Friday, 27 February 2015

February, Leap Years and Calendars

My son needed a distraction, it was one of those days.  He was staring at his calendar rather than his work. Being February he noticed it didn't have 30 or 31 days.  Perfect timing for a topic change.  

We decided to study the calendar.  Now in the past we have covered the basics like all kids learn: the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons etc. So today we looked at the Mathematics side of the calendar, being the numbers in a month, year etc.

Step one: teaching the rhyme. You ALL know the one I am talking about. The one taught to us over and over again in class all those years ago.  I thought I'd teach it to my son. Bad move. My son has Aspergers amongst other things and his issues with this rhyme was that not only did it not rhyme, it wasn't easy, it wasn't a song, and he didn't get why you'd bother learning it when all you needed to learn was the theory behind it and not the rhyme itself.

So like all good mothers and teachers, when step one doesn't go to plan, you use Step two.  Step two = Google. Yes it does, admit it.

Google gave us loads of information and lead us to talking about Leap Years.  My son was very disappointed to learn that this year is not one of them.  

But Google also lead us to Step three.  Step three = You Tube.  

We found this great instructional video, full of information, perfect for kids! I just had to share because I love it.  So if you need a topic for the end of February, this is a great one. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Midnight Ramblings

Ok well it's not quite midnight, by the time I am finished it will be though. It seems to be the only time I get to myself these days.  I can pretend I am on top of things but who am I kidding - being mum, homeschooler, disability carer and domestic engineer takes a lot out of you. I am not the most coordinated person so juggling is not my forte, but luckily for me I was gifted with OCD to help me organise everything.  

Today was a LONG one.  According to the diary, planner and whiteboard, I had nothing to go out and do.  So why am I exhausted and still going at this late hour of the night?  It's hard, I am happy to admit that.  While I like to channel superpowers from the likes of Wonder Woman (hey who wouldn't want to look that hot!), at the end of the day I am no superhero.  A Warrior Mum yes for sure, but warriors get tired too.
So why write this?  Really just to keep it real.  I get a little over reading how amazing everyone else is, or how they portray their lives to others.  This is me doing my part to the Mums out there having horrible and hard days, that you are not alone, and I have them too and am happy to shout that from whatever soap box you want to kick over to me. 

I sometimes envy the homeschool mums I know who don't have to deal with the added medical dramas we have.  Each week there are Dr appointments, therapies, phone calls to disability departments, phone calls to apply for funding that can take years to eventuate and give you a head of grey hairs in the process (of which you have no time to dye or fit in a hair dresser appointment), paperwork to complete and file etc let alone the ACTUAL caring for the child which is a whole other ball game - or board game in our case as ball games are too hard.  Some days trying to fit in school work or having the energy or head space to even think about it is too much.  

A friend messaged me last week asking was I crazy to add time to my already busy weeks by starting a blog.  Crazy... sure why not?  This is my outlet.  We all need one.  I don't get me time much any more and if I had spare time I'd end up doing housework or more homeschool planning, or grocery shopping or something else on the mum list.  This is an outlet to keep me from over working in the other areas of my life and also not obsessing over other aspects of my life.  So while it's technically more work, it's also my therapy. This is my therapy couch if we are getting all philosophical LOL.

Looking back over this past week, there has been lots of positives, met lovely new homeschool mums and kids, lots of things planned and put in the diary, lots to look forward to, lots ticked off the 'to-do' list, lots of progress.  Been a very hard week too though.  Seeing my son struggle in a lot of pain, dealt with added issues from more assessments (medically) and added more expense to my already thin budget, dealt with frustration of other medical professionals and customer service people, dealt with the nasty side of people from social media, spent nights awake helping my son, had to be the mean mum and make him wear his new orthotics that are causing more pain (for long term gain hopefully) and having a rather neurotic old cat who is going senile and blind, howling all night keeping you from proper sleep.

But at the end of the day, without the hard stuff you don't enjoy the good stuff, so other than a lottery win evading me, I'm doing ok.  Hope I didn't bore you while I unloaded my ramblings. Time to get some sleep and hope the cat tones it down a few decibels tonight LOL.  Goodnight all, especially my fellow Warrior Mums xoxo 

PS. Yes this is really my cat! 

Monday, 23 February 2015

NBTS Blog Hop - Our Learning Space

It's week 4 of the Aussie (NOT) Back to School Blog Hop - and topic of the week is "Our Learning Space". The Blog Hop is being hosted by Our Worldwide Classroom and Every Bed of Roses, thanks ladies! 

Our Learning Space .... is small.  Yes I am lucky enough to have a dedicated space and we converted the small spare bedroom in our shoe box 3 bedroom home (yes doing the Maths isn't it lucky I have only one child?!) into a classroom 4 years ago.  It started out clean, un-cluttered and looking spacious.  Oh that didn't last long! Here is a "back then" photo: 

I look at that now and think OMG where is all our stuff!  Mind you, we had everything we needed at the time.  Things were a lot simpler then and I didn't know of as many book sales sights as I do now!

Bare in mind that living in such a small house, we have no storage and this room was once a baby room (throughout our IVF days), a Tupperware office (during my sales years), and THE only storage space we have.  This room has two cupboards and set of drawers that store our stuff (behind where I was standing to take this photo), my Tupperware and those few baby things I will always keep. This room also stores my huge collection of scrapbooking stuff which sadly has sat unused for years. It also houses our collection of medieval gear used for the one or two festivals we attend. We have a lot of stuff. So only half of the room is technically usable for us as a classroom.

Now fast forward 4 years.  Add in my obsession with books, starting my own Scholastic book club account, 4 years worth of curriculum, 4 years worth of projects, new shelves to fit the extra books, limited wall space etc.  It's squishy, I won't deny that.  But it works for us till we win lotto.  

This is my most used item of furniture.  Each drawer has a different subject. Bought from Officeworks for less than $30 on sale. 
Top drawer has general stuff and HEU papers.
2nd - Spelling

3rd - Grammar
4th - Handwriting and Reading Comprehension
5th - Mathematics
6th - Science 
7th - History
8th - Geography
9th - Art 
10th - Printer & Art paper

These drawers help me keep organised and it helps the males in the house know where things go when I ask for something from the Spelling drawer LOL.

In this photo is my Tupperware drawers, Ring Binders, my organiser white board and a bookcase (it's actually a DVD shelf unit) for the Literature Units I have planned for the next 4 years. 

The books here include 24 from the Classic Starts Series, 16 from the Shakespeare Stories collection for Children, Fair Dinkum Histories series by Jackie French, Classic novels like Arabian Nights and the Tale of Two Cities, Narnia Series, History Quest series and the Mike Venezia Inventors books as well as books ready for high school reading.  These include The Diary of Anne Frank, Playing Beattie Bow, Catcher In the Rye, A Brave New World, The Barrumbi Kids, and some poetry books by Edgar Allan Poe and Banjo Patterson. 

This little bookcase houses our collection of "Horrible" books (Histories, Science & Geography) on the top shelf and the bottom shelf is all reference books. From science, history, picture books, atlas', biographies etc.  
Up top is a file storage box that has printed work to go with the reference books.  When I come across work on websites or free curriculum sites, I print it out and file it here so I can find it easily when I am ready to get to that topic.  

It also holds our much used Scrabble game and my son's new favourite - the dreaded recorder! As well as the recorder book I found for $1 (bargain!). 

This is Warrior Kid's desk.  On the back of the desk caddy there is a weekly timetable so he knows the rough plan of the week.  On the far side in the shelves you can see one of his mini whiteboards.  He has two. We use them everyday.  

He has a love of stationary like his mother so has a huge stash of pencils and erasers, and easily fills a lot of his shelves with it.  We keep all his Maths counters and sand timers, protractors and paddlepop sticks etc in there too.  His art boxes are there, project boxes, globe etc.  

On his desk is a laminated prompt chart.  It has the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, counting grid etc.  He will need to check it to reassure himself that he has written something the right way etc. 

My desk.  I have the PC and printer on my desk. Sitting in this configuration means that I can set up online clips and work for Warrior Kid and swivel the screen and he can view it (without it being in his way), and means I can easily help him with his work.  I am now a pro at being able to read fluently upside down and back to front.  I can even do find-a-words like that LOL.  

I have the same shelving set as Warrior Kid does, mine is filled with Scrapbooking gear and photo albums, as well as all the Carer folders and medical documentation needed for all his therapies, Dr's, hospital appointments, funding, Disability Services, centrelink etc.  That section takes up a lot of room and unfortunately seems to be growing. 

The bookcases inside the doorway are Warrior Kid's FUN books to read whenever.  Stuff like the Harry Potter series, How to Train Your Dragon series, Geronimo Stilton, Zac Power, Star Wars Academy books, 13 Story Treehouse series, Beast Quest, Roald Dalh collection, Goosebumps, Deltora Quest, Pokemon etc. 

This month I did what I never wanted .... I expanded into the hallway!  We now have a DVD shelf unit full of the DVD's that go with the Classic Novels we are reading and also with the curriculum we are learning. AND a few books that don't fit anywhere else LOL. I REALLY need a library!  

Now we aren't stuck in this little room everyday.  We might do an hour or two at a time but reading is done out in the lounge room or on the bed.  Larger projects are done on the kitchen table or outside.

Outside is an old photo - because Warrior Kid's Dad desperately needs to mow the lawn and it currently looks horrendous.  I won't be too hard on him though as he's had a melanoma removed from his back twice in the last month and it's not healing well so he's not up to yard work yet. 
So this is a few years ago, there is more grass now, plants (in the tyres) are bigger etc.  Sadly due to Warrior Kids blood disorder, he bleeds too much in summer to use this year round, it really only gets used in winter. 
Lounge room = TV and DVD watching area, iPad playing (and charging LOL), reading.

Bookcase full of DVD storage.

Oversize armchair for reading and laptop use.

Dining room table for bigger projects (and to store boxes of books yet to fit in the classroom as per this photo LOL).

Hallway storage (board games etc). 

So there it is.  My little, old house.  No second TV/family/media/rumpus room, little bedrooms, little everything.  One day I will get my big house with a big library and classroom and store room ..... till then, this is it, very full - and usually covered in dog hair.  Why would it be covered in dog hair you ask?  Well this giant white hairy student likes to shed on everything and take over everything as per this last pic (yes that's a two seater couch size ottoman he is covering LOL and yes, he is watching TV hehehe).

It's ok to stay home a lot

Recently, when talking with some of my "village" aka 'homeschool mums I am friends with', the topic of "How much do you go out and do things with a group?" was raised.  Not only were all our responses the same, but we all seemed to suffer guilt over the lack of seemingly exciting plans on our schedules. 

First - lets get this out there - IT'S OK TO STAY HOME A LOT !!!!! 

Staying home a lot means many things: 
  • learning
  • doing school work
  • housework
  • keeping routines
  • working on personal goals (both yourself and your kids)
  • cooking
  • planning
  • reducing anxiety 
  • keeping stress free
  • exploring your own corner of the world
  • exploring your imagination and getting creative, even if that's in your thoughts in a day dream.

It does not mean you are isolating your child or boring them.  My son's favourite days (and weeks) are the ones where we have zero plans to leave the house.  He LOVES spending the day in his pj's, loves having the freedom to play and chill between school work and LOVES his own company.  There are times he is laying on the couch staring off into space and I will ask if he is ok, to which I get a smile in response and he will say he is imagining and it's great (as he forget's his dreams).  For him there is no anxiety over who we are seeing, where we are going, what the plan is.  There is no stress and he is not going to be over tired, in sensory overload or in pain (due to his physical issues).  MOST of all, it means when we do go out, he fully enjoys it, enjoys the company of those we are with, is not over tired from multiple outings previously, can cope with the sensory challenges etc. He does not expect us to go somewhere all the time or have an outing somewhere special on a weekend.  As a child we played at home most of the time and didn't go out. I think these days we are too caught up in the 'go here go there' all the time mentality.     

Think of it this way.  If you lived in a tiny rural town, population 30.  You might have the only child/ren in that town.  The nearest town to you with children is hours away.  No one is going to berate you for not driving to nearby towns to 'socialise' multiple times a week or even once a week.  Children from small country towns grow up fine, with the ability to connect and talk with all ages and are usually very mature as they have grown up with generally adult conversation and behaviour expectations.  No one calls the mother in a small town a bad parent because she didn't provide enough exciting child experiences. Just because you might live in a busy town with a huge population, doesn't mean you should have to be out in it every single day, making friends with every family you come across.  Just because you have 6 neighbours all with kids doesn't mean your child has to like them or want to play with them.  

Secondly - not EVERYONE is a social butterfly and are out all the time.

You might get on social media and see posts from dozens of homeschoolers about their fabulous outings, their creative lesson plans inspired by Pinterest, their riviting blog posts, their 'fun' life in general.  And let me just say good for them!  It's not me and I'd be exhausted keeping up that schedule!  For everyone one that is out all the time, there are 50 of us at home.  Plus to be honest, they may have very different children to you.  Ones who NEED and crave outside input all the time.  Who go stir crazy at home rather than relish in it. Who learn best with new stimuli all the time and who don't get over loaded or tired or need a strict daily routine.  Maybe the mother who is always out and about is exhausted and is envious of those of us who can very honestly say we've not left the house for 7 days. 

Not everyone is in a co-op, not everyone has weekly sports, not everyone is doing art class or drama class or music, not everyone is a part of social media groups who have weekly play dates.  It is completely ok to not do those things all the time.  It is completely ok to be at home.

So as a whole, we need to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, where they are going, etc.  At the end of the day, if you are all happy with the way you do things, then you are doing what is right for your child, your family, your budget, yourself.  If you want to make changes then go ahead, but don't do it just because you feel pressure and think you are failing your children.  You aren't.  You are a good mum and we forget to tell ourselves that.  


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Cyclone Warning

So Central and South East Queensland are bracing for a Category 5 Cyclone in the coming day/s.  What did that mean for us?  I had no idea.  Cyclones were only ever in the North of Queensland and in the northern parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory. They don't usually venture this far south.  So in the southern end of the state, we are professionals at dealing with huge thunderstorm cells, hail, flooding and flash flooding - the words Cyclone and South East Queensland have never in my lifetime been written in the heading of weather warnings splashed all over the TV, radio and Internet. Seems a little un 'real' to be honest. In our area, we've been told to expect 2 weather systems 24 hours apart with heavy rain in both and damaging winds.  Our area is in the list of 'likely to experience flooding', just like the floods a few years ago.  

So it was time to get educated on Cyclones.  It was time to teach my son.  It was time to make plans and in doing so, ease the worries of my son who at the best of times has his anxiety disorder on top of his Aspergers and other issues.   

We researched weather.  We looked up science texts, an atlas, books on weather and climate and natural disasters.  To some this might sound like a scary overload but to a child who finds calmness in knowledge, it was quite the opposite and very therapeutic for him.  We did a house check.  We put away objects that could fly away in wind gusts.  We tied down the trampoline.  We called an Arborist to come and trim branches away from the cables near the house.  We made some lists.  We determined areas to be cleared and how many sandbags we might need (due to the neighbours poor/lack of drainage).

Planning is calming, planning is power.

This afternoon we have watched documentaries about natural disasters and are really getting into the topic of Weather.  A very informal learning day that has been FULL of learning.

Are you "Disaster Ready"?  Do you have a disaster kit?  

Warrior kid has gotten out the battery powered lanterns, spare batteries and candles (regular and LED ones).  {On a side note my house smells fantastic in a black out thanks to my lovely smelly candles LOL}

We have messaged Warrior Kid's dad to stop at the hardware store on the way home and pick up some rope and a spare tarp in case it's needed.  We have a shopping list sorted too.  He advised me we need bottled water, long life milk, cans of food and canned pet food for the animals.  He has charged his iPad and has his portable DVD player ready to go LOL.  He has charged the phone.  

It's been a busy day, not necessarily a fun day but certainly not a bad or boring one. Sometimes learning and a topic just land on you and you need to go with the flow.  

To everyone we know in the direct Cyclone Marcia path, we hope you are prepared and stay safe and hope your homes and business' are not badly damaged.  To those in the areas expecting flooding and flow on effects from the Cyclone, we hope you are also kept safe and well.

*Updated 5hrs later:  Cyclone upgraded from Cat 3 to Category 5 which are the most damaging/dangerous/powerful type.  In Australia's History these have devastated towns and families.  Please keep these families in your thoughts.

Images of Cyclones past that none of us want to see repeated but are bracing for:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day!

So today is Shrove Tuesday and for us that means PANCAKE DAY!  We are not Christian or religious at all so the name is irrelevant to us in that regard, but today is also know as Madri Gras in many countries and also called Fat Tuesday by the French.

Whatever you call it - today through history, was about feasting on rich foods. Pancakes became a tradition along the way and so it is, that today can not be truly complete without a pancake or two ;)

So Warrior Kid and I decided to head out to our closest Pancake Manor for lunch.  While he was very traditional and went with a big stack of pancakes, syrup, ice cream (and sprinkles eewww), I had a lovely seafood crepe with a dessert pancake after.  Yum :) 

After leaving (and posing for a photo or two) we headed home and have an afternoon of reading, seeing a friend who popped over and watching a doco. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

NBTS Blog Hop - A Day In Our Life

This is week 3 of the Aussie (NOT) Back to School Blog Hop!  Topic this week is 'A Day in Out Life'.  Thanks to Our Worldwide Classroom and Every Bed Of Roses for hosting :)  

Our Worldwide Classroom

Ok here goes! 

* Note: Our day usually starts with a bad night the night prior .... so I am going to start there!

Prior to 5am: 
3 x wake ups dealing with a crying boy suffering with his cramping again.  Meaning 3 long sessions of rubbing his legs till his cramps ease and he goes back to sleep.  The sessions usually last about half an hour, sometimes much longer.  I smell of strong peppermint foot rub so at least my sinus' are clear! 

5 am:
Man of the house is up to shower and go to work and I am woken by the alarm but refuse to get up. 

6 am: 
Dog barks to go outside.  We have no doggy door as they don't make them big enough for our giant dog aka mini horse LOL.  So I am up, barely.  Dogs go out and I am torn - do I make a cuppa and get started for the day or go back to bed.  Bed, always choose bed ;) 

7 am:
Warrior kid wakes - he slept in!!  If it's been a good night he will wake at 5am with Man of the house. So now I am up.  Really I am.

7.15 am: 
Breakfast for Warrior Kid and his morning schedule starts.  He needs an hour at least to 'vege' out and wake up and usually watches some cartoons.  I contemplate going back to bed hehehe. The Air Conditioning gets turned on and reinstates the igloo status to the house, aaahhh bliss :) 

8.30 am:
I've showered and gotten myself sorted for the day, skipped breakfast as usual (it just makes me feel sick eeww), turned on the computer and am now checking emails/facebook etc. 

9.30 am: 
Our 'School Day' officially starts and today is basic 'warm up' stuff first off with a Spelling Unit from his workbook.  It's a 4 page unit and will take us at least 1.5 hours to complete if I let it go at Warrior Kids pace, so we do parts (the essential bits) and do some spelling hangman on the whiteboard.

11 am
Breaktime and Warrior Kid has found a doco to watch on National Geographic Channel.  It goes for an hour but looks great so we have an extra long break and watch it while I do some cleaning. Warrior Kid is NOT an outdoorsy kid, and health wise cannot be out in the heat this time of year so doesn't go outside to play much during the day. 

12 noon
Doco has finished and it's lunchtime.  Warrior kid picks scrambled eggs for lunch so helps me make it.  He never used to eat lunch at school as cannot stand food that isn't cooked and warm.  Only exception being ham, cheese and carrot wraps that must be made fresh and are not soggy or cold from the fridge.  So anyway back to lunch, it's yum and then I do a quick clean up.  Downside of cooking lunch everyday is the mess and time.  Upside - it's so much nicer than a soggy sandwich! 

1 pm
Back to 'school'.  Some days I have plans for what I want to cover, other days I let Warrior Kid pick.  It depends on his mood and I find if he picks (and is in a not so motivated mood) then he will actually do the work.  So he picked Maths.  We use a great workbook called Maths Plus from Oxford University Press.  We did 8 pages of that then did some quiz work in a notebook based on times tables.  He can sit and work out a sum, but can't remember times tables off the top of his head, so we are practising a lot this month to see if his memory improves.  He had two 10 min breaks throughout - I forgot to add them in as I was sorting through books for an upcoming resource sale LOL.

3.30 pm
Reading time (free choice) - wind down time.  This is not reading as part of our literature units, but free reading where he can pick whatever he likes to read.  I try and encourage at least half an hour.  Usually on the couch or on his bed.  Today's book of choice is the "39 Story Treehouse".

4.15 pm
Warrior Kid's Dad get's home from work so it's father and son time.  I clock off for a while. Usually sitting at the PC either reading or writing this blog.  Or reading a book etc.  The boys either play video games, play outside as it's cooler, read more together, watch boy TV (yeah all the stuff I hate LOL) then have showers etc. 

6 pm (now - I've just finished typing this so the rest is the usual nightly schedule)
I clock back on duty and it's time to find something for dinner ;)  In winter I try and be more prepared and have the slow cooker on or have things for the oven etc, but in summer most meals I can make in half hour to an hour so I don't prep.  I do however need a TV in the kitchen as I keep missing Neighbours (Aussie TV Soapie for the non Aussies).

7 pm 
Dinner (and Home & Away - another TV Soapie).

8.30 - 9 pm
Warrior Kid's bedtime.

11 pm
My eventual bedtime.  I always plan on going to bed sooner but it never happens LOL  

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

This is just one day - other days we are out at excursions (tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday so that means a Pancake Lunch outing!), one morning a week we have horse riding, two afternoons a week we have after school activities starting this term.  Today was just what Warrior Kid calls a 'Home Day'.  

Some days we do a lot more, others a lot less.  Some weeks we are doing a block of work for one subject or theme, other weeks it's whatever my boy feels up to doing.  Some days due to my health issues, I am not up to doing lessons and sitting at our desk in the classroom so it's reading on the couch, lots of documentaries and lots of digital media learning on the iPad and laptop.  

But that's it, one day in our life.  Not too exciting ;) 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Bargain Buy - Australia The Story of Us

For all my fellow Aussies, tonight on Channel 7 is the much anticipated "Australia: The Story of Us".  I've had it programmed to record and am waiting excitedly for tonight.

Then a fellow homeschooling mum tells me something every bookaholic homeschooling Mum wants to hear ...... THERE IS A BOOK! and not just one, but a series. Collector's Editions.  Even better LOL. 

Where: Woolworths Supermarkets
How Much: $7.99 

When: now (I sent the other half to get one this afternoon!) and apparently each issue (of which we are told there are 4) is released fortnightly. 

I am VERY impressed with it!  It's large magazine size, 130 pages, full colour and great info!
So if you want to add this great book to your homeschool library, head to your nearest Woolworths and grab one.  Such a good price for such a great quality book.  

For those of you not in Australia, and wanting these issues, find an Aussie friend and ask them to get them for you and post, as you won't find these in stores overseas.   

Be sure to watch Channel 7 tonight for Australia: The Story of Us 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Today is brought to you by Bon Jovi

*insert Sesame Street voice over*

Yes today is brought to you by the letter B, B for Bon Jovi.  Why?  Well why not?  One of those days that we need a little music to carry you through and there is nothing better than having a soundtrack kinda day.  

After all, today is World Radio Day.  Warrior Kid and I talked a lot about the effects radio has on community and the website (click on World Radio Day) was great to go through. We agreed that one of the best things is the music of course.  So the topic turned to music and the different types.  

It was at this point that I abandoned the plans for today and embraced the new topic that my son was so keen to know more on. We got online and hit Google and you tube, as you do!  Listened to different genres, had a quick look at Composers (which I plan to go through in more depth using unit studies from Confessions of a Homeschooler later in the year), instruments used, lyrics etc. I don't push too hard on a topic as that turns my son right off it, so it's a case of following his lead and if his interest switches off at any point you move onto another area of the topic. So we covered little bits of lots of elements of music. Enough to get him excited anyway.

Both my son and I are very alike, too much sometimes LOL.  We have the same issues, the same sense of humour, like the same things, etc.  We also have the same taste in music for the most part.  He will claim that my collection of 80's & 90's rock is daggy and embarrassing but that just means I am doing my mothering correctly. He will admit though that it's one of the best parts of our road trips, getting to listen to classic 'oldies' as he calls them. 

So on went the Bon Jovi CD's. Partly because I wanted to listen to it, party for education. Oh who am I kidding, I just like it LOL. I have a 60 stack (mini jukebox) CD player and they are all in there with many other's from that era.  So it's the best kind of music appreciation day today.  Singing and dancing (and writing this blog), doing housework, making lunch, to a Bon Jovi themed Soundtrack.  Bliss!

Bonus points for learning today: my son picking out the instruments used in long rock song introductions, learning what a key change was and that the over use of hairspray for the 'Hair Band's of the era probably wasn't a good thing for the ozone layer and global warming! 

Through watching you tube clips of the videos our discussions went to everything from fashion of the era, to the meanings of the lyrics in the songs (covering poverty to American Wild West), to special effects and 'new' techniques in video's, to how a band and their music grows and changes with age (and in this case the change in hairstyles too!), to music for movies and even to viral messages before the days of social media.  Warrior kid LOVED this clip so much that I have to share. 

Have a nice day everyone ;) 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My Ring Binder Unit Set Up

This is my 'HOW TO' guide for making/setting up your ring binder folders to use for unit work.

Firstly, you can obviously use this set up for anything, but I use it for separating our Literature Units.  Secondly there are really no rules you have to stick to, it's just something I came up with myself when trying to combine Lapbooking and Notebooking. Neither one suited our needs fully.  Lapbooks are great but my son needed more flexibility.  Notebooking is great but my son needed to be able to go back and add more over time so unless you have one notebook for every single theme unit you are doing (and have a huge warehouse to store them in) it wasn't practical for us to use books either.  So I got a ring binder and a bunch of manilla folders and started to experiment. 

What you need:
Ring Binder or Lever Arch Folder

Manilla Folders (same sizing as the folder)
Loose Leaf paper
Hole Punch


Given that everything within the manilla folder is hole punched, you can also take out an entire unit and use file fasteners or split pins through the holes to secure the unit together.  They can then be filed away when you don't need them and you can keep using your folder. 

If you have any questions about how to set up your ring binders like this, please leave me a comment below in the comments section and I will endeavour to help. Thanks! 

PS.  Literature Units shown in these photos can be bought from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  

Review: Treasure Island Literature Unit

I thought I would review some of the things we work on this year as we do them.  We have just finished reading Treasure Island and working through the Treasure Island Literature Unit created by Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

I have a child who hates art, who is not a strong writer and a struggling reader.  I was hesitant starting off this first book (in a long list of many I have bought and have planned for the coming months and years). I am pleased to say that not only is the book a winner with my son, but the Literature Unit has been great.  Not overwhelming, not too hard, not too easy.

The Classic Starts series that Erica uses for her units are a great layout for a junior reader.  Good sized text, not too much on a page, a few black and white pictures throughout to help keep interest (but not lose a child's focus on the reading) and as a bookaholic myself I have to say I found them lovely books.

I found the Literature Unit very adaptable and we chose to use the elements in a folder rather than a Lapbook.  I have used Erica's work in the past with Expedition Earth and we used Lapbooks then.  I found that while I loved them, my son had high anxiety over it as once you stuck all the items into the Lapbook, it was permanent and if it was done wrong it was not easy to fix.  By modifying and using a ring binder, we found a big reduction in my son's anxiety as using the elements and sticking them to loose leaf paper in the binder was relatively easy to fix if he made a mistake.  Simply removing that sheet of loose leaf paper and re cutting and re sticking, meant my son was confident that there was a do-over process available to him. To see how I put together my folders, click here, and go to my 'How to' post.

The fact that you can be flexible with these units is what I love. You can either follow the guide step by step and do an element each chapter (or few) or you can read half the book and then do a heap of activities together, or leave out parts of the unit if they are too hard or old for the child, or do extension comprehension questions if they need more work.
Here are some photos of our completed Treasure Island unit.  Given that we have more space in a ring binder than in a Lapbook, there are some elements that my son decided to glue in 'open' rather than as folder mini booklets.  We had the book review page etc in here too but Warrior Kid is a little sensitive about his hand writing so I chose not to display those.

Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler is a Christian mother and many who prefer to use Secular curriculum may overlook these units. However these Literature Units are very secular and can be used by all. Another reason I love them!  Thank you Erica, we look forward to doing all the other units we've purchased from you :)  

One thing I do with our Literature Units, is follow them up (or start them off!) with a movie from the book.  For Treasure Island we watched three DVD's.  First was the 1950's classic Treasure Island, followed by the animated Storybook Classic Treasure Island, and lastly we watched a futuristic adaptation of Treasure Island called Treasure Planet.  For Warrior Kid who is a very visual learner, he was able to compare each movie, pick the similarities to the book, the differences, which character portrayal he felt was most accurate etc.  Some of the Literature Units also come with a printed page for a Book Vs Movie Review which is a great way to extend the unit and practice report writing. 

So now the big decision to be made this week by Warrior Kid .... which book do we read next!  Robin Hood? The Wind in the Willows? Tom Sawyer? or one of the other 25 Classic Starts books on the bookshelf!  

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

I had a sick day.

When you are a Homeschooling Mum, you don't get to have a sick day.  Ok so no mum ever really gets to have a sick day, but if your child goes to school or kindy or day care then you can at least get a few hours to rest and feel like you are dying in peace. Homeschooled children are too old for day care or kindy and obviously you can't ring a local school and say 'HEY! I'm sick and am dropping my child off for a day'.  So really, there are no sick days for us.

Except today.  Kinda.  Sorta.  

I woke around midnight with a killer headache that was quickly getting to migraine status.  I took some headache medication and went back to bed.  6am thumps around and Warrior Kid wakes.  I vaguely remember him walking in and me muttering I had a headache.  

Now at this point - remember my son has Aspergers and lets be honest here, he generally has trouble thinking and planing his own daily needs let alone mine.  I'm not being nasty, just honest in that he has always struggled with daily self care needs and being independent.  

Well Warrior Kid went to the kitchen, got me a bottle of water, my jar of headache pills (don't stress he cannot open it!) and then my peppermint rub from the bathroom and brought them to me.  He then went and made himself breakfast (cereal - which a lot was spilled on the bench and so too was milk but I don't care).  He then kept himself amused and played.  (Again don't stress, the house is locked, we have two indoor guard dogs for protection, smoke alarms and he can't turn on a stove or oven or a bath tap etc and I wasn't asleep sleeping, I was resting so was still able to get up if there was a noise etc)

When I got up hours later feeling a lot better, I found him reading a book.  He said he didn't watch TV as the noise would be bad for my headache.  I thought WOW who is this independent child!!  He then asked ME what I would like for lunch.  Now he cannot cook, and struggles to pick something for himself to eat if I ask him what he wants, but he suggested some microwave meals from the freezer as that was easy for me to make.  He even went and got them from the downstairs freezer.  

So today I had a helper.  I had a child who was capable of being responsible and mature. I had a son with ASD able to focus on someone else and their needs and who was very empathetic.  I had a sick day. A real one. Kinda.  I got to rest, properly.  Not the usual 'mum rest' that involves pausing for two minutes to stop from fainting before carrying on the daily chores and looking after the needs of the children.  

It's days like this when I realise how much my boy has progressed and matured.  He is almost 10 and gee that's gone fast!  Another proud mummy day.  

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Our Curriculum and Plans for 2015 - NBTS Blog Hop

This is the week 2 topic from the Aussie (Not) Back to School Blog Hop.  Thanks to Our Worldwide Classroom and Every Bed of Roses for hosting.

2015 for us = Grade 5.  Our first year going it alone and being registered with HEU (The QLD state Home Education Unit for those not in QLD or Australia).  I've been deciding what to use for Warrior Kid over the last 2 years when with Distance Education but they also had influence, monitoring and often final say if needed.  So this has been great to have complete freedom. 
Our style of homeschooling is a combination of many, so quite eclectic. I use traditional bookwork but have a bit of a Charlotte Mason approach as well.  I use Secular materials where possible but I get my wonderful literature units from a lovely Christian Homeschooler.  When it comes to subjects he loves we are very interest led. We do notebooking and lapbooking as well as use workbooks and textbooks. We use online learning and do unit studies. Each style I read about had elements I liked and things that would work for my child - and things that wouldn't.    

We use workbooks in some areas to appeal to my son's need for planned layouts and to see how much work is expected of him. It reduces his anxiety to know where to write his answers, how much writing is expected (due to the amount of space given), how it's expected to be laid out, examples to copy from when his perfectionism kicks in and he can't get his letters to look the right way (in the case of the Handwriting book) etc. This style works well for things like Spelling and Grammar lessons as well as Mathematics. Too many workbooks however is an overload and he will refuse work altogether so it is definitely a balancing act! 

A themed unit study approach to various subjects works well here also. We tend to do our work in blocks rather than multiple subjects a day/week.  A block for us can be a week, a fortnight or a month.  A theme can run the whole year.  It really depends on his enthusiasm and grasp of the work being learnt.  Each block of work will have a theme or topic. That can be an area of Maths like multiplication or for Science it can be an Inventor.  Topics like Science and History blocks include English work adapted to suit the block. For example a Science Inventor unit will have a report to write, we will use spelling words that correlate to the work being learnt.  So despite having workbooks for many things, they get used as part of themed unit blocks. This keeps my son focused and the more time spent on a topic the better he retains the information.  He needs day after day repetition and proficient recall to be able to build on the topic.  Multiple subjects a day or week simply cut his concentration, heighten his anxiety (he feels pressure to rush to fit things in), reduce his comprehension and confuse him. In the past we have done year long themes for History.  Countries of the World in one year, Australian History in another.  This year there will be two 6 month themes running. One for History and one for Geography. 

Supports put in place to help with his learning disabilities include using scaffolding and partnership writing (see Brave Writer program, blog and podcasts) have been the secrets to our success so far. These involve supporting each step in the process of writing work, whether that be a word, sentence, note point, or a story or report.  We use desk top whiteboards where I will write the answers he gives me so that he can then copy them down.  He cannot give the answer and write it simultaneously.  A longer piece of writing like a book report or story involves him dictating to me while I type in a word document.  It is then printed in large text for him to edit and check spelling.  I then correct as per his edits.  It's printed again and he then copies it with handwriting on paper. It's a long process but due to a combination of learning disorders, his motor planning and executive functioning skills are much lower than a child of his age despite having a very high IQ and knowing the work/answer. I modify work to exclude a lot of drawing and art as this is a huge anxiety trigger. His reading is done in partnership with me.  Not only does he struggle with comprehension when reading himself, but his attention span and interest needs to be held while he overcomes frustration. His comprehension from a verbal delivery is outstanding however.  So reading a chapter of a book means we alternate paragraphs or pages and re-cap at the top of each next page. This keeps his interest, allows great comprehension and retention, while giving him the much needed practice to read.  Huge anxiety over a science experiment meant that he feared the subject.  So his work is structured around learning science theory and content and then watching either a DVD, documentary, science show (like Scope or Backyard Science) or you tube clip to cover the experiment and practical element.  Taking him out of the equation when it came to an experiment allowed him to be more 'involved' as we can watch, pause, discuss, predict etc without the panic of a possible failure or danger.  All these steps mean that work for us takes a lot longer than it would for other students without these limitations.  Lots of breaks are factored in, lots of planing to allocate enough time but not push too much in a day, yet still get through everything in a year.      

As part of our learning we also plan and go on an Educational Adventure trip each year. Just teacher and student aka mother and son.  We've been out to Longreach on the Spirit of the Outback train in 2013.  In 2014 it was a long road trip to Ballarat (Sovereign Hill) and back home to Brisbane learning about Australian History (Bushrangers and the Gold Rush in particular) and much more along the way.  It always fits in with our studies that year and really gives my son a hands on grasp of the subject and cements the work we have done at home. We always find there are so many other things you learn about on each trip.  In Ballarat we planned to pan for gold at Sovereign Hill and instead got snowed on and experienced that for the first time, learning all about environments and geography and climates while we were at it!  We went to The Dish at Parkes and covered Science along the way. I have found the expense and exhaustion so worth it for that real life experience of 'doing' rather than reading.  Having said that, I feel we need to cover the work via reading and school work first for him to connect what he is experiencing. This year, 2015 has a trip to Canberra on our wish list.  To coincide with his Government Studies this year in particular.  

We have weekly Horse Riding therapy at Riding for Disabled again this year. Something that not only gives confidence, therapy, exercise, riding skills and happiness, but that gives a continuity to his routine that he craves. Hoping to add other things like junior league bowling and self defence classes over the year as well. 

Other exciting things booked in for the year include getting to see 'Wicked' at QPAC in March, going to the Abbey Medieval Festival again this year and things like Museum visits, excursions, social events and fun stuff of course! 

Our Curriculum List:

English (Spelling & Handwriting)
English (Grammar)
  • Targeting English Upper Primary Book 1 from Pascal Press
  • Most grammar will have practical application in the Literature Units listed below.
  • Macmillan McGraw Hill English (online print worksheets).
English (Reading, Comprehension, Text Types)
  • Literature Units from Confessions of a Homeschooler based on Classic abridged novels from the Classic Starts series.  We also have DVD's for the books to be able to do comparisons.  The units will be done via notebooking rather than lapbooking (which we have used in the past).
  • Books planned for the year: Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, Gullivers Travels and The Wind in the Willows.  We have plenty more in the series and the Literature Units and DVD's to go with them but I am being ambitious with 7 books for the year considering I have a child who is a struggling reader. 
History (Theme for the year = Australian Government and Civics studies)
Geography (Theme for the year = Mapping Skills)
Art / Music / Drama
  • Artists Unit Studies from Confessions of a Homeschooler (blog & store) using more books from Mike Venezia's Artists series
  • Warrior Kid has a huge aversion to art which has been something we've worked on over the years and this year we hope to be able to do a little - but it is something that I won't push on him, it will be a case of following his lead when it eventually happens. 
  • Learning the Recorder for Music
Physical Education
  • Sports - Horse Riding, Occupational Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Bowling & Self Defence classes.
  • Health - We are using the Australian Organic Schools website for their units on Organic gardening. So we are starting those units and combined with Jamie Oliver DVD's, learning about how to grow our food, cook our food etc. 
Of course, once you get into a workbook, curriculum and subject area, you can find it's just not working for you.  So you put it aside and find something else ;)  If you got through this very long post congrats and thank you for reading!