Sunday, May 29, 2016

Week Ending 29 May 2016

A fairly uneventful week. Miss 15 just worked through her usual routine of homeschooling, coaching and trampoline training. She had the last class for her university ecology and conservation course. Now that it is over we'll have a lot more time in our days. Given the travel and the mid morning time slot each one hour lecture ended up swallowing an entire morning. Still it was worth it since she enjoyed it, learnt a lot and it possibly helped her decision making about what to do when she's finished homeschooling. I'm glad she pursued the opportunity.

The only real highlights of the week have come from our virtual field trip to England courtesy of Miss 21. This week we "visited" Oxford (including a side trip to Hogwarts) plus Guildford.

Views from Oxford - plus Hogwarts dining area!

More scenes from Oxford, including a helpful sign if you are trying to get to Wonderland

Oxford shops and other buildings.

We also had a bonus experience - sampling English snack food - thanks to a large parcel sent by Miss 21. We didn't eat it all at once!

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fortnight Ending 22 May 2016

The highlight of the past fortnight was a seabird watching trip with members of our local birding group. Thankfully this was shore-based seabird watching since both Miss 15 and I have sworn off boats after our last experience! We were lucky enough to have a seabird expert to guide our viewing. Without his input we would have missed seeing some birds and been unable to identify others.

Some of the albatross, petrels, shearwaters and other seabirds we spotted. Images from since our camera is not up to capturing seabirds at a distance!

Most people opted to travel there and back in a day but Miss 15 and I decided to stay overnight. The following day we ventured into the bush. Miss 15 was especially keen to try and track down some Riflemen. They are our smallest bird, weighing as little as 5 grams and are more often seen than heard. On our walk we heard several calls but were unable to spot a single bird - until on the return trip we were just a few meters from our car when Miss 15 heard some calls (they are very high pitched, at the upper limit of human hearing and she is better at picking them than I am) and we finally spotted a pair flitting about in the bush. Very satisfying. All in all it was great weekend's birding - 11 new species for the year - and five or six we'd never seen before.

We also took the opportunity for a little historical field trip on the side. Fyffe House is the oldest remaining building in the town and all that remains of a whaling station that was established in 1842. We learnt a lot about the area and shore-based whaling. One unique feature of the house is that instead of regular foundations the earliest part of it is constructed on whale vertebrae!

The photo on the bottom right shows one of  the whale vertebrae supporting the house.

Seals were everywhere on the foreshore.

The rest of the fortnight was far less exciting -  routine, dull at times, but essential to our home schooling success nonetheless. There were maths lessons. Quadratic equations, completing the square, Euler's notation and polar coordinates do not add joy to our day and I know Miss 15 is relieved that this is the last year maths will be required. Her university class on ecology and conservation is coming to an end. Recent lectures that she has enjoyed have covered animal ethics, the economics of wildlife management and new tools in pest control techniques. She continues to work through Bravewriter's Help for High School. If she is in the mood and the activities speak to her all goes well. If not it is like getting blood from a stone. I was hoping this programme would help her develop her voice a little more but I suspect that will only come from internal inspiration. Still I believe in the worth of the programme so she'll continue to use it during the year, even if it doesn't yield all the benefits I'd hoped for.

Ornithology is going well. At the start of this ten week term I encouraged Miss 15 to pick a few longer term projects to work on. She's currently working on three things according to her mood. The first is reading Godwits a fantastic living book written by a tutor on one of her field courses about a species with which she has hands-on experience. The second is writing a site specific identification guide designed for novice birders. The third is working through Birds Without Borders. We used one of the free sample units last term and were so impressed we purchased the book. The last unit we completed was on modelling bird population trends. Many of the lessons use ebird, a site we use to record our bird sightings. It's good to discover more about what the site offers and see how scientists can use the data. It's helped inspire us to be more rigorous about counting all species on more of our trips. Sometimes counting is tedious and it is tempting to just check that a species was present without bothering to record actual numbers!

Despite this structure we've still got time to add in other unscheduled bird activities as we feel so inclined. This week we went on a short field trip and watched an older documentary about Royal Albatross. We're still enjoying watching an albatross chick via webcam and the documentary was a way to learn a bit more about the birds - and see how management practises have changed over the years!

We've also been enjoying virtual field trips in England courtesy of Miss 21.

The Surrey countryside.

Scenes from Brighton. 

When she's not homeschooling or out birding Miss 15 is at the gym, training or coaching. She's just agreed to help coach a couple of preschool classes for the remainder of the term, meaning one of our gym-free days is no longer gym free. Sigh!  As a result of all the hours she spends at the gym she's got very little downtime. It is something I worry about but she loves trampolining and can't imagine her life without it. So she continues and I keep a watchful eye for over tiredness, burnout or other signs that she needs to cut back or take a break.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Classics Club 26: Lysistrata

Lysistrata by ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes was a quick, easy and fun read. Tired of the men constantly being away from home, fighting in the Pelopponnesian War Lysistrata comes up with a plan to put an end to hostilities. She proposes that women withhold their sexual favours until the men agree to make peace, and convinces women from all states involved in the conflict to join her plan. The women also take over the Acropolis (Treasury) to apply a little financial pressure as well.

With a set up like this the amount of bawdiness and sexual innuendo in the plot is not a surprise. Some of it comes across well in the written form, such as the humourous scene when Myrrhine's husband arrives, desperate for sex. She pretends to go along with his wishes but keeps putting him off as she returns to the women's sanctuary for first one thing, then another to make their experience more comfortable and enjoyable. Eventually she doesn't return and he is left disappointed. Other humour - the so-called "Spartan walking sticks" - was of the visual variety and so couldn't really be "appreciated" simply by reading the text.

There is more to Lysistrata than a simple bawdy comedy, however. It has a clear anti-war message, which actually saw it banned in Greece in 1967. It also argued for an expanded role for women, albeit using their traditional roles as justification. For instance, Lysistrata argues that Athens should be structured as a woman spins wool and uses this analogy to justify a role for them in the peace process, something that would have typically been the domain of men, In addition Aristophanes recognised women as sexual beings by showing that the sexual strike cost women as much as it cost men. In one comedic scene a woman attempts to leave the group allegedly to find a midwife to deliver her baby - despite not being pregnant the day before!

Lysistrata would be a good pick for anyone wanting to read their first Greek play - so long as sexual bawdiness is not an issue of course!

N;B I counted this as my Classic in Translation for the Back to the Classics Challenge over at Books and Chocolate.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Week Ending 8 May 2016

We survived our first week back into the structured learning routine after a two week break - but only just  - at least it felt that way at times!  While I was looking forward to getting back into routine things conspired against it. Miss 15  hit trigonometry in maths and it seems she is not a natural trigonometrist - nor does it likely to become her favourite branch of mathematics. Maths was slow, slow going this week and I was needed a lot more than usual.

When your big sister is overseas you start your day with breakfast in front of the computer, catching up on her travels!

The other main thing that stopped us finding our groove this week was that it was newsletter publication week. Miss 15 is the editor of the our ornithology's group's newsletter and putting it together always ends up having to be done at the last minute, taking longer than planned and involving an unexpected hassle or two. She was also on deadline to submit the regional column she writes for the national ornithology magazine. At least they are both out of the way now.

We did manage a couple of  ornithology field trips. One was especially successful, netting us three new birds for the year - all white as well! We also attended an ornithology meeting. The focus was on conservation efforts and the disquieting question was how do we decide where to focus our efforts given the conservation budget is limited - should we just leave some species to their fate and concentrate our resources on others? A tough question that does not have an easy answer.

We saw these four white bird species on one field trip. It was the first time we'd seen three of them this year.

Despite being more involved in homeschooling than usual this week I did still find time to read. I managed ten books in April. My two favourites were Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I'm really surprised I enjoyed the last one since I don't normally enjoy dystopian literature. I only picked it up because I had heard a lot of good things about it and Popsugar's 2016 Reading Challenge  required a dystopian novel.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Week Ending 1 May 2016

Two big events this week. The first is that Miss 21 has departed on her long awaited OE - a working holiday in England. After 31 hours of travelling (not all of it smooth  - a couple of her flights were plagued by turbulence and on  one of them an alarm went off, all the emergency exit signs started flashing, all the other cabin lights went out and the cabin crew were clearly panicked!) she arrived safely in London where she'll spend a week before moving to her job in a small village in Surrey. Meanwhile I'm adjusting to a quieter house, finding out what she is doing by means of her blog instead of an  actual chat, and having to clean the toilet again (Miss 21 has done this job for at least 7 years)! She'll be gone for a minium of six months - possibly considerably longer.

The other event also involved a trip to the airport - arrivals not departures this time. Miss 15 is back from her youth bird camp. Apparently she had a great time and found the camp featured a good mix of activities, with a chance to practice old skills as well as learn some new ones.

Mist netting and banding was her favourite activity. She loves the hands-on work. This is her third time banding and she said she noticed her previous experience paying off. Not only did she feel more confident but she was permitted to do more than on previous occasions. This time the camp kept records of their banding work so it will count towards her possibly earning a banding qualification in the future. Not a lot of banding traditionally happens in our part of the country so she was excited when the banding instructor was from this area, mentioned that he was going to apply for a banding permit and asked Miss 15 if she would be keen to get involved. Obviously the answer was yes! She's really hoping this project goes ahead.

They were given specific instruction on the band reading and reporting process. One point in banding birds is to learn about their behaviours, lifespan and movements etc and that is only possible if people report any sightings of banded birds. Some decoys were installed on the campsite to facilitate practise but they did spot some real banded birds in the field as well.

There was also a lot of learning about bird anatomy. A vet nurse dissected two different specimens for them, which allowed for some useful comparisons. Not necessarily a favourite activity - the sound of the bones crunching bought unfortunate flashbacks of her own broken bones a few years ago - but very educational.

Camp participants also got involved in a public education campaign. They contributed to the ongoing creation of  a large flock of  migratory shorebirds - both realistic and fantastical. Once completed the flock will be moved to different roosting sites and draw attention to these birds, their unique needs and the problems which they face.

There was of course an awful lot of actual bird watching. The teens participated in two specific bird surveys, designed to monitor the populations of particular species  as well as practising their identification and counting skills on more general birding outings. Overall Miss 15 added sixteen new species to her year list, four of which were additions to her life list as well.

A Marsh sandpiper and a New Zealand dotterel - seen before but new for 2016.

Pomarine skua, Spotted dove, Black-tailed godwit and North Island kokao - all additions to Miss 15's life list.

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