Tag 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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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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Neglected blogs and busy lives

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Dear Blog,
I am sorry I have neglected you. We have been busy, in a lazy stay at home, do things that you love, kind of way. It gets to this stage of the holidays and I feel like I am really on top of everything – house is tidy, bills are paid, meals are planned, exercise done, artwork is in full swing. Unfortunately I know from experience that it all ends next week when school goes back, and we go back to juggling schooly stuff, and homeschool groups and after school activities, so I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Here are some things that we have been doing in our house…

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I have been doing lots of fabric dying experiments. I am going to use these pieces to make a birthday present for my son’s girlfriend. I have just tried a technique using flour paste from Jane Dunnewold’s book Art Cloth, and I loved the results.

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This is one of my favourite pieces. It was tie dyed and then I added a mono print using dye paste.

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I am planning to do some more work on these pieces using discharge paste today and then maybe some printing.

The other thing I have been experimenting with is encaustic work. I borrowed Encaustic Workshop by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch from the local library and was so inspired by it that I rushed out and bought some basic encaustic supplies. Encaustic is painting with wax, and all you really need to get started is a bag of wax and a heat gun, so it’s fairly cheap. I really enjoyed the technique and I can see lots of potential for using this technique in some of my artist’s books, especially the Specimens series that I am working on at the moment.

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My boys have been creative too. Axel raided my box of sculpture goodies and came up with a beetle and a dog – gorgeous!

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And Zac made this cool bug, notice he has a tiny antenna so he can be remote controlled.

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And while they had the gear out I made another crab and added some updates to some of the older ones.

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Not to be left out, my teenage daughter made a doorstop and this gorgeous bunting using vintage fabrics.

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Gotta love creative days of summer. I hope your summer is creative too.
All the best,
Sharee

Holiday’s over

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My boys have been on ‘moving holidays’ for quite a while now. Three months ago when my husband Greg came up to Brisbane and I was left in Mt Gambier getting the house sorted out I decided that it would be easier if I didn’t have to think too much about ‘school work’ so I told them that helping me to pack and sorting out their stuff would be their work for the time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love natural learning. For my older son particularly natural learning was so well, natural. He was so eager to learn and always had ideas for his next project or thing that he wanted to find out about. As long as we had lots of resources and books and went to the library a lot, he was pretty happy. For the younger two however, it’s a different story. Their days seem to be largely filled with waiting around until 4pm when they are allowed to have their screen time. I hear “I’m bored” so often now it makes up for never hearing it once while the older two were growing up. I usually counter this by telling them that it is their choice to be bored and has nothing to do with me, because you just know you could give them 100 ideas of things to do and nothing would be appealing when they are in that mood. Admittedly, there is a little bit of lego building, and a few discussions, and a limited amount of book reading or drawing and these are all great educational activities. But mostly there is niggling, and poking, and touching people with dirty feet, and wrestling games that always lead to someone getting hurt, and other things that kids do when they’re bored, and that just doesn’t work for me.
Believe me, I have tried, and will always continue to try, to encourage their natural learning with suggestions, role modelling, providing exciting resources and trying to identify their passons, but this gets pretty exhausting, especially when all your fantastically exciting suggestions are met with groans and straight out refusals.
So, we do book work. We do book work because I need to know that they are doing something educational (although I fully accept that bookwork is about the lowest form of ‘educational’ you can get). We do bookwork because sometimes I just need to make it easier for myself. And we do bookwork because it fills up some of the time in their day and seems to make them use their free time more wisely.

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After three months of ‘moving holidays’ I am really wanting to get them back into a homeschooling routine, so even though it is only 3 weeks until Christmas and we have friends coming to stay and then Grandma coming to stay, I said on Monday morning, “holiday’s over” and pulled out their new workbooks. Amazingly, there wasn’t even too much complaining and even Axel co-operated and finished the page. The new books we have are ‘Homework Contracts’ which I quite like because they have a little bit of spelling, grammar, maths and science/sose on each page.

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Of course we’re not just doing workbooks, but our homeschooling is a bit more structured. We have also been looking at and collecting different seed pods and now Axel is growing some bean seeds. He decided to put one in a dark place, one in a semi dark place and one in the sun, so we will see the difference as they grow.

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Another thing we have been doing is recording the phases of the moom. Although the kids said they didn’t want to do this, they have often pointed out how the moon has changed so that I can add it to the chart on the whiteboard.
We played the game ‘Spellbound’ which is a great board game. I nearly got rid of it when we moved, pulling it out of the op shop pile at the last minute, and I am glad i did because the boys actually asked to play it this morning. It’s a good one because each card has words at 4 different levels so we can all play it together just spelling the words at our own level. The boys can even make it harder for me by using the list if long and tricky words that is on the box – some of them really had me thinking!

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Another game we are enjoying at the moment is the Lego game ‘Shave the Sheep’. To be honest, We have been pretty disappointed with the Lego games we have bought in the past, but this little one is really cute and simple and lots of fun. We have played it lots and we all have favourite names to give our little sheep.

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I’m pretty sure our homeschooling routine will crumble pretty quickly with the excitement of Christmas coming up, but at least for this week it is feeling good.
I hope you are having fun with your kids too.
All the best,
Sharee