Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week ending 30 June



In my life this week…

In our homeschool this week…We've mainly been finishing books and projects. Nothing very exciting. I think we are suffering from the winter blahs!


Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…  Out and about in the city trying to get a series of photos capturing the essence of this post-earthquake city. Miss 12 is working on the words to go with her photo essay and I may just let her post it here later this week.

Also out and about at the local wetland at 8am one morning when the temperature was several degrees below freezing.( I told the kids I expect a nomination for Mother of the Year award for this. They just laughed!) Mr 15 was taking part in a photography walk led by a professional photographer. Despite the early departure time (the wetland being on the other side of town from us) and the freezing temperatures (among the coldest I can recall in the 17 years we have lived in this city) Miss 12 decided to come along and  go on a birdwatching walk with me. We saw more than twenty different species but did feel sorry for them. Many were covered with frost and much of the water was frozen over.

My favorite thing this week was...
Curling up in front of the fire with some good books.


My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
For Miss 12 it was watching the livestream of a trampoline competition in another part of the country. It was the first time they have tried livestreaming and we were especially keen to watch since some of her clubmates were competing and one was attempting to qualify for the World Champs at the end of the year. Another favourite was receiving a bird postcard from the Netherlands (and consequently learning that pimplemeese is Dutch for Blue Tit). She did say if it hadn't been so cold the bird walk would have been her favourite thing. Mr 15 is obviously made of sterner stuff.  His favourite was the photography walk.

Things I’m working on…Trying to find a balance between planning and more interest-led freedom when it comes to homeschooling.  Figuring out the best way to get the right balance for us right now. Totally winging things isn't right for us and neither is regimented planning but trying to get the best of both is proving elusive.

I’m cooking… Lots of soups, curries, warming casseroles and pies!

I’m grateful for…Our logburner - with the temperatures this week it has been getting plenty of use.
Miss 18 having her restricted driver's license. She now takes dh on a lot of his errands which saves me a lot of time.

Something I am ogling or have my eye on… All sorts of new resources and curricula "for next year". Yet another sign of the winter blahs is that I would rather make wonderful plans for next year than focus on the nitty gritty of this year. As soon as I find the perfect resource (which obviously must exist) then homeschooling will go beautifully smoothly forever more, I'll never again doubt what we are doing, the kids will always enthusiastically engage in all kinds of wonderful learning activities.  (I'm also ogling all sorts of chocolate since I've been homeschooling long enough to no longer believe in the fantasy of the perfect resource and the perfect homeschooling life! Chocolate always helps :-) )

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)… It's Reinvention Time . I always find good food for thought over at Bravewriter.












  • In my life this week…
  • In our homeschool this week…
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
  • I’m cooking…
  • I’m grateful for…
  • I’m praying for…
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…
  • Something I am ogling or have my eye on…
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  • - See more at: http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschool-journal/#sthash.2FmpJxDB.dpuf













  • In my life this week…
  • In our homeschool this week…
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
  • I’m cooking…
  • I’m grateful for…
  • I’m praying for…
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…
  • Something I am ogling or have my eye on…
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  • - See more at: http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschool-journal/#sthash.2FmpJxDB.dpuf













  • In my life this week…
  • In our homeschool this week…
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
  • I’m cooking…
  • I’m grateful for…
  • I’m praying for…
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…
  • Something I am ogling or have my eye on…
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  • - See more at: http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschool-journal/#sthash.2FmpJxDB.dpuf












  • In my life this week…
  • In our homeschool this week…
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
  • I’m cooking…
  • I’m grateful for…
  • I’m praying for…
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…
  • Something I am ogling or have my eye on…
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  • - See more at: http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschool-journal/#sthash.2FmpJxDB.dpufv












  • In my life this week…
  • In our homeschool this week…
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
  • My favorite thing this week was…
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
  • Things I’m working on…
  • I’m cooking…
  • I’m grateful for…
  • I’m praying for…
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…
  • Something I am ogling or have my eye on…
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
  • - See more at: http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschool-journal/#sthash.2FmpJxDB.dpufv

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Week ending 23 June

    It's been a really cold, wet week this week. The country has been in the grip of one of the worst winter storms on record. We got off very lightly - some places had really heavy snow falls, others had pretty serious flooding, while other parts suffered more from the wind. Miss 12 was disappointed that the forecast snow seemed to skirt right around us and we only got a small, short-lived dusting. It was cold though - the temperatures barely rose above freezing - and it rained heavily (our backyard now resembles a marsh) so it was a good week to stay inside in the warmth, reading and baking. 

    The last of the snow lingering on a neighbour's roof.


    Miss 12 and I finished listening to Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy . We started  One Thousand and One Arabian Nights as a read-aloud and also began Wesley the Owl. This one we are both reading separately but discussing as we go. I don't think I have it in me to hand raise a barn owl but Miss 12 thinks it would be great. Here's hoping the opportunity never presents itself! We also began watching  Penguins- Spy in the Huddle and are looking forward to the rest of the series.

    It was another good week in the kitchen. Miss 12 made a pumpkin, cauliflower and chickpea curry in honour of Eat Your Veggies Day on June 17. Together we made chocolate eclairs to celebrate Chocolate Eclair Day on June 22. They didn't last long!


    Icing...
    ...and eating!



    Homemade scones with strawberry jam and cream plus freshly made cinnamon scrolls were other kitchen highlights! The smell of fresh baking seems to brighten the coldest of winter's days.

    Miss 12 and I found the perfect winter activity to round out our study of artist Edvard Munch. She is colouring her own large version of his most famous painting The Scream and it will eventually decorate our entrance way. A nice Monet might be perceived as a little more welcoming ..but Munch is what we have been studying so Munch it is!

    The kids went on a Monopoly playing marathon. Other board games were out during the week but it seemed that whenever I looked Miss 12 and Mr15 were playing Monopoly. Funny how a game that has sat on the shelf, seemingly ignored for ages,  suddenly becomes so popular.

    Miss 12 received another postcard via the Postcrossing exchange and learnt that two other cards she sent have been received. She can  now look forward to another couple of  postcards in the mail in the next few weeks.

    Some of us did venture out and about this week. Miss 18 did a training course to become a mentor under the Big Brothers and Sisters programme. She also spent an afternoon baking with the Student Volunteer Army. They were making care packages to deliver to those families still living in substandard, unrepaired homes as a result of the earthquakes. Mr 15 went rock climbing (indoors thankfully) with Cubs. Mainly  he was helping out but he did get  to do a bit of climbing himself. And Miss 12 attended an overnight Scout camp (also thankfully mostly indoors), the purpose if which was developing leadership skills prior to the big Jamboree  at the end of the year.

    Here's hoping the weather is more pleasant this week. We've want to do a photo walk around the city and a little warmth and sunshine would make it a lot more enjoyable.








    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Week Ending 16 June

    As promised, to myself as much as anything, I paid a lot more attention to what we were all reading this week. In no particular order here is what was on our bedside tables.







    Miss 18 had finals for her first semester classes so most of her reading was psychology textbooks. Once the exams were over though she read The Great Gatsby, prior to seeing the movie with a friend this coming week.



     I 'm in a bit of a fiction funk right now - not sure what I want to read. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a reliable favourite that I reread about once a year. Look Me in the Eye was an interesting insight into Aspergers.

    Miss 12 doesn't have too many books on the go right now. We are really enjoying Catherine Called Birdy as a read aloud. The others she is reading by herself. She's a bit miffed I won't let her tackle the original Canterbury Tales - not at all impressed when I mention adult content being best left for a while!




    Animal Farm is a reread for Mr 15. we did it as a read aloud a couple of years ago. After hearing Snoopy's Christmas every December he said reading the real story of The Red Baron was especially interesting.



    Mr 20 is teaching himself programming and has decided to read some classics in his spare time. He prefers the Ancient Greeks to Dante though but has determined that he will finish regardless.

    Dh doesn't get a lot of time to read since he is regularly working 15-16 hour days at the moment. Pratchett is for light relief, Tolkien is an old favourite and he is happy just to reread favourite scenes if that is all he has time for. The other two are sort of work related.

    Apart from reading we've had a fairly uneventful week. I was asking the kids "Haven't we done anything interesting this week" and Mr 15 replied "But isn't ordinary good?" And I guess it is. The events of recent years have certainly convinced me that exciting is not always good.

    We did squeeze in a trip to the swans this week. The cygnets are noticeably larger and more capable, squabbling with each other over the bread Miss 12 fed them.








    We also saw a Little Black Shag drying its wings. Although not rare, they are not as common is these parts as the similar looking Little Shags.


    Miss 12 and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making several new recipes - a beetroot and feta risotto, a chicken pot pie, beef rissoles in a mushroom and wine sauce, and a cheesy bread pudding - from the cookbook in my reading pile. All were fine but not sure any will make it onto regular rotation.

    Mr 15's indoor cricket team won! It is their first win of the season so he was quite pleased.

    Miss 12 and I have started listening to an audiobook version of Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. It's a good choice on audio - the accents are far better than my read-aloud rendition would be. As we listen Miss 12 knits.

    We did have plans to go to an  outdoor farmers market today and select some fresh vegetables, preferably some unusual ones, to celebrate Fresh Veggies Day. But it has rained so heavily since last night that the market was cancelled. We settled for making vegetable pizzas instead. The girls also spent a large chunk of the day sorting out their rooms. Bags of stuff they no longer want or need are ready to be donated to charity which is great.

    We've also been doing a lot of geography, trying to correctly memorise all the countries of the world. Continental North America and South America have been mastered and Europe is nearly conquered. We've mainly been using fill in the blank maps and online games from Sheppard Software and Lizard Point. If the interest keeps up I'm predicting Africa will be our biggest challenge, not to mention all the little island nations.


    Sunday, June 9, 2013

    Week ending 9 June

    It's been a creative week here. Mr 15 and dh arrived home from camp with the knives they made from scratch - apart from actually felling the tree for the handle and mining the ironsand for the blade that is!




    We are slowly eating our way through a large sack of walnuts we were given. This means we have a lot of walnut shells. Miss 12 turned some of them into little creatures, inspired by something she saw online.

    Walnut shell ladybirds and hedgehogs




    Best of all is this handmade journal. Best because it has been on our list of things we wanted to do since February and we finally did it!


    The outside of the journal

    The inside of the journal



















    The Black Death has also dominated our week. I picked up a Problem Based Learning unit for this topic a while ago thinking Miss 12 might enjoy it. And she did - to an extent. I think it would have worked better in a group setting. The simulation exercise on how the plague would affect our village was a lot of fun  and definitely bought the impact of the plague home. Three-quarters of our villagers (everyone who was at home at the time was roped in to service - creating various personas and then going through the exercise to discover their fate - poor Miss 12 had all her personas killed) died in the six month period.  There was also some good work with primary source material which the historian in me likes. Although the unit wasn't perfect I'm glad we did it - a good change of pace and a chance to practice some different skills while studying history. 

    One  morning we awoke to a stiff frost. Miss 12 discovered a butterfly covered with frost and showing no signs of life even when she touched it. She thought it was dead but bought it inside  anyway where the warmth thawed it out. It eagerly sipped the sugar water she made up and later that morning, once the sun was out, she released it and happily watched it flutter away.






    Another highlight of the week was National Doughnut Day. It was a great excuse to visit a boutique doughnut shop across town and sample their wares - turkish delight, passionfruit meringue, mango, chocolate cream and chocolate espresso. And it was educational because there was a window through to the work area so we could see them being made ;-)  Nutritionally we'll balance things out by celebrating a couple of vegetable-themed days in the next fortnight .




    Miss 12 and I finally made a learning list for June. I thought she had lost interest in these so, unbeknown to her, I made a list of ideas for things I might strew during the month. Then she asked if we could make a list so I ditched mine and we spent a pleasant hour sipping hot chocolates and planning - hopefully realistically since there was a large amount we didn't get to in May. We spent another happy hour or two browsing through some cookbooks from the library - our weekly menu is in for an injection of new meals, that's for sure.

    Mr 15 and Miss 12 have appropriated the dining room table and repurposed it as a table tennis table. Lots of fun is being had - and all for the cost of some cheap bats and balls from a $2 shop.

    As well as all these highlights all sorts of regular things are continuing. Miss 12 is making steady progress on both her maths and Latin texts (one much more joyously than the other), she's reading plenty (I must try and take better note of what she is reading - at least sometimes) and spends plenty of time on both keyboards , playing simple tunes on one and starting (but rarely finishing) stories on the other. Trampoline training is still a big part of her week. Mr 15 continues to spend a lot of time on computers (mostly not game playing and I'm hoping he is gaining useful skills, knowledge and or contacts along the way) and his Scouting activities. Schoolwork mostly gets done but it definitely isn't the focus of his week. And that is okay for now, especially since he is aware he may have to ramp up the academics next year if he wants to gain admission to a particular tertiary institution (his pick is a lot less homeschool friendly than the university his older siblings attend). He's also taken up indoor cricket over the winter months and was pleased to be Man of the Match this week.

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    June Learning List

    I thought Miss 12 had given up on these but she belatedly wanted to brainstorm some ideas for the month. This is what we came up with -

    7 June is National Doughnut Day (in the US at least) so we planned to buy and enjoy some gourmet doughnuts. June 16 is Fresh Veggies Day and 17 June is Eat Your Veggies Day so we thought we'd make some new vegetable rich recipes on at least one of those days. Chocolate Eclair Day is June 22 so we're going to try and make our own - even though an earlier attempt at choux pastry wasn't very successful!

    Not all our special day celebrations involve food. Matariki (Maori New Year) begins on June 10 so we'll read about that and go outside early in the morning to (hopefully) spot the star cluster, whose return marks the start of celebrations. American Eagle Day is June 20 so Miss 12 has decided that is a good opportunity to research that bird and possibly write a report or maybe do a power point presentation.

    June 29 is Camera Day and that plus this week's 7 Cool Homeschooler's theme has inspired us to take lots of photos showing what life in our city is like post-earthquakes and compile them into a slide show or similar. We would do video but don't really have the technology. Hopefully I'll be able to post the finished product. I'm sure Mr 15 will help me with the technology!

    Miss 12 is still keen to learn to crochet and to do some calligraphy. She got a fancy calligraphy pen for Christmas which she couldn't use at the time and has only just rediscovered it. She's also keen to do some creative writing exercises (possibly starting with some from here) and she'll ramp up her ornithology studies by researching and writing reports on some native birds we are unlikely to see, since they don't frequent our part of the country. Plus there are some projects started last month but not yet finished - handmade geodes, paper mache birds and a birdbath.

    Finally June is National Audiobook Month. Miss 12 is not normally a fan preferring to read herself or have me read aloud. But we're going to give them a go again this month.


    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    The Long Weekend

    It's our turn for a long weekend this weekend - Queen's Birthday weekend - our official acknowledgement
    of Queens Elizabeth II's birthday. Mr 15 and dh have gone on a Scout camp, the highlight of which will be the day spent making their own knife. Mr 20 has  a board game mini-con this weekend and will be home only to sleep . So the girls and I have the house to ourselves. But Miss 18 is in serious study mode with a take-home test taking up the first part of the weekend and study  for final exams for first semester classes occupying the rest of her time. So it is effectively just Miss 12 and me. Long weekends always seem relaxing somehow even though they don't greatly affect what we do. Apart from the long weekend we've had plenty
    of other things to smile about this week.


     We celebrated International Macaroon Day with a trip to a specialist macaroon shop - Miss 12 choose After Dinner Mint, I choose Hazelnut and Milk Chocolate while dh's selection was Fig, Honey and Marsala. Delicious!

    Miss 12 wrote a great essay about the life of a medieval miller. She enjoyed learning about millers and I was pleased (relieved) that she could put together a good five paragraph report. Writing seems to have fallen by the wayside recently so it was good to know the skill itself hasn't disappeared!

    We followed up last week's look at Duke Ellington's The Nutcracker with a listen to his take on Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite. YouTube is a great help when it comes to music appreciation.

    We got some good news about a project we'll be working on over the next few months. For now it has to remain a secret but it has us excited.




    Our first postcard from Postcard Crossing arrived from Russia. The only problem is it is written in Cryllic so we have no idea what it says. Since we had to indicate what languages we speak I had assumed we'd only be receiving cards in English. Time to investigate some translations I guess!

    Jamie's 15 Minute Meals arrived for us at the library. We spent a fun hour browsing through the book and deciding what to cook first -although I suspect it will take us longer than fifteen minutes to make a meal.

    Monday was really cold day and hill suburbs even saw snow. We were happily snuggled up, reading by the fire, while bagel dough rose and a walnut cake was baking in the oven. As Miss 12 while looking out the window at 3pm- "I'm sure glad I don't have to walk home from school right now."


    We went back to check on the cygnets and they both seem to be doing well, much to Miss 12's relief. She is fairly tender-hearted. Although she loves nature she does sometimes struggle with  the harsh realities of the natural world.

    It's good to know that even when things don't go according to plan we can still have a good time. Miss 12 and I went on a birding expedition hoping to see a relatively uncommon bird that had been seen in the location the previous day. We had absolutely no joy tracking it down  but we still had a great morning, enjoying the birds we did see, including a kingfisher, plenty of oyster catchers and white faced herons, plus the rarer white heron again.


    Miss 12 finished her rag quilt!  While it isn't as pretty or as professional looking as the one that inspired us we're both pleased with the way it turned out. It's warm and cheerful, it was basically her first time with a sewing machine...and I have practically no sewing experience to pass on. Plus it was a great way to recycle some favourite old clothes.

    Miss 12 discovered this Monarch with deformed wings - meaning it couldn't fly to find food. Since we are a little short on flowers in the garden at the moment she made up some sugar water to feed to the butterfly. She spent a lot of time observing it - and managed to get some great photos as well.