Monday, March 21, 2016

Nurturing myself with Faith, Writing & Art

Mentally and physically I was really struggling last week, and I needed to take time to nurture myself.  I found comfort and refreshment in prayer and my Bible as well as the encouragement of friends.  Once I felt a bit stronger I decided to relax and do some writing and art.  

I made pleasing progress with sketching using "You can draw in 30 days"

Most days when I woke up I wrote in my morning pages journal or did Bible copywork.

This is a painting I started over a year ago, but I felt stuck for many months not knowing what to do next.  Finally I asked a bunch of friends, who helped me decide that it is finished.  This means I can let myself move on to my next painting project, a set of smaller canvases.

I ordered a stack of 'How to Write' books from an online bookshop ... not sure how much time I have for novel writing, nor which story I want to resume working on, but it's a harmless and inexpensive hobby and I'm going to give it time and space and see how I go.

In a real bookshop I bought a beautiful book about Australian trees, a quotes and colouring book for Jasmine and a book about Escher's work.  I am always falling in love with particular trees, especially gum trees, and I hope this book will help me learn more of their names.

At the art shop I would have liked one of everything, but I resisted the temptation to buy too much.  I found some sketching supplies and a new game, "My Big Art Show".  We haven't played it yet, but I will let you know what we think once we have a go.

On my Facebook page GLOW this week I shared an article about the workspaces of famous scientists, which fuelled my desire for a dedicated writer's space.  We have a lovely shared study at one end of the lounge room, but I do wish for a space which is just mine.  I know that's selfish, when other people don't have a safe place to sleep.  I spent some time overthinking this and many other things.

In the midst of my woes last week, I read this message from Lisa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries:
  "Prayer does make a difference. A life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-rattling difference.  So keep praying, sweet friend. The Lord is leaning in close to listen. "  
I felt inspired to write about some of the prayers He has answered for me, and I shared my thoughts on Facebook:
Prayer has changed my life dramatically ... 🌺 
When I felt like I was striving in my faith in my own strength, I was shown scriptures like Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16-17 and Romans 12:1-2. I took a leap of faith and prayed for a sign that it was true, and He gave me a new fluent language, right then and there. My life changed in that instant. 
When I prayed "Lord, if you want me to marry again you'll have to hit me over the head, because I am not looking, I don't want to make any more mistakes in my own strength." He did. He made it abundantly clear that Pete was the one, and He made it all so beautiful in His timing. 
When I was newly remarried and very sick at Christmas camp in 2002, I went to the prayer line and asked someone to pray for me. I was instantly healed of a tummy upset I'd had since a trip to PNG 3 months earlier, a back injury from the same trip (bus with no suspension meets a car-sized pot hole) and a long-term personal health issue. Instantly healed.  
When I was at an Easter camp years later and could barely walk to the dining hall, I was so exhausted and depressed, people there prayed for me. They encouraged me with verses like Isaiah 41:14-15. I didn't know I was healed until a few days later when we went sightseeing ... I expected to struggle from the car to the visitors centre, but determined to believe I could do it with His help ... I walked to the top of Mount Kosciusko, even carrying my son (about age 9 at the time) when he got a bad stitch.  
Many more times I have had prayers answered ... sometimes instantly, sometimes with a gradual awareness of what is needed to move forward. I am praying now for another healing, no bigger or smaller than those issues, just once again humbly asking the Lord to heal me. I needed to read this, and to give thanks for all that He has already done.
One more thing I wrote publicly about was my Gratitude Journal.  Do you keep one?
My keeping of a gratitude journal started with a book, 'One Thousand Gifts' by Ann Voskamp. The idea is summarised here: 
For my gratitude diary I chose a nice notebook and started writing a list of what I was thankful for, with enough detail to remind me what I meant when I look back and read it years from now: 
1. New day, early waking, quiet morning birdsong & crickets the soundtrack for a peaceful start.
3. Blank pages, new journal, a dare to count to 1000, one thousand moments to notice and thank Him for.
4. Little people soon to emerge from slumber.
21. Happy memories of childhood bikes, trees, pools, friendships, big happy extended family. 
At the start I aimed to write 3 things a day I was thankful for, little or big. Now I just add to it sporadically.  I write straight from the heart, often as part of my prayer time, part of that ongoing conversation. I haven't reached 1000 yet, but I think I will keep going until the book is full.  There is so much to give thanks for!
This post is Part #6 the Australian Mum's Encouraging Mums blog hop.

I'd love to hear about the hobbies and activities you find refreshing, or how you nurture yourself when you feel the weight of this broken world.

Kind thoughts,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The best of Chrysalis Island

This is my eighth year writing on Chrysalis Island.  Someone recently prompted me to reflect on the journey so far, and it was lovely looking back at my posts from 2009, seeing what my children were up to when they were little, how much has changed and which things have stayed the same.

I thought it would be fun to round up my favourite posts.
I hope some of these are informative or entertaining!

The beginning ...
Our first year homeschooling ... ALL of my posts from 2009!

A day in the life ... (I wish I had written one every year!)
2010 and
a week in our life 2010 

My homeschooled child wants to try school ... 
The discussions
If the shoe fits
The wild ride!

Children learning to read ...
The playful approach we used to support our children in their quest to become readers.
More about play-based learning

Beating the Home-Ed Blues ...
Ironing out the bugs!
Look UP!
10 ways to rescue a rotten day

Homeschooling when someone is sick ... 
The first time I wrote about the roller coaster of mental illness
A collection of tips
Still sick ... finding out why and what to do about it
10 ways to rescue a rotten day

Organising our resources ...
Overcoming perfectionism
Taming the paperwork monster
Weebly website for my children's most used web pages
iPad apps for 8-9 year olds
Plans for 2016

FUN ...
Everything to do with dough and goo

From the Heart ... 
Advice for new homeschoolers
The Heart of a Homeschool Mum (a poem)
My blogging story
My testimony
A few truths about me

I also write at ... 
Freestyle Fun - home ed ideas on Facebook
GLOW heart, mind and soul - inspiration and encouragement
and my page GLOW on Facebook

This post is Part #5 of the Aussie Mums Encouraging Mums blog hop.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tour of our Town - Blog Hop #4

Finally you've arrived at our place!  We've looked forward to meeting each other for so long, and we could just sit and chat with a cup of tea, but why not make the most of being here and see all the sights of our beautiful home town.

Let's make this an unlimited day ... we have BOUNDLESS time, money and energy!

How shall we travel?  How about a cross between a hover-car and a hot air balloon?  Equipped with autopilot or a tour guide, so we can chat or daydream along the way.  Our hot air balloon is efficient, safe and beautiful.  We can enjoy the view as we rise above busy roads and float along effortlessly in between stops.  Settle in, your tour is ready to begin!

Stop 1 - While we're all fresh, let's visit Newcastle Museum.  Although there are excellent exhibits about local history, transport and industry (with a dramatic steelmaking demonstration), the most memorable part for children is usually lifting a car (an entire, real car) in the Supernova Hands-On Science Centre.  The museum is in the beautiful Honeysuckle Precinct on the harbour.

Around the corner is the Maritime Centre.  Can you believe we haven't been there yet?
I can't wait to see  "THEN, NOW AND TOMORROW:  a 300 year snapshot of the Hunter’s waterways and surrounds from the 1800’s to what might be in 2100."

Stop 2 - Take the ferry to Stockton, and we'll fly back over the harbour, past Nobby's headland and beach and along the coast, over King Edward Park to Bar Beach.  We'll do the Newcastle Memorial Walk the have a swim and refreshments at Bar Beach.  At low tide there are lovely rock pools to explore and a sheltered swimming corner.

Stop 3 - Library, Bookshop and Gallery hop - If you're a book-lover, let's cool down and relax at Wallsend Library.  I love the large windows and plentiful reading spots.  A short flight back into town, and we can visit MacLean's Booksellers in Hamilton, along with numerous second-hand bookstores.  Next stop is the Lovett Gallery above the Newcastle Library, then we'll go next-door to the Newcastle Art Gallery.

Stop 4 - Oakvale Farm is our next stop - we'll need half a day or more to enjoy this place, but luckily we don't have to worry about time today!  Once when we visited we were lucky enough to hold little emu chicks ... and there are often baby goats to bottle feed, koala encounters, a reptile show and lots of animals to see as we wander around.  I like the water buffalo, not a creature we encounter around here in ordinary life.  One the way back to town we'll stop at one of the many trampoline parks, so the kids can flip and jump and have a crazy time!

Stop 5 - Remember how we don't have a budget today?  Let's go to Charlestown Square where we can stock up on the bare necessities at the Apple Shop, Australian Geographic, ABC Shop, Typo ... before hunger calls us to Grill'd, which I have heard sells delicious burgers with gluten free options.

Stop 6 - One of the many trampoline parks which have been popping up everywhere, a chance for the kids to burn off some of that limitless energy.  Maybe they can do a Ninja's or Parkour class.  If there's energy to spare, let's go to Speers Point Park, and have a bike ride along the edge of Lake Macquarie.

How do you end a limitless day?  Perhaps we'll buy takeaway dinner from Top Thai in Wallsend or Raj's Corner in Hamilton, and eat in the air on the way to photograph the marvellous sunset over Mount Sugarloaf.  I have to go home, but if you want to continue why not explore Barrington Tops National Park?

It's been a pleasure having you here for a virtual visit!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Advice for new homeschoolers - Blog Hop #3

This post is part of the blog hop ... "Australian Mums Encouraging Mums".   
Blog Hop Topic #3 

This isn't a 'How To Homeschool' article ... more a collection of thoughts based on the lessons I have learned.  Best wishes as you embark on this exciting adventure!

Top Tips

Be flexible.  Be open to change and ready to embrace opportunities.  Don't be afraid to change the routine.  Unless you are totally captivated by a particular home ed philosophy, don't be too quick to label your style at the exclusion of others.  If asked I will say our style is eclectic.  I draw inspiration from quite a few home ed styles, and the way we do things changes from year to year.  We might be ore or less academic, project based or natural learning one year to the next, but our steady components are faith and books, lots of wonderful books.  I don't mind that we don't fit neatly into one group.

Let it go.  Just because your friend or a local home ed veteran thinks a program is brilliant, doesn't mean you will like it, or that it will suit your child.  If something isn't working for you and your child, let it go.  Sell it or give it away, and free up time to do more of the things which ARE working.

It's all about your child.  Personalised education is one of the strengths of homeschooling.  Remembering this will influence everything you do ... when and where your child works, their preferred learning style, whether they need a lot of social stimulation or more time spent in their own company, engaging deeply in what interests them.  Each term or so I like to brainstorm what it is that each child needs from me, as their Mum and as the facilitator of their home education.

Keep your compass handy.  Long term goals help put the short term challenges in perspective and make it easier to prioritise and make daily decisions.  You can think of long term goals as a compass ... you know where you're heading, but there are many roads on the map which will lead you there.  Some detours will add richness to your experience, but your compass will help you keep the destination in mind.  By long term goals I mean values, skills and character more than particular academic outcomes.

Time out.  We used to have more frequent, shorter breaks, but I never felt refreshed and the children were frustrated.  I spent lunchtime serving lunch to tired children, doing odd jobs and listening to sudden bursts of inspiration ... if I was lucky, I got to read, write or rest for 10 minutes.  This year I have built in a TWO HOUR break, from 11-1pm or 12-2pm.  Long enough for me to make a healthy lunch, return phone calls, check email, potter around and still have some restful quiet time.  We don't watch the clock, but knowing there will be one long break each day motivates us to start earlier and focus in the morning, and by the time we return for afternoon work, we actually feel like we've had a break.

Take care of yourself.  Caitlin has wonderfully addressed the subject of balancing Mum's needs with children's needs ... she talks about space between and the calm before the storm, and has included lots of enticing links.

Work hard, work smart.  Work hard at spending quality time with your children, reading to them, making time for games, having heart to heart conversations, finding out what makes them tick and finding out what works for your family.  Don't worry so much about matching learning to outcomes, ticking boxes, comparing your homeschool to how your friend does things.

Give your children the best of you.  Share your passion, talent, expertise, tools, knowledge and experience.  Let your children see you at work ... writing, creating art, tinkering, mending.  You don't have to set up formal lessons, just be an available, willing, informal mentor.

The freezer is your friend.  When you have spare energy or time or ingredients, cook and freeze extra meals.  I freeze single portions of paleo breakfasts and lunches, cubes of vegetable soup to use as 'secret sauce' (hidden veges) in mince dishes, and servings of cake or slice for a morning tea treat.

Pitfalls ... and how to climb out of the pit

Perfectionism.  A steady flow of 'good enough' days are better than a handful of 'perfect' days.  Don't let your desire to do 'the best' stop you from simply 'doing.'

Trying to do it all.  There are so many wonderful things to do, but trying to do too many of them at once will set yourself up for disappointment.  Brainstorm all the shiny ideas, and go wild ... but then grab a cup of tea and cross things off the list.  Some will be great ideas for the future, others you may visit in a smaller way, and others you may decide you're willing to let go of in the interests of sanity.

Putting your needs last.  Self-care is important.  That's why it gets a repeat mention.  It can also be really hard, when there are so many pressing needs around you competing for your time.  Know what you need to survive and what you need to thrive, and try to make it part of your weekly routine.

I hear the questions tumbling out ...
  • How can I possibly take time out when my child has separation anxiety?
  • How can I go to an art class when I can't even keep up with laundry?
  • How can I find time to exercise?
These are real road-blocks, but with creativity you can get past most of them.  I stay up late or wake early, sometimes both, to enjoy some solitude.  I am doing a virtual art class using a book on my Kindle, and I save inspiring ideas to an 'art class' bookmark on my computer with the intention of learning by imitation.  My children, together or individually, go with me for walk and talks after dinner.  If your children will happily stay with someone else, you can arrange to have time out to do the things which refresh you.

Introvert overload.  One of my needs is solitude.  I love my family and friends.  I choose to be with them and love our time together, but I do get overloaded and sometimes ... it's too much.  At the moment the only lengthy block of solitude I can get is late at night or early in the morning.  I can manage with those little top ups, knowing things will change at some point.  In the meantime, I choose to be grateful for the closeness.

Rotten days.  Some days nothing goes right.  After years of trial and error, I have written an article, How to rescue a rotten day, full of my best tips to help you turn the tide and move towards a graceful recovery.

The challenges change from year to year, but the way you face them teaches your children some valuable lessons:  how to bounce back, say sorry, look for the positive, compromise, negotiate, make decisions, choose gratitude and show love.  No pressure intended!


With online forums and social media, there is a lot of support for homeschoolers.  If you use Facebook, search for the type of support you need, or ask your friends which groups they find the most supportive.  It's also a good idea to join a local group to learn about what activities and opportunities are right on your doorstep.  Joining an activity or going to a park meet-up are easy ways to meet, and hopefully you'll find some people you really click with.  If there's nothing on which appeals to you, suggest something you know your children would like to do ... it's a good way to attract like-minded people.

The BEST support for your homeschooling journey is a few good friends who know what your days are like, face the same challenges and know how big the little wins really are.  My family and friends are usually supportive of our decision to homeschool, but my homeschooling best friends are a real sanity saver!  We talk by email, phone or text message, and because our children like to play together, we meet up every fortnight or so.  This year we all decided we'd prefer to meet with one family at a time, but we've also been part of lovely small groups which led to long term friendships.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  We've all been new, and we can all benefit from each other's experiences and wisdom.  Chances are if you have a question, someone will thank you for asking it because they are puzzled by the same thing, and people are more than happy to share suggestions and possible solutions.  At the very least, you'll know you're not alone, and at best, you will find the book, website, mentor, art or music teacher, or idea to help you on your way.


At the start of this year, my 8th year homeschooling, I wrote this in my morning pages journal:
How will I deal with all the parenting, teaching, cooking and cleaning?How will I set a sustainable pace?PRAY
Sometimes it's that simple.  We have a lot to juggle, and all the best intentions and clever ideas in the world can't match the power of seeking wisdom from above.
Whether you have come to homeschooling by choice or circumstances,
Whether you are Mum to one or seven,
Whether you love homeschooling or find it a daily struggle,
Whether you have a degree or two or none,
Whether your children are livewires or lazybones ...  
Your homeschooling family will not look like anyone else's
But if it's built on LOVE 
It will be beautiful.

10 ways to rescue a rotten day

If you are having a rotten homeschool day, you are not alone.  Everyone has bad days.  They might not talk or write about them, but everyone has difficult, frustrating, no good very bad days.

There are several varieties of bad day and each comes with it's own triggers:
  • The kind you see coming ... a child is due for a blood test, it's the day after a late night, today is forecast to be a scorcher of a day, it's windy and there's bushfire smoke in the air.
  • The kind where things suddenly go really wrong ... a pet dying, illness, bad news on the phone.
  • The kind where plans can be derailed by a small trigger and before you know it things spiral out of control ... mozzie bites are SO itchy, a morning tea bike ride leaves everyone exhausted, or someone goes happily to do their work outside but gets stung by a wasp.
Now that we're all thoroughly depressed (and you probably have experiences to add to each variety), here are some possible solutions.  I'm sure there are many more and I'd love to hear your suggestions!

10 Ways to Rescue a Rotten Day:
  1. Switch off.  Just for a while, allow everyone to switch off.  Have a break and give everyone time to recover, recharge and regroup.  How long the break needs to be is determined by how bad the rotten day is, how exhausted you are and so many other factors.  
  2. Go with the flow.  When faced with an unexpected direction, don't be afraid to ditch the plan for the day and explore the rabbit trail in front of you.  For example, if everyone is distracted by local bush fires - not a direct threat that requires action - you might ease worried minds by explaining how far away the fire is, or if they are simply curious show them the RFS website, look on maps at the affected areas, teach your children to 'look for the people doing good' in any crisis, and practice your bushfire safety plan.
  3. Staff development day.  Teachers go on professional development days, why shouldn't we?  Whilst you probably still have the children at home, you might find time to research, complete paperwork and prepare future activities by delegating duties to educational shows on ABC iView, a basket full of new books and audiobooks from the library, or a box of toys reserved for such occasions.  Marble runs and dominoes work well for this at my place ... open ended, plentiful and lots of scope for creativity.
  4. Art.  Painting or modelling with clay can do wonders to calm ragged nerves and restore a peaceful mood.  Simply set it up, along with a nice snack, and start.  I mean you!  If the children join in, even better.  Alternatively, you could print some geometric patterns for anyone interested to colour, or simply sketch and doodle.
  5. Sensory play.  Like art, there are many soothing activities you can set up relatively easily, and they are a big hit with children of all ages.  Soap carving, weaving, French knitting, and Here are some ideas I have collected ... gooey things like bubble dough and oobleck.  Yes they are messy, but it will buy you an hour or two of peace and smooth everyone's rough edges.  Some of the ingredients will be things you have in the kitchen or bathroom.
  6. Choose your own adventure.  Don't forget, homeschool isn't school at home.  You have the freedom to mix things up.  The world is your classroom.  Learn outside the box.  Where can you go?  What can you do?  Think outside the box and be playful.  Walk in a different direction for a change, suggest writing using the wrong hand or by holding a texta between toes.  
  7. Change the scenery.  If things are going awry maybe it's worth a try.  If your children have been working indoors, suggest they move out to the patio or set up a tent as an office for the day.  If you need a big shake up, and if you have children who cope well with change, enlist their help in rearranging some of the furniture in a room.  
  8. Ask for help.  There are some great online home ed groups where people are free to vent their problems and other members almost always respond with encouragement.  "Me too," or "This is what worked for me ..."  Let me know if you need help finding groups to suit your needs.
  9. Play the glad game.  We read "Pollyanna" last year ... a beautiful story and there's a lot to be said for playing the 'glad game.'  There is almost always something to be grateful for, and deliberately talking with your children about what IS going well can help turn a sad day around, or at least take the edge off it.  
  10. Do the next right thing.  Nobody can see into the future, and sometimes we can't see far beyond the mess we're entangled in ... don't try to solve everything at once.  Just decide what is the next positive thing that you can do, and do that.  If that means 'have a nap', do it.  When you wake hopefully problems will seem smaller or your mind will have found a clever solution.
Move towards a graceful recovery (a personal story):

You need to decide when it's worth fighting a particular battle, and when it's time to change tack, either with a temporary detour or a major course correction.

My daughter has recently been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis.  It's been causing such a brain fog that some of the work she normally enjoys is proving difficult and stressful.  I know from my own experience with this disease that this is temporary ... for months we have continued to work, but I try to make sure it is confidence boosting and not too taxing.  Copywork and familiar maths concepts are mostly ok ... tackling anything tricky is a recipe for a meltdown.

For a few weeks she has been incredibly tired, too tired to do almost anything, and feeling rotten in dozens of ways.  This week she finally started medication, but it will take a while to start working and she still isn't up to doing much.  If she attended 'drop off school' she would not be attending most days.  The rest of the family have stuff going on too, and it's a pretty challenging time all around.  With a relaxing pace, everyone is surviving and finding plenty to be thankful for.  Monday and Tuesday were well-spent on nurturing, and I declared the rest of the week "Creativity Week."  

The children and I always have creative things we're keen to do, and as soon as I announced it, eyes lit up and ideas tumbled out.  Plucking that simple title out of the air (or my heart) gave us permission to do special projects and engage in activities which inspire and restore us.  

Yesterday, that meant that Elijah designed and built a carry-cage for the front of his new bike.  Big enough for the all-important soccer ball.  Jasmine and I got to work on turning some plastic storage tubs into a cosy indoor rabbit hutch.  We discovered that sewing scissors cut through a plastic lid quite well, and we tossed around ideas about how to connect the two tubs with a tunnel.  Painting, cooking and Lego construction also happened, along with books, DVDs and outdoor play.  We found time to download photos from iPads and looked through old photos to see how much the children have grown.  

The rest of the week is blissfully free to finish what we have started.  Today we met new friends at a new park.  We will probably try some online art lessons, explore a new history website I subscribed to, play a new game and continue to enjoy our read-aloud books.

In hard times, give yourself permission to spontaneously declare a Project Week, Readathon, Nature Day or Baking Day.  Make it up and announce it with conviction!  Focus on being in the moment with your children, enjoy it and record it in your home ed journal.  Everyone will learn ... they will also learn how to handle adversity, and will return to routine when it's time with renewed energy.

It's not a holiday, but it's a lovely way to live, better than trudging along the same path with tired or fractious children, simply because you think you must, when what everyone needs is a lovely diversion, something new to think about and fun to do.

If you're having a rotten day, I hope some of these tips help you.
All the best, Vanessa

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Our plans for 2016 - Blog Hop #2

This post is part of the blog hop ... "Australian Mums Encouraging Mums".   
Blog Hop Topic #2 
"What are your plans for 2016?"

What are your goals for different areas of your life, including homeschooling?

Well, that's a big question!  I included a goal setting page for each of us in my homeschool journal.  My goals are mostly copied from my personal journals and yearly planning pages.
My personal key phrase for the year is "Strength and Vision."
With that in mind, some of my goals are:
  • Homeschool - Keep more detailed home ed records again
  • Writing - Write on home ed blog monthly and GLOW fortnightly
  • Creativity - Sketch and paint several times a week
  • Spiritual - Bible reading plan and journal, prayer list
  • Family - Make memory albums for the children
  • Health - Daily sunshine;  Walk and talks;  Cook easy healthy dinners, lunches and snacks
  • Home - Deep clean & declutter a room per month

I recorded goals the children expressed during the Christmas break and had a chat with them at the start of the year to check and add any extras they wanted.  DS11 has many goals this year, and is so far working hard to reach them.  DD10 has very few goals at present, so I suggested a few which fit with her current interests.

What worked for you last year, what didn't, and what are you going to change?

Copywork is consistently a favourite activity here.  Sometimes chosen by me, sometimes themselves.  Last year the children chose to copy a story each - "Fantastic Mr Fox," and "The Boxcar Children."  Neither finished the task, but they both copied more than half a novel!  It was something they could do independently, and I saw their stamina, confidence and neatness grow.  Copywork is a keeper!

When something doesn't work we let it go and move on without much fanfare.  DD10 really disliked Wordly Wise, whilst DS11 enjoyed it and found the challenge rather satisfying.  Both have chosen to try something different this year.  I asked them to choose two English workbooks each that they would be happy to commit to working in consistently this year.  I know they like to have a textbook as a go-to activity, and to switch between two for variety.  From the options I presented they both chose exactly what I thought they would, which reassured me that I know them pretty well ... who likes colour vs black and white, challenge vs comfort, clear-cut vs creative.

For perfectionists who make mistakes (who doesn't?) rub-out pens saved us all a lot of frustration.
We have several each ... and one of mine is tied into my diary so it can't go awol.

Share your week's schedule or share the stories from one day this week:

I have written a separate 'Typical Day' post.  We have a rhythm more than a schedule, and that is working very well for us so far this year.  Each term I write a new 'timetable' according to what external activities we need to work around, and this is the most flexible one so far.  Having said that, we are getting more academic work done than any previous term ... probably because we are all feeling much better, have clear goals, are comfortable with our chosen methods and resources and the children are more mature, motivated and independent.

Our simple plan this Term is basically independent work in the mornings, a two hour break, and work together in the afternoon.

Share how you plan your day/ week/ year - how do you find your priorities?

This collage shows the journals and notebooks I am using this year for planning and recording. Yes, I like to write!  I am always gathering ideas.  I have a yearly brainstorm, listing all the resources I know I intend to use.  I used to over-plan but am getting better at keeping it simple and achievable.  The documents I show at registration time are always a work in progress.

In my journal this year I have pages to summarise plans for each term (like the white page below) and pages to pinpoint the focus for the month (the coloured page).  After that, life and learning just has to unfold.  Some things which sounded good don't eventuate, and other things might suddenly take precedence.  Priorities can be obvious, or they can rise to the surface gradually.

I take note of special moments, and detailed observations of my children's interests, challenges and triumphs, in an ongoing blank notebook which is also my primary recording tool when we have seasons of 'Project-Based Homeschooling.'

Share how you stay motivated to stay on track with your goals

My home ed journal helps me keep track of what we want to achieve and what we actually do each day.  Last year I used my iPad for recording and I found it very easy to get slack.  Weekly summaries made way for fortnightly or monthly summaries, and it wasn't as simple to flick back, jot random notes, and see patterns emerge.  I like pen and paper, and am glad to have returned to my favourite format of home ed journalling.

This is the journal I created using pages and ideas from several sources.  For each month I have a calendar printed on card stock and a summary page.  It's lovely to see the lists grow during the month: books, shows, audiobooks, activities and special information.

I also have weekly double-page spreads to record hours, pages, events and general notes.

Share anything that helps us get to know you and your plans for 2016

Five random insights:

*  I enjoy knitting together ideas from several philosophies ... Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson Education, Project-Based Homeschooling, Natural Learning, WholeHearted Homeschooling.

*  We desire to live simply, walk humbly in faith and love, be thankful, peaceful, be kind to others and ourselves.

*  There is a lovely local Charlotte Mason idea-sharing community.  This is probably our most CM year so far ... more read alouds now that I have the stamina to read for longer, we're starting nature journaling, narrations are happening without much prompting, copy work is a daily habit, we do dictation occasionally and frequently enjoy poetry, art and music.

*  We like to spend quality free time with a few friends at once, one family at home or a few at a park, rather than join in with organised activities and large groups.  By saying "No thanks" to many good things we're able to say "Yes!" to those which are better for us.

*  I fall more in love with my family every day, growing and learning together!

I'll leave you with a poem I wrote last year, Heart of a Homeschool Mum.

Sending kind thoughts, 

A Typical Day 2016

A typical day?  What IS that?!

Let's face it, there are many things people don't want to share online, but it's still fun to get a glimpse into the inner workings of different home ed families.  I know I learn something every time I read a typical day blog post.  It's interesting, encouraging, and reminds me we're all doing the best we can with what we've got.  So, drawing upon my notes and memories of this month, here's a glimpse into our homeschooling life so far this year.

The GOOD - Moments to celebrate and remember:

*  Connections are made, like when we were reading "Pay It Forward", tied it in with Fibonacci's Rabbits and got to interview Nanna about her experience with acts of kindness.
*  Twice this month, someone has woken up motivated and finished their independent work by 9am, then proceeded to do lots of extra chores (ok, there was money involved).  Early-bird work happens at my friend's place quite often, but for us it's a first!
*  Relaxing home days with one or two outings or play dates a week, usually after lunch.
*  We got to mind a bunny for a week whilst searching for it's owner.  That was lovely.  Eventually the owner saw one of the pages we letter-boxed and came to collect the sweet little rabbit.  Turns out they only lived around the corner, and the reunion was beautiful!

The Bad - Challenging moments, and what helped:

*  I was this close to having an introvert-overload induced implosion ... a nap helped a bit.
*  Someone had a sad day, and needed lots of rest, cuddles and stories ... I was super tired that day too, and easily decided to ditch the plans and focus on nurture, peace, kindness and creativity.
*  Sickness forced me to delegate teaching duties to ABC iView educational shows ... no harm done.
*  Someone little had a wonky day thanks to a thyroid flare-up ... a morning resting on the lounge, a lunchtime movie, ice cubes and gluten-free brownies helped soothe the fractious mood.

Hopefully that puts things into perspective!

What happens here on a 'Typical Day'?

We work from 9-11am every day, and 1-3pm three days a week.  Sometimes it's more like 9-12 and 2-3pm, and the lighter days vary according to what's on that week.  Lots of learning happens outside those times too, and I record it all.  If we're tired we start later.  If we have momentum, we keep going.

I am trying to ensure we have a two hour break, as it's necessary if we are to feel properly refreshed for the afternoon.  Two hour breaks mean we can have lunch, make phone calls, hang a second load of washing or have a bike ride or walk, and I still have time to read or nap while the kids read or play.

Sometimes one or both children do their maths at night, when they feel focused and settled.
Sometimes the wheels fall off and we take a gentle approach ... reading and listening to read alouds, talking, playing, watching dvds or shows on ABC iView, listening to audio books and doing creative activities like Lego, painting and baking.

I adopted the "task book" idea from Renelle, and it is working extremely well for us.  I write in them each night ready for the next day.  The picture above shows task books and my home ed journal.

5:30am - Sometimes I wake up when Hubby leaves for work, and I might write in my morning pages journal before falling back asleep or reading my Bible.

7am - Usually the kids and I wake up.  They go in the lounge room to play, and I often stay in bed a while longer to read, pray and think about the day.

8am - We get started on breakfast, showers if needed, housework, pet care - any one of us might get caught up in book in my Poppy's armchair in the sunroom.

9am - If we are ready to start the day, we get a drink, gather at the table and get out our baskets (containing stationery and diary).  We might do All About Spelling together first.  Otherwise the children get straight into their independent work.  They look at their 'task books' to see what independent work I have suggested for them today.  They are free to do it in any order, and there are often choices for them to make, and when needed there's space to record pages done in workbooks.  Things are running more smoothly of a morning, and we are all enjoying this more than printed checklists, verbal instructions or post-it note tagged workbooks in baskets.

My home ed journal is also set up on the table, partly filled in with plans for the day, ready to add to change as the day unfolds ... did I mention I love rub-out pens?  I work on record keeping, prepare a lesson, do marking, help with maths or english, wash the dishes, serve late breakfast or morning tea, or hang up washing.

Independent work usually happens in the morning and includes several or all of the following:  copy work, maths, assigned reading, diary, an English textbook, guitar or ukulele, and devotions which they might do alone or with me.  I have set up a shelf with 'assigned reading' options for each child, but they choose what to read when, and are free to add books from other shelves, so adding assigned reading to the list is just a daily reminder to read more widely, and to record books they read.

Copywork from read-aloud novels and poetry ...
I write it in my book then the children take turns copying it. 
DS11's textbooks for Maths and English.
He also uses Maths Online.
DD10's textbooks for Maths and English.
She also uses iPad apps for maths, such as Targeting Maths.
DD and I do 'creative copy work', copying mottos, verses, lists etc.  DS prefers to use his book for written conversations and interviews.
I am amused that, from the options I presented, my son has chosen all Excel textbooks for English and Maths.  I think they're good enough, but I find some of the questions rather ambiguous, and am glad there is a marking guide ... though I don't always agree with the reasoning behind the 'correct' answers.

10:30am - Independent work is finished and I read to the children in the lounge room.  They might be laying down, cuddled up to me, doing a puzzle, colouring in or quietly fiddling with something (Lego, finger knitting, dolls, paper).

We have a few read-alouds on the go at a time.  We have already finished "Tuck Everlasting."
Presently we're sharing these books:

  •  "Pay It Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  •  "Dear Mr Henshaw" by Beverley Cleary
  •  "Mistakes That Worked"by Charlotte Foltz Jones
  •  "Nonsense Limericks" by Edward Lear
  •  "A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson"
  •  "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson

11am or 12noon - We break for two hours, and each go off to do what we want to do.  At some point one of us remembers we need lunch, and we make it together.  Otherwise, it's free time and anything goes ... internet research, email, reading, play outside or inside, craft, and sometimes for me a nap or writing time.

1pm or 2pm - Sometimes we just bake or enjoy some more read-alouds, but usually we work together on other subjects such as art, science, history or health.  I will elaborate on our plans in those subjects another day.  This month our focus has been Antarctica ... timely as Aunty J. and Uncle B. were there, so we followed their itinerary, looked at webcams and weather maps online, and used a pile of library resources.  We did a very smelly experiment to see how blubber insulates seals.  Once Aunty J. and Uncle B. recover from the experience and sort out their photos, they will visit and tell us all about it!

3pm - Dad arrives home from work, friends arrive home and often come to play, and if we need to some of us go shopping or to the library.  DS11 has just finished cricket and next week he'll start soccer training.

5:30pm - Dinner might be cooked, dishes washed, washing folded etc.  We eat, play, talk, tidy up, get ready for the next day, and I often go for a walk and talk with one or both of the children.  Ideas and deep thoughts come out, problems are solved and we make decisions and imagine possibilities.  Then there are showers, chores, board games, books and rumbles.

8:30 or 9pm - Teeth are brushed and people start heading for bed, usually Dad first because he gets up so early.  Kids read, colour in or relax in bed, and I finish cleaning up, chat with my Hubby, sometimes call Mum, check emails and Facebook.  I tuck in whoever is ready when they are ready, and I start to relax.

10:30pm -  Usually everyone else is asleep.  If I am still up I make a cup of liquorice and peppermint tea and enjoy the peace, read, write or chat online.  I almost always read before I fall asleep.

That's the pattern of our days.  One day soon I will write about how we rescue rotten days!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My blogging story - Blog Hop #1

I'm taking part in my first blog hop ... "Australian Mums Encouraging Mums".   

I'm excited about the topics for the 4 weeks of the blog hop.  
I hope you enjoy reading this, and follow the link above to read other great blogs.  
If you have a homeschooling blog, why not join in?  

Blog Hop Topic #1 
"Why did you start blogging, and why do you keep blogging?"

Why did I start blogging?

I started my first blog, "Chrysalis Island" in 2009.  That was the year we decided to homeschool our children, who were 4 and 5 years old.  I had returned to being a stay-at-home Mum home after a few years of teaching while my husband was a (quite brilliant) stay-at-home Dad.  We had various reasons for deciding to homeschool and I found many blogs which helped me immensely in the early years.  It was from reading those blogs that I got the idea to record our own journey.

I write as a way to work out my thoughts.  I think best when I do it with a pen and paper, or the modern equivalent.  With homeschooling, there was a LOT to process ... so much freedom, so many choices and such a lot at stake ... and it was so different from my experience as a school and uni student and teacher.  Writing about what we were learning and experiencing helped me deschool myself and understand my children better.  It was also a handy way to record some of my decisions, in case one day I looked back and thought "What on earth was I thinking?!"

Blogs I have found inspiring and helpful ...

I LOVE reading other people's homeschooling blogs ... it's like getting a chance to be a fly on the wall, but not as creepy!  Many of the best resources and ideas I have found came from blogs.

Navigating By Joy
A Peaceful Day
Aussie Pumpkin Patch
Dove's Rest (now writing at A Walk in the Wildflowers)
Homeschooling Downunder
Eclectic Homeschool
Kez's Blog
Funschooling (now Quark Academy)
Satori Smiles

There are many other blogs I have enjoyed reading, and a couple of brilliant ones which are no longer online, but those are some of my regularly visited favourites.

Why do I keep blogging?

I keep blogging because I love to write, and for all the reasons I started in the first place.  When we started the local home ed community was pretty small, and I wasn't using Facebook home ed support groups.   I have more connections now, but I still love to figure things out by writing about them.  I also hope it might interest or encourage other homeschooling parents.

I use blogging as an aid to my memory.  I am inclined to forget more than I remember, and I want to remember the little things.  I have not written on my blog much in the last two years, but I am SO glad I wrote all of the posts I did.  Looking at what I wrote in 2009 brings me so much joy.  So much has NOT changed since then, which is a good thing ... my children are still the same at heart, just taller, blossoming versions of their beautiful selves.

Why does my blog have ... gaps?

I do tend to go missing in action for long periods of time.  There are many reasons ... I am an over thinker, and can get myself tangled up at times ... if I'm lucky it ends with a lightbulb moment.  Once it's processed, sometimes I want to share about it, sometimes I don't know how.   We've had long battles with health, physical and mental, and I'm a pretty private person, especially when it comes to what I share online.  This means that when life gets complicated I get quiet.

My blog then and now ...

In the earlier days I often tried to define our homeschooling style and wrote more about what we actually did.  I never shared much about particular resources we used, because we used a lot of different books and methods and if something wasn't working we changed it ... if I listed everything then didn't like something I would feel bad about recommending it, and if anyone (other than our inspector) saw the whole list of what we drew from they might think we did everything in each one and be totally overwhelmed and discouraged.  Not my aim (and did I mention I am an over thinker?)  Over time I have also become more cautious about privacy, and I use other methods to share what we do with a selected audience and sometimes that left me wondering what TO share on here.

In the end I always come back to:
-  just telling it like it is
-  speaking from the heart
-  sounding slightly too serious
-  wanting to be understood
-  hoping to encourage and inspire

Conversations are good for problem solving and sharing tid bits, but I like blogging as a method of deep communication about what I think will be helpful ... either a story of what we have struggled with and how we overcame it, links to make something easier to understand, or just collections of ideas.

What I've learnt because I blog ...

I have learnt/ learned that I am obsessive about proof-reading every little thing I share online ... and even though I re-read all of my posts an embarrassing number of times before publishing, mistakes still slip through.  Also, I love getting comments ;)

What do I do other than blog?

I read a lot.  Young adult and children's fiction, home ed guides, the Bible, Australian outback romance, historical fiction ... in fact ANY words which happen to be in front of me, except the ones I definitely don't want to read.  I am a word addict.

I paint & sketch.
I count my blessings ... there's a lot to be thankful for!
I go for 'walk and talks' with my children.
I enjoy long conversations with my family and friends (preferably only one or two at a time).
I am teaching myself to play the ukulele.
I set goals and reflect on my progress each month.
I get an opportunity to stay home alone once in a blue moon, which I love to do and sometimes crave, but usually I decide to join in with a trip to the beach instead.

I research, anything and everything.  Always learning is one of my mottos.  Some of my pet topics at present are Antarctica, Hashimotos Thyroiditis in children, minimalism & simplicity, prayer & fasting and paleo cooking.

I write constantly ... several journals for all moods, personal letters, home ed plans and records, encouragement and advice on online home ed groups.  I have a whole shelf full of partly-written books, plots and ideas which I might revisit when the time is right.  I have other blogs too, such as "GLOW" which is somewhat like a public journal, and a way to inspire and encourage others.

What are some things about you that you've never shared on your blog?

Time for the secrets to come out!!

In an interview for a job at a boarding school I was asked how qualified I was to coach rugby league (or some kind of football, ha ha) and I said "Does 12 years of ballet count?"

My children were both born prematurely, one predictably by caesarean 5.5 weeks early after a complicated pregnancy, one the other way 7.5 weeks early for no known reason.  Both were perfectly fine and beautifully cared for in NICU nurseries.

And ... I have travelled to Greece, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.  All were amazing, beautiful places.  The people are what made each trip extra special.  I still want to see many parts of Australia, Fiji and maybe New Zealand, but I am equally happy at home or in a library.

Links to your top blog posts

Like Renelle, I will simply say thanks for visiting my blog!
Please have a look around and let me know what you'd like to read more about.

Kind thoughts,