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How Workawayers Are Being ‘Teachers’ to the Unschooled

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I am originally from England but I spent a long time in South Africa and am now living up a hill in Italy!

Many thanks to Lehla for letting us re-post her blog all about how her family benefits from having volunteers come to stay, teaching the children by being themselves. Unschooled certainly does not mean uneducated, in fact the proponents of this type of teaching would say that the education is far more relevant!

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books. But prior to that she was an actress and trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called ‘Excuse Me, I’m Trying to Read‘.

Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects.

She is currently working on a new book called ‘Unschooling the Kids‘. Her work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-
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Unschooling, parenting and getting help

I cannot do unschooling on my own.

So I don’t. I open up the doors, and let other people in. I have an in-built hero habit, where I try to do it all which ultimately serves no one, least of all the kids. So, when I find myself trying to do too much, I get help.

I have signed up to a great website called WorkAway and I reply to requests from there. Through opening up the doors we have had the most incredible people come and help us. These people are part of our kids’ education. They teach, not by sitting down and teaching (although sometimes that do that too, as the girls sometimes ask for that) but just by being themselves.

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After she sang there was a tangible ‘Wow!’ floating in the air

The world is our kids’ classroom. So we open the door to the world. We have had artists, illustrators, makers, a dancer, a hotel manager and now we have a singer. She is only here for ten days but, by the sheer fact that on day two she did a performance for us, that was enough to open up a portal in the kids’ minds as to what a singer is, in the flesh. They had a live one in the kitchen!!! And their jaws dropped. After she sang there was a tangible ‘Wow!’ floating in the air.

For me, having people around us is vital to our kids’ education, even the cranky ones that come grumpy and tired and don’t feel like flowing with the family. They come and stay and have full board with us in exchange for five hours of their precious time, five days a week. But of course it is more than that, I am not talking about the hours. I am talking about the friendships that have been made. When I see the kids laughing at a YouTube video (that I don’t find funny) with the ‘work away’ person, I realise that these people are closer to their ages than I am and they are cool. I am not as cool as they are.

I am their Mum and that is great but I cannot model for them what it is like to be twenty and out in the world. Nor can I do all the cleaning, cooking, shopping, driving, illustrating of books and holding of the fort when Ant is away. When he is here, he is around a lot but often up to his eyes with work and trying to keep us afloat financially (To be fair, we do all share chores but it is true to say I do a lot.)

So, having extra hands has been such a gift as, when I tie myself on to the Unschooling/mothering crucifix, I am not an inspiration to my kids, my husband, nor to myself. I can become empty, flat, the sparkle fades from my eyes, and I lose my sense of humour, which is not great.

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It is ok to take some time out

Whether you unschool or not as a parent, keeping one’s well full is a fine balance.

This has been one of the hardest lessons for me, as I naturally tend towards putting myself at the bottom of the pile. But I am learning that if I can’t get myself together and be happy, then what am I modelling for them? Being an unschooling Mum means I am in the mothering thing up to my elbows but I have to remember myself, as do all mothers and fathers out there.

In fact I wrote ‘The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women’ for exactly the same reason. To inspire other women, and myself, to look after ourselves. It was at a time when I was knee-deep in nappies and sleepless nights and I needed to remember all the good things about being a woman that I had forgotten. Like remembering that it is ok to take some time out for myself.

This is a bit of a dramatic image but I feel we all need to remember that, like being on a plane that is in trouble, we must put the drop-down breathing masks on our our own faces before putting them on our kids.

So I would love to know. What are you doing to look after yourself today?
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(I went to the hardware shop pictured above and had a moment looking at the plastic flowers and then bought myself a candle!)

The main picture that is used at the top actually features the lovely Hattie who fortunately came to us via Workaway.

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