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January/February/March Homeschooling Miscellany

posted on: Thursday, 9 April 2020 @ 5:33pm in

If you know that I only clump months if at least one of them has been quiet/lazy what does this tell you? XD

I also did it at the end of last year I hope that didn’t set a precedent >_>

For new readers, December is usually insanomonth when all the end of year shenanigans occur on top of silly season shenanigans, so while I still try to squeeze some things in, it usually (but not always) ends up a write-off as far as the socially accepted definition of education goes. It seems that January has become my planning month. I can’t remember if I usually take a month to plan anyway but I definitely needed it after last year, and most of it was probably taken up researching and writing up the planning budget which I’ve never done before and numbers always take longer anyway even if all I’m doing is making sure spreadsheet formulas and data entry are correct (again for new readers, I’m somewhat dyscalculiac which is why I try not to help with anything other than basic maths).

I had plans. We had last year to make up for as well as all the fun we were going to have this year. The kids had given me lists of things they wanted to do or see and I was going to do my best to save up and get them to as many of those things as I could manage. I had a spreadsheet with dates of events/best times to visit places depending on what we wanted to do and how much they cost.

I felt really organised up to the point where I realised January was over.


It wasn’t a completely sedate month. The head coach at gymnastics ran a “school holiday program” that 13yo had decided she was going to every session of. Her friend wanted to do likewise but was going to miss out til I said we could pick her up, and then she ended up staying over for a couple of weeks to make logistics easier. The boys did come to a couple of sessions but ended up bailing. We also squeezed in Latitude and catching up with my sister in law and her kids there.

Due to school holidays there were too many people in the area so I couldn’t get workable shots of the boys. Did manage to salvage this one of the girls on the air track.

kids at Latitude during school holidays, Edgewater, Western Australia

Here 13yo (in the foreground) was working on a new trick her gym coach wants her to do which is called a spider. She has to walk her legs around her body while in a chest stand. So far she’s only been able to manage it in the elbow stand like that.

Our widowmaker was removed from the backyard for safety reasons (it kept dropping branches, it was otherwise very polite and always missed the house, but the neighbours didn’t really appreciate the gigantic branch it dropped over the fence destroying their shed) but broke my heart. The kids and dogs had to stay inside when the tree loppers were around but did occasionally observe them and their gigantic terrifying mulcher in action from various windows as the ordeal took a few days.

JJ discovered a brand of instant noodles in Spud Shed called Fuku (many people have probably already guessed how he remembers the brand) and 15yo and I immediately fell in love with it, so he stocks up whenever he sees it. 15yo watched me throw together what was standard starving uni student fare (and is also comfort food for me) and realised just how effortless it is to balance out a lazy meal (pretty much what the instant noodles are) and has been adding buk chui and either canned fish or any leftover sliced meat his brother hasn’t eaten all of to his bowls since. In this case I think there were bits of leftover roast that went in.

IMG 7754

We have since gotten soup bowls or at least deeper pasta bowls which makes noodle soups a hell of a lot easier. At the time he said he would definitely fry up an egg to go with the instant migoreng but I don’t think he’s gotten around to doing that yet. Similarly 13yo has been making herself stir through pastas for lunch and remembering to add spinach. It’s a massive relief to have her starting to eat more variety as she was really starting to stress us out for a while.

Workbooks and stuff

February saw the arrival of the workbooks I’d ordered for the kids as 13yo had mentioned that she liked the Excel series but not the Targeting one, and I figured seeing as she had to sit on her arse in class and do hours of work, two pages each day out of a book should be easy.

kids' shiny new workbooks

I told 11yo to do the diagnostic test at the front of his book and then start from whatever unit he struggled with from the test.

He not only nearly finished one of the diagnostic tests (as when he asked I said if he could complete the diagnostic test without too much trouble then he didn’t have to do the book and I’d get him a harder one) but also discovered a way of using D10s as a calculator which I will have to try to remember to video.

11yo using D10s as a calculator

He’s still trying his damnedest to avoid his English books though.

13yo seemed to get off to a good start as she brought the books to her room to start as soon as they came in but shortly afterwards complained that she didn’t understand anything and when J tried to help her she complained that she didn’t like the way he explained things.

Don’t even know if 15yo has even looked at his though he did eventually bring them into his room.

11yo’s bizarro science experiments continued.

something is odd with this picture

This is not the first time we’ve found “interesting” items in the freezer.

I had restocked some of our art supplies (but didn’t buy much as I have been studiously avoiding the epic saga that is the art cupboard even though it desperately needs to be done so I can take actual stock rather than guessing), among them popsticks. I think they’d originally been bought for one of 11yo’s build projects. He has since found uses for the extras.

11yo's popstick creatures

This was the third one he made before I got a picture and each one came with a detailed backstory. Just like his brother, he will never write them down and give me some useful work samples.


We’ve been living in our house for years and we always hear the Illuminate festival going on every year, but every single year without fail there has been something on the same night that we’ve either made prior arrangements for before remembering/finding out the date or that we prefer to go to (such as dinner with my parents who only come up once a year).

13yo has really been getting into festivals and cons and pride parades and whatnot lately, and asked if we could go this year. Seeing as I was reminded well before it was on, I was finally able to plan around it.

13yo wanted to be there when it started so we were there pretty early. We cruised around to see what our food options were like and make plans, and all I can say is I was glad that I had brought more money on top of money JJ had given us as in true festival style everything was massively overpriced. I ended up with no money left at the end of the night. We ended up deciding to just get snacks and rides and to go home for dinner as the festival was family friendly and so ended relatively early.

13yo and her friends had a great time stealing the gym baby (one of the toddlers that does Tiny Tots and is quite happy to go off with any of the regulars because that’s how often she’s there) for pretty much the entire night and taking her to face paint (or rather the big girls got their faces painted and glittery sequiny things glued on and the toddler got a little glittery design on her arm) and dancing in front of the stage and doing whatever else they were doing. After using up the last of his ride tickets, 11yo was really keen to get home and not keen at all to wait to see if his brother also wanted to go home and so after a bit of back and forth and because we live down the road by I eventually agreed to let him walk home by himself which would have been a bit of an adventure for him as he’s never walked around our neighbourhood at night by himself before. Given our neighbourhood this would normally be completely off the cards but the festival was swarming with cops (we had seen mounted police patrolling the block around the venue on the way in) and of course he got home fine. 15yo went from almost not coming (we pried him off his computer saying just come see what it’s like and if you get bored well you can just walk home it’s right down the road) to choosing not to go back when I told him his brother had gone home and he could catch up if he wanted to asking if we could go again next year.

Wannabe Farmstead

We’ve been super productive in the garden, getting everything back up and running.

First came the chickens, which were traded for massages.

Little chookadees when they first moved in

From left to right we have Empress Brimstone Destroyer of Grass (named by 15yo), Marble (named by 11yo), Smoky (named by 11yo) and Fawkes (named by 13yo). This photo is from when we first got them, they’re a lot bigger now.

Then we got the vege patch up and running. There used to just be a rectangular patch up the back under the widowmaker, but J has since expanded to the fence and slightly past its original boundaries and that area now gets a lot of sun. For reference the original vege patch in this area occupied roughly the area of the three trenches closest to the boundary fence. Think they took turns digging and planting.

We had been past Bunnings and bought “the dregs of what was left after everyone rushed in and panic bought vegetables” (direct quote from JJ when he popped in to see what I was doing and saw me typing “a million vegetables”), and J also let the kids pick two plants each. 15yo chose brussel sprouts (which went in the patch with the other veges) and cat grass which is being grown in an old planter that will eventually be living in the catio when we make it.

15yo's cat grass in planter

13yo chose a tiny succulent in a cute pot which now resides on her desk and some blue flowers as she wanted to make a fairy garden. She also wanted a cute pot and a cute planter so she got both of those and probably just as well as the flowers were pretty tiny and when we went to plant them out we thought it might be a better idea to grow them a bit in the planter before putting them in the garden.

One lucky flower was placed into a pot by itself and has since been named uwu Barry-chan. I’m not sure why, but it has a name label and everything (13yo has a labeler). 13yo tackled the jobs enthusiastically but incredulously asked me “People do this for fun?!” so I’m not sure how she actually feels about it.

I can’t remember what 11yo picked, but he has been helping out a lot in the garden and happily helped JJ plant out the aquaponics once that was finally shifted to its new position. It’s doing it’s cycle thing and we’re waiting for JJ’s fish guy to be heading up this way so we can stock the tanks.

Homeschool group and things

February also saw all the activities starting back up with the school term, and the homeschool group term started a little later (our “school day” was both shorter than a normal school day by a couple of hours and only one day a week and there were always gaps between classes for hanging out/playing).

15yo had decided at the end of last year that he wanted to help coach the level 1 and 2 boys classes, but it was early Saturday morning and the first day he had to drag himself there regretting his decision all the way. The regret was reversed shortly after he was won over with how adorable the kids are and after a couple of weeks of helping out he was doing his beginner’s accreditation (which we’ve since stopped because I haven’t had a chance to sit with him to report a bug in one of the quizzes which insists that you need to pick an option to progress but refuses to select anything you click on). He found out he was a natural at drama (which surprised exactly no one) and that he actually really enjoyed sewing (he’d originally just asked to do that class because it’s a useful skill to have). He also made another friend who was also into Magic and the other kid eventually brought some new decks he’d received for his birthday or Christmas and the two had fun playing in their common breaktime.

After a bit of iffiness towards the end of last year, 13yo decided to continue with dance this year (much to the happiness of the dance teachers). We had a few niggles as she desperately wanted to go back to school and didn’t want to give homeschooling a red hot crack like I told her she had to first, and also veered towards doing nothing at all to try to force the issue in her favour (because she’d heard me telling the boys quite a few times that if they didn’t pull their respective fingers out the moderator might not approve us next year in which case they would have to go to school like it or not) but thankfully pulled back well before it actually became a problem. She kept managing to miss homeschool group (did the usual “sick” thing a few times and other times she was “too tired”). She finally made it to one, enjoyed the dance and acro classes immensely (but didn’t like science because insurance has hamstrung the science teacher) and (somewhat reluctantly) started making a new friend from the dance class.

11yo was really enjoying his judo classes and I was hoping that we wouldn’t regret stopping the pcychologist visits (which we had to do in order to be able to afford the judo lessons). He’s also unexpectedly good at drama (once he’d settled in) but said he didn’t want to do hass or art the following term (which was fine by me as I can cover hass myself, was slightly surprised he didn’t like art as it was mostly maths which he loves). He had been finding some kids from his classes to play and hang out with (including approaching a group to talk to them about Nerf guns when he noticed them playing with some), and it was nice that he was able to do that without annoying them (a constant problem pre-psychologist). A real breakthrough happened one day when he was sitting with me after having eaten his lunch and wanted me to help him rehearse lines. I was going through lines with him when suddenly three boys rushed up to him yelling for him, he looked up slightly surprised as the kid yelling for him hastily informed him that they were going to play some game and 11yo was to be on the speaker’s team and then they physically grabbed him and dragged him off with them which has never happened before. I cleaned up the scripts and then it occurred to me I should check, because I’ve always needed to check. They were playing really nicely on the oval so I left. Afterwards one of the grandparents came and told me that 11yo was very mature and had laid down some very sensible and basic rules to make the game much safer and more fun for everyone (no kicking the ball towards the road, no pulling hair or clothes, no groin strikes). I wondered for a moment if she’d mistaken my child for someone else’s. Subsequent times he vanished immediately after his first two classes with said friends where he would normally come back to me for lunch and company (at least he always got hungry enough to come back for lunch with enough time spare before his last classes). It was great after he’s had so much difficulty making friends.

I had a new monthly budget in place and everything was going fine for us at least, as we’d also been keeping up with the ridiculous amount of unexpected/unwanted burning that had been happening on the other side of the country since the beginning of the year (absolutely not what was meant or wanted with being off to a fiery start).

And then covid-19 happened.

Bloody virus.

When it was coming, I started getting a lot of questions from friends about how to homeschool. I was able to give somewhat helpful information for the most part and general advice for engaging children and emphasised a lot of not stressing about filling hours with socially sanctioned education. I also warned them that I was just as screwed as the rest of them because school at home or otherwise staying home all day every day is absolutely not how we operate, and I felt bad that they wouldn’t even get to experience normal homeschooling.

When it got here, there was a period of increasing hand washing after everything and franticly cleaning all the things in between sessions/classes and trying to encourage/enforce social distancing (do you have any idea how hard it is to get small children to spread out even when they have pretty much the entire gym to themselves as the little boys do on the weekend?!) it became a case of last thing standing. First numbers dwindled as many people chose or had to self-isolate early in the game. Then the activities themselves started falling. Our homeschool group went first, and then the dance studio, and gym held out til gyms, pubs and clubs were officially shut down, and JJ started working from home as a lot of workplaces started getting people who were able to work from home to do that and rotating staff that had to be on-site in shifts.

There was an uncomfortable few days in the first week where I tried to make the bookwork the main educational focus and the kids hated it (and in all fairness so did I). So it very quickly went back to being the fallback option and I started utilising the whiteboard. They currently have an assignment to help me make sure the IEPs I have for them are still on track; 13yo has done hers, the boys are probably hoping that if they continue to ignore it I’ll eventually give up. Unfortunately for them I have told them that if I put a due date on something, if they go over the due date, their internet goes away until it’s done. I won’t be putting due dates on too many things. I’m otherwise doing my usual of reminding them to tell/show me what they’re working on even in games and things as I can usually find something to translate, and am once more trying to encourage them to journal what they’re doing to make my life easier.

On the bright side they are great at entertaining themselves and not just because I’ve told them that entertainment is their problem and they’re not allowed to whine about being bored until the house is clean. Living through what’s probably a significant historical moment has led to interesting conversations (especially with 15yo) about really scrutinising information and their sources, doing your own research (and not blindly believing something just because your favourite Youtuber said it was so) and applying critical thinking to government decisions and mandates especially regarding “temporary” highly restrictive and invasive laws.

Counting small mercies and all, we’re only in a soft lockdown so while we’re staying at home as much as possible, exercise is one of the things we can go out for. We do have a trampoline and I have told the kids to keep up the strength and stretching routines from gymnastics (whether they actually do or not is up to them). 15yo has yet to leave the house, 13yo occasionally drags me to the park so she can practice tumbling and things, 11yo has discovered a love for skating and has been going out every day either with one of us (it’s probably more fun with JJ as he will drive around looking for spots and will skate with him whereas to date I’ve been too lazy to put my skates on so will just take him, take photos of him skating and then go home).

11yo skating

Hoping people are staying safe and sensible and not being fearful so everything can go back to normal sooner rather than later.