The Masterchef

It’s been a while since my last post. Life just happens, doesn’t it? Miss 5 is nearly Miss 6, and is busy making plans for her upcoming birthday. Miss 1 seems to be constantly cutting teeth, and Miss 3 is all of a sudden much more interested in the world around her. She is also entering the stage of non-stop questions that 3 year olds seem to be famous for. Among other things, Miss 5 and I have been entertaining ourselves with the latest Masterchef series on television, and that inspired last weeks Feast Day 😊

I discovered cooking later in life. I grew up in a household where cooking and food were not a priority. I mean this in as much as cooking and eating a meal was viewed as a chore that had to be done rather than something fun or joyous. I guess cooking just wasn’t on the list of passions for my parents, which is fine, but it meant that moving into my teens and twenties, I carried the same attitude.
As Husband and I grew older, our love of food developed, and as our wages grew, so did our appreciation of good food. Truth to tell, we ate out nearly every night, as cooking was still viewed as a “chore”. When Miss 5 came along, and I gave up work, we quickly realised, if we wanted the same type of meals that we had become used to, then I would have to cook them myself 😀 So Miss 5 has lived in a household where I am in the kitchen all the time. She has seen me trying recipes, having triumphs, having miserable failures (😂), she has tasted, and stirred and “helped” me in the kitchen since the day she was born. My learning in this area, has been closely watched and mimicked by her, and as I have discovered a passion for fresh, quality produce and putting together a delicious meal, so has she. When she talks about what she wants to be when she grows up, it is usually a scientist and a chef 😊

A few weeks ago, Miss 5 learned that her Granny was going to America to visit family for a whole month. Miss 5 was a little upset at this, as she loves her Granny, and she came to me and asked if she could do something nice for Granny before she left for the States. Her idea was to cook a “feast”. As Miss 5 discussed her plans with me, she got incredibly excited. She got that look in her eyes, you know the one? That look that means they have just ignited a little fire in their hearts, and the only thing you can do is say yes, and then stand back and watch in amazement 😍

We watched an episode of Masterchef where Heston Blumenthal (a big hit because he is a chef and a scientist!), did a class on how to roast the perfect chicken and potatoes, along with a gravy, and Miss 5 decided this would be the main course. Miss 5 also decided that she would like to add a salad, cauliflower au gratin, and garlic bread. Dessert was to be a chocolate trifle, as she had heard the term, but did not know what it was. When I described a trifle pudding to her, Miss 5 was determined to make one and see if it tasted as good as it sounded.

Miss 5 decided on the menu, she helped write the recipes down, she helped do the shopping for the day, she made menus to put on the table, for the dinner guests. She set the table herself, she decided how the meal was to be served (she wanted the food piled high in the middle of the table Hogwarts Style 😉), and she helped devise a timeline for the day, to make sure that we didn’t forget anything, and that all of the food would be ready at the same time. It was a big day for her, and a day of a lot of hard work. Most adults would be worn out after literally spending ALL day in the kitchen, never mind a 5 year old child. But not only did she do it, but she did it with such enthusiasm and care. I, of course, did all of the heavy lifting and moving of dishes in and out of the oven, but otherwise, Miss 5 did the lot! Stirring, cutting, peeling, chopping! She was amazing! To give you an idea of the amount of work, here is a quick run down of the day;

– she made a stock from scratch, for the base of the gravy.
– she cut up an entire head of cauliflower and par boiled it.
– she made a trifle pudding (she had made the jelly the night before to make sure it was set in time).
– she peeled, cut and par boiled 10 potatoes
– she cleaned, brined and rinsed 2 whole chickens
– she made the cheese sauce for the Au Gratin
– she peeled and sliced vegetables for the garden salad
– she made a garlic and herb butter for the garlic bread, and then made the garlic bread
– she glazed and stuffed the chickens, ready for cooking
– she roasted the potatoes
– she made the gravy, from scratch, with her own stock
– she made me menus for the table
– she set the table
– she started cooking the stock at 9am, and she served her feast at 6pm
– oh, and she also made her own “chefs hat” out of paper 😂

I don’t think Granny and Grandad realised just how much of the credit belonged to Miss 5. As it was truly her day, all I did was facilitate and lift the heavy stuff!
The look on her face when everyone ate her food, and complimented her on a job well done, was just priceless. There was so much pride in her eyes, and I know for certain that she has found a passion, and a life skill, that will follow her for all of her days. As a mother, there is nothing I treasure more, than moments like these.

IMG_3333.JPG

IMG_3340.JPG

IMG_3338.JPG

IMG_3334.JPG

IMG_3343-0.JPG

An Easter Arty Party

Ok, back to the reason I’m writing this blog…. After my meltdown we decided to take things a little easy. In all areas. We had a rainy day in front of the TV, with lots of added reading and cuddles. We also had a day of playing in the backyard. Miss 5 didn’t mention school work, and neither did I. I thought we needed a day of fun stuff, and in our house “fun stuff” always includes making art of some kind, and making mess of some kind 🙂
When the art activity is my idea, I try not to structure the girls too much. I usually give them the materials and the idea, and let them go with it. Children are incredibly creative when they are not trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what “art” is. I set up 4 different art stations for Miss 5 and Miss 2.5 and I tried to keep to a loose Easter theme. The girls had a ball 🙂
We started doing some wax-resistant water colour painting. I drew some secret Easter pictures and messages on white paper in white crayon. The girls then had to paint the paper with their watercolour paints, to discover the secret message. Miss 5 thought that was a bit of a lame activity XD, pretty soon after starting she decided to ditch her secret message (guessing that it was a picture of the Easter bunny, not even half way through!), and grabbed a clean sheet of paper. She experimented with the paints, adding water with a brush and then a sponge, layering paint and water, until she came up with an effect that suited her. Her finished product was an underwater painting of a fish with coral and seaweed. Her fish was much more interesting and showed much more sophistication than my hidden Easter wax message 🙂
The girls made Easter cards by cutting and pasting scraps of journaling paper. Miss 5 explained to Miss 2.5 that the paper would look nicer if it was pasted in a pattern. While they were cutting and pasting and writing in their cards, I sacrificed 4 potatoes out of the pantry. I cut them in half (lengthways, so they were fairly egg shaped) and carved patterns into the flat half, and then stuck plastic forks into the tops, making Easter egg potato stamps. The girls sat for nearly 30 minutes stamping different patterns onto different pieces of art paper. The results of the mornings art making look like this:

IMG_2849.JPG

When lunch was finished and the kitchen tidied, and Miss 11 months tucked into bed for her afternoon nap, I pulled out the big guns 😀 I had been thinking about an artwork that the girls could make for Easter, that would really be something special. I did get this idea off the internet, but I tweaked it a little to suit us. I had carton of eggs that was heading into the land of past-it’s-best-before. Usually I rush to find a recipe to use up the eggs before this happens, but I decided to sacrifice the 8 eggs instead 🙂 This was a HUGE hit. The girls had SO much fun that I almost wished I had more eggs so they could keep going. We were all laughing our heads off while they were doing it, and it looked like such fun, that even I had a go myself 😀
The first thing I did was tap a hole into the top of each egg, and tip out the contents. When all the shells were empty, I washed the shells out with tap water. As best I could. Then I used some cheap, water based, acrylic paint and filled the shells about a quarter of the way. Each egg had a different colour. After each egg had it’s allocation of paint, I added a little water – until the eggs were almost halfway filled – and gave them a little jiggle to mix the water and paint together. This is for added “splat” effect 🙂 I had two blank canvases set up on our drop sheet, in the backyard. Miss 5 and Miss 2.5 then took turns throwing their eggs at the canvases. The harder they threw, the more satisfying the splat. Miss 2.5 did not quite have enough strength to break the egg completely on the first throw, but she quickly figured out that if she picked up the shells after they had been tossed, and stood really close to the canvas, she could get a second, or even a third, splat out of them. Such an egg-celent way to create an Easter masterpiece XD
So we’ve had a few days off. We’ve regrouped and we’re ready to forge ahead. Miss 5 and I made the mutual decision to stop reading Harry Potter. Although Miss 5 doesn’t have the vocabulary to express it, we have both found that the concepts as well as the intricacies of the plot and the characters are just a little bit beyond her, and she isn’t enjoying the story as much as she thought she would. She has suggested that we try again “when she’s 6” 🙂 So we’ve packed away Potter, and we’ve started reading Charlottes Web, which is a big hit, and so far has opened up discussions on spiders (obviously), farm animals, and the five senses. I think this next week is going to be right up our alley 🙂

IMG_2842.JPG

IMG_2840.JPG

IMG_2847.JPG

IMG_2841.JPG

Days like today

Otherwise entitled, How I ruined Easter 😦

I ummed and ahhed about writing this, and I almost didn’t, but for two reasons. 1) For the sake of my own records, I need to be able to look back and say “there’s where I went wrong, and this is what I need to do different next time”, and 2) For the 6 people who read this blog, other than me and the moderator (hi Dad 🙂 ), I want to keep it real. It’s not all rainbows and lollipops. And while this is more about me and less about Miss 5, my experience influences hers, so my thoughts and feelings need to be addressed and validated, even if it’s only by me.

This week has sucked. There is nothing else for it. Sucked big time. Miss 11 months is cutting teeth. She is waking during the night, and screaming incessantly during the day. Miss 2.5 is, well she’s 2.5. She’s intense, she’s demanding, she’s loud, she’s highly verbal, she’s non-stop, she’s into everything and she’s noticing the shift of my focus and my attention when it’s “school time” with Miss 5. And of course her natural response is to be even more intense, and loud, and into everything, and verbal in order to get more of my attention.

The week started with a couple of rough nights with Miss 11 months. Then I had the night from hell!! Miss 11 months awake between 11 and 12. I had just got myself settled and back to sleep, when Miss 5 and Miss 2.5 came into the room, hand in hand. Miss 2.5 lost her Bunny in the middle of the night, so miss 5 brought her down to me, knowing that I would get up and find Bunny. This was just after 1am. I settled them both and went back to bed. Only to be woken by Miss 11 months at 2.30am. Miss 2.5 crawled back into bed with me at around 3.30am – giant scary snowmen were prowling, apparently – and Miss 5 joined us at 4.30am because she was lonely. Miss 11 months woke up at 5.30am for breakfast. And it’s in this haze of exhaustion, that I started the week. And it just kept going downhill. And of course without any sleep, things tend to spiral out of control much quicker don’t they?

And here’s the thing; all of a sudden I have realised that I just can’t reconcile the person that I’m supposed to be. I am a mother of three very small people. I have a household to run, bills to pay, meals to prepare, theatre classes, swimming classes (and soon sports and preschool classes) to get them to. For my own, personal reasons, I cannot leave the housework. I simply cannot have a dirty house. Untidy, of course, I live with four people who don’t understand how to pick up after themselves, but dirty? No. Can’t do it. AND now I have added the responsibility of educating my daughter into this as well. Man alive, I am SO overwhelmed. How the hell am I supposed to do ALL of this. AND give my children the attention and love they deserve, AND find the time to give myself a break, AND still have the energy, desire or motivation to be an attentive wife at the end of the day, AND manage to smile, AND keep my sanity?? I feel so spread thin, that instead of doing a great job at a few things, I feel like I’m doing a very mediocre job at everything. I am not being a good wife, to be honest, at the end of the day, the last thing I want to hear about is how crappy someone else’s day was. I’m not playing with Miss 2.5 as much as she wants me to, I’m not picking up and cuddling Miss 11 months as much as I did the others at that age (and there’s a whole world of guilt wrapped up in that one), and I’m not doing any justice to Miss 5, and what she wants. I have found myself saying no to her and her requests to do more school work!! Seriously! She has said “mummy, can we do x,y,z for school” and I have caught myself saying “not today darling, go out and play.” How can I take on this role, and then refuse her requests to learn??

And everywhere I look there is chaos. Things on the floor, half done jobs and projects everywhere, clothes that have been washed and folded, but not put away. Still sitting, washed and folded, in the same spot they were 3 weeks ago!! And I want to scream! “I know you can’t clean the house, I know it’s not your job to clean the house, I don’t want you to have to clean the house. But do you have to make my job even harder? Can’t you at least put your clothes into the washing basket? Can’t you at least wipe up the mess that you made, or not leave your damn shoes in the middle of the floor where you took them off?”

So I’m not keeping up with the house work, I’m not keeping up with Miss 5s expectations for school, I’m not keeping up with being a proper mother to all 3 of the girls, and I have spent the last week being cross and cranky and tired and overwhelmed, and scared that Miss 5 is going to come to me and tell me she wants to go to school, just so she can get away from her crazy, cranky mother! And I feel like I’ve backed myself into a corner. I can’t speak up, I can’t ask for help, I can’t ask for something that I can’t expect to receive.

In a perfect world, I would have a network of people whom I could turn to and say “You know what, I need help.” Or “Can I just drop the girls off for a couple of hours? I need some time to regroup, centre myself, or just mop the goddamn floor”, but I chose to move to Perth. I left my family and my closest friends and I moved 4,500kms away (and while I have made friends with a small but wonderful group of ladies, it’s not quite the same). And that was my choice, and I don’t regret it. But the point it it was my choice. Just like homeschooling Miss 5 is my choice. I pushed the point, and I decided this was the way I wanted to live. And it is, it definitely is, BUT now I feel like I’m backed into a corner. I feel the weight of “this was all your decision, your choice, you made the bed now lay in it” hanging over my head. I have survived the last 3 years, moving into 3 different houses, 2 pregnancies, 2 newborns and 1 miscarriage with very little in the way of a support network. I truly believed that I could do this. I truly thought that compared to those events, educating Miss 5 at home would be a breeze. But on days like today, I feel that I cannot do enough, I am not doing enough. I am just not enough. And yeah, I probably should have thought of this all before I pulled her out of school. But I didn’t.

So I have refused to join in the Easter celebrations with Husband and his family. Which, as you can imagine, has made me the least popular person in the world. Husband will have to face the embarrassing task of lying to cover for me. But I’ve had to do that too, and I know that he’ll live. I did. In the meantime I’m relishing the next 4 hours to myself. To be able to put myself back together, make a better plan for Miss 5s next school week, cuddle my baby without making another child jealous, and maybe even put away the basket of washing that I’ve been staring at for nearly a month. Maybe. Or I might nap 😉

I can sit here and recognise, that I need some sleep. And I can recognise that I need some time just for myself. And I know that I’m not going to give up on this, and that next week is a new week. I know that tomorrow I will put my big girls pants on and start taking care of business again. But on days like today I am building a blanket fort, and hiding in it.

To end on a positive rather than finish this, feeling sorry for myself, Miss 5 is starting to read. And as soon as I figure out how to put the video of it on the blog, I’ll do that too. She’s doing a wonderful job 🙂

What we did last week

As I’ve mentioned before, we have to report to the board of education, once a year. We have to show that Miss 5 has made advances in the previous 12 months. As part of this report we have to provide a record of what we do, including dated examples of her work and photos. I have a display folder and a few work books for her to keep examples of her work, and this blog – hopefully – will be enough to cover the rest. So every week I hope to briefly describe what we have done in the previous 7 days.
I keep our weekly plan fairly vague, with lots of room for Miss 5 to pick and choose where we go next, as well as lots of flexibility to swap and change things around if we come across something better, or more interesting. We have decided that we are going to have one “home economics” day a week (which is really just me saying I still have a house, a husband, two other children and a never ending pile of laundry that needs to be seen to!), during the course of this day we clean the house – Miss 5 helps with the chores, or helps by cleaning her room or tidying up the playroom with her sister, we do any gardening that is required, and we have a shopping/cooking lesson. All the chores are age appropriate and I don’t force her, but most of the time she’s happy to chip in and do her bit. Last week we planted a whole bunch of veggies. We planted spinach, tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, capsicum and peas. Miss 5 goes out every day and checks the growth of the seedlings and makes sure there are no weeds or snails. She had a ball digging in the dirt and watering the seeds and seedlings. She also found a grasshopper and chased a little lizard 🙂
Miss 5, like her mother, is a bit of a fan of Jamie Oliver. So on our Home Ec days, we go through Jamie Oliver’s 30 or 15 Minute meal cook book. We read the recipes and she picks one that she likes the look of. Then we write out the shopping list, go to Coles and she finds the items on the list and checks them off. When we go through the checkout, she pays. When dinner time rolls around, she – with my help, and the “help” of Miss 2.5 – follows the recipe, and cooks dinner for the family. Last week she picked Falafel Wraps. She did a really, really good job. THe next morning we talked about not being able to find certain ingredients in the store and how we substituted. We also talked about Miss 2.5 accidentally tipping too much water into the falafel mix, making it too runny. We talked about what we did to fix the problem, and what we might do differently next time.
The other structured activities we did this week were worksheets and reading. We made a stop at the local library and stocked up on books. There were books for entertainment and books about Ancient Egypt. I also set her up with some yarn and some sticks that we found in the backyard, and we practiced some weaving. Surprisingly she found this quite difficult, and even more surprisingly she did not cope well with finding something that she couldn’t quite figure out. It took a fair bit of coaxing on my part to convince her to keep trying. I think the fine motor skills are something that we will have to work on a little bit more in the future. She did make me laugh, however, when she decided the weaving project looked like a guitar 🙂
The rest of the weeks learning was led by Miss 5. One of the things that is amazing me most about her and the process of natural learning, is the amount of creativity and thought and ingenuity that she shows in her ideas, when she’s been given the space and freedom to explore them. This week she decided that she wanted to grow some crystals with her little crystal chemistry kit. She also decided that she wanted to make a sculpture. She took the bowl of coral and shells that she has been collecting from our travels up north, and glued them together. When the coral proved to be too heavy for the glue she was using, she got some blu tac and held it together with that, until the glue dried. She also organised a music concert with her instruments and her sisters. They played music together for over an hour! We finished reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and she painted a picture of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, her favourite characters in the story. We finished our story stones – the stones have pictures painted on them, you put them into a bag and take turns pulling out a stone and telling a story involving the item in the picture. And, I taught Miss 5 and Miss 2.5 how to play Uno!
All in all I was fairly happy with the week. There are, as always, some things that we will tweak, and try differently this week, but I think we did well. I have a vision of how I would like to manage our Home Education, eventually, I just need to work, with Miss 5, towards finding that groove that I can see in my mind.
We managed to tick off reading and writing everyday, we did science and practical life skills with the cleaning and the gardening. Science, maths, health and reading with the shopping and cooking. Plenty of art, story telling, music, playing and being outside.
I spoke to Miss 5 again, about school and whether she was sure she still wants to be at home, doing what we do. Her answer was “I definitely want to be at home and doing all of this cool stuff, with you mummy.” So it’s full steam ahead, into another week 🙂

IMG_2751-0.JPG

IMG_2752-0.JPG

IMG_2747-0.JPG

IMG_2746-0.JPG

IMG_2754.JPG

IMG_2753.JPG

IMG_2755.JPG

IMG_2756.JPG

IMG_2760.JPG

IMG_2757.JPG

IMG_2758.JPG

IMG_2761.JPG

So we’ve made the decision…. What now?

After all of our long talks about homeschooling, which included me flooding husbands Facebook feed with memes and links to speakers that I found inspiring (like this one and this one by Sir Ken Robinson, if you’re interested enough to take a look), we finally made our decision. Which went a little bit like this;
Him: You know what? Just do it. We have to make a decision, so let’s just do it.
Me: Are you sure?
Him: No, I’m not sure. Not at all. But I love you, and I trust you, and I know that you’re going to go at this like it’s your life’s mission, just because you hate to admit defeat. There’s no teacher in any school in the world who is going to be as dedicated to my girls, as you. So do it.
Me: Schools aren’t going anywhere.
Him: I know.
Me: If it goes pear shaped, or if she asks to go to school, I will be the first person to drive her down to the local primary school and enroll her.
Him: I know.
Me: So are we really going to do it?
Him: Let’s do it.
He’s pretty special 😉
So the next day I was onto the website for the West Australian Department of Education to find out what I had to do to make it official. I’ve since found out that every state in Australia has a different system as far as registering and reporting to the board is concerned, and, luckily for us, WA is one of the more “user friendly” states. We will be assigned what they call a Moderator, who will check in on a yearly basis to make sure there is progress displayed since the previous visit. The Moderator will make an initial visit in the first three months as a kind of meet and greet thing (from what I’ve been told). As we are off on a trip overseas next week, I am not expecting to hear from our moderator until we get back. So one phone call, a couple of forms and a copy of Miss 5s birth certificate later, and we’re registered.
And that’s it. There’s no information evening, no course to do, no instruction book, or teachers pack. Nothing. As I am yet to meet our moderator, I don’t know if s/he will turn up with something of the sort or not, but to date there is nothing. At first I must admit, I found it pretty intimidating and more than a little overwhelming. Especially with so many people asking “are you capable?”, “do you have any qualifications?”, “how do you know what you have to teach her?”. The answers to these questions are no and I don’t know!! And then I had a little epiphany. I was over thinking it, and beginning to second guess myself. In the last 5 years I have guided her through sitting, crawling, walking, talking, feeding herself and dressing herself. We have already learned to count, the alphabet, to write her name and countless other things. My lightbulb moment was realising this, I am already her teacher. I already am schooling her at home, AND doing a damn fine job too. Once I realised this, I relaxed. Sure it’s going to get more involved and there are going to be times where I’m going to be burning the midnight oil studying up on whatever lesson is at hand, but I am already doing it! I’m already doing it, and there is nobody on earth that knows how to teach my daughter something, better than I do. This realised, I started to do even more research! I knew that I liked certain approaches to teaching. Certain philosophies of Steiner/Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and a few others made my heart sing, so I looked further into them. I read about homeschooling, deschooling, unschooling, classical methods, natural learning, relaxed schooling, Montessori methods, digital schooling and unit studies. And each one had at least one thing that made me think Yes! I want to try that. And then I heard the term “eclectic homeschooling” and that suits Miss 5 and I perfectly. So that’s how we plan to move forward. We are taking the methods and principles that we like from wherever we can find them, and applying them to us. And that’s the “how” part taken care of. Now for the what.
This part I found really easy. I just asked Miss 5. People think that you can’t trust children to want to learn, or to choose the way that they learn, but it disagree. I think, if left to their own devices in their own time frame, children will want to learn with a ferocious appetite. It’s when you force children to learn certain things in a certain timeframe, outside of their own rhythm, that the resistance starts. Learning is an indelible part of the human condition. So I asked her “What do you want to learn? How do you want to learn it? What do you think is really fun? What do you really not like to do?” After all this is her school and I will be her teacher, here to help her learn, so it has to be what she wants. We sat down and talked about it. She told me that she wants to learn about Ancient Egypt, how creatures live under the sea (Not about the animals, mummy, I already know what fish and sharks and turtles are. I want to learn about how they breathe underwater, and what they eat, and where in the world they like to swim, and why some creatures live in the icy waters and not in the warm waters), she also wants to learn about China, learn to cook and learn woodwork! She told me that she didn’t enjoy “mat time” when she attended the Kindy program she was in, she didn’t like to have to sit still and not talk. But she did enjoy the worksheets that they did at Kindy. This was enough to give me a start. I checked and cross referenced the curriculum to make sure I wasn’t missing anything as far as major subjects are concerned, like math, science, english etc. And I designed themed work sheets. I gathered a plethora of experiments and activities to cover the STEM subjects. I have a reading list compiled, which will be added to our own reading for pleasure (I am listing the books we are reading, as we go, on a page on this blog. Feel free to check it out.), and as I have a background in art and photography, there are arts/crafts ideas galore! After we return from our trip, I also have plans to enrol Miss 5 in a musical theatre class, as well as joining in various co-ops, classes and social activities that we have access to through the Perth homeschooling community. We’re going to be pretty busy!
I have deliberately left the “lesson plans” pretty vague. We will work it out in more detail as we go. Miss 5 is bold, and highly verbal and quite happy to take control and steer this ship in the direction of her choosing. And I’m pretty happy to go along for the ride 🙂

IMG_2655.JPG