Although we don't yet have the big acreage that I have dreamed of since reading Enid Blighton's The Folk and the Faraway Tree (or The Children of Cherry Tree Farm - oh I would love some cherry trees and a magical tree with a giant slippery slide in the middle of it!). Anyhow, I digress. Despite my lack of finding said magical property with magical tree, I am so excited that we are finally in a climate that doesn't see fit to burning every single food plant to a crisp! This year we have actually been able to grow a significant amount of fresh, organic, green food on our little city block, and have had a small handful of strawberries consistently every day for months - yay for growing micro gardens! One of my biggest wishes is that everyone have a fresh food garden at their house. Wouldn't that be magical?
Often in life (and especially if you particularly like reading!) you will come across something that will completely change your perspective on everything. For me, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has been one of those things. Often throughout my parenting, I have reflected on this 'needs pyramid' and really analysed whether my needs (or our children's needs) were being met. And whether this was the cause of conflict or unhappiness somewhere in my life or in our family. From this pyramid, we often do 'needs assessments' in our family - checking in to see if there are genuine needs that are not being met. Often there are. Whether it be that someone is staying up too late and not sleeping enough, or someone else has forgotten to drink enough water and is feeling cranky and dehydrated. I check in with myself and find that my needs are often not being met due to the inner-adolescent artist who is busy creating, painting, singing, sitting in long hours of talking with our women tribe, encouraging and facilitating our children to reach the stars...forgetting to eat, sleep or breath properly. This brings it back to where it all needs to be. Is there something on there that you are forgetting to do as well?
Up until recently, our littlest love (who is 4 years old) has been at home surrounded by her much older siblings. One who is a young adult and two who are teenagers. It has been rare that she has had the opportunity to work together with anyone her size (or who is willing to play with her for longer than half an hour, on a swing set or other 'little children' toys! We have recently found a beautiful little nature-based homeschool group, at the same time that our own little group has snowballed, and all of a sudden she has beautiful opportunities to play with lovely little friends. After a day out in the hinterlands doing some great team-building activities with her friends, we came back to the library and borrowed a boot-load of books on group-inspired change. I have been working professionally in community work and group building (and teaching these concepts to uni students) for many years now, and it always amazes me that people are just starting to learn this in adulthood! Group work shouldn't start when you are an adult in university - it needs to start here. Learning that moving 4 legs together is more challenging and more rewarding than running with just two. And I am grateful for this. Together we can move mountains ❤
One of my very biggest fears when starting homeschooling was my ability to work. I didn't want to be the person who followed my dreams , ran in to the sunset and ended up in a dodgy caravan park somewhere, eating 2 minute noodles and not able to afford soap to wash my children with (oh the places our minds go when we let them...).
For that reason, I didn't start homeschooling until I had finished my degree and was able to figure out a way to work from home. In hindsight, I didn't need to wait to finish anything, and could have figured out a way to earn income from home without a degree - but that was my thinking, and that is where I started! Working from home is HARD. Don't get me wrong. The little lunch breaks with someone coming in to offer me a cold drink or something to eat are priceless. The long nights making up for the days that I spent teaching one of our kids how to reference properly, or making art with hand printing, are not so fun. But I have the choice. I can work when I need to work. And if there is an emergency (or someone is sick, or we are having a busy day) I can be with my kids. That is something that is irreplaceable and that I am forever grateful for.
When we started the Highschool Homeschool Online program, everything became so much easier! Especially with teens, who often need a lot of support to look up things, research, or understand new projects! I suddenly had time and SPACE to breathe and think about the things that I needed to do, to be able to work from home! Do you have teens at home? do you find it hard to juggle the work-life balance?
In our very long move from one part of the country to the other (the spread which could fit 35 countries in between, if we were measuring by European standards) one of the most profound losses that I felt was the absence of my closest friends - the women who loved my children as I did.
Women who fussed over my pregnant belly, and cradled my newborn babies, brought me ready-made meals in my breast-feeding days, and one wonderful friend, who upon getting a new car, spent the day packaging special foods for me, in cold packs and set them inside her old car, that she gave to me as a gift (the food plus the car!).
I missed the option of being able to cold-call another mama friend (or the special friends without children - who were patient enough to listen to my child-related ramblings) and being able to escape the madness that is early childhood, and go for coffee for a few hours (or longer) sans children. Looking back, I am so thankful to have had those women, and to have experienced the security that comes with knowing that whatever crappiness has happened in your day, there are other women who have those same days too.
I am a believer that having a strong network of women friends is vitally important to every woman, and especially women who are raising children. There is something powerfully affirming in seeing your experiences mirrored through the experience of others, and we are just starting to find that small tribe of women here, who value our children as people, understand our parenting and support us in it. And I am so very grateful for that.
In her novel ' How to be Bored' Eva Hoffman talks about the 'hectic, hyperactive, over-stimulated age' that we live in, with 'excessive busyness and overfilled schedules (that) are the norm, as are their effects on our mental and emotional lives'. This is especially true for parents, and mothers with large families - and is often increased thousand-fold if you are home educating and responsible for the health, education and wellbeing of a tribe of children, every second of every day.
In the times when life gets very busy, I am so grateful for time alone walking along the beach, sitting quietly with a book or my woefully under-used guitar, with a coffee in a cosy nook of an isolated coffee shop (where nobody will find me) and where nobody there knows that I have 50 loads of washing at home, or a troop of teenagers with 800,000 unused words of their daily word quota, that need to be expended as soon as I get home! Time for quiet reflection, or to work alone on things that are entirely unnecessary or completely my own, is something that I am incredibly grateful for.
'To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul.
To do this, you need to experience solitude'
In the last two years we have experienced more than our fair share of death and loss, and this week, a family that we love (and that will soon become our extended family) lost someone that they love and cherish.
Since our Nonna passed away suddenly, two years ago, I don't take 'being alive' for granted anymore.
Being alive right at this point in time, with the family, friends, or people around you who are still there to smile with you, share a meal, throw tantrums (in the case of our very volatile 4 year old!) and be right by your side, is a gift that should never be taken for granted.
'Yesterday is gone
Tomorrow has not yet come
We only have today
Let us begin'
So today I am grateful to simply be alive and breathing, in a world with the people that I love.
We are a family of 6 creatives, homeschooling/ unschooling and living a minimalist life on our own slice of paradise on the coast of Australia - artist mama, guitarist papa, surfie teen, satirical teen, musician teen and wild little one. Welcome to our life.