It was such a mild Autumn that I wasn’t prepared for winter and its dark nights.
I always struggle when there’s less hours of light in the day to play with. If I don’t get out for a day or two I feel like curling up in bed and not emerging till spring. It’s a balance to keep my smile on and mood lifted, but thanks to a reasonable winter, thus far, and moments in the day to escape with the dog for a quick walk around the block, I’m coping pretty well.
I haven’t been running much this month, what with poorly children at home, followed by our middle daughter’s anxiety resurfacing – which has had an affect on her younger sister and her school attendance. They have a very close relationship, despite being four years apart in age.
I have got so used to having the children around that it’s felt like a return to our beautiful natural learning days. They understand that Mumma is a happy lady when she gets her daily fix of daylight and fresh-air, so have been good at joining me on some awesome walks, which has really helped lift my spirit.
Though sometimes I have to entice them out with the lure of a playground half way and flat sections to scoot on…
However, there’s still nothing like the feeling of hitting the trails by myself for a run, with the only thing to worry about is keeping my legs moving and not face planting. Any other time of the year I can get out in the evenings, after hubby is home from work, but my lungs struggle with the cooler air temperatures (and smoke from the log burners) in winter. I usually manage a run at the weekends, but unfortunately hubby has been away, on business, for a couple of weeks this month.
With the children at home more, my kitchen has returned to the natural learning status quo – cooking happens alongside science and whilst there’s a banana cake in the oven there’s likely an acid and alkaline experiment with red cabbage taking place on the bench-top!
I am loving having more hours in the day and week to be actively engaged with my children and their learning. Together we are reading, writing, drawing and creating. The house feels beautifully full. It’s so much easier to do all this fun stuff now they are older too!
It feels like I’m walking in the ‘twilight zone’ as I’m not quite sure where this direction is really taking us. The younger two girls, particularly my six year old, are leaning toward natural learning – to the point that I have written and submitted applications for certificates of exemption to home educate, but – since they are both attending an independent school, we have to give a full term’s notice (in fees) so, whilst waiting to receive the exemption certificates, we are playing two fields. I see so much value in the independent school they are at, but also – for my youngest in particular – see the need for her to have more years to be a natural learner, to sing at a whim, to move when she needs to, to dance barefoot whenever she pleases and to merrily invent to her heart’s content!
The school they attend is wonderful, but there’s a uniform, there’s a bell, there’s of course managed classrooms and a time for art and a time for maths… there’s a time to be quiet and a time to sing, a time to be outdoors and more time indoors… sigh, it irks me so much! It’s okay for my older daughter (in Year 6), but for my youngest, at only just turned 6 year’s of age, it’s all too much.
I love that when learning from home they can enjoy nature on a daily basis and be inspired from being within it – not just from reading about it in books (quite often it is something that occurs on one of our nature walks that then inspires them to reach out for a book, or research a topic on the Internet).
Today Alice came across an injured Tui – a beautiful New Zealand native bird – and we were able to act immediately – we grabbed a box from home, popped the bird inside, wrapped in a towel, and took it to ‘The Nest’ at Wellington Zoo, where a vet nurse showed us how they weigh, rehydrate and relieve pain in injured birds, before they are further given a full medical examination by a vet, given time to rest and recuperate and then, eventually, with luck, released back into the wild.
Alice asked me to record her experience with my camera and when we got home we talked about how to write up the story, including the 5 ‘W’s (What, When, Who, Where and Why).
Last week we spotted a New Zealand fur seal rest on the beach near Princess Bay, where we regularly enjoy walking.
I love how at home there is freedom to draw, paint and play music whenever they want, with no particular theme or goal – purely experimenting and increasing their natural love of what they are doing, without hesitation or self doubt that they aren’t ‘performing’ or doing ‘what’s expected’.
However our older daughter, in Year 6, does benefit from the excellent direction she receives at the independent school she attends, if only she could avoid assessments and homework (which actually the school have been really brilliant at limiting, after open communication about how our daughter hasn’t been coping). My husband and I would really rather she could find a way to manage school, as in so many ways she is thriving, but we will take each day as it comes and be seeking some professional guidance to help her cope with anxiety. However, if she needs some time of natural learning, whilst getting steady on her feet (so to speak), then we are all for that too.
Childhood is so precious and passes all too quickly, there really shouldn’t be such pressure for children ‘to grow up’. I totally agree that they should learn to be responsible and contribute to the family home, to help with meals and chores and so on, but all too often the demands of a busy school schedule put quite a wedge between family and home and the relationships get strained. We are a close family and spend a lot of quality time together in the evenings and at weekends. We feel like a strong unit that will be together for a very long time. There is no feeling, for my husband or I, to push our children to grow up quickly and move out. We enjoy their company, we love spending time with them and they are welcome in our home for as long as they choose to be here, (so long as there is mutual respect and teamwork as they grow into adults!).
Anyway, we have till the end of term three to make any firm decisions. In the meantime we have only a week and half of term two left, a three week school holiday and a visit to old friends in Byron Bay, Australia.
Our oldest daughter is happily thriving at school and in her first year of ‘High School’ in NZ (Year 9). She’s been loving singing in her senior school choir, as well as the Barbershop Chorus choir, and is currently performing in a dual school production. It’s been a very busy term of rehearsals and performances for her and we have delighted in going to see her perform. She is also loving Japanese and passing on her learning to her sisters – with regular evenings around whiteboards writing Japanese characters (a trip to Japan is looking highly likely in the future!).
So, onwards we move on our every changing path of learning.
Linking up with Country Kids at Coombe Mill