Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book #1 - To Kill a Mockingbird

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was the novel I chose to start reawakening my brain with. It's set in 1936 in Alabama and is the story of the attitudes and prejudices of the time told through the eyes of 2 children, Jem & Scout. They are the son & daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch who is representing a negro man charged with the rape of a white woman.

I first read this book in high school - probably around age 16 or 17. We must've studied it in class, because I clearly remember writing profiles on some of the characters. Even though I'd forgotten a lot of the details of the plot, I remember loving the book and have obviously picked it up at a second hand shop somewhere over the years.

20+ years later and I understood so much more of the story. I guess having more life experience I could relate more to some of the characters and knew more background history. It's stood the test of time - I really enjoyed it again.

I've also been watching:

* TED lecture - Hector Ruiz - CEO of AMD
* TED lecture - Carl Honore - talking about his book In Praise of Slow
* The Teaching Company's Big History course - first 2 lectures (of 48). This one is really stretching my brain!

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 17

Weigh in day for me:

Weight loss from last week: 0.5kg
Total weight loss overall: 3.75 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

1.25kg to go until my next goal weight!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our week of learning - 26th July - Space

It's unintentially been a week about space with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and the solar eclipse that was visible in some parts of the world. I decided to take advantage of it and set up a book display with some of our (and the library's) space books.

English: Lots of reading plus an hour on Spellodrome.

Maths: An hour or so spent on the Mathletics site, plus we played several maths card games like "Addition War".

Science & Technology: We read a couple of great books this week.

Seeing Stars - "
Examining the night sky from supernovas to galaxies, from comets to constellations, this book contains nine spreads, each focusing on a different aspect of the topic. Small blocks of numbered text guide young readers around the page and are full of facts."

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Stephen & Lucy Hawking.

Stephen Hawking, author of the multi-million copy bestselling A Brief History of Time, and his daughter Lucy explain the universe to readers of all ages. George's parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos's help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie, and Eric aren't about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science."

We're only a little way into this but it's such a fantastic book! I'm learning heaps myself!


We also watched a few documentaries and snippets on the moon landing, and the solar eclipse.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): After reading through the Egyptian mummification process at "You wouldn't want to be a mummy!", we began our experiment of mummifying a piece of apple and Billy made himself a mummy and tomb. After all, what else would you do on a Sunday evening?!

Creative & Practical Arts: He went to a school holiday workshop where they painted a boomerang in the Aboriginal style.

He also attended an art gallery "3d paper sculpture" workshop.

LOTE (Languages other than English): He learnt some greetings in French and Chinese.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He played about 2.5 hours of Auskick at a gala day on Saturday. His comment when we got home was that his legs "had expired for the day" lol.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Cooking, doing his chores - unpacking the dishwasher, putting his clothes away etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Educating Kez

I feel dumb.

It's been 7 years since I left the adult environment of the workforce, where I was forced to learn new skills, have conversations with GROWN UPS and use my brain for something other than knowing where everyone in the house left their stuff...

A few years ago I did my Cert IV in Training and Assessment - it was a wonderful year. Even though it was majorly stressful and challenging, it gave me a real high to be learning again.

My brain is back to feeling like it's atrophied - to the point that I find it hard to carry on a conversation now - you know how often when you chat to new mums all they can talk about is their new bub, sleep patterns, teething etc? I feel like that a lot - like my conversation is out of step with the rest of the world. Then again, that could be because I don't watch reality TV!!

I find it hard to read anything much more challenging than chick-lit because, damn it, it hurts my brain!!

It's time to wake my brain back up. It will be good for me, and I think it will be good for Billy to see me learning too.

I always wanted to study ancient history in more depth than I did at school. I'd love to read all of Shakespeare's plays (without having to write essays on them!). I want to go back to being the person who picked up Dicken's "Tale of Two Cities" - and read it for fun! I'd maybe even like to see if I can understand physics this time around.. (hang on - maybe not!)

I have a huge personal library, and 2 great public libraries to choose from. So I'm starting tonight. I'm going over to the bookcase once I post this, I'm going to choose something that's a bit heavier than the romance novel I have on my bedside table (not too heavy though!), and I'm going to start reading it.

Let's see if the brain can still work..

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 16

Weigh in day for me:

Weight loss from last week: no change this week
Total weight loss overall: 3.25 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

I didn't lose any weight this week, but more importantly I didn't put any on either! We were away in Sydney for the weekend, so we had a meal out, then had pizza when we got home because I was too tired too cook. We did heaps of walking though.

I am feeling really motivated atm. I have 4 weeks until Billy's b'day party - I want to lose another 1.75kg by then - and buy myself a new pair of jeans! I've started back on the CSIRO diet (while checking out the Body Trim diet - thanks Louise!) to give me the kickstart I need..

Monday, July 20, 2009

Exploring our local area: Fort Scratchley

Last week we caught the train down to Newcastle with some friends, and went to Fort Scratchley. Fort Scratchley was originally built as a defense for Newcastle's harbour in 1881. It actually saw some action in World War II when it fired on a Japanese submarine that tried to attack Newcastle!

After falling into disrepair for many years, and being the home of squatters and vandalised, it's recently been reopened. We wandered around the top of the facility ourselves and then took a guided tour of the underground tunnels. The tour lasted for about an hour and was really interesting.

I'd like to go back again when Billy's a bit older and has more of an understanding of WWII so we could get even more out of the tour. Hopefully they'll continue repairing and restoring over the years as funds permit..

Our week of learning - 19th July

English: Lots of reading plus an hour on Spellodrome.

Maths: An hour or so spent on the Mathletics site, plus we played a fractions board game.

Science & Technology: Nothing this week.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): Since it's school holidays here in NSW, we had a couple of "out-of-the-ordinary" excursions this week.

On Wednesday, we caught the train down to Newcastle with some friends and went to Fort Scratchley. We took a tour through the underground tunnels which was very interesting - we both learnt quite a lot about Newcastle's involvement in WWII !

On Thursday, we attended a performance by Aboriginal dancer & musician, Matthew Doyle. He showed the kids how to play instruments like the didgeridoo and clapping sticks, taught them some dances and songs, and painted their face or hand with ochre.

Creative & Practical Arts: Aboriginal dance and music, painting.

LOTE (Languages other than English): He learnt some Aboriginal words at the performance.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): No formal PE but lots of running around with his cousin and walking on our Fort excursion.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He made some cupcakes & iced them (with the help of his cousins).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We're in the paper - again!

We were interviewed about homeschooling for our local paper yesterday - article here. The article was nicely done, without the usual "expert" they normally have to give the counter argument of how our children need to be "socialised" by going to school.

Almost 12 months ago, we were interviewed for another paper and they used a very similar set up for the photo. If we keep this up, I'll be able to use it as our annual school photo :)

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 15

Weigh in day for me:

Weight loss from last week: lost 0.25kg
Total weight loss overall: 3.25 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 9 cm

I'm approximating my weight loss, I only have old-fashioned scales, but I'm a "smidge" down from where I was. I've tightened up more though - lost another 2 cm from my waist!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hunter Auskickers at the SCG

Yesterday a group of Hunter Auskickers (Junior AFL) went down to Sydney to play on the SCG at half-time in the Sydney vs Essendon game.

Our local Maitland Saints fielded 9 kids - they're in the red uniforms in the photo. They successfully beat the opposition team, kicking 1 goal, 3 behinds to the opposition's 1 behind.

Not that I could see a great deal, since they played a fair way away from where the parents were sitting! They looked like the had a great time though - Billy seemed pretty stoked by it all. He was most impressed that he "almost" got the ball :)

The kids were especially impressed by the fact that they got to meet Barry Hall before they came on the field! Although meeting the mascot Cyggy was just as exciting :)

Our week of Learning - 12th July

English: Lots of reading plus a couple of hours on Spellodrome.

Maths: He finished the Year 1 curriculum on Mathletics - he set himself a goal to finish the rest of the "gold bars" today and did it! He was very excited - especially when he realised his name is on the scoreboard as one of the world's top 100 students for the week (based on the number of points they earn each week).

We created a paper pyramid as part of our history studies - so it was a good opportunity for an introduction to angles, working with solid shapes, and how to measure angles with a protractor.

We also played some maths games to work on his addition skills, and he experimented with comparing the volumes that different shaped drinking glasses would hold.

Science & Technology: As blogged earlier in the week, he made a waterwheel for the Think! challenge.

We created a floating compass using a magnetised needle. You can see a video of the creation below...

If the embedded video doesn't play, try this link -

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We're reading our way through a gorgeous book called "Egyptian diary: The Journal of Nakht" by Richard Platt.

We made a pyramid out of paper, which he decorated with hieroglyphics saying things like "Keep Out" & "mummy" :)

He has also been busy playing the "Become a World Explorer" computer game.

Creative & Practical Arts: Nothing formal - lots of imaginative play.

LOTE (Languages other than English): Nothing this week.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class. Auskick.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): His chore list has been expanded to include unpacking the dishwasher. He can't reach the cupboard where some of the plates go, so he piles them on the bench, but it's a good start.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 14

Weight loss from last week: lost that pesky 0.5 kg again!
Total weight loss overall: 3 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 7 cm

So far I keep going up and down around the same weight - hopefully with some effort next week I can progress past it! Aiming for 3.5kg lost (in total) by next week.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Think! Engineering challenge

A few weeks ago I found the Think! blog which posts weekly engineering challenges with a list of materials to build from. Today we took up their challenge to create a water wheel from the following:

"a long dowel
a cardboard tube or a two liter bottle or a can
8 index cards
a sharpie

You may use scissors in construction but not the solution. "

I'm not an engineering person by any stretch of the imagination, so we googled some images of water wheels, and this is what Billy came up with:

It worked great for a couple of seconds until the cards got too wet. I was just using thick paper rather than cardboard though.

We didn't end up using the string - I guess that was for the 2nd half of the challenge to connect it to the boat. We probably could have also used it to suspend the dowel in the middle of the tube, but we were satisfied with what we did for the first time at the challenge.

We also didn't use the sharpie. Other than for Billy to draw up his blueprint in the first place :)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Exploring our local area: Tocal Homestead

The Tocal property was one of the first land grants in the Paterson Valley in 1822 and has one of Australia's finest collections of colonial farm buildings dating from the 1820's. Tocal Homestead itself was built in 1841.

On Tuesday, about 50 homeschoolers attended a heritage day at the Homestead - and had a great time!

They split into small groups of about 8 kids each and got to try out lots of different "old-style" activities like:

washing the clothes the old-fashioned way!

playing games like horseshoes, elastics & tug-of-war,

carrying water with yoke & buckets

and dressing up!

(As you can see, Will & Billy were pretty inseparable for the day!)

They also got a tour through the house:

including the separate kitchen area -

Here is the guide showing us how to use the milk separator - notice the ice-box beside her!

And of course, the bath for the men - 5 men using the same water, every 2 weeks. I'd hate to be the last person :)

Some very exhausted but happy kids at the end of the day..

I'd like to go back when Billy is a bit older and do the house tour again - they have a self-guided audio tour you can do, but I think he'll get more out of it in a few years time.

Please go and hug your kids..

and tell them how much you love them.

The 17yo son of one of our neighbours died last night. 17 - a lifetime ahead of him. I looked at my to-do list today and decided nothing on there couldn't wait until I'd spent a couple of hours snuggling with Billy and reading some books together.

Life is precious.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In - Wk 13

Weight loss from last week: stayed the same - 0 kg lost
Total weight loss overall: 2.5 kg
Total cms lost off waist: 7 cm

I managed to exercise at least 20 mins each day but my food choices weren't the best. I need to get my head back in the weight loss groove!