natural learning

Parenting Moments to Love – whilst we lay low between travel adventures!

We’ve been very much home bodies after our exciting week away in San Francisco, with side trips to Santa Cruz and Monterey. It’s been nearly three weeks since we got back and we’ve been very self contained in the house we’re renting in Santa Barbara, till the end of August this year. The three girls are so content with their own projects that we rarely feel the need to get away from house and having a swimming pool in the backyard gives a wonderful release when indoors gets too much! I also think there’s an unconscious need to pace ourselves – as we tend to go ‘all out’ on exploring mode when we’re away; and we’ve recently had the news that we’ll be travelling to Europe in a week’s time!

Yes, we’re off to Copenhagen, in beautiful Denmark, for the first two weeks of July, followed by a week in North Wales, in the UK, visiting family and a week in Hampshire, south of London, in the UK, visiting more family. The first two weeks hubby will be working and I’ll be navigating the streets of Copenhagen with my three daughters (once we’ve got over the jet-lag!). Thankfully daylight hours extend to nearly midnight – so I’ll probably encourage the girls to lay low in the morning and party hard in the evening, once their Daddy has finished work!

All this travel is definitely exciting, but kind of exhausting with children too! So, when we’re not travelling, this is how we pass the time – and it’s pretty special too…

In between the crafting, imaginary play, rabbit chasing and Minecraft Skype sessions with friends, late into the night, there have been copious games in the swimming pool,  song writing, singing, reading and quieter moments to watch the birds nesting in the eaves of the house we’re staying. I’m going to miss this year of natural learning, without having to rush out the door to be somewhere at a particular time. It’s been wonderful to have all three girls at home, interacting, living, playing and being together.

I’ve enjoyed stretching out on the yoga mat, under the endless blue sky of southern California, and heading out the door for runs in the evening. The girls inspire me with their energy, often encouraging me to dive into the swimming pool with them, to try a new stretch or go for a run on the local running track. In the past few weeks they’ve been down the batting cage and to the climbing wall. There’s always something happening, but it’s all unscheduled, natural flowing action.

In preparation for our next trip away I have loaded up a Danish App on our gadgets, so we can use our manners in the native language whilst in Copenhagen! The girls are looking forward to the adventure and have been watching YouTube videos about Copenhagen and experimenting with the language. We’re staying in a lovely apartment, in central Copenhagen, near an area known as ‘Little Paris’ (good coffee and Danish pastries!).

Our travelling will soon take us back to New Zealand too, as after this trip we shall have a couple more months in California, USA, before heading back to our home in Wellington, New Zealand! It’s the birth place and home of our children. Our children, particularly our eldest daughter, very much miss their friends and their home. It will be good, in many ways, to get back to the community and good friends we know and love – but a part of me will miss the travelling! Thankfully, with my daughters getting older, I feel a few more independent trips of exploration on the horizon.

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Joining in with the lovely…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Weekending It! All action!

Having the man of the house home at the weekend gives us family time to get out and really explore this place – and we certainly had an action packed weekend of it!

The man of the house

Whilst the rest of us were barely awake he headed off for an early morning paddle board, returning back mid-morning for a quick appointment with a lady from a tutoring business, as we’re organising tutors for our older girls in some key subjects, to compliment their ‘natural learning’.

Then we all headed out for a family time of biking along the beautiful Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara, to the marina area for lunch.

We found a great cafe called, ‘Endless Summer’, right next to the Maritime Museum. It was the most relaxed, family lunch we’ve enjoyed in a while. A perfect setting, beautiful scenery and a fantastic, affordable, children’s menu (win, win!).

View over marina from Endless Summer Cafe

After lunch, and cycling back towards the central town of Santa Barbara, we enjoyed a little browse in the ‘Funk Zone’, where we found a gorgeous antique shop, jam packed, from floor to ceiling, with treasures, as well as a cute little surf museum.

Funk Zone Santa Barbara

After a busy morning, we went home for an afternoon rest before visiting friends in the evening.

Sunday was another action packed day.

We decided to head south to Santa Monica Pier and the fairground there.

Santa Monica Pier

We all had a fabulous time, with lots of rides to keep our youngest child amused, as well as the older ones.

Fun at the Fair

 

Santa Monica Pier

Just as we were heading back to the car, for drive home to Santa Barbara, we saw a man with two snakes! Our Miss 10 would so love a pet snake, but our rental agreement wouldn’t allow it – not to mention we wouldn’t be able to take a snake back to New Zealand with us! It was a dream come true for her to hold the snakes. She did so well holding the weight of two rather large snakes – combined weight of 60 pounds!

Miss 10 and 2 snakes!

On the drive back, as the sun began to sink low in the sky over the Pacific Ocean, we stopped at a huge sand dune, over looking a beautiful bay.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Of course sand and children are always a fun mix – especially when sand is banked up very high for climbing up and running (or rolling) down.

Sand dune fun California

Next time we pass we’ll have to make sure we have a boogie board in the back, or a piece of cardboard… it reminded me of an adventure Dan and I enjoyed on Fraser Island years ago – boogie boarding down a dune into a lake!

Sand dune fun

We got home just after sunset and whilst unpacking the car (looked more like we’d been away for a week!), the man of the house got in the pool with the children. Just when I thought we were done for the day, and steering towards bedtime, a Suzy Cato DVD inspired an experiment with purple cabbage on the different between acid and alkaline (fact sheet, thanks to Suzy, here). Being in a natural learning way, we embraced the moment and did a science experiment before bedtime (as you do!).

We all finally got to sleep – close to 11pm!

First impressions | School life in America

School commenced for two of our three children yesterday. Our ten year old has been attending school in New Zealand for five years and, apart from a somewhat dissatisfying, unchallenging experience in her first three years, she has pretty much excelled. She thrived at a private girls school she attended for the past two years and performed well above average in all subject areas, even as the youngest in her class.

Our seven year old had a terrible experience in her second term of schooling in a public school and we were all dissatisfied, as a family. As she was under the age of six at the time – and school is only compulsory at the age of six in New Zealand – we withdrew her. Then we heard about the possible move to America and decided it was better to home educate up until the move – little did we then know that the whole deal would take a year and a half to get to a point when we could actually move countries (we were initially given the impression it would be a few months!).

Anyway, here we are now in America.

Our unschooler – as we were enjoying child-led learning in our home with a wonderful group of natural learners – thrived in a home environment, socialising with other home learners. Her reading is well above the average for her age, as is her mathematics. She enjoyed various science experiments, played creatively and freely, without time constraints, along with her natural learner friends, came up with stories, plays and poems under her own drive, and read books with a lot more interest than her traditionally schooled older sister. Also, as she wasn’t confined by ‘time’, if she was avidly into a particular book she would read till midnight, knowing there was no rush for a bell the next day. She thrived.

On her first day at a proper school, here in America, she was naturally nervous – but her natural personality is outgoing, chatty, confident with strangers in shops, cafes, museums, enquiring, unafraid to try new tastes, physical pursuits and so on. She has hit gold with a wonderful, experienced Grade 2 teacher. Further more her teacher is one of those special ones that has always continued with her own learning and is very up to date with modern times, technology and teaching methods. Win, win! It looks like this school experience will be perfect for her, at this stage in her education, and of great benefit to her social nature.

Now, our other daughter, the high achiever, from a traditional, private, girls school, walked into a very different scenario. A mixed class of 10 and 11 year olds, non-uniformed, who all knew one another. There was no prior warning about standing up and pledging allegiance to the flag… (whereas Miss 7 was given prior warning and provided with an explanation as to why students in America did this). Miss 10, in contrast, was surrounded by students that suddenly stood up like robots and hand on heart started singing – she was left thinking, ‘What the f*ck?!’.

She also found herself with a teacher who was aghast at Miss 10 loving snakes and spiders (turns out – none of us knew this – her teacher has a spider phobia – oops!). Then there was the health and safety notices – which Miss 10 found totally over the top – coming from adventurous New Zealand, where calculated risks are a normal part of life – they even have fully equipped carpentry benches in pre-schools for three and four year olds – yes, hammers, saws, nails… (and I never heard of an accident). Children in New Zealand run barefoot, climb trees, jump in water holes, and are encouraged to test their own physical boundaries. The only people that blink an eye when a young child runs on the beach in their ‘Birthday suit’ are the foreign tourists.

Love this video ‘Frosty Man and the BMX Kid’ – sums it up nicely 😉

Plus the teacher was doing the ‘strict’ thing – which is understandable given it was the first day and there were probably a few personalities in the class that needed the ‘don’t mess with me’ message – unfortunately Miss 10 found her style abrupt and loud (and Miss 10 dislikes conflict, loud noises etc.).

Furthermore, Miss 10’s avid interest of watching film documentaries and passion for ‘Minecraft’ was met with disdain and a comment of, ‘Books are best’. Miss 10’s reaction was to maturely bottle in the tears, frustration and annoyance for the entire morning and then, only in the comfort of a private environment, let it out. She was devastated. The whole experience hit her with a sledge hammer of what she’d given up in New Zealand and the amazing friends she has there.

We are going to enjoy our time here (Dan and I would be really loving it, but happy children make happy parents… and until they are all settled, we shan’t feel top notch).

We shall meet with the school, the school counsellor, try and make it work for Miss 10 – but we don’t wish for her amazing education in New Zealand to be undermined and if the wrong teacher for her doesn’t work out, then we will stand by our daughter and ensure she retains her love of learning – even if we have to do online learning (which I am very pro-doing – hubbie a lot less so – as are the grandparents – that live in the UK; it’s not as though they really know what we are going through as we’ve been raising our children entirely single-handedly for the past decade in New Zealand). The biggest concern for hubbie and the grandparents is that ‘Sarah won’t cope’ – because I’m on antidepressants (and have been for over a decade). The truth is, I can cope. With exercise, medication and a happy family I am fine. It’s when I feel, in my heart and gut, that one of my children is genuinely not happy that the mother bear instincts in me cry out – not out of ‘protecting’ and ‘wrapping in cotton wool’, but of being my child’s advocate in an adult world and setting an example that the system isn’t always right and not to be accepted blindly – but, at times, worked around – even if many people see it as ‘radical’.

Of course she will be persuaded to give the school another chance and we will ask her to give us a full ‘pros and cons’ write-up of schooling in America for a year versus online learning – and then we shall discuss further.

We are not dictators of our children’s future – but here to guide them, let them feel confident to express themselves and know that their voices are listened to and respected.