In an ideal world, I guess, my kids would just enjoy being kids and not worry at all about the “state of the world”. But some kids don’t seem to be content with that. They feel deeply, they see clearly and they want to make a difference.
Molly is one such child. We don’t watch the news, and I don’t burden her with the woes of the world, but she picks up on things as she goes about her life, and it sits deeply within her soul. But it can’t stay there. Her thoughts and feelings about things not right in the world rise up into a tenacious fervour, causing her to want to do something to make a difference in the world.
As her parent in this unschooling life, I partner with her in this passion, selectively strewing opportunities before her and facilitating the ones she chooses to pursue.
She is astute in her observations of things not right with the world, sometimes referring to herself as being “like an old lady”, making comments about the problems with “this generation” and “the world these days” and passionately critiquing the latest failings of our politicians, especially when it comes to issues such as climate change, same sex marriage, women’s rights and the plight of asylum seekers.
Speaking of asylum seekers, when I casually mentioned that there was going to be a march in the city, seeking “Justice for Refugees” there was absolutely no holding her back. Not normally one to love crowds, loud noises and the general busyness of the big city, she puts all that aside when she has the opportunity to march for a good cause.
And to Molly, the rights of asylum seekers is one such good cause!
We met up with another couple of homeschooling friends who feel similarly passionate about the deplorable way our country is treating asylum seekers, and we marched in solidarity together.
All in all, it was a great event to be part of, and it sent a very clear message to the government. Whether they heed it or not is sadly out of our hands, of course. In the meantime, it was good to have a voice and make a statment, standing with asylum seekers and letting them know we welcome them here and we seek justice for them.
One of Molly’s strongest passions is animal welfare. When I found out about the Million Paws Walk earlier this year, I thought she would probably be interested, so like all good unschooling mums, I “strewed” the idea before her. To say she was enthusiastic in her response would be an understatement!
A little while after registering for the walk, we discovered that the RSPCA is not a 100% perfect animal welfare organisation, which caused some confusion as to whether to proceed or not. After doing some reading and discussing the issues together, however, Molly decided to proceed with the fundraiser, based on the idea that they still do rescue animals, and the public/media attention garnered by the Million Paws Walk would help animals in need by providing much needed funds. Being vegetarian, we knew that we would not be participating in their meat-based barbecue, and we also hoped to meet up with a volunteer from Animal Liberation Victoria, who was going to be there with her pet pig wearing a sign that said “Friend, Not Food”.
All in all it was a great day and Molly particularly enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with so many dogs and dog-loving families, as well as feel like her fund raising might be able to make a little bit of a difference in the lives of neglected and abused animals.
Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic initiative of the Samaritan’s Purse charity and is something I’ve wanted to participate in for quite a few years! This year I actually managed to facilitate it happening.
I promoted it amongst our local homeschooling group and there was quite a bit of interest, so I contact Samartian’s Purse and they put me in touch with a truly remarkable woman, who was our local contact person. She was so incredibly sweet! She delivered boxes and pamphlets to my home, which I distributed amongst friends, and she also offered to come back and spend some time with us while we filled the boxes.
Based on the couple of stories she told me at the door when dropping off the boxes, I figured it would be quite inspirational for the kids, so we arranged a date.
In the meantime, Molly and I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for gifts to fill our boxes with! While we were at the shops one day, a lady overheard us discussing options for filling the boxes and she came up to us asking if we were talking about the Operation Christmas Child boxes. When we said yes, and that we were organising a group collection, she was so excited, having been doing a similar thing for quite a few years herself, but being currently new to our town and not yet unpacked enough to have managed to get things organised for this year. We exchanged numbers and arranged a time for her to bring her donated boxes to our house for collection.
It’s amazing the people you meet when you start doing things like this!
Only one other family was able to come along on the day when the volunteer came to talk with us, although we did manage to also collect additional donations from some other families afterwards.
It was wonderful listening to her share stories about the boxes! Two stories in particular stood out to us.
One story was about a young girl who was living on the giant rubbish dump in the Philippines. Totally destitute and with no family, she decided to walk towards the centre of the rubbish dump, planning to die there. Apparently it is not uncommon for this to happen. The dump is so large and so toxic that children can get lost there, and also simply die due to the terrible conditions of being there for a sustained amount of time.
Just before this young girl took that sad, desperate action, a delivery arrived of Operation Christmas Child boxes. She had never, ever received a gift of any kind in her life, and the thought that someone, somewhere, cared enough about her to send her gifts from afar, even though they didn’t know her, was enough to change the course of her life.
She did not walk out to the middle of the rubbish dump that day and in fact ended up becoming a doctor so that she could help children living in the slums like she had.
The other story was of a young girl from Chernobyl, who had been terribly affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One of the impacts of the radiation was that she had no hair. When the gift boxes arrived at her town, they were distributed amongst the children and squeals of laughter and delight could be heard around the room as the children opened the packages.
One of the workers noticed that this little girl’s box contained some beautiful hair ribbons and accessories. The worker’s first thought was to try to quietly remove them and replace them with an alternative gift, thinking the hair ribbons would be very upsetting to this little girl who had no hair. Before she could do this, the girl saw the hair accessories and began to weep. Her tears were tears of joy, however, not sadness, because they symbolised hope. She had always thought her hair would never grow or be beautiful, and she saw these ribbons as a sign that one day she would have beautiful hair.
This story was shared as an example of why the staff don’t interfere with what is put in any of the boxes, and simply trust that the right box will go to the right child. Apparently there are many, many more stories like that. One box, for instance, contained only one item: a beautiful, hand-knitted beanie. It ended up being given to a boy living in Thailand; a country known for its heat and humidity. Again, the worker thought the gift would not be appropriate or appreciated, but it was! It turned out that the boy was from the highlands where it can get very cold, and he had been struggling to stay warm. Not any longer!
Filling the boxes with treasures for children around the world who have so little, proved to be as much a gift to us as it would be to them. Being part of something so wonderful was truly a blessing!
It is incredulous to think that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is at risk due to the impact of coal mining. Recently we heard that the Greenpeace ship, “The Rainbow Warrior” was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef so the activists can do whatever possible to help halt the madness, and that it would be docking in Sydney and conducting free tours! My youngest child is passionate about the environment and when I told her about the Rainbow Warrior coming to Sydney, she jumped at the opportunity for a day trip to see it! The Rainbow Warrior is a very special ship, having been purpose built especially for Greenpeace, factoring in the specific needs of a ship that is used for environmental activism. It is also especially significant, given the history of the original Rainbow Warrior’s tragic bombing by the French secret service.
The biggest hurdle to our planned adventure was Mr 13, who was not keen at all. Leaving him at home wasn’t an easy option on the particular day we were going, so we spent quite a lot of time discussing potential solutions. I suggested a number of other activities that he might be interested in doing while we were Sydney, but none of them appealed to him to the degree that he was willing to “endure” the Rainbow Warrior tour and a long train trip as well. Finally I suggested something he jumped at: the aquarium! It turned out to be an absolutely perfect thing to do, because we could see the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, hot on the heels of touring the Greenpeace ship that was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef!
I strongly believe in finding win-win solutions, where everybody’s feelings and needs are taken into consideration. It is well worth the effort because it honours the individual within the family, and respects different people’s preferences. It is a beautiful way to show love. It might take a while, and a fair amount of discussion, but if the intent is to honour the preferences of both parties, eventually a solution will be found that both are happy about. One of the most helpful books I’ve discovered for understanding practical ways of doing this is Winning Parent, Winning Child: Parenting So Everybody Wins.
So we headed off on our train journey, finally arriving at the beautiful Sydney Harbour.
All in all we had a fantastically awesome day! And it was really great to find a way to factor in something of interest to both kids, even though one initially hadn’t wanted to go.
We bought our daughter a microphone, because she loves to sing while she plays the guitar. Little did we expect that it’s first public use would be for this little bit of environmental activism (from the relative safety of our front veranda):
She is so enthusiastic to do whatever she can to stop a fourth coal terminal from being built in our city. Here is another video of her (and her friend) passionately trying to rally the troops in our neighbourhood, pleading with them to help save the environment and the animals.
I have four living children, and the oldest three are not at all interested in environmental activism, even though I am. So it was a pleasant surprise to see my daughter’s passion for greening the earth develop to such a degree that she wants to start taking action. We recently participated in our first ever protest march to try to prevent a coal seam gas plant being approved (update: the court approved the plant, but it may still be fought at a Supreme Court level).
Then we found out about an opportunity to participate in another rally; this time to try to stop the government approving a fourth coal terminal in our busy harbour (already the largest coal port in Australia). There are currently 30 ships a week that come here from all around the world for their fix of coal. If the new plant goes ahead, there will be 60 ships a week, and many more uncovered coal trains, as well as trucks on our roads. So…. filled we enthusiasm, we joined over a thousand other people on a “No 4th Coal Terminal” rally. It was actually quite a lot of fun! There was a great vibe, and a lot of positive energy.
The rally was featured in the media quite a bit. Here is a clip from The Herald. We just hope it made a difference! I certainly know that participating in the march (at my daughter’s request) was a great experience for her, and it was also wonderful for me to support her in this passion to help make our planet just that little bit greener and more sustainable. Oh, I forgot to say, the one photo I *REALLY* wish I’d gotten was of a black labrador that was wearing a doggy outfit, labelled, “I USED TO BE A GOLDEN RETRIEVER!” Brilliant!
I have always been a passionate person, whether it be about unschooling, faith, environmental issues, social justice…. Molly (10) seems to be following in my footsteps, all of her own volition. And to be honest, she gives me a run for my money in terms of passion and commitment! It is wonderful to be able to support her in her passion to care for people, animals and the planet. She set up a little website awhile ago, although hasn’t added anything to it for some time. She is still finding her groove in terms of what to do with her desire to help make the world a better place. She once initiated a fundraiser for the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and definitely wants to do some kind of work in this area when she is older (helping animals, not making cupcakes!).
There are not really many opportunities for kids to do volunteer work, it seems. We recently tried to do some training in whale rescue, but the minimum age was fifteen. We tried to do puppy raising for the Guide Dog Association but we live in the wrong city. I’m sure her passion will continue to grow over time (and it’s okay if it doesn’t) and that she will find more opportunities to express it in practical ways. Here’s one way we were able to make a little bit of a difference this past weekend. (I met a lady who works with the Wilderness Society, and it was easy to imagine Molly choosing to do something like that when she’s older, but I keep those ideas in check, remembering that this is her journey, not mine, and it may take surprising twists and turns. In the meantime, we live in this moment!)
Coal seam gas seems to be the latest rage in Australia recently. It has not been proven as safe for human health or for the environment and yet the government has been surging ahead in approving new coal seam gas mines left, right, and centre. There has been such a huge public outcry about it, that they have now made major policy changes to hopefully protect residential areas from direct impact, but this will not protect the ground water and other problems. It’s been amazing to see the public rally together and have such a loud voice on this issue. With friends directly affected by the issue, we have had the opportunity to get involved in direct activism and this has been a great opportunity to facilitate my daughter’s interest in caring for the environment and encouraging others to do the same. This last Sunday we attended our first ever protest march. When we arrived and she heard the leader of the march shouting a slogan through the megaphone/loud speaker, you could just about hear her heart racing. She was in her element and rearing to go!
Molly has a strong and compassionate heart for the poor and the hungry, so when I told her about World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine (in 2012, when she was nine years old), she jumped at the opportunity to “starve herself”, so that others could eat. 🙂
Being nine (I’m writing this post retrospectively), she was permitted to fast for only eight hours and she is, strangely, looking forward to the year she is allowed to do the full forty hours! She’s certainly braver than me!
She got through her day without food quite well, even managing to visit friends and watch them eat delicious food while she sucked on an ice cube!
One particularly enjoyable aspect of it all was keeping track of donations being made to her online sponsorship page leading up to and during the famine. Well aware that only $40 could help feed a family for one month, she enjoyed working out multiples of $40 to determine, in a practical, measurable sense, how many people she was helping.
Towards the end of the famine, she had a timer set on her iPod in readiness for the countdown, I arranged some party poppers to help create a festive atmosphere, and she chose organic frozen blueberries as her “first food”.
One of the things that really matters to me is social justice, and making a the world a better place for all to enjoy! I used to be part of a local TEAR group and enjoyed learning about & raising awareness of various issues, but ended up deciding that my time would be better spent doing it with my kids rather than off on my own. I really want to share my passion for this with them, and hope that they’ll also choose a life of compassion and advocacy for the poor and disadvantaged.
I figured they’d enjoy it more and have a bigger impact (and more fun!) if they banded with some other kids to do stuff, so our “World Changers” group was formed! It’s a small group of home educating families, with parents whose christian faith inspires their passion to help the poor. Our aim is to get together once a month or so to learn about an issue, maybe do some simulation games, and partner with the kids as they brainstorm ideas about what we can do to make a difference!
The first thing we did was my daughter Molly’s idea (she’s an avid animal lover!!) and it’s more about helping animals than people, but they’re part of this world too! We did a fundraiser for the RSPCA called “RSPCA Cupcake Day”. All the kids made cupcakes and promotional posters, then we got together to run a stall at a local park after a home ed excursion to a worm farm (definitely no connection between worms and cupcakes!!). We had a lot of fun and raised $130 for the RSPCA! The first step was for each family to make and decorate their cupcakes at home, and make some signs for the stall.
Then it was time to meet up at the local park. We had invited some other homeschooling families to come along (cash in hand!) and we also knew there would be other families at the park who might be interested in purchasing such delicious looking cakes for a great cause.
The kids had a lot of fun running their stall and everyone was very supportive and encouraging of their efforts. For the younger kids it was like playing shops! Some of the more outgoing kids enjoyed going around to people they didn’t know and trying to get them to come and “buy” a cupcake for a donation to the RSPCA. Everyone went home with fuller tummies, and the knowledge that together we’d made a difference.
Donations to the RSPCA Cupcake Day can be made until 3rd October 2010, so if you’d like to make a donation, go to