Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Delicious Disasters!

I love playing in the kitchen, not always following a recipe.  Well, I've reached new heights in experimental cooking today!

Jasmine was keen to bake some heart shaped cookies today.  We mixed a batch of dough using a recipe found in a little cookbook she has.  Satisfied that she was on the right track, I left her to cut out the delicate hearts.

Meanwhile, I set about making a batch of chewy chocolate chip and macadamia (almost gluten free) cookies from a recipe I found on the internet.  Elijah helped measure nicely spaced teaspoons of mixture onto the baking trays.  In no time at all, they were ready for the oven.  As the dough melted, we watched, mesmerised, as the cookies spread and merged into three trays of gigantic cookie monsters.  Maybe the cornflour was an important ingredient, but we'd run out.  Oh well, at least they looked nicely browned.  Still hopeful, I put the trays on the stove top to cool.

Jasmine's hearts were ready to cook.  The oven just needed a moment to cool first ... 

Having allowed my cookie monsters to cool for a minute, I set about 'trying' to cut and re-home them on the cooling racks.  Ha ha ... instead we have two containers of cookie crumbs.  One holds cooked but still soft cookie dough.  The other holds more biscuit-like crumbs.  One baking tray which I experimentally didn't line with baking paper, has, unfortunately danced it's last dance.

Jasmine's lovely hearts cooked in ten minutes, and came out at just the right moment.  A quick test proved they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, crisp and delicate.  A quick dust of icing sugar, and they were done.  Perfect!

This afternoon I will have to buy a tub of vanilla icecream and a tub of soy icecream.  After a short trip home from the shop, it should be soft enough to transform into cookie dough, choc chip and nut icecream dessert.   Which we'll eat another day, as we've all eaten way too many experimental sweets today.

Jasmine's biscuits are ready to serve.  Splendid and sweet.

Maybe not such a disaster, after all!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beat the home ed blue-bugs!!

Lately a lot of home ed mothers, new and old alike, have confessed that they are plagued by the home ed blues, loss of confidence or niggling doubts about what they're doing.  It seems to be part of the learning process, leading to change in practice or perspective.

Like sandflies, fleas or mozzies, worries seize any opportunity to nip and nibble, and when they've had a good feast, can leave us feeling rather itchy, uncomfortable and desperate for a remedy.

The impish little mites (aka insecurities) are pretty easy to fend off one by one, but when they attack en masse it can be harder to defend the castle.  Here are a few specimens I've come across.  In italics are some quick rebuttals to squash the bugs:

Daily Detail Demanders - often doubling as our staunchest supporters, these are well-meaning people who want to know if we've done our schoolwork for the day.
Whilst many days look unimpressive to an outsider, home ed. success is best measured in monthly or termly summaries, when growth and change are more apparent.  WE know our days are rich in learning and personal development, and some of it is easy to verbalise.  But a lot of it is hard to convey in a brief chat.  Store up handy anecdotes so that when the question is asked, you're primed to share the little victories that really matter.

Pesky Perfectionism - bites too often, when we focus on our faults and judge ourselves as imperfect.   Indeed, we are!  Usually we can handle that truth and see the overall balance.  But sometimes our flaws can trick us into thinking that the alternatives (eg. school) are somehow prettier than our best efforts.
Our best efforts ARE enough.  Our 'survival mode' efforts can usually still be offered in love, with patience and personalised attention.  There may be circumstances which call for change, but generally, we ARE better equipped to nurture our children than the lucky-dip teacher our children may have at school (until the day parents can hand-pick each teacher, and guarantee that the best teacher is going to have a wonderful year, free of disasters and trials).

Acute Questionitis - this often sneaks in when Illness, Depression and Overwhelm visit.   Am I doing the right thing for my children?  Is our life really as good as I happily tell people in good times?  Are the kids truly as blessed and fortunate as they deserve?  Would they be better off in school?
To put a bad day, or season, in perspective, just look at how stressed your children are that you haven't had the energy to implement all your wonderful plans.  Are they?  If they're like mine ...  not a care in the world!  I'm fortunate to have had the energy to feed them most days, or direct them towards something they can prepare.  They have a captive audience, time and ideas galore.  They have enough toys and books to sink a ship (though a big cardboard box would trump them all)!  My 'bad day' is their opportunity to shine.  Hmm ... I'll have to think of a better reason to feel inadequate. 

Greener Pastures Syndrome - the familiar fear that our children will miss out on something, like a quirky maths teacher, inspiring art teacher, whizz-bang science program, being in the choir, debating club.
Our kids WILL miss out on some things.  There are many things we'll be grateful they missed.  But they will also have opportunities that the kids in the pasture next door don't have (like TIME to pursue their interests).  They WILL meet exceptional people, of all ages and various talents, and thankfully they'll have more freedom to enjoy special moments with peers and mentors, unhindered by bell times.

Continuous Compulsive Curriculum Design Disorder - knowing that there might be a better resource than the ones you've just bought after years of comparing and critique-reading, and thinking your children's future success and happiness depends on acquiring it.
True, there may be a better resource.  There always will be.  It may claim to teach something faster or more thoroughly or with more fun.  There's no harm buying excellent resources.  But what REALLY matters is the way we use what we have ... the very reason we chose to homeschool in the first place ... personalised, relationship based, flexible and responsive guidance.  Don't get caught in the trap of spending more time planning, preparing and comparing than doing, playing, loving and being. 


There are many tools which help me defeat the little beasties with a good dose of positivity ... 
(mostly guaranteed to change the pace and mood of the day, if it's been a dull or doubtful one)

*  read extra Bible stories to the kids (they're always saying 'just one more please!')
*  dance or paint or run or play with the kids
*  have a games day or project day or swim day
*  reread a favourite homeschool encouragement book

And here are a few of my favourite online remedies:

Burnout busters at Homeschooling Downunder
Happy to be here with Left to their own devices
Really rich encouragement from Dove's Rest

AussieHomeschool forum my virtual staffroom
Rockpool Homeschool forum another fun group

Overcome adultitis with Kim and Jason

This HAS been a wordy post, sorry!  I wrote it to help myself out of a pit.  And thankfully it helped.  If you've read to the end, I'd love to know what helps you fight off the homeschool blues.
What's your favourite way to get back into the swing of things, to iron out the bugs and get on with the joyful business of raising happy seedlings?

A Delightful Job

Chain mail can be irritating, but this is a little gem that made me smile.  I hope you enjoy it!

A woman, renewing her driver's licence , 
was asked by the woman at Registry to state her occupation. 

She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. 

'What I mean is, ' explained the woman at Registry, 
'do you have a job or are you just a .....?' 

'Of course I have a job,' snapped the woman. 
'I'm a Mum.' 

'We don't list 'Mum' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it,' 
Said the recorder emphatically. 

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation. 

The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, 
efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, 
'Official Interrogator' or 'City Registrar.'

'What is your occupation?' she probed. 

What made me say it? I do not know. 
The words simply popped out. 

'I'm a Research Associate in the field of 
Child Development and Human Relations.' 

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and 
looked up as though she had not heard right. 

I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. 

Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written, 
in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire. 

'Might I ask,' said the clerk with new interest,
'just what you do in your field?' 

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, 
I heard myself reply, 

'I have a continuing program of research,
(what mother doesn't) 

In the laboratory and in the field, 
(normally I would have said indoors and out). 

I'm working for my Masters,  (first the Lord and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters). 
Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, 
(any mother care to disagree?) 

and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it). 

But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.' 

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she 
completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door. 

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, 
I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3. 

Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, 
(a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, 
testing out a new vocal pattern. 

I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! 

And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than 'just another Mum.' Motherhood! 

What a glorious career! 

Especially when there's a title on the door. 

Does this make grandmothers 
'Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations' 

And great grandmothers 
'Executive Senior Research Associates? 

I think so! 

I also think it makes Aunts 'Associate Research Assistants.' 

Please send this to another Mum, Grandmother, Aunt, and other friends you know. 

May your troubles be less, Your blessing be more, 
And nothing but happiness come through your door!

Homeschooling Meme

Renelle from Dove's Rest has tagged me for this meme.
(pronounced /ˈmiːm/meem, according to Wikipedia ... I didn't know, and since I read the word once a week or so, it was about time I found out!)

It's going around due to the start of the academic year in the Northern Hemisphere.  Third Term is kind of the start of the year for us too, in that I usually do my planning and program updates in June, and it tends to be when my children, coincidentally, move onto new levels in any schoolish resources they are using.  

I agree with Renelle and Jeanne that the idea of giving ONE answer to each question is simply ridiculous and quite impossible!  Here goes!

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:   
I derive great comfort and encouragement from these two books, which I seem to reread every year:

The Well-Adjusted Child:  The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, by Rachel Gathercole
A thorough treatment of the socialisation question, and full of anecdotes from real parents and children.

The Little Book of Big Reasons to Homeschool, by David and Kim d'Escoto
Outlines the benefits to body, mind and soul, using many scriptures and other quotes to help answer common 'Why Homeschool' questions.

2. One resource you wouldn't be without:

ABC Reading Eggs, Targeting Maths CD Roms, ABC Schools TV
The local libraries, and many books from SO many sources!!
Home Ed communities, both local and online

3. One resource you wish you had never bought:

Hard to say because I forget easily ... ummm ... no regrets really.  If I think of one I'll come back to add it.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year:

The Australian Book Traveller, from Homeschooling Downunder
We LOVED "The Australia Book", which built on what the kids had learned in books we previously read.  Since then, we have since been taking the whole journey very slowly, enjoying rabbit trails which appeal to us.  The free "Wombat Stew" unit inspired a lovely few months of learning all about Australian animals, using picture books we owned and borrowed, and of course nature!

5. One resource you will be using next year: 

Lots of World geography and culture books.  Some titles Sonlight recommends, which I've bought second hand, many books from the library ... maybe tied together using Galloping the Globe.  
I've heard good and bad about it ... do you have anything to add for or against GtG??

We'll continue Real Science 4 Kids.  So far I've used the digital download version of Chemistry, and we're loving it.

6. One resource you would like to buy:

Oh, you know, not much.  Just a large block of land and a MASSIVE shed, to deck out with kid's gymnasium, music studio, art and science lab, library and general space to play, create and have fun!  

Know anyone offering a 95% discount for homeschoolers?

7. One resource you wish existed:

A time control device, so that we can fit in all the things we wish to do each day.  And the energy to put dreams into action.

Renelle:  I have a shocking confession ... I don't know about Dr Who's Tardis ... would it satisfy this wish?

8. One homeschool catalogue/magazine you enjoy reading:

The Sonlight catalogue ... don't laugh!  

It satisfies the teacher and resource-researcher in me.  Even though we don't follow any particular curriculum, haven't purchased anything from them directly, and what we do is VERY relaxed.   I just enjoy having so many resources listed and compared in one place.  It has helped with some decisions.

9. One homeschooling website you use regularly:

Aussie Homeschool

10. Tag six other homeschoolers:

I'm taking the easy option.  I can't keep up with who has and hasn't yet been tagged to join in ... so if you read this, and would like to join in, please leave a link to your blog in the comments and jump onboard!

P.S.  Please excuse the spaced out format of this post ... I think I need to revise some settings :)