Tag Archives: homeschooling

From my Commonplace… Wonder…

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Wonder:: A state of delight and astonishment at the mystery of our world.

“There is something very small-minded about a person who doesn’t wonder. One of the most dismal states is knowingness, where someone has settled for one narrow version of the world.”

“A life lived without wonder can easily drift into despair. Wonder is capable of nurturing hope even in times of doubt of loss.”

“Wonder is the necessary human condition, a state of being alive.”

“Day-to-day life finds most adults wonder deficient. Each day holds a new and profound experience for a small child, but it’s rare that I find myself in that vulnerable place, halfway between exhilaration and fear. I rarely find I have the time to stop and stare.”


Quotes from The Wonder Stuff article in The Simple Things January 2015
Linking up with Keeping Company CM

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


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.


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