Monday, September 27, 2010

September Happenings.

Bibly, Koala and I made the seven hour drive north to attend Lennox Head Catholic Homeschoolers camp. It's the second time we have made the journey to this camp and once again it was worth the effort. The boys enjoyed lots of time at the beach and time spent with old and new friends. We were blessed to have daily Mass in the Traditional rite, rosary, and benediction. Bilby was so tired that by the final night be put himself to bed at 7.10pm and missed the sports day certificate presentation followed by the long awaited bonfire. I couldn't believe it!

While at camp Bilby received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Unfortunately James was not able to be there as he had to stay home to work and care for Roo.

After camp we took the opportunity to take a family holiday on the Gold Coast. James and Roo flew up on the Friday, and we picked them up at the airport. Roo was a little apprehensive about the noise of the flight so his teacher made him a social story about the flight. She even lent us a cute pair of ear muffs. Roo wasn't fazed by the noise, but was unsettled by being so high off the ground, something which we had neglected to talk about!

We stayed in a lovely holiday home right on the river which we explored in a tinney. Bilby was very serious about his navigation of the river!

Roo particularly enjoyed watching the tides, playing in the river and and feeding the little fish from the jetty.

On Sunday we made a pilgrimage to Marian Valley which I have wanted to do for many years. It is such a beautiful place! Below is the final Station of the Cross which is just so beautiful.

We also spent half a day with dear friends who moved to Brisbane just over a year ago. Isn't our Godson just gorgeous!

On our final night we visited James' sister, her husband and their two boys whom we haven't seen for over two years. It was a wonderful way to end our holiday and the boys really enjoyed spending time with their two cousins. Both James and I went away wishing we lived closer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An Option For All, Not Just An Indulgence For The Many.

It's about time that the wider community began to acknowledge that there are three education options for all students. Public education, independent and catholic, and home education. As the numbers of home educating families continues to grow at a rapid rate, there needs to be a wider understanding of what home education really is, so that families can feel empowered to make the right educational choice for their family. For too long those who work in the field of education have assumed that they know what is best for children who in reality they know little about. This is of even greater importance to families of children with special needs.

Last night I met a mother who has just started to home educate her older children. She has a younger child who has special needs, and she has been warned off home education by therapists and teachers who work with her son. One told her that her son needs to be in school to be socialised and that he needed to learn to sit at a desk. Both are reasonable goals, however neither is exclusively the domain of a school setting! In fact socialisation is often the main factor why many families decide to home educate. Unfortunately I am confident that neither of these professionals knows the first thing about home education, and has probably never met a home educated child, or talked to parents who home educate their child with special needs.

These ignorant, biased people need to stop and consider the messages they send families who consider home educating their children. Home education is a legal and valid educational alternative which therefore needs to be respected. Parents who are considering home educating their child with special needs must be encouraged and supported as they discern what is best for their family. Home educating these children can be difficult which these parents would no doubt be aware of! After all they support then at home and are more aware then anyone else of the challenges and strengths associated with their child.

What a wonderful thing it is for a family to be prepared to commit to the time and energy sacrifices it takes to home educate a child with special needs! Such parents do not need to be viewed as either saints in training nor as simpletons who wouldn't know the first thing about education, but as parents who only want to investigate all the options before them.

My hope is that as more families decide to go down this road less travelled, more so called professionals will become aware that home educating is the best option for some families, and as a result they will encourage those families rather than glibly assume they know what is best.

I feel sorry for those families who have been dissuaded from home education when it might have been the one thing that made a significant difference for their child. What a tragedy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another Reason Why I Love Being a Mum.

Every week day I ask Koala 15 multiplications facts. Recently he requested that I not tell him what number we are up to. Today I jokingly said that he wouldn't know if I had tricked him by asking 20 extra questions! I then asked if he trusted me enough to stick with his new system to which he replied, "Of course you're my mum!" His face held an expression of complete trust.
He made my day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Memory Verses A-Z.

Many years ago I listened to a radio interview with the author of The Most Important Place on Earth. I enjoyed the interview so much that I bought the book, but like many of my books it sat on the shelf largely unread!

The main thing I remember from the interview was a segment in which the author talked about an A-Z scripture list which he had learned as a child. He recounted many instances when these scriptures had helped him as a child and adult, in both serious and lighthearted moments.

I filed it away in my memory with a promise that I would do the same. It's taken me a while, but I have used the scripture list in the book as a template to create my own A-Z list with a more Catholic flavour.

Each child has the list laminated and in their basket where they keep their books, and I also have one one the wall of our dining room. I am really looking forward to committing these verses to memory!

A All of us were like sheep that were lost. Isaiah 53:6

B Be kind to one another. Ephesians 4:32

C Children obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Ephesians 6:1

D Do whatever He tells you. John 2:5

E Every good and perfect gift is from above. James 1:17

F "Follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishes of men,." Matthew 4:19

G God is love. 1 John 4:16

H He cares for you.. 1 Peter 5:7

I "I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life." John 53

J Jesus said, " Let the little children come to me." Matthew 19:14

K Kind words are like honey, enjoyable and healthful. Proverbs 16:24

L Love one another as I have loved you. John 13:34

M "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27

N Now is the time to come to Jesus. 2 Corinthians 6:2

O Obey God because you are His Children. 1 Peter 1:14

P Pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. 2 Maccabbes 12:46

Q Quick Lord, answer me, for I have prayed. Psalm 141:1

R Run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12 :1.

S So do not worry about tomorrow. Matthew 6:34

T Thank God for Jesus, His gift too wonderful for words.
2 Corinthians 9:15

U Underneath are God’s everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

V "Very truly, I tell you, on one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit." John 3:5

W We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Hebrews 12:1

X Except a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Y You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. Psalm 63:7

Z "Zacchaeus, you come down: for I am going to your house today." Luke 19:5

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pentecost Cake!

Here is our Pentecost celebration cake which I found here at Catholic Cuisine. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find strawberries to represent the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, but somehow I don't think the children minded as I used lollies instead! Next February I need to remember to buy red hearts (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit) because they are very hard to find in May!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ever Wondered What Sensory Processing Disorder Means?

Last week I listened to a radio interview where a mum was explaining what autism is. For parents of kids with an ASD we understand the lingo. We know the meaning of words like meltdown, severe expressive language delay, OT, sensory processing and so on.

While I listened to the interview I realised that if you haven't been exposed to autism you would have no clue what sensory issues mean. Whilst the mum who was interviewed did a great job of explaining how autism effected her son, I realised what a long way we have to go before everyone understands how ASD impacts the lives of families and individuals.

This quick video explains what sensory processing is and how people with sensory processing difficulties can work to overcome these challenges.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Plans to Eradicate Autism.

At first glance eradicating autism appears to be a noble and worthwhile cause. Autism can be extremely difficult for individuals and families to deal with. After all, no one thinks "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder." However, many of the world's most gifted artists and scientists were probably on the autism spectrum. How much poorer would human civilisation have been without many of these people?

With a prenatal test for autism being developed, a world without the beauty of autism is what some would have us aspire to.

I find it difficult to articulate how sickened this makes me feel. Someone is assuming that perhaps our life would have been better if we were able to choose to abort our children with ASD.

What will be next, a test to predetermine a persons propensity towards mental illness so that those people will not have to burden society?

With prenatal tests for Downs Syndrome we have seen the numbers of abortions skyrocket for children with Downs. There is little doubt that when a similar test for ASD becomes available many families will choose to abort because they will be led to assume that having a child with autism is too difficult. Increasingly we as a society are continually looking for the easy way out without questioning what we loose when we take the easy road.

When did we start to believe the lie that only a perfect child is worth having?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Term One Review

Inspired by a blog of Erin's, which is dedicated to recording their learning experiences, I have decided to review the progress we make each term. I think it will be a great way to look back at what we have done, and to be able to see at a glance where we have been and the direction I intend to go.


This year we are not following any particular curriculum recommendations, but what we are doing is very similar to Mater Amabilis. We are reading one chapter of Faith and Life 5 per week. On the other days of the week we are reading various lives of the Saints. This term we are half way through The Cure of Ars, which we are all really enjoying. We are also following the Bible reading as outlined in Sonlight.

Bilby is reading two sections per week of Bible History, and Koala is reading through The Baltimore Catechism.

Next term I would like to spend more time praying together, living the liturgical year with which I have never been very consistent. Probably because I'm not much of a cook or a planner. I would also like to select a traditional prayer every few weeks to memorise.


This year Bilby began Teaching Textbooks 6. The spiral approach is a better fit for him than the mastery approach which he encounted in Math-U-See. He is enjoying the new format as he can complete the whole lesson on the laptop. I thought four lessons a week would be enough, but to complete the course he will need to complete five lessons per week. Next term I have decided to allot him one hour to complete the lesson, broken in two half hour slots. What he is unable to complete in the hour he will have to finish later in the day. Due to the amount of time he is taking to complete the lesson, we have neglected drill. However, the spiral approach means that he is continually gaining practise in this area, but I would like to do 5 minutes of drill 3-4 times a week next term.

Koala is continuing to work through MUS Gamma, which he is able to complete rather quickly. He is learning his multiplication facts quickly and without fuss. I am planning to switch him to TT5 at the beginning of term 3.

Language Arts.

Both boys are working through the Hillside version of Emma Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons. Bilby began at lesson 100, Koala at lesson 1. Both boys seem to be enjoying the gentleness of this programme, and Koala is particularly enjoying the writing lessons.

We are a little behind where I would like to be, so next term I would like to be more consistent and ensure we complete 3 lessons every week.

Spelling and Vocabulary.

This year Bilby is continuing with The Phonetic Zoo. This year I have decided to only spend 2 weeks on each lesson rather than having an unlimited time. We are focusing on learning three new words per day. We have been going through these when we take Roo to school. This approach has made a huge difference to his recall and confidence.

Koala is working through Wordly Wise Book C. He is enjoying this because it is quick, and one of the day's activities includes solving a silly riddle! His vocabulary is weak, but his spelling is relatively strong, so I thought this would be a better option than just a spelling programme. However, I'm not sure how much he is retaining, so I don't think we'll continue with Wordly Wise, but I am still discerning.

When he has finished the book in a few weeks I am planning to move him onto either Aussie Spellforce CD ROM, or The Phonetic Zoo. I'm leaning towards Aussie Spellforce as Koala is a visual learner.

Sonlight Core 5.

When I began to research home education I fell in love with the idea of Sonlight. A curriculum centred around history and literature sounded like heaven to me as a history teacher! However, the price put me off so I went with something cheaper. Last year I decided to give into temptation and I started to gather the resources needed. I am loving Sonlight! It is a perfect fit for myself and Bilby, who loves a good story and a cuddle to go with it.

As I noted in a previous post I have decided to take it slowly. However, I would like to see if we can get through a whole days' schedule especially as I have decided not to use some of the suggested titles in the IG. One of the things I love about Sonlight is having a reading schedule to follow. It just makes it all so easy.

Koala is not enjoying Sonlight as much as Bilby and I. This is because he is a visual learner and he sometimes struggles with auditory tasks. He is enjoying the readers, which we are reading together. That way I don't miss out on the books! For next term I have decided that he need not attend to all the read-alouds. Instead he will be working through and Australian History workbook, as last week he asked if he could do the ACE books again! I would like him to listen in on the history books, but only if he's happy to.


At the beginning of the year I had planned to use Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry Level 1, one day a week. We got to it only twice, and found it a little heavy and slightly dull. Instead we will do nature Study twice a week using The Wonderland of Nature.

Areas to Work On.

I would like to be more consistent in the following areas: Art appreciation, Bilby's copywork, tea time, Classics For Kids, and ensuring I make up their visual timetable daily.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Our 5th Year Begins.

We are now half way through term one of our fifth year of home education. We have had a flying start! I feel like I am really beginning to settle into who I am as a home educating mum. The first few years I was overtaken by my new found passion. There was so very much to learn, and I loved every minute. Now, however, I feel more relaxed and I know where we are headed. I no longer feel the need to read everything I can get my hands one about home education.

In preparation for this year, I did not spend hours planning our curriculum and timetable. Past years have seen me attempt to fill our days with many wonderful plans, many of which were shelved after a week or two when I realised that we just would not have the time to do them justice. So this year we are simply covering religion, maths, english and spelling and Sonlight 5. We have kept Wednesdays light. We will cover spelling, science, religion lapbooks and hopefully art appreciation. On Friday afternoons we will have tea-time with home made treats and we will listen to to Classics for Kids.

I am learning the value of listening to the voice of reason within. For example, in Sonlight 5 there is a geography section called Eastern Hemisphere Explorer. It's basically a fill in the blanks type activity along with several fun projects to be completed. Rather than rush in headlong I listened to that part of me which was whispering that it would be stressful and somewhat pointless. That we would be stressed trying to complete it all. So I listened. We will simply gather a few books from the library and learn about each country in a very relaxed manner whilst snuggling on the lounge. I am also planning to complete Sonlight 5 in 18 months to 2 years, rather than the recommended 1 year. I want to enjoy all the wonderful books that are in the curriculum, not stress over a timetable!

I am also loving the new maths curriculum that I have chosen for Bilby. We had been using Maths-U-See, which I still think is a fantastic programme. However, we hit a bit of a wall in Delta. I had always planned to swap to Teaching Textbooks for the high school years, but decided to switch now as the grade 6 text was available. I love that Bilby doesn't need me to sit with him to complete the lesson. He loves the fact that he can do maths on the computer. It has certainly made our day easier. Bilby can complete maths independently, which I love! Koala is keen to switch too, but we will wait until he has completed MUS Gamma, which he is half way through.

This year has seen Roo begin school. The school he is attending is for children with an autistic spectrum disorder who will go onto a mainstream school, but who need a little extra support before they move on to regular school. At the moment there are only 5 other children in Roo's group. This will change as the year progresses, but the maximum number of children will be 12 or 13. The children's day is highly structured, everything they do has visual support and the children's sensory needs are catered for. Naturally all the staff have a fantastic understanding of autism, so we don't need to worry about educating his teachers about what ASD means for Roo. We feel very fortunate that Roo has the opportunity to attend this school, as there are so many families who do not have this option due to a lack of places and schools.

Since starting school, Roo, has begun writing words independently. His teacher showed me a sheet he has completed where he had written the word tree on his own in a scaffold box! I was so excited by this as Roo hadn't shown the least inclination for writing or drawing. Now he often asks me to write his brothers' names so he can trace them. He even had a go at writing his own name in a scaffold box which I drew.

Roo will of course eventually be home educated, but for the moment this is the best setting for him.

Hopefully the rest of our year will be as successful as our first 5 weeks!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leaps and Bounds.

Over the years we have tried many ways to help Koala to achieve his potential. Occupational therapy, speech therapy, chiropractic, kinesiology, diet, psychological assessments. Some of these have been a waste of time and money, others were more beneficial.

One intervention, however, has yielded more fruit than I ever dreamed possible. For well over a year now, Koala and Roo, have been seeing a GP (family doctor) who practises from a bio-medical model known as Mindd. Not possessing a scientific brain, I will not attempt to explain Mindd, but I encourage you to visit their site.

After blood tests, the boys were given natural supplements to stabilise their bio-chemistry. The copper zinc ratio of both boys was not what it should have been.

The Doctor thought that Koala's meltdowns might be attributed to excess heavy metals in his system. A hair analysis was performed which confirmed the Doctor's suspicions. Koala had elevated aluminium and other heavy metals.

When Koala's bio-chemistry was stable he began to take a natural supplement designed to remove the heavy metals from his body. At first there was little change so the dose was increased. We began to notice an improvement in his ability to deal with difficult situations. As the metals began to leave his body, meltdowns became a thing of the past. At first Koala was surprised when a meltdown didn't automatically happen! Instead of a screaming violent child we had a minor temper tantrum. Bliss!

Lately we have noticed that things which would have caused Koala much anxiety and upset do not matter anymore. For example this morning Koala lost a lolly under the seat of Grandma's car. A few months ago this would have caused a flood of tears and much yelling. Today he was able to let it go without the least sign of anxiety. Many times I have steeled myself for a meltdown which simply does not materialise.

The meltdowns have been the most difficult part of Aspergers for Koala, and our family to deal with. The last mammoth meltdown we experienced as at a crowded country fair. After realising that Koala was not going to be able to calm down quickly, James put him over his shoulder and began the long walk back to the car. Following behind, I witnessed the astonished stares and comments of the crowd. I enlightened a few people as to the reason for this spectacle lest they think they were witnessing an abduction! We sat in the car for well over an hour before we were able to drive away.

Needless to say life without this kind of stress makes a huge difference to our family. Recently I realised that I have chosen to withdraw from certain activities because it is easier. Past rejection has caused me to back away from opportunities to make new friends due to the fear of what might happen if Koala has a meltdown. We had begun to put off family outings rather than risk a public display of Aspergers.

So it is a wonderful blessing to be able to see our little boy happy and content. We are able to enjoy him without the fear of a Vesuvius style eruption!

The same doctor has also helped Roo. A stool test revealed the reason for his consistently loose bowel movements. He had almost no good bacteria in this gut. We have been slowly been working to improve this with diet and supplements. Vitamin B12 has also helped to stimulate his language which has greatly improved. He is not yet word perfect, but we can understand everything he says, and he talks as much as the next 5 year old.

We have indeed been blessed to have found this doctor. I never dared to hope that we could see such positive results.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Language Arts Liberation!

Ever since we began home education I have struggled with finding the right balance for language arts. There are just so many areas which seemed essential to a good education: reading; writing; spelling; handwriting; poetry; literature read-alouds; grammar. Covering all these sub topics could easily fill a whole day not to mention religion, maths and so on.

In the beginning I tried to fit them all in. Much stress ensued! As I waded through curriculum forums, review sites and discussed curriculum with other mums, I always felt that I wasn't getting it right. Child x was memorising poetry, child y was diagramming sentences, child z was writing a thesis (or so it seemed!)

In my effort to find the right balance I tried many programmes. You name it I have either tried it or know something about it! With every curriculum switch I was sure I had found the perfect fit. But filling our mornings with 4 or 5 language arts lessons lead to disjointedness and stress. Bilby would complain and I would find something else, or he would like one programme, but I thought it was too schooly!

Late last year I decided enough was enough! Four years of chopping and changing had done none of us any good. After reading this wonderful blog post and other sources related to grammar, writing and keeping things simple, I decided to pare down my language arts expectations once and for all.

Our school year begins in a week and I am adamant that I will break the cycle of curriculum jumping! This year I have decided that the boys will continue their spelling programme (Phonetic Zoo) and return to Emma Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons. That's it! We will not change after a few weeks or months, and I will not read about other programmes or listen with too much enthusiasm to the choices of others.

And now that I've told the world, I better follow through!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You Know Your 5 Year Old is Catholic When...

Last week end we once again visited the beach. Roo spotted a common green weed that is found in rock pools, which resembles a string of beads. He picked it up and exclaimed "Rosary beads!"

Too cute.