A recipe for fun: MUD KITCHENS!Β 

There are some beautiful, fancy mud kitchens turning up on Pinterest. Looking at them you could almost be forgiven for thinking a mud kitchen is just too expensive or too much hard work. But out here in the real world, mud kitchens are just good, clean fun. Well, not clean exactly πŸ˜€

So what do you really need to make a truly awesome mud kitchen? It really only takes THREE things…

1. Mud

Dirt + water = mud. It’s free. It’s fun. I’m sure you have some lying around. If not, pick up a cheap bag of garden soil from Bunnings and dump it in your designated spot. That brings us to number…

2. A place to get muddy

Choose your spot wisely. Near a hose is good. Near the clothesline you hang your white linen on? Not so much. You only need enough room for a kid, the mud and…


3. Junk from the kitchen

Think old pots and pans with scorched bottoms,  rusted patty cake tins, that old broken wooden spoon you didn’t want to just throw away. If you can put mud in it or stir mud with it, it is perfect!


And that’s it. No pinterest required. Have fun!

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Planning a Main Lesson Block

The winter break is coming to an end and I am busy planning our next Main Lesson Block.

“What’s that?”, I hear you ask.

Well, every 3-6 weeks we choose a core academic area to focus on and plan our formal lesson time around this theme. It’s an immersive learning technique employed by Waldorf educators the world round. The idea is that a topic is explored in depth using all of the lively arts to bring the topic alive for the child/ren. (Waldorf schools then have 2 more lesson blocks per day, but we do things a little differently in our home environment. Back to the planning…)

Before the winter holidays we enjoyed a block on science,  exploring sunbeams, air and the water cycle. Here’s a snapshot of some of Nikolai’s work on the watercycle.

Wet on wet watercolour painting from our Story of a Water Droplet’s Journey

Chalk drawing of Water Cycle

When we start back next week we’ll be tackling grammar through the medium of Animal Tales and Fables. And believe it or not, Nikolai is excited about this introduction to grammar! I kid you not. That’s the magic of this approach.

So how do we go about planning a Main Lesson Block?

Choose a core learning area

First off you need to decide if you want to tackle maths, language arts, science, geography, history, etc. We did a science block last time so will go with a language arts block this time.

Choose a skill to focus on

In the realm of language arts we could choose to focus on handwriting, phonics, sentence structure…we are going with grammar, and more specifically with parts of speech.

If you were working on a maths block perhaps you would choose working with the four basic processes, times tables, fractions or measurement. Science could be the elements, weather, habitats, etc.

For those of you who would like a little direction on what to choose when, ACARA  (the people in charge of the Australian Curriculum) have approved a Steiner Curriculum Framework which outlines which topics to address each year. 

You could also go direct to the source and read Steiner’s lectures or utilise a resource such as Alan Whitehead’s ‘Spiritual Syllabus’ which lays out the progression of topics for you. Or go ahead and choose your own adventure if you feel so inclined! 


Choose your teacher resources

Where will you as the parent get your information from? Will you draw it from a purchased curriculum or piece it together from other resources?  For our grammar block I will be using Doroth Harrer’s English Manual as my primary resource. 


Choose your stories

New information is brought to the child in the form of a story.  Each 3 day cycle has its own story, often told cumulatively. Simply calculating how many 3 day cycles you have in your block will let you know how many stories you will need to bring to your child. This is a short block for us so I will only need 3 stories. I have decided I would like to use my own version of the grammar fairy story in Dorothy Harrer’s book to introduce our topic, so that makes 4 stories in total. 

This time round I have scoured our local libraries and found a book of Australian animal fables, a pictire book of Russian trickster tales and a few other gems to draw from.

Traditionally in Steiner/Waldorf education, certain types of stories are presented to the child each year to meet them at their stage of development physically, mentally and spiritually. In first grade that is fairy tales, third is creation stories (often Old Testament stories, but it doesn’t have to be), fourth would be Norse myths. We are in the middle of second grade so stories of saints and heroes, animal fables and trickster tales are traditional. As I mentioned above, we will be using animal stories and fables this block.

Next I need to either choose stories or write them myself to convey the information I want to impart to the child. If I want to use someone else’s story, well of course I need to find it. Libraries, google, purchased curriculums; all of these are good places to look for the tales I need. In either case, the stories are usually told and not read. I do, however, like to leave complementary books lying around to be explored or to call upon to support a lesson.


Choose your activities

I mentioned above that learning is brought to life through the application of the lively arts, one of which is the Literary Arts, i.e. the story we are using as a basis for our topical learning. Accompanying activities to strengthen understanding came from the remaining arts; Dramatic Arts, Visual Arts, Movement Arts and Music Arts. 

Will I have my child/ren retell the story, role play it, mold beeswax figures to use as table puppets to reimagine the tale?

Warming beeswax to model pictures we could see in the sky when learning about clouds

Will we write summaries or lists in our books,  draw pictures or make beautiful wet on wet watercolour paintings?

Is there a song or verse we could memorise and perform?

A few activities we will use in our grammar block include writing colour-coded lists of nouns and verbs from our stories into our Main Lesson Books, performing our stories using clapping or stomping to denote nouns and verbs (in essence acting out the grammer using movement), taking a bushwalk to name plants and animals and brainstorming verbs and adjectives to describe what we see. 


Plan out daily lessons

Once I have an idea of what I want to bring the lesson, and an understanding of why and how I will do this, now I can map out what our individual weeks and days will look at. Typically a three day rhythym is used where each day builds on the last with ‘sleeping on it’ an important part of processing the information.

For example:

Day 1- bring the story. Sleep on it πŸ˜‰

Day 2- review the story (or review then build on it if using a cumulative tale). Follow up with a complementary art/craft activity

Day 3- review the story and write summary or perform a retelling

Begin again with next story.

The key is to ensure you are balancing inward and outward activities, utilising all of the lively arts in your lessons (perhaps some are used in a circle time warm up if they don’t fit your Main Lesson plans?) and address the head, heart and hands. Because that really is the point of holistic education, to educate the WHOLE CHILD, not just impart knowledge we deem important.

Take away message?

1. Know what you want to teach and why

2. Create balance and rhythm in your lessons

3. Teach to the whole child

And that’s it. It seems a lot but gets easier as you go along. Most important of all? Have fun!

How to homeschool SUCCESSFULLY

This winter holidays marks one year of homeschooling for us. We have had so much fun, tried so many new things and I’ve learnt a thing or two as a homeschool mama along the way. 

1. Prioritise your child over your philosophy 
There are some inspired ideas out there in the homeschool world. I was blown away by the number of different home education models there were to choose from. You’ve got Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Steiner/Waldorf, Classical, Unschooling and Natural Learning, Eclectic, Reggio and other Enquiry-Based models, Project-Based Learning, Unit Studies…and seriously, that list is not even complete! And they all sound amazing. 
You can fall in love with a method on paper and discover it just does not work for your kid. Or for you! Maybe you like one aspect and not another. But guess what? You CAN change models.  You can pick and mix like this is the lolly counter at the cinema.


Don’t let yourself become so married to a philosophy that you struggle through when it isn’t making your child happy,  or you dread the thought of delivering another day’s lessons. Change tracks. Even if it’s mid-term and you’ve just had your yearly plan approved by the power’s that be. Take the week off, regroup and come back with something new. 
I also think it’s really important not to let ourselves be talked into a method by its champions. Some bloggers and ‘experts’ have a way of making you think their way is not just the best way, but the only way. It’s very easy to let yourself be sucked in by their…let’s say enthusiasm. 


No one knows you and your child like you do. If you love what you are doing, go with it. If a particular method just doesn’t speak to you, forget about it. If you want to swap and swap back, or take a little of this and a little of that, do it!

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of community

There will probably come a time (or two) when you think, ‘I can’t take another day of this. I want to give up’. I know some truly AH-MAZING women who are rockin’ this homeschool biz like it’s nobody’s business. They inspire me on  daily basis. And even they have admitted to their moments. 
Some days (weeks…dare I say months???) it can all feel too hard and the pull of public school can be pretty powerful. Do NOT underestimate the power of your homeschooling community to see you through.


These parents will get you. They will be there to share war stories, to inspire you, to give you suggestions, to bounce ideas off. They will be your shoulder to cry on and your biggest cheer squad. These wise women will celebrate your triumphs right there alongside you.


I couldn’t imagine how I would have made it through the last year without the friendships I have made within the homeschool community. If you get nothing else accomplished in your homeschool year, make sure you find yourself (and your children) a community to be part of. 
3. Believe in yourself

Believe in yourself but don’t take yourself too seriously. Society wants us all to be pretty much the same. It’s comfortable for everyone that way.Homeschooling is just a little different and doing something different takes guts. You need to believe in what you are doing and in your ability to do it. 
That doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. Everyone makes mistakes,  has a few terrible ideas and their fair share of grumpy days. It makes us human. 
Laugh at yourself. Like yourself. Care for yourself. Your children are watching and learning from you. Teach them that confidence and self-belief come from within. Teach them to try new things, to learn from mistakes, to fall down then get right back up and keep going. Teach them self-respect by respecting yourself. Teach them to fight for what they believe in. 
Not everyone is going to agree with your decision to homeschool, or with the unique way you decide to go about it. That’s ok. So long as you believe in yourself and in the choice you have made for your family. You’ve got this mama!

When public school is the way to go

You believe wholeheartedly in the need for holisitic education. You passionately want it for your children. Yet for one reason or another you may choose to send your child to a mainstream school.

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Choose your own path

If your family is like mine,Β the travel time and the dollars involved both put alternative schooling (like Steiner Education) out of reach. That often leads to family choosing to homeschool which has been our path for the last year. But what if you don’t choose to homeschool?

Maybe you have to work so homeschooling isn’t an option. Maybe your local primary school has some fabulous programs you want to take advantage of for your child. Perhaps you gave homeschooling a go and then your little one asked to go to school like all of her friends who live on your block.

Or you were losing your mummy marbles. Or your child has special needs you find it hard to accommodate at home, on your own,Β  on a fulltime basis. Or you plain didn’t enjoy it. Maybe you just don’t want to fulltime homeschool.

And that’s ok. Really. I promise you, it is. If you have weighed up all of your options, listed your pros and cons, and have still come to the conclusion that public school is the way forward…it will be ok. Don’t let mummy guilt (or really, the internet) get you down. Your choice is valid. It is ok. More than ok.

You don’t even need to give up your dreams of providing an holistic education for your children. Honestly! Because there is this cool concept you may not have come across yet. Afterschooling.

Yep, afterschooling. For some this means sneaking in the academics they are worried their child is missing out on, but in the context of holistic education afterschooling is a conscious striving for balance in your child’s life.

Remember the head, heart and hands concept we talked about? School will take care of the head. It’s actually pretty notorious for it πŸ˜‰ Many people (myself included) feel mainstream schooling focuses too much on the head aspect. So outside the hours of 9-3, Monday through Friday, you can bring the focus to the heart and the hands.

How do you do that? By consciously focusing on the 3Rs of reverence, respect and ryhthm. By consciously choosing to forgo the cult of busy and the standard slew of extra curricular activities. By consciously including stories, handcrafts and the arts in your daily life. By consciously eschewing consumerism and instead focusing on imagination, freeplay and time in nature.

Rather than sign up for Saturday sport, perhaps you could spend the time hiking as a family. Instead of listening to the news on the radio for the drive home,  you could choose to listen to classical music or ‘Sparkle Stories’. Perhaps you could leave off the tv and work together on a sewing project or play a co-operative boardgame.

A candle and a verse when you serve breakfast. A family tradition of rolling beeswax candles and having a bonfire to mark the Winter Solstice. Meals prepared together with food collected from your garden. Baking bread together. Evenings spent listening to mama tell stories. A nature table given pride of place in the living room.

We each have to make the best choices we can for our families given our own unique set of circumstances. The trick is to make these choices work for us, rather than feel like the choices are being done to us.  Learning doesn’t just happen in schools, so holistic education doesn’t just have to happen in an alternative school or homeschool either.

You have the power to offer your child all of the benefits of an holistic education. School gets him for 30 hours a week. You get him for the other 138 hours. Make the time count.

Have you tried mainstream school with a holistic afterschooling twist?

An Holistic Approach to Education

This is Part One of a series of posts discussing holistic homeschooling.

Let me start by saying that this post feels a good deal heavier than what I normally write. I promise to return to my regular back to basics style next post. But quite a few people have expressed an interest in the approach to education we take in our home, especially as we have moved on from unschooling– at my son’s own instigation I should add. I felt that I couldn’t adequately explain our approach without a little background knowledge so please bear with me. (I promise not to hold it against you if you skip this post and come back next week ;-))

So here goes…

Traditional education- at least in the sense that it exists in the modern Western world- is focused on academics. What can we learn? How can we test it?Β  Someone, somewhere sat down and decided that one particular body of information was so vitally important that it was to be institutionally imparted to each person. Occasionally another someone shakes it up a little but the gist remains the same. This is regardless of the individual’s unique personality, interests, goals, background,Β  community and values.

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We each have our own unique view of the world and our place within it

And a lot of this information really is important and useful. I don’t know about you,Β  but I do find a use for reading, writing, algebra, geometry and so on in most days. If not most days, at least most weeks. So a focus on the 3Rs is important.

But it is not the only learning of value. What about the 3Hs – head, heart and hands? This is where holistic education differs from traditional education. As Satish Kumar points out in this video, we are not just a vessel for our minds. We are also our emotions, our actions and perhaps most importantly,Β  we are our relationships.

We are the relationship between our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit. That fundamental ‘thing’ that makes us ourselves, whether we attach a religious meaning to it or not. We are the relationship between ourselves and our families, our homes and our communities. We exist as the relationship between ourselves and our food, our clothes, our pets, our world.

Holistic education seeks to develop each aspect of the child, as well as their relationships with the world around them. It isn’t enough to teach them the biology of how a plant grows. They need to experience it and learn with their hands and their hearts as well.

Along with recognising the relationship between people and the environment, we also need to recognise the relationships between subjects. Maths doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intrinsically linked to science for example. It is a part of our everyday lives. The same holds true for the other subjects, so it doesn’t make sense to treat them as stand alone entities. Bringing learning to our children should take a transdisciplinary approach. Forget half an hour of English followed by an hour of maths drill and problems. This reductionist approach removes meaning from learning and learning becomes a chore rather than a joy.

This isn’t some wishy-washy hippy approach to education, although given what I just wrote you could be forgiven for at first thinking that πŸ˜‰ Instead , holistic education is a realisation that we aren’t just educating our children to pass a test.

We are educating our children to be their best selves. We want them to enter adulthood with an understanding of themselves and their relationship to the world around them. We want them to be confident in their interactions, mindful of their impact, passionate for their future. We want children who are well-rounded individuals capable of great compassion and thoughtful influence. We want them to be not only capable of making a living, but of really living. We want our children to be able to take care of themselves and of others. We want more for them than just proficiency in the 3Rs.

Holistic education, with its focus on the WHOLE CHILD, provides such an education. This education may take the form of Montessori Education, Waldorf Method or Reggio Emilia Approach. Perhaps it’s enquiry-based learning or project-based learningΒ  It may be a combination of approaches, or look entirely different. Especially in the homeschool there is a lot of room for individuality in this approach.

Regardless of the method it is implemented by, holistic education is always β€œa philosophy of education based on the premise that each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace.Β  Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.”  (Ron Miller). In a nutshell,Β  we are talking about a whole child, systems approach compared to the reductionist, compartmentalist vision of the world we are usually exposed to.

This is a big topic and I’ve only scratched the surface here. For more info, I suggest reading these pages and definitely check out the video I linked to above.
An intro to the theory
What is holistic education
Methods for implementing holistic education

In Part Two of this series, I will give you a look into the practical side of holistic education, and show you how it is evolving in our home.

See you soon x

Mini-Series: Holistic Homeschooling

A while ago I wrote this post on how we accidentally found ourselves unschooling. A few months later I updated to say we had moved to a more holistic model of homeschooling, promising to tell you more about the change…and then I left you hanging :-p

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But I finally sat my butt down behind my screen and shared my thoughts on holistic education in a series of blog posts. You can find them all here πŸ™‚

What is holistic education in general?

And more specifically,

What is holistic homeschooling? 

As well as,

Holistic Homeschooling as an aspect of Homesteading. (coming soon)

And for those of you who have made the decision to send your children to a public school, this post talks about how to ensure your children still get the holistic education you want for them 😊

I hope you enjoy this mini-series on educating THE WHOLE CHILD. Make sure you have subscribed to the blog so you don’t miss out on future posts. You can find the subscribe option in the sidebar 😊 And please share your ideas and feelings on the subject. We have so much to learn from each other!

See you soon x