Monday, 8 January 2018

Talking To My Daughter About Death

The subject of death can be a very uncomfortable thing to talk about, especially with kids. I am always interested in how other cultures and people from different backgrounds approach this subject so I thought I would share how it happens in our family.

Firstly I think culture has a huge role to play in how we view death and therefore how we discuss it with our children. For us that does not include religion so there is no talk of an afterlife or reincarnation etc. I was a small child the first time I had seen someone after they had passed away, I remember very little but my mum tells me I just drew lots of pictures of the things around me, all the people and of course the coffin. I don't ever remember being scared that time or the many times after that.

Honesty: We live and we die. I try to put it as simply for my daughter as I can. Sure we talk about what other people believe, different traditions etc. This came into play the first time my daughter was going to a funeral in a Catholic church with a closed casket which is not like most she had been to before. She has asked me what my beliefs are and I have told her but I also ask her what she thinks. I want to make it ok for her to think differently than even her own mother. That we can all believe different things and that totally cool.

I don't have all the answers. I'm not scared to tell her I don't know something. Because the truth is even mums don't know everything. I can give my opinion based on what I believe but it is just that, an opinion. Any questions my daughter has I try to answer them the best I can and there is nothing that she can not ask me.

How death happens: I have explained to my daughter the best I can what happens when someone dies. Starting with what happens in the body. The organs stop working and without a heartbeat to pump blood, functioning lungs to breath etc the body no longer works. Because the body is not working the person has died. They may look like they are sleeping but they won't wake up, their body will go cold and there will be no life. This can be the result of many things, old age, sickness, accident etc and we discuss this normally on a case by case basis. I try to keep it as simple as I can.

Anxiety around death: To feel anxious about death is something completely natural and I want my daughter to know that. It's not a bad thing to feel anxious, it's not something we need to mask or hide. It is something that everyone feels at some point of time in their lives. I want my daughter to know that emotions and feelings are a-ok and something that we can talk about it if she needs to. This came up a while ago when she was feeling sad, I asked her why she felt sad and her reply was that she didn't want our dog to die one day. I told her that it was ok to feel sad and that yes one day our dog will die and there isn't anything we can do about that but what we can do is take him for lots of walks, trips to the beach and cuddles to make his life as awesome as we can.

Remembering: Talking about someone who has died has never been something taboo in our home. We encourage our daughter to talk about family members who have passed away and we explain that it does make us sad sometimes but sadness is again another emotion that is natural and we try to model healthy and positive ways of expressing these and all other emotions.

In a tiny nut shell that is how we approach death and the emotions and questions surrounding it. It is such a huge topic and there are so many varying opinions but the most important thing for me is continue to maintain an honest, open and respectful dialogue with my child. Free from shame, taboo or judgement and freedom of expression, thoughts and ideas.

Tell me how it goes in your house?

Robin xx

Monday, 27 November 2017

Homeschooling While Pregnant

You may have seen in my last post that we are expecting a new baby! While we are super excited being pregnant comes with it's own set of challenges. Namely my ability to function as a normal non-pregnant human.

We have been lucky this time around, last time I was working full time and along with the normal pregnancy stuff I also developed gallstones at about 14 weeks, I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick and in terrible pain. This time I would say this has been a very "normal" pregnancy. In the beginning I had a bit of morning sickness but nothing too major, the fatigue was pretty intense and now that the end is drawing closer the heartburn can be difficult to manage but all in all and compared to last time this pregnancy has been pretty happy-go-lucky.

While I'm not working this time around I do have a 6 year old who depends on me, not just for the normal stuff like food, water, clean clothes etc, but also for her education. She is always keen to pick up a book and "Do school" however some days for me it has been really tough. There have been a few things that we have been doing over the last 6 months to make sure that school is still ticking over and learning is still happening so I thought I would share some of those things with you.

Computer School: We normally don't do a lot of homeschooling on the computer/tablet but it has been so helpful during this phase of our lives. I downloaded a bunch of cool apps (If you want a list of cool free apps let me know) and sometimes Abby will ask to do some 'computer school'

Friends/Family: We are really lucky to have awesome friends and family. We have been outsourcing to them. Abby has done electronics with her granddad, spent beach days with cousins and played cards with grandma.

Outside Activities: We have made Abby's activities a lot easier to manage, we have taken a couple of terms off the activities we have to travel into the city for and become more involved with ones closer to home. She is still doing the same amount of activities each week but it's been a lot easier on me not to have to travel as much.

Current Unit Study- How baby's grow: Abby is so excited about having a little brother or sister and we have taken this and turned it into a real life learning opportunity. Abby has seen ultrasounds, heard the baby's heartbeat and seen me get a blood test. I have an app on my phone and together each week we read about all the things that are going on inside my tummy.

All in all we are making it work. Abby is right on track to where she needs to be and our family is still so pleased with our decision to home educate. For us home education will look different at different phases of our lives and we will flex and mold it to what our children need.

If you have any advice for this upcoming season in our lives (homeschooling with a baby) please let me know I would love to hear it!

Robin xx

You may also want to read:
Can my homeschooled child even read?
What is secular eclectic homeschooling?
Why we chose to homeschool our only child.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

I'm Pregnant

Surprise I'm pregnant!! 

You probably already know if you follow me on Instagram but I thought something should be said over here on the blog. 

The blog has been quite quiet lately mostly because I have been so tired and frankly the thought of doing anything that isn't sleeping has tired me out. But now I am feeling a bit better I thought I'd fill you in!
Currently I am almost 26 weeks pregnant, my due date is the same week as my daughter's 7th birthday. I will write a blog post later about why there is such an age gap between my kids but for now I'll just fill you in! 

I found out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, I was excited of course but being someone who has been through an early miscarriage I tried to keep my excitement to a minimum.  Even though I had a successful pregnancy after my miscarriage I think that early pregnancy stage will always be a time of worried anticipation at what may or may not be for both my husband and I. 

I had my first scan at 10 weeks, everything was as we hoped it would be so we decided to tell our close family. They were so happy mostly because I think they thought we were done having babies and had finally stopped asking us when/if it was going to happen again.

This time around apart from feeling tired, some heartburn and those normal pregnancy symptoms I have been feeling just like myself. Which let me tell you compared to my last pregnancy when I suffered with gallstone attacks from 14 weeks is a welcome experience. 

I'm starting to nest, we renovated last Christmas and allowed a space off our bedroom to make an en suit which we will turn into the nursery. I can't wait to have that finished so I can start putting baby's room together. 

So that's our news, we're having a baby early next year and apart from being heavily pregnant in the summertime again (something I said I would plan better next time) I am so content and happy. We can't wait to meet the newest member of our family! 

You may want to read these articles 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Can My Homeschooled Child Read? Homeschooling in New Zealand

First before we go any further let me state that my daughter has no special needs or additional learning needs this is our personal reading journey. Every journey and child is different so take anything you find useful and leave the rest.

Early Years

My husband and I have always loved reading, it's an important hobby for both of us so it was only natural it would be something we shared with our daughter once she came along! My daughter's book collection began before she was born as I collected kids books from the travelling book salesman who used to come into my work.

We started reading to our daughter very early and cloth/board books were always brought out at tummy time. Also during this time she saw us reading, she heard us reading and there was always a bunch of books available to her. My husband also read his books aloud to her when he was reading in the evenings. He likes Tom Clancy so it was a lot of Russian Spy type stuff but she just loved hearing her daddy read, it didn't matter what he was reading.

Pre-school Years

Our main goal during those toddler/preschool ages was to foster a love a reading. Visits to the library, stories, pop up books, books with funny pictures we used everything we had to give our daughter the opportunity to see, hear, look and touch books. We never pushed her to start reading during these times that love of books and reading was always far more important than her being a fluent reader at 3.4.5 or even 6 years old. We knew that if our daughter loved books she would love learning to read them for herself eventually.

Early School Days

When Abby turned 5 I was determined to teach her how to read. I spent hours researching curriculum, brought workbooks and generally stressed out about it to be honest with you. For some reason my philosophy from her early years had been thrown out the window and I was all sit down and do the workbook kind of teacher.
The pressure and judgement of other people on our decision and my ability of homeschooling our daughter really got to me and I was determined and quite frankly terrified that I was going to let my daughter down. Firstly I purchased the Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons I had heard great things from other homeschooling parents so it was the first thing we got. I also purchased the All About Reading Level 1. We didn't really do either of these as they are intended, firstly the 100 easy lessons was quite boring and less than half way through Abby was so over it and it was making reading seem more like a chore that I really had to try and persuade her to do it. BUT the principles of this book are amazing and I really credit it to those first steps of Abby learning to read. I don't regret purchasing it definitely served it's purpose even though we didn't do the full 100 lessons. I really loved the look of the All About Reading curriculum. I watched reviews, read blog posts and I really thought that we would love it. However, the time it took to set up, the flash cards, the tiles, the workbooks, the readers it was just all too much! As any 5 year old Abby really struggled with the time it took to complete a lesson and there were just too many bits! The the thing we did and still do use from this series is the readers. A collection of short stories in hard backed books in three different levels with black and white illustrations. Abby loved them, right now we are onto the last book in level one and I will be purchasing level 2 for her soon. These books really helped build on Abby's reading confidence.

It Clicked

I believe it was a mixture of all of these things that made it click for her, she's still 6 and still learning but the reading thing reading clicked for her and I credit that first of all to her love of books. I stepped back, I trusted her ability to learn and trusted my ability to be able to facilitate what she needed to get there.

How I Support My Daughter's Learning. 

Now that she has the basics I see it as my job to support her learning, firstly I never say no to a book at the library. It might be too hard for her, it might be too easy, it might be too long or it might just be a story I don't personally like but that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if we get it home and it doesn't get read. What matters is she is making decisions for herself, finding her interests and exploring. The other thing I do to support her reading is I just read to her, for fun, at bedtimes, when she's playing Lego, on holidays etc. If she asks me to read I will read (maybe not at that second but I will make her a promise to read it to her when I can before bed etc.) Abby also has her own CD player and a collection of audio books which she can put on herself when she chooses. Along with going to the library and borrowing books and audio books we also take part in the reading programs and events that our library hosts, there have been puppet shows, reading rewards, performances, story times etc. Along with Abby getting to choose what she reads I always make sure she is surrounded by really good stories, funny stories, silly stories, stories that rhyme and great authors are so important. If you are interested in hearing some recommendations on cool books to get kids giggling and loving books leave a comment or send me a message and I will make sure I make it happen. Above all I quietly encourage her and give her space and time when it comes to her reading aloud to me, building reading confidence and giving her time to work it out is far more important than finishing the book quickly.

What We Used 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Because Of You: A Letter to my Midwife

The other day was Midwife Day and I know I'm late with this post but I felt like I wanted to write it anyway!

To My Midwife.

You were the first person to hug me after my miscarriage, you just held me like a mum would and I can't tell you what that meant to me. You told me that it wasn't my fault and there is nothing I could have done. You sent me flowers and called to check on me, I felt the genuine care that you felt for me and for that I will be eternally thankful.

Over a year later when I was pregnant again you once again treated me with care and respect. You told me to relax and let things play out. You set up ultrasounds to reassure me that things were as they should be. When I was 41 weeks pregnant you scheduled my induction, when my labor was getting tough to handle to told me that this was something I could do, that I was already doing it. You convinced me that I was already doing something I thought I was not capable of. When Abby was born you were so fast to push that red button and get those doctors and nurses in there. You took my baby and with the rest of those amazing people you put air into my babies lungs and saved her life. You took her down to NICU and the amazing student midwife that you were mentoring showered me, dressed me and wheel chaired me down to see my baby.

Because of you, my daughter is alive.

There is so much more to this story but to be honest there is a lot that I can't/don't want to remember. Reliving my pregnancy and birth of my daughter is something I find incredibly difficult even 6 years later. There is one thing I am certain of and that is without you as my midwife I really don't want to know how things could have been. You were there, you were on your game and ready for any situation.

Thank you.
Robin xx

Thursday, 4 May 2017

40 Star Wars Books For Boys And Girls!

May the 4th Be With You!

I have collected together a huge list of Star Wars books for this very occasion! All links are for the website Book Depository because that's where I buy most of my books! There is free shipping and I have had many good experiences ordering from there.

Early Readers

Level 1

Level 2
Level 3
Level 4

Activity and Craft Books

Early Chapter Books
Do you like these kinds of lists? Do your kids like Star Wars? I have always thought that if a child finds something they like reading they will fall in love with books and develop a lifelong love of reading.

Robin xx

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A HUGE Change In Our Homeschool

We have just completed our very first term as Official Homeschoolers! I have learnt a lot this term and even though we have been homeschooling 'officially' since Abby was 5 this year with the our Exemption approved it felt more real and more serious!

One of the things I learnt this term was about the importance of planning. Last year we were very casual and took each day as it came. Finding learning experiences in daily life and doing book work when Abby asked for it (which was pretty much every day). This year I am finding that Abby wants more structure and she wants me to tell her what the plans are for the day/week. I was really open to the Unschooling philosophy but I just don't think that is going to work for our daughter. Instead we are opting more for a Child Led Learning approach were we use Abby's interests to lead her study and how that learning happens.

The other thing I learnt this term is that 10 weeks is a really long time!! We found the last 2-3 weeks of the term to be really tough, on both of us. Not because we didn't want to do school but because we had just run out of juice! We were both tired, I was running out of ideas and other aspects of our life were getting busy.

So here is the HUGE change!

We are gong to do 5 week terms! A regular school does 10 weeks of school time then 2 weeks of holiday. What we are going to do is 5 weeks of school time and 1 week of holiday! 5 on and 1 off instead of 10 on and 2 off. So we will still be getting in the same amount of school days throughout the year but we will take a shorter break between them.

The idea behind this is we will be able to plan 5 week long unit studies, which will give us enough time to explore a subject but not too much time that we get sick of it. 5 weeks is also enough time for us to get through one of our chapter books that we read together.

The plan is that 5 weeks gives us flexibility in our planning, and a chance to regroup and check our progress more frequently. Planning for 5 weeks is also a lot easier than planning for 10 for me and it's easier to see what we have coming up in the way of activities and trips. Lesson planning and schedules are all new to me, I'm not a teacher. I didn't go to teacher's collage but I'm very lucky to have a Mum who is a teacher and who has worked in ECE (Early Childhood Education) since I was at Playcentre. So I have been able to bounce ideas off her, she was also a great help with my exemption, not so much in writing it but just to give me feedback and someone to tell me I was on the right track.

What do you think about our shorter terms? This is purely a trial for us so we can re-evaluate in the next 5-10 weeks and see how things are going.

Robin xx

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