Category Archives: homeschooling

Learning doesn’t stop for the holidays

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First day of school holidays here in Queensland but as most homeschoolers will know, natural learning just doesn’t stop for the holidays. In fact, we have had a very productive day in our house today.
My youngest son is getting very excited that Easter is almost here. He had the idea that we should have an Advent style calendar to count down to Easter. OK, I know he was only after the chocolate, but never one to miss an educational opportunity, I told him that we could make a countdown calendar if he could find a way to incorporate some writing into it.
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This turned out to be a very good plan. This very reluctant writer was hard at work copying the days of the week onto his countdown calendar in no time.

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He used an egg carton to make the countdown calendar, by simply cutting the lid into sections for each day of the week (unfortunately that only gave us 6 days, but we decided we didn’t need to count Easter Sunday). A small Easter egg was placed in each section.

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He was pretty pleased with the end product. This would be a great activity to do with children for learning the days of the week. Different treats could be used – lollies, stickers, lego blocks etc, and you could count down the days to any upcoming event such as a birthday, outing or just the weekend.
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I am making some Artist’s books at the moment and using a lot of leather in them. This gave him his next idea. He decided to cover an old sketch book in leather and turn it into a ‘Professor’s Journal’.
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He is now busy filling the journal with pictures of amazing imaginary animals that the Professor has discovered.
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A lot of reading is going on in our house at the moment. My 12 year old son is loving the Skulduggery Pleasant series. In fact these books have taken him from being an ‘I’ll read if I have to’ reader to an ‘always has his nose in a book’ reader. I highly recommend them. He has almost polished this one off in 2 days.
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I was excited to find the ‘Hey Jack’ series in KMart today. It is quite common for natural learners to learn to read much later than their school based peers. In fact there are many natural learners who have not started reading until they were 10 or 12years old, but have then been reading novels within a couple of weeks. The one problem this does cause is that when they are first learning, they do not want to read the simple picture books that are designed for beginner readers. That’s why it is always great when you can find novels with nice simple writing – just what these kids need to help build their confidence. The Hey Jack series have very easy language and not too much writing, while still having that look of being a novel.
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Another recent find was the Mega Mash Up Series. I found these ones at the Museum gift shop. Once again, it is a series that looks like a novel but has not too much writing, although there are some quite difficult words.
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These books have the added fun of being a ‘draw your own adventure’. All the pictures have sections of drawings that can be filled in, with great open ended suggestions that allow for lots of creative thinking and drawing.

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Do you watch Letters and Numbers? It is a game show on SBS where people try to make the longest word they can out a selection of letters, then they get a selection of numbers which
they have to use in a calculation that equals the target number. Our family love watching it and trying to beat the contestants. If you haven’t seen the show the latest episode is on their website here.
We were pretty excited to find that there is also a series of Letters and Numbers puzzle books.
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We are all hard at work now training for the show. You never know, one day we might be the lucky contestant who walks away with the Macquarie Dictionary prize!
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Seriously though, I couldn’t have planned a better maths lesson. My daughter and my middle son spent an hour or two working through the puzzles tonight. I think we’ll have to keep practicing to get up to the impressive speed of the contestants though.
Well, that pretty much wraps up the first day of the holidays for us. It was a day full of playing, making, reading and having fun, but please, just don’t tell them they were actually learning!
Happy Holidays,
Sharee
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Fishing and Modified Haiku

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My youngest son is happy now, I finally took him fishing. He loves fishing, but I always put off taking him as long as I can. You see my problem is that I really don’t like killing things. I read that the most humane way to kill a fish is to stab it straight through the top of it’s head, but I just don’t know if I could bring myself to do that. I have visions of the fish still being alive and flapping wildly and me trying to stab it over and over again to get just that right spot in it’s brain that will put it out of it’s misery. We have been fishing quite a few times, and I have been grateful so far that all the fish we have caught have been undersize, so we can watch them in our bucket for a little while then let them go again. But I know the day is going to come when we actually catch a big fish and then I’ll have to do something with it – gulp!

I have a real moral dilemma when it comes to fishing. I hate to hurt things and kill things, but I do love the outdoor family time that we get when we go fishing. I think this is so good for my kids, so I’m willing to sacrifice a few fish in the process (sorry fish).

I do the best I can do to make it as easy on the fish as I can. I have read that you should crimp the barb on your hook by squashing it flat with a pair of pliers, so we always do this. This makes it a lot easier to remove the hook from undersize fish without hurting them, and also makes it more likely that the hook will come out naturally if they happen to take your hook.

The other things that we do are to lift the fish up out of the water with a net as soon as possible, rather than just pulling it up with all it’s weight on the hook, and we try to make sure our hands are wet before handling the fish, or use a damp towel. A pair of pliers is always handy to make sure you can get the hook out as quickly and cleanly as possible.

The boys also had a lot of fun collecting water bugs and little fish to look at while they were waiting for the fish to bite. Is was quite interesting today as we were fishing in a channel in a housing estate. The channel fed from the sea, but also receives fresh water, so there was an interesting mix of salt tolerant water bugs and fresh water tolerant fish.

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The good thing about fishing is that while you are sitting there waiting for the fish to bite, you can always fit in a bit of drawing or writing. It’s a great way to get some schoolwork done in a fun way – the joys of homeschooling.

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We have been writing a few Haiku poems this week, so this fitted in perfectly with our fishing theme.

Haiku poems are great for beginners or reluctant writers because they don’t have many words and they are pretty easy to write.
Traditionally, a Haiku poem is made up of three lines with, the first line has 5 syllables, the second has 7 syllables and the third has 5 syllables. This can be a little daunting for kids though. All that thinking about syllables blocks off their creative brains.

A good way to start with kids is with a modified haiku. In the modified Haiku you have a short line, then a longer line, then another short line, but don’t worry too much about the syllables. If you read lots of Haiku poems to the kids before they start writing you will find that often they pick up the rhythm anyway, so their poems will be pretty close to the correct format without needing to count all the syllables. Even if they’re not correct, they are still being creative and writing so that’s all good.

Here are a couple of poems by Zac

Cheese is nice
Some cheese are supposed to be mouldy
I still like cheese.

Games are fun
I like playing games with my friends
I wish I had more friends

Real Life Writing – Zines

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Have you heard about Zines?
Zines are small, home made, limited run periodicals. A huge range of topics are covered in Zines.
The first Zines started way back in the 1930s as fan magazines for fantasy and science fiction buffs. In the 70s zines were popular within the punk music scene, and in the 90s women’s rights were a popular theme. Over the last two decades the popularity of Zines has grown particularly among alternative thinking young people and there are hundreds of different Zines available today.
For a better description from someone who know much more about Zines than me, have a look at this article

I am always on the lookout for fun ‘real life’ writing experiences for my boys, so I was pretty excited when I discovered Zines. I think that publishing a Zine is a great project for children, adults or as a family.

To get my children inspired, the first thing I did was order about 6 Zines from Sticky Institute which is a Zine Distro (distribution centre). I just ordered mine off the website, but if you are in Melbourne, drop in to Sticky and check them out. I tried to select Zines that would be of interest to my boys – you need to be a little bit careful as some of the Zines would have content that is not suitable for children, but I’m sure the staff at Sticky would be happy to advise if you are not sure.
Here is a link to the Sticky Institute Website. There are other Zine Distros around Australia and you will find a list of these on the Sticky website.

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Our next step was to brainstorm ideas for topics that we could make a Zine about.

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I thought we should start by working on one Zine as a family, but Zac was pretty keen to make his own. We selected our topics, then another brainstorm generated ideas for stories and articles.
Z ac decided to make his Zine about Electronic Game reviews, and Axel and I decided ours would be about Minecraft Tips, Pets and Comics!

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After this we all selected a topic for our first article and got to work.
Hopefully we will have some finished products soon.

If your family get into making some Zines and you would like to sell them, you can send them to a Distro like Sticky where they will put them in their shop for sale. This is a great incentive for my boys and really helps to make this a real life writing experience.

Get creative and have fun with Zines!

All the best,
Sharee

Natural Learning Falling Into Place

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Homeschooling is a nice place to be when everything just falls into place. It’s been like that for us these last couple of weeks. School has gone back this week in Queensland, but I’m not pushing my boys into their bookwork just yet. I really want to put some energy into natural learning for a while first and see how we go this term. If the boys start complaining that it’s boring or they don’t want to do anything I suggest, that’s when I usually throw all my good intentions out the window and bribe them to do their books. It’s all going well so far though.
The boys have been loving the Horrible History series in TV since we moved to Brisbane, and I have too. It is a great educational show, very clever and funny – a must view for homeschoolers (I know you all discovered it years ago!). I was just thinking that we should follow up with some history activities for our homeschooling when I heard a lady on the radio talking about Knight School. A quick internet search and I found this info…

“Knight School courses provide an excellent opportunity for parents and children to learn about and participate in knightly pursuits of the Middle Ages in a fun and active way.Participants will be trained in the art of combat by our experienced instructors using safe, rubberised weapons and shields, and leather helmets and you will be thrilled by our own knights engaging in battle with each other using real weapons and armour in a traditional knightly combat display.”

Perfect!
So the boys both headed off to Knight School which amazingly went for an entire day.

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They both loved it and can’t wait for next holidays when they can attend the Knight School Master Class where they get to fight with even more serious looking weapons.

Ok, so now we have two boys who are pretty enthusiastic about Medieval History, well at least the fighting part of it. I am trying to get the boys more active too, as they’re not really into team sports, so sword fighting is a great physical activity that they can both enjoy together – hopefully without too many injuries.
We already have a couple of wooden swords that their Pa made, but for serious battles we need some decent strong shields.
This is a bit of a challenge for us as wood work is definitely not my strong point, but I think it will be good for us to have a challenge.
We started by looking at some shield making demos on You Tube. Then I had to go out for a short while and when I got back there were the boys working on their designs.

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They had also cut patterns for their shields out of newspaper. What a great start – gotta love those homeschooling days!

A trip to Bunnings for supplies and we were set. The pictures tell the story…

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The boys were both very pleased with their finished shields. Unfortunately there hasn’t been any sword fighting going on because no one wants to risk damaging their shields lol.

Where to from here?
Some ideas of other things we might do,
– find out more about medieval history, reading, movies, timelines, project type display
– medieval buildings, food, weapons
– build a catapult, bow and arrows
– look at other types of swords/weapons in history
– go to Fencing Club and learn fencing
– Medieval Festival

Lots of fun to be had there.

If anyone has any great ideas for Medieval books, movies or activities that might be suitable please let me know so I can add them to the list.

All the best,
Sharee

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Reverse that Garbage!

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Well, if you are short of ideas to keep the kids busy in the school holidays, and you happen to live in Brisbane, Reverse Garbage is the place to go.
Reverse garbage is a not for profit agency that accepts donations of offcuts and excess items from industry, and then sells these for a very reasonable price to the public for art and craft work and I’m sure lots of other uses as well.
We had so much fun when we went there, after the initial stress of finding the place and then finding a park in the very crowded very skinny back street.
There are so many goodies – tiles, plastic offcuts, acrylic letters, wood, leather, fabric, bottles, lino samples, even Egyptian Artefacts!

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It was great for me because I was looking for some bits and pieces for an art project I am working on. I came home with leather scraps, glass pipettes, a very solid cardboard box and 6 of these really cool small plastic storage containers. Zac came home with all the supplies he needed to make a whip and a staff, Bianca had a bag of elastic and Axel had an Egyptian Sarcophagus!

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Lots of creative fun to be had here.