One family's quest to learn together
We are currently housesitting in the Bega Valley in southern New South Wales. The house is an Eco-friendly mud-brick and recycled materials construction. It has a composting outdoor toilet and a huge vegetable patch full of winter greens. We have chickens and fruit trees, a creek that runs through the property and more visiting Australian wildlife than we have ever seen in our lives. The house is situated at the bottom of a very deep gully, on a property of 100 acres of bushland. It is so absolutely and completely different to our house in the suburbs of Adelaide, and we are loving everything about it.
The opportunities to learn new things everyday are abundant, this is a wonderful place to dive deeper into our Unschooling journey. Every day since we arrived two weeks ago, the children have shown subtle changes in their adaption to their new environment. At first they were reluctant to wander far from the house, or to go out in the dark to the toilet outside. Now they enjoy exploring, climbing trees, helping themselves to fruit from the garden and tending to the chickens. They’re braver in the dark, and enjoy spotting wildlife that’s visiting with their flashlights. We are also all using our bodies more than before. Every day we take a walk up the very steep road to the top of the mountain, and enjoy wandering outside in the garden.
The environmental lessons are everywhere. We save scraps for the chickens, compost and worm farm and we tend to the permaculture vegetable garden. We have solar electricity, so we are now more aware of using as little as possible, and the water is in limited supply held in tanks, so showers are short and water use is careful. Even the toilet is environmentally friendly. It is a composting toilet so that waste can be used in the garden and there is no careless flushing of water. Every day we are treated to visits from the abundant wildlife, Wallabys, Kangaroos, Wombats, Possums, Bandicoots, birds and parrots, and we’ve plans to research a different one each week as part of our studies.
The Bega Valley is an area that is famous for its many dairy farms and well known cheese factory. The children love seeing the many cows with full udders making their way to milking sheds in single file, and this has led to many discussions about the production of dairy foods. We recently visited the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre to learn more about the history of cheese making at the factory. It is a small, free museum, with lots of old dairy machinery and photographs. Unfortunately though, it is not a very interactive museum. Whilst they were interested, I don’t think that the children got as much out of the experience as they might have if they’d had a chance to see milking, or cheese making in action, so now I’m on the hunt for a local farm or artisan that will share their knowledge with us if possible.
Last weekend, the children also learnt how to plant trees. We volunteered to participate in a land regeneration project at a nearby property, Tanja Lagoon Camp. The land had been cleared in the past for a dairy farm, but the current owners are keen to regrow some of the native trees and shrubs to increase the habitat for local endangered Potoroos. They were very helpful during the planting, and really got the hang of it quickly. Most of all though, I think that they enjoyed playing with the children that lived on the property who were similar in age to Oscar. Together they rode bikes, ran, played in the mud, and explored rock pools at the nearby beach. It was a really adventurous weekend for them!