Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Patterns and Tessellation

I had a ton of fun preparing a Patterns and Tessellation workshop for FBI (Fun Brain Institute, our local home ed co-op) this week.  The kids who attend FBI usually range from 0-10 years old, and my voice is still a bit dodgy, so this presentation was very brief ... we did a whirlwind tour of tessellation, patterns in nature, maths and art.  After writing up the first few Fibonacci numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13) a few kids were able to continue the pattern.

I flicked through these library books (and some printed pictures) as we talked about bee hives, snow flakes, architecture, mosaics, M.C. Escher and cells in the human body.

We also did a craft round-robin (cutting snowflakes, icing biscuits and making pop-stick puzzles), table games, played tunnel ball and had a story and music session.  Many children coloured in a tessellating pattern at some point during the day.  Here are some of the games & manipulatives we used:

Tantrix is shown top left.  Other games we enjoyed playing included TangramKogWorks, Mastermind and Block by Block.

I promised to share some links to relevant websites with explanations, printable pages and best of all, interactive tools to play with ... so here they are!  Please look at them with your children, because there are links within links and I can't check that all of them are appropriate for little eyes.

The maths of tessellation:

Galleries, information, DIY instructions and summary of software to create tessellations:

Tessellation grids to view or print and colour in:


View Escher-style patterns, or buy a cool colouring book:

Free Interactive games (play with tessellating shapes on your screen):

Easy on-screen activity ... cut a snowflake:

Read about snow, ideas for fun ways to MAKE snowflakes:

AND more ... lots of links ... tessellation, patterns, fractals, Fibonacci and other fascinating maths!

It's hard to stop ... but there you have it.  A glimpse into the glorious world of maths ... I hope you and your kids will enjoy some of these links!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Home and Healthy

Finally, we're almost all better!! I'm the one dragging the line, but after a day in bed yesterday my cough has eased. My ribs feel broken but I'm so much better and SO glad to say that! Thanks for the well-wishes.  

While Jasmine was away, Elijah was content and happy to do his own thing. He was a different kid ... actually he was like the one year old we had just before Jasmine was born. Happy to play with lego for hours, sit around and read or watch movies. On Friday he was more restless and wanted me to do things with him a lot, but also kindly helped me with tidying up.  

And on Friday night we picked up Jasi, HOORAY!! She had a great time, and enjoyed telling us all about it. The Butterfly house and maze, Big Banana, movies, cafes, beach ... and she loved giving us little things she'd lovingly chosen and brought home for us, like some plastic butterflies she painted colourfully, one for each of us.  

Since Jasmine came home it's been one big play-a-thon for the two kids. They're SO happy to be back together. They're industrious, boisterous, messy, as noisy as baby elephants and practically oblivious to us grown-ups except when it suits them ... in other words we're back to normal life! And LOVING it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quiet as a mouse ...

It's been a quiet week at my place.  No running, squealing, screaming, shouting, jumping, fighting, wrestling and wiggling.  And it was meant to be even quieter!

The kids and I were planning to go away with my Mum, for a few days holiday up the coast at my brother's place.  Pete would be working, and coming home to an empty house and lovingly frozen dinners to reheat.  (Note:  Pete can cook, and often cooks delicious meals, but I thought ready meals would make him feel special while he was missing us)

But Elijah got sick.  Well sicker I should say, as we'd all been taking turns with sore throats, aches and pains.  Elijah took longer to respond, and clearly still wasn't well enough to travel.  Even driving to the Chemist, he was complaining about aches and pains.  My week or two of sore throat and head also intensified.  With a cough, fever and aching all over, I wasn't fit to be anywhere but home.  Our holiday plans were sabotaged.

Jasmine on the other hand, had a bad ear infection a week and a half earlier, but bounced back quickly once she started antibiotics.  So whilst we were all laid low Jasi was bouncing around again, fighting fit, looking for action!!

As a result of these circumstances, our little girl went away, on her longest holiday without us, and more significantly, without Elijah.  Was she reluctant to go?  Were we filled with trepidation and fear at letting her go?

Not a bit!!  She helped load Mum's car and couldn't wait to leave.  We know Mum and Joe are totally wonderful with our kids, so there was no reason for us to worry ... just to be happy for them, and pray that they travel safely and have a wonderful time.

We did wonder if Jasi would be lost her best buddy Elijah to play with.  There was a chance, Pete suggested, she might miss us and cry a bit.  Apparently not.  She made herself right at home as soon as they arrived, and for the first few days didn't care to interrupt her colouring in or bath to talk to us on the phone.

Last night our Princess finally spoke to us on the phone.  She sounded very distant, like she was tolerating our need to hear her voice, as she told us about the places they'd been and the fun they had.  I'm sure it was just the rare and unusual experience of talking to Jasmine on the phone, but I wonder what she's feeling.

I've never been one to really MISS people, not as a habit anyway.  When I moved away from home for Uni, I felt guilty about that, because I was supposed to be home sick.  It took me many years to realise I'm just different in that way.  I don't think I NEED to be away from people to love and appreciate them ...  but when I have that space to breathe, it renews my energy so I can be more devoted.  I like seeing people after some time away, and having interesting things to talk about.  I deeply love and admire my family - immediate and extended, big and widespread - they are seriously the kindest, loveliest people I know, and I couldn't choose anyone better to be related to.  Like normal people, I do have times when I crave to be with certain people, just want to be near them and comfortable in our familiarity.  But I don't MISS people who are still alive, it's more like I look forward to seeing them again.

My point is, we all experience relationships and time apart in different ways.  I understand and accept Jasmine's hot and cold, detached way of loving me.  In contrast to her independence, she also expresses her love and neediness often, in exuberant, subtle and special ways.  When Jasi is here (which she almost always is) she is demanding, caring, affectionate and talkative (these words are severe understatements, though people outside our home rarely believe it!)  It's a fine line though ... if I listen to her at the wrong moment, or look too long, she'll stomp her foot and huff and puff, as if to say 'leave me alone!'  I wonder ... is this, in part, what having a child with autism or aspergers is like?

In a beautiful photo of Jasi and I, framed on the dining room wall, I can actually see this puzzle.  I am holding Jasmine, she's about 3 yrs old.  I am facing her, about to kiss her cheek;  her arms are around me comfortably, but she is looking away, nonchalant and self composed.  It's an interesting study of our relationship.  That we love each other is clear beyond a doubt, but it's a push and pull kind of balance!

As for the QUIET home we've had ... it's been good to be able to rest.  I'm still not well, but maybe it's just God's way of slowing me down.  I hadn't intended to have 'school holidays' as such, like most people currently are, because we had such a disjointed few months.  But we've had no choice.

Elijah and I have watched a lot of cartoons and DVDs, he has played contentedly by himself, and with me ... chess, toy soldiers, lego.  Elijah spent hours yesterday cutting cardboard and making a little knight, which I helped him fasten with split pins and sticky tape.  We went to the movies and saw Toy Story 3, which I thought Jasmine wouldn't like (since she hates noise and is easily scared) ... I was astonished when she told me that she also went to see that movie yesterday!!!!

With Pete we drove up to the beach cliffs to look for whales (and saw one, though it was very distant, so it's lucky we had my Dad's trusty old binoculars).  While Elijah played and lay around watching TV, recovering, I sorted out mine and Jasmine's wardrobes (easily finding 8 bags for the Op Shop and one for a friend, and we still have way too much).  I organised my notes and games for next week's FBI, all about Patterns in nature, art and maths.  I spent a day writing the previous blog post.  Read 3 novels.  Printed odds and ends for the upcoming term of home schooling.  Dreamed about doing so much more housework than the bare minimum I managed.  Imagined getting all my papers in order for home ed. registration, but slept instead.

Today Mum and Jasmine are driving home.  We'll meet them at Mum's around dinner time.  It'll be lovely to see my little girl again, though I don't have high expectations for our reunion ... Jasi doesn't usually seem pleased to see us when we pick up the kids after sleepovers at Mum's, and clearly wishes they could stay for longer.  This time she has stayed away longer, 3 nights ... I wonder if it seemed long enough for her?  

I'm sure she'll be glad to see Elijah.  There may be tantrums, rejections and silences (directed at us, and especially me).  However Jasi acts towards me, I won't hold it against her.  She is very much her own SELF, and I admire that.  She feels what she feels, and will soon be back to her usual energetic, intelligent, precious and playful self!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lovely Surprise!

What a lovely surprise to wake up to ... a Beautiful Blogger Award!

Thank you Subadra, for the award, and the lovely comments you wrote about my blog.  I always find something inspiring, useful or amusing to read at your Library of Books, Links and More ... it's an absolute treasure-trove!  I have bookmarked many pages to refer to when my children are ready to explore certain topics, and some pages, such as this one about architecture, have helped with my own life-long education.


I'll admit I haven't properly participated in blog awards before, being too daunted by the rules.  But I'm more familiar with how to do links etc. now, so am ready to give it a go!

The rules state a recipient of the Beautiful Blogger award must:

1) Add a link and note of thanks to the person giving the award.

2) Pass the award on to the bloggers whose blogs you love (15 tops)
3) Share 7 things about yourself


There are SO many blogs I love reading!  Subadra has already nominated a couple of blogs I would also have chosen ... freeplaylife and Magic and Mayhem.  

It's my pleasure to send Beautiful Blogger Awards to:

Almost Unschoolers  ... always full to overflowing with ideas about science, cooking, craft and everything to do with home ed.  This family with 6 kids looks like a wonderful place to grow children!

Do Whatever He Tells You ... I love reading Tricia's blog about her home school journey and faith.  I especially appreciate Tricia's informative and insightful posts about Autism Spectrum Disorder, including Aspergers and PDD-NOS.  I have several friends whose children have these and other special needs, and am always keen to understand them better, and in doing so, gain ideas about how to cater for the various, unique needs of all children.

Dove's Rest ... Renelle writes from the heart, and shares some funny stories about her children.  Dove's Rest is a great source of inspiration and homeschool tips ... Renelle has great taste in resources, and a lovely way of sharing her family's journey into home ed.

Escape Adulthood ... I came across this blog a few months ago, and just love the way Kim and Jason express their vision for a fun, child-like life!  They're living their dream, encouraging readers to do the same and providing ideas to help us do it.

Left to their own Devices ... Michelle and I live on opposite sides of the world, but the similarities in our children are sometimes uncanny ... it helps to know someone else is facing similar challenges and triumphs.  When I see a new post or comment by M.J., it's like a friend dropping in for a cuppa!

Eclectic Homeschool ... I enjoy reading about the many educational adventures these guys go on ... I especially love their voracious appetite for languages.  Their very skillful Captain (aka Mum) guides them skillfully around this big, amazing world!


That seems long enough, but the rules say I have to share 7 things about myself, so I'll try ...

1.  When I was a child I thought my ears were too big and stuck out a mile ... but eventually I grew into them!

2.  As a child I always got in trouble for reading.  In first grade it was because I read the book upside down (it was more interesting that way!)  At home it was because it was dinner time, chore time, bed time or social time.  Now I'm grown up (kind of) ... and I still get in trouble for reading too much.  I'm not addicted though ... I can stop anytime.  In fact I did once stop recreational reading, by my own choice, for a whole year, except for reading the Bible.

3.  I used to go with Dad on long distance trips when he owned a truck.  I loved getting beyond the towns and mountains, out where the road was flat and the only thing on the horizon could be a couple of wheat silos and a single, crooked shed.  One of my loveliest memories is sitting on top of a covered load of grain, in a place like that, just quietly watching the sun set.

4.  I'm such a perfectionist that I even worry about getting my blog wrong!!!!  I know I'm not perfect though, so forgive my imperfect grammar and punctuation, my hybrid of English/ American spelling and superfluous superlatives  ;)

5.  Both sets of my Grandparents moved to Australia (one set from England, the other from Holland) when they were in their 20's.  I love this land surrounded by sea, the shape and size of this continent and especially the colours and contrasts.  I especially love places where the bush meets the sea.  If you want to see some stunning photos, click here.

6.  I've been using Apple Macintosh computers since I finished highschool.  My current iMac has a lovely white monitor surround.  I don't own an iPod, iPad or iPhone.  My mobile phone (which I share with hubby) is a 10 year old Nokia, for which I have the cheapest bills ever!!  Usually under $8 a month.

7.  Seven happens to be my favourite number.  I like it's Biblical meaning (in Bible Numerics, 7 is the number of spiritual perfection, and God's seal).  I also like that 7 is odd and a prime number.  Interestingly, I was baptised by full immersion on the 7.7.00, after receiving the Holy Spirit (with evidence of speaking in tongues for the first time) on 5.7.00 (five is the number of Grace).


Thanks for reading my blog!!

I won't be offended if award recipients can't follow the Beautiful Blogger rules ... it's nice to "Pay It Forward ", but I think how you do it is up to you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Warning ...

Just a quick note.  Our computer may live a long and healthy life and I hope to get several more years out of it.  But the signs of impending illness it is displaying cause me to doubt it's remaining lifespan.

So if I drop off the net for a while, that will be why.  I don't have ready access to another machine and hadn't budgeted on buying a replacement until September at best.

Now that I've warned you, we'll probably cruise through winter with no more hassles!  I hope!!

:)  Vanessa

What Unschooling and Natural Learning mean to me ... Part Two

I really enjoy reading and talking about how other people 'do' home education.  We're all curious about how others live their lives without school.  Visiting homes, chatting at the park and seeing pictures on blogs is a lot of fun (speaking of which I should post more photos).  We share thoughts and ideas about resources, arrangement of spaces and ways of organising things, and help each other learn and solve problems.  I've met about 100 home ed. families, visited countless websites and subscribe to about 20 blogs.  All are fantastic sources of inspiration.  I love the culture of acceptance, generosity and encouragement which I've experienced online and in our local home ed. network.  So ... THANKS!!!!

Just to clarify, I'm only writing here about what we're doing, which works for us at the moment.  Each family is different and that's the beauty of having our children at home.  I admire everyone doing their best, in their own way.

If any of this sounds organised, it's because I'm trying hard to find the consistent points in our very flexible, whimsical, busy life.  And even though these posts are long, I bet I'll leave out some really special and important details.  So expect a few p.s.'s from me.  I'm not claiming to have any particularly original thoughts ... this synthesis is the result of a couple of years reading and talking and living.  I'll get on with it then!


-  we blend various aspects of Unschooling, Natural Learning, Interest-based, Child-led learning, Unit Studies, Literature and Thematic studies, Traditional school and probably other methods.
-  the glue sticking it all together is our faith, relationships and zest for learning and living!
-  learning happens all the time, everywhere, in conventional and playful ways.
-  lessons learned by experiencing are often the most memorable.
-  child-initiated learning and intrinsic motivation are powerful tools to be encouraged and valued.
-  we are not limited to a particular curriculum, textbook, grade level or educational approach.
-  we unashamedly borrow ideas from diverse education methods, philosophies and theories, to develop a unique blend that pleases and nourishes OUR children.
-  there are many valid ways to explore subjects, share ideas and demonstrate skills.
-  in our daily journey we share the joy of setting directions and modes of transport.
-  the Lord, my husband and myself have God-given roles which aren't open to compromise.
-  I'm a facilitator ... doors can be opened by the resources I provide and the experiences I plan.
-  kind of like the Doctor's creed, I try to 'first do no harm' (I think it goes something like that).


-  as a home educator I DO refer to curriculums (many, from all over the world) for ideas and suggestions of what the children might be interested in or need to know.  Then I set most of it aside and just let learning happen.  I sometimes respect and sometimes ridicule the outcomes and principles of our State and National curriculum.  It's more important to me that my children keep their curiosity, have a chance to stretch their minds, and learn diligence and persistence.

-  we DO use numerous 'schoolish' resources and ideas, as one of many tools, but I can't think of a program I have used in it's entirety ... I always feel the need to extract, tweak and condense.  We skip liberally around grade levels to suit our children's needs and interests.  Responses may be written, discussed, dictated or demonstrated in practical ways.   

-  if I think my children would benefit from improving a particular skill, I find (sometimes fun) ways to steer them in that direction and help them see why it's worth putting in some time and effort.  Contrary to the bulk of unschooling theory, I DO at times use coersion, bribery and extrinsic motivators to assist with this.  I expect my children to respect my judgement when differences arise, and balance this by aiming to respect my children's readiness, opinions, interests and learning styles.

-  our family culture is an invisible but integral part of the learning experience our kids enjoy ... so I guess I'd describe our crew as faithful, playful, caring, energetic, affectionate, talkative, generous, creative, intellectual, busy but relaxed, peaceful but not quiet, sensible but often silly.  Pete and I can both be a bit more bossy and authoritative than what I'd like at times.  I sometimes get carried away on tangents of being industrious, introspective, distracted and multi-tasking.  And I'm usually trying to do a zillion things at once.

-  there are many reasons why Pete and I do things the way we do, and Scriptures which guide us when we have to chose between divergent paths.  That doesn't mean I think we have all the answers, and I know every choice made has an opportunity cost and there'd be potentially different outcomes if we'd gone the other way.  I have to accept the consequences of our choices, keep learning and seek the silver lining in the clouds which sometimes appear.

These are my honest reflections ... obviously a work in progress.  So although I think I've written way too much and I don't know if it makes any sense, I'll send it out into cyberspace.  


Part Three, about the specifics of what we actually do, might take longer to compose.  Sorry I'm taking so long to get to the practical bits!  

Friday, July 2, 2010

What Unschooling and Natural Learning mean to me ... Part One

I've noticed these are terms which elicit strong emotions.  Many people haven't heard of either, but ask for a brief explanation (which I am NOT good at providing) or discuss it over a period of time.  Depending on their personal understanding, experience and the people they've met, reactions vary widely and I've seen family, friends and strangers dismayed, awestruck, horrified, intrigued, quick to judge, interested, worried, skeptical, undecided, curious, relieved ... 

One possible reason for people's strong opinions is that (in my short experience) there IS no absolute definition of Unschooling or Natural Learning.  There is much written about these philosophies, and excellent books and websites with support, tips and terminology.  But the extent to which it is applied varies a lot.  Even the principles behind it are elusive, and by their very nature these methods are open to interpretation and individualised implementation.  And THAT is what I have found so confusing, yet also comforting.

I could call us eclectic tidal lifelong learners, but eclectic home schoolers is easier.  I'm not a Natural Learning or Unschooling purist, but it is an important part of the big picture of learning for us.  Here are some WONDERFUL articles about N.L. and U.S. on blogs I read regularly and find inspiring:

Eclectic Homeschooling
An Unschooling Life
Almost Unschoolers

(NOTE:  I have other favourite blogs too, so forgive me if I've left you out!!  I'm sure some of you have related posts and I spent ages sifting, but ran out of time before I found them.  If you've written an article about what Unschooling and Natural Learning mean to YOU please put a link to it in the comments!)

These people have tried to explain what Unschooling and Natural Learning mean to them, and I've been encouraged by their example, seeing how they exercise their freedom of choice, to persist in finding my own way of home schooling, without pressure to use the labels in the same way as anyone else ... unless I want to :)  

In the past two years I kept trying, but feeling it was impossible and futile, to define my home education philosophy.  I'm not 'there' yet, but am glad to say I've learned a lot along the way and have gained a little more confidence.  Amongst the many lessons learned, I've realised:

*  Our homeschool will be whatever we need it to be, in order to reach the goals we (as a family and individuals) are working towards.  Flexibility is one of the reasons we home educate, and we're free to change our methods to adapt to emerging interests, embrace opportunities and go with the flow of our life.

*  Other people's opinions DO matter to me.  Not in a weak, submissive way, but as part of the way I relate to people and view society.  I'm capable of standing up for what I believe is right.  Being able to articulate WHAT we do, WHY and HOW, in a concise way, is something I will probably continue to strive for, whether it's possible or not.

*  I can't please everyone (and even if I wanted to it would be impossible), but I'm responsible for the choices I make on behalf of my children.  I believe I'm accountable to God, my family, the government and to some extent, fellow home educators.  I can explain why I reached this conclusion, but won't get into it now.  It's a big responsibility to raise children and influence their perception and place in the world.


In Part Two, I'll share what Natural Learning and Unschooling mean TO ME, and how they fit into the big picture of my education philosophy.

I may even write Part Three, which would be an example of how it all pans out during a typical week.

Please leave a comment.  I'd love to hear people's thoughts about this!

On my mind ...

I finally have snippets of time to gather my thoughts, write articles and finish a few drafted posts which have been cooking for a while.  Hopefully something I write will inspire, help or amuse someone!

Some of the things I'm thinking about:

 • Collating my jumbled records and plans for our upcoming Home Ed registration interview.  I'm sorting out my ideas and paperwork on everything to do with it ... why, how, what etc.  Loving the choices and freedom I have, and enjoying getting organised, but nervous about getting it right (note to self: there is no RIGHT!)  My biggest battle is to keep it simple instead of doing mountains of unnecessary work!

•  Health, mostly mine, which is mostly fine.  I've finally seen a doctor after putting it off for ages.  I had an ECG which was clear, as expected.  There is something odd about my heart which showed up, but it's not dangerous or the cause of recent chest pain.  A personal issue was discussed, but it's not life threatening and having read about the tests, treatments and undesirable side effects, we are committing it solely to prayer.  And I'm considering doing a simplified elimination diet.  I know I'm dairy intolerant, but cutting that and other known irritants from my diet hasn't fixed everything.  On the up side, I'm glad my problems now are only physical, and also pretty minor compared to many people.

 Stuff.  School stuff, clothing, linen, books, mending, hobbies, digital photos.  I do pretty well at keeping down the clutter, but it's a battle.  Our belongings need a bit of attention and sorting.  Now that I have time I'm industriously sifting, storing and Op Shop bagging.

 Home, study, job and travel choices.  We're blessed to have choices at all, and sometimes wonderful possibilities, but it can be hard to decide what to do when, and how the finances will all work out.  As always, we simply need to trust in the Lord for provision and direction, and it will all work out for the best.

 Computer time.  I've been researching a few things online and my eyes haven't coped well.  My seldom-worn glasses are more of a hindrance than a help, so I guess it's time for another eye test.  I also worry that I might spend too much time on here, and ought to be productive in other ways.  Finding a balance is tricky sometimes.  What do you do??

 Personality types.  I read another couple of books and confirmed I am an INTJ.  Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging.  Depending on the book I may be called a Logical Visionary, Scientist, Strategist, Rational Mastermind, Perfectionist.  It all sounds pretty fancy and la-di-dah, but really they're all just words and I'm just ME.  Out of curiosity I did find an online INTJ discussion group, but as fun as it is to meet like-minded people (we're rare, just 2-3% of the population), it's not high on my list of priorities.

•  PLUS cooking for a fussy eater, sewing, home education philosophies, science topics, kids toys, book ideas, keeping warm, mindful parenting, cleaning, art projects, upcoming holidays ...

Whew!  That's enough babble from me.  It's more of a diary entry I suppose but somehow these thoughts jumped onto a blog page today.  Perhaps it'll help you get to know me better!

Perfect sunny days

The grassy dip around the corner.  
A perfect place to run, ride, kick a ball or lay back and look at the clouds.

A beach just 20 mins down the road.  
Just right for building sand castles, chasing sea gulls or burying a Barbie doll!

Our own backyard, local parks and the bush across the road.
It's all there for us to enjoy.
And we do! 
More days than not.

It's great to be a home schooler, always ready to seize the day!!