Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy 1st Birthday Daughter!

happy 1st birthday

Does this have anything to do with homeschooling? Not really.

But I just wanted to share a story about my precious daughter.

When we fell pregnant with our first child in 2005 I had a dream: literally. In this dream I saw four generations of women in my family standing on the land near my grandmothers home. I saw my grandma, my mother, myself and a little girl and I heard God say her name was (let's just say 'Pinky').

So I started buying pink things in preparation for this 'little girl' I believed that God had promised me.

When I went for my first ultrasound at 12 weeks I asked if they could tell what it was. It was a boy.

I cried - not because I was disappointed but because it wasn't what I expected.

But that's okay, perhaps it had just been a 'dream' and we all have vivid dreams when pregnant.

fruit cake birthday
1st birthday cake

In 2006 my firstborn son was born.

In 2007 my second son was born and then in 2008 we were pregnant again. This time I KNEW it was going to be a girl and I thought of that dream often.

My mum flew over from interstate to be there for the 20 week ultrasound and we all crowded into a tiny room waiting to hear the news we were expecting - that it was a girl this time. I had even planned to go shopping just with my mum to buy some 'pink' things while we had the boys babysat.

The sonographer zoomed in on his 'bits' and my heart sank - I was quite familiar with those 'bits' as I'd seen them before - it was a BOY!

My mum looked at me with that 'loving mum' look that melts your heart and said, "Honey. It's okay. I know you're disappointed". I burst into tears. My mobile phone started frantically beeping from family members and friends all desperate to know if we were expecting a girl this time. I couldn't bring myself to reply - for days. It wasn't that I didn't want another boy - I just desperately wanted a daughter. 

I have such a beautiful relationship with mum and she had that relationship with my grandma and I couldn't bear the thought of never getting to enjoy the unique mother daughter bond.

Some people accused me of being ungrateful but I couldn't help the way I felt.

After a move back home after years interstate I wanted a 4th child but hubby was not so keen.

Then SURPRISE baby no#4 was on its way (and of course, hubby was stoked!).

This time I prepared myself for another boy. I even had his name picked out - Judah.

We took the whole family to the 20 week ultrasound. The sonographer looked at my 3 boys and
smiled and asked if we wanted to know what it was. She clearly couldn't wait to find out because she went straight there but didn't say anything. I asked if that was a bottoms up view and she replied yes, and I noted there were no 'bits' in sight. But she didn't reveal until 40 minutes later that she was positive it was a girl!

I went in to shock and my mum cried!

Later that day, hubby came home and said that he had been praying prayers of thankfulness all day and felt like her name should be 'Pinky'. It was the same name from the dream I had 6 years earlier - but hubby hadn't remembered. It was in that moment we realised that God had indeed promised us a daughter all those years ago and this had always been meant to be.

In February 2012 my little girl was born. We had a daughter!

4 generations of women - I'm the baby here!

Just weeks before my daughters 1st birthday my beautiful grandma passed away at 91 years of age.

I realised that my dream had been accurate - there had been four generations of women from our family together for a time. As we said our goodbyes to my grandma and reminisced about my own great grandmother I realised for the first time that my daughters name was a perfect combination of both my grandmother and great-grandmothers name.

It was overwhelming how everything God had promised in that dream had unfolded - not in my time but in his own perfect timing.

So as we celebrated her 1st birthday it was with an overwhelmingly thankful heart and sense of awe knowing that her life has meaning and value beyond what we understand and that we know that God is always faithful to his promises.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Homeschool Swimming Lessons

homeschool swimming lessons

Look at my unsocialized homeschoolers at their swimming class!

homeschool swimming class

This is just one of the weekly activites my homeschoolers do. We love this class and we love the boys swimming coach. He is great with kids although they occassionally struggle with his dry sense of humour - makes me giggle though!

This swimming class was organised by a parent who approached a swim center to see if they would offer a class during the day for homeschoolers. Although it costs the same as a regular swim class we are so happy it fits in to our schedule and we don't have to compete with the after school crowds!

The coach is also happy for my 3 year old to splash around while the boys participate in their class. This is great because he thinks he's part of it too!

homeschool swimming class

My boys love their homeschool swimming class!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Study Ladder In Your Homeschool - Review

modern homeschool today

We are always looking for ways to supplement our hands-on learning with online learning in our homeschool. But let's be honest, there are so many different programs available these days and they can get quite expensive especially when you have to pay for multiple children.

The computer is an important part of our homeschool day as I often set up one child on the laptop while working 1:1 with the other.

So, what are the benefits of study ladder ?

Supports all curriculum areas

Study ladder includes 10 different subjects including music and art.

You can also set up learning tasks in any subject by school grade level which can helpful when trying to gage what level your homeschooler might be compared to their peers.

The fact is covers a range of subjects also means you are not paying for numerous subscriptions - this is a one stop shop!

Family subscription

Study ladder uses a family subscription so you don't have to pay for each child.

You can include all of your children on the one yearly subscription for only $88. 
Planning and setting tasks

This is by far one of the best things about study ladder.

Study ladder is different to other programs because you can set the learning tasks and view their results easily. This has been fantastic as if we are working on times tables I can work 1:1 with one child while having the other child doing the same topic online. We found with other programs our kids would jump from one activity to another rather than stick to a particular topic which is of course okay, but I often found myself questioning just how fruitful the computer time was and how much they were actually getting done. Now, I know exactly what they are doing - because I set the tasks and view the results.

Kids love the rewards

My boys love avatars so the custom design avatar feature is a hit!

They also love the rewards which are interactive.

Study ladder is the best online resource we have tried by far and has been an excellent supplement to our homeschool curriculum. 

In conclusion, we love study ladder and definitely recommend it to other homeschoolers!

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary 6 month study ladder subscription for the purposes of this review. My review is my honest personal opinion of this educational resource.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Homeschooling On The Rise in South Australia - Article In The Media

This is my family as pictured in an article on homeschooling in the Adelaide Advertiser.

We look happy don't we? Laughing with joy as we learn together. It's true. We are happy. In fact, very happy to have the opportunity to be homeschooling.

However, this recent article pointed out that the current rise in home education is not due to parents recognising homeschooling as a valid way to educate a child but because so many troubled children are being kicked out of school. Apparently, there are hoards of unhappy parents being forced to homeschool their children because the department of education no longer wants them in their system.

My response is this:

I've met lots of homeschoolers and interact with many online and I have never once encountered one who homeschools because the department kicked their child out of school - not even one. I'm not denying these families exist but they are clearly the minority.

Many troubled children display troubled behaviors because they come from volatile home environments - hardly the appropriate environment for home education. It is also HIGHLY unlikely with the education departments strict assessment procedures in SA that many of these parents would be deemed appropriate to homeschool in the firstplace.

Isn't it possible that homeschooling is on the rise because more parents are recognising that it is an equally
valid way to educate a child?

I'm tired of the mainstream media painting homeschooling in such a negative light. How about an article that speaks of the benefits of homeschooling and debunks the myths about socialisation? How about making use of the copious amounts of academic research that suggest that homeschooling is a positive experience for children both academically and socially.

And while we're at it - let's break down the stereotype of the homeschooled family too!

Homeschooling provides an amazing opportunity for parents to tailor an education to fit their child's interests and abilities. It also provides a way for kids to develop social skills naturally without the negative influences of the unnatural social environment of mainstream schools.

I'm planning on speaking up - who's with me?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Benefits Of Homeschooling Series - Part 3 - Time & Togetherness

modern homeschool today Australia

When my son attended mainstream school we would rush through our morning routine which often involved frustration and tears - especially when we were running late. After school he would come home tired, irritable and some days, sad. I didn't get to see the best of him and I missed that.

I missed him.

But it wasn't all about me. He missed me too - I'm sure. A teacher with 30 other children to care for couldn't replace a 'mum' and I'm sure he, like most kids, had days where he would have rather been at home.

Our experience with mainstream school wasn't a disaster, it just wasn't ideal. We made the decision to homeschool part way through Term 2 of 2012 as I felt I could provide a more optimal learning environment for my son at home.

People thought I was crazy. People still think I'm crazy.

Time with our children
We live in a culture that often views children as an inconvenience - exhausting and bothersome little people that we need to get away from. This is one reason why homeschooling raises eyebrows. It's a counter-cultural choice and not just because the culture is to send kids to mainstream school but because our culture places so much emphasis on the importance of time away from our children.

How many TV ads picture wild kids running around and getting dirty followed by an encouragement to ‘take some time for yourself’ by consuming or buying a said product? We’re being conditioned to perceive our children as noisy, dirty annoyances that leave us desperately needing a break and therefore requiring a new product or service. It is just one of the ways that our industry-driven popular culture influences all aspects of our lives - including the way we see our children.

Don’t believe it. Our children are a gift.

But, don't you want a break from your kids?

difficult children
YES! And I do - when I go to work one morning a week. Don't laugh. Although I work with small children (with special needs) I absolutely love going to work. I'm doing what I feel passionate about and it helps I have a 'nice' job so I leave feeling like I've achieved something positive. I also have a babysitting exchange where I teach my friends child the piano (I used to be a music teacher) and she takes my kids for a few hours every fortnight. I also have my parents around to help whenever I need it.

That is more than enough so I don't need a break from them for 30 hours a week - I would miss them too much!

I want to raise my own kids - I don't want someone else to raise them for me.

The value of time..... 

family time

Remember having a newborn? How fast the time goes!

Although a popular argument, it is actually quantity time that children benefit the most from - not quality. Children learn so much through just being with us - chatting while we prepare lunch or sit in the car. Children are learning all the time and they often learn the most during this 'down-time'.

I also want to take every opportunity to teach my kids good values and life lessons. It takes time to build a child's character and I was always concerned that my children were spending most of their 'time' in an environment that opposed our values in so many ways. How could I teach them to be all God created them to be when they spent more time with someone whose job it was to simply teach academics? I believe good character is far more important than academic success.

I enjoy my kids (mostly) and one of the benefits of homeschooling is more time as a family - learning and growing together.

As many of my friends with grown children tell me, the time when our children are young goes so fast. I want to make sure I make the most of the time I spend with my children and hold them close!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Homeschooling With Angry Birds

Believe it or not I'm quite strict about how much popular culture enters my home. I carefully consider what is good for my kids, what is unlikely to do any harm and what has the potential to send a message that contradicts our value system.

My verdict on angry birds is that it's a harmless bit of fun.

My boys LOVE angry birds and they have many of the games on the ipad and android. Although I don't encourage a lot of computer game time due to their addictiveness - they do get some game time over the weekend and angry birds is their game of choice.

My boys also have 2 sets (yes, 2) sets of the angry birds real life game  which they LOVE. They don't actually play the game but use all the pieces to create elaborate structures and knock them down. They have also been improvising with similiar toys they can use in their structures such as uno stacko blocks. Given that angry birds can be used to teach physics and elements of structural engineering, it's a positive addition to our homeschool game collection.

homeschool printables angry birds

So, it makes sense that some fun, angry birds themed activities might provide a good supplement or addition to our homeschool day.

So here's what I discovered in my searching for angry birds themed resources and wanted to share with you......

FREE Angry Birds Printables 
suitable for homeschool.

Angry Birds Kindergarten Printable Set

This set covers a wide range. Some activities are suitable for a pre-schooler around 3-4 years old like the classifying, sorting and coloring and others are for around the 5 year old mark like sight words and simple fractions. I used this set with both DS3 and DS5.

 Angry Birds Coloring Pages

Angry Birds Pre-school Activity Printables

angry birds printables homeschool

These are 'prettier' printables and contain activities such as tracing, simple words, size sorting etc..and are suitable for pre-schoolers. I highly recommend these!

Angry Birds Vocab cards for older kids

angry birds homeschool

DS7 didn't want to miss out so I tried to find something suitable for older kids. Most things I found focused on physics and geoparabolas (mental note: find out what that is). I found these vocab cards and got him to glue them in a book and use them in a sentence. Simple.

Angry Birds Times Tables Printables

I also discovered these which I plan on using when we start multiplication next week!

I hope your little angry birds lovers enjoy these activities as much as my boys have!