Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two Weeks Ending 30 November 2014

November - particularly the latter part - is always a busy time for us. This year was no exception. Birthdays have been a key feature of the past two weeks, with my younger two both turning a year older.  There have also been family get-togethers and  several other end-of year functions. Although it was mostly good stuff I'm glad that it is over and am looking forward to a more relaxed December.

Both Miss 14 and Mr 17 have ended the year on a high in their respective sports. Mr 17 had his best ever bowling spell in cricket with figures of 5 for 12 and 2 for 18.  For the uninitiated this means that in the first half of the game he got five batsman out (you have to get 10 of the opposition out) while they scored just 12 runs from him. In the second half he got two batsmen out while they scored eighteen runs. Both sets of statistics are apparently pretty good but he is obviously especially pleased with the first. Miss 14 earned two second places at the last trampoline competition of the year and ended up winning the three-series interclub competition in both trampoline and double-mini which was pleasant surprise and a nice reward for her consistency.

Miss 14 was also surprised to win this at her club prize giving.

Mr 17 has been busy planning a major tramp for just before Christmas. He's just been elected Quartermaster at his old Scout group (the one our family has been involved with for more than ten years but they no longer have a Venturer section so he had to move groups when he was 14, but he's continued to volunteer at his old group) meaning he is in charge of maintaining and purchasing all of their equipment. This past weekend he assisted at a Cub camp and got to demonstrate his expertise with camp fires!

The campfire was originally set up by an adult leader before they passed it over to Mr 17!

Miss 14 and I managed a couple of birding expeditions including helping out on the annual summer wader count at a local lake. Three hours of walking along the lake edge recording all the wading birds (plus a few others) that we saw. The lake was fairly dry which meant we didn't see as many waders as we'd have like but it did make walking a lot easier. The mud on the edge and bottom of the lake is notoriously sticky and wading through it when it is damp is tiring, slippery work. A rare Arctic migrant was spotted in one of the other sections so we may go back and try and see it ourselves this week. For us the birding highlight was finally spotting a ring-necked pheasant this year. They are not especially rare but, despite numerous targeted trips, they had eluded us until now. Then we saw two in less than ten minutes!

A California Quail which we saw on one of our bird walks. Miss 14 had never managed to capture one on film before so was pleased to get this shot - even if it was at a distance.

Miss 14 and I finished up two MOOCs. A Brief History of Humankind ended with a thought-provoking lecture on the possible future of human-kind, while the Laura Ingalls Wilder class looked at On the Banks of Plum Creek. A second course starts in April and focuses on the remaining books on the series. Not sure if we'll sign up for that or not. Our Shakespeare class continued with sessions on Othello (which we enjoyed) and Antony and Cleopatra (we aren't enjoying this play as much and haven't yet finished it - that's this week's task).

Combining an interest in crafting with a love of birds!

At the beginning of the month Miss 14 decided to tackle a paper piecing project I'd pinned a long time ago, thinking it might interest her. We got off to a slow start due to an uncooperative sewing machine, but finally got back to it this week. I have no sewing background and the project assumed a level of prior knowledge. However, after a few false starts, a bit of trial and error , and finally finding a Youtube video which made sense to us, she managed to produce a pretty good final product. I doubt sewing will become a keen hobby for either of us but it was good to challenge ourselves and pick up a few skills along the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week Ending 15 November 2014

Nothing much to write about this week. Miss 13 and I are continued to work on  the three MOOCs, looking at Little House on the Prairie (particularly its depiction of Native Americans), Macbeth , and the history of happiness this week. Mr 16 finished his poetry unit on Robert Frost. His economics test is scheduled for this week  and then he'll just have the remaining lectures of the history MOOC to complete. Miss 19 sat two exams this week and has now finished her undergrad degree, so she's pretty pleased. I can't believe she's finished already since it seems she only just started.

 It was Basil's birthday this week. Miss 13 decided to buy him a special handmade organic dog treat to celebrate. He loved it ... and then decided to continue the celebration by getting into the recycling while we were out. Later in the week he broke into the garden and dug up some newly planted vegetables in order to get at the blood and bone fertiliser that we'd dug in to the soil. Right now it is an arms race between him and my husband. Dh comes up with a plan to keep the dog out of the garden, and then Basil figures out a way in!

Getting into trouble can really tire a dog out!

Dh and Mr 16 attended a Twenty20 cricket match (that's the fast and furious version of the game). Despite the cold weather and their team loosing they had a pretty good time. Normally professional sports games are out of our budget but dh won the tickets

Miss 13 and I went for a mid-week birding ramble with some members of our birding group. Great views of a small population of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, but I'm really glad there are none near us - their call is loud and harsh! We heard a couple of Shining Cuckoos, but again they stayed out of view. Most frustrating. Hopefully we manage to spot one before they leave in early-mid summer.

Now that Miss 13 has been reading her way through the Hunger Games series, Friday and Saturday evening were spent watching the first two movies. I skipped them since I'm not really a fan of dystopian fiction but the rest of the family watched them - even though everyone except Miss 13 had already seen them when they were released. She enjoyed them both, but thought the second movie was stronger than the first, and that the books were better than the films. She's like me and normally always prefers a book to a movie. Doesn't stop her enjoying the movie though!

The Classics Club - My 50 Book Challenge

Just this week I stumbled across The Classics Club and decided to sign up. Basically the "club" is a group of bloggers who commit to reading at least 50 "classics"  (it is up to each individual blogger as to how they define a classic) in five years and to blog about each title once they've read it.

The idea appeals to me for a number of reasons. I've always loved to read and have undertaken reading challenges that focus on the classics before. Fifty classics in five years is less than one a month which shouldn't be too onerous and should leave me with plenty of time for non-classics reading too. My participation in The Classics Club ties in nicely with the idea of "You, not Them" one of the keys of a Leadership Education. While I don't follow that model of homeschooling (or any other for that matter) in it's entirety, it has had an influence on how we operate. Making time for our own interests is also a great way of avoiding or overcoming the disenchantment and disillusionment that can overtake even the most committed home educator.  Thanks to Julie over at The Homeschool Alliance for emphasising that.

So without further ado here is my list of 50 classics that I'll be reading before November 2019. It's a bit of a mixture - some ancient, some modern, plays, poetry, novels, essays, short stories and non-fiction - so hopefully it should keep me interested.

Once you see a title highlighted here it means I've read it and written a review. Click on the link if you want to know what I thought.

I have signed up for a couple of Shakespeare related MOOCs. My daughter is doing at least one of those as well so we'll be reading most of these aloud together.

1. The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
2. Macbeth - Shakespeare
3. Othello - Shakespeare
4. Antony and Cleopatra - Shakespeare
5. The Tempest - Shakespeare
6. Hamlet - Shakespeare

Next year my daughter will be tying her literature in with her geography studies. There are a few titles that I  either haven't read or haven't read for many years so I'll read these one along with her.

7. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
8. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
9. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
10. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
11. Whale Rider - Witi Ihimaera

Then I've got a few old favourites that I enjoy rereading regularly.

12.Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
13.Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
14. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

These have been sitting on our shelf for a while but I've never got around to reading them.

15. The Fellowship of the Ring - JRR Tolkien
16. On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
17. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
18. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
19. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne
20. Chemical History of a Candle - Michael Faraday

These I picked because of the reviews by other Classics Club members.

21. Germinal - Emile Zola
22. The Dollmaker - Harriette Arnow
23. Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
24. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
25. Cold Sassy Tree - Olive Ann Burns

The remaining (rather large group) is more a list of suggestions. I am committed to reading 50 classics, just not necessarily these exact titles. But 50 titles must be listed before you sign up so this is what I picked. I'll probably substitute a lot of these ones but it's good to have a list to fall back on when I'm not sure what to read next!

26. Lysistrata - Aristoiphanes
27. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
28. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
29. Vilette - Charlotte Bronte
30. O Pioneers! - Willa Cather
31. Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov
32. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
33. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
34. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
35. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
36. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
37. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
38. The Inferno - Dante
39. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
40 The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
41. An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde
42. Xingu - Edith Wharton
43. The Hunchback of Notre -Dame - Victor Hugo
44. Collected Poems - Robert Frost
45. Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald
46. In Defence of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton
47. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
48. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
49. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
50. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

ETA. As expected I'm reading other classics as I go and may end up not reading all of my initially selected fifty titles. I'll add the extra (possibly substitute) titles here as I post reviews.

Much Ado About Nothing - Shakespeare

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare

Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

The Two Gentlemen of Verona - William Shakespeare

The Good Earth - Pearl Buck

Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens

The Odyssey - Homer

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Two Weeks Ending 9 November 2014

This past two weeks have been filled with: -

Cricket - Mr 16 trains three nights each week then has a game that lasts all day on Saturday. Last weekend he took a knock to the shoulder - cricket balls are hard and, depending on the bowler, they can travel fast. Once he was home the first thing he did was snap a photo to post on Facebook - before putting ice on the lump!

Trampolining - Miss 13 is training four days each week. Plus she now coaches two hours each week. Last weekend she had the final module this year for the coaching/leadership course she is doing. This weekend it was a whole squad practice for the display they'll be presenting at the club's end-of-year prize giving. I'm not at all sporty. As a teen I routinely wrote notes (which my mother happily signed) excusing myself from PE class at school, until the teacher told me I didn't need to bother any more, and I sat happily on the bleachers reading. So it amazes me that I have two sporty kids and spend so much of my life driving to and from practices, games and competitions. The video above is one of the routines she competed at Nationals last month.

MOOCs - Miss 13 and I are both really enjoying our Shakespeare class. Last week's focus was on A Midsummer Night's Dream and the theatre in the Shakespeare's time. We'd read this play earlier in the year so it was a light week work wise. This week's play was The Merchant of Venice and the lectures looked at money and commerce. Of the four plays we've done so far I felt we got the most out of this one, probably because we were able to start with Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories version and then proceed to read the play from the Oxford School Shakespeare. Definitely the best way for us to tackle the Bard.  We're enjoying the class on Laura Ingalls Wilder more now that it is focusing on the books themselves. Last week was Little House in the Big Woods. This week was Farmer Boy, a title that never fails to make us hungry while we are reading it. Our history course is nearing the end, especially for Miss 13 who has decided to watch a lecture segment every day rather than just getting through one topic (which usually has either three or four segments) each week.

Homeschooling - Miss 13 is finished for the year. All bar the history MOOC which was a last minute addition I sprang on them both. The other MOOCs she's doing for fun and is free to discontinue if she chooses. Mr 16 is dragging the chain in finishing up his loose ends. He did finally finish Saxon Algebra 2 this week. That leaves a poetry unit on Robert Frost and some Economics. Dh is in charge of Economics. For most of the year he has been requiring an essay per chapter but the essay competition Mr 16 decided to enter got them out of routine. So Dh has decided on a combined test for the remaining chapters. He's just got to write it. Hopefully this week. I want everything done. So long as the test gets written I'm planning to play the mean mother card - "If you want to use the car make sure you get the last of the work finished by the end of this coming week". Intrinsic motivation would be great but in its absence I'll play whatever card I've got!

Fireworks - Guy Fawkes day was this week and it is the only time of year that fireworks are sold here. In our family the guys love them but the girls do not. Mr 16 made the most of it this year. The day before Guy Fawkes he went around to Mr 22's flat and joined him and his flatmates for their fireworks. On the day itself they let fireworks off at Venturers and then he went to a large public display with a friend. Then the night after he let off our fireworks along with Dh and my mother-in-law.

Birding - We haven't actually been out this week but have been busy none the less. Miss 13 and I were asked to take over as editors of our regional newsletter so we've spent some time working on her first edition. Lots of technical skills being acquired along the way. She of course picks it up far quicker than me. I hope to have her do virtually all the work and to be co-editor in name only for a while before handing it to her entirely.  She's also been asked to write our region's column for the national birding magazine and has got that drafted. Plus we attended the regular monthly meeting, which was preceded by a committee meeting where we roughed out a programme of speakers and field trips for next year.

Recipes - With the change in season I felt my cooking needed a freshen up. I have a bit of an addiction to collecting new recipes which I file away and then forget about. So I've spent some happy hours browsing through cookbooks and my disorganised box of torn out and copied out recipes, and then coming up with a list of new meals I want to try this spring and summer.

Reading - As well as the books tied in with our MOOCs Miss 13 is continuing with the Hunger Games trilogy. I finished The Calligrapher's Daughter and also read Elizabeth is Missing which I really loved. The author did such a great job of putting the reader in the mind of the main character, a dementia sufferer. I also like the way the past and the present came together.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up