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

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes

Today we were tourists in our own town. We took a short, 45 minute journey to our North to see some gorgeous rock formations.


The adventure nearly didn’t happen and Little T was pretty insistent he wasn’t going. He wanted to have morning movie time and was also scared to find scorpions in the desert. But we persevered and agreed that if he didn’t like it we could turn right around and come home. As usual he loved it and was so glad that we were there.

The photo opportunities were stunning and Mr T got some gorgeous shots. There were no fossils to be found but we did stumble upon a few camel bones and carcasses, luckily nothing too fresh, as Little T was so intrigued he wanted to pick up all the bones! As with everything we do there were so many learning opportunities here. Talking about how the formations were created, how did the camels die, why was the temperature different and so many other conversations.


It really was a great way to spend a Saturday morning, and we were amazed at how much cooler it was there than at our place. I will add it was not a well maintained tourist site, there was a fair amount of litter and leftover camp fires. But for a little local outing it didn’t bother us too much.

It really is true what is said about being in nature, we couldn’t help but feel relaxed and appreciate this place we live, a really lovely way to start our day.

-Mrs T

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

I thought it would be nice to start a little series to share what it is like for us to live an unschooling lifestyle. Everyday is very different, here is what today (26 January 2020) looked like for us.

It was a Sunday so the start of the work week, usually this is a day that I leave open as we can sometimes get busy at the weekend. So our day started slow, other than the excitement of a new football kit, which had to be put on in full right away! Little T managed a few short games of Angry Birds with Mr T before he went to work. (This little guy has always been an early riser which has had its challenges but recently we have following less of a bedtime routine and just getting to bed when he is tired and this is shifting his wake ups to slightly later. Which is nice, but actually a slight negative when it means less time to see daddy before he goes to work.) Once daddy is gone there is a bit of quiet morning job time which is me unloading the dishwasher and he is fiddling with LEGO or other small toys. Today I prepared some oatmeal for him. Having finished eating only half of the bowl he proclaims that we forgot morning movie time! We retreated to the tv room and watched a LEGO Justice League movie. Depending on what he chooses I may watch with him or get on with some of my own work, today I was feeling a bit unwell, so I sat close, read a few emails and then watched with him. 


(Having a morning movie is a new thing for us, he really enjoys tv whilst I struggle with helping him regulate the amount he watches, we use Netflix and the unlimited options make it hard for him to stop. I find saying we can watch one movie does the trick, he gets to watch something and I have a limit that I can hold.)

Our next movement would be to get outside for some training, though from end of movie to out the door was probably over an hour. We sat down and I ate and he had more of his breakfast whilst perusing over a Where’s Wally book, I spilled something in the kitchen that needed to be vacuumed which led to sword vs Darth Hoover (the loving name of our vacuum) and whilst I got myself ready in the bathroom he messed around with water beads and chatted with me. We were both completely dressed, water bottles filled, destination decided and ready to walk out the door and he says, can you just read this book before we go out? And we sit on the couch and read the book. 

Today we were off out on our scooters, using the outdoors to further our ongoing goodies and baddies role play. We each have an imaginary team (any character we see in tv or movies) that we call out to battle each other or who may come along on adventures with us. Today he needed to collect a new baddie on a faraway island, which also was the same location of a favourite eatery. We scootered there and he was hungry so we went in for eggs, bread and olives. During the course of our visit there, we spent a lot of time drawing on the kids menu, tea was spilled and cleaned up, we chatted about artificial coloring in foods and what makes something ‘real’ food.

Heading home we stopped at a playground on the way. Here we continued our role play and also interacted with another family who arrived, including their Husky which Little T was enamored with! We could have stayed longer but I was feeling under dressed for the blustery weather so we continued towards home for a quick stop in our local supermarket. He helped push the trolley around and decided he wanted to use his pocket money to buy some sweets to share with Daddy this evening as I was going out and they were having a boys night in, this always includes a discussion of how he will have to pay me when he gets home, which he sometimes resists but always goes through with it. Here we continued our conversation about food dyes and artificial flavours as we chose some fresh juice to use to make our own jelly (jello).

Arriving home he instantly strips down to just his underwear, that is just how he is most comfortable and spends most of his time at home. We had found a balloon whilst we were out which lead to a long game of keep it alive. He repaid me the money for the sweets (he actually gave me one Dirham extra, more on that later) and I gave him his weekly pocket money (a new thing for us). He has a money box divided into three: Spend, Save and Share. So we divide his money between and counted to see how much he had. He is currently saving for a LEGO Star Wars Death Star, which I am afraid will take a very long time but it is what he says every time. He has started asking me what I am saving for. We would like to visit Thailand again this summer as we loved it last year so I tell him we are working hard to save our pennies to go on this holiday. We decided to make a jar to collect coins to save for our holiday, we got into his sticker drawer to cover the jar with Thailand themed stickers, mostly leaves, a sun and of course a pirate. The extra Dirham he gave me starts the savings. 

We went into the kitchen and made jelly together. I was then hungry for lunch, whilst I prepared my lunch he says, I’ve got a crazy idea, and takes the empty 5 gallon jug and fills it with a bit of water, first tries to drink directly from it and then tries to use it to fill a glass, both ideas create quite a mess. I offer him the tools needed to clean up the water and he says I’m not doing it, he walks away and I continue my own work, and it isn’t long before he is back in and mops up the water and returns the big jug to where it was.


Then I sat down to eat and he sat next to me working on a dry erase number writing book that I had left open on the table before we went out on our scooters. (He recently started enjoying a Water Wow! Book of numbers and has been using it in the car, so I thought if I left this out be may also be interested. In the car I hear him whispering to himself, “The perfect 7!” so I know he is wanting to form the numbers.) While I eat he traces over a few numbers and does some of the activities when I read them to him, also a lot of scribbling. We also have a quick video chat with Daddy, as he wants to tell him about the sweets. I see he is getting fed up with the writing so I suggest calling his grandparents. He has a good long video chat with them whilst rolling around on me, moving around from different toys and finally sits down for a little snack. We finish the video call and he gets a book for me to read to him whilst he eats. 

Before we know it Mr T is home and it is a rare occasion that I am rushing out to attend a workshop on fermented foods. We exchange a quick chat and kisses as I grab my things and head out the door. Only for me to realize as I drive away that I left my ingredients in the fridge, I call and ask them to bring them down to the car. My parting view of Little T is him running through reception wearing his shirt as shorts as he was in a rush and there were no shorts nearby. It gave me such a giggle. 

As far as I know those two had a lovely time together. Eating eggy bread and sausage, playing Angry Birds and cuddling up with some tv to fall asleep to. 

This was really one of the most beautiful days. Things don’t always go so smoothly, but I thought it was a good day to start with and a great example of the many learning opportunities that are presented just through simple daily life. 

-Mrs T