Friday, August 31, 2007

Lego schooling

I have given up on homeschooling ;) The kids seem to have their own agenda and do not need me. Josiah has spent the week working on a stop motion movie using Star Wars lego pieces. He got the idea from the Lego Star Wars movie making contest. Some of the movies at the site are quite clever and funny. Josiah sat at the computer all day one day, typing the script for the movie. Tessa has spent much of her week helping Josiah, and the rest doing her own thing, rejecting any suggestions from me.

Well, at least I've had lots of time for other work. This morning, Geoff and I finally got around to clearing a pile of rubbish that has sat behind our garage for months and Geoff took it to the dump. I've decluttered the bathroom, the garage and most of the storage space in our ceiling. Once I've finished the ceiling space, every room in the house will have been decluttered within the last two or three months. Which is not so say there isn't still a lot of clutter :(

Friday, August 24, 2007

What we've been reading

I have been doing a lot of reading aloud:

  • A children's novel by Anne Fine (very funny writer).

  • Kingfisher History Encyclopaedia.

  • A book on tyrants of the past.

  • Learning to Climb Indoors by Eric HÅ‘rst.

  • Adaption and Competition, a book on how organisms become uniquely suited to their environment.

  • The Writing Book by Jean Bennett, helpful hints for children on the writing process.

  • Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel, an amazing collection of photos of families from all around the world, photographed with their possessions. The families have been asked various questions, such as what is their most valued possession. Intriguing.

The book I've been reading most of though is The Variety of Life: A survey and celebration of all the creatures that have ever lived by Colin Tudge which is an in depth introduction to modern classification of life (cladistics / phylogenetic systematics / also sometimes called taxonomy though that is really more to do with describing and naming life). It is intended for adults but Josiah and Tessa and I are all fascinated. Because modern classification is based on species' evolutionary relationships to each other, we have been prompted to investigate evolution and the evidence supporting it more closely. An interesting topic.

I found this book after an extensive search for books on classification, impelled by Josiah's renewed interest in the topic. Josiah first explored taxonomy after becoming interested in insects a few years ago. This year, Josiah thought he'd like to explore physics more but our forays into our physics book, DK's The Way Science Works, felt a bit disjointed and failed to grab Josiah's attention. I think if we come back to this book, I will suggest reading it from beginning to end (skimming the bits here and there we've already read) rather than jump around following Josiah's interest. I have a feeling we will get a better understanding of the interconnectedness of the concepts if we read the book in order and will therefore more easily assimilate the information.

So anyway with physics not capturing him, Josiah felt pulled to look at classification again. A few sessions reading Wikipedia led us to the discovery that the Five Kingdoms system of classification is now outdated, so I thought I'd better go in search of books on the modern methods. Books for children on this topic are sadly hard to find. Several books at our local library touch on classification but after a paragraph or two introducing it, explaining domains etc, the books go on to provide general information about animals or plants. So I am excited to have found The Variety of Life.

What we've been up to / Routine cast aside

Josiah was sick all last week - a real flu. He had fever and headaches some of the time and just felt generally miserable, then after three or four days he put out a rash - looked like hives - and suffered vomiting on one day. He's a lot better now though he still has a cough and is still falling asleep on the couch in the afternoon (looks so sweet). He's a very good patient - just sadly tells you all his symptoms, in a questioning voice as if wondering what should be done about them. He spent most of the week on the couch in the living room, either dozing or listening to stories (recorded off the radio or read aloud by me). Most days I encouraged him to bundle up warmly and go out for a (very) short walk; I've come to the opinion that lying down all the time makes a sick person feel more unwell and that getting outside has a rejuvenating effect.

Before Josiah was sick, we had friends staying with us for a few days and, as you know, we hadn't long been back from a trip away. Our routine has not survived the multiple disruptions of holiday, visitors and illness. Tessa has abandoned our usual pursuits and is doing her own thing - reading, writing, creating stories and decluttering her bedroom. Oh, I forgot! She did some science with me on Wednesday. Funny how despite the fact that I value those things she is choosing just as highly as I value maths activities or anything else on our list of weekly activities, there has been a stress in me all week about the "problem" of our lapsed routine. I didn't stop to notice what was happening; with my head down, I worried about what wasn't happening.

It seems we always have to start fresh after any disturbance ... maybe I should go with that - ie use each disturbance as an opportunity to reassess our routines. Wait and watch first. For my own sanity and in the interests of keeping our house a pleasant place to be, I might have to instigate an immediate negotiation of the more basic elements of our routine (regular toothbrushing, chores, putting washing away, and guitar practice because the teacher expects regular practice) but for the rest, I could wait and watch. If Tessa had bounced back into our routine the day after our visitors left, would she have had the time and inclination to read and copy out two of William Blake's poems on Wednesday, and would I have overheard Tessa and Josiah discussing Blake's poetry together on Thursday afternoon as I was tidying up before dinner?

Although I like to think that the children determine their own routines and how much of a routine to have at all, with my help where it's wanted, I'm sure that sometimes my indoctrination causes me to manipulate things - to push certain subjects and activities that I can't help thinking of as "core subjects". Perhaps these post-disturbance, routine-forsaken times are a window into Tessa's and Josiah's true educational needs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

To go or not to go

I can't decide whether to go with the rest of the family to an upcoming climbing competition or have a weekend to myself at home. In lots of ways it makes sense to stay home. For the last few years I have felt that I am perpetually staving off burnout. This means that often I do not give my activities the energy they need ... I'm only half present. A weekend to myself isn't going to solve that but of course it would help in the immediate term. The weekend-long climbing competitions (which have become a regular occurrence in our lives over the last 18 mths) are intense; I come away exhausted although I enjoy them.

But I would like to be there to support the kids at the competition. The competitions are a big thing for them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Funny things kids say

Coming home from climbing in the car on Friday evening, Josiah and Tessa discussed strategy for playing Paper Scissors Rock. Listening to them you would have no idea this is a game of luck.

When informed that it was time for chores one day recently, Tessa objected, admonishing me to remember Mary and Martha: "Some things are more important than chores, Mum." I don't know what it was she was equating to listening to Jesus.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A holiday up north

We have been away for a week on holiday. The holiday started a few days before we left really, with the purchase of the last Harry Potter book the day it came out. True to our intentions, we abandoned all non-essential activities for the duration, doing little else but read (in my case) or listen (in everyone else's case). I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet read the book so will only say that our family is agreed the book is excellent - very clever, deeply absorbing. Those Christians who avoid the Harry Potter books, believing them harmful in some way, I completely fail to comprehend. These are books I would be happy for my children to read again and again, because of the morals and principles interwoven in the story.

It was more tiring than I expected, reading aloud all day for four days (even though I didn't in fact read all day: Josiah had Boys Brigade and Technicraft class to attend and we had to pause to sleep and eat and pack our bags for our trip). But it was lovely to read the story together as a family rather than fight over who got to read it first and have to avoid talking about it so as not to spoil it for the others. We were still reading Harry Potter when we left for our holiday so once we were underway, I read in the car, finishing the book somewhere past Taihape. The journey flew by.

The purpose of the holiday was to travel with our German friends who are visiting NZ at present. We met them at Whakapapa Holiday Park on Mt Ruapehu, my favourite camping ground in NZ because of the beautiful beach trees. Opening the curtains of our cabin in the morning to find myself looking into forest was a treat.

The weather was cold and wet so we didn't drive up the mountain but walked to Silica Rapids - lovely. Whakapapa Holiday Park couldn't fit us in the next night so we stayed at Ski Haus, a backpacker in National Park and the filthiest accommodation I've stayed in for a long time; I would not recommend it!

The next day, we enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful walk around Lake Rotopounamu. In places, young rimu grew in clumps, creating a veil with their leaves. I thought I saw a whitehead but couldn't be sure.

After a sit in De Brett's hot pools at Taupo ("aaahh") and a few trips down the hydroslide it was on to Tauranga, where Josiah and Tessa were entered in a climbing competition - the fourth and final event in the National Cup Series. The climbing was excellent - very entertaining to watch, especially when two of the under 16 climbers clipped into their final clip while hanging from the ceiling by one hand, and when Josiah and Tessa's teammate, B, attempting to dyno (dynamically move to a distant hold) to the button at the top of the speed climb, pulled a hold right off the wall and fell away with it in his hands! The third competition we've attended this year, it was nice to get to know some of the families from other regions a little better.

Lots of the categories were close, including Josiah's (under 14). Josiah and S both topped out in the first climb, then got to the same point in the second climb, so were level going into the final. They both climbed beautifully in the final, hitting difficulty at the same hold. S managed to push forwards and touch the next hold before falling, which Josiah didn't. Josiah was delighted with his climbing, enjoyed getting to know S better, and now can't wait for the next comp.

Tessa, finishing sixth of eight, would have liked to place higher. She loves being part of the competition crowd though, and I hope that as she matures, she will begin to develop goals which are more about aspects of her climbing and how she feels than where she places. I have yet to see her climb her best in a competition; I think that is because the competition setting is still new to her - lots of people cheering loudly, the formality of it, strangers belaying her and checking her rope - it's all distracting, makes it hard to focus on her climb.

Josiah and Tessa's coach, Z, won the Open category, which gave him a win for the series too.

We got home Monday evening; Josiah just had time for dinner before heading out to Boys Brigade. Then he had Technicraft first thing Tuesday morning. I used Tuesday to unpack, tidy and do laundry. I had decided before we went away that Wednesday would be a scheduled holiday. Back to work today (Thursday) I guess.

All the photos on this post were taken by our friends, N and K.