Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - 20

In my life this week:
I entered my first fun run in 15 years! I'm going in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival! I was aiming to do the 9K Bridge Run, but the sore hip has foiled those training plans, so I'm entering the 4K Family Fun Run. But I still get to run over the Harbour Bridge and finish up at the Opera House and I want to run the whole way and it would be very cool if I could do it in 30 minutes....

We are in the home stretch of Dry July! Only 2 more nights to go. Apart from one night with my dear friend before the funeral (she bought me a Golden Ticket), I have been alcohol free for nearly a whole month. My hubby has actually made it through without touching a drop (mind you, I have been a rock and stopped him from caving on several occasions!). I'm raising money for adults with cancer, so if you happen to have a bit of spare cash, visit our profile page and donate...

In our homeschool this week...
As part of our "rainforest" theme this term, we researched 

and constructed terrariums (not to be confused with aquariums, which we already have two of, or vivariums, which require live animals). We made a rainforest and a desert one.

We then compared the "biomes" using a Venn diagram:

After "chatting" to new-found friends in the United States, the kids were keen to find out where Virginia was (readers in the U.S. might be surprised to discover that U.S. geography and history are not covered by the Australian curriculum!). And so we filled in our Mapping the World by Heart maps, utilising this fantastic puzzle/map that Jane from Ohio sent (we know where Ohio is!).

Another friend had lent us the Planet Earth interactive DVD game. It is kind of like Trivial Pursuit, but instead of Entertainment and Sport categories, each puzzle piece is a different biome (forests, deserts, oceans etc).  We spent a lovely couple of hours utilising our geographic knowledge, and when that failed, guessing (and learning)!

Getting into the good bit of algebra now - substitution, algebraic expression and simplifying by collecting like terms. The Khan Academy is a website which is dedicated to letting people learn whatever they want, whenever they want, at their own pace, for FREE!! There are nearly 2,500 videos explaining maths, science and lots of other concepts. It is largely based on American syllabus and so while the scope and sequence may differ from country to country, the concepts are the same. So for those parents out there freaking out about algebra (or like me, calculus) that they haven't done since high school, this is a pretty handy place to start!

I am inspired by:
MJ over at Wander, Wonder, Discover and in particular, her post about respect, particularly in regard to children and adults, and control and where the line is crossed.

Places we're going and people we're seeing:
We started chess this week! The local library has chess sessions on Thursday afternoons. The kids played chess when they were at school and both showed some skill. Unfortunately, Video Boy's days in the chess club came to an abrupt end when he stood up after losing a game and accidently knocked over a chair. The teacher in charge thought he was a having a temper tantrum and asked him to leave and not come back.  Anyway new location, new start (and a bit of discussion about good sportsmanship) and Video Boy got the most points (won 3 games) and Wombat Girl won 2 and stalemated the third. Hopefully we can avoid any major chess catastrophes and keep this up regularly!


Off to the pool again and I pushed the kids a little harder this week and they swam a lot further than last week, which should be good for their fitness and also for developing their technique.

What's working for us:
A combination of interest-led learning (terrariums and maps and games) and gentle encouragement from me (algebra and writing).

I'm reading:
Finishing off Wicked Lovely and re-reading back issues of Runner's World magazines for motivation!

Photo, link or video to share:

I love Sunday morning cartoons - woof!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is it enough?

Contrary to popular belief, parents who choose to homeschool - the ones who choose to take responsibility for their child's education instead of handing it over to an institution - do not spend their days  lounging around in the pj's, chatting with other mum's whilst their kids play video games (well, not all of them)!

My experience is that us parents spend a large proportion of our time reading (books, online forums, websites, blogs), researching, choosing and buying "curriculum" (or, as I prefer to call it - learning resources). We spend hours making sure we doing this homeschooling thing "right".

Because we have made the HUGE decision to educate our kids - it's now in our hands and we'd better not stuff it up!

I know I'm not alone in wondering if we do "enough". I think about what they would be doing in school right now, if they were there. I wonder if the inspector will think what we do is "good" enough. I worry about the standard of their handwriting, their writing, their maths. (I think I might have a few issues with gaining other's approval...).

It gets even worse when you go online! All of a sudden there is this whole other world of "dictation" and "copywriting" and "spines" and "living books" and (my nemesis)....messy art and craft.

Crap. How am I going to fit all of this in? My boy really should be practising his phonics. My girl should be able to know the difference between subjects and predicates. Bloody hell - maybe we should go back and start from the beginning - we've missed so much!

And then I come to my senses. We are covering all the Key Learning Areas required (don't you just love teacher-speak?). They are years ahead in some subject areas and working at grade level in others. And I am starting to come to the conclusion that knowing where they are up to compared to the kids still in school really does not matter in the big scheme of things.

And then I talk to my kids. I ask "do you think we are doing 'enough'?"  And they look at me, with big honest eyes, and they answer "Mum, we are learning SOOOO much more than we ever did at school!"

And that's enough for me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Actual running location! Pretty nice, hey?

10 degrees at 7:45am this morning - a perfect temperature for running!

What I did:
Warmed up with 10 minutes of steady jogging.  Tried a few "fast" intervals of 20 seconds this morning, interspersed with 2 minutes of jogging. 5 minute slower cooldown. 30 min, 46 seconds; 3.77km, average pace 8.09 min/km (getting closer to that magical 7...pace!).

How I felt:
I felt better than Sunday! Got into a nice rhythm. Tried to focus on keeping my upper body relaxed, arms not crossing over and keeping past my hips. Tried to push it a bit for the intervals, but not too much.

Playlist highlights:
Let's Get It Started - Black-eyed Peas (and the beat keeps running, running...)
Supermassive Black Hole - Muse

Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Videos - have a look at Peter Brett's Correct Running Technique

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My old man...

Today is two years since my Dad died. While I miss him a lot, he was quite sick by the end and had enough of this mortal coil and, I think, was pretty happy to meet his maker.

...thinking about my Dad...he taught me so much.

He taught me to take things as they come. That you have to work your way through the bad to get to the good.

He taught me to appreciate the finer things in life - music, singing, wine, food, staring at the clouds, holding your child's hand.

He taught me "never trust a man who says trust me" (he had a few good ones like that!).

He taught me the value of education, learning, reading and exploring.

He taught me how to swim!

He taught me the value of family.

He taught me it's OK to cry and brilliant to laugh and that a good cuddle can make most things feel better.

Those things will stay with me for the rest of my life and hopefully I can pass them onto my kids too.

What was the most important thing your dad taught you? Or what would you really like to teach your kids?

My Dad loved this song (amongst others!). If he got really drunk, he would love to embarrass his kids and sing it out loud - he had a wonderful voice and I'm sad that I ever told him to stop singing. I wanted to share it with you...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday run

Woman running on beach

Chilly Sunday morning (8 degrees), but at least it wasn't raining like it's been all week. So I put on the long sleeved shirt and long tights.

What I did:
Just started running. I figured I would try to take it easy, not too fast, relax and see how far I could go. It's been a few weeks since I ran. Out and back at Mollymook - 26 minutes, 3.26km, 8.11min/km.

How I felt:
It felt tough, but I eased into it. I seemed to struggle to get into a rhythm, but I guess that is to be expected. I could feel the hip a bit by the end, but I've done lots of stretches.

Playlist highlights:
Hurts So Good - John Cougar Mellencamp
Tubthumping - Chumbawamba

Blackmores Fitness Challenge - will I make it to the Blackmore's Running Festival (can't see myself doing the 9km run now).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One arm in front of another

OK - back into it! Between the hip and real life, I've had a week off. 

But I don't want to give up.

I want to keep achieving my goals.

So, I headed over to the Blackmores website and signed up for a Fitness Challenge. 

So, yesterday I swam 50 (that's right, 50!) laps. OK, so it was a 25m pool, but that's still 30 minutes of swimming. And I really enjoyed it - very "zen", once I got back in the groove.

Tomorrow I run again. I promise I'll take it easy and ease back into it :-)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - 19

In my life this week...
Funeral for a friend, and then I had to stop crying. Getting back into homeschooling helped in that process. Even though I'm not drinking (Dry July), I kinda felt like I had a hangover all week - sore throat, tired. But I finally picked up my act and did some swimming laps yesterday. Oh, and it would seem National Parks don't appreciate my talents as much as you do, because I have yet to hear from them :-(

In our homeschool this week...
We actually did some homeschooling! Term 3 started this week (we follow the Australian school terms) and "theme" is rainforests/interconnections.

But first, we had to finish off last term's Energy lapbooks

We got Life of Fred Pre-Algebra + Biology during the holidays and both kids have read that. We are naughty, naughty homeschoolers who don't follow the instructions, didn't do the "It's Your Turn" or "Bridge" exercises and just read the story! He, he, he. What rebels!

We started on algebra - in Australia there are number patterns (the precursor to algebra) all through the syllabus and indeed algebra threads its way through all the high school years instead of being a "separate" maths course. But this week we started on "rules" and using pronumerals for inputs and outputs and expressing rules in pronumerals.

Do you remember Winnie from the Wonder Years??? I got Wombat Girl (who is our maths nut) Hot X - Algebra Exposed which is written by Danica McKellar who played Winnie, but also has a maths degree and is an advocate for maths education. Well, Wombat Girl loves it and we have had several interesting dinner table conversations about the slope-intercept form of linear equations and factorisation.

We started on the rainforests topic by researching all those "ecology" terms - biosphere, biogeographical region, biome, habitat and niche. We then coloured in all the places in the world that have rainforests in them on a map and also complete a climograph template on Excel.

PS: don't you just love the "Pink Hat of Power" as it's
affectionately known in our house?
We are trying to finish Anne of Green Gables, before we move onto a whole heap of rainforest books and the audio-book of Tom Sawyer that my friend Jane sent.

I am inspired by...
The Geekling Herder and her blog The Learning Experiment. This week she talked about Raising Critical Thinkers and problem based learning and shared this video of Dan Meyer, who wants to change the way we teach maths (or "math" as Americans like to refer to mathematics as). The take-home message is that the way maths textbooks (and probably most maths homeschool curriculum) are structured, takes all of the interest and curiousity out of maths.

So I am inspired to find (new) ways to make maths challenging and relevant in our homeschool, rather than just learning formulas and finding the stuff to input in them.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
Before the funeral, we met our family on my husband's side at the park for a "birthday" catch up. It was cold, but we enjoyed chocolate cupcakes and strawberries (I'm sure there was other food too) and each other's company. Grandma LOVES getting to see them and catch up with all our news and she is very supportive of us homeschooling (aren't we lucky ducks?).

err...that's me on the right!

We also braved the cooler weather and went swimming! Don't panic, we have an indoor Leisure Centre (sounds so much more Big Time if you put it in capitals) where the water is heated to a lovely 27 degrees (celcius).  

It was time for Video Boy to head to the dentist - he has teeth falling out all over the place! The good news is no decay, the bad news is he has "chalky" teeth and will need sealant to make sure they stay OK.

What's working/not working for us...
Forcing the kids to do worksheets and formulaic maths - it results in tears and much fridge-visiting by Video Boy. I might have to start getting "creative" a la Dan Meyer.

I'm reading...
Re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (have you seen the movie yet? LOVED it!!) and started on Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - from wizards to faeries (the real world is over-rated).

I'm cooking...
Slow cooking...after-school tutoring meant that dinner is a rush (or takeaway) so I got the slow cooker out of the shed (we have a tiny kitchen) and came home to the smell of a beautiful chicken korma. Cous cous coated salmon had our Omega 3 intake for the week bumped up.

I'm grateful for...
Coming home to my beautiful children and being able to hug them and kiss them and tell them how much I love them.

A photo, video or link to share...
While I'm on my maths rant, we LOVE Arthur Benjamin's "Joy of Math" series from Great Courses/Teaching Company. So I'm sharing another TED video (loving TED too):

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pure Imagination

Where else are you going to go on a grey, dreary, cold, wet winter's afternoon? Why, the chocolate room of course...

Hold your breath...

make a wish...

count to three...

Come with me...

And you'll be, 

in a world of pure imagination...

Take a look, 
and you'll see, 
into your imagination....

We'll begin, 
with a spin, 
travelling in the world of my creation...

What you'll see, 
will defy explanation...


If you want to view paradise, 
simply look around and view it...

 Anything you want to, 
do it...

Want to change the world? 

There's nothing to it....

There is no world I know, 
to compare to pure imagination...

Living there, 

you'll be free, 

if you truly wish to be....

If I hadn't called my blog "Defying Gravity", I would have called it "Pure Imagination". I love the lyrics, I love the movie and, as Video Boy said today while baking, "wouldn't it be awesome to live in a world of divine yumminess?"  It would, wouldn't it??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thinking in 4D!

In amongst lots of other things we are doing this week, we watched a couple of documentaries that I personally have found thought provoking and interesting. I have also been totally gob-smacked by son's level of knowledge and insight...

The first one, is part of the Through the Wormhole series - Are There More Than 3 Dimensions?

This intrigued me, because we really enjoyed Flatland and the concept that we find it difficult to perceive other dimensions bigger than the ones we experience. It is very hard to visualise a third dimension if you only live in two (eg: Flatland) and we find it very hard to visualise four (or more!) dimensions if we are living in three (length, width and depth). I'll leave out the argument that time is the fourth dimension for the time being...

Video Boy: Hey, you know how energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light, if you have enough mass in one place, you would have so much energy that it would be able to go to the fourth dimension - like in the big bang hyper-accelerated photons of light went to the fourth dimension. So, a black hole is simply a torn hole into another dimension just next to us, a four dimensional hole, that's all it is!

I followed along with his logic and it made sense (given my limited physics knowledge). But I was overwhelmed by how well he understands the concepts and attempts to put them all together and synthesise an understanding.

Then last night, I was watching the (ahem, quite intoxicating) Professor Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe on ABC with my hubby. I loved it, because it put lots of ideas in the same place and without getting too scientific, maintained a childish sense of wonder about the universe and our place in it. I thought the kids, especially Video Boy, would enjoy it (although I am sure he is oblivious to the charms of Prof Cox).

Well, Wombat Girl found it a bit hard going, and we paused frequently to discuss various terms and issues. I had been so enthusiastic, because it had explained difficults concepts like "entropy" and "time" really well. As Brian's dulcet tones stated "As the story of time unfolds, a fundamental truth is revealed - nothing lasts forever".

"Because of entropy" pipes up Video Boy. Say what? And then when Prof Cox is describing entropy, comparing it to grains of sand, Video Boy pauses the video and gives us a rundown of how entropy relates to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

And just now he tells me that he thought of a way you could see into the fourth dimension - if you could bend light (using electromagnetics) in the shape of Klein bottle, you could view the fourth dimension and how cool it would be if he could create the technology that allows us to do this.

Here is my boy who refused this morning (with much tears and carry on) to write four sentences. Who struggles to ride a bike. Who finds it incredibly difficult to sit still and do a few maths problems.

This is the essence of the twice-exceptional - high level knowledge, brilliant insight and often amazing creativity. But below-average writing skills, gross motor skills, executive functioning. What a contrast. What a problem - especially for schools - to deal with. How do we keep up with him intellectually, but not expect university-level output? I'm so very glad we are homeschooling because I get to see (and hear) the brilliance. If he was still at school, all the teachers (and therefore I) would see would be inability to complete written work, lack of concentration and a boy who didn't quite fit in with his peers. It would be like only knowing 3 dimensions, so you can't imagine that the fourth exists. If you only focus on the disabilities, you can't imagine the giftedness.

I get to see the real Video Boy and I get to give him the opportunity to think in 4 dimensions, if that is where his mind can take him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Go find the light

These are the lyrics that accompanied the song as pink and purple balloons were set aloft by the young people who loved a soul who was gone too soon. As the softest rain drizzled down. As the construction work kilometres away tolled like a bell. As family and friends struggled to understand what is not possible to understand. As grief threatened to overcome us and consume us. But she would not want us to cry (oh, but we did - we sobbed, great big wracking sobs and tears that fell unchecked). She would want to us to see the light in the darkness. 

Fly, fly little wing
Fly beyond imagining
The softest cloud, the whitest dove
Upon the wind of heaven's love
Past the planets and the stars
Leave this lonely world of ours
Escape the sorrow and the pain
And fly again

Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
But hold this mem'ry bittersweet
Until we meet

Fly, fly do not fear
Don't waste a breath, don't shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don't wait for me
Above the universe you'll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won't forget

Fly, fly little wing
Fly where only angels sing
Fly away, the time is right
Go now, find the light

And as the last balloon faded from sight, the drizzle stopped and the sun peeked out from a crack in the clouds. It was time to let the light back in.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Today we....


...watched DVDs

...drank hot chocolate

...played board games new fish

...created with modelling clay

...went for a walk

Did someone say "walk"?

...and saw dolphins!

oh. wait. it's a surfer...

Today we let the light in....

52 Ancestors - Unusual Name

In this week's post, we have been asked to look behind an "unusual name" and I've chosen my great-aunt's husband, Fred...