One of the wonderful things about educating our girls while travelling around the country is that we get invited to excellent homeschooling meet-ups. Today in Mackay, we met with a natural-learning group at a park on the water and got to meet some native Australian baby animals that are being raised by wildlife carers.

Baby joeys in bags, November 2012
The carer arrives with a wallaby joey on each hip. While she opens the session with a lecture, Brioni approaches her from behind and pats the head of one.

Young magpie bird in cage, November 2012
Not quite as cute and cuddly — but just as Australian — a young magpie is also one of the rescued animals being raised by carers.

After a discussion on the best way to handle the small animals, the joeys and possum are passed to the seated children.

Natural learners group in Mackay, November 2012
The parents and children gather around for an opportunity to get close to the animals.

Aisha holding a wallaby joey, November 2012
Aisha smiles as she tells me how soft the joey's head is.

Calista with a wallaby joey, November 2012
Calista pulls away as the joey starts nuzzling her tummy.

Lauren helping Delaney hold a wallaby joey, November 2012
Carefully, I place the wallaby in Delaney's lap and show her how to hold it.

Delaney with a wallaby joey, November 2012
Dell's happy to have the wallaby on her lap until it starts to wriggle.

Baby possum, November 2012
The baby possum is wanting to go to sleep in its pouch and only pokes its head out to lick its carer.

Delaney with a baby possum, November 2012
When the possum burrows into its cloth pouch on Delaney's lap, she laughs at its antics.

While we gather in the park, one of the mums comes back from a walk along the beach to tell us that a turtle has laid its eggs in the sand. She notifies the wildlife carers who will mark the spot and move the eggs to a more remote location.

Turtle nest near Mackay Port, November 2012
Although the eggs are buried deep in the sand and unlikely to be disturbed by beach users, their proximity to the well-lit port mean the baby turtles won't head towards the water when they hatch. Turtle hatchlings always aim for the lowest light on the horizon — which is, hopefully, the whitewash of the breaking waves.

Sea turtle tracks in the sand, November 2012
The tracks of the mama turtle across the sand are an unmistakable sign that she has made a nest in the dunes. Sea turtles only leave the water to lay eggs.

Brioni and Aisha in the water at Mackay, November 2012
Once they're finished with the animals, our girls take advantage of the beach-side location to play in the water for hours.

For a while, we were part of only a handful of people swimming on this patrolled beach. However, at about noon, we were descended upon by hundreds of school students. Today was their last day of high-school, and it must be a local ritual to enter the ocean in school uniform and celebrate as a group!

It was fun to watch the older kids playing around in the water as well as talking with the other homeschoolers on the beach and at the playground. We’ve enjoyed our day Mackay’s Natural Learners and look forward to coming back to continue our friendships in the future!

One photo taken by another mum from the Mackay Natural Learners group. Was it you?