Category Archives: Homeschooling

A Charlotte Mason Afternoon

Last week I took myself off on a little adventure. I drove to the airport, hopped on a plane (all at an absurdly early hour), met some new people, talked, laughed, ate delicious food, discussed books, looked at books, oohed and ahhed over some beautiful books, slept very little, then I retraced my steps on another plane, returning home to my waiting family. I made some lifelong friends (didn’t I lovely ladies? friends for life?), learnt ever so much about homeschooling using the Charlotte Mason method, asked a lot of questions, shared my experiences with others and came home feeling very inspired for the year ahead and very content with the homeschool plans I have in place.

It was the first time I had travelled alone since I was 18. Yes, seriously. Quite a number of years have past since I’ve done something like this and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience – cancelled flight and all (my flight mix-up was a gift to me – it allowed me to meet a lady whose conversation I found quite impacting at this season of my life). I was collected by complete strangers (well, one was a fellow blogger, so I felt I knew her from her online words) and spent the next couple days in their company and what a delightful experience that was – a meeting of fellow kindred spirits.

While I had a couple days together with these couple ladies, the real purpose for my adventure was a Charlotte Mason afternoon hosted by Jeanne. We discussed various aspects of our homeschooling experiences and I suspect each of the 20 gathered ladies went home with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement as we begin a new homeschooling year – I certainly did.

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CM Afternoon

 

Waratah and Wattle

The following poem by Henry Lawson was one of our poetry readings this week. Quite appropriately coinciding with Australia Day. I thought I would share it this weekend as we celebrate this beautiful country we live in.

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Waratah and Wattle

by Henry Lawson

 

Though poor and in trouble I wander alone,

With a rebel cockade in my hat;

Though friends may desert me, and kindred disown,

My country will never do that!

You may sing of the Shamrock, the Thistle, and Rose,

Or the three in a bunch if you will;

But I know of a country that gathered all those,

And I love the great land where the Waratah grows,

And the Wattle-bough blooms on the hill.

 

Australia! Australia! so fair to behold,

While the blue sky is arching above;

The stranger should never have need to be told,

That the Wattle-bloom means that her heart is of gold,

And the Waratah red bloom of love.

 

Australia! Australia! most beautiful name,

Most kindly and bountiful land;

I would die every death that might save her from shame,

If a black cloud should rise on the strand;

But whatever the quarrel, whoever her foes,

Let them come! Let them come when they will!

Though the struggle be grim, ’tis Australia that knows,

That her children shall fight while the Waratah grows,

And the Wattle blooms out on the hill.

 

From: When I was King, and other verses, 1905

On Our Bookshelves

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I’m a book lover, that’s no secret. My childhood was spent with a book as my constant companion and I’ve continued to cultivate this book friendship into adulthood. Having said that though, I pick and choose with great care the books that either myself or my children will read. The story needs to meet several criteria before it will grace our book shelves. This rules out a lot of popular children’s series and much other ‘twaddle’ which I discover in the local library. But it has created in my children (and myself) a love of beauty, nobility, history, the arts, the written language and desire to learn more about the world around us. Which I feel is a good thing.  So I thought I’d begin sharing some of our current favourite books with you here.

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What Bird is That? by Neville Cayley

We are studying Birds in our science program this year and coincidentally began the year living in a location which is an important Australian habitat for migratory shorebirds. We were privileged to  observe the migration to and from our little point of land. Thousand upon thousands of birds were seen enjoying the summer warmth in the mangroves, then as winter approached the sky would fill with flocks of birds en-route to somewhere as far away as Alaska or Siberia!! We still find that amazing, those little birds which lived by the water near our home would fly all the way to the opposite side of the earth to nest, raise their young and meet back ‘down under’ again in half a years time.

With birds being a part of our daily conversations, I felt this book, What Bird is That by Neville W. Cayley,  would be well thumbed through and enjoyed. And how right I was. This is a collection of beautiful artworks of Australian birds collated into one volume. Originally published in 1931, the preface states, “Cayley’s aim in creating this work was to make available a book that would encouraged and help people to learn about and appreciate Australia’s remarkable and unique birdlife.” It certainly does that. The illustrations are incredibly detailed and worthy works of art in their own right.

Although we have other nature guides and ‘bird books’ this volume has become our ‘go to’ book when we observe a new species of bird. Just yesterday my 6 year old came running inside to flick through the pages to find the bird he saw flying by and see if it was indeed a variety of Kite as he suspected. Moments such as these are so encouraging and make me realise the value found in studying a volume such as this.

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 Castle by David Macaulay

History is a genre which I’ve only really discovered in my adult years. I’m sure I did the required ‘history’ subjects in my schooling but any memory of that is very faint and any knowledge of the actual history is long gone. Then I married a history loving husband. A person who held dreams of being an archeologist – this was a completely foreign concept to me so I set myself to the task learning more. A year spent in the history rich countries of England and Europe allowed me to visit the historical sites and learn within real life context and thus consolidated my enjoyment of the historical story of our world and the people which have traversed before us.

In my desire to instil this enjoyment of our world’s heritage, both recent and ancient, I read well-written historical stories to my children regularly. In this way, together we have discovered some very interesting people, events and the different way in which these people of days gone past lived. The current exploration of castles, knights, ladies and the heroism and chivalry which  encapsulates the Middle Ages has enthralled us all.

So it was with several previously read historical story books as a background that I stumbled across this book. It has brought the people found within those other stories to life for us. The incredibly detailed illustrations show the construction of the castles and towns in this period. While the ‘story’ doesn’t exactly captivate us, it is a dialogue which describes the illustrations well, tying them together within the context of a Lord and his family, workers, servants, King and the local townspeople. In that sense, this is definitely a book my detailed picture loving 10 year old pours over without any thought that he would gain more by actually reading the words. It was the first book by this author/illustrator which I have seen in real life. And given the natural bent of my biggest son who relates to this type of work, I’ll definitely be adding more in the series to our bookshelves in the future.

 

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Professor Cockatoo’s Amazing Weather Dust by Dan Vallely, Illustrated by Yvonne Perrin

Possum Creek and the variety of animal characters who live there have delighted our family for many years. True Australian classics, we all enjoy sitting down with any of these picture books in hand. The lilting poetry makes the listening easy, while the illustrations are a feast for the eyes. I think a true test of a picture book lies not only in the words (although I do love a well written story) but the illustrations as well. The pictures really make these books complete and are superb. Many a time I will be finished reading the words on the pages but a little hand is found holding the next page closed. I can’t turn until he has finished ‘looking properly’. I’ve got to conclude that that is a sure sign of a great picture book.

I thought we owned the full selection of stories in our ‘complete’ volume of Possum Creek. But then, while browsing a favourite second hand book shop, I discovered this treasure and also a poetry book from the same publishers. This has been read countless times already and still brings giggles each and every time. And, if I’m totally honest, it’s a book I don’t mind returning to whenever it is brought as the chosen bedtime read.

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Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons

This is possibly an unusual choice to highlight in this post. But it’s a homeschooling classic which I’m returning to for the third time and still find it perfectly suited for assisting my little ones in their quest to make sense of the combination of letters and sounds which make up the English language. Unlike the previous couple selections, this one is certainly no visual feast. It’s plain boring. I mean, really, it would be hard to make a learn to read program more dreary if you tried. I would have passed it right over after a first glance if it hadn’t been recommended so highly by so many veterans in the field. So I gave it a go with my first and my second and now my third. And with great success for all.

There isn’t really a lot to say here except that by following the short lessons and spending about 10 minutes a day sitting on the couch with each munchkin has resulted in a little person who can make sense of the characters found within other books. In other words, a reading success. I’ve never got through all the lessons before they were off and reading on their own and at that point this easily gets phased out and in its place I listen to them read their own selection of real books.

Would I recommend it? Yes, Yes, Yes. It’s inexpensive and works. There are so many learn to read  programs out there which are bright, cheerful and full of great hands on activities. And all, I’m sure, have their merits. But in our family, all that other ‘stuff’, craft and activities, happen as part of life. So I really appreciate the simplicity of this book, I don’t have to spend hours each morning doing all sorts of painting activities to help my little one learn to read. What a relief. Just a simple, no nonsense approach which then allows us to quickly move onto reading ‘real’ books and being creative as we live life together.

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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

This selection has been a steadfast resident of my bedside table this year. Last year with the talk of the new movie/musical being released and the musical selections from the original being played very regularly in our household, I became interested in the original work. I have seen the musical in a live performance, on video and then proceeded to watch the new movie. I know many of the songs from memory and can play them on piano. But…. I felt I never really understood the full story. Oh sure I could give you a run-down of the story line and even express it’s ability to tell a story with the strength of the underlying theme of redemption. But, I didn’t really understand so many aspects of this tale.

So I made it my 2013 goal to read the original work. Well, more specifically, the English translation of the original work. It wasn’t until May that I actually owned a copy of the book, oops not off to a great start, and I expect that the reading of this will last well beyond the end of this year. But I’m enjoying the process. It’s a daunting task to read the small print on 1,301 pages, written in a style which takes a bit of mental work to get used to, about topics which challenge my knowledge, ie. currently I’m reading a section of over 150 pages as a sideline to the main plot, describing the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s defeat. It’s challenging to understand the intricacies of the story when my knowledge of the history of this event is sorely lacking. So learning I am, on many fronts as I tackle this massive work. I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge it sets me, the mental work which is required to process each paragraph, the depth of writing, the morals conveyed and the over arching ‘story’ which it encompasses. And I’m now a whole 308 pages into it.

 

 

Homeschooling with Toddlers

It’s a question I’m asked with regularity. In fact it’s been asked of me 4 times in the past week alone. It seems a concept which baffles many people.

“How do you homeschool with little ones around?”

My response is far from practiced, which is surprising considering how often I’m required to give it. I usually shrug my shoulders a little, squint my face a little, and wonder the same thing myself. How do I do it? I don’t really know. The days just flow and come and go – some better than others – but the home routine remains a stable backdrop to the days, whatever they entail.

So with my half-hearted responses still fresh in my mind, I thought it was a good time to actually work through the practical considerations which make our homeschooling family lifestyle work. As I was sitting outside mulling over this issue, while staring into space as the children rode their bikes and skateboards all around me, I decided I’d share a few points here with you. Who knows, it just might be the inspiration you are looking for, or maybe it will add another little idea for you to keep in your Mummy toolkit, or maybe you really aren’t all that interested – and that is just fine with me as well. But I guess that it’s a topic of interest to many people based on the amount I get asked about this.

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How do I homeschool with Toddlers around?:

  • I take each day as it comes. Some will be ‘model’ days (remember these and reflect on them often!), others will feel like you are trudging uphill. Go with it and be flexible. Give yourself grace and be flexible. The ‘cranky baby days’ probably won’t work for teaching a hard to grasp math concept, try that tomorrow and do some review or drills today instead or simply leave the math altogether for the day. Be flexible (I think I’ve said that already). Remember that children still learn in a variety of environments and some seasons of life lend themselves to a more relaxed way of learning/teaching.
  • Be organised. This is my way of coping with any situation in life. I like to have everything in order and organised. I’ve never done the last minute cram thing, even when I was studying all my assignments were completed well before they were due. I get severely stressed when I’m feeling like things are getting to the ‘last minute’ stage or a deadline is approaching which I’m unprepared for. Now, each evening I will usually put out any books, activities, car trip necessities or water bottles etc. ready for the next day. I have checklists made for just about everything (some of which get used and some don’t). I have lists of activity ideas for all the children. It seems a lot of work sometimes, but being organised means we can always find our school resources, or our craft items, or this or that particular book or….. and this is important to me.
  • I make sure the older children always know what they need to do. Again it comes down to those lists and being organised. I’ve worked with a few different systems here. At the moment I have a basic weekly checklist which I give to the two older children listing the subjects they need to complete on each day. Most are easy to understand for them individually ie. they know to do one exercise in math, one chapter in each book etc. But it’s also easy for them to ask me if they need direction on exactly what to do once they have the books out and are beginning work themselves. It limits my involvement in directing their every move while doing ‘school’.
  • Make a loose plan but keep it flexible (there’s that word again).
  • Give the younger children focused time early in the day. I keep coming back to this one whenever I’m having an ‘issue’ with my little ones. And it really makes a big difference. How often do these little children just go with the flow in the busyness of family life? I’ve found that dedicating time to the youngest and second youngest first in the morning makes the day flow much better. Their little ‘love-tanks’ are full and it’s like they know they don’t need to fight for attention any more so they are more happy in their own space for a while. I think practically in this time though – a lot of things need to happen in those busy morning hours and the little ones generally love being a big helper. My little ones love helping hang the washing, handing me the pegs as we talk together the whole time (yes it does take longer), or maybe we will sort or tidy up together etc. It think it’s important for me as a Mum to take this time in the freshness of a new day to delight in these little ones and the stages they are at. Enjoying their childhood moments with an overflowing heart of gratitude.
  • Have a morning routine in place. All those morning tasks happen without much effort here (most days). The whole family knows the expectations of beds made, tidy rooms etc. before breakfast. They automatically gravitate to the piano first thing in the morning when it’s their turn to practice (well sometimes, read:often, they need a subtle reminder, but we are working on it). I put on a load of washing each morning on my way to the kitchen without even thinking about what I’m doing. This frees up precious head space for other more important things and giving the little ones the attention they require.
  • Include the younger children wherever possible. This can take so many forms. Sitting on the bench helping me put the cheese and tomato on the sandwiches. Sitting on my lap drawing while I’m helping the others. Giving the big kids things they need like pencils etc. Playing with pattern blocks while the big kids use them for math etc. What the activity actually entails isn’t all that important. I find the key here is my attitude. I need to be consciously looking for and creating ways to include the little ones (even when it means things take longer, or get messier).
  • Have organised activities for the little ones. I’ll cover this in more detail in future posts. But I have a large assortment of weird and wonderful activities in calico bags or plastic tubs ready to grab at a moments notice (a lot of these are not typical ‘toys’ but things like post-it notes and star stickers, magnets etc.). I also have a little shelf at the moment which I rotate several activities weekly for my youngest. Depending on the ages and personalities of the children, I have previously had a tub which I would fill with books, activities etc. for each child and change it regularly, or have a surprise basket to whip-out when it was needed, or a box of random things I’ve collected around the house – old lids, trinkets, pom-poms etc. which the little ones seem to find fascinating. (This is a big topic for me and the way I manage my home and family so it will probably be ongoing topic found here.)
  • Do school in a child friendly location. Some ages work best with the action happening at the kitchen table. Some days work best when the reading is done on the trampoline or on a rug on the grass in the sunshine, or sitting in a tree. . . At one stage I had a little rebounder trampoline in the school area which was fantastic for my little active boy. Other times I’ve set all the children on separate rugs on the floor to work on whatever they are doing, it’s a good change around and makes the little ones feel like building with blocks is important as well.
  • Restructure the timetable to work best with rest times. Pretty self-explanatory, I suppose. While I’m quite protective of my quite hour in the afternoon, I will often use it to help an older child or listen to someone read or whatever I didn’t get a chance to do earlier in the day.
  • And above all, be flexible and prepared to just go-with-the-flow each and every day. 

 

I hope my musings here are helpful in some way, shape or form. Putting this all down on paper has certainly helped me remember the little things which are important in the smooth running of our family living this homeschooling lifestyle. I’ve also realised a few areas which I need to be more consistent in and give these little ones of mine some more focused Mummy time early in each day.

If you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll try my best to help you here, in my little patch of the blogosphere.

 

— :: Live Your Love :: —

Corinna

 

The Red Shirt Brigade

‘Mum can you wear a red shirt please?’

I looked up in my semi-still-asleep-state to see my Alexander grinning from ear to ear wearing … a red shirt, holding ….. a similar red shirt for me to dress his younger brother in.

‘It’s important Mum, and you need black pants as well.’ These words were mumbled as he ran down the hall on a hunt for his brother’s matching black pants.

The tone of voice and excitement with which it was filled, instilled within me the absolute importance of getting dressed just right on this morning. Both boys had cars printed on their shirts and unfortunately I couldn’t produce one quite like that – but red shirt and black pants were found and became our attire for the day ahead. The Red and Black Crew he christened us or maybe it should be the Red Shirt Brigade, hmmm decisions. Both names stuck and were used interchangeably which seemed to work just fine.

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Breakfast was gulped in a hurry because there was a day ahead to be lived and the sooner it gets going, the sooner the fun could begin. We proceeded to organise the older two children and dropped them off at a friends house for a day of study – wooo hoo – I suspect this friend’s Mum is rather more academically rigorous than I am and the children knew this, but it didn’t damper their excitement – win win all round, I say.

Then it was home for a whole day with just Mummy, Alexander and Eamon. What an rare treat. In fact I can’t really remember if it’s ever happened before. Just the three of us to do…..? to do….? whatever it is little boys like to do?

Our special day was spent entirely indoors, due to the moisture falling from the sky. But that didn’t damped any spirits. Cars, painting, drawing, bouncing balls, snap (with Princess cards, no less), snakes and ladders…. the list continues.

In reflection, what we did was really not that important. What caused the great excitement was the anticipation of special time spent alone (or almost alone) with Mum. An opportunity to be all grown up and special. A time to be the biggest boy and make Mummy a special morning tea. A whole day to do just whatever this five year old wanted and included his little brother of course, which just added to the fun. And really a time for Mummy to shower love on these two little boys who go along with the rhythm of this family just nicely but at times it seems as if life flows swiftly around them and they need a special day – just for them.

For me it was a wonderful, focused opportunity to be a student of these children again. To study them, figure out how they tick, delight in the way they have grown and share in their absolute joy and love for this life they live.

Ahhh. How I love these special Red Shirt Brigade boys. Maybe I’ll have to figure out a way to make this a more regular occurrence.

The Butterfly Effect

Butterflies have been quite a recurring theme around our place in recent days. Their beauty has melded into our lives in a variety of different forms.

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This Beauty came to visit our front yard a few days ago. Much to the delight and amazement of us all. It was as if it had come to visit purely for our enjoyment, fluttering around us and resting on the bush right beside where we were eating our snack. Quite coincidently I had my camera in hand and the butterfly remained still just long enough to snap these photos. (I’m extremely inexperienced at such wildlife photography.)

The Wonderland of Nature by Nuri Mass has been our morning tea reading most of this year. We have all loved this book especially as it describes Australian insects, animals and plants and we have referred back to it on many occasions after discovering an insect or plant which we had previously read about. Our readings for these past couple weeks have described in detail various caterpillars and their transformation into butterflies and moths. Almost as if on cue, the butterfly above fitted into my nicely organised homeschool lessons more perfectly than I could have planned – the beauty of learning as we live our lives together.

We have recently read (and on several previous occasions, I might add) The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrew.  A delightful picture book which outlines the lives of a few people over a few generations. The influence each person has on the next is seen quite clearly and ‘The Butterfly Effect’ demonstrated so beautifully.

But it was a television show which sparked the discussion. A short, clever, funny show which has the ability to bring children and adults alike running as soon as the theme music begins – it doesn’t matter if the 5 year old is half way brushing his teeth or the two year old has been snuggled into bed after stories and cuddles, they all come running, then disappear just as quickly afterwards. Miniscule has become a family favourite to snuggle on the couch together for a giggle and laugh before bedtime reading.

The title of the show last night was ‘The Butterfly Effect’. This prompted quite an in-depth discussion between Brad and I regarding the subtleties between the words ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ resulting in a dictionary and thesaurus being referenced. Then as the show ended the children were intrigued as to what ‘The Butterfly Effect’ actually was. And was it real? I mean could a simple flapping of a butterflies wings really produce a profound effect somewhere else in the world? If that was so, then us running, blowing, sneezing……. would all have a similar reaction, wouldn’t it?

Hmmm….. how to answer. Well I didn’t have any scientific explanation and I had to agree that the concept was rather hard to comprehend. The Boy Who Changed The World describes it well even if a little abstractly;

Every time something happens, something else happens. That’s called the butterfly effect. When a butterfly flaps its wings, it moves tiny pieces of air … that move other tiny pieces of air … that move other tiny pieces of air. In fact, on the other side of the world, they might be feeling a big whoosh of wind – all because a butterfly flapped its wings here just a few minutes ago!

So I brought it back to something we could all see and renamed it ‘The Ripple Effect’. We collected a little pebble and threw it into the still water. This produced ripples which grew in size and intensity and continued growing and flowing until they reached the shore. Good, a concrete example we could all observe and relate to (and nothing to do with butterflies which seemed too gentle and beautiful to be involved in such an analogy according to my daughter).

The discussions continued all day as each brought a new perspective on ‘The Ripple Effect’. How much we influence those about us, even without knowing, just by the little things we do, has fascinated these children of mine. The three older ones have all made definitive plans about just how they are going to make the world a better place when they are older and are 100% convinced that what they are learning about and doing now is in fact making the future world a better place to live in. The conversations I overheard among themselves showed me just how seriously they were taking this concept. Every action they take, so it seems, has been analysed (by themselves) to make sure the ‘ripple effect’ they are creating is a good one – they certainly don’t want to create a devastating tsunami ripple.

Once again I’m astounded by the understanding and child-like acceptance of these children of mine. They teach me daily, and once again I become the student. My influence is far greater than I can imagine. It flows from the conversations I have, they way I live my life, the little things which I am consistent within the four walls of my home and the person I decide to turn up as each and every day. Just by living my life and being the best me I can be at this moment is creating a ripple of influence. Wow, what a responsibility. I’m determined to once again raise my standards and expectations of myself. To take a good, long, honest look at myself and decided what I need to continue or change. It’s a good reminder and I’m once again grateful for the lesson I’ve learnt from these amazing children.

 

 

Linking up with:

Homeschool Happenings

{ This Week }

Arriving back midweek from a holiday at the beach we slowly edged ourselves closer to our ‘normal’ family rhythm. A week spent swimming, making sandcastles and wandering with no particular agenda had inpired the creativity in us all – as such times of nothingness have a habit of doing in our family. While the holiday was fantastic and much enjoyed, we all do settle in nicely to the normality of home. Home seems to be the place we can create and allow our imaginations and creative impulses take on lives of their own as we float from one project to the next.

This week our days were filled with lots of paper, scissors, glue, paints, pencils and patterns.

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A Montessori inspired tub was filled with colour a few weeks back. The novelty and exploration had worn thin and it hadn’t been looked in for a while but I hadn’t yet changed the contents of the colour tub yet. It got brought out again this week but the exploration took a totally new direction – I love seeing the children learning with their own creative imaginations like this. The children added a few paper plates, a pair of scissors and a bottle of glue to the tub and the creations (and conversations) which ensued were very ‘arty’.

Alexander and I were looking through a simple Math book about shapes and patterns. The circle and square pictures inspired us all to create our own circle and square masterpieces. We cut out a pile of these shapes in a variaty of clours and sizes and added in some glue and pens. The outcome was some very cute people and a few trees. Most of these were made especially for some special people, with a lot of love!

I was a bit distracted one morning with several phone calls to make. I glanced out the office window to see this in process. The three children were using water to paint patterns on the pavers. They then experiemented with the patterns of leaves. An hour or so of simple enjoyment was had by all.