Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Trip To Seaworld - Gold Coast

homeschooling seaworld

We had an awesome holiday recently on the Gold Coast. One of the highlights was two days at Seaworld.

Homeschooling Australia Seaworld
This was our first trip to Seaworld since our eldest was 3 so it was a different experience with the kids old enough to sit and enjoy the shows such as fish detectives. We scored a seat right at the front and were so close to the seals that the boys could almost reach out and touch them!

homeschooling seaworld Australia

One of the newer attractions at Seaworld is dinosaur island and the dinosaur discovery centre. The dinosaurs are life sized which is truly amazing to see and the discovery centre is fantastic. I was explaining some of the exhibits to the boys and how they learn what dinosaurs used to eat by their poo. At the end, I asked the boys what they learnt about dinosaurs and DS3 piped up, "I learnt that dinosaurs eat poo". Not quite son, but good try! This has inspired  the boys to learn more about dinosaurs so we are re-visiting some books and studies on dinosaurs.

homeschooling Australia
 The dolphin show is always my favourite - God's creation is amazing!

homeschooling seaworld Australia

Pirate bay was also new and includes a boat ride which involves shooting cannons with water and an impressive climbing structure - like an enormous play center. The boys loved this!

homeschooling Australia
Of course there was plenty of time to enjoy the rides too!

Another highlight was the shark viewing aquarium - I could have spent all day just sitting and watching the fish, stingrays and sharks - truly beautiful.The penguins were also awesome.

If you are a homeschooling family and planning a trip to the Gold Coast, Seaworld is fantastic and well worth the trip. I also recommend getting a pass that allows you to visit more than once as it means you can take your time and enjoy and appreciate everything it has to offer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Our Homeschooling Room

homeschooling space

We are moving house and saying goodbye to our faithful homeschool room! Our new place doesn't have a designated space...yet... so we are going to miss this room!

homeschool room
I obviously took this photo before the wall was filled with artwork and posters and the computer desk is missing the laptop! 

home education space

 My love.......Ikea storage tubs!

I'm excited about the opportunity to design our new homeschool room so it's goodbye to our old room and looking ahead to something new!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Are We Doing Enough? Our Experiment!

I think most homeschoolers ask themselves this question from time to time. Are we doing enough? It's hard to measure everything we do as so much of our days are just regular life such as a trip to the shops, bike rides, walks on the beach collecting shells.....and how can we measure the value of conversations with our children or the sibling relationships that grow and develop each day? We can't. Some learning, the important stuff, can't be measured on a standardised test. And isn't the avoidance of these measures at least partly what drew us to homeschool in the first place?

When it comes to 'how much is enough?' we sometimes have to wrestle with our own beliefs about education when we imagine the 6hr classroom day compared to our own days at home.

We returned from a week on the Gold Coast over the weekend so decided to take this week pretty easy as I'm also in the process of re-evaluating how we homeschool. I constantly fall into the 'are we doing enough?' thinking. So I embarked on an experiment and documented everything that happened on both our unstructured, unplanned days as well as the more typical homeschool days.


- Playing with Lego building villages
- 2 older boys took turns doing 30 minutes of maths games on Ipad
- Trip to the shops to print photos from our holiday
- Put together photo albums, made scrapbooks with stories from our trip, brochures, photos and pictures.

- I went to work for 2hrs and grandma came over
- Read stories with grandma / drawing / lego
- Played superheros outside with costumes

- Went to local library for kids club - craft activity (2hrs)
- Borrowed library books / quiet reading once home

- Watched Deadly 60 animal documentary on TV with dad
- Independent bedtime reading (30 minutes)


- Football cards - sorting and numbering
- 30 minutes maths games on Ipad
- Piano practice 30 minutes DS5 (he does this spontaneously!)
- Studyladder online (1hr each while I was at work)

- Watched funny videos on youtube
- Went to the local playground
- Went grocery shopping
- Read stories together on the couch

- Nanny came to visit and told her about our holiday


- Regular homeschool routine which includes morning chores, devotions, character study, maths, literacy etc. and other homeschool curriculum.

- Swimming lessons
- Me teaching from home = kids around,  so play time with friends

- Read stories with dad


- Independent / quiet reading
- Puzzles / games / toys

- Took DS7 to a homeschool group introduction to film making for kids which he loved and wants to learn more so we are considering regular film making classes

- Visited Christian book store / play in the indoor playground
- Selected and purchased some books
- At home DS7 sat and did some story writing for an hour while DS5 and DS3 and DD had a nap...I seized my moment and joined them!
- Piano practice for 2 older boys
- Music practice - kids got out the percussion instruments and drums and 'wrote songs' together for over an hour making videos of themselves on the Ipad
- Outside play


-  Regular homeschool routine which includes morning chores, devotions, character study, maths, literacy etc. and other homeschool curriculm
- Studyladder online and skwirk

- Watched a movie
- Watered and looked at vege & herb garden / picked veges and herbs for dinner
- DS7 Basketball training 1hr
- DS5 & 3 Auskick football 1hr

This is very  different to our usual weeks which are busier and more structured but I found this experiment to be very encouraging. If I wanted to put my teacher hat on I could re-word everything with an educational focus and it would probably sound impressive. e.g the boys playing with football cards would be sorting and classifying, time in the vegie garden would fall under science etc. It reminds of when I announced on facebook that we were homeschooling and my page filled with jokes such as 'animal studies = look over the fence at the neighbours dog' and 'cultural studies - lunch at a Chinese resteraunt'. It's not about being sneaky as this is exactly what teachers do. Don't be fooled by the language or edu-speak in the Australian curriculum - viewing, presenting and evaluation is just watching a movie..but it sounds impressive doesn't it? 

What did I learn from my note taking? My kids do a lot of things that I no longer notice because it's so 'normal' such as independent, quiet reading, story writing, music practice, lego and puzzles etc...all of this is learning, natural learning, self-directed learning. It is ALL good.

My encouragement is when in times of doubt, observe and write everything down. You may find yourself amazed at what your kids have achieved in that day or week!

Monday, June 3, 2013

In Defence Of Unschooling.....


We don't watch TV much these days but we did happen to see this segment on unschooling on the project where it was described as "stupid" and "irresponsible" by panel members.

I don't identify as an unschooler but I respect the diversity that exists in the homeschooling community and embrace many natural learning approaches in the way we home educate. I've seen the merits of unschooling in my own boys through what they create in their 'free' time. I see their passion and enthusiasm when they pursue something that interests them rather than something I've told them to learn and it takes learning to a whole new level - a much higher level.

In defence of unschooling is "stupid"..........

To be fair, an unschooler saying they let their children do what ever they want does at first, sound crazy. However, what others imagine this to look like is usually incorrect. Unschooling doesn't mean letting kids do whatever they want whenever they want with no rules, structure or discipline - it means trusting that children learn quite naturally and organically at certain stages of development and are capable of directing their learning much in the same way as educational philosophies like Montessori and Reggio Emilio (that many wealthy private schools use in early learning) do.

Although homeschooling is still taboo, the figures show that more parents are considering alternatives to mainstream education through schools such as Montessori. These schools often take a more child-directed approach to learning which appeals to parents. This is exactly what many homeschoolers and unschoolers are doing.

In defence of unschooling is "irresponsible"........

In order to see alternative education as irresponsible we must believe that a mainstream education is the only way to learn and that without it children will fail.

Unschooling doesn't provide a child with a perfect education - but neither does mainstream school or any school option for that matter. Unschooling (with perhaps the exception of radical unschooling) simply take a different approach to learning that supports a childs innate desire to learn about the world around them. Unschooled children are not being ignored or left to play video games all day - they have committed parents who are strongly connected with them and their learning needs. If they want to learn an instrument then a parent will faciliate that by finding a teacher, if they have a question about crocodiles then the parent is there to answer it, if they want to play basketball then the parent finds them a team. Unschooling is only irresponsible if the parent is completely disconnected or absent from the child.

In defence of "Parents should be parents not educators.."

It seems a commonly held belief that parents are useless once the child turns 5 when they go to school to be educated by experts.

Well, guess what? I'm the expert on my child. I'm not the expert on year 12 physics but right now, I don't have to be. I know that one of my children is beautifully creative and that he is easily discouraged. I know he likes to 'think' in peace and quiet and that he absolutely loves numbers. He is strong-willed and fiercely independent. I know my other child has an amazing ability to memorize facts. In fact, he likes memorizing things!  Just this week he told me he knew the name of every current player in the AFL (football) and guess what, he does! Now...just to channel that brain power in to something more useful... :)

As parents we shouldn't doubt the call on our lives to teach our children as they are ours for a reason. We are the ones chosen to impart love, wisdom and guidance to these precious little people. This is not a responsibility we should be coerced into delegating to complete strangers under the guise they are better of with the 'experts'. We need to regain confidence in our ability as parents to create a valuable, stimulating learning experience at home for our children.

Unschooling, like homeschooling, will always be a subject of division as we battle our often pig-headed opinions toward what learning and education should look like.