Mama's Musings

Q & A #2 - Handwriting

Jun 29, 2020

We did Queensland handwriting books at about age 6 for printing, and age 10 for cursive writing. I'm not sure anyone finished their books, though, they really disliked them.

I also bought the dotted thirds lined exercise books and would write words and sentences relevant to the children - names, address and other locations, friends, family, pets, words related to their interests... This was a more popular method than the workbooks.

I used to get them to write on my shopping list, or on the calendar, and they wrote cards and occasional letters to family and friends. The older ones had penpals, but the younger ones used email for communicating with friends far away.

As they got older, if it was evident that their handwriting was still both a chore for them and not very neat, we tried keeping a journal. This of course helped with other aspects of writing such as composition and grammar. Most of them disliked journaling, so it was abandoned fairly soon.

For some we tried Copywork....

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Musings on Craft

Jun 26, 2020

Are you creating things with little people?  I often am!  I have a few craft books to inspire, but I don't regularly use them...  I normally search online for a specific theme, eg: "rainbow craft preschool".  Or sometimes I search for activities to use up specific materials, eg: "seedpod crafts".  I have the beginnings of a folder of ideas in Pinterest, but I forget to add to it!

We like to use materials from nature, mixed with materials that can be composted.  We try to avoid plastic, foam, synthetic fibres, over-packaged kits, single-use everything!  I remember about 20 years ago taking my tribe of small children to playgroup and coming home with at least four creations made from plastic and styrofoam, glitter and googly eyes.  And another four the next week.  And over and over until our home was filled with non-recyclable art that inevitably ended up in the bin.  We still have way too many precious creations floating...

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Q & A #1 - Reading Levels

Jun 22, 2020

My older children were independent readers at a huge variety of ages. One was reading novels at three years of age. Others learned to read around five, and progressed at a similar rate to most schooled children. A couple of them could read basic words, but weren’t independent readers until they were 8 or 9 years old. I define an “independent reader” as one who will seek some text to read for pleasure, or obtain information, without much assistance. Most of our kids jumped from “The Cat Sat On The Mat” style readers to novels or non-fiction books in a matter of weeks.

As adults, they all read for pleasure and study. They’ll often come home and scour the bookshelves for favourites to re-visit or reference books they remember.

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Childcare: Naturally?

Jun 15, 2020

 

Childcare is a matter that greatly affects parents and employers – the main cogs in our societal moneymaking machine.  Childcare benefits and tax deductions are offered as enticements but rarely are the needs of children considered by policymakers.  A focus on numbers, timeframes and dollars motivate the big decisions. Childcare is big business and is currently influencing almost all childhoods in Australia.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that 90 percent of children under five currently use some form of childcare.  Tens of thousands of Australian children are in formal childcare for more than 45 hours a week.

Natural parenting is an ideology, not a dogma.  It is about instinctively raising our young, and making informed decisions.  Does childcare compromise or compliment our conscious parenting ideals?  Are those who perceive theirs to be a natural parenting style more protective than most other parents? ...

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Home Grown Kids: No Dig Gardens

May 29, 2020

A no-dig garden is also known as sheet mulching or lasagne gardening. It is built by layering materials on top of the soil or in a large vessel, thereby creating a friable and nutrient-rich environment in which to grow plants, especially vegetables.

Why no dig?

No-dig gardens are quick to build and require little on-going maintenance. They mimic nature with their layers of organic matter decomposing and being added to in time. There is no tilling and a covering of mulch so weeds are less of a problem. Because digging isn’t required the method is suitable for all gardeners.

How?

You can begin on any fairly flat surface, including using an old bathtub or other recycled raised bed. Ideally, the garden will receive at least five hours of sunshine per day. If building on the ground you might like to edge with wood or rocks if you have them, but it isn’t vital to the project and is something you might do later. Creating a no-dig bed directly on the lawn is fine, too. The...

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Home Grown Kids: A Creative Garden

May 22, 2020

Time in the garden need not be only about planting, feeding, watering and harvesting. Another way to enjoy your garden is through art.

The garden itself is often seen as a form of art. Using plants’ colour, texture, shape and size the gardener creates a landscape of beauty. By adding accessories, either natural (such as stones) or man-made, we enhance and individualise our growing spaces. By looking at others’ gardens, parklands, nature, books and magazines from the library, and online, we can collate ideas of what appeals to us and from there gradually shape our garden through the addition of new plants or other items.

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas. Elizabeth Murray.

Throughout history gardens have also influenced artists’ paintings, photographs and words. Famous garden artists include Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keefe. Of course for many children, their first artworks include...

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Home Grown Kids: What's In The Box?

May 15, 2020

It is vitally important that our children have access to fresh, wholesome, affordable and tasty food.  The freshest food is local food.  Food from the earth, not wrapped in plastic from a store.  The most local is our own backyard, balcony, or a school or community garden.

Potted gardens are quick to establish.  They are ideal for those renting, living in small spaces, with changeable weather or anyone just starting out. This is possibly the perfect ‘garden’ for small children because they are so defined and more easily controlled than a traditional vegetable plot. You may have some space on your rooftop, balcony or steps to begin or add to your garden right away with pots.

On our family’s farm with hectares of arable land we grow a lot of our food plants in containers because they are easy to manage.  I can move them around to suit the weather, the drainage is excellent, they are more easily protected from free-ranging chickens and...

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Home Grown Kids: The Recycled Garden

May 08, 2020

Recycling in the garden has been increasing in popularity for more than a decade. In July 2008, Richard Reynolds and his team created a Recycled Garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The creators explained, “Everything in this garden would have been thrown away if we had not intercepted it. Reusing and rejuvenating old plants is one tactic guerrilla gardeners deploy when transforming neglected patches of public space. In this way both land and plants are given a new lease of life - sustainably and cheaply.”

In the United States, more than 600,000 tons of discarded material were recycled by landscaper and artist Richard Pocopalia for garden use. Items used in his designs include old guardrails, driftwood, broken crockery and other waste. What an achievement to reduce landfill by 600,000 tons whilst creating beautiful places!

Garden recycling is a great way to inspire interest in the environment especially with kids. Finding...

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Home Grown Kids: Animals in the Garden

May 01, 2020

Animals are an exciting part of the gardening experience. We are blessed to have a garden large enough for many creatures, great and small.  We also have a number of exciting wildlife around our place to enjoy. Here are a few of our backyard residents.

There are a lot of ways to incorporate animals into your gardens and your children’s lives, though, even without the luxury of having a lot of garden space.

Worms are fascinating to observe. They munch through food scraps and create fantastic fertiliser for your plants.  Want to build a worm farm? Instructions are  readily available online. Alternatively, you can buy a complete kit with worms and all requirements from hardware stores, gardening centres and sometimes your local farmers' market.

Worm Observation Experiment
Worm Farm from Recycled Materials

Bird feeders are a second option for those with limited space. A simple bird feeder can be created using a pot plant saucer and some string or wire, and hung from a...

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Home Grown Kids: Magical Seeds

Apr 24, 2020

Few things in nature hold as much magic as seeds. With a small fistful of seeds, children can observe the full life cycle of plants. They can observe how plants reproduce from watching plants flower, go to seed and germinate.

To save seeds from your garden or wildflowers, collect them at maturity during the late morning on a dry day. Clean them to store in a cool, dark, dry place for re-sowing. If you have enough seeds sprinkle them around the garden to see when they come up again. Collecting your own seeds will save on seed costs, create a connection with nature through the seasons, and improve your gardening success rate as the seeds adapt to your locale. For more detailed instructions on cleaning seeds to store and save, look to resources such as The Seed Savers Handbook.

Various types of plants have different methods for sowing and saving seed:

Annuals usually grow from seed through part of a year, then seeds are saved and stored or lay dormant in the ground until the...

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