Thursday, May 31, 2007


Didn't get much done today :( I seem to be fighting off a cold again. I wonder if my immune system is down because I've been eating lots of sugar; two weeks ago I won a raffle of chocolate bars and packets of sweets. Nearly all gone now.

Tessa decided to have a pyjama day: she didn't get dressed all day. Here she is watering her science fair project lettuces this afternoon.

Tessa injured her finger climbing a few weeks ago. It didn't seem serious at the time but it hasn't come right so this morning I made an appointment with a "hand clinic" (I wouldn't have guessed there was such a place but a climbing friend recommended it when he looked at Tessa's finger). The only appointment time available before the climbing competition Tessa is due to climb in this weekend clashes with Josiah's Chess/Games Club. By the time we'd sorted out how he could still get to that, half the morning was gone.

I finished reading to the children the book on Hannibal I've been reading to them all week. (Fascinating story - thirteen years on the march in foreign lands, crossing a mountain range with an army which included elephants, numerous battles ... all in the hope of preventing Roman control from spreading to his home city Carthage ... ending in failure!)

I think I mentioned already: we have been starting each day with me reading history aloud to the children, and finishing each afternoon with me reading fiction to them. Reading non-fiction together has always been an element of our "school day" whenever the children lead that way. I used to read to them every evening as well but that has fallen away over last year because of Boys Brigade and climbing. We are all pleased to have found a way of bringing more shared reading back into our routine. It's got me thinking though: there are other things I'd like to read to the kids too. I haven't read to them from the Bible for ages, and there's a book on climbing that we've talked about reading together. I'm not sure whether it would be best to read history three mornings a week, the Bible one morning and something else one morning, or whether it would be better to read history for a week, the Bible for a week, history for a week, something else for a week.

This afternoon, the kids both made birthday cards for their grandmother, did their daily observations of their science fair projects, and Josiah wrote his climbing diary. I confess, I retired to my bedroom feeling under the weather, reading Emma by Jane Austen. I got up in the mid-afternoon to pop out for vegetables, then read to the kids (Eragon by Christopher Paolini) and cooked dinner.

Perhaps part of our lack of productivity is that we are focused on the climbing competition coming up this Saturday and Sunday and all the preparations for that. Josiah and Tessa will both compete. It is one of a series of four national competitions, this one hosted jointly by our own climbing club, DynoMites (cool new website by Geoff!!), and our home wall, HangDog, so Geoff and I will be assisting in various ways. I'll be judging some of the climbs, which will be ... interesting considering that I don't ordinarily notice exactly which hold was the last the climber touched when I watch other people climb.

Friday, May 25, 2007


There has been a discussion at Playschool6 this week on organising time. This, combined with the fact that we have been crazily busy since our trip to Christchurch, led me to consider setting a figure limit on how many activities we do in a week, rather than continue cramming everything we want to do into our diary. I discussed the idea with Josiah and Tessa and we decided to trial a limit of "climbing plus four" for each of them and "climbing plus two" for me. (Climbing is our main outside activity - we all climb regularly.) For each week, I am drawing a tally in the margin of our diary to keep track of where each of us is up to.

It might take a few weeks for us to settle down to the limit we've agreed to as we already have a lot booked, but I feel we are (or at least I am) already benefiting from the intention. When a friend of Josiah's rang on Wednesday to invite Josiah to his birthday party this weekend, I immediately agreed that Josiah could go - I don't think it is right to stick to our new limit rigidly when something special comes up. But when entered the party in our diary and added the fifth tally mark to Josiah's tally for this week, I was naturally prompted to think through the implications of Josiah having an overloaded week ... I would need to lower my expectations of him at home to give him time to recharge between events. So just having the limit, even if not stuck to, is helpful ... I think sticking to it will be even more helpful ;)

Our new daily schedule needs a bit of tweaking. We've developed a habit of sitting down on the couch to read together first thing after our respective morning routines (i.e. about 10am). The kids are preferring to follow that with their independent work, sometimes leaving it till late afternoon to ask me to work with them. By that time, I am starting to think about preparing dinner and collecting the clothes off the washing line. So I think I'll suggest to the kids that we set appointment times to work together. As they prefer to do their independent work first, we could make the appointment times 12 noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm or something like that.

Real Lives

I have just read Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School edited by Grace Llewellyn. These accounts by teenage unschoolers of how they spend their time are intriguing and inspiring. I am struck by how independent the teenagers are in their work ... their parents seem almost uninvolved. Maybe "uninvolved" is too harsh ... the teenagers mention enjoying lots of discussion with their families - often at the dining table - but the teenagers seem to do most of their chosen work alone or in the community or with tutors. And directing the work - setting it up, researching options - is done by the teenagers themselves too. I get the impression that the parents of some were more directly involved in the homeschooling when the children were younger.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I have a cold - my first in quite a while. The cold comes on top of the house being a mess and us all feeling tired after a busy trip to Christchurch for a climbing competition. (The photos on the left are Josiah and Tessa climbing in the comp.) I decided to take a day's "sick leave" today.

The kids spent this morning snuggled up at opposite ends of Tessa's bed, each absorbed in a book. Tessa is reading Physik, the last in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. It just came out in the last couple of weeks; the kids have been anxiously awaiting its release since they read the first two books in the series.

I spent the morning in bed too, listening to Radio New Zealand National and doing the mending - very peaceful.

Josiah and I got up in the late morning. He started work on his climbing diary and I finished the unpacking and did a bit of a tidy up. I've told the kids I'll read to them when they've done their chores but I can't hear any sound of chores being done :(

We had a great time in Christchurch. It was lovely to see my 99-year-old grandmother. The kids climbed well, Josiah coming second (of four) in the under 14 males and Tessa coming fourth (of eight) in the under 12 females - in her first sport climbing competition. Josiah was mostly pleased with his climbing, though he did get nervous during his final climb because he so wanted to do well. Every competition he learns something new; this one he made the fascinating (to me) discovery that you climb better if you don't care too much about the outcome. Desperately wanting to do well is a distraction from the things it's important to focus on - like technique. I don't have personal experience but I imagine that this is different from many sports where focusing on a desire to win is an extra spur.

Tessa says she didn't feel competition nerves. She loved being a member of the team and being identifiable as such in her team t-shirt. Last year Tessa was just a spectator; the competitors from other regions didn't really notice her - they were too busy interacting with their fellow competitors. This year Tessa was naturally included in conversations about the climbs. By lunch time on the first day, she was part of a noisy bunch of kids from all over the country, playing hide and seek and other games between climbs. I knew she felt right at home when I heard her bickering with one of the boys she'd met that morning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Felt smugly aware this morning of looking like the ideal homeschooling family, as we sat on the couch together, me reading Plato(!) out loud to the kids, who were fascinated. I never would have thought one could read Plato to a ten year old and have them understand and enjoy it. (Not that I'd ever read Plato before myself - I just had a prejudice that it would be "too hard" for children.) I got the idea to read Plato from The Well-Trained Mind which is full of unexpected recommendations on materials to use in homeschooling.

Later, I gave Josiah a presentation on sentence analysis. At the end, he asked me to continue and show him the next presentation in the sequence (he'd seen the symbols for adjunct adverbials and was curious to know what they were about). Despite a quote from Donna Bryant Goertz's book Children Who are Not Yet Peaceful - which I can't find now but which goes something like: "I make my presentations as short and enjoyable for the children as possible" - ringing in my head, urging me to hold back, I "followed the child" and gave Josiah the next presentation. Sure enough he lost interest half way through. It was a brief presentation, so we carried on to the end without mishap but I was sorry to have lost the chance to finish with Josiah wanting more.