new fabrics in stock

This year I decided to re-open my etsy store, you’ll find some lovely charm square packs in there. I’m itching to start making some quilts with them but am also halfway through packing up a few rooms that are being painted and having the cork flooring replaced.

So enjoy some of these pre-releases, if you’d like a mix of the charm square packs just drop me a message on etsy and I’ll make a custom bundle. Every order will have a bit of extra fabric put in there as cleaning out the craft room is next on my to do list.

moving to melbourne

Just when I started to get comfortable with everyone settled at their schools and starting to get a bit more time to study….boom……someone went and got a job down in Melbourne! And as big a job as it is to move everyone in our family down there it really was a prayer answered. At first I didn’t really like the thought of packing up our house, renting it out, changing schools and moving somewhere new but it gives us lots of new opportunities and I’m making it our adventure. But I’m really, really, REALLY going to miss life here. One of the things I love is the people I talk to wherever I go, everything is familiar and I really do just feel so settled…………..we’ve had a few tears in the house as it’s going to be hard to say goodbye and everyone has things that they will miss.


We decided to stay for most of the year so that the kids really did get a good year at school and move down for the last term of the year. I have a lot of decorating and repairing jobs to do at our house, a pool that will need to meet compliance, a kitchen that needs to be freshened up out of the 1980’s and some serious decluttering. I’m still waiting for the motivation to start those jobs but I’ve started getting quotes and booked the first council clean up. And the church fete got a few car loads of donations when I did have some initial motivation to get moving.

melbourne 2

Study is on hold so I can have everything organised and I’m not sure whether I’ll continue or not. I don’t want to be a uni dropout but I also really missed my own free time when I was studying. I did finish 1 subject but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself with assessments which I said I wasn’t going to do. But I did.

melbourne 3

So that’s that. 4 months to get everything packed up. A couple of people have mentioned I’ll be closer to my much loved Bendigo Woollen Mills and I have to say after spending a whole weekend clearing out my craft room I don’t think I want to be near craft supplies for a while. Wow the things you find…same with wardrobes and kitchen cupboards. But I am loving that I can open the tupperware cupboard and not have it fall out everywhere.


our review of the HandiTheatre Home Outdoor Cinema

We love movies at our house and especially on weekends. Going to the cinemas though does cost us an arm and a leg since there are so many of us and even with the cheapest tickets I expect to pay close to $100 with a popcorn thrown in there. And then the popcorn ends up being thrown around anyway rather than all eaten.

The HandiTheatre Home is an inflatable cinema for your backyard and means you can enjoy the big screen outdoors….without leaving home. The kids thought it was the most exciting thing that had happened in a long time when it came to live at our house. The inflatable screen is 2.5m and putting it together is easy as it comes with an electric pump so it was inflated in no time. You also have ropes that you can attach to pegs if it’s a little windy and you want to keep your screen in place. We used them the first time we set up the screen but didn’t use them the next time. Once it’s inflated the screen stays up which is great and it’s very sturdy so you don’t need to worry about puncturing it.

You also have a projector and a sound bar and the quality of the sound and picture was perfect. You can place the projector in front or behind the screen. We placed it in front of the screen but behind where we were all sitting but some of the kids loved sitting on the other side of the screen to watch it so we might try putting the projector behind next time. For your media you could use a DVD player, tablet, laptop or other device. We used our Apple TV since most of our favourite movies are already on there. Here is our resident technical expert who enjoyed putting it all together.

You need to wait until it starts to get dark to enjoy the movie but we used the time to eat dinner and make snacks before laying out our blankets and then enjoying the movie. And the great thing about being home is that the snacks are all there – we had pizza scrolls, cupcakes and a fruit plate.

And you know what it’s like with kids….first we had to agree on the movie because most wanted to watch Beauty and the Beast but one little girl wanted to watch Angry Birds so Angry Birds it was.

If it looks like rain and you need to change your plans then set up the cinema inside. We had a night watching Boss Baby in the playroom and the kids thought it was lots of fun….until I deflated it the next morning.

I can see a lot of uses for the HandiTheatre Home for families especially with summer coming. I also think it’s great for big families, extended families, having the neighbours over, birthday parties, homeschool groups, class movie nights and more. I’m also thinking it might be the way I can get some of my homeschoolers to watch some more documentaries and interesting movies as part of our studies. You can also play computer games on it so I’m thinking Just Dance will be even more fun outside and on the huge screen. Once you have an outdoor cinema the kids find lots of reasons to get outside and watch a movie and it’s a nice way to spend the night.

A few things that helped make it easier using the HandiTheatre Home for the first time:

  • set up the screen before it gets dark and read the instructions first. It also helps to have a handy husband on hand (or a techhead son) to tell you to turn the sound bar on when you can’t work out why there is no sound coming out. Derrrr.
  • have an extension cord and power board for when you are setting up and running the outdoor cinema. We set this up first and then ran the projector, sound bar and apple TV from the power board with the extension cord attached to our power point outside the garage.
  • You need to find a small table to put the projector on so we found a kitchen stool that was the perfect height for our cinema.
  • The inflatable cinema, projector and sound bar all come with their own sturdy bags so you can store them away safely and in their own black bags until you need them again.

Thank you to Smart Digital for sending out the outdoor cinema for me to review. You can find out more about their outdoor cinema products here and on their Facebook page here. I was not paid for this review but received the HandiTheatre Home to keep. 

lunchbox scrolls

These are super popular in our house at the moment. They don’t take too long to make and we just bag them up and keep them in the freezer until the morning they are needed for lunchboxes. If you don’t have a thermomix just use any pizza dough recipe.

You can add a variety of fillings and our biggest issue is them lasting long enough in the freezer. I did a double batch last wednesday afternoon and by friday morning we didn’t have any left! Even just passata and cheese makes a delicious scroll for the kids and fussy eaters.

But the most popular scroll is spinach and feta.


lunchbox scrolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 12-15
What you'll need
  • Pizza dough
  • 220g warm water
  • 1 sachet yeast
  • 400g pizza/bread flour
  • 20g olive oil
  • salt
  • Fillings
  • tomato passata (for Hawaiian and spinach and feta)
  • pineapple (for Hawaiian)
  • baby spinach leaves (for spinach and feta)
  • 150-200g feta (for spinach and feta)
  • vegemite (for cheesymite option)
  • grated cheese (for all options)
  1. I follow the thermomix instructions for dough by mixing the warm water and yeast then adding in the flour, olive oil and salt and kneading for 2 minutes.
  2. Place some olive oil in a bowl and wipe around the bowl to grease it and place the dough in there, cover with glad wrap and leave in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. Knock down the dough and you are ready to go.
  3. Now roll out 1 batch of dough into a rectangle. I do this on a floured surface and using a floured rolling pin. You don't want the dough too thin or sticky so just add more flour if your dough is too sticky.
  4. For the hawaiian rolls cover the dough in passata, not too much just enough to cover the entire dough surface. top with drained pineapple pieces (you don't want too much juice or it makes the dough wet).
  5. **Now cover with lots of grated cheese.
  6. With the long end of the dough that is furthest away from you roll the dough towards yourself fairly tightly. Keep rolling until you have a log of dough.
  7. Cut into scrolls, the thickness is up to you, I go for a thicker scroll but if you have more mouths to feed make them thinner.
  8. Place on a lined baking tin or roasting tin and place so that they are touching each other just slightly.
  9. Bake in a 200C preheated oven for at least 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and they are starting to look golden on top. You want to check that your dough is cooked right through the centre so I like to cut one scroll in half and checked it's cooked right through.
  10. Leave to cool or eat warm.
  11. To freeze the scrolls I leave them to cool and then place into freezer bags with 2 or 3 in a bag and put in the freezer.
  12. For the spinach and feta scrolls you will cover the dough entirely in passata then sprinkle over baby spinach leaves, top with cubed feta (small cubes) and follow from **
  13. For the cheesymite scrolls you want to spread the dough with vegemite, use vegemite at room temperature that is easier to spread. You could heat it up a little in the microwave if it's still too thick to spread and go easy on the vegemite as too much is too strong for the little ones (trust me on that one). Follow from **

So far our favourites are hawaiian and spinach and feta.

win an iPad mini!

Brought to you by Westpac, who is proud to offer Mathspace Essentials free to all Australians

Congratulations to Rebecca Lee-Metcalfe who was chosen as the winner of the giveaway. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Next year is going to be a big year in our house. My eldest starts high school (I still don’t believe it) and one of my little boys starts big school. High school is such a big step up from primary school and our gorgeous girl does really well at school and enjoys all of her subjects except for maths. And it’s always been a struggle to lift her maths marks as english and her other subjects just come so easily to her. We’ve even done a few years of maths tutoring twice a week which she really didn’t enjoy.

As soon as the Year 6 maths homework started coming home this year I could see it was much harder compared to last year. The questions involved converting fractions to decimals and working out sums with fractions. Each week she has a few pages of maths sheets to work through and her online maths tasks that are set by the teacher. Every Thursday night we’d have to sit down together and go through all of the questions she couldn’t do before they were handed in friday morning. It just wasn’t making sense to her. I was trying to show her how to do it but something wasn’t clicking.

We would sit with the examples and answers, I was trying to teach her to look for patterns and try to remember what 1/8, 1/4 etc was in decimal form to make solving the sums easier. And in our house the hardest thing about homework is that it has to be done after we get in the door from our activities and at the same time as kids need to be fed and bathed and looked after before bed. And I was pregnant and tired. It wasn’t a good combination.

As it turned out while I was in hospital having the baby hubby sat down and worked with her. He then started to sit with her twice a week to go through the maths homework and explain it differently than me. We made sure she was keeping on top of her online work and were helping her as much as we could. First semester report came in and she’d lifted her maths marks right up from the bottom quarter of the grade to the top half.

Rather than buying an extra workbook to help with extra maths we’ve also been using Mathspace Essentials which is being provided by Westpac. She likes the videos to explain concepts and she likes getting hints when she’s trying to work out the sums. I think she also just likes it as an excuse to use my phone and I have to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t switch to her favourite thing to do online – watch baking tutorials on YouTube.

You can access Mathspace Essentials for free here and we really love the app on our phones to make it fun and portable. You can select your country, state and school grade from Year 3-12. If you have a Westpac bank account then you can try Mathspace Plus on a 7 day trial here and find out more about the Solve to Save program that is currently running too.

Maths has finally clicked for her this year and it’s a great relief. It’s still hard and we still have to sit with her for a couple of questions each week but it’s getting easier and there are less questions that we have to sit through. It hasn’t cost us any money in tutoring, just time spent 1 on 1 to explain everything and encouraging her to do some extra work on the computer to help improve her marks and understanding. And now that the worry about maths this year is over I can start to worry about high school maths next year…..I really hope it all comes back to me!

Here are a few tips from our house that have really helped in this house as the maths homework has become harder

  • Don’t do the answers for them even though that’s the quickest way to get homework done. Go back through their school books or ask how the teacher showed them how to do it.
  • Give a hint to keep them on the right track, when you’re working on Mathspace there are step by step hints to help them solve the problem. This isn’t something we’ve found in the online maths program used at our children’s schools.
  • Teach your children their times tables and then test them in the car on the school run. Once they’ve learnt their timetables it makes multiplication and division so much easier (I’m learning this with year 3 maths right now!).
  • Help them find ways to remember concepts, for example my husband taught my big girl that an acute angle is a little cutie.
  • Mathspace has teachers available online to answer questions if  your child gets stuck while working through a question. This could be really helpful when you’re not making progress or your child needs a different strategy
  • I’m a big fan of carrying over and borrowing the 1 when it comes to solving a maths problem, hubby was taught using the pay back system and methods that students are taught now are different. If your school offers a session for parents on maths and how they are teaching it then go along to learn. Otherwise use their textbooks and online programs like Mathspace to see how the sums are being worked out.
  • Make it fun….kids love working on the smart phones, tablets and computer so let them use Mathspace on a device and have some fun while learning……
  • And lastly little rewards or incentives along the way for putting in the hard work tend to work well too.

Love to hear how you are helping with maths in your house and what’s been working……………and if you have any questions on Mathspace Essentials or Solve to Save or anything on how we teach maths in our house just ask.

And now for the fun bit…..I have one iPad mini (valued at $479 plus postage) to give away to one lucky person.

All you need to do is tell me about the maths struggles in your household OR how you’ve been working at maths and what has worked.

Entries close 20th October 2017, 1 entry per person, entrants must be aged 18 or over and live in Australia, I will be picking the winner who will be contacted by me via email and announced on the blog and Facebook. This giveaway is being run by myself not Westpac. Once the winner is chosen the decision is final. 


homeschooling and maths

Brought to you by Westpac who is proud to offer Mathspace Essentials free for all Australians

The funny thing about being a homeschooler is that people have a lot of questions and/or misconceptions. When someone asks where your children go to school and you say the name of the school they  might say ‘oh I’ve heard of it’ ‘or ‘oh ok’ and that’s that. But when you say you’re a homeschooler, well you’ve just opened a can of worms and started a whole conversation. Are you a teacher? How do you teach the hard subjects? You must be really patient. What about socialisation? Are you anti – school? How will your child cope in the playground when they go back to school? (yes I got that question!), When do you get time for yourself? What if they fall behind and can’t catch up at school? I’ve heard of all these questions and more.

It is a big responsibility to take on the job of homeschooling. You are no longer just helping your child out with homework and getting them to school on time but you are now responsible for making sure they are learning, finding the curriculum or creating a curriculum, teaching and then marking work, keeping records and just keeping on top of it all whilst also keeping on top of family life. No small task. But it is actually fun, rewarding, brings the family closer together and everyone learns…..including you the parent.

You might have seen the statistics where Australia is falling behind in maths. In our homeschool we make maths and english a priority so that if/when they return to school they are not behind. In fact my goal is that they are ahead of grade level. To do this we set 4 pages of maths a day and completing tasks in an online program each week. Even if we had an outing planned or a busy day of appointments the maths and english books came with us. Starting out with that set in stone made my life easier and meant we didn’t fall behind. In fact, my son was doing year 3 maths while he was in Year 2 at home. And my daughter who once struggled with maths at school and refused to do the online tasks set by her teacher ended up sailing through the NAPLAN questions even though we’d been using a variety of different books and methods.

I am so glad that Westpac have partnered with Mathspace a leading online maths program to help your children with maths.  The Mathspace program has been winning awards and is considered the best online maths program. I have to admit that at home we’ve been using the online maths program that they used at school so I was interested in trying out Mathspace. We tried Mathspace Essentials in our homeschool for a few weeks and a few things I noticed that made it better than the online maths program we are currently using were:

  • You can watch video lessons made by real maths teachers whenever you get stuck, like this one

Mathspace - areaofcircle


  • You can do NAPLAN practice questions in the grades that NAPLAN is tested (3, 5, 7 and 9);

  • You can click on hints and get one and then another hint to help you solve the problem. This is a real confidence booster as it gives you a prompt to help rather than the big tick or cross you get in other maths programs; and

  • We could use it on the PC, tablet and smart phone and with handwriting recognition your child can write the answer and its then converted to type. We really liked this feature as it made it fun.

We made a little video of us using Mathspace at home and I have to tell you we took so many videos because little ones kept walking into the room, the baby would burp on my shoulder, other children were calling out to me from another room, we noticed a smudge on the computer, someone was eating in the background. But we got there eventually……

Overall, we are really impressed with the Westpac Mathspace program. The app is great for when we are ‘on the go’ as my big girl can be doing her maths while we’re out and about and then we can tick it off for the day. She found the questions got more challenging as she worked through them but was able to keep trying with the hints. We’ve been having trouble understanding angles and time always seems to be a bit tricky so it’s been great to watch the lessons and then have a go with the answers and I can’t rave enough about the hints – that’s usually what I have to sit and do so it’s great that she can read the hints and help solve the problems herself.

To try out Westpac Mathspace for yourself just visit here. Mathspace Essentials is easy to access online, across any device and all you need to do is sign up with an email address, create a password and you’re off. You don’t need to be a Westpac customer to take advantage of this offer. Once you have signed up you can select the country and state you are in (for Australia) so that it matches the curriculum for your state. You can also select your grade from year 3-12 and in year 11 and 12 there are further options (general, standard, advanced and extension).

And my top tips for teaching maths at home

  • You don’t need to be a teacher! Most maths programs come with teaching guides and answers are always provided plus you’ll be surprised how much you remember once you get started. Mathspace Essentials comes with videos that explain each topic so that your child can learn or revise the topic at home and then do practice questions on each topic after watching the video. 
  • If you start a resource or buy a book that isn’t working don’t be afraid to dump it and move on to something that engages your child.
  • Sometimes you might need to go back to basics rather than stick to where they should be at a school grade level. Don’t worry about this because it means that they’ll have a stronger base in maths to build on.
  • Online programs like Mathspace make maths fun, if someone in the family is refusing to sit down and do maths in a book then take it online.
  • When all else fails and there is a lot of anxiety and worry about maths then set aside half an hour in each day and sit side by side and go through the work together. This proved the only way I could get one little person to gain confidence in maths and do maths each day. Now she does her maths first thing in the day and comes to me when she gets stuck. It’s a huge improvement.


first holy communion day

I’m still recovering from Sunday…..usually celebrations and birthday parties take me about a week to recover from. But this time I’m recovering from the fact that 2 of our little ones were so sick and the day did not go to plan. I’d spent the week making sure everyone’s clothes were out, that they had shoes and socks to go with their outfit, we had the food sorted, I cleaned the house, thought about timing for the day….just didn’t factor in that we were going to get sick! The night before, I had finally finished cleaning the house and setting things up at about midnight and took myself off to bed. A few hours later we had one little one throwing up in our bedroom. And you know how it goes, you put them to bed perfectly healthy and the next minute they wake up throwing up.

In the morning she seemed perkier and wanted to get dressed, I’d already made the decision I would stay home if I had to. At about 8.30 the kids started calling out that another one was throwing up. Oh no. I’m trying to think what did they eat? Who have been we been near who was sick? I couldn’t work it out. This is the closest we got to a family photo. My big girl was helping her dad with the cake and the baby was inside.

Hubby had headed off to pick up the croquembouche. Usually I order continental cakes for our special events but decided to try something different. Hubby called me back and said the apprentice is still finishing it off as they are behind with orders. He still wasn’t home as I was loading everyone into the van. Vomiting had stopped and we decided to keep them outside for mass away from anyone and take it in turns to mind them. No photos or videos were allowed during the service so I’m glad we could at least watch half each. Eventually as I was getting ready to drive out hubby came down the driveway with the leaning tower of profiteroles. We put it in the fridge and it ended up being stuck to the side of the fridge when we came home from mass. This was despite driving home really slowly and having someone prevent it from falling over.

As we were getting everyone out of the car and into church I called the cake shop and asked them to make me a continental cake. They were so apologetic and had already started another croquembouche for us and we could pick it up after church.

I was ready to cry by this stage, we weren’t able to get photos of us all together because we got to the church at different times and the little ones were looking very pale and then my sister got the church muddled up and was at another church.

Anyway…………despite the dramas it was a beautiful day. The mass went well, the twins looked beautiful and enjoyed their big day. They each had a special job to do, hubby did his reading while I was outside then we swapped. In the end hubby took the little two home after I had gone inside church and they slept the whole day on the couch. The throwing up continued the next day and we still don’t know what caused it as only 3 of the family were sick and the rest of us are still fine.

We had finger food for lunch that I could just throw in the oven and serve, pink champagne and that delicious croquembouche. It looked and tasted amazing and we sent everyone home with a section of it because we still had the leaning tower one in our outside fridge.

The dress is from her big sister’s first communion a few years ago and the suit was lent to us by a friend. All in all a beautiful day and I’m trying not to dwell on the things that went wrong and at least we will never forget it! Also at least we still have plenty more Sacraments in our family and hopefully no one gets sick on those days.

Sprinkle Cookies in the Thermomix

Over on Instagram I’ve been sharing some fun ideas of how we play inspired by our favourite TV shows. At the moment Shimmer & Shine is super popular and so I created this sprinkle cookies that are so easy and fun to make and very delicious. Perfect for a special treat or birthday party.

I found the sprinkles in the baking section at the supermarket and we combined two tubes (one pink, one rainbow).

Sprinkle Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Super fun and delicious cookies, you'll get at least 3 trays of cookies from this recipe.
Recipe type: Baking
: Baking
Serves: 36+ cookies
What you'll need
  • 1 Cup Caster sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ Cups plain flour
  • 1½ Cups SR flour
  • Sprinkles/100's and 1000's
  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. I did this in the thermomix on speed 4 for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of your bowl.
  2. Add in the eggs one at a time and combine. In the thermomix do this for 20 seconds speed 4 and add in the eggs through the lid while the thermomix is running.
  3. Add in the flour in a few batches and mix well. I did this on speed 3 for about 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. You will have a nice and soft cookie dough to work with.
  4. Tip in the sprinkles now or roll into small balls and then roll into the sprinkles and flatten. We added our sprinkles to the dough when it was in a large bowl and then after we flattened each cookie slightly we added a few more sprinkles to the top. It's up to you.
  5. Place cookies on lined baking trays and bake in 180C for 12-15 minutes. Leave to cook on tray for a few minutes then transfer to cooling rack. ENJOY!!!!!!!!

lottie’s baptism

Tomorrow our little lottie will be 3 months old! Time flies when you’re getting no sleep and looking after a teeny little baby. I don’t know where it’s gone. I do know that we had a beautiful day for her Baptism a few weeks ago.

It was a bit of a funny day too. Trying to get out of the house dressed nicely is always a big task these days and on this day we needed to be out before 9.30, leave a nice clean house for when people came back from church with us. Housework has just been killing me lately, it’s so hard to keep on top of it (same goes for laundry). So I had the house cleaned for me the day before and made sure everyone kept it clean until the next day. I had everyone’s outfits organised and out a few days before. I had bought myself a new dress and then decided I didn’t like it on me so wore the same dress I’d worn for the last baptism a few years ago.

On the day I had a time plan and made everyone stick to it. Somehow we made it out of the house but I forgot a bottle just in case she needed it. I’d made it…just forgot to take it. We made it through the service which was pretty amazing considering we were sitting in the front row and the younger members of our family seem to play up every sunday. Her names were muddled up a few times and Mary was left out totally (thankfully her certificate is correct) but she was a dream baby (after I’d ducked off to the side to feed her 5 minutes into the service).

We had lunch catered which was probably the best thing I did to make things easy. The food was amazing and we had leftovers so I was giving away little containers of food to our guests as they headed home and still had a fridge full of food. I had a table all set up outside with tablecloths for the food but we ended up just serving it inside.

My chippy monster found his happy place…..

The candy buffet was easy to put together thanks to our great party store nearby and they did the balloons too.  I made the mistake of giving the receipt to my hubby to collect the balloons who then came home and questioned how much we’d spent at the shop on lollies, plates and things. It’s  easy to get carried away there! Next time I’ll do the balloons on a separate receipt to avoid questions. And the beautiful Lottie name in Liberty is from Planet Joy who does such a beautiful job. We treasure the names we have.

And the cake was our favourite continental cake. Unfortunately one side of it got squashed while it was transported to our house but it just added to all of the little things that happened that day. We’ll never forget it.

And after all of that I now need to get cracking with the twin’s First Holy Communion in less than a month.

homeschooling with a new baby

While I’m on a roll with homeschooling posts I thought I’d write a few more. This was a phrase I’d put into google because I was getting worried how I was going to homeschool with a new baby in the house. Blog posts would say you won’t be homeschooling, you need to change things, take a break, some made jokes. I had plans for what would happen but some of them went out the window. In reality everything changes when a new baby comes into the house. Your whole life changes, routines go out the window and everyone is adjusting to life with a baby that feeds and sleeps and needs lots of nappy changes and attention. So homeschooling will have to change. Once you accept that then you keep moving forward and doing things but just in a different way. This is how we’ve been doing things for the first 3 months with a new baby……not all at the same time! I’m not going to suggest you try all of these approaches otherwise you’ll be exhausted and burnt out. Just try what works…………

First thing we did was plan a few research assignments for my girl. My big girl is in year 3 and loves making posters and using the internet so she had a few countries to research and made some posters and brochures which ticked a few subject boxes and she had fun doing them.She also researched a few saints and created 1 pagers on them with a drawing.

Take a break and keep working through the holidays. With the older kids it’s easier for them to continue their work if they work independently. My big girl does so she was able to keep on top of her english, maths, religion and history which are all in her books. That was easier. For my little girl we did some colouring, reading books and playing board games and playing with her little brothers.

It can also be a good time to work on problem areas that you are getting stuck on or where you have gaps in your learning. Let’s say you haven’t kept up with geography or history or science experiments. Now is the time to catch up and do a few things with the big kids taking the lead. Teachers pay Teachers have some great units of study that can help a student who is stuck on something. We used a great one on division that including colouring activities and was really fun for my daughter to complete. I just printed it off before I had the baby and she worked through it at her own pace.

Computer time and DVD’s are perfect when you are busy with the baby. My big girl loves watching David Attenborough on apple tv so she watched a few episodes and she was learning about animals and the world. We also had some dvd’s from the library on history which were interesting. Catching up on her online maths work was also completed and the kids love being on the computer. Make sure the computer is in a room where you can see them….otherwise mine switch to youtube and cat  or harry potter memes.

Now might be the time to get some help in. You could always have a university student or tutor come in and help with some subjects if you really can’t fall behind with work or lose your routine. Set the work while you’re pregnant because it will be hard to do when baby is here.

Read, read and read. We have a few baskets around the house full of picture books and the kids can easily grab one and I can read while the baby is feeding. It’s nice to snuggle up and read books together.

Keep up your recording. I have a notebook for each homeschooler and I write in each day what we have done. When the baby arrived home I switched to weekly and would think back over everything we had done and how we met our subjects. If you can keep your notebook next to where you feed then you can be taking notes and keeping your recording up to date without any dramas

If you’re not getting your older children to work independently then now is the time to try it. You should be able to set a child work (for us we started from year 2 when we started homeschooling) and they can complete it and see you if they get stuck. This makes life easier when they get older as they are used to working independently. Now of course if you need to teach a new concept then you need to take the time to sit down and do this but generally older students should be able to work on their book work on their own.

Fill the portfolio. If you’ve fallen behind with keeping your portfolio up to date with work samples and artworks now is the time to get the kids working to fill up the portfolio. As a rule I just add a sample of something we’ve done each week to the portfolio. I’ll flick back and see what we’re missing in terms of subjects and then the next week I’ll do that subject. That way when it comes time for renewal of our home school registration everything is done.

If you’re not keeping a reading log/journal of books read now is the time to start one. We just keep ours in a plastic sleeve in the front of their portfolio and I write in the books we’ve read.

Go to the library. It’s nice just to break up the day and get the kids out of the house.

Use your time while you’re pregnant to print off activities that the kids can complete on crazy days. I keep a folder with plastic sleeves and it has maths, english, religion and other activities all printed up for my youngest so when we are having a bad day or she’s having a bad day we can pull one out and she loves them. Teachers pay teachers is my favourite site.

Educational games are perfect for the younger homeschoolers to learn. Check out the sales section of educational stores and homeschool buy/swap groups as well as eBay. We picked up this little set for $5 and it’s so handy and all the little kids love using it. I had never seen one before but it’s very popular in our house. I have a large plastic tub that is full of games, board games and flashcards so I can pull something out when I feel we need to break things up or do something educational for my little miss.

Do some art and craft. Something easy, nothing too messy but now might be the time for them to use youtube and do some craft projects. A quick trip for supplies or having a tub for art and craft means they can access everything easily. My big girl loves to do pom poms and can sit for hours making them………..and I also find them all over the house too.

And don’t stress. Homeschooling shouldn’t be stressful and the kids will be learning great life skills by helping you care for the baby. They can be baking and helping you with your jobs and learning what it’s like to have a new baby in the house. You can always catch up and you might actually enjoy homeschooling more because you are taking it a bit easier. Don’t beat yourself up and remember that this could be the time that the kids really learn for themselves and learn in an enjoyable way without a strict routine.

homeschooling a child with special needs

Following on from this post I thought I’d write about how homeschooling is going. Earlier this year we removed our daughter from a small special school to homeschool her. It was a stressful time because our plans for the year had to change. A new baby was coming into the family and we were certainly worried how we would manage it all.

And before I start I have to say that special needs really does cover a whole range of things and every child is different. But when you are searching on the internet for resources or help you just need to type in special needs homeschooling to find that information. I’m not assuming all children with special needs are the same!

When we started out our little girl knew a few letters of the alphabet and could write a few letters too. She could count to 5 but after that it was muddled up. She has a mild intellectual disability (moderate for verbal) and a genetic deletion (which also causes some physical issues).

I liked that we were starting at a local learning centre and we are there twice a week for a total of 2 hours learning. In fact it was during their assessment when I was shown a plan of what they would teach and what she could work through that I decided that she was certainly not going back to school. I could see that we could do much more in those 2 hours than she would get in a week at school. Edited to add this is where we attend, if you live in Sydney and can get here you will love the personalised attention, happy and dedicated teachers and there are a wide range of students who attend from kids who just need a bit of help in maths or english to special needs children. We also do our speech here and that’s amazing too.

They have taught her the alphabet with letterland and a variety of resources and at home we’ve been doing handwriting and more activities. She can now write the entire alphabet. If you spell out a word letter by letter then she will write the word, She copies whole sentences if it’s written above for her and she correctly forms all letters as well. She always had great pencil grip but this was much faster progress than we were expecting.

She is being taught to read simple readers and a few sight words. She loves writing and spelling out words and just last week spelt out the word ‘jam’ as I was making breakfast and was very proud of herself then saying ‘here tis again j – a – m, jam!’. Tears in my eyes that morning.

Numbers are tricky and she can count to 10 and write the numbers to 10 but still can get a bit muddled so I think maths will be harder for her.

Our week is quite busy but it’s much more relaxed than a school day was. Monday and Tuesday mornings we are at the learning centre, Wednesday is our home day where we get things done (as in I catch up on washing, floors and the kitchen), Thursday mornings we have speech, every 2nd Friday we have OT in the park, Saturday mornings we do gymnastics and Sunday afternoons she has swimming. In between we play at home, do our handwriting books and activities, she loves to play with her little brother and cook. We do colouring, read books, write out our letters, play outside on our scooter, visit the park and library, run our errands like the Post office, shops. other kids activities and dr’s appointments. She is learning lots of skills wherever we are and I now realise even more than ever that life outside a classroom will be her best teacher. I am always there to prompt her when she needs it or help her out and no where else would she get that focus.

Her speech which has always been our greatest challenge is coming along so well because we are always helping her with it. She is saying longer sentences and often blurts out words that are perfectly pronounced. She can tell us what she wants, when something is hurt, when she is angry (oh she likes to tell me that one) and we working on pronouncing our name as everyone thinks it’s annie when she says it.

We see benefits all the time and are amazed at her progress. She won’t go back to a classroom anytime soon. Our goals are to have her reading and writing and to find her talents. Our bigger goals are to see her have a part time job, travel on transport independently, have friends, participate in special olympics and her activities. We have a family dream of running our own business to provide her and our other children with opportunities to work together and be happy. It’s always a big worry what happens when we won’t be here but that’s for another blog post.

In terms of resources we are using lots of different ones. I love letterland, teachers pay teachers, seton handwriting books, pre-k workbooks designed for preschoolers before school, online resources too.

It’s not easy to homeschool, there are days I would like a break because it’s a big job having a child who still needs assistance with a lot of tasks that other children her age would be able to do. Every day without fail we will have an emotional moment. It just is part of life when she doesn’t get her way or is angry. That’s the hardest bit for me. The beauty of an unstructured day and not being tied to our books at this age is that we can go and do something fun to tire her out or change the mood of the day. The hard bit is when she decides she doesn’t want to do her hour at the centre or speech. At the moment banana bread and a hot chocolate (she calls it coffee tea) are making things easier.

In the beginning we also had a big problem with separating. As in I couldn’t leave the house without her. She wanted to be with me all the time and when the babysitter came in so I could go to the dentist she would want to come with me not be left at home. This lasted for a few months and thankfully we have moved on from this stage.

If you are thinking about taking a child out of school I would say do it. You’ll never regret it and you’ll only wish you did it earlier. School will always be there as an option if you need to and some homeschooling families do put their children into school at various times when things happen or if things aren’t going to plan. I do wish it was presented as a viable option for schooling instead of being seen mostly as a last resort option. It shouldn’t be. It’s a more natural way to teach our children what they need to learn and I feel that by being at special school she would be locked away from the outside world for most of the next 11 years or so.

I do have to say that I know families with children with special needs who need the time that their children are at school. Children who run away, hurt themselves or others, can’t be left alone unsupervised or have severe behavioural issues or very high care needs. I am sure those parents would wonder how on earth they could do the care 24/7 for 365 days a year and be the teacher as well. I can’t tell you that everything would be perfect and that you could cope. In those cases I would really say you would need your respite and breaks organised so that you did get a break. Whether that could be provided by the NDIS as part of your plan or through the AIC payment and you paying for that help yourself.Any questions just ask……….

some thoughts on homeschooling + special needs homeschooling

Before I write how well we are doing homeschooling I thought I’d write a few thoughts on homeschooling and special needs homeschooling. Otherwise it was going to be a very long post.

Firstly,  I love teachers. Whenever I share a homeschooling post on FB I seem to get someone commenting on how hard teachers work. Absolutely. That’s a given. My mum and granddad were both career teachers and devoted their lives to it. Teachers work long hours and have even more work as they try to teach a crowded curriculum, prepare children for NAPLAN, testing at earlier ages, more children in the class and more children with a range of special needs in there (without help). So I love teachers, we’ve had lots of great teachers in our schooling life and I have friends who are teachers and wonderfully dedicated.

Next up inclusive education is wonderful…………when it’s well funded. Unfortunately for us we were never going to get funding and an inclusive education locally. Having a mild intellectual disability means any access to funding in a public school is equal with children who are struggling to read, have dyslexia, learning difficulties or are undiagnosed. Mild ID  as a diagnosis is a bit misleading because mild makes it seem like it’s the mild end of things but really it’s a lifelong disability that affects every aspect of a person’s life. There is a local private school that has a great reputation for children with disabilities and it does it very well for children with physical or hearing issues but if you have an intellectual disability you need to provide your own aide or go to their special school which starts from a moderate ID later in primary grades.

When you start homeschooling any child you realise that children don’t have to go to school to be well educated. 13 years of a child’s life spent in the classroom doesn’t always make them happy, well educated, lead to a job or a successful life. When you throw disabilities in there you really question why a child needs to be in a classroom when really they need to be prepared to live in the real world. Homeschooling allows you to choose your own priorities for what they need to learn, fit in therapies comfortably into their day and pursue their interests as well.

Even as a homeschooler I have to provide a year’s plan of what we will teach and how I will meet all KLA’s of the NSW curriculum. And it still strikes me as a little bit silly that I need to teach geography and history to a child who is still learning how to use the toilet independently or learn what ‘in’ and ‘out’ or how to ask for something.  Thank goodness we have a sensible Authorised Person from NESA (formerly the Board of Studies) who tells us what to focus on and meets the child before approving your plan. Yes we have a plan that shows we will meet all subject areas but we do our maths and english every day and try to tick off our other subjects in less conventional ways compared to how they would be taught in a classroom. It’s still a lot more work than would be done in a special needs classroom or meeting goals in an IEP and that makes me happy.

If you live in Australia, Centrelink have a scheme called Assistance for Isolated Children whereby parents of a child with a disability can receive $4k a year ($1k a term). This money could be used for tutoring, supplies, help coming into the home, classes, courses and more. It is a huge help and we use it for our sessions at a local learning centre. There are 2 forms to fill in and your GP or paediatrician needs to complete the medical form.

Homeschooling any child is a big responsibility and commitment, it assumes that there is someone at home who can do the teaching and care during school hours. Not everyone has a parent who is home during the day and there can be a huge financial cost to homeschooling if one income is lost. I know that families might have a parent stay home during the early years and then when the children start school that parent goes back to work. There are families where both parents work and homeschooling is achieved and it’s worth researching how other families make it work before ruling out homeschooling.

You will have good and bad days just like you do when you send your child off to school. Sometimes the bad days make you want to pack everyone off to the local school tomorrow but I’ve found once I relaxed our daily routine and stopped stressing over everything we had to cover that we just got into our routine and everything seemed to get easier.

There is a lot and I mean a LOT of support on Facebook. There are local groups, special needs groups, australia wide groups and more. You will get lots of tips, advice and reassurance on the groups and sometimes it’s nice just to know that there are other people out there with a bit more experience or you can help out someone new.


ditching some of our textbooks

We now have 1 year of homeschooling behind us and are already 3 weeks into the term (mind you I had to ask one of my girls what week we were up to!). For those who are new, last year we started homeschooling twins in year 2. One went to a new school after 6 months (his request and he was never the big reason we were homeschooling) and he’s doing great. He loves caching the bus, lunch orders, playing footy at lunchtime and just being in school. His twin sister loves being at home and having her own time to do things and work at her own pace. She is doing the most amazing art and has come so far in all subjects and just her overall happiness and life.

When we started out last year we used a mixture of textbooks and workbooks that we found at the educational bookshop and from a catholic curriculum. This year we chose to go with a different catholic curriculum but it hasn’t gone as well as I planned. It’s a classical curriculum and just too much book work and memory work for my girl. The maths (Abeka) was from the US and very arithmetic based which would have suited my son but he’s not home anymore. So first we ditched the maths and swapped back to her favourite maths book which is Stepping Stones (by Origo Education) and it’s a really good one for kids who don’t love maths. Lots of pictures but a big thick book and lots of exercises to work through at their pace. Her school had used it in year 2 and it’s working well for us. We picked up a new copy on ebay.

Science was lots of book work so we’ve ditched that for an experiment book and nature book. Nature Anatomy is a book I had seen on instagram and has been a great choice as its a really interesting book. I read the reviews on amazon and decided it would be perfect. Lots of illustrations and an interesting book full of facts. We picked up our copy on book depository and it’s been a huge hit so far.

At the start of the year I had swapped the history and geography books from the catholic curriculum for australian books aimed at year 3-6 but they were so boring and wordy we lost her interest. So now we are using The story of the world for history and MAPS and our own interests for geography. We are researching different countries we are interested in and creating posters or brochures on those countries. That is working out really well as she learns a lot more and has fun with it.

I think what we’ve learnt is that there is no right or wrong way to approach homeschooling and that it’s ok to ditch it if its not working. I already know that each of my children will learn differently but I’ve ended up realising that set curriculums aren’t going to work for us and neither are lots of textbooks (with the exception of maths and english as they are working well supplemented with our online programs too). We do love the Seton handwriting books, they are really thick and both my girls are using them (kindergarten and year 2 because we didn’t get through it all last year) and they’ve been a great choice.

Next week I’ll be sharing how our homeschooling a little person with a disability is going and spoiler alert….the progress is beyond what anyone expected!

2 months today

That’s gone quickly…….2 months old. We are in the middle of Baptism preparations this week and I’ve given myself the week to totally transform my house from cluttered mess to beautiful welcoming home. Let’s hope we get there. We have so many appointments and sporting activities this week so I hope it’s not a last minute rush. Oh what am I saying of course it will be……..

Our Lottie is a very sweet little baby and pretty easy going. Especially considering she has to go in and out of the car umpteen times a day. She loves to smile and has just started making very sweet baby cooing noises which I love. She doesn’t like being put down and I know that once I do put her down and walk away to start a job that I’ll hear a little crying coming soon. So the sling has come in handy and like most mums I do a lot of things one handed.

Life is still pretty crazy with a 2 year old (and 6 year old) ruling the house. Tantrums and behaviour always seem to get worse when mum is busy with a new baby but they aren’t as bad as the first few weeks. So we’re grateful for that. Toilet training has not gone well and I really want it to happen so he can join the little room at preschool for just turned 3 year olds next month. So fingers crossed he gets it and I don’t forget that we’re toilet training and then realise when I have a wet toddler on my hands. Jeans and all.

Dinner is still in the slowcooker most nights and if it’s not in the slowcooker then the whole dinner, bath and bed routine just falls apart. We’ve had some ‘creative’ meals where I’ve just chucked everything in and hoped for the best. And because the kids have been loving the sausage casserole I’ve been doing and my little girl calls it hot dog soup and asks for it every day! I’m using sausages and not hot dogs…every time she says it I have visions of pink soup with hot dogs cut up in there. Tonight was chicken and chorizo casserole but I also dumped in some macaroni to cook for the last 15 minutes and it was delicious (and time saving!).

So that’s life. Still busy. We’re just waiting for our new van to be finalised and that’ll be a great day because it means we can travel together as a family of 9 and not in 2 cars which we are now doing. Well actually it’s only really sundays for church that we all go together. We’re getting the VW Caravelle since we’ve been happy with the multivan for so long. There isn’t much choice when you outgrow the 8 seaters  we turned the 7 seater multivan into an 8 seater when baby number 6 came along), there aren’t many 9 seaters on the market and after that you’re just in hiace territory and that wasn’t on hubby’s list of dream cars. So caravelle it is.


our little strawberry

Lottie is 7 weeks old today. When she was born I noticed that she had a little pale pink mark under her ear. It kind of stayed the same colour and shape in  hospital and when the paediatrician visited I’d forget to ask him. I guess I though it was a little birthmark that would stay that way. Well then of course once we got home it started getting bigger, darker and became more raised. When the child health nurse visited she explained it was a strawberry hemangioma and would fade away….eventually. I’ve since read it might be by the time she is 7-9. She said the paediatrician probably didn’t mention it because they are quite common and generally go away.

I have to say that I didn’t know it was going to get so dark or big and I’m not sure it’s finished growing (which is of course a worry) but I’ve now researched it (more than a few times, if I’m honest) and not too worried. I have to say ours is more like a raspberry in that it has little raised bits like a raspberry but I just keep an eye on it every day. The kids think it’s cute and like a paw mark and that she’s a fan of paw patrol already. And when they saw the word hemangioma they decided to call it hermione granger!

You can read a good explanation of them here and I have to say that I was surprised 1 in 10 babies have them because we’ve never had one and I’ve never seen a baby with one before. It’s definitely been something new for us but in the whole scheme of things isn’t too much of a worry. But of course I do hope it doesn’t become an issue for her as she grows up. I’d love to hear if you’ve had one in your family and what happened to it…….