Sunday, August 30, 2015

Week Ending 30 August 2015

A couple of exciting pieces of news this week. Well they are exciting to us, not necessarily anyone else!

* Mr 17 received the results of his first test ever - for his university economics paper. He did really, really well and as well as being pleased for him I'll admit to being relieved. Although he is bright  we didn't really think he had the right inclination or temperament for university studies. At home he put
in the bare minimum effort and I felt he often fudged his way through assignments, a strategy I knew was unlikely to work at university level. I did console myself with the fact that he would probably put in the required effort when the work counted. Mum grades clearly didn't count for him! However, I did have this fear that maybe I was just deluding myself! It's good to know I wasn't and if he does want to attend university next year he should do well.

* Miss 14 and I went birding. Our location was a reserve in the hills. We've gone there repeatedly over the past year or so, often in search of one uncommon species or another that had been reported in the area but all to no avail. Until this time. Cirl buntings are an introduced passerine but, unlike most, they are relatively uncommon. A pair had been reported a few days earlier so we staked out several likely looking spots. No luck. We opted to try one final area before heading home. I was scanning one area when I glanced down the bank to Miss 14 and saw her waving furiously at me. As I got close two birds flew away. She'd already had a good look at them and luckily for me we were able to track them for a while so I got good views of the male and at least a glance of the female as well. Very satisfying, especially since we haven't seen a new bird for our year list since June. It's only our fourth new life list bird for the year  - and the last of those was way back in March. Hopefully we'll have more success with our birding come spring when the migratory waders return. Every year a few rare species usually turn up, along with the more expected arrivals.

A male Cirl bunting courtesy of New Zealand Birds Online. Because of course we didn't manage to get a photo ourselves.

* Speaking of spring, it's nearly here which makes me happy. It's been a cold winter and I'm looking forward to a bit more warmth. When I step outside now I love the scent, as two of my favourite early spring flowers are in bloom. I need to pick a few and bring their lovely fragrance indoors.

* Miss 20 and Miss 14 made gingerbread men (and rabbits) at the weekend. We didn't have much of the correct icing to decorate with but they made do and had a good time anyway. The results are delicious.

* That evening they watched Insurgent together. Not really my type of film so I'm glad Miss 14 had someone to watch with her. Miss 20 is hoping to head overseas next year. Her sister will really miss her.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Warp-Up.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Week Ending 23 August 2015

The changes we made to the schedule last week seem to have paid off and Miss 14 got through the week's work without feeling that the weight of the  world was on her shoulders. I'm hoping that the coming week will be better still since she shouldn't have any extra coaching hours. Her coach has been sick for two weeks, meaning a couple of the more senior coaches have been filling in for him which means the junior coaches like Miss 14 have been asked to pick up extra hours to cover for them. She could have said no and it hasn't been that many extra hours but I feel it might have contributed to her feelings of overwork. I discovered that this time last year she had already finished a couple of her courses. That hasn't happened this year - perhaps another factor in her feeling of overwork. Whatever the case I'm hoping that our modified plan helps as she buckles down and finishes up as much of the remaining work as she can before she heads off to the National Champs at the end of next month. We're keen to head into the unschooly/low-tide part of our year.

There were a couple of birding trips this week. Miss 14 and I went to our favourite estuary mid-week and spotted many of our favourite birds. Lots of singing, courting behaviours and nest building going on. Over the weekend I joined a small group of birders on a beach patrol looking for dead birds. (Miss 14 would have come but she was sick. Pretty sure it is just a cold that Mr 23 had last weekend. He was much improved by Monday and it looks like she will be too.) We only found a couple of items of interest - a wing and a skull- but it was good to learn more about the procedure for identifying and reporting  beach wrecks.
A wing from a Red-billed Gull and an as yet unidentified skull - probably from a gull or a tern.

 And it was a beautiful day to walk along the beach.

The real highlight of the trip was seeing a fur seal pup. He looked pretty thin so we were glad when he headed out to sea. Hopefully he managed to find some food.

You can just spot the seal pup heading into the water. Not great photos since I was getting used to the camera on my new phone - the old phone had an unfortunate accident involving the washing machine!

In other news

* Dh had a birthday. No real chance to celebrate on the day this year though. He had an early morning class to teach at one end of the day and an exam to supervise at the other - a 13+ hour work day all up. Still there was a chocolate cheesecake for supper which was some consolation. Next year is a significant birthday so hopefully his work schedule will be kinder.

* Mr 17 sat  his first ever test. This was  for his university economics course. He came home happy and is confident he did well which is reassuring. 

* We made a couple of unscheduled trips to the after-hours health centre as a result of dh suffering chest pains.Thankfully nothing seems to be seriously wrong but he's still got a few more tests to go.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fortnight Ending 16 August 2015

We seem to have hit a mid-winter slump - hence the lack of posting. I'm still getting over the 'flu and doing anything beyond the basics continues to feel like too big an effort. Miss 14 is totally "over" her academic work for the year. I think part of her problem is that the workload for each subject has ramped up the closer we get to the end of each course so her workday is getting longer and longer. Sadly for her we've still got six week to go until the end of the term when we had planned to finish. And it seems unlikely we'll actually be done then due to our extra week's break in July. She's still diligently plodding along but there is no real joy, love or spark. I always worry that when that happens it is too easy to go through the motions without doing any actual learning.

So we've been brainstorming how to change things up and reassessing what we actually need to do to be "done" with the assigned work for the year. Many of my suggestions (we could just quit on the planned date - after all the world won't end if we don't complete every lesson in the text; we could spread the work out so our formal year lasts longer but we have more free time each day; she could cut her coaching and/or training hours to free up some time) haven't met with approval, but some did get a" maybe", including the idea of  just concentrating on one one or two subjects for a while until they are totally completed and then moving on to the other subjects. So we are still in a state of flux, figuring out what needs to be completed and how to complete it while staying sane-ish (at the minimum) at the same time. But we have reached some decisions.

1. She doesn't need to complete every exercise in her Latin programme. It was one course where the length of the lessons got progressively longer as the year went on. I've always allowed my kids to complete just half the given problems for each Saxon maths lesson - so long as they continued to score above an agreed mark. We'll do the same with Latin for the rest of the year.

2. For the remaining unit of physics (electricity and magnetism) we've dropped the textbook we were using and have switched to another programme I had on my shelf. Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday and the new programme covers the same material but is taking her a shorter amount of time to complete.

3. We'll condense geography by not requiring every map work exercise or every research question to be completed. About half seems right and if she cooperates with Mr 17 they can benefit from each other's learning. I'll also replace some of the exercises she finds dull and time consuming with something of my own design.

4. Our semester of art history and appreciation is over and we've started music history and appreciation. This was planned at the start of the year and isn't a response to our recent slump but I think the injection of something new into the schedule might also provide a boost. I've designed the course myself mainly using chunks of this Coursera MOOC, but supplemented by material from the Georgia Virtual Learning site. One upside is that the course is mainly video lectures which we haven't had a lot of for a while - variety is the spice of life and all that. The downside is that this is the one course that will definitely continue far beyond our planned stopping point.

My current reading pile. The Fellowship of the Ring is for my Classics Club challenge, while I'm assessing The World of Birds for use in next year's potential ornithology course. When the current year stops being fun, looking ahead to next year is a good way to raise my spirits!

This week I made a concentrated effort to inject a bit more fun into the week. We started on Monday with a morning at the swimming pool. Funnily enough Miss 14 managed to get most of the work she would normally do on a Monday finished despite only working in the afternoon. On Tuesday we ended up birding for most of the day. We had a planned ramble in the morning but the weather was so nice most of the group decided to extend it with a picnic lunch by the lake and some more birding in the afternoon. We only just got Miss 14 to the gym in time but it was worth it. The fresh air and sunshine helped improve our mood.

Miss 14's current reading pile. Red Scarf Girl is part of her World Literature course. The two bird related books are pure enjoyment.

In other news from this week - and last.

Mr 17 has started a defensive driving course. It will shave six months off the time he has to stay on his restricted license meaning he'll be able to sit for his full license as early as next month.

Mr 17's current reading material!

Miss 14 had another successful trampoline competition. Just one more to go before Nationals at the end of next month!

She's also been busy writing our region's column for the a national birding magazine. She attempted to publish this month's local birding newsletter but is still waiting for some crucial information so that is on hold. Hopefully she'll get what she needs this week.

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fortnight Ending 2 August 2015

It has been a busy couple of weeks.

* Mr 22 turned 23. He came around for dinner that evening. I was still suffering from the 'flu. I did manage to cook the main course but resorted to buying a sponge cake for dessert, and getting Miss 20 did make the lemon curd that I used to fill it. I felt like such a bad mother but never mind. So long as he is still living locally I should manage a better job next year. He, of course, wasn't worried and told me I should just have postponed the whole thing until I felt better.

* We had a really enjoyable visit (despite my still being below par) from my friend E and her daughter K who I haven't seen for nearly twenty years. E was the first real friend I made when we lived in Canada. Initially dh and I spent a lot of time with his fellow PhD students but once we had Mr 23, guys in their early 20s were just not enough in the friend department. Fortunately I met E at at baby storytime at the local library when Mr 23 and K were 3 months old. Even though nearly 20 years separated us in age (I was a younger mum and she was an older one) we bonded over first time motherhood. She was the sort of friend who installed an extra car seat tether bolt in her car so she could safely carry both Mr 23 and K - since we didn't have a car and she felt sorry for me walking the 30-40 minutes to library storytime, especially in winter! So I was delighted to hear they were planning a trip to Australia, and that they were tacking on a side trip to visit us. Miss 14 and I had a great time showing them around the city. Mr 23 was able to join us for a dinner one night, although sadly Miss 20 had to miss it because she came down with the 'flu.

 * The combination of the 'flu and the visit from E and K meant our scheduled two week break morphed into a three week break. This past week has seen us trying to get back into our homeschooling groove but it's been surprisingly difficult. Hopefully the maths that seemed to have been forgotten has been re-remembered and the coming week will go more smoothly.

* Miss 14 and I attended the monthly meeting of our local birding group. The speaker is involved in various conservation projects and uses his dogs to help track down rare species in isolated areas.

* Mr 17 is enjoying his taste of university. Unfortunately he would rather concentrate on that single course than his remaining homeschooling courses. I've pointed out that he has yet to be formally admitted to university; that admittance will require me to sign a form saying he is ready for university level study and that I won't be willing to do that if he doesn't satisfactorily complete his homeschooling courses. I'm hoping that now Miss 14 and I are back into our routine he'll be more inclined to follow suit.

The bird hide at our local wetland, where we went birding.

* Miss 14 and I managed a small birding trip this weekend. We haven't been out for ages and were missing it. Even though the weather wasn't great and we missed the main bird we hoped to spot it was a good outing. We spotted 23 different species. Our favourite was the Redpoll. Even though it is an introduced species it's cheerful red cap always makes us smile.

* I've managed to get through more than twenty books during July - more than in any other month so far this year. In fairness most were short, light reads consumed while I was recovering from the 'flu and thus not up to doing much else. My favourite reads of the month were Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, Tatiana de Rosnay's A Secret Kept, Anita Diamant's The Boston Girl and The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrow. For the first time all year I didn't read a single classic during the month, a mistake I won't repeat during August.

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