I simply want everything I do to be an act of worship to God. ********************EVERYTHING******************** like a spider's web, intricately woven, the threads of our lives are entwined, making us who we are, where we are, at this time in history.... here's a small record of one family's journey to love God

Saturday, June 30, 2007


toastyTALE #1
M4 won't be cold again this winter! He wore his new longies last night and LOVED them.
"They were soooooo warm Mama"

toastyTALE #2
Father Bear was cold last week and nearly bought a beanie...he wouldn't be convinced that I could make him one for well under the $30 they are in the shops....well, he knows I *can*....it's just that he would like one with a funky little tag on it! After seeing some young surfie dude on tv with one just like I was proposing to make, he conceded to let me give it a go so long as it is very fine and not at all bulky. That means teeny tiny needles....sigh....and the first one I started just wasn't big enough, so it's now undone *double sigh* and I've started something else! I'll come back to the 130 stitches for his big-full-of-knowledge-head after I've done a vest for a little boy!

before the un-ravelling party

Friday, June 29, 2007

Definite Dreams

Well the dreams are everything from this to this to this (if you have a look at the last one, you'll need to go to "Barge Brokerage" on the left...and then scroll down a wee bit to "Lanikai" - it's so worth doing - a very exciting prospect.....but one we will totally NOT be doing given that we don't have a spare NZ$400,000 in our back pocket.....that's the same reason we won't be doing the first one either!)

We've been considering getting some more land to do the semi-self-sufficient thing. If it were left up to me, I'd wait until after The Trip, but if we found the perfect piece now, Father Bear would be keen to go for it. My wee head doesn't have enough space to do trip planning and website designing and clothes making and ongoing home educating all at the same time as trying to buy land and learn how to use it - so most everything else has been put on hold while I run with Father Bear's Crazy Ideas and look at land......but I'm about to drop that baby and pick up some of the others again.

Partly because the trip is a Definite Dream. That's one that IS happening (well, God-willing, of course - one of our latest Sripures we've learnt has been "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring forth" - so true)
The mostly-definite at this stage is: next August visit family in Malaysia, September to December Father Bear will work in China, then four months of *something* (hopefully Mongolia), May-June will be the Great Britain Pilgrimage towing a caravan behind a van with Grand-Father-Bear.....that much is planned.

Dreams beyond that.....well at the weekend we talked about everything from Father Bear getting a European University stint onto his CV...through to buying an acre of land with a house and well on it in Russia (would cost less than $5,000 - what a cheap year or two that would be, learning traditional farming methods from old babcias!)....through to us making a Kiwi contribution to the Simpler Times Village linked above.....through to having an organic poly-culture permaculture set-up with guest accommodation that people could come and stay in for a few days and milk a goat and make cheese and knead bread and read books and and and....

Without vision, the people perish - I don't think we're in danger of fading away through lack of hope or inspiration!

catching up

My email inbox is overflowing - quite nice really!
But I know I should get some answers out......so here we go.

I get mine from East West Organics - they order it in from Ceres, so you out-of-towners might be able to contact Ceres directly if your local shop doesn't stock it. If any of you are purists, I'd better mention it IS refined. You can get unrefined, but it costs three times as much and so we have stuck with the cheaper-but-still-beneficial option. And even that is not cheap. 10l cost $109 last week.

The other issue with it is SATURATED FAT.
If you have got the heebie-jeebies over it, please go here and read at least three of the articles.

Why, yes it is! In fact it's been so chilly in the evenings that I ended up feeling sorry for M4 who wears a knitted soaker over his night nappy (and no PJ pants coz they wick moisture through). I started knitting him a pair of longies a couple of days ago. They will be done in time for tonight.

I've been lent a copy of "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff, which I really need to FINISH by this weekend. I'm bound to discuss it some time next week!

I've got a great stack of self-sufficiency books by the bed and even Father Bear who is renowned for saying "I'm not a farmer" whenever I'm having a rural-dream picked one up and conceded it was "pretty interesting".

At the bottom of that pile are a couple of books about rural New Zealand architecture in the past 150 years. Why? Well, you never know when knowing that might come in handy! I researched traditional villas a couple of months back. Very interesting.

Two of my *own* books are being flicked through too - the old encyclopedia has been too overwhelming in terms of the amount of information that I don't know....but now in comparison to my newest acquisition, Mollison's tome on the right, it makes positively light reading!

And as these photos show, I am desperately in need of reading Father Bear's new book:

Actually, when we travel next year I am hoping to take the time to learn to a) use the camera well and b) sketch and use watercolours. I wonder if I'll be able to sneak this book into someone's pack;-)

ER (13 mo) had two very snuggly days when we got back, and M4 struggled having his first weekend away On His Very Own With No Other Siblings (in fact he ended up sleeping one night at Grandpa's with two sisters!) and T3 got a wee bit teary at church when she could see all her family in the distance....but apart from that....they had a ball. One watched lots of tv * another enjoyed playing Mother to ER * another didn't even have to do any chores, only clear the table * one was surprised to discover it's not just our family that goes to open homes at the weekend! *

Thanks all you families for taking one or two, even at last minute notice, and giving us a wonderful weekend.

Dropping off kids took an hour and a half! Not bad we thought!
Friday night we ate at a Mongolian restuarant and dreamed. "Let's dream this weekend and no judgements" Father Bear had said. That will be a post of its own!
Friday night we Did Not Sleep. I was awake from 2-4am, at which point I decided I didn't NEED to go back to sleep right now coz I didn't have to get up in the morning, so I read until 5:30.
I then slept in till after 9! Just before 9:30 we discovered we could go to look at a house half an hour away at 10am. We raced out the door and turned up only to discover the gate closed. Hmmm.
Time for some shopping Father Bear needed to do for work....and while he was doing that the house guy rang him. We could go back - but not until after an auction of a villa on two acres that we were en route to. Bidding started above our final price so we were not in the running - actually noone was. There were no bids and we raced off to the other house. Father Bear loved loved loved it. We looked round for an hour, chatted with the owner and agreed to let him know what we think it's worth (it's not on the market).
Then we had a spontaneous-due-to-circumstances shopping afternoon, picking up some great bargains to get packed away for The Trip.
A weekend away for us almost always involves at least a few hours at Borders....this was no exception, but we were exhausted by 7:30 so headed to the hotel for the night. We both had a new book to read, but only managed to glance through the newspaper!
Sunday morning we wandered around the Viaduct Basin, stopped for breakfast in a cafe....Father Bear let me take my knitting and he watched the rugby replay on a big screen. Win-win! We thought we could get used to having no children and no church every weekend!
We wandered along the waterfront and stopped for ENORMOUS icecreams before heading back to pick up kids. It would be nice to say everyone lived ahappily ever after, but the reality is the older ones were tired and scratchy and snitching with each other and generally quite unpleasant.
It was still a wonderful weekend though.

and one with a few friends.

Yes! And yes. They're tossing up whether to blog about it now (coz they're all done) or wait until after The Day - Monday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

bursting with excitement

The kids are all going on holiday to six different homes around town tonight.
Father Bear and I will be HOME ALONE!
Then tomorrow we're going in to town to a hotel for the night.
We're planning on going to a house auction, doing some "trip research", eating out at a Mongolian restaurant, visiting Borders, indulging in Moevenpick icecreams at Mission Bay, chatting about life dreams....and we'll probably even watch the All Blacks test (if we do, I'm allowed to knit so that's a win-win scenario!!!!)

A friend, who is very family-friendly, recently told me her reaction to those martyr-mothers who "never spend a day away from their children".

I'm with her all the way!
Only a few hours to wait now!!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I am having such fun knitting up the lollipop wool.

The pants and mittens I did almost entirely in hospital a few weeks back with L6. Although I must admit the legs went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

Then I started the vest (my first time ever using a real bought proper pattern), but it just wasn't going fast enough for me so I whipped up the soaker for a wee break. My parents brought me up to finish something before starting something new....but it's just not me! I believe in having at least three projects on the go at once!

an easy-peasy-no-thinking-one

a need-to-concentrate-one

and a long-term-one

I had lots of fun trying to create blocks if colour interspersed by only a row or two of contrast...lots of short rows and knitting from three balls of wool at a time! And having worked out how to do it, I then forgot to on the crotch and just zipped back and forth. Ah well, never mind, I like it all the same. I'll do a cord once I've finished the vest - don't want to run out of wool!!!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

every time a coconut!

Over the past few years we ahve become ardent believers in the healing powers of coconut oil! Every time someone has had the vaguest suggestion of a cold Father Bear has dosed them up with extra organic coconut oil - and apart from our sickly M4, it has worked every time!
We use it liberally in cooking as well as coconut cream and dessicated coconut too.
Two weeks ago our 10l box ran out.
This week we are all - without exception - suffering from heavy heavy colds, runny noses, coughs and some lost voices!
We raced to the organic shop and bought a small jar of the liquid gold ($90 for 10l - but $8 for not even 200g) to tide us over to when the Big Box comes in. We are slowly coming right, but it's definitely worth nipping this type of thing in the bud early on.

Are we scared of dying of heart failure due to consuming this saturated fat?
No, and while we're not ordinarily conspiracy theorists, this is one topic that does have a scientifically dodgey past.
Can I encourage you to get hold of Mary Enig's book "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" for the inside scoop!
And if you can't get hold of that, you could always google Weston A Price Foundation and read some of the cholestrol and fat articles. You just might be surprised.

Monday, June 18, 2007

it's quiet round here

I've got no energy to climb up on any soapboxes today!
And even if I were able to do so, I've got no voice!

I've noticed all the children are talking quieter! I didn't think I was that loud!!!

Racing round my head are ideas for our travelling website......thoughts about a house auction Father Bear is threatening to bid at on Saturday.......musings about another house we were shown but was withdrawn from the market and seemed pretty ideal.....travel plans.....a couple of conversations I'm taking part in on a discussion board......what's for dinner....wild dreams of moving to Simpler Times Village and doing something like this (and we're not even farmers....at all....not even a little bit)......wondering why J11 has taken himself off to bed three afternoons out of the last four......more travel ideas....all topped off with an itching to scrapbook and crochet and knit and sew all at once!!!!

Friday, June 15, 2007

she seems so sure of herself

I have been dubbed a schedule nazi by more than one friend (OK, by two!)
So how is it that I can be so informal with the children?

It's been a journey, and one that I have agonised over. I have come to philosophical conclusions through my readings and thought-wanderings.....then I have had to make the reality of our life reflect those new-found beliefs.
I have questioned the *beliefs*, wondered if I'm just being lazy, occasionally considered I might be ruining the kids!
Time will tell.

As an example of some of my indecisive questioning, here's one more "old piece of writing" (then I promise to hop off this soapbox next week!)

QUESTION: when I plan out what I am going to do during the week, I achieve more than if I just leave it to decide from day to day. Where does this fit in? Is it appropriate for me to be more formal because I am older and at that “stage” of life? How much formal do the little ones need? How much structure to the reading plan? To what extent should even that move in seasons rather than doing science/history/geography all the time? I’ve done the little-bit-of-everything-every-day approach, the month-of-one-thing-at-a-time approach, the something-different-every-day approach.
Is there too much mother-directed? What about the missed opportunities (eg fascination with Vikings at the moment and I haven’t done anything at all about them). This interest was sparked with some reading two years ago and they are revisiting it. Would the interest even be there if we hadn’t done it together first?

Am I really harnessing their interests?
Which approach worked best? Is there yet another way?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

still going on about home ed

I dug out this piece I wrote four years ago.

A Brief Glimpse into Our Life and
How Our Children Are Learning Naturally

There are certain learning tools we want to teach our children that will enable them to learn anything they want/need to know. We teach these tools somewhat informally by the kind of lifestyle we lead. For example, one of the tools is curiosity. We don’t have a ten-step action plan for teaching it, but rather model interest in our environment, ask questions aloud, wonder about things…our children can’t help but start doing the same.
Our focus is on these tools rather than on teaching “subjects”.

In spite of books that tell you so, I do not believe there is a certain body of knowledge that five-year-olds should know, and another for six-year-olds and so on. There are, however, certain ideas, which govern science, history, music, geography, art, communication, mathematics…I think the key, as parents, is being aware of the ideas so that we are capable of leading our children. We don’t need little tick charts for all those things, but being aware of them will help us help our children interact with the ideas or try new things. We need to educate ourselves.

Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and certainly may not happen if opportunities are not presented (you only need to think of Romanian orphanages to realise children don’t automatically learn to walk and talk if left on their own). Little ones need lots of encouragement, someone telling them they’ve done a great job or helping them to get up and try again – they learn in the context of relationships.
So, from a parent’s point of view, it is a matter of “know some stuff” and share it with your child. Because it is not all linear, many things can be tackled at a variety of ages. It doesn’t much matter whether you encounter beetles at age six or twelve. The same goes for Brahms, Bulgaria and Botticelli. We “open doors” to these things for our children by providing a rich environment for our children to interact with (and plenty of time at home to do just that). Showing pictures by Rembrandt and discussing them or trying to copy them might spark an interest for one of them to pursue. Going on a nature walk might do the same for another child. Yet another might be inspired when Mama reads a book about a country far away or someone who lived long ago.
We have not experienced any resistance at all to these mother-directed parts of our day – in fact, there are frequently requests for another page or “Just one more chapter…please??”
And I have developed my relationship with my children more because I have been involved in the process.
After chores and some “door opening”, our children are free to pursue their own interests. This is time for them to become immersed in something of their own choosing…getting to know something deeply, instead of just having superficial knowledge about lots of things.
When they are little, children seem fascinated with everything, but we are assured that as they grow up, their interests will become more focussed. We are just starting to see that happening – in her free time, J, who is eight, is likely to be found creating something, whether it is out of cardboard or material or dough or sticks and stones from the garden. J, a year younger, will be collecting and identifying insects, birds or shells, or trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass.
(J constructed a “real” hide and J sat in it with binoculars, watching birds. J rescued the dying butterfly with holes in its wings and J made it a house. J collected cicada shells and J displayed them in a shadow box).
That doesn’t mean they don’t do other things – J has been seen sewing doll’s clothes and J will go fishing or ride a bike. But as our children have had time to “live”, we have started noticing patterns.

Can I encourage you to open some doors and see where they lead.
Know your children.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

a day in the life of......

today may not have been a "typical" day....but neither was it a-typical

you can find the details here if you're interested

and add to them: rang IRD, fielded a few phonecalls, knit a few rows of a vest, bought vege seedlings, supervised chores, folded nappies, emailed a couple of real estate agents!.....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

home schooling is not alone schooling

One of the joys of modern times is the ability to be part of a community even if physical distance separates you. Here's a handful of websites I have visited over my home-ed-career.

(If I were a real blogger I would provide links; if I were a real educator I would provide reviews, but I'm short on time today, so I'm doing a copy-and-paste-with-no-notes-attached. Google is your friend!)

ambleside online

elijah company
good book reviews

highschoolscience.com – go there for more good links
homeschool review something or other
MOMYS (mothers of many young siblings)
1000 Good Books List (classical Christian home educators)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

a decade of maths

I started off my three year old….yes you read that correctly….three year old….doing worksheets which I studiously made up for her. Fortunately, she enjoyed it! Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing!!!
Before she was even four years old I had three other little ones and I was wondering how I would ever keep up the pace! I got hold of a maths book, which had LOTS of exercises as I thought kids needed HEAPS of practice to learn anything. How could they possibly learn otherwise? Fortunately again, she enjoyed that too.
I did a bit of reading to find out what I didn’t know about teaching maths and ?unfortunately? discovered I was supposed to have been giving my dear daughter concrete experiences. OOPS! Hoping it was never too late, we put the book away and I started playing games and looking for real life maths. A friend challenged me to “live” and let the learning happen. I was sceptical, but J4 was already two years "ahead" of herself, I was pregnant and very sick with number five so I decided to take six months off to see what would happen (and the worst case scenario was that she would only be one year “ahead” if nothing happened!). So sceptical was I, that I decided to record everything mathsy my son did during that six months (I wanted to compare what he learnt with what J had done at the same age). Within a month I had stopped recording – there was soooo much.
Although I stopped writing every little thing down, I did notice some things.
Firstly, HEAPS of maths happens in everyday life.
Secondly, each of the children learnt in their own way and at their own pace (not exactly rocket science, but the reality was so different to anything I had ever known. I had come across the concept and thought it meant that some kids would finish the textbook sooner than others!)
J would spend a long time “playing around” with a concept. For example, he got a stopwatch for Christmas when he had just turned five. This stopwatch hung around his neck for two years straight – he used it all the time to work out how long it took us to do the shopping, how long car trips were, how long sermons lasted, even how long it took to fill a vial of blood at the doctor’s!!! It seemed he was always checking the time and by the time he was seven, he had a very thorough understanding. The textbook I had used with J devoted one week’s worth of lessons to the concept and once we had filled out the pages I considered we had “done” time. In fact, I thought we had done very well because I got a “real” clock out to use! But J’s understanding at that stage was far deeper than J’s… J became interested when she was eight years old and with no apparent effort “got it” almost overnight. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, leap years, twenty-four hour clock, digital, analogue. They have both picked it all up in real life…and both of them in different ways. K (just turned 7) and K (5) are currently learning by reading out the numbers on the clock and having me tell them what it means. Even three year old L is on the act! (By the way, I should have listened to my friend who told me not to give my kids the same intitials!!! At least we have a boy J and girl J, boy K and girl K!!)

Another example. As dedicated interest in the stopwatch started waning, I noticed a tape measure in J’s pocket! For about six months he carried that round and if something could be measured he probably tried! Everything from insect wing spans to the length of an Olympic running track in Ancient Greece.
Measuring, measuring. The front seat in the car became a favourite because you could see the odometer from there!
J picked up measuring through an interest in making things. At first she made all sorts of “creations” out of scraps, giving no thought to sizes. Then she discovered books in the library with instructions….including measurements. As she developed sewing skills her understanding of measurement deepened. Again, no textbooks.

I was the only person I knew using this kind of methodology for maths, but I believed God wanted me to trust Him with this one, so I stepped out in faith. Every so often I would get concerned and look into various curricula or start keeping records of what we were doing or even have them take a test (well, once….)……(recently!)……
But now I am confident that this is working.
J is nearly ten and we haven’t worked through another textbook yet. I don’t even plan to next year. Around about 11 or 12 we’ll crack open Math-U-See and work through that, stopping at any concepts she has missed until she picks them up. I am believing she will do it more quickly than if we had started at age five and spent half an hour a day for seven years “doing maths”! (If I am proved to be wrong, I will revise this!) (Update 2005: That was what I was thinking we’d do – now I’m wondering about using a remedial college text with the children in their mid-teens if they haven’t picked up anything more formal of their own volition before then)
In the meantime we will continue with what we have come to enjoy…..
We’ll play games like Rummy, Monopoly, snakes and ladders, chess, cards, battleships, dominoes, tiddly winks etc
We’ll plant and tend a garden – when you have planted seventeen seeds in a row you are going to want to count how many of them come up!!! Isn’t that so much more motivating than circling the plants on a page in a workbook and counting them??
We’ll bake together, doubling and tripling recipes as our family gets larger!!!
We’ll divide cakes into more and more pieces for the same reason!!!! J and J just got to know halves....or thirds if Mama wanted to share, but Baby Number Seven will know eighths very early on!
We’ll build things with lego and wooden blocks
We’ll count when we climb stairs with the nearly two-year-old
We’ll keep a finance record (well, the older ones do)
We’ll continue to do puzzles (J, J and K – ages 9,8,7 – are currently working on a 1000 piece one and they’re nearly finished! The little ones do stage-appropriate ones)
We’ll play the odd computer game
We’ll even use little activity books with number games occasionally

Sometimes it can be difficult because it is hard to articulate what we are doing. There are no tests to supposedly prove learning is happening. There are no text books completed or exercises marked. Sometimes the children are slower than people think they would be at school (that’s a really hard one).
K at age six had still not learnt to count to 100. K loves sport.
One day he was bouncing a ball next to me as I hung out the washing. I started counting out loud and he took up the chant. Very soon he said to me, “Mama I can bounce more than I can count. Can you help me?” I helped him all the way to a hundred. And we did it again the next day. Within a few weeks he was counting in twos, fives and tens….past 100!!! It was a lovely example of waiting until he was ready and trusting God would bring the need into his life. Once there was purpose he picked it up very quickly – it’s not like I hadn’t counted with him before that day! I certainly had, but it had not been his time to “click”.
One common response (amongst homeschoolers, and I’m sure those who send their children to school would echo this thought) has been: “But there are some things they just have to do. They’ve got to learn discipline.” I wholeheartedly agree. My children from a very early age do chores around the house. In fact, by the time they are old enough to enter public school, they are working at least two hours a day at home. This gives them plenty of opportunities to learn discipline and to learn to do those things they don’t enjoy! We don’t have to sacrifice the love of learning to teach those things. If we end up with a child who does not enjoy learning, then maybe I will see things differently, but so far they have all been interested in life. In fact, I am looking forward to adding examples to this piece about how God has taught them as individuals those things they need to know.

Here’s the first example:
J’s Flower Presses (by the way, this is not a maths lesson in real life, but a real life situation which used some maths along the way…and many other things too)
J expressed the desire to press a ponga frond (having been pressing lavender and pansies in a tiny flower press). He mulled over ideas about how to do it for a few days and made many suggestions. Mama directed his thinking towards making a smaller one first! (a balance between squashing his idea altogether and letting him run with his creativity). She had him closely observe the little flower press to see how it was made. She then suggested he draw a life size plan – he came up with a side view and “looking down on it view”. Drawing these necessitated learning to use a ruler properly. We went to Mitre 10 to price out the project. J took his plan and showed it to the man, doing all the talking for himself and spending his own money to buy the first piece of plywood. Because the smallest sheet of ply was still actually pretty large he worked out how many flower presses he could make and decided to sell the extras. He gave instructions to the “saw man” in the workshop. He spent many afternoons sanding. Dadda taught him how to use a drill – there were lots of holes to be made. And more sanding. Then it was time to come inside – there were instructions to write, a pattern to design and cardboard circles to cut out. Each of these steps was comprised of smaller steps:
1. The instructions
Firstly J told me how to make a flower press as I transcribed his words onto paper.
These were edited with my help into a logical sequence.
We then turned each sentence into an imperative.
J typed the instructions onto the computer, and found a suitable picture.
Dadda helped him size them to print off on stickers.
J placed the stickers on the underside of each flower press.
2. The pattern
J wanted a flower picture on the top of the flower press so he copied the flower from the instruction sheet onto a wood block. He then stuck string over the lines with PVA glue. Once this had dried, he used it as a stamp.
3. The cardboard circles
Each flower press required four circles made from cardboard. After J’s search of the house for a suitable object to trace around was unsuccessful, I introduced the compass. Discussions on radius, diameter and circumference ensued (I have not seen this in any six year old maths material I have looked at, but it was relevant to our project). A valuable lesson was learnt when J rushed through cutting out one set of circles only to discover he had done a very poor job – materials, time and effort were wasted.

Time to put it all together. Four cardboard circles sandwiched between a smoothly sanded square of ply with a picture stamped on it and another one with the instructions. All held together with four bolts and wing nuts. (As he only had enough money to buy one set at first, a lot of maths was involved, working out how many bolt/nut sets he could afford as each flower press sold, working out profits…adding, multiplying, checking).
Then came pricing and advertising (in this case, word of mouth amongst friends). The price was re-evaluated when a friend said he was undercharging and insisted on paying twice his asking price! The same friend suggested spraying the wood with varnish; a suggestion J accepted.
J took a sample of the varnished product back to Mitre 10 to show the men who had served him and had seemed very interested in his little project. One of them organised for the store to order half a dozen to sell on his behalf! Orders came in from other people. Another lady offered to sell some at a craft fair…….

Example 2:
K is five and loves shapes. She was flicking through a maths dictionary we have one day and discovered a whole page of shapes she had never come across. This sparked an interest in her making her own book about shapes. It was a project we worked on for a few days.

Example 3:
At age 8 J taught himself to skip count in 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s and 10s. Why? I don’t know! He said he wanted to. Apparently he just went over the numbers in his head until he could do it.

Example 4:
It’s half past nine at night. The older three children have just stayed up to watch a rugby match against Australia on TV. The All Blacks won. 16-7. K came and told me the score – he knew our score was bigger than the Aussies! J pointed out we won by nine points. He’d done a bit of subtraction as well. It only took a few seconds to tell me, but it was maths in action. And it happens all the time.

Example 5:
K, a few months later, is still into shapes! Just the other day she made a board game where you have to move from one shape to the next until you get to the “most-sided one”.

Example 6:

(I’ve been writing examples down on a piece of paper and can’t find the paper!! EEEK There were pages of them! I’ll have to start over)

July 2005
Earlier this week I found a piece of paper, on which were some hastily drawn lines resembling graph paper. Intersecting some of these lines were big studiously-coloured-in dots, and lines joined the dots. Hmmmmm. I had just recently been thinking about the fact that my children had not yet shown any “interest” in graphs! When questioned, J10 informed me this was one of those things they sometimes put up at the end of the news. Made mental note: watch news more closely and see what she’s talking about – it’s been at least six months since I even saw the news!!!!!
Probably due to my mounting nervousness that we would *never* do graphs, I pounced on the opportunity and gave a Graphs 101 lesson on the nearest scrap of paper to hand. J9 looked up from the writing he was doing to inform us all that he had seen those things at an Entomological Society meeting last year – it showed the numbers of apple moths going higher and higher, and then after the first spray the number dropped right down to almost the bottom line and went out straight for a while after that till it tailed off to nothing. And I thought we hadn’t *done* graphs!
Never mind what we think about the apple moth spraying ;-)
By the way, J10 was at that same meeting and only vaguely recalled the graphs. She vividly remembered thinking those meetings were not inspiration enough to stay up late during the week again! Can’t say I remember much else, except that that was the night that goes down in history as THE NIGHT I STARTED READING CERVANTES’ DON QUIXOTE!!!! (we sat in the back row, I put that “interested expression” on my face with head tilted slightly up towards the power point screen and moved my eyes imperceptibly from left to right and back again!!!)
Just goes to show, when you’re actively interested, your learning is much more deep / real / lasting / perhaps even profound.

July 2005 (same week as the previous example - Saturday morning this time)

The children had built huts in the dining room and were negotiating *where* they were actually located. Antarctica won out his time. J9 got a book to find out how cold it really would be there. –88.3 degrees. “That’s almost minus a hundred degrees,” he told anyone who was listening. K8 replied, “That’s more than zero” Lots of siblings just had to inform him it was “Waaaaaay less”!
Then the conversation turned to the hottest recorded temperature: 57.7 degrees. We had talked about this a few days earlier. K8 had asked and I had said I imagined somewhere around 60 degrees. J9 was adamant he had read it was 57 point something! It was obviously satisfying to him to now know exactly point what!

August 2005
Mama said, “In two months it’s my birthday!”
J9 added, “That means T will be one and a half” He’s right – she was born when I was exactly 34 and a half – to the day!
K8 thought a bit and said, “So she’ll be 18 months old in two months – that’s in eight weeks. So she’s sixteen months old today”

At eight years of age, K may struggle to write numbers, but he can “do” maths!

15 August 2005
While everyone was at the table making their New Zealand books today, I was sitting with them making a chart for the little children. I needed a circle divided equally into five segments. Knowing that no-one would be able to answer, I casually asked, “Does anyone know where the protractor is?” A chorus of “What’s a protractor?” greeted me! Inarticulately I answered, “It’s a half a shape thingy”. Before I could correct myself and speak more specifically about semicircles, three of them had jumped up to fetch the desired object and were animatedly discussing it together.
As they worked on I thought “aloud”… “If a circle has 360 degrees and I want to divide it up into five equal parts I need to do 360 divided by 5” (as I spoke I wrote down the sum on a piece of paper and noticed Jaala looking slightly fascinated at the scratchings that followed)…. “Five goes into 36…ooh let’s see, well seven times five is 35, so put 5 here…..seven fives are 35 so I write 35 down here, 36 minus 35 is one and you bring the zero down….five goes into ten twice, so I write 2 up the top…there, 72. 72 times five is 360. So I need each segment to be 72 degrees”. As I positioned the protractor over the fairly small circle someone commented that it wouldn’t fit, and they watched with some interest to see how it could be used.
No-one picked it up to have a turn, no-one was even particularly interested in my circle, but I’ll be looking out to see if anyone starts playing with protractors or division soon!

September 2005
J9 counted 110 buds on his feijoa trees.
Of course he doesn’t need any practice in counting (he’s nine years old and a more than capable counter, understanding much larger numbers), but he certainly got practice – especially as two days ago he counted 105 of them!

October 2005
Watching tv, an advertisement for Lotto came on. The kids thought it could be worth getting a ticket “just once” to see if they might win. We talked about the probability of winning (next to non-existent!) by comparing it to a jar full of sand….if you painted one grain of sand a different colour, what would be the chances of picking out that particular grain on your first try? They realised it might be at the bottom of the jar and you wouldn’t get it. Six year old K suggested you’d have a better chance if the jar was half full – missed the point a bit, but a valid observation! She also noted that if you bought one you might want to buy more and more. Right again!
The older ones then worked out how much you would pay if you bought a $15 ticket every week….$780 a year! That’s nearly $8,000 in ten years – approaching a deposit for a house!!

By the way, no-one has shown any further interest in division or protractors…yet!

July 2006
J11 and J10 helped Grandpa count the Self Denial offering at church!

August 2006
NZ coins have just been changed and this has prompted an interest in rounding numbers….which extended to rounding temperatures aswell. In fact, temperatures have been a matter of great interest this winter – the coldest winter since before I was born. At one stage J10 even graphed the hourly temperatures for a week or so!

A few months ago, L5 came to me and asked “Mum, what’s odd?” I immediately thought “odd as in queer” – but it turned out he was embarking on a fascination with odd and even numbers! That night we sat down on the floor with some duplo and I showed him the concept of odd and even when you put things in pairs. He got it straight away – in fact, half an hour later he returned saying "22 is even eh" He still talks about odd and even most days – in fact, when he does sums he’ll say something like “6 plus 5 is odd” before he tells you it’s eleven! He often says, “I’m odd” with reference to his age.
This interest has widened T2’s and M3’s vocabulary too – although, at two and three years of age, they have no idea what they’re talking about when the mimic L5’s odd and even discussions!

Money Matters: J10 is keen on doing Su-Do-Kus and there is always one in the local paper. If you send it in you might win a prize:-) After sending a few away, I had him work out how much it would cost in a year to send one each week – including postage and envelope. He’s saving his money now!!!!

Statistical Challenge
(WHAT’S THAT ABOUT? I obviously put it in as a reminder to write about something and I don’t have a clue what it was!)

Cooking Disaster
This happened quite some time ago, but I’ve just remembered it now. It shows the importance of being able to read numbers correctly. LOL
J (9 at the time perhaps?) thought there were supposed to be 11 ½ tablespoons of yeast in the bread – imagine if he’d put that much instead of the one and a half!
He has also discovered recently why you put a pinch of chilli powder in curry and not a couple of tablespoons! (along with the other spices)

November 2006
A couple of months back I told J12 and J10 I was getting them a maths text book (they seemed “ready”). J10 threw his arms around me and said, “Oh thanks mum that will be so cool” (definitely seemed ready!)
A week into it J10 had decided he “didn’t like maths”. WHAT? The only thing he had said that about before was cleaning the toilet!!!! And he LOVES maths. Well, in real life he does anyway. They both loved the fact that through doing the mental drills they halved their time for one hundred sums in under a week. That was motivating! But as for the rest of it…even though he was getting at least 98% each day, he was not enjoying it much at all.
The difference between the two Js was remarkable – J10 would write the bare minimum each day. J12 wrote out all the answers, all her workings and the problems too. Plus she started a glossary in the back of her book of terms she wanted to remember.
I slowly reached the conclusion that while J10 is CAPABLE, he is not yet interested in utilising a workbook approach and as I believe it is more important to foster his interest in numbers, than stifle it with repetitive bookwork, we changed tack. Instead of doing pages and pages of sums and then doing a test….we did the test first and then used the book to learn what they didn’t yet know, and we skipped the rest. All this with a view to dropping it entirely for J10 if his interest level doesn’t increase – certainly what we’ve been doing up to now has served us well, and J12 went for an extra year before she started the book so it won’t hurt him to wait.

T2 (and a half) is just starting to get one-to-one correspondence beyond two items. It’s so exciting!

February 2007
We’ve started up some formal stuff after the holiday break. J12 naturally wanted to continue with the maths text - and she requested to be allowed to do every single sum on every single page so that she would be assured of learning it all properly! Request granted!
J11 was given permission to NOT use the text book, but he elected to do it anyway! He, however, wants to use it differently – he quite likes the idea of just doing the bits he doesn’t already have a handle on.
Having said that, he spent about an hour doing it today. I encouraged him not to overdo it and get sick of it, but he was keen to complete the bit he was working on.

I started using Family Math with T2, M4, L6, K8, K9 – we did two of the little activities. One was just putting blocks in circles drawn on a piece of paper: one-to-one correspondence. That was dead simple, even for T2! The other activity embraced the concept of odd and even. The older ones already knew about it, but M4 didn’t - yet he picked it up immediately. He looked so pleased with himself! I liked the fact that I was sitting down WITH them doing something. It only took less than five minutes, but it was a positive time. Although I don’t actually believe the kids need the book or special activities to learn maths, planning to use the book or some of the other manipulatives or games we have for a few minutes each day helps structure what I do together with the children.

June 2007
Ha that last entry is so funny. We did one more activity the next day and That Was It!!!!! But Grandpa has been spied studying a counting book with T3.
L6 has been very time-focussed. In fact in hospital last week he saw a clock which said 17:50. He asked how you could know the time from that and I suggested he’d need to take 12 off. I was about to give a more precise explanation and tell him all about 24 hour clocks when I noticed he had an engrossed expression on his face so I left it. Inside of two minutes he said to me, “So in three minutes it will be five to six” I didn’t bother saying any more!
Yesterday K8 brought me her first ever knitting pattern she had made up and written out. Cast on 20 stitches. Knit 40 rows. Cast off. She explained to me that when she was trying it out, she had cast on 20 stitches, knit 20 rows and cast off, but it was only half as long as it was wide. So she was really hoping if she knit 40 rows it would be square. Tonight both K8 and K9 sat clickety-clacking with needles and they churned out two squares!


School is (among other things) a series of artifical learning experiences.
Real life is full of opportunities. It took me a while to stop thinking in terms of school subjects – you see I went to school and my main understanding of education was naturally based on what I experienced there. I had to learn to *live*!
As I pursued these I ideas, I started considering the fact that my kids might NOT one day open seventeen textbooks and be "learning properly", but that one or two of them at least, may well "just" learn from life. To ease my slightly troubled heart, I thought about whether this would be possible and came up with the following representative and obviously incomplete list. Of course no-one would do all of these things in a week; there are enough ideas here to last a lifetime…..which brings me to one other point….schooling left me with the thought that you “finished” your education after you’d gone to tech or university. I’m encouraging my kids to be learners for life.

* bake for an elderly person * build a website * make a quilt * join a theatre company * write a Scripture memorisation plan and do it * repair a car * play a sport * learn sign language * embroider a tablecloth * grow plants from seed and sell them * go camping * read stories onto a CD for children * join St John’s ambulance * plan an excursion * do a word study related to a topic you are interested in * interview your grandparents and write up their biography * build a garden shed * visit an art exhibition * research world religions * join a choir * keep a finance record * design a recipe book * sew your own clothes * mow the neighbour’s lawns * make a gift for someone * run a summer camp in your back yard for the neighbourhood’s children * try your hand at sculpture * tour historical sites * reorganise the garage * pick berries * interview people involved in a job you are interested in * raise chickens * set up a filing system for your papers * build a motorbike from scraps * make a Bible story book for young children * learn to ride a horse * volunteer at a museum * write a letter to the editor * create an exercise programme and stick to it * read * train a dog * provide computer support for the elderly * attend a community meeting * scrapbook * go duck shooting * be a “mother’s helper” for a mum with young children * watch a movie and talk about it with someone * create a board game * learn to drive * go orienteering * preserve peaches * attend a seminar * join a debating club * collect supplies for a food bank * tutor a younger child * work on a farm * attend an orchestra performance * take part in a triathlon * host a formal dinner * learn to play an instrument * do the grocery shopping * visit an old folks’ home * make a powerpoint presentation of family photos * make a weather station * visit children in hospital * cook for your family for a month or at least once a week! * build a telescope * write a letter * grow your family’s vegetables * knit bootees and hats for premature babies * write articles for your local newspaper * research how much it would cost to leave home! * organise a progressive dinner * go fishing * study different kinds of music * do volunteer fire fighting * run a business * plan an overseas holiday * organise a children’s party * photograph important people in your life * phone a friend * fix a clock * observe creation *

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

treasure trove

I just popped into the Sally Army shop and came home with my best treasure ever. The lady said "$1 each, that'll be $8 for all of those. Is that OK?" I replied, "I'll give you $10 and you keep the change"....and I still felt bad about it!

I haven't even looked closely at the portfolios yet - couldn't tell you how many pictures there are or what they are like - except for the ones in these photos! I only had to see one to know it was a bargain worth snaffling up. There are teacher's notes which may or may not be useful - but I bought them for the pictures, so I don't mind if they are not worth reading!

Looks like our "home education" will be taking a cultured path for a wee while! So while we're full of inspiration, I thought I'd spend the next few posts up on my home ed soapbox. If you're not interested, try popping back next week!

Any burning questions you want to ask?

soft answers to hard questions

A friend wrote this on a message board I frequent:
Well, all of you home edding bloggers, I was trawling through all of your blogs for a really nice statement of WHY and HOW you home educate, and.... I couldn't find anything!
Maybe it is all ancient history for some of you who've been doing it for ages, but I have a few people who I know would be interested in reading a really nice description of how it works for your family.

As I'm one of the home-ed-ing-blogging set, I thought I should reply. However, I'm busy busy busy right now, so I'm doing a wee bit of a cop-out and doing a cut-and-paste of something I wrote four years and two babies ago! Feel free to ask more questions once you've digested this lot. But be warned: you might be scared off the topic forever;-)

I wrote this as part of a "course" designed by Barbara Shelton to help you rethink education. She provided some of the questions and I added others I have come across regularly. The short answers are for when someone stops you, typically in the grocery store, to ask about homeschooling and they just want a quick answer (if any!!) They were supposed to be limited to 50 words so shouldn't take you too long to flick through! But of course you are not a captive audience like you would be at the supermarket, so feel free to log off - I'll never know;-)
The long answers, which come afterwards, are for serious questioners, and you'll need a strong coffee or something to get to the end of them.

~ the grocery store version ~

Why do you homeschool?
Lots of reasons really. We want a Christian education for our kids. We believe the best education happens at home and we think it’s the best place to learn relationship skills. Plus we get to be with our kids – and we like them, so that’s a bonus!
(OK so I’ve never actually said that – I tend to say, “We find it’s the best way to achieve our family goals – our kids learn so much from just living.”)

How long does it take?
We spend a couple of hours reading aloud each day, a bit of time at the table and the rest of the day is learning all sorts of other things – home management skills, gardening, nature walks, art and music, carpentry, sewing, whatever they’re interested in. They’re learning all the time.

What stuff do you use?
Well it’s important to realise that school creates artificial learning experiences. We’ve found we don’t need to make up learning opportunities – the children learn so much from living real life. We read aloud heaps with them and then use their individual interests to develop the tools of learning (things like reading, writing, reasoning, habits etc).

What does the government require?
By law we are required to teach “at least as regularly and as well” as a public school. Of course we desire so much more than that. You get an exemption certificate and ERO visits to see what you’re up to.

Are you a teacher? Are you qualified to do that?
Yes I am, but you know what? That was one of my biggest hindrances in homeschooling. Being organised helps me run a busy household, but learning how to learn from real life itself was a slow process because of all my teachery ways.

What about socialization?
My social skills far outweigh any five-year-olds!! When you are in a social environment you are always learning some kind of social skills – school isn’t the only place, and if anything, sometimes it can be negative socialisation that occurs there.
We’ve got six children, numerous neighbours, a Grandpa living nearby, church involvement….we have lots of good socialisation.

You get together with other homeschoolers for sports and stuff, aye?
Yes there are groups, but we don’t actually belong to one. We do things with other families and have lots of people in our home, but on the whole we try not to go out too much so the children have time to explore and think and develop interests.

Aren’t you over-protecting your children?
I don’t think there is any such thing as over-protection for little kids. They don’t need to know about all the evil in the world – they need to start by learning what is true and good and noble so they have a firm foundation on which to base all their decisions and thoughts.

How will your children ever be able to deal with the real world?
That’s one of the great things about homeschooling – they are actually able to learn in the real world. For example, J had a little business selling flower presses by the time he was seven and had joined the Entomological Society and was revelling in their activities. J has been fortunate to have become friends with a little girl who has cancer and has been able to be with her in hospital for whole days at a time. They get to fold newsletters for a Missions Organisation sometimes doing real work with a bunch of other adults. And they ride their bikes around the section with the neighbourhood kids. They are really in the real world already.
(117 words – this one can’t be answered in under 50 words as Barbara suggests the grocery store versions should be!!!)

Don’t the public schools need Christian kids in them?
Certainly, they need Christians. But I think they need Christian adults, who can fight the battle that rages in those places; people who are trained to use spiritual weapons, not wee children who are tossed about by every wind of doctrine and who are not yet standing strong in their faith.

How will they get into university?
Well, our eldest is only eight, so that won’t be too much of a worry for some time yet! She may not even want to go to university. If she wants to pursue another course of study we’ll encourage her in that. If she prefers university, we will find out what is required and work with her towards that as the time approaches.
(63 words – this is not usually a quick question anyway)

I could never do that!
It’s right for our family, but it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s a whole lifestyle and not everyone lives the same way. Having said that, I am not a patient person and this is a vehicle God is using to teach me! It’s not always easy, but it’s satisfying.

You’ve got your hands full, haven’t you?
Sure do. It’s a good thing I enjoy it eh!
(has anyone got a better answer to this obvious statement, which always seems to expect a reply???)

~ the over a cup of coffee version ~

Why do you homeschool?
We started off homeschooling for one reason and have ended up doing it for other reasons. Initially we wanted a Christian education for our kids – and we still do of course. There were two options – Christian school or homeschooling. To put J into a Christian school at five would have meant me going back to work to be able to afford it – putting four babies in preschool so one could go to school did not seem a sensible option to us, especially as we were committed to the early years being at home. So that left homeschooling.
Since then we have read a lot about homeschooling and educated ourselves. We have had our own assumptions about education challenged as we have read people suggesting that sitting in school does not necessarily equal education and that a rich lifestyle at home can provide many learning opportunities.
It has been a journey to go from doing school at home to letting our children learn from real life – funny really, considering it’s the real world we want our kids to be prepared for!
Some of the things our children have had the opportunity to be involved with that they possibly wouldn’t have if they had been in school include:
* J prepared a power point slide show of a missionary couple to be used at church when she was 8
* J made flower presses and sold them (even Mitre 10 bought some) when he was 7 – good business skills
*getting to know a girl with cancer and even being able to accompany her to some of her treatments during “school hours”
* helping a Missions organization fold their pamphlets and stuff envelopes
* doing the grocery shopping
* helping with bottling fruit in summer
* making meals for sick people and accompanying Mama as she delivers them
* J is learning to sew with another little girl – a lovely crafty lady with no girls of her own is relishing the opportunity to teach them
* making “props” for the pastor to use at church on Sunday morning
* keeping their own garden and helping out with the family garden
Our children have opportunities to relate with people of many ages. J, in particular, shows initiative in this area. He has been known to ring the library to find out if they have any books on his latest area of interest. He was into kiwi at one stage and got out the phone book to get the number for the Information Centre up in the bush, and when they were no help he rang the zoo! Another time he read in a field guide of an entomologist who lives in Auckland so he wrote him a lovely letter and got a personal reply from him and has subsequently become the youngest ever member of the Auckland Entomological Society. When we go to monthly meetings at the Department of Hort Research at 7:30 on a Thursday evening I consider his education to be taking place (And mine is too, even if I don’t share his enthusiasm for bugs!)
I am thankful for their interaction with older people, because on the whole (there are exceptions of course!) adults have better social skills than children and so my kids get to participate in good socialisation rather than negative. And there is certainly plenty of opportunity at home with five siblings for each one to learn how to interact with peers.
Because our kids have enquiring minds and are prepared to politely ask questions, they have got to do all sorts of things like “drive” the cable car in Wellington, try foreign foods without buying them, sit in the cockpit of an aeroplane, and use medical equipment.
Now we homeschool, because our children can learn in the real world; school is an artificial world.
Our other main reason is relationships. Life, we have come to believe, is more about relationships than preparation for a job, education and academic success, and this can be taught so much more readily at home with a few siblings than with a whole bunch of kids in one class. Do teachers really have time to work with 30 children’s attitudes of the heart? Do they (often, not always) leave kids to sort out their own problems because they believe this is the best way or because it is the easiest? When our peer group was leaving their two-year-olds to sort out their scraps we were interfering and being labelled as meddlers. We now have seven/eight year olds who have positive strategies for solving relational problems and don’t have to resort to emotional blackmail, name-calling and physical violence. We don’t have a I’m-bigger-than-you-hierarchy in the family. They know about turning the other cheek, forgiveness, heaping blessings on the enemy and showing love.
We are not the model family always doing everything right, but I am sure you can see why this is an important motivation in keeping our kids at home.

How long does it take?
It depends what you count as “school”. We like to see education as preparing children for all of life, so we see everything they do as part of their education. When they are learning to clean the toilet they are learning home management skills, which will definitely help them in that so-called real world! Ditto when they are helping out in the garden (plus they’re doing horticulture and probably maths then too). I allow extra time to cook, because I want the children to be involved.
We have reached the philosophical conclusion that in the early years an informal approach is more appropriate to children’s development than a formal academic approach. For that reason, we don’t spend heaps of time sitting at desks – yet.
As far as table time goes, we "do some most days". They keep recipe books, memory verse books, creation journals, reading logs, lists of things they’ve made or special ideas they’ve had, questions they want answered and they make little books about things that interest them. We use their individual interests to teach them the tools of learning so that when they are a bit older and ready for formal academics they will be ready to learn anything. (And what are the tools of learning? Influenced by Charlotte Mason and Clay and Sally Clarkson, we have decided they include 1) developing good habits such as attention/concentration, excellence, orderliness/neatness, truthfulness, self-control, diligence/redeeming the time, love, obedience, 2) developing good appetites for literature, art, music and video, 3) curiosity, 4) creativity, 5) language skills, 6) reason, and 7) wisdom).
I read to them for a couple of hours a day (literature, science, history, geography, biographies, picture books).
Apart from Sofa Science in the winter (reading those interesting books about science), they do lots of hands-on collecting and identifying. J knows more than I do about insects, they’ve played round with making a weather station, they’ve watched the clouds, we’re starting to identify birds and plants, they’ve grown sunflowers and J kept a journal of their progress, we’ve done a wee bit of stargazing, there are all sorts of rocks and shells and birds nests and seaweed and crystals on the science shelf. It’s all very informal but there is no doubt learning is taking place.
After six months of reading about Ancient Egypt my kids know more than I did when I left university! I’m really not worried that their education is lacking.
Plus we do other things that probably don’t happen in school too, which really add richness to their lives. We observe the paintings of some great Masters. So our kids are good friends with Monet, Rembrandt, Degas, Van Gogh, Rockwell, Renoir, Rousseau and Breugel, and can pick one of their paintings a mile off. We do the same with composers, although we started later with that and muddled round with a few other things first. Now they know lots of brass band marches, bagpipe music and Beethoven. And they absolutely LOVE Vivaldi and The Carnival of the Animals.
Many of these things just happen. We talk about the picture we are studying over the dinner table, music is playing at lunchtime, we recite memory verses after breakfast, we learn a new hymn and sing it as we go about our chores – they are as much a habit as brushing our teeth. We have found ourselves growing into what we like to call a lifestyle of learning.

We are hoping (according to the literature we have read and believed) that as our children approach 10, 11, 12 they will be ready for formal academic studies and because they will not be burnt out and possibly even bored, they will approach grammar and mathematics, formal science and debating with eagerness (and if not, they’ll just have to do it anyway!!) Time will tell.

What does the government require?
By law we are required to teach “at least as regularly and as well” as a public school. To be pedantic that means we only have to do as well as the worst child in the worst school – but what parent wants that for their child? Of course we desire more, and because it is a huge commitment I suspect there would be precious few people who would homeschool if they really didn’t care.
Naturally that does theoretically mean that it is possible a few children might be at risk, but that is the price of freedom. Should we legislate and take away freedom from the majority just because of the “bad” minority? No, we need to preserve freedom at all costs. Plus, we must ask what makes us assume the government is going to do a better job than a parent. Where does that thinking come from? An ever-lengthening history of socialism, which holds the State as the answer to all man’s woes. We only need to look at the horrific job being done by some schools to see that government schooling is not the cure-all answer we might expect it to be. My oh my, it would be interesting if the law was changed so that school children who didn’t perform as well as homeschoolers were sent home!!!
When the Education Review Office rep came to visit us he pointed out that very few families are actually doing a bad job, and even when they are, they give them a few hints and visit again in six months. It is advantageous to the education department and the NZ taxpayer for us to succeed!
It’s interesting to look at the research too. One study in the States showed that ALL the homeschooled children tested scored higher than the 80th percentile. Other studies show similar results academically and also in social skills. The only area the average homeschooled child does more poorly than their peers, is in gross motor skills. But for kids with a bent for sport, they often excel, perhaps because of having more time to devote to pursuing their interest.

Are you a teacher? Are you qualified to do that?
Although I am, it has been one of my biggest hindrances in homeschooling. When you are learning at home you have the luxury of learning from real life, but I was so busy creating artificial learning experiences like in the classroom that we were missing what was really happening in our little world! I have had to relearn what education is all about. It’s not about test scores and remembering information. It’s not even about which books you’ve read or how many stories you’ve written. Education is….NEED TO FINISH THIS blah blah blah (hmmmm never did get round to that!)

What about socialization?
This seems to be the biggie question. We are brought up to believe that we need to go to school to be socialised. And true, school does produce socialisation – but not necessarily positive socialisation. But what is socialisation? It is learning to get along with other people, to relate to them in appropriate and meaningful ways. I can actually teach my children these things better than their five-year-old peers!! And it’s not just up to me – they learn to interact with the lady in the post office, the librarian, the Sunday School teacher, the children in the Sunday School class when they are actually allowed to talk together, the lady who teaches sewing, the neighbourhood children, their father, their siblings, their extended family, their friends, the missionaries they write to, the butcher, the baker and they would chat with the candlestick maker if they knew one! There are lots of social environments apart from school – in fact, school is probably the most artificial social environment constructed (apart from prison!!)

You get together with other homeschoolers for sports and stuff, aye?
Yes, there are groups, but we don’t actually belong to one. We do things with other families and have lots of people in our home, but on the whole we try not to go out too much so the children (and us too) have time to explore and think and develop interests. We find one of the things we value about homeschooling was the decision we made to slow down and make time for people in our lives. To make time for thinking and reading and learning and enjoying and being. We have loved learning how to grow vegetables and bottle fruit and draw and play the piano and fellowship with others. We think seriously about what we go to outside the home, because it is all too easy to get busy doing doing doing. We love concerts and exhibitions and walks in the bush, but we try not to get too busy with them.

Aren’t you over-protecting your children?
When you have a little seedling you can put it out in the field and abandon it to the frosts and winds and slugs and rabbits and other predators. Or you can put it in a hothouse while its roots grow down and its stem strengthens. Then it can be planted outside and grow to maturity, producing a crop of twenty, fifty or a hundred times. What is likely to happen to the first seedling? What fruit will it bear if it is strangled by weeds or fails to take root?
As a society we let our children grow up too fast, and we are suffering the consequences of this. Children need time to be children, and we do have to protect them from the corruption in the world to allow them this privilege. There will be plenty of time for them to come in contact with drugs and swearing and fashion and consumerism and greed and pop music!
Another argument is that if you expose them to these things, then you will probably be keeping them from other things such as classical music, biographies of scientists, the power of prayer, a simple lifestyle - because there’s not time to do both!

How will your children ever be able to deal with the real world?
This one was already answered in 117 words above!! There’s not much more to say.

Don’t the public schools need Christian kids in them?
Let me answer that with a question. If we believe children are the ones to be the salt and light in the schools, why are we not sending our kids to the local Hare Krishna school or the Buddhist temple up the road?
Because that would be a spiritual battle they are unprepared for. And state schools are no different. They do not have God as their starting point. Humanistic materialism is the god being worshipped there and we need to realise that it is in opposition to what we are wanting to teach our kids. School is not neutral – it is the place philosophies are played out and the war is waged for our children’s minds. For that reason, we need adult Christians there – people who are trained to do battle and can stand against the enemy.
(There is so much you could say about this topic to someone who really wants to know - but mostly they don't!)

How will they get into university?
We haven’t looked into the New Zealand situation yet, but we have read some anecdotal stuff from the States. There at least, it certainly appears there is more than one way to get into university. We will consider this more closely when our kids get a bit older – they’re all still at preschool or primary school so far!
The other thing, is that there is more than one way to get an education. University isn’t the only way. Of course, if you want to become a doctor, you will have to go to Med School, but certainly if one of the kids has that bent it will be evident before the day they turn eighteen and we can work towards it.
It’s also important to remember that we don’t expect our kids to have “done their education” by the time they are eighteen. We hope they will be in process at that stage and be continuing as learners for life. This is quite a different way of looking at education.
We have the luxury of being creative with what they learn and how they learn it. As fifteen year olds they might be working alongside a local beekeeper two days a week or giving tuition to younger students in the evenings or organising a homeschool kids PE programme or choreographing a musical production or writing children’s book reviews for publication or volunteering with St Johns…all as part of their education.

I could never do that!
Do you think you should be? It’s right for us, but is it what God is asking of you?
If it is then we could talk some more, if it’s not then don’t feel condemned by our decision! Not everyone is called to live the same lifestyle as us. What’s important is that each family does what God has called it to. God’s call on our family is to be different, to be a large healthy family preparing the children to serve Him in their own unique ways. And God is using the vehicle of homeschooling to teach me about patience and gentleness and love and trust and faithfulness! It’s not always easy, but I know it’s where we’re supposed to be.

As I re-read through this I realised some things have changed...some things could be updated (for example, as the kids hit 10,11,12 they DID start and ARE STARTING doing more "formal" stuff)....some things have become more *us*....some we have moved away from.....but I don't have time right now to expound any further...and none of it looks *heretical* to me so I'll leave it for now;-)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Blogging from the hospital bed

Well, it turns out that paranoid mother was quite right to be concerned about that nasty wasp sting. L6 and I have just had three nights free accomodation at Starship Children's Hospital. It seemed silly to be admitted for a wee sting, but on the other hand, his arm was red and swollen right up to the armpit! So he did need a good dose of ABs.

Within half an hour of arriving, we had filled out forms, had initial observations done and been whisked away to the weelchair storage room to isolate us from everyone else who had not been in contact with measles last week. This room was to be home until 10pm! For five hours we read poorly-written stories, devised games with the ubiquitous-cut-in-half-out-of-date-calendars (two months kept us going for two hours!), we counted ceiling tiles, hopped across the room, played "I Spy" and even fell asleep (only to be woken for x-rays)
Let me tell you about that "I Spy" game. It was "something beginning with F". After exhausting all the obvious possiblities (and there aren't too many in a windowless carpetted room full of wheelchairs and one curtain) and ascertaining there were no hidden fish or foxes in the room, L6 furnished me with a clue. "It's in your mouth". Well I don't have freckles on my tongue and I wasn't gnawing on my fingers, so I had to give in. "FROAT!" How could I have missed it?
We went back to drawing circles around the odd numbers on the calendar and squares around the evens.
An hour after being seen by a pedeatrician, L6 wanted to know why the doctor was going to "whack" his infection and would it hurt? He also needed assuring about the other doc who had promised to "knock it on the head"!! Poor boy! As if they were not concerns enough, the nurse who handed him 5ml of Pamol and an iceblock at "bedtime" (7pm)told him that was dinner. To a grumbly tummy, it was a good start, but it did not count as dinner, especially being seven hours since lunch! As it turned out, she was right! By the time we got up to his room, bed was beckoning stronger than his stomach. And he smiled as he told me I could do the 40 Hour Famine if they didn't bring me breakfast!

In the morning we were given a couple of hours to wander down to the domain with a bag of crusts. Did you know sparrows can fly through the air to catch crumbs in mid-flight? Did you know pigeons are really slow at getting anything? But they hum. Not like the seagulls - they squawk at whatever gets near the bread! And the ducks we were trying to feed? Well, they weren't much quicker than the pigeons. Watching these birds reminded L6 of the pukekos we watched one day - they take a piece of bread and then pass it on to another bird in the group after they've had a mouthful. We call them sharing birds.
When the bread ran out we walked up to the museum and walked through the revolving doors just for the fun of it. We wandered back to the Wintergarden and perched on the edge of the ponds watching the fish for ages. Mrs E broke the spell with news that she was bringing her four cherubs in to visit so we raced back to our isolation room. (Thanks for the puzzle - L6 ended up doing it more times than I could count! And thanks for the food too - I'll do the 40 Hour Famine some other time!)

That afternoon we were moved to another ward. And somwhere in the middle of the move, unbeknown to me until we were discharged and I read the discharge papers, our "contact with measles" turned into "contact with chicken pox" and we were no longer in isolation. We got to share a room with a boy who had a lovely large family who stayed until 10:30 at night! With that many people in the room, you'd have thought they wouldn't have needed extra media, but we were treated to both Samoan radio and TVNZ simultaneously. I had my first exposure to Australian soaps, The Simpsons and...yes....even Gray's Anatomy (sorry, all my dear friends who love it - what's the deal? what's so good about it? Maybe you need to watch it more than once!) Anyway, once the whanau disappeared, we tried to grab some shut-eye. Difficult between the two-hourly wakings for goodness-only-knows-what-needs-to-be-done-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-hospital, emergency helicopter landings right outside and the snortings of the poor lad who couldn't breathe - as we tried to go to sleep, I kept holding my breath, waiting for him to take one of his own!

In the morning L6 discovered there is such a thing as "morning television".
Morning tv is much worse than after hours tv! Believe me!
We learnt that ricies are good for you and will keep you full of energy all day long.
We learnt that if you help someone you will get a McDonalds Happy Meal.
We learnt that if you're a girl you can have your own electronic diary that your little sister can't get into. Lovely eh!
To top it all off, I actually tuned into the lyrics on one of the kids' shows....it was all over before I could grab a pencil to record faithfully....but it went something like this:
decide what's right for you
you do what you want to - it's so much fun
march to the beat of your own drum

I was glad we were to be going home later that day!

We were literally walking off the ward having been discharged, with Dadda waiting downstairs for us, when L6 said "It's getting itchy again" Sure enough, the hand was reddening and swelling again. We were not allowed to leave. Another lure and more antibiotics were on the cards....and another blood test too.....I had read the discharge papers and pointed out the little problems with it seeing as we were being readmitted - L6 was a boy and not a girl, and he had been exposed to measles, not chicken pox. The staff went into overdrive with the Measles Information and we were back in isolation again, they were busy ringing infectious diseases personnel, taking blood and calling the lab for results. They were happy for us to go out for a walk while they tried to get to the bottom of the mis-communication. We wandered down to Queen Street and caught a bus just because we could!
By the time we got back we had a new room mate who had a sausage stuck in his man-made oesphagus, which relies on gravity to get his food down! The things you learn! Someone asked me if we were schooling while we were there......I asked he how we could possibly not learn. She still wanted to know if we were "really schooling" and I realised again how much learning is just part of life for us now.

what was it again? something beginning with f!!!!!!

postscript: discharged this morning......five more days of oral antibiotics to go......when they've finished the sling can come off......as for me, I've never done so much knitting in three days in my whole life!!!!!