Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week Ending 25 June 2017

Not a very exciting week at all. Once again I was out of the house more than I would have liked. My husband's class at the out-of-town university had their final exam, so he had to be out there several days so he could answer any last minute questions, then to collect the exam scripts for marking. Lots of reading time for me as I waited for him to be finished! Luckily Miss 16 doesn't really need me around and gets her school work done regardless.

Tossing coins to generate data (simulating the chances of two brown eyed parents producing a blue eyed child) for statistics. She was looking at binomial distributions this week

We finished reading The Odyssey for literature and then watched a Great Books video.

Typing up rare bird report. Ornithology isn't an official subject this year, but it is her passion. Real world writing is more meaningful than an artificial assignment.

I was geekily pleased to tie all of this week's poetry in to her other courses. We studied Langston Hughes's Harlem (Dream Deferred) mainly using the analysis from Schmoop. This obviously linked to last week's movie, A Raisin in the Sun. Then we looked at two poems about Helen of Troy, which linked back to The Odyssey. Just for fun I even found this little statistical gem!

The only thing that we didn't get to was her movies course. We couldn't find the movie in question in any video store or library, but did discover it on YouTube.  Except when we went to watch what we discovered instead was a link to a dodgy looking site. Sigh. So we resigned ourselves to having to skip that movie, which is a shame since it sounded interesting. It is based on a novel so if I can find the novel we might read that instead and discuss how we would turn it into a movie. Being unable to watch the movie left us with a few spare hours, so we decided to put them to good use, take advantage of our temporary accommodation and walk the couple of blocks to the mall to grab lunch.

Lunch at the mall was one of the things Miss 16 and I aimed to do while we are staying here. Walking to the weekly farmers market was another and we did that again this weekend. Another plan was to walk to a historic homestead and gardens which is just a few blocks from here. We haven't managed that yet so I hope the weather cooperates this coming week. If all goes according to schedule - and so far, amazingly enough, it seems to be - the repairs to our house should be finished by Friday, enabling us to move back over the weekend.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week Ending 18 June 2017

We've spent most of this week trying to get back into routine since the previous three have been so disrupted. It hasn't been as easy as I'd hoped. Miss 16 has been struggling with a major decision which has affected her concentration and motivation. She's made a temporary decision but a permanent decision may be a few more weeks away. I think/hope that homeschooling will be better once she makes that final decision  - and makes peace with it, which may or may not turn out to be another thing entirely! 

The other factor that's affecting our routine is we are not actually at home and that seems to make so many simple things more complicated. I still don't know where everything lives in this house, the kitchen is small which makes meal prep tricky (most of the pantry items are stored in boxes outside the kitchen), I've never used gas before and the hob seems a little ... temperamental shall we say. It's not bad or impossible, just different and different takes adjusting too. Plus we've had to make trips to flooring stores, paint stores etc which has eaten into the amount of time I've actually been able to be involved in the homeschooling.

Still, we did manage to get a fair amount done. Not vocabulary since Miss 16 finished the first book before we left for the conference and guess where the next book is? That's right, in storage. But normal amounts of statistics (a return to the least understood topic so far, so that was challenging), grammar, poetry, history and animal behaviour were completed. We continued with The Odyssey (should wrap it up next week) for literature and added in a couple of online videos for extra interest. Plus we watched, discussed and analyzed A Raisin in the Sun for Miss 16's movies course.

A friend who travelled with us to the conference introduced us to Five Crowns. It's become our current favourite game. This week, if we were at home and not homeschooling we were most likely playing a round or two.
The week also had some good non-homeschool related things as well. One was the annual winter wader count. It was my job to organize it this year and we were very short on volunteers but it all worked out in the end. Miss 16 and I ended up doing two sections though which meant a lot of walking over uneven, wet boggy terrain and there weren't a lot of birds. But we thought our efforts were well rewarded when we spotted three Gull-billed terns, a rare species which neither of us had seen so far this year. The downside is Miss 16 now needs to submit a rare bird report for them, plus she was recently asked to submit one for a bird we saw way back in 2015, and she needs to start work on a short article she's been asked to a submit to the national ornithology journal. If only writing about birds was as much fun as going out looking at them!

Last night we ended up having a big family dinner. Mr 24 had flown back from Australia for the weekend for his girlfriend's birthday so they came around and joined us, along with Miss 22 (who is currently house sitting) and her boyfriend. The meal was a little more low key than I might have liked due to the limitations of our current kitchen (and the difficulties of trying to deal with all the different dietary restrictions - Miss 22 is vegetarian but there are lots of vegetables her boyfriend won't eat; apparently his family thinks it's hilarious he's dating a vegetarian) but it was great to catch up with Mr 24 and to spend more time with the partners of the oldest two. After a few years of contraction as the kids got older and left home/had other responsibilities it seems as if our family gatherings might have entered  a stage of expansion.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fortnight Ending 11 June 2017

It's been a very busy fortnight. In many ways things are looking up at our temporary abode. The gas issues have been resolved meaning we have heat, hot water and a hob for cooking. Our cat has not yet fully accepted the move but is at least putting in an appearance every day for food. Yesterday she even came inside and slept for about six hours. I've no idea where she is hiding out the rest of the time but at least she knows where we are and is staying close. We even have Internet -  hooray, hooray. After I posted last time I went to do a load of washing ... and discovered the washing machine did not work properly. Something was wrong with the spin cycle and the clothes came out soaking wet. After 10 days the the repairers finally came to take it away and left us with a loan machine. It doesn't fit in the space the other one did so it sits in the middle of the laundry, making maneuvering in the room rather difficult. But it works and I now no longer have to spend a couple of hours a day at the laundromat. Amazing how much easier life is with these improvements.

Actually Miss 16 and I missed the worst of the no Internet/no washing machine deprivation because we've been out of town for nearly a week at an ornithology conference. She had a great time - found most of the papers interesting, took part in a banding workshop so got more hands-on experience with birds, and met up with a couple of friends from the young birders group. They even skipped out on one of the less interesting conference sessions and did a little birding by themselves.

Banding a Silvereye




My experience was a little less positive. As a regional rep I had a meeting to attend before the conference. It lasted over six hours! I wanted to go the banding workshop but there was another workshop at the same time that I thought would be of benefit to our group as a whole so I felt honour-bound to attend that instead - duty before personal pleasure and all that. The final day of the conference was field trip day. Miss 16 and I picked the same one and while there was some gorgeous scenery, none of the three rare species we were hoping to see cooperated. Frustratingly we heard one but the bus had to leave before anyone managed to track down the bird. We drove there and back with friends and - of course - did some birding along the way. Over the course of the trip I managed to spot seven new species for the year, while only three or four of them were new for Miss 16. We'd both hoped for more but I guess we now have a reason to go back.

Freezing fog rising above the lake.


Mirror Lake



The South Island Robin was one of the new species I added to my year list.

Somewhat surprisngly, May turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I completed fifteen books, almost half of which counted for my various reading challenges. My favorite titles were Fiona Davis's  The Dollhouse, Clare Mackintosh's I See You, Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion and Anna Pitoniak's The Futures: A New York Love Story.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Week Ending 28 May 2017

I remember reading that parenting is one of those jobs where the aim is to effectively make yourself redundant. I've also been know to joke that as my kids have got older my job mostly involves the 4 Cs - cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and cash! And not everyone sees the point of the cleaning! Well on Monday I was officially made redundant from one of those jobs! On Monday morning our car looked like this



but by Monday afternoon it looked like this.




Yes, Miss 16 sat and passed her restricted drivers licence, meaning we can ditch the L plates and she can drive unaccompanied. (The restrictions are no passengers, except those legally permitted to supervise, and no driving unsupervised between 10 pm and 5 am - it's another year before she can sit the final test and become fully licensed). So I'm no longer employed as a chauffeur. For so many years my afternoons have been punctuated by gym drop-offs and pick-ups that it is rather strange to simply wave her off. I'm sure I'll get used to it!

At least there was no danger of my getting bored with all my spare time this week. We found out on Tuesday that our move was definitely happening but it had to be on Saturday, not the following Monday as we had expected. And by Saturday I mean the movers would arrive at 8 am and we had to have everything packed and ready to go. We had been led to believe the movers would be packing as well, but it appears that was misinformation. So I've been rather busy and a lot of my week looked like this.

I keep humming the song Little Boxes - even though not many of ours were little.



However, some homeschooling did happen - it was a great way to do something productive when we were sick of boxes!


I discovered Ian McKellan reading Robert Fagles translation of The Odyssey on YouTube so by using two devices we could read and listen at the same time. It helped me concentrate (I've been a little distracted all week) and let Miss 16 compare different versions as she has been reading from a different translation.

The movers came on Saturday and were very efficient at wrapping all the furniture and other big stuff and loading it all into the container, while I trundled back and forwards between home and our temporary home with things we wanted or needed to take with us, hoping all the while that we weren't forgetting anything important since we can't access our stuff while it's in storage.

Sadly the shift hasn't been without hiccups. The most frustrating is the failure of any of the gas appliances to work, despite us being assured that there was plenty of gas. No hot water and no hob for cooking is a bit limiting. At least there is electric heating as well as gas.  Currently we are driving back home  (15-20 minutes each way) for showers but once the repair crews start on Monday that option will be out.  Fingers crossed the gas issue will be sorted by then. Just in case I'm planning menus that don't need the hob. And to add to our woes our cat has disappeared - sadly from our new place,  not from home. Hopefully she is just sulking and lying low and will reappear when hunger gets the better of her.

That's all for for now. The new place doesn't have Internet either (actually that may be the most frustrating hiccup since I'm not sure it will be rectified, while I'm pretty sure the gas issue will be sorted - hopefully sooner rather than later) so I'm posting this from home while the rest of the family is grabbing a shower.

Hopefully everything is running more smoothly by next week.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Week Ending 21 May 2017

This has been an especially uneventful and routine week, which basically means I have nothing interesting to say.

* All the homeschooling proceeded as planned - one statistics lesson (on samples and surveys), half a chapter of animal behaviour, a history chapter (looking at the state of Maori society in the latter nineteenth century), some grammar, vocabulary and poetry, several books from The Odyssey,  one movie (The Music Man, which was much more appreciated than the previous week's selection), plus a meaty, belated paragraph relating to The Pearl.

* Trampoline coaching and training also proceeded as normal - except for Tuesday when Miss 16 texted me to pick her up early. Plain bouncing was okay but any attempts at twisting or somersaulting resulted in her feeling dizzy and nauseous. Obviously the lingering effects of the cold which affected her competition last weekend.

* We had planned to go birding today but the forecast was for very low temperature with cold, gale force winds. Driving over 90 minutes to explore a river mouth in such conditions sounded unpleasant at best, and likely to be a total waste of time (too windy to hold scopes steady and heavy rain in the high country means rivers are running high, forcing the birds to move away from the gravel islands they use for roosting and foraging). So I canceled the trip and we read and baked instead.

Red Velvet Cake


*In many ways I'm glad for this quiet week. It's the calm before the  coming storm. June is shaping up as a busy month (good busy, but busy is busy) and it's now virtually certain we are moving out of our house - in just over a week. So next week will be a whirlwind of sorting - what do we need to take with us to our temporary abode and what can go into storage for five weeks. It also means decisions need to be made about paint colours, floor coverings and the like. Unfortunately I missed the interior decorating gene and these decisions fill me with dread rather than excitement.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Classics Club 48:The Count of Monte Cristo

I can't believe I haven't already posted a review of this since I read it last year!

The plot drew me in immediately. When we first meet our protagonist, Edmond Dantes everything is right in his world. Not only he is well-loved and respected  but he is on the brink of being promoted to captain on the ship he sails. But there are those who are jealous of his success and happiness, including both a colleague and a love rival. They conspire to spread rumors about him and, on the day of his wedding no less, he is arrested and then falsely imprisoned. Where he stays for fourteen years. Eventually he escapes and after a time working on a ship he retrieves the treasure a fellow prisoner (now deceased) told him about. Dantes then spends the rest of the novel carrying out elaborate schemes of revenge on those who wronged him.

Up until this point I enjoyed the novel. Dantes was a sympathetic character and the reader could genuinely root for him as he struggled through the mostly isolated prison experience and patiently worked to escape. Not only does the plot become more complex and difficult to follow (Dantes assumes multiple disguises and aliases, and  the reader isn't always initially aware of them), but Dantes  himself becomes less sympathetic, less easy to relate to, and less easy to empathize with. On the one hand I can understand that being unjustly imprisoned for fourteen years would make anyone bitter add harden them, and I'm sure revenge felt sweet. Yet some of his desire for revenge felt unjustified and simply mean-spirited. Mercedes, after all, had done nothing to harm him, had tried to secure his release and  had only married after being falsely informed of Dantes's death. It seems he felt she should have remained true to him forever. Yet, if he truly loved her wouldn't he want her to find happiness? Even in those cases where Dantes's desire for revenge was more justified, I still wondered if he would have been happier if he had spend his time and energy trying to positively experience his freedom, rather than focusing on revenge.

For me The Count of Monte Cristo was a novel of two halves. For all its length it was not a difficult read and was an excellent illustration of the perils of revenge.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Week Ending 14 May 2017

Some random notes from this week.

* Miss 16 decided that rather than do a poetry unit in one big chunk, she'd prefer to do a poem or two most days of the week. So that's what we were going to do this term. Except we entirely forgot last week! That's what happens when I don't write things down. Anyway we belatedly got started this week with some selections from Sound and Sense as well as some from here. There's no particular focus.  The Sound and Sense poems have questions but the other poems we just  read and discuss in a freestyle fashion, unless some particular inspiration strikes!

* For literature  we've started The Odyssey. In truth Miss 16 has started. I plan on reading it alongside her but I'm currently reading Dracula, so I want to finish that first. Since I tend to read fairly quickly I should catch up with her in a day or two. This week I took our discussion questions and background information from here, here and here.


The Odyssey and the New Zealand Wars. Two of the things keeping us busy this week.

* In history we finished off the DVD documentary series on the New Zealand Wars and then took a quick look at some key political leaders of the latter nineteenth century.

* This week's movies was The Quiet Man. Miss 16 didn't appreciate the the portrayal of women's rights (or lack thereof) and the way domestic violence was played for laughs. Still it made for some good discussion.

* She's working steadily through both her animal behaviour and statistics courses. She seems to be whipping through statistics pretty quickly at the moment so we might increase the number of lessons from 1 to 2 each week, at least until we hit material which slows her down again.

* Tuesday was an "interesting" day. We left the house before 9 am and, apart from an hour in the middle of the day, Miss 16 wasn't home again until after 9 pm. No bookwork happened whatsoever. Instead the day was filled with birding, driving (including a mock test with the instructor - he says she's good to go so as soon as she officially turn 16 1/2 we'll be able to book her test) and trampoline (both coaching a training). So science, driver's education and PE if I had to record any of it. I could even throw in some home economics since she tried a new recipe for breakfast - gingerbread pancakes!

* Miss 16's first trampoline competition of the year was this week. She placed middle of the field and just narrowly missed out on qualifying for Nationals. But given that it was her first competition in the international division, that she was battling a cold (her voice was coming and going all day), and that she crashed badly in training the day before and had to scale back one of her routines as a result I think she was reasonably pleased. Certainly relieved to get it our of the way.The next competition is just over a month away and she's hoping that with some improvements (and no cold) she'll get the marks she wants. Apart from competing she also found herself unexpectedly on a couple of judging panels. It was her first time using the time of flight machine and to complicate matters the machine was a little temperamental and didn't work for some routines. By rights she would have had to use a stopwatch to time the videos of  those routines but since her event was next up one of the other judges got stuck with that job. She didn't mind. Apparently timing with a stopwatch isn't a favoured activity among judges!

Miss 16 and some of her teammates getting ready for their warm-ups.

* This week was also the one where  Miss 16 claimed her 15 minutes of fame  - at least in birding circles in this part of the world. A new bird was added to our country's official list. There was a blog post from the national museum announcing the fact and giving more information about the bird. Miss 16 was mentioned by name since she was the one who submitted the official report. She wasn't the one who first found the bird but she recorded her sighting of it on eBird . That led to her being asked to submit an official report without which the bird couldn't be officially recognized. She had learnt how to make these official reports at a field camp a couple for years ago so it was a great chance to put theory into practice. It's been nice to see the process come to fruition and see first-hand the importance of good record keeping and pesky paperwork.