Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The start of our Australia unit

So I decided to have an Australia Unit where we learn about everything to do with Australia. We're starting with how the First Fleet arrived, and the terrible acts against the native Australians. Yesterday we just had a gentle introduction as I wanted to focus on writing practise with my kindy babe and reading/spelling with the others. The pictures tell the story :) 

 Ashton was so proud to be "doing proper school" with the big boys. 

 Adorable? Yes! 

 Ashton practising some of the words we used today with an Upwords board.

 Chase practising his blends and writing with the Upwords board. This was lots of fun! 

 Jaidan with his Australia 3 part cards. The picture, the word, and the description. He enjoyed this. 

 Jaidan reading his Zac Power books. He LOVES these. Read 2 yesterday. I'm so happy to have a child who loves to read as much as me. 

 Ashton practising his writing. I love his face in this. Concentration and super cute chubby 4 year old cheeks. 

 Elijah wanted to get in on the action, so I set him up with some sequencing cards of the Australian Flag. 

 Ashton with his 3 part Australian States cards from here. He's now a whizz at these and knows what they all are and can match them up in no time at all. He really enjoyed these so I'm going to have to try and find some more :) 

I was so super excited yesterday that my order from Kesco arrived! With it, came some Schleich toys, magnetic foam letters and BASE TEN BLOCKS!!! Yay! I've been hanging out to get these to help Chase with the place value concept. Jaidan's a whizz at maths so I'm going to be putting him on Mathletics or Maths Online and focusing on Chase for a while.
I can really recommend this shop. Fast postage by courier, excellent items and VERY cheap. These were only $30! Also have a flat rate postage of $12.90.

We've also started some Easter projects :) We made some Easter Bark which is just melted white chocolate with jelly beans, it's very effective and delicious :) The kids really enjoyed this one! We also made some coconut macaroons which we called Eater Bunny Tails! 

 Making their Easter Bark.

  Eating the finished product. 

Easter Bark.

 Elijah loved this mix and kept on re-dipping his spoon! 

A little while ago I downloaded all these Montessori apps for the iPad. The kids showed NO interest in them, so I removed them all. Then on a whim I reinstalled the animal parts game. Elijah loves it! He played it on and off for a week so I downloaded and paid for the full versions of most of the ones in the store and he's been having a ball. My favourite is the Dinosaur Parts game. They are simple and easy to use, not overrun with colour and noise, and he's really picked up a lot.

\And a last photo because it's beautiful. This was my darling Ashton looking for a book to read together. I couldn't help but snap this photo because he looked really angelic, not anything like his normal, loud, cheeky and boisterous self.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Community work

So I've been trying to think of something we could do as a family to volunteer and give back. I am a strong believer in doing volunteer work whenever you can, and for a while I worked at the Mandurah Wildlife Rescue as a volunteer while the boys were at school and day care. I loved it. It felt good. Good to do something for no physical rewards. Every day I felt I was making a difference, and I want that for my boys. I want them to grow up giving back in a selfless way.

Every time I asked an organisation if there was something the boys and I could do to help, I got the same answer, "the boys are too young, they have to be 16 to register as volunteers and they can't work for us unless they register.

So I've decided to be a regular part of the Two Hands Project.

If you've read my blog, you would have seen this post about our first Two Hands Project participation. We learnt a lot from the experience and it felt good to sleep that night knowing that there was so much less rubbish polluting the waterways and killing the marine animals and wildlife.

So as part of a environmental studies, PE, science, maths (yup, you can make it fit in every subject!), we will be doing this every week on a Wednesday morning. If anyone locally is interested in making it part of their weekly activities (or even just when you can fit it in) please let me know you'd like to come along. 2 hands and 1 hour of your time is all it takes. If you don't live locally, why not consider doing it at a parkland or waterway near you!

The boys with their first rubbish pile from Mandurah Foreshore, back in December.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's going on in your neck of the woods?

So this week has been very hectic and emotional and full of ups and downs.

Ashton has been very challenging this week. Pushing all the right buttons to make me very cross with him. It's resulted in some less than ideal parenting moments, and lots of tears from him and I. Elijah has hit a very stubborn stage where I'm met with lots of no and arm crossing. It's hard solo parenting. I really is. It's draining physically and emotionally. We push through these moments though. Occasionally I loose my shit, but usually we work through it.

It has it's moments though, like today, where I realise it's all worth it.

After a rather stressful night last night, which I'll get to in a minute, today started off slow. We left the house at 9.45, an hour late, and headed to the bank to deposit the boys money boxes. They especially enjoyed the money counting machine that commonwealth bank have there for you to use. Tip in the cash and it prints a receipt with the total. You can watch the number climb as it counts, and this excited the boy very much, with them all loudly counting along with the machine.
After the boys were at day care we headed op shopping, figured it could count towards their 1 hour of maths for the day ;) we found a few bargains too, like these 3 books for $1 each!

 We went home, did some reading, mathletics, Minecraft, and I even had a nap (whoops) when I fell asleep during silent reading time. After I picked up the little ones we headed to the park and watched the sun set.

Chase cooked dinner tonight, which was nice as I got to spend some 1 on 1 time with Ashton. We did some basic maths with our Bug Subtraction sheet we printed and laminated from SparkleBox which is a great site with 1000's of worksheets and printout games completely free.
With Bug Subtraction, they roll the dice, add that many bugs to the mat, roll the dice again and remove that many and count how many are left. We write them down as we go along and we read them all back afterwards.
Ashton and I played for about 20 minutes which was nice as he doesn't like to sit with 1 task for too long, and 20 minutes is a great block for maths.

Ashton proudly held up his sums for me to take a photo. He would be in kindy this year, which means he doesn't need to be registered for home schooling yet as it's not compulsory, but it's nice to get a head start. 

Back to last night.
Right on dinner time, Chase dropped his huge shell on Jaidan's toe. This resulted in a lot of screaming, and blood, and in the end a phone call for an ambulance. 
Once at the hospital, they gave him a local aesthetic, which was the only time he screamed since leaving home. I hate needles too so I can sympathise with him.
They cleaned it up, removed his nail as it was cut off, gave him an xray and found a small fracture. So he was sent home with 2 bags of dressings for me to change 2 times a day. He was so brave.
Luckily his nail bed was undamaged so it should grow back in time on it's own. Until then, keeping it covered and clean is what the doctor ordered and that's what we've been doing. 

As a treat for being so brave, we made an Icecream Overload this afternoon. The pictures speak for themselves. Revolting but amazing for the kids.

So what else have we been up to?

We made beetroot and feta dip, which was delicious on some Peckish crackers.

We made shopping lists with pictures and prices cut from supermarket catalogues. We then added up all the amounts, and then counted it out with real money. The boys were a little bit disappointed that we didn't take it to the shop and buy it so that will be a task one shopping day I think.

And the most exciting thing we've done this week was Adventure World again. Kids love this place, and I went on the more thrilling rides this time ;) Chase even came on the Freefall which is one of the best rides there! I love it. It shoots you 52 meters into the air at 15 meters per second, twice, then takes you up to the top very slowly, and drops you down at 12g's. It's pretty awesome and tummy flipping.

 Chase waiting for the chairlift.

 Chase, Alexander and Jaidan walking together to the next ride. Cute!

 Photo courtesy of Chase, while I was upside down screaming and hoping I would not die.

 The boys in the front of the rollercoaster. For a kiddy ride, this thing is a little scary!

Jaidan flying down the water slide. 

Jaidan on the chairlift. He hurt his eye when he headbutted a pole in the pool. Lots of blood later and a bandaid, all was well.  

Chase and Jaidan on the mini version of the free fall. For the little thrill seekers ;) 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The penny dropped

So this morning I was watching this video by a young man. An articulate, engaging, funny and intelligent young man. Who also happens to be home schooled.

It led me onto watching this video, by Sir Ken Robinson. Everyone should watch both videos, it's really eye opening.

Some things Ken said really resonated with me.

"Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status."

"Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects: at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts." 

This honestly was a penny drop moment for me. Yes! Yes it is as important, and yes we focus too much on the reading and maths, and not enough on the artistic subjects. And here is me, the new home schooling mum, who is still stuck in mainstream school thoughts to some degree.

I have a 7 year old, who struggles with reading. He struggles and struggles, I get annoyed sometimes, he cries over it a LOT. We have really been working hard on it but it's just not clicking! It's got to the point where any free time is no longer spent doing whatever he pleases, it's spend on Reading Eggs, or practising his blended sounds, or phonics. But still, even after all these hours spent, it is still not clicking. He's improved, slightly. It's barely noticeable  So I've been very worried. In the cross fire, is his creativity. He's artistic, sporty, and artistic. He loves art, and the computer, and art, and also art, and did I mention art? But we've been doing maths, reading, reading, reading, science, sport, reading reading reading and maybe a little art.

I use my 9 year old as a marker for where he should be this year, as they are only a year behind each other with schooling. But he's no where near. Jaidan was reading chapter books last year, Chase struggles with pre primary readers and can read about 30 of the 220 sight words he should know. He can't read the 30 confidently, and it often takes him a while to read each one too, having to sound it out over and over. It's not for lack of trying, he tries so hard. He often ends up in tears. It's heartbreaking.

So as of today, his reading will go back to the no stress pile. We will do our daily reading, and Reading Eggs, and our fun with words activities, but we will no longer put all of the focus on reading. In fact, I will no longer worry at all about it. Hopefully as this year progresses his upset over it will stop and he'll start to pick it up. In the mean time, we will do lots of art like we normally do, and we will go to the paediatrician to make sure there is no underlying issue like dyslexia.

Hopefully by the end of the year I can link back to this blog with a new post about how much he's improved over the year.

Making reading fun with the first 100 Dolch sight words and Duplo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First 'real life gets in the way of learning' day.

So today my littlest angel came down with a dreadful temperature. Well it started yesterday afternoon, and by last night he was hitting the high 38's. This morning, 39.4 so off to the pharmacy we went for a syringe so I could give him some medication.
This meant today he was extremely clingy and cried a fair bit.

Still adorable, even when sick.

So todays plan, which was to visit the Alcoa Discovery Centre, had to be postponed. It's okay, we will get there one day. 

Instead we went to the Commonwealth bank and opened up 3 new Dollarmite accounts (Jaidan already had one but he got a new book and money box). The boys were very excited at the thought of their own bank accounts! I made a pretty nice offer to them too, whatever they save between now and June, I will double. SO they've worked out that they have the potential to have a bank balance of $100 by the end of June, and I'll make it $200. For little kids, this is a LOT of money. They are already planning on what they are going to use it for haha Tonight we made up savings charts which they can colour in every time they deposit some money. It helps them see where they are at and their goal . 

3 of the 4 with their bank books.

Jaidan colouring in his savings chart. 

I finally got Jaidan Mathletics, and I'm so glad I did!! It was cheap through the Home Based Learning Network when you join, and he's loving it. He played for 4.5 hours the first day, and today he played for about 3 hours this afternoon. He really loves maths and told me it's his favourite thing to learn. It's now installed on the desktop, my laptop, his laptop, my iPad and the boys iPad. So no matter who is on what computer, he can play it :)

My little Mathletics fan. 

I don't know if this is a common love in ALL homes with small children, but my boys are currently obsessed with a little game called Minecraft. I love it because it really lets them use their imagination. If you don't know what Minecraft is, watch THIS little video. My boys are part of a group of home schooled children who all play together. They love this time and often ask if I can please log them onto the server with their friends. Even Ashton, who's only 4, will play and build things. It's really a great game, where their imagination is the limit. Here they are colouring in some Minecraft colouring pages I got from this site

 Minecraft art time.

So one of my previous posts had about Jaidan asking for a schedule of some sort. Together we designed this one in word which was a massive learning curve for me as I'm totally stupid when it comes to making things in word. We laminated it, and stuck the sticky velcro dots on it. Then I printed off some little pictures of things like bike riding, swimming, choir, Mathletics, the beach, Reading Eggs, science etc. Laminated those too, and put velcro dots on the back of them. Ta da! Schedule that can be changed to suit and can print and add more things in the future. 

Our homeschool schedule.

 Where it lives, on the fridge. 

One of the little pictures I used was this one. I used it because to me, this is what Australia is about. Multiculturalism, expression in ones own way, acceptance, and happiness. My boys loved this photo when I showed them also and said "they look really happy!". So when we come to this, we will be learning about all aspects of Australia, including our acceptance of everyone, regardless of religion or race. 
One of the most touching and beautiful Australia Day photos I've seen.

One last thing from me, today I got my Harvey Norman gift card that I won on Kidspot. I entered a bunch of photos in their OMO Dirt Alert contest, and this photo of Elijah won :) Yay! Tomorrow I am heading there to get a slow cooker!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week 2

So we're coming into week 2 now of official home schooling and it has become apparent that the boys want to have some kind of time table for what they are to do.
It happened today when Jaidan said to me, "mum, you know when we went to school and we had things to do all day, a list, and recess and lunch? Can we do that?". So to that, I obliged and producted a week chart. I left it blank, laminated it, and stuck velcro dots to it. Tomorrow I'm off to print in colour, some clip art icons which show different activities, from swimming, to maths, to writing. Then I'll laminate them, velcro dot them, and we can make our own schedule. Not how I wanted to home school, but I am taking their lead on it.
It's also become apparent today that Jaidan manages to complete his tasks extremely fast, with Chase completing his extremely slow. It took Chase 2 hours to do a worksheet that took Jaidan 20 minutes. This saw Jaidan in the lounge reading a Goosebumps book, with me at the table with Chase. Jaidan read 6 chapters, and I told him he could play his DS. So I am going to have to figure something out with this as I can't spend all my time with Chase, and let Jaidan fall to the back burner.
So what DID we do today?
Well we started the day with 1 hour of swimming at the local pool. This is going to become our Monday morning activity. Swimming for up to 3 hours. It's fun, great exercise and the kids are really coming ahead in leaps and bounds with the 1 on 1 attention I can give them at the pool. Jaidan couldn't even float a month ago. Now he can glide, float and is getting used to flutter kicks instead of 'giant steps' as I call them. Chase can now swim the entire length of the pool and back, on his back with only kicking (he hasn't got the arms down yet). He is learning to dive, can glide and freestyle and is confident in the water. This is from 2 children who've not had professional lessons before, so they are doing okay!
We made mug brownies today. It was our unhealthy morning tea, and a learning experience about measurements  cooking times, sugar content and also the difference between plain and self raising flour. The kids loved this activity and the mug brownies were rather delicious with some cream on top!

We read books today, as a group and we had 30 minutes of solo reading. This is something I've added into the schedule for selfish reasons also. I think it's very important for the boys to develop their solo reading, quietly, in their head, and also good for me as I never find the time to read! So now I can. Chase is struggling with reading so he can either read, or he plays Reading Eggs to try and improve his word recognition. I've added this in the 12 - 1 pm time slot, which is lunch time. It gives the boys time to eat, and to read if they finish before any one else. It's also nap time when the little ones are home so they can nap and we can have our own rest time.
We did some worksheets today, focusing on maps, floor plans and cardinal points. The boys really enjoyed this, and they will be making their own floor plans and directions for each room this week.
We ended the day with a trip to the beach with Gizmo. We spent a long time there, and loved it. Swimming, sand castle building and running around with Gizmo. They also met a wonderful and kind lady who was happy to chat to them, and have them swarm her for an hour. I love these opportunities for the boys, and I hope that she went away happy that she'd got to meet the boys too. I know Ashton was rather fond of her after she took him out into deeper water as I refuse to swim at the beach, sharks and jellyfish and all that.