Sunday, October 4, 2015

Week Ending 4 October 2015

The big focus of this week was the National GymSports Championships. Preparations didn't go smoothly -  a messed up leotard order left Miss 14 without a team leotard. Luckily she was able to share with someone who was competing on days she wasn't. Then there was the team bag. Miss 14's had only been used for two tournaments and there is no reason why one zip should have broken let alone three of them. Given the poor quality I refused to buy a replacement but Miss 14 wanted a bag like everyone else so I decided to try replacing the zips. Did I mention that I hate sewing and have never really learned how to sew? Did I mention one of the zips was nearly a metre long? Did I mention it is impossible to always manoeuvre a stiff sports bag through a sewing machine in the way that you need to? Anyway I succeeded so she was happy. Mother of the Year for me!

For the bulk of the week she was out of town competing.

There were a few interesting hiccups -  a mix-up with the mini buses which meant they missed the opening ceremony, and a leaking roof in the hotel which necessitated a change of room at midnight. But it was successful competition for her - a second placing in her individual event on the back of an especially good set routine. It was her first ever medal at the national level and I'm really pleased for her. Hopefully I'll get some video to share next week.  She also picked up a bronze in the synchronized event - mind you there were just three pairs!

While she was away I'd set myself a list of  jobs. One of these was supposed to be simple - update Mr 17's transcript so it is ready for him to apply to the university for formal admission. Except that I couldn't find the transcript I'd already drafted! Then I realized it was another victim of our switching computers. At the start of each year I write a record of our plans for that year so recreating his transcript shouldn't have been too difficult. Except the plans for 2012 and 2013 had also disappeared! Remembering what he'd done and thus creating the transcript became a major hassle. Before you do any major changes to your computer back up all you files, then check and back them up again! I finally got that sorted and also spent a fair bit of time planning an ornithology course for Miss 14 for next year. I've decided to go for a sort of buffet approach - gather lots of resources, project ideas, theory assignments etc - and let her pick and choose as she goes.

On Saturday a 130km walking trail encircling our city and designed to highlight its biodiversity was officially opened with a ceremony at a local wetland. Members of our ornithology group were asked to attend, share our scopes and talk about birds with members of the public. Since Miss 14 was away I went in her place.

Speaking of birds, one of Miss 14's favourites is the Kaka, a forest-dwelling parrot unique to New Zealand. Before she left we were delighted to discover this live nest cam  and spent some enjoyable time checking in on the nestlings as they slept and fed.

Linking up with the Weird Unsocialized Homeschooler's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week Ending 27 September 2015

The week was  cold and grey a lot of the time- perfect for staying home and getting lots of work done. Which is exactly what Miss 14 did. As a result she is basically done with formal homeschooling for the year. Algebra, World Literature, Geography, Physics and Latin were all completed this week. The only thing that remains is Music History/Appreciation but that will only take 15-30 minutes per day for a few weeks. Let the the interest-led/low-tide/good times roll!

To celebrate we went to a local wildlife park.  The walk through aviaries were an obvious favourite

A Tui - caught making some of the wide variety of vocalisations it is famous for.

A Kea shredding a large cardboard tube - one of the enrichment activities provided for these intelligent and curious birds.

A couple of Red-crowned parakeets sharing food.

A Yellow-crowned parakeet. 

A Blue duck. We are hoping to see one of these in the wild this summer.

as was hand feeding the giraffes.

Miss 14 was especially interested in the gorillas which she's never seen before since they are a fairly new exhibit at this park

and in the Tasmanian Devils, another new animal for the park.

We managed a couple of birding trips - including one to count Kereru. This New Zealand pigeon plays an essential role is dispersing the large seeds of many native plants. The aim of the Great Kereru Count is to gather data about the population of these birds, which will assist in conservation efforts. They aren't especially common in our part of the country (and we didn't have a lot of time to devote to the count this year) but we did spot one in one of their favoured areas.

This isn't the Kereru we saw on the count. This was in the  aviary at the wildlife park.
We also tried our hand at a little origami. Not our strong point so we were glad the pattern was simple!

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week Ending 20 September 2015

My mornings have been getting off to a great start this week thanks to the Periscopes from Julie Bogart of Brave Writer fame. Positive, thought-provoking and informative but always realistic. If you are interested but aren't on Periscope/can't watch live you can always watch the recordings here.

I've  been doing a lot of thinking about next year - how to make it better than this one, which has been pretty flat in places - especially the past few weeks. One resource I'm using is a free email course - Best Homeschool Year Yet. Inspired by this  course Miss 14 and I have had a great discussion about what hasn't gone right this year. She had some good insights - some things I was aware of and some things were a total surprise. We've now got a better idea about what to avoid/what not to do this coming year. Next step is to recall what we have liked/what has gone well so we can find ways to do more of that.

I've also started a little decluttering. I had been planning to save this until we have to pack up and move out for our earthquake re-repairs  - still no word on when that is actually going to happen though! However, I finally managed to get dh's "office" out of our dining room. Following the large quake in February 2011 dh's office building was unable to be occupied. He needed somewhere to work and the only place that made sense was our dining room so we had to squeeze in a computer desk and chair, a couple of small bookshelves and a few other bits and pieces. Months later the university had temporary offices constructed - but they were large open-plan affairs. Dh (and most of his colleagues) couldn't work effectively there so while he would go in sometimes he also spent  a large amount of time still working from home. Finally the new building (with individual offices) was outfitted and he no longer worked from home. So we've finally got rid of his office desk which makes me very happy. Turns out I'm not a big fan of cramped. The extra space has inspired me and I've started decluttering the rest of the room - especially the homeschooling shelves. There was a lot there that we've either outgrown or that I know Miss 14 will never use. So I've dumped one large pile of stuff and have another set aside to sell. I'm hoping to keep going with the decluttering - just a little at a time, the areas that are bugging me the most.

While I've been busy with those things Miss 14 has been busy training, coaching  and plugging away at the Latin, Maths, physics, music history, geography and literature. The end is in sight but she's not quite there yet! All in all a productive week for both of us. Just not one of our more interesting ones!

Linking up to the Weird Unsocialized Homeschooler's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week Ending 13 September 2015

The week didn't get off to a great start.

* We bought a new computer (ours was on its last legs) last week and Mr 17 was been busy getting it set up and transferring the hard drive from the old to the new computer. All the files transferred - except my ones. At first I didn't think this was too big a hassle since I had backups in a couple of places. This week, however, I discovered that the folder with all the material for Mr 17's Comparative Politics course had not been backed up. So I spent a fun morning scouring the net trying to relocate the essay assignment I had planned for him to complete. It took a while but I finally found it.

* Miss 14 has been sick again. Her third illness since the end of July. I'm beginning to wonder if she isn't overdoing things. Suggestions that she cut back on training have not been met with approval. So I just hope that she recovers quickly. Even though she is slowly improving,  her pleasant personality and her ability to remember algebra and Latin have not fully returned meaning it hasn't been our greatest ever homeschooling week.

* My washing machine decided to throw a fit and flooded the entire laundry and toilet before we discovered what was happening. Nothing like mopping up over an inch of water when the temperature outside is below freezing. Definitely not my favourite way to start the day.

Thankfully there were some highs to balance the lows.

* A trip to the local farmers market - just dh and me.

* Miss 14 just started a new MOOC - William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place. It seems to be going well so far and it'll help round out last year's English credit. (I "stole" the Shakespeare part of that when I found some Shakespeare MOOCs and decided to combine them into a Shakespeare credit, which was fine but it left last year's English a little short. I was confident I'd find something to plug the gap and it seems I have.)

* Miss 14 and I bought the recently released new edition of a classic bird book. It'll be great to be up-to-date when we're out in the field, stumped by some confusing bird.

* The library had a stack of new books waiting for me.

* Dh was given chocolates by a  grateful student. He bought them home to share :-)

* Miss 14 had another successful trampoline competition.

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Week Ending 6 September 2015

One of the questions I'm often asked is "What does homeschooling a teen actually look like?" Of course there are as many different answers to that as there are homeschoolers - more actually because it often varies child to child, year to year. For us at least homeschooling a teen currently looks like this.

There are textbooks and workbooks. Some of these we use as designed but with modifications . We've only ever done half the problems in a Saxon lesson despite the dire warnings that it is essential to do every problem in every lesson. Others we use as references or just select the sections that we want or need. We are just taking a section on electricity from the science worktext but the Latin text has been mostly used as is.

There is  plenty of time spent on the computer.

MOOCs have been a wonderful addition to our homeschool. Here Miss 14 is viewing a lesson on Mozart from Yale University's Introduction to Classical Music.

Online games have been a great help in memorising all the countries of the world as part of a geography course.

There is lots of reading both for work (Whale Rider is the last selection in our self-designed World Literature course) and for pleasure.

Crucially, there is plenty of time for the following of passions. Birding is one of Miss 14's great loves. This week we went out counting shorebirds plus others as part of a Global Shorebird Count to mark World Shorebirds Day. The sunroof means our car makes a great bird hide on occasions! We also attended the monthly meeting of our birding group where we listened to an interesting talk on the work that is being done to assist breeding Australasian Grebes which have recently begun nesting in lowland lakes and rivers, when previously they only nested on high country lakes. And Miss 14 finally published the latest edition of our group's newsletter.


Her other great love is trampolining. She trains and coaches, and due to  picking
up a couple of extra shifts this week we were at the gym six day this week. Normally is is just four days which suits me better! The video above is from last year's National Championships. This year's event is just a few short weeks away

For the last few weeks we've been keeping an eye on a pair of Spur-winged Plovers that have been nesting in an empty lot that we drive past on our way to her gym. On Saturday we were delighted to see a small chick scurrying around.

Homeschooling teens can  be a lot less hands-on than homeschooling younger children. They can actually do virtually all the work themselves - and sometimes insist on doing so. I could certainly leave Miss 14 at home for the day and expect that she would complete all her work. However, I don't necessarily think this is good for her so I do try to keep involved - beyond just helping out with problem areas, checking work and the like. This year I've opted to read all her World Literature novels so that we can discuss them together.  I also work with her on her Latin vocabulary rather than have her use online tools and I've been mostly keeping up with her geography course as well. Birding has become a shared interest and of course my driving abilities are in hot demand. Still I do have a lot more spare time than earlier in my homeschooling career. Last month alone I was able to read 14 books including Go Set a Watchman (I'm not a fan and didn't expect to be but I had to read it and decide for myself), Club George (which fuelled my desire to go birding in Central Park) and The Fellowship of the Ring (somehow I've managed to get this far through life without reading the Lord of the Rings).

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Classics Club 12: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

This was the most challenging read from my Classics Club list to date, probably because of the extensive and exhaustive details Darwin provided and the slow, meticulous way in which he built up the case for his theory evolution by means of natural selection. Not surprising really, since he knew how controversial this book would be, but the amount of technical detail on subjects I was not especially interested in (pigeon breeding for instance) did make for a slow and sometimes tedious read.

Despite this I'm pleased I made the effort. It has long been on my TBR list, since his theory of evolution is arguably the most important idea underpinning modern biology. I wanted to read it for myself rather than rely on the interpretations, and misinterpretations, of others.

Darwin's theory incorporated several well known facts - plus a few inferences. Within any species there are variations and  many of these variations are heritable.  If all the offspring of any species survived, then its population would increase. Yet, generally speaking, over time populations remain roughly stable. Resources are limited and thus there is a struggle for survival. Those individuals who survive are those more suited to their environment. As they reproduce they pass on their genes to future generations. Over time this can change the make up of the population. An example from nineteenth century illustrates this nicely. Peppered moths come into two colour variations - dark and pale. The dark variation used to be rare. During the Industrial Revolution pollution increased markedly. Dark peppered moths benefited since they were essentially camouflaged while the pale moths stood out and were easier pickings for predators.  Thus the darker moths were more likely to survive and to reproduce that their pale counterparts. By the end of the nineteenth century virtually all peppered moths were dark. In this case a drop in pollution levels led to a drop in the proportion of dark moths. In other cases over time variations within a species accumulate to form a new species. The Galapagos finches are a good example of this.

I was impressed by the wide variety of examples which Darwin used to make his point. His love and understanding of all areas of the natural world shone through. I do wonder if modern scientists, often forced to concentrate in very narrow areas of specialisation, would be able to formulate a similar theory. Perhaps that is why virtually all scientific papers today have numerous co-authors.

It was hard for me to understand why this book caused such an uproar. While not every single detail or supposition that Darwin made has proven true, the sheer weight of evidence which Darwin provided and the careful way in which he slowly built his argument,  seemed convincing to me. Then again I live more than 150 years later, in a society not so dominated by a literal interpretation of the Bible and in which modern science, over time,  has found more and more evidence supporting Darwin's theory.

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.