Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

06 November 2011

Studying Through Open University

Hi Everyone,
I came across a fantastic article written by Sharee Cordes about studying through Open University as an alternative to SACE. I found it incredibly inspiring, and have over time gleaned a lot of information from Sharee's wisdom and experience.
This was published in Otherways Magazine, a valuable, affordable resource for natural learning families. Sharee has just started her own blog at
oflifeandart.wordpress.com
and will definately be worth checking out. So, here's the article, enjoy.....

Image result for teen studying at computer
I think it all started for us when Jayden became interested in linguistics. I was searching on the internet for some way to help him find out more about linguistics when I came across the Open Universities Australia website. Unfortunately they don’t offer any undergraduate linguistics subjects, but there were so many other interesting sounding subjects on the list, so I suggested to Jayden that he might like to have a look at what was available. Jayden was 14 at this time, and I thought that I would like him to get an idea of what options were out there for tertiary study.

He became quite enthusiastic when looking through the list of Open University subjects as well, and decided he would like to attempt one. He chose one from the list of recommended first subjects – Introduction to Human Geography, which was offered by Curtin University. One of our considerations when choosing this subject was the assessment requirements; this subject required 2 long essays but no exams, which we thought sounded achievable for Jayden.
The next step was to do his enrollment, which was online and easy, and to buy his text book, which was expensive, about $120. Soon he received his study materials in the mail and started work.
Open Universities state the each subject requires about 10 hours of study time per week, and we found that this was about right. There was a lot of reading involved, mostly from the text book and readings that had been sent to Jayden.
The biggest challenge was obviously completing the essays! The first part of this challenge was finding resources. I helped Jayden quite a bit with this, as it required searching catalogues on the internet and having libraries send books to us (we are in the country). Jayden used some web sites as resources, but it is really important to use books as well.
Next came writing the actual essays. Jayden has grown up as a natural learner, he had limited essay writing experience; however his experience on our homeschoolers debating team had set him up beautifully for this. He was able to apply what he had learnt when writing his debating speeches to plan and write his essays. The hardest and most stressful part for Jayden was referencing, as he had no experience of this, and we knew that it was very important. Soon after he finished this study, we got the new version of Microsoft Word which actually makes referencing very easy!
After a few very late nights Jayden completed his essays, and his subject, and received a very good mark.
Our overall feelings about this experience were very positive. Jayden found the subject to be really interesting and enjoyed the opportunity to research areas that interested him in great depth. We had some very stressful days when he was writing his essays, but I think a lot of the stress was due to not really knowing what was expected (especially in regards to referencing), and also due to not allowing enough time to get the resources sent. I am sure that next time will be a lot less stressful because we will be old hands!
Jayden is very keen to continue studying at University level. We believe that if students have completed four subjects through Open Universities they are able to apply for entry to a regular university course (although we plan to do more research to confirm this), so Jayden hopes to get into University this way.
We decided that although Jayden had the ability to study at this level at 14 we didn’t see any need for him to be under this pressure at such a young age, so he has put off further studies until next year.
We feel that Open Universities Australia is a great option for homeschooled students who have good thinking and writing skills and are keen to study subjects that interest them at a higher level.

Some facts about Open Universities Australia

  • Open Universities Australia is an organisation that offers university subjects from fifteen leading Australian universities and colleges to the general public on a user pays basis. These are regular university subjects, the same as students enrolled in full university courses would be studying and can be used as part of a university qualification.
  • Subjects are studied externally using the Internet and resources that are mailed to you. There are over 700 subjects to choose from.
  • The minimum age for studying through Open Universities is 11 and there are no entry requirements for first year undergraduate subjects (although some more advanced subjects may have prerequisites.)
  • There are four study periods in the year beginning in March, June, September and December and each subject goes for about 13 weeks.
  • They offer Unilearn bridging units in areas such as mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics for people who wish to improve their skills before attempting a University subject in these areas.
  • They also offer free Quickskills modules which give students information about things like time management and preparing for exams.
  • There is a list of recommended first units for people who are just beginning University studies.
  • Subjects cost between $610 and about $850 (less for Unilearn subjects). Fee Help is a scheme that may be accessed to help pay for this.
  • A student enrolled in two subjects is considered to be a full time university student.
  • Students are issued with a student card
  • For more information, visit the website www.open.edu.au

Update 2010

Back in 2008 I wrote a story for Otherways about the experience of having our teenager studying subjects through Open Universities Australia. At the time I wrote…
“We believe that if students have completed four subjects through Open Universities they are able to apply for entry to a regular university course (although we plan to do more research to confirm this), so Jayden hopes to get into University this way.”
Well, I just wanted to write and let everyone know that it works! Jayden was offered a place in the Bachelor of Arts at MacQuarie University in Sydney back in December – before the year 12 school students even had their exam results – and today he was also offered a place at Melbourne University in the first round of offers.
Jayden went on to study a total of five subjects through Open Univerisities. We were told by a student advisor at Melbourne University that he could apply there with only four subjects, but as places were quite competitive, he had a better chance if he had six. We were also told that because they have an English pre-requisite, Melbourne Uni would need to look at his subjects to ensure that one of them would meet this requirement (they could not tell us which subjects would do this though). Because of this advice, Jayden decided to study ‘Introduction to English’ as one of his Open University subjects – this proved to be his most difficult subject so far!
Completing five subjects through Open Universities was hard work for Jayden, he only did one subject at a time, except for the last study period when he did two, but this still seemed to take a large part of his day (although we still managed to fit in plenty of homeschool camps!). One thing that he found quite hard was that there was no break between subjects, he would finish one subject on Friday and start the next one on Monday, so he was really ready for a break by the time he finished. However, it was certainly preferable to the hard slog that we see so many year 12 students doing, and the advantage is that he has already completed the first semester of his degree.
When Jayden applied for the courses, he just filled out the regular application form. He didn’t say anything about his homeschooling background on the form, relying solely on his University results. The offer from MacQuarie actually came before the results for his final two subjects had been released, so they have offered him the place based on the results of only three subjects.
For Jayden, and I’m sure for many other homeschoolers who wish to go to University, this is a great option – I am still amazed that it worked so well!
I hope that this will help other students to find a path that works for them too.
Wishing you all the best with your homeschooling journey,
Sharee Cordes
Back in 2008 I wrote a story for Otherways about the experience of having our teenager studying subjects through Open Universities Australia. At the time I wrote…
“We believe that if students have completed four subjects through Open Universities they are able to apply for entry to a regular university course (although we plan to do more research to confirm this), so Jayden hopes to get into University this way.”
Well, I just wanted to write and let everyone know that it works! Jayden was offered a place in the Bachelor of Arts at MacQuarie University in Sydney back in December – before the year 12 school students even had their exam results – and today he was also offered a place at Melbourne University in the first round of offers.
Jayden went on to study a total of five subjects through Open Univerisities. We were told by a student advisor at Melbourne University that he could apply there with only four subjects, but as places were quite competitive, he had a better chance if he had six. We were also told that because they have an English pre-requisite, Melbourne Uni would need to look at his subjects to ensure that one of them would meet this requirement (they could not tell us which subjects would do this though). Because of this advice, Jayden decided to study ‘Introduction to English’ as one of his Open University subjects – this proved to be his most difficult subject so far!
Completing five subjects through Open Universities was hard work for Jayden, he only did one subject at a time, except for the last study period when he did two, but this still seemed to take a large part of his day (although we still managed to fit in plenty of homeschool camps!). One thing that he found quite hard was that there was no break between subjects, he would finish one subject on Friday and start the next one on Monday, so he was really ready for a break by the time he finished. However, it was certainly preferable to the hard slog that we see so many year 12 students doing, and the advantage is that he has already completed the first semester of his degree.
When Jayden applied for the courses, he just filled out the regular application form. He didn’t say anything about his homeschooling background on the form, relying solely on his University results. The offer from MacQuarie actually came before the results for his final two subjects had been released, so they have offered him the place based on the results of only three subjects.
For Jayden, and I’m sure for many other homeschoolers who wish to go to University, this is a great option – I am still amazed that it worked so well!
I hope that this will help other students to find a path that works for them too.
Wishing you all the best with your homeschooling journey,
Sharee Cordes
FYI the Open University website is comprehensive and easy to navigate, Cynthia x

12 September 2011

Book Review - The Value Tales Series

Hi Everyone,

I want to share with you a delightful series of books we have discovered recently. The series is called The Value Tales , written by Spencer Johnson M.D.

These books present a range of historical figures who display particular gifts. Some volumes are: The Value of Determination - Helen Keller, The Value of Believing in Yourself - Louis Pasteur, The Value of Understanding - Margaret Mead, and so on.

Besides the obvious effect of teaching history (Society and Environment), these books have opened up a valuable opportunity for discussions on topics such as gender equality (Fairness - Nellie Bly), honesty, protective behaviours (Truth and Trust - Conchise) in a relaxed, child friendly format.

Personally I believe in the necessity of deliberately discussing values with children. Not in forcing our own ideas and opinions down their throats, but in the gentle illumination of how our actions and assumptions may affect others within our immediate circle and in a wider, global sense.

Tolerance for others and an ability to see beyond our own situation can be very empowering and can be a lesson learned hard if not nurtured carefully in childhood.

The series is inexpensive to buy online as it was written in the 1970's. I find the retro illustrations charming, and is hardcover A4 size. The language is simple and engaging, and each volume has an imaginary character who conveys extra information to the reader without lecturing..very cleverly done.

If you would like to buy the series, click on the link above, or visit Australian Used Homeschool Books for your copy (last time I checked they had some available).

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

07 September 2011

Book Review - And the Skylark Sings with Me


Hi Everyone,

Today I'm reviewing And the skylark sings with me: Adventures in Homeschooling and Community-Based Eduction, written by veteran homeschooler David H.Albert
.

Albert and his partner have raised seven homeschooled children between them, and have a strong belief in the value of community involvement for a whole homeschooling experience. With a foreword by Joseph Chilton Pearce of The Magical Child, and reviews by John Taylor Gatto (Dumbing Us Down) and Patrick Farenga (Growing Without Schooling, Learning Without Schooling and Teach Your Own: Revised Edition), this is an unschooling classic.

Albert's passion for providing a rich, individualised experience for his children's education is apparent. He generously shares his family's experience as Ali and Meera embark on their journey through learning. He freely admits the financial restrictions they experienced as homeschoolers and how he and his partner worked in partnership with the children to afford resources such as musical instruments, lessons, concerts, a telescope etc.I found this realism comforting and felt inspired by the tenacity and inventiveness displayed by these children who have a strong desire to learn and a willingness to work toward solutions to make this happen.

Surely this is what education is about: instilling a passion in the learner, leading to a lifelong habit of self-directed learning and fulfillment of goals. To me, this is surely more useful than an ability to memorise and recite facts that others deem important yet have little meaning to the learner on a personal level.

The ability of the author to see the appealing and not so appealing habits of intelligent, confident learners caused me to smile in recognition on several occasions. One example he cites on page 60 of the book follows:

Ali developed the somewhat annoying habit of correcting scientific or other misinformation offered by others within her earshot, whether these corrections were solicited or no, and it took some doing on our part to at least tone down if not cure her of the habit.

This experience is all too familiar in our home, and I find his down-to-earth account of living with children who are passionate learners charming in it's refusal to romanticise the unschooling journey.

In my opinion, And the Skylark Sings with Me is one of the most useful, accessible books on natural learning around. It is intelligent, thoughtful, without pretense, and I will revisit many times over the years when I need inspiration.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

03 September 2011

Egyptian Celebration

Hi Everyone,

Well, a lot has been happening at our house....we're planning a Party to celebrate completing the section on Ancient Egypt in our Story of the World studies. We are in the process of making a stencil of hieroglyphics to print onto a roll of paper to decorate the house for the party.

We are also working on ideas for party activities such as creating pyramids from sugar cubes, weet bix, and whatever cubes or oblong shapes we can find..someone suggested lamingtons but that really is a bit of an ask...to sacrifice a yummy Australian icon for the sake of a game...I think not!

In addition we are looking at Egyptian recipes and have come up with various filled wraps (felafel, meat with lots of spices, tabouli, hommous etc), rice dishes such as basic Egyptian Rice (Ruz Mefalfel) and Rice with Beef and Nuts (Ruz bel khalta). For dessert we will feast on an Egyptian Sweet Couscous Dessert and a Spicy Egyptian Chocolate Cake.

The Mummification Process of our apples and chicken experiments are going along nicely.... the control apple is decimated and the preserved apples are in varying states of hydration. The chicken specimen is well preserved and our next step is to smother it in fragrant oils and wrap it in a bandage like an Ancient Egyptian Pharoah would have been. It's all very exciting.....

We've also had another Ed Department Review. Alexandra wrote her own review and I was impressed at the amount of self-directed tasks she has managed to achieve throughout the year. I take this as another reminer to trust our children to learn what they need, when they need to. As long as Alexandra continues to motivate herself and extend her learning in the direction of her passions, I am totally comfortable with whatever she chooses to do next. Alexandra has mentioned that she would like to attend a Secondary College next year, so perhaps that was her final review ever and we have almost completed the homeschooling journey of our first child ....an interesting thought!

For Jay's review, because of his age (6 yo) and learning style, I included photos with relatively concise explanations rather than loads of writing in our documentation. This still allowed me to expand on the reasons behind various activities and answer any pertinent questions the reviewer asked.

Another change is that Jay has started going to Scouts. This has provided him with such a variety of activities that over the past month he has covered society and environment (disabilty awareness week activities), health and physical education (camping), science (studies of marine life)...I could go on, just in that 1 & 1/2 hr window once a week.




I also appreciate that this is a larger group environment with volunteer leaders who run the show. This situation will allow him in short snatches to get along as part of a group, sit and listen when required, wear a uniform (which he adores), and to generally do the sitting down and concentrating thing. I think that in their place, these are valuable life and social lessons, and can add to a young child's image of who they can be in different environments. It's also quite outdoorsy and community minded which I think is beneficial. Anyway, that's the Scouts promo finished with :)

Cynthia x

31 July 2011

The Poetry of Oscar Wilde


Hi Everyone, and welcome to Monday's Poetry Paradise.

Today I am sharing the poetry of Oscar Wilde. Born in Ireland in 1856, Wilde is widely known for writing stories and plays and fairytales, full of irony and sharp social observation. His poetry appears to be not so widely read, and is worth visiting, I think.

Wilde's poetry, in my opinion, demonstrates the same social awareness of his other mediums, with an added depth and reverence for humanity, life, death and the beauty he discovered in his travels around the world.


The tenderness with which he writes of Italy in particular is evocative of warmth and beauty, as evidenced in the piece:


Madonna Mia


A lily-girl, not made for this world's pain,


With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,


And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears


Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:


Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,


Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,


And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,


Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.


Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,


Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,


Being o'ershadowed by the wings of awe,


Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice


Beneath the flaming Lion's breast and saw


The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.


Oscar Wilde


The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a poem detailing the grim reality of life in a Victorian prison. Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol during his 30's, and died not long after his release. Following is an excerpt:





With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devils' Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.


We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.


We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.


So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.


With yawning mouth the horrid hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalt ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
Some prisoner had to swing.


Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And each man trembled as he crept
Into his numbered tomb.


Oscar Wilde


This comment on the prison system of the time is self explanatory, and demonstrates the power of Wilde's genius and versatility as one of the greatest writers of his time.


Cynthia Marston

09 July 2011

Mummifying Stuff

Hi Everyone,


Today we got the mummification process started on 5 apples and some chicken.


Pete, Jay and Freida peeled and cored the apples needed for the experiment to see which salt compound (bicarbonate of soda, sodium carbonate or table salt: individually and combinations of each) mummifies most effectively. Plus one control specimen with no preservative at all.


There was loads of mess....apple peels, cores and salts everywhere, but it was loads of fun, very hands on. Looking at and comparing the results will be interesting.


The chicken experiment was much more straightforward as we are not doing a comparison (couldn't stomach a control specimen after several weeks for that one!!!!).


We cleaned and salted the chicken.....just a few pieces for a science experiment here, wasn't keen to use a whole perfectly good chook that we wouldn't be eating :)


We will change the salt once a week or so and then embalm the flesh with oils and herbs from our garden....will keep you posted.


Besides that, we have been using the Family Math book, which is really useful. We have been doing some concrete numeracy exercises using household objects such as egg cartons and beans, and paper with dots.


The examples I've included are simply encouraging your child to put the corresponding number of beans (or whatever) in each cup of the egg carton (total 72 counters) as a basis of future exercises with number. The dots are for one to one correspondence and you remove the dots once the child is comfortable and place the counters onto blank paper.


Jay found the exercises easy and will move on next time, and Freida enjoyed a feeling of achievement, both finished their maths games happy and wanting to do more :)



We have also been using Silly Sentences by DK books. The children are having a lot of fun, and it is a good way to expose them to grammatical rules and reinforcing sentence structure while remaining creative.


This game not overly expensive, but if you would like a more personalized free version you can make at home, I discovered one
here at DLTK's Growing Together site.


Finally, a bit of an Oh Dear moment when Jay constructed a flying fox for our poodle....I was torn between commending his ingenuity and basic safety...so hopefully I covered both in the chat we had when I came across this one...gotta love those freerange homeschooling kids!

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

04 July 2011

Update on Egyptian Mummification Project...

Oh, an update on the mummification process, Jay, my 6 year old now wants to mummify a chicken as well as an apple. Not sure how I feel about this one, but can see the value of the exercise so will give it a go and keep you posted.....

Spike Milligan's Silly Verse for Kids.


Hi Everyone,

Time for Bluebell Books fortnightly poetry review.... time flies!
Today I'm looking at Spike Milligan's Silly Verse for Kids.

This book of verse is tightly written, irreverant, brilliant and as promised, very, very silly.


Spike Milligan is one of those staples of children's verse that I find never fails to cheer. His style is totally unique in it's blend of wisdom around the human condition and absolute craziness.


This combination in Milligan's poetry, along with it's lack of pretense or the sometimes caustic worldliness of other talented writers such as Roald Dahl is foolproof in getting people of all ages to
have a giggle.


A sample of poems from Silly Verse for Kids are:


Said the General


Said the General of the Army,
'I think that war is barmy'
So he threw away his gun:
Now he's having much more fun.

(Page 21)


Failure


I'm trying to write the longest first line that poetry has ever had,

For a start that wasn't bad,
Now here comes a longer oneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I know I cheated:
It was the only way I could avoid being defeated.

(Page 53)


Mary Pugh

Mary Pugh
Was nearly two
When she went out of doors.
She went out standing up she did
But came back on all fours.
The moral of the story
Please meditate and pause:
Never send a baby out
With loosely waisted draws.

(Page 13)


There's definately nothing else like it!

Cynthia Marston.

26 June 2011

Ancient Egypt and Cafe Stuff




Hi Everyone,


We've been looking at Egypt for Story of the World and we made a display table complete with a 3D ancient Egyptian temple kindly lent to us by a friend, a crepe paper river Nile and grassy banks, domestic animals, and a playdough pyramid.


It all looks great, and our next project is mummifying an apple. I found a really cool experiment with the Museum of Australia where there are five controlled pieces of apple with a range of variables which you can record on a table and note differences in preservation, weight etc if you wish. This will give a fair understanding of the mummification process in practical terms, and is preferable (to me and my kids) to the 'mummification of a chicken' also recommended.


We looked at the detail and symbolism in the painting above in a fantastic book called Masterpieces in Detail. There are key pieces in this well known painting which are missing or hinted at that give a very clear picture of its context within Ancient Egyptian culture (hunting, hierarchy, tradition etc) which I learned about from reading the detailed account in this book ....fascinating!


I've come across some Ancient Egyptian paper dolls, an
Egyptian Cinderella story book, stencils and stickers at the Book Depository which the kiddies can enjoy when they arrive...will keep you posted.







Oh, an update on Alexandra's Cafe Project....
she is still studying business maths, as well as researching recipes and food preparation for the project. She's also decided to organise and host a Cafe Day at our house....I'll be on staff for dishes etc..of course :)

Lex will create a menu with a couple of options for food and drink, set up the house as a cafe would look, and serve her guests with a smile.



She practised on us yesterday with a toasted sandwich for dinner and spiced Vienna Coffee with home baked sponge and cream for dessert...I'm certainly enjoying this experience!!


Will update you on how the day goes with some pics of Lex's gorgeous creations.


Talk Soon, Cynthia x

20 June 2011

Book Review - Unconditional Parenting


Hi Everyone,
Today I am reviewing Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting.
Kohn has written over 12 books and many articles including
Punished by Rewards and Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community. He has been a long time advocate for limiting standardized testing and empowering children in their relationships by treating them with respect through loving, authentic interactions.
Unconditional Parenting was the first of Kohn's books that I read and I freely admit that it turned my assumptions around children and parenting upside down.

Kohn proposes that rewards and praise are a way to manipulate children to comply to our agenda for them.

My interpretation of Kohn's message in this book is that with love, we traditionally assume that offering praise will cause a child to
do the right thing. However, Kohn believes that children are naturally pre-disposed to make healthy choices (most of the time) if we trust them and deal honestly with them in a manner appropriate to their age.

For example, if a child paints a picture of a building, rather than give a value judgement such as
'wow, what a great picture' (whether the child has invested a lot of effort or very little), we could share a genuine appreciation for the work such as....'I like how this building contrasts with the sky', or simply hang up the painting and allow the child to draw his/her own conclusions about their work.

An experience I had at our local playground shortly after I read Unconditional Parenting gave me an amusing reminder of the concept of
overpraising to the degree that children cease to rely on their own perceptions of the world. The mother of a toddler was pushing her child on the baby swing and each time the child swung back she would say 'good swinging'...I almost felt like patting this loving mother on the back and chiming in 'good pushing' as she was doing all the work, and I know I have done similar things with good intentions many times.

This experience allowed me a really clear picture of how we as parents can train our children to require positive feedback to feel that they're doing an okay job, rather than being self-referencing and secure as individuals.

Another important facet of this book is that children flourish when they are secure in the
knowledge that they are loved unconditionally. Kohn alleges that while we assume that because we feel unconditional love for our children, they will automatically know this as the truth, this is not always the case. Unless we relate our enduring love to our children verbally and with our actions, they may assume we only love them as long as they meet our approval.

This surprised me, and I wasn't convinced at first. However, since I have been employing the statement
'I love you and will always love you no matter what....and now let's look at what happened' at the beginning of many significant discussions, I am experiencing an incredible shift in the energy of my interactions with our children. Immediately the child knows they are safe in my love, and need not be on the defensive, allowing issues to be resolved much more quickly and smoothly.
I will add here that unconditional parenting does
not mean allowing children to do whatever they wish, whenever they wish. It does not mean allowing our children to disrespect others or run the household. It means not withdrawing our love and approval in an effort to change their behaviour, but working for a respectful exchange of wishes which are resolved in a win/win capacity for all parties.

Personally I really enjoyed reading
Unconditional Parenting, even though it challenged a few paradigms for me and gave me a bit of a jolt initially :) I believe that by following it's basic principles, I now enjoy a much more relaxed and enriched relationship with my family and feel extremely grateful for this.

Talk Soon Cynthia x
Hi Everyone,

Another poetry book review, this time by Roger Housden. I just loved this book for its insight and warmth.....enjoy :)

Today I am reviewing Ten Poems to Change Your Life by author and poet Roger Housden. Published in 2003, this book is a collection of poems that have been significant to the author, but all are much more than that. These poems, beginning with the transformational poem
The Journey by Mary Oliver (following) are powerful, moving.....

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend by life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Gradually the poems and Housden's critique of each lead the reader from the beginning of the life journey to the end with insight and a connectedness that allows you to relate the verse to your own life experience

Other poets featured include Antonio Machado, Walt Whitman, Rumi, Kabir, Pablo Neruda, Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin and Derek Walcott, and a brief biography of each is included.

Subsequent publications by Housden include Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again and Again
(2007) Chasing Rumi: A Fable About Finding the Heart's True Desire details are available on his website.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

12 June 2011

Parenting Article "I Want It Now!"

Hi Everyone,

Following is a parenting article I found thought provoking, so I'm sharing it with you :)

Written by Scott Noelle, it proposes that while we often demand patience and acquiescence in our children, we don't always employ a lot of patience ourselves. Interesting reading which encourages us as parents to think about the choices we make in our interactions with children....

The inner process of creating requires two things: asking and receiving.

People often fail to get in a receiving mode because of its paradoxical nature. To receive what you want, you must be free not to have it. The longer you're willing to wait, the sooner it will come.

If your child is complaining about not having what s/he wants right now, s/he's stuck in the asking mode. Ironically, parents often exacerbate the problem by saying or thinking essentially the same thing: "I want the complaining to stop NOW!"

To help your child get in a receiving mode, model it: get in your own receiving mode about your child's receiving mode! :) How? Simply imagine your child happily anticipating the fulfillment of his or her desire.

As you deliberately enjoy that vision (even if your child is still complaining), you become the change you wish to see.

And when you demonstrate the receiving mode often, your child will eventually fall into it with you — naturally and willingly.

By Scott Noelle

Scott Noelle is a father of two, parenting coach, and the author of The Daily Groove: How to Enjoy Parenting... Unconditionally! Through his website, www.enjoyparenting.com, Scott offers a variety of inspiring and practical resources for leading-edge parents.


Copyright (c) by Scott Noelle. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted With Permission.

And for more on conscious parenting....next post I will review Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

10 June 2011

Finding A Rhythm In Homeschooling

Hi Everyone,

I've been thinking about routines as a homeschooling family and how valuable (and rare) it is to follow the natural rhythms of life, especially in our results driven society.

One of the hardest things for me to do when I first withdrew Alexandra from school over 5 years ago was to slow down and enjoy our time together. I loved being with my children, it's just that I felt an external pressure to achieve something....even now I'm not sure what that something was :)

Since then I have realised that the external pressure I felt to conform was actually self-imposed and came from a lack of trust in myself as educator and my children as learners. It took me a while to realise that children generally self-regulate their own learning and social life.

My constant worry that we weren't achieving enough academically and socially was actually working against us finding our natural rhythm as a family. My own children continue to teach me this lesson in trust every day by continuing to be passionate learners and socially content.


Once I read a bit about homeschooling and had gained enough experience through living, talking about and observing the homeschooling life, I felt ready to relax into things a bit. Immediately I became less stressed and less inclined to indulge in 'external referencing' and much more willing to enjoy the time doing what my children and I enjoyed doing rather than tailoring our days to fit into someone else's expectations (real or perceived!)

Nowadays I feel extremely grateful that we have a much enriched family life as a result of homeschooling. We enjoy both structured and free time, and we go out socially a couple of times a week. This combination works for our family. Some people choose more structure, free time, more or less socialising, it just depends on where preferences lie as a family unit.

We worked out our own routine (such as it is) pretty organically, and things run quite smoothly for us. The children have enough time for exploring the yard, collecting chicken's eggs, helping me to bake, drawing, writing or just sitting and watching a butterfly flutter amongst the lavender.

Sometimes by the second or third day at home the kids are starting to snap at one another and we need to get out to 'blow away the cobwebs'. We invariably come home recharged and ready to relax into our natural rhythm again.


Depending on the nature of the outing, the children may be excited to extend their knowledge of a subject. One example is Jay's enthusiasm after we visited some local wetlands and collected specimens to view under a microscope ....once we got home he raced straight to his science books and literally sat for hours pouring over them and sketching what he'd seen.

Alternatively, if we go to a park or other outdoor event where the children enjoy climbing, jumping and interacting with their friends, they will generally relish the quiet of home as a sanctuary after a busy day.

All of these experiences are worthwhile and add a wholeness to my children's days as homeschoolers. They are connected within the community and still enjoy their own time to develop personal interests at home, and indeed to find their own natural rhythm in life.


Talk Soon, Cynthia

PICTURE - THE MAP BY MARY CASSATT

08 June 2011

Book Review - Family Math

Hi Everyone,


I've been recommended a book called Family Math for my younger children. Written by Jean Kerr Stenmark et al, and first published in the 1980's, Family Math is full of hands on mathematics ideas for the 5-12 year old.


Topics covered include number, space, measurement, data collection, and the usual contingent of maths subjects, but they are presented as games, experiments and problem solving challenges rather than the usual rote learning and copying out of problems so common in traditional maths programmes.


This book is presented in a way that makes learning relevant and fun. It satisfies the requirements of the Education Department mandates for home education as you work your way through the book, and can support your child's learning even if you just delve into it occasionally for ideas when you're a bit stuck.

Materials required for the activities are those generally available within the average household. Set up time required seems to be minimal for most activities, leaving more time for actively supporting your child in their learning.


I'm off to order my own copy now, hope the kiddies are as impressed with the activities as I am :)


Talk Soon, Cynthia x



06 June 2011

100 British Poets by Selden Rodman


Hi Everyone,

Here's another poetry review I wrote for the Bluebell Books site. I share this poetry book a lot with my children as there's a wide variety of works in here, including lots of yummy Shakespeare....enjoy :)


Today I'm sharing an anthology of poetry edited by poet and critic Selden Rodman. First published in 1974, 100 British Poets covers poetry in England from Chaucer (translated into modern English), through to Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, the Beatles, and most poets of note in between.

In the introduction, Rodman states
I included nothing that failed to pass the test of gut reaction. 'The sound of the axe when it enters living wood.'
And this is evident in the choice of poems chosen. I have been reading this collection for years and every time I pick it up I find either a beautiful piece of work to lose myself in, something challenging or even vengeful, but always superbly crafted and engaging.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy good poetry, and whose tastes range over a number of styles and eras. This book is inexpensive to purchase, and easy to find online.

I will leave you with a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882) from The House of Life:

Silent Noon

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,-
Your finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
'Tis visibile silence, still as the hour-glass.

Deep in the sun-searched growth the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:-
So this wing'd hour is dropped to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When two-fold silence was the song of love.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

04 June 2011

Story Writing


Hi Everyone,

I've mentioned before about how I am finding my way with how to educate Jay, my 6 year old who is predominantly a kinesthetic (tactile) learner. He learns primarily by experiencing the world around him.

Up until now, in addition to playing board games with the family, Jay has copied out letters and words, built words out of Lego, been read copious amounts of story books and readers done some Jolly Phonics all at his own prompting.

I have been really pleased with how motivated he is to learn, and have decided to trust this intrinsic motivation as a guide to which direction to take next. Now he has moved onto another stage of development....story creation.

Jay has been telling detailed stories to us, starting invariably with Once upon a time, then he narrates the plot while he jumps around, uses various character voices (he's got a pretty impressive range), usually the 'good guys' end up defeating the 'bad guys' and ends with: And they lived happily ever after. The End. We record this word for word, he binds the pages with string ("like a real book") and asks us to read his book back to him.

This tells me as his parent that he understands the importance of a beginning, middle and end of a tale. To keep a story interesting you need some twists and turns, and a bit of conflict which is usually resolved in the final paragraph, and character development is crucial...all of which he's pegged.

I take this as a reminder that our children already know how to learn, it's our job to facilitate them where we can and trust them with the rest.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

31 May 2011

Homeschooling with a Teenager



Hi Everyone,


Lately I have been thinking about where to go next with Alexandra's homeschooling journey.


We have been travelling along pretty well with Lex writing and illustrating a creative story which has graduated into the start of a book. Science has been pretty organinc and ongoing due to her own interest in things like nutrition, properties of foodstuffs etc. Design and technology is sorted with cooking, knitting and navigating around the computer, and so on.


What we have been missing is one big project to focus on that ties in all of the aspects of the curriculum......until now. Lex has just decided to begin a project where she can use learning as a way to indulge in her passions of food preparation and starting a business, by setting up a virtual cafe.

This will encompass researching and identifying suitable locations (overhead prices, foot traffic etc), target consumers, advertising (logo/slogans etc), looking at the ethics of deciding which products/models to use, finance (working out loan rates, deposits, forecasts, outlay for furniture, wages, superannuation, tax returns and so on). She will also draw up designs for her dream cafe after thinking about and researching particular features and their practical application.

I see this as an interesting challenge for us both, which carries with it numerous practical applications for when Lex does enter the world of work.

Now to educate myself about business models before I get any of those tricky questions sure to pop up....will keep you posted on our progress :)

Cynthia x

21 May 2011

Poetry Review

Hi Everyone,

I wrote this review for Bluebell Books, but thought I'd share it here. Falling Hard is suitable for older teens, so you may like to have a read through to share what you feel is appropriate as a range of issues are represented by the poets. Other than that, enjoy :) ............

Today I am sharing Falling Hard - 100 Love Poems by Teens edited by Betsy Franco with you.

When I picked up this book of adolescent poetry I was ready to find plenty of intense emotion and declarations of undying love. Instead I found an intriguing mix of vulnerability, honesty, obsession, humour, emotional awakenings and quirky tales. The poems Franco has chosen deal with the complexity of teenage life without weighing the reader down with intensity. The stories strike a palatable balance by dealing with topics such as new love, being stood up, fitting in, crime, acknowledgement of loved ones and lost love in a variety of styles and emotional approaches.

One of my favourite poems from the book is
Pledge of Affection to a Nerd (page 23). Written by 16 year old Laura Tabor, the humour is so mature that I found myself laughing aloud at the affection and subtlety of the verse, just beautiful.

Pledge of Affection to a Nerd
I...
...drift, lazy, on the comforting breeze
as you rhythmically speak
computer jargon.
...can't get over how blue your eyes are:
talking about
Star Wars.
...couldn't be prouder of you as you recite:
forty-seven digits of pi.
...will listen, though I may never understand:
you beat the final level of Escape from Modor!
...want to stay in your arms all evening while you talk about:
ancient war strategy, lunar eclipses, molecules...

whispering sweet algorithms in my ear.

LAURA TABOR
And the short and sweet Love Poem (page 22) by Juan Nunez, age 15...

Love Poem

I am
the flour
to your tortilla,
baby.
JUAN NUNEZ

Personally I felt privileged to get this glimpse into the lives and hearts of these talented individuals. The sensitivity, awareness and humour of so many of these young poets is apparent and blasts many stereotypes surrounding teenagers out of the water.

A rewarding read that I highly recommend.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x