Saturday, 28 May 2016

Introducing... Evangeline Lily

We have a new family member and it's a Girl!

Please allow me to introduce to you my daughter, Evangeline...
 
Yes, she arrived a month ago, but I know you'll all forgive me for not having blogged sooner. I've been fortunate enough to be able to forget about the rest of the world and spend the last four weeks in a blissful (yet, sleep-deprived) baby bubble.

Here are some of my favourite photos from Evie's first day in this world...

She's got some pretty smitten big brothers...
Hamish smiles just like this every time he looks at her or talks about her...
We are tired but happy, I'm healthy, she's thriving and we're all so very, very much in love.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Capital Fun - Our Top Ten Things To Do In Canberra With Kids

There are so many things to do in our nation's capital! On our recent trip we had an amazing time seeing as much as possible and we have come up with a list of our Top Ten Things To Do in Canberra as a family with young children.

So, here they are, in no particular order...

1. Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre

We loved it here so much we went twice! Heaps of hands-on fun. We liked making shadows...
...playing with the air tubes, solving puzzles and the free-fall drop. Hamish must have gone on this slide at least thirty times!


2. Pod Playground at The National Arboretum

We found our way here somehow straight from the airport and it was the best place to have found! The kids got to run, jump, climb and swing their way through this incredible playground before we had lunch at the cafe which has a beautiful view toward the city and Lake Burley Griffin. The bonsai display was beautiful too. And I had a lot of fun in the gift shop! 
 
3. Parliament House


The ultimate stop for homeschoolers! We joined the free tour and got to explore this beautiful building...
...and learn a little about how our government works.
We all enjoyed going up onto the roof to get a closer view at that enormous flag that you can see from nearly everywhere around the city...
...but had the most fun rolling down the grass on the roof! Honestly, the softest, lushest grass I've ever felt! Had to set my piggies free in that glorious green too.


4. The National War Memorial

I wondered how the kids would cope with a visit here. I worried it'd be a bit overwhelming or even boring for them. It does house a really, really large collection of memorabilia and information about all of the conflicts Australia has been involved in - and you'd probably need two full days to see it all fully.

The sections we chose to visit were meaningful enough to respectfully engage the children and incredibly well presented. The tomb of the unknown soldier and the poppy walls were incredibly moving.
They even have a dedicated area for kids, called The Discovery Zone, where they can experience what life would have been like on a submarine, in a muddy trench and flying a helicopter...
Don't miss the visual media exhibits in Anzac Hall. Brilliantly done.


5. Cockington Green Gardens

Miniature English villages, incredibly detailed replicas of famous buildings from around the world and stunning gardens. We had a fun morning exploring.


6. The National Dinosaur Museum

Just down the road from Cockington Green is the National Dinosaur Museum - at must for any family with as many dino fans as ours.

The garden full of sculptures had us excited on arrival. Especially Spinosaurus...
The inside boasts the largest collection of dinosaur exhibits in the country - including some roaring, moving models that were a huge hit. They even had a quiz trail that you could complete as you explored the exhibits. We learnt a lot.
Be sure to throw the phrase "post-mortem contraction of the posterior neck ligaments" into the conversation so you sound like an expert ; )


7. The Australian Institute of Sport

The boys headed out here for a tour one morning while this exhausted, pregnant lady had a much needed rest.

They were super impressed by the facilities - especially the incredible pool, though the boys would have loved to have spent more time playing with the interactive exhibits.

8. Patissez

I'd heard about the freak shakes at Patissez (pronounced Pat-i-say) before we left home, so a visit here was definitely on our must do list. We had to wait half an hour for a table at the Manuka store at lunch time but it was worth it!

While the collection of cakes - including gluten-free choices - looked incredible we could not go past the shakes and ordered a Cookies and Cream, Golden Gaytime and Nutella version. OMG!

The burger (on a gf bun), the chilli dog and the pancakes were also incredible. 

The kids and I ended up paying a second to visit to the city store before we left too. 

9.The Carillion/Kings Park/Commonwealth Park

We were in Canberra for Australia Day and popped down to Kings Park to watch the fireworks.
We came back to hear The Carillion bells during the day and spent some time exploring and playing in these beautiful gardens that surround this side of the lake.


10. Sky Zone

You may already have a trampoline park in your home town but this was our first ever visit to one and we loved it!
And being school time we practically had the place to ourselves...
Awesome fun!


There are so many other things that could've made the list but these were our favourites. Have you been to Canberra? What's your must-see?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Our Adventures in Homeschool and What's Happening Now

It's been seven months since I wrote this post about our decision to trial homeschooling.
 
I've drafted so many versions of a post sharing what we've been up to over those months and just never got around to posting them. Having the kids at home all the time has meant that blogging has taken a backseat and I'm actually really glad it did.

We have had a lot of fun learning at home. While there have been some really tough days as we adjusted to our new routine, the majority of the time we just enjoyed being together and not being in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything. The not rushing out the door of a morning is absolute bliss.

I did, however, worry a lot. I worried that we weren't doing enough "school" work. I worried a lot about which method to use. I occasionally worried that the kids might drop behind their peers. 

The whole idea, however, was to treat this as an experiment and experiment we did. We started with strategies to deschool, then tried an unschool approach to natural learning and, of course, build in some Montessori (here's a link to all my Montessori posts)

When I look through all the photos I've taken, however, it really is evident that we've done a lot. We've learnt a lot. And we've done it in our own time and our own special way. So, I thought I'd share a few highlights...

We used homemade Montessori beads to explore place value...
...and multiplication...
Learnt about codes and tried cracking cyphers - inspired by the movie National Treasure.

My favourite thing to watch was cooperative free play. Here they are constructing enclosures/homes for different animals...
We (unsuccessfully) tried gardening. These seeds sprouted but didn't live long..
...and we lost both Tommy and Tommy 2.0. The toddler lovingly watering him with pool water was a tragedy!
We used everyday objects like Duplo to explore math concepts...
Tried our hand at some STEM activities such as toilet paper marble runs...

We baked (gluten free) damper...
Took nature walks...
...spotted local wildlife and even tried our hand at making our own episode of Bushwhacked!
We researched topics of interest (dinosaurs!)...
Rediscovered toys we'd nearly forgotten about...
Explored colour theory and learnt about watercolour painting...
And worked through a few basic Montessori tasks to check off the list. Like whole hand transference...
...and threading...
The playroom/schoolroom got reorganised a few times too...
All of this has been interspersed with reading, board games, movies and lots and lots of travel - which I need to blog about soon - including Alice Springs and Uluru, Brisbane, New Zealand and Canberra. I feel that travel is the ultimate learning experience for kids.

When we were home, we had the opportunity to join the fabulous local homeschooling group on a couple of excursions. First we went to the Butterfly Farm - and loved the bunnies more than the butterflies! 

Then we headed to Litchfield for a picnic and a swim...


Then we got the opportunity to help release baby Flatback Turtles into the ocean...

Overall, it's been a really positive experience. I was getting really frustrated with the kids' school and the more I read about the benefits of natural learning and the problems with our school system the more I'm confident that we were doing the right thing.

So what's happening now?

Well, the kids have been back at school for the last week and a half!

I know, Whaaat?!?!

There are quite a few factors affecting this decision - mainly centering around my being pregnant and not having the energy/ability/enthusiasm to keep up with the social needs of three boys who really miss seeing friends every day. I couldn't see this improving for a while after baby arrives, either.

In the end it was our six year old's suggestion and, personally, I left the decision up to the boys. They wanted to try a new school and they had really missed that part of it. At this stage school will be for a trial period and if they're ever keen to give homeschooling another go, then I'm all for it.

So, lovely reader, it's been a while, what have you been up to lately?