Monday, July 30, 2012

Inspiration Today

I love this. Stop and consider it. We have such a powerful role as parents. It's easy to get distracted by the unimportant and the mundane. This is an encouraging reminder why we homeschool.

I know I can't protect my children from the world forever. I homeschool so I have time to prepare them by teaching them values, helping them feel comfortable in their own skin and to help them embrace their uniqueness. I want them to be strong and secure so that when they do go out into the world they are ready!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spontaneous Creativity - Natural Learning With Snakes & Ladders


Today DS6 decided he wanted to make a snakes and ladders game after being inspired by our morning maths activity. It was completely his idea. We didn't have any large cardboard so he improvised by sticky taping A4 bits of paper together.

He spent nearly 2 hours making this game and his goal was to make it to 1000. He made it to 740 before running out of room. God forbid anyone land on that snake at 739!

I loved watching his spontaneous creativity. I love that he thought of the idea himself. I love that when presented with an obstacle (no cardboard) that he had to think of a solution. I also love that he gathered his siblings once he had finished to join together to play his creation.

As I watched I found it interesting that he persisted for nearly 2 hours until he finished his project. There is no way in the world we could do 'formal schoolwork' for 2 hours without a meltdown. It was like he had the motivation and desire to see his task to completion because he had a vision for it. He knew exactly what it was that he wanted to make.  He had the time, space and freedom to dream it up and create it. It was his own.

It's moments like this that I see where the idea behind natural learning comes from. I wonder whether this type of spontaneous creativity happens everyday if given no structure at all? Or does more classical learning provide the inspiration for natural learning and teach new ways of exploring the world? I'm starting to see that the two can work together - just as I am witnessing in my own homeschooling experience.

It has made me consider what kind of homeschooler I am. At this stage I see myself as a classical homeschooler that offers plenty of opportunity for natural learning to occur. The two are not mutually exclusive in our household and we seem to have a good balance which works for my children.

So here is my precious DS6 with his snakes and ladders creation.

I am such a proud homeschooling mum!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who Loves Lego? Homeschoolers do!

We love lego in our homeschooling household!

This creation took two of my boys over an hour to construct. I'm not entirely sure what it is but hey, it looks great!

Lego is a brilliant teaching tool whether it be megabloks (as pictured), duplo, lego or any other imitation lego brand. It teaches skills that overlap every curriculum area and can be used in hundreds of different ways.

Here are some of the ways we use lego with our kids aged 0 - 6.

Lego for maths

  • Sorting & classifying (e.g colour, shape, size)
  • Measurement (e.g line up or stack different sized blocks, measure & record results)
  • Words such as length, width, tall, short, wide, 
  • Patterning
  • Counting and ordering (e.g groups to find the largest group)
  • Addition and Subtraction
I also discovered these lego worksheets for simple addition and subtraction.

 Lego for creativity & art
  • With normal lego bricks the creative possibilities are endless
  • Creativity and allowing creative expression is ALWAYS educational 
  • Add some lego figurines or little people or extra doors and windows pieces to extend options
  • Lego can also be used as stampers for art - dip in paint and stamp away!

 Lego for physics (and structural engineering)
  • Ask questions: How can you balance this? Will it tip over? Why do think it might tip over?  

Lego for literacy
  •  If the lego is getting a good workout and the kids are being particularly enthusiastic and creative I get them to write a few sentences about their creation encouraging lots of describing words.
  • I may also get them to illustrate their sentences 

These are just some of the ways that we use lego for homeschooling. There are hundreds of different ways lego can be used for learning so this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

So.....How do you use lego for homeschooling?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Learning With Football Cards

I'm not entirely sure how my boys ended up collecting AFL football cards.  I think my husband had something to do with it. Surprisingly it has proven a valuable (albeit expensive) learning opportunity.

So, here is our experience with football cards and how we've used them.

Football cards as motivation & reward

In order to receive a packet of cards my boys had to earn them. This was either through extra challenging chores around the home or by displaying consistent good behavior in a particular area. Because the boys were really excited about their collections it wasn't hard to motivate them to work hard to receive their reward! Of course these tasks were additional to their normal chores and household responsibilities.

Football cards for organisation

Any type of card collection is good for teaching organisation. The cards can be grouped into categories, teams, themes, type of cards and organised and re-organised in different ways. I can't count how many times I've watched my boys work together to take them all out of the folder and put them back in a different way e.g favourite players. They even attempted to put them in alphabetical order but with 200 or so cards they gave up pretty quickly!

Football cards for maths

The cards have numbers and are ordered from 1 to 200 or so. There are 9 spaces for cards per plastic slip in rows of threes. Both boys have learnt how to count in 3's! They also learnt number ordering and sequencing by finding the correct spot for each card e.g 63 is between 62 and 65.

Below is a picture of how they divided the cards up into equal amounts for each of their 'friends'.

Football cards for socialising

My boys have used these cards for developing their skills of negotiation through trading with each other and friends who collect these cards. They have also been a great source of discussion.

Unexpected learning opportunities....

DS4 LOVES youtube and decided to look up football cards. He discovered loads of videos of other children proudly displaying and describing their cards. He decided he wanted to create a video (or a dozen) of himself talking about his own footy cards. He used the ipad so could set it all up himself. After filming, he showed me his work and boy, was it cute.

The boys have also taken an interest in playing football themselves so we might consider auskick for next season when both boys can attend together. My husband has been teaching them how to kick a football and some basic skills which has resulted in some extra father son time also.

And the downside....

My boys developed skills of negotiation but sadly, also developed skills in manipulation. I had to intervene on many occasions when DS6 took advantage of DS4's goodwill. In the end, the bickering got a bit much so we took away one folder and made them share a collection. This way they had to work together to achieve their outcome - the entire set. 

AFL football cards have provided an unexpected learning opportunity which has been so successful we may even do again next year!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Teaching Kids Aboriginal History - Telling Our Own Stories to honour theirs

Upon her arrival in Australia as an immigrant 60 years ago my grandma's husband and other new migrants worked together to build a series of homes for their families. This beautiful, large home with elaborate features was designed and constructed by a community of people helping one another.

The best part was the backyard overflowing with fruit trees and patches of flowers and exotic plants that sprawled across half an acre. I used to spend hours exploring and picking fruits and vegetables with my grandma, playing hide and seek and watching goldfish in the pond. There was also a sun room that overlooked the garden and I spent hours as a child and teenager reflecting, daydreaming and being inspired by God's creation.

It was one of my favourite places in the world. 

It was a place I felt safe, valued, loved and cherished. I never believed that this home, this garden, this important piece of my childhood and my family would ever disappear. I imagined one day that I would live there with my own family and that they would feel the same safety, security, connection and belonging that I felt as a little girl.

10 years ago my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and needed to go into a nursing home. In order to pay the exorbitant fees my mum had to consider selling the house. At the time I was newly married, studying and living interstate and in no position financially to purchase even a small piece of the land. With great sadness, it was sold. Six townhouses were built in its place. It's still painful when I consider what we lost. To some it was just a house and land but to me it represented my family, their history and their story. It wasn't the place in itself - it was what it represented and how I felt when I was there. I feel sad that my children won't get to experience the joy of running through the same garden I did as a child or the fact that I can't physically show them how hard their great-grandfather worked to build a new life for his family.

Our family history....

I was reminded of my own family history when re-watching SBS the first Australians series. I tried to imagine how unsettling, painful, confusing and scary it would be to have someone disrespect my family, my culture and my story. My grandma's house sprung to mind and I found myself with tears in my eyes as I continued to watch. One story described how a white pastoralist flattened land to create a farm and destroyed trees that aboriginal people used as memorials to honour family members who had died. It was like railroading a cemetery but to the pastoralists it was just a bunch of trees. At times, these were merely acts of ignorance but many times these were calculated attempts to disempower the aboriginal people.

I'm sure we all have similar stories to the one of my grandmothers house and stories of our ancestors who may have fallen victim to racial intolerance as immigrants. In order to understand and teach our children about aboriginal people and and land we must share our own stories with our children - of times when something was taken away from us or we were treated unfairly.

In doing so, we don't just teach our children a bunch of historical facts but the values of empathy and compassion. See my previous blog about teaching small children about Australian Aboriginal history.

In teaching my kids about Australian history I am discovering information that I was never taught. I'm seeking out more balanced information so that I have a better knowledge to impart to my kids. This is proving a fascinating but painful process as I use my own stories to create a better understanding for my children and to honour Aboriginal Australians. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teaching Small Children About Australian Aboriginal History

Australian history homeschool

In order to know where we are going 
we need to know where we've been
 Roy C. Owens

Our first day in Alice Springs, Northern Territory was spent at the telegraph station museum and reserve. It is the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. It is also the place of the 'spring' that gave the place its name. It operated as a telegraph station for 60 years before becoming a school for Aboriginal children. This is a nice way of saying a place where they put half-caste children when they took them away from their parents.

Australian history homeschool

I felt quite overwhelmed at how sketchy my knowledge is of Australian history especially chatting with one of our close friends (a local) who has been living and working with Indigenous people for over 15 years. Just one conversation with him makes me feel like an ignorant fool!

It was an exciting realisation that as a homeschooler I have the power to teach my kids Australian history in the way that I feel is necessary. 

I won't be teaching my kids in the typical white fella way with the emphasis being on the early pioneers and settlers with the disclaimer "Oh and kids...those early pioneers weren't very nice to Aboriginal people...but moving on...". I want my kids to know their history, to understand the beauty of Aboriginal culture and what happened when white people took away their homes and land. I want them to understand the complexities of how this impacted the Aboriginal people and how this is still relevant today.

homeschool aboriginal history
An exercise in teaching Aboriginal history to small children....

I was encouraged by our  friend to teach my kids the heart of the issue when it comes to invasion: land. Land is everything to Aboriginal people. It is part of their identity, their spirituality and their connection to one another. To take away land is to take away their heart and soul and most significantly, their identity.

Step 1. 
Take kids into their favourite room (bedroom or playroom) and ask them to tell you everything they love about that space. They will normally describe toys and books and encourage them to try and explain how they feel when they are there e.g safe, happy...

Step 2. 
Ask them to imagine that the local council has just sent you a letter informing you that they are building a road through their favourite room and they don't have a choice. Ask the children how that makes them feel and how it would feel to watch someone they don't know take their things and tell them they can't live in their home anymore. Be wise in how you do this if your child is sensitive.

Step 3. 
Explain that this is how Aboriginal people feel when their land has been taken away from them. They didn't have a choice and it made them feel really sad. Many Aboriginal people today still feel sad because they grieve for something they lost. When Aboriginal people lost their land, they also lost their connection to their own families, their stories and history.

It is only fair that we validate and respect their experience by sharing the truth with our children.

I did this with my 6 and almost 5 year old as they asked many questions after their visit to the telegraph museum. In fact, DS6 couldn't wait to ask me to explain why the Aboriginal gentleman (pictured above) who showed us around had been taken away from his family and forced to live in the old telegraph station. I was concerned about my ability to tell him this history in a way that wouldn't freak out his sensitive nature. He surprised me. He comprehended it quite well and acknowledged that it was "history which means in the past so those things don't happen anymore". To go from the first Australians to the stolen generation in one discussion was a bit much emotionally for me though!

Australian history homeschool

Australia sadly, has a very shameful history (like many countries) and many Australians are unaware of their roots. We've turned a blind eye as many aspects are too confronting. I don't remember learning half of what I know about the first Australians in school. I certainly wasn't taught the full story. The SBS series the first Australians is an excellent resource for teachers and homeschoolers.

I believe all children need an honest age-appropriate introduction to Australian history.

I will continue to blog about our time in the Northern Territory and our journey learning about this topic!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Accepting Our Child's Uniqueness

I love this.

It reminds me of the importance of recognising our children's uniqueness. It is meaningless to compare them to one another and meaningless to expect of them something that is not who they are. Our children will continue to surprise, amaze, irritate and disappoint us but we must always accept them for who they are - not wish (even secretly) they were more like someone else.

The only person they are supposed to be is themselves and our role as parents is to make sure they know this!