Monday, November 30, 2009

The final step...

in a journey through our day.

What do you do after you go outside again?

Well, there are all the normal end of day with several small children activities such as baths, chores, meals, brushing teeth etc. I will leave all that to your imagination! Our final thing that I feel is a part of our schooling is family worship and scripture review. Princess Doc also on occasion stays up a little later to read a book to Papa Bear. Each time she reads a book from her reader set through to him, she gets a stamp in the back of it. When a set of ten are stamped she earns a "girls night". Last girls night we watched Little Women, drank Rosehip Tea, ate popcorn and lollies and I did her hair in rags. It is a highlight of both our lives! But I digress, mostly we have family worship and scripture review.


Family worship gives the kids a chance to worship with Papa Bear. They get to see that singing and praying are not just things that Mums and kids do, Dads do it too.

Worshiping as a family is an incredibly powerful thing. Both for us as a family and for those we pray for.

Reviewing scripture that the kids have memorised is vital for keeping it in their minds and on their hearts. I do not want the scripture they have memorised to be simply a quick challenge of memory, then put away and forgotten. I want it to be a part of them.


Our evening worship is very simple. After everyone is ready for bed, we choose a couple of songs, sing together and then each pray in turn. The kids kiss Dad goodnight one at a time then I tuck them in. As I tuck them in I say one of their memory verses to them and they repeat it after me. Sometimes they like to show off what they know and say it without my help, but the memory side is not the biggest issue at this point in the day. I want them to go to sleep with a verse of scripture in their heart and sometimes I will use the verse to launch a short conversation with them about a spiritual truth. Their memory verses are written on circles of coloured paper which are stuck together in the shape of caterpillars around the top of their bedroom wall so nobody has to display a feat of memory at that time of night, not even Mum! The verse is chosen by me at random or for a specific purpose. For example, if that specific child has been struggling with a challenge, we may say Philippians 4:13 to encourage him or her. When we have said the scripture I pray a blessing over them and then they say a prayer (on their own or after me depending on capabilities) and we finish with a kiss goodnight and a cuddle. Even if we have had a bad day, or perhaps ESPECIALLY if we have had a bad day, this is a really important and special time for each of the kids and a time they and I treasure. It takes time and effort and sometimes energy I don't think I have at that end of the day but it is always worth it.

Why do I class this as school? Because it teaches my children the most fundamental truths that I want to pass on to them in their childhood. Those truths are:

You are intensely loved, both by your parents and by God.

Blessing you is important to me and to God.

Listening to you is important to me and to God

Being near you makes me happy because you are special to me, and God feels the same way.

Worship is an important part of life, and your life goes better when it is filled with worship.

You are a unique individual with unique quirks, challenges and gifts and you are made for a special purpose.

Your family will do its best to help you with the challenges life throws up and God will ALWAYS help with the challenges life throws up.

And I believe that when a child knows these things, right deep in their hearts, that child is truly educated.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What?! No School Today?

6 Answers You Should NEVER Give to the Question "What?! No School Today?"

1. Well normally yes, but this time of year I need help with the planting and plowing.

2. Goodness, no!!! I graduated 18 years ago, but thanks for the compliment!

3. What?! Where did you guys come from?! I thought I told you to stay at school! I'm sorry. This happens all the time. (sigh)

4. There isn't? Why, you'd think we'd see more kids out then, don't you?

5. On our planet we have different methods of education. (Shhh! No, I didn't give it away... keep your antennae down!)

6. Oh my goodness! I thought that today was Saturday...come on kids, hurry!

Anyone got any more to add?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

science - how we do it.

Princess Doc doing her mad scientist impression - her grandmother made her that white coat for her third birthday, I think we need to invest in another one!

I was reading The Gentle Art of Chaos blog and she was talking about science. My comment was getting a tad long, so I headed over here and blogged instead! You see, I love science, it is my favourite subject after Bible and English. I get deliriously excited about experiments and Latin names and tables of elements!! My biggest challenge is to focus myself and not get too carried away - starting to make a volcano on the kitchen table at 5pm is NOT a good idea!

So this is what we plan to do in a nut shell.

Each season (we 'structure' things loosely by season here and take Summer off, works for us) I pick a science topic and a nature topic - our next ones will be Birds and Human Biology with a hygiene and germs focus. During the term we keep our learning journals and do any funky paper things or record keeping in there (a whole post in itself that I will get back to another day). I will also grab a number of books on the topics from the library as well as de-shelving our own books to store in a basket in the lounge room to encourage us to leaf through them. I will often choose a "spine" book to help structure things too.

At the end of the season, we have a week set aside as Science Week where we do any messy or involved crafts or experiments and excursions all at once. So we get the joy and mess but only one week of clean up sessions! I am betting that science week will be one of the highlights of our 'term' and will create strong positive associations with the subject, making the kids FAR more likely to be as excited as their mother about tables of Elements and Latin names!! This structure also means that when I find a brilliant resource, rather than getting carried away and tossing out what we are currently doing or trying to pile it in on top - or putting it aside and loosing it - I can file it away under the year and season we will need it. Then when I get to doing birds, I open my bird file and pretty much all the work is done for me!

Here are our six year rotations:

Science Focus

Year 1
Human body/biology (hygiene, immune systems, skin), Geology, botany

Year 2

Astronomy/space exploration, Human body/biology (skeletal system, teeth, muscular system), Microbiology/magnification

Year 3
Meteorology, Human body/biology (digestive/urinary systems, nutrition), Marine exploration

Year 4

Human body/biology (respiratory and circulatory systems), Technology/engineering, aerodynamics and human flight

Year 5
Human body/biology (nervous system, 5 senses), Astronomy/space exploration, electronics

Year 6
Physics, Human body/biology (endocrine and reproductive systems), chemistry

Don't let the big "science" words scare you! At the age my kids are, Chemistry will be freezing stuff and melting it, combining bicarb soda and vinegar and baking yeast bread. This will give them an idea of how matter and chemical reactions work. They don't have to be charting the molecular structure! We do not have to cover EVERYTHING in that topic because we will get back to it again, eventually! My job is to teach some of the basics and ignite a passion. If I do my job right, they will be spending their free time checking this stuff out themselves.

Some good Science links are:

The Exploration Station
At Home Science
It's a Boy's Life - the science posts
Chemistry Lapbook
Home Chemistry
Candy Experements

Nature Focus

Year 1
Birds, rocks and minerals, wildflowers and insects/invertebrates

Year 2
the skies (astronomy), Mammals, garden flowers and weeds

Year 3
climate and weather. Trees, marine life

Year 4
Reptiles, flowerless plants, birds

Year 5
trees, insects/invertebrates, food plants

Year 6
fish, amphibians and reptiles, mammals/marsupials

The nature rotation is a tweaked version of what they use for the Ambleside Online curriculum. The Handbook Of Nature Study Blog gives some great ideas, but I have needed to tweak and change to make it more relevant for Australia - aside from the fact that I have a compulsive need to tweak and change, it is a sickness I tell you! Downunder Literature has some brilliant spine texts for Australian nature study and we often use the Bush Calender to help inform our nature journalling. For more on how we do nature study take a look at other posts with the tag "nature" but I will get back to that later too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two women met at a playground...

Two women meet at a playground, where their children are swinging and playing ball. The women are sitting on a bench watching. Eventually, they begin to talk.

W1: Hi. My name is Maggie. My kids are the three in red shirts --helps me keep track of them.

W2: (Smiles) I'm Patty. Mine are in the pink and yellow shirts. Do you come here a lot?

W1: Usually two or three times a week, after we go to the library.

W2: Wow! Where do you find the time?

W1: We homeschool, so we do it during the day most of the time.

W2: Some of my neighbors homeschool, but I send my kids to public school.

W1: How do you do it?

W2: It's not easy. I go to all the PTO meetings and work with the kids every day after school and stay real involved.

W1: But what about socialization? Aren't you worried about them being cooped up all day with kids their own ages, never getting the opportunity for natural relationships?

W2: Well, yes. But I work hard to balance that. They have some friends who're homeschooled, and we visit their grandparents almost every month.

W1: Sounds like you're a very dedicated mom. But don't you worry about all the opportunities they're missing out on? I mean they're so isolated from real life -- how will they know what the world is like -- what people do to make a living -- how to get along with all different kinds of people?

W2: Oh, we discussed that at PTO, and we started a fund to bring real people into the classrooms. Last month, we had a policeman and a doctor come in to talk to every class. And next month, we're having a woman from Japan and a man from Kenya come to speak.

W1: Oh, we met a man from Japan in the grocery store the other week, and he got to talking about his childhood in Tokyo. My kids were absolutely fascinated. We invited him to dinner and got to meet his wife and their three children.

W2: That's nice. Hmm. Maybe we should plan some Japanese food for the lunchroom on Multicultural Day.

W1: Maybe your Japanese guest could eat with the children.

W2: Oh, no. She's on a very tight schedule. She has two other schools to visit that day. It's a system wide thing we're doing.

W1: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, maybe you'll meet someone interesting in the grocery store sometime and you'll end up having them over for dinner.

W2: I don't think so. I never talk to people in the store --certainly not people who might not even speak my language. What if that Japanese man hadn't spoken English?

W1: To tell you the truth, I never had time to think about it. Before I even saw him, my six-year-old had asked him what he was going to do with all the oranges he was buying.

W2: Your child talks to strangers?

W1: I was right there with him. He knows that as long as he's with me, he can talk to anyone he wishes.

W2: But you're developing dangerous habits in him. My children never talk to strangers.

W1: Not even when they're with you?

W2: They're never with me, except at home after school. So you see why it's so important for them to understand that talking to strangers is a big no-no.

W1: Yes, I do. But if they were with you, they could get to meet interesting people and still be safe. They'd get a taste of the real world, in real settings. They'd also get a real feel for how to tell when a situation is dangerous or suspicious.

W2: They'll get that in the third and fifth grades in their health courses.

W1: Well, I can tell you're a very caring mom. Let me give you my number--if you ever want to talk, give me call. It was good to meet you.

Author Unknown

Monday, November 16, 2009

The next step...

in a journey through our day.

What do you do after you finish reading aloud?

We take it outside again if it is clear, if not we do cleaning and/or craft inside.

Tool man getting ready to mount the trampoline


Why not?!

Remember, my oldest is FIVE. I could sit them down with lots of structured learning, but I honestly feel that now is not the time. Now is the time to foster a LOVE of learning and discovery and endless flash cards just doesn't do it for any of us.

Research shows that children who achieve academically early on through parental pressure are no better off later in life. In fact, many crash and burn because of the extra pressure.

Princess Doc is a high flier. Today as I was cleaning the kitchen she was leafing through the Bible reading bits out to me. Not a "Children's Bible", a normal, tiny print NIV Bible. She will seek out opportunities to learn from a rich environment WITHOUT me hovering. In fact, by stepping back and watching rather than being overly controlling of her academic exploits I have seen her acheive a far higher level academically than I would have ever thought her capable of. If I had scheduled her every waking moment, she never would have had time to discover she can read "Hop On Pop" all by herself - and I would still have her at basic readers and phonetic flash cards.

You don't have to teach everything NOW, you don't need to push. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was "if you feel that your child NEEDS to learn about something, leave them alone and go and learn about it yourself - they will catch up with you later". When Princess Doc wanted to learn to read I started trying to teach her to write as well. It became stressful for both of us as her fine motor skills just weren't up to this complex task. So I backed off the writing and just taught her to read. Yesterday she wrote out the alphabet song, complete with "now I know my ABC, next time won't you sing with me!" because she wanted to! If I had continued to push her she would hate writing and I would have created an obstacle for both her and me.

There will be time for a more structured academic program later. Next year we will probably have a bit more of a structured approach to our book work, a few more goals, because I have seen indicators that Princess Doc is ready for it and I think she'd thrive on it. Starting her before she was ready would mean that I would have to stand over her every day to get it done. What with the other little bears, I simply don't have time to do that! Plus, I want HER to be able to take ownership and be accountable for her OWN learning.

Children spend the day at school or child care, especially those who have to travel for a half hour plus, are exhausted at the end of the day and by the end of the week they are completely wiped. I don't want my kids to spend their only leisure hours at home, flopped on the couch because they're too tired to do anything else! Children who spend all their time in highly structured environments often lack the ability and drive to show initiative and play and learn on their own. So we allow down time and we encourage free play.

Farm Boy on the trampoline - a vital toy for any family with energetic boys!


We bring in the washing, play games, walk across the road and play at the playground, have afternoon tea. Sometimes we even (horror of horrors!) watch TV! We clean the house together, the kids climb trees or dig in the dirt. We jump on the trampoline, they play imaginary games outside or in their room. We dump out the mega bloks and build. We make use of the dolls, teddies, dress ups, drawing equipment, games, bikes etc. Princess Doc often chooses to visit her school work boxes which are a shelf of shoe boxes filled with activities for her to do (a whole 'nother post there though!). It is hard to describe a "typical" day at this point because there are so many factors that come into play. One thing I do try to maintain though is a clean up time around 4-4:30ish before preparing for tea and bed which is vital for time management, stewardship and life skills learning. I know, I need to get better at it myself!

Princess Doc and the Tool Man caging a wild animal AKA Farm Boy - he was in on the game!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's that time of week again

The Ten Commandments Of Homeschooling

1. I am thy mother. There are three things in this house which art certain: death, chores, and schoolwork.

2. Thou shalt write thy name and all thy other work in thy neatest handwriting or thou will doest thy work over.

3. Remember that thy school days art Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday. On these days, after honoring thy Lord, thou shalt do thy school work and chores before any other activity, or thou will not doest any other activity.

4. Honor thy mother by doing thy chores. Honor thy father by honoring thy mother, so that thy father will want to come home.

5. Thou shalt not kill thy brother nor sister, nor cause any harm to them either by word or deed.

6. Thou shalt not commit plagiarism.

7. Thou shalt not steal from any answer key nor another person's work.

8. Thou shalt not bear false information on a test due to lack of study.

9. Thou shalt not covet thy younger brother's easier school work nor thy older brother's privileges.

10. Thou shalt not cause thy mother to yell at thou loud enough to be heard by thy neighbor's wife.)

(Author Unknown)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The next step...

in a journey through our day.

Just as a side note, my apologies for not being a more regular poster! It is spring, fine weather has struck after three months of RAIN and I am trying to find my garden!

What do you do after you finish go outside?

We have lunch and read aloud

Princess Doc "reading" as an 18 month old


If you don't know why you should read to your children, try it for a week!

Here are a few reasons why I do.

I LOVE reading, I LOVE my kids. If I do this, I get to combine two passions of my heart and call it a "educationally enriched experience". Plus I get to read Muddle Headed Wombat, The Hundred and One Dalmatians AND Possum Magic!

I get to instill a love of reading through sharing a positive experience (otherwise known as "a cuddle") AND a book with my kids.

The kids get exposed to language on a greater scale than they do through "ordinary" conversation.

We create opportunity to discuss Life, The Universe and Everything (no, I don't read Douglas Adams to them yet!) through talking about the books - for example reading about Ping leads to finding China in an atlas, reading about Blinky Bill leads to finding a book about Koalas and reading about Esther leads to a discussion about being brave and standing up for what you believe in.

She was just SO CUTE!


As we finish up lunch I clean up the younger two and read them two or three short books - usually Christopher chooses at least one of them. The older two can listen but the babies get the lap and most if not all direct conversation is between them and me. I put the little ones off to bed (Christopher usually takes a board book, a toy car and his toy monkey - presumably so he can read to the car and the monkey!) and start reading to the older ones.

The older two choose a picture book each and we read those, then often Erin reads me one of her "readers". Currently Erin is working through the Fitzroy Readers and we find them pretty good. Then we read our 'Bible story of the week'. Each week we select a Bible story (usually the one from the Sabbath School Lesson Pamphlet) and read it each day. We read it from the Bible and then read several Bible Story books, checking their accounts against the Bible. This is kind of our introduction to Bible Study, but it is all very informal and mainly we just read them and chat. Finally (if Mummy isn't falling asleep) we read a chapter or two of our current read aloud. If Mummy is falling asleep, she goes and has a little quiet time while the kids have their own quiet time, then she has a coffee and finishes reading!

Books I select may have some connection to our other learning or they may just be one of the books on my personal "I can't let my children leave childhood without this book!" list.

There are some excellent books about reading aloud to your children, here are my favourites:

Cushla and her Books by Dorothy Butler

Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

How to Raise a Reader by Elaine K McEwan

What about you? How do work "read aloud" time into the day? Why do you think it's important? What books do you and/or your children enjoy?

Leave a comment or blog about it and link back in the comments!

Come back next week for the next step in our walk through our day.

In case you haven't realised yet, the two things I think are VITAL for a child's development are books and...


Thursday, November 5, 2009

End of week giggle again

What About Socialization?

by Pam Hartley

10. We're training him to like isolation so that he can be an astronaut.

9. Socialization? We're Republicans!

8. Don't worry. We get together with other kids twice a week so he can learn how to spit on them and treat them disrespectfully.

7. We do Unit Studies on Socialization, and also Hair Washing, Clothes Folding, and other completely redundant subjects.

6. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. I was mentally planning her week of Girl Scouts, 4-H, dance class, karate, and soccer. What were you saying about socialization?

5. If I could get him to stop planning so many group camping trips and book fairs, I'd be able to convince him to socialize!

4. Huh?

3.Please, just for a change, ask me about college, okay?

2. Squeak, dive under the nearest object, peek out, and mutter "who are you and what do you want?"

1. Oh, I know what you mean! That's why we're homeschooling, for the socialization!"