One of the things I remember clearly being worried about when I removed my first child from school was believing they would miss out on many of the extra curricula activities that being in a school situation can offer. I have since learnt that all those opportunities can be found within the home-schooling community or through other clubs and groups etc.
One area in particular I questioned my best friend (who is a primary school teacher) about was “what about camps?” she responded with reminding me that my “very out of the box child” would no doubt find the whole experience of a school camp overwhelming and would spend most of her time in time-out, and not actually get to experience any of the positives. I had to agree, and so I let go of another worry on my path to finding what would work for my family.
Fast forward 6 years and now I find myself helping many others find a home education path that suits them. While we all have friends in all walks of life, it is refreshing and uplifting to be able to connect with others on an unschooling path specifically, as we have all made some hard choices for our children and have had to educate ourselves on how this alternative path can, and does work for those who choose to follow the philosophy. With that in mind and in the spirit of trying to provide our children with as many experiences and opportunities as we can afford and find, I arranged for a camp for 4 days and 3 nights for the families of the Unschooling Queensland Facebook group.
I hoped to create a camp where other unschoolers could come and chat and connect and relax with each other and hopefully find a friend or two for their families, and to feel part of a larger community (our tribe). As well as to provide some activities and fun things to do that my kids could experience and remember.
The Unschooling Queensland Camp was held at the Cobb n Co 9 Miles Creek Camp Ground, located just south of Gympie and fulfilled my expectations as a great place to hold our first camp. The venue has an array of onsite activities from a billabong to a horse rides, different playgrounds and creek with a platypus and rock pools to visit nearby (the last 2 we didn’t get to experience).
We arrived mid-afternoon and after a friendly check in, we set up all our belongings in our Glamps. Which consisted of 2 large tents on concrete slab with a roof, with a huge picnic table in between, plus a fire and hot plate (and a gas stove provided too) and in the tents were a Queen sized bed and 4 singles for the kids (youngest in with us, 3 older in together). The best of both worlds; a real bed next to an open fire. The Glamp was perfect for when there was a heavy late afternoon early evening shower on the first night and it was great to just arrive be ready in moments for some fun (the beds are made ready to go). It was also situated with the majority of the other unschoolers and overlooked the huge playground Pirate Ship where the children spent a great deal of their time playing many creative games.
The girls wanted to head straight to the billabong and then I followed with the younger ones – we took a blow up twin- ring to play on and others and the venue shared kayaks, boogie boards, surf boards, blow up boat, rope swings and more. We met more new unschoolers as we went as others were spread out across the park as very large and perfect for allowing those who need space to get away from the main area. The Billabong was a lovely spot to sit and chat over the next few days while we watched all the children play and swim and use all the water flotation devices. Some of the children were doing things they had never tried before and others were testing their own limitations and abilities. The Billabong atmosphere was amazing, to see all the children and adults relaxing and getting to know each other while and enjoying the natural bush surrounds was lovely. The Billabong also has an interesting local history and so we also investigated the clay and mud for gold dust that is throughout the water due to a bushranger incident from the colonial days.
We decided on the 2nd night to have a group camp fire as they have an area with a small stage and large logs to sit on around a large open fire pit. The get together was joyful and warm and one of sharing with us coming together each bringing something small, meant that great things happened. Everyone brought something to the group fire; the fire wood (one family brought a crate full for us all to share), damper (Miss 12 years made) to share, sparklers were shared, marshmellows toasted, glow sticks handed out, fire colour dust shared which turned the fire green, a live musician playing guitar, trying of a didgeridoo and some kids spontaneously got on stage and chose to sing along to some music on an iPhone (Miss 15 and Mr 9). The laughter and talking and sharing and children playing by the fire was magical and a special memory for all who attended. Nothing was planned except the spot to have the fire, and it was brilliant.
Throughout the 4 days the children spent many hours with each other creating an assortment of games from Zombies to Frisbee tag within the Pirate ship playground. Parents were able to be near in their own camps and still be in sight and ear shot of their children if needed, but it was rarely needed as the children were responsive to others small injuries and they sought out help from others when needed, and spent time to look after younger ones. Watching the large number up to 35+ children at a time happily arranging their own games for 4 days was astounding. So many friendships were formed and everyone is excited to connect again in the future (those near each other are seeking each other once home). We participated in some fun activities at the camp including a horse and carriage ride where the driver liked everyone to experience the thrill of being chased by bushrangers. Much laughter and excitement was had on the ride, while some others also went on a pony ride.
Another lovely family brought along the equipment needed so we could all create a tie dye shirt to take home. Miss 15 had declared it a family activity and so after persuading Mr 9 that he could read a leaflet and learn how to do it before we started (he was very reluctant to participate till he expressed his fear and we delayed creating our own shirts for a day till we could sort out the issue), we then all had fun creating our own designs to keep forever.
The children also enjoyed the small animal farm where they could partipate in bottle feeding the calves and patting the other animal babies. They also have a great BMX track (many families had taken bikes) and 2 flying foxes (not big enough for my giant children) and a couple of play areas for the kids to roam to on their own.
The group photo was the most organised event and it was well worth the time to capture most of those who attended.
Feedback from other adults on our girls in particular was so heart-warming to hear, they connected with another boy and they helped him to start to heal his own feelings of being different than his peers. They all spent hours in the billabong and played all types of games with the others around the Pirate Ship playground.