Posts Tagged ‘Homeschool’

Environmental Experiential Education and the Mathematics KLA

April 2, 2014

Possum is 7 years 10 months

Bandicoot is 5 years 8 months

Little Princess is 3 years 3 months


This is the second article in a series on environmental experiential education, thanks to the knowledge of Ms R.

Meeting the government requirements for maths is never a problem in our house, but apparently there are some houses that are not riddled with maths junkies.  Who knew?

So here are a few points on meeting the Maths KLA outcomes with environmental experiential education.

The main areas of maths in primary school are shape, number (including money) and measurement.  (Also probability, but we did not discuss that with Ms R).


Shape is all around.  Use mathematical language when talking about things.  For example, “Can you please pass me a grape?  I’d like the most spherical one you can find, please.”

Get kids into astronomy.  Trajectories and planetary movement will get them honing maths skills pretty quickly – not in a formal way, but to see that star!

Numbers and Algebra

Use spreadsheets.  This will teach them formulas etc without them even knowing!

Again, numbers are all around us.  Get the kids involved with daily activities like shopping.  Also, get them to manage their own bank accounts, including making sense of the statements.


Well, that is everywhere, too.  When they moan about learning area, show them a YouTube clip about tiling floors.


Keep bringing maths back to concrete examples so that it is relevant to them.


*Like I said, this is not a real issue in our home.  DH and I have a maths degree and a maths minor between us and the kids are cut from the same cloth.  Personally, I have a much more Pythagorean approach to mathematics:  That the study of mathematics shows us beauty and order and brings us closer to God our maker.  However, I appreciate that many other people need to see the practical side to maths!


Environmental Experiential Education and the English KLA

April 1, 2014

… or why write descriptive paragraphs when you can write a letter to Grandma?

Possum is 7 years 10 months

Bandicoot is 5 years 8 months

Little Princess is 3 year 3 months


This is the first in a series on Environmental Experiential Education, and especially how to fulfil government reporting requirements when homeschooling by this method.

I have written this article here for ease of reference for fellow members of my local homeschooling community.  Even if you do not homeschool, you may find something interesting in this series.

Recently I had the good fortune to receive a small download from the vast wealth of knowledge in the head of a veteran homeschooler I know.  She is a proponent of the environmental experiential philosophy of education.

This wonderful lady, Ms R, was leading us in a discussion of reporting outcomes.  For those (blissfully) unaware of such things, here we need to report to the government appointed outcomes in the specified curriculum as part of our registration process.  Many home-educators find this unduly restricting, which is largely why an estimated 50% of homeschoolers are unregistered in our state.

This article covers some points regarding the English Key Learning Area (KLA).  This is for infants and primary aged children (Foundation to Year 6)

First Things First…

The first thing to establish is the outcomes that we, as parents, want for our kids – not just academics, but real life outcomes.  Here are some suggestions.  (Note, I have included the ANC NSW Stage 1 codes for outcomes, as I am most familiar with these.)

Read in Context

  • – including signage, directions, map reading, warnings… These are necessary skills for safety and might just keep them alive.
  • EN1-4A, EN1-11D

    Recognise that you can learn from someone who is not there

  • – includes procedures, instructions, texts
  • This allows them to overcome their problems using someone else’s experience (for example, following a recipe)
  • EN1-4A, EN1-11D, EN1-12E

To Communicate

  • At this stage they want to connect with their mates, so let them use appropriate social media to do so.  This has the added incentive of encouraging writing skills (over time) to save face in front of their friends, without us needing to correct them all the time.
  • EN1-1A, EN1-2A, EN1-3A, EN1-5A, EN1-6B, EN1-7B, EN1-9B

Working on sequencing through silly stories is another technique for developing an understanding of how language works.  For example, tell the story: –

  • Goldilocks ran home to her mother and ate a bowl of porridge, but it was too hot.  The Baby Bear found his chair broken so they went for a walk.”

The kids will, hopefully, think this is crazy and you can get them to retell it properly.  This also lays the foundations for learning the skills of essay writing, constructing narratives and persuasive writing.  It is a great exercise for confined space torture car rides (in between history and classical music study cds!)

EN1-2A, EN1-6B, EN1-9B, EN1-10C

Use a Library


Read for Pleasure

  • Part of this is exposure to great stories and the language in which they are written.  This includes complete adult literature, too!  Watching DVDs of classics (even “adult” classics, as the subject matter allows) is one way to provide this.
  • When they find the language approachable and the story-telling familiar, the desire to read the books is fanned.
  • EN1-4A, EN1-7B, EN1-9B

Using Texts to Problem Solve

  • -includes fixing broken things (manuals, etc)
  • Alphabetical indexing skills (to locate information required)
  • Using the street directory to find where you need to go.  (The suggestion here is get yourselves purposefully lost, so there is a real incentive for them to solve the problem and do it well.)

    EN1-7B, EN1-8B, EN1-11D

    Writing for a Variety of Situations

    • – think letters to families and friends, shopping lists, recording information, nature journaling, business communication and a variety of practical purposes that come up in daily life.
    • EN1-1A, EN1-2A,EN1-3A, EN1-7B,EN1-9B

    So how does this solve OUR problem of all those ENS-nn codes?

    Well, as all homeschoolers know, in Australia the legal responsibility for education a child lies with the parents, not the government, not the school, nor anyone else.  This is true for all parents, not just those who home-ed.  Our first responsibility is to the adults our children will become (also true for all parents!)  As the state is responsible for providing education on behalf of parents who choose to send their kids to school, their curriculum goals must meet these fundamental required outcomes (above).

    So the first and fundamental step is to establish our goals (outcomes).  Then we can go back and refer the curriculum outcomes.  For all their fandangle curriculese, they should slot into our goals quite well, as you can see from the codes that I have included.

  • School Bell

    January 29, 2014

    Possum is 7 years 8 months

    Bandicoot is 5 years 6 months

    Little Princess is 3 years old

    This morning I woke to the dulcet tones of the school bell and MotoGP reruns.  It is nice not to be kissing the kids goodbye.

    However, today I struggle with my two biggest negatives of homeschooling.

    As my friends drop their kids off this morning, they return to their “normal” adult lives.  They do things like straighten the house, go to work, have conversations, think a thought all to themselves – you know, “normal” activities.  I tiptoe around Lego landmines, racetracks for Matchbox cars that run through several rooms, boxes and piles of books (what homeschooler does not?) and try to avoid the noisy projectiles that are my children.  There is never a break; never a let-up. (While I am typing this I have one child on my lap and am printing copywork pages for start of term).

    The other one is almost a clincher for me.  Today, the kids are down.  They are not thinking about what school involves.  They are thinking about all their friends gathering at the school next door.  Together.

    To me, the number one thing that school provides and that I do not is an opportunity to hang out with your mates every day.

    Of course, they may not be real friends.  There are even those (usually teachers who are trying to stop you talking in class!) who say that school is about learning and not about socialising.  But that is not the point.

    And even if our kids did go to an institutional school, we don’t like the school next door, so they wouldn’t be going there with their mates, anyway.  Again, not the point.

    THIS is the issue that makes me waiver sometimes, makes me wonder.  In the balance, I truly believe that my kids are absolutely better off at home, but days like today it is hard.

    Instead, we are going to enjoy a couple more days of summer holidays.  We will start in earnest next week.  Today we are going to visit Bandicoot’s best mate (he is starting Kindy this year and they don’t start today.)  The kids will play, I will print copywork pages and nervously rearrange my resources, yet again. 

    And they can watch MotoGP and Robin Hood and lounge around while the school bell rings.

    Meet the Students – 2013

    January 30, 2013

    See?  Isn’t that a hopeful title?  It implies that there will be other years.


    Firstly, here is Possum.


    He is our “official” homeschool student.  He is 6 years and 8 months and is starting out Year 1.  He is missing a front tooth.  He is going to be a MotoGP rider when he grows up.


    Next is Bandicoot.


    He is our “part-time” student.  He attends a pre-school 2 days a week.  He loves it, but there is no way he will ever go without a protest.


    He is 4 years and 6 months old.  He is going to have a Christmas shop when he grows up.

    And that is a shark on his picture.  Sharks, flies, snakes, spiders… they seem to appear on his pictures quite a bit.  I was very impressed with his colouring on this one.


    And here is our Little Princess.


    She is 2 years and 1 month old.  Biologically.  She reckons she is a lot older, even if she refers to herself as “Bubby”.


    So that is our little lot this year.  Amazing how much mischief three cute kids can get up to!




    Oh, and those ear protectors in the top photo?  Bandicoot came running out with those for Possum.  I can say that today they were not needed.  It was one of those days where the boys did a great job of not hearing me when I spoke anyway.

    The Monday Group

    January 21, 2013

    Possum is 6 years 8 months

    Bandicoot is 4 years 6 months

    Little Princess is 2 years


    Today we trialled a new homeschool group.  This is pretty much a social group for homeschoolers, sort of in our area, although from time to time courses and group discounts are organised through them.

    Years ago, we did visit this group.  At the time, we weren’t really ready.  Also, there were a LOT of teenagers there at the time, and not many younger kids at all.

    Now the group has a wider range of ages, although today, it was mostly the younger crowd that were there.

    I was nervous about this.  I really want to find a homeschooling group.  It is nice to have some real-life support.  We have attended another group, but it just didn’t work out so well for us, despite us actually having friends in the group.  I don’t know if it was Possum’s mood, the layout of the park or what , but it was a painful experience.

    Today was different.  The group was relaxed.  The kids are friendly, but much less intense than the other group.  Possum was nervous about going.  He was quite delighted when I said we could pick Bandicoot up from pre-school at lunchtime so that he could come, too.  (Poor Bandicoot is having a hard time settling in to preschool this year.  I thought that a short day today would do him no harm.)  By the end of the day he was playing well with all the kids and enjoying himself.

    IMG_7119Nn-Noos!  You forgot your hat!



    Even with a totally grotty face she is cute as can be.

    IMG_7124Listening to the whir as the flying fox goes.

    Gratuitous cuteness                              IMG_7126

    IMG_7127Ready….IMG_7129 Go!

    More gratuitous cuteness…


    Ally-oop!   IMG_7138

    IMG_7139Aah!  An action shot of Possum.  He would NOT go it for the longest time, but by the end of the day he was riding the flying fox standing up.

    IMG_7140  A water monitor walking by…


    Who then tried to hide up a tree…


    This is why.  (Actually, I got Bandicoot to pose here so that you can see how big the lizard is.)

    IMG_7147I tried to get a shot to show his amazing markings – they were spots near his back legs, rather than stripes.  This one shoes the pattern better, but you can’t see the colour so well.


    A couple of the families are kite junkies.  Bandicoot was devastated that we didn’t have his kite with us.  One of the other Dads helped him to fly and box kite.  He loved it so much that it was almost consolation.

    Home Pre-School Kicks Off Again

    July 31, 2012

    Possum is 6 years and 2 months
    Bandicoot is 4 years old
    Little Princess is 1 year and 7 months (19 months)

    With all that has been going on in Possum’s life lately, I have been thinking about homeschooling more and more, as you no doubt have realised.  Amongst these thoughts, I have remembered some of the things we did a couple of years ago when Possum was roughly Bandicoot’s age.  I have also been feeling a bit bad for Bandicoot, because things have not been as much fun for him as I would like.

    So I had a bit of a rummage and have started to do some homeschooling of the two littles, based on Sonlight curriculum.

    On Mondays and Fridays Bandicoot goes to preschool, so on those days Little Princess and I are working through the P3/4 curriculum.  On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we all work together on the P4/5 curriculum.  Or sort of.

    I know someone has probably worked out the order of the readings for a reason, but it annoys me, jumping all over a book.  Bandicoot seems to have issue with this as well.  Therefore we are changing it a little bit.

    I am working through the books in the same order as the curriculum suggests, however, I am reading the books from start to finish, not out of published order.  I am also not reading so many books at the same time.

    Last week was our first week.  We started on Tuesday.  Our readings during the week included:
    The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book – 2 stories
    Eric Carle’s Animals Animals – up to page 19
    The Berenstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature – winter and snow
    Things People Do – up to page 9


    We have also been reading lots of books from The Premier’s Reading Challenge booklist.

    I have been surprised.  My two little ones are language people.  In fact, when Bandicoot was born, with his first breath he talked, he didn’t cry like a normal newborn.  With the two of them at home together there is not a quiet moment.  Possum didn’t have a problem with language, but he has always been a quieter person.

    Possum, however, has always found poetry in any form (except song) tedious.  Bandiccot and Little Princess love it.  When ever I start reading it, they beg for more, whether it be more pages in a book, or to read the same book over and over.  I have to admit that I am enjoying it (and probably improving in the way I read it!).  At school I always loved poetry.  I used to write masses of it, too.  In recent times I have also found it hard going.  I am particularly enjoying the rhythm of the language.

    My plan is to try and read about 4 stories, 4 nursery rhymes, 4 poems, one science and one social science and one memory verse per week from P4/5 and 4 readings from P3/4 each week.  This will be tempered by many things, not excluding time restraints.  One of the main limiters, however, will be how many books the kids choose from other parts of our bookshelf.  I don’t mind if that happens – at the moment I really just want to (re)establish the discipline of reading books together every day.  (That is in addition to the 47 books they seem to get us to read to them every night!)

    Little Princess and I managed to carve out reading time again today.  Some of our readings included A Boy, A Dog and A Frog, (which we loved); Freight Train (the perennial favourite in this house) and My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.


    Tomorrow is Possum’s school sports carnival, so we will be spending the morning at the park.  Hopefully we will have the energy to do some reading as well.


    June 24, 2012

    Possum is 6 years 1 month
    Bandicoot is 3 years 11 months
    Little Princess is 1 year 5 months (17 months)

    It is an idea that just won’t go away.  It niggles at the back of my brain.  Maybe it is because Possum is having a bit of a hard time settling in to school (although he is doing okay at the moment…). Maybe it is because of the effort homework requires from me.  I don’t know.


    Long time readers of this blog know that I originally started it to record homeschooling adventures for preschool.  Homeschooling has been playing on my mind for a while.

    I think DH had hoped this was a fancy that had died a natural death now that Possum was a school.  I know he has a lot of legitimate concerns (whether or not they are warranted). Things like:
    Making sure they get a good, rounded education
    Spending time with friends
    What is involved for us – planning, expenses etc
    How taxing would it be on me, especially given my health, and what would the repercussions be of that on all of us in so many ways

    There are many other things, too.  This is to give you an idea.

    But it won’t leave me alone.

    With every issue at school, I think, ‘would this happen if we home schooled?’
    With every good thing that happens at school, I think, could we do this?  Could we give an equivalent experience?’

    Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes, no.

    There is a boy in HJ6’s class who comes from a homeschooling family.  This year there are two kids at school, two at home.  Next year it is unlikely that this boy will return to school.  I have chatted with his Mum quite a bit, and I have gone to a local homeschooler’s social meet with her, too.

    This meeting pleasantly surprised me.  In the past I have met with other groups of homeschoolers, and while lovely, they weren’t of the same, um, academic – calibre? ambition? level? as our family.  That is fine, but it is important to me that we do not cut off opportunities for the kids by the choices we make now.  For example, our kids might not end up at uni, but it is important to me that we consider education options where matriculation is expected rather than impossible or nearly impossible.  This group consisted mostly of highly trained professionals, who have similar expectations.  That’s good.  Should we choose to ever go this route, I would want support from people with similar ideals.

    Also, possibly not surprisingly if you have spent much time on American Homeschooling Blogs, a lot of the families are Christian.  One of the concerns that many of them share, and share with me, is the development of our children’s ethics.  This was an issue that made me think most strongly about homeschooling in the first place.  I hate that there are so many other influences on my young child at this point in time.  He is not formed, ethically.  So many societies talk about the importance of the first seven to eight years especially, and here I am sending him away to people who may or may not share my views.  It isn’t even a Christian school (for many reasons).  For many of these families, this is the driving reason for homeschooling.

    But back to me.  I can see how this is so doable.  I can see what a wonderful lifestyle it is for us.  But I have concerns, too.  (Not least of all that I would need DH on board!  Child raring is not unilateral.  Not in our family, anyway.). There are three:

    To be honest, I, too, am concerned about how I would go with my health.  Is this a strain that I simply don’t need in my life?  Or is it a calling for our family and therefore not going to be an issue?  Or somewhere in between?  How would I cope with always having the kids there?  Always.  Everywhere.  For everyone’s doctor’s appointments, every time I pop to the shops, every cuppa, every conversation with friends or anyone.  Every minute, always.  Yes, kind of like now, except it doesn’t go away for much longer.  MUCH longer.  One of my major problems at the moment is that I don’t have any personal space, and no personal head space either, unless I stay up until much too late at night.  Of course the kids will continue to get older and become more independant, but it will take a while.  And to be honest I do enjoy my days when both boys out of the house (especially when Little Princess sleeps!). Maybe it doesn’t bother others as much as me, or maybe it really isn’t as much of an issue as it potentially seems.

    My second major concern is the friend thing.  I don’t think socialisation is an issue.  There are many ways to meet people and make friends.  What concerns me is that Possum has made so many friends at school already.  Also, I have made friends with lots of the parents.  His class is quite a community (and we have made friends with some other families, too, especially around the climbing frame of an afternoon.  It would be hard to leave this network, but hard, too, to maintain it.

    And what about the collective experience?  There is something (although not everything) to be said for that.  A connection to others that sits differently to a friendship.  A shared experience, even if you may have a very different one.  Will they feel they have missed out?  That they are segregated from society, somehow?  And apart from that, I really loved school – for the first five years, anyway.  But I loved it enough during that time that those years, combined with my passion for learning, somehow bouyed me through the following eight years (of bitchiness, fighting, cliques and bullying).in

    Oh alright, one other thing (I have had to pause during the writing of this too many times and have lost my train of thought):  what about the extra curricular?  I know that so much is available, into these parts anyway, externally to school, but there is a lot at school, too.  Art, music, computing etc are all included every week.  Could I do that?  What about sport?  Yes the kids could join a team, but what about events like the cross country, that are still being discussed daily? What about a school play or concert.  How do you get those experiences without joining a dedicated drama, or singing or music class?  Is that important?  Does different kinds of fun make up for it?

    I wish that this was an easy or obvious decision for me.  I wish I was convicted one way or the other.  I pray on it, I try to live one way or the other to test the decisions, but all I get is more questions.  Questions that others cannot answer for me.  The obvious solution would be to run an experiment for a term or two or a year, but that involves the commitment of DH, too, and how can I expect that when I am so confused.  It is also an experiment with the life of my anxious little boy, and I don’t want to make things harder for him than they already are.

    Oh dear.  So many thoughts.  So much confusion.

    The Great Celery Experiment!

    October 2, 2010

    Possum is 4 years and 4 months

    Bandicoot is 2 years and 2 months

    It had to be done.  We took four glasses of water (one to use as the control).  In each of the other three we added food colouring to the water – pink, green and blue.  Then we watched and waited to see what would happen.

    The results:

    No!  They didn’t sprout carnations!

    As you can see, they sucked up the coloured water.  (Alright, of course YOU knew that, but it was pretty cool for a 2yo and a 4yo.)

    It was interesting to note that the ones in the pink water shrivelled and died much more quickly than the others.  Of course, the pink made the leaves LOOK brown, so I ignored it at first, but all the bits of celery in there whithered up pretty quickly.

    I was also impressed with how pretty the celery kept in the green water ended up looking.

    And, as to the carnations;  well, we had that coloured water so we bought a bunch of white carnations and popped them in as well.  It was surprising to see results with them in just a few hours.  They looked so lovely!

    Stone Soup

    September 27, 2010

    Possum is 4 years 4 months

    Bandicoot is 2 years 2 months

    Today we tried a different technique for story-telling.  Instead of reading a book, I told the boys the story, “Stone Soup“.

    It was hard going.  It was one of those short attention span days.

    We acted out the story, too, using wooden and material vegetables.  The wooden veges needed to be chopped before going in the saucepans, so that was lots of fun.

    We also discussed what would happen if you made a soup with only a stone in it.  Would it have any taste?  I had actually sterilised some stones so that we could cook them up, but it really wasn’t soup-eating-weather.

    Post Script 2 months later:

    I had thought that the boys were not that interested in this week’s activities, but I have caught them playing “Stone Soup”, including the retelling of the story many, many times since then.  Just goes to show you, they might not LOOK like they are listening…

    The Very Busy Spider

    September 20, 2010

    Possum is 4 years and 4 months

    Bandicoot is 2 years and 2 months

    We love this book.  The boys love bugs and insects and creepy crawlies.  I love the way you can feel the spider’s web all the way through the book.  I have previously borrowed this book from the library and this time we borrowed it from a friend, but it is definitely on my wish list.

    As I was setting up, Bandicoot discovered my basket…

    Apparently I was taking too long to move on to the interesting stuff…

    We made these little spiders – inspired by Mama Jenn.  Unfortunately, the legs didn’t stick on with the craft glue we had, so we added some tape “until the glue dried”.

    That night I used a bit of Mummy Magic (also known as a hot glue gun in this case) and attached them more permanently.

    And the other problem with using pipe-cleaners (er, sorry, chenille sticks as we are supposed to call them now)?  When you stand them on a hard surface and bump them, they make a rather skin crawling sound.  (Admittedly, they sound a good deal more like cockroaches than spiders, but even so…)

    Did I mention how much I HATE spiders?  They really scare me.  Pictures, toys – any of them.  I justify myself because we live in a red-back and Sydney funnel-web area, but really they all give me the heeby-jeebies!

    But I digress…

    I prepared a magic painting for the boys before hand.  I used a white oil pastel to draw spider webs on a piece of white paper.  They then used watered down paint to make the webs show up.  This is possum working hard on his, with his little spider keeping him company.

    And this is one of the finished webs:

    I was a little disappointed with they way the web showed.  Maybe I should have used tempura paint instead.  However, when we held them against the window, they looked pretty good.

    We had quite a discussion about HOW spiders build webs.  I had done a bit of research on this, which was scary business, because you just never knew when you were going to stumble on a picture of a spider.  I found it really fascinating, ‘though.  I was also pleased to see that the pictures in the book were pretty accurate – the drift thread first, then anchor threads, then the radials, (then there was supposed to be the spiral guide thread) and finally the (argh!  Can’t remember the correct name) the threads that go round and round.

    Other interesting facts that we learnt:

    The distance between the concentric circles is determined by the length of the spider’s legs.  That means that little spiders can catch little bugs and big spiders can catch big bugs.

    A webbing spider has three spinerettes (the things that make web).  They have one type for the drift thread and anchor threads.  Another type to build the web and finally a third type for wrapping up their prey.  Cool, huh?

    So, using our knowledge about how a spider’s web is built, we drew one in chalk on the driveway (wow, it used a lot of chalk!)

    Can you see the blue cross on there?  Possum drew that, because he wanted the spider “to know all about Jesus and how He loves him and how He died to save him”.  I guess the Christian education is sinking in!

    We then used the web to play spider and flies.  I thought we might take turns at this, but it is much more fun apparently if it is Mummy spider.

    The boys buzzed around the yard and then “got caught” in the web.  Here you can see two little flies waiting to be eaten:

    I then had to tip-toe carefully around the web to reach them, wrap them up and eat them.  They thought this was the best game ever!

    A couple of days later, we had a lesson on the transience of spiders’ webs.  It rained and washed our web off the driveway, just like what happened to all the real spiders webs out there.

    Given my, ahem, lack of affection for the subject matter, I really enjoyed this unit with the boys.