Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to When School Goes Back!

If you are anything like me, your Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of either Mums counting down the hours until they get their "Mum time" when school goes back or Mums sharing photos of their little or big ones starting "big school" or high school.

I so very want to say "I homeschool, what's your superpower?" on those "Mum Time" posts. But don't, because I can't deal with the fallout.

And just because, here is our first day of Year 9 2014 back-to-school photo:

Aren't they getting all kinds of grown up? Wombat Girl insists on the hat, even though it is way too small for her now. And that's a network cable, not Video Boy's brain's power supply!

This will be our fourth year homeschooling, and although it's changed and morphed and doesn't look the same every day, I'm still very comfortable with our decision. So we keep going. And the kids are happy (most of the time!). 

So instead of tears, dread, stress or "Mum Time", here is my top five things that I'm looking forward to when "school" goes back:
  1. Absolutely NUMERO UNO is spending time with my cherubs. Because our summer holidays are filled with me working. I just finished up 3 weeks straight (only 2 days off and they were spent driving up and back to Sydney!). I genuinely missed my kids! I missed their humour, their hugs, their observations on life. They are really great kids and I can't wait to spend a little more time with them.
  2. Cool things to learn. Seriously - I am actually excited about learning about history this year. Industrial revolution, the Enlightenment - I never learned about that stuff when I was in school (just ancient Egypt and Captain Cook and that's about it, folks). Not to mention a heap of Vi Hart videos to catch up on and....there's just so much out there to keep learning about!
  3. Watching my kids grow up. It's a double-edged sword, but ultimately you want your kids to be capable adults and I enjoy watching their achievements (academic and domestic and social) as they continue on their journey.
  4. The fact that we are not stressing, dreading or crying (much) over the start of school. Our first day of our first ever year was a bit freaky, but now we pretty much just pick up where we left off last year. We know the drill. Even if Video Boy is not particularly excited about giving up his games for the morning - he knows what the alternative is!
  5. Speaking of alternatives, I'm looking forward to NO scungy lunchboxes, rushed mornings, squeaky new (expensive) school shoes, backpacks, notes, assemblies, parent-teacher nights, and tears and stress. Bonus is, I manage to squeeze in a bit of "Mum Time" even with the kids at home!!!
What are your favourite things about going back to homeschool?
Any tears (theirs or yours)?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Plans for Year 9 (2014)!

I've been perusing social media and reading some blogs in my very limited spare time these holidays. Lots of people getting stuck back into homeschooling with a vengeance - planning, reorganising, moving furniture, going the Full Monty (Montessori) and Charlotte Mason-ing.

Us? Well, I've been working and the kids have had more screen time than should legally be allowed (I'm awaiting the call from Family Services as we speak).

We generally follow the school terms, and since we are the private-ist of private schools (without the fees), I figure we don't need to start until they do. We will "officially" be going into Year 9 this year (Oh. My. Goodness.) and starting to get to what I see as the "pointy" end of school. So kiddies, it's time to start getting academic and putting the pieces in place for a time where MUM no longer holds the educational reigns and I can palm you off hand over responsibility to someone else (eg: a university).

So, while I'm ever on the lookout for cool resources and FUN stuff to do (eg: THIS little video and questions on infinity which Wombat Girl and I did today just for fun yanno), I do have a plan of action mapped out which includes:

  • a bit more writing and higher level thinking
  • some workbook stuff I can leave the kids to do if I have to go to work (to make money to pay for a much-longed-for holiday)
  • work directed to their strengths and interests and which will prepare them for their (potentially) chosen fields of work
What do I have planned for 2014?

  • Finish off Midsummer Night's Dream - I was rewriting out questions from a study guide into kid/user-friendly worksheets, but this is proving way too labour intensive. So I've gone Google and found some good graphic organisers that my kids might be able to manage here, here and here. I think I will also be brave and attempt a short essay with them, to finish off (give me strength!).
  • Apart from Shakespeare, we have to study a range of fiction, non-fiction, film and poetry, so I have this as a "perhaps" list:
    • Lord of the Flies (I've never read this, but I think it could be interesting!)
    • Dragonkeeper - Carole Wilkinson
    • Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld
    • Japan Diary - Trudy White
    • A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle
    • The Arrival - Shaun Tan
    • The Lady of Shallot - Tennyson
    • The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
    • 10 Things I Hate About You
    • Gallipoli
    • Dead Poets Society
  • So many good choices, so little time!!!!!
  • I purchased this book, which has chapters based around different texts, which should help us cover off non-fiction, poetry, film etc and tick lots of grammar/punctuation outcomes too.

  • I also found these on sale at Aldi, which should also supplement things nicely (particularly when I'm working).

We have just about finished off Year 10 Advanced Maths, but we have a few topics to finish off, namely:
  • curve sketching/polynomials
  • circles
  • functions and logarithms (we did some of these last year, but will need to revise)
  • and will start the year off with algebra review and finish off some trickier concepts like quadratic formula etc.
This book will be handy - I did some research, and apparently Jim Coroneos is da man for NSW Syllabus textbooks. The font and formatting is SOOO 1980, but the explanations and exercises seem quite good. I may have to rewrite some of it, especially for Video Boy!

Again, found these in Aldi - turns out I already have Book 2!

Later in the year, Wombat Girl will be ready for Year 11 Extension 1 and 2 Maths:

Perhaps we might even do that by Open Learning - Open Universities Australia has a series of Bridging Units which, if they pass or do well, will allow the kids to apply for a suitable course at University without sitting the Higher School Certificate (which we can't do as homeschoolers anyway). They could also do first year subjects and then apply to the university, but this way they can apply with all the other school leavers.

Ahh, Year 9 - the year of the First Hand Research Project! They have to do an investigation where they choose the topic, do background research, collect data, analyse data and present it all (conclusions included) in a Scientific Report. So we will tackle that baby first up this year. As an ex-science teacher, I have a bunch of resources that are handy, including this from OTEN and this resource that I helped write (you are welcome!).

Other topics we will try to cover (probably using lapbooks/notebooks) include:
  • chemistry (more of a revision) - might do Open Uni version later
  • light and waves
  • space
  • nervous/hormonal systems and...
  • reproduction (joy).
We might also do Open Uni's intro to Physics sooner, rather than later.

Lucky us, we get to try out the new Australian History Curriculum of the Modern World (1750-1918) (quick, hurry, before Christopher Pyne goes and changes what has taken YEARS and lots of INPUT to sort out because he wants a more right-winged interpretation of Australian history, before NSW has even implemented it and let's include a Christian perspective while we we are at it - DO NOT start me on this topic!!!).

I'm actually looking forward to it - we start of with a broad introduction to the big changes that happened in the 18th century - the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Then, highly relevant after our big trip through Asia, Look at Australia's world in Asia and the rest of the world and finish up with World War I. 

Given history is not my strong point (although I am enjoying it), I went with a textbook/student activity approach, incorporating the new curriculum, which I will pick the best bits out of and Google some other activities or approaches (I found some good resources here).

Geography will be much the same, except more Google. I couldn't bring myself to fork out another $70 on a textbook that I knew the content, so I just purchased the Student Activity Book and we will search the internet for the answers to the questions!

Lots of good physical geography to start, with an Australian focus - I have a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physical Geography, so hopefully I'm well qualified to teach all about landforms, soils, climate, flora, and fauna. We also seem to be experiencing lots of Natural Hazards in Australia and around the world at the moment, so lots of life learning will be had!

Kids have been loving this, so we will continue on our merry way with this as an "elective". I purchased an iiTomo text and activity book last year, so will continue to keep working through these and then get Book 2 when they run out:

And for speaking, we are continuing to use Mango through our local library e-resources.

Information and Software Technology:
We will also do this an elective. So far, we've just been going it alone, but this year I've printed out the Syllabus and apparently you work on projects that achieve the outcomes. Video Boy has built his gaming PC (post on this pending), which I'm sure ticks off lots of Outcomes, but I may buy a workbook to cover my bases. We also may enrol in some online courses through the Academy of Interactive Entertainment - will also tick off outcomes and will start down a path that could lead to further things. Video Boy has also been doing some work for customers in our shop - video editing and scanning old photos. Lots of practical life learning!

I feel tired just looking at all this! It will be a busy year, but pretty exciting too. Now we just have to get started...next week :-)

How are your homeschool plans looking for 2014?
Have you started back after a summer break or waiting for school?
Are you in the midst of a cold, dark winter and have been going for half the year already?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What happens when I go to church...

We have a lovely little church in our town. I never go into it. Except twice a year, where they have a mega second hand book sale to raise money for the local chaplain in schools.

I've shared our bounty before. This weekend was their summer sale. I called the family down after work. In the dying few hours of Sunday afternoon, bargains were to be had - $1.00 per book or a bargain $10 per box. Which one do you think we went with?

Duh! The boxes of course!!!

We got a heap of fiction, included MORE Agatha Christie's to add to the collection:

Hubby got some non-fiction (which he hardly ever reads, so I found his choices interesting!):

Some World Book series (yanno, what we used to use before Google and Wikipedia!):

Some English helpers for our coming homeschool year:

Some maths books for the forthcoming homeschool year (I had the 2 Unit book at school!):

I scored some navel-gazing self-help titles:

The kids scored some games and music books:

And just some brain food:

AND a jigsaw puzzle:

How cool is that?? Guess how much we paid for all of these?? Go on, huh, how much?

Twenty five dollars. $25!!!!! The lady gave us the world books box for $5. Score!

Now we just have to clean out the bookcases to make room for them and to give back to the church for the next time I go...

Does your church ever sell books?
What's the last book you bought?
How many bookcases in your house?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A story of over-excitability

Once upon a time, there was this guy named Kazimeirz Dabrowski. He was a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, and he coined the term (amongst his other published work) "over-excitabilities" to describe the "super-stimulation" of the central nervous system which caused the person to react more strongly than normal for a period of time longer than normal to a stimuli.

Now this Dabrowski guy identified five areas that this over-excitability showed itself:

  1. psychomotor
  2. sensual
  3. imaginational
  4. emotional and 
  5. intellectual

Sometimes, parents of gifted kids use the term "over-excitability" to discount other diagnoses (eg: ADHD or autism), but I am starting to put together a hypothesis that there is an overlap area, where very gifted kids have some kind of super-wiring in their nervous system that brings out these the super-sensitivities that also brings out symptoms of many other conditions (eg: ADHD or autism) where kids are dealing with stimulation overload. I have don't have any scientific basis for this hypothesis, but one day, yanno, when I get all this SPARE TIME I hear about, I might look into it further.

Anyway, there was also a girl, a teenager, who exhibits many of these characteristics of many of the types of over-excitability. Here's what it looks like:
  • continual bouncing on the trampoline
  • playing "games" in her head
  • walking around the balcony, playing said games in her head
  • continually requesting her family to play games with her
  • actually playing lots of board games
  • playing piano for hours
  • rearranging household objects into patterns
  • a deep and abiding love of puzzles
  • searching for suitable friends (deep friendship required)
  • when the friendship thing is lacking, bonding with stuffed or real animals instead

Her poor parents are besides themselves over what to do to provide the constant and appropriate stimulation she needs (without sacrificing all their time). She is driving them nuts! It doesn't help that the mother has been off working a lot, leaving her daughter at home and feeling guilty about it.

I hope there's a happy ending to this story...that the girl in the story finds something that can keep that mind happy and active without driving those around her to distraction.

Got a kid who needs to be doing something ALL THE TIME?
Got any suggestions for the next chapter?
Anyone want to borrow a daughter?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mum, I'm board...

...a.k.a - Mum, can we play a game?

Wombat Girl is going through some kind of weird teenage growing pains or something - her brain seems to be craving stimulation. Before Christmas, she basically played Set non-stop for a month. Every couple of minutes we'd hear "Set!".  She preferred someone else (usually me, as I'm the only other person in the family who enjoys it) to play with her, but if that (ie: me) was unavailable, she played by herself. "Set!"

You can imagine my joy at Christmas, when the Defying Gravity family scored not one, not two, but THREE new board games!!

First up was the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (an Australian series of novels, set in the 1920s and made into a visually sumptuous TV series) Cluedo. We love a bit of Cluedo (known as Clue in North America), but I do struggle to ever win - mostly because Hubby and Wombat Girl don't miss a trick and me and Video Boy struggle to hold all that info in our heads (even with the little bits of useless paper they give you to keep track of what you know). Deduction is not my strong point - add in a few glasses of champagne, and I think I'm destined never to win a round.

Next was the curiously titled Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. It is possibly a good thing I hadn't started on the champagne when we played this for the first time! It involves, cards, dodecahedron dice, top run, bottom run, cabbage, water, collecting and "killing" bunnies. But once you get the gist of it, it's actually a really fun game for older kids and adults. A sense of humour is compulsory (don't play with a hangover!) and best of all, it has about a billion expansion packs, to keep the fun (and the gift options) going for years!

Finally, we are finally on the Carcassonne bandwagon. The idea of it is a tile-laying game, where you place your "meeples" on various parts of a French landscape. World domination is your target! One of the great things I like about this game is that is actually works best with 2 players, which is handy when your daughter wanders around aimlessly all day asking if anyone would like to play a game with her. It came with a river expansion pack, but also has a billionty other expansions to add to it. Score!

This wasn't planned, but in one of the fancy-pants,expensive, colour co-ordinated Christmas crackers was a mini pack of cards (because, yanno, the 20 or so packs we do already own weren't good enough). Wombat Girl has swapped Set for Solitaire. I wandered into our bedroom to find her playing Solitaire on the iPad AGAIN!!

And if all else fails, there is the ubiquitous UNO, because Grandma knows the rules of that one (or pretends she doesn't so she can win!).

Did you get any board games for Christmas?
Kill any Bunnies lately?
How many packs of playing cards do you own?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Compulsory New Year Navel-Gazing Post

And hello 2014!!

Here already? I swear time is moving faster the older I get!

And it's the time of year to take stock, have a look back and a ponder forward.

Did 2013 go the way I wanted it to, 12 months ago? I know I very nearly stopped blogging, but I'm glad I've pulled myself together and got back into it. What else?

I wanted to work less, homeschool more. Um. Fail. I had a few weeks where I achieved that, but in general, between my two casual jobs, I did more than my fair share of paid work. Not to say we didn't homeschool, but the kids morphed into a more "independent" mode of study.

I wanted to keep on track with my health (this time last year I had lost 6kg and was running 3-4 times a week). I dreamt of a half-marathon in 2013. Haha-ba-ha! Well, I achieved a 10km race in February and then....nothing. Put all my weight back on (and then some) and I'm lucky if I do a 3km walk.

I look so happy about having to work out again, don't I??

I DID achieve the goal of going on a decent, relaxing holiday - of a lifetime! Our epic cruise to China is definitely my highlight of 2013 and the inspiration for more travel (I'll ignore the getting sick part).

A year ago, we had some potential big changes in our home/work situation, but they didn't eventuate. I continued to juggle rangering, librarying/visitor centering, volunteering and home/school. Now I'm just very tired.

What do I want for the year ahead?
  • I'm hanging for another holiday. I really want to go on a cruise to Japan, but money and time are a bit of an issue. Failing that, I'll take whatever I can get!
  • I really need to back on the health bandwagon, because all my clothes aren't fitting any more and yanno, all that boring health stuff (high blood pressure, risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, blah, blah).
  • I'm pretty happy with my relationships with my kids and my hubby - not perfect, but we do pretty good considering the stress I put me under sometimes; it's a wonder I'm not more shouty.
  • I want to offload some things I took on (with good intentions) that are causing me stress and not really adding to my life.
  • I'd really like to spend a bit of time doing things I enjoy, just because. Life at the moment feels like putting everyone else first (I don't count the exercise/eating well thing, because that is hard work for me too) and it would be nice to switch it around a bit.
I might do another post outlining our main homeschool plans - we are heading into the pointy end of high school, and I have a few changes in mind.

Thank you to all my loyal readers (especially those who aren't related to me - great job sticking with me) and here's to a bit of a brighter 2014!

How did 2013 treat you? 
Glad to see the back of it or sad to see it go?
What's the one big thing you are looking forward to in 2014?

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"...