Happy Birthday Lauren!

IMG_20141027_114415780On Monday we celebrated Lauren’s 6th birthday – so crazy to think how fast the time has gone. She had a ball, and despite the rain we managed to entertain a dozen kids inside. Well, actually, they entertained themselves. For at least an hour there were 11 children squished into the bedroom between the bunks playing The Werewolves of Millers Hollow.

Anyway, another successful party ticked off 🙂 We’re still waiting on her exemption to come through, and in the meantime, it’s business as usual.

Well,  not quite. Apparently the kids were all holding off on getting truly sick until after the party! They’ve been coughing up a storm since then, and we’re taking it easy while they get better. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be well enough to go to the hall because I know the kids will want to see their friends.

Determination

IMG_20140711_151558678 IMG_20140711_151624760 IMG_20140711_154404598We were at a friends house a few months ago when Lauren decided it was time to learn to ride a bike. Now, we have zero concrete at our house and live on a busy road, so we don’t have any bikes or places to ride them at our house. She’s literally never been on one before, and while I feel a little bad about that, we’ve just never been a biking family.

Lauren didn’t stop until she got it. Despite the bike being a bit wobbly, and falling off multiple times as a result, she kept getting back on, kept at it until she was confident in her ability. She stuck at it for an hour or so, and even when it was time to go home kept asking for just one more round.

I love it when she decides she wants to do something. Her sheer determination is something I’m delighted by, and the grin on her face, the look of pride when she masters something she set out to do is priceless.

We’re looking at getting bikes/scooters for Christmas now. I might have to get something for myself too, because once they’ve got wheels I’m never going to be able to keep up! lol

Term Four – Day One

IMG_20141013_125924418_HDRThank heavens, school holidays are over! A friend said to me last night that she couldn’t wait for today so her kids would go back to school and I had to pitch in that we couldn’t either – so nice having all those other kids back at school! We can enjoy everything again! (We’d be happy if her kids were out of school with us though lol)

We started the day out with some pottering around home, then had our normal swimming trip. The families we normally swim couldn’t make it so we went a little earlier in order to come home for lunch before our first afternoon at the hall. The kids were so excited when I unlocked! Shiny, fun new space to make the most of! Two days a week where they are guaranteed to see their friends!

IMG_20141013_145258871_HDRIt was a slow stream in, and no-one was entirely sure what to do to begin with, but it wasn’t long before a range of games had cropped up and the kids reconnected with friends they hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks.

There is so much space at the hall, that many things can be IMG_20141013_143416822happening at once. We’ve got a small river off to one side, bordered on both sides by a public walkway. A clump of bamboo to explore, a large field to romp in, a bank pre-strung with ropes for climbing up, and a fire-pit waiting to be used. And the hall, too, but honestly, we spent most of our time outside. It was a lovely day for it 🙂

IMG_20141013_155114660As well as celebrating our first day at the hall, we also got to celebrate the birthday of not one, but two of our awesome mamas! So it was a pretty special day. We brought some craft supplies and made some flags. The kids developed their own ideas as well, with some making jewelry, others turning pipe cleaners into keys, and Ivy making a tote out of a pillow slip I’d brought along.

IMG_20141013_155125301_HDRI think the most precious part of the day for me was watching my youngest reconnect with a friend she hadn’t seen in a few months. Nati has always been sure that this girl would be her friend, and today that solidified once and for all. They were off together, sharing special moments, fishing in the river with some string and picking flowers. It was really beautiful 🙂

IMG_20141013_145350700_HDRI can see lots of fun times ahead here. The kids can’t wait to get back there again and I almost said, yes, we’ll see everyone next week, then realized we only have to wait until Thursday! It’s just lovely to have a dedicated space with plenty of room for everything.

In pursuit of our passions

On Friday I handed in the final assignment toward my Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Guidance and Counselling). I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for completing it because it’s been pretty hard slog some of the time, what with home schooling three kids as well. But I made it. These types of achievements always make me reflective, and I’ve been doing a lot of that over the past two days. Last night I was lying in bed thinking about how this feels like a really long time coming, even though I only started this particular course of study a little under three years ago. I could look back across the years and see that really, this path started when I was a child, I just had no idea.

There are two strands that run through my life, stronger than all the others. One is my love of writing, and the other is my natural ability to be there for others. I was always the ‘buddy’ at school, never the aggressor, but never passive either. I was the confidant, the friend when you needed it, that person you could trust never to say anything, trust to still look you in the eye and respect you afterwards even when you weren’t sure you could respect yourself. I started my ‘career’ in counselling more officially when I trained to be a peer support person at school, and that unofficial role has followed me through life. I do it naturally, I find it hard not to. I strive to see the good in everyone and to help them see their way through the rough patches, see that they can move on, move forward. But that was just something you did in your spare time. It wasn’t a career. I was just a ‘good friend’ and there isn’t a job for that. Not one that would make me any money.

I can recall writing stories non stop as a child. I remember always going way bigger with my ideas than anyone else in my class, always being the one who spun the tale, invented the backstory and characters for games played with cousins across long summer afternoons. As soon as we got a computer I started using it, spending an hour or more writing novels as soon as I got home from high school. I can still feel the nervous excitement at printing one out and passing it to my art teacher to read, seeing that encouraging expression on her face which said she really wanted to like it but thought she might not, and then witnessing her genuine response when she handed it back and acknowledged that I actually had a good story there.

I have always told stories. But, I was always by everyone told that I could never make a job out of it, it could only ever be a hobby, so I better pick something else.

I never know what that was. Well, that’s what I believed anyway. I was told that the things I loved, the things I was naturally good at, passionate about, driven to do, were not good career choices. They were hobbies, or things to do on the side. I was not to put my future in the things that I love. My choices were not good enough. I had to pick again.

Is it any wonder that I’ve never had a real career? I left high school and enrolled in business studies through the local Polytech because my high school guidance counsellor saw that I was good with maths, so I should do business. For lack of a better idea, I did as he suggested – everyone was so proud. I HATED it. I finished the year out, even though it was painful and I was miserable. And then I quit and got a job at a supermarket. Which I also hated. I moved to Palmerston North and did a Diploma in Design and Multimedia, which was great fun, but not really my thing. I never had the flair that others had. My creative passion was words, not images. I cross-credited my business papers towards a BA and planned to major in English and History. I could be a teacher. I’d loved learning at school, had an amazing history teacher who really challenged me and helped me thrive. But it was all pretty dry, and I soon put it on hold as life fell apart for a bit.

I picked it back up again, and after my father commented that I’m always helping people out maybe I should get a degree in that so someone would actually pay me for it, that I opted to switch my double major from English/History to English/Psychology. And it was okay. I finished it. Graduated. But psychology was too much science for me, and not enough about being with people. Not ground roots enough for me.

I had kids, and I think that’s where things really changed for me because I began to understand that I didn’t want any of this for my kids. If they had a passion, I wanted them to follow it, but in order for that to happen I had to SHOW them the way. I began to write more seriously. In the days when they napped it was pretty easy to keep at it. I got some stories published. I won an award for my editing. I raised some funds for charity. I made the short list for a short story award. I’m actually pretty good at this thing I love so much, this thing which keeps me going even in my darkest days. And the kids can see the books on the bookshelf to prove it. They can see the award sitting on my desk. More importantly they can see the fire in my eyes when I talk story, when I engage with their worlds, when I want to hear what’s going on in their heads.

And then a few years ago I decided that I finally wanted to do something about becoming a counsellor for real. I started some training through Lifeline, but it was just after things started to go sour for Ivy at school, so as much as it crushed me I opted out of that – for all the right reasons if you ask me. However, it spurred me to enrol in Uni again and now three years later I am finished.

I can’t go out and work as a counsellor right now. I’m too busy home schooling after all 😉 But I have some invaluable tools, and I plan to do my Masters further down the track, and the kids have seen this example of their mother, following her passions, working hard, really hard, to achieve something. And the grin on my face, the pride shining in my eyes, that will stick with them. I can’t wait to attend graduation next year.

I want, so badly, for them to know that it’s okay to pursue their passions no matter what they are. I will never be the mother that says ‘no, that won’t make you any money’, or the one that says ‘you need a backup plan’, or any of the other lines I heard a million times. I’m going to be behind there, cheering them on, helping them make the right choices to get to their goals, and I know, without any doubt, that they’ll have this all figured out a whole lot earlier than I did. It doesn’t matter if they don’t earn a massive wage, because real happiness cannot be found in a large bank account statement.

Psst…

IMG_20141008_063428295Lauren beckoned me over to her the other night and made me lean in close, a glimmer in her eyes and a grin playing on her lips. She cupped her hands around my ear and whispered, “I can read some words now”. It was a beautiful moment. She was so proud of herself, so pleased at her progress – and totally justified in those things.

This morning, she set about showing me her wonderful new skills. She got out the silver box containing all the early readers, and selected one. She ran her fingers along the words, glancing at me for encouragement. We went over some of the basic skills of learning to read again and off she went. It was awesome. I love that she’s decided she is ready, that she is excited by the prospects – even if after reading through every single book she decided that those ones were boring (this was the same issue we encountered last time). I agree, they are boring. The extra words she added to the stories made them all better. It’s not just a whale, but a humpback whale – she wanted to know why they just said whale? And that shark is a great white, why do they only say shark? And the fish in this book aren’t just laughing together, they are pulling funny faces…

IMG_20141008_063440690It was an interesting contrast to me. I remember when Ivy learned to read at school and how she didn’t ask questions, never pushed past the story on the page or embellished, adding her own details that made it more interesting to her, and I wonder if this is a reflection of the way I’ve changed, more than anything else.

After she read the stories the ‘right’ way she went back and made up her own, adding things to her hearts content, and then passed the books on to Natalie who mimicked her big sister – I can see that they will be learning to read fairly close together if this continues, an unexpected benefit of having kids less than two years apart. Natalie never likes to be left out of anything, and Lauren is kind enough to want to help teach her little sister.

The Exemption Process – round 2

Yesterday I finally sent off my application for an exemption for Lauren. It’s been weeks in the making and between assignment pressure and the regular busyness of life it took a lot longer than I had wanted.

Let me tell you, writing one for the second child is no easier than writing one for the first. Of course, I am more confident than ever that our approach works. I’ve seen it in action, more so in this last year than in our first as home schoolers. I’ve watched our amazing children blossom and shine, and come into their own in ways I had not expected. These things however are not so easy to translate into a letter of application. An application which is written in a way that makes me feel like nothing I write is going to be good enough. Its intimidating, to say the least.

Which is sad really. I know these kids better than anyone else in the world. I can tailor their learning experiences to meet their needs in a very specific way that no regular school can. No matter how well intentioned or amazing a teacher is, they can’t give my kids the things I give them – freedom to move when needed, freedom to explore their interests until they’ve exhausted the well of questions or curiosity, a tiny teacher to student ratio, not to mention all the other benefits like hugs at any time of the day, or quiet time when they need it no matter where we are.

It makes me feel queasy that someone might deem my application not good enough. While logically I know it should be okay, I can’t help but worry. I do the same with assignments for University lol I haven’t failed anything yet (and I have just one assignment remaining in my Post Grad Dip in Education), but that thread of anxiety is still there, every single time.

Well, all we can do is wait now. Wait and continue to do what we’re doing. Keep enjoying life and learning every day.

Farm Visit – Part 2

After the bush walk (Part 1), we ventured down to the cow shed.

IMG_20140703_140211624_HDRThere were about 5 cows who had lost their calves and so needed milking, and the small number meant it was the perfect opportunity to show the kids what it was all about.

IMG_20140703_141739162_HDRWe started off with Sam explaining to the kids what happens to the milk once it comes out of the cows.

We followed the pipes through into the room where all the equipment was and he answered a million questions about from the kids about the process and what each piece of equipment was for.

IMG_20140703_141808637_HDREven for the couple that aren’t so good with loud noises, they stayed and listened to the whole thing (though, covered their ears at times). They were really interested in the process.

After that it was back into the shed where Sam brought the cows in and lined them up – it was here that we learned possibly the piece of information that will stay with us all the longest!

When a cow is scared, it poops – Sam explained this after the kids were making a bit too much noise and frightened them.

IMG_20140703_142305931_HDRThey all watched with interest as he put the cups on and showed them the difference between a cow with a full udder and an empty udder, and reminded them again of where the milk goes.

Overall it was an awesome trip. The kids asked a lot of questions and really made the most of the experience. I don’t think any of them had been in a shed before, and despite the noise and mess they were all really engaged.

Farm visit – Part 1

A few months ago we took some of our home schooling friends down to the farm my brother had just moved onto. They have a nice native ecosystem there to explore, and also he was happy to take them on a tour of the cowshed and demonstrate the process with the few cows he was already milking. There were 9 kids in total, and 5 adults.

Part One will be about our bush walk, and part Two about the Cow shed. There will be a Part Three at some point when I get the photos from one of the other mums. My brother is an avid archer and set up his little range and taught the kids the basics of archery – they all LOVED getting to have a go!

the safety talkWe walked down the track and through a paddock to get to the top entrance of this piece of bush. Sam gave the kids a bit of a safety talk before we headed in because there is a big drop about 5 metres to one side of where we walked – the children were to stay well back, ask for help if they needed it, and make sure to stay with the group. Here Sam is beginning to lead the group into the bush.

IMG_20140703_132506927We had brought along our book about fungus in New Zealand, and while the bigger kids tromped ahead with Sam, the younger ones hung back with me and another mum and we spotted a huge variety of fungus, and then found them in the book so we could learn a little more about them. I was amazed by the variety we found, but also really impressed with how closely the kids were looking for new types, and their deductive skills in searching through the book to find a match.

IMG_20140703_133020063 IMG_20140703_133011626Some weren’t quite as obvious as the images in the book, but we still managed to identify the majority.

I thought this one was pretty cool. We did see some less trampled specimens a bit further on, but I didn’t snap a pic of those.

Probably the most amazing part of our bush adventure was seeing a morepork! I think the parents were more impressed than the kids were (it’s just an owl, mum, what’s the big deal), so we had to explain to them that morepork are nocturnal, but also rarely seen.

moreporkI grew up in the country and heard them most nights, but I’ve never seen one before, let alone in the middle of the day. The photo doesn’t do this small, beautiful bird justice.

I heard something rustle a tree and then it swooped out of the branches and landed on the branch of another, about 8 feet from the ground and the same distance from us. It literally sat there watching us for a few minutes, not at all bothered as we crept closer for a better view. The kids were so quiet, and the adults were in awe. Gosh, it was magical. A gift.

When we’d all had a good look, the morepork swooped off, completely silent. Majestic.

Gratitude

IMG_20140721_135117481It’s been a few months since I blogged here but I’m back! (haha, this is even funnier seeing as I never got around to finishing this post when I started it 😉 lol)

We’ve started term three off with some new routines, and a new focus – Gratitude. I’ve been noticing over the months how easy it is for everyone (not just kids) to look at the bad stuff and let all the good things pass by without notice or mention, so we decided to kick off term three by making gratitude jars. We had a few families over at our house after our first swim of the term, so it was neat to share the activity with them.

Everyone picked  jar, and we got out all the art supplies so the kids could choose what they wanted on their jars. Ivy decided to glue seed beads on to spell out her name as well as adding some feathers and stickers, Lauren opted for a combination of feathers, glass paint, beads and stickers, and Natalie used some glass paint, stickers and feathers.

Afterwards, the girls put in their first gratitudes, and I could tell within days that they were expanding their thinking a little – it was never a struggle to find something to put in the jar, if anything, it was a struggle to keep it down to one or two things.

Some of the most common things that they are grateful for are their friends and family, that they got to go somewhere like the pool or park, or have a new experience like building a snowman. Some of the less common ones include being grateful that butterflies don’t eat people (Lauren), and being grateful for farts (Natalie – gotta love the 4yr old humor lol).

One of the most lovely things about this has been the way it’s deepened some of their friendships – not just with those who made the jars with us, but in general. The girls are more aware of the wonderful people in their lives, and when they add things to the jar they’ve also been able to pass those things along to their friends. I actually text a friend to tell her that Ivy had written that she was lucky to have a great friend in her daughter, but her daughter was playing on her phone and text me back to say that she was really lucky to have Ivy as a friend too! When I told Ivy her whole face lit up. Words are powerful, and it’s important to tell people you care about them.

Personally, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to home school my kids, and that our lives are filled with awesome people.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

omg it's snow!This winter we finally made it up to the snow!

We live right under a mountain, so it’s not location that has been the trouble. Last winter we seemed to get hit with a lot of bugs, and the winters before it was just too hard, what with two small kids needing naps at different times etc. The older the kids get, the easier everything gets, so we were thrilled to adventure in the snow with our friends this year.

OlafNaturally, as we drove up and hit the snowline the girls burst into songs from Frozen, and one of the first things they did (after running around gleefully) was build an Olaf. He looks pretty awesome, and Ivy was super chuffed with it.

It was really cool to see them working together to roll different sized balls, and working out how to make the snow move – they discovered that it certainly isn’t as easy as it looks in some cartoons! They scanned the area, finding the right components for eyes and arms and a smile.

After they’d had enough of building snowmen they explored the area near the car park where it was icy, rather than snowy, testing for areas of weakness and stomping through those to the slushy ice water below – and then, of course, came snowball throwing!

IMG_20140724_133038176_HDRWe moved location for this, and the kids had fun throwing balls of snow at a tank near the information centre, watching them splat as they landed, they also threw them at each other (after checking to see who was okay with that, man I love these kids and their respect for each other!). Ivy enjoyed throwing them into space to see how they deteriorated over distance.

IMG_20140724_130921976_HDRAs you can see in the photo to the right, a couple of the kids started building a mammoth snow ball, which they brought down the hill visible in the same picture, halfway across the carpark to another hill they’d spotted. It lost  lot of mass along the way, but it took them all their effort to keep it moving.

I was really impressed with their determination, co-ordination, and the team work they showed in this. It started off as one boys idea, but they all got behind it and pitched in.

IMG_20140724_133518377It didn’t roll down the hill quite as well as they had hoped, but when they gave it that last nudge and it crashed to the bottom (one of the boys ended up sliding down with it! lol), they were all really pleased with themselves. I wish I’d been able to snap a pic of their triumphant faces, thankfully it’s etched in my memory!

We ended our trip with a visit to the cafe and some hot chips – well earned, if you ask me.