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

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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

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, 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).