Homeschooling

As the time to send BallinaGirl to school approaches, we are beginning to look more towards homeschooling. Our favourite school is too far away to be fisable for us to drive to daily, and public transport to it is only available if we drive further than the school is. There are some other options around, but financially, they will blow a big hole in our budget. Which brings us back to homeschooling.  

 The idea can seem a bit daunting, particularly since we will have a baby in the mix by the time our homeschooling adventure will officially start (cannot register children until the age of 6, but you can start the registration process 3 months before their 6th birthday, as the Board of Studies NSW (BOSNSW) advises it takes approximately 3 months for applications to be approved). To be honest, I had been toying with the idea for a while. I can really appreciate the ideals of unschooling, particularly in the early years. But there are lots of ways to homeschool, and luckily we live in an area where there is a community of homeschooling families – we’ve even had two national natural learning conferences held in our area (pity I missed both of them). And with support, and a community getting together and having group activities together, it can be really easy, maybe even easier than sending the kids to school! 

 If you are looking to start homeschooling, I suggest looking in to any local groups that are in your area. This will help you find support and more information on how to register and what is required in your area. You can also visit Home Education Australia (HEA) for more information about starting up, and the BOSTES (NSW) has a registration information pack you can read through too.  The Educating Parent, is a really good place to start too, Beverley Paine has worked really hard collating lots of useful resources as well as writing several books to help parents start on their homeschooling journey. She also has a Facebook support group, which is invaluable when looking to connect with other homeschooling families and ask for advice, as there is a huge variety of ways to homeschool. Beverly has been homeschooling since 1985, so is a wealth of knowledge and support, so much so that is talking at the next (2015) Natural Parenting & Natural Learning Conference (being run by Nurture Parenting Magazine). 

 Another place I found to help is TES Australia. It is a website designed for teachers, to find teaching resources (as well as advertising teaching jobs, and there is a forum also, but I use it for resource and teaching ideas) for free. Homeschooling parents can also register and gain access to a range of resources from preschool to the end of high school. It can give you topic ideas, and also printable work sheets, or cards, posters, etc.

Writing plans, as well as keeping a record of your children are meeting the “required outcomes” is part of the home schooling journey too. The Education Deparment send out assessor so at times to ensure your children are meeting this outcomes, so to help you with writing them, you can find more details about them here, broken up in to stages.

Locally-made Natural Organic Suscreen

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I had meant to write this review, what seems like, a year ago, but then life got in the way and my blog has mostly gone unloved. But, now it is heading in to the warmer seasons again, I’m reminded almost daily that I need to write this up!

Greenfoot Mama is based in the Northern Rivers, on the coast. She makes a line of organic products and is passionate about decreasing carbon footprints, living holistically and helping nature while becoming more attuned to nature and living ” naturally”.

‘The key focus was to create an indulgent choice of organic products that protect and nurture, whilst providing an array of holistic qualities without damaging our bodies or our natural environment.
Respecting and preserving our precious oceans whilst honouring our bodies with safer products is where Green Foot Mama is at.
It’s been such a pleasure creating produts, I hope that you love them too!’
– Olivia

Now, BallinaGirl has some weird genetic throwback that has given her a lovely light olive complexion. But, BallinaBoy on the other hand, is the definition of pale. I have used this product on both of them, and myself and the first thing I have to say is I love the smell!! I actually had one of her first tubs that didn’t have her new labelling on it before this new batch, and loved it too, but I find this one to be even better.

The main reason I love this (other than the smell) is that I can pronounce the ingredients (well, the unscientific names for them anyway) and actually know what they are, and while it isn’t ideal, I don’t have to be scared of the kids eating it (which has happened with other creams!).

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I have used it at all different times of the day, and have found that it works best when applied 10-20mins before you get to the beach, particularly for outings during the ‘UV danger zone’. Nothing scientific behind this reasoning, I have just found this works better for BallinaBoy. Also, reapplying a lot more often than those “4 hour waterproof” sunscreens you get in stores (we also make sure he has other sun protection on too, as this sunscreen alone does not stop the burn on him during the peak UV times). I’ve been caught out a few times, getting home from the beach with BallinaBoy looking a bit like a tomato. But, luckily you can also use the cream as an after sun balm, and it still smells good then too.

It can feel a bit oily when first applied, but still feels a lot better than normal store bought sunscreen. It feels lighter, like your skin can still breath. It feels good for your skin, like it is moisturising it at the same time. It doesn’t have that thick sticky feel when you are trying to apply it either.

It seems to work great for BallinaGirl, and have often considered giving the preschool the tub for her to use there, but I think I’ll have to get a new tub for us before I can do that.

If you want to get your hands on some, you can purchase some from her website (which seems to be currently undergoing some renos), through her facebook page, or you can email Olivia.. Or if you’re local to Lennox Heads, I believe a few stores stock it too!

Swimming Lessons in and around Ballina

I have tried three different places for swimming lessons in the area, and BallinaGirl has attended all three. For her, I found they differed and had positives depending on age, her swimming ability, and her developing personality.

Lennox Aquatic Centre ( 128 Newrybar Swamp Road, Lennox. Head )
They have a great set up for babies and young toddlers. BallinaGirl attended when she was a baby, and again when she was a toddler. It was really good when she was a baby, but we couldn’t afford to continue the lessons. They have a small pool that is extra warm so they stay comfortable the whole lesson and don’t get a rude shock with the water temperature (which can affect their relationship with the water). They do a similar pattern each week for learning, with lots of songs and “actions”. I would highly recommend this one for parents with babies. From their website, they start from 3 months old.

Ballina Swim N Gym (behind the cinema at Ballina Fair)
This is Ballina’s only indoor pools. We tried this when BallinaGirl was younger, but found the water to be too cold for our liking (although was fine for my aqua classes I did during pregnancy). We went back again for an Intensive Swim Program for the kids over the school holidays to help catch them up, and they were pretty cold by the end still. BallinaBoy particularly complained of the cold, although the air within the pool are was quite warm. It was quite good that the pool was a bit deeper than what they usually learn in, so were able to practice swimming without the ability to stand easily in the water, which was a plus, although BallinaGirl spent most of the lesson swimming around the platform in the water than actually paying attention to what was going on. These classes seemed to be the cheapest of all.

Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre ( 50 Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah )
Attending the swimming lessons at this pool were the best solution for us. Although I preferred the baby swimming lessons at Lennox, BallinaGirl loved the swimming lessons here (started about 2.5years old). They have games, she loved her teacher, and after a few lessons, was quite happy to go off with the teacher without us being in the class also. It also helps that the pools are a lot of fun to play at afterwards, with a dedicated toddler pool and slide, as well as the main pool having a slope to walk in to (similar to a beach) with access to the pool toys they use during their lesson to practice with in the shallows. She has wanted to stay there all day, she loves it so much there, we’ve had 3 of her birthdays there!
The travel time does make it a bit of a drawback, so I try to arrange for anything that might have to happen over that way to coincide with the swimming lessons.
As for BallinaBoy, he is still a bit on the fence with the lessons here, I think in part because of the timing of the lessons we had, as well as him not being confident in the water, nor away from me. I am contemplating trying him in the Lennox ones this semester instead, or as well as.
GSAC has also won awards for their swim school, swimsations, at a National level, which is pretty impressive.

Contact details for the pools are as follows:
Ballina Swim N Gym – (02) 6686 8299
Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre – (02) 6625 5370
Lennox Aquatic Centre – (02) 66 878 800 (or Tricia who runs the lessons on 0404156195)

Update: I have had a few friends attend and/or enrolled and waiting to attend swimming lessons in Bangalow. The pool looks like it has an amazing outlook, looking out over the Byron hinterland (a friend posted a photo of her child there which made me want to know more!) and is run as a private business. For more information here is their website and you can contact them on (02) 6687 2911. They have water babies classes through to stroke correction classes for older children. They also offer swim intensive programmes during the school holidays.

Free Bush Camping near Tabulam NSW

This long weekend we went camping. It was forecast to rain on the weekend, but be fine out west, near Tenterfield. So we packed up our stuff, including the dog, and off in to the sunset we drove.

We first went to Ewingar Forest Camp. We had been here before, and after doubting our GPS and how long it may take to get to another we had planned to visit, we thought we’d go with what we knew, as it was soon going to be dark.

We had been to Ewingar State Forest, and the Forest Camp, before, in our pre-kids days. We had found it in a 4wd weekender book, and tried to get there from memory, to find that our first turn off the Bruxner highway had a sign up saying the road was now closed indefinitely, so we had to go back to the GPS to direct us to the camp.

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Toasting some marshmallows on the fire at Ewingar Forest Camp


We found the camp quite easily, and the road was in a reasonable condition. The camp had deteriorated since we had last stayed, the grass was long, the firewood shed had fallen down and the sign was broken in half, now saying “REST CAMP” on the sign, with “EWINGAR FO” on the cabin. It was a little surprising to have a few others arrive, who said they were staying in the cabin and camp kitchen (I believe it was built as a camp kitchen, but it really is just a room with a large open fireplace in it). They were fossickers from the Byron Shire.

The facilities include tank water, two long drops, 3 small separate inclosed “rooms”, a “camp kitchen” and a cabin. When we first came in 2009, firewood was provided, and the main cabin (a small house type cabin) and the long drop next to it were locked. We believed they were used by forestry workers. There is a large double bay shed that is still locked, most likely used for forestry storage.

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BallinaGirl with a skink we found, it was named Rosie. (Part of the main cabin, and it’s long drop can be seen in the background)


You can make a camp fire where ever you like on the site, as long as there is no current fire ban. We toasted marmallows, on a small fire before heading to bed. Dogs are also allowed in state forests, so BallinaDog got to have a good run around.

I checked out the cabin, once the occupants had packed up and gone home. It would have been a cute little dwelling at some stage. It, at one stage, had a shower installed in there, as there was gas water previously installed which had now been removed. There was a main area, with a big open fireplace, with the “bathroom” coming off this area, and a “bedroom” added on to the back. There are some random pieces of furniture in the cabin (chair, table, shelving, metal spring base of a bed), and some long shelf life food supplies left on a shelf. There is a few artworks on the walls, with some recommendations of leaving something useful, and making sure you take your rubbish. There was also a bowl of some “half crystals”, which leads me to believe that a lot of people go fossicking in the area, and use this as a base to stay.

There is nothing really too special about the site, not much view, and no “attractions” near by. But there are a lot of dirt tracks to take out your 4wd. We stumbled upon a few creeks, and had a quick “fossick” in a little one under a bridge. It would be a lovely place to splash around with the kids (who had fallen asleep by then). We also drove past a sign warning that there was some old mine shafts around. We were keen to try find them, but couldn’t see them from the road, so presume they were signs for hunters, or people who may go off the track.

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Driving through a natural ford, following the GPS on some crazy 4wd tracks. We had to turn around and go back the way we came in. We weren’t prepared for serious off road adventuring.

We moved on to the original place we had planned to stay at, on Hootens Road. We followed the GPS’ directions, and went past where it thought we wanted to go. We kept driving to see if we could find it, and just as we were about to give up, we saw where the creek met the river on the GPS, that we had read about on a camping app. There were quite a few people camping here already, but we were able to drive up the back and get a space to ourselves on the river.

As soon as we got out, BallinaDog was in the river swimming, the kids wanted their bikes and found a “sandpit” and we quickly set up camp, trying to figure out where we would be able to position our set up to be able to get dry before we left (an issue we didn’t think of at Ewingar).

Campsite at Hootens Road

Setting up camp at Hootens Road, Lower Duck Creek

We set up a camp fire in an area already set up, circled with rocks. It was cold, and strangely, we discovered that the Tabulam area must be in a flight path. While the planes were high up, the quietness, seemed to help amplify their sound.

This campground, found on Hootens Road, is just bare land that people seem to camp on. There are no facilities, other than some areas where people have made rock circles to have camp fires. The grass is low though, as I think it is grazed by cattle, and the river is lovely to look at (although looks a bit too weedy for me to swim in).

We found that there was actually a quicker way to get there than the GPS first sent us, and we came out right across from where we came back to the Bruxner from Ewingar, which was slightly frustrating! We definitely need a map so we can double check the GPS knows what it is doing, and where it is sending us!

By the river at Hootens Road Camp

Climbing trees for a seat to watch BallinaDog’s water sports in the river, while the sun came up over the surrounding hills.

We were really happy that we found the new camp site, and plan to come back another time, hopefully with some friends to accompany us. We also hope to go back to Ewingar, but maybe when we have better off roading capabilities.

Australian Breastfeeding Association meets in Ballina!

Yay! Almost 4 years after wishing for a group to be in (or at least closer to) Ballina, it has arrived!!

The first meeting in Ballina was a huge success, with over dozen people in attendance – I guess I wasn’t the only one who had been hoping for this to start. I think it will be a great asset to the Ballina community.
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The Australian Breastfeeding Association is one of the leading sources of breastfeeding information and support, and a great way to meet other parents, particularly as you fumble your way through parenting young children (and breastfeeding!).

“The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is an Australian organisation of people interested in the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. Amongst these are breastfeeding women and their partners and health professionals such as doctors, lactation consultants and midwives.

ABA was founded in Melbourne, Victoria in 1964 as the Nursing Mothers’ Association, with the aim of giving mother-to-mother support to breastfeeding women. It is Australia’s leading source of breastfeeding information and support” Wikipedia

The meeting was hosted by two ABA counsellors, Jan and Jeannee, both traveling from out of town to help the group get started. They are both a wealth of knowledge, and very helpful – Jan was even around when the Nursing Mothers first started up in the Northern Rivers.

Meetings occur on the last Tuesday of the month at the CWA Hall in River Street, next to the RSL in Ballina, starting at 1pm. Coin donations are appreciated, to put towards the use of the hall.

There are also meetings in Lismore and Mullumbimby. Lismore is on the second Friday of the month, starting at 10am, at the ground floor meeting room of the Lismore Library. Mullumbimby have their meetings on the first Wednesday of the month starting at 9:15am, in the Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre, Dalley Street.

Breastfeeding BallinaBoy

Breastfeeding BallinaBoy at the start of the meeting, while everyone chatted.

Free Children’s Activities at the Library

Our local library is a favourite place to frequent since BallinaGirl was only a few months old. They offer baby bounce, which is approximately half an hour of singing, dancing and playing with musical instruments (shakers mostly). But as they grow out of this, they can then move on to Story Time, which involves books, songs, dancing and BallnaGirl’s favourite, craft! I hear very good things about the one held in Lennox Head too, although we haven’t made it there yet, as we have other things on at that time. 

The Richmond-Tweed Regional library offers these programs in most of their libraries, and I believe most libraries around the country would offer something similar too. Have you checked out your local library?

Events & Programs (usually aimed at older children)

More information about Baby Bounce & StoryTime, including times

Life Factory Glass Drink Bottles

I bought some of the Life Factory Glass drink bottles from our local GoVita after seeing them there. I actually got the big one first (600mL), and after consulting a friend who had purchased the kids ones, I ordered in the little one (200mL). 

We had a couple of stainless steel drink bottles that I felt made the water taste like metal by the end of the day, so this seemed like a great alternative.

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I really like that you can see the amount of liquid you have in your bottle, I like that it doesn’t take on any taste, and I also liked how resilient it has been. It’s been dropped a few times and is still going strong, although the lid has got a few scratches and dents on it as it’s made out of plastic. 

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The way the flip lid works means you can get to your beverage quickly, but it can be a bit hard to drink out of. I’ve found drinking it, what seems, sideways seems to help as it can allow airflow in so you can have a large drink without it feeling like it’s trying to suck your face in. 

The large bottle comes with a little handle you can carry your drink from, or use to grab it to pick it up easier. I’ve used it many times, but my butter fingers, I think is what has caused it to drop so many times too.

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The little kids bottle I found a little hard to get used to at first. You need to make sure the lid isn’t tightly screwed on when your little one (or you) want to drink from it, to allow airflow, which in turns allows the water to come out of the little hole easier. It still needs a fair amount of “sucking” to get a good drink out of, so usually if I need a drink out of the kids, I just remove the lid completely as I like to guzzle down a lot of liquid when I have a drink. The kids bottle isn’t completely leak proof, but I have found if you have the lid screwed on tight, it’s better than some of those other (little) kids drink bottles’ spouts. This means you need to loosen the lid for a drink, and tighten it again before you pop it in a bag. 

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With the little kids bottle, you can also use it as a “baby bottle”, I had a teat and ring set that matched it, and have used it many times to give some milk to my littlest. It’s much better than using some of those plastic bottles!

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The downsides of these bottles seem to be that the 600mL bottle doesn’t fit in to normal cup holders. This means you have to have it either rolling around on the floor in the car, or left on your passenger seat if no one is sitting there, which leads me to the next problem. I’ve also had issues where I’ve either not closed the flip lid completely or, it’s been knocked slightly and has leaked without my knowledge, which can happen quite quickly! I’ve ended up arriving at my destination to discover my passenger seat, handbag, and all the other stuff I sometimes keep on my passenger seat saturated as my newly filled bottle has leaked it’s entire contents. The flip lid can seem to be knocked open while rifling through your bag too, so I try to keep it upright to avoid issues. The other issue I have is, being either pregnant or breastfeeding for he past few years, means I can drink some serious amounts of water during the day, and while running around with the kids, means that water (especially filtered water!) isn’t always around to be able to refill your bottle. 600mL was the biggest bottle I could get, and to get my daily water intake I’d have to fill it 5 times, at least. 

Something to consider with the kids one is that some young kids like to throw their drink bottle around, and with a glass one, this can present some safety issues. I haven’t had a problem with ours breaking, but I have had moments where I thought the throw from one of my kids would end in disaster.

Another downside is that they are quite expensive, and have gone up in price since I purchased them, so much so that my local GoVita decided not to stock them any more (I found out when I went back to get another kids one). So now, my “reduce reuse recycle” side of me now also uses old glass alcohol bottles to store water in. This glass doesn’t seem to be as robust, or maybe it’s because it doesn’t have a sleeve, but I’m definitely more careful and aware of these glad bottles than I am of my Life Factory bottle, and would not give these to my kids. I usually just refill their bottles (or mine) with my recycled (upcycled?) glass bottles.