Conscience prodders

As I’ve written on our About page, we’re pretty eclectic in our approach to homeschooling.  There are many aspects of a variety of philosophies and approaches that appeal.   Naturally homeschooling is something of an extension to parenting and it is not a simple matter of divorcing your parenting style from your homeschooling style.

So every now and then, when I read something new or, like today, listen to a different perspective on how things can be my conscience gets a bit of a pricking.  It makes me question my assumptions and my choices.  This is totally uncomfortable and unpleasant.  In a good way.

Once pricked, I spend time assessing why I feel uncomfortable and thinking about what it is that is doing all that prodding.  Sometimes it is a no-brainer and I take on board the ideas I have read or heard.  Other times I partially agree, but can’t quite see how it would work in real life (in my home).  And then there are times where I may think an idea has merit but I can’t (yet) overcome my existing prejudices or set way of thinking and experiencing to embrace it.

Today I watched an interview (sort of) with Radical Unschooler, Dayna Martin.  It made me uncomfortable and prodded me in all sorts of places and ways.   I’m not really an unschooler, despite wishing to follow my children’s interests in order that the learning experience is self-motivated and fulfilling for them.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated to learn.  That was one of my initial motivations for choosing this lifestyle.

But like many people, I am taking a path that is new to me, and opposite to the way I was brought up and schooled.  It takes quite a bit of work on myself to stay even slightly near my parenting & schooling style goals.   Some days I feel something akin to a human metronome, swaying from my traditional upbringing and the prevailing bog standard parenting culture over to something closer to the attachment parenting/humanist world view that, when I stop and think about the sort of parent (and person) I want to be, is my preference.

I just wish that I could find someone to read or follow who has chosen a different path from their own upbringing, and doesn’t make the change sound like one day they woke up and were miraculously the sort of parent and teacher they wanted to be.

How about you?  Do you follow the conventional wisdom, or do you question it?  Are you your parent reincarnated, or have you consciously morphed into another type of parent?  (And was it easy, hard or still a work in progress?)



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.


Miss Oh Waily’s current bed time story of choice is The BFG by Roald Dahl.   She begs me to read as many chapters as I can, and then asks for more.   As I didn’t read this as a child, which is sacrilege I know, I’m having a good time doing it.  There was absolutely no Dahl in my life except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in movie form.  Can you say Gene Wilder anyone?

I am quite enjoying getting to know the wacky worlds of Dahl’s imagination in their written incarnation.  And The BFG is full of fabulously ridiculous mish-mashing of words as well as the wild imaginative creations of the giants’ world.

I mean how can I resist words like snozzcumbers, whizzpoppers*, as well as the fact that unbeknownst to me before now that Wellington appears in the story.

‘Wellington?’ Sophie said. ‘Where is Wellington?’
‘Your head is full of squashed flies,’ the Giant said.  ‘Wellington is in New Zealand.  The human beans in Wellington has an especially scrumdiddlyumptious taste, so says the Welly-eating Giant.’

It was all going so well at this point, but by this time in the chapter, I knew what was coming and it wasn’t complimentary.

‘What do the people of Wellington taste of?’ Sophie asked.
‘Boots,’ the Giant said.
‘Of course,’ Sophie said.  ‘I should have known.’

I will forgive Roald for conspiring to say that I taste of boots, because he came up with words like hippodumplings, crockadowndillies, fizzwiggler, humplecrimp, wraprascal, crumpscoddle, disgusterous, sickable, rotsome, rommytot, glubbage,  dogswoggler, frobscottle and many, many more besides.

Tonight I met my first proper tongue-twister and had to have three attempts to get it right.  Oh my brain may ache by the time I finish this one.  See how you go reading this aloud:

‘Catasterous!’ cried the BFG. ‘Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!’

Oh, and the only slightly disturbing feature I have found reading this book, and I’d appreciate other folks’ experiences here…

I find myself morphing into some sort of weird, mixed up part-Cockney, part-Devonian hybrid accent while I’m speaking as the BFG.  I just can’t seem to stop myself doing this.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this.  Please.

* just don’t you whizzpop around me, alright !?!

Mental Maths

Just who is mental about maths?
Or is that a condemnation of a whole section of humankind’s scientific endeavours?


It is the sound of a mum very happy to see her daughter manage to do her first (probably second or third, in reality) batch of mental maths.  Mental subtraction, to be precise.

Miss Oh Waily has been able to do abstract, in the head, simple addition for some time.  We hadn’t been working on the subtraction side verbally as much though.  Then a short while ago, as I mentioned earlier, we started to use Khan Academy to give her some confidence and regular practice at basic maths.

She felt very wobbly about the subtraction equations so I used a combination of the solid (our ladybugs) and the pictorial (a number line) to help her get the hang of doing subtraction equations.  At first she grizzled about having to do it, but today when I saw how fast she did the set of equations and asked her what she was doing, she was as proud as punch when she showed me that she could do them without the number line to help now.

Naturally I was rather chuffed for her.  It’s a great mental leap from using your fingers to ‘knowing’ the answer automatically.  In less than a couple of weeks, I’d say.  Fantastic effort Miss Oh !!

She didn’t even complain too much when I suggested we watch the double digit addition video, so she must have been very pleased with herself and brimming with confidence.

I will also confess to being a little gushy when I saw what she was doing.  Poor thing, smooshed with hugs and kisses.  Who’d have a mother, eh?  So now I will try to prod her (very gently, of course) on to the next stage and see how she goes with slightly larger numbers.

When did you notice your kids starting to do mental arithmetic?  And what did you do to help them get there?

Two peas in a pod

Like many young children, the Oh Waily kids are not that fond of green veges.  This is especially true of the humble pea.  So you should have seen the wrinkled up noses on our gardening day when I said that the seeds I had for planting out were peas.

Here is what we started out with:
Starting Items

The two halves of coke bottles are leftovers from another unrelated craft project that will eventually turn up here at the Patch.  But while I was browsing gardening and nature ideas on Pinterest it occurred to me that they would be a perfect solution to see-through containers for this little experiment.

So our first step was to fill the containers with the potting mix.

Soil scooping

Then we placed three peas in each container, as close to the side and as unobstructed by potting mix as possible.

Pea Placement

After they were covered over with another few centimetres of potting mix we watered them and set them up on a window ledge in our living room.

We then went on to spread a bunch of daisy seeds into another, larger container.  This time I did the hard work of filling the container and the kids finished off with  sprinkling seed and watering them with a small spray bottle.

Daisy Seeds
Tiny little seeds they were, especially when compared to the peas we had just planted.

Then both the littlies took turns in spraying the tiny seeds to get them started.

And finally, they all came to rest on our window ledge.
Shelf Sitters

I’ll post a follow-up on the growth of our little plants a bit later in the week.

Night writer

Every now and then Miss Oh Waily gets so tired during the day that she ends up taking a nap.  This isn’t ideal because it naturally pushes out the other end of the day with a child who should be in bed and sleeping at her usual time not being the least bit tired.

A while back I succumbed to Miss Oh Waily’s solution to this problem.  She asked for pen and paper and the side light on.  She proceeded to sit in bed and draw until she became tired enough to put it aside and fall asleep.  This was fine, she’s in bed, quiet and I get some end-of-day personal time.  Mostly.

So a few weeks back this happened again, but she asked for the “special” pens rather than the usual pen I had been giving her.  I was a bit dubious, but thought that it would be a good test to see if she could take care of very fine tipped markers.  I gave her the pens.  The next day she showed me some of what she had done and asked to do it again that night.

The end result, which you will see below, took her several days of half an hour (or so) sessions.  She instigated it.  I did not help her in any way.  She had decided that she wanted to make it for her very favourite teacher at our daycare and was determined to finish it.  The only influence I had was in suggesting that she draw the cover page.  Here is Brave as copied out by Miss Oh Waily.

She insisted that it be laid out on her blankie, so please excuse the background.  I also had to take a series of quick photographs as she wanted it made up to take to her teacher that day.  Which we did.

The cover page:
Cover Page

The First Two pages:
First two pages

Remember, she is writing on scrap paper as I was expecting her to be drawing and doodling. So not a line in sight for her to keep her words and sentences (not too much punctuation going on, as you can see) level.

The Last page:
Last page

The Little Writer
Cheesy grin

Turns out when she has a goal, she’s a stubborn little madam.  Even though I have been teaching her the rounded a, she wanted to copy the book’s ‘a’, and the same with the ‘g’.  She had to do it like the book.

I have no idea why she decided to do this, but I’m all for anything that will get her interested in writing some more.  A lovely surprise from my very lovely little girl.


No, we are not talking about me.  That would be the last adjective I would apply to myself.

What it does apply to is the beauty of home education.  Today was a glorious day in Wellington.  Bright sunshine, light winds and the promise of summer.   What that meant for the Oh Waily children was an impromptu beach visit.

For them it involves buckets and spades, sand, waves and picnics.  For me I slip in discussions about our five senses (which is my planned topic for November) and what we see, feel, hear, smell and, their favourite, taste.

Today we watched a tern* diving into the surf for its lunch, repeatedly.  We also saw a regular gull dropping a shell of some sort on the beach, repeatedly.  I guess his lunch was taking a bit more effort to get.  Lots of wildlife on the go today.   We watched and were able to see, close up, the skill of the seagulls as they hovered and came to a landing spot next to our picnic table, repeatedly.  Such control and hovering and glide.  Even if they are pushy and greedy, it was lovely to watch.

We talked about the colour of the ocean and why it is dark in some parts and light in others.  We saw the different colours of the ocean and discussed why we shouldn’t take the “short cut” to the beach through the plants and possibly the penguin nesting areas.  We learned to balance on the rocks that make up the protection along the roadside edge of the beach and we enjoyed some time in a park refining our climbing, balancing and swinging skills.

To cap it all off we indulged in a little taste therapy before heading home.  There isn’t anything quite like hokey pokey ice cream.  Yummo.

Here’s to the flexibility to get out and enjoy nature, when nature is happy and welcoming.  And thanks to the local birdlife for putting on a brief, but interesting show for us today.  It was great fun.

* probably one of this variety

Grass People Update

As part of a gardening day last week we started out with a short back and sides for our two grass people.  It was a great chance for the kids to take a close up look at all the shoot and roots that had sprouted out, and gave them a fine motor control exercise in the process.  Here are the kids in action.

Snippers 1

Ahh, watch and learn younger brother, watch and learn…
And as for the final result, pretty well done I thought.

Finished Head 1

Then the lad took to the scissors. He had a bit of trouble with holding and snipping, so apologies for the quality of the photograph as I was holding the camera with one hand and the Grass Person with the other.

Snipper Boy

And here they are, all cosied up again in their watering container.

Cosied Up

I should really show you the photograph I took of the back of them. They are like the grass version of Robin Williams. Hairy back anyone? Grow a grass person.

There will be more from Gardening Day shortly, presuming anything sprouts.

So, how do you combine educational activities with fun and fine motor development?  I’m always interested in new ideas.

The Desk

Today I was going to update you on our Grass People and the haircuts as administered by the Oh Waily kids.  But, something more exciting has come along and gazumped them.

Ever since I started on Jo’s  My Organized Chaos course I have been looking out for a desk for the kids.  The lovely little table that you will have seen in nearly all my previous room photographs is simply too small to accomodate two children at once.  The problem was, where do you find a table that will take two little bodies, their paper, pencils, crayons and any other sundry items they want?  Oh, and at a price that I could live with.

Children’s tables do not come in a size fit for two.  At least not two to work at.  Play tea parties, yes.  Do small confined activities on a tray, perhaps.  Draw together, no.  Write together, no.
There were other options to try.  Secondhand stores for larger tables that the legs would be cut down to size on?  Maybe.  But then what do you do when they get a bit taller?  Glue the legs back on, bit by bit?
Suddenly turn into some amazing joiner and create my own?  Hah, only at the risk of finger, thumb and any other stray appendages.
Buy a ready made one?  At over $200, and still only one height.  Erm.  I love my kids, but…. who’s arm and leg should I sell each time I want to upgrade my seating arrangements?

Then, because I had been collecting interesting ideas for this very purpose over at Pinterest, it all became clear to me.  I would do this.   It would require minimal woodworking skills [read: none], a smattering of painting skills [read: delegate to Mr Oh Waily] and some basic maths [read: measure for the board accurately].

And hey presto !   Courtesy of a some good work on Mr Oh Waily’s part, the cot was resurrected from storage at work, the base area was measured, a piece of board was ordered and cut by the store, it was then painted and painted again.  Finally this morning it was put in place and here are a couple of photographs for the almost final result.

Desk Photo 1

Sorry about the light, unfortunately the morning sun comes in that window and causes a bit of bother when I want to take pictures in that direction.  But I’m sure you get the idea.  Here’s another with the curtains closed over a bit.

Desk Photo 2

As you can see, we didn’t even have to do anything with the height of the bed.  It slotted straight in at the original top height holes.  And I’m sure with the aid of a drill and some good measurement, we will be able to keep this desk going for a few more years until the kids really do need their own workspaces and therefore new desks or tables.

It isn’t a finished item yet, as there is plenty of space to hang things so that the table top is completely clear.  I just need to work out the hows and whats of storing things and using the space best.

The only other downside has been finding a space for it.  We really only have one wall in this living room that could take it, and that is the one the bookshelf sits against.  It took a few different manoevres to find a place that would work.  It’s still not 100% ideal, but we will go with it for now and see how things pan out.  Like all of this home education lark, it’s a matter to testing and altering and testing again until you find the right fit.

Where do your kids work?  Their own table?  The kitchen table?  Do they share a space?  Nosy curious people would like to know.

NaBloPoMo Patch-style

November has rolled around again.  How quickly this year seems to have sped past!  And November in the blogosphere brings out the worst in me.  I determine to join NaBloPoMo and squeeze every ounce of inspiration out of myself for 30 days straight.

As I have already mentioned over at Oh Waily, I will be ramping up my experience by posting at both blogs.  I can feel my eyes rolling up in to the back of my head as I type that for the second time today.  Oh dear.  What tendency to over-commit? Ohhhh, that tendency…. righto then.  Tiptoe gently to the blog entry, keep your face neutral and looking towards the crazy blogger, feel for the door handle, turn and gently push your way out.  Turn, slam door and run for your lives !!

You haven’t backed away?  You’re as crazy as I am.
Oh well, I’m looking forward to being crazy with you too.  See you tomorrow for the start of the “real” posts.

If you’re joining in with NaBloPoMo this year, leave a link in the comments so I can come over and hang out with other nuts creative people too.