Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our week of learning - 27th May - busy, busy, busy!

This has been a very busy & social week!

On Monday, Billy had a play date with a friend after school, Tuesday was drama class, Thursday we spent the day with my nieces (my oldest niece turned 17!) plus Joeys, Friday we had the afternoon at the park with other homeschoolers plus circus class, Saturday we went to the Rural Fire Brigade's open day and finally Sunday we went down to the Powerhouse Museum with family.

Current Readaloud: Finally finished The BFG by Roald Dahl; started on Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

English: Lots of reading (mainly Aussie Bites series) & audio books. He watched the Telling Tales show which features a folk story from different countries.

They played a fun game at Joeys which was all about giving & listening to instructions. One Joey was sitting (in a raincoat) with an empty bucket. Another Joey was about 5 metres away, blindfolded with a cup of water. The Joey with the bucket had to give instructions like "Walk forward 10 paces" to guide the blindfolded one to the bucket and tip the water - needless to say, there were a few misses :)

He spent some time on the Spellodrome site.

Maths: He's been learning about factors & prime numbers - he actually stopped in the middle of a game with his action figures on Wednesday to say "Mummy, 11 is a prime number isn't it?!".

He also watched a Cyberchase episode on different ways of keeping time - he's been obsessed with timing things on his watch and by counting the seconds!

He played a Cyberchase quest on the PBS kids site which is cross-curriculum.

Science & Technology: Lots of science this week. He watched a couple of Happy Scientist videos - one on surface tension and one on refraction. The show Science Clips this week was on magnets and springs. He also did several experiments using bicarb and vinegar with his cousin, including making a CO2 sandwich.

We caught the train down to Sydney to the Powerhouse Museum and went to the Earth to the Universe astronomy exhibition. We really didn't make it off the 1st floor which is the science experiments, computers & space!

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): The For the Juniors show was on mangroves this week.

He went to the Rural Fire Brigade open day, watched some videos on fires, chatted with the firemen and got to sit in the fire engine, dress up in the jacket and use the hose to knock down targets.

He woke up on Friday morning and decided he wanted to do an "Environment Project" - who was I to stand in his way??! He made a poster / collage thing. It represents the river with pollution in it (paper & plastic bags), a tree and a dead bird from the pollution!

He learnt how to look a street up in the street directory and find it on the map.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama, lots of imaginative play, and a trip to the art gallery. He put on circus with his cousin - complete with dress up :)

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class. Lots of running around and playing at the park. Lots of walking in Sydney.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He helped with tidying and made some Anzac biscuits with a bit of help.

School shows: BTN, Numbers Count, Science Clips, Telling Tales, For the Juniors, Count Us In, Cyberchase.

Other fun stuff: He's now completed the Premier's Adventure Challenge by visiting 3 art galleries or museums in the state. I have to send the form off so he can get a certificate.

He was also presented with his Adventure Challenge badge at Joeys - his first badge!

At the park, he and some other boys made an awesome shelter out of fallen tree branches..

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our big news!

Some fellow bloggers have given me itchy feet lately - in particular Lightening, the Wayward Wilkos and Libby. I'm blaming them anyway for our big news... (go on, follow the link - you know you want to...)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book #6 - Tom Appleby, Convict Boy by Jackie French

Tom Appleby Convict Boy

This is a kid's book written by Australian author Jackie French. It's about an 8 year old London boy, Thomas Appleby, who turns to theft to survive after he is left an orphan. He is caught, sent to Newgate Prison, and finally transported to Australia on the First Fleet.

Tom's story is told along with the history of the new colony. It details the conditions of the trip over, how the first colony almost starved because they couldn't adapt to the food that was available rather wanting the food they were used to and the day to day life of the settlers.

I actually got this out of the library thinking it might be ok to read to Billy but thought I'd better read it myself first. I'm glad I did! While not extremely graphic, some of the scenes (like the hangings and floggings) could be better left a few years.

A thoroughly enjoyable book for probably 10 year old and up though! While I've always been a huge Jackie French fan, having read her adult gardening books, and her kid's picture books, I'll be reading more of her historical series now.


I've also updated & sorted my book list. Check it out - I'm always open to suggestions :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 25

I can't believe I almost forgot to post this - I weighed in this morning but the dust storm blew it out of my head lol.

Weight loss from last week:
Total weight loss overall: 5 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

Wooohoo - I made it to my next goal weight! That's 5kg lost (in 25 weeks - now that's slow and steady lol)

My next goal is to lose another 2kg (by Xmas) and then I'll see how I feel at that weight. If I could get rid of some of the muffin top I'd be pretty happy I think.

Dust storm

We're in the middle of a giant dust storm here in the Hunter Valley atm - as is much of the state I think.

This was our view this morning - very eerie.

We've just moved into the bedroom for the day as it seems to be the best sealed room in the house. You can feel the dust down the back of your throat and it's hard to breathe. I'd hate to be asthmatic.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Our week of learning - 20th Sept - Just life lived well!

Current Readaloud: The BFG by Roald Dahl; Pete and Billy finally finished "The Hobbit" which has been their Friday night read-aloud for about 12 months!!


English: Lots of reading & audio books. The big news this week is that he has finally started (with encouragement) sitting and reading books to himself. He reads well to us, but hasn't done much reading by himself. I'm very pleased about it! The books he's reading aren't high quality ("Aussie Bites series") but he enjoys them because the stories are quirky.

Maths: He spent about an hour on the Mathletics website.

Science & Technology: More work on his circuit board kit. He's been doing more work on his websites and making cards with a card program.

He helped me pull the vacuum cleaner head apart to clean it (@#$% cat hair around one of the bits - and we haven't had a cat for nearly 2 years!) and discovered for himself how the air forced the brushes around and how all the dirt was sucked into the bag. He even remembered how to put it all back together - luckily!

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): He learnt about the testing of water quality and keeping the water environment clean at our Waterwatch Training day.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama, lots of imaginative play, and a trip to 2 art galleries - the Newcastle one to see an exhibition of Aboriginal art and the Maitland one to play in the "Kid's Space" and draw all over their blackboard area.

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing formal - lots of practising "hola" and "muchas gracious"...

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class. Lots of running around and playing (frisbee, cricket, running, catching) with his cousins at a b'day party today.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He helped with tidying, shopping, putting away. He cooked his own noodles and a ham & cheese omelette (with a bit of help getting them out of the pans).

School shows: BTN, Numbers Count, Science Clips, Telling Tales, For the Juniors

Other fun stuff: Magnetix & Lego play. Games of 'noughts & crosses', time on the computer creating cartoons and games.

The other big news - his cast came off on Thursday and all apears to be well. Yay!

Holly? Are you out there?

A homeschooling mum by the name of Holly emailed me about one of my posts, but I get a bounce when I try to reply. Holly, if you are out there - can you send me another email with your email address so I can try to reply to you? I'd hate you to think I was ignoring you!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book #5 - A Fortunate Life by A.B.Facey

A Fortunate Life (Puffin story books)

This is an Australian classic. It's an autobiography written by Albert Facey, a man born in 1894 in Victoria who spent much of his life in Western Australia.

He had a remarkably hard life by our standards. He was sent out to work for a living at about age 8 - hard work looking after farms. He worked at various times as a drover, building the rabbit-proof fence, working on the railway hammering spikes on the rail line, farmer, dingo killer, and boxer! As a young man, he fought in World War I at Gallipoli in which two of his brothers were killed, and he was injured. He lived through the Great Depression. He married, and he and his wife had 7 kids, one of whom was killed in World War II.

He was completely self-educated, teaching himself to read & write. He started keeping notes on his life after WWI, and eventually published his book in 1981, just 9 months before he died.

The story is told very simply, as if he's telling a "yarn" in person, but the story itself is remarkable. You realise how much you yourself have "a fortunate life". It's a story that will stay with you long after you've finished reading.

Friday, September 18, 2009

So where's the school work?

I wrote this post on one of our local homeschool forums a few days ago to clarify how we do "school" and I thought it was worth posting here for those that were wondering exactly how we do it.

Firstly some background:

When we first started homeschooling, I was very relaxed about how we did things - after all it was "only" kindergarten and he could already read, write his name, knew his numbers and could do basic sums. We took it easy and just did fun things.

This year we hit 1st grade and I thought we needed to get more formal with our school work. I tried to go with curriculum and structure - and caused more stress than it was worth. So now we're back in a relaxed, "natural learning", "unschooling" style - and he is learning just as much, if not more than before!


I class us as "relaxed eclectic". I actually love this term of "tidal homeschooling" -

* Disclaimer - this is what works for us and I'm in no way saying that everyone should do it this way! *

I think "natural learning" or particularly "unschooling" is quite misunderstood because it means different things to every family that does it! John Holt first coined the term "unschooling" to be "life without school" - it does not mean there can be no learning, or education or teaching. Generally it seems to mean that much of the focus is on what the child wants to learn - ie child-led or child-directed.

I'm finding more and more that if I try to teach Billy something that he has no interest in it is like bashing my head against a brick wall and is not enjoyable for either of us. And more importantly, he retains very little of it - so why bother??! If he is interested, then he's like a sponge soaking up everything he can!

That certainly doesn't stop me from finding ways to make new subjects interesting to him! Or introducing him to new ideas and concepts. But it means that I need to be prepared to accept that he's either not interested or not ready to learn something yet and to drop it on go onto something else.

We do informal unit studies in things he is interested in - atm he wants to learn more about Captain Cook, so we've been to the library to get some fun books that will capture his interest. I try to do things in a hands-on way or through living books - even Maths can be done via living books!

We don't follow a "scope and sequence" (although I do admit to having a list of concepts that I'd like to cover this year just as a mental checkpoint for me to reassure myself that he is learning!) My point of view is that "scope and sequence" is a very artifical concept that has been introduced by someone to make life easier in schools - and if the Australian states can't all agree on what to learn when, why should we??! I think every child learns things in a different order and at a different time! As long as kids have retained a love of learning, they will learn what they need to when it becomes important to them.

We don't sit down at a particular time of day though and "do school". He's learning from the time he gets up in the morning to when I tear him away from his computer to go to bed at night! He learns to handle money by actually paying for things in the shops, to weigh things by weighing the fruit in the vege shop. We try to make things relevant to "real life".

It also certainly does not mean (for us) that there are no rules. We do not "unparent". While I *try* to parent in a way that respects Billy as a person and give him choices about many things, there are still some things that are non-negotiable!


So that's where our school work is - incorporated into our everyday life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 24

Weight loss from last week: 0.25kg
Total weight loss overall: 4.75 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

0.25kg until I reach my next goal weight!! I did get back into the exercise a bit more this week, but need to stop eating so much bread :(

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Day in Our Life - Sept 15th

I used to do this when Little Jenny Wren was running it and have decided I want to try doing it again so people can see what a "typical" day in our life is like (if such a thing exists!).

5:45 - alarm goes off, lay in bed and listen to news, weather and trivia quiz. Get up and organise DH's breakfast and lunch. He leaves for work at 6:30.

Check emails, read blogs, make breakfast. Try to plan our week, but give up because the brain is too foggy! Billy is playing on his computer making cartoons with Toon Creator.

8am. I have a shower, make beds & put a load of washing on. Meanwhile Billy decides to watch Ghostbusters for what seems like the millionth time.

8:40am. I put my headphones in, put some music on (Grease soundtrack) and start doing some paid work. Billy decides to get his marbles out and plays a game with himself. He then moves onto Lego and starts making up an elaborate scenario.

9:40am. Finish work, go and hang the clothes out on the line. Cut B & I up some fruit for morning tea.

10am. Sit down to watch the school shows from today (BTN & Science Clips) and the ones we'd taped yesterday (Telling Tales & Numbers Count), while we have our fruit.

11am. I go out to the kitchen to start tackling the piles of dirty dishes left from us being out the last couple of days (*groan*) while Billy starts building some circuits with his circuit board. He brings it out to show me - once again, he has chosen one with sound - and an annoying sound at that!!!

He stays to hassle me (um I mean have quality time with me) and has a discussion about the blue tongue lizard we have living in our garden. He wants to know what length they will grow so I send him off to look it up on Google. I'm trying to get him to start looking things up himself rather than using my brain all of the time!!

He comes back, sidetracked, to tell me that the Google image is about crop circles and wants to know what crop circles are. I give him a brief explanation and he goes off to watch some of the videos on google about them.

He finishes that, and I get him back on track of looking up what length blue tongue lizards grow to. He tells me he can't find an answer, so I help him look it up. (600mm for those who are interested!)

12pm. Time for lunch! I pack snacks & drinks while I get our lunch ready, then 10 mins reading my book while we have lunch (B watches some TV). We get organised to go out.

1pm. We leave for Newcastle - an hour's drive away. We have a successful chiropractor's appointment, then get money out of the bank and buy fruit & vege. Back in the car and head into the CBD - we go to the Art Gallery first for about 20 mins - the exhibitions atm are an Indigenous art exhibition and a modern art display. I have to admit I'm not keen on the modern art.

Then walk next door to the library, where we spend about 20 mins looking for books on Captain Cook and convicts, and borrow what look to be some good ones.

Drop the books back into the car and walk Billy to his drama class.

4pm. B's drama class. After I drop him at his class and say hi to his teacher, I head off for a walk around the streets. I try a slight variation on my usual route as I'm trying to add some extra time to it. I end up walking a lap around the park (including up and down the steps) to add on another 5 minutes. Then I collapse in the car, have a drink, eat a banana and read my book until his class finishes and I can go and collect him.

5:10pm. Back in the car and heading home. It's peak hour so never a pleasant drive..

6pm. Get home, put the garbages out and unpack the car. Cook and eat a quick tea.

7pm. Pete leaves for squash, Billy watches some TV and I play on the computer. B moves to his computer and watches cleaning hints on the Lush House site - sometimes I wonder about that child :)

8pm. Start giving B the hurry up for bed. Story, cuddles and then finally he's gone about 8:30ish...

9pm. A quick tidy of the kitchen, put this blog post up and now I'm heading off to bed to read for a while. DH usually gets home from squash after I'm asleep so I won't see him again until tomorrow.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into our life - I'd love to see you do one too! (I know you already do Libby!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Waterwatch Training Day

About 50 local homeschoolers today went on a Waterwatch training day at the beautiful Williams River, Dungog.

Waterwatch is a government organisation responsible for monitoring water quality in the catchment areas - they mainly do it by training the community to do the testing and monitoring.

So we learnt how to take the water sample, test it for various things like temperature, pH, turbidity (how clear the water is) and salt level.

We also got involved in dipnetting to see what bugs we could find in the river to give an indication of the quality of the environment.

And just as importantly, the kids got to get wet afterwards :)

We had a gorgeous day for it and everyone had a fantastic time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our week of learning - 13th Sept - A new website!

Current Readaloud: The BFG by Roald Dahl


English: Lots of reading & audio books. He watched the 2nd part of a spelling program ("Spelling with the Spellits").

Maths: Several Cyberchase episodes - covering probability, area, estimating and fractions. We did a probability experiment - tossing a coin 20 times and recording whether it came up heads or tails. It actually ended up 10 / 10!! He also did some measuring around the house with the tape measure.

He spent many hours completing a computer game called "Clue Finders: 3rd Grade Adventure". It included maths, english, science, geography and logic. He's doing really well with multi-digit addition and subtraction. His method is "non-standard" but it works for him. For eg to add 25+34, he will break that down in his head to 20+30+5+4. While it may not be "by the formula", it proves to me that he understands what he is doing rather than just following a formula.

Science & Technology: He made 'rockets' using a film canister, alka seltzers & water.

The big project that he's been working on this week has been learning to use Frontpage and creating his own webpage (beware - the home page is very colourful!!!). He also used Photoshop and Pivot in it's creation.

I signed him up to and he spent some time on the science section.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We had a discussion of Greek mythology including Mt Olympus and Zeus. We read the myth of Pandora's Box from a great comic book of Greek Myths.

Greek Myths

At Joeys they had an "Around the World in 80 days" theme and played games from different countries.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama, lots of imaginative play, and a trip to the Lovett Art Gallery to see an exhibition of book illustations.

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class plus lots of practicising through the week with his diabolo, devil sticks and spinning plate.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He helped with gardening, tidying and vacuuming.

Other fun stuff: As well as the Joey's fun day, he also invited neighbourhood friends over on Wednesday afternoon for a play.

Joey's Fun Day

Today was our region's Joey's Fun Day - about 200 Joeys (youngest level of Boy Scouts) gathered at a park in Newcastle for a day of activities with a 'Lost in Space' theme. Boy did they have some fun!

Among other things, they did some space themed craft like making rockets & meteors

fired air powered 'rockets'

ran an obstacle course 5 or 6 times!

walked across the rope bridge

made some alien face biscuits

went on the flying fox

and played various 'space themed' games.

I was exhausted - and I was just walking around helping out!! As you can imagine, the boy had a great day!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wish me luck - I'm going in!

Yes, today is the day. It's time to go into the frozen wastelands and find alien life forms - or in domestic terms, I'm off to clean out the freezer :)

I've been running down the stocks in the freezer and using up the containers of things that I'm always sure I'll remember what they are when I freeze them, but never do! It's made for some interesting meals!

Next week I intend to do a monthly shop - I'm attempting to go from fortnightly grocery shopping to monthly. It'll be challenging I'm guessing!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What's in your reading pile? September 2009

I've seen something similar to this on other blogs, and thought it was a good idea - I've just never got around to doing it before!

These are at the top of my reading pile atm - after reading a book from the library called "Camelot's Honour", I'm on a bit of an Arthurian kick(again) :)

Currently on the go are:

  • "The Betrayal of Arthur" by Sara Douglass - a non-fiction book examining the Arthur legend and how's it's changed over the years.
  • "Wild Designs" by Katie Fforde - it's a light chick-lit for the times I can't handle anything heavier!
Still to come:
  • "A Fortunate Life" by A.B.Facey - an Australian autobiography
  • "The Last Gospel" by David Gibbins - I picked this out of the display at the library - it looks like a "Da Vinci code" type book
  • "Camelot: The once and future king" by TH White, "The Crystal Cave" and "The Hollow Hills" by Mary Stewart - more King Arthur classics.
So share - what's in your reading pile?

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 23

Weight loss from last week: 0.5kg
Total weight loss overall: 4.5 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

I don't know how I lost 0.5kg - I have had zero motivation and have done zero exercise, but I'll take it :) It offsets those weeks where I worked hard but didn't lose anything!!!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Our week of learning - 6th September - A magical week..

Current Readaloud: We started on The BFG by Roald Dahl - loving it!

English: Lots of reading & audio books. He watched a spelling program ("Spelling with the Spellits") and spent some time on Spellodrome.

Maths: He learnt the concept of "doubling" while learning magic tricks on the PBS kids "Math Magic" site. We also played Addition War.

He played a computer CD called "Arthur's Logic Games" and revised ordinal numbers watching "Count Us In".

Science & Technology: He made another circuit with the circuit board, watched a show on Rocks and Soils, and made a 3 way string phone to see if it would work.

He decided that he wanted a CAD program that architects use (he'd seen one earlier on a TV show about designing cubby houses), so he googled for one, found a trial version, asked me if he could download it, did so, installed it and taught himself how to use it! He designed a house for himself - let's just say the layout is unconventional :) I pulled our house plans out so he could see those, and he spent some time orienting the plans with the actual house (something I am dreadful at doing!).

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We watched an animation of the Greek myth "Theseus and the Minotaur".

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama, lots of imaginative play, and another trip to the Maitland Art Gallery.

We went to see a play called "The Fastest Boy in the World" - we both really enjoyed it. Lots of great songs and video displays as well as the acting. My favourite scene was when he got an air-guitar for his birthday :)

Billy also made an artwork using a sheet of photo paper, food colouring in a tray of water, and salt sprinkled on top of the picture to create different effects.

He was also busy making Father's Day cards and presents.

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He reached his "bronze level" in the spinning plate at circus - which means he was able to demonstrate certain skills with the plate like keeping it spinning while balancing on one leg, sitting down and standing back up again, and lying down and standing back up again. Yay!

He also went for a walk around our street to deliver some letters and spent time at the playground with his younger cousins.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He helped with meal preparation, unloading the dishwasher & tidying.

Other fun stuff: He's been busy on the computer as usual - game creator, toon creator, lego designer etc. Lots of imaginative play and playing with lego. He has been busy practising magic tricks, learning new ones, and putting on shows for anyone who will stand still long enough!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 22

Weight loss from last week: stayed the same
Total weight loss overall: 4.0 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

I'm back on the weight loss wagon.. I didn't gain any weight over the last couple of weeks of eating rubbish (which is very shocking!)

I have 3 kg to go to reach my next (and possibly final) goal. I want to do it by Xmas but would be nice if it was sooner!