Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mental Arithmetic and Natural Learning

I'd like to put in a good word about mental arithmetic. Although it was one of the things I least liked when I was in primary school my children learned maths largely by working sums out in their heads, without using pencil and paper. I learned the value of children working things out mentally when Thomas, at the age of four, asked ‘Is half of a quarter an eighth mum?' We stuck to teaching him maths mentally from that point, only letting him use paper once we knew he fully understood the concepts he was working with.

Our eldest child was mathematically capable very young and we introduced workbooks at age five. She raced through the Rigby Module graded books and at age seven began to do the same with the Mortensen system, which uses coloured ‘bricks' similar to Maths-U-See. By nine she had begun to lose the plot and had started to believe she wasn't any good at maths, even though she could do the exercises in the maths book with over 90% accuracy. She hated doing the ‘working out' on paper as she could often ‘see' the answer in head and didn't understand why all the steps, which she didn't understand, had to be written down. We backed off and she didn't do any maths bookwork for two years, instead using maths to solve problems every day but in her head.

At the age of eleven we gave her a maths test for her grade level – which was two years ahead of where she'd left off doing maths bookwork. She achieved 95%, with long division to four decimal places the only sums she got wrong. She had correctly worked out the multiplication to four decimal places, even though we'd never taught her how to do large multiplication sums. She'd never done or seen long division before… As with her younger brother, this was a powerful demonstration of our children's natural ability to calculate and problem solve in their heads. It made me even more determined to allow Thomas to learn in this most efficient and obviously effective manner.

We didn't use a mental arithmetic book or short tests the way I learned at school decades before. I made the mental arithmetic problems as real as possible, keeping them in context with their everyday lives. I trained myself to see and use any opportunity to gently weave a mathematical calculating or problem solving question in here and there, trying to keep it natural rather than making it sound like a test or lesson.

In this way I built a ‘hidden' structure to our unschooling, learning naturally lifestyle. Most people think of natural learning as the children simply doing what they want when they want and haphazardly learning what they need to – the criticism I hear most often is that this produces gaps in the young person's knowledge and skills. That's not what we did at home: the structure was there, but it wasn't overt or obvious. By keeping homeschooling records I could see what my children were learning and when, what they needed – or I wanted them - to learn next. I could tweak our learning environment to produce the desired results. Nothing was haphazard or unstructured about it. And once I understood the power of learning in this way, instead of abandoning text and workbooks altogether, we used them they were most appropriate and useful.

I believe that mental arithmetic skills are one of the best tools we have in our brain's ‘tool box'. Like spelling and grammar, mental arithmetic is a foundation ‘tool' – it's like my husband's favourite and trusty hammer, an owner builder it is something he'd be lost without. It is quick, comfortable, does the job and does it well. Without the hammer we wouldn't have the lovely house we have today. Teaching our children how to use these foundation tools – mental arithmetic, spelling and grammar – in whatever way works best for our young learners and ourselves, is an essential part of our homeschooling lives.


© Beverley Paine

You may reprint the above article provided you include this information:
"Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeschoolAustraliaNewsletter. Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Focus on what you want and why you want it.

How are things in your life right now? Mine could be better, that's for sure, but every now and then I'm reminded that my cup is half full, rather than half empty... Of course, if my aim was to drain the cup and finish the drink then I'd be okay with the half empty cup analogy, but you get what I mean, don't you?

Today, The Drewsletter landed in my mail box. I like reading Drew's rambling posts, mostly because they give me time to reflect on how my own life is going. But more than that, he offers valuable tips from his own insights on how I can tweak my attitude so that my cup feels abundantly full most of the time.

I'm not saying I agree with everything that Drew writes, or believe what he believes, or apply his philosophies of life to my situation. I am saying that I'm happy to learn from any source that speaks so directly to my need.

Here's a taste of what Drew had to say today:

"I recommend that you start your day by taking 10 to 15 minutes each morning sitting someplace quiet. Think about what you'd like to create in your life and allow yourself tap into the feelings of your desires. (An effective way to do this is to ask yourself WHY you want what you want).

Think about money flowing to you. Think about living in perfect health. Think about feeling inspired and connected in your work. Think about being in a relationship that amplifies the joy in your life. Put your awareness on that which feels good. Practice. And then watch what happens.

Change your thoughts and you change your life. The power is yours."


By now you are probably asking; "How does this relate to homeschooling?"

We are often confronted by many questions in our daily homeschooling lives, and we are definitely beset by many doubts. By sitting and imagining how we'd like our day to unfold, what we want to manifest, how we want things to turn out - and by asking that critical question 'WHY' - we begin to slowly change the way our reality occurs.

We can't change everything, but what we can change - most powerfully - is our attitude to everything that does happen. How we choose to react determines how situations pan out.

You may be unhappy with how your son isn't learning the maths from his maths book. Forget about the book, forget about the lesson, forget about his apparent learning block, or laziness or whatever. Think about WHY you wanted you son to learn maths in the first place. Remember your true goal. Then imagine him achieving whatever it is you think maths will help him achieve. Chances are you will discover why he isn't happy learning maths using the approach he is at the moment...

Practice choosing the thoughts that feel good to you, that make sense to you, that reflect what you truly want and believe.

© Beverley Paine

You may reprint the above article provided you include this information:
Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschooling Australia Newsletter. Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Converting Homeschooling to Natural Learning

For those new to the concept of learning naturally and wanting to know more, but feeling a little unsure about the transition, I asked the members of my Learning Naturally Yahoo group to share just one way in which we have converted a school-at-home practice or belief into a more relaxed learning naturally approach.

For example:

I remember the day I recognised that my motivation for asking my children to do 'book work' wasn't so that they would learn something (academic) but because I needed reassurance that they had, despite 'doing nothing' for a few weeks, had actually learned quite a bit. Instead of asking them to do bookwork to learn I started asking them to do bookwork to keep my paranoia about the effectiveness of homeschooling at bay. By doing a few pages of book work for a few days they could quickly and efficiently dispel my lack of confidence (until the next bout of doubt would hit).

My children didn't like doing bookwork for reasons that didn't make sense to them. Helping mum feel okay and reassured was, to them, a legitimate reason for doing something they really didn't want to do.

What did my children teach me? Life isn't about achieving goals that will one day lead to a better paid job: it is about building relationships and friendships and giving our time selflessly to others to help them feel okay too.

© Beverley Paine

You may reprint the above article provided you include this information:
Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschooling Australia Newsletter. Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saturday November 29th is "Buy Nothing Day".

According to http://www.buynothingday.info/main.html "Buy Nothing Day is a holiday, a street party to celebrate sustainable lifestyles, a break from the shop-till-you drop culture. It is what we make it. You can just take a day off or organize something."

Why buy nothing on just one day?

The main reason is to give us time to pause and think about what and how much we buy effects the environment, our own well-being and that of other people, especially in developing countries. However, by not buying on one day of the year we are making a personal statement that life isn't just about making and spending money, that there
is more in life than simply the economy. We're saying we're tired of the endless focus on economic growth at whatever cost: we want change. And we want that change to be kinder to our fellow humans and all other life on the planet.

Buy Nothing Day was started in Canada by Ted Dave in 1992 and is promoted by the Adbusters Media Foundation (Canada) http://www.adbusters.org.

As I produce the Home Education Association Resource Directory and promote advertising I can't help but think about consumerism and the endless drive for economic growth. As someone who creates products for people to buy I participate directly in the market economy. I want people to buy my books - the money we earn is put directly into our savings account so I can go on holidays! (Actually, for the last year we've been spending it on groceries...)

As a participant in Buy Nothing Day I'm not saying I'm against the whole concept of capitalism or buying and selling. But I am concerned about the 'why' of not only selling, but also creating products and services in the first place.

Often as a homeschooling parent I couldn't get my children to do things that didn't make sense to them. By challenging me constantly to come up with sensible reasons for my requests I began to realise that a lot of what I did or wanted to do wasn't because it made sense, not to me or my future, or even my well-being, but because it was the 'done' thing - others expected it - and few seemed to know why!

Gradually I changed what and why I did things to reflect need. I began to understand what was truly 'needed' and what was desired or 'wanted'. I began to differentiate
between need and want. Up until then I would treat a want with the same urgency as a need. Up until then I would demand that my wants be met as though they were needs. I began to see that the consumeristic lifestyle we enjoy in our society is based on this misunderstanding.

Buy Nothing Day for me celebrates the fact that I, personally, finally know the difference between 'want' and 'need' and feel confident that when I go shopping I can turn away from things I want but don't need. And even when I buy something I want, I know I don't have to, it isn't necessary, the item isn't vital to my survival. And I remember as I buy this unnecessary but wanted item that I live in the lucky country during a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. I give thanks for this as I make my purchase.

© Beverley Paine

You may reprint the above article provided you include this information:
Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschooling Australia Newsletter. Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Making Progress

Last week I asked myself 'what do I want from life' and came up with the usual answers but instead of feeling inspired by these as I usually do, only to find myself no further forward, I tore them up and asked again, 'what do I want from life'. This time the answers were based on who I am now, not on who I think I ought to be... I've been waiting for some magical transformation for years - for me and for my husband - and it simply wasn't happening. Worse, I was blaming myself and him for not making it happen.

I now have a direction and some goals to aim for that I feel absolutely certain we'll reach. Because they are based on who we are, not who we think we ought to be, or want to be. I am amazed at how much weight has been lifted, and how I can divert, like water of a duck's back, thoughts and actions that a week ago I would have allowed to add stress to my life.

My friend Sally, said "Let’s assume that the first step one needs to take before beginning any new journey is to know where you’re starting from. In relationship terms, this means fully accepting who you are and what your life situation is now. Be honest with yourself and, without wishing it were any different, just spend some time taking stock."

Of Daffodils and Diesels

This article dates back to our early homeschooling days: I read it in a newsletter I received long before the Internet, before personal computers were household items! It inspired us to think beyond the traditional way education is doled out in school and helped set us firmly on the natural learning, or unschooling path. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did all those years ago.

Author Unknown

I'm not very good in school.

This is my second year in the seventh grade, and I'm bigger than most of the other kids. The kids like me all right, even though I don't say much in class, and that sort of makes up for what goes on in school. I don't know why the teachers don't like me. They never have. It seems like they don't think you know anything unless you can name the book it comes out of.

I read a lot at home—things like Popular Mechanics and Sports Illustrated and the Sears catalog—but I don't just sit down and read them through like they make us do in school. I use them when I want to find something out, like a batting average or when Mom buys something secondhand and wants to know if she's getting a good price.

In school, though, we've got to learn whatever is in the book and I just can't memorize the stuff. Last year I stayed after school every night for two weeks trying to learn the names of the presidents. Some of them were easy, like Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, but there must have been 30 altogether and I never did get them straight. I'm not too sorry, though, because the kids who learned the presidents had to turn right around and learn all the vice presidents.

I am taking the seventh grade over, but our teacher this year isn't interested in the names of the presidents. She has us trying to learn the names of all the great American inventors. I guess I just can't remember the names in history. Anyway, I've been trying to learn about trucks because my uncle owns three and he says I can drive one when I'm 16. I know the horsepower and gear ratios of 26 American trucks and want to operate a diesel. Those diesels are really something. I started to tell my teacher about them in science class last week when the pump we were using to make a vacuum in a bell jar got hot, but she said she didn't see what a diesel engine has to do with our experiment on air pressure, so I just shut up. The kids seemed interested, though. I took four of them around to my uncle's garage after school and we watched his mechanic tear down a big diesel engine. He really knew his stuff.

I'm not very good in geography, either. They call it economic geography this year. We've been studying the imports and exports of Turkey all week, but I couldn't tell you what they are. Maybe the reason is that I missed school for a couple of days when my uncle took me downstate to pick up some livestock. He told me where we were headed and I had to figure out the best way to get there and back. He just drove and turned where I told him. It was over 500 miles round trip and I'm figuring now what his oil cost and the wear and tear on the truck—he calls it depreciation—so we'll know how much we made. When we got back I wrote up all the bills and sent letters to the farmers about what their pigs and cattle brought at the stockyard. My aunt said I only made 3 mistakes in 17 letters, all commas. I wish I could write school themes that way. The last one I had to write was on "What a daffodil thinks of Spring," and I just couldn't get going.

I don't do very well in arithmetic, either. Seems I just can't keep my mind on the problems. We had one the other day like this: If a 57 foot telephone pole falls across a highway so that 17 and 3/4 feet extend from one side and 14 and 16/17 feet extend from the other, how wide is the highway? That seemed to me like an awfully silly way to get the size of a highway. I didn't even try to answer it because it didn't say whether the pole had fallen straight across or not.

Even in shop class I don't get very good grades. All of us kids made a broom holder and a bookend this semester and mine were sloppy. I just couldn't get interested. Mom doesn't use a broom anymore with her new vacuum cleaner, and all of our books are in a bookcase with glass doors in the family room. Anyway, I wanted to make a tailgate for my uncle's trailer, but the shop teacher said that meant using metal and wood both, and I'd have to learn how to work with wood first. I didn't see why, but I kept quiet and made a tie tack even though my dad doesn't wear ties. I made the tailgate after school in my uncle's garage, and he said I saved him $20. Government class is hard for me, too.

I've been staying after school trying to learn the Articles of Confederation for almost a week, because the teacher said we couldn't be a good citizen unless we did. I really tried because I want to be a good citizen. I did hate to stay after school, though, because a bunch of us guys from Southend have been cleaning up the old lot across from Taylor's Machine Shop to make a playground out of it for the little kids from the Methodist home. I made the jungle gym out of the old pipe, and the guys put me in charge of things. We raised enough money collecting scrap this month to build a wire fence clear around the lot.

Dad says I can quit school when I'm 16. I'm sort of anxious to because there are a lot of things I want to learn.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tree of Sustainable Business Relationships

Copyright Nov 2008, Sally Lever, Fruitful

I love trees and feel blessed to live in a house that is surrounded by them. Some are huge, majestic and noisy in wild, wintery weather. Some, like my recently planted crab apples, seem perilously fragile by comparison and very dependent on the wooden stakes that support them. It is autumn (fall) here in the UK and the native deciduous trees are quickly being stripped of their leaves by high winds and heavy rain, leaving their stretching forms silhouetted against the cool, grey skies.
Trees play such a large part in our lives. On a practical level, they are the lungs of the earth and they are each self sustaining eco-systems in their own right. On a more subtle level, they can be symbolic of many aspects of human life. I’ve used this idea to map out some ideas on maintaining sound, sustainable business relationships.

ROOTS

Groundedness – Ensure that you feel centred before any business meeting. Take time out to breathe, stretch, be in your body before conversations that require you to contribute or make decisions. Work on methods to keep your cool and build these into your daily routine.

TRUNK

Support – Keep a list of people in your mutual support network and maintain regular contact with them. Make it part of your routine to give to these people. You can give referrals, tips, a lift in your car, pointers to useful resources, etc.

Strength – Make maintaining your health and wellbeing a business priority as well as a personal one. You cannot function at your best with others when you are feeling under the weather.

Uprightness (integrity) – Know your personal and business values (qualities such as honesty, fairness, compassion, simplicity etc). Have these written down where you can refer to them often and where you can use them to make decisions.

BRANCHES

Vehicles of communication – Review how you communicate with clients, colleagues, employees and associates. Decide what needs to change, what needs freshening up, what needs to be stopped.

Flexibility – Make a point of asking for and listening to new ideas. Respond to complaints with curiosity and an open mind. Recognise the gift in the opinions of others. In particular, think of objections as opportunities to demonstrate your commitment and improve your service to others.

Growth – Look at your business relationships as a reflection on where you need to develop. Particularly think of the relationships you’re finding challenging. Make a note of what these tell you about yourself.

Reaching out – Make a note of what you currently do to “meet people where they are”. Check up on your clients’, suppliers’ and colleagues’ understanding of your business purpose. Aim to improve your methods for educating them on your offering and the benefits it will give them.

LEAVES

Relationship with (sun)light – Ponder on how you relate to your spiritual nature. Notice how that shows up in your business life, if it does at all. Make a point of using your intuition as well as your knowledge in your communication with others.

Nourishment – Ensure that you nourish your business relationships. You can do this by providing encouragement, practical support for others and inspiration. Remember also to provide yourself with regular doses of inspirational material.

FLOWERS

Beauty – Take some time to notice what is beautiful about your business and the people who are involved with it. Work on those elements that attract most clients to your business. Notice what keeps them hovering around. Use those strengths to under-promise and over-deliver.

Gratitude – Make space each day for expressing your gratitude to those with whom you work. This focuses people’s attention on their strengths and their successes and helps them to empower themselves to achieve even more.

FRUIT AND SEEDS

New life – Get together with others to start a new project or joint venture or rejuvenate an old one. When dealing with others in your profession or trade, focus on cooperation rather than competition, co-creation rather than power struggles.

Congratulations! – Celebrate your successes with those who helped you.

Sally Lever is a homeschool mum, small business operator, downshifter extraordinaire and Life Coach. Her regular newsletter arrives in my inbox in the nick of time when I need inspirational words that help me find my direction the most! Sally's beautiful generous nature combines with her tremendous empathy and insight - do yourself a favour and subscribe to her Fruitful newsletter to get a regular dose of uplifting wisdom too!

This article was reproduced with Sally's permission.

Great Offer from Natural Life: my favourite alternative education and lifestyle magazine

Everyone needs heroes, people who inspire them and show them that with enough grit and determination almost anything is possible. Canadian homeschooling mum Wendy Priesnitz is one of mine.

She started homeschooling her girls about a decade before I began our wonderful home education adventure. At around about the same time she became involved in publishing and politics, working hard to create a better social and ecological environment, not only for her children, but for the children of the world both now and into the future.

I know what it takes to educate your children at home and pursue with passion your life interests beyond the family nest. It's sheer hard work, most of the time frustrating as change often comes incrementally. You have to look hard to see it sometimes!

Wendy and her husband Rolf produce a fantastic magazine that continues to inspire and remind me that my goals, although lofty, are achievable. Natural Life is one of my favourite reads.

Natural Life is offering a 2 for 1 subscription until the end of November. You can buy (new or renewal) one subscription and get another one for free. This is a great idea for holiday gifting - particularly (for us oldies out there) for young parents just starting out and wondering about the many paths ahead.

Details about this great offer can be found here:
http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/gift.htm

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Home Education Association: South Australian Group

Home Education is a legal alternative to school based education for children in South Australia.

Families interested in teaching their children at home are urged to obtain a copy of the Education Act and Children's Services Act and become familiar with the regulations that apply to school attendence. Information about applying for exemption from attendance at school can be found on the Department of Education and Children's Services.

There are several homeschooling support groups in South Australia and these offer companionship and support for parents and children, as well as educational opportunities, excursions, activities and camps. Home educators seek the best education possible for their children and make use of the whole community, learning from many sources and in many different environments, as well as the home.

HEASA is the South Australian chapter of the Home Education Association Inc. of Australia www.hea.asn.au. It is a friendly on-topic Yahoo group that discusses any aspect of home education in South Australia, plan activities and events that support and promote the option of homeschooling, as well as helping to build the Home Education Association of Australia.

To belong to this group you need to be a financial HEA member living in South Australia. Membership is by invitation only. Please email Beverley with your HEA membership number to receive an invitation join.

If you wish to share your experiences as a home educator or would like to make contact with other homeschooling families in your area please consider listing yourself as a contact person on the HEA Support groups and Contacts SA page.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cape Jervis - House for Rent or Sale

Our son's house at Cape Jervis is looking for a caring tenant, or a family in need of buying a lovely home! Cape Jervis is a quiet, small 'village' 25 minutes south of Yankalilla - it is where the ferry leaves to go to Kangaroo Island. It is about the same distance to Victor Harbor, approximately 75 minutes from Adelaide.

We've uploaded some photos and more information on:
http://beverleypaine.com/housetorent/index.html

It is a little isolated for most homeschooling families, but might suit a couple of single parent homeschooling families who could share the space and the rent. Due to two unhappy experiences this year, our son doesn't want to rent it to any more unemployed people: he is looking for people on secure wages or government payments.

Of course, if someone wants to buy a reasonably priced four bedroom house on a quarter of an acre in the country they are most welcome! We can take you down for an inspection and treat you to a cuppa and cake on the way back at our place.



http://beverleypaine.com/housetorent/index.html

Friday, October 31, 2008

Green and Loving It!

Some days I find it hard to get anything done. One of this afternoon's activities was to measure up for a hot tub we're planning on building. I'm desperate for a hot tub having spent many hours soaking in hot springs on our recent holiday in New Zealand. In fact, you could say we hopped from one hot spring to another down both islands!

Trouble is, while we were measuring up in the pergola where we’re going to put it I noticed a blue wren and his lady ducking in and out of a nearby bush. They have a nest in there and are feeding young. A rather anxious blackbird was hovering around too – his lady is sitting on a nest in my elk-horn fern hanging in the pergola. We were only feet away from her measuring up and she was looking a tad worried. So the whole ‘build the hot tub’ project is off until the baby birds have flown the nest. Not sure how long that will be!

Gotta love nature. We are totally rapt with our place. Yesterday Robin picked up ‘Bluey’. He swears it is the same blue tongue lizard (not the shingleback variety) that we see every year but it is probably one of about five. Won’t be long before we see our first brown snake of the season, but that’s not a problem, unless it is a very close encounter!
Our place buzzes with wildlife. Early this morning Robin disturbed two kangaroos, one of them very small – probably a preteen - on the driveway by the lawn. Living here is a delight!

We are very blessed to live in such a wildlife haven. It wasn't always like this. Our property was once a sheep paddock infested with feral olive trees and wild rose bushes. The hundreds of plants we've planted we grew from seed or cuttings and nurtured into the complex eco-system we enjoy today, buzzing with life at every level.

Watching the box last night we were disturbed by an article about the demise of the Great Barrier Reef. The frustrated scientist has been telling Australians since 1994 about the effect of climate change on the reef. No one was listening, not for the first ten years... We were. We were planting trees and understorey and creating habitat for frogs and lizards and bees and ants and so much more than simply humans...

Before the last federal election I joined Get Up because I felt that the previous government had their collective heads in the sand. Today, Get Up sent me an email asking to sign a petition. Signing petitions just about sums up my involvement with Get Up. The team at Get Up make it really easy to have a say... And it only takes a few seconds.

The following blurb is from their website: www.getup.org.au
Actually from this page(chances by the time you are reading this the page will be long gone): http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/ClimateActionNow/8

"The past twelve months have seen the Rudd government ratify the Kyoto Protocol, countries come together to move forward United Nations climate negotiations and groups like GetUp wage a national campaign here in Australia for strong carbon pollution reduction targets. The Government commissioned the Garnaut report on climate change, which found that the economic cost of not acting on climate change is far greater than the cost of taking early action to reduce emissions. But Kevin Rudd is yet to decide on his target to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution by 2020. GetUp is running a campaign – with this petition at the centre – in these last crucial weeks."

I want my grandkids to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. I want them to go outside and catch lizards and frogs and watch the joeys feed on our lawn. Help me realise this dream and do something, anything, to give nature a chance. Even if you think global warming is a lot of hooha, please think about the other critters we have to share the planet with... It's easy living with nature and it's absolutely wonderful!

Why We Started Homeschooling

As a teenager I became very interested in the problems in society – not much different back then as they are today! I wondered why, with such brilliant schooling as we had in Australia, did young people fall through the cracks – teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, delinquency.

I could see that parents played a large part in how their children behaved and the attitudes these young people were developing. I began to wonder if schools alone couldn’t fix the problem – perhaps we needed schools for parents, before they had children of their own! For most of my adult life I’ve rejected and fought against this idea, but it does show that as a young teen I was desperate to come up with solutions that would give all children a better chance at happiness, health and prosperity.

My ultimate aim, even back then, was ‘world peace’. Somehow I knew that only when we have solved the problems at the level of the family could we enjoy more harmonious relationships between nations.

This interest in why schools weren’t doing the job of educating people intensified once I had children of my own. Something unexpected happened though: when our eldest child turned five we realized that we didn’t want to hand her over to strangers to play with and help her learn all day. We were enjoying that job immensely and didn’t want things to change.

Three weeks before her sixth birthday we gave birth to our youngest: we were worried that sending her off to school would look like ‘replacing’ her. We’d been teaching her since birth. Luckily for us we had found out about home education at an alternative lifestyle conference in Victoria and had made contact with home educators in that state.

Very few families home educated their children in South Australia openly at that time – over twenty years ago now! It was hard finding like-minded people and, encouraged by a friend who lived 8 hours away, I started the SA Home Based Learners Newsletter. This began my homeschool writing career. I subscribed to Growing Without School (a USA magazine started by John Holt) and Otherways (produced by a Victorian homeschool cooperative). And I borrowed and bought whatever books I could on the subject! These kept my confidence strong whenever I felt unsure about what we were doing with our family.

Our eldest had a hybrid education, with some part time and full time schooling as well as homeschooling. Our youngest was completely unschooled. What I have learned is that it doesn’t matter how your child is educated, though homeschool is by far way more efficient than school: it is the love and devotion and interest we show in our children that makes the difference to their education as young people.


© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Schools Foster 'Mob Mentality'

The latest article published on www.homeschoolaustralia.com is a thought provoking criticism by Christina KG of the way schools foster a 'mob mentality'. This article was prompted by the recent much publicized behavior of Year 12 events at a Melbourne private school have given rise to interesting comments from school principals regarding the prevalence of a ‘mob-mentality' found in many schools.

Christina writes, "Discussions about home-schooling and schooling provide the very food and sustenance we parents need for the support and further development of our individual home-schooling practices. As a young grandmother to be and a Master's Student, I cannot afford to skirt between the veils of naivety where and when there are children being victimised. As a past volunteer and employee at my daughter's ex - school I have experienced first-hand the stripping down of individuality for the sake of 'fitting in' to the mob. I have also seen emotional and physical bullying of young children (pre-entry) by School Services Officers and sadly some (only some) teachers employed by the education department..."

More than a mere criticism, Christina presents a couple of workable alternative pathways Australian schools can emulate which she found when overseas.

Read the whole article at:
http://homeschoolaustralia.com/articles/schoolsmobmentality.htm

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What I Think is Wrong with Schools...

I became interested in education when in my teens. As a home educator I was even more determined to work out why schools don't deliver what they promise. Some children make it through - I was (still am) a good student. It's easy for people with my style of learning and interests to do well in school. However I failed Year 12 and that only made me look harder at what was going wrong with the way schools work.

We toyed with schooling throughout our homeschooling adventure. Getting involved in our local school at all levels was very educational. It was interesting to hear what the teachers, staff and educational bureaucrats were thinking about school education. Most of them agreed in part with the comments by the principles in the article you posted, but all of them were convinced schooling was still the way to go. Only a couple of the teachers I met thought that homeschooling was an okay option (and then only for some parents).

I came to see that it is the fact that we put children in an institution that is at fault. How can we expect social growth and socialisation to occur when schools can never deliver the ideal conditions for it? Children need access to the real world, real people doing real jobs, and a variety of social situations to develop socially.

I finally realised that the purpose of schools is to educate in one direction only - to deliver a compliable society that will perform as dutiful, consumers, able to be manipulated to serve the goals of the state. In my most paranoid moments I suspect that the state serves the captains of industry first, citizens second. The 'economy' is top dog and are educational system is designed to serve it. I can't see much that is educational - in a liberal sense which is how our society idealises education - in that.

Coaching a mob mentality is good if you want to control people's behaviour. It can be easily done by appealing to the emotions. Advertising operates on this principle. Educated people know and understand themselves and think critically and make informed choices rather than react based on immediate emotional response. It's ironic because emotions are essential for learning but our society and schools have dumbed that down by teaching children that learning must always be fun, or rewarded in some way - never valued intrinsically.

Of course schools encourage mob mentality. If the intelligence of children wasn't actively chipped away from an early age by the time they hit their teens they'd be rebelling en masse and recreating schools to suit a more humane model of education. Us oldies would hate that! We'd be on the scrap heap, no longer needed. Especially anyone in the education industry...

I see home education as a small light of hope for the future - a 'back to the future' approach to rehumanising society, moving it away from the obsession of 'economy'. Our children are socialised in the best sense of the word. And education happens naturally in an environment that puts children back where they belong - among adults, families, workers and in the community.

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking the Worry out of Making Decisions

© Beverley Paine 2008

I used to think that we only get one chance at getting things right and that the decisions we make today are set hard, as though in concrete, and would take a jackhammer to change, with resulting chaos and mess. But life has taught me otherwise. At the age of 50 I can easily see that most of my decisions - both big and small, insignificant and important - are nowhere near as critical as I think they are at the time of making them.

Life generally dictates what needs to be done, as well as how it is going to be done. It is best summed up in Reinhold Niebuhr's 'Serenity Prayer' (original version sourced from answers.yahoo.com):

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

For most of my life I've been working hard to accept that each and every moment of my life - the things that I encounter and the situations in which I find myself - are there to teach me valuable lessons about life and how I need to live so that I can be a better person, both for myself and to and for others.

I sincerely trust that mistakes are simply learning experiences - in fact, they are positive learning experiences. By learning to see the very important lessons that can be learned and taken forward from each 'mistake' I feel that I am acknowledging that I am on the right path, that each step and decision I make will ultimately lead me where I need to be... It's a self-correcting process.

This also means that I don't fall into the trap of blaming myself for screwing my life up. Sometimes I slip and lose confidence and start blaming myself, but it is mostly for things that are clearly way beyond my control - both back in the past when I made decisions and right now when I feel the urge to 'fix' things. Often it's only my perception that says they are broken or not right in the first place - they aren't really!

This practice of accepting the fallibility of my decisions from the outset, of being open to quickly adapting to better ideas - of being able to take advantage of changing circumstances and not making decisions rock hard - has meant that I have yielded to a higher wisdom than my ego. I've learned to let go of my need to be in control all the time. I can now see that I am not responsible for how everything turns out - there are lots of factors at work over which I have no control and don't even know about in the first place!

It is definitely like this with the future - even the near future. I also like the saying by Alexander Graham Bell that goes:

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

With our own homeschooling I have found this to be the case many times. For sure, I would have done things differently if I had the hindsight I had now but would the outcome have been that much different? It is too hard to tell. Often I think how my children have turned out is due to something I did or didn't do, when in fact it is a product of who they are, and that, amazingly enough, is largely genetic. We give them the tools to make the most of life - they decide how best to use them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parental Intelligence Newsletter

Bob produces one of my favourite online newsletters about parenting and education.

The July 2008 issue of the Parental Intelligence Newsletter has now been published online.

In this month's issue:


SPECIAL MENTION

Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Liberating Parents


ARTICLE LINKS

Myth: Fully Meeting An Infant's Needs, Sometimes Called Attachment
Parenting, Is Impractical and Exhausting
How To Build A Baby's Brain
10 Qualities of Teacup Parenting: Is Your Kid Too Fragile?
Just Wait Until Your Kids Become Teens
4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 15
Should an 18 Year Old Really Know What They're Going to Do For the Rest
of Their Life?
Summer For Some Kids
The Root of the Problem
Camps help kids get slice of good nutrition
The Mac-and-Cheese Effect
Is "I Love Lucy" Educational?
The eLearning Future Is No Longer Five Years Away
Not the Usual Game Application
Are you still living by the finger?


NOTICE BOARD

How I Parent
Guiding Stars of the New Parenting Movement
Kindred Magazine
Natural Child News
Connection Parenting
Heart To Heart Parenting
2008 - The Year of Homebirth Awareness!
The Big Push For Midwives
How to be relaxed with your pregnant image
Women Who Care
Mindfulness
Free E-Book on Parenting with more fun!
The effects of spanking are obvious
Hold On to Your Kids
Homeschool Australia
12th International Conference on Rethinking Education
iTunes University
The Montessori Foundation
Radio Free School
We Shine - A Celebration of Unschooling
Radical Unschoolers Network
How to Screw Up Unschooling
Learn Nothing Day


To read the Parental Intelligence Newsletter online, please go to
http://www.parental-intelligence.com

Thank you for subscribing to and reading the Parental Intelligence
Newsletter.

I appreciate this opportunity to be of help to you in your parenting
adventure and wish you all the happiness and success you would wish
yourself.

Bob Collier
Publisher of The Parental Intelligence Newsletter
http://www.parental-intelligence.com
bobcollier@parental-intelligence.com


============================================================

FREE PARENTING BOOKS

Be sure to visit www.parental-intelligence.com for your copy of
Guiding Stars of the New Parenting Movement Volumes 1 and 2.

The Guiding Stars of the New Parenting Movement e-books are
packed with valuable insights and useful ideas to help you in your
parenting adventure and are FREE with my compliments.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sentences You Definitely Don't Want to Hear Today!

1. We need to talk...

2. The boss wants to see you now.

3. I've had a bit of an accident.

4. Can I borrow your credit card?

5. There's a leak (upstairs/in the bathroom etc).

6. Did you remember my birthday?

7. I've got something to tell you.

8. You know that (tenner/car/lawnmower etc) that you lent me?

9. You haven't forgotten we're going out tonight?

10. Now I know it looks bad, but...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Natural Learning: Build Confidence Slowly

Feeling fragile about diving into learning in a more natural way?

One of the best pieces of advice I came across was to to hesitate, dip one's toes into the vast learning natural ocean, paddle and splash around a bit until confidence builds. It's not a good idea running headlong into the surf because there is a good chance that the encounter will scare you away from swimming at that beach forever!

So, my advice would be, pick a one or two areas of the curriculum where learning naturally comes easily and is easily recognised by the authorities as areas where it works quite successfully - such as history, geography, cultural studies, religious studies, even physical education and health, as well as the Arts - and stick to a more 'school at home' or otherwise structured approach for the 3Rs.

We began by doing structured educational activities for a couple of hours for four days a week (averaged out) for the first year and this helped to build my confidence as I watched and observed and recorded how my children learned - not only then, but througout the day. I needed what I called my 'skeleton' academic program. The few pages of bookwork my children did reassured me that even when they weren't doing those pages they seemed to be learning anyway. The pages were like tests, proving that they were learning regardless of any overt teaching efforts by me. I don't think I would have realised this as soon had I not asked them to do those pages. We slipped into a pattern of unschooling and learning naturally interspersed with one to three week periods of intense 'school at home' or unit studies for the first few years of homeschooling.

The other thing that I urge families who want to learn more naturally to do is record - record your children's activities (all of them) but translate what you write and record into educational jargon. Learn to see how your children naturally fulfil the curriculum guidelines.

Nothing beats doing this work for yourself. I found it the only way I finally learned to believe that my children were learning when they were 'doing nothing'. If someone told me that playing with dolls was educational and ran off a spiel about how it was educational I'd think they were clever, but I wouldn't be able to truly see it until I worked it out myself. I'd just think their kids were gifted, the mum was clever and theirs was a special case, not at all like mine!

Pull apart an activity - say the evening going to bed routine - and rewrite it as a teacher would if she was wanting to teach 30 children about:

a) dental hygiene - health
b) the importance of washing in the creases/folds of the skin (underarms, behind the knees, etc) - health
c) routine of prayer and thanks giving (spiritual and personal development)
d) making sure there is a clear path to the bed, not strewn with toys (safety)
e) story time (language development)
f) hugging family members and saying good night (building relationships, personal development)

You can pull apart each of these and come up with subject and skills related objectives that run like undercurrents continuously throughout your life with your children.

Dental hygiene is a fantastic opportunity to talk about the role of calcium in bone building, about how they make floss material, why toothbrushes are different now to how they were when you were a child. Voila! You have covered science and technology today...

Take note of the conversations you have with your children and see the learning in each subject area that flows naturally...

A good system of recording becomes your forward program for the next year and will convince most people that you aren't neglecting their education in any area.

Just because our children are learning naturally doesn't mean we aren't educators or that we don't need to think or act like educators. It's a natural role of parenting to do that, but one which many - most - people have been taught and conditioned not to do, expecting that this role will be filled by special educators - teachers in schools.

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

South Australia Education and Children's Services Legislative Review

I just spent a couple of hours reading Discussion Paper 2 and answering the feedback form online. You can find the links to both here:
http://www.edlawreform.sa.gov.au/

In a nutshell the government wants to combine the Education Act and Children's Services Act into the one Act.

On the surface the Discussion Paper says a lot of things that seem to make sense - who wouldn't want a streamlined, efficient Act that makes use of best practice and doesn't cost a fortune to implement and regulate? And why wouldn't we want to combine these two, often overlapping, areas of societal responsibility.

Because the discussion paper talks about regulation, licensing and registration of children's services and education, and home schooling is mentioned, then it's probably a good idea to take a look and if you feel inclined, pop in a reply or two on the feedback form.

Last time the government tried to merge the Acts submissions from home educators just about out-numbered all the others - not many parents or teachers took the time to make a submission and we were well represented at open meetings held around SA.

Having your say at this early stage of the review will send a message to those writing legislation that we're interested in the future of home education provision in South Australia.


© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Future of Home Education Regulation in Australia

© Beverley Paine, 20th June 2008

On the ABC News Radio this morning Mal Brough said that it would not take much effort for the government to cross check school enrolments with Centrelink to get those children not attending schools into school. He offered the figure of 2000 and the conversation was in relation to the Northern Territory intervention, which he said should be expanded across Australia, to include all populations.

Home educators may need to be reassured by reminding them that Mal Brough's remarks need to be kept in the context of his adversarial role of Opposition spokesperson - he is no longer running the show and his alarmist comments amount to politicking and heckling from the sidelines in response to the latest intervention measure announced by the Rudd government.

However, I have no doubt that eventually, regardless of who is holding the reins in Canberra, school enrolment and Centrelink parenting benefits will be linked for all Australians. Some time soon – maybe not this year or next year, but probably within five years – to legally homeschool in Australia one will have to be registered, this process will cost the homeschooler. Home educators will be required to demonstrate, in terms the authorities understand, that their children's educational and social development is progressing in line with acceptable standards, which will be either the national or individual state curriculum guidelines.

From my vantage point spanning two decades of involvement with the home education movement it is easy to see that this was inevitable, given the lack of understanding by the general population of the nature of home education and the pressures facing governments resulting from the increasing visibility of the effects of poverty on sections of our society.

If, as I predict, this future in inevitable, what should home educators, and those like myself who advise home educators, do to prepare for this adjustment?

Some will not accept what I see as the inevitability that regulation of home education will become unavoidable, and will continue to lobby governments for the right of parents to teach their children at home without ‘big brother' looking over their shoulder every year, or giving them approval in a patronising way to do the job that is their responsibility alone. Home education in Australia needs these families to become vocal and to lobby hard and continuously for fair and rational treatment. Their voices are an essential part of the way forward for home education. Their arguments and reasoning are sound and reflective of the liberal democratic society we enjoy and wish to preserve.

Some will continue to conscientiously object to laws they feel impinge on their rights as parents to determine the direction and content of their children's education, as well as their right to parent according to their religious and lifestyle beliefs. Some will fight what they believe to be unnecessary and restrictive regulations and laws through the court system. The home education movement as a whole needs to continue to support these families.

But for most of us, we will choose to comply with the new regulations, either because it makes sense, as it will to many home educating families, or because the stress of opposing them will be overwhelming and ultimately too disruptive to family life. I believe that the home education movement needs to support, in whatever way we can, genuine home educating families.

For my part this will mean helping families write and record learning programs for their children that will demonstrate that no matter what style or approach of education is used, home education is effective and successful. This is what I do best. We each need to do what we each do best to help others find their way through these difficult times of change. In this way we can support each other and continue to promote home education as a viable alternative to school for those families who need it most.

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Parents face jail for truant kids under new NSW laws

An article in the Daily Telegraph by Simon Benson on the 1st of April (and no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke), reported on new laws introduced into NSW parliament which could inadvertantly adversely affect many homeschooling families.

The laws grant powers to the Department of Education to seek court orders which could force parents to enrol their children at school. Magistrates will be empowered to impose jail sentences for parents of habitual truants, with fines up to $10,000.

Premier Morris Iemma stated that it was time that the issue of school enrolments and truancy "became one of parental responsibility".

However, if parents are coerced to send their children to school, doesn't this remove some of that parental responsibility? It was my understanding that education - not school attendance - is compulsory for primary school aged children in NSW. Homeschooling is a legitimate and legal alternative that addresses the educational needs of children.

How will the new laws affect existing home educating families, especially those not registered with the Board of Studies?

There is a trend across Australia for tightening of regulation of home education. Let's hope it is done in an enlightened way, where the needs of home educating families are assessed in an thorough way, given an understanding of the unique and distinct from schooling nature of homeschooling.

Home educating families do not fall into the category of negligent parents - they take parental responsibility seriously, to the extent that they are willing to forgo a second (and often necessary income) to supervise their children at home and in the community. It is a shame that politically motivated laws which appear to have been hastily created as a reaction to a much publicised case of child abuse will catch in its net innocent and dedicated parents.

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Exploring Approaches to Homeschool Seminar and Curriculum Fair


Do you know about the Exploring Approaches to Homeschooling Seminar and Curriculum Fair? I'm helping to put together this exciting event for homeschooling families in South Australia with two active homeschooling mums. It's a huge undertaking, much bigger than we first envisaged.

There are going to be workshops where experienced home educators will talk about the different approaches to homeschooling - Charlotte Mason, Classical Education, Unschooling and Natural Learning, using a Steiner influence approach, Bible-based and Discipleship, Identity Directed homeschooling and more! There are so many different ways a family can approach education at home - and most can be tweaked to suit the individual needs of families or children. That's what I love most about homeschooling!

In addition to the workshop program we're organising two afternoon panel sessions - one to answer any questions that you missed asking during the morning sessions about the different approaches used by homeschooling families, and the second will look at educational legislative reform in South Australia and give the opportunity to ask any general questions about getting started or registering as a homeschooler.

But that's not all! We are organising a section with displays called 'Homeschooling At Our Place' - a peek into the lives of how families go about homeschooling. I'm sure this is going to demonstrate just how diverse homeschooling can be and will illustrate the morning workshops wonderfully!

If you thought all that was worth paying the $10 family entry ($12 for non-HEA members, as the event is organised by the SA branch of the Home Education Association which offers insurance cover) - we are also holding a Curriculum Fair!

With over a dozen educational and homeschool suppliers the Curriculum Fair has a huge array of resources, from educational games and toys to text and student books for every subject to suit all age groups. And if you are looking for a bargain, we've even planned a shared second-hand stall. So if you'd like to recycle your educational resources and books, why not bring them along and swap or sell them at the Currriculum Fair.

So, when is all this happening? You won't have to wait long!

Saturday, May 17th from 8.30 am to 5.30pm

at the DeafSA Centre, 262 South Terrace, Adelaide.

Please arrive early so we can start on time at 9.00 am!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mud, dust and flies - Loveday April 2008


I've added a montage of photos I took using my mobile phone on the weekend.

Our lads are interested in off road 4WD competitions. A few years ago Thomas developed his www.offroadingsubarus.com site and forum when he bought his first car, a Subaru Brumby. Our place looks like a wreckers' yard, not at all what I imagined post homeschooling life would look like when the children were young! Robin and I support their interest, as we always have, that's what parenting is all about. :-)

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to do a bit of bush camping with our campertrailer. Loveday 4x4 Adventures Park near Loxton, SA offers an excellent opportunity to learn how to get out of just about any difficulty you could run into while travelling around Australia. Roger and Thomas took us up last year after our trip to the Northern Territory where Robin and I chickened out of travelling on a few interesting tracks because we weren't confident with our vehicle or ability. We're confident now!

A working family farm as well as off road park, Loveday 4x4 Adventures Park allows camping along the beautiful River Murray - it's a serene place last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Dust, mud and flies are standard fare, as is a lot of fun pushing the car and the nerves to the limit!

We will be heading back there later in the year for the next competition event, which our lads hope to enter. If anyone is interested we'd love some company from homeschoolers - maybe fly the flag for home education in Australia on both entires!

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Letter from a Friend of 'Flat Stanley', a Literacy and Geography Project for the Whole Family

© Danielle, 2008

Hi there, my name is Danielle. I have Lilly (5) Ocean (4) and Charlie (1). We are homeschooling in Maleny QLD. I wanted to join other groups around Australia as we plan to travel soon. Just a quick note about another Yahoo Group I discovered for home schoolers called Flat Travelers.

We read the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown (available at the library)before getting started and that provided a good introduction for the kids.

Basically though, the story goes that a cork board falls on a little boy while he is sleeping and he wakes up flat. (Okay it is an old story, don't freak out) He finds all the positives about being flat and one of them is that he can travel to different places in an envelope!

So here's the thing - Lilly, Ocean and I made some Flat Travelers and have been sending them all over America and the UK. We have also hosted some Flat Travelers. It's really fun!

We have used photographs and small colour ins but you can use your imagination. Put your name and address on the back and laminate or cover with contact. This is your Flat Traveler! I have seen all sorts of different travelers; fairies, animals, dragons, photos of families, cartoons and even a Flat Steve Irwin!

I include a small journal (just 2 page thickness of standard copy paper) or a mock passport or sometimes just a page of questions for the host family. You can also send information about your country and family etc.

This is a fantastic geography, literacy, socialization activity! And obviously heaps more. It is great for children at all different levels as you can modify the learning opportunity to suit. At first we just used it as a colouring in activity. The trip to the post office was fun, there's cutting and laminating to do as well. Children can write or at least create their own journal, think about appropriate questions and what to include... On a more advanced level you could use it as a tool for researching other cultures, countries and geographical locations to a reasonably in depth level. It would certainly be a great starting point anyway.

One mum wrote to me asking for Australian recipes, slang words, export/import information, maps and heaps more. She also said that she uses it to explain the timezone difference and the change in seasons. It is much easier if she can say , "Well Lilly and Ocean are asleep now."

If you use your imagination this activity is just so cool! We are only just getting started on it and the scope is massive, right from calculating postage costs to discovering what a capital city is... And of course designing a personality for your Flat Travelers.

We currently have 20 out there and 6 at our house. We are in the process of making large poster maps that plot the courses of our Flats and all the places we have visited and families we have met.. We have compiled an address book and expanding file containing all the information and souvenirs.

We took our hosted Flats on the Valley Rattler and I feel like I'm in holiday mode all the time now with my snap shots and souvenirs.

Oh yes, some families will send back to you packages of goodies, but don't expect it as it is not a requirement. Many people also send their holiday photos by disc.

I have also found it has widened my eyes to the learning opportunities around us. I am always looking for interesting historical, geographical information etc for the Flats and this benefits the kids too.

So if you are like me and temporarily or even permanently grounded (
but secretly a backpacker trapped in a mother body) then visit;
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/flat_travelers_homeschool/ and get traveling - there is no excuses!

Love and light,
Danielle, Lilly, Ocean and Charlie!


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Flat Stanley Project is an international literacy and communications activity for primary and junior students, teachers and families. There are now over 1000 classes around the world participating and thousands of homeschooling families are sending Flat Stanleys all over the world! It's become a popular way of teaching and encouraging an interest in geography and international studies as well literacy.

The Official Flat Stanley Project website is full of stories and pictures about Flat Stanley's amazing journeys, as well as ways to enhance the educational experience for Stanley and the children he visits.
The Project began in 1995, Dale Hubert, by a Grade 3 teacher in London, Ontario, Canada.

Please use student's first names only when corresponding, particularly over the internet.

Could You Pass This Senior's Exam from 1895?


Not sure how true this is as it's been circulating the internet for some years, but I'm taking it at face value. Few of us Aussies would pass the exam because it is USA-centric, but how many of us would pass if we substituted Australian place names and people? Our knowledge of our country and its history is woeful indeed. I would hazard a guess that many adults would find it hard to answer an equivalent question given in metric terms.

At the National Home Education Conference in 2007 John Taylor Gatto spoke convincingly of the dumbing down of American education and how even simple farming folk were educated to a reasonable level that is often not attained in contemporary schools. Australia's John Peacok, author of the Why and How of Home Education in Australia, wrote about the high value placed on education by pioneering families, based on the need to survive and thrive in a harsh, unforgiving environment. One just has to dip into the study of history to see the evidence of a quality, largely home based, education system at work in past centuries.

Just another reminder of how far our education system has come...

The following is a copy of the final exam for 1895 8th grade students in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas, 1895:

Grammar (Time: one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph.
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "Lie", "play" and "run".
5. Define case illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time: 65 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 12ft deep, 10ft long and 3ft wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weights 3942lbs, what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720lbs coal at $6 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $515.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16ft long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Cheque, a Promissory Note and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time: 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which US History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the cause and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620,
1800, 1849 and 1865.

Geography (Time: one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centres of the U.S.
7. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
8. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean retunes to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Note: this exam takes nearly four hours to complete and was given to 12-14 year olds.

© Beverley Paine 2008

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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Homeschooling Trail - Diary of a Christian Unschooling Family

Always Learning Books is pleased to announce that we have new copies in stock of Michele Hasting's popular Christian Unschooling book, The Homeschooling Trail - A Journey of Faith.

When I first read Michele's manuscript so much resonated with my personal experiences of educating my three children at home: the nagging doubts that I wasn't giving my children the best education I could, that I was harming their future, that they'd never forgive me for experimenting with their education. It didn't help that few people understood the idea of home education, and even fewer understood the principles behind unschooling or natural learning.

The Homeschooling Trail - A Journey of Faith is a frank and honest 'fly-on-the-wall' account of a year in the life of this Christian unschooling family. Some unschoolers find Michele's approach too much like school in places, but her story definitely shows that homeschooling is forever a work in progress. We find new resources and ideas, try them out, our children grow and their needs change, life throws things at us which send our plans awry. Michele's intimate account of her family's homeschooling life tells it like it really is and I found this immensely reassuring.

This is one of my favourite passages from Michele's book:

"Since becoming a Christian, and later a parent, I’ve come to the conclusion that God creates each of us with a specific design in mind. Before my lungs tasted air, God had a plan for my life. He built within me unique traits, talents, likes and dislikes, significant strengths and obvious weaknesses. Add to this the effect of environment and birth order, which also influence the type of person we become. As our boys grew I had to determine whether they were empty vessels waiting to be filled, or uniquely designed individuals, needing time, space, and freedom to blossom and develop, protected and unhindered as much as possible. We chose to believe the latter. That’s why, day to day and year to year, we look for progress and growth, instead of expecting our children to live up to expectations established by experts who deem it necessary to know certain things according to a specific time-frame. We trust that our boys will learn in their own way, for their own reasons, and according to their own timetable.

I admit we don’t do this perfectly. As a parent who loves her children and desires the best for them, I struggle with what I believe to be essential for our boys to grasp by the time they leave home. I’m as concerned about their spiritual beliefs, character traits, attitudes, and life skills, as I am about academic knowledge. Through constant prayer, the encouragement of others, and continual self-education, I control my impulses to make my kids into who I think they should be. Homeschooling is as much about allowing our children to discover their identities as it is about education. And through embracing this style of learning, I’ve stumbled upon my own authenticity in the process."

The Homeschooling Trail - A Journey of Faith
is available from Always Learning Books for $19.50 (includes free postage within Australia).