That time of year

May is the month when we have our yearly visit from our Department of Education Moderator. She is a lovely lady, and the girls adore her. Which makes moderator visits an easy and pleasant event.

Basically the way it works is; The role of our Mod (School Margaret, as the girls call her), is to act as a liaison between us and the Department of Education. She helps us make sense of the curriculum – and believe me, help IS needed. If you have ever taken a look at the Australian curriculum, you would know what a long, convoluted and barely understandable document it is, and as a home educator, we get no training in how to decipher it, or how to apply it to our everyday – She offers us information on curriculum and syllabus, she offers advice on how to proceed with our plans, she offers tips and pointers on how to make sure we don’t have any gaps in what we’re doing, and she keeps an eye on the children, to make sure that they are making consistent improvements. The moderators do not enforce particular styles of home education (although they may have a preference that they try to steer you towards), and they do not enforce a particular style of reporting (although they may have their preferences and try to steer you in that direction). I see my relationship with our Moderator, as a give and take. She is incredibly helpful, incredibly flexible, and incredibly encouraging of the style of homeschooling that we implement, so therefore, I will do my best to report in a way that she prefers, and take on board advice or requests from her, that might make her job easier – and in turn make my job easier. We have to work together, and we both have the best interests of my children in mind, so cooperation is paramount. On reading my report, and having a chat with the children, and viewing some of the work they have done over the previous 12 months, the moderator will write a report to the Dept. Ed recommending another 12 months of home education.

This year, things are a little different. Firstly, Miss 4 is officially registered for home education. Secondly, another child means a second file of paperwork and reporting. Not that I do a whole lot, but with 4 children, anything extra is an inconvenience! Thirdly, half way through last year, I gave birth to Littlest Miss, and the pace of our lessons and extra curricular activities, slowed down dramatically. And I will admit, that as May draws closer, I have been getting a little bit concerned with thoughts of “have they done enough?”. And lastly, I am facing a hugely busy 2 months between now and May, and because of this I may or may not be in a position to give my report the attention to detail that I prefer. So I made the decision to write it out now.

Over the last few weeks I have been preparing a spread sheet that lists each General Capability, within each Key Learning Area, with links to each Curriculum Code, for each grade, for each of my children. This sounds like a lot, and initially it has been, but now that it is set up, maintaining it will take a matter of a few minutes, every few months. It will keep the authorities happy (hopefully) as it shows the links, codes and practices that they want to see, it will make my life easier, because in the long run, it means less paper work for me, and it is a pretty useful tool, simply to highlight any potential gaps that may be present.

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Further to the curriculum spreadsheet, I have also completed my usual point form summary of what Miss 7 (and now Miss 4) has done over the 12 month period. As I mentioned, I was initially a little concerned with the content of her 12 months. With a new baby in the house, it feels like we’ve done not a whole lot. BUT, while I was typing up our summary, Miss 7 has actually done SO MUCH!! SO much! It has been a pleasant surprise and a great reminder of the awesomeness that is homeschooling. The amount of excursions and outside activities, that she has done, compared to her mainstream counterparts, is incredible. So I thought I’d share it with those of you who might be curious. And, lets keep it real, because I want to have a little “proud Mama” moment. 2017 was a really tough year for us personally and to still achieve this for my daughter – and to witness her own personal achievements – makes it a little sweeter.

Year 1 (May 2017-May 2018)

SUMMARY

In June 2017, I gave birth to our baby girl. In the months that followed, the pace of our home schooling schedule slowed significantly. During this time, I relied on the process of natural learning, and Miss 7s innate curiosity, to direct her lessons. Obviously, with a newborn, there was a large period of time where our movements were restricted to home and lessons were kept short and simple; cooking, gardening, watching documentaries, helping to look after the baby, playing with her friends and her sisters, verbal discussions, learning apps on the iPad etc. During this time, I concentrated on Miss 7s ability to read, and improving this skill with her. Since the beginning of 2018, as the baby is bigger and my younger daughter is now registered for home education as well, lessons have begun again, more regularly, as have our outings and excursions and workshops/classes.

Over the course of the 12 months, I was beginning to notice small gaps in Miss 7s learning. In order to help eliminate this, I have purchased a number of textbooks, for her to complete on a daily basis. The subjects of these books are predominately Maths and English, as I feel that all other areas are being fulfilled satisfactorily. I have identified a couple of areas that I feel require extra attention, and have taken the steps to find the best way for us to do so. An improvement in Miss 7s writing abilities, is my main focus on the upcoming 12 months.

Moving forward, from June 2018 – June 2019, our family has planned, a 12-month caravanning tour of Australia. We see this as being a fabulous opportunity to connect as a family, strengthening familial bonds and relationships. We believe that the learning opportunities that will be offered to the children will be invaluable, and the education that they will receive on the road will be so incredibly unique, that we feel we cannot pass up the opportunity. In this regard, subjects such as PE and Health, HASS and Science will be adequately covered in a natural learning environment, as we travel. To facilitate progress in the areas of Maths and English, I have introduced EXCEL textbooks, for Miss 7 to complete on a daily basis. This will continue on the road, and will ensure that she remains up to her year standard in these critical subjects. Coupled with the textbooks, Miss 7 will complete a “travel diary” documenting our time away, as an ongoing project, as well as practice for her writing skills. We have also purchased various educational games to take with us on the road, we have educational and learning apps for the iPad which will be coming with us on the road, we have a NETFLIX subscription so that she may continue to watch the documentaries that she loves, and we have an account with BORROWBOX – an online library account – so that Miss 7 may still borrow books from the library, as she does currently. We have also registered in an online AUSLAN course through AUSLAN Australia, which we will continue to complete, on our travels. Leading up to our departure, Miss 7 has been studying a map of Australia, as well as Google Earth, to develop a “bucket list” of places that she wants to visit during our time away. She has been researching attractions and points of interest, and has determined that we will visit every zoo in Australia as well as, as many “big” icons, as we can (the big banana, the big pineapple, the big merino etc). To further help document her journey, as well as learning a new skill, Miss 7s grandfather bought her a digital camera, to take with her, in order to take photographs of her travels. I believe the educational experiences Miss 7 will be exposed to, on the road, will be immeasurable, and I am confident when she returns, in 12 months, she will be academically on par with her peers.

SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Miss 7 has successfully mastered the basics of reading. She will read a variety of different texts, both fiction and nonfiction, and demonstrates the practice of “sounding out” and recalling learned “rules” to determine unfamiliar words.
  • Miss 7 has successfully completed a year long Foundation Music class, where she learned the basics of reading and writing musical scores. She also learned the basics of playing a musical instrument, and participated in an end of year concert – where she was the only student to perform an original composition.
  • Miss 7 participated in a Home-school Art Exhibition, that was displayed in conjunction with Book week, and the theme “Escape to Everywhere”. She completed a piece of progressive art, based on her desire to escape to Paris. She displayed a learned knowledge of art, by selecting the style of “Pop Art” to emulate in her work.
  • Miss 7 participated in two (2) Home-school sports carnivals in the Swan Valley, where she demonstrated team work, co-ordination, strength and an ability to follow direction. She was also the recipient of more than one ribbon on each day.
  • Miss 7 has consistently displayed empathy and compassion towards her peers, understanding that some children may be shy, or new to the group. In these instances, she will introduce herself, as well as her sisters and her friends, and will extend an invitation to the child in question. Miss 7 also displays a natural inclination to help and include children with special needs. Miss 7 has consistently extended friendship to a young boy with a disability, and even furthered her learning of AUSLAN signs, in order to communicate with him.
  • Miss 7 has participated in the Joondalup Lantern Parade, which included an 8week art class, leading up to the event. On the night of the parade, she joined her peers and participated in the street performance.
  • Miss 7 was afforded the amazing opportunity to help my midwife use a doppler and ultrasound machine, and scan her own baby sister, while I was pregnant.
  • Miss 7 collected and took care of silkworms. Observing them grow from small caterpillars, to very large caterpillars, to cocoons.
  • Miss 7 has helped to, successfully, raise tadpoles, from eggs through to froglets. This is an ongoing project.
  • UNITS STUDIED

Art

  • Miss 7 completed a unit on Art. The unit was ongoing for a period of approximately 4-5 months, and included use of different art mediums, different techniques and language associated with the visual arts, studies of particular artists, and creating original artworks based on what she had learned.
  • Miss 7 studied the artists; Picasso, Cezanne, Kahlo, Kandinsky, Monet and Warhol. She also learned about drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, textile art, jewellery making and body art.
  • Miss 7 learned about components of visual arts; such as Line, Shape, Size, Texture, Tone, and Colour. She discussed concepts such as “what is art”, “what makes art GOOD”, and “who gets to decide”.
  • Miss 7s art unit included excursions to the art gallery, a felting workshop at Milktooth Art studio, and participation in the Home schoolers Art Exhibition.

HASS

  • Miss 7 has been working on an “Around the World” unit for approximately the last 3-4 months. This unit is based on her subscription to the Little Passports. So far, she has learned about Australia, Indigenous Australia, Japan, Ireland, Mexico, France and India.
  • With each country, Miss 7 has studied the flag (including the symbolism of any colours or images on it), the language (including learning how to say a few words, or sing the song Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes), native food, native animals, national holidays and/or costumes, landmarks and monuments, and geography.
  • Miss 7 has used various atlases and maps to learn about countries, continents, direction (north east, south and west), and can usually find a country, if given general directions in where to look.
  • Miss 7 has watched you tube clips on the different countries, and has also watched documentaries on various countries and/or regions around the world. Documentaries have included David Attenborough’s ‘Madagascar’, ‘Frozen Planet’, ‘Blue Planet’ and ‘Blue Planet II’, as well as ‘The Mysteries of Easter Island’, ‘Tutankhamun’, ‘The Book of Life’ (about the Mexican Day of the Dead), and Steve Backshalls ‘Deadly 60’ series.
  • Excursions that have supported this unit have been; eating in a Japanese restaurant, eating in a Mexican restaurant, the Tutankhamun exhibition at Perth convention centre, the Holi Festival of colours at Perry Lakes Reserve and the Zoo.
  • Miss 7 has also collected various coins from countries like New Zealand, Canada, China and Taiwan, she has cooked recipes from countries like Ireland and Mexico, and she has looked at the learning app Duolingo, and Google Earth, to supplement her learning.

CLASSES, TOURS AND WORKSHOPS

  • Dance class (Miss 7 discontinued dance class in June of 2017, on the birth of our latest baby)
  • Swimming Lessons (Miss 7 discontinued swimming lessons in June 2017, on the birth of our baby)
  • Music class
  • STEAM co-op
  • Lantern art class
  • Jnr Archaeology class (3week workshop, completed in March 2018)
  • Drama Workshop
  • Water Corporation
  • Macramé necklace workshop
  • Essential Oils for kid’s workshop
  • Constable Care safety talk
  • Bike Safety day at Police Head Quarters
  • Bunnings Father’s Day gift workshop
  • Milk tooth art studio Felting workshop
  • Ceramic class
  • St Johns Ambulance children’s first aid workshop
  • Body Movement workshop
  • WA Reptile Park tour and talk
  • Perth Zoo tour and talk
  • WA Ballet company tour and talk
  • Worm farm workshop
  • Nearer to Nature class (3 classes held on three separate occasions)

OTHER EXCURSIONS/OUTINGS

  • The Pinnacles
  • Tadpole hunting (various creeks and waterways)
  • Hillarys Marina (rock climbing and exploring tide pools)
  • Armidale reptile park
  • Caversham Wildlife Park
  • Landsdale Farm school
  • Perth Science Fair
  • The Children’s Forest (Whiteman Park)
  • WA Aviation Museum
  • Swan Valley Home-school Sports Carnival
  • Bells Rapids
  • Yellagonga Regional Nature Space
  • SciTech
  • The Beach
  • Dinosaur Exhibition Perth Convention Centre
  • Tutankhamun exhibition Perth Convention centre
  • Fruit picking
  • Busselton Jetty
  • Geographe Bay
  • Bunbury Dolphin Centre
  • The Gravity Discovery Centre in Gingin
  • Holi Festival of colours
  • Star Swamp bushwalk
  • Moore River camping and exploration
  • Joondalup Lantern Parade

GROUPS, CLUBS AND SOCIAL MEETINGS

  • STEAM co-op
  • Burns Beach to Butler playgroup/co-op
  • Perth NOR west home schoolers social meetings (this group of children meet every 2-3 weeks in various locations purely for social purposes)
  • Just Jump Wanneroo
  • Miss 7 has made friends with various children and an effort is made to facilitate regular contact between her and her friends

LESSONS, SUBSCRIPTIONS AND WORKBOOKS

  • The Little Passports subscription
  • BorrowBox
  • NETFLIX
  • Artventure
  • AUSLAN Online
  • Excel workbooks – both English and Maths
  • Various learning apps, including;
  • Teach Your Monster to Read (reading app)
  • Scratch Jnr (coding app)
  • Little Alchemy (science app)
  • BBC Earth (HASS app)
  • My Incredible Body (science app)
  • Toca Elements (science app)
  • AUSLAN tutor (LOTE)
  • Literacy Planet (English app)
  • Word Mania (English app)
  • Build a body (science app)
  • Stop Motion Studio (Design/Enterprise app)
  • Water? (science app)
  • Patchwork (critical thinking app)
  • Blokus (critical thinking app)
  • Google Earth (HASS app)

PROJECTS

  • Progressive art project for submission for the Home schoolers Art Exhibition.
  • Miss 7 has written a script adaptation of the story of the Three Little Pigs, and also made masks for a performance of it.
  • Stop Motion animation productions using the app Stop Motion Studio.
  • Completed the building of the cubby house, with her father.
  • Miss 7 has raised silkworms to the point of building a cocoon. Unfortunately, none of the silkworms survived.
  • Miss 7 and her friend built a raft out of almond milk cartons, to see if it would float in the pool, and hold their weight. It did.
  • Miss 7 has raised tadpoles, from eggs to frogs, in our backyard wading pool. She has observed the metamorphosis, researched the breed of frog and how to care for the tadpoles. She has fed them on an ongoing basis, handled the animals and cared for the frogs.
  • As part of her ongoing care for the frogs, Miss 7 has built a habitat, applying the knowledge she has acquired, on what environmental elements the tadpoles and frogs will require.

AREAS REQUIRING MORE ATTENTION

  • WRITING; Miss 7 has consistently shown a resistance to writing. She finds the mechanics of simultaneously forming the letters, spelling correctly and thinking of what she wants to write, to be quite an overwhelming task. Because of this, her handwriting skills, letter formation (she will still reverse her letters) and particularly her spelling seem to be slightly behind her reading skills. Moving forward I will be implementing daily writing in a travel diary, where she can record her favourite parts of our upcoming trip, and add mementos as well as photographs. I am hoping that this will interest her enough to improve her abilities. I have also purchased an Excel Spelling and Vocabulary textbook to supplement the English textbook she already uses.
  • MATHS; For the most part, I am quite pleased with Miss 7s mathematical abilities, however, since purchasing the Excel Maths textbook, I have noticed some gaps in her learning. Mainly in the area of statistics and graphing. I intend to do some additional work with her in this area, and I am expecting that she will fill in any gaps, as she moves through her textbook.

So…wow huh?! Turns out she has been one busy little lady! Miss 4s report looks pretty similar to this one, just not as long, as she has only been “official” since January, and what she was involved in, last year, doesn’t really count. AND, in case you missed it, we are off on a 12 month, round Australia trip! YIPPEEEE! The kids, my husband, and I are so very excited. Departure is set for mid June, and is only 3 months away. In the next 3 months we have to pack up the house, ready the car and van, find a cat-sitter, and continue with school, as usual. Then….. Roadschooling for the win 🙂

Watch this space!

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The start of our third year. And there were two.

I have been trying to get to this for at least 6 weeks now. But, as I’ve learned, adding an extra member to the family has actually taken away about 4 hours from the day. I don’t know where those hours have gone, but I don’t have them anymore. I don’t seem to have time to do anything! But today I am forcing myself to make a dent in the paperwork I have been neglecting. I have to do it now, before it gets too bad, because this year I have TWO students 🙂 This year my little Miss 4 should be starting pre-primary, which is the first compulsory year of schooling, here in WA. And I just can’t imagine ever bringing myself to do that to her. She’s only 4. So she has been officially registered with the department, and luckily for all of us, we can now offer her all of the time in the world. To play, to explore, to be outside, to be little.

I sat down to write our this blog post as a summary of the last three months of 2017, and I was thinking to myself that, with the arrival of our Littlest Miss, and all the challenges and joys that a newborn in the house brings, there was actually not as much “school work” being done. And certainly I had not been as diligent in the recording as I usually am. But going back through the posts in our Facebook Page, that I use as a photo diary, I was actually surprised with just how much we have accomplished. It may not be conventional schooling, but it certainly is a true education.

So while I was living in a fog of sleepless nights, baby brain and newbie snuggles, this is what Miss 7 got up to.

Miss decided she wanted to learn about different countries around the world, and started with Australia. She did various worksheets on Australia, played with Australian money, visited “Australian themed” wildlife parks and playgrounds, and made Traditional Australian food. She also include the indigenous flag and some indigenous languages in her unit.

During her cooking lesson, Miss 7, with the help of her sisters, had to read the recipe, measure out the ingredients and make the dish. Using this method she made Anzac cookies, Damper Bread, and (with a little help from me) Pavlova.

The girls spent around 3 weeks in total on Australia, before moving on to Japan. During the unit on Japan, they followed pretty much the same pattern of learning. They learned about the flag, coloured in a map, and paid special attention to animals native to Japan (being the little naturalist that she is, this was her favourite part. She watched documentaries on the Sable, the Spider Crab, Koi Fish and the Japanese Macaque, declaring that the crab and the macaque were the most amazing animals ever!). We ate at a Japanese restaurant and made sushi, and they also learned how to sing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” in Japanese. I can’t seem to upload the video, it it can be seen here.

As the year drew to a close, I began to struggle more and more with my responsibilities as a home educator and my responsibilities as a mother, especially of a newborn. And I decided not to push the around-the-world unit. We concentrated, instead, on excursions and opportunistic learning. And birthdays 🎉

Notable excursions included the Dinosaur exhibition at the convention centre

A trip to the Perth Aviation Museum

The girls also attended a homeschooling sports carnival, where they competed in races and played games, made friends and won ribbons. They were both on the yellow team, and just had a ball!

We have also had a run of life cycles and up close encounters with critters. Friends of our had the opportunity to hatch some chicken eggs in their house, and the girls were lucky enough to be invited to go and watch. They loved seeing the pipping stage, and of course the chicks were a hit. We also got our hands of some silk worms. Just quietly silk worms would have to be the most high maintenance life-cycle examples to keep in your home!!! The amount of mulberry leaves that they eat is incredible. We had them for around 6 weeks, but sadly they all died before they could complete their cycle. The most exciting development in this area is the motorbike frog that has moved into our backyard, taken over our swimming pool and hatched at least 500 tadpoles! We have given taddies to almost a dozen local families and still have so many. The girls go out every day to check on the tadpoles and feed them – they like spinach. They have researched how to care for tadpoles, and know that we are expecting around 100 Motorbike froglets in roughly 8 weeks time 😱 On a side note, the Motorbike frogs are just stunning to look at.

So now we find ourselves in 2018 (how did that even happen?!) my Miss is 7, my little baby is 7 months old and I am homeschooling 2 children. I have been trawling the Dept Ed websites for inspiration on how best to report to the dept. with 2, and still school them the way that I want to. And I think I have figured it out, at least for now. The girls have picked up where they left off. They have started on Ireland, the country of their fathers family, and coloured their flags and maps, ready to put up on our Wall of Nations. They have selected recipes for Irish soda bread and Irish stew, with Guinness (for Daddy). They are also practicing the same “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” song, in Gaelic. They have told me, however, that they need more practice, before I film that one 🙂

And this is what lessons look like in our house now 😍

Before I go, a little note just on Miss 4, as this is now as much about her as Miss 7. She seems not to have the same aversion to writing as her sister. In fact she is quite eager to practice her letters and wants to write full sentences, so she already does a lot of copy work – especially for someone who is basically unschooled. The other day I came across this little sample.

2018 is looking pretty good 😃

Art and Resting

In the months since Miss 6 finished her science unit, we have taken quite a bit of a rest. There has been minimal bookwork, no excursions, and lots of cuddles on the couch. The reason has been the birth of our latest and last beautiful little girl. All of our big girls have been very involved in following the pregnancy, as well as helping to look after our new little squishy. While traditional learning has been put on the back burner, I think the life lessons that have come with our new addition, have been invaluable (and the photo is purely for attention 😀 )


During the last month of my pregnancy, and the two months since the birth of little squish, Miss 6, as well as Miss 4, have been doing an art unit. I have a minor background in art, and it was the easiest way I could think to maintain some kind of schooling, while not having to go anywhere, or exert my mind or body! My focus was to introduce the girls to a few artists, as well as offering language and vocabulary associated with the visual arts. I also tried to engage them in lessons that would help the girls to think about things like composition and expression in their art. One thing I did notice, was that Miss 6s tendency to perfectionism was difficult for her to deal with in this unit. A lot of lessons were plagued with frustrations and, in some cases, tears, because she didn’t feel that her work “looked good” or was good enough. There was a lot of talking her through the task, and encouragement to keep going, needed. For this reason, I tried to stick to the more modern, abstract and impressionistic art, where the works are not super real depictions, and therefore less pressure to make it look perfect. But for the most part, Both of my Misses thoroughly enjoyed themselves. And to keep it real, my own taste in art lies in this area as well, so it was easy for me to keep them excited, because I was excited also!

Initially the girls did a week of  “warm ups”, where they learned to pick out aspects of art like *line, *shape, *size, *tone, *texture, *light and *colour. Once they were comfortable identifying these aspects, I showed them different artists. I had them look at the artworks by the particular artist. While looking at them, we talked about what we could see, how it made us feel, what we thought the artist was thinking or feeling. We talked about cultural and historical context and how it influenced the artworks, and the girls selected a few “aspects of art” that they could easily point out. Once this was done, the girls created their own piece of art in the style of the artist we had been talking about.

The first artist we looked at was Pablo Picasso. I drew various mismatched facial features and cut them out. The girls selected and created their own faces and then coloured them in with oil pastels.


The second artist we looked at was Paul Cezanne. This was my first and only attempt at a more traditional style of art. The girls practiced with tone and shape, to try and create their own Still Life. Miss 6 struggled with the realist style to the point of tears. With much encouragement she did finish her art work. But I think her lack of enthusiasm and her frustration can be seen in the finished product. I love the visual arts, and I want to foster a love for them in my children, so for the sake of keeping it fun and interesting, it was here that I decided to only attempt the more abstract pieces.


After Cezanne, I introduced the girls to Frida Kahlo. Kahlo is one of my favourite artists, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to share her story with them. Miss 6 enjoyed this lesson very much. Kahlos work is bright and bold enough to appeal to her aesthetically, and her story is brave and tragic enough to appeal to Miss 6 emotionally. I had the girls look in the mirror and try to draw their own self portrait. They liked the beautiful gardens and exotic animals in Kahlos paintings, and asked if they could make up their own backgrounds. Of course they could! My crazy, whimsical Miss 4 drew a background with a pirate ship and herself jumping on the moon 😀 and Miss 6 drew the Eiffel Tower in the background,  because she wants to go to Paris someday.


The next lesson was on impressionist artist Claude Monet. And really, what’s not to love, if you’re a little girl? Pretty pastel colours, beautiful fairylike landscapes, secret gardens with water lilies and foot bridges. The girls drew their water lilies and bridges and gardens with oil pastels and then applied a wash of watercolour in cool shades.


Wassily Kandinsky is another one of my favourite artists, and one that the girls have been exposed to many times before. I had intended to show the girls Jackson Pollock, but Miss 6 actually asked for Kandinsky. I figure Pollock isn’t going anywhere, so we did Kandinsk instead!  There was lots of cutting and pasting and shapes and colours and colouring, and this was a fairly independent activity for them.


The last lesson was on Andy Warhol. We talked about Pop art and Pop culture and the girls giggled their heads off at most of Warhols art. I took a photo of each of the girls, and then printed them out and had the girls colour over the top. During this lesson Miss 6 declared “I love modern art, Mummy. It’s so much fun!”


Fortuitously, while we were doing our unit on art, one of the movers and shakers of our local homeschooling community organised an art exhibition for the children in Miss 6s general age group (K-2). So using what they had learned Miss 4 and Miss 6 created a major artwork to exhibit at one of Perths local libraries. The exhibition opened today, in line with Bookweek 2017. The theme this year is Escape to Everywhere. So the children created their art with this theme in mind. Miss 4 recalled the family trip to Mauritius, and decided she wanted to “escape” back to the island to see the coral reefs. She used the same technique of oil pastels with a watercolour wash, to create her under the sea artwork. She entitled it “The Ocean”.


Miss 6 had so many fabulous ideas, that making an actual decision proved very difficult for her.  She became so overwhelmed that she refused to do anything. This prompted her father and I to have discussions with her around commitments and following through with something, when you tell someone you will do it. There was a minimum number of participants required for this exhibition to be viable. So it was important that Miss 6 recognised that her friends were relying on her to follow through with her artwork, in order for them to exhibit their own. Finally – during her lesson on Andy Warhol – Miss 6 made her decision. She had fallen in love with Pop Art, and wanted to do an escape to Paris, in this style. We found a photo of the Eiffel Tower, and printed off ten copies. Miss 6 then coloured them, cut them out and mounted them. 


Miss 6s finished product, entitled “Eiffel Pop Tower”


We’ve had a very lovely, slow paced, restful, arty, (baby snuggling), couple of months. Now we are back into the swing of things, the bookwork has come out again, and Miss 6 has chosen her new unit, Around the World. She wants to learn about different countries, where they are, how they live, and what they eat. She has made me promise we will find a recipe, from each country she has chosen, and cook it. 

In the meantime, if you live in Perth, and you’re in the vicinity of the Karrinyup Public Library, between now and the 27th August, drop in and see the exhibition!

A semester of science

We are coming up to our first annual visit from our department moderator, in the next couple of weeks. So I am busy getting all of my paperwork together. When I say paperwork, it’s not actually all that much as far as volume is concerned, but rather, I need it to be chronological and coherent. My job is to present Miss 6s learnings to the Dept. in a way that proves we have covered the key learning areas, as set forward by the curriculum, and to show improvement on Miss 6s abilities over the last 12 months. I also need to show a loose plan for the next 12 months, stating what we intend to cover, and how I intend to link it to the curriculum. To date I have written a very loose plan for the next 12 months – if the last year has shown me anything, it is that everything I plan in detail will be tossed straight out the window! – and all I need to do now is type it up, so that it is legible. I have 2 folders of loose examples of work. I have a folder of various workbooks that Miss 6 has used, I have the dedicated folders for Auslan, Music Class and Science/Steam club, and I have my Facebook page, which acts like a photo diary, and takes care of the need for dated photos. Apart from typing up the 12 month plan, all I need, or, more particularly want to do, is type up a summery of what we have done, what Miss 6 has accomplished, and areas that I feel we need to focus on. I also want to get this blog post done, updating on the last semester of science-based learning that Miss 6 has been doing.

So, with Miss 6s help, I picked 8 areas of scientific study, for her to take a look at. So far we have done 5 of the 8. Initially I had figured we would spend a week or two on each area. But, as I mentioned, anytime I plan something in detail, the plan gets tossed (homeschooling parents are nothing if not flexible!!), and we ended up spending anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks on each area. The areas we picked were;
– Chemistry
– Biology
– Botany
– Geology
– Meteorology
– Zoology
– Astronomy
– Physics
We have done chemistry, biology, botany, geology and zoology. We will do meteorology over the next couple of weeks, but I have a feeling Miss 6 is going to skip astronomy. She did a unit on space last year, and when I mentioned a little revision, she didn’t look too interested!

The chemistry unit went well enough. We bought Miss a second hand chemistry kit, and while we have not used it as much as I had hoped we would – Miss 2 makes it a bit tricky – she had fun with the experiments that we did do. I booked her into a homeschool chemistry workshop at Scitech during this period. There she reinforced what we’d already discussed about states of matter, and had the opportunity to be involved in a few more experiments. At home we experimented with turning water into ice (solid), and then steam (gas) and then back to water (liquid). We also tried to do the instant freeze water experiment, which is advertised widely as being “super easy”, but we found it to be super hard! We were, much to my frustration, unable to make it work. After speaking to a friend of mine, who is a secondary school science teacher, I found out that it is actually NOT as easy as it’s made out! However it was a learning curve for Miss 6, who found out that not everything in science goes to plan, and there are many, many failures, before success.

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I based the unit on biology around human biology, as I knew we would be covering plants and animals in separate units. Miss 6 learned about cells, and the different parts of the cell, as well as the difference between plant and animal cells. She already had a basic understanding of the human body, but we delved further into the major organs and what their functions were. She made a working model of lungs, which was a great hit with her as well a Miss 3. The lungs can be seen on our Facebook page, here. She also experimented with growing bacteria in a handwahing experiment, and explored the senses with some fun blindfold games. At the end of the unit, Miss 6 was able to draw a LifeSize body on butchers paper. On this, she correctly placed the heart, brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, windpipe, small and large intestine, stomach, and pelvis. Miss 6 also completed a biology class at Scitech durning this time. During the class she was able to reinforce her learning on cells, as well as use various pieces of equipment to magnify and observe things like hair, string, plant matter and insect parts.
Incidentally, even though Miss 6 has technically finished her unit on biology, this will be an ongoing unit for her, for at least the next few months, as I enter the third trimester of my pregnancy. Miss 6 has been eagerly following and learning all about how a baby is conceived (two cells joining together), how it grows and how it is delivered. She even had a wonderful opportunity to help my midwife with my most recent scan and blood pressure check.

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Botany was particularly fun for Miss 6, although it is the shortest unit she has done so far. She learned about different types of plants (trees, bushes, flowers, etc), as well as different parts of the plant. She helped out in the garden, weeding and planting seeds for our winter vegetable patch. She has since been able to watch the seeds germinate and grow. She also learned, about photosynthesis and the fact that plants need sunlight, water and carbon dioxide in order to grow. We did an experiment with celery and food colouring, after she wondered out loud how plants drink water, without mouths. We cut some celery stalks and put them in jars of water, with added food colouring. Then over the course of a couple of days, she was able to observe the coloured water being drawn up the celery stalk and dispersed throughout the leaves. After this time she took the celery sticks and spent a good hour and a half dissecting them, following the veins and tracing the path that the coloured water had taken.

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Our unit on geology was another short one. Miss 6 learned about the three types of rocks, and watched some short documentaries on you tube explaining what they were, as well as how they are formed. Our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, maths) co-op was, fortuitously, based around rocks. During co-op Miss 6 was able to investigate a fabulous rock/gemstone collection, and refer the rocks to a book that was on hand, to try and identify what type she was looking at. She complete a “cut and paste” activity where she pasted pictures of rocks into a structure (in her case a bridge), and then had to decide whether her structure would work in real life, if she were able to build it exactly as she had pasted it. She made a pet rock – a table was set up with a hot glue gun, a beautiful pile of river stones, and a dozen containers of craft supplies. Hands down it was the hit of the day, with ALL of the children! – as well as an example of a sedimentary rock. The sedimentary rock didn’t quite work as it was supposed to. I think we made the mixture too wet, meaning that it didn’t get hard, but rather stayed soft and crumbly. However she did get the point of the task, as, only today, she took a cup out into the backyard and layered it with various types of sand, soil and rocks, showing me and exclaiming she had made a sedimentary rock! Unfortunately, around this time, Miss 2 killed my laptop and I have been unable to download the photos I took on co-op day. To support her unit on geology, we took a drive, as a family, 2 hours north of here to a geological formation known as The Pinnacles. The girls explored the rocks as well as the little museum that is on site. Miss 6 decided that she had spotted some metamorphic rocks in the desert, and was fascinated with the theory that the formations could possibly be fossilised tree roots from an ancient forest.

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Lastly, we have been, and are currently still, working on zoology. Miss 6 has revised what she knows about different classifications of vertebrates (fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal, bird). She has been watching a lot of documentaries from David Attenboroughs collection, as well as those of her hero, Steve Backshall. She attended a workshop on Birds of Prey, where she was able to hold or pet a variety of raptors. She also learned what a raptor was 🙂 And I took the girls to Caversham Wildlife Park for some close encounters with the mammals there. She made friends with a little wallaby and was terribly sad when she had to say goodbye! We also have, coming up in the next couple of weeks, a Worm Farm workshop (where the children learn about worms, the important role they play, and how to make a worm farm), and a class that is being held at Perth Zoo (where the children will read a book and do a craft based on a particular animal, and then take a walk around the zoo, to find and observe the animal they have just been learning about. 🙂

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All in all, it’s been a pretty busy first semester for my little Miss. On top of the science, she has been attending music class, dance class, various workshops, play dates, co-ops and lots of outdoor activities. I have seen a big leap in, not only her reading and writing abilities, but her willingness to do it, and I have been amazed, again, at how much knowledge she retains. Also, in amongst the above, she has developed a fascination with movies and how they are made. She has experimented with stop motion, and has written a basic script, made costumes and has asked her beautiful best friend to help out, by acting a part in the short film that she wants to direct. I’m thinking my next blog will involve a couple of movies by Miss 6!

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It’s been awhile

Holy Cow! The last time I posted in this blog it was October! Originally I planned to write up a mini report every week, that was waaay to much work! So I decided on reporting at the end of every “unit” Miss 6 finished. I will continue to do this, the delay, however, is due to the fact that Miss 6 actually hasn’t finished a unit since we wrapped up her lessons on the ocean. Also we took the month of December off, so there’s that too. But we’ve started up again, and in realising it’s been so long, I thought I’d best get something down to explain our absence and to outline our plans moving forward.

Miss 6 had decided to start learning about Australia. So in November I wrote out a little timeline, a plan of sorts, where we covered a certain Australian related topic every week. The first week was Australian animals, and it went well. I took the girls to a workshop at the Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where they learned about vertebrates and invertebrates, with a focus on the vertebrates. They loved it, and we are hoping to get back there again this year. However once I moved on from animals, Miss 6 lost interest. Everything that I put in front of her, from art to music to literature, history and geography – everything was “boring” . I found the more disinterested she was, the less I was inclined to bring things to the table for lessons. It was an incredibly frustrating time for both of us. I had quite a few excursions planned for November and December so I started to focus more on these than on the actual “school work” component of our plan. By the end of November I put it down to, we were both burnt out. I suggested to Miss 6 that we take our holidays in December and have the whole month off, and start back with our learning about Australia in January. She whole heartedly agreed with me, so that is what we did.

Come January, I pulled out our school file and reorganised our timeline. Her revision of Australian animals was a disaster! She resisted, she fluffed about, she argued, she refused, and it ended up with both of us upset and angry with each other. She asked if we could skip school for the rest of the day, and at a loss as to what else I could do, I sent her outside to play. While I was calming down with a coffee, I had an epiphany. One of the reasons we started this in the first place, was to offer Miss 6 the chance to learn at her own pace, in her own way, with lessons designed around things that she felt passionate about. I don’t know where she got the idea of learning about Australia from. Perhaps it was hers, perhaps it came from an outside influence, but it was obvious that she did not have a great passion for it. And here I was trying to force the issue, and getting upset when she responded with resistance. I started to think about all of the things that made Miss 6s heart sing. Science experiments, science club, microscopes, exploring nature, being outside, learning how things work. Looking at art by Albert Tucker, while appealing to me and my passions, was doing nothing for her! I told Miss 6 it was ok if she didn’t want to learn about Australia after all. There’s plenty of time to learn about it, and she might want to try again in a year or two. She thought that would be best. I asked her what she wanted to do more of for school work. She said more science, and then it came to me, she wants to be a scientist, why not let her be a scientist? There’s no reason why SCIENCE can’t be her theme for the next unit.

So Miss 6 is about to start on a new unit of study. Approx 8 weeks long, with a different field discovered each week. It’s taken a bit of planning on my part, but I really want her to have fun and enjoy what she’s doing. She’ll be covering things like biology, chemistry, botany, geology, and zoology, among others. Obviously it will all be foundation level stuff, but lots of exploration, lots of experiments, lots of science based writing and reading. I have also booked her into 3 workshops for homeschooled children at Scitech to support what we will be doing at home. Plus she gets the added fun of being in a real life lab 🙂 Outside of the academics, Miss 6 (and Miss 3) have been enrolled in a weekly music class for term 1, they still do swimming lessons once a week, and I am on the hunt for one other activity for them to join. There are plenty of play dates and catch ups with friends, and lots of time outdoors.

Outside of the actual day to day “schooling” of Miss 6, there has been quite a bit of thought and reflection. We have survived our first year as a homeschooling family. I have watched her grow and flourish as a person. I have seen her tick off the goals she set for herself for 2016, and I have been amazed by just how clever and inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge she is. There has been days where I honestly thought this was a big mistake, and days where I thought there can be no other life for us! I have been constantly thinking evaluating and reevaluating what we do. I have watched a circle of friends made and drift apart, and a new circle form. We have had awesome triumphs and spectacular failures. And it has occurred to me that her life would have had all of these ups and downs whether she was homeschooled, or in the system. The only difference is the environment where it is taking place.

Moving forward I can’t see us doing things very differently in the coming 12 months. I have an idea of taking a two week “rest” between units, rather than jumping straight from one to another like we did last year. I think maybe this will stop us from getting too burnt out come December. I have an idea that I will be looking to implement a little more in the way of book work. My theory is at some point she will probably ask to go to school (although I pray it won’t happen for a few years yet!) which will be hard enough to integrate into as it is, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that she is academically in line with her peers. I also have an idea that I still have a lot of preconceptions about education that I need to let go of, in order to make this lifestyle as free flowing and peaceful as I know it can be. Miss 6 is insisting that she definitely doesn’t want to go to school. I’m still happy and comfortable to have her education happen outside of the system, after all I keep thinking that if my incredibly precocious 6 year old child approached a teacher and said “today I want to learn about geology” she’d be told to sit back on the mat, quietly, because today’s lesson was about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. When I picture this scenario in my head, I know that we continue to make the right decision.

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Learning about the ocean, and a message from Miss 6

Yes, I said Miss 6! Since my last post she has had a birthday and is now 6, and she makes me more and more proud, every year.
Miss 6 has declared her Ocean unit is finished, and she wants to learn about Australia. In her words “because, you know, I actually live in Australia, and I should know all about it, right?” Yes indeed.
So as we move on to our new unit, I am writing up what has been accomplished in the last couple of months.

Miss 6 has been immersed in all things ocean-related. She has become fascinated with sharks, and thanks to a brilliant app I found for the iPad, called “Ultimate Sharks”, she can visually identify around half a dozen, and is full of facts about different species of sharks. She has studied coral reefs, and now understands how a reef starts, how it grows, and how it dies. She has learned about the different levels of the ocean and can name them, describe them, and name animals or plants that can be found in each level. It would have been nice to have done this unit (or be continuing this unit) in the warmer weather. But the cold has not stopped us from taking trips to the beach for beach combing or exploring rock pools, and she also had a day at AQWA with her friends to support her learning.

We did lots of reading this unit. In fact, Miss 6 did hardly any “book work” at all, most of her learning came from reading out loud, reading along with the apps on the iPad, watching documentaries and hands on exploring at the beach. We did do a couple of science activities. The first of which was to grow our own coral reef. I bought a kit from the Little Passports website. She started this within a week of beginning her unit, as it took a couple of weeks to grow to maturity. Miss 6 read the instructions, followed the steps and put together the frames for the “reef”, then she added the chemicals. Over the course of the fortnight, she observed the blooming of the reef and made comparisons between the one she grew in our kitchen, to the ones in the ocean.

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In explaining how the ocean moves, I discussed with Miss 6 waves, tides and currents. She could understand the science behind tides, as we had already touched on it during her unit on space. She also had no problem grasping waves, as her favourite naturalist, Steve Backshall, mentions waves in one of his episodes, and does a demonstration on waves and wind, involving paper aeroplanes. So it fell to me to explain currents to her. I talked to her about warmer water and colder water, and what happens when the two temperatures meet and mix. I then set up a little demonstration for her. Miss 6 and Miss 3 filled a dish with ice cold water, then I filled a jug with boiling water that we had coloured blue with food colouring. Miss 6 slowly poured the boiling water into the ice water, and was able to watch how the water moved and pushed through the dish. We were also lucky enough to see a small eddy in our miniature ocean. Miss 6 thought it was a great “experiment”.

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During the course of this unit, Miss 6s reading and writing took another leap. She is not only more inclined to suggest sitting down and doing some reading or writing work, but is also displaying a marked improvement in her sounding out, spelling and penmanship. One of the “lessons” she did, which still had a scientific spin on it, as that’s her “thing” and that’s what keeps her interested, was a morning of playing sinks or floats. We gathered up around eight different items. She divided her book into two columns and wrote her guesses down, and then systematically ticked off whether she was right or wrong. We talked about the salinity of the ocean, and whether salt water would make some things float when they sank in fresh water. We used almost an entire 1kg bag of table salt to try and prove this theory, but it didn’t work. Which Miss 6 thought was hilarious. So we googled the Dead Sea and read about that instead.

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A standout in her workbook, was her picture of the different levels of the ocean. She spent the better part of an entire day, drawing her picture, reading through her books to help her decide which animals she would draw in each level, and colouring it in. When she was done, she dictated some information about the picture she had drawn. I was thoroughly impressed with the detail of her drawing and the information that she was able to give me.

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As we were winding up her work on oceans, I asked Miss 6 if there was anything else she wanted to do, before we moved on. Her response was “Mummy, the coral reefs and the oceans are in trouble, and I want people to know, so that they can help to make it better”. I asked her how she thought she could do this, and she came up with making a poster and writing a message to her friends on our blog 🙂 Her poster shows a polluted planet with smoke and cars and dirty oceans, with a big line through it, and the words DON’T WANT underneath. Then it has a happy healthy planet, with clean oceans, a big tick and the words DO WANT. The message she wanted to pass on, is this;

Carbon dioxide is covering the Earth, and making the planet too hot and sick. Carbon dioxide comes from machines and factories. Did you know that, because there is so many, cars make more carbon dioxide than planes? When the planet gets too hot, the coral reefs start to bleach. This means that it will die. The coral reef is important to us, because it is the home to 25% of the worlds ocean life. 25% means a whole quarter. If the reef dies, the animals that live there all die. The reef also takes the carbon dioxide out of the water, like trees take it out of the air. This keeps our oceans healthy. Please keep our oceans clean. If you see any rubbish at the beach, or in the water, please pick it up. If you live close to school, or work, or the shops, please ride your bike or scooter, or walk. Three arrows in a triangle shape, is the symbol for recycling. Please try and make the world better by recycling, and helping your kids to plant a tree. If every single person in the whole world, picked up one piece of rubbish, or planted one tree, the sea, and the planet could be healthy again.

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We are off to Sydney to visit family, soon, and my little girls are all very excited! Miss 6 has started her unit on Australia, and after some thought and discussion about what she is interested in, I have a loose plan for the next couple of months, including some great excursions. I think the next unit will be a little lighter on the science component, and a little heavier on maths and English. I have selected some Australian poems and songs, a well as bought some play money for her. We will cover geography with a lot of mapping and travelling, and I have a basic, introduction to Indigenous culture and art, put together for her too. And even though our unit on the ocean is finished, I have a feeling that she will revisit it at another time. I also know that it will be reinforced every time we go to the beach 🙂

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Miss 5 and the Mesozoic

Last week Miss 5 announced that she was done with dinosaurs, for now, and she wanted to start working on The Ocean. More specifically the coral reefs. She has spent the last few days reading about, and watching documentaries on The Great Barrier Reef, coral reefs in general and coral bleaching. Her level of empathy is incredible, and a documentary on coral bleaching reduced her to tears. She is now determined to come up with some way to tell people about climate change, bleaching and the plight of our coral reefs. I have suggested she keep reading and try to think of some ways to get the word out. She has mentioned our facebook page as well as this blog, and I think I can feel another guest post coming. Watch this space 😊

In the meantime, since we’ve had a shift in her study unit, I figured I better write up on the dinosaurs and what she accomplished, before I get too far behind. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not the first time Miss 5 has had a thing for dinosaurs. At age 3 she developed a small obsession for them. It came out of the blue, and to this day I don’t know where the interest was born, it’s not as if Husband and I have prehistorical artefacts laying around the house! But she developed a thing for them and for a good 12 months it was all about the dinosaurs. During this time we amassed a collection of figurines, books, games, puzzles, toys, DVDs and iPad apps. So when she decided a couple of months ago that she wanted to pick up where she left off, I was elated. As a three year old, she learned a lot of dinosaur names, she learned the difference between a herbivore, carnivore and omnivore. She had learned about the three time periods of the Mesozoic (the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous). So this time around we concentrated on different classifications of dinosaur, on observing features of the dinosaur and using these observations to determine what group it belongs to, as well as touching on evolution and how animals (and people) evolve to suit their environment.

Miss 5 has learned that a “quadruped” is an animal that walks on 4 legs, and a “biped” is an animal that walks on 2 legs. She has spent time looking at teeth to determine if an animal is carnivorous or herbivorous. She has studied weaponry and defences of dinosaurs to determine if they are predators or prey, and she has practiced reading and writing the names of the dinosaurs as well.

I love it when the universe shares your rhythm, and provides you with everything you need. Only days after Miss 5 announced she wanted to revisit her prehistoric interests, I found an advertisement for the Perth Zoo. They had an exhibition of large animatronic dinosaurs, on the premises. So we went to the zoo for the day. Miss 5 picked up a map at the entrance and navigated the way to each dinosaur on display. The map had a checklist, which she used by matching the names of the dinosaurs on the sign at each stop, to a name on the list. Not “reading” per Se, but certainly letter recognition. She ticked off each dinosaur as we went, and told me what she knew or could hypothesise about each animal (side note; the word “hypothesis” has been in her vocabulary for a couple of years now, and it is not uncommon to hear her say “Mummy, I have a hypothesis”. So for me to use this word in my reports is perfectly natural, as she uses it more than I do 😀). There was a small group of school students walking with their teacher, and coincidentally walking the same route as us. Miss 5 was kind enough to help this (poor) teacher out, by letting her know that swimming and flying reptiles were not actually dinosaurs, and the pteranodon was actually classed as a pterosaur 😂. I was really impressed that she matched every name of every dinosaur on her list, and then read the map and navigated us around the zoo, using the map, without missing one.

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After our day at the zoo, I found an advertisement for the Explore-A-Saurus exhibition at Scitech. So off to Scitech we went, this time with a group of friends from our homeschooling community. The kids were able to see more animatronic dinosaurs, as well as casts of fossils, and plenty of interactive dinosaur-related activities.

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To support her learning, we learned the Dinosaur A to Z song from one of her favourite shows, Dinosaur Train. Not only did we all learn the words, but she did some copy work, copying down the names of the dinosaurs in her workbook, as well as making note of what they ate, how many legs the walked on, what classification of dinosaur it was and something interesting about it. Then we made some salt dough dinosaur fossils. She learned the difference between body and trace fossils, and made both (I did take a photo of these, but I can’t seem to find it. I’ll keep looking and update this post when I come across it). After the fossils were made, Miss 5 and Miss 3 had a little archaeological dig in the backyard. We also watched the documentary by David Attenborough, about the biggest dinosaur ever discovered.

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The highlight for me, was the day that Miss 5 invented her own dinosaur. She drew a picture of it, named it (and wrote the name down without any prompting), and told me all about this dinosaur, using all of the words, and knowledge that she had accumulated. “Bachosaurus” was a carnivorous theropod that lived on the east coast of Australia during the Cretaceous period. Bachosaurus was an ambush predator that hunted in packs, in order to pull down larger dinosaurs. His stripes were for camouflage as well as a way of identifying other Bachosaurs (much like Zebra stripes). Bachosaurus was primarily a nocturnal dinosaur, like a Troodon, but if food was scarce, it would hunt during the day also. 😀

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I must admit, I think, towards the end, that I was a little more excited about the dinosaur unit than Miss 5. I think I’ve developed a new interest too 😂 I do think, or at least I do hope, that dinosaurs will make another appearance in our “schooling”. It is something that Miss 5 has always been interested in and I would actually like to see her follow it up in coming years.
One thing that I’ve noticed over the last couple of months is that Miss 5 has started to both read and write. The reading has gone from being a chore that she wasn’t keen on and I didn’t want to push, to something that she is asking to do. The writing has come along in leaps and bounds and she is writing page long stories. It’s amazing watching the natural progression of her learning.

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