Thursday, January 28, 2010

Schooling amid life

You have it, the perfect year's plan.

Educational, fun, enriched, developmentally appropriate.

Then this happens:

A pair of very muddy, messy kids

Or this:

Farm boy being 'injured'

Or even this:

A very tired Papa Bear with a very new Pigeon

My own spectacular year's plan has already been shot in the foot and we weren't scheduled to start school until next week! Some core books that I was going to use got sent to the wrong address and won't arrive until next week 'sometime', no less than 3 separate lots of visitors will be coming for anything from a couple of days to over a week at a time and we are still trying to get organised after a big camping trip and a very busy January!


It's enough to make a Mama Bear go and hibernate for an extra few months.

But here's the thing, we are homeschooling. HOMEschooling. Learning at home. Homes (or at least my home) are not always tidy, neatly scheduled places. Things do not always go to plan - LIFE does not always go to plan. Life is full of people, the good and the bad, the whole and the broken, most of whom will irritate you or intrude on your life in one form or another at some point. Learning doesn't always slot into its allotted time period. Interests and passions don't always fit into a neatly written Key Learning Area Statement. Toddlers don't always sit and play quietly with blocks at your feet while you school angelic, attentive older children. The phone doesn't wait until an opportune time to ring. The oven sometimes stops working and the fridge sometimes breaks down.

The key to it all, I suspect, is to stop being surprised!
It happened before and it will happen again.

This is how I dealt with things this time around:

*I got some perspective. People who have been homeschooling longer than me, have kids older than mine and who DON'T have the renovations etc. STILL HAVE LIFE HAPPEN. As a dead Beatle once said "life is what happens while we are making other plans" (pretty sure John Lennon was alive when he made the statement, but he is dead now. Sorry about the ambiguous grammar there). Yeah, we may not get to start Ancient History next week - so what? The Ancient Egyptians will still be just as dead the week after. Some visitors will just have to sit and listen to read alouds and gush over our fabulous creations, if they want to visit us they need to realise that it comes with the territory! My house is not spotless - meh, if it ever was I think I'd go into shock.

*I counted my blessings. I have a girlfriend who has three babies in hospital and another couple at home unwell with whooping cough. I know of another Mum who has a child in the ICU with a septic abdomen after an appendix rupture, her child nearly died. This is the third major hospital trip she has had with her kids in the last three years (she has 9 kids and each trip was totally unrelated but all life threatening). I can think of at least five happy, healthy little blessings to count plus one great big hairy one who gives great cuddles!

*I got real with God and prayed about it. I told Him how frustrated I was about people messing with my plans and life getting in the way. He told me He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me. Some of those plans involve me ministering to those people who keep messing with my plans. He told me that Moses, David and Amos spent years tending sheep and dealing with the day-to-day ordinary life stuff - and those times were just as ordained by him as the times of great ministry and adventure. He told me I am a work in progress, and these are the times He is using to shape me. He told me He has it under control.

*I did stuff about the stuff that I could do stuff about. In other words, I worked within my sphere of influence instead of griping about things in my sphere of concern. Books should arrive in the next week or so, got the dining area mopped and cleaned out, had worship with the kids and put them to bed. Stuff I could do something about!

*I remembered that my children will learn no matter what and I would rather educate their hearts than fill them full of facts. To borrow a little from the words of scripture- if I keep to my yearly plan but give not kindness, compassion and love, I am as a clanging cymbal! Better yet, in the words of C. S. Lewis, "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil"

So it is time now to whip off the cranky pants and get going. Time to do something about what I can do something about and leave the rest in His hands. After all, "many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What is your home?

The image I have of our home, homeschool included, is the image of the space station in Huston. Now before you go any further, all I know about space exploration and rocket science I learned from Hollywood and the odd "Jetsons" cartoon so those of you with rocket science degrees, don't laugh too hard at my analogies and just try and stick with me OK? Good.

WHAT do I think a space station does?

Now, from what I gather, space stations do lots and lots and lots of preparation and planning and equipping. Then they send their rockets, shuttles and other big things that go WHOOSH into space. They remain a place of support and contact for personnel who have been crazy enough to sit in the big things that go WHOOSH (I know that 'cause Tom Hanks said "Huston, we have a problem.") and then they go and pick up people who have crash landed into the sea (or wherever), debrief them and prepare them to do it all over again.

WHYis this like my home?

Right now I am preparing and equipping my children to go off on huge adventures - possibly even in big things that go WHOOSH (Tool Man would go nuts for that). There are four extraordinary little people in this house (five if you count the latest bear cub who is cooking away in there). They were created in my womb, but they weren't created by me. They were created by God, according to His purpose, to work to His Glory. They were NOT created to stay here with me every day for the rest of their lives. This I need to keep in mind as I raise them. I need to help train them for their role in the big things that go WHOOSH.

Imagine if NASA rushed in every time an astronaut made a mistake on the simulator and gave them a lolly just so their developing 'astronaut self-esteem' wouldn't be bruised? Every single take off would crash and burn! Astronauts are trained and taught using their mistakes to learn from. Their equipment is checked, double checked and triple checked. If their special astronaut-y job is to press the red button they learn everything there is to know about the red button 'till they can press it in their sleep. They are prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for the rigors of their mission. They are trained to work with their support team and their co-workers under all sorts of conditions - even the ones they don't like. They are trained for every scenario ever experienced and some that haven't ever happened, just in case. In this way, it is my job to train the little people in my care.

When they are out there in the black, I won't be there to direct them, watch them, protect them. They will be out on their own my voice often just a noise from a speaker. I can advise, I can brainstorm solutions with them, I can draw on my hard earned expertise and pick the brains of others - but in the end it is them who will be making the decisions and THEM who will live with the consequences. I pray that we will have the type of relationship that will mean they can call on me any time without fear of 'static' on the line (judgement, condemnation, 'interesting family dynamics' etc.) and I pray that their shuttle will be "...thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17) and most of all I pray that they a strong lifeline to God, collecting their navigational data and Life Support straight from the Source. But it is THEM who will be flying the thing, not me.

Then there is the whole landing deal. If it goes well, I hope I am there to celebrate with them. If it doesn't, I hope this home can be a safe place to crash for a while and regroup, reassess and set out again.

So how do I know if we have done it? When can we call a mission a success? The answer is, the only missions that are completely unsuccessful are the ones that fail to get off the launch pad or the ones we learn nothing from.

HOW do I go about making this home into a space station?

These are some of the things that we do:

* Write the Word of God on their hearts, no mission is thoroughly equipped without it and it will not return to Him void. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Isaiah 55:10-11 )

* Actively guide and train their characters (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 23:13-14)

* Pray for them. (James 5:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

* Facilitate them to follow their calling as best we can (no point training them to press the red button when they are chosen to press the BLUE button is there?!) (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 33:11)

* Love them to bits, no matter what!

And if by some miracle we get all this right, where do we expect our children to go?


(see, movies are educational)

What about you? How do you see your home?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Our Summer/Autumn Nature planning

Planning time! Here is a peek into what we are planning in the 'nature' componant for February, March, April and May this year.

I like to start planning by keeping in mind the "Big Idea" or the "why" of why we are studying this topic. This keeps our planning on track and helps cull out "busy work".

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

o Develop a curiosity about and appreciation for the natural world
o Confidently use scientific method and a variety of research methods to learn about the natural world
o Record their learning and reflections about the natural world
o Communicate effectively about the natural world with other people
o Explore many different aspects of the natural world both directly (direct observation and experimentation) and indirectly (research, reading, viewing a variety of media)
o Pursue personal interests in this area.

Now to the nitty-gritty, where the rubber hits the road type planning. This Summer and Autumn, as well as our general observations of the natural world, the children will be given opportunity to learn about birds.

We will use a variety of resources including the following core texts:
Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day Young Explorer Series by J. K. Fulbright
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock

As well as these core texts, we will select some of the following texts (sourced from our local library and our own bookshelves) to complement our learning:
• Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
• Stella Luna by Janell Cannon
• Song of the Swallows by Leo Polloti
• Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
• Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
• The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen
• Blue wren by Belinda Brooker
• Good-night, owl! by Pat Hutchins
• The bag of wind by Gerald Rose
• The story of karrawingi the emu by Leslie Rees
• The imaginary menagerie by Hazel Edwards
• Little falcon by Jutta Goetze; illustrated by Marg Towt
• The best beak in Boonaroo Bay by Narelle Oliver
• Pelican by Pauline Reilly; illustrated by Will Rolland
• The pinkish, purplish, bluish egg by Bill Peet
• Edward the emu by Sheena Knowles; illustrated by Rod Clement
• Waddle giggle gargle! by Pamela Allen
• Birds, beasts, flowers: Australian children's poetry by William Hart-Smith; edited by Brian Dibble
• The Egg by Gallimord Jeunesse
• Chick Egg Guidebook by G.Q.F. Manufacturing Co
• Chickens Aren't The Only Ones by Ruth Heller
• Big Egg by Molly Coxe
• Egg to Chick by Millicent E Selsam
• Who's Hatching (Scholastic Inc.)
• Bird behaviour by Louise Dawson and Mike Langman; introduction by Bill Oddie
• Birds by Paul McEvoy
• Australian backyard wildlife by Jim Grant and Bob Winters
• I wonder why vultures are bald, and other questions about birds by Amanda O'Neill
• Birds by Stephen Savage
• Whose chick is that? by Jill B. Bruce; illustrated by Jan Wade
• Australian bush birds by Harry Frauca
• The Puffin book of Australian birds by Helen Hunt
• Birds by Joy Richardson
• Gollancz children's encyclopedia of birds by Jinny Johnson
• Birds by Diane James & Sara Lynn; illustrated by Sue Cony
• 100 things you should know about birds by Jinny Johnson; consultant, Steve Parker
• Famous Australian birds by Gisela Kaplan
• Amazing Australian birds by Barry Silkstone
• Feathers by Cassie Mayer
• Australian owls, frogmouths & nightjars by Jill Morris, Lynne Tracey
• Bird by David Burnie
• Eggs and chicks by Fiona Patchett
• Penguins by Bobbie Kalman
• How birds live by Barry Silkstone
• What is a bird? by Barry Silkstone
• Where birds live by Barry Silkstone
• Field guide to Tasmanian birds by Dave Watts
• Birds by Kylie Currey
• Birds by Peter Holden
• The Gould League book of Australian birds by Don Goodsir
• How nature works: fascinating projects and experiments that reveal the secrets of nature by David Burnie

You may have noticed that there is a mix of fictional and non-ficton books in that list. You would be amazed the insight you can gather from a good work of fiction! Many picture books also contain amazing illustrations which are just too good to miss. Field guides are also a must. We have several sitting on the shelf by the dining room window so we can use them to identify birds we see out the window while we eat dinner.

We will also directly observe domestic and wild birds in a variety of settings. This little sentence is what will bring the whole thing to life! Peering through binoculars out the window into the back yard, patting a chook, holding a baby duckling, collecting the eggs with Nanny, taking a trip to the wetlands centre to spot birds and chat to the park rangers. This is what lights the fire within!

Of course, we will also incorporate a few web and TV resources. Bill Nye the Science Guy does a great program on birds. Enchanted Learning have some great Bird resources
and print outs. I've even gleaned a bit from the lapbooks on

I'd love to hear about any other bird study ideas you have! Feel free to comment or leave a link.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Unstructured time - something I have learned

Here is something I have learned about unstructured time this holidays:

It is important and I believe strongly in providing regular unstructured time, HOWEVER, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Kids, in my experience, get silly with how they spend their time if it is all left up to them. For example, a child with too much time on their hands may, let's say, decide to play doctors with the cat. The perfectly healthy cat. Can I just say I am unconvinced of the therapeutic value of giving a cat 'injections' with rusty nails.

*No cats were permanently harmed in the making of this post and said child now has a few extra chores around the house to keep idle fingers busy!*