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!

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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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And the survey says….

Last Wednesday I had a moment of vagueness, where I thought I had forgotten to fill out the national census the night before. As it turned out the census was due to be completed on Tuesday, but it was this Tuesday, not last Tuesday 😐 Oblivious to my mix up, I settled myself on the couch with the iPad and logged into the census website. Miss 5 is quite interested in technology and spends a fair amount of time on science, museum or other educational websites, or doing her reading eggs and maths seeds programs. So when she saw the iPad come out, she wandered over to have a look at what I was doing. Seizing the opportunity for a chat I invited her to sit with me and help me fill out the survey.
She, obviously asked what I was doing and what it was for. I explained that the government collected the information and used it to help them make plans for the future of the country. We talked about statistics (numbers that give information), and why someone would use statistics. We discussed how Daddy used statistics at work, to help him keep his workers safe, as well as to help him estimate the cost of a job, or to help him decide how many workers he might need to do a job. I asked Miss 5 who else might use statistics, she came up with;
– Restaurants – they would need to ask people what types of foods they like, so the restaurant would know what type of food to cook.
– People who build parks – they would need to find out where most of the little kids lived, so they would know where to put the playgrounds.
Miss 5 asked me if the people in the government were the only people who made surveys, to which I told her no. I have answered so many surveys for so many different things. This intrigued her, even more so when I confirmed that you could ask just about anything in a survey. Obviously the next question from Miss 5 was “Do you think I can make a survey, Mummy?”. As I’ve mentioned before, Miss 5 is aware that I have to report to our Department Moderator “School Margaret”, and she is aware that to assist in this, I use this blog and our facebook page. Miss 5 asked if she could make a survey and put it on our Facebook page to see if we could ask people to fill out her survey. I told her to come up with 10 questions while I figured out how we would do it. My first thought was to put a poll on Facebook, but a bit of googling led me to a site called Survey Monkey. It seemed easy enough, and it was free to sign up. With our free membership I had access to a basic survey template, as well as analysis of up to 100 responses. Together, we decided that we would leave the survey open for 3 days. Miss 5 read her questions to me, and I typed them out in the website. I couldn’t help but have a little giggle at her questions 😄 During the course of typing them up, I asked Miss 5 if she would like to include an “other” option. I explained to her that it was something that gave people a way to say they like “something else” other than the options that Miss 5 had come up with. She loved the idea of an “other” option – which she called the or else button 😂 – so much so, that it was added to almost every question!
When the survey was completed, we posted it on our homeschooling facebook page, as well as my personal page, asking our friends and family to fill it out if they had a minute spare. When the link was posted, I told Miss 5 she had to get ready for her swimming lessons. Just before walking out the door, she begged me to check, to see if anyone had filled out her “monkey survey”. She had 8 responses. The first thing she asked when we returned from swimming, was to check her survey. She had 35 responses. She was thrilled, and we spent half an hour going through the charts to see what answers she was getting. By the time she went to bed that night, 6 hours after posting the survey, she had 85 responses. I got as excited as she did. The thought that she could possibly get 100 responses was pretty thrilling. I emailed a few friends who aren’t on Facebook and asked them to fill it in, hoping to push her over the 100 mark.
6.30 the next morning, and Miss 5 was tapping me on the shoulder, asking me to wake up, because she wanted to check her monkey survey. She woke up to 235 responses. There were squeals. We poured over the answers over breakfast, seeing what responses were receiving the most votes, what percentages they were getting, whether the percentage had changed overnight, and guessing what would ultimately be the “winner” 😊 By Thursday night she had 290 responses, and by the time I closed the survey on Saturday morning, she had received a total of 420 responses to her survey. I had to purchase a months subscription to Survey Monkey to access the results of her survey, as the free site only gave me the first 100! 😮 Her proud and excited statement – “Mum!! The internet is BRILLIANT!! 😂😂
We have spent the last few days, looking at the responses, and discussing whether they met our expectations. We have discussed the distribution of numbers, as well as percentages, and factors that may have changed the answers she received. We have plans to go further into detail with the results and do some graphing work. It has been a fabulous exercise, not only for her mathematics component, but social studies (learning and understanding how people, other than her own immediate circle, might live), as well as English (writing the questions and reading the responses), and digital media (a lesson in using technology to assist her learning). And it made her so very happy 😊
Because we had such a great response, and because I know a lot of the people who helped us out, read this blog, and more than a few have contacted me asking what the results were, I thought I’d add a short list of what the questions were, as well as the results:

1) What is your favourite Play School window? It was neck and neck the whole way, but the diamond window just scraped in to the lead position with 143 votes. The Arch window was a very close second with 141.

2) Have you ever been scuba diving? This has been on Miss 5s mind a bit lately, as she wants to learn to snorkel and eventually to scuba dive (I have a feeling that our next unit of study will be the ocean!). 82% of people surveyed have not been scuba diving. But as Miss 5, very cleverly, pointed out, if the majority of our respondents were children, then this might account for the overwhelming “no” response.

3) Which one of these do you live on? The options given were Place, Street, Avenue, Way, and Other. This was a tricky question for her, as her knowledge of possibilities is limited to her own experience, which is why I suggested the “other” option. The most popular for the options she offered was 144 votes for Street. However, as she had missed things like “Road” and “Drive”, the “Other” option received 201 votes, with Road and Drive the top two answers 😂 One response she did receive which excited her imagination to no end was no fixed address because “I have been travelling the world on my motorcycle, for three years” Miss 5 thought that was just about the most awesome thing possible!

4) What do you like to put on your toast? As the majority of people we reached are Australian, it’s really no surprise that 40% of her responses were voting for Vegemite. She did enjoy reading the results for the “other” option though. She tallied the majority of these to be “avocado”, but she also came across some new items, “Chelsey bite” and “cheese whiz” were two that she had never heard of. I also had to explain to her that we had obviously reached someone in America, as one of the responses was “peanut butter and jelly” Miss 5 was picturing a piece of peanut butter toast loaded with aeroplane jelly 😊 Cheese and jam was one response that elicited a big “Ewwwwww”!

5) Who is your favourite Wiggle? This is the question that I’ve been asked about the most. And mostly from grown ups 😂 The yellow wiggle was in front for the majority of the time the survey was open. The purple wiggle made a surge for the finish line in the last few hours. But in the end, the Purple and the Yellow wiggle ended up tied, with 125 votes each.

6) What is your favourite type of restaurant? The options given were Miss 5s favourite! Japanese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and – of course – Other. Italian came out on top here, and the most popular response in the “other” field was “Australian”. Miss 5 was a little confused by this response, and wanted to know what they served in an Australian restaurant. After some thought we decided it was probably things like steak or seafood. We did receive one response that said French, and one that said Ethiopian, both of which are now on her bucket list of foods she wants to try 😊

7) What is your favourite season? Being that we’re in the throes of winter and everyone is cold and sick at the moment, I thought – for sure – that Summer would prove to be most popular. When Miss 5 and I made our guesses, we both agreed that most people would say Summer was the best season. We were proved wrong. Spring was the most popular season from start to finish, with a total of 181 (43%) of the votes in the end.

8) Where would you prefer to visit? Being that Miss 5 came up with these questions, the options were her favourite places to visit. Playground, Theatre, Your friends house, Beach or Other. “Your friends house” was the popular choice initially, but the beach ended up taking out 40% of the votes. When we were going through the responses for the “other” field, we found that the bush was the most popular response. One response was “A Viking Metal concert” I’m not sure if that was someone trying to be funny, or if it is actually a thing. However I listen to heavy metal music, and so does Miss 5s Aunty and Uncle, so she didn’t bat an eye at the response, she just casually said “that must be like the stuff you like Mummy” 😉

9) Who is your favourite Disney Princess? Again this is one that a lot of grown ups have asked for the results, and one where a lot of people made mention, if their own personal favourite wasn’t on the list! But, Miss 5 knows the ones she knows, and being that we don’t watch a lot of television, and I particularly have a little issue with Disney princesses (mainly because in most of the movies Disney kills off one or both of the parents, has a “handsome prince” come in and save the day and the “helpless princess”, and then marries off the princess in her teens – 16 in the case of Ariel!!) her experience with them is limited. She was magnanimous enough to include Merrida, for my benefit (one of the few that has two living parents, saves the day all by herself and refuses to marry 😊), along with Merrida, there was Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Elsa/Anna and Rapunzel. Let’s face it, we all thought Elsa was going to trounce the competition! But the winner was Ariel (28.5%), followed by Cinderella (25%). Merrida came in 3rd 😉

10) What do you think is the most important thing for little kids? Her options were Be Free, Play, Have Good Manners, Learn to Cook, Learn to Read and Write and Explore. Gleefully our biggest response was for “Play” (40%), with “Explore” not too far behind (34%)

A giant THANKYOU to everyone who helped us out by filling in Miss 5s survey. Not only did you offer plenty of data to help with her lessons for the next couple of weeks, but you also put such a giant smile on her face. She had so much fun, and she truly thinks that the Internet is amazing and the people who use it are just wonderful 😊

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How do we know what to do?

We were at Coles this morning, and the checkout operator asked Miss 5 why she wasn’t at school today, which is a fairly common question for us, and we’ve become quite confident answering it. (Miss 5 proudly tells anyone who asks that we “do homeschool” 😊 This is sometimes met with a raised eyebrow, and sometimes with a little smirk, but mostly people are very pleasant and positive and make exclamations about how nice, or how fun that must be). This morning, when Miss 5 told the checkout operator that we homeschool, we were met with a small look of surprise, and then a very large smile. The operator, a young lady perhaps in her early 20s, started talking to us as she rang up our purchase. The first thing she said was “I hated school. I was bullied and picked on from the day I started until the day I left. It used to make me sad, because I loved learning and loved the classes, I just hated school. For me it was a place of torture, not a place of education.” ☚ī¸ From here she proceeded to ask all manner of questions about our day, and what we do, how we do it, and who we report to. She was genuinely interested. As we left she said to me “I think what you’re doing is wonderful. I really wish that my parents had been able to home school me, I think things would have been a bit different if they had.” It was a very poignant conversation for me, but I did walk away from it feeling very happy – again – with our decision to home school.

One of the questions this young lady asked was “So do you get a curriculum, or anything to help you along the way? How do you know what to do?”. And it occurred to me that I have asked these questions myself, to others, when I first started, as well as during the last few months, as we’ve been settling into our own rhythm. AND it occurred to me that I get asked these questions now, at least once a week. Not only by strangers that we strike up a conversation with, but also friends, family members, people who are considering homeschooling as an option for their child AND other homeschooling families (who are trying to work out their own system of learning and recording). So I thought I’d write a little bit about the how’s of what we do, as a way of clearing it up.

So to start with, after registration with the Department of Education in WA, we had a visit with our allocated Department Moderator. Our Moderator is our link to the government. She is the go-to person if we have any questions or concerns, she is the the person who assess Miss 5 annually to ensure that there is sufficient improvement in that time, and she is our initial provider of information. Our moderator is a lovely woman named Margaret. Miss 5 calls her “School Margaret” and we all think she’s just wonderful 😊 During Margarets first visit, we were given a copy of the national and state curriculum. Now to clarify, “the curriculum” states WHAT needs to be covered, not HOW to cover it. It is a broad outline of the scope of work that should be covered and standards achieved during each school year. I get the impression that a lot of people believe that it is like a handbook for homeschoolers, whereby you open at page 1, teach your child the lesson contained in that chapter, follow the sequence, and by the end of the handbook, you’ll have completed a years worth of work, and your child can graduate to the next year. Not the case!. The curriculum is no state secret, it’s freely available online here, and unfortunately I (and most other people I know) found it to be a long, laborious and frustrating read. I also thought, that if you followed it to the letter, it would be very confining with no flexibility to follow the child’s interests and desires as well as their own timeline for progression. And truth to tell, I read most of the parts relating to Miss 5, and then put it away. After all, I made the decision to keep her away from school, so there is no way I am going to emulate it at home!

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So once we were armed with the structure mandated by the department of education, as well as the obligatory mountain of paperwork to go with it, I came up with a rough plan. My plan began with the conscious decision to do away with the curriculum provided by the department 😉 Basically, as long as Miss 5 shows improvement since her last moderator visit, and as long as I can show our Moderator that we are covering the areas of learning that are required, how I go about doing it is my business.

Husband and I had looked into putting Miss 5 into the local Steiner School, at one stage, and while we ultimately decided that it wasn’t for us, there are some parts of their philosophy and teaching methods that I still really like. I really like the life-learning approach to the day. Steiner students participate in chores, cooking, gardening and other hands on activities in their early years. The Steiner philosophy of “head, heart and hands” is an approach to learning at resonates here. We accept artistic and social development as being just as important to a self-realising adult as academic development. I also enjoy the slower pace of the Steiner approach, giving a child ample time to not only develop, but to wholly experience each stage of development, before moving on to the next stage. So with this in mind, we incorporate all of the day-to-day activities in our custom made “curriculum”. I also include the handwork that Steiner education encourages; so sewing, knitting, clay, woodwork, felt work, colouring and drawing all make up a large part of what Miss 5 does. I feel that learning mathematics, patterns, basic science, and the daily rhythm of life, comes more from these activities, in a peaceful, loving and encouraging environment, than it could possibly come from a classroom setting. As Miss 5 progresses, we will also introduce the concept of a Main Lesson Book, which is also something that Steiner schools are well known for.

It’s no secret to those who know me, and I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, I am an avid reader. I am actively encouraging the girls to be avid readers, and I totally am a “book snob”. There is so much out there in the way of incredible literature, for children as well as adults, that I just can’t fathom not sharing with my daughters. I also very strongly believe that not introducing them to a variety of different genres and language now, is only doing them a disservice, as they will not be familiar with, or have even a basic understanding of anything other than picture books when they reach the older grades. So for the English component of our custom “curriculum” I look to the Charlotte Mason school of teaching. We read aloud, A LOT. As a family. Reading is a large part of our lives, and we endeavour to create a loving, pleasant environment during our reading time, to cultivate happy associations. Even Husband, who is not a big reader, will participate in reading aloud for the children. I have a list of texts that we will be reading and discussing over he next 12 months, which includes classics like Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, poems and verses by A. A. Milne, a collection of works by Rudyard Kipling and a simple Shakespeare sonnet. Peppered in amongst this are books that I know will put a smile on Miss 5s face, like those from Roald Dahl, and possibly the first book in the Harry Potter series. The Charlotte Masons concept of a “Living Book” also ties in well with the Steiner MLB, and can be interchanged.

Miss 5, and her sisters, are children who love to run, jump, leap, swim, dance and be outside. They are not happy cooped up indoors, and are never focussed when they’re told they have to sit still. So we spend a decent portion of every day outside. Outside in nature. I very strongly believe that there is nothing that children can learn in a classroom, that can’t be learned outside, in a forest, at the beach or on a hike, making natural discoveries. So for the gaps in our “curriculum” we take a Forest School approach. Miss 5 is offered the opportunity to asses and take risks as she feels capable. She is offered the opportunity to foster a positive relationship with the planet that she lives on, as well as the other inhabitants. We walk, explore, make sculptures from found materials. She climbs trees, walks on walls, explores rock pools, wanders in the bush, and learns about her physical self and her place in the world, by being in the world.

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The most important element that links all of these approaches – as well as a few others – with our approach to learning, is that it is all child led. For us this means that Miss 5 has the autonomy to lead the way in her education. Her natural curiosity, and her own interests are at the forefront of our day. She makes the decisions regarding the topics she covers, the amount of time she invests into each topic or area, the time of day this takes place, and the approach that she uses. As her parent, I facilitate this learning by making suggestions as to where or how she can find the answers she needs, or offering opportunities and resources to supplement her interests. But there is no coercion, no force and no “trickery” involved. For example, a couple of days ago, Miss 5 was playing with her Daddy’s big tape measure. So I showed her where to find “centimetres” on the measure, and suggested she try measuring some things around the house. She got a piece of paper and wrote a list of the things she measured, with the measurements next to them. She discovered that Miss 3 was 2cm taller than the chair at the craft table, and she herself was 8cm taller then her sister. In our report, this 15 minute activity provides a tick for English, and for Maths. As it was a positive experience for her, that she had full control over, she will likely remember it fondly and will go back to it in the future, and take it further when she does. 😊

To keep the department of education happy, I keep a folder – divided ‘by month’ – of loose, dated examples of Miss 5s work. I also have a small workbook of stories and worksheets that Miss 5 has completed. Everyday she draws or writes in her “feelings book” (akin to a journal), which is also used as examples of her progress. Combined with this blog, and our facebook page, we have a coherent record of our day-to-day that includes dates, photos, examples of work and observations on my part. I also have an excel spreadsheet that lists all of the areas of learning dictated by the national curriculum. On this spreadsheet I list the main activities of our week, and I literally tick a box to show what areas have been covered during the activity. I also make a note if it has been recorded, and if so whether it is on the blog, or Facebook page. And that’s it, job done 😊 Of course there are a million ways we supplement our “curriculum” with programs like Reading Eggs, and subscriptions to Little Passports, as well as any amount of excursions and co-ops, and classes held within our own homeschooling community. The beauty of what we do, is everyday holds something new and unique 😀

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There are a few (very few) people who believe that only a “qualified teacher” should be afforded the right to teach a child. They believe that there is no possible way that I could be capable of educating my daughter. How could I possibly know what to do? I’m not qualified! Some days, when I’ve had no sleep or the day hasn’t gone as I’d imagined, or Miss 5 has an off day – which happens here, just as it happens in the houses of children who attend mainstream schools – on these days I doubt myself and wonder if these people might be right. But then I remember the facts. The fact is no one knows my daughter better than me. No one knows her interests, her secrets, her desires, her hopes, no one knows her the way I do. My qualifications lay in the fact that I am her mother, her biggest fan and advocate. I also re-read our last report from School Margaret, it was such a wonderful, glowing report, that I keep it handy for encouragement and inspiration. And it was written by someone who is qualified and who does know what they’re doing!

“It is difficult to include (in this report) all of the excellent learning experiences in is well integrated program. I have been given the privilege of access to (A Little to the Lefts) blog about her homeschooling, and in reading them I was amazed at the detail of her reflection, planning and delivery of the learning environment for (Miss 5).

Her written descriptions in (her blog posts) beautifully describe the philosophy and processes of this very effective home school. As I commented on the (blog) site, these should be a book guide to others. I am very happy for this program to continue, and am excited to see where it travels to in the next year”

Taken from School Margarets most recent report. Happy Days 😊😊