Friday, 16 June 2017

Homeschooling summit notes

Just some quick notes so I can remember what I learnt.

Recently a Homeschool summit was held over about 2 weeks, the sessions were live online and then you could watch the replay for free for each talk within 24 hours after it was given. It was such great timing for me as I had just started to seriously look into home based education, trying to work out if its something we could do.

There were only a few sessions I listened to all the way through, most of them I just had playing, or I dipped in and out just to get the general vibe. The presenters were mostly VERY enthusiastic homeschooling parents, and their particular strength or experience was the reason they were doing a particular session, and a few weren’t hs parents but  experts in a particular relevant fields.

Their enthusiasm was interesting for me as I'm mainly approaching this from a practical/convenient view, I don't think I would consider it if I lived in Aus or if there was an obvious choice of school here. Many of these mums choose to do it because it is better for their kids for various reasons, and better for their overall family life. 

There were some things which I thought would be good for all parents, not just homeschooling ones (such as reading aloud and interest based projects, building character) and other things which were really specific to home based education (the freedom , how to run a co-op, how to apply for uni).
The first session was about different approaches to homeschooling, I had just been reading about that so it was great to listen to someone talk about it more in depth and with lots of enthusiasm and personal stories. 

  Similar to this:

One thing that was mentioned in this session (can’t remember in which method) was some use other books rather than history text books to teach history, maybe they mentioned biographies or something. Anyway that reminded me that by the time I studies WW2 in year 11 or 12 I had already read heaps of fiction kids chapter books about it. I think this made it much easier and more interesting to study.

So that inspired to go to a bookshop and see what books were there. So far I have just been looking for kids Khmer books, as we have been given some English kids books suitable for our kids current ages.  But during the summit I was looking for books they can grow into and learn from such as maybe biographies of famous scientists etc.  I found one on solar cooking and retelling of the Gingerbread man story.

The preschooler LOVES the gingerbread man book, we had to read it many times the week we bought it. And then he wanted to make gingerbread men, so we looked that up on youtube, and also tried to learn about foxes from youtube. He also learnt some new words such as “gobble” and “snout”, as well as watching a few cartoon versions of the story.

 Even just reading the list of presentation topics was really useful for me to learn more about homebased education, so heres the list:

 Designing your own Personalised Homeschool (different approaches eg- school at home, Waldof, etc etc)
Raising Kids of Strong Character

Get out from under the 'Mother Load' and move from Manic to Marvellous (by a self care coach- why stress is bad for you, how it impacts your kids, how to manage it)

Unschooling : Birth to 5

But what about University? (explaining the many many different paths to uni in Aus, I didn’t pay much attention to detail here as these sort of things change but it was good to know that at the moment there seems to be lots of different ways to get into uni should your homeschool child want to do that)

Nurturing a Love of Literature (most sessions made references to reading out loud together but this one was ALL about that)

Homeschooling Multiples: Different ages, personalities, and learning styles (learning styles seems to come up a lot)

100 interviews later: 10 unforgettable lessons I've learned from homeschooling parents,

Natural Learning : Simply Living,

Respectful Parenting

Unschooling our Children, Deschooling Ourselves

 Herding Cats - How to Make Homeschool Groups Work (this was nuts and bolt info about homeschool co ops in Aus, things like if you join some homeschooling association you can hire halls and insurance is covered and you might get a schools discount)

Preparing your homeschooled or unschooled teen for university (different to the previous topic of how to get into uni without having done traditional highschool

on instagram look out for


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Travel so far this year

We went to visit family in Aus earlier this year. One morning they were working on the road of the house we were staying in. The preschooler ate his breakfast outside- all those trucks and things up close was just too exciting!

Soeun took an electric pump to his mum's house and installed it. Now that she is connected to mains power hopefully she won't need to hand pump all her water!

On the same trip he, our son and some other church leaders went to visit the other World Heritage sitein Cambodia, recon for church weekend away later this year.

I already blogged about the lead up to Easter and Khmer New year, here are some photos from the actual day. After church everyone decided a spontaneous trip to a popular picnic spot was in order. Despite the fact that its the hottest time of year, and being a holiday the Baray would be busy  it was fun to do something together. Its maybe around 15k out of town, we got to ride in a friends car while some others used our motorbike to get there. Hammock, mats, rice, grilled meat. Millions of Khmer people enjoying swimming and playing during the main holiday of the year!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Schooling options research: International vs "interntional" vs local plus homebased

We are continuing to think about schooling for our kids. There are lots of schools in the town we live in, although at a first glance none seem like a perfect fit the research continues.
Our research and thoughts so far:

(this is ongoing- this is all new to me, sharing some links so I can read up later, feel free to give input esp if you are an educator or a parent)

Mostly the private schools fall into two categories. Some generalisations (according to what I know at this point in time):  

Some private International schools are specifically to set up  to cater to foreign children who want to have an education that allows them to switch between Cambodia and their passport country and makes it easy for them to apply to universities outside Cambodia. These are mostly all taught in English (or French), and Khmer might be taught as a second language. (that 's my current understanding anyway). These ones are usually quite expensive but as far as I understand the teachers are qualified and have had criminal background checks. 

Other private schools might also be called 'international' but seem to be aimed at  local Khmer students so there are classes in Khmer but English is so important these days they also have English but usually ESL style.  Some of these schools have foreigners working at them who may or may not be properly qualified, but bring their expertise of being native English speakers. They may or may not have had criminal background checks. This could be a big issue as Cambodia seems to be a place where men from Western countries hide from their pedophile charges back in their passport country. Cheaper than the International schools. 

The price difference might be something like around 100USD per month verses 500USD per month for primary school. Not taking into account enrollment fees and other one-off or annual fees, and various other things.

For the early years the big difference we noticed between institutions for Khmer and expats is that the expats ones are much more play based, and there are more options.  I guess day care/preschool is a new concept here, and school usually means sitting at a desk. I guess traditionally households have lots of adults so the kids can stay home with Grandma until they are desk-ready. We had been hoping to find our kids a play based safe Khmer language place for pre-school years but one we thought might work turned out the carers seemed to all speak English to the kids, and we were sure of safety , and while he was there he seemed to need to move around more at home. We guess he didn't get as much fun and movement there. They didn't have any outdoor space to play in. 

Not all school fit into these boxes, there are a few we are looking into at the moment. At the same time we are also considering a combination of local school and home based. 

Going to a local government school feels like it would be the natural and cheap way to be part of the community and learn to read and write in Khmer. In all my years associated  with Cambodia I think I have only heard of one family doing this. I'm currently trying to learn more about this:
 Is it because of safety issues
or teaching methodology? 
Or because having an international education takes priority? Or...?

I'm trying to learn more about homeschooling, there are a few websites that explain different approaches such as this one and this one.  (the eclectic/ hodge podge approach would be where I would start I think- need to read and research, unschooling sounds crazy!) Sometimes online and distance ed seems to be included in homeschooling, others seem to put that in a different box as parents are more facilitators than teachers (I think, I could be making this up).

And I've joined a few facebook groups so I can listen in on conversations between homeschooling families and the day to day issues and questions they have.  I'm also trying to get to know other homeschoolers in town as well as learning more from another facebook group that has many Aussie (and other nationalities) Christian missionary mums in it, many topics discussed, homeschooling often comes up.

Homeschool curriculum seem to be a big industry in America, they seem to be mostly Christian based. For example Sonlight, My Father's World, Timberdoodle , Bob Jones  , A Beka etc etc

And there seems to be lots of free stuff online, people often mention Easy Peasy.  and an Aussie educator I met with awhile back mention I should look up Singapore maths.

Most ppl I know who homeschool are American, and most resources are from the States but I've got some Aussie home based education sites I want to link here so I can find them later. Distance ed from the gov seems like its only meant to be for 2 years, so not sure if we can do that but we could look into riverside. Aussie sites to read:

An aussie homeschooler writing for new homeschoolers:

An Aussie Christian school that has a distant ed program (recommended by an aussie mum overseas, they use it and like it)

Some also mentioned: 


Saturday, 15 April 2017

KNY/Easter season

Jacaranda is in bloom, weather is warmer, town is decorated in festive lights, shops and schools closed, people travelling to their hometown to see family- feels like Christmas!

I've seen every sort of transport carrying stars around town over the last few weeks.

The biggest holiday of the year and Easter always happen close to each other but this year Khmer New Year is actually on the same weekend as Easter.

KNY celebrations are huge in Siem Reap so the the last few weeks we have watched decorations going up, including stars by the river, and archways of lights over the main road. They also finished building a new bridge and fixed up a few other things around town. Lots of shops and hotels also have festive lights as well as tables set out to welcome the new year angel.

Every time we over the bridge the toddler starts singing Twinkle twinkle little star.

Also the last few weeks we have been reading some Bible story books about Jesus' death and resurrection. In the lead up to Christmas we read a Bible society book about Jesus birth and that worked well, so we did the same for Easter.  

No chocolate eggs, but we did have some hot cross buns we brought from Australia. And possibly bagels as an empty tomb treat tomorrow (Sunday). Many people travel to see their family at this time of year, so church is usually pretty empty.

New Year decorations on the new bridge

Mangos everywhere!

Jacaranda from Australia growing in Cambodia- finally has flowers! 

This hot season has been strangely cold for a lot of the time. I got all organised with hot season food but it wasn't hot! But then of course when the hot weather struck I was caught out and we had mangos for dinner.

Hot season: time to go to the mall where there is air con!

Stars waiting by the river 

Sunday mornings at this stage

Leang Sam Ath (Wash It) Full MV By WaterAid Cambodia and Epic Art

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Kids books about Jesus

Here are some of the book we are reading at the moment.

Bottom left are some bilingual books from the Cambodian Bible Society. We have a few in this series "Words of Wisdom". In the lead up to Christmas we read the one about Jesus birth almost every night for a few weeks, so here we are in the lead up to Khmer New Year....err umm I mean Easter and we are reading the ones about Jesus' death and resurrection.

On the right are two books from Growing Faith we were given about half a year ago. As well as teaching about the Bible the kids learn a bit about Aussie animals which is great too. We recently visited Australia and actually saw some flying foxes and some bilbys.

The one up the top is from The Good Book . Its the true story of why Jesus died and rose again. It made an excursion to a Cambodian Bible study group one evening recently!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Distinctive things about this season

When you trip over a hard green mango in the front yard,
and feel so hot and sweaty you get sick of drinking normal water
 you know hot season is approaching.
We've bought a case of soda water,
started eating sweet soft mangoes daily
 and even enjoyed at least 2 power cuts.

Some other things particular to this month for us include some paperwork/admin stuff we need to work on so we can both be legal in each other's countries.

In some ways they are both kind of straight forward but feel a like a big weight to me.
Maybe because working out what we need to do isn't straight forward,
and maybe because they are so important to do,
and maybe because its hindered by limited internet access (internet playing up, power cuts, kids etc), and maybe because both governments are quite  different to each other, so its quite amusing/confusing to be doing both at once.

We've also had a couple of people sick. One means that we loose sleep and shuffle around what we do during the day, the other one is a longer term shuffling project we are working on. 

It feels like a lot of things are happening this month!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Out with baby days

Our younger toddler is growing up! First proper toothbrush today, and yesterday her first moto helmet. Her "words"are starting to sound more like words now. Just this morning she said "door", and this week some of her new words include spoon, ball, more, sit, cheese.
She already can say mummy and daddy words, as well as two and three in both languages and"chicken" and "cooked rice"in Khmer thanks to a recent visit from her Cambodian grandma!
She can also say poo, wee, fish and please.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

I thought I knew that

Recently I was surprised by my own surprise. 

Our washing machine broke 5.5 weeks ago. We had especially bought it brand new from a good shop so we wouldn't have to deal with it breaking a lot. 
But after 2 years it broke. Boo.

The first thing out of my mouth was "Well, I guess I'll take the washing to a laundry shop or see if I can use a friend's machine." Soeun laughed at me- "No, we'll just wash our clothes." 

To him hand washing clothes is the normal, easy and logical thing to do, my suggestions sounded ridiculous to him. Likewise his suggestion of hand washing all the clothes and sheets and towels that the 4 of us use just sounds really hard, it didn't even consider it.

Our broken washing machine strapped onto a moto about to ride over bumpy dusty roads to the fix it shop.

I already know Soeun grew up without a washing machine, and that most people in Cambodia don't even have mains power , let alone a washing machine. And it's not like we just have one by default. When we were thinking about getting married we considered how we were going to live as a Khmer/Australia family in Cambodia and whether or not a washing machine would be part of that.  Yet I was still really surprised by Soeun's reaction to our broken washing machine.

Its not the first time I've been surprised by my own surprise. There was also the time I went to teach English in my first year and no students turned up. I had been told that often people don't go out in the rain, but it wasn't until I saw it that I really got it. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas in a tropical tourist temple town

After most of my adult life in Asian cities where Christmas is not/was not  really noticeable, I'm now living in a small town that seems to mostly run on tourism.
I'm partly amused, and partly annoyed and partly enjoying the fact that Siem Reap has a Christmassy feel. Hotels have light displays, bookshops sell tinsel and Santa Clause clothes for all sizes and the expat community is discussing which places have the best Christmas dinner. 
Even our fried rice shop has put up tinsel and Coke cans!
Bookshops around town are selling gift wrapping, decorations and Santa outfits for kids. This shop has a mannequin dressed in a red dressing and white beard. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Phew! time to take a breath

It feels like the busyness and stress of the last couple of month is easing!

 Since I got married things usually get more busy around this time of year as Khmer churches put on huge Christmas celebrations so Soeun is usually extra busy this month. And while there is lots of Christmas busyness happening at church how its worked out with Soeun's subjects and other things means things feel less deadline-ish and intense for us this week.

So now we are catching up on all those odd jobs (Soeun just got the data off my broken laptop and fixed the kitchen leak) and thinking about how we are going to celebrate our wedding anniversary!

We actually have 3 days in a row free so we could have gone somewhere but decided staying home will be more restful. Its such nice weather at this time of year, and there are so many touristy cafes to visit and Christmas lights to see. Siem Reap feel like the perfect holiday destination for us right now!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

the puzzle pieces were in place....

I have a working laptop now! After 8 years the other one gave up. Sorry if you sent me an email over the last month, if you are waiting for something from me you may need to send it again.

We thought we had childcare and household stuff all worked out to fit around Soeun's teaching for Oct&Nov but a few unexpected things happened. No show nanny, a virus etc means the kids haven't played with others for over a week now. It really makes a difference.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

"Context is your friend"

My teacher was famous for saying that. I heard about it before I studied with him. Then it turned out he did say it a lot in class so we all joked about it while we were in
his class, and still think about that phrase over a decade and a half later.  It’s so useful in so many situations.

I remember seeing a friend lug his laptop to a café in Phnom Penh years ago.  I suggested to the visiting Australian that he might like to just go to an internet cafe and use a computer there. It was cheaper and easier.  No need to carry your computer in crazy traffic and you only pay a few cents per half hour instead of having to buy a café drink.

A couple of years later I went to Australia and noticed many people use the internet on their own laptops, and they are used to it. His decision had seemed strange to me while in Cambodia, but when I saw the context he was used to being in it made perfect sense.

If I, an Aussie get confused about what’s happening in Australia these days it feels like there is even a bigger gap for people who live in Australia and want to know what’s happening in Cambodia. Sometimes there’s moments when I realize people reading our newsletters are missing so much context but it’s great that they can pray anyway.

And then it’s quite overwhelming to think how this applies to me not understanding the Cambodian context that I live in. And then another huge jump to think about the gap between Cambodians who have never been to Australia and how they would see me and all the weird things I do.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

barang health and safety

A workman was setting alight a pile of rubbish leftover from construction work. Some nylon bags, things leftover from painting and building. It smelt and looked toxic!

 I was glad the French lady who runs the daycare centre asked them to wait until after the kids went home, otherwise our toddler would have been breathing in that smoke while he ran around outside.

There are burning piles of rubbish everywhere, even it town where we have rubbish collection so we don't need to deal with all our rubbish ourselves. Mostly the piles near our house a leaves so it's not too bad.

The daycare centre attached to the French school is where our toddler has been going over the last 6 months or so. Starting  him there was the first time we had left him with people other than family.

As an Aussie living in Cambodia there are always so many things which seem risky and dangerous to me, and from my Aussie point of view a huge lack of safety regulations, or if there are written rules about it people don't really consider it important. It's natural that people do what they have always done and what others around them do I guess.

So I was happier to leave him with a French person in charge, I'm assuming she has a similar idea of health and safety issues to me. Even if a Cambodian had good intentions it's doesn't mean they would look after a child in a way that a Western would consider safe.

But of course living here means taking some risks (risks according to my Aussie pov). Somethings are necessary, but sometimes its hard to work out which things I should just go with so we can be part of life here or which things I should choose differently so we can be safer (even if it means we look weird).