Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Resources, Programs & Teaching Methods I Use

I am quite often asked about which programs I use for language and math so I thought I'd write a blog about them.
It has been 15 years since I began studying teaching at uni and 11 years since I became a fully qualified teacher. In that time I have seen so many changes to the way we teach, the programs we use, the outcomes we teach to. The teaching philosophy changes so quickly that I could not keep up with what the latest teaching craze was. On one hand it is quite good that so many people are passionate about finding the best way to teach and perfecting their programs or ideas. On the other hand, for all the flash programs out there that you can buy, all the fancy ways to teach using thinking hats or multiple intelligences or blooms taxonomy, blah, blah, blah..... I have not noticed any improvement in the abilities of the children that we are teaching. Quite honestly I think standards are slipping and have been slipping for a very long time.
That is why my favourite, and the most effective way I have found, to teach is the 'sit down, shut up and listen!!!' method (yes I can almost hear the gasps from most homeschooling mums!!!). I am not a fan of play based learning and blame it for all the pampered, over indulged teenagers we are seeing who cannot cope with any kind of structured or hard work.
So I have picked a reading program, and a maths text book and for approx 3 hours a day Kylah sits down, shuts up and listens. I really love real world learning and spend a lot of time teaching her in a non formal setting throughout the rest of our day's, weekends, holidays. Whether it be cooking, bush walking or through discussion. The children's' nightly bedtime story is from a childrens version of a book called 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson. It is predominately about science and reading it each night leads us into many discussions about science, history and the world.
The readers I use are PM+ readers by Nelson publishers. For each reading level there are ten books to read, which introduce new words very slowly so that the children can really focus on the meaning of the text and not get frustrated trying to read too many new words. I really want to encourage my children to read for pleasure and they seem to enjoy reading the PM's. The teachers guide has photocopiable activity sheets that help to increase their language skills. There is one activity sheet per book and a list of extra activities you can do if you so choose. There is also one running record (like a reading test) per level so you can check to make sure that your child is competent in that level before moving on to the next.
The PM readers are quite expensive. I think about $7.60 per book and then the teachers guide is $65, which covers 3 levels of readers. But I see them as an investment. I am not going to buy any other program. No matter how fancy or good it seems. Our parents and grandparents learned to read without all these fancy programs so my children, and hopefully my grandchildren, will be able to learn to read with these basic readers.
Having said that I do also use Fitzroy Readers. The Fitzroy Readers are a lot longer than the PM's but only have approx 1 - 2 books per reading level. There are about 7 word skill activity sheets that accompany each reader though and I find them to be quite good. So we use the Fitzroy readers in conjunction with the PM's just so we have a bit of variety.
For Maths I use the Signpost Maths Text book. It is quite cheap and you can pick it up from most news agents or book stores. I use it because my maths lecturer at uni loved it and showed us many supplementary activities we could do to support each new concept introduced in the text book. These are all explained comprehensively in the teachers guide. I don't have the teachers guide as for the majority of my years teaching I used Signpost and know all the activities. Signpost is an advocate of the 'number sense' method of teaching mathematics which I really love. In fact I was really crap at maths during my primary/high school years and it wasn't until I went to uni and was re-taught all the concepts using a number sense approach that the penny dropped and I finally understood and loved maths!!! I was so amazed by how much I liked it once I was taught properly that I majored in mathematics at uni.
On top of using the Signpost Text Book and doing the supplementary activities that go along with it, we do a lot of real life maths (shopping, cooking, building etc). We also do a lot of drills and practice of number facts and times tables. I have a lot of maths resources. I find it an absolute MUST to have on hand MAB blocks, counters, 3D shapes, fake money, cuiseniere rods, fraction kits... the list goes on!!!! I am currently on Ben's case about either making or buying me a 100's board.
I do not think these programs are superior to any other programs out there. They are just ones that suit me, my teaching style and my family. If you would like to ask any other questions about these programs please feel free to ask me.
I will endeavour in the coming weeks to add some more information and also add some pics of readers and resources that I use (my camera is out of batteries at the moment).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finding Bianca

This blog is dedicated to the long and arduous journey I have been on in search of who I really am.

I began life with the notion that everyone had to fit into a certain 'mould' or 'category'. Not being very confident in who I was I made it my quest to discover which niche I would fit into.

It was apparent from a very early age that I was never going to fit into the 'academic' category. I have always been quite vague and I think my younger sister started to out smart me when she was 18 months old and I was 5. So the very first persona I tried out was the perfectly pretty but very dumb one. Yes, astonishing isn't it!! At the tender age of 4, I demanded that my hair be absolutely PERFECT before I would step foot outside the house. I refused to wear pants or jeans of any kind, even in winter, and only wore skirts or dresses. I not only demanded perfection in my hairstyles, I demanded variety. I would sooner die than have to wear the same hairstyle to kindy more than once a fortnight. My poor mother would go insane having to think of new styles to do my hair. There was the pony, side pony, half pony, braid, side braid, two braids, pigtails, pigtails plaited, pigtails plaited then looped up, a bun, two buns on either side of my head, a fishtail braid, an inside out braid...... the list goes on.... My poor mother!!! I also had the doey personality down pat too. My mother and father never had high hopes for me academically. While my sisters would be in trouble if they came home with anything less than an A, everyone would rejoice if I bought home a B. I think I astonished everyone when I graduated from highschool and went off to uni!!

I could quite happily have gone along with this persona for the rest of my life had it not been for one tiny glitch in the plan. There comes an age where YOU have to start doing your own hair and I was FAAAAAR too lazy to do it. So I completely ditched the whole facade, even the dresses, and decided to give something else a try.

I think the next mould I tried to squeeze myself into was the surfie chick. Never mind the fact that I was dark haired, tubby and could not surf. I decided that surfer chick was the way to go. It wasn't just that I couldn't surf, I also hated the beach so I have no idea why I decided that this was my niche. As far as I was concerned, being a surfie chick involved wearing lots of Billabong and Ripcurl labels. On anything and everything you owned. My poor mum and dad must have spent a small fortune on surf products for me. I have photos of myself in a billabong shirt, billabong shorts, billabong hat, billabong bum bag AND a billabong back pack. Yes, it was tragic. Very tragic. When it became bleepingly obvious that I was not a surfie chick (and surprisingly it took me a few years to find out) I abandoned it in favour of another very interesting phase....

After a brief period of thinking I was a hippie I settled on being a goth. All the surf clothes were abandoned in favour of anything and everything black and baggy. I would wear dark eyeliner and black boots with black socks. I was in a play by a local theatre group called 'Death Web' - need I say more??? I went to psychics and played with tarot cards and made my mum walk 3m behind me in the shops.

Luckily this phase evolved quite quickly into the alternate 'drama' phase. This was one of my favourite phases as it is probably closest to who I really am. My friends and I pretended that we didn't care what anyone thought of us and would do crazy things where ever and whenever we pleased. Whether it be singing at the top of our lungs on the train or performing street theatre in King Georges square we acted like we didn't have a care in the world. I was very sad when this phase ended. I think it wrapped itself up when highschool finished and all my drama class mates went off to unit to do different things.

Somewhere in here, I'm not quite sure where, was my Vegetarian phase. I am sure that I must hold the record for the shortest period of time that anyone has ever been a vegetarian. I didn't even have time to consume a vegetarian meal in my time being a non meat eater!!! It started with an announcement, just prior to going on a walk with mum and Kristy, that I had decided that I loved animals soo much that I wanted to be a vegetarian. So off we went on our walk. During the walk mum and Kristy told me all about being a vegetarian and the foods I wouldn't be able to eat (what??? There is meat in jelly???) and the foods I would have to eat (beans, tofu, eggplant - YUCK!!). By the end of the walk I had decided that being a vegetarian was not for me and I happily tucked into my lamb chops that night for dinner.

My next phase was quite self destructive. Not having fitted in with any of the other things I had tried, I decided that maybe substance abuse was the way to make me cool and popular. So I took up smoking and boy did that make me feel cool!!! Drinking followed with disastrous results. My morals relaxed A LOT in regards to boys and I tried a few illegal drugs along the way. This period in my life bought about a huge dark cloud of depression. I had really lost who I was and I didn't like who I had become. There was some good times during this period, and it was definitely harder to ditch than the other phases as I had become addicted to nicotine.

Luckily I found salvation in the form of my friends and Ben. I have wonderful supportive friends who always made me feel so good about myself and then Ben knocked me up, which quickly put an end to any substance abuse problems. I could no longer smoke, drink or party. Thank goodness!!!

And so began the most wonderful part of my life. Motherhood. There are no words to describe how much I love being a mother. My heart feels like it is going to explode with love every time I even think about my 4 little kiddies.

Since I have become a mother I have been contemplating my own journey and have thought hard about how my actions are going to be perceived by my children. I stopped going on constant diets as I thought that it might harm their self image, and may be a bad example to set for them - and have never been happier. I have stopped worrying about what others think of me (to some degree... I still do filter a lot of thoughts and opinions) because I want to teach them not to care about what others think.

My phases have stopped and I have just started being who I am. Which, as far as I can tell, is a very down to earth, diplomatic, comfort loving, diet coke drinking, science book reading chocoholic. I am also very into yoga right now but I am unsure as to whether this is just another phase or whether it might be something that I continue for the rest of my life. All I know is that I really love it and I don't care that there are 60 year old women in the class who are more flexible than me (I don't bend very well!!!). It makes me feel good and it helps me to focus so that's all that matters!!

If nothing else I know that my phases have provided much entertainment for my family, who constantly laugh about them and bring up different times. I don't regret any of the things I have done because it has helped me to become the person I am today and given me a greater understanding of people in general (or so I like to believe!!!). It must be nice to be so self assured from infancy, that you know who you are and what you want to do straight out of the womb (aka Ben). But for those of us, who aren't so self confident, the journey to discovering your true self is a journey worth taking!! Ok... maybe that last line was a bit soppy... but I'll leave it in for laughs sake!!!

It is now 12:30a.m. and I have a house full of sleeping kids who are going to be up soon so I had better sign off.

Anyone care to share any interesting phases they have been through????

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Andrew Drynan Reserve

Andrew Drynan Reserve is near Rathdowney. We went in the June of 09 and practically had the place to ourselves. This may be because everyone else knew better than to camp in the FREEZING cold. Actually it wasn't as cold as Giraween had been, just one month earlier.

There isn't a lot to do at the actual camp grounds itself. Quite often there will be walking tracks nearby or fishing etc at these camp places, but Andrew Drynan is just one big, big, big open space surrounded by beautiful green rolling mountains. There is a creek near the campsites, but it was a bit of a moo point for us as it was waaaay too cold for swimming.

We went for a few drives and found some 4wd tracks and walking tracks. There is plenty to do in the local area.

But sometimes it is just nice to camp somewhere where you can sit on your rear end and take in the serenity and read a good science mag or book.

I never take many toys camping for the kids as I encourage them to find things to play with. Whether it be collecting rocks or twigs or playing around in the bushes. I would much rather them make their own fun than have to provide it for them. This trip Rohan decided that all his fun laid in the fire pit. We were constantly having to pull him out of it and he spent most of the trip covered in soot and ash. The girls had a wonderful time. They spent most of their day's playing down by the creek with the pebbles or collecting pretty leaves and rocks to 'sell' to us.

I'm not sure that we would go back to Andrew Drynan in a hurry. It was really lovely but there wasn't a ton to do there. Ben has kind of converted me into someone who likes to at least have the option of a hike or two nearby (incase I overdose on marshmallows or strawberry freddos). The creek was also a bit too far away from the campsites. There was a road in between the creek and where we camped and that bothered me a bit. Being the paranoid mother that I am, I don't like to have main roads close to where we are camping.

There is a lot of open space though so if you want to go there for a nice relaxing weekend make sure you take a cricket set and a football.


Giraween is a sensational place to camp. Ben had a lot of fond childhood memories from staying at Giraween and was keen to take the kids and I there. We went there for the mothers day weekend in 09.

There are tons of walks to do at Giraween. We spent the majority of our weekend trekking up and down mountains. Yes, that is exactly how I wanted to spend my mothers day weekend - NOT!!! No, it wasn't too bad. I got breaky in bed on mothers day morning and Ben took me to a nearby shop called 'the chocolate shop' (need I say more???).

This was the first time I used the camp toilet dad had given me and might I say I was suitably impressed. I did not venture into the loos at Giraween so I can not even give them a rating for cleanliness or tell you whether the showers had hot water.

There are some lovely places to swim at Giraween but unfortunately when we were there it was bloody freezing. I think it got down to -5 one night. It was soooo cold. I had on about 6 layers of clothes and was wrapped up in a sleeping bag, thermal blankets, doona... you name it. But I was still breastfeeding Rohan so I would have to get up to him at night and get my boob out in the freezing cold so he could have a feed. I also found that in that kind of weather I needed to pee a lot more at night. Getting out of bed and having to strip down to go to the toilet isn't fun. Neither is getting out of bed and having to strip one of the girls down so they can go to the toilet. I felt like my nights were just up, down, up, down, cold, warm, cold, warm. Not fun.

You can imagine how impressed I was with Ben ,who was bright and cheery during the day time because he hadn't been woken up 6 million times at night. Why is it that the kids always wake me at night and not him. "mummy I wet the bed, mummy jazzy spewed, mummy Rohan has done a poo, mummy I had a nightmare".... seems to be the story of my life!!! No matter how much training I give them (and believe me I try) they just won't wake Ben up for any of these matters. I am beginning to suspect that there is some kind of conspiracy here. Maybe Ben is bribing them with something??

I have put a few pics in of our camp set up. As you can see I like everything to be up off the floor. For someone who is a messy, disorganised person at home I am surprisingly anal about cleanliness when we are camping (although not nearly as clean and organised as two of my friends are when they camp - who both happen to be named Nicole!!)

I don't like to sleep on the ground so Ben and I got one of those blow up beds on a stand. This made a massive difference to the comfort factor of camping. I slept really well on it and liked having a 'normal' feeling bed while camping. The kids had stretcher bed bunks and all our clothes were stored in those plastic drawer things up on a table.

The actual campsites at Giraween are quite rocky and dirty. I don't mean dirty as in unclean, I mean dirty as in lots of dirt and dust. We were worried that the rocks underneath our tent would put holes in the floor of our tent. Luckily they didn't but you could see the tiny rocks bulging through. I would suggest anyone who is going to camp there in a tent should take a floor covering of some sort, maybe some foam mats???

Anyway I am going to sign off now. I keep accidentally deleting the pictures and it is driving me insane having to re upload them. Perhaps next time I should add pics last. Aaaahhh... one day I might get the hang of this!!!

Overall - highly recommended for anyone who likes bush camping and hiking.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

But what about socialisation???

One question, that never ceases to annoy me, is the question that is perpetually asked by every person you come into contact with who finds out you homeschool. "What about socialisation??" Their words try to come out sounding very casual but the look on their face tells a different story. They have the same sort of look you would expect if you had just told them that you have decided to give all your children a tattoo, of a heart with mum written in it, smack bang in the middle of their forehead.

I know that there are probably a lot of legitimate reasons to question homeschooling but socialisation??? Really???

As I have said in an earlier post I didn't hate school. But I know for sure that it hindered my social abilities. Before school I was a care free spirit. Definitely left of centre and quirky. Unfortunately, when I started school I didn't have the confidence to carry off my eccentricity and it was quickly squashed. I felt like I didn't fit in and spent my school years pretending to be someone I wasn't. I always felt like I was weird or abnormal in some way. This further suppressed my confidence and I feel like I am only coming out of the rut school put me in just now. I also felt inferior to the other more confident kids. Like I was some kind of subhuman.


My kids do plenty of activities with other homeschooled children and also activities on the weekends with other schooled children. Yes, they sometimes have issues with other kids at homeschooling activities. But I am always in the back watching how they deal with the issue and then debriefing with them afterwards. I am certainly not constantly stepping in to handle their problems for them.

I also ensure that my kids spend time with adults as well as other children. My children are very close to everyone in our family, neighbours and a lot of my friends.

I feel like I really know my children and that I am building a strong family unit. That is extremely important to me. There is not a doubt in my mind that my children are a lot happier with our current situation than they would be if I packed them off to school.

I really don't understand how people can rationally think that homeschooling is socially damaging in any way. I'm sure there are a lot of fanatical homeschooling families out there, who don't allow their children to socialise and therefore may be hindering their social development, but no more so than the poor little bullied kids in the schooling system. I just don't see either system as being perfect.

But I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that homeschooling is the perfect choice for us!!!

Peach Trees

Peach Trees has to be one of my top 5 places to camp. It is located near Jimna, Sunshine Coast hinterland.
We had a great time camping here. There are a few short walks you can do and a few 4wd tracks around. The campsites are extremely grassy. It has that lovely thick green grass that makes you want to run around with no shoes on. The creek is crystal clear. Ben and the kids drank from it a few times.
The campsite has tons of wildlife on it. From kangaroos, to cows, possums and goannas - the kids will never be bored chasing the local wildlife!!!
I don't really have a ton of interesting things to report about this trip to Peach Trees. I had no ants biting my bum, no ticks or leeches in sight... just a nice, relaxing place to be.
If my memory serves me (and quite often it doesn't serve me), I think I spent most of the time perched in my chair reading while Ben paced back and fourth wanting to 'do' something. There weren't quite enough walks for him around - which suited me just fine :)
This was the trip where we started the tradition of campfire stories with the kids. Yes I am aware that humans have probably had a long tradition of telling stories around a campfire but this was a new experience for me and my family. The kids love it. We take it in turns to tell made up stories while we toast marshmallows. The kids get 3 marshmallows a night. This is a far cry from the 'have as many as you want just stop a couple before you throw up' notion that I was raised with. Benjabum has quite an aversion to sugar. He doesn't like the kids to eat a ton of it so we ration the mallows. But it works out ok. When you spend as much time camping as what we do you probably don't want to be stuffing yourself full of them every night.

One of my favourite things to do, after the kids go to bed, is sit back in my $200 reclining camp chair with my diet coke and watch for shooting stars. It is so magical. Ben, being a man of few words, and I (being full of words) have had many a D & M while sitting back star gazing. I always feel a bit ripped off if we go camping and it turns out to be overcast or rainy. I miss those evenings. (in comparison it is currently Friday night at our house and I am hiding in the computer room working on my blog, and Ben is watching the footy and cleaning the kitchen).
And now for my review of the amenities. You must have noticed by now that I write a lot about the amenities at different camp spots. This is because I have a public loo phobia. I am more scared of public toilets than I am of snakes or spiders. Infact, I would rather use my own bathroom - with a snake or spider in it - than have to use a public restroom that is critter free. I have all the symptoms of a full on phobia. Every time I go near one my heart starts racing, my palms get sweaty and my voice starts to squeak. I become completely irrational and freaked out. I have tried so hard to get over this. I watched that episode on mythbusters where they proved that toilets actually aren't as germy as you would think. But no amount of self talk helps.
Even when I was heavily pregnant, I could easily go out for the day and not go to the loo. My phobia was enough to counter act the need to pee!! I have no idea where this phobia came from. It may have something to do with my mother freaking out in public restrooms when I was young and insisting on papering the seat and me not touching a thing. (not a thing, not even the tap or the door handles!!). But then Kristy and Nicky also grew up with the same mother and as far as I can tell, neither of them have phobias.

Just to be sure that I am not passing on any irrational fears of toilets to my children, I ALWAYS send them to the loo with someone else when we are camping. The few times I have had to take them have always ended with me squealing at them to hurry up and then coming out feeling like the worst mother in the world.

Anyway, back to my review of the Peach Tree amenities. They seemed ok. I only used them a few times while I was there. I mainly waited till night time so I could do a bush pee. They do not have hot showers, only cold ones, so I suggest taking your own shower. We have one of those ensuite tents and $15 shower pumps with a head on it. We heat water up on the fire and tip it into a 20ltr bucket and shower that way. It hardly takes any time at all and it is so much easier for us. Especially with all the kids.

I highly recommend Peach Trees. I think it would be a sensational place to go during the summer months when you can really enjoy the creek. It was March when we went and was getting a bit too cold for me to want to swim.

Jut in case anyone is wanting caravan info, you could definitely take a caravan there, but there is no powered sites. Just a lot of open space!!!

Cania Gorge

Cania Gorge was an amazing place to camp. We chose stay at 'Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat'. There is also a Big 4 campground just down the road. They are fairly similarly priced, but the Tourist Retreat is so much more spacious and private. Our campsite was nestled away in the back of the park and was completely private. In fact a few times I ventured out of my tent in just my undies to hang around our campsite as it was too hot for clothes. I felt so free and liberated!!!

We did tons of walking on this trip. I forget exactly how many km's we covered but I think we averaged about 6kms a day over 5 days. This is fairly easy for an adult to do but we had Kylah and Jazzy with us who did all the walking as well!!! They were amazing! Jasmine has such a natural athleticism and would just walk and walk and walk. Huge mountains were no obstacle for her. Kylah and I whinged most of the time!!

There are sooo many walks to do at Cania Gorge. Ben and I spent a lot of time teaching the children about the local geology and how the Gorge was formed. They also learned about the local flora and fauna. It was like a 5 day excursion!

Our day's fell into a nice routine very quickly. We would wake up with the sun (too hot to sleep in the tent). Have a hearty breaky before tackling school work. Then we would head off on a walk along one of the many beautiful tracks. We would eat morning tea en-route and arrive back at camp in time for lunch. Afternoons were spent in the pool then we would play games together or have an afternoon siesta in the many hammocks around the park. Early dinner was followed by a campfire, bush shower and an early night.

The amenities at Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat were extremely clean. I used a bush shower as Ben had just bought it for me and I wanted to try it out. It was sensational!!! I fell in love and have used nothing else since!! Gone are my day's of having to brave public showers.

I really enjoyed our time at Cania Gorge. I was really relaxed there and it is a beautiful spot. My only complaints were the searing heat, mozzies on dusk and ants.

I absolutely hate ants!! I am getting better with them but at the time of our trip (March 09) I was extremely scared of them. Matters weren't helped when I was bitten on the bum by one. Yes, you read right. A big awful ant bit a huge bit of flesh out of my backside and I screamed and screamed. Ben had to hold ice on it for ages and it really hurt. What's worse, after a day or so it stopped hurting and became insanely itchy!!!! So I would walk around scratching my arse constantly with an intense frantic look on my face.

There was one track that we didn't get to do at the Gorge and that was a 20km round trip one. I would love to take the kids back at some stage when they are ready to walk 20kms in one day (and more importantly, when I am ready to walk 20km's in one day!!!)

You definitely don't go to Cania to relax and drink beers. It is the kind of spot you go to if you want to burn some energy and do some exploring.

All in all, a wonderful trip!!

Imbil Deer Park

I went to Imbil Deer Park about 2 weeks after my dad died. I wanted to get away for a while and try to escape from what happened. But it didn't work. Camping just gave me more time to process that he had gone and I spent most of the trip in tears.
Ben, who was feeling unusually generous at that time, had taken me shopping to buy all fancy new camping gear in preparation for our trip. We had also invested in a camping trailer to fit all the fancy new camping gear in. But camping just reminded me of my dad and I wondered if we had wasted our money on the camping gear as I didn't think I would ever enjoy camping again. It didn't help that half of our gear had come from my dad. He had purchased a caravan just before he died and given a lot of his stuff away. He gave me a gas cooker, a camp toilet (***thank you so much dad. That has made many a camping trip a million times better being able to avoid using the public loos.***), and numerous other bits and pieces that would reduce me to tears every time I looked at them.
Anyway, I will try to get past all that and actually review the park.
Imbil Deer park was a sensational spot. It was clean and grassy and the creek was just beautiful. We went mid week and it was really quiet and peaceful. The amenities were cleaner than my own at home and there is plenty of activities to do both onsite and nearby.
We mainly spent the time relaxing, swimming, eating, 4wding....
On the last morning we were there Ben told me to take the kids down to the creek for a swim and he would pack up. So off I went with Rohan (who was a baby), Kylah and Jaz. After our dip we decided to head back up to see Ben. Kylah and Jazzy ran ahead, while I followed behind carrying Rohan and the boogie boards. Jazzy stopped suddenly and said to me 'Mum, I stepped on a snake'. Thinking that she couldn't possibly have stepped on a snake I took a few more steps before seeing that she HAD indeed stepped on a snake. "Run up and get Dadd y!!!" I shouted to Kylah. I told Jazzy to stay still. I stood frozen trying frantically to remember the first aide course I had taken only months before. Ben came running down and got a stick to pick the snake up with. It was still alive and he tossed it into the bushes. We checked Jazzy over and amazingly it hadn't bitten her. We think that maybe it was a bit ill or something. You could clearly see where Jazzy had stepped on it.
That was the only eventful thing that happened. No funny stories to tell from that trip!!!
It was officially Kylah's first week of prep when we went and we really enjoyed doing schoolwork with her in the bush. I love, love, love taking our homeschooling on the road. It is so nice to set up a table in a beautiful outdoor setting, or set up a picnic mat in a nice grassy spot do do our work.
Hopefully I will get to go back to Imbil Deer Park sometime soon. It was a lovely spot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sundowner National Park

Sundowner National Park was my first 'proper' camping trip. When I say 'proper' camping trip I am refering to camp sites that do not have amenities that are serviced daily and which allow campfires. We went in the January of 08 and this trip was very special to me as it was the last time I went camping with my dad.

My family and I had planned to go camping at Rainbow beach, but that year there was some sort of horrendous weather incident that prevented us from going. At the last minute Ben suggested we all head out to Sundowner, as the weather didn't look too bad there. So while Brisbane and the Sunny coast was bombarded with torrential rain, we were soaking up the sun just south of Stanthorpe.
The trip started off quite badly. When we arrived Dad was in a terrible mood because his Navman had given him a massive bum steer and it had taken him up a dirt track for about 80kms then the track just stopped. In the middle of the bush. So it took him and mum much longer to get there than it should have. I was not too impressed when I arrived because they had no 'proper' shower and one of those awful drop toilets. Usually drop toilets are bearable. But this one was completely unbearable. I was 5 months pregnant with Rohan at the time and completely freaked out at the thought of having to use that toilet for the next few days. It had a really strong amonia smell and was completely gross. I started bawling and hyperventilating at the thought of having to use this loo. Then Kylah stepped on a prickle and all hell broke loose. In her defense it was a pretty bad prickle. She let out the kind of scream you always imagine your child would make if they broke their arm or were being attacked by a rabid dog. This is all on top of Kristy shouting at James because he was parked on his bum with a beer while she put up both tents and set everything up without him lifting a single finger (... his fingers that were firmly clasped around the beer were moving so maybe that statement is a little unfair...).
I remember thinking to myself. Holy crap, what have I gotten myself in to?????
But things calmed down after dinner. Mum piled Kylah full of comfort foods (chips, lollies, chocolates) to ease the pain of her prickle, Ben calmed me down by promising to take me for 25km drive to the nearest servo with a flushing toilet everytime I needed to do a #2. Kristy and Dad cheered up after they had both got a few beers into them. And our first night was quite nice.
The next morning Jesse found a tick. My memory is a bit fuzzy on whether it was a tick on him or if it was just on his clothes or within viewing distance of him, but it was a tick nonetheless. After 3 independant sources identified it as a tick I started to freak out. I checked every inch of my body that I could see (my bump was prohibiting me from viewing some parts of my body which I had to get Ben to inspect). Then I checked every inch of the kids and every inch of our campsite. Then Kylah started bawling about missing Grandma and was inconsolable. I began to think we had made a huge mistake coming.
Luckily for us Kristy saved the day. She explained to me that the ticks were only after the Kangaroos and weren't going bite me or the kids (amazingly I wasn't too worried about them getting Ben). She then told Kylah she could talk to Grandma using the UHF radio in Grandads car. So while Kylah sat in Grandads car talking to 'Grandma', Kristy sat in her car with her UHF pretending to be 'Grandma'. She didn't even disguise her voice!! Kylah fell for it hook, line and sinker and cheered up. So with everyone happy we relaxed and began to enjoy ourselves.
Sundowner has lovely big campsites which are sectioned off from each other. There is a massive swimming hole which is just lovely to swim in. There are also a lot of walking tracks, 4wd tracks and views to look at. You can have campfires, which I now consider to be a MUST for camping. The only downside of Sundowner is the terrible ammenities. But it ended up working out in our favour. Ben and I enjoyed the drive we would make each day for me to visit a flushing toilet. There is some beautiful country around that area and we got to do a bit of exploring. (another bonus was that I got to spend an hour or so in the airconditioning).
Now that we are seasoned campers I would love to go back there. It has some special memories for me and I will make sure to take my camp toilet and camp shower.
I would highly reccommend it for outdoor loving campers who don't mind getting dirty and peeing in the bush :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Falling asleep with my lamp on

For years I have been drifting off to sleep each night with my bed side lamp on. Every night when Ben comes up to bed he finds me asleep, with my bedside lamp on, clutching either my mobile phone or my book (which at the moment happens to be 'Sex at Dawn - the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality) or sometimes clutching both. I literally fall sound asleep while in the middle of reading a book or making a scrabble move on my phone. Recently, Ben decided to ask why I do that. Whether his motivation for asking was a financial one (I'm sure the energy saver lightbulb would be using about 20c worth of extra electricity each year, money that could be on our mortgage!!!) or whether he was just interested I'm still not sure. He seemed very amused by my response so I thought I'd share it with you all to see if there are others out there like me or whether I'm just strange.
It is 10:47pm. I am in the middle of reading my book or am playing scrabble on my phone. I realise that I am just about to drift off to sleep. I have two options:
Option 1 - Turn off the lamp.
So I think to myself - gosh I'm almost asleep, I had better turn off my lamp. But it is only 10:47 so maybe I will read for 3 more minutes and go to sleep at exactly 10:50. That is a much nicer number. Oh wait I still need to go to the toilet and check on the older kids. I had better do that now. If I get up now then I can be back in bed by 11:00 and can go to sleep then. Hmmm... I wonder if Isabelle needs another feed so she will sleep for longer. I could give her a 5 minute dream feed. That sets my get to sleep time at 11:05.... adding on a few extra minutes to account for the time it will take me to actually get to sleep. But hang on, my alarm is set for 7 and I really need 8 hours sleep. So I had better readjust my alarm so it wakes me at 7:15 instead of 7. This internal dialogue can go on for ages and I lose the small window of time that I had to drift off peacefully. I usually end up staying up for at least half an hour after this thought process began
Option 2 - Keep reading.
I keep reading and then drop my book mid sentence and fall asleep at 10:48.
More often than not I go with option 2!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Over promise = under deliver.

*Before I start this post I would like to take the time to acknowledge that I am aware that I made a few spelling errors in earlier posts including using 'through' instead of 'throw' in the 'how science changed my life' post. I am horrendously embarrased by my spelling mistake and have not been able to edit it. I just wanted to state that I do know that there is a difference between the words throw and through and it will not happen again. Closer editing is in order!!!!*
Over promising is my problem, or so Ben would have me believe. He says this because each night when he asks me about my plans for the next day, I give him a list of things you would need 3 people in order to achieve, or at least to achieve it properly. The list might go something like this: "well..... schoolwork in the morning, then I am going to my yoga class before taking the kids to Soccer lessons and funsports, in the afternoon I am going to put those 6 loads of washing away, then reorganise Diddy's clothes, vacuum and mop downstairs, sort out that stuff in the garage, cook dinner, bake some muffins with K & J, oh and 'so & so is popping over for a playdate in the afternoon. Oh wait - and I also have to order our groceries online and I might pop down the gold coast to see Kristy.' This list of things doesn't even include my standard 90 mins of tv watching after the kids go to bed, or the hours I spend sitting on my rear breastfeeding Diddy.
Ben claims that it is better to under promise and over deliver. He is always on at me to make a realistic plan for the day.
So today I gave him what he wants. When he asked me this morning what I was going to be doing today, I said to him "schoolwork, yoga and I'm going to try to squeeze in a long nap'.
Given the fact that I have spent most of this week entertaining our Japanese exchange students (who left this morning) and almost zero time on washing and housework I'm sure my list surprised him. He probably thought that I was reeeeeallly under promising so I could really over deliver.
Boy was he mistaken!!!
I did the kids schoolwork, went off to my yoga class, came home and had a nice loooong nap with Rohan and Isabelle. I woke up soooo excited that I had done everything on my list I went about my afternoon like I had a ton of free time. Never mind the 10 loads of washing waiting for me (I am seriously not exagerating about how many loads - I have had to strip 4 beds this morning and I haven't done any washing all week), or the 4 loads (again - no exageration) waiting to be put away, I felt like I had not a thing to do.
I'm sure he WAS extremely surprised when he came home and found out that I had achieved my goals for the day - finally - but had done nothing else. I didn't even cook dinner. There was certainly no overdelivering going on in our house tonight!!!!
Surprisingly Ben didn't seem to mind too much that I had spent the majority of my day doing nothing.
I think he is just going to have to accept that I will constantly be filling my days with things I have absolutely no intention of doing. If I don't have some unattainable goal to work towards then I do what I need to and nothing more!!
I think Ben's constant under promising and over delivering is far more irritating. He will always claim something will take much longer than we both know it will, because he allows for absolute worse case scenario. And when we bought our house he had to be sure that we could afford a 10% interest rate rise - just in case!!! It's not just our house payments.... it's everything!!! And I know he is under promising so when he says to me 'when we travel with our caravan through the centre, we will take 1.5 times longer than what we would if we weren't towing our caravan', I think 'oh so we might take a tad longer than google maps would have me believe'. But I have to adjust our planned schedule accordingly to include the excessive travel time. It is soooo annoying!!!!
I am a very flexible person (and I mean mentally NOT physically - anyone who has watched me attempt yoga can attest to that) and my list of chores each day contains a must column (schoolwork, kids activities, 90 mins of tv) and a wants column (gym, housework, washing, cooking). After I have finished with my must column, if I am presented with anything that is remotely more interesting than the things in my wants column, then I will usually take the more interesting option and abandon all current plans. I have absolutely no problems changing my plans at the last minute, much to Ben's frustrations. He believes that if you plan to do something then you do it. You don't deviate from the plan!!!
Anyway I am going to abandon this post now.... something better has come up!! I have a few more posts in mind, including one fascinating one about why I like to fall asleep with my light on, so I will try get to them later today!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How Science Changed My Life

Many years ago I recall sitting with Kristy in a restaurant in Cairns having her explain to me exactly what an atom was. I could not grasp the concept at all because I was so mind numbingly bored by her explanation that it was pretty much impossible for me to concentrate on what she was saying. I think she must have spent 20 minutes trying to explain to me before giving up.
I bet Kristy would never have guessed in a million years that I would become a somewhat self proclaimed science buff!!!!
Let me go back to how it all started.....
Before children I used to go to bed reading novels. I LOOOVED reading. Anything and everything. But due to the fact that I have almost zero self control, I would quite often stay up all night reading until I had finished the book. If I couldn't stay up all night to finish it, due to work commitments, I would read it over breakfast, in my lunch breaks, after work..... until it was finished.
Any parent will tell you that you simply can NOT live this lifestyle when you have children. The few times I have attempted to read books since my children have been born have always ended with the kids & Ben missing out on mummy time and eating baked beans in a filthy house with no clean clothes. So I have had to give away pastime :(
As I like to read before bed, I turned to trashy magazines that were easy to pick up and put down. I would read about 5 or 6 of them in a week. It cost a small fortune and my head was filled with so much rot that I couldn't think clearly and was lulled into a stupefied slumber every night. Ben hated them but I needed to read something before I could go to sleep.
Then one day Kristy and I were shopping in a new bookshop called "Borders" *sniff, sniff*. Kristy was looking at books in the Science section and pointed to one on the shelf called "Time" by Alexander Waugh. She said that she owned that particular book and was telling me a funny story from it. It sounded really interesting so I asked if I could borrow the book from her (to this day I have never given it back, if I like a book then I need to own a copy for reference purposes. In fact it is sitting here beside me as I was going to attempt to retell the funny story but gave up as it was too long to type). I fell in love from the first page!!! Rather than drifting off to sleep wondering why I couldn't look like Angelina Jolie or worrying about Britney's mental health I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion from trying to understand what was written on the pages. I had to have a dictionary beside me so that I could look up every second word. But I loved it.
After a few months of reading, I had finally finished it and had saved a FORTUNE from not having to buy trashy magazines. I then moved on to my next book 'A Short History of the World', followed by my FAVOURITE book of all time 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson. I now am the proud owner of hundreds of science books. Yesterday, I went into Borders at Chermside and bought 5 more (I am 'giving' them to Ben for his birthday, even though I secretly cannot wait to read them).
As I began to understand more and more about science my life changed in many surprising ways. Things that I had never been able to understand always had, in my mind, some kind of supernatural status or mystic power surrounding them. I believed in all kinds of supernatural things, which now I understand to be pseudoscience. And I understand how people get you to believe them too. Really smart people with a scientific background can make pretty much anyone, with limited scientific knowledge, believe anything. All you need to do is apply a few scientific words to some hocus pocus, throw in a conspiracy theory or two and waila!! You have a whole heap of people paying good money for a lot of rot.
As I understood more about the world my confidence grew. My whole life views changed.
I am going to state here that I am not having a go at Religion. I believe that Science explains the material world and that Religion deals with the the non-material world. Science and religion should never be mixed because they don't mix. They are like oil and water.
Since I have removed gossip magazines from my life I have stopped stressing about what I look because I am not constantly comparing myself to the women in the magazines. I have given up yoyo dieting and now just eat what I want and exercise when I want as opposed to always trying the 'cabbage soup diets' or 'drop a dress size by Friday' that are advocated by the magazines. (surprisingly when you aren't dieting and don't spend weeks deprived of a particular food, you don't gorge yourself stupid on that food when you do get an opportunity).
Through Evolutionary Psychology I have began to understand why I am the way I am and more importantly - why Ben is the way he is :-). I love EP, which is a rather speculative form of science, but fascinating nonetheless. I am also interested in biology and epi-genetics. Actually, I read anything. I have books on quantum physics (which I really struggle to understand), books on Earth Sciences.... lots of books on Evolutionary Biology, books on how the mind works.....
I am not advocating that everyone should race out and buy Science books. To be honest the more I learn, the more I want to know and the less I wish I knew. It is quite the double edged sword. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!!! But for me, discovering I have a passion for science and understanding has given me a confidence in myself that I have never had before.
I had better get back to cooking Ben's bday cake, cleaning house, putting away 6 million loads of washing etc!!

When ADD meets EDD

I am going to make an attempt to describe the wonderful relationship I have with my husband.
Ben and I are polar opposites. A few years ago, when he was applying for a job interview, Ben had to list his weaknesses and strengths. Since I consider myself to be an expert on Ben's weaknesses I started to list them for him. Amazingly all the areas I considered Ben to have a weakness in were areas I considered myself to have a strength in. And vice versa - his strengths were my weaknesses.
I don't think you could find two more completely opposite people. But we make it work :-)
Ben is hyperfocused. He applies the most intense attention to every task he undertakes (except for dressing himself - anyone who sees my fb pics of him wearing torn clothes will understand). I once witnessed him step over Jasmine, who had just slipped in her own vomit and banged her head, to put his plate in the sink before attending to her. I was perched on the lounge feeding Rohan at the time, but if I had of been in his position, I would have put my plate down on the nearest flat surface and ran to her. If he is in the middle of something it is pretty much impossible to get his attention no matter what the emergency. He once gave me vouchers that entitled me to 'use this voucher to get me to stop what I am doing and pay attention to you for 30 minutes'. I got them the Christmas before last (08 I do believe) and as yet have been unable to use one. Not even a voucher being waved in his face is enough to pry him away from the cricket, fishing/flying forums or any of his projects.
I on the other hand have the complete opposite problem. About 25 minutes ago I was busily cleaning our spare room when I came across a cup that belonged in the kitchen. So downstairs I came to put the cup away and decided that I probably should clean the kitchen. Mid way through cleaning the kitchen I saw my phone and noticed that my friend Sig's mother had just made a move in scrabble. This made me think of Sig and how she has been doing so well keeping up to date on her blog lately. I then abandoned the kitchen and beelined the study so I could update my blog. So here I am typing away with a kitchen that is about 1/3 clean and a spare room that has had a few things put away and a cup removed.
Ben constantly jokes that I have ADD. Actually I don't think he is joking. But as I have told Ben, the only thing that interests me about his internet diagnosis of my ADD is that the medication for ADD apparently makes you lose weight. The girl inside me, who spent 20 years dieting before deciding to stop dieting forever, was really excited for a few seconds before I realising that it was stupid. I would never medicate myself. I would worry that I would become exactly like Ben :-P
I tell Ben that I will get help for my ADD when he gets help for his EDD. Emotional Deficit Disorder or EDD for short, required no internet diagnosis because I don't believe it is a real condition. Ben, when we met, claimed to have not shed one single tear in his whole adult life. Not even when people he knew died. I can attest to the fact that his eyes didn't even so much as glass over when our children were born or when we were married. In fact in our entire relationship I have seen one single solitary tear slide down his cheek. This was at my fathers funeral as they were closing the curtains on dad's coffin. My mother, grandmother, sisters and myself were sobbing uncontrollably and at this point I felt Ben's grip tighten on my hand. He whispered in my ear 'have a look at this' and I looked up to see a single tear slide down his right cheek. I was amazed!!!
I really think Ben and I complement each other perfectly. Even though our personalities are so different we have the same approach to marriage and child rearing. We both believe that marriage is forever and we both want to raise our kids to be happy healthy adults. Ben is extremely supportive of the homeschooling and the decision to homeschool the children was made togethere.
He is able to help me to develop in the areas I am crap in (money, cleaning, organisation etc) and I am able to help him develop in his weak areas (acting interested in something someone is saying when really you aren't, keeping your eyes open at the dinner table when we have guests, wearing shoes in public bathrooms, not being such a tight arse etc). *I haven't been able to have much sucess in the tight arse area....
I'm sure you will hear lots of things about Ben in my posts so I hope this has given you a good background on our relationship.
I had better get back cleaning the kitchen/spare room before Ben comes home from fishing :-)
I love you Ben!!!!!!! xoxo

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why I Homeschool

I'm going to keep this fairly brief.

I know a lot of people tend to think homeschoolers are a bunch of weirdos (I'm hoping that this blog won't add too much fuel to that fire!!!). I didn't hate school. I have nothing against school. I just love being with my kids and homeschooling really suits our lifestyle.

I am a teacher by trade and it seems very natural for me to teach my own children. I love being with them - they bring so much joy to my life. Homeschooling allows us to travel when we want to, and I try to take the kids away in the caravan at every available opportunity. They are well socialised as we do LOTS of activities with other homeschooled children. We live a very relaxed, family orientated lifestyle which really suits us.

I understand that this lifestyle is not for everyone and at the end of the day I don't think my children are going to turn out any better than any of the children who are schooled (both Ben and myself went to school and we turned out ok).

For us it is simply a lifestyle choice.

The photos above are of different homeschooling activities my children do. Currently we have Art, Science, Drama, Japanese, Sport, Soccer and Choir lessons with other homeschooled children. There is also a photo of my children doing some schoolwork in our caravan.

All about ME (and my 4 little distractions)

I have decided to write a blog. Not because I think anyone will be particuarly interested in anything I have to say, but because I want to document my childrens younger years for them and digital format seems to be the way to go!!!
I have called my blog 'Lifes Little Distractions' because I feel like my life is just one distraction after another. I have the attention span of a flea and am constantly flitting about doing this and that and never really finishing anything. I don't think it's a bad thing. It's just the way I am :-). Infact, I don't hold high hopes for this blog. If anyone ever reads this it will be a miracle. I am currently supposed to be cleaning the kitchen/putting away 16 loads of washing/sorting out the spare room/cleaning the mess on the kitchen floor/putting more washing on....... BUT instead of doing that I have decided to write a blog :D.
So I guess this is where I tell you all insightful things about myself. I am currently 32, I am married and I have 4 children who I homeschool. Yes, another homeschooling blogger. Just what the world needs!!! Hopefully I might be able to bring something a little different to the table.
(I feel it appropriate to mention at this point that my husband, Ben, just walked into the room and asked what I was doing. My response was "writing a blog". He then says to me "how long do you think that will last??" quickly followed by "shouldn't you be putting the washing away?")
Here are a few quick things about me:
1. I always choose comfort over style. (PJ's and thongs are my fav outfit)
2. Chocolate is my favourite food. I cannot live without it. (I have tried and it always ends in tears)
3. 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets are my favourite possession closely followed by my body pillow.
4. I absolutely HATE scented toilet paper. With a passion.
5. My dreams came true on December 24th, 2010. I finally had my 4 children and a caravan!!!
6. I LOVE, love, love reality tv. Yes trashy, crappy tv.
7. After sitting on my rear end killing off brain cells watching 'teen mom' and 'jersey shore', I retire to bed to read Science books in an effort to rejuvenate some of those brain cells. Actually, I love science books. I really enjoy evolutionary psychology, biology and astronomy.
8. I strongly dislike pseudoscience.
9. I have a very close family.
10. Ok..... I can't think of anything else.... must be enough.

My 4 little distractions are 7, 5, 3, and 6 months. Here are a few snippets about them:
Kylah, aged 7: Kylah is a drama queen. In EVERY sense of the word. She has the quirkiest personality. The things that come out of her mouth are hilarious!!! She is always putting on concerts for Ben and I and organising games for everyone. She is extremely sensitive and can completely lose the plot over the tiniest thing. For example, the other night she got into trouble for talking back. Rather than just apologise she burst into tears and cried and cried about how she ruined everyones night and now nothing will ever be the same. We are very blessed because she is such a good kid. Very thoughtful and kind and a wonderful big sister.
Jasmine, aged 5: Jazzy is our little princess. She is very cute but can be very cheeky and mischevious. Especially when she is left alone with her brother. The two of them get up to a LOT of mischief!!! It is really hard to get mad at her because she is soooo cute. She has really come out of her shell this year and seems to have developed self assurance and confidence in herself. I have high hopes for Jazzy producing a lot of grandbabies for me because she is very maternal.
Rohan, aged 3: Rohan is our boy. And that he is. In every sense of the word 'boy'. He collects snails and worms, is always grubby and constantly fiddles with his 'bits'. His uncle affectionately describes him as a gorilla!!! Rohan is very smart and funny and I can see him being very social when he is older and extremely quick witted.
Isabelle, aged 6 months: Isabelle, or "Diddy", is the baby of the family. I have no doubt that she will grow up to be completely spoiled and over indulged by her older siblings. They all constantly dote on her. Actually, Diddy is a lovely baby and makes me want to have 10 more!!

Anyway that is all from me for tonight. I have had to retype the last bit about 6 times because the internet kept freezing. (you may notice that I wrote a fair bit about Kylah and then only briefly about the rest - that is because it had been saved up until just after her intro).

Hopefully I will write another post soon. If for no other reason than to prove Ben wrong!!! :-)