Saturday, December 31, 2016

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017

I've decided once again to participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen, over at Books and Chocolate. Basically the goal is to read between 6 and 12 classic books in 2017 according to the categories given and then to blog about each one. There's even a prize up for grabs! For the interested, here are the categories and my tentative selections.

1.  A 19th Century Classic -I've still got Heart of Darkness and Ivanhoe left on my 50 book Classics Club Challenge.   So it will be one of them. ETA I went with Heart of Darkness.

2.A 2oth Century Classic - I enjoyed My Antonia so I'm looking forward to Willa Cather's O Pioneers!

3.  A classic by a woman author -  I came across The Dollmaker by Hariette Simpson Arnow in a list of classics. I'd never heard of it before but the description leads me to believe it's my sort of read.

4.  A classic in translation. -  I'm going with Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich

5.  A classic published before 1800 - I should pick Dante's The Inferno since it's on my 50 classics list. But I'm feeling a calling to read The Odyssey. And Miss 16 may be tackling it this year. So either of these two. I could always read both!

An romance classic - I've already read many of the top classics in this category but have yet to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. So that'll be my choice here.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic   - Not my favourite genre. I'm still deciding between Dracula and Frankenstein.

8.  A classic with a number in the title - Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona is being performed locally in February so that's an easy choice since we prefer to read the Bard's work  before seeing it performed.

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title -  I'm not certain about this category but am leaning towards White Fang since I read The Call of the Wild with the kids when they were younger and enjoyed it. Or possibly The Metamorphosis.

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit - This is another category I'm not sure about. But I'll probably go for something by Dickens since I'd love to visit England (especially London). Perhaps Nicholas Nickleby. I'm doing another reading challenge (Popsugar's) which requires a book with a title that's a character's name so I could get two for the price of one!

11. An award-winning classic  - I'm leaning towards Pearl Buck's The Good Earth which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

12. A Russian Classic - I'll tackle Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment.

ETA Clicking on the category link will take you to my review for each one.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Year in Review

The end of 2016 has prompted me to take a look back at the year that was. In many ways it was a frustrating year for me as I was plagued by a variety of vestibular symptoms that at times severely limited what I could do. However, there were lots of achievements and other positives as well and sometimes it is good to remind myself of them.

Homeschooling ran smoothly and easily this year - mostly hits but a few misses along the way. By far the most popular of Miss 16's classes was ornithology. The subject matter meant it was always going to be a favourite but I think the structure really helped. I had gathered together a whole heap of resources and ideas and effectively presented it to Miss 16 as a buffet. She could pick what she wanted from what was on offer and I had no preconceived ideas as to what or how much she would do. Some of the highlights were the many lessons we used from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds without Borders, some lessons from HHMI BioInteractive, a MOOC on animal behaviour, citizen science bill marking, plenty of field work and observations- including the albatross cam. We utilized textbooks, living books, DVDs, live speakers and lesson plans from middle school to college level. We even attended a one day conference on braided rivers  which had a big bird focus. The other most popular course was Applied Ecology and Conservation, where she attended lectures at a local university. My fears that it would be too much were thankfully unfounded and it only cemented her interest in this area. Algebra 2 was solid but uninspiring. It was never going to be loved and while it wasn't hated I know Miss 16 was delighted to finish the final level of maths we require. I had high hopes for her composition course but the first online class she took via Fortuigence focused more on process and technical competence when I was wanting her style and voice developed more. The course was fine, just not what we needed. The second one proved to be too costly. Instead she worked through Brave Writer's Help for High School and ended up taking from it what she wanted when she wanted. She claims she can't write someone else's way - a point I think I instinctively know. It's probably why we've used a variety of different writing programmes over the years - in the hope that all my kids would be exposed to a variety of ideas and be enabled to take what worked for them. In addition to this specific writing instruction Miss 16 wrote a variety of papers for "school" plus several short articles for real-world publications. I think my expectations and standards may be too high when it comes to writing - Mr 19 earned A+s on his university essays when I would not have graded them that highly. While Miss 16's writing is always competent the stand-out stuff only happens some of the time - when inspiration strikes. While I'd love exceptional all the time I need to remember that's not really realistic. Miss 16's final course - Child Labour - was initially a bit unfocused and we had a hard time finding the type of resource we wanted for Victorian Britain. However, we salvaged it by adding a comparative element looking a child labour issues in Progressive era America and in third world countries today.

Birding is a big part of Miss 16's life outside of an official ornithology class. She continued to edit the local newsletter, wrote a regular column for the national birding magazine, and contributed articles to a magazine for children, published by a Young Birders Network that she is involved with. She attended most of our group's field trips, assisted on several organized bird counts and otherwise got into the field as often as she could. A highlight was attending a camp for teen birders. Overall she saw  more than 120 different bird species this year, including some Australian ones. Her favourite was the Black-tailed godwit, spotted at the teen camp.

The other key thing in Miss 16's life is trampolining. 2016 was probably her best ever year. At the start of the year she attended an introductory level judge's course and has been working on completing the required number of hours before taking the next course. She really enjoys judging and can see herself continuing even after she retires from competition. Her club held a training camp in Australia (which she was able to fund herself as a result of her part-time job as a trampoline coach) and the facilities and different coaching input really helped her master a new skill that she'd been struggling with. Since then she's progressed in leaps and bounds, adding several other new skills to her repertoire. Competition wise she's had a great year going undefeated in individual trampoline and winning two national titles - one in individual and one in synchronized - her first ever national titles.

Passing the first stage of her drivers licence was another high point for Miss 16. She's getting behind the wheel every chance she gets and is looking forward to passing the second stage in six months time, which will allow her to drive without supervision.

Despite my limitations,which I've chafed against some times, 2016 has not been all bad for me. I knew this was not the year for big plans but I was still determined to do some awesome adulting by carving out time to do some things I enjoy. I enjoy birding as much as Miss 16 and despite not getting out as often as her, still managed to see 95 different species this year (respectable by New Zealand standards), including my first ever Pacific golden plover which I have unsuccessfully sought for the past three years. I love to read and luckily have been able to continue with this, on all except a handful of days. All told I read 152 books. I also met my self-imposed challenge of trying at least 50 new recipes, thus justifying somewhat my slight addiction to recipe books. I took up yoga and despite a few illness imposed breaks along the way, feel like it's a practise I'll stick with. I toyed a couple of times with becoming a more serious blogger, but in the end decided it wasn't for me. I'm glad I didn't pursue my  plan of writing reviews. I originally started this blog to document and share our experiences of homeschooling teens since several groups I was involved with were bemoaning the lack of such blogs. I feel most comfortable doing that in a weekly "this is what we did and used" format. I don't wish to encourage anyone to homeschool our way or hold our approach up as an ideal, especially since our way keeps evolving and has looked very different for each of our four kids! Rather I'd just like to be one of many different examples of what homeschooling can look like in the high school years. And since that's what I feel most comfortable with that is what I'll continue to do. It makes a good record to look back on if nothing else!

For all my homeschool graduates 2016 has been a significant year. Mr 24 finally completed his PhD and is now busily searching for a job in his chosen field, while continuing to develop his programming skills which he taught himself during his thesis work. Miss 22 officially graduated with her degree in psychology, and then departed for a working holiday in Europe. She was meant to be away for six months, but  had such a good time that she extended her trip. Mr 19 successfully completed his first year of university and was officially presented with the highest award in Scouting by the Governor-General.

I hope 2016 was a good year for all of you and your families. Wishing you all the very  best for 2017.

Classics Club 40:Three Sisters

My overall impresssion of Chekhov's Three Sisters is one of unhappiness and depression. Admittedly the fact that I listened to most of this (via Librivox I think) would have contibuted to this impression. The voices of many of the actors  struck me as whiny - it certainly didn't endear them to me.

The three well-educated sisters and their brother are living in the country (which they clearly consider to be beneath them intellectually and culturally) but dreaming of returning to Moscow, where they are sure their lives will automatically be better. As the play progresses it becomes clear the return to Moscow will never eventuate and the sisters fortunes are declining in the interim. Motherly, oldest sister Olga ends up taking on a principal's role at the school where she teaches, even though she doesn't want the job, not least because of the workload it involves. Masha, the middle sister, is in an unhappy marriage and falls in love with Veshinin, a soldier, but he is transferred away. The youngest, Irina, is convinced she will only find true love in Moscow but ends up marrying Tuzenbach, whom she respects but does not love. He is killed in a duel, leaving her to devote her life to the service of others. Brother Andrei seems destined for a promising career but ends up marrying and becoming a shadow of his former self. While the Prozorov family is declining, Natasha (Andrei's wife) is the one character whose fortunes seem to be rising, in terms of power if not happiness. In the beginning she is mocked by the educated sisters for her poor choice of clothing. By the end she has taken control of the family home, telling Andrei exactly what to do and forcing the sisters to give up their rooms for her children. The parallels with changes in Russian society - the rise of the bourgeois and the decline of the educated, upper class - is unmistakeable.

There is definitely a lesson for the reader in all the depression. As Veshinin said "We're never happy. We can never be happy. We only want to be happy." The sisters were so busy pining for the Moscow of their past and dreaming about the Moscow of their future, that they didn't seem to have any interest in becoming happy in their provincial now. Interstingly they didn't seem to make any real attempts to actually move to Moscow either. How much happier would many of us, the readers, be, if we put our efforts into enjoying the life we had now and/or actively working towards the future we wanted, instead of simply complaining and wishing?

A key feature of the play is the lack of action. While much exciting action - affairs, fires, duels - is referred to in the play, all the action happens offstage. Onstage there is a lot of sitting around alternately complaining and wishing, or musing on the philosophy of life. Masha herself remarks that "You've got to know what you're living for or else it's all nonsense and waste." I was left with the impression that it was the inability to know what they were living for, rather than their inability to return to Moscow that was the root cause of the sisters' unhappiness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Classics Club 39: The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of Santiago (the old man), a poor, down-on-his-luck, Cuban fisherman. This short novel takes place mostly at sea as he attempts to first find, then reel in, and finally return safely to port with, a large fish.  The classic man against nature (and also man against self) conflict is relayed to the reader primarily via the old man talking and thinking to himself.

The text is very sparse, and this sparseness mirrors the sparseness of Santiago's life. The sparseness, shortness and seeming simplicity of the novel make it a quick and easy read. Yet the simplicity is deceptive and there is much more to the story than an old man trying to catch a fish. The reader can ponder the process of aging, consider the extent to which they could emulate the  Old Man's admirable qualities, (he never complains, remains mostly optimistic and upbeat despite adversity, seems grateful for everything he has - even when he has nothing) and think about the way they could reach out to the marginalised in their community (the way the boy did to Santiago). The Old Man has a great respect for nature, and even though he makes his living from killing he does not do so in an indiscriminate manner. I couldn't help thinking the world would be healthier place if more people had a similar respect for nature today. I was also left pondering the extent to which the Old Man (and by extension the reader, whoever he or she may be) was the author of his own misfortune. Was he honourably persevering through difficulties bought on by bad luck or was he too stubborn and proud to change his ways/accept the help and advice offered?

The ending was depressing  - Santiago did not successfully return to port with his big catch, despite his Herculean physical and mental efforts. However, I was left in no doubt he will try again, as should we whenever, life gets the better of us.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Week Ending 25 December 2016

Christmas Eve already. How can that be? I don't feel in the least bit ready but Miss 16 and I have been busy in the kitchen all morning and we've made a raspberry cheesecake, pavlova, mint truffles plus prepared the stuffing for the turkey. The rest of the food has been bought, all ready to be cooked tomorrow. Presents (hopefully all of them) have been bought but not yet wrapped. We'll get to that this evening after the traditional viewing of Miracle on 34th Street.

Apart from Christmas preparation we've only done a few other things of note.

* Yoga. Since the worst of my vestibular symptoms are currently under control I've been managing this every day which feels like a major achievement! Miss 16 has been joining me to try and maintain some of her fitness during the break from trampoline training.

* Celebrated the travelling daughter's birthday in her absence. Miss 16 made a cake and Snap chatted a picture of it to her beloved big sister, followed by another picture of her eating it! The birthday girl wasn't perturbed since she had bought herself a cake to enjoy on her train trip from Edinburgh to Liverpool.

* Rewatched A Man for All Seasons and answered questions about it. This means we've finished 5 of the 17 movies covered by the curriculum. Since we can't locate one of them locally (and I'm not sure it's worth the cost of postage to risk buying a second-hand copy via Amazon), we're practically a third of the way through. I originally thoughts we'd get halfway through during summer break. Not sure we'll make it with Miss 16 away for one week in January and very busy for another. Not that it matters, since it won't be a hardship to add movie watching to our normal schedule once it resumes.

* Virtually explored other parts of Europe courtesy of Miss 22.


The Scottish Highlands

Barcelona - Miss 22's favourite place so far

* Driving Practise. Miss 16 continues to get behind the wheel virtually everyday. She had a lesson with a professional instructor this week. I'm a member of the Automobile Association and they offer three free lessons to members or their children. She found it took a bit of adjustment getting used to his car instead of ours. He certainly took her places that I wouldn't yet and threw a  lot at her in one lesson, whereas I'm cautious and methodical and prefer to introduce just one new thing at a time i.e. we might go out in the rain for the first time, or take our first trip around a double lane roundabout, or work on lane changes but I wouldn't do it all in one lesson. But she survived and sees him again in early February. In the meantime he gave her some things to work on with me.

* Played plenty of games. Ticket to Ride is the current favourite.

* Mr 19 has had a busy week. He's taking one class at university during the summer school period. That finished for the Christmas break on Monday. Since then he's been working (he has a part-time job in a supermarket bakery) every day including several 4 a.m. starts. He's definitely looking forward to his day off on Christmas.

Finally, I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Classics Club 38: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography. It covers her life from age 3 to 17. During this time her life circumstances were less than ideal. Her parent's marriage breaks up and Marguerite (as she was known then) and her brother are sent to live with their grandmother (Momma), a move which leaves them feeling abandoned. After a few years their father returns and takes the children to live their mother, whose family has links to the underworld. At aged 8, Maya is raped by her mother's boyfriend. Soon after both children are returned to their grandmother, in a bid to aid Maya's recovery. However, Momma lives in Arkansas so racial discrimination and prejudice is an unavoidable reality. When racial hostilities reach dangerous levels Momma returns the children to their mother in order to keep them safe. During this time Maya takes a lengthy visit to her father, falls out with his girlfriend and is homeless for a period before returning to her mother. Through her own persistence she overcomes discrimination becoming the first black woman street car conductor. Confused about her own sexuality Maya propositions a boy, resulting in her becoming pregnant. This volume ends with 17 year old Maya adjusting to her new role as a mother.

So much of this early background screams disadvantage and could well have seen many a person trapped in an existence of disadvantage and abuse. Maya Angelou overcame though, and in this background of her autobiography we can see some of the reasons why. She was fortunate to have a largely strong and supportive family. Momma was neither warm nor cuddly but she provided love and stability when the children needed it. She also sets a positive example in terms of hard work, treating people well and rising above discrimination. At two crucial moments Maya's mother stood by her, first by not doubting her over the rape and not sticking with her then boyfriend, and second by supporting her once she discovered Maya was pregnant. The close-knit black community in Stamps, the family's faith, and the value Maya found in education also contributed to her inner fortitude.

The other factor that really stood out to me was the importance of having other people believe in her at key junctures in Maya's life. I'm thinking here especially of Mrs Flowers as well as Miss Kirwin. Even if we don't have children of own, we should not underestimate the positive impact we can have on a child's life - a gift, a smile, a positive word of encouragement, time. Any one of these can stick with a child, potentially sustaining them and spurring them in a positive direction.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings could well have been a depressing read. But it wasn't. Even though it ends with Maya as a young unmarried mother, the reader is left with the sense that she will overcome whatever obstacles life throws at her in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Week Ending 18 December 2016

Just one week until Christmas and I think presents and other organizational matters are finally beginning to fall into place. For which I'm  grateful - I hate the feeling of being disorganized and having lots of loose ends. Apart from seasonal preparations there have been a few other things of note.

* Not one but two birding trips this week. First up Miss 16 and I travelled north to an estuary, one of my favourite birding spots since there is a wide variety of bird life in a relatively compact area. On this trip we waited until the tide was lower, before walking through sticky, goopy mud to the far end, which is a favourite hangout of two fairly rare but regular migrant waders. On this trip we couldn't make it all the way down since one of the creeks was too high for us to safely cross. We still managed to spot one of the species we were after - a Far Eastern Curlew, which we admire for it's impossibly long curved bill. Later in the week we went out with a friend for a full day's birding. A national twitchathon was happening - basically a competition to see who could spot the most species in 24 hours. We weren't competing - Miss 16 doesn't enjoy birding as an extreme or competitive pursuit. But it was a great excuse to go out anyway. We visited six sites in eight hours. The birds weren't cooperating - several species  weren't to be found in locations where they normally are. But we had a great day regardless. Miss 16 managed to find (and point out to me since she's nice like that) a species I hadn't yet seen this year and we all got good views of the incredibly rare Cox's Sandpiper.

* Since she can never have too much bird-related we were pleased to discover a new David Attenborough bird documentary was being aired on tv this week. I don't think we've ever been disappointed with anything he's involved with.

* We took a trip into the centre of town to search for some new Christmas decorations. It's very disorientating since so many buildings have been demolished post earthquakes, a few new ones have been completed, and there have been several major changes to street layouts as well. Not to mention the ever present road closures and diversions to allow for infrastructure repair. I barely found my way around! Once I managed to get us to where we were going  Miss 16 quickly settled on an owl . Like I said she can never have too much of anything bird related. Besides nothing says summer Christmas like a snowy owl!

* We started another movie for Miss 16's Movies as Literature course. This time it was A Man For All Seasons. I can remember reading the play and then seeing it performed many years ago as part of a high school English class. We'll try to watch it again and give Miss 16 a chance to tackle the questions in the coming week. I think she could answer the questions on the first viewing, but she prefers to watch once just for enjoyment. And the curriculum does recommend at least two viewings.

* I began work planning Miss 16's  Animal Behaviour class. After some research I narrowed it down to a choice of two textbooks which I've borrowed from the library. Now she gets to decide which one she prefers and then she'll simply work through it over the course of the year. If there are major differences between the books in terms of content we'll use independent research to tackle the topics not covered in our book - time permitting of course.

* I stumbled across a site on how to tackle the Harvard Classics in just 15 minutes a day over a year. Spoiler - you read key extracts rather than everything in it's entirety! I'm toying with the idea of doing this with Miss 16 but still thinking about logistics especially when she is away from home. Would it be better to have her and I read separately (there is a Kindle book which would make this easier), wait until she returns and then read double until we are caught up, or just read when we are together and if it take more than a year then it takes more than a year? I guess I don't have to decide that right now.

* Miss 21 treated us to virtual field trips to Athens and to Canterbury, including the cathedral.

* Trampoline  finally finished for the year. Miss 16 is already missing it and planning ways to do some strength and conditioning work so she doesn't loose her fitness. She's even considering running - and she hates running! The three week break is too long as far as she is concerned.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Classics Club 37: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is definitely a light and entertaining read. It is not the meatiest, most worthy or life-changing classic that I've read. Personally I don't subscribe to the view that "proper classics" have to be deep and difficult to read. Further, I'd argue that the light exterior does not mean a lack of worthy content. In fact, Austen makes several pertinent points within this novel.

There are two key reasons why I found Pride and Prejudice such an enjoyable read. The first is the witty dialogue. I loved the pointed, biting comments made under the veneer of polite civility. I just wish I could come up with such retorts when the situation demanded, even if I'm too polite to utter them! The humour when Mr Bennet remarks that his wife's nerves are his old friends, so often has he heard them mentioned or when Mr Bennet counsels Lizzy on the marriage proposal from Mr Collins, not to mention the spirited discussions between Lizzy and Lady Catherine over Darcy's proposal are just a few examples where the dialogue zings and the pages seem to fly by.

The second is the memorable characters. From self-centred , flighty and immature Lydia to slimy,  odious, pompous Mr Collins virtually all the characters remain with the reader after the final page has been turned. Witty but negligent Mr Bennet and his meddling, foolish but well-meaning wife; proud, haughty and loyal Mr Darcy; rude and over-bearing Lady Catherine; the eminently realistic, practical Charlotte Lucas; the almost-too-good-to-be true Jane; and of course the spunky, intelligent, thoughtful Lizzy, who has flaws many readers can relate to, are characters that won't soon be forgotten.

At first sight the plot seems a mere frippery. A family with five daughters trying to marry them off to rich husbands. Mrs Bennet's obsession seems a little ridiculous. Yet, in the context of the time it was not. Mr Bennet's property was, not through his own choice, entailed to a male relative. The Bennets have no sons, so the only way to ensure a secure future for their daughters, one free of severe financial hardship and all it would entail, is to arrange suitable marriages for them. And here lies one of the novel's important messages - the dangers and difficulties caused when women are denied equal rights to education and property. One other serious message is alluded to in the title. Lizzy, Darcy and some other characters cause unnecessary problems for themselves and others when they allow their own pride and tendency to pre-judge others to guide their actions.The novel can be read as a lesson to the reader not to to do the same in his or her own life.

I love Pride and Prejudice. Since it is light and entertaining it would make a great introduction to the classics, especially for readers not ready for a deep and difficult tome.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Week Ending 11 December 2016

* We went birding again this week. No new birds unfortunately but it was still a great day out. I'm really glad I'm able to get Miss 16 back out in the field again. Her opportunities have been pretty thin on the ground in the second half of this year as a result of my limitations. There was also a committee meeting for our local ornithology branch. We're both on the committee. Meetings aren't nearly as enjoyable as being out in the field actually birding though!
* We rewatched Arsenic and Old Lace with Miss 16 pausing the DVD every time she wanted to answer one of the questions from our curriculum.

The first of our virtual field trips this week was to Bruges.

* Miss 16 made Nanimo Bars, one of our Christmas traditions from the time we lived in Canada. Both Mr 24 and Miss 21 are Canadians by birth so it's nice to retain a few links.
* Miss 16 and I went to the tree farm to pick out our live tree. We do most of our decorating at the start of December but leave the live tree until 10-14 days before Christmas. The summer heat means it won't look at it's best on the big day if we get it much earlier, no matter how much love and attention we provide. Getting the tree into the house and set up is always a hassle but I love the smell - Christmas wouldn't be the same without it - so we persevere every year!

Our second virtual field trip - courtesy of Miss 21 - was to Copenhagen

* We went to the mall and a few other places to do make a start on Christmas shopping, including gifts to leave under the Wishing Tree. I hate malls and shopping with a passion, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.
* I devoted some time to planning out Miss 16's  English course, locating and roughly - very roughly- scheduling a variety of resources, including Stewart English, Lightning Literature, Bravewriter Boomerangs, Vocabulary from Classical Roots, Sound and Sense (Poetry), plus Teaching with 50 Great Short Stories plus a few other things I found on my shelves or in my digital files. We won't complete every book, but pick and choose e.g. I'm aiming for between 5 and 10 of the short stories.
* A copy of Practical Statistics for Field Biology arrived from the library. At first glance the explanations look good and I think she will enjoy it. But there are no exercises! So I'll have to search online to see if I can find a course which has used the text and which has assignments (hopefully with an answer key), or else find stats exercises from elsewhere and try and coordinate them. I could give up on it entirely but I think the biology context will really help make statistics more palatable so I'll try and find a way to make it work for us.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Week Ending 4 December 2016

On Monday Miss 16 and I went birding again at the same section of the lake we visited last week. It was amazing how much it has changed in a week, with many of the ponds along the lake edge having evaporated. While the range of birds was similar, numbers were very different. Pacific Golden Plovers were nowhere to be found, but there were more than 50 Ruddy Turnstones. The week before there was only a handful. The bird of the day was a Cox's Sandpiper, a rare hybrid. We bumped into five other birders, all on the hunt for the same bird. Normally the lake is deserted, and I can only recall one other time when we've come across another birder there. The remainder of Monday was also filled with birdy things. In the afternoon we watched another episode of a marine documentary. As always the birds stole the show - at least as far as we're concerned! And in the evening we attended our birding group's last meeting of the year. The speakers shared photos and anecdotes from their visit to Botswana and Zimbabwe. Given that it was filled with birding, plus a couple of driving lessons, it's no surprise that Monday was the highlight of Miss 16's week.

Mr 19 and Mr 24 enjoyed a day walk together.

The rest of the week was filled with more driving, lots of reading, plenty of game playing and reading, and of course trampolining. As well as her regular coaching and training, she also helped assess some of the recreational athletes for their badges. We also started another movie - Arsenic and Old Lace, a dark screwball comedy starring Cary Grant. We watched it one night and she'll tackle the questions while rewatching it next week. Miss 16 also did a lot of the Christmas decorating. Pretty sure she missed her older sister since it is a job they've shared for the past few years.

As promised last week here is a video of Miss 16's new routine. It's not yet perfect but we're proud she completed it!

Miss 21 has now quit her job in Surrey and is busy travelling, which means we're looking forward to lots more virtual field trips! This week's offering include Dublin and a behind the scenes look at the Harry Potter studios.


Cliffs of Moher

Harry Potter Studio Tour

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Some Lesser Known Homeschool Resources

Recently I've been doing a lot of purging in preparation for the forthcoming repairs to our house which require us (and all our possessions) to vacate the premises for a month. As I've sorted through the homeschooling material - physical curriculum and work produced by my kids as well as digital material (hey, if you have to purge you might as well be thorough!) - I've come across some lesser known gems. These are things we've enjoyed and benefited from but don't seem to be widely known or commonly mentioned in homeschooling circles, at least not those I've frequented.

Here are a few of our favourites.

1. Journey North Mystery Class - A fabulous (and free)  online project that has students track changes in photoperiod (hours of daylight) to narrow down the latitude and longitude of ten mystery locations. You then receive four additional clues for each place - reference to a famous person who born there or a picture of a native animal for instance. After you've made your guesses and the mystery locations are revealed, one final post gives you a fuller introduction to the location and  the people (frequently a class of school children but sometimes homeschooling families or scientists) who live there. The next Mystery Class project begins on 27 January 2017. If you want to get more of a feel for how it works check out this old post of mine. This one includes a bit of detail about he times we were one of the Mystery Classes.

2. Once Upon a Masterpiece series by Anna Harwell Celenza - These are wonderful living books that provide a fictionalized account (based on known facts) about the creation of particular pieces of music Learn about Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, The Farewell Symphony by Haydn, or Duke Ellington's take on The Nutcracker Suite.  Great for kids, but also a fun, useful introduction for older people (like parents) too. Some editions include a CD of the music which is handy if you don't already have a copy but other editions don't.

3. Young Math series - A series mostly from the 1970s that does a fabulous job of introducing mathematical concepts, often seemingly advanced, to young children. Great fun to read aloud, pausing to try out activities as you go. Sadly these are long out of print but I found some second hand and was able to borrow more from our library. Worth keeping your eye out for any of these books.

4. Friendly Chemistry - Our then ten year old was science mad. His particular bent was chemistry and he was clearly ready for some advanced content. Thick, heavy duty high school or college texts with their small print and expectations of a heavy workload, especially with lots of writing, were not going to work. Luckily I stumbled across Friendly Chemistry. A review I read suggested it was great for the chemistry-phobic high schooler but I suspected the manipulatives, games and other hands-on elements would make it suitable for keen and interested younger students, like my son. And it was. It's many years since I bought it (that ten year old is now a 24 year old with a PhD in Chemistry) and the product has been redesigned significantly so I'm not sure how much resemblance what's sold now bears to what we loved. But if you are looking to introduce high school chemistry concepts to a younger child Friendly Chemistry is at least worth a look.

5. Trivium Mastery - I know many homeschoolers who like the idea of a Classical Education but find they and their kids get burnt out on The Well-Trained Mind approach. Diane Lockman's Trivium Mastery offers a very different approach, focusing on skills rather than subjects in the pre-high school years.  It encourages a more individualized approach which can appear to mean more work for the homeschooling parent  (develop lessons for each child individually rather than just open the recommended book and go). But since you will only be teaching the skills your child needs to learn rather than covering every subject, every year this isn't necessarily true.  I've got some reservations about recommending this one  but if you are happy to take what resonates while ignoring that which doesn't then it could be a welcome alternative to the near monopoly The Well-Trained Mind enjoys in the Classical homeschooling arena.

6. George vs George - Great picture book covering both sides of the American Revolution. Despite being a picture book it is more suited to older elementary and above. This books does a great job of highlighting the British as well as the American side of the conflict, avoiding the "goodies"  vs "baddies" oversimplification.

7. Garlic Press's Discovering Literature Series: Challenging Level - Literature study guides seem to be out-of-favour at the moment what with the abundance of free online resources and the move towards less formal discussions. However if you are after something more formalized that includes vocabulary, comprehension questions, essay and other writing assignments, strategy pages that deliberately teach various literary elements and techniques, background information on the author, a thorough summary of each chapter - perfect for when Mum can't keep pace with the reading and, perhaps most usefully, answers to the questions, then take a look at this series. These are the most comprehensive literature guides I've seen. In fact I advise picking and choosing  what you use from them, since trying to do it all will be too much,  likely to kill any love your child might have felt towards the relevant novel.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Back to the Classics 2016: Challenge Wrap-Up Post

To guide and focus my reading, to challenge myself a little, and to provide a model of lifelong learning to my kids I've participated in several reading challenges this year. One of those was the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate.To complete this challenge I had to read one classic in at least six of the twelve categories provided, and then blog about each one. I opted to complete all twelve categories. While I finished reading some time ago, I have only now finally finished blogging about each title. All that's left to do is post this wrap-up post and then I'll be in the draw to win the prize Karen is generously offering.

Without further ado here's what I read for each category and my overall assessment. Just click on the category to go to the full review.

1.  A 19th Century Classic  - I ended up appreciating Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities but initially struggled with the fact it was less character focused than some of his novels I'd previously read.
2.  A 20th Century Classic - Mrs Dalloway by Victoria Wolf was a little confusing due to it's stream of consciousness style. And it's overall tone was bleak, but it did give me plenty to think about.
3.  A classic by a woman author  - I read The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and recommend savouring the poems slowly rather than reading them in one concentrated go like I did.
4.  A classic in translation - I thought Aristophanes's Lysistrata was a fun and easy read but not suitable for those offended by bawdiness and sexual innuendo.
5.  A classic by a non-white author -  The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki was a real surprise, mainly because I had never heard of it before reading it. I'm glad I took the leap of faith. 
6.  An adventure classic - The prize for my least favourite  classic of the year went to Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic - I found Jules Verne's  Journey to the Centre of the Earth to be quick and relatively engaging but overall I was somewhat ambivalent, perhaps underwhelmed.
8.  A classic detective novel - I really enjoyed The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.The plot, characters, theme, structure and ending all worked for me.
9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title - Challenging in places, especially at the beginning, but worth the time and effort. That's my verdict on Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

10. A classic which has been banned or censored  I enjoyed John Steinbeck's East of Eden as a family saga, but thought it's allegorical aspect was heavy handed and over done.
11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college) -  Despite having ambiguous feelings about the title character I still enjoyed rereading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
12. A volume of classic short stories  - The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is a little dated but still has much to offer a range of readers, not just sci-fi fans.

Classics Club 36: The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is a collection of interrelated short stories, relating to the exploration and colonisation of Mars by humans. The collection was first published in 1950 but many of the stories of were previously published individually during the late 1940s. The stories themselves were set in the period from 1999 to 2026 meaning that half of Bradbury's imagined future is part of my history.

At times the stories felt a little dated. Obviously our knowledge of Mars has advanced from when Bradbury wrote these stories and much of what he imagined simply cannot be. Sometimes the vocabulary gives the date of writing away such as the use of the word like rocket. And plenty of the plot lines reflect the realities and fears of the time. The story  "Way in the Middle of the Air" reads as if it was happening in the American South in the 1940s while the atomic war storyline which drives the latter stories obviously reflects the fears of a post atomic bomb world.

Despite this there is also a certain timelessness to The Martian Chronicles. Sadly xenophobia still exists today, racism has not disappeared, and the theme of humans doing what they want regardless is still all-too-prevalent as   many modern environmental issues demonstrate. The value most people place on family ties (something that crops up in several stories) also transcends time, as well as culture.

If you are looking for a realistic imagining of what a human colony on Mars may look like, this isn't the book for you. It really has more to say about life in America in the late 1940s, than life on Mars in 2020. If your reading preferences trend strongly towards intricate plots and detailed character development then this isn't a great pick either. Short stories generally aren't the strongest in these areas. However, if you are looking for an allegory on colonisation them this has much to offer. I found myself wondering what it would have been like to read when it was first released, a time when many colonial empires were breaking up. There was a definite Wild West flavour to the stories, so if you enjoy stories set during the westward expansion in America, you might also enjoy this. And finally, The Martian Chronicles is worth reading for Bradbury's poetic writing. It may be science fiction but it can also be enjoyed by those (like) me) who aren't fans of that genre.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Week Ending 27 November 2016

This week was quieter and less eventful than last week - which is probably a good thing! There were several highlights though.

* Another birthday in the family. The newly minted Mr 19 sure knows how to celebrate. First up he agreed to work an extra shift - one with an early start. Then, since they were short staffed, each shift ended up being longer than planned. He worked 4 am to 1:30 pm and then 3:45 pm to 7:45 pm. After that he had to head to a Scout camp (thankfully not too far from home) to do some equipment related things. He volunteers as Quartermaster for his old Scout troop.

* Miss 16 and I went birding. This in itself has been a rare occurrence recently and it has been months since we've ventured to more out of the way spots like the one we visited this week. And, after two false starts where we barely saw a bird, we finally chanced on a good section of the lake. The highlight for both of us was a group of more than 20 Pacific Golden Plovers. It was the first time I've ever seen them, and the first time she's seen them in our area. There were also a couple of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers plus a good mix of more common species.

* We had Basil over for a visit and we're pleased to see he's still his usual exuberant self, although he definitely tires more quickly than he used to.

Feeling sad because we stopped his favourite game before he wanted. The tumour on his leg means he is not supposed to overdo things, and exercise is meant to be sedate. I don't think he appreciates the restrictions!

* Miss 16 worked on a short article for a magazine for young birders. It was an introduction to parrot species in New Zealand. Her favourite bird is one of our native parrots.

* The final trampoline competition of the year was held over the weekend. She performed a new routine and, despite an injury which limited her range of movement (she had to use her arms to lift her leg to put on her shorts since it wouldn't lift by itself!), she nailed it. Check back next week when I hope to have the video one of her friends took of the routine. Just completing the routine was the goal of the competition. Doing it well, winning her event, earning the title of provincial champion and going undefeated for the season were nice bonuses. Next year will be a very different story though since she aims to move up a level and compete in the international section. So while the competition season is over the hard training continues!

* We watched Henry V for the second time, pausing to discuss the questions from our curriculum as we went.

* There have also been plenty of on-road driving lessons. She's somewhat obsessed, more so than I expected. My life is beginning to resemble this cartoon. I guess she's looking forward to the freedom that being able to drive herself will bring, since my health woes have limited her opportunities a little.

* Miss 16 and I had a productive discussion on what she'd like to do homeschooling wise next year. So far we've settled on a general English course (it'll probably involve vocabulary and grammar as well as literary analysis of short stories, poetry and novels and I'll pull it together using stuff that's on our shelf that various older siblings used previously), Statistics (more one that she sees the need to do rather than really wants to do) and Animal Behaviour. We'll probably go the textbook route for both of these (anyone know of a great beginning statistics text for budding ornithologists/ zoologists?) and I'll spend the next couple of weeks researching options before letting her make the final decision. That will leave us with one more course to settle on. I've got lots of social science suggestions but I don't think Miss 16 is totally enamoured with any of them. So I'm toying with the idea of waiting until she returns from her university summer school course in January before we make a decision. I'm pretty sure that university isn't as homeschool friendly as the one her siblings have attended and they may be looking for particular things on her transcript. Waiting would probably mean the fourth course won't be ready to go at the start of our academic year (which I think is just a week after the summer course ends) but there's nothing wrong with easing back into academic work.

You can never have too many dog photos! And I don't have any others this week.

Linking to Homeschool Coffee Break's Homeschool Highlights.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Organiser

As the end of the current year approaches it is time to think about getting next year's diary/journal/planner/organiser purchased and set up. For years I struggled to find exactly what I was looking for. And failed! The layout of most purchased products annoyed me. For me the week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday - I take the term weekend to literally mean the end of the week. And that's where I expect it to be in an organiser. Plus I often treat the weekend as one unit. Except far too many purchased products split it and have a week run from Sunday to Saturday.  Further I like seeing my whole week at a glance. But I don't just want space for Monday to Sunday. I also want some space to jot down things that pertain to the week as a whole, not necessarily a particular day. That dental appointment maybe Wednesday at 10:15am but I don't yet know which day we'll buy a birthday gift for a cousin - just that it needs to be purchased this week. And on top of that I like having a few spare pages to keep track of random information - like the brilliant idea I had for my husband's birthday and don't want to forget when his birthday actually rolls around in eight month's time! And trying to find all that in one bought product was pretty difficult, especially if I tried to find something that didn't have pages I didn't want - like a monthly accounts section. And if by some miracle I managed to find something that had all or most of what I wanted content wise, then the size was all wrong or the colour was ugly. Shallow I know, but also true!

So when I first stumbled across the concept of bullet journals a couple of years ago I was excited. But as I read more I started to become less excited and more intimidated (all those gorgeous, well designed layouts with beautiful hand lettering) and frustrated (why all the rules and tricky symbols?) So I forgot about it for a while.

And then I had my brainwave. Simply buy a blank book of the right size and colour and then create the sort of organiser I want. So that's exactly what I've done for the past two years, refining and fine tuning as I go.

I love the old fashioned look of the book I bought this year - the embossed cover, the metal clasps and the watermarked page edges.

The front half of my organiser looks a little like your traditional diary. I like seeing my year at a glace so I found a printout which fits nicely on a double page. I use it to keep track of the official school year since extra-curriculars, most significantly trampoline, follow that. I also mark the local university year, since Dh works there, Mr 18 studies there and Miss 21 may be returning next year. Its also a handy spot to birthdays, anniversaries and the like.

Then I have an index (first thing I do with my organiser is number all the pages) so I don't have trouble finding any pages at the back. More on those later.

Next up is a double page spread per month. One page has a calendar print out from The Organised Housewife . It was one of the only one I could find that runs Monday to Sunday  - and it looks nice. I really hope she does a 2017 version. I just trimmed the To- do list off the side since I don't really need it and it didn't fit in this year's book!. Sometimes I rule up a grid underneath to track various habits that I want to develop. Bizarrely colouring in little square to show that I exercised is sometimes more motivating than doing the actual exercise, even though it is good for me. And I also list all the monthly bills and cross them off after I've paid them. This came about after we didn't receive one in the mail and nearly incurred penalty fees as a result. I leave the facing page blank to and use it to keep track of stuff before we reach the relevant week , events that we might like to attend etc.

The bulk of the organiser is weekly double spreads. I set these up at the start of the week  rather than in advance, all in one go at the start of the year. This was to let me experiment with different layouts. I could try one for a week and then try another the following week. By now I'm pretty settled on my preference and just divide the opening into 8 even sized boxes - one for each day and one for stuff that needs to happen at some stage during the week.

No fancy layouts or pretty handwriting for me.

The back of my organiser is where I keep track of all sorts of other things. Effectively it is a collection of lists. I read a lot so I keep one list of books I want to read and another of books I've actually completed, plus a couple of lists related to the various reading challenges I'm currently completing. I take a guess at how many pages these will need but if I run out of space part way through the year I can simply continue the list on the next spare page. Since Miss 16 and I go birding I keep a list of all the bird species I've seen throughout the year. I have quite a collection of cookbooks but am guilty of not using them as much as I should. So this year I challenged myself to make at least one new recipe per week. So of course I'm keeping a list of what I've made as well as rating each one. On another opening I'm jotting down any ideas I've got for future homeschooling - courses Miss 16 might like, book titles we could explore etc. I've got a list of things to do next year, a list of my favourite yoga routines and where I found them and a list of things I want to remember for next year. I've tried keeping a one sentence journal - quickly jotting down one highlight per day. Turns out I'm not great at maintaining that so I don't know whether or not I'll  continue next year or try something new. If I come up with something else I want to remember, record or keep track of I simply start a new page. I don't have to know at the start of the year exactly how I want my organiser to function. It evolves as needed throughout the year.

My organiser is functional rather than pretty (although you'll note I use a pink pen sometimes to match the cover!) but it works for me. So far I've only discovered two potential problems . The first is difficulty finding what I'm looking for at the back of the book. This wouldn't be an issue if I remembered to record pages in the index at the front! The second is that it is theoretically possible to have the back of the book run into the front of the book and thus run out of space before the year is up. This hasn't happened to me yet. Partly this is because I made a rough calculation as to how many pages I was likely to need before I bought the book. I then added a few more just to be safe. Partly it's just luck. But - just in case - this year's planner has a handy pocket in the back, which could store extra pages in an emergency!

I've prettied up this year's planner by randomly gluing in some favourite art prints. Such a nice surprise to turn the page and discover a much loved painting.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Classics Club 35: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is the 35th title in my Classics Club Challenge. It's also a perfect choice for the "Classic you read for School" section of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016. Not only do I remember reading and enjoying it in 6th form English many years ago, but Miss 16 had recently read it and was looking forward to watching the movie with me. It also gave me  something to work with for another reading challenge - a book and its prequel or sequel.Sadly, I did not enjoy Wide Sargasso Sea.

While my memory of the basic plot and characters was accurate I  hadn't remembered all the fine details and had clearly mis-remembered some details. I wonder which novel had the butterfly imagery I strongly remember studying since it wasn't Jane Eyre!

Apart from this my main surprise on this reading was that my reaction to the character of Jane herself was more diffident and ambiguous than I recall from my previous reading. I cheered for the young plucky Jane who stayed strong and true to herself despite being mistreated by her aunt (who was raising her after the death of her parents) and cousins, and then facing harsh and spartan conditions at the boarding school to which she was sent. I especially cheered for her striking back against her bullying cousin even though I knew (and I'm sure she knew too) that any punishment would be meted out to her alone. This Jane is also seen the latter part of the novel after she is taken in by St John Rivers and his family. She is eager to find any work she can, determined to support herself and not rely on their charity. And she refuses to marry St John, despite him being in many ways a suitable match, because she does not love him and knows he does not love her.

However, the Jane in the middle of the novel, the governess who falls in love with her enigmatic and aloof master at Thornfield, is a somewhat different character. Her tolerance of his rudeness (forcing her to attend a party with his wealthy friends and then ignoring her), lack of trust (he does not divulge the secrets of himself and the house even after she has saves his life and later nurses his badly injured friend), and especially the fact that he put her life in danger (by leaving her in the attic without telling her the truth of the situation) is hard to fathom. I guess love conquers all but I found her level of acceptance and lack of questioning to be inexplicable.

Mr Rochester goes on to commit the ultimate betrayal by trying to marry Jane, despite already being married. His deception is only revealed at the altar. She refuses his request to become his mistress and flees, only to nearly lose her life as a result of cold and hunger. Eventually , after much time and a significant reversal of both their fortunes, she finds her way back to him and they apparently live happily ever after.

Thankfully  ambiguous feelings about a title character do not have to prevent enjoyment of a novel and I did enjoy and can recommend Jane Eyre. It was beautifully written and the descriptions enhanced, rather than detracted from the novel as a whole. There was plenty of excitement which kept the plot moving along and the conflict - both within and between characters  -felt believable and gripping. Even though I had read the novel before I was still able to get caught up in the intrigue surrounding the attic. In many ways the romance between Jane and Rochester had a fresh feeling about it, largely due to Jane not being a stereotypical demure female. Plenty to think about as well - love, trust, forgiveness, reason vs emotion , the care of the mentally ill, and the importance of class status among other things.  And everyone likes a happy ending!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Week Ending 20 November 2016

Monday was certainly eventful. We were awoken just after midnight by an earthquake that went on for ever. Thankfully it didn't develop into a strong jolting quake but things just kept rolling and wobbling, rolling and wobbling. Turns out it was a 7.8 quake centered just over an hour's drive away and it has caused major damage in other parts of the country. Even though things were fine where we are getting back to sleep was a bit of an issue what with adrenaline and aftershocks. I feel like enough is enough Mother Nature. I've felt more earthquakes in the past six years than anyone should feel in a lifetime.

About half an hour after the quake Mr 18 announced he was going out. Some friends of his who live several suburbs away were pretty upset by the quake so he thought he'd go over and help take their minds off things. But because he'd had a beer earlier that night he couldn't legally drive, so he ended up biking there and back! He's good in a crisis, likes to help and is obviously a good friend. Of course I was a little worried about his safety - "He's biking! At 2am! With earthquakes!" -  which also contributed to my lack of sleep.

Given the interrupted sleep I figured Miss 15 and I wouldn't do much on Monday. Once day broke I was busy with phone calls and emails from friends and family checking we were okay. Thanks to my online friends for checking in - it really wasn't as bad where we are as media reports may have led you to believe. Turns out Miss 15 was busy on Facebook Messenger doing much the same as me. And then she got called in to work for a couple of hours since another coach couldn't make it. Got the call at 9:15 and the class started at 9:30, plus she was still in her pyjamas and the gym is about 10 minutes drive away. Amazingly she was only a couple of  minutes late.

Ironically Dh and I had a meeting later that morning regarding the re-repairs to our house following the 2010/2011 quakes. The first repairs weren't properly done. Work will start at the end of February and we'll have to be out of the house for four weeks. So my task over the next few weeks will be trying to find alternative accommodation - and trying to decide on colour schemes since several rooms will be repainted. Sadly, I have no talent for interior decorating.

In the afternoon Miss 15 and I  reverted to our familiar routine of game playing, reading and taking quizzes on the road code. We also watched an episode from a documentary series on our marine environment. Of course, we were especially interested in the segments that related to birds. In the evening Miss 15, Dh and Mr 18 watched an episode or two of a political satire show they enjoy. I was busy doing yoga, trying to get back into the habit of practicing every day.

On Tuesday morning Mr 18 kindly drove Miss 15 out of town so that she could go birding with our birding group. Although there were fewer birds around than expected I know she loved getting out in the field again. The birds may have been scared off by all the helicopter activity. A tourist town north of here has been totally cut off by the quake - no road or rail access at all. So critical supplies were being choppered in and people with medical needs were being choppered out and the helicopters were landing not too far from the wetland they were birding at. She was home for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The time was filled with - surprise, surprise - reading, game playing and studying the road code. Then it was off to the gym for five and a half hours - coaching first, then training with a brief break in between. Sadly, the day ended on a sour note with issues related to the gym - a reminder of all that I dislike about her involvement in the sport.

Wednesday morning Miss 15 went to the mall to choose some of her birthday gifts. Not very exciting and no element of surprise but it was the sort of stuff she really needed to choose herself. The middle of the day was filled with more reading, game playing and driver's education before she headed back to the gym for another five and a half hours of coaching and training. The other excitement of the day was receiving the photos we ordered of Miss 15 at Nationals. Photos don't really capture what's involved in trampolining or what she can do - you really need video for that and I'm really looking forward to the video compilation being available since I've not yet had the chance to see her routine. But I'm grateful for some good photos. Last years were terrible and we didn't order a single one.

While I was at the physio on Thursday morning the kids went to the supermarket and took care of the weekly shop for me. I hate shopping and Miss 15 loves it, so a win, win situation. Apart from our usual routine we also read a story version of Henry V in the afternoon. Sadly neither my favourite Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories nor Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare include this play. I wasn't really impressed with either of the books we found at the library but they served their purpose of quickly refreshing our memories of the play. Miss 15 only had a short session at the gym today and was home just after 7pm which gave us plenty of time to watch Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V.  Mr 18 spent a chunk of the day organizing camping equipment. He is Quarter Master at his old Scout group and the triennial national jamboree is next month so organizing the equipment for that is keeping him busy.

Friday was a big day as Miss 15 that was had a birthday and became Miss 16. First order of the day was obtaining her driving licence. What better way to turn 16 than standing in a queue for an hour! The actual test only took her 10 minutes and she aced it. Once we got home she Skyped Miss 21 in England, opened the gift Miss 21 had sent her and spent ages chatting. Then we made a ridiculously delicious raspberry fudge brownie for her birthday cake and made time for a quick initial driving lesson before she headed to the gym for two hours of coaching and then three hours of training.

Saturday was a birding day for Miss 16 - the annual summer wader count at a nearby lake. The count is part of a nationwide effort monitoring wading birds. She also managed to fit in plenty of driving practise, plus there was a little trampolining  - a short practice for her squad's prizegiving display. Mr 18 was also out for most of the day. He did a short extra shift at work starting at 4 am (the perils of bakery employment) and then went out of town to volunteer at a Scouting event. The day also featured a brief visit from my parents plus Mr 24 joined us for dinner.

Two events dominated Sunday. It was end-of-year prizegiving  and displays at the gym. Miss 16 and her friend won the prize for junior synchronized trampoline pair of the year. And then there were several short driving lessons. I've found with all my kids little and often is best when they first get behind the wheel. I'll also confess that teaching driving is probably my least favourite parenting role . Even though she is doing fine I'm looking forward to the day when I can hang up my driving instructor's hat for good!

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