Weekly Recap

I’m getting back into the swing of things after a busy holiday season with Cam’s 5th birthday and lots of time with hubby at home. I thought I’d share this weeks events in photo form –

006 007 008

We started the week with a play with friends at Happiness is here‘s house

 057
Lucy explored some new shells including these beautiful matching shell dissection set from Montessori Child

10932300_828407407222192_1826279198_n
We have loved these caddy’s from Aldi with our favourite Micador products

10940410_559838169812_5760693114282670474_n
Our home education co-op experience this week was sensory play

10931550_559838164822_4459301638037512387_nWe had cornflour + water goop with squeeze bottles, slime and water beads

10928593_10153112246098969_198297895_n

After our recent hatching program, we talked a lot and decided to commit to chicks!

10911269_10153099712498969_2385208796329861862_o
We rent so we had to get our landlord on board (they are) and we’re on a tight budget so went thrifty!

014

Lucy and Cam love and play with our lock box really frequently. Here it was a house (Lucy) and space station (Cam with magnet rockets)
_________

Hope your week was lovely

See more photos and what we are up to at Facebook and Instagram

For more inspiration – follow me on Pinterest

*****

Want to see more lovable learning?

Click through to these child-led blogs:

Happiness is here | HippyHappyMama | An Everyday Story

Tools for Backyard Exploration

We all know that unstructured time in nature is vital for kids and spending time in the backyard is one of the easiest ways to do that. But what resources can you have on hand to get the most out of backyard exploration?

Binoculars

10406598_559838329492_1962770310526948581_n 10404089_559838319512_4260704162681208815_n

Binoculars are a must have for nature exploration. The one’s we have come with a safety neck strap, lint-free cloths and a carrying pouch. These 4 x 32mm binoculars feature coated glass lenses and a die-cast body with rubber cover and are exactly the right size for small hands.

Through these we’ve identified many birds and watched local kangaroos from afar. Without binoculars we wouldn’t have known what a kookaburra had caught to kill and eat high in a tree or spotted the noisy nest next door hiding amongst the branches.

Binoculars open up a world of exploration beyond the yard and high above our heads!

Bug Viewers

10671329_559838653842_1485098956094234149_n 10947177_559838648852_8200195318279509605_n

High quality bug viewers are a must for any nature exploration. I love the size and shape of these one’s and the kids really enjoy the magnification and the fact that these jumbo specimen viewers have a 7.6 cm wide bottom with a built-in ruler to easily measure the specimen! It’s great for early numeracy and classification.

The viewers come with little air holes so any specimen can be kept in the viewers safely. The lid is also secure so that the creatures won’t escape.

They aren’t limited to insects though – we love these for having a closer look at almost anything around the yard. Even indoors they are kept around to easily take a closer look at interesting things.

Garden Tools

1908105_559838549052_4111760632520739159_n 10933845_559838539072_2960271451194821190_n

Garden tools are not just for gardening! I can’t tell you how much we love this set of tools for play and exploration. This spade, shovels and rake have been used for everything from playing in the sand pit to digging up worms in a Mum-approved spot. They’re the perfect size for kids and are real tools that are strong and high quality – no flimsy plastic pretend version!

Cameron inadvertently dug a trap hole for a baby toad (above) which lead to lots of questions and research and learning. These tools open up a new world of exploration on and under ground!

Handheld Microscope

1794555_559838449252_6355272176906272285_n

By far my favourite tool is a handheld microscope (at the moment these are an incredible 50% off – making them a tiny $9.99!). This takes magnification to another level in an accessible and portable way.

This handheld microscope has a magnification of 20x and 40x and comes with an LED light to light up the objects for a clearer view (batteries included).

I cannot believe the quality and magnification of this pocket sized microscope. It’s sturdy and easy to use for small hands. We use it to look at plants up close, insect eggs, unidentifiable tiny objects and all kinds of little critters. It’s perfect for the backyard as well as taking on nature trips. It really changes how children view the world around them!

**********

There you have it – my top tools for backyard exploration! What would you add?

Tip To Encourage Mindful Sibling Relationships

Navigating mindful (respectful, positive, authentic, attachment, natural, whatever you want to call it) parenting with siblings can be difficult. Here’s something I learned that really transformed how my son (now 5 year old) interacts with his younger sister (2.5 years old) and in turn helps me be the best parent I can be:

Explain how their actions influence their siblings.

That’s it. It may be obvious to some but it wasn’t something instinctive to me. I knew my influence but didn’t think to explain his.

The trick is to consistently describe how what they do teaches there sibling to (re)act a certain way. Watch then, how over time they help – because they want to help – and because they see how it does work.

For example Cameron (5) didn’t want to share his stamps with Lucy (2.5). I explained to Cam that if he shares with Lucy, that would help teach her to share.

Another example: Cam got frustrated because Lucy wasn’t listening to him. He started getting angry and yelling at her. I explained that yelling at her could teach her to get angry and yell back.

This shows them that their actions and reactions have power and gives them tools while also explaining the why and how.

It’s important to remember the tone. Initially I was saying it with an almost blaming undertone – “if you don’t share, she won’t” or “if you hurt her, she will do it back” – rather than explaining how they can help.

Saying “[insert name] is still learning how to [play kindly/share/express themselves], how can we [show them/help them]?” or similar will have a much more positive response and outcome.

Tip To Encourage Mindful Sibling Relationships

I’m always careful to word things so that Cam knows that it is NOT his responsibility to parent Lucy and that while he has influence, it is not his ‘duty’. But I think that the distinction that their actions impact and help to guide behaviours is important.

Children love to help. Cameron loves knowing that what he does can help me and help teach his sister. Often the direct consequence plays out right in front of them (i.e. Lucy angrily reply to his yelling) so they can learn in the moment.

It’s never perfect. It’s not about quick fixes or getting it ‘right’ every time. But ultimately it’s helped us positively and I wanted to share that with you!

It’s Not All About Learning

I’m often sharing different opportunities and experiences my kids have and describe them saying they’re ‘learning experiences’ or ‘educational opportunities’ and I feel like that is misleading. Stick with me, I’ll try to explain.

10919173_759744027435387_710064100_n

I think initially I sought out these experiences primarily for that reason – to provide opportunities to learn about the world around them. But it’s grown into so much more than that as I’ve moved further away from school-like thinking. I’ve written previously about deschooling and it’s influence in unschooling and a more natural learning process. I know personally that this has been at times difficult but the most fulfilling journey for me as a parent.

The paradigm shift that comes with unschooling is one that cannot be unseen, unread, un-experienced. Instead of ‘thinking outside the box’ suddenly you realise there is no box. And for some – particularly academically minded people like myself – that can be unsettling and uncomfortable. I see it everywhere – people trying to keep a semblance of ‘normal’ despite recognising the reality of natural learning.

These experiences I provide my children are now about cultivating wonder and curiosity. I don’t care if my child doesn’t learn about certain arbitrary facts associated with a life cycle we’re observing or specific elements of numeracy we’re exploring through play. That specific, testable knowledge is no longer the endgame. It happens regardless – but it’s no longer the top desired outcome.

10899384_792819574126215_1394082035_n

I care about that deeply personal thoughtful and enthusiastic process where kids marvel at something new. I care about the fun. I am more focused on them questioning everything and challenging what is ‘known’. I want them to not see the world as something to learn about in a segmented and linear way. I want them to realise that they’ll never know some things and that it’s fine if they find some aspects of the world boring. It’s natural. It’s normal. If they are never going to commit it to memory (for themselves or to use) then is it truly necessary?

The school mentality has us believing that kids need this holistic view of the world where they learn about every subject to a similar degree – in a hierarchy nonetheless – and that somehow constitutes an education. Yet anyone who went through standard schooling even as preteens (before more specialised subject areas in high school) had vastly different skill sets and interests. We don’t need a one-sized-fits-most style of education (regardless of whether it’s in or outside of the home).

As a child – as a learner myself, I always knew all those arbitrary answers. I could perfectly check off those ‘learning outcomes’ but so much of it lacked context and was therefore meaningless and not useful. So what if your child knows all the names and alignment of the planets – are they also gaining an appreciation of the hugeness of the universe and how they are connected to it? Are they connecting to that learning beyond a two dimensional page? Does it mean something to them?

That’s the biggest thing for me – does it mean something to my child? Are they seeking the learning out? I feel like it’s all pointless without this driving factor. So what if your child knows 100 sight words – does that knowledge truly matter to them? And not in a way that is connected to approval or outside influence? Is it genuine learning?

027

It’s not all about learning. Not in the traditional sense. Of course it’s all interconnected and even learning that something isn’t interesting to you can be significant.. but this focus on learning and academic success – particularly at these younger ages – really has me puzzled. A lot of the ‘important’ learning that happens within all people is not quantifiable or tangible. Learning such as emotional intelligence, character development, and simple passion are just as important.

They’re stronger than they think

After my previous post, “You’re stronger than you think,” it became clear to me what the number one thing standing in the way of problem gambling is: stigma.

Stigma-definition2I’ve written about social stigma and mental illness (as it applies to me) previously. I can relate to the stigma associated with addictions through my experiences with mental illness. I know first hand how hard it is to be open about something so deeply personal and difficult when you’re surrounded by societies negatives views.

I was really thankful for the positive discussion on my Facebook page and how many people were keen to share their opinion respectfully and hopefully help people understand how important it is to reduce this social stigma surrounding problem gambling!

 

Many problem gamblers suffer immense social stigma. Add to that the fact that around half also suffering from anxiety and depression, and you’ll begin to understand why seeking help is sometimes so difficult.

Too often asking for help is viewed as weak. This is particularly targeted towards men, who make up a majority of the problem gambling population. The reality is that it takes incredible strength to reach out for help from any addiction.

Often problem gambling is wrongly viewed as self-inflicted. Like with mental health, somehow society sees problem gambling as a choice in and of itself. The reality couldn’t be further from this.

Stigma brings about feelings of shame, blame, hopelessness, stress, misrepresentation in the media, and ultimately reluctance to seek or accept necessary help. But we can change this!

How can we challenge stigma?

Everyone has a role in creating an accepting community that supports recovery and social inclusion and reduces discrimination (whether it is related to problem gambling and/or mental illness). Simple ways to help include:

  • Educate yourself! Research, learn and share the facts about problem gambling,
  • If you have experienced similar, speak out to increase awareness,
  • Get to know people with personal experiences of gambling addiction,
  • Speak out against friends, family, colleagues or the media when they display false and negative stereotypes,
  • Don’t label or judge people who have or had a gambling problem, treat them with respect and dignity,
  • Talk openly about addiction, the more hidden mental illness remains, the more people will continue to believe that it is shameful.

Again, I’m writing this because chances are there are at least a few people who could benefit from reading this and from the awareness it creates. I’m writing this in the hope that it will help someone who has or is affected by a gambling problem. I’m writing this for those who need a sign to seek help. This is it. Now is the time to seek help and can be the turning point in your life. Don’t let other people’s ignorance stop you from reaching out and living the life you deserve.

If you or someone you know needs help with problem gambling, you can access FREE, confidential help and information –through Gambling Help face to face , or 24/7 by phone 1800 858 858 or online.

Find out more about these services and self-help options here.