Sunday, March 28, 2010

A quick look behind the scenes

It was a busy week this week, but I took care not to let it get too overwhelming. We were out some part of every day, so the rest of the day we spent relaxing or doing non-strenuous things.

I got my priorities in order on Tuesday and rather than rush home from the rockclimbing so Billy could go to drama class, we spent the time instead with family and gave the class a miss. It was much more enjoyable and good to spend quality time with my sister and nieces who are busier than we are!

Billy came down with a heavy cold mid-week, so that was another reason to take it easy. He seems to be pretty much over it other than a bit of a cough at night. Between his cough and a kitten that thinks 4am is a great time to start batting your owner's face to wake them up, I've been rather sleep-deprived! I'm sure the lady in the chemist thought I was a bit slow as I was really struggling to focus to answer her questions about what sort of cough Billy had!! I did have a 2hr nanna-nap yesterday - that really helped!

As I was half expecting, I became secretary of the Scouts Parents Committee on Thursday night - I knew the old secretary had resigned, and no-one else was jumping up to take her place, so decided to volunteer if no-one else did. Needless to say, they didn't..

I did get to my BodyBalance class (yay!) but didn't get to the gym other than that. I've also been falling into the trap of eating everything in sight to keep awake (mainly sugary or starchy food), so I really need to focus on eating more healthily this week.

I got most of the stuff crossed off my to-do list this week - I don't know why I go away from lists, they really help me. I'm slowly making an inroad into turning our guest room into my sewing room - we got rid of the spare bed on Freecycle this week. Next is to get the bookcases set up in there.

So while it was a busy week, it was a good week on the whole.

Our week of learning - 28th March 2010 - Rockclimbing, Archery and inventions

It's been a busy week again this week with lots of new experiences!


Current Readaloud:
Jack Stalwart: The Search for Sunken Treasure (Australia) by Elizabeth Singer Hunt.

Audio books: "Does my head look big in this?" by Randa Abdel-Fattah; "Cry of the Cat" and "The Gingerbread House" by Emily Rodda.

Independent Reading: Boyz Rule: Skateboard Dudes and Boyz Rule: Battle of the Games.

Other: He created a poster advertising his AFL tipping competition (writing for a variety of purposes). He's been playing several games of Scrabble online.

Maths: He spent time using Timez Attack, we watched an episode of Cyberchase (about enlarging using grids) and using an idea I found at Risa's blog, I gave him a couple of problems on the whiteboard from the Problems of the Day sheet. He particularly liked the code and made up one for me to solve too. (Thanks Risa!)

Science & Technology: He used Microsoft Publisher to make his AFL tipping poster. We learnt a bit about Thomas Edison (sparked by an episode of The Simpsons), looked at some of his inventions in the "How Nearly Everything was Invented" book and he set out to make some of his own inventions. Most didn't make it past the conceptual stage :)

How Nearly Everything Was Invented by the Brainwaves (Brainwaves)

We watched 3 videos on The Happy Scientist website - how mirages work, floating bubbles on a layer of CO2 and how to make butter from milk.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment):
He got some quiz cards handed down from his cousin, and spent some time with her doing some Arts, Sports & Leisure questions.

Creative & Practical Arts: He made up a play with his cousin and they performed it for the family.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Rockclimbing at a local PCYC organised by one of the homeschool mums.

"Feral Archery" - indoor archery - with the Joey Scouts.

Practising his diabolo circus tricks.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He's learning how to care for our new cat.

We made Hot Cross Buns. The recipe was very yummy (esp the one Billy added choc chips too), the texture was good - but it was more like a fruit bun than a hot cross bun. The search for the perfect recipe continues...

School shows: Behind The News Extra.

Other fun stuff:
They learnt the reef knot at cubs - I must get him a bit of rope to practice with now!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our new baby!

Meet Kit Kat - the newest member of our family. He's a 14 week old Russian Blue and we picked him up this morning. I'm starting to remember what it's like to have a toddler in the house :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our week of learning - 21st March - Goblins, canoeing and da Vinci

Quite a mixed bag this week - very busy and lots of fun.


Current Readaloud:
Finally finished The Adventurous Four by Enid Blyton

The Adventurous Four: Shipwrecked! (The adventurous four)

Audio books: "Does my head look big in this?" by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Independent Reading: Jack Stalwart: Peril at the Grand Prix (Italy) by Elizabeth Singer Hunt.

Other: We watched "Prince Caspian", the 2nd in the Narnia movies.

Maths: He took part in a play about goblins (teaching multiplication by 2s, 5s and 10s) at the FBI homeschool group.

He spent some time playing Timez Attack.

Science & Technology: Participated in an experiment involving chromotography at the FBI group.

Made a lava lamp using oil, salt & food colouring.

We went along to a Da Vinci Machines exhibition - it was very good with quite a few hands-on exhibitis. They had a working Archimedes screw to move water from a bottom trough to a top one, a bridge challenge that you could pull apart and put back together - that one took us a while - I was glad hubby was there lol. There were templates to make a little Da Vinci parachute out of paper and string - all the stuff was there to do it on the spot. A mirrored room that you could go into, a pulley system to demonstrate that pulleys make lifting easier and heaps of cogs & gears of various types to turn.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We caught the train home from the Da Vinci exhibit, had lots of discussions about the role of the conductor etc and he practiced reading the train timetable.

The audio book he's listening to at the moment is about a Muslim girl who decides to wear the hijab (head scarf). It's given him an awareness of Muslim culture.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class. Making a goblin mask & acting in the goblin play.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Martial Arts. Canoeing with the cubs group at a local dam - it was a good introduction to it as it was quite shallow. Very muddy though :)

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He's starting to get some good habits of keeping his room tidy.

School shows: Music Moves, Behind The News.

Other fun stuff:
A picnic with the secular homeschoolers group (for a brief time anyway!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I wish I could think of an inspiring title..

I've felt really out of step this week.

Last weekend Pete & I went down to Sydney for the night to see Bell Shakespeare's King Lear. It was very well done btw, John Bell as usual was outstanding but I felt some of the other actors were a bit weak for the roles. We quite enjoyed it. It was a late night though - well late for me anyway :) The play didn't finish until after 11pm so it was about 11:30 when we got back to our motel room.

By the time we picked up Billy on Sunday, did some shopping and got home, it was time to launch into a new week. Which has been fairly busy. I haven't slept very well this week for various reasons so I've been dragging through the days - lets just say there are a few things undone that should have been done by now :)

I didn't get to the gym this week at all. I didn't feel up to going to my BodyBalance class on Tuesday and I was watching the cubs canoeing rather than go to the gym on Thursday! I did go for a walk instead on Tuesday and I think I might go for one this afternoon once it cools down. I bought myself a new MP3 player ($30 at Dick Smith!) last weekend which is much easier to walk with than playing music on my phone. It clips on rather than having to go in a pocket.

I tried to fit too much into yesterday. An eye appointment for Pete, a homeschool get-together for us, the library and the Da Vinci Machines exhibition for us all. We picked up frozen pizza for tea on the way home and collapsed for the night :)

I'm trying to do a brain dump on stuff I need to do but the brain isn't co-operating. I know I have to get some paid work done by Monday so I can install it at the clients. I have emails to answer, forms to fill out, bills to pay, stuff to put away. It would help if my brain wasn't so fuzzy that thoughts appear and then disappear straight away. Or if I didn't keep getting interrupted - like I just did - Billy just lost another tooth!

Right, off to see if I can kick-start the brain!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More musings...

Further to my post last night, I've been contemplating what Billy actually needs to learn in the next few years - let's say by the end of Yr 6. (He's "officially" in Yr 2 atm but he works at all different levels.) It seems hard to believe that not that long ago, many kids had left school by the end of primary school and were out working and learning a trade. In fact neither of my parents have much more than a primary school education.

I have no idea at this stage what job Billy will want to do. In fact, based on his love of technology, the job he ends up doing probably hasn't even been invented yet. So how do I know what he should learn? The Australian states can't even agree on what should be in the curriculum, let alone the rest of the world.

So after some contemplation, this is what I consider the "Must haves" in his education:

  • "Consumer level" maths - budgeting, measuring / weighing, basic maths skills
  • Understanding of the maths processes, not just rote learning
  • Ability to read
  • Ability to comprehend what is read
  • Legible handwriting
  • Computer skills - typing, word processing, email, web surfing, web searches - how to find & interpret information
  • Life skills - looking after himself, household skills like washing, cooking, etc
  • Understanding of significant events & people in Australian history
  • Tolerance & appreciation of other cultures, religions & people
The following things would also be desirable but he'd still get by without them.

  • Ability to speak in public
  • Love of reading
  • Not afraid of maths
  • Understanding of significant events & people in World history
To me, everything above & beyond that is just 'icing on the cake' - just expanding his mind and exposing him to new ideas.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What skills or knowledge do you consider as vital?

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm left wondering what the point of high school is (other than to keep kids out of the workforce and stop them competing with adults for jobs!). It's not really to specialise - when I went through school, you couldn't choose subjects until about Yr 11 - and that was if you were lucky enough that the subject you wanted was offered and fitted in with your timetable. That's why you go to uni - 6 years later! How much of what you learn at high school is actually used later on in life? I'm struggling to think of anything I learnt that is critical to my life now. Writing an essay on Shakespeare? Nope. Trigonometry? Nope. Pretty much everything I needed to do my job, I learnt on the job. High School seems a very broad brush approach - let's make everyone learn how to dissect a poem to cover the 1% that will actually use it! (And turn the other 99% off anything to do with poetry for the rest of their lives!)

Would we be better off going back to the days of early leaving and apprenticeships? Its not like today's youth appear to be any happier than previous generations!

Just some ramblings - what do you think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Plenty of time..

Sometimes I get antsy that we don't seem to be covering enough stuff in our "homeschooling" - it usually happens after I've been talking to more curriculum based homeschoolers, or like tonight, as I look around at all the incredible resources we have in our house just waiting to be read / watched / played with. It just struck me though that with the new school leaving age of 17 - I have 9.5 more years of "teaching" (or should that be "learning alongside"!) Billy. Even at the very conservative school estimate of 5 days / week for 40 weeks - that's another 1900 days of learning. Maybe I should just take a deep breath and trust we will cover enough stuff in that time :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our week of learning - 14th Mar

Lots of Science & Maths this week.


Current Readaloud:
The Adventurous Four by Enid Blyton

The Adventurous Four: Shipwrecked! (The adventurous four)

Audio books: Raven Hill Mysteries by Emily Rodda - "The Disappearing TV Star", "Green for Danger" and "Cry of the Cat".

Independent Reading: The Mystery of Banshee Towers by Enid Blyton

The Mystery of Banshee Towers (Five Find-outers & Dog S.)

Other: Another game of Rainbow Scrabble - he's getting good at it! We'll have to invest in a grown up version soon!

Maths: We celebrated Pi Day as blogged earlier.

Science & Technology: Billy pulled out one of the kits we'd bought earlier in the year and he went through the book to find something interesting to do. He settled on making a tsunami - very simply, a jam jar lid with a string through it, in a container of water and pull on the string sharply to disrupt the water. I found a couple of suitable video footage of Tsunamis on YouTube and we watched them together and talked about what was happening, including the fact that so many people had died in the Indonesian ones.

He spent a full day making some movies on the digital camera and the webcam, and trying out a few free bits of software I'd downloaded to integrate them.

He created a very basic footy tipping website for himself and Pete to use :)

We both spent far too long on this game trying to create the circuit. It used lots of different methods to generate electricity like steam, air, solar & laser - quite educational, frustrating and fun! Thanks for the link, Karen :)

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We've started watching James May's Toy Stories - the series involves Top Gear presenter James May taking toys he played with in his childhood, and making massive versions of them. We watched the first episode where he makes a giant Spitfire model airplane. As well as the history involved in what toys were like "back in the old days", this episode also tied in again with what he'd learnt about WWII last week via Narnia and the Adventurous Four. See, learning really does happen in the most unexpected places!

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class. He also spent much of the weekend watching his cousin dance at an eisteddfod, so he got to watch tap, jazz, classical and modern dance!

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Martial Arts.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): We cooked Anzac biscuits together before his friend came over for a play.

School shows: Music Moves, Behind The News.

Other fun stuff:
Lots more Webkinz this week! Plus a visit from a friend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

International Pi Day

We celebrated International Pi Day a little early today - it should be on Sunday but we'll be busy. (Given that it doesn't really work in Australian date format anyway - its 3/14 in American format but 14/3 in Australian, I wasn't too concerned lol).

We started off the day by me telling him it was Pi Day and that pi was a cool number that had something to do with circles. So we had pancakes for breakfast :)

When we settled down to explore more about it, I explained to Billy that pi was a special number and we used a symbol from the Greek alphabet for it. I recapped the term radius, and introduced the terms diameter and circumference (he was able to recognise that the diameter was twice the length of the radius - yay!). We used this worksheet from Enchanted Learning as the basis as measuring some circles with a piece of string and working out the circumference / diameter ratio. Due to some rather haphazard measuring, especially since the small circles were rather tricky for small fingers, our numbers weren't very consistent - but at least they all started with 3!

(We had a brief interruption with some silliness from Master B and a bit of a tantrum from me but after we got that out of our system, we continued - see, that's the bit of homeschooling blogs you usually don't read lol).

We looked at how to get pi up on the calculator (which went down well! - he loves my old scientific calculator) and used that to work out what the circumference of the circles should have been.

I pulled the "Think of a Number" book off the shelf and we looked at some significant times in history for pi. I explained that it was an irrational number and what that meant and we read the first 30-odd digits - he got a kick out of that too :)

Think of a Number

We took a break with some round Tick-Tock biscuits, and watched an episode of Cyberchase dealing with Pi (Series 6, Episode 10).

He wanted his Mountain bread cut into a circle for lunch, so I did and then made him measure the diameter and tell me what the circumference was lol.

After lunch he told Pete what he'd learnt about pi and they did some "boy examples" - eg if the diameter of the SCG is x metres, what would be the circumference?

We watched the featured Brainpop video on Pi and then decided enough was enough. Hopefully he'll have an idea that at least pi has something to do with circles, even if he doesn't remember all the details!

Oh, and of course, we had pizza for tea :)

I hate change.

Yesterday Billy & I headed down to Newcastle for our usual 6-weekly chiropractor visit. I've been going to this same chiropractor for 10 years - I started going to him when I was having troubles with my back from sitting all day at work and I chose him because a) he was close to my work and b) my mum used to go to that practice. It's meant an hour drive to see him now that I'm not working in the same town but I was willing to do it because he was fantastic. I'd have other chiros on the occasions that he was sick or on holidays but the adjustment never felt right. He was also fantastic with Billy - he's been seeing him since he was born - he even treated me while I was pregnant! We both adored him.

So you may be able to imagine the devastation I felt yesterday when we walked in and the receptionist came and sat down next to us. "I don't have Michael for you today" she started. I was a bit disappointed, but then she continued "He's decided to retire from seeing patients". Nooooooooooo!

So we went in and had our appointment with the replacement chiro - I'd had him before once when Michael was away. He's lovely and does a good job but he wasn't Michael :(

So I bit the bullet afterwards. I spoke to the receptionist and explained that we'd try to find one more local to us - if I had to "break in" a new chiropractor anyway, it would be better to find one I didn't have to travel an hour to see. She was completely understanding and even suggested one locally with a similar style that Michael had worked with sometimes. I signed out my X-rays and brought them home with me.

I felt so sad for the rest of the day - I hate change :(

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Our week of learning - 7th Mar - new experiences!

Several new experiences this week. It was a pretty full on week with planned activities so we tried to keep the home side of things nice & cruisy.


Current Readaloud:
The Adventurous Four by Enid Blyton

The Adventurous Four: Shipwrecked! (The adventurous four)

Audio books: Raven Hill Mysteries by Emily Rodda - "The Disappearing TV Star", "Green for Danger" and "Cry of the Cat".

Independent Reading: The Mystery of Banshee Towers by Enid Blyton

The Mystery of Banshee Towers (Five Find-outers & Dog S.)

Other: We watched "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and discussed it. We played a game of Rainbow Scrabble.

Maths: I picked up a board game the other day called "Number Rings". Each person has pegs numbered 1 - 18, you roll 3 dice and then use numerical operations to make whatever numbers you can out of the numbers you rolled. You place your ring over the numbers you make and try to fill all your numbers first - for eg, if you roll 3, 6 and 2, you can put your rings on those numbers or on 3+6 and 2, or 3+6+2, or 3*6-2 etc. We started by just playing using addition and subtraction, but it became very difficult to get the last few numbers over about 15. So we pulled the multiplication table out and used multiplication as well. You can also block another player by putting your rings on their number pegs! It's a great game, and I love how it can be used by any skill level.

He also played several rounds on the World Maths Day site. He learnt about Cartesian co-ordinates by playing this fun game to feed Billy Bug.

Science & Technology: He did several 50 question science quizzes on Quizzy's Corner (Webkinz World).

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): The children in the Narnia movie are sent away to the country during the London bombings in World War II - the opening scenes are of German planes bombing the city. That led to a discussion of WWII, Hilter (without too much detail) and the fact the Germans were fighting Britain. Co-incidentally it then popped up again while reading The Adventurous Four - it was also set in that era and the children discover a nest of enemy submarines & seaplanes.

He participated in Clean Up Australia day with his cub group.

We had a natural learner's picnic at Blackbutt Reserve and had to go back around and check on all the animals again. He has "adopted" a black-winged stilt that he calls "Chuck" lol, so we have to make sure he's ok :)

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class. He watched the show Music Moves and was then making up his own rhythms and ostinato.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He had his first martial arts grading this week, and was promoted to yellow belt.

Lots of running around at the natural learner's picnic.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He's been making lots of the tea-cup biscuits in the header of my blog :)

School shows: For the Juniors, Music Moves.

Other fun stuff: He had his first night up at Cubs this week. He & several friends have started the process to graduate from Joeys to Cubs - they have to attend 4 cubs meetings, go back and tell the Joey's group about the things they've done and are then able to
start Cubs for real.

Lots of Webkinz this week!

Where's the cave?

I need to hibernate...

It's been a full on week and I feel like sitting life out for the next week or so. That's not going to be possible so the day and a half I have will have to do :)

I've been out every day this week and have done lots of chatting - client meetings, a homeschool get-together, a birthday party, afternoon tea with my friend, a chat with a potential new homeschool mum. All rewarding, but exhausting to little old introverted me!

Our BodyBalance class launched a new routine this week - I survived but boy it hurt the legs!! I was also brave and went back the next day for my first gym proper session. Yay me!

I also have a confession to make - I started playing Scrabble on Facebook :( I'm playing the games where each player can have 24hrs to make their move so it shouldn't take up too much of my time - if I'm careful!! (Of course, the fact that I have 6 different games on the go atm is a worry!)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bits & Bobs..

Last Friday I finally got brave enough to have my personal gym program designed - I'd been putting it off citing lack of time since I joined the gym in January! The trainer was very kind to me and took it fairly slowly. My goals are a bit more weight loss and some toning, so she has me doing treadmill, bike (which almost killed me!), some reps on 4 different bits of weight equipment (the technical term lol), and some crunchies. Now to be brave enough to go back and try it on my own!!

I'm still going to the BodyBalance class (ta-chi, yoga & pilates) and still loving it. I'm a bit concerned about this week though - I'm finally starting to get the hang of the routines, and this week they all change!!!

On Friday night Pete & I went to see Tim Minchin - he's a comedic musician who is very, very talented, clever and funny! (Also very, very rude and pushes the boundaries at times so don't check him out if you're easily offended!) It's been years since we saw live comedy - probably Billy Connelly was the last one we saw. It was a great night - I laughed so much my face hurt. The only thing that spoilt it for me were the idiots in the crowd who liked to prove how 'clever' they were by heckling or spoiling the punchline :(

We also went out for dinner beforehand - it was very pleasant sitting in the sunshine on the waterfront eating a lovely dinner prepared by someone else! Unfortunately the service was so slow we ran out of time for dessert! It was a travesty :)