We’re moving

*Big news*

The Patch is moving to a self-hosting set-up.
If you are following us I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to move you right along with us, and hopefully we’ll all be ready to go by the end of the month at the latest.  I will schedule a blog post for the 1st of May, so if you normally have us come to you and you don’t see that post we may have had a hiccough.  You may need to re-subscribe – apologies in advance if this happens to you.

I’m looking forward to learning a whole new set of skills and hopefully not messing up the whole shooting match.
I figure that I’m leading the way, showing the kids that you can always learn new things.

As part of the changes I also have ideas about a new look for the blog and adding in a new feature or two.
Then eventually I hope that I can encourage my pair to provide the odd blog post – dutifully typed by me – and have them become more participant than subject from this year onwards.

In the meantime, wish me luck for the move.  See you at our new home shortly.

Field Trip: Queen Elizabeth Park

A couple of weekends ago we went on a family field trip out to Queen Elizabeth Park just to the north of the city on the Kapiti Coast.  We went especially to let the kids have a horse ride.

The Stables on the Park have quite a few horse riding options and both of the Oh Waily kids    really enjoyed their time on horseback, as well as patting the small ponies in the barn beforehand and getting to brush down the small ponies afterwards.

Here is Master Oh Waily looking very swish with his riding hat and the smallest pony before heading out on his ride.

Poser

And here is Miss Oh Waily at the end of her trek, on her much larger pony.  She looked very comfortable up there and enjoyed herself immensely when she was given the ability to “steer” her horse for a short while.

Gentle ride

I think we will take them back in a wee while and let them have more time on horseback as they enjoyed it so much.

While at the park we also took the tram ride to the beach and back.  The tram museum was open so we had a quick look in there also.  As you can see, the tram was beautifully made in wood.

Tram ride

Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-Schoolers

BookTour
No doubt you will all remember me talking about the great changes we were able to make around our place by doing the My Organised Chaos course with Jo Ebisujima a little over a  year ago.

Well I’m here to tell you about her new book.  It’s a great collection of her, and her darling son’s, Montessori inspired activities.

Jo began blogging about doing Montessori activities with her son over six years ago, and I have been enjoying reading about them for most of that time.  She was always one of my inspirations whenever I ran out of ideas to do with the little Oh Wailys.  And now she has a book full of them.   126 pages of them, to be precise.

We’ve done many of the activities in the past, and reading the book as a whole, I am now inspired to revisit some and try others with both of my little people.

There’s a Practical Life section that will have your pre-schoolers (or even some older kids) gaining skills that encourage independence and a Science section that will enthrall and challenge.  If you want to strengthen your child’s sensory perception, there’s a section of ideas for you to try out too.  Then there’s literacy and numeracy ideas, and finally Jo gives art and craft suggestions as well.

We’ve done a number of similar activities here and they are a hit with the kids. Spooning and pincer activities were regulars, and the kids loved the kitchen science of home-made volcanoes.  We have done a version of Jo’s Fallen Leaves activity, which you can see here.

And since it is currently summer in our part of the world I am planning to do the ice based suggestions to get the Oh Waily’s outdoors enjoying the good weather, and learning into the bargain.

If you are looking for straightforward, simple to organise activities for your toddler and pre-schooler then you will be well served by this book.  And I should know as I have several Montessori activity books and this one stacks up well against them.

You can see and buy the book here, or from my favourite, The Book Depository here.

If you want to see some of the types of activities in action you can always look back through our Earlier Posts to get an idea of the sorts of things that are Montessori Inspired.


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

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I purchased this lovely book last May and I’ve kept on picking it up, reading a chapter and then setting it down.

I blame the year of reading drudge trying to keep up with the book reviews for a sister blog.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But with the New Year has come renewed vim and vigour and this will be my first Off The Bookshelf book for 2014.  Lucky for me and my kids then, eh?

A while back I tried out the idea of a good behaviour star chart for me, awarded by the kids.  This fizzled out.  Mostly because I kept forgetting and partly because it was a bit depressing.  Did I mention that a good bit of the last half of last year was pretty stressful? No? Well it was.

But that was then, and now is now.

I’m loving the book.  I’ve finished the first section and am in to the second.  It all makes perfect sense and intuitively I know it’s right, and right for me.  I’m not so right for it, but then perfection is only something to strive for and not expect to achieve.  To that end, and to try and help me along my parenting growth path, I’ve decided that I need to set myself some new rules and see what sort of impact they have on improving my relationship with my kids.  (Which isn’t dreadful, I must hasten to mention!  But there’s always room for improvement – especially self-improvement.)

So we have some new House Rules (mostly for my benefit rather than the kids), and the really important ones are:

- special time each day with each child, one on one.  (30 minutes minimum)
- twelve hugs a day (at least!)

There are also a couple of technology related rules too.  I love technology and what it can do to aid learning, but sometimes it just sucks your brain out – adult and child – so there are now strict limitations on its use.

I’ve also re-introduced the sticker chart idea, but in a simplified form – if the kids think I’ve been a great (non-shouty) Mummy they can give me a sticker at the end of the day.  This now goes on the bottom of each page in my diary.  A really visible reminder of how I’m tracking in being less bossy, less controlling, more connected, and an improved role model.

The upshot of all these small changes is the wish to model better behaviour, continue to keep closely attached to my kids and foster a great foundation for a life-long relationship based on love, courtesy, caring and connection.  Step one is now underway, I’m hopeful that it will produce positive results and reduce a lot of tantrum and stroppy attitude issues that had begun to raise their heads in the latter part of last year.  And that was only in the adult!   ;-)

How about you? Any great, inspirational books on parenting you’d like to recommend?  Leave a comment if something has inspired you to be a better parent.


Lessons from Last Year

Have a plan for the full twelve months sorted out.
In advance.

Don’t try to do a few months at a time because small people and life in general will interfere with any feeble attempts to catch up and plan as you go.  And then your head can begin to spin.

If you’ve been doing this home ed thing for a while, please don’t laugh at me, I’ve learned my lesson.  What we need around here is some background structure, with associated goals and aims but not rigid “at school” days.  Otherwise I’m as well to send them packing to the local primary school.

In fairness, I did have a set of goals, but they weren’t easily visible and revised by me every day, or week.  Eeek!
Don’t fret about my kids though, they still learned heaps.  Miss Oh is definitely on a par with her schooled peers in both mathematics and reading – while spending much less time on it.  Master Oh is now happily counting up to 20* and beyond to 100 after showing no interest at all.  He also loves to use Reading Eggs.  I’m sure a fair amount of his progress is guessing until he gets it right, but at least he’s doing it as often as I will let him and the repetition will get him in the end.  He is only just four after all and I have no intention of forcing him onwards beyond his interest.  He has even recently shown signs of actual writing.  This is something akin to a miracle.  He rarely does any art other than some swirly scribbles and the odd splotchy painting and then over our Christmas break he produces writing.  A 4 year old’s style, of course, but writing nonetheless.   And with not one jot of prompting from us.  Goodness me!

So, over the next few days I shall be tackling the annual plan.  A guide for each area we want to help them develop, with backup extras listed at the end just in case they whiz through it in no time.  I’ve already got the year-at-a-glance spreadsheet underway, so that can be printed out and pinned up where I can see it each. and. every. morning.**  And since I’ve created it, I can alter it whenever I want or need to.
I may even do a monthly plan broken down in to weeks with some ideas for activities to reinforce any concepts or ideas we are currently learning.  At the very least, if I do it, it will be there should my head start to spin at any point in the year.

Finding the balance between formal learning and informal learning is something of a learning curve for all of us.  Can you tell?

There’s much more to share of the things the kids have been up to, but that will have to wait until next time, and for me to fossick out any associated photographs for you.


* with a missing 15.  Apparently my kids don’t like 13 or 15 since they both have skipped one or the other when learning to initially count in sequence !?!

** yes, I might just have a need for constant reminders.  Tell me you wouldn’t when you have two kids wanting your undivided (and indivisible) attention all of the time. (Note to self: encourage more self-sufficiency this year.)


National Council of Home Educators New Zealand

NCHENZ Header Small
I thought I would share a great resource if you happen to be a home educator in New Zealand.  It is the National Council of Home Educators New Zealand.

If you click through on the logo to the left you will be taken to a wealth of information on all aspects of home education in New Zealand.

It’s really great stuff if you are in the contemplation stage as there are plenty of links to a large number of resources, both physical and online.  And if you are already under way there is still plenty there for you to brush up on, especially in the regulation and review areas.

Even better, it is being continually updated, and is totally free to join as an individual.  Simply fill out the form and you will be invited in to the community and will gain access to some excellent resources at NCHENZ prices.

So what are you waiting for?  Head over and sign up!  Join the community.

Disclaimer:  I’ve recently joined the NCHENZ committee, so I am slightly biased.  From now on when there are any significant issues or information of use to the home education community, I will probably be posting about it here under the Category NCHENZ.

Orakei Korako

A few days after our visit to The Bath House and the Redwoods, I took the Oh Waily kids off to pick up their Nana from Matamata (aka Hobbiton).  Then we took to the highway and headed towards Taupo.

Just before the great lake we took a left turn, and another, then headed up into the hidden valley that ends at Orakei Korako.  It was a pretty misty and grey morning, and for most of the journey it rained on our outing.  When we made it to the end of the valley the rain faded away, but left us with a dull and overcast day.  Still, it didn’t deter us from our walk.

First stop, the boat that takes you across the water.  What a fabulous way to start an adventure.  With a buzzer to gain retrieval when your walk is through.
Next up, the walk through the geothermal area.  Lots of interesting things to see and a surprise for the kids, what with all the steam wafting around us. It also made photography a bit of a hit and miss affair, as I’m still figuring it all out.

Steamy Arrival
As we walked over the first boardwalk we began to see all of the colours of the terrace. Unfortunately the overcast conditions didn’t manage to do justice to the colours and this was the best I could do to capture them.
It was great fun looking at all the algae as we walked along, but I think the kids were just as interested in the boardwalk as they were in the colours.

Colourful Walk
Here they are, admiring the Golden Fleece Terrace. Or, at least, posing for another one of my photographs.

The Silica Terrace
After this it became a taniwha hunt as there was a story to be told and a rock to be found. Instead we found the Elephant Rock, and naturally Miss Oh’s constant companion (Lumpy) had to be compared and contrasted to the rock in question. Quite the family likeness, I’d say.

Elephant Rock
After this we were able to admire the view back down on to one of the rather amazing terraces.

The Pools from Above
We stopped and admired Ruatapu cave and then headed on for the rest of the walk around the grounds.  And what visit to a geothermal park is complete without the obligatory boiling mud pools?  So we were able to see a few of those too.  One being particularly extensive.

Mud pool
After all the steamy walking, then the sun coming out, we headed back to the jetty to find the boat had just arrived and was picking up a number of other passengers.  This was rather surprising because up until the last small part of the walk we had seen and heard pretty much no one.  Yet here were at least half a dozen people!

To finish off our trip we had snacks and drinks in their little cafe before heading homewards.  It was a really long, but nice day.  A huge thanks to Nana Oh Waily for being my second pair of hands in a potentially iffy outing location – small children and steaming hot water, what could go wrong?

I’m looking forward to our next trip north when I think we may take on another geothermal wonderland, either Waimangu Valley or Wai-O-Tapu, and hopefully expand the little people’s knowledge of the earth and it’s sciences.  All while having fun, of course.

The Bath House

Last month the Oh Waily kids and I went for a visit to their grandparents in Tauranga.  On this trip I finally decided that we would do some day trips while we visited instead of spending most of the time locally.

To that end we headed to Rotorua for the day.  We started with a gentle stroll along the lakefront, a run around in the lovely playground before refueling with morning tea in a local cafe.  We reinforced our recognition of the Scaup from our visit to Nga Manu as there was a huge number of them floating around the jetty.

We then drove around to The Bath House, which now houses Rotorua’s museum.  On the way we stopped and admired the beautiful waka on the lakefront.  You can’t help but love the prow, can you?

Prow

Unfortunately I can’t show you any photographs of the wonderful inside of the Bath House building as you aren’t allowed to take any.  But I can recommend a visit.  It is a small museum, but it is very modern and very nicely presented.  It was especially fun to see the restored and excavated sections of the original bath house stalls.  It was even more fun when we got to walk under the building, hard hats and all, to see all the underground workings involved in “taking the cure”.
Then I took the kids to the top viewing platform, through the attic, looking out for the ghost all the way.  It was a very nice experience all around.

After this we headed out to the Redwoods on the outskirts of Rotorua, stopping for a late lunch on the way.  I’ve driven past this area so many times in the last three years and had no idea that this existed.  What a waste!
So, we started by getting the kiddie’s questionnaire to encourage them to observe their surroundings and then set off for the short walk, Redwood Memorial Grove track.  It’s two kilometres of mostly easy walking, and it takes you through some beautiful parts of the forest.  Here’s a couple of photographs I took along the way.

Redwood Path

Redwood Stand

And when we reached the end, we had to stop and say hello to the Redwood Family. Apparently one of them might have had a bit of a headache the day we visited. Maybe they’d spent all day trailing around after small people?

Oh my Head!

If you are visiting the central North Island, or just passing through, I can recommend visiting both the Bath House and the Redwoods.  By the time we had visited these two spots we were pretty done for the day, with an hour and a bit drive each way from the Oh Waily grandparents’ house to bookend our day.

Following on from our successful trip to Rotorua, we headed out on one more day trip a little later in our stay, this time to a hidden valley just outside Taupo.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Back in July I took the two Oh Waily kids for a drive up the coast to Kapiti and the    Nga Manu Nature Reserve.  We went mid-morning in order to join the feed out tour, in which visitors get to meet some of the birds up close and help feed them.

On arrival we were met by some friendly locals.  Perhaps they look a little familiar.

Pukeko

Once we headed off on the tour with our lovely guide, we were able to enter enclosures and offer food to a variety of native bird species.  Robyn was very patient with my fidgety pair and explained about each of the birds as we met them.  By the time we had visited the first two enclosures I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take photographs, corral children, feed birds and listen to Robyn.  So the photography was ditched.  The only native that I got a shot of before realising this was a kaka.  It was fabulous getting to see them all up close for the first time.

Kaka

Along with the kaka, there were kereru, morepork, kiwi, swans, ducks of all stripes including a group of scaup, and the world famous kea.  Who really are just as cheeky and smart as their reputation suggests.

We got to watch the whirlpool effect of the scaup’s webbed feet as they dove for food, and saw the kiwi snuggled up in their nesting box.  We learned that pukeko are the worst predators of other native birds and that the resident head kea has a rather understandable penchant for creamed rice and will try to sneak it at every opportunity.

After we had made our way around the feeding route we then headed off to explore the lovely bush walk.

Bush Walk

And enjoyed the bright undergrowth that was fallen and aged ferns.  It was rather spectacularly bright and cheery.  And unexpected.

Bright ferns

And then there was the view from the tower.

The View

Very well worth the couple or so hours we spent there. The only thing I would do different next time is to take a second pair of hands to wrangle the kids on the feeding tour. They needed to be lifted to reach many of the birds so were ever so slightly too young to get full value out of it.

If you just wanted to see the birds and have a nice picnic and walk in an easy setting then this is a great option for a few hours.

Exemption III

85px-Document-passed.svgSo, on the 15th of July the local MoE office wrote us a letter.

We now have our exemption to homeschool Miss Oh Waily.

I will not tell you that it went smoothly, as it didn’t.  We were requested to provide more information, and frankly I think a little better training in public relations around the manner in which concepts are communicated would not go amiss.

While I thought that our original exemption was pretty thorough, and we received very positive feedback from exemption-writing veterans, we still had a gap or so to fill apparently.  So fill it we did.

However, I must say that the letter writer should perhaps re-take English and work on the tone of her communication.  Seriously, the phrase “There appears to be little academic learning occurring…” is not the most polite way in which to approach the issue of being unable to assess a regularity statement that does not involve a timetable.
Frankly both Mr Oh and I were more than a little miffed about that.  And even more so when we received back the email clarification of what was meant by “academic learning”.  Slightly gobsmacked actually.  Especially in light of the statements made throughout the application regarding the eclectic approach we are taking.  (i.e. we do “formal teaching” of some areas as well as integrated learning of ALL areas.)

Here is the definition as received:

“By this we mean structured lessons where there is formal teaching, particularly in the core curriculum areas of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Sciences.”

To heck with the Arts then! (And don’t get me started on the Sciences!)
As I said to some friends following the receipt of this:
Poor old Mozart then, eh?  Don’t waste your time learning to tinkle on that harpischord boy!  It won’t get you a job in the real world!

Personally my kids aren’t overly musical (in a practical “playing it” way) but they love to listen, dance and sing.  And we do that regularly.  It’s called having fun and your Mum subjecting you to more than nursery music.  You get to hear new languages and sometimes use them, you get to integrate different cultures or historical eras (you know, those pesky social sciences we’re not teaching) into your knowledge bank.  Yeah, I knew my love of jazz, blues and pretty much all sorts of music would come in useful some time.

I have to be honest and say that I find that definition narrow-minded and outdated.   I can’t imagine my life without those whose talents are to be found in the Fine Arts.  What of musicians, artists, actors and their ilk.  Heaven forfend that children be exposed to the full idea of a liberal education from an early age.  What was I thinking?

Oh yes, that I must not teach my kids to read or do maths.  Come on.  Really?  We choose to follow the national curriculum of one of the top 5 countries in the world (for mathematics results) and you think we might be disinterested in teaching academic subjects?  Between us the Oh Waily parents have three degrees and two post-graduate diplomas.  We really couldn’t give a flying toss about academia then.  Or continual learning.  Or following your interests.

The mind boggles.

Really.  It does.

Still, with a bit of a nudge and a bit of standing our ground on the regularity statement (i.e. repeating ourselves with a smidgen more clarity – since clearly the reader didn’t quite pick up on the information first time around) we got there in the end.  Essentially without compromise, just a touch more clarity & with a tone of being offended.  Which we were.

So there we are.  Official homeschoolers from Miss Oh’s next birthday.  Yay!