The Kids are Alright :: Living a low-plastic lifestyle & not feeling deprived

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For years I've been guiding my family on a low-plastic journey. Taking small steps, but in the fashion of being my mother's daughter, being passionately forceful at times. Often my family - husband including kids - tolerates it slightly more or less so depending on how desperately they wanted the plastic (or throw-away) item they asked for.

But the past few months have brought a change, a shift. And yesterday I asked the kids "do you feel deprived not having certain things in plastic"? Both of them answered without hesitation "No!". Whereas previously they'd said things like couldn't we have normal things like normal people.

(You can probably guess my reply to that!). Why would you want to be normal! We're not normal people, normal is boring... blah blah blah.

So when they answered that, with such emphasis and assurance - that they didn't need the biscuits in the plastic, the cereal with twice the packaging than necessary, the extra treats, the individually wrapped cheeses or special breads in plastic - I smiled.

I probably would have jumped up and down and danced with joy, except I'm sick and that sort of movement would hurt my head. Instead I kept on nibbling my homemade pie; of course you guessed it made using homemade pastry and homemade filling.

How did the kids became swayed - or my husband for that matter? I'd like to say it was all me and my incessant influencing and constantly reminders. But I actually think them watching The War on Waste (on iview catchup) was a massive help. Showing those visuals of plastic towers, even though they'd seen them all before - somehow that sunk in deeper than the rest. I'm sure my years of moaning have worn them down.....

And you know. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how or why, what matters is they're now ok with me saying no. They now agree. And don't feel denied of all the things "normal" kids get. They've stopped asking for certain things. They know I'll say no, and they don't want them any more anyway.

As a mother, I suppose what I always hope is that my kids will learn the lessons I'm teaching. But I keep being reminded the lessons are learned not by force but gentle reminders, by offering an insight and way forward, while still allowing them to make up their own mind. By being educated but not indoctrinated.

The kids have been asking for corn flakes lately, and one day at the supermarket (when we were shopping for the camping trip that never eventuated) they got to get corn flakes from the supermarket. In plastic packaging, and yes one of those brand names I don't love. I told them I wanted to get it bulk from the health food shop, which they agreed to. Alas our health food shop only has corn flakes that aren't organic and say nothing about being gm-free or not. Their organic ones were in a big plastic bag too.

We can buy organic popping corn bulk, but not corn flakes (maybe I'll have to roll my own!). Anyway - I asked the kids and they were happy to compromise and get something else entirely that was organic and bulk. Part of not feeling deprived about giving up plastic means being happy with compromise. Having the kids be happy with this is a big big step forward.

Last year all Ari kept asking anytime he had some pocket money (thankfully not very often), was to spend it on another Dr Who Pop. Uh-Huh! Those ugly things that mean nothing, plastic trash sitting there looking cheap and made-in-China-ish. I hate them. Earlier this year he decided that he wanted a camera.

He saw the real value in saving his money and not spending it a Pop here a Pop here. Now he has a beautiful second-hand camera and a healthy new habit of learning to be a photographer. And he doesn't want to buy all those trinkety little anymore. (Of course the trinkets for cameras somehow are way more expensive!). {Proud mama moment: you can check out his Instagram account here: A Discovered. Also, even prouder moment - his photo has been selected to be part of this year's Olive Cotton Photographic Competition.}

Anyway - what I was saying is that sometimes when we're trying to get people to join us in a new way of thinking, living, being it can feel hard, and tiring. It can take time. And sometimes we wonder if we should give up. Don't give up. People will follow if you're passionate about it, if you guide them and don't push them.

We're about to start Plastic Free July again officially. And I'm consulting with them on what we should do, how we should keep challenging ourselves, how we can educate others around us without guilting them or creating rifts between relationships. Which can somehow happen around family and shopping / cooking / food. Somehow being plastic free seems a religion on it's own, or opposing political opinions, and creates animosity. But it needed be..... a few simple, yet gentle approaches can help. And also ( as I keep learning in regards to extended family) sometimes you have to let others walk their path while you walk yours.

Are you joining in the Challenge this year? I'd love to know if you are - is this your first year, or is this (like us) a chance to delve deeper and look closer at how you live. What have been your biggest challenges in the past, and what about your biggest wins?

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raising global children - guardians of our future

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Raising conscious, thoughtful, considerate children can be hard. Raising my children to grow into free-thinking, emotionally aware, environmentally active, socially conscious humans sometimes feels impossible. Sending them out into the world with all my ideals shoved down their throat isn't the answer, but letting them only listen to their teachers or peers isn't the answer either. It's finding a balance of sharing my own ideals and ways of living, while also letting them discover their own ways - their own thoughts, expectations of themselves. Letting them discover their heart-felt way of living in the world.

Guiding them gently is my way. Being clear on who I am, but giving them the space to discover who they are, how they fit in. Education, in my mind, is one of the best ways my children see what's going on in their world, and can choose to be involved or how active they want to be to make changes. But education itself takes time to find the right learning tools, the best resources, the accurate information. Luckily they know that not everything on the internet is the right answer, they know to question things, dig deeper, find more answers, ask another expert. We talk about that a fair bit - how just because it's written (in a book or on the internet) doesn't make it real or right or the only solution. How they have to use their brain and their heart to come to their own conclusions.

Being children of this generation my kids love using online resources to learn. Videos and moving pictures, clicking to the next page, being able to quickly search something else….. THOUGH - Let it be known loud and clear - they love love love reading real paper books, and flipping through a giant resource book (bird books, art books, world maps, etc etc). For us it's finding a balance of real paper books combined with online resources. Our home library shelves simply aren't big enough to be filled with all the everythings they want to learn about, information they want to devour. But sometimes, do you think finding online resources can be hard? Scouring through to find accurate information that's not filled with ugly photos, or strange references, or clickable popup adds.

Recently my lovely online friend Danielle, from Hippie In Disguise, (find her beautiful life here on IG as well as on her blog), told me about a new online project she's been had the pleasure of watching a friend create. And when I saw it I got a bit excited too. I can't wait to see all the future resources that my kids can access. It's called Global Guardian Project, and is a monthly zine / resource guide featuring a different country each month. It focusses on environmental, social and humanitarian aspects inspiring children on how they can become change makers in the world. With stories of local families, ideas for making change in our own families, beautifully stunning photography, recipes, projects and so much more - this is a resource to welcome into your inbox every month.

Global Guardian Project

My kids aren't homeschooled, but my idea of educating my children means that their learning doesn't stop once they leave the classrooms. For me to be able to off them some beautiful resources to educate and inspire them means we can extend their learning while empowering their concept of how they fit into the world, and how small changes they make can have a giant ripple effect.

There's a beautifully inspiring mini-zine about the Oceans, showing the quality of the issues, so you can a sample of what you'll be receiving. The first issue is all about Brazil, and is available for pre-order over here - there's so much excellent information and beautiful photos, as well as inspiring downloadable artprints / projects. Future issues will also have cooking and more art/craft projects as well.

The lovely Global Guardian Project founder, Rebecca, has given me a discount code for you to use to receive 10% off each monthly learning packet - use PETALPLUM to receive the discount. If you subscribe you'll receive a beautiful looking world map posted to your home, so the kids can see exactly the region they're learning about. The first issue is Brazil, and I can't wait to find out more about this colourful vibrant country. {For the whole of Thursday 11th August there's a 20% discount by using my code. So go try it out now.}

*I receive a small affiliate % from your purchase using my discount code. I only ever work with businesses whose ethics and ethos fit within mine, and who I think you, my dear reader, will benefit from. I thank you for supporting these small businesses, and for supporting me in this small way as well.

thoughts on schooling at home {homeschooling}

Last week I announced on my instagram feed that the kids were going back to school. That we had tried homeschooling, and had decided it wasn't right for us. 

Oh, but my heart is torn about this decision. For many reasons. Some I don't know I can share here. Some....

Firstly. I want to share with you why homeschooling didn't "work" for us. You might be thinking we only gave it a short trial, and yes, that's so true. But I think we threw ourselves into it as quickly as I throw us into other things. Of course, I'm the one doing the throwing / pushing / pulling, and they all come along with me. 

I wanted homeschooling to be us. I wanted us to be homeschooling. But in reality, the situation that we are currently living in ~ one tiny house, with no space for study, or creativity, or spreading out of books, reading, drawing, making, doing. No space to be away from each other. No space to choose to be together. No space to be organised and planned. Only space to feel on top of each other constantly. Not really very good to suddenly throw us into 24hours on top of each other. Suddenly it felt like the school hours were 7 hours of baby-sitting we were missing out on, 7 hours (that includes bus travel time, etc) of peace and quiet that we were missing. 

And sometimes I realised it also included 7 hours of doing something separate to each other. I stopped asking the kids what they'd done during the day. Because I'd been there with them the whole time, I neither needed to ask, nor wanted to hear their voices whining at me again. And maybe perhaps they didn't want to go over school work with me again, either.

Sam and I lost time to be alone together. To talk with no-one interrupting, or over-hearing, or wanting to be part of it all. No time to just sit and enjoy being with each other; a quiet coffee in the sun (once the kids have gone off to school) with your partner is surely an important thing in any relationship.

I did barely any - actually maybe none - crochet or screen printing or sewing or anything once the kids started schooling at home. Everything creative I did involved them, and had them at my side. And oh yes, that's what I wanted. It is what I DO want. But I also wanted just snippets of myself. My head my thoughts. Small snippets that I never got. 

I think, really, the biggest thing was that our little

skateboard jewellery making business

got a little bit busier. YAH to that!! And I needed to spend time working on all that was needed for that. And that meant taking time away from schooling and the children. And whenever I wasn't there at their side doing work, preparing work, pushing and enticing work to happen it just didn't. The kids thought they were on holiday if I wasn't teacher at the school desk. 

I guess it's unfair of me to have expected them to be any different. But I think that I expected they would "self learn" a lot more than they did. I think they were maybe too used to school where the teacher walks them through everything. I wanted them to grab their passions and interests and run away with it, and me be there to offer thoughts and advice and encouragement and assistance, and drive them to the library or show them how to make papier mache. Oh. How naive was I!!

Having said that; some school days were excellent. They made me the happiest mama in the world. To sit with my two babies and see them soaking up the learning. To talk with them about things that interested them, and help them discover more. To hear them sharing and learning and teaching each other. For them to be side-by-side learning were some of the happiest moments. 

and therein lies my heart ache. For though I know we can continue much at home, now that they are going back to school, I also know that after-school, weekends and holidays are brief, and that mostly they want to play and explore and 'not do school work'. We will always, as a family, be learners and explorers and teachers in our home (that is something I cannot give up), but I know that with them at school it is in a limited capacity, and that sometimes I am battling against the norm of a public schooling education with my thoughts and ideas to stretch their little minds further and bigger and deeper. Sometimes they feel locked into a system that they don't want to break out of. The ease of cut and paste from a google page, instead of exploring the library or art gallery or museum for the answer. Of saying that their school teacher says their work is good enough, and they're happy with good enough.....

Oh the sadness of a mama who knows her children have more potential than they will receive at school. 

I want it to be known that the school they go to, the local public school, is beautiful and supportive and loving, and has a solid foundation of honest and real values. I just feel that the education system in general lets education and learning down. Every week it seems I hear a teacher, or ex-teacher, talking about the stupid paperwork rather than actual teaching they have to do. And having 20-something other kids in a classroom isn't always the best learning environment. But then, maybe sometimes it is. Children are strong and resilient and perhaps we can give them enough (more than enough!) at home to counter what they will miss.

This for me is an on-going thought / feeling. I hope that with them and me together we can make learning endlessly happen in our family, in a happy contented joyful manner. Perhaps this can be the best of both options - the 7 hours of space that we all needed (them and us), and then the other time of sharing and learning and evolving and growing and expanding.

The one thing I do know about schooling of our children, is that there is rarely a "right" answer, and sometimes that right answer changes weekly. As parents we are always weighing the options of right and best against mediocre. I guess a school who openly cares and supports and knows my children is a wonderful thing indeed and that I should embrace.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, experiences, feelings on this.