Friday, 14 December 2012


I don't know if jealousy would be the ideal term or not - I'll set the picture and let you decide.

Sunday evening once the others were tucked in bed, Rose came and asked if she could talk to me. She asked me if she was intelligent - I said yes and covered some of the things she had learnt as an example. She then said a couple of the children in her Primary class at church were boasting about being in the top math set and school and how they were already learning algebra and the others weren't. I explained that we had done algebra but not called it that - we call it guess, I even ran through a few examples of what we had done. (2x + 3 =7 so guess what x is). She seemed happier after that and asked if we could do some more algebra in the morning. Gladly I said yes and she went off to bed.

This is a massive breakthrough for us as Rose is the writer but reluctant with math, while Sunflower is a math whizz but a reluctant writer. Rose has been happily doing extra math all week so that she doesn't "feel" behind - she even decorated the front of her algebra book with smiley faces (maths has never had smiley faces before).

I'm not sure if I should call it jealousy, pride or peer pressure - but either way I'm seriously tempted to talk to Sunflowers primary friends and get them to boast of their writing skills : )

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Modern Christmas Cake

I don't know about you, but Christmas cake is one of my weaknesses. Each year we make one together and I thought I would share this amazing recipe with you. This cake is so yummy that last year everyone ate the cake we'd made (well before Christmas I might add) and I ended up making three more of these just so we'd end up with one on Christmas day.

This year my cake is hidden safely away and I'm not telling anyone where it is  - I learn from my mistakes : )

To make a 1/2 lb cake you will need 
1,255g dried fruit - I use a mix of figs, apricots, cranberries, prunes, sultanas and candied orange peel (chop the bigger fruits up)
180ml grape juice concentrate (I buy this from Wilkinsons - it's in he homebrew section)
225g butter
2 tsp lemon zest
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
350g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt

Put all the fruit in a large bowl and add the grape juice concentrate - cover and leave to soak overnight.
Cream the butter then beat in the lemon zest and marmalade. 
Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Sift the dry ingredients together then mix a spoonful of the fruit and a spoonful of the flour mix into the creamed mixture alternatively.
Double line a baking tin and carefully spoon the cake mix in. Once done wrap the outside of the baking tin in a double layer of greaseproof paper.
Bake in a preheated oven at gas 2 (150 centigrade) for 3-3 1/2 hours.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and spoon 2 tbsp of grape concentrate over the top and immediately wrap in foil (this will trap the heat, create steam and make your cake nice and moist.) When its cold remove from the tin and re-wrap in foil, store in an airtight container (ideally for 3 weeks)

I don't add sugar to this recipe as the grape concentrate is a sugar substitute. If you can't get hold of it you can always soak the fruit in some orange juice and use 195g of brown sugar and cream it into the butter.

Enjoy : )

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kids teaching Kids

I love when the girls share their knowledge with each other - it reinforces what they already know and develops strong bonds between them.

This week I observed Rose explaining the decimal checker board to Sunflower (used for long multiplication),

Tulip working on sight words with Rose (please excuse my badly drawn flies but they wanted to splat flies and I didn't have time to print any out)

and Sunflower working on numbers with Rose.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The blur that was November

I can't believe November is over - so much has happened and I seem to have lost time : )

One of the best highlights was Sunflower turning 8. Not only did they manage to have a great birthday party but she chose to be Baptised.

We spent ages sewing her dress

and wrote a great acrostic poem for the occasion.

                     Baptism is making a promise
                     All times, all things, all places
                     Promising to stand as a witness
                     To keep all his commandments
                      I promise to comfort those in need
                     Stand up for the truth and right
                     My way of showing, my love to God

Thursday, 15 November 2012

TOS Review - Vocal Coach

Lilly has been bugging me wanted singing lessons for forever but it's never been in the budget, so when the chance came up to review Vocal coach I was so relieved happy. There were a couple of products to choose from so we opted for Vocal Coach Singer which includes 7 training Cd's, 4 workout Cd's, and an instructional guidebook (I got the download version) which equates to over $2,000 worth of professional voice coaching.

Chris and Carole Beatty who created Vocal Coach, have taught and coached singers for over 40 years. They have a very professional system of vocal coaching that will help both improve the sound of your voice and puts an emphasis on the mechanics of singing - It's as good as having your own personal trainer.

The 7 training programmes include:
  • Getting Started
  • Breathing
  • Warm-Up
  • Tone
  • Expanding Your Range
  • Diction
  • Performance
workout programmes:

  • Daily Workout High Voice 1 & 2
  • Daily Workout Medium/Low Voice 1 & 2
and the guidebook includes;

  • Printable sheets for each exercise
  • Singer's Journal 
  • Song Evaluation 
This set is packed full of indepth content (for example the "complete breathing" programme has over 20 files) and their passion for what they do really shows through.  They also have a number of  free resources available on their website including tips, videos, articles and interactive lessons. 

After having a look through the programme, you start with the breathing exercises and systematically move through the sections (Chris and Carole do suggest you consistently review the first three sections - breathing, warm up and tone).

The girls have done some singing at church but this is about more than learning to carry a tune - I love that they teach proper posture and breathing. We really, really, really enjoyed this programme and we have certainly benefited from it - even just from using it for 30 mins three times a week : )

‘Vocal Coach Singer’ is intended to be used with older students and adults (13+) but Lilly and Sunflower (10 & 8) were both fine using this.
The Vocal Coach Singer Cd's are available for $119.99 or as a download for $99.99.

You can see what my crew mates thought of this and some of their other products aimed at younger children over on the TOS Blog

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the download so I could provide an open and honest review.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Growing up Wild - TOS Review

Growing up Wild is a collection of educational DVDs that takes you deep into the jungles of Indonesia and introduces you the daily life of four brothers from a missionary family. 
They share examples of life in the jungle, local wildlife and introduces you to the Wano tribe and culture. I received two of the DVDs 

Volume 1 which covers

  • Home Sweet Hut - you get a glimpse of the Wild brothers house and how the Wano tribe live.
  • Supply Trip - all about bulk buying the supplies they can't produce themselves.
  • Sun & Water - how they use nature to provide the electricity they need.
and Volume 4 covering
  • Amazing World Around Us - takes a look at some of the amazing wildlife. 
  • Adventures In Culture - an exploration of the Wano culture including war, hunting and nose piercing.
  • Tribal Calling - explores how the Wilds found their calling. 
Each episode is approximatley 15 mins long and for the most part it is narrated by the mother as you watch the boys daily life unfold. Each DVD comes with an additional activity guide (on cd-rom) jam packed with suggested activities to help them explore topics covered in the DVD's. Some additional materials will be needed for a couple of these activities (like clay, sticks, paint etc.) but are usually items you will have around the house. You can view a sample guide to see what you think.

I was so excited when these arrived - we haven't studied Indonesia in detail yet and I thought this would be a fantastic introduction and it is!
But it did so much more that just introduce them to a new culture and a different way of living. It also got them thinking about the important things in life - how family, the Gospel and community are so much more important then objects (Tulip couldn't believe that they only had a lego loft, she's not sure she could cope with just lego but if she could take dolls, lego and colouring then she would be happy to leave the rest behind)

The activity guides were varied and enjoyable. They included reading Scriptures, exploring your surroundings, research, field trips, crafts, worksheets and more. I loved how it incorporated educational elements into real life situations. I think my personal favourite was the girls trying to create their own solar water heaters - it's minus 3 outside but they still tried : )

but they enjoyed the hut building activity the most - which ended up turning into a 3 hour activity building different types of huts.

I loved how the Wilds share the importance of God in their life and the use of scriptural quotes in each episode.

It is aimed at 5-12 year olds, but everyone will enjoy it. Rose joined in (she's just turned 4) and hubby  (30 something) even sat and watched a couple with us - he especially liked the snake episode and it lead to some great tales of his childhood in Nigeria when he apparently had snake for dinner.

Each DVD is available for $18.99 or you can get a 15% discount and buy all 5 for $80.99.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the DVD so I could provide an open and honest review.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Questions, questions!

We seem to have done less work this week as its been dominated by questions.

Every day, just before we are supposed to start lessons, one of the girls has come up with a question that sparks the imagination of the others and we get side tracked searching for the answers. It's a good job I'm happy being in a child led environment (otherwise I may feel some pain that all my planning has gone to waste and we are falling behind - or from another viewpoint I don't have to do any planning this weekend)

Some of my favourite questions this week have been:

  • Is there a scientific name for animal fur? we discovered thee types of fur (guard hairs, tactile hairs and insulating hairs) but not a specific name for all fur.
  • Which continent gets the new year first? apparently its the Australian continent.
  • Why is the sunset red? if you have ever done the 'sky is blue' experiment with milk and a torch you get a wonderful answer to this.
  • Why are nocturnal animals nocturnal? there were loads of answers to this including due to heat, hunting other nocturnal animals and safety from day time predators.
  • Why don't trees move? they soon realised (thanks to 'Life of Plants') that trees do move just not like we do.
Much as I welcome these questions I do hope they take a back seat next week and we get more done.

What have been your favourite questions?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

TOS Review - Activity Bags

Activity Bags are self guided activities in a bag - the idea is that your child can complete the work independently with little to no input from you : )

Nope you are not dreaming - some very kind homeschooling mums started Activity Bags as a way to keep their preschoolers learning while they were busy teaching their older kids. They came up with activities, put all the materials in bags and did a swap. It proved such a success that it has since grown from the original 'Preschool Activity in a Bag' to encompass Science, Reading, Math and Travel games.

Activity Bags are unique as they are designed both for individual use or to swap (there is a free coordinator handbook if you want to run a swap). A swap involves finding a number of other like-minded mums - making a number of the same activity bags and meeting together to trade. You end up with loads of different activities for your child while only having to make one type.

I was offered the Science Bundle: 3 ebooks containing 25 experiments each. Each experiment includes a
supplies list (calculated for 1, 10, 20 or 30 bags), project label, instruction sheet, observations/questions sheet and a safety warning label.
Science 1 covers biology, nature and general science
 Science 2 covers human body, chemistry and general science
Science 3 covers chemistry
these books are aimed at k - 8th but my preschooler joined in (with help) and had great fun.

I also got Math games in a Bag - this includes 33 activities and is aimed at elementary students (although my preschooler again joined in ). I was once told that children understand math concepts best, not through drills but through games - this ebook is a perfect way  to cement math facts in a fun way.

I was so excited when these arrived - I looked through the activities to see which ones would be a good fit for us and got bag making. The good news is these activity bags are designed to use normal household items (although you will need to go out for a few special items - like Borax). I started small and put together a few bags and popped them in their work boxes. The girls loved them so much that I couldn't make them fast enough (I will hold my hands up and admit that demand exceeded supply and I ran out of bags, so I ended up popping the supplies directly into their work boxes.)

I know a product is a true hit when they use it during their free time - I caught Rose and Tulip playing regularly.
and Sunflower kept repeating the 'making glue' experiment.

These are fantastic learning activities and a really welcome addition to our homeschool. If I were organised enough and had all 108 activities bagged and ready to go just imagine how happy I would be (a girl can dream can't she).....I think its time I organised a swap : )

The science and math games ebooks are available for $15 each but there are discounts if bundles are purchased. They have the option of filling  out a quick survey to receive a free sample ebook so you can see how well they work for you.

You can see what my crew mates thought of the various Activity Bag ebooks over at the TOS Blog

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the Activity Bags ebooks in exchange for an open and honest review.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Can party planning be considered educational??

We've been getting ready for Sunflower and Rose's joint Birthday party this weekend and have spent loads of time making things. I stopped to consider if anything we had done for the party could be considered educational and at a long shot I could get some maths and geometry in when making party bags
(counting how many bags we have done and how many left to do along with shape nets)

But then I felt peaceful when the girls took great delight in telling me off - because the spider pinata we were making was anatomically incorrect : )

PS if anyone wants the printable pattern for the party bags just leave me a comment and I'll email them to you.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Planning season is upon us.

I've been asked a few questions recently about how I plan our work. To be honest I'm more of a 'big picture' type of girl - the fine details tend to come later. I really wish I was one of those super organised mums who plan a year in advance but I'm more of a monthly girl.

My favourite planning tool is my notebook - this comes everywhere with me as I constantly jot down various ideas - the front half of the book is for things I want to make and the back half is where I keep ideas for specific topics. As I am a visual person I use my pinterest board to collate good ideas.

For Science and Geography I tend to create the work myself. I start by looking at what they should be learning and in what order - for example I have an old Biology text book from my studies and noticed that it starts with plant life, animal life, cells, human body etc. so I would plan activities in that order. I start with a 2 year plan and my 'big picture' looks like this

 2011Group SciencePhysical GeoPolitical Geo
April""South America
MayAnimalsearth stucture"
JunSpacevolcanoNorth America
Group SciencePhysical GeoPolitical Geo
JanSimple MachinesHabitatAfrica
April"" "
MayAcids and AlkaliMountainsEurope
Jun"" "
JulPhys experimentsFossilsAustralia
AugWeather /cloudsWater cycle "
Sep"Plate TectonicsNorth America
OctCells - animal/plant" "
NovOceanOcean CurrentsSouth America

once I have my bigger picture (I always leave Dec blank for catch up and crafts) I then work on a monthly basis. I try to plan a month in advance so I have time to collect anything I need (if I did anything more than monthly it would overwhelm me.)
I work from my notebook - put the ideas in order, make sure I've all aspects of the topic covered and source a hands on activity for each (some I make up, some I collect from pintrest and some from science books), so for example our weather unit covered:

  • Water cycle (where rain comes from)
  • Types of precipitation
  • How clouds are formed
  • Types of clouds
  • Rainbows
  • Why the Sky is blue
  • Air currents
  • Tornado/Hurricanes
  • Thunder/Lightning 
  • Famous storms in history

Once I've planned the month I print off my calender, fill in all the trips and activities then work on my individual weekly plans. I try to print off everything I need for the month at this point because nothing is more annoying than being halfway through a lesson and realising you don't have the papers/pictures they need.

For Maths, English and Geometry I use Montessori methods/procedures. I use Story of the world for History. Meet the masters covers Art (although I am looking at a few new products for next year - any recommendations welcome) and I have various Spanish and French programmes. Music is something that has taken a back burner this year but I am hoping to improve this next year and am sourcing new products as we speak.

How do you plan? I am always open to new tips and product suggestions (anything to make my life easier) 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Plants activity day

Our co-op ran a great group last week - all about plants.

There were loads of activities including:

Plant classification. 

Learning the parts of a bulb.

Planting bulbs for spring.

Identifying local plants and trees.


Monocot and Dicot identification.

Exploring parts of plants under a microscope.

Making leaf skeletons.

Leaf rubbing and art.

Waxing leaves.

Sprouting seeds.

Seed dispersal.

Various games

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Kinderbach discount code

Kinderbach have just contacted me to offer a special discount to my readers - 30% off any order - homeschool, classroom, online or DVDs.

Coupon Code:  TOS_crew2012
Expires: 31/12/2012

Also the KinderBach App is on sale This Friday, Oct. 19th, 2012 ONLY.  The app will be discounted over 50%, down to $12.99! No code needed just the link to the Classroom KinderBach app in the App store:

Cloud fun

We followed on from our Water Cycle activities by exploring clouds.
The girls learnt how a cloud is made,

facts about types of clouds,

made a wonderfully messy cloud poster (lots of glue and cotton wool)

and took some time to chill and watch the clouds float by : )

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