Hay Festival, Abu Dhabi 2020

Hay Festival, Abu Dhabi 2020

Today was one of those homeschooling dream days. The Hay Festival was making its first appearance in Abu Dhabi and Little T and I popped over to Manarat al Saadiyat to have a look. I often think it is a real perk of home educating that we can attend events like this. Today I thought this as well, but we arrived to bus loads of school children. I am also glad that school children have a chance to take part, but I do feel we still have a slight advantage, our freedom. Today I saw group after group of children walking in lines to and from specific activities, they also would be on a time schedule whilst we were free to stay in any area as long as we wanted. 

To be honest we didn’t take part in much of the actual festival but just spending time at Manarat was a treat and taking in the atmosphere was enough to make for a great day. 

The little man actually did not want to leave the house this morning, he was happily engaged with some games on his iPad, but I knew we would really enjoy ourselves if we could get out of the house. A play date with friends in the afternoon helped get him out the door, as well as continuing to listen to our latest audio book (The Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times) in the car. Before he agreed, I even had the moaning teenager voice, “UGH, why do we have to go to this festival?!”

But as soon as we walked in he was as taken with the atmosphere as was I, and right in the middle of the atrium there began an interpretive dance featuring three men. I have to say Little T was mesmerized and as I often do in moments like these, I had a little tear thinking about how fortunate we are to have these experiences on our doorstep. I think how these moments are so different and varied from what I experienced as a child. In no way do I think a few visits to art galleries and festivals will make this child become an artist or a lover of fine things, but I do think it is exposure to new things and that is what I want to give him, opportunities to find something that really sparks joy in his own heart. 


After the performance we checked out the book sale and then wandered around towards the back, and climbed some stairs to look over Larte restaurant. There was a sculpture of King Kong with spiked bracelets on that got some real interest from him, as well as some chairs hanging from the ceiling, “What if you sat on that chair????” followed by lots of laughter. 

We had a look in the art studio, firstly in the shop for him to choose some special items: purple glue (he is in a slime phase at the moment) and a colorful rubber band ball. We had a tour of the art space and found out there is a drop in area, 30 AED ($8.17/£6.34) for 2 hours of free reign in their art space which includes four separate art ideas as well as painting/drawing and a few different types of building materials. 


Whilst having a look I had a lovely chat with the employee who showed us around, it was a perfect advert for unschooling. She inquired about what Little T was interested in and I said video games, she said, “Ahhh, that is how it all started for me. Now I want to draw the characters, I will soon go to school to be a graphic designer.” The hard part to hear was that she had already been to nursing school to fulfill the wishes of her parents, and now she is working at the Manarat with hopes of going on to fulfill her own dream. It made me feel so excited that this lifestyle we have chosen will allow Little T to explore and find his passions at a much younger age than most of us have, if you are lucky enough to have had the opportunity!

After the art studio we had a look outside. There was an interesting fixture to listen to podcasts which also turned out to be a perfect place to roll the rubber band ball. The skate ramp at the back was perfect for this as well. 

It really was such a positive and enlightening visit and I am so glad to know we have ‘another’ potential day out nearby.

-Mrs T

Slowing down

Slowing down

One of the biggest changes I have made in my life since becoming a parent is slowing down. I have vivid memories of always driving too fast in my late teens/early twenties because I was so busy! Often working several jobs, going to school and balancing time with family members and friends, at the time I felt happy and it was probably what I needed then, I am so glad I don’t feel that way anymore. 

Living overseas has really helped in this area of our life. Even our first two years of parents when we lived in the UK, I felt like I had to do, do, do. It feels quite natural slow down here in a new city, we know less people so there are fewer obligations. I guess I could be running around like crazy trying to meet people and make friends, but now I trust that it will happen when it is time. I make an effort but also relish in our slow, slow days. 

This is an aspect of unschooling that I really love, allowing time for children to move at their own pace, which is often much slower than ours. Every time we leave the house I am grateful I am not on a time constraint to get Little T to school on time or myself to work. It is not always enjoyable to wait for him but I am glad I have the opportunity to do so. 

Waiting can reveal such wonderful things. We recently visited the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library, an amazing place which deserves a post all of its own. On our last visit I noticed that Little T waited patiently as I gave my details and held up his hand to receive the wristband children are required to wear to visit. This is a big change to our prior 4 or 5 visits. Before he refused to interact with the staff at this check in and would not consider wearing the band. Observing this I made accommodations for him, for the first visit I held the band and stayed with him at all times. On future visits, he began to allow the band on the back of his shirt, and then this time it was his choice to allow the staff member to put the band on him. It really does seem like a tiny thing, but I noticed it and I am sure he did as well. He was given the space to make decisions for himself and to come around to it in his own time. By respecting his opinion I was putting our relationship first, which is what is most important for us.

Finding a yes

Today our four year old ate ice cream for breakfast. This is not a regular occurrence but through the lens of parenting in a new way I was able to say yes to something that in the past would have been an automatic NO. I have been observing a lot recently and noticing we are finding a way to say yes more and more.

In the case of the ice cream, it is not something I usually have at home at all. But he requested it last week and then forgot about it. When he asked me this morning the voices in my head were saying, “No way! Ice cream is not for breakfast!” But then the awareness muscle I have been working on reminded me, the time of day actually doesn’t make a difference, do I want to start the day with a battle of wills, and if he eats it now it will be gone and it won’t be an option on another day. So I supported him as he tried to find it in the freezer, reminded him to get a stool so he could get it on his own and then sat next to him and enjoyed my morning mug of hot water whilst he ate some ice cream. It was a small individual pot and he didn’t even finish it, there were too many other things to interest him that he didn’t stay put for long. 

So while I don’t think it provided a great nutritional start to the day (but I can make up for that later) it did provide a connection between us, respect for him and his ideas and I think it had an impact on how the rest of our day flowed, it is only mid morning as I type this but it has been wonderful.

Another example of this was a few weeks ago. He and Mr T had ordered some mini figures from BrickLink and he had been waiting for them for awhile. Some days hearing they were not here evoked some big (angry) feelings. On this particular day he asked Mr T when he woke up when they would arrive. We had tracked them and they were in the shipping facility about 15 minutes from our house. “Lets go!” said Little T. It was seven am, Mr T was lying in bed and the office didn’t open for another hour but Mr T said, YES. This yes changed the trajectory of our day. I was lucky to lie in bed for a few more hours. They visited a new part of town. Had a drink in a local tea house and found one of our favorite eateries, SARAVANA BHAVAN that we didn’t know was so close to us. They had quality time together eating idly and dosa, and discussed that it was possible they wouldn’t get the mini figures when the office opened, as they could have already been loaded on the truck. Additionally Little T is not always the friendliest to new people and throughout this morning everyone had a hello/please/thank you or high five, and I think it was truly because of the connection that was made between him and his dad. 

The story ends happily and they were able to take the package from the facility. He held tightly to it in the car all the way home as he didn’t want to lose any precious pieces. Another beautiful day followed based on that simple yes.

This type of parenting isn’t always easy, and the yes can be hard to find or to do when your own inner child is shouting at you from the inside that this is not they way it was for them. But it can be the way forward. It is the way for us.