Thursday, March 31, 2011

Teaching or Learning?

And here we come to one of the really damaging myths of education, namely, that learning is the result of teaching; that the progress of the child bears a direct relation to methods of instruction and internal relationships of curriculum. Nothing could be farther from the truth.


From "THE LIVES OF CHILDREN
The Story of the First Street School
By George Dennison"

This quote is so true. As I "teach" my children and really begin to understand how they learn I have found that most of their learning is not due to my teaching but despite it. As a mother and a home school teacher my ego would like me to think that I am Very Important in the process of my children learning but I have learned that I am here to facilitate, encourage, guide and love only, not to teach. What teaches my children is not inside me but is innately within them. Their strengths, their interests, their view of the world!! All this is a much bigger part of what they learn and how, than what I am as a teacher or the curriculum I use.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cloth nappy adventures

NAPPIES SINCE SOLD ON EBAY.

My cloth nappy days are over.  While I will be keeping hold of my traditional squares I am advertising all my other bits for sale here.

Below are all the images I have taken for those who are interested.

Best wishes
Jen
Upper right stained, lower right as new Eenee microfibre inserts
Eenee Baby Pouch Pants, older style on left
Note elastic added to red and black pants
Green pants are attached to extended strap
Nature's Child cover and Baby Beehind hemp inserts
Nature's Child cover showing insert

Friday, March 25, 2011

Menu planning for Winter 2011

I have just spent about 5 hours working on a new monthly menu rotation.  Each week is not absolutely set in stone but if my brain is on holiday I at least have a plan and soon a shopping list.

Click on image to see it full screen.  Much easier to read. :) 

As previously posted I have 4 binders, one for each week.  It may take some time but I will be creating a standard shopping list for each week.  When it comes time to shop I will check my pantry for supplies already on hand and cross them off the list while adding to my list any supplies of my core items that are running low.

If you are wondering why some recipes are original, they are my own boring way of doing them.  Meals referencing Lorrie are from here.  I have this bundle and it is very inspiring for an overloaded mum who hates cold cereal and toast for breakfast.  After a 2 week trial of cold cereal and toast I have had kids who are more tired and who have shadows under their eyes and more meltdowns.  Back to cooked breakfasts here but changed so the cooking happens the night or even week before!

Best wishes
Jen

Food buying this week

My foraging today

Chicken was my main aim today.

I bought:

6kg chicken thigh fillets  $46.80
4kg chicken thighs $8

I divided that out as follows:

5 packs of 750g approx of thigh fillets for main meals  ($5.85 each)
5 packs of 400g approx of thigh fillets for dh’s lunches for 2 weeks ($3.12 per pack)
3 packs of 4 rather large thighs each for main meals ($2.67 each)

I used to eat whole thighs a lot when I first moved out of home.  I am rather sensitive to undercooked meat though and didn’t find that the suggested cooking times for meals cooked the thighs enough for me.  It put me off buying them for over 20 years (wow, has it been that long?) but due to changes in our personal finances (feeling the pinch like I am guessing a lot of people are) I have resolved to try them again for a meal or two each week to help reduce costs.  Thankfully I now have a meat thermometer so I will be using it to be sure that each piece is fully cooked.

Good foraging today to all those responsible for feeding your family.

Off to price bulk fish and bulk beef.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Menu planning made easy!

Well, easier for me anyway!

I use binders, one for each of 4 weeks. In the front of each I put the weekly menu plan, hopefully including baking and snacks, and in behind it I put the shopping list for that week's plan. In the subsequent sleeves I place a copy of all the recipes I will be using.

I take the whole binder with me to the shop as it is only a very slender one and if I see a bargain I can quickly check which recipe I will skip that week and not get the ingredients for it. It has also helped when an ingredient has not been available and I have been able to ask the butcher or deli assistant for a substitute.

It is suggested here that you both keep your old plans and post the current one in a public spot. I agree with these ideas, especially if you have remembered to date the menu plan so you can remember the time of year that plan was for and the types of meals suitable for the season.

In the last few weeks I have started to get a regular set up for breakfasts and lunches. They don't vary much, but just enough to keep things interesting but memorable. For instance every Monday morning I know I need to cook Apple Muffins and Fridays are Banana or Date muffins depending on how many bananas are left in the fruit bowl and their condition.

Lunches are wraps with meat, sliced or cold chicken, with salad bits. I use tortilla wraps as they last in my bread box much longer than bread and I am trying to keep our simple carbs to a minimum.

Dinners are all over the place although over the 4 weeks I do repeat some family favourites such as spaghetti, beef and pumpkin risotto and creamy chicken.

Best wishes
Jen
(originally published elsewhere 26/10/10)

Japan is ok post

I thought that this was a very important perspective on the events in Japan, written by an American living in Japan.

http://woodblock.com/roundtable/archives/2011/03/japan_is_ok.html

Best wishes
Jen

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How's life going?

Well, I keep drifting in and out of forgetting and remembering and mourning for my Bandit.  Bobby was always more my dh's dog but I am trying to give him more attention anyway.  We have even taken him out with us when it is possible.

I think that life is getting back to a more even keel now that my dental work is over for 6 months and now that the heat is gone that exasperates my sinuses with grass allergies.  Now to just get back into the swing of buying my chicken in bulk again and also filling the freezer with some fish and other meats.  The poor food budget has dipped seriously into the red over the last 2 months.  A friend has had hers do the same so it may not be just my bad management but due to prices going up in little bits all over the place.

I am going to get out my old plans and get back to menu planning and bulk buying.  This year I am also adding chickens to our backyard and a good few vegetable patches.  I need to work on keeping the vegetable patches pretty though as they will be out in the front yard where it is best for full sun as long as possible.  I also have serious plans for a pumpkin vine or two and maybe even watermelon too.


Now to save up some money for garden edging and a chook pen.

Best wishes
Jen

Tracing sheets and brains

I have been looking into getting all my boys to do tracing sheets before doing our hand writing lesson each morning.  As I have been reading about neuroplasticity I have learnt that improving fine motor skills can also improve speaking, reading and writing.  In the experience of the researcher, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, all of these abilities are covered by the functioning of a part of the brain called the left premotor cortex.  In the book I read the exercises were done with the left eye covered by a patch so the right eye was taking the information in and feeding it to the appropriate side of the brain.


http://www.senteacher.org/Worksheet/16/Handwriting.xhtml
http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/handwriting_readiness.htm

These 2 sites seem to have the best range of types of tracing exercises.  If you find any others with more complex shapes to trace I would be very interested.

Please note I am in no way an expert and am just trying to help my children in a way that I hope will not harm, and may even help them to develop.

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Play Day

I had a BOS inspector come yesterday to check up on my plans for schooling my just turned 6 year old.  It was quite frazzling as she is new to me and I was also thinking that we would be trying to assess progress for my 12 year old and almost 9 year old also.

Today with my approval filed (or is that piled?) I decided we needed to have some fun.  For lunch we went to the local park and had a picnic.  I invited another local homeschooling family along too.  On short notice they were only able to take a short break but it was really nice to be out with friends and away from screens.

One of the things my inspector asked for is photos showing the kids participating in different things and creating too.  She used the word evidence.  Sounds a bit scary to me, but then I guess it is about time this rather laid back family started to do some sort of records, especially on those days when I am spacey and book work doesn't happen.

So now we have an excuse to buy a new digital camera, yay!  lol

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Neuroplasticity in brains and educating our children

I love learning how our brains work.  This quote is from The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D.  It is very exciting to me as a homeschooling mum to see so clearly what I need to do to help my children to develop their brains to their highest potential.

Chapter 2 Pages 41-43

The irony of this new discovery is that for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children's brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, which probably helped strengthen motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking. Often a great deal of attention was paid to exact elocution and to perfecting the pronunciation of words. Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum, because they were too rigid, boring, and "not relevant." But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity that many students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols. For the the rest of us, the disappearance may have contributed to the general decline of eloquence, which requires memory and a level of auditory brainpower unfamiliar to us now. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 the debaters would speak comfortably for an hour or more without notes, in extended memorized paragraphs; today many of the most learned among us, raised in our most elite schools since the 1960s, prefer the omnipresent PowerPoint presentation - the ultimate compensation for a weak premotor cortex.

Barbara Arrowsmith Young's work compels us to imagine how much good might be accomplished if every child had a brain-based assessment and, if problems were found, a tailor-made program created to strengthen essential areas in the early years, when neuroplasticity is greatest. It is far better to nip brain problems in the bud than to allow the child to wire into his brain the idea that he is "stupid", begin to hate school and learning, and stop work in the weakened area, losing whatever strength he may have. (My note - I think this is why I instinctively rebelled at the idea of my Aspie, who as is typical does not have great handwriting, turning instead to a typing program.) Younger children often progress more quickly through brain exercises than do adolescents, perhaps because in an immature brain the number of connections among neurons, or synapses, is 50 percent greater than in the adult brain. When we reach adolescence, a massive "pruning back" operation begins in the brain, and synaptic connections and neurons that have not been used extensively suddenly die off - a classic case of "use it or lose it." It is probably best to strengthen weakened areas while all this extra cortical real estate is available. Still, brain-based assessments can be helpful all through school and even in college and university, when many students who did well in high school fail because their weak brain functions are overloaded by the increased demand. Even apart from these crises, every adult could benefit from a brain-based cognitive assessment, a cognitive fitness test, to help them better understand their own brain.

How much snack for your dollar? - Gala Apple vs Hazelnut Snickers Bar

Yup, not my healthiest snack but it was what I grabbed at the supermarket when I was tired and knew I would have to cook an entire meal as soon as I got home.

Gala Apple - $2.96/kg - average of 51c per apple
- 340 kJ per serve and lots of nutritional goodness

Hazelnut Snickers Bar - I try to justify this choice by saying nuts are good for me.  Hmm!
-  $24.53/kg - cost per serve of $1.30
- 1140 kJ per serve and dodgy nutritional goodness

Ooops, looks I would be a whole lot better going to the produce section if I need a snack while shopping.  My problem - at least I can keep the wrapper for the bar if I want to eat straight away and pay at the end of my shopping.  I can't eat my apple until after I leave the supermarket.

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Real life and death!

My kids have been having some real life lessons in the last 2 days.  Sadly I had to have my little Tibetan Spaniel, Bandit, put down yesterday in the early afternoon.


He was just over 13 years old and was getting a bit arthritic.  He had a "turn" last year end of September, a bit like a fit, and he had moments over the last few months, especially with the heat, when he just didn't seem to know where he was and he was all wobbly on his legs.

On Monday morning quite early I noticed he had a little howl.  That was unusual for him.  He didn't seem to want to go out or anything so I went out for my morning walk.  When I got back I let him out in the front yard while I watered the garden and he seemed fine.  After taking my dh to work and getting home he had a fit in the lounge with the boys.  It was so much more severe than any other "turn" with him foaming at the mouth and jerking quite a lot.  I took him immediately to the vet.  She said that he seemed to be having bleeds in his brain which may be due to a tumour.  She said that he could be around for a long time or a short time, she couldn't say.  Just to make him comfortable and if/when he lost interest in life or was uninterested in food or couldn't go to the toilet then it would be time to do the kind thing for him.

He had another fit about an hour later.  He was taking longer to recover and was quite disorientated.  He couldn't walk straight and kept falling over himself.  His tongue started to hang out and his nose was all dirty from all the falls.  I cuddled him for a while on  my lap and then 2 hours after the second fit he had a third.  I felt so helpless, that his body was failing him and I couldn't help him.  I took him inside to rest on his rug.

Only half an hour later he put his head up and cried a bit.  This was very unusual for him to be so vocal.  Then he had another fit and he just didn't seem to be coming out of it so well.  I called the vet in tears and just took him straight there.  Thankfully she is within walking distance of my home.  While he had recovered from the first fit while I was on my way to the vet this time he didn't.  He just hung in my arms.  It was just so fast, and so unexpected in its ferocity.  I knew he was getting old but I didn't expect it to all happen in one day.  The vet checked him over and when she picked up his little head she said You're gone, aren't you?  He lifted his head a little when I gave him a little last cuddle but she was right, he was gone.  It was so hard to just sit by and only be able to cuddle him and stroke him.  I couldn't do anything else for him.  I hated feeling so helpless.

My kids came to the vet for the second visit and said goodbye to him.  I got a little hair clipping from the soft area behind his ears where he loved to be scratched.  I just cried all the way home and I have had several headaches from crying so much.  I miss him.  I just want him to be alive and cuddly in my arms.

We have had pet rats before but they only have a life span of about 2-3 years.  While they have a similar nature to dogs you just don't get to build a relationship with them in the same way you do with a dog.  My kids saw 3 out of the last 4 rats we had euthanised.  They know about death and they have seen me grieve.  Needless to say book learning is not happening this week but we are all learning to grieve together and to pay attention to our other dog so he doesn't miss his pal.

RIP Bandit.  I will always remember your happy little face and your slightly lopsided tail when you trotted towards me.  You were my baby before I had babies and I am extremely blessed to have known you.  I regret not having many photos but your image is in my heart.

Best wishes
Jen

PS Found a photo of my furry little boys in my dad's photo files. Bandit is brown and black while Bobby is black and white.  Can you see that Bandit's tail is moving?  He was always so friendly.

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