Saturday, 9 August 2014

July 2014: Winter, Wattles & (un)school Holidays!


Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle, fairy stuff 
Little balls of yellow fluff 
Hear the bees how loud they hum 
To say they're glad that Spring is come 

When the stars begin to peep 
Then the wattle falls asleep 
Like a tired child in bed 
It droops its pretty curly head

How time flies! I can’t believe another fortnight has slipped away so quickly. It was school term holidays in Tasmania, but that doesn’t really make much difference to our routine, except that we can catch up with our schooling friends midweek, which is nice. It also means lots of school holiday programs and activities around, which we’ve enjoyed. 

Our Winter Nature Table
We’ve spent gloriously fine Winter days outside, playing with water, digging in the sandpit, exploring the bush, learning to light campfires, and working together in the garden. We’ve been frog collecting, bird watching, lizard hunting, and spent long days playing with friends.  Handwork, sewing, knitting, woodwork. Baking, books, stories, puppet shows, plays, and a trips to the real theatre! 

I am catching up on a month’s worth of blogging over the next few posts, so rather than add lots of writing, it will mostly be a quick snapshot into our activities over the last few weeks.

{ Celebrations & Special Events }

‘Little Red Riding Hood’ at the Theatre Royal
‘Little Red Riding Hood’ at the Theatre Royal
Winter Wassailing Festival,  Willie Smith Organic Orchards  
Morris dancers at the Winter Wassailing Festival, Willie Smith Organic Orchards 

Winter Wassailing Festival, Willie Smith Organic Orchards  
Wassailing the apple trees, Willie Smith Organic Orchards 

{ Language, Literature, & Literacy }

Jack Frost

(by Gabriel Setoun)

The door was shut, as doors should be,

Before you went to bed last night;

Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,

And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;

And not a single word he spoke,

But pencilled o'er the panes and crept

Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills

Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;

But there are fairer things than these

His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high;

Hills and dales, and streams and fields;

And knights in armor riding by,

With nodding plumes and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there

Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;

And yonder, palm trees waving fair

On islands set in silver seas,

And butterflies with gauzy wings;

And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;

And fruit and flowers and all the things

You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath

The door when all the lights are out,

Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,

And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane

In fairy lines with frozen steam;

And when you wake you see again

The lovely things you saw in dream.

* * * * * * *

Many tales, some original and some borrowed, have been told this fortnight. We retold a simpler, gentler version of the  Grimms tale of The Star Money for our evening story time.

The Star Money puppet created from a playsilk and scraps of material
Recently we’ve moved story time to last thing before bed, snuggled together on the lounge room floor wrapped in warmed PJs and with a mug of warm cocoa to drink. The lights are all turned off, and the tale is told by golden candlelight. It’s a very magical time, especially when we can hear the wild Winter winds howling outside and the rain (or snow!) pattering on the roof <3

Practising letters for Stop and Go signs :)
New mini chalkboards for letters and drawing

{ Numeracy & Mathematic Concepts }

Exploring numbers and shapes
Mental adding and subtracting
Board Games
More board games...

{ Artwork & Handwork }

Celebrating National Wattle Day by making our own beeswax wattle tree
Mr 5 makes his very own felt stuffed teddy using a pattern he designed 
Hammering nails and woodwork with Daddy
Mr 4 practising button sewing onto his cushion
Mr 5’s first adventure in knitting (the continental method)

Mr 5 sews himself an apron
The finished apron!
Creating an artwork with the boys

{ Local History, Culture, & Geography }

NAIDOC week was celebrated in Tasmania with workshops run by the local Tasmanian Aboriginal community. We visited one of the children’s workshops: making kelp water carriers.

Making kelp water carriers with members of the local Aboriginal community
Making kelp water carriers with members of the local Aboriginal community

{ In The Kitchen }

Dehydrating apples

Making naturally fermented ginger beer with a ginger beer plant 

Beating the eggs the old fashioned way :)
Mr 5 cooking his own scrambled eggs for breakfast
Helping chop veggies for dinner
Jam drop biscuits!
‘Snow for your dough'
Pizza makers
Warming Winter soups <3

{ Science & Nature }

BushKinder: Fleurtys Sculpture Trail, Birchs Bay
BushKinder: Fleurtys Sculpture Trail, Birchs Bay
BushKinder: Checking out the Tasmanian Pepperberry harvest at Fleurtys Farm, Birchs Bay

Backyard science party! 
Backyard science: The vinegar and bicarb volcano
Backyard science: Foam rockets! 
Learning fire safety
The lizards are waking up after their Winter rest
Gardening begins!
Repotting broad beans and studying the roots
Planting our own Tasmanian Pepperberries
Winter sunrise

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

June 2014: Socialisation and other things.

Monday 23rd June - Sunday 6th July, 2014

Catching up on the last fortnight… One week was incredibly busy, with play-dates, events and social activities every single day, and the following week was quieter, spent pottering around home and in the garden. A relaxing counterpart to the busy week before. 

I have been thinking about socialisation quite a bit of late, and reflecting on our progress this year. Socialisation and the development of interpersonal skills is certainly a topic that comes up often in the homeschooling world. I find it very interesting, particularly seeing as one of the main reasons we decided to begin this path, was that Mr 5 wasn’t ready for the intense social world of full time Prep this year. Socialisation seems to be one of the first thing people will ask about when we tell them we are homeschooling.

I believe home-schooled children (who are given plenty of opportunity to engage with others outside the home) don’t actually miss out. In fact, I would argue that at this age, the quality of their socialisation is richer when they are living in the ‘real’ world. We meet and talk to people from all walks of life and in many different situations - the local grocer, butcher, the friendly post office ladies, children at the playground or park, the elderly, mothers with young children, people we meet whenever, and wherever. 

We attend playgroups, community activities, and various homeschooling groups of mixed age. We are still involved in the local Steiner school community and attend school festivals and events. We regularly meet both friends who are schooled, and friends who are home schooled for play-dates.

And I’ve noticed that play-dates with our homeschooling friends, usually involve entire day, free unstructured play, something that cannot happen in the school environment, where true free-play and unstructured socialisation is only able to occur in short snippets during recess and lunch. I also value that the homeschool environment allows the inclusion in a mixed age group, rather than an age cohort. It’s so lovely to see the older children gently playing peekaboo with little ones, or playing vibrant, imaginative games with children from a wide range of ages.

In the future, when the children are more focused on academic learning, the opportunity to do group work/projects is something we have discussed with other homeschooling parents. We plan to bring small groups of homeschooling children together to learn in a group dynamic, with instruction/learning facilitation provided by different adults. We are looking at what skills we have and how we could be involved in our children’s learning experiences, and there are some wonderfully diverse skills among the homeschooling parents!

I’d also like our family to start being involved in volunteer work in our local community. We have lived in the Huon Valley for a couple of years now, so it’s definitely time to embrace our community more!  

So, I don’t believe my children miss out socially at all. In fact on reflection, I am so pleased we didn’t push Mr 5 into early socialisation before he was ready. At the time, I felt a sense of pressure to push him into it and I’ll even admit to feeling frustrated at times that, coming from two pretty sociable parents, he seemed so reserved and so shy, but he is not me. He is his own, delightful and unique person and whilst he may always be more reserved than I am, that really is ok! There are so many wonderful things about him that make him special and interesting, and funny enough, by allowing him to be ready in his own time while supporting and encouraging him, he has really grown into himself and become much more confident. These days he is a friendly, fun, chatty, kind, and very social 5 year old, who has lost almost all of that early clinginess and super-shyness. It’s very gratifying to see that happen. We know without a doubt that we made the right decision to homeschool.

These days, Mr 5 may well be able to cope just fine in the Prep classroom full-time, 5 days a week, but right now we are loving this homeschooling lifestyle - the freedom, the flexibility, the family bond, the community we are part of, and the blessed life we are living. Homeschooling isn’t always the easiest choice. It’s often tough in the trenches with young children and few breaks, but I wouldn’t change it for anything! And while his social, emotional, physical and educational needs are being met and we are all thriving, we see no reason not to continue.

{ Celebrations & Special Events }

We spent Monday 23rd of June with homeschooling friends, celebrating our dear little friend’s 1st birthday <3 The children played and played and played, and the littlest ones catnapped when and where they could. Cake was devoured, presents unwrapped and the house was trashed, obviously :D

This group of children play so well together. It’s so lovely to see some wonderful friendships developing with other home learning families and I think it’s really important for the children themselves to develop strong friendships and experience normality around home education.


On Sunday 29th June, we met with friends and went to the Miniature Doll Fair together. The children were all enthralled, and I have to say us bigger folk were rather taken by it too. The detail and intricacies of the models were simply amazing. We are all rather excited about starting some group and solo projects of our own, perhaps later in the year when we have researched a bit more and learned a few techniques.

{ Language, Literature, & Literacy }

Picture Books in Winter

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Summer fading, winter comes -
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,

Window robins, winter rooks,

And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone

Nurse and I can walk upon;

Still we find the flowing brooks

In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,

Wait upon the children's eye,

Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,

In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are

Seas and cities, near and far,

And the flying fairies' looks,

In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,

Happy chimney-corner days,

Sitting safe in nursery nooks,

Reading picture story-books?

Here are some of the boys current favourite picture books:

'Winter Story’ by Jill Barklem
'The Story of the Wind Children’ by Sibylle von Olfers
‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson
‘Winter’ by Gerda Muller
I am reading… ‘Painting & Drawing in Waldorf Schools’ by Thomas Wildgruber


We are learning our Winter Circle Time songs, verses and finger plays, as we wind our way into the ‘real’ half of Winter. Still not much sign of snow yet in Tasmania, which isn’t uncommon. Our Winter snows really start towards the end of July and well into August and September, so I am saving our ‘snowy’ rhymes for then. 

Now Winter Begins (Fingerplay, Adapted)
by Jean Warren

Into their hives the busy bees crawl.

Into the ant hills, go ants one and all.
Caterpillars too, have hidden their heads,
Safely spun in their snug little beds.

The possums have all climbed to their holes in the trees.
The bird nests are empty, no chicks can we see.
The leaves have all blown away on the wind
Announcing to all – Now winter begins!

Fires are built in the hearths of homes.
Hats are knitted and coats are sewn.
Harsh winds blow all through the night.
Lights all flicker, what a sight!

Everyone waits for the first sight of snow,
Then down it comes, soft and slow.
The world is quiet, the world is white
Winter is here, a beautiful sight!


I have been researching and reading more about Form Drawing this fortnight. I’ve found a few good online resources with examples < here > and < here >, and I’m currently in the process of writing a Form Drawing story to accompany the forms for Mr 5. I’m really looking forward to introducing these when he is ready. For now, we continue with drawing and illustrating stories.

We’ve also started journalling some of our outings and excursions in our main lesson book, Mr 5 relating the events of the day while I act as scribe. Below is a journal of our day at the Miniature Doll Fair, along with the little cradle we assembled together. 

Literacy in the kitchen! 

{ Numeracy & Mathematic Concepts }

During the week, I came across a quote I quite liked from scientist, philosopher and childhood education theorist David Hawkins, “Now while mathematics is inescapably tied up with written symbols and in some ways, indeed, incorporates them into its very essence, it is also true that the symbols are nothing without the perceptual and manipulatory intuitions which bring them life and meaning. The experiential roots evolve as a product of children’s exploration of their environment and, by reflection, of their own emerging practical competencies.” 

Mathematic concepts in the Prep year of Steiner education are integrated into play and activities, rather than taught as a specific curriculum subject. In this sense, the concepts are brought to children in a meaningful way.

{ Numbers }

Counting and number exploration are part of day to day life activities. During circle time, we may recite counting rhymes or games. We use the abacus, counting stones or even buttons to bring a hands-on practical experience to abstract concepts. We play board games, skip rope and hopscotch, and of course, so many number integration learning experiences happen in free-play - dividing objects, counting them, subtracting, sorting, sequencing, ordering and making/finding patterns.

{ Measurement & Geometry }

Spatial awareness is developed by practising movement and balance. This is something we really encourage with Mr 5. It is quite fascinating as a parent to notice the similarities and difference in your own children. Mr 5 and Mr 4 are totally different in their sense of physicality, movement and balance. Both boys spend a good deal of time outdoors each day, swinging on the rope swing, climbing the rope ladder, balancing and climbing.

Awareness and experience of geometric forms happens through free-play, as well as through handwork such as beeswax modelling  or clay work which allows Mr 5 to manipulate 3 dimensional forms with his own hands. 3 Dimensional forms are also explored while making cubbies or when building with blocks. We have also begun Form Drawing exercises which are a very basic introduction to both literacy and to geometric forms.  

Mr 5 has access to a number of resources which he uses in free-play, but which form the basis for further mathematic learning when he is older: Cuisenaire rods, geometric blocks of various size and shape, 3D forms for play, parquetry tiles (which include squares, right-angles isosceles triangles, obtuse isosceles triangles, circles, equilateral triangles and right angles scalene triangles) etc.

Measurement of length, volume and weight of solid and liquid substances are explored in a variety of play experiences, as well as when in baking and cooking in the kitchen. Water play in the bath or outside in warmer weather, is a chance to explore these ideas further as well as learning basic concepts of physics - measuring and comparing capacity of water containers, bottles, tubing and funnels.

“…water and sand, clay and blocks…in the majority of schools such materials have been cast out as unrelated to ‘pre-reading, prewriting, and pre-arithmetic.’ In our work, we have quite consciously and truthfully emphasized the value of play with such materials as encouraging the roots of early science and mathematics. Balance and flow, size and scale, number and form are all there to be enjoyed, wondered about, and put in place.” 
David Hawkins

{ Pre-Statistics & Probability }

What will happen when I..? 
Children observe and predict what will happen during certain experiences of play. Balancing blocks is a good example, and learning to adjust and balance the blocks children can observe the outcome change.

{ Artwork & Handwork }

New handwork baskets for each child encouraging them to pick up projects.

Assembling Mr 5’s miniature cradle together

Mr 4’s oh so cute “turtle"
My doodling... 
My handwork...

{ In The Kitchen }

In the kitchen this week, we have baked scones, cookies, gingerbread and jellies. We’ve made cultured cream, kefir smoothies and resurrected the water kefir grains from the freezer. Both boys have helped with evening meal preparation most nights, cutting and grating vegetables. 

Mr 5 has started making his own scrambled eggs for breakfast again, taking great pride in the work. We picked up an old fashioned hand beater at a second hand shop this week, which means that scrambled eggs are back on the breakfast menu every morning, and our faithful old Winter-resting chooks can’t keep up with the egg demand!

I even got to have a Saturday morning child-free (!) and went to a fermented foods cooking class. Inspired!

{ Science & Nature }

We have been blessed with mild, sunny days over the last few weeks, unseasonably warm for this time of year! Where is that snow? So we’ve spent a great deal of time outdoors and in the garden. 

On Wednesday 25th June, we met our friends for BushKinder, this time walking along the stunning Tinderbox Hill Track and making a bush shelter at our lunch spot. The children just loved the bark and stick bush shelter and 2 weeks later, are still talking about it. 

As the day was still lovely and the children still playing beautifully, we decided to head to the Marine Discovery Centre in Woodbridge afterwards for a few hours. As last time we visited, we had so much fun exploring the touch tanks, and this time feeing the sharks, hermit crabs and urchins. I can see we will be visiting the Marine Discovery Centre quite regularly!

Mild, sunny days have meant lots of time outdoors and in the garden this last fortnight. Lots of opportunity to explore the bush around us and to learn in nature...

“What happens beneath a tree in the orchard” by Mr 5

In the garden, we are continuing veggie bed and orchard planning, as well as expanding and preparing beds. Green manure crops have been sown and are sprouting now as New Moon approaches the First Quarter. 

The beds have had compost, alpaca manure and a variety of other lovely organic matter applied. We are continuing to build the beds lasagne style, and it is working! The soil is heavy with worms. Speaking of worms, a kind friend gave us their established worm farm as they are moving to South America. The boys are so exited to have new pets, and we have been watching You Tube videos on how to look after our wiggly worm friends.

We have begun companion planting around the bases of the newly planted fruit trees. We have tried to plant at least one member from each of the following:

1. A herb
2. A nitrogen fixer
3. A flowering plant

We have planted or transplanted a range of herbs including members of the allium family – chives and garlic (which help prevent applescab), basil, asparagus, chamomile as a tree tonic. Daffodil and nasturtium help prevent codling moth, and marigolds and pansy to attract beneficial predators. More herbs and flowering plants will go in as the weather warms in Spirng. All of the orchard beds have had a green crop sown which includes broad beans, lupins, clover and peas.

As beneficial as they are, particularly in heavy clay soil, I am a little reluctant to plant comfrey as it can be so invasive. I think we might try growing some in a pot instead of in the garden and have the wonderful leaves to harvest that way.

Speaking of heavy soil, we finally have begun to get the centre bed organised. We’ve spent a number of weekends building up the soil and transplanting the berries into their final homes. The blueberries, currants, jostaberries, goji, Chilean guava and feijoa have all been moved from their temporary spots and have settled in.

We have bad drainage across the entire garden, our soil being heavy clay, and whilst that isn’t so much of a concern for the veggies in the slightly raised beds, for the centre bed, we have decided to dig an ag drain to provide some draining for the deeper rooting fruiting shrubs and berry canes. It immediately drained quite a bit of water, so I’m hoping it will be enough!