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Monday, April 30, 2007

Tag for my Five Thinking Bloggers

Thanks to Ragamuffin Studies for tagging us with the Thinking Blogger Award.
But, now...
Tag. You're it. If you are on the list below, you are one of my five thinking bloggers.

Gary dares to articulate some deep social issues. His commentary comes across as unbiased, informed and open to different opinions. While I do not always agree with his social analysis, he offers me food for thought and insight into what other Australians think of social problems faced in our country.

Tokyo Girl is new to Australia. The perspective on life she offers raises a giggle in me and causes a reflective process of the time I lived in her mother country (England). An aspiring novelist, I far too often think of her unique writing voice while I am washing the dishes or pretending to enjoy paying my rent. I like her posts and often sneak in with a voyeuristic interest in what she is up to. I have never left a comment for her though because I don't wish to spoil my pleasure of just reading her voice.

Marcella Chester, writer, novelist and date rape survivor posts on sexual violence in its many varieties. Informed and passionate, Marcella tells it as she understands it. Her voice is strong without being opinionated and obstinate. I read abyss2hope to stay abreast of sexual violence issues in the U.S. Working with survivors of sexual violence in my home town, I offer Marcella's site to my curious, afraid and developing clients. Marcella also organizes the Carnival Against Sexual Violence so if you have something to say on the topic, this is the place to submit your post to. One aspect of abyss2hope that really made me think was Marcella's positive anti-sexual violence merchandise marketing across ages, gender and species (she even has Stop Rape Dog T-Shirts). I think Marcella has done an excellent job.

Spasmodic Dysphonia
A supportive voice for those of us who struggle with voice.
Sue Bayliss, retired Social Worker and sufferer of many types of dystonia, is the reason I acquired an analytical mind. She is my mother. Struck down with debilitating disability, Mum has almost completely lost her voice and her muscle functioning throughout her body is failing at a radical rate. She blogs about dystonia and attempts to provide a global, virtual voice to others suffering the isolation and suspicion that goes with dystonia. Through her, I have learnt about the disease, its prevalence and its insidious attempt to rob intelligent thinkers of their voice. Thank you Mum, but gee I hope I have not inherited the gene!

Megin Hatch over at GNMParents
GNMParents (managed by Megin Hatch) is a multi-media channel featuring blogs, podcasts and video, aimed to provide a full and rich content experience for parents at all stages of parenthood. Wanting to inform, entertain and engage the community, I think Megin and the team have done an excellent job at raising consciousness and celebrating parenthood.
A regular reader of all blog authors at GNMParents, I do particularly resonate with Megin's blogging voice. Her accent is community development and safety: two issues very close to my blogging heart.

Gary, Tokyo Girl, Marcella, Mum and Megin: your blogs make me think, reflect and question. Therefore I have nominated you for the Thinking Blogger Award.

The Thinking Blogger Award is blog meme (a virtual game of get to know me) where '5 Blogs That Make Me Think' are displayed and linked to. So congratulations to my five chosen thought provokers: you have won my gratitude and I offer you the: Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of simple rules to the five blogs you are tagging:
  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
Elisheva over at Ragamuffin Studies tagged and nominated Boy and I for the Thinking Blogger Award (see what she says about us in her "The Thinking Blogger Award" post). What a blast and an absolutely wonderful way to keep Boy's self esteem buoyant. Thank you Elisheva. It is an honour. But....I want to tag you back because your articles have taught me such a lot about Judaism, traditions and home schooling. I find myself reflecting on your posts frequently and they have developed a deeper social understanding in me. You are a thinker and a teacher Elisheva. Thank you for being you.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Guess What This Creature Is?

Hint: It is Boy's favorite. Leave your guess below. Boy says the correct guess will be the correct generic name of the creature...BUT...he wants you to know that the pictures are of the creature from two different South Pacific countries. Once somebody correctly guesses, Boy will tell you the identifying names of each creature.
Don't you hate it when the student becomes the teacher!!!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Much can a Koala Bear?

Home school family excursion this week was a trip to Cairns Rainforest Dome. Boy loves animals and fully engages with the animal carers. He can hear animal facts over and over again (Aspergers thing) without ever tiring or zoning out.

We had considered using a different educational reward this week, but after reading Kaber's FEN Fun post over at All About (my) Boys and seeing her delightful Boys playing out their animal instincts, I just couldn't overlook the value of another visit to our tropical zoo.

Boy was elated with the news of his reward and I figured I could bear it once more. The real question that begs though, is, how much can a Koala bear?

Boy found the above Koala's sleeping position somewhat humorous. Boy thought the Koala could surely bear no more of the tree truck disappearing up its nether regions. It does look funny, albeit uncomfortable perched upon a sawn branch.

Koala's are usually swamped by adoring Japanese visitors, meaning we can never get near them. Today however, we visited at lunch time while all the tourists were off having Sushi. This meant we were alone with the Koalas, their
gum tree all day as much as you can eat breakfast and their fact bearing carer.

Koala is an Aboriginal word, meaning no water.The poor little fellow above is bashfully watching Boy drink. Don't let his cute looks fool you though. Check out his teeth!
We had a great family day out (we took Grandma with us today too) and finally got to love Australia's favorite animal close up. Does anybody want to ask Boy a Koala question? He hasn't stopped reciting Koala facts since we came home!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Similes and Metaphors.

“What is Lego land?” Boy asked this morning. Engaged with my commentary about the Legoland theme park in the U.K, Boy listened patiently.

“That’s nice Mum, but why do people say there is a Lego land down the road?”

Boy finished his monotone and looked at me blankly; letting me know I was dumb because I failed to understand his question!

My explanations of high density living, renamed negatively as Lego land, led naturally into similes.

Not wanting to lose the teachable moment, I gave Boy a definition and a few examples of similes. Without prompting, Boy began matching my similes.

“Wait.” I pleaded manipulatively. “I have never heard such great similes from an 11 year old. I have to write them down so that I can use them in my next book”:

Photo of high rise courtesy of pitus at stock.xchng.
Boy’s Similes:

  • Hungry as an ogre

  • Bored like a prisoner

  • Hard as wood

  • Sharp as an Eagle

  • Pale as paper

  • Loud like an Elephant’s bellow

  • Slow as a snail

  • Cool like a cucumber

  • Farting like a thunderstorm

  • Quiet like a mouse

  • His temper was hot like candle wax.

Not wanting to spoil the natural learning, I quietly pondered whether to push onto metaphors. Would his mood and aspergers focus tolerate a change right now?

“He is a fat pig.” Boy waited for me to type his offer of another simile.

My chance. I took it.

“Actually, that is a great metaphor. A metaphor is still a comparison but it is no longer similar: “like” or “as”. The metaphor comparison suggests that the person or thing is something it really is not. The pig is fat, the man is fat, but the pig can never be the man and the man can never be the pig. We do not have magic wands to change people into pigs so a metaphor is an allowable writing or talking way to change the man into a pig. He is a fat pig.”

Without too much thought, and only a little checking of the similes I had recorded, the following metaphors dropped from Boy’s mouth.

  • Home school is jail.

  • In school, I am a bored prisoner.

  • Mum is a slow snail.

  • My friends are cool cucumbers.

  • My eyes are eagle sharp.

  • His face was iron wood hard.

  • The thunderstorm fart shook the classroom.

  • His anger dripped its candle wax on everyone his burning eyes looked at.

Candle talk led into candle sculpting. Boy melted (pictured above) wax and shaped it into a mushroom (pictured below).

“Poisonous as a mushroom: simile or metaphor?” I enquired as Boy molded.

“It is the “like” or “as” word. I can’t remember the right word.”

“The word that says something is similar?” I hinted.

“Simile! That’s it,” he responded to my prompt.

“I am a gentle flower. Simile or metaphor?”

“That means you’re just a liar Mum because you are actually a dragon.”

We have had an excellent day of grabbing the teachable moments around similes and metaphors. Best of all, Boy was in such a relaxed mood, he willingly completed an algebra and rhyming unit from the Kinetic Education computer based program that we are using.

Funny thing is though, that today’s diary informs me that French cooking and culture was on the agenda. Oh well. At least Boy's wax mushroom looks suspiciously like a French Truffle!

C’est la vie!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anzac Day Holiday in Australia

Anzac Day equates to no home school today. Whereas many people go to the Dawn Service, it is too difficult to motivate Boy to get out of bed. Instead we watched an Anzac Parade on television and I compiled my Anzac Edition of the Carnival of Australia.

Looking for Anzac Day photos, I came upon a list of Anzac links from the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee in Queensland. The contained information was excellent and I post the links here to share a little of our Australian History with other home schoolers looking for quick information about how Australia recognises their war dead and serving soldiers.

ANZAC: The origin of the acronym ‘ANZAC’
The Dawn Service
ANZAC Day Commemoration
Outline Commemoration Service for ANZAC Day
The Australian National Flag
Australia’s War Dead
Australian War Memorials
Bugle Calls
The Catafalque Party
Colours Tell the Story
The Poppy is for Sacrifice (Poppy photograph courtesy of saucyann at stock.xchng)
The Rising Sun Badge
Rosemary is for Remembrance
The Military Salute
The Slouch Hat and Emu Plumes
The Victoria Cross
Words of Remembrance

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bee Keeping for Home School Carnival

How many words or phrases starting with the sound "bee" can you think of?
Beeside myself.

Bad spelling? I had better make a bee line to the Carnvial of Home Schooling: Bee Edition then. It is truly beetiful with all its bee information and pictures. Bee there or bee left out in the cold.

Bee gone over myself I bee with the beehaviours of all the home school beegers beecos one of them will beed the next BeeFG author.

Gem Tree

Boy has finished his Gem Tree (pictured) at Lapidary classes. We LOVE it and have decided to make some more as gifts. In preparation for Christmas, Boy chose little bags of red and green gem stones and a coil of green wire.

Too young to take the jewellery, gem cutting or faceting classes (club rules state 14 years of age), Boy can only learn about gems, make gem trees or assist with polishing stones. Happy with these options, Boy wants to keep up with our Tuesday morning Gem Club meet.

Gem Club is planning a weekend fossicking trip away. Camping and fossicking caught Boys attention and he became embroiled in the politics of where to camp. Giving not a hoot for the rules, Boy was frustrated with the oldies who talked non stop about people who owned suitable properties. Boy wanted to just go; to camp anywhere and to fossick to his hearts delight. Who cares about council by-laws and mining leases? Boy sure doesn't! What a lesson he had in planning, checking and insurance.

Leaving the old women to gossip the fine people points, elderly gentleman, Boy and myself had a discussion about firewood. I told him Boy and I made paper bricks as a home school lesson. Elderly gentleman was most interested, told us he had a press and that he regularly makes paper bricks for his fossicking adventures. He claimed that he never gets to his isolated yet desired destinations until after dark and is not keen to gather firewood in the dark (snakes - poisonous ones like Taipans and King Browns). Paper bricks offer an alternative and burn as long as hard wood. He said they also keep the dingoes away as they make a brighter fire.

Guess what Boy asked to borrow!!!!!! Oh dear, what have I started. Gem trees I can do in abundance, but paper brick making is a whole different level of energy. The things we do for our home schooled kids!

ANZAC Day Poetry Reading: The Final Inspection

The Final Inspection

The Soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No, my Lord, I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a dollar,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

Author: Joshua Helterbran (edit on Dec 12 2007 I originally had the wrong author according to Beti Ryan-Mercer to whom I apologise for putting my researched name of author in and linking to her blog without her permission - see her comment below)

The Alphabet of Family Life

It is Carnival time. The 51st edition of the Carnival of Family Life is up:
Carnival of Family Life #51

Full of family-related posts from all over the world, this weeks Carnival reads like an alphabet of difference. To see how others live family life or to keep your finger on the pulse all family related posts, be sure to join the weekly Carnival of Family Life.

No matter whether you are in Austria or Zimbabwe, consider joining us. I try to submit weekly: an article from this site and one from Child Protection: Serious Business. This week the Carnival of Family Life has included my posts on Gem Sifting and Words to Explain Feelings Following Virginia Tech Shootings.

Submit your family related blog entry to the Carnival and watch your hit statistics grow from all around the globe.

And...if you are an Aussie blogger or are blogging about anything Australian, do not miss the fortnightly Carnival of Australia.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Paper Bricks for the ANZAC Day Campfire.

I want to do something fun for schoolwork. Having heard that phrase too frequently last week, today we did something Boy considered fun: Paper bricks for our ANZAC Day campfire.

Desperate to instill some ANZAC Day learning into Boy, I made a desperate call to my military brother. “Help me,” I whined. “What sites are around for ANZAC Day web quests or sites to tell Boy how he can send a parcel off to a soldier in Iraq. Anything that will help Boy retain the link between current war and Australia’s involvement since WWI.”

My brother laughed. Apparently he has heard this request many times from well meaning parents wanting to war educate their children. After explaining our recent school refusal and constant meltdowns, brother suggested I leave it alone, concentrate on something Boy does find fun, and slip in a few teachable moments to create a cognitive link to the conditions soldiers survive in. Duh!!!! I know this at a cognitive level but I needed to hear it from someone else; a military educator who could confirm that I was doing okay with what I was trying to teach about ANZAC Day.

We are planning a camping trip and I decided that around the campfire would be a great place to relate war tales. We are also concentrating on recycling and sustainable living. Then the idea hit me like a brick: paper bricks. Making them would satisfy requirements of covering Australian history and sustainable living.

I want to do something fun for schoolwork,” Boy greeted me with this morning.

“Me too,” I manipulated. “I’m sick of all this book and internet stuff. Let’s make some paper bricks for our camping trip.

Worked like a charm. Boy and I cleared my office of scrap paper, tore, mulched, squeezed and molded paper bricks.

“You should sell this idea Mum,” he said.

This was my in, my teachable moment. “Paper bricks are not a new idea. During WWI and then the depression years, paper bricks were a standard source of fuel. In fact, many people in cold climates still use paper bricks as a cheaper and environmentally friendly way to keep those fires burning.” I told a story about ships carrying paper bricks to soldiers in far away lands where kindling was in short supply and soldiers were freezing.

“WWI? How about soldiers today? Can we send some of our bricks to Iraq?”

Oh, thank you the universe. To begin ANZAC learning, all I had to do was to use Blooms taxonomy and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to change the way I was reaching Boy. Today’s ANZAC teaching was reached by making paper bricks. Go figure!

Reading: As much as Boy protested, we also managed to do some sight words. Boy reached 100% of sight word correctness according to the Dolch Word List. When our paper bricks dry, I am going to see if he will paint the names of ANZACS onto the bricks.

Social interactions: Boy successfully achieved his voluntary work at the Gem Club open day yesterday. He sifted sand, showed kids how to hold their sifters over light to see the colour of their gem treasures, and spent long periods engrossed in conversation with champion gem cutters. It was a joy to watch him interact socially without rude behaviour or melt down. Most pleasing though, Boy played with other kids. He LOVED it. We so wanted to go home but while Boy was entrenched in fun kid stuff we stayed and helped.

Home education is reaching equilibrium again. A happy and well-adjusted child who learns naturally is of greater importance to us than having a stressed, cranky, academic child who memorizes facts that means nothing to him.

Now, lest we forget, I wonder if I can get another ANZAC Day fact in….

Photo courtesy of melodi2 at stock.xchng

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Carnival of Australia

Are you an Australian blogger or a blogger who writes about anything Australian? Your blogs are welcome to be submitted to the Carnival of Australia.

The inaugural carnival is hosted at Child Protection: Serious Business on ANZAC Day, April 25, 2007. All posts are to be received by April 23rd.

The second Carnival of Australia (fort nightly hosting) will be hosted here at Home Schooling Aspergers. Who wants to host the third edition?

Kangaroos, Koalas, barbeques, slanguage, sports, history or politics: if you're talking about Australia, we'd love to help get your posts swimming across the Pacific or Indian oceans to sun bake on the shores of down under.

Avagoyamug (slanguage translation: Have a go you mug) and 'aveagoodweekend (have a good weekend).

Photo is of Boy feeding swamp wallabies.

Plan for Coping With Aspergers School Refusal

School refusal has begun. A wedding, Easter school holidays and big girl preparing to leave home for an overseas job have crippled Boy. Unable to cope with change, Boy's Aspergers meltdowns have increased and he has flatly refused to complete set home school tasks.

Reflecting on our week, I was confronted with my inability to change to suit Boy's needs. Eager to ensure quality home education for Boy, I have over stressed the importance of doing things my way. After taking a breather and investigating what went wrong this week, I can accept that it is I who has skipped off the path of diversity, teachable moments and multiple intelligence. I have thrown our well thought out educational philosophy into the recycle bin because I have been busy and single minded.

Another plan is needed for mother to remember that home schooling a child with Aspergers is completely different to educating a non-aspergers child. Here is my developing plan:
  • Work through obsessions. On days when Boy is focused on issues not included in the home school learning areas, it is acceptable to investigate Boy's obsessions. These are teachable moments that will otherwise be lost.

  • Teachable moments are everywhere. School does not have to represent that which we know as beneficial for us. School is everywhere and Aspergers learning occurs best without stress.

  • What I value as important is not important to Boy or his development. Allow him to explore that which he is highly interested in, even if it has no recognisable educational value to you.

  • Boy can only grow to be fully functioning if he first experiences a fully functional home life. Fighting, crying and meltdowns do not positively contribute to a functional home. Boy functions best when conflict is removed so ALWAYS remove conflict and remain flexible.

  • Short term goals are not time specific. They can be revisited and strengthened at any stage. Know that the goals can be re-met if you do things differently.

  • Nobody can accuse you of being a bad mother. By designing education around the need of your child you are being the best mother you can be. Most people will be grateful that their children do not have Aspergers.

  • Meltdowns are worse for Boy than they are for you. Remain calm and use Boy's logic, obsessive compulsiveness and anger as a learning experience. Shutting your ears is tantamount to saying you know everything and are a superior person.

  • Nobody can read your mind. Think abusive thoughts but NEVER say them because they will destroy Boy's confidence and reinforce further unacceptable behaviour and school refusal.

  • When you reign in and block outsiders from coming to your home and adding over stimulus, remember that it will only be for a short time while Boy reaches emotional and social equilibrium again. Email and on-line Aspergers support groups produce no over stimulus to Boy and are there 24 hours per day. Use them.

  • You can only recognise a bad day because you have first had good days to measure against. Things do improve. Hasten improvement by reducing conflict and grabbing whatever teachable moments you can.

  • You are a team, a package, a caring parent. Team work means working together to get the best result. Work with Boy, not against him.
What works for you during meltdowns? Can anybody add to my developing coping plan for Aspergers home school refusal?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gem Sifting

At Lapidary classes this week, Boy was asked to assist with some Gem Club Open Day tasks. Not keen because it sounded like work, Boy was delighted to be given the task of "gem sifting" assistant.

In a full sandbox, large buttons are raked through: deep and hidden symbols of treasure. Children purchase a shovel full of sand and sift their sand back into the sandpit. Any buttons caught in the sifting process are exchanged for real, polished gem stones. If the lucky sifter has netted 10 buttons, they are exchanged for a cut gem; 20 buttons, a piece of gem stone jewellery.

Boy's eyes lit up like sparkling blue sapphires.

"Yes. I will do that," he responded in his unanimated aspergic way. I was the only one present who recognised his excitement at turning up a gem of a job. The others appeared to think they had provided him a wrong job: a lump of coal. They fussed as they tried to find a replacement task for him.

An elderly lady cuddled a jar full of surplus polished gem stones. They looked like huge MandM's.

"What should I do with this?" she quavered to Boy.

Immediately he answered, "Guess how many gems are in the jar."

"I have no idea. I haven't counted them," she pondered while scratching an age spot on the side of her bronzed wrinkly face.

"No. Have a competition of guessing how many gems are in there. Sell the tickets for 50 cents each guess and the winner can get a precious present."

How those oldies loved my gem of a Boy. He offered to count the gem stones in the jar and to organise the competition. He sat for an hour, counting, sorting and identifying gems before he moved onto picking gem treasures that he thought kids would like as their prizes.

Math eat your heart out. We've had a gem of a home school day.

For those in Cairns, The Cairns Gem Club is holding their Open Day at 85 Greenslopes Street on Sunday April 22nd from 9AM to 4PM: Displays, gem sifting, competitions, lucky dip, food, drink and demonstrations.

Photo courtesey of selicula at stock.xchng.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Application Example for Home Education Registration in Queensland

Our application for home education has been deemed appropriate as is and has been sent to the minister with a recommendation for full registration. When I started the application process I had no idea how to write it up. I found some helpful assistance through Beverly Paine's Getting Started with Home Schooling and I consumed home school blogs to get an idea of what others were doing.

What I really wanted was a real life example of a home education application to Queensland Education. Unable to source anything, I provided what I thought I would need when assessing the quality of an home educational program. Feedback from the Home Education unit was that while my application package was thorough, it was more than they required.

Our home school application package follows. I hope that it is of some use to other beginning home schoolers.

(A cover letter and the completed Queensland Home Education proforma preceded the following information)

Items 1 – 5. Completed on green application form that is attached to this document.

Item 6. Details of the Child’s Program

Educational Philosophy.

  • Education is a life long process.

  • Education is holistic with areas of environmental and self-care being as important as classical learning.

  • Teachable moments present themselves throughout the day and when capitalized upon offer enjoyable and non focused educational learning.

  • Home education is learning a variety of skills in many settings and in many ways.

  • Education is multi faceted and accessible from a variety of support people with an array of different educational backgrounds, areas of expertise and different views on life.

  • Natural learning occurs when a student is relaxed, happy and in an environment of safety.

  • We are co-learners rather than teachers. We facilitate a learning process and encourage empowerment by enabling the student to accept that we do not know everything, that our way is not the only way and that there is learning available to all of us by accessing community, individuals and institutions.

  • We recognize that by making the student the instructor at times, a wealth of knowledge will be gained for the student and a measurable increase in the students self esteem will become visible.

  • Any situation is a possible teachable moment. To seize the teachable moment and deliver it in a way that will capture the interest of the student, is a role that we take on as co-learners.

  • Just as there are different types of intelligence, there are different types of education. Our goal as home educators is to offer balance across areas of intelligence and educational frameworks.

  • A progression from knowledge reception to higher learning evaluation occurs when:educational material is presented in a palatable way designed to a student’s specific learning needs; when the learning environment is charged with a air of enquiry across all learning partners; and when the traditional focus moves from fact retainment to fact appreciation.

    Short-term goals:
  • To set age and developmentally appropriate, monthly, rich task focused variables across each of the learning areas of English, Mathematics, SOSE, Science, HPE, Technology, Arts, and LOTE. For example: In four weeks time you will be able to talk, for five minutes, to a group of other people, on why rainforest trees have wide and thick leaves. Or, in four weeks time you will be able to write, spell check and publish your own 300 word blog about what you learnt by visiting the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah.

  • To develop an emotional toolbox for Boy to use at times when he is unsure of what is expected of him or his behaviour.

  • To reduce Boy’s anxiety and to increase his self esteem.

  • To reignite an interest in education as a worthwhile activity.

  • To increase Boy’s levels of educational attainment in reading, spelling and comprehension.

  • To put the fun and learning back into an educational process.

  • To develop a holistic educational program that covers personal and learning needs.

    Long term goals:
  • For Boy to be able to learn in a classroom environment.

  • For Boy to be able to cope with and survive change.

  • For Boy to match his peers at traditionally accepted educational levels.

  • For Boy to be able to go back to a traditional school without experiencing constant Aspergers melt downs.

  • For Boy to have an appreciation of strategy, empathy and other people’s needs.

  • For Boy to have developed as a person, to have developed in his educational achievements and to have developed an understanding of how he learns best.

What is the broad education program and or learning philosophy you think you might be following?

Given that Boy responds well to a natural environment where there is no stress or over stimulus, we intend to combine elements of Natural learning (Holt) and Steiner with Maths curricula input from the Qld Syllabus and thematic projects based on Social Stories (Carol Gray).

Individualize the plan:

Our educational plan for Boy is based upon recommendations contained in the report from Minds and Hearts (specialist Aspergers clinic in Brisbane). This report is attached as Appendix 1.

It has been apparent for years that Boy struggles in a classroom environment and that relationships and friendships are difficult for him. A critique of our choice to not home educate has been a lack of social interaction. While we appreciate the concern of others, Boy’s disorder means that he views social interactions differently. He is unable to form friendships the way we do. Therefore, we intend to capitalize upon social activities that he already enjoys (Robotics club, Kendo and Laser Tag) and build some new ones into the home education program. Boy is keen to learn about gems so we will join the local Lapidary club as an alternative form of education and social interaction.

Boy struggles (hates) with reading, spelling and comprehension. Attending a busy, noisy library is difficult for Boy. As an author, I have professional access to the children’s librarian. I aim to request a private tour of the closed library and a one on one hands-on tutorial of searching, finding and checking out books. In return, I will offer a chapter read that Boy can also attend and give him a helping task on the day. Similarly, my access to other famous Australian authors (Margaret Clarke and Louisa Dent) can provide Boy with author information and contact that other children would never have access to. Margaret Clarke has sent me one of her latest books to reviews. Although it is focused at girl readers and contains scenes about incest, I will request Boy to provide email feedback to Margaret from a boy’s perspective.

While Boy enjoys and is average in Math, the textbooks create an over stimulus and melt down process in him. Even though we will base Math learning on the year level appropriate Math book, my partner (an accountant) will redesign the activities to make them appear effortless and non school focused. My partner will be responsible for imparting Math learning and will capitalize upon Boy’s natural penchant for computer learning. Textbook activities will be redesigned to encompass spreadsheets and analysis.

Boy does not like to write but loves to play on the computer. Therefore, we have purchased him a laptop for Christmas and he can word process all of his assignments, place photographs, and manipulate the presentation of said assignments.

Do you need to modify your child’s program?

Boy’s educational program is designed to fit his unique needs due to having Aspergers. Reading, spelling and comprehension will be based upon his current level of achievement rather than his educational year level. We have sought out spelling lists and work sheets for the Year 3 level and will master these words (100% accuracy) prior to moving onto more age appropriate word lists.

Teaching and Learning

We have all agreed upon home education occurring every morning from 9 to 12. I will be the principal educator and will draw in the expertise of others as required. My partner will educate in Math one day per week. The time frame has been achieved to create a boundary for Boy. He detests school to the point that he will be clock watching. Therefore, by attacking any formalized work sheet or projects during this time structure, we are then left with the evening to incorporate natural learning tenets into our family life. For example, cooking with Boy or watching a documentary on the plight of the Panda, will be reported upon but he will have no idea that it is part of his school day.

We have turned our dining room into a home education area. In the afternoons, I will work from home and Boy will have free time to pursue his computer games.

Boy has been granted two hours per week Youth Worker hours through the Early Intervention Service. The Youth Worker will be addressing anger management, social skills and recreational activities. These two hours will become a home education session and will occur on a set morning, once a week.

The many excursions that we have planned will occur at the time-frames of our accommodating friends (e.g. the environmental scientist field trip mentioned earlier). These will not be framed as educational activities to Boy, but rather, as privileges that we are all lucky to have. These privileges will be solid learning but will be in addition to our nominated educational hours.

Excursions connected to the rich task learning will occur during our nominated school times. For example, if we are studying reef fish, a trip to the reef and a glass bottom boat trip would be considered as a home school activity. Therefore, the allocated learning time for that day would be taken up by the excursion.

Once a month, if the rich tasks have been met, Boy will be rewarded with a local trip of his choice. This may be a session at Go Carts or Cable Skiing (both of which offer valuable learning) and will be outside of nominated home education hours.

We are fortunate to have a number of friends who are educators and curriculum development specialists. Although we have not yet needed assistance from these people, they have offered objective advise or guidance should we require it.

Learning areas covered:

See The Home School Year Planner

Assessment and Reporting

Boy’s progression will be measured initially against his willingness to school. Once we have a variety of worksheets to use as a platform, progression will be measured against his own work achievements.

Checklists on a number of web sites have been used as a guide to establish where Boy’s peers would be learning at. While these checklists remain as a check only, they also provide us with a goal to work toward progression and higher learning.

We will be having monthly tests: a mixed bag of Boy reporting on what he has done and learned. Rewards for reaching 50, 60, 70 80, 90 and 100% will be metered out at the end of the test. One hundred percent correct answers will result in an overnight visit to a place of Boy’s choice (the first one of choice is a trip to Charters Towers to do some gold panning).

We started a home schooling blog ( when we first decided to home school Boy (Nov, 2006). The blog acts as both our home school diary and our reporting mechanism. The public nature of the blog ensures transparency and a call for help/participation with other home schoolers. Sample blog entries and articles done by Boy are attached as Appendix 2

During November and December of 2007, we home schooled Boy two days per week. During the school holidays, we encouraged a culture of enquiry by treating every outing as a teachable moment. These were all recorded on the blog. Since we formally began our process of home education on January 29, 2007, every school day and home education related activities have been recorded on the blog.

Copies of all worksheets completed are kept in our filing cabinet. Similarly, writing, book lists, spelling, and art work is photographed and, where possible, kept on file.

Social Skills and Extra Curricula activities

Boy already attends Robotics Club, Kendo and Laser Tag. These activities will continue throughout 2007. He also has an adult mentor through Cairns Youth Mentoring Service. He meets with this person fortnightly and they work on computer game strategies and other activities of interest (bowling, fishing).

Boy is currently attending a youth group through the Early Intervention Service. This group runs for seven weeks and concentrates on challenging behaviours, self esteem and anger management. Their flier is attached as appendix 3. Further, the youth worker plan from Early Intervention Service is also attached as Appendix 4.

Teaching Resources:

Internet and free worksheets are used to maximum degree. I have paid to join Teaching Treasures and buy worksheets that are suited to our thematic study units.

Human resources are heavily utilized to make learning fun and for specialist knowledge and material not readily available in stores.

Math follows “Go Math” level 6.

Our home schooling blog lists the resource sites that we use most regularly:
Sites we like and use frequently
A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling Web Site
Assessment Learning
Beverley Paine's Homeschool Australia.
Home Schooling Information
Homeschool Australia Blog
Ragamuffin Studies
Sculpey (clay)
Wrong Planet (The online resource and Community for those with Asperger's Syndrome)

Learning Environment:

Boy lives in a home where education is valued. Both my partner and I have tertiary degrees and I teach part time at University. Our social networks are highly motivated and intelligent people with a range of specialist expertise. My mother, a frequent home school support, is a retired social worker and my brother has several degrees (Education, Anthropology, Archeology and has just exited the S.A.S).

Boy has his own office space, laptop with broadband and network to a colour laser printer.

One wall of our lounge room is dedicated as a “grouse” wall: anything of value to any family member can be placed on this wall. This is the nominated place of display for Boy’s home education projects and learning hints.

Given the natural beauty of the area we reside in, we are concentrating heavily on natural learning tenets and visit places of educational worth regularly (Great Barrier Reef, rainforest, wind farms, etc).

Context and process:

Boy has Aspergers (Pediatric assessment attached as Appendix 5). Although he is very bright, he appears to be unable to learn the way other children do. Our intention is to deliver education in a way that best suits him. He shows a preference for retaining information delivered in a natural and non-educative way. Samples of his very recent work at home are attached as Appendix6.

Boy values one on one, adult relationships and will naturally gravitate toward a person who offers him respect and information. For example, at a recent dinner party, Boy gravitated toward a male guest who holds a PhD in geology. Boy is a keen rock collector and he shared his collection with our guest. Boy and the guest spent the evening discussing how the different types of rock, minerals and gems were formed, where they are found, and what conditions are present for them to develop. Boy has retained all of this information and is able to repeat it to us.

We are fortunate to have a host of intelligent and generous friends who are considered expert in their field. It is our intention to use our friendships to assist in educating Boy. This has been discussed with many of those friends and plans have begun to include Boy and his particular needs into field trips, farm visits and visiting workshops. For example, we have already arranged with a senior environmental scientist for Boy to attend their next field trip to assist them in counting and identifying bugs. Boy is excited by this and has not yet made the connection between it being a home education exercise.

Obsessions are typical for people with Aspergers. Boy becomes obsessional over things that he enjoys. We aim to create a flexible home education program that will allow us to naturally work through his obsessions. The monthly rich task focused criteria will guide the learning to ensure that Boy’s obsession stays focused and functional.

Boy has poor personal hygiene and a good deal of the first terms focus will be on ensuring the visual cues for teeth cleaning, hair washing, changing clothes, etc. The Aspergers clinic in Brisbane has supplied several ideas on how to achieve improved personal hygiene and we will build these into our school day.

Should you require any further evidence or material from us, please don not hesitate to contact.

We look forward to entering into a learning partnership with you.

Megan Bayliss (BSW, Dip SOC, MAASW)

Youth Week 2007 Met Home School Goals

Home school activities that help others and raise the profile of young people and their unique needs and culture:

Boy participated in some voluntary work and free workshops for Youth Week 2007. As a youth helper, Boy attended a signage workshop and helped to paint signs for the Youth Week celebrations. He loved it. He contributed toward signs for Body Painting (painted inside the scripted letters), Clay work and Drama.

Major bonus for Boy was actually attending and participating in learning workshops on Drama and body painting. Other participants showed a good deal of interest in Boy being home schooled and how his involvement in the workshops counted toward home school hours. Boy appeared to proudly share the knowledge he had about youth issues and how making a few changes to his life has greatly helped him (Boy has Aspergers).

Evidence of meeting two of our short term goals for home school was delivered when I was least expecting it. Boy was invited to speak publicly about his involvement in the Youth Week activities. He took the microphone and told the audience how much fun he had had. His self esteem healthy and his sense of self comfortable, Boy unknowingly has met the following two goals, without connecting that his fun days were school work related:

· To reduce Boy’s anxiety and to increase his self esteem.
· To reignite an interest in education as a worthwhile activity.

I LOVE home schooling for my child with Aspergers. Youth Week provided us a platform of measurement to observe how significantly Boy has improved since our decision to home school.

Why I Hate School (written by an 11 year old boy)

I hate school because it is so BORING. You only get one hour to your self at school and five hours of work. The libraries just have books on history and junk that kids don’t like.

The teachers are mean and only want you to do what they say. All the work has to be right and perfect. I think you are not a normal kid if you like school.

Home school is the same but my teacher isn’t the same as other teachers. She’s not so mean, just a dragon. The books are better at home because the dragon teacher lets me read things that I like: MAD comics, K-Zone, D-Mags and a whole lot of other fun magazines. I also get to use the Internet for school work and get to look for things I like to know about, example, jokes and pranks, science experiments and anything to do with World of War Craft and Rune Scape.

By Boy, age 11, grade 6.

This article is posted by Boy's mother - the dragon home school teacher! Boy's writing assignment today was to write more than six sentences on why he hates school. As he sat and wrote, he asked me how to spell words. This was an achievement because he generally hands me his work full of spelling mistakes.

Well done Boy. You may hate school but thank you for your efforts in learning and producing results of that learning. Now go and play before I breath my fire on you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Norfolk Island - How it Became Populated.

We have just returned from our honeymoon on Norfolk Island. A living museum and a refuge from the worlds cruel abuse of itself, Norfolk Island is a place we will now travel to every year. We have spent hours telling our home schooled son about the marvels of the island. Interested in how people first came to discover Norfolk Island, I have written our conversations up so that you can use them as a Norfolk Island information plan.

How Norfolk Island Became Populated.

Norfolk Island is a tiny South Pacific Island, halfway between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Green, hilly and a long way from anywhere, it takes two and a half hours in a plane from Brisbane or Sydney (Australia) and one and a half hours from New Zealand.

Beautiful, unspoilt and organic, Norfolk Island is an extinct volcano. It is the only above ocean part of a rocky ridge that runs from New Zealand to New Caledonia. Where the rocky ridge rises majestically from the ocean, golden sand has congregated around some edges. Where there is no sand, the island edge is instead dimpled with rock pools of azure blue. Wherever you are on the island and wherever you look, Norfolk Island provides amazing views of either unspoilt coastlines and never ending blue, blue, blue ocean or green forested rolling hills, guarded by majestic and tall Norfolk Pines.

Norfolk Island is its own country. You need a passport and visa to go there and they have their own Island rules and regulations. Their government is made up of only nine politicians who work in a magnificent old building made by convicts.

Norfolk Island had three beginnings at becoming populated:

  1. The first settlement (1788-1814). Although discovered by Captain James Cook on his second voyage in 1774, there weren't any people around to live on the island until 1788. England had banished their convicts to a hard life in Australia and as soon as they all arrived, the English masters were keen to get their hands on the other beautiful little Island that Captain Cookie boy had described as "paradise". Cook had noted in his ships log that Norfolk Island was covered with tall pine trees (Norfolk pines) with plenty of flax that looked as thought they would make good masts for ships and sails. A small party of convicts and mean guards were sent immediately to claim the Island and to collect food to send back to the starving new colony at Botany Bay Australia.

    Bad luck for the English: the Norfolk Pines were unsuitable for ships and there was little food to feed the starving convicts and officers in charge of them. After killing off all the birds for food, the English decided to not only abandon the island but to destroy all the strong stone buildings that the convicts had made. The English did not want to make it easy for anyone else to claim the island, especially the French. By 1814, the English had taken all of the convicts back to Australia and the island had only broken remains of buildings. The English bashed and raided the island and left her bleeding and alone, spoilt so that nobody else would want her.

  2. The second settlement (1826-1856). Imagine if after the first sad start and end of Norfolk Island that things got better. Unfortunately, things got worse. In 1826, The English settlers of the penal colony in Australia needed somewhere to send the worst of the worst convicts. Already sent away from their families by being banished to Australia, the English governors punished the convicts a second time by sending them to Norfolk Island. This time there was nothing nice; no semi freedom for the convicts. The conditions were harsh beyond belief and the lives of the convicts meant nothing. There was no plan for the convicts to ever return to the mainland of Australia and nobody cared about them. They starved, drowned as they worked, or died from disease of filthy conditions. They slaved in chains to build magnificent stone buildings (the stone was quarried from under the ocean) but never got the opportunity to enjoy seeing what they had built. The conditions, suffering and cruelty they endured caused an outcry from people who cared about human life and the Norfolk penal settlement was again abandoned. The few surviving convicts were sent to Tasmania and the island again sat alone and uninhabited. During this second settlement, Norfolk Island was referred to as "Hell in the Pacific."

  3. The third settlement (June 8, 1856). The British Government declared Norfolk Island as an independent settlement and allowed the descendants of the Bounty mutineers to move to the island. Embarrassed by these people and their ties to a mutiny against the British Navy, England didn't know what to do with them. The mutineers had settled on Pitcairn island (they married Island women and had many babies), but the island was so small that it could no longer support them all. Norfolk was uninhabited, was viewed by the English as unworkable, and so the descendants of the Mutiny on the Bounty were granted the right to settle there.

    In the loving hands of these people from Pitcairn Island, people who understood the precious balance of nature and island life, Norfolk Island has risen from it's gory and sad history to become a safe and jeweled island paradise. Nowadays, Norfolk Island has approximately 2000 people living on her. These people take very good care of her and protect her from misuse, disease and over population.

Norfolk Island has the second cleanest air in the world. The cleanest air is in Antarctica but its a little too cold to live there! Norfolk Island has no snakes or poisonous spiders and is a safe and healthy haven for children to explore. No fruit or vegetables are allowed to be imported onto the island so that the island's disease free status can be maintained.

The biggest pest on the island is the feral chickens (chooks). They roam where they want, digging up people's vegetable gardens and making havoc in flower gardens. Nobody seems to like the wild chooks and everybody would like them gone.

Because the island is so small (8km by 5km), the government has to be careful about how many people live there and how many tourists can visit. The island is an interactive museum. You don't just see and hear about history on Norfolk Island, you live it, walk on it, touch it. Too many visitors would destroy the natural beauty and living history of the island.

Norfolk Island has become our new family holiday place. We will go there every year because it is beautiful, safe and healthy. Living with the Australian history of the island also makes a visit to the island an educational experience that no other place can match.

If you'd like to visit Norfolk Island you can fly there with either Qantas or Air New Zealand. Start saving your pocket money. Not only is it a beautiful place to visit, it also boasts having the cheapest Lego in the world. Cool!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Just Married

We celebrated our wedding in the rainforest on March 31. The day was perfect. The weather held, the guests all enjoyed themselves and in the words of an eleven year old to her mother as we began our wedding waltz straight from a Pulp Fiction scene,
"This wedding is wicked."

For all of Boy's Aspergic difficulties around coping with change and being surrounded by too many people, he did exceedingly well.

Our vows were a tear jerker for both of us and our friends and family shed tears at Boy's and Paul's displays of affection to each other.

Our Honeymoon on Norfolk Island was divine. We fully intend to take Boy back to the island as a living history trip and home school excursion. As I impart the historical and botanical highlights to Boy over the next few days, I will share the information and photos in posts.

In a nut shell, our wedding in the rainforest was beautiful and will remain a special and happy memory for all of us.

This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business