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.

So much to blog about…

IMG_20140728_124504765_HDROver the next few days I am going to try to attempt to catch up on blog posts. I’ve just copied over all the photos from my phone to my computer and there is heaps I never got a chance to put up! Seeing as it’s school holidays and we’re out and about a little less (everything is just SO busy during the school hols and none of us enjoy that). Hopefully I’ll be able to keep on top of things from here on in – I have just two and a bit weeks until my last assignment is handed in and then I’m FREE. I can’t wait to just be a mother and writer, and leave the student days in the past. I’ve learned so much, but it will be nice to have a smaller workload.IMG_20140925_105358203

I thought, however, that I’d put in a couple of pics here to skim over a few of the events of the past 4 months or so, which should leave me with just a few posts to do 😉IMG_20140728_124144710

1404001945208Someone turned four – she had a dinosaur birthday for the second year in a row, and I imagine there will be another one next year! lol We made an epic triceratops pinata, after it met its end, Nati was pretty gutted and we’re going to making a smaller one for her to keep at some point.1403907087918

1405402073283Someone else got taken to Phantom of the Opera! I’ve been dying to go since I was a kid, and have lovely memories of singing along to the record with my mother. Ivy has loved the movie since she was little, so it was pretty amazing to be able to experience the live show for the first time together. Not sure who enjoyed it more – me or her!IMG_20140717_185726105

IMG_20140925_110657748We’ve had lots of nice bush walks, trips to the park and beach, and just, in general, been enjoying life. Lots of library visits, catching up with friends, learning a vast range of things.IMG_20140714_113258149

It’s been possibly the best winter we’ve ever had, in large part due to the fact we’ve been out and about so much – we even had a few trips to the snow (put that’s a whole other post).

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 🙂

Term 3 Swimming

Since beginning the term, we’ve managed to make all but one week of our new swimming session (and we only missed it then because we were all going to Chipmunks for one of our friends birthday parties). This regular time slot, swimming with our friends, has been amazing for the girls confidence in the water and every week I’ve been impressed to see them trying new things.

Ivy has stopped wanting to hold her nose when she’s under the water, improved her freestyle vastly and been enjoying lots of swimming in the deep end. She’s still working on mastering sculling, but she’s getting there. She’s also taken part in several sessions with a lifeguard and the other older kids in our group, learning how to do ‘safety jumps’. The lifeguards have been great since we’ve spoken to them about having time in the deep end, and it’s nice that our kids can splash around now without annoying any aqua-joggers.

Lauren has gone from being afraid to getting her head under the water, to being a little dolphin! She spends most of her time under the water now, learning new ways to move her body and travel. She loves to jump in and does so without needing me to catch her now. She’s spending time in the deep end too, though still needs my assistance – but she can get back to the edge on her own now which is awesome. The jump is too high for her to do safety jumps, but just last week her and a friend were doing their own version off the edge in the shallower ends. Love that they are copying what the big kids are doing in a way that is safe for them! She’s been a great motivator for one of her younger friends too, role modelling and encouraging her to go under the water as well and take some more (safe) risks. I have loved watching the two of them become so confident in the water over the term.

Natalie has been doing her own thing as well. She’s moving around a lot more confidently, and jumping off the side of the poo into my arms, and occasionally by herself in the shallower parts, though until just last week, was entirely unconvinced about a) wearing goggles, and b) putting her head under the water. This last week she decided to give the new goggles a better go and seemed to enjoy not getting water in her eyes as much. Funnily, it was after she discarded them that she decided to show me a new trick – putting her head under the water! I was so thrilled. She showed a few other people, and is feeling pretty chuffed with herself. I imagine that in another six months she’ll be just as active beneath the water as her sisters.

I wish I had some pics to share, but I’m always in the water with them. It’s lovely to see their confidence blooming and their skills growing – every week at least one of them has tried something new. We’re looking forward to the weather warming up and doing some swimming in the sea and rivers around the area – which will mean a whole new set of skills!

On Reading

I have just finished reading an article – a very timely one I might add. It seems like every time I get that itch to force my kid to sit down and start focusing on reading, something like this crops up. It’s so very hard at times, to be doing what we do, and to know that it goes against everything that the majority of people believe. To give your kids the space to learn when they are ready to learn, and not buy into the pressure of rushing them. To fight back that clawing panic that you’re doing them a disservice.

And yet, I know that when you do relax and let things unfold at a natural pace, great things happen.

Ivy enjoyed learning to read in her first year at school, but it quickly got too hard for her and she hated it. Loathed it. Rejected it wholly with force. She wouldn’t even let me read chapter books to her, because it reminded her that she couldn’t do it yet.

If you press a child hard to do something when she is really developmentally unable to do it — I made that mistake more than once, and our schools make it every day — the psychological shutdown that occurs is catastrophic. Simply catastrophic. Let me repeat this: when you push a child to do something she simply developmentally can not do, you create a profound belief that (a) I hate this; (b) I can’t do this; (c) I will never be able to do this, and (d) There’s something wrong with me. – from A Thousand Suns

So we read a lot of picture books. We made up stories of our own. We took ALL the pressure off and never mentioned reading to her. I got graphic novels out of the library thinking that perhaps that might be a gateway, she thrived on those for a little bit. And then, Lauren told her that I had cried at the end of one of the books we’d read together, and Ivy desperately wanted to know WHY. What had happened in the book that had driven me to tears?

She asked Lauren if she could read the book, she took herself off, and she read the whole thing and then we talked about the ending, how it was sweet and lovely, and we were so pleased that all the puppies found a home. And then she read another book, and another, and even though she isn’t taking her meds now, she hasn’t stopped reading since. She sometimes reads four chapter books a week, and I KNOW that it’s because I let her take that breather, forget about her reading experiences at school and come to it again on her own terms.

Coupled with the research which shows the following, I think I just need to step back and let my kids be kids. They are starting to read, words here and there, words that have meanings to them. I want my kids to LOVE reading, to love story the same way that I do, so I’ll do anything to foster that love.

By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later – Article link here.