Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I know

I found this video on ...

It made we want to write my own statements along the same lines.  
I'm not intending to judge people or systems, or to persuade or lecture ...  just expressing some personal thoughts of the moment ...

I don't know much, but I know I'm constantly learning.

I don't know why many children aren't given the respect, freedom and resources to show their real passions and potential, or why some adults expect so little of children.  I know many children have talents they never get the chance to discover, and I know children are complete, complex people.

I don't know why the weaknesses of educational institutions are blamed on lack of funding.  I do know real learning is more limited by attitude and creativity than budget.

I don't know why some lovely kids have no friends, and some mean kids have a crowd of followers, but I know my kids are best friends forever.

I don't know why bullying is tolerated and not swiftly dealt with, but I know my kids won't grow up accepting it as normal.

I don't know why ineffective teachers aren't retrained, disciplined or removed from school systems.  I know people whose education was set back by a bad school year.

I don't know why kids should sit through subjects they understood years earlier, when they could be learning something new in a library, science lab or a mentor's kitchen or garage.

I DO know we have a lot of fun with handwriting ... we write with chalk, textas, a keyboard, etch-a-sketch, bath crayons, coloured pens, pattern pegs, glitter glue, whiteboard markers, sand, string, playdough and paint.

I know every other subject is likewise a kaleidoscope of possibilities waiting to be explored!!

I don't know much ... but I DO know ...
-  the joy of starting our 'school' days early and finishing by morning tea time
-  books are best shared whilst snuggled up on the lounge
-  maths mastery doesn't need to be proven with a written test
-  when children are trusted they often prove to be trustworthy
-  children are born wanting to learn
-  my kids know they are cherished
-  some days are better spent at the beach!

I know it's hard to go and do the housework when I'd rather play with my kids.

I know when I'm busy around the house, my kids amuse themselves quite creatively (and messily and noisily!) and it's not 'wasted' time.

I'm glad we sometimes cook pancakes for second breakfast, and we have fun making fresh food for morning tea and lunch.

I love home education and being able to share diverse experiences with my children.

I love living and learning seasonally, tidally, naturally.

I know I'm not perfect.

I know my children.  The good, the difficult and the adorable!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Slime school!

We have wonderful friends with older children, and when they clean out their kids cupboards they offer us all kinds of treasure.  Past gifts have included floor puzzles, road works figures and a TMNT (Ninja Turtle) castle, vehicle and turtles!

Last night they gave us a bag of goodies, including two pots of 'Mutating Ooze'.

The kids woke up talking about slime.  They wrote about slime in their diary / journals this morning (what they expected it to be like ... I said we'll glue in pictures afterwards).  Then we had fun thinking of real and nonsense words to rhyme with slime, mess and goop.

Then it was time for slime ...

I think they liked it!!

First meeting of the FBI !!

WHAT IS the Fun Brain Institute some non-locals may ask?

My original idea was to provide opportunities for enrichment and exploration, stimulating activities, no pressure to perform.   It's kind of a brain gym, co-op, play group ... as long as it's FUN!!

I'd say the launch of FBI this week was a HUGE success, because ...

*  People came.  Hooray!!  There were 24 children, 13 parents, and 2 of my friends who came to 'adopt' my children so I could focus on organising and leading.  We're expecting more families to come for a look in future weeks.

*  The children seemed to have fun.  They were really engaged in the activities and said they'd like to come again.  There was no pressure to join in, and most activities were open-ended.

*  By the end of the 3 hours I think I can safely say we'd all (parents and kids) made new friends and spent some quality time together.

*  I think we'll work well together as a group.  People got involved and were especially helpful at set-up and pack-up time (thanks!)

*  Many of us have only started home schooling in recent years.  I think (I hope) that people will feel welcome, whenever they decide to come.  It's not compulsory, just available : )

*  We have diverse methods but a common goal to see our children enjoy learning whilst having fun with friends.  MY goal for the group is to inspire and empower participants, both kids and parents.

*  We've come up with a plan for next time (we're meeting fortnightly).  People have made suggestions and offered to bring or organise various things.  So it's becoming OUR group, as intended!

Thanks everyone who encouraged me to pursue my goal and make my dream a reality.

So what happens at the FBI?

Well, it will become what we all make it.  Here's a summary of our first gathering ...

As people arrived they signed in (for HEA insurance), decorated a name tag, chatted, played and some drew on a poster for our group.  Then I called everyone together for a group hug ... well, not really.

Warm Welcome - We started with a game of Mr Squiggle on the whiteboard.  Some of the older kids decoded sentences I'd written up (eg.  Th vwls hv ll bn lft t), unjumbled words (ufn, citexnig, teringintest).  I skimmed nervously over a few attitude posters I'd made up (have a go, respect, be kind ... I'll add another next time, inspire and empower) about what our group aspires to be (people are welcome to respond, the only feedback so far has been positive).

Group Challenge - Kids were at 4 tables, wherever they chose to sit.  Using one sheet of paper and two straws they had to build a bridge to support as many 10 cent coins as possible, between cups set a given distance apart.  Testing the designs afterwards was nerve-wracking (I should have asked someone else to do that), and took longer than I expected because including straws made the designs quite strong (I've only done this with paper before).  Anyway, I learned ... 1. Test the challenge before attempting it with kids, and ... 2.  Think of challenges suitable for all ages (we had many 4-7's and only a handful of 8-11's)

Morning Tea - A great chance to talk with people I'd only met briefly at the park.  The kids drifted into play, and there may have been a dozen at the playdough table at one stage!  Playdough was very popular and for the rest of the day there were usually a few kids enjoying it.  Others played quoits or something.  Free play time was really important I think, for all of us to feel more at home, and something we'll continue to do I think.

 Play dough table at FBI and the creche play area.

Mission Possible (maths/ science) - I showed some models I'd made of 2D and 3D shapes and asked if anyone knew the names of the shapes I'd made.  I told them about the dodecahedron.  I was going to briefly mention polygons, platonic solids, polyhedra, but most of the group were quite young so it was time to get moving!  I later chatted with some older kids about these things, and their observations & questions ... they liked big polygons like the megagon.  After a quick demo of a few joining methods, we put an assortment of straws, pipe cleaners, tape, and scissors on the tables and they got started!  There were models of polygons and polyhedra, an elaborate house, a partly finished cube big enough to surround my dining table, plus a gorgeous butterfly and ferris wheel (made by a very creative mum).  Two tables full of kids kept constructing shapes until it was time to go home!

Our display at home of straw and pipe cleaner constructions.

Game Zone - As children finished building shapes and models, they drifted towards assorted games and activities that we set out.  One group played 'Round the Bend', a pipe building game, then went on to play Mr Squiggle on the whiteboard.  Others tried logic puzzles, pattern blocks and cuisennaire rods (to build shapes I'd made and photographed or to play freely with).  The playdough, soft blocks and toys in creche were given another workout.

Art Start (but more like science this time!) - For those who wanted, I demonstrated how to make a hoopster plane.  The test flights were fun, it's amazing something so simple can fly.  Children could also modify the design (eg. make a double hoopster).

It was a delightful, relaxed second half, but we had to pack up eventually.  Everyone pitched in to make it light work.  The feedback was positive, and I'm told some kids were crying because they didn't want to leave.  Is that good!?

I spoke to most people during the day about their impressions and suggestions.  We have plenty of ideas for next time!  I'll write up a plan soon so people who might want to come can see what we're up to and what they'll need to bring!


P.S. About the name ... We're not affiliated to any other groups.  I just liked the sound of it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What a week!

A lot happens in a week!  We cruised back into 'school' a week ago.  Funny to say that though, as it's been such a fun week, punctuated by so many 'extras'.

We played the 'we're at school' game for an hour (the kids like the routine in short bursts ... lucky dip scripture, prayer, daily sentence, brain teasers, phonics review, rhyming word card game, traced laminated cards for handwriting, wrote (dictated to me then traced) in new journals and did spelling with magnetic letters).  It sounds like a lot but only took an hour.

After a break we got into Matchbox Maths - collected all the matchbox cars, sorted them by colour (there was vigorous debate over the nuances of yellow, gold, orange), coloured a column graph, interpreted results, and spoke about other ways the cars could be grouped.  The kids decided on work vehicles, sports cars and family cars, then continued while I went to make lunch.  After lunch, we relaxed with lots of non-fiction reading together (Medieval History, Ancient Egypt, anatomy).  The kids also watched their 'Moses Egypt's Great Prince' DVD ... this sparked a few days of intense role play, involving Kings, Pharoah, babies and Knights!!

A quick combined maths and handwriting exercise at the breakfast bar, then we met friends at a play cafe.  Hours of bouncing, sliding, climbing, squealing and playing.  Scenic drive around the lake and beaches (I wanted Jasmine to have a power-nap, but she didn't) followed by swimming lessons.  Jasmine gave it her all, but let's just Elijah didn't show his best colours today!!  The irony is he wouldn't do it because people were watching, but his tantrums drew much more attention than quiet compliance would have.  On a brighter note, they've been playing 'Posties' for ages, so we made a bright red letter box after dinner.

There was mail for the kids to read (from me).  Elijah wrote a letter to Uncle Joe (dictated then traced in Artline pen).  They both made many pretend letters (with real names on the envelopes) and played 'Postie' for hours.  Nanna (my mum) came to visit at lunch time and spent the afternoon helping me cut out maths games I'd laminated.  The kids road-tested a few of them.  Then they did a show for us with lots of dancing and singing and silliness.

Freestyle Friday
After a tired, slow morning we went to our friend's house for lunch.  I felt really vague, but the kids had a great, long play with their friend (playdough, dolls house, mums and dad, trampoline) and stayed to greet Miss M. when she came home from Kindergarten.  We brought home fresh fish (speared by our friend that day ... Elijah loved seeing the spear gun and the fish in the tub).  Dinner was easy and delicious!

Saturday and Sunday
I shopped for craft suuplies.  Pete took the kids to the pool while I did more preparation for the FBI (Fun Brain Institute), ready for our first day (on Tuesday).  I taught Sunday School, which was fun and relaxed.  We went to Mum's place for dinner for her Birthday.

We enjoyed the return of the ABC schools TV shows.  There was a great show called Designers, about inventing new icecream flavours.  We did the marshmallow science experiment, which I've already written about (out of order, I was so excited).  My kids also love BTN (which I watch with them, Music Moves and the "high school" science shows.  The Winter Olympics are nice to flick on once in a while just now, pretty exciting and inspiring.  I spent parts of the day sorting out my games and my brain, for ...

We had our first meeting of the FBI (which my next post will be about).  It was awesome!!!

And here are MORE highlights from various days ...

*  The kids had turns doing 'Reading Eggs', a learn to read program on the computer.
*  They played with plasticine for hours, making funny faces on paper plates, and little cups and pots.
*  We read assorted Bible stories, as requested by them.
*  Jasmine read a few easy-readers to her Nanna.
*  We borrowed and read some books towards the Premiers' Reading Challenge (Jasi is doing it too).  
*  We read a few more chapters of 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator', which we're all loving.
*  Jigsaw puzzles have been popular again.  
*  My kids are also experts at making a BIG mess - they have excelled in it this week!!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yummy science!

Marshmallow + Microwave = YUM!!

I thought nothing could beat a campfire toasted marshmallow, but this comes very close to winning the prize for my favourite confection!  And it ticks the 'fun science' box for today.

The kids were amazed when the marshmallows started to expand ... the experiment says to microwave on high for one minute.  Our first marshmallow melted into a gooey brown mess at 50 seconds.  We tried a few times to find the moment of perfection!

Elijahs' commentary ... "It's growing, growing, growing!  It's done, stop it now, it's done like a dinner!!"

Jasmine said, "Let me have a taste.  Yew, it's yuk."

Elijah, "I was right about the time, wasn't I?  It's a bit like Tigger's bubble gum, but also like Winnie the Pooh's honey.  It tastes like bubble gum.  Sticky and sweet."

Mum, "Would you eat it again?"

Elijah, "Nup, too sweet."

Mum, "Shall we do it again?"

Elijah, "Yes, but stop at the same time I said.  20 seconds."

If you haven't tried it, here's how:


ABC school shows are back, so this morning we watched "Designers - Icecream"
(Show description:  designing a new range of ice cream: from the original marketing concept, the development kitchen, and taste testing sessions, to finally mass production in the factory.)  

Elijah declared this would have to be the best job in the world.  
You get to invent new flavours and product designs, make it and taste test.  

What's not to love??

Monday, February 8, 2010

Diving into history

Mr 5 is really interested in Medieval Kings, Knights, Ancient Egypt ... basically Ancient and Middle Ages history, of which I have little knowledge.  I was assured at a conference by Diana Waring last year that it's fun to learn though, so I'm not afraid to dive in and read more about it all.  Although at times presenting the grisly details in a little-child-friendly way is a bit challenging.

I'm happy for my kids to learn history, and delighted that their interest is self-proclaimed, but I have wondered how it fits with my desire to have them 'dwell on good things' as the scriptures recommend.  However, there's plenty of violence in Bible history, so I obviously have a lot to learn about the whole subject!

We're not new to this ...  Mr 5 has been into Egyptology since he got a (rather advanced, but fascinating) book from his Pop, complete with Pharoah mask, games, etc.  He was about 3.5 I think, so I read it selectively.  Heavily censored snippets, for the benefit of little sister, who was, and still is, very impressionable and genuinely a bit scared of all the violence!

Today Miss 4 has joined in, and a lot of free play has centred around their dramatic telling of a Pharoah/ Kings/ Moses story hybrid.  There were many adventures earlier, such as this:

According to the children, lots of enemy kings were in our yard, with more still coming.  The kings were  going to wreck the swings, cubby house, chairs and slippery dip.  Then they were going to hurt the babies (dolls).  Something had to be done!  

Mr 5 declared "To stop the kings from wrecking the swings you have to give them lemonade with a bit of cocoa."  Miss 4's solution to the problem was much more violent, and Mr 5 suggested a compromise.  In the end though, they decided to wait for daddy to come home from work and play his part, as the victorious hero!  Whew!

Our books on the subject are limited to a page here and there.  So Mr 5 has asked me to find him library books so that he can learn "the names of all the Egyptian Kings, and what they look like".  I might be asking my friendly children's librarian for help on this one!  On the bright side, at least it's a change from mummies and embalming (and no, I didn't try the embalming-a-chicken experiment that was circulated last year).

Oh, and he says about the books I'm going to look for ... "Mummy don't forget the Medieval Knights, Princes, Kings and castles ... and the types of tools they used in war."

Hmmmm ....

Back to school tomorrow?

"Back to school" is a debatable issue here ... we haven't really 'done' school for months, yet the kids have still been learning plenty.  On the other hand, 'basic skills' seem to have slipped during this time.  I guess it would all balance out in the end, but perhaps they're due for a tune up, equally to reassure me and to give them a kick-start.  The tide is rising.

I've declared tomorrow the start of our new school year.  This distinction is mainly for the benefit of Miss 4, who is delighted to be 'starting Kindergarten' like some of her friends this year.  Mr 5 says he's feeling great about home school.  I hope we'll have a lot of fun learning.  I don't think much of it will look like school.  In fact I feel like I'm strapped into one of those skyward-facing theme park rides, waiting to be catapulted into space.  This year's going to be a fast ride!

As always, balance is the key.  Play based learning will be important to us this year, regardless of whether the subject matter is basic grammar or chemistry.  As the kids have played freely during their holidays, I've listened in wonder to the vocabulary used in games of hospitals, shops and travels ... I think the way we play 'schools' will satisfy me (and others) that we're 'doing enough' academically ...

*  Let's pretend we're going on a holiday, and set an itinerary, make passports, write a travel journal.
*  Let's go to medical school and read some books about anatomy and health.
*  Let's make a bright red post-box.  And a mail sorting system, for all the envelopes filled recently!
*  Let's learn more about money, a very popular subject in play and reality.

Tomorrow we'll play word games with magnetic letters.  I'll wait and see which writing option matches the mood (texta tracing pages, handwriting books, mini-whiteboards, story writing books, phonics texts, letter/book/card writing).  I'll probably also set the kids up at the computer this week and let them type, as their handwriting doesn't seem likely to match their thinking any time soon :)

The kids have asked for help in reading.  I'm glad the motivation is coming from them again.  Mr 5 especially wants to be able to read his books about diggers and cranes etc.  He's a heart-reader ... by that I mean he knows words which mean something to him.  He's forgotten some sight words and phonics, but should pick it up again pretty quickly.  Miss 4 is so sweet in her enthusiasm to read books to me, her dolls, teddies, her brother etc.  I love how she switches from reading words to improvising, and back to reading again.  I think she'll find it easier to become fluent because she's less worried about getting each word right, but retains the meaning.

For our first maths lesson of the year, we'll do Matchbox Mathematics, which is a fun way of saying we'll gather all the toy cars of that size, group and graph them as the kids see fit, and talk about what we notice.  Money will be another favourite focus this week.

Both kids have been doing a lot of painting recently, so that might continue.  Or we have a papier mache project to finish, and some great cardboard boxes to build something with.  Add in swimming lessons, morning tea at a play cafe, and an afternoon at a friend's house.  It looks like being a fun week!

Now I'd better get some sleep so I can tackle it!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Homegrown tap dancing

Mr 5 is doing tap dancing DIY style ...  here's how:

1.  Take one boy who loves to jump and jive, inspired by dance styles like tap and rap.

2.  Buy a pair of groovy $10 shoes from Best and Less.

3.  Use a hot glue gun to attach plastic coins under each shoe.

4.  Put shoes on feet.  Watch as child falls over straight away (oops!)  Wait patiently until he's ready to try again, holding a bench for stability until he finds his feet.

5.  Voila!  A tap pup is born!

Mr 5 loves his new tap shoes, and put on a great show this morning!  I was surprised how good the sound is, and best of all the floor (timber laminate) won't be scratched (I hope).

Maybe soon I'll find some old movies with tap dancing, suitable for kids.  
Any tips?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cute kids!

Forgive me for thinking I have the cutest kids in the world, I'm allowed to say that!  All the mischief, mess and naughtiness is forgotten when I look through my files of kid photos and videos.  I thought I'd share a few favourites.  Enjoy!

People think our kids are shy and quiet.  Ha!  Here's proof of their musical passion and real personalities.  This is my first attempt to share any of our home movies.  They're only short clips.  I hope it works!

Kids singing a welcome song for some visiting Fijian friends six months ago:

... and they often insist we sit and watch as they perform, so here's a typical song they made up on the spot recently:

Adorable or what?

Summer fun ...

Here is a little insight into some of the fun we've had, so far this summer:

*  Mr 5, normally very cautious, discovered how much fun it is to jump into a deep pool (with floaties) again and again and again!  We do watch closely in case the floaties burst.

*  The kids and I all became hopelessly addicted to boogie boarding, and now want to learn to swim properly, so that they can have real surfboards.

*  Mr 5 asked me to take the training wheels off his bike, and hasn't looked back!

*  Our hanging-basket plants are now bearing fruit ... we've eaten several homegrown cherry tomatoes and a few strawberries.  Hooray!

*  The kids received Mum's old digital camera at Christmas, and have enjoyed learning how to use it.

*  We've had lots of days playing with friends ... family gatherings, pool parties, a home ed. picnic, friends playing here, a church kids fun day, many days at the beach and pool by ourselves and with assorted families ... fun fun fun!

*  Quiet games of Monopoly, Jenga, MasterMind, Snap, marbles, etc.

*  Lots of singing, dancing, crazy play and acting ... see the next post for a video link!

I'm sure there's been a lot more to report, but I can't remember right now.
We're still in holiday mode this week.  It's a good life!