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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week ending 8 March 2015

Now that I'm just homeschooling two - and teens at that - our typical week looks very different from when I was homeschooling four, especially when they were younger. The days of everyone crowded around the table working together or all piled up on the couch while I read aloud have long passed. I'm certainly no longer involved in every detail of what they are learning.

For large chunks of the day Mr 17 and Miss 14 are at individual desks (or on beds) with either books or computers.



Latin - simple sentence translation review.

Art History. This week was Byzantine and early Christian art - plenty of mosaics and icon paintings!

Pleasure reading

Occasionally they like to work together, mostly when they are completing map work for geography (the only subject they both do) since cooperation lets them finish the work more quickly.

We've also been using online games to drill some geography facts. Trying to outdo each other in the high score department adds a little extra excitement to the process. Current favourite include Seterra, Lizard Point and Sheppard Software.

If they are taking a break from studies at the same time they can normally be found at the table playing a board game together. Ticket to Ride is still the favourite!

While Mr 17 does all his work himself (his choice) I am still involved in some of Miss 14's. Right now I quiz her on her Latin vocabulary most days. She could do this herself online but prefers the old fashioned approach to flashcards

I also join her for her literature MOOCs, because I'm interested and would probably be doing them myself even if she wasn't. This week we started FutureLearn's Much Ado About Nothing: in Performance. So of course we are reading the play aloud from our favourite Oxford School Shakespeare series and then watching the online videos together.

This week's lectures focused on the staging of the play.

The fact that they are mainly self-sufficient means I have more time for my own personal interests than I did when they were younger.

Some of the books I read this week.

Apart from working independently from me and each other the other major change is that we are out of the house a lot more.

Sport is a big part of our week in a way it was not formerly. Mr 17 and Miss 14 are far and away the sportiest of my four. If we required P.E. credits on our transcripts they would be easy to come by! He plays cricket and trains twice each week with a game all day on Saturday. This week he took part in an extra game for six hours on Sunday. His teams won both games - a pleasant surprise since they've only won one other game all year. She is a keen competitive trampolinist and is currently training three times per week, but that will probably soon increase. She had her first competition of the year on Sunday, her first in the 15/16 age division. It wasn't her best competition ever  - she kept crashing during warm-up and we were both nervous that she would crash during competition itself. However her routines came together well enough when it counted, and she won her division and qualified for Nationals in October. There was also a team competition at this event which her club won  - a nice bonus.

In case you are wondering that's a reflection of the camera showing up in the bottom of the trophy.

As my kids have gotten older they've become more invested in outside interests and passions. I see these as a vital part of their home education experience even though they don't happen at home and aren't education in the narrow schooly sense of the word. For Mr 17 the interest is Scouting. This week he volunteered as usual with the Cub section one evening. He seems to enjoy working with this age group (8-10 year olds). He also attended his own section meeting  where he completed some more requirements for his Queen Scout award - so, so close to being finished now. He also attended  a regional council meeting and ended up being elected secretary, a great opportunity for him to develop skills such as accurate minute taking. He is also Quartermaster for one of the local Scouting groups but didn't do any work related to that role this week.

We see him in this uniform a lot!

Miss 14's main passion is birding. Thankfully it is an interest I have genuinely developed alongside her since, until she can drive, I need to go with her to most birding activities.  On Monday we attended an evening lecture by an international expert on Bar-tailed Godwits. He also happened to be one of the tutors at the field course she attended in January so they were able to have a brief catch-up. On Friday we assisted with a bird survey at a volunteer- run reserve. In between  Miss 14 began work on next month's newsletter for our local birding group.

Compiling the recent sightings for our newsletter was one of this week's tasks.

Both Miss 14 and Mr 17 have part time jobs, which provide many great lessons - time management, money management, learning to get along with a variety of different people and negotiating new roles. This week he did 16 hours in the bakery while she did a much more manageable four hours coaching at the gym.

All dressed up and ready to head to work.

All in all a busy and productive week. But very different from how our homeschooling weeks looked when they were younger.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly-Wrap Up.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week Ending 1 March 2015

Today was the first official day of autumn and although signs of summer, such as cicadas loudly chirping, still abound, there is a noticeable chill in the air in the morning.

The main highlight of the week was dh and I celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We're not big party types but we did enjoy a lovely dinner out - a rare treat for us.

There were a few other noteworthy events as well.

* Our monthly birding meeting featured a documentary about one effort to help save the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper - removing their eggs from the wild in Russia and using them to establish a captive breeding population in the United Kingdom. Fascinating stuff, and a good insight into the long, hard path conservationists face.

* The meeting also featured a talk by Miss 14 about her experiences at the field course in January.  She's never done any public speaking before and it was one of the skills I wanted to work on this year. Members night was the perfect opportunity with short time slots (10 minutes or so) and a supportive audience. While we both noted things to work on for the future it was a great first effort.

* Miss 14 finished reading The Book Thief and then we watched the movie. It was a great movie in itself but we were both distracted by how often the plot line differed from that of the book. We expected omissions (it's pretty impossible to turn a novel into a movie without leaving out some things) but the changes threw us a bit. Still it was a good chance to talk about why the changes might have been made, and what decisions we'd have made if we were converting the novel into a screenplay. I'm sure I would enjoy movies based on books more if I could get over the habit of comparing them to the book as I watch!

* Mr 17's cricket team won their first match of the season. It hasn't been a good season for them so far and when I got them text to collect them a lot sooner than the games normally finish I was expecting the worst. But his team had come out on top.

Mr 17 completing some European map work.
* Miss 20 is busy studying once again now that the university year has officially started. Hard to believe she is a postgrad already.

* Miss 14 and I went birding. She was hoping to spot the Glossy Ibis I saw last week but it wasn't to be found. We consoled ourselves by driving to the beach, buying ice-creams and eating them while walking along the pier. Miss 14 claimed she'd never walked along the pier before - a travesty that had to be remedied!

* Dh took Miss 14 and Mr 17 swimming. I was going to go but came down with the cold that's doing the rounds. Luckily my version seems to be mild but Miss 20 has a major bout. She wasn't sure whether she was going to be able to call in sick to work herself since her voice kept giving out! Not sure whether to blame all the first year students (she spent last week working as a greeter and guide during orientation and enrolment week) or the joys of working at a supermarket checkout!

* Miss 14 and I are enjoying the adventures of an ornithologist who is travelling around the world hoping to spot at least 5000 different species this year.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Week Ending 22 February 2015

This working week was thankfully much more settled than last with no major interruptions. Both kids work steadily. They covered Western and Northern Europe in geography as well as looking at map projections. Mr 17 has started investigating Great Britain for politics and is looking at game construction in economics. His maths lesson have been concentrating on geometry and the quadratic equations. Miss 14 studied  forces for physics, reviewed first and second declension nouns in Latin, and surveyed Ancient Greek art for art history. Her maths lessons seem to be emphasising order or operations. She's about half way through The Book Thief for literature and enjoying the unit study type approach taken by the Moving Beyond the Pages study guide that we are using. We also finished reading Hamlet aloud and watched another movie version. This one starred Mel Gibson and we enjoyed it far more than the Kenneth Branagh version we watched previously.  In some ways it was a less is more approach to costume, setting, even scene selection which let the story shine through more - at least in our opinion.

The weekend on the other hand was all kinds of crazy. Mr 17 had a camp which was meant to be all weekend but his work commitments meant he arrived late and then left early (as in 6am) and then went back in the afternoon to help pack up. Thank goodness his friend with the full licence was also going and was happy to accommodate Mr 17's needs. I certainly wouldn't have been collecting him at 6am - I would have had to leave home close to 5am!

Camp tradition demands at least one leader's car be pranked. Mr 17 was up at 1:30am to assist with this effort!

On Friday night the girls, dh and I went into town and ate dinner at the Friday night food truck market. Good vibe and some great food.  Miss 14 and I took part in an all bird count at a local lake on Saturday. Thankfully the section we got this year had fewer birds than last year's (counting gets a bit tedious when you have several flocks of between 800-1000 birds) and we did pick up two new species for the year. On the down side it felt like more walking and the weather was a lot less pleasant than forecast. On Sunday Miss 14 had a trampoline leadership/coaching course. Since it was right across town and they needed transporting between venues I stayed over all day and fitted in some walking around a wetland (spotting the Glossy Ibis which has just returned for the season) and along the beach. The second part of the course involved an aerial obstacle course which she thoroughly enjoyed and managed to complete uninjured - dh attended last year and came home with a massive cut the length of his shin. She has no idea how he managed it.

Clearly Miss 14 doesn't have a fear of heights!
Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fortnight Ending 15 January 2015

Our first two weeks back in high-tide structured learning mode have been exceptionally busy, trying to get back into the swing of formal learning while fitting in new part-time jobs (the kids, not me) and trying to keep up with other fun things as well. I feel like I'm nearly ready for a holiday, but I'm hoping this coming week will be quieter which should help stop my head spinning a little.

As well as getting to grips with her new courses Miss 14 has had the local birding branch's newsletter to publish. Typos and technical difficulties abounded, taking up more of our first week than was ideal. But the newsletter has finally gone out and there is a two month break before she gets to do it all over again! She also decided to apply for admission to an ornithology field camp for teens. She is officially too young but several people suggested she apply anyway. We're hopeful that she may get accepted, especially if the course does not fill with those aged 16 and over. While the application wasn't lengthy it still took time. She also completed her submission for the group logbook for last month's field course. Miss 14 has now started work on the small regional column for our national birding magazine. Hopefully that will only take a day or two because she also needs to prepare a short talk on her experiences at the field course for the next meeting of our local birding group. And that is in ten days time. Gulp!

Mr 17 meanwhile had been trying to fit his academic work around a variety of social activities. Sadly, for him, his three best friends are all a year older than him and have completed their final year at school. While they've all got different plans for this year they all currently have more spare time than he has, and I'm not sure he's managing his time wisely. Hopefully this issue will settle down soon as their various courses and jobs come on stream. He also worked some extra shifts and some longer shifts which didn't exactly assist with completing school work. Still he has a plan to get back on track this coming week. So long as he does I'll happily chalk this fortnight up as a learning experience.

Ticket to Ride has become popular again and if Miss 14 and Mr 17 are both taking a break from studying at the same then they can normally be found playing a game or two at the dining room table.

Prior to the earthquakes we used to go swimming once a week. While regular large aftershocks were occurring nobody fancied risking it and then our two favourite pools were demolished. This meant the remaining pools were frequently crowded, which made the idea of swimming less attractive. So it turns out we haven't been swimming for five years! Miss 14 came to me last week and asked if we could please go, so this week we (Miss 20, Miss 14 and I) went. And (once I got the dreaded buying a new swimsuit task out of the way) it was great. The pool we picked is slightly out of the way but it wasn't crowded. So we'll see if we can start going swimming more regularly - perhaps once a fortnight.

Miss 14 and I watched the 1996 version of Hamlet, with Kenneth Branagh in the title role. Next week we plan to watch the 1990 version which stars Mel Gibson as Hamlet and we'll do a compare and contrast. We did find the 1996 version long and rather overdone in places. Hopefully we'll like the 1990 version better. We also continued reading the play aloud - just two scenes left to go.

We also fitted in four birding trips over the past fortnight. Some were surprisingly successful - distant views of two Australasian Bitterns  and our first sighting of a Gull-billed Tern this year - while others were simply frustrating - still no sign of the elusive Gray-Tailed Tattler and sunburn to boot (I obviously forgot to apply sunblock to one patch of skin).

Miss 20, Miss 14 and I braved the chill and  attended an outdoor performance of Macbeth (which we read last year) on Sunday evening. It ended up not being quite as cold as I'd planned for, although we were wearing several layers and wrapped ourselves in blankets later in the evening! Outdoor Shakespeare is a regular summer feature here but this was the first time the company has performed anything other than a comedy.  We thought it was generally well done - Miss 14 especially enjoyed all the blood - but I sometimes got distracted since I recognised some of the actors from roles they'd played previous years!

We've also been taking regular breaks outside to check on the state of our Monarch chrysalises. Plenty of butterflies have emerged this week.

We had drama with Basil over the weekend. He had five seizures in the space of a couple of hours which necessitated a trip to the after-hours vet, IV drip and other excitements. He was supposed to stay in overnight but once he was stabilised he became stressed and anxious, barking constantly. So, after checking we were okay with the plan, his owners collected him from the vet and dropped him back here. Luckily he has been fine ever since.

In amongst all this we've even managed to squeeze in a little academic work. Given everything else that has been going on it's perhaps fortunate that much of the material has been of an introductory and/or review nature.I think the academics will ramp up next week so I'm glad that (fingers crossed) everything else is settling down.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up .