Sunday, May 19, 2013

Different Kinds of Maths.

Maths is taking different shapes and sizes, literally, after looking for how I can involve Little Miss August in more school, and do some slightly different work with Little H#3 at the same time to involve them together.

A while ago I downloaded a great number of Scholastic e-books, as they had a dollar sale. One of them was a shapes fun booklet. I thought a little geometry wouldn't do us any harm, and this was perfect for tracing practice for Little Miss August as well as easy but still useful work for Little H#3. 

She really likes tracing and colouring at the moment and I am really pleased with the new dimension this is giving our mornings.

 Finished shapes coloured in and traced, ready for cutting and sticking.

Big brother Little H#1 helping with the cutting and sticking. Helping sometimes takes patience (!) so this was good practice in co-operation too for everyone!

Little H#3 making his shapes bear with little assistance and patiently waiting while we shared one tube of glue around the family. Note to self: we must buy more now that even that one has run out. I think we do a lot of craft. :) That, in itself, amazes me!

This is the usual maths scene. Math-u-See. We use the little DVD player now for those who want to watch their lessons. Was lovely having everyone gather around the PC to watch everyone else's lesson but it just takes too long to get through the work. While the boys were working, Little Misses were using play dough on the toddler table next to the big table. It was their first time with the home made play dough so we got a lot of mileage out of it. Still in use although the novelty's worn off a bit. Have re-invented said play dough to include a maths activity for Littles some time this week.

And now for the unschooling variety. This is child-led Park Maths.

Mr L and his mum came to the park with us for a play date. He was obviously much heavier than Little Miss August. The children decided that this was  a problem that needed fixing.

Nope.Mr L < Little Miss August + Little H#3

 Mr L + Little Miss June > Little Miss August + Little H#2... only just. Keep trying!

Aha!!!! Mr L does in fact = Little H#2 + Little Miss June. 

Socialisation + Children = Happy mums chatting while kids do their own kind of school. 

No two children were exactly the same age.

It didn't seem to matter...

What day is it again?

Shock realisation of the week was that Little H#3 doesn't know the days of the week in sequence. :o  I can share my homeschooling lows as well as the highs! He's doing well in maths (but the curriculum we use doesn't embrace days of the week until later, I know that from skipping the relevant lessons with the older 2, and being shocked that it was included in the curriculum at that point... ha ha). He's learning to read with a mix of methods. Somehow I have failed to notice that he doesn't have a concept of the week in his head yet.

After the initial shock and horror of that discovery, homeschool brain thinks there must be something that I can do about this immediately. I remembered from the vague distant past that in our primary school classroom, the black board always said "Today is..." and I THINK we had to copy it down on our work.

I printed out the words in an outline primary font (Edward Primary) which is the most similar to handwriting. I gave the sheets out and all the boys coloured them in for me. We laminated them and now have a changeable display on the wall just above the table where they work / play and where we eat all our meals. Little H#3 and Little Miss August can change the day together each morning.

Finished calendar.  Looks like we made it on Wednesday. :)

Not only that, I had found and passed over initially, some name of the day coat hanger labels for organising a pre-schooler's wardrobe. I am SICK of the stress getting the girls ready each day. It's a combination of the wardrobes not yet being organised well enough to keep the clothes easily sorted... and having a super fussy 3YO when it comes to what she is wearing. Not how it looks, but how it feels. She is the classic Spirited Child in that sense. Little H#3 was like this at the same age, and has gradually grown out of it. Now at 6 I don't have to have any dramas over his wardrobe, except he still finds the transition of season hard - getting used to wearing jeans after shorts all summer, etc. I have learned to just go with this, and Little H#3 is living proof that 'this too will pass' and it's not worth me stressing over it. I just have to find a way to get through the season.

So all of a sudden, choosing the clothes all in one go, labelling the coat hangers for each day of the week... started to look pretty attractive. Plus... we get days of the week practice!!!!!

The beautiful printables are on Etsy... and you have to pay for them. The crafty homeschool mum sees the education in the making of the labels, is too poor to buy the beautiful ones, and loves any excuse to laminate. :)

(The beautiful printables are here: )

So... here are our labels. Again of course everyone was enlisted to "make" and we were all very happy with the results.

 Everyone colouring in the labels that I made in Word using word art (for the outline words) and shape art (for the hanger shape).
 In use after 20 mins of sorting through the wardrobe so that I could ready make 8 outfits.

Why 8?
 I realised (because we happened to have a party to go to yesterday) that we needed a 'Party' label. I can't dress her in party clothes till we are ready to go to the party, and it made sense to make another label.

Of course I wouldn't have had the extra label if I'd bought the beautiful Etsy ones...

So far so good. Getting dressed on Saturday morning was a breeze. She chose the day of the week, discovered the clothes and 2 mins later was dressed. Wow.

Ta da!!!!

We went downstairs and straight away she picked the correct name of the day for the calendar.

Happy with the morning's activities. 

Mummy was a little ecstatic that the getting dressed idea has worked. I spent the same amount of time weeding out summer clothes and sorting out the outfits for the week... that it normally takes me to get the girls dressed.

The delightful challenge of Littles...

Whilst I have a backlog (already) of good lessons I want to detail before we lose them, I need to start somewhere with other things that I want to share.

Quite often friends who homeschool will ask what we do with younger sibs while the older ones do their work. Other friends whose children aren't homeschooled but not yet at school, ask homeschooling mums for ideas for activities for their 2-4 year olds.

Up until now with our current crop of Little Hs, it's been pretty easy going once the 'climbing all over the table and tipping the pencils out' phase lost its grip on our daily routine. That stage i am satisfied is purely developmental, and as with all things "this too shall pass". For now, it just about has, as long as Little Miss June is happy playing, and Little Miss August isn't having a Dairy Day.

I will categorise these posts so that I can share ideas as I add new ones, and go through photos for old ones. :) The old ones are currently a little "old" though so i am going to have to spend some time researching and making up new busy bags or activity packs to keep together and use in rotation. Little Miss August is often saying that she has nothing to do... she's in that intermediate place between toddler and school... I guess they call it Pre-school!!!!

Today's efforts. I have to include the "making pics" because I have involved all of the kids successfully recently in a few craft / school projects aimed at the Littles. So much better than doing it myself and a good family activity in itself for a weekend morning (or any other time!).

So first - I came across this idea today and we promptly made it.

Duplo Building Inspiration Busy Bag.

I printed out the cards from the suggested kit, and we got our massive supply of duplo bricks out onto the table for sorting. The children had to make as many of the pictures as they could, to determine whether we actually had the parts used in the photos. Some worked, some needed alteration. Hey that's fine, because of course doing your own thing is often better (though not quicker!). We put on one side the models needing new photo cards, and the boys made a few extra models for our own cards.

 Making the suggested cards.
 Our finished models. We found that we didn't have all of the pieces for the set cards and made some of our own. The boys took the photos with my SLR and they made creative backgrounds for the models with coloured paper. We quickly preferred our own photos and re-did the others as well.
The finished Busy Bag! I made our own label, laminated the cards, and used a ring to bind the cards together for the kit.

I found an old drawstring conference bag which is the perfect size and easy to open and close to keep in all the blocks. I have a feeling that as well as using this during school time for Littles, it will also become a kit that we can take to places where we will want something to do for the children - after church over coffee or anywhere else we need the children to have an activity when we need to take our own toys.

Everyone's pleased with the final result and I am so grateful the children were on board and keen to help - and make it their own. That in itself is a great kind of school for me. Even on a Sunday morning. :)

Next, I followed a link from the Busy Bag page to other ideas for busy bags or activities for younger ones. I found some great printables for play dough mats... I confess I have never thought of making these and I am a total play dough novice. On the few occasions I have made it, they have been hit and miss... but I finally appear to have a good recipe. I made green play dough a few weeks ago and it is still going strong (and also very green on account of slipping with the bottle as I added the dye to the water!). I plan to share the pictures of how that has been used during school time too.

Among the pictures to use for play dough maths for Littles, I found an apple tree counting set. You are supposed to use red play dough but seeing as apples can be green as well - very little effort is required from me to get this one up and running, save printing and laminating the mats.

Here is the finished kit:

The link is here:

Being the perfectionist I am, I am not happy unless it has a nice shiny label of its own (so I made one) and I need to put it in a better bag or container. But for now, I need to be satisfied with the fact that I made 2 busy activities today, and they can both accommodate 2 or 3 children, depending on who is doing what at the time.

When I have chance to make more play dough I will make some red for the apples. Also I downloaded the printables for rabbits to eat set numbers of carrots... again  for the future when I am desperate to make orange play dough.

I also have an even better idea for a project for myself to allow the children to choose an activity from the ones I have available, and so that I don't forget what I have available as ideas. Coloured lollipop sticks with printed labels for different activities. I'll make myself a list of the ideas available, and that will be a craft activity for another date in the future - of course with my Helpers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Long overdue catch up.

H Corner has moved again. :) This is my main reason for not having blogged properly (or at all) since last time. School has been happening, it just hasn't been recorded in a way that is easy for me to trace back right now. Which is a shame because the reason for the blog is so that I can keep a good record for the children of what we have done, show friends and other inquirers what we do and a bit about how we do it... hopefully encourage someone along the way, etc, as well as re-encourage myself when I go back to read through.

We are in a new season. Matthew is studying for pastoral ministry, we are on college campus living in community (wa hey!! Community-  gotta love it, in many ways it is just so much better than a little, forgotten about Corner somewhere!), and School is ever-changing.

For the good. Changing for the good, definitely.

I think I have to consider that I have 3 1/2 children "in school". Little Miss August is now about 3 3/4... and most definitely Learning. Not old enough for Kindergarten / pre-school but I am glad I don't restrict (or insist) based on age... and she's learning to read and a whole heap of other things. Little Miss June is now nearly 2, and she I suppose is the hardest for me to set up with things so that I can do work with the boys. But the boys are working more independently, although Little H#3 isn't reading yet, he is doing a great job at learning to read and write but not yet independently. I am really pleased with his progress but it is still very hands on for me which means I still have those inevitable time struggles.

So... how am I handling a toddler and a pre-schooler? Well I am a whole lot more organised with everything than I used to be. For a long period of time we have freewheeled with most subjects in an unschooling / natural learning kind of manner. Which has been great but it is time for change.

Finally the house is getting some kind of organised, and the kitchen / dining area is lovely and big. We have room for the table to extend fully and a friend the other day gave me a cute little (and very old) toddler table and chair, which is great for the girls to sit at with an activity.

I am trying something new on a personal level. A new kind of planning. Having a whole heap of stuff printed out and planned for the children in advance, rather than in my head. Lots of tuts I am sure for those who think this is what I should be doing anyway! But I can hold a lot in my head and the only difference in some ways is a seamless transition between activities! Also I am finding (maybe a little to my dismay) that the children respond really well to... Lists. So Lists it is. If  I don't have a list, they show reluctance, refusals sometimes, and I lose motivation. If I put a List up - they drive me. They motivate me and keep me on the straight and narrow. We get through everything really quickly and my Chief Complainer becomes Team Leader. :)

So we have a Morning Jobs list, I have tried a List of School (column each for each child) and the feeling of having that ready to go for the next day, was amazing for me and it blessed them too. They were excited about it. So while I am not a Scheduling Mama I am trying to find a way of using this tool to help us all without getting too prescriptive, or stifling their (or my) creativity.

We can go to Chapel every morning if we want to. It is at 10.20am-ish. I have discovered I can get a lot of school done before then, this way. The children really want to go, they enjoy it, but I haven't been brave enough to try for every day though the children are up for it.

There's going to be another Little H in September, so this is the pregnancy year. Little H#6!! Normally I find the pregnancy year way worse in homeschooling terms than the baby year. So far so good. It's great, and we are doing well. Just loving homeschool and being encouraged constantly. I am excited to have a backlog of lessons and activities I want to blog about.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eye Eye

I'm not going to worry about the fact I am so behind blogging school. I am just going to try to start doing it again, because I really value the record, especially as we don't always have something "on paper" from even some of the most productive lessons.

As we are especially interested in eyes at the moment from my surgery last week (only 5 days ago and already I am back in the homeschool saddle, so that is encouraging!)... I decided we would learn about the eye and do some human anatomy.

First I asked the children to look at each other's eyes closely and draw an eye close up. That was successful and fun. I wanted them to observe before I "taught".

We then found a power point presentation about the eye and how it works. That was a bonus because originally I was simply going to teach from my textbook.

As I am officially still recovering and need Matthew to help and do most things at home, he was able to take the 2 youngest Little H's out so that I had time with the 3 boys for our lessons this morning.

We read from the text book, learned about different parts of the eye, looked at a diagram and learned how our brains work and how the image is projected into our eye, and travels along the optic nerve and becomes an image that we can see.

There were questions to ask along the way which all 3 boys enjoyed answering, and had listened well.

We then tried some activities designed to show how the eyes work together (or are supposed to, they don't in my case!) and we found out how our eyes work together to show depth, how the 2 images from each eye are put together by the brain (tube experiment where you can see a hole in your hand), found blind spots, and looked at different optical illusions - on the powerpoint display as well as in some books and the text book we were using.

The boys then had some very good attempts at drawing and labelling the parts of the eye and we have begun some anatomy note books. I am so pleased with what we achieved in about an hour and a half, what they have learned, and what we have to show for it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Socialisation Myth...

When we are asked about where our children go to school and we say that they are educated at home it is interesting for me to notice that 99% of responses, or concerns about that choice, relate to ‘socialisation’. I don’t like the word and it reminds me of the other word that comes to my mind with regard to school – institutionalisation. Arguably, children who go to school are not institutionalised. Arguably, they are not socialised either.

My own concerns about our decision to home educate, in those moments I feel the weighty responsibility of being in charge of the children’s learning, are never about socialisation.

What does socialisation mean?

Here are some definitions:

1. the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; "the socialization of children to the norms of their culture" (

2. The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 6th edition)

3. To "socialise" may also mean simply to associate or mingle with people socially. (extract from Wikipedia article)

4. 1. to behave in a friendly and sociable manner 2. to prepare for a life in society 3. to alter or create so as to be in accordance with socialist principles (Collins Concise English Dictionary)

5. socialize verb (TRAIN) (UK usually socialise) “ to train people or animals to behave in a way that others in the group think is suitable” (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary

When most people ask, either critically or with an open mind, about the socialisation aspect of school I suspect most of them are using the term to refer to the third definition above. I doubt most people are sending their children to school for the purpose of socialisation whereby children are all reduced to the ‘norm’ of their culture and that by imitation and group pressure, they will be trained to behave and think in a way which has been decided by anonymous ‘others’?

There are many things, one would hope, our children will not come to take on themselves from society in general, therefore it is an interesting thought when we consider that they are to be socialised and reduced to the behaviour of the majority. We mostly bemoan behaviours, words and attitudes that ‘come home from school’ and lament the fact we cannot do anything about it because it is where they spend most of their time.

I am beginning to think just as there are so many views and interpretations of the word ‘socialisation’ that it is rendered virtually useless in any argument about education. We need an agreed definition of something before we can debate its existence or validity.

So first – the association or mingling with people socially. This does not say “to associate or mingle with people of exactly the same age socially”. When was the last time you were in a room with 30 or 32 people exactly the same age as you? Least of all spending all day every day with them save for weekends and a few left over hours each day. The last time most people found themselves in that situation was at school at the age of 16. Therefore ‘socialisation’ at school will not prepare for a life in Society (whatever society itself actually is – I could go on defining and redefining terms all day). Let’s just think about preparing a child for their life ahead.

So this (the idea of spending a number of years specifically grouped and educated according to age, and sometimes ability) does not appear to be a valuable lesson / experience for the rest of our lives: university, the workplace –where all of a sudden we have a rude awakening and realise that everyone is not our age, does not have the same values and ideas as us (so clearly the adoption of behaviour patterns of surrounding culture, socialising children to the norms of their culture (see above definitions) is either not what is intended by educating children all of the same age together, or it fails miserably).

I was shocked at university to find that there were mature students on my degree course. In fact most of the 18-newly-left-home-year-olds were quite snooty about their presence on the course – and not only that, the lecturers actually seemed to like them and value their opinions…

Then it came to the job hunt. All of a sudden it became apparent that these mature students who had experienced life, done other things before their degree – were more desirable than the graduates who had exactly the same vocational qualification but who had proceeded along the educational conveyor belt without hopping off and taking a tangent in the meantime. Why was this ‘life experience’ more important than having faithfully progressed through educational institutions without ‘wasting any time’ on jobs that would not necessarily further a career, some in an entirely different field? At the point of leaving full time education (and many leave it at different points) each individual student finds their own way, making different choices, having a broad depth of experiences.

So if socialisation does not mean mingling with people of the same age socially (it can be seen how this is poor preparation for later life, and won’t actually get anyone a foot in the job market) why do we hold that perceived benefit of school in such high esteem?

In the alternative – a child educated at home is likely to have parents who want to not only educate their child but who will also want to assist the child in making meaningful friendships with people of all ages, and have the ability to interact in situations with people who are different from them in many ways (by which I mean ‘interact’ - deal with, not necessarily ‘get along with’ but learn how to manage those interactions in a positive way). So experiences are found, by joining groups, making family friendships where a number of siblings will meet a number of similar or different aged siblings for play and / or educational activities – and social skills continue to develop.

One would hope that parents have not left the ‘teaching of social skills’ to schools by the time a child is 5. In reality a young baby begins social interaction at a very early age – far before what we recognise as ‘language’ emerges. Children imitate their parents socially too – so we need to appreciate that we are mirrors for them – they watch, learn, and emulate how we interact with others – in social situations, at the shops, in the car, everywhere they go with us. Home educating continues social and interpersonal development from that point on. We still meet friends, we still go shopping, and we have the freedom to introduce our children to the real world at an early age where they can watch and learn how we interact with it and the others around us.

Yes – children need to play. They need to get along with others. But those people do not need to be all the same age as them, and they do not need to be in a room full of 30 of them, where the teaching methods to a lesser or greater degree- depending on the class, and depending on the ability of the teacher – have to be aimed at the ‘norm’ within the group – the weaker ones have to keep up and the more able have to tarry. (I can remember being ‘held back’ in reading schemes and phonics work because I was not in the right ‘year group’ for the next colour or level. I can also remember helping the older child next to me do her work). Individual needs outside the norm of the group have to be met by extra teachers and helpers – and surprisingly, parents are quite often considered well educated enough despite not being teachers – to be the extra pairs of hands that teachers cannot do without.

In the olden days (and in some rare places still!) children in village schools may have been in a class made up of children of all different ages – taught in one room, all together, by one teacher. Those children were not sent there to learn to get along with a group of children all exactly their own age – they were sent there for their education. This also discounts the idea that a differently aged group of children cannot be taught by one person. Even a large family of 7 children would still have a better teacher:pupil ratio than the village school classroom. There are greater advantages for all involved for say a family of 7 children ranging in age to be taking turns teaching the younger ones, taught together for certain activities, time spent one or two on one with the parent-teacher.

So why is the main criticism of home educating, the lack of socialisation, or the perceived ‘need’ for children to be kept in a group of same age children?

I actually feel that some lessons in life are better learned at home – sibling relationships are certainly a learning environment in terms of sharing, sympathy, empathy, self-control, friendship making. Perhaps adults who have grown up with dysfunctional sibling and family relationships may not have done so if they had spent more time together learning to get along at home? At school and in society we are taught to stay away from people with whom we don’t get along. We can give up and choose someone else from the many people we have contact with. At home we find that we cannot choose our family – learning to get on with them is essential for later life but this conflicts with the message that is given to us outside the home (or advice from those within the family on how to cope with situations outside the family, difficulties at school etc). The trouble is, that advice comes home to roost in many cases. The duality is lost on many, and has only just dawned on me.

So yes, whilst children need experiences and friendships outside the family / outside home:

- it is not essential (nor desirable) that all of these friendships and experiences take place within one arbitrarily restricted age group – and need not be an environment in which the primary goal is an educational outcome – the time for making meaningful contact is limited in such a place in any event

- children need to be able to get along with their family and to persist and work at sometimes potentially difficult friendships and relationships – we need to teach them and demonstrate perseverance within safe parameters – compared with, for example, sticking at something which is potentially dangerous physically and psychologically – for example persecution and bullying in the classroom…

- if our reason for sending children to school is because they don’t have any friends their own age outside school – maybe that is something we have to look at as parents – who are our friends? –are we modelling good friendships, are we prepared to seek out and meet new people in order to give our children extra experience in this area?

- With the plethora of outside school activities and clubs available there are many opportunities for children to interact with others with a little more in common than just their age – it might be a common interest such as drama, art, music, or it might be sharing the same faith.

- It is far more likely that children not ‘in school’ will have the time and energy to engage with others in those interest groups from an earlier age and more successfully – no time restrictions based on the fact it will have a knock on effect for school the next day, activities can take place within school hours for those with a shared interest, and homework, family time and mealtimes are not compromised.

Like-minded home school families? Is that also a myth?! Yes, possibly! I have met so many homeschooled families, and have rarely come across a family with exactly the same views and ‘philosophy’ (of life, or education) as ourselves. They may be home educating for the same primary reason, but may be using completely different materials and approaches as us. Or it may be the other way around. Discipline also differs greatly.

I have met families whose children were a perfect match in playdate and friendship for ours. I have met families whose children were completely different from ours. Behaviour varies greatly. So our children are still exposed to other children in a group setting where they have to find a place within the group, and learn to deal with it. They learn self-control in situations where other children are doing something that our children know is not acceptable to us. I saw an amazing example of that recently. Matthew sees that at scouts every week. But we are in what we consider to be the privileged position of being able to witness, praise and watch over these interactions. We can use the ‘teachable moments’ that arise and we can reinforce the positives that we see.

I would say it’s virtually impossible to keep our children in an environment where everyone has the same views as us, same outlook on life, and where all the parents have the same goal for their children. Firstly – I do not want to, and secondly if I did want to I don’t think I could. What we can do is experience and learn together, and our reference point for all of our experiences is our family values and belief system. Neither the institution which is school, nor any restrictions on educating at home can prevent us from doing that – interpreting our experiences together through our own possibly unique lens – and neither should they.

The real question is education – and that is a wholly different matter. For now though, as a final thought here – whatever happens to be the outcome of our children’s education:

- we can either be ‘responsible for it’ – and be proud of their achievements and feel we have had a sizeable part to play in it

- or we can be ‘responsible for it’ and spend an unquantifiable time trying to make good the gaps / mistakes that come to light; or

- we could quite forseeably spend an inordinate amount of time making good others’ mistakes, gaps in experience, negative experiences with long lasting effects…while those others who are responsible for those mistakes and experiences will be long gone, not accountable for their mistakes and judgements, wholly likely not even aware of the ‘fruit’ of their labour (and certainly not caring about it in the same way that we do as parents – that would be impossible).

So maybe the sum total of that final thought is accountability. We are and feel constantly accountable, and that accountability will never end. We have chosen to be accountable to our children (et al) for what they learn and don’t learn – rather than being accountable to our children for experiences (learning and otherwise) about which we have very little information and over which we have even less control.

I am sure that an eloquent and reasoned argument could be made to come to the opposite point of view as this, although I have never heard one past the first mention of the word socialisation, as though that very word were a case in point. I am sure that many parents have good reasons for sending children to school. I am also of the view that it is probably not right for everyone. Hopefully, though, I have shown a little as to why I think that the mere use of the word ‘socialisation’ is neither the primary reason nor even a compelling reason to send children to school outside the home. In the same way, it is not on its own a valid (and usually not a considered) criticism of the decision not to.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding!!!!

Having a low key though patriotic celebration this evening at H Corner!!!! We are still just about a bit more British than Australian, so sporting Union Jack and Jill tshirts for watching the wedding build up. Unfortunately they'll be asleep most likely before the wedding is over. But they can watch it tomorrow!

I made 2 of the flag tshirts this afternoon - bottom middle and bottom right.