Horsing Around

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After thinking this day would never come, we finally ended up back at horse riding again!! The weather was….. well, not very accommodating, and we thought the horses might be a bit silly like they can tend to be in that kind of weather, but all was good.

C..c..c..cold!!!
The moment of reuniting with Selwyn was really lovely
But it wasn’t long before the effects of the wind gusts had the sawdust blowing up into eyeballs, which was far from pleasant. Even “nerf” goggles borrowed from a friend didn’t really solve the problem. In view of the cost of the lesson and the fact that she’d been so looking forward to coming back, it was tempting to try to convince her to just put up with it “like the other kids”, assuming that she would end up coping and having a good time. But I chose instead to honour her discomfort and respect her desire to sit out for awhile. Before the lesson ended, she decided completely on her own to bravely face it once again (see below!) and I was so glad that I’d listened to her.
Learning to remove the saddle is all part of the experience
There’s always time for some nature appreciation on the way back to the car, enjoying a peaceful moment before an afternoon filled with friends, friends and more fun….

Horsey Heaven

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Molly has a desperate desire to live on a farm. It may have something to do with having been birthed during our “Bourke Days” (when we were living in the Australian Outback) but for whatever reason, farm life is in her blood. She dreams of living in the country, owning a horse, a ute, and at least one dog. Our current living situation has us living near great friends in a lovely beachside city, and at this time it isn’t going to work for us to move to the country, so I seek ways to fulfil her love of animals and farming by taking her to places where she gets to experience some farming thrills. We recently went for a visit to a great little place near us called Oakvale Farm, taking the opportunity to make the most of some cheap vouchers we’d bought. One of Molly’s friends came with us, and they had the best time playing with all the animals, especially the baby goats. So I guess I could say the kids really enjoyed the kids? 🙂

Fun at Oakvale Farm

But today was the ultimate experience: HORSE RIDING LESSONS!

Together with about 30 other home ed kids, we descended on a local equestrian centre and had us some horsey fun! Molly was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, and she is already dreaming about next Friday. She didn’t get to ride the horse she had really wanted to ride, but she fell in love with her designated steed nonetheless. His name is Selwyn and I believe he has definitely won his way into Molly’s heart. She had to wait quite awhile until it was her turn to ride, but it was still interesting to watch the other group while we waited. The instructor could have been better in some ways, but I’m fairly confident she did a much better job than I could have done! 🙂

Finally it was Molly’s turn and it was UP…..
….. UP…..
…. and AWAY!!!
It brought a big smile to MY face to see her enjoying this moment so much!
Just another example of all that “lack of socialising” those poor home ed kids have to put up with 🙂
It was fun to ride in the open air, after being in the big shed for the lesson
Home again, home again, jiggety jig
Feeding and unsaddling the horse in the stable was almost as much fun as riding!
Goodbye until next time Selwyn!

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

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.
rainbowbayview
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!

Mission-Weed-Destroy!

When we moved into our rental property, there was a big section up the back of the yard that was full of knee-high weeds. It didn’t look pretty. But it looked better then than it does now! Before we knew it, the weeds had just about taken over the back section of the yard and grown to be taller than me!!! (And I’m not short LOL). Mate, it was a jungle out there! And VERY overwhelming.

One day my good friend Melissa came and we got started on mission-weed-destroy! We removed the weeds from along the garage wall, and to our dismay discovered that underneath them were massive root systems – basically, they were tree trunks sawn off just above ground level! It seemed our problem was even bigger than we’d at first thought! I have to admit I felt pretty disheartened. And more so when all the weeds grew back again! (I won’t forget how sore my arms were after the day of hacking into the weeds, and it was pretty annoying that it was all for nothing!)

My mission then became about finding out what the weeds actually were and how to get rid of them. I really didn’t want to have to use poison, especially because we plan to grow food on this land, and also just because I like to do things a la naturally, as much as possible.

After much internet research I discovered that the weeds are a category 3 noxious weed called Green Cestrum which grows as high as 3 foot. It spreads most rapidly during spring (when we moved in) and also spreads more if the trunk is chopped down but not fully removed or poisoned. The previous owners had obviously chopped down quite a few of these bushes/trees, which has actually made the problem worse. Bummer!

Anyway, our lovely landlord, James, ended up offering to join us in a working bee, so yesterday was the day we donned out workboots and got stuck into it (AGAIN!). This time we managed to remove 3 entire root systems as well as a whole bunch of the spreading weeds. We’ve really only just begun, but at least we know how to tackle it now!

Here’s a small section of the yard, showing some of the weed spread and a small section that’s been cleared
Here’s a small section of the yard, showing some of the weed spread and a small section that’s been cleared
Here’s one of the exposed root systems – well, part of it!
Here’s one of the exposed root systems – well, part of it!
Going…..
Going…..
Going.....
Going…..
Gone! Woo Hoo!
Gone! Woo Hoo!
Look at some of the nasty buggers we pulled out. Bigger than your average bindii, hey!
Look at some of the nasty buggers we pulled out. Bigger than your average bindii, hey!

It was an AWESOME feeling to get that huge patch cleared (see the first picture!)

Post Script: We actually ended up leaving two plants & their runners because we ran out of time, and they are beginning to spread again! Grrrr…… Apparently the previous residents chopped some of the plants down but didn’t remove the root systems, so they’ve just spread like wildfire and we’re still trying to get on top of it!

It’s often the things we try to forget about or cover up that do the most damage.