Friday, December 30, 2011

So...Christmas

Finally it was time...the tree was ready!
Someone polished off the milk & biscuits, and a juicy carrot was nibbled...
...and in return left behind a whole pile of presents!
Children bounced up and down in excitement...quite literally
Names on packages were checked out and tea was drunk.
And then it was time to start handing them out!
Paper was ripped
And toys were liberated from their boxes



There were small ones,

And big ones

Ones to hug

And ones to ask a million questions about!

There were ones we wondered why we got

Until we saw there were others with the same so we could have a whole battle!

And after all that we did it all again when our guests arrived

And more interesting things popped out

And we ate and swam and drank and swam and ate some more
And then we just enjoyed the company and the good weather

Enjoying the shady trees outside

While others were challenged to gun fights

And it was good!

Monday, December 26, 2011

So...An Unschooling School?

I've been intending on making this post for quite a while now and just never got round too it.
Now in the aftermath of Christmas I find myself actually sitting with a few spare minutes on my hands and this subject on my mind.

I few months ago I was reading a wonderful series of articles by Peter Gray on how children educate themselves and I came across this particular article talking about a school that sounded like no school I'd ever heard of.
Up until this point we were pretty decided that for our family any type of school was not for us...but I had no idea that a school like this existed or could even work. Now that I've discovered this school I think we would be more than happy sending our children there if we could. Just shows you there is always room for changing your mind :)
Sadly this school is in the USA and far from us.

The school in question is Sudbury Valley in Massachusetts, USA

So what is so different about this school you ask?

Well...as far as I can tell it's a school that allows children to unschool themselves in the company of others!
Seriously, read the article and see what you think, but I'll do a basic summary of how I understood it.

  • The school consists of around 200 students ranging from 4 years up to 18 years, and around 10 adult staff members.
  • The school is run like a democracy and is administered by the School Meeting, which consists of the staff members AND all the students. Each person has a vote...so a 4 year old has the same vote as an adult.
  • Staff members are hired on a yearly basis and are voted in and out by the School Meeting, which means the students have a say in who works there.
  • School rules are enforced by the Judicial Comittee which changes regularly in membership but always includes a staff member and students of all ages. Staff members are treated the same as students and no one is above "the law".
  • Students are free to do what they want all day, everyday, as long as they don't violate any school rules.
  • None of the school rules are about learning, they are all to do with protecting the school and the students e.g. no noise in designated quiet areas, no defacing school property, cleaning up behind yourself, no harrasment of anyone else etc.
  • There is no curriculum, grading or attempt to motivate students to do anything.
  • Classes are offered but not mandatory.
  • "certification" is required to use certain equipment, such as sharp kitchen utensils.
  • The staff members are not considered teachers as such, just adult members of a community who are available to help, guide and direct when someone asks them. They do still teach but it is only when asked and often though just answering questions, offering solutions, discussing ideas etc.
  • The school is equipped with wonderful facilities, including music rooms, computer rooms, kitchens, art rooms etc, to great outdoor facilities including a pond for fishing, a forest and various sporting equipment and areas.
  • There is no age segregation in the school, or segregation of any kind. There are no requirements for a child wishing to study at Sudbury other than that they need to adhere to the school rules.
  • The school has been around for about 40 years or so.
  • Approximately 90% of their graduates go on to study at a college (compared with 69% of graduates from the public school system)
  • Graduates of Sudbury are found in every career field and walk of life, they seem to have no difficulties pursuing higher education should they so wish and surveys of previous students are almost unanimous in reporting that they are glad that they attended Sudbury Valley and that they think it prepared them better than a traditional school would have for the realities of adult existence.

So what do you think?
Think it's unrealistic and would cost too much? Well actually their school fees are less than the average private school in South Africa.
Not convinced?
Do yourself a favour and watch this

Saturday, December 24, 2011

So...early Christmas Presents!

At this time of year there is so much spoiling going on, and we got started early...it's not even Christmas yet and we've all already been spoilt!

The Aunt popped by a few days ago to say goodbye as she was on her way to the far off Cape for Christmas, and to Evie & Bear's delight she came bearing gifts!

Evie in her tutu and bracelets
Look at my bracelets Mom!Bear putting together his playmobil secret agent car
Evie coming to see what everyone else is up to
Thank you Auntie, the gifts are much loved, especially the car...best gift ever apparently, complete with shooting missiles!

And then The Parentals got their Christmas present for the next 5 years or so...it'll probably be that long before we're able to afford gifts for each other again :P
Yesterday we picked up our new bus...now we can all fit with a couple seats spare :D

The front
The Side
The bus driver
The passenger seats
Evie demonstrating there is plenty of boot space
And yes, the name is very apt for The Mom...she took it as a sign she was meant to drive this bus...
...seeing as this was her online ID for some time earlier this year
Bring on the road trips!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Putting up the Christmas Tree

We finally got a chance to put up our tree on the public holiday this past Friday. It was so sweet seeing how excited the children got and they did a wonderful job helping decorate the tree.


And thanks to this fantastic Christmas gift from myparents, our playroom is starting to come together and I finally have a grip on all the kids stuff.My father made an amazing storage unit for us! I know the room still looks messy but trust me, those few duplo pieces on the floor are NOTHING compared to the previous toy chaos we had :)

And here's the other side of our playroom

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Look what I found in the cat basket!




Some of our favourite toys in the house are actually chairs, stools and other bit of furniture which can be transformed into all sorts of things, from submarines to rocket ships.
Recently the kids have taken over a double storey cat basket...poor cat has been left bedless...but it sure makes a great tower!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holidays & Visitors

We know we've been very quiet over here for a while now, but between the end of year rush, busy season for my business, overseas visitors and a holiday there just hasn't been any time to update the poor old blog for a while.

Hopefully things will improve from here on out, but in the mean time here's some photos form our holidays!

My brother and his family visited us from the UK which was very exciting for the kids and it was so lovely to spend time with them all. They were up in Joburg with us for a week and then set off to visit other family members and we eventually all met up down on the South Coast. Turned out that my whole family was together for a few days which was so lovely, and who knows when it will happen again?

Hands full at all?
Guess whose the naughty one?
Cousins!
The lovely T

My Bear!
Rock jumping is fun!
Daddy's little girl
At the aquarium
Hi Mom!
Checking out the ray tank
Crawling around the tanks
Look at all the fish!
Playing Chess
It's hard to move a piece that's nearly as big as you!
Got you!
Headed back from a swim
Warming up
Yup, Daddy's little girl again, it's becoming a running theme :)
Exploring
On the hunt in the rock pools
Bear
Back home and snuggling in our cot after a nap again
It's always nice to get back home!