Monday, February 22, 2010

Memory Lane with My Dad

I was just having a great chat with my dad who is now 67.5 years old. He was born in England and was telling me about how on his half day off work he would go into London and go to Piccadilly or Leicester Square to the movies nearly every week. Apparently they would have cartoons on 24 hours a day and you could pay just a small amount of money to go and watch them for as long as you liked. He thinks he may have seen "Ben Hur" and the Rodgers and Hammerstein "South Pacific" there. One of my favourite movies, "Paint Your Wagon", was on there too. He would ride his bike to the train station, then go on the train into the city centre. The train lines weren't underground back then and only went about 5km out of town whereas he lived about 10km out of town. Just before he left England in 196-(?) the train lines had come out further. After the movies he would catch the train back out and ride home.

I just can't imagine doing that these days. I barely walk anywhere of great distance and haven't ridden a bike for several years.

I am really proud of my dad. He is a bit of a loner, apparently just like his dad who was a woodwork teacher and was orphaned. He came out to Australia on a cheap/free ticket back when they were trying to get workers here. He was only really young and he had no family over here. Can you imagine that? Just getting on a boat, going to a totally foreign place, all on your own. I moved from Brisbane to Hamilton Island half way up the Queensland coast when I was about 19 years old. I definitely still wanted to be able to contact my mum, and I was also lucky enough to have family in the area as support. He had a lot of guts.

My dad likes how there is no class divisions here, unlike England where being private school educated could make you a bit of a snob. We really are lucky here to not have such distinct class divisions. I know I live in a really nice suburb, old families, good money. Most people here will still talk to me, even if our car is a bit old and rusty and my kids aren't always dressed in new clothes. Maybe it helps that I do try to teach them to have good manners at all times.

I hope I get lots more chances to talk to my dad about his life. As you get older life seems so fleeting.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Space-challenged Workboxes

I have read a lot of posts about Sue Patrick's Workbox system. I love the idea yet haven't been able to justify the cost or the space requirements when I know I am dealing with 3 kids, possibly 4, with anything I set up.

Now, I will be the first to admit I haven't read her book (can't justify postage to Australia, do you get the idea I am careful with my money?!). If you have and my ideas here don't suit her system I apologise. I am just a mum trying to do my best to help my little school work better.

First of all, a note on scheduling. I have scheduled my day into 3 blocks of school, hopefully about an hour each, but some days are shorter, others longer. The idea of 3 blocks is also so that I can change it up a bit. For instance, if block 3 keeps getting missed then I just make it the first block for a couple of days.

Next, I use Homeschool Tracker Plus to keep track of lesson plans and daily tasks. I love how it has become easier and easier to use as I have child 2 and 3 use lesson plans I have already created and used for child 1. It takes a while to get in your groove with it but it has been worth its purchase price and the discussion group is priceless for help.

Now, down to the workbox system. I have used crates for each boy for a while. Usually though they just end up a mess of loose pages and a ring binder that doesn't get used. I also try to give them each a pencil case with pencils, sharpener and eraser for their crate. Their maths workbook goes in there but basically my crate is stacked full of all the books needed for the week. Not a very easy system for them to see what they need to do, and quite frankly overwhelming for me too.

I am now adding plastic envelopes to each box with a number on the front. Each boy has a different colour envelope set up and different little race cars to match.

Then I have created a page for each school block.

The first column will have either a race car with a number to match the folder number or a picture for an activity like snack, game, play outside etc. If Science, Art, History or Music don't need a folder for any paperwork then I can also put a little card in the appropriate spot so they know what is coming. If there is a colouring page or mapwork etc to be done then I will just use a folder number. The "Mum?" column will indicate if they will need me to help with the activity. And the final column is where the little car ends up when the folder is completed.

The folders are see-through and expand out so I will be able to fit in their heftier books and they can also see what is coming. I won't be putting snacks in them though as can be done with the clear shoe boxes. To be more true to Sue Patrick's system the boys will then put their completed folder into a "Done" box for me to empty out, correct and refill. This is an important part of the visual aspect of seeing the amount of work needing to be done diminishing as folders disappear. The goal for each day is to empty out their crate.

Each child has an appropriate number of folders for the level of work they do. This is a variation on Sue's system. Also my sheets for the school blocks will have much more detail than her system of just cards. I can fill these in from my HST report of daily tasks for each child and just leave the workbooks in their folders.

If a child needs my help I will also clip a card to the folder so it is a visual reminder if they miss it on their sheet.

I hope to let the kids keep track of their block sheets but if the baby gets into them I will put them in a communal magazine binder for them to take out as needed then return.

When I get my digital camera working again I will post more pictures on how this looks in real life.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

A couple of updates

Well, thankfully the car squeak of last week was just the noises of an old car. They greased it and sprayed lubricant into bits needing it. And all for the great price of Nothing! Wasn't that great?

School has had a little pause while I take into account how my children are coping with the way I am doing things. A little assessment every now and then is a good thing. I have realised that my non-readers (8yo and 5yo) still like to have a list of sorts for the day. I have created a similar system to a workbox system and will post more about it in a separate post.

Financially I have been able to not go into my next week's shopping money early. I do hate how I would always be behind before the week even started. I am going to keep working on this. I know some serious menu planning is required to keep me on track. And also keeping up with my prep work so if the baby is upset around dinner time others can handle getting the meal on the table.

Not being prepared and not having a clean kitchen have been my two biggest hurdles for eating physically and financially healthy meals. The other day we spent $40 on Domino's for pizzas and pasta. What a waste! It has definitely inspired me to put together my own fast meals for the freezer. One idea is frozen cooked chicken meat, frozen homemade tomato basil sauce, fresh cooked pasta from the fridge, and some freshly cut vegetables like mushrooms, tomato and capsicum. I am also wondering about cutting vegetables up ahead of time for salads and keeping them separate until meal time.

Well, that is all for now,
Jen in Oz

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spelling tests are challenging for me too!

I use AVKO Sequential Spelling for my 11yo. Today was not "fun". After having my hand held for several tests I am now having to create my own sentences. Ack! What do they think they are asking of a mother of 4 boys who generally has one bouncing around, one sitting in front of the television too much and another using the aforementioned mother as a mobile milk bar while she is trying to administer a test to a child who really would rather be somewhere else?

Needless my poor addled brain could not think of a sentence with "ins"! And a lot of the other sentences were mostly about food (need to go grocery shopping) and misbehaving children.

If anyone can tell me they use the word ins regularly I would love to hear about it.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happenings in Our Home

Well, I hated the dentist visit. I panicked a little when he put the rubber shield around the tooth he needed to work on. I never realised how much I breathe through my mouth. He even had to coach me at one stage to breathe calmly through my nose. I can breathe through my nose, it just feels like I can't because my sinuses are usually fairly clogged up. Afterwards my ribs and my back hurt. Even now on Thursday evening I am having lingering tension in my back.

My next appointment will be towards the end of March and will be 90 minutes so he can get started on two upper teeth needing root canal work. I am really going to have to remember to take my sinus medications and maybe even take my MP3 player. In the past the distractions of movies or music have helped me to stay calm during dental work.

In Brisbane 18 years ago I was lucky to find a dentist in Clayfield who had a TV screen up high on the wall and over the several visits I had to get 3 root canals done I watched Pirates of Penzance several times. In fact I saw the beginning so often I had to ask them to fast forward for my last few appointments so I could see the ending. I don't think you often hear laughter from a dentist's room when root canal treatment is happening. lol

I really wish that I could find a dentist with the same sort of facilities for this next batch of work. Even if I had to pay extra it would be worth it for the decrease in stress. Well, I guess a MP3 player will just have to do.

We did well with school stuff today. We got school block 1 done in good time, then took a break. The boys found a great geology show on the ABC so I let them watch that instead of doing our 2nd block of school. The 3rd block of school disappeared into me watching NCIS. Ack! Really shouldn't watch TV or get on the computer during the day.

This evening I had dramas with boys not wanting to eat what I intended to cook for dinner. I do not appreciate ungratefulness and I blew my top. They had toast and cereal for dinner and straight to bed. One did ask Dad to tell me they were sorry for not saying thank you and for complaining about all the meals. (Guess who, Mum, if you are reading this!)

I have to drop the car into a mechanic tomorrow to be checked over. Seems we have a squeak in our suspension. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a big drama.

Well, it is past 10pm so it had better be bed time for me.

Jen in Oz

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Planning for Better Days

I have been trying to figure out why my days don't go to plan. I have worked hard over the years to figure out a loose sort of routine/schedule/flow to my days that would cover everything being done regularly yet still have freedom to follow bunny trails with the kids.

Tonight as I was putting the kids to bed an hour later than I really would like them to be in bed (as usual) I was considering all the things that conspire to the boys going to sleep later than is healthy for them and me and my marriage. A scene from the movie Cool Runnings popped into my head where the leader of the team was studying a set of photos the night before the last race. He was sitting on the floor looking at each photo and moving his body to match what he should do at that curve.

I have read many books about motivation in my life (love Og Mandino especially) and one common theme is that to make changes in our lives it first needs to happen in our minds before it can happen in our physical world. It is not enough that I have made these great plans and I have even prayed over them many times to fine tune them. The reason I have not implemented them successfully is this: I have not been imagining (picturing myself) successfully implementing them. If anything when I look at my schedule I feel weighed down and feel that I will never manage to do it all.

The idea is to imagine it happening, picture each event happening in good order and feel the peace that comes from having a plan. If I add emotion to my imaginings it engages more parts of the brain and it wants to recreate the good feeling so it makes the visualised events happen in reality so that the good feeling can be experienced again.

I am going to sit down with my schedule and nightly go through it, just like the leader in Cool Runnings, picturing in my mind's eye the work I will do and feeling the attitude of busy-ness yet peace I will have when my days run to (or at least close to) my plan. I will also visualise myself reacting calmly to interuptions side-tracks and bunny trails, and will remind myself that I can get back on track again. I will remind myself that I am at home to serve my family in God's way, not to serve my home in my way.

Where's the Reset button?

I wish life had a reset button. It seems that everything just piles up like crazy when I have Mama MIA days.

Today I would love to just get on with a "normal" Monday but the dishes piled up over the weekend and while I did manage to get last week's washing folded and put away, there is still a good basketful of dirty washing needing to be done. I also had a 2 hour "cat nap" on Sunday afternoon due to too many late nights. Argh! This whole idea of doing what I want without thought to the "need to's" of life bites me where it hurts later.

It looks like it will be a day of just getting everything back to rights. I have a big list of things to do. I know each doesn't take much time, but just doing it will make things flow much easier for the rest of the week. The "troops" can help.

I am a little annoyed though because I knew this week was going to be a 4 day week as it was because I have a dental appointment on Wednesday afternoon and that morning was already going to be busy. Now I will just have to adjust to the idea of it being a 3 1/2 day week.

Oh well, life rolls on.

Best wishes

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Mama MIA" real school days

I have been inspired after reading a friend's post about a "real" day homeschooling to describe my day to this point.

I woke up a little late with a headache and just haven't been able to kick it. Despite wanting to just hide in my room and watch NCIS and NCIS LA all day I am sitting here planning our next few weeks in HST+. So far today I have asked my eldest to do his maths, but oh no, apparently talking to his dad on the computer has been more important. I think he did do some of the worksheet but I am not up for cajoling (nagging leading to yelling) with this headache so it will probably still be unfinished until tomorrow.

Luckily for me meals here can be pretty self sufficient, especially when we have lots of leftovers. I always recommend having fruit, yoghurt, milk (for bowls of cereal) and bread in the house. Those, along with cold cooked pasta, seem to keep us going on those days when Mama is off with the fairies for whatever reason.

The weather here alternates between muggy and rain so I can't send the boys out to play. Normally they play lots in the dirt and on the trampoline on "Mama MIA" days. Today instead they are watching way too much TV. Thankfully it is a non-commercial station, but still I do feel guilty on these days.

I have in the past felt guilty for these "Mama MIA" days but we have been doing really well lately and I am sure we will get back on track again. It seems to me that being conscious of having a bad day and just rolling with it helps to make sure they don't linger into weeks.

Hoping your bad days don't turn into weeks,
Jen in Oz

PS One big bit of advice - be nice! It isn't the kids' fault your mood is not good. If you are nice they are actually more likely to give you more of the peace and quiet you need.