Friday, November 14, 2014

Learning To Relax - A Day In Our Homeschool!



At the beginning of this year I sensed the need to relax in my homeschooling approach.

I felt that less structure and more freedom would result in a more positive experience for us all.  I can hear the more experienced homeschoolers saying, "I told you so!".

The two areas that are important to us as a homeschooling family are:


  • Freedom to explore interests, be creative and LOVE learning


  • To develop self-discipline and ability to persist with difficult, unpleasant tasks to prepare them for life


Initially, we trialled a very relaxed approach. But I found that although they were abounding in creativity they weren't being persistent and were giving up on tasks easily. It made me realise that in order to prepare them for the future e.g possible University life and work that they needed to learn self-discipline. 

In order to be successful the ability to be both consistent and persistent are important. So persisting through difficult maths questions or getting frustrated with spelling words is actually okay - it's character building. But you don't want your child in tears all morning every morning. It's all about BALANCE. 

We certainly haven't found the perfect formula but in response to the emails I receive, here is an overview of what a day 'might' look like in our homeschooling family as I learn to relax.


OUR 'RELAXED' DAY

5:30am Wake up. Yes, really. The early bird catches the worm! 

7:00am Breakfast and excited chatter about the koala we saw yesterday at the national park. We decide to learn more about Koalas and other Australian animals. I show the boys a photo of a 'creature' I spotted while walking through the sand dunes near our house last night. We are going to find out what it is! 

DS7 asks me to teach him to play 'clocks' by coldplay on the piano. We listen to a few different versions on YouTube and then I help him learn how to play it in the right hand. He practices until he can play it perfectly. The song is well and truly stuck in my head.

7:30am The house is quiet. DS7 decides to do a robot craft kit he won at kid's club.









 DS8 decides to make a giant board game he designed himself....dressed as storm trooper of course!


DS5 starts with some reading eggs on the ipad (note the cracked screen!) and then follows by some magic piano (that's a cool app I recommend).

This continues until about 9am. Once the fighting starts I know it's time for some structure. I tell the boys to get dressed as it's time for some work.

After a busy weekend I have loads of laundry to do so we continue our DVD series on "families of the world" that we picked up from the local library. They are learning about Vietnam today!





It is now 10am - morning tea time! Green smoothies are on the menu!

After morning tea we sit down and begin our devotion. We are using the Apologia "Who is God?" series. It teaches Christian worldview and we love it. It does an amazing job of not just teaching Christian values but explaining other worldviews. It's great for kids who are deep thinkers and like to question everything! 

10:40 It's maths time! We are using Singapore maths 3A for both boys (this is a great time saver!) and while I'm working with DS8, DS7 experiments with cuisenaire rods. 




It's now 11:30am and DS8 is on studyladder on the computer doing set lessons. He loves study ladder and DS5 has asked if he can do some reading with me. We sit on the couch while does a few readers and we read together until lunch at 12pm.

After lunch the boys play music games on the ipad which help them in their learning to read music. They take it in turns until 1pm when it's time to take DD2 to an appointment at the hospital.

While at the hospital, DS8 goes to the starlight room where they do games and crafts and video games. DS7 and DS5 go to the creche where they play dress ups and do craft activities.

When the appointment is over we all leave and stop off at the library to return some VERY overdue books and get some new ones. DS8 decides on an animal theme and we go home with giant animal encyclopedias. At home, he dives into them looking for koalas and the mystery 'creature' I saw last night.

After dinner the boys all help me water our garden. We are growing veggies and herbs and we 'think' the strawberry plant might start to produce some fruit soon which leads to a discussion on how plants grow. 

The boys read quietly for 30 minutes before lights out at 7:30pm.

So, there is a snapshot of what a 'relaxed' day in our homeschool might look like! I have no doubt any more that my kids are learning ALL the time and that as long as I provide them with opportunities they will continue to grow and thrive...even on those relaxed days! ;) 



Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's HARD to "Train up a child in the way he should go.."


The other morning my day began in tears, my tears. I awoke to the sound of high pitched squeals, aggressive voices and unkind words. Like most parents, I don't like when my children fight. I'm not a morning person at the best of times but that day, I lost it. I lost my marbles, my cool, my common decency.. I was overwhelmed. See, justified or not, I take misbehavior personally. I see my own inadequacies and failings when I observe undesirable behavior in my own children.

I don't expect perfection and misbehavior is always an opportunity for character development but I take the task of raising children very seriously. Why? Because I know that my children are a gift from God and that he has given me the task of 'training' them. As long as I rely on him, he gives me the strength to rise to the challenge but I have to keep my eyes fixed on him and remember why he has given my children in the first place.


God's design for parents = Training



"Do not exasperate your children; Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" Ephesians 6:4 (Italics mine)

During that horrible morning this was the verse I stumbled upon. Did nagging count as exasperating? If so, I was pretty darn good at exasperating those children.  But I didn't linger on that thought as my eyes focused on the word "training".



"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" Proverbs 22:6

What is the purpose of training?


- Obedience (obedience to parents teaches children how to be obedient to God)

- Protection (to make good life choices, know the difference between truth and lies, good and evil)
- Equipping and preparing for a task (preparing them for God's purpose for their life)

But then I began to wonder exactly what task was I training my children for? For life in a general sense? For a job? For being a husband or wife? For ministry? Or all of the above. How could I train my children well, if I didn't know exactly what it was that the bible was asking me to train them for. It's one thing to know we are supposed to 'train' our children but another to know how to do it and what we are doing it for.


Homeschooling provides an amazing opportunity for this biblical model of 'training' 

In our culture, we often focus on schooling as equipping children for life with the goal of a 'career'. We make a job or occupation the ultimate goal and definition of success. The origins of mainstream schooling were to create workers for industrialism and even today, children spend 13 years 'training' for  this goal.

As Christian parents, it's important to understand that mainstream education is a secular construct as it's singular purpose was (is) to equip students to do a 'job' in society. Therefore, school doesn't take the place of  parental responsibility to "train a child in the way he should go" and yet, many of us delegate that responsibility based on our own assumptions and beliefs about education.


A great example is bullying policies in schools - they all have them. It is easy for parents to assume this means that children are being taught character values but they are confused with behavior management. It is one thing to discipline a child for bullying behavior but another to teach them a value system that equips them to choose NOT to bully in any given situation. Schools do not deal with character development- it's not their job - it's ours!


It's hard to train our children. It is. But thankfully if we have faith in Jesus, we know we are not tackling the task alone - we have a helper, a strength to help us persist through the challenges in the name of the 'bigger picture'.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why I Keep Homeschooling.....


benefits of homeschooling

When I first withdrew my eldest from mainstream school (in year 1) I told everyone that we would just 'see how we go' and trial it for one term. 

It has now been over 2 years since we began our homeschooling journey!  


It has quite honestly been the best decision I have ever made for my children and I believe that wholeheartedly. 


This is why I can't go back.


I don't want to say that I will 'never' send my children back to mainstream school because no one know what the future holds. But the longer I homeschool, the more convicted I become of its importance and value for both our family and the wider community. The benefits of homeschooling are not only academic but emotional, spiritual and social. 



  •  I LOVE having my kids at home. 



Christian homeschooling Australia


I didn't have children to delegate that responsibility to a complete stranger once they turned 5. I believe God has entrusted my children to me and it is my responsibility to ensure they are nurtured, prepared and equipped for the life he has planned for them. 


But, how will they learn to cope in the real world you ask? Because they are actually living it...now! In the absence of formal schooling my children are actually living the in the real world now. They go to the shops, to appointments, to friends and families homes, they clean, they cook and they work and play. The transition to tertiary study and work will be a smooth transition compared to the transition one makes from 13 years of institutionalised learning into the real world. 


2. My children are thriving


Happy, confident kids are what all parents hope for. 


Home is a place of safety and security and an ideal foundation for building self-esteem and confidence in who you are. There is plenty of time to be in uncomfortable, confronting environments when kids get older. When they are older they will have already established a strong sense of who they are and their value system as well as the resilience to confidently tackle life's challenges. 


I take great joy in seeing my children happy and seeing them secure in who they are. I love seeing my older ones care for the younger ones, learning that family comes first and sticking up for their brother or sister in playground disputes! 


3. My children are excelling academically



Christian homeschooling Australia


In our competitive, success-oriented culture where we push our children to breaking point (have you seen the mental health statistics for children lately?) this seems to be the most asked question. How do we make sure our homeschooled children are on parr with their school age peers? 


Initially, this was my number one concern with homeschooling too. Now, what is more important to me is building my kids character and ensuring they are equipped with the right attitude and value system to live a life that contributes meaningfully to the world. I'm not raising them to impress others with their test scores but to be people of character and integrity that understand they are here on earth to use their gifts and abilities to give to the world and those around them.


Like most homeschoolers, my kids are way ahead (in years) compared to their same aged peers. But this isn't a competition and I take little joy in this. I'm proud of what my children have achieved academically but I know that they are not defined by academic success the way they would be in the school system. In our home, what's most important is that they work as part of a team, treat each other with love and respect and have plenty of opportunities for character development (cough, discipline). 


4. My kids are WEIRD


My 4yo holds the door open for people ALL the time. He will wait if he sees you coming to ensure that he can do that for you even if he doesn't know you. People either comment and think that's awesome or they simply walk through the open door with eyebrows raised. It's certainly not normal 4 year old behavior.


My children know that manners are important and they say please and thank you to adults. They are aware of others and will often say 'sorry' if they bump into you accidentally. If you drop something and they see, they will pick it up for you. If they see a child who is hurt at the playground then they will go over to see if that child is okay and they don't push in on lines! I know this isn't unusual for many of you but I know that for these reasons, my kids do stand out from other kids.


Yep, they are 'weird' and I couldn't be prouder!


And so, our homeschooling journey continues..........









Thursday, February 6, 2014

When Your 8 Year Old Wants To Be An Entrepreneur.....


I first heard about Camp Kidpreneur from a fellow homeschooler. It sounded like the perfect experience for my 8yo who has always been interested in shops and sales and has been running a store out of his bedroom for the past 6 months. Admittedly, running a business is in his genes, but certainly not from me!

2 years ago we held a garage sale so the kids could earn some money toward our Gold Coast holiday. DS8 organised can's of cool drinks and chocolates for the people browsing our stuff. Clearly, they couldn't resist his charm and he made more money from selling the drinks and chocolates than from his toys! It was the first time I'd observed a keen interest in the 'idea' of business. He took great joy in adding up his earnings and subtracting his expenses. I began to see that his interest came from within and since we had recently taken the plunge into homeschooling we were now blessed with the time and freedom to support this developing passion and watch it grow.

Club Kidpreneur is a not-for-profit social enterprise seeking to encourage entrepreneurial thinking in children on a national level.



Creativity and innovation are two of the benefits of homeschooling and the philosophy of Club Kidpreneur is exactly that - to inspire creativity and innovation in the next generation.



DS8 absolutely loved his experience attending the 4 day camp held in the school holidays and selling his merchandise at the market day (above). He even won an award for his innovative idea to sell gaming characters made from Lego that he had designed himself. He made a whopping $120 profit from his market stall and it really instilled in him the confidence to continue. It also made me realise that it is my responsibility as a homeschooling mum to continue to grow and nurture his interest in being an entrepreneur as best I can.

If you child has any interest in running a business I highly recommend checking out their website and resources or attending the camps they run in school holidays.

For DS8, this is only the beginning and I'm excited about where this interest will take him!

business for kids

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Morning Boards and Routine


When we have homeschool days we use a flexible routine. So, here is an example of what mornings look like in our family.

Our morning routine

My children are early risers, often before 6am, so I do allow an hour or so of TV in the morning. I am not a morning person and find that without the TV I wake up to fighting, destruction and mess which sets a terrible tone for the rest of the day.

Once I am up the TV goes off and my children eat breakfast and I make myself a coffee. My children know that NOTHING happens before mummy has had her morning coffee and some quiet time.

If the kids are playing something that looks productive then I allow them to continue respecting that children of all ages learn through play and I don't want to interrupt this process! This means that although we aim to start homeschool at 8:00am we are flexible and often won't begin until 9:00am (but generally no later).

I give my kids the 'warning' that it is 10 minutes until homeschool time and they are to begin their morning chores. These chores are simple and involve getting dressed, making their bed and doing a quick tidy of their bedrooms.

It is then time for their morning charts.

morning routine homeschool


This is the morning chart for my 4 year old.

When I do his morning chart we being with some songs.

Days of the week song 
(tune of the Addams family theme song)

Day's of the week (click click) Day's of the week (click click)
There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,
There's Thursday and there's Friday
and then there's Saturday...
Days of the week (click click)

 Months of the year song
(tune of 10 little Indian boys)

January, February, March and April
May, June, July and August
September, October, November and December
12 months makes one year

I then tell him what the day of the week is and ask him to find the day that begins with "F" etc.

homeschool routine

This is the morning board for my 6yo. All he has to do is write the number / day on the calendar and write the day of the week and the date. I also put a memory verse or challenging words for him to recite each morning.

Every now and then I will get him to recite the "months of the year" poem.

30 days has September, April, June and November
All the rest have 31 except for February alone
Which has 4 and 24 'til leap year gives it one day more

For my 8yo we have moved away from the morning board to the calendar notebook.

homeschool morning routine

This takes a little longer to do each morning but crosses over lots of curriculum areas. So far, DS8 is enjoying it!

Once these are completed which usually takes less than 10 minutes we are ready to begin our homeschooling day!

See more homeschool morning boards and routines.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Day Of Homeschool 2014


It's a new year!

If you're thinking, wow it's only January 8th - are you crazy? let me fill you in. We homeschool all year round. This doesn't mean we homeschool every day of the year. It simply means we don't take long breaks so we can afford to take little breaks during the year for holidays, special occasions, my work commitments or even just a mental health day (week). I have a full on work schedule for term 1 so the next few weeks are a homeschooling intensive to account for the fact life will be a little hectic for 11 weeks or so. The good news however, is that I have made a big decision about my work / homeschool / life balance or lack thereof and will be working MUCH less from term 2 onwards. It is such a relief just writing that!

So here are my little cherubs (?).


I can't believe he's in year 3 this year!


This boy is an absolute JOY to homeschool!



DS4 will actually be going to 2 days of sessional kindergarten this year. The older boys went and the particular kindergarten he will attend is beautiful with amazingly dedicated and talented staff.  DS4 begged to go and after wrestling with the idea we decided he would enjoy it and it would mean that for those days I could focus on the big boys.

For anyone who is interested here is our list of curriculum for 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writing With Ease - Review

writing with ease Australia

My 7 year old is a reluctant writer. When I say reluctant, I mean that he is more than happy to spend time writing stories but resists any of the rules of writing e.g correct punctuation. It is often messy, rushed and unreadable to anyone but him. When he was 5 I was happy with this as I wanted him to simply enjoy the experience of expressing his thoughts. I felt that perhaps as time went on that he would seek to be understood in his writing and learn to write so that others could enjoy his beautifully creative stories. This didn't happen. He continued to resist any guidance in even just the simple idea of capital letters and fullstops. Why? I think he just honestly didn't see any point! Hence why I named him a 'reluctant writer'.

In my search for writing program that would work for him I turned to Writing with Ease. 



wrtiting curriculum homeschool Australia

It is written by Susan Wise Bauer who is well known for her classical approach to homeschooling and curriculum. I consider my homeschooling style to be eclectic but a lot of what we do is fairly classical. We use many of the Susan Wise Bauer's resources including first language lessons for the well trained mind which can be used with this writing resource. 


Writing with Ease is a program that begins in the early years of years 1 - 4 and has subsequent programs that move through to the proficient writing of year 12. The idea is that at around certain ages children have a readiness to learn particular skills in relation to writing and these skills build as the child grows. For the early years the focus is on copywork, narration and dictation. These provide a solid foundation for building the skills of writing and set children up for success in written communication.



Writing with Skill (Years 5–8) 
In the middle grades the student learns to organize sentences into short compositions.
By now, he can put ideas he’s already read into his own words and get those words down on paper without difficulty. The technical difficulty of learning the act of writing has been conquered. But until the student can begin to think about the order in which ideas should be set down, he’ll continue to struggle with written composition. So during the middle-grade years, you’ll help the student develop a
toolbox of strategies for putting ideas into order.
writing with ease Australia
The lessons are short and simple and easy to follow and for this reason would be suitable for children younger than my son. However, it also engages older children through the use of classical literature. 

One thing I love about using narration as a technique is that it forces my son to THINK. What have I just read or heard? What happened first? Who are the characters? What happened when the princess kissed the frog? This technique, that I'd never heard of prior to homeschooling, is fantastic at encouraging higher order thinking and building skills in verbal expression and reasoning. 


We have been really happy with writing with ease and I plan on using this resource with my 6 year old next year too!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of Writing with Ease: Strong fundamentals and workbook 1 for the purpose of this review.