Friday, 5 May 2017

Lego Exhibition

Yesterday we went to see the Brickman Wonders of the World Lego Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. I'd been planning to take the kids since I first heard about it sometime in March, though I kept putting off buying tickets because I couldn't figure out a good time to go. The exhibit finishes this Sunday so yesterday turned out to be the only remaining day that we could make it - I've done the same with many of the visiting exhibitions (and other activities) - either scraped in during the last week, or missed it altogether. I don't like to book things in too far ahead in case our plans change, which does sometimes mean missing out. I might try to book a few things and work around them and see how that works.

Anyway - I'd seen a similar exhibition at CentrePoint Tower in Sydney, many many years ago (when I was perhaps 10 or 12, with Mum and my siblings) and I LOVED it and have always wanted to go again. I didn't know if the kids would be as excited as I was - from the first moment they saw the Empire State Building in the foyer of the museum, they were bouncing with excitement and so keen to see more.

We all loved the exhibition and were amazed at the skill of the builders involved and detail of every sculpture. The sculptures themselves were incredibly true to the original, and many of them had little scenes set up around them of people enjoying the site - some of those details were hilarious, and it was all interesting. I spent most of the 2 hours saying to the kids 'hey, did you see the guy over here who is doing ...' and we all pointed out lots of fun and interesting details to each other.

There were buildings (ancient and modern) and paintings, sculptures, natural formations, vehicles, metro maps, jewels and crowns - all magnificent. It was also fun to count how many of them we'd actually been to or seen in real life (12 for me, 5 for Liam and Caitlin. None for Millie which has added to her desire to go somewhere overseas). My favourite was definitely the Titanic, there was so much going on in the set up and the boat design was so intricate and realistic.

Many of the sculptures were surrounded by a moat of lego which we were able to use to build our own designs. These were a lot of fun, we made cars and pyramids and statues and towers. We raced our cars down a ramp put there for that purpose - Liam spent a lot of time engineering his car to make it structurally robust - lots of trial and error and then thinking about how to counteract each new problem. He was pretty impressed with his final product, and amusedly annoyed when Caitlin's vehicle of 2 big wheels on an axle was faster than his car.

As we made our way around we were looking for a particular lego figurine - there was a competition to count how many times he appeared throughout the exhibit, then you can enter your answer online and potentially win a prize. This added another whole level of interest to each sculpture and helped us really look at every aspect of the scene.

There were also tables set up with white flat squares of lego, and lots of coloured one by one blocks, where everyone could make their own design and put it on display on the wall. I tried to make a star and didn't get anywhere (although my statue of David was quite cool), the kids had a lot more success at designing something they were happy with.

Millie's, Liam's and Caitlin's designs
The Flying Scotsman, made from lego. Steam engines and lego combined - super exciting for me!
We explored for 2 hours (although it was hot in there and Caitlin and I started to feel a bit overwhelmed) and loved it all, we could have stayed longer. We made our way out through the shop and bought some road bases to use with our own lego, as we don't have any and this was something that all 3 kids were happy to get.

Upstairs we met up with my Mum and Dad, and my sister's son who they were looking after for the day. We all went in to the new Children's Gallery in the museum - we hadn't seen it before and the kids all loved it. Mum and Dad and I had a coffee while the 4 kids explored, then the kids joined us for something to eat and then we all had a bit more of a play and headed home. It was very cool to be able to combine our trip in to the museum with the kids seeing their cousin and grandparents.

The traffic was heavy though flowing on the way home (leaving just before 5pm was always risky) - we got home in about an hour 20 which wasn't too bad. We grabbed a hot chicken and bread from the IGA and ate that at the hall before going in to karate - Tony came and picked Millie up as she didn't want to do karate that night. Karate was fun and challenging as usual, afterwards we chatted to one of the Sempeis about his recent trip to Europe and then came home to finish our dinner and put the animals to bed and get to bed as quickly as possible ourselves - it was a cold night and we were very grateful for our fire!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Learning without judging

Last night I watched a Transformers movie.

LiAM and Tony were watching it and I was half paying attention and half doing other things (which is the way I watch most TV), and I was getting tired and sat down for a few minutes and watched a bit of the movie without distraction. I really really loved it.

I had planned to go to bed as soon as I could and to read my book - instead I moved to the couch and watched the rest of the movie with Tony and LiAM. It was great to spend that time with them and discuss the movie and Transformers and other things, and it was also really cool watching the movie.

Transformers is something that until a few years ago I would have said 'No' to the kids watching and wouldn't have wanted to watch myself either. I don't even know why I was so against so many movies and TV shows and characters. Some of it was about violence, sure, or concepts I didn't want the kids to see. Some of it was about commercialism, not wanting to expose the kids to the popular shows because I felt, I think, that they had no inherent value, they were just popular because some marketing person had decided they would be and everyone had blindly followed along and watched the shows and bought all the merchandise. I wasn't interested in watching (or even reading) the popular stuff ' myself - I made my own choices based on what I liked - although I mainly made choices based on what I liked, within the range of things that weren't really popular. It never occurred to me that some of these shows were popular because they were enjoyable!

I am so grateful to have discovered and followed this unschooling lifestyle that we have chosen - by opening up and allowing the kids to choose what they watch (and to truly choose, from all options, not just from the options that I have deemed to be ok), we have an environment where the kids have discovered so many wonderful TV shows and movies and books and games, and had SO much enjoyment - and I have as well. There is so much that we all would have missed out on if I had continued to control our viewing and reading. I've discovered that Barbie movies are fun and funny and beautiful and have great story lines and lots of morals. I've discovered that Ben 10 is a fairly typical young (and then teenage) boy who is constantly struggling with his duty to save the world (I was SO anti-Ben 10, and now that I've watched it, I really can't understand why).

It's been a great lesson for me, that judging something before seeing or trying it, is really unfair and doesn't really make any sense. Even without thinking about the kids, my world is so expanded and happier now that I am open to trying things without pre-judging them. And for the kids - it's so much better that they can try things for themselves and make their own choices.

There's stuff that they watch that I don't like - which doesn't matter, because they like it. I watch enough so that I can talk about it with them, and can usually find bits that I can appreciate. I'm also happy to listen to them talk about it even if I'm not a fan. There are TV shows that one or another of them don't like, so they do something else if the others are watching it.  I've really come to realise that there is some value in every show, the kids pick out the bits they like and don't dismiss the whole show because of an aspect they don't like - a great skill to have in life. They are much better than me at deciding in the moment if something is worth doing despite the downsides, or whether they'll give it a miss this time.

I've also discovered that love amassing knowledge about anything, and learning bits and pieces about pop culture makes me very happy. I love that we can discuss the worlds of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in great depth. And at first I was restricting my knowledge to just the things I was really interested in, and I didn't value knowledge about other 'world's. Now I am happy to soak it all in, and I really love that the kids know so much about so many things. All knowledge is valuable and it all links in to other things - I've seen time and again how knowing something about, say, Pokemon, helps a real concept to suddenly make sense.

Last night Amelie astounded me by telling me which stone was used for each of the evolutions of Eevee (a pokemon - there was a picture of each of Eevee's evolutions, and without reading or any other clues, she told me which stone was needed for each one.) I don't know how or when she learned that information, she has picked it up through watching and playing and talking about Pokemon. That particular knowledge helps her when she plays the games, or talks to others about Pokemon - and it also shows that she has the ability to effortlessly learn a whole series of reactions or relationships - when she comes across that kind of relationship in maths or chemistry or anywhere, she won't be thinking 'oh no I have to memorise all this stuff' - she will simply learn it as she discovers it and then be able to use her knowledge when she needs it.

Last night I learnt lots about Transformers. I learnt that they all have distinct personalities. I learnt that some are good (Autobots) and some are bad (Decepticons) - and that some have switched sides. I learnt that they can be kind and thoughtful, and that they can have their feelings hurt. I learnt that people can ride inside them when they are in their car or truck form. I did multiple searches on the internet while I was watching and learnt the names of the Transformers in the movie, and a bit of their back story, and followed trails of some of the actors in the movie and found out which other movies they were in etc. As always, once I started taking in new information it led to more and more links - I am amazed every time that learning can be so easy and enjoyable, and I am so excited that my kids know that already and spend their days learning happily and easily and without pre-judgement.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Dentist, library and Healesville Sanctuary

Amelie had a dentist appointment yesterday so the kids and I went down to Healesville to have her front teeth checked - she had banged them hard on her knee when we were in Esperance a few weeks ago, then hit them again on LiAM's head a week or so later, and they have been bleeding and looking a funny colour since then.

The dentist said they were about to fall out (they are both baby teeth) and there's nothing to worry about, so that's a relief. He wants to get her back in for a filling - I'll wait and see when she's ready for that then book her back in.

Seeing as we were in town I was happy to hang around and explore somewhere. The kids wanted milkshakes from the fish and chip shop near Coles, where we often used to buy milkshakes before our trip. We started walking over, then talked about going to the library - LiAM realised that he'd want the iPad and his iPod if we went to the library so the kids kept walking to the shop and I went back to get the car. I couldn't find them when I arrived, then Caitlin texted to say they were in the library - the guy at the fish and chip shop had said they couldn't do milkshakes - unsure if that was just for today or permanently.

We hung out at the library for a while, reading books, finding books and DVDs to borrow, and playing on the playstation (Lego Indiana Jones) then Caitlin went over to the ice-cream shop to get milkshakes from there. They were delicious - more expensive and much tastier than the ones we normally get.

Everyone was keen to go to the Sanctuary, and I was pleased I'd thought to suggest it. We can go as often as we want on our membership, and it's so close to home, I hope we continue to pop in whenever we are in Healesville. We saw a lot in the couple of hours we were there. There've been some changes - there are cassowaries, a cool new koala exhibit and we hadn't been in the new lyrebird exhibit either. We watched the bird show, excellent as always, and we were all very very excited to see the wedge-tailed eagle when she came out. We went to feed the parrots - Caitlin was able to hold a red-tailed black cockatoo, it wouldn't go onto the arms of the other kids, and none of the parrots were interested in the food we offered them (provided by the keepers) - it was still great to see them and Caitlin was thrilled about the cockatoo. We saw the pelicans, bats, wallabies, more birds and the goannas, then raced back for the dingo talk, which seemed even more relevant after meeting dingoes on our trip. We learnt that the biodiversity on the dingo side of the dingo fence is in better shape than the non-dingo side. Makes sense really, if you take out the top predator, things change a lot. Also the dingoes keep the cat and fox populations under control. We saw echidnas and discovered they have rear facing claws on their rear feet. We saw a keeper syringe feeding a very old koala and talked to her about how they were helping this koala (she was 18), and LiAM asked about the echidna claws - it's so they can scratch themselves without getting caught in their own spikes.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon and I'm looking forward to going a lot more often and remembering to really explore our own region like we did at all the places we stayed on our trip.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Cool learning and connections

I'm confident that learning happens for each of us, every day, often in ways that aren't obvious at the time. Some days though, the learning seems to be jumping out at us and we are all making connections and it's like we can feel our learning jumping ahead.

In the last couple of days there have been lots of little incidents of delight where people expanded their knowledge or understanding of the world.

LiAM and a friend were outside after the rain and saw water running from the driveway, so they followed it all the way to the bottom of the hill and then saw more water running to that point from the other direction, and followed it up the hill to the top of the dam. On the way they saw a blue tongue lizard, and discovered lots about waterways.

Millie was going through all the odd numbers (1 is odd, 2 isn't, 3 is odd, 4 isn't...) and on the way discovered that the digits repeat through each decade of numbers - so 0 is the same as 10, and 20, and 30, and 1 is the same as 11, and 21, and 31, and 2 is the same as 12, and 22.... She's come back to it several times and keeps exploring the idea further and finding it holds no matter how far she counts. She's quite excited about it.

Caitlin has been practicing doing handstands on a raised surface like the couch - so feet starting on the floor, then hands on the couch and legs up - it was pretty tricky at first and she kept practicing and it didn't take long for her to get it. She also learnt some cool ways to flip into the foam pit at Gravity Zone Trampoline centre yesterday, a round off and some other aerials that she couldn't do before - doing them into the pit gave her more support and flexibility so it won't be long until she can do them on the ground.

Watching BTN yesterday there was an article about a whole bunch of new words being added to the Australian National Dictionary. I was interested in the words that had been added and we chatted about some of them, and I was pleased to hear about the dictionary and didn't think I'd heard of it before (or not in a way that was memorable). About an hour later I was reading a book called 'The Bush and the Never Never' - I had picked it up at the library that afternoon, partly because we've just been to the Never Never, and partly because it was written by a man whose name was almost exactly the same as one of my uncles. I was already feeling a bit weird because that same uncle had rung me up this afternoon (after I'd borrowed the book) - and we'd had a great chat about our trip and he was saying how much he'd learnt about Australia by reading my blog, and I was talking about things I'd learned too. On the 2nd or 3rd page of the book the author was talking about the meaning of the 'bush' in Australia, and that words related to the bush take up more room than any other in the Australian National Dictionary. A dictionary which I now know something about because of the kids' news program, and one that I am going to find out more about because 2 mentions of it in one hour has made a fun connection that I want to explore further.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Life in a house is a little strange

I'm feeling pretty relaxed as we continue to settle back in to life at home. Occasionally a worry or anxious though flares up, and I'm able to fairly quickly put it in perspective and feel OK about it, and get on with whatever I am doing. The car and trailer are slowly being unpacked, things are getting put away or reorganised, and it's surprisingly easy to keep the house looking tidy. We're all being more efficient with lights, water and power, we're not taking them for granted after living outside for 4 months.

I'm finding it tricky in the late afternoons as the light inside gets dull, but it's still light outside - it feels too early to turn lights on, and I'm not really enjoying artificial light anyway, but there's parts of our house that get dark quite quickly and the low light can bring my mood down a little. So there's still adjustments to be made to living in a house again, and it's helping us see what things we could do to improve the layout and set up of our house, which is cool.

Caitlin is at another sleepover - she'll have 9 nights without sleeping in the same place 2 nights in a row. She's so excited to see her friends again and is full of energy. She's doing heaps of work on reorganising her room and has made a photo presentation to show at Girl Guides this week.

We had our best friends come over and visit for the day yesterday, everyone was so happy to see them and they to see us. The kids played Minecraft and on the trampoline and shared all their new skills with each other, we mums talked and drank tea and enjoyed being with someone we were really really comfortable with.

Tony was back at work yesterday, he found it tiring although enjoyable. I found the afternoon really weird, waiting for him to come home and getting used to having that adjustment each day, time with him here and time with him away. I think we all missed him after being together so much on our trip.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Back at home

It's good to be home. Although I would have been happy to continue travelling for longer, even permanently, I'm also very glad to be back in our house and the familiar surroundings. It is a little odd though, it seems familiar and strange at the same time.

The kids have loved being back and have settled into their comfort activities. LiAM spent a lot of time playing the Xbox yesterday, playing with his new Skylanders game, and Amelie joined him on and off. Caitlin has been on the phone to friends and went for a sleepover last night, with the girl who she spoke to nearly every day on the trip. Millie has found her comfortable clothes and spent time with her toys and watching LiAM and playing on the iPad. I've pottered around the house, putting things away, reorganising where things are, playing the piano, organising my photos, reading, watching TV. Tony has watched football and the Olympics and went to see his junior baseball team play.

Over the next week I guess we'll start venturing back out into the world of our home life, seeing friends, shopping, starting back at some of our activities. I'm really hoping (and will try to stay aware) that I'll be able to continue the relaxed pace of life and thought that we have been living on the trip, and that I'll be able to slow down and step back, take a breath or a break before I become overwhelmed by things, and be able to put my energy into the actions that will help everyone be happy and peaceful, rather than getting caught up in too many things and not having time to assess and prioritise.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Travelling

I haven't posted here for ages - most of my energy earlier this year was going in to surviving Vintage and getting ready for our trip around Australia. We left at the start of May and are currently in the Northern Territory near Litchfield National Park. I'm blogging the trip daily (updating it when I get internet access) at travellingandexploringourworld.blogspot.com.au - I'd love you to follow our adventures there!