Planning ahead

It is coming up to that time of year again.  Questions about how this year have gone start to bubble up in my brain. What worked?  What didn’t?  What did we miss out? What needs more attention?

The end goal of all this navel gazing? A plan for 2017.

I haven’t finished with my assessment of this year so far, and that means I only have half a plan for next year.  But it will be a definite part of the plan for us to continue to follow the Build Your Library curriculum.  My kids find it engaging and they have enjoyed nearly all of the books we have read so far.  The lessons are nice and short, so if we ever fall behind like we have this year, it isn’t dreadfully difficult to catch back up again in bursts of energy.  I like that it covers many key areas and that it is possible to do it in a very laid back way, if that’s what suits you.

So to that end, I have begun to gather the book list together.  Sadly there seems to be very few of the list available through our local library system, so another buying jag is on the horizon.

The new thing I am doing this year is to use my Bullet Journal to keep some of my planning items in a more permanent place rather than on a random scrap of paper. (Did I just admit that out loud?) Indexed and marked by a post-it label, I can refer back to it any time I need to, and it will allow me to keep a track of any items still to buy as the year goes on.  It’s ridiculously simple, but sometimes that is exactly what makes an idea a winner.
Here is what it looks like, with most of the titles redacted.


I’ve added a second page for any extra books I come across that would be handy to add in to the mix.  And since we are coming close to the end of another year of maths books, I will be adding them to this extra page as a reminder too.

I will probably do the same sort of checklist for any other curricula options – like RSO – that we may choose to use next year.  It will save a lot of headaches knowing in advance what is required, what we have and what we might need to find or buy.

How do you plan for your year ahead?


Shaking up our New Year

This year I wanted to try something a little different with the Oh Waily kids.  I gave the idea of letting them loose a go and taking a more unschooling route at the end of last year.  Unfortunately I’ve found that doesn’t fit me, or produce engaged and curious kids – for my kids – over the time we relaxed our approach.  There was just a bit too much screen time and a bit too much single focus on one interest (but not in a creative way) for me to let it go on through this year.  In fairness, I still think following your passions is a great thing and I will definitely be encouraging them to do so, but as a part of their home ed journey – not their only part.  As it turned out in Master Oh’s case it was clear that screen time was not an ideal match for his personality, so “Hell-lo, Eclectic Home Ed. We’re baaaaack!”

In addition to returning to our eclectic ways, I’ve also decided to shake up what and how often we spend on different learning areas.  We’re going to be mixing and matching things, but essentially I’m going to see if a Charlotte Mason (secular version) approach is a good fit for all of us.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to try out the Build Your Library curriculum and see how it goes.

I’ve chosen Grade 1; it’ll be just about right for Master Oh and a bit simple for Miss Oh, but I wanted to give a single grade a trial first to see if we liked it.  I will probably weave in our existing History Odyssey and RSO curriculums too as the year goes on.  One note though… it is likely to leave quite the dent in the bank balance with book buying, although with my love for Book Depository that should be more pleasure than pain.

As of today, my goal for our home ed, and family life in general, is pretty simple: it’s all about re-establishing some basic routines.
The relocation to our new home is quite a big upheaval for the Oh Waily kids.  Master Oh has only known living in Wellington as we moved there when he was a one year old, and of course they’ve left behind good friends.  Miss Oh seems to be coping pretty well with it, but the young man is less enamoured with our move, so I want to get some rhythm to our days to help with settling in.

So that’s where we are at just now.  I will try to start posting a bit more frequently, in between the last of the box clearing and reshuffling that will probably continue for the next month!

In the meantime let me leave you with a website recommendation – and the accompanying Facebook group.

If you are a secular home educator then you might want to check out the SEA Homeschoolers website.  It’s been a wealth of information and interesting reading in the short time that I’ve been aware of it.  The accompanying Facebook group has also been an eye-opener for what it must be like to be secular in many parts of the USA, as well as a great source of ideas and resource suggestions.  I hope you find something useful and/or interesting there to help you along your home ed journey!

Project Based Home Education – let’s learn

PBHYou may have remembered me posting about the difference between teaching and learning at the beginning of the month.
Well, I decided to try and get out of my own way.

Luckily for me, there was a Fall course for Project-Based Homeschooling and I took advantage of it.  I signed up in a fit of self-improvement with the hope that I will gain some insight and skills.
I’ve had the book for an age and had read most of it, but was a bit stumped about how to tackle it in my day-to-day life.   I’m pretty good on the accessibility of things around the home since I’ve had a strong Montessori bent since Miss Oh was a little snippet of a thing.   I don’t squirrel supplies in the tops of cupboards or behind layers of Mummy-guards, so I feel comfortable on that front.

What will need the most help is likely to be my observational skills, recording skills and communication skills.

Just a bit to work on then.

But it’s well worth it to expand my understanding, and hopefully open up new avenues for all of us in this ever-changing journey.

In the meantime, I’m off to re-read the book and finish it off entirely before we kick off next week.  I’ll try to drop back and let you know how I’m doing.  I suspect that it might be at the end of the six weeks rather than any time in between, but I may surprise myself.

Feel free to share your experiences of having project based home ed as part (or all) of your home education lifestyle… I’m always happy to hear how others go about things.

Arts & Crafts

As you can imagine, we have a fair amount of art materials in the Oh Waily household.  Miss Oh has always been fond of creating her own art, and I have always enjoyed providing different materials for her to do this with.  The only problem being a degree of paranoia on my own part that if I left some of the messier items down at kid-level then all heck would break loose on the spillage front.  So for the most part the art supplies have lived up high or in large plastic tubs that were hard to get into by the small people.  The exceptions to this being the crayons, pencils and felt-tip pens.
This naturally leads to two problems – the lack of encouraging independent use by the kids and the storage of all the bits and pieces.  We did have an art caddy, once upon a time, but found that it simply didn’t work for us so it was barely used.  Then when we created the cot desk, the home-made (i.e. improvised) hanging tubs became something of a nightmare in that they would slide from side to side and spill their contents far too easily.  The obvious reason for this being that they were hanging from a single hook rather than firmly anchored along a railing.

It was all rather disjointed and was discouraging the kids from regular engagement in a variety of art without a lot of my time and effort to oversee, which I haven’t always had to give at short notice this past six months^.  And art in this household tends to happen at short notice.

I had been wanting to fix the cot-desk storage for ages and ages, and came across the wonderful Bygel storage solutions from IKEA.  I drooled over the idea of the rail and buckets doing their thing, but there being no IKEA in New Zealand posed a minor problem. I had intended to deal with this issue by attempting to buy through Fishpond or Amazon.  In the end, they were bought in Singapore on the last leg of Mr Oh Waily’s long overseas trip and for the princely sum of NZ$15.  A bargain in anyone’s language.

The improved crayon, pencil, pen & scissor storage then made me realise just how woeful the rest of the art supplies were and how fed up I was at seeing a huge, ugly pile of stuff languishing in boxes in the hallway and strewn across various high shelves in Master Oh’s bedroom.  So the hunt began for a way to deal with it ALL.
At this point I was reading a decluttering book (as you do) and had an epiphany.  One of the key tenets of this particular book was ‘the toothbrush principle’ – you don’t leave your toothbrush in random places before & after use… because it is stored right where it is used.  Using this very obvious notion I realised that pretty much all the art in our household occurs at the dining room table or the cot-desk.  Luckily for me, I had already relocated the cot-desk into the dining room, so that just left what to do about storage nearby.  Well, he have one of those not-bay poking out windows in the dining room – just perfect for something like a buffet or sideboard.

The hunt was on.

A buffet unit that would not break the bank, considering what it was going to be used for and by whom, but one that would not look like an eyesore in what is a shared, public space of the house.  I cannot tell you how many stores I trudged through and what horrible prices I was seeing flashing in front of my eyes (fine if it’s for decor, not so much if it’s for kids’ art supplies).  We thought we’d found the right piece, and it was a great fit, but the price was too high.  The shop wouldn’t budge below a certain discount and I couldn’t face paying the amount of money, so the the search resumed.
Revisiting one earlier piece and finding out it was ‘end-of-line’ and could be bought for pretty much half the price of the cheaper end of the buffet market was brilliant.  I was even willing to disregard my dislike of the handles, knowing at the price we were given, I would have no qualms about taking to them with a hammer if they turned out to be a cause of accidents. (They’re thin and pointy-ended, as you will see shortly.)

A flat pack was purchased at a further, small discount, and Mr Oh Waily set about construction.
The following day I set to clearing out all the art supplies and rehoming them.  I was hopeful, but not convinced that they would all fit.  I was delighted when all but the larger pads of paper and one very long tin of pencils were the only things that couldn’t be accommodated.  Here is the transformation.  I am extremely pleased with it.


That’s the new unit in white behind the dining table (which has since been turned 90 degrees).  The console table, which was my command centre, has been removed to create space and the monthly calendar replaced by a lovely piece of art that had been in storage too.  As you can see, the desk had become a dumping ground and the art supplies were scattered on shelves and in a pile of boxes in the hallway. << shudder >>


I emptied everything out on to the table and floor of the hall to see what needed to be moved & where.  My storage solutions were almost as big a problem as the art supplies.  Those plastic tubs in the hallway photograph are full of boxes stacked inside each other, rather like matryoshka dolls !!

Finally though, we got to the good bit.


The desk was cleaned up, and all the art stuff was rehomed in the buffet.  I don’t have any fancy dividers or drawer organisers, just my plastic buckets to contain the spread, so we will see how that goes for a while.

Am I happy?  Yes I am.

Not only are the art supplies available, they are also hidden from view.  And the top of the unit can be both a place to put provocations, and to display the kids’ artistic creations. (Thanks to a couple of little place mats from Japan City.)


On the far side, and barely visible in the morning sunlight, is a sketch by Master Oh.  In the middle is my attempt to introduce different ideas to the kids without shoving it down their throats.  And on the near side is Miss Oh’s giraffe family in building blocks.

I’m very hopeful that this will go a long way to encouraging Master Oh’s newfound interest in drawing and art, and continue to provide lots of opportunity for Miss Oh to do her thing.


^ I was studying for a university paper for most of the last 6 months and the best part of two of those Mr Oh Waily was overseas for work.

Techno-planning at the Patch

evernoteI came across a very timely blog post at These Temporary Tents today about using Evernote as both a planning tool and a recording tool for home education.

I have been rethinking how I go about some aspects of our home educating, especially around how I track things for my benefit and for referring back to.  This has nothing to do with and won’t change how we go about our home ed.  It’s purely a parental tool to keep on top of and value the progress that my not-so-little people are making.

Did I mention that Miss Oh turned 7 on the weekend?  She did.  And I can’t think for the life of me where that time has disappeared to.

Anyway, I have had a recording system for a while – it’s a little bit of this and that, though.  A diary that for a long while I entered notes in each day, and then transferred to a private blog for ease of long-term storage on a monthly basis.  My planning system, such as it was, was based around a few forms that I had laminated. One for capturing ideas, one for making sure I tried to hit all the learning areas and one that gave a rough layout to topics on a month-by-month basis.
All of these were intended to be very fluid to match the kids’ interests, but by the nature of their design meant that changing details was laborious and tedious.  A million forms to do one or two jobs.

So along comes this blog post about using Evernote for planning and recording in a home education setting, and I was totally hooked by the idea.  I had signed up to Evernote about 4 years ago, but never really investigated nor worked out just how helpful it could be.  Today I have revisited my old stuff and cleaned it out, and also set up a new notebook or two to take care of some areas I can clearly see it working in.  One of which is our home ed.

To start off with, I plan to follow the same layout that Aadel uses in her video example, but will modify it to reflect how we do things.  I’m also going to add in a few extra sections for idea capturing, an overview and some outcomes or goals I’d like us to work towards.

Hopefully this will fulfill all my inner organisational needs to have more of a user-friendly, easy-to-use way of planning and tracking what we’ve been up to.

I can see it becoming quite a bit of a scrapbook as I get more hands on with it.  Photographs, videos, and blog links can all be integrated in to each note, therefore bringing the words alive with imagery and depth of information.  I’m finding myself quite excited about the idea.  I may have finally found a way that works…fingers crossed.

Do you use technology to track your home ed?  If so, what do you choose and why?


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.

The Magazine Files

Today, as I mentioned over at Oh Waily earlier, I took a further step in creating some sort of order out my homeschool things.  Although at this stage of proceedings there isn’t an awful lot of “things” to organise.

At the age of five and a tiny bit, our main focus is on fun and play, with a bit of reading, mathematics, art and science thrown in for good measure.  Following my new monthly topic format many other areas will be integrated as we go, including a smidgen of history and geography when and where it fits well.

So I purchased these cheap and cheerful magazine files today with the intent of using them to store the books from the library that I use to help me come up with activities, or for reading to the kids.  They are pretty much on-subject, so only Master Oh Waily seems interested in looking through them.  He’s obviously the non-fiction child in this house.  And he insists that we do every activity in one of the measurement books I brought back, so there ought to be a few posts for you right there.  But he has also tired of looking at them recently, so instead of having a towering pile of books on the kids’ table, I thought it best if I found an alternative.  Here they are:

Magazine Files

Along with library books I will also be storing printables, worksheets and anything else that I will need for the activities I plan to do each week.  At this point I am presuming that they will hold most things, or at least the list of items required if they have homes elsewhere.

Both Miss Oh and Master Oh now have a file each – in pink and blue – that I have put to each side of the desk.   It is where the work they are currently doing will be stored, or where items will go before filing.  Miss Oh Waily’s now houses a new maths exercise book that we will put to good use making graphs and area measurements amongst other things, and also her pink writing journal which it seems might show signs of being a success.

This was the scene shortly after the cover was decorated with a smiling heart.

Straight to it

And once again Brave starts to take shape. I’ll let you know if it continues or was a one-off wonder.

Writing Brave

The subject magazine files are currently stored on our unit in the dining room, but only because we are waiting for the arrival of an Expedit bookshelf from Myflatpack. This one, in fact.  It will be installed in the hallway directly opposite the “front” doorway in to our living room.  I shall re-home all of the kids books on this and set aside some of the cubes for organisational use.  Well, that’s the plan as it stands at the moment.  I’m slightly scared that it won’t have enough space for everything, but perhaps it is just my imagination that we have way too many books*.

I’ll see how it goes.  The bookshelf should be here in a couple of weeks and when I’m done sorting it into its first incarnation I will post some pictures so you can see where the heart of Oh Waily kids reading will be.

* I know it is not possible to have too many books, but that perhaps to have too many books out on view will make choice harder.

Home Study Kit

Just a quick plug today for the wonderful Jo of My Organized Chaos.  She has put together a Home Study Pack option.  So if you found the e-course price a bit intimidating, then perhaps you might be more comfortable with this new offer.

What’s even better is that it is currently on an Earlybird Special, so take a look and see what you think.

My Organized Chaos Home Study Pack

If you’re still not sure, then why not sign up to Jo’s newsletter and see just what neat ideas she has to share. Just click over to My Organized Chaos and sign up for the free training videos and to receive the newsletters.

Things around the Patch have improved seriously since I went through the e-course and I now use the course printables every day to keep me on target.  Not to mention the altered perception it has given me of what I can achieve here in the Oh Waily household.

It can’t hurt to take a look, and what’s not to like about free training videos?

Q & A Day

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the punctuation mark – ?

What this translates to is me answering questions that I’ve been asked by some online friends.  (Thanks for helping out with NaBloPoMo material guys.)

What does a “typical” day look like?

Well, I’m sure that everyone – no matter what they do with their kids – will say that there is no such thing as typical.  But we do have routines.  Currently they look something like this.

Three days a week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) both Oh Waily kids head off to the gym daycare for two hours of other-kiddie and adult interaction*.  This starts at 9:15 and finishes at 11am.  Most days this pretty much tuckers them out, so they have some food when they get home and one of them usually takes a nap.  If Miss Oh is particularly tired I sometimes sacrifice a regular bedtime that night for daytime sanity – hers and mine – by ‘encouraging’ her to have a rest by having snuggles in her bed together.

On Tuesdays, just after lunch this term, we drive to the not-so-local swimming pool and Miss Oh has lessons with a small class (4 other kids) of home educators.  Master Oh plays on the other side of the littlies swimming pool – sometimes on his own and sometimes with other HE kids.  This takes up the entire afternoon.

Those are the anchor activities currently for us.  Everything else is fluid around these.

As for subjects and teaching style, this is pretty fluid at the moment too.  We’re basically just feeling around to find the right way to go about all of this grand learning we hope to do.  A little while ago we would do more formal, sit down learning in the Classical Education style.  This was okay, but a bit stifling for a physically active 5 year old.  So we are trying out a more laid-back approach, with much shorter bursts of information and learning.  But the information and coverage of CE is still going to be trotted out when it will work for us.

I am currently trying out the Khan Academy website for keeping Miss Oh’s hand in with the more formal written side of maths.  I have found that if we go back to simple conversational methods of teaching addition that she loses confidence when she sees written equations.  Right now we are working on the first and simplest maths practice options there – Representing numbers, Number Line 1, 1-digit addition and 1-digit subtraction.  My current goal is to grow her confidence and have her feel able to tackle new ideas.  Oh, and I’m waiting for my Singapore Maths books so I can get some inspiration for other things we can do (without the computer).  I have been asking her to do these four activities (there are 8 exercises per activity) each morning.  It would take her 15 minutes or so, although she is finding the subtraction a difficult concept at the moment and that has made it a little longer.

The other biggie is working on reading.  She has had access to Reading Eggs for a while now, and we have always had letter identification and sound related games (I Spy) previously.  I have always encouraged her to do the lessons there whenever she has wanted to – and since it is computer related, she is usually happy to spend 30 minutes or more pottering away.  It is obvious though that while it has helped stimulate her interest, we also need to revise and revisit the basics to help her settle to reading.  She, I think, does remarkably well with her reading but just (again) requires confidence in her ability.  So along with regular (daily or every other day, it varies) access to Reading Eggs, we also have been doing reading together and sound revision using my little white board and some magnetic letters most days lately.  (Thanks Pete’s Emporium for the very cheap, but usable minuscules.)
And it goes without saying that we read stories each night together as this is one of our routines.

Just a note here about the reading.  As I am not “buying in” a curriculum to teach reading** and do not have access to the graded books found in schools, I have found that identifying the appropriate level of reading book from the library to be a bit of a trial.  They may say “Stage 1” or “Beginner” or some such other terms, but they vary wildly in readability.  So I have worked out my own very simple system.  I now have a small hardback notebook in which I write down the title of the book, the publisher’s name, and where on their sliding scale (P, PP, or PPP for example) the particular book sits.  Then I get Miss Oh to read it to me.  If she needs help with too many words, that grade of book goes on the “future” list.  If it’s just right or a bit of a stretch, then it goes on the “look for more of this level” list.   I know.  It’s not rocket science, but it has made my library visits considerably easier and less fraught with concern that I’m going to get something that puts her right off trying.

As for other subjects, well they just turn up based on our newest planning device – the monthly theme.  I try to make sure that a number of different aspects are touched on when we do our themes.  Last month was Gardening, and since Miss Oh loves to be outside in the garden, clipping and digging and weeding with me, it will be a continuous theme.  We count seeds, talk about what plants need to grow.    Discuss the weather and what makes up the clouds and why it rains.   Daily conversations often provide the most amazing opportunities to impart information and seems to be the most welcome way to learn currently.
I also have a gardening related science lesson on our living room window ledge at the moment.  It will be an upcoming post, when the shoots finally grow big enough to photograph.

I guess if you wanted to pin down or name our style of learning it would be part unit studies (the monthly theme idea plays in to that), part unschooling (or natural learning – that which comes from daily life and conversation) and part structured (like at school – exercises to do).  We’re a bit of a mongrel really.

Eclectic learning will do me for a name.  And our days reflect that.  Some days I have planned activities ready to go, other days we head to the beach or get out into the garden.  Other days I let them go wild with their imaginations and they get to play^ or build things for most of the day.

I’m not sure if that answered the question, but I hope you get a better feel for how we spend our days.  Eclectically.

If you have any questions about what or how we do things, feel free to leave a comment.  There will be more Q & A days this November so, if you’re interested in this bit of our journey, stay tuned.

* Theoretically I am exercising during that time, but this past three weeks – not so much.
** As though you really need to !
^  I’ve just got an interesting looking book from the library – Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul by Stuart Brown.  I’m looking forward to reading all about the benefits of play.