Saturday, September 27, 2014

Week Ending 28 September 2014

Wow, it's been a very busy and focused week around here.

* Maths - Lessons on Forming Solids and Symmetry, Permutations, The Subsets of Real Numbers, Representing Data, Approximating Roots, and Basic Trigonometry. Algebra 1/2 FINISHED!

* Science - Chapters on Kingdom Animalia and Kingdoms Fungi and Protists. Real Science Odyssey Biology Level 2 FINISHED!

* History - A lesson on Looking Forward and an essay. Big History FINISHED!

Yes, Miss 13  finished all her assigned work for the year - well, all except a Coursera history course that I belatedly added to her schedule and which will continue until December. Still it's only 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week so shouldn't be unduly taxing. I'm not sure who is most looking forward  to unschooling until late January or early February - her or me.

Mr 16 was also in a celebratory mood on Friday since he finalised  an economics essay he's submitting for a competition. He's redrafted and edited it far more than anything else he's ever written. So to celebrate (it was also the last day of a school term - we don't have to follow school terms but mostly we do) we had a Poetry Teatime. In honour of the occasions I went all out on the food and we turned it into a luncheon and since dh was working from home he was able to join us.

Hot chocolates, delicious food and great poetry - the perfect way to celebrate the end of the term and the finishing of a lot of work.

There was also a beginning this week since our online course on Laura Ingalls Wilder:Exploring Her Work and Writing Life started. So far it doesn't seem too taxing work wise and it is interesting to see where fact and fiction diverge and consider why that might be.

We're continuing with two other online courses. This week Irish History looked at people's economic lives while A Brief History of Humankind wound up a section on the Agricultural revolution by considering the difficulties of establishing just and equal societies. Next week our online Shakespeare class begins. I know it seems like a lot for someone who has supposedly "finished" but Miss 13 is only required to complete A Brief History of Humankind. She opted to give the others a go and if she doesn't like them or finds the workload too much she'll drop some or all of them. Alternatively she might complete some lessons but not bother completing the courses in their entirety. Since the Irish History course only has two more weeks left to run and the topics still to come are the one's she is most interested in, I suspect she'll finish that one.

Mr 16's workload is winding down as well - a week left in one subject, two or three to go in another. He's in no hurry to wind everything up though. He'd rather stick to a leisurely pace.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week Ending 21 September 2014

It's been a frustrating week - more a tale of what didn't happen than what did. Miss 13 got sick, spending one whole day in bed and being really below par for another two. Amazingly enough she managed to finish most of her planned school work. However, she didn't go as in-depth with as many of the primary sources for her Irish history course as she normally would. And she postponed her final essay for Big History by a week.

We did manage a quick birding trip to "our" wetland. We've committed to visiting this spot once a month and counting every bird that we see. The highlight this month was 30 bar-tailed godwits, including several that looked very skinny, with bedraggled feathers - tell-tale signs that they were newly arrived from Alaska.

We were also meant to go on an outing with our birding group to an island in the middle of the harbour. Sadly, due to miscommunication, it was cancelled at the last minute - as in just before we boarded the ferry! Still the trip wasn't a total waste of time since we discovered that our birding group is going to totally fund Miss 13 to attend a week long field course early next year. So excited for her - and so grateful for the funding offer.

The advantage of our birding trip being cancelled was that we were able to attend a special session at Miss 13's gym. The trampolinist who won a gold medal at the recent Youth Olympics plus the gymnast who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games were there to talk about their experiences. Hearing how they overcame setbacks in their career and how they mentally prepared themselves for competitions was especially enlightening. But hearing how much their parents had to sacrifice was daunting - and a reminder of just one reason why we  put limits on how involved Miss 13 can get with the sport!

Highlights of the week included birding (now that warmer weather is here birds like this pied stilt are returning) and getting up close and personal to Olympic and Commonwealth medals.

Real life and history intersected in interesting ways this week. Our Irish History course focussed on political lives in the period 1912-1923. Fascinating to compare that period to the campaign for and vote on Scottish independence which was playing out right before our eyes. Geographically closer to home Fiji also held a national election, the first since a military coup in 2006. And our own national elections were also held. Much to discuss, compare and contrast - voting ages, electoral corruption, the importance of voting, party campaign strategies, and more. I had planned to do more, especially with Miss 13, but she was sick so what we did may have to suffice for now. This week also marked the anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to grant national women's suffrage.

Mr 16 had another busy week . He seems to have Scouting activities more days than not. He is involved in a regional Scouting leadership group and this weekend they went on a road trip so they could have their meeting at the far edge of their region - part of an effort to be more inclusive I think. An awful lot of travelling, but he of course had a great time.

Miss 19 was also busy, but in an unexpected way. Her dance club held a large ball to celebrate their 21st birthday. At the last minute the woman who was supposed to bake and decorate their cake came down with the flu. So our kitchen was commandeered and Miss 19 spend the day creating a birthday cake to serve one hundred and fifty people. Luckily she still had the enough energy to dance the night away!

Linking up with Collage Friday over at Homegrown Learners.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week Ending 14 September 2014

This week has been so busy my head is spinning (and I'm really sick of driving) - but it has been full of such good stuff that a spinning head is a small price to pay!

Miss 13 and I took a road trip early in the week. Our goal was to spot a hoary-headed grebe. Miss 19 laughs at the name and think it sounds like something from Harry Potter - the sort of creature Hagrid would raise! In actual fact it is a an Australian bird - a rare vagrant to New Zealand, with no sightings reported this century. So when reliable reports came in last month of three hoary-headed grebes at a lake several hours north of here we were tempted. It took a while to sort our car issues and settle on a suitable date but we finally made it this week. After a four hour drive we arrived at the lake - and waited and scanned and waited and searched and waited and looked - and had no success.

We spent hours standing on this viewing platform, scanning across the water and among the willows.

After three hours we gave up and drove for another hour in search of a black kite - a bird of prey. It's also a rare vagrant but there has been one living in the area for several years. However, partly hampered by a poor map and missing road signs, we had no luck finding the area. We drove back to the lake and spent another hour looking but still no luck. Feeling rather dejected we opted to spend the night nearby. Bright and early the following morning (and armed with better maps and directions) we headed back to look for the black kite. And within 30 minutes we were rewarded with a great view as it flew up the valley and passed right in front of us. Forty five minutes later and we were back at the lake - searching from one vantage point, then moving and looking from another. After an hour we were finally rewarded when one of the grebes appeared from among the willows and swam right in front of the viewing platform before disappearing into the willows on the other side of the viewing platform. Magical - and such a relief!

Apart from the birding there was the incidental learning - wind turbines (which we knew a little about but hadn't actually seen before), wind machines on vineyards (we saw them and wondered what they were for - did some research when we got home and discovered they prevent frost damaging the grapes) and sharing some family stories are a few of the discussions I remember.

I remember travelling up this way as a child and this bridge was a highlight. Trains went over the top row and cars used to travel on the bottom row. I have fond memories of my Dad parked on the side of the road waiting for a train before driving over. The thrill (and the noise) of driving over a bridge with a train right over head!

Mr 16 completed the final classroom module of his Mountain Safety Course and then spent the weekend on a two night tramp. Last time he went tramping in this area was three years ago and he slipped during a river crossing, breaking two bones in one arm. Thankfully this tramp was a lot less eventful.

Miss 13 attended the third module of her Gymsports leadership course. Apparently there has been a major miscommunication. All the participants were supposed to be do over 30 hours of coaching alongside a mentor during the year - except the organiser of the first session forgot to tell them or their clubs! I foresee much busyness in the remainder of the year squeezing in the required number of coaching hours.

The saga of our ongoing earthquake repairs dragged on and took an interesting turn this week. Our repairs were "completed" at the end of 2011 except they were not satisfactory. As part of the process to get the repairs repaired, asbestos testing was carried out. Minor amounts were found but in a solid state which is safe so we were not expecting anything to happen. This week insurance sent contractors again and they now recommend removing and replacing all the wall linings which have asbestos. This will involve us moving out for a week or two while the work is done. Time will tell whether or not the insurance bureaucracy agrees to the contractors' recommendations. It would be good to have the asbestos removed but the hassle of finding and relocating to temporary accommodation would not be enjoyable at all.

Miss 13 and I also attended our regular monthly bird ramble this week. A lovely morning on the estuary and some views of bar-tailed godwits which are starting to return from their summer in the Arctic.

In amongst all this we managed to get through a surprising amount of  bookwork. We finished the Merry Wives of Windsor - and then I ordered Oxford School Shakespeare versions of the rest of the plays we'll be reading! Even though Shakespeare is freely available online, we decided the Oxford series really helps with our comprehension so it was worth paying for. While we are waiting for those to arrive we've started rereading several of the Little House books in preparation for an online course which begins in a little over a week. Our Irish history course was really interesting, this week focusing on what it was like to fight. As a trained historian I really like the way this course encourages students to interact with a wide variety of primary sources. The joys of the Internet mean we can sit at our computer in New Zealand and read words written by men who fought in a conflict across the world nearly one hundred years ago.  Our other online history course  - A Brief History of Humankind - continues to be thought provoking - with this week's lecture looking at why the agricultural revolution could be considered history's biggest fraud. With a national election next weekend Miss 13 and I also spent some time focussing on our political system. This may turn into a whole course on law, economics and politics or it may remain a brief, topical interlude. In science we finished a unit on ecology and started one on classification.

We'll be watering these lettuces with various mixtures of water and vinegar to learn about the impact of acid rain.
A dichotomous key was one of the things we covered in science this week.

Mr 16 worked on an economics essay on the pros and cons of a capital gains tax, finished a unit on optics in physics, and learnt about data creation, description and presentation in statistics. He also started reading To Rule the Waves, a history of the British Navy and how it shaped the modern world.

Over the weekend we watched the first episode in a new tv series by one of our favourite cooks. Looking forward to getting my hands on the book and getting re-inspired in the kitchen as a result.

The sight and scent of the first freesias of the season in my garden were another highlight of my week.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Week Ending 7 September 2014

It was the first week of spring and although the temperature is still a little cool I did enjoy time outside in the garden.

After our earlier positive experiences with online learning (especially the Animal Behaviour course that Miss 13 gained so much from) we signed up for a couple more that it sounded like she might enjoy. Except it turns out I maybe got a little carried away and didn't pay a lot of attention to details like dates. We are actually signed up to four online classes (this is on top of our existing workload) and there will be a period of time when they will overlap. Furthermore Miss 13 will actually be out of town, and realistically not likely to be viewing academic classes online, for one of those weeks. Luckily the courses are free so there is no cost if we drop out of some of them. The sensible thing to do according to Miss 13 is start them all too see what they are like content and workload wise before making any decisions.

So this week we started Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland's History 1912-1923 through FutureLearn.  I initially signed up for me since I have a PhD in history and wanted to do something to reconnect with that part of me. Miss 13 first thought it sounded boring but when I told her it was more about people's lives rather than focusing on battles she perked up and thought she might join in. This week did focus a lot on details of battles, uprising and political responses to provide the background setting for the rest of the course. I'm finding it interesting but I suspect this will be the first course to go if things get overwhelming.

One of the other courses is Shakespeare and his World also through FutureLearn. Since covering eight plays in ten weeks is pushing things in my view (I wish they'd allowed two weeks per play instead of just one) we thought we'd make a start even though the course doesn't begin until the end of the month. The first play is The Merry Wives of Windsor so we've begun reading the text while listening to the audio. So far we haven't enjoyed it as much as we've enjoyed some of his other plays. I do wonder if it is because we're not as familiar with it since we couldn't find a story version to read first, which is my normal approach to Shakespeare. After I had this revelation we  began reading scene summaries first which has helped a little.

I've been feeling pretty flat homeschooling-wise recently and haven't had much luck finding like minds to shoot the breeze with. So I signed up to The Homeschool Alliance  with Julie Bogart. It only began this week but it's already given me some good food for thought. Hopefully it'll help me ensure that next year's homeschool has more fizz than flat periods. As part of this week's work I was reminded of poetry teatimes we used to do when the kids were younger. One of them was even featured on Julie's blog. Miss 13 was just five, Mr 16 must have been 8 and Miss 19 would have been eleven. Not sure why my eldest wasn't in any of the photos (maybe the ones I took of his didn't turn out) but he was 13 - the same age my youngest is now.

Pre-season cricket training started this week. Mr 16 is happy even though he has already decided that cricket will play second fiddle to scouting activities. He's got three sessions per week at the moment and I'm not sure which I like least - the ones that clash with trampoline training or the one that happens on the day we used to have no commitments! Still at least both of them are racking up plenty of PE credits and getting lots of social contact as well.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week Ending 31 August 2014

Since I love reading Day in the Life of type posts when I saw that this week was   Day-in-the-Life Week over at iHomeschool Network I decided to write a post and link up. You can read about our Monday here. Not necessarily typical but it was a day.

Tuesday was a lot less enjoyable and productive from my point of view since I obviously slept oddly and woke up with a really sore neck and shoulder. I walked around all day with my head tilted to one side and a hot wheat pack draped around my neck. Miss 13 continued happily with minimum input from me, although she did seek help with a couple of algebra problems that she couldn't get to come out right. Thankfully Mr 16 was more productive than he had been the day before - completing physics, Duolingo, economics and vocabulary before lunch. He would have done statistics as well but Dh had inadvertently taken the statistics book into work with him. Miss 13 had a two hour trampoline class in the afternoon and Mr 16 attended Cubs, where he continues to volunteer. He did maths and history late in the evening and even came to tell me something interesting from the history video - I was in bed but (thankfully!) not asleep.

Wednesday was a beautiful day so Miss 13 sped through her work in the morning while I mowed the lawns (my neck was much improved). We were all planning to do Big History together in the afternoon but we changed our minds since Miss 13 and I wanted to go birding instead. The lake was full of bird life and we were most excited to see over a hundred wrybill. They migrate to the North Island in winter and have obviously started to return, resting at the lake before moving on to the braided rivers where they will attempt to breed. We also had great close-up views of skylarks but they were really skittish and the sound of the camera always caused them to fly off - leaving us with lots of shots of bare land, where a millisecond before had been a lovely bird!  I dropped Miss 13 at trampolining on my way home to make the dumplings to add to the beef casserole that was bubbling away in the crockpot. In the evening Mr 16 attended a Mountain Safety course. All up it is three nights in the classroom and then a two-day tramp.

Both kids got a reasonable amount of work done on Thursday in between copious games of Yahtzee that they are still keen to play at every opportunity. We even got to yesterday's history. Extra curriculars were trampolining as ever for Miss 13 and Scouts for Mr 16. He's actually aged out of the Scout section but helps out every now and again. Since they were watching The Hobbit tonight and he hasn't seen it he was keen to go along. In good news I got a call from the mechanic to say that the problem with the car could well be a lot more minor (and therefore cheaper) than I'd first feared. Fingers crossed. In other good news Miss 13 made chocolate sauce to have with ice cream for dessert. Chocolate is always good news!

On Friday Miss 19, Miss 13 and I went to a craft show. We've been going for years and were a bit disappointed by this one - a new management company has taken over and there were far fewer vendors than previous years. On the positive side our favourites were there . The girls got to stock up on card-making supplies and I stocked up on some delicious smelling soaps.

On Saturday I was surprised to see two largish parcels in the mailbox - one addressed to Dh and the other to me. Turns out we'd entered a competition a week or so ago and both won prizes -  DVD collections, thankfully different ones. We never win anything (actually I lie - I just remembered that back in  the days when we only had two kids I won a mountain bike - male of course but it served Dh well until it was stolen last year) so for us both to win from the same draw was particularly amusing.

Sunday was very relaxed - a trip to the library so I could stock up on reading material plus a stop at the book store so I could look at a new cookbook by my current favourite cookbook author. I have a bit of an addiction to recipe collecting and the aim was to prove to myself that I didn't actually need this book. And it's true - I don't. But seeing it made we want it all the more! I contented myself with placing a hold for it in the library system. Shame I don't have a birthday coming up any time soon though.

Linking up with Mary's Collage Friday and Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up

A Day in Our Life

5:45am - The alarm goes  off (I can't believe I'm having to type that) and Miss 13 and I get up. Normally I get up at 7am and Miss 13 around 8am. With the National Gymsports championships only five weeks away her trampoline coach has initiated an extra training session per week. It is optional and I wasn't keen - especially not given the time - but she wanted to give it a go so I reluctantly agreed. If she doesn't like it (fingers crossed) we won't go again.

6:20am - I'm home and it hardly seems worthwhile to go back to bed - although I am tempted. So I catch up on emails and blog reading, have breakfast, feed the dog, make Dh's lunch and do a few other things while everyone else is still in bed.

7:30am - I leave to pick up Miss 13. She's enjoyed the session - mostly ballet exercises and other core conditioning work - and is keen to continue so I'll have to get used to one very early start per week until the beginning of October :-(  We get home about 8:10am and everyone else is up -  a bit of a surprise since Mr 16 often doesn't appear until after 10am.

9am - Miss 13 starts with the last dictation passage from the Boomerang guide for Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. We also have a discussion based on some of the questions in the guide. Mr 16 disappears off to his room (pretty sure he won't be working yet) and Miss 19 heads off to university. Dh has already departed.

9:30am - Miss 13 moves on to maths. This is not her favourite subject but today's lesson obviously goes well. She prefers to work alone, mark her own work and correct any mistakes herself. She'll ask for my help if she doesn't understand the lesson or if she can't fix her mistakes. Today she says she got one wrong but it was a silly mistake and she corrected it easily. While she's working on this I pay some bills, hang a load of laundry on the line, and make a few phone calls - including one to the mechanic. I have a horrible feeling this one will prove costly.

10:15 am - Miss 13 is ready to watch a segment of A Brief History of Humankind. I join her for this since I find it fascinating. Mr 16 is also doing the course but prefers to work at night so he and I will discuss today's segment - daily life in the Stone Age - tomorrow morning.

11am - It's time to take Basil for a walk. We bump into a neighbour walking their dog but we decide to go another way. Their dog is small, Bas is big and he can never understand why it doesn't want to play with him. A lovely walk including a stretch along a stream bank with lovely bird call and large patches of daffodils getting ready to bloom.

11:45am - We're back and opt for an early lunch. Reading the newspaper leads to some discussion of current events - Syria, Ebola, the current political scandal in our country, and which way the kids would vote if they could (we have a national election next month).

12:30pm - Miss 13 begins her science. While she likes the programme - Real Science Odyssey's  Biology 2, today's lesson on fossil dating is not a favourite.  I go over a couple of things she's still a bit unclear about. Mr 16 is at his computer working on Duolingo. German conjunctions today.

1pm - Mr 16 decides to deliver some things to his grandmother. A good excuse to drive the car I think! Meanwhile Miss 13 spends some time on Duolingo. Even though she's decided not to carry on with formal French she still enjoys Duolingo for fun. Then she curls up on the couch with a book. I poach some chicken which I need cooked and cooled for tonight's dinner.

2:15pm Mr 16 returns and decides to watch 12 Angry Men (I've added a movie or two to his literature suggestions for the year). Miss 13 and I watch it too. Some great discussion during and afterwards - guided by a couple of free guides from the Teach with Movies site.

4pm. The kids are playing Yahtzee, reading and Miss 13 spends time on the computer working on some stories she's writing. She also reads over the assignment from our other history programme and makes a start on it. I email it to Mr 16 who groans (I had indicated we might skip this one since we added the Coursera history course into the mix  - however, it is on responses to disease and how they changed over time. With Ebola in the headlines it seemed relevant so I played my mean Mum card!) and says he'll get to it later! He is also on the computer but it seems to be Facebook and various computer forums.

5:45pm - The three of us decide to eat. Miss 19 took her dinner since she won't be home until late. Banh Mi sandwiches tonight - a relatively light and casual evening meal but the Vietnamese flavours are just what I feel like. We're not sure when Dh will be home but Mr 16 has a Scouting meeting to attend and Miss 13 and I have an ornithology meeting so we can't wait to eat with him.

7pm. - Mr 16 has already left and now Miss 13 and I head out, collecting an elderly friend on the way.

9:30pm - We return after a great meeting. Tonight's speaker is a fantastic raconteur and a great birder who gave two short talks. The first was on bird life in Christchurch post earthquakes. Take home message was that the quakes were a double edged sword for birds. While there were many fatalities (penguins entombed in their burrows by disintegrating cliffs being just one example) and some species have fallen in numbers, others just relocated slightly and the changes to the land structure has meant new naturally occurring habitats - although they do need to be well managed. He also spoke about his birding experiences in Indonesia. When we got back everyone else was home so we had a quick catch up before Miss 13 and I headed for bed.


Reading back over the day really highlights the differences between Miss 13 and Mr 16. They both have work they are expected to complete by the end of the week but I leave it up to them as to exactly when they do it.  She likes to get it mostly done by Thursday. She had a very productive day making good progress on every subject, plus plenty of free time for her own interests. As is typical she does more bookwork on Monday than on any other day. Mr 16 did very little today but I'm (mostly) relaxed about it. It's very rare that he does not complete his work by the end of the week. He likes to spread it out, prefers to work at night (he's most productive between 9 and 11pm) and would rather do some work on the weekend than feel "too busy" on weekdays.  Mondays tend to be his least productive day - often because he is recovering from a busy Scout related weekend. It's not necessarily the way I would prefer him to work but I know he can work in a more traditional fashion if he has to.

Linking up to iHomeschool Network's Day-in-the-Life Blog Hop.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week Ending 24 August 2014

This was a pretty good week - lots going on. Among the highlights:

* Two birding trips for Miss 13 and me - and we even remembered to take the camera on one of them!
Clockwise from top left - Scaup , Pukeko, Muscovy Duck and Australasian Coot. 

Canada Goose on the left. Red billed gull, chaffinch, Black Swan cygnet and Mallard on the  right.

* Miss 13 finished her Latin course for the year.  She's pretty sure she'll do Latin again next year but right now is pleased to have it off her plate. French is also complete and she is looking forward to finishing other courses over the next month and moving into a low tide/unstructured learning phase for a while.

* It was Dh's birthday so we went out for a meal and a movie   -  The Hundred-Foot Journey.  We both enjoyed the film, not to mention spending time together. We grabbed coffee afterwards and ran into a friend who we haven't seen since she moved out of town years ago. (Our home used to be their home. When they moved we  initially rented from them until they decided to sell. At one stage I helped homeschool their daughter one morning a week.) It was great to have a quick catch up.

* Mr 16's had a busy week. First up was Scout week and his section was invited to different groups to promote themselves and run activities for younger sections. He spent a lot of time planning each evening . One of the events was a quiz night and Miss 13 helped him come up with some of the questions. Then he was out three nights in a row actually running the activities at different groups. I was glad he could drive himself there and back! On top of that he spent the weekend at an outdoor first aid course, which was apparently fairly hazardous to his health. At various times over the weekend he 'suffered' some gruesome looking hand injuries, hypothermia and even death! Clearly his fellow participants (and hopefully him too) were well trained since he looked in remarkable good shape when he returned home!

As a mother I'm glad these 'injuries' aren't the real thing.

* Miss 13 began Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. She's a murder mystery fan so was pleased when I discovered a free guide from Bravewriter to go along with the book - especially since it didn't have any pesky comprehension questions but was based on dictation passages instead.She even asked for a dictation passage over the weekend since she was so keen to finish the book and discover whodunnit. We don't own the book and borrowed it from the university library. Turns out theirs is an older version with a different - politically incorrect - title. Further investigation revealed the book had a second title - not as politically incorrect as the first but still no longer seen as acceptable - before the current title was settled upon. Interesting, unexpected learning opportunities right there!

* History is going really well. Both Miss 13 and Mr 16 are enjoying the Coursera course, finding it really well structured and thought-provoking. Mr 16 even voluntarily started taking notes - and he absolutely hates notetaking. While driving to his first aid course one morning we had a lengthy discussion about one of the segments - very philosophical in nature . It made me think I should investigate possible philosophy courses for him next year - preferably outsourced since he loves to argue/debate and I'm not sure it would be great for my sanity!

* A trip to a dog park with Basil. To say he loved it - especially the river - was an understatement!

Linking with Mary's Collage Friday over at Homegrown Learners.