Recollections

It’s four years since I started this homeschooling blog and  I have at times questioned why I am blogging. Now my oldest child is in high school and my ‘baby’ is six  and we have a new baby.

I have been looking back through some of our old photographs, the children have grown so much and it makes me realise how quickly this time will pass and that they will soon be adults.


Parenting in this age is so difficult, we are no longer held safely in the embrace of the village and we are deluged by choice. By the time we figure out the best way to approach things our children have already grown up.

 

 

 


It is so incredibly rewarding to actually be with your children as they grow and learn.

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Every week I have days when I wonder what the hell I am doing.

When it all seems like too much.

But I’ve learned to just take a deep breath and ride out the feeling of being overwhelmed because it will pass and soon enough we will be feeling inspired and joyful again.


Homeschooling takes courage and stamina, there will be times when it feels like the whole world is against you. It’s still very counter-cultural in Australia, people think it is strange.
But even on the bad days I love it and I recognise it as an amazing gift.
We are just getting back into it now after the birth of Little Man and we are finding our feet trying to get things done with a baby in the house. It’s different and tiring, sometimes I want to pull my hair out. But it is also deeply satisfying.

Within another five or six years my oldest children will be nearing the end of their ‘schooling’ and Oliver will be just beginning. He will probably be the fortunate child who has a parent who knows what she is doing! I want to treat the coming years with the reverence they deserve, the teen years are so critically important.

 

I remind myself that I just need to do my best and to trust in God, the Source of all.

Home learning that carries on regardless…

I gave up homeschool planning several weeks ago since I don’t have the mental capacity or physical energy to focus on it at this stage of pregnancy but things just seem to carry on regardless. Last time we homeschooled I found it took about eight months to deschool and fall into a rhythm and it has been at least the same this time. The structures and impositions of the school lifestyle have been forgotten.

Tom says to me in the same sentence I love Minecraft and I love maths. He works through maths on the Khan Academy website for fun. He tells me that he enjoys doing cursive worksheets. I did decide that I would encourage the boys to work with the Future School maths curriculum on the computer since it is so self explanatory and requires little input from me and is therefore something they can do in a self led way at the moment. Tom does so happily as something enjoyable not something imposed, Zeph is always more resistant to structure but concedes because he realises it really is not much effort to do around half an hour per day.

This morning the boys did some Future School maths and then Zeph decided to go and make lunch, he enjoys cooking from recipes and put some chicken thighs in the fridge to marinade. Tom and Lili went outside to find and assemble some sticks, a bit later I went out to see what that meant and discovered them playing with glue, paint and small sticks.

I’ve given up trying to keep the supplies cupboard organised because they use it all the time and the chaos yet easy access for self led projects outweighs my desire for order.

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And so even though we are supposedly not doing anything at the moment we are actually still doing quite a bit. We carried on with a science experiment for Tom since he was looking forward to doing it and it makes sense to finish up the Water Cycle. One of the things I love about homeschooling is really discovering the areas that your children enjoy learning about the most. It is different from being told they are good at subjects in school when they discover for themselves what they have fun doing.


Lili has really enjoyed the garden this Summer. Every day she has been out there looking for cucumbers and tomatoes and strawberries whilst singing to herself.

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The weather has been beautiful. We are all excited about the impending birth of this new little member of our family and although the last weeks of pregnancy are always an enormous challenge, I am enjoying them too. Everything has become very slow, aside from hospital appointments the outside world does not exist.

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The time is nigh….

This is the view from my bedroom window.

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We have had a lot of rain and the plants are happy. We prepared the soil late this year and so we didn’t plant a lot of things but we have had rocket and bok choy and lots of cucumbers and tomatoes and there are capsicums still to come. It really was a struggle to keep this garden watered over the hottest days of summer and sometimes I used up my last little bit of waddle doing so but it is all worth it when it comes time to pick the produce. There are few things that make me as appreciative as freshly grown home veggies and fruit, there is something so beautiful about the whole process of growth and variety and something so calming about being immersed in greenery.

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I am spending most of my day looking out upon this view because if I spend too much time on my feet the SPD problems become really intense. It is frustrating because there is so much I would love to do in the house in preparation but still I am grateful that I can sit down and that the children are old enough to not require my physical aid and intervention all the time.

So much of our experience during pregnancy is influenced by what occurs at a subconscious level. And because we are conditioned to be rational not intuitive our emotions can get pretty confusing. Because I spent the first 30 weeks of this pregnancy completely avoiding the medical model I was able to really enter the beautiful rhythm of pregnant space. I didn’t worry about anything, I was not obsessed with time or what date I was up to, it was a lovely process. And I found the discomfort of having to suddenly exit that space and enter the world of medicalised birth very challenging. It involved a process of grieving for the birth that I longed for and because we don’t live in a society in which it is acceptable to include the mothers real experience as a priority then there is usually no vehicle for processing the grief, we are expected to just be grateful for whatever care we receive and it is thought selfish to consider otherwise. This is so short sighted because it is all so interrelated, the mothers experience IS the baby’s experience, there is no separation between these two things.

I felt very torn as I went about the decision making process, what aspects of the standard hospital procedure for dealing with Gestational Diabetes was I going to go along with? Induction is not complication free especially an early induction. And how do we really way up the odds between the risk of induction and the risk of macrosomia or stillbirth etc? It is difficult to be needing to make these decisions because what happens is that the more we are pulled into our analytical minds the more we lose touch with our natural intuition which is ultimately the thing that can help guide us make these kinds of decisions properly.

Initially I was told that I would need to be induced between 37 and 38 weeks and I was not happy with this. If left to go naturally I usually go into labour around 41 weeks. To be induced at 37 weeks is considered pre-term but particularly so when compared with my norm. Thankfully they did not push this when a scan showed that the overly excess amniotic fluid previously discovered had settled down and whilst the baby looks big there is nothing to suggest that it is big for me. At this stage it is just hypothetical, it can’t really be known.

I decided that I would refuse induction at 38 weeks and insist on being as close to 40 weeks as possible and I was kind of expecting a bit of a battle or at least being treated like a negligent fool but surprisingly it was not like that at all which gives me a lot of confidence because if there was any real medical need for early induction they would insist. I just gently asked if we could move the induction date forward a week and the doctor said it was fine. And this has taken a lot of the pressure I was feeling off, there is still a chance I will go into labour naturally and if not then at least there is far less chance of my body not being ready for birth at 40 weeks than at 37-38.

So now is really a time of waiting. Last night I dreamed that I moved with a group of women and children to a log house by a beach in Norway or Denmark. Our contemporary life is too fractured to make the real connections of sisterhood available but our bodies remember a more archaic time. I would love to spend these weeks sitting in a circle of women of different ages engaged in doing and making, to thread baskets and tell stories, to be quiet and listen. The odd conversation with a loved friend is not enough for me, I want it all day every day, I feel the absence but such is modern life.

I am being well cared for by the people around me and that is such a blessing. It is so, so hard for me to relax into needing the help of other people but the more I am forced to do so the easier it gradually becomes.

I decided to write down how I felt about not being able to home birth and it helped process the feelings.

Weary. Tonight I had a good sob after months of stoicism. Hopefully this means a good processing of all those things we are not supposed to feel but instead cover with a dose of saccharine gratitude. When another casual directive to ‘think positively’ made me want to start flying punches.
Acknowledging discomfort or loss or grief or worry does not cancel out positive thought. In fact it can be a stepping stone and a process. But it is so ingrained in our culture to silence the raw and churning places. And perhaps this is why so many live as dead zones enacting culturally prescribed roles but never really getting close to the pulse of life.
I am grateful and excited, there are a million things to be thankful for from basic food and shelter to the love of small people to the lightly showering rain.
I am also a woman on the edge of birthing sitting close to the heart of the world feeling it ache. There is exhilaration, anticipation and fatigue, fear and disappointment. I wanted to home birth and I can’t. I was pulled out of the intuitive rhythm of pregnancy into the analytical fear spaces. Trying to weigh risk against risk, decisions that seem impossible.
Birth and other rites of womanhood always open in me a gap, the longing I have for sisters, blood sisters. And aunts. Woman love. People who speak the languages of being female accompanied by unconditional love. The love that generally only blood or a shared childhood can accumulate. Pregnancy takes me into the heart of the island, my island-ness.
But well rehearsed now I can shed the tears and simply let it go. Trusting and knowing that weary spaces open us beyond our small limitations and in those openings there is peace. Shedding now the exhaustion and the hanging on and the million ways we women try to micromanage our lives. Birthing is the most beautiful time to surrender our illusion of control.

A couple of days ago I felt a real hormonal shift. I have not felt overly fragile this pregnancy compared with previous experiences but definitely in the last few days something has shifted. I have been weepy and grumpy. But it makes me happy because I know it means the time is nigh, everything is conspiring in preparation. InshAllah.

I have half packed my hospital bag and assembled the baby seat in the car. I enjoy the late summer afternoon air in the garden briefly before returning to my spot on the bed looking out on the greenery. It is time for waiting and patience and enjoying these last weeks, possibly the last time I will ever feel a baby kicking inside me.

I enjoy music that reminds me of being twenty and yet oddly contains lyrics that suit my current perspectives in life.

My little people also react to the slow pace of the household, all ‘formal’ homeschooling on hold now.

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I really truly believe that pregnancy is a journey for women designed to untie the places we are knotted. It’s impossible to articulate and so I won’t try. It is just such a truly amazing experience, a wonderful awe inspiring journey every time.

Wet on wet watercolours

It is 42 degree’s Celsius today so we are all bunkered down in the house with blinds down and curtains closed. I forgot to water the tomato plants this morning and I am praying that they survive the day.

It seemed a good time to have a go at making wet on wet watercolours. Whilst we started off with the subtle and blended Waldorf technique we ended up just playing with the materials however we wanted. Lili in particular loved it and spent at least two hours swirling paint around.

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Preparing for our newcomer

Well it seems I have fully fledged Gestational Diabetes. Now that I have to take insulin I need to be really careful about my food intake, it is different from simply being healthy. It is very demanding having to pay such close attention to food, sugar monitoring and insulin whilst taking care of a large family but thankfully the older children are interested in cooking and have been helping quite a bit with meals.

I love how much learning can occur just through household tasks. Cooking involves reading and planning, it involves maths especially as we always have to double the quantities in recipes, it even involves science.We are compiling a list of favourite new recipes, mainly things Zoey and Zeph have tried making themselves recently. Some meals they have made this week mostly managing with minimal help from me.

Tamari,ginger and chilli fish fillets with steamed veggies
Sweet potato and haloumi burgers with caramelised onions
Thyme, chilli and garlic chicken skewers with coriander rice and salad

 

I have had diabetes once before with my third child and the birth was induced at 39 weeks. Since then I have learned a lot more about induction and it is not something that I want to go through again. I wish that we could trust that such procedures would only be offered when absolutely necessary but that isn’t the case. But it is difficult for me to know whether the complications I am having are reason enough to induce, it is fairly certain that I will be put under pressure to do so. I am trying to not allow my disappointment over the potential ruining of my home birth plans cloud my feelings about the birth but it is difficult not to do so.

Whilst I am trying to come to a better understanding and make a decision about what I will do I am conscious of the fact that an induction would mean birthing in around six weeks so I have become preoccupied with preparing the house and generally getting ready…..inshallah

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And much of that involves rallying the children to help prepare and reorganise and tidy up as with pelvic instability my mobility is not so good. I remember at this stage of my pregnancy with Lili I needed to use crutches to get around. It was much more difficult then because I had three children under the age of six who all needed constant caring for and Tom was a baby who needed to be carried to the car. I had a child in Prep and a child in Kinder and I was out several times a day. Thank goodness our circumstances are different this time, the SPD symptoms are probably just as bad but I need to be on my feet far less. I’m also much more stubborn and persistent about self care.

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So we have been cooking and cleaning and going through boxes and cupboards and generally ‘spring‘ cleaning. The weather has been horrendous, I hate Melbourne Summer’s, it is just far too hot. But we put the roller blinds down and use the evaporative cooling  and it is bearable.

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After some initial reluctance I decided to turn our homeschooling room into a Mama and baby room, I just didn’t have space for the baby stuff in the room I was planning on staying in before. Although I will cosleep I do use a cot during the day as a safe place to put the baby while he/she is asleep or just kicking legs around. I love the idea of baby wearing all the time but I find that it hurts my back too much to do it for hours on end. I do generally spend hours in a day sitting and breastfeeding so we have plenty of time for skin to skin contact and bonding. But the move means we are back to using only the kitchen for our homeschooling…although really we use the whole house and garden, but for arts and crafts and writing that requires a desk/table the kitchen will have to suffice. And it means toys either in my bedroom or the front living room but that’s a happy compromise since the room we have taken over is large and has a lovely view over the back veggie garden.


We are using every available corner of this house, it really can’t fit any more stuff or children! Homeschooling does mean needing more space than usual, I have many shelves and cupboards full of resources and supplies.

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Tom turned 9 during the week and we had a pancake breakfast and he was thrilled with his present, a wooden stable with several horses. All the children love the Ostheimer wooden figures and animals, we have been collecting them for quite a few years and whilst they are expensive they are also strong and lasting quite unlike the plastic crap which my kids can break in a few weeks. I  hope that these toys are things that the children can give their own children one day.

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Homeschooling end of year updates

Zeph – continued withThe Ramayana in more detail and looked at some classical Indian painting using a still from the children’s Ramayan on Youtube to copy a watercolour painting of his favourite scene from the story. Of course he chose the most gruesome aspect of the entire thing.

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He turned eleven and we ate cake by candlelight, he assembled the stunt scooter he wanted and he has been enjoying it ever since.

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I introduced him to Baraka Blue and he loved the clip “Love and Light’  since we have been to so many of these places in Fes.
We talked about the elements that plants need to grow and about the differences and similarities between the way human beings and plants interact with the elements.

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He started learning about the story of the Buddha’s life and we discussed the Four Noble Truths.

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We discussed the Tree of Life including plant/animal kingdoms and he made his own Tree of Life drawing.

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Then we started making a Family Tree to illustrate how the Tree of Life/Plant and Animal Kingdoms branch out from one another. I showed him the old coffee and burnt edges trick to make a document look old and he loved it. We can trace our family to the Second Fleet on my mother’s side.

He finished reading Demon Dentist.

Tom – learned about gravity and wrote a humorous story about ‘The Day there was no Gravity’. We did some grammar and spelling.
We discussed the basic elements of photosynthesis.
He read from Little House in the Big Woods.

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He read two Native American Creation Stories – Cherokee and Sioux.

A theme of one Creation Story was to not be scared of trying new things, we made a plate with some new (to M) tastes, mostly fermented goodies from my fridge that the children usually turn up their noses at…

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We looked through a book I’ve had since childhood, Native American Portraits and began to talk about the impact of  colonisation upon the Indigenous people of North America and Australia.

He started a unit on the Water Cycle and an experiment boiling water to show condensation. And an experiment about evaporation.

Spelling and handwriting practise.

Lili – is six meaning she is at Kindergarten level according to our syllabus. The main thing is to focus on rhythm and play incorporating letter and number forms slowly.

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We have started in the garden. HH was delighted when I gave her a garden bed all of her own and everyone gathered together to help assemble it. She had been asking me for days if she could grow strawberries so this was the first plant I gave her for her garden.

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We read ‘Does my Garden Grow?’ by Gerda Muller. The illustrations are wonderful and the story is very involved, it is more like reading a chapter book and we read a little every day rather than it all in one go.

Our cucumbers seedlings are already at least one centimetre tall, HH was thrilled to see that they had already come up. We read a story about a germinating seed and we talked about how the sun ‘calls’ the seed to sprout through the surface of the earth. She has been watering her own veggie patch every morning and evening so she understands that the ingredients a plant needs to grow are sunlight and water and the nutrients of the soil. We talked about the number four and how there are four seasons and four elements. We read a story about the four seasons. And this afternoon it is raining heavily so the garden will be happily drinking it all in.

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Focused on the letter H and the number 5 so we listened to  ‘Aranjuez‘ and we performed the Dance of the Five Silks to an audience of dolls!

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She dressed as a Queen and we tried lots of different combinations of costumes made from play silks. These are really one of my favourite Waldorf toys, so incredibly simple and versatile and HH loves them.
We then played Hopping on the H. Later she kept dancing while I read to her from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Generally she loses interest in stories that are without many illustrations but the movement enabled her to stay completely absorbed.


We read Flower Fairies of the Seasons and HH loved that it was a copy I had owned as a child.

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She read the story of Eartha the Earthworm and then we went into the back garden to look for worms. It must have been too hot though as we didn’t find anything. Then we modelled the numbers one to six using modelling wax and played some number games.

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We sang a physical mandala, ‘Parts of Plants’ to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, an active way of learning the functions of the roots, stem and leaves….the leaves soak up the sun, soak up the sun.

The strawberries started growing well.

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She made a kite on a very windy day for the letter K.

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We read Sonia’s Chicken’s.

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We continued reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and her reluctance to sit and listen to non illustrated stories is now a thing of the past, it just took the right stories to captivate her attention.

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My favourite part was really the Welcome to Country. The elder spoke of the Merri Creek we sat next to being like the blood in our veins and this really struck a cord with me because I feel like the Huon River is my blood and I miss that landscape more than I can describe, I feel it like an ache in my body. I wonder sometimes if the discord in my sense of place related to my becoming a Muslim has really sensitised me to the reality of belonging and where and how we are owned, which atoms resonate with which atoms. Perhaps because I no longer know where I belong in terms of race, my sense of connection to land is heightened. The land does not belong to my cerebral interpretations, it simply exists and is as it is and whether white, Muslim, city dweller or not it is the pulse of my childhood. I do think we are owned by the land we grow up upon. But I wonder how my children can foster a similar sense of place since our connection to the land in suburbia is so fractured.

In the Welcome to Country he spoke about the genocide, about the stolen generation. At least two thirds of the crowd he was speaking to were not listening, already throwing colours upon themselves and laughing and dancing. I found it hard to hold back tears because it just seemed like a metaphor for the greater reality of our situation in Australia in which white people (and I am one of them) have not and will not and do not listen, not properly.

The elder also said we all belong to the land and we are all welcome and it is this humility and generosity that always rips my heart out because we white people are welcomed, we are included, if only we could just start listening as well. He spoke about refugee’s and boat people and Manus Island, he said that Manus Island is the same as the stolen generation.

I know that it isn’t completely the same but I am so, so grateful for my experience of sexism and my awareness of how male privilege works and how difficult it is to get through to some men about it because I can use it to recognise similar dynamics with white privilege and colour blindness. When we grow up white it is very, very difficult to start to understand how racism really works as opposed to what we have been taught racism is. Our understanding of racism is usually around 5% and if we don’t fit that 5% we assume we aren’t racist, we don’t realise that our entire society is built upon structures that are racist. Recognising this is probably the most difficult thing a white person can do and therefore most of us won’t do it.

It was great for Zeph to see the Festival of Colours in action, even if an anglicised version of it, they had lots of fun.

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Made watercolour mandala’s and decorated some of the lemon branches we cut from our tree with some colourful wool for our nature table.

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drawing mandala's

Made our Summer Nature Table

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We began learning to knit using Youtube video’s.

We cooked.

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dinner

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Pregnancy wise we had a bit of an upheaval when the lovely non-medicalised bubble I was living in popped and I discovered I have Gestational Diabetes again. Whilst not a big surprise since I have had it before, it is disappointing because it probably means I cannot birth at home as planned. I am grateful for at least spending 30 weeks in such a blissful, non intrusive space, an entirely different experience than my other pregnancies during which I was connected to the hospital system from Day 1.

Whilst I had planned to continue homeschooling through the Summer holiday break right up until my due date, the next few weeks I will now be busy with appointments so I think we will take a break from doing anything structured and just enjoy preparing the house for the baby.