Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Insect hunting and fishing

Yesterday I bought Liam a fishing/bug catching net. I'd seen them at the discount store in town when it opened a few weeks ago, and had been meaning to buy him one. Caitlin was going to my friend's house for the afternoon and Liam was disappointed that he couldn't stay - I offered to buy him the net as compensation for coming to the shops and then home with me, and he was thrilled. We did some groceries first, then he asked for the money to go and get his net, and ran ahead to the shop. When I got there he was coming out the door, looking very disappointed, and the people in the shop were looking concerned. He said he'd asked for it and they said they didn't have them anymore - there were certainly none in the bucket at the front door like I'd seen previously! He was starting to get upset, and I said we'd have a look and then I'd ask again. Up the back, in a tub with all the left over Halloween gear, there was ONE net - and it was blue, perfect for Liam! So, waving it triumphantly and luckily not knocking anything of the shelf, he took it up the front and paid for it himself (which is a new thing he's started doing recently).

He chased Millie with it and caught her a few times on the way back to the car, and couldn't wait to get home to try it out on bugs. He rushed into the yard as soon as we pulled up and ran around after bugs and birds and bees, but wasn't able to catch anything. I tried to help for a while but I had no luck either. (On Monday there was a swarm of bugs through the yard and it would have been impossible not to catch anything, but most of them had moved on by yesterday afternoon). Liam said he'd like to try to catch some fish with it and wanted to go down to the dam. I'd been feeling dizzy and light headed all day and didn't feel up to a walk to the dam, which I explained to him. He suggested we drive - at first I thought 'I'm not driving such a short distance' (my instinctual response) then realised that it could be the difference between him getting to the dam or not.

So Millie and Liam and I jumped in the car - Millie wanted her seatbelt on, while Liam was excited about not needing it as we were just on the property - and we drove down. As we approached the dam there was a bird of prey hovering near the edge, it moved ahead of us as I slowly pulled in, then landed at the the edge of the water for a drink. It was bigger than the birds we normally see hovering around here, with a speckled brown coat and white underneath its tail. We looked it up in the Field Guide to Victorian Fauna on the ipad when we got home, and I think it was a Little Eagle. I've never seen one before and it certainly made the trip to the dam worthwhile!

Liam fished in the dam for a while and I was going to stay in the car and rest, then thought a better decision would be to hop out and enjoy the wind and the fresh air and the feel of the dam. I scooped up some mud for him with his net and we found one little slimy creature. He was so happy playing there, and after a few minutes he said he'd had enough and we could go home and dry out his net. We tried to catch a few bugs from the reeds around the dam, and I got one - the same ones that were swarming on Monday so he wasn't overly interested as he'd caught several of them with his hands. We drove home with the net out the window to see if we caught anything in passing - I don't think we did, however he was satisfied that we'd really given his net a good try out and he no longer seemed to care that we hadn't caught anything.

The whole trip to the dam was a really lovely 10 minutes and I'm so glad I was able to say yes and find a way to make it happen, rather than dismissing his excitement and saying I was too unwell to go.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


For weeks the kids have been talking about Halloween and wanting to go trick or treating, and wanting to dress up. We've had lots of Halloween based discussions - what it means, why there are scary TV shows all day on Halloween, lots of talk about witches (interesting too that even though we are reading Harry Potter, when Caitlin thinks of witches and dressing up as one, its as the cackling, scary type witch), lots of thought about what types of lollies they'd like to get on Halloween.... But we hadn't really firmed up any plan about what to do on the night. I was feeling a bit unsure about the whole thing as I'd never celebrated Halloween myself (although when I was in Canada I did go on a Ghost Tour of Victoria, BC, on Halloween and that was very cool). Then yesterday morning I read Pam Larrichia's newsletter and she she suggested embracing Halloween in whatever way the children wanted to, and that sounded like a joyful way to approach it!

So then I started gearing myself up for letting the kids go into town and knocking on doors, and when they woke up I asked them what they wanted to do - their idea was to dress up in their costumes and knock on our doors (we have 5 external doors to our house) and Trick or Treat at home. Which was perfect, didn't seem too challenging to me, and I was very glad that I had let them tell me what they wanted rather than me offering what I thought they wanted.

We went into town later to take Millie to the doctor and then take Caitlin to Girl Guides, and stopped at the shops in between to get lollies. We went into the Discount Store first (its only new to town so still very exciting) and Caitlin bought some fake fingers with long red nails to add to her costume, then we popped into the IGA and bought a variety of packets of lollies. Caitlin wanted a lantern as well (because she wanted to do the Trick or Treating after dark) and I meant to go back and grab one on the way out but I forgot. Then I remembered they had the lanterns they made for the Into The Light Festival at the start of spring, and she was happy with the idea of using them.

I dropped her at Guides then went home and kind of forgot about Halloween as I was quite tired and just wanted to relax a bit. When she came home she reminded me I had said I'd look for her broom and her witches hat - I managed to find the broom but not the hat. Also found her wig which has the same gold tinsel as her broom. I offered to make a witches hat out of black cardboard which turned out ok, I was even able to find some white netting to put over it so it looked more like the bought one that I couldn't find (we bought it for Halloween last year and I'm not sure when it was last used). I found an old white sheet for Millie who wanted to be a ghost, and cut some eye holes out of it and she was very pleased. In the meantime Liam had put his dragon costume on and was knocking on the doors - he didn't want to wait until dark, so we gave him a few lollies and then convinced him to wait a bit for more, because Caitlin really wanted to do it together after sunset. 

After a late tea it was finally dark enough and all costumes were ready. For about an hour the kids were outside, knocking on our different doors, we'd open the door and Caitlin would cackle, they all shouted 'Trick or Treating' and Caitlin would cackle 'This house is haunted!!!!' and we'd give them the lolly basket to choose from (then there'd be a quick negotiation about whether they could eat this one now or save it - Caitlin likes it to be even so they tried to reach agreement each time). Millie joined in for a while then came inside. It was fun for everyone, and a very easy way to celebrate Halloween. They didn't eat all the lollies - they actually called an end to it when they felt like they had enough (probably about half the stash) and came inside very happy.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Train set

Liam and Millie are playing with the train set. 

Millie had been sitting at the computer when the screen saver came on, and she saw a photo taken by Liam of some of the trains, and she asked if she could play with it now. I got it out and quickly set up a basic loop with a bridge in it, got out some of the trains and then she was happy to play by herself while I ate some breakfast. While I was setting up the loop, she put some animals in the middle 'They're in a field'. When Liam got out of bed about 20 minutes later he went straight to join her.

A few minutes ago Liam decided a river would be useful so he asked me for something blue and flat. I gave him a pale blue baby wrap which he said would work. To set the river up the way he wanted it, he needed to temporarily get the animals out of the way and I heard him say 'Millie is it OK if I move these for a minute? I'll put them right back once I've set up the river'.

Its so great when I hear them developing the skills that will help them in relationships of all sorts as they get older. I've modelled that kind of speech as often as I can, I've suggested using sentences like that at times when they do act without thinking of their siblings, and although it doesn't happen all the time, its encouraging and affirming to hear and see that the kids are learning to think of others and to be kind to others - without having to be reminded or having been shamed or punished when they forget.

Now he's built a bridge over the river, called it the Sydney Harbour Bridge, run over to check with me that trains do go over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which led to a discussion about all the ways that you can cross it - walking, riding, driving, in a train. 

Its not even 9am and I feel like we've already covered enough areas of learning to make today feel joyful and abundant and successful.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Music Time

Yesterday we went to Music in Yarra Glen. 

When we first moved to this area, Music was the first social activity we went to (we'd been do the park the day after we arrived from NSW, and a 3 year old started chatting to me, so I talked to his Mum and she told me about Music, and we went the next day). I met a lot of my local friends there, and we went more weeks than not for about 3 years. Then in the year after Millie was born I cut a lot of activities out because we were all so overwhelmed and tired, and other things took the place of Music.

Towards the end of last term I had 3 separate conversations with people who suggested I come back to Music. I also found out that a friend I'd been trying to catch up with for ages, who is also homeschooling her kids, has started going again (we met there 6 years ago). So I figured it was time to try it again - and it seems to fit into our week more easily this term, we don't have anything regular on Tuesdays so we're a bit more open to going if we can. Caitlin was very excited at the thought of returning - she has missed it at times.

So we rocked up and were met at the door by June and Heather - who were the ladies who ran it when we first started going, it was like we never left! And its still only $7 per family/week, which makes it one of the best value activities we go to. When we went in, there were 4 families there who used to go when we used to go, plus 3 other families who we have met since, so we knew just about everyone, and the teacher was Liam's Kindergarten teacher for a term so we knew her as well. The big 2 fitted in straight away, Millie was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people I think and wasn't quite sure what was going on - she joined in for about half the songs and sat curled in my lap for the rest of the time. 

I had wondered if it would feel too 'young' for Caitlin at least (its aimed at 0-5 year olds) but she loved it all and joined in every song. Liam loved the chance to play instruments as loud as he possibly could and when he wasn't sure about an activity he joined in in his own way.

At the end, Cathy asked if there were any songs that anyone wanted to sing before we left. Liam asked for the Collingwood Song (for those who don't know, all the football teams in the AFL (Australian Football League) have a theme song which is sung when they win a game - Tony and the kids are Collingwood Magpies supporters (I want to put in a link to the song but my internet is so slow this morning I can't find one - I'll try to come back and add the link later) Cathy looked surprised then launched straight into the song, with Liam singing along. She faltered after a line or 2, so Liam continued solo and sang the rest of the song himself, loudly and with gusto. Caitlin then asked to sing her wombat song which she composed, and sang it solo (although rather quietly).

One of the things that people worry about with the kids being homeschooled is that won't get the opportunity to perform in public, or feel comfortable speaking (or singing!) in front of others. I love that my kids constantly show me that there's no need to listen to fears like that - they have the confidence to perform in public whenever they have something they want to perform!

After Music was finished we all went to the hall for some lunch and play. My kids played with the other homeschooling family and are very keen to get together again for more play time - great to have more local friends now who may be available during school hours. I was able to chat with several friends who I hadn't seen for a while and we all left feeling socially satisfied. And since it is a pay as you go activity I'm feeling very excited about the possibility of going on the weeks we feel like it and having no pressure to go on the weeks when it feels too hard.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Caitlin started her new gymnastics class yesterday. Its quite different to the classes she's done before and I think it will really suit her. There were about 15 kids in the class, and large range of ages and abilities. Caitlin was the youngest, having just turned 8, and the oldest were around 15. 

The kids are coached by the head coach and also by teenage girls - so there was always a coach with each group and each child received instruction and feedback with every move they attempted, so I could see how new skills could be learnt quite quickly. Caitlin's cartwheels improved noticably in the short time she was practicing them - at first, the elbow on her leading arm was buckling so she'd collapse halfway through the cartwheel, but she was assisted enough that she figured out how to keep that arm straight and it made a big difference.

The first piece of equipment she used last night was the beam, which is her favourite, so that was an exciting start to the new class.

There were 2 other girls there who we'd met before - I'm looking forward to seeing their mums each week now - and lots and lots of other potential friends, a perfect situation for Caitlin.

I'd planned to take Caitlin on her own and for Tony to stay home with the other two, for this week at least (he starts Summer Comp Baseball next week) - but he was asked to unload a late-arriving tanker at work so wasn't home in time. Liam and Millie sat and watched quite happily (bouncily but quietly) until Tony arrived to take them back home - so I'm feeling confident that when I do take them with me from now on it won't be a problem (and its light enough of an evening now that we can go out and play on the playground while Caitlin does her gymnastics).

Oh and as soon as the class finished Caitlin asked if she could come back next week, so it seems to be a hit all round.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Helping each other

We had a lovely quiet day at home yesterday which was just what I needed. I've got the sore throat and cough that the kids had during the week, and on Saturday I felt terrible - after a day at home yesterday I felt much better.

Caitlin was practicing her skipping with a skipping rope on the trampoline. She drew up a grid to record how many jumps she managed with each attempt, and developed notation to show whether she was jumping forwards or backwards. She had about 40 attempts and managed between 0 and 95 jumps with each go. Millie wanted to join in after a while so Caitlin found her another skipping rope and tied knots in so that it was short enough, and then demonstrated how to skip. Millie happily jumped up and down on the trampoline, waving the skipping rope up and down, and was thrilled that she was skipping.

When we came inside Liam was playing Minecraft and Caitlin wanted to have a go, so Liam showed her all the new things he'd learnt to do since list time she'd played it, so that she could do them too. They played together on the ipad for ages.

I really love how easily and willingly they all offer to help each other and how well they work and play together.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Paying Attention

I was reminded this morning that taking a moment to find out more information (and not making assumptions) can make a big difference to the outcome of an interaction. 

I was using the laptop and Liam had been sitting next to me using the ipad, showing me what he was building and discovering on Minecraft. (And I'm constantly amazed at what he's doing on Minecraft - I had a go when I downloaded it and I couldn't figure out how to do anything, he's picked it up and learnt so much in only a week or so - and yesterday he showed me the highest mountain in his world, which he has named Mt Everest - I didn't know that he knew about Mt Everest!)

I'd gotten up out of my chair for some reason, and when I came back and sat down, he climbed into my lap and put the ipad on the keyboard of the laptop. I said 'that's not going to work' so he picked it up, but I still couldn't see over his head or easily reach the keyboard so that I could comfortably use the computer. I was initially frustrated and wanted to just move him off my lap so I could do MY stuff... but I breathed for a minute and explained that he was so big now that I couldn't see if his head was in front of me like that, and I suggested that he move back to the chair he had been in, but that I'd bring it closer to mine (cos I assumed that he was in my lap because he wanted to be close to me physically). He said 'but I need to be near the charger!' - which was on the other side of me to where he'd been sitting - so then I was able to plug the ipad in to the charger, put him on my chair, and move the laptop over to where he had been sitting, and we were both happy.

It was only a brief interaction but it could have turned into frustration so easily - however  because I'd been able to listen to what he wanted rather than jumping to my own conclusions and enacting my initial solution, we were able to be joyfully together and both have our needs met quite easily.