Upskilling: Project-based learning

In a burst of COVID-19 lockdown energy I decided to raid our Book Closet and read, re-read, learn and re-learn from some of my home education pedagogical inspirations.

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners” written by Lori Pickert was the first book I picked up.

Like many of the books I have read over the past decade, “Project-Based Homeschooling” is full of practical advice. The “how to” is intertwined with the “why you should”.

One of the things that I like about this particular book is that project-based learning isn’t touted at the “only” way to home educate. Ms Pickert outlines all of the very excellent reasons why it should be part of a child’s learning experience, possibly making up the majority of their learning, but she doesn’t do so in a way that generates a feeling of pedagogical “tribalism”.
I appreciated that tone from the outset.

Here are the key points that I took away from my re-reading of this book.

  • Children should be given the opportunity to self-choose, self-direct and self-manage their own interest projects.
  • Our job is not to “teach” them, but to observe, support, give our attention to their work and mentor them.
  • We should align our daily habits, our routines and our values so that we can create a family culture that reflects the importance of the child’s project work. (And our own projects too!)

As Ms Pickert says:
“Make the space. Make the time. Gather the materials. Prioritize the experience. Commit.” p.39

Re-reading this book has been timely for me as Miss Oh has been working on a substantial passion project with one of her friends. She has been asking me for support with this, so I wanted to revisit the encouraging information about mentoring a child’s project before I began to help.
It is extremely important that I reduce the chance of any “foot in mouth” issues on my part that might lead to her becoming discouraged.

One of the simplest, and most important, ideas that we are implementing is that of regular “Project Time”. Miss and Master Oh have each chosen a day when they will get my full attention for their chosen project.
My responsibility, in my own words, is to show up and shut up.
Reflective listening, guiding them with questions, helping them note their ideas and then sitting back and watching what they come up with.
It sounds simple when it’s written down but, depending on your temperament, it can be incredibly difficult to do in practice.

But just like the Oh Waily kids, I need to practice my mentoring skills, learn from my mistakes and figure out what to try next when I mess up. That takes care of the ‘modelling’ aspect of this type of learning.

“This is how we master a skill, a tool, a material, a technique – through play, through practice, through making and fixing mistakes.” p. 37

Some other big ideas that I’ll be doing my best to implement include:

  • Let them make mistakes and then let them solve their own problems.
    Don’t “rescue” them, but don’t abandon them either. This is the point where you mentor problem solving.
  • Encourage them to do their own research.
    Don’t “help” in order to save them time, thereby robbing them of an opportunity for some great learning.
  • Encourage them to do “Fieldwork”.
    i.e. use community resources, visit with or contact experts, etc.
  • Model resilience when they hit frustration points.
    Use this simple, calm and reassuring response from the book: “Now we know what doesn’t work. What should we try next?”
    I love this so much because it gently directs back in to problem-solving mode without drama and links to the last idea…
  • Project calm acceptance that mistakes are inevitable.
    Then encourage them to understand that the response to mistakes is to try to find a solution in order to move forward.

There is a lot more to this book than I have distilled here, and a lot of very specific suggestions about what you can do to promote a great learning experience for your children. There’s more detail on why you should seriously consider incorporating this approach in to your home education toolkit and what benefits your children will gain. They are significant.

If you are interested in learning about how to implement this sort of child-led learning, then this book is a good guide. And if the following quote, one of my favourites, appeals to you then this might be a book that would sit well on your shelves.

“With a slow pace, an open and inquiring mindset, and calm acceptance that problems are inevitable, we set the tone for a thoughtful approach to meaningful work. We begin to create a family culture that values interests, intellect, perseverance, resilience, and sharing.”

Kindle VersionPaperback Version
Thanks for your support. ūüôā

2019’s Books and More

I posted earlier this month about what our homeschool core curricula were going to be for 2019.
Today I will share the full list of different books we will be using in our two core language based curricula – Build Your Library and Bravewriter. To make it helpful for you I’ve split them in to their different learning areas, and provided a key for the tags at the end of each title.

BYL GRADE 4 – The Modern World

Build Your Library Website

A – Audible
K – Kindle
L – Library


  • The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (K)
  • Fields of Fury: The American Civil War
  • Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion
  • Gandhi
  • Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy (K)


These are books that I will be reading aloud to the kids.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Twenty-One Balloons
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (A)
  • Nory Ryan’s Song
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • The Singing Tree
  • Angel on the Square
  • When My Name Was Keoko
  • Redwall  (A)
  • Because of Winn-Dixie (L)
  • Shooting Kabul


These are the books that the kids will be reading.  Master Oh may skip some of these, we will see how his year progresses.

  • The Capture (Guardians of Ga’hoole, Book 1) (L)
  • James and the Giant Peach (L)
  • Bull Run
  • Rodzina
  • Stuart Little (L)
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire
  • Maggie’s Door
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Water Horse (L)
  • Number the Stars (L)
  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes 
  • The Borrowers (L)
  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • The School Story
  • Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story


  • Knock at a Star: A Child’s Introduction to Poetry


  • The New Way Things Work (L)
  • 10 Inventors Who Changed the World (L)
  • The Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia


  • Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters
  • The Usborne Introduction to Art


Bravewriter Website

As you can see there is A LOT of crossover between the books studied here and those we will be or have just read as part of our BYL curriculum.  We will marry up the Arrow to the time of year when we are reading the book as part of BYL.   I can’t tell you how happy I am that they are this well aligned.  The amount of reading it saves!

  • Aug: Penderwicks at Last
  • Sep: Redwall
  • Oct: Mary Poppins
  • Nov: Journey to Jo‚Äôburg
  • Dec: Because of Winn Dixie
  • Jan: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
  • Feb: Freedom Train
  • Mar: Harriet the Spy
  • Apr: By the Great Horn Spoon
  • May: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer‚Äôs Stone

The Money

For the full range of curricula, for two kids we are looking at ~NZ$500.

This splits down into:

Book Depository:  $296 – $15 affiliate rebate = $281
Kindle: $29
Pandia Press: ~$60 for Earth and Space; $23 for The Stargazer’s Notebook.
My Pals Are Here! Maths – 3A & B: $54
My Pals Are Here! Maths – 5A & B: $48

This could have been reduced if I had spent the time to hunt for secondhand books, but frankly my time trying to find them would probably outweigh the savings.

I hope you found that interesting.


listenI’ve spoken before about my journey to change my parenting style and I’ve recommended books that have been great stepping stones on the journey.

Today I am recommending another one.

It is “Listen : Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges” by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.

Like many of the other books it is centred on respectful interactions.  And as the title would suggest, many of the tools revolve around listening.  Listening to our children, allowing them space to deal with their issues, and helping them address those issues as best we can.

What I love about this, is that it doesn’t insist on forcing the kids to stuff down their hurts, but rather focuses on helping them to unpack those hurts and emotions. ¬†The analogy of a backpack really resonates with me… we can either help them get those hard emotions out of that backpack and have a lighter load, or we can insist they stuff more and more emotions in that sucker and have a much heavier load.

I know which option I’m on board for working towards.

The integration of listening and playing, along with one aspect that I had missed in earlier books – parenting Listening Partnerships – makes it the most rounded, succinct expression of the basic tools to help our kids (and ourselves).

I love it and can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for tools to help you set limits without punishment or threats, deal with your kids’ big emotions (including outbursts), understand the underlying reasons your kids act out, get a grip on your own emotional reaction to your kids’ behaviour and generally have an all-round better relationship that’s not a power tug-o-war !

Yes, I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, where I am not alone in doing so.

I’ll be adding it to the sidebar here for anyone wanting to get themselves a copy*.

And for those who would like to get to know the authors a bit better, they have a website that you can visit.
It’s called Hand in Hand Parenting.

Happy reading!

  • yes, it will be an affiliate link, but it costs you no extra to use it and helps us pay for the blog. ¬†ūüôā

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

catcfMiss Oh Waily’s Review

It was a great book. I liked the book because it was funny and silly, and because Violet turned in to a massive blueberry.  I also liked it when Verucca fell down the hole and I liked it when Willie Wonka had a candy boat.

Charlie was my favourite character because he was the only nice kid.  I also liked Willie Wonka because he made a ton of chocolate and it was amazing. And I liked Grandpa Joe because he danced around the room when he got out of bed for the first time in twenty years.


Master Oh Waily’s Review

I thought it was really funny and nice.
The main part of the story I liked was the Oompa Loompas and how Verucca was thrown down the acorn chute by the squirrels.  The squirrels were very hilarious when Verucca went to grab one.  And I liked the fact that Violet Beauregard ate the chewing gum and she turned in to a blueberry, and how Augustus got sucked up a pipe.

I liked how funny Augustus was because he was so greedy.  Charlie was the best because he was so nice.


Audible enabling

audibleIn my email tonight there’s a lovely message from my newest, favourite online shop…

I gave their free trial a go and have since joined up for the year on their basic membership.  That lets me have one audiobook per month and a discounted rate on others.

Tonight’s email is a nasty little brute. Temptation abounds and I’m about to share some of my finds with you. ¬†The sale is audiobooks for US$4.95 each. ¬†Here are my picks, some of which will be entering our audio library once I’m done writing this.

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer
Mary Poppins: The Mary Poppins Series, Book 1 – P.L.Travers
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Robert O’Brien
Anne of Green Gables – L.M.Montgomery

And there will be a couple of books specifically for me too, I think.

Please note that the links here have the books at full price. ¬†I presume you will need an Audible account to access the discount. ¬† If you don’t already, then you can always give the free trial a go, like I did and see how you go from there.


Yes, these are affiliate links (see our footer). It’s at no cost to you, and we only post to things we love, own or are about to invest in.


Playing with the kids

Today’s post is really a recommended reading.

It’s about play and it’s importance to our children. ¬†I love this article by Genevieve Simperingham, it encapsulates so much of what I wish for my kids. ¬†It’s called, very simply, The Power¬†of Play.

I’m also very slowly working my way through Lawrence Cohen’s book “Playful Parenting”¬†which has a load of excellent insights into how to engage with your children on a playful level. ¬† I’m loving the ideas for connection and allowing them to get what they need in this way.

The hardest part is breaking pre-existing habits of interacting with our kids. ¬†And taking a playful approach if it’s not your natural style, takes a lot of focus, concentration and hard work.
But it’s definitely worth it.

I’d love to hear about any similar books or articles, so please leave a comment with your reading recommendations about playful parenting and the importance of children’s play.

What Did We Do Today?


Today there was coffee¬†!¬† And some applied maths… multiple-step multiplication and addition to work out the right number of blocks to make paths in Minecraft, for both kids. ¬†Also some discussion about different patterns and how to construct them. ¬† In between that there was a trip to the shops, a library visit for new reading books, a letter in the post from a home ed friend of Miss Oh’s who now lives in Christchurch, a play at the park, and a spotting of multiple baby ducks.
One of the ducklings elicited a great deal of excitement in that it looked to be the same “Sqaishy” duck we had seen a couple of weeks ago. ¬†Minecrafters will probably know which one is meant. ¬†Apologies for the hideous quality, it was a bright day & I only had my phone on me, so it’s pretty awful with no white balance.


Added to this Miss Oh has recorded her fourth episode of Rainbow World, and we’ve noticed that she now has 9 subscribers – one away from her goal of 10 !! ¬†Thanks to those of you who have been kind enough to sub up, as I know it’s a royal pain if you don’t have a Google account.

Interestingly, as I sat down to write this post I was thinking that there really wasn’t much going on today. ¬†Maybe there was after all.

And that’s pretty much what we did today. ¬†Hope your Friday has been a good one!

Book Review: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham

PPHKI’ve had this book in paperback form for a couple of years now¬†and was making only a little headway with it as I picked it up, then put it down, then picked it up again. ¬†Then our holiday to Fiji rolled around and I really didn’t want to lug half a case of books with me, so I splurged on a digital copy as well. ¬†It goes by the title “Calm Parent, Happy Kids” in the Kindle version.

I spent most of my reading time during the holiday working my way through this book. ¬†It does take a bit of work because there’s lots to get to grips with. ¬†I know most of the advice may be old hat to many folks, but if you’re new or relatively new to peaceful parenting there’s plenty to ponder over.

Dr Markham also has a great site called Aha! Parenting if you want to get snippets of advice rather than read an entire book.

However, it is a well put together and thought out book that is well worth the time and effort to read.

The sections cover regulating yourself, fostering connection and coaching, not controlling.  Within each section there are further chapters devoted to specific aspects of the bigger, overarching theme.

I enjoyed it immensely and found a lot of ideas that I could put into practice.

For me the idea of self-care was a big one and has been a theme over the past little while. ¬†This book re-inforced for me how important getting balance in my life is. ¬†As the quote goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. ¬†So a primary focus for the remainder of this year is getting some balance each and every day. ¬†The kids now know that I’m taking ‘me time’ most days. ¬†It’s nothing earth-shattering at the moment, simply some time out to do something nice for myself like read a couple of chapters of my latest book or indulge in a hot bath. ¬†These are small things, but they allow some personal space in a day filled with “Mum, can we…”, “Mum, could you do…”, “Mum, look at this…”, “Mum, come and play a game…”

There’s loads more great pieces of advice that we already do or try to do. ¬†I will, no doubt, expand on some of those over the next little while. ¬†In the meantime I will leave you with the recommendation of finding a copy of this book if you are interested in transitioning to a peaceful parenting style, it will give you both the whys and some useful¬†hows. ¬†It’s a great book to add to a parenting library and I’d give it a solid 5 stars. ¬†So good, in fact, that I have pre-purchased the digital version of her newly¬†released book – Peaceful Parenting, Happy Siblings.
I’m now looking forward to getting my teeth into that when it’s released in June! ¬†In the meantime you can get your hands on a paperback copy.

Happy reading!


Family Meetings

PDOver this past Christmas and New Year I spent some of my quiet time reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. I was looking for more ideas on how to positively interact with the small Oh Wailys. I found a few new ideas and met some old favourites.

While the book is a bit of a mish-mash of home and classroom ideas, there is plenty to take away from one environment that would work in the other.  The key idea for me, though, was the Family Meeting.

Not long after I finished the book¬†we decided to give it a try and see how it would work, or not, for us. ¬†At the first meeting we wrote the ‘minutes’ down on sheets of paper and it dragged on for what seemed like an interminably long time – especially for the kids. ¬†There was a lot of explaining about what we were going to be doing at the meetings, and setting up expectations around listening and taking turns speaking. ¬†Then, finally, actually trying to have a meeting. ¬†It was all a bit dry, in hindsight.

We persisted and by the third meeting, which was just myself and the kids as Mr Oh Waily was away for work, I had taken up the further idea of having a permanent record of our meetings.  I had the perfect book for the task that had sat in my stationery drawer since my last pre-kid trip to Singapore way back in 2006, an A4 blank ring bound journal.  It had been waiting for a good use and now I had one for it.

We struggled through the next few meetings, trying to get a rhythm and working on the fidgety bugs that seem to infect the kids after a fairly short while.  Now we are two months on from those first tentative steps and I have to say that our meetings flow really well, for the most part, and the kids are both participative and able to concentrate for most of the meeting now.  We have dealt with a number of problems (one of the key uses of the family meeting) that have occurred during the preceding week, and everyone has been able to have a say in possible solutions.  The kids are learning to problem solve and to come to a consensus Рas that is the only allowable outcome of the problem solving.  You just keep it on the agenda if consensus cannot be reached.

It seems to have reached a point where we rarely have actual problems to solve, so the focus of the latest few meetings has been firmly on the positive sections Рcompliments and planning fun activities for us all to do during the next week.  We have also dealt with our chores issues through the meeting, with a fair amount of success.  It is an ongoing work in progress, but at least it is not left to fester with anyone for long periods of time.

I think we will have reached another point in the process when we come home from our holiday in April.  It will be time to add in a new aspect or two of the meetings Рexpressing gratitude and maybe coming up with a family motto Рjust to spice it up a little and keep it interesting.  I can see that the meetings will become a more positive aspect in our lives as it becomes another family tradition, just like pancake day has.  It is something that binds us together and adds memories.

I definitely recommend getting a copy of Positive Discipline and checking out some of her ideas.  There are moments of repetition, and slightly banging on the same points, but overall it was a useful read and the Family Meeting idea made the reading all worthwhile.   Check out your local library for a copy first to make sure it gels with you and your family.

And as some wise friends said – keep it short, don’t make it a parent-lecture-opportunity, or a hidden parent-control-method and actually make sure the kids are involved and listened to. ¬†Otherwise it will turn out to be¬†the opposite of what I personally¬†hoped for – a proactive, cohesion building tool for the¬†family.

Book Review: Goblin at the Zoo – Victor Kelleher

GATZAnd here are the continuing woes of Gibblewort the Irish Goblin, and now a firm favourite with the Oh Waily children.

Who were the main characters & what were they like?

Miss OWW:  Gibblewort and Daisy the chimpanzee.

Can you tell us what happened in the story?

Miss OWW: Gibblewort didn’t love the chimpanzee, Daisy, but Daisy loved Gibblewort.¬† Gibblewort got electrocuted by an electric fence twice when he was running away from Daisy in the moat.¬† When Gibblewort met Daisy for the second time he fell into Daisy’s lap, then Daisy grabbed bananas and stuffed them in to Gibblewort’s mouth.

Master OWW: He fell on a rhino after elephants threw him over their fence.  He flew over another fence and landed on something soft and then he grabbed on to the horns and he sat on one and then he got thrown over another fence.  Then he landed back in the lap of the monkey and got kissed again.

What was your favourite part of the story and why?

Miss OWW:  My favourite part was him getting stuffed in the face with bananas because they are so deliciously funny.

Master OWW:¬† When the rhino threw him over the fence and then the buffalo threw him back.¬† Because he said “Am I a living yo-yo, or what?”

Rating for this book.

Miss OWW: I’ll give that one a good 4 stars.

Master OWW:  5 stars.