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Have you read up much about the planets in our solar system? In preparation for this unit topic for our homeschooling I learned so much. Our solar system is amazing and all of the planets in it are so unique, there is so much known about them yet so much more to learn!
Why I Chose The Solar System For Our Unit Study
I decided to incorporate the solar system in to our homeschooling this year because I think it’s really important. It helps in gaining perspective of our lives and how our actions have consequences that are beyond superficial punishments or praise. I want my children growing up with knowledge on how to take care of our earth, because realistically we have nowhere else to go.
Studying the solar system is a great base for most of the key learning areas. Distances and times involve maths, while learning about what the planets are made from is definitely science. Writing about our solar system is great for literacy as it introduces words not found commonly otherwise. There are so many art projects you can do based around the solar system, some of my favourites will be linked below. Including the earth in solar system studies means you include humanities and social studies. Have a look at where the names of the planets came from, and that is languages and social sciences covered! Check out some of the amazing photographs from NASA and by navigating them you are learning information technology. You can find info on the key learning areas in my post about how I’m tracking them, here!
Solar System Activities – For Homeschooling or After School Fun!
An awesome tutorial on how to make your own space painting with kids. I am SO doing this, I have a soft spot for anything that looks like a galaxy! They also have this DIY idea of Galaxy Jars which could be a cool sensory addition to any learning space.
Finally we have this crafty solar system activity. It enforces planetary order and size comparisons, as well as developing colouring and cutting skills for the younger ones.
Space is awesome. If you really want to get immersed and you can afford it, a telescope is never going to be a bad idea. This is the one I am going to be buying to supplement our learning: SkyWatcher 76mm Dobsonian Telescope
It’s a basic beginner’s telescope – it’s not going to discover a new far-away earth look-alike, but it will be able to clearly find all the planets in our solar system. It’s also portable so you could take it camping or out rural to give you a clearer view of our gorgeous sky.
Australian Geographic also have this cool Astronomy Kit that will help you find everything and know what it is you’re looking at!
Now to the freebie!
I created this little booklet of facts and activities to supplement our homeschooling. I wanted to make sure I had basic knowledge of all the planets in our own little solar system before I began teaching Cadey about it. Please feel free to use this at home, but please do not on-sell or host anywhere else. You’re welcome to link to this page if you want to share it!
Have you ever been so tired you have let your kids stay on their ipads, or watch tv, all day? I have. More than once. I have a chronic illness that usually causes my tiredness, but you might have a newborn, stayed up too late binging on the latest series on netflix, or accidentally read an interesting book until 4am *whistles and looks innocent*.
I don’t have anything against screen time, at all. In fact, I am known around local parenting groups for my relaxed stance. I don’t limit my kid’s screen time at all, once they have done school/homework and any chores, they are free to enjoy their spare time as they please. I have rules around what they’re allowed to do on the internet and what games they can play though. Since this world is becoming increasingly technological I would prefer they have the skills to self regulate screen time rather than rely on me to police it.
Instead, I like to make sure I have interesting things for them to play with or do that arent screen related. Things that catch their interest and facilitate imagination and learning. If this is something you’d like to try, here are some ideas for days when you’re way too tired to spend much time setting things up, and you just want something the kids can play with independently! Some of these ideas do require things you have bought before hand, and may include affiliate links, but if you have these things put aside you won’t regret it, I promise!
Yep, you read that right. It may seem counter intuitive to have messy toys out when you’re too tired to even. But, If you have an old sheet you don’t care about, the delight of being messy will outweigh the hassle of chucking the sheet in the wash (or even throwing it out). Toys like playdough, slime, floam, putty and paints can occupy kids all the way through primary school age.
Even something like this Crystal Mining Kit for kids 8+ will keep them busy for ages. Yep, it creates a bunch of dust and mess, but nothing that can’t be easily vaccuumed up (believe me, I have a child obsessed with these type of toys!).
Arts and Crafts
Print out some colouring sheets of their current favourite characters. If you search charactername + colouring sheet on google I guarantee something will pop up! Especially good if they don’t have any colouring books of that character. The other thing I suggest is pipecleaners and beads. Pipecleaners can be twisted and bent and joined together to make all sorts of interesting sculptures, and if you add the beads they can make jewellery as well.
Give the kids a mission and send them outside. The mission could be to make a cubby, a fairy garden, or find 5 pretty stones. Chances are, whilethey are out there their imaginations will take over and they will have a great time. I suggest you sit in a sunny spot with a hot coffee and watch them play. The fresh air will invigorate you and make you feel more awake, so head out there even if there are 100 things more pressing to do.
Even if your kids are older, one toy I recommend you keep from preschool years is train tracks. Whether your train tracks are fancy plastic/metal ones or old school wooden ones, If you keep them hidden away and only bring them out occasionally they will keep most kids up to 12 years old occupied for at least a little bit! Especially if you have some lego or wooden blocks to build a city around the train line.
If your kids are 5+, consider having a building toy put away specifically for times like this. The toy will maintain mystery and intrigue if they aren’t allowed to play with it every day! I suggest this awesome Marble Maze Kit from Australian Geographic. Not only is it fun, it’s secretly teaching them physics as well! Even I love building a marble maze!
Ok so this one requires some forethought. If you’re at the shops and see any kind of blind bag/box or surprise toy on special, buy a few if you can afford it. If your kids have access to YouTube they have probably, at some point, seen videos of people opening and playing with these toys. When you’re out for the count you can give them a blind box. The surprise of a present and mystery toy will thrill your child and they should hopefully be occupied for a little bit, seeing as it’s a new toy.
If you’re really tired or sick, it’s ok to have a day of saying ‘yes’ to the kids so you can rest and get better. It won’t spoil them I promise! Remember to drink lots of water and rest, you are important and need to take care of yourself!
I get asked all kind of questions about homeschooling. People are usually polite and mean well when they ask these questions, I know that, this post is just a little fun and information. I would much rather people ask questions rather than make assumptions!
1. Can you do that?
This is a question I get asked a lot. Usually they mean ‘is it legal?’. Where I live (Victoria, Australia) it is a completely legal choice to homeschool, as long as you have the rights to make educational decisions about your child (no court orders saying otherwise, etc). You must make sure your child gets an education, whether it is at a school or it is at home is up to you.
2. Who makes sure you’re doing it right?
Short answer, for me, is nobody. Home education regulations differ around Australia, and the world. For instance, in New South Wales, you must submit a term – by – term plan of what and how you intend to teach each key learning area in the NSW curriculum. An ‘authorised person’ makes a home visit to asses your plan and you must submit a new plan every year. In Queensland you must send in a progress report yearly, in Western Australia you get regular home visits to assess your teaching and your child’s learning. In Victoria, where I live, new regulations state that new registrants must provide a learning plan, and the department of Education will review around 10% of all homeschooling families yearly. Other than teaching each of the 8 prescribed key learning areas (English, Maths, Science, Humanities, The Arts, Health + Pe, Languages and Infomation Technology + design technology) we are free to do as we please and do not have to follow any set curriculum.
3. How do you know what to teach?
After my response to the last question, this is usually the next question. There are so many different styles of homeschooling. Some are completely child led and teach what the child is interested in, regardless of age or stage. Some follow guidelines of philosophers like Charlotte Mason and decide what to teach from texts on that subject. I personally loosely follow the Australian curriculum. I don’t follow it exactly in it’s order or content, but more the outcomes. I have found ‘tick lists’ of all the skills and knowledge a child at school would have by the end of each year and I use those as a guide. As my homeschooled child has special needs I do modify some of these outcomes. and others I get rid of entirely.
Anyone can access all the information about the Australian curriculum at the Australian Curriculum Website and read through it. I know a lot of homeschoolers start there and then personalise their own learning journeys.
4. Teachers go to university and get a degree, how can you teach as well as them?
Well, I guess I usually want to say ‘I’ve known my child their whole life, how can a teacher guide them as well as I can?’. I am not teaching subjects to my child, instead, I am teaching them how to learn. By the time my daughter finishes ‘school’ as a teenager, I know she will have the skills and passion to learn anything she wants to, and go anywhere. A lot of the time we learn new things together! I’m not saying I can teach better than a teacher, but I know I can facilitate my child’s learning just as well as one.
5. Are you super religious?
Nope! In fact, I am pagan. The most religious thing we do is celebrate harvest and thank the earth for all she does for us. When my daughter is a bit older we will probably do religious studies of lots of different kinds of worship, because theyre fascinating and provide a great insight in to humanity.
6. Are you anti-vaccination?
Since the Australian Government introduced a ‘no jab, no play’ policy of not providing day care fee relief to parents who do not vaccinate their children, a lot of anti-vaccination parents have decided to homeschool their children away from the government’s control.
Although I support their right to do this, I am not anti-vaccination. In fact, I am quite the opposite and i’m very PRO vaccination.
7. Don’t you need a break?
Yes, yes I do. Like any other parent, sometimes I need a breather from my kids. I am lucky in that my parents live very close by (500 metres away!) and they are happy to have one or both kids quite often. I also have a very hands-on partner who actively parents the kids when he is home. Although, to be honest, I get most of my ‘me time’ staying up way too late in to the night.
I hope this has provided a little insight in to my madness that is the homeschooling journey. If you have any questions that weren’t covered here, please feel free to ask. Like I said at the start – I’d rather people asked questions than made assumptions!
I have one child doing homeschool and one child attending a local primary school. This seems strange to lots of people since both ‘homeschool’ and ‘traditional education’ camps seem to be strongly for or against, with no middle ground. The way I see it though, is that I do what is best for each child to the best of my ability, and each child is an individual.
My older daughter Lilah has been in public school since the beginning and she is now in Grade 3 and really enjoys going to school every day. Cadey started at Lilah’s school for prep (first year of school) and attended for nearly a term before we decided that school was not working for her, and she has done homeschool since then.
We have a loose daily schedule of how things work. I do bits and pieces of housework while Cadey is doing her school work or playing, and we are flexible in case something comes up and we have to go out for the day.
Wake up time. Lilah gets her own breakfast and gets dressed for school, with prompting. I have my morning coffee!
I get Cadey dressed and make her breakfast. Lilah and I make her lunch together. We drop Lilah to school at 8.45.
Cadey and I arrive back home and head straight in to the learning room. We read a book, do drawing and some writing, then do computer work.
Computer work is finished by 10.30. We usually head to my parents so Cadey can play on the swings and have a big run around (we have a tiny backyard). A couple of times a week we take my parent’s dog for a walk at the beautiful local lake. Morning Tea!
This is when we head to the supermarket or shop if we need to, otherwise we keep playing outside or at my parent’s house.
Lunch time! Cadey has macaroni cheese every day for lunch. She eats pretty well at other times so I don’t mind this comfort for her.
After lunch we have rest time. Cadey exhausts really easily and I have a chronic illness so we need our lie downs!
This is when we do any cooking, science experiments, or bigger art projects.
We leave to pick up Lilah from school.
When we get home from school the girls have a snack and then we have some time playing minecraft together.
I put on dinner and the kids watch tv or play on their ipads.
Daddy gets home from work and we have dinner.
We have family time chatting about our day or all playing minecraft together until 7.45 when the kids get ready for bed.
We listen to 4 songs (one each) before the girls hop in to bed ready to sleep at 8.15.
The youngins are finally asleep, daddy goes to bed and I sit down to watch tv, crochet, write or I finish off any housework I was not able to get to during the day.
The pros are that each child has the education that best suits them, so they learn most efficiently. It also sets our schedule for the day – as we have to do school drop-off at the same time every day, we are up out of bed and dressed, ready to start learning. It also helps us to work efficiently during the day as we have the deadline of school pick-up time to complete all of our work.
Unfortunately there are a couple of cons. It is hard to attend any home school meet ups or activities that clash with school pick up and drop of times. Sometimes if we have a morning filled with intense activity then Cadey is tired and more prone to meltdowns. It would be nice to just be able to stay home at those times but we do have to go to school pick-up.
But Mum, That’s Not Fair!
The only time either of my children seem to mind this arrangement is when one gets something that the other doesn’t. Whether it’s my school attending daughter coming home with a cupcake from a class mate’s birthday or my home schooled daughter getting to go swimming or doing something interesting during school hours. I tell my kids that although not everything is even, it all eventually balances out to be fair.
I try to keep any big field trips, such as the zoo or the beach, to weekends so that not only can Lilah attend, but the kid’s dad (my partner) can also attend and we all have fun as a family.
If you are considering having one or more kids in different educational settings I’d say go for it. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but just give it a try. You never know, you may find your family’s perfect rhythm!
This post is all about minecraft bedrock edition – that is, the version you play on Window’s 10, Ipad, Android, Xbox, Playstation and Xbox. There are other versions, such as the Java edition for PC, but unfortunately I haven’t played that version so don’t feel qualified to give you a good guide!
Does your child love Minecraft? If they don’t already play it, chances are the know about it. According to https://minecraft-statistic.net Minecraft has over 57,545,845 registered users, with a daily average of 252078 players. Minecraft have not released any demographic statistics but by all means, people of all ages play.
If your child plays minecraft (or has asked you to purchase it) you may wonder what they are talking about, and how safe it is. So I have put together this ‘minecraft 101’ guide for parents!
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a ‘sandbox’ video game. Sandbox means there are no real rules, aims or guidelines, you are free to play and create however you want to. You can play in ‘creative’ mode, which gives you access to all the blocks and items available in the game. You can build cities, towns, boats, swamps, a space station, anything you like! You could also choose to play in survival mode, where you can complete quests, fight bad guys or just try to survive. I will go in to detail about the game modes a bit later in this post.
Minecraft has some specific vocabulary that you may hear your kids, or other players, use. I’ve organised information in to groups to make it a little easier to refer to. Feel free to print this out and keep on hand!
Mobs: mobs refers to anything that isnt a ‘human’. This covers:
Neutral mobs – Cave spider, spider, polar bear, enderman, spider and zombie pigman. Neutral mobs will only attack you under certain circumstances, or if you attack them first.
Passive mobs – Chicken, bat, cow, mooshroom, pig, rabbit, sheep, skeleton horse, squid and villager. Passive mobs will not attack you under any circumstance, even if you attack them.
Tameable mobs – Donkey, horse, llama, mule, ocelot, parrot and wolf. These are mobs that you can tame to become pets through offering food or riding.
Utility mobs – Iron Golem and Snow Golem. These are mobs that can help you out attacking other mobs, but beware, they may also retaliate if you hit them!
Biomes Biomes are the area of land in Minecraft. This includes:
Ice plains: Mostly flat land covered in snow and ice. When the weather changes, instead of raining it snows. Polar Bears, Rabbits and Strays spawn here, and very rarely you may come across an Igloo (more on that later!). There is also a variation of this biome that includes tall ice spikes as well.
Cold Taiga: This area is also covered in snow, but also includes spruce trees, flowers and wolves. There are also variants that include more hilly areas, ferns and frozen rivers.
Cold Beach: Pretty much the same as the other snowy biomes, but there is sand, too.
Extreme Hills: In this biome there are huge mountains with steep cliffs and difficult, rocky terrain. On very tall mountains, snow can fall. Llamas, oak trees, spruce trees, flowers, gravel, emeralds and silverfish spawn here.
Taiga: A mostly flat area with lots of spruce trees. Wolves and rabbits spawn here, and Villages may spawn here too (more on those later!). There are variants to this biome that include mega trees, mossy cobblestone, mushrooms, coarse dirt, ferns and dead bushes.
Plains: These are wide open spaces! With a few ponds, dips and little hills, these are grassy areas lush with animals. Horses, donkeys, and oak trees spawn here, villages may spawn in plain biomes also. There is a variant on this which is a sunflower plain – with lots of sunflowers growing out of the green grass.
Forest: Forests are mostly flat areas (with a few dips and hills) that are covered in many trees. Beech and oak trees can make up the forest, as well as mushrooms and wolves. There are varients of forests that either grow lots of wild flowers, only beech trees or only oak trees.
Roofed Forest: A dense forest consisting of mostly dark oak trees with a few beech and oak trees dotted in between. Mansions, one of the most difficult to find spawned structures, can sometimes be found here. Also huge mushrooms, regular mushrooms and rose bushes spawn here.
Swamp: Dirty looking water surrounding small patches of grass with oak trees that are covered in dark green vines. Witches huts can generate here. Witches, lily pads, clay, bluebells, mushrooms, and even fossils can spawn here. At night time slimes spawn in swamp areas.
Jungle Forest: Jungles are very green areas with lots of Jungle trees, bushes and vines. The only place you can find ocelots, who when tamed change in to cats! Jungle temples can generate here. Parrots, melons and cocoa beans spawn here.
River: River biomes are areas of green grass surrounding blocks of water that may be still or flowing. Sand and clay can be found here. You can also fish in the water!
Beach: Beach areas are pretty self explanatory. Next to the ocean with lots of sand!
Mushroom Island: These islands are unique in that no mean mobs spawn here naturally. The surface is a block called mycelium which is perfect for growing big and small mushrooms. Mooshrooms spawn here, which are like cows except they are red and white with mushrooms on their backs. If you milk them with a wooden bowl, you get mushroom stew!
Desert: Deserts are dry, sandy biomes with little water. There is a chance for villages and desert temples to spawn. Desert wells, sandstone, rabbits, husks, sugar cane and cactus spawn here.
Savanna: Brown, dry grass and acacia trees dot the mostly flat landscape. Little water can be found, but Llamas and horses make up for it! Villages can possibly generate here also. There is a variation where crazy rock and mountain formations show in savannas!
Mesa: Mesas are where you find terracotta – you can smelt terracotta in a furnace and make beautiful patterned blocks. They’re also a very rich source of gold, above ground mineshafts and even canyons.
The Nether: The nether is accessed via a portal. It has lots of lava, fire and hostile mobs. Nether fortresses can generate in the Nether with chests full of goodies. Ghasts, zombie pigmen, skeleton, wither skeleton and magma cubes spawn here, along with netherrack and soul sand.
The End: This ominous sounding place is reached through a special portal, found in strongholds (more on these below!). You can enter the end after defeating the Ender Dragon. It is permanently nighttime in the end, with big black plant like structures and gloomy cities. Here endstone, endermen, obsidian, elytra wings, chorus plants and shulkers spawn. If you put down a bed and try to sleep, it will EXPLODE!
Natural Spawning Structures: these are buildings that can appear naturally on a map – that is, you don’t build them, they’re already there when you start the game.
Villages: These are the most common structures. Found in the plains, savanna, taiga and desert biomes. They are groups of buildings that have villagers living in them – villagers are a kind of mob or NPC (non player character) that run around looking after their village. You can trade with some villagers using goods or emeralds to exchange. Some villages may have a blacksmith building. Blacksmith buildings have chests inside them that include goodies like armour, horse armour or bars of iron. In rare circumstances villages may generate as zombie villages – complete with cobwebs, mossy cobble stone and zombie villagers!
Desert temple: Desert temples, also known as pyramids, generate in deserts (obviously). If you dig carefully in a temple you may find a surprise of several chests waiting for you, but be careful of pressure plates as TNT may be waiting!
Jungle temple: Jungle temples are found, surprisingly, in jungles! There is a puzzle to complete with a chest of goodies as the prize, as well as a booby trapped chest that will send arrows at your head. Tread carefully and you will be well rewarded.
Witch huts: Witch huts sometimes generate within swamps. Inside you may find a witch, or a cauldron filled with a potion.
Igloo: Igloos are found in snowy biomes. Some igloos are just a room with a bed, a crafting table, some carpet and a red stone torch. Some igloos have a trap door under the carpet – down a long ladder there is a small room with two jail cells and a potion set up. In the jail cells are a villager and a zombie villager. There is a chest with the necessary supplies to enchant the zombie villager back to health and to a regular villager.
Ocean monument: Ocean monuments are underwater temples full of sponges, mobs and other treasures. They can be tricky to get to due to the fact they are underwater, but with the right enchantments and potions you can make light work of it.
Nether Fortress: Nether fortresses are found in the underworld, the nether. They’re made of nether brick and they contain blaze spawners, netherwart farms, and treasure chests.
Abandoned Mineshaft: Abandoned mineshafts are exactly how they sound – run down relics of a coal mining past. Minecart tracks, minecarts, spider webs and treasure chests sit side by side with gold, iron and coal deposits. There are also sometimes cave spider spawners – cave spiders are worse than normal spiders as they not only bite you but poison you as well.
Stronghold: Strongholds are where you will find end portals half broken ready to repair and travel through to the end. Before you get to the portal you will find abandoned libraries, lots of zombies and other mobs, and random chests. You will need ender pearls to find the stronghold – there is usually only one in every world. Combining ender pearls with blaze rods makes something called an eye of ender. Throw an eye of ender in the air and it will guide you to the stronghold. You will also need eyes of ender to complete the end portal.
Dungeon: Dungeons are small rooms that combine mob spawners. They spawn hostile mobs that will continuously come for you until you supply enough light by placing a torch on the side of the spawner. There is also usually one or two chests inside filled with treasures.
Play modes: this refers to the type of game you want to play
Creative mode: creative mode is great for a beginner to get used to the game and it’s controls. You have access to all of the blocks and items that you can use in the game. You can have a play with the different textures and features without worrying about hostile mobs, hunger or falling from too high!
Survival mode: Survival mode is where Minecraft gets really interesting. You start with no supplies, somewhere random on a map. It is up to you to make tools, build shelter, find food and survive! During the day it isn’t as bad, but at night hostile mobs come out and they will kill you! If you die you will return back to your ‘spawn’ – where you came in to the map or where you last slept on a bed. When you die you also lose everything you had on you, but it does stay on the ground near where you died for a short period of time so if you can get back there, you can collect all your belongings! The exception to the rule is ‘hardcore’ mode. In hardcore mode if you die, that’s it, the whole world is deleted and gone, you lose everything. In survival mode you can simply survive or complete quests like killing the ender dragon.
Connecting with other players: This is how players can join other minecrafters and play online.
Realms: This is the safest way to play online. A realm is set up by a player and they can invite 2-10 other players that they are already friends with through xbox live. The person who owns the realm controls the settings and who can play. My partner and I and our two children all play together in a realm. We build collaboratively and go on missions together. It means we can keep an eye on what the girls are doing as well as chat to them about different things happening in the game.
Servers: Servers are usually large public games that can be innapropriate for children. There are some child friendly servers but honestly I havent had a look in to them as my children are too young for me to feel ok with them playing with strangers.
I know that what I have written hardly scratches the surface of Minecraft. It’s such an expansive, imaginitive game that no one person could write every single thing about it. I hope this information is enough to help you hold conversations with your kids, or even enough to help you ask them questions about how they play. Honestly the best way to learn is to get in there with your kids – sit down with them and watch them play, ask them questions, or better yet play yourself!
If you’d like to learn more about the world of minecraft I really recommend the books written by mojang – the developer of minecraft. They’re thorough and great to refer back to, and since theyre from the developer you know it’s accurate information!
(these links take you to book depository – my favourite online book resource with worldwide free shipping. May contain affiliate links)