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

28 February 2011

Waldorf Education

Hi Everyone,

Today I will look at Waldorf Education as a possible homeschooling method.The Waldorf Education movement was started by a man called Rudolf Steiner in Austria circa 1920s.
Steiner was employed to teach the children of factory employees, and from this he developed his philosophy of Anthroposophy, which is said to be an enhanced link to the spiritual which can be nurtured in children by a child-centred learning environment.

Steiner believed in teaching the whole child, hence the Head, Heart and Hands Waldorf slogan.

In a Waldorf environment, daily rhythms are strongly encouraged, as are saying verses, singing and many forms of art and creative expression. Wearing natural fibres, eating well and participating in community-based living are all encouraged in Steiner based schools, and a faculty of parents exists in place of a principal.

As a family, we have used some Steiner resources, which tend to be beautifully made, and the stationary supplies are gorgeous, if a bit costly. Reverence for young children and the magic of childhood is quite apparent within the Waldorf curriculum, as is mindfulness in the everyday.

Personally I have found a strictly Waldorf curriculum somewhat formulaic and I feel it requires a lot of dedication to the ritual side of things. Having said that, it is an amazing, worthwhile resource and if you have the desire (and discipline) can be immensely rewarding.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

If you would like to investigate Waldorf Education further you may find these resources helpful:

Darian, Shea. Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day. Gilead Press, 1999. (for infants)

Patterson, Barbara J & Bradley, Pamela. Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven. Michaelmas Press, 2000.

Baldwin Dancey, Rahima. You are your Child's First Teacher: What Parents Can Do with and for Their Children from Birth to Age Six (Early Years). Celestial Arts, 2008.





27 February 2011

Montessori Education

“When dealing with children there is greater need for observing than of probing” Maria Montessori

Hi Everyone,

Today I will give a brief account of the Montessori Method of education....

The Montessori Method was founded by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who began her teaching career caring and advocating for children with special needs in the late ninteenth century. After several years she moved onto teaching a group of impoverished children in the outskirts of Rome. The academic results of these children during her time with them brought her much attention, to which she replied:

Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning...... It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.

(Maria Montessori sourced from http://www.michaelolaf.net/maria.html)

My interpretation of this quote is that Maria Montessori believed that experiencing life is the way to learn, without an effort to remember things children naturally acquire mastery of skills. A lot of Montessori materials are experiential (often manipulatives) and would possibly suit most learning styles.
There is a reverence for the experience of learning with the Montessori method as children are given the opportunity for up to three hours of uninterrupted work in a subject cycle. Academic results for children who have used the Montessori Method are said to be impressive, but this is hard to prove as many children are exposed to a variety of educational models throughout their academic learning years, and other factors need to be taken into account.

Personally I have never used the Montessori Method with my children, although maybe we can look at incorporating some into our Eclectic Mix after doing some research for this post.....

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Some Montessori Resources:




Sunday Scribbling

Here's my Sunday Scribbling for this week....the topic is Fire:


So dark

Can't breathe

Hiss and crackle

Radio static ....10 kilometers away...

Hope slowly eroding, passing...GONE

26 February 2011

Beautiful Birth Festival

Hi Everyone,

The kids and I went to The Beautiful Birth Festival today. It's part of the Fringe, and the aim is to celebrate, honour and revere pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Being a mother of three, a rebirther, and with plans to train as a doula, I have a strong professional interest in safe, supportive birth options for mother and baby....and I was not disappointed. The information provided by professionals
(doulas, midwifes, rebirthers, home birth groups, massage therapists etc) was extensive, without being excessive. It's so exciting to see the changes being made around pregnancy and birth due largely to the committment and hard work of these professionals.

If you are at all interested in pregnancy, birth and parenthood, I would suggest you get along to the 2012 Festival...you'll love it :)

On the subject of birth....I think the correlation between a healthy, attached birthing experience and attached parenting of the older child is quite profound. Properly managed, a healthy newborn will move quietly into the world, remaining with mother after birth. Slowly they adjust to the world around them, taking what they need, and not being pushed out into the world too soon. At his/her own pace, they take tiny steps from the mother toward independence, secure that this person will hold them close as long as they need.

I take this correlation as reassurance that as parents we
instinctively know what our child needs. When I first became a mother, I opted to do what I was told in relation to birth and education choices and ended up feeling invalidated and ill-informed. Once I'd gained more confidence and experience, I realised how gently empowering following my own intuition could be. It makes parenting a whole different experience :)

Talk Soon, Cynthia x


25 February 2011

Classical Learning....What it Means

Hi Everyone,
Since I delved into the joys of natural learning yesterday, I thought I would share a brief account of some other methods of homeschooling over the next few posts....starting with Classical Education.
As the title suggests, Classical Education is about learning as the ancient Greeks did. It consists of three stages called the trivium.
The first stage is called the grammar stage because it's laying the foundations of learning for middle and later schooling. This is done through the learning of facts (phonetic rules, poems, stories, the basics of foreign languages, facts about animals, birds, people etc). This is not seen to be a particularly self-expressive stage, and encompasses children from around 5 to 9 years of age.
The second stage is called the logic stage, because by now most children are ready to ask analytical questions about why things are the way they are, rather than just accepting facts that are presented to them. This stage is seen to be a time when children can use their faculty of logic to critique and evaluate texts, look at reasons behind major historical events, utilise algebraic reasoning and learn the logic of scientific methods. The logic stage encompasses the ages where children begin to think abstractly, so often suits children between the ages of about 10 to 14 years of age.
The final stage for a Classical Education is called the rhetoric stage, and builds on the first two stages. By the rhetoric stage, it is said the student is thinking and expressing themselves with originality and self assurance. At this time, students begin specialising in what they feel is their preferred direction. This may take the form of specific camps, workshops, study trips, whatever suits the individual learner. This stage normally begins at about 15 years of age until the completion of secondary schooling.
(Reference: Susan Wise Bauer: What is Classical Education?)
Jay, Freida and I have just started looking at The Story of the World books by Susan Wise Bauer, and the kids are loving them. We've been interviewing older family members to find out about their childhood experiences. This activity is intended to present history to children in a concrete, relevant form. It was so nice to sit and hear grandparents describe their childhood memories, and the kids got a few giggles when Poppy played up the romance angle of the day he met Nanna...very sweet :)
The language used in the storybook (you can also buy a companion workbook) is really engaging and subtly prompts a desire for more knowledge in the reader/audience. The activies are suited to the various learning stages and I'm excited about delving more into these amazing history books.
As a family we seem to naturally follow the stages described in the trivium. Like most kids I know, my children love learning facts . We read lots of non-fiction and classic material, although the rhetorical (debating) stage tends to start pretty early in our house....sigh.

The literature based aspect of Classical Education could suit us well as we're quite a booky family, although I can't see us following a disciplined Classical approach across all learning areas.That would mean quite a formal approach to learning, which would suit some children beautifully (Alex, my eldest child would adore this type of curriculum), but may clash with the more active child's learning agenda.
Talk Soon, Cynthia x
Some Classical Education resources:
Wise-Bauer, Susan & Wise, Jessie. The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, New Ed. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2009.
Wise Bauer, Susan. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Volume 1: Ancient Times. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2001.

Wise Bauer, Susan.
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Volume 2: The Middle Ages. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2007.

Wise Bauer, Susan.
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Volume 3: Early Modern Times. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2004.
Wise Bauer, Susan. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Volume 4: The Modern Age. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2005.
Wise Bauer, Susan. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Activity Book One: Ancient Times, From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2006.

24 February 2011

A Day of Chasing Stuff & Natural Learning....

Hi Everyone,

Alas, today we didn't build our scarecrow as planned because as often happens with young children a more immediate job came to hand....yabbying!

Jay and Freida found some fishing nets yesterday and woke up wanting to use them.

After catching my angels attempting to catch the chickens, dogs, kittens and our 3 goldfish with said nets, I decided a trip to our local yabby creek was in order. Afterall, needs must and we can always build Mr Scarecrow another day.

As usual the yabbies got away but the kids had loads of fun. I had the task of sitting on the grass under a peppertree to watch them play while listening to the soothing sounds of the creek and birdlife....nice!

Sitting there I recalled a friend and I in the same spot a couple of years ago. After sitting in companionable silence for a while she turned to me and said You know you'll have to use Natural Learning with Jay, don't you? At the time I could see what she meant, and over the years it's become even more apparent to me.

Jay is most comfortable doing stuff. He excels in physical balance and control, creating and problem solving, particularly outside. My friend intrinsically knew he was a kinesthetic learner and learns best by experiencing the world around him. A classroom could cater for his needs but he wouldn't shine the way he does after a day at the creek or in our garden. And I reckon kids should be able to shine at every opportunity.

I'll just make the point here that Natural Learning doesn't mean not doing anything, that's an unfortunate mis-interpretation. To me, Natural Learning is putting yourself in the position where you understand your child well enough, through observation and discussion, to get how they learn best and run with it. It's about trusting your child to want to learn and facillitating that where you can.

For one child this may mean reading loads of history books and writing reports about the intracasies of medieaval battles, and a parent creating learning experiences around that for a while (visual learner). For another it may mean going to a lake, taking out specimens and examining them under a microscope. Recording findings may take the form of an oral presentation, a picture, writing, a model, whatever, when they get home (kinesthetic learner). Another child may love playing an instrument and practice and research music as a large part of their learning programme (audio learner) and so on. All are valuable learning experiences and possible within a homeschooling curriculum.
N/B: Of course, all children learn in a unique way and my generalisations are just to illustrate a point.

Anyway, we all came home tired and grateful for the gorgeous surrrounds we'd been hanging out in. Personally, I feel grateful to have a friend who cared enough for my child to point out to me a way of learning that would allow him to be wholly himself....to shine :)

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Some resources I've found helpful for Natural Learning are:

http://www.home-ed.vic.edu.au/ Otherways magazine, published by the Home Education Network (Victoria)

http://homeschoolaustralia.com/ An exceptional South Australian site, run by Beverley Paine.
Beverley covers many education methods in her publications. She writes for families who are interested in writing their own learning programs or supplementing book work with an activity based approach to home education, so her material is also suitable for school-at-home and traditional home educators.

Holt, John and Farenga, Patrick. Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Home-schooling. Cambridge, Ma: Da Capo Press, 2003.

Weldon, Laura Grace. Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Pres, 2010.

Dobson, Linda. Homeschooling the Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8-Year-Old Child. New York:Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Dobson, Linda. The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities for Kids Ages 3-12. New York:Three Rivers Press, 2002.

Hunt, Jan. The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2001.

Taylor Gatto, John. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005.


23 February 2011

Nature as Teacher

Hi Everyone,

One of my favourite things in the world is to immerse myself in the garden. Getting my hands dirty, building up straggly soil with chook poo and mulch, companion planting, and the whole circle of nature thing where things pretty much coexist in perfect balance...

As a homeschooling parent, I feel it is a privelege to spend the morning in the garden with my kids and call that science, design and technology, sose...whatever, it's a top-notch education.

We planted the corn stalks in the picture after a trip to mitre 10 for seeds. We have watched them shoot and grow into semi-mature plants, and one day soon they will be ready to pick and eat. This will give me a chance for a casual chat with the kids about the benefits of growing and eating food locally.

We also grow cherry tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants, carrots and silverbeet....not prolifically, but we're working on that aspect. We keep chickens so have eggs and a supply of manure, which is a solid grounding in concepts of food production, and gives an appreciation for food that I think can only be experienced by having a go at growing your own.

Freida, my 2 year old gets so excited when the plums and passionfruit come each year, waiting for them to turn from green to purple, and rejoicing when she can finally pick them. Having a carrot fresh from the ground, washed off with the hose is also a real treat for my littlies, they're so sweet it's almost like eating fruit.

Unfortunately, the birds enjoy our vegies too...we discovered yesterday that a bird family has nested in the tree next to the vegie patch. They pick our chillis and cherry tomatoes as soon as they're ripe. Jay's solution is to make a scarecrow and we've been swapping lots of ideas today. Will put scarecrow-making plans into action tomorrow....wish us luck! I have a sneaking suspicion that our 5x4 metre vegie patch will resemble Mr McGregor's garden by the time we're through. Will keep you posted :)

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

22 February 2011

The Magic of Lego

Hi Everyone,

For those of you who share your house with a young male, chances are you'll know what I'm talking about when I say my 5 year old son Jay is obsessed with Lego...and ever since he saw two of his mates publish their Lego masterpieces in the LEGO-Quest online newsletter, he's been waiting with bated breath to see what the next challenge would be. Well, the challenge arrived in our inbox last night at around 8pm, and with much excitement, we cleared the kitchen table to give full priority to this very important building project. An hour and a half later, Jay was coerced to go to bed with the lure of a story, but was up again at 7am to finish his creation.

To me, Lego is invaluable just for the joy it can bring to children (and quite a few adults...James May's full size Lego house project was pretty well supported). It can stimulate the imagination of the left-brainers out there like a good box of watercolours can send a right brainer into a painting frenzy. Besides that, it is a valuable tool for kinesthetic learners to understand spatial relationships, counting, symmetry, one to one correspondence, planning in stages, as well as developing fine motor skills....amazing stuff!

Now, if it was just a little bit cheaper.....

If you would like to checkout the homeschool LEGO Quest site it's:

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

19 February 2011

Politics, legalities and more politics....

Hi Everyone,
I've just been doing some research for my book and looking at the legal requirements for homeschooling across the states of Australia to find that each one is essentially quite similar, but not really!! Each has a different set of regulations and surrounds essential information with about 500 words on each side of the point to make it sound really important. My head is spinning a bit with so many whys and wherefores :% Fortunately a friend with a background in law e-mailed me today and offered me some assistance with any regulations/legalities relating to homeschool law for the book (don't you love serendipity like that??)

I did come across a really interesting article though, it's by Sally Varnham called My Home, My School, My Island: Home Education in Australia and New Zealand. Coming across her article was like a refreshing dose of common sense amongst all those useless words :) Varnham speaks as someone who has experienced what it is like to homeschool in Australasia and draws on some subtle points made by politicians over the years re: the ownership of responsibility for our children's education both in Australia and New Zealand. She makes the point that various changes to hs legislation are met with differing degrees of opposition according to prior legislation within that particular state...very interesting. If you're wanting to read the article, the address is:


Now, it's back to the grindstone for me, wish me luck and have a wonderful day.

Talk soon, Cynthia


18 February 2011

In a Nutshell...

Well, here I am finally catching up with the 21st Century and delving into this blogging business what an adventure.....

My teenager is humming French ditties in the background, my 5 year old is in his room playing with our 5 (yes, that's right, 5!!!) kittens, my 2year old is asleep on the couch, and finally I can sit down to write my first blog entry.

What to write.......I am forty years old, and the grateful mother of three homeschooling children between the ages of 2 and 14 years. I love gardening, cooking, reading, writing and spending time with people I care about. I plan to someday be pretty much self sufficient as far as fruit, vegies and eggs go.....will keep you posted on that one.

We are a family of great curiosity, interests, and a passion for learning, albeit with quite different styles, which makes us perfect candidates for the eclectic approach to homeschooling. By incorporating bits from classical and natural learning and Charlotte Mason into our routine (such as it is ), we seem to have a pretty good balance in our living and learning styles. As a family we strongly value respect and tolerance toward others and manage this pretty well most of the time.

I am in the process of writing a book about homeschooling, hence the title of this blog. Writing a book is something I feel I can share with those on the start of the hs journey. I remember as a newbie wondering and worrying about just whether I could educate my children at home.....and I was a school teacher...go figure!!

That was 5 years ago now and at times it has been a pretty steep learning curve. There's been laughter, tears, some of the nicest people you could meet, and lots of incidental learning along the way. The honest sharing of this amazing mix of experiences of how it is when you're doing the homeschool thing day in and out is the essence of what I want to convey. I figure writing a book is all about trust and putting one foot in front of the other, as long as you genuinely have something of value to say, just keep going and it will all fall into place.....that's what I'm telling myself anyway :)

I look forward to sharing our homeschooling adventures and observations with you, as I add the roles author and blogger to my repertoire :)

Talk more soon, Cynthia