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A piece from unschooling life

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

-Visit at OPG Neduhal, Dubrava, 13.8.2021

Život je dar, radost, sloboda.

Write more about life! Write more about daily activities, what you do, how, where...!

Write more.

They often encourage me to write about what we do, what we live, what our days look like. Sometimes it's a simple answer, but simple answers are often not enough or interesting enough.

Although I stand by the fact that our life and lifestyle (as different as it may be) is simple, this does not provide enough answers to questions about the essence and content of our days.

This will be my attempt to bring to life the topic of unschooling, which is dear to me, and approach its practice from our perspective. The story of the visit to the Neduhal farm near Zagreb will, I hope, be a series of sketches from our unschooling days.

What often comes from a simple idea, a thought, sometimes turns into magic. I am not a teacher, I am a researcher, a collector of materials, ideas and projects that I bring to life every day. Some ideas, the seeds of my hopes, find fertile ground in our children. If the seed of the idea is received by at least one of them, I will continue to nurture it. Sometimes ideas are my desires, driven to bring my own passions closer to them. Often it is that thought: "Be the path you want your descendants to follow".

At the beginning of our stay in Croatia this year, I looked for households and small farms in order to bring the children closer to the knowledge of what nature is, what it gives us and how much can be made from nothing.

For me, life begins when we become aware of it, and awareness of the life we ​​eat can only come from the source of that life.

A week ago, I happened to find OPG Neduhal through an Instagram profile that I follow, who, to my great pleasure, had a great website where it was stated that it was possible to visit them with prior notice, so I immediately sent it. What was wonderful to me was the idea of ​​their farm being built on the philosophy of the ancient way of farming: from seed to seed, locally, in season, without pesticides and chemicals, using the hands, sweat and passion of those behind it.

What we encountered during our meeting exceeded all my expectations and hit the essence of our philosophy about life, learning and unschooling.

Fifty kilometers from Zagreb, driving almost alone on the road through places we have never visited, we found the entrance to the courtyard of what will reveal to us the magic of ideas and passion of the Neduhal family. We were greeted by Valerija, the daughter of the owner of the farm, together with the dog Ben and several cats who were lazily resting in the sun. The newest arrivals to their family were two kittens adopted a few days before our arrival, one of which was a tiny yellow kitten no bigger than the palm of a grown hand. While the children played with the cats and Ben, they offered us sliced ​​melons and watermelons from their cultivation. Along with the story about the fruits and animals that live on their land, Mrs. Mirjana joined us, so at one point we all headed towards 2 hectares of their cultivated land together with sticks, baskets and in the company of animals. At the farm, we greeted a goat, chickens and two pigs, as well as a dozen Indian ducks, which were not as interested in talking to us as the owners showed.

Through the orchard, past the greenhouse where they are already preparing seeds and seedlings for the next season to the field itself, where rows of carefully planted and cared for vegetables stretch. Along with the story of the family, their values, beginnings and current work, we are invited to choose and harvest the fruits of their painstaking work, which they show and share with well-deserved pride and passion known to few. Silja had fun taking care of the kittens, while Lailla immediately took on the role of a little picker, so she and dear Valerija went on a campaign to the rows of zucchini, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, swiss chard, leeks, melons...

Under the hot August sun, bathed in sweat, a whole world of knowledge began to open up: about care and work, about effort that gives results, about ideas that have been built for years to grow from small ones to life-size and important ones, about the processes surrounding planting, care, picking and selling, about loyalty, returning to old values. From everything, with the tenderness that only passion can awaken and lead, the love of a mother and daughter who know their country and the life it gives them was revealed. They spoke modestly, but honestly and passionately, without holding back about everything that came to mind. We had questions and every now and then we found new ones stimulated by their answers. We tasted the freshly harvested food, admired the colors and shapes, laughed loudly and unreservedly. In their world there were no restrictions, they allowed children to be children, to let their imagination show them the way they wanted to explore the property.

The fruits of the earth and the life that rests on them.

Returning sweaty and thirsty back to the house, we passed by a greenhouse and an orchard where the old varieties of trees shamelessly displayed their splendor and size.

Right there through the play of light and shadow in the late afternoon scent of peaches, I found myself overwhelmed with sincere gratitude. What is so accessible to everyone, yet so far and often out of reach: life and the knowledge of its greatness and simplicity, was in front of my eyes. I felt the tall grass lightly tickling my ankles, the sweat pooling under my hair, the body of my three-year-old child clinging to mine, the wrinkles in the corners of my eyes thickened from constant smiling, and the wonderful symbiosis of friendship unfolded before me. , curiosity and generosity. My daughters opened up as if this was their hundredth visit, not their first. And at one point, while I was biting the juicy flesh of a small round peach that Mrs. Mirjana generously handed me, I saw my oldest daughter in the treetop picking ripe fruits, my eyes turned to the middle one with a kitten in her arms, and I realized that they too were smiling so serenely and from the heart, as if this is all they need.

And then a wave of gratitude washes over me, a wave of the realization that this is life: simple, generous, self-sufficient, full of sweetness and passion that unfolds at every step. And immediately after that, the realization of the essence of the same life that my children are a part of hits me. I realized at that moment how great and countless our possibilities are and how much strength life gives: to be, to discover, to learn, to feel.

We returned to the terrace of the house, and with homemade nettle and mint juice, we exchanged the last conversations: about their dreams, about children, decisions, life in general.

Mrs. Mirjana, so calm, honestly shared with me her view of the children and her connection with the parents, then she remarked to me, looking at the children with a smile, how few such calm parents and such balanced children there are today. Her sincere praise touched me deeply in my maternal heart, filled to the last bit.

What happened to us that day at the Neduhal family estate is hard to put into words, but as I write this I still feel the same gratitude, admiration and love that changed me that day. The same ones that often come to me in moments so mundane and simple, that most will surely miss them. So then we ask big and difficult questions, to which we can surely find the answer if we just stop for a moment and consider what is right now in front of us and inside us.

What is life for you?

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