our experience with the NDIS so far

I know some of you are in areas that are waiting for NDIS to roll out or are just waiting to get a planning meeting. We finally got a plan last week and are so excited about it. I thought I’d put a few things down that helped us and how long it all took……….patience was definitely something needed.

Why it’s so important

When the NDIS was first announced I thought it was a such a good thing because of the families I knew who had children with disabilities…never knowing we would need it. The current system of funding for under 7’s is really a tick a box for a number of conditions. There is no funding for children with global development delay or intellectual disabilities if they don’t meet the criteria for Better Start or Helping Children with Autism. That means there are children with moderate to severe disabilities or rare genetic conditions who are not getting the funding they should be able to access because they don’t tick a box. That is where we found ourselves 4 years ago. The NDIS looks at the child, their disability and their needs and works out a package for the child and it’s not based on ticking a box with a list of some conditions.

Does it fund everything?

No. And that doesn’t make everyone happy. People want big packages to fund a certain type of intensive therapy or to cover all of their therapy costs and I went into the process knowing that I might not get everything we wanted but that it had to be a whole lot better than what we are receiving which was a few blocks of therapy sessions each year provided by early intervention.

Now in saying that I know families whose children require wheelchairs and significant assistance and have had to appeal their first plans. On the flipside I also have seen people complain in forums because their child with no physical or intellectual disability who can attend a regular school etc won’t get weekly therapies or their orthotics covered. So not everyone will be happy and if you do need to appeal then you are entitled to do so. However it can be a long process and you might not be able to access your original plan until the appeal is completed.

If you are currently receiving services then be sure to write down everything that you are receiving from organisations and how frequently and put them into your plan.  Take note of their rates/charges under the NDIS especially for services that you are paying for privately, you will most likely see rates rise once you have a package.

Also if you are with organisations who are transitioning over to the NDIS make sure you find out beforehand. We didn’t know that our swimming club are transitioning over and that it has to be included in our plans and not paid by us anymore. As a result it’s not in our current plan and to add them would require us to go through the whole process again and get a new plan so we’ve had to leave that to include into our next plan next year.

How long did it take?

Roll out in our area started July 2016, we were accepted into the scheme in September 2016 ( I cried that day as it was a big deal for us) and told it would be about 6-8 weeks when a planner contacted me. Then there was a big change and the early intervention planning process was handed over to Early Intervention providers, this meant staff needed to be trained and so on. So by the end of the year it was looking like it might be February or March. Then we were told we’d have a plan by June. In the end my planning meeting was held in April and my plan was approved and came to me the 2nd week of May so nearly 11 months from the launch in our area.

What did I do beforehand?

I gathered all of our reports and documents into a folder so that I had everything to hand for our meeting. Because we were already accepted into the scheme with our disability we just needed to submit our speech reports because that was really our greatest need.

It’s good to write down a typical day and everything you do for your child and I mean everything. Can they dress themselves, feed themselves (even little things like are they using a fork or a spoon). I had to think about some things during the meeting because I hadn’t written down a day so I think that would be a big help beforehand.

How many goals did I have written down before my meeting?

Actually only 2 or 3 but somehow we got to 5 goals during our meeting and they were approved into our plan.

What does the plan look like?

The wording will be different to what you are used to. We have 2 amounts of funds in our plan. One is called CB Daily Activity (CB = Capacity Building) and this is the bulk of our funding to be used for speech, OT, physio, early intervention and social skills classes. The other amount for us is Consumables for our continence products. There are other categories for people who require transport, access to community services, equipment and so on. And if you are not self managing then an amount will be allocated to someone else like your early intervention provider to manage your fund for you.

Why I chose self managed?

I have a physio I have used in the past who is very good and she is at one business, I have to find a new experienced speech therapist who will be at another business, we love the early intervention program we are doing privately so she is at another business and we have a lovely OT who includes the little kids in the sessions and we will use that at another early intervention provider. Because I’ve managed my own BAS and tax in the past I figured I could manage the fund and the online system myself and it wouldn’t be too daunting. You do need to keep records for 5 years, open a separate bank account, keep good records and so on but for me I figured it gave me more flexibility to find therapists that I wanted to use.

What was the hardest part of the process?

Waiting….I kept telling myself patience is a virtue!

Best tip

Talk to your planner after you receive your plan. Go over any concerns, make sure you understand everything, ask questions. If you are self managing find out the info you need to get everything up and running. You might need help being put in touch with local suppliers. It was so good to meet with the planner the next day to go over the plan as she hadn’t seen it and to check a few things. I felt so much better afterwards and reassured.

And another tip is to budget out the money for the 12 months ahead. I’m going to ask my spreadsheet guru of a husband to work out planned spending and actual to help me allocate everything to our goals. It doesn’t cover all of our therapy costs and we are still paying for more than half of our early intervention ourselves but it is a whole lot better than the past 4 years. Also a reader just let me know about this app which is coming soon to help you if you are self managing

Overall feeling

Good! We are both (hubby and I) so happy to get started with things that we’ve wanted to do on a regular basis. It’s not life changing in the sense that all of our struggles are going to magically disappear but it is life changing in that we can work on speech with a therapist we want, to continue with OT instead just a few sessions every few years and to go back to physio and work on a few things as well as a few other things we wanted to start and continue with.

And the best thing for us is having something that doesn’t just stop when she reaches a certain age. She has a lifelong disability that will affect her life forever and it’s nice to be working towards small goals and big goals and know that help will be there as she grows older (and we grow older).

 

how to convince someone about homeschooling

This was a question I would put into google before we were homeschooling….and as the enrolment papers for my little boy sit in the kitchen it’s something I have to come back to. How do you convince someone (aka your other half or a concerned family member) about homeschooling. For most people it’s pretty out there, it’s unconventional and most people put their children into school because….well that’s what you do. That’s how most of us grew up and that’s what the norm is. And so for me I had a big job to convince someone that yes we can do this and we should do it.

Deciding to homeschool is a very big decision and probably one that your family and friends aren’t doing. Perhaps you’re the only person you know in real life who homeschools or wants to homeschool. And perhaps the only thing holding you back is someone who doesn’t agree with it. What’s my advice?

Be clear about the reasons you want to homeschool. There are lots of reasons and a wide variety of people who homeschool so make sure you know why YOU want to homeschool and what kind of style you would like to follow. Some people use distance education where school work is submitted and marked and there are dates for projects and assignments. Others use a workbook approach or follow a set curriculum or create their own curriculum using a mixture of books and then you have unschoolers who really don’t do school at home but something very different that follows their children’s interests and talents. Oh and the great thing about homeschooling is that it’s flexible so you can change how you do things if it’s not working out as expected.

Join local homeschool groups, there are plenty of preschoolers and mums with babies so join a local group or two and start going to activities. I feel a bit spoilt for choice living in a big city because there are lots of groups and I’ve found a great smaller group near me that meets each week (we even went out for a mums dinner!) and I have my Catholic homeschooling mums too who all have big families like ours and I’m also part of a special needs homeschool group that I haven’t met yet but find great support from them online. So start making those connections so that it doesn’t feel like a big leap into the unknown.

Watch Ken Robinson’s Ted Talks. He’s so funny and knowledgable and the videos are very convincing.  Because another way to approach the homeschooling vs regular school debate is to take a different angle and look at what is wrong with a lot of schools at the moment. You can find his most popular talks here, here and here. Why are schools failing some children? Why is more and more money being spent on testing in an effort to raise standards? Why is there so much pressure and work in the earlier years of primary school? Why isn’t there funding for inclusive education? What values are being taught in school and do they meet our family values?  And what about creativity and letting children follow their natural interests. BTW I’m not anti school and have 2 children who love school and are in school but I don’t believe it’s for everyone and I think it’s very different from when I went to school.

Start your homeschool room, buy resources (you can find some great ones in the Australian homeschool buy/sell/swap page on FB) and at book sales etc. I think this booklist is the best and why not start with educational games, toys, art and craft supplies. Show that you are committed and this is what you want to do.

Don’t nag. Ha ha I’m a nagger but anyway giving it time and space might be the strategy that works for you.

Collect great articles, stories by homeschooling families and so on. Because we’re Catholic I found a lot of Catholic /Christian homeschool websites and businesses and I was able to find stories of families who are homeschooling and looking at the success stories, the struggles and how they do it helped me (and someone else) see that large families can and do homeschool.

Give it a trial period, if you are committed to homeschooling and providing a great environment at home with the right resources and dedication then you don’t have anything to lose if you give it a trial period. For some families there is an urgency to removing a child from school and so your hand can sometimes be forced before you’ve fully understood the registration requirements in your state and got everything sorted but if it means a happier child and home life then it’s worth it. And they can always go back to school. One of my twins really wanted to go back to school and play footy at lunchtime with other boys. He got a spot at the local school and loves it, he isn’t doing as much work as he did at home or as challenging but he’s happy and wishes saturday was a school day! And we’re all fine with it.

Do the sums. If you’re married to a numbers person then look at the financial side – the current cost of education vs homeschooling. You can homeschool on a very tight budget thanks to online resources and 2nd hand books and materials. Take out the cost of school fees, uniform and transport from your budget. We do more excursions than they did at school and it only costs me about $60-$100 a term for excursions for the homeschoolers and we have so much fun. For us we have put our money into good books, a curriculum from the US and now tutoring twice a week but it’s still much better for our finances than having children in school.

Jobs of the future. My husband and I are both accountants and he’s seen first hand through his own work that jobs have been moved offshore and done by graduates who are much cheaper. Employees lost their jobs and had to train up overseas staff to do their job (all in effort to cut costs). We’ve lost count of how many restructures he’s been through but that’s life in the corporate world these days. So perhaps looking to the future and that we don’t know what jobs will look like for our children might be another avenue to think about. What do your children want to do when they grow up? What jobs will be available in the future? Do you need to sit in a classroom for 13 years to have a job in the future? There are lots of pathways to university and further study without needing to attend school and sit the HSC (or year 12 equivalent).

Do it for the benefit of the family The greatest benefit of homeschooling is a stronger family. Bigger kids help the younger kids, everyone learns together, bonds are strengthened and you get to learn together. You can take days out and instead of saying goodbye to your children you get to be with them. Instead of being stuck in a classroom being told what to do they get to have a say and go outside when they want to or make a cake when they’ve finished their work or find a great art or craft project to do. And it’s not like school holidays where you might hear ‘I’m bored already’. We have a structured morning where our bookwork has to get done and we do our creative things in the afternoon. And when we get stuck on something we can spend more time on it until we’ve got it, then we can move on. The class won’t move on while we still don’t understand a concept because we are doing things at our own pace and adjusted to where we are at. 

That’s not an exhaustive list  and I could add a few more but it gives you something to think about if you’re having to make this big decision right now or in the future!

Hope this Easter

Well the grocery shop for the Easter weekend is done, I’ve got all the times of services at Church over the next few days, grandma is coming to join us for the weekend, OB appointment was today and everything is ticking along nicely and I just need to clean the house and put my feet up a little over the weekend.

Easter is a big deal for us, a time to reflect and make sacrifices and come back to our faith with a new energy and focus. That’s what it means for me. This Lent we gave up drive thru food which was a big thing for some of the family and I can honestly say that I don’t miss a cheeseburger at all! I’m sure we’re all healthier because of it and my wallet has certainly appreciated giving up that expense. It was a bad habit we had fallen into it and I’m so glad to have broken it and hopefully for good.

I like to write a little message at Easter and Christmas and this year I can look back over the past 12 months since the last Easter and see all of the obstacles and challenges we’ve overcome. The blog and my instagram makes everything look rosy and perfect but of course that’s just a few photos here and there. I’ve always been happy go lucky too and try not to dwell on what troubles us. We’ve had a wonderful year but also had some big decisions to make, some hard financial times as our family gets bigger and expenses just seem to never end. Just when we thought we were getting on top of everything our little guy has to go in for grommits (again!) the week before the baby is due so combined with our expenses for the delivery we’ll have another round of hospital bills. But how grateful we are that we can avoid waiting lists and just get it done so he can hopefully pass hearing tests and improve his speech.

We’ve pulled children out of school, put one back in, pulled another one out and are making big decisions about what to do with another little guy who is due to start school. And just because we’re homeschooling doesn’t mean that it’s a simple decision to have another one at home and take on the responsibility for his education. I’m busy convincing someone that I can do it.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I know that families struggle. Whether it’s financially or emotionally, struggling for time, to put ourselves first, overwhelmed with our responsibility or just wondering when things will get better. Maybe you’re dealing with difficult behaviour from a child, loneliness, poor health, unemployment, a recent diagnosis, a troubled marriage, family tensions or financial troubles. I wanted to assure you that we too have our struggles and we use this time at Easter to pray, hope for the future and be grateful for everything we have. I couldn’t do it alone, I couldn’t be raising my large family if I didn’t think that I had the grace and help from God behind me. I also have a vision of our family as we get older and knowing that everything we do now works towards that vision of what we will be.

And what’s my practical advice to get through the hard times – never give up hope for the future, stop watching the news so you don’t have to worry about the world’s problems when you’re struggling with your own, have a way to escape even if it’s just for a little while (a book, craft, your favourite movie), talk to someone, start saying no to things that aren’t essential, put you and the people in your own house first and start getting them to help you when you need it. And most of all be honest with yourself and everyone else. Thank goodness for my husband, my friends who listen and a God who listens and loves me.

This is my favourite song on the radio at the moment, I know the video has nothing to do with Easter but it’s just an inspiring song that I am loving…and I make everyone in the car be quiet so I can hear it and we all end up singing along…even the littlest members of the family.

Wishing you a peaceful and happy Easter for you and your family. If you are having a hard time then I hope this Easter gives you a break from your troubles and hope for the future.

what we’ve been up to

Nearly the end of term, nearly Easter, 8 weeks until baby number 7 arrives and we’re all doing well here. We’ve settled into our homeschool routine and school seems like a distant memory. I take notes of everything we do each day in a little notebook I keep and one of the biggest realisations has been just how much ‘out and about’ we get done every day. Instead of being ‘locked away’ and away from us between 7.30 and 4 we are ducking into the shops or the post office or visiting the OB or the dentist and our behaviour is getting so much better in all situations. It’s just another benefit I wasn’t expecting to happen so soon. Another tick for homeschooling a little person with special needs.

thumbnail_IMG_0121

We are counting to 10 perfectly, we are starting to identify more of the numbers to 10, our cutting is getting so much better, we get through a lot of things each day and I love that art and craft is run by my older girl. One afternoon she told us she was teaching the kids how to make plastic straw flutes and she told me what she needed and then had 3 little helpers at the table, youtube on and got to work. We also did 3 batches of scones in one weekend and the big girls take control and everyone joins in. I just need to train them better in the art of cleaning up messes.

IMG_0086

Each day we do some educational games which she enjoys. These don’t have to cost a lot and I picked up a few in the clearance section here.

17458203_10154397439333091_4733426737853358525_n

The pregnancy is going really well. I’m trying to remember to wear my compression socks each day for my varicose vein that has decided to play up, I’m having a growth scan next tuesday because little baby isn’t so little (story of my life), we are apparently back to the drawing board on the name even though I have the perfect one chosen and I’m starting to gather up things for the hospital bag and working out where all of the baby things are around the house and what I still need. Oh and my weight gain is off the charts as I’m weighing what I did when I gave birth to the last 2 boys. That’s how I knew I was having a girl though…..always bigger with girls.

There has been a little bit of knitting, I made this adorable hat for a baby shower. I’m convinced it’s a bit too small so told the mum to be that I’ll have to make a larger one. The pattern is a free one called Beloved which you can find here and a super easy pattern to make.

IMG_0088

And that’s about it.

meal plan : week 9

Oops a little behind with the meal planning since we’ve had so many things going on here. I’m 22 vests down and 35 to go for the school musical, we are now registered for homeschool for one and renewed for 2 years for the other and 28 weeks pregnant. Plenty of things to keep me busy…but we have been eating but I took a break from meal plans. Here we go for what we ate last week…..

Day 1

Pesto pasta + broccoli (V, GF Option)

I made ours with broccoli because we’ve been eating so many zucchinis from our garden and I needed a break. Just add in whatever vegetable you like by adding to the pasta while it’s cooking towards the end of the cooking time. Super easy and delicious and just use store bought pesto if you’re really short on time or have it on hand.

 

Day 2

Sushi bowls

Always popular with the kids I just cook the rice in my thermomix, add some sushi rice seasoning and divide up between bowls. Add some smoked salmon or tuna with mayo and sliced avocado and serve with tamari/soy sauce. The kids love it

 

Day 3

Lamb roast and potatoes

Aldi did a beautiful butterflied lamb roast we’ve had a couple of times and I pick up a bag of potatoes and a bag of carrots and roast the veggies first in olive oil (season them and put them in for an hour) then the lamb goes in until it’s cooked and just how we like it.

Day 4

Enchiladas

Always popular here whenever I make them and I don’t make them often enough, this is the Pioneer Woman recipe and I go easy on the coriander because not everyone in the house loves it as much as I do

simple perfect enchiladas

 

Day 5

Green chicken sticks and salad (and rice for some of my kids who love rice with everything!)

chicken skewers in the new oven

Day 6

Kaki Age (Spoon Dropped Tempura) (V)

Great for a meat free day or fridays in Lent. This is so delicious but get used to spending time in the kitchen making more to keep everyone happy.

kaki age

Day 7

Tofu Stir fry (V)

Another vegetarian meal and quick and easy. I like to do stir frys to empty out the crisper in the fridge and when I feel like I need a healthy meal. For variety throw in some noodles into the stir fry instead of serving with rice.

resources for special needs homeschooling

 

I’ve reviewed  a few of the books that have really helped me and put a few resources that we are using. Unfortunately there is no special needs curriculum that you can just buy to homeschool and in NSW an IEP isn’t enough for a homeschool plan. You need to meet the curriculum (in all subject areas) and I have to say it was daunting. But buying a ready made kindergarten curriculum and adapting it and finding other resources and just getting started has given me plenty of confidence.

I hope this helps…..I do have to say that most of the resources come from the US as there are more homeschooling families there and from my internet searches a lot of homeschooling families and resources are geared towards children with autism. It took a bit of researching to find books and resources for children with intellectual disabilities and that is how the books for children with Down Syndrome came up in my searches. These have been my favourite books. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of your child and their developmental age and work from there. There are a lot of FB groups even groups for certain curriculums for children with special needs.

Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley

This was the first book I bought and I have to confess that I started reading it and had to put it away for a while. I really don’t like the terminology she used ‘mental retardation’ as it’s outdated and the book wasn’t giving me warm fuzzies. Then I picked it up again and went straight to the resources and realised that is why I needed the book. Some of my favourite books have come from the resources section of the book so I think it’s worthwhile for that reason. You can find 2nd hand copies on amazon/eBay and it is really worthwhile getting.

Christian Homes & Special Kids by Sherry Bushnell & Dianne Ryckman

This is my favourite book and really sealed the deal for me. It just spoke to me and is written by Christian families who homeschool and there was such a wide variety of disabilities included in the book. The resource section was great and the advice and personal stories really hit home for me. A great buy and I prefer this one to the one above but the book above has a much more comprehensive resource section for all subjects. They also have a website here.

Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome

This was one of the books mentioned in Homeschooling Children with Special Needs and it is an absolute must if you are going to teach someone with special needs to read. It has so many activities and ideas and starts from the very beginning teaching the alphabet to ultimately having the child create their own books and read them. You could be at any level of learning to read and could pick up this book where you are. For less than $30 the book is so thick and full of great ideas and fun ideas. That’s how we’re going to get someone to read. If conventional methods aren’t working then this might be the book for you.

Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome

Since I was impressed with the reading book I bought this book. Not just for children with Down Syndrome but children who need a different way of learning. For us we are still learning to count to 10 in Year 1 so I need something I can start with now and that can move with us as we learn more concepts in maths. Lots and lots of examples and templates in the back of the book, games and ideas and covering lots of maths concepts. A really great one to have in your library

Teachers Pay Teachers

How did I homeschool last year without this website. It’s amazing. There are free downloads but most of the ones you want you need to pay a few dollars for. They are fun, bright and have cute pictures so make learning fun. We’ve bought some book covers, lessons for maths, english and religion and it’s a great way to plan lessons and cover skills starting from Pre – K to senior years. Absolutely love this website and am a huge fan. You’ll need a printer to print everything off and I also got some wonderful alphabet and number games that I printed in colour and laminated and at $3 each game is so much cheaper than paying for an educational game from the shop. I’ve now started using it for year 3 when we are stuck on a concept or need something a bit more exciting than our textbooks.

Literacy Planet

All of my kids are enjoying this website. Membership came with our Complete Education Australia purchase and the games and activities start from preschool upwards. Because we are still at a preschool level we are using some of those and then making our own word list and then the program puts that into games so you can learn your simple words (for us it was cat, dog, fox, mum, dad etc). Lots of fun and a great activity when someone has hit the wall or needs a break (but it still counts as learning).

Complete Education Australia

I did look at distance education as an option for homeschooling as I’ve never taught someone to read and write before but decided the work would be too hard and after an assessment we decided to go with something else. Complete Education Australia is a homeschool provider so you pay $160 a term and the materials are all sent in pdf. All the lessons are planned out for you and it’s very hands on. We will do kindergarten over 2 years and I like having the maths, science, geography, history and art all planned out. In our first week we were recreating Monet artworks with watercolours and this week we are cutting out and sticking a skeleton together. Some of the work is too hard for us but apparently Complete Education Australia will help you adapt the work to the level of your child. Because we are doing it over 2 years I’m just saving some of the tasks for later on. I’m really impressed with it. I print each week on a Sunday and put it into my folder and then I have a planning sheet that I spread out the work over the days of the week so I can tick everything off.

Homeschooling Special Needs Australia

This mum has a wonderful success story of homeschooling her special needs son. She shares lots of resources and its worth reading her story as it’s a great one.

Facebook Groups

There are a lot of Facebook groups with parents from around the world who are homeschooling children with Special needs. There is an increasing trend for children with special needs to be homeschooled as schools just can’t always cater for special needs or children aren’t coping in the school environment.

 

Now that I’m actually doing it I love it. I was quoted last year as saying I couldn’t teach kindergarten as I wouldn’t know how to teach a child to read -it’s definitely easier to pick up homeschooling once your child can read and write – but now that I’m doing it is so much fun. I have a dear little girl who loves being home with us and is happy. So happy. We don’t have cranky mornings or afternoons being so tired from all the travelling and she’s doing fun things and what she loves.

why we are homeschooling

 

People have been asking why we are homeschooling our littlest girl. At the end of the day there was a big difference in the quality of teaching between last year and this year and she was being babysat each day. Every day the email would come in with what they did – morning circle then a literacy or numeracy activity (numeracy only twice a week) then morning tea and play outside then music/drama/art/pe/etc then lunch then play outside then come inside and pack up their bags and go home.

She was leaving home at 7.30 and coming home at 4 with just 1 session of what I would call school work. When maths was mentioned my sweet girl was often given a worksheet to do while students with greater needs worked with a teacher. If your child can’t count to 5 or past 5 how is a worksheet going to help them learn. Then I would get an email saying they did addition and subtraction. Um, if she can’t recognise numbers to 5 or remember what comes after 3 or 4 then how is that going to help. When I went back over the emails I noticed that the boys in the class never got a worksheet just the 2 girls. And my girl never did maths in a small group with a teacher or aide. Either in the whole group or just a worksheet. How is this acceptable? How was she going to learn to count from a worksheet on her own. There were only 8 or 9 students in the class on any given day and a teacher and aide.

Every day I was getting more and more upset (and mad!) and about to burst. How could we have had such a wonderful year last year with a devoted teacher who answered emails and gave each student so much attention and this year I was in a totally different situation. Never an email response and then when a broken folder was given to her for her reader for the year I thought I was going to scream. I had just sent in $80 for resources and $25 for readers and was given a broken folder without a press stud for her communication folder. It’s hard enough for her to open and close a press stud. I know it sounds petty, a broken folder. But to me if someone has taken the time to write her name and communication folder on it then I think you would notice that it was broken. And it’s not going to last the year.  Still I’m not getting responses to my emails except on the one occasion that I chased it up. I didn’t expect to pull her out in the 3rd week and not return to school. We didn’t say goodbye to our favourite teachers or staff or her friends. She needed to come out straight away and I wasn’t sending her back for another day in that classroom. We donated the almost new school uniforms to the uniform shop, returned our library books and reader and left.

I wanted to take her out after the first week but I had to convince someone that I could do this with a new baby and that we would be ok. And you know what? We’re better than ok. Every day she is doing literacy and numeracy and we are learning! We don’t have other children’s behaviour in the classroom to worry about and she’s not just given a worksheet and left on her own to do it. I sit there with her and work with her. Just the two of us. I find fun activities in her curriculum or on the internet and we cut and paste and learn together. Her big sister and sometimes her little brothers next to her too. Twice a week she is doing a preschool program 1 on 1 – in one hour they pack in gross motor, fine motor, days of the week and weather, letters, numbers, puzzle, songs, a story and questions and a craft. More than she ever did in a day of school. And every time we are out or in the kitchen we are counting and doing things. At 7.30am she’s still in her pjs enjoying toast and watching sesame street with her siblings instead of getting into transport for the day. Today it was raining so our homeschool meet up got moved to lollipops playland. We did all of our learning work in the morning and after lunch went off to burn off some energy at lollipops playland. Tomorrow she will have 1 hour of speech and then do her work and we finish the day with art and then cheerleading.

It was after her assessment which revealed just how much work we needed to do and how she would benefit from 1 on 1 and that confirmed we needed to do this. That same day I sent the email that had been sitting in my drafts and she didn’t go back to school.

So that’s the honest answer.

All we want is the best for our children and when they don’t have a voice or have the support to be included in regular schools then we are the voice and we are the person who has to make things happen. We are the ones who have sat in on every assessment, therapy session and at the end of the day are the ones who will spend the rest of our lives loving and living with them. And that is our reality. The teachers won’t live with them or need to help them for the rest of their lives we will so no one wants better outcomes than we do. And so it’s up to us to get it right. **off my soapbox now**

On this particular afternoon we were recreating Monet artworks! This week we’ve also cut out a skeleton, stuck him together and started colouring him and labelling his parts for science. We’ve looked at the map of australia and put down where everyone we know lives and coloured it in with a different colour for each state and we’ve been focusing on identifying the numbers 1-3 and the letters a, b, c. We are still at a preschool level and have problems with remembering things but she is loving learning and making progress. And happy. All that I hoped for.

meal plan : week 8

Oops! Homeschool registration and renewal and having another one at home is keeping me busy. We’ve also got zucchinis growing like crazy at the moment so some of these dishes I’ve added zucchini to as well as giving some away at preschool and to the neighbour. Why can’t I have some of the other delicious things I’ve planted? It was fun at first but now I get nervous when I ask the kids to check on the veggies for me. I know they’ll come running back with another one or two.

Oh and it’s lent so a few fish dinners in there for us on fridays too

Day 1

Spinach & ricotta cannelloni (V)

Because the spinach is also growing well. Super easy. Just a packet of cannelloni rolls, stuff them with a mixture of wilted spinach and ricotta that you’ve seasoned well. Pour over a jar of passata or your favourite pasta sauce. Top with lots of cheese and bake in the oven until golden and the pasta is cooked.

Day 2

Teriyaki Salmon and rice

I picked up some salmon fillets at aldi and I place them on the top level of the varoma and pour over teriyaki marinade, underneath on the bottom tray of the varoma was zucchini and carrot, in the thermomix bowl I had rice cooking and I cook the whole lot for 20 minutes on varoma setting. Delicious.

Day 3

Smoked Salmon Frittata

Super easy and a great one for lunch or dinner in Lent. 8-12 eggs, packet of smoked salmon, some frozen veggies all whisked together and poured into a square or rectangular baking tin that has been lined with baking paper. Top with grated cheese and bake in a 200C oven for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with salad and garlic bread. Tastes delicious cold too.

Day 4

Beef fajitas

Another aldi inspired dish, they had marinated beef strips so a packet of those, tortillas/wraps, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, mashed avocado, sour cream and some lime wedges. Delicious and always a crowd favourite.

Day 5

Zucchini & Feta Pancakes (V) 

Using up those zucchinis, this is a light dinner and great for a quick and easy dinner that you need to get on the table. Mind you I tend to be churning them out and they are all eaten up. Make sure you serve them with lemon wedges.

zucchini and feta pancakes

Day 6

Pasta Bake (GF Option) 

Good old pasta bake. I did up a mince sauce as I would for lasagne but had the biggest zucchini grated in there. A bag of cooked pasta mixed in and then poured into a baking dish and topped with white sauce and then grated cheese on top and I bake in the oven until golden and bubbling. Always popular here and a very filling dish. Also great for the cooler weather. Use GF pasta for a GF option.

Day 7

Chicken Pie

Because it’s such a family favourite here! Now is the time to make double and freeze one or pop in the fridge for the next night.

so good

 

my revolving door of homeschoolers

Yes that’s how it feels right now. I just sent one off to school who really wanted to go and now have another little girl home with me. And we are all loving it. It was a big decision to make this month but we had always known that if there was anyone to homeschool then it would be our little girl who has an intellectual disability. She had a wonderful start to school and an amazing teacher last year and we thought we would continue this year but things just weren’t going as well as last year. I knew we had bigger goals we wanted her to achieve and that we needed to do more. Every day when the email came in of what they did that day I knew she could have done much more and not needed to be away from us for 8 hours. And options are very limited when you don’t really fit anywhere – lack of support in mainstream schools and knowing that its a battle to get the help your child needs. Not severe enough or not the right diagnosis for certain schools, support classes or distance education options.

But we feel lucky that we are already homeschoolers because we knew we had the best option right here at home. And that made it a very easy decision. We are doing things a little differently compared to starting with my twins. We have tutoring twice a week at a centre that specialises in special needs which she is loving. It’s more work than she was doing in the classroom but she has it packed into an hour and gets the 1 on 1 she really needs. We are also using Complete Education Australia and their Foundation program (kindy) which is very hands on and suits where she is at. Some of the work is too hard for us so we will save that for later. We’re also using some school readiness books from my favourite bookshop.

For social activities we have a homeschool meet up every thursday, cheerleading on a friday, gymnastics on saturday and swimming on sunday and of course she is surrounded by her brothers and sisters and always has a few of them at home with her each day. Today was Shrove Tuesday and she loved it so much that we had to do 2 lots of pancake making and eating. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.

So far so good, I know I received a few questions about our decision and I know with a baby coming that it seems like totally the wrong timing but actually it was really meant to be and after a day of feeling sick about it all I woke up the next day with a great sense of peace. And best of all a little voice tells me ‘I stay here, no school, I stay here’….and she’s happy. And that is what matters too.

If you are after any more information or have a homeschooling question just ask. You might not know that you can be eligible for the AIC payment for special needs which is helping us towards the cost of private tuition so worth looking into.

Meal Plan : Week 7

Oops I’m a little late again! We’ve had a few dramas and things going on and a crazy week with 2 parent information nights, 2 nights of cheerleading, 2 nights of school musical rehearsal so this week’s dinners are super easy and quick to get on the table

Day 1

Chicken Noodle Stir Fry (GF if you use tamari) 

Super easy. Just make a regular stir fry, we did our usual chicken stir fry but added in a pack of vermicelli noodles (that had been soaked in hot water then drained) and an egg. You need a bit more water for the noodles to soak up as they are cooking but it’s delicious AND my pickiest eaters just had the noodles with some chicken and a vegetable or two.

Day 2

Tuna Macaroni (GF option) 

Crowd favourite here. Just a big bag of pasta cooked with 1 batch of white sauce made in the thermomix (or old fashioned way on the stove), 1 can of sirena tuna in oil, some mustard and salt and pepper and a cup of grated cheese all mixed together. The kids love it and most have seconds. I now use a 750g bag of pasta for my growing appetites.

Day 3

Spaghetti Bolagnese (GF option) 

Pulling out all the crowd favourites this week. I throw in a few finely grated vegetables like carrot, celery and zucchini to bulk up the mince and because my kids never notice the hidden veggies. The kids love it. We made ours GF with a box of Barilla GF pasta.

Day 4

Fish or chicken wraps

Super easy. Oven fish or chicken strips in wraps with lettuce, tomato, avocado and some mayo/your favourite sauce. The kids love it and it’s a great one if you are heading out for the night and leaving little people with a babysitter

Day 5

Chicken and vegie balls with rice  (GF) 

You can use this recipe here to make your own but I am using 2 packets of Cleavers paleo meatballs which I love. I steam mine in the top of the thermomix with some cut up vegetables and cook the rice at the same time. Kids love it and adults too.

Day 6

Quiche maraichere (V) 

golden cheese on top

Well it’s weekend time so a vegetable quiche that takes a little longer is perfect for dinner. My favourite way to have quiche is with a big salad on the side. The kids love garlic bread

Day 7

Zucchini and bacon slice (V option if you leave out bacon, GF if you use GF flour) 

hot out of the oven

Because I have zucchinis coming out of my ears. My daughter bought in our 11th and 12th zucchinis and advised me we have another few that are ready to pick soon! Super easy and double it up for lunchboxes. We never have leftovers as the kids love it and great for rush nights. I also like to add in a pack of danish feta all chopped up while I’m adding in the eggs as it gives you a saltiness and creaminess to it. Delicious.

 

Hope that gives you a bit of dinner inspiration. I’m just hoping things quieten day around here………….might be wishful thinking. Have a lovely week!

another year of homeschool starts

Well we’re about to start week 3 of homeschool and all is going well. Having done 6 months last year has definitely given me some confidence that we’re on the right track and learning is happening. This year because we are using a curriculum from the US and we are enjoying having daily lesson plans written up for us. I just had to swap the history and geography for australian books and swapped out the spelling book as I’m not a fan of spalding method and neither is my little girl. So far so good and she is enjoying the work and having a day for art, craft and cooking. The work is done over 4 days and one day is set aside for activities like art, craft, pe and more which is also great if you have a busy day during the week.

I still get asked lots of questions about homeschool and why we do it and I’ve put some resources below that might help you if you are looking into it. I think when you are first looking into homeschooling it can be confusing and starting out with a homeschool provider can be a good option. However I would say if you have someone with learning difficulties or who is really struggling at school or refusing to go to school that selecting your own books and going at a more relaxed pace is a great way to ease them into homeschool without the pressure of someone else marking work or having lots of workbooks to complete each day. And if you have someone who needs to be extended then I would say the same thing. It was great to be using english and maths resources a grade ahead last year and challenge the homeschoolers at our house. I’m glad we started with a mixture of texts and workbooks that I picked out and also allowed them to choose the art and activities that we wanted to do.

Socialisation? Still gets asked of me. We are surrounded by people in our house and we are out and about most days. Our homeschool girl has just started 2 hours of cheerleading each week and will have competitions and camps this year. She swims on saturday with other children, goes to birthday parties, does the preschool and school drop off, sees her friends and spends time with family and neighbours too. We are always around people and I really don’t see it as a problem. We have some family members keen to see her return to school but we are enjoying seeing her happy and more relaxed without the demands of school and want to continue.

One more thing I’ve noticed is that people have an all in approach. They either pull everyone out of school to homeschool or they don’t do it at all. You’d be surprised how many families are homeschooling  1 or a couple of their children and have some in school. Some children love school and some don’t. I don’t mind having some in school and some at school and because my older ones are quite independent and keep track of their own homework and getting ready for school it’s just part of life getting them off to school. Don’t think you have to do everyone at home to make it work. I think we had a great start because I only had 2 of mine homeschooling last year rather than everyone at once.

And just one more thing I think mums worry about is having someone/or everyone around them 24/7. At first it can be a change – instead of having some quiet time to go to the shops or do things without the whole crew you suddenly have more children with you……..everywhere you go. And I think we all need some time off. So yes at first it was an adjustment, especially when the kids would get in the car and try to change my radio station but actually I enjoy the company and extra pair of hands. They are so much more co-operative and help with the chores because they are home all the time and see what needs to be done. We don’t get the after school attitude or fights that you get when someone comes home from school in a mood and I find we have a more relaxed day. It’s also great for siblings. My daughter loves to scan the groceries for me especially doing the fruit and veggies and selecting the ones and learns a lot about life in general that you don’t always get when you are at school 5 days a week. If we have coffee out with someone we choose somewhere she can play and she usually makes my other kids jealous telling them about her delicious morning tea or what she did that day. And when she reads, does craft, makes a cake or plays with her brother I get some quiet time or get a few things done.

The Educating Parents Homeschooling & Unschooling FB Group

This is the best group I’ve found on FB for questions and every day there are loads of new questions and posts. It’s run by Beverley Paine and her website and her books are full of information to get you started and keep you going.

Homeschooling downunder

Another great aussie homeschool website and there are lots of books and downloadables that you can buy. We used this website for our science book and it’s great to have aussie websites that can help you with planning and encouragement.

Complete Education Australia

Provides a complete curriculum in Australia (not religious) and you print off all the materials. Would be a great way to start homeschooling and I’m looking into this for one of my children.

Riverside Distance Education

This is if you want the option of having the student’s work set and marked by someone else. This is a Christian package and would be a good option if you don’t want to do the setting and marking of work and want a more set approach for the work.

Australian Christian College

This group offer distance education from year 3-10 and also includes residential camps during the year. I like this option as the children get older and might want a more structured approach and the opportunity to go on camps.

Australian Christian Homeschooling

This is a complete homeschool package with all of your materials sent to you.

South East Home Education

An australian Christian homeschool provider that provides you with everything and a workbook approach.

Five Senses Education

This is my favourite bookshop and I also buy books for my little girl as they have great books for all levels and abilities. The website makes it easy to find all the books to look at for a grade and subject so you can compare.  We also got a couple of great workbooks from singapore and I found they had a lot more examples to work through and I wouldn’t have known about them if I hadn’t known about the site.

Seton

This is an american Catholic homeschool provider, we use some of their books and started using them last year. I especially like their maths and handwriting books. I know families who use all of their books as a complete curriculum but I prefer to find a few different books and texts rather than just using workbooks. But the maths is very comprehensive. Their pre-k books and colouring books are also excellent and I recommend having a look around their online bookstore.

Mother of Divine Grace

Another american Catholic homeschool provider and I like this one, it’s a classical program and has a lot of reading and uses a variety of texts. I like that it didn’t have a workbook approach that some distance and homeschool providers tend to have and the daily lesson plans make life very easy. You can buy the required books from ebay and amazon and it worked out less than A$500 a year including buying the curriculum in paper format from the US.

Our Lady of Victory Homeschool

I don’t know much about this one but just that it’s one that Catholic families use.

Hope that helps! If you have any questions just ask…………..I still have my L plates on but am really enjoying it and hope to bring another one home soon………..

 

New fabrics just added

It’s about time for some new fabrics in my little etsy store. I have these beautiful fabrics on the bolt ready to cut for you and also have this range in charm squares too. It’s called Tide Pool and I had to buy it for some new couch cushions for new couches coming to our loungeroom soon.

For the floral lovers I have a new range called Lulu Lane which is very pretty and is going to make the most beautiful quilts for girls and your home. Also I’ve got some Bonnie & Camille basics which just arrived and is bright and pretty and has a lot of my favourites in there. I’ll be doing some neutral baby quilts with those packs and the mini charm squares will be great for borders.

Meal Plan : Week 6

A few days late as everyone is back to school, one is homeschooling and having 4 little people at different places has involved some serious time management. Not much time is left for cooking or planning out dinners for the next week but saturday mornings are always a fresh start. So here we go.

start of the meatball sauce

I’ve kept these pretty simple, 1 slowcooker meal, 1 meatball dish to make on the weekend when you have more time, 3 vegetarian meals and some baking for lunchboxes. I like to bake them all up, let them cool, wrap them individually and pop in the freezer so they can be taken out the morning you want to put them in a lunchbox

Just click on the recipe title and it will take you to the recipe link!

Day 1

Chicken & Cashew Stir Fry

Day 2

Quirky Cooking’s Singapore Noodles (GF)

This is a family favourite and so fresh and tasty. Everyone will love this one.

Day 3

Thermomix Pulse and Pumpkin Curry (V, GF)

Day 4

Tomato Pasta with Vegetables and Feta (V, GF option)

To make this GF just use a gluten free pasta.

Day 5

Quirky Cooking’s Brown Rice risotto (V, GF)

We have regular cheese not macadamia cheese with ours.

Day 6

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

Serve with rice and/or steamed vegetables

Day 7

3 hour meatballs

Make this on the weekend to enjoy that night or during the week. We get leftovers and they taste great the next day and there is lots of sauce so just make more meatballs to make the most of the beautiful tomato sauce. Everyone in the family including the pickiest of eaters will love this one!

3 hour meatballs

BAKING

Cheesey Vegemite Scrolls

Orange and maple scrolls

oh I can't get enough of these

Orange Choc chip muffins

Chosen by my children but who doesn’t love choc chips?  I’ll be using this recipe which makes 24 muffins but swapping out the blueberries for 1 cup choc chips and instead of lemon I’m using orange juice.

meal plan: week 5

School is back next week and for us we have activities every single afternoon……I’m not ready for that. So this week the meals are fairly easy, I let the kids pick a night since they were shopping with me and we’ll make 2 extra meals for our freezer for when it really gets busy.

My Aldi shop this week was $179 (excludes fruit and veg which arrives friday) and was a big shop so next week I expect it to be less. It also includes a few back to school lunchbox treats to make my first week a bit easier – we’ve got kids at 4 different places this year and 2 at home and activities every night so I’m already thinking ahead. Little things like knowing I have tiny teddies and le snaks in the pantry that can easily go in a lunchbox or for an after school activity or in the car make things easy. We had a lot of meat this week – 2kgs mince (1kg will go in the freezer), 2 trays lamb chops, 2 free range chickens, 3 trays of sausages. I also picked up a packet of chicken and vegetable pies and some spinach and ricotta parcels just in case we have a crazy night and dinner doesn’t go as planned. Other items include 2 dozen eggs, 2 loaves of bread, 2 packets of wraps, some iceblocks, dairy items and the hummus and crackers make a great lunchbox snack for all ages.

IMG_3507

Day 1

Kids night – hot dogs and strawberry cheesecake

Clean eaters and dieters might want to choose something else but the kids picked hot dogs for their dinner. The adults added sauerkraut and mustard for a more german hot dog experience and it was delicious. Since the kids were on a roll choosing dinner they picked a strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

Day 2

Australia Day BBQ (GF) 

Yes we are getting the bbq out again and having chops for the adults and sausages for the kids, coleslaw and a green salad too.

Day 3

Smoked Tofu Stir fry with rice (V, GF if you use Tamari) 

The fruit and veg delivery arrives today so smoked tofu is nice and firm and much nicer than most tofu brands. We have a range of vegetables in there and serve it with steamed rice. For flavouring we use tamari (it’s wheat free and delicious) and nuts are wonderful in a stir fry. I always feel so healthy when I’ve had a big stir fry for dinner and for the picky eaters they have rice and pick which of the vegetables they’ll have with some tofu. And ‘saucy sauce’ which our 4 year old still calls soy sauce! Writing it here so I don’t forget how cute that still is. Everyone corrects him but he still calls it saucy sauce.

8523796826_be74bcc852_z

Day 4

Spaghetti Pie

Have you had spaghetti pie before? I found the recipe when I was in my first trimester and craving carbs. This was a great dish. I’ll make this during the day and pop it in the fridge so that it can just go in the oven when we get home from our activity that day. Super popular with the kids (and husband).

Day 5

Italian Style Lamb chops and vegetables (GF) 

Red onion, zucchini, fresh tomato and some garlic and herbs in the bottom of a roasting/lasagne dish. Place the lamb chops on top and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes until everything is cooked. A really nice one dish dinner and always popular. I picked up trays of lamb chops in my grocery shop so this is a nice way to use the 2nd tray and everyone will eat it up.

Day 6

2 Roast chickens, gravy and vegetables (GF) 

Another great way to use up vegetables, we love potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and some corn on the cob. I roast 2 chickens at the same time and leftover chicken meat will go in lunchboxes the next day. I find the fussiest of eaters will love a chicken leg and some cold potato in their lunchbox.

Day 7

Silverbeet & feta frittata (V, GF)

One thing about a mixed fruit and vegetable box is the silverbeet. My kids aren’t fans but this is so cheesy and delicious that no-one noticed the silverbeet. I washed the silverbeet leaves and finely chopped them in the thermomix with a red onion, 3 garlic cloves and a carrot. Throw in some olive oil and salt and saute for 2 minutes, 100C, speed 1. Drain off excess liquid. Add in 10 eggs and chopped feta. Combine and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a lined square/rectangle tin and top with sliced tomato then top with about 1 cup of grated cheese. You want the cheese to cover the dish so it’s nice and cheesy. Bake for at least 30 minutes in a 200C oven and the frittata should be completely cooked inside. Enjoy. I still can’t believe no one asked what the green was!

Baking

Broccoli and cherry tomato quiche (V) 

This is great for lunches, lunchboxes, early dinners and eating on the run. I’ll make this on Sunday and keep it in the fridge for the week ahead.

Berry muffins

These are the most delicious muffins, I’ll leave off the glaze for the kids and freeze them for lunchbox treats. Also great to pack when the kids have after school activities and need a snack in between.

Banana Bread

I’ll make a double batch of this recipe and freeze one sliced up and in bags for when it gets busy.

spaghetti pie (cook + freeze)

I made this year last year and forgot to blog it! Added it to this week’s meal plan and realised I better share it. I usually find making lasagne and freezing it is a great way to take a meal to another family. Because I’ve been making so many lasagnes lately I decided to try something new. Spaghetti pie! It’s a winner!

If I’m making this for another large family I would make this up in a foil container and assemble it all ready to go in the oven then I would wrap up in foil and freeze. I then like to write the cooking instructions on the alfoil and a separate piece of paper too. So for example you might say defrost or part defrost then cook in a 180C oven for at least 30 minutes or something like that.

On this particular day I was making single portions for a lady so I made a big dish for our family and divided up half into small containers and that way they can just be defrosted and reheated.

If you have a thermomix you could make the bolagnese sauce as per the thermomix recipe and a double batch of white sauce. On this particular weekend my dear old thermomix was having the scales fixed so I was doing it old school. I hope you enjoy this one and if you don’t then your kids will:)

spaghetti pie (cook + freeze)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
What you'll need
  • 500g pack spaghetti
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil
  • onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1kg mince
  • 2x 700g passata bottles
  • herbs (I used parsley and basil)
  • salt and pepper
  • tomato sauce
  • White sauce
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 3Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups grated cheese (1 for sauce and 1 topping)
Instructions
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add in the and mince and brown.
  2. Add in passata, salt, pepper and herbs (fresh or dried).
  3. Bring to the boil then simmer for at least 30-40 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Boil pasta and while the water is boiling for your pasta you want to start the white sauce so both will be ready at the same time.
  5. To make the white sauce mix your butter and flour until they slightly bubble, whisk in the milk and keep whisking until the butter and flour has mixed in. Gently heat and keep stirring until sauce has thickened. Season well and mix in 1 cup of cheese. Stir and taste. Season if necessary.
  6. Add half of the white sauce to your cooked and drained spaghetti. Add the egg to the other half of the white sauce.
  7. In a large lasagne dish pour the bolagnese mixture into the bottom of the dish. Top with the cooked spaghetti (make sure you added ½ the white sauce) and then top with the reserved white sauce (make sure you added the egg) and top with the extra cup of cheese.
  8. Heat in 180 degrees oven until cheese is golden and bubbling on top.