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,