Monday, August 29, 2016

Week Ending 28 August 2016

A mostly uneventful week. I did manage to get out birding with Miss 15 early in the week. While I wasn't at my best ( and neither was the birding) it was good to actually be out and enjoy the sea air.

Our gate has a conveniently located knothole. Perfect for Basil to watch all our comings and goings from. He likes going in the car but isn't the best birding companion!

Most of the week was spent plugging away at bookwork. Miss 15 has opted to up her maths lessons from 4 to 5 per week in the hope of being done by the end of September. Algebra 2 is the highest level of maths that we require and to say she is looking forward to being finished is an understatement! I'm hoping to entice her into some statistics since I think it will serve her well in university and beyond (she's likely to pursue zoology/ecology/animal behaviour or the like), but it will ultimately be her choice.She also worked through another couple of chapters of BraveWriter's Help for High School, three sections of our history unit, and completed three sections from the spine we are using for bird anatomy.

Homemade Cinnamon Scrolls were the perfect addition to a cold, miserable day . Hopefully it was winter's last hurrah and spring will soon be with us.

The highlight of our bookwork was the Animal Behaviour MOOC. This week was all about animal communication. We've done a few MOOCs over the years and they've generally all been highlights. Obviously I should aim to include more in our future. However, it can be hard to plan with MOOCs since they are  not always advertised far in advance. I'm glad we were able to fit this one into our schedule despite only becoming aware of it just before it started. One advantage to not over-filling our year with academics is the ability to easily take advantage of opportunities like this when they arise.
Plenty of reading this week.

In other news Mr 24 can now officially be referred to as Dr since he successfully passed the oral defense of his PhD thesis. It's in the field of computational chemistry and I'll admit to not fully understanding what he has been doing for the last few years! He was still plagued by laryngitis and his voice only just held out but he is officially finished.  We're really proud of him and all the hard work he has put in over the years to get this far.

Linking to Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Classics Club 30: Moby Dick

I am pleased to have finished reading Moby Dick but I can't say I actually enjoyed reading it. It wasn't the length or the nineteenth century writing style that  I disliked. Rather I found the novel as a whole boring, which surprised me given it is an adventure story  (I am counting it as such for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016) which has revenge as one of its main themes.

I think there are several reason why I found the Great American Novel boring. The first, and probably least important reason is that Melville spends a long time just setting the story up. Several chapters are devoted to background, making it hard to get into the story since initially there isn't really one. The second is probably an accurate reflection of a whaler's life - long stretches of fairly hum-drum sailing punctuated by bursts of frantic excitement as a whale is spotted, pursued, killed and then processed. The third, and most frustrating for me as a reader, is that the author frequently interrupts the narrative flow with lengthy passages on the history of whaling, encyclopedic entries on different types of whales, and seemingly unrelated accounts of events that occurred on other whaling boats. Some background is fine, even necessary, but Melville provides way too much - at least for my taste.

As I read I wondered what the novel would have been like had it been told from Ahab's point of view. He was the one driving the action, the one obsessed by revenge, and yet he is mainly just a shadowy figure. I suspect I might have enjoyed the story more had there been more of Ahab in it. He was certainly central in some of the scenes - such as his meeting with Captain Boomer - which I enjoyed and found most compelling.

One positive for me was the the quality of the writing. Gems like
The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were, as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up - flaked up, with with rose-water snow
 It was a beautiful, bounteous,  blue day; the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away, all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater's skin hammered out to the extremest

  helped make up for having to slog through many pages that I found dreary in the extreme.

Week Ending 21 August 2016

Overall this has been a pretty good week. Conveniently I managed to find at least one highlight each day!

* The chicken pie I planned for dinner on Monday night  led to a great lab session. We used our chicken to review the parts of a bird and to examine the feather tracts. Most of the chicken was then converted into pie but we saved one wing for a dissection. Lots of fun identifying bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, observing which muscles did what job, and then comparing a chicken wing to a human arm. I wasn't able to find the perfect resource to guide us so based what we did on a few lesson plans that I found online. This one, this one and this one were among the most helpful.

* On Tuesday Basil moved back for a three week stay while the adults in his family enjoy an overseas trip. We're loving having him back (well our cat is not) even though he has even more health issues than when we last cared for him. We are hoping is cancer does not make a speedy progression over the next few weeks.

Basil feeling sleepy at the end of the day.

* Miss 15 finally got to go on a birding field trip on Wednesday. It seems like such a long time since I've been able to take her out. She joined some members of our birding group on a short ramble just out of town. I managed to drive her out there and someone dropped her at a bus stop so she could bus home. It was the first time she's used the buses by herself and she had to change bus mid-journey. Strange to think she's flown alone before she has used a city bus. Mind you we don't really use the buses since they aren't convenient for where we need to go. In fact I think I've only taken her on a bus once. It was just for fun and she would have been four. The weather was cool for the bird ramble and there weren't a lot of birds to be seen but she did enjoy getting out.

* We had fun with this quiz  on Thursday, discovering which bird we were most like.. One of us was a Great Blue Heron; the other, much to her consternation, was a Mallard.

Miss 15 and I. But can you guess who's who?

* Dh celebrated a significant birthday on Friday - one of those ones ending with a zero!

* Miss 15 was able to attend another birding field trip on Saturday.This time they went to a local wildlife park to look at the native birds on display. Next month one of the staff will be giving a talk on how these birds are cared for in captivity. The highlight for Miss 15 was a behind the scenes look at a kiwi incubating an egg. Only three of them got to see this and only then because the kiwi concerned is an especially chilled and mellow one, not likely to be bothered by the brief disturbance. While there she took the chance to have a look at some of the other animals. She also got to add a new species to her bird list for the year - a Cape Barren Goose who is not a resident but likes to hang out anyway.

On Saturday we also had a visit from Mr 24. He's suffering from laryngitis and has the oral defence of his PhD thesis next week!

*On Sunday Miss 15 finally completed her application for a university summer science camp. It's been half done for a while but sort of hanging over her - I don't think she likes selling herself - so it's great to have it finished. Now we just have to hope that she gets accepted and in the programme of her choice (zoology). In the evening she watched Allegiant . She had wanted to see on the big screen but it closed before she made it so she's been looking forward to the DVD release. Sadly she was disappointed since the movie version departed from the book in a major and fairly significant way.

Linking with the Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers' Weekly Wrap-Up.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Week Ending 14 August 2016

There's been lots of Olympic watching in our house this week. The highlight (of course) was the trampoline, especially the men's event. Miss 15 had a sleepover two nights in a row as her club mates got together to watch the men's and women's trampoline, both of which started at 5 am our time.   Apparently the tension was really high when the last spot in the finals came down to our representative or the Australian (whom many of them also know from last month's training camp in Australia). Much jubilation ensued when our guy achieved his goal and made finals!

The frustration with my health continued. I had seen Doctor A early in the year.  She  made a tentative diagnosis, prescribed medication and referred me to Specialist B. When I finally got an appointment he overturned the original diagnosis, told me to stop taking the medication and sent me to Health Practitioner C. After two months with a little improvement I started going backwards. She sent me back to Doctor A who is sure her diagnosis is right and has put me back on the original medication, just a higher dosage. Argh! At least Doctor A has promised to try and speed up some tests  which might confirm a diagnosis or at least hopefully rule out some of the nastier possibilities. Still I feel like I'm no closer to finding out exactly what my problem is and being able to deal with it than I was at the start of the year. Not to mention the limitations and uncertainties - will I be well enough to work with Miss 15 today or will she need to work alone? - which impede homeschooling, among other things. Clearly I am not a patient patient!

On a more positive note there were two homeschooling highlights this week. The first was Sound Trees - a lesson on phylogeny from the Cornell Lab. The idea was to try and construct a phylogenetic tree first using bird sound and then using morphology.  Neither was an easy or straight-forward task. The lesson was based on owls and owls are one of Miss 15's favourite species which helped make the challenge more palatable! I had to adapt the lesson a little since it required technology no longer supported by the site. Luckily I discovered this when I pre-read the lesson and had my adaptations all ready to go.

Using spectrograms and morphology to construct a phylogenetic tree was a challenging task.

The other highlight was a new MOOC -edX's Introduction to Animal Behaviour. So far it looks good - very well-structured and each module includes a section on research methods, which will be especially beneficial. The timing isn't ideal. Next year when we are considering a year long course in animal behaviour would be better. But there is no guarantee this will be offered then. Another animal behaviour MOOC we did a couple of years ago hasn't been offered since. So we'll take advantage of this opportunity now. We'll use birds for all the practical work so we could count it towards this year's Ornithology credit. But that credit doesn't really need any extra added to it. Most likely we'll include it next year's Animal Behaviour credit or just enjoy the learning and not worry about how and where to record it.

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Week Ending 7 August 2016

Mostly this has been a much more productive week than last week.

* Algebra has gone smoothly and I think I was only required to help with one problem all week.
* Miss 15 started on a new writing project. I've asked her to pick a controversy in birding circles, pick a side and then write a persuasive papers. We're going to take this one slowly and follow the Brave Writer approach to writing projects. This week was all about researching, selecting the topic and saturating herself in it. She's opted to write about a proposal to reintroduce an endangered species to an area near us.
The  highlight of the week for Miss 15 was discovering that her favourite brand of potato chips has a new flavour - her favourite ever. She's talking of stockpiling in case they are just a temporary addition to the range!

* In ornithology she completed another section of the spine we are using for bird anatomy. We listened to a TED talk on early ornithologists and discovered a new (to us - they've been around for a while) set of lessons from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We completed the one of Species Concepts in Birds. We also observed our favourite albatross chick which is getting ever closer to fledging. The only thing we didn't get to was a field trip. I've suffered a flare up of a health problem and didn't feel up to much. Hopefully it will settle soon, In the meantime we'll carry on with the theory and look forward to a week of field work when I'm doing better.
* She also made steady progress with history. I've jiggled things a bit since the unit is designed for a group and the current flow doesn't work so well for just one student. We'll still complete it - just in a way that works better for us.

Despite a busy week time was set aside to read this.

* The weekend was dominated by a trampoline competition. Miss 15 judged tumbling, a discipline she isn't really familiar with, on Friday night. She competed on Saturday and came away with two first placings. On Sunday she was supposed to volunteer as a recorder and a marshall but ended up on judging panels for virtually the entire day. Probably a good thing since she needs a certain amount of experience before she can enrol in the next level judging.

Watching a video of last year's Nationals was a good way to practise her judging skills before the weekend's competition. Hard to believe this year's Nationals begin next month.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

Week Ending 31 July 2016

This has not been the ideal, productive resumption of our formal homeschooling studies that I'd hoped for. We did learn several things though.

* Daily hospital visits take an hour and a half to two hours out of our day. Funnily enough trying to fit the regular amount of work into a condensed time frame doesn't really work.

* If the gym then gets short of coaches due to sickness and sudden resignations and Miss 15 agrees to work more than twice as many shifts as normal then we have even less time for homeschooling.

* When the next edition of the birding newsletter she edits is also due out then the available time shrinks even more. Having to write her column for the national birding magazine plus a small piece for a magazine for young birders only compounds the problem.  Almost to the point where I consider waving my white flag of surrender and giving up on formal academics entirely!

* Maths knowledge seems to leak out of Miss 15's brain fairly quickly over a two week break, and that which remains seems to take longer to retrieve and apply. It's almost enough to make me rethink the benefit of breaks but I know they have benefit and  normal performance returns within a couple of days - thankfully. However, Monday's math was painful and I found myself grumpily asking why our version of Saxon Algebra 2 does not include a handy reference to the lesson that covers the material in each problem. I'm sure all our other Saxon books did (just a small number in brackets below the problem number) and it would have saved me so much time when I was attempting to help. Miss 15 isn't the only one who forgets the finer points of Algebra without regular practice!

* Discovering that most of the links in our new history programme no longer work does not put me in a good mood. Especially when I'm already a little tired and cranky since I've had a bad run of not sleeping properly this week. Waking at 2 am and still being awake at 6 am is not my idea of a good time. When I checked over the programme I didn't bother checking the links. Lesson learnt.

Despite these trials we actually did manage some formal homeschooling. Maths was completed everyday. Decisions were made about what would be pursued in ornithology this term and Miss 15 began work on a section on anatomy. We'll be primarily using Jonathan Elphick's The World of Birds as our spine and utilising different learning and comprehension techniques on each section. We'll be breaking it up with field trips, some lab work and a variety of other short lessons and activities. Two out of three history lessons were completed and the first draft of last term's incomplete writing assignment - a critique of a scientific paper - was completed.

We'll be using this book, especially the section on anatomy- a lot this term.

Oh, and thanks to Miss 21 we enjoyed a virtual trip to the Lake District.

The Lake District - a pleasant reminder of all our Swallows and Amazons read-alouds from when the kids were younger.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.