Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why I Love Homeschooling

I've been away from home for nearly a week now. It's still in the "fun" stage, where I am revelling in my lack of responsibility for anyone other than myself and enjoying the eating and shopping opportunities that come from living in a thriving inner-city suburb. I see the family back home most days via the technological wonder of FaceTime. And I go off to work every day, with over 200 other teachers, to mark the NAPLAN writing tasks.

Teachers are funny creatures (no offence to any teachers out there, I still claim to be one myself). They kind of look "teachery" (yes, I am aware I am making up new words). Most of the teachers are retired and are doing the marking to go on a holiday. There are a few casual teachers who are after a solid few weeks work. And there's me. The ex-science/maths teacher who now homeschools her children. Cue crickets.

As a consequence, I've spent a large amount of my time during morning teas and lunchtimes explaining the why's and how's of home education to a bunch of people who are very much entrenched in the "system". It's been a bit tedious, but it clarifies things for me. I LOVE homeschooling. I love it for a lot of reasons:

  • I am responsible for my children's education. I decide what, when and how we will do things (with the kid's input, which is even cooler). Sure, I have to match that up with state curriculum, and sure, I do things that if I truly had my way, I wouldn't bother with, but by and large, I decide. 
  • Real life learning! So much comes up in everyday life and we can discuss it. Add in wide reading and we already have a fabulous education, before you even get to worksheets, textbooks or curriculum materials.
  • Opportunity to discuss things as they come up. You can't do that with 30 kids in your class, but with one or two - oh, the conversations we can have!!
  • Correction, explanation, encouragement can occur when the kids need it most - as we go. They don't have to sit with their hand up, waiting for the teacher to notice them (well, not very often!). We do our work together and the feedback is instantaneous, constructive and done with love, not red pen.
  • Truly individualised curriculum. Important for all kids, but especially for gifted kids. Compaction, grade-skipping, subject acceleration, telescoping, mentoring, extension, enrichment, early admission to tertiary studies and concurrent enrolment are all very easy to achieve, and I don't have negotiate any of it with anyone.
  • Learning way cool stuff (like grammar!) - literature studies, quantum mechanics, Fibonacci numbers, computer programming - so much stuff to learn, so little time!
  • Few behaviour issues. There are no "naughty" kids in our class and I don't spend most of my day doing behaviour management (well, not all of it, anyway!). Instead we can concentrate on learning and living.
  • Better family relationships. I get to spend time with my kids. We honestly have a good time together and enjoy each other's company. If I find myself nagging them too much, then I know we need to find a better way. 
  • Stuff I don't miss - early mornings, bells, homework, sick notes, late notes, excursion notes, ironing uniforms, Easter hat parades, parent-teacher nights, reports, and sad, tired children. We are still able to access things like swimming carnivals, academic testing and competitions, drama, music, sport, chess and debating, when and if we need to through the local community and/or homeschool groups (who'da thunk it?). 
I know not everyone can homeschool. But when you look at that (incomplete) list, I have to wonder why everyone else isn't doing it yet...

What else do you love about homeschooling? 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What my kids think about me!

Inspired by Deb at Not Inadequate, I asked my kids these questions (separately). Kind of nice knowing what they think as I depart for several weeks...

My son, Video Boy is 12 (and spent an inordinate amount of time saying "ummmm" when answering the questions - I'll edit for you) and my daughter, Wombat Girl is 11. My comments are in italics :-)

What is something I always say to you?
Come on! 

What makes me happy?
Ummm...I'm not taking a while because I think that nothing makes you happy....my jokes?
Ummm...Twilight? The girl knows me well ;-)

What makes me upset?
Wombat Girl making a mess all over the house!
Being yelled at by Daddy - when he tells you to do stuff

What do you and I do together?
Can we pass that?
You teach me, we watch movies (especially ones Video Boy and Daddy aren't big fans of), we read together, and play board games! And we talk - I like talking with you. And we play Draw Something together!

How old am I?
Damn - both right!

How tall am I?
I have no idea! A bit taller than me - but only just.
No idea whatsoever
They are both catching up to me so fast!

What do I do when you guys aren't here?
Watch Glee!
Watch things on TV that you like for a change? Or do blogging or Facebook or Bejewelled Blitz
Guilty pleasures!!

What am I good at?
Ummm....quite a lot of things...cooking! Although from my perspective you cook too much Sticky Chicken and too much fish
Bejewelled Blitz and you're quite a good writer (your blog is proof of that) - you're quite good at running!

What am I not good at?
Video games
Nothing springs to mind...Oh! Ratchett and Clank!
OK - so I try, but not very successfully!

What is my job?
You teach homeschool, you also private tutor, not-so-private tutor and you also work at National Parks and you also do volunteer work for the fossil walks. Oh, you are also doing NAPLAN marking.
You do home education, you're a ranger, you do tutoring, you help Daddy in the shop.

How are we different?
Interests and hobbies.
Well, you're 42 and I'm 11. You're Gen X and I'm Gen Z. My favourite animal is wombats and I don't know what yours is. My favourite colour is orange and yours is green (I think orange and green go quite well together, don't you?). You're married and I'm not definitely.  I'm a bit more energetic!

How are we the same?
I can only think of reasons we are different! We both have (or in your case, had) bad eyesight
Probably our blood type, I'd say! Our eyes - started brown and turning green, we're both girls and we're both alive!

What do you think I was like as a little girl?
To be honest I have no idea!
I don't know - you don't really imagine your mum as a little girl much!
It would appear I've always been middle-aged...

How do I make you laugh?
I don't know...
Just the things you say - it's an "in the moment thing"

What is my favourite thing to do?
I don't know...
You like to snuggle up with us on the lounge and then fall asleep during a movie. You like to go running with the dog.
I don't "like" to fall asleep during movies...I just do (particularly after a glass of wine and if I got up early to run).

If I become famous, what will it be for?
Not singing...how rude! I'm a fabulous singer!
Ummm....wait, you're going to become famous? Great! Umm...it would be for lots of different things - your blog, for your Ranger skills, your teaching skills or you're a quite good singer too! That's my girl!

What is my favourite food?
I don't know, what is your favourite food? Soft-shelled crab? That would be close :-)
I have no idea!

What makes you proud of me?
All the work you do and homeschooling me, when you could be off doing something else. Guess he was listening when I said "I could be off doing something else you know, instead of putting up with this crap!" when we were having a rough morning...
I guess it's kind of your heart, you know? Awww...that makes me feel better about saying the above :-)

If I was a cartoon character, what would it be?
Depends on what sort of cartoon...not quite sure
Just you drawn cartoon style!

Where is my favourite place to go?
I have no idea!
You have a favourite place to go? Umm, you like running at the beach. You like the Wicked theatre - because there's Wicked playing there.

How do you know I love you?
................ poor Video Boy got quite upset at this question. Tears formed in his eyes and he got very emotional. He told me that there were so many ways it was overwhelming...sniff.
Because you love me! You take care of me and look after me and you help me with things - someone who didn't love me would do it a different way, more formal, you do it lovingly!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Testing Times!

"Not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" 
(William Bruce Cameron)

I don't know who William Bruce Cameron is (I obviously had a poor education!), but he sounds like a smart guy. What an full-on week we are having here (like all the others aren't - LOL). We are undertaking (having spent $36.50 per child for the privilege) NAPLAN testing.

NAPLAN stands for National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (someone probably got paid to come up with that acronym). Before 2008, Australia did not have national literacy and numeracy testing - there was some state exams, but nothing across this big, wide land of ours. But a few years ago, the Federal government decided that we needed something to assess how our students were going and they came up with NAPLAN - and every year students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit standardised tests in Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation), Writing, Reading, and Numeracy.

NAP Logo

I think Australia is relatively unique in that the testing seems to focus more on "skills" rather than knowledge or curriculum (probably a good idea given each State has it's own curriculum). Think of it as basic skills testing.

So here we are in 2012. Both kids at home in Year 7. We can easily opt out of the exams as homeschoolers and indeed have to pay if we want them to sit them. I was in two minds about the whole business. I'm pretty sure they will do well and we are on track. Do we really need external exams to tell us that? Writing continues to be an issue, but now we know why and I will continue to support that area of learning need. However, I kind of like finishing what I start and they have the first two under their belt (done at school) and I thought we might like to do the others. Plus, if they do OK, I can justify that our homeschool program (such that it is) is "working". I'm the one that needs de-schooling, I know!

The kids, weirdly enough, actually enjoyed doing the exams at school ("Wish school was that interesting" - Video Boy) (except the Writing exams). I discovered they did not have to go and sit in the back of some school hall with hundreds of uniformed kids and we could do them at home a week after the schooled kids (guess they don't trust us not to blab about what's in them - what if they told us???). So we agreed to give them a shot at home. I utilised Time Timer apps on the iPhone/iPad to help them keep a visual track of time (not their strong point!), but basically we followed the rules/setup up school (except school doesn't have HEA 1300 phone enquiries ringing and dogs barking....but anyway).

Video Boy's slow processing speed was quite apparent in the Maths testing...
although he got most of the questions correct

I think Video Boy is better able to focus on his medication. He gave the Writing task a great effort (with his usual humorous writing style) and no tears (I was worried at the start, however he regrouped and got on with it). If we do the Year 9 ones, I think I will apply for special provisions for him now we have a diagnosis (a bit of extra time to compensate for slow processing/low working memory).

I have no issue with the NAPLAN tests in general being used for student assessment - what are their strengths and weaknesses and how do they compare with other kids their age (although as homeschoolers/natural learners this issue is of less importance). I do feel as if they have a very low "ceiling" and don't tell you a lot about gifted kids - if you get over a certain score they tell you "your child is achieving beyond what we would expect for this age". They are designed to "catch" the kids performing below the minimum benchmark. Although I have found that nothing necessarily happens for them in schools if they are (eg: Video Boy's writing).

The major issue many parents and teachers have with NAPLAN results is they are being used to rank schools on the MySchool website (like league tables), and will be used to fund schools and give teachers bonus pay for improving student results. In this situation, what happens is schools start to teach to the test and focus on scores, not skills (and certainly not student interests or the joy of learning!). The fear is that the government further turns education into economics and seeks "return on investment". Again, these issues are of little relevance when we are homeschooling (it's not like they pay me to educate my kids or anything).

For us as homeschoolers, I am kind of hoping we haven't dropped way below where they were in school (I seriously doubt it, but my self-doubt creeps in). We haven't been "coaching" - although we did do some practice writing last week in our area of weakness, just so they were familiar with the format and could build up some confidence in that area (not sure if that evil plan worked, however). The other testing areas I left it in the lap of the gods.

Wombat Girl sees the complexity in everything -
 "would a year be a leap year? - there's a one in four chance of it being a leap year"

We are also taking part in the ICAS (International Competitions and Assessments for Schools) exams in Computer Skills, Science, Maths, English, Spelling and for Wombat Girl only, Writing (there was no way Video Boy was keen to participate in that!). These are optional exams that the kids sat in school (and I sat back in the day too - I still have my certificates!). They enjoyed these (as opposed to say, swimming and sports carnivals) as a chance to excel in their areas of strength. Both kids got quite a few High Distinction (top 1%) and Distinction (next 10%) certificates. We weren't very organised this time last year, but we are doing them this year. I'll let you know how they get on.

As homeschoolers, both of these exams are an opportunity to "shine" - to say "I have strengths in these areas and I'm proud of them", particularly for kids that aren't particularly sporty and don't receive trophies or certificates for that. They also get to practice exam conditions (just in case they ever make it to university). The kids both know (because I told them) that I will love them unconditionally no matter what the score. And we know that learning and education is about so much more than scores on a test. After this week is over we will go back to doing what we do...in the words of Get Smart "...and loving it!".

What do you think? If you are homeschoolers, do you sit external exams? Do you have an option? If it were optional, would you opt out?

PS: except after this week I'll be going on a little holiday away from the kids and Hubby...he is going to be Mr Mom and Homeschool Dad while I go to Sydney and....mark NAPLAN!!! I'll be marking the Writing papers (oh the irony!) for nearly $50 an hour! A money-making opportunity to good to miss. I will take my laptop with me - so I won't disappear off your screens for 4 weeks. I'm going to miss my family - but not their washing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Letter to Gifted Children - some thoughts

Linda Silverman from the Gifted Development Centre has penned a letter to our gifted kids. In it, she eloquently puts paid to many myths of being gifted.

It isn’t easy being different.  We are taught that it is bragging to say—or even think—that we might be smarter than other people.  Doesn’t everyone have gifts?  Yes, everyone on the planet is a gift to humanity.  Being gifted does not mean being better than anyone else.  So what does giftedness mean?

To me, the gift in giftedness is the potential to make this a better world for everyone. Every person on the planet has a different job to do.  Some jobs require more years of school than others—like doctors.  Some require greater knowledge of mathematics or computers or science or languages or art or music or poetry or mechanics or people. You need to learn all you can so that you can do the life’s work that awaits you.  Only then can you make a difference in the world.

When you hold yourself back from learning all that you are capable of learning so that you won’t be ahead of your friends, you not only hurt yourself, you hurt the world.  For the world needs you to fully develop your talents and abilities so that you can do that special job that only you can do.

Giftedness is not about competition.  It’s not a comparison between you and others.  It just seems that way when you are in school and everybody is expected to learn the same things.  As you get older, you learn different things from other people.  You learn what you need to learn to do your own special job in the world.  Some of that learning you do on your own in books, via internet, or just by living.

If you dream about doing something important in your life, you can fulfill that dream. Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, and work toward making them a reality. When you face roadblocks, ask for help around them.  And help others who need you and ask for your help.  Realize that you are not alone, that there are others like you all over the world.  Work together for the good of all.

Linda Silverman

There are some great things I love about this letter:
  • She clearly outlines that being gifted is not about being "better" than anyone else
  • She states that giftedness is not about being in competition with others - that is just a construct of school
  • She states that there are many types of learning - and that we just have to find out what it is that we are meant to learn
  • She is big on believing in yourself and chasing dreams
But there are some things that either sit uncomfortably with me or I felt she has not addressed:
  • She couches our purpose in life in terms of "work" "jobs" and economics. That raises questions for me of "what is the meaning of life?" - surely it's not just to be a cog in the economic wheel. 
  • Many of us (and gifted people too - because we can see so many options) will do more than one "job" or career. I've been involved in environmental science, travel, retail, education and the most important job of all - raising children.
  • She states "you can fulfil that dream" - but for many of our gifted kids, they still need more support at school, home and in the wider community if they are to reach for the stars - because there are many out there who believe the gifted do OK by themselves and don't need extra help. I quite enjoy reading Richard Glover in the Sydney Morning Herald, but I'm less of a fan after reading this article in which he questions the need for gifted programs in schools:
"What do you offer for advanced children?" This is asked by the woman at the back of the parent information night at the local school with a tone of concerned entitlement, as if she didn't ask for a gifted child, but that's her lot in life, especially as being as gifted as her Samantha is virtually a disability and so should be resourced accordingly. Other parents may have to resist the urge to take up a collection.

Yeah, you'd have to be an idiot to utter that phrase. Guess I am! 
  • And she does not touch on the issue of giftedness plus learning difficulties (yes, they exist). It is near impossible for those kids to fulfil their dreams without proper diagnosis and support - it is more than a "roadblock" and for many of those kids, they are lacking in self-esteem after many years of being told they are lazy, stupid and should just "work harder". 

I think as a society it is high time we started valuing our smart people more. They are more than just "geeks" or "nerds" - they are the ones with the complex, creative thinking that can do good things for the world. We need to value "difference" and move past adolescent thoughts of fitting in and being cool - the opportunity to be our authentic (gifted) selves would be a gift in itself.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just your average homeschool week

After all the adventuring and trips to Sydney etc, we have actually been trying to do something resembling "homeschooling"!

One of the new and exciting things we have been looking at here in Defying Gravity land, is trying out Coursera's new computer science 101course. This is a free online course ran through Stanford University which is taking the kids step-by-step through the basics of computer programming in 6 weeks. It is our first real attempt at online learning and so far, so good. The kids are enjoying having something new and interesting to learn and I'm enjoying a cup of tea while they do - that's a win-win around here. Certainly the work is not pitched too high - they are doing the exercises with ease and the lectures are short and sharp 10 to 15 minutes usually, with simple exercises to complete.

We have also acquired the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is voice recognition software which allows you to create and edit documents without typing. It's another tool particularly for Video Boy which will hopefully allow him to express himself in writing and focus on content, not typing or handwriting. It is quite amazing how fast you can talk and it will keep up with what you're saying and it is really quite accurate. In fact I'm dictating this blog post as we speak (quite literally).

Don't get crumbs in my keyboard Video Boy!

The kids have been helping hubby with quite a lot of his computer work lately. They have been involved in this testing hard drives, installing RAM, and testing power supplies. It is lovely to see them work with him like this. They are learning skills in computer hardware, he is learning to work with them in a positive way, and I get to get the washing done (another win-win).

We have shelved algebra for the time being and are moving on to geometry. Last week we enjoyed the Joy of Geometry DVD from the Great Courses. We will be looking at the properties of triangles and quadrilaterals, moving on to prove qualities about them.

Whilst in Sydney, I picked up a new board game called Pente - it is one of those "easy to learn, hard to master" games of five in a row. We are loving it - even Video Boy who has proven remarkably astute at it!

In schools around Australia this week, kids in Yr 3, 5, 7 and 9 have been doing NAPLAN exams - Australia's attempt at high stakes testing (more on this later). We will be doing them at home next week, and in a desperate attempt to work on our achilles heel - writing, I had the kids sit down and do a practice paper. Well, although he does seem to be focussing better and less fidgety, Video Boy still carries around a lot of baggage to do with writing. It was an exercise in patience and support! He managed about four paragraphs over a total of an hour (with rest breaks, food breaks, tissue breaks) and a lot of prompting from me (which he won't get when he does the exam). The irony is that his writing is amusing and enjoyable to read. But damn, it's like getting blood from a stone! Oh well, what does Doris Day say? Que cera cera? Whatever will be and all that...

I have also been feeling like we've let the science slide a bit. So after more tears (I should buy shares in Kleenex) from Video Boy because his dreadful mother "makes" them start schoolwork at 11am and "always tells me what to do" (apparently Ritalin does not change your child into something you don't recognise - more's the pity),and then tears from Wombat Girl because I didn't notice her hand up when she wanted to explain some pattern in red books in the bookcase, we finally got around to doing a bit of lapbook work on germs, microbes and cells. They really enjoyed it (told ya so!). 

So many questions from Wombat Girl (eg: "So, what actually makes something a 'living' thing") and so much knowledge from Video Boy (eg: "a microbe would be a living thing, usually single-celled, that you need a microscope to see" - almost a carbon copy of what my textbook definition was!). Then we Bill Nye'd, YouTubed and got our microscope out (from Horrible Science - it works pretty well!). A good morning was had by all (and we now have some more "bookwork" done - yay!).

Note the tissues in close proximity

Insects wing (taken with an iPhone - how cool is that?)

I was particularly impressed with Video Boy explaining to Wombat Girl about how viruses spread through your body:

So our days have been intense, fun, full of tears, joy, learning. There have been times where I want need to know that we have cold sav blanc in the fridge and times where I have been so happy about this decision of ours to home school. Luckily more of the latter...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

About a boy

This is probably not "politically correct" and you aren't supposed to compare, but you know when you have more than one kid, one is always....more....difficult? More intense, more full-on, just harder.

That has always been my son.

Well, this week we got a bit closer to unravelling the mystery that is Video Boy. And that is a good thing, because with understanding, comes acceptance.

To bring you up to speed, here are the highlights of a young life:

  • Dreadful sleeper as a baby. Seriously - he was asleep for those blissful first couple of weeks when babies get over the trauma of coming into the outside world and then he woke up. And stayed awake. And if I did manage to cajole, wrap, carry, rock, white noise, ignore him into a nap, it lasted precisely 45 minutes. By the time the evenings came, he was so overtired, he was a blabbering mess (or wait, was that me). The early days are a bit of a blur of post-natal depression and extreme sleep deprivation. No one tells you how soul-destroying it is to spend 20 out 24 hours in a day trying to get a baby to sleep and failing.
  • Amazing melt-downs as a toddler. I was on that parent helpline quite a few times because I was at my wits end on how to deal with this child who had lost the plot and didn't know how to find it again. Those were some dark days!
  • A sense of being "different" from the other kids. As I dropped him off to preschool so I could go to work, I had an overwhelming sense of him being sent as a lamb to the slaughter. I figured I was just over-reacting, but then preschool teachers started waving Aspergers checklists in front of me and I was concerned. Turns out he is not on the Autism Spectrum at all. So, that meant he was just "strange".
  • This kid could argue as soon as he could string two words together. Times haven't changed!
  • Whilst other kids were riding bikes, playing soccer, mine was reading Dragon Rider and asking questions about time.
  • When school started, I was so proud of his reading and maths. Not so proud of him being kept in because he refused to put pen to paper. Repeat for about 7 years.
Obviously there lots of lovely things about Video Boy growing up (or I may done something drastic). He is an affectionate, funny, smart kid. But life wasn't always rosy. Just so you know.

So, when he was 7, having ruled out Aspergers, we took Video Boy to have his IQ assessed by a psychologist who specialised in gifted children. She preferred Stanford Binet 5 - it has less timed questions and is more appealing to gifted kids who get bored easily. He did really well and turns out he is exceptionally gifted, with major over-excitabilities and a slight weakness in working memory, which a lot of gifted kids exhibit.

That answered a lot of questions! Now all we needed to do is get him appropriate educational options to address that giftedness and things would fall into place! Yep - we were on the right track now. Except after about six months, that gifted kids club was no longer functioning and we were still having meetings with Video Boy's teachers about his lack of written out and "not showing us his potential", despite him having a wonderful sense of humour and great general knowledge.

Outside of school we tried to interest him in swimming lessons, tennis lessons, martial arts, and gymnastics. None of these were a resounding success, with him struggling to match other kids his age and losing focus when he had to wait his turn. Sport at school was something that was endured, rather than enjoyed. The search for friends who had similar interests to him was limited to 2 kids (one in the year above him).

We moved him in Yr 5 (age 10) to a public school, hoping he would soon get off the waiting list and into the gifted class. Behaviourally, things took a turn for the worse, with increased teariness and anxious behaviour in the classroom (which quite frankly, bordered on scary), which attracted the attention of the school counsellor. He was also assessed at this time by the school's occupational therapist. She concluded that he had Developmental Motor Dyspraxia. OK - so this answered more questions! The bad writing, the clumsiness, the disorganisation. 

We took him out of school and homeschooled - best thing we've ever done! I am able to extend him in his areas of strength and try to support the writing issues and disorganisation as best I can. But it's still very frustrating.

I've read up of giftedness (I now have my Certificate of Gifted Education), read up on dyspraxia and sensory integration problems. I've read up on executive functioning and working memory and underachieving gifted kids. We've tried eliminating additives and preservatives from our diets. I've tried instructional scaffolding and assistive technology.

And yet, I still find myself increasingly frustrated with my beautiful, bright, charming boy. And worse, he is frustrated and getting angry. And as the teen years loom ever closer, this is not how we want to be functioning!

And so we have found ourselves investigating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (perhaps the more inattentive type). ADHD. Scary stuff - the media has not presented this well. Kids out of control, parents with poor parenting skills, medicating half our youth unnecessarily. It's enough to make you think twice. However, I actually read the medical and scientific literature, and when you back away from the hype, this is a condition which exists - just like epilepsy or diabetes or autism and is something that can be treated with great success - bringing wrung-out parents and their frustrated children back from the brink. And contrary to the media reports, is under-diagnosed, particularly in the gifted population where their ability can mask the disability (usually until they start high school, where executive function requirements increase dramatically).

So this week, after waiting 7 months for an appointment, Video Boy and I went to Sydney to see a developmental paediatrician. Armed with all our previous reports and a checklist, we/he answered questions, had a quantitative EEG, did the WISC-IV iq test, did achievement tests in spelling and writing, and did distractability tests. We also trialled a small dose of Ritalin and then did the distractability test again. It was a long day! The examiner noted he was very talkative (duh!) but increasingly de-motivated, restless and inattentive as the testing wore on (also duh!) and ended up at one point lying on the floor (can you imagine the school classroom! Gah!).

The paediatrician is not comfortable using the label of ADHD, but did say that Video Boy would be considered Gifted Learning Disabled (GLD or twice-thrice?- exceptional), which sounds counter-intuitive, but explains a lot. We will be trialling stimulant medication soon. I am really hopeful that this will settle those slightly abnormal brain patterns down enough to start to learn some good academic skills and settle his emotions down. Then we can start to see Video Boy really shine. The paed explained he is like a Ferrari, but stuck in second gear. On medication, we won't suddenly see him pour out 2000 word essays, but the subtle positive changes should make life easier for everyone, importantly including Video Boy himself. He also thinks there is a good chance that he will mature and the impacts of the condition will lessen, but that developing those fundamental executive skills in the teenage years is crucial for his self-esteem and positive family relationships as he grows.

Video Boy himself is relieved to know he is not a scatter-brain on purpose and there is not much he can do to fix it himself - "it's the way my brain is wired". He is positive about what the future might bring now. 

So we start on new adventure. It will be fascinating to watch and observe and if we are on the right path, then it will be amazing to be a part of a blossoming of a boy. I thought about staying quiet on this one, but it's our journey - warts and all, controversy pending. And maybe, just maybe, things will work out and maybe, just maybe, someone else may be helped by our story.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Can you feel the love??

Love is in the air! I am feelin' it this week!

First up, the lovely April over at her brand spanking, schmick new website Learning Alongside has an interview series going on - "Interview With an Australian Home Educator". Last week she chatted with Tracey from Little Men in My Library, and this week, it was me!! I was very chuffed that she would consider interviewing me - it's quite a blast seeing your words on someone else's blog.

April is so passionate about home education and in particular saw the need for an Australian website that provided lots of information and resources. I chat with her a bit via email, about our kids and their needs and she's always open to new ways of looking at things. So do head on over and check her out :-)

And then, just when I was feeling all shiny, Erin from Seven Little Australians and Counting awarded me a Liebster Blog award! Listen to the lovely words she used to describe me:

Ingi is a fellow Aussie hser. I love reading about their families' learning journey, always interesting and Ingi's enthusiasm is inspirational.

Awww...I love that someone finds us inspirational! We'll keep doing what we are doing then!

This award was designed to direct traffic to less well-known blogs (less than 200 followers) and is designed to be passed around.

So, I'm going to share the love! These are some blogs I've been loving and they aren't huge, but provide me with much inspiration:

Nikole at Verde Mama - Nikole homeschools her 3 lovely daughters out the country (and her oldest just came home after a stint at school). I love her approach to life and her toe-dips into natural learning. I LOVE her photography - so much joy and love in her photos, which I'm so glad she shares with us.

Mona at Life with Intensity - Mona blogs about her Kidlet, who is exceptionally gifted and has all the intensity, asynchrony, and sensitivities that go with that. I love that she is brutally honest about the hard days and love watching her journey through all the jargon, emotions and impacts that these kids bring to the most patient of parents.

Deb at Not Inadequate - I'm not actually sure how many followers Deb has, but damn - she makes me laugh! It is one of the funniest blogs I've ever read. Deb is roadschooling and I'm loving following her adventures in spinach, bison and geoducks. Go on - you know you want to know more!

So, go spread some love! Go on, off you go...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventuring Part 2 - Snow's the Go!

After our Canberra jaunt, we headed further south. And as we headed, the air got icy and crisp - Australia's alpine area here we come!

We booked a lovely apartment in the ski village of Thredbo - the ski season hasn't started yet (or we couldn't afford to stay there!) and they have excellent Stay 3 Pay 2 deals in summer, which include a bunch of activities.
I had to take a photo before we messed it all up!

The view from our window

Figuring out the gas fireplace

Hot chocolate - yum!

We promised Wombat Girl lots of board games - we started with Rummy-O
The weather was forecast to turn nasty, so we decided to get out and go for a walk while it was nice. Down in the village, it was positively balmy, no wind and just a lovely autumn day.

Just a nice day for emus...

The Thredbo River

We caught the chairlift almost to the top of the ski resort. Unfortunately, yesterday was the last day the Koscuiszko Express lift was open to the top. We had "just a short 400m walk" from the Snow Gums lift, up to the summit. Yeah. 400 metres VERTICALLY!!! Bloody hell - we nearly burst a blood vessel - you know why you ski down the mountain! 

And it got very cold very quickly! The wind which was non-existent down the bottom was freezing up high! But we were excited to see snow patches and the kids were excited to make snowballs.

I love Australia's alpine environment - it is so special and rare, because, let's face it, most of Australia is hot and flat. 

Snow gum - Eucalyptus pauciflora

The view from the top of the lift is quite spectacular.

And it's also the starting point for the walk to Australia's highest "mountain" Mt Koscuiszko, which is a whopping 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) above sea level. The walk is 6.5km and is a mesh walkway, which protects the fragile alpine environment. It is not a difficult walk and we have done it before in 2008, but in January, when it was a LOT warmer. It can snow at any time of the year, but obviously the chances are the closer you get to winter, the colder it's going to be (duh!).

At the summit in January 2008 

Start of the walk to the summit

Snow on the path!

Quick snack and put on every piece of clothing we had with us!

The photos don't show the icy wind which we were walking into

Mt Koscuiszko or Mt Everest??

View from the lookout (about 2.5 km down the track)

Same spot in 2008

Mt Kosciuszko - January 2008

Mt Kosciuszko (under that cloud) May 2012

As you can see from the photo above, the weather was coming in. Didn't look pleasant. The kids were already cold, so we decided that it wouldn't be much in continuing. Mt Kosciuszko's not going anywhere - it'll still be there to climb on another day.

Snow bunny

Creek hopping (didn't fall in, phew)

On the lift on the way back down.

A nice hot chicken and corn soup and toasty breadrolls awaited us when we got back to the apartment! That afternoon we used the bobsled (can you believe I didn't bring my camera with me??).

The next morning dawned cloudy and a steady rain pouring. Through no real conscious planning we ended up having a "pajama day" - that's right! All of us, in our jammies, all day! We stayed inside in the warm, with the fire, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks. We played board games, read books and watched a bit of TV - bliss!

The amazing labyrinth 

....note the bunny slippers...

Forbidden Island

Three of a Crime
And then it was time to head back home and to reality. We do love a bit of adventuring, and it does you good to get out and about (or stay inside in your pjs) and get out of your routine.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Adventuring Part 1 - the nation's capital!

We ran away from home this week! Actually, we had to head to Canberra for an engagement party and then stayed away for a few days to recharge the batteries and go exploring.

There are a lot of people who don't like Australia's capital city (Canberra, for those who are wondering). The entire populations of Sydney and Melbourne are two, because they didn't win the competition to become the national capital - Canberra did. Neither does Craig Ferguson (whoever he is when he's about). It's a planned city and according to some people, very boring. But you are only allowed to hold that opinion if you actually live in Canberra.

We, on the other hand, LOVE Canberra. If we were to move anywhere else in Australia, it would be to Canberra - in fact, I think Video Boy wants to actually live at Questacon.

There is so much to see and do. Every time we visit, we can see something new such as:
And we could easily revisit these places time and again, either because we didn't get to see everything the first time or the kids have gotten older and can appreciate more (and hopefully avoid toddler tantrums).

This trip, we avoided the Kings Highway which had only just reopened after a huge landslide:

and instead headed north, via Tianjara Falls:

The party was fun - it was interesting watching the kids "socialise" with the only other child there who wasn't crawling and when he left, with the adults. I think we all ended up having a nice time:

Canberra in autumn is a stunning place and we took full advantage of the deciduous trees we don't have at home:

Once we got that out of our systems, it was time to check out the Antarctica exhibition at the National Archives:

I would have taken more pics, but I finally noticed the big "NO PHOTOS" signs everywhere....

Anyway, after that very enjoyable hour or so learning about Australia's Antarctic environment and explorers, Hubby and I were starting to suffer the after-effects of our fun last night, so it was coffee time! We wandered down the lawns and gardens of Canberra in search of...

Looking down toward the War Memorial

Old Parliament House

Swans on Lake Burley Griffin

Keep runnin' up that hill!

We enjoyed a couple of cafe lunches in Canberra - lovely food, nice coffee, horrific prices. We paid nearly $80 at the cafe at the National Portrait Gallery!!!

Expensive macaroons...

We popped into the (free!) National Portrait Gallery - Hubby and I could have spent a bit more time there, wandering around, but the kids were getting antsy - they didn't recognise many people. But they enjoyed the sculpture and fountains out the front!

Video Boy was desperate to go on a Segway tour, but you have to be 12 or over, so poor Wombat Girl would have missed out - next visit, we promise!

Looked like so much fun!!

We also walked past the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and tried to explain to Wombat Girl (who asked) what "sovereignty" was about and why it is relevant to the indigenous people of Australia.

Because we had been studying democracy and also Federation, I was very keen to visit Old Parliament House which now houses the Museum of Australian Democracy. The kids? Not so much. I won, however, and despite their lack of initial enthusiasm, we actually spent quite a few hours exploring. I cannot believe they were going to knock this building down! It was only ever built as a "provisional" Parliament House and after they built the new one, it was scheduled for demolition. Well, now it houses the most interesting and educational displays on Australia's political and social history. Well worth a visit and at only $5.00 per family, a bargain!!

Wombat Girl makes a Federation Lantern (who says we don't do art)

Video Boy checks out electorates and Aboriginal nations
A weary Wombat Girl in the Senate (upper house)

Future Senator??

Wombat Girl researching in the Opposition party room

The press gallery

House of Representatives (lower house)

A replica of the Speaker's chair used in TV show

Democracy wall

Making friends outside!

The next day we decided to "pop in" to the new (current) Parliament House. It was fabulous to have a look around after the old one...

Apparently they banned people from
running down the roof after 9/11 -
good to see they lifted that ban!

Beautiful coloured granite used to...

...make an indigenous dot mosaic!

Surely it can't just be my kids who jump into fountains...

The Great Hall uses lots of Australian timbers

The huge Great Hall Tapestry and Embroidery
references settlement and cultivation of the land
The Arthur Boyd painting of the banks of the
Shoalhaven River used as a basis for the tapestry in the Great Hall

The Inspeximus edition of the Magna Carta,
written in 1297 - one of only four editions in the world

Checking out our elected representatives

Current Senate (Upper House)

Current House of Representatives (Lower House) -
lots of school excursions happening that day!
View to Old Parliament House and the War Memorial

For some unknown reason Wombat Girl was
keen to have her photo taken with the Queen

There were a number of people who questioned the kids as to why they weren't in school - Wombat Girl gladly pipes up every time "Oh we homeschool! We are on an excursion!". I don't mind this (happy to raise the profile of homeschooling) but it does get a bit tedious then answering the inevitable questions that follow. And quite hysterical, given that just about everywhere we went we spent time avoiding flocks of classes of schoolkids on excursions!

Another expensive lunch in a cafe later, it was time to get in the car and head to Part 2 of our adventure! Stay tuned kiddies!

Embroidery Project - Blue Butterfly

I downloaded this pattern as a PDF from Hoop Embroidery Co on Esty as my first attempt at the technique known as "thread painting"...