Homeschooled children and socialisation

It is the first challenge, disapproval or question you receive when people first find out you are a home educating family. Everyone asks it in different ways, some more tactfully than others. But however it comes out, it always comes out.

“Don’t you think she will be lonely?”

“how are you going to tackle the social aspect?”
“well she’s going to be deprived of friends isn’t she?”
“aren’t you worried about her socially?”
or the blatantly outright “Your going to ruin her.”

you get the idea.

Allow me to answer the question of socialisation here. And please know this, I go forth here with the biggest amount of grace I can summon, for the subject is a sensitive one. But I will not tippy toe for you. You have been warned.

Firstly, It’s rather amusing that of all of the questions, this one is the most popular and highest on the list of concerns. There is rarely question about her actual education, how it all works, why we want to homeschool or anything else.

For some reason the word homeschooling seems to summon thoughts of a little child crouched in the corner of a room, knees to chest, rocking back and forth like a little hermit, memorising her times tables and not knowing what another human voice sounds like outside of her home. Seriously. It’s really not like that. at all.

I can promise you, homeschooled children get “socialised” plenty. They have friends and acquaintances, they are well able to get right in there and hold a conversation with pretty much anyone they meet. They do not behave as though they are allergic to people and they certainly aren’t the piglet from winnie the pooh.

All joking aside, I really want to address this with you. Our decision to homeschool was one made with our children’s best interests at heart. We are not homeschooling out of fear or control. We are homeschooling because for SO many reasons we believe it is best for our family. Socialisation is no exception. Just like I feel that my children are best educated outside of the schooling system, I also feel that my children are best “socialised” outside of the schooling system.

You see public and private education are choices. Just like homeschooling. Just like they are not the only valid way to educate a person, they are also not the only valid way to develop social skills in a person, and I’ll go as far as saying, they are also not always the best way. If your child is or has any of the following, public or private schooling may not work out so well socially for them:
If they are:
> quirky or “unusual” (according to pop culture standards)
> Especially gifted
> find it hard to grasp new concepts or take more time than allocated
> extremely active/cant sit still
> constantly asks questions and asks “why?”
> quiet, shy and content with simplicity
> still quite innocent for their age
If your anyone else, public or private schooling might very well be just fine for you. But if your child ticks any of these boxes, well, it could get interesting. Any child who fits in any of the above descriptions, do not make it through socially because of the school system, they make it through despite of it.
For example our little girl is quirky, vibrant and is full of questions and wants to know why why why?! In a school environment these qualities are all seen as “problems” and we are not about to throw a wet blanket over our little girl.
lets stop here for a minute and just talk about the word “socialisation”. To most people it (put very simply) means:
“The act of interacting with other people, regularly”.
I could go on a 6 paragraph spiel about how much further reaching the meaning goes, but I’ll save that and go right into the purpose of socialisation. The meaning of the word can be debated and perceived in various ways, and so can it’s purpose.
I believe the purpose of socialisation is:
1. Interacting with others in order to bless and enjoy them and be blessed and enjoyed by them.
2. To grow interpersonally

3. to communicate effectively 

If you think about it, that is what socialisation should be about. You don’t guide your child in social skills for socialisation’s sake. There is purpose behind it. With those three purposes in mind, it begs the question…

Which is more valuable when it comes to socialisation? Quality? or Quantity?

If your answer is quantity then you may as well stop reading right now. But if your answer is quality, well… I dare say homeschooling would meet that criteria. My children get to spend 7 days a week with their family, living in the real world, day to day life, interacting with many different people, of all walks of life, all ages and all cultures. She is enabled to develop friendships with people of her own choice (not a selection of the same 25 children a year), all the while frequently meeting new people on an almost daily basis. In which you could say, the quantity certainly is up there with schools or even beyond it, added to that the quality surely is of a high standard.

That brings me to another point. Being homschooled means that super young children who are not yet equipped or wise enough to deal with the complex issues that come with socialising, still have there parents with them to face life’s many social conundrums. They aren’t thrown into the deep end and told to sink or swim, they are brought into the shallows, hand in hand with their life guide thus far (the parent/s) and at a pleasant and manageable pace, walked into the water until they are ready to let go of the hand and explore the depths independently, all the while being able to reach out and take the hand of wisdom and support once more if they need it.

Here’s a popular point of view:
“Well real life sometimes requires you to suck it up and deal with it. Your wrapping them in cotton wool by not letting them deal with social difficulties. If they are bullied or pressured, it’ll prepare them for the real world”

…. umm… no. No amount of bullying or peer pressure is going to prepare them for the real world. And no amount of it is healthy or helpful in the slightest. Don’t take my word for it, ask anyone who got bullied or mistreated in high school, they won’t tell you “Oh boy did that help me in life so much, I’m so grateful to my bullies for making my childhood living hell, I was so much better off for it and emotionally prepared for the real world”… it actually sounds ridiculous when you lay it out like that, doesn’t it? Being thrown into social situations at a very young age such as these, does not “teach” them anything but how to build up walls, close up emotionally, cry and loose self esteem, conform and/or get angry and get even.

Children experiencing bullying or peer pressure, do not build resilience. They build issues, walls and caution. Resilience is built, when one is gradually equipped to deal with life’s hardships. When one learns how to manage their emotions and how to read the emotions of others to a certain degree. When they are guided through situations and led gently to the best outcomes or conclusions. When they come out the other end stronger, (not tougher, there is a difference), when they come to understand right and wrong choices and that they actually HAVE choices.

 

That is another thing. I have absolutely no idea how one can come up with the notion that homeschooled children are not prepared for the “real world” when they actually live daily in the real world. They aren’t stuck in a classroom, the world literally is the classroom. Or the notion that homeschooled children are not exposed to social hardships. Hey, they are still people interacting with other people, constantly. There are still problems, there will still be clashing of personalities, there are still heated moments on the playground. The difference is, well, there are many differences, but the main one I think, is that they don’t have to go it alone. They don’t have to “dob” to a teacher only to find nothing has been resolved and the situation is still as bad and is ongoing. They don’t get told to “be brave” or to “stop provoking” or (in less outrageous wording than this, but,) to “suck it up”. They get the chance to resolve it for themselves and learn the ropes of communication and conflict resolution, with a caring and ever present guide who is not preoccupied with 25 other little people. They can be given the chance to grow and learn about socialising, without the burden of doing it ALONE.

Think about it. Out here in the “real world” as so many of us adults call it, what do we do when we are having a huge problem with a person or people? Do we sit around and think it out and come up with a cracker of a solution, on our own? Not always. As adults we are FAR more capable of that than children, but still, we usually talk to a friend about it, or our spouse, or someone we trust, for advice and guidance. And not 7 hours later when the dust has settled, but usually, immediately after the adversity. Oh, and we adults usually don’t have to be faced with our tormentors on a daily basis. If we have a terrible experience with someone, we can move on. We don’t have to continue to be surrounded by the poison. We can choose new, better friends, or leave a relationship, or even leave a job or be transferred if its bad enough. In a school situation, most of the time, your stuck with your bullies all year, maybe more than a year, with no escape but the bell.

I really wanted to get right into the whole resilience/bully thing because It seems to be a very misunderstood part of socialisation. But moving right along…

Whilst I have discussed quality, sound guidance, and variety in socialisation, I haven’t stated the simple and very obvious yet.

Socialising is natural. People are social creatures. The act of socialising does not need to be forced, and really, it cannot be stunted. (I will add here, that although the act of socialising is a natural human thing, it doesnt mean its easy for everyone. Some are naturally more introverted or have special needs which restricts their development in social skills, but does not change the fact that human beings consistently must interact with one another in one way or another). You cannot leave your house without being faced by a plethora of people. You also must leave your house regularly for day to day living. Leaving the house + people living their daily lives = natural socialisation. There is nothing forced about it, and also nothing held back. If thought about rationally there is no question here. How will she be socialised? The same way I am.
How will she make friends? The same way you do.

Won’t she be lonely? Well is loneliness being surrounded by family who love you dearly, having a sibling to enjoy (they get along beautifully) and constantly meeting people everywhere we go every week, and building friendships with people of your choice? No, that is not loneliness.
My children will be just fine.

To end this, I’ll tell you about my observation of homeschooled children. The ones I’ve met,

> Do not have headphones over there ears at social gatherings, rather they are the ones talking to people of all ages and races, asking questions and enjoying everyone.

> At the supermarket (on a school day lol) they greet the woman at the checkout, acknowledging that the woman is a human being who is worthy of a “how are you today?”

> even at 5 years old, can confidently look an adult in the eye whilst talking to them.

> They don’t worry about scanning the playground for the “cool kids”… in fact, they don’t even know what a “cool” kid is. They just want to play with whoever happens to cross their paths.

They are usually well adjusted little people whose parents get asked “what school do they go to?” or whose parents get told “Gee she speaks well for her age doesn’t she?” or “He is so confident!” Could it be partially because they are home educated? Give home educators a chance. Instead of laying the socialisation accusation on us, watch. Stand back, relax and know that we love our children enough to make the best decisions for them, and that we have considered every single aspect of this journey and we know exactly what we are doing. Homeschooling Isn’t for everyone, and we aren’t trying to convert you to home educating. We merely want you to understand that home education is most definitely a legal, effective and wonderful option for many families the world over. Our family being one of them.

I pray that you and your families always have great wisdom in your own educational choices and journey, and that you as parents will be imparted with the wisdom required to make the best choices for your family. We are all different, and we need not all walk the same educational path. Isn’t freedom and choice an amazing thing?

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DIY – Create your own popcorn sight words game – Free Printable

So… I went on a hunt for yet another cool thing I saw online. There are a few versions of the game but the most commonly available is called “Pop for sight words”. There is also a version by scholastic as well. It is a great little compact game which uses high frequency sight words. The game makes reading these words and memorising them fun.

 

 

Basically, you just take a piece of “popcorn” from the box, and read the word on it. If you get it right you may keep your popcorn, and pile them up. If you get it wrong you just return it to the box. There are pieces that say POP! on them and if you get one of those, you lose all your pieces. Person with the most popcorn wins. You can play all kinds of variations of this game to suit your child. You can omit the “Pop” rule altogether, or have the kids eat real popcorn when they get a pop piece. You can also have the child say the word they just read in a sentence. You can also use the pieces to make silly sentences.

Of course, like most cool educational games and items that I randomly come across, it is not sold by an Australian online seller. So, I then went on that pointless journey to Amazon to find an American seller to buy the game from… and of course, as always… I came up against the usual irritating words (several times):

“does not ship to Australia”
“does not ship to Australia”
…..”Does not ship to Australia”

yeh yeh. Then after about an hour I found one that did ship to Australia. You know, if you are willing to sell your liver on the black market to pay for it. So a $12.90 game that probably weighs under 50 grams was going to end up costing $45 or so after postage?

……If I wasn’t a lover of Jesus I would tell you where you could stick that offer.

Not to be defeated, I decided to simply make the game myself. It’s not like it is difficult.
However easy doesn’t mean quick. And this was a time consuming endeavor. So I decided I ought to share the printable free for anyone else who cannot get their hands on the game, or for anyone who is just crazy enough to actually want to make it for the fun of it.

Now I highly suggest that you laminate the pieces, as after all that cutting out, you are going to want this game to last. It is not an essential step, so if you do not own a laminator, don’t be discouraged. Perhaps you can print it on thicker paper, like a light cardstock, if your printer will take it. I would definitely recommend you laminate though, if you want to use it over and over. Especially if you have boys. I don’t know why, but boys just have this amazing ability to destroy everything made of paper. Or just everything in general. Or maybe that is just my boys haha.

The words chosen, are high frequency words that are commonly in the books your child would be reading. I do not know all the words that are in the original game, I just searched online for the 100 most common high frequency words. Some were a bit debatable… like “Oil”. I do not recall ever reading the word oil in a kids reader haha. So I switched out that word for “little”. But I think most of the words are definitely frequent ones in kids books.

When you open and print the PDF, you will notice there are a few popcorn pieces without words on them. This is so that you can add any words you might like. I added my children’s names, and a few words that I know my daughter struggles with, as well as a couple of words that I know she can read really easily (So that she feels like a smarty pants when she pulls and reads those words, boosting her confidence to keep going). You can write anything you like on your spares, before laminating.

Lastly, The popcorn cup in the picture is available at the Reject shop. You get a few in a pack for $2. It is too big really, but I had it sitting in the pantry and decided to use it to make it more appealing, and the novelty did put a smile on the kids faces. However you can place yours in a little plain container, or get your kids to make a small square popcorn box out of cardstock, or you could use those little white chinese food boxes that are sold at craft stores, or you could find a smaller popcorn container. I’ve seen really cute plastic ones in Red dot from time to time.

I hope this printable is enjoyed by your young readers and that it is a handy tool to try out for something different! My 7yr old is a reluctant reader and enjoys it. My 4 year old just loves the “Pop!” pieces and tries to deliberately get those ones haha.

Happy playing!

FREE PRINTABLE POPCORN GAME – CLICK >>> HERE

(PS: it has my old website info on it and I am unable to edit it now, promise it’s from me though!)

Finding the right scissors for a young child (toddler to Kindy)

Good Day my lovely readers!

Scissors. They caused us some serious drama last year during kindy, and I didnt realise the reason was not hand-eye coordination or anything of the sort, but that the quality of so many different children’s safety scissors are seriously poor! No wonder my child was getting so frustrated! We started off with the typical, widely available crayola scissors, usually found in green but here is a red pair:

one day i picked up Curly girls scissors and went to cut something….and it wouldnt cut!!! Only if I had it on the EXACT correct angle would it cut! Whaaat????!! Righto… So then I grabbed the plastic see through pink scissors we had purchased from kmart… tried them out, same problem but worse. The paper just bent for me exactly like it did for curly girl. Worse than the crayola. I went through three other pairs I had bought in attempt to help out my daughter with her cutting skills, to find that the “safer” these kids scissors were, the less effective they were at actual cutting and the more precise you had to be with the angle you used.

We have been through several pairs of scissors…

See the three types of “blades”? One is non safety, and of course cuts best but can cause mini heart attacks while you supervise your child whom you think will cut their fingers off any second… the other has no blade at all is just completely plastic, so super duper safe and super duper useless, the last is the classic type, plastic, rounded edges but a blunt small sort of blade..that requires particular paper to scissor angle to work.

Finally after much trialing, we decided on our favourites, that actually work… both are the same brand and both are not expensive, and both I have found at Big W and also officeworks so far:

First, these Kidi Cut Maped scissors for 2+ yr olds. Finally! A completely plastic pair of scissors, that are nice and small (perfect size for the age) and still cut great as long as your child’s hand is in the right place for cutting (awkward positions dont work, which is good as it encourages proper use of the scissors and stops little hands from aching). These are really great, curly boy is able to cut with them very well. He started using them at 2.5yrs and got the hang of them within a few minutes. I feel confident letting him use them without him chopping his fingers off too. HIGHLY recommended.

The next pair are also maped, and look like the ones below (both come in different colours) these ones are not safety scissors, as you can see. But they are still a great size for about a 4+ yr old. They cut really well but require very close supervision, I like them because of the way the fingers sit in the holes, they seem to help, plus, see that little green thingo? Its like a switch, if your child is having trouble opening and closing the scissors, you flip that switch, and when the child clamps down to cut, it automatically pushes it back open for them, so they can get the hang of cutting action without worrying about not being able to open and close the scissors smoothly. Once they get the hang of the cutting motion and build confidence/hand muscle, you can turn the mechanism off and they can chop away all by themselves. Curly girl had trouble using scissors last yr in kindy, and this pair fixed that problem. 

So although you can try lots of different paper cutting activities, crafts, exercises to help your little ones learn to cut with scissors, and it will be good for them to practice, be sure to go and test out your child’s pair of safety scissors to see if perhaps they are the root of the problem! As soon as we found scissors that actually worked, It solved 90% of curly girls scissor woes! 
Hope this has been helpful, happy snipping!

Pregnancy #3 Update: 26 weeks

Good morning all!

So I have been asked for an update on this pregnancy, since I am currently over halfway through it and have stayed rather silent about it. I would much prefer to do a 5 minute Youtube video for this post, however our internet is rather useless for uploading videos at the moment so a blog post will have to do.

Basically, this pregnancy has been rather different from my other two. Both my last pregnancies were quite similar in symptoms (or lack thereof) and so on, the only difference really, was the strength of the kicks. Curly girl was pretty laid back. Her kicks were quick and to the point, but gentle enough to be pleasant, and she liked to stretch. Curly Boy’s kicks were insane. He was like a crazy ninja, he bruised one of my ribs at one stage! Everything else however, from cravings (hardly any) to complications (none) were very similar or the same.

This time around… well… this little one has taken me for a ride. He (yes, its a boy!) has been different. Well, the pregnancy has at least. This time, I got morning sickness and boy I got it good. Right up until 19 weeks! I also had severe back pain (and still get it a bit), my tummy popped out so fast and so big I looked about 20 weeks along at only 13 weeks. My doctor was surprised and amused, and sent me off for an ultrasound to make sure we had dates right, and that there weren’t twins in there. Yes, my belly was that big! Turns out, a midwife recently explained to me that the issue was that I still have stomach muscle separation from my previous pregnancy and that not only contributes to the back pain as ligaments don’t have full support, but also means one’s tummy gives way alot easier. Seriously, the midwives at our hospital are just onto it. They know all. Better than the GP’s. I have learned my lesson, I will be sure to actually exercise this time around to bring my tummy back into a healthy state! Other issues included blurred vision, extreme fatigue, and then the big one… Placenta Previa.

They found that my placenta has decided to sit right over the birth canal, with only a very small gap. This is not uncommon and also it is very usual that it corrects itself at a later stage. 9 times out of 10, the placenta will move out of the way before delivery time and there is no need for worry. However, if it does not move, then I will have to have a Cesarean, otherwise natural labour could be dangerous for me and baby (bleeding out being one problem!) I do NOT want a cesarean… really. I have had two natural births so far, and have been very happy with the process, the recovery time, the fact that once its over, its over. Sure, it’s hellish going through that pain, but its natures way. The way God designed our bodies to do it. So I prefer it. I am not against pain relief, epidurals, cesareans and so on, not at all… and am also aware that many women have no choice but to use other methods to birth their child, and hey in my opinion, whatever gets that baby out safely, is the best way. However for me, I just prefer natural birth. Plus, I know what to expect with a natural birth. Having to have a Cesarean will be stepping into new territory for me, scary territory that I do not want to have to step into. Ironically, many women book in their cesareans because they are terrified of the pain and process of childbirth, yet, I am somewhat terrified of the thought of a major operation, the thought of someone removing my child from my body while i lay there unconscious, or conscious but uninvolved, the thought of the pain and discomfort of the wound afterwards, it all just makes me feel queasy and uneasy. However, I will of course do whatever is best for the baby and for me. I will have to have a scan at about 36 weeks to see where my placenta is choosing to hang out. I am hoping and praying that it has decided to move on up, so it can be smooth sailing. I suppose if I do end up having to have a cesarean, at least it isn’t an emergency one which I have heard are much worse. Also, It’ll be another experience up my sleeve and I will be able to relate to other ladies who have had to have this operation done.

So even though I would much prefer to labour naturally, and am praying for that outcome, If God chooses the cesarean path for us this time, I know His will is perfect and there is good reason for it, and I can take comfort in that.

But yes, very different pregnancy this time around. Much harder and lots more going on. However I am not complaining, just marveling at the fact that pregnancies can be SO different! Many women have it WAY worse than I have had it, with far more serious complications, so I know even now, I am extremely blessed, and am greatful that my child is healthy, growing well and that we have the technology these days to see in advance if there are any of these kinds of problems, so that we can choose the best way to go about birthing.

On to the nursery. I’ve been asked for photos of the nursery…umm… we don’t have one. We live in a 3 by 1. So.. there is a bassinet in our bedroom (which thankfully has been extended by my husband prior to the news i was pregnant, which has made it wider, which is super super convenient! So the babies nursery will be pretty much, our room. But this suits us just fine for the early months since feeding is so frequent and bub is so small. Once we transfer bub to a cot, it will be in the larger of our two kids rooms. Currently Curly girl has the big room and my son has the small room. We will be swapping this around very soon, to prepare. So the boys share a big room and curly girl has her own little space. Small, but, her own. She is cool with that, which makes it easy for us! The catch is, the boys new room… is “fairy wings pink” in colour…. so were going to have to paint it.. meh. This does not excite me. I don’t like painting rooms. Hubby will do the bulk of it. But it is a royal pain haha. We will just go with a soft white  then decorate with colour. Easier to make changes down the track that way.

Next question from my curious followers has been names. Yes we have a name, no we aren’t sharing it. This blog has nicknames to protect the identity of our children somewhat. So We have a curly girl, curly boy, and at this stage the baby is referred to here as curly tot. However I want to find a better blog name for him so please feel free to make suggestions and we will at least announce his chosen blog name! Haha

Lastly the question of how I feel about having a third baby. Well… I’m thrilled! This little one was a complete surprise, but a welcome one. Children are a blessing from the Lord. I have to admit, my initial thoughts were less than positive. I freaked a little. My heart skipped a beat…both in dismay and joy at the same time. It was very bad timing as far as “timing” goes, however it was God’s perfect timing and I came to that quickly. The worry was related to the fact that it would change our new business significantly with me being unable to work whilst showing. Also I was concerned about how hubby would feel. You know, all that kind of external stuff that always sorts itself out. Initially he was shocked and less than positive also… however he very very quickly turned that frown upside down and we were both very happy and looking forward to another curly topped blessing running around our home.

Fast forward to now. I just want him here. I want pregnancy to end and our family life with three to begin. I know it will be interesting for a while. I find the first 6 months the hardest. But also, I am very confident that we will all do just fine. If we could handle the difficulties of having a baby with clubfoot last time (curly boy had very severe fixed talipes/clubfoot when he was born, but is perfect now!) which involved frequent hospital visits, an operation when he was two months old, plaster casts, special shoes and so much more, if we handled and got through that, we can certainly adapt to a third baby (who does not have clubfoot, confirmed at 20 week scan…yay!) Plus, once you’ve done it twice, you just know what your doing. I wont be worried about this or that, or wondering what to do, or thinking I could break him, or working out how to change a boys nappy, or wondering if I will be an okay mum. I have been through all of that. I think my biggest challenge will be staying organised. I lack in self discipline. I know I do, I have finally admitted it and God is working on me with it. I am improving all the time, but I do have a feeling that a new baby with a new schedule to adjust to etc is really going to throw me for a loop. However I am not stressing too much about it as I know, a happy home is much better than a spotless one. I also know that an orderly home is a Godly thing, so I will be working on it, but I do feel it will be a challenge for sure! Yet one I am ready to face with a positive attitude and most importantly, the power of prayer.

so, 26 weeks in, I am just plodding along. My back hurts, I am short of breath, I run out of gas halfway through the day and cant do all the things I want to do, I’ve been horribly constipated among various other TMI physical “eew” issues… yep… humbling. Pregnancy is humbling. Hahaha. However, I also am happy, enjoying life, happy and eager to meet our third child, keeping very busy with life in general and ready to take on motherhood with three little ones. I feel abundantly blessed to be receiving another little “arrow” to aim and shoot for the Lord and am eagerly awaiting October 2015!!

Pregnancy #1
Pregnancy #2

Teaching young children about pregnancy & preparing them for a sibling

Well Curly Girl has been very interested in the pregnancy this time around, asking many questions and highly interested in all things pregnancy. Of course, like a good homeschool mum does, I have taken the liberty of incorporating this curiousity into our lessons over the weeks. We have done colouring in sheets, hired out library books like these ones (which was good for Curly Boy too, who is 3).

 

and also had various talks about pregnancy. We have also sat down weekly and watched the mini-videos on the progress of the baby from my pregnancy apps such as Babycenter, along with reading the progress reports from other apps like Ovia Pregnancy, I’m expecting and baby bump pro.

It has been delightful to see Curly Girl retain the information well. She understands the function of the uterus, placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid and can now point them out on a diagram. She was fascinated with all of this… and why wouldnt she be! A child developing in the womb is nothing short of a miracle! A true gift from God!

Here are links to a few of the simple pages we have used for colouring in/learning about babies in utero:

colouring in – names of parts that support a baby in utero
Stages of baby growth
colour in cartoon baby in womb for toddlers
colour in pregnant family for toddlers

It has been really nice to have my 5 year old enjoy this pregnancy. She felt her first kicks recently, and the light in her eyes was just beautiful! I have been very honest with her about when the baby comes. She is old enough to understand that with life comes change, and I have explained to her that when the baby comes, I will be very busy with him. More than usual I will not be able to just come and do whatever tickles her fancy. But I have also discussed with her that this is temporary, it wont be that way forever and it will get easier and easier. I think at her age, it is important for her to be prepared for that. She had a baby brother when she was three years old. But it was different. At that age you cannot explain these things to them so you just run with it as it happens, try to involve them as much as possible (they can become “mummy’s little helper and so on, fetching a nappy or similar). She enjoyed it as we always made sure she was involved and that when bub had his naps, she got some special one on one time with mummy. This time around, she will be 6 years old when her second brother is born, and much more aware of what to expect. She is a keen and willing little thing. She is excited and for that attitude, I am very greatful!

As far as the pregnancy itself goes, I have not gone into how babies are made, as she has not asked and I personally feel it is too young to go there at this stage. Every parent needs to decide whats right for their child. My daughter is just too young. Plus, she hasn’t asked. That alone is a good indication to me that its too early. The question of “How will the baby get out?” has come up. My answer, was simple. “Well when the baby gets too big to fit in my tummy any longer, and the time is right, I will feel sore in my tummy and will go to the hospital, and the midwives will help me get the baby out”. She did not question the methods of how the midwives do it, (which surprised me greatly as she is usually extremely inquisitive and asks for details!) she was satisfied with the information given and so we left it at that, however if she were to ask me further, how does the baby get out though? I would be honest about the ways that a baby can exit. I feel that my 6 year old can handle that. So my advice to anyone wondering how they should handle these questions? Do NOT lie to your children. Under any circumstances. Stories about the stork, or God snapping his fingers and hip hip hooray here is the baby and so on? I believe children deserve the respect to be told the truth, or to be told just enough to satisfy their curiousity. So instead of lying, just keep it simple. The doctors get the baby out at the hospital. How does the baby get in there? Mummy and Daddy share a special time together and God blesses them with the baby. These are true statements, just very simplified, and somewhat vague…but enough to satisfy very young children, without fibbing to them.

Again, each parent knows when the time is right, each parent knows what their children can handle/process at what age. So we all have to use discernment and be prayerful about how we approach these questions and answers, I’m merely sharing how we have gone about it, and hope that it is helpful.

The real interest though that I have found for my pre-primary aged daughter, hasn’t so much been in the how did it get there and how does it get out stuff, but the right now stuff. The fact that there is a living child within her mothers tummy is just fascinating to her. She has enjoyed books and each week asks “how big is the baby now” and we use the fruit comparisons, or I take a ruler and show her around about how big.

Now that I am 25 weeks pregnant, we have started talking about what it will be like when the baby is here. How things might change, for the good, and also, things that might be a little harder. We have sat and gone through fun thoughts like “what colour do you think babies eyes/hair will be?” or “do you think baby will come in the morning, afternoon or at night?” and also we are planning to make some things for the baby. I will be sewing him a little blanket, and she will be helping with that. Even making final choices of the fabric used. She will make him a little welcome to the family card. We have also read scriptures about family and the blessing that children are. It has all helped her to understand whats happening.

 

Lastly, I have been honest about the difficulties of pregnancy. I don’t think it is necessary or healthy for a child to have their pregnant mother complain and carry on about all the ailments we may face whilst pregnant. Children do not need that burden in their lives. However there is no harm in being honest when you are just really tired. Or have a sore back, or are feeling dizzy. You do not have to hide that you are human! My 5 year old knows I suffer with bad back pain, and the reasons why related to pregnancy. It has helped her to understand why mummy cannot run around with her at the moment. It has also given her the opportunity to exercise the character traits of compassion, care, and thoughtfulness. She has a few times now, seen my face change a bit and asked, “are you feeling okay mummy” and try to rub my back. or “Can I get you a warmie?” (a heat pack for my back). What a sweet gesture! So although I do not encourage you to sit there and carry on about how much your not enjoying your pregnancy right now (after all your kids, male or female will most likely have to deal with pregnancy themselves one day one way or the other and you don’t want to frighten or put them off!) I do sincerely encourage you to be honest when your having a rough day. A simple “mummy feels very sick today, so I will need to rest more. Like when your sick and you want to lay down? Its a bit like that. But don’t worry, I will be okay, I will feel better at some stage. But right now my body is busy making a baby in there and that can make mummies feel sick!” It’s amazing what a little “realness” can do for young ones.

Our three year old son, does not fully understand the idea of pregnancy yet. He lifts up his shirt and exclaims that he has a baby in his tummy. He also pokes my chest and says “baby in there”… thinking that my breasts and belly all have the baby inside since they all stick out hahaha. So adorable, and also okay. This is a very young age where you cannot do much to make them understand. However you can also begin to prepare them too. We have given curly boy his sisters baby dolly, and showed him how you must be gentle with babies. He has pretended to feed the baby, wash the baby, not touch the babies head. He has learned that babies can cry alot. That they need alot of care, attention, gentleness and love. Through imaginative play he is coming to some basic comprehension that will help him with his new brother once he arrives.

Many mums worry about the jealousy factor. I cannot help you with this, as my daughter was not a bit jealous of her brother at any stage, and at this stage is also not jealous of this next one. Our son, may be different, but so far seems to be good. I know that sometimes, the jealousy factor can be simply part of some kids personality types. However I feel that many times it has to do with how involved we try to make them, and how much they know they are loved, and how we place great value on family as a whole unit. In our home, your family comes first. Your best friends are your siblings and parents, and this is ingrained into them from very small, so when a new “best friend” comes along, it just flows! I am not saying that there haven’t been hard moments. Or times where my daughter has practically hung off my foot and begged me to put the baby down haha, however its not done in an “I wish he wasn’t here” manner, but more of a “I really love him but I need you right now” manner. So, I believe that prayer, and the way we raise our kids, has contributed greatly to the no jealousy issue. However, each child is different. Each personality reacts differently, and we have only had two children so far with this third on the way. Perhaps a larger family would have more wisdom, advice and experience on this particular issue, so I will leave it to them to expand on that. I am certainly not the authority on the jealousy issue. Just sharing my thoughts on what has worked for us in hopes that it helps someone!

The day I got home with Curly Girls little brother: Pure Joy!

So in conclusion, the way we have taught our kids about pregnancy, and a growing family, is just making it a part of every day life. Open discussion, imaginative play, and educating them with pictures to colour in, books to read and answering their questions at an age appropriate level. Even an 18 month year old can begin to learn to be gentle with babies. Starting off by being told there is a baby in mummys tummy, and to be gentle with the actual bump itself is a good start! Curly boy was calling my tummy a bouncy ball and whacking it at first… but with patient guidance has learned now to rub and pat gently, because there is a precious cargo inside. Children are very visual, so showing them a video or book with pictures of whats going on in your uterus will go down very well usually. Most of all, ENJOY the journey. Involve the kids. Talk about names for baby, let them help you set up the nursery in little ways. If you have a baby shower, have them there if you can.

Pregnancy is one amazing process and even very small children can come to a simple understanding of whats going on in there and what is to come. Never underestimate a little one’s ability to learn about and enjoy your pregnancy. Just love on them, love on your bump and enjoy it!

How do you teach your children about pregnancy? What are ways you have found that work well to prepare your children for a new addition to the family? Please feel free to share in the comments your advice and input, I’d love to hear from you!

Keeping colds and flus from spreading to others

Well it is only the second day of winter and already in autumn we have had our fair share of sickness in our home. Generally we find that it doesnt spread to other family members and only one person cops it. (however this time, most of us got it, just to break the cycle and make this post void haha) I had a friend ask me how we manage to do that… I thought about it and most of it is common sense but when you, or someone else in the household feels like death, its good to have a little reminder of the things you can be doing to not pass it on. So here you go:
Its all about hygeine and good nutrition.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but my favourites to prevent colds and flu’s from spreading to other family members:
1. Hand washing.
As basic as it is, it can be forgotten. Especially you Mum! Wash those hands constantly. Administered some medicine? Wash hands. Cleaned out spew bucket? Wash hands. Been cuddling the sickie? Wash hands. About to prep food or even pour a drink? Wash hands. Be a hand-washing freak. It really does help! Also make sure other family members (including babies) have their hands cleaned before eating anything.

2. Cup isolation.
The sick person must be allocated their own special cup. This is not negotiable. Especially if you are a “use more than once” family (less dishes) because a simple rinse with hot water between drinks wont stop the nasties from spreading if someone picks up the wrong cup. We have a batman glass the adults use and a green plastic cup for the kids. (Green because like in the movies when cartoon characters turn green when they are sick. Makes it easy for them to remember that it is the unwell persons cup ). This will really help stop the spreading of germs and can be a silent culprit when you have done everything you know to do and others still get sick. So make sure you have a “sick cup” or “sick glass” in the house. Distinctly different to everyone elses.Put all Cutlery and plates straight into sink or dishwasher and wipe the table down after use.
3. Limit Close contact
Im terrible for this. When my kids are sick I sometimes share a bed with them, cuddle their faces off and just hope and pray that I stay well. So im not suggesting you deprive your precious feverish children some good ol’ fashioned affection. But be smart about it. No kisses or close faces. You can hug a child with their head facing down a bit on your chest, or facing away from you. You can sleep with your back turned to one another etc. And if its you or Daddy who are sick, limit cuddles  as much as possible. No kisses at all.
4. Be diligent to clean sick-stuff
You know, change pillowcases daily, empty and disinfect spew buckets, open windows to sick persons bedroom when possible (during the day if they can lay on the couch you can air off their room), things like that.
5. Vitamin C or even better ELDERBERRY SYRUP
 If you have someone who hates the taste of vitamin C or cant chew/swallow them without feeling sick,  the next best thing is orange juice/mandarins/veggies packed with vitamin C. In fact absorption of any vitamin is almost always better from natural sources over a tablet. But Elderberry Syrup is by far, the very best natural defense I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive, so far I have not found it for what I deem to be a reasonable price. So if its not an option to buy it, stick to vitamin C
Here is the brand we use, and wow does it work! Hubby used to catch EVERYTHING and now, he catches nothing! Id be open to trying other brands, this just seems to be the one that is readily available to us. Perhaps try a health food store for other options. You can take it as a preventative, and then if you feel something coming on, or have been around sick people, up your dosage to keep nasties at bay. This stuff is amazing and I highly recommend it!!


5. Hearty meals
Good veggie packed meals are not only just for the sick family member, but help the well ones, stay that way. Immunity is boosted when everyone is eating good meals. I keep a batch of Chicken Soup in the freezer on standby and I know the remedy of a good chicken soup is probably just a mind thing… but, when you think about it, a decent chook soup not only warms and comforts, it also is packed with veg and protein and is easy to eat when your not even hungry. I make a giant batch so that the family can have it for lunch as well for a few days and freeze some some for next time too!
If you dont have a decent recipe check out mine. Its our italian family recipe, and it must be good, coz it won a winter recipe competition which I won a Magmix food processor from! (Thanks Nonna!)

Of course soup isnt the only option. There are many other good meals. The idea is to not slack off in the food department and just get takeaway. Unless of course its you who is sick. In which case call in a favour from a friend, or have a freezer stash of 3 or 4 days worth of good dinners for sick weeks.

Then lastly but not least, there are the usual remedies to shorten a flu/cold. Honey and lemon tea, ginger and so on. Ive also been told that placing an onion in the bedroom cut in half absorbs the germs. (throw it out in the morning) you can place one in everyones rooms I know people who swear by it. I couldn’t stand the smell personally but do give it a go if you like! Not to mention, apparently pineapple juice, is way more effective at helping you to stop coughing than cough syrup is! Because of a certain anti-inflamatory enzyme found in pineapples. I will be trying that one out!

So it may be all common sense, but its worth re-visiting to keep us on the defense.
Let’s face it, sometimes no matter what you do… one person gets better and suddenly another soldier goes down. But keeping diligent with hygeine and nutrition absolutely makes a big difference. Please share in the comments all your tips and remedies that are tried, tested and true in your household!

Stay well, keep warm and God bless you everyone!

Curly Mumma

XoXo

Tips for creating a reading nook or area for Children

Well we finally completed operation Reading Nook. It’s not really a “nook” so to speak, rather a reading “area” I suppose, whatever it is, the kids love it and so do I! It’s been something I’ve wanted for the kids for about a year now and I’m so glad we finally managed to make it happen. Being a spot where the kids books live, paired with a cosy spot to sit to read those books, its not exactly home deco genius, but to me, its a great little accomplishment, because I just knew the kids would love it and that it would fulfil it’s purpose.

What purpose is that? To encourage the kids to read more. that’s it. I feel that creating an inviting little space especially for reading, not only encourages reading, it also shows the kids that we value our books. That they are special. They aren’t like their toys, they are more important than that. I pray that my children grow into a great love of reading. They already enjoy story time greatly, and even sit alone for long periods “reading” on their own. So it seems my prayers may be answered if we keep this up!
 
Since the whole thing was actually quite a project, I’ve decided to share with you some tips on creating your own special reading spot. You see we needed to make a lot of changes in order to make it work. We had the space, but its using the space the best way we can which took some thinking.
 
So the first three things to look at when planning a little reading corner/nook/spot, are:
 
Space 
Budget 
Lighting
 
Space: You need to know how much shelf space your going to need for the kids books alone (if you are separating them from your own as we have). You will also need to take into consideration how much space you need for seating depending on the number and size of children you have. We have two little ones. They both comfortably fit on the one cushion, I can even sit with them on our cushion. Most importantly is the issue of how much space you actually have to work with. There is no point daydreaming about a giant beanbag if you’ll need to jam it inside a made-over single-closet.
 
So measure the size of the bookshelves your going to need, and go around your house seeing where this reading spot might fit. If your like me, you’ll already have a very particular spot in mind, and instead, will have to decide how your going to work the books/shelves into that spot. Walls can be used here, using higher shelves for children’s books that the kids are still too young for means a good use of space, but the kids are still able to reach age appropriate books. Then there are wall shelves, baskets, drawers and so on. If you have a very small area to work with, such as the corner of a child’s bedroom (which is a lovely private spot I’ll add) then I suggest you peruse an Ikea catalogue. They are the kings of affordable small-space thingamajigs.
 
Budget: Our budget, was, as little as possible dollars and spare change cents. Preferably we wanted to spend zero. It wasn’t an extravagance project. This was a want, not a need, so we wanted to be frugal. Get creative! You can make a beautiful space without having to spend much. Work with what you have, check your shed, think about how pieces can be re-worked, save up for something you like in the shops if that’s what you want. But know how much you can spend, and stick to it.
 
Here is a breakdown of what we spent.
 
Bookshelves, couch, backboard and mattress: $0. We already had them
Fabric and velcro to make mattress cover $17
Ornaments: $0, also already had (but will total at about $15 once I have found and purchased the wooden “Read” sign I want to add to it).
Mirror: $5
White Paint $3
Cushions $0 already had
 
Total: $25! ($40 once I have purchased the final touch.)
 
How was it so cheap? Using what we already had as much as we could and buying during sale times and second hand. The backboard you see behind the kids seating (with the shelf on top) is actually a wide old bookshelf we had, which has had its backboard removed, cut so that one shelf is exposed, put back on and painted. The reason we did this, is because it now does two jobs. Not only is it a neat backboard/shelf for the sitting spot, it also acts as a box which covers the giant ugly pump thingy that is attached to our spa. That wall, used to be outside. When we extended, we kept the woodboard wall for character, and didn’t quite know what to do with that horrid pump. As you can see in the “before” picture, underneath the desk, the part that can be messed with had been covered by a foam box hahaha, vast improvement.

BEFORE:

(note the white foam box half covering the pump. See the shelving on top of the desk? That’s now the backboard. Oh how much better do the walls look white!)
 
AFTER:

And improvising like that saved us a lot of money. To get someone to make a custom fit cover for the thing would have cost a few hundred. This cost us nothing but a coat of paint.
 

Speaking of paint, did you know your local tip has a recycling area, which most of them, sell paint? People drop off their half empty or wrong colour choice tins of paint, and you can buy yourself some good quality paint for $1-$3 depending on the amount/kind. We picked up a massive tub of semi-gloss soft white paint for $3. It was enough to do two coats of the following: the entire wall, the backboard, the bookshelf, a kids table and cane chair. With plenty leftover.
 
The fabric is from spotlight and was 30% off the already reduced sale price, which brought it down to about $2.45 a meter. I needed two meters of hardwearing fabric (its corduroy). The Velcro was the most expensive part of this cover. I could have just done the cover without Velcro, to be permanently on, but I wanted it to be washable and Velcro is quick, easy and hard wearing. So this cushion could have been $5 but I went for longevity because It also, has two purposes. It is actually a foam cot mattress, which I cut shorter to fit into our porta-cot to make it comfy for our son. When this mattress isn’t a cushion for our kids, it is a mattress that fits perfectly into our porta-cot when we go out. So having it washable was important. Sewing it was a challenge. I’m a novice at sewing, and the cover has its flaws, but I’m happy with the fact that I tried, its cute, its multi-purpose and saved us some $ also 🙂

The mirror was also a “Reduce, reuse, recycle” bargain, which covers up an old, ugly unused window. Everything else we already had. The couch by the way (on the left) is a Klippan sofa from Ikea we have had for years. The cover which is cute as, was $80 and I’m not sure if its still available but they always bring out cool new covers for the Klippan. Its technically not part of the reading spot… but it is an extension for us parents, we do use it. Especially for devotional times when the whole family sit together.
 
Then there is Lighting.
This is important because it doesn’t matter how pretty a spot looks, if the lighting is bad, not only is it hard to read and concentrate, but it is also bad for the kids eyes. So take that into consideration, especially if you don’t want to go blowing money on lamps, or running wires and installing new light switches. Ideally, you want a spot with as much natural light as possible. Our spot gets good natural light all day long even in the winter. It just so happens that the wall had a light attached to it already. We took that light into consideration when deciding which side the shelf and which side the reading mattress would go into. We didn’t want a lamp because our son would have attacked it. But a nice floor lamp or table lamp looks great in the right setting if its needed.
 
After these three things, it is important not to forget the users of this spot… your kids! Consider your child’s preferences/needs. Observe how they like to read and try to accommodate. For example, I noticed CurlyBoy never reads on the couch. He never reads on his little chair. He always, pulls a book down and plonks himself on the hard tiles right in front of the shelf. So I knew I wanted a floor rug if the spot had no carpet, (in this case, it did) and that I wanted the seating to be very low. I like the little reading beds, or the shelving put on its side, to make a long reading bench, its neat and looks good, but my son wouldn’t use it, so I knew the floor mattress with cushions and a backboard would be perfect for him, and also my daughter who likes to read pretty much anywhere but is quite partial to laying down with a book too at times. How does your child read? Does he or she like to climb something and sit up high? do they sink into a billion cushions or pillows? (in which case a beanbag may be perfect). Decide on seating accordingly.
 
Side note: The red bucket you see on the backboard shelf, has handy items in it. Bookmarks, reading glasses (mine, but good spot to keep them if your kids wear glasses too), post it notes and pencils (for note taking if you have a non-fiction lover, or are going through a recipe book together etc).
 
Be sure to go get some inspiration. Pinterest, google, friends, the library, wherever. But be realistic. I loved the idea of a floating chair which hangs from the roof…so cool! But curly boy wouldn’t be able to get into it by himself, and also our random roof wouldn’t accommodate it.
 
Lastly, Remove distractions. Don’t mix toys or cluttered ornaments with books. A few bits to pretty it up is fine, but keep it as simple as you can. The books and the cosy spot should be the focus. It is to be a tranquil spot for immersing into a world of stories, not another spot to be trashed with toys and baskets full of odd bits. The more focused it is on its purpose, the more it will be used for its purpose.
 
But you can still make it fun! Even the most minimalist house decorator can go crazy in one or two places. We chose to make the mattress bright and cheerful, but paired back the walls and furniture. The books and the mattress are the colour splash with most things white and non intrusive. It keeps it “kiddy” but isn’t distracting.
 
The good thing is, you can chop and change as you go. The point is to create a special place where kids can enjoy some peace and quiet and so they can see that you as a family respect books and set them apart from toys.
 
Have fun!
 
PS: The reading spot is a hit, the kids LOVE it, they both spend an hour or more throughout each day, browsing books, or being read to. It’s been worth the effort!

Why a parent does NOT need a Teaching degree to Home Educate their Children

It is going to be very hard for me to write this post, because as a home educator, and an adult who has been away from the “system” long enough to form my own opinions and philosophy on education, I now have to try to bring things back to the basics, and to what those who still hold to the education department’s idea of education, know and understand to be the standard, so bare with me;

After the ever popular question of socialisation (which is answered here if you haven’t had your mind set at ease yet), the question of qualification Is the second most common question raised when someone is trying to wrap their heads around the idea of home education.

“You homeschool? So do you need a teaching degree for that?”

When the answer is no (which is always), people usually smile grimly and don’t push the issue, which really does not give me the opportunity to put their minds at ease. I’d rather be asked further questions to be honest, then you aren’t left jumping to conclusions or thinking my children are going to turn out dumb and underprivileged.

There was this one time though, my boss, who happened to be a head mistress of an all girls school years ago (and I did not know that at the time) overheard me having a conversation with a co-worker about homeschooling. She went on a rather passionate rant against parents teaching without a degree. The look in her eyes screamed “Dare to challenge me on this and I will chew you up into teeny tiny pieces and spit you out” … I was keen on keeping my job, so with clenched teeth I let her rant.

Boy was it a doozy. “How DARE they (parents) think they can educate children without a qualification! Teachers spend 4 years or more at university studying how to teach children, and these parents think they can just wing it? Kids are not test-models, they are ruining their kids lives! Disgusting.” I’ll save you the details on what else came out. Wow.

So here I am heels dug in, gleam in my eye, brow furrowed, ready to give an answer to those who have this mindset that one must have a university degree to educate children.

Firstly, let me just say I know about four Teachers and two students who are currently studying to be Teachers. I believe that if you are going to be teaching in an institution (aka school), especially a public school, you absolutely need to do the four year degree, and kudos to those who have chosen that career path to educate the future generations within the confinements of the institutions. It’s a hard job! So this is not to put down or lessen the fact that qualified teachers worked hard to receive their qualification. That’s a given.

However, for a parent to educate their own children they absolutely do NOT need this degree. Or any other kind for that matter. The two people I know who are currently at university doing teaching degrees (one early childhood and one high school) both are in their second year. They both can confirm that the first year did not teach them how to teach. It taught them how to organise a classroom, manage a large group of students, handle bad/crazy behavior and went into counselling quite a bit too. Because as one of them said “Heaps of parents just drop their kids off at school and pick them up but don’t raise them or teach them life skills, so we have to be their parents too!” you got that right madam. So teachers in training need to learn some parenting/counselling skills before they even touch on actual teaching. Isn’t that ironic?

Besides the fact that students earning a Bachelor of Education spend their entire first year dealing with classroom/student/behavior management and the like, they also spend a huge chunk of time in second and third year doing units which involve learning how to work with children of various backgrounds (special needs, indigenous, children with English as a second language) All of which are exceptionally important for a school teacher to learn. But not a parent. Parents already know how to work with their own Children.

Fourth year is basically completely practical work. So out of four years, about one and a half years are dedicated to actual teaching of subjects, which is of course in line with the national curriculum standards and includes strategies for basically getting the point across to students. Again important in a school environment but not so much when one is teaching their own children.

You see the difference between a parent and a teacher is this. The children are our own. We have known them from birth. We have spent just about every waking moment with them. We have actually educated them from the day they were born. It is we, who encouraged them to crawl and walk. We who read them their first books and taught them their first songs. We who showed them how to use a toilet and how to wash themselves and brush their teeth. We taught them their ABC’s and 123’s. We who showed them the world of shapes and colours, opposites and so on. We taught them how to speak the English language and helped them to express their feelings. We taught them basic morals and values. Before kindy even comes around, we have spent 4 – 5 years educating our children and have done a fantastic job at it too.

So homeschooling is simply a continuation of this learning journey for our children.

Of course the objection may arise “Well yeh but that’s just basic stuff. Anyone knows that you don’t need a degree to teach that.” yes, true. But, we have just spent 4 or so years, establishing a solid relationship with our students. We have spent those years learning all about our students. We know their personalities/character, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, what “level” they are on in all areas of learning… we have covered all the ground that teachers don’t get to, or have to cover at uni. We are our kids counsellors by default. We know how to handle them, how to help them, how to stimulate them, what kind of learning environment they thrive in and enjoy. We don’t have to cater to 20-30 students of various backgrounds. We have to cater to our own children. Very different.

As far as the teaching of certain subjects go, well firstly, we have much more flexibility than teachers do. Catering to only our own children we have a much easier focus. We have less to deal with on pretty much all levels pertaining to education. We can cater our child’s learning experience to meet their individual needs, and the only person we have to answer to is a government moderator who will come around and check progress.. We don’t have a principal, NAPLAN tests, other parents and a myriad of other things or people dictating to us how it should be done. So instead of worrying about having to drill the answers to the NAPLAN test into our students heads, or taking into consideration what little Taliah’s mumma said about our choice of timetable, we keep busy teaching our kids what they need to know along with what they want to know, in a way that suits them and them only. Kinda perfect teaching/learning environment really.

Then there is the question “But how do you know your teaching the kids the right thing? Or teaching them enough?” Simple. IF we want to keep up with the Joneses (or schools) we can very easily pick up a wretched NAPLAN test, or check the curriculum (you know we do actually have full access to the exact same national curriculum as teachers do, right?), have a chat with our moderator (the person from the education department who keeps dibs on us), ask our kids questions, write out a test (ugh no thanks) or any other number of ways you can possibly imagine. It’s not a matter of quantity anyway. Its a matter of quality. Another benefit of home education. If little Andrew has trouble with his times tables, we don’t have to then jump forward to the next thing, leaving him frustrated, confused and setting him up for mathematical failure. We can stop and sit on those times tables for as long as we darn well please, enabling that quality of education to override a schedule, expectation or quantity.

Teachers can only DREAM of the educational liberties, opportunities, innovation, creativity and  rich, thick meaty learning-substance that we parents are able to share with our children.

And guess what? If we don’t know the answer to a question, we can find out. Teachers do not know everything. 4 years at university does not make you a walking thesaurus, dictionary, atlas, calculator, encyclopedia and trivia master. But Teachers and Parents alike have all the resources in the world available to them. With books, endless curriculum choices, the Internet, online courses and so on, answers are literally at our fingertips in this day and age. Anything you could dream to know, is readily available to you.

Primary School is simple. Honestly it is. If you think that I cannot teach my child through the primary years, what does that say about my education? Which was through the public education system. Either the schools are sufficient or they are not. If I cannot teach my kids primary, then I don’t have the knowledge I am supposed to have received from my public school teachers, and the system has failed me. It’s a bit of a circular argument isn’t it?

High school, sure, I’m happy to admit it, is a different story. It isn’t as easy. It is not meant to be. But the point of high school in my opinion, is to begin zoning in on an individuals talents, interests and strengths more than ever before. The point of high school is to get to a place where you choose your career/direction. It launches you into your next phase of life. I say phase because for many, that is what it is. Many kids leave school and go on to jobs that they only have for 1 to 6 years, before deciding to try something different, or to study something else, or to travel, or to be a full-time stay at home parent or whatever else. High school education is not the be all and end all. Nor is university or TAFE. If a kid totally screws up high school, they can do the important parts again through a few institutions, or take a stat test, or choose a line of work that requires nothing on paper. The idea though, is to come out of high school with direction, a dream, a sense of achievement. The piece of paper you get is pretty much literally just a piece of paper. It means a lot to some employers. And a whole lot of nothing to others. So, high school then, ought to be about launching into the next phase of life. For some that’s uni. So they can be doctors, scientists, lawyers and so on. For others its an apprenticeship to earn a trade. For others it’s TAFE to become a beautician, childcare worker, personal trainer etc, and for others still it is to launch immediately into the workforce and work their way up from cashier to manager to perhaps owner. Others seek fame and fortune in the arts or freelancing of various kinds. Whatever it is, the fire is in their bellies and we as educators help to fan that fire. We aren’t there to fill their heads with as much as we possibly can, but to direct, encourage and help them step into their futures.

If they are wanting to learn about something that Is completely over our heads? Their are tutors, other family members who may be able to teach it, online courses and more. The information is out there if it is needed. I am terrible at mathematics. Absolutely atrocious. Once high school hits for my kids, I will be passing the baton for that subject to my husband who is great at maths. If one of my kids decides they want a career in something that requires advanced knowledge in mathematics that neither my husband or I am able to offer teaching in, we will explore other avenues (and there are MANY).

That’s what gets me when people ask about degrees and have concerns about homeschooled kids not knowing enough… don’t you think that just maybe, if a parent finds that they are not able to teach a certain thing any more, because their child has advanced past them or something, that perhaps that parent might then totally encourage that advanced learning with textbooks, field trips, tutors, online courses or whatever is necessary? It is only common sense really.

Going right back to the basics; Ive heard it said that unless you know special methods you cant teach certain things. A few people have gone as far as to say that you cannot teach a child to read unless you know certain methods and strategies. What rubbish! Many children have taught THEMSELVES to read (in time, after ABC’s and being read to all their little lives) let alone needing a special formula! Besides, all the methods, ideas, tricks and theories are available online and in books anyway. Plus not all teachers agree on the best way to teach reading. For example some love the phonics approach others hate it. What’s right, is what works for the individual child. And mum and dad certainly have the ability to figure that one out.

I could go on and on and on, but once again I digress. Education is not limited to 12 years. or 16 years including uni. Education is a lifelong experience. It ought to be a lifestyle. You don’t stop learning until you are dead. As a parent, I am learning all the time. Deliberately and accidentally. In fact, my most enjoyable years of education are right now. I did not like school at all. I found it boring, under-stimulating, confusing and lifeless. I know that is not everybodys experience but it was mine. Now as an adult I LOVE to learn. I love to read and write. I love to retain new knowledge or learn a new skill, it is enjoyable and fulfilling. I study for the joy of it, not for a piece of paper and a title. I know that if my daughter asks me a question that I dont know the answer to, I am about to go on a journey WITH her of which we learn together, something new and interesting.

The whole “you need to be qualified” argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Since we as parents are in fact the ideal teachers for our children. We know them inside and out, we understand them, we are able to be fully attentive, focused on them and them alone, we have all the resources in the world available to us to inform and guide them in their learning. There is nothing at all we lack which is needed to educate our children.

Every single thing I’ve just said aside, education itself looks different to everyone. This is especially true with home educators. We aren’t all the same nor do we need to be. There are so many different methods and ideas on education. So many philosophies, and a brilliant thing for home educating families is that each has the chance to develop their own “way”. The goal is not to produce an effective cog in societys large industrial wheel. The goal is to raise well adjusted, mature, compassionate, intelligent, loving, giving, honest, humble, self-disciplined, confident adults who can make a difference in this world just by BEING. However each family reaches that goal is up to them. Montessouri, unschooling, Charlotte Masoning it, natural learning, state curriculum… whatever it is, the end result desired is not a mastermind who can spew up facts when prompted. It is much, much more than that. And I would hope, that teachers and parents alike would see that same goal when they look into the faces of their precious students.

Remember, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire”.

Blessings,
Terri-lee