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The Lee Academy

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December 2016

Freedom and Time – Our first two weeks of homeschooling

So we are close to the end of our first two weeks of official homeschooling. And it’s been such a beautiful journey, with some ups, and some downs (which I simply call discoveries about my children) and many alterations.

We have thoroughly enjoyed reading together, spending endless amounts of time just sitting together, reading together, laughing and learning. We did the normal curriculum such as learning about nomads and early farmers, frogs and fish (which became a day long information search about piranhas). We also did fun things like mummy taking direction from Mr. 6 who wanted to teach me about all the different Marvel superheroes (from the Marvel superhero encyclopedia we borrowed from the library). Miss 4 loves her princesses and fairies, as usual, but each child has been able to embrace each others interests, I think because there doesn’t seem to be a time limit to our time together.

We have enjoyed crafts and free creation time, obviously. This is the time where we have directed craft activities such as making Ancient Roman Coins from back in Jesus’ day, and our Prayer Hands activity, to non-directed open creative time where the children can draw, cut, paste, colour in what ever way they want.

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Miss 4 putting sequence on.

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What surprised me though, was that Miss 4, who usually cannot sit still, stayed with her colouring activity for 3-4 hours, and has now consistently looked forward to this time to finish her creations. We need to get her something more comfortable to draw on.

We also played in the mud for about 7 hours one day last week. 7 hours. Yes, we. Me too.

We had many opportunities for socialisation as well being the ‘school holidays’, which were absolutely well received.

We also had our downs, of which I now call ‘discoveries’. Mr. 6… in all of his brilliance with Maths, actually doesn’t like it. He’s currently completing a Grade 2 homeschool maths curriculum, and has told me very strongly that in fact, he doesn’t like math. The reason? Because there is always just one answer to the question. I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained that when we did Science, History or even conversational English, it was free flowing. You could ask a question and we could discover things together. With math, there is only one answer, and it just never felt ‘fun’.

So I am changing the way I teach math (he’s well ahead anyway), to introduce a range of manipulatives, and doing math as a ‘conversation’. This has proven successful so far. We shall see…

It’s been a hot week here in Victoria, so we have mainly stayed indoors.

Mr. 6 has created loads of books, creations, a robot T-Rex out of recycling materials, and a few angels created from baking paper from his latest obsession, SuperBook.

However, what I love about these two weeks is the bond that has been built with my children. Something I could never imagined would occur was how the 3 children are not just noticing each other, but they are helping each other. They’re empathy for each other use to be non-existent or performed because ‘it’s what mummy told me to do’. Now, they are really feeling for each of the children. Mr. 6 and Mr. 2 have such a strong bond, it’s quite surreal to watch. Mr. 6 finds museli bars in the pantry and always makes sure he sneaks one for Mr. 2. Mr. 2 helps Mr. 6 pack up his toys. Surreal. Miss 4 is starting to not just tolerate Mr. 2 (who still steals her toys and throws them in the bin) but there are times when I see them dancing together to music, laughing.

And then there’s this.

When the rains broke out this afternoon, and released all that humidity and heat… they all collectively decided to take their clothes off and run around in the heavy rain… the happiest kids I’ve ever seen. For about an hour. No asking if this was okay, no fear of the rain or repercussions. They just did it… together.

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No restrictions, no timeframes… just the freedom to fully enjoy every opportunity, and be a child.

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Prayer Hands – Craft Activity

This is an adaptation of the ‘Telling God’s Story’ Prayer Hands craft activity, specifically talking about persistent prayer from Luke 8:1-8.

Materials Needed:
1. Baking Paper
2. Wax Crayons
3. Laminator and Laminator sheets
4. Sequence
5. Clear Sticky Tape (Shiny, not matte)
6. String (twine, wool etc)
7. Curtain rod or long branch (long branch would look better but we couldn’t find one this week)
8. Hanging nails if you wish to hang it on a wall

Instructions:
Please note we did this over 3 days
Day 1
1. Get some baking paper and get your child (if they are old enough) to trace their hand on the paper.
2. Shave some crayon colours on the hand. Make sure they are on the traced hand’s inside.
3. Cover this with another sheet of baking paper.
4. Carefully relocate to an ironing board, place cloth over, and iron over for about 10 seconds. No water in the iron.
5. Cut the hands out.

Day 2
6. Laminate the hands.
7. Cut them out.
8. Have your child decorate the hands with sequence and shiny things.
9. Carefully sticky-tape these down.
10. Again, cut out the hands if the tape has overlapped.

Day 3
11. Hole punch the hands.
12. Tie up the hands.
13. Locate them on the rod.
14. Hang the rod up however you would like.

It is designed to be near a window so it had a stain glass effect, however, we didn’t have an appropriate place, so placed ours on a wall.

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My Draft Submission to the Premier of Victoria

Dear Premier,

In relation to the Regulations just released…

It is absolutely difficult for any one homeschool parent to write a submission to address these regulations. The reason for this is because every homeschool is extremely different. One homeschool’s motivations and vision can be completely different to another. The outcomes are different. However, I believe from what I have read from the Regulations, the outcomes you want for the children of Victoria are all the same.

You have stated that the reasons for the existence of these regulations are:

The Department considers the current regulatory approach for home schooling to be unable to adequately assure quality in the instruction or educational progress of home-schooled children. The Department has no workable mechanism to manage the risk of low-quality education for home schooling. For children missing out on a quality education during compulsory schooling years, efforts later in life to remedy this situation are likely to be costly, not as effective, and difficult.
Regulatory Impact Statement
Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017
Page 7

You have then stated that this ‘workable mechanism’ would be:

  • at the application stage, provide a learning plan that outlines how they will deliver instruction and what resources and materials they will use to cater for their child’s circumstances and learning needs
  • if selected, participate in a review that would involve providing evidence of their child’s learning progress, and possibly also undertake an interview with the regulator.

 

I have a few concerns.

PROBLEM 1: HAVING ONLY ONE PLAN AND STICKING TO IT. 

Please find attached the Plan I had a plan, you can see it here –> lee-academy-2017-curriculum-plan. I have worked on this plan for 2 years. I have done all the research possible to put this plan in place. All the curriculum and the way it will be delivered is in a previous blog of mine.

We began this curriculum about a week ago. It has been an off and on journey for us to see if homeschooling works.  And it most certainly does. And as much as you may think that the History element is too advanced, and the English element too much… it’s actually something else that my Mr. 6 doesn’t like…

Maths Worksheets.

See, what I have found with Mr. 6 is that he is not a fan of close ended question/answer type learning. He simply loses interest when a question is asked and there is only one answer. The shame put upon his face when he gets it wrong, the shutting down of any eagerness to try again and keep going… this kind of education for my son simply doesn’t work.

Now you may say that he has no choice, that in life, questions simply only have one answer, and he must learn to deal with this.

I want to expose you to another way to teach someone like my son.

He loves English, he loves History and he loves Science. Why? Because these subjects are taught through reading books together, then having a long conversation of what we have read, then allowing him to draw a picture of what he has just learnt.

See the reason why he loves this, is because I’ve been doing this with him, and my other two children, ever since they were very young. There is no wrong or right to your point of view. There is not wrong or right in having a conversation about a Historical fact, and asking probing questions.

Please see his work here. One of of the Greeks climbing the wall of Troy and failing badly (before that Horse), and another is of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth (with a tornado… don’t you love creativity).

So we have changed the plan yet again. I am now coming up with a brand new Maths plan that is done around conversations. Conversations where I sit with him and have a talk about times tables, numbers.

See the problem with submitting a plan, and then having to stick to it, is because homeschooling for me, is changing the way you teach so that your child doesn’t lose interest because of the delivery. If you then require new homeschool families to stick to the plan before they have even tried it out, it makes not sense because homeschooling is all about adapting to the child. 

PROBLEM 2: OUR CURRENT SCHOOLING SYSTEM and A RANKING SYSTEM

A lot of us are homeschooling because we believe the standardised schooling in public schools only allows children to have a question they must answer correctly. This is evident with Naplan, as well as the current VCE ATAR rating scale.

The problem is that not all children are the same. In my view, the only children that do extremely well in this system are the top 5% who achieve the mark they need to enter the course they want. So what do the other 95% do?

I for one, do not want my children to feel that their only reason for living is to get a high mark in Year 12 doing 6 subjects, to then be able to get into a good course, to then possibly have a good career. If what you mean by a ‘formal education’ you need each child to sit down and listen to a teacher for 13 years, learn the answers before they come up with the questions themselves, then this isn’t the type of education I personally want for my child. I will not be rushing my children from activity to activity, wake them up and rush them out the door to allow them to get a ‘quality education’.

I have nothing against teachers. Teachers have the hardest job and they have to each 25 children all with different ways of learning.

But I know that there is no one else in this world except for me and husband, who will sacrifice their world for these three children. If a curriculum doesn’t work, if a delivery method doesn’t work or if something seems uninteresting, it will be me who researches how to deliver it differently, it will be me who spends the money on extra curriculum and it will be me who takes it to heart if this does not work. I understand teachers do this too, that is why their job is so difficult. But will all teachers do this for MY child if my child simply learns differently.

I recently did enrol my Mr. 6 into Prep for next year, and I expressed to the school on how he learns, and whether something can be changed for him. He does not react well to testing, yet this school starts Term 1 off with a test. Their response was understanding however, they could not change anything.

So please don’t think there is no quality education here in our homeschool. We have put everything on the line for our children, we will sacrifice our careers, our lives and ourselves for our children. We have done the research and we have spent the money and the time. But most of all, you need to trust us with our children. Because no one on earth knows our children better than us. 

If the child was ranked for dance, and Victoria rated each child on how well they could dance, because this was the most popular university degree available, some children, would not fit in. I don’t understand how our current system cannot simply see that every person has different interests, goals and a rating system based on subjects cannot promote personal satisfaction in a career. Could this be the reason why so many people are unhappy in their careers? Just a thought.

WHAT THE REGULATIONS DO NOT ADDRESS

The Regulations do not address these current issues we in the homeschool community would like answers to.

  1. Why is it that a third world country is doing better in the ‘ranked’ educational stakes than Australia?
  2. Have you seen the average homeschool student’s rating compared to public school ratings (again, focusing on rankings, as per your Regulations, Naplan, ATAR). There are several articles on this, here is one.
  3. Your Regulations do not address issues such as mental health, depression amongst teens, family dis-connectivity etc.
    Even though we do not necessarily believe that public schooling has caused these issues, we believe that an environment where a family stays together, where a child feels safe and supported constantly, and yes, where we ‘shelter’ our children from some of the issues of society’s expectations, is an environment that promotes family belonging and better mental health. Why would we not want to teach our children at home, where they are able to ask any questions they like, and not feel any pressure that they simply can’t just be themselves.
  4. The Regulations do not address whether a formal education can promote family togetherness. Of course, the education system of Victoria is not responsible for this, the family is. And there you have the reason why we homeschool. We want our family to be together, to be connected.

 

We will do all we can to educate our children well. Please never think that we won’t, or can’t, just because we don’t have a formal teacher’s degree. Each family knows how their child learns, how they develop and what is best for them. Please trust us and leave this to us.

And if you are still concerned, here are a few pictures of my homeschool….

We have the books my kids freely access and read, as well as the books I read to them. We have the books I read, so they can actually witness what reading looks like, we have the weekly worksheets for Mr. 6 and Miss. 4 all ready and laid out for the year. Formal? Quality?

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How about this photo?

This is Mr. 6 as he is being homeschooled… in the car… on the way to Bunnings… And sure, you say that every family can get this… yes, but he gets this kind of happiness…. EVERY. DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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No regulation could ever document the happiness this boy contains in his heart because he feels safe to express himself, especially when something doesn’t sit well with him, like Maths worksheets.

 

Thank you for reading,

Yours sincerely,

Belinda

 

A Beautiful Day

A wonderful thing about homeschooling is setting your own schedule. So in our homeschool, we decided to start the school year… today. 19 December 2016. We did this because we scheduled our holiday weeks around birthdays so we could go away or do something extra fun for those weeks.

Lets see how it goes.

So today was the first official day of homeschooling my beautiful family. After a few false starts in 2015 and 2016, and a lot of research (about 2-3 years worth) and a small fortune in books to excite the young mind, we started today.

And what a beautiful day… with a few hiccups.

We started the day with a little boy, Mr. 6, with a fever and feeling awful. So all the intentions of starting the day slowly with a song and prayer… turned into a very quick song and prayer and running out the door for the first available doctor’s visit. Mr. 2 did two poos in his nappies whilst we were out. (How is that even possible?)

When we got home, the classical music went on, and we started this thing called ‘homeschooling’. We stuck to the well planned out curriculum with English, Maths, Reading, History and of course, our God discussions. This all went so well, however, I understand that the first day of anything is always exciting, thus, enhancing concentration and kid’s willingness to learn.  We would have incorporated a physical element today, but Mr. 6 wanted to be home in PJs (don’t you just love homeschool then, you can change things).

But something unexpected came from today, which was so beautiful.

We finished all we had to do in 2 hours. I had scheduled it for 4.

We cuddled for about an hour, each child having about 20 mins each whilst I affirmed them with words of love (such a good discovery, must do this every single day).

We read books for hours! Fun books like Ruby Red Shoes, science books (Dorling Kindersley anyone?), Gillian Cross’ Homer, and Emma Thompson’s inspired Beatrix Potter). All the while, we were engaged with each other. We cuddled more.

We had a dance party with toys and acted out the Trolls movie we saw in the weekend.

And the whole time, there was no rushing. It was a day full of rest, full of taking our time with each other, learning with one another and just soaking in each other’s time and love for one another.

Eventually we put our bed mattresses out into the lounge room, and just lay there laughing and spent a great amount of meaningful time connecting.

Wow. What a beautiful day.

So we have new subjects for our homeschool.

  1. Cuddles and words of affirmation time
  2. Stillness and relaxation time
  3. Silliness and crazy time
  4. Quiet reflection and prayer time (by yourself)

I also discovered that we have about 10 Read/CD books and it would be useful to have a CD player and headphones so anyone could retreat and do this on their own, instead of the whole room listening to this story that goes ‘BLING’ every 2 mins.

Just to see my children so content, so full of life and connected with me… brought tears to my eyes just putting them to bed and loving every single minute with them… never once feeling that they were a burden or that things were too hard.

I just felt that I had all the time in the world to answer all their questions. Mr. 6 asked me a very smart question, basically asking if the ice age or meteor killed all the dinosaurs, how did God then create humans, or did we exist during the time of dinosaurs and somehow were smart enough to survive. What. A. Question.

And a beautiful moment when dad came home, and asked the kids how their day went, and they told him about the golden Denari (Ancient Roman coins) they made and how it was money used back in Jesus’ days…

I am still thinking about it all, and hopefully after a few months, I’ll be able to pen down why it is that I feel this way.. the satisfaction with being with them, and how today… I just couldn’t get enough of them… Surely it must have something to do with family connectedness and regaining back what hurry and rushing took away…

Such a beautiful day.

Sometimes, words hurt

[Not a homeschooling blog post]

Have you ever read that book “Mary Elizabeth’s House” by Pamela Allen?

It’s a book about a beautiful little girl, who tells a bunch of boys that there’s a monster at her house. They laugh at her. They tell her, that they don’t believe her. After a while, she gets increasingly frustrated by this, and on the fourth day, proceeds to invite them home to prove them wrong. Monster jumps out. Boys don’t laugh anymore. They run. And the last line of the book says, “Now they believe me” as she’s walking hand in hand with her monster, smiling together.

I like this book.

And the reason why I like this book, is because its my daughter’s favourite book.

She first liked it because the main character has the same name, Elizabeth. But after a while, there was something about the book that made her feel stronger.

Because sometimes, inside my little girl, there is a little monster, and this monster’s name is courage. It’s name is strength. It’s name is bravery. And every now and then, she has to tell people that that monster is there. But sometimes, there are  the children who gather around her, and tell her… that they do not believe her.

And they laugh.

Unfortunately, when this keeps happening, unlike a real monster living in a red home, sometimes, our little children can start to believe that these beautiful ‘monsters’ do not actually exist.

Because sticks and stones may break my bones, but words REALLY HURT.

And I have tried my hardest as a mother to build and instil strength in my little girl. But just sometimes, those triggers have been triggered so many times, her walls break down and she believes their words and not the inner courage, strength and bravery that is the truth.

My little girl is little. She is very little. And to most adults, she is adorable. To other girls, she is simply divine. But to a few boys, she is a target.

These boys are young, and quite frankly, happy human beings. But after 10 months of seeing my darling girl, they now know how to get a reaction. And last week, the reaction was too much for me. Her monster was no longer there to protect her. She believed their words, and felt that ‘short’ and ‘little’ was a bad thing. She cried and I could feel throughout the year, her resilience breaking down. This week was her last straw.

Today, I went to the hospital with my little girl. My little girl has medical issues. She has had treatment. She is looking at ongoing life treatment due to her medical issues. She can’t have too much sugar. She needs to move and be active. Today, she got sick like any other child, and we are always advised to overreact. She had a fever today. Medicine didn’t work so we rushed her little fragile body to hospital. After a while, she slept and had fluids, she felt better, and she is home.

As soon as I was on the car driving home, my mind flooded with thoughts on how to make her life better and fulfilling. What books would she like? What toys would she like? What can I say no to, so I can spend some time with her? So I asked her how I could make her smile tomorrow. And she says these words…

“Make the bad words go away, mummy.”

She had been worried about these words… all. this. time.

I know these boys are just little. I know kids need to learn social graces by themselves and help each other be strong and know what is right and wrong. I get this. I know what the rhetoric is. Apparently it builds strength and resilience.

But she is my little girl. Who has the most beautiful personality, a life that sparks when she thinks about singing and dancing, and a keen interest in everything pretty. She loves dandelions, dressing up and reading. To me, she is beautiful, brilliant and cares for others.

I cannot fathom my little girl having to fight her battles on her own right now. To me, it doesn’t seem right. She needs to know that she is important, and that I will be there for her and hold her. When your little girl asks you to make the bad words go away, that she doesn’t want to be called “Eliza-dumb” anymore, and doesn’t want to be called a ‘baby’ anymore, and doesn’t want people to laugh at her because she is simply fighting her her own dignity… I will fight for my child.

I will do all I can to help your ‘monster’ grow. May your strength, bravery and courage grow as I stand by your side, my daughter.

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