The last few months of building my parents house has meant our schedule has been complicated and busy, and coincided with Noah (8) and Eli (6) getting really into Minecraft (and now Terraria), while Hana (2) has needed a lot of our hands-on time. Part of me thinks that they got so into Minecraft because we were not as available to do fun and interesting things with them, and because the winter has brought a lot more illness this year than previous years. So the boys have played a lot of Minecraft. I say that totally fearful of judgement, and yet supportive of their strategy because our house has remained peaceful and happy during a potentially intense, overstretched time.
I'm not [yet] an unschooling mom who totally understands when my kids want to spend large chunks of the day gaming, but I have learned that it's all in how your perceive the situation (even if there are limits how far you can stretch yourself in the moment). I have said on various occasions to Eug "I think they are playing too much Minecraft!" I like that that hasn't led to us reverting to control. If a partner or another loved one was doing something you were concerned about: you might talk to them, see if they perceive an issue, discuss how to support them, protect your own boundaries, see what their motivations were or what they were going through or getting out of their approach. This is more or less what we've done, and it's been an opportunity to reflect, and to think through how to support the kids in their interest, while also figuring out the extent to which they're playing to numb difficult feelings. It has been a chance to notice and appreciate that they have found ways to to meet their own needs and spend their days tremendously gracefully during a busy time. I appreciate that they'll know themselves better from these few months-- we talk about what we're doing with our days and why-- not in judgement but with interest, to reflect and think through choices and options. In doing this, I also notice that I'm making not-perfect choices: I have kept up with farm chores and propagation for our nursery, and with from-scratch cooking-- both of which require a huge amount of time and energy-- because that's was what I needed to do for myself. Yet this has come with costs and I could have sat with Noah, Eli and Hana more than I have done. So I'm working on doing that, now. In an ideal situation, we'd be giving them plenty of opportunities to connect and do other things if that's what they want. We were working to bring up the adult-child ratio on the farm, and so the temporary trade-offs seemed right to us.
Most days, either Eug or I wakes up early to start work (I sometimes go into work when I need to be at meetings, and then I leave very early to avoid traffic), and the other person gets to wake with the kids, start coffee and oats, feed the animals, and check on the state of the farm with Hana. When Eug is working, the boys don't play Minecraft because we don't have enough devices, so the kids and I will do something inside together, or work on something out on the farm (or sometimes I'll work on something, and they'll just join me). I bake a lot with Hana and occasionally do some cooking with Noah; Eli's favourite thing is to play boardgames and make up elaborate stories together. When with Eug, they'll often play Minecraft, with Eug in the background participating where he can (he'll sometimes play with them also).
Eug and I will switch after a few hours, and whoever is caring for the kids will make lunch. In the later afternoon, we will either be with individual kids, or Eug will work on the house and I will take the kids out to the beach, or to a couple of classes they participate in (clay lessons, swimming lessons, speech therapy, Scouts). I do speech therapy practice with Eli, while playing Star Realms, his favourite card game! It's not rushed most of the time. I will sometimes walk down the street with one or two kids, to our nursery and check in on how things are going. The kids will sometimes pair up and play together for a while-- legos, magnatiles, or telling stories outside, until something happens (If Hana is involved) and conflict comes and goes. I sometimes feel very busy if I look at the number of jobs I seem to have in addition to my actual full time job at the university. Then I settle into the actual day: what I actually need to do, and it is always doable-- though the issue of our kids' less visible needs is definitely something I'm thinking about more, as I tend to go from one task to the next, and kids are not tasks.
Amidst the imperfection, all three kids seem to learn what is relevant to navigate their day-to-day life, and what they enjoy-- I remain convinced that we can learn naturally, given interested and supportive people around us. We try to offer lots of interesting options, which sometimes are taken up, and sometimes aren't. I am not measuring whether they progress similarly to others of their age, though I do try to observe if they are stuck in a rut and if we can help. I do marvel at all they know from our reading of copious fiction and non-fiction together, and from watching Youtube-- this is even without me understanding all their skills from playing Minecraft-- and those are abundant. We discuss so many things together during the course of the day. I read quite a lot for work (and enjoyment), and talk to them about what I'm learning, and about what I'm learning about farming, also. All three kids can spot a spekboom from 100m (CUTTINGS MOMMY-- they even know the spekboom-on-pavement map of our routes and sometimes will generously say "There's a spekboom coming up soon, you can stop the car"). They know the kind of pelargonium that only grows naturally on Ou Kaapse Weg, know the difference between English, Dutch, French and Spanish lavenders (I learned this like a month ago) and can identify which chicken laid which egg based on size and colour. They know how to care for many different animals. More than what they know or don't know, we are learning how to relate to one another, and how to relate to other people, also.
|We still get to the beach a lot
|Found a lizard tail- it was still moving!
|matching Minecraft and real life stones
|Silvermine dam- it was too cold to swim so we walked around the dam instead. I could not keep up with my 2 year old, which is a bizarre twist.
|dinosaur tea party.