Pillars of Pine

Pillars of Pine

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Speech Boot Camp

Last week, we completed ‘Speech Boot Camp’, a public speaking course from the ‘Institute for Excellence in Writing’.  The course is presented as a set of DVDs and is purely a ‘plug in and go’ curriculum – very easy to implement.  The lessons learned can be applied not only to public speaking, but also to many different everyday activities.  I have to say, we enjoyed this course immensely, and I am incredibly proud of the effort my children put into the course, and the quality of their orations.

Speech Boot Camp consists of 4 x DVDs.  The teacher and student notes are printed out, and armed with a DVD player, a pencil, and table or music stand (we happened to own a lectern – but of course, this is not necessary),  you can began the course.  Originally, the DVDs were filmed over a 4-day period, and the students involved needed to write and present four separate speeches in that time.  However, the lesson plans break the course into 11 sessions (with an optional 12th session), which can be done over the course of 11 weeks, 11 days, or however you choose to implement it.  We opted to do 2 lessons per week, meaning that it would take us 6 weeks.  Students are required to give 4 talks during that time:  a self-introduction speech, a narrative speech, and expository (or descriptive) speech, and finally a persuasive speech.  The time of each speech varied from 3 minutes up to 7 minutes, and students are required to write a key word outline, much the same as if they were writing an essay, and then present the speech in the following lesson. 

As always with products from IEW, students are not just given topics and told to go away and prepare their talk.  Full instructions are given as to ‘how’ to go about the process, and as well, sample student speeches were presented on the DVD.  In this way, the students know exactly what is required of them.  They are given suggested topics, but the actual subject matter remains the student’s own choice, and we found that, even though there were only four of us completing the course, we came up with a wide variety of topics.  These included entertaining stories, cats vs dogs, digital cameras, and even ‘how to write a speech’.   Feedback forms are given out at the beginning of each presentation, and students are asked to provide comments and suggestions for each other.  This can become a little ‘dicey’, especially where siblings are involved, however, I found my children gave each other fair and honest comments, and offered praise and encouragement to each other. 

We learned much about speaking, preparing a speech, and standing before an audience, and we found the course to be fun and most educational. I think the worst moment we had in the entire course was when I began my descriptive speech with a joke, only to discover that by doing so, I sent myself into a giggling fit, and was almost unable to present the rest of my talk (Lesson learned – for me, it’s probably best not to use too much humour)!  During the final disc, Mr Pudewa introduced a singing teacher to speak about breathing, stance, and to give the students some exercises they could do to prepare themselves before speaking in front of an audience.  This was well timed in our case, for the following day marked the beginning of our Christmas Carol performances, and the hints and tips certainly did help!  And of course, they also helped as we presented our final oration to our little group.  I had hoped to video the favourite speech of each student as a final, lesson 12, however, my children disagreed, and so I need to be happy with just a photograph of each child.
All in all, we enjoyed the course very much.  Andrew Pudewa, as always, was most entertaining, often leaving us in stiches with laughter.  If there’s one person who knows how to engage an audience, it is he!  The programme was so easy to use, and at around 1 hour per lesson time, it allowed us to use the course, yet still have time to complete our other studies.  A quick read through of the teacher’s page was the only preparation time needed for the teacher – unless of course, you decide to join the class to present the speeches as well – in which case, you also need to find some time to write a speech before each lesson.  And I would encourage you to do so.  The lessons you learn about what to do, how to stand, how to speak, etc. will serve you well in any form of public speaking (or singing) that you need to do in the years to come.  This has certainly become on of my favourite IEW products, and without doubt, we will be using Speech Boot Camp again in the future.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen years ago today, I found myself in the labour ward - the birth took quite a while, and it seemed our new baby couldn't make up her mind as to when she'd make her grand entrance into the world.

The doctor was called several times - and it so happened that this particular day was the day he had all his family over for their Christmas BBQ!  I think he missed most of it......

But in the end, our beautiful daughter arrived, and we were delighted with our newest 'little ray of sunshine'.

Helena and I have certainly had our share of ups and downs - born with 'autistic tendancies', life could be tough, and we had to work through many challenges.  But, you'd never know it these days!  She's loving, outgoing, a wonderful student, and an excellent musician.  She is, quite simply, a pure delight to have around, and both her parents are extremely proud of her.

Happy Birthday, Helena!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Secret Rainforest, Part 2

Having finished our school work yesterday, I managed to find a couple of hours today for that 2nd Rainforest Painting.  Here it is -

The Secret Rainforest, Part II

I may touch a few things up here and there, but it's mostly done.  Must remember to add some green paint to my shopping list, I used quite a bit on these two paintings!


Can you see the moth?

While bringing in the washing today, my girls discovered a large moth on an article of clothing.  So, my 14 yo found a stick, and gently removed the moth, only to discover that the stick almost perfectly camouflaged the moth.

When placed at the right angle, it was almost impossible to see it! Can you see the moth on the stick?

There were times when I could easily see it, and then, just with a slight twist of the stick or a change of light - it disappeared! 

Below, I've circled the moth, hopefully it's a little clearer:

Amazing creatures.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Symbols of Christmas

My youngest three girls love making lapbooks, and over the past couple of weeks, we've been creating one from 'Hands of a Child', on 'The Symbols of Christmas'.

Here is the finished lapbook:

We so need to do more of these next year: my girls love them, and they learn so much, and the lapbook is read over and over again, providing instant, and constant, review.

I've tried lapbooks from several different companies, and I've always found the ones from Hands of a Child to be easy to use, have accurate information, and the instructions are simple to follow. And, as they are available as ebooks, there's no worrying about those dreaded postage costs.


A Successful Day

There are days, and then, there are days.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle - it seems like I can never get everything done that needs to be done. And then, there are those other, strange days, which leave you in a daze, wondering, 'how did it all happen?'

Yesterday was one of those days. I knew it would be busy - we were singing at the hospital in the afternoon, and we had band practice for the carols in the evening.

By the time I was up, showered, and organised, I discovered that my darling children were already flying through their schoolwork - and had left a pile of marking that looked something like this:

Then, there was jam to make. I'd been given a heap of apricots, and they were very quickly ripening, so the night before, three of my teens had sat down and cut them all and placed them in the pot, ready for the next day. So, as I called out instructions while checking emails, my 19 year old got to it, and began boiling the fruit.

Given that it was our last 'Sing Australia' event for the year, we had been asked to take along something for a shared tea. My son had already worked out what he wanted to cook, so he and my 14 yo daughter headed to the kitchen:

While all this was happening, I began lessons with my three youngest girls. We read our daily Bible passages, and made the ornaments for our Jesse Tree:

Then, we continued working on our current lapbook: Symbols of Christmas.

After that, my 9yo continued to work on a book she is creating:

Having finished the lessons, I wandered into the kitchen, to find the jam cooked, as well as a lovely batch of quiches, all ready for the evening's gathering:

For the next hour, I helped Bill out in the office with organising emails and packing orders, before taking a little time out for a quiet cup of coffee.

Then, it was time to iron our shirts, and head off. Firstly, we visited the elderly in Jamestown hospital, and sang a few Christmas Carols:

After which we headed back to our usual meeting place for dinner and an extra sing-a-long. Many of our songs were conducted my my dear son:

He did a fantastic job!

And after all that, we headed just down the road for our final band practice before Sunday's performance:

We arrived home around 10pm - exhausted, but very happy - it had been a full day, to be sure, but a wonderful one, and I feel like we achieved so much in those few hours!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Horrible Histories

As I reflect back over our year, I'm realising that while we didn't cover everything I had planned, there were quite a few success stories.

We're still working on the times tables, and spelling is still a slight problem, but one thing my children can do, is to name every single king and queen of England from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth II.

Impressive? I think so! And it's all thanks to the 'Horrible Histories' show, produced by the BBC. They created a song, which lists all the kings and queens, and my youngest three sat down one day, wrote down all the names, and memorised the song!

Who would've thought a silly show could actually be so educational? A few years ago, I would never have considered using such a show as part of our curriculum, but through watching it this year, they've learned stacks! And, it is so funny; and yet, it offers some amazingly accurate information.

While I wouldn't recommend it as your only history curriculum, the show certainly does a good job of bringing history to life, and making history way more interesting. After hurting my back earlier in the year, it became a ritual for a time - gathering in the lounge at 6.30pm for our daily dose of the hilarious history show.

We love the show so much that I've just bought the DVDs of the first two seasons. I wondered what the reaction would be when they arrived - and when I picked them up today, the children responded with a loud 'yippee!'. Yep, we're hooked! Haven't seen my children for some time now - still in from of the TV, no doubt....

A warning, though, if you decide to purchase the DVDs, buy the ones that are produced by the BBC - apparently, there is also a cartoon version out, which is no where near as good - I haven't seen it, so that's purely hear-say. In any case, my opinion here reflects the BBC version (with real actors).

So there you have it - one success for the year, and one I never would have attempted in a dry, dull way - learning the names of the all the Kings and Queens of England, from William the Conqueror until now.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Erin from Seven Little Australians has awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks, Erin!

I'm fairly new to the whole blogging scene - that is, I've had a blog for a long time, but only recently began using it, and reading other people's blogs, on a regular basis. I find it quite a challenge to come up with 'new' ideas - but I've finally come to realise that blog posts do not have to be full of super ideas, but rather, they need to be 'real'.

Rules for the Versatile Blogger are:
  • Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
  • Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
  • Give this award to 15 recently discovered bloggers.
  • Contact those bloggers and let them in on the news.

Well, firstly - some things about 'me'.

1. I like to have everything in its place - and when something goes missing, it drives me crazy!
2. I enjoy watching 'historical' type movies - Robin Hood, Titanic, Historical Fiction-type stuff.
3. I like to paint Australian landscapes and old buildings - still much to learn, but I am very much enjoying the 'Len Hend' painting DVDs.
4. I love to study. I hold several certificates, including Certificates in 'Basic Accounting', 'Commercial Studies', and 'Comprehensive Writing'. I may yet decide to complete a degree sometime in the future.
5. I play the flute, and this year have joined a concert band.
6. I am a Michael Jackson fan, and have been since childhood.
7. I once played the part of 'Liesl' in 'The Sound of Music'.

Here are some of my favourite blogs that I've discovered these past few months:

1. Seven Little Australians
2. Aussie Coffee Shop
3. Roses, Tea and Our Lady
4. Every Bed of Roses Has Its Thorns
5. A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars
6. A Whole Hearted Catholic
7. Serenades and Solace
8. Cherished Hearts at Home

Now, I do have a few more on my list, but these are the blogs I have visited and found posts to inspire and to encourage. With limited downloads and limited time, I'm afraid I do not get to read many blogs on a regular basis.


The Secret Rainforest, Part 1

It's been quite a while since I have been able to complete a painting, and I've been desperately wanting to pull out my paints once more. I'd begun this painting a few months ago, but finally, I took some time out to finish it.

This painting is called, 'The Secret Rainforest', and it comes from a painting step-by-step DVD by Len Hend. Len is a fantastic artist, and I have several of his instructional DVDs. I've still several to work through, but they teach painting in a very different way - very hands-on, and he encourages generosity with your paints, applying it thickly, and quickly. He gives a full demonstration of each painting, and you paint right along with him. Of course, I had to stop the DVD on several occasions to catch up - he painted the one below in around 30 minutes - but it took me a little longer...

The Secret Rainforest, Part I

It looks just beautiful in a black frame; I'm quite chuffed with it!

And now the really good news! I've just discovered that Len is now offering free lessons on his web-site! If you've ever wanted to paint, especially Australian landscapes, I'd highly recommend you check it out:

where you'll find the sixteen free painting exercises, as well as the currently available DVDs. They make a wonderful gift, too, should you be looking for something for the person who 'has it all'. The exercises can be used by a complete beginner, and also by the more experienced artist.

Well, there is a 2nd painting on the 'Secret Rainforest' DVD, I wonder if I can find some more time, to make a start on it?


Thankyou for Being a Friend

On Wednesday, I went into town to visit with my Dad, who is 91, and now lives in the Old Folks' Home.

I was sitting with him, when suddenly, one of the ladies who works there turned to me, and greeted me with a lovely smile. I was a bit taken aback - usually, people happily ignore me in town (large family, Catholic, homeschooling and all that: I have the 'weirdo' label, and am considered the social outcast). However, she started chatting, asking how we were, etc., and then asked if we were still homeschooling. When I replied in the affirmative, she proceeded to invite our family to come and sing some carols with the people in the home in two weeks' time.

We have sung at the homes a few times now, and it is lovely to be asked for these things, however, I admit to feeling a little deflated - I felt as if I was only worth talking to when people want something of me, but no matter - we, of course, are delighted to help out.

I finished my visit, and Bill and I headed down to the local store, and picked up a few things. As we were leaving, another lady spied us, and greeted us with a loud, 'Hello my lovelies!' - throwing her arms out in a loving gesture. Now admittedly, this particular lady will always stop and say hello, and we've known her a long time. So jokingly, I said, 'Uh-oh! Nobody talks to us unless they want something - look out!'. She replied with something like, 'Oh, I'm sure that's not true - but since you mention it...' and proceeded to ask us to help out with the local town carols!

Once again, of course we're happy to be involved, and to help out. But sometimes, I'd really like to be greeted in the local street 'just because' I'm there. Yes, it happens on occasion, but for the most part, I feel shoved aside, ignored, and treated as if I just don't exist. Now, that probably has something to do with the fact that I had no friends in this town growing up, and that I was 'that' child in the class who was constantly picked on and bullied, but nevertheless, that's the way it is. (Why am I still here? you ask. Simply put - my parents need me)

However, I did not come home saddened. Over the past few years, we've had the opportunity to travel to various places, and I have been fortunate enough to meet some wonderful people. I now claim to have those few, close friends that I never had previously - sure, I have to travel a fair way to visit with most of you, but you are there. When we had problems during in the year, you were there, in cyberspace, and with just an email or a message, I received your support and friendship. And of course, we do get to see you from time to time, and that time is very precious.

So, to my friends - those interstate, and those here in SA, I say thankyou. Thankyou for being there. You'll never know how much you mean to me, or how much you've helped me. Thankyou for simply being my friend.