sometimes I’m so sick of fighting

Today has just been one of those days where I’ve said enough with the waiting, enough with calling the NDIS every 2nd day only to be told the review is in the system or we are still waiting to change the disability or the office aren’t answering the phone so let me send them an email. I really did just wake up and think I’m so sick of fighting! Why do I have to fight for services. We have 2 fights going on at the moment- one is with the NDIS for a new plan as it was review time but we’ve found out errors were made with her 1st plan and the 2nd fight is with assisted school transport. And this is the reason I do the fighting….to make her life easier and to help her in any way that we can!

We are eligible for transport to our special school and home again but they put her on a route in the opposite direction to school and wanted her to spend 1 hour 40 minutes in transport each morning when school is 25 minutes from home. There is a route just around the corner from me but they couldn’t put us on that one they had to put us on a route where there was space, forget how long she would need to sit in transport or that it was totally the opposite direction to school or home and no one would be home when they wanted to collect her.

It just became a joke when they’d ring and encourage me to use the transport route offered and suggest I leave her with a neighbour until transport arrived. When we appealed and had it go to the panel they finally acknowledged that it was the wrong route to put her on and they would find an alternative. But here we are the last week of term 1 and still waiting for school transport. It’s an 11 week term and I’ve almost given up on getting transport to school.

The NDIS has however been the biggest stress for our family and when I say family I mean me because I’m the one who has had to deal with it. Yes I know I wrote a really positive post on the NDIS when we got our plan and early intervention assured me that was the best I was going to get. If I wanted to appeal it then I would go to the back of the queue. When we went to our review meeting in March this year (which had been brought forward as funds lasted 6 months) it was revealed to me that the full disability had not been recorded by the NDIS. No one had listed her genetic condition and physical disability. Her disability should been recorded as a genetic condition causing x, y and z and instead it was just recorded as x.

We had been with our early intervention provider (Lifestart) for 4 years, they assured me that they didn’t need her diagnosis and specialist reports as they had everything they needed and she was automatically approved for the scheme because she was on their books. I sat with my big binder of reports and the planner said oh no I don’t need those. A week before the planning meeting when I said I would gather everything up I was told oh don’t worry about that we won’t need them for a while. In hindsight I should have been making sure they didn’t leave the house without copies of every report I had.

Little things came to light over time – why were early intervention only using the word respite when the NDIS doesn’t use the word respite but refers to support and support workers. I was being told respite, respite and respite and yet it’s not used by the NDIS. Meanwhile her classmates with similar disabilities had no problem accessing support in the home.  I was told if I wanted to appeal the 1st plan that we would go to the back of the queue and be unable to spend our funds. Incorrect advice, you are able to use your funds and ask for a review.

I was charged for every phone call and email by the same branch when we started to use our funds for OT. A 45 minute session in the park was costing up to $225 of NDIS funds because the emails, calls, planning were adding up to over the $175 NDIS rate for 1 hour of therapy. I think someone missed their calling as a solicitor or accountant and wanted to bill. I actually tell my other therapists who don’t charge me for every bit of correspondence to please charge me if you need to write a report for the NDIS and they do. I pay for their time and expertise but none of our other therapists or early intervention centres bill us for phone calls and emails. And they’ve told me that they don’t plan to either.

They advised that therapy funds aren’t to be used for 1 on 1 therapies, oh she assured me it was for a speech therapist to visit my daughter’s activities and school and give suggestions of how they can help her. Really? You think that a child who has the speech of a toddler is going to learn speech and language that way. You don’t think that 1 on 1 speech therapy is the best therapy because that is what has worked in the past. It’s actually reasonable for a family to ask for 1 on 1 speech therapy on a regular basis as part of their NDIS plan but this planner had a way of telling me that I wasn’t supposed to use my funds for that purpose.

So towards the end of last year when things were really getting bad and we were looking at going back to school, we saw 2 new psychologists and updated our diagnosis. This was part of my scheme to go to my review meeting properly prepared. I read all I could and was not going to rely on early intervention’s advice. We sought the help of an advocate, a very experienced social worker who had run courses in the past that I had attended. She sent me away with my homework, making sure I crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s and I mean really did everything properly. We needed orthotics but early intervention didn’t advise me to get a referral from a physio and a separate quote for the cost of the orthotics from the podiatrist. Hot tip this is what you need to do for the NDIS. You need to itemise what is needed, how much it costs and the total cost for the 12 months of your plan and at NDIS rates too. If services are transitioning to the NDIS you need to obtain quotes of what the new costs will be under the NDIS and have them included in your plan.

And so when March came around and with most of our therapies on hold we contacted the NDIS again to get a new plan. We could have completed a change of circumstances but they advised me to bring the meeting forward. Now that we were 7 we could access full NDIS and were assigned to Uniting. We had an amazing planner, she had a disability herself. She taught me a few new things and she really listened. When I asked if I needed to supply her with anything else she said I doubt it, you’ve covered everything. I had reports from every single therapist, recommendations and 2 psychologists assessments performed late last year. That in itself has been a time consuming task that took up most of term 4 last year.

It’s now been nearly a month and we’re still waiting but after today’s tearful phone call to the NDIS I think we might have a new plan in place soon. We’ve had more dramas as the file was too big for the NDIS to open and so there was a delay in getting all of the files over and it’s taken 3 weeks to get to the point where the request for the plan to be written has started! Today! So I’m still hopeful, I’ve invested so much time and energy into this process. The phone calls, oh the phone calls where you need to introduce yourself and retell your story and why you’re calling every single time.

My hope is that you can read this and be prepared! Please check that you or your child’s disability is recorded correctly by the planner and the NDIS – all the stress I’ve been through to find out that no one called to check or ask that the disability was correct. Don’t take the planner’s or early intervention’s advice as gold. Find out your own independent advice. Talk to other mums and get an idea of their plans. There is so much secrecy and zero consistency between plans. Write a story about the person you are seeking a plan for, include photos, describe a typical day, the impact on the family, the biggest issues, goals (short term, medium term and long term). Make sure that the planner takes this document so that if you miss anything in the planning meeting you have an extra level of protection that the planner can read it.

I hope your experience isn’t as stressful as ours……….and I hope our problems can be resolved so I can get back to being a mum and carer and not a fighter who spends hours on the phone to organisations trying to access services that we should be receiving! I’m writing this post while I’m fired up because it just shouldn’t be this hard.


Back to uni

Wow it’s been 2 months between blog posts so I must have been busy or neglecting the blog or couldn’t think of anything interesting to say. Everyone went back to school last month and loves it. I have one SRC rep (voted by her class after 6 weeks at her new school), one swimming champion (off to state trials next week), one happy girl who is talking non stop (well she’s happy at school and wishes every day was a big school day), one happy kindy who isn’t as tired as he was at the start of the school year (canteen is the best thing about school), one high schooler and one happy preschooler. Oh and one very sweet baby girl who today is trying to stand on her own. I think she just wants to walk like everyone else in the family. Now actually that makes life sound like its perfect but behind the scenes I’ve had to lodge a formal appeal for assisted school transport as that turned out to be a disaster before we even had transport arrive at our house and I have been dealing with the NDIS – both very stressful things to deal with but I’m getting used to fighting for everything for my girl. So I think that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while.

Over the holidays I was thinking about what I’d like to do in a few years when everyone is at school. I might have some home-schoolers and I might not, the door is always open. I weighed up a few options as I’ve been wanting to work in the special needs area but needed some qualifications….cut a long story short after looking at a few courses and even looking at becoming a CPA again (that didn’t last long) I ended up enrolling in a Master of Teaching (Primary) Course. Something I should have done years ago….but finally the timing was right (and motivation too).

So I’m 2 weeks in and enjoying it. I do most of my study at night and weekend mornings, my house is actually cleaner and more organised as I (try) to make sure I’m up to date with most things before I sit down. The slowcooker is still my friend most nights so that dinner is sorted. Our diet isn’t as strict as it was at the start of the year but I’ve still got 2 on the gluten and dairy free diet. The big kids have been helping out a little more and so far so good. But then again it’s only week 2. My first subjects are ICT, Aboriginal Education and a Cultural Diversity unit. I need to brush up on a few online skills and have already taught myself how to do a bright and colourful mind map online, am answering my weekly discussion posts and on time and just need to work on my essay writing skills as it’s been a really long time.

Love to hear your top studying tips. I think holidays will now be a time of rest and hopefully knitting.

my revolving door of homeschoolers…..

So much has been happening here and I’ve been so busy in real life that the blog has been neglected. End of the school year always kills me and this year has been no exception. I’ve been getting assessments, reviews, getting reports written, going to end of year events and trying to have everything done before the start of a new school year. We’ve had such a good year and I did start this term thinking I’d still have 2 homeschoolers next year but things have changed.

About the start of term 4 things started to go downhill in a lot of ways for homeschooling our littlest one. And my emotions (and I’m usually very happy go lucky) were going downhill too. Everything kind of snowballed and I realised we needed more support.I had a meeting with a lady I know and trust who had run a few courses I’ve attended before and a school was suggested. We managed to get a spot and then had another updated IQ test. Thank goodness we moved into a lower ID diagnosis which is where I thought she really should have been.

Thankfully it now gives us more options that we didn’t have before and it gives more funding for the special school and hopefully NDIS. That’s been a whole other issue as I realised that things weren’t done properly and things I’d been told by the planner weren’t correct. This was very stressful and taking up a lot of my thoughts as I’ve always wanted to make sure we are accessing what we can for her. I now have someone helping me with this and am armed with lots of reports that the previous planner didn’t want to take. A new blog post is coming on that one next year! We’ve used up all our funds in 6 months but that was my plan to see how long it lasted. If you have an under 7 or over 7 and are going through the planning process please feel free to contact me.

So we visited the new school, she had her orientation and loved it. We caught her skipping to the bathrooms and she’s desperate for some little friends. She starts at a little special school next year, closer to home, we’ve talked about what she needs and how she needs girls who are more verbal than her and good role models and to avoid the situation and class dynamics we had at the start of this year. I like that they put the girls together and that it’s small.

I still love homeschooling because you know exactly where your kids are at with their work and can help them so much. You don’t have to teach a crowded curriculum and can give them lots of time to be kids. My views on homeschooling haven’t changed and in fact my kids who are at school and have been homeschooled love school 50/50. They know you can’t beat the work they do at home as it’s tailored just for them and they are challenged. Both my twins have been doing year 4 maths at home before they start year 4 and we’ve agreed to keep up the maths and english at home until high school. We have had an amazing year homeschooling year 3 and I have a budding crafter and artist on my hands who is looking forward to the swimming carnival, choir and piano lessons and making more friends. She’s had an amazing 1 1/2 years at home and this was someone who refused to go to school!

So I’m excited and a little sad. But at the end of the day there just isn’t enough support for me at home to keep doing it 24/7. We will keep up our tutoring, are starting a home program and keeping up our speech therapy each week. She does cheer lessons early every sunday morning and will compete at cheer competitions, continue her gymnastics class every friday and swimming every sunday. We are excited to see her grow and develop even more and I’m still amazed when I look at the gains she’s made this year.

People have been asking what are you going to do with yourself! Well I’ll be driving everyone around (always driving!), I’ll be enjoying some time with the baby, I’d like to go to weekday mass at least once a week as that has been impossible all year, I’d like to have a bit more time to get on top of household jobs and I look forward to homeschooling again in the future. I also look forward to helping more at school which I haven’t been able to do. And I’ll be missing them because I won’t have my little entourage with me all day, every day and they’ve been great company.

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!!!!!!!!

9 baby items I can’t live without + a giveaway

This post is sponsored by Little One’s 


It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 7 babies in 11 years. And that means we’ve also had a lot of baby stuff in that time. In fact we have a running joke about prams because we’ve had so many prams over the years and I still am on the look out for a pram to suit a new baby and an active just turned 3 year old who always likes to nap or be pushed around the shops sometimes. Some of the items we’ve had over the years have been fabulous, some have been passed on, some have not survived all 7 babies, some things I discovered later on and all of these items below I can’t live without…….


Everything else seems to ride up or down on my skinny baby. Leggings have been a bit hilarious as nothing stays up on her little tummy and skinny legs. I have a real soft spot for old school bonds wondersuits with the little collar and mitts. This winter my little miss has just lived in jumpsuits with cardigans over the top. On really cold days she’ll have a long sleeve tee underneath too just for another layer. If you ever wonder how many layers to dress a baby in then just one extra layer compared to you during the cold weather is a good guide to go by. Also just so you know I gave her wardrobe a good tidy up before I took this photo. I don’t want you to think that I am able to keep it this tidy all the time.

A good baby carrier

I actually use 2 carriers when I have a baby. One is a stretchy wrap that is perfect for use at home and those early weeks. It’s a one size fits all and once you’ve mastered how to put it on you’ll always be using it. I find they are great in winter too as they keep baby nice and warm. Baby doesn’t get ‘lost’ the way they can in a big carrier and they just love to be on you. A little tip with the wrap carriers if you are leaving the house is to tie it all up on yourself before you leave the house. Then when you get to your destination you jump out of the car and put baby in. No trying to wrap the carrier around yourself in a carpark or on the street.

Baby wipes

I wish the Little One’s wipes has been around for years. Super handy for change time and every other time including wiping up spills, cleaning fingerprints from walls and cleaning up before someone comes over. Yes they have many uses. We go through a lot of wipes so the box is very handy and comes with 6 packets of wipes inside.


I only bought a bassinet the first time I bought a baby home from the hospital. As in we detoured via the baby shop to buy one on our way home. I had the cot ready to go but realised while I was in the hospital that my baby was so little and the cot was so big. You can drag the bassinet through the house as you do things. We had one that we used for most of our babies and a few more babies as we passed it on and then it came back to us and it did baby number 6 before it really needed to go out on the council clean up day. I picked up a 2nd hand one used for 1 baby for under $100 and it’s perfect. This one has lights and music and I move the bassinet to outside the shower and that’s how I have a shower each morning. Sometimes if I’m having a longer shower (after a long night of feeding or am washing my hair) then I pop my head out and press the music button again!

Nappies and a well stocked change table

I’ve always had a change table and am on my 2nd one. I like to store some clothes underneath as well as wipes, packets of nappies, creams and baby items. On the top of the change table I keep nappies and wipes and one outfit and a singlet ready to go for those late night changes or when a total change of outfit is required.

You never want to run out of nappies. I usually use a premium brand for the newborn stage and then move on to a supermarket brand. I’ve been using the Little One’s nappies, which are exclusive to Woolworths,  for a few weeks and it’s been a great little nappy. The polka dots are cute and the price is unbeatable at $11. When we had twins these would have been in our shopping trolley every week as we were going through so many nappies it wasn’t funny.

A little tip during pregnancy is to buy a baby item each time you are doing the grocery shop. This could be nappies, wipes, baby wash, baby bottles, creams, towels, singlets and so on. By the time baby arrives you will be well stocked up and you’ve spread out the cost of the items across your pregnancy.

Nappy Bag

When I first bought a nappy bag there wasn’t as much choice as there is now. I bought myself a black nappy bag that my hubby could carry too…how times have changed as this is my current bag. Just a bit too girly for him to carry these days.

I love lots of compartments, a wet bag that you can pop nappies and wipes in, a change mat, bottle carrier and more. You want a longer strap to sling over the pram handle too. A little tip is that I always have the nappy bag topped up the night before. Whenever I leave it to the last minute I usually leave something behind. Also always put your phone, keys and wallet in the same place every time so you’re not digging around while carrying a baby and trying to find your car keys.

Muslin wraps

I have quite a few wraps and there are so many uses…not just wrapping a baby up to sleep. I love them for popping over a pram, quick change mat, over the shoulder to catch baby vomit, playmat, breastfeeding cover up, little blanket and more. They really are good. I have a few good ones that I like to save for when we are going out and a few cheapies and also a few wraps made of knit fabric that are just that bit warmer for winter weather and stretchier too. I also have babies who like to get their arms out of wraps………

Nappy disposal system

Some people put this on the non essential list but when you have a new baby and especially with twins this is a lifesaver.  We’ve had the same unit since 2006 and it’s still going strong. You just load up the refill into the bin, the dirty nappy goes in the top, twist the round bit around which locks off the nappy bag and drops it down into the nappy bin. There is no smell, no nappies in bags floating around, no taking individual nappies in bags out to the bin. I thought it seemed like a good idea before I had my first and have used it ever since.

Baby swing

I always thought baby swings were a OTT and not something essential. Then baby 5 came along and I needed to do things in the morning to get out the door or try to cook dinner. I picked one up second hand. Game changer. Dinner could be made as baby was swinging next to me, I could quickly get kids dressed for school and hair done with baby next to me. You want it to be able to rock itself and play a bit of music or have a mobile but you’ll never regret it. You can pick up a 2nd hand one for about $100 and check it’s in safe working order. We are on our 2nd one and loving it. Also my bigger kids don’t mind giving her a little rock while watching tv while I’m running around doing things. Your little baby might only last a few months in it but trust me you’ll be glad you had one especially if you are looking after other young children. This photo was taken 5 minutes after we walked in the door from the hospital….so many little helpers on hand!

And look how much she’s grown!

And a few little tips I’ve learnt over the years.

  • You can see I’ve picked up a few items 2nd hand but I’m a bit obsessed with safety too. Second hand baby items are a real cost saver BUT product safety standards change, products might not be assembled correctly, it might be broken or not in good condition and it might have been bought overseas and hasn’t passed Australian safety standards. So know what you are buying, make sure it’s in excellent condition and meets current safety standards.
  • When it comes to baby and children’s car seats buying brand new or using one from a trusted family member/friend is recommended as you don’t know the history of the seat. It could have been involved in an accident which will compromise it’s safety in your own car.
  • You can check for recalls of baby and children’s items here and it’s always a good idea to do this before you buy an item. There are currently 1159 items recalled so it’s always worthwhile checking the list first.

And for a bit of fun I have a $150 Woolworths gift card for one lucky reader out there.

All you need to do is tell me 1 item you can’t live without when you have a baby and why…..

Entries close 30th August 2017, I’ll pick one winner and the winner must live in Australia and be over the age of 18. Good luck…….


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!