A nook

We’ve been doing some shuffling of rooms around the house over the last few days, culminating in the big move today – back across the hall from the kids. I’m hoping this gives the house more flow, with the school/play room coming off the lounge, and the bedrooms both in the same part of the house. We’ve been here for almost 6 years now, and I think I might have finally cracked it.

IMG_20140930_144139651An unexpected, and wonderful, result of this has been the creation of a quiet nook in our bedroom. We’ve gone for a slightly unusual layout, and I love what we’ve created. It’s a little room created in a corner behind the headboard when you shut the door.

Natalie (4) has needed a lot of time out lately. She’s working through her emotions in a practical way and has decided that when she feels bad/angry/sad about things, the best thing for her is some quiet time. Now, I’ve never sent her to time out – it’s just not something we do in our house – so it’s completely under her own steam. I think I must use the phrase ‘time out’ when I need some space and peace, because it’s what she says.

Because the girls all share a bedroom (their own choice), it can be hard to get some alone time, and sometimes it’s not very convenient for having ‘time out’ when it’s bed time and everyone else is trying to get in there. We’ve found ways to work around it, but she has been quite desperate for a quiet space she could go.

IMG_20140930_145049436And I am so pleased we’ve been able to create one.

The girls have spent a lot of time today relaxing in the nook. Natalie took a book in and that gave me an idea. I suggested we get a little box and put some things in it that might help whoever needs the nook to relax and the girls thought it was a brilliant idea! So I found a box, and they came up with the things they wanted in it. Awesome 🙂

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Minecraft!

minecraftThe game that everyone seems to love has finally arrived in our house! For some reason I’d been holding out until we could get a decent computer set up for the girls to run Minecraft on, and then it hit me that a friend of ours plays it on the PS3, and… well, we have a PS3!! So, I downloaded it.

The girls were beside themselves with excitement. We’ve had the game for three weeks now and I don’t think there has been a single day that they haven’t been dying to play it. And quite frankly, I have been stunned with how quickly they picked it up. Lauren struggled with the controls for all of a day before she got the hang of it, and they build SO fast these days.

The beauty of having it on the PS3 is that the two big girls can play it together, and we only need the one account. They take turns generating worlds, and are actually being really mindful of the other. I was surprised. Even when their friend came to play in their world, there were no issues. They ask each other before they do anything (Can I build here? Can I live in this particular building of yours? Is it okay if I add/change this), they never break something someone else has built – so courteous and respectful, which is wonderful! I actually think it’s improved their play outside of the game, because they are now more aware of the effort that other people put into things.

Anyway, I’ve given them free reign over the school holidays. They play for several hours a day, and spend a couple more watching minecraft videos on youtube (Stampey is their fav), getting ideas which they then take back into their own worlds. Lauren wanted to know a good way to build a castle, so they watched a video on that and then she went and made her own version of it. Pretty cool! The complexity of their buildings is increasing daily, as are the number of buildings they develop. Not knowing a lot about the game myself, I’ve not been able to give them any instruction and they are learning as they go. It’s wonderful.

Because I like to use their passions to help with home schooling, I’ve been kicking around some ideas for how we can use Minecraft to expand their knowledge even more. There are quite a few places online that offer lessons for homeschoolers using Minecraft, but I think because we’re using the PS3 version, and are in different times zones, that might not work so well. So this morning I broached the topic and asked how they would feel if we did some learning about different cultures and times in history, and then they could work on building villages from those times and cultures.

They thought that was an awesome idea! They are always looking for new things to build.

I suggested we start here at home, with a Maori Pa. I have heaps of resources from New Zealands history, so this is a no brainer. We have already done quite a lot of learning there and I don’t think it will take them long to learn the basics and design their own. The school term officially begins on Monday, and I’m dying to see how this plays out. Looking forward to sharing with you how it goes!

Long overdue catch up…

Well, it’s been almost a month since my last post and while we’ve been doing stuff, I have not been blogging! We’ve spent the last three weeks with one bug or another – colds and tummy bugs for everyone – and are just coming right now. Over that time the kids have discovered Minecraft, we’ve taken part in forming a group of like-minded home schoolers, we’ve been doing a lot of reading, and have finally come to the right dose/right type of medication for Ivy. I intend to blog more about all of these things in the near future, but thought I would simply start by breaking the silence – sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

I’ll endeavor to post more soon!

Term One Planning

Yesterday morning was a beautiful, peaceful day. Summer seems to have finally arrived and so I did a little gardening while the kids jumped on the trampoline, and then we got some paper and a pen and sat down outside to do some brainstorming.

The following are some of the ideas we came up with – they aren’t fully fleshed out, but they will give you an idea of the kinds of things the girls want to learn about, and incorporates some of their most recent interests, and some new ones. This list does not include all the basics, like english, maths, and science, and while other subjects which are part of the core of the NZ Curriculum are not specifically named, there is plenty of room to cover them in the topics the girls have chosen. Also, on top of ‘school’ stuff, each of the girls takes a dance class, and Ivy is a Brownie – Lauren will be a Pippin as soon as we can find someone to be the Pippin leader, and Natalie is already keen to start coming along too. They have a wide group of friends, both home schooled and traditionally schooled, and as of this term, have some special time lined up to hang out with their Nana’s from both sides of the family, which is pretty awesome!

I think the only real challenge here will be how on earth we manage to fit it all in 😉 As always, this is flexible and will no doubt change over the course of the term, with some of these things extending beyond term one, such as swimming lessons. That is one of the beauties of home schooling – you can follow your kids leads, and tumble head first into whatever their passions may be, which means they are super engaged and motivated. Love it!

Topics of the term:

We’re going on a Moa Hunt – inspired by the Going on a Bear Hunt book (which is currently Natalie’s favourite book). We’ll learn all about the Moa – what it ate, where it lived, why it became extinct (which might flare out into the wider issue of why things become extinct and looking at other animals which are in danger of extinction, and what we might be able to do to prevent that from happening), visiting the museum where there are some Moa bones, and ending with a day of bushwalking in areas where the Moa might have lived, going on a ‘Moa Hunt’ maybe looking for the things it used to eat and places it might have lived, and then we can make up our own Moa Hunt book.

Triptych art – how did it come about? who were the first people to use it? Looking at all the different styles, and choosing our favourite ones to make a collage out of. Trying to make our own triptychs with a variety of mediums – paint, photography, collage, mixed media, exploring whatever theme they want. (I can’t wait to do this myself!!!)

Monarch butterflies – they are out at the moment and the girls want to learn all about them, and get some swan plants to see if we can attract some of our own, and watch through the process. It’s a reasonably short project which introduces a good working knowledge of life cycles.

Buildings – Ivy expressed a desire to look at buildings and make buildings, so I suggested we look at some famous ones so we can learn about them and their designs, and then try to copy those designs in different mediums. I asked if she’d like to do some field trips where we go out and draw architectural features around New Plymouth and she thought that was a good idea.

Swimming – the girls all expressed a desire to get back into the pool! I’m keen too, seeing as we’ve avoided it all summer with the holidays on, it gets too crowded and the kids don’t enjoy it so much. I will find the swimming resources that I got from the swim training course last term and we can do some age/skill appropriate learning which we can then practice in the pools to help them improve their swimming skills.

Stories – all the girls love stories. Lauren has started telling a lot and asking me to write them down, and Ivy is really enjoying writing stories as well. Natalie is always telling them, and I will start writing them down for her so that she has a record of them. So this term they want to do more reading and writing, as well as trying to turn some of their stories into scripts that they can then make into movies. Ivy in particular is very keen to make some movies, and the younger girls, to act in them. I really want to foster this love of story and their beautiful imaginations at this point, so we’re focusing on that angle for now, rather than getting everything right. I can see already from their desire to dress up as different characters that we’ll be experimenting with costume design and creation as well.

Natalie wants to learn something about ballet, most likely because she has her first lesson back this afternoon and is VERY excited about it 😉 I’ll find something interesting for her to do which means she can learn some more about ballet.

And the new term finally begins!

Term one of 2014 started yesterday, and boy, am I pleased that school (the traditional kind) is back in session. While we love the school holidays because it means our friends who go to regular school can hang out any time (this break I’ve had 5 kids in the house most days, and up to 8 on others!), we also love school going back so that we can enjoy the many wonderful resources of Taranaki without their being masses of other people there. Trips to the library, museum and pool are actually a lot more enjoyable without the chaos. And because it means we can get back to learning about all the things that interest the kids.

Personally, as an introvert, I love this return to normal life. It’s by no means slow or peaceful – there are still three energetic and boisterous girls in the house, and barely a day without an activity scheduled – but it means there is more time to enjoy each others company and deepen our learning, and at least the occasional quiet patch 😉

So far my postings seem to have mainly focused on Lauren, who, since turning five seems to have decided she wants to do all the things. Ivy has made the most of the summer break though and just hung out like the regular school kids. I think she needed it because she seems refreshed and ready to get stuck into some cool learning this term.

The first weeks of February will mostly be about finding our new rhythm. With two school kids, and one pre-school, it’s going to be different again from last year, and I can already see that there will be plenty of challenges along the way. I’m hoping that by the end of the month though, we’ll have discovered a good pattern, and found some things that work for us. The girls too have been contributing to discussion about how we can best maximise our day by letting us know what they need.

Both older girls have said that they really want some one-on-one time, not just with me, but also their Dad, and over the last month or so this has begun to happen naturally, just not at a time I ever thought to include school – right before bed! The girls have been hanging with Dad and playing DragonBox, a fantastic app which teaches the concepts of algebra, and then this last week, we’ve also been working on reading. So, to take this a step further, we’ve decided that once the youngest goes to bed, Ivy will have 20 minutes with me, and Lauren 20 mins with Dad, and then we’ll switch. The girls will make sure they are organized with what they want to do before dinner so that we can get stuck straight into it when that time of the night rolls around.

Not only will this add in some special one-on-one time which the girls need, but it also means that there is another 40 minutes of school type stuff, where the girls can get some focused attention on anything they want – it could be an interest, or a subject they are loving at the moment, or something they are struggling with. It’s their choice, and I’m really interested to see how they decide to use the time.

On top of this, we did some brainstorming yesterday for topics they would like to cover over Term One (and possibly beyond! there are a lot there lol). I’ll be sharing that with you in a separate post, as it’s quite long…

I love that the girls now feel confident enough to tell me what they need, and I’m focusing on trying to say ‘yes’ more often this year.

New theme for October

Now that we’re out of Playcentre and focusing on just home schooling, we’ve decided to try out a slightly new way of doing things.

Until now we’ve followed the kids interests, with not much tying things together. Well, we’re still going to be following the kids interests, but we’re going to try extending a theme over the span of a month and tying as much of what we do to that theme.

At the moment the kids are ALL about Halloween, despite this not being a very widely celebrated holiday in New Zealand. They love monsters and ghouls, and our middle child turns 5 just a few days before Halloween and wants a full on Halloween themed party – so it seems like the perfect theme for the month! I was just browsing through blog themes and found this one, so thought I would change it to match 😉

I’m really looking forward to exploring the history of Halloween, and the ways in which it is celebrated around the world.

Should be fun!