A Silence (Spring?)

Today I heard
The all too rare sound of silence
When I took my boots and woollen socks
And with them my feet and legs
And the rest,
From the noisy pebbles
Up to the sea-soft grass that lies
Between stone and rock, and beyond that,
A sea,
That lapped today no stronger
Than a lake in summer.

It is not quite yet the time for silence,
As winter is loud, at least
To my ears.

But today there were
Catkins, on the willow
Coltsfoot flowers, which I had not seen
Before, and
I saw a plant I think looks
As if it might be related to chamomile.

I wore my long skirt,
My sisters scarf
And a green hat
I felt as lovely as the trees today,
Well maybe not quite…
But I will say so because
All is silent, but love in this moment,
And if I am not to love myself I am not to love the earth on which I stand.
Am I not the tree?
Am I not the bird?
Am I not the hoverfly?
Am I not the insect that I almost ate,
Upon plucking a gorse flower
So enticingly filled with a scent of coconut and sweet warm sunlight

I looked into the flower and found another being…

Gorse flowers do not taste as they smell
However often you try, thinking that maybe, this once, they will liken primroses, and taste like….

Flowers.

Maybe I am more like the grass.

It was also alive today, stirred by a slightly different breeze…

Blog Update

Hello all,
Apologies for my hiatus over the holidays, I have been very busy!

Anyhow, the reason I’m posting now is because tomorrow there shall be an article on Home Education in the Herald to which I have contributed some of my experiences, so if anyone is interested in reading that it’d be great.

Today was a pretty unusual day, as I met with seven other 15/16 year olds to talk about Ireland’s youth with Amina Mohammed, who is the adviser to the UN Secretary General. It was very interesting and we had some great discussions. There were people from UNICEF and the National Youth Council. I was there on behalf of ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental and youth organization. I’m pretty happy to have got the chance to do that! In the short timeframe I didn’t get to say as much as I would have wished about the environment but I’ve emailed some questions on that hopefully will answer some of my queries. I do intend to write more posts on environmental and global issues on this blog, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that I will remember to actually do so.

Over the holidays, I made a lot of jewellery (Which will be on my Etsy Shop and hopefully the blog very soon) And sold some at another craft fair in Bray! With the money I made at a previous fair and what I’ve saved for years, I got a camera, who is now my beloved child. She is truly, truly beautiful.

For those of you who might be here via the newspaper article, thanks for reading and for taking the time to look at my blog. I haven’t written a huge amount on Home Education so far (as it’s a very busy lifestyle that doesn’t much favour sitting at a computer writing blog posts all day) but I have lots to say that will be posted in the near future! I am very open to any questions that you may have, however stupid you may think they are! Feel free to comment below or send me a message.

Dreams

I don’t like the term ‘bucket list’. Therefore I have not titled this post so, and it will most likely refer to the things I would like to do in my life. Knowing me, it could end up being a post about how much I love nature. Usually my posts gravitate towards that topic.
My dreams are fluid. At the moment I feel so strongly that I would love to do these things but really, in a few years, they might be different. I’m very open to change ūüôā¬†They are also very much not in order, because, let’s be honest, my brain will simply not come up with them all in order and prioritize them perfectly.

1. To be content with whatever happens (even if it’s not happy, not good, just let it happen). Not think that just because I have little money that I cannot be happy.

2. Travel. I want to wander the world, not as a ‘holiday’ as such but to immerse myself in other cultures, experience the natural world fully, spend time with indigenous cultures and get to really know the places I go. Learn lots of languages.

3. Live on my own in the wild for four seasons. This is something I’ve always dreamed of, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but even if not for a whole year for some weeks at a time.

4. Learn natural/native skills. I dream of learning to track, to gather wild food, to know how to live completely off the land. It relates to 3 a lot! I also would love to learn about permaculture, building structures, pretty much anything in that area.

5. Write a novel. Even if it’s not published, the experience is something I’d love.

6. Get completely familiar with a camera and make a film (most likely with the DSLR I’m planning to spend my savings on this christmas/solstice), Experiment with different types and styles of photography.

7. Record an album. (Write a wealth of songs first, obviously)

8. Get really good at guitar, piano,cello, and/or voice. I would love to be proficient in at least one instrument!

9. Live in a self sustainable community for a while.

10. Experiment in different types of art.

11. Become an environmental/human rights activist.

12. Live in a tree.

13. Build my own house.

14. Discover more about Irish myths, culture, pre-christian religion, and language.

15. Become fluent in French (And some other languages preferably)

16. Learn how to track really well.

17. Visit every continent in the world.

18. Set up something awesome.

19. If I have kids, unschool them, spend all our time in the woods, and travel the world with them.

20. Make the world a better place!

21. Love life.

22. Be crazy.

23. Grow my hair really long (Random but it’ll probably happen anyway…)

24. Be mindful.

25. Spend many, many nights singing around a fire in the forest…

Daily rambles

I’ve probably often mentioned this, but one of the greatest benefits of unschooling is that I get to spend at least two hours in the place I love the most, the mountains. (Well… Hills. But I consider them mountains, not having ever lived in a country where mountains are actually mountains.)
I live in the city, sadly, but I am blessed by the fact that with just a few minutes in the car I can be in the forest.
You’ve probably guessed just by the name of this blog that yes, I am a tree hugging hippie in many respects. You have guessed correctly.
We usually go on the same walk, but the benefit of that is that you begin to see things more clearly, because you know the area so well. I could probably find my way around the valley with my eyes closed at this stage! The trees where we walk are mostly sitka spruce, a beech wood, and a mixed wood where there are beech, sitka spruce and a sprinkling of ash at the edge. There’s an abundance of hawthorn to the north closer to the farmer’s land, a beautiful elder (elderberry) tree in the ash area, one or two budleia along the first path, birch, sweet chestnut, larch near the car park and a ragged mixture of gorse, heather, moss, and reeds in the area where the spruce were felled some time ago. It’s incredible to watch how that entire area sprang back after being cut, from being piles of grey, bare branches to a flourishing habitat filled with birds and deer. For plants, there is a lot of rosebay willowherb, heather and gorse, foxglove, nettles, coltsfoot, rushes, bracken, countless amounts. There’s plenty of fungi but I am sadly not at all familiar with their names, apart from sulfur tuft (There is a LOT of that around) and fly agaric.
The animal life is also alive, with deer constantly around, fox tracks, ravens, woodpigeons, chaffinches, robins, coal tits, jays, etc. Just this morning we were going up into the beech wood when the chaffinches we had spotted for the last few days were even more lively than usual. We sat quietly for a while and watched them feeding on (We think) the beech mast all over the ground. I’d say there were between 20-40 of them. As we reached the top of the beech wood there were two jays flying between the branches overhead.
There are a thousand stories I could tell about those forests, and I don’t think my keyboard would hold up if I tried to recount them all, so for now I’ll head onwards to other, less computer based activities.
By that I mean carving a handle for my (proudly hand smithed) knife. That’s what it will probably mean for the next week or so until I finish it. Or knitting. I’m knitting a lot lately too.

Peace,
Amy

Autumn is starting!

Hello blog! I think I have a few new followers thanks to my post on unschooling being spread around a bit. Thanks for all your kind words.
Last week I was in the beautiful country of Wales visiting some beautiful people who I met at the Art of Mentoring in Scotland. I feel so happy now and rejuvenated by the experience, albeit extremely sad to have to leave such amazing people in another country.
However, I can say that autumn has started, which I’m happy about, oddly enough, as I am a summer lover through and through. This October has been strangely warm though so I’m actually looking forward to when we actually get our first¬†frost, which usually happens in August!¬†Ireland has¬†such a¬†tiny temperature range in comparison to the rest of the world.
Now that the¬†rain and cold has commenced,¬†I can start on my winter crafting fest and drink copious amounts of ginger tea and bake and wear my beautiful handmade¬†new hat and gloves (permanently)¬†and blog and see the forest in a way I haven’t properly seen it in two years thanks to school taking up my days. And most of all I can write! I can write my book, I can write short stories, poems, songs, music, everything!¬†I’m so happy!
To think that I would be sitting in school preparing for the most pointless exam in the world…. I learned when I was in Wales that in Britain the GCSEs actually get you somewhere and matter (If you want to go down the regular route) Whereas in Ireland the Junior Cert, the equivalent, literally affects nothing. It’s basically just a big mock exam for the Leaving Cert three years later. Why?

Hope all you are faring well

Home education (aka unschooling, life learning, etc)

Yes. It is true.
I no longer attend school.
It is beautiful.

I am fifteen years old and I have only been in school for two years. I think it was really great for me to try. I learned a lot about myself and I made some wonderful friends.
But why?
Why?

Why are children made to spend fourteen years of their life in a BOX, treated like sheep, not given any trust or responsibility, stressed out to the highest level and given practically no interaction with people outside their age range?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I could probably rant incorrectly for a while but I don’t really have the stamina.

I can tell you this, however. Today, if I was in school, right at this very moment, I would be preparing for the last class of the day, exhausted, awake since half six, having spent eight hours in a classroom cramming in ten mostly unneccessary subjects and with three hours of homework already piled upon me for the evening. There are, I can tell you, thousands of things I love to do. I would go home, sit, staring blindly at pages that make no sense, procrastinating furiously out of tiredness, when the outdoors was calling me, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I was in school, I did not want to play music. I did not want to draw. I did not want to write, or walk, or learn.

Today, instead of spending eight hours sitting in a classroom, I have spent two hours up the mountains, walking, taking photos, listening to trees, learning invisibly about the world. I collected hawthorn berries. I noticed that a particular species of spider was common of the trunks of ash trees. Getting home, I played guitar, figured out the chords to a few songs, and I continued writing a song. I helped cook a delicious lunch (Butternut squash, chickpea and sesame seed falafels with cucumber yoghurt raita if you must ask), ate, and now I sit, speaking to people across the world, learning Irish online, drinking ginger and turmeric tea and eating the hawthorn berries from earlier.
I am not tired after this. I am energized. Which mean that my day can continue, and get even better after three o clock, whereas in school that was the end of being able to do anything. I intend to continue the scarf I’m knitting. I intend to continue the crochet hat I started yesterday (I couldn’t find a crochet hook big enough so I found a stick and carved a surprisingly functional crochet hook in fifteen minutes) If I do end up watching TV, which generally doesn’t happen, it will most likely be a Ray Mears documentary on bushcraft (Although most of my attention while watching TV is usually on my knitting)
Tonight, I will probably go to bed early, as I spend my evenings drawing these days. I’ll continue listening to a lecture about global warming I got out of the library yesterday, and if I get tired of drawing I’ll continue the book I’m reading about food waste. Is there anything there that I did not learn from? I am calm, happy, relaxed. Today is one of my more fallow days, spent mostly at home and relaxed. Other days in the week are more busy. I do maths with another homeschooling friend one day, I meet a school friend and go to an environmental/peer leadership course/group another day, I go to French class another day, I help my mum with her Forest School work one day a week, I try to get to my writing club once a week too sometimes. I’m also starting my Gaisce award, an Irish award for young people which involves a skill, community involvement and a sport. I’m going to take up the Viol for my skill, do my environmental group as community involvement and either do yoga, tai chi or archery for my sport.

Now, answer this question. If you were/are a fifteen year old, which one of those days sounds more appealing? Rich? Full of true, life learning and skills?

I didn’t attend primary school, and yet when I went into school I got on as well as the people who had spent six-eight years in there already. And I was bored by the work given, most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things too, but the drudging routine, the sheer pointlessness of it was not something I fared well with.

Some people may argue that school is very important, because without school, you can’t get into college, and without college you can’t get a job, and without a job you can’t get money, and without money you can’t have a family and a house and a pension and therefore you can’t be happy.

…….

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I’m sure there are many other reasons that you might think school is great. You might actually be one of the rare people who really thrive in school and love it, and if you are, that’s great!

But I’m just going to make a few points here, going through the thing I said before.
1. “Without school, you can’t get into college!”
You can get into college without going to school. There are many, many, alternative routes, and there’s also different types of homeschoolers/unschoolers, some with a strict curriculum and exams and some with completely free child-based learning. Most are somewhere in between the two. It does differ in different countries, but here, I know that if I want, I can study myself and do the leaving cert, or I could do A levels, or I could do FETAC level five courses, or many other things. School and college do not go hand in hand.
2.”Without college, you can’t get a job!”
Ehh… no.
There are certain professions, such as teaching, medicine, etc. which would be very difficult to pursue a career in without college. In this day and age, however, there are thousands more thing you can do with your life. Home education gives people time and space to develop their true interests and passions, so that when they do decide to go into the world, they are generally pretty sure of themselves and what they love.
A lot of unsure kids are coming out of the school system who are forced to pick what they want in life within moments and then an extremely large sum of money (that they then have to pay off for the rest of their life) is spent educating them in something they might not even be passionate about. Why??
I can reasonably confidently say that if I wanted to, right now, I could probably make a reasonable amount of money off what I love to do (With some effort and enthusiasm, which is currently somewhere not too accessible within me) Because I haven’t been in school for my life, I have a rather large range of interests and passions. I could not put any one of my passions above the other. (Although nature, environmental issues and human/animal rights are very, very important to me)
3. “Without a job, you can’t get money”
Well, depending on what you call a job. I don’t even like the term ‘job’. It indicates something you don’t want to do. And why would people throw away their lives doing something they hate? It’s a little beyond me, but it’s too common.
There are many ways of earning money. As I said before, homeschoolers often have superb skills and resourcefulness. Why have a ‘job’ when you can earn money doing what you love? And you can, if you want.
4. “Without money, you can’t be happy.”
Well, money does help in terms of things like food, shelter, travel, etc. Probably, getting older, money is handy. But it’s not necessary to hoard giant amounts of money to spend on things you’re going to throw away. There are ways of living without money, or much of it. Happiness does not depend on money. No.

Happiness. That’s what a lot of this is based on. No, you cannot have eternal happiness, it is impossible. Sorry. But you CAN live a fulfilling life, helping others and truly loving everyone and everything. No, homeschooling is not the answer, not to your life’s happiness and worth but I can definitely say that my life is the greater, the happier, the better, the funner, the brighter, the calmer, and the more beautiful for it.
(This post is based on my experience and thoughts, please don’t take it as personally attacking school or anything! I’d just like for people to see that there are many sides to life and that school is not the only way forward)

If you are a teenager or parent or carbon-based life form interested in homeschooling I would recommend you read The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn, I had it lent to me by a friend and am reading it and finding it really interesting!

Some of my recent whittling

I’ve spent a lot of my time lately whittling! It has become probably my favorite pastime, despite the occasional blisters and the wood chips that trail their way about the house… I like to think it’s bringing a little bit of nature indoors. Although we have a lot of that already.

Something I’ve made a lot of lately are these interlocking spiral sticks. Both of these in particular are cherry but I’ve done a few single spirals out of elder whose pithy center pops out perfectly with minimal knife effort.

IMGP1627 IMGP1632

I have also made quite an amount of cutlery. I have not yet mastered forks but for the time being I’ll manage with spoons and butter knives. The two center spoons are green beech and the outer spoons are oak (left hand) and something unknown handed to me at the Art of Mentoring (right). I’m pretty sure the two knives are cherry (we have a large cherry tree in the garden who provides us with plentiful wood often)IMGP1644

This little wren is the end of a handle of a butter knife I made for my dad’s birthday. I used a fork cherry branch and whittled it down into a bird, and then burned in patterns on the wings.IMGP1651

As usual, if anyone would like a tutorial I would be more than happy to make one!