Monday, February 24, 2014

Week Ending 23 February 2014

Two birding expeditions for Miss 13 and me this week. On Saturday we took part in an annual census of all the birds on one particular lake. The lake was divided into sections and small groups tackled each section, counting all the birds, species by species, on the shore and on the water. Our section  - about 3 km long - had large numbers of black swans, grey teal  and other water fowl and we counted literally thousands of each species. It was a hot windy day and peering through a scope and concentrating intensely to make sure we didn't make a mistake in either identification (easy to do when the birds have their heads tucked under their wings) or counting was surprisingly taxing.  On Sunday we had a much more relaxed day walking along a local lagoon, just enjoying the sights - especially the Caspian Terns hunting and the Arctic Skua harassing the terns and trying to steal their food!

Regular bookwork is progressing as we'd hoped. Mr 16 is whizzing through the computer course at the Polytech but he's found physics more challenging than he'd expected so we've rejigged how he's doing that. Miss 13 has just hit a bump with French so we'll take a week or two to back up and hopefully iron our the wrinkles before carrying on. She's really enjoying Real Science Odyssey - the worksheets are a big attraction apparently and we're slowly feeling our way with Big History - as expected Mr 16 is more comfortable with the approach than Miss 13 but she's  happy to stick with it for a while longer. We're both hoping that once we finish the introductory unit next week she'll find the actual meaty content more interesting.

I've managed to fit in some good reading time this week, finishing Khaled Hosseni's And the Mountains Echoed and beginning Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.  Miss 13 is still reading up a storm. I've just returned her completed pile to the library and can't recall any titles but  Inkheart is currently on her bedside table.

In good news Mr 16's camera is now repaired so hopefully there will be some photos to share next week.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week ending 16 February 2014

Wow, what a week it's been. We got off to a great start on Monday with the day spent productively at home - science (parts of a cell), history (still working through the introduction to Big History), French (vehicles and the verb "aller"),  Latin ( a review of noun declensions and some new vocabulary), maths (area), art (comparing Audubon's "White Pelican" with his "Brown Pelican"), and The Tempest  (Act 3, scenes 1 and 2 because they were both short) for Miss 13. Mr 16 spent the morning at Polytech for his computer course and joined us for history and The Tempest in the afternoon before doing some of his own stuff - algebra, German and physics most likely.  In the evening Miss 13 visited a new Scout group. She was dissatisfied with Scouts towards the end of last year and we felt part of the problem was the peer group  - she didn't have a lot in common with the girls that attended her troop and didn't really enjoy spending time with them. At Jamboree she got on really well with a girl from a neighbouring troop so she's considering transferring to that troop.

Tuesday was a  birding trip to a local estuary led by an experienced local birder. We always learn a lot from her and this time were were lucky enough to spot a new (to us) bird which I don't think we would have picked up by ourselves since it is very similar to another more familiar species. We were also pointed in the direction of some other good birding spots in the area.

Wednesday was another birding trip this time to a small island that is normally inaccessible. It has a reputation for attracting rare Arctic migrants and although there were fewer species than had been spotted the previous week we got really close views and spotted three new species to add to our life lists. The trip was a training exercise for a population census of the entire bird population on the lake and the leader was fantastic at pointing birds out, giving tips on how to differentiate similar species, and advising how to relatively quickly and accurately count the large flocks of birds that inhabit the lake. The only downside was that to get to the island we had a short walk through incredibly thick, sticky mud and I got stuck - twice! It took two guys to help haul me out since the mud kept sucking me back down - and my boots which were actually Mr 16's and therefore a little too big weren't helping. A "friend " took photos but I will not be posting them ;-) Wednesday evening was dominated by the heaviest rain I have ever experienced here. It seems like the few blocks around our home were the worst affected in the city and the surface flooding was pretty spectacular. Luckily the water stayed out of our house but not everyone was so lucky. During the rain Mr 21 need to be dropped off just a few block from home and  I had to try four different routes to get back since my first three routes were closed by flooding.

Thursday disappeared in a blur - much like Monday I suspect but with cricket practice, trampoline training and Scouts (Dh is staying on as leader at Miss 13's old group for a few weeks and Mr 16 went to help him run the evening since the other leader couldn't make it) added in to the evening mix.

For Miss 19, Mr 16, Miss 13 and myself, Friday's highlight was attending an outdoor performance of The Tempest. We finished reading the play in the morning, all four of us were available for the evening (that it itself was quite a feat) and the weather was fine - although we still took plenty of jackets and blankets since previous experience (this is an annual event and Miss 19 and I have attended for the past six or so years) has taught us that once the sun drops, it gets cold, no matter how warm the day was. We all enjoyed the performance, although there were a few hiccups with the new sound system, and we had some interesting discussions about casting, costuming staging and the like. It would have been the perfect end to our study but we've haven't touched any of the lesson plans I had bookmarked so we'll  tackle a couple this coming week to tie everything up.

Saturday was an out-of-town cricket game for Mr 16, thankfully the only one all season. He's never played out of town before and this game was two hours away! Not what I was expecting when I signed him up for the season. He was pleased though since it gave him plenty of open road driving practice!  I took the opportunity to go birding  and it was strange going by myself - Miss 13 couldn't come since she had trampoline training and with the first competition of the year coming up she didn't want to skip it. I also took the opportunity to go for a walk along the beach. I love the sea and don't make the effort to visit often enough.

On Sunday Mr 16 had another cricket game - the only double-header this season which is just as well. The trouble with cricket at this level is that it does take up the entire day. I'm not a natural sporting mum and would not be up to travelling out of town or having double headers on a regular basis. However the main event of the day was helping Mr 21 move out. He's found himself a flat with four others. It's not terribly far away and I'm sure we'll still be seeing him a bit (Dh and Miss 19 will probably run into him on campus if nothing else) but it feels slightly strange having the first child fly the nest so to speak. Up until now Miss 13 and Miss 19 have had to share a room but now everyone will be able to have a room of their own. The issue is who will get what room - much negotiating has ensued and I don't think it's over yet. However it ends up I'm pretty sure next week will involve some heavy duty furniture moving!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week ending 9 February 2014

This was a fairly quiet and uneventful week for which I'm grateful since the forthcoming week will be anything but.

Our copy of The Tempest finally arrived so Miss 13, Mr 16 and I began reading it aloud one scene at a time. So far it's going well - we've finished Act 2 -  and we should finish this coming week, just in time to attend a live performance - weather permitting, since it is an outdoor production.

The three of us also made a start on the Big History course. Again it is a case of so far so good, although it is a little slow to really get going and therefore a little boring. I had planned to whip through the rest of the introductory unit next week so we can start on the course proper but other activities mean it's unlikely we'll get time for that.

I spent Friday morning at a medical clinic with Mr 16 wondering if I would be found to be the worst mother in the world. His hand was hit by a ball at cricket last Saturday. Cricket balls are hard and it was travelling fast. However, he said it was fine - "just bruised" and by the time I found out we were heading to my parents' Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations. So I let it go. For a couple of days he claimed it was getting better and he didn't need an x-ray. And he was getting more movement. But he opted to skip practice, skip Thursday's game (a public holiday here hence the game; normally they just play on Saturday) and wasn't sure about making the weekend game.  And he never skips cricket if he can help it. So I suggested again (a little more firmly this time) that maybe we should get an x-ray. And this time he agreed. There was no obvious break but there was a faint line that "may be a crack" but the doctor didn't think so and said Mr 16 should carry on as usual, including playing cricket but to come back in 10 days if things weren't better. Not as clear-cut as I would have liked. Thankfully his coach opted to rest him for the weekend. We'll see how this week goes but I still have some doubts. We have family experience with small breaks not being picked up initially.

The highlight of Miss 13's week was a birding trip (of course). We went to a local high-tide roost favoured by bar-tailed godwits and tried our hand at band retrieval. Basically we were trying to spot the birds that were banded and correctly identify the bands so we could report the sighting. Scientists use these reports to get a better idea of the movements and needs of these birds. It was surprisingly difficult since the birds would insist on standing on one leg (and you need to read the bands on both legs to fully identify them), standing in a large group (really difficult to work out which legs belong to which bird), wading (so their bands were covered by water) or running quickly along the sand (hard to correctly identify and record at least 4 bands and 1 flag per bird). Plus, it was really windy and keeping the scope upright was a challenge at times! Still we did have some success including one godwit first banded in Australia - the colour of the flag tells you where they were banded.

February 5th was apparently Nutella Day. Who knew there was such a thing? Coincidentally I stumbled across that fact around the same time that I stumbled across a recipe for Nutella cake that we were keen to try. Perfect way to celebrate we thought so Miss 13 spent that afternoon in the kitchen!

Miss 19 finished her summer course which was brutal - a semester long course condensed into just four weeks. Luckily, she has a two week break before the university year proper begins. I can't believe it will be her final year and she'll (all going well) have her Bachelor's degree by the end of the year.

Miss 13's been reading up a storm. She often goes through stages of struggling to find appealing fiction books - she seems caught between the children's market which is often too young and the young adults' market which is frequently too old - so it's great that she's found plenty of books that appeal recently. In the past week or so she finished Bridge to Terabithia, Out of Shadows and, in a lighter vein, The Hero of Ticonderoga. She's also made a start on Gathering Blue, a follow up from The Giver which we read last year. I'm currently the one in a reading funk. After a string of enjoyable reads the latest couple I've picked up haven't held my attention. I've got several promising titles on hold at the library so I'm hoping they arrive in soon. I don't like being between books.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week Ending 2 February 2014

This week has been mainly about easing into and adjusting to new routines. Miss 13's new training schedule  has had lots of flow-on effects into what we do and when and, although there are some advantages (more family time in the evenings), the changes takes some getting used to - clearly I'm a creature of habit.

Mr 16 started his computing course through the polytechnic. It's relatively low-level but a pre-requisite for the higher level ones which he wants to do. In the meantime I think it'll do him a lot of good to have learning time away from home and apart from me. I'm also aware that if this strikes a chord with him it could lead to full-time study next year. Therefore this could be his last year homeschooling so I'd better make sure we cover everything I feel the need to before he heads to bigger and brighter pastures.

Miss 13 continued easing back into more formal, academic work adding science to her schedule.The highlight was probably the plot study which we did in our back yard. Conclusions were that our "lawn" is more weed than grass, and that an amazing variety of life forms live under dead logs but it is really hard to identify them all because of their small size and propensity to run and/or hide once the log is moved!

 Initially there were no animals in our plot, except for those under the log but while we were there one strolled in and, a little late, another flew in to join us.

She also enjoyed the small research task - this week looking at polio. The course also has a large microscope component. Right now we don't have a suitable microscope so I've decided to skip those for now and we'll do a "microscope intensive" when we acquire suitable equipment.

We also started this year's Journey's North Mystery Class project, calculating and analysing photoperiod data and later using cultural clues to find the location of ten secret sites around the world. The project runs until May, and mostly takes less than an hour per week. It's not too late to join in  and there is a handy participation guide to get you started. We've taken part for several years and there is always a great sense of satisfaction when we successfully nail the locations - especially the tricky ones!

Our main highlight this week was the family celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. It was just a small, family affair (their choice) but we don't get together very often as an extended family so it was nice to catch up and fifty years marriage is definitely worth celebrating.