Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Homeschool Mums Deserve Teacher Gifts Too

Children in mainstream school give a gift to their teacher at the end of the school year.  Well that's how it works here in Australia anyway LOL.  Whether it's something home made, store bought, inexpensive or not, teachers leave for the Holidays with lots of 'Thank You' gifts from their students and their parents. 
And deservedly so.
They do a great job! 

But I ask you this. 

Do you, as a homeschooling parent,
acknowledge the job well done and the dedication
have provided to your family through the year? 
Do you get your children to make you a gift or buy you a gift as a Thank you?

If not, why not?

You deserve it too.

When my son attended school, we bought gifts for his teachers. There was a lot of them. Each year he had two class teachers, two-four teacher aides, a Head of Special Needs Coordinator and a Special Needs Classroom teacher.  That's 6-8 teacher gifts.  When you add up the cost of them all, it's not cheap.  Yet the first year I started homeschooling, I got to the end of the year and thought wow I have done the job of all of those people. Yet when doing my end of year shopping I found my budget much healthier as I had no teachers to buy for. 

A week later my son asked me what I was going to get for my teacher present. 
Firstly I was happy that my son recognised my value as his teacher. Secondly though I wondered if I should, wondered what others would say, wondered if I should spend the money on something self indulgent for myself. 

Not long after, I found something on sale at the shops that I had wanted for a long time. I had my usual 'no mantra' running through my head along the lines of not being able to justify the expense. Something as mothers most of us do all the time.  Only this time I stopped myself mid-mantra. I DID have a reason to buy it, I could justify it. I did deserve to spend money on myself, after all I had been a teacher all year and put in the hard work, got amazing results from my child and all for no weekly wage. 

When I told my friends about my Teacher Gift I got a wonderful response. 
The best part was helping other mothers to recognise their value as home educators too. It wasn't about the cost of the gift, just that they deserved something, like any other teacher does. Whether that be a handmade card, a box of chocolates or a gift of something special.

 I already have my gift for this year picked out. I don't feel guilty about it either because I deserve it.

So my question to all you homeschooling parents out there is, 
what will you get yourselves this year as a reward for all your hard work? 

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Dilemma of a Pagan in the Southern Hemisphere

When you have Pagan beliefs and live in the Southern Hemisphere, following the Pagan calendar can be a little confusing.  

Before I explain why, lets start with the basics. 

What are the Pagan Sabbats?

They are:

  • Yule / Winter Solstice : This marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It also marks the re birth of the sun as the days begin to grow longer from this point. 
  • Imbolc / Festival of Light / Brighid's Day / Groundhog Day : The fire festival of Imbolc brings the first thaw of winter. It is a time of rebirth, fertility and nurturing under the auspices of the Virgin Goddess.  
  • Ostara / Easter / Spring Equinox: The Spring Equinox is the traditional celebration of the new life that bursts forth with Spring. It has given us the modern celebration of Easter with it's fertility symbols of Rabbits, Eggs, Chickens and Flowers. 
  • Beltane / May Day : Beltane, the basis of May Day is the traditional celebration that marks the beginning of summer and the abundance associated with warmer months. The tradition of the May Pole dancing originated here.
  • Litha / Summer Solstice: The Summer Solstice, known as Midsommers Day, marks the longest day of Summer, the point at which the life giving sun is at its strongest over the powers of darkness.
  • Lammas : Lammas is also know as Lughnasadh. It is the First Harvest Festival and heralds the coming of Autumn.  
  • Mabon / Autumn Equinox : Occurs when the day and night are equal in length, the Autumn Equinox and falls between the first and third harvest. 
  • Samhain / All Hallows Eve / Halloween : Literally means end of summer. It is believed that at this time the veil between worlds is at it's thinnest. It is a time to honor your ancestors (similar to the Day of the Dead celebrations in parts of the world). It marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

What is the Pagan 'Wheel of the Year' or Calendar of Sabbats?

Why is there a dilemma when you are living in the Southern Hemisphere? 

You see technically, the calendar should be the opposite here as it is in the traditional north so that it runs in sync with our seasons. So when it is spring time here in the Southern Hemisphere we should celebrate Ostara or Easter - but everyone else in our country celebrate Easter in Autumn at the same time as the Northern Hemisphere.

Confused yet? 

There are two opinions when it comes to when those in the Southern Hemisphere should observe the Sabbats of the Pagan Wheel of the Year.

Opinion/Option 1: Regardless of where you live in the world, you should follow the dates of the Sabbats as they originated in the Northern Hemisphere. So Samhain/Halloween is 31st October regardless of the season in the hemisphere you live in.  
This means that your celebration meals would consist of foods not in season and your decorations and symbols don't reflect the landscape around you.

Northern Hemisphere Wheel of the Year

Opinion/Option 2: Is to follow the seasons of the year and celebrate the seasons as they happen in the hemisphere you live in. So when it's Yule (Winter Solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere, then you are celebrating Litha (Summer Solstice) instead in the Southern Hemisphere.  
It's seasonally correct but can prove equally problematic. 
It means going against the mainstream populations celebration timeline. While everyone is having Christmas and holidays you would not. This can prove difficult when family members are not Pagan and they wish to celebrate Christmas in December (like the majority of your country) and include you. Children want to celebrate Christmas at this time too as they 'see' it all around them. The shops are all covered in Christmas cheer and decorations, Santa is there to visit, etc.  Following Option 2 means you give this up and instead have a Summer Solstice celebration in December and have your Yultide/Christmas in June. 

Southern Hemisphere Wheel of the Year

Arguments between which is right and wrong will probably continue forever with both opinions having validity, but at the end of the day, it's a personal choice.

Comparison Table (with 2013 dates) 

What do we do in our house? 

Well for us, it's a little of both. Just to be different LOL.  

My son knows what seasonally we 'should' be celebrating here in the Southern Hemisphere and we do something to honor that. For us it's usually a family dinner with the seasonal foods.

 However when you have family and friends celebrating the mainstream calendar of events over the year, and you wish to celebrate with them, It makes sense to follow the traditional dates from the North.  You will find our house, in our Summer in December, covered with Winter Yuletide cheer and resembling the explosion of a Christmas store.  Snowmen decorate table tops rather than a vase of Sunflowers. 

Maybe that makes us 'Opinion/Option 3' aka do what works for you! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Intuitive Learning and The Indigo Child

As Homeschool parents we all get to that stage of trying to define what kind of learner our child is.  Are they visual learners, or do they learn best with workbooks?  Do you have a verbal learner or a kinesthetic learner? 

We explore learning styles, learning methods, look at our children's strengths and weaknesses and our teaching strengths and weaknesses as well. We decide if we are classical homeschoolers, unschoolers, or fit somewhere in between. 

However most of us, especially those of us with children with disabilities, learning disorders or on the Autism Spectrum, overlook another option / explanation / style which might just explain a LOT and open the door for learning. I think for many of us, we just assume that because our children are different, that we need to modify the styles that are already out there, or combine many. That our child's learning style is just a modification of the others out there.  We stop looking.

Have you ever heard of an Indigo Child ? 

I had heard the term but never bothered to look into it. 
Well today I was prompted to look into what an Indigo Child is. 
I was looking for ways to help my son and explain some things to him. I had been up through the night easing his worries and wiping his tears as yet again he had been upset while dreaming of what he describes as himself in the past in another body. You see my son has always been highly spiritual, always had a strong identity, an old soul who spoke like someone with lifetimes of experience, would talk about his past lives (often in great detail) and dream about them often, is highly imaginative, he talks about his spirit visitors, is very empathetic and sensitive. 

I often need to look outside the square when trying to help him. Now I totally get him and we are very in tune BUT I am his mother and I learned a long time ago that this special kid of mine was one who needed research to help explain things. I was quite surprised to find my research (children who talk of reincarnation) led me to Indigo Children and described my child so very well!  And for once it was nice to research something other than medical/special needs topics.  Through this research I have found myself rethinking our learning style, my teaching style, confirming why we do some of the things we do and recognising what kind of learner my son is.

I read a lot of articles and blogs on the subject. Some were rather left of centre and parts of the articles I disregarded as many drifted into the realm of strange LOL, but there were parts I identified with completely.  I read one blog post by Pia's Heart called "Indigo Children and Aspergers" that had a paragraph which described my child so well (who has Aspergers), even down to his high light sensitivity!  Pia writes,

"Indigos have above average intelligence, are emotionally sensitive, intuitive or even psychic, and generally feel different from those around them. They have an aversion to bright lights, and are highly sensitive to sounds, pain, and extreme temperatures. They know they belong here just as they are , and they expect you to know so as well. They are born knowing and feeling that they are special, and they want to be revered. Indigo children have a higher sense of self-worth and confidence. They do not work well with rigid authority and archaic systems; they believe everything should be given creative thought. Indigo children are very focused on matters of spirituality and things of metaphysical nature. They are considered system-busters, because they often have insightful and better methods than those in place for years now."

It made me look further into the topic and I then found the website:
This is based on a classroom approach but can be easily adapted for homeschooling.  This site lists profile characteristics as well as teaching methods in the "Mind" section, it explains health, learning disorders and the physical side in the "Body" section and then lists the some amazing insights in the "Spirit" section which really helps understand these children so very well.  If you are keen to learn more then please check out this website, I highly recommend it and it is one that I have now bookmarked on my favourites list. There is a sources section and a book review on "Empowering Your Indigo Child" pictured below. 

Characteristics of an Indigo Child:
Listed below from
  1. May be strong willed independent thinkers who prefer to do their own thing rather than comply with authority figures/parents.
  2. Have a wisdom and level of caring beyond their youthful experience.
  3. Traditional Parenting and discipline strategies don’t appear effective  with these children. If you try to force an issue, a power struggle is the typical outcome.
  4. Energetically, Indigos are vibrating at a much higher frequency so they can get scrambled by negative energy (human or machine)
  5. Emotionally they can be reactive and may have problems with anxieties, depression or temper rages if not energetically balanced
  6. Are creative right brain thinkers, may struggle to learn in a traditional left brain school system
  7. Often Indigos are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD since they appear impulsive (their brain can process information faster) and they require movement to help keep them better focused
  8. Indigos are very intuitive, and may see, hear or know things that seem unexplainable.
  9. Indigos have more problems with food and environmental sensitivities, since their system is more finely tuned
  10. When their needs are not met, these children seem self centered and demanding, although this is not their true nature.
  11. These children have incredible gifts and potential, but they may be shut down when not properly nurtured and accepted

Some random information I found and thought was good to share is that the term 'Indigo' references a few things, one of which is that it is the colour of the Brow Chakra, which is said to be the centre for thought (well duh LOL), vision and psychic knowledge. 

If, after looking at the links I have listed, you feel you are an Indigo child or have an Indigo child, the following link will help explain the type you are depending on your generation / year of birth. 

My son belongs to the Omega Generation: 
"Omega generation: 
Children born from 1998 to 2008 belong to the so-called Omega indigo generation. Supposedly this is the last “pure” indigo generation. Children born in the Delta and Omega period, are also called Crystal Children because of a particularly bright, crystal color in their aura. 

These children are particularly vulnerable to various dermatology problems, allergies and diseases (especially to those of upper respiratory tract due to high environmental pollution). 
Also a large proportion of them is characterized as autistic or suffers from the Asperger syndrome. Autism in children is a way of self protection from attack and neurosis of the outside world."

The fact my son has a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome as well as ADHD and a multitude of learning disorders, all which are mentioned in articles for Indigo children, really makes you stop and think about the bigger picture.  

So after much thought (and reconnecting with my own spiritual side) I have come up with a new learning plan for us. I call it:
"Intuitive Learning"
  • Allowing my child the freedom to do the work the way he feels works best for him. For example when he does Mathematics he often goes outside the square to work out a problem and doesn't follow the 'method'. He always gets things right and always makes a lot of sense but I've always insisted he 'follow the rules' and it frustrates him and we end up at a stand still. So long as his working makes sense and is right, I am letting go of some control.
  • Give positive 'Do' list rather than a 'Do not' list as they are sensitive and will dwell on negatives.
  • At the start of work, give examples of required outcomes (visual) or detailed explanations (verbal or written) to alleviate anxiety.
  • Explain rather than tell.
  • As they are perceptive and intuitive, there is no trying to convince them or pull the wool over their eyes to get them to do something when they don't want to. So either re visit it later, re work it into a way they do want to learn it or take on board the child's views. They are stubborn and value respect and integrity. If you approach them with those things then 'instruction' should go more smoothly.
  • Allow them to deviate from the plan. Let them use their intuition and if that takes them in a different direction, then see where it goes. For example we have found that during his music lessons he likes to use part of the sessions to create and write music rather than learning to play the instruments. When he writes, he does not write with lyrics (or with them in mind) and instead creates a feeling in the music. So we will re structure his lessons to allow him some more freedom with this to express himself.
  • Let them explore their dreams with dream diaries. Much like a Nature Journal but something for recording dreams, either with art or writing. 
  • Use History lessons as tools to embrace their memories.  As most 'Indigo' children experience and believe in reincarnation, allow them to embrace it and what better subject than History to facilitate that. Indigo children usually have a love of history, they feel their connect with certain times and places so also give them some scope in choosing what eras of history to study.
  • Follow a Right Brain Learning approach.  See my previous blog post on Right Brain Learning here
  • Give the child some control over choices of topics or time schedules and encourage mutual respect. 

I love learning new things about my child and myself. While I have always been spiritual myself, I have always overlooked that in terms of learning and our homeschooling. Thinking about it now I am not sure why, but I did.  Maybe it was because we are not religious and so did not choose curriculum that was religious, picking secular materials and common core / Australian Curriculum materials instead.  However learning about Indigo Children today and knowing how effected my son is, I think it's worth pursuing and adapting our homeschooling plan.

I am looking forward to learning more about Indigo children and implementing a new 'Intuitive Learning' approach to our homeschooling. I will be sure to let you all know how we go in the coming months. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Dealing with Disappointment and our JHS Journey.

Not only are "invisible" disorders / conditions difficult for others to see,
 believe, understand and accept, it's also hard for the person suffering (in this case my child) to keep dealing with the disappointment of missing out on a lot, on top of the pain they go through and all the effects of their conditions. 

For years we adjusted to Aspergers and the hurdles ASD put in front of us. We learned how to manage, how to help, how to avoid, how to cope.  We were able to push boundaries and assimilate into everyday situations. We are at the point now where I get those proud mother moments when others comment that they had no idea he has an ASD as he fits in with all the other kids well. All our years of therapy, all our supports and preparations each day help get us through and mean that day to day there is not much my son misses out on. By no means is my son free of ASD or 'cured' (I HATE that word by the way), it's a life long way of life and a life long condition based on a different way of being.

I honestly thought that ASD was the hardest thing to overcome for him and for others to understand but I think his other conditions are harder especially as he is getting older. 

My son's multitude of other 
diagnosed conditions include quite severe
Joint Hyper Mobility Syndrome (JHS)
and a bleeding disorder still in the diagnosis process which like everything
 else usually takes a few years.  

Now many children have hyper mobile joints. Many. They are simply 'double jointed' and more flexible than the average person. It can be fantastic for kids who want to be gymnasts and dancers.  They do not develop any problems from their loose joints. In a way it's a little like the Autism Spectrum in that there is a scale of severity. This is simply called Joint Hypermobility, it is not the syndrome. 

If you wish to find out if you or your children have hypermobile joints, click here to view the Beighton Score test.  If you score 4 or more out of 9 on this test then you have hypermobile joints. My son scores a 9. He is also missing some connectivity between certain muscles to allow him to do independent movements particularly with fingers. Many children on the Autism Spectrum have hypermobile joints. This can be evident by the characterised 'W' position sit that many ASD children do. 

Joint Hypermobility Syndrome 
is where problems arise from the loose joints. Chronic pain and other symptoms including extreme fatigue are two main characteristics of the Syndrome JHS. Most with JHS will go on to be diagnosed with Arthritis and degenerative joint damage. Other things to note is that anaesthetics do not hold as well for JHS patients.

My son is double jointed and flexible just like those many, many children, but has the chronic problems as well, hence his diagnosis of JHS.  Because the issue of hypermobility is fairly common, people cannot understand or see that the syndrome exists or how it differs from their child or their friend's child who has Joint Hypermobility.

How does JHS impact on my son's body?

 The arches of his feet and his foot structure 'collapse' and they don't perform their roles as they should and look like classic 'flat feet' and rolling in ankles. He wears orthotic shoe inserts to keep his foot structure in a more correct functioning position. Even with this, he struggles to run.  He shuffles and has no spring in his step.  His knees sustain high impact joint damage and he gets pain similar to an aging adult with arthritis. A fall where he lands on his knees can result in dislocation. The average person and even a 'double jointed' person can pick up a bowling ball and bowl a game with no problems. My son can dislocate his fingers picking up a bowling ball and when he goes to bowl can bend his arm backwards at the elbow causing pain. He gets shoulder pain and can dislocate using climbing walls and monkey bars. He gets back pain and even chest pain. 

The only visible clue you might have looking at my son, that anything is wrong, is his awkward clumsy walk or shuffle run, his lack of muscle tone appearing weak, poor posture and very soft pliable (baby like) skin. 

What you don't see is his fatigue. He gets very tired, very quickly and easily.  One of his doctors described it as being like living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome every day, from the minute you wake up.  You don't see the cramping of his muscles which occurs due to the constant over stretching of his muscles. You don't see that it can keep him awake at night further exacerbating his fatigue. You don't see the pain he suffers when walking for a long time, which for us can be 10 minutes at a shopping centre let alone an outing at a theme park for example. We have a wheelchair we take with us to help. A child over a certain age and size can't be carried, put in a shopping trolley or a pram. You don't see his relief at being able to sit rather than walk.  You also don't see his embarrassment at having to use the wheelchair, particularly if we are around his friends.  He will push himself to the limit and collapse at home to avoid looks or questions or pity. He also resists using the neoprene braces for his knees, elbows, ankles and wrists when out in public.  He needs them when he is hurt but doesn't like others to see them.

You don't see his disappointment when he knows he can't do what others can do or misses out on an outing. Regular 'kid' things my son either cannot do, shouldn't do or struggles to do: 
  • Jumping - this causes joint damage and pain. So no trampolining centres, inflatable worlds, backyard trampolines, skipping, etc.
  • Climbing - this causes shoulder pain and dislocation risk. So no climbing walls, monkey bars, hand held flying foxes, no pulling himself out of a pool with the hand pull type ladders, no climbing trees or fences, pulling himself up onto a horse. Not only does he lack the strength to do these, he is in pain trying. 
  • Riding a bike - the pushing of the pedals is painful and exhausting. Riding a scooter isn't easy either. Pushing with one leg means one leg is getting constant impact with the ground and one leg is bending to allow the other to touch the ground means on a bad pain day that it's not an easy activity. He rides a V-wing type scooter that requires no pushing or touching the ground. 
  • Swimming - the constant kicking of the legs and shoulder/arm rotations (think freestyle, backstroke, butterfly stroke) causes pain and a lot of cramping. Cramping when in water can cause drowning. My son suffered cramping in the water from a 20 minute swimming lesson. He has learnt to swim and float and how to get to safety but he will never be a 'squad' training swimmer.  We do hydrotherapy instead. Even trips to water parks can prove hard. As waterslides are found at the top of many flights of stairs. Climbing these steps all day is very painful.  
  • Bowling - we use a modified / disability bowling ball and he can only cope with one game. 
  • Running - this is very difficult. Most children's games and playing involves running. Whether it be a game of tag, kicking a ball in a football game or seeing who gets to the swings first, they all involve running. My son shuffles at best, is slow, always loses the race or game and is exhausted, puffing, frustrated and upset. Particularly as it happens time and time again and was the cause of bullying at one school.  You don't tend to get called a loser if you aren't jumping on a trampoline with others, but come dead last in a running race and you get called a Loser every time and it's heartbreaking for a child. Add in an uneven surface like sand and the problems get a lot worse. So the beach is not a fun destination either anymore. 
  • Fine Motor Skills like Handwriting, using scissors, drawing etc.
  • Sitting for long periods.
  • Standing or walking for long periods.
  • Throwing, Catching, Kicking etc

If you take all these activities out of a child's scope of play, it's hard for them to maintain friendships. Other children do not see anything physically wrong with your child. They aren't confined to a wheelchair so there is no physical cue and reminder that their friend cannot run with them in a game. Children don't really understand when a another child says 'I can't run' or can't run fast or has sore legs. I don't place any blame for this on any child or any parent, it is no ones fault at all. It just is what it is. I am usually the bad guy and the nagging mother, reminding my son to slow down and stop trying to run so he doesn't end up in a lot of pain that night. But at the same time I see his desperate need and want to fit in with the other children playing so it's a difficult balance. 

For us, everything is compounded by the fact that we deal with a bleeding condition on top of this. In summer the bleeding can be a daily thing. We need to stay indoors in air conditioning. Blood loss makes anyone fatigued so on top of his 'normal JHS fatigue levels' it can leave him couch bound wanting to sleep all the time. Summer is when all his friends have a lot of fun. Water parks, outdoor park play, riding bikes, etc. Holidays with lots of time to go out and have fun. We miss out on all of that and through no fault of anyone, friendships drift over those 6 months. Depression often kicks in as disappointment grows at missing all the fun. It can't be helped but it's something we aren't getting over like the issues we faced with ASD. 

Last week my son fell when riding a scooter. He did damage to his knees as well as a little graze on each. To any other child, they would be back to having fun by the next day. For us it means much more.  We had to visit the Dr to check his knees as they both swelled and had an odd shape. To keep from further damage he has to wear his knee braces for a week.  The grazes don't heal well or quickly and easily turn nasty due to his blood issues. Wearing the braces made the sores worse so we have infection issues to deal with as well. One thing impacts another which makes another thing worse. Nothing is easy and everything feels like a drama. Then my son fell again, a few days after the initial fall. Everything is worse and the cycle starts again. People can't fathom how a simple fall and graze of the knees can turn into such a circus and prevent us from doing things for weeks. It's hard to explain without sounding like a drama queen. What's harder each time something like this happens, is dealing with my son's tears when he then misses something he was looking forward to (like an outing this weekend). 

I guess we will get past this too, learn to adapt and now that my son is 10 maturity is helping him not get so frustrated or blame himself for his inability to do as much physically, but the disappointment is hard to see on his face so often. 

Where we live, the weather is warming up and summer is practically here already. This signals the end of our social, active and busy part of the year. It's the start of my endless apologies season which sees me have to decline most invitations to fun play events that are usually all outdoor, physical and beyond my son's capabilities. I hate each time that I have to type our reason for not coming along. I honestly never thought we'd be 'those' people who disappear for months at a time, especially since we managed to get through the Autism issues relatively ok.  But that's us. And that will continue to be us for years and years to come. I just hope that as my son gets older and more mature, and the friends he makes during winter get older and more mature, that friendships survive the absence periods better. For now though, dealing with disappointment and depression seems to be a very large part of this journey we are on and one I wish would vanish. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Learning about Guardian Dogs - What is a Maremma?

We are getting rather excited in this house. Next week an Australian movie called "Oddball" is going to be showing in cinemas.  It's about a dog called Oddball.  Oddball is a Maremma Sheepdog/Guardian Dog. Most people have never heard of the breed before. 

We have our very own Maremma and he is just beautiful.  They are a very special breed of dog and are more human (and domestic cat) than dog I think.  They are not a common breed and are not a breed well suited to being a domestic pet in the suburbs (please don't think they are just like a Labrador and easy to have as pets - they are a huge handful) so when you end up with one, it's not common to see them around, let alone in a movie, and you get a tad excited.  My son thought other kids needed to know all about them and should watch the movie and so sat with me to help write this post. 

This movie is a based on a true story. Maremma's are being used to protect penguin colonies (like on this movie) and even colonies of bandicoots.  Will be great for the kids to see I think.  We can't wait!  

Movie Trailer for Oddball.

There is a lot of information about the Middle Island Maremma project online and well worth some investigation if you'd like your children to learn about it before seeing the movie.

Click here to read an article about the story and the movie.

Click here for the Projects Facebook Page
And Click here for more information on the project.

This is a link to click for information on the Bandicoot Bodyguard project using Maremma Guardian dogs.
How is a Maremma different to other dogs? 

They are bred to be livestock guardians. 
They are instinctively protective of their flock. They don't round them up like a cattle dog or a Border Collie. They guard them.  If you put them with chickens, sheep, alpaca, goats, etc then they guard them becoming part of the flock.  They live out in the fields, are nocturnal and sleep during the day and are alert and on watch at night for predators. They also take on behaviors and traits of the animal they are bred to guard. A regular dog either squats (female) or raises its leg (male) to urinate.  A Maremma just stands, legs spread a little wider than normal, and urinates just like a sheep would.  Their tail hangs straight down like a sheep's does too, only raising up in a defensive position when alerted. They have thick fur that when left out in the elements resembles a sheep's fleece from distance. They are difficult to spot in a flock and this camouflage helps surprise predators. 

A Maremma and his flock.

What happens when you have a Maremma as a pet? 

Well the family becomes the flock. Your other pets also become part of their flock.
If you have other dogs they will then wag their tail. Our boy doesn't wag unless he is happy and wanting attention, which is when our other dog wags the most.  He learned to do this as was around 6 months old before this behaviour was adapted.  We also have an old cat.  So our Maremma will lick his paws and clean his face and ears just like the cat does. He will sleep where the cat does and in the same positions. Often waking, looking to check the cats position then copying and going back to sleep.  He will allow the cat to interrupt his dinner time and allow the cat to eat from his bowl while he waits patiently for him to leave so he can resume and eat what is left. 

Little and large 'cat' balls. 

My son is who he is most protective of.  When we are doing school work he will follow us to where ever we are to sit and keep watch.  Each time my son moves, the dogs eyes follow.  He will sleep but as soon as my son fidgets or moves, gets up, makes noise etc, the dogs eyes open to check all is ok.

Homeschool in session with student and companion.

It all sounds very cute, and boy oh boy do they look even cuter, but there are things to be careful of.  If we go to a park we will muzzle our boy.  Why?  Well I once read a great description of a Maremma, which said "Friendly with family, wary of strangers".  It is so very true.  I would trust him with my life and to protect my son without hesitation or concern. But I know his job is to warn off others. If it was just myself and the dog he is open to being given a pat (after looking to me to check if I will allow it), but if my son or our other dog was approached by other people or other dogs, the protective nature kicks in and he will growl and bark and assert his dominance. Due to his large size, people can get very frightened by a dog barking wanting to come towards them and standing so tall. He will position himself in front of my son where he can. Always on guard. 

Our Holiday photo - My Maremma 2yrs, my son 7yrs, my Collie 3yrs 

In most breed information documents, they are described in the 'Giant' size range (think St. Bernard, Great Dane) with weight ranges for females between 30 - 45kgs and males between 40 - 70kgs (our boy is 55-60kg depending on the seasons), and average standing height of 75cm. In an Australian summer we get our boy clipped (as seen in the above photo) but in winter they have a very thick double coat which can add a lot of weight to them (and width LOL).  When they stand up on hind legs, like at a fence to see over, they can easily look down on someone 6 ft tall. 

My Maremma and my Border Collie as 10 week old pups.

The above photo shows you the difference in size between our Border Collie and our Maremma. Both photographs were taken at 10 weeks old.  Trust me when I say the food bill is not small.

Cuddling his pillow just like his boy aka my son.

They sleep a lot. They are not a high energy dog. As mentioned earlier they are more alert and awake at night and are described as nocturnal so sleep a lot during the day.  If you are not on a farm leaving them outside with a flock, and are in the suburbs where you and your family are their flock then do not leave them outside at night if you want to get any sleep.  They will bark at every sound to warn you.  If you have them inside where they can see you peacefully sleeping, they will sleep soundly inside and possibly snore LOL. They will also copy your sleep positions and demand a pillow to cuddle as pictured above LOL.  Having a child with ASD and other medical conditions, he is up a few times a night for various reasons. I am alerted at night to any stirring or waking of my son by my Maremma barking to wake me.  He will bark to wake me if the power goes off, if the other dog needs to go outside or any strange activity in the neighbourhood that even the dogs at those homes don't hear.  

However don't confuse 'not a high energy dog' who sleeps a lot, with easy.  They get very bored if left alone in a backyard. They need a companion or something to guard. As we homeschool, he has us around a lot to guard. When we are out he has our other dog to guard. You will often find him patrolling the perimeter of the backyard, pacing the fence line every hour to make sure all is safe on the home front. 

They are Italian (Cane da pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese) in heritage and similar breeds include the Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) from France, the Kuvasz of Hungary, the Tatra of Poland and the Cuvac of Slovakia.  

If your children would like to see another movie starring one of these lovely dogs, check out:
Santa Buddies

The Search for Santa Paws
Santa Paws 2 - The Santa Pups

My Maremma wearing his Santa hat well.

  All three of these Disney Santa Paws movies have a Great Pyrenees as Santa Paws and Puppy Paws (they have bigger/lower hanging jowls on the face).  It is actually also a good way for children to see the differences between a Labrador pup and one of these breed of pups. Actually it will help you too. So many of these pups are sold in pet stores as Labrador or Golden Retriever pups as they can look similar to the untrained eye. But 3 months down the track you have a much larger handful than you bargained for.  It is for this reason that so many are handed to shelters and need to be re-homed. Maremma Rescue was established to help with re-homing these amazing animals and to help with educating the public on how to care for them. 

I hope this blog post has given you some knowledge on the Maremma Guardian dog if you didn't know much about them before.  My son is happy that I wrote this with him anyway so from that perspective it's been worth writing.  I hope you get the chance to watch Oddball the Movie too and learn about the amazing project on Middle Island off Warnambool in Victoria, Australia. 

My big sooky beautiful 'baby' of the family.