Monday, October 11, 2010

Teaching Farm Boy to Read

I am not really into the whole "teach your baby to read" thing. If that's what boils your potato, go ahead, but it isn't me. I would rather just read them lots and lots of books than mess around with flash cards! I was quite content to leave it until my children were at least seven before starting to teach then how to read.

My children, however, had other ideas.

At age 3 and a half, Princess Doc started asking me to teach her to read. Daily. For weeks on end. So I did and she is currently (at age 6) working toward her aim of reading 100 books in 50 days to raise money for a chosen charity (more on that in a later post). She read 15 books this afternoon.

Thinking she was a bit of a freak, in the nicest possible way, I cautioned Papa Bear and various other friends and relatives not to compare the younger ones to her freaky deaky reading brilliance and let them learn in their own time - even if it wasn't until they were over the age of 7.

Sure enough, Farm Boy turned 3 and a half and what did he start doing?

Asking me to teach him to read.


For months.

So I thought we'd document how we are going about teaching Farm Boy to read.

The kicker with Farm Boy is that he did not yet know all of his letters when he wanted to start reading. I could have insisted that he learn letters first, but his passion was reading WORDS thank-you - specifically, reading the orange Fitzroy readers he saw his sister start reading. To me, insisting he learn ALL his letters was a little like telling someone that they must sing every note pitch perfect before learning to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep. Talk about killing the joy!

So we learned letters on the fly while reading words.

I read the reader to him, sounding out the letters. Then we read it together. After this, we got out some little cards with letters on them that are a part of a spelling game we have (scrabble tiles would work too) and made a couple of the words that are in the readers using the cards. We would name the letter, say the sound that it made then put it down in the pile. Then we would select letters from the pile to make words like "cat" and "hat".

All up this entire process would take about ten minutes a day.

I also made sure we caught Sesame Street each morning and added lots of alphabet books to our read aloud times.

When Farm Boy started to get more confident with this, I added a double page spread of the alphabet in lower case and a double page spread of the alphabet in upper case to his Chair Time Book (yet another post to be written there, suffice to say it is a display book that we look through each day as we snuggle in my Snuggle Spot) and he would sing the alphabet through as he pointed to the letters. I would then ask him to find three or four specific letters on the pages. Because Farm Boy seems to be predominantly a kinesthetic learner I would grab his hand and draw a giant letter in the air as I asked him something like "Can you find a wibble wobble W that says 'wuh'?" I'd also get him to make the sound too so the physical movement of 'writing' the letter in the air, the physical movement of making the sound and the movement of pointing to the letter on the page all engaged his brain in what was happening. Pretty soon, he was pointing out letters on signs, newspapers, shop fronts and magazines with great excitement.

I try to make sure he experiences some type of success every time we read together and praise up everything he achieves. This time is very positive, with lots of cuddles and kisses and positive touch. Touch is an incredibly positive teaching tool. There are about a bazillion studies on the positive effects of touch on the brain which I won't go into now. Suffice to say, positive touch releases lots of happy juice into the brain and a happy brain is a learning brain. I wouldn't really have minded if he had decided to drop reading, but he hasn't and is making slow but good progress. He was very proud the day he could sit and read that little reader to Papa Bear perfectly and excited to start the next one!

Next time, I will tell you how we progressed on to the next reader, words and my personal feelings on the links between reading and writing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Review: Your Money, God's Way

Why did I choose to review this book?

This book attracted me because dealing with money is something rarely broached in churches, unless they are asking for donations! Although we are not crippled by large debt, I am always on the look out for ways to refine our budget and use the blessings God has given us to His glory. I also want to be able to equip our children well for managing their own finances before they leave home so they can avoid some of the traps and challenges that we had to work so hard to get out of in our early married life. Budget management is a core life skill.

What do I like about this book?

I thought this book was one of the best I have ever read on this subject. I loved the way it tackled false assumptions (convictions) directly using the Word of God. I thought the advice given was practical, direct and balanced. I liked the way each chapter had a summary at the end and a list of practical ways to implement the advice given. The fact that most of the chapters contained several scripture quotes and I had my Bible open on my lap most of the time I was reading tells me that it is directing the reader to the Bible continually, a laudable achievement for a book on finance!

At no point did I feel that lifestyles were being judged, the author simply presented truths such as "if you have one income, you need to live a lifestyle that is within the means that the income provides". This may seem obvious, and to a point it is, but it is something that many families need to hear. The core message of this book is about embracing freedom and contentment found in Jesus by being wise with our finances. Perhaps my favourite quote from this book was: "Jesus didn't die on the cross so you could lie awake at night, wondering how you're going to make the mortgage payment".

In the Preface and Introduction the author continually warns the reader that she is going to "tell it like it is" which did make me feel a little like I was on an episode of Dr. Phil - but hey, I don't mind Dr. Phil! The actual body of the book was not combative or extreme in word or in concept. While it sought to challenge the reader, it uplifted as it edified rather than condemned. While it had a strong American feel to it (being a book written by an American for an American audience) I did not feel alienated as an Australian reader.

While not every chapter directly related to my personal situation, I could easily think of a friend, acquaintance or family member to fit and I must confess, I recognised my own poor financial habits more than once! The final chapter gave broad but practical budgeting advice. As I finished this book I felt encouraged in my personal walk. I was compelled to go over our finances with Papa Bear and check it all out again and, while no major changes were made, I was left feeling so much better about what we have achieved and where we are going and overwhelmingly blessed to have all that we do have. I also felt compelled to make sure I kept to our aims and used every cent to glorify God.

What don't I like about this book?

There is nothing in this book that I particularly DON'T like.

I would have liked a reading list at the end of recommended stewardship and budgeting books and an Australian edition with the numbers in the final budgeting chapter tweaked to suit would have been good (electricity, food and fuel are MUCH more expensive here). Overall, however, it is a fantastic book and a valuable addition to our library. I think this one will be on the Bear Cub's high school reading list alongside The Richest Man In Babylon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

I have a problem....

I am a compulsive book buyer! I can't help it, it is in my DNA or something.

Would you like to come window shopping with me??

Leatherwood books has some lovely stuff, I especially like their activity books and novel selections

Adnil press
could send me bankrupt with their fabulous curriculum selections

Downunder literature's copywork is a core part of what we do and I love it!

Simply Charlotte Mason makes me drool, I really would like a copy of their Spelling program when Princess Doc is ready for it.

Ladybird books hold so many happy childhood memories for me!

Usborne - need I say more?

I love Barefoot Books too, my favourite has to be Myron's Cow

Boomerang books is a good source for Australian literature

Naturalist clubs often have some great publications. Gould League and Tasmanian field naturalist club are two I like to window shop at.

There's my random ten!

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I couldn't do without...

Would you like to know what I couldn't school without?

The lynch pin of all my homeschooling adventures?

The core item that pulls everything together and keeps my sanity?

Well, here it is.

And let's take a close up

See that? It is the one thing that I couldn't do without.

What is it?
It is my snuggle spot.

Why is it so important?
Because this is where relationships and learning collide in our home.

How do I use it?
Every day I sit here and read to my children, sit them on my knee and count with them, listen to them, talk to them, dream with them, help with memorisation, kiss hurts and laugh at antics.

And that, my friends, is what homeschooling is to me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The curriculum wars

One of the questions that seem to stress homeschooling mums most is "What curriculum should I use?". As with many parenting questions this one can start arguments that can break hearts and rend relationships apart. People get so hot under the collar about this one! And the marketers and advocates of "approaches" or "methods" of home schooling are not afraid to use a little ovarian guilt to get their point across. Honestly, think about it. Just to teach my child to read, according to the experts/marketers/rabid followers of certain methods I should:

Use phonics and whole language (or "living books")but leave teaching them until they are at least 7 (or show signs of "reading readiness") because otherwise you will crush their individuality/give them artificially induced dyslexia/sap from their souls the will to learn and love reading but give them these fantastic literacy resources to use from the time they sit up also using these brilliant DVD's that can HELP YOUR CHILD GET A HEAD START and we all know that in the Human Race a head start IS important, you wouldn't want your child to be LEFT BEHIND would you? Because then you will get a big fat FAIL from God on your parenting report card and have to write "I am a bad mother" 10,000 on the cosmic blackboard and......



This is just teaching them to read, I haven't even got to algebra, geography, history, science, foreign languages, composition.....

At this point many people send their kids to school. And, quite frankly, I can see why.

So, WHAT do we do?

Whatever works for us.


By works, I mean meets our goal of having a loving, positive family home that equips our children with a love of the Lord and a love of learning. Adding anything else to this is completely superfluous in my opinion.


Here's how we manage to march to our own homeschool drum.

I realised that whatever I do someone will disagree with me and have good reasons for doing so. One of the positive things about having crunchy friends, traditionalist friends, activist friends, conservative friends, radical conservative friends etc. is I have access to so many diverse opinions and ways of thinking. The down side is whatever I do I am likely to have someone I love disagree, sometimes even be offended. This does mean, however, that when I do something, it is more often than not authentic Mama Bear, from the heart, honest to goodness, having a darn good go at it.

Which leads me to my next point.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear were chosen to raise these Baby Bears. At the end of the day we are accountable to each other, to God and to the Bear Cubs. Friends, neighbours and curriculum marketers don't even get a look in. Our interests, loves, knowledge and experience uniquely equips us to give our children their education.

And their education will be unique.

There will be gaps in their education and THAT'S OK! Do you know how I know? Because EVERYONE'S education has gaps when they graduate! That class you slept through, that year you had glandular fever, that semester when your heart was broken and you couldn't absorb anything... this all puts gaps in our education. The idea that we stop learning the day we graduate has somehow pervaded our society and made this into a big deal. The thing is, it isn't a big deal! My kids will be able to do some reading, find an expert to ask, take some classes. They can fill their own gaps.

We never stop learning, our methods simply change and evolve as we grow.

We may not stay doing the same thing forever.
What works for us now, may not work next year. Our needs change. I am a chronic curriculum tweaker. It's my hobby, I've been studying curriculum since before I went to Uni. But when there are a few more bear cubs hanging around the Cave I may need to order myself an "out-of-the-box" curriculum and just use it as is. AND THAT'S OK!!

Because it doesn't have to be perfect to be right. If I were to wait for it to be perfect, we would never do ANYTHING. There is always something better on the next website, in the next cataloge, in the next book. Do do nothing because it isn't perfect is far more damaging than to set out and not have it all right.

Because ultimately, there is no great big cosmic report card.

I was blessed with these children.

I will step forth in prayer and in Grace.

I will seek to encourage and uplift my fellow mothers as they take their own journey.

And perhaps one day, the Bear Cubs will rise up and call me blessed.

But it won't be because of my curriculum choice.

Check out what works for other people at

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When Science and Fun Meet

We did this for no other reason than I saw it on my all time favorite Blog Se7en and I thought it looked really cool!

First we froze a big block of ice in an empty icecream container. Then we dyed some rock salt different colours with food dye. Then we placed the rock salt on the ice block and observed what happened.

Here are some other fun looking science type links, take a look and if you get time to try any, tell us how you get along!

Home Chemistry make crystal trees

The Exploration Station made GREEN FIRE! This is so awesome, but I think my boys need to be a LITTLE older...

Kids Who Think have SO many interesting, open ended challenges

Crafty Classroom
has some great ideas for Geology that I DID want to try out this year but never got around to.

I could waste DAYS in Kitchen Science Experiments.

There is something about being able to eat an experiment or model that makes learning so much more fun. Check it out at Enchanted Learning

Rubber eggs are cool at Dragonfly TV
This I have done with the kids but sadly forgot to take photos.

More food experiments at Hunkin's Experiments

An eclectic bunch of experiments at

And some simple experiments with The Magic School Bus

In the mood for some more fun wandering the web? Nip over to Se7en and check out their Friday fun links!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Schooling with Baby

One of the first questions people asked when they found out we were expecting was "so, will Princess Doc go to school now?"

Answer: NO! Look what she would miss out on!

And honestly, don't people know how busy you are with a newborn? Why would I want to spend time cutting lunches, hauling everyone off to drop her at school, rushing in for school events and assemblies, getting in on the P&F action, picking her up from school - not to mention any extracurricular activities...I am just to BUSY gazing at this...

But seriously folks, schooling with baby on board does give an added dimension to our homeschool. These are some ways we adapted.

We took June off. One of the benefits of homeschooling is you can plan your school holidays whenever you like so we started ours a few weeks before Laughing Boy made an appearance and didn't plan to go back until the month after. It means that we haven't had any other "short" breaks through the year and we will go right through until December now, but it suited us.

We make to-do lists. I have bought a financial year diary for Princess Doc. Each night I write her a short To-Do list and a little love note. She really likes this and it means that if she reaches a point where she needs help and I am busy, she can just move on to the next thing and we will get back to it later. I have also found that with a baby + toddlers, our days are rarely liner anymore. Having a list of goals I can refer to means that things don't get missed out just because we don't get to them at our "usual" time of day. I also add things that aren't strictly "school work" like cleaning rooms, outside chores, special games or activities etc. The line between "school" and "life" is very blurred in our home. This does have the added benefit of Princess Doc knowing when she is done for the day and her time has become her own.

Laughing Boy is by our side most of the time. If we are reading books, he is too. If we are cooking in the kitchen, so is he! This has always been the way with babies in our home, but is even more so with this one. He quite often sleeps in his rocker, in the Ergo or on a blanket. The bassinet is on wheels and is relocated through the house as needed.

Life skills take a larger part in our schooling at the moment
. I have scrapped part of our plans for a cooking/writing project. Princess Doc (who adores cooking) is in the process of writing a cook book full of simple recipes she has learned to cook. Nearly every morning she is cooking the family porridge. In doing this she has learned about ratios as we adjusted the recipe to suit our family size and appetite, measurement, kitchen hygiene and many other things. Creating the cook book has included perfecting her writing skills, created a deeper understanding of the "procedure" text type (recipes, directions etc.) and a few spelling words that are very useful. This project dovetails with our current life situation very well and is a practical way to combine school and life.

Time and school is more flexible. We start school work for the week on Sunday most weeks. This way if we need to go into town for the day or if we just have a rotten day, we don't have to play "catch up" later. We always take Saturday "off" as Sabbath. School may start before breakfast, or may not start until after lunch. It may be finished by mid morning or we may be doing a few bits and pieces after the other kids are in bed. We go for the less stress option that day. When we have more children doing more structured schooling, this will not be as easy to do, but now it works perfectly. A wise woman once said "Do what works while it works. When it stops working, do something else" I think she was on to something there!

The keys to babies and schooling in our home have proven to be: FLEXIBILITY, love, FLEXIBILITY, cuddles, FLEXIBILITY, cutting ourselves some slack and a little more FLEXIBILITY!

And really, it's so worth it!

I've submitted this post to Works For Me Wednesday. Go check out the other useful links and take a look at the new project they have going at:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ten Homeschool Blogs

Here are ten random blogs that I have found helpful in my homeschooling journey. Have fun exploring!

Always Outside

No Time for Flashcards

Practical Pages

We Are That Family

Crafty Crow

Preschoolers and Peace

Home School Classroom

The Snail's Trail

Little Men in my Library

And my all time favourite


Have some fun visiting bloggers who actually take time to Blog! As for me, the bear cubs need me. Will see you all next week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Review: Girl's Guide To Life

Why did I choose to review this book?

My daughters are currently 6 and 20 months, not really the age group this book is aimed at. I am, however, trying to prepare myself and collect resources to help them prepare themselves for that murky time of life called PUBERTY! When I saw this book on Book Sneeze, I asked them to send it to me (for free) to review for them. And being such nice people, the did!

What do I like about this book?

I like the fact that this book takes time to explain the "nuts and bolts" of sexual development. It uses simple but precise language designed to inform without embarrassing. I also liked the fact that this book devotes a chapter to "cyber-self". It discuses various pros and cons of online life and gives some very good tips about being one's "authentic" self online, dealing with online bullying and gossip and being security conscious online. All very necessary things for a young lady growing up in today's society to think about. I applaud the author for trying to deal with some very real issues in today's society and prepare young ladies for adulthood in a Biblicaly conscious manner.

What don't I like about this book?

The general tone of this book becomes a little cheesy at times. Every now and then I felt like the author was trying to be the "cool youth group leader" who wears 'young' clothes and tries to talk hip - not realising much of the language they use just serves to point out just how out of touch they are. Kids can spot in-authenticity a mile off and there are many moments in this book where the author tries to be just that little bit TOO cool.

This books takes it for granted that the reader will be savvy with today's pop culture and familiar with the world of reality television programs like "The Bachelor". For one thing, I think this will serve to date this book very quickly meaning that my daughters are unlikely to be interested when it is relevant to them. For another thing, while I enjoy TV in small doses and we own more than one, there is no way I would be allowing my daughters to regularly watch The Bachelor. I don't see myself as ultra conservative and, while a little prudish at times, I am not extreme. The only reason we would watch The Bachelor is to discuss and analyse it and I can tell you now it doesn't survive such analysis very well! I would like to see a Christian book of this nature teaching young girls to evaluate their viewing choices a little better.

Perhaps my biggest criticism of this book is it's treatment of romance and behaviour toward the opposite sex. The option of courtship is discussed in the "romance" chapter and readers who want to know more about this option are referred to "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Josh Harris. For the majority of the book, however, the writer assumes that the reader will have or has had or does have a "crush" and/or boyfriend. In a world where teen girls who do not have a boyfriend (through choice or otherwise) are encouraged to obsess about this or made to feel freakish, I wonder if this adds fuel to the fire.

Flirting is also described as "harmless". The author does not take the time to define exactly what she means by flirting, but my definition is this: Making a promise with your lips that your body does not intend to keep. I have a feeling that the author and I are talking about two very different things when we say flirting, but as she never defines this very loose word we have to be at least a little concerned about what kind of license this will give to girls. The book also gives little attention to being careful and gentle with the hearts of young men. This, combined with the comments about flirting, does little to prevent a young reader from unwittingly becoming or continuing to be a tease. Modesty in behaviour and dress, sending CLEAR signals to young men and basic respect for the hearts of others are SUCH important traits for young ladies to learn and with few lessons available "out there" I feel we need to grab every chance to teach them.

I would also have liked to have seen a greater exploration of abuse within romantic relationships. Dealing with subjects such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse and sexual pressure within relationships requires a little more than this particular book devotes to those subjects. Given that abuse within teenage relationships is frighteningly common, I feel it was important to address these issues in depth.

I'm afraid that the positives of this book, for me, do not outweigh the negatives.

I will not be using this book with the girl cubs. In spite of good intentions, it does not quite do the job for me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

20 great reasons to homeschool

Click to enlarge

If you have a link or other funny that you think will have us rolling in the aisles, feel free to email me at (tasjess at gmail dot com)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Catching up

Life since the littlest bear cub arrived has been as hectic as ever and twice as full of joy! Someone asked me recently how life with five was, I replied - extreme. As in Extreme Sport. Normal sports people ski down steep slopes at fast speeds, extreme sports people set of an avalanche and surf it to the bottom of the mountain. NORMAL parents have 2.4 children aged 2.4 years apart and live in a house that is at least 80% NOT under renovation most of the time and send their kids to the best school they can find. WE have five children aged under 7 years in a house that is at least 80% under renovation - and has been for over 2 years - and choose to homeschool!! Some gasp in admiration, others gasp in horror. But the majority do actually gasp.

And so do I some days.

But here's the thing with extreme sports. With the extreme challenges there are also extreme highs and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Since Laughing Boy came on the scene things have had to become a little more streamlined. The others have all changed so much in the last few months too that the way we did things six months ago simply won't do now. So over the next few weeks I am going to walk through our day again so you can see just how much it has changed. The changes aren't because what we were doing didn't work - it is because what we were doing wouldn't work for us now. I am finding as we grow in our homeschooling journey there simply isn't any such thing as one-size fits all and our day will always be under construction. I am also going to do a few reviews because I like reviewing books and curriculum and find reading review helpful to me. If you have any funny or fun things for me to link to or post on Fridays, please feel free to send an e-mail to Tasjess at gmail dot com.

Housekeeping aside, here are the top ten things our homeschool has learned since the arrival of Laughing Boy:

10. While you think you are already flexible, add another child and you will find joints you never knew you had. Compared to six months ago, I am a contortionist now baby!!

9. There's always time for fabulous hair dos - the frills of life are actually necessities.

8. If a child can see purpose to the work required of them, they will put in ten times as much effort.

7. We do not have time for busy work. 2 hours of quality work is a school day, packing it out with "stuff" just because it's in the work book does not work for any of us and chews up precious tree climbing time.

6. Meal times are an excellent time for read alouds - captive audience!

5. Life goes better when you laugh.

4. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful (a line stolen from this blog, but about so much more than decor)

3. Learning will always happen, even if it isn't when and how Mama Bear expects.

2. If you ignore laundry for a day or two, it breeds. It is hard to school when Mount Washmore is threatening to avalanche!

1. Babies completely and utterly rock and make the world a better place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And from hibernation we slowly emerge....

Five days before the official first day of spring, we would like to announce the the emergence of Mama Bear, Papa Bear and FIVE Bear Cubs from hibernation. We have so much to tell you!

It's been a cold but productive winter.

Drop by next week for some bloggy goodness from the bear cave...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review: Chronological Guide to the Bible

Okay, I have been completely AWOL from the Blog for FAR too long. What have I been doing? Well, toward the end of each pregnancy I get a surge of creative energy which was channeled into making some kind of order of the Bear Cave. Not completely successfully might I add, but some serious progress was made. Plus, I have been reading. I have set myself some reading goals and as part of that I am getting some books from Book Sneeze to review

I review for BookSneeze

I just promise to review a book for them on my blog and they send me a book for free, how awesome is that? So between cleaning, tidying, organising, knitting, gardening, preparing, gestating and reading - blogging took a back seat for a while! Seeing as the Bear Cub is due to make an appearance in, say, a week and a half, I shan't make any promises I can't hold up in the future either!

But on to the review!!

Chronological Guide to the Bible is a reference book to be used when studying your own Bible. It places the events of the Bible in chronological terms and closely as can be figured, making notes of where the scholars disagree on the exact sequence of events. It gives a chronological reading guide (which can be used with the Bible version of your choice) then gives an overview of each book. It then goes on to describe the historical context of the book and reflect on how events or descriptions of events may have been received by the Israelites at the time and the surrounding peoples. Where appropriate, there are handy timelines to help make sense of the chronology. The pages are all full colour and there is a lot of detail on each page.

For me at this stage of life (with my personal Bible study time being short, precious and sometimes totally interrupted) I probably will not use this to work through my Bible from cover to cover however it is a fantastic reference to dip into and get another perspective on an element that I am studying. For example, my personal studies at the moment are focusing on the book of James. In dipping into Chronological Guide I was able to find out about the historical context of the book quite easily which added to my own laid back but in depth study style. Later in life when things calm down, I may go through and do an in depth study using this book from cover to cover. I appreciate a book that has dual usage like that - appropriate not only for a sit down feast but also to dip into as a side dish. Perhaps my one complaint is that the print is not huge and at times the pages look quite busy which can be difficult on my distracted brain.

The Bear Cubs probably won't be ready for this book until they reach their teens, but I forsee the 'fact lovers' among them really enjoying the detailed look at the Bible that this book brings.

Overall, it is worth having on the shelf!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What: Teaching Poetry


I love poetry and always have. I read and write it myself and I want to pass that on to my kids. Poetry is writing at it's highest art form. The economy of language forces the poet to make each word count, using tricks like alliteration and onomatopoeia like a painter uses brush strokes. I can't help but get enthusiastic about it!

If my children love poetry, they will want to do the work later on to understand it, both the words and the historical context.

If you can read and write poetry effectively, you can read and write anything. And reading and writing is all about communication. And communication is all about reaching the hearts of another.


The only 'formal' things we do is our 'refined afternoon tea' on Wednesday afternoon. We have something special to eat and cups of peppermint tea with honey at the table with a table cloth and POETRY. I have several books of it and we will each take it in turns selecting a poem - even Tool Man. At first they selected the illustrations that interested them (being non-readers) but now, after doing this for over a year, the older two are starting to ask for some of the poems by name. Princess Doc carefully reads each one in the book she has chosen before making her selection, so I get her to start choosing BEFORE the rest of us are at the table!

Nonsense verse and nursery rhymes are a large part of our poetry reading and sometimes the 'refined' nature of our afternoon teas go out the window with toilet training accidents, upturned tea cups and detours into "manners training" and sometimes we just take a quilt outside and make it a picnic. What I want to pass on in this session is a love for the art of putting words together. Nursery rhymes are the river stones of our language, smoothed and refined in the mouths of generation after generation. Nonsense verse makes us laugh and evokes vivid imagery. My own favourites make appearances even though they are "above" the children's understanding, but the sensation of the words still speaks to all of us. Each afternoon tea starts with a special grace where we thank God for beautiful things and beautiful words and pray that all beauty will point us toward Him. It is a high point in our week!

Rudyard Kipling's "If" and Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat" are equally adored in this house and it isn't unusual to have Wordsworth's "Daffodils" straight after "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star". I am saving up to get my hands on a copy of "Unreal Banana Peal" and "Far Out Brussel Sprout" because of my own fond memories of the gross out humor in my own child hood and I think my own kids will be equally delighted!

I think the most important thing with teaching poetry is to get down and dirty, throw out all the preconceptions of what poetry 'should' be and let it MOVE you. If you laugh, if you cry, if you get mad at the words on the page - they WILL learn.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I am a homeschool Mum

I believe in strong Character Education.

Today I taught my son about Chivilry.

Put down the shovel and say sorry to your sister."

I am a homeschool Mum.

I believe in giving my children a solid grounding in the Sciences.

Today I taught my children about physics: cause and effect...

"If you drop that it will break. See."

and natural history: animal behaviour...

"If you pull that cat's tail it will scratch you. See."

and biology: Human anatomy...

"Honey, there IS still blood inside you. Stop crying and let's just wash that"

and Chemistry

"Dirt will come off better with soap and water. Go and wash your hands again."

I am a homeschool Mum.

I believe in teaching my children about the Scriptures and Worship.

Through Bible study...

"...and King Darius called down to Daniel...What? No, there aren't lions under your bed. King Darius called down...put that down, now. King Darius....YOU stand THERE, NOW. YOU sit THERE, NOW. Keep your hands on your lap while I am reading please. Now, King Nebuchadnezzer...What? Oh yes King Darius, clever kid. Oh, you learned that from VeggieTales. Take your finger out of your nose please."

and singing songs of praise...

"Jesus loves me (put that down now) this I know (NOW) for the Bible tells me so (that is disobedience, come here) little ones to HIM belong...."

I am a homeschool Mum.

I believe in teaching my children about the world around them...

"Did you know that pizza comes from a country named Italy kids? No, not THIS pizza. Yes, you're right, Daddy did buy this one from the shop."

and events of history.

"You know, before cars people rode in horse carts and buggies. No, cars were invented before I was born. Yes, that is a long time ago."

I am a homeschool Mum.

I believe in giving my children life skills.

"Go and make your bed. Now. No, don't argue, now. What? HOW did the sheets get wet? Oh. Just leave it honey, I will do it in a minute. Can you empty the dishwasher instead please?"

I am a homeschool Mum.

I believe in giving my kids the best education I can.

I believe HOME is the most important part of HOMESCHOOL.

It has been one of those weeks, but it's Friday now and I am still glad that I am blessed with these children, this home and this life.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Schooling the introvert

WHAT is an introvert?

My husband and I are both introverts. Let me define exactly what I am saying when I say we are introverts. I am saying we are energised by being alone or in a situation that does not require us to be socially active where as being in a very social situation (such as a party) can be quite draining - even if we enjoy it. Our introversion is of different degrees. Papa Bear enjoys having people around but also needs a bit of alone time with his own thoughts. Mama Bear, however, could quite happily live in a cave. Forever. Especially if I had a computer and a decent library.

Being an introvert is NOT being shy. "Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness." In fact, paradoxically, I have known EXTROVERTS, people who crave and are energized buy the company of others, who are painfully shy!

Being an introvert does NOT mean we lack social skills. Papa Bear is much better than tact than I am I admit, but generally we can conduct ourselves fairly well. How many people do you know who are extroverts, life of the party types, who are often quite rude? i.e. LACK SOCIAL SKILLS!!

Being an introvert does not mean we are depressed or mentally unbalanced or had a traumatic childhood.

Psychologists will argue at length over the merits of "nature vs. nurture" (were they born that way or did the environment make them that way) but the fact that Papa Bear (introvert) + Mama Bear (extreme introvert) = Princess Doc (Extrovert!) makes me think that God made us all very special and unique and our social inclination is simply a part of that.

HOW did being an introvert effect your (Mama Bear's) schooling?

Throughout my school years the fact that I preferred to read during recess rather than play netball or socialise 'with the girls' caused many school staff members a great deal of concern. Numerous report cards worried and fussed over my "lack of social skills", however every single one of those teachers would also say that I could participate in class discussions, group activities and general class life as well if not better than most of my peers and maintained good relationships with my small group of friends. Their concern was that I seemed to prefer my own company for large portions of the day. If asked why this was a problem, I doubt many of them would be able to give adequate reason. However for most of the years I spent in school - even going through to my tertiary years (my teaching internship report card almost had "does not play well with others" on it because I preferred to eat lunch in the classroom rather than the staff room) - I was told or it was insinuated that I needed to CHANGE. That I needed to be different. That I needed to fit into the social mold being presented to me.

You see, it is easier for a school to function if the student body is homoginised - if the students are fairly uniform in composition and blend together easily. When a student doesn't blend in for whatever reason, it usually makes life more difficult for the staff and sometimes for the other students. Hence, there is pressure placed DAILY on students to blend in many classrooms and school settings. Being that introverts compose a minority in society (as one article puts it, "a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.") and that by their very nature they find constant social interaction taxing - if not downright stressfull - what load does the average school setting place on the introverted child? What effect does it have on the introverted child to be labeled as "anti-social", "weird", "freaky" or "an outsider" not only by their peers but by the trusted adults who are meant to be mentoring and guiding them? Think on that for a while. It sort of makes me wonder if the stereotypical "strange, weird kid who simply snapped one day" used to be a perfectly normal introverted person who was subjected to pressures, bullying and bombarded by messages that they needed to be different until they really DID become unhealthy!

WHY does the world need introverts?

Well, I would say that Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison made contributions to the world. Hans Christian Anderson and C. S. Lewis certainly made an impact on the world of literature. I would suggest that the reason introverts compose "a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population" is because introverts like to spend time with their own thoughts - giving their energy to figuring stuff out. Introverts have a special and unique contribution to bring to the world that is just as vital as the contribution made by extroverts. Introverts are a beautiful colour on the spectrum of human creation, NOT a defect. And God made us too!! There is an excellent article on evangelism for introverts here.

So, HOW do I handle the social aspect of my introverted child?

So far I have one baby bear who I can identify clearly as an introvert (Farm Boy) and another who is showing signs along those lines (Pigeon). Princess Doc is a clear extrovert and Tool Man could go either way at this point. Catering for the varying social needs and desires of our brood is simply part of parenting. Here are some insights we have gleaned from our own experiences being and parenting introverts.

First of all, let them be who they are! An introvert who is comfortable with the fact that they enjoy time alone will be far more functional socially than an introvert who feels inferior or defective because of their preference for alone time. It can be tempting for a homeschool family to push a child to participate in various groups and social events to assuage parental paranoia about raising an anti-social child. Don't do that! It is one thing to require a child to engage in family life and attend regular social events with the family, it is completely another to force arbitrary social stimuli on them for no logical reason other than to change their personality. "Introverts do like to socialize – only in a different manner and less frequently than extroverts." If an introverted child is to attend groups, camps, clubs etc. it needs to be primarily motivated by that child's passions and interests such as astronomy groups, Bible Studies, nature clubs or music camps rather than arbitrary 'socialising opportunities' which will likely be boring and counterproductive at best.

Second, take a look at your objectives in teaching your child about socialisation and society. Are you working to give them the tools they need to function successfully in society? Or are you trying to change them into an extrovert?

Third, recognise social skills as just that, a set of skills. The general consensus in most schools is that the "sink or swim" method of teaching social skills is woefully inadequate in terms of success. Therefore many schools are implementing programs for directly teaching social skills - many labeling these programs as 'anti-bullying' as bullying seems to be a major side effect of the sink or swim method. In our home we explicitly teach things like empathy, humility and conflict resolution through our character education. We help our children maintain friendships by having letter writing as a part of our 'language program'. We make time to hang out with our friends and family in low pressure situations (i.e. around a BBQ) and we watch how our kids are handling associating with others to see where we need to instruct them. The ability to politely decline an invitation to play is a VITAL social skill for an introverted child, something you can role play with them very easily. Both extroverted and introverted children, however, need social skills. Ironically, social skills come most naturally to our most introverted child!

Fourth, create a home environment that allows for privacy and solitude. We live in a house where there are 4 kids sharing a bedroom and our living/dining/kitchen area is small and open plan. Even the bathroom in combined with the toilet so retreating into there is a limited time option! However, if Farm Boy is laying on his bed with Red Bear, it is like hanging a do not disturb sign. If Mama Bear and Papa Bear close the bedroom door, you better be bleeding or have broken bones if you disturb them! If Princess Doc is curled up with a book or bent over a project - you simply let her be unless there is a very good reason to interrupt. We allow each other space because we could not function otherwise. Allowing space and solitude alleviates pressure to constantly socialise and creates opportunity for each of us to cultivate our personal relationship with God as well as recharging our batteries. Long term, this is a positive move for the social life of the whole family, not just the introverts. It also teaches the extroverts among us to respect and value the introverts rather than bullying or harassing them into being constantly social.

Last, ignore the critics and focus on what is best for your child. I have had people tell me that they could not possibly homeschool their child because the child is introverted and if they were homeschooled, they'd never speak to anyone! The reality is that I, and many other homeschooled introverts, found socialising MUCH easier once the pressure to be a social butterfly every day was taken off. Most introverted people still desire solid friendships and like all people they want to feel loved and valued. They just don't want to be talked at constantly! Even today, I find small talk taxing and it is an effort to engage in discussions about the weather etc. for more than five minutes. My friends have learned to, if not understand, tolerate this as one of the wonderful quirks that make up me. Isn't allowing the unique quirks of each child to develop a compelling reason to homeschool in the first place? I have learned to avoid, politely extract myself from or grin and bear small talk situations, to function within society without compromising my own integrity. Another good goal of a homeschool in my opinion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Socialisation is the major 'issue' bought up by well meaning family, friends and strangers in the street. It is the question that makes many of us want to tear out our hair in frustration! It is also the question that makes many homeschoolers nervous and worried. In fact, some homeschoolers are so paranoid about it now days that they spend more time shipping their kids out and about to 'socialise' than they do schooling!

I could wax long and lyrical about this subject, and many, many homeschool advocates (and critics) have, but at the end of the day what I have to worry about is what does this mean for US and OUR homeschool.

First, let's define WHAT we want in the way of socialisation.

In my opinion, a well socialised individual can interact effectively with a person or group of people, regardless of that person or group's background, status and abilities.

I ain't quite there yet!!

It is a life long thing to learn this socialisation thing. I aim to start my kids on that journey.

WHY is this important to my kids?

Well, there is the great commission to start with "Go and make Disciples of all nations...". In order to do that you need to be able to communicate with and interact with people effectively.

Also, friendships and relationships with others are important. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" Proverbs 27:17.

Plus, I have been around homeschooling circles long enough to have come across kids who are rude, disrespectful, judgmental, condescending, sneaky, or otherwise unpleasant individuals who I don't want to be around. In other words - unsocialised! So I know that homeschooling isn't the cure for all things. And I will be spending ALL DAY MOST DAYS for the next however many years with these kids. Call me selfish, but I would like them to be the kind of people who you can be in the same room as for more than ten minutes without wanting to strangle them!

So, HOW are we going to 'do' socialisation?

2010 Socialisation

It is the aim of Our Family Homeschool that each child will be given every opportunity to:

• Form positive and lasting relationships with friends and family

• Develop skills to manage and resolve conflict

• Interact effectively with people from a variety of social, cultural and religious background and with various abilities.

• Demonstrate a range of social skills in a variety of social settings

• Actively participate in the local community and our church community

This year, as well as our general lifestyle, Princess Doc will be given opportunity to:

• Attend our statewide church family camp where she will participate in activities with her peer group as well as spending time with families from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds and of varying abilities.

• Regularly participate in the Active After School Program at the Mole Creek Primary School OR participate in a local gymnastics program with her peers from a variety of social, cultural and religious backgrounds

• Regularly attend our local church where she will interact with people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, age groups and abilities

• Maintain friendships that she has already made via personal contact and letter writing

• Maintain family relationships with her immediate family (which, I am sure, will develop her conflict management skills!) and her extended family

Complex, ain't it!!

And if all else fails, I can point out to the nay-sayers that I was homeschooled and if I am talking to them, possibly, I managed to pick up a few social skills! (or, you know, point out their school attending child being anti-social and kindly suggest they homeschool)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Homeschooling in a Minor Key

Life, being what it is, and home, being what it is, can be somewhat unpredictable. You can be sailing merrily along and next thing you know, for one reason or another, you are in the doldrums.

When this happens, when grief or sickness, pain or depression strike, it is inevitable that it will have an effect on schooling. If people know about the troubles you face, the naysayers will often take this opportunity to chip away (with the best of intentions) at your resolve to homeschool at all. To tell the truth, this is often when we DON'T FEEL LIKE SCHOOLING ANYMORE. There, I said it. I, lover of all things homeschool and passionate advocate for homeschooling, have admitted that it isn't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes the key goes from major to minor. We wonder "if I find it an effort to shower today and preparing food for the family seems like an insurmountable challenge, would my child be better off at school today?". We question "surely if I could just sent them off to school I could get it together more, have some peace with no demands for a few hours."

We read homeschooling blogs, books, forums and support sites. We listen to the other Mums at homeschool groups and co-ops. We watch the Duggars on TV. And we wonder, am I the only one that doesn't have it together? The truth is, so many of us in the homeschooling world have had to defend our choices so often to everyone from our in-laws to the old lady in the grocery shop to actually admit that we feel sad and today life is tough IS HARD TO DO! But the fact is, friends get sick, accidents happen, people die. Life happens. And it's sad sometimes. If you think it is "un-Christian" to feel this way, I invite you to read Ecclesiasties, Lamentations, a fair portion of the Psalms, the stories of Israel in Exodus. I invite you to remember, Jesus wept..

Some things to remember:

* Teachers have off days and down times too. They struggle through and try not to let it touch the kids for the most part, but they are not on the top of their game. One teacher I knew lost her mother, had major surgery and experienced major trauma within her family all in one year and still kept teaching all year. Yes, she did an OK job, the kids didn't get bells and whistles and things were kept simple. My point is, how do you know that if you send them to school they aren't going to be taught by another grief affected person?

* Grief and sadness is a part of life. There is an article on Grief and Homeschooling which challenges the idea that it is best to isolate children from grief. Perhaps it is best to experience this together as a family. Perhaps it underestimates our children to think that they will not pick up on and be affected by our grief simply because they are out of the house 8 hours a day?

* It is OK to go vanilla! Julie from Brave Writer talks about experiencing grief and homeschooling in this article and insightfully recommends dropping the bells and whistles. It will not harm your children to spend a year just doing the three R's - and the basics of those. They will learn.

* Plan 'slack' into your program. There are the 'big' griefs, like a family member passing away or major illness touching the family, but there are also the 'little' griefs that rock your boat. Like the dog dying. If there is 'slack' in your program, like slow days planned into each week and a catch up week for the term, it is much easier to relax about having a few days of doona therapy where 'schooling' is a few read alouds and DVD's.

* Take a break. Now I don't have many family or friends who I can drop all four of my kids off with for the day. This pretty much only happens when I am going off to add another bundle! But, I can feed the kids fish and chips, on a quilt in front of the TV, then put them to bed early and they consider it a special treat. I can ask Papa Bear to watch everyone for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon while I take some time out to pray, meditate, journal or window shop on Etsy. I can even ask Papa Bear to take the two older ones away for the weekend which leaves me naptimes and evenings of complete quiet and solitude - something I need to heal. Get inventive, but there is a way. Even if it is to throw your apron over your head and refuse to come out for a while!

* Get Help. If you suspect you are suffering from depression (which I have dealt with more fully in my old blog here) this goes double! Help may be professional counseling, or it may be letting your husband, friend, mother, pick up the slack for you a bit.

So what about you? What have your experiences with grief and homeschooling been like? How do you homeschool in a minor key?

How do you remember that you WILL come out of the doldrums and one day, you will be in full sail again?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

mapping out our week


WHAT does your weekly plan look like?

Well for the visual among you click here and take a look. I created a table in Word (the program I'm used to and have easy access to). It has five columns titled day, read alouds, independent work, hands on work and other.

In the Day column I rather prosaically put the name of each day in each row.

In the Read Alouds column I put the books we will be reading that day with the page numbers if applicable, including scripture readings and things that Princess Doc will be reading to me.

In the Independent Work column I put any work that I will not have to directly supervise and instruct. Things that can be done at the table while I am washing dishes or doing some other task with just casual input from me. This includes copywork and math-u-see work that has already been explained.

The Hands On Work column is for any work that requires direct supervision and/or may make mess! This includes artwork and crafts.

The Other column is for other stuff that fits with our over all aims and goals but doesn't fit into any other column. This includes visits to the library and other excursions.

Because it is for my eyes only most of the time, I use a personal short hand that most people wouldn't be able to understand (for example, TBAS p20-30 is The Book Of Animal Stories pages 20 - 30).

Forty weeks worth are printed out and put into a ring binder which lays flat, a week to a spread.

WHY do you do a weekly plan when you have already got your Big Idea plans?

I have already blogged a bit about our BIG planning. That is, the planning that we do with the big picture in mind like our nature and science rotations etc. However, the weekly where-the-rubber-hits-the-road is what I wanted to talk about today. You see it is all very well to have these lovely big reading lists and lofty goals and aims, but you actually have to DO something to get these things DONE. If you know what I mean.

One needs to take into account the fact that there are four children and a pregnant Mama involved here. Yesterday, for example, there were three changes of pants for Tool Man, four molars cutting for Pigeon, Farm Boy desperately wanting to read a reader in spite of not being able to identify his letters, Princess Doc had a broken night due to a nightmare (therefore Mama Bear had a broken night), the boys played Tarzan with the curtains in the bedroom and destroyed them, the little ones didn't take their nap because Tool Man climbed in Pigeon's cot and played with her the whole time and we expected visitors in the evening. Our day just had to adjust. There is a rhythm and a logic to it all, but it is like abstract art - not everyone gets it at first glance! If I had to stop and rifle through all the big plans, it would soon get overwhelming.

The planner also meets our state requirements for attendance records.

HOW do you use this planning format?

Through the day we have a routine where specific tasks fit which dovetails with our weekly plan. Having the weekly planner laid out on the ironing board where I can see it means that if our routine is disrupted (as it often is) and I am occupied I can direct Princess Doc to an independent task. Because I tick the tasks off as we go I can see what is still to get done and at the end of the day evaluate what didn't get done that day. If something doesn't get done I mark it with either an X if I fell it is best to just scrap that activity or if I felt I was going to be able to get to it another day, I would put an arrow next to it to remind me to plan it in at a later stage.

I fill in our planned activities using my "big idea" plans each week, referring back to check if there are any pending arrows, factoring in expected events (like our once-a-month trip in to town to the library) and allowing one light day to catch up on school work or house work that has dropped behind or just to have a REST! A light day also gives room for spontaneity (is it still spontaneity if you plan for it?) because if something comes up on Monday, I know that any little arrows I put in can be taken up on our planned 'light' day (usually Wednesday).

When all the baby bears are schooling I plan to colour code. Grey pencil for things for all the family, pink for Princess Doc specific activities, Blue for Farm Boy, Red for Tool Man and Purple for Pigeon. Things that two or three are involved in will probably be written in grey pencil and underlined in the appropriate colours.

So where my "Big Idea" planning is like my Atlas, shows where I am in the world and where I want to go eventually, my weekly planning is like my itinerary and street map, it shows me what I am doing and where I want to go today.

I just pray that I use my Compass, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, Every day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday Funny

We all face 'the comments' from well meaning people curious and/or judgemental about our choice to homeschool.

Once, I got offended.

Then I got defensive.

Then I got evangelical (no converts sorry to say).

Now I just shut up and let my kids be the proof of the pudding.

I don't need to defend or convert anymore.

But every now and then, on a cranky day, I feel like this:

Based on an article from here

But this, this is what is really in my heart now:

To the lady with the blue jacket and the disapproving tone.
I am glad you enjoyed sending your kids to school.
Your eyes look sad and I wonder how much joy you have had in your life.
I wish you'd enjoyed picking them up as much as you did dropping them off.

To the man with the football beenie and the concerned frown.
I am happy for you that you met your best friends at school.
It sounds like it was a very positive experience for you.
I hope my friends have good mates like you as they grow up.

To the lady with the purple hat and the laugh lines.
Thankyou, I think my children are lovely too!

Because the comments people make, are often not about me but about them.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The creation of a routine

Our routine is in a constant state of evolution. Every time things start running smoothly, someone drops a nap or schoolwork needs change or we have a baby or I get pregnant and need more rest than usual... You get the picture!

I have gained a lot from peeking into the routine planning of other Mums - especially homeschool Mums - over the years and I thought I would walk you through ours - What! Why? HOW? style.

WHAT is a routine?

For me a routine is the habitual sequence of steps our day follows. In my mind a routine differs from a schedule as a schedule is more clock oriented, a routine is more goal oriented.

WHY plan a routine?

All human beings have a routine of some sort. There are times when our routine is to float around in the morning until we get so hungry we eat breakfast, do some school work, have some lunch mid-afternoon, fly around and do some housework, get distracted and do a craft before packing up just before Daddy gets home (or after), eat tea FAR to late and get to bed even later. Generally though, we try and be a little more deliberate than this! Sitting down and planning a routine means we can put our priority things in first (worship, naps, meals, cleaning) then plan extra FUN stuff around them and not have to feel guilty when we are doing extra fun stuff because we know the important stuff is done or will get done.

HOW do you plan a routine?

I open a document in WORD and make a table with a column for me and each of the kids and a column to show the time chunk.

I chunk our days into periods of time then list the things each member of the family do during those time chunks, starting with priority or time sensitive items such as naps, meals, worship, cleaning etc.

The reason I do time chunks rather than specific times is because I find chunks more flexible. It means I can stop and deal with our latest toilet training accident or to kiss and cuddle a hurt child without worrying about how it throws out our day too much. Follow this link to an example of our routine I have drawn this one up recently and have yet to work out the bugs. I will revisit this and 'tweak' it several times before I am happy with it. Then, I'll have a baby and we will begin all over again!

For more ideas in creating routines, try these websites:

FlyLady (Especially Here)

Large Family Mothering (especially Here and Here)

Large Family Logistics
While this lady has moved to a different blog now, this one is still a treasure trove of good advice!)

The Lockwood Family (especially Here and Here)

How about you? Do you have a routine? What does it look like? Do you have any tips or links to do with routines?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Product Review: Child-Size Masterpieces

I have had my eye on this product for a few years, since before the baby bears started coming along! I first came across it when I was training as a teacher at University. I hadn't seen the actual product, just read about it in my research into Montessori, classical and other styles of schooling. When I bought it, I almost did as an impulse buy, adding it to some other purchases I had already made with Adnil press. I have only been using it for about a fortnight and my kids LOVE it! The cards on the cover were meant to be used to put on the cover of folders to store the other cards in, but my three oldest each claimed one and have them hanging on the wall above their beds. They love sorting through the cards, looking at them, talking about them and painting or drawing pictures 'inspired' by them.

Princess Doc has developed a love of Renoir as her chosen picture is Renoir's "A Girl With a Watering Can". This is an excellent artist for her as so many of his paintings are beautiful images of families, children and domestic life I feel sure she will find many paintings of his to relate to and love. Farm Boy has found many pictures of animals to love (of course!) and has amazed me with his eye for detail as he examines the pictures so closely and picks out things that I missed quite often. Even Tool Man sits on my knee and participates in matching the pictures and talks excitedly about what he sees in them.

Even I have found something to love with this resource as it has reawakened my love of many paintings I have not thought about for years! It has been wonderful to share this with my children and it has injected our own experimenting with drawing and painting with even greater enthusiasm. Of course, it has also awakened a strong desire to travel to Canberra to see a post-impressionist exhibition next year, but I don't think our budget will stretch that far!

I love this resource because it is:

*Easy to use with little preparation and clean up once the cards are cut out.

*Adaptable and appealing to a wide age range.

*Accessible to all of us and brings fine art into our home without trivialising it or making it less than what it is.

*Able to be used in a number of ways to keep it fresh and interesting. As well as the ways mentioned in the instruction manual, I intend to use the prints as narrative and writing prompts for the children.

*A starting point to launch so much further. Because of Princess Doc's reaction to "A Girl in a Watering Can" ("Oh, I want to paint like Renoir Mummy!!) I am getting her some age appropriate books on Renoir and other artists from the library which she devours and she is drawing and painting daily at the moment.

*It can be built on. Not only are there others in the series, I can also purchase other art post cards when we visit art galleries and museums and add them to the collection, and easy way to tailor the collection to include Australian art.

So if you were umming and ahhing about purchasing this one for your homeschool, know that it gets thumbs up in this house!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We struck out

Yes, it happens, I don't always get it right!

We have been planning to study birds in the first 'term' of this year. I had chosen Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day Young Explorer Series by J. K. Fulbright as our 'spine' text. I pre-read it and I thought that it MAY be a little above the kids but I was excited about it. Well, I learned a lot from it! Forgetting, of course, that it was actually the KIDS who were meant to be learning not me!

I read the first few pages today and it sailed completely over their heads. Their eyes glazed over as I talked about Latin names and taxonomy. They had nothing to contribute when I asked questions and asked no questions of their own. Honestly, they learned more about birds from our reading of the Ugly Duckling this morning!

It was an honest mistake. I got excited about the information and know it is stuff I would love them to know about, but forgot about THEM in the mix!

So the brain cogs start whirring. What do I want Erin (the boys are pretty much just along for the ride on this one) to know about this? How can I teach her effectively and light her spark for the subject matter without drowning her in dry 'facts'? Honestly, the best way I think Erin can learn about the basics of taxonomy and scientific names is by labeling sketches and pictures for her nature journal with common and Latin names. And that's it! In my passion for this subject I forgot the golden rule of teaching a five and a half year old: KISS! Keep It Simple Sweetheart!

So I am putting this book on my bedside table to read. I will probably mention things I find out about to the kids as we brush over each subject area and I daresay it will be getting some airplay when birds next come around in our Nature subject rotation. But for now, I'm going to leave my kids alone, let them look at bird books and peek through binoculars and do my own learning - leave them to do theirs!