Thursday, December 29, 2005


Talking with friends about unschooling and structure.

Reading a blog about unschooling, which had many links to homeschool schedules.

These are not traditional post Xmas activities but are where I am today.

Structure can be developed, though. I like to do lists and 'getting things done." I just don't force my need for minimal structure onto my kids.

Instead, we discover rhythms and dances, meeting needs and wants and blending these in a large family. Especially right now, when all seven boys are at home.

Sometimes, too, my structure and example rub off onto others in the family.

Thomas mentioned that he never got around to the extra things he wanted to do. I suggested he make to do list at the start of the week, so he can write the things on a post it pad and stick it on his bedroom door. I have no input on this list and never check it myself but T likes the (minimal) structure, simply because it is his.

That is Thomas, in orange, in the photo. Anthony is the other - the one eating ice cream!

More on structure.

Father Xmas also gave Jonathon a diary , a cool Triple J diary. The idea being to encourage the jotting down of and keeping track of his Open University assignments.

We'll see. Perhaps he'll develop his own system. Or maybe he prefers the nebulous organic approach to university asignments - I have seen this work with his older brothers. Their approach to structure is diferent to mine, but still valid and effective.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Unschooling is..

I have shared this with others but wanted to keep the quote here, for a record. So I can look back and read and remember.

I like the description of unschooling in Rue Keam's book - Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled life.

" We choose to live in ways that keep us conected and involved in each other's day to day lives. ..We believe that learning will happen in its own time and is not more important than loving or hoping or laughing. We live without subjects, in a world where life is not separated into neat little pieces but instead swirls and flows together in ways we could never design....Our unschooling is our parenting is our life together."

And Christmas was fun. Mass was beautiful. Having all the boys together is great.

And I got the book "The Taebo Way."

Friday, December 16, 2005


Yessterday was the last Teen Group for the year - we went to the beach.

It was a seriously beautiful day. I loved the surf, the lunch on the grassed area was fun and the kids loved swimming and catching up with friends.

Christmas and Advent are always times of endings for us - it is the start of the summer holidays and many regular activities finish.

Some people finish homeschooling, with the aim for children to start school in the new year , at the end of January or beginning of February, when schools resume.

Other people plan to start homeschooling in the new year, so we know the new year will often bring new people to our outings and groups.

So, we are finishng off our Christmas crafts with decorating teddies - well, its mostly the youngest, but he is having a whale of a time and getting suggestions from the others.

Next week, the three youngest fly interstate to spend time with their older brothers. And Alexander will have his braces removed!

At home, it will just be dh, I and Jonathon. Weird having only one child at home!

Everyone returns on the night of the 23rd for Christmas - all nine of us will be home for Christmas.

I am planning on a Father Christmas photo for Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Another Christmas Activity

We are aiming to complete at least one Christmas or Advent craft each week.

Now, I know one does not sound like much but the weather here has been HOT and we have been swimming and indoor ice skating ( both of which are a great way to stay cool in summer!).

We have the end of year drama presentations and rehearsals for carols at church - J and A are playing and singing in the youth band for the carols.

We have end of year teen group and time to catch up with friends ...Mmm...A minimum of one craft a week fits nicely.

This week we made miniature gingerbread houses. The original recipe called for graham crackers - what are they??? We substituted milk coffee biscuits.

We had trouble with the icing and decorations, as it was a hot, thirty five degree Celsius day.

Finally, everything "gelled". And we were proud of our creations.

Here are the instructions, in case you are interested -

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Art Attack

My younger two sons really enjoy the Art Attack TV Shows and the complementary website.

Last Friday, we made some Christmas Baubles for the tree, following the directions from the Art Attack website.

The Baubles were easy to make and look great!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Our Day in Chinatown

Back, way back, in September, I posted about a Saturday spent in Chinatown and in the city.

Finally found some pics - here I am at the entrance to Chinatown, with Jonathon (16), Alexander (14), Thomas (12) , Anthony just turned 10.

See any resemblance to our older three sons? You can double click on the pic to enlarge..

A Fancy Dress Party

Awhile ago, Jonathon and Alexander were invited to a fancy dress party.

We tried to think of pairs, of characters that fit together, since the two were going to the party together.

We came up with the Blues Brothers, Starsky and Hutch and Neo and Morpheus from the Matrix, among others.

Our final decision was based on what was easily available at the op shop - A found a cool, inexpensive leather jacket, so the Matrix it was.

Here they are as Neo ( Jonathon, 16) and Morpheus ( Alexander, 14).

The Phantom of the Opera

We recently viewed the DVD of this opera. At Thomas' request.

It was magnificent. We all enjoyed the costumes and sets, the fade outs to black and white, the time travel.

Oh, and the music. The theme song haunted me for days.

Thomas and i want the soundtrack, now.

A Day in the Life of A Cheerful Catholic Unschooler

From an email and a day of last week -

Today we all got up late-ish. I exercised ( Taebo again!) and dh went for a walk. Alexander did his tai chi and yoga. Thomas and Anny played computer games, got themselves dressed, beds made, ate breakfast. At 8.30 am I woke up Jonathon as he and Alexander had a band practice today with hs friends and I knew we'd have to leave around 9.30.

Anny has been sick these last few days so he was going to stay home with dh and Thomas. I reminded them that later today was their piano and keyboard lesson so a practise might be a good idea. When I left, they were talking on the phone to their older brother Greg.

I know while I was gone, they played Uno with dh, played music, did some handwriting ( they both want to work on cursive writing), did their exercises ( we have a family fitness focus right now) and played games on the Playstation.

Jonathon, Alexander and I drove to a friend's house. Discussed the clouds and weather. They and two homeschool friends had a jam session, trying out a new song Jonathon had written and a new song another band member had written. I sat in the family room and had coffee and chatted to the other mums, the 17 year old dd of one friend and the friend's dh.

On the way home, it started to rain so we phoned dh and asked him to bring the others and meet us at McDonalds McCafe for a treat lunch. While there we talked about lower fat choices - eg skim milk iced chocolates for Thomas and dh and a skim milk decaf cappaccino for me!

Home again and Thomas made phone calls about some toys for which he is saving . Anthony read his book for Advent reading - More About the Saints. Jonathon got to work on writing more songs and readng a James Thurber book. Alexander played guitar and read some of his Advent book - Mere Christianity. I surfed the internet and wrote email!

They all played an rpg with Anny ( his love - Tunnels and Trolls) from 2- 2.45 , when it was time for music lessons. Anny wanted to divide 223 among 4 for the game so I showed him how to set out and complete division algorithms.Dh is on holidays so while the two boys were at lessons and the other two at home, we went for a walk. Together.It started to rain again!

Dh walked home and Thomas and Anthony and I went to the shops for some groceries and to hire a new PS2 game. We talked about the ethics of war and asassins!

Home again, dh was working on his hobby models , Jonathon and Alexander were using the computers, Thomas and Anthony jumped on the trampoline and went back to the Playstation. I did laundry and started dinner.

We had dinner watching Dr Who on the ABC and compared different Doctors. I cleaned the kitchen, including giving the cupboards a scrub. Then Jonathon, Alexander and I went to Tai Chi class .

Home from Tai Chi and Thomas said he had finished his Advent reading - Mary and Frances by Eleanor Spence, about Blessed Mary Makillop. Anny finished his reading and told me about St John of God.

We prayed the rosary and talked briefly about Christmas customs - trees, red and green. Then I read the next chapter from Mao's Last Dancer - and we all just had a long discussion about communism and capitalism and religion and culture. We looked up info on Marx and Engels and Mao Zedung and Lin Biao .

Anny is off to bed, after asking me to choose on of our homemade books for him to read in bed - I chose one Greg wrote whgen he was 14 - Australian Explorers. Thomas is playing the keyboard, Jonathon is writing and Alexnder is reading and Gerry is back at models and I am typing!

Its 10.00 pm and I think we have had a full unschooling day.

....So, there was our day. What do you think?

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I posted this recently on an email list.

I would like to share this with others - joy is such an important concept for me.

Friends and I have talked a lot about joy and unschooling and our kids and our faith. How they mesh.

A and I are reading Chesterton's "Orthodoxy". We bought it yesterday. There is a great quote on joy , which I'd like to share -

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live......

Joy, ..... is the gigantic secret of the Christian...."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Papal Feminism

I was reading this morning, from Witness To Hope - a bio of Pope John Paul II, by George Weigel.

I was reading from the section titles "Papal Feminism." Intriguing, huh?

This is some of what Weigel had to say, about PJ2 and his thoughts on the role of women.

" Mary, he {the Pope} suggested, was the first disciple, for her assent to the angel's message made possible the incarnation of the Son of God. ...The ' Marian profile' in the church is, John Paul suggested, even 'more..fundamental' than the 'Petrine profile.' Without being divided from it, the 'Marian Church" - the church of disciples - preceded and made possible the 'Petrine Church' - the Church of office and authority....The message was unmistakable. Discipleship came before authority in the church, and sanctity came before power, even the apostolically transmitted priestly power.....This was Mariology demolishing the last vestiges of the idea of the Church-as-absolute-monarchy. "

I talked of radical in the post below.

When I think of radical and Christianity together, I think of the late Pope John Paul II.

Our faith and unschooling

I am on several unschooling email lists, two of which are faith specific.

One of these is the Radical Christian Unschoolers list - it is not that we are radical Christians but more that we are radical unschoolers who are also Christian.

What is meant by the term radical? The email list blurb says " On this list there will be no talk of curriculum, partial enrollment, spanking, chore charts, coercive limitations, forced respect, or anything else that doesn't jive with radical unschooling. " The blurb also quotes Galatians -

Gal 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." ~NIV

Recently, there was a discussion on this list about our faith and our unschooling. Can the two mix? Is there a dichotomy there, somewhere?

A poster said that she found that as she unschooled more, she learned more about her faith. And vice verse. Someone else pointed out that, if this is where God has lead us, then we need to listen to His prompting, in the gifts and talents and personalities of our dc, and not necessarily look to curriculum .

And this is where I am - acceptance. Acceptance of where and who we are, and moving along with the help of the Sacraments.

Today we went "op shop shopping" - found some good bargains with books, Christmas books and cards, clothes. We peeked in an antique store and admired the old tins. There was an original Mortein fly spray pump, the kind that was used before aerosal sprays were invented. We tried this out and marvelled at the technology of the times.

We went to Koorong Books, a Christian book and music store, and bought an animated version of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. I think we are becoming Narnia obsessed, in preparation for the new movie. We keep looking at the Narnia movie books, at the website, we have re-read several books in the series, we have found out info about the new Narnia game for PC/gaming systems.

And T got an early birthday present - a PS2. It was on sale, secondhand, the newer slimline version, and it seemed a bargain too good to be missed! Hey, an early birthday present is fun.

We also bought another DVD in the Gurardian Angels Force series and G K Chesterton's book "Orthodoxy". A and I love Chesterton and this is one we haven't read.

We had lunch out and talked about making healthier selections. And about our favourite foods ( curry for several of us!). J and A are at part time work at Kumon right now and T and Anny are watching the Angels DVD as I type. Anny is also doing mazes and crossword puzzles at the same time. G is working on his models and watching the DVD, too. And talking about who will be the bad guy in the film. We all like to do two things at once, it seems.

This is where we were lead today - and it is a day full of experiences and learning and reading and family time and game playing and movie watching. It doesn't look like a typical school day but that is where we are.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

What we have been up to..

This pic of a rose is similar to a rose I picked on Friday, on our way back to the car from the train station. The rose was from a bush growing wild near the carpark at the semi rural railway station - it was growing in an old lot. There must have been a house there once and it is now demolished. But the garden plants remain.

The rose now stands alone in a small vase, sitting on the wood cabinet in our entry area. It is a rich colour and has a mild fragrance. I love flowers in the house!

Where did we go on the train on Friday? Well, we left home at 8.30 a.m. We picked up a homeschool teen girl and met another homeschool family at the railway station. It was great to have company on the hour long train trip.

We went to the Art Gallery - then to lunch at a food hall and a visit to Border's and to CD shops. Finally, we all met a group of homeschoolers for an excursion to Parliament House.

This was an excursion I had organized awhile ago and while the group attending was not large, the information and tour was great. We had an interesting tour guide, who ad libbed and added in side remarks. These were humourous and often sarcastic. We found out not only about the Parliamentary process but also about the history of the early colony and how one gets to be a tour guide at Parliament House. The guides made the tour interactive and had children playing the roles of different politicians.

Then, home again on the train - and that is when I found the rose. We arrived home around 5.30 p.m.

What else have we been up to? The usual drama class, skateboarding, iceskating, gymnastics, tai chi. Library visits, part time work. Shopping for new clothes for the boys for summer - interesting to see how the youngest two ( 10 and 12) have grown.

I am reading aloud Mao's Last Dancer by Liu Cunxin.

Automatically, while reading,we get into research and discussion about the Chinese revolution, the Chinese culture, communism and capitalism.

We have also purchased and read the latest Lemony Snickett book - "The next to last." I still have to finish the book - but I am reading at least four books right now!

We watched Kingdom of Heaven ( some bits we ffed through). This had us spending a week reading about the crusades and everyone wrote a narration on some event or person from the crusades.

The teens, dh and I watched The Interpeter. Quite suspenseful but also topical - we discussed Africa and civil war and human rights.

We went to ten pin bowling with the Homeschool Teen group- younger siblings and mums welcome! It was a good day, followed by picnic lunch along the Nepean River. The boys and I pondered the importance of water to the early settlers of this area.

Every Saturday, the boys play an rpg with Anny. Rpgs are his love - he has the Star Wars one right now. They create characters, roll die, enact scenes.

T and J have been doing the Canadian Air Force fitness programme - 5BX for males ( XBX for females). A keeps up with tai chi practice and martial arts. Anny does bouncing on the trampoline and lifts my barbell without the added weights - it is cute to see a ( small) ten year old working out.

I have been doing the Taebo Bootcamp and some new Denise Austin workouts. Gerry keeps up with his walks.

Fitness galore!

It's over!

The Homeschool Spring Concert is over! Yay!

It was a fun day and we certainly enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed everyone's acts and had a ball of fun performing ourselves.

However, since our kids ( and thus, by implication, our family) were some of the organizers, it is a relief to have the work over - to feel the satisfaction of a job completed, a job well done.

No more worries!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Night at the movies....

Hey all, Jonathon here. Finally back!

Haven't been up to an awful lot lately, just the normal stuff.
My brother and I are still working on our band (State of Decay). We've all learning some covers,
including a Jimi Hendrix song, but I'm writing a lot of originals. I'd like to begin recording a demo in January, but who knows right now!

One thing we have been doing a lot lately is watching movies! There're some great new releases coming out, so. We've watched "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Batman Begins" and "The Interpreter", all really good. I was a bit unsure about Batman at first. The last Batman movies have all been pretty bad.....except for the Tim Burton one, but that was far too dark for my liking. Tim Burton has great imagery, but his films get a bit hard to sit through without squirming. The part where Catwoman put all her stuffed animals into the blender for instance......

But anyway, this Batman was good. It had a really good brooding moodiness about the atmosphere, something that was accentuated by Christian Bale's acting. He's impressed me before, with films like "Equilibriam" and "Reign of fire", but this is probably his best performance so far.....He actually portrayed Batman with real feeling and emotion, something which Clooney's version lacked.

My favourite part of the movie would probably have to be when Batman is given a dose of Scarecrow's fear gas. A bit surreal and rather chilling, but very effective. It almost made me scared of bats.

And Hitchhiker's is fun....Very unusual, almost offbeat humour.
The kind of film that some people are going to love, and that some people won't get at all.
Douglas Adam's script is almost as good as the book. Almost though.
As far as the acting goes, the casting is perfect. Every character looks talks and acts just the way you'd want them to, especially Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Rockwell's characters are always a little Zany, but Beeblebrox was hilariously insane. Just his appearance with the whistle in place of a cigarette for instance. When I saw that in the cinema, I couldn't help laughing.

Unfortunately, I didn't actually watch most of the Interpreter. It was just far too suspenseful for me. I really can't handle suspense you see. From what I did see, it was good. Had a very good statement to make.
I've never actually been a big fan of Nicole Kidman or Sean Penn, but their acting here was absolutely believable. Even Kidman's french accent was good.

So, some films I really enjoyed. Some of the best I've seen in a while (I've been on a Kurt Russel/John Carpenter kick. Unusual films.)

I'm going to try and get a movie called Brazil I read about in my course on film art, so I'll post a review soon!

Bye for now,


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Microscopes and Plants and MC Lars

This week, a miscroscope arrived in the mail - addressed to Anny!

We had subscribed to the Horrible Science magazines - we already get the Horrible Histories magazines, although that series is almost finished.

One of the special offers with the subscription was a new microscope - one of those models with a viewing screen at the front, in addition to the usual eye hole.

There was major excitement in the house when the microscope arrived. Anny and T spent several hours investigating the slides that came with the micrscope and also making their own slides and observing. A found an old How and Why book about microscopes and we compared the old model in the book to our model.

That same day, I was putting dried kidney beans into the crock pot to cook. I decided to save a few and keep them on a saucer of damp tissue, to observe the growth.

The beans are now staring to sprout. We have talked about plant growth and conditions for growth and photosynthesis. I looked up some information on the growth of seeds and shoots in our Childcraft book The Green Kingdom - and now this book is on display in the kitchen. This makes it handy to reference during our observations.

BTW, this is a pic of the rapper MC Lars. The Homeschool Spring Concert is on next Sunday and J and A are part of a group of teens who are organising the concert - no adult organisers! T will help sell tickets on the day.

T, Anny and I are going to perform MC Lars' rap version of the poem "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Should be fun, I hope. We have our baseball caps to wear backwards :-) and some props.

J and A are performing in a "rock" band with some other homeschoolers - A is bass guitar and J is the vocals ( and dancer/performer!). They are playing a rendition of Purple Haze ( Jimi Hendrix) and The Anthem ( Good Charlotte).

Sunday, October 16, 2005


"Children should transcribe favourite passages.-- A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verse, should give them pleasure." Charlotte Mason, Volume One of The Original Homeschooling Series.

It was my suggestion, tonight, for us to do some copywork ( or, as Mason calls it above, some transcription ) in our journals. There was some "do nothing" time, in between our return home from Mass and waiting for dinner to finish cooking.

We each transcribed our current, favourite passages.

For A, this was a neat copy of a poem that he has been writing - The Machine.

For J, it was song lyrics.

For Anny, it was Tony Hawke's Ten Hardest Skateboard tricks - Anny has just finished reading Hawke's autobiography for children.

For T, it was verse one of The Charge of the Light Brigade. This drew T, Anny and G into a discussion of the Light Brigade, the battles, the Crimean War, differing concepts of obedience and honour and duty.

For me - some words of wisdom about small changes leading to progression, to bigger and better things.

I guess, that if the kids had baulked at copywork, then the whole idea could have been dropped - for now? As it was, it is a family thing - we all ( well, most of us) try to update our journals or nature journals in some way on a regular basis - so it is as natural for us as talking and sharing. It is something we do together - although T has been known to complain.

At times like that, he usually elects to draw while we write or transcribe.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beach Biology

Today we went to Fisherman's Beach with other homeschoolers. Beach Biology is something we enjoyed with a group of homeschoolers in Adelaide - visiting the same beach each month and walking,playing, observing. We use field guides and may sketch or take photos.

It is fascinating to really see the changes at the beach over the seasons. And the social aspect is also enjoyable.

I am so glad to be a part of this beginning Beach Biology group. It was a glorious day at the beach, walking, observing and sharing lunch after.We found chocolate shale, ironstone, bubble weed and many other specimens - all of which must remain at the reef.

We learned a bit about the history of the reef - there was even copper mining there in the 1880s.

What is a textbook?

It is the close of school holidays and thus the re-commencement of all our homeschool and other commitments.

In the spirit of thinking about the new term, I asked the boys about their plans and ideas for the upcoming weeks.

T mentioned a science textbook.

Anny asked - "What is a textbook?"

It is funny - he has read many living books but we are not into textbooks here, usually - so he had no idea of what T was talking about.

T's description of a textbook was pretty unique, too.

Too Many Books, Too Little Time

Or perhaps I should say, too many things to do, too little time to blog.

That is how it has been these last two weeks. And one of the "many things" to do has been reading late at night . I have had a stack of books to read and have been reading in bed, getting involved in the stories.

Most of these books have been fiction, which is pretty unusual for me. Maybe I have needed this time . I know that my kids often need down time and it is in the down time, the rest time, that one can sometimes see progress and growth.

I have also read a book by an Australian mum, Karen Gatt, who lost an amazing 67kg. The book is her story, in question and answer format - "Why Haven't I lost Weight Yet?".

Catchy title, huh?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On dominoes and blogging

Last night, T found our old dominoes set. A looked up the rules and variations in Hoyle's Book of Games. The T wanted us to play a game.

It was late - ten p.m. I was tired . But I am glad that I got on the rug to play, as we had a fun game, full of conversation and connections. A nice way to spend time together before bed.

We put the dominoes on the breakfast bar in order to play more games today. After folding the newspapers for the boys' newspaper round.

Playing dominoes with some of the kids made me feel less tired.

In a way, I thought that spending time with the dominoes game was a lot like blogging our family's homeschooling - it is in blogging that I sometimes see the learning and family relationships. Playing dominoes gave me joy and energy. Blogging our days allows me to see the big picture.

There is a tendency in blogging to write only about the good times, the not tired or cross times. It is interesting to me that this seems to happens simply because those are the times I remember - the frustrating times pass.

How do we turn around a day of irritation and crossness? For me, it often becomes an act of will. I remember the educator Charlotte Mason and her motto - 'I am, I can, I ought, I will."

I will myself to change the day around, my attitude around. I explain this to my children and encourage them to do the same.

A good way for us to get over the doldrums or crossness or frustration is to do something completely different. Either in the home or out.

Perhaps a picnic on the sitting room floor. Have a light sabre championship or play croquet or other sport.Turn the trampoline upside down and play games on it. Go for a walk. Cook something fun. Go to the shops or to a museum or a park or the library. Grab a snack or meal out. Bring down some old toys or cratfs to play and build. Buy some new toys or games or paints or pencils. Dance to music. Sing and play an instrument. Watch a video. Play Tekken on the Playstation.


Later, perhaps, we can work on the source of the problem but the immediate solution, for us, is to break the cross mould!

Monday, September 26, 2005


Anny and T have become quite interested in weather and weather patterns.

This interest began with discussions about the local drought. A homeschool mother also shared stories of floods in our area, floods that happened over ten years ago. I must admit that the thought of floods had us all pondering escape routes!

Then the news of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita spurred more discussion and interest - and we borrowed a book from the library titled "Howling Hurricanes".

I noticed some unusual cloud formations and A and I talked about clouds - cirro-cumulus, cirrus, cumuls, cumulo-nimbus. We remembered reading about this an old Ladybird book called 'The Story of Weather".

A dug this book out from our "Ladybird bookshelves" ( in Anny's room) and the book is now on display for perusal in the kitchen.

At the shopping centre yesterday G spotted a Smithsonian weather station science kit. It was on special, so we bought it, to further ignite the weather interest. T and Anny set it up today and G printed some weather charts from the internet.

We began our recordings and observations today.

For me, all this has a feeling of deja vu. I remember the older boys - L, G, N - having a weather station and keeping a record chart. Was that when we lived in Wembley?

Lots of helpful charts here, including a weather chart -

The educational exchange between parents and children

From Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II -

All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family "a school of deeper humanity"(59): this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.

A fundamental opportunity for building such a communion is constituted by the educational exchange between parents and children,(60) in which each gives and receives.

Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life. But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of "reconciliation," that is, communion reestablished, unity restored.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

NOT Three Men in a Boat.

We love the book Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. It is quite humorous.

There is also an old film version available.

Well, last night we did not have three men in a boat. But we did have three priests over for dinner - and it was an enjoyable evening, with much humour. It was the laughter that prompted me to remember Jerome's book.

The three priests were two Franciscans - one from our parish and newly ordained - and a priest friend from interstate.

A friend recently posted a quote from Pope John Paul II on her blog. It was " "Families, be who you are!"

I guess that we are who we are, like it or not - but sometimes I do wonder - who are we as individuals and as a family?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

My photographs.....

Hey all, I'm back!

Thought I'd just let you in on what's happening lately.
First of all, you might remember a few posts back when I said I was thinking of setting up
my clothing company? Well, it's slowly taking shape.....I've got a few good designs, including one
with some text saying "FEUD" which I like. My first step at the moment is to put together a
design sheet which will display the shirts. For that, I'm going to need to take some photographs
of myself or someone else, and modify them in photoshop, just to kind of model the clothes.

So today we were all at group learning, the last one of the term! Just finishing off our design projects that we've been working on, like Alexander's logo and my shirt, and Thomas' lunch box. At the end, we had a man whose career has actually been design, mainly in lighting, talk to us about how he's done things and his design process....pretty interesting actually!

And on to the final section of my posts, the "What I'm Into" section.

I've been reading "Because of Winn Dixie", a book about a preacher's daughter named Opal and her foundling pet dog. The book follows the summer of when Opal found the dog and named him Winn Dixie, and all the good things that happen because of him.

The art I like right now is a lot of stuff by the cartoonist John Kovalic, a really funny guy.
His work always makes me laugh, no matter what. I'm also into art by Billy Martin, he draws a lot of stuff reminiscent of the art in Dr. Seuss. Sounds strange, but it's actually really good.
Wish I could post a link, but unfortunately his website isn't finished yet. Maybe next month though.

I'm getting back into the band "Mest" now. I picked up one of their records a while ago, but now it's finally growing on me, especially the tracks "Shell of Myself" and "Lost and Confused".
Their new album "Photographs" comes out next month, so I'm looking forward to that.
I'm also really enjoying a lot of jazz, especially Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. Brubeck's album "Take 5" is really a masterpiece of 50's "cool jazz", as they call it. Very laid back and relaxed.
Music to go to sleep to. When the slow lilting piano on Take 5 gives way to the soft gentle drum solo in the middle, you really want to just listen to it forever. Very good.

Well, it's getting late where I am right now, time to head off to bed. I love this hour of night, when everything seems so still and silent, and you look out at the night sky....after a good day, the stars shine so's just totally peaceful......

Well, good night all.



I was asked to do the "lollipop" learning station at group learning today - the theme was inventions and inventors.

The boys and I had a practice run last night, after teen group and a visit from friends. We found some interesting history about the word lollipop and the first lollipop machines. We also learned about the crystalline structure of lollipops - it is amorphous and thus similar to glass, a non orderly arrangement of atoms. This means that the candy will not shatter into many pieces when one takes a bite.

We also adapted the lollipop recipe and made it simpler. Basically, we eliminated the corn syrup and the cream of tartar - it still worked fine, with and without moulds.

We made red and green lollipops, with lemon essence.

The history of lollipops -

The original lollipop recipe, before our adaptations -

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mother Teresa

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action." ~~ Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Johm Holt and Raymond Moore

A lovely day yesterday. We caught the train to the city with another homeschool family and then met other homeschoolers at the Botannical Gardens for lunch. T, Anny and I went to the Opera House with the group, to see a play about rice and world hunger - Arborio.

T didn't appreciate it but Anny enjoyed it and I like to analyze how actors work with few props, a script and only two people. The play was in the Utzon Room, named after the designer of the Opera House and the view over the harbour area made me hold my breath and gaze.

J and A walked over to the Museum of Contemporary Art while we were at the play. They walked with a few other older homeschool guys. We like this place and have already been several times - we are often intrigued by modern art.

Afterwards, a few families and my family caught the train up to Borders - where the kids looked at books and CDs and we all had coffee and drinks and chat.

By the time we caught the train home ( an hour) and then drove home from the station, it was six o'clock. Quick, homemade chicken burgers for dinner!

One of the other mothers and I talked about early homeschooling in Australia. I mentioned that the first books I read about homeschooling were those by Holt and the Moores and how their relaxed philosophy influenced me. Now( present) and then ( past). This seems to be in direct contrast to many homeschoolers now, who are into curriculum from the way go. It is interesting to see how different families approach parenting and education.

I also thought about acceptance. About how much of homeschooling, unschooling and family life is about acceptance of the other person(s) - not as who you wish they were but as who they are.

I tend to want to over intellectualize things when sometimes life should be an act of faith and trust.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Am I really this old???

Went to the HYPE youth day at Baulkham Hills with the boys today. Well, J and A are still there.

I really enjoyed the bands ( screamo, J tells me) and the skateboarding comp.

But, hey, I am not a youth but a mother of youths! Yet I had a cool time.

How did I get to be old - I still feel the same inside!!!

Friday, September 16, 2005


I keep a folder of great ideas and activities from the internet. I also throw in any fun worksheets that people pass on or I pick up.

This is kind of an activity folder, for the kids to peruse when they are looking for ideas. I have another folder with all those wondeful posts on life and homeschooling - you know, ideas and inspiration for me.

Both need regular sorting.

So, yesterday, I started sorting. Doing so meant that the children became interested in the folder and activities.

T found a sheet with a problem solving activity - make a cotton ball catapult using only a ruler, tape, plastic spoon, two rubber bands. He had fun! And also a bit of frustration.

A made an icosahedron, with paper and a compass and scissors and tape.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

T shirts, graphic design, and high fives all 'round....

Hi all, it's Jonathon again!

So what have I been up to?
Well, for one thing, I've finally done what I've been trying to do for around a year now, I've
designed and made my own t-shirt! It's only one shirt, but I feel like a fully fledged designer...
The shirt was made using a plain black t-shirt and an iron on transfer, with the design hand drawn and then finished using Adobe photoshop on a 30x30 cm image.

Basically, it's inspired by the american clothing line "Famous stars and straps", but with a cartoon twist.

At the moment, I'm not making any more, but in the future, one of my goals is to actually set up an independant clothing label, similar to "Made" or "Atticus".

Anyway, we'll see what happens!

What am I into right now.....

I'm reading "The story of the Amulet", by E. Nesbit. Mum read it aloud to us a while ago, but after just watching "The 5 children and It" last night (good movie, highly recommend it) I felt like reading some more Nesbit.

I haven't been watching any other movies of interest, but I have a sudden urge to watch Walt Dysney's "Aladin". Don't laugh, it's a good film!

As far as music goes, I've been listening to The Beatle's "White Album", the MC5's "Back in the USA" and some Jazz music by Dave Brubeck. Someone just recommended Story of the year, so I'll have a look into that on the weekend.

Lastly, I've been skateboarding. I can't seem to get the hang of kick turns, so I guess more practice is in order! I guess there's no hurry though.


The above image is copyright J Westenberg, september 2005.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who we are..

Reading aloud from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the other night caused us to stop, think, talk.

Who are we?

We talked about Edmund and his choices and why he may have made those choices. About the different choices that Edmund could have made. About the relationship between Peter and Edmund and how one could have helped the other.

Finally, we wondered about ourselves as people, as Catholics, and about the choices we make.

Literature can often reveal ideas to us, can't it?

Is it educational?

We have had a busy few days and so I haven't blogged. J has - he wrote his review of the film The Life Aquatic.

Actually, now I come to think of it, we have more busy days than not. Is it because of the numbers and ages of the people in our family? Is it where we live? Is it the kind of people we are - I am?

Yesterday, we another teen group meeting. We played mini golf or putt putt, followed by lunch and play/hang out time at a park. I think the social time is just as important for the mums as it is for the teens. And the younger ones are playing together nicely, too - well, for the most part.

We took some extra boys with us in the car to the park. Then a few extra home. Our arival home was full of hopeful wishes from T - he had ordered some new computer games and has been anxious and cross each day when the post arrives, sans computer games.

Yesterday, however, was his lucky day - the games were in the post. So, the older boys and friend played Halo 2 and the younger ones played the board/strategy/simulation game called Hero Scape.

Oh, and T had a nasty fall at skateboarding on Tuesday - he wasn't wearing his knee pads. He is still limping around on that leg and the burn/graze is still healing.

Last night we watched a film, circa 1993, called APEX. Sci-fi, with some anomalies but interesting questions were posed - how would time travel affect the future? What responsibilites do scientists have for their discoveries and inventions? The film was reminicsient of the earlier Terminator movies - especially Terminator 2.

Talking of posing questions, a couple of friends posed some discussion provoking questions at skateboarding on Tuesday. One was - "Do you let your dc watch moives during the day" When I replied in the affirmative, the next question was - "Do the movies have to be educational?"

Now, this is a tricky question to answer. If, by educational, one means documentaries, history or science related films, educational TV shows - well, the answer is no. No, the films don't have to fit that definition of "educational" - but they can!

However, if one has a broader definition of education, well, then all the films we watch are educational. Who know what discussion will folloow the film? ( Or, in our family, will happen throughout the film?). Who knows what the viewer thinks about while watching the film? Who knows what the viewer brings to the medium, or what trails will be followed as a result of the film?

After watching The Life Aquatic, I am more interested in Jaques Cousteau. I picked one of his books from our shelves for our coffee table perusal. I told J and A that, after group learning today, I want to do an internet serach on Cousteau. Who knew that this would be where that film would lead?

Is it educational? Yes. Is it life? You bet.

BTW, while the movie was rated R in the U.S., it was only rated M here.....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What are you reading?

A friend recently asked this question of the boys. They looked blankly for a few minutes. Since I , like the boys, always have several books going at once, I can identify with the blank look. Which book do you tell about? Does the listener want to hear about all the books in which you are dabbling? Are some too private to mention?

A reading question seems innocent enough. It can be a dilemma, though, to know exactly what and how much to share with the person posing the question.

So, what are we reading?

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis ( a read aloud - have you seen the trailers for the new movie?)

Body for Life for Women.

Pride and Prescience ( a Mr and Mrs Darcy mystery - a mystery story as a follow up to Pride and Prejudice).

Murderous Maths - Numbers

Essys by Hillaire Belloc

The Hound of Ulster by Rosemary Sutcliffe

The Hades Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum

1066 And All That

Fall of the Kingdom by Hillary Bell ( a fantasy novel)

Books by P G Wren

The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina by Caroline Lawrence ( and others in these mysteries for kids, set in Roman times)

Snoopy and Charlie Brown comics

Writers Inc

Prose and Poetry

Steady Boy Steady and Horse Sense - by the authors of 1066 And All That and satirically funny.

The newspaper and news on ninemsn - some of us have been almost consumed by a need to know more about both Hurricane Katrina and the NSW Liberals leadership fiasco.

Witness to Hope - the biography of Pope John Paul II.

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaardner

The Idiot's Guide to Starting Up A Band

The Rolling Stones Concise

Method Songwriting by Buddy Kaye

The Sunday Missal

Can you guess who is reading which book? You may be surprised!

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Life Aquatic

Well, I ( Jonathon) finally finished off The Life Aquatic........I was actually really impressed by it!
However, I'll start with the film's faults. The most major of these is probably that it is very slow
for the first half of the film, with almost nothing but straight out weirdness to sustain it.
The second fault is that it is probably too weird for most people, deinately an alternative film.

But if you can get past the weirdness and the first half, you'll love this film.
The film begins with Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), oceanographer and documentary filmmaker attending the premier of his newest film, part one of a documentary on the "Jaguar Shark".

At the climax of the (rather fake looking) documentary, Zissou's partner, is killed by the shark.
In the question time after the film, Zissou is asked what part two of the documentary will be about. He tells the audience he is going to kill the jaguar shark, he doesn't know how, maybe dynamite. Someone asks what scientific purpose this will serve.

"Revenge" he replies.

The documentary is a flop, everyone is cutting Zissou's funding, no-one has any real faith in his ability as a filmmaker. As he prepares for the new adventure, he is contacted by a son he didn't know he had.....Ned (Owen Wilson).

Finally, with his life falling apart around him, his wife having left him, Zissou recruits Ned as a sponsor and crew member and sets off.

The adventures that follow include pirates, annoying ex friends, thievery, and ultimately tragedy.

The end of the film is perhaps the best part, sad, meaningful, funny, everything a climax needs.
Including a final understanding of just who Zissou is.

This was a good film.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Solar energy and A day in the Life....

A couple of weeks ago, I ( Leonie) was the leader for group learning. We go every second Friday. This term the theme is Inventions and I had the topic Energy/Electricity.

One of the activities I did with the seniors was for each of us to make our own pizza box solar ovens.

And on the weekend we finally got to use it! It was a bright, sunny day ( well, nearly all our days have been bright and sunny this drought-filled winter). We cooked s'mores - it was cool to see how the ovens worked using the energy from the sun and cool to have a snack ready for us after our walk.

We've made solar ovens before and I know the older boys remember baking scones and cookies in the solar oven ( placed high, out of reach of the cat and the toddlers).

I guess we have had a "science" week - we also ended up looking at the internet for the physics of skateboarding. A friend asked about this in an email and that sent us off on a search. So, there we were on Monday, watching Anny balance before doing a roll off, and talking about the moment of inertia and momentum.

Talking of Monday - someone asked about our days. What do we do?

Maybe I *can talk about Monday.

We had a slow morning - getting up, exercise for me, tidying up, breakfast. Finally, T asked about our day's plans. A phone call from a friend for J and A to come over in the afternoon and practice music helped to get us going.

We decided to go to K-Mart for T and A before our usual Monday visit to a local skateboard park ( while everyone else is in the school opposite). But first, I had some email stuff to do and J wanted to work on his art and t-shirt designs. A did a lesson in a Saxon Maths book, as he likes Maths and is an orderly textbook sort of person.

This made T feel a bit like he should be doing Maths, so he grabbed the Maths In Our World book by Addison Wesley and did a page on problem solving. "I've forgotten how to set this out" he said of one problem. I showed him and he was fine. But we also segued into a discussion on salaries ( the problem was based on salary rates).

Since the topic for group learning is Inventions, I had found, at the start of August, a book of blackline masters on Australian Inventions. These I had photocopied and placed in a file in the computer area. Strewing! Anny found the file and got sidetracked into reading the sheets about Australian inventors and inventions. We did a quick net search on a periscope rifle and an owen gun and he filled out a worksheet on these.

It is amusing and enlightening to see children choose to do a worksheet sometimes - because Anny rarely does these, they are fun and like a puzzle for him.

Here is the info he found -

I looked at the clock - time to go! We raced out the door, making sure we had skateboard stuff and the amp and guitars.

In the car we listened to Neil Young ( A's choice) and discussed music, music history, Johnny Rotten.

After our shopping ( T and Anny bought a GameCube game of Spiderman, with their money from newspaper delivery), we counted our change and decided how to split the remaining money for lunch each at the food hall. We each had a limit to spend and wandered around, trying to make a tasty but healthy ( well, I wanted healthy) lunch.

A local skate park was our next stop. T overcame his fear and just did a roll off - one of many. I am still working on my fears and I am a terrible skater!

When we dropped J and T and their music at a friend's house, the friend's mum asked us in for a play and a cup of tea. We mums got chatting - I didn't know that this new friend had been a zookeeper. How interesting. T and Anny played with the girls - hand ball.

Back home, I explained to T and Anny that I needed to work on my book project. I am writing a teaching guide called Teaching With Movies for Ready Ed publishers. G and I have written Maths activity books for these publishers before and although you don't make a lot of money, the little bits that roll in as royalties are always helpful.

Knowing I would be busy, we set up some ideas for T and Anny - playing the new game on the GameCube, jumping on the trampoline, drawing with the new cartooning book, baking. They eventually undertook all these activities - T made two cakes. One for dessert and one for skateboarding for the next day.

I set myself a deadline of 5.00 pm - which rolled around all too soon, as I spent some of my working time on email and some on watching T do a great Spiderman leap and on helping with the baking. Five o'clock was my chore time - I mopped, hung out laundry, tidied the kitchen, started dinner. T and Anny read and then got ready to tape Dr Who.

G, J and A eventually arrived home and we prayed and had dinner. The low fat fried rice was not popular with T and Anny so they made themselves sandwiches.

I left the dinner mess to G, T and Anny and went to Tai Class with J and A. J and A are really good at Tai Chi - A is into all martial arts - and I am finally learning to relax and go with the slow pace.

When we arrived home, G was on the computer - G and the boys are having a competition to get the highest score in the game Mafia. I am sure there must be something educational there! I made tea, we said the Rosary and I was going to read the next chapter from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. But - instead we watched the movie Stargate and discussed Ancient Civilizations and the genre of science fiction.

Reading for all of us before eventual bed.

So, there is a day in our life. Lots of learning and living together.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Hi all, I'm Jonathon Westenberg, 16 years old, this is my first blog entry. That sounds almost like a Fisher Price toy.....

What have I been up to lately? For one thing, I've just finished my second uni course of the year, and I'm waiting for the results. The course was on Creative and Professional Writing. I think I did pretty well on it, but we'll have to see!

Meanwhile, I'm taking a semester off Uni in order to work on doing some art. I'm currently talking to an American company about designing some shirts for them, very much in the style of "Made" and "Level 27"'s shirts. Should be good, I'm very pleased with the designs. If they accept them, I'll post a link here.

I'm also working on a website for my art, a sort of online gallery. Since it's the first web design I've ever attempted, it's not that easy. But it should be finished soon, so you'll all be able to see what I get up to!

Finally, what have I been watching/listening to/reading?

Well, I've been enjoying the StarGate movie, it's very good. Kurt Russell (of Tequila Sunrise) plays one of the main characters. It's a bit predictable, but still....that's Hollywood! (sometimes, anyway)

I'm going to watch "The Life Aquatic" tonight, so I'll post and say how it is.

As far as listening to goes, I've been giving The Transplants another spin, their new album "Haunted Cities"......The sound quality isn't as good as on their debut eponymous album, but it has a good unpolished sound. I've also been playing A7X's new album. It's very unusual, has a really epic sound to it, choirs and so on.

I've been reading "Beu Sabreur" by PC Wren. He also wrote "Beu Geste" and "Beu Ideal"......all connected in small sneaky ways, with good plot twists. It's very dramatic reading, but lots of fun if you like swordfights, toureg bandits and the foreign legion!

Anyway, bye for now, see you all another time.
I'll put in another update soon!


Monday, August 29, 2005

St Anthony

We live in a parish that has a special devotion Mass to St Anthony of Padua, every Tuesday night.

We don't often make this Mass, as Tuesdays are our busy days. Sometimes, however, we turn up, late for the Mass after drama, but in time for the devotional prayers. This is then, more often than not, a "dinner out" night!

Our parish is a Franciscan parish and St Anthony of Padua was a Franciscan. St Anthony was a good speaker and we have many of his sermons available today. Here is a little gem -

"Attribute to God every good that you have received. If you take credit for something that does not belong to you, you will be guilty of theft."

And a website on St Anthony -

Refugees,Chinatown and more

Yesterday , being Saturday, we decided to go out all together. The top choice for the majority was the city - two sons were not keen on going out, however. I was not keen on staying home and I knew we'd be gone most of the day, so was uncertain about leaving the youngest two alone at home.

We compromised, we would go where they wanted if they gave us a chance to go where we wanted. And lunch out sweetened the pot!

Along the way to the city, we walked to Chinatown. I was able to recall my childhood memories of visiting the then obscure Chinatown area, and having how pastries from the Chinese bakery on a Sunday morning.

Chinatown has two lions and gables at the entrance now. Every second store is a restaurant or some form of eatery. We all tried some Emporer's puffs - small batter pastries, with a sweet custard filling. And we discussed the history of Chinatown, the history of Chinese peoples in Australia, the communist government and the Chinese Revolution. I have recently read Mao's Last Dancer and I think the "abridged edition" might make a good read aloud. Hopefully, all will be interested. Perhaps when we finish The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?

Anny was distressed by the homeless people asking for money, and kept digging into my purse to find coins to give. He also noticed another child wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "Children don't belong in detention centres." He asked me about this slogan.

It is a topical issue here, since we have "detention cntres" where illegal refugees are kept, until their papers are checked out.

Anthony agreed with the t-shirt - he felt it would be terrible to be "locked up" as a child. We had a long discussion about the laws and refugees.

It is such a hard issue and I fear that Australia may be creating a generation who will hate the government ,who will have resentment....

J, who doesn't like detention centres, still felt outrage at a child wearing a t-shirt with a political slogan. As the child was about four, J felt that the parent was using the child to make a political statement and thought this was wrong.

Our political discussions ended, we split up - G to the Maritime Museum for research; J and A to CD stores and bookshops; Anny,T and I to bookstores and toy stores. We met at a department store to find a work shirt for J and than caught up with G at the Chinese Gardens.

But our discusssions were not yet finished.

I decided to cook curry, rice, dahl, poppadums for a late dinner. T helped with cooking the poppadums. He wondered aloud what would happen if we tried to cook them in hot water instead of in hot oil. Our discussion centred on the properties of oil and water.

The number of topics we discuss in any one day is amazing. I am always surprised at the depth and breadth of our discussions. What Alan Thomas, a researcher into home education, calls "the informal, conversational style of learning."

Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie

I need to finish my computer time! But I wanted to share our Saturday night viewings on television.

We have become drawn to the Hercule Poirot mysteries on Foxtel.

There is something about the tangles and relationships that encourage us to think. Before long, we are making assumptions and deductions about possible suspects and motives.

"What was the significance of the sprained wrist?" J asked last night, after the opening scenes of this week's show.

"All these Poirot mysteries revolve around romance - typical Agatha Christie" said A.

Can I put these thinking skills down for Maths in our log?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Tales and Movies

The last few days we have watched some interesting movies. Each, in their own way, lead to reading and books and book/author discussions.

We rented the DVD of The Snow Queen - one of those Hallmark productions. Just recently, on the Hallmark Channel, we had watched an interveiw with one of the producers of these Hallmark mini-series. He talked about storytelling, and television as a means of storytelling. he also mentioned that he was able to have well known actors perform in his productions for less money, simply because of the ability to extend the story beyond the time frame of the usual cinema movie. Interesting.

Watching The Snow Queen took us on a trail of fairy tales. A did a search - he searched for our copy of Hans Christian Anderson tales. We compared the story and the movie. We discussed several of Anderson's tales - was there a theme of the importance of childhood? What was Anderson's childhood like?

This inspired us to rent another Hallmark production - Alice in Wonderland. Again, with an all star cast. And, again, we talked about the difference between this version, the book by Lewis Carroll and the Disney version.

I found our copy for Anny. We relished the language - "Curiouser and curiouser."

As we discussed Lewis Carroll, I shared my knowledge of the author. G (dh) and I and J and all said that found the book 'weird" to read. And we wondered - why is it a classic?

I found this summary, analysis and some information on Carroll - from MonkeyNotes

I found the comment about the readers of the novel to be thought provoking. These notes suggest that, though the book was written for children, the novel has an appeal to adults. It appeals to the child in all of us. We remember the many paradoxes if life that we saw as a child.

Hmm, I am off to share this information with my sons.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Our Teen Group

Remember I said we had a teen group meet at our house? The aim was to help homeschooled teens meet each other and hang out more.

Well, we have had one meeting. At my house, as I said. The next meeting is to be next week.

And already there are hassles.

Basically, people don't want to compromise. Some teens won't come if we don't do what they like. Some mothers don't want younger siblings to come. Some do. Some mothers want the teens to do the plaaning. Some want mothers to plan. Some want a group plan. Some people like others and dislike others - I won't come if they come.

We just want to compromise, allow for differences and hang out and have fun. Meet more people ( mums and teens).

It all seems so complicated sometimes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

We Go To Canberra

Do you remember those early readers, the ones with titles like"Peter and Susan Vist the Doctor". Or, how about 'We Go On A Holiday"? Well, this is our version, based on our one night and one day trip to Canberra, the capitol city.

"We drove to Canberra. We drove in our car. We got stuck in peak hour traffic. And then we drove very fast.

Canberra was sunny and clean. We visited the Questacon Science Centre. Anny's Tamagotchie had a hard time waking up. When he ( Bob) woke up, he ate lots of snacks.

We visited the National Art Gallery. We saw one of Monet's Waterlillies. We saw some of Andy Warhol's pop art. We liked Blue Poles by Jackson Pollack.

We did a lot of walking in Canberra. It has nice parks. J and A visited the National Library . T and Anny and I toured Old Parliament House.

We all met N for lunch at new Parliament House. We had a quick tour. We liked Old Parliament House more. But this was Anny's best part of the day.

We finished the day with shopping at the mall in the city centre. We drove home. No peak hour traffic this time."

Anyway, Peter and Susan aside, it was a fun day. Well worth a visit ( maybe at Christmas?) and we enjoyed the many discussions about the art, the earthquake house at Questacon and the sale of Telstra ( questions brought up a Question Time in the House of Representatives).

And home again, today, we went to ice skating and gym with other homeschoolers. One mum, a mother of eleven, came with the five or six children she is homeschooling.

I know that a very large family can present challenges but, sometimes, you wonder if some people are just not cut out for the role of mother in a large family. This mother made many derogatory remarks about some of her children - who she said were not as "bright" or academic as others in her family. She spoke to her children in what T called a "mean voice." She smacked them. She seemed tense and I felt sad. I think she needs a break. I think her children need a break.

Does it take a special sort of person to be a parent of a large, homeschooling family? Can one develop the "special" characteristics? How can we help others who seem burned out? And how can we help their children? I ponder this myself, as a mother of seven.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The library as a refuge

"I love going to the library. It's peaceful and you can have a quiet rest."

So said the youngest tonight, on our way to our weekly Tuesday night library visit.

It is true. Tuesdays are our busy days. Skateboard lessons, packed lunch and hang out time with other homeschoolers. The hour drive home. Two go to work at a Kumon centre. I help the other two fold papers for their delivery round. We pick up the Kumon workers and drive yet again - this time to drama class. While A and J are at drama, T, Anny and I go to the library.

To read and rest.

And sometimes to have coffee or Milo at the coffee shop at the library - appropriately called Chapters Cafe.

The reading is a respite before the close of drama class and the drive home and then the time to gather ingredients for dinner - for, by the time we arrive home, we are famished and tired.

Tongiht, our library respite included a book search for a book in a series - we have borrowed the skateboard one and now Anny desires the guide to mini basketabll. T searched in vain for more books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He doesn't seem to be a popular author right now, with anyone except T and J.

I sat in an apple green chair, comfy and quiet at the library, and read - Intuitive Eating ( like natural learning for food issues). And a new msystery author that I am sampling. Patricia Wentworth, in her Miss Silver mysteries. I also picked up a Robert Ludlum book that I thought G would like....

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chicken pox, birthdays and outings

We meant to post more regularly - then three boys came down with chicken pox. It's a miserable sickness, makes you feel itchy and ugly and isolated...

As recovery approached, so did the youngest boy's birthday - ten years old! He has been trying to convince us that being ten makes him a teenager - you know, two digits!

And we have had a week of outings or visits and a myriad of follow-up discussions.

Our oldest three sons were visiting from interstate and the eldest brought a friend for the weekend.

We went to the science museum and got immersed in Greek treasures, Byzantine art, looking at Angus Young's guitar ( from ACDC) and life inside a space shuttle.

We played games of Star Wars Trivia and Hero Scape ( both birthday presents). And Avalanche on the Game Cube - talked angles and degrees here.

Walked around our neighbourhood and the nature reserve and lake and talked about the drought and the wattle.

Visited the Aquarium - I love the peacefulness of the underwater displays. I could stay down there forever. The boys enjoyed the sharks and the touch pool, and the gift shop.

Had our usual skateboarding group lesons with other homeschoolers. The teacher loves skateboarding and is good at it but seems to have no understanding of those who find it hard. One son and I had a long discussion about this, after an altercation and criticism from the instructor.

What makes a good teacher? Is it just being good at something? Or do you need something more - an empathy or understanding in addition to a passion? I must re-read some of John Holt as I remember that he had a number of comments to make about teaching and learning.

We started a teen group - the first meeting was at our house this week. Fifteen homeschooled teens, with their mothers and younger siblings turned up! What was interesting was the discrepancy of ideas for the group, amongst both teens and parents. Some want more activity oriented groups. Some want to hang out.

We are going to try a mix of both and see where it leads - friendships, things to do, interests.

And we finished off the week with Group learning - a co-op activity. I was the facilitator for the electricity stations. It's very school-ish but has been a way for us to meet others in our new area. I must admit that the kids liked the lemon battery experiment and also enjoyed making a pizza box solar oven.

The two teens went to youth group and also iceskating with some friends from drama class.

And the rest of us went skateboard shopping. Oh, and the ten year old bought a Tamagotchie ( a virtual pet). So, today we are discussing friends for the pet, and marriage for the future!

I gues that this is what I love about homeschooling - we don't fit school around life or life around school. Life is learning.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Our first blog. Living Without School. That describes our life as it has been for the last sixteen years or so.

Or - an alternative beginning from Jonathon - "Call me Ishmael." Why? Why not?

We hope this blog will be a record of some of our days, to share with friends, new and old, and family ( mostly old.)