Friday, 22 May 2015

Beware of HPBA (Homeschooling Parent Book Addiction)

What do you get when you cross a Homeschooling Parent with someone who is OCD and who has a love of reading?


What you get, is 
HPBA - Homeschooling Parent Book Addiction

I have always loved a good collection, I have always loved to read.  But up until I started homeschooling my child, I never mixed the two.  
Now, well I confess, I am addicted to books!  

You can never really get enough ....can you?  Surely there is always room for one more? 

Now we struggle financially being on one income so I have to say that DOES help curb the problem, as I am a great at working a budget and extra great at finding a bargain.  I HATE to think where my obsession would take me if I had unlimited funds and unlimited space for bookshelves LOL.  

However right this minute as I sit here typing my confession and thoughts for the day, I am looking a pile of new books I scored in a sale and breathing in 'book smell'.  I am in my happy place.  

I should probably join a support group but then I fear talking with other book addicts will just help expose me to new bargains and new titles I need to have so lets just not go there LOL. 

I am told I am not alone in this, most of my fellow homeschooling parents are exactly the same.  That's why I think it's an occupational hazard, a workplace health and safety risk we all need to be aware of.  They should have signs up!  

Beware homeschooling means you will suffer a life long addiction to books, knowledge and curriculum. Side effects include budget strain, storage stress, Ikea visits, online-book-site-sale-eye-strain-itis, Pinterest library photo envy, bookmark shortages, experiencing long time lapses and book smell comas.  The whole family needs to be careful not to also catch this addiction and partners in particular should be aware the rate of severe eye-roll-sigh-shake-head disorder is extremely high! 

All jokes aside though, 
I am loving my new books .... and when my partner sees them, 
the phrase "think of all the money I saved" 
will more than likely get a run.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: The Adventurous Mailbox

"Mum! This is from Taiwan!  We don't know anyone who lives there and 
it says Top Secret and Confidential!" 

Master 10, receiving his package this week, excited is an understatement.

"Mum this is one of my dreams coming true, I think it's from a spy!"
"OMG help me open it, I don't want to wreck it!" 

That magical look of joy on his face mixed with extreme caution and urgency was priceless.  At 10 years old, most parents will agree that these moments and surprised looks get less and less as their children get older, wiser and more sceptical. So to get such a huge and positive reaction from my son just made my day.  Maybe even my month.

The Package gets opened.

There is a box, very official looking, another confidential stamp on it.  It's like a cool grown up version of the 'pass the parcel' game.  My son's anticipation is so high he is literally bouncing on the spot.

I opened the box and there on top was an envelope.  Personally addressed and covered in more confidential and top secret stickers.  My son is now bouncing and humming and flapping his hands. 

*Note: Autism parents would be realising by now that my son has ASD - for everyone else, bouncing, humming and hand flapping are called 'Stims' (or stimulations) which my son cannot help doing and which take place during extreme anxiety - or extreme excitement - or both*  

We opened the envelope.  My son stopped dead to read it.  He is a very reluctant reader but as it was addressed for him to read and was Top Secret, well it was apparently not for anyone's eyes but his.  He read it twice.  Just to be sure he didn't miss anything. 

Now at this point, from the perspective of a mother, a special needs mother and a homeschooling mother - you have me sold on this product.  Well and truly sold.  The excitement, the want to read and the overcoming of learning issues all before we have even gotten to the actual product means a huge win win win for me.  
But let me continue. 

The letter informs us there is an online community to check out.  I expected Master 10 to want to do that immediately but the letter says to read the first book before getting online.  Having Aspergers and loving rules, of course we then went straight to the books.  

There are 8 in this first series. Starting with Finland then Taiwan, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Tanzania, Peru and Peru Too.  Beautiful pastel watercolours on the covers.  There are a few pictures throughout but mainly text.  It was small text but clear.  If you have a reluctant reader and one who is not competent at this level it's a great opportunity to encourage them and to read aloud to them. 

One added bonus, was that my son wanted to find out if the main character Crameye was a boy or a girl.  It doesn't say anywhere nor is it very clear - which I LOVED by the way.  My son was like a little detective listening to me read and trying to pick the gender.  Part way through the book one little word gave it away and that was the first mystery solved.  I won't tell you here, I don't want to spoil the surprise LOL. 

The unexpected thing about these books, is how cultural and social differences are introduced and explained. This is something you don't get with other Geography products.  In fact you don't get this with most curriculum across all subjects. Having a child on the Autism Spectrum who struggles with social interaction, expectations and differences, having these things explained for him to read was so refreshing. My son pointed out these things when mentioned in the book and said it helped him understand what the people were like as well as the country.

The books also contain a section at the back with facts called the "Country Breakdown".  I find this very helpful from a special needs homeschooling perspective.  An easy reference to jog the memory.  Perfect for the child with a learning difficulty who will need to refresh their memory over time to retain the information and who will often struggle to find facts within a story.

We have spent the last 2 days reading the first book and then researching the topic found at the end of the story. Again I won't spoil it for you, but I have to say I found it very clever, and my son did too.  We both love a good pun and the play on words to get this end result was a great touch! 

I will be adding more reviews of this product as we read more of the books and explore the online component, so keep an eye out for those in the coming weeks. 

** The Adventurous Mailbox provided us with this set in order to make an unbiased review. This review is completely my opinion and the reaction of my son and was in no way influenced by The Adventurous Mailbox.** 

  I thought this product would be something we'd enjoy but was completely blown away by my son's reaction and the quality of the product. If you are after a product to add to your curriculum then I highly recommend this one. 

What stood out for me and sets this product aside from many out there, is that
facts are told via the imagery in the story, in a very subtle way and perfect for the child who learns through story telling.

I also have to add *with a chuckle*, that my son saw me writing this blog
 and nearly had a heart attack .... 
"OMG Mum you aren't putting that on the internet are you?!!! 

So between you and I, 
no this is not going on the Internet *insert wink*
it's still totally secret dear son *insert another wink*
I won't reveal your identity *wink chuckle wink*

I don't know what's more enticing for my son, his love of travel and geography or his secret dream to be a spy.  Either way, the combination of the two is a huge hit! 



Head over to The Adventurous Mailbox and using the code HSadventure at checkout, you will get the Teacher's Lounge free, as well as $10 off the Adventurer Package (the Teacher's Lounge upgrade needs to be in the cart for the coupon to work). This special is running through till the end of June 2015.


Friday, 15 May 2015

Five Top Tips for New Homeschoolers

So many new homeschoolers want to know what it is that you recommend they do. 
Where do you start?  There is so much knowledge to share! 

However I think most times, we are so eager to help and give advice, that we miss the mark completely and have the poor family so overwhelmed with well meaning help, advice, links, options and plans that they are immediately trying to play catch up.  

My advice is to stop. 
Stop and breathe. 
Remember why you wanted to homeschool in the first place and then follow some very simple steps. 

Remember your child and your family is not like ANY other and what others are doing or have done, is their way, their mistakes made, their success, their plan. Not yours. It is best to write down what your goal is, and try not to take on others points of view too much. You can take notes, ask for advice and help, but don't lose sight of your own goals.

You don't need to rush out and buy curriculum! So many of us got told what to use at the start of our journeys and we all wasted so much money trying new curriculum before even knowing what would suit our child, becoming very broke in process and stressing both ourselves and our children.  There is so much to find online that is free. Until you settle into being at home and find out what your child's learning style is, don't spend too much money.

Take your time! There is NO hurry. Just because a child in a mainstream school is at school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, does NOT mean you have to immediately replicate that at home. Homeschooling is not necessarily School at Home. You don't need to make your home look, run and feel like a school. Take some time to settle into life at home. More than just a week! It can take months to find a routine. Months to find your feet. Months for your child to de-school and find themselves.

Trust yourself. This is a big one. I know you will have anxiety and you will doubt yourself. But you took this step for a reason and you had the confidence to follow through so keep up that positive attitude and have faith in yourself. Trust that you ARE smart enough to teach your child. Trust that you ARE doing what you feel is best for them. Trust that you WILL have bad days but that the good days will far outnumber them. 

Pace yourself socially.  There are so many homeschooling groups our there, that if you were to try and go to everything available, well you'd never be home!  Children at school are around other children all day but that is not being social, that is forced interaction.  There will always be things on to go and do, but too much too soon gives both you and your child burn out.  It is completely ok to stay at home.  And stay home a lot if that's what you and your children like and need.  

That's it.  My Five tips for new homeschooling families.  
Stop, Breathe, Relax and follow your instincts. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Note to self - Aspergers still lives here

As my son gets older, things have improved.
  Not without a lot of hard work and effort on both his part and mine, but still maturity has helped.  This year has surprised me and my son has coped with many things that were previously no go zones.  He is actually taking part in some classes with other homeschoolers and making some friends.  We are fitting in lots of activities. I was sitting here last night so proud of all the things we are now able to do. I thought I should blog about that tomorrow.  

Then we woke up.

And I changed my mind.

Today was instead a very clear reminder that Aspergers and Anxiety, and their resulting meltdowns, still live here.  

As much as yesterday was fantastic, it was obviously too much.  How stupid of me to think that we could get school work done today on our 'calm at home day'.  Yesterday was Music, Therapy, Art and more music as well as play time with friends.  Every Monday this term has been this way, it's our out and social day.  He has coped great for weeks and I have been so happy about that. 

But the role of the Special Needs Mother never goes away and today I was made well aware that we were still on the rollercoaster.  I have officially written today off.  So much for my planning till midnight last night hey!  

I think that the 'improvements with maturity' also apply to my parenting. In the past I would have kept trying through the day to get work done.  Now I know there is no point hitting your head against a brick wall.  In the past I would have maybe re planned our Mondays so there is not as much on.  Now I know to implement some calm down strategies through the day as we go (even though he seems to be coping ok at the time) and to not expect that Tuesdays will be productive work wise.  

I think back to my son's diagnosis 6 years ago, and to the mothers in online support groups who all said that things change and improve as they get older and I thought hhhmmm really?  Thinking about it though, they do.  The ASD doesn't go away, but how much my son copes with and matures changes and how I parent and learn from past issues changes too. 

 I just need to remember that with all the changes and improvements happening on our journey, somethings will always remain the same. One - that Aspergers is always there. Two - we always continue to grow, mature and improve. Three - I will always be a very proud Special Needs Mother to an amazing much loved son. 

Now I am off to go and deal with a child having a difficult day. Currently covered by a blanket fort having difficulty making a decision on what DVD to watch and what he wants for lunch, as currently nothing is quite 'right' and it's all too much and too stressful. I need to take my Warrior Mum Super Hero cape out of the wardrobe and off the hanger.
The 'Bat Signal' is switched on and Gotham needs me. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Celebrating Success

Taking part in the first ever Blog Hope from Secular Homeschool today - 
about Celebrating Success!

I thought "great topic!" I can easily write about our success ..... then I sat staring at a computer screen for far too long - mind completely blank.

It's not that we haven't been successfully homeschooling for the last 3 years. It's not that this 4th year isn't as successful as the last, but where do I start? 

So I decided to make a list. A top 10! 
After taking a procrastination lunch break LOL. 
Successes in 2015, Grade 5 .... : 

  1. We celebrated my son's 10th Birthday!  We both made it - one whole decade!  Trust me when I say that is not only something to celebrate but also huge success given all the hurdles, health problems and issues we have had to deal with. Since the start of the year and his birthday in March, I have noticed such a change in his maturity and am so proud of the young man he is becoming.

  2. My reluctant reader has been READING!  He has willingly chosen to read books rather than play and read the entire book on his own.  He even asked for a book series for his birthday.  He is still not a confident or fluent reader, he still struggles, but the conscious choice to want to read is a huge step.  He now loves sitting with me while I read aloud to him.  Something that in the past brought too much anxiety to the task as he would panic that I'd ask him to read or get very upset as he hadn't learnt certain words yet etc.

  3. We have been able to attend group classes with other homeschoolers. Due to past bullying issues and his ASD issues, being around other children was difficult for him. We could go on random excursions or do occasional activities but not a regular thing with a group for learning. This year we have found a small group of kids that he is able to cope with for group classes.
  4. The activities we do with the group are Art and Music .... two subjects that have been off limits for my son since forever.  Due to Sensory issues (noise in music, feel of art materials etc), Anxiety issues, Colour Aversions and lots of other hurdles, Art and Music were 'no go zones'.  After connecting with the small group of kids, he was willing to try the classes and that in itself was huge.  The fact he has actually sat through and participated in the Art class, and taken part in Piano lessons (and he is really good at it too!!!) has just astounded me. *check out my blog post here*

  5. Running with the Music theme I booked him in for private lessons with The Music Bus and not only does he LOVE it, he is good too!  He is playing keyboard, drums, guitar and ukulele.  HE IS READING MUSIC!!!  Reading ... AND ... Music.  Wow and wow. Loving this. *you can see more at my blog post here*

  6. This is MY first year of being fully in control of my son's educationn registered with our state's Home Education Unit (HEU).  Our previous 3 years at home we were registered with a Distance Education provider so we had a teacher overseeing everything. I had to report to them and get their approval for everything. I got to the point where it was NOT for us any more.  It was a Christian School providing the Distance Education service and we are not Christian, so leaving also meant we had the freedom to remove religion from our lives and embrace secular curriculum and really explore our own beliefs.
  7. I started this blog!  A big step for me with regards to my own anxiety.  It's still something small with a small audience but I don't mind, it's really an outlet for me to say what I need to, share, record what we've done and is a little like therapy for me. Our journey aka Expedition Homeschool.

  8. I survived 'THE' talk with my son. Yes that's right, the 'BOY' talk.  Something I thought I would not have to do as early on it was agreed that it was his fathers place to do it.  But things don't also turn out that way. *for more on 'the talk' see my blog post here*

  9. My son was invited to a birthday party. That is huge! On so many levels!  It means friends, it meant coping with noise and competition (it was Go-Karting), it meant coping with not being in control and not knowing what to expect at a new place, it meant following rules ... so many things to cope with, deal with and overcome and he had a fantastic time!  For many who have children with issues, you will know just how happy I was that he got that invitation!

  10. The last thing on my list to celebrate - and probably the biggest thing, is the successful relationship I have with my son. Both as Mum & Son and Teacher & Student. This year has been successful in the way we learn together, cooperate together and listen to each other. As I said in point one, my child is maturing and is becoming more independent with certain life skills and he is recognising when I might need a break or a helping hand. It has made life easier and all my hard work getting him to this point is paying off. We are working as a team more and more and it feels like a whole new era in our relationship.
So there you have it.  
My Top 10 of things to celebrate and successes to be recognised. 
It was a long post (woops sorry!) but if you made it this far then THANK YOU for reading! 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Mother's Day Pain

Mother's Day is supposed to be a happy day, where as a Mother you are honoured, loved, recognised and cared for. You feel joy, pride and awe at the fact you get to be your child's mother. You are supposed to be happy and feel special. 

And I feel all that. I do.

But I also feel a lot of other things. Things I know many others also feel, yet NO ONE talks about. 

I am a Mother of an amazing 10 year old son and I am a mother who has also lost babies. 
I have 4 angels.

On Mothers Day I feel loss. 

I feel a deep sadness that never eases or goes away. I feel cheated and robbed of the chance to hold them and see them grow and of the chance to be their mother in the way my living son knows. I feel empty and hollow. I feel anger. 

To make matters worse, my last angel was lost to me on Mothers Day that year, 6 long and short years ago. As if that day wasn't hard enough after three losses, I woke that morning to start losing for the forth time. 

You cry. 
Loudly. Silently. In secret. In the dark. In the shower. Behind sunglasses. 
When you think no one can see you. 

You put on a brave face and you smile for the child you do have and you hug them and love them more than you ever thought possible. You cherish this day but you also dread it. You hide your sadness behind your smile so the child standing before you doesn't see it.

Thousands of women feel this way every year on Mother's Day. No one talks about it. If you do you get told to be grateful for what you do have, to grieve and move on, to be happy and celebrate the fact you are a mother at all. People make us feel ashamed of our sadness, of what we have been through and the fact that we remember the lost parts of our hearts. And that has to stop. 

I am a Mother. One who feels pain on Mother's Day as well as joy. 
And that's ok. 
That is not something I should hide or be reluctant to admit.

There are so many who grieve on Mothers Day.  Those who have not just lost children but those who have never been able to experience pregnancy.  Those who have lost a mother or have a mother absent from their lives. 

It hurts.

No one is saying you shouldn't celebrate and feel joy on this day, far from it!  It is a day to embrace.  Just remember that not all women feel the same on this day.  Some need a great big hug.  Some need you to respect their privacy as they spend time away from others and not judge them for it.  Some need you to include them.  Most of all, they need you to acknowledge their pain on Mothers Day, it will mean more to them than you know. 

Happy Mothers Day to all.
All the mothers of children, of angels, of fur kids.  All those with mothers, without mothers and missing mothers. All those who wish they were mothers and deserve to be mothers.  All those becoming mothers. All those Dad's who are both mother and father to their children.
Much love to you all.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review: The Wind In The Willows

Review: The Wind in the Willows

  • Classic Starts series - 'The Wind in the Willows' (retold from Kenneth Grahame original)
  • Childrens Book (David Bennett Books) 'Tales from The Wind in the Willows'
  • Sequel by Dixon Scott 'A Fresh Wind in the Willows'

  • Storybook Classics 'The Wind in the Willows'
  • Classic Edition 'The Wind in the Willows' & 'The Willows in Winter'
Literature Unit:

I was apprehensive at first thinking this book may be a tad young for my 10 year old who often seems like a very old man in a child's body.  To my great surprise he loved it.  Even better was how he reflected on the unit at the end. 

My first question to him after reading the books and watching the DVD's was: "Who was your favourite character and why?" 

I was expecting a fairly short answer and a fairy practical answer.  What I got was:
"I liked Mole the best because right from the very start he broke out of his old life and went out to explore the world on instinct and with determination" ..... wow ok!  He kept going and grasped concepts that most adults would struggle with and which I certainly didn't think he would even think of from such a story.  I need to stop underestimating my boy! 

Below is some examples of the work from the Literature Unit from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I have a reluctant writer so the small lapbooks are good as they are small.  The large sheets for filling in are a struggle for him sometimes but I am happy if he tries despite not having a lot of writing, what he can tell me verbally more than makes up for it. 

We compared the differences between the books, the differences between the DVD's and their animation styles and even their target audience. Great conversations were had while doing the literature unit work for his folder. 

I guess the main thing I wanted to get across with this post, was that while many (including myself) would over look this book for children aged 10 and above, don't cast it aside as a young children's book. I think the classics can be loved by all ages. 

To find how I set up my folders, click here.

To purchase the Literature Unit "The Wind in the Willows", check out the Confessions of a Homeschooler website

Monday, 4 May 2015

Cheat Sheets?

Now I know what you are thinking!  O.M.G. no she isn't is she?  LOL  It's ok, it's not the kind of cheat sheets you are thinking of.  But I use cheats!  Yes I do!  Let me explain. 

I have a child who has more than a handful of diagnosed conditions, disorders, learning problems and issues.  Ok maybe a few handfuls if the truth be told.  To get through the day, through a lesson or activity, you need some helpers or tools to make life a little easier and to overcome the hard parts so the learning sinks in and takes place. 

I say 'cheat sheet' and you think 'answer sheet' like the ones that went with test papers from school.  That's not what I am referring to (although come on mums, don't we all LOVE the workbooks that come with the answers in the back!!! I know I do!!).

These are what I call 'Cheat Sheets' :

When I find a pad of sheets that are pre filled with headings, ruled lines, templates etc that my son can look at and know where to write and how much writing is expected and if he erases words or lines then he isn't have to re draw backgrounds - then I think YES!  That's one less thing to worry about and one more thing that makes learning easier. 

Sure it might not teach my son to draw a map over and over again or rule up perfect margins on a page but really, in all honesty, is that ever going to be an issue unless he wants to become a cartographer or ahhh who rules up lines on a page these days? 

In schools kids are expected to spend as much time preparing a page as they do completing the page.  So it looks nice.  Today we value what looks nice over content in far too many aspects of life.  But why waste learning time with all that?  Isn't it better to know the content of a document or where something is on a map?  I think so. So I choose to use what I call 'Cheat Sheets' to make life that little bit easier.

As an added bonus, for those with children who have ASD or OCD issues, the repetitive nature of pre printed worksheets means less focus is on the paper, and more focus is on the work being put on the paper.  Not to mention reduced anxiety. 

The Recipe templates are fairy easy to find (I got this one from Kmart) and will be good for when we cover Food Technology a little further down the track.  The Maps were bought from Scholastic.  Perfect for our Geography lessons, history as well (Explorers routes, migration, war studies, etc etc). For less than $5 a pad (of around 50 sheets) they are a bargain as well!  

Other Cheats I use include:
Notebooking sheet downloads (they are brilliant and there are hundreds of them available online to download!)
Graph paper
Small lined recipe cards

Oh and my final tip ... Recipe template pads can easily be changed into Science Report/Experiment sheets with a few stickers placed over the headings.  If you can print sticker labels its ever easier! 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Anzac Day Wrap Up: 20 Books to Read

Here is my ANZAC Day Reading Wrap up.  These are the 20 books I have in our homeschool library for reading and reference for ANZAC Day learning. 

*Where possible I have linked to sites where these can be purchased*

Junior Bookshelf

Upper Primary Chapter Books: 
World War 1 Heros

Reference Bookshelf: 
Australians on the Western Front
The Australian Army: A Brief History
Wartime Magazine

Educational Resources & Workbooks
ANZAC Day: The Spirit of Anzac 2001 Educational Resource Pack
We Remember ANZAC: 2015 Educational Resource Pack

For more ANZAC Day ideas check my posts:
 ANZAC Day - Learning Options

ANZAC Day - More to Read