From March 17th to the 21st my entire family booked in for a small holiday. We have been considering a holiday to Tassie to meet up with a blogging friend or two but expenses added up to too much but when a fellow home educating friend suggested a home education camp CampFest at Hilltop Resort in Swan Hill, we thought it sounded great. A week away with other people on a similar journey to us, at least on the education side of things.
We met some lovely people. People who have looked at their children and how they are going in school and decided that learning at home would be better suited. People who have decided from day one that they education system wouldn’t be the best possible fit for their children. People like us who are raw beginners in home education and others who are finishing educating the youngest of several children. We met people who were also on a similar self-sufficiency, off grid journey as we are, others who drive around the country in a bus or caravan and who don’t own houses. City folk, country folk. Radical unschoolers who allow children’s natural curiosity will lead them to learn and others who follow curriculum. People from Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Likely others from the other states but I never actually spoke with them. It was a wonderful cross-section of the home educating community. 🙂
Unfortunately on the Monday morning I woke with a migraine and Martin woke with a heavy head cold. Not a great start. 😦 We arrived at camp a mere 5 hours late 😉 missing the meet and greet and the camp T-Shirt tie-dyeing. Still and all, it was nice to eat dinner with everyone. Camp was pretty easy-going. We stayed in a motel room but others camped in tents or vans or in the on-site cabins too. The petting zoo was a hit with the littlies who spent their time running after kangaroos, patting those hungry enough to brave the onslaught of little people or, in Orik’s case, making a beeline over and over for the animals watering hole. 😉
Our first night at camp saw me sitting on the round-about ride in the kids playground, chatting to kids aged from 14 to 2. The older kids threw multitudes of languages at me (Indonesian, Japanese, French and Mongolian) all the while monitoring all the littlies on the ride and making sure it kept on spinning. Aside from feeling like I wanted to vomit my dizzy guts up (they were most efficient at keeping it spinning 😉 ) I had a great time. I was also most surprised at the eloquence of the older kids and their ability to hold a conversation with adults and truly hold their own. They were better conversationalists than I, that’s for sure. Martin sadly was very unwell on Tuesday so whilst Jas headed off in a group of mixed kids to join in a scavenger hunt, Allegra made an alien headband (pipe cleaners and pom poms on metal headbands) and Orik and I ran around playing. 🙂
Breakfast and lunch were self catered but dinner each night was a themed pot-luck affair. The down day for Martin helped clear the majority of his cold thankfully as Wednesday was family excursion day. A trip was planned to visit the Pioneer Settlement which was absolutely fantastic. Orik spent the day on my back which he loved.
We helped make butter, ate fresh-baked bread with freshly made butter (just a little gluten 😉 ), made sisal rope, went to school and learned to write on slates and with ink and nib pens, enjoyed a horse and cart ride (Orik and I missed out on that one sadly) and also went for a trip to New South Wales and back on the paddle steamer Pyap. We helped build a drop log pig pen, did some mallee root fence building which is much like dry stone walling but using old tree roots, saw the most amazing hand spun washing machine, but the highlight of the kids day was forging their very own iron nail. The smith and I had a lovely talk as he’s also well into permaculture and it was lovely to chat to another like-minded person. 🙂 It was an incredible day and the kids saw some wonderful things, learning about the past and I could see just how many things we can all learn from the past and implement into our daily lives today. The settlers knew how to survive without fossil fuels and knew the value of hard work that’s for sure. We arrived back at camp exhausted.
Thursday sadly saw me down and out with another migraine, likely the result of hefting nearly 16kg of toddler around on my back plus carrying all the bags and also holding the hand of 1 or 2 not so small children. A camp friend and her 2 kids joined us for breakfast so it was full house in the motel room. 🙂 Martin then wonderfully took the kids and left me to try to sleep off the migraine. Unfortunately my kids being my kids decided to give Martin a hard time and played divide and conquer so he had a rough day of it. Friday saw me wake with another migraine so Friday pack up took a while. Thankfully I’d cleared the head on Thursday and whilst Martin spent some time in a Dad’s discussion group that evening The kids and I had sorted most of the cleaning up and packing. Teamwork. 🙂
During the week we tried to encourage the kids to help keep the room clean too. The washing machine in the room was a delight to use (read the post here) and the kids enjoyed helping out and Jas turned out to be a star helping with drying the dishes. Orik’s speciality was unmaking the beds. 😉 We spent time in focus groups, talking, time as a family, time enjoying the camps activities separately and coming together afterwards to discuss what we had learned. Allegra and Jas tie-dyed their t-shirts and Orik’s (they ran a second tie dye session and had extra t-shirts for sale) and had a great time doing it. Allegra then helped me dye my T-shirt. I love wearing it too as I know it is advertising for CampFest and I hope it gets people asking questions so I can tell them about the great time we had.
It’s been 4 weeks now since camp and there is still much to process. I found that it was a great experience despite a few teething troubles getting the camp up and running at its new permanent home (the resort is newly theirs) but the one thing I did find was that focusing so hard and for so long with a large group of people and all about home education was pretty overwhelming. It was a full on week and I know I was more than ready to go home on the Friday despite having had a wonderful time. I think it’s only now that I can really begin to sort through all we learned, process the thoughts and start to truly implement the strategies we came across. Next year is booked in already in our minds and next week I’ve plans to meet up with 2 of the CampFest families with another hoping to visit from Swan Hill later in May. 😀
If you are into home educating your kids and live in Australia, check out CampFest. If you’re considering home education it’s a great place to meet with people who can, if nothing else, point you in the right direction for information and resources and answer any questions you have too. 🙂 And there’s nothing like having a community of like-minded people around you too,be they virtual or in real life. 🙂