Saturday, December 3, 2011

signing off till the New Year

I realise with some guilt that it's been several months since I've posted!

We accepted a rural relief position for Ben to work in Queanbeyan for a month in October. It was exciting and fun, but also caused our Little Man to become very unsettled and to go off his food. Sailor was still having breast milk then, and not being able to tolerate it was also very unhappy, and things have only just calmed down now so we've had our hands full!

Now we are off to spend Christmas with my in-laws in WA, so I'll be signing off until the new year.

My apologies to Vicky for not checking my blog for comments - I'd like some time to think about the homeschooling resources meme. It is somehting that I have thought about a lot in the past, as I have found it very hard to know what to do with children under two (at least it was that way with Little Man). And it's true, there does not seem to be much written about preschoolers. Perhaps because those years fly by so quickly?

I always have so much to write about in my head, but finding the time to open a computer at the moment is very hard. When the day is over and the children are in bed I have so little precious free time, I tend to prefer reading to writing. I'm looking forward to jotting down all my thoughts on our break and blogging again in January!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (4)

I had the joy today of meeting up with some Catholic homeschoolers in my area. I have much to be thankful for in the welcoming kindness of them and their beautiful families.

Our Little Man has recovered from his bad cold and is back to his happy, cheerful self. His appetite has returned and he enjoyed a piece of gluten free bread so much that he let out a huge operatic "Breaaaaaaaaad!" to prove it.

Speaking of Little Man, his speech is improving after a shaky start. He is more frequently stringing three words together "look digger there", "where man hat?", "daddy robot fix?" and in the last month or two he has been much more able to repeat words we say.

We have been able to learn a lot more about his thought processes now that he can express himself verbally. When he wakes up from a sleep saying "Finley bell broken there" we now know that he has been dreaming about his favourite episode of that Fire Engine cartoon. Ahhh the innocence of childhood!

Sailor has his own little personality at 7 months. He's a determined little fellow as he refuses to be weaned onto hypoallergenic formula, much to my chagrin. We are using the softly softly approach.

He is a happy boy (when he's not in reflux pain) and he laughs at anything his brother does to/with him. Little Man had him doing 'tummy time' on his tummy today (closely supervised!). He has a very cute low chuckle and a twinkly smile.

If he's not getting enough attention (after two minutes of no one looking at him!) he lets out an official sounding "Hey!" to remind us of his presence.

Is there a little bit of a temper peeping though there? He seems to get frustrated easily if he has to wait for anything, letting out a high-pitched squeal which I must admit, speeds me up!

The potatoes Ben planted a week or so ago are starting to come up with strong-looking seedlings. I wonder how many potatoes are produced per potato planted?

Ben has finally received his gun licence after MONTHS of patient waiting. He is now eagerly perusing gun catalogues to buy his weapon of choice. For me, it's more a case of being happy for him rather than with him as I tend to associate guns with murderers and insurgents and suchlike. Also images of being a rifle range widow pop into my head now and then... but really, after all a man has to have a hobby and he's looking forward to scaring off marauders trying to steal our chickens after the global economy collapses... One must have one's pleasures in life!

Tomorrow is the first Saturday of the month. I want to start doing Our Lady of Fatima's First Saturday Devotions. If I don't try I'll never get there!

Friday, August 19, 2011

7 quick takes Friday (3)

I'm enjoying watching a budding relationship between our two boys. Sailor looks at Little Man with an expression of great expectation that he will soon be made to laugh by Little Man being goofy ie, himself (dancing jigs, attempting somersaults, making silly faces). Little Man finds great amusement in Sailor's attempts to grab at him, and the sqwarks that sailor emits (from his mouth).

The wind is howling and it's pouring out there tonight. I'm glad Ben has stopped over for the night at my parent's closer to work rather than driving the one-and-a half-hours on the freeway to get home. This freeway is a killer when it's wet. Waterfalls cascade down cliff faces onto the busy road and anyone on a motorbike is like an ant being caught under a flowing tap.

Our Little Man thinks that the word 'cooee' (which as Wiki says is a shout used in Australia, usually in the Bush, to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate one's own location) is pronounced "Pooey" (the word we use to indicate that he has done his number twos). So when we happen upon places that echo, like public toilets or libraries, he will cheerily call out "Pooooey!" for all to hear.

Despite current inclement weather, a recent spate of sunshine has caused our broad beans to flower.

We've learnt that sticking the roots of used shallots and leeks in a jar - with an inch or two of water and carp fertilizer - causes this to happen! If I'm short of shallots, I grab this bunch and chop up a bit of it and whack them back in! I haven't sampled the leeks yet - not quite brave enough yet. 

Little Man had his first ever swimming lesson this week. It didn't go er... swimmingly at first. I think he had something very different in mind from the thick fog of chlorine that hovered above the indoor pool. Then he realised that he wasn't going to be swimming with MUMMY or DADDY but a STRANGE LADY and it was all over.

Happily he was eventually won over by the strange lady offering him a series of interesting floating and squirting toys he spent the rest of the lesson playing happily.

Note to self not to encourage him to accept toys from strangers....

It's exciting to pick your own vegetables for dinner, even if this is all you have to pick!

Friday, August 12, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (2)

Sailor has taken reflux to a whole new level. He was like a little spurting fountain today, and if anyone wanted to know how he was, all they had to do was to look at my curdled milk-covered jumper. His medication only mildly helps, my restricted diet is not enough, and he won't take the bottle. There. I said it. Now on to happier happenings...

I've been enjoying reading about permaculture over the last few months. The broad concept excites me very much. It makes one consider elements of the whole property before even deciding where to build your house. Not that we have a property, but it's so fun to think about it! I like to imagine chicken tractors and braod beans growing up the clothes line. I definitely don't like the Earth worship aspects of it though.

Speaking of gardening our broad beans are starting to flower with the run of warm sunny days we've had, and Ben has just put potatoes in the second planter box. Neither of our thumbs are green so we're hoping for the best!

It was the third wedding anniversary this week. We had some time to reflect on those three years and we both agree that that time has gone quickly and yet it seems so much longer as we've moved house twice and had two children in those years. We also agreed that our marriage is getting happier and happier as time goes on. Yay!

So we had a treat and went to a cafe to celebrate our anniversary and as if to mark how married we really are, I spent time at the table nursing a grunting baby, while Ben was off with Little Man looking at some fish in the cafe pond... And we both declared what a lovely time it was! I think it's the mutual smiles of understanding that we gave over out children's heads that make it special.

Little Man is obsessed with fire engines at the moment, especially a certain cartoon that involves a talking fire truck. Every time he gets up from a sleep he is instantly talking about an episode, or is it all the episodes at once? Hard to tell with his limited vocabulary. Something about bells, hiccups and storms. I've come to rely on this cartoon to keep him calm while Sailor is screaming in the background. It allows Little Man to zone out of the loud baby and reduces his stress.I'm hoping Sailor will start feeling better soon, though, so I can direct Little Man to other activities.

I'm sampling cloth nappies (diapers) on Sailor and I'm very happy with the results: less of a red bottom, and not as many leaks as I thought would happen. I don't know if they'll be all that much cheaper than disposables, but I hate the idea of all the chemicals in those nappies leaching into their little bottoms.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Seaside tonic

What is the best cure for a tired and grumpy toddler?

An evening visit to the seaside of course!

 Involving a splash...

... a scramble...

... and a bird as big as yourself...

Friday, July 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (1)

 Woohoo! My first 7 Quick Takes! This might be a good way for me to get some rhythm into my blogging and recording what's been going on in the week.

Thanking God for looking after Ben as he and 99 other firefighters battled a huge fruit shop blaze the other night. It was an all-night job and they didn't get a wink of beauty sleep as they struggled to contain the fire. A rare occasion! Yes, more often than not Ben comes home from work with  more stories of what he saw on TV (Destroyed in Seconds) and what workout he did in the gym (rowing machine)  than what fires he fought. Or do I just more easily remember his Destroyed in Seconds stories?

Loving laughing as our Little Man comes to grips with the English language. A bit of a slow developer, it's exciting to see him apply rules to language construction such as using verbs to create nouns (asking for scissors by calling them "Cuts"). Pronunciation is a little bit off: when he saw the enormity of a hill he had to climb, he cried "Oh Hell!"

Our Sailor Boy is almost 6 months! augh! I haven't recorded any of his developments so far, He simply cries too much for us to relax and enjoy him 100%. He is on an antacid which I must say has helped him a lot but he could be a lot better. It's heartrending to hear him cry inconsolably with the pain. Hopefully as he starts to eat more solids he will improve. Having said that when he is well, he is a happy, alert little boy who loves to grab at everything and he has a very winning smile!

Huzzah! My sister is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to swapping baby stories.

Ben found a way to get the most out of a bunch of shallots that you buy at the veg shop: keep an inch or two of the white part and roots, stick them in a jar of diluted carp fertiliser (only about a few centimetres), put them in your kitchen windowsill and watch them shoot up in days!

This week I handed in the number plates to the Volvo that my Grandmother gave me (may she Rest in Peace). What a little gem of a car that was! It's body was getting pretty rusty and the wiring fell apart in the mechanic's hands but by golly that little car could go! Sadly since we got our new car (ie, repairable write-off people mover) we haven't driven the Volvo and now it doesn't go at all. Best thing we could do was sell 'er for scrap. Sigh!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Little Man's garden guide

1. Prepare your soil

2. Poke a hole for your plant

3. Insert plants into the soil

 4. Water said plants

5. Sit back and pray that they grow!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Class Position: Lesson 2 from John Taylor Gatto

Last week I wrote about confusion as being the first lesson that is taught in schools in America, according to John Taylor Gatto. I am thinking about how these lessons relate to my experience in Australia.

I have been reflecting on his second lesson, Class Position.

Gatto writes:
I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong. I don't know who decides they belong there, but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if they get away they can be returned to the right class.
Students are encouraged to do better in tests... but they have a 1% chance of moving to a higher class.

Students are told that an employer will hire them based on their grades...

Students are taught fear and envy the upper classes and contempt for the "dumb" classes.

Students are taught their place.

My experience? I can only tell it in terms of class position.

1. My first lesson was in English. I languished for the first year of high school in the lowest class of English because I had done badly in the school entrance exams. My teacher looked at me sympathetically when he saw that I was bored out of my brains, but for a whole year I was not moved. What a waste.

2. I was a slightly above average student in all subjects except in maths where I lived on the far left side of the bell curve. For my last years of school, I could have chosen to do the medium level maths, but would have been at the bottom of the class. I didn't want to risk a low HSC* score and be jobless, so I chose the much safer "maths in space" (for those of use who had vacuums in our heads?). It was humiliating for a while, but the score was the main thing.

3. In year 10, I miraculously topped a physics exam for the year and my physics teacher tried to encourage me to take physics for the HSC. Knowing that I was a dunce at maths, I didn't want to risk a low score by doing more challenging physics, so 'bang' I never studied physics again.

In these three instances, because of the reinforcement of "class position" in schools, I:

a) wasted a year being stuck in a class way below my capabilities
b) didn't challenge myself at maths and continued to think that I was a dunce at it.
c) missed an opportunity to extend my knowledge for fear of not doing well.

Now you might say that the above three points arise out of my faults and anxieties, but let's think about it in terms of homeschooling.

If I was homeschooled I would have:

a) never been in the position of working below my capabilities in English, as I would have worked at my own pace with virtually 100% attention from my teacher who was not constrained by the need to number her students.
b) addressed my difficulties with maths through one-on-one tuition that I never received at school.
c) possibly taken on the challenge of physics as I would not have been constrained by a fear of failure that school teaches.

d) or I might have done none of the above and undertaken a whole different approach to learning by studying one subject in depth, being involved with the local community, running a small business... you get the idea.

So, yes, I agree with John Taylor Gatto that school teaches class position. Do you?

* For readers not in the know, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) was the leaving exam for high school in NSW when I was at school. Your score determined what course you could do at university.

Read about Lesson 1: Confusion here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My sister has posted!

My homeschooled sister Bridget has posted on her blog A Maiden Upstairs about her adventures at Supanova on the weekend. We want to see more pictures, Bridget!

This is her about to have a bit of a row in a dam on our recent holiday.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Devout Assistance at Mass

Genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, making the Sign of the Cross, bowing the head and other such actions: they should be the most basic acts of devotion shouldn't they?

Having grown up in the New Order of the Mass, genuflecting and the sign of the cross were mostly what I knew to be right. As I entered my adult years I watched my mum bowing her head at the raising of the Eucharist and I understood that she was glorifying the Good Lord. This beautiful but simple movement was all the more significant because she was usually the only one in the church who did it.

I have often felt a strong desire to use gestures in the Mass as a means of participating in the Holy Sacrifice. I always want to copy the priest when he makes the sign of the cross, but I never do so because of embarrassment and not wanting to appear too pious.

I once saw a priest beating his breast at the Confeitor and I would love to do this too, but are we meant to?

During lent I read a book called The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Explained. This little treasure was written in the 1600s by Rev. Martinus Von Cochem and has a fantastic chapter on how to assist devoutly at Mass. He shows how gestures in Mass move one's thoughts in the right direction towards God:
At the "Lord Have Mercy" strike your breast three times to awaken contrition and sorrow for sin as far as you can. Consider how Christ lay prostrate on his face in the Garden of Olives expiating your sins with bitter tears and sweat of Blood.

At the "Holy, Holy, Holy" bow down and adore the Holy Trinity in all humility.

At the Canon, keep silence and tremble with awe and and withdraw thoughts from earthly things, for the King of Kings, Lord of Lords is about to come.
I might start doing these simple things in Mass. Well ok, with the last one I promise not to start trembling all over during the Canon to remind me that the Lord of Lords is coming...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lesson 1 of John Taylor Gatto's Seven Lessons

I intend to homeschool my children...

I'm not anti school and my husband and I certainly will send my children to school if homeschooling is not working out for us or them. But I'm going to try my best to teach them at home.


The decision to homeschool is based on personal experience of school, observation of my younger siblings who were and are being homeschooled, observation of other homeschooled children, and a desire to raise happy, confident children to will continue to practise their Catholic faith as adults.

So it was with interest that I read John Taylor Gatto's 1992 book Dumbing Us Down. When Gatto stood up to accept the New York State Teacher of the Year award for 1991, without a hint of irony, he listed the seven main lessons that school teaches. They were:
  1. Confusion
  2. Class Position
  3. Indifference
  4. Emotional Dependency
  5. Intellectual Dependency
  6. Provisional Self Esteem
  7. One Can't hide
It's a harsh critique of the American school system and it made me think whether these seven lessons relate to me and my experiences in Australia. So here we go.


Gatto writes
The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the unrelating of everything... Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions... The logic of the school mind is that it is better to leave school with a took kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on, than with one genuine enthusiasm.
So, did I experience this confusion as school? I didn't think so at the time, as school was just something that you do because you have to. What was to question?

I do remember desperately wanting to know how all the different history lessons connected together and how did they connect to what I was learning in English. Where did Keats fit into the timeline with Shakespeare or with Medieval history? What was happening elsewhere in the world throughout all the dynasties of China? In that sense all the subjects I learned were tiny isolated islands of facts and figures which did not clearly relate to other subjects or even other topics within the one subject.

And what do I remember of these subjects? Not much, except random things like what is osmosis and who wrote Waiting for Godot. I remember more experiences unrelated to formal lessons such as running out of a religion class after a fight with the feminist teacher, and singing with the choir at an old people's home or being called "Crrrretons!" by our music teacher.

Gatto suggests that genuine learning is not meaningless: it is interconnected. As with the sequences of learning to walk or talk, "every action justifies itself and illuminates the past and the future". So I guess he is talking more about learning through living. Sounds a bit like unschooling to me.

School was not a place I attended  to learn anything I really wanted to: that's what holidays were for. In holidays I read what I wanted, despite the difficulties (oh, the simultaneous pain and joy of skim-reading Gone With the Wind in one day!) and had leisure to sit in the sun and think (happy memories!). As a family we laughed and fought and explored rock pools by the beach. All worthwhile and memorable lessons.

Only as an adult have I been able to explore the interrelatedness of all the random things I was taught at school. Only now have I had the space to explore what I really wanted to explore without the pressure of examinations crowding out substance with assorted facts.

So yes, I can understand what Gatto means when he says the first lesson of school is confusion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nine months later...

I do believe it's been nine months since my last post... The reason? Pregnancy equals illness for me and while this time round it has not been as bad, I had no energy to do anything but the bare minimum. I am not one of those ladies who glows!

So our gorgeous little boy number 2 (aka Sailor Boy) was born on the 8th of Feb 2011 in a fantastic speedy delivery of 30 minutes. No time even to get to the gas! Two days later I was struck down with Bell's Palsy and rushed off to hospital after dinner with a numb left side of face and an uneasy feeling that I had suffered a stroke.

More on all this another day, but suffice to say that after three weeks of looking creepily like I'd had a botox job gone wrong, with a permanently open left eye, I slowly began to get some movement back, Thank God my face is now back to normal.

Our little bubba is now four months old and despite being a very refluxy baby is starting to settle down

Now, I can start to think about blogging and crafting and reading!