Monthly Unschooling Highlights: March 2020

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It’s halfway through April and I am only just getting on to writing up the best things of our unschooling life in March – but, with half of that month in Lockdown, I think I can forgive myself! I hope you all are well and that these Monthly Highlights continue to encourage you to see amazing learning everywhere in your children’s every day lives.

I have set up a page dedicated to these updates, so check out the last few months if you are interested.

On to March!

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// Rugby

Josiah’s love of rugby continues unabated. For his birthday at the beginning of March (turning seven), he went to a local Highlander’s game. It was the best birthday present for him! We also were able to sign up for him to play rugby, though now it may not happen this year. Yet, the whole experience of signing up and meeting coaches was very exciting for him. He was given a book of All Black posters for his birthday and his room now shows clearly what he loves deeply. And he continues to play with his collector cards, creating games and spouting factoids continuously. It truly amazes me the cupboards and drawers of facts and knowledge he has in his mind.

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// Nature

March was a beautifully settled month after a rough summer, so we took advantage of the early Autumn warmth by spending much of our time outside. Walks, picnics with friends, gardening, and just enjoying the outside was a highlight. We found stick insects, tui, dragonflies, penguin caves, cicadas, as well as kittens on our outings. And there is something wonderful walking similar paths and seeing them change in their beauty as the seasons do.

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// Curriculum

The children’s continued love and interest of Big Cats and other wild animals led me to look into a unit study curriculum, Gather Round Homeschool. As our country went into Lockdown, I purchased the Africa unit and we started doing it everyday. We have absolutely loved it and the children’s hunger for knowing new animals and Africa continues to deepen.

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We have loved learning about each country, the geography, flag, and other interesting landmarks, as well as the accompanying animal. We scratch the country off as we go. We have watched many documentaries and Wild Kratt episodes, as well as enjoying Alexander McCall Smith’s series Akimbo and the Lions, Akimbo and the Elephants, and Akimbo and the Crocodile-Man. We have about nine countries left in the unit, which we will continue to potter away at and we may either start a new unit or take a break. Our enjoyment of this curriculum inspired this Unschooling Thoughts post.

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// Math, Reading + Chapter Books

Rosalie has been slowly working her way through her Explode the Code book, and I can see her starting to click with certain words. I don’t push her at all but because she is a ‘typical’ girl, she loves workbooks and several times a week asks to do them, as well as her Horizons math. She ‘reads’ everyday and I have every confidence that she will soon be like her brother and take off.

Josiah has read three chapter books: Christian the Lion, a Secret Seven, and he re-read Akimbo and the Lions. His hunger for reading is insatiable now. And he has discovered he enjoys math on Khan Academy (at his own instigation).

// Play + Art

Because we have been in Lockdown, the children have been doing a lot of deep play. By that, I mean, the kind of play where all the things they have been thinking about, say Coronavirus, or learning about – like leopards, tornadoes, or rugby – comes out in their play. This sort of play is exactly how God made children to learn. Kim Payne talks about this sort of play in his book Simplicity Parenting and how it enables children to build up their inner world, their confidence, and their sense of well-being. It has been so important for them at this time with all that has been happening.

We have also really loved Art for Kids Hub channel on YouTube and both children have done quite a few of their classes. It’s a fantastic channel and I highly recommend it if they have particular favourite characters, like Frozen or Ninjago.

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As always, these have only been the highlights of our month. Our life is full everyday, even in Lockdown, and I absolutely love that I have such a hard time picking all the things to share.

Until next month, happy unschooling!

Birdsong on the Bad Days (+ Printable)

So far, our family have been enjoying our lockdown life. I am surprised how happy the children are and that they don’t seem to be missing their friends. Of course, they have their moments, but there has been a settled spirit in them. I think our daily routine of lessons have helped this immensely, as well as having a general routine for each day. Oh, how precious routines are! I realise now the importance of them, more than ever before. And it is something I am pondering during this time, hoping to have a plan for when lockdown lifts, how to keep this precious routine going.

Yet, we had one particularly rough day this week. It was one of those days when one or two of the family just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it was a challenge to say the least. I spend much of the day in prayer, asking the Lord for help because I myself, was feeling particularly weak. I am so grateful that His power is made perfect in my weakness, and that I am free to give of myself, not counting the cost.

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One of the many steep streets we walked down (then up!)

It has been our routine to go for an hour’s walk from about 3pm each day. This day, however, I decided to take Josiah for a walk just on his own, knowing that he needed that special on-on-one time with Mama.

It was a glorious Autumn afternoon. The sun was warm, there was no wind, and the birds were out in their song. We were delighted to hear and see a native Tui which, usually, is found only in forests and bush. The new city we live in, Dunedin, has quite a lot of native bush within it, and so it is actually quite common for Tui to be seen. It was the first time in my life.

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Autumn colours everywhere.

As we walked down hill, through streets and bush, we chatted and discovered and listened. Both of us felt the peace of birdsong: these beautiful creatures that do what God made them to do – to be birds and sing for His glory. Their precious trust and simplicity always speak to me, and as we walked, I was just thankful for their audible praise.

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We saw the beautiful dark Tui with the white tuft.

The walk and birdsong restored our boy and he was much more settled afterward. Nature has always been, in particular, a balm to his soul. And on this day, it was the exact medicine he needed – as well as that special attention from his Mama.

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How hard and precious Motherhood is. It is crushing and stripping, but soul lifting and rich in joy. And there is something about the relationship between a mother and son that is unique and fragile. There is such a balance between closeness and space. I am so grateful this is all in His hands.

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A historic house of Dunedin.

The love of nature that my son has always reminds me of Wendell Berry’s poem which resonates with all who feel called into the wild. I have designed two printable pages for you of his poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ . I hope his words echo to you in this season as they have for many.

Click on the image to downloadwildthingsprintable1-page-001

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Being Intentional During Lockdown

We are on Day 3 of lockdown here in New Zealand. It is Saturday and feels as if we have been on holiday in a remote place for a week. I am both loving it and thinking what a challenge it will be in many ways, for all people. We are made to be with people and interact with people – yes, even us introverts! – so it will be by Grace that we all will get through this time.

I believe deeply that God is Sovereign and therefore, I believe this time of isolation is ordained by Him. It needn’t be just about surviving four weeks (or more) of lockdown, we can thrive during this time! We can redeem this time for His glory and our good as we live simply at home.

I’m realising how important it is to have both a routine for our days and to have goals to work toward over the next month. I mentioned in my last post two specific ones, but I have been pondering more since, and I have come up with a broader vision for goals, as well as specific ones.

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I am not usually a goal-setter. Perhaps it is my Type-B personality or that I don’t like feeling like I am failing at something so I just tend not to make goals for myself. I am generally happy just pottering and slowly working on something over time (like the garden).

But I am coming to see that goals with intentionality doesn’t have to be the hustle-like goals I see around that make me feel like I would never live up to them. I believe that being faithful toward little things is something I can, by Grace, do. And, at a time like this, how important it is to have intentionality about our days.

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I have a bullet journal that is where I record my weeks and lists and homeschool things. I call it my Homeschool Mother’s Journal, though I actually record what we do for schooling elsewhere. This is more of my Homeschool Mother planner with books we read, curriculum plans, daily tasks etc.

In my Mother Culture section (more specific to me and my own education), I have a two-page spread of my goals for the lockdown. I have created six categories with three different goals beneath: Faith, Reading, Hands (or Hobbies), Homemaking, Homeschooling, and Home Projects.

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If I complete only half of my hopes, I will still feel good. In the end, redeeming the time during lockdown is more about how I am using this unique time for the Lord rather than achievements. I dislike so much that our world is all about how much we do and not who we are. This time ought to be a cultivation of our character, a resting in His grace, a seeking of Him, and spending our days with submissive hearts.

This blog post by Rebekah at Ready to Be Offered shares my thoughts so well on accepting where we are right now, laying down before the line, and embracing the limitations put before us. This period of social isolation and home-living will be fruitful and peaceful as we do this, rather than a time of chafing and biting at the bit.

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So I encourage you to sit down and pray about redeeming this time and being intentional about lockdown. How can you cultivate your faith? How can you grow your habits? How can you improve your mind? How can you nourish your children? How can you build your home? How can you have a settled and joyful heart?

Friends, we can really flourish during this time!

What are some goals you might have during lockdown?

Lockdown: A Call Home

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Tonight, as of 11.59pm, all of New Zealand goes under lockdown. Our Prime Minister make the announcement on Monday in our bid to stop Coronavirus and protect the vulnerable people of our country. (In horrible irony/hypocrisy, this week our Parliament also voted to decriminalise abortion – but that is another complete post.)

After the initial sense of “oh my, a whole month”, I am now settling into the reality with relish. Obviously I am not happy for the reasons for being on lockdown, as an introvert and homebody, I am thrilled to have no outside pressures of “have to’s” demanding my attention and pulling the children and I out of the house.

We are allowed to go for walks around the neighbourhood, or go grocery shopping for essential supplies, but other than that, we must stay home.

This view will keep my soul still as we live in a still half-done house.

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In many ways, it is a call for an entire nation to simple living for a whole month. To step back out of the crazy busy world of 2020 living, and take a breather, and live the way (I believe), we are meant to. And I really pray that God uses this time to turn people’s hearts to Him and, for Christian families who have been caught in the current, draw them back to the peaceful waters of living a quiet life.

There is nothing more that I love is being home with my family, pottering around the house, and doing things I love like reading, writing, and growing in Jesus.

And I have two goals for this lockdown month: 1. Get in a good daily rhythm of learning with the children and; 2. Paint the stairwell and downstairs hall. (I haven’t done an update on the house in a while but will do so soon.)

I plan to finish reading Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer (a reread from many years ago). Have you ever read any of the novels by Georgette Heyer? They are so witty, delightful, and full of regency goodness.

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I also plan to start getting back into writing a novel. I have always desired to write about what it was like going from England to New Zealand as a colonist. There is a story in me but I am my own worst critic. Yet, through God’s grace, I will do it (eventually).

So I hope to enjoy and delight in this time and use it well for His glory.

How are you going to spend your lockdown?