Category Archives for Family life

Homeschool mamas: “How I use my Mulberry Planner”

Curious to know how other families use and customise the pages from The Mulberry Planner? We asked some homeschooling + unschooling mothers to share their tips, strategies and ideas.

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The other day we got a request from a new homeschooler: 

"I'd love to hear someone actually sit down and give a good run down about how they use their planner since there are so many options? I'm a planning newbie - I need help!"

Great question, right? So we asked a few mums who have been using the planner to share their ideas, tips and strategies with us, and here's what they said...

Setting out the planner

Leah, NSW, Australia

Leah made a walk-through video to show us exactly how she's used her planner, complete with audio narration. >>

"We have definitely not used all the pages, and even though we're now onto our fourth year of homeschooling, there's an evolving nature to it so I've used the pages that immediately spoke to me in terms of how the rhythm of our days go."

"I like to use the blank Morning Circle templates and customise them for myself."

"I've definitely used the Mama's book list - love that [the planner] has stuff for mums, not just kids."

Leah's video

This video includes Leah's narration. If there's no sound when playing, click the speaker icon.


Kiara, QLD, Australia

"Setting out my planner I put the vision, snapshot of our family, yearly calendar, and lists at the beginning. Next is monthly calendars applicable for the current term. From there I set out week by week starting with notes, then lesson plans, morning circle, records of learning, reflections and notes. I add the nature finds, notes and quotes wherever I feel I want or need them."

Image: Leah Kua


Kama, New Zealand

"I have the homeschool planner in a 3-ring binder. The sections are:

  • Preparation - I include Snapshot of our family, Our Vision, Weekly Schedule, Notes, and Mama Time.
  • Make a list - I use Mama’s Book List, Teacher’s Book List, Kid’s Book List as places to record books I might want to purchase in the future.
  • Resources - I keep notes about resources I’ve seen or copies of articles or book chapters in this section.
  • Term Planning - I use the blank templates to print out my own monthly ‘plans’, then I use Day Notes with the current one on a clipboard to scribble notes throughout the day, and I plan to use the Family Learning Summary at the end of each month."

Image: Kama C

Image: Kama C


Cherie V, Australia

"The Mulberry Planner has made my home education journey so much simpler, and so far, flow much more smoothly.

In a nutshell, here’s how I use it:

It is my diary, planner and journal all-in-one.

  • At the close of each school week, I prep my following week on the ‘plan’, and tabled ‘record of learning’ pages. I store that week’s pages on my clipboard - which sits out, readily available.
  • As we learn, I document our journey on the daily ‘record of learning’ and ‘reflection + notes’ pages. I transfer the weekly pages back into my Term folder once complete, and begin a new week. It’s so easy!
mulberry planner

Image: Cherie V

Here are some photos of our first fortnight, we are currently up to week three and just loving it!

Hope this helps, it’s hard to condense it down when there are just so many good things to say about this planner! This planner ticks the boxes for learning records for my son, myself AND the authorities. And it’s all in one neat, gorgeous space. I found documenting the planning really overwhelming at the beginning. [We're] two and a half years in now, and it’s definitely a joy, not a labour."

Image: Cherie V

Cherie's video

* Cherie was kind enough to create a walkthrough video too (this one just has music, no narration), but is an excellent peek into another homeschooler's layout).


Tara A, TAS, Australia

"So far, really enjoying it and grateful to you for preparing it for us.

  • As a new homeschooling family, we bought the planner in advance of the school year and I spent some time laying up the PDF pages in an order that I felt would suit us best. 
  • Then I had a local printer do the printing for me onto reasonably thick paper and I filed it all in a binder. It's been really good at helping me develop some structure.
  • On a Sunday I get my planning pages out for the coming week and sketch up the week in terms of activities, projects etc. I then fill out the reflection page at the end of the week and file those pages.
  • The circle planning pages have also been brilliant as this is something I am new to and the rigour offered by the exercise of completing the template has been super helpful."

From an unschooler

Kama, New Zealand

"As an unschooler I don’t plan a lot but I like to have all my homeschool materials organised and in one place and the Mulberry Planner has allowed me to do that. 

What I like about this planner is there are so many options and you only need to use what works for your family and your homeschooling situation. The addition of the blank templates means you can fully customise the pages if you want to. And it all looks cohesive and stylish!"


Image: Kama C

How to use lists in your homeschool

Kelly George, QLD, Australia

This homeschool mum with a decade of experience shares how she uses the List templates in her homeschool planning.

"I was very happy to see the new Mulberry Planner has LOTS of list templates, and I’ve been busy filling them out and feeling virtuous about my gorgeous new lists (as opposed to the creased and crumpled bits of repurposed paper I usually use).

I keep a book journal for myself, but I’m using the Mama’s Book List to keep track of the homeschooling-specific books I’d like to read or re-read.

Having a curriculum list means I can keep track of what we’d like to try, what’s good now, what may be good in the future, and what’s not good for us at all. I’ll download and use each sample as we need it, and then either cross it off the list or purchase it."

Kelly wrote a whole article on Using Lists in Homeschooling. Read it below.


How to use Morning Circle pages

Kirstee Raki, QLD, Australia

Kirstee shared how she uses the Morning Circle templates with her morning basket routine.

"Look at your rhythm and find a time suitable for a big, long out breath of activity. Plan out what you are going to do in advance. I like to write it all out on the circle time planning form included in my Mulberry Homeschool Planner. Knowing what you are doing next helps maintain flow. Things fall apart quickly if you have no idea what happens next."

Kirstee wrote a whole article on Morning Circle time. Read it below.


More info on The Mulberry Planner

  • 150+ pages of templates, planning pages, tables, prompts and record sheets to organise your entire year!
  • Created especially for the 2018 January to December Southern Hemisphere school year
  • Easily adaptable for one child or multiple children
  • Designed for easy printing with room for hole punch and ring binder on left margin
  • Ultimate flexibility with multiple layout options, blank title pages, DIY borders and personalised customisation tips.
  • Handy quick print and colour-light options for the pages you'll print most frequently (daily notes, lesson plans etc.)

Want to share your process to help other mums?

Email your tips, strategies and photos (optional) our editor Grace, hello@themulberryjournal.com

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Homeschool mamas: "How we use the Mulberry Journal"

4 ways to inspire your children about cultural food traditions

Do you want your children to grow more global-mindedness for people from other cultures and races? Cooking a steaming bowl of Pho is a start...

By Mandy dos Santos | Little People Nutrition

Cultural food traditions are unique in that they embody the rich history and heritage of the people who cook the dishes. In my experience, if you love to eat a particular culture's cuisine, you are more likely to extend compassion and understanding towards them as people too. 

In a world fragmented by racism and prejudices, now is the time to harness the opportunity of multiculturalism and internationalism to bring people closer together. We can help our children connect and appreciate cultures abroad and of their own neighbours.

A perfect way to foster cultural appreciation through food. We all know that an easy way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.

There are many ways we can expose children to cultural food traditions, here are a few.  

Cooking traditional dishes

Cooking is a life skill. It is the simplest of tools to arm our children with so they can cook and nourish themselves with fresh whole foods, now, and as they grow.

It is also a perfect gateway to start a conversation with children about why certain cultures eat particular foods and how the dishes came to be.

There are some brilliant cooking resources for children. On Booktopia you can find a book series of Food and Cooking Around the World by Rosemary Hankin. With her books, you can explore China, Mexico, India and Italy, all from your kitchen bench.

There is also a resource I have created for my own Little People Nutrition, a segment called Little People Cooking videos which are perfect for little fingers. From a cultural perspective, you could hop off to Japan and make Sushi Sandwiches or perhaps Vietnam and make some Rice Paper Rolls.

Visiting supermarkets and restaurants

Getting out into your community and connecting with people from various heritages is a beautiful way to be able to understand cultural traditions including food ones.

Visit your neighbours, exchange recipes, discuss what they are eating. And if you do not have neighbours or communities close by, go to the local restaurants and even supermarkets with unique international foods and ingredients.

And if you live remotely and you don’t have the restaurants or supermarkets with international cuisines, you can often buy shelf staple items online through portals such as this Indian online grocer or perhaps like this Brazilian food importer

There are also international food boxes popping up whereby each month they deliver a box full of ingredients to your door based on a rotating list of countries. Meet the World is a recent company doing just this. 

Reading stories together

For younger children, picture books are perfect conversation openers of any topic, especially food and multiculturalism.

There are a few simple rhyming board books for the youngest of children with gorgeous mouth-watering 3D illustrations of food. Amy Wilson Sanger has a range on Amazon which includes, Japan, China, India and Mexican food stories. 

I have also written a book which explores the connection of food, the family table and culture, “At my family table”. It is perfect for pre-schoolers and early primary schoolers.  Understanding that all families just want to eat together, like your own family brings a sense of delight and empathy with children. There are lovely illustrations of the children and their family tables to excite young eyes.

Documentaries and photo journals

Although screen time is often limited in my household,  there are some terrific cooking resources available for free these days.

There is a beautiful and confronting photo essay online which depicts families from around the world and what they eat in a week, all laid out in front of them. This particular article comes from a more extensive book called Hungry Planet, What the World Eats. It's a fantastic resource for upper primary - high school children and one which could provoke a multitude of discussions.

There are some fascinating documentaries for older children as well, in particular, this series on Street Food around the world. The visual delight is incredibly engaging for children and morbidly-captivating as they watch squeamish foods eaten.

Or perhaps you could delve into some traditional videos such as a day in the life of a rice farmer, or how a local island community fish?

Enjoy the adventure of exploring the wonderful world of food through the eyes of people from around this beautiful planet of ours.

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Mandy dos Santos

Contributor


Mandy is a mum to three and a nutritionist and food scientist. She simply loves food and if she is not in the kitchen, making a mess, she is with her family at the beach or in the bush. Mandy has recently published her first children's picture book 'At My Family Table'.

How your personality type impacts your homeschool

Ever played the Instagram comparison game with homeschool mamas you follow? Kara Anderson reflects on how knowing your personality type can help you understand everything from relationships, to work, to how you homeschool - and maybe help cut yourself some comparison slack too!

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When I was in high school, I decided that I needed to like coffee.

My friends had started liking coffee. A few even worked at coffee shops before Starbucks came to our town, and so they would make me coffee drinks with syrups and whipped cream, and I would try to enjoy them.

But coffee and I have a deep misunderstanding.

I say, “Hey – how about a little wake-up boost?” and coffee says, “Hold on to your flipping hat.”

To really drive the point home, coffee also makes my stomach hurt like I swallowed a handful of forks.

So I resigned myself to be a tea girl.

Still, for years I would think that maybe if I tried hard enough, I could like coffee. I would order a Peppermint Mocha because I saw one on Instagram and it looked so festive and delicious.

I’ve never grocery shopped while high on Angel Dust, but I can only think that a normal person on Angel Dust is me on a tall Peppermint Mocha. #cartrage

So coffee and I are done before we ever got started. It would have been such a good ride, I think, until I jumped out of a 30th story window thinking I could fly …

Personality explains a LOT

I’ve just returned from a weekend hanging out with fellow homeschoolers and bloggers, and I can’t tell you how many times the conversation turned to personality types.

We talked Myers-Briggs and The Enneagram, and how knowing your personality type can help you understand everything from relationships, to work, to how you homeschool.

Finally, I felt like someone understood what I was faced with here at home.

I don’t mean that to sound negative, but I had never seen it spelt out clearly for me before.

And that is when I first thought of the coffee.

So often, I am trying to force things here that work for other people, but make my heart race and my stomach hurt.

Personality is deeply ingrained. We know that. 

And yet, home educating parents often forget to consider their own needs when thinking about what is going to work.

No matter what personality we have, here’s what it comes down to:

If we are the solo parent at home (or caring for) our kids at any given moment, then we are in charge. We set the rhythm or schedule, and we make the rules.

We are the bosses, applesauces.

In theory.

Immediately, as an INFJ, I run into a problem: my personality type is that which means I factor in everyone else’s emotions into every daily decision.

So I might wake up with a plan, but if a child awakes with a sore throat or a rough-night-of-sleep hangover, that plan goes out the window almost instantly.

I used to think that was a failing. Only after learning more about my personality did I learn that it’s just part of who I am, so of course it’s going to be how I parent, and how I home educate.

Still, this is hand’s down my single biggest challenge in homeschooling. But it’s not everyone’s.

What I find tricky, you'll find easy

If I tell a friend who has a different personality type that another family member’s “rough day,” derails me, she might wonder why I don’t just tell that child to suck it up, and hand them a worksheet.

(I also can’t do worksheets.)

But another mother’s hardest part of her day might be something I would never imagine, like noticing emotional cues in her kids.

(ALL I DO is notice emotional cues in my kids.)

The above describes another type of introverted homeschool mama – in fact, we’re just one letter off - and yet, we couldn’t be more different.

Growing up teaches us that not all things are for all people – we decide that we are just firmly anti-Brussel sprout, or we are a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or want all politicians to go back to powdered wigs and horse teeth.

We figure ourselves out, which I think takes about 40 years.

But even once we decide that we will never cut bangs again, or that corn in guacamole is a crime, we are tempted all the time by other people, who seem happy and together.

What we have to remember, though, is that those people are not us.

Some of us naturally need more order, and some of us die inside without creativity.

So here's what I suggest for you, homeschool mama:

First, find out a bit about your personality type.

Take a Myers-Briggs or Enneagram test, or anything else that doesn’t ask for a lot of money or sound like a cult, and then study a bit. Learn more about what you need, and what is bound to make you nuts.

And embrace it. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We’re all unique. And it’s OK to make sure that homeschooling works for us as much as it works for our kids.

Remember: Your kids want a happy parent.

Second, find people who inspire you to be more like yourself.

That doesn’t mean you can’t keep other people in your Instagram feed or follow them on Facebook, it just means that if you are a mom who struggles with projects, don’t fill your feed with only project-based homeschoolers.

AND, when you see another mama doing a project, think to yourself that that’s very nice and keep scrolling.

Note: If you are a sensitive soul, and if you’ve been struggling lately, it might be good to unfollow some folks temporarily. It’s OK, you can bring them back into the fold later when you are feeling more confident.

Third, find real-life people or opportunities to fill the gaps.

If reading aloud makes you itch and squirm, check out library story times or invite Grandpa over once a week.

If you want your kids to have beautiful birthday cakes that express their personalities, find a baker in your community and let him or her do what they do best.

And then, be grateful for those people. That’s all you need to do.

You don’t need to beat yourself up that you can’t be everything to everyone.
You are not Taco Night.​​​

But you are you, and believe me – it’s enough. 

This post originally appeared on Kara's blog and has been republished here with permission.

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Kara Anderson

Contributor

 

Kara is a homeschool mom, writer, tea drinker, yoga-doer and girl with overdue books. She's also co-host of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.

How to begin Circle Time with your preschooler

Is your toddler itching to begin ‘real schoolwork’ like their older siblings? Maybe you want to create more daily rhythm? If so, why not try Circle Time?

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By Kirstee Raki | thiswholehome.com

Do you have little ones itching to begin ‘real schoolwork’ like their older brothers and sisters?

Or is your eldest coming to the stage where they need a little more structure to their days?

Maybe it’s you who needs that little something to relieve any feelings of ‘not doing enough’ or not knowing how to ‘fill your day’ with little ones. I know I’ve been there.

There are lots of reasons why you may feel like starting circle time with your preschool age children is just what your home needs. Read on to find out just what circle time involves at this age and how to make it work in your home.

Let’s begin with the basics and answer the question…

What is 'circle time'?

At its simplest, circle time is merely coming together to have fun, usually while we begin laying the foundations for future academic work. It’s a chance for your child to learn a few of the basics, like how to count or sing a children’s song. It provides a touchstone to the day and helps us as mamas to be mindful of including music and movement in our child’s day.

In a group setting, it may look like the mat time you remember from mornings at kindergarten or resemble rhyme time at your local library. At home, unless you're blessed with a tribe of smalls, it will probably look a little different. But it retains those elements of the child following directions from a trusted adult, building their concentration and practicing a variety of skills in a way that is fun and age appropriate.

Now before I go into the 'how' of circle time with preschoolers, let me just say that there is absolutely no reason why you have to do circle time at home. In a home with a strong rhythm you will already have many anchors to your day in place (and if you don’t, take a minute right now to check out this post on how to establish a rhythm in your home. It’s for mamas too, not just for our kids!).

There are plenty of ways to practice all of the skills necessary at this age that don’t involve circle time at all. Cooking together, singing together as you help your child dress, counting out plates as you set the table… there are myriad ways to learn the skills you typically practice in circle time. Only include circle time in your home because you want to, because you and your child both enjoy it.

If you think that you and your little one will enjoy having this special 'Mummy and Me' time, here’s how you go about it.

5 steps to a magical circle time with your toddler

Step 1: Look at your rhythm and find a time suitable for a big, long out breath of activity. Pencil circle time into this space. You want a time when your child isn’t tired or hungry and when you don’t have a million other things to do.

Step 2: Plan out what you are going to do in advance. I like to write it all out on the circle time planning form included in my Mulberry Homeschool Planner. Knowing what you are doing next helps maintain flow. Things fall apart quickly if you have no idea what happens next.

How I use the Mulberry Homeschool Planner

Step 3: Gather together any materials you need for your planned activities. Perhaps you want to use some musical instruments or dance with play silks (I like these ones, but we also have a collection of fabric offcuts that are wildly popular with my three-year-old!).

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Step 4: Choose a song or rhyme to open your circle, and another to close it. Keeping these the same every time helps your child make the transition in and out of circle time easier. My daughter loves it when we light a candle for our opening verse. Find little ways to bring some magic into your day.

Step 5: Get down on the floor with your child and have some fun!

It's that simple. But if you’re like me, when I’m trying something new I need specifics.

So here they are…

Designing toddler circle time

When I am designing a circle time there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Questions to ask before you begin

Firstly, how old is my child and are my expectations reasonable for her age? 

I want to create a circle that is the right length for her age and development. Anything more will just lead to frustration on my part and hers too. I know as we move into the kindergarten years that I want my circles to tell a story and to help her develop her concentration, but for now, I want to provide 15 minutes of one-on-one time in our day where my daughter is my sole focus.

Secondly, what do I want to achieve with circle time? 

We are Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers and as part of our philosophy, we don’t include structured academics before age 6 or 7. So that isn’t my goal. Instead, at this age I am looking to begin laying the foundations for future literacy and numeracy skills, to give a little direction in developing fine and gross motor skills, but mostly to have fun and provide another touchstone to our day.

Finally, what don’t I want to do? 

I don’t want to make this a chore, for her or for myself. I don’t want to step outside of what is age appropriate, both in regards to content and length, and I don’t want this to feel like busy work. I want us to have fun!

Circle time with my 3-year-old

What elements do I include?

  • I try to have my circle times cover one or two activities each for developing fine motor, gross motor, numeracy and literacy skills. 
  • I choose nursery rhymes, finger plays, songs with actions and sometimes a short story or two.
  • By being mindful of which songs and rhymes I choose, I can get in rhyming practice (one of many literacy skills we cover) and counting practice (numeracy skills) with no effort at all. 
  • If I include one finger play and one song with full body actions I have also managed to add fine and gross motor skill development.

Which stories are best?

You can find plenty to get you started with a quick Google search. Or maybe begin with those you can remember loving as a child. There is something to be said for the classics; Twinkle Twinkle, 5 Little Speckled Frogs, Mary Had a Little Lamb, 5 Little Ducks. I’m sure if you think back to your kindy days you will realise you know heaps of appropriate songs and finger plays!

You can also add in a short story or two. I tend to keep books for quiet time in the evening and instead tell stories during circle time. Often these stories have accompanying hand actions which my daughter will copy, or I tell the story using finger puppets or other small props I have made or found about the house. String plays are another fun way to act out a story (and are great fine motor practice too!). Unless they are particularly breakable props, I like to leave them out later as a play prompt.

When you should stop

Most importantly, we have fun and build a connection. If these two things aren’t happening, STOP!

That’s right. STOP IMMEDIATELY. There is no reason why you have to do circle time at home so if it’s not working don’t torture yourself. Perhaps it was an off day and you can try again tomorrow. Maybe it doesn’t suit either of your personalities, in which case find other ways to build these skills and times of connection into your day. Or maybe your child just isn’t ready to begin circle time, and there is nothing wrong with that! Remember the suggestions up above and try those instead.

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Find a pattern and stick​​​​ to it

One other factor to remember is that children this age thrive on repetition. I know, I know. It can feel tedious for us adults, but there is something to be said for holding the same circle time repeatedly for a period of days or weeks (depending on the child). At this age, you may even like to repeat the same song or rhyme a couple of times in each circle, particularly when you are introducing a new one. When it does come time to change up your circle, don’t forget to keep the opening and closing the same to help with the transition.

But what about if you have older children as well?

Circle time for junior grades

While all of this is happening, my older child is busy with his solo table work. Working alone while his sister is occupied with me helps him get a little peace to concentrate and helps him develop independence and self-direction with his school work. He has enjoyed many years of circle time at home but is moving past it now. Independent work is an excellent substitute for him so long as I remember to build moments of movement and connection into his day elsewhere. If you have a child in the lower grades (usually up to about third or perhaps fourth grade) I recommend reading this post for hints on how to make circle time work for older children.

Another option is to employ your older child as a helper in holding circle time for a younger sibling. Many children feel significant when called on to help in this manner and it also helps to foster sibling relationships.

Above all else, look to your children for what they need in this moment and forget about what everyone else is doing. This is your home, do what works for you!

This article originally appeared on This Whole Home and has been republished with permission.

The Mulberry Planner includes printable Morning Circle templates.

More info here.

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Kirstee Raki

Kirstee Raki

Contributor

Kirstee is mum to two from QLD, collector of chickens, a terrible housekeeper, a no-nonsense country-style cook, lover of mason jars, passable vegetable gardener, holistic homeschool educator, to-do list fanatic and bush wanderer. She blogs at thiswholehome.com and shares advice and encouragement on implementing a holistic model of education in your home, as well as practical tips to stay sane as a homeschool mama. Instagram - @this.whole.home

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Learning without boundaries: Deschooling ourselves as parents

So often we talk about deschooling our children, but what can deschooling look like for parents, and why is it necessary when beginning homeschooling? Crystal Wiley shares her journey.

By Crystal Wiley

This article was originally featured on Simple + Free and has been republished with permission.

When we began homeschooling almost two years ago, I never would have guessed how much I’d learn about my children, my husband, my family, my community and myself as a result…

To start, for us, homeschooling meant completely deschooling ourselves as parents.

It means removing all the negative thoughts and emotions we’ve carried around with us regarding the conventional schooling we received. This included both my husband and I.

Usually deschooling means throwing everything out the door and starting over.

This was true for our family, but deschooling also meant revisiting how I specifically felt as a child pushed through class after class in which I had no desire in attending.

We have to understand we as a species never truly retains information gathered due to force or coercion from teachers, no matter how well-intentioned they are.

For it wasn’t until midway through my college experience I realised what I enjoyed.

Photo: Crystal Wiley

The passion I have to offer my kids an interest-led learning environment flows in waves as I continue to grapple with a slew of mixed emotions. I feel like I could have spent a more significant chunk of my young life learning what I was passionate about, instead of sitting for hours and hours at a desk doing my best to stay awake in the midst of uninspiring information.

It could have been inspiring if it was something I was interested in, of course.

I’m convinced you do not need to be a philosopher or a scientist to understand a few simple truths...

Real learning happens when someone is passionate and open-minded.

Real learning happens when someone has time to explore.

Real learning happens when you feel safe and loved, not exposed and judged.

Real learning happens when you have the ability to go deeper into an idea and not be told: “we’ve come to the end of this idea and now we’re moving on to the next.”

Real learning needs no boundaries.

How do I refer to “real learning?” To me, it simply means knowledge well-kept, not discarded shortly after a test.

Additionally, I aspire to offer my children the conviction to experience the joy of critical thinking and deep exploration of parts of the world they’re interested in without society’s confines and push and pull by homeschooling… something I struggled with immensely.

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And since no one knows what our future holds, I feel our children innately do – they were built that way. They were created in God’s image which means they intuitively know how they’re supposed to fit into the community. They know what their bodies need to do. They know what they need to learn. They know, planted like little seeds, how they’re supposed to spend the majority, if not all of their time here on Earth.

Much like a flower knows exactly how to grow, given the correct environment.

Our kids may not express their desires verbally but instead subconsciously, if they listen to their heart – given the opportunity to listen to that still, small voice whispering in their ear what path to take – they’ll follow it unceasingly.

Now, if your children attend a traditional school this article is not an attempt to shame you as a parent. I know many homeschool families who shift in and out of schools as well, so this is in no way directed to those who choose a different path. In fact, it’s possible to offer your children the opportunity to follow their dreams, it will just look much different for you considering your time with them is much more limited. Please never doubt your abilities or intentions as a parent – for this unshakeable persistence to be a better parent is at the core unconditionally loving your children!

Regardless, a few things in our future are certain whether your kids attend a traditional school or not. Our children will need to know how to be:

1) Adaptable – our world and the information in it changes constantly. We have to learn to adapt.

2) Limitless – knowing they have the power to make a difference in our vast world.

3) Self-Empowering – not allowing friends or society to tell them they are doing it wrong.

4) In Touch – with who they are as a human being and who God created them to be.

5) Steadfast – never giving up because too many people in life they know will do just that.

For me, it took a good 25-plus years to realise what I was called to do. And I’m still learning every day alongside my kids how good it feels to follow my dreams and surrender to the glorious unknown.

"The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know." // Albert Einstein

And it took me having children to realise my offspring deserve a chance to find for themselves exactly what they’re meant to do early on in life and then given the encouragement, resources and environments to pursue these ideas.

No gold stars, prodding or pushing or bribing necessary.

--

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." – ALBERT EINSTEIN

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Crystal Wiley​​​

Blogger at Simple + Free

Crystal Wiley is wife to an exceptionally gifted and patient husband with whom she's owned and sold several companies, and a mother to two adventure-seeking children in the Pacific Northwest of America. She loves simplifying through minimalism and slowing down to enjoy each season in life all while focusing on God's big plans for her family's eclectic, interest-led homeschool. Depending on the day, you can find her hiking, snowboarding, camping, mountain biking, reading a plethora of books (to herself and her children) or writing about whatever strikes her heart.

The Start Homeschooling Summit is back again for 2018!

If you're new to homeschooling or looking for something to refresh you, then you'll love soaking up all the wisdom and ideas in the FREE workshops from the Start Homeschooling Summit. It's coming up in February - mark it in your calendar!

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By Grace Koelma | Co-Founder of The Mulberry Journal

While we’ve all been laying by the pool and having BBQs (or playing in the snow for our Northern Hemisphere friends!), our friend Kelly George has been working like a trooper over these past few months to bring an amazing series of workshops for this year's Start Homeschool Summit. And can we just say that the line up this year is seriously AWESOME?!

Did we mention it's FREE?

Yep. The best part is you can sign up for FREE and watch all the workshops live between the 19th and 24th February 2018. All 34 of them. Phew! Time to organise a babysitter, and break out the dark chocolate and fancy tea...

Get ready for serious #homeschoolinspo

Of the 34 upcoming talks by amazing homeschooling and unschooling mamas from around the world, here are some we're really looking forward to.

Learning in the Real World: How to Help Them Thrive with Pam Laricchia

9 Essentials of a Charlotte Mason Education for the Early Years with Meghann Dibrell

Why every family should have unlimited video games with Penelope Trunk

Science for Mothers who don't like science with Kendra Fletcher

Ok, so to revise...

Step 1: sign up here

And you're done. #homeschoolinsposorted 👌

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*This post contains affiliate links. We only ever recommend products we 100% back at absolutely no extra cost to you.

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10 tips to make reading books aloud more enjoyable

If reading aloud isn’t something that comes naturally in your family, these 10 tips will show you how read-aloud family time can be fun AND painless!

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By Kirstee Raki | This Whole Home

Reading aloud. It’s one of those things we know as homeschool mums we are supposed to do. Not only that, but homeschool bloggers everywhere would have us believe that we are also supposed to enjoy it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if reading aloud isn’t something that comes naturally. 

I'm a huge fan of the read-aloud, and even I confess to not always finding it easy or *gasp* enjoyable to read to my children. But I do have a few tricks that help make it more fun and a lot easier to accomplish on a daily basis. 

Tip 1: Choose a book you actually want to read

It's hard to make yourself read aloud if you just can't stand the book. I flat out refuse to read twaddle to my kids. I don't mind so much if they choose to read it on their own time. Although I encourage them to read widely, I'm not going to torture myself with insipid characters and weak storylines when there are so many amazing books out there! 

I once heard someone say that the mark of a true classic children's book is one that you will love reading well into your adult years. 

Try choosing a book you loved as a child or one that comes highly recommended by another mama and go from there. If you start a book and you find yourself dreading read-aloud time, ditch the book and choose another one. There are too many wonderful books out there to waste your time on the so-so ones. Your kids can always read it to themselves if they love it.

Tip 2: Choose a book your kids want to hear

It is so frustrating to sit down to read to your children and they just don't want to listen to the story. It can feel like a rejection of you as the parent when they complain or misbehave during what is supposed to be a special time as homeschoolers. Listen up, mama. You're kids aren't rejecting you, they are rejecting the book.

 Get smart about your book choices. Books that are too young won't hold their interest, and books that are too far above their comprehension level go in one ear and out the other, leaving the child feeling bored and frustrated at best, stupid at worst. 

Choose books just above your child's reading level with subject matter s/he is interested in. You can move towards more difficult books later but before anything else, you want read-aloud time to become a loved activity.

Tip 3: Schedule read-aloud time for the start of the day

There are a hundred and one tasks to do every day, and that's before you've even started lessons. It can be tempting to dismiss reading aloud as something fun but non-essential and then bump it from your to-do list. 

Worse still, if you haven't come to enjoy reading aloud yet, you might be deliberately running out of time. Caught you! But seriously, please don't leave this one off the list. 

Reading aloud is a fantastic bonding experience, helps to develop a child's love of literature, increases their vocabulary and exposes them to a wider variety of books than they might otherwise choose on their own. 

Try making read aloud time first up each day so that it doesn't get missed in the busy-ness of the school day. And if you don't really enjoy it (yet!) well at least you've got it over and done with and can move on to things you like better 😉

Tip 4: Keep your book with you at all times

Just like reading first thing makes sure you get this done, keeping your books handy is a big help too. Leave your current book on the table, in a basket beside the couch, carry it in your handbag. If you see it, you will remember it, and it's more likely to get read. There is something a little magical about being able to whip out your book and read it at the beach or by a waterfall. And who doesn't want a little more magic in their lives?

Tip 5: Have realistic expectations

I have hinted at this one already. Choosing a heavy tome and expecting to sit down and read it for an hour is not going to end well. You need to be realistic about what you can get done and what you want to achieve from it. 

If you are expecting a stellar narration every time you read a novel together, your kids aren't going to want to do this. If you are reading a book just because you think you should, this isn't going to happen.

If your schedule is jam-packed and you are trying to add in an hour of reading aloud every day, you're going to fall off the bandwagon pretty soon. Be honest about what you can do, and don't expect too much from yourself and your kids. At least not in the beginning.

Tip 6: Start slow and build up

This one follows on from the last. If you have never read aloud before, or at least nothing longer than a 'That's not my...' book with your toddler, you probably aren't going to manage an entire chapter of the Hobbit in one sitting. And neither are your kids! 

Start with just ten minutes, or perhaps even just a page or two, and slowly build up the time you sit together to read. Reading aloud is a skill that needs to be learnt, so let yourself learn at your own pace.

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Tip 7: Let little bodies wriggle around

Remember how I said you need to keep your expectations realistic? Well, let me make it clear that it is not realistic to expect your kids to keep perfectly still and perfectly quiet while you read. There is definitely going to be a certain amount of fidgeting going on. Or perhaps even hanging upside down on the couch. So long as they are paying attention, don't sweat it. 

As adults, we tend to assume that a child moving around is a child who isn't listening, but children often manage to process more when they aren't concentrating on sitting still. Set some parameters that you are comfortable with and let them be. Lots of children like to keep their hands busy while they listen so laying out paper and crayons is often a good way to go.

Tip 8: Get chatty

Reading books together isn't just an academic activity, it's a bonding experience. Chat about the books together. Ask them what their favourite part was, or which character they didn't like. What would they do in the hero’s place? If your inner school mum voice is asking you what the value of this is, you can reassure her that this is a great way to gauge and develop comprehension skills 😉

Tip 9: Make it lively

Reading in monotone is boring. It's boring to do and it's boring to listen to. Have fun, get silly, launch yourself into character. Try out a few voices, read with emphasis, take dramatic pauses. It may feel forced at first, but you will soon get used to it. You don't need to go overboard, but you do want to make your reading enjoyable to listen to. If you need a little guidance, try listening to an audio book and mimicking the way the voice actor reads.

Tip 10: But most important of all…

Everything else aside, the most important part of reading aloud is to enjoy the time with your little ones. Some of my fondest memories of reading with my children are when they have climbed into bed with me and handed me a novel to read, or snuggled in beside me on the couch. Enjoy the time together, and the rest will eventually sort itself out.

But what if you still aren’t enjoying reading aloud?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Just head over to This Whole Home to find my tips on what to do when you don’t like reading aloud.

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Kirstee Raki

Kirstee Raki

Contributor

Kirstee is mum to two from QLD, collector of chickens, a terrible housekeeper, a no-nonsense country-style cook, lover of mason jars, passable vegetable gardener, holistic homeschool educator, to-do list fanatic and bush wanderer. She blogs at thiswholehome.com and shares advice and encouragement on implementing a holistic model of education in your home, as well as practical tips to stay sane as a homeschool mama. Instagram - @this.whole.home

We’ve never seen a worldschooling family travel quite like this…

This family of storytellers are giving their kids a global education, and creating something pretty amazing along the way to share with other families.

Enjoying a walk around crystal clear Hintersteiner lake in Scheffau, Austria

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Interview with Tania and Matt Landin

Can you introduce your family, where you're from and what you're currently doing?

Tania and Matt (the parents), Maya (14), Mirabel (11), Lacey (8) and Elsie (our 4-year-old labradoodle)

We’re a full-time travelling/storytelling family on an 18-month adventure around Europe. Currently, we’re exploring Cornwall England enjoying the mild autumn and cream tea.

In June 2016 — after years of late night “what if” conversations — we quit our jobs, sold all our possessions and left Portland, Oregon to start our own company — Around the World Stories. We create original audio stories to teach kids about other countries and cultures, and we write the stories as we travel around Europe.

Hiking in the Austrian Alps wearing traditional dirndl dresses

Why did you decide to travel the world and write stories along the way?

We’d spent several years overseas, both before and after the kids were born, and learning about other cultures became a natural passion for us. We’ve always loved bringing other traditions into our own home, and as parents we think it’s vital for kids to have a broader view of the world and an understanding of different cultures.

When we moved back to the US, we didn’t find anything that really approached teaching about other countries in a way that was fun and memorable. We realised that engaging, fun stories were the next best thing to an actual foreign experience,  so we came up with the concept of writing original stories about other countries and turning them into audio stories. We absolutely love  writing and sharing the stories with other families! 

Breakfast in southern France overlooking the foothills of the Pyrenees

Which countries have you been to already? Can you some up each in a few words?

Germany - outdoor cafes and beer gardens, beautiful mountains and idyllic small towns

France - croissants that melt in your mouth, amazing lavender fields, Monet, Degas and that cool metal tower 😉

Denmark - positive Danish mentality, Hygge, kind people and the smell of cinnamon rolls everywhere in the morning

Czech Republic - magical

Slovenia -  beautiful countryside - definitely want to come back

Croatia - gorgeous coast, but a bit warm in July in an RV

Switzerland - one the scariest drives of my life over the mountains at night during a snowstorm. The hikes made up for it. 

Austria - The mountains, Vienna and the Danube all spectacular. Stunning views everywhere.

England - amazing cliffs and caves in Cornwall and endless wonderful places to see in London

The Netherlands - Van Gogh, biking and seas of tulip fields in April

Spain - Barcelona is so full of life, loved Granada’s flamenco shows, delicious tapas and Alhambra.

Portugal - surprised by the rich history and culture. Promised ourselves we’d come back.

Liechtenstein - Tiny. Bought a keychain to prove we were there.

Andorra - Great skiing in the Pyrenees. And another keychain.

Gibraltar (albeit also UK) - Mugged by a monkey.

Worldschooling at the H.C. Andersen Museum in Odense, Denmark

Your husband left a secure job as a diplomat to travel the world. What do you think the act of chasing your dreams is teaching your children?

It was a huge leap of faith for us. One of the great side-effects was how it has positively affected the kids’ ideas about their own life and potential. Particularly as things have worked out, it’s such an awesome feeling being able to show our kids a lesson about taking chances and following dreams. I can say that their dreams have gotten even bigger since we left. 

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What have been your favourite stories unearthed so far?

We’re not actually collecting stories, but creating our own original stories. That being said, many of our stories are based on our experiences on the trip. Two of our stories about France were inspired by a tiny French town in Provence. We ate in a plaza, watched locals play pétanque and saw the sun set over the lavender fields. So many of our characters are also based on people we’ve met. It’s a way to keep the stories authentic and rich in their descriptions.

The best kind of 'screen time' along a path in Nesslau, Switzerland

What drew you to Europe for this kind of journey? 

My mother is German and my father is Czech, so Europe has always been a second home for me. There is just so much here in Europe that we wanted to show our girls and experience as a family. One of the big advantages to travelling in Europe for us is how easy it is to jump from one beautiful country (and culture) to another. Just a couple hours drive can bring you to a very different culture — new food, language, traditions and an entirely different way of thinking. We love experiencing that. We’ve biked and even hiked across international borders.

Biking through the vineyards along the Danube River

How are your travels working in with homeschooling your girls? Do you have more of an unschooling or structured approach?

It’s been wonderful for us and the kids. As far as the approach, just the act of travelling and being exposed to so many new ideas really lends itself towards unschooling. It’s been one amazing field trip! We’ve found that, for us, it works best with an open mind and flexible schedule.  There’s just so much to learn everywhere — history, language, food, traditions. Getting outside as much as possible and meeting new people is a must. Our kids have learned more this year, even with little book work, than we even imagined. 

Listening to Around the World Stories in Garmisch, Germany

What's next for your travelling adventures? Do you have any plans of when to go home?

Right now we’re plotting our next big story-writing trip. We’ve not yet decided where to go, but it’s a frequent dinner conversation and everyone (minus the dog) gets a say.

Where can people find out more about you? 

To find out more about us, visit us at aroundtheworldstories.com or connect with us on Facebook or Instagram.

Try the audio stories for FREE!

We offer our 52-story Europe set and our 6-story Artists Around the World set. Until the end of Jan 2018, Mulberry readers can use the coupon code MULBERRY20 to save 20% on either of our story sets. Or for a one-month free trial of our Europe Story-a-week subscription, readers can use the code MULBERRYMONTH on our website.

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The Ultimate Guide to Gameschooling

So you know about homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling. Maybe you've heard of hackschooling or gamification... So what on earth is gameschooling? Cat Timms has the ultimate (and we mean MEGA!) guide for you AND a bonus download!

Children playing in water happily

Words and images by Cat Timms | LightHeart Photography

Gameschooling is a term whose origin cannot be traced, but it has been around for a while. It has been more recently popularised into homeschool culture by absolute legend and lovely lady, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, educational psychologist and homeschooling mama of gifted kiddos, of My Little Poppies fame, who also created the international Facebook group Gameschool Community. Her blog is a literal treasure trove and is referred to several times.

In the homeschool community, gameschooling means to use tabletop gaming (board games and card games) in an intentional way, as part of your personal homeschool culture and educational philosophy. Rather than playing games occasionally just for fun, gameschooling families see them as essential to their homeschool daily or weekly for a variety of reasons (including fun!).

Let’s talk about the why, how, what and troubleshoot some issues.

Why gameschool?

  • Games are fun. I have a few overarching personal philosophies for my life, and one of them is “If it’s not fun, why bother?”. I can see the strict homeschool mamas rolling their eyes, “But life isn’t all fun!”. No, it isn’t. But we’re adults now; we can let them be little. We can make almost anything fun, or at least add an element of fun. We make chores into games; a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, as it were. Your kid doesn’t find games fun? Read on, I have a section for you coming up.
  • Games create positive family culture. One of my main motivations for game playing now is to create a thing we all do together, that will carry through the teen years (which my husband and I both had terrible times with our parents and it scares us, lol) and into adulthood. I like to imagine 20-somethings coming home for dinner with a partner and sticking around for a game afterwards. I’ll let you know in 20 years how it worked out Read this by One Board Family too.
  • Good games exercise your brain. Puzzling over strategies, watching your opponents or team members to figure out what to do next to get to a desired goal, problem solving, logical thought processes and more.
  • Games build interpersonal skills. Graciously winning and losing, discussing ideas, contributing as or to a group, taking turns, waiting etc. are all parts of playing tabletop games which are valuable lifeskills.
  • Games will teach actual things if you so desire. I’m not that into games always being super educational, though we certainly have our fair share. There are lots of well-designed tabletop games, also called hobby games, that happen to be educational as an excellent game (and I will discuss those later) and games you can get that are designed to be educational. So, if formal learning is your thing, games have you covered.
  • Things learnt joyfully are best remembered. Not much explanation required here. It just is.

How do you gameschool?

This is asked ALL THE TIME in the gameschool groups and there isn’t a simple answer to that question, because everyone homeschools differently. If you believe in teaching and curriculums, then games will supplement that and add some fun. If you unschool, then you might research games you think your kids might like, then show them the ones that fit your budget etc and see if they’re interested, and games would be the most formal thing you do, probably.

We personally are secular and eclectic here. We do very little formal work, only in English and Maths, and we do a lot of excursions (field trips), workshops, classes and play dates. I encourage my kids to be open and interested in everything. We try a lot, and what doesn’t work for us we leave but we try not to say no to things for no reason, particularly if they’re new.

This adventurous spirit carries into gaming. We’ll try any game! We play 2-4 games a day. I usually choose one for an educational purpose and the rest are child-led. They often suggest we play a game, then choose one themselves. They’re at very different gaming levels currently which is challenging, and I have a whole section for you toddler mamas coming up, don’t worry!

The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal

Haven't got time to read it all now? No worries.

Cat Timms has kindly offered a free eBook download for Mulberry readers. Pop in your email below and we'll send it over to you!

Choose the time you play games carefully, particularly when learning new games.

While “Family Game Night” is great in theory, maybe it needs to be at breakfast because tired children do not the best gamers make. We do play games after dinner, but only ones the kids know really well, plus they’re experienced gamers now. We often play games around mealtimes.

Because we don’t have a schedule, I’m not super helpful here. I know that homeschool mamas who do have a school schedule do things like:

  • Have one game be a focus for the week and play it each day
  • Use a game to start or conclude a lesson, to introduce or reinforce an idea or concept
  • Use games as quizzes
  • Use games as part of a unit study
  • Use games to teach one subject (maths is exceptionally popular)
  • Play games at the start or end of their school day
  • Ask teens to teach/play kindergartners games while they work with their in-between-age kids
  • Do game afternoons particularly with other homeschool friends

In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.

What games do you play?

Oh, brother. The dreaded question. This gets posted multiple times a day in the gameschool group. The answer is “infinity times infinity, pass the coffee/wine/chocolate.” Seriously. It’s not a bad question; it’s a great question! It’s just that there are a million answers. We could be here all day. Let’s start the beginning:

  1. How old are your kids and what stages are they at? Games can be great for various types of neurodivergent kids to learn or practice things, particularly for gifted kids to flex their muscles. There is a game for EVERYTHING. Also important is their reading level as some games require independent reading.
  2. What are their interests? I would always start with games you are confident your kids will be interested in, before introducing games you want them to play.
  3. How much time, energy and money will you spend on gaming? Obviously, you may not know this until you start, so I’d start slow with some simple, basic games to see how it goes, before investing. The other side to that argument is that there are some really great games out there that the whole family will love, and if you don’t try them you may be missing out thinking you don’t like games. Ideally, you’d borrow before some you buy as these bigger games can be very expensive. I’ve set up a group for Australian homeschoolers to discuss, borrow, buy, and sell games called Gameschooling Australia.
  4. Will you and your partner/friends play? There is a high replayability on those bigger well-designed tabletop/hobby games (that are usually not overtly educational) and they’re generally more fun for the adults. You can justify buying these for more than just homeschool purposes if that is the case. We have a lot of these and the adults around here play.
  5. Are there groups for selling locally? I’m always more willing to fork out some dollars if I know I can get some back if the game really isn’t for us. I have successfully sold all the games I’ve wanted to sell so far for 25-90% of what I paid in Facebook groups.

So, I've thought about all that, now what?

I suggest joining the groups and following pages on Facebook to learn and get ideas. I’ll also link to the blogs for those not on Facebook (Don't have Facebook? HOW DO YOU LIVE?! Kidding, it is useful for groups though!).

In addition to those homeschool blogs and pages, US families are going to find Amazon VERY useful! For the rest of us, it can be expensive and they don’t always ship to us. I do buy from there occasionally though. Board Game Geek is a great website for researching on, and serious gamers keep lists there. I’m yet to venture into it but I often check there for reviews and information.

Do we just grab Monopoly and get playing?

There are so many games to choose from. I know, it’s overwhelming. I would probably just head to Target or a good games shop and pick one. I haven’t yet mentioned the dreaded M word because that is what people think of when we talk about games. We do have a copy of *whispers* Monopoly somewhere I think, but we don’t play it. Because it’s not well designed and very boring; there are no interesting choices or strategies, and its very luck based. Outraged? Sorry. Check out this YouTube to understand more.

If you love Monopoly then your mind will be blown when you play a well-designed tabletop game! Gamers often talk about “gateway games”. These are the simpler but still well-designed tabletop that use game mechanisms that the bigger games do, have a high replayability factor, and are a great way to start games culture in your family if you are looking beyond the purely educational.

Here are some of my favourite gateway games:

  • Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where each person has a role and you work together (for 5yo+).
  • Carcassonne is tile building game (for 6yo+).
  • Sushi Go is a great gateway game for card drafting (for 5yo+) and includes addition.
  • Skip-bo is a surprisingly good card game and a great intro to strategy games (for 6yo+).
  • Dragonwood is a dice and card game which includes addition (for 6yo+).

All of those games are ones that the adults here really enjoy, so won’t bore you quickly. I could list 10 more, but I’m going to leave that list there. There are a million games lists you can Google. If you’re only looking for educational games that you can slot into subject areas for your kids then check out this ultimate games list. It’s comprehensive and well laid out, and we own many of the games on it.

A list of recommended games

Games we love to play
  • Alien HotShots
  • Alphabet Bingo
  • Alphabet Go Fish
  • Busytown
  • Carcassonne Big Box
  • Chess
  • Chomp
  • Colourama
  • Connect 4
  • Dinosaur Snap
  • Dr Eureka
  • Dragonwood
  • Forbidden Island
  • Go Nuts
  • Learning Can Be Fun games x 5
  • Legendary Inventors
  • Loonacy
  • Machi Koro with expansions
  • Math Bingo
  • Math Dice
  • Mousetrap Maths
  • Oceanos
  • Orchard Toys games x 3
  • Pandemic with expansions
  • Pass the bomb Jnr
  • Rat a tat cat
  • Scrabble Jnr
  • Skip-Bo
  • Sumoku
  • Sushi Go
  • Storycubes x 5
  • Takenoko
  • Uno
  • Upwords
  • Yam Slam
  • At least 30 homemade games from various places and my own inventions
Adult games we own but don't play with kids yet
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Innovation
  • Sentinels of the multiverse
Games we've put away and don't play with yet
  • 7 Wonders Duel
  • Apples to Apples
  • Brave Rats
  • Ion
  • Link It
  • Ringz
  • Sequence
  • Ticket to Ride Europe
  • Wildcraft
Great games we've borrowed from friends
  • Catan
  • Seasons
  • Sum Swamp
  • Zeus on the loose
  • Coup
  • Love Letter
Games on my wish list
  • Alhambra
  • Castle Panic
  • Dixit
  • Hit the Habitat Trail
  • Hive Pocket
  • MMRY
  • Pandemic Legacy
  • Prime Climb
  • Splendor
  • Xtronaut

Phew, that’ll do?! That’s not an exhaustive list, either. This article explains the different types of games in a succinct way and might be useful too.

A word on age recommendations

Most games include age recommendations which is a rough guide. Game makers need to be careful; if they put the starting age too young, then they won’t be bought for older children, and if the age is too high, people will think it’s too hard. Most gameschoolers take age recommendations with A CUP of salt. My 7-year-old can play games that say 13-years-old + but he is a weak reader. If there was a big reading component he wouldn’t be able to play. He also enjoys plenty of games that I’d put in the “Early Childhood” category.

If your 8-year-old child is new to games then they will find Dragonwood challenging at first, as it’s not a luck game; it’s a strategy game with interesting choices. But my 4-year-old can play with assistance because she’s been playing games since she was a toddler.

For Australian families!

A little section just for us Aussies. G’day, mates! (sorry, that’s for the rest of the world who think we talk like that, lol).

1. I have yet to find an Australian gameschooler who blogs about gameschooling so that’s why there isn’t one listed here. If you are one, then yay! Let us know. People keep saying I should start one but I have two part time jobs already so I just can’t. You can always find me on IG at @ahumanattempt and in Gameschooling Australia.

2. It’s really difficult to find games about Australia that aren’t caricatures of Australia, and sometimes a bit racist in my opinion. They seem designed for the tourist rather than Australians. If you know of one, PLEASE let us know! There are a few printables floating about, none of which are great, so making my own game about the Australian states is on my to do list. It’s listed right after “Learn about the Australian states.”

3. There are some great Aussie sites to know about, and support if you can! If you have more to add to this list, let us know!

What's the difference between gamification and game-based learning?

This one's for the nerds like me! Well, in a nutshell, gamification means applying game principles to something (for example, turning a maths sheet into a game) and game-based learning, means using a game that already exists to learn something (like the game Sushi Go to practice addition). Both ideas are useful in homeschooling, but that’s an article on its own! For further reading I suggest:

Many of these articles refer to online or digital gaming which has evolved from tabletop gaming. All of these, and the ‘why’ list, should be great fodder for anyone who wants to argue against game playing, or allocating funds to buy games

Common questions

“I’ve checked out the lists and blogs and now there are 3 games that I want. How do you narrow it down?”

Particularly when you’re on a budget, this can be important. What I do is search the game title and read what I find in the following places:

  1. the My Little Poppies blog
  2. the Gameschool Community Facebook group, and if I don’t find a post, I post on the wall. (This is why it’s really important to put your game titles in your posts in groups!)
  3. other Facebook games groups.
  4. Board Game Geek.
  5. Geek Dad.
  6. YouTube and watch reviews and play throughs.
  7. Read reviews on Amazon. I put this last because in Australia it’s often not cost effective to buy from there.

After all that, I will have an idea whether I think we’ll like it or not. Yeah, it takes some time, but all research does! I’m looking for interesting choices and replayability here, but if you’re looking for something purely educational then it should be simpler to figure out whether it will help with the thing you need. I only buy those types of games if I really need them, and think I can resell them; I am far more likely to find a free printable or make up my own.

“My partner doesn’t want me to spend money on games.”

Send them this article; there is a TONNE of good info linked here. This is a commonly asked problem by mamas in homeschool groups. In my house, if one partner doesn’t want to do the reading and learn about the issue to then have an informed discussion, then the other gets to go ahead using their best judgement. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that means trusting each other too. I am not going to learn about looking after the cars, so hubs just does what he thinks is best there. He is not going to get highly educated about homeschooling, so I’m boss of that. I make a lot of games, and only buy ones I think we’ll really love. I also sell games as I need too, to fund new ones.

“Seriously though, we are on a tight budget.”

Honestly, most homeschoolers are. Everyone’s version of tight is different, and everyone’s priorities are different. We too are on a tight-ish budget. We don’t spend any money at all on curriculums (ever) so I spend on books, games, workshops, classes instead. Tabletop games are not just a homeschool thing; they contribute to family culture too. So if you occasionally have a family day or meal out or trip to the movies, you can consider a good tabletop game in the same category but it’s reusable, and you should be able to sell it for around half what you paid when the time comes. Here are some other ideas:

  • Buy secondhand. I buy most of our games secondhand and I get good deals this way.
    • Facebook groups. I buy mostly in Facebook groups, occasionally from other local secondhand sites. You just need to keep your eye out, and also put up “want to buy” posts as sometimes people are thinking about selling a game but can’t be bothered, but if they can quickly PM you and get it done hassle-free, it’s a win-win.
    • Op shop/thrift stores/goodwill. You rarely find the better tabletop games at these places here in Australia (though the US mamas seem too all the time!) but you will find lots of staple games like Scrabble, and card games. I will buy very cheap games with some good pieces for reusing.
  • Buy when you see it. If you see a game you want on sale or secondhand, buy it if it’s good price, even if it’s a stretch. I put them away so then I’m not looking at paying full price come Christmas and birthdays or when I want a game to teach something in particular. I currently have 15 games in the cupboard for the future, lol.
  • Give them as gifts. Each birthday each one of us gets a game, preferably one we’ll enjoy (so I can justify that expense) and then at Christmas we get a couple. That means we’re getting 6-8 games through the year because we all love games in addition to ones I make.
  • Get some gameschool friends. I’ve introduced several local friends to gameschooling, mainly by lending them games, and they’ve soon bought their own, and so we’ve been able to swap games with them. I won’t buy games they have unless we can’t live without it (hasn’t happened yet!).
  • Buy copies. On Ebay there are many stores that sell copies of popular games. They’re not the legit version, and so the original gamemakers aren’t getting their dues (which is one of the reasons I don’t buy them) but you can buy copies of games very cheap and they tend to be OK quality and complete sets etc, most of the time, but not always, bear in mind.
  • Make your own! Homeschoolers tend to be crafty and resourceful. Read on.

“I want to make my own games. Help.”

You can make your own games very cheaply, and indeed I make TONNES of them. You can buy books that have things to photocopy and make, or get free printables from all over the internet. You can attempt to replicate popular games, particularly using game pieces and boards from games you’ve bought cheaply secondhand (this is where op shops/goodwill are handy). Remember that challenging your kids to make their own game is a great activity too.

There are links all over the place here – this is an ULTIMATE guide after all – so read back but here is yet another collection of links to get you started:

“My kid doesn’t find games fun. We have meltdowns over rules/winning/losing. It just won’t work for us.”

Ah, yes. I understand. I know a few kids including my nephew and son who have worked through game rage. I’d argue that these children may need to play games more than anyone else! Games are a great way to learn to handle and reframe ‘failure’, practice gracious winning and losing, handling disappointment, trying again etc. Not all things will work for all families, and you may want to use a few of these ideas in concert, but here are some things to consider:

  • Play cooperatively. This is my number one tip. Play cooperative games where you all work as a team. Forbidden Island, Pandemic and Wildcraft are all popular here, and Caitlin has this post with a huge list to help you. They’ll still be disappointed, but it’s a lot less than if they weren’t on a team.
  • Change the rules. Linked to playing cooperatively is: change the rules to suit. Games aren’t games if there aren’t some rules, but you can make them suit your family situation. Make it cooperative, quicker, lighter, less disappointing, whatever. You can build back up to regular rules later.
  • Choose quicker, lighter games. The less time your child has been sitting, the smaller the outburst is likely to be (just based on contained energy). The less energy they have put into trying to win, the less upset they’ll feel, hopefully. Think Uno, Bingo games, Go Fish.
  • Try strategy games. Maybe your child needs to feel more control so rather than luck based games, where you solely rely on the cards you pick up or dice you rolled, try games where they can work towards something. What you choose will depend on your child’s age. Think Connect 4, Carcassonne for older kids, and many others.
  • Play 2 player games. Try 2 player games where just a safe adult and your child play. Losing to just a trusted adult (maybe Grandma?) rather than siblings as well may help too.
  • Let them win sometimes! This is a bone of contention in the gameschool community; to win or not to win?! But as an adult who loves playing games, when my husband or friends constantly smash me at a game, it makes me want to play it a lot less. It’s boring and not fun. Let them win sometimes.
  • Model gracious winning, losing and game play. This should go without saying, but I have seen posts in groups about playing games with adults who have had tantrums in front of children. Oh my. Do not play with any adults that can’t be adult, lol! By all means express yourself, but only in a way you’d be happy for your children to do also. Monkey see, monkey do.
  • Discuss unpleasantness later. Game didn’t go well? Let them express themselves, empathise, and let it go. Lecturing or saying “It’s just a game!” won’t actually help when they’re feeling upset and disappointed, in fact they won’t feel heard. Later on, when they’re calm and have experienced success at something else they like, you can come back to what happened at the game and discuss it as appropriate to your family. Punishing game behaviour will only lead to not wanting to play at all so avoid that at all costs.
  • Try single player games. There are tonnes of single player games. Maybe your child would benefit from working through some things by themselves? Try ThinkFun Maze games, Perplex us, Caboodle, or Chicken Shuffle.
  • Let them create their own game. If they design a game, even just using some cards, counters, dice etc and teach it to you, and have to uphold the rules and game play themselves because they’re in charge, perhaps this will give them the control they need to handle the ups and downs of gaming.
  • Make them Game Master. In a similar vein, try giving them the responsibility for the setup, pack up and running the game. Not that they do it all themselves, but they’re in charge of everyone. Your children may need to take turns at this if it causes friction.
  • Play open. When we learn a game for the first time, we always play open. That means that rather than keeping our cards or whatever to ourselves, we play so everyone can see what everyone has, is doing, and why. Knowing how to play a game better may help with those big feelings.
  • Choose your time carefully. Maybe family game night needs to be family game morning? Tiredness is not going to help games go well. We do the majority of our family game playing before bedtime because we have a fairly traditional work schedule here, but if you can play when everyone is fresh, that may help.
  • Don’t finish. I can hear the gasps, but it’s ok to not finish! Try playing games but without completing them. Start a game when you don’t have time to finish. Enjoy playing, then pack it up and put it away. The fun and learning has happened, without the trauma of the ending. You can of course build up to finishing later.
  • Work on self-regulation. Emotional regulation is not something you can teach necessarily, but it is something you can practice. Of course, you need to model it, and don’t worry, we all lose it sometimes, but the more you model it, the better they will do at it. Also try some of these ideas from PBS, or these ideas from The Inspired Tree House.
  • Growth mindset. Remove the focus from winning and losing all the time. This may not work for competitive kids who are just naturally that way, but focus on the fact that life is a journey, and failure is a construct that really means nothing other than “This one time it didn’t work so we need to try again.”. We are Big Life Journal fans here, and have one of the posters on the fridge.
  • Leave it. And of course, games aren’t for everyone all the time. If you’ve tried on and off for a few weeks, and worked on all these things and it still isn’t going well, then leave it for a while (a season, a year) and try again. Maybe your kid just isn’t going to be a game person? I’ll be honest and say I’m really sceptical about this – I feel like anyone who says they don’t like games just haven’t played the right ones - but anything is possible, of course.

“My kids fight. We can’t play games together.”

Yeah this is a hard one! Caitlin has written a brilliant article at My Little Poppies that I cannot improve upon. She has a list of great ideas, and one I will emphasize is snacks. Lol! Seriously though. Eating a clean food (like plain popcorn, because you don’t want to get your game pieces super dirty) while playing is a great way to keep a game moving along and everyone calm. Read her entire article here. I’ll also add that we regularly play games 1:1 here. Like at least once a week with each child.

“I have a toddler who can’t play but wants to, and ends up wrecking the game in their earnest efforts.”

Mmm, also tricky! I have a few suggestions for this one that have worked here. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to play at nap time, but that isn’t always possible, particularly if mama is pinned under said toddler!

  • Snacks. Seriously, just snacks.
  • Play in teams. Toddler can sit on your lap and hold your cards/roll your dice and be on your team.
  • Give Toddler their own game pieces to play with alongside, or even on the board if they can be careful with the pieces that are part of the game.
  • Let them “play along” even if they’re not playing properly. Let them go through the motions. This requires some patience from your older kid/s and a relatively calm toddler.
  • Play two games at once. I have sat playing a big kids game on one side, and a little kids game on the other, lol. Have your coffee/wine handy.
  • Set up Toddler up with their own activity next to you. Chloe is often happy to draw or paint or play right next to us as long as she feels included.
  • Make them Game Master. Sit them up on top the table (yep!) and let them hand out the cards or roll the dice. This was our main strategy for months and worked well. Obviously, it won’t work for all kids!
  • Screen time. I know this will go against some belief systems, but setting Toddler up with a screen to get some 1:1 time with another kid might be your answer for a while. It’s only a season.
  • Game night. Play when Toddler is in bed for the evening. Less than ideal as we’ve already talked about how this won’t work for some kids if they’re too tired.
  • Play when someone else is around. Get together with a friend, and one of you play a game with the older kids, while one plays with the younger kids. Or wait until Grandma comes for a visit or your partner is available obviously.
  • Take turns to play. Older toddlers might be able to understand waiting their turn for their own game. There are heaps of actually good toddler games to consider. Colourama and Busytown are two that come to mind.
  • Snacks. Did I mention snacks?

Honestly, game playing with small kids around, particularly if you have a couple of them is not going to be easy, so only attempt when you have some patience available. You may decide to wait until everyone is older, and that’s ok, too. Chloe used to grab and throw all the pieces and think she was hilarious, *all the eyerolls*. We just waited her out and now it’s great. It’s a short season, mama, hang in there.

The last word

I trust you’re thoroughly overwhelmed and now have hours of reading ahead to check out all those links. If there is something I haven’t covered here, then please let us know. Have any other suggestion, comment, game recommendation, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

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The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal

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The ultimate guide to gameschooling on The Mulberry Journal
Cat Timms

Cat Timms

Contributor

Cat is an Australian homeschool mama to 2, Early Childhood Teacher, photographer, and game lover. Cat is passionate about play and uncomplicating home education. She's on Instagram @ahumanattempt and @lightheartphotog.

Sometimes we need a reminder to say ‘yes’ to messy play

Mess is a part of parenthood. Not just the toys and books on the floor. We're talking the wet, grass and mud stained variety of mess. So how do you cope when you're a neat freak mum? (We know you're out there!)

boy splashing in puddle

By Jessica Welsh

Let’s face it, life with little ones is downright messy. Aside from the obvious mess of that first year there’s the ongoing mess during mealtimes, the mess of sick days and toilet training, and -what I really want to talk about- the mess of play.

Now, I’m not referring to the toys and books scattered in the lounge room at the end of the day, that’s par for the course. No, I’m talking about the wet, grass and dirt stained children that have somehow lost half their clothes outside and are now standing on your (no longer) clean carpet asking you for a snack.

Surely, I’m not the only one who has heart palpitations at the mere thought of this? I’m getting much better though, and here’s why.

When the work of motherhood becomes a distraction…

Earlier this year we had on and off rain for two weeks. I counted one sunny day amongst it which meant for two weeks everything felt especially damp and muddy. I’m all for letting children play outside and get dirty but to have to clean muddy children every day for two weeks, and a few times a day at that? I was going batty!

My efforts to stay on top of the mess (mud-caked children included) were in vain. No sooner would I bathe my children, Leo and Phoebe, then they would be at the door begging to go outside again. My days were looking very ordinary and I resented it.

The turning point came one morning when I was, yet again, sweeping dried mud and leaves back outside. Leo appeared out of nowhere, presenting his toy car to me dripping in mud. To my shame, I didn’t enjoy his wide smile and bright eyes, but instead cried out, “Move, I’ve just swept here! Stay out!” Then, as if on cue, Phoebe walked around the corner covered head to toe in mud. She was quite the picture and just as tickled pink about it as her big brother. I could no longer keep a straight face.

My children were clearly having a great time but up until then I hadn’t been. In that moment, I was forced to face the larger problem – myself. I was allowing the repetitiveness of my day and the constant mess to distract me from what was really going on – the makings of a happy childhood.

It was a little shocking to realise all my grumbling about Leo and Phoebe playing in the mud was about myself. I was being drawn out of my comfort zone (rainy days signify happy hours reading with endless cups of tea, not going outside!) and kept digging my heels in at every turn. I began to wonder what Leo and Phoebe would remember about these rainy days as they lay in bed, eyes heavy with sleep. Would all my fussing cast a shadow on their memories? I hoped I wasn’t too late to set things right.

Remember the joy of motherhood and start again

I put the broom down and followed Leo and Phoebe outside. I let them put mud on my feet and they laughed at my obvious discomfort. I watched them relish the feeling of mud oozing between their fingers and running down their arms. Sure, it was messy and not at all my idea of fun but here was an opportunity to enjoy my children in all the unbridled mess of their childhood. I was not going to waste another minute fretting about the state of the house. For the remainder of those two weeks I turned a blind eye to the mess and instead, saw the delightfully messy and joyous children before me.

Now I don’t even bother asking Leo and Phoebe if they want to watch a movie when we see the clouds roll in. I know what they’ll want to do. Sit at the window and watch as the rain falls then, when the temptation to jump in puddles and make mud pies is too much to bear, race outside to get as messy as can be, sans clothes if possible. Instead of cringing, I fetch my camera and follow them because these are their days and their delights. I am simply fortunate enough to bear witness and draw the warm bath for later.

So Say Yes!

Since those two weeks I have found myself saying yes to messy play more often. I’ve also wised up; suggesting we save jumping in the mud for before bath time, that we finger paint in the bath tub (and clean it after), that we build bed forts before stripping the sheets for a wash. Little things like that have made for an easier clean-up which has allowed me to fully enjoy the play as it happens, whether I’m participating or not.

While I still sigh heavily at the chaos that surrounds me, I am getting better at looking past it. It’s what Leo and Phoebe have been doing all along and I’m finally catching up.

Do you struggle with embracing truly messy play? How do you find a balance between wrecked carpet/curtains and children who are happily using their all their senses to discover? Tell us in the comments below.

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Jessica Welsh

Jessica Welsh

Contributor

Jess lives with her husband, Joel, and children, Leo and Phoebe in Gympie, Queensland. She spends her days doing her best to soak up these early years at home with her little ones but can sometimes be found enjoying a moment's quiet with a cup of tea she prefers not to share. She's on Instagram @themakingofdays

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