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.