Sunday, April 29, 2007

Learning principles

Read Julia's post on learning principles.

Very interesting.

Julia is quoting the book A Thomas Jefferson Education and is discussing four of the seven learning principles apparently mentioned in the book -

1)Use classics
2) Inspire, not require
3) You, not them
4) Structure time, not content

Now, I am not sure I agree fully with these principles. Each has value but so does part of the opposite principle. For example, while I aim to inspire , I also see no harm in requiring, sometimes. And I am not sure about NOT structuring content - there is definitely some content that I'd like to run past my children. Plus, I am fond of the idea of children ( sometimes?) structuring their own time - a learning time happening at any time.

However, the principles, and Julia's informative posts, are making me think.

Reading these sorts of ideas keeps me on my toes, educationally speaking.

And that is important for a mother-educator, don't you think?

Making a windmill yesterday..

...for this week's group learning session. I am teaching the topic of Renewable Energy.

Thomas and I were most surprised that the windmill worked!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A liturgical year staff.

On Thursday, Anthony made a staff as a symbol of the liturgical year.

Well, the instructions, from the We Believe Grade 6 catechetical materials, describe the making of a staff, used as we journey through the liturgical year.

We adapted this and used a branch, making a decorative item for a vase, to be placed near some of the Bibles in the hall.
Anthony coloured in each card for the liturgical year and copied a prayer from the missal onto the back of each card.He sent a text message to a priest to get help with the liturgical colours for the Tridium. :-)
So far, we have added the cards for Lent, the Tridium and Easter to our staff/decoration. We will add in Ordinary Time , Advent and Christmas as the year continues.
Advent is the start of the liturgical year and will therefore be at the top of our staff.
I like a number of the activity sheets on the We Believe website. Have a look!We don't use the We Believe religion books . I do find, however, that some of the online suggested activities fit well with our religion related discussions.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Anzac Day

Yesterday was Anzac Day.

ANZAC Day - 25 April - is an important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day.

You can download a booklet for children for Anzac day history, ideas, activities.

We went to Mass for an Anzac Day service and then out for breakfast. Thomas and Anthony had to deliver the local paper and while I helped them deliver, we discussed the Anzacs, Julius Caesar, ancient Rome - a whole history discussion!

Later that day, after work on my Kumon newsletter and after the kids had a violent game of Greed :-), I needed to watch the training videos for CaFE - Catholic Faith Exploration, a programme our parish is running in July. I am helping with the presentations so needed to do these videos and take notes. Well, the kids ended up watching some with me, talking about the analogies and our faith. A natural learning religion session.

Thomas made Anzac biscuits to go with tea/coffee and we had a visitor over for an Aussie/English roast beef dinner for Anzac day. He quizzed the kids on Latin and religion and history - in a light hearted way. The kids did as well as usual. As in Star Wars...
"How are we doing?" Hans Solo in The Return of the Jedi.
"Same as usual" , Luke Skywalker replies.
" That bad, huh?", said Hans.

But, I did well - I didn't burn a thing - even the mini Yorkshire puddings and the apple crumble were cooked properly! A first??

A Public Holiday but still a day of learning, of fun, of talking, of cooking.

Homeschooling never really stops, does it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This morning's activities....

Chocolate Maths - graphing Smarties. Practical statistics?

Solving a crime - maths from the DVD/TV series Numbers, using the free online curriculum from Texas Instruments. Thomas and Gerry finding the circumcentre.

The tomatosphere project - planting our seeds, setting up prediction statements and observation journals.

Oh, and getting ready for our Board of Studies visit this afternoon. A representative from the Board of Studies visited to discuss our programme and to complete the state's homeschool registration ( homeschool legalities).

We had an interesting visit - the BOS guy just left. Lots of chatting and talking about science fiction, Stargate, Latin, the Church, name it.

And we have our registration for the next two years.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Susan tagged me with the Thinking Blogger Award.

Susan's blog is always interesting and often makes me think and smile.

But, what does one do with a Thinking Blogger's Award?

Well, if you get tagged with a Thinking Blogger Award, you are then supposed to do the following:
1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

Here is the post on which I was tagged.

And here are five of my favourite Thinking Bloggers ~

Cindy and her post on trust.

Maria has a post on Classical learning - relaxed style.

Faith shares her plans and schedules...

Rebecca describes the planner she created for her eldest child - lots of thinking here!

And Mary talks about homeschooling and the book To Kill a Mockingbird...

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A comment overheard... our dining room yesterday.

"The Pope wants me to go on a crusade!. Oh, no, I'll lose my troops. Do I have to go?"

Thomas, talking to his brothers, while playing the computer game Medieval Total War.

Whither thou goest, so will I follow? :-)

German Coffee Cake

Anthony and I made this in honour of the Pope's birthday on Monday...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Pope's birthday.. tomorrow ( April 16). He will turn 80.

You can leave birthday greetings here.

Perhaps we can make a recipe from Germany for dinner or dessert tomorrow night - or perhaps try Eggs Benedict?


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Doin' some thinkin' about homeschoolin'..

Recently, on an email list, some other homeschool mothers and I have discussed an article - Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling.

Now, I don't actually think there is a crisis in homeschooling. Homeschooled young adults grow up, try new things, make different choices - some good and some not so good. They grow and learn and work on their spiritual journeys. They pray. They fall. They succeed.

This is not a crisis .This growth is part of their development.

I think it can be hard for some parents to let go - to realize that their dreams of "the happy family" and of how their kids should turn out are not what God has in mind for their kids. I know my dh has had to work through this - not that he was forcing his ideas onto the boys but I know he never envisaged us living so far away from our older sons.

The article and discussion have encouraged me to analyze homeschooling . A bit.

I have pondered. As a parent of homeschool graduates and of current homeschoolers, I find that a big part of homeschooling/unschooling older kids is the letting go - they make their own choices, good or bad or okay, and we keep up our relationships and prayers.

My older sons make good choices, but, nevertheless, the choices are their own.

There is no one recipe in parenting or in homeschooling - do this and your kids will turn out like xyz. Nuh, doesn't work that way.

And maybe this is a crisis for some parents - they find it hard to accept the differences in their young adult sons and daughters.

Homeschooling is no guarantee of success just as attending traditional schools is no guarantee of success.

The real joy of homeschooling/unschooling for me is getting to know each other and sharing interests. I love it when we sit and talk about movies and books - and laugh a lot together. Right now we are on a Stargate kick, watching an episode nearly every night before bed and talking about the series together..

Yes - I know my kids in a different way because of unschooling - and they know me. But we still have differing opinions about some things! Which is cool - they choose , some times differently to that which I would choose, and that is the beauty of unschooling. Working together and appreciating differences.

Family is important, but it is not our idol and eventually kids go and form their own families ( or perhaps join religious communities). Relationships change. We can't or shouldn't stop this.

However, we each bring our own experiences to this whole parenting/homeschooling thing.

And it is interesting to me to see just how much we do influence our children- often by osmosis. I love books, movies, writing. Over the years, I have seen all my sons take on these interests themselves - so they have become family interests.

Dh loves history - and several sons have tapped into this interest.

We don't necessarily make our kids love what we love, we give them room for their interests - but nevertheless, I see our influence as very strong.

All this makes me ponder - why do we homeschool?

For relationship. Relationship with God, with the Church, with each other, with other people and the community, with ideas and books and music and art and...

We do not educate in isolation.

5. Indeed never has there been so much discussion about education as nowadays; never have exponents of new pedagogical theories been so numerous, or so many methods and means devised, proposed and debated, not merely to facilitate education, but to create a new system infallibly efficacious, and capable of preparing the present generations for that earthly happiness which they so ardently desire.
6. The reason is that men, created by God to His image and likeness and destined for Him Who is infinite perfection realize today more than ever amid the most exuberant material progress, the insufficiency of earthly goods to produce true happiness either for the individual or for the nations. And hence they feel more keenly in themselves the impulse towards a perfection that is higher, which impulse is implanted in their rational nature by the Creator Himself. This perfection they seek to acquire by means of education. But many of them with, it would seem, too great insistence on the etymological meaning of the word, pretend to draw education out of human nature itself and evolve it by its own unaided powers. Such easily fall into error, because, instead of fixing their gaze on God, first principle and last end of the whole universe, they fall back upon themselves, becoming attached exclusively to passing things of earth; and thus their restlessness will never cease till they direct their attention and their efforts to God, the goal of all perfection,..

The Pope continues ~

10. Now in order that no mistake be made in this work of utmost importance, and in order to conduct it in the best manner possible with the help of God's grace, it is necessary to have a clear and definite idea of Christian education in its essential aspects, viz., who has the mission to educate, who are the subjects to be educated, what are the necessary accompanying circumstances, what is the end and object proper to Christian education according to God's established order in the economy of His Divine Providence.
Education is essentially a social and not a mere individual activity. Now there are three necessary societies, distinct from one another and yet harmoniously combined by God, into which man is born: two, namely the family and civil society, belong to the natural order; the third, the Church, to the supernatural order.
12. In the first place comes the family, instituted directly by God for its peculiar purpose, the generation and formation of offspring; for this reason it has priority of nature and therefore of rights over civil society. Nevertheless, the family is an imperfect society, since it has not in itself all the means for its own complete development; whereas civil society is a perfect society, having in itself all the means for its peculiar end, which is the temporal well-being of the community; and so, in this respect, that is, in view of the common good, it has pre-eminence over the family, which finds its own suitable temporal perfection precisely in civil society.
13. The third society, into which man is born when through Baptism he reaches the divine life of grace, is the Church; a society of the supernatural order and of universal extent; a perfect society, because it has in itself all the means required for its own end, which is the eternal salvation of mankind; hence it is supreme in its own domain.
Consequently, education which is concerned with man as a whole, individually and socially, in the order of nature and in the order of grace, necessarily belongs to all these three societies, in due proportion, corresponding, according to the disposition of Divine Providence, to the co-ordination of their respecting ends.

(Emphasis added)

I think we homeschoolers can look at our communities and at our church communities, and work together, co-operate with others, in the education of our children. There is a role for others and our families benefit by the sharing of this work , this joy of being both parent and educator.

Pope John Paul II wrote of Christian education in a similar manner, in

36. The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God's creative activity: by begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or herself the vocation to growth and development, parents by that very fact take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life. As the Second Vatican Council recalled, "since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs."(99)
The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.

The encyclical continues ~
40. The family is the primary but not the only and exclusive educating community. Man's community aspect itself-both civil and ecclesial-demands and leads to a broader and more articulated activity resulting from well-ordered collaboration between the various agents of education. All these agents are necessary, even though each can and should play its part in accordance with the special competence and contribution proper to itself.(104)
The educational role of the Christian family therefore has a very important place in organic pastoral work. This involves a new form of cooperation between parents and Christian communities, and between the various educational groups and pastors... .
The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed.
The State and the Church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. Therefore both the Church and the State must create and foster the institutions and activities that families justly demand, and the aid must be in proportion to the families' needs...

In analyzing our homeschooling, I see the importance of the family, of God, of true Christian education. I also see the need to work with others , including the Church and the civil society.

However, I hope I am not too controversial when I say that homeschooling and unschooling is not necessarily for everyone. God calls us each differently and for some families and some children a different educational model may be right .

I love homeschooling, I love the lifestyle and the relationships. I share this with others. Or try to, just by being and talking when asked!

But I acknowledge the freedom of others to choose different educational lifestyles, while still recognizing their role as primary educators.

My homeschool analysis moves to the how tos, the nuts and bolts..

How do we try to form these relationships, take part in our community, share education with others, lead our children in their Faith?

Well, we are still works in progress.

But part of what we do is to get involved in our parish, in homeschool groups, in drama classes et al. In volunteer and paid work.

We lead very busy lives - I think partly it is my personality to be involved, and this makes us busy and commit to many things.

But, homeschool wise, I swear by pegs (routines) and the One Thing.

In other words, I dont plan a myriad of things, I look at our days and weeks and see where we can peg in a few important things - for example, starting our chocolate unit stusy last Thursday, with writing sensory detail and finding information about cacoa and where it is grown.... That was our One Thing that I put energy into - yes, we did other things but I wouldn't have stressed if we didn't.

It is the One Thing of that day that is my main focus on my to do list.

This is how the One Thing works out in my homeschooling life - it saves me angst and energy and allows for the flow and for all the busy things we do..And some schoolwork/things we think are important..

Maths and English activities just fit in around our One Thing or our week ( no, we don't do those in a formal manner, every day).

I used to spend a long time looking for a "core curriculum", the basis of our homeschooling.

I found it in literature and real life; in our Faith and in following the liturgical year.

And now the kids are older, also in movies.

Add our One Thing and it is simple - but it seems to fit for us...

We do an organic form of seasonal learning - there are no hard and fast rules , so it can differ from year to year. But I do find we do more nature study, for example, in spring and autumn. We do more focused work in winter. Lots of outings and read alouds in summer. We always make a book towards the end of the year, prior to Advent activities.

We also think in blocks of terms - roughly ten weeks. I think of a focus ( or one just comes up) and, although we do other things too, the focus is our One Thing. When I read good ideas I don't feel guilty that we are not undertaking them right now - we either drop other things for a week or two or I note the ideas down for next term...

We are not pure unschoolers any more but we have an unschooly flow to our days and weeks.

If it is a morning we are home, the kids get up and do their thing ( breakfast, chores, exercise, music). I chat and help and workout and tidy. When we are ready I call people to re-group in the family room or kitchen or dining room.

We pray and talk about the day and plans - the things I'd like them to do and the things they'd like to do.Things I need to do, my work schedule, the work schedule of teens,etc.

Basically, it amounts to "school work" three days a week - maybe four some weeks!

This includes a maths and English activity ( or Latin for Alexander) and perhaps a project - last term we read the Ashton Scholastic My Story books for Australian history and the kids were doing Science reading and an experiment once a week.

We aim for Wednesdays to be a time for Latin and religion study or reading or discussion or activity.

The formal work is not lesson plans or even curricula but more projects and rabbit trails and interests - some initiated by me and some by kids.

The work fits into our days and weeks and continues all year round. We aim not to have a school and non school time but to learn all the time - some times more formally than others...

I think it helps to do a variety of strewing, in a variety of places - books, puzzles, pictures, music CDs, games, recipe and craft stuff, movies, food, activities and outings.

I also found that I had to strew with "no strings attached". I had to realize that the things I strewed may not catch anyone's attention except mine and that is okay.

Sometimes, just catching my attention is enough to interest others, too.

For areas that Gerry and I think important, I don't just strew. I make these a part of our do together time - our "have tos", as Theresa says.
And, as I said above, we are all works in progress.

In analyzing the whys of homeschooling, the how tos, the philosophy of Christian education, I recall the words of Pope John Paul II ~

Finally, I wish to call on all Christians to collaborate cordially and courageously with all people of good will who are serving the family in accordance with their responsibilities. The individuals and groups, movements and associations in the Church which devote themselves to the family's welfare, acting in the Church's name and under her inspiration, often find themselves side by side with other individuals and institutions working for the same ideal. With faithfulness to the values of the Gospel and of the human person and with respect for lawful pluralism in initiatives this collaboration can favor a more rapid and integral advancement of the family.
And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone's attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families-indeed, all the families in the world-to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard. ( Familiaris Consortio)

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Today we began our
choc-olate unit study - by writing sensory detail about Lindt chocolate balls.
Some words and phrases ~



Moist and Milky

Chocolate perfection


Cool to the touch....

A cool way to spend a "school" morning.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wedding Anniversary Lunch - Pics.

Activities this week.

We finished a very simple Easter Vigil Notebook - the idea was to review the parts and meaning of the liturgy. The most fun was the hand prints page for the sign of peace!

This week we will look at pieces of a chocolate unit study.

Very fitting for the week of Easter - you can see that we have lots of chocolate to eat!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Paschal candle.

Gerry and Anthony making our Paschal Candle. Today, Holy Saturday, on our wedding anniversary.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Our coffee table strewing for this weekend is a picture book ~
Easter by Fiona French.

Twelve luminious tableaux tell the story of Easter, from the Last Supper to the Ascension.

I want to draw like French!

Also on display is our Easter Vigil Notebook - its very simple but it was helpful for the kids to review the parts and meaning of the liturgy.....

This morning we attended the re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at our parish - held outside, in the friary gardens, in the drizzle of rain. I forgot to take pics . :-(

It was a quiet and reflective way to spend Good Friday morning...We previously attended these Stations when we first moved to Sydney and for our first attendance at the parish in 2005. That day the Stations were held under a hot sun. Funny to note the weather differences.
Since we have been suffering a drought, the rain was welcome.

Wishing my friends a blessed Good Friday and a happy Easter...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wedding Anniversary

Saturday, Holy Saturday, will be our wedding anniversary.

We will have been married for 28 years! Gosh!

We married young, and I was certainly foolish! Yet, our marriage has been good and blessed, regardless of my failings...

A friend and I were emailing about marriage. My friend lamented that her marriage did not necessarily meet the ideal often portrayed in Catholic books and on Catholic CDs - especially in modern, conservative Catholic circles.

Our marriage is good, its great actually :-), but it also does not fit this ideal..

Dh and I are very different and we need our other friends and separate activities to balance us out. Then our time together is better.

We are not your typical Catholic homeschool family, that people write pages about. We are more independent do your own thing people .

We do not look like the ideal but we are okay.

Similarly, we don't really have issues with submission and the head of the household - areas often discussed in Catholic books on marriage. We talk and talk, sometimes heatedly ( ykwim!) and usually we come to a consensus or an agreement about things. Or I decide that the topic under discussion is more important to dh than it is to me and we go his way. Or Gerry decides to do it ( whatever it is) "my way" and follows me...This is the way we are, our personalities, and it all works out in the end...

There are many different types of Catholic marriages and ours is one of these, borne out of years of experience, love, laughter, sorrow, prayer.....

Holy Week...

...and we are making an Easter Vigil notebook, stealing ideas from Alice's
Easter notebook and reading through the liturgical guidelines for the Easter Vigil.

Makes Holy Week more focused...Wishing you all a blessed Holy Week...

Monday, April 02, 2007

World Youth Day.

Sunday we attended a concert in preparation for World Youth Day 2008. Sydney will be hosting WYD 08!

World Youth day is a gathering of young people, initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1984. Occurring every three years, it is celebrated on a diocesan level annually, and at a week-long international level every two to three years at different locations, attracting hundreds of thousands of youths from almost every country on the planet.

Fr. Stan Fortuna, a "rapping Fransciscan", was at the concert, held outside St Mary's Cathedral here in Sydney.

We took along our kids, one of older sons ( Greg ~ here in Sydney for work) and some kids from our parish's youth band/choir.

The concert was followed by the blessing of the palms, a Palm Sunday procession and Mass at the cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Pell.

A Medieval Banquet

Homeschool Group learning hosted a Medieval Banquet on Saturday night.

Group learning meets weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Each term, we have a topic or theme...and, obviously, this term's theme was Medieval Times.

The group tries to bring each theme to a closure with a family celebration or outing , at the end of the term.

Here we are, and here is a friend, "dressed up" for the banquet.