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 😊😊

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.

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So, what do you guys DO all day?

If there’s one question I get asked more than any others, it’s “so what do you actually do all day?” I usually answer with “We live our life”, but sometimes, especially for those who don’t quite “get” what we’re doing, it can be a little hard to understand how living life is actually learning, and how a natural life-education can be related back to the strict confines of a school curriculum. So I thought I’d do a little “day in the life” kind of thing, except our days are so varied in experiences and we don’t really have a strong routine, so I changed it to a weekly snapshot. This is basically how we spend our days, and how I link it back to the curriculum in order to report to the Department of Education. And yes, I do get rather creative when I’m ticking those boxes 😉

Monday
Last Monday was a public holiday here, so we had Husband home with us. I cleaned the house and stayed inside most of the day, to let the girls spend some time with their Dad, one on one. They helped him in the garden, raking leaves and pulling weeds. In our home, we view this as socialising too. Learning conflict resolution, open and honest communication and fostering a healthy relationship, between family members is just as, if not more, important than doing so with strangers, acquaintances and friends. Learning respect, honesty, compassion, empathy and loyalty starts at home. During the afternoon I implement what I call “quiet time”. Miss 1 obviously naps in the middle of the day, and it wasn’t all that long ago when Miss 3 did the same. So for a couple of hours after lunch, in order to allow the baby to sleep, the girls pick a quiet activity that they would like to do. Sometimes they watch TV, sometimes Miss 5 does Reading Eggs or Maths Seeds, sometimes they paint or draw, sometimes they actually choose to have a lay down. As long as it’s a quiet, calm activity, they please themselves. This particular day Miss 5 made some noise about being bored – on a side note, Husband and I refuse to control or structure every minute of the day for the girls. We feel that “being bored” is a healthy part of a learning environment. “Being bored” will encourage a child to think for herself, to act for herself, to practice initiative and get creative. One of the problems with school for young children, is the level of structure. So much so that, after a time, they don’t know how to entertain themselves without someone telling them what to do – so after a little while of being bored, Miss 5 decided to build a rocket ship. She picked up some loose bolts, screws, bits of wire and odds and ends from the garage, wrapped a bottle in foil and added her bits and bobs to it. Today we ticked a box for socialising, science, health, physical exercise (in the garden with Daddy), as well as science, art, design and tech (building the rocket ship).

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Tuesday
As with most state schools, the local primary school had a pupil free day, after the public holiday. Miss 5s best friend comes from a family where both parents work, so to help them out – and because she’s adorable and we love her – Bestie spent the day with us on Tuesday, while her folks were at work. There was lots of cuddles and giggles and general, secret best friend business 🙂 They rode their bikes and jumped on the trampoline (physical exercise and socialisation), they also painted pictures for each other, writing their friends names on their paintings (art and english), they made and decorated their own cupcakes (science, art and health), did a variety of jigsaw puzzles (maths, science, design and tech), and in the afternoon, as we were waiting for Besties mum to arrive, Miss 5 showed off her sewing and embroidery. She then gathered some aida cloth and some embroidery thread for Bestie and showed her how to stitch (which is not only a tick for art, design and tech, as well as developing fine motor skills, but is also a fabulous example of applied knowledge 🙂 )

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Wednesday
Wednesday mornings are kept open for swimming lessons. We are lucky enough to have a local swim school that has classes for all three girls, running at the same time. It makes life so much easier for us. This Wednesday we were a little bit more relaxed than usual, as I was feeling a bit off – all three girls as well as Husband have been down with a nasty clod over the last couple of weeks, and I’m struggling to keep it at bay – so after swimming, we had lunch and Miss 1 and I had a little nap, while Miss 3 played outside and Miss 5 did some reading eggs, and Maths seeds (physical exercise – swimming – as well as English, maths and digital media).

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Thursday
Every second Thursday we get together with a small group of local homeschooling families, all with children roughly the same age and all who are fairly new to this life. It’s a great opportunity for the parents to chat and share ideas or thoughts, or brainstorm and get advice, and it’s nothing but pure play for the kids. They take their bikes, or scooters, they play in the sandpit, they run around like puppies, and while there is the obligatory playground there, there are also trees to climb, a lake to paddle in and ducks to watch/chase/feed (And while we go there with no agenda, no structure and no plan on what will be done, or even how long we’ll stay, for the purpose of reporting I’ll tick off the obvious physical exercise, health and socialisation, as well as design and tech (building in the sandpit) and science (ducks/tadpoles/trees/lakes 😉 ).

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Friday
Friday, Miss 5 decided she was done with her “space theme”, and she wanted to move on. She decided she is moving on to Dinosaurs. This is fabulous news for me, as, when she was Miss 3, she was dinosaur crazy. I have so much on hand in the way of resources, toys, puzzles, games, documentaries, movies, iPad apps and knowledge that I acquired, I really don’t need to research at all!! Watching her when she was 3 was actually the first time I really considered homeschooling her. As I saw first hand just how much information – actual valid, credible and incredible information – could be learned by someone who was so passionate and wholly immersed in what they were learning about. So Miss 5 spent Friday putting away all of her space related books and paraphernalia, and going around the house collecting up all of her dinosaur related items. She also came up with the idea of a dinosaur diorama (she calls it a stage). She found some cardboard cutouts of different dinosaurs and put them together, then cut up a cardboard box, taping into a shape that she was happy with, after that was done, she asked me to scribe the “master plan” so we would know what craft supplies we would need. Miss 5 has determined, that while she is learning about dinosaurs, she will make the diorama her major artwork, instead of doing lots of little art pieces. She also added some more to her embroidery. She is stitching a cross stitch picture, that she plans on adding to some cotton quarters, given to her by a friend of mine, that will eventually become a blanket for Miss 1. (So today we have science, english, design and tech and art – dinosaurs – and design and tech, art and maths – sewing and cross stitch)

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Saturday
Miss 5 and Miss 3 went to a pyjama party disco/movie night with Miss 5s musical theatre and dance school on Friday night, and it was a late night for both of them, so we kept Saturday clear for the recovery, which was just as well, as everybody slept in! I also had plans for a night out with some girlfriends of mine, Saturday night, and Husband was preparing for a trip away for work this week, so Saturday was spent very low key, in our PJs, on the couch and having naps. And I probably could link it to something, but I’m not. Let’s call it what it was, a lazy day off 😉

Sunday
To treat the girls before he is away for a week, Husband agreed to take us to the art gallery on Sunday morning – another aside here, we aren’t pretentious about teaching our children, we don’t do lessons on things like the 20th century Surrealist movement, or Beethoven’s fifth. But we do expose them. We make sure that they regularly see different art. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we don’t. I play music all day, sometimes classical, sometimes opera, sometimes punk 😉 The girls hear it, and sometimes they comment, sometimes it’s just background noise. The point is that they have that exposure, and hopefully, when they’re ready, it will lead them to more – so we took a little wander around (art and english) and then we had sushi for lunch at the girls’ favourite Japanese restaurant (geography – talking about Japan and where it is – health and science). The park where we have our homeschool play dates just happens to be around the corner from the Japanese restaurant, so after lunch they had a grand old time running around, playing chasing games with Mummy 🙂 and playing on the playground. And, of course, they ended the day with their feet in the lake and a tree climb (PE, health, science), perfect.

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Monday
There are so many resources and activities available to homeschooling families here in WA. If I were to book everything that was open to us, we’d never be home! Everything from the WA Symphony Orchestra putting on specific performances, to the local ice skating rink allocating a time, and a discount, for homeschoolers. Monday we participated in a session run by the Department of Fisheries, specifically for homeschooled children. The children were able to see the tanks and displays in the departments office, as well as view (in Miss 5s words) “real live scientists” in their labs, going about their business. They were then taken into a room where they discussed what the department did, and how important it is to ensure the protection of our oceans. They were given large tubs of flotsam and jetsam collected from the beach and, in groups, they categorised what they had found. We rounded the lesson off with a trip to the WA aquarium, AQWA, just around the corner. (Science, maths, english, geography).

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Some of the things that aren’t listed here, are things like the reading eggs and maths seeds programs, which Miss 5 does every second day or so. Our reading time, which happens always before bed, and often while they are eating breakfast or lunch or as their “quiet time” activity. Also every Monday I do an exercise class for mothers with small children. The children all play together in the same room, while the mums do a circuit workout. Obviously Miss 5 is the eldest, but she still has fun playing with the little kids and occasionally she joins in on the Circuit with me, which is really great! She also does a musical theatre class on Monday nights, with her bestie, and has, just tonight, informed me that she would like to trial a martial arts class. It’s worth mentioning that we have signed up for some homeschool design and tech classes run by the local Bunnings Hardware, one of which we have tomorrow where the children will build items out of clay, as well as some puppet shows run by the Fremantle theatre company. The most important thing, I think, that is worth mentioning is every two weeks (alternating with the homeschool play day) we meet up with two other families for our newly formed, but much adored, homeschool co-op. The three families have very similar views and very similar ways of learning, so we get together once a fortnight, and offer the children an outing that we think they would enjoy. As parents, we help facilitate the children’s learning experiences, but for the most part, they forge their own path and always come away from the day with something. We have done bush walks, nature play, and a trip to th Landsdale Farm school – which I’ve mentioned before and is one of our favourite places to go. This Friday we are visiting the Children’s Forest in Whiteman Park, where we will endeavour to see how many of the 50 activities we can tick off.

As cheesy as it sounds, we truly are living a very blessed life at the moment 🙂

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Charlottes web, and some time off

We have had such a giant few weeks here. I had a birthday, very quickly followed by Easter, then Miss 11 months became Miss 1, and Miss 2 turned 3. We have also had a visit with the girls cousin from Sydney. With so much going on in the way of birthday parties, Husband being home, and a little road trip down south with my niece, we have not really done a whole lot in the way of “formal” schooling. There has still been plenty of natural learning happening, though.
We read Charlottes Web over the last few weeks. Being as busy as we were, it took us a little longer to finish than usual. Miss 5.5 particularly liked this book. She is a bit of a country girl at heart, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the farm, and the animals. Fortuitously, as we started to read the story, a beautiful Orb Weaver appeared in our garden. Of course the spider was christened Charlotte, and our bedtime routine quickly included going out into the garden to see where Charlotte was building her web for the night, and to see if she had caught her dinner. The girls were able to get nice and close, and Miss 5.5 decided she wanted to learn more about spiders.
We spent around 30 minutes watching documentaries on you tube about spiders. Miss 5.5 learned the difference between an arachnid and an insect, as well as how they use their spinnerets and legs to build their webs. She was amazed to learn that spiders spin different types of silk, one type is strong and tough and is used as structural supports for the web. The other is fine and sticky and is used to trap prey. After watching the documentaries, Miss 5.5 – with the help of Miss 3 – asked for a ball of yarn, and used it to build her own “web” on the climbing frame. To anyone not really paying attention it looked like a giant mess of yarn, but she had actually put quite a lot of time and thought into where she was going to wrap her web, and how many times it would be wrapped in certain places or ways. There was some definite thought put into the structure of the web, and by the time she had finished, she could climb into the top of the frame and the “web” would hold her body weight. I was thoroughly impressed 🙂
On the back of finishing the book, I took the girls to Landsdale Farm School, where they could get up close and personal to some of the animals we had just been reading about. Miss 5.5 spent a bit of time looking at the pigs in the pigpen, they were quite a bit different to the cute, pink, piglet type pig she had been imagining 😉 The girls were able to pet nearly all of the animals at the farm, as well as feed a couple of goats and enjoy a ride on the farms tractor-train. It was a really fun way to round out our reading.
One discussion that we’ve been having, that has been brought on by reading Charlottes Web, is the one about where our food comes from. The girls and I have a small veggie patch, and they know that their fruit and vegetables come from plants or vines or are dug out of the ground. But until recently they have never really questioned where their meat comes from, and I have not brought it up, leaving it up to them to question when they’re ready. Charlottes Web describes in some detail how the spider catches, kills and eats her prey. And of course the entire plot of the story is based on the premise that Wilbur, a spring pig, will be slaughtered for the dinner table when the cold weather comes. Miss 5.5 knows what a carnivore is, and has done since she was 3, in a text book kind of way. After reading this book however, I think Miss 5.5 has actually realised what being a carnivore means in a practical sense. We have talked about the food chain, how every living thing relies on every other living thing for something, and how the meat that is on our plates at dinner time comes from an animal. Now it is not unusual for Miss 5.5 to ask me what she’s eating for dinner – meaning what animal – and even what part of that animal. I think it’s a healthy conversation to have with her. I don’t want her thinking that her food comes to her perfectly clean and prepared and in a little plastic wrapper, fresh from Coles. I want her to know about farming and food and how vital it is to us. I want her to have enough compassion for the animals that she will care about how her meat is farmed and processed, and I want her to understand how meat benefits her body and her health.
We plan on having another few days away from “formal” lessons, as it’s widely agreed here that we need some time to rest and regroup after our huge month. In the meantime we have lots of outdoor play to focus on, a kite to fly, a couple of new books to read, and Miss 5.5 has asked to add space to her lessons 😀 There is also Musical Theatre classes, Sports class with other homeschool children and play dates galore. Term 2 is going to be a good one!

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