Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week Ending 24 May 2015

It was a very noisy week, and as a result we we weren't as productive as we'd have liked. It's a little hard to concentrate with diggers, jackhammers and the like operating right outside your window. Our driveway, paths and patios were all dug up and replaced. They were damaged in the largest 2011 earthquake and replaced later that year. Except the contractors didn't do a good job and everything began cracking in less that two weeks. After lengthy negotiations with the contractor and then the insurance company it was finally agreed that they would need to be relaid. At least the contractors this time around appeared to know what they were doing.





We also took an unexpected field trip to the sewage ponds. I know- we sure know how to pick our venue! But birding networks reported a rare bird that we'd never seen before so we had to go and check it out. Turns  out that first reports were incorrect  and the bird was in fact a Hoary-Headed Grebe that we travelled north to see last year. But this is the first time one has been seen in our region for 30 years so it was worth the effort (and besides it got us away from the jack hammering). No photos sadly - it didn't come close enough to shore for our camera. Since we were across town we visited a few favourite birding sites while we were there.

 
Lots of waders and gulls at the estuary.

We spotted this White Heron fishing in a canal.
 
Mr 17 was knocked off his bike during the week. A driver opened a car door directly in his path. Luckily he only suffered some minor scrapes and bruising. He was on one of the city's busiest roads at the time so it could have been a lot worse. At least bikes can be repaired and helmets replaced.

In amongst all this we did get some bookwork completed. A trawl through my computer files revealed a geography notebooking pack which included a country study. It was perfect to supplement our geography studies which are currently focused on the Americas. Miss 14 has picked Colombia, while Mr 17 is looking at Panama.

 


We also spent plenty of time with this guy. He was perplexed by men destroying his paths!

Basil appears to be eating the maths homework!

The week ended with sleety showers. Perfect for curling up in front of the fire and watching a video.Since we've just finished Romeo and Juliet I thought an adaptation was a great idea. My first pick - West Side Story - was out. So we settled for the somewhat lighter Gnomeo and Juliet instead!

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Week Ending 17 May 2015

Some random snippets from our week.
 


When I stumbled across a recipe for these owl biscuits in a magazine I just knew Miss 14 would want to make them.



It sometimes feels as if Mr 17 never does any schoolwork. But I caught him hard at work on his comparative politics this week. He's just starting a unit on Iran.



Two birding trips this week. Miss 14 and I joined a small group of friends for a mid-week ramble around a local wetland. On another day she travelled south to visit a private wetland and aviary complex. I've been knocked around again by inner ear problems and didn't feel safe going. Hopefully I can get a referral to a specialist and fix this problem since I'm totally over it.


Mr 17 helped run a leadership camp for Scouts over the weekend. And no Scout camp is complete without a roaring campfire. Then he had the panel interview (a three hour marathon affair) for his Queen Scout Award - the highest award in scouting here. I didn't realise what a big deal it was - the awards are actually presented in person by the Governor-General, the Queen's official representative. Mr 17 was pleased the panel recommended that he receive the award - now he just has to wait for the paperwork to be processed and approved at both the regional and national offices.



Miss 14 read The Disappeared for her World Lit course. Set in Argentina in the 1970s, it is a nice complement to our current geography studies which are focused on South America.





Mr 17 has been playing a bit of indoor cricket over the past few weeks - regularly filling in on a friend's team. They had their first win (at least in the games he's played) this week.



Homeschooling in pyjamas - in this case a penguin onesie since it seems everything around here has a bird related twist.




The technician came back and finally fixed our hob. Four working elements again (he did have two of them working after his initial visit) and it was still covered by the warranty. Cooking is much simpler and I'm a happier cook.

Linking up with Kris at the Weekly Wrap-Up.







Saturday, May 9, 2015

Week Ending 10 May 2015

I thought this had been a fairly mundane week but when I write it down it turns out we were out and about a fair bit.

On Monday Miss 14 and I went swimming. Mr 17 wasn't still in bed recovering from his weekend camp! We were there for a couple of hours and actually had the entire pool to ourselves for about half that time. I especially enjoyed soaking in the spa pool at the end. Monday night was our monthly bird group meeting, featuring a talk and photos from one of our members about a couple of wildlife trips he'd made to the United States. I loved the way he included particular details that he thought would appeal to specific members,such as information on Dr Julia Platt and her work in Monterey Bay especially for Miss 14.

On Thursday the weather was glorious and, inspired by this post from Jessica over at Teachable Moments, I told Miss 14 to hurry up and get dressed since we were going birding - despite all the bookwork that needed to get done. We headed north to a small estuary (probably my favourite local birding spot).



The sun warming our skin, the smell of the sea behind us and a great variety of birds preening, bathing, searching for food and otherwise going about their lives all made for a wonderful morning. The highlight of the day was this Black Stilt, one of many of our endangered natives.




 



Friday was dominated by caring for Mr 22 who had oral surgery. I spent the morning driving him to and from his appointment and then he had to spend the rest of the day with us. He wasn't allowed to be alone and all his flatmates were busy working and/or attending class. It was nice to have the whole family back under the roof for a night - even if Mr 22 was somewhat subdued. I spent a lot of time fetching ice and pills, and preparing soft food!

Saturday was the Global Big Day in support of global bird conservation . Naturally Miss 14 and I had to do our bit - any excuse for a day's birding! We were out and about for about six hours during another great autumn day plus another hour at night.
 


The highlight for us was the first Cattle Egret of the year. There was a group of three feeding on the ground with these White-faced Herons.



But the cattle egret were very photo-shy. Every time Miss 14 got the camera focused on them they took to the air.




At one lake stop Miss 14 spent ages trying (unsuccessfully) to capture all the Welcome Swallows swooping and soaring over the water as they fed. If you look closely you can see a small dot of white in the background, slightly to the right of centre. That's our first Great Egret of the year!
 

We were hoping to spot the Little Egret that has returned after spending the summer elsewhere. Sadly, it proved elusive - but that just gives us a reason to go back again.

In amongst all this some (but not all) of the planned bookwork got completed.
Miss 14 began working with adjectives in Latin, looked at thermal energy for physics (she's opted to stick with her existing textbook for now but might try some other resources I have when she moves to light and sound) and endured some lessons related to polynomials in maths. In geography they've moved on to South America. In literature she's finally finished To Kill A Mockingbird (I'm trying to find a movie version but none of our libraries have it) and we moved into the third act of Romeo and Juliet. I continue to be impressed by the SmartPass audio guide we're using). Art History dropped off the radar this week so we'll have to get to it first next week. Of course there were the usual twelve hours in the gym training and coaching.

Mr 17 has a less exciting week than his sister. He took on a few extra shifts at work, continued to look at Nigeria's political system, sat and passed his first economics exams and plodded along with his other subjects. Tonight he's off to a Jamboree on the Trail event, an annual event for Scouts worldwide to hike together.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up.
 









Sunday, May 3, 2015

Week Ending 3 May 2015


In our homeschool this week… Miss 14 and I are finishing up a self-designed Shakespeare course. We've incorporated several MOOCs and the final one - Shakespeare in Community - has just started. As a result we're reading Romeo and Juliet (the only  new play we need to read - the other three we've already covered). I forgot to order our favourite Oxford School Shakespeare version so we are do this play a little differently. Fortuitously I read about SmartPass audio guides (basically two audios of the play - one version is plain; the other interspersed with helpful commentary) then discovered they were available via Audible and I could sign up for a free 30 day trial. Miss 14 doesn't see herself as an audio learner so we grabbed a copy of the play from Miss 20's shelf (she's and English minor and studied Romeo and Juliet in one of her undergrad courses) so our eyes have something to do as our ears listen. There are differences between the print and audio versions - enough to spur interesting discussion but not too many to be irritating. I'm impressed with the quality of the guide and would recommend it, especially to anyone nervous about covering Shakespeare. I also dug around on my computer and discovered I had a couple of study guides (one from Secondary Solutions and one from Classroom Complete Press - probably downloaded for free or incredibly cheaply from Currclick at some point in the distant past.) So we're throwing in some activities from these as we go. Our local theatre is performing Romeo and Juliet next month and we're looking forward to attending with some fellow homeschoolers. It'll be a good way to wrap up our course.


Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Mr 17 spent the bulk of the weekend helping to run a Great Race type event for Venturers (Scouts aged 14-18). As a result he was all over the city. Miss 14 attended an all day first aid course this weekend. She also spent hours coaching and training at the gym during the week while he spent hours working at the supermarket bakery. I didn't really go anywhere which is how I like it.

My favourite thing this week was... walking the dog on some lovely autumn days. I love the sound of leaves crunching underfoot!


My kids' favourite thing this week was… Miss 14's would have been swimming. Except we ended up not being able to go because a plumber and electrician were due to call and I really wanted our hot water restored! So I'll have to make sure we get to the pool this coming week.



Things I’m working on… Mulling over the best way to handle my underachiever. Figuring out how much to push him and how much to back off, trust that he has the skills in place and when it counts (ie next year when he is out in the "real world" either studying or working) he'll choose to put them to good use. If not I'll have to trust that he's smart enough to learn from the natural consequences that will inevitably result. I've got to remember that it is his life and not mine - but it is really frustrating when he doesn't want to put in the effort required to produce work of the quality I believe he is capable of. Rant over!

I'm also working on finishing Darwin's On Origin of Species for my Classics Club challenge. It's tough going (any version I can find has small font and the writing style is long, slow and detailed) and I'm really having to force myself to persevere and complete the chapter per day goal that I've set myself. But I'm more than half way through.

I’m cooking… whatever I can that doesn't require a hob. At least the oven is back in service and I'm hoping the hob will be repaired this week. It's a hassle having to make do without it.

I’m grateful for... a working oven and working hot water.


Something I am ogling or have my eye on… A new cookbook by one of my favourite cooks. Confession time - I've already caved and bought it even though I really didn't need another cookbook!


A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  

This is what Miss 20's room looks in the week prior to a major test. A very large, detailed, colour-coded mind map has taken over one wall, while post-it notes have sprung up on the side of the dresser by her bed. They've got information on both sides and the location means it's easy to flip them over and check what's on the back apparently. I forgot to grab a snap of the several large stacks of notecards/flashcards scattered on her desk. One advantage of having older kids at home while they are studying at university is that the younger kids see first hand the effort that university demands.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.















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  • In my life this week…
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  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
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    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Classics Club 9 and 10: Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest

    Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's comedies focusing especially on the relationships between Hero and Claudio and between Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick are older and seem to have some "history". They engage in witty repartee, claim not to like each other and have no intention of marrying. Yet, by the end we realise that their barbs actually mask affection and it is no surprise when, after Benedick proves himself to Beatrice, that these two end up together. While their relationship will undoubtedly continue to be stormy it does feel genuine and a match between equals.

    I found the relationship between Hero and Claudio to be much more troubling. Most of their romancing is done via intermediaries and he appears older and controlling. While she doesn't seem unhappy she doesn't appear to have a lot of agency either. When Claudio is maliciously and erroneously led to believe that Hero has been unfaithful, he cruelly shames and rejects her at the altar. All (except Beatrice and then Benedick) turn heir back on her as well.

    When the truth is eventually revealed her father and others conspire to marry her to Claudio, although it is not until after the ceremony that he is made aware of exactly who he has married. Why anybody would want to marry their daughter to someone who had so cruelly mistreated her, and why others would want to celebrate such a union remain a mystery to me.

    So while, as usual, I enjoyed much of Shakespeare's writing especially the witty exchanges between Beatrice and Benedick, I found the play as a whole troubling and ultimately unenjoyable. I'm aware that placing my twenty first century views on a play from another era when sensibilities were very different is not entirely fair but that's my honest reaction.

    The Tempest on the other hand did not press any hot-issue buttons for me, so I was free to enjoy Shakespeare at his finest. The Tempest is the last play that he wrote by himself and is one of just two that has a totally original plot. In it Shakespeare shows himself to be as masterful as his main character, Prospero.

    Prospero, formerly the Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda  have been exiled to an island for the past twelve years. Over the course of the play he uses his magical powers to conjure up a storm which wrecks a boat carrying, among others,  those who usurped his Dukedom. He dazzles them with his powers, forgives them for overthrowing him,  receives apologies in turn, renounces his magic and prepares to return to Milan as it's leader. In typical Shakespeare fashion there are many interwoven and complicating sub-plots, most notably the romance between his daughter Miranda and  Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples who played a role in Prospero's overthrow.

    One intriguing aspect of this play is the way it explicitly draws parallels between Prospero's magic and the "magic" of the theatre. I also enjoyed the way it touched on themes such as revenge versus forgiveness. Placing it in the context of Britain's growing colonialism, added another layer to my appreciation and understanding of this play.


    Sunday, April 26, 2015

    Week Ending 26 April 2015

    Our first week back into formal, structured learning after a two week break went smoothly and uneventfully. Nothing much to write about at all in a week with few real highlights. Since I'm committed to blogging every week here is a brief recap.

    * Dh finally retired from Scouting. He started out regularly parent helping when Mr 22 first got involved twelve years ago and within a matter of months was a warranted leader, first with the Cub section (8-10 year olds) and then with the Scout section (10-14 year olds). He continued even after our children were no longer involved in the group (Mr 17 is still involved in Scouting but at another group since our group doesn't operate sections for those older than 14). His retirement really feels like the end of an era.

    * Miss 14 attended another module for her coaching/leadership course through Gymsports. This was a practical session on rhythmic gymnastics and she was surprised she enjoyed it as much as she did. Just one module left and the  course will be finished.

    * Our hob and oven both stopped working on Saturday evening. A problem with the circuit breaker that requires an electrician. Since I'm not willing to pay call out rates for the weekend and because Monday is a public holiday here I'll be without regular cooking facilities for at least two days. We solved the problem on Sunday evening by using some two-for one vouchers we had for a Mexican takeaway. I'll have to see what can be cooked on the barbecue and hope the forecast rain holds off until the problem is resolved.

    * Mr 17 took part in two Anzac Day marches to commemorate our war veterans.

    * I found this on Miss 14's noticeboard.



    Time to rethink our approach to physics I think. She has one more week on the current unit and then she can look at some other resources I have to see if she prefers those to what she is currently using. I suspect the dislike might be for the subject in its entirety though! The irony is that she chose to do physics this year - it wasn't a subject we required.

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

    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.