Sunday, August 30, 2015

Week Ending 30 August 2015

A couple of exciting pieces of news this week. Well they are exciting to us, not necessarily anyone else!

* Mr 17 received the results of his first test ever - for his university economics paper. He did really, really well and as well as being pleased for him I'll admit to being relieved. Although he is bright  we didn't really think he had the right inclination or temperament for university studies. At home he put
in the bare minimum effort and I felt he often fudged his way through assignments, a strategy I knew was unlikely to work at university level. I did console myself with the fact that he would probably put in the required effort when the work counted. Mum grades clearly didn't count for him! However, I did have this fear that maybe I was just deluding myself! It's good to know I wasn't and if he does want to attend university next year he should do well.

* Miss 14 and I went birding. Our location was a reserve in the hills. We've gone there repeatedly over the past year or so, often in search of one uncommon species or another that had been reported in the area but all to no avail. Until this time. Cirl buntings are an introduced passerine but, unlike most, they are relatively uncommon. A pair had been reported a few days earlier so we staked out several likely looking spots. No luck. We opted to try one final area before heading home. I was scanning one area when I glanced down the bank to Miss 14 and saw her waving furiously at me. As I got close two birds flew away. She'd already had a good look at them and luckily for me we were able to track them for a while so I got good views of the male and at least a glance of the female as well. Very satisfying, especially since we haven't seen a new bird for our year list since June. It's only our fourth new life list bird for the year  - and the last of those was way back in March. Hopefully we'll have more success with our birding come spring when the migratory waders return. Every year a few rare species usually turn up, along with the more expected arrivals.

A male Cirl bunting courtesy of New Zealand Birds Online. Because of course we didn't manage to get a photo ourselves.

* Speaking of spring, it's nearly here which makes me happy. It's been a cold winter and I'm looking forward to a bit more warmth. When I step outside now I love the scent, as two of my favourite early spring flowers are in bloom. I need to pick a few and bring their lovely fragrance indoors.

* Miss 20 and Miss 14 made gingerbread men (and rabbits) at the weekend. We didn't have much of the correct icing to decorate with but they made do and had a good time anyway. The results are delicious.

* That evening they watched Insurgent together. Not really my type of film so I'm glad Miss 14 had someone to watch with her. Miss 20 is hoping to head overseas next year. Her sister will really miss her.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Warp-Up.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Week Ending 23 August 2015

The changes we made to the schedule last week seem to have paid off and Miss 14 got through the week's work without feeling that the weight of the  world was on her shoulders. I'm hoping that the coming week will be better still since she shouldn't have any extra coaching hours. Her coach has been sick for two weeks, meaning a couple of the more senior coaches have been filling in for him which means the junior coaches like Miss 14 have been asked to pick up extra hours to cover for them. She could have said no and it hasn't been that many extra hours but I feel it might have contributed to her feelings of overwork. I discovered that this time last year she had already finished a couple of her courses. That hasn't happened this year - perhaps another factor in her feeling of overwork. Whatever the case I'm hoping that our modified plan helps as she buckles down and finishes up as much of the remaining work as she can before she heads off to the National Champs at the end of next month. We're keen to head into the unschooly/low-tide part of our year.

There were a couple of birding trips this week. Miss 14 and I went to our favourite estuary mid-week and spotted many of our favourite birds. Lots of singing, courting behaviours and nest building going on. Over the weekend I joined a small group of birders on a beach patrol looking for dead birds. (Miss 14 would have come but she was sick. Pretty sure it is just a cold that Mr 23 had last weekend. He was much improved by Monday and it looks like she will be too.) We only found a couple of items of interest - a wing and a skull- but it was good to learn more about the procedure for identifying and reporting  beach wrecks.
A wing from a Red-billed Gull and an as yet unidentified skull - probably from a gull or a tern.

 And it was a beautiful day to walk along the beach.

The real highlight of the trip was seeing a fur seal pup. He looked pretty thin so we were glad when he headed out to sea. Hopefully he managed to find some food.

You can just spot the seal pup heading into the water. Not great photos since I was getting used to the camera on my new phone - the old phone had an unfortunate accident involving the washing machine!

In other news

* Dh had a birthday. No real chance to celebrate on the day this year though. He had an early morning class to teach at one end of the day and an exam to supervise at the other - a 13+ hour work day all up. Still there was a chocolate cheesecake for supper which was some consolation. Next year is a significant birthday so hopefully his work schedule will be kinder.

* Mr 17 sat  his first ever test. This was  for his university economics course. He came home happy and is confident he did well which is reassuring. 

* We made a couple of unscheduled trips to the after-hours health centre as a result of dh suffering chest pains.Thankfully nothing seems to be seriously wrong but he's still got a few more tests to go.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fortnight Ending 16 August 2015

We seem to have hit a mid-winter slump - hence the lack of posting. I'm still getting over the 'flu and doing anything beyond the basics continues to feel like too big an effort. Miss 14 is totally "over" her academic work for the year. I think part of her problem is that the workload for each subject has ramped up the closer we get to the end of each course so her workday is getting longer and longer. Sadly for her we've still got six week to go until the end of the term when we had planned to finish. And it seems unlikely we'll actually be done then due to our extra week's break in July. She's still diligently plodding along but there is no real joy, love or spark. I always worry that when that happens it is too easy to go through the motions without doing any actual learning.

So we've been brainstorming how to change things up and reassessing what we actually need to do to be "done" with the assigned work for the year. Many of my suggestions (we could just quit on the planned date - after all the world won't end if we don't complete every lesson in the text; we could spread the work out so our formal year lasts longer but we have more free time each day; she could cut her coaching and/or training hours to free up some time) haven't met with approval, but some did get a" maybe", including the idea of  just concentrating on one one or two subjects for a while until they are totally completed and then moving on to the other subjects. So we are still in a state of flux, figuring out what needs to be completed and how to complete it while staying sane-ish (at the minimum) at the same time. But we have reached some decisions.

1. She doesn't need to complete every exercise in her Latin programme. It was one course where the length of the lessons got progressively longer as the year went on. I've always allowed my kids to complete just half the given problems for each Saxon maths lesson - so long as they continued to score above an agreed mark. We'll do the same with Latin for the rest of the year.

2. For the remaining unit of physics (electricity and magnetism) we've dropped the textbook we were using and have switched to another programme I had on my shelf. Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday and the new programme covers the same material but is taking her a shorter amount of time to complete.

3. We'll condense geography by not requiring every map work exercise or every research question to be completed. About half seems right and if she cooperates with Mr 17 they can benefit from each other's learning. I'll also replace some of the exercises she finds dull and time consuming with something of my own design.

4. Our semester of art history and appreciation is over and we've started music history and appreciation. This was planned at the start of the year and isn't a response to our recent slump but I think the injection of something new into the schedule might also provide a boost. I've designed the course myself mainly using chunks of this Coursera MOOC, but supplemented by material from the Georgia Virtual Learning site. One upside is that the course is mainly video lectures which we haven't had a lot of for a while - variety is the spice of life and all that. The downside is that this is the one course that will definitely continue far beyond our planned stopping point.

My current reading pile. The Fellowship of the Ring is for my Classics Club challenge, while I'm assessing The World of Birds for use in next year's potential ornithology course. When the current year stops being fun, looking ahead to next year is a good way to raise my spirits!

This week I made a concentrated effort to inject a bit more fun into the week. We started on Monday with a morning at the swimming pool. Funnily enough Miss 14 managed to get most of the work she would normally do on a Monday finished despite only working in the afternoon. On Tuesday we ended up birding for most of the day. We had a planned ramble in the morning but the weather was so nice most of the group decided to extend it with a picnic lunch by the lake and some more birding in the afternoon. We only just got Miss 14 to the gym in time but it was worth it. The fresh air and sunshine helped improve our mood.

Miss 14's current reading pile. Red Scarf Girl is part of her World Literature course. The two bird related books are pure enjoyment.

In other news from this week - and last.

Mr 17 has started a defensive driving course. It will shave six months off the time he has to stay on his restricted license meaning he'll be able to sit for his full license as early as next month.

Mr 17's current reading material!

Miss 14 had another successful trampoline competition. Just one more to go before Nationals at the end of next month!

She's also been busy writing our region's column for the a national birding magazine. She attempted to publish this month's local birding newsletter but is still waiting for some crucial information so that is on hold. Hopefully she'll get what she needs this week.

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fortnight Ending 2 August 2015

It has been a busy couple of weeks.

* Mr 22 turned 23. He came around for dinner that evening. I was still suffering from the 'flu. I did manage to cook the main course but resorted to buying a sponge cake for dessert, and getting Miss 20 did make the lemon curd that I used to fill it. I felt like such a bad mother but never mind. So long as he is still living locally I should manage a better job next year. He, of course, wasn't worried and told me I should just have postponed the whole thing until I felt better.

* We had a really enjoyable visit (despite my still being below par) from my friend E and her daughter K who I haven't seen for nearly twenty years. E was the first real friend I made when we lived in Canada. Initially dh and I spent a lot of time with his fellow PhD students but once we had Mr 23, guys in their early 20s were just not enough in the friend department. Fortunately I met E at at baby storytime at the local library when Mr 23 and K were 3 months old. Even though nearly 20 years separated us in age (I was a younger mum and she was an older one) we bonded over first time motherhood. She was the sort of friend who installed an extra car seat tether bolt in her car so she could safely carry both Mr 23 and K - since we didn't have a car and she felt sorry for me walking the 30-40 minutes to library storytime, especially in winter! So I was delighted to hear they were planning a trip to Australia, and that they were tacking on a side trip to visit us. Miss 14 and I had a great time showing them around the city. Mr 23 was able to join us for a dinner one night, although sadly Miss 20 had to miss it because she came down with the 'flu.

 * The combination of the 'flu and the visit from E and K meant our scheduled two week break morphed into a three week break. This past week has seen us trying to get back into our homeschooling groove but it's been surprisingly difficult. Hopefully the maths that seemed to have been forgotten has been re-remembered and the coming week will go more smoothly.

* Miss 14 and I attended the monthly meeting of our local birding group. The speaker is involved in various conservation projects and uses his dogs to help track down rare species in isolated areas.

* Mr 17 is enjoying his taste of university. Unfortunately he would rather concentrate on that single course than his remaining homeschooling courses. I've pointed out that he has yet to be formally admitted to university; that admittance will require me to sign a form saying he is ready for university level study and that I won't be willing to do that if he doesn't satisfactorily complete his homeschooling courses. I'm hoping that now Miss 14 and I are back into our routine he'll be more inclined to follow suit.

The bird hide at our local wetland, where we went birding.

* Miss 14 and I managed a small birding trip this weekend. We haven't been out for ages and were missing it. Even though the weather wasn't great and we missed the main bird we hoped to spot it was a good outing. We spotted 23 different species. Our favourite was the Redpoll. Even though it is an introduced species it's cheerful red cap always makes us smile.

* I've managed to get through more than twenty books during July - more than in any other month so far this year. In fairness most were short, light reads consumed while I was recovering from the 'flu and thus not up to doing much else. My favourite reads of the month were Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, Tatiana de Rosnay's A Secret Kept, Anita Diamant's The Boston Girl and The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrow. For the first time all year I didn't read a single classic during the month, a mistake I won't repeat during August.

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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fortnight Ending 19 July 2015

We've just finished a two week break from formal homeschooling pursuits. Perhaps because we were on a break more interesting things happened than normal.

Mr 22 arrived home from his working trip to Europe. By all accounts his conference presentation went well, and he discovered that French laboratories are much better resourced that those he usually works in!

This is the small steam engine that Mr 22 took to get to his conference - not your typical form of conference transportation!

The conference was held on the island of Fraueninsel in the Chiemsee lake, Bavaria.
Despite being busy in France he did fit in some sightseeing. This is the cath├ędrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes.

 Another place he visited was le Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.

Miss 14 and I survived the second biggest trampoline competition of the year. Her club hosted it so I ended up volunteering both days, recording scores on the computer. My first time in this role, and after 12 hours the first day I was shattered. Luckily the second day was slightly shorter but I basically came home, sent hubby and son out for takeaways since there was no way I was cooking and then went to bed! Miss 14 did well. Both her events were on the first day and she won both which was something of a surprise. She was competing with a new partner in the synchronised event and they hadn't had a lot of practise together. The individual event featured a much larger field than normal, half of whom she'd never seen before, including a big group from Australia. She's never competed in an international field before. She also ended up being the final competitor of the day and had never bounced so late in the day. Since she is always nervous and can barely manage to eat before she competes I was somewhat worried that lack of food might be a hindrance! Thankfully not.

There were koalas (donated by the Australian teams) as well as the usual medals for the prize winners.

Miss 20 got her hair cut short! This was a major event since she has had it long ever since she was a toddler. Apparently the hair stylist checked and rechecked about five times before finally starting to cut! She looks so different that when Mr 22 came around he didn't recognise her (he didn't know she was going to have it cut). When she answered the door he asked if she was at home!

Miss 14 ended up working a few days in her gym's school holiday programme - mostly with the preschool classes. This was rather an eye-opener and she no longer thinks all preschoolers are cute and adorable - especially not when they come in larger groups!

Mr 17 started his university course. I wasn't sure how this would go since he doesn't always believe in applying himself to academic work. However, after all of one week, he seems to be taking it very seriously - up before 8am (previously 10:30am was the norm) so he can get ready in time to attend class, taking notes, rewriting those notes later, and doing the recommended readings. Many of my homeschooling grey hairs may have been for nothing!

In between times he worked a lot of hours at the supermarket bakery. There's a lot of illness going around at the moment and they are short staffed so he ended up working five days including a couple of 12 hour shifts, and a couple of 6am starts . Bear in mind he is not a morning person and it takes about 45 minutes to walk from home - longer if it is icy and you need to go slowly and carefully.

Speaking of illness both Miss 14 and I have been struck down. At first it didn't seem too bad but we both worsened over the weekend and I've spent most of the time shivering in bed. I really have to be better tomorrow since Mr 22 turns 23 and I've promised him a home cooked meal. And I have friends arriving the following day from overseas and the house is a total mess. Which doesn't bother anybody else but which is driving me insane and I'm itching to put everything to rights. Foolish as it sounds I won't be able to enjoy their visit with the house looking as it does currently.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Week Ending 5 July 2015

This was the last week of term before a scheduled two week break. I did consider postponing the break for a week since we've got friends visiting in late July. However, with Mr 17's university class starting and Miss 14 showing every sign of needing a break we'll go ahead and take it now and worry about late July when that rolls around.

Two things dominated my week. The first was setting up a bird identification quiz on Memrise. Someone gave us a link to an id quiz online but I found several problems with it. However it got me thinking and I decided that Memrise should allow me to create something better suited for us. Sadly Memrise isn't as intuitive as it should be and it took me several frustrated attempts before I finally figured it out. I'm pretty happy with what I've created so far and Miss 14 has been inspired to work on one of her own during the break. I tackled the passerines and she though she might tackle waders.

I also spent some time thinking about how to modify our geography course. The programme we were using as our spine turns out not to be such a good fit for us. So I've been reading ahead, flagging the areas that are problematic and then deciding what to replace them with. That'll teach me not to pre-read the entire course before we start it!

Mostly though the week at home was spent hard at work

  with plenty of game playing thrown in as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week Ending 28 June 2015

It's been another uneventful week around here. For Miss 14 and me the highlight was taking part in the annual Garden Bird Survey. Basically we just needed to sit and watch the birds in our garden for an hour and record the largest number of each species that we saw in that time. Our yard doesn't get a great variety of bird life and the numbers were down on last year. I'm blaming the cold winter for that one. Still it was enjoyable watching the birds go about their business.

This thrush was chased away a couple of times by a territorial male blackbird.

We had more House Sparrows in the yard than any other species.

Silvereyes are small, delicate birds. We only had five in our yard and they seemed to just briefly peck at this mandarin half so I was amazed at how quickly they finished it.
We put some bread on the ground and the birds ignored it for 40 minutes. Then some silvereyes landed, then came hoards of  sparrows, then the thrush and some starlings. It was a busy feeding station for a while. Then, without any obvious reason, they all abandoned it. 

Mr 17 went in to university to purchase his textbook and get his ID card sorted. His class starts in a couple of weeks.

One advantage of homeschooling older kids is having a bit more time to pursue my own interests. One of the things I love to do is read. I finished two especially good books this week - Americanah and Red -Tails in Love. The only problem is that the latter title has really fuelled my desire to go to New York, and most especially to go birding in Central Park. Sadly, homeschooling teens pays no better than homeschooling younger kids so that dream will have to go on hold for a good long while!

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.