weekend in a sunny garden

Well the garden has been full of surprises since I’ve been spending so much time inside caring for a little baby. I walked out there this morning and couldn’t believe how many flowers there were!

There are just flowers everywhere and the fruit trees have so much fruit we did 2 sessions of picking. The grapefruit tree is our biggest and we’re not grapefruit fans so I’ve got a box full to take to church tomorrow and that’s just for starters.

We have 2 orange trees and they are usually the last to get really sweet but we have no shortage or oranges! I liked when we played netball and were on oranges duty as we just used our own!

The mandarins are just perfect and much bigger this year so we’ve been enjoying them as we pick them but now we need daddy to get up there and also get a ladder and get the ones at the top. They’re so sweet and perfect to eat right now. The kids ask me to come over and help them but at 5ft myself I’m not really much of a help!

And because I’ve neglected my lemon tree with just a few picked each week we have some really big ones that will be great in lemon delicious. While we were picking we had our littlest member of the family out getting some fresh air. It’s just been so cold and we’ve been indoors so often lately. When I had my first baby and then the twins I tried to get out for walks whenever I could but it’s a bit hard with my big entourage to get out there and go for a big walk.

Chester our labradoodle is now the size of a horse, well almost, and he loves having someone to play with. He’s like a race horse when he runs around the backyard and is not so little. We had been told he was medium but there is nothing medium about him. He is now 18 months old and lots of fun for the kids and no longer knocks over the 2 year old when he bounds by. We had to make him an outdoor dog as he’s just too big to be in the back part of our little house anymore and he’s had a nice warm coat for winter nights. And I have to get back to dog training each week because he doesn’t listen to me only my hubby. I was going to dog training each week and then fell pregnant and didn’t have the energy then my tummy got too big and we’ll be back soon and get him listening to me. Well that’s the plan.

I’m feeling much happier after that time in the sun. Well that and I watched north and south again last night and had to get right to the end to see one of the best endings ever. Again. Now I might get back to reading the book again since I have so much couch time on my hands. I started reading it then passed it on to grandma then I bought another of Gaskell’s books and passed that on to her too so I’ll get back into north and south and then do the other book.

6 weeks and chicken teriyaki

The 6 week mark always signifies things getting a little bit easier after I’ve had a baby. Little lottie is sleeping a bit more at night but still likes to be on or near me. I’m getting up at 7.30ish because all the little kids want breakfast and their favourite cartoons put on but it’s still hard to get out of the house anytime before 10am! In fact yesterday the big kids were invited to a last minute playdate and it was 1 o’clock by the time we left the house. Mind you today we were 20 minutes early to our 9am swimming class so I’m getting a bit better when I set my mind to it and skip a morning shower.

I’m gaining weight while breastfeeding but no surprises there. Not one of those mums who just gets back into shape easily and making milk is hard work and leaves me soooo hungry I eat whatever I can find. I’m hoping once everyone goes back to school and routine and I do a few more things that I might eat a bit less and instead of gain weight start to lose some. Well I hope. Today I’m making a huge soup in the slowcooker which hopefully will fill me up and keep me away from the sweet treats.

The slowcooker is still working overtime. I honestly have the most basic slowcooker but it’s working well for me. You don’t need big and fancy really. Last night was a sweet potato risotto with chicken stock we made 2 nights ago from a whole chicken in there. I’m without a stovetop (it died) but am discovering all the great things you can do in the thermomix like boil spaghetti and potatoes and so we’ve been using that a lot too. I’m hoping that this weekend we might get a few meals made and in the freezer like our favourite sausage rolls, a few lasagnes and more.

My big girls love to cook but I’ve had to ask them not to for a few days so I can keep the kitchen clean as it’s mess everywhere when they get in the kitchen. Now my favourite slowcooker recipe doesn’t have any photos but is so delicious so here goes – 1kg chicken thighs (just put them in whole), 1 can of crushed pineapple (I think its 440g), 1/4 cup tamari/soy sauce, 1 onion diced up, some ginger and garlic all go into the slowcooker on low for about 6 hours. Serve with steamed rice and even your fussiest of eaters will gobble it up. I put some chopped up veggies in there for a complete dinner. Total winner.

My big girl devised a weekly chore chart so we can be a bit fairer in dividing out the chores. Each of my big 3 has 2-3 jobs a day to do – nothing too big- and hopefully getting that routine in place now will help when everyone goes back to school.

I’m managing about 1-2 rows of knitting………..a week. Yes a week and sometimes I wonder will I remember how to knit but as things get easier and a little one sleeps more then I know I’ll be back to my crafts. I did make this little kina to gift last year and Lottie did a great job of modelling it for me. Pattern is here and I used adagio alpaca in 5ply.

And thank you for all of your tv suggestions on FB. I asked what to watch since I’ve worked my way through all of Shetland, the Crown, the Keepers, Silence the movie and need some tv viewing for those late night baby feeding sessions. After all of the suggestions I think I won’t be leaving the house anytime soon. I started with a rewatching of North and South. I could watch that one 100 times and still just love it right till the end.

 

we survived the first month

Well our miss lottie is now 1 month old. It’s been tough getting back into life with a newborn again but somehow it’s the 2, 4 and 6 year old that make life just that bit harder rather than a new baby. It’s trickier to deal with the 2 yo tantrums too when you’re wearing a baby or trying to get her back to sleep. But then I think back to life with 3 under 3 and remember that it was back then that was really hard. Thankfully, we’re just starting to get into school holidays and having the extra hands on deck at home is great. I had my big girl vac downstairs for me today and the other girl was tidying up toys. I’m using my washer and dryer around the clock and then every weekend it’s a team effort to get clothes folded and put away. My twins make their First Reconciliation tonight and my son’s trousers are in the dryer as I write this so I’m a bit last minute with everything but we’re getting there.

On the homeschool front we’re continuing to work through the holidays but at an easier pace so we can get everything done. I also have to write their first semester reports so will get that done and I like to check everything off and make sure their portfolios and book work are all up to date (and marked) so that we go into 2nd semester on top of everything. I also have to move our homeschool room as we’re putting a wood fired heater in our fireplace so are going to move everything into the playroom so we can put some couches and enjoy sitting in front of the new fire.

We are loving using the slow cooker for dinner most nights. The house smells great and I don’t need to worry about finding time to cook when everything is crazy at 4 or 5 o’clock at night.

Lottie is a very sweet baby, she’s a bit too used to being carried everywhere and held and I think I might need to start wrapping her up and putting her down for naps before it’s too late and she wants to be carried everywhere. Not that I’ll mind too much since we all just adore her and there is nothing nicer than sitting on the couch with a warm little baby on you. To pass the time while breastfeeding I’ve been reading the book Silence (it’s so good), discovering episodes of Shetland on netflix (also so good) and telling children to grab things or help one of the little kids.

We’ve been trying to get back to regular things like the shops and church. Again it’s not the new baby that’s trickier it’s managing everyone else. I’ve done the craft show which was lots of fun (yay to being back at darling harbour).

And we did a big first holy communion on Sunday which was gorgeous but seemed to take up the whole day by the time I got everyone dressed and looking lovely and out the door. I wore makeup for the first time in a long time and my dear hubby said I think I prefer it when you wear less makeup! Wrong answer but I had to hide some serious bags under my eyes. I think I get 2-3 hours sleep at the moment and then wake up like a zombie until I’ve  had a coffee. But we are getting there and I’m sure that we’ll be celebrating our baby’s 1st birthday in no time!

lace cardigan from lullaby knits

I was still finishing this cardigan the night before I went into hospital. I’d finished the knitting on it months ago but just never got around to seaming it up and adding the buttons. And I still need to duck into spotlight and grab some buttons tomorrow to finish this off.

This is the lace cardigan from lullaby knits. I reviewed the book here a while ago on the blog and still love it. It’s a european knitting book (written in english, don’t worry) and I just love the patterns. They’re a bit different and so beautiful. I follow quite a few european knitters on instagram and love their patterns that are never written in english so I kind of feel like I get a taste of their knits….in english with the lullaby knits book.

You have to knit each piece separately but they work up pretty quickly. I used Bendigo 8 ply cotton on 3.5mm needles and turned out nicely, the sizing would be 0-3 months and it’s a bit on the small side which is perfect for my little baby.

Ravelry details are here.

Lottie’s birth story

Last Wednesday I was going in to hospital for my 6th c/section, I knew it would probably be my last but my OB was still joking before we went in that we’d be back for baby number 8. Well the thing about having a baby is that you never know how the birth is going to go. I thought I had it all down pat with another c/section. I knew what to expect, I’ve never had any problems, this pregnancy had been very straight forward and I was really looking forward to the new hospital where I could have the baby with me in recovery. Things didn’t go to plan and there will be no more babies but I have the most beautiful baby girl in our family now and I’m so grateful that things worked out in the end.

We had agreed on a c/section date at 38 weeks, because of his schedule the actual date made Lottie 37 weeks and 5 days. I’d had a few last minute nerves about the new hospital and new OB. We wanted to be closer to home and our previous OB who has delivered 6 of my babies has seen his fees go up each time and the out of pocket management fee was close to $7k and I  knew that we really did need to find someone else. A lot of the catholic mums I know had been telling me about their OB over the past few years. He was closer to home and more affordable and with 7 c/sections to the one lady I knew I’d be in safe hands for another c/section.  I booked in with him and from the first time I met him I was glad he was my new OB. He was very warm and friendly and when I had a big bleed early on he had me come in that day for an ultrasound to check everything was ok. He is experienced, a Christian and sees a range of patients ranging from first time mums to some of the bigger families I know. And he never keeps you waiting, he always kept his appointment times!

So the big day finally arrived. We had to be at the hospital at 12. We left the kids at home with my mother in law and my dad and a babysitter was coming in later that night to help with dinner, bath and bed. She also turned out to be an amazing hair braider so the girls also had their hair done in the best braids they’ve ever had.

Just as we were parking the car at the hospital hubby let me know that he hadn’t had time to grab something for lunch so we sat down in the hospital cafe and I watched him eat a very nice toasted sandwich while I continued my fast before the big operation. I was busy texting friends that I couldn’t believe we were hours away from meeting our baby. We filled in all the paperwork and went up to maternity. By this stage I was so excited and emotional that if I started talking I was fighting back the tears. It really was a dream come true to be having another little baby and a baby girl made it even more special. All the waiting during the pregnancy and in a few hours I’d have a little baby.

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The midwife came in and told me how things would happen but we did joke that I could tell her as I knew the drill. I had my shower, got into my gown and lay in the bed while hubby was on his phone watching french rugby. When the wardsman came to wheel me down we asked should hubby come down, he said no. Little did we know he was supposed to say yes and that we’d end up calling maternity and mobile phones trying to get him down to the operating theatres! Anyway I met the anaesthetist, I told him I really wanted a spinal block as I preferred how I felt afterwards compared to the epidural. He agreed, he said well since this is your last c/section we’ll make it your best ever (he came back to joke about that later). Then his nurse came to get things ready and by this stage I said do you know if anyone is getting my husband because he’s still sitting up in the room. He tried calling maternity, then hubby’s phone, then my phone but hubby didn’t want to answer it. In the end they got onto someone in maternity who ran him downstairs as I was being wheeled in. It’s pretty funny and I knew they wouldn’t start without him!

The spinal went in fine, I know that’s the worst part just receiving the local in my back and my OB was holding me while they did it. The next bit goes so quickly, they were doing quite a bit of pushing and pulling so I was taking deep breaths and then before I know it this beautiful baby girl was pulled out. Lottie Evelyn Mary. We chose her name because we finally agreed on something that sounded pretty, was a little bit different and went nicely with the other names. Evelyn is after my mum’s name and Mary after St Mary of the Cross McKillop who I prayed to and left my intention at her relic when it was visiting the parishes in our diocese. I went to her relic twice in a week praying for my intention and then I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks later. And then she was born on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians the patron saint of Australia so I knew that she needed Mary in her name.

She wasn’t really crying but she was perfectly pink and chubby. I thought I’d cry but I was just so shocked she came out so quickly and was hoping she’d start crying. She didn’t really cry until she was being cleaned up. Her apgar scores were 9 and she was perfect in every way. While they were cleaning her up and cutting the cord I heard my OB say we’re going to be a while, he said to the anaesthetist we’re going to need to put her under. This is where I started to panic. I could tell his voice was serious and I’ve never been put to sleep before after a c/section. I can tell in the photos that I’m so happy to be meeting the baby but I also know that I’m about to go to sleep and I have no idea what the outcome of the surgery will be or why they need to put me under. The anaesthetist was on the phone as he was going to be longer with me than planned and I was starting to feel my legs tingle and I was freaking out. I said um I can start to feel things in my feet. The OB called the anaesthetist and told him to put me under now and he couldn’t work until I was under.

I asked is everything ok? Am I going to be ok? I was really panicking inside because this has never happened before. I’ve always been told at this point that everything is looking great and you’re fine for another c/section. My OB was so serious and said yes you will be fine, your bladder is stuck to your uterus and we need to separate them and we’re going to put you to sleep so we can do it. I said bye to my hubby and told him to look after the baby. I had a single moment (probably overly dramatic) where I thought what if something really bad happens and I lose my bladder or have long term damage or don’t make it. A quick hail mary and our father while they had the oxygen mask on me, they put something into my canula and that was all I remember. Next thing I know I’m being wheeled into recovery and they are waking me up. I woke up so quickly and was fine. Talking to the nurses and relieved it was over.  I told the nurse what a shock it was. I really did just feel in disbelief that things hadn’t gone to plan.

Some time had gone by and I didn’t realise how late it was. Lottie had been born at 3.02, I was wheeled into recovery after 5pm and back to my room at 6pm. It was dark outside. When I got to the room my hubby was there with Lottie and my dad too. We’d arranged for him to come in that night but didn’t realise how late I’d be. They didn’t know how things had gone so it was so good to be back and talk about everything that happened. I was also worried about feeding Lottie. She hadn’t been fed at all and I like to have a little feed as soon as I’m back in the room. Thankfully all went well and is still going well with feeding.

Later that night my OB came in to talk about what happened. My bladder was well and truly stuck from one end to the other and he said he was sorry that they had to put me to sleep and operate. He also said now I know we talked about more babies but you really can’t be getting pregnant anymore. I would risk the placenta getting stuck next time to the uterus and bladder and I wouldn’t be so lucky with my bladder coming out unharmed next time. I told him that I knew when it was all happening that would definitely be my last and I can’t risk my own health when I have my family to look after. It’s hard to hear those words because there is something nice over the years about the surprise of pregnancies. I will now look into natural family planning and have to be diligent with it but whenever I feel sad that she’s my last I remind myself how lucky I’ve been to have 7 babies, 6 c/sections and my beautiful big family. I had my first baby at 30 which is a bit later than most and my last baby at 41 so I think I’ve been busy the past 11 years and am so grateful to have been able to have the big family I really hoped I could.

I joked to my OB that the catholic mums need to talk up his skills more as he did a little tidying up and removed the skin between my laparoscopy scar that I had after my ectopic pregnancy and my c/section scar so I had a bit of bruising above and below the new scar but now only have 1 scar and hopefully no overhang which I used to have. The anaesthetist came in a few days later and talked through everything he did and joked we did say we’d make it your best ever.

I had a wonderful stay in the new hospital (the SAN). All of the staff were so wonderful, I had such experienced midwives caring for me and the midwife who cared for me the first night (which is always the worst when you’re stuck in bed with a catheter) popped in later during my stay when she was working in a different ward to say hi and check in on me. The paediatrician visited me most mornings and the food was lovely and fresh. There is something nice about having all of your hot meals delivered to you when you’re usually the one responsible for feeding the troops. Everyone who visited commented on how new the hospital was and how lovely the staff were and I really had a better than expected stay. I also loved that each room has a baby bath in there so you can bath the baby in the room whenever you feel like it. I’m used to having to bath the baby in the same place where they sleep and I just loved being able to give her baths in the room and the kids could help out too.

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Now I’m home and am much more at peace with everything that happened. It took a few days to process everything and it wasn’t the easy straightforward birth I was hoping for and my excitement in that hour that Lottie arrived was  definitely dampened by the operation after but I have the most beautiful baby to care for and she’s a little dream. She’s so easy going and placid and looks like so many of my other babies. And to have a girl is just the most wonderful little treat for this lover of pink and girly.

Recovery is a little tougher than my previous c/sections and I feel more tender this time and can’t do as much as I’d usually do so I’m taking it slower than usual and have been lucky to have hubby home helping with the driving, lunches and routine. The kids are so in love with little Lottie and we’ve never had so much excitement about a baby before. Every morning and night they need to know where she is and how she’s doing and want to hold her. She’s popular!

Thank you so much for all of your beautiful messages and comments over the past week. I really didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to squeeze another baby into our family so it’s just the most wonderful time to be caring for her and I am just loving it.

Lottie Evelyn Mary

I’m home from the hospital and enjoying being back in familiar surroundings, making coffee when I feel like it and not being confined to one hospital room! I’ve already shared a few photos of our precious new addition but just in case you missed our news here is our little Lottie Evelyn Mary who was born last Wednesday. She is absolutely perfect and we are all in love with her. Thank you so much for all of your kind messages and words since she’s arrived.We just adore having another little member of our family.

I’ll write and share her birth story later this week as it did not go to plan but we’re grateful that all ended well and she’s so healthy and perfect. If you’re on instagram and facebook then I have plenty of photos as I just love seeing how her little face changes each day.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.