Sunday, May 26, 2013

Week ending 26 May

The week got off to a bit of a sad start. A visit to the swans revealed only two out of the four cygnets remained. One of the locals told us he pulled what he initially thought was a plastic bag out of the water that morning. Turned out it was a cygnet but it didn't have any sign of injury on it. So maybe it was sick. Miss 12 hopes the remaining two survive. We'll be checking back in the coming week.

Music was one of the highlights of the week. Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite arrived. Good timing with the 25th being International Jazz Day. We've enjoyed many other books by the author. They do a great job of telling the story behind the music in a child friendly way and this one was no exception. Since then we've been listening to pieces of Tchaikovsky's original, reading about what Ellington intended with his variant and then listening to it. Great for developing listening skills - when we can make ourselves sit and concentrate rather than jiving around the room that is :-)

Dh had some errands to run and the logical plan seemed to involve driving through the centre of town - a route I haven't really travelled since the earthquakes. Talk about confusing. So many roads closed due to roadworks, underground sewer repairs and/or buildings still coming down. I ended up being forced into five diversions (in a journey of about 7-8 km) from my planned route. Coming up with a plan B on the fly was tricky since without building landmarks (many buildings have been demolished and the CBD is basically one big empty lot) I wasn't always sure where I was! In other weird post-earthquake related happenings our immediate neighbourhood is very quiet with the three houses next to ours temporarily empty (the owners are living elsewhere for a few weeks and all the contents are in a shipping container on the front lawn) while earthquake repairs are being made.

We enjoyed watching the video version of David Macaulay's Castle.  We have the book which my boys enjoyed but it seemed a bit technical to Miss 12. The video was a good fit though.

Science using the American Chemical Society's Middle School Chemistry is still going well. Some fun activities with density this week.

With the colder weather the silvereyes have arrived back in town. The bulk of them spend summer inland. This was the cue for Miss 12 to make a lot of bird puddings and other treats for them. The dining stations have been really busy all week with silvereyes preferring the bird puddings and peanut butter and seed coated paper towel rolls while the green finches favoured the plain seed.

Another piece of bad news was dh's bike being stolen while he was working late one night. With him struggling to walk long distances until he has surgery on his knee we'll have to buy a replacement fairly quickly.

Miss 12 and dh went on a Scout trip to a local archery attraction. A good time was had by all - and Miss 12 was relieved that her arm was strong enough to pull back the bowstring. She was afraid she wouldn't be able to manage since she is aware the arm she broke is not yet back to full strength. Over the next couple of weeks they'll be making their own bows and arrows.

I was grateful for the beautiful autumn weather over the weekend since it gave me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tidy up a little. I removed plenty of weeds which had been threatening to take over the section and pulled out the last of the beans and tomatoes. Time to get a few more winter crops in - not that out garden produces a lot in winter but it is nice to be able pick an occasional fresh green leaf.

Miss 12 spent a lot of time working on her rag quilt. Lots of old clothes were cut into squares and sewed together with batting in the middle. However, when we came to assemble the whole thing we decided we'd like it a bit bigger so we're back to sacrificing old clothes. Since I'm not a sewer we've been doing lots of learning as we go- not to mention really wishing we had better basic equipment! While the end product (hopefully completed this coming week) won't win any prizes this has been more about the process anyway.

I've been pondering this article by Julie Bogart of Bravewriter. The lines "They felt connected to me when I took the time to plan their lessons and guide their education. They lost that connection when I gave them “freedom.” " (written in relation to unschooling)  resonated with me. I think this may be part of the reason Miss 12 seems to want a fair bit of involvement from me in her learning . She is a people person and likes the connection. I know all too well that in a few short years she will have moved beyond home education into whatever her future plans turn out to be. I'm more than happy to provide that connection while it is still wanted - while still encouraging freedom where she is happy to take it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week ending May 19

We had some fun playing with words and their ditzy definitions  where you match words to their new definitions (often based on what they sound like rather than what they actually mean).

We started reading Adam of the Road.

Miss 18 passed her restricted driver's test! This is part two of a three part process. She's now allowed to drive by herself, but not after 10pm at night and not with passengers. She'll be able to sit the third and final test in six months. I'm pleased since Mr 20 is still on his learner's permit (he got it, then after a while decided he didn't want to drive and has only recently decided to drive again) and Mr 15 will be getting his learner's permit at the end of the year. With dh having a medical condition that stops him driving I wasn't looking forward to having three learners at once.

Two of our three Postcard Crossing cards reached their destinations - one to Germany and one to Slovenia. Looking forward to receiving our first cards in a week or two.

We had one of those "how you know you are a homeschooler" moments. We were the lucky recipients of some crayfish  (I think the North American equivalent is rock lobster) and dinner preparation  turned into an unplanned science lab with much observation (magnifying glasses and jeweller's loupes)  and dissection occurring. Lots of talk about adaptations and protection from predators too!

We made and played several rounds on this Science Adventures in Antarctica game.

Mr 15 attended a Careers Expo and came home with some ideas for some tertiary courses he might like to pursue in the future. The only way to gain admission is via the nationally recognized qualifications which we avoided with the older two. We're not fans of the system at all but it looks like I'll have to investigate it. Hopefully I can find a way for him to get what he needs without impinging on on educational ideals too greatly.

Miss 12 and I started work on this rag quilt. We think we'll need between 100 and 120 squares. We only got 30 cut out today so hopefully we'll make more progress this week.

Miss 12 made a collage self-portrait.

Mr 15 spent the weekend at a Scout camp. It was for a younger section that he is in and he was invited along to help run it and pass on some of his skills. He enjoys working with younger kids and helping out at events like this.

Of course it wouldn't be a proper post without a bird report and photo! We popped back to see the swans this week and got to see all four  cygnets out on the water with Mama and Papa in close attendance.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week ending May 12

We checked out What the World Eats - A Week's Worth of Groceries . Really interesting and made for some good conversation. We have considered photographing all our groceries for a week but I'm not sure that I'm brave enough. A family of six eats a lot especially when the family includes older boys! It reminded me of similar photos showing the sleeping arrangements of different children all around the world.

We finally filmed our 60 second version of Othello. Far from perfect but a fun experience. I thought Miss 12 did a great job with the script- focusing on the big picture details for the plot and keeping the flavour of Shakespearean language.

We sent out our first three Postcard Crossing cards. It'll be interesting to see how long they take to arrive, and the how long it takes for our first card to reach us.

I've noticed Miss 12 has been spending some time at the keyboard. She had lessons a few years ago but didn't enjoy them and didn't stick with it. However, she's now reteaching herself those early pieces. If the interest keeps up at least the older kids are available to offer a little guidance if she wants it. They all went further with keyboard lessons than  she did.

Miss 12 did a symmetry webquest. She enjoyed playing around with various interactives, especially the kaleidoscope images of her name. If you decide to do this note that the website as printed on  the worksheet is incorrect but the right one is on the website itself.

We went back to check on the swans  - three times! On Monday we had a lot of very heavy rain and Miss 12 was concerned the nest may have flooded since it was so close to the lake edge. So we braved the bitterly cold weather for a quick look. Fortunately all was well. It appears that mama swan has built up her nest a little and while the lake edge now laps at the nest,  the eggs are out of the water. On Wednesday we decided to go for another look and walk around the lake. Mama was still sitting on her eggs - no obvious change.  We were pleased to see that the two juvenile swans had moved to the smaller lake nearby. Papa swan had  attacked them and one had been injured so we think they are better in their new location. We were entranced by the acrobatic antics of the Welcome Swallows as they swooped over the lakes. Mr 15 wished for a better camera so he could capture the action but he did manage a shot of a swallow at rest, and some other birds too.

Male Chaffinch

Spur Winged Plover

Welcome Swallow

On Sunday we happened to be in the area so we stopped by  and were delighted to discover cygnets. We only spotted two under Mama but somebody told us they had seen four. What was interesting was how much more attentive Papa Swan was. On previous visits he was swimming and feeding on the lake - doing his own thing. Today he was swimming right in front of the nest  and obviously watching everything that was happening on the shore. He and Mama were constantly calling to each other. If anyone got too close to the nest (there were a lot of families checking them out) he would hiss and flap - taking his protective father role seriously!

We found out about Eleanor Estes and read a couple of her books in honour of her birthday.

The final Journey North Mystery Class  material came through. It's always interesting to learn a bit about each of the locations we spent so long tracking down!

Now that her arm is operating pretty close to normally Miss 12 finished her embroidered painting of a kingfisher.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May Learning List

Better late than never I guess. We had a bit of difficulty with this month's list - mainly trying to narrow it down to potentially manageable proportions! There is so much good stuff to learn and do, and not enough time to fit it all in. We didn't agree on what to prioritise either. While I was all in favour of marking Clean Your Room Day, Miss 12 was not at all enthusiastic! Anyway this is what we have decided on. A few things have carried over from last month, partly because we were too optimistic but also because the arm surgery took out more time that I'd planned on.

This month we are going to make handmade geodes, learn to crochet, create a paper self-portrait, make a rag quilt, construct a bird bath, complete a symmetry webquest, create a paper mache bird, make a field journal and make and play an Antarctic based board game.

We'll also be marking the following days
3  - Space Day (we'll probably just check out photos)
9  -  Eleanor Estes birthday (Miss 12 likes the name so we'll read about the author and read one of her books)
11 -  International Migratory Bird Day (probably a bird watching trip, maybe reading and watching videos too)
12-  Limerick Day (we'll read limericks and write our own)
15 -  National Chocolate Chip Day (baking cookies obviously)
18 - International Museum Day (Not sure if we'll visit ours or go for the virtual online experience of an overseas museum)
19 -  Postcard Day ( We've done postcard exchanges before and even managed one card from all 50 states - this time we've decided to give Postcard Crossing a try (with any luck we'll get some bird themed cards!), although it isn't as personal since you don't send  a card to the person you receive one from).
25 - International Jazz Day (lots of listening - we're paying special attention to Duke Ellington since he was born at then end of April and died in May)
31 - National Macaroon Day (we may attempt our own but I suspect we'll actually end up visiting the local specialist macaroon store and purchase a treat)

The final project we've decided on is going through all the bird orders in turn and learning about what makes them unique. Bound to be interesting since the number and composition of the orders seems to keep changing!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Week the Wires Came Out

The main story of the week was Miss 12's arm - more specifically the removal of the wires that have been holding the bones together since she broke them before Christmas. It was a little more involved than I had thought. For some reason I thought the wires were attached to the bones but it turns out they were actually threaded through the bones. However, the surgery was straightforward and went well. The worst  bit for Miss 12 was not being allowed to eat for eight hours prior! (The large bag of potato chips - the only thing she felt like eating for 48 hours following the previous surgery - afterwards was some compensation).  Still the requirement to keep the arm raised for four or five days, plus the slight grogginess from a regular supply of painkillers,  cramped our style a little this week. Thank goodness we haven't got sick of Ticket to Ride and other board games. Our newest read-aloud (The Shakespeare Stealer) and the remainder of Life of Birds on DVD also helped pass the time. I spent longer than I wished tidying up and backing up computer files and coming up with an alternative to Google Reader. This is where Mr 15's computer knowledge came to the fore. I have no real inclination to learn much about computers and rely on him to rescue me from any technological difficulty.

A highlight of the week  was the release of the identities of the Journey North Mystery Classes. The Splendid School for Gracious Girls correctly identified them all, which is a pleasant surprise because we weren't 100% sure about a couple of them. We  also started watching David Attenborough's Galapagos and Miss 12 got to watch some videos with Miss 18, part of the latter's children's lit course.

Mr 15 spent the weekend tramping. It seems like I spent a fair chunk of the week helping him get organised - mainly chauffeuring duties. He had to buy  hut passes and the food for the group, plus he needed some new gear since he's grown - again. He had a great time, despite the wet, cold  miserable weather today. Miss 12 and I spent the weekend at a major trampoline competition. Her club was hosting it and even| though she wasn't competing all hands were required to  fill all the necessary volunteer  jobs. She wanted to support her team mates and helped out behind the scenes as well. A good chance to see all the work that goes in to making these events happen. We also had to complete some fundraising duties for Scouts so had a very full weekend. Looking forward to a more normal week next week and a quieter weekend.