Just Because...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Life has been flying by in the way the days tend to do (after you are past the age of about 10 that is - before that I remember time going very s...l....o...w...l...y)!  In an effort to keep this blog semi-up-to-date, I am going to endeavour to record here some of the little things that have been missing - the things that time hasn't permitted me to write a separate post about (I actually do plan each month far more posts than I find the time to write - I would love to have everything recorded nicely here, but then, I wouldn't have the time to actually live this life & that would be terribly unfortunate indeed)!
* We were blessed with almost 2 inches of rain recently over just a couple of days.  It rained constantly day & night & reminded me of living on the coast.  I will admit that even after 7 1/2 years of living here in the west that I still long for the coastal climate all the time at times.  Our average annual rainfall here is 22 inches and some years it's been as little as 12 inches.  2 inches all at once seems very extravagant!  Such a blessing to our pastures, gardens, & water tanks!
* Dave went to the USA for three weeks for work in May.  Did I mention that it was while we had the extra children?  Not only did I get the chance to be a mother of many, but I got to experience what being a single mother of many was like..... (hats off to any single mothers of many!)   Thankfully my Mum came down for 5 days in the middle of it to give me some adult company. 
I survived, the kids all survived & Dave survived (Ha! I think he actually enjoyed it, for all his carry on about wanting to be home...) He did come home with some tummy issues as the food is very different from our more natural diet here (and he ate out almost every meal).
 Oh & apparently the coffee is very different from ours.... not as strong...
*  We have just begun our winter holidays, however I was thinking of only giving the children a week off, instead of our normal two, as we took time off schoolwork when my Mum was visiting.  Then I thought that would be really mean as they have been working really hard.  So I told them that for the first week we will do 'modified school' - in which we only do the review products that we have to do.  Then we will completely take the second week off.  I have school planning to do for semester two & the tax to do for our teeny, tiny farm business (which seems far too big when you leave all the tax to do until the end of the financial year...) over that week.  So I'm sure I will find some kind of project that is absolutely vital to work on instead.
 *  We have had more & more successes with the chicks that we've been hatching (actually I do have some cute chick photos that I have to post one of these days).  The last two hatchings we had 6 out of 9 eggs hatch (& the chicks live).  Previously, our most successful hatching was only 4 chicks, so we are very happy with this increase.  Sadly, the first day I sent the older lot of chicks to the henhouse, a nasty crow came & took three of them while they were free-ranging. After that  we decided to lock them up in half of the henhouse ( we designed it so we could separate chickens off if need be) until they are fully grown.   
*  We had Cadbury (our beef heifer) butchered ( I actually DO have a post on the butchering as I want a record of it).  As she was still drinking from Chocco, Zai & I decided we would try milking Chocco.  Last year after Bessy's calf as butchered, we were able to finally have her let down and we milked her, with wonderful success, until we had to dry her off.  Anyway, while Chocco was a good girl & let us milk her without any fuss, she would not let down.  We tried & tried & she just wouldn't give us more than two litres a day.  Slowly she just dried herself off. As we still had extra kiddos at that point, I didn't have too much extra time to spend milking her numerous times during the day.  Now I am looking around for another milk cow ( & another jersey girl is my first pick....).  I'm not sure what to do with Chocco. (Can I justify keeping her because she produces exceptionally delicious calves? hmmm...   The only plus to her being dried off is that I can now send both girls out to the bull together or have them AI'd at the same time (we're still tooing & froing about what to do there).
* We have FINALLY cleaned up the front circle  mess garden!!!!! YAY!!!  While we had our friend's front end loader here on hire, we thought we would take the opportunity to clean the circle out.  Dave had both 'Old Blue' our faithful old tractor & the bigger (newer) tractor working on this job.  It is almost done now & looks A LOT better (no more hideously ugly rocks everywhere).  We all spent time moving rocks, but all the aches & pains & banged fingers were definitely worth it! Now I can relax when I look at the front window without this eye sore there.  (Yes, it's been bugging me since we moved here).
* Zai trained Bolt to 'shake'.  He did it while he was meant to be helping me clean out the side garden.  It seems procrastination is a genetic trait , but then I knew that (hey Mum!!!).....
 Of course you would know all of this if you are friends (friends/ followers/???) with me on Instagram as I actually put up a video of it! 
* Talking about Zai...he is looking more & more like Dave when I first met him!  Sometimes, when I see him out of the corner of my eye, I do think he is his father.  But then, everyone is saying that Ellie (who is only about 2cm shorter than me now) is looking just like me! People are remarking all the time that they think she is me! I happen to think she looks very much like a couple of my sisters do!
One from one side, one from the other - Fair is fair  :)
*  And completely off topic, but the wattle trees are ready to blossom!  I love it when they do.  It all seems to happen overnight.  It seems the world is suddenly coloured green & gold for a time! It is a lovely boost on a dreary winters' day!
 It won't be long now...
* Winter is here with a vengeance. While it's been very cold lately, it's also been lovely.  The days have generally warmed up enough so that we can spend a couple of hours outside in the early afternoon.  As I think it is important for children to spend time outside every day in free-play, this has worked out well!  On those days which have been too cold, we've extended out our read-aloud time around the fire!  Early this year I moved that time from just before bedtime to after lunchtime.  It seems to work really well & it means the children have more 'free reading' time before lights out ! We are avid readers around here (& own far too many books, but I just can't get into the whole ebook thing...sigh...it would save us so many messy bookcases to tidy each week)! 

What a crazy, random post.  These are my favourites posts though, and it has been so long since I've written one ( or since I've actually written anything of any substance - not that this post has any substance really....)!  I'm sure I'll think of another half a dozen points to add here in the next day, but this is all I can think of right now! So I'll sign off for the night!

Online Homeschool Mixed Media Library (Review)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My children love watching documentaries.  It is something I encourage as I know the educational benefits learning this way holds for them. That is why we were so excited to be able to review the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers by SmartKidz Media.  Not only does this online library contain many documentaries on numerous topics, but it also contains many other resources that are relevant to the whole homeschooling family!

SmartKidz Media Review

SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers is an online collection of documentaries, ebooks, music & other media formats which stream over the Internet.  It is an amazing resource that everyone can glean from and it is continuing to grow with new collections being regularly added! We received a full year subscription which gave us access to all areas of the Media Library.
 SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers  provides a myriad of  media resources under two main sections: Family Media and the Reading & Learning Center.  This content is then grouped into a total of 10 different learning categories:

Family Media:

1. World of Discovery: This section contains over 100 documentaries.  The topics presented here vary widely.  They are separated into collections under the titles: Animals & Wildlife (5 different collections), Documentaries & Culture (3 collections) , Health & Fitness (this includes videos for both adults & children), Lifestyle & Cuisine, History (3 collections), Travel & Adventure (2 collections) & Science.  There is also a collection under Action Sports which is coming soon. This is eagerly anticipated in our household! Each collection contains from 5 to 9 documentaries on different subjects within the topic.  These are well presented, professionally produced documentaries. 
This is the section of the Media Library that our family used the most.  My children watched many of the documentaries presented.  We really enjoyed being able to choose & access the documentaries so easily. I also appreciated that they were presented in a safe learning environment, without the ads which are so prevalent in other sections of the Internet.   The documentaries we watched all had a high quality of content and were well produced.  I was also able to add some documentaries into our homeschool schedule to compliment what we were currently learning.  We also used some of the fitness videos.  This was fun as I love to do fitness classes in my own home.  It was an excellent rainy-day activity to get the children moving!  

Note: Some of the documentaries, while excellent, were not from a Biblical World view. This was not an issue for us as our children are old enough to understand why we believe our viewpoint, but it is worth mentioning.

2. Music and Fine Arts: This contains 8 different collections of music albums.  They cover a range of genre including Jazz & Blues, Classical and Cultural Music. There is also a selection of "Armchair" tours of the works of famous artists.  As with any album, you may choose to play a specific song or the whole album.

I listened to some of the Jazz & Blues albums which I thoroughly enjoyed ( I especially like Jazz).  I was interested in what the cultural music of Australia was as I hadn't heard any of the songs listed.  It ended up being a collection of Indigenous Australian songs played on the didgeridoo. 
 I look forward to sharing the artists' armchair tours with my children next term as part of our art studies.

Reading & Learning Center:

3. Mighty Ebook Collection: This is a veritable collection of ebooks for children of various ages.  They provide fantastic entertainment for toddlers & are a fabulous educational resource for older children!  Each ebook is animated and read aloud so they are perfect for the non-reader. They also have the words highlighting as it is read, so the early reader can easily follow along.  The ebooks are separated into subject groups including a section on Reading Readiness, Classics, Science & Bible Stories.  There are also sections which are for specific ages (such as 2-4 years) and this is helpful for children of those ages. 

While my own children were a little old for most of these books, the foster children we had during this time enjoyed the stories!

4. Baby Signs Program:  This presents a baby sign language program including an instructional video for parents as well as teaching videos for the baby.  It also includes a collection specifically on potty training.  

5. My Animal Family Program: This program includes video storybooks about a specific type of animal. These videos contain some  fantastic footage of that specific animal type.  There is also videos of  story songs which compliment the video storybooks.  Each song is about the animals presented in the storybook.  Also included is videos of fun fact about the specific animal in each story.  All three resources used together are a fantastic way for young children to learn about that particular animal type.

6. Quick Find Study Guides: This section contains many study guides covering various topics within the educational subjects of Language Arts, Maths, Science and Social Studies.  There are also more topics to come.  
The content of these guides remind me of an encyclopaedia as they contain many definitions.  They are easy to use & are a helpful resource for homeschoolers. 

7. Easy Learning for Special Needs: This is a section specifically devoted to helping those students who have special learning needs.  This section contains many animated ebooks on a large variety of topics.  These also come with a complimentary lesson plan as well as various activity sheets including vocabulary words that can be included within the lesson.  Each book is presented in two formats: for the student to listen as the book is read and also as an interactive book.  

8. Living Skills Program: This section is coming soon, but will contain many songs relating to responsibilities, behaviours and other areas of life that are relevant to children of various ages.

9.Ready Set Sing: This section contains albums of over 200 songs which are especially appealing for children.  There are a variety of songs presented including a large collection of basic karaoke songs for the whole family to enjoy!

10. Fun Zone: This contains a selection of games, puzzles & jokes, limericks and riddles. These activities appeal to a range of stages & various educational levels. 

My boys especially loved this section of the program.  The jokes, limerick and riddles section was especially popular!  

The SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers is a wonderful resource for any homeschool.  It provides hours of educational material which will enhance your homeschool lessons.  As it is streamed over the Internet, it can be used on any device with an Internet connection. This resource has been surprisingly useful in our homeschool & we will continue to utilise it's amazing content!

SmartKidz Media can also be found at:

SmartKidz Media Review

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Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Food technology lesson - learning how to make lasagne!
 It seems Zai is rather scary with a knife. :) 
Linking up:

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Letters from a Foster Mum - Saying Goodbye

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dear Friends
They say it's one of the most difficult things to do - to say goodbye.
It was the one thing I really hoped I would never have to say on this foster care journey.  I prayed that our first placement would be a permanent one.  It's just that I hate saying goodbye at the best of times & to have to let go of someone who I've mothered....it was unimaginable. 

But I did it, we did it ( I'm so glad Dave was with me because I could never have left on my own)....and it hurt as much as I thought it would.   I handed these little ones, who I have come to love, to someone else.  I waved goodbye & tried to smile for their sake. And I peeled clinging toddler hands from my arms & walked away with tears running down my face.  
Even now it hurts....so, so much. 

We've had these little ones with us for almost 3 months.  I sometimes wonder if we had known that they would be with us for so long, if we would have changed our decision about their placement.  I never wanted to be a place for short term foster placements.  Respite - yes, we do that easily.  A permanent placement - that is our ultimate goal, but short term placements are just hard.  You get attached, you learn to love & then you have to let go....and it hurts...for everyone.  

When I knew they couldn't stay with us forever, my heart tried to harden. Ha! Alas, my sensitive heart....it was no match to hurting eyes & arms longing for hugs & little ones begging for goodnight kisses.  It was no match for flowers picked just for me, and pictures proudly made just for displaying on the fridge & a boy who declared many, many times that his name now carried our last name instead of his birth one. And so I got attached.  Far more than I ever expected, knowing full well they would be leaving.  I enjoyed every part of having a bigger family.  While there were so many new & different dynamics & we were dealing with behaviours that were completely foreign to us, it still felt right - this foster care journey.  However, whenever we considered (& reconsidered) them staying forever, we knew it just wasn't possible.  Our decision didn't change - even when our hearts did.   

And so our house is now quiet.  (Well as quiet as a house filled with 4 children can be.)  Their bedroom sits empty.  The toddler toys packed away, the board books back on their shelf.  It is all back in waiting...waiting for the next precious one/s who need our family to love them.  (How I long for that to be soon).

And the pain of goodbyes - I know it will ease over time.  But I'm so glad it's there because I've always declared that if I don't hurt, then I haven't love enough. 
 I did love enough...



Vocabulary Lessons Online ( Review)

As an educator, I believe being well-read is intrinsically important in a child's education.  An essential part of reading is the comprehension of the text being examined. Without correct comprehension a student wastes hours wondering about the relevance of what they have read.  I know that I would hate to think that my children are not understanding what they are reading. 
 Recently we were given the opportunity to review an online program which teaches both word comprehension & word composition by teaching the student the meaning of the different word parts.  WordBuildOnline By Dynamic Literacy is a fun and easy way for students to learn about  how to ascertain the correct meaning of words using the combination of prefixes & suffixes added to root words. 
JazzEdge  Review

WordBuildOnline is an entirely online program designed to assist students in building their vocabulary & reading comprehension skills.  It begins by teaching a specific prefix or suffix and then adding it to various root words to change their meanings. WordBuildOnline then presents the student with a variety of activities throughout the week to ensure the student completely understands both the meaning of the new word and how to properly use the prefix or suffix being studied.  We were given a subscription to the Foundation Level 1.  This is designed for mid-primary aged students, although it can be helpful for remedial work for older students.   This level presents the student with 25 basic prefixes or suffixes to study.  They anticipate them completing one per week for 25 weeks. There are three additional levels also available.
JazzEdge  Review
At the beginning of each week, WordBuildOnline presents the student with the prefix or suffix which is to be studied.  This is done by a short video presentation.  After watching this, they must then complete a different activity every day for the five school days.  These activities are designed to take less than 15 minutes each.  They assist in the student's understanding of the affix, how it is commonly used & how it adjusts the meaning of root words.  They are guided throughout this whole process by a dog called Lexi.

JazzEdge  Review

The activities  for the Foundation Level are:

Day One: Affix Square - this includes the student combining the affix to a base word as well as writing out their own definition of the meaning of this new word.

Day Two: Affix Adder - the student is given the definition of the root word & they must then write their own definition of the new word once the affix is added to that root word. After this is completed,  they must then choose which of three sentences best uses the new word (which ultimately checks their comprehension of the new word).

Day Three: Magic Square - the student will match from a list of definitions to the correct word.
Day Four: Comprehension Booster -  The student must choose the best term from the provided word bank to complete the given sentence.  There are 5 questions given for this activity.

Day Five: 5 Questions in 10 minutes -  This ultimately checks that the student has fully understood the meaning of the affix as well as it's correct usage.
As the student completes the activity, a reward is added to their skateboard scoreboard.

JazzEdge  Review

Every WordBuildOnline subscription also includes a parent login.  This allows the parent to track where their student is up to & to review any concerns they may have. The parent has the ability to view a complete report of what their student has completed.  This also allows the parent to reset any activities they feel were not completed correctly.  The parent also receives a quick email when the student has completed any activity.  These emails are very basic & do not contain very much information, but they do allow you to know your student has worked on this program that day. You can choose if you wish to receive these through the dashboard.

We received a subscription for 2 students to WordBuildOnline Foundations Level 1.  I chose for Jud & Ellie to use this.  

Ellie is in sixth grade, but I thought it would be beneficial for her to use this program as I want to ensure she has a good comprehension of her reading material.  No surprise; she found this incredibly easy.  It took her just a few minutes to complete each activity and she completed all 5 daily activities in a single day getting very high marks.  She is progressing through the affix list quickly & will complete the whole level very soon. 

Jud is in third grade.  He also thought he had to complete all five activities in a single day.  He found them a little more challenging to complete, however his main struggle was with the magic square activity which I think overwhelmed him a little.  When reviewing his report, I noticed that he has opted out of a few activities. He said this is because he was afraid he would run out of time.  However, he generally completed them well within 10 minutes. He liked the activities & thought it was a fun way to learn the meaning of words.

I personally found WordBuildOnline was very easy for me to utilise in our homeschool.  Both students were able to use it completely independently.  I really appreciated the ability to see my students' reports otherwise I would not have known how they were truly going with this program.  

Dynamic Literacy has very generously offered readers of Sunnyside Farm Fun a 10% discount for WordBuildOnline OR a 25% discount for their books at www.dynamichomeschool.com by using the discount code:
JazzEdge  Review

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