Monday, January 31, 2011

First day back at school

Well, it didn't all go as smoothly as I would have liked.  There was, and still is, an awful lot of lesson plans to enter into HST+ for this term.  Not having it all there makes scheduling rather difficult.

I did get my eldest's schedule done so he has started back at school.  I was unable to get ds2 or ds3's schedules completed but decided to start them next week.  With them being as young as they are I am willing to go a bit unschooly while necessary.

Part of school today for ds2 and ds3 consisted of unpacking our science experimental cubes (got mine from Jaycar, don't know who else carries them). I have put all the materials in one large box that I am going to put somewhere more accessible.  In reading through the materials I decided on 2 experiments we could do straight away.  We put some some dried yeast and sugar in some water in one test tube, connected it to another test tube filled with water by a clear tube and watched bubbles appear in the water filled test tube.  The kids thought that was great.

The other experiment is under way in our back yard.  We have discussed in the past how there is water in leaves and that we can get water out of them if we dig a hole and put plastic over it with leaves in it and a container under the plastic.  I really wanted to show the kids this experiment as we have at times watched some survival shows.  I want to show them that these survival techniques are "real", not just TV magic.  You just never know when they may need something like this.

Once it cools down a bit (35 deg C here today) we will go check out how much water we got.

Well, I better get on with working on those lesson plans.

Best wishes

Friday, January 28, 2011

Goals follow up 28 January

I have done well with my household goals.  We have spent a lot less on fast food this last month.  While not at zero we have had a great improvement.

Yesterday I got over 2 dozen meatballs made and froze 2 meals worth in metal trays with lids.  I already have 2 jars of sauce and 2 packets of pasta ready in my extra pantry space.

I need to do a freezer inventory and do up a list of meals I have most of the ingredients for already in the house.  I will then use this meal list to create my weekly menu plans with an emphasis on not adding to my stores until I have used up some of the older supplies.

We haven't been following routines as well as I would like as I am spending quite a bit of time on the computer inputting the next term's lesson plans into HST+.  Hopefully we will be able to get right into this next week when we get back into our school work.

Best wishes

Resources for 2011 School Year

In Australia I start my school year in February and go to mid-December.  This year I have a 12 year old (Year 7), a 9 year old (Year 4), a 6 year old (Year 1) and a toddler turning 3 mid year.  And the fun begins!

Language Arts
* The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington – everyone is using this at different stages
* Fitzroy Readers 1-10 and 1x-10x with the associated workbooks for my 5 (almost 6yo) and my 8 (almost 9yo)
* First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Levels 1 + 2 by Jessie Wise – everyone using at different stages
* Sequential Spelling Level 1 (180 tests) – for my 12yo who was a late starter on reading but is doing really well with this
* Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals by Susan Wise Bauer (WWE) – for my 12yo and my 8yo will be starting it very shortly
* Zaner-Bloser printing books for each child
* Memorising of quotes from scripture and great literature as a family

* Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B onwards for my 12yo (yes he has delays due to learning difficulties), 2A onwards for my 8yo, 1A for my 5yo (who is really getting into this school thing)
* discussions of mathematical concepts during every day life including measuring, estimating, fractions, interest, money, etc
* game playing such as cards, snakes and ladders, board games like Monopoly and Cashflow for Kids
* Building Thinking Skills Primary  -everyone at different stages
* Can You Find Me?  Books 1 and 2 – everyone at different stages
* Developing the Early Learner Books – everyone at different stages
* Visual Perceptual Skill Building Books – everyone at different stages

* Sonlight Science 5 schedule, will cover Human Body in depth for 12yo
* God’s Design for Life – The Human Body, The World of Plants, The Animal Kingdom for the 5yo and 8yo

* Sonlight Core 6 World History Part 1, Ancient times to Martin Luther
* Story of the World Volume 1 Ancient Times for the younger ones with activities from the Activity Guide
* Janette’s Pictures of Australian History and Time Line Figures by Janette Casey Ingham
* Australia…..   The Wide Brown Land For Me! by Adnil Press 38 lessons
* The Australian History Collection presented by Bryce Courtenay

* Sonlight Core 6 World History Part 1, Ancient times to Martin Luther
* Heinemann Atlas and workbook for 12yo and 8yo
* use Atlas to identify locations of our international friends and from the stories read aloud

* Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine with accompanying CD of music tracks 31 lessons
* regular exposure to many music types (Jazz, Classical, Pop, Rock, Heavy Metal) (my dh is more of the first two and I am more of the last two)
* field trips to live performances
* Classics for Kids internet site – lesson plans with activities designed for primary age children

* free access to many mediums
* craft activities associated with history curriculum
* craft activities at Bunnings Warehouse as appropriate
* The Art Treasury by Rosie Dickens, Usborne
* field trips to art exhibitions and public galleries
* The Children’s Book of Art by Rosie Dickens, Usborne
* various resources of great art collected from relatives

* extra dress up materials in conjunction with those created with history curriculum for acting out events from history
* puppet theatre for use with finger puppets, sock puppets and cardboard puppets created by children
* field trips to live performances

Physical Education
* daily walk and ball play at local park in good weather
* participate in PCYC activities as suits interests and family (12yo currently doing archery, 8yo currently doing competitive gymnastics and 5yo doing Boy's Legion)
* open discussion of health issues, the value of good food choices and healthy activity in a balanced life

Religion, Cultures and Character Development
* Grapevine Old Testament Overview 98 lessons
* The Meaning of Christmas Unit Study 20 lessons
* open discussions of the religions, both ancient and modern of the cultures covered in history
* Character First covering 9 character traits

Best wishes

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Homeschool Tip for This Week

If you are having trouble keeping up with all the things you need to read out to your kids because it ties up time you need for dishes or folding washing consider using a recipe book stand to put the text on and sit it on the window sill in front of you while you do dishes or beside you as you fold washing.

I use a perspex one so that the book stays protected from splashes.

Best wishes

Home School Organising - The Mind Stuff

Homeschooling sometimes needs more mental than physical organising.  Here is the latest list I have made, hopefully covering all those areas that have caused us hiccups last year.

Term Break
- Check that all Lesson Plans in HST+ have all their details entered for the lessons that will be required for the next term
- Photocopy all worksheets needed from all books for the whole term and file in a hanging desktop file holder under subject then in a manila folder with the book title on it
- Make a master list of supplies needed for Science and History and approximate date needed by

Friday Evening
- Tidy all school books back to Term Box for all subjects
- Empty all plastic folders into Term Box
- Schedule next week’s work, working through one child at a time, one subject at a time
- Write up list of photocopies needed and supplies from HST+, check off against work already done at term break, put supply needs on shopping list for weekend
- Tag books from Term Box with post-it notes with day and child marked for the following week and put in my Weekly Box

Night before School Day
- Check work done and post-it tag things that need extra care the next day, put in my Weekly Box to be filed into the child’s plastic folder when that subject is done again
- Mark off all completed work in HST+
- Schedule leftovers from last school day into next school day
- Print the next day’s Task List
- Break list into School Blocks (LA Block 1, Maths Block 2 etc)
- Write up each child’s Block List, then fill plastic folders to match, remembering to add in supplies needed such as lined paper
- Put Block List and plastic folders in each child’s tote and put beside my Weekly Box
- Pull out supplies and if possible put in my Weekly Box
- Sort my Weekly Box so that my copy of the next day’s Task List is at the front and the books are shuffled so that the books I will need the next day are towards the front

School Day
- Craft before Breakfast for crafty children
- After Breakfast and Clean Up do Morning Message Board
- Start all students on Block 1 and try to get through my day with my sanity intact
- 4pm Tidy up school room, each child to make sure their stationery is tidy and ready for the next day, pencils sharpened, erasers and sharpeners located in their pencil case; put craft projects into their School Box for me to file some time

Did that totally confuse you? Sorry!

Best wishes

Friday, January 14, 2011

Routines with Very Young Children

When your children are very young the clock can seem to be your enemy. Try this idea for managing your day. Organise your day with small routines inside bubbles of time.

For example before and after breakfast routines that include making beds, cleaning teeth, getting dressed etc leading on to cleaning for you while he does independent play. The amount of time for cleaning/independent play flexes to a longer or shorter time depending on his ability to play on his own that day or how long the earlier parts of the morning routine took. End that bubble of time with morning tea at a set time of day.

Use the same idea for the next bubble of time between morning tea and lunch and so on.

It gives your little one a sense of structure and familiarity to each day but you are not clock watching or forcing an activity to continue when it is a lost cause.

(originally published Dec '09 when my baby was only 6 months old)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Routine Bubbles

I divided my day into 5 bubbles of routines. Each has a preferred time on the clock but I am realistic with 4 boys, ranging from 2 years old to 12 years old.

My bubbles are:
 - Morning Routine (covers getting up to clean up after breakfast),

 - Cleaning Routine (covers self care and chores in zones (FlyLady principles)),

- School Routine (broken into 3 blocks of about an hour, 2 blocks before lunch, 1 block after; L.Arts first for all, Maths second for all, and Science/History/Creative Arts or independent work for my eldest in the afternoon),

- Afternoon Routine (cleaning up at day's end, for our house and ourselves),

- Evening Routine (covers from dinner right through to bedtime).

It helps on the "bad" days to just skip a bubble, usually one of the school blocks or the Afternoon Routine, but the rest I find are essential to keeping our day running well.

Just to make it easier for the boys I created bundles of printed index card sized pages for each of them with their colour as the front card.  They can clip them onto a lanyard to take with them as they work through their list.  I hang the whole lot on the front of a cupboard in my dining room in clear view.

I am finding that my older 2 are really getting the hang of  it now, although I can tend to be slack on following up (and there I go confessing my biggest weakness - inconsistency!).

Best wishes

Floods in Qld and NSW

I am sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth there for a time.  I have had family involved in the flooding areas in Toowoomba and I count Brisbane as my home town, having lived there for almost 20 years.  It has been very distressing to watch the devastation and there have been a lot of tears as my over vivid imagination thinks of what those parents of children who were lost in the waters are going through.

Please donate to the government-run donation website if you can (or any other organisation you trust, just don't donate to people calling you as they sadly could be hoaxes).  These people will need all the help they can get for a long time.

Continuing to pray,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An A to Z of Focus for 2011

Some people think we should try to think of one word to focus on for the year.  I know my word, it keeps popping into my head a lot.  Decisive!

Here is the definition from the free dictionary.
  • de·ci·sive (d-ssv)
    1. Having the power to decide; conclusive.
    2. Characterized by decision and firmness; resolute.
    3. Beyond doubt; unmistakable: a decisive defeat.
Firmness and resolute are the two words that seem to fit the image I have in my mind best of what being decisive means to me.

Anyway, just for fun I decided to think of an alphabet's worth of words to focus on.

A - Act NOW!!!
B - Brave, try new things
C - Connect to family more often
D - Decisive (well d'uh)
E - Exercise more
F - Finish things
G - Grow - keep growing personally
H - Healthy food
I - Investigate better ways to be a homeschooling mum
J - Joy, remember to enjoy the little moments and smile
K - Keep a journal for each child
L - Limit screen time, both for myself and my children
M - Mama, be the best Mama I can be
N - Neat, keep my home and therefore my mind uncluttered
O - Organised, set up routines so our home "flows"
P - Play more games with my children
Q - Quiet time, set aside a quiet time for reflection
R - Read good books to feed my brain
S - Spirit, need to do more for my spiritual life
T - Train my children and myself in better lifestyle choices
U - Understand, always try to understand the perspectives of others
V - Vegetables, lots of them
W - Weight, healthy
X- take eXtreme measures to change, see B
Y - Yawn, get more sleep more often
Z - Zeal, as in enthusiasm, passion, zest, fire, spirit, warmth, devotion, verve, fervour, eagerness, gusto, ardour, earnestness, keenness, fervency

Best wishes

Aliens on My Ceiling

We gave the boys these for Christmas in their stockings.  One smart alec child (and if you know us you know which one I mean) decided to throw them up on to the ceiling of my dining room.  We live in an old house so that is quite high up.  I now have 12 aliens on my ceiling and not a single one has dropped for almost 2 weeks.

It does make dinner interesting.  We count them and then try to figure out which one will drop first and when.

Best wishes

Thursday, January 6, 2011

BHAG update

Well, I have dodged getting fast food when I really wanted to at least 3 times already this year.  Phew!

But then due to sleeping in and then having a visit with my cousin and her family already scheduled we ended up getting a lunch packed and a reasonable amount of snacks but had to rush through Macca's drive thru for breakfast.  So $32.85 later we were on our way again.

Looks like I need to stop staying up late watching my NCIS dvds I got for Christmas.  I really do have to limit myself to only one episode a night.  Oh well!!

Best wishes

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Setting Goals or Enjoying Life?

I was thinking this morning, as you do, about how I never seem to get caught up on the washing up and the washing in my household of 6 people. It tends to create a continual feeling of angst and resentment towards my family because I never reach my goal of finishing. I am not the sort of person who just enjoys the rhythms of life and goes with the flow, finding contentment not in completing a goal, but in doing what needs to be done in each moment.

I am wondering if this is a modern problem. We are taught to set goals, to work out how to achieve them, and to work on them in little steps until we reach them. The problem is that some things in life don't fit this type of thinking. Making a home, building a family, creating relationships... all of these do not sit well with the modern goal approach. Maybe I am missing out on the day to day peace of living in each moment, doing what needs to be done, and not trying to achieve some goal just because I am told I "must" set goals to be a success.

In fact I read recently that not everyone who is successful did set goals. In some cases it was more a case of the successful person enjoying what they did so much that they spent a lot of time doing it, learning to better, and by virtue of time they became successful in their area of life. Most of these type of successful people will keep working in their area of interest until they die, or find a new interest. They will never reach their goals, because they know how to enjoy what they are doing with their life. And really isn’t enjoyment of life a much better "goal" than a certain amount of money, or a certain size portfolio, or a certain amount of fame?

Maybe that is something I should consider in those areas of my life that do not fit well with the "goal setting" paradigm. Enjoy what I do, learn to do it better if I am interested, and just keep moving forward.
(Originally posted May 2010 on old blog)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Living with lists

Homeschooling 2 and 1/2 children in a formal way requires so much more organisation than unschooling 1, occasionally 2, children. I have to admit to not having a great habit of remembering all the things I need to do in the areas of home maintenance and in organising our school days. I am in the process of making myself lots of check lists. To make them more visual I am even adding pictures. My addled brain needs the promptings on bad days.

I have one child who remembers routines and rules after only a couple of repetitions. The others of us just live each day, sometimes even each moment, as it comes and we don't always achieve much beyond minimum survival. I don't like living this way so it is off to create another list and laminate it to stick up somewhere.

Just for fun here is our bathroom list.

I have more. lol The homeschool scheduling list is 3 pages. I may just include a page for fun too.

See, fun, huh? But it seems that is the only way I can make sure I get as much done as possible. It isn't always everything, but it sure covers a lot more than I remember on my own.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz
(originally posted 30 Jan 2010)

Today's Mission

Today I have decided my mission is to get the little things off my rolling to do list that have been lingering way too long. Most times it seems just normal life just takes up all my time, but with some pondering, I am realising my normal life doesn't have to take up all my awake hours. I just let it.

I am slowly working my way through a long list of projects. Just knocking them on the head! The good feeling I get from finishing some items is motivating me to work on my normal jobs more quickly so I can "finish" another thing from the list.

I use a system called AutoFocus to keep track of my endless ideas and projects. It helps to catch those someday project ideas. And now I am working faster on the mundane so I can get to those projects.

Maybe you can check it out for your projects this year!

Best wishes
(originally posted 3 Jan 2010)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflections on a year gone

2010 – A year of finally getting some health issues nailed down for myself and getting my eldest an official diagnosis for his Aspergers.

Knowing what has been going on with my health has helped me to let go of a good load of 6 years of mummy guilt of not being able to be all I wanted to be for my kids. And knowing my eldest son’s diagnosis has helped a lot with knowing how to teach him and not being so frustrated by his learning delays.

This year has been a slow release of the old and deciding what will be the new. In 2011 I look forward to continuing this process. I am quite looking forward to this year as I approach the big 40.

I spent too much time on the computer this last year (and probably for many years previously). I have a laptop and I have decided to pack it away under my desk inside a bag during the week. I did this for a week in December and it worked well. I only brought it out at night and even then I didn’t turn it on every night. I print out our school work from HST+ and then use it in a binder in a similar manner to Sonlight’s IG.

I need to lose some weight this year. I have gained 20kg over the last 13 months and I am not happy about it.

I will also be working more on getting routines going in my home so that when my over reactive sinuses act up due to allergies I have a framework to follow.  I have already done some work on creating routine cards for each of my kids and myself.  Will post more on that later.

And I am going to be trying out some ideas for bringing a little extra income into my household. Don’t know how that will go but need to at least try.

So 2010 wasn't too bad and I am definitely looking forward to 2011 and beyond.

Best wishes
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