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.