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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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

Unlearning

Unschooling is as much about parents as it is children. For most of us this is a completely new way of life and learning. In truth, for the parent it is often more about unlearning.Β  Here is what I personally need to unlearn.

I need to unlearn the idea that children need to be taught. They don’t. They need to be supported in their learning. Learning can not be stopped, it comes as naturally as breathing,Β  but it does need a champion who will honour, encourage and facilitate it.

I need to unlearn the idea that successful learning is measured in pre-determined outcomes. A test won’t tell me what you have learnt, only highlight what you have forgotten in this moment. It can’t tell me what those hours of play helped you discover, or show me your passions, or tell me everything you uncovered about flying.

I need to unlearn the concept that learning is linear. Set facts do NOT need to be taught in a certain order at a certain age. Who decided that Ancient Egypt should be studied in grade three and that all prep students should learn about ocean life in the midnight zone? Why can’t you discover algebra and fractions before you memorised your time tables? If it is useful or meaningful to you, you won’t miss out. Everyone has gaps in their education, we can all fill them when we want to or need to.

I need to unlearn the idea that there is only one right way to learn. Learning doesn’t come just from textbooks and worksheets. Screens aren’t all bad. Joining a sports team isn’t more important and valuable than hours spent outdoors with your cousins and friends.

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Learning through play

I need to unlearn the notion that only an expert can understand my child’s needs as a person and as a learner. And I say learner and not student quite deliberately. No teacher has the time to understand his quirks, to give him the freedom to satisfy his sensory needs, to allow him to discover the world in his own way and on his own timetable. A loving parent is naturally more invested in a child than even the best teacher.

I need to unlearn the bizarre concept that socialisation can only properly occur when a child spends 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year in a room with other children of the same age. I know that there is more benefit to spending time in mixed age groups, of having your extended family be the epicentre of your world, of learning about the community by actively participating in the everyday life of your community… Rather than try to become socialised in a strictly regimented fashion, with bums on seats, mouths closed and eyes to the front.

Our ideas around education are the result of our own upbringing and are often rooted in a fear of failing our children. It isn’t always easy to step outside the norm, to let go of what we have been conditioned to believe, to try something new. Yes, for me as a parent unschooling is most definitely a journey of unlearning.

Free fun at ONE!

One. ONE! My word, how fast did the last year go. My Little Beastie is not so little anymore. Her first birthday has been and gone already. Little sob. Bigger sob. I want my baby back!

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So what is occupying the demonchild angel at the moment? Here are her top 5 free activities πŸ™‚

1. Books
I know, I know. This was on her list last time. But it is still a winner around here. ‘Touch and feel’ books, and books with photos of real animals and objects are the most prized.

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Utilise the library to keep this activity free

2. Dress ups
Well not actually dressing up, but playing with clothes is a massive hit. I just leave a jacket or two on a chair for Miss Wynnie to discover. Wrapping clothes around herself and putting them over her head amuses her for the longest time. I just swap the clothes every few days to keep the game interesting for her, and to facilitate exploration of more patterns and textures. A gift of hand-me-downs in a bag from a friend…MIND BLOWN!

3. Crawling through
My Little Beastie seems to be really focused on internalising the experiences of on and off, in and out, and going through. She is loving climbing on and off the couch, hiding under furniture, clambouring onto the bottom shelf of the bookcase and crawling in and out of small spaces. Cue cubby building, obstacle courses of cushions and chairs, and this…

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This is so simple yet so much fun! It is nothing more than strips of fabric attached to the underside of the table in our designated learning space. You could use off cuts from a sewing project or old linen. Even purchased new this only costs about $2 for the fabric. This ‘going through’ activity has added interest to our multi-age learning space and keeps the wee one joyfully occupied when her big brother is concentrating on a tabletop activity πŸ˜‰

4. Gardening
While she is admittedly not too good at planting yet, Wynnie loves getting her hands dirty. There is plenty to explore, plants to taste, chickens to watch and dirt to dig in. She is getting pretty handy with my little shovel and isn’t too bad at foraging for potatoes. Unfortunately they don’t all make it to the basket without a bite taken out πŸ˜€

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5. Singing
This is the BIG one! I couldn’t even guess at how many times I have had requests for ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, ‘Incy Wincy’, ‘Round and Round the Garden’ or ‘Where  is Thumbkin?’.
Do you still sing these songs to your little ones? They are a little old fashioned I know, but there is a reason they are classics.
The beauty of songs with actions is that not only are they encouraging fine motor practice, they also allow pre-verbal children to request their favourite songs. Circling a finger on my palm, holding her hands in a rough diamond above her head, a particular finger fidget all let me know she wants a certain song. It removes the guess work for me and reduces toddler frustration levels. And anything that can reduce a toddler’s  level of frustration has got to be a good thing. Am I right or am I right?!

All fun. All free. All natural learning.
What free activities are your kids finding joy in?

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