Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week Ending 21 December 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. The girls and I went out to the tree farm mid-week and selected a live tree which we decorated that evening. There's not a lot of room left on our living room but I do love the smell of a real (pine) tree. Thankfully Basil doesn't seem that interested in the tree and it is tucked away in a corner, so I'm hoping it will survive unscathed.



As the girls were decorating they commented that it was hard to find space  for all ornaments. So we decided not to make any new decorations for the tree this year. Instead we decorated the fridge - not seasonally appropriate but snowmen are still associated with Christmas here regardless of the fact that it is summer.




We also had a few minutes of fun playing this roll-your-own-elf game.





The one thing everyone wanted to do this Christmas was to check out the houses with Christmas light displays. So last night we drove around (singing carols loudly to ourselves as we went!) and checked out some of the lights.



Mr 17 completed another very successful tramp this week - five days and lots of rivers to cross. It was his final requirement for  both the Gold Venturer Award and the Silver Hillary/Duke of Edinburgh award.




Miss 14 and I drove up to the mountains to collect him and the rest of his group and had high hopes of seeing some new birds. Sadly (for us at least) the guys were out sooner than they first planned so we only managed to squeeze in an hour of birding and didn't manage any new birds. Two birding trips earlier in the week also failed to turn up any new species.

However, Miss 14 did receive one piece of good news. She's been offered some paid coaching next year. Just two classes at this stage but we weren't sure she'd be offered any paid hours, and I wouldn't want her working too many hours anyway.

My exciting news was a letter from an old friend. We met each other when we lived in Canada and had kept in touch ever since. We lost contact a couple of years ago after her husband died so it was great to hear from her again. Even better news is that she and her daughter (who is the same age as Mr 22 - we met at a library story time for babies when they were both a few months old!) will be holidaying in Australia in the middle of next year and will be making a side trip to New Zealand to see us. By then it will be nearly twenty years since we left Canada. I'm really looking forward to catching up in person.

With formal homeschooling on hold for our summer break and extra-curricular activities winding down (trampolining finally finished this week) we've had more time for reading. Miss 14 has finished Eleanor and Park and made a start on Mockingbird. They are slightly grittier than her normal reading material - another sign that she's getting older I guess. She's also reading The Christmas Mystery (a chapter per day this month until Christmas Eve) and A Christmas Carol as well as some bird books. I finished Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time , which I didn't especially like (normally I enjoy Picoult but not this time  - it may have been the psychic element), and The Funeral Dress which I do recommend, especially if you are a fan of stories set in the South.


The main event of the week for us was the last family birthday of the year. Miss 19 is now Miss 20  - homemade chocolate mousse to celebrate tonight!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Classics Club: 3 Othello

Still on my Shakespeare kick and this tragedy is powerful. Manipulated by the vengeful Iago, proud Othello is driven to despair by the idea that his new wife Desdemona has been unfaithful to him. I've never seen it performed but his anguish was palpable, practically jumping off the pages in many scenes. Even though Othello wanted to trust his wife, he trusted Iago more. Seeming to have no positive ways to handle the jealousy that consumed him he was driven first to murder,  then (coming to his senses and being battered by grief, remorse, and a realisation of what his future held) to suicide.

A salutary lesson of the dangers of seeking revenge and letting jealousy consume you. Plus it was one of the earliest plays to deal with race and racism, themes all too relevant today. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Week Ending 14 December 2014

The highlight of the week for Miss 14 and I was a birding trip to a local estuary. Lovely weather, lots of birds on nests or tending to their young and, best of all, a new bird for our life list. The Eastern Curlew is a rare Arctic migrant with only ten or so birds in this country at any one time. The site we were at is one of the sites they are known to frequent with one or two birds normally present during the summer. So far we'd had no luck seeing it but this was our lucky day and we spent half an hour or so watching it roosting and preening. It is difficult to mistake the Eastern Curlew since it has the longest bill of any wader in the world at 20cm long. In fact it looks slightly ridiculous, but at least it is easy to identify! So many waders look very similar - especially to the uninitiated.

Not the bird we saw - we couldn't get a photo. This one from By Aviceda (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Miss 14 and I attempted to get ourselves in the Christmas spirit. The local museum runs a Santa hunt every year and for some reason we've never gone. So we spent a morning wandering round the museum, spotting Santas as we went.



We also went did some giraffe spotting the same day. Wild in Art is an international organisation sponsoring public art trails worldwide. The theme of ours is Stand Tall - a good, positive slogan undoubtedly designed to boost post-earthquake fatigue. Nearly one hundred large decorated giraffes are gracing public spaces all over the city. Some have been decorated by schools and these will be returned to the schools once the event is over. Others have been sponsored by businesses and decorated by artists. These will be sold with the money donated to charity.



Speaking of earthquakes our sleep was disturbed the other night by a reasonable sized earthquake. The girls and dh were woken by it and I was woken by the budgie squawking (he probably fell off his perch) but Mr 17 slept through. Luckily it wasn't large enough to cause any damage. Just large enough to get the heart racing and remind us that Mother Nature isn't entirely settled just yet. It was the first earthquake we've felt in months. When I checked the official site we'd still had 100 quakes in the last couple of months but, with the exception of this one, all were all small and undetectable. Back in the worst of 2010 and 2011 we were experiencing 100 in a day or two and feeling most of them! Hopefully those days are over.

The girls made a day of Christmas shopping and took the time to purchase some gifts for charity. It's a tradition we started when they were quite small and it's nice that they have decided to continue it for  themselves.




We also attended a Community Carol service but were a little disappointed since there were very few actual carols. We were going to try another this evening but my routine optometrist's appointment turned out to be rather less routine than planned. As a result my eyesight was still rather fuzzy and uncomfortable so we stayed home. I have a repeat performance at the optometrist's in seven days. Hopefully it will rule out the major complication he is currently concerned about.

Miss 19 had a meeting with a potential supervisor for her honour's project next year. It went well and it looks like she might make an unofficial, early start so they can get ethics approval sooner rather than later. In years gone by some students haven't received approval until June for research projects which must be submitted in October. Sacrificing part of a summer break to avoid such stresses seems worthwhile!

Miss 14 and I finished our Shakespeare MOOC this week and Mr 17 finally finished the history one. He had his Venturer AGM where he happily passed over the chairperson's role. It will be his final year in the unit. He'll continue to represent it on the regional council, and also provide background support as he eases into "retirement" and completes the last of his requirements for the Queen's Scout - the highest award in Scouting here,  sort of comparable to Eagle Scout I think. He's been busy preparing for a five day tramp which starts tomorrow. Since it involves a number of river crossings I'm hoping for no rain and calm, gentle-flowing rivers until he's safely home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Classics Club: 2. Macbeth

This was a reread for me, since I studied the play in high school. Mind you that was more than 30 years ago (gulp) . My main recollection (apart from the general plot) was being required to memorise three lines and my friend (normally a studious, diligent sort) selecting the three witches': "Hail!","Hail!","Hail!"


Miss 14 and I both found Macbeth to a be short, easy to read play, but very powerful - a cautionary example of the costs of unbridled, unprincipled ambition, and what can happen to those who will do anything to achieve their ambition.

When we first learn about and meet Macbeth he is a heroic and loyal subject to King Duncan. However, this changes when he encounters three witches who address him as Thane of Glamis (his current title), Thane of Cawdor (a title King Duncan soon bestows upon him) and soon-to-be King. He is convinced that their prophesy must come true  but is not content to simply wait until it unfolds naturally. Spurred on by his wife, and against his own better instincts, he murders King Duncan. Both Macbeth and his wife struggle with their guilt. She becomes mad and eventually dies. He undertakes more murderous plots to try and hold onto his power against the increasing suspicion of and resistance from other nobles. He receives another prophecy from the witches that he should beware Macduff, but that he would not be overthrown until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill and that no one born of a woman would harm him. He tries to calm himself after these prophesies, reasoning that woods cannot move and that since all are born from women, then surely no one would be able to hurt him.

Of course the witches' prophesies do come true and Macbeth is killed - a once seemingly great man, who has lost everything because he refused to check his ambitions.

On the one hand this was not an enjoyable read. None of the major characters demonstrated any redeeming qualities, so it was hard to relate to them or sympathise with them As soon as Lady Macbeth succeeded in goading her husband to murder you knew it was going to end badly for them, but you knew they deserved whatever was coming to them. On the other hand Shakespeare's writing - his way with words, the poetry, the emotion he has his characters portray, and the humour that even features in this tragedy - is always a pleasure.

Shortly after Miss 14 and I finished reading this play I was discovered that it will be performed early next year by a local company. While Shakespeare is a pleasure to read, his plays were written to be performed and watched. Attending the annual outdoor performance of this company is a highlight of our summer but in the years that we've been attending they've only performed comedies. So it really was a pleasant surprise to discover them branching out, particularly since Macbeth will still be fresh in our minds. Seeing it performed live should only add to our appreciation of this powerful tragedy.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Classics Club: 1. The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice opens with Antonio wanting to lend money to his young friend Bassanio so that Bassanio can court the wealthy heiress Portia. However, he has no spare funds available so instead underwrites a loan from Shylock, a Jewish money lender. In place of the usual terms Shylock requests a pound of flesh from Antonio if the loan is defaulted on. Antonio agrees to these terms despite Bassanio's objections. Unfortunately, Antonio's ships are all lost at sea and it seems he will be obligated to give Shylock his pound of flesh. Thankfully Portia, disguised as a man, saves the day in the courtroom. Of course, in typical Shakesperian fashion, there are also plenty of sub-plots to keep things interesting!

I enjoyed this play and one of the main reasons was because of the complex character of Shylock. He's often written off as greedy, uncompassionate and unprincipled. After all he seems to value his ducats more than his daughter. Yet Shakespeare highlights the anti-semitism Shylock  faced which contributed to his hated of Antonio and his preference for revenge in the form of the pound of flesh rather than financial recompense (and more) which Bassanio was then able to offer. Shakespeare also highlights the softer side of Shylock when he mourns a ring given to him by his wife and subsequently taken by his run away daughter Jessica, for sentimental not financial reasons. While Shylock is not the most sympathetic, likeable character, neither is he a one-dimensional villain. And Antonio, the generous benefactor, is not simply an innocent victim either.

I also loved having a woman in a take-charge role. At the beginning Portia seems controlled by her dead father. After all she must marry whoever wins the game of his devising. Yet in the end it is she who comes up with a plan and then stands up in court, turns the law on itself , thus saving Antonio's flesh. She also plays a trick on  Bassanio, which should demonstrate to him that she will be a force to be reckoned with in their marriage.

Like most of Shakespeare's plays the language is wonderful, there is both humour and pathos  to be found, complex issues are raised and one reading is not enough to uncover all the treasure to be discovered. Highly recommended.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Week Ending 7 December 2014

Lots of things happening this week but it has felt fairly relaxed anyway.

Miss 14 and I went birding hoping to find the rare wader seen the previous weekend during the count at the lake. We had no luck but did see a good variety of other waders and enjoyed exploring a new section of the lake.

Miss 19, Mr 17, Miss 14 and dh went to see Mockingjay Part 1 at the movies. I enjoyed several hours at home all by myself which was wonderful. I'm an introvert and truly appreciate those rare occasions when I get time alone. The general consensus was that the movie was well done and fairly true to the book, although both Miss 19 and Miss 14 felt that in the visual medium the wars and violence dominated more than they did in the written format. Interestingly their seats shook due to the volume of the bombs being dropped on-screen (on those rare occasions I go to the movies I always find the volume too loud) and it brought back earthquake memories for them both. I guess large earthquakes are an experience you never forget! Apparently post battle Panem looks a lot like our city post-earthquake, especially the cracks in the bunkers in District 13.  As I write this Mr 17 and dh have left to go back to the movies to see Fury - not my sort of film but I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

Earlier in the week Miss 19 went to the premiere of a short film made by some film students. Her best friend played the part of the villain. She's pretty happy at the moment since final grades have been released. Her marks were high, she topped half her classes and has won a departmental award. This isn't meant to sound like bragging (although I am proud of her - she's worked hard for her grades) but to reassure nervous Mums that homeschooling through high school will not ruin their kids and mean they won't succeed at university if that is where they choose to go. Sometimes finding the correct balance in blogging is difficult. Homeschooling blogs where parents continually discuss their childrens' massive overachievements in all areas can be off-putting, but so many parents still worry that homeschooling through high school will hold their kids back. I feel it is important to at least mention the successes - if only to reassure myself that a less than perfect homeschool did not hold my older kids back academically so I shouldn't be ruining the chances of the younger two either.

The girls and I finally got around to deep-cleaning part of the house this week. Normally I do the whole house in spring but uncertainty about when we will have to move out for repairs led to me putting it off. But I finally caved in to the inevitable (and the fact that the repairs probably won't happen until later next year, which suits me anyway) and we did the two largest rooms. The bedrooms were all done in March after Mr 22 moved out and everyone switched rooms so I felt justified skipping them. I may or may not work on some of the smaller rooms this week. Never one of my favourite jobs but I do feel better when it is done.



The girls also ramped up the Christmas preparations by making our Christmas cards and doing some decorating. Not sure that we'll be able to get a real tree this year though. With Basil's bed in the living room there isn't a lot of space and when he has a seizure he's very clumsy, meaning he will probably bump into the tree and knock it over!

Miss 14 and I finally finished reading Antony and Cleopatra this week and also completed the lessons on The Tempest. Only one more week to go, which might be just as well since I've signed up for a MOOC on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It doesn't look too challenging or too much work which is good - I'm not sure I can spend a lot of time on it. But I normally reread A Christmas Carol at this time of the year anyway so signing up for the MOOC seemed like a good addition.

In amongst this I've managed to spend some time in the garden. Our "Basil-proofing" seems to have finally succeeded so it's now worth planting some more vegetables. All the potatoes are up and some of the tomato plants have flowers. I should be able to start sparingly picking basil and coriander next week.





Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two Weeks Ending 30 November 2014

November - particularly the latter part - is always a busy time for us. This year was no exception. Birthdays have been a key feature of the past two weeks, with my younger two both turning a year older.  There have also been family get-togethers and  several other end-of year functions. Although it was mostly good stuff I'm glad that it is over and am looking forward to a more relaxed December.


Both Miss 14 and Mr 17 have ended the year on a high in their respective sports. Mr 17 had his best ever bowling spell in cricket with figures of 5 for 12 and 2 for 18.  For the uninitiated this means that in the first half of the game he got five batsman out (you have to get 10 of the opposition out) while they scored just 12 runs from him. In the second half he got two batsmen out while they scored eighteen runs. Both sets of statistics are apparently pretty good but he is obviously especially pleased with the first. Miss 14 earned two second places at the last trampoline competition of the year and ended up winning the three-series interclub competition in both trampoline and double-mini which was pleasant surprise and a nice reward for her consistency.

Miss 14 was also surprised to win this at her club prize giving.

Mr 17 has been busy planning a major tramp for just before Christmas. He's just been elected Quartermaster at his old Scout group (the one our family has been involved with for more than ten years but they no longer have a Venturer section so he had to move groups when he was 14, but he's continued to volunteer at his old group) meaning he is in charge of maintaining and purchasing all of their equipment. This past weekend he assisted at a Cub camp and got to demonstrate his expertise with camp fires!

The campfire was originally set up by an adult leader before they passed it over to Mr 17!


Miss 14 and I managed a couple of birding expeditions including helping out on the annual summer wader count at a local lake. Three hours of walking along the lake edge recording all the wading birds (plus a few others) that we saw. The lake was fairly dry which meant we didn't see as many waders as we'd have like but it did make walking a lot easier. The mud on the edge and bottom of the lake is notoriously sticky and wading through it when it is damp is tiring, slippery work. A rare Arctic migrant was spotted in one of the other sections so we may go back and try and see it ourselves this week. For us the birding highlight was finally spotting a ring-necked pheasant this year. They are not especially rare but, despite numerous targeted trips, they had eluded us until now. Then we saw two in less than ten minutes!


A California Quail which we saw on one of our bird walks. Miss 14 had never managed to capture one on film before so was pleased to get this shot - even if it was at a distance.

Miss 14 and I finished up two MOOCs. A Brief History of Humankind ended with a thought-provoking lecture on the possible future of human-kind, while the Laura Ingalls Wilder class looked at On the Banks of Plum Creek. A second course starts in April and focuses on the remaining books on the series. Not sure if we'll sign up for that or not. Our Shakespeare class continued with sessions on Othello (which we enjoyed) and Antony and Cleopatra (we aren't enjoying this play as much and haven't yet finished it - that's this week's task).


Combining an interest in crafting with a love of birds!

At the beginning of the month Miss 14 decided to tackle a paper piecing project I'd pinned a long time ago, thinking it might interest her. We got off to a slow start due to an uncooperative sewing machine, but finally got back to it this week. I have no sewing background and the project assumed a level of prior knowledge. However, after a few false starts, a bit of trial and error , and finally finding a Youtube video which made sense to us, she managed to produce a pretty good final product. I doubt sewing will become a keen hobby for either of us but it was good to challenge ourselves and pick up a few skills along the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week Ending 15 November 2014

Nothing much to write about this week. Miss 13 and I are continued to work on  the three MOOCs, looking at Little House on the Prairie (particularly its depiction of Native Americans), Macbeth , and the history of happiness this week. Mr 16 finished his poetry unit on Robert Frost. His economics test is scheduled for this week  and then he'll just have the remaining lectures of the history MOOC to complete. Miss 19 sat two exams this week and has now finished her undergrad degree, so she's pretty pleased. I can't believe she's finished already since it seems she only just started.

 It was Basil's birthday this week. Miss 13 decided to buy him a special handmade organic dog treat to celebrate. He loved it ... and then decided to continue the celebration by getting into the recycling while we were out. Later in the week he broke into the garden and dug up some newly planted vegetables in order to get at the blood and bone fertiliser that we'd dug in to the soil. Right now it is an arms race between him and my husband. Dh comes up with a plan to keep the dog out of the garden, and then Basil figures out a way in!



Getting into trouble can really tire a dog out!



Dh and Mr 16 attended a Twenty20 cricket match (that's the fast and furious version of the game). Despite the cold weather and their team loosing they had a pretty good time. Normally professional sports games are out of our budget but dh won the tickets

Miss 13 and I went for a mid-week birding ramble with some members of our birding group. Great views of a small population of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, but I'm really glad there are none near us - their call is loud and harsh! We heard a couple of Shining Cuckoos, but again they stayed out of view. Most frustrating. Hopefully we manage to spot one before they leave in early-mid summer.

Now that Miss 13 has been reading her way through the Hunger Games series, Friday and Saturday evening were spent watching the first two movies. I skipped them since I'm not really a fan of dystopian fiction but the rest of the family watched them - even though everyone except Miss 13 had already seen them when they were released. She enjoyed them both, but thought the second movie was stronger than the first, and that the books were better than the films. She's like me and normally always prefers a book to a movie. Doesn't stop her enjoying the movie though!


The Classics Club - My 50 Book Challenge

Just this week I stumbled across The Classics Club and decided to sign up. Basically the "club" is a group of bloggers who commit to reading at least 50 "classics"  (it is up to each individual blogger as to how they define a classic) in five years and to blog about each title once they've read it.

The idea appeals to me for a number of reasons. I've always loved to read and have undertaken reading challenges that focus on the classics before. Fifty classics in five years is less than one a month which shouldn't be too onerous and should leave me with plenty of time for non-classics reading too. My participation in The Classics Club ties in nicely with the idea of "You, not Them" one of the keys of a Leadership Education. While I don't follow that model of homeschooling (or any other for that matter) in it's entirety, it has had an influence on how we operate. Making time for our own interests is also a great way of avoiding or overcoming the disenchantment and disillusionment that can overtake even the most committed home educator.  Thanks to Julie over at The Homeschool Alliance for emphasising that.

So without further ado here is my list of 50 classics that I'll be reading before November 2019. It's a bit of a mixture - some ancient, some modern, plays, poetry, novels, essays, short stories and non-fiction - so hopefully it should keep me interested.

Once you see a title highlighted here it means I've read it and written a review. Click on the link if you want to know what I thought.

I have signed up for a couple of Shakespeare related MOOCs. My daughter is doing at least one of those as well so we'll be reading most of these aloud together.

1. The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
2. Macbeth - Shakespeare
3. Othello - Shakespeare
4. Antony and Cleopatra - Shakespeare
5. The Tempest - Shakespeare
6. Hamlet - Shakespeare


Next year my daughter will be tying her literature in with her geography studies. There are a few titles that I  either haven't read or haven't read for many years so I'll read these one along with her.

7. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
8. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
9. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
10. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
11. Whale Rider - Witi Ihimaera

Then I've got a few old favourites that I enjoy rereading regularly.

12.Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
13.Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
14. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

These have been sitting on our shelf for a while but I've never got around to reading them.

15. The Fellowship of the Ring - JRR Tolkien
16. On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
17. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
18. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
19. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne
20. Chemical History of a Candle - Michael Faraday

These I picked because of the reviews by other Classics Club members.

21. Germinal - Emile Zola
22. The Dollmaker - Harriette Arnow
23. Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
24. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
25. Cold Sassy Tree - Olive Ann Burns

The remaining (rather large group) is more a list of suggestions. I am committed to reading 50 classics, just not necessarily these exact titles. But 50 titles must be listed before you sign up so this is what I picked. I'll probably substitute a lot of these ones but it's good to have a list to fall back on when I'm not sure what to read next!

26. Lysistrata - Aristoiphanes
27. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
28. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
29. Vilette - Charlotte Bronte
30. O Pioneers! - Willa Cather
31. Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov
32. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
33. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
34. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
35. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
36. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
37. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
38. The Inferno - Dante
39. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
40 The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
41. An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde
42. Xingu - Edith Wharton
43. The Hunchback of Notre -Dame - Victor Hugo
44. Collected Poems - Robert Frost
45. Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald
46. In Defence of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton
47. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
48. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
49. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
50. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

ETA. As expected I'm reading other classics as I go and may end up not reading all of my initially selected fifty titles. I'll add the extra (possibly substitute) titles here as I post reviews.

Much Ado About Nothing - Shakespeare

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare

Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

The Two Gentlemen of Verona - William Shakespeare

The Good Earth - Pearl Buck

Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens

The Odyssey - Homer

Dracula - Bram Stoker










Sunday, November 9, 2014

Two Weeks Ending 9 November 2014

This past two weeks have been filled with: -





Cricket - Mr 16 trains three nights each week then has a game that lasts all day on Saturday. Last weekend he took a knock to the shoulder - cricket balls are hard and, depending on the bowler, they can travel fast. Once he was home the first thing he did was snap a photo to post on Facebook - before putting ice on the lump!



Trampolining - Miss 13 is training four days each week. Plus she now coaches two hours each week. Last weekend she had the final module this year for the coaching/leadership course she is doing. This weekend it was a whole squad practice for the display they'll be presenting at the club's end-of-year prize giving. I'm not at all sporty. As a teen I routinely wrote notes (which my mother happily signed) excusing myself from PE class at school, until the teacher told me I didn't need to bother any more, and I sat happily on the bleachers reading. So it amazes me that I have two sporty kids and spend so much of my life driving to and from practices, games and competitions. The video above is one of the routines she competed at Nationals last month.

MOOCs - Miss 13 and I are both really enjoying our Shakespeare class. Last week's focus was on A Midsummer Night's Dream and the theatre in the Shakespeare's time. We'd read this play earlier in the year so it was a light week work wise. This week's play was The Merchant of Venice and the lectures looked at money and commerce. Of the four plays we've done so far I felt we got the most out of this one, probably because we were able to start with Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories version and then proceed to read the play from the Oxford School Shakespeare. Definitely the best way for us to tackle the Bard.  We're enjoying the class on Laura Ingalls Wilder more now that it is focusing on the books themselves. Last week was Little House in the Big Woods. This week was Farmer Boy, a title that never fails to make us hungry while we are reading it. Our history course is nearing the end, especially for Miss 13 who has decided to watch a lecture segment every day rather than just getting through one topic (which usually has either three or four segments) each week.

Homeschooling - Miss 13 is finished for the year. All bar the history MOOC which was a last minute addition I sprang on them both. The other MOOCs she's doing for fun and is free to discontinue if she chooses. Mr 16 is dragging the chain in finishing up his loose ends. He did finally finish Saxon Algebra 2 this week. That leaves a poetry unit on Robert Frost and some Economics. Dh is in charge of Economics. For most of the year he has been requiring an essay per chapter but the essay competition Mr 16 decided to enter got them out of routine. So Dh has decided on a combined test for the remaining chapters. He's just got to write it. Hopefully this week. I want everything done. So long as the test gets written I'm planning to play the mean mother card - "If you want to use the car make sure you get the last of the work finished by the end of this coming week". Intrinsic motivation would be great but in its absence I'll play whatever card I've got!




Fireworks - Guy Fawkes day was this week and it is the only time of year that fireworks are sold here. In our family the guys love them but the girls do not. Mr 16 made the most of it this year. The day before Guy Fawkes he went around to Mr 22's flat and joined him and his flatmates for their fireworks. On the day itself they let fireworks off at Venturers and then he went to a large public display with a friend. Then the night after he let off our fireworks along with Dh and my mother-in-law.

Birding - We haven't actually been out this week but have been busy none the less. Miss 13 and I were asked to take over as editors of our regional newsletter so we've spent some time working on her first edition. Lots of technical skills being acquired along the way. She of course picks it up far quicker than me. I hope to have her do virtually all the work and to be co-editor in name only for a while before handing it to her entirely.  She's also been asked to write our region's column for the national birding magazine and has got that drafted. Plus we attended the regular monthly meeting, which was preceded by a committee meeting where we roughed out a programme of speakers and field trips for next year.

Recipes - With the change in season I felt my cooking needed a freshen up. I have a bit of an addiction to collecting new recipes which I file away and then forget about. So I've spent some happy hours browsing through cookbooks and my disorganised box of torn out and copied out recipes, and then coming up with a list of new meals I want to try this spring and summer.

Reading - As well as the books tied in with our MOOCs Miss 13 is continuing with the Hunger Games trilogy. I finished The Calligrapher's Daughter and also read Elizabeth is Missing which I really loved. The author did such a great job of putting the reader in the mind of the main character, a dementia sufferer. I also like the way the past and the present came together.


Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up


http://blogshewrote.org/2014/11/19/finishing-strong-homeschooling-middle-high-school-years-week-38/





Monday, October 27, 2014

Week Ending 26 October 2014

Several weeks ago I saw an advertisement for an essay competition run by the university's College of Business and Law. I hoped it might interest Mr 16 and somewhat to my surprise it did. While I knew the topic - looking at different political parties' approaches to a capital gains tax - would appeal to him, writing is not his favourite activity and he spends as little time as possible on it. However, he spent ages drafting, revising and editing and actually complained that the word limit was too short (something he has never said before in his life!) and that he couldn't include all the details he wanted to (my standard response to his writing is that it needs more detail). All that effort obviously paid off since this week he found out he'd been awarded first prize.


He's now busy planning how to spend his prize money!

Miss 13 and I spend the week at my parents' place. My Mum had back surgery a couple of weeks ago so we went to give them a hand since there is a lot she isn't allowed to do for several more weeks. It could have been a four hour journey but because we took the scenic route and made several lengthy stops the trip down actually took us over ten hours!. Since one of the areas we drove through was rich in geological history many of our stops were geology themed.



Most of these shots are of Elephant Rocks which was the location of Aslan's camp in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie.


The cliffs in the collage above had caves underneath. This is some of the ancient Maori rock art that can be seen there.

We even managed to tie our interest in birds into geology. A small geology museum we visited held fossils from an ancient giant penguin plus several moa bones.

Regular readers won't be surprised to learn that we made several birding stops on our journey plus fitted in a couple of birding trips while we were at my parents' place. All up we added six new species to our year list. Three of these were new to our life list as well which is especially exciting. Miss 13 is now just one bird short of her goal of 100 species for the year! Our efforts to crack that magic number on our return trip were all unsuccessful.


This is a Takahe. They were thought to be extinct but were rediscovered in 1948. Takahe live in very remote mountain regions but this one was translocated to a predator proof sanctuary where it roams freely.

This is a Yellow-Eyed Penguin. This one was already in his burrow when we arrived but we watched another come ashore after a day spent fishing at sea.



Ducklings are always cute. These are Paradise Shelducks. On the first day we visited this site there were eight ducklings. The next day only four remained.

In between travelling and birding we managed to keep up with our three MOOCs. The Shakespeare one is our current favourite. This week's play was Henry V and the lectures looked at how the play reflected warfare of the time. There was also time for reading. Miss 13 has begun the Hunger Games trilogy while I started The Miniaturist which I'm now enjoying, although it did take me a while to really get into the story.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week Ending 19 October 2014


The highlight of Mr 16's week was this weekend's Scout JOTI where he was part of the crew, moderating the channels to ensure there was no inappropriate behaviour. He arrived home this afternoon having survived on just 45 minutes sleep so I'm not expecting a lot from him tomorrow!

Mr 16 is the tall guy just heading out the glass doors.

For Miss 19 and dh the highlight was undoubtedly the end of the university teaching year. She's pleased to have finished attending lectures (at least until she enrols as a postgraduate next year!) and he is beyond pleased to have no more lecture notes to write for the foreseeable future. Next year will be the first one in a while where he won't be teaching a new course so we may actually get to see him on nights and weekends. The highlight for Mr 22 was arriving safely back from his trip to Chile, although he has now come down with a cold - doubtless a result of all that time spent in an airline cabin.

One of Mr 22's snaps from Santiago.

For Miss 13 the week was all about  trampolining, birding, and MOOCs.
She's back to regular training four times per week. In addition she has started helping to coach some recreational classes once a week. At this stage it is part of a trampoline leadership programme she's enrolled in. Hopefully next year it will develop into a paid job. She also received the certificates she earned at Nationals for the events she made finals in, and was advised she'd earned a proficiency pin (awarded to those who score above a certain level) although the pins haven't yet arrived. I really wish they would award the pins and certificates at the competition itself but for some unknown reason they don't. The official photographer has finally posted the photos online so we spent some time scrolling through trying to spot Miss 13 and her teammates, and working out which photos we'd like to buy. With her new competition hairstyles I barely recognised her. She really doesn't look like herself. If you're interested  you can see her here, here (her favourite since it is a move she has struggled to perform well and she's doing a good job in the shot) here,  and here.


We managed four birding expeditions this week which was great. Tuesday was  a sedate group ramble around a local reserve. The highlight was the large number of California quail we spotted, especially in trees. Previously we've only seen them feeding on the ground. On Thursday Miss 13 and I visited our regular wetland where we are counting all the birds once a month. This time it was disappointingly quiet, which was surprising given that it was high tide and the spot is usually favoured as a roosting spot at high tide. The following day we headed north hoping to track down one particular bird. We had no luck so also checked out an estuary but it was so windy we could hardly hold the binoculars or scope steady to see anything. We did catch sight of a gorgeous young dotterel chick scurrying along on the sand and were both amazed that it didn't get blown away! Over the weekend we joined with some other members of our birding group for a hike on the peninsula to explore a patch of recently regenerated native bush. While the route wasn't particularly long it was very steep and narrow in places. We were heading downhill and trying not to lose our footing on the  rocks or loose dirt was challenging to say the least. Still the weather was nice and we saw lots of birds - more tomtits and brown creeper than we've ever seen before. We heard a shining cuckoo call at really close range. Despite six pairs of eyes keenly searching no-one managed to spot it which was so frustrating. The shining cuckoo is a bird we've heard but never yet spotted and we had hoped to see one on this trip.

We finished out Irish history MOOC with a look at personal lives. We both enjoyed this course and the historian in me appreciated the focus on primary sources. Our Shakespeare course focused on The Merry Wives of Windsor and looked especially at the connections between the play and Shakespeare's life in Stratford. This week the Laura Ingalls Wilder course looked at the relationship between Laura and her daughter, and how that impacted on her writing career. Our final MOOC is A Brief History of Humankind and we completed a section on the unification of humankind. The course is always thought provoking. Mr 16 is doing this one as well and he and I frequently have lengthy, interesting discussions as a result.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week Ending 12 October 2014

The week was bookended with trips to the airport - first to drop off Miss 13 and then to pick her up. In between I spent a lot of time in the garden - mostly weeding, but also enjoying further signs of spring.


Our cherry blossoms are finally out. For some reason our trees are the last in the street to bloom.


I also read the rest of the Little House in the Prairie books since the whole series is discussed in one of our MOOCs and I wanted to refresh my memory. Plus I checked out an additional Shakespeare MOOC to see if we could use bits of it as a supplement to our main course. I think some lectures will be a good addition, but I'll have to see if Miss 13 agrees. My Mum had back
surgery in the middle of the week and so far the signs are promising that it should stop the excruciating  pain she's suffered for the past year or more.

Mr 16 spent some of his time working working through the certification process that will allow him to be moderator at the forthcoming Scouting JOTI (Jamboree Over The Internet). He had his first game of cricket for the season and spent time one evening capturing the lunar eclipse/Blood Moon.



Meanwhile Miss 13 spent her time in a 4 star hotel complete with spa pools and maid service (whoever thought the team needed such luxury clearly has a different budget to us - the accommodation cost was the reason I didn't go) , a large sports arena, and a minibus shuttling between the two.
 
One advantage of my not being at Nationals was that a teammate's mother did Miss 13's hair - and she did  a much better job than I could. My hair repertoire doesn't extend beyond ponytails!
She felt she did three good sound routines in her main event and was satisfied with her 5th placing. In the synchronized event she and her partner came 4th (tantalizingly close to a medal). Unfortunately she had trouble with one of her passes on the double mini which left her in 19th place for that event.  At least her main event went smoothly.

The only photos Miss 13 took were before the competition started while her team was waiting for their practise session.
One of the first things she said when she returned was "Auckland is so strange. It has buildings!" She was referring to multi-storey office buildings. Most of the ones here were demolished post earthquakes and have not yet been rebuilt.  She also commented on how smooth the roads were. Many of ours have only been roughly patched after the quake and some leave you feeling as if you are riding a mini roller coaster.

The week ended with a pleasant surprise. We won a group pass to fantastic hotpools complex about an hour out of town. Something to look forward to - perhaps once Miss 19 finishes her exams next month.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week Ending 5 October 2014

It's been a strange sort of a week around here with the focus being on departures.

Mr 16 headed away on a four day tramp with a group of friends. The first part of the week was busy as he hunted down new gear he wanted. He was lucky enough to get the opportunity to try out a new pack, with a design meant to better distribute the load. He loved the design and doesn't think he can go back to what he used before - so some large expenditure is looming in his future.

Mr 16 bought a new raincoat and wanted to test it out before he went. Both Miss 13 and Basil were happy to help!
The famous pack!

Although the weather was not as spring-like as it could have been he really enjoyed the tramp. Nothing like the chance of a snowball fight to break up a hard day's hiking!



 
Mr 22 also departed - for Santiago, Chile where he's attending a conference for theoretical and computational chemists. We've had an email to say he arrived safely at his hotel - despite the efforts of fake airport guides and potentially dodgy taxi drivers! His rudimentary Spanish was obviously sufficient to negotiate the challenges.

And, Miss 13 leaves for  the trampoline national championships tomorrow. So we've been busy this week sorting her uniform, and buying other things that she needs for the trip. Not to mention driving to and from extra training sessions. A complicating factor is that overnight there was a major fire at a power substation in Auckland, where the competition is being held. As a result parts of that city, including the suburb where her team will be staying, may be without power for 48 hours! I think I'm glad I'm not going.

Packing the team leotard and training shirt. Red and black are our province's colours - in case you hadn't guessed!


The only child not departing was Miss 19. She had to make do with the "excitement" of starting a new part-time job at a local supermarket.

Despite the departures and despite the fact that we are officially on a break some school-like learning happened anyway. On Monday night Miss 13 and I attended our monthly birding meeting, where we listened to a fascinating talk on what scientists have been able to discover about ancient moa from their coprolites.

We started an online course on Shakespeare and his World this week. Fascinating stuff. I also discovered another Shakespeare MOOC  - Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance. Sadly we just don't have the time to fit it into our schedule. I plan on checking it our next week though. I should have plenty of spare time! If it looks good we might use it as a supplement and work through those sections that focus on the plays we are already studying. Talking of Shakespeare our Oxford School Shakespeare plays arrived so we began reading Henry V aloud and managed to get halfway through the third act.

We also continued with our other online courses - A Brief History of Humankind (Miss 13 opted to do two weeks work to make up for her absence next week - the lectures looked at the role of money and the role of imperialism in contributing to the trend towards global unification), Irish History (Social Lives) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (her life in the Dakota territories). 






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.