Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Life's big questions...

From the sublime to the serious...

What is the point of it all? For us adults, possibly mid-life crisis-ing, these mind tumbleweeds are not uncommon. Surely there has to be more to life than alarm clocks, work, paying bills, and cleaning dog fluff off the stairs. Thoughts about life's big issues - what difference will I make in the world, how should I live my life, what if I don't have any impact, what is the point of it all...these are the thoughts of serious, thoughtful adults...

..but what if a (your) 14 year old (or 8 year old) is thinking those thoughts, with little life experience to help with perspective?

If a pre-teen or teenager is wondering "Is this all there is?" they are no doubt feeling alone and isolated and wondering if they were the first person to ever feel like that. Chances are their mates are not sharing the same concern, and, being the bright spark they are, they are wise to the fact that sharing those concerns might not be accepted well. Maybe it's just easier to lose yourself in video games...

If your child or someone else's child comes to you with these thoughts (if you can get them to open up), you need to acknowledge they are real. They should not be dismissed. We need to be concerned. The child needs to know that others have felt this way and had these thoughts.

A hug, an arm around a shoulder, even a touch on the arm can say "hey - I get this too".

Discussion, reading, exploring potentialities helps. Bibliotherapy about what others have done, pursued, thought about.

Fresh air, sunlight, a walk, a bounce on the trampoline, a game with the dog - these things might help too. At least I hope so.

It's quite the business, this growing up gifted, isn't it? Kind of glad I can be here to be there for them when they need it most.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing a Learning Plan - my new book!!!

Today is a very exciting day for me! I have written (yanno, in my spare time!) and now published a little "how to" guide for Aussie homeschoolers who need to write a Learning Plan as part of their registration process.


I've found through spending time on Facebook homeschooling pages and from answering calls from new homeschoolers that the one thing new homeschoolers freak out about is having to write a Learning Plan as part of their registration. This is where we turn the State/Federal mandated syllabus (or they call it Curriculum here) into a meaningful plan of what we are going to teach our kids when we homeschool them. But Syllabi are created by teachers for teachers! Us "normal" mums and dads can get lost in a sea of educational jargon and outcomes and content. 

So I wrote a book to help them. Just like that! A book to walk new homeschoolers step-by-step through the minefield of jargon and feel confident that they can create a Learning Plan for their children that is meaningful and helpful. Good idea, huh?

You can download it here!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Am I good enough?

I expect that there are some people out there who sail through life just knowing and feeling supremely confident that they should be headed on some upward trajectory. That yes, they totally deserve that pay rise, or yes, they are totally capable of coping with whatever life throws at them.

I'm not really one of those people. Despite my outward appearance of being bubbly, outgoing, extrovert, confident, I'm not those things. Well, maybe a bit bubbly.

In so many areas of my life, I doubt myself. I wonder "am I really good enough?".

I think a lot of homeschooling parents often wonder "am I doing enough?" and "am I doing a good enough job?" People ask me how it's going, and I bubble "oh great, it's really working for us!" and on the whole it is. But I continually second-guess myself if I'm doing "enough" or if I could be doing it better.

I love my little blog. I have core readers and commenters who I adore (even though I haven't met most of you), so I know it resonates with at least some people out there. Is it good enough to go on blog hops and be linked to by other people? Is the content good enough for others to read? Does anyone really care about my kids and my family and my existential woes?

I'm a pretty competent employee. I know lots of stuff (teaching stuff, environmental stuff, business stuff). I can do lots of things (teaching, guiding, computer-ey things). But am I good enough to step up - to take on the bigger, better roles? Do I even want to? Is it too self-centred to even consider at the moment?

I'm a reasonably good writer. I have experience that I could share with other people, that could make their lives easier. Would people actually pay $$$ for my words and ideas?

Maybe I should lose some weight, dye my hair, eat less junk so I get less pimples (what is with that BTW? I'm 44 years old, for goodness sake!).

OK, I don't even pretend to be a competent housewife. I get us by. We (mostly) have clean, folded, ironed clothes to wear. We (nearly always) have something to eat. My house is (almost never) clean enough if someone "pops in" (please don't).

Sometimes I think it's just me who feels this way - insecure, unconfident (is that even a word?), unsure. Sometimes it feels like everyone else is happy in themselves and it's just me being a worry-wart. But I'm sure it's not...

Do you think you are "good enough"?
Do you suffer moments (days, months) of self-doubt?
Is all this just a pile of doo-doo and I should just suck it up buttercup and get on with cleaning my house?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A juggling act

Today's post is part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop. This month's topic is homeschooling with/without a partner.

This is very relevant for us at the moment. Since quitting full-time teaching to homeschool Video Boy and Wombat Girl, I have generally taken responsibility for most of the homeschooling. That means the successes are due to me, but the uh-oh moments are mine too! But since quitting teaching, our income has decreased dramatically - we rely on our retail to business to bring in the bacon, pay the mortgage, put food on the table, yanno - all that fun stuff.

Except retail hasn't been going so well here in Australia. A sluggish economy and increase ease and availability of online products have hit hard. So I've been "supplementing" the family income because I have LOTS OF SKILLS. And bits of paper to prove it. I regularly head out of the family home to work in the local library and visitor information centre. I sometimes don my "Ranger Ingi" uniform and get paid to go bushwalking, or less satisfactorily, working in schools. Last year, I temporarily moved to Sydney to mark exam papers. All in the name of saving us from eating 2 minute noodles every night (oh, alright and to go on cruises to China).

It's a bit of a juggling act! I leave work for the kids to do while I am away - work I think they can manage without my guidance. Hubby tries to organise the shop so he can be at home to supervise/guide where possible. But it feels...not ideal. But it is what it is and we all make the best of it.

So very zen - so very NOT me!

Turns out we really are heading in a not positive direction finance-wise, and so lately, I've been on the scout out for more work. We are making changes in the shop, but ultimately, we think a change might be in order.

So what will we do if I manage to snag a nicely-paid full-time job somewhere? We talked about putting the kids back in school, but really, that's not an attractive proposition. It would have to be an amazing school to do what we are able to do at home and not turn my kids into emotional wrecks. So, Hubby would have to step up to the plate and take on the majority of the homeschooling.

The kids aren't totally convinced of this prospect - his approach so far has been to write lists and tick off items when the kids have done them. But he is sure that if he wasn't trying to run a business at the same time that he would get right into the homeschooling thing and even be enthusiastic about it! It might not be the way I would do things, but it would be better than sending them back to school.

I'm not entirely happy about our financial situation impeding on the very nice life we've set up here. But between the two of us, we'll work it out - we have to! Oh - there's apparently a great book about working and homeschooling and trying to balance it all by the great people at GHF - not surprisingly called How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advice, Tips and Strategies from Parents - I think I need to go buy it now (always an excuse to buy new books)!

Go check out the other posts on this relevant topic at:

Do you attempt to work AND homeschool?
Does your partner (if you have one) help out in homeschooling?
Are times getting tough financially for you?

Monday, July 08, 2013

We'll be friends forever, won't we?

My girl handed me Whitey the other day to fix. You see, Whitey is very old. 'She' is at least 43 years old - I got 'her' when I was one month old. Even though 'she' was pink, to me, it was always a boy bear. I called him Teddy. So original. I don't have any photos of Teddy when he was very young, but here is one of him trying hard to keep me company when I was a teenager:

Poor Teddy...
Anyway, I kept him all these years, until Wombat Girl came along, and took him under her wing:

My goodness she loved/s that bear. He was rarely from her side when she was little (that, and her dummy). The dummy went by the wayside when she was about three. Teddy? He's still around. Except Wombat Girl thinks he is a "she". And renamed her Whitey (even though she's pink-ish). I don't care because Whitey is loved. Much loved. Loved to distraction.

My Mum had to give him new legs a few years back because his were worn out. And she made a little top for him because he was running out of fur on his body. He is starting to look a little worse for wear now though:


I have stitched and mended and re-done the nose. I suggested to Wombat Girl, now that his eye is falling out and I'm not sure how to fix it that perhaps Whitey needs to be put somewhere special so he doesn't fall apart completely. The look of horror on her face! So I will try to keep him/her together as best I can, so Wombat Girl can go on loving him forever.

If you live to be a hundred, I want to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you"
A.A. Milne -  Winnie the Pooh

What about you? Do you have a much-loved bear (or doll, or blankie?)
How are your sewing skills - how do I fix that eye?

Friday, July 05, 2013

Really Big!

"Space," it says, "is big. REALLY big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen..." and so on. 
Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

In maths recently, we (um, the kids) were learning about scientific notation - how we write really, really, big or small numbers. I was trying to explain what really big or really small meant, and I thought of this quote. I mean, the thing with really big or really small stuff is that it is out of the realm of our everyday experience. We can comprehend driving down the street (a couple of hundred metres), maybe even interstate (just over 4,000km). We can comprehend a pin head (2mm) or even a speck of dust (1/10mm). But we can't comprehend really big interstellar distances or really small sub-atomic particles - it's just too hard for our puny little brains of little experience.

So I did what every good homeschooling mum does, I turned to Google and YouTube. What a treasure trove I found! We started with the Powers of Ten - a film made in 1968 by Ray Eames and her husband Charles (of chair fame) and re-released in 1977, which in turn was based on Kees Boeke's book Cosmic View. The film (and book) show the relative magnitude of scale by zooming out or in ten times every ten seconds.

And then discovered they'd updated it in high-definition:

There are also some really cool interactives on the web to try and get your head around this concept. The first I knew about when I was teaching science at school - Nikon's Universcale. Go have a play, I'll still be here waiting for you!

...welcome back! While you've got your scroll on, you have to check out Scale of the Universe (2).

This stuff just spins me out. I still can't get my head around it. Maybe we're not meant to have a mental image, just accept the amazing world for what it is.

You will note in the corner of all these, index notation being used to help describe the really big and really small numbers:

And so when you are dealing with big or small numbers, rather than write 300,000,000 m/s (the speed of light), you can use Scientific Notation to stop you from getting lost in a sea of zeros. Khan Academy has a good video explaining this:

And when started our Coursera Introductory Physics course (but we never finished, because someone - that would be me! - was away from home too much to keep up), this knowledge of scientific notation really came in handy.

I love being able to explore maths (and science) in this way with my kids. It makes it interesting - we can follow the interweb, make it relevant and just really, truly be blown away by how awesome the world is.

So I leave you with one of my favourite scientists, Professor Brian (yum yum) Cox. Well - it's a spoof on the Wonders of the Universe - but it made me chuckle (warning - swear word alert!) (try to imagine a trillion trillion trillion billion gazillion times five billion hours)...

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Fantasia-cal night!

Is it just me, or other people out there who feel as if their "to do" list is so high it's going to crash down on them? Please tell me I'm not alone!

But this post is one of the things on the list, so I will whip it out quickly!

This weekend, after a week of too much rain and too much work, I took the kids (in the rain) up to Sydney. We had booked to see Fantasia, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. The orchestra played select pieces from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 as the parts of the movie were shown on the big screen. My brother came too!

Now, if you are not familiar with Disney's 1940 film Fantasia, first of all, shame on you, and second of all - it was originally framed as a vehicle for Mickey Mouse. Walt wanted to create a mini-film and thought that a retelling of Goethe's 1797 poem The Sorcerer's Apprentice, set to a symphonic score by Paul Dukas. If you have been hiding in a cave somewhere, and have never seen this, take the time to stop now and enjoy:

Walt Disney met with conductor Leopold Stowkowski, and they decided to expand the concept by including several classical pieces with Disney animation. Interestingly, it was the first film ever in stereo! As much as my brother and I love it, however, it was not a success at the time of release and did not make a profit, putting an end to Disney's dream of releasing a new one with some old, some new pieces every couple of years.

Some music, such as Sorcerer's Apprentice, tells a story. Some music, such as Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral), can allude to a story:

or Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet score:

or Ponchelli's Dance of the Hours:

As with lots of films, ideas were developed and changed and removed. They actually created an entire sequence based on Debussy's Claire de Lune, but it was scrapped to make the movie run shorter. It was later included in Fantasia 2000 as a Bonus Feature:

But in 2000, Roy Disney produced another Fantasia movie, creatively called Fantasia 2000. Again, not a success at the box office, and something we are not as familiar with, but we LOVED the sequences.

Abstract ideas of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5:

In Fantasia, one of the hardest pieces for kids to "get" was an interpretation of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. It is difficult music to listen to. Disney set it to a visual interpretation of the history of the earth. In Fantasia 2000, they tackled Stravinsky's The Firebird, which is easier listening and I think, easier viewing, especially for younger kids:

The Pines of Rome (Respighi) is another symphonic poem that is challenging to listen to, but the Disney artists certainly got their "weird" on when they decided on space whales, which I guess you could interpret in many ways - we certainly had a some great discussions about it afterward. And a note here - the video WILL NOT BE THE SAME (and yes, I am shouting!) as hearing that crescendo of music live. Gave us goosebumps!!!

Right out of the comic vault comes our last two pieces: a biblical interpretation of Elgar's stunning Pomp and Circumstance (which appears to have no trace on YouTube probably due to diligent Disney copyrighters) and the grand finale of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals (which you should make sure your children listen to in full, just sayin'):

It was a magical evening. It was a great experience for the kids, who loved it (I saw toes tapping and fingers snapping):

We got to see a live orchestra performing as well as listen to them:

And we got to spend time with my brother and enjoy one of Sydney's best assets, the Opera House:

How lucky are we that we get to count this as "school"????!!!!

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"...