Rosemary: Secular Homeschool Magazine

“Rosemary” is a secular homeschool magazine produced out of the U.S.A.

It comes out three times a year – Spring, Autumn and Winter.  I joined their Patreon page for the Digital edition and duly received my copy of the current issue – Spring – which is themed around History.

How could I have resisted?  It’s history!

Here is a quick look at the inside of this particular issue, from their Patreon page.


As you can see from the video, the magazine is advert free while the art is beautiful throughout.  There are articles by folk you may have come across in your home education journey, such as Julie Bogart and Peter Gray.

In total there are eight articles over the 60 pages, an obligatory book section and a lovely essay.

The entire magazine was light and easy to read, as well as beautiful to look at.

It is, as you would expect, focused on topics in American history but the ideas and questions raised by James W. Loewen in his article, “Should We Lie About Columbus?”, certainly resonates in other countries with a colonial history.

The articles are a good length, with just enough detail and ideas to digest.  More than one of them addressed the topics of bias and pre-conceived ideas, as well as exhortations to question them.

I don’t know if there is enough in each issue to keep me as a long term subscriber but it might make a nice addition to a support group library where the cost is spread out amongst many families and there is a gap for a secular homeschool magazine.

I’d love to hear your opinion if you have already read an issue.  Let’s chat.



The Dangers of the Library

This week is our first week back “at school”.

We took the first week of term off as a holiday because the kids just managed to complete enough of the unfinished core curricula from last year shortly before that. Considering they spent most of their summer break doing the catch up, it seemed to be fair and sensible not to start back at it so quickly.

It’s gone really well for the first couple of days. We decided to try a randomised method of deciding on the daily work. This way there are, hopefully, going to be fewer arguments over what joint subjects to do and when.

The kids have figured out how many sessions of each subject area they need to do each week. They reduced it down to a four day week because we think our Wednesdays are going to be full with other activities.
Miss Oh Waily made tiny little notes of each of the subject areas. She folded them up and put in to her winter wooly hat. They both take turns to pick a paper note out of the hat and do whatever lesson it says.

And then came the spanner in the works.

The only problem that has arisen was when I went to find which branch of the library one of the core science books was held at. I couldn’t find it in the catalogue.

I did a double take. Then I checked for the authors in case I was making an error in the title, but nothing. Now I began to wonder if I was imagining things.
Did I see it in the catalogue just before Christmas or was I dreaming?

So to keep a long story short, it was culled over the New Year season and someone snapped it up on the 50c table!

This is our first year of partially relying on the library to have the books we want to use. Every other year we have bought them all. That was partially because our local library is a little less *worldly* than our libraries in Wellington were, and partially because if you’ve bought it you’ve got it when you need it and you don’t have to rearrange your life around a 3 to 4 week waiting list.

Lesson learned. Buy most of the key books.

So one of the science curricula is off to a shaky start. We are now at the whims and mercy of the Book Depository gods! Let’s hope they smile on us and it’s only a couple of weeks till it arrives.

A successful and stress-ish free start to the year.
Most of the work is completed before or just after lunch (if we mess around a bit too long in the morning) which means there’s plenty of time to extend the summer holiday feeling by playing in the pool in the afternoon.

Long may this continue!

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’burg
  • 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’s 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.

Secular Homeschool Awareness Month

February SHS Awareness MonthWhen this post crossed my Google Plus path a little earlier this month I just had to smile.

As a relatively recent arrival in the world of home educating I’ve always been on the lookout for blogs that I could relate to. Finding local blogs or specific groups has been a hard row to hoe, so I’ve often turned my attention overseas.

When we do head offshore to the wonders of a multiplicity of blogs and groups there is a very high percentage chance that the blogger will not be secular.  Often this makes very little difference to me with regards to enjoying reading the blog or idea gathering, but sometimes it does.  Sometimes this aspect of a person’s life informs absolutely everything about their writing, recommendations and ideas; and that’s when I feel the quietness of the Secular Home Ed bloggers.

I’m joining the link up because I’d like to find other sources of information and resources from people who are similar in outlook to ourselves.  I’d also like to promote the idea that home educators are a diverse bunch, including those who identify as secular.  It’d be nice if we were a bit more visible on the interwebs for those newcomers to find.

So yeah, anyway… let’s celebrate “Secular Homeschool Awareness Month” !

And to my secular home ed friends… don’t forget to join in too.


Minecraft for Parents

Inspired somewhat by Miss Oh’s videos of her Let’s Play world, I decided that it would be nice to create something for parents of young Minecrafters.

When I first heard of Minecraft it sounded like it had a lot of potential for the Oh Waily kids to learn lots of new skills while having fun.  So I went off and gave it a trial run.  Just me. On my own.

I can tell you it was less than successful as the game comes with no instructions and there I was trying to work out how to do things.  I managed to figure out the punching thing and the digging by hand thing but the crafting stuff just bamboozled me.  While I’m all for exploration and figuring things out, if your young one chooses to play Survival (any version except Peaceful) and they don’t work enough things out before night-time, then they encounter the game’s googlies.  This is likely to mean a quick end to the game and if they re-spawn (re-enter the game) they are likely to be very close to the bad guys again and the same quick end is likely to turn in to “Groundhog Day”.  If your kids are very young or have a temperament that feels these sorts of defeats, then this could put them off from playing what is a very open-ended, creative, sandbox game.

Now there may be other videos and articles out there for parents to watch or read, so they can help with these very first steps, but I didn’t find them when we started.  And since we’ve been at this for a little while now I have accumulated quite a bit of knowledge and resources to help my young’ens make the most out of their games.  Frankly, now they’re the ones teaching me what to do and what not to.  If we decide to make more than a basic introduction series of three or four videos, it’s possible that the Patch kids might take over the Guide videos.  (Yes, I’m always angling for learning experiences.)

In the meantime, if you’re the parent of a young one desperate to give Minecraft a go and want a basic introduction to get them through the first night or two please stop over at our first foray into tutorials.  Our intention is to put one out each week until we think we’ve covered enough of the basics that a young child can survive in order to do the exploration Minecraft is so good for.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment here or over on the video.  We will do our best to answer them for you.

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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.

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?


A New Teaching Resource

For most of last year we had a pretty regular rhythm of events in our home educating lives.  One of those rhythms was the fact that we had ‘Film Friday’.  Each Friday morning we would head out to our local video store and pick up something to watch.  One video each – the kids getting what you would expect, Tinkerbell or Danger Mouse.  I would get some sort of documentary for us all to watch together.  Eventually we ran out of choice on the learning front, and in an even quicker time we exhausted the supply from our local library too.

This all led me to go all high tech on things.  I have many friends who *stream* their television and movie watching, but other than knowing it could be done I had no clue.  I went to everyone’s friend Google and asked how I could get content from my computer and on to my television.  Google sent me to YouTube.  YouTube told me I needed a plug and a cable and the world would be my oyster.

That’s when I encountered The Problem.  My computer is too old. (Yes, four years old is ANCIENT in computer years.) The special plug was no longer available, even from the manufacturer.  The air turned blue around me.  I ended up at a big box store and tried to find a solution with them.  They sold me an Apple TV box.

That’s when I encountered The Second Problem.  Despite telling the big box store staff what type and age of computer I had, they clearly didn’t think that it would be a problem for my now decidedly geriatric computer to use.  Well.  It was.  Once again the air turned blue around me.  Even my much newer iPhone wasn’t meant to be up for the task.  The only item in the whole household was Mr Oh Waily’s phone and that was at work with him.

I had my own special blue air zone for most of that frustrating day.

However when Mr Oh Waily arrived home and I swiped his phone, I was still thinking that I would require it to be permanently stationed beside my little black Apple TV box.  But as I found, when Mr Oh Waily inconsiderately took his phone off with him the next morning, we didn’t actually need it at all once we connected the ATV box to our wireless network.

The next blue patch of air turned up when I stumbled into The Third Problem – connecting Apple TV to my YouTube account.  This one involved quite a lot of blue air for quite a long time, until I finally worked out how to get the two of them to talk to each other.  It was not all *plug and play* like the technology manufacturers would like you to think.

In the end, it was worth all of the struggle and strife.  We can now link in to our YouTube account and play all manner of documentaries, tutorials and sundry entertainments.  Flavour of the month, ongoing, is the wonderful Mythbusters.  Not a day goes by without one or other child asking to watch or re-watch, or re-re-watch an episode with Jamie and Adam*.  Science learning in a fun and entertaining format.  Gotta love that.

So, if you want to expand your documentary access or tutorial access, then you can’t go past figuring out how to get YouTube videos playing on your TV.  It is brilliant.

If you want to see what we’ve collected so far, come visit us at our YouTube Channel, you might find something you’d like to watch amongst our playlists.  And if you forget to bookmark the playlists, then all you need to do is click on this link in the sidebar to skip right over.


Happy viewing & learning everyone!

* Yes, they are talked about like old friends by our children.


Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-Schoolers

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.