Friday, January 31, 2014

Ready to Strew

A year of so ago I came across, what was to me, a new home educating ... strewing. A blogging friend in Aussie mentioned, in one of her blog postings, that she does this with her kids so I had to look into it further as it sounded so interesting.

For those who are new to this term. "Strew is defined by Mirriam Webster as: "to spread by scattering". It was brought into homeschooling, and specifically unschooling, terminology by Sandra Dodd (a  homeschooler) when she said: "I just strew their paths with interesting things" at a meeting she was attending. The term stuck.

Strewing simply means to place objects in the path of kids without any expectation, coercion, or force of use. When a new passion is sparked, you can continue to explore it via books, online, documentaries, board games, experiments and especially one-on-one discussions.

Strewing is about more than just placing physical objects, though. The intention behind strewing is to inspire curiosity that leads to learning; but we don’t need to limit that inspiration to physical items like books, pictures, objects or toys. Curiosity could also be inspired by a field trip or other form of exposing our kids to new experiences.

Well since reading about strewing I have been itching to start doing some myself. Finally, yes finally, I was able to make some space and set up an area to use. Note, you don't need a specific area, I just wanted it in the school room in view of the kiddlings and out of a certain chewing pups reach (thank you very much RORY!)  

And here is my wee area ... I am using my sewing table (also a gift many, many years ago from my mother-in-law). I will change the pictures every so often. The girls watched me put these up on the wall and were simply nagging me to death to know who the artist was, which was a little disconcerting as I was trying to hammer in some hooks so as to hang them in a straight line. I think, when I change the pictures next time, I will do it when they are in bed, it will be more of a surprise then too. I really love the Mary Cassatt pictures, that I printed, so am not actually looking forward to changing them.

I have some books on there, current affairs (Nelson Mandela), and a boomerang (we are studying Australia this term), and some other nick knacks. Every so often I plan to remove something and replace it with something else. Possibly a CD, something I find on one of our nature walks, a book, a statue, something they can make up like a model, a recipe, or whatever else I can think of.

Just quietly, I am  pretty pleased with it. It will be interesting to see what my kiddlings pick up and explore and what they ignore.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why I Continue to Home Educate

Late last year I really lost my enthusiasm or energy to home educate. Towards the end of term three I was exhausted, suffering with anxiety attacks and basically had a case of burnout. Not because of homeschooling, it was just one more thing on my place. On the very last day of term I hit an all time low and even went so far as to enquire with schools about the girls doing their final term at those that looked good.

Unfortunately you cannot talk to many people when you are struggling with homeschooling. People who have never done it or really understand your reasoning for it see the answer as simply "well put them in school" and some homeschool people are quite the opposite. They somehow see it as though you are letting the side down if you even contemplate placing the kids in school.

I am lucky that I have a few very open minded homeshooling friends who listen, do not judge and see the merits of both styles of educating their children and offer calm and rational advice. Thanks Mere and Jo for listening and encouragement and helping me summon some energy to take on another term. Sometimes I think all we need is someone to listen to us moan and get it out of our system.

I am so glad that I didn't place the girls in a school, as even though I probably didn't do as well as I normally would that last term, I think I would have regretted putting the girls into a school on the spur of a moment and it really wouldn't have solved my problems. Don't get me wrong I am not at all anti-school, my girls may yet end up at one but, I don't want to jump in and make a decision just because I was having a rough time of things and needed some rest. It really wouldn't have made much of a difference to my situation.

Early this year I decided I needed to refocus on why I want to homeschool ...

1. We like being able to exercise in the mornings before we sit down to do book work. We can take a walk, bike ride, or play a game on the lawn if the mood takes. In winter we can stay warm and work out indoors.

2. I don't have to yell at them to get ready in the morning and be in a rush ... I am so not a morning person and whilst we do start work early we don't waste time with travel, etc. so I can have that little bit more of a relaxed morning and we can all sit down to a leisurely breakfast each morning and chat about the day ahead.

3. I don't have to kiss them good bye each day ... I love their little faces and would miss them if they were gone all day every day. They will be flying the nest soon enough so I cannot regret all the time we get to spend together in the meantime.

4. Our lunches are more healthier, not to mention taste fresh and we can even have hot meals. The children even take turns to make something for us all, so they end up being responsible for what they (we) are eating rather than what I send them off with. Life skills are as important, if not more, than subject mastery.

5. We can have pyjama days if we want to ... especially in winter!

6. If a curriculum or schedule is not working, I don’t need the principal’s approval to change it. Just do it and move on. Keeping the schedule flexible prevents burnout for both parent and child.

7. We can buy quality and funny school supplies and not fear them losing them at school. We can write in coloured pens and they can be furry, fuzzy, etc. not just plain old blue or black pens. 

8. I don't have to be involved in cake stalls, school fairs and other fund raising events. You get enough of those things at the extra clubs that kids belong too.

9. Because any day can be declared a school holiday.

10. We can focus on our education and do not need to consider other children's requirements or misbehaviour, etc.

11. I get to witness that moment when the light goes on in a certain subject or they master something. It's like watching them take their first steps over and over again. Why would I want someone else to witness all their firsts.

12. Because if my kids want to be quirky that's fine. We embrace quirkiness and individuality around here!

13. I want my children to learn to be community minded, and avoid learning mindless acts like standing in line.

14. I love that they can ask all kinds of questions without feeling ridiculed or mocked. I have noticed that young children ask a million questions a day and never fear being mocked but start to lose that after a while at school. I want them to think outside the square!

15. We can move at their pace and not have to wait for others to catch up, and they don't get dragged along before a subject is properly learnt. They can also be at any level in any subject and not have to be at the same levels for everything based on their ages. They can really move ahead in areas that they are advanced or have gifts in.

16. "We eat lots of nuts and because we have no allergies here, can eat them and any nut related products without any issues or warnings!" I saw this one somewhere else and it made me laugh!

17. Because the world IS our classroom; we can study at home in our school room, out on the tramp, down the lake, in town at a park, by the beach, at a museum or anywhere else for that matter. In winter we often lie by the fire in bean bags doing our work.

18. We can have as many living and quality books as we want and not just one old boring and dry text book and we don't have to do a lot of "busy work". IE copying lots of writing down.

19. Because we can use technology, like our lap tops, tablets, as much as we want to complement our learning.

20. I like that my kids are socialised in the truest sense of the word and not simply peer socialised. Socialization is a natural process that doesn’t require force.

21. Because I want my children to love reading and we can all snuggle up on the couch and still have family reads each day. I can excite and entice them by knowing their reading interests and loves.

22. Because the Papa doesn't work a regular 9 - 5, five day a week job. He can sometimes go weeks without getting a weekend off. Sometimes we take our weekend during the week to spend time with him and spend our weekend catching up on our bookwork. Spending time with their dad is more important than sitting in a classroom away from him for weeks at a time.

23. We as parents get to teach them about sex, drugs, etc. and not have someone else's beliefs and ideals imposed on them. I know my children best and how much and what they are ready to know. Just because they turn a certain digit doesn't mean they are emotionally mature to understand something nor is it better coming from a stranger.

24. Because I love that my daughters get to develop a strong and loving relationship, although there are still days when they bicker like crazy!

25. I can hire as many excellent and caring private tutors as I want to, to teach subjects that I may not be that great at. I need only consult my budget.

26. They can develop their own fashion sense not based on what everyone else is wearing. My youngest spent her first years at the school table dressed up in a costume! I had a mermaid, clown, princesses, spider man, fairy, you name it, arrive each morning. My favourite was when she started swimming, she would turn up in her bathers, goggles and swim cap!

27. Because we have met the most wonderful homeschool families, who have become dear friends. I am yet to come across a homeschooled child who is a bad influence on my girls!

28. Because we can cover subjects comprehensively that we feel important, like grammar, Latin, history, geography, physics, and cover them at any age that suits us.

29. Because they are not forced into using a curriculum that may be way out of date. I have heard friends say nostalgically that their kids have brought home books that they used to use. I am not really sure if I want my kids using texts that I did 30 years ago!!!

30. We can go on field trips when school is in, so there are not queues or packed places.
We can also travel to Australia or any other places during term, so the airfares and holiday prices are much cheaper.

31. Because I can focus on motivating, encouraging and boosting their confidence and less on assessing and evaluating, especially against their peers.

32. I can teach my children in a way to suit their specific learning styles. IE I have one who is auditory but my younger one is kinesthetic. Learning and teaching is not a one size fits all.

33. If we want to do a full day of history, or science we can have those days.

34. Because I am teaching my children to be independent and responsible for their own learning even whilst young.

35. Because we don't have to stick to a 9 - 3 schedule. I have know my kids to still be working on some project they've been enjoying when I've called them for dinner.

36. Because there is no bullying at our school! I know people say but they will have to get used to it but really do people need to get used to being bullied. I say NO! 

37. I don't have to buy them the latest fad or technology! Half the time they don't even know what the fads are!

38. Because as mature as they can be, they still retain a certain innocence whilst being at home.

39. Because once we finish work for the day, it is finished. There is no HOMEWORK or arguing over HOMEWORK, or spending hours doing HOMEWORK when they could be spending valuable time with their family or doing extra curricular activities!

40. And, most importantly because it actually works!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kaitangata Twitch - DVD Series Report

Based on a book by Margaret Mahy

The story is about an island, Kaitangata, and a mystery that surrounds it. 12 year old Meredith (Mere) lives in a small town across from Kaitangata Island. She starts having dreams at night. Her father, Carey, and older sister, Kate, who are greenies, are fighting against a developer, who was her mother’s former teenage boyfriend, from building a resort and ruining the area they live in.

The island starts to twitch, that is have earthquakes, and Mere starts having visions of Shelley, a tragic ghost who mysteriously vanished on the island 50 years ago on her 13th birthday. She also keeps seeing the Cannibal Chief who died on the island and is the one responsible for all the twitches. It turns out the Cannibal Chief is upset because of the development going on.

An old Maori man, Lee Kaa, after a very angry start with her, ends up teaching Mere, who he can see the island is calling to, to be the new island "keeper" and how to soothe the island to stop another disappearance from happening again.

There is a lot of other stuff going in Mere’s family too. Her mum and dad start having marital problems, because the developer,Sebastian,is trying to win the mother back. Her little brother, Rufus, ends up running away because of all the drama going on in his home. I thought Kate, went a bit over the top when she did some bad stuff to stop the developers but she was still all right. Her boyfriend was nice because he was helping her but wouldn’t do any of the illegal stuff.

I loved it because I like a good mystery and it was a big mystery. I kept wanting to see the next episode. My favourite character would have to be Shelly. I thought it was a pity because it did not sow much of her in the show. If someone wanted my advice, for if they should watch the series or not, I would definitely say watch it! It is a great series! It is a mystery, an adventure, it is strange and it is weird.
By Samara, 9 1/2
There is a fair bit of Maori legend and fable in this and parts can be a little scary, so whilst I thought it was brilliant (I enjoyed it as much as the kids) I would be wary with very young children who might get a little frightened by the spirits and the angry island. Some of the symbolism might be a little lost on them too. Great for discussions afterwards about how we need to look and understand what the land wants rather than over develop it. 
The Mama

Friday, January 24, 2014


Last year I purchased a pile of second-hand games from a South African, come New Zealander homeschooler. Her children had all grown up and she was moving and downsizing. Bless her heart she gave us a really good deal on a lot of games and puzzled and showered the girls with lots of lovely bits and bobs that she didn't want or need.

I came home with my giant haul, looked at it all, we played the easiest ones and then they were all popped into the games cupboard. Well this week I decided to pull out one of the board games and have a look at it and WOW, WOW, WOW... talk about maths in action!

Now before I go on I must warn you that I have been trying to see where you an obtain the game from and can't seem to locate it. It is possibly an old game but I have emailed the supplier that I found on the box and will see what I can find out because peeps it is so worth having this game in the games cupboard!

The Game is called GOT-IT! and appears to have been made by Toy and Puzzle World in South Africa and is for ages 6 - 99. It is a great game for practicing numeracy skills and challenges you in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

There are three levels of difficulty, 6 and up (blue challenge cards), 9 and up (pink challenge cards) and 11 and up (green challenge cards).

Basically you move around the board collecting number cards  (IE land on a 7 pick up a 7 card) and  the first player to get the exact number required on the challenge card, or be the closest to it wins. For instance the blue cards are only addition or subtraction and might say, "Add your numbers together to get to: 21" ... you move around the board and try and get as close to 21 as you can. You can call stay if you are quite close and don't want to chance blowing it by landing on another big number. Bit like 21 really and it's a bit of a laugh watching your competition deciding whether to chance throwing again.

The pink challenge cards (which give you a combination of two out of the four methods to use) might say "By subtracting or dividing your numbers from 120 or by using a combination of subtraction and division to get to 20". At this level you will need a piece of paper to work out different combinations of the numbers that you pick up, in order to get the answer. When you yell GOT-IT you have to prove how you came to the answer. IE. if I picked up a 5 and then a 4, I could say 120 / 5 = 24 - 4 = 20. If I picked up a 6 I could say 120 / 6 = 20 and so on.

With the green cards you have the choice of using the whole four methods (+, -, /, x) ... heaven help me, you have to think with that one so I have been dodging that level. Makes my head hurt just to think about it! They even suggest other mathematical processes could be incorporated at this advanced level, IE square roots. This level might be good for teams which they do recommend too. Apparently these people must be a hoot at parties as they suggest party challenges, IE battle of the sexes or family against family; they obviously need to get out more. "Seriously, you'd like us to come over for a math game? Well yeah sure, that just sounds dandy!"

Anyway I though I would share this "choice" (an old Kiwi word meaning awesome) math game that you may never ever find because, I want you all to be "totes jealous", but seriously if you can ever get your hands on one, it is a really good living math resource.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Science Love

In the New Year I was sitting here having a peruse on Pinterest (as you do) and saw some math tables (the type where a table is set up with lots of stuff for math, not multiplication tables) and thought how cool they looked and how children would just love to get in there and "do stuff". They looked like they would be perfect for younger children and it might be a bit too young for us ... which seriously disappointed me.

Now my little madams just love science (don't all kids who actually get to do hands on stuff rather than just all that yukky bookwork) which got me to thinking how cool it would be if we had an area set up where they could just go and do science stuff whenever the urge struck.

So immediately I was immediately off scouring for a suitable table. Now my MIL very generously gave me an old writing desk many years ago. I have a big old desk in the study and simply keep this little one for it's ornamental value and because I suppose I am a bit of a hoarder and sentimentalist, which is not a good combo! We just had wrapping paper, and basic stationery in it and it was in the lounge/dining area. This stuff could easily be in the study with the rest of the stuff so I emptied it the stuff over the floor, as you do ... and here she is in her new spot in the school room. Doesn't she have lovely legs? I think it's more of a science bureau ... how very posh ey?

In the top drop down section I have placed our microscopes, beakers, test tubes, plastic gloves, magnets, filters, chemicals (stored at the top in little Chinese food containers) and a few other things.

Underneath in the first drawer I have some of the Papa's old white uniform shirts, safety goggles and a tray for them to put out to use when they are mixing experiments. In the second drawer, there are some other science gear, electrical experiments, and sets that they have been given to make up.

I still have some things to add to it like some measuring spoons and some scales and most importantly a tie back for those nearby drapes ...  ;)  If anyone can think of anything that a science table should have then please let me know in the comments. I am holding off on a bunsen burner til they are both a bit older.

The girls have called it a success although they haven't used it much yet ... apparently it is too nice to mess up.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Penderwicks - Book Review

Author Jeanne Birdsall
Published 2005
The Penderwicks is an amusing story about four sisters, responsible Rosalind 12, tomboyish Skye 11, overly dramatic Jane 10 who wants to be a writer, and the youngest Penderwick sister Batty who at 4 is the baby of the group. Their widowed father takes his daughters and dog, Hound (Batty's companion), on summer vacation to Arundel Estate to stay in a cottage on the grounds. There they meet the picky, old, snobbish, owner Mrs Tiffton, her boyfriend, Dreadful Dopey Dexter Dupree and her kind and musical son, Jeffery who is 10 and who all the girls make very good friends with.

The girls are not bad but they just can't seem to avoid getting themselves, and in turn, Jeffery into all kinds of trouble.

They also meet eighteen year old boy, Cagney, who is the gardener at Arundel that Rosalind swiftly obtains a crush on.

I loved it so much because of all the chaos and the suspense of never knowing what's coming up next. It was so good that I made Mum order the second book in the Penderwicks series.

Review by Hana, 11
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