their bodies, the natural balance and grace of childhood is reinforced, the awkward march towards the teens gently supported, and now the smallest is BIG enough to start classes.



The reverential awe with which she's started each class, the constant commenting afterwards, telling people she's doing real classes has all been very sweet and she can now join in with the bigger children when they're retelling a story using the movements. The children have been very firm in urging me to try some of the movements too, it seems a good fit for our family, whole songs and poems can be enacted, not that we manage that often.

Last year the 10+ years class put on an end of term play about a girl who had a dragon, a dog, a kitten and a mouse. My very tall then 12 year old chose to be the mouse, my quite tall son chose the kitten and by the time we got to the girl and the dragon that was the choice of the tinier girls in the class. It is always interesting to watch the children sort themselves into these roles.



Before the play the whole class worked through some of the movements and "formations" - no music, just movement to the rhythms of the voice.



The younger children numbered just two, my Elf and another and despite their innate shyness they were encouraged and supported by our wonderful teacher to demonstrate a little of what they could do too.



And from those movements I can see the first tentative steps towards what the older children are doing in the simple movements of the smallest children this year.



Just in case the term eurythmy is not something you're familiar with here are a couple of links to illuminate you...

The usual wikipedia explanation and

A video via youtube...
Kestrel

Summer descended upon us, the warmest, driest, wettest summer in history. Half the continent has drowned under repeated cyclones and monsoon cycles and half (the bit we're in) has withered, crackling brown and yellow, driving us to the water hole, to any speck of coolness we can find. To hard to find the energy to write, let alone for table time and beginning a brand new year... The sun has been fierce, unrelenting, harsh and draining.

The weather took us by surprise and we adapted slowly, adding in meals outside as the sun dipped behind the eucalypts, taking pillows to the trampoline and watching the stars twinkle out, marvelling at how busy our night sky has become, remembering at long last the delights of soda water and lime, inventing interesting fruit icy poles, refreshing ourselves in the evening at the water hole... Writing was too hot and sticky an occupation, to hold a warm, whirring laptop and coax prose from the molasses of my thoughts was impossible.

The vast expanse of tiles inside made it the perfect place to play our memory game
Our beloved water hole
Bush fires on the hottest day of the year
Face, hand, feet painting - lovely cool watercolours
Watermelon! What else?
And yes, the Vikings came to town...
Saving running around until the evenings
Waiting till the sun goes down to stargaze.
And still the heat burned on. March is often warmer than the other months as summer fights against the dying of the light but the last few days of misty mornings gives us hope for autumn and harvests, the leaves changing colour and more balance between light and dark. It's been a classic Australian summer this time around, one I think all the children will remember, for many reasons. At the end of it I am filled with relief and surprisingly already a little nostalgia. So many nudges to memories of my own childhood, watching a child learning to ride their bicycle, picking tomatoes, the ground being too hot underfoot to walk without shoes, stargazing - once upon a time with my father, now with my children... the wheel of life contains so much sweetness.


Kestrel
So there are parts of blog posts as yet unposted, weeks following that haven't made it to the page. Lost in the usual whirlwind of apathy that punctuated the end of 2012. A hard year for so many people, not personally for us other than the little irritations but hard, so hard, for many people we love.

We closed out the year with three friends battling cancer, others divorcing after a long marriage and quite a number of children, dear friends departing these shores and an odd uncertainty about what is to come for our little family.

I understand the human need for order from the chaos. Order within soothes the fear of the chaos that bubbles around us. It's part of the reason I was drawn to the Waldorf pedagogy for my children. It offered us simple, beautiful choices to gently bring a rhythm and harmony into our lives that can comfortably bend and flex for the conflicts and changes and character building moments that we all experience.

So I've woken this first day of the new year, before the family arises for the day, and am considering changes that will nourish and support each of us...

If I was a tiny bit computer savvy I'd prefer to present this on the screen as I have on paper with interlocking circles showing my personal changes and what I'm keeping, the ones for "school", for the children, for my relationship with my husband and for our family... but I'm not so you'll need to imagine them. I've written them in lovely Lyra pencils, in my favourite colours. I might even put it on the refrigerator to remind me of the hope I woke with on this lovely grey and cool welcome to 365 days that will not come round again. I might add, I suspect it's not quite finished anyway. I've never written out my "wants" and "hopes" and "dreams" in this way and I quite like it, the interconnections make more sense this way instead of being an extensive and downright impossible appearing list. Long lists intimidate me and feel eternal. These cheerful colour circles are much more welcoming.

Basically, I'm going to write, perhaps even start a daily journal again after a long hiatus. Before choosing an activity or a meal or a direction I'm going to ask myself "will this nourish me?" Not specifically in the conventional sense of what are the vitamins, calories, essential minerals but in a more holistic way. Hopefully I'll model something of value to my children. I will start dancing again - less ballroom and more Gabrielle Roth. I will cook with gusto again - this is a carry over from last year where, despairing of the carbohydrate laden, stereotypical, resentful meals I was churning out, I found healthy, nourishing (that word again) and delightful meals that I could prepare quickly, using far more fresh produce than I'd fallen in the habit of using. Our carbohydrate bases disappeared and we didn't eat potatoes from April till December - not out of conscious choice but because they weren't on the menu.

In a less overwhelming sense I'm also going to tackle quince cooking, artichoke preparation and I'm going to understand what the hieroglyphs that pass for crochet and knitting patterns - I'm going to make something, maybe just ONE thing, but I'll make it. If I can follow a pattern to sew a donkey, I can crochet more than a square and knit more than a truncated, overly wide scarf...


Kestrel


We celebrate our second week of advent by contemplating the plant kingdom, plucking the first few snow peas from our indoor garden, freshening the advent wreath with bracken ferns and heading out into the forests near our home to look for a tree that our family will bring into our home in echoes of ancient winter festivals where the greenery was a reassurance that a hard winter was a passing time, that once more the world would be fecund and warm. I guess we've never really sat down and wondered "why" we follow this Victorian tradition of tree bringing in, festooning it with lights (in lieu of candles) and decorations. It's now simply a symbol of the season of giving and gathering. You see a tree with stuff on it, you can guess what time of year it is.

Out into the plant kingdom we went.
We were a little divided about what to do for a tree this year. I discovered spruces for sale at several nurseries but at 10cm high they weren't quite what we were hoping for. I suggested a piece of driftwood draped with tinsel but this was shouted down. I wasn't quite enamoured of our final choice, a feral radiata pine, harvested from the nearby forests given we'd had a little trouble up north keeping the first one green and fresh and having to actually go and cut another down just before Christmas.

We bundled ourselves into the car and headed along little roads near our home, both the Husband and I anticipating a long evening of fruitless searching but much to our surprise, from the roadside we spotted several likely contenders. I swear this tree must have been just waiting for us.


Straight and tall, with perfectly spaced branches. The children were very pleased. The Husband and I were very pleased that a whole night of driving round wasn't on the cards.


And into the house we we went, fortified with hot chocolates and gingerbread and very thankful indeed that the hot weather had come and gone for now.


Everyone worked hard to decorate our little tree. After years of celebrating together we now have a collection of precious ornaments, made by ourselves and friends, some heirloom ones from my childhood, others carefully chosen after serious discussion by the children. One day I hope to have the most memorable decorations of all, the cow vertabrae my mother salvaged when we lived in the remote outback when I was very small. With no nearby stores and Christmas coming, she painted them orange and sprinkled glitter on them. They slid very nicely over branches. It never occurred to me growing up that most people were unlikely to have cow bones on their Christmas trees and I'm yet to find a more curious addition to the festive decorations anywhere.


And suddenly we're all feeling festive, small irritations pass us by, everyone seems to be humming or singing or crafting or dancing...

Because it's not about finding the tree but also about the gathering of community. This week as we've contemplated the nourishment springing from our little garden window (which is definitely another blog post) is the overwhelming wealth of friends and visitors. Centring round food and creating nourishment, not just for our bodies but for our souls as well. But that is another blog post entirely... (after months of not blogging I obviously have a lot to say!).