A new domain: www.growingfree.co.za

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We have moved! Thanks to the help of Nicola Tweed, I have moved into a beautiful new online home over at www.growingfree.co.za. It has all the lovely stories and notes from you that I’ve collected over the last three years and will hold all the new stories to come. I will no longer be posting here so please do pop over and subscribe to receive notifications of new content by email. Tomorrow I’ll be posting as the breastfeeding cloth-diapering co-sleeping baby-wearing mommy that I am. Look forward to seeing you there!

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Johannesburg: an unschooled exploration

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Yesterday we returned to our farm of dappled cows, tree skeletons and silent mountains. With soft light and earthy scents, it welcomed us back from a ten-day stay in Johannesburg. In the city of smog and gold, the hub of business and art and politics, we caught up with family, tossing balls and blowing bubbles in a backyard in Kensington. We explored the bird gardens at Monte Casino, thrilling to the screech of lemurs, the glare of scarlet ibis and the elegance of crowned cranes. We measured the city by its parks, striding and climbing in Delta Park in Blairgowrie and pausing over lunch at the River Cafe in Sandton while Emma made friends in the sandpit. Continue reading

Building for balance: breaking ground

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We live in a beautiful place. Here we run two businesses, work at one freelance job and build careers as writers and sculptors. It’s a rich diverse life. It’s busy. And sometimes we forget to stop and watch the grass grow, or look up at the sky. Living with us are reedbuck and oribi, jackals and porcupines, secretary birds and blue cranes, gymnogenes, rabbits, duikers, otters and more amazing beings than I can even name. But sometimes we just put our heads down and let the fog of deadlines, paperwork, social media and phone calls swirl around us. We try to escape it by rushing headfirst into trips and plans and more activities. Instead of steeping ourselves in the beauty of here, breathing quiet and deep. Continue reading

First memories: in the rain

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The patter of rain is so foreign to our dusty farm you didn’t recognise it at first. Your dad stomped across the garden to the wood pile, in case the touch of moisture heralded snow. You watched from the door, stretching out your arm. You wanted to be with him, to be a part of it. I fetched your new rain jacket from the cupboard and pulled on your boots. But you wouldn’t venture out, not on your own. In all the months that you’ve been walking, the sky has arched above, empty and blue. You’ve never walked in the rain. Continue reading

Growing Free

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This blog has undergone something of a life change this year. Its stories have twisted and turned, mirroring my own meandering path. It started with a focus on travel and sustainable living. Recently it has shifted to examine the soul-deep demands of parenting and the toe-curling pleasure and pain of making a home and growing in one place. But as wide as I roam on this journey called life, a whispering current has held my writing to a single course.
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Mariella: natural learning vs a system of control (free download until July 11th)

DSC_0502_croppedWhen I first wrote the manuscript for Mariella five years ago, I had never heard of unschooling or natural learning. The story sprung from my experience teaching in a particularly rigid school environment. But really it was driven by the character of Mariella, a girl different from others, with powers no-one had ever seen. She lodged herself within me and walked beside me until her story made it through my pen. Continue reading

Natural playgrounds 2: follow the child

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Montessori fans often use the phrase ‘follow the child’. I can’t vouch for all its implications in the context of Montessori education, but it did give me pause to think in my interactions with my own toddler this week. Seth and I added a pallet swing to the natural playground. Emma, always eager to be part of the group, clambered on and off and around the pallet, and trotted round with rope off-cuts. Seth applied some of his best sailor knots, learnt on his Pacific crossing, to secure the swing to the tree branch. Then we stepped back, expecting her to climb aboard.

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You will never be good enough

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Two years ago I wrote this post about failure. At the time I was a Chinese student freelancing in Asia. I didn’t have a car, a washing machine or a datebook. Now I help my husband run a business, our first, while parenting our first-born, on an African farm where most of my colleagues speak Zulu – a language which makes me trip and fumble and rush for the cover of ignorance. In some ways nothing has changed. The way forward is still not clear or easy, and offers no guarantees of success. Continue reading

First memories: at the shore

I carried her in my arms to the edge of the waves. It was late in the day, and her eyes blinked lazily, the blur of carseat dreams still thick on her lashes. I pulled off her shoes, so excited for her to feel the damp sand on her bare soles for the first time. But her legs curled like drying leaves, tiny toes clenched in refusal. This place was new and strange and not at all friendly-seeming. Continue reading