Sunday, April 19, 2015

Week Ending 19 April 2015

This has been a wonderfully quiet and relaxing week. The weather was terrible at the start of the week. The last time our city saw snow in April was 23 years ago. Still it's been the perfect excuse to stay at home. There has been

movie watching,

We don't have a proper table tennis table or net but they commandeered the dining room table and used some plastic containers as the net!

game playing,

Miss 14's pile on the left; mine on the right.

book reading,

With the cooler weather we started feeling like soups, curries and casseroles. We love browsing through  books and magazines looking for new recipes to try.

and menu planning.

The weather improved later in the week and Miss 14 and I managed one birding trip - a bush walk with a small group of fellow birders. Not a lot of variety, but large numbers of kereru and fantails.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Week Ending 12 April 2015

On Monday morning Miss 14 departed for her ornithology camp - a departure that was not without hiccups. After the alarm went off at 7am I called Miss 14 and then went to the kitchen to feed the dog and cat and start breakfast. After a while I glanced at the clock on the microwave - 6:15. What? Then the dawning realisation. Daylight savings ended the day before and dh had neglected to alter the alarm clock in our room. As it turned out the extra hour was advantageous. Since we were ahead of schedule we headed to the airport early. Mr 17 dropped us off. When Miss 14 went to check in the airline staff refused to let her do so until she could prove she was over 12 (and thus entitled to fly unaccompanied). We had no proof on us since it had never been asked for on any of her previous flights. Luckily we live fairly close by and Mr 17 was able to grab her birth certificate and speed (not quite literally but I suspect he was pushing the limit!) back and drop it off, meaning we were able to get her checked in with just 5 minutes to spare! Miss 14's flight was only an hour and she was going to text me when she had met up with the people (strangers to us but relations of a friend) who were putting her up for the night and transporting her to where she needed to go the following day. After an hour and a half I'd heard nothing. A check online revealed her flight had arrived early but a text to her didn't get a reply. About 45 minutes later the land line rang - Miss 14 saying she had arrived but couldn't text since she couldn't find her phone. We later located it in the car. She also said rough weather was forecast and they'd had to change the venue for at least part of the camp since the ferry wouldn't transport them until the weather improved. All-in-all not a promising start.

Thankfully the rest of the week went much better. Except the weather that is - it rained 90% of the time every day bar the last one! Still she had a fantastic time with two days on one island and three on another. Both are predator-proof scientific reserves which play an important role in the conservation of many of our endangered species. Before the camp started her hosts took her to an urban wildlife sanctuary where predator proof fences have enabled a variety of native wildlife to flourish within the city.

All up she saw 17 new bird species for the year. Ten of them she'd never seen before at all. She especially enjoyed all the practical, hands-on activities -  catching, banding, measuring and monitoring. She also enjoyed the evening card playing sessions and was awarded a prize for "Best Poker Face"!

This island was home for a couple of nights.

A Fluttering Shearwater being processed. This camp gave her hands-on experience with seabirds which she hasn't had before.

A Yellow-Crowned Parakeet about to be banded. She'd never seen one of these in the wild before, although our local wildlife park has a captive population.

A North Island Robin. We've seen the similar South Island Robin before, but this one was a first for her.

The Kaka (or Bush Parrot) has always been one of Miss 14's favourites.

We get fantails in our backyard but they are constantly flitting about and thus hard to photograph. So she was quite pleased with this shot.

This is a Sooty Shearwater chick. These shearwaters nest in burrows on one of the islands. While the parents were feeding at sea the chicks were removed from their burrows, weighed, measured and banded before being returned. This was one of Miss 14's favourite activities even though one of these cuddly looking chicks gave her a nasty scratch and two others relieved themselves all down her front. She was the only one in her group to suffer this fate! Birds obviously don't enjoy being removed from their burrows. Her other battle scar is a bite mark from a Little Blue Penguin which she'd just removed from its burrow.

A Takahe. These birds were once though to be extinct until being rediscovered. in 1948. Their conservation status is critical and they are heavily monitored.You can see the antenna of this bird's transponder.

She even spotted this eagle (complete with Gandalf) in the airport terminal while waiting for her flight home!

All-in-all a fantastic bird-related week for Miss 14.

Linking Up with the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Week Ending 5 April 2015

This was our last week of the quarter and boy do we need the two week break. I think Miss 14 has had a bit too much on her plate and we're both bordering on burnout - crankiness was bubbling to the surface all week long! If a break hadn't been on the calendar I think we'd have been taking one anyway. Instead we modified our workload, took some time out for one fun activity and muddled through the rest of the week, getting through the bulk of the work that we deemed most important. And it was a short week (both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are full public holidays here) with yummy treats involved which helped us get by!

This is the second year the Big Egg Hunt has been in our city. Miss 14 and I spent an hour or so one afternoon seeing how many of the large, decorated ceramic eggs we could find. This year many of the eggs were behind windows, which made photography a bit more challenging. Miss 14's favourite was the egg in the centre.

Given the name of this blog I was pleased we managed to find Serendipity Egg!

Easter is always a good excuse for home economics. This year we made plenty (too many) of hot cross buns. Miss 20 and Miss 14 also made some chocolate eggs that were much appreciated, albeit messy in the making.

We've also been busy preparing for Miss 14's ornithology field camp next week. Since it is on a protected island there are very strict quarantine regulations. We've had to check all her gear (including all the seams, Velcro closings, pockets and any other hidden spots) for seeds, soil, foliage or other unwanted items, as well as thoroughly washing all her shoes.

Linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week Ending 29 March 2015

This has been a great week - although pretty light on actual academic work. Maybe that is why it has been so enjoyable!

On Monday Miss 14 and I decided to go birding in the morning since the only birding we've managed recently has been the service type - participating in bird counts and assisting at a junior nature club meeting among other things. So we went to a local lake just to see what we could see and had an enjoyable morning - until the rain came in that is. Tuesday was our monthly ramble with the local birding group. We were surprised to see some very young Australasian Coots, plus one bird still incubating eggs. On Wednesday, spurred on by reports of several unusual species, we headed north for the day. We didn't have time to check out everything and an abnormally high tide stopped us getting to one spot. But we had another great day and had fantastic views of the Grey-Tailed Tattler. I think this was our seventh attempt for this bird so we were practically doing a happy dance on the beach. On Saturday we headed to another lake to try and find a recently arrived annual visitor. We couldn't spot the bird we were after but found another species we hadn't yet seen this year. On Sunday we were supposed to stay at home but a friend texted us with a report of a rare migrant at a wetlands near her. So we met up there and in less than five minutes found it - our first ever Japanese Snipe. An excellent week's birding - two new species for our life lists, plus another three that were new for our year lists.

Japanese Snipe. There have been fewer than thirty reported sightings of this bird in the entire country ever.

A  Great Crested Grebe on the left and a Pied Cormorant on the right. I love its blue eye ring.

As well as all that birding, Miss 14, Mr 17 and I went swimming again on Friday. We're trying to go once every fortnight. The spa pool at the end was lovely!

Despite being out of the house more than we were in, we did actually get some book work done. Admittedly not as much as we would have liked - especially with only one more week left in the quarter. But what doesn't get done now will get finished later. Most of the book work was simply carrying on with what we've already being doing. However, we started To Kill a Mockingbird for World Literature and we'll be using this study guide from Garlic Press. They are my absolute favourite guides for literature and incredibly comprehensive. There is far more than we'll actually use but being able to pick and choose is great. Miss 14 has also started an essay on Insurgent. I suggested she write on To Kill A Mockingbird (plenty of writing ideas in the study guide) but she was really keen to write on Insurgent so we went with that! I haven't actually read the book but I found a whole lot of essay questions on line and I let her pick from those. Since Miss 20 has at least read the first book in the series and will soon be on a break from university I might pass the essay marking over to her - have to put that undergrad minor in English to good use!

While Miss 14'ds week was all about birding Mr 17's was dominated by cricket. His team played their last game of the season and he managed his highest score of the season. He's also been watching a lot of cricket since the World Cup is currently on. Semi-finals were earlier in the week and the final is currently being played. It's the first time our country has ever made the final, but sadly, right now, it doesn't look like they'll manage to win it. We don't have pay tv so he's been spending a lot of time at a friend's house. Tonight he's taken dh and Mr 22 with him. Miss 20 got called in to work since a lot of people wanted the night off to watch the cricket match.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week Ending 22 March 2015

Three noteworthy things this week.

1. Miss 14 had asked to go ice skating and here was a half price homeschool open skate at the local rink one day this week. Sadly, there were very few people there (and absolutely nobody I knew - a clear sign that I'm not really part of the local homeschool community anymore) so it was all a bit flat. Miss 14 wants to go skating again though and hopes she can convince Miss 20 to join her. I don't skate and Mr 17 isn't that much fun apparently.

2. Our geography programme isn't as balanced as I would like - lots of good information of the discipline of geography, and the kids are getting plenty of mapping practise but they are not yet learning anything detailed about particular countries or areas. And they both concede that it is on the light side work wise. So I've opted to ramp it up just a little. Last week I had them select a lesser European nation, and find five images that represent some aspect of that country. This week (it was meant to be last week but we never quite got to it!) they gave a short oral report, talking about each image. Mr 17 picked Iceland. He had a great image of the Northern Lights. I also learnt about the month long Thorri fest. Miss 14 picked Latvia. No surprises that she talked about the white wagtail, Latvia's national bird, among other things.

3. Another trampoline competition. As well as competing Miss 14 was coaching. Miss 14 wasn't happy with her own performance but still managed a win. She was more excited by the fact that a girl she coached earned two second placings.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week Ending 15 March 2015

Mostly this was a very boring, uneventful week. Miss 14 was either chugging through schoolwork, training or coaching. I'm beginning to feel that she is a little overcommitted - there doesn't seem to be enough down time in her schedule for my taste - and have been wondering where we can cut back. Trampolining is the obvious area, but she is incredibly resistant and has even convinced me to increase her training hours back to what they were last year. While she admits to feeling a little harried now she's pointed out that it should only be temporary since many of the things that are causing me concern are temporary and will soon end. For instance there are two competitions in a three week period (one last weekend and one next weekend) and then none again until July. The scheduling makes no sense to me but nobody asked my opinion when the competition calendar was designed! And she had the  second of this year's leadership/coaching module this weekend. The first was just three weeks ago. Last year they were more evenly spaced - one every three months or so. Our homeschool schedule is also a little more fraught right now (a MOOC we really want to do even though the timing isn't perfect) but that will calm down in another couple of weeks also. Basically she's convinced me that while she is a little too busy right now , the problem should only be temporary. If not I might have to step in but I'm torn. I want her to be able to follow her passions and sometimes that conflicts with my vision of an idyllic, relaxed life with plenty of downtime at home.

In good news Miss 14 was excited to learn she has been accepted into a teen ornithology camp next month. It was advertised for sixteen to eighteen year olds so she didn't think she'd get in. However, someone suggested she apply anyway and she made it. She's very excited - although apprehensive about the boat trip out to the island where they'll be based. Her last experience with boats was not a good one!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Classics Club : 8. Hamlet

Of all the Shakespearean plays that I have read so far, Hamlet is the most complex, challenging and haunting. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark  loses everything over the course of the play  - his father (dead), his mother (she has married her husband's brother with indecent haste), his girlfriend (convinced by her family to break things off with him), his studies (his uncle denies him permission to return to university), many of his friends (Horatio remains true but Hamlet realises others are being paid to spy on him), the throne (at least temporarily - he expected to succeed his father but his uncle has won the post and Hamlet will now have to wait). Complicating matters even further is that his father's ghost appears, tells Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother - the new king) and charges Hamlet with extracting revenge. Hamlet is initially reluctant to comply, at least partly because he is uncertain as to how reliable the ghost's information is. Eventually he proves to his own satisfaction that his father was murdered by his uncle and extracts revenge but the the cost is high. Hamlet loses his sanity and then, after most others have died, own life as well.

After reading the play and watching several different versions I'm left with many questions. Did Hamlet's mother know about the murder? Did Ophelia's madness drive her to commit suicide or did something more sinister occur? When (if at all) did Hamlet cease pretending to be mad and actually start suffering from a mental illness? And exactly what did he suffer from? All sorts of morally ambiguous questions arise throughout the play as well. Is murder ever justified? Should people interfere in the lives of others - even with the best of intentions?

Technically this was an easy play to read but emotionally it was more challenging. The story is one that will stick with me for a long.