Monday, 5 August 2019

The Garden Weekly - July 2019

While I would have loved to get out amongst the early morning heavy frost to get some amazing photos for you all, I must confess the fireplace was a much more appealing choice and thus the obvious winner in the end.

It’s well and truly winter. You can feel the icy cold evening set in at around 4:30 every afternoon, the temperature dropping like a penny in the arcade. Some days have been fine - beautiful blue skies, light (albeit freezing!) winds, temperatures in the high teens… then BAM! Like a getaway train hurtling over the edge of the ravine, the temperature plummets, and if you have timed your afternoon outdoor tasks poorly you’re battling the deep freeze to get finished and cleaned up before retiring indoors to that lovely fireplace (and a glass of red!).

Some afternoons, though, we have been blessed with absolutely perfect conditions like this... so you can see why one would choose the leisurely life:

While others have looked like this (cue the leisurely indoor life!):

So, one can understand that it takes some time to get back into the swing of winter gardening! It’s either way too tempting to sit back and soak up the majesty of a perfect winter afternoon on the patio, or bitterly awful and absolutely freezing outside with an indoor fireplace beckoning you for red wine and soft cheese and fluffy slippers and a good book.

But with the cold and wet comes life. Green, soft, nourishing life! And it doesn’t take long for the once dry, golden, harsh summer colours to melt into gentle, calming greens of every shade. Maybe the cold/green combination makes us more mellow and reflective, an instinctive hibernation perhaps? I could get out and amongst the garden duties… but then there’s that nice blanket to inspect too…

Anyway, back to the garden. We did, eventually, overcome the distractions and get busy. Our Nature Study walks are always a highlight, and because it’s part of our curriculum we just have to go for a walk amongst the beautiful Australian landscape each week… sigh (we really love it). And of course, Lambette and Tash had to come along too!

*Check out Nature Study Australia for a phenomenal Australian nature study curriculum. We ♥♥LOVE♥♥ it! It’s seasonal, has plenty of extra ideas that cater for all sorts of personalities, abilities, and interests, and includes a bible verse and songs too!

Of course, along our journeys we always pass by the pond and hang out with the flock for a while. The chook I’m holding in the picture below is Polly - she actually loves hugs and will happily rest her head on your shoulder! Statler is the photo bomber… Pip is cuddling (wait for it) Pecky Tookie Number 3, and Dom is cuddling Hattie.

Over in the patch…
Ahh how I love the patch!
A LOT of exciting things are happening! One of the benefits of not actually getting out into the garden too often because of the cold weather is being able to sit and plan all the great and fantastic things you have ever wanted to do in an empty paddock space designated as a “veggie patch”!!
Gee, have I had some fun! So, the development of the preliminary designs is roughly sketched like this:

There’s a greenhouse, a 3-phase compost bin, 12 formal garden beds, a prayer grotto, and space for a natural permaculture-style wild garden throughout. I’m kind of excited… just a little bit… well, maybe a heck of a lot.
It does help, though, to have an almost excessively motivated husband who takes my wacky ideas and brings them to life with impressive precision and determination. I’m very lucky; he’s rather amazing like that! Thank you my dear!
So, as we add bits and pieces to this little corner of paradise, I shall keep you posted. As we learn, make mistakes, and thrive, hopefully a little of what we share here can help someone else embrace their own patch of the earth and make it come to life. Life-giving plants, and soul-feeding soil.

It’s not all food, flowers, and fun though, especially planting in the extremes of weather. The cold managed to wreak havoc with our baby brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauli), and some unknown invader seemed to enjoy a snack in passing too…! We decided to try using bottles as mini-greenhouses to protect the little darlings in their in-between phase; too small for the tray and not yet established in the big wide-open patch!
…And it worked a treat! Check out our results below, and if you’re ever unsure about planting out in winter - simply cut a 1.25L/2L plastic bottle in half and *BOOM* two mini-greenhouses!

**Note - you’ll have to cut some air holes in the bottom half of the bottle, just some slits in the ridges will do!**

Oh, and before I head off I had best make special mention of this greenhouse that keeps coming up - it’s amazing! We’ve put three compost bays off the south wall. This is so we can have one we are adding to, one that is resting and decomposing, and one that is ready to use. The tall windows will face north, and the angled roof will be adjustable to allow airflow on hotter days. 

I’m so excited; there will be plenty happening in the patch over the coming months and, while it is a heck of a lot of hard work, the rewards will far outdo any sore muscles or dirty nails! The goal is never to have the biggest or the best of anything, to be the hardest worker, to do more than others, or be better than others. It is quite simply to take the gifts that God has given us, and use them to our best ability. As parents, our responsibility to help our children identify their God-given gifts and learn to use them to their full potential may seem like a struggle at times (more often than we care to admit!). But when we can see that ALL children are the greatest gift from God, the goal becomes clear; every little action, every little word, every little hug, every little prayer, every little bit of discipline (yep!), every little seed you sow with your children - whether it be in the veggie garden or their soul garden - that brings them closer to God is when we achieve our goal... we all have amazing gifts. Let's work to help others know their God-given gifts (and unleash their gardening prowess!)  ♥♥♥♥♥♥

'Til next time in the patch!
God Bless!!

Em xxx

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The Garden Weekly - June 2019 #1

June 2019

My word, it got cold!
With May being a lot drier than it should be, we selfishly enjoyed the warm days and perfect evenings knowing full-well what was coming and boy has it been bittersweet! Much needed rain and that bite-y great southern chill straight off the Antarctic meant that the gumboots and rain jackets were dusted off and put to good use, and a lesson in good old perseverance for the youngin’s was the order of the week.

This week in the patch has been delightfully chaotic! While we’re probably a bit overdue with our patch tasks (we actually bought seedlings instead of sprouting them ourselves! Eeep!), the imminent forecast of rain had spurred us into action with weeding, feeding, and planting of all the cool season delights (well, what can fit in the beds anyway!).

The perennial bed has been finished - it already had around 30 strawberry plants in it, and we’ve now added 3 globe artichokes, a mix of purple and green asparagus, garlic, sage, and calendulas!

Our broad beans that went in a few weeks ago are loving life, and have established beautifully where the corn once stood proud and tall in the summer sun. Some have even begun flowering! Woohoo!
Did you know that legumes replace nitrogen in the soil, and are ideal to plant after a hungry and demanding plant like corn? (Hilariously enough, this was actually an afterthought for me; it was the only sizable spot left for the beans so that’s where they ended up! The Lord really does work in mysterious ways!)

Hello babies! Our broad beans loving the late autumn sunshine xx

And just like that, the weather turns! 
Miss P tucking the babies in with a good covering of hay xx

Bed number 3 is a rowdy raucous mess, and I just can’t tame it! There were plenty of old, frost-damaged late summer cherry tomatoes that went to the chooks and ducks (who were happy as pigs in mud!), a lot of random last season silverbeet that sprung up out of nowhere some of which had to be donated to the sheep (they were much obliged to assist us in disposal of said silverbeet, thank you Lammie and Lahmette!), a rocket plant whose seeding process is more like a royal wedding ceremony, and a bunch of *something* that has sprung up from last year! Not to mention the WEEDS!

A local legend making the most of the seeding rocket! 
Thanks little guy! x

Call Sherlock! The mystery clump - there's 6 of them too. 
I'm guessing cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, but then 
broccoli was flowering in the bed next door last 
season too...? 
And cabbage further along?

So, we’ve tidied it all up a bit, and managed to add some new brusties (our name for Brussels sprouts), spinach, and artichoke, as well as a bunch of lemongrass, and tucked it in with some hay.

Two new beds at the front here, and the original 4 behind. 
To the left is a big empty space with some even bigger plans!

 We’ve also built two new beds and dug through some compost (purely because we had to move the bin to build the beds!), but are still waiting on the magic and elusive tractor man (husband/father) to fill the beds with soil and manure - there’s no way we’re filling those two beds with a shovel and wheelbarrow! 

...And all in preparation for the winter onslaught. With anything from 23mm to 40mm expected over the next few days, our babies had to be planted and tucked in with a nice blanket of hay to keep them warm and we’ve done not too bad a job at all i must say! There's still some more spinach, cabbage, silverbeet (anyone out there actually call it swiss chard??), cauliflower, and kale to plant out, as well as loads of seeds to sow for the next succession of food, oh and more garden beds to put in because I'll be out of space again soon... so a fair bit to do, but I love it!

And, you know what?

When you take time to notice the hairs on a bee covered in pollen as he skips between flowers, or watch an earthworm dig his way back into the soil after he was accidentally dug up, or feel the soil through your fingertips as you carefully plant out a seedling, or smell the thyme as you pinch some off to add to the bolognese on the stove, or enjoy the magpies playing in the bowl of water you leave out for them every day - you see your whole life differently. 

You learn to see God in your daily activities.

You learn that what you do is for God. 

You learn that you don't need the answers, you just need to hand it over to Him.

And my God that's a beautiful feeling!

Til next week in the patch!
God Bless!

Em x

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Planning our 2018

Oh it's so good to get back into the swing of things! We tend to keep our formal learning to school term times; it gives the kids a chance to spend time with their friends (and me with my mumma friends too!), and for us to go away as a family. So while so many others are eagerly awaiting to send their kids back to school, I'm sitting here hanging out for some serious down time with three pretty awesome humans.

We've been pretty busy...

And among the fabulously wonderful chaos of the holidays, I have managed to (once again) redesign my planner to better suit how our homeschool is evolving. I got the idea for this planner from The Mulberry Journal. It's truly a stunning design and a lovely concept - I just needed to adapt it to my specific planning needs, and I'm a perfectionist, and mine has twice as many printouts, and mine is way too excessive, and I'll probably change it again by the end of the term. So I resolved to never buying a planner, because I change everything up all the time... But if you're not an old fusspot like me, check it out - you won't be disappointed!

We're beginning our third year at home, and I'm feeling as blessed as ever that I have the opportunity to raise my children as I choose and not how anyone else chooses. We have our own homeschool prayer, our family prayer to Mary, our Rosary, and time to study the Word of God - things we never would have had time for otherwise. We cook, read, create, laugh, argue, play, learn, grow food, work hard, and devour board games. Oh and we love our chooks!
Just. So. Blessed.

So here is roughly what I've got in store for us this term and, hopefully, it'll carry on nicely through the year!


We use Brave Writer resources for all of our Literacy outcomes, and I cannot speak highly enough of the fabulous programs that Julie has created. Worth so much more than what I paid, the focus is on developing a love of literature and taking risks with your writing. All literacy is taught through a book/novel using Charlotte Mason methods, and the corresponding writing projects are heaps of fun! Lessons are short and can be as simple or as challenging as your child chooses, and the best part is that we get to share awesome books from awesome authors together. My three are doing three separate programs, and I've had no trouble delivering the content - it's so simple.

ALL of our math lessons are done through this remarkable (and free!!) website. It covers all maths from foundations through to advanced calculus, and also has information on science, music, and the arts. Sal Khan, the genius behind this website, believes that everyone who wants to learn maths should be able to learn it regardless of their circumstances. Khan Academy works on the concept of mastery, which we LOVE - your learning evolves and is challenged in different ways, and math concepts keep coming up over a long period of time to reinforce what is learned. The lessons are super easy to understand - even I have signed up to stay one step ahead of Jack - and the activities and assignments are well set out too. 

Some of our Bibles!!
That's our beautiful family bible in the centre - hubby and I were given it for our wedding from my amazing parents and we use it pretty much every day. The Action Bible and the Picture Bible are essentially biblical comic books and have been perfect for engaging our boys interests; stepping stones for deeper bible appreciation and loads of fun! And that glorious Bible for Children... well I have had that since I was a kid so naturally it has a place here with my kids all these years later. We use our bibles for loads of things - to help with our bible study, for our scripture verse copywork, and for referencing after mass too. I am also learning very quickly that such a book was never meant to be interpreted by the every day person, and so I'm also working towards exploring the early doctors and scholars of the church... though that's more just my journey at the moment, but I'll keep you posted!

Devotionals and Bible study
It took a lot of searching and researching, but I found an awesome Catholic bible study curriculum that we're all loving! The Great Adventure Storybook is the children's version of the adult bible study program called The Bible Timeline - The Story of Salvation. Check it out here - though this is the American website... a bit harder to get in Australia! But it can be done and it is sooooooo worth it. The study focuses on the 14 narrative books of the bible; you end up with an understanding of how we got from Adam to Jesus, and also how the Catholic Church is the body of Christ on Earth. We learn where our sacraments come from, where the Rosary comes from, and where important parts of the mass come from too! Brilliant. The pack came with playing cards and beads that help with memorisation, a colouring in book with stunning images, a bible timeline fold-out page, a bookmark, and the Storybook. Can't recommend this enough!
The kids also have their own devotionals, and we use a bible atlas to make a bit more sense of the places we encounter in our studies. It always sparks interesting conversations, and we often end up off topic and away on a tangent - but oh well! That's the best part about homeschooling!

Berean Builders - Creation Science
HURRY UP AND ARRIVE ALREADY!! As I type, my delivery of the first book in this series - Science in the Beginning - has yet to arrive. To say I'm anxious to get it is a huge understatement! I'm so excited! Let me introduce you to Berean Builders: where Science is taught as it should be - as a gift from God. Here's what their website has to say:
"Acts 17:11 says the Bereans received gospel information with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. We think that is exactly what education should be. We want to help parents teach their children to become critical thinkers. We want to build continuing generations of Bereans who will seek the truth and build a life-long foundation on those guiding principles."
The chapters are written as a dialogue, designed to be read aloud and discussed, and ends with experiments and projects divided into "youngest", "older", and "oldest" students. I particularly love this as it means I can scaffold the lesson to include three different year levels and abilities! 
If you're familiar with the Apologia series, this is created by the same guy - he simply left the Apologia company and began Berean Builders to ensure that his methods and philosophies remained intact (translates to: this is better!). 

Below is what I have at the moment: the Astronomy book I grabbed for a bargain second-hand from a friend and is from the Apologia series (which is still very good, mind you!), so we'll use that until my treasure arrives...
The other book is from the middle school series, which also includes a General Science book as well as the Physical Science one pictured. I picked it up for a great price too, and just need to keep my eye out for the other one (second-hand junkie here!).

HASS - Humanities and Social Science 
... so that's Geography, History, Government, and Business.... and i suppose sustainability as well!

If you're homeschooling in Australia, you need to have My Place, by Nadia Wheatley. I'm basing our entire HASS program on this little gem. The book traces back from 1988 to 1788, one decade per page, as told by a child that lives in that place. It covers immigration, urban development, rural issues, war, pollution, economics and the great depression, government and federation, first fleet and colonisation, the gold rush, Aboriginal culture and rights, business, Australian history, geography... the list goes on! We will be working from the back of the book, and moving forward through time. You can do it in as little or as much depth as you like - my eldest will be covering the topics in much more detail than his younger brother and sister, and producing projects based on what we discuss from the book.
Get it, seriously.
For sustainability and global issues, we love If the World Were a Village - which condenses the population of the world to 100 people in a village. It really strikes a chord with my kids when we discuss why 10 people in the village live on less than $2 per day (every villager equals 71 million people), and 37 don't have adequate sanitation...
We love to travel with our caravan, so naturally we need the Explore Australia book (the sticker wouldn't come off nicely for me!!). It also conveniently ticks off maths through map reading and distance calculation. We use anything by Steve Parish too - and the kids love it when they see places they've been in his books.
Our HASS is project-based, so I try to guide them based on what is in the curriculum but at the end of the day there is just so much to explore and learn in this subject, why would I stop them in their pursuits??

Health and Sports

See the book that looks like a tennis ball there...? It's another little gem of mine that Jack (eldest) found at an op-shop for $2! It has the descriptions and rules for pretty much every single sport there is, including how to score and how to be good at it! So, needless to say, it's pretty popular in our sports-mad household...

I have truckloads of gardening books (greenthumb alert!) but this one is my favourite. I love being a member of The Diggers Club, and their magazines and books have helped my confidence in growing food for my family. Everyone will have their own veggie garden plot to design and maintain, so keep an eye out for when they post updates of their progress!
I'm also an avid researcher into healthy eating, and it is such a joy of mine to be able to pass on the knowledge of gut health, fermenting, and traditional eating to my kids. I've learned so much from reading Pete Evans' books and, while we don't eat completely paleo just yet, I can't wait to be cooking his recipes using our own freshly grown veggies!


Thank goodness for online lessons! Beautiful music is irrevocable proof that God exists, and wants us to be happy. Hearing a song come from the depths of a piano or the unified strings on a guitar, you can't get much better than that. Our awesome neighbour gave us the mini-drum kit - which should appease Dom for a while until he decides if he actually wants to learn it properly. And recorders... well, it's not a childhood without a recorder!

We do online music lessons, which is such a blessing. Teachers who give up their time and effort to film lessons and make them available for others to learn for free are worth their weight in gold. We use Hoffman Academy for our piano lessons, and Justin Guitar for our guitar lessons - both of which are fabulously simple for the kids to follow. Even I can understand and follow along! I would love to encourage you all to check out these awesome resources - you will not be disappointed!!

Other stuff we get around to...

One of the things Charlotte Mason advocates in her methods is to have a Nature Journal. It is such a beautiful concept - teach your children to see the small things around them in nature, see how those things change over time, produce the art into your journal however you want, and even write some information if the spirit moves them to! Beautiful.
Art lessons all come from YouTube, usually to match something we're studying in another subject.
Coding and online script come from Khan Academy (is there anything Sal can't do?!), and Scratch - where you learn to code games and animations. Any other tech like word processing and digital design I teach them myself.
We're learning German using a YouTube channel called Learn German With Anya - it's a lot of fun! We also use the Goethe Institut Deutschland online resources, and an app called Mindsnacks German, so we're pretty happy with how things are going there!
We do photography with our DSLR camera, sewing, cooking, camping, hiking, listen to classical music, play heaps of sports, learn how to live a sustainable lifestyle, and how to look after ourselves and our home.

This is just a sample of all the resources we have, as well as using our FABULOUS local library! We have TONS of other books... I like books. A lot. So free learning happens quite often around here...

Better give my hands a break from typing, and your eyes a break too! I hope this info was helpful for you; a lot of these fabulous resources can be used whether you are homeschooling or not. What have you found useful in your homeschool? Please share all your secrets!! I'm always on the lookout for new resources and information! 

Until next time,
God Bless!

Em xxx

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

All About Jack!

Hello my name is Jack and this is all about ME! I am 11 years old and I might just maybe probably tell you a little lot about myself.


My favourite  colours are green and blue.
My favourite sport is footy and my favourite position is center half forward.
I have 9 chickens and 4 ducks.
My favourite things to do are ride the quad bike, play footy, eat and ride my bmx bike.

I live in Katanning Western Australia, I have a brother named Dominic, a sister named Piper, my Mum named Emily and my Dad named Patrick. We started homeschooling in term 4 2015 and it has been a blast! 

All of us in Warrnambool Victoria.

I certainly like homeschool better than normal school because:

1. we get more free time 

2. we can explore all around our block 

Up the top of Bluff Knoll
3. I can learn new things like woodwork, building and cooking and I can spend time with my family.

We also live on a big 5 acre block which is loads of fun because we have footy posts set up, we're going to put up a netball ring and we have turned the cubby house into the chook house with an extension for the ducks.

See ya later...

Our first proper blog post! Eeeep!

The Great Australian Bight - Bunda Cliffs along the Nullarbor

We've been pretty blessed to have seen and done the things we've done. Some before we started homeschool and some because we have chosen to homeschool. This journey is exciting and terrifying at the same time because, although I know in my heart this is the right choice for our family, I am taking complete charge of the academic, physical, and spiritual development of my tribe. 

Which sort of makes sense really... I am their mother... 

But it's not a pompous and arrogant decision by any means. I don't pretend to know more than any teacher, but I do know my kids more than anyone. I don't have all the answers about our faith, but I will take our kids on the same faith journey that we are on. I'm not doing anything amazing, I'm simply allowing my kids to be kids for as long as possible - childhood is short enough, and it's being systematically taken away by an education paradigm convinced that kids need desks, chairs, and tests to succeed, at a younger and younger age. 

Not in my house.

Somewhere near Streaky Bay in SA!

How do we homeschool? We mix responsibility and freedom. I'm attempting to intrinsically blend the quite opposite methods of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling with Unschooling...!! Rebellious, I know. But bear with me... I'll try and explain...

I've discovered that when my kids are engaged and interested in something, learning just... happens. It's not forced. It's not required. Curiosity takes over. Discussions and questions. Enjoyment becomes passion. And whatever they learn, they retain because they know why they're doing it - because they want to. 
Which is a sort of unschooling approach.
But then I believe that certain responsibilities need to be taught too. Certain disciplines. Prayer and mass. Cleaning and weeding. Washing, tidying, algebra, grammar, scooping up chook poo! At first glance it may seem tedious and dull. But it's absolutely essential - especially prayer and going to mass. How on earth can an unschooling approach be taken to these tasks??
(not easy, but simple!)
We discuss "why" things need to be learned. Because, again, there's no point in forcing education onto anyone. The whole "why do I HAVE TO clean the toilet mum?!" argument disappears when you discuss 3rd world sanitation problems, then write a prayer about it. Be grateful you have a toilet, kids.
We do short, sharp lessons. As Charlotte Mason teaches us, the quantity of work doesn't matter but the quality must be to the child's 100% effort. It doesn't matter if you only write one sentence, but it has to be your best work. 
We do natural consequences. If you want to go to the park, the chores must be completed properly first, and working together gets it done quicker. If you don't do your bit, your bedtime is earlier because clearly you're very tired. If we don't finish our daily lessons, you miss out on your free time. 
One thing we don't do, is rewards. Money, stickers, toys, charts. Nope. There's nothing that stifles real learning quicker than making the "why" something superficial. They'll be forever expecting a gold star for basic tasks. The reward for reading is enjoyment. For weeding, vegetables. For tending chickens, eggs! For washing, clean clothes. For finishing projects and chores, family time. And maybe the kids will plan a trip and we'll go camping!

Atop Bluff Knoll with my old man, Stirling Range NP, WA
It certainly doesn't happen like this all the time. There have been countless prayers, many arguments, fights, and disagreements... for sure... but we are definitely where we're meant to be. 

Until next time, 

Take Care and God Bless xx