Friday, October 06, 2006

Early October in the garden

With the camera home (!) here are some updated photos of the garden. Early in the week we had a 33C day and it’s still not officially summer; makes me wonder what our garden will look like come December!

Firstly here is the bean-sunflower house with lots of bean seedlings and some sunflower ones! Next is the potager. Please comment on how well Hannah arranged the bricks. I think she did a great job!! Things are slowly growing here.

Then here are the tubs against the new rooms. Note the ones Toby painted in the middle. They are in full sun for most of the day.

I couldn’t resist posting the cinerarias before they reach the end of their flowering. I remember in New Zealand how these grew as perennials and practically as weeds too! Lastly a peek through dappled shade at the washing on our hottish day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oct. 5, 2006 - how plants photosynthesise and what kind of spider is that?!

I think you might appreciate this: We were at a park/playground after a violin concert. Lachlan (5) was on top of the spiderweb equipment "You betta watch out below there’s an enormous red-back down there!" "oooo" go all the other little kids"no wait a minute its not a red back its shelob" "whats a shelob" say all the other kids." (lol!!) My 9yo has asked me how non-green leaf plants like beetroot and some of our basil seedlings photosynthesize? Any ideas?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oct. 2, 2006 - More on gardening

Oct. 2, 2006 - More on gardening

Clive and I went on a gardening expedition yesterday and we found borage!! I am so excited with all the herbs in our potager. We have chocolate mint, apple mint and mint julep growing in the shade.we have several kinds of basil(including a liquorice variety), oreganum and marjoram. Parsley, tarragon, tansy and lemon balm are dotted around. And I still have the lemon verbena to plant. The garden now boasts two rows of baby carrots, a number of bush tomatoes, silverbeet, lettuce and capcicum. French marigolds edge the sunniest end and there are blue salvia in the shade. I hope its not too overcrowded but to begin with this intensive planting should help to keep down the weeds.mind you I like weeds sometimes...we got several mysterious bracica seedlings in our sweetpeas a while back. I just left them to bloom and their delicate grey-green leaf and yellow flowers seem to blend in well with all else that is growing around them.

When Caleb gets back from Tasmania I will add photos of the garden. I asked him :"is it as cold as New Zealand"


"does it look a bit like New Zealand bush where you are"

"a bit... if you can imagine New Zealand bush but australian trees"

"is it green and beautiful"

"oh yes, definately!!" I've cautioned him to take lots and lots of photos!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sep. 22, 2006 - A mini holiday

Sep. 22, 2006 - A mini holiday

The bags are packed, food carton full of “non-green” treats!, 6 sleeping bags sit waiting expectantly, it is 5 am on Tuesday morning and time to wake the two youngest, slip them in their car seats and we’re off. Have we got the pillow cases? Did someone remember the sun block, insect repellent!! As I gather up the last minute details I slip a special readaloud in my bag.

Last night before the boys went to sleep they listened to Glen Close reading Patricia Mac Lachlan’s “Sarah Plain and Tall.” The older five all remember when we read it together. They had kept gravitating last night to the “littles” bedroom on some important errand “don’t you remember this part” “she reads it very well don’t you think mum, very true to the book” (!). In my bag I put the sequel to last nights tape “Skylark”.

We always seem to take a family readaloud on holidays and they always seem to suit the particular holiday we are on. Last year when we went to Aldinga, a beach suburb not far from Adelaide, we took “Pinky Pye” by Eleanor Estes. The book is set during a holiday and sand and water predominate. We didn’t pick the book especially it’s just the way it worked out. And “Skylark” this time was no exception.

There is a nation wide drought affecting Australia and in the north of South Australia how could we help but identify with the prairie drought in our readaloud. As we stopped at different places we saw all the creek beds dry, people told us about their wells empty. One old woman commented on the city people who squandered water in showers until she told them to stop “for mercy’s sake”. And at night dad discreetly wiped his eye as we read of Caleb’s water glass on the fencepost.

And so we came home. Only a mini holiday this time not quite three days. But we are melded together now, united as a family once more. Dad had been away for nine weeks previous and we oh so needed this family retreat. The bags are unpacked. The third load of washing is going through the washer, piles of “essentials” have been packed away and a mountain of dirt has been bathed off two small boys!! We open our book. Just before the fourteenth chapter Lachlan says,” now would be a good place to stop, don’t you think mum” (he always chose when to stop reading on holiday and that same phrase was always used). But this time there is an urgency in his saying and we all know why. Stop now mum don’t lets finish just yet, lets stay on holiday one moment longer, we might see another snake, hold another sleepy lizard or treasure hunt for copper, please leave us where we are there’s magic in a holiday we aren’t quite ready to let go of and there’s magic in the knowing what we think will happen in the ending of this book though we don’t want to go there yet. We all pause for a moment and then Hannah reminds us of the wonderful home readaloud by Hilda van Stockum “Francie on the Run” that we have to read in “ordinary time”. We all let out a sigh and with relief and anticipation for the morrow our holiday story is finished.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sep. 28, 2006 - Our garden patch

Sep. 28, 2006 - Our garden patch

We are starting our garden unit.

So far we have mostly done lots of reading.

The boys have become fascinated with bees. We enjoyed reading about them in “The Wonderland of Nature” by Nuri Mass. The boys sketched and labeled diagrams of bees in their nature diaries. Lachlan’s was purple and yellow. Toby painted a duck and a chicken on two tubs and these are against the wall of the new rooms full of mushroom compost. We have planted bush tomatoes in them. Did you know you can re-plant the root end of your spring onions? We have ours planted in these tubs in front of the tomato bushes. The boys have also designed and built with Clive a bean/sunflower house. We are hoping for great results in this. They are so looking forward to sleeping out in their house. Maybe some holy water might help the seeds they planted to sprout. Next to the sunflower house, where the trampoline used to be we have made a mini potager.

Hannah very carefully put in the bricks.(she thinks all these new gardens smack of “homely clutter”; a thing her 15yo sensibility can’t abide, but she is courageously entering in to the spirit of things!!).

We have so far planted in it cucumber (to grow up the veranda post!), more bush tomatoes, statice(next to the tomatoes to confuse the pests), dragon’s tongue bean(bush beans of a purple variety…we loved the name!), columbine(a new one for us, but they sounded as if they were meant for a potager, hollyhock(because they are great flowers to make fairy people with amongst other things!), and some lettuce. We are still thinking what to plant in the shady half. With our heat in summer I still think some things could grow there even if not as well as if they received their usual allotment of sun… we will experiment. We will add pictures as our garden develops. Normally our garden is dormant over summer because it gets so hot . We are all wanting this family effort to work out. Especially as Grandma will be here for Christmas! Finally our pigeon is laying a second lot of eggs. Great place to choose birds! Now we definitely won’t be finishing the verandah roof for a while. Ah well everything is growing and blooming in the Cromb garden at the moment, even Mary has to cope with a zealous shawl of nasturtiums. It’s true what they say isn’t it, to be close to nature is to be close to God.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I keep forgetting about this blog site. If you come across it and are looking for me try:

as I tend to keep that more current!

Thursday, June 29, 2006


How do we study geography in our family?

We use a variety of things to help us study the World we live in. Maps are the first things that spring to mind. We have a smallish map of the world on a notice board in our schooling area. 

  Surrounding this are postcards that have been sent to us from all over the world. There are several home school postcard lists you can join that are helpful for this. One is:


Dotted amongst the postcards are pictures of the “Flats” that have come to visit us for a month or so. This idea for learning geography comes from the book “Flat Stanley who was “flattened” one day and able to post himself around the world. We take these flats with us when we are out and about and also take photos of them with us doing things we do in our day at home. Then we post them home together with a CD of photos taken during their visit and bits and pieces of souvenirs. This  project has helped us to be good ambassadors/spokespeople for our own part of the world.  Then in return we send our own flats to different families and learn about such far away places  as Chile, Switzerland Ireland and more close to home in New Zealand!

 Another thing we do is have a very large world map 


under plastic on our dining table. The amount of times this gets used and for varied reasons is numerous! The older ones use it in their political debates; the middles have used it in history and the littles just to find out exactly where E……    lives in Canada!

We love to read geographical living books too! Here are smatterings we have “owned” as a family:

“The Day Jean Pierre went round the World” Paul Gallico (follow the adventures of this cute little guinea pig as he is handed from person to person before finally returning home)

“Letters from Felix” when I read this with L. he insisted on making his own suitcase from a file-folder and packing it with cardboard “souvenirs” of the places Felix visited.


“Water Buffalo Days” and “The Land I Lost” Huynh Quang Nhuong (Vietnam)(what my children appreciated here was the “fantastical adventures” that the author wrote about that were real life to him)

“Daughter of the Mountains” Louise Rankin (Tibet)

“Fu-Dog” Rumer Godden (China)

Tales for Telling Leila Berg(folk tales from 5 countries)

Su-Mei’s Golden Year Marguerite Hamon Bro (China)

The children of Noisy Village, Lotta, etc! Astrid Lindgren(Sweden; wonderful family stories too!)

Homesick: My Own Story Jean Fritz(moving story about a family having to leave china)

The Big Wave Pearl Buck(Japan)

Mei Fu Memories of China Edith Schaeffer (sweet experiences of the author’s early childhood)

The Spettercake Holiday Edith Unnerstad (Sweden)

Sailing to Freedom Voldemar Veedam (Estonian refugees traveling by boat from Sweden to the U.S post WWII; this was a can’t put it down readaloud for all our family, a book to be appreciated by all and one of our family memories)

“It’s A Jungle Out There” Ron Smell (South America)

Two Under the Indian Sun Jon and Rumer Godden (India)

The Journey of Ching Lai Eleanor Frances Lattimore

The Brendan Voyage Tim Severin (a leather boat tracks the discovery of America by Saint Brendan) Another book that became a favourite family readaloud; if we got to something that we felt was too technical/adult etc we as parents simply narrated that part in our own words. Sometimes necessary to do with books whose audience is primarily adult but as with all resources the book is only a tool in your hands; you choose how to use it. And what a pity to miss out on the whole book just because of a few passages we as parents might need to re-write!

How the Heather Looks Joan Bodger(a geographical literary tour of England by a family in 1958)Another wonderful read combining two of our favourite subjects; literature and geography!)


General Geography reference books we enjoy:

Rivers of the World Series Oxford University Press

Round the Wonderful World G.E Mitton (historical geography fascinating!)

Van Loon’s Geography

A Child’s History of geography  Hillayer

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Geography


Montessori Geography cards: With the youngest three I have made cards to cover a variety of topics: Continents of the world, Oceans of the World, Physical land Features, Rivers, Caves etc. These are self correcting. On one will be the illustration, on the second the illustration plus title or a brief definition/description of the feature. I have also found when we study a country making picture cards of that culture/locality for the children to look at while we read our living geography book really helps to cement the place in their minds. Such cards are often shared on the following groups:                             


We have used a variety of methods to display our knowledge. Sometimes we have

                          our information or made lapbooks.


Another idea we have used successfully with the younger children is to place a hand drawn map of the country on the wall and attach to it things we make pertaining to that study. So surrounding our map of China we put fans, opera masks, several paper stuffed dogs, other animals of China, p’copy colored in covers of books we read, the menu of our Chinese meal, kites etc!

How to put dad going away so much this year for work in a positive framework? Put a map of Australia on the wall, label all the places he has been, passed through, received job offers from etc. Surround it with postcards dad sends home, internet photos of others and voila you have Australian geography and dad feels so much closer to us.


We have just started reading for the second time, with the younger children, The Bantry Bay series by Hilda van Stockum. I am thinking of keeping our records of this fairly low-key. Perhaps a shared family notebook. The illustrations are beautiful enough they beg to be copied and coloured. We can add pictures of Bantry Bay, a map of Ireland, Irish recipes, some Irish folk songs, Irish saints etc and here is our geography for the term! Or however it takes to complete. I am wondering if there are any crafts that are especially Irish that the children could do while I read aloud (H is in a knitting mood at present). Perhaps we could look at Irish painters. A bit of nature study. Learn a little gaelic…!! Ah well maybe I’m getting a little carried away; now if only the wee folks were here to help get it organized!   


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Everyone has been making shrines at our place! Here are two that Masters 4+9 made for the Sacred Heart. And here is our altar with their shrines on it and our family picture for the Sacred Heart. Feeling a little bleary eyed as got up at 6am to attend Mass with oldest son.(having not gone to bed before 12.30am talking to him the previous night). Then dh arrives home at 10.30pm tonight,yippe! It’s been over 5 weeks with him away, it will be so so nice to have him home for a week, before he’s off again for 6 weeks or more at Alice springs. Master4 said to him on the phone a few nights ago”I do miss you so dad!”
But how about this, he’s returning on the feast that celebrates the greatness of God’s heart! Perfect timing..God’s timing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More notebook pages

these are some samples from ds4 + ds9's notebooks. I haven't posted them in any particular order and I am still learning how to upload pictures to a blog, so there is probably a way to make them look neater which I haven't figured out yet! I couldn't resist adding the mis-spelled tiwst, it just seemed to fit the way I think St Aloysius Gonza would have wanted it to! The page the boys enjoyed doing the most was the mosaic for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Our Faith Notebooks

It started with making Easter Vigil Notebooks during Lent. Next for May we made a notebook focusing on Our Lady, now in June we have a red folder which encloses our notebooking pages. Even Master 4 is keenly involved as evidenced after their violin concert on Sunday."Mum do you have a favourite shape?" Mr. Mature(9ys)"That's silly, how can you have a favourite shape?!" Master 4" Well I do and its a triangle, because it has 3 sides and there are three persons in God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and that's why the triangle will always be my favouritist shape SO THERE!" (said with a particularly unpious facial expression !) Still all this aside we all seem to be benefiting from this start to the day.we've even "tagged" something else on to it, and now before we begin and straight after chores we pray the Angelus.(ds just turned 17 included!)

More scenes in our autumn garden

I love autumn! The bare branches of deciduous trees are like part of a living sculpture, the autumn leaves that crunch beneath your feet, the frost that stiffens the grass like hairspray and the little "surprises" of colour that greet you when you stroll amongst the gardens. I always feel more prayerful in the autumn; its a season that lends itself more to reflection, taking time out. it hints at the promises of the more"sensational(!) seasons to come. By in large it is a very gentle season. It makes me realise that no matter what I do/don't do God's love for me is constant, unchanging; it will always be.
Today as I weeded and planted and watered and then strolled I found at the very end of my walk some tiny iris blooming amongst the fallen leaves. What a beautiful reminder of the work God will accomplish in us as we turn ourselves more and more over to Him. A gentle encouragement from our Everlasting Father!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Love is holding my silky bantam

Master 5 assures me that we will defunitly(written for ease of pronunciation!) be keeping HIS silky bantam hen"you know the one that's the brown little rooster"!Now if I could only find someone to take the other 6 we'd be happy!! And what a pitty it is that bantams have blue skins...and before you ask I am definitely not skinning the said number! Which leaves it to oldest son to find homes for them or when dh returns from Timbercreek.....!!

Master 5 performed his beginner bow at the Elder hall concert with aplomb. He loves learning the violin and tells me ahead of time that I needn't bother listening as he's already done a good practice!"Mum you realise this means I am a gardener-artist-violin player"Earlier in the day"mum do you think Aunty Anna is the bestest mum?"Me(with a gulp)"Yes I suppose so"L"Well, you're the bestest of the bestest mums" didn't I say that boy was gifted!!

My brother

I love you well, my little brother,
And you are fond of me;
Let us be kind to one another,
as brothers ought to be.
You shall learn to play with me,
And learn to use my toys;
And then I think that we shall be
Two happy little boys!

A Boy and his Bike

A boy and his bike should never be parted!! that's got to be a line in a song somewhere! Master 9 has taken to a bike without trainer wheels so easily, its been such fun to watch! For a boy with some major coordination issues this one has been a piece of cake! He would happily bike anywhere/anytime; not so easy to do with a timid 5yo with trainer wheels in tow but we get there. we are rediscovering the linear park and the bonus is mum is getting fitter too! T. has also taken to writing poetry(the love of a bike does that?!!). Here is his most recent:
Walk , walk, walk upon your merry way,
Walk, walk, walk all day.
To the cats you see upon your way,
Don't say move, or go away,
Just politely say"Oh shoo!"
even if they do go"Boo hoo!"!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa
Without prayer I could not work for even half an hour. I get my strength from God through prayer.

Meditations by Padre Pio -
Let us become saints so that after having been together on earth we will be together forever in heaven.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

T. has made a shrine of Our Lady to put on the wall near his pillow. What he did was cut an arch in the front of a porridge box and then decoupage the inside with brilliantly coloured flowers . The outside has greenery and an image of a kangaroo slipped in too!! I am sure our dear Mother will smile at this. He chose a picture of Mary with the infant Jesus. Then he covered the entire thing in several coats of pva glue. So now it is durable yet light enough that a thumb-tack will suffice to put it on the wall. He plans to affix rosary beads beneath Mary. L has chosen to paint a tissue box(with one side removed) in bright poster blue. He wants to place Mary amongst ladybugs and frog stickers with the odd star tucked in for good measure because"Mary is star of the sea too you know". L said yesterday"Mum when my eyes were closed I wasn't cross you know; I was asking Jesus to keep Dad safe when he goes away again"!!All for Jesus through Mary!

Marion shrines

Saturday, May 13, 2006

May 13th Our Lady of Fatima

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. As part of our May studies, we have been reading "The Beautiful Story" The children coloured pictures of Our Lady appearing to the three children beside which they wrote or copybooked: Are you willing to offer yourself to God and bear all the sufferings He will send you to make amends for the sins which hurt Him so much and as prayer for the conversion of sinners. T's picture is vibrant in colour, it almost dances off the page while L's is softly, gentle in pastels. T. has also made a shrine of Our Lady to put on the wall near his pillow. What he did was cut an arch in the front of a porridge box and then decoupage the inside with brilliantly coloured flowers . The outside has greenery and an image of a kangaroo slipped in too!! I am sure our dear Mother will smile at this. He chose a picture of Mary with the infant Jesus. Then he covered the entire thing in several coats of pva glue. So now it is durable yet light enough that a thumb-tack will suffice to put it on the wall. He plans to affix rosary beads beneath Mary. L has chosen to paint a tissue box(with one side removed) in bright poster blue. He wants to place Mary amongst ladybugs and frog stickers with the odd star tucked in for good measure because"Mary is star of the sea too you know". L said yesterday"Mum when my eyes were closed I wasn't cross you know; I was asking Jesus to keep Dad safe when he goes away again"!!
All for Jesus through Mary!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Our Family Altar

This blog has taken a rest for a few months . In those times we have learned many lifeskills as a family. Coping with severe trauma in a family member, dealing with separations for indefinite time periods , being ill away from home, visits from extended family members. I thought therefore it was appropriate to post what is our focus and these photos of our family altar could not say it better. The first image shows the Lenten altar, sparsely furnished, with the cross and crown of thorns predominating. The second image was taken just a few days ago on the feast of St Athanasius. Images of the saint as homemade holy cards are in the background. Our dish of hollow decorated eggs sit to the left. The altar is clothed with our laciest cloth but what predominates is the tomb. The empty tomb. Alleluliah Christ is risen. He is Risen indeed!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Easter Vigil notebook

Here are some picture of our notebooks on the Easter Vigil Mass.As this is our family anniversary of the day we all came home it is particularly personal to us.Ds(4)+ds(8) made these pages.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I have reached the conclusion that in our house nature study just “happens”.


The year started with us looking after our friend’s spiny leaf insects "Felicity" and "Cheerful" during a heat wave. Poor "Cheerful" died but "Felicity" remained very happy with the fresh leaves we brought her every few days and the thorough misting she got from me at least 2x a day as I determined to return her alive!!


 Then there was the dead inchworm caterpillar moth that resuscitated itself once home in our schoolroom to live quite happily on our shelf of videos.

Next, Lachlan (4) found the largest preying-mantis we have ever seen knocking on the glass schoolroom door.


 But nothing would have prepared us for yesterday's little” adventure”!! I was turning into the driveway, after dropping Caleb (16) at chess club and stopped the car near the front garden to open the gate. Creeping tentatively out from under the lavender bush I spied a flash of feathery movement. Getting out of the car and bending down to investigate I saw several baby bantams! (We have silky bantams; 7 females and 3 roosters which we were given free by our zoo when they were too young for sex to be determined, hence the 3 roosters!!)


Now for several weeks "Snowdrop" had been escaping from the backyard, returning as regular as clockwork (almost to the hour!)every to days to feed voraciously for 20-30 mins before disappearing again.

No amount of searching either yard had helped us to discover where she went. We figured she’d gone broody as bantams are renound for being but hadn’t counted on the eggs.


Our bantams are very seldom layers. We might get 1-2 eggs per week from the lot of them!

Anway, Duncan (21) and Hannah (14) helped me to rescue the mum and babies (all 7!!)from under the bush and put them in the cardboard box.


We figured they must have hatched just that morning as the inside of the egg shells were still wet and the chicks still had traces of white on their little beaks.(egg tooth?)


So here we were with a nursery to house safely and my dh who would have easily just made something up from scrap, uncontactable and 600kms away working at a uranium mine!! 

Fortunately being home schooled children they are used to “thinking outside the square” and Caleb came up with using the shell of an old chest of drawers and covering it with some wire-netting scraps. It is working well. I think for the rest of that evening we were all in a state of shock!


As I watched Snowball tenderly shuffle her babes under her wings and a sound of pure contentment which sounds uncannily like cats purring come out of her throat I couldn’t help marveling how wonderful the timing of our God is.


This hen chose the stupidest place to have her chicks. Our front yard is unfenced and frequently patrolled by cats and I’m fairly certain a blue-tongue lizard! Yet barring one egg which didn’t hatch, they have all survived. (Normally on Fridays Caleb goes to chess with another home schooling mother and also this particular Friday we were planning a visit with another home schooling family. So for me to be in the front yard at that time, well!!)


Appologies for the length of this posting but I thought this was too exciting not to share! Will keep you posted with the progress of our little family