Monday, December 30, 2013

First attempt at cooking on a budget with Jamie

I treated myself to a new recipe book just before Christmas.  Hmm, only the third or fourth for 2013.

This one is Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver and was sitting on a display at my local Woolies.  For $24 and a large family I thought it was worth buying even if I do usually find his recipes sometimes a little bit too British for me.

For Christmas we had 2 roast chickens.  One plain and one seasoned.  In his book Jamie has a Mothership Roast for each meat and about 7 meals that use leftovers to create another meal.  Quite impressive I must say so I thought I would give the idea a try.

Out of our 2 roast chickens I have the makings of  6 meals.  Roast Chicken Dinner, Roast Chicken and Sweet Pea Risotto, Frenchie Salad, Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni, lunch meat for 2 days and a spare carcass in the freezer for making some yummy stock.

First off the line was of course the roast.  No surprises there.  My husband likes a roast almost weekly so it was our normal fare of roast potatoes, roast sweet potato, roast onions, steamed carrots, broccoli, peas and corn with gravy.

I weighed out the portions for my 3 chosen leftover meals and the leftover meat became lunch meat for Boxing Day and the day after.  Didn't take long to polish it off with 4 boys here.

Next was the Frenchie Salad.  I must admit this is the first time I have made a dressing from scratch and I am usually quite nervous about using white wine vinegar but I gave it a go. It was easy peasy, and very yummy.  I just had to go out and make sure I had enough mustard and vinegar to do it again soon.

This recipe also included lentils which are usually a no go here.  I decided I wasn't going to change a thing so in went the lentils.  They were great and really filled the salad out nicely.

I look forward to trying more of this book.  If all the meals are still filling despite using just leftovers I will be very impressed.  I still have 2 more meals in the freezer and the carcass too.  Not bad for $16 worth of chicken.

Best wishes
Jen


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Electricity bill follow-up

I have been waiting with bated breathe for our electricity bill after learning more about changing the way we use the big appliances in our house.

I keep all the old bills so here is some interesting info.

Last quarter - daily kWh usage 41.15
Same quarter year before - daily kWh usage 42.40
Average daily cost last quarter - $9.48

This quarter - daily kWh usage 34.66
Same quarter year before - daily kWh usage 38.53
Average daily cost this quarter - $7.63

This is interesting to me because the usage of heavy drain appliances through all the quarters above would have been fairly consistent.  We can't use electric heating in this house due its old wiring so our bill doesn't go up in winter.  None of these bills cover summer so there is no air conditioning charges.

We have gone from 42.40 and 38.53  last year to this year being 41.15 and 34.66.  Looks small but it has been important.

How have I decreased my usage? 

Well, we are no longer rinsing the dishes with hot water before putting in the dishwasher and I am using a very long cycle. 

I am barely using the dryer although I will admit to a few days of using it to dry uniforms for school, but now I use the cool cycle for the same time and they are still coming out dry.  And for towels, hand towels and face washers the cool cycle has been working fine too. 

My washing machine is used just as much but I only use a 60 deg cycle when it is tea towels, socks and rags.  That load only usually goes in twice to three times a week.  For all other loads I have reduced the temperature from 60 deg to 40 deg.  I can't quite handle the idea that cold water will get clothes clean or prevent a build up of detergent in the washing machine so I won't go that far.

Overall I have gone from $132.72/fortnight to $106.82/fortnight.  That is about $780/year.  I like that.  And we haven't really done that well on reducing shower times.  (blush!)  There is still room in this budget to move!  And it is hopefully going to be down.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Spreading out Christmas

I have never particularly liked the stuffing our little faces on Christmas day so we all get to have our favourite Christmas treat so this year I changed it up a bit.  I asked everyone their particular favourite things that make Christmas special and then I divided them up over the 4 weeks of December.  Now that is a plan!  No gorging!  No wasted leftovers!  I quite like this idea.

Each week has a theme.  First week is spicy, second chocolate, third fruit and nuts, fourth plain.  There is a bit of overlap like chocolate coated fruit and nuts but hey, I don't mind.  Would you?

[ ] ~~ Sat 30 Nov ~~
[V] Sliced ham with sauce, roast vegetables
[ ] Choc fruit mince muffins
[ ] ~~ Sun 1 Dec - Fri 6 Dec ~~
[ ] Star cookies
[ ] Belgian biscuits
[ ] Gingerbread houses done at school
[ ] ~~ Sat 7 Dec ~~
[ ] Roast pork, apple sauce
[ ] Plum pudding and custard
[ ] ~~ Sun 8 Dec - Fri 13 Dec ~~
[ ] Yum yum balls
[ ] Choc covered nuts and fruit
[ ] Handmade chocolates
[ ] Candy canes
[ ] ~~ Sat 14 Dec ~~
[ ] Chicken mignons
[ ] Trifle
[ ] ~~ Sun 15 Dec - Fri 20 Dec ~~
[ ] Fruit cake with icing
[ ] Belgian biscuits
[ ] Mixed roast nuts
[ ] Stollen
[ ] Cherries
[ ] ~~ Sat 21 Dec ~~
[ ] ???
[ ] ?.?
[ ] ~~ Sun 22 Dec - Tues 24 Dec ~~
[ ] Coconut pyramids
[ ] Pretzels
[ ] Star cookies
[ ] ~~ Wed 25 Dec Christms Day ~~
[ ] Roast chickens, gravy, creamy potatoes, vegies
[ ] Pavlova/meringues, fruit salad and whipped cream can
[ ] ~~ New Years Eve ~~
[ ] Seafood, grilled fish and more

I hope your Christmas turns out well.  I think I only have wrapping left to do now.  Yay!  But I better do that before Christmas Eve!  lol  Why do I always do that?

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, November 8, 2013

Turning Your Computer Off, or Not?

http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs13/f/2007/077/2/e/Animator_vs__Animation_by_alanbecker.swf

Maybe this is what happens when we don't turn off at night.

Best wishes
Jen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Best Job in the World

A Weatherman

How can they get it this wrong and still get to keep their job?  Who else can do a complete turn about and still be called good at their job?



Well, I guess the 50% increase I paid in contents insurance because I live in a flood prone area goes towards helping those who sadly lost their homes due to living in fire prone areas.  Lose on the swings, gain on the merry go round.

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, October 25, 2013

Things I Have Learned the Hard Way

Here are some of the things that as a young homeschooling mother that I learned the hard way.

1.  Colouring in is not busy work.  It is a great way for a non-writing child to develop fine motor skills.
2.  Drilling for maths facts is not redundant.  A good foundation of facts laid early helps a lot later.
3.  Editing their own work helps them develop an eye for seeing what is truly there rather than what they intended to be there.  This works for Maths and Language Arts.
4.  Work on consistent effort or improvement will be very slow.  Especially in handwriting, see point 1 and 8 for extra help.
5.  Re-reading a book to find comprehension question answers helps train the eyes/brain to skim and find key words quickly.  Don't just allow them to rely on a great memory.
6.  Don't allow days to drift by in the interest of free play.  Make sure there is something you control about their day (even if only fifteen minutes after breakfast and fifteen minutes after lunch) so that when the time comes they accept that someone else does sometimes control their life despite their wishes.  Teach them to accept that with a good attitude.
7.  Set limits.  Life does!  It is cruel of us IMO to not teach our children that there are natural limits in life.  We can't eat as much as we like, we can't sleep as much as we like, and we can't eat anyway we like without consequences.  If we don't give some limits then they find it harder later.  I have certainly learned that with money.
8.  Filling in work sheets creates something that you can show later for them to see improvement when they think they "will never get it".
9.  Don't allow moods to control your days, theirs or yours.
10.  Don't allow disrespect to creep in to your home in the interest of free expression.

These are not necessarily in order of importance.  Just how my brain is working today!

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NSW homeschooling and some useful links

I need to put these somewhere useful as the NSW BOS site is a veritable maze.

Work samples and activities for Grades 9 and 10
http://arc.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/go/9-10/work-samples-and-activities/

The new NSW curriculum that ties in with the Australian Curriculum
http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/

Assessment strategies - possibly more useful to a classroom but worth reading
http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/7-10-assessment-strategies/

Best wishes
Jen in NSW

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning ahead relaxes me, go figure!

I know it doesn't suit everyone but planning ahead really relaxes me.

Sure, I know that planning what my youngest will be studying in 2025 may be a bit big on the scale of forward planning but I am now feeling a lot more confident about the boys' future homeschooling.  I can also see how I can combine the boys, and at 3 years apart in age that is not an easy task, and I can see when I will need to be planning new purchases.

I am keeping the core of history and science the same for all the boys even if studied at different stages.  That will mean reusing a lot of my purchases 3 times over.  That is good value!

And here are those plans in way too much detail.  If you are an experienced homeschooler please laugh!!  And if you are not an experienced homeschooler please know that this is not the recommended way of planning, unless of course it relaxes you to plan, but please let it go after you have planned it all out.  Life never really happens the way I plan a whole lot of the time and I have learned to go with the flow.





See, all a bit much but I do love the other spreadsheet that links to these and gives me each year so I can see where I can combine children.  Ahh, a planner's delight!

Yes, you can giggle!

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Electricity Maths and My Dishwashing Habits

Sometimes it really pays (pun not intended) to do the maths associated with your household habits.

We bought one of those electricity metering thingy-me-bobs a while ago and tested how much power our dishwasher uses.  I also had someone come out for an electricity usage audit.

Here is the surprising maths.

Method 1
Rinse dishes before stacking in dishwasher to remove most of the grease, about 10 minutes of running hot water.
Run dishwasher on shortest cycle possible with a 4-in-1 tablet at 40 deg C

Cost for hot water (assuming $250 per year for a 10 hot minute shower and dish rinsing done once a day as told to me by energy auditor) = 68.49c
Cost for dishwasher running for 42 minutes, 0.99kWh used @ 54.39c/kWh (my peak rate) = 53.85c

Total 122.34c or $1.22

Method 2
Only scrape off the solid bits into the bin or chook bucket and stack straight into dishwasher
Run dishwasher on 111 minute cycle with a 4-in-1 tablet at 65 deg C and a couple more rinse cycles

Cost for dishwasher running for 111 minutes, 1.213kWh used @ 54.39c/kWh (peak rate but hardly ever used at this time) = 65.98c

Total 65.98c or $0.66

Considering that my tap runs at almost 7 litres per minute I am also using 70 litres to rinse whereas the most my dishwasher uses according to its manual is 13 litres.  Add on water rates and my old method of rinsing is looking a less lot like a good idea.

Guess who isn't rinsing anymore and just lets the "slave" do it?  :-)

And of course I usually take advantage of the delay timer whenever possible and wash at 16.44c/kWh overnight!

Best wishes
Jen

Saturday, September 21, 2013

And yet again sinuses!

I have been trying to keep an analytical mind about my sinus issues instead of folding into a little tired depressed bundle. 

Over the last week I have realised that changes in weather like a warm sunny day after rainy days is a trigger just as are dreary days just after a patch of sunny days.  Why?  I don't know!

Also, even though I really want to hide inside my foggy, mouth breathing, headache, I have realised that getting out for some exercise, a good walk or even just hanging out the washing is enough to clear the blocked feeling a bit.  Very weird considering that means exposing myself to more grass.  Go figure!

The coke is still working for clearing a headache but doesn't clear out the sinuses.  Don't know why, will just go with the flow there.

I also need to stay on top of blowing my nose.  A lot!  I have soft tissues TG.  And I am now taking 3 herbal allergy tablets twice a day with 2 at lunch time instead of the 2 twice a day I used to do.  Hopefully that helps more too.

Overall the biggest factor in my health, both physical and mental, seems to be my mental attitude.  Ack!  It means I have to be self disciplined to do what works and not just wallow in the fog.  Not so easy for this lazy girl.

Best wishes
Jen
(And yes, I know, antihistamines would be an easy solution but have you read the potential side effects list on those, and read up on the long term use risks?  Not for me!)



Saturday, September 14, 2013

Books on my sidetable!

I have always been a bit of a bookworm, definitely a trait that is helpful when homeschooling.  On the little stool beside my bed that I call my sidetable is quite a large pile of books.  Some finished, some part way through and others not yet started.

Today these are in my pile (tomorrow they may be on the floor or back on the shelves).

  • The Second Mrs Gioconda - A Sonlight World History Core book about Leonardo da Vinci
  • Small Changes for a Better Life by Elizabeth George (a favourite author, her others are my go to books for short bursts of inspiration)
  • 5 Minute Retreats for Women by Sue Augustine (another go to book for a short burst of inspiration)
  • The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (still haven't really fully read this, but keep trying)
  • Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern (lots of repeating for me but a different perspective to think about how my children work best)
  • Prince Caspian by CS Lewis (read aloud for the children)
  • 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman by Lane P Jordan (a different take on the Proverbs 31 Woman than what Elizabeth George does in her books)
  • Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
  • More Hours in My day by Emilie Barnes (easier to read than her quick tip books)
  • Family, The Vital Factor (subtitled The Key to Society's Survival) by Moira Eastman (an Australian book published in 1989 and has already had several passages underlined and notes made in the margins, I don't usually write in books but this is good, too good for me to think about someone else wanting to read it without margin scribbles)
Now if only I could find the notebook I usually write quotes in and my thoughts about them.  Oh well, at least my filing cabinet is starting to look more cheerful as I use coloured files.  One thing at a time in the world of organising is about all I can handle.  The notebook will turn up when it is ready. ;-)

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, September 2, 2013

Interesting life-learning article

http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2013/08/29/five-things-you-have-to-unlearn-to-succeed-at-work/


Interesting read as I head into homeschooling more young men.  Yup, 11 year old is starting to eat me out of house and home!  That makes him count as a young man, not a child anymore.

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, August 30, 2013

Colornote and Routines Part 3

Sorry this took a while to get posted.  After the GTC (Great Tablet Crash) of 2013 it has taken some time to get everything flowing again.

In part 1 I explained how I create Colornotes from a Word document on my Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet.  Notes can also be created from any sort of text file.  I have sent files to my son's tablet as a text file in an email and he has been able to save them as notes after a little editing.  In part 2 I showed you how I lay out my notes on the screens of my tablet for easy visibility.

In this part I will show you how I use them on a daily basis.  After the GTC I have subtly changed how I lay out the notes on my screens but I still use them in the same way.

Every morning I do my First Things list.  First, of course!  Usually as I sit and ponder if you know what I mean.  It doesn't take me much longer than 5 minutes to quickly change the routine notes, check the weather, check the calender and add any little jobs that I think of to my Next Action list for the week.





I then steadily work through my lists, marking things as done.  There is a big sense of satisifaction when a note is greyed out due to all its items being marked as completed.  Some times I have to mark things off because I realise that they just won't get done.  That is okay!  I just keep moving, prioritising as I go.

At the end of the day I sometimes take a screen shot or two to save in Evernote to have evidence of the good days.  But I usually just take the option of List, Uncheck all items, and I am ready to go again for the next day.

If I need to change the plans for the day I will put in an extra item like this,  "~~~Doctor's Appointment~~~" and cross off any items that will need to be dropped for the day so I can make the appointment.  At the end of the day I delete the special bit/s and uncheck all the other items again.

Big Tip:  Do not use the sort by status option for routine notes.  It will mess up the order you do things in and you will have to reshuffle it all again for the next use.  I do use the sort by status option on task lists so that the completed items drop to the bottom but then again I won't be reusing them and it keeps the top of the list uncluttered by complete items, leaving only the ones I still need to action.

I also have the week's cleaning laid out on one screen.  I try to work my way through the list by the day I usually do that room but sometimes I do things out of order.  I generally don't uncheck these lists until the next time they come up in my 4 weekly rotation.  That way I know what has been done recently and I can prioritise tasks that keep dropping off the list.



So there you go!  It all takes quite some time to set up but once I have it sorted it doesn't take much to tweak it for seasonal changes or a house move.  Or just the little day to day speed bumps in the path of the day.  :-)

Best wishes
Jen
 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spring Cleaning Take 2 or is that 3?

The great thing about a blog or journal is being able to look back and see what has happened in the past and then knowing how to improve things.

Last year I tried to do my spring cleaning in early September after it had warmed up.  This year I am doing it earlier when it hasn't become fully spring yet, trying to avoid the heavy spring rains that the BOM is predicting for my area, and avoiding the warmth that makes all the grass very happy and me very miserable.

Yesterday I started pulling curtains down to wash them.  It is a little disheartening to clean only the inside of the windows and not have that joy of clean windows outside but it is still too cool to be washing the outside of the house just yet.

 Another job to do before it gets too warm is to weed the front garden beds.  I put down a nice thick layer of mulch but the weeds were persistent, giving me a front garden more full of weeds than flowers.  Nice job to do when the sun is shining on that part of the yard.  Wonder if I can get up early enough to do that this week?!

How is your spring cleaning  going?

Best wishes
Jen



Friday, August 9, 2013

Sorting out those horrible sinuses!

I vacuumed part of the house on Monday, a typically windy winter's day, and tipped out the canister of dust into the bin.  I would usually tip it into a plastic bag first (I collect an awful lot of plastic shopping bags, hanging head in shame) and then put the whole bag in the bin.

Well, I have learned that I need to not toss dusty dog hair and all those other bits of allergen nasties loose into a bin on a windy day.  I have had bad sinuses for 4 days now.  Others in my family have colds but I don't have the muscles aches or the sore throat before onset of other symptoms so I am pretty sure my mucous overload was due to allergies.

Some things I have worked out that have eased the sinus pressure and the headaches and grogginess.

1. Cold air to breathe as much as possible.  I need to be warmly rugged up but I breathe better outside and the best was when I was at the beach last night with the wind whipping up the surf.  I have even been sleeping with my bedroom window open on nights where the temperature has been dropping to 8 and 9 degrees C overnight so I can breathe and sleep.

2. Warm steamy showers as soon as I get up to clear sinuses.  It doesn't work if I only put my head over a steamy bowl.  And if I warm my hands and put them on my sinuses it really seems to relieve the pressure feeling.

3. Reducing exposure, which is quite weird because I am allergic to grass but I feel better outside.  Don't get that one. In future though I am going to wear a mask while dusting or emptying vacuum canisters and on days I know it will be bad for grass I will wear a mask to hang out washing.

4. Healthy diet to increase ability to cope with the overload.  I have noticed that the sugar hits I use to get myself through the tiredness actually increase the mucous in my throat.  I need to eat healthier.  Ironically yoghurt, a dairy product and a "mucous producer" is not causing me any issues.  Maybe I don't have dairy intolerances.  Loads of vegetables do help. 

5. Don't stop taking medication that works.  And I am adding on Fenugreek or Fennel tea every day as they are both good for mucous membranes.  Sinuses and the digestive tract.  There could be good bonuses for my bloaty tummy.

I am getting a much clearer head now.  I am able to analyse what happens instead of just sitting here feeling totally wiped out and depressed.  It is ironic how pushing myself to do housework when feeling bad has actually helped give me feedback on what works.  Gotta love how G-d plans these things!  lol

Well, housework to do, as always, so see you later.

Best wishes
Jen

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The latest and greatest reason to skip school!

We have had a few reasons, but this week we have had some great ones.

My 11 year old took off Monday to recover from a 22km hike up and down a mountain carrying all his own gear and staying overnight on Saturday. 

We then all took off Tuesday to go to the zoo.  It was a fantastic day, although a little rushed.  The weather was good, mostly sunny with a few clouds.  No major nasty wind and no rain!  That is pretty good for winter here.  Taronga Zoo is close to us, well, sort of.  It is a 2 hour trip down to Sydney but worth it.  I love it there and have my favourite exhibits.  I love the penguins, the reptiles, the platypus and the glider possums.  I don't like the koalas (smelly!) or the kangaroos (very boring).  Very unAustralian of me, I guess! 

After a full day at the zoo, photos to come, and an evening out we got home at the very unreasonable hour of 11pm.   Thereby creating a very good reason to have Wednesday off, don't you think?!

Something I have realised - an annual pass to a zoo is never a bad idea.  And there is a good chance you will make more of an effort to use it if you have already paid for the visit.  When we move north again it will be among the first Christmas presents - an Australia Zoo pass, and we will also add in a Dreamworld pass and maybe a Seaworld pass too.  Ahh, the joys of non-clutter presents!  lol

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, July 12, 2013

Recovering from a Tablet Crash!

My tips:

- Use apps that have an online backup service.  In the ideal situation it would be nice if all your apps with important data have a PC version also but it isn't always that way.

- Find out how the backup works and use it appropriately.  One of my apps has a back up service but needs to be synced manually for instance.  Another syncs only when you open the app, not a widget.   And another syncs automatically when it pleases.

- If TWLauncher for an Android device is the problem we found it possible to still get into the settings menu, attach the tablet to a computer via USB and save the whole drive across to the PC.  Bit tricky, in that my PC wouldn't recognise my Samsung tablet at all, but my hubby's PC did recognise it, although as a camera.

- Put things back on slowly.  At least 12 hours usage with every batch of additions before adding on more items.

- Learn about why it may have crashed in the first place so you don't do it again (hopefully!).  My best resources were
  • http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/144?g=301
  • http://forum.xda-developers.com/index.php
  • http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-android-tablets/
  • http://www.androidtablets.net/forum/samsung-galaxy-tab/
  • http://androidforums.com/android-tablets-mids/
  • http://www.thegalaxytabforum.com/index.php?/forum/104-galaxy-tab-77-user-help-solutions/ 
 It seems my biggest issue may have been too many fingers (games the kids keep playing over each other's shoulders), too many downloaded apps then deleted still leaving a footprint, and not allowing an app to fully install, possibly leaving "corrupt" files behind.

Well, if this wasn't interesting to you, it is at least a record for me of where to go get help if I ever have a problem again. :-)

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oops, Tablet crash!

My tablet crashed very badly in the last week and I am in the middle of rebuilding it from scratch.  Big learning curve!

My advice - don't let your kids persuade you to put every free game on earth on to your tablet.  It don't like it!!!

Back soon,
Jen

(Oh, and the fridge died too!  Thankfully a new second hand fridge didn't cost much and I have a crisper drawer that holds celery bunches without any effort from me.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

ColorNote and Routines Part 2

In my last post I showed you how I created multiple checklists for my daily routine.

Over the years I have polished a chore rotation for my household.


Some of the room names have changed due to us moving things around but you get the idea.  I also have monthly chores that are added to the weekly list, creating 4 weeks worth of cleaning checklists.

Then in the same way I created checklists for my daily routine I created chore lists in ColorNote.



Over two screens on my tablet I have laid out my daily routine checklists as 2x2 widgets and added in my chore checklist also.


You can also see I have added in what I call Individual Morning Chores (IMC).  The blue widget is my chores list for that day.

On the next screen that continues the routines there are Individual Afternoon Chores (IAC) widgets for each person.  I also have a purple one for the month's big chores as you can see in this next screen shot.

  

Sadly June's chores haven't been done as diligently as I would like, but I wanted to show you how my screens look.

In my next post I will explain more on how I use these lists.

Best wishes
Jen

 

ColorNote and Routines Part 1

Here are my step by step instructions on how to turn text from a Word document into checklists in ColorNote for my tablet.

Like some other homeschooling mothers I have read Managers of Their Homes by Terri Maxwell.   From that I gleaned the idea of having a regular routine to my days.  I have also arranged my household chores in a similar way to FlyLady with a monthly rotation of the bigger jobs, and a weekly and daily routine of chores.

With ColorNote I have been able to create all the lists I need to keep this system running.

First of all I create my schedule in Word.  It comes out looking something like this.


Once I have polished it and am happy that it all "works", I copy the file across to my tablet.  It is important that each task has those square brackets with one space between them and then a space in front of the text before each item.  You will see why in the next step.

I use Polaris to open up the Word file.  I then select the contents of a cell and copy them to the clipboard.



After opening up ColorNote I use the add option and create a text note.  Yes, it does sound odd, when I want to create a checklist but it works.  In the new text note I paste my text copied from the clipboard.  It comes out as text with no carriage returns.



By selecting just before each opening bracket I insert returns to create a vertical list.



Before saving it I send to ColorNote and it automatically changes my text list to a check list.  I change the colour to suit my system, put in an appropriate title and save.




It will then switch me back to my text note, which I can discard.


My system of labelling is to put the stage number and then the day/s it applies to.  For instance you will see above in the Word file that Monday's stage 1 is different to Tuesday and Wednesday - no homework - so I will label it "1 Mon" but Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are all the same so I label the note for them as "1 T W R F".  I use R for Thursday because I have become used to how Homeschool Tracker uses R for scheduling across different days and it makes a lot of sense when I am trying to make titles short so they are visible on the widget.

More to come...

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, June 21, 2013

Using ColorNote on My Tablet

I have a Samsung Tablet 7.7, only the older version, but I find it to be my second brain.  I would be lost without it.  The 3 most important apps I have installed are Cozi, a calendar app that my DH can use on his iPad also; Out of Milk, for my grocery lists sorted by store with price history, and ColorNote, a list making app.

I love ColorNote.  It has checklists and text notes.  They can be colour coded and can even have a reminder set for them in the calendar section of CN.

My notes are colour coded for the zones I use for housekeeping, for my routines, for projects and other minor list types.  I mostly use checklists and love how they can be reused by "unchecking all" or "checking all".  I also like to edit them and move items up and down so that I have the higher priority items higher in the list.

I can even send my lists to my son in an email and he can send them on to his ColorNote app on his phone.

The notes are easy to "stick" onto your pages for viewing by adding a 1x1 or a 2x2 widget to the page.  I usually use them  in the larger size because they can be stretched for best viewing but they can also just be put on as a simple sticky note with a title showing.

A typical "page" in my tablet.  Note the large notes and the smaller ones also.



In this screen shot I have 2 types of ColorNote widgets.The smaller grey ones to the right (6 of them) are the 1x1 widgets with only a note title and a number for the tasks still left to be done for that checklist.  The lower right widget was a 2x2 widget that I have stretched and is only text.  The other 2 large notes are checklists and you can see that I have some marked off on the grey note.  By clicking on the note I can then edit the items, uncheck all, check all or sort by status.  Awesome, huh?!

I am just updating my schedule for next term and will tell you how I go about creating that in my tablet for easy use.  Once I have that done I can show you some more screen shots of my daily routines and my household routines.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes
Jen

PS Yes I have EverNote too but I find it's task lists are very limited for re-using or moving items around in.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thinking about Science

Has anyone else ever considered why science is typically taught the way it is?



In my opinion scientific inquiry is not fully learned if the student is taught the science before they get to do a hands-on experiment and think about what has occurred.  After all would the science book lie?   

Scientists of old would observe the world around them, make guesses at why things happened, and then do an experiment to try to prove their theory.  If it didn't work then they would try a new idea.

How can we expect our students to come up with new thoughts if we feed them everything before they get to the experiment?

Science in our household is going to be a mess of experiments, with theories abounding (and messes I guess!) and then information about the known facts shared in small snippets as I see them trying to come up with theories of their own.

So, have you thought about science?

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, June 7, 2013

Quick Quip

Three things you should never try to "raise" without giving your full attention to them.

Bread

Vegetables

and

Children!

Yup,
shortest written post ever on this blog.

Best wishes
Jen 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Having a Refreshing Personal Space

I have been reflecting on having a refreshing personal space to just take time to reflect and refresh each day.  A variety of books that I have been reading recently cover this although I couldn't exactly say which ones today.  You know how it is, read so many sources with similar ideas, you don't know where you read it first.

Anyway, I share my bedroom with 2 little children.  Umm, back that up!  You may need a quick explanation of our house.

My dh is very overweight and uses a CPAP machine.  Due to his weight causing a very large dip in the bed and the noise of his machine I am unable to sleep in his bed.  Not something either of us are happy with!  In the other 2 bedrooms in the house we have a set of bunks for the older pair of boys and then in my room a set of bunks for the younger pair of boys and a single bed for me.

While I have made sure my bedlinen is pretty and that the higher up surfaces are uncluttered the bedtime books and a few stray toys keep creeping out from their homes under the boys' bed to cover the floor.  Not exactly refreshing!

Instead my "refresh" space is the room where our fireplace is.  I have a 2 seater lounge with a pretty lamp for reading to the boys or on my own opposite the fire place and I will shortly have a desk in the corner for me to do my "important work" of thinking and planning.  I love this space because it is fairly central to the rest of the house.  In the past if I have made my refresh space too out of the way I can find myself hiding there all day long.  For me I need to be out in public space because children who can read clocks or see screens will naturally keep me accountable.  lol

I have also made a few little places of "peace" around my house, surfaces that contain things that make me smile that no one is allowed to clutter up.  Even if the rest of my house is dusty, toy cluttered and messy these little places help me to feel it is not all lost.

I hope this gives you some ideas about creating a space for yourself.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Faith - An Analogy

This book, Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, has been in my bag for a week or so in anticipation of going to a Christian homeschooling mum conference just down the road from where I live this last weekend.  The conference was based on similar ones run in the US by Sally Clarkson, a co-author of the mentioned book.  In the end I couldn't go due to a tummy virus that just lingered and lingered and lingered.  I couldn't take it to a conference where travelling mums with babies would be.  Just wouldn't have been right!  So I missed it.  :-(

This morning I read a few chapters which led me to thinking about faith as I restarted the fire from its morning embers.  After 6 winters in this house and 1 winter in Tasmania I am better than I used to be at restarting a fire from small coals.  (I am from a tropical state so it hasn't been easy!) 

It takes some tightly scrunched paper, some small dry twigs and then small splits usually left over from the "men" splitting the logs laid just right so that air can flow, and they don't fall out the door.  I can restart the whole fire now without a match just by breathing on it.  Sometimes it takes a small puff, other times a sustained gentle breath until the larger pieces of timber catch into flame and stay lit.  But most days I can do it.

I thought to myself why do I do it the way I do?  I realised that over time I have gained confidence in myself and my skills and that I knew that even if my first attempt didn't work I knew how to gently adjust the twigs, the paper or how gently I blew until it could catch.  I also knew that I could restart again, and if the embers really weren't enough I do have matches.  But I like the challenge and I believe I can do it.  I have faith in myself.

Maybe I need to consider this as I contemplate homeschooling all my boys again.  Maybe I don't need to have it All Right right now.  I can be gentle, I can readjust the "twigs", I can blow gently or I can be firm but I can have faith that it will work out because I care, I love them and I do not want to let them down.  I am willing to learn, I know it takes time.  All I need to do is Do Something, Anything... as long as I care, and I do.

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Role of the Teacher

From Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams

It used to be simple: the teacher was the cop, the lecturer, the source of answers, and the gatekeeper to resources. All rolled into one.

A teacher might be the person who is capable of delivering information. A teacher can be your best source of finding out how to do something or why something works.

A teacher can also serve to create a social contract or environment where people will change their posture, do their best work, and stretch in new directions. We’ve all been in environments where competition, social status, or the direct connection with another human being has changed us.

The Internet is making the role of content gatekeeper unimportant. Redundant. Even wasteful.

If there’s information that can be written down, widespread digital access now means that just about anyone can look it up. We don’t need a human being standing next to us to lecture us on how to find the square root of a number or sharpen an axe.

(Worth stopping for a second and reconsidering the revolutionary nature of that last sentence.)

What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better.

If all the teacher is going to do is read her pre-written notes from a PowerPoint slide to a lecture hall of thirty or three hundred, perhaps she should stay home. Not only is this a horrible disrespect to the student, it’s a complete waste of the heart and soul of the talented teacher. Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Clean Joke!

While on safari in cannibal country, a traveler came across a cafe in a clearing in the jungle.  The sign out front advertised:

  • Fried Missionary     $5.00
  • Boiled Hunter          $4.50
  • Grilled Safari Guide   $5.00
  • Stuffed Politician      $15.00
When the traveler asked why so much for the politician, the chef replied, "Have you ever tried to clean one?"


Best wishes
Jen

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Smoke and Mirror Illusions of the School System

I am reading an e-book called Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin, not quite sure how I came across it, but it has been a thought provoking read.  It is generally his answer to the question "What do you think we ought to do about education?"

It starts with the premise of why school as we know it was created in the first place.  Most homeschoolers have come across this before but just in case you haven't, a quick summary - to remove children from the labour force and to create jobs for adults in a newly industrialised world it was agreed to educate children in a similar factory-like fashion, with tests and processes to track progress.  It was important that these young people were taught to obey blindly, to follow systems unquestioningly and to all know the same basic things with no allowances for individuality or free thinking.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

What if we told students the truth?
Transparency in the traditional school might destroy it.  If we told the truth about the irrelevance of various courses, about the relative quality of some teachers, about the power of choice and free speech - could the school as we know it survive?

 ... Unlike just about every other institution and product line in our economy, transparency is missing from education.  Students are lied to and so are parents.  At some point, teenagers realize that most of school is a game, but the system never acknowledges it.  In search of power, control and independence, administrators hide information from teachers, and vice versa.

 ... The very texture of the traditional school matches the organization and culture of the industrial economy.  The bottom of the pyramid stores the students, with teachers (middle managers) following instructions from their bosses.

As in the traditional industrial organization, the folks at the bottom of the school are ignored, mistreated and lied to.  They are kept in the dark about anything outside of what they need to know to do their job (being a student), and put to work to satisfy the needs of the people in charge. 

He then goes on to point out that the connection we have across the world now with the internet is starting to show young people that they can learn on their own, about what they are truly interested in, without the necessity of the school system.  The school system is, in his opinion, losing its power to manipulate and lie to our young people, telling them that the only way to get an education is within the walls of a school.

I like the next section too.  It discusses how contracts have changed from being individually created between parties with agreement reached with both parties benefiting to one that is more implied by the very act of participating or using something created by an organisation.  This type of contract is not always as beneficial to both parties and is called an adhesion contract.  He points out that we and our children are agreeing to this type of contract just by entering the school gates.

We don't ask students to decide to participate.  We assume the contract of adhesion, and relentlessly put information in front of them, with homework to do and tests to take.

Entirely skipped: commitment.  Do you want to learn this? Will you decide to become good at this?

The universal truth is beyond question - the only people who excel are those who have decided to do so.  Great doctors or speakers or skiers or writers or musicians are great because somewhere along the way, they made the choice.

Why have we completely denied the importance of this choice?
 I am really struggling in some ways to cope with 2 of my children in school.  I see so much time wasted and not much learned.  I am fearful too that I am not up to it yet.  Not just yet!  I need this sabbatical without guilt or fear to get my head into gear for my next season of home schooling.  But I can tell you I am getting a real gut burn to get back on with it.  I just need better health and better consistency first.  Notice I didn't say perfect, or even good, just better!

More to come,

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, April 19, 2013

Socialisation of Schooled Children

From pg 19 of Homeschooling Review 1 October 2003 published by Qld Government, which was before the Education Act was changed to be more accommodating for home education.

HOME SCHOOLING MYTHS

One of the more popular myths about home schooling is that children who do not attend regular schooling are not socially developed and do not mature into confident well-balanced individuals. While there is an absence of detailed Australian research on this matter, there is much research in the United States of America and studies archived at the US-based Home School Legal Defence Association in Oregon. This research is broadly applicable to Australia.

In summary, researchers have found home schooled children are as well socialised as students educated in traditional State and non-State schools. Boyer ("The Socialisation Trap", 1993) researched the social stratification of children in schools by the lock-step age and grade approach to schooling. He concluded that by the time children are teenagers, they have little idea how to socialise with anyone outside of their peer group because of this approach to education.


The highlighted part gave me a good laugh this morning. With all sarcasm intended, Is that really what they want to happen?   Is this type of socialisation within the school system so terrific that it is the reason so many send their children to school?  And getting this type of socialisation is why I shouldn't homeschool my children?  Huh?!   Think about it guys!

Off to learn more about teaching writing.  Gee, maths is so much easier than parts of speech and grammar.  Yuk!

Best wishes
Jen


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

School Days Term 1

So, an update on the boys at school!  The eldest has had issues with personal organisation.  I got him a binder with 2 pockets, one for things going to school and the other for things coming home.  It has helped a lot to avoid the whole crumpled papers in the bag buried under yesterday's lunch box problem, but he really needs to remember to check the pockets fully when he can't find his homework book. :-(

His desk is also a mess and it seems he may holding up the class at times while he tries to find papers or books for the next lesson.  I suggested a basket similar to what I use at home with books behind a divider and loose papers in front.  His teacher has approved it, although he did express concerns at Jackson being different to everyone else and possibly getting teased.  I had asked Jackson before spending any money if he had more concerns about being teased or about being behind all the time.  He is getting teased anyway for the mess he has his desk in so he figures teasing for being different is worth the risk.  The teacher is going to make space for the basket on his shelf near his desk and will change where Jackson sits so he can get to his books and papers more easily.  Also the teacher joked that at least he will see more of him than just the top of his head all the time as he digs around under his desk looking for books or papers.  :-)

My younger one is doing well in his class I think.  I will be seeing his teacher next week to just chat, see what he is doing.  I think he has surprised her sometimes.  He was asking/telling her about negative numbers the other day and she said that he won't do them until high school.  Well, I tested him and he can do simple addition and subtractions with negative numbers like -2+5 and -5+2.  Hmm, fun!!  I certainly haven't taught them although apparently dh has had a discussion or two with him about them.

I would love to have the boys home again but we are all learning from this experience at the moment.  My teen at home is learning that he Can Do his work if he just focuses, and he will get rewarded.  I am learning from the teachers at school how to occupy kids who finish quickly and how to deal with disorganised students.  I hadn't realised that these issues were part of our problems at home so this has been really helpful.

Otherwise the whole experience has been good.  Expensive, but good!  I would rather spend $300 on books than school uniforms and shoes but that is me (and probably most other homeschool mums!).

Best wishes
Jen


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