Dear Friends from Down Under

People ask me if homeschooling is lonely. It was my main worry, too, at first. And, yes, when it was wintry dark and raining for days on end, I felt alone sometimes. But it was a chance to enjoy the solitude, recharge, and gather our energy for Spring.

Actually, I felt more lonely before, trying to be part of groups where I never quite fit. Me, always with my big vision of what a group’s purpose would be, which never quite matched everyone else’s. Wanting so much to relate to others, but not quite feeling that spark, and fearing that meant some kind of rejection instead.

Now, homeschooling, I can be true to myself, steer my own ship, and I don’t worry about what other people think. Captaining our family-ship, traveling from port to port, on an adventure together, I can steer exactly how and where we want to. Not lonely or isolating!

In fact, with our newly remodeled home, we have whispered to the universe that we are ready for visitors, and they have started coming to find us!

Yesterday we said good-bye to a family who we met for the first time when they walked through our door, but they became dear friends so quickly. The mama, Raquel, and I met in an online community for Waldorf-style homeschooling. We connected at first because we both speak Spanish in a diaspora; trying to make sense of a mixed-Latin family doing Waldorf education far from the European context that is its usual frame of reference. She is from Mexico City originally, but is making family life on a farm in rural Australia with her hubby from New Zealand, raising animals and growing flowers for natural dyeing. No other latinos for miles.

Pretty soon, I realized the spark for our friendship went beyond Spanish. Easily frustrated with the checklists of how-to-be-a-perfect-Waldorf-Mom, we were always questioning, Why do this? Can we understand what Steiner said about it? How does it make sense in the southern hemisphere rainforest? Or mediterranean coast? And how do the fairies and gnomes relate to the elemental beings our grandparents whispered about, in Mexico or Ecuador or the Russian shtetl? And P.S., it’s not so crazy to deny your kids sugar, TV, iPads, shiny new toys, and all that more, more, more. It just makes sense. In fact, less is more over all. Less stuff, less scheduled activities, less people around. Leave the kids alone with a few jars, pebbles and some yarn, and they’ll invent a whole world of their own. That’s how our conversations went.

Definitely, knowing Raquel has strengthened my sense of not being alone.

Raquel has a serious illness, chronic Lyme, which is little understood, is stigmatized, and is officially unrecognized by the western medical establishment. While she lives with daily pain and exhaustion, getting the treatment she needs is illegal (forget about whether it’s “in-network” or not!!), and many people deny that her experience is even real. As sick as she is, she and her husband traveled with their two young children all the way to the US to see the two very rare doctors who could possibly help her. Hubby Andrew is a doctor, too, and he hustled his way into training with each of the doctors to soak up their alternative ways of understanding and treating the illness (tarot cards were involved, BTW). Not to mention that he hustles every day at home to care for the children and his wife, while working the night shift caring for others.

Lucky for me, this family landed in San Francisco and came to stay in our brand new guest room. At least I could offer a warm and welcoming home, and some entertainment for the children, after all those months of longing to pop over with a hot meal from the other side of the globe!

Our kids had never met of course, but we moms had been encouraging their correspondence, sending packages with craft projects, Spanish notes, seed packets, and photos, little tidbits of our lives. Pictures of koalas and kangaroos. We were following the story of “Margarite and Rosa” but I wasn’t sure if my kids were as riveted as I was!

Sure enough, the girls walked in the front door, and Pepa and Diego were enraptured! They played and played, enthusiastically, passionately, even voraciously! Like they were soul mates of play. Kindred spirits since forever! The cardboard box became a house, a cable car, or a cave for the assorted kitties, dollies, and gnomes. (“Mama, let’s put away all the toys that aren’t homemade. The ones we made are so much more alive!” said Pepa.) The yarn necklaces and drawings became surprise gifts in a Santa Claus game for the grown-ups. That red wax that comes around the little round cheeses, oh, that was modeled into precious kitties held tight in sweaty palms. They sang and danced the Maori whale song until I heard it in my dreams.

Oh, the arts and the crafts that were created. The worlds that were imagined. The songs that were sung! The stories that were told! The letters that were written! In all my homeschool fantasies, I couldn’t have offered lessons that covered all the material they came up with together. Play would get heated and contentious at times, requiring much practice at being kind, not mean, and helping each other. Much discussion on those topics followed.

The children were so deeply involved in their activity, that we could *sometimes* even have adult conversations. It was lovely, to be with a family whose life is so different from ours in many ways, but with similarities at a deep level. Maybe what connects us most is finding ourselves on the fringe in life, navigating against the current, always with our own strongly-held views, and doing our best to captain our little family-ships in our very own way.

They are gone now, and the house is quieter and emptier, not as bubbly-warm. Margarite and Rosa are wonderful girls — I loved reading to them, making them breakfast, strolling behind as they held hands with my little ones. Rosa, the eldest, has such a strong and solid kind of caring, always waiting patiently for Diego the littlest, giving full consideration to all his ideas. Margarite and Pepa, always together as bubbling best-friends, inventing stories, and matching outfits (you have the red PJ top and I have its bottoms, let’s trade with the blue), and new games (you be the dog and I’ll be the owner, then we’ll switch), so they could be a matched pair, balancing each other as a twosome.

Margarite and Rosa made our Jaramillo ordinary life sparkle in a brand new way.

I can’t end this story without a shout out to El Buen Comer, who satisfied the daily and nightly cravings for tacos, sopes, huaraches, and churros!! Soul food for a mama so far from home, and a first taste of Mexico for her girls. Also, a hero’s salute to this tropical family for weathering the blizzard on their visit to New York state!

Now my kids keep saying over and over, “we miss our friends!” Safe travels amigos, and we hold you in the light as you move forward, dear family from down under!

Redwood Forest

Chinatown, after the drizzle

Luther Burbank Home & Garden

Family Carnaval celebration!


Mama Raquel’s kitty creations


2 thoughts on “Dear Friends from Down Under

  1. Abby, thank you for sharing your lives together with us all, to get a more intimate sense of the bonds you all made. What a special connection. I imagined the children as 20-somethings reminiscing about how they met in San Francisco. Love to you all.

  2. Oh Yeah!!! We are Next! I love this idea of homeschooling families visiting one another and creating lastly connections…. Like the Quaker homestays…home away from home!!

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