Our Natural Journey & How It Lead To Unschooling

I have been asked to share my journey and experiences of having a wonderfully amazing child, well children actually. This has been prepared as a talk I’m giving next month, it could change by then, but I thought well hey it’s taken me a couple of days to prepare this and I feel ready to share about our journey. It’s something I’ve been coming back to often to fine tune and feels to me, that it would be a dis-service of me not to publish it here.

Make your self a cuppa and settle in as this is more like an essay. Allow yourself 20 minutes to read it. Thank you ❤ (My children are now aged 13 (son) and 10 (daughter)

My son was always one to explore the world at a million miles and hour. When I was pregnant with him I just felt this would be the case, he moved quickly and decided to bless us just over three weeks early with his presence. His brain works faster than the average and things went in, got processed, then he moved onto to the next, understanding at depth what he was taking in if it really interested him. It meant little time for anyone around him to stop and process what was happening, he was like a whirl wind. He is also highly sensitive to anything involving the senses. Thinking deep, feeling deep, both physically and emotionally. He has always been very in-tuned to how people are feeling and their reactions, whilst being deeply aware of each piece of clothing, footwear, hair, anything that was on him and the uncomfortable sensations they would cause him. He struggled to dress each morning, refused shoes and socks unless completely necessary and had various coping mechanisms that he used to get through each day.

My daughter isn’t without a story. Her’s is is vastly different though. She’s what a friend described to me once as a little shooting star, that will just work it out, get on with it and shine through. She’s had  to deal with bullying and exclusion from her peers due to mild tourettes and tics which made her just a little different. This has been teamed with an eccentric and vibrant personality which has helped her to get through some tricky situations. Her symptoms have improved and worsened and improved over the years whilst on this journey, however today I will reflect upon my son’s story as his journey has been the one requiring a great deal of healing and support.

Over the years we tried numerous things in which to help him be more comfortable, understood and happy, you name it and I have probably tried it! He spent a great deal of time feeling frustrated and questioning his being present on this earth. He often wondered why I wanted him here, sobbing and asking why did I birth him? Because if he wasn’t here then he wouldn’t have to feel like this. He basically wanted out of the way he was feeling day in and day out. His mind unable to shut off, constantly thinking about so, so much.

It was really tough for him. I blamed everything on myself, questioning if I had done something wrong during my pregnancy, his birth, my parenting… The list really does go on.

He didn’t like change at all, he really struggled with it actually. I could see things deepening and progressively becoming much harder for him. This was apparent from a very young age, as early as a few months old I could really see that he thrived on consistency. When he was 5 years old and attending a busy school which was over crowded in our local area I could see he was struggling and we decided that we would need to move him to a quieter school so he didn’t just get lost and fall by the way side. This was where things got tougher and the journey really spiraled out of control for a good few years.

He was in what his dad and I thought would be a better and quieter space, however he was now in an environment where he was made to feel as though he was stupid and basically where he was trying to be molded to fit into the box that this school required. He pushed himself to be there. It was really tough, but we didn’t know what else to do. We felt that this would be the best place for him as far as schools went and didn’t know of any other options available. I was constantly being called in and told he needed this test or that, perhaps we needed to medicate him and I was myself being worn down by the constant demands of the school. After giving in to their requests, he was then diagnosed with ADHD and SPD. That was it the school wanted us to medicate him and began applying regular pressure. I wanted to explore natural therapies and alternatives to help him as this was something I had always turned to first prior to any medical intervention.

A week or so later I got talking to a lady I had recently met at my daughter’s dance class. I was not sure which route to go down and was telling her about the desperation we felt and the pressure we were feeling. It was like she appeared in my life for a reason. She was about to start studying naturopathy and gave me her current Naturopath’s number to call. I thought this lady was amazing, albeit in NSW, however she knew so much about children, nutrition, natural parenting, she was a grandmother, had published a book on natural parenting and was so far ahead of her time and desperate to get the message out that she felt had been lost over the years. She was a hidden gem and was happy to work with us over the phone, so I was completely wrapped at having a road to head down.

My first consult with her was very daunting!! I basically stood in my pantry on the phone with an empty garbage bin, discussing what I had in there and throwing half the contents into the bin, we then moved to the fridge. This all happened over a two hour phone session. By the end of it I was shattered and was really not sure how I was going to feed my kids with just a few staples left. She had not really told me any thing more than give them veggies and meat, so I really had to learn how to prepare everything from scratch and STAT. My kids would be hungry and their beloved favourite and what I considered “healthy” foods had all been tossed in the bin.

This was a pivitol life changing moment for me and for our family. I had just had a crash course on food additives and salicilates. It was intense! We had to cut dairy, sugar, processed foods, wheat and strip back everything, going on a full on elimination. They were only allowed to eat one piece of fruit each day and that was after dinner. Fruit was a real go to for us back then.. She said not to wean it out, just to stop and now!

After the initial shock I got very creative. I was making my own gluten free bread, cooking lunch meats, making child friendly foods and basically making every thing we ate from scratch as their wasn’t the variety of foods about that you can conveniently find now. We were unable to go anywhere to eat as it was a very anti-social way to live and I was quickly becoming exhausted as back then I was also working up to 50 hours per week from home, onsite and around the family in my busy bookkeeping business.

The kids really struggled at first too, their were so many tears and melt downs out of sheer frustration and lack of comprehension. They were so young and this was big for them. Hey it was big for me, but they did it… We eventually got a Thermomix which made life easier and things started falling into a groove.

I remember a little while after commencing this new way of eating we had our first class party at school… I was petrified by everything on the food table. I knew what was in most of this stuff and I could tell that nothing there was safe for my son to eat. It was to the extreme, just a banquet of processed, sugar laden fake foods and he went crazy. I stood there thinking that I couldn’t just pull him away and take him home, this would be a little crazy on my part and embaressing for him. I knew he wasn’t going to be eating the fresh fruit platter I had prepared that morning as a special treat. He wanted all of that other stuff! He ate and ate and ate. He was never big on party foods before and could always take it or leave it, however with the restraints I had put on him, he just went all out and stuffed himself until he threw up everywhere. I had to take him home. I cried, he cried and I had to re-assess our approach as this clearly wasn’t working for us.

I didn’t ever have another consult with the naturopath. I thought she was wonderful, but I had failed her and I felt as though I knew more about my children and this cold turkey approach to food just wasn’t working for us. From then on I decided small steps in a forward motion were the way for us.

So it was then I started re-introducing foods so that we could maintain some sanity. I learnt more about different ways to cook with wholefood ingredients, such as almond meal, spelt flour, wholegrains, raw cacao, nut milks and using honey, maple syrup, rapadura sugar to bake with, but also sparingly. I started cooking real food from scratch using better choices as ingredients as opposed to limiting choices. I would look at recipes and halve the sugar content. I changed from margarine to butter, stopped using anything low fat opting for full fat versions. I just went back to how our great grandparents used to do it. We stopped labeling foods as good and bad, (my daughter actually used to make me cringe with this, at 4 years old when offered food from others she would ask if it contained sugar, if so she couldn’t eat it). We started listening to our bodies.

I read and read, so much. I did nutrition courses online, followed Facebook pages that were on my wave length. I really emerged myself in food, the science of it and myself too developed a better relationship with food in order to show my kids that we could regulate ourselves without extremes.

The teachers noticed a difference too with all of the changes. My daughters teacher pulled me aside one day, she didn’t know what we had done as I had only informed my son’s teacher to buy us time. She just wanted to tell me that my daughters concentration level was better in class and her mood had stabilised. They were doing awesome. But, there was still the BUT with my son. All of this just wasn’t enough for them and they still pushed for more answers. They told me that my “hocus, pocus ways” were not enough and really, really wanted me to medicate him. In the end after a long battle I did it out of shear exhaustion and bullying from them. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. Now they were happy, but we weren’t. Maybe six months later I was diagnosed with situational depression. I started counselling to help. My marriage was showing signs of stress from it all and I asked my husband to move out, feeling he was not being supportive as his way of dealing with everything was to disconnect from us. I had thrown myself into work to cope as I didn’t know what else to do and I felt so alone with it all, my extended family were scared and didn’t know what to do as it all seemed too hard, so they stayed away. I had hired an Au Pair to help me with the kids (and secretly to go to school as I couldn’t face this any more as it triggered more anxiety). I just basically buried my head in the sand for a while in order to cope. Everything was just out of control and I often thought about running away from it all or ending it all. But I knew I couldn’t, my babies would be lost without me and it was this that pulled me up and out of the pity party I was having.

I started working on myself emotionally, my husband did too as he wanted his family back, after a few months he moved back in and we re-united as a team stronger than ever and determined to save our family. Whilst I had help with the kids I decided to fix me, although that may seem selfish, I knew that by doing this I would be better prepared to help my son. I met many beautiful people whom just flowed through my life, many of them are still in my life. They helped me to gain confidence and showed me other ways of being. They helped to give me the confidence to stand up for what I believe in.

Things were getting better and we had a year with a lovely teacher whom gave us lots of breathing space to work through our stuff, perhaps it wasn’t intentional. I heard from many parents it was a waste of a year, but it was perfect for us. Then the next year my son was diagnosed with depression, he was starting to struggle again and his medication was not as effective any longer and the more I researched I found that it was linked with depression.

We found essential oils and started using them religiously to help us all. We teamed this up with kinesiology and his wholefoods. I felt progress again. We then decided to take him off his medication as he was responding well to everything we were doing for him. I felt like we had a new boy at home. He was balanced, happy and laughing again.

However the school were once again not happy with his academic performance and again started placing pressure on me. I could see it happening all over, the years flashed before my eyes. It was like a roller coaster and I wanted off!. This time I stood my ground and asserted that I didn’t care about his academic performance, that I was more interested in having my son be happy and knew that if we would have continued the route they wanted him on that he may not be around a few years down the track. I explained that having my son with us and happy was more important than his grades and that they needed to back off. By this point I was in tears. I was not going to go down that path again!

Then early last year my sons good friend was tragically killed, things went down hill for him very quickly, over the time this was all happening the school explained that he was not getting over it, he was effecting the other kids with his grief and he needed to move past it as all the others were just getting on and dealing with it, so he should be able to do that too. The depression had once again been brought to the surface. It was at that point I knew that it wasn’t my son or anything we were doing that was wrong, no we weren’t failing him at all. It was the system that was failing him and I finally realised that no matter how strong I was I couldn’t change it and this roller coaster would just continue.

I made a big decision. I decided to bring him home to learn. My husband agreed, he knew that we had run out of options. It was a slightly crazy idea and I had not a clue on how I was going to do it with running two businesses by then, but I just made it work and it really has!! My daughter said that she wanted to come home too, she was tired of the bullying and trying to be strong each day, it was taking it’s toll on her too.

They both really needed to come home to love, nurturing and repair. I just wanted to support them where they both needed it. This journey had been tough on us all and it went on for far too long. It was like a big cloud had finally been lifted and I was almost skipping out of the school yard holding both of my children’s hands feeling the freedom and being full of optimism for what the future would hold for us.

We have all had a great deal of healing to do. I have used unconditional love, kindness and respectful parenting, listening when they need, good food, essential oils and administered a lot of reiki healing in order to support both of my children, especially my son who’s self esteem was at rock bottom, his self worth at zero and he had a big label of “the naughty, stupid kid” that basically needed to be soaked off as it just wasn’t true.

He is just a simply wonderful and an amazing boy, that didn’t fit into the system. My heart almost explodes when I think of how fabulous they both are!

We are just over one year into our unschooling journey. Both of the children are thriving. They live each day excited to wake and embark on the next fun filled adventure. They follow their passions and learn in a way that works for them. I no longer have to raise my voice or coerce them, we live with each other respectfully. I can meet their needs, we discuss everything and have so much more empathy for one and other too.

Another lesson learnt during this time for us has also been to really take the pressure off food. Just bring it back to the real stuff. The journey we have had learning about foods and their effects on the human body has been amazing and always continues. We have really been able to notice the physical and emotional effects of food, especially now that we have the time to stop and heal. The children have noticed that we are all individual on this and not one of us is like the other.

I have found the best way for us as a family to eat is by having a diet substantially based on vegetables, good fats and plant foods, with just a little meat for the boys, as us girls are vegetarians. My children still have treats, however they are aware of how they make them feel and know the conscious effects of what different foods can do and how they make them feel.

My aim in this life time is to lead by example, talk about everything and allow my children to choose what works for them.

In the long term I don’t wish for them to have any resentment towards me for “making them” eat a certain way, I don’t want them to have food hangups or body image issues in relation to food, so I don’t force anything upon them, I simply lead the life that they can role model. In a respectful and wholesome way.

This story though is not without another silver lining. My children have carried me on an amazing journey of self discovery and through this over the last few years, I have found my passion in helping others to change their own lives through food and natural therapies. I now not only homeschool or unschool my children, I am working on my first wholefood recipe book, I am a qualified Reiki practitioner and I’ve also learnt a great deal about essential oils and other therapies. I have recently obtained some regular contracts and classes within community groups teaching individuals and families about wholefoods and getting back to basics via some cooking classes and pantry make overs.

This is just part of our families story. Thank you so much for reading to the end ❤ Much love – Michelle

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