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

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


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