This time two years ago, I took my two youngest children to Winterfest in Sydney, our first medieval fayre. This year we made the trip again, partly because we had so much fun last time and partly because our friends, Tim and Ruth, had an awesome stall there, selling their beautiful wooden swords, surprise puzzles, castles and other things. We always love seeing their stall in action! And of course the yummy food, fighting re-enactments, jousting, birds of prey and all sorts of other medieval delights!
Just before we left the Fayre, I discovered the most amazing book at “The Medieval Shoppe”. It’s a book all about Viking costumes and even includes patterns. Both of my kids who were with me are super keen to help me make some clothes and although the book wasn’t cheap, it will hopefully save us lots of money in the long run, because buying the clothes is very expensive too. The man holding the book had met the author, Nille Glaesel, when he was holidaying in Norway. Nille has spent years creating reconstructions for museums and re-enactments. She had just published the book to share her love of the costumes, and some of her patterns, and was shocked that he was keen to distribute it in Australia. She had no idea that any sort of re-enactment societies and fayres exist here! He ended up getting to spend some time living in a Viking Long House in the far north of Norway, that had been built by the author’s son. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of him with the book! I love being able to purchase a product that has a story attached to it! Now to get around to making something out of it! 😉
It can be a lonely path at times, this unschooling life. It is certainly the road less travelled, and it can be hard to find like-minded souls to share the journey with. Let’s face it, the majority of parents send their children to school (which is totally cool – to each their own!). And of the minority that choose homeschooling, a smaller minority deschool themselves to the extent that they can let go of schoolish thoughts, practices and expectations, actively embracing the freedom of unschooling. This isn’t to say that unschoolers are superior. We all do what we believe is best for our own families. But the reality is: unschoolers are a rare breed!!
In the past couple of years the online connections between Australian unschoolers have been growing, including a Facebook group for NSW Unschoolers, out of which grew a desire for a casual camp. S0 in April, I had the privilege of being part of what I think is the first ever Unschoolers’ Camp in our State! There may have been one in the past that I’m not aware of, and if so, please enlighten me, but as far as I know, this is the first one. And it rocked! It really did. For me, it was a dream come true.
The two Australian Unschooling Conferences I went to were great. A big marquee, keynote speakers from faraway places, organised activities, and LOTS of miles to get there. All good! But some of us also wanted a more low-key gathering. Organic. Down to earth and relaxed. A celebration of our connectedness to each other as a community of unschoolers. Sharing and learning from one another.
And so the NSW Unschoolers’ Camp was born. Much kerfuffle went on trying to work out the details, but eventually we were off and running. Excitement built up online (we love you Facebook), and eventually we packed up our camping gear, knitting needles (yes – truly), cameras, sporting supplies, a huge assortment of food, the all-important laptop (yes – that too) and headed off to beautiful Port Stephens.
We all revelled in the opportunity to hang out, in real life, with other unschooling families. There was never a shortage of conversations or cups of tea on offer. The only structure we had was a daily “circle time”, for anyone who wanted to gather together for some shared conversation. It was a good way to move beyond the natural connections that were happening in smaller groups, and to include those that might be too shy to turn up at someone’s tent for a casual cuppa. A couple of times we managed to have one person talking at a time, but inevitably it would turn into a raucous, roudy rabble of simultaneous, exciting conversations, so we quickly worked out that the multitude of words begging to be spoken over-ruled any possibility of decorum! 🙂 Don’t ya just love it when a group of women get together? Especially women with much in common and much to say, and infrequent opportunities to talk together!
It was so lovely being able to linger over conversations, and get to know these wonderful women in real life. Initially we had laughingly entertained the idea of wearing name tags with our Facebook profile picture on them, so we could work out who we all were! It was lovely having some of the mums share their interests and skills with others, from crochet, knitting and chai tea, to belly dancing!
Typical of home ed events, it was lovely watching the children play with a varied mix of ages. It didn’t matter what “grade” someone was in (because grading is not even on the unschooling radar). They were just a bunch of kids and teens having fun, and getting to know each other.
We came home on a high, and are eagerly looking forward to the next camp, knowing that it will be another chance to deepen these friendships and get to know new people. A few years ago I only knew one other unschooling family, and now here I am in this privileged place of being able to camp with about 20 other families, all either practising unschooling, or at least open to the idea. Feeling very blessed….
Late last year, Declan had the awesome privilege of attending a “Boys’ Bush Adventure”. It was a 5 day camp for boys, in the bush, learning survival skills, building wooden things using only hand tools, finding and making food, etc. It was organised by our good mate and home educating dad, Tim Schloss. They all got dirty, muddy, smelly, and exhausted. They also built and created things, bonded over shared challenges and adventures, created their own bases in the bush to sleep in, and basically just had a fantastic time. It was such a wonderful experience! Some of the mums, girls and younger children went up at the end to check it out and say g’day.
Last year (catching up on blogging!) we had the opportunity to do a tour with a bunch of home ed families to an awesome place called Purple Pear Organic Farm. It’s an amazing place that provides food to about 40 families every week, as well as feeding themselves of course. The provide work for WOOFers, and also run permaculture courses. The vibe was so amazingly friendly and informative, and I was amazed at the attentiveness of the kids. They soaked it up, mud puddles and all. 🙂
We’ve just returned from such an amazing, wonderful adventure! First, we enjoyed a MUCH needed holiday break at beautiful Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast. The people who were in the unit we’d booked prior to our arrival had requested to stay an extra few days, so we were moved to a different unit from the one we’d booked. As we walked in to the unit, we just kept walking…. and walking…. and walking! There were absolutely massive, beautiful living spaces including two kitchens, plus there were 4 bedrooms & 3 bathrooms, and all up there was pretty much 360 degree views since we had the entire floor to ourselves!!! We quickly checked to make sure that we were in the right unit, and were delighted to find out we were – for no extra cost! What a blessing! After having so much stress & busyness over the past few months, with Geoff working multiple jobs and studying his masters at the same time, it was such a blessing to be upgraded to such a beautiful place. And for no extra money!
A progression of photos showing about half of the view of the ocean from different windows in the unit (beautiful!). I wish I could have taken a video from one side all the way around to the back of the unit – a full 360 degrees! On most days we were treated to a performance by whales on their journey south.
One day Geoff took D & M to Australia Zoo, mostly because of M’s absolute passion for all things “animal” and also because of the hero status she ascribes to Bindi Irwin. She didn’t get to meet her, but hopes to be able to one day!
Our other big day out was when we all went to Movie World (half price tickets made it even more awesome!).
The kids all had different favourite rides, which, of course, had to be ridden over and over and over again! I’m sure I got queasy before anyone else – and I only went on the little kid stuff LOL!
FUN ON THE ROAD
Life is about the journey, right? We love road trips! We often listen to audio books together, and just enjoy the time, stopping at various places to discover new things and enjoy some fun together. Not that it’s perfect of course. Life never is!
One of the big reasons we discovered beautiful Rainbow Bay was because Travis and Brady knew it was a great spot to surf, with about three or four awesome breaks all within easy walking distance (and all VERY close to our awesome unit!). But alas, the swell was not our friend, and for our ENTIRE holiday of two weeks there was barely a wave in sight! Seriously, on most days it was like Pacific Lake, not Pacific Ocean! Anyway, out of sheer determination, the boys did attempt to catch a few little waves on most days. Here they are at D-Bar. See the HUGE waves?
So there you have a very LONG blog post outlining a little bit of our holiday to the Gold Coast, and some of the fun we had along the way. We felt very blessed and privileged to have such a wonderful holiday in such a gorgeous part of the world. It was a fantastic opportunity to reconnect as a family in the midst of a hectic crazy year!