Sunday, 24 May 2015

This Week in Learning: May 24th, 2015

Hard to believe we are half way through Term 2 already, five weeks of study and nary a post have I shared. We have been learning, but I've been engaged in my usual struggle, record keeping, therefore only have snippets and reflections of the past five weeks to share.

Speech Therapy
  • Bass is having weekly lessons with a speech therapist which means I'm given 'homework' to do with him.  It's not onerous, nor time heavy, but it is one more thing on my to do list. sigh
  • Jelly Bean exploded into the world of reading at the end of Term 1.  She has continued to read an average of a book a day, reading her way through the Magic Ballerina books. Whilst they aren't 'high literature' they are indeed chapter books!:)  And even worthy of producing conversations about plots, and 'mis-casting' and the need for editors to proofread so 'sequence of events' are logical. So very thrilling to see her enthused about reading.
  • Jack Jack continues to be un-enthused about reading, he can and will do it if I 'corral' him, and I know daily practice is the only solution but I admit arguing gets tiring and there are days reading practice slips by the wayside.
  • Jem has the potential to wizz ahead if only he would spend 10 minutes a day consistently on All About Reading (yes it's that good) but he has the attention span 'of a flea'
  • Whilst Michelangelo and Princess are still reading too much twaddle, I have been assigning them a quality book a week and they are reading. Hooray! (see list below)

Family Read: (Younger Children)
Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Missing Novice - Karen Kelly Boyce. The younger children enjoyed, I find it odd and slightly irritating.
Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library - Chris Grabenstein. Abandoned after a couple of chapters, maybe the younger children are too young to appreciate?
History - John of the Sirius - Doris Chadwick Excellent! Dearly loved and nearly finished.

  • Taking a break from All About Spelling with the younger children and using Schonell's Spelling book instead.  A great little book, 3200 common words, grouped in families and an easy way for the children to build on their spelling skills. JB and JJ are ready to increase their 'weekly word count'. 
  • Princess has been focusing on lists of words for 'Secondary Students', a good stretch for my competent speller
  • Michelangelo Schonell AAS
  • Jack Jack still begins and continues his letters incorrectly. End result is neat but still....trying to get him to correct.
  • Jem should be practising more regularly but truth is I'm prioritising his Sacramental Preparation and reading at present.

  • Finally having the grammar lessons and conversations I've long dreamed of with the older children. Using an old text, English for Australian Schools - Ridout, Book 5 (Grade 11), I'm finding 'teaching' the lessons with the two of our teens together most effective. At this stage we are focusing on vocabulary and the words and exercises are a stretch, which is wonderful. I have an extensive vocabulary but some words have stretched me.  Using the older texts highlights the quality of education of yesteryear.
  • Continue to be happy with the older Australian grammar texts I'm using with Jelly Bean and Jack Jack, a great mix of focuses. Both children impress me with their understanding, I expected them to struggle with some concepts but they haven't, they often listen in to each other's lessons and contribute, they really enjoy grammar. 
  • I've tried to start Jem with grammar but really he's not ready, at this stage his time would be best spent focusing on his reading anyhow.
  • Have been using The Lively Art of Writing - Lucile Vaughan Payne with Michelangelo and Princess.  Reading through the chapters together and the children then doing the exercises. I've been most happy with their writing ability but the chapters are rather long and even though I'm skimming and condensing I know Princess in particular is finding it too much of a stretch, I'm losing her. In our last lesson we've been focusing on thesis statements and she's really not getting it, she's a couple of years younger than Michelangelo, which is a factor. My new plan is for me to pre-read the chapter and then just 'teach' the content in my words so she's not lost by the chapter end, as the concepts are brilliant.
  •  Encouraging the younger children to write a couple of short stories a week. For the boys I'm scribing, it encourages them to focus on story plots, sequence of events, probability (or not;)
  •  JB's writing voice has suddenly become more mature which is wonderful to see, I do wonder if there is a correlation between her independent reading and her writing maturity.  Is she writing better now she is immersing more in the written world? More aware of plots and development?
  • A few weeks back I made small simple paper books for the boys, one of those 'quick moments' that lead to a deep learning immersion. You can't plan those moments but you can jump aboard and enjoy the ride. JJ was so taken with his booklet that he became very engrossed in 'writing a book' for the next couple of weeks. Using the ladybird reader on the story of the Three Little Pigs, he copied much of the story but added twists and turns and planned a different ending. He lived and dreamed that book, taking it to bed with him, his constant companion, he'd regale us with what he planned to write when he got to the point of deviation.  He never actually finished the book, maybe one day, but a writer 'was born' during that period.
  • Sacramental Preparation for JJ and Jem using my plans. In a few short months JJ will be making his Confirmation and Jem his Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Lots of fascinating conversations with the children, such a privilege to prepare our children to receive their Sacraments. 
  • JB has been reading her way through Fr Lovasik's Picture Book of Saints. She has been fascinated by some of the Saints in particular, excitedly telling me all about them. (extra reading practice too, win, win;)
  • Saints biographies for Princess and has begun the Philadelphia Catholic in King James Court, she is finding it most interesting.
  • Michelangelo has begun the second book in the Beginning Apologetics Set, he is still loving  apologetics.

  • The three younger children have been concentrating on learning their times tables, with the assistance of youtube, though I admit hearing them rap out throughout the day "Yo bro, you know the score, 2 x 2 = 4" is a little disconcerting. 
  • All three are also feeling too challenged and therefore unmotivated to undertake their lessons, needing a little tlc, so I have been sitting with them and encouraging and walking them through the lessons. 
  • Princess 'hit a wall with her maths' so took herself back and is revising some of her work from her earlier years to find the missing pieces.  I'm impressed with her initiative and diligence.
  • Michelangelo has been focusing on statistics, tax fees etc
  • Princess has been learning about The World Environment: pollution, endangered animals, the effects of war on the environment and other environmental issues, she is finding it interesting and for a child who's not that interested in scientific matters that's rather exciting. 
  • Michelangelo has continued reading Science Matters (fantastic book) and watching youtubes on Quantam Mechanics. 
  • Reading through Wonderland of Nature by Nuri Mass with the younger children. They are rather engaged, particularly Jem. One day he announced that he'd "like to be a bee, a princess bee 'cause prince bees die quickly." Priceless conversations.  
  • Children focusing on learning the counties and capitals of various continents, the older children learnt all of South America and are now memorising African  nations. The younger children focused on Australia. Checked their knowledge with pop quizzes at the end of the weeks.
  • This then led to an interest in other map knowledge and now has evolved for some into flag knowledge too.  They have been deeply engaged in online geography games, an interactive, engaging way to learn with no tears:)
  • Reasonably happy with the couple of sites we are using but I wish they had sound for pronunciation. Anyone have any sites to recommend? 

  • Reading John of the Sirius - Doris Chadwick for Australian history with the younger children, as always excellent and dearly loved.  We're close to finishing and then plan to read the sequels. 
  • History for the older children has fallen to the wayside, so I need to keep my 'finger on the pulse' a little better with them.  Not overly worried though with Michelangelo as in the past he has devoured audios and books on history, he is a history buff, at present much of his energies are 'all things science'.  Princess however, whilst a living book fan does need to broaden her general knowledge. 
Creative Arts
  • Our local homeschool group has engaged a drama teacher this term and we are having weekly workshops.  The teacher is brilliant, the children are loving this opporutunity and we'll complete the Term with a play. 
  • Drawing as always is a passion with children
  • Extra curricula of dance lessons and soccer training are happening. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

8 Tips When Op- Shopping For Clothes

We purchased our first home via auction, a rather nerve wracking yet exhilarating experience. Flushed with success we began attending farm auctions and furnished our home with our finds, on a shoestring budget we were selective in our bidding. Eventually we were to also discover the world of garage sales, a story for another day.

Months after purchasing our home we were expecting our first babe, this was when I discovered the attraction of the op-shop hunt.  It wasn't long before I realised that one could dress yourself and your loved ones well by selectively searching for quality amongst the dross. Years on I've continued to maintain my passion for the hunt of a bargain and have learnt a few 'tricks of the trade' along the way.

  • Go regularly 
Making your rounds through the shops on a weekly basis will generally score you a great find or two, mid week's a good time as they've had time to sort and place out the weekend donations.
Being a home educating mama I'm not able to go regularly these days, so we make an occasion of it in the holidays, our 'girls day out' that we look forward to.

  • Better quality items in particular towns and suburbs
Some towns/suburbs have better quality items, though the pricing will be higher to reflect that.
Whilst our town of 20,000 has 8 op-shops it has a lower socio-economic population so the clothing reflects that.
Whenever I visit a nearby seaside town I try to visit the op-shop, the quality is better, though the pricing higher
  • Some op-shops are worth checking, some are not
After years of shopping there are some op-shops in our town I don't even bother checking. They never have the items or the quality I am looking for.
Yet there are other shops I check as often as I can and on our big day out we're likely to find a bargain or three, though bargain hunting comes with no guarantees.
In one shop I often find items for myself, in another I'm more likely to find articles for the children.

  • Be aware of, and utilise sale days and sales. 
In our town one shop reduces clothes to half price on Tuesdays, other shops periodically have
sales, either all clothes half price or $5 a bag, I can fit a huge amount in those bags;)

Opportunity Mindset
  • Never ignore a bargain 
Whilst you may be shopping for a particular item, if you see a quality item for another family member or one that you can use 'down the track' grab it.
ie when shopping for size 1 clothing for my baby, if I see a quality item in a size or two larger I buy it, particularly if the pricing is minimal.

Initial Foray
  • Cast your eye quickly along the racks
It comes with practice but you can learn to scan and save yourself time, particularly if shopping with children then you are a heat seeking missile.
  • Colours
Many shops kindly array ladies clothing via colours. In your initial scan you can gravitate immediately to the colours that complement you, skipping the ones that make you look unattractive.
If the shop isn't set up that way, don't even give colours that are not 'you' a second look.
  • Fabrics/Texture
Flipping through the potentials assess the fabrics, if it's not a fabric/texture you like then don't even bother removing from the rack.
  • Style
Does the style make you feel good? I now have a sense for what cut is flattering on me and what is not. Even though an article may hit my ticks on every other level I don't bother trying on the unflattering (for me) style.
  • Labels
Home in on quality labels, they last the distance and are most flattering.

Quality Control
  • Do a quality control check
Think you have a potential bargain? Do a quality control check or you will be disappointed when you discover the imperfections at home. Sometimes it may only require a simple repair that you are happy to undertake but its much nicer to know prior to purchase.
So what to check for?
  • Zippers
  • Waist elastic
  • Rips
  • Holes
  • Buttons
  • Collars
  • Pilling
  • Stains
  • Puckers/stretched fabric
  • Shiny spots
  • Can the outfit/material be altered to still be useful?
For many years I rejected clothing articles that were nearly but not quite right. It's only recently that I've discovered the world of upcycling (cool name) and realised that a simple alteration, or maybe major one, can transform a nearly to a match.
A snip here, a tuck there, a removal of a ruffle, a basting of a seam can make a nearly a match. Perhaps you can a rip an outfit totally apart to produce material for a whole new outfit, or you may score a doona case that can give you material for a project.
Ask yourself though, will you do it, if it's going to sit unaltered in your mending pile, leave it.

What about...
  • Underwear?
I never buy underwear, I mean really!
  • Shoes?
Be very selective. I have scored brand new or barely worn shoes, I'm comfortable with that. But I won't purchase worn shoes, someone else's foot impression, not a good idea.
  • Cleanliness?
Most shops wash all clothes before placing on racks.  I always rewash though when I come home, I prefer to know the clothes are clean, and we're a scent free household and mostly they smell of scented washing powder.

*Do you enjoy a good bargain hunt? Any tips to add?
Are you now inspired to 'give it a go'? Do share your finds, I always love hearing of a bargain.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Mother's Day Reality

* This 'letter' was inspired by a conversation with a family member, a 'Young Mum' of two small children.
I began writing three years ago on Mother's Day night, never completed and it has sat in drafts all this time. Polishing and publishing now as I feel my reflections are still relevant.

Dear 'Young Mum',
I've been thinking about your phone call tonight, when you rang to wish me a "Happy Mother's Day" you shared your disappointment of how your secret hopes for the day with your two little ones hadn't eventuated, that you didn't have the day of mothering dreams. You then kindly inquired of me "How was your Mother's Day?" and I responded "Great." Reflecting afterwards I realised my response wasn't helpful, nor supportive, whilst I choose to focus on the positive when I answered, by not divulging the full picture I possibly added to your disheartened feeling. I may have given a false impression that my children, husband and life must all be 'perfect.' The truth is my day wasn't entirely "great," it was made up of great and not so great moments and emotions, a kaleidoscope, a reflection of my life.

 Mother's Day 2012
The full picture? My day started at 4am with a child who wet his bed, which then necessitated a shower. Whilst he was enjoying his steamy shower and warming up I was freezing and shivering in thin pajamas and bare feet, tired and keen to get my feet off the tiles I sat on the toilet seat lid and .... cracked it!! When I finally managed to stagger back to bed and fall asleep again, I nurtured a hope I might be able to manage a sleep in, a forlorn hope. Yet my heart couldn't help but melt when the same child, our three year old sat up in my bed at 6am, yes of course he went back to sleep in our bed, and excitedly wished me, "Happy Birthday Mother's Day Mummy. "  I then discovered there were actually now four children in bed with us, coming in sometime between 4.30am and 6am and I hadn't even been aware of most 'arrivals.' 
*These days we no longer wake to several children in our bed and oddly enough some mornings we miss those moments

We'd attended Mass together the night before, which I tell our children is the greatest gift they can give me, not that we often go separately but one day they will be grown, so for now I treasure these years. Though we were missing one for the first time, with our girl far away, however we still I had a pew full.
*Sadly as the children have left home our 'ranks' are indeed thinner and our pew isn't quite as full.

This year (2012) was our first celebration of Mother's Day without our oldest daughter as she had left home for College. Her presence was keenly missed on many levels. However I viewed it as an opportunity for the younger children to 'step up,' as it eventuated it was also an 'opportunity' for my blood pressure to rise several times. Mother's Day morning the children were to set the table with the 'special food' whilst I headed for the shower and some 'time to myself' which I was looking forward to. A 'not so great' moment erupted right outside the bathroom door and teenage son's room, when two small boys had a screaming fight. With them wailing and teen snapping because they had rudely awoken him, and it is rare for him to lose it, I abandoned shower plans, marched said children up to their father, who was still abed, grrr, snapped at him and marched back to showers where I regathered my equilibrium. Because by golly this was going to be a happy day.
*Said teen has now left home and I'd be happy to have him back home snapping any day

Mother's Day 2012
Breakfast was eventually organised, though some missed the point on a few areas a little, like waiting for the guest of honor, did I mention I missed my oldest girl? Still I had to give points for trying and this was going to be a happy day. The day progressed, I spent a happy hour on the phone with my daughter, from whom the most beautiful gift arrived a day later, so thoughtful it made me cry:)
*As time has passed the children who didn't wait are now the children who organised my mother's day this year and made me 'Queen for the Day'

At 12pm I snapped, obviously my children didn't see the state of the house, it never occurred to them to magically clean it as a gift for me, did I mention I missed our girl?  Mother Drill Sargent 'arrived', I rallied the troops and set them to cleaning, whilst there were grumbles they mostly set to with a will. The lack of initiative is soo frustrating at times, though they are excellent at working once the task is set.
*Today initiative makes an appearance far oftener, ah maturity how I love thee

Traditionally in our home I enjoy a picnic for mother's day.  Now there's a whole food mystique surrounding mother's day, a lot of expectations and rituals centered on food. Many mothers long for a 'day off' from meal preparation, realistically, if we are lucky we may not have to prepare the meals but the majority of mothers will still have to plan and shop for their mother's day groceries.  Your man and your children are not mind readers, if you have something special in mind for your day and want it to happen, best plan is to pre-shop for it yourself, it took me a few years of motherhood to realise this. Our loved ones are happy to do their best on the day but prior shopping will make the world of difference between success and disappointment. As I'd previously shopped for a simple picnic lunch it was only a matter of the children packing the bag.  Blood pressure control was needed again as the children took an inordinate time to pack, obviously missing big sister's organisation skills, however younger sister (10) did a good job of 'stepping up' and a big brother helped. Another teen was asked to clean the van, whilst he wasn't happy to do the job he said not a word (ah maturity 'how I love thee':) frustratingly another child annoyed me by readying himself but didn't help nor think of others and then gave me attitude. However I sorted it all out and settled back to my happy frame of mood.
*The child who didn't think of others is today my 'right hand man', he truly is impressive

Mother's Day 2012
We headed down to our local tennis courts and enjoyed a few games of tennis in the sunshine, an activity which we enjoy yet don't do often. As we lingered over our picnic lunch together I realised how lovely it was to 'step out of our rut' and take the time to enjoy one another's company.
*Three years later the picnic at the tennis courts and Anna Maria's phone call and gift is the only part of the day I would have remembered, if it wasn't for my draft notes

When we came home I made dinner, with help. Most years the children take on this responsibility yet they didn't this year but I didn't mind as I'd had a lovely day.

All these years later I can't remember how the day ended (obviously I didn't jot that down in drafts) but I assume a mixture of great and not so great moments. 'Young Mum' I hope that by fully divulging my "great" you take heart, you are not alone, the reality is motherhood is a kaleidoscope, and truly it is "great."

*Years have passed and Mother's Day this year was celebrated without three of our children; one is 'across the seas', currently in London, two sons live in Sydney. Holding onto these years, they are moving fast.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Podcast Interview With...Me

Anybody who knows me knows I love to chat, I'm an extrovert, I become energized by conversation with others; my husband, my children, friends, strangers or even myself ;) I often come away buzzed, thinking, mulling and chatting about our conversation.

So when Pam from Homeschool Snapshots Podcast asked if I would be a guest speaker, explaining all I needed to do was talk, I was in, talk is something I can do. Pam and I chatted away just as if we were sitting together on my verandah, looking over the bush having a cuppa together. We discussed; home education with many of all ages, the importance of good habits (always a work in progress), our favourite family read alouds and how to nurture mama.

Grab a cuppa or a cool glass of water and join us, if nothing else you can laugh at my Aussie accent. I really didn't think I had one but 'blow me down' I can hear it, I have an accent. Pam says I sound a little like 'Crocodile' Dundee and she's right!
After you've joined us Pam has plenty of other podcasts you may also like to check out.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

My Daybook: May 5th, 2015

Outside my window...
the daylight is waning, night falls earlier in autumn

I am thankful...
that we do not have major earthquakes here in Australia. Our thoughts are with the dead, grieving and homeless in Nepal, praying that Nepal receives all the aid they need, and fast

I am thinking...
about the future direction of my blog? You helped by participating in the survey back in January, it was wonderful to hear your voice.  Truthfully though I've continued to feel a bit 'stale' and have done so for some time, eight and a half years is a long time to blog. Whilst I'm committed to continue writing, I am mulling what direction to take from here. Mostly I'm thinking about "What is my talent, my passion, what knowledge can I share, what do I have to offer?"

Learning all the time...
it's now the third week of Term 2 and we have settled into our lesson rhythm. We've tweaked the plans a little here and there, 'axing' an idea or two, changing a resource or three, all par for the course. This is how it's happened for years, I have ideas, the children have ideas, I write a collaboration and then, reality meets dreams and we adapt a little more

Celebrating the liturgical year......
it's all about Sacramental preparation at this stage. Preparing Jem for his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion and Jack Jack for his Confirmation. The Big Day is in September and we are striving to be well prepared

From the kitchen...
adding a little more variety to our menu, rotating meals on a fortnightly basis instead of a weekly plan. Also applying a few budgeting principles including addressing food wastage and portion size. When Anna Maria and Einstein left home earlier this year our portion needs drastically reduced, we've cut sizing some but we're still over allocating

I am creating...
skirts:)  Turning 'excess skirts into flattering', loving the ease and speed of creating a new skirt, enjoying being slightly creative again, turning something un-useful to the useful. Upcycling, such a cool word:)

I am working on...
yard cleaning. It's curbside pickup in a fortnight's time and we're hauling all sorts of 'junk' down for collection. It's fun seeing what the 'neighbours' have already taken, the bike pile was the first to go

I am going...
to speech lessons with Bass weekly, for at least this Term if not longer.  Working on fricatives to begin with, starting with s and f , he is correcting already, most impressed. Next week he'll begin to put these into sentences

I am hoping...
that my pile of missing books miraculously turn up.  How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking all lost months ago, last noted in a car returning from Sydney.  I worry that somehow they were left behind in a petrol station car park, I just can't imagine how, but missing they are.  I'm just praying them home, it's happened before, I've prayed books home, it could happen again

I am praying...
  • for our niece, she was in a car accident, physically okay but sore, but emotionally not good
  • for our Anna Maria far away in London
  • for our Einstein, that he finds full time work. He has a part time job but needs more hours
  • for our Carpenter, that he finds part time work. Sadly the swim school he was an instructor for has been forced to close and so he is in search of work 
So if any of my Sydney readers know of anything?? 

I am pondering....
how our home education journey has changed from when we began, how it looks so different to what I envisaged and fantasising about how it would look if we only had two children, close in age....

I am reading...
a pile of library reservations, 'books about books', I haven't found any great finds yet, nothing as good as the ones we discussed here, I mean any book compilation that recommends 'The Day My B*m Went Physco' meets my throw pile fast.

I am listening to......
the Read Aloud Revival podcasts, finally.  Michelangelo showed me how to download and transfer to my MP3 (well to PC's), it was all easy and I love, love, love listening to all the passion, knowledge and inspiration

I am hearing...
our children practising their play parts. Our local home education group has hired a drama teacher, who is brilliant, and a passion for all things drama has sprouted

I am struggling...
logistically, trying to juggle the needs of our younger children and our teens. Getting closer though to 'nailing it' time wise, designating two days a week where I focus mainly on the younger three children, another two days where the focus is mostly on the older two, I feel as if I'm finding my 'mojo' again:):)

Clicking around...
Kate shares How to Create Your Own YouTube Channel, brilliant!
Sarah shares Great Booklists for Read Aloud Families, inspirational

Around the house...
over the holidays I de-cluttered big time, every single room:) The house is easier to clean and it's such a wonderful feeling.  Part of the project was to finally deal with the conglomeration of: DVDs, gaming discs, CDs and computer discs. Many were already stored in DVD/CD folder cases but we splurged on a couple of aluminium boxes and PC spent many hours sorting, order is now restored:) The boxes are a little flimsy so not sure that I would recommend them , but we'll see how it goes.

One of my favorite things...
op-shopping (thrift) scores.  Not only did I strike it rich a few weeks back with a pile of skirts and dresses for myself that only needed some alterations to work, but last week and this, I have scored with a pile of clothes for $5 a bag, and let me tell you I'm the Queen of bag filling.  Each week by judicious folding I've managed to squeeze at least 20 articles of clothing in each time, I'm good;) Beautiful jeans, jackets, shirts, pajamas, what a bargain!

A few plans for this week...
off to a book sale this Friday with Princess, a girls' morning out and I'm rather excited:) It's been over a year since I've been to this particular one, so there might be some goodies there, or maybe not, it's always a gamble

A little peek at my day...
  • we managed some lessons this morning, plan was to work a little harder than usual as speech lessons yesterday ate into our time
  • however I then realised Jelly Bean needed to attend the fracture clinic this week, we drove in only to realise I was a day early:( Groundhog day tomorrow, sigh
  • book study this afternoon with my dear friends, we're studying Consider This, we read, we take notes and then we come together and share thoughts. I gain so much wisdom and support from these two dear friends who have been home educating as long as, and longer than I.  I'm blessed indeed. 
  • Tap and Jazz lessons for two of our children