two Birthdays...

Henry's eighth birthday was at the end of September...
We started the day SO early (which is quite normal for a birthday) as you can see from the photo of the Boy yawning in front of his gifts. It was still dark. His favourite gift was from NannyO, a hand knitted horse that he just loves. We had to wait quite a while before we could head down to the Cheesecake Shop to pick out his cake, because for some reason they don't open before dawn . Of course, he chose the largest Black Forest cake in the store and we were eating it for a few days. Then froze what was left!
Once the rest of the world was awake, we made our way to the QLD museum for Gladiator School, which was supposed to be a children's lesson about what it may have been like to train as a gladiator. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best organised lesson and giving a dozen or so five and six year old boys plastic swords with very little supervision, perhaps wasn't a great idea. Poor Lily was hit a few times but she did her best to look after her little brother, protecting him from the kids who struggled with self control. It was school holidays so none of the children were home schooled and to my three, it really showed. Lily told me repeatedly she was very happy she didn't have to go to school because it was so noisy and the boys were very naughty. Not much thought went into behaviour management with only two very young (and clearly not trained in crowd control) girls teaching a class of about 20 children. All the kids should have been at least seven years old but most were about five and they should have had parents with them, but I was only one of three parents who didn't drop their kids off and leave. At least we know better for next time! It was actually the first school holiday class we have ever been to and now I know why I avoid public places during the holidays. It is just so chaotic!

Following our dangerous gladiator class, we made our way to our traditional morning tea at Max Brenner's for milkshakes and enough chocolate to choke a horse. All sword fighting was forgotten as we ate our body weight in chocolate. We all went home and as it was Henry's day, he got to tell everyone that it was time to play Minecraft! Our lovely framily (friends who are close enough to call family) came over in the afternoon to help us celebrate and we had a marshmallow and toothpick building challenge. It was a great end to what The Boy said was an awesome day. 

For the birthday boy, Lily made a custom cardboard car. They spent an entire afternoon on the front deck, driving by braille and making enough noise to annoy the neighbouring magpies. 

Two months after Henry's birthday, we were awakened at a ridiculous hour again for Lily's 10th birthday. As this is her first year in double figures, she gets four presents instead of one for each year since she was born. Zoe helped me pick out a couple of Minecraft books, Lily wanted a beautiful pink dress and a drone to share with her siblings. But presents were not really the focus for this birthday, for Lily it was all about the cake from the Cheesecake shop and chocolate at Max Brenner's! I showed her how I could write with chocolate on her banana bread but there was no room for bread when there was so much sweet goodness to eat! Gosh, I am glad there are only three birthdays a year so we can recover from our chocolate overdose. The rest of the day was spent binge watching some horse show on Netflix, playing Minecraft and eating marshmallows and cake. Life couldn't get any better!

How I Support Maths Learning...

Maths is one of the subjects that used to fill me with fear.  I used to wonder how I could ever teach the subject when I totally gave up on my formal maths learning at about the age of ten. After that, I failed every single maths exam and during year 9 and 10 maths (same teacher for both years) my bestie and I played games and tuned out from what the rest of the class was doing. That's right, the teacher completely ignored us unless we disturbed someone else and left us to play 'squares'. Thumbs up for public schooling in the 80s! Of course, during my signwriting apprenticeship and years in the trade, I taught myself many short cuts to achieve the math results I needed to get the job done. It doesn't mean that my methods of figuring out dimensions and measurements were wrong, I just always thought there may have been easier ways of doing things. It was in my head (and heart) that I was a complete maths failure because I failed maths exams at school and that was the only measurement of maths success that was valid to society.

Interestingly, one of our favourite games at the moment is squares! It was a great flashback to my high school maths classroom when I found this one online somewhere (free PDF). We take turns to multiply two dice together up to six, and mark off one side of the product's square. I was amazed at how fast Henry picked this up as he hasn't really learned how to multiply. I loved this game so much that I found some ten sided dice and made my own board of square to play. However, due to the exponential increase in factors and products, the game board is much larger and it takes a lot longer to complete the game. It doesn't matter though as we just pick up where we left off next time we play. A skip counting page is handy to have if you are still learning multiplication (yes, me!).

Lots of our maths learning in this lower levels involves games and hands on activities. We all love games so I try to find as many cheap or free games as I can online. The nrich website is a wealth of information and activities and I have spent many an hour just checking out the different resources available. It is really easy to make hands on activities such as paper Tetris and place value cups. A good thing to remember too is that some of these actives may only be used once for the child to grasp the concept. It is not a waste of time if it works and the child learns! It also proves that you don't need clutter creating expensive 'educational games' to create a love for learning.

Recently we bought some guides in the Beast Academy maths curriculum. This is a comic based maths course and it has lots of information. We also have a few work books to go with level 3 but I am finding Henry is getting more out of the books using them as reading out loud practice with Papa every day. The Boy has also been inspired to do some of the activities so I have printed out a few pages from the Beast Academy website so we can play together. If you are interested in Beast Academy you will have to get it from the US as there doesn't seem to be an Australian distributor. I was lucky enough to get it preloved from a good friend but I would love to get the next two levels too so I might have to wait until they pop up on the Aussie Homeschool Forum classifieds

Late last year we switched maths curriculums from Easy Learn Maths workbooks to Maths-U-See from Maths Australia. I love this program! It is a mastery based curriculum in that the student must master each concept before moving on to the next one. Each lesson adds to the previous in very small increments. After the student watches the DVD lesson with Steve Demme which takes a few minutes (a funny guy so I usually watch too!)  they use the blocks and do one to three pages of the worksheets of each lesson. My children then come to me and explain the concept until I am satisfied that they understand it. If they have shown me that they get it, they do the test page and they are done maths for the day. I started each child at a much lower level than they were doing with Easy Learn Maths so they could experience mastery confidence from the start. This is very important - if the child doesn't feel confident with what they are doing, there will be frustration and tears. There are lots of concepts my children know really well and a few that are new so some lessons can take more than one day. If I think they need more practice, they do a couple more lesson pages (there are six for each lesson) the next day and try explaining the concept to me again. They usually know it very well by this time so they complete the test and move on to the next lesson. I have decided to stick with Maths-U-See as our main maths curriculum (it has levels from pre-school through to senior) and use supplementary games and activities to add more fun when we need it. Below is a stop motion Lily did a few months ago that shows there are many ways to display understanding!

Maths holds no fear for me anymore. I still have much to learn in this subject and I love that I am able to learn with my children. Zoe is beginning Maths-U-See level Epsilon (fractions) and I am really looking forward to seeing where I can increase my knowledge and understanding in numbers. Who would have thought that I would really look forward to maths lessons? Not my 10 year old self!

More birthdays and holidays...

I realise it has been some time since I have posted an update on what Clan Christenson has been doing. Rest assured, we are all happy and healthy and enjoying our life together as always! This might be a longer than usual post as there is always a lot going on...

In October we took a tour with other homeschoolers to the Wivenhoe dam and Mt Crosby Water Treatment plant. It was a great day and we learned so much about where our water comes from and how much it goes through to reach our taps at home. It was lovely to meet new families and to hang out with some familiar faces.

In term four we fit in an enormous amount of learning. Here we see the children's Spanish class room (Miss Dominique is just so lovely and the children really enjoy her classes). In our science lessons we use a few different texts such as Exploring Creation with Physical Science. In this lesson we explored atoms and molecules using some wire and a battery. The children were able to see how we can break water molecules into its constituent atoms of hydrogen and oxygen. But what they really got from the experiment was time with Daddy making things fizz and change colour! 
Of course, we have to be really careful that the children's schooling doesn't get in the way of their real education. Such as modelling snow play dough, testing plastic bag kites on a windy day, exploring the structural integrity of a large cardboard box when filled with water and the testing of sail fabrics using an indoor sailing ship. Not to mention role playing royalty, map making, rummy-o and reading just because they feel like it!

Since my return from the braiding convention in the US, the children have been busy making lots of kumihimo braids. We made them into key rings and sold them at our annual home schooler's Spring Fair. They were really surprised to sell about a dozen of their lovely creations and happily pooled their money for a feast of chocolate!

This year I am reporting on the children's art learning to the HEU. We have been exploring colour and its mixing properties in many different ways. We also found a lovely place to do our spelling every day. Except that we have a large amount of lavender plants in the front yard so the children and I do tend to get rather sleepy if our lessons take too long!

We were a part of another homeschool class earlier this term, this one was equine studies in the beautiful Samford Valley . The children learned so much about caring for and being careful around horses. We made some wonderful friends and were able to visit a few more times to have a rides on the lovely Willow and to cuddle the guinea pigs and new baby chickens. It is nice to be able to visit the area we nearly moved to only a year ago. I love Samford but I am really glad we decided to stay in the Gabba.  

Our Boy turned seven at the end of September and we spent an amazing day with my Sis, Nikki, and her beautiful children at the Gold Coast. We ate cake and doughnuts, played in the Pacific Ocean and swam in the hotel pool. Nikki and I braved a restaurant with six children between us and we were pleasantly surprised they all behaved very well. (We are doing something good there, Nik!) The day was so awesome Henry fell asleep in the car on the way home and though the girls deny it, I am pretty sure he wasn't the only one!

Yesterday our Lily girl turned nine. She has had a rather busy week with her final Australian Girls Choir performance at QPAC and both girls performing in a play for their drama class. For her birthday, Lily chose to spend the morning at Wet and Wild followed by an afternoon of cake, movies and Minecraft. All three children are scraping the bottom of their energy banks and I am very glad we are on holidays because there is no way they could do any lessons with so much going on this time of year. It is pretty safe to say if they went to school all learning ends at about mid fourth term anyway. Right now our children are following their passions and NOT being at all bored!

What I love about term time is that all the really cool places to visit are not really busy at 1-2pm in the afternoons. So when one of the children gets an idea that we should explore the MtCoot-tha  botanical gardens, we just head over for a hour and have a ball. There is always something new to discover there! Also this term, we have joined a little homeschooling group who meet at the Daisy Hill koala park for afternoons of running around. The mums sit and chat about excellent literature of course and only hear from the children when they are hungry. There is even a resident wallaby who, we discovered last week, has a baby in her pouch! The photo on the bottom left is of a lizard in the hole of that log. Do you see it? No, I don't either but Lily did and our lovely friend took some close ups (the old iPhone is rubbish at zooming but Tracey has the real deal camera) and we could see the lizard! Lily has eagle eyes...

I must admit I did declare holidays this year a few weeks before I anticipated (I really should have looked at the calendar before putting the books away!). The truth is, I am really tired. And if I am tired I am pretty sure my children are too so instead of official daily lessons and feeling like we are getting nowhere, we are spending time together and the children are getting better at not bickering. There is also much more time to spend on things that take lots of time and make lots of mess. Take stop motion videos for example. This week Lily decided she wanted to make one (we discussed stop motion video once - a couple of years ago) so I found my old point-and-shoot camera, a borrowed tripod (cheers Suey!) and Lily made some magic. She took 372 photos then I had to figure out how to make a video with them. Luckily, my new mac has a movie maker that makes it all very easy. Lily sat with me during the editing and while I did most of the dragging and dropping (it really is that easy!), she made all the decisions. Not to be out done, Zoe made one too. She watched me edit Lily's so did her movie all on her own. Check out their creations below.

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