Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ginger date muffins with caramel sauce

from The Australian Women's Weekly Muffins mini book, 2001

Ingredients:
1 cup coarsely chopped seeded dates
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarb of soda
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely ground orange rind
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup cream
40g butter

Method:

* Preheat oven to moderately hot (200 deg C).  Grease 12 hole muffin pan.
* Combine dates and water in medium saucepan, bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add soda; stand for 5 minutes.
* Sift dry ingredients into large bowl; stir in date mixture and remaining ingredients.  Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
* Bake in moderately hot oven for about 20 minutes.  Serve warm with caramel sauce.
* Caramel sauce - Combine ingredients in medium saucepan, stir over heat without boiling, until sugar dissolves.  Simmer without stirring for about 3 minutes or until thickened slightly.

Makes 12
Per serving 18.4g fat, 1929kJ

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some great TED talk links

Living Beyond Limits by Amy Purdy

I would love my Aspie son to watch this one. He thinks his Asperger's is an excuse to not do well rather than embracing his differences as a strength that can take him places that NT(neuro-typicals) can't go.

How to Live before You Die by Steve Jobs

I love this one too, for myself and my friends.

In fact check out the TED site.  There are so many great talks and you can search by topic.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A photographic update!

untitled-14.jpg by tranquility.zen

untitled-14.jpg, a photo by tranquility.zen on Flickr.
The chook pen built by Chris and some friends over several weeks.

untitled-26.jpg
My girls, two of each breed.

untitled-78.jpg
My new-to-me car.  Yay for boot space!

untitled-21.jpg
Our garden beds and to the right a large rhubarb patch, thanks to a co-worker of DH.

Hope these are all there. I am new to this linking to photos elsewhere on the web.

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, December 2, 2011

Productivity update

So this unplugging seems to be really working.  I have been getting a lot more done.  So far this week I have almost caught up on all of November's big chores.  They included washing the curtains all through the house.  I have only 2 rooms to go.  I have also done some "deep" cleaning of the floor and was happy enough to get out the Christmas tree yesterday for decorating.  Of course after all that hard work I couldn't leave all the tinsel bits all over the floor so the vacuum cleaner was whipped out yet again.

I have made a list of the worksheets I will be needing over the next 5 weeks of school (they will run into the new year) and I will be printing, copying and stapling lots tonight and tomorrow.  Right now I am off to dig over my front garden beds and put in seeds.  I miss having flowers to smell.

By the way, a tip I have for those of you who use your computer as a homeschool tool as well.  I have set up my Windows Live Family Safety account with 2 users for me. 

I have one that is unrestricted in where I travel or what I do (except for the usual nasties) but is restricted time-wise to only very early morning and late afternoon during the week and all day on the weekends. 

The other account is called School and I have unrestricted time but restricted programs.  I use Homeschool Tracker and I hate printing off reports so I write myself a list on a laminated sheet then update HST as we do things or do a big check off later in the afternoon on the PC.  I can't access emails or the web except for restricted games for the kids such as Starfall or Reading Eggs.  (Oops, sorry, I do access the banking.)  And I can't play games on the School account, only use Word and Excel. 

I can override the settings as I did set them up myself but they can take some time to update and it is very fiddly so I often find myself writing myself a note on paper and getting back to it later.  My pencil and piece of paper on a clipboard are becoming my new best friends.  They don't distract me but still allow me to catch those fleeting thoughts of things I need to do.

I hope you are having a productive week too.

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

YouTube surfing can be rather interesting.  I came across this one today, a speech from a young lady, Severn Suzuki, daughter of David Suzuki, environmental activist, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.  She was only 12 yet very fluently made her point. 

I hope my children will stand up for and speak up for what they believe in as fluently as Severn.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Where am I coming from?

I guess my recent post on unschooling was a bit strong.  It is something I feel pretty angry about.  So where is that coming from?

Let's give you some back ground.  My eldest was born when I was 27 years old, in my plan, just the right timing.  We had just bought a house and I was getting older and having a baby made me feel more settled. 

In my teen years I started to have an interest in natural therapies, in avoiding unnecessary medicines and in living in tune with the natural way of things.  This then shaped my future decisions.

When I had my first baby I wanted to avoid interventions (I did) and I wanted to breastfeed (I did).  I ended up co-sleeping my baby and when he was about 4 months old I started going to Nursing Mother's (now Australian Breastfeeding Association) meetings.  I volunteered as librarian and after reading a book about Nestle and its involvement in encouraging bottle feeding in undeveloped countries and the benefits of breastmilk I decided I would feed as long as possible.  I also read a William Sears book on attachment parenting.  It sounded great and I resolved to have a terrific relationship with my child so that we would work synergestically together.

What I didn't know is that Asperger Syndrome kids have attachment issues.  They don't do well with over stimulation, irregular routines, inconsistency in how things are done.  Being a mother to a young Aspie boy and trying to be use methods that work with "attached" kids was a very frustrating experience.  He would twist things to suit himself all the time.  He didn't have any interest in doing things to please me, like any well attached child "should", but only to please himself.  I felt like such a huge failure.  I hugged him lots (when he would let me, sensory overload issues), I gave him choices (especially when he was overwhelmed but Aspies shut down when overwhelmed), I didn't smack (maybe I got that right?), I co-slept and breastfed long-term, I didn't move more than 10 metres from his side for most of his first two years but he didn't respond in the way Dr Sears said he would.

So after a 2 day a week stint in day care to "help him get ready for school" from 2.25 to 3.25 years old I realised he was not "normal".  Getting anyone else to see it was not easy.  I started to think I was imagining things so I moved on to other "normal" activities for his age.  Resistance and stubborness became his standard response to anything I tried. 

I had met some homeschooling families by now and had been exposed to ACE and its workbooks (knew they wouldn't work at all), to Montessori and to natural learning.  We didn't have the money to buy Montessori materials or to put him into a local Montessori day care so I went with natural learning.  It is very hard to entice a kid who lives in his own world to listen to books or to watch videos or to do crafts on a topic he doesn't care about.  It was like pulling teeth to even find a topic he was interested in.

Over the next 4 years we moved 4 times, had 2 more babies and struggled with my dh not having full time work that was enough to meet our bills.  With the next children being "normal" I finally realised that life was easier as their mum, they listened, they learnt, they were loving.  I got my eldest his diagnosis, despite my GP not believing there were any issues and close freinds still not "seeing" it.  With that has come the realisation that I am the Mum, that this kid needs me to push him, that letting things flow naturally will leave him lacking in education.

If you wonder why this concerns me so please consider this.  My dh left school at 15 years old.  He had not even completed Year 9.  He thought he had enough education despite not having good marks (undiagnosed learning difficulties and possibly Aspie himself) and went to work.  Fast forward 15 years to when he wants to improve the life of our family and decides to go to University.  He couldn't do the work.  He has the smarts but not the skills to show them.  He has learnt everything he knows in a "natural" way as his interests led.  But it has not been enough.  He has struggled to do more later in life with his education without that strong foundation of skills.

I do not want my daughters-in-law to go through long periods of their DHs (my sons) being out of work, or my sons to have the disappointment of not being able to follow a dream due to a lack of education.

I owe my kids not only an interesting life with time to follow their passions and interests but also a good education in a structured manner that they may not appreciate receiving right now yet will bless them in the future.

I really feel that this "fashion" of allowing kids to follow their interests in learning is still too young to show its fruit.  In my opinion some good ol' fashioned book smarts will not harm them and has an awful lot more history to show that it has merit in educating our children so that they may lead fulfilling lives.

Hmm, might need to take a break from blogging soon unless everyone likes reading rants.  :-)

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, November 25, 2011

The latest news!

So we are getting a second car.  The Landcruiser that my dh had been wanting since forever has been a gas guzzler and with prices only going up it was time to consider a second vehicle for the everyday running around.  I have always found the Landcruiser to be, well... to be totally honest, absolutely useless for grocery shopping.  When you are shopping for 6 and would prefer to only go shopping once a fortnight the space in the rear is pitiful.  Even for a week it is a squeeze.

I am hoping to get an old Tarago/Spacia for myself.  I love the space inside and it will only be a 4 cyclinder so a lot better for running costs.

Unplugging from PCs and the other electronic entertainment devices has been working lots better here.  We are getting more school done but I think my teenager could do with firmer boundaries.  He is likely to quickly pop on my computer to play Minecraft if he gets an opportunity even if he has been told game over and to turn off the kids' computer.  Very frustrating!

I am finding that even if I have time off the computer that some days are still sluggish for me.  I think this may be due to not getting enough sleep and also due to bad snacking choices.  I am working on getting to bed earlier and will be making sure that there are some healthier snacks available with my next grocery shop.

My sluggish days also seem to coincide with mostly carb breakfasts.  I have some favourite egg meals and if I am having them more often for breakfast I can handle a carb morning tea without a crash later.  Some of my favaourite egg breakfasts are Country Breakfast Casserole, dinosaur eggs (Scotch Eggs?), Dutch Apple Baby, and Scrambled eggs with sausages/bacon and toast.

I have also learnt that if I have not done the preparation for the whole week that my days fall apart very quickly.  Our weekends have been busy so I thought I would create worksheets, photocopy pages and compile our lists on the fly during the week.  Not so easy!  I will be doing a lot, and I mean a lot, of printing, copying, stapling, writing and overall getting ready for school next week over this weekend.

Well, I guess that is it for now.  I haven't had much of a chance to drop by anyone's blogs so I hope you are all well.  Maybe once I have my "new" car I will be able to just sit back a little and look around, while printing pages of course!  lol

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, November 21, 2011

When unschooling doesn't work

I know there is a lot out there to suggest that child-led learning can be very good.  Here is how my experience went.

My eldest was an usual kid right from the get go.  I remember trying to get him interested in things, to have a passion like all the other little boys.  I borrowed tons of books on trucks, dinosaurs, building, etc but nothing bought a spark to his eyes.  Around 4 years old I tried to do a lot more hands on stuff with him.  I bought out all sorts of craft materials and worked along side him.  We each made a caterpillar out of an egg carton and decorated it.  His didn't even last an hour.  It wasn't what he wanted it to turn out like so he destroyed it.

He then struggled to learn to read or even remember lessons from one day to the next.  After reading Better Late than Early by the Moores I decided to back off and try unschooling, giving him time to follow his own interests.  By this stage I had a 5 year old and a 2 year old and we moved interstate. 

Again I encouraged lots of conversation about the world around us and yet he still was "numb", not overly interested in anything.  My 2 year old absorbed lots.  I guess there is a bright side. 

Add in 2 more babies, 2 interstate moves, big dramas in our family, unemployment, and still resisting lessons and I turned the television on.  I hate that I turned on the box but it is really hard to teach someone who fights you all the way.  On top of everything else going on in our lives I just couldn't handle those daily battles and feeling so useless when he couldn't/wouldn't learn.

For the last 3 years I have continued to try unschooling principles with my other children.  I can say that I don't think it worked in our family.  I know people say that children are very interested to learn but I feel like I have spent a whole lot of time trying to get a spark going where there was no want for it.

So since then my eldest has been diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome.  It explains a lot.  Now he does have a passion, Minecraft, and I use it as "bribery" to get him to do his regular school. 

The other boys are "behind".  I think that time left to themselves to learn in a child-led way has only led to brains that want entertaining, that don't know how to process and think.  Even with access to the library and me to answer questions they have not had as good an education as they could have had.

In my opinion a more structured learning method is better, at least as a foundation or kick off point.  If a parent is not leading, pushing even, it is easy for a child to develop lazy habits and not worry about the effort it takes to learn new things.

We are implementing more structure here, at least for morning lessons, and I will be limiting the television a lot more.  It might be a great source of information when you have the History Channel and National Geographic channels but it is only a resource, much like a book.  I have learned that knowing information is a lot different to using information and making connections between bits of information.  A teacher is needed for that purpose.   Kids, well at least my kids, don't do that on their own.

Am I the only one who failed unschooling? I know others who advocate strongly for it but I think that it takes a certain type of family to be successful at it.  Parents need to be passionate about things in their own lives, to be an example of life long learning; they need to be very involved with their kids and be totally on top of what their interests, strengths and weaknesses are; and they do need to give a little push here and there.  Totally child led can be a mistake in my book.


Well, off my soapbox now,
Jen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unplugging PC, plugging in brains

A couple of weeks ago I rescheduled our whole school year and decided that we really better get a bit more serious about this school thing if we wanted to have new fun things to learn the next school year.  Last week did not go to plan and over the weekend I started to panic a bit.  Funnily enough I read an article by Cindy Rushton about unplugging and then listened to an audio of hers called Procrastination Attack! Eat That Frog!.  (Check it out about half way down the page.)

Wow, I just realised that this life is it, my one and only, no second chances.  I need to get on with living my dreams, making them real.

So, this week - much better.  I have hardly used my computer, instead using paper and pencil, and surfing and visiting forums are minimal.  I have so much more time for doing school and keeping home. :-)

The boys are resisting change and sometimes I feel a lot like I am herding cats but we have been getting more school done and the house is not falling apart.  My days are still not perfect and I know the perfect days will be rare but to know that I am working towards my dream of a calm clean home with well-educated young men keeps me going.

I am also looking to working on a dream of a more personal nature.  I was learning to play guitar before my eldest was born.  In the new year I hope to give it another go.

Next week I am going to work on unplugging them from the TV.  Wish me luck!

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, November 7, 2011

Teaching to the Individual articles

The gentleman at Wisdom of the Hands posts mostly about woodworking but it is interesting how in these posts about class teaching vs individual teaching that he comes close to explaining what is my experience as a homeschool mum of 4 boys all at different stages in learning.

Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3



Keep reading.  He seems to be on a roll talking about Sloyd.  A very interesting way to think about education.

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Frank Update and School Plans

So did anyone notice I never did post more of my Spring Cleaning list?  Well, I did, and the guilt has been weighing heavily.  I really think I bit off more than I can chew at this time of year with that huge list.  I need a reality check - spring is not the time for me to be taking on any major tasks.  I am allergic to 3 biggies that flower/seed at this time of year prolifically, Rye, Bahia Grass and Plantain.  Seeing as I live on the edge of cow farmland (plantain is often used as cow pasture) it is not nice when they all decide to spread their seed.

I am now getting to see a pattern and I will be making sure that next spring does not include any big plans for any thing.  I get huge sinus headaches that last for days, I am tired, lethargic and my eyes water and I sneeze a lot.  I get blocked sinuses, ear aches and sometimes sinus infections.  I know others have worse health issues, I am not whining.  I just need to be realistic about my abilities at this time of year.

So now, guilt over!  Moving on!

I have been printing out maths sheets by the batches for the boys' clipboards.  Thank you to Tracey over at Little Men in My Library for her heads up about Math Resource Studio.  I still need to organise more clipboard activities. 

I am working on a rotating theme of extra pages of maths on Monday, art on Tuesday, language arts on Wednesday, mazes on Thursday, science on Friday.  Most of my ideas for maths, language arts and science are coming from a Morning Message book from Scholastic.    The art pages are another tip from Tracey.  The boys get one page each week to work on from the Drawing Practice Sheets.  I have a ton of mazes printed as they are a favourite for big and small here.  I got mine from KrazyDad

What are these clipboards for?  Well, some days I have to take my dh to work if I am going to be needing the car later.  I put on the boys' clipboards pages that they can work on independently while I am gone.  It also keeps them quiet for a bit on the days I am at home to give me some time to sort myself out before we get on with school.

In addition to their clipboards I am also creating some individual binders (just slim ones) with pages in them of memory work.  As each child is at different stages I am going to work with each one individually on their binder.  Included will be poetry and scripture memorisation to match their curriculum, map pages (ranging in difficulty from Australian states to continents and major cities and land marks around the world) and times tables.  In our individual time we will work on some handwriting too.  I have tried teaching them all at once for handwriting but I just can't give each child the attention they need in a group situation.

I hate how much prep is needed for school.  I find myself worrying about ink cartridge and paper costs even though I have an ample budget for home school supplies.  It is just one of those things though.  If I want to have a half way reasonable home school experience then I need to put in the time and money now.  It will cost me more than those later on if I don't.

So there you go, I am still here, just foggy, over tired and a little depressed.   I think things will get better now, isn't half the solution recognising the problem?

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Playing for Change

This organisation has a great goal of bringing music to the world. 

Check out their "episodes", songs played by musicians across the world, and so beautifully put together.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A lovely holiday! (Part 2)


On Wednesday we went to White Water World, a water park attached to Dreamworld.  Sadly my littlest had a high temperature and spent most of his day sitting mostly slumped in a buggy we were using to keep track of all our towels and our snacks.  He did go down the slides in the baby area but I think if he had been well he would have preferred the Pipeline Plunge area.  It had a large bucket up top that would fill, then start to overflow to ring a bell.  Next thing you know a huge amount of water would be dumped on those below.  My 6 and 9 year old loved this area and my usually dependent 6 year old played there a lot without me being right next to him while I watched his big brothers go on scary rides.

I managed to go on the Hydroflow with my eldest which captured one of the few photos of the park adventures that we liked.  Well, as much as you can like a picture of yourself screaming and white faced.  lol

I just love Mike's hair in this shot, and I was definitely not thinking about smiling for the camera.

Harry in front, a bit scared, Jack behind him and Dh in back.

And this was hubby on the Cyclone roller coaster ride at Dreamworld!  Happy chappy, isn't he?

The water park closed at 4pm so we managed to get one more ride over at Dreamworld next door before they closed at 5.  Dh went on the Cyclone and was as chuffed as can be that he got to go on a "scary" ride.  He was just a little too big in girth to go on any others.

Thursday was my eldest's 13th birthday and was spent doing things he liked such as a huge amount of time on Minecraft.  We did manage to make it out of the house for some time at TimeZone.  The boys loved that despite me thinking they would be overwhelmed by the noise and lights.  Here my youngest got to finally go on a dodgem car ride, after missing out at Dreamworld by 1 cm on the height restriction.  He was so chuffed and by now was feeling better so he could fully appreciate it.

Our last day was not one of my best planning ideas.  Somehow we had to get everything packed out of the house and into the trailer and then get over to Seaworld for joining a school excursion group at 9.30am.  We made it, just, thanks to a huge effort on my dh's part.  I loved Seaworld and would love to plan a full day trip there.  We only stayed until 2 or so as we had to get on the road.  The boys and I enjoyed battling others on a pirate ship ride and we got some fairy floss.  My dh enjoyed the penguins.  Definitely a place to visit more fully.

Overall a good holiday!  The first time I have ever had to plan a holiday of more than a few days and for this many people.  I have learnt that I need to allow more time for packing and unpacking.  My menu planning worked well although I don't think the boys ate as much fruit as they do at home.  And next time I will allow more fun money and time to get home.  We may have driven up in a full day but it was really much easier to split the trip with an overnight stay somewhere.

Best wishes
Jen


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award



My friend, Tracey, over at Little Men in My Library, has given me this award.  As part of the deal I need to reveal 7 things you would most likely not know about me.

I have covered a lot of stuff about me in my About Me tab but here goes.   I will try to think of 7 more unknown bits and pieces.

1.  I am a melancholy person - and when I say that I mean I over think, over plan and am not good in social situations with lots of people.  I might want to be a social butterfly with lots of friends but that just isn't me.  This could explain my strong interest in the library as a teenager and my nickname of Bookworm.

2.  My husband and I met on a train, exchanged phone numbers and chatted for almost a week every night before we met again for our first date to the museum and the botanical gardens.  I then met his parents that evening.  No rush! 

3.  I love opals although I wouldn't actually want to own one.  Don't ask me why!

4.  I love cooking, wait, that isn't unknown, but it something that I am pretty ok at.  I am finally learning to understand the basics of some styles of cooking and am able to wing a meal without a recipe using what I have on hand.  Quite a handy skill, don't you think?

5.  My sister doesn't talk to our family.  I miss the connection of family but she wasn't always an easy person to get along with.  When she is ready to talk to my parents and me I will accept her with her faults and strengths.  After all that is what family is about IMO.

6.  I do not "allow" my boys to fight.  See above for why!  No wrestling, no deals, no competition almost.  With age gaps of 3 years or more I just don't think any type of conflict would be fair to either party.  They are told strongly to work out how to get along.  This is practice for real life with working alongside "annoying" people.  Don't get me wrong, we play board games and card games and we teach good sportsmanship.  Just not unfair competing.

7.  I want to build my own home from recycled materials as much as possible and would adore old wooden floor boards all through my house and some stained glass windows.  I also love the look of patchy rusted sheet iron.

Some others to nominate:

Blue Skies Green Days
House of Bogwitz
Raising Little Rhodies


Some of these blogs are "new" friends so I hope to learn a little more about them by dumping them in it so to speak.

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, October 14, 2011

A lovely holiday! (Part 1)

We had a lovely holiday.  It was a big event for me to organise, a holiday away from the comforts of home for 14 days and all the associated activities for six people.  I will be making notes on what succeeded and what didn't work out so well so I can do better next time.

We spent the first 4-5 days with my parents in their small country town outside Toowoomba in Queensland.  They appreciated being able to see the grand kiddies as we live quite far away and are lucky to get one visit a year.  It was a nice way to start a holiday, just getting used to being away from the comforts and habits of home.

We then drove down to the Gold Coast and stayed at Southport, just over the Broadwater from Seaworld.  We did a day trip up to Brisbane and caught up with my old church.  It was so lovely to be greeted with smiles and hugs.  I could quite happily return to that area if my husband could get work up there.  We also fit in a trip to the Pancake Manor and a ride on the City Cats.

After that long day out we somehow managed to make it to Dreamworld the next day and spent a good chunk of the day waiting in queues for rides.  It was totally worth it as one of my goals for our holiday was for my boys to experience the variety of things outside our small town, to see what a big city is like and to try something scary so they could know scary is not always bad, it can be fun.

My eldest went on a ride called the Buzzsaw as his first ride.  Oops, maybe not the best idea as it was the scariest ride in the park according to other riders.  lol  But he did then go on other less scary rides that he would have otherwise balked at.  We all went on the Rapids, one of my favourite rides, and of course the Log Ride.   They are great "slow" rides for the little ones.

My 9 year old's scary ride was The Giant Drop.  I went on that one too.  Boy, it was cold and windy up the top and I was so glad it stopped when it did because I was out of breath for screaming anymore.  After a teary wait in line Jack came off smiling and so happy he didn't scream.  So much for not liking scary things!

The rest of the day there went well, although we missed seeing a lot of things like the white tigers.  Another year!

The following day was a rest day with a trip to the beach.  They had a great time learning how to body surf.

More to follow,

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On holidays!

It is great to be on holiday with your family. Over all it has been fun but juggling six people's needs can be tough. While this is a great experience I think I will be organizing staycations for the next few annual holidays. Or go away on my own, can I do that? Smile!

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, September 16, 2011

And the boy defeats his mother with glee!!!

Jackson (9) and I played Battleship today while his baby brother slept.  It was not pretty!

What my game looked like!!

What his game looked like!!!

His reaction!

Great lots of fun!  I hope he is as good a sport when he loses next time. :)

Best wishes
Jen

Blogging tips

Funky Junk Interiors is a great blog that I found one day when surfing around for things to build out of old pallets.  I have stayed as the author has a great style, inspiring for her decorating and refreshing because of her honesty.

I have set my blogger settings as she has suggested because, quite frankly, I was new to Blogger after using WordPress for years, and I had no clue.  She hasn't steered me wrong.  Everything works and that is good.  I hope you find her tips helpful too.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

And it was one of those big significant ones.  Yay!  I made it, with not too many grey hairs.

The cake was chocolate, yum, and was decorated with little icing flowers and jungle animals.  My "name" on some websites is JungleMama so the little animals were every appropriate.

Sorry there is no picture - if you have boys you will understand that demolition goes quickly on projects like chocolate cake.  lol

Best wishes
Jen

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Updating old posts

I have been figuring out lots in the last few days about how to put images in my posts.  Check out these recent posts to see how I am doing.  Still some refining to do but better than just me yammering on, huh?

The Workbox System - Jen's Way

My School Room in All Its Reality

Our School Photo

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is this a typical school photo?

Me thinks not!

Homeschooling is much more relaxed than school so please know before you view this photo of all my boys that - yes, one is still in his pyjamas at 11am and, yes, the baby dressed himself in yesterday's dirty clothes. 


My biggest kid in bright blue is 12, almost 13 years old and likes to remind me he is taller than me.  Jack in red is 9.5 years old and loves to play tricks on Mama.  Harry is 6.5 years old and cute as a button.  Don't try to cuddle him too much though.  He squirms.  And the littlest guy, well, Griffin is 3 and is cute today but that could change at any moment.

And in the background we have most of my books.  I love Anne McCaffrey, keeping old books from my grandfather's era and the school book section is always messy as I actually get to read and use those books whereas I haven't read a fiction book for well over 2 years.

Best wishes
Jen

My school room in all its reality

Well, I had meant to do this post about 2 weeks ago to link up with the Not Back to School blog hop at Heart of the Matter.  I somehow had this idea that I could get the school room all nicely set up and clean before I took photos.  Reality check Jen!!  You live in a house with 4 boys and an adult male and none of them, repeat None of Them, is interested in cleaning up after themselves or anyone else.

So here are my school room photos.  This space is actually a really large bedroom in this strange old house so one end is our lounge room and the other end is our school space.


Mum's shelves
On the top shelf are my LLBean totes, one for each child.  These are our workboxes.  They can stand on their own and I llluuurrrvve them.  On the next shelf down is my filing box with our worksheets photocopied for the next term,each filed by subject and then book title.  I also have my printing supplies and some stray worksheets and notebooking pages.

The colourful plastic files are my way of doing workboxes.  Each child has a colour and they are numbered.  The plan is to fill them each day with their worksheets or a photocopy of the cover of the book they will be working from with me.  These go in their tote along with a set of pages set out as a checklist.  My children share a lot of resources at different levels so this I keep them in my purple day crate.  On this shelf I also store our pencil jar, our erasers and our sharpeners in little metal buckets.

Mum's shelves and purple day crate

The middle shelf  of the shelves houses a box full of preschooler activities.  These are the product of many printing, laminating and cutting hours.  I love creating them but am still to get my 3 year old to be able to fully appreciate them.

My purple crate fits in the empty shelf when it is empty and the books out of it get sorted into the bottom shelf by subject.   I fill the purple crate each day with our books for the day.  I like to file them in the order I will need them and just work my way through the box.

The crates to the left in the picture contain some craft supplies and a much larger LLBean tote that I use for the library or just about anything actually.  Did I say I love my totes?


Sonlight and craft shelves
This bookshelf contains my eldest's Sonlight books and some extras that are for this year but not this term.  Down low are the supplies and activites my 6 and 3 year old are allowed freely.  Up high are the electrical kits, maths manipulatives and special paper supplies.  Just to the left edge is our morning notice board.  I have a calendar chart on here and I use the rest of the board for teaching.



These shelves are more for storing the boys' work.  I am not the greatest at filing.  Erk!!  So when the boys have art work or worksheets that need to be kept they are put in their own crate.  Once a term I pull them out, throw out the rubbish and file the rest.

Of course I also store the obligatory laminator, paper cutter and other tit bits here too.  The plastic boxes (a favourite storage method of mine) contain past school work, past art work and more craft supplies.  Some day I should just let the boys have free reign of the craft supplies, photograph the worthwhile creations and throw the rest out.  Some day!

The posters are for our Zaner-Bloser hand writing curriculum.  When we get back to being able to use our school table (see next photo) they will be a great reference as we work.  I love my printer but this one is dying.  Please pray it will hold out another 12 months until next year's tax refund.


School table taken over by dh fixing up a computer
The computer will be moved back to the desk against the wall soon and we will be able to get on with school more easily. Yay!
The reality of a lounge floor and no toy storage
This is the lounge room floor right now.  It is probably only 15 minutes away from clean but it hasn't been on my radar for a while as I have been spring cleaning my kitchen.  That is my youngest in front, eating a very healthy breakfast of a chocolate weetbix biscuit.  Groan!!!

Ok, I did it.  It took quite a while to get it all put together but now you know how homeschooling with 4 boys looks.  Messy!

Best wishes
Jen

Space-challenged Workboxes

I have read a lot of posts about Sue Patrick's Workbox system. I love the idea yet haven't been able to justify the cost or the space requirements when I know I am dealing with 3 kids, possibly 4, with anything I set up.

Now, I will be the first to admit I haven't read her book (can't justify postage to Australia, do you get the idea I am careful with my money?!). If you have and my ideas here don't suit her system I apologise. I am just a mum trying to do my best to help my little school work better.

First of all, a note on scheduling. I have scheduled my day into 3 blocks of school, hopefully about an hour each, but some days are shorter, others longer. The idea of 3 blocks is also so that I can change it up a bit. For instance, if block 3 keeps getting missed then I just make it the first block for a couple of days.

Next, I use Homeschool Tracker Plus to keep track of lesson plans and daily tasks. I love how it has become easier and easier to use as I have child 2 and 3 use lesson plans I have already created and used for child 1. It takes a while to get in your groove with it but it has been worth its purchase price and the discussion group is priceless for help.

Now, down to the workbox system. I am using tote bags from LL Bean for each boy.



In front is a small binder with memory work that I work on each morning individually before we all sit down for school together.  I then add a set of school block checklists and their plastic envelopes to each tote with a number on the front. Each boy has a different colour envelope set up and different little race cars to match.

This is how the school block checklists look.





The first column has either a race car with a number to match the folder number or a picture for an activity like snack, game, play outside etc. If Science, Art, History or Music don't need a folder for any paperwork then I put a little card in the appropriate spot so they know what is coming. If there is a colouring page or mapwork etc to be done then I just use a folder number race car.   The final column is where the little car or other card ends up when the folder is completed.

The little race cars, one colour per child
Cards for breaks, reading and computer time
Cards for subjects not likely to have anything in folder


The folders are see-through and expand out so I am able to fit in their heftier books and they can see what is coming.  If a book is used for several children I just include a photocopy of its cover/s.



To be more true to Sue Patrick's system the boys then put their completed folder into a "Done" box for me to empty out, correct and refill. This is an important part of the visual aspect of Sue's system, seeing the amount of work needing to be done diminishing as folders disappear. The goal for each day is to empty out their tote bag.

Each child has an appropriate number of folders for the level of work they do. This is a variation on Sue's system. Also my sheets for the school blocks have much more detail than her system of just cards. I fill these in with a permanent marker from my HST report of daily tasks for each child and just leave the workbooks in their folders.  Each day I just erase and rewrite the details.  It is not often I need to change the books in each folder as we try to work in the same order each day.


I think there are a great number of good ideas out there on how to organise your workboxes.  Please don't feel you need to do any of them exactly as written, even mine.  Always adapt anything to suit you and yours.


Best wishes
Jen

PS This post has been updated and better photos added since its original posting in 2010.  I am also linking up with Workbox Wednesday at Adventures in Homeschooling and Heart of Wisdom.

Homeschool Meme, thanks Tracey

I have been tagged for a homeschooling meme by a friend, Tracey over at Little Men in My Library.  She has a great blog, always good reviews on books.  I envy her built in bookcases and their contents.  Oh to have my own personal library!!

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed

I haven’t really read very many homeschooling books although I guess the one that had the most impact on me was Educating Childrenat Home by Alan Thomas.

2. One resource you wouldn’t be without

Can I say two?  My printer and my laminator.  I love making up resources for the littles to use.

3. One resource you wish you had never bought

I haven’t had many regrets with my homeschool resources as I have usually had to be very careful of my spending so consider them long and well first.  I do regret buying some books by Gerber, only because at the time they were far too advanced for my children and I could have used those funds elsewhere.  They have sat on my shelves for over 5 years waiting to be used.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year

Homeschool Tracker Plus software, it has saved my brain a whole lot of figuring and scheduling.  And for my eldest - Sequential Spelling.  He is not a phonics type learner and the patterns in SS really work for him.

5. One resource you will be using next year

God’s Design for Life series.  I know this science program is very light on but as a family that has had a baby or toddler in it for quite some time and will still for another year the short lessons suit me perfectly.  I do condense some lessons together if the topic suits but otherwise it is quick to use.

6. One resource you would like to buy

I would love to get a Latin program of some sort but haven’t picked one yet.  I am waiting on my younger reader to become a little more fluent and then I can combine 3 for Latin classes, always a good option here.

7. One resource you wish existed

Two whole me’s - one to bake, clean and keep house, the other to focus on teaching my boys.

8. One homeschool catalogue you enjoy reading

I have always loved the Sonlight catalogue even though it didn’t suit our family for many years.

9. One homeschooling website you use regularly

The Rockpool is my first choice whenever I need a lift.  Lovely bunch of gals who are very accepting of the many different options out there in homeschooling and lifestyle.  And Australian, although you may find a good proportion of NZers there too.


10. Tag other homeschoolers

Ruby at Mumma's Place.

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spring Cleaning Day 2

KITCHEN
Inside microwave - done
__ Pantry shelves
Walls - done down to bench height except near oven
__ Windows
__ Window sills and frames
__ Exhaust fan filters
__ Stove top
__ Bench tops
__ Under sink
__ Appliances cupboard
__ Oven
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin


Hmm, not a lot done this time.  I did have a busy day though.  My eldest and I fold and deliver junk mail so a lot of time was taken up by that.  I also did 2 large sinkfuls of dishes, oops, catch up time, and dispatched one sickly female rat, thankfully immature.  I hate dispatching babies and always pray as I do any of it, nasty task that it is.


Better day tomorrow,
Jen


Monday, September 5, 2011

Spring Cleaning Day 1 Achievements


KITCHEN
Wash curtains - deferred, done recently
Ceiling - done
Light fitting - done
Outside of microwave - done
Spice shelf - done
Top of fridge - done
__ Inside microwave
__ Pantry shelves
Walls - done down to bench height except near oven
__ Windows
__ Window sills and frames
Exhaust fan outside - done
__ Exhaust fan filters
__ Stove top
__ Bench tops
__ Under sink
__ Appliances cupboard
__ Oven
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
Curtains - see top of list


I use Enjo for all my cleaning.  Especially after  a recent experience with bleach.

I must admit to being a bit casual about how I dilute bleach and this one time I had just sploshed a bit in a container of warm water.  I started cleaning a door with lots of hand prints and found it was working great but because I had blocked sinuses due to my grass allergy I couldn't smell how strong the mixture was.  I ended up bleaching all the little hairs off my hands, so much so that a half hour of keeping my hands under running water didn't alleviate the pain.  It took days to heal all the little burns.

Today I have been using my 2 kitchen gloves in the most part.  For the last few areas I used a multipurpose cloth so I will be interested to see if I notice any difference long term on the ceiling.  The one thing I find challenging with using Enjo is remembering to wipe in a circular fashion instead of in straight strokes.  The gloves really do work better if you change the direction you use it often.  And wiping the area dry after with an old cloth nappy is important too.

My kitchen walls are looking a lot less dull, and even though I can still see where someone has done some paint patching in the past it is nice to know I have done what I can to make it look better.

A little tip for the top of the fridge - I line it with a toweling bath mat, much like those you might get in cheap motel chains.  I then sit a basket on top with all my wraps and plastic bags etc.  The bath mat lets the basket slide off easily when I am reaching up to get into it and also keeps that horrible dusty kitchen grease at bay.


Best wishes
Jen

Spring Cleaning

Well, I have decided that the way to beat the grumpies is to get busy.  I have created myself a Spring Cleaning Checklist that I will work through over the next 3 weeks before we go away.  It will be very nice to come home to a clean house after our holiday.


Spring Cleaning
Checklists

KITCHEN
__ Wash curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting
__ Outside of microwave
__ Spice shelf
__ Top of fridge
__ Inside microwave
__ Pantry shelves
__ Walls
__ Windows
__ Window sills and frames
__ Exhaust fan outside
__ Exhaust fan filters
__ Stove top
__ Bench tops
__ Under sink
__ Electrical cupboard
__ Oven
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
__ Curtains

BACK ROOM
__ Curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting
__ High shelves
__ Top of dryer
__ Household shelves
__ Pantry shelves
__ Brewing shelves
__ Walls
__ Windows
__ Desk
__ Floor
__ Curtains

TOILET
__ Curtain
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting
__ Shelf
__ Walls
__ Window & Screen
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
__ Curtain

BATHROOM
__ Curtain
__ Louvers
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting
__ Mirrors
__ Walls
__ Shower walls
__ Screen
__ Shelf
__ Washing machine
__ Sink
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
__ Curtain

BEDROOM - CHRIS AND JEN
__ Curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting/fan
__ Windows
__ Top of wardrobes (J)
__ Shelves (J)
__ Top of dresser (J)
__ Top of drawers (C)
__ Walls
__ Bed vacuum
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bins
__ Curtains

BOYS’ BEDROOM
__ Curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting/fan
__ Windows
__ Top of M’s wardrobe
__ Top of J’s wardrobe
__ Top of H’s drawers
__ Walls
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
__ Curtains
 
LOUNGE/SCHOOL ROOM
X Curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting/fan
__ Windows
__ Shelves/cupboards
__ TV Unit
__ Desks
__ Walls
__ Lounge and chair
__ Floor
__ Rubbish bin
X Curtains

DINING AND FIRE SPACE
__ Curtains
__ Ceiling
__ Light fitting/fan
__ Windows
__ Shelves
__ Cupboard
__ Sideboard
__ Drawers
__ Walls
__ Fireplace
__ Lounge
__ Floor
__ Curtains

Best wishes
Jen

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