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)