Winterfest, Take 2

This time two years ago, I took my two youngest children to Winterfest in Sydney, our first medieval fayre. This year we made the trip again, partly because we had so much fun last time and partly because our friends, Tim and Ruth, had an awesome stall there, selling their beautiful wooden swords, surprise puzzles, castles and other things. We always love seeing their stall in action! And of course the  yummy food, fighting re-enactments, jousting, birds of prey and all sorts of other medieval delights!

I had some very strange people accompanying me to Winterfest this year! :)
I had some very strange people accompanying me to Winterfest this year! 🙂
And they weren't particularly friendly either!
And they weren’t particularly friendly either!
See what I mean?
See what I mean?
But really, underneath all that metal, they're actually very friendly
But really, underneath all that metal, they’re actually very friendly
And they're very good at fencing!
And they’re very good at fencing!
See what I mean?
See what I mean?
The smile of success!
The smile of success!
The mock fighting was VERY loud and good for a laugh, too!
The mock fighting was VERY loud and good for a laugh, too!
The warriors were pretty friendly when they weren't fighting. They didn't even eat the kids!
The warriors were pretty friendly when they weren’t fighting. They didn’t even eat the kids!
A knight on horse back getting ready for jousting - always an amazing spectacle!
A knight on horse back getting ready for jousting – always an amazing spectacle!
The competition! (Does anyone else find themselves thinking of "A Knight's Tale" whenever they see jousting? We LOVE that movie!)
The competition! (Does anyone else find themselves thinking of “A Knight’s Tale” whenever they see jousting? We LOVE that movie!)
JOUSTING! Yeah!!
JOUSTING! Yeah!!
The jousting assistant dude was hysterical
The jousting assistant dude was hysterical
The "Birds of Prey" demonstration was informative and really fun! They're a conservation group, so it was good to know they look after the birds well.
The “Birds of Prey” demonstration was informative and really fun! They’re a conservation group, so it was good to know they look after the birds well.
Owls, as it turns out, don't seem particularly "wise" at all!
Owls, as it turns out, don’t seem particularly “wise” at all!
The mighty falcon!
The mighty falcon!

Just before we left the Fayre, I discovered the most amazing book at “The Medieval Shoppe”. It’s a book all about Viking costumes and even includes patterns. Both of my kids who were with me are super keen to help me make some clothes and although the book wasn’t cheap, it will hopefully save us lots of money in the long run, because buying the clothes is very expensive too. The man holding the book had met the author, Nille Glaesel, when he was holidaying in Norway. Nille has spent years creating reconstructions for museums and re-enactments. She had just published the book to share her love of the costumes, and some of her patterns, and was shocked that he was keen to distribute it in Australia. She had no idea that any sort of re-enactment societies and fayres exist here! He ended up getting to spend some time living in a Viking Long House in the far north of Norway, that had been built by the author’s son. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of him with the book! I love being able to purchase a product that has a story attached to it! Now to get around to making something out of it! 😉

Inaugural NSW Unschoolers’ Camp

It can be a lonely path at times, this unschooling life. It is certainly the road less travelled, and it can be hard to find like-minded souls to share the journey with. Let’s face it, the majority of parents send their children to school (which is totally cool – to each their own!). And of the minority that choose homeschooling, a smaller minority deschool themselves to the extent that they can let go of schoolish thoughts, practices and expectations, actively embracing the freedom of unschooling. This isn’t to say that unschoolers are superior. We all do what we believe is best for our own families. But the reality is: unschoolers are a rare breed!!

In the past couple of years the online connections between Australian unschoolers have been growing, including a Facebook group for NSW Unschoolers, out of which grew a desire for a casual camp. S0 in April, I had the privilege of being part of  what I think is the first ever Unschoolers’ Camp in our State! There may have been one in the past that I’m not aware of, and if so, please enlighten me, but as far as I know, this is the first one. And it rocked! It really did. For me, it was a dream come true.

The two Australian Unschooling Conferences I went to were great. A big marquee, keynote speakers from faraway places, organised activities, and LOTS of miles to get there. All good! But some of us also wanted a more low-key gathering. Organic. Down to earth and relaxed. A celebration of our connectedness to each other as a community of unschoolers. Sharing and learning from one another.

And so the NSW Unschoolers’ Camp was born. Much kerfuffle went on trying to work out the details, but eventually we were off and running. Excitement built up online (we love you Facebook), and eventually we packed up our camping gear, knitting needles (yes – truly), cameras, sporting supplies, a huge assortment of food, the all-important laptop (yes – that too) and headed off to beautiful Port Stephens.

We all revelled in the opportunity to hang out, in real life, with other unschooling families. There was never a shortage of conversations or cups of tea on offer. The only structure we had was a daily “circle time”, for anyone who wanted to gather together for some shared conversation. It was a good way to move beyond the natural connections that were happening in smaller groups, and to include those that might be too shy to turn up at someone’s tent for a casual cuppa. A couple of times we managed to have one person talking at a time, but inevitably it would turn into a raucous, roudy rabble of simultaneous, exciting conversations, so we quickly worked out that the multitude of words begging to be spoken over-ruled any possibility of decorum! 🙂 Don’t ya just love it when a group of women get together? Especially women with much in common and much to say, and infrequent opportunities to talk together!

More Circle Time
Circle time was definitely a highlight of each day. And yes, there really is a real live man in this photo! Only a couple of dads were able to come to the camp, but it was SO great to have them there, even if only for some of the time.

It was so lovely being able to linger over conversations, and get to know these wonderful women in real life. Initially we had laughingly entertained the idea of wearing name tags with our Facebook profile picture on them, so we could work out who we all were! It was lovely having some of the mums share their interests and skills with others, from crochet, knitting and chai tea, to belly dancing!

Crochet seemed to be a popular hobby. I did actually take a crochet hook and wool, hoping to learn this great skill, but it stayed packed in my bag for another time. :)
Crochet seemed to be a popular hobby. I did actually take a crochet hook and wool, hoping to learn this great skill, but it stayed packed in my bag for another time. 🙂
One of the mums is a passionate belly dancer, having found it to be a vehicle for deep healing and joy in her own life. She ran a casual workshop for anyone who was interested, and even a couple of the little girls joined in! Later on she performed for us and it was really quite spectacular! Not that I can see myself taking it up anytime soon! :)
One of the mums is a passionate belly dancer, having found it to be a vehicle for deep healing and joy in her own life. She ran a casual workshop for anyone who was interested, and even a couple of the little girls joined in! Later on she performed for us and it was really quite spectacular! Not that I can see myself taking it up anytime soon! 🙂

Typical of home ed events, it was lovely watching the children play with a varied mix of ages. It didn’t matter what “grade” someone was in (because grading is not even on the unschooling radar). They were just a bunch of kids and teens having fun, and getting to know each other.

Helping a younger child with a helmet for a shared ride on one of the buggies
Helping a younger child with a helmet for a shared ride on one of the buggies
There were plenty of activities on offer including swimming, volleyball, pedal karts and so on, but sometimes the kids preferred to make their own fun.
There were plenty of activities on offer including swimming, volleyball, pedal karts and so on, but sometimes the kids preferred to make their own fun.
The majority of teens enjoyed the opportunity to hang out in a group, although some chose to play with just one child or spend time alone and that’s good too!
The majority of teens enjoyed the opportunity to hang out in a group, although some chose to play with just one child or spend time alone and that’s good too!
It really was a beautiful place to catch up with beautiful people. This was our final sunset.
It really was a beautiful place to catch up with beautiful people. This was our final sunset.
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After a week of sunny days, the heavens decided to open on the morning we packed up. What’s camping without rain, huh?
We had just put the very last thing in the car when it turned torrential, and then it was a case of quickly retrieving my child from her friend’s cabin, and huddling in the car with the heater full blast for the trip home!
We had just put the very last thing in the car when it turned torrential, and then it was a case of quickly retrieving my child from her friend’s cabin, and huddling in the car with the heater full blast for the trip home!

We came home on a high, and are eagerly looking forward to the next camp, knowing that it will be another chance to deepen these friendships and get to know new people. A few years ago I only knew one other unschooling family, and now here I am in this privileged place of being able to camp with about 20 other families, all either practising unschooling, or at least open to the idea. Feeling very blessed….

Boys’ Bush Adventure

Late last year, Declan had the awesome privilege of attending a “Boys’ Bush Adventure”. It was a 5 day camp for boys, in the bush, learning survival skills, building wooden things using only hand tools, finding and making food, etc. It was organised by our good mate and home educating dad, Tim Schloss. They all got dirty, muddy, smelly, and exhausted. They also built and created things, bonded over shared challenges and adventures, created their own bases in the bush to sleep in, and basically just had a fantastic time. It was such a wonderful experience! Some of the mums, girls and younger children went up at the end to check it out and say g’day.

They were a motley crew, but totally in their element. Who doesn't love a camp fire, getting dirty and making stuff?
They were a motley crew, but totally in their element. Who doesn’t love a camp fire, getting dirty and making stuff?
Tim makes amazing wooden items from swords to furniture and toys, and really enjoyed showing the boys how to create great things out of basic timber and a few simple tools.
Tim makes amazing wooden items from swords to furniture and toys, and really enjoyed showing the boys how to create great things out of basic timber and a few simple tools.
They made some individual projects (Declan came home with a hand crafted wooden spoon!) and they also worked in teams to make some bush furniture – pretty cool huh!
They made some individual projects (Declan came home with a hand crafted wooden spoon!) and they also worked in teams to make some bush furniture – pretty cool huh!
Part of the adventure was learning some survival skills, too, which they really enjoyed!
Part of the adventure was learning some survival skills, too, which they really enjoyed!
Each team with their leader had to make their own base, prepare their own food with limited supplies, and basically "survive"!
Each team with their leader had to make their own base, prepare their own food with limited supplies, and basically “survive”!
It was great to see the various techniques they used to create their bush bases.
It was great to see the various techniques they used to create their bush bases.
I love the way they used what they could find in the bush to create their structures
I love the way they used what they could find in the bush to create their structures
The weather provided a few challenges
The weather provided a few challenges
A fire always helps though. As does a pit toilet! ;)
A fire always helps though. As does a pit toilet! 😉
One of the team challenges was to create a special meal for the leaders, using only certain foods coupled with a lot of creativity. Apparently it mostly tasted okay!
One of the team challenges was to create a special meal for the leaders, using only certain foods coupled with a lot of creativity. Apparently it mostly tasted okay!
Team work was an essential part of the whole experience
Team work was an essential part of the whole experience
It's not always easy, putting your trust in your team mates!
It’s not always easy, putting your trust in your team mates!
Sometimes they need to put their trust in you!
Sometimes they need to put their trust in you!
Even the leaders took a turn at trusting the kids, which is great I think!
Even the leaders took a turn at trusting the kids, which is great I think!
The place where the camp was held was so perfect for it. Plenty of bush (can’t have a boys’ BUSH adventure without that!), rocky outcrops, and even this cool wooden shed that was used for cooking and shelter (and yes, that's a girl in the picture, but I promise she wasn't there the whole time!)
The place where the camp was held was so perfect for it. Plenty of bush (can’t have a boys’ BUSH adventure without that!), rocky outcrops, and even this cool wooden shed that was used for cooking and shelter (and yes, that’s a girl in the picture, but I promise she wasn’t there the whole time!)
The bush shed in context
The bush shed in context
Tim explaining a few things to the boys
Tim explaining a few things to the boys
This was taken at the end of the camp – it was amazing to see the way the boys listened to Tim. Absolute concentration. Either that, or absolute exhaustion!
This was taken at the end of the camp – it was amazing to see the way the boys listened to Tim. Absolute concentration. Either that, or absolute exhaustion!
Driving home from camp we came upon fields of flowers in the bush. Native irises perhaps? And some others. What was amazing was that they hadn’t been blooming the day before when some people had driven up to camp, and they weren’t blooming the day after we saw them, when some people returned to camp to get some forgotten items. It seems we were there at JUST the right time! It was so beautiful……
Driving home from camp we came upon fields of flowers in the bush. Native irises perhaps? And some others. What was amazing was that they hadn’t been blooming the day before when some people had driven up to camp, and they weren’t blooming the day after we saw them, when some people returned to camp to get some forgotten items. It seems we were there at JUST the right time! It was so beautiful……
The photos don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of what we experienced. We knew we were part of a special, transient moment.
The photos don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of what we experienced. We knew we were part of a special, transient moment.
Beauty in the Bush
Beauty in the Bush
Joy on the journey
Joy on the journey
At the bottom of the mountain on our way home, we had to do a creek crossing in the 12 seater bus. Part of the rocky platform that is normally driven across easily had been washed away in heavy rain, and the water level had risen, so we were stuck there for awhile, putting rocks into the gaps so we could safely drive across.
At the bottom of the mountain on our way home, we had to do a creek crossing in the 12 seater bus. Part of the rocky platform that is normally driven across easily had been washed away in heavy rain, and the water level had risen, so we were stuck there for awhile, putting rocks into the gaps so we could safely drive across.
It was such a beautiful, picturesque place to be “stuck”
It was such a beautiful, picturesque place to be “stuck”
Plenty of time for a game of footy (how on earth they had any energy left at all was beyond me!)
Plenty of time for a game of footy (how on earth they had any energy left at all was beyond me!)
Some had less energy than others, having expended so much to create such an amazing adventure for the boys
Some had less energy than others, having expended so much to create such an amazing adventure for the boys
Time for reflection
Time for reflection
Time to play
Time to play
Time to take off those not-so-white socks!
Time to take off those not-so-white socks!
Oh dear ;)
Oh dear 😉
Time to attempt the crossing of the creek
Time to attempt the crossing of the creek
Faster and “funner” in a 4WD!
Faster and “funner” in a 4WD!
Time to bid farewell to the mountain
Time to bid farewell to the mountain

Purple Pear Organic Farm Tour

Last year (catching up on blogging!) we had the opportunity to do a tour with a bunch of home ed families to an awesome place called Purple Pear Organic  Farm. It’s an amazing place that provides food to about 40 families every week, as well as feeding themselves of course. The provide work for WOOFers, and also run permaculture courses. The vibe was so amazingly friendly and informative, and I was amazed at the attentiveness of the kids. They soaked it up, mud puddles and all. 🙂

It was especially exciting for Molly, who dreams of living on a farm one day!
It was especially exciting for Molly, who dreams of living on a farm one day!
The owner of the farm doing "the talk" and pointing out their motto.
The owner of the farm doing “the talk” and pointing out their motto.
He provided such helpful information and was able to answer everyone's queries, and his passion for what he does was obvious. He also seemed to accept that the children would sometimes listen... and sometimes not. And that was ok.
He provided such helpful information and was able to answer everyone’s queries, and his passion for what he does was obvious. He also seemed to accept that the children would sometimes listen… and sometimes not. And that was ok.
Sometimes we all just wanted to explore the beautiful environment
Sometimes we all just wanted to explore the beautiful environment
The kids enjoyed learning about the farm animals the most
The kids enjoyed learning about the farm animals the most
Especially ones as cute and cuddly as this!!! I think he had a VERY full tummy once the kids had finished with him. It was fascinating to see the way they used the guinea pigs on the farm. They had constructed cages/runs that were the width of the pathways in the areas where there were straight garden beds. They would move the cage along, so that the guinea pigs would keep the grass short. They obviously still had room left over for the consumption of flowers!
Especially ones as cute and cuddly as this!!! I think he had a VERY full tummy once the kids had finished with him. It was fascinating to see the way they used the guinea pigs on the farm. They had constructed cages/runs that were the width of the pathways in the areas where there were straight garden beds. They would move the cage along, so that the guinea pigs would keep the grass short. They obviously still had room left over for the consumption of flowers!
I don't think the dog was quite so interested in eating the flowers!
I don’t think the dog was quite so interested in eating the flowers!
.... but Declan certainly was!
…. but Declan certainly was!
YUMMO!
YUMMO!
One of the main features of the Purple Pear farm is the use of chook domes in the mandala garden. I imagine they would only be suitable for a temperate climate, though!
One of the main features of the Purple Pear farm is the use of chook domes in the mandala garden. I imagine they would only be suitable for a temperate climate, though!
Here is one of the circle gardens in the mandala system. It's been harvested, and is about to have a chook dome placed over it, so the chooks can eat up whatever is left plus any bugs & other insects that might cause a problem for the next crop (and turn it all into lovely eggs and fertiliser of course)
Here is one of the circle gardens in the mandala system. It’s been harvested, and is about to have a chook dome placed over it, so the chooks can eat up whatever is left plus any bugs & other insects that might cause a problem for the next crop (and turn it all into lovely eggs and fertiliser of course)
This chook dome (they have many) is being used to turn a patch of grass into a brand new veggie bed. It's such an awesome interaction of the elements, and a system that seems to work brilliantly. I love how the chooks in particular are such an essential part of the system, and seem to bring it all together somehow. They seem to have an intrinsic role in many of the elements of the farm.
This chook dome (they have many) is being used to turn a patch of grass into a brand new veggie bed. It’s such an awesome interaction of the elements, and a system that seems to work brilliantly. I love how the chooks in particular are such an essential part of the system, and seem to bring it all together somehow. They seem to have an intrinsic role in many of the elements of the farm.
I feel so incredibly blessed that we get to go to such interesting places with such great friends - both kids AND parents. Just another example of that "non-socialising" that home ed families are accused of. :)
I feel so incredibly blessed that we get to go to such interesting places with such great friends – both kids AND parents. Just another example of that “non-socialising” that home ed families are accused of. 🙂

Our “Rainbow Bay” Holiday

We’ve just returned from such an amazing, wonderful adventure! First, we enjoyed a MUCH needed holiday break at beautiful Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast. The people who were in the unit we’d booked prior to our arrival had requested to stay an extra few days, so we were moved to a different unit from the one we’d booked. As we walked in to the unit, we just kept walking…. and walking…. and walking! There were absolutely massive, beautiful living spaces including two kitchens, plus there were 4 bedrooms & 3 bathrooms, and all up there was pretty much 360 degree views since we had the entire floor to ourselves!!! We quickly checked to make sure that we were in the right unit, and were delighted to find out we were – for no extra cost! What a blessing! After having so much stress & busyness over the past few months, with Geoff working multiple jobs and studying his masters at the same time, it was such a blessing to be upgraded to such a beautiful place. And for no extra money!

A progression of photos showing about half of the view of the ocean from different windows in the unit (beautiful!). I wish I could have taken a video from one side all the way around to the back of the unit – a full 360 degrees! On most days we were treated to a performance by whales on their journey south.
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I love the sky and the lighting in this photo from our balcony! Not as much as I love my firstborn dude though. :)
I love the sky and the lighting in this photo from our balcony! Not as much as I love my firstborn dude though. 🙂
AUSTRALIA ZOO
One day Geoff took D & M to Australia Zoo, mostly because of M’s absolute passion for all things “animal” and also because of the hero status she ascribes to Bindi Irwin. She didn’t get to meet her, but hopes to be able to one day!
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MOVIE WORLD
Our other big day out was when we all went to Movie World (half price tickets made it even more awesome!).
Molly got to pose for a photo with "The Gang" from Scooby Doo, which was a huge buzz for her because it's currently one of her favourite shows!
Molly got to pose for a photo with “The Gang” from Scooby Doo, which was a huge buzz for her because it’s currently one of her favourite shows!
She was too short to go on the main thrill rides with her big bros, so while they were off having an awesome time on all the roller coasters, she burned some rubber in the dodgems!
She was too short to go on the main thrill rides with her big bros, so while they were off having an awesome time on all the roller coasters, she burned some rubber on the dodgem circuit!
We had some fun trying to get the camera working in the dimly lit “big kid” dodgem ride area, with the bright lights on the cars. We tried adjusting the shutter speed, using the flash & no flash, and adjusting the ISO, but in the end decided there is still lots to learn about our new 2nd hand digital SLR camera! Regardless, we all decided the photos were actually pretty cool! This is Travis – obviously going WAY too fast for the camera LOL.
We had some fun trying to get the camera working in the dimly lit “big kid” dodgem ride area, with the bright lights on the cars. We tried adjusting the shutter speed, using the flash & no flash, and adjusting the ISO, but in the end decided there is still lots to learn about our new 2nd hand digital SLR camera! Regardless, we all decided the photos were actually pretty cool! This is Travis – obviously going WAY too fast for the camera LOL.
Molly was officially tall enough to go on the scary Scooby Doo roller coaster, but after the boys tried it out, they thought it would be too scary for her. She was not to be perturbed though and decided to have a go. She was obviously WAY too tired to walk though! ;) Oh, and for the record, she thoroughly loved the ride! It certainly helped having her big bros try it out for her first so they could explain what it was like.
Molly was officially tall enough to go on the scary Scooby Doo roller coaster, but after the boys tried it out, they thought it would be too frightening for her. She was not to be perturbed, however, and ended up absolutely loving it! It certainly helped having her big bros try it out for her first so they could explain what it was like. She was obviously WAY too tired to walk though! 😉
Declan got to go up the front and be a volunteer in making a film at the “Hollywood Stunt Driver” show. (He’s on the left towards the back, with the black, red and white shirt on)
Declan got to go up the front and be a volunteer in making a film at the “Hollywood Stunt Driver” show. (He’s on the left towards the back, with the black, red and white shirt on)
It was such an entertaining, funny show – we all had an absolute blast. Check out the car split into two halves by the bike!
It was such an entertaining, funny show – we all had an absolute blast. Check out the car split into two halves by the bike!
I think my older boys were just about salivating at the thought of being able to drive like that one day!
I think my older boys were just about salivating at the thought of being able to drive like that one day!
Here, the funny character in the show proved at the end of the show that he actually CAN drive a car (probably the best stunt driver there!) when he ended up driving over the top of the rooves, and into a building, which immediately burst into flames!
The funny, clown-type character in the show proved at the end of the show that he actually CAN drive a car (in fact he was probably the best stunt driver there!) when he ended up stealing a car, driving over the top of the roof, and into a building, which immediately burst into flames!
The kids all had different favourite rides, which, of course, had to be ridden over and over and over again! I’m sure I got queasy before anyone else – and I only went on the little kid stuff LOL!
FUN ON THE ROAD
Life is about the journey, right? We love road trips! We often listen to audio books together, and just enjoy the time, stopping at various places to discover new things and enjoy some fun together. Not that it’s perfect of course. Life never is!
Molly having fun on a playground ride at the caravan park at Nambucca Heads where we stopped overnight. Look at that HAIR!!
Molly having fun on a playground ride at the caravan park at Nambucca Heads where we stopped overnight. Look at that HAIR!!
Travis learning some tricks on the Z-Flex, during a break for lunch
Travis learning some tricks on the Z-Flex, during a break for lunch
Skater Chick!
Skater Chick!
What a handsome lad – otherwise known as the one who seems to hate having his photo taken (hence why there’s not very many photos of him on here!)
What a handsome lad – otherwise known as the one who seems to hate having his photo taken (hence why there’s not very many photos of him on here!)
I have no words! ;)
I have no words! 😉
SURFING
One of the big reasons we discovered beautiful Rainbow Bay was because Travis and Brady knew it was a great spot to surf, with about three or four awesome breaks all within easy walking distance (and all VERY close to our awesome unit!). But alas, the swell was not our friend, and for our ENTIRE holiday of two weeks there was barely a wave in sight! Seriously, on most days it was like Pacific Lake, not Pacific Ocean! Anyway, out of sheer determination, the boys did attempt to catch a few little waves on most days. Here they are at D-Bar.  See the HUGE waves?
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So there you have a very LONG blog post outlining a little bit of our holiday to the Gold Coast, and some of the fun we had along the way. We felt very blessed and privileged to have such a wonderful holiday in such a gorgeous part of the world.  It was a fantastic opportunity to reconnect as a family in the midst of a hectic crazy year!