What is unschooling about: A self-affirmation & goal for our family.

Feeling a little overwhelmed of late, rent inspections, money whackyness, toilet training dramas and tired eyes looking at the world through a grey limbo-like filter of sorts. There have been days where I want to tell everything and everyone to just slow down so I can mentally recover and catch up. One area I have been shaken about a bit numerous times over the past month or so is the kids education. I think all parents worry about such things so it’s not unique but it also kinda is for us because we have chosen to unschool our children. I decided to write this affirmation about unschooling and what it means to me and my family, some things may resonate with you others may not but I really needed to put this somewhere where I won’t be flamed for it or feel vulnerable to the whims of others keyboard skills. What is unschooling about: A self-affirmation & goal list for our family.

  • It’s about children being themselves just as much as they are part of something greater than themselves.
  • It’s about the social and cultural integration of the child within the community and family in a valued way rather than the segregated, false, authoritarian, single age and mono-demographic environment of a school.
  • It’s about the freedom of choice in education and the allowance for a child to attain mastery when, where and how they find their flow, (this can include formal education if the child so chooses.)
  • It’s about the reduction of fear based actions and reactions from the parent with regards to the childs activity including but not limited to excessive praise, arbitrary rule making, punishment and reward.
  • It’s about trust and encouragement in the child’s voice and decision-making ability.
  • It’s about learning from real life situations at every opportunity.
  • It’s about a stand against childism. That is, it is against using age as a means of power over another’s rights and responsibilities to their own body and actions.
  • It’s about being real. Humans make mistakes, and regardless of how much adults fear failure, (and project that fear onto our children,) we still have a habit of learning from them. Never underestimate the power of a child understanding the relationship between being wrong, learning something and trying again without fear to attain mastery.

image To clarify my feelings further on this topic I think it is important to write down what it isn’t about to me. Once again this might not be for everyone. What unschooling isn’t about is the easy path, it is never about permissive parenting, helicopter parenting, authoritative parenting or any form of neglect of the childs abilities, trustworthiness, needs or desires to learn. All children are born capable and curious. Feeding children adult fears and prejudice infantises them, creates judgement in them and cripples them in all the things they are capable of learning when they are trusted individual human beings. Unschooling is the embodiment of trust in children. Trustful parenting without adult fear, judgement and prejudice. Thanks for reading. xo Kind regards, Becca.

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Wednesday Craft Wrap

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Hello again, lotsa fun was had this last week in our house with creativeness. Here is a few bits and bobs from the week that was. 🙂

Miss K has been missing her baby from her sylvanian families set for months. She had stopped playing with them because it was her favourite character. We decided to go against the previous rule of not replacing toys and we replaced it yesterday. I don’t actually know why we had that rule to begin with, I think it was something to do with trying to teach the kids to value their toys. That idea is almost funny with this mob as they so rarely break anything that it becomes a problem trying to keep the toys to a manageable amount because nothing can be thrown out due to breakage. Anyway, she was stoked and has played with it and the rest of her sylvanian stuff once again.

We also put up the Christmas tree yesterday. Yeah, a little early I know, but who really cares. Random fact, there’s no such thing as a sylvanian Christmas tree so we decided to make one. Found this tiny model pine tree at the hobby shop in the trains section while we were out. Beads, bottle cap with a hole and some crochet twine and we had that problem solved. Even made gifts with coloured in MAB unit blocks and some washi tape. The mini bunting was washi tape too just cause I go overboard like that. I probably shouldn’t mention the twine wreath for the front sylvanian door at this point either or you’ll think me a bit whacky… Miss K loved it.

Seen as how the tree went up early we were inspired to make some decorations. Middle miss and I were wandering around online and found these cute beaded snowflakes on pinterest so decided to make our own to add to the tree. They are very twinklee and sparklee when the lights shine on them 🙂

Middle miss has also been drawing various styles of Miku this last week from her collection of pinterest anime bits, she even made a clay one cause she is super random like that. Oh that reminds me, we need to get some refill’s for her skin tone copic markers which could have had something to do with her switching mediums. I don’t think she can breath without creating something.

Two felting projects this week, one was a bowl that I’m still beading the edge of as you can see. The other was a failed attempt at felting soap without the use of a stocking. Discovered it’s way hard without that and totally doesn’t work, so it became a juggling ball as it is quite satisfying forcibly smooshing a failed project into a pretty ball for the kids to play with. I think it would make a better story ball, you know, that whacky game where you start a story, toss to the next person to continue into obscurity and giggles. I reckon if you miss catching this one, the hurt is less than the big ball we usually use so your part of the story doesn’t start with Owch! 😉

Anyway, hope you are all having a creative fun week. Thanks for reading.

Becca.

CREATIVE CONSTRAINTS & INGENUITY

Eliminating the paralysis of unlimited choice.

Recently we have been playing with embracing limits in creativity through unusual constraints. I remember from art school the almost exciting nature of forced ingenuity that came from only being allowed to work in gray marker renderings or having an almost impossible time constraint on a design or not being allowed to use an eraser on a pencil drawing in our illustration class. I have treasured memories of constraints in art and working through the challenge of setting interesting limits just to see if it could be done.  Sometimes I offer the challenge to my children too, if they accept it is always an enjoyable experience as they get a buzz out of it too. Not having endless possibilities means that one has a starting point to actually do something creative. There is no writers block or staring at a blank canvas/page. Within the restraint is where the mind begins to tick away. It’s no longer lost.

As an example, seemingly insignificant journaling prompts create images and words within the mind and they get drawn out in literally hundreds of ways by any number of different people because all of their experiences leave a different impression in the minds eye to start that creative spark. Even those who think they are not creative can flourish within the creative constraint environment. It’s fascinating to watch, especially in the kids who start off thinking it’s impossible and end up with something they love.

One of the more pressing question within this idea for me is does it have a place in an unschooling philosophy? First and foremost, I personally see it as a way to embrace scarcity where it exists naturally, as a means to raise the bar and practice thinking creatively with what you do have rather than what you wish you had. This then can be applied to any scarcity that exists in your life (or your childs life) and they/you can then begin to enjoy the challenge it presents.

I also acknowledge that it brings a certain level of discipline in the new format of connecting with your creativity that one may previously not have experienced. This can be terrifying at first but it’s kinda like jumping into cold water for a swim, if you just do it, commit, you’ll get over it 😉 and have fun. This would apply in situations of abundance where you apply the constraint intentionally to force your creativity into action.

Some may know this of me others may not but I’m intrigued by the concept of minimalism, whether that be by force as we don’t have a gigantic income and never have or whether that be by choice as I can not function in a crowded space and crave simplicity. Recognizing a huge difference between need and want and very rarely want for anything physical is also part of that. This concept of self imposed constraints resonates with the minimalist in me because it can be applied as a need or a want.

While asking in the Australian unschool community on-line about this topic another member put me onto the (mainly French) writing group called OULIPO who use creative constraints in writing as a means of idea generation. Its a fascinating system of missing words with particular vowels and segmenting sonnets to be read in a huge quantity of permutations. Poets have used writing constraints since forever as have some of the best songwriters. Even Van Gogh’s vision was a constraint in his latter works that was embraced as is Stephen Hawkins diagnosis of ALS at the age of 21 which was eventually embraced and helped him become one of the greatest scientific minds of 21st century science. It seems that the greatest creative minds in almost all aspects of human civilization are brought about by some sort of hardship whereby it is the initial catalyst for these minds to escape the occasionally overwhelming nature of creative choice.

A very important point to keep in mind is that one must not confuse working within creative constraints with making sacrifices. Working within constraints bears no disappointment, or grudge. You embrace an enforced constraint or you enforce a constraint on yourself to enhance creativity. Sacrifice makes one feel disillusioned and resentful, this isn’t about that. It is freeing ‘inside the box’ thinking not removal of what is vital to creativity.

Anyway, your thoughts on this idea? There is more information here and the TED talk is kinda groovy too. Let me know what you think or if you recall any experiences where creative constraints helped you become more creative. 🙂

Edit: excerpt’s from this article are featured on The Educating Parent, it’s a great page and the go to for information on homeschooling and unschooling within Australia. Very worth a snoop around hehe. Thank you Beverly. 🙂

Edit 2: this idea got some extra attention this week, I was a little scared to share it on a group I’ve just joined called Journal 52 but it was well received and some of my words had enough meaning to inspire an artist by the name of Katie across the globe from here to create this page, I feel very honoured that someone felt like that about these words. People are pretty amazing sometimes. ♡ thanks for letting me share this Katie.
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Wednesday Craft Wrap – on a Thursday with a life update.

Don’t hate on me, it’s my not my fault. It’s all cause of freak weather, well actually its pretty normal for here. Weather also made us have no power and gusts that caused trees to break, yes trees not just branches.

General wild weather fun was had by all except middle miss who was totally overwhelmed by the whole crazy wind (it reminded her of the mini twister that took off our patio roof 4 ish years ago) and decided that hiding in the hallway wih all her plushies in a blanket would be a good idea.

So in conclusion Wednesday was crazy. O.o

Ok so now it’s Thursday. We started a few things but lots of failed craft this week. I managed to make a felt needle book but failed horribly while trying to convert an old planner into an art journal and my crocheting project for the week is in the process of being salvaged (needs decoration but the bag to carry more crochet is almost finished) it got thrown more than once across the room because of hot and general frustrationess.

Middle miss attempted to paint some clay work and that was an epic fail too as it broke in the process. She ended up doing a copic picture of a rwby character and a bunch of digital art on paint as well as mucking about on Terraria with the xbox and some scratch programing, now on big brothers computer as she rage quit on hers (didn’t end well for that poor old laptop).

We have just started digital strewing on pinterest for the big kids. Gave them both accounts and installed the app on their tablets. They have made some boards so I can pin stuff to them and they can do the same for me. Very cute with lots of chibi pictures to draw that dont take up all of our download, (very groovy as middle miss watches the same youtube tutorial vid at least five times over… just for the music…) gotta get that saving vids app Lynette lol.

Another great digital creative thing we found is an app called mirrograph. Such a basic looking app but the kids have had a ball with it, messing around with multiple reflections and pattern creation, (there is a free one and the paid version without the add)

On the plus side miss K (3 and a half) is finally using the toilet properly, this took up a substantial part of this week (and is probably why I haven’t done much with the other two kiddies). No more nappies. We just picked a day and stopped using them and then she decided the toilet was pretty neat. Few extra rolls of paper down the dunny but she’s pretty much got it after forever trying to train her and her being totally and vocally against the idea. Yet another thing she has taught herself in her own way.

And after over a month we have our car back! Amaze! Have to pay for the silly thing but at least we are not in limbo anymore with our travel plans Yay! I don’t like weird weather or living in limbo. It’s icky.

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Have a great creative week.
From me xo

Camping Gear Review Series – Oztent RV5, Peaked Side Panels & Tag Along Tent

Why do I pick gear that has lots of words. Someone thought these long names up. Must be good. We’ll this is the creme de la creme of tents. It is top of the line and boy is it worth the $1800 price tag for a portable go anywhere home. This tent goes up with all the attachments and pegs in about 15-20 min with two people, the main tent takes just 30 seconds to erect. It’s what is known as a touring tent. Ripstop canvas construction, light weight aluminum frame and midge proof mesh bits. Canvas tents have come a long way since my childhood. Gone are the days of heavy poles that rust up and requiring Popeye level muscles just to get the tent out of the bag which it never fit back into.

Much like the OZtrail leisure Mat, it is one of our big pieces of gear, measuring in at 2m long for the main tent (the other bits are smaller) it will live either on a roof rack or on top of the tradies trailer we are fixing up for the trip back west. There is even a roof basket by rhinorack for the oztent. I could seriously go overboard with gear if it wasn’t for my teeny budget. Speaking of which there are a few reasons why we chose a tent over our original plan of a camper trailer one of the biggest being cost.  This tent may sound expensive but it’s brand new and cheaper than a second hand camper trailer. Sure it has less room but we don’t take up much space anyway. We decided that the risk of something going wrong with a second hand camper wasn’t worth it and to go new for that was gonna cost us the earth. We also didn’t want to go with the light weight tents that have a habit of turning a your bedroom into a pool when it rains (found that out on the last 11000km, 3 month trip). A touring tent was middle ground, faster to put up and serves all the purposes we need.

The three kiddos here (will be 12,8,4 years old) will be sharing the main tent (can be closed off entirely from the other rooms) on an oztent gecko stretcher and oztrail bunk beds, (more about them later) with enough room for a play space in the middle. The doggie Katara will have the center section at night surrounded by the PSP and two tents with no floor, unlike most other three room setups she has grass and her travel box to hang out on/in, (better than trying to scrub a tent floor for doggie mess lol). Then we have our bed (wanderer zip together stretchers and the leisure mat) in the tag along. It just fits length ways but we have a space at one end to get dressed or set up the laptop for a movie of an evening (alone if we like as this tent closes off from the doggy room also.)

One thing that needs to be considered when camping under canvas is ventilation. It’s a heavy fabric and while one side is waterproof ie. condensation just beads off, the other side is not and if not properly ventilated (opening vents and pegging out the window awning) you are going to get moisture inside. We have resolved to the fact that because of the grass in the middle, there will be water on the inside of the center room in the morning, not a huge issue as all of our gear fits in the car or inside the bedroom tents under the stretchers, but something worth mentioning.

Another super amazing thing (that most would consider minor until injury) we found about the tent is the groovy guy ropes. Not only do they have cute little pockets to live in on the tent to make pegging them tangle free but our kids and our overzealous Staffy don’t clothesline on them because they are fluorescent orange. (That’s slang for running at the ropes neck first and… well… the rest is up to your imagination) we had a fair few problems with guy rope injuries on the last trip, grown ups included. If any part of the tent breaks you can get replacement joints or patches for a low reasonable cost from oztent directly. This means the tent has a long life expectancy and will be used well after this big trip.

There are other attachments and sizes that you can purchase in this design range, it’s entirely modular for everything from a two person set up (rv1) to a group of 12-20 (with the inclusion of the foxwing awning and additional RV5 Oztents.)  In short it will suit us for a very long time to come because it is easy to use, flexible in layout and reliable to keep the rain off.

I hope you have got something out of this review, if you have any questions about this set up please feel free to ask in the comments. 🙂

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5 TIPS FOR UNSCHOOLING ON A BUDGET

1. Saving For The Big Things
Get the kids involved. Birthdays, for goodness sake make use of them. We do two things for birthdays here, the first is the kids can choose somewhere to go, can be for food or a fancy chocolate treat (my middle miss eight loves san churos) these outings are treats, we totally can’t afford them more than that. The second thing is the kids have a birthday budget of $50 if they know it’s comming up they can save up pocket money from random things in advance and add their birthday money from family into the mix to get big things. Last birthday my eleven year old purchased a weather station and a huge pile of candy. He was promptly crazy for a week and then hid in his room doing his sciencey thing, immersed in his weather books and telling me all about cloud formations, he was drawing pictures of violent tornados and got all giddy when the weather was a bit whacky outside. My eight year old purchased a bunch of lego and some copic marker pens cause that’s what the “pros” (on youtube) use to draw manga. Very handy that they naturally go for their own homeschool resorces and I’m not stuck thinking of what to get, (or worse, get something they dont think is cool and totally waste money) it’s all on them and they do ok with it.

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2. Gifts Of Experience
Stop buying stuff, when you do get some money buy a lasting experience gift. Get access to a pro (whatever the kids are into) via workshops or a class, get a season pass to the local pool/zoo/science center or something else to DO. All those unschool days between paychecks you got somewhere to be if people want a day out without a huge price tag. You could even save a bit more by preparing lunch yourself. (Seriously, a home made salad wrap won’t cost you anywhere near as much time or money as a store bought cup o’ chips and if your kids are used to it, they won’t care and be healthier for it too)

3. Upcycled & Organized Resource Storage
Use what you have, aside from the loose parts you can gather for free or very cheap as amaze learning resources (article on that here), keep and upcycle your rubbish. Things like tin cans and all manner of stackable lidded containers are great for keeping your homeschool spaces organized. We even have a few hand made vine baskets to store stuff in too. (Weaving a basic basket from free weeds in your local area is probably something I should write a tutorial about, it’s stupid easy to do and looks so sweet and rustic). Here are some container ideas we use and have stayed with us for years. So stop throwing out your storage solution already, Howards storage got nothing on a creative kid with electrical tape and a washed, de-sharped tin can.

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I’m not a fan of stuff being everywhere in my house so we aim to have less stuff that is of greater varied use or personal value that is stored well. This makes the budget simpler and we don’t waste money in places it is not needed and as a bonus, tidy up is kid friendly and a total no brainer, even I can do it before a second cup of coffee, amaze!

(As an example of varied use resource, our molly mod kit, which is generally used for visualizing molecular chemistry by the eleven year old is also a whacky building balls set for our three year old. Two resorces in one means money saved, Woohoo!)

4. Posters, Pictures & Displays
I used to spend tons of money on educational posters and plaster my walls with things I wanted the kids to be interested in. It was like a house full of educational advertising and quite frankly it did nothing. Was just as much of a put off as that analogy suggests. One or two posters up for each kid is enough, don’t go nuts. It’s overwhelming with more stuff on the walls and a super doper, sure fire way to make your kids oblivious to the info there for the self preservation of their sanity. Focus posters and wall decorations on things that are useful rather than on what you think is educational. My 8yo has a copic colour blending chart (she got it for free for talking the talk while we were out buying markers, lucky chook) and my 11yo has a world map and periodic table. Both useful to his regular conversations and studies online. Nothing else adorns my walls in our learning space now… its peaceful plain walls for us 😉

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5. Budgeting Free Outings
If you live out of town like we do, you probably need to budget petrol wisely. Have a general idea of where you need to go in a pay cycle and try to put a couple of things that are in the same direction together. My kids don’t do big group get togethers and have friends up to an hours drive away so we plan these trips with a few other things along the way. Finding cool playgrounds, walk tracks or heading to the beach for a swim in between can be stress relief from long trips with little ones in the car and cost you no more in fuel.

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Do you have any tips for unschooling on a budget? would love to hear more. 🙂

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day, from Becca.

Wednesday Craft Wrap

I haven’t done much crafting of late, been too depressed about our car being in the shop for over a month and all that hoohar messing up my savings for our travel plans. However, this week I’m aiming to get back into it with a purpose. Once a week I will post our crafting bits both to keep a record and to remind myself to actually put time aside to be creative for stress relief and my own enjoyment and also to foster a connection with my kids through facilitating craft activities. I hope you enjoy this ongoing series and maybe even get some ideas to try yourself. 🙂

Working on a granny square thing with crazy colours, teal, magenta, orange and black. Kids love it cause it just looks really trippy. I can only do three stitches and granny squares work up quickly so I end up playing more with colours than fancy stitching but it is all still super fun. Middle miss 8 can do a chain stitch now too, she’s very impressed with herself. 😉

Also found a tutorial on making mini note books here out of cereal boxes. So cute! Still trying to figure out neatly binding things so I just used cotton rather than fancy embroidery floss, just as well as I have wonky stitching. Gonna keep practicing that one. They would make nice little gifts.

Kids also did these little angels for decorating the Christmas tree (I’m not huge into the commercial Christmas, but the tree I adore) that their great Oma sent over. They look nothing like the picture on the packet, self design happiez from my kidlets lol.

Hope you are having a great week.
From Becca.

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Camping Gear Reviews Series – Queen Size OZtrail Self Inflating Leisure Mat

I’m going to tell you a story about camping beds. It’s a long story so get a cuppa and get comfortable. I’ll wait. Go on.

The story starts three years ago when we decided to give away our stuff and travel to the other side of the country. I wont go into why we did all that, it’s an even longer story, what I will tell you though is that we decided to buy an air mattress and two zip together stretchers. Now it was a very clever design with a velcro cover and all the bells and whistles for a queen size bed camping set up. We though it would be great as we could split it up for the kids if we needed to or use it as our bed. Turns out we had lots of other camping gear to bring with us. Not much experience in packing it all and random things like a pram and a port a cot which took up tons of space. No other beds could fit so we ended up sleeping on just the air mattress, on the floor… worst idea ever!

Here is a short list of why an air mattress on the floor is horrible. (Don’t worry its not all bad, we did learn what we didn’t like.)

  • It took forever to pump up with the crappy foot pump that we had. Yes yes, but you have an electric pump right? No, compared to what I will share with you in a bit, it would still take forever.
  • It was cold, I’m not a huge fan of cold, I whinge lots about it too. Drives the husband mad. Even used to have a collection of 12 jackets to prove how much I dislike cold. True story.
  • It went down after a few hours sleep, no holes it just magically lost air through osmosis or quantum tunneling, not sure which, was a mystery, drove us insane. I recovered (though it may just be too traumatizing and I’ve repressed the memories) but hubby hasn’t been the same since.
  • It’s bloody noisy. Yes… noisy for that too… you know, getting up at night to pee and you end up waking kids who then also need to get up to pee but can’t walk to the loo on their own… What? Did you think I ment something else? Haha! Funny, not on that bed! It was low… so low… combined with night cold my joints were not happy campers. They complained upon rising.

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So there, as you can probably guess we ain’t doing that again. Enter the Queen Size OZtrail Self Inflating Leisure Mat. Gawd that’s a mouthful but I’ll tell ya straight up, it can call itself whatever it likes for this level of comfort. I’m laying on it now, it’s more comfortable than our regular mattress, which doesn’t actually say much cause our mattress is pretty crappy but hey, at least it is compareable to an actual mattress. Unlike the plastic floor mat that was our air mattress, this thing is velour, it’s warm and it’s silent… Silent! You know what that means right? I can go to the loo while camping without an audience… I know! It’s super amazing hey. There are other plus thingies too.

  • It inflates itself, like in a squillionth of the time, no joke, it’s like watching a giant square alien chameleon tongue unroll itself automatically as soon as the valves (there’s 4, amaze!) are undone… you get that right?
  • Putting it on the stretchers and you can hardly feel the bars where they zip together. We were worried about that, I like to sleep next to my husband, I dunno I’m a weirdo I think.
  • It stays up, no random quantum mechanics or anything. And even after a few days when it does squish down a little, you open one valve and it puffs back up like a blowi, but without the spikes and fish smell, that would be icky.
  • Warm warm warm… I’m saying that again cause it’s just groovy, so happiez. For some reason it doesn’t get cold. I like. 🙂

There is one down side, it’s the only downside of this totally epic piece of gear, it’s huge. As in the size of an adult. No stress for us though as we are already planing for the 2m long Oztent which I’ll tell you all about soon.

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Hope you didn’t get too engrossed by my story and you enjoyed your cuppa and this review. 😉  Ave a good un and catch u round. More gear reviews to come as we test out our stuff, SO EXCITINGNESS! (How most girls are with shoes and handbags, I’m all squeelee for camping gear)

If you’re interested in getting one o these groovy beds for your next camping trip we got ours from Tentworld. Otherwise you can get it direct from OZtrail here:

http://www.oztrail.com.au/product-range/furniture-bedding/bedding/leisure-mat-queen-self-inflating-mattress-by-oztrail

Ps: Sorry but it’s dark so I stole some internet pictures. It’s Australia, everyone steals from the internet. I’ll put nice ones in their place eventually. Except for the plastic floor mat, I’ll make that look really bad.

Being “educated” as a status is a egotistical lie.

Education is not a set of tasks and tests that ends when you complete any particular institutions curricula.  It is a lifelong pursuit, with the ever unattainable goal being to know it all.

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That’s the point of it all really, humans are brilliant at collecting data and gathering knowledge. We have measures for everything, from the decay of atoms to measure time through to the activity of molecules to measure temperature. We have so much data that we actually have problems keeping it all accessible to study. (data from the accelerator at CERN is a good example) we file it, store it, compare and correlate it in an attempt to understand everything… Why? We could just as easily live without all that and be blissfully ignorant. Why then do we search for answers beyond even what the human senses can perceive? Why do we create vast machines who’s only purpose is to collect data and help us gain knowledge?

…Because its exciting, knowledge is like a drug to our brains, we crave it and function at joyful highs when we learn new things. The more we do it the better we get at it. We are capable of devoting our lives to this relentless pursuit that seems never ending, yet we are always hopeful we will eventually know it all.

I love those stories where you see 80 something seniors going to university just cause. They get it. Learning just for the joy of learning.

I love watching TED education animations with my kids and listening to the conversations that happen when they think I’m not there. They get it. Imagining, beyond what is immediately presented into some extended cavity of their brain that adults have lost to paying bills and working stressful jobs.

Craving knowledge is a life long thing, don’t be fooled by tests, peers and those delivering education that it ends when you leave school. That institution can occasionally show you some basics but it is, by no means, the full story.

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Living outside that system (in part, whole or whatever format) gives young people the scope to experience education without walls and lets them incorporate that vivid imagination into their learning experiences without limit before they are faced with adult problems. Hell, maybe they can live a life without a few of those issues because of that imaginative ingenuity.

One can only hope…