Archive for March, 2011

March 30, 2011

Choosing Resources – Do you have a Reason

by Belinda Letchford

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There are so many resources out there that it is hard to choose what to do.  We are just at the end of a few different units and it is time to choose what to do next.  It is easy just to get swept away with a popular unit or something equivalent to what school would be teaching but we have an opportunity to create a tailor made education for our children.  Do we take it?

I now have the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Daniel.  It is a new opportunity, that I haven’t had for some time.  I need to use it wisely.  Read how this came about

We cannot afford to just grab good ideas and serve them to our children – we must know what their current needs are and how we can best meet them, we must know which resources will best meet our current goals.

The first thing I look at when assessing where to go next is my chart – Development of an Independent Learner.  Which aspect is the most important thing for this child – any resource I choose must serve their need – is it character and relationship building, is it the beginning to read skills or developing a love of learning, is it developing study skills or are they ready to study independently on the subjects close to their hearts?

Next thing I look at is their interests and learning styles.  I haven’t studied a great deal on these but I do know that Daniel likes interactive, hands on and short lessons, as opposed to my older children who were happy to listen and write.

The other thing I look at is the resources I have on hand – will any of these meet my goals.  Grass so often looks greener on the other side – resources online look far more exciting and successful than what I have already bought.  I like to give what I have a shot otherwise I make unwise decisions based on discontent.  If it doesn’t work – fine – then I’ll look further afield.

I find myself in a place ready to start a new unit – so this morning I assessed some needs.

1.  Daniel needs to consolidate his reading, and develop better sentence structure both in oral and written contexts.  This will be a very long journey for him, but I want to address it for a short season and then move onto something else.

2.  Daniel still needs spoonfuls of the big-wide world introduced to him in snippets to keep it interesting.

3.  Daniel loves to listen to stories.

I find on my shelf:

Language and Thinking for Young Children – this will give us an opportunity to work with his language – both oral and written though we will focus on oral initially. Some of it will be below his level some of it will be just right.  It won’t last us a whole year but it will give us a break from full-on phonics.

I gave Daniel a choice of 4 books to see which topic he would like to study for a while.  It ended up a tight choice between Armstrong/Moon and Wright Brothers.  Neil Armstrong won.  We will read a few stories, I have a dvd on the topic, and we will see where it goes from there.  I am not planning too much – we’ll read, ask questions, give narrations, and create notebook pages or any other projects that pop up along the way.

I don’t know how long these goals will last for Daniel – it will depend on his growth, development and interest but for now we have a very clear purpose set in front of us.

Read more about choosing resources / curriculum on my website

March 28, 2011

Changing Family Dynamics

by Belinda Letchford

Things never stay as they are do they?  Over the last year or so we’ve really had a good time with Nomi and Daniel learning together.   But things are a’changin’

Just recently Nomi showed a keenness to study the Viking era.  She’d gathered books both from our library and from the public library and was spending her reading time reading these books.  We were going through a time where I wasn’t specifically teaching so she had more independent time than usual so she was reading more about the Vikings then as well.

There were three main activities that showed me she was truly learning:

  1. She created a notebook page that was very creative, full of Nomi-flair.  It took her 3 days to complete but in that time she covered design, materials, art, and technology (yes all in one notebook page!)  The information on the page was simply an overview of all she had learnt about Viking ships but I consider all the skill that went into the notebook page just as valid.
  2. She found a game played by Vikings; she made the board etc, learnt the rules and taught members of the family and anyone else interested to play this game.
  3. She wanted to know where all the Vikings travelled to so she read (or dipped into) a collection of non-fiction books and recorded the various directions on a map.  The exciting thing was her being able to retell this information to the family over dinner.  She has never been that connected to geography before.


I was looking for a few study skills

  1. an ability to understand non-fiction writing
  2. an ability to ask questions before and after reading (not only ability but habit as well!)
  3. an ability to go to other resources to answer her questions
  4. an ability to record her learning (bonus that she is recording it in a way that is consistent with her talents)
  5. an ability to share her knowledge verbally

Though I saw these things as the indicators of her being able to study independently I also see that she still has things to learn in these areas.   I still expect her to grow in her study and thinking skills over the next few years.

Because of her keen interest in history she will be able to carry this independent study (that is my expectation anyway) but she will still need my involvement in Science topics.

With her taking this step forward with her learning it leaves me with one and a half hours, three times a week, with one on one time with Daniel.  So our family dynamics have changed, and there is a little twinge of some emotion – things have been working for us – but children grow, things change and it is time to move on.

March 26, 2011

Bits of our Week

by livelifewithyourkids

I share this long post each week – which I write up bit by bit through the week – to help people who are new to a lifestyle of learning, or to a discipleship approach see what a day can look like.  My days will look different than your days but I want to show the ideas

  • that we take our children into our life and teach them in whatever we do,
  • that we need to put relationships and heart issues first,
  • that we need to talk to our children,
  • that they will learn in real life type situations and
  • that we balance lifestyle-learning with book-learning, there are seasons in our days, weeks, months, year!

So bear with me as I document our days – to be honest it helps me keep those discipleship focuses too!

Our Weekend


I was at the Boyanup Christian Homeschool Conference; but I’ve already written about that here.


Family went to church and afterwards Daniel went to a friend’s birthday party.  His friend had been waiting till all his friends came back from their family holidays in order to celebrate with him.

Conference wraps up and the two ladies from Kununurra, Caroline and her husband and I head out for dinner.  Not raw – but an award winning salad.

Bits of our Week:

Cook’s Helper: Daniel

  • Monday – Lasagne – bought from the store!
  • Tuesday – Spaghetti Bolognaise – learning to brown the mince
  • Wednesday – Fried Potato and Poached Eggs and salad – learning to poach eggs and practicing peeling potatoes
  • Thursday – Fried Rice – Daniel was focused on planning his birthday party so I prepared this myself.
  • Friday – I bought a whole pumpkin the other day when there wasn’t much on the shelves so we will have a few pumpkin dishes over the next few days! Tonight we’ll have pumpkin boiled in coconut milk served with rice.


(Still in Boyanup at this stage)  We leave Boyanup early Monday morning – catch up with my friend who has my Thermomix and then head to the airport.  My two friends from Kununurra and I feel very much the country folk as we see the crowd around us!  A lot of turbulence on the flight – it was very nice to be home.

Halfway up the drive Pete stops and puts a blindfold on…. Ahhh now they are going to start talking!!  I had a feeling they were up to something!

My front yard has had a makeover.  Unfortunately I don’t have a before / after photo to share with you but the front yard did need some attention.  The kids worked with Peter from the time I left till the morning I arrived.  They moved the old rose bed, replaced it all with beautiful lawn, put in new reticulation, and set up a water feature.  Pete and I had talked about it so he knew what was in my mind but I was never expecting a water feature!  It was all a very nice surprise.

My new front garden

Over dinner we watched the video footage the kids took during the project – Front yard Blitz!  (take off of TV Show – Backyard Blitz).  I don’t think we’ll be sharing that video – it was very wobbly, lots of zooming in and out and we were left a little sea-sick while watching it!  The kids could see very quickly where they went wrong and are ready to give videoing another go next project.

For those who are learning to see learning in our lifestyle this week looks like they didn’t do much desk work (they tell me they did a little) but the concept of working as a team, of planning such a project, of doing things in a sequence and growing in their understanding of hard work all plays a part in their education.  Then there are the things that they learnt with the video-ing.  Plus the kids were responsible for maintaining the house and cooking each evening meal.  Plenty of learning going on!



First up today is to prepare the house for visitors!  The accountants were here by 8.00am so before then we needed to spruce up the house – though the kids had managed to keep everything fairly much in order while I was gone the inside of the house really did look like everyone had been focusing on the outside of the house!!  So within the hour we had the floor vacuumed, windows shining, laundry done and general pick up, plus fresh muffins to serve.  It was good to have such an excuse to make us work hard!

I am very exhausted!  Feel like a Mack truck has hit me – so not up to much today (once the accountants left!)  As I rested Jess talked to me about her Bible study and her history.  With Bible study she has come to a halt and wasn’t sure how to write what she has learnt.  As we talked about it we realised she has learnt more about study skills than content but that is okay.  She’ll move onto a new study tomorrow.  We looked at her history resources as she tries to decide whether to notebook or lapbook World War II.  Not sure she’s decided completely but she is going to write a few notebook pages to start with.

Josh also spoke to me about his studies.  He is working on an essay and needed to talk it through.  I helped him with his outline/organisation and he went off and wrote an essay he is happy with.  He is working on a unit on Australian politics – I am really glad Pete is here to talk about his thoughts (out of my league!)

Pete went out for dinner on business, so the kids took their dinner down to the family room to listen to an audio Josh wanted to share.



Today was a slow and late start – think the rain is slowing everyone down!!  After we completed our chores and the house was all tidy we packed up and visited our friends.   My friend wanted to talk about the conference and see how things went.  The kids are always up for a play-date!

Early afternoon I took Nomi to the podiatrist to remove some of her toenail.  Once the podiatrist saw things again she decided to do both toes! Nomi handled it amazingly – she chatted and snapped photos the whole way through So Nomi spent the afternoon feet up watching a movie – it didn’t take long for us all to congregate together and enjoy the movie with her.

While we were in town Jess completed her Keepers homework – working on some scrapbook pages using various techniques.



Even though I was up early working on our menu plan and shopping list I wasn’t ready to go shopping this morning so we gave that a miss – probably go tomorrow morning.  We usually go before dropping the girls off at Mainly Music at 8.15.  Nomi stayed home from Mainly Music due to her sore toes (whoever said it wouldn’t hurt – was wrong!!)  She worked on her scrapbook pages for Keepers.   Daniel and I picked up a bit of fruit and veg though.  After seeing the shelves completely empty (not a vegetable in town) it is wonderful to see the fruit and Veg section filled up (though some of the other shelves were running a bit low – cereal, toilet paper, biscuits, cold stuff).

After we unpacked the groceries Daniel asked his Dad to help him refill the windscreen water on my car.  I worked in the kitchen – I was very uneconomical with my time but I made some raw wraps (from zucchini), veggie concentrate (to use instead of veggie stock powder) and salad for lunch with a homemade salad dressing.  I was very pleased to hear that 3 out of 4 kids actually asked for salad for lunch.  We are making progress!

This afternoon was Keepers where our friends joined us – I’m teaching the girls digital scrapbooking and today they worked with text and fonts.  They are learning heaps and are becoming very familiar with the software.

Pete raced into town to sign Daniel up for Cricket for this season – gave Josh an opportunity for driving.  Josh has volunteered again to help coach cricket with the young boys.

Bible study – only one other person turned up and since we hadn’t spoken to them for a while (with seasonal comings and goings) we spent the evening chatting about a few challenges and situations they have found themselves in, we prayed together and called it a night!



Another day where I’m not focused!  Hopefully I’ll be upto it again on Monday.  We gathered together for a quick family devotion – There is only One God (and the Trinity) and then Nomi, Daniel and I worked through a bit more of our Bible study.  Then the kids worked on independent work and projects.  I pottered here and there – can’t say what I really did.

Jessica has started working on Facets – a magazine she helps me publish 3 times a year.

Just before lunch I crashed on the couch – two hours later I surfaced feeling a little better.  I slept through everyone making their own lunch and cleaning up.  I spent the afternoon reading a novel.  Don’t do that too often.  By dinner time I was feeling a bit chirpier.  Pete and Josh went into town and picked up the few groceries we needed for the weekend.

We had an earlier dinner – watched a episode of Hogan’s Heroes while we ate.  Pete then took the older three off to Bible Study in town.  Daniel and I cleaned up the house; then Pete joined us for a game of Take Two.  Daniel turned on the last bit of Better Homes and Garden while I went into town to pick up the kids.  They are starting a study on Spending Time with Jesus which is a good topic – timely too.  They also spent time talking about whether Tattoos are wrong for Christians.  We spent most of our time talking about this coming home.  It was a good conversation as I challenged my children to think through scripture – the whole of scripture, not just one verse.  I then challenged them to think through the consequences of taking a particular line.  God’s grace is for all and our standards need to fit all situations if they are based on God’s Word.  We could have talked for hours but I packed the kids off to bed and had an early-ish night myself.


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March 26, 2011

Blog Reading and other Links

by livelifewithyourkids


March 24, 2011

Cleaning Schedules: Tweaking and Learning

by livelifewithyourkids

photo credit:

There have been times in my life that I have followed Flylady (sounds bit like a confession doesn’t it!! LOL) though I don’t receive her emails anymore.  There have actually been two home-organisers that have affected and shaped me (other than the training I received in my home growing up) – Emily Barnes when I was first married, and then years later Flylady.  Both have systems that work, both have systems that I have tweaked.

And that is where I am at today – a tweaked system.

I have found that neither lady can really tell me what needs to happen in my house.  They don’t live in my climate which has its unique demands and they don’t have my lifestyle which also has its unique demands.  So I have gleaned from them, developed habits and written my own cleaning routines.

Key points I have learnt from them (and maybe others):

  • If I don’t do it today as planned, don’t put it on tomorrows list (it is already full anyway!) just plan to do it the next schedule day for that task   e.g.  if I don’t get the dusting done this Monday, don’t do it Tuesday, leave it till the next Monday (and make it a priority)
  • There are always exceptions to my system (e.g. if you are having visitors arrive on Tuesday afternoon you may well want to dust before next Monday!)
  • My house is divided into zones and I rotate through those zones.  I used to work on a zone a day – now it is a zone a week (or sometimes a month!)
  • Blitzing – Flylady calls it Room Rescue – but my kids liked the garden show “Backyard Blitz” and hence began our term “Blitz” where we spend a short time, high energy getting a room in order – at least on the surface.
  • If I need to do a task – make a time for it.  This is especially important for those tasks I put off – like cleaning the fridge, or sweeping my bedroom floor!

Recently as we’ve been studying thoroughness I have been reminded of this quote:

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

I first heard this quote as a title to an office management/organisation book but it is relevant to any task that I put my hand to.  Reality is that it isn’t the system that will get the job done – it is our effort and our commitment.

Is your system working for you?  Does it need a tweak?

I like the perspective Marilyn Rockett took in her book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life – she doesn’t give you a system but rather helps you assess what your needs are and helps you create a system tailor made for yourself, or at least tweak what you are doing to fit your needs.


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