Monday, 6 February 2017

Not Back to School 2017 - week 1

When most other kids were getting ready to start the new school year, I was hurrying my kids to get ready for the day so they could go to the movies to see Sing with Nana and Pa. This was the first time both kids were picked up and taken out together by their paternal grandparents, so it felt quite exciting. They had lunch out, and were treated to a few new toys (which, even if appreciated, are not much needed in a house of hoarding children who have hardly parted with any toy/game given to them over the past 7 years...). They had a lovely time out and had a good play with their new toys before having some much needed garden time.

Casi eating a guava icey-pole in a glass he made himself

While they were out, I did lots of tidying up and organising and packing for our mini holiday starting the day after. The NBTSP is held annually at the Geelong Water Park, so we decided to use that as an excuse to stay in the area a couple of days, and booked a cabin in Ocean Grove.

A couple of weeks ago, Sosi thought it would be fun having our own homeschool uniforms, so we bought these pale blue polo shirts, which we will decorate with our own logo as soon as we come up with one that represents us aptly.

ready for our road trip to Ocean Grove

Our road trip was uneventful, kids kept themselves busy reading and playing and making up games with each other, while I tried staying awake ;)
We caught up with two special family members who now live in Ocean Grove, and had a nice dinner at the Ocean Grove Hotel (I had the pork belly, very nice!), though the kids mostly enjoyed the two in-ground trampolines and playing with other kids than their dinner (we did in fact takeaway most of Casi's calamari and chips...), after which we went to the beach to enjoy some ice-cream (just from the super).

That really perked the kids up, particularly Casi blossoms when he's in contact with nature and not constrained by walls.
When we got back to our cabin, they were certainly not ready for bed (which didn't work in my favour because I was already overtired), so after I read a story from this book we'd brought from home, they both went to their bunks and were chatting for a short while before falling asleep.

Unfortunately everyone was overtired and overexcited, so we had a bad night's sleep, which unfortunately meant I had a migraine the whole entire day after, on the very big event that starts our non-school year: the Not Back to School Party, held on the first Friday of the first term of the year at the Geelong Water Park, and organised with HEN (please do join them if you're a Victoria homeschooler or sympathiser, it's a great support organisation).
a bit of morning exercise in the sun...

then a fun day of play with all their best friends!

Not sure how long it's been going on for, but it's our 4th year going. Unfortunately I didn't get to have any fun or do much, except for lying down trying to sleep through the sickness and confusion of my migraine (thankfully, it wasn't one of those light-sensitive ones, just throbbing pain in the head, noise sensitivity and nausea), but I am the told the kids had a marvellous time! All of their best friends (bar one or two) were there, so they had a marvellous time going around with other kids, playing and chatting all day. But, you know, apparently homeschoolers aren't socialised enough ;)

The day after my head was slightly better, but still quite sore, I didn't feel like doing much, so we just enjoyed the facilities at the holiday park. Kids made some friends at the pool (again, you don't need school to interact with other children and humans), then enjoyed time in the games room. We really liked staying at the Ocean Grove Holiday Park, I chose it because it was cheaper than Big4, and we were quite happy with our stay there! I know, if there's a pool my kids will be happy anywhere, but I thought the grounds were nice, cabins are quite close to each other (which some people might not like), but it felt quite cosy and green, we will definitely be going back in the future.

also, not pictured, a few games of ping pong

When we came back on Sunday, a lovely note from Daddy on the fridge (I love how he'll leave little writing inspirations for the kids):

Sunday night, home made pizza (we usually have it on Saturdays), Casi decided he wanted to try out tuna and salmon pizza (both tinned), big winner in his books, as he almost ate it all (has a small stomach).
Casi took the photo
Also, he was very excited to come home to check out the vege patch! Here's the first tomato harvest of the season, thus far neither child has tried any, there's still hope...

coke at the back, faithful companion of migraines since
I need caffeine to clear the head but can't stomach
coffee when I have a migraine...

And these are the main events of the week.

Academically: usual Word documents, usual artwork and craft, Casi has been quite enamoured with this book, which is great in helping with precision as minute stickers need to be placed on their minute numbered spots in the book. This was a great find at Target, but there's a whole series that can be bought online, guess who ordered a couple off Book Depository this morning... not cheap, but they are really neat. As requested by him, I bought Casi the masterpieces one, I'm sure it'll be great inspiration for further learning.

He also started reading this, as well as re-reading his Weirdo books.

Sosi I don't know, I honestly can never keep track of what she's reading, in the evening her bed is a graveyard of half read books she started during the day... I know she's reading some Our Australian Girl books but honestly can't remember which ones (she got a couple for Christmas, and we have loads we picked up for 20c at the local library sale!).

So that's about it for the first week of the term :)

Monday, 3 October 2016

Early learning reference

Ok, I am doing a major purging and clear out of emails, the amount of blogs and websites I am subscribed to is outrageous!

We've definitely outgrown many of the sites I receive newsletters from, but before I unsubscribe from them and delete all the no longer needed emails, I thoughts I'd just write a list of websites I found useful in the past, could be handy for someone else's reference, or if I need to refer someone to a specific topic. was Creative with Kids Kindergarten Nana

Monday, 13 June 2016

This is how we do it - contribution for Otherways magazine issue 148

Hi all, this was my contributions to the latest issue of Otherways, the quarterly magazine published by the Home Education Network (HEN). I highly recommend becoming a member, over the years it's being an invaluable source of information and reassurance for me, and you also get good discounts on resources such as Reading Eggs, Skwirk etc. Go have a look for yourself :)


Each January I take some time out to sit down and do some thinking and planning for the year ahead; I always check with the kids whether there’s any new activity they’d like to try, or what they did enjoy or not so much from the previous year.

When we started homeschooling 3 years ago, we had a look around to see what other homeschooling families were doing, both for guidance and inspiration.
We had friends attending drama classes, ballet classes, pottery classes, Lego, horse riding, soccer, robotics, gymnastics, violin… the world truly is your oyster when you can set your own schedule!
So we did what I thought we had to do: we enrolled in a few classes, a few excursions, many organised activities. I think I felt compelled to do so also as a way to justify our life choices with the extended family. I was probably thinking, “I’m sure they’re not going to bug me about the whole socialisation issue if the kids go to classes”…
For two years we did lots of stuff. But I thought we could do more, there are so many interesting things to do out there! So many more things we could try!
But for those two years we also had lots of fights over trying to be on time for the classes and activities I signed us up for… and even knowing that we had to go to a class would get us in a bad mood from early morning!
At the end of last year, I realised things weren’t really working out…

I had to face the facts: my kids (8 and 6 years old) did not enjoy these activities; they really liked the idea of attending the classes, but really weren’t benefiting nor learning much. Because of their wiring and genetic make-up, they really don’t enjoy classes or being in an environment where someone is trying to teach them, particularly in a group setting where there are too many sensorial distractions, but they benefit much more from a relaxed environment, or where they have the ability to have free conversations with others.

This is how, last January I decided this year we would do… nothing. No classes, no commitments.
So, instead of planning our week based around pre-set classes, this year we have the freedom to do things when it works best for us. And it’s been great! Clearly we aren’t the sort of family who thrives on a schedule…

We now have more of a rhythm to our weeks and our days, and it seems to suit our personalities and our biorhythms pretty well.

On Thursdays we have our social group meet up at the park, and that pretty much is non-negotiable, we have to be pretty sick for any of us to not want to go…
Every second Tuesday we have another park meet up, which many of our close friends attend as well.
Monday tends to be our library day, and every week we have at least one playdate at home or one excursion with friends. At first I didn’t think we were seeing friends enough, but I counted the hours, and realised that through the various catch ups, my kids are having at least 9 hours of QUALITY time with friends. Which really is more than they would be getting at school!

All the other days are flexible, for shopping, outings, our own adventures, family time, and most importantly, I always ensure we have a home day after every two days out. We really need that quieter time to decompress...

As much as I love our outings, I really love our days at home, they are the days where we do most of our “homeschooling” per se and where we have the time to connect and learn together. We have a very relaxed approach to learning, and what really works for the kids is when I strew many things, or propose activities which will inspire them, rather than me setting a curriculum in stone.

As I said, we don’t really function well with a schedule, so our days aren’t planned in detail, but we tend to follow our natural patterns, so the day has a certain organic flow to it.

We start our day with a Morning Activity set out on the kitchen table: this is always something I organise the night before, which has both the task of getting the little brains started for the day, and most importantly keeps them busy while I prepare my pot of coffee… Sometimes the morning activity will be based or loosely inspired by the bedtime story we read the night before, sometimes it could be as simple as an activity book or just a game that I pull out of our not-so-commonly-used stash, but I like it when I have the time to set up an “invitation to play” sort of playset.

colouring pictures of Australian animals; 
in the background, Kitchen Science kit, ready for later on 

magnetic mosaic: yep, the boy is writing "poo" with magnetic tiles; 
also, a clearly visible "poo" in washi tape... ah the joys...

S doing an activity book (word puzzles etc), L making pictures with stickers 
Goldilocks meets three Bengal tigers...

a long time ago, an invitation to play with hazelnuts, 
gnomes and a few measuring tools and containers

Then we have breakfast and get ready for the day. Depending on the appeal of the morning activity, the kids might continue with that or start their own imaginative play, usually in their rooms or in the Lego area (formerly known as  “the lounge”…). They usually don’t need me for at least an hour and a half, so I take advantage of that time to do some housework, do some baking or food prep if needed, and then organise another activity, which we’ll do at the kitchen table if the weather isn’t inspiring us to go out.
If the weather is nice, we’ll have morning tea in the garden, and will usually do our next activity there for another hour and a half. This is usually some craft or something creative or messy: I started storing most of our supplies outdoors, both to curb the mess in the kitchen and to encourage more outdoors time, and it’s been working wonderfully.

a few books on ancient Egypt

outdoors, painting a portrait of her brother

a bit of astronomy, still in PJs...

still on Japan: origami and a couple of Japanese language books
 (and the omnipresent "poo" table cover...)

L reading, S painting her wooden dominoes from the Clever DIY craft box 

kids made up their own game using world coins and blank wooden dice

After lunch the kids have some quiet time. Some days that might be watching a DVD, but most days the kids are naturally drawn to their own bedrooms: both rooms face north-west, so in the early afternoon the kids thoroughly enjoy some alone time reading their favourite books in a cosy spot in the sun in their own bedrooms. And some days they have their quiet time together, just doing their things together in silence. As a parent, that is really one of the nicest scenes, just the two of them quietly enjoying each other’s company.

S reading in her room, L quietly drawing 

Around 1.30pm, the kids re-emerge from their rooms ready for action… We often start the second half of our day snuggled on the couch, reading a reference book that can inspire our afternoon activities. This can be something as simple as a Magic School Bus book, or a story from a different country or culture, or a historically based story, or something on a specific topic, such as seeds or amphibians or minerals, or a book that I don’t think the kids will spontaneously pick up to peruse. We have a very assorted home library, and with weekly trips to the library as well, there is no shortage of books to read in our house!  
Our afternoon activity will either be something based on that book, or something continued from the morning, or whatever the kids come up with. Some days we have a certain topic that we’ll carry through the whole day, like a Japanese inspired playset, then Japanese stories, origami or other craft, and if all goes to plan then we might top that with Japanese takeaway for dinner.

geography: puzzles and books

anatomy with "Ghost", the squishy anatomy model

it's raining, perfect excuse to go out with umbrellas

learning about Egyptian gods while eating lunch

sinking dinosaurs & mini lalapoopsys in a non-Newtonian fluid, a.k.a. cornflour quicksand 

a variety of toys

L playing a coin matching card game

a Japanese inspired play set 

 L reading some comics from his wimpy kid do it yourself book; S writing a story in her new workbook

After dinner, they both enjoy working at the table, either drawing pictures, or writing stories, or even doing bookwork: my eldest is a bit of a night owl, and she seems to only get interested in maths workbooks after 7pm…

With the kids being still young (they’re 6 and 8), bedtime consists of snuggling up together to read two picture books. I like to choose 2 books that have something in common with each other, whether it be the author or the illustrator or the theme, or maybe if they relate to something we’ve done recently or a topic that’s of interest to us.
It’s a lovely to unwind for the day, as we also use it as a moment to discuss the stories and to talk about what we’d like to do the following day.

Both my kids are much better at self-directed learning than direct teaching, so most of our days are about me guiding them or offering support in their endeavours and discoveries, rather than methodically planning a curriculum.
I know our days are quite unconventional and indeed very different to what many consider “normal” homeschooling, but I found that creating an environment that plays to their strengths and fosters their interests really works for us, and it definitely makes for an interesting ride!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Our library and construction area

Every year there are more and more people looking into homeschooling, eager to make the switch but filled with doubts and questions. Some are not easy to answer, because HSing is such an individual journey. Every single one of our friends homeschools differently to each other: each child is different, each parent is different, family dynamics, location, suburb, house floorplan, finances, it takes each family a little while to create their own way of doing it, and there is going to be lots of trial and error, but in the end each one will find their groove.
So here's what I'm getting at: everybody's learning areas look different. Have a look at a few blogs and websites for ideas, ask other homeschoolers, but ultimately, you have to work with what you've got and create an area that works for your family and that creates an inspired and harmonious learning environment for your family.
Since we don't have a rumpus room per se, we created different activity areas in various parts of the house. Here's part of our lounge, which really should be renamed Lego World...
In those bookcases are only reference books (fiction are elsewhere). 97% of them were super cheap" between op-shops, ex-library book sales, BSS pages, a couple of presents and a few hand-me-downs, I have scored a humungous amount of books at a fraction of the cost, I am positive I saved thousands of dollars.

As I said, this is what works for us. We are bookworms. We need to be surrounded by books... Topics that I feel are more of interest to the kids are on the lower levels of those tall bookcases (top shelf has high-school/uni books, my language books, naturopathy, botany etc, my stuff really), as I feel that kids should have free access to their educational resources. I've added a couple of simple labels for topics (history, anatomy etc), and both kids do enjoy just going to our "library" to grab a book.

Some sections are quite diverse and rich in numbers, others we are still building on, but thus far I have mostly focused on subjects of interest to us. We have a whole shelf for anatomy, animals and nature, arts, history has 2 shelves, dinosaurs share a shelf with geology, astronomy shares the shelf with cookery, science and technology have a shelf, and "humanity" gets its own entire bookcase, since that's what we're really into... 
Here's what it looks like:

To the left, a basket of mementoes from different parts of the world (thank you people for donating all your kitschy souvenirs to op-shops, what a treasure trove for homeschoolers!). Above, another few country specific souvenirs; globe; basket with coins of the world; basket with Mondo figures. On the shelves, the books are sorted by continent and country, with less country-specific geographical books below, including folkloristic stories, mythology, theology and creation stories (we are atheists but have a keen interest on myths, human traditions and religions).

Above the bookcases, I have scientific kits and other bits.

The rest of the area is devoted to construction: on the shelves and inside the Trofasts that serve as a display for Lego, we have the train set, wooden blocks, Goldie Blox, Magformers (thank you Schoolkids bonus...), a full case of Magnetix (op-shop find, can you believe it???), marble run, castle set and, of course, there's all the Lego... lots of tubs of Lego (sorted by type), the table is for Heartlake City, and the shelves to the right have Lego booklets, books, Lego games and more Lego...

So here it is, one of the main hubs of our days :) The couch is in the other part of the lounge, so it's quite easy to grab a book and just sit yourself comfortably there to read it. Often, I will leave a couple of books laying on the couch (strewing) to spike the kids' interest. The floor is usually (lol) clear so we have room for building and to assemble puzzles etc.

Next post will be about our craft "room", which used to be the kitchen, but has since been moved outdoors...

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Not another homeschooling blog!

Yes it is, another homeschooling blog...

Just very briefly, because I'm supposed to get the kids to bed before they start another terribly convoluted project that requires them to be up for hours: we live in Victoria, where homeschooling regulations are quite flexible. We quite enjoy that as we are individuals with a strong sense of wonder and many ideas and a strong desire to learn. So being able to tailor our curriculum to our own interest and to follow our interests at our own pace is wonderful for us.
We are all bookworms here and much of our HS style and activities are defined by storytelling of various sorts. I will endeavour to write frequently about the various things we do.