Monday, November 30, 2009

Our week of learning - 29th Nov

This will be the last weekly summary for a while. Billy certainly won't be stopping learning, I'll just be stopping recording! I'll still post anything extra exciting that we do.

Current Readaloud: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Roald Dahl's "George's Marvellous Medicine".

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz George's Marvellous Medicine

Lots of reading - more Choose-your-own-adventure books.

Maths: He watched a couple of Cyberchase episode about inversing operations and scale on bar graphs and did some sums in a puzzle book.

Science & Technology: We did a rust experiment which failed spectacularly lol! The one in the glass *didn't* go rusty and the one under water did! Oh well, Billy did at least learn that metal needs oxygen and water to rust!

We wrote secret messages using onion juice which showed up when we ironed the paper.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): The For the Juniors show this week was about New Years celebrations and the different customs, so he's learnt all about resolutions!

Our homeschooling group had a history day - the kids dressed up as an historical figure and we played games based (loosely) around historical games. We played 'newspaper hockey' (Ancient Greece), 'chariot racing' (Ancient Rome) and 'balloon Aztec ball' (Ancient Meso-America).

He watched a video of the Horrible Histories series - "Terrible Tudors". He thinks it's very cool that Henry VIII was Queen Elizabeth I dad - he seems to have an interest in her!

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class - more practising for their play which is coming up in a couple of week's time.

We made our scarecrow as I posted before.

He went to an Art day at the art gallery, saw the new exhibitions and made some drawings and dioramas.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class, swimming at a friend's house, and another trip to the pool.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Decluttering his books to sell on eBay!

School shows: Numbers Count, Spelling with the Spellits.

Other fun stuff:
His Joey's group did more Xmas craft this week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food Inc - must see documentary..

Earlier in the week, Molly from the Cross Roads blog posted about a movie called Food Inc -

It's about where our food really comes from, and let me tell you, it's eye-opening. While American-based, I'm sure a lot of the same practices would go on in Australia. It's based a lot on a book called Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser that I read a few years ago and made me more aware, but this movie made more of an impact on me. I'm not sure if it was the visual aspect of it, or the fact that I'm in a different place in my mind & life this time around.

The first thing I'm going to change is to stop buying my meat from the stupidmarket, and buy it direct from the farmer. I've found one website that delivers to the Hunter Valley - and the prices look quite reasonable. Can anyone recommend a company?

Go and watch the videos while you still can - 2 of the 10 parts have already been forced to be removed from YouTube. I'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If I only had a brain...

What else do you do when you're reading The Wizard of Oz but decide to make a scarecrow? And in "our" usual "lets-jump-into-the-most-complicated-version-we-can-think-of" way, not just an ordinary scarecrow, but one with removable clothes... So yeah, basically a big rag doll.. Sure, why not..

So here's the result of our day's work - a Billy-sized scarecrow.

sans clothes

And fully dressed...

And now, having put so much effort into him, he's officially an indoor scarecrow.. You know, to keep the um... flies ... away..

Maybe one day soon we'll make a scarecrow that can live outside and earn its keep.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Look at the big picture" by Billy

There was a boy who wanted a cammara for Xmas. His name is Sam and for Xmas he got a cammara. He took pic of people but theay were bad. After he tried 1000 millin times he was a prefeshanal.

The End.

Our week of learning - 22nd Nov - Welcome to Oz

Current Readaloud: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Roald Dahl's "George's Marvellous Medicine".

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz George's Marvellous Medicine

Lots of reading - he's started reading an old Choose-your-own-adventure book we got at a book sale recently and is quite enjoying the format.

He watched a TV show about spelling rules, wrote a procedure for making your chocolates, wrote a (very) short script, created a brochure to promote his library in Publisher, and wrote a story.

We watched The Wizard of Oz together, and watched the first episode of the modern sci-fi/fantasy version called Tin Man.

Maths: He watched Numbers Count which was about recording & interpreting data and watched a Cyberchase episode about fractions.

Science & Technology: He had another C# programming lesson with his dad and has created a simple calculator. He's been busy updating his website again, and using Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft Publisher and a couple of card making programs.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): The For the Juniors show this week was about Xmas celebrations and the different customs.

We had a day at a local farm Oakvale Farm where he got to pat the koalas, feed the baby animals and milk a cow. (Well attempt to anyway!) We only stayed for a few hours because it was an extremely hot day - about 40 deg C!.

Creative & Practical Arts: It's been Hollywood here this week - he made up a movie based on The Wizard of Oz called "There's no place like MangoSt". I was roped in as cameraman but other than that he did the whole thing himself. He then edited it in Windows Movie Maker and we uploaded it to YouTube. (It takes about 5 minutes if you want to watch it.)

He also made a book cover for the story he wrote and drew a cartoon on the front.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class, time playing with friends.

A trip to the dentist was an opportunity to learn more about taking care of his teeth.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Watering the garden, keeping his room tidy.

School shows: Numbers Count, Spelling with the Spellits.

Other fun stuff:
His Joey's group made Xmas decorations this week.

Living / unschooling maths

It's been 5 months since Billy had a formal maths lesson (ie with worksheets & set tasks). As much as I loved the curriculum we were using, it just wasn't a fit with Billy, and I came to the realisation that nothing would be a good fit. He's a very asynchronous learning and hates repetition, not to mention hates worksheets with a passion, so any formal curriculum would have to be chopped and changed. I started to read the Living Math yahoo group - reading the posts made me see the maths that's all around us. I started doing fun maths things like playing card games during "Maths Time", then as I relaxed I dropped the scheduled times altogether.

Maths now mainly consists of Billy asking questions as he needs to know something and me explaining how to get the answer. A few months ago he asked me "If we had 25 kids coming over and we wanted to give them each a small drink bottle filled with Coke, how many 2 L bottles would we need to buy?" First of all I got him to fill and measure the smaller bottle's volume with water - 250ml. Then I talked him through the calculation I was making - we'd need 25 lots of 250ml, or 6250ml. We talked about the fact that "milli" means 1000, so there are 1000ml in 1 L. So we'd need 6.25 L of coke, and then I got him to work out how many 2L bottles we'd need to make sure we'd have enough. Now that question was obviously hypothetical - 1) I am not having 25 kids at my house and 2) I wouldn't feed them Coke if they were! - but he came up with it, so to him its far more real than anything you'd find on a worksheet.

He'll also ask questions like "if the pizza is cut into 8 pieces and there are 3 of us, how many pieces will we get each?". He likes to give his own twist though and after working out the proper answer, he'll usually come up with one like "or we can have 2 pieces each and then whoever finishes first can have the 2 leftover bits!"

There are some other maths resources that get picked up & put down as he wants.

Cyberchase - This is a really cool series of cartoons dealing with a maths theme - its a group of kids in cyperspace who have to foil the plans of The Hacker who has infected Motherboard with a virus. I even enjoy watching them with Billy! There's also an associated website that has fantastic games etc on it.

Timez Attack - This is a Doom type game where they learn times tables (there's no shooting or blood & guts though). The character has to find his way around the dungeons and attack the ogre by answering his times tables questions. The free version you can download is complete
and all that's needed - the purchased version just has extra floor plans. They can't move on from one level until they answer all questions correctly. I got out of bed the other morning and Billy was playing this!

Mathletics - while this is Australian curriculum based, it's still a good tool that can appeal to kids in different ways. Billy might go months without using it, and then decide to sit down and do it for an hour.

ABC School shows - our government-run TV station plays several maths related education shows each week.

For a while I was saying "hey, do you want to watch cyberchase?" or "let's play Addition War?" if I thought he hadn't had enough Maths for the week, but now I'm comfortable enough to see how it all evens out over time.

And let's not forget the maths in everyday life:

Cooking - this has been great for concepts like fractions, volume, doubling, halving etc. He can work out things like to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons with the 1/2 teaspoon measure means he'll need 3 of them. I'll often ask him questions like "what if we only had a 1 tsp measure or 1/4 tsp measure?".

Shopping - weighing the fruit & veges, comparing prices, working to a budget (can I afford the lego & the lollies??), paying for items, working out change.

Craft - estimating, measuring.

In the time since we started unschooling maths, he's been exposed to the following subjects, some in more depth than others.
  • Addition / subtraction with carrying
  • Multiplication
  • Simple division
  • Fractions - 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, 1/100, mixed fractions
  • Doubling
  • Measuring & estimating
  • Probability
  • Perimeter & area
  • Tessellating shapes
I know because I kept a checklist for the first few months just to reassure myself that he is still learning the "prescribed" maths stuff for his age and the next couple of years. The subjects above are taken out of the Yr 2 and Yr 3 syllabus - he's still officially in Yr 1, so I have no concerns about the way we're going!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's the worst that can happen?

In my previous life BC (before child), one of my roles was as network manager for our company's computer networks. As part of that role, I had to create Risk Assessment documents - think of anything that could go wrong with the network, decide what impact it would have, and come up with a plan to put in place in the event it happened. (And yes, it was as boring as it sounds lol).

I'm finding myself using the same skills trying to parent a child like Billy. He is constantly coming up with grandiose schemes, and while my first instinct is always to say "no", I'm trying to do what I can do to turn that into a "yes". So I'm trying to train myself to go through a "risk assessment" in my mind - what's the worst thing that can happen if I say yes? Or can I come up with a scaled down version that we're both comfortable with?

Take his current scheme. In the car on the way home from the library the other day, he decided he could set up a library himself so anyone could borrow our books. Hmmmm... We talked through some of the problems (if its open to anyone, we don't know whether the people will return the books or take care of them, what if the people who came to the house were robbers etc) and that was the end of the conversation. So I thought...

Today he grabbed the label maker & some cardboard so he could start setting up his library. He'd narrowed the idea down to just people we knew in the neighbourhood. Ok, I'm more comfortable but I'm still not that much of a fan of lending out my books.. In the end we compromised on a few of his friends and they could borrow his books. Part of me is still screaming Noooooo though.

So what's the worst that can happen?
* the books will get ruined and / or not returned - I know all of the families he's going to tell about it. I'm pretty sure they'd take care of the books. Most of his books are second hand anyway so it's not really a big deal. I'll try to persuade him to not to lend out his good or special books.
* no-one will borrow any - not a problem for me, but he'd be disappointed. Well, that's one of life's lessons learnt in a gentle way.
* people will think we're weird - hmmm, we're already the weird, homeschooling family. I think we've got that one covered..

So nothing really that would warrant me saying no. Just that it's not what you'd expect someone to do. It's amazing how many times it seems to come down to this for me. All my life (well, as much as I can remember of it), I've tried to fit in, not stand out, be one of the crowd. Its a complete shock to me that I'm doing something as out of the norm as homeschooling. And to have a "weird" child - one who doesn't seem to even notice, let alone care, that they're standing out and doing something "odd" - is way outside my comfort level.

I'm betting I'd better get used to it though. Something tells me its just the beginning!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our week of Learning - 15th Nov - experiments, art & lots of fun!

Current Readaloud: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Lots of reading (mainly Aussie Bites) & audio books. We picked up a kid's thesaurus at a second hand book sale recently, so Pete showed him how to use that. He's been looking up random words in it. It was also a good review of nouns & verbs.

Languages other than English (LOTE): He's been practising his Spanish counting (1-10) again.

Maths: He watched Numbers Count which was about chance.

Science & Technology: We had a fun day of experiments early in the week. We blew up a balloon using yeast, (both on & off a bottle),

experimented with pepper & dishwashing liquid in a dish of water,

and last, but by no means least, we did a really cool one using drops of food colouring in milk. They stay static until you add dishwashing liquid - and then it goes insane!

He spent some time playing around on the Skwirk website.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We had a discussion about Remembrance Day - what it is and what it commemorates. We've had brief discussions about WWI and WWII before but it's not something I'm going into depth with until he's older.

Creative & Practical Arts: He's had a creative week - he made sun prints and a nature collage at the homeschool meeting. He did a couple of paintings at his grandparent's house. He went to drama class.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Lots of playground time, swimming at the pool, playing with friends, circus class.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Watering the garden, making chicken schnitzel, tidying his room. He had to do a task to help his family each day as part of his Joey's badge.

School shows: Numbers Count, Telling Tales, BTN.

Other fun stuff: It's been a social week! We had the homeschool meeting on Monday, a picnic at the playground and pool with other homeschoolers on Wednesday, he had a friend over on Wednesday afternoon and spent the weekend with his cousins.

At Joeys, they did teamwork activities as part of their caring & sharing badge. One of the games was funny - working in pairs, they had to unwrap a lolly (candy/sweet) wrapper - each boy could only use one hand though!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Day in Our Life - Nov 15th

There's a lack of photos in this month's Day in our Life - because I didn't remember until too late that it was the 15th!

Pete & I went down to Sydney over the weekend to watch Taming of the Shrew at the Sydney Opera House. We stayed at the Lane Cover River caravan park which really is a great place to stay.

So on to today - I woke up about 6:30 to the normal caravan park sounds - kids running around, people talking etc. Pete was still asleep, so I lay there & dozed on and off until 7:30 when I got up, wandered off to the toilet blocks and had a quick shower. The showers are some of the best I've seen in a caravan park - newly renovated and with full length shower screens! And lovely hot water.

Back to the van for breakfast of toast & a cup of tea and read some of my book (Bill Bryson's "A short history of nearly everything") while Pete went for a shower. We tidied everything away, packed up the van and hitched up. We were on the road by 9am.

Traffic wasn't too heavy, and we got to my mum & dad's place about 10:30. Billy had stayed with them (and my sister & nieces) for the weekend. We spent time with them and stayed for lunch. Billy was busy playing with his cousin, and then they cooked pita bread pizzas for lunch.

We left their house about 1:30 and drove home. Then came the fun of unpacking, washing, ironing etc - all that fun that comes after a trip away :) I gave the vege garden a good soak once it cooled down a bit - I seem to have lost all bar one cucumber seedling, but the tomato seedlings survived due to my impromptu shade covering. (I draped an old block out curtain over the top, held up by a couple of bits of reo).

I also caught up on some emails and blog posts - gee they build up while you're not online!

Billy helped me make chicken schnitzels, and we had those and chips for tea, and then all played on our respective computers :) Finally got Billy to bed about 9pm - he was pretty hyped tonight.

I've been spending time writing this blog post - our school wrap up will have to wait for tomorrow because it's now 9:30pm and I'm tired..

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I wish...

that library books & CDs had a special "find" feature.. So you could just press a button and know where the lost item is hiding in the house.. It would save a lot of time & money.. Anyone want to invent it please?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 32

Weight loss from last week: 250 g
Total weight loss overall: 5.25 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 11 cm

I'm going to take a break from weighing in and trying to lose weight for the moment. I've lost about 5kgs, my clothes fit a lot better, I'm back in a healthy weight range and I feel a lot better. Yes, I wouldn't mind toning up a bit more and I will still continue to exercise and monitor my weight but I'll stop reporting in weekly.

Thank you for all of your encouragement and support over the last 32 weeks! It's been much appreciated...

Monday, November 09, 2009

6 week exercise plan - wk 4

Do you want to hear my excuses this week??! lol

Monday - rest day
Tuesday - 10 min walk (it was 38 deg C!)
Wednesday - '10 years thinner' exercises
Thursday -
Friday -
Saturday -
Sunday -

I exercised twice so it's NOT a failure! Just not as good as I'd wanted.

Our week of learning - 8th Nov - just life!

Current Readaloud: More Aussie Bites.

Lots of reading (mainly Aussie Bites & Boyz Rule series) & audio books. A trip to the library to get yet more books!

Maths: He's been measuring & weighing as part of general life. He's been adding up prices, sticking to a budget, getting the money out of his bank account, paying for things and calculating change.

Science & Technology: I found a new beginner's programming environment called Alice that he's been using. It's a storytelling environment - it's similar to Scratch in the way the programming works but more intuitive in some ways I think. You can do some cool stuff with camera angles and special effects on it!

For the Juniors was about space this week.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): As part of community awareness for the Caring & Sharing badge, they had two special guests at their Joey's meeting this week - a vet & a policeman (both dads of the kids in the group). Both men spoke about what they do and how they help the community.

Creative & Practical Arts: He made a box house for his stuffed animals one rainy day this week. I got to help with the engineering side of things - stairs & walls etc :)

His drama class did another read through of their script and started to act it out.

We visited Newcastle Art Gallery to look at their latest exhibitions.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Playing with friends outside, circus class.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He learnt how to cook fried rice, helped with general meal preparation and making biscuits & a b'day cake for my mum. He helped me water the garden.

School shows: Numbers Count, For the Juniors (space), Telling Tales, Count Us In, BTN Special.

Other fun stuff: He decided he wanted to ask a friend over to play after school this week - so he looked up his phone no, called him up, left a message and then arranged a play date when his friend rang back. They had a good time playing together.

It was my mum's b'day on Saturday so we spent the afternoon / evening with them down on Newcastle Foreshore. Prawns & a chocolate cake - not a bad way to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 31

Weight loss from last week: gained 250 g
Total weight loss overall: 5 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 11 cm

Arrrggghhh! Back up again this week. I'm tempted to blame the tablets, but I think that's just a cop out! I'm slowly getting back into the exercise -
* 1 x 10min walk (it was 38 deg, not an ideal time to be exercising!)
* 10 min workout.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Our week of learning - 1st Nov - social butterflies!

We had a very social week this week. Two homeschool group meetings, a play date with another friend as well as drama and joeys!

Current Readaloud: An older book we picked up at a book sale - The TV kid by Betsy Byars. We've also been reading more Aussie Bites.

The TV Kid

English: Lots of reading (mainly Aussie Bites & Boyz Rule series) & audio books.

Maths: He's been coming up with and working through lots of problems lately like "if I'm selling 10 chairs for $20, how much will 3 chairs be?" It's good to see how he goes about tackling the problem.

Science & Technology: Whenever we've been home, he's pretty much been on the computer this week! He made a Powerpoint presentation about the weather, he's been using Photoshop to manipulate images for his website, he's added quite a few new pages to his website, and wrote a Pacman game using Scratch that also went on his website - check it out, it's very cute!

The school show "For the Juniors" this week was about the stars.

We put together some skeletons (which while not exactly anatomically correct was close enough for general familiarity with ribs, pelvis, leg & arm bones etc). We also talked about the digestive & waste systems using the diagrams & overlays in a great book we have called "Body" by Robert Winston.

Body: An Amazing Tour of Human Anatomy

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): While I was cutting out skeletons, Billy read out to me about the traditions of Hallowe'en and where they originated.

Creative & Practical Arts: Our homeschool group had a visit to the local Maitland Art Gallery. We were split into groups, had a tour around the gallery and did 2 workshops - a print making one and portrait drawing. (I'm not sure who Billy's glaring at in this photo - someone was obviously encroaching on his space lol).

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Exercises with his dad, scooter riding, time at the playground, walks, playing at the beach.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He cooked donuts with just a bit of assistance, we made biscuits together and he made up a recipe for a spaghetti bake (which wasn't too bad!).

School shows: Numbers Count, For the Juniors (stars), Telling Tales, Count Us In, BTN Special.

Other fun stuff: We went to the beach with some homeschool friends on Friday. There was only a bit of swimming due to blue jellyfish in the water but lots of digging in the sand. I stayed up with the bags, read my book and took photos while another mum supervised Billy and her kids on the beach. (Win for me lol!)

6 week exercise plan - wk 3

Definitely not a great week. I came down with a UTI on Tuesday night - long story short, I saw the doctor on Thursday, she made an educated guess about which antibiotics to start me on, and then rang on Friday night (after the test results had come back) to change them to the right ones. So I didn't get started on the correct antibiotics until Saturday morning. I've spent the week in varying states of discomfort - from mild to "someone shoot me and put me out of my misery". Today is the first day I've started to feel normal..

I did manage to exercise twice before that, so that's better than nothing!

Monday - rest day
Tuesday - '10 years thinner' exercises + 30 min walk
Wednesday -
Thursday -
Friday - 10 min gentle walk
Saturday -
Sunday -

I should be right to get back into it early next week though.