Friday, March 29, 2019

How to incorporate World Travel into your Homeschool with a Large Family (and a budget)



Modern Homeschool Australia


So, how do you incorporate overseas travel into your homeschool with a large family (and a budget). 

It's not overly complicated but are you ready to know the secret?

Wait for it.

How do you do it?

You don't take them all at once!

Yep, that's right - you take one at a time.


1. Take one child at a time! 



modern homeschool today australia


Can it become a logistical nightmare to work out what happens with the rest of the family while you (or your husband) are away? Yep - but it's worth it! 

In 2015 my eldest son had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines with his dad on a church missions trip. Not only did this provide an opportunity to see poverty and understand the needs of others - it was also valuable father / son bonding time that he will remember for a lifetime.

In 2017 my second-born (pictured) had the same opportunity to travel to Philippines but with me included! I took great joy in watching him be-friend local children and learn some of the language. Having only one child to worry about in a country where hygiene and safety is an issue made for a less stressful trip too! 

It was these experiences that made me realise that travelling with 1 (or even 2) children at a time is a) less stressful for the parent b) provides valuable quality time c) is not as expensive and d) You can choose a destination that the child is interested in.

My 13 year old recently showed an interest in Japan so we started to incorporate some online Japanese lessons into our schedule. Personally, I've always been interested in Japan too so a quick google lead me to cheap airfares and I took a leap of faith and booked! 

Kids are so much more motivated to learn about a language and culture when they know they are actually going to get to experience it! 

It also means that when we are there I can follow my son's interests rather than having to factor in what 6 different people want to do (or that is suitable for everyone). 


2. Minimise costs by organising the trip yourself


We decided to organise the trip ourselves instead of going through a travel agent. 

One reason we decided to do this was to save money but also to incorporate the planning and budgeting into our homeschooling. This has meant hours of online research and very careful planning.

My son has helped put together the itinerary, create a budget, save his money as well as think through additional things like transport, luggage and even insurance. 

It has been so much fun! 


3.  Encourage kids to contribute financially





I gave my son an amount that I wanted him to contribute and if he didn't want to use his savings account then he needed to get creative and come up with ideas to generate income! 

As a result, he has spent the last few months trying different ways to make money including selling things on eBay and gumtree (he made close to $50 selling Coles stickies!), creating an online business (force gaming accessories) and saving up all of his pocket money (we use the barefoot investor kids guide to pocket money). 

Obviously, most kids aren't going to be able to contribute significantly but it's good to teach them personal responsibility and reduce any sense of entitlement. 

My son will be responsible for all of his personal spending on our next trip (with the exception of main meals) so he will also have to budget his own finances.

So, there you have it. 

I spent years being discouraged that we would never easily afford an overseas holiday as a family of six but we've found a way and you can too! 

Monday, March 11, 2019

10 Things to do on a Homeschool Trip to Canberra



We recently ventured to Canberra on a family holiday (a.k.a homeschool trip). 

I had never been to Canberra and knew very little about it except that it would be a great experience to visit the war memorial. I was surprised to learn that Canberra was actually a hub of museums, cultural centres and educational experiences.  

I recently blogged about how we made a Canberra Homeschool Trip on a budget and how you can too! 

The best time of the year to travel, in my opinion, is February. The weather is still great for outdoor activities...and the best bit...school kids have only just gone back to school so popular places are less likely to be full of school groups. However, if you want to avoid school groups altogether then I recommend calling ahead and asking when the groups are coming in so you can work around it. 


1. QUESTACON





This place is the best for ALL ages. 

We've been to Scienceworks in Melbourne a few times and it doesn't even compare. 

This place has 8 galleries full of exhibits and each gallery has a theme. 

It was almost empty on the day we were there which meant that my kids had all the 'scientists' working there to themselves. Their job is to engage with kids by answering any questions, doing experiments or helping them work through puzzles etc....We spent almost an hour doing actual science experiments in a lab with one scientist who was amazing at explaining difficult concepts.


Homeschool Canberra


We also spend time in the early childhood gallery with my daughter with special needs and they went out of their way to support her. 

We spent almost a whole day here and it was so amazing we couldn't believe it was free (with the teachers pass).This was definitely a highlight!


2. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA


This is (surprisingly) a museum about Australian history and culture. 

When we arrived, staff suggested we head straight to the children's gallery so we could participate in the new interactive exhibition. It was a really unique interactive video-type game based on the Franklin Dam controversy in 1982. 

I cried (actually sobbed) through the Indigenous section while I explained the stolen generation exhibits to my boys. I don't think they'll forget that in hurry. 

Overall, they didn't find the exhibits overly engaging so this is probably more appropriate for older teenagers. 


3. THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT





This is where they make all of our coins in Australia! 

It's a small museum so you don't need more than an hour to look around. It's size is a bonus as it means kids take a more time to engage with each display. There are a few interactive displays but the best part is that they have massive windows where you can watch the coins being made. My boys thought the fact robots were doing most of the work (including a forklift) fascinating. We stood there watching for about 30 minutes - it was really interesting! 

Unfortunately, we did encounter a school group here and they took over the entire space so we just sat with them and listened to the teacher (from the Mint) talk through each display. This was particularly helpful when the guide was explaining all the machinery and processes involved. 


4. THE NATIONAL ARBORETUM





Museums can be hard going for kids so we broke it up with a trip to this playground at the national arboretum. 

Up on the hill there is also a centre with a large cafe / restaurant. We enjoyed a coffee and some ice-cream while gazing at the stunning view of Canberra and chatting about what we were enjoying about our trip so far. There is also a bonsai garden and a cute little educational book shop. 


5. THE NATIONAL DINOSAUR MUSEUM





This is a must if you have smaller kids. My daughter loved it as it doesn't just contain fossils - it also has animatronic dinosaurs! It's a small museum so once again only takes about an hour and much less if your kids race through it. We spent more time in the gift shop which is awesome and had a big collection of rocks and minerals including some pretty spectacular geodes. 


6. COCKINGTON GREEN





Much to our delight, the teachers pass covered this place as well and as it was next to the dinosaur museum with decided to visit on a whim.

We were so glad we did! 

It's a massive garden full of miniature displays (see the railway station pictured). Our favourite was the world architecture section where they had significant buildings built to scale from around the world. 


7. DEEP SPACE COMMUNICATION CENTRE





We decided to tackle the hour drive out to this centre because it's one of only 3 centres like it in the world that communicate directly with satellites in our solar system. 

Once again, it's a small museum but the dishes alone are pretty impressive and to say that you've visited one of NASA's facilities is pretty cool. 2 of my boys are interested in space so they really enjoyed the displays and videos.

If your kids are into space, then this a great place to go see!






8. AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF SPORT


This was actually a highlight for my sports crazy boys. It is only worth a trip if a) Your kids are interested in the sports / olympics and b) You do a (free) tour of the facilities as the interactive section probably isn't worth the trip alone.

The tour of the facilities goes for an hour but the best part is that you get to learn some history of Australia's involvement in the olympics, check out where they train and if you're lucky you get to see some of the athletes in action. We got to see some volleyballers training which was surprisingly impressive and witness one of the tallest basketballers in Australian sport training - he's over 7 feet and only 18 years old!

My 9 year old was inspired and now his goal is to get amazing at basketball so he can go and be part of the AIS.


9. THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL






This was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit Canberra!

After spending time at smaller museums, we completely underestimated how big the war memorial is. We planned to spend about 2 hours here and then head to parliament house but ended up spending all afternoon there. It is an amazing museum with incredible displays and video footage but be prepared to discuss some tough concepts with your kids and shed a few tears yourself. 


10. PARLIAMENT HOUSE

This was on our list but we didn't get there. I really wanted to take the boys to question time but parliament was closed so it will be something we do (and plan for) next time.

If you happen to go when parliament is closed there are tours you can go on but they are not covered by the teachers pass and cost $15 adult ($10 a child) for a basic tour or $25 adult ($15 child) for a more extensive tour. 






Sunday, March 3, 2019

How To Make a Canberra Homeschool Trip on a Budget

Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Me: What's the capital of Australia? 

8yo: Sydney?

Me: Don't tell anyone you said that. No, it's actually Canberra. 

8yo: Canberra? I didn't even know that was a place.....

This was the moment I decided that it was time for a trip to our Nation's capital! 

Canberra is not only home to Parliament house and the Australian war memorial but is an educational hub of museums, cultural centres and activities. It's definitely a must-do trip for homeschoolers with middle to high school aged kids.

But, how do you afford it if the budget is tight? 

Homeschool Australia

1. Get your days activities for FREE


Here's the best part. 

If you are a registered homeschooler -  almost ALL museums and activities are FREE. 

Yes, FREE. 

You apply for a Canberra Teachers Pass here, flash your card and entry is FREE.

We visited 9 different places and museums and didn't pay a cent.

The best value is Questacon (the national science and technology centre) as without a pass, it would've cost my family of 6 just under $100 for admission.  

2. Find Budget Accommodation


Homeschool Australia
Look how much fun my kids are having at their 'budget' accommodation! 

Personally, I prefer a nice hotel over a caravan park but with kids, caravan parks are a winner. Not only do they provide wide open spaces for kids to roam and explore but they also have...other kids to play with! 

Did someone say socialisation? 

When we arrived there were about 6 other homeschool families also on a Canberra adventure and then much to my initial disappointment, a school group. However, as you would expect, the school kids didn't have much 'free' time but when they did they were polite and friendly and provided extra kids to play with. Playing red rover is way more fun with lots of kids and I took great joy seeing my 9yo organise a game of bullrush with a large group on the jumpy pillow. Meeting new kids was a huge highlight for my kids and solidified for me why caravan parks are such a great choice for homeschoolers!  

I highly recommend Capital Country Holiday park.

It's an older style (cheaper) park but well equipped with jumpy pillow, pool, mini golf, basketball and tennis court. It's in a great location only 20 minutes from Canberra but feels like you're in the middle of the bush with big gum trees and kangaroos hopping around. 

The cabins are basic but we barely spent anytime in there as the weather was perfect so we finished our days with swimming, jumping and a family game of tennis before hitting the hay!

3. Eat Budget Food


My weakness is food. I love food. I love eating out but with a large family this gets expensive. 

We decided that we would pack lunches and cook dinner at the caravan park. This was surprisingly easy as there were no temptations (unless you're tempted by an eat-in servo!) near the caravan park and my kids were so busy playing that we didn't have time! 

We cooked el-cheapo meals most nights and packed lunches for our days out. 

We didn't end up spending any more money on food than we do usually at home. 


5. Budget-ish Travel



The biggest cost is getting to Canberra.

We drove from Adelaide. It was a long trip. 

But as a family, we enjoy long car trips with time to chat, read and see new things. Driving gives kids a sense of how big Australia is and also the diversity of lifestyles (e.g farming) that exist across this wide brown land. It also helped our kids to see firsthand the challenges of drought and bushfires. We bravely said no devices on this trip  because we wanted them to take it all in - plus, a little boredom never hurt anyone! 

The other benefit of driving is that you really need a car in Canberra. 

The city is quite spread out. If you stayed in the heart of the city then public transport might be okay but you won't have quite the same freedom to explore some places like the deep space museum which are off the beaten track. 

Another thing that's really cool is that the government offers a Parliament and Civics education travel rebate which is anywhere from $20 to $260 per child depending on how far you have to travel. 

It's designed for school groups but homeschoolers are also eligible. 

We chose not to bother as it involves a whole lotta forms and we didn't plan on visiting all the required places. But, if every penny counts then this is worth keeping in mind especially if you have a large family and don't mind a bit of paperwork! 

So, there you have it - a trip to our Nation's capital doesn't have to be expensive. 

We absolutely loved it and would highly recommend it to every homeschooler! 


Homeschool Australia


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Car-schooling with Jonathon Park Audio Adventures

 creation science



I once asked a seasoned homeschooler how she managed to fit so many activities and events around 'schoolwork'. She told me she had mastered the art of car-schooling!

Plenty of learning takes place in the car: Organic discussion of topics, answering questions, reading and the odd math quiz...and then she mentioned audio books. 

We had only ever attempted an audio book in the car, once, and then a little person shoved chips into the CD player and that was the end to audio books.

But recently I got a new car - one from the 2000's - that has bluetooth capability and all of a sudden, audio books were back!

The problem? Finding ones engaging enough that kids actually want to listen, that doesn't make me fall asleep while driving and is relevant for 3 boys aged
8 - 12.

Enter: Jonathon Park audio adventures.

creation science


These. Are. Brilliant. 


These are highly engaging stories based around a family of creation scientists who go on all sorts of adventures while defending their faith with scientific evidence, learning life lessons and growing in Godly character. 


It's wholesome, positive listening for Christian kids with some great science lessons and character studies thrown in. 

It's important to let you know that these audio books are American so they can  be a tad, um, cheesy at times. However, a little 'cheese' never hurt anyone and personally, I feel it counteracts some of the rubbish our kids watch on TV and youtube these days.

However, my boys didn't think it was cheesy at all - they loved it.  

We listened to an entire series on a big family drive and they kept asking for more! It also inspired some great questions paving the way for deep and meaningful conversation and encouragement. 

I LOVE Jonathon Park and highly recommend it for Christian families.

You can download the series on the website on to your phone so you can play at home on speakers or even better, in the car! 

You can also subscribe so you get unlimited access which works out more convenient if your kids (and you) get really into it! 

Visit the website for holiday discounts www.jonathonpark.com
  


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Homeschool Curriculum 2018 - Did someone say highschool?




2018 marks our 6th year of learning, laughing (and crying) together at home.

When we first began homeschooling the most common question after, "But, how will you stay sane?" was "But what on earth will you do for highschool????".

I had no idea - my son was 6 and secondary education seemed a million years away....

Then... just like that we have an almost 12 year old ready for highschool.

ME: Did you realise year 7 is the beginning of highschool?
HIM: Nope. So am I going to go to a highschool?
ME: Oh...um, do you want to go to a highschool?
HIM: No - not really.

And so begins those 'highschool' years - at home.

After initially freaking out about what I needed to change to get more 'serious' about schoolwork and put a stop to all this 'fun' we were having,  I received some wise advice.



If what you are doing is working - why do you need to change anything just because he's in highschool?

So I cancelled the booking with the boring old English professor and packed my Bunsen burner away realising that this was only going to be as complicated as I made it....for now.

So this year I will homeschool a 12, 10 and 8 year old and here is our resource list.

I want to reinforce that homeschooling is so much more than curriculum and resources - it's about giving our kids the freedom to direct their own learning and allowing them to find and explore their passions. Our focus has always been getting out and exploring and enjoying the world together...but when we are at home - this is what we have on hand.

Maths



Singapore maths


Once they hit level 6 - maths got REALLY hard (for me).
Maths teaching has now been delegated to my husband who thankfully is a maths wiz.
The 2 older boys do the same level to keep things simple.

Maths is reinforced with lessons on studyladder online and various ipad apps.

Writing


We have taken a relaxed classical approach to literacy based on classical method outlined in the well trained mind.

 Image result for writing with ease


Grammar

Image result for well trained mind books

Spelling






We use All About Spelling for my 8yo and sequential spelling for the other 2 but we only do this occasionally as they have good visual memories so don't really need to work on spelling.


History


This is our absolute favourite subject - including mine.



This year, we are using a bible based history curriculum so it starts with history documented in bible and how it lines up with other historical documents and accounts. We have used a few history curriculum's in the past like SOTW but I find history makes so much more sense and takes on a new relevance when we start at the beginning.

We will also look at Australian history.

Science


Move over science - history is our focus this year! We have a bookshelf full of science books and will go where the boys interest leads. We also have a membership to the University science club which holds events and activities throughout the year and will continue lots of hands on experiments at home.

Arts


Music is a big part of our life. 2 of my boys play the piano and the other 2 the drums and have various opportunities throughout the year to play in bands and perform.

We also make the most of community, cultural and homeschool arts events during the year.

Physical Education

We usually begin our day with a run and some brain gym.

The boys are active and love sports and plan to continue basketball and tennis. They will attend a basketball camp for a week in January and will continue their weekly homeschool parkour group this year.

Homeschooling is the hardest but most rewarding decision we have ever made for our family and now that I've decided not to freak out about highschool.........

Bring on 2018!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why We Don't Celebrate Australia Day... And What We Do Instead.



One of the first trips we took when we began homeschooling 5 years ago was to the Northern Territory. We spent time with good friends and immersed ourselves in Aboriginal culture. We learnt so much about the beauty of one of the oldest cultures in the world. 

But I was ashamed to admit that most of what I learnt was new to me. 

I don't remember learning about the stolen generation in school or that the Aboriginal people killed / massacred by the colonists numbered in the hundreds of thousands wiping out entire languages and tribes. I don't remember learning about how colonists actively infected the Aboriginal people with disease in an attempt to wipe them out. I didn't know that almost 100% of Tasmanian Aboriginal people were murdered. I didn't know that white people introduced alcohol into Aboriginal communities as a way to manipulate and control the Aboriginal people. 


This new knowledge seemed to cast a shadow on the idea that the first settlers were heroic pioneers that we should honour. In fact to honour them seemed to dishonour the people that called Australia home long before they arrived.  


The reality was there was nothing at all 'honourable' about the way Australia was taken from it's original occupants.

Suddenly I realised that what I wanted my kids to learn about Australian history was very different to the history taught in schools and the one discussed in most history books. I wanted them to know the real story - the truth - not a carefully constructed snapshot sugar-coated by a political agenda. 

I wanted them to feel love and compassion for Aboriginal people and to learn to love their culture.

So, instead on Australia day we talk about invasion and celebrate survival. 




 I  ask my kids to close their eyes....

Picture our home. 

Think about how we have a comfy couch so that we can snuggle up and read books together. 

Think about the photos on the wall of our family members and people we love and value. 

Think about your bedroom and how you feel safe when you go to bed at night. 

Then imagine that the council decides to rent out our home to other people - and strangers move in. 

Other people sleep in your bed and sit on your couch.

These strangers take the photos off the wall and smash them because they don't understand that those 'things' have value to you.

How do you feel? 

Then imagine these people start to threaten and intimidate you. 

You realise that not only do these strangers want to live in your home - they don't want YOU to be there anymore. 

How do you feel? 

That's how Aboriginal people felt. 

No, we weren't there personally at invasion which mean we weren't personally responsible. But that doesn't mean that we can't acknowledge the suffering of Aboriginal people. It shouldn't stop us from feeling compassion for what they went through. It also doesn't mean we can't stand alongside them and celebrate that their culture survived a dark time in our countries history.

Understanding the truth about Australia's history enables compassion which is the opposite of the intolerance and judgement often directed towards Aboriginal people. I admit that my old opinions were steeped in my own ignorance. 

I didn't know the history. I didn't know the stories. I didn't know the people.

Now I do. 

That's why we don't celebrate Australia day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

First Year - A Look At Our Homeschool


I must say I'm much more relaxed about my third child officially beginning homeschooling than I was with the others. I've observed in my other kids an amazing ability to learn through play and in the freedom of exploration that homeschooling offers. Therefore, I trust that he will continue to learn in the same way so no need for a formal curriculum just yet.


Reading

DS5 showed readiness to read when he was 3 when he learnt the alphabet while we were doing an alphabet puzzle together and knew all his letters from that day forward! I then set him up with a reading eggs account and purchased some simple readers and we were off. I advocate watching for signs of children's readiness to read before introducing reading. I was in no rush to teach my children to read but found that my firstborn actually taught himself to read with very little prompting - I just provided some books and alphabet games! It made me realise that some kids WANT to learn to read when they are young and we are wise to follow the signs.

He will continue to read books from the library, readers we have and I will continue to do lots of reading with him while cuddling on the couch!


Writing



I have the first book of the handwriting without tears series which we will introduce at some stage during the year. DS5 can't hold a pencil correctly so I might need to seek some help with that.



Maths



When my other children were this age we used lots of maths manipulatives and simple fun games to learn about addition and subtraction, sequencing, grouping etc. DS5 seems to like maths and is confident with simple addition and subtraction so we will look at continuing to progress. He will continue with studyladder for reinforcement - which he loves.



Music



I may regret that for Christmas this boy received his first set of drums. He has been super keen and although given his age I'm not ready for drum lessons I will set him up with some YouTube videos to learn some basic drum skills.

He will also continue learning piano at the Yamaha school of music. 


Sport

This is my 5 year olds strength. He has excellent hand/eye co-ordination and shows a good range of skills in most sports so we will continue tennis coaching and may look at district basketball and Auskick for later in the year. As this is something he is clearly gifted at we will look at how we can best nurture this. 

As this is his first 'official' homeschooling year then I will include 1:1 time in our flexible schedule and he will continue to join his brothers for devotions, science and Australian history. 

Most of all I will ENJOY this stage of learning and teaching this precious boy!

How to incorporate World Travel into your Homeschool with a Large Family (and a budget)

So, how do you incorporate overseas travel into your homeschool with a large family (and a budget).  It's not overly complicat...