Monday, August 31, 2009

Bullying in Schools

I'll be up front and say that I was bullied in school. I had someone kick the back of my knee (to make me stumble and fall) as I was walking down a set of concrete stairs, but I have a very good sense of balance, so that didn't work. I had one girl tell me repeatedly that, "one of these days, I'm going to beat your head in." My response was to look her in the eye and say "Yeah, yeah." I wasn't a very good victim. Too independant to act intimidated by these girls. My friends, however, were terrified. This was over 20 years ago. I shudder to think how someone like Tracey would act in today's schools.
Maybe she would have had a hand in what happened last week. This morning, hubby was listening to ABC Radio this morning (Mornings with Madonna King - not sure if the piece will be podcast) who was discussing bullying, and gave the statistic that "today, 3 children in your classroom will be bullied. By the end of the week, 1 child in 5 will be bullied." Just what you want for your school-going children. And what can be done? When you have a ratio (in class) of 25+ children to 1 adult, and in the playground of hundreds of children to a few scattered adults, what can realistically be done? Are we to expect children to exert positive pressure on their peers to behave themselves, and not bully others? That's not how it works. Peer pressure generally exerts towards the lowest point. You will not (without significant outside influence, eg a strong parental figure influencing the leader(s)) get a peer group promoting positive behaviour, but, rather, whatever they can get away with. Young people will test limits and boundaries, and the result may be horrendous, like last week. Oh, and at the end of the report was this quote: "Mullumbimby High School has about 920 students and 75 teachers, and an anti-bullying policy." (Emphasis is mine.)
So what are your options? Private schooling? I only ever went to private schools - Catholic girls-only schools from Year 5 onwards, Catholic mixed school for Years 1-4. A 'nice' State School? How do you figure that out? Depend on the official word? Not helpful when they play 'blame the victim' to avoid reporting bullying. (I have enough anecdotal evidence of this happening locally - where you live may be different.) Haunt the school to make sure everyone is behaving themselves? Teach your child to be the bully, not the victim (because that will make Grandma so proud!)
Homeschool. Keep your child in the nurturing, natural environment, where their education can be tailored to their personalities and learning styles, where someone, at least, will be able to repeatedly tell Junior to put pencil to paper now! (Sorry - ADD child would rather play WWIII with his pencil than do maths ;) If we sent him to school, he would be sent to the overloaded Special Education class where they barely have enough teachers and aides to keep things relatively sane, let alone have the time and energy to ensure he actually does work.) Keep your child at home, where you can make sure that your stressed child gets the attention they require for mental and/or physical health. Keep your child at home, so they can do their work at home, rather than schoolwork and homework.
Keep your child at home. That's it. May not always seem possible, but if you really want to, you'll make a way.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Photography as a school subject

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is coming up (3rd week of September, approx.) and the annual photography competition closes tomorrow. It has three levels of competition - Open (over 18 years), Student (up to and including 18 years) and Historical (no age limit, except on the photos ;) ) Well, when I told Beth about this, she wanted to enter. So here are her items for submission to the competition. I'm also thinking of entering them as part of her Yearly Report for next year. I think she would also have to do another set in a few months for comparison purposes, but then, I'm not sure how I would put it in the report. Anyway, it's vaguely learning oriented, and she's happy with the results. She chose the subjects when she took the photos, and she chose which of the photos she wanted to submit. They were all taken at Toowoomba's Botanical Gardens, Queens Park.



Friday, August 7, 2009

Motivation

Well, it seems like the moment I put my blog addresses in my e-mail signature, I lost all motivation to keep going. Funny, huh. Anyway, I'm trying to get things going again, and have now updated my other blogs. As for homeschooling, we are getting stuff done - nothing to write home about. We have joined a local group - took our own sweet time doing so, but the children have found friends, and are enjoying the outings, and I'm enjoying meeting other homeschoolers.
It's funny - just last weekend I was sitting with a group of mothers, listening to them complain about school uniforms (uniforms are the norm in Australia, and one mother mentioned the variety of uniforms they had to have, and how very strict their school was with enforcement!) as well as start times and late slips. I'm just so glad I don't have to deal with any of that, or bullying, or peer pressure, or any of the stuff you get when you get masses of children spending inordinate amounts of time together, with minimal supervision or control. Socialisation - do I really want my children to be socialised into a pack mentality? Ah... No!
So, anyway... We're keeping on. I'll try to think of something more interesting to talk about later.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Distracted... Who Me?

sigh... Yes, I've been very distracted recently. I've been doing anything but blogging. I haven't even been taking photos lately! And we've been going very slowly with school.
One of the things I love about homeschooling is the fact that I'm not bound to the school schedule. I can keep going as needed, and take holidays as needed. My cousin's children, however, are, and my children tend to spend a week with them every school holidays, so we do have breaks related to the school schedule. As a matter of fact, the children have just come back from a week with their Nanna, and have a week at home before going to their Grandma's for another week to spend time with their cousins. After that, we will launch back into things, but with a new focus in science and the arts.
The plan for the coming period will be:
Science - Birds - We do a mini-project each Wednesday from our Wildlife Folders (huge set of cards in folders, passed on from a neighbour) as well as reading an appropriate chapter from Window to Bushland.
Composer - Handel - I have a number of cd's of his works, including a full copy of the Messiah, so we will have a good amount to listen to.
Artist - Rembrandt - I have a large (I guess coffee table-sized?) book of selected works. Each work covers 1-2 pages with each image a good 20 x 30cm in size, and accompanied by details of the work without any discussion, which fits with the general premise of CM-style picture study - show them the work, and let them draw conclusions. Sometimes, though, there is a back-story to the painting, eg The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilius, which I, at least, like to find out, and perhaps share with the children while we are looking at it.
But for now we carry on. Studying seals this week (fitting it in to the last week of mammals.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do you have to be smart to homeschool?

A question was recently asked in a forum I'm on - do you have to be smart to homeschool? Well, do you?
No.
So what characteristic(s) do you need to homeschool?
Dedication to your child(ren).
That's pretty much it. Everything else flows out of that. Junior needs help with maths? I am dedicated to finding out a way of helping him. Janey wants to learn French? I am dedicated to finding a way for her to learn, whether it's using a native-French-speaking tutor (because there's one available, and I can afford their fees) or finding a good online language program for free (because http://www.livemocha.com/ is brilliant!)
I believe that if you are a fit parent, you are fit to homeschool.
Now this is not to say there won't be challenges. There will be plenty of challenges. You will need all your dedication, all your patience, all your will and strength to do this. You will need your self-control to make you do the work, day after day. Find a way to make it interesting. Find a method that will help your child learn and understand. Learn how they learn, understand what they need to understand. Help them to know that education is more than just sums and spelling, but to also know that sums and spelling are important, because they are some of the basic skills required to communicate with others, to get your needs met.
You also need people. Other people. Your husband (because homeschoolers are usually women) to support you, your family and friends to accept you, and other homeschoolers to talk to, to tell you that, Yes, life happens, and Junior and Janey can be real little brats about doing their maths at times. Someone to listen to you rant, to console you when you're tired, and to suggest some new curriculum that might fit in with your educational philosophy and/or your child's preferred learning style. Someone to tell you what an educational philosophy is, or to explain about learning styles. Life can be hard without these other people, and if you're dedicated to your child(ren), and have decided that the best thing for them is homeschooling, then you need to get your own support network going. You have to be dedicated about your own needs, too.
Once you've got the dedication, you can branch out from there. You can consider educational philosophies. You can look at curricula, and think about the interesting extras that your children might be interested in, or that won't interest them initially, but would be useful to have in the backs of their brains in 10, 20, 30 years time. Without this dedication, however, you may find yourself maneuvered into a position that you cannot maintain, and experience the exhaustion that comes from being something or someone that you are not.

Well, that's food for thought. Hopefully it was coherent, and actually said what I wanted it to say.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

His First Chapter Book

A cause for celebration - Mark had read his first chapter book! We went to the library today, and I saw some books titled 'Boyz Rule!' and thought that would appeal to Mark, so I pointed them out. He selected all 3 books, and got them out himself. He has now read 1, and is half-way through the second book. I'm so proud of him. He hasn't liked to get books out, but if I can find books that appeal, we might just have something.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Year So Far...

Wow - it's been so long since I've posted anything. Things are moving along here - going into Winter very soon, one child's birthday just passed, and 2 more coming up in the first week of June.

What have I learned this year? That my eldest has not been educated by the school system as well as I had hoped, that's for sure. This is supposed to be her last year of primary school, Year 7 in Queensland, and yet she's only now learning fractions and factoring, and solidifying her multiplication and division skills. I hadn't really thought about fractions and factoring being so closely interlinked, because it's just natural for me to bring a fraction to its most basic form. 2/4 becomes 1/2 because both top and bottom are divisible by 2... and so on. I think she's just getting that concept this week.
Spelling has always been a problem for her. At her age I scored 100% on a spelling bee, where she can barely spell her way out of a paper bag, and I believe this rests a great deal on methodology. I went to a fairly old-fashioned Catholic school, back in the 70's. I learned to read with phonics, I learned my tables by rote, and I even learned Greek and Latin roots! I had a very good education, and I would like to thank my parents for sending me there. Poor Beth has had no rote learning of tables, and now has to study the multiplication table that I gave her (thought she seems to be picking it up) and wouldn't know a Greek or Latin root if it hit her in the face. So far. [insert evil chuckle here] She's getting there, and I believe she's already ahead of where she would have been if we had left her where she was.
She loves to read. She was complaining today that she had read all the books she had borrowed from the library (on Monday!) and had nothing to read. So I gave her The Hobbit. She has read about 8 pages, so far, and I'll ask her about it in the morning. A very different level of book to what she has been reading. She has been having a little trouble with some of her books - she finds 'Age of Fable' very boring, but doesn't want to replace it with another mythology book I suggested, as AoF covers a variety of mythology, while the other one only covered Greek mythology. She loves Shakespeare, so far, as do the other two. I guess it helps that I made little dolls, and use them while reading from Charles and Mary Lamb's 'Tales from Shakespeare'. I have also read a few pages of the actual play (Romeo and Juliet) and I must say, it is quite bawdy! Thankfully not in a way that my children will understand, but still - hopefully I won't blush too much while reading it out. (Just keep reading, maintain the flow, and don't explain!)
It's also funny, if you can catch the language. The first dialogue between the two men of the house Capulet starts off with the phrase 'carrying coals' and there is a response about colliers (one who carries/mines coals) and moves right onto a discussion of temprement (choler = bad tempered) and finishes off with the collar! Then they move onto being moved... to stand... to...
To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand:
therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.
he he... Then they get bawdy! Ahem. (blush) And then some men of the house of Montague turn up, and they start to quarrel, but after a side discussion among the Capulets about whether or not they have any support for getting into a fight, the Capulet backs down.
SAMPSON
[Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say
ay?
GREGORY
No.
SAMPSON No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I
bite my thumb, sir.
And on it goes.

And now for something completely different.
Well, not really. Just a different child. Hmm... what have I learned this year (so far) about Mark? He is passionate about things I wouldn't have suspected, and things he probably wouldn't have had a chance to do if he had stayed in school. He loves French. He loves music (though not necessarily the singing of folksongs and hymns.) He still very much needs me to keep him on task, but he is enjoying his Maths, as well. He is coping with/tolerating his writing - I still have him only on copywork, doing about two lines a day, because that is about as much as I can get from him without him baulking. He is enjoying 'Grammar Land' and is learning the parts of speech. So am I, because, for all their benefits, the school I went to didn't do much at all for Grammar. I learned about nouns/verbs/adjectives/adverbs, and I learned to punctuate (basically, anyway) but I don't recall learning any more than that. I didn't know what an article was, let alone pronouns, etc.

Well, I might sign off now for tonight.