Friday, March 12

Long Time, No See!

After much too-ing and fro-ing I got this account up and working again! A LOT has changed since I last posted here. We are using book from Australian Homeschooling Supplies and are VERY happy with this choice. It has taken so much pressure off of me to come up with plans and content. I'm not worried about anything I may have missed and am completely confident that this books can take them through high school.

The girls have been doing Little Athletics this season for Phys Ed and have loved it. Both are athletic types and can run around an oval without collapsing in a heap (unlike their mother). There are three programs they cycled through and they did all events. Toward the end of the season they have developed definate favourite events. They both enjoy and are good at high jump, 100m sprint, 200m and 400m. The least enjoyed would have to be the walk.

This summer has been a hot one and we are still headed for some heat today - 37.c after an overdue break. We had down to mid 20s last week after being mainly over 35.c since Christmas. I'm glad we have effective airconditioning or I would have been down the library or shops a lot! It kind of feels like I'm coming out of hibernation after so much extreme heat. I enjoyed the snowscapes of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I even looked online at their weather and entertained thoughts of moving there!!! (yer right).

Term 1 is winding down, only 3 weeks until Easter break. I'll be ordering some more books before then as the girls are powering through the work they have. We started them at a lower level to cover missed lessons and make sure they understood some basics in the series. It has been much more work but they are loving it. Here I am full circle back to the books, so I'll leave you there.

'til next time!

Friday, September 25

I'm Back!

I'm sorry it's been sooo long since I've posted but I couldn't get in to blogger. I now have reset passwords and email accounts and all sorts of things and can now post again. I was dissappointed when I couldn't get in because this blog is my first attempt of only blogging on our homeschooling journey.

Well we are on holidays - it's the end of Term 3. We started holidays early because we were doing some testing for a new curriculum we want to use. It was quite an intense 2 weeks and the girls were exhausted by the end of it. They haven't done testing before either. So instead of the normal 2 weeks of holidays we have an extra week.

We have been progressing since I last posted. Some of the things we've done are: painting, crochet, reading, gardening, netball, athletics, computer design, core subjects and living!

One of the things we've done as a family is set up a Wheat experiment in the backyard. We live in the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia so we decided to get some grain from a farmer friend. Hubby and the girls planted out two 2m x 2m squares of wheat. One plot was to be watered the other left to grow alone (as it happens on farms). We weeded the watered patch (by hand, no spraying) but left the other. I will post photos as I can.

I will be back on more, now that I can log in!

Saturday, April 18

A Relaxed Home Education

By Beki Cowling

I think the most important thing about educating our children at home is to ask God what is right for our child(ren)...and then actually listen to His promptings! For some people this is going to look like Charlotte Mason, for others it will look very much like a classical education at home...for us, it looks rather different.

I have to confess that I absolutely love organization! If I had all the hours I needed in a day, my house would be very organized and probably over-labeled. My nature is to write lists and then savor checking off each item on the list. So before we had our first child, I was pretty sure that I was going to have a "classroom,” our homeschooling days were going to look very structured, and we were going to march right through them! Learning was going to be very systematic and organized. At the end of the day, I was going to be immensely satisfied with all of the wonderful check marks I was going to be able to make!

When I finally birthed my first child, I decided that it was time to start reading all about homeschooling. I read all sorts of books on homeschooling; I underlined, I took notes, I even did little book reports on the books that I read! In short, I started a huge research project...only without a thesis, so, of course, the core of information was much too huge to assimilate. All of the terms and labels of this type of learning and that method of teaching confused me. So I reached a decision...I needed to just set it all aside and figure out what was best for my child.

I didn't have a name, or label, for what I was going to do with our son, Jami. I just did it, making it up as we went along. I am fully convinced that the only reason that what we do works for us, is that it was God's design for our family and our children. So please do not feel that in any way I am trying to advocate that "relaxed" home schooling is THE way to go for everybody.

I thought that before I talked about relaxed homeschooling, I should probably Google it to see what everyone else thought it was. One definition that I came across (and really liked) for "relaxed homeschooling" is:

"Relaxed homeschooling? A term popularized by author Mary Hood. This is more a philosophy of homeschooling, rather than a method, and is characterized by tailoring a child's education to what they need individually at a timetable that is good for them. In other words, make loosely structured goals, but relax and go with what your child's interests are, meeting the goals in different ways for each child." Amy Ringger, A+ Homeschooling

In thinking about the last 10 years of homeschooling our son, I have realized that this is an accurate way of summing it up.

In researching "relaxed homeschooling" on the internet, I found out that it was NOT un-schooling, it was NOT delight-directed learning (although there are many ways that it can be "delight directed"), and it was NOT child-directed learning. However, I did find that there were several other labels that were attached to "relaxed homeschooling," such as mixed homeschooling, homemade homeschooling, individualized learning, watershed schooling, and eclectic homeschooling.

In Easy Homeschooling Techniques, Lorraine Curry defined "Watershed Schooling" as "... a ridge of high land dividing two areas that are drained by different river systems. A watershed is also a critical point that marks a division. I'm christening this group watershed because it is midway between unschooling and structured schooling. Watershed parents usually, in their own words, pick and choose curricula. Some make their own plans and schedules and teach whatever they want. Others loosely follow the plan of a chosen method. They sometimes focus on the child's interest—as in unschooling—but more often the teacher decides what she wants her children to learn. She may have a schedule, or may just do school when it is convenient. These parents are usually flexible in what, where, why and how, and yet not so flexible that they give the child complete control—as in pure unschooling. Often much time is spent in reading aloud. There are more homeschoolers in this third group than in any other."

The term eclectic homeschooling intrigued me as I have heard it often. The definition that I found for eclectic homeschooling was:

"Eclectic homeschooling (also called many other names) seems to be the most common type of homeschooling. This is where the family takes a variety of learning resources and chooses the mix that will work best for their children. ... Homeschooling in this way can be as scheduled or as relaxed as the family wishes, and can even change from month to month." Donna Donnell, The Donnell House

I think that perhaps eclectic homeschooling is the method of homeschooling in which the philosophy of "relaxed homeschooling" most often shows up.

And what does a practical application of a relaxed home education look like for our family? Well...I have always and only had two main goals in educating my children at home: first for my children to develop a real relationship with Jesus and second for my children to love learning always. So, the only imperatives for our day are reading a part of the Bible and working on Bible memory work. Of course, whenever Jami hears me list what is required of him each day, I also include math and piano! Everything else is optional. In part, our home education includes the following:

A very thought out, prayed over, detailed list of objectives for each of my children, for each "grade" level. I develop it as my child finishes, or is finishing one "grade" level, and then I promptly set it aside and only refer back to it a half a dozen times a year. It is tailored specifically to what that child needs.

  • Personal quiet time (PQT) with God - we shoot for one minute for each year of age for our kids.
  • Bible - read one section, which is usually less than one chapter.
  • Bible memory work – one or two new verses each week of a longer passage that we are working on.
  • Math-U-See - usually one page.
  • Missions - reading Youth With a Mission (YWAM) biographies on great missionaries and Voice of the Martyrs periodicals, one article at a time out of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine
  • Life skills – chores (We can teach them all we want, but if they can't shop for food, cook a meal, and do laundry, they may starve or look really frumpy!)
  • And lots and lots and lots of reading! We read all sorts of living books. We often organize our reading of some of these living books by subject. For history, we have used The Story of the World, and next year we'll use The Mystery of History. When we studied World War II, we stopped and read 15-20 books that were simply stories about people who lived through World War II in some capacity or another. We have all of the YWAM books, and whenever they mention somebody who is in a YWAM, Sowers, Landmark, or Childhood of Famous Americans book, we stop and read it. Many of these books I read aloud to my children...and just as many I pre-read and then have my son read on his own.
  • For science, we are enjoying reading the A Beka science readers. When they mention a scientist, we stop and try to find a good book on them. If there is a subject that my son wants to investigate further, we hit the library. We utilize the same series as I listed for history.
  • Piano - only three times through each song.
  • Typing - Mavis Beacon for 5-10 minutes most days.
  • Art - my mom teaches my kids once or twice a month.
  • Greek/Latin - only one word a week.
  • Horse riding lessons - once a week, weather permitting.
  • Homeschool swim team - twice a week, mid October to mid January.
  • Scouts - meetings are usually once a week.
  • And lots and lots of time playing!

I think, for us, the things that are the hardest to implement include time management and resisting the temptation to get involved in too many activities, which are probably the same thing really! After I find out what my husband's work schedule is going to be for the next month and write it into our family calendar, I then go through and cross off every day that I can and write in "Home Day"! We try to stay home three to four days each week.

When people ask us if we can do something, or when I am tempted to add another activity to our schedule, I can honestly look at our family calendar and say, "I'm sorry, we already have something scheduled for that day," because we do (and it's even written into the calendar!) This has been hard to do, but is KEY in keeping our home education relaxed.

In closing, I want to give you another quote I found floating in the great stratosphere of the nebulous Internet:

This relaxed method of homeschooling sounds frightening to many new homeschoolers because they're afraid that if they don't require much "seat work" or written work, their children won't learn much. They want to do everything "just right" so they try to imitate school at home—not realizing that it's not only unnecessary but also often inefficient and boring. Schools have to do things differently because they're forced to deal "one on twenty-thirty" instead of "one on one,” therefore, it's impossible for them to give individual attention to each child and customize their curriculum to fit every need. But we don't have these limitations!

We don't want our children to be turned off from learning at an early age or to think of learning as something that only takes place within the context of "school.” We want them to enjoy learning from the start and become a lifetime learner—interested and curious about everything whether it's "school time" or not. Tamara Eaton, August 15, 2008 Article of the Week on Christian Homeschool Forum.

And that, ladies, is a worthy goal!

Eclectic Homeschool Association

Wednesday, March 4


I don't like blogs that aren't posted on regularly, so here I am posting.

A quick update until things get going again. We have been doing the basics, which for us is bookwork that is scheduled and the girls are free to choose what to do with the rest of their time. This is how we have always done school with me injecting the extras when I could in the past. So I guess it is our default setting. I have been lacking energy and have been wrung out by all the normal things we do to run a house, cooking, cleaning and shopping. I'm glad our weather has changed so the heat isn't sapping me anymore.

We've had a visitor in our house for the past little bit - Flat Abigail. Unfortunately we have only taken her to the park. I was planning on going out to some of the landmarks around town and taking some photos with her to send off to the Canadian girl's teacher. If you are interested in hosting her next please comment.

Thursday, February 19

Chug Chug Chug

We're chugging along here. I'm so proud of the girls. Even though we've started later most days of this week and last, they've just started when I've said it's time. I have been very tired and it turns out I have a bad tooth (THAT explains it!). So I've taken it easy and not done as much unit work (more hands on for me) this week. The girls have been very artsy though. Olivia is into photography (mainly her cat) and has been making picture frames (a kit that her Grandma gave her for Christmas). Natasha loves to quill. Quilling is a craft involving thin strips of paper which is curled up and stuck onto paper or to each other to create amazing things. So far she's made a frog a dog, a snowflake and something else that I can't remember! So that's my very quick wrap up of the time since I last blogged. I'll be off to Perth in the next little while and so the girls will be home with their homeschooling Dad! Dave's just started his degree and will be a good example for them to see what uni is like!

Saturday, February 7

1 down, 39 to go!

Weeks that is!

So we're in one week. It's been a long week. The girls took a couple of days to settle in to being told what to do etc, but by Friday it was smooth sailing (Thank you Lord!). We covered nearly every subject, mostly happily. I found that with our unit studies they were unenthusiastic until I'd explained the activity then things were good.

Monday I covered in the last post.
Tuesday we did a science experiment - making invisible ink - the experiment part was revealing it...I asked them what they thought they would need to do to make it visible.
Wednesday was some mapping skills - we did a super-quick overview of an atlas (they've used one before) and then drew their own map and labelled the different elements using symbols or colour - hence the lesson, why we use symbols and colours on maps (to show a lot of information in a small space.)
Thursday we started on Germany - we looked at the shape of the country, where it's located, the capital city and some major cities as well as the population and compared population density to Australia's (Germany is 230 people km2, Australia is 2.5 people per km2 - a little bit different!). We saw the difference as displayed on a map in our atlas so that adds to our mapping skills as well.
Friday was fun, we did painting using students acrylics. We made a colour wheel. I made them start with the primary colours then we mixed our secondary colours to put correctly between the primary ones...and I put one in the wrong place!!! The girls got it right. Then we went on to graduating from one primary colour to another - introducing hues. For instance starting with blue and adding a smidge of yellow (which would make a dark sea green) and painting a line in a shape, then adding a little more yellow (which would turn it a bit lighter, more green than blue) and painting another line in the shape and so on until they got to a bit of blue with mostly yellow then completely yellow. The results were spectacular and I got them to use all three ways of doing it (red to orange to yellow, blue to green to yellow, blue to purple to red). Our purple didn't really become what we recognise as purple really because we seemed to have quite a dark blue. I guess when we get to tints we'll be able to brighten it up and make "real" purple.

After this the girls were free for the weekend and were really glad. I was too. It had been a full-on week for me. I haven't had to do so much for a long time. I guess I was also stressed because I wasn't sure how the kids would take our new approach. This year is a lot more "school" like compared to past years, on purpose, and I didn't want them to completely rebel. I tried to make it fun and interesting for them, gave them enough breaks through the day. I also pushed where they needed it and relaxed where they needed it too. Now I need to plan next week!

Monday, February 2

First day for 2009

Today is our first day of school for 2009. I know people go back at different times through the country, but WA's term starts today. This will actually be the first time we've started school at the same time as the others. We're usually well underway by now. Our girls are entering into Years 4 and 6.

The day didn't start well as I overslept. There was quite a lot of noise outside which kept me awake until after midnight. So I was up just after 8am. I wanted to be up earlier because I needed to do the weekly food shop before we started school. The weather forecast was hot and humid so I decided we would go shopping before school not after. We ended up going at about 9.30 so we were never going to make our 10am start. 10am works for us, we tried 9am but it just wasn't worth the hassle, perhaps after the dreaded daylight savings is over (hopefully forever) it will be better. Consequently because of lots of little things I had to do we didn't get back from shopping until just before noon. So school would now start at 1pm. The girls asked to start at 12.45 after we'd all eaten lunch.

I've decided to document what we do as often as I can in the hope that our district moderator can log on in here and read our progress. So here goes.

I've purposed to start each and every day with a Bible Verse. I have taken the verses from a nifty little book called Scripture Memory Made Easy. We will not be memorising them. We read today's out (Psalm 119:11) then they copied it into an exercise book.

Next they did their journal entries. This is simply writing a few complete sentences about something that they have done or about something that has happened.

The girls then go on to Maths. We use New Signpost Maths books and they do one page each day.

After this the subject English, they do different books. Through the week they each cover Comprehension, Grammar, Creative Writing, Spelling and they use a book called Text types which explores different ways of writing ie - recount, poem, narrative etc. Today Olivia did Text Types and Natasha did Comprehension. The Comprehension books we use are called Once a week comprehension, they do a "week" at a time.

While shopping in Wooldridges a couple years ago I came across some Western Australian Health books which were reasonably priced and covered topics like Stranger Danger, Road Safety and Recycling. So I bought them. I wanted the girls to start them from Year 1 to get the basics before getting up to their level. Some things we skip because they know it already, but mainly they are pretty easy anyway and are prompts for a conversation about the topic. I have worked out a schedule for the books and so they do 1 or 2 pages a week. Today they had their health pages to do.

The work I've explained so far is given to them in a pile of folders, papers and books and they work through at their own pace. Once they have finished this work, if one has finished before the other they are free to play (quietly and in a different room-not outside) until the other finishes. Today there was a little gap after which I said the girls could have a break. We generally break after around an hour of work.

After the break we went on to our Unit Studies work. Unit Study is my words for "covering the rest of the curriculum framework being: Science, Society & Environment, Technology & Enterprise, Languages Other Than English, Arts, Physical Education (and health)." Each day we will do one subject.

Today's subject was PE. I've decided to cover some basic skills this year as well as many other things. Today we explored the seemingly easy and boring but actually a bit difficult and fun skill of "Rolling a Ball"! (I found a great resource ages ago on Blake Education for some Basic Skills.) So out we went hats on heads in our lovely 39.c weather to roll some balls. We used a tennis ball, a hockey ball and a soccer ball. We rolled the balls up to a line, along a line and to knock over some blocks (we used some legos and set them up like ten pin bowling). At first the girls weren't into it so much, but by the end they'd worked out that rolling a ball to get a particular outcome was tricky and fun.

When we had finished that I'd congratulated the girls on a job well done. It was a trying day that didn't turn out the way that we'd expected. There was a little tension but all in all good. I "freed" them and they instantly got into their bathers then the pool!!! I sat down and had a cuppa to reward myself! That was at 4pm, so school took approximately 3 hours, including breaks. Not bad.