Saturday, September 27, 2014

Week Ending 28 September 2014

Wow, it's been a very busy and focused week around here.

* Maths - Lessons on Forming Solids and Symmetry, Permutations, The Subsets of Real Numbers, Representing Data, Approximating Roots, and Basic Trigonometry. Algebra 1/2 FINISHED!

* Science - Chapters on Kingdom Animalia and Kingdoms Fungi and Protists. Real Science Odyssey Biology Level 2 FINISHED!

* History - A lesson on Looking Forward and an essay. Big History FINISHED!

Yes, Miss 13  finished all her assigned work for the year - well, all except a Coursera history course that I belatedly added to her schedule and which will continue until December. Still it's only 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week so shouldn't be unduly taxing. I'm not sure who is most looking forward  to unschooling until late January or early February - her or me.

Mr 16 was also in a celebratory mood on Friday since he finalised  an economics essay he's submitting for a competition. He's redrafted and edited it far more than anything else he's ever written. So to celebrate (it was also the last day of a school term - we don't have to follow school terms but mostly we do) we had a Poetry Teatime. In honour of the occasions I went all out on the food and we turned it into a luncheon and since dh was working from home he was able to join us.

Hot chocolates, delicious food and great poetry - the perfect way to celebrate the end of the term and the finishing of a lot of work.

There was also a beginning this week since our online course on Laura Ingalls Wilder:Exploring Her Work and Writing Life started. So far it doesn't seem too taxing work wise and it is interesting to see where fact and fiction diverge and consider why that might be.

We're continuing with two other online courses. This week Irish History looked at people's economic lives while A Brief History of Humankind wound up a section on the Agricultural revolution by considering the difficulties of establishing just and equal societies. Next week our online Shakespeare class begins. I know it seems like a lot for someone who has supposedly "finished" but Miss 13 is only required to complete A Brief History of Humankind. She opted to give the others a go and if she doesn't like them or finds the workload too much she'll drop some or all of them. Alternatively she might complete some lessons but not bother completing the courses in their entirety. Since the Irish History course only has two more weeks left to run and the topics still to come are the one's she is most interested in, I suspect she'll finish that one.


Mr 16's workload is winding down as well - a week left in one subject, two or three to go in another. He's in no hurry to wind everything up though. He'd rather stick to a leisurely pace.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week Ending 21 September 2014

It's been a frustrating week - more a tale of what didn't happen than what did. Miss 13 got sick, spending one whole day in bed and being really below par for another two. Amazingly enough she managed to finish most of her planned school work. However, she didn't go as in-depth with as many of the primary sources for her Irish history course as she normally would. And she postponed her final essay for Big History by a week.

We did manage a quick birding trip to "our" wetland. We've committed to visiting this spot once a month and counting every bird that we see. The highlight this month was 30 bar-tailed godwits, including several that looked very skinny, with bedraggled feathers - tell-tale signs that they were newly arrived from Alaska.

We were also meant to go on an outing with our birding group to an island in the middle of the harbour. Sadly, due to miscommunication, it was cancelled at the last minute - as in just before we boarded the ferry! Still the trip wasn't a total waste of time since we discovered that our birding group is going to totally fund Miss 13 to attend a week long field course early next year. So excited for her - and so grateful for the funding offer.

The advantage of our birding trip being cancelled was that we were able to attend a special session at Miss 13's gym. The trampolinist who won a gold medal at the recent Youth Olympics plus the gymnast who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games were there to talk about their experiences. Hearing how they overcame setbacks in their career and how they mentally prepared themselves for competitions was especially enlightening. But hearing how much their parents had to sacrifice was daunting - and a reminder of just one reason why we  put limits on how involved Miss 13 can get with the sport!


Highlights of the week included birding (now that warmer weather is here birds like this pied stilt are returning) and getting up close and personal to Olympic and Commonwealth medals.


Real life and history intersected in interesting ways this week. Our Irish History course focussed on political lives in the period 1912-1923. Fascinating to compare that period to the campaign for and vote on Scottish independence which was playing out right before our eyes. Geographically closer to home Fiji also held a national election, the first since a military coup in 2006. And our own national elections were also held. Much to discuss, compare and contrast - voting ages, electoral corruption, the importance of voting, party campaign strategies, and more. I had planned to do more, especially with Miss 13, but she was sick so what we did may have to suffice for now. This week also marked the anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to grant national women's suffrage.

Mr 16 had another busy week . He seems to have Scouting activities more days than not. He is involved in a regional Scouting leadership group and this weekend they went on a road trip so they could have their meeting at the far edge of their region - part of an effort to be more inclusive I think. An awful lot of travelling, but he of course had a great time.

Miss 19 was also busy, but in an unexpected way. Her dance club held a large ball to celebrate their 21st birthday. At the last minute the woman who was supposed to bake and decorate their cake came down with the flu. So our kitchen was commandeered and Miss 19 spend the day creating a birthday cake to serve one hundred and fifty people. Luckily she still had the enough energy to dance the night away!

Linking up with Collage Friday over at Homegrown Learners.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week Ending 14 September 2014

This week has been so busy my head is spinning (and I'm really sick of driving) - but it has been full of such good stuff that a spinning head is a small price to pay!

Miss 13 and I took a road trip early in the week. Our goal was to spot a hoary-headed grebe. Miss 19 laughs at the name and think it sounds like something from Harry Potter - the sort of creature Hagrid would raise! In actual fact it is a an Australian bird - a rare vagrant to New Zealand, with no sightings reported this century. So when reliable reports came in last month of three hoary-headed grebes at a lake several hours north of here we were tempted. It took a while to sort our car issues and settle on a suitable date but we finally made it this week. After a four hour drive we arrived at the lake - and waited and scanned and waited and searched and waited and looked - and had no success.


We spent hours standing on this viewing platform, scanning across the water and among the willows.

After three hours we gave up and drove for another hour in search of a black kite - a bird of prey. It's also a rare vagrant but there has been one living in the area for several years. However, partly hampered by a poor map and missing road signs, we had no luck finding the area. We drove back to the lake and spent another hour looking but still no luck. Feeling rather dejected we opted to spend the night nearby. Bright and early the following morning (and armed with better maps and directions) we headed back to look for the black kite. And within 30 minutes we were rewarded with a great view as it flew up the valley and passed right in front of us. Forty five minutes later and we were back at the lake - searching from one vantage point, then moving and looking from another. After an hour we were finally rewarded when one of the grebes appeared from among the willows and swam right in front of the viewing platform before disappearing into the willows on the other side of the viewing platform. Magical - and such a relief!


Apart from the birding there was the incidental learning - wind turbines (which we knew a little about but hadn't actually seen before), wind machines on vineyards (we saw them and wondered what they were for - did some research when we got home and discovered they prevent frost damaging the grapes) and sharing some family stories are a few of the discussions I remember.

I remember travelling up this way as a child and this bridge was a highlight. Trains went over the top row and cars used to travel on the bottom row. I have fond memories of my Dad parked on the side of the road waiting for a train before driving over. The thrill (and the noise) of driving over a bridge with a train right over head!


Mr 16 completed the final classroom module of his Mountain Safety Course and then spent the weekend on a two night tramp. Last time he went tramping in this area was three years ago and he slipped during a river crossing, breaking two bones in one arm. Thankfully this tramp was a lot less eventful.

Miss 13 attended the third module of her Gymsports leadership course. Apparently there has been a major miscommunication. All the participants were supposed to be do over 30 hours of coaching alongside a mentor during the year - except the organiser of the first session forgot to tell them or their clubs! I foresee much busyness in the remainder of the year squeezing in the required number of coaching hours.

The saga of our ongoing earthquake repairs dragged on and took an interesting turn this week. Our repairs were "completed" at the end of 2011 except they were not satisfactory. As part of the process to get the repairs repaired, asbestos testing was carried out. Minor amounts were found but in a solid state which is safe so we were not expecting anything to happen. This week insurance sent contractors again and they now recommend removing and replacing all the wall linings which have asbestos. This will involve us moving out for a week or two while the work is done. Time will tell whether or not the insurance bureaucracy agrees to the contractors' recommendations. It would be good to have the asbestos removed but the hassle of finding and relocating to temporary accommodation would not be enjoyable at all.

Miss 13 and I also attended our regular monthly bird ramble this week. A lovely morning on the estuary and some views of bar-tailed godwits which are starting to return from their summer in the Arctic.

In amongst all this we managed to get through a surprising amount of  bookwork. We finished the Merry Wives of Windsor - and then I ordered Oxford School Shakespeare versions of the rest of the plays we'll be reading! Even though Shakespeare is freely available online, we decided the Oxford series really helps with our comprehension so it was worth paying for. While we are waiting for those to arrive we've started rereading several of the Little House books in preparation for an online course which begins in a little over a week. Our Irish history course was really interesting, this week focusing on what it was like to fight. As a trained historian I really like the way this course encourages students to interact with a wide variety of primary sources. The joys of the Internet mean we can sit at our computer in New Zealand and read words written by men who fought in a conflict across the world nearly one hundred years ago.  Our other online history course  - A Brief History of Humankind - continues to be thought provoking - with this week's lecture looking at why the agricultural revolution could be considered history's biggest fraud. With a national election next weekend Miss 13 and I also spent some time focussing on our political system. This may turn into a whole course on law, economics and politics or it may remain a brief, topical interlude. In science we finished a unit on ecology and started one on classification.



We'll be watering these lettuces with various mixtures of water and vinegar to learn about the impact of acid rain.
A dichotomous key was one of the things we covered in science this week.




Mr 16 worked on an economics essay on the pros and cons of a capital gains tax, finished a unit on optics in physics, and learnt about data creation, description and presentation in statistics. He also started reading To Rule the Waves, a history of the British Navy and how it shaped the modern world.

Over the weekend we watched the first episode in a new tv series by one of our favourite cooks. Looking forward to getting my hands on the book and getting re-inspired in the kitchen as a result.

The sight and scent of the first freesias of the season in my garden were another highlight of my week.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Week Ending 7 September 2014

It was the first week of spring and although the temperature is still a little cool I did enjoy time outside in the garden.



After our earlier positive experiences with online learning (especially the Animal Behaviour course that Miss 13 gained so much from) we signed up for a couple more that it sounded like she might enjoy. Except it turns out I maybe got a little carried away and didn't pay a lot of attention to details like dates. We are actually signed up to four online classes (this is on top of our existing workload) and there will be a period of time when they will overlap. Furthermore Miss 13 will actually be out of town, and realistically not likely to be viewing academic classes online, for one of those weeks. Luckily the courses are free so there is no cost if we drop out of some of them. The sensible thing to do according to Miss 13 is start them all too see what they are like content and workload wise before making any decisions.

So this week we started Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland's History 1912-1923 through FutureLearn.  I initially signed up for me since I have a PhD in history and wanted to do something to reconnect with that part of me. Miss 13 first thought it sounded boring but when I told her it was more about people's lives rather than focusing on battles she perked up and thought she might join in. This week did focus a lot on details of battles, uprising and political responses to provide the background setting for the rest of the course. I'm finding it interesting but I suspect this will be the first course to go if things get overwhelming.

One of the other courses is Shakespeare and his World also through FutureLearn. Since covering eight plays in ten weeks is pushing things in my view (I wish they'd allowed two weeks per play instead of just one) we thought we'd make a start even though the course doesn't begin until the end of the month. The first play is The Merry Wives of Windsor so we've begun reading the text while listening to the audio. So far we haven't enjoyed it as much as we've enjoyed some of his other plays. I do wonder if it is because we're not as familiar with it since we couldn't find a story version to read first, which is my normal approach to Shakespeare. After I had this revelation we  began reading scene summaries first which has helped a little.

I've been feeling pretty flat homeschooling-wise recently and haven't had much luck finding like minds to shoot the breeze with. So I signed up to The Homeschool Alliance  with Julie Bogart. It only began this week but it's already given me some good food for thought. Hopefully it'll help me ensure that next year's homeschool has more fizz than flat periods. As part of this week's work I was reminded of poetry teatimes we used to do when the kids were younger. One of them was even featured on Julie's blog. Miss 13 was just five, Mr 16 must have been 8 and Miss 19 would have been eleven. Not sure why my eldest wasn't in any of the photos (maybe the ones I took of his didn't turn out) but he was 13 - the same age my youngest is now.

Pre-season cricket training started this week. Mr 16 is happy even though he has already decided that cricket will play second fiddle to scouting activities. He's got three sessions per week at the moment and I'm not sure which I like least - the ones that clash with trampoline training or the one that happens on the day we used to have no commitments! Still at least both of them are racking up plenty of PE credits and getting lots of social contact as well.