Potions!

I can’t tell you what’s in them…

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And who knows what magic they can perform…

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…but I so know they were all natural, crushed from our garden and a few kitchen ingredients.

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I have seen a few potion kits doing the rounds (this one is very cool!) and knew my boys would love them. I finally got to it! Here’s the potion kit I set out this morning.

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The motar and pestle was something that wasn’t in any of the ones I saw, but was inspired by a PD session I went to recently. (More about that soon!) But it was a hit, and that was how the children managed to get such great colours. Amazing, huh? All those white powders at the bottom?  Bicarbonate of soda, citric acid, rock salt and self raising flour. And in each of the jugs I put water and vinegar.

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I’m thinking we might experiment with natural fabric dyes next. I have done it before,  but the children were very little,  and they probably don’t remember it. Look out tomorrow for the flashback post about that.

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Is homeschooling a big deal?

Should you choose homeschooling?

http://simplehomeschool.net/big-deal/

I have always found it amazing how much pressure people will put on you to stop homeschooling. I think what makes it so insidious is that it is done in such a well meaning way.  The strangers on the street who make occasional comments are easy to deal with. I can ignore them or call them out on it according to my mood. But what is much more difficult to manage is the concerned face and the way school is bought up to solve every parenting problem or issue I might chat about over coffee. (Raising homeschooling aa a solution every time someone brings up an parenting issue does not go down well!) Now fighting off that is exhausting!

It often seems that by choosing a non-standard approach,  people think I have forgone my rights to mess up,  to have doubts, to change the way I do things. But those things are part and parcel of being a human being. Humans make mistakes, whinge and worry. 

Homeschooling parents do too – and that’s okay.  Take back your right to mess it up!

The best bit about being a homeschooling parent is that when you do stuff it up, you can turn around straight away and do something different tomorrow.  You can just change what you are doing – no paperwork,  no hassle!

And then we can winge about it. 😉

How We Use Posters (or Please stop the knock knock jokes!)

Recently someone on one of my social networks posted a fantastic site for finding maths posters. It’s called “A Maths Dictionary for Kids” and it is a great site for fancy, printable posters on a wide variety of maths topics. All well and good, but we don’t live in a huge  house and we haven’t got a lot of room for putting up posters around the place. And anyway, I’ve never really been a fan of classroom-style interior decor!

Nevertheless, we do use these kinds of posters – we print them, laminate them, then used them as place mats for the children. And they love them! They get to quiz each other, play games and memorise while eating – and goodness knows they do that an awful lot!

We don’t just do this with maths posters. In the past we have made place mats of the  other topics too. One of the favourites has been the periodic table.  We spent many a mealtime discussing  the pronunciation, use, and pure state of various elements. (Don’t worry, it’s all on the periodic table!) We also use it as a craft activity, where the children design their own seasonal place mats.

The same approach can be used for whatever topics and whatever level your child is interested in. And trust me, it makes for more interesting conversation than the not-quite-right knock knock jokes that have been flavour of the month here!

Doing What’s Expected of Me

It’s hardly breaking research, but it came up again on my news feed a few days ago and I was reminded how profoundly it affected me when I first heard it.

Experiments have shown that students perform pretty much as well as their teachers expect them to.

There’s a great account of the experiment on  Mindshift. That I recommend you read, but the gist of it is that

After the kids took the test, he then chose from every class several children totally at random. There was nothing at all to distinguish these kids from the other kids, but he told their teachers that the test predicted the kids were on the verge of an intense intellectual bloom.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students. “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he says.

Imagine that! What teachers expect of children has such a profound effect on what happens to them! To me, this is one of the strongest demonstrations that teaching, and other measures we put in place to ‘assist’ development, are not the simple things we would like them to be. This is why we can not ever expect teaching, or mentoring, or parenting, to be simple or cleanly analysed.

As Rosenthal did more research, he found that expectations affect teachers’ moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

Here we have the key to children’s development in action – and that is the relationships they experience. And if the teacher’s expectations change their development, how much will children’s development be shaped by the expectations of their parents? And friends, wider family, the community?

Although this research is old, I think it is showing similar behavioural patterns to the more recent research into children’s behaviour around kindness.

As home edders, it is easy to ignore educational research. So much of it is not really applicable to the home setting, where learning is a very different form from what takes place in the classroom. But I think research is interesting, and in this case, I think it sheds light on our own practices. What we expect of our children matters! If we expect children to be driven to learn, to seek an appropriate level of challenge for them, to be active, reflective learners, it doesn’t hurt to start from the perception that they already are.

I’m going to step off my soap box now, and get on with my day, and try to remember that in the everyday actions, the day-to-day hustle and bustle, that what I expect of my children matters. How I see them will affect what they become.

Land Art

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We couldn’t have asked for better weather to create land art today – The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens were sunny and clothed in beautiful autumn style!

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A select group of adventurers thoroughly enjoyed getting their hands dirty looking for the perfect acorn to complete the project!

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Let’s do it again soon!  🙂

Welcome to Ancient Egypt!

Starting new topics is so much fun! I love getting out new books, chasing up new resources, putting up new posters. Our next topic is Ancient Egypt, and today we started.

Our starting point was the chapter in The Story of the World: Book 1. That starts talking about Ancient Egypt, and talks about the Nile and the role the Nile played, as well as the story of Osiris.

We have a lovely posters from DK Eyewitness Expert about Ancient Egypt. (These have been very sadly discontinued 😦 ) up on the wall, and my personal collection of Egyptian-y books ready to go. Yes, I spent waaaay too much time as a teenager trying to teach myself hieroglyphs, so I have a reasonable collection.

We get lots of great ideas for the younger children from the Little City Kids website. My children really enjoy the hands-on activities they offer.

Today we wrote up a lot of questions we wanted to learn the answers to. I find this a good way of judging what the prior level of knowledge is, as well as learning what topics they find interesting. Judging from our list, we have the usual morbid fascination with mummies, but also an interest in the daily life of the ordinary people.

Looking forward to a couple of outings: of course to the SA Museum’s Ancient Egypt collection, but also to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens looking at the plants of Ancient Egypt.

One of the best things is not know where exactly we will end up, Not knowing what fun rabbit trails we will follow. Will they want to learn about counting systems they used? Build something? Make models? Who knows!

Weekend Sewing

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I love these adorable cuddly creatures created by my children on the weekend from old t-shirts. They were made with a combination of hand- and machine- sewing. I wasn’t able to post them until now as they have been in active cuddling!

Everyday Creativity

So many of us don’t think we are creative. We aren’t artists. Artists are creative. Maybe musicians. But not me, with my ordinary jobs and ordinary life! And if I am not creative, well then, how can I help my children be creative?

Eventually I realised that creativity is the act of creating something. Was I not creating something when I threw something together for dinner with the random unused bits from the fridge? Was I not creating when I arranged the knick-knacks on my shelf? Or when I consciously made a choice in my life, rather than just going with the flow? This realisation was slow coming – my grades in school art were not entirely sparkling – but eventually I have got there. I know see my life as profoundly creative, although I still don’t do much that I really think of as ART.

I was creative. I could help my children be creative too. And so can you.

Some of my favourite creativity resources

If you haven’t already seen the wonderful talk by Sir Ken Robinson on Schools and creativity, then where have you been? It has had more than 25 million views. Still it is wonderful, and definitely worth watching if you haven’t already! (In fact, go ahead and watch his other Ted talks while you are there, absolutely fascinating!)

A lovely book to help parents get started is “Child of Wonder” by Ginger Carlson. I really enjoy this book because it  looks at creativity in ways that are not stereotyped,  there is a chapter on creativity in mathematics, and because it provides such easily implemented advice for parents.

In slightly more traditional creative style – and a visually beautiful book – is “The Creative Family” by Amanda Blake Soule. It has some lovely ideas, particularly if you are a bit of a fabric craft-er, like I am!

A slightly different edge to creativity is Maker culture, typified by MAKE magazine. A wealth of projects there!

And if you still aren’t sure you are creative? Think about the choices you make, and how you create your life, then watch this fantastic talk about hackschooling – what I think of as creative education.