23 December 2014

Dating, Courting or just Going Out

As the children are growing and developing into fine young adults it is time to have "The Discussion".  Not the one about the mechanics, but the one about the true pursuit of happiness and discernment of one's vocation and life partner.
There has been much written about dating and courtship and a variety of definitions have been given to these terms, so much so that if you haven't been reading the various publications dedicated to this genre you may well be trapped into giving an "incorrect" answer to a question such as "Do you Date or Court?"  As in so many of these life and faith style questions we have gone back to the root and tried to determine how we handle these situations.

Why did God make us?  

As we have learned from our little green catechism, God made us to Know, Love and Serve Him in this world and to be together with Him in the next. Cool. That is a great starting point. Know - Love - Serve.  In that order.
So, in order to truly serve someone, you must love them, and to truly love them you must know them. Otherwise, loving someone you do not know is either loving an illusion or loving only part of them. Either way this is an unsatisfactory love that cannot fully satisfy.
With this in mind, the aim of any dating, courtship or "going out" is to know the person better to determine whether you really love him or her.

So how do you Know someone?

Let's look at successful marriages, those in which the husband and wife have been married for a good time and obviously love each other. Reviewing their discussions about how they have grown in their love, one thing comes out strongly. The secret of knowing someone is Shared Experiences.
Shared Experiences are those things you do together and in doing them you learn more about each other.  Not just the external things such as favourite colours or preferred foods or sports, but the important things like honesty, integrity, ability to serve, how they treat others, dedication to a task and so on.

Why go to all this trouble?

If the ultimate aim of getting to know someone in this context is the possibility of marriage, what makes marriage work? We know part of it is shared experiences, but another important aspect is the serving part.  Remember, the progress is know - love - serve.  Our knowing leads to a true love which leads to true service.  That means our understanding of marriage will be flawed if we look at through the eyes of contemporary media.  Marriage works best when the couple works together serving through love and knowing each other more every day.  That means the husband and the wife serve each other 100%.  Not 50% each.  It's a maths thing.  If each serve each other 100%, that is 100% x 100% = 100%.  A fully lived life in love.  If it is 50% each, then you are only getting 50% x 50% = 25% - a small fraction of what you could be experiencing.
It is important to remember however that the 100% each provides is not identical.  Each member of the marriage have complementary gifts to bring to the union.  That is what makes marriage so productive. If both did the same thing, there would be a lot less interesting development and just more of the same.
So the knowing stage is designed to learn about the gifts each can bring to a marriage and whether both suitors are capable of the serving required in a true loving union.

So what are the best type of shared experiences?

An experience shared depends greatly on the background of each party.  If both have a similar background it is more likely that the experience the couple participate in will be considered the same way.  But the more the backgrounds diverge, it is more likely the experience each person gets from the experience will differ.
For example, if one of the couple is from a large family and the other has been home alone, the experience of a family dinner with lots of people milling around will come as quite a shock to one and be background noise to the other.  But the experience when discussed and reviewed in chats afterwards will form an excellent shared experience.  The empathy of both persons should allow each one to hopefully see a little of life from the other's point of view.  Now we have a point in time where they know more about each other and have shared a little snippet of life from which a true relationship can grow.

But what about chemistry?

The issue with a couple going out is that human chemistry can interfere with the growth in knowledge and tempt the couple to cut short the knowing stage and go directly to the loving stage. On the one hand the chemistry (or hormones or natural attraction) is necessary to get the whole thing rolling. After all, you wouldn't even bother getting to know someone more if you weren't attracted in the first place. But if you succumb to the attraction and go too far, the physical nature will take over and you will have missed much of the important knowing stage.  Suddenly the joyful experience of loving is tainted by the illicit nature of the exchange and the fruitful development of getting to know each other through shared experiences is also twisted. Now instead of looking for experiences through which you can learn more about each other, you aim for times to be out of sight of others - allegedly to "be alone with each other".

So how do you achieve the right balance? 

It isn't easy. On the one hand a "courtship" whereby you never have any time alone to actually discuss or have any unique shared experiences is limiting, but on the other hand "dating" whereby you are always together alone is a recipe for succumbing to temptation and hence failure too.
The steps for a successful knowledge stage of a relationship would be:
1. Being in a state of grace.  
Each person in the deal needs to have a proper relationship with God, and strive to balance the important two sided nature of any enterprise whereby it is worked on as if it is 100% depends on God and 100% depends on your work too.  Faith without works is dead - you need both sides for the task to be a success.
2. Agreeing on the whole point of the exercise.  
At the initial stage, the point is not marriage - it is getting to know the other person.  You can't contemplate or plan marriage to someone you don't love, and you can't love someone without knowing them.  So stage 1 is getting to know each other.
3. Organising lots of shared experiences. 
These would be with friends and with family. Knowing someone means knowing their friends and family.  If you don't like any of the other person's friends are you sure you are really compatible? Also, shared experiences are not just "fun" things like movies and entertainment.  They should include regular things like dinner, attending Mass and visiting family and friends, special things and tasks such as helping someone move house, painting, working together, participating in sports, volunteering time or watching and supporting the other person do something they enjoy.
4. Having quiet time. 
It is important that there is time alone to ponder and review all these shared experiences.  It is not just the experience itself, but the consideration of those times that allow the experiences to fully take root and flower. There also needs to be times when you can just sit and chat about important things without all the noise and confusion.  No TV, no texting, no Internet - just sitting on the beach or the back yard or deck, watching the horizon or birds and insects dart around the trees and plants. In fact, this quiet time is part of the shared experience - both the time spent together reviewing the experience and the time alone doing the same thing.

The final key to success

All this only works when the path is laid out at the beginning. In any endeavour you need to know the objectives before you start in order that you are able to determine whether you are actually on track or have lost your way. There is no point having a process without a destination. The goal needs to be appropriate to this stage of the game. Knowledge of the other person is the aim for this stage, with the greater conditional aim of marriage.  Discerning that marriage is not appropriate for this couple is not a failure, it is a correct outcome.  Not only is this not a failure, it is a valuable lesson for both parties working out what - and who - they are actually seeking. That is the whole point of the exercise.

So go and get to know each other.  Avoid occasions whereby you will be tempted to shortcut the process as doing so will not result in true happiness. And on the way you will have more fun and less regrets.

12 December 2014

Christmas Nativity Play

The children have grown since this photo was taken!
One of the benefits of having a larger family is that you get to do many fun things more than once.  Often as children grow they don't want to do what they did when younger.  At least, that is what they tell you.
Then one of the younger children are eager to do the activity the older ones did when they were younger and soon enough we are all doing it again. Yay!
Back in 2004 I created a Nativity Play which has since been downloaded over 10,000 times. This is a unique Nativity Play as it is created directly from scripture with no made up bits.
There are plenty of parts - speaking and non speaking - and is great fun.
I have just updated the format so it is easier to read and much prettier too.

22 August 2014

But I'll be bored!

Are you bored yet?
On Sunday the younger children decided they would be very disobedient at bed time. We gave the first warning and received the standard reply, "Yes Dad"
But talking continued after lights were out.
So a direct appeal with appropriate stern footsteps down the hall and standing in the room with serious direction to go to sleep.
"Yes Dad"
Shortly after, we had more talking and mucking around.
"As you wish," I said, "It is obvious that the electronic entertainment of iPad, computers and movies are affecting your sleep patterns.  None tomorrow.  Now go to sleep."
"Yes Dad"
This was still insufficient encouragement.
"Right, it's now extended to a week."
There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. And they finally settled down and went to sleep.
So this week, the wettest in several months, had no electronic diversions.  "What can we do?" they asked.
"Work it out, or you can go back to bed," we suggested.
The children ended up doing:

  • Crafts
  • Playing outside (in the moments of sunshine)
  • Listening to audio books
  • Reading other books
  • Building blanket tents
  • Making up games
  • Started weaving a shawl
  • Playing with Lego

Well, that worked well.  This is a great form of "punishment".  We get a better response and obedience, and the result is positive too.

13 August 2014

Not the time for Good Morning

Nope. Not yet.
This morning Zach was walking up the hall past the open door of our bedroom on his way to the loo. Lana called out cheerily, "Good Morning Zach!"
He ignored her and continued his journey.  Once he completed his task, he came back to the bedroom door and with a serious look on his face stated, "When someone is going to the toilet it's not the time for 'Good Morning'."
Later he came up to Lana when she was lighting the wood fire and Lana said, "Good Morning Zach."
He grinned and ran into Lana's arms giving her a hug.
Now that must have been the right time for a Good Morning.

9 August 2014

Life in Show Biz

That way!
We have had a production company in our village filming a short movie in the hall and local shop. There was a call out for extras so we volunteered the children from Peter down and I was there to ensure Zach's compliance.
It was a great day where we were able to experience all the behind the scenes work that goes into filming a scene.  So much effort into such a small scene!  In breaks the children were curious and asked questions and the film crew responded marvellously.  They even had Martin and Rose hop onto the camera dolly and push it around to see how it all worked.
The crew were very surprised at how well the children behaved and performed their roles as extras in the movie.
So today we can record as an excursion in film studies!

1 August 2014

Wombat Defence - Success!

"Oh Bother" said our wombat
The wombat returned last night.
But he was foiled by our Wombat defences!
Opa 1 Wombat 1
You can see by the photo the wombat tried clawing away at exactly the same spot he had tried before, but the steel reinforcing meant he couldn't go an further.
We are just imagining his frustration in his single minded mission.

31 July 2014

Wombat Defence

Wombat defences

All we need is some ingenuity
Filling the wombat hole with bricks and stones is on thing, but we needed more to stop a wombat dedicated on his mission of making a new nest.
Opa looked around his "treasure trove" in the garage and came out with some steel used for strengthening concrete in trenches.  These were then cut into lengths and then bent so they would fit between the supports for our under-house storage and go into the ground some distance too.
So far so good.  The Wombat hasn't been back yet.  But it's still early days.  We'll see how well our wombat defences hold up if the wombat gets really determined!

28 July 2014

A Little Bit Of Kindling

Just a little bit of kindling
Once more it is cooling down in the evenings so we need to light the fire. "I think we need a bit of kindling," I said to James.
He gathered up Rose, Martin and Zach and they went for a walk among the nearby trees.
Eucalyptus/gum trees are notorious for dropping leaves, twigs and branches all year round making a superb fire hazard around their bases. This works out fine during Winter when we can perform this community service, reducing the local fire hazard whilst gaining kindling to start our fires.  Dried gum tree branches are great for starting fires.
A short time later they returned and showed me their "little bit of kindling".
"Yep," I said, "That should do the trick."


Water Pump covered by soil

A good start to a wombat hole
Last night a wombat decided he had found the perfect place for a new hole.  Unfortunately it was under our house.
Zach discovered the new hole early in the morning with lots of fresh dirt and called over Martin so they could play in it together.  Then Rose popped over to see what they were doing and realised this large hole under the house needed some adult attention and called Opa.
The wombat had dug around 6 foot into the dirt around the foundations of one end of our house.  The pump for our water was covered - which is not good.  James did mention the pump sounded funny when he had a shower this morning. Being covered in dirt does that kind of thing.
So we have now filled in the hole with a variety of bricks and stones and put up a strong mesh to make the whole process more of a challenge.
We have lots of wombats in our area.  They are nocturnal and like going from point A to point B.  If something is in the way, they just dig under or around it and continue on their nightly trek. Often you can see old houses in wombat areas with collapsed corners as their foundations have been dug away.
This is just one of those benefits of living in the country.

27 July 2014

Eric's First Car

Just like a First Car is supposed to be
Now that he has his driving licence, Eric needed something to drive.  By a great stroke of fortune, a relative of a friend had upgraded her car and was able to sell Eric her old one for only $450!  It is roadworthy and runs well. The paintwork may not be premium but who cares? It is a first car and no finance was needed. Well done Eric.
But cars come with other costs.
Insurance (3rd party which covers damage to other vehicles and property) costs about $300 a year.
Registration and compulsory insurance (which covers damage to other people) will probably come in at around $900 a year.
And then general maintenance and other running costs.  Luckily he is a clever fellow and has a knowledgable Opa and father of a friend who can help him with car maintenance.
Now he can be free (er).

23 July 2014

Another one through!

Eric has passed his driving test and now has his P (Probationary) plates.  He has now gained another independence step, freeing him from the vagaries of public transport.  At least that will be the case when he gets his own car.
In Australia, learner drivers need to pass a knowledge test, then accumulate 120 hours of driving experience (including 20 hours of night time driving) over a minimum of 12 months and then pass a driving test with close to 100% success.
The resulting Red P plate has some limitations, moving to the green P plate after at least a year and then finally a full license at a minimum of a year again.  So from the time of passing the Learner Driver test, it is at least 3 years before you become a fully licensed driver.
We have two children through so far.  The next is about to take his test and then we have another 15 or so years of learner driving as we go through the remaining 5 children.
I am very glad that Lana's father is around to help with the driving load!
Well done Eric!

17 May 2014

Autumn is colourful

It's raining leaves
We only have a limited number of trees that act as seasons signposts, where Red and Orange mean slow down and Green means go outside.
So we get to enjoy the leaves changing colour and yelling to all of us that the great season of Autumn has arrived. I took this photo of Rose playing with the leaves at the local shop. Less than a week later all the leaves are gone. No more playing with the leaves.
When Rose was born almost ten years ago this time was Spring, with all the trees bursting with new green life and the weather warming up. She doesn't remember, other than through our photos, but we still remember the great time we had living in Georgia.

25 April 2014

Grandparents are awesome 2

"Look Pirate Tough - Close enough"
Unfortunately we only see my parents a couple of times a year as we live quite a distance away from them.  This distance has been shrunk since getting Mum an iPad so now we can share videos and photos and even Skype between visits.
Mum is a great seamstress.  Recently the younger boys wanted pirate outfits.  With little more than their rough measurements and some movie pirates on which to base costumes, Mum created some great outfits.
This photo is of the boys playing in the Pirate costumes.  "Look Pirate Tough" I asked the boys so we could show off the costumes.
They struck this pose.  I shrugged and said "Close enough".
When a parcel arrives from Grandma the recipients take as little time as possible to access the goodies inside and test them out.
Considering the new word of approval, cries of "Awesome" follow their revelation of the box's contents.

24 April 2014

The games kids play

A Horse Walking on a Motorbike
Over the years we have collected quite a bit of Lego. In early days we found much of it at Garage or Yard sales, especially in more affluent suburbs where the best stuff was for sale.
8 children and many years later and we have quite a collection.  A young lad popped over the other day and his jaw dropped when he saw the lego in the play room.
Today Clare decided to make a game using Lego, applying many of her experiences with her brothers and wargaming.
An example of one of the rules is:
"If you roll a 1 or a 2 the Lego person goes through a normal life. If you roll a 3 or 4 your Lego person is a detective and you have to solve a mystery.  If you roll a 5 or 6 an Alien comes to Earth and you have to find it."

The Lego Table
Clare came into the study and started explaining the game to Lana.  I was working at my computer and only part listening until I heard the rule, "and a horse walking on a motorbike".
I turned and asked, "How does that work?"
Then I had the rule explained more clearly as, "I worked out how fast you can go on a horse, walking or on a motorbike."
That made much more sense.

The children all had a great game, using imagination with the assistance of Lego and dice.  Great!

Grandparents are awesome

The wheels of the bus go round and round
Grandparents are awesome
It is a great benefit having Lana's parents living with us.  It is not for baby sitting as the children either come with us or the older children can do the job.  It is for the benefit of just being there.
The children all remember wandering across to Grandma and Opa's place for morning tea - basically a biscuit or lolly and a cup of milk. They have all helped in the garden or carrying various tools or otherwise "helping" in various household tasks.  Sometimes we get complaints of a bit too much "help".
Yesterday Opa was going for a walk with Zach, Martin and Rose.  Martin and Rose ran ahead while Zach stayed behind and held onto Opa's hand.  He looked up at Opa and said, "I like you Opa.  You and Grandma. Awesome."
Now that is what I call positive reinforcement.

Rose and Zach were helping Opa pack their bus for their weekend trip. Opa walked around the corner of the bus, out of direct sight.
Zach paused and said, "Dammit.  We lost him."
A few steps later and they caught up with him.

18 April 2014

Passion Plays are great ways to commemorate Good Friday

James and Peter waiting for the play to begin
Good Friday is the day we join in the Passion Play celebrated at The Pauline Fathers Monastery at Penrose Park, NSW, Australia.
It is worth the drive (about 1 hour from the outskirts of Sydney or 90 minutes from Canberra) to take part in the recreation of the Passion of Christ, from the events of Holy Thursday night through to Jesus' death and burial.
Rose, Clare and a friend ready to play the wailing women.
As the weather today was perfect there was somewhere around 7,000 or more people watching and praying as the play proceeded from the front gate through to the grotto on the 100 acre property.
The best part about the Passion Play is it works on all five senses.  You see the actors playing all the roles, you hear not only the words, but also the murmurs of the crowd and props such as weapons and armour.  You smell the dust and people around you and feel the sun above and ground beneath as you follow the scenes and also feel the bumps and crush of the crowd at pivotal points. And lastly you can taste the air and remember the hunger on this day of fasting.
Combined with the prayer and reflection, you get a more immersive exposure to the story of Christ's passion.
That's a lot of people

Another memorable part is the worldwide collection of languages and nationalities making up the crowd. We become pretty used to the worldwide or universal nature of the Church, but a visitor attending his first play mentioned to me how the diversity really hit home the worldwide nature of Catholicism.
The actors are sourced from local homeschooling families and youth groups from the various parishes run by the Pauline Fathers in Sydney.  The costumes and sets improve each year, building on what came before.  The passion play that was part of World Youth Day provided a gift of the costumes they used to the organisers of the Pauline Fathers' play.
Jesus during the Last Supper

At the start of the long road to the crucifixion

Along the road with one of the thieves following

9 April 2014

Calling each other names

A posed shot
Lana was on the phone.
So Rose came up to Ariel and stood there waiting.
Ariel raised her eyebrow in inquiry.
"I'm waiting for Zach and Martin because there has been name calling," Rose said.
Once the boys turned up Ariel asked "What happened?"
Rose said "Zach called Martin Ramsbottom."
Ariel paused, wondering how to respond.
"And then Martin called Zach Zee," Rose continued.
We have a pretty strict policy against name calling and come down pretty hard on breaches of the peace.
Rose said, "And then Martin hid behind one of the flags with clear [safety] glasses and Zach patted him on the nose."
Such tragedy!  Such abuse! How does one respond to such cruelty?
"Don't hit each other.  Don't call names. Go away and play."
"Okay," the boys said and went and played.

There you go.  Sibling rivalry at its worst!
(Previous Sibling Rivalry posts are here)

5 April 2014

David's Easy Muesli Bars

Too tempting not to try
This tasty treat is based on a recipe found somewhere and perfected with endless experiments and taste tests. It only takes about 15 minutes to make, let cool and then cut into slices.  The recipe is very forgiving.  Throw in whatever is on hand that sounds nice and then glue it together with the goo.
Easy Peasy.


Dry Bits
1 cup toasted muesli or rolled oats
3 cups Rice Bubbles/Rice Krispies
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup Dried fruit bits (we throw in even more)

Goo mix
125g (4.5oz) butter
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (normal or raw sugar)

Chuck all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
Melt goo mix in saucepan.
Bring to boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes until the goo is caramel like.  The longer you simmer, the chewier it gets.  Just don't let it burn on the bottom of the pan.
Throw gooey stuff into the bowl and mix thoroughly, ensuring everything gets well gooed.
Press into greased (or non stick) lamington tin (20  x 30cm/8in x 12in)  and refrigerate.
Pretty soon it can be cut into bars. A tray should make about 36 bars.

Use Tropical muesli to get a wide variety of fruits and stuff.
Add in finely cut apricots, dried apples and currants/sultanas for added chew. We usually add about 1 to 2 cups of various fruit medley, etc.
Use more honey and peanut butter for extra chew.

1 April 2014

The city is very interesting

There are a lot of cars in the city
Yesterday Clare came with me as I visited a few clients then did some wholesale shopping for our shop.  This meant waking at 5:30am to leave by 6:00pm so we could get to the first client at around 8:00am.
"It's so dark!" Clare commented as we left, using a torch (flashlight) to get to the car.
"There's a lot of cars going to the city," said Clare and was amazed as the kilometres sped by and more and more cars continued to join us until we were surrounded by cars.  Luckily traffic flowed pretty well today, but it was still a 2.25 hour drive.
"Ooh!" she said as the lift went up 6 floors and "Oh!" as it slowed down.  "Elevators are cool,"
She read her books pretty quickly while I helped my clients and then she tagged along as I finished up.  A couple of the employees said to each other, "We better watch our language as David's daughter is here!"
"The buildings are really tall and way too close together!" she noticed.
The second client and the wholesale businesses were near the airport, so plenty of planes were visible reasonably close. "They're so close.  Planes are cool."
I have been assisting the second client for almost 20 years so we are on pretty familiar ground.  He said to Clare as we were leaving, "Thank you Clare.  You did a great job."
All in all it was a good day having Clare come along spending a day with Dad. This goes down under "Work Experience" or "Field Trip" in our homeschool diary.
Many of the people we encountered asked "No school today?" to which we promptly answered, "We homeschool.  This is a field trip."

31 March 2014

Not Pedalling Not Riding

A Team Effort
"Dad, can we show you something outside?" said Martin when I was home earlier than usual on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the last days of daylight saving.
"What are you going to show me?" I asked, as I have to make it worthwhile.
"Zach and me and his bike," he replied.
"What's so special?" I enquired.
"Zach's not pedalling and I'm not riding it." he explained in his own unique fashion.
I sat back and pondered how one could achieve this fine double negative and went out to see what they were doing.
Zach was on the seat with his legs in the air and Martin was pulling on the rope attached to the bike's handlebars.
So Martin did provide an accurate description after all.  The bike is about 30 years old and the old brittle plastic is not strong enough for older children so this is their solution so they could both play with it.
"But I had to do most of the work," added Martin as I am typing this.

30 March 2014

Dressmaking - Starting Small

A matching full summer outfit - in miniature
Clare and Rose wanted to buy some American Girl dolls and the various accessories.
Although Clare has earned the money working in our shop, the cost to purchase and ship to Australia was exorbitant. Clare was willing but our parental veto was invoked.
Although disappointed, Clare accepted the decision.  A short time later Aldi was selling 18" dolls for $25 with a starting outfit.  Deal!
Now it was a matter of dresses and accessories.
Both grandmothers are very good seamstresses and Lana has the skills too. So this has provided a great opportunity for Clare to learn the skills doing something she wants to do.
We purchased some doll patterns for very reasonable prices (some Free) from You Can Make This and with some initial tutoring from Lana, Clare has been quite busy.
YouTube has also been handy with instructions for making shoes.  This photo shows her first attempt at shoes and her first dress from the patterns she purchased.
Based on this method of dressmaking, for the cost the one American Girl doll we will have quite a wardrobe of clothes and accessories!
Now all this sewing is done after "Schoolwork" and on the weekends.  Because this isn't schoolwork, but fun!

29 March 2014

It's only for frogs

This is only for frogs.  Green frogs.
While rummaging around in my office Zach discovered this metal thing which is designed to connect a wall bracket to a Flat Screen TV.
"What do you have there, Zach?" I asked.
"It's for frogs," he answered. [Pronounced Fogs]
"Frogs?  How?" I asked and through a series of questions and answers provided to me with a very knowledgable air, I obtained the following explanation. (translated into English)
"It's for their hair. Frogs have green hair and this is used to cut their hair.  There aren't any around here but they live in water.  And frogs drink water too.  That's why we don't see frogs with much hair - only a little bit of hair - because of this thing."
There you go.  You learn something new every day.

25 March 2014

Preparing Dinner for today and tomorrow

Many hands make dinner work
As a family we enjoy the taste of home made crumbed chicken.  Remembering the story of the little red hen and the making of her bread, everyone gets to help.
Lana chops up dried bread in the food processor and then we mix in some pepper and basil and if - we feel up to it - grated lemon rind.  The children then line up for the manufacturing process.
Lana slices the chicken breast into thin pieces.
This goes to Zach (4) who coats it in plain (general purpose) flour.
Clare (13) then dunks it in an egg and milk mixture.
Martin (6) then coats the wet thing in the bread crumb mixture and adds it to the pile.
Meanwhile, Rose (9) and Peter (15) washed and cut up the potatoes that had been peeled by Clare.  Rose cut and peeled the carrots.
Once the potatoes, carrots and peas are boiled, Ariel (22) will assist with the frying of the chicken schnitzels in the electric fry pan.  James (17) and Peter will then help set the table that has been cleared by the other children.
After dinner, James and Peter will do the washup, with the younger ones filling or emptying the dishwasher as required.
So when people ask us "How do you cook for so many?" we can simply answer, "Together".
This really works well because we have the lifestyle that homeschooling allows.  We have no school homework or incessant "extra-curricular" activities to interrupt these life skills.
I think I will record this as today's "Home Economics" lesson.

23 March 2014

This many whiles

This many whiles
The children went outside to play in the beautiful sunshine. The initial decision was to go on the trampoline, but this changed to riding bikes.  This meant Zach was left out as he isn't up to bike riding speed yet.
So he came in upset and told Lana all about it.  Then he stopped and said, "Peter!" and ran off.
A short while Peter came in and explained what Zach had done.
Zach asked Peter, "Jump trampoline with me!"
Peter replied, "My feet hurt.  I've been working all day."
Zach raised his hand with spread fingers and said, "Only this many whiles."
So they went and played on the trampoline.  A very short while later, the others noticed the activity on the trampoline and soon they were all on the trampoline after all.
But only for a "while".

18 March 2014

It's show time

Clare's quilt
This time of year is Show Season and it is a very busy time for Lana and the girls. Although the boys used to put in some entries, the girls plan all year to put in entries and combined with Lana and her Mum we end up providing a reasonable share of the Pavilion entries at the local shows.
I put in my photographs for which I get some prizes, but Lana and the girls really collect the accolades.
This is especially true in the junior classes.  Over the years we have seen a steady drop in the number of junior entries.  Homeschoolers seem to represent over 75% of the entries, especially if you exclude the school entries which consist of 20 to 30 identical projects with minor variations to show each child's individuality.
It seems that young people are just not learning traditional crafts such as quilting, knitting, cooking, cross stitch, and so on. By young people I mean people our age and younger.  As the older contributors start getting past their ability to do as much crafty things, the number of entries steadily decreases.
This year we put in 39 entries in one show and 49 in the other main show.  That is a lot of work, but it is fine encouragement for Lana and the children to see their work put to the test and deemed worthy of praise.  It's not just me telling them it looks good.

17 March 2014

Just so helpful

Are you hungry?
Our cats enjoy having Opa and Grandma living with us.  We feed them 2 meals a day with just the basics. But the cats know if they look longingly at Opa or Grandma they get various bonus meals and special treats.
While Lana's parents are away travelling, the cats are missing on all the treats.  But lately we noticed the dry food was running out. After some investigation we realised that whenever the cats whined a little near Zach, he went to the dry food container and gave them more by filling up their bowl.  What they didn't eat, the birds came in and had their share.
No wonder we never knew where it was going as the bowls were always empty when we looked!  Wasn't he helpful?
So I thought I would take a photo of Zach and the cat for this article.  Have you ever tried getting a 4 year old and a cat to stay still long enough for a photo?

15 March 2014

Homeschooling Carnival at Every Bed of Roses

Every Bed of Roses is hosting the 428th Carnival of Homeschooling.

Our post about Eric doing some Apprentice practice at our shop is included.  As a follow up, the dinner is this Friday and we have our 30 bookings. It should be a great night!

Proving we homeschool

What a great Principal!
There are a number of Agricultural shows this time of year and they are all managed by groups of volunteers that donate a lot of time and energy to providing a venue for the local area to show off all their livestock, produce and arts and crafts as well as providing a few day's worth of entertainment.  Each town and group have their own style which allows for friendly competition between shows and room for experimentation.
Most now have a special school children special on the Friday which allows school children to get in for free with up to two or three adult supervisors. It is a great idea to encourage the children to get in touch with farming and their local produce.
But what about homeschoolers?
Other shows recognise that if you are at the gate during school hours with a number of children that look part of a set, you are most likely homeschoolers. But one show we attended recently felt it was their job to police eligibility.  Obviously they felt there would be a problem for truant children coming to the show with their parents trying for free entry. The guy in charge decided that homeschoolers had to present a letter proving they were homeschooling.
A stupid policy requires an appropriate response.
The local schooling board provides a letter to homeschooling families which could be shown to satisfy this requirement, but they had no right to see it so that was not an option for us.
So I wrote the above letter (click on it for a closer view).
On the Friday, Lana went up to the entry gate with Ariel and the two younger girls and presented the letter.  The lady at the gate just opened it, glanced at the letterhead which looked official and showed it to the gate man in charge.  He glanced at it, nodded and said, "Yeah".  So they let them all in for free.
Lana was ready to have a rant and argue the stupidity of the policy and they didn't even read my lovely letter!
As a family we put 39 exhibits into the Pavilion.  (This is the large shed which contains all the arts, crafts, photography and smaller non-livestock exhibits at the show). Other homeschooling families also put in lots of entries.  If there were no homeschoolers putting in entries the Pavilion would be about 25% emptier.

One more interesting thing.  Lana asked Martin if he wanted to come to the show.
"Yeah!" answered Martin enthusiastically.
"You will have to have a bath first" said Lana.
"I won't go then," answered Martin, so he stayed home.
I really have to read Tom Sawyer to the children.  I think they will recognise Tom.

9 March 2014

Practical Training

Would you eat a dinner from this man?
As part of our practical homeschooling, we are able to use our business to provide unique opportunities for each of our children depending on their differing talents and desires.
We are about to start a monthly series of Chef's special dinners in which our son, now a 2nd year apprentice chef, will be preparing a three course meal for 30 diners.
This is a good opportunity as almost all of the diners already know him from his time working at the shop, and we are able to combine our experience of serving larger groups with his experience as an apprentice chef.
Part of the preparation was doing a trial run for just the family, but as this is catering for 10 people, it is a pretty good trial.  The meal was excellent and together we were able to apply a few refinements to the preparation plan and only one or two tweaks to the meals. Our taste buds are still remembering the fine dinner.
To make sure the dessert work at the scale required for 30 people, we made a large cake even though it was just for us.  Only some of it was eaten at the trial, but the rest went extremely well with our cafe customers next day.  General reaction was sighs of satisfaction and queries as to where we had obtained the cake. We just said our son did a fine job!
It's good seeing positive results to our evolving education plan over the years. Concentrating on the fundamentals and providing good work experience earlier on has helped create a citizen that can make an excellent contribution to the society.

8 March 2014

Lana's Award Winning Muffins

Selling like hot ... muffins.
Once more Lana has been awarded 1st place for her muffins at the local agricultural show.  These shows are like Farm shows, State Fairs, 4H fairs and so on with livestock and produce competitions and the pavilion containing crafts, art, cooking and so on.
We sell the muffins each weekend at our shop and they are easy to make.  It takes a half awake Lana about 45 minutes to make from start to out of the oven and out the door.
They are moist muffins that don't need a drink to wash them down.  They taste just fine as they are.
This is a very forgiving recipe.
Perfect for Lent.

Raspberry Cheesecake Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins (pictured) or 20 regular sized patty pan/cup cakes.

125g butter (1/2 cup), softened
250g cream cheese (1 cup)
1 1/2 cups (330g) sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (300g) self-raising flour, sifted
300g Raspberries (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line 12 jumbo muffin pans with paper cases.
Place the butter, cream cheese and sugar in the bowl. Mix with beater until pale.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined.
Add the vanilla and fold in the flour and a pinch of salt.
Dust the fruit with a little extra flour then stir through the mixture.
Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes or until golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

They taste great just out of the oven and over the next few days are even better as the flavour spreads through them.
Options include - 
Mixing chopped/sliced strawberries and raspberries.
Raspberries and white chocolate bits (except during Lent).

6 March 2014

Bruggietales in the Carnival of Homeschooling again

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Notes from a Homeschooled Mom, titled:

The 427th Homeschool Carnival "Just Keep blogging" edition.

Our post about Rose not doing schoolwork is included.

If I had a twin ...

If I had a twin he'd be great.
Rose asked Clare a question and Peter interrupted with a silly answer.
Ariel said to Peter, "Rose asked Clare a question? Should I call you Clare from now on?"
Clare said, "Oooh.  I have a twin sister called Clare."
Rose piped in, "Not a sister, a twin brother."
"Yeah, a twin brother called Clare," said Ariel.
Martin had been carefully listening to this exchange and added his thoughts.
"I'd love a twin brother. He can do my school work. He could clean up while I play with the neighbour."
"Oh you're a generous brother," Peter commented.
"I could get him to ask for stuff so if he gets in trouble he can get sent to bed." Martin replied.
I somehow suspect Martin hasn't quite understood the concept of a twin brother.

Another 11th reason.

4 March 2014

Reminiscing at the latest birthday.

Just one more candle...
We celebrated Zach's birthday recently and it was a sort of milestone.  I was chatting with a new acquaintance recently and he mentioned to me that he had 3 children under 7.
I paused for a moment and considered this measure.
"We've had 3 under 7 for the last 15 years!" I replied.  But that is no more.
Now Zach is 4, we have no more nappies, less shared night-times with the Starfish sleeping technique of babies, no night time feeding and many more activities that a 4 year old is now too old for.
He and Martin are playing much more together, rather than having occasional fights for control over a shared toy.
For 22 years of being parents we always have had a new younger one bringing up the rear while we handled new adventures with the older children. We are now in a new phase.  Not better or worse, just different.  Again.
Puddles are for jumping
It is a great adventure, privilege and honour to be able to be such a part of a family.  Being able to share so many of our experiences together, through homeschooling, running a business, and generally living the busy life of 10 people is a great blessing.
Too often we think of family life and children primarily in terms of their costs and responsibilities. But I think this is missing the point.  We are told that children are a great gift and will be of great benefit to us. I suspect much of that beneficial nature is lost when you focus incorrectly.  It's a bit like pointing a camera using manual focus and not knowing you have to move the lens to see better.
Initially the object of your focus is blurry and indistinct, but as you turn the lens you suddenly see all the good bits and soon all the non essential parts can be ignored as the focus is on the gift - and then on the gift giver.

I'm cooking - not doing schoolwork

Real Hot Chocolate
It was a wet and relatively cool day so we were all inside.  Rose figured this was a good time to make something from the recipe book she borrowed from the library.
"It's real hot chocolate, Dad," Rose explained to me, "And it's a cold day so it's perfect."
How could I say no?
So she made it all herself, following the instructions, making enough for everyone, boiling the milk, mixing the ingredients and sharing it out.
It all worked out really well, and the best thing was that this wasn't schoolwork.  It was fun.

26 February 2014

Bruggietales in the Carnival of Homeschooling

We were part of the original Carnivals of Homeschooling many years ago but have been quiet for the last few years.
But our post regarding alternative means of qualifying for University/College entrance is included in this week's edition at Corn and Oil at the Post Olympic Carnival of Homeschooling.  Enjoy.

22 February 2014

Preparing for the future - but not by doing year 12

Training on the job
When we first started homeschooling over 17 years ago, among all the questions was: "What will you do about year 12 and University?"
At the time we simply answered, "We will cross that bridge when we get to it." and "We just do one year at a time and see how it goes." which deferred the problem until a future time.

We have been quiet on Bruggietales for the last few years because we have been working on the answer to that concern from complete strangers about the welfare of our children.
My theory was that children have the capacity for much more but are rarely given the chance. In the age of sail 15 year olds were lieutenants in the army and navy and were working in responsible positions throughout the economy.  Why not ours?
So we bought a shop.  It is a country store which sells everything as well as being the local Post Office agency and we added in a cafe and restaurant. We then put Ariel (then 17 years old) in charge. My business is integrating business systems so I was initially heavily involved setting up systems and working how the store should run, liaising with suppliers and generally training Ariel how it all worked.  As each child got older, they were added to the employee pool.
The children were also paid award wages and conditions and everything was run as a professional business. In this way they were able to learn not only business skills but also personal money skills.
Perhaps a bit young, but he volunteered.
However, in this world that suffers from credentialism - that is, the requirement that a bit of paper means much more than mere experience - this was insufficient to answer that question from so long ago.
So we utilised the traineeship/apprenticeship schemes in place to foster staff training.  We signed up each of the young people who worked for us full time - both our children and other young people who we employed - into a Level III certificate in Retail Management.  This is equivalent to a TAFE (like a US community college) course.  Not only did this provide the young people with a framework within which all the experience they were getting made sense as part of the greater business structure, it also counted as a study pre-requisite for University enrolment.
Normally children complete a gruelling and stressful year 11 and 12 (called the HSC - Higher School Certificate) which then gives them a score which can be used to get into the standard entry stream of University enrolments. But you can also enter University showing prior studies and this works just as well.  And as the Level III certificate counts as tertiary studies, you're in.  Of course, this depends on the degree the young person wishes to study, but the principle is sound.
I volunteered for my birthday
When Eric was 17 he applied and was accepted to the online open university and they accepted his qualifications.  He worked out that a University degree wasn't for him, but we proved that the Certificate III was sufficient for him to enrol.
Through our store we have now provided two of our children and three other young employees with Level III certificates.  Ariel actually completed a level IV certificate and Diploma in Business management.
Even though the business is basically break even - and a loss in the early years - the net cost was less than school fees for year 11 and 12 and TAFE fees.  And the children earned full time wages.
So now when we are asked what we will do for HSC and qualifying for University we can answer, "We'll buy a business."

19 February 2014

Watering the children

I won't get wet.  I have this umbrella thing.
One very important thing I have learned since moving to the country about 14 years ago is that water is a scarce resource and rain is always good.
Our water supply is supplied by the rain, falling on our house and garage and flowing down the gutters into our water tanks.  The tanks' total capacity is around 90,000 litres (about 24,000 gallons) with which our total water needs are met - drinking, bathing, washing - the lot.
We use water efficient devices and turn off taps when not in use and are generally pretty conscious of our water usage. Even though the worst of the drought is behind us where we live, we continue to monitor the water levels.  So when it rains enough that the water tanks overflow, it is an exciting time.  Especially in the warmer days of Summer.
"Go outside and enjoy the rain!" we tell the children and off they go. We figure the fresh rain and clean air helps all the plants grow and it doesn't do the children any harm at all.

16 February 2014

Playing in the playground - come rain or shine

Ships ahoy!
By getting the children to clean up the playground and put some effort into the thing, they have started to use it more.
Although the skies were overcast this afternoon, I told the younger boys to "Get outside and run around!"
"But it might rain," they replied.
"When has playing in the rain worried you? Get a raincoat or something."
Martin and Zach looked at one another and ran off.
Next thing I knew when I looked outside were the two boys in the top of the fort, with Martin spinning the wheel yelling "Ahoy!" and Zach looking through the spy glass.  In the bucketing rain storm.
Ah.  They can always have a bath when they get back inside. A bit of rain helps them grow.

15 February 2014

Not working. Playing!

This IS playing
Our playground has become a bit neglected over time but it is still there ready for some love and attention.
The other day the children were complaining they had nothing to do.
"Nothing!" said Lana, and that got some action happening.

The children are now looking after the playground.  Today they are weeding and clearing.  The other day James helped and they did a massive cleanup of the clutter that gradually had accumulated over time.  The trailer that is ready for the tip/waste is now quite full.

With a bit more work over the coming weeks it should be back up to standard and we should see the children playing there more often.