31 January 2006

The 5th Carnival of Homeschooling

This week travel to Hawaii
for your homeschooling carnival fix!

Palm Tree Pundit is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Isn't it amazing that we so easily pop off to other web sites little realising that this one is based in Australia, Palm Tree pundit is in Hawaii, and others are all over the world - just one click away!

Our contribution to the carnival is our Maths Quiz.

30 January 2006

Maths Quiz updated

Now that our school year has begun (*) Lana has requested a few changes to our Maths Quiz spreadsheet. As her command is my wish, it is now updated.
I have added in the option of a mixed up quiz, mixing 50 questions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Also, as the children like competitions and seeing their progress, I have added two charts to plot the accuracy and speed results.
Lana sets aside 15 minutes per morning for each child's maths quiz. One set of 50 questions per day (and then the obligatory run around the block). At week end they have the mixed up quiz.
To give the children some kind of bench mark I did the quiz too. My scores and time were:
  1. Multiplication 98% 0:52
  2. Division 98% 1:02
  3. Addition 96% 1:56
  4. Subtraction 98% 2:22
  5. Mixed Up Quiz 94% 1:35
Bother! Those silly little errors!
Here is the new quiz in Excel and Open Office formats.

(*) In Australia the school year begins in Late Jan/Early Feb and finishes just before Christmas. There are 4 terms of approx 10 weeks each, separated by breaks of two weeks.

29 January 2006

Angel of Mercy - Done

Done! Another piece of fine art for the home gallery.
Lana, with a sigh of contentment and relief, has finished the last stitch on her "Angel of Mercy" Back in September we showed you a work in progress view, now we can show you the finished item.
Whilst Lana was happily stitching away at the mass of white near the bottom of the Angel's dress we conducted an experiment. Using a stop watch we calculated Lana stitches away at around 250 crosses per hour for easy stitching - one colour. With colour changing areas this would probably drop down to about 150 to 200 stitches per hour.
That means this cross stitch may have taken around 200 or more hours to complete. This time depends on what else Lana is doing whilst stitching. An interesting movie or tricky questions from the children will certainly slow down the operation.

One over One means even finer detail for the face and hands.
The bottom photo is a close-up of the face. This has been stitched "One over one" which means that it uses one thread crossed over one strand of linen. Normally it is two threads over two strands. If you click the picture you will see the details in really close close up.
The cross stitch pictures transform our house into an art gallery. It is fun showing visitors over the house and pointing out all the fine art created by Lana!
But will this entice Cajun Cay to join the Cross stitch club?

28 January 2006

Time flies so quickly by

The games convention we attended today was in the same series as the one I attended 19 years ago when I first met Lana. As my best man said at the wedding,
"If I was going to look for a girl, the last place I'd go would be a games convention!"
When I mentioned the meeting of Lana to a fellow at the convention today, he too commented, "That's a bit against the odds!"
The typical attendee at a Gaming convention is male (99%). Any girls that do attend are normally with one of the guys and feigning some interest for his sake. For some reason it just doesn't seem to be a girl thing.
Lana attended just to keep her sister company who was attending to keep her husband company (who was there playing in competitions and not with her most of the day anyway).
Still, it just goes to show. One never knows who God is going to have you meet.
Hooray for God!

Gunfight at the OK Corral

Jest one step closer Mister, and yer gonna git it!
Blam! Blam!

Today, the boys and I attended a games convention in Canberra. Amidst hundreds of guys playing wargames from lots of different eras, past to future, were a number of demonstration games.
We had great fun playing a Wild West game where each player controls one figure and roams about the town trying to get each other player. There was a little cemetery on the board with the sign "Boot Hill". Eric remarked, "Hey! We've been there. That's where we learned to mosey."
In this photo, Eric is the fellow in front of the saloon about to shoot James' character.
About six boys played and the two umpires stated before the game that there were to be no teams. I suspect they were concerned that our three boys would certainly join together. The boys carefully listened and obviosuly thought to themselves, "OK, no teams." as they started the game blazing at each other! The umpires were quite surprised.
When Peter failed to achieve an action or missed a shot he let out the exclamation, "Drat!" or "Darn it!". Pretty strong language, I know, but we'll probably overlook it for now. :-)

Catching Grasshoppers

How many can I catch? Peter is just racing!
The rest stops along Lake George provide a lovely view of the disappearing Lake George. (B5 shows you a view) We cannot remember ever seeing it contain water. It is like many lakes in Australia. Have a look at a map of Australia and you will notice many of the water areas have dotted lines around the edge. This means they are not always there. But they might be. It just depends on the rain and season.
Some rivers are also seasonal.
Alice Springs, the inland town about 1500 miles from the nearest body of water, holds an annual boat race on the Todd river. Todd River is mostly dry sand. In fact the boat race was cancelled one year when it rained!

James' finger is our size indicator.
Anyway, the rest stops had great amounts of grass hoppers which filled the air when one walked on the grass. So the boys had a race and tried to catch some grasshoppers as they flew into the air. Here is one they caught.

May they rest in peace

On the road between Sydney and Canberra are many rest stops honouring Australia's Victoria Cross recipients. The Victoria Cross is the highest award for bravery awarded to Australia's military men and women.
The rest stops are a marvellous idea. Whilst providing a place for travellers to stop and rest on the approximately 3 hour trip, they also provide fascinating information about those awarded the Victoria Cross.
Today we stopped at three of the rest stops to read the citations.
This one remembers:
Peter Badcoe VC

41400 Major Peter John BADCOE
Australian Army Training Team Vietnam.
23 February to 7 April 1967.
Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.

On 23 February, in Phu Thu District, Major Badcoe with complete disregard for his own safety moved alone across 600 metres of fire swept ground and reached a United States Medical Adviser wounded by enemy fire, attended to him and ensured his future safety. He then organised a force of one platoon and led them towards the enemy post. His personal leadership, words of encouragement, and actions in the face of hostile enemy fire forced the platoon to successfully assault the enemy position and capture it.

On 7th March 1967, in Quang Dien District, Major Badcoe led a company in an attack over open terrain to assault and capture a heavily defended enemy position. In the face of certain death and heavy losses his personal courage and leadership turned certain defeat into victory and prevented the enemy from capturing District Headquarters.

On 7th April 1967, in Huong Tra District, Major Badcoe was with a South Vietnamese company which came under heavy small arms fire and withdrew to a cemetery for cover. This left Major Badcoe and his radio operator about 50 metres in front of the leading elements, under heavy mortar fire. Seeing this withdrawal, Major Badcoe ran back to them, moved amongst them and by encouragement and example got them moving forward again. He then set out in front of the company to lead them on and when getting up to throw a grenade he was hit and killed by a burst of machine gun fire.

"Major Badcoe's conspicuous gallantry and leadership on all these occasions was an inspiration to all, each action, ultimately, was successful, due entirely to his efforts, the final one ending in his death. His valour and leadership were in the best traditions of the military profession and the Australian Regular Army".

(London Gazette: 13 October 1967; Supplement, 17 October 1967).

Peter John Badcoe was born in Adelaide on 11 January 1934. He was buried at the Terendak Cemetery, Malaysia.

Details on the others can be found at this very informative site: www.remembrancedriveway.org.au.

26 January 2006

We celebrate Australia Day

Our flag - displaying our history and geography
January 26 is when we celebrate Australia Day. This is the day on which Lieutenant James Cook claimed Australia for England.
Others had discovered Australia centuries earlier, but no one had felt it worth pursuing. They only saw the less hospitable Western coasts or Northern tropical jungles.
Despite some historical differences, Australia is quiet a homogenous culture with a distinct way of life.
We are very proud to be Australian and celebrated today by having a lamb dinner. Yummo.

25 January 2006

A night out inside

There were three in the bed and the middle one said, "Roll over!"

The boys wanted to sleep in a tent. Actually, under a tent made of blankets inside their bedroom.
No particular reason, it just seemed like a fun idea at the time.
Last night they thought it was a little cold. James rolled over taking their only blanket with him. Peter ended up hopping back into his bed and Eric was left feeling rather chilly.
Tonight they are using more blankets.
It worked well for us too. We gave them an ultimatum. "If you muck around you will be thrown straight into bed and no more tents."
"Yes Dad." they dutifully replied, "We'll be good."
And they were!

Fixing List styles

The scribe blogger template makes all lists, ordered and unordered, have a little flower. This is a pain if you actually want an ordered list to have numbers indicating the order such as:
  1. Good
  2. Better
  3. Best
The unordered list is fine:
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow
To fix the scribe list you need to replace the section called .post li with this:
.post ol {
padding: 0 0 .6em 17px;
.post ul li{
background: url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 0px .3em;
padding: 0 0 .6em 17px;

That works.
See these posts for examples:
Learning HTML (ordered list)
Family Roles (unordered list)

I'm learning new things every day.

24 January 2006

Maths Quiz

Everyone counts. Even Lana.

The immediate recall of basic maths facts is very important for our children to learn. It helps in all later mathematics work and is of great assistance when shopping.
We have created a Maths Quiz in Excel and Open Office formats which provide daily worksheets with 50 random questions for each of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division. The first column of the subtraction page is the answer to the addition page. This allows for quick marking. Each set has the ability to randomise each set of questions. The younger children do the addition/subtraction set as 10 +/- 10, whilst the older ones use 100 +/- 100. The multiplication/division is 12 x/ 12, but we are aiming to get to 15 x 15.
All the children gather around the table and Lana has a stop watch. The children have 10 minutes to complete each page. They should finish in a lot less time. Ariel finishes the multiplication and division ones combined in under five minutes. Between each page the children run around the block to get their blood and heart pumping and keep them alert.
We then keep the finished pages and each child tracks his progress in a graph.
This works for us and we thought you may find it useful too.

(Note that Lana uses this time to get in some cross-stitch!)

I have made some changes to the Maths Quiz sheets and discussed how we use them here.

Hello to all visiting from the Homeschooling Carnival. You'll find lots on this site conveniently sorted on the left hand side. Enjoy!

23 January 2006

Tempting, Tempting

Portents of Rain? Nope. Just teasing.
Over the last few weeks we have had hot days of high 30's and early 40's (high 90Fs to 100F's). Then we had lots of rain in a few days, filling and overflowing water tanks and cooling everything down. Then heat again.
Yesterday the clouds came over threatening (promising) rain. Four drops and on it went. Bah!

22 January 2006

Learning HTML

I figured it was time for me to learn more about how to create web sites and HTML. The best way to learn most computer related topics is to buy a good book and read it.
The Missing Manual series of books is a great series. The book I am using now is "Creating Web Sites". As you can see I have changed how this blog now looks.
  1. The background images have been changed to a marble look. A fine place for background images is http://www.grsites.com.
  2. The headings on each of the lists onthe left side are now pretty pictures rather than text.
  3. Some of the pictures now have a caption, border and white background. This was tricky.

As I can't show HTML without it being interpreted, I have a Word document here with details: How to Add a caption to Blogger Photos.

You can have a look at these posts for some examples of photo captions:
Family Roles
A Baby Pumpkin
Making Pumpkins

There you go. Now back to more learning ...

Updated: Aargh! Trying to show html code inside a blog post without blogger re-interpreting it is not easy. So I have created a document so you can see it better as it should be.

Google Ads can be interesting

On the left hand side there (<----) I have a link to some Google Ads. These are based on key words using Google's special matching algorithm. I have found some interesting links in the past but today's was odd. The links were to:
Funky T Shirts
Punk Rock
Punk Lifestyle
Punk Personals
Huh!? I guess is must be something to do with yesterday's pumpkin post? Normally the links make sense, such as homeschooling, fairy tales, and so on.
Anyway, the only reason I have the ads is because they occasionally link to something interesting, such as when they led me to some discount source of Lord of the Rings figures, or Homeschooling supplies I didn't know about.
But somehow I don't think I'll be investigating the punk stuff.

21 January 2006

Family Roles

Rose paying her rent
Every family has to organise itself in a way that helps it achieve its various ends. Whatever the background of the mother and father, all families need to address these ends, some of which include:
  • the raising and education of children
  • providing shelter, food and clothing for its members
  • getting to heaven
  • contributing to the wider community
  • providing for the future (parents, grandparents and children)
There are many other aims and ends but these are the biggies. Every family has to make a decision how they will handle these ends. In some cases the decision is to make no decision and just see what happens. Most families make their choices either consciously or subconsiously. Many base it on what their parents or others have done, whilst others decide to try new ways.
How you allocate chores, arrange for the education of yourself and the children, earn and spend money, the entertainment you choose, the ways you spend your spare time and even the clothes you choose all reflect your choices.
And children aren't silly. They can sense the contradictions between words and actions. If you say one thing and do another the children may pay lip service to your words but will act the same as you. Scary, isn't it?
Early on we realised we had to be consistent. It was no point promising a treat or making a threat if we didn't follow through. We became much more careful in what we said and the words we used - especially when driving!
As we tell the children that we are a family, we spread the jobs across the family. Each of us has jobs and we all contribute in whatever way we can.
From the time each child is three months old they must supply one smile a day. That is their rent. (Rose has paid well in advance as the top photo shows!)
The sleep of the truly exhausted

Luckily a marriage is a union of two people, each with differing and typically complementary skills. Each has talents and time to commit to the family and unique perspectives to solve issues.
When the children are younger, the bulk of their care is shouldered by Lana. However as they grow I become more involved. Recently I have been the one to put Rose in bed. Whilst she may fight sleep longer if her mother is putting her in bed, when I put her in she surrenders and falls asleep very quickly. Rose has turned a corner!
The children all have tasks including washing their own clothes, making their beds, cleaning the table and kitchen, putting out the rubbish, emptying and filling the dishwasher and so on. All help from the oldest to the youngest.
The children are with us as we help our parents and others in our community, how we are involved in various groups and the ways in which the world comes into our home and we go into the world.
In all these ways the children are learning our values and the ways we intend to achieve the family ends mentioned above.

A Baby Pumpkin!

Big things from small things grow. We hope!

It looks like the "Tickling the Flower" we did a few days ago worked!

Look! A little pumpkin is starting to grow.

Now we'll monitor its progress - along with the many others which we have likewise encouraged.

Tennis with friends

We don't watch Television and have little exposure to many different sports. This brief introduction is to explain the following discussion Peter (7) just had with us.
"Dad. I was at Grandma's house and she was watching a film. There were two persons, an Australian man and a German man, and they were playing a game. The Australian one won the game but they are still friends."
There you go. Mum was watching the Australian Open currently being played in Melbourne. I wonder if those two players realised they were such good friends?

A lovely quiet day at home

by Lana
I thought that I would share a story about what we did today.
As it is still Summer holidays here in Australia, the children and I were having a relaxing day. We were listening to the audio book 'The Angels Command' by Brian Jacques.
Whilst listening, I try to encourage the children to do something. Anything. They must have been listening!
I was stitching Angel of Mercy by L&L, Ariel was stitching EMS Sandcastle from the toy baby book , Eric was stitching a Knight on a Horse (a freebie from the internet), James was spinning around in a chair and Peter was stitching an Outlaw (another freebie from somewhere).
Clare was also stitching a group of balloons on 11 count. She only achieved about 6 crosses but it is a start. She often wants to stitch but I have to be ready as she has to check with me for every needle placement to make sure it is in the right place.
Oh and Rose was asleep which helped. A lot.

20 January 2006

A Great Love Story

Mary Ellen of Tales from A Bonny Blue House has a timely post about A Great Love Story. This is an appropriate follow-on from our comments on Taming of the Shrew.
Although Lana likes the occasional "Love" story - or as I call it a "Chick Flick" - we both realise the vapidity of them. I find them worse than mere piffle. They annoy me greatly.
Modern Chick Flicks portray love as only sensation, no thought, no honour and steeped in sin. If it "feels right" the shallow relationship goes into territory only married couples should go, and then breaks up at the drop of a pin.
Love is a cumulative thing. It grows with the little things accumulating, the shared experiences, the times when movie love is AWOL.
Dating without any thought to marriage prospects, and dating with any intention of going "too far" is terribly dangerous. Marriages of a lifetime are not often based on such frivolities and dangerous beginnings.
We are blessed with the loving relationships on my parents (43rd wedding anniversary yesterday) and Lana's parents married for the same time. At our US parish, the priest always made note when couples celebrated an anniversary. When one couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary he announced to us all, "See? It can be done!" I enjoy being close to these type of couples and seeing all the little signs of love which speak greater volumes than the external signs the Chick Flicks present as compulsory.
Love is in the details.

19 January 2006

Taming of the Shrew

We have been searching for a copy of the BBC production of Taming of the Shrew for some time. I suspect that as it is so politically incorrect with regards to the relationship of men and women it has been spurned in the US and Australia.
But we have success! At Moviemail-online in the UK we were able to purchase our copy on DVD. Naturally it is PAL and region 2 so can only be played on region free DVD players.
Lana and I enjoyed the tale anew last night. Subtitles have made a major difference. The first time we saw it some years ago it took us half an hour before we worked out they were speaking English. So, with ears attuned, we restarted the play and laughed throughout!
John Cleese
and Sarah Badel play a marvellous Petruchio and Katherine. Once Katherine is tamed, the two of them share glances that married couples in love share. You know - that glance across a room that conveys a story. Our children have often chided Lana and I on our "secret" communications.
This version of Taming of the Shrew started our interest in Shakespeare. Now we all get to listen and have interest in an author neither of us had read before. Hurrah for contagious learning!

17 January 2006

Until next year ...

Not long after January 6 (Epiphany) we packed away the Christmas tree, the nativity sets and all the trimmings. I forgot to post some of our new decorations given to us by some US friends as parting gifts. We were to open the presents just before Christmas so they could be used. Faithfully we opened them on the day before Christmas and all went "Ooooh!" and "Ahhh" as each ornament was unwrapped. The top set of hand carved wooden ornaments was from Grandma B - a feisty New York lady whose company we thoroughly enjoyed.
As they were reasonably hardy they were able to be lower on the tree without too much protective stress.
The next set was from Mr and Mrs W, a delightful couple who played the organ and organised the choir. There is also one for each of us, the birds being Lana and I, the snowmen for the boys and the angels for the girls. Being glass they were definitely higher up the tree!
Mr and Mrs W also dedicated quite a bit of time to teaching the Children's Choir. Although the children only sang at four or five Masses during the year, practice was held
every Sunday after the 11:00 Mass during school months. The children discovered that they could sing with the right encouragement and the collection of hymns were practically all beautiful classic hymns in a variety of languages.

When we were organising the hymns to sing for Christmas Carols here, Ariel and Eric mentioned the hymns they knew and the Mother organising the group clapped her hands in delight and included those hymns. They sang Silent Night in German and a few others.

Now they are all packed away, awaiting next Christmas to come out again and remind us of our US friends.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 3

The 3rd week of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Why Homeschool.
We're under F is for Family which is always appropriate!
I don't know how long this carnival will continue but each new one introduces us to more interesting homeschooling families. Huzzah!

15 January 2006

Making Pumpkins

Tickling the flower. Now to wait.
The pumpkin plants in our vegetable patch have grown over a large area, and look as if they want to take over the back yard. There are plenty of flowers, but the heat tends to scare away the bees.
Lana's parents have shown the children how to do the work of the bees by finding the male flowers, peeling away the petals, and then finding a female flower to transfer the pollen by "tickling the flower".
It works! A number of pumpkins have started growing and we are checking the progress regularly.
When one is ready we will be making pumpkin damper, pumpkin scones and pumpkin soup. Yummo.

13 January 2006

Disruption is not a pretty thing

I have discovered an interesting blog (nihilo) by a homeschooling family of eleven children - mostly adopted. They discuss the issues with homeschooling children adopted from countries that speak a foreign language. I was amazed at a new concept he has taught me regarding adoption in the US - Disruption. (Also read this entry) An adopted child may be "unadopted" if it "doesn't work out". This is called Disruption. Can you imagine that! Being adopted from another country into a new family and culture and then when you are having troubles settling in you are told, "Nah. Didn't work out. Sorry kid. Bye."
This is what the encyclopedia of adoption has to say on the matter.

Innovative Families

A key aspect of family life is working out how to do your own thing within the confines of conflicting resource allocation amongst the other family members. Most larger families have limited funds and homeschooling families also often have only one income. When parents and children get to spend lots of unstructured time with other family members and other families they come up with some great innovative ideas.
If children are out of the home doing structured activities all the time (such as school, sports, external tutors and so on) or are recovering at home they don't get enough time to try out their own ideas.
We have mentioned quite a few of these here and will always post great ideas when we see them. That is why we so much enjoy visiting other families. In our last trip in the US we met over 21 families and learned many new methods and ideas.
Some of the ideas we have discovered over the last few years include:
Down Under Flower Pots
Treasure Table
TV Guardian (US only)
Baby Sitting family swap
Backyard jousting
How to Mosey
Liquid Soap Extender (doesn't work but was worth a try)
Picking up little beads the easy way
DIY Knight Outfit
Protecting Fruit trees from birds
Ice Cream Birthday Cake
A bush cuppa
Tabletop Geography

If you know any nifty ideas, let us know and we'll post them here too!

(The photo above is of the boys pretending to be woodcutters with a chunk of wood they discovered.)

The B team are busy

The latest trip gave us plenty of opportunities for entries for B Where's. Lana reckons the funniest photo is me in builder's overalls helping our hosts build a concrete base for a wall he needed. Amazingly I didn't injure myself as I normally do when doing building type things.
The B Where's posts are:
B4 enjoys the summer at home
B1 goes a-concreting
S11 shows us her weird cat
B3 joins the fight against fruit flies
B7 sees a nice doggie
B4 verses the giant merino

Also, a special mention to Jonathan of Where's Jonathan fame. He is now wearing sunglasses too!

Down Under Flower Pots

Our friends had this interesting way of storing cut flowers. (They had the idea from other homeschooling friends).
When the children come in with cut flowers (normally way too short) they stick them to the lid of a glass jar with Blu-Tac (or some other sticky stuff), fill the jar with water, lower the lid with the flower attached into the jar, screw very tightly and turn over.
Voila! Clever use of cut flowers which lasts for a week or so and really highlights the colours.

DIY Knight

After seeing Narnia Peter (7) decided to make his own knight's outfit. Armed with scissors, A4 sheets of cardboard and duct tape (*) he created helmet, breast and back plates, shield, leg guards and whatever else he required. The sword he borrowed from our friends as we left his own at home.
This was all his own work using his memory as a guide.
After the photo he proudly told us, "I didn't smile because troops don't smile."

(*) Duct tape is like The Force from Star Wars - it has a light side and a dark side and binds the universe together.

The colour of Summer

Over the last few days we visited some friends in country Victoria. The 8 hour drive down happened to coincide with a 40C or so temperatures making the trip seem even longer. Pretty much the entire route was similar in colour to this photo. Brown ground cover with bluey grey gum (eucalyptus) trees.
They live some distance from the nearest town and, like us, use rainwater as their sole water source.
This photo was taken about 7 am with some clouds promising a visit. They did and we had rain of which no-one complained.
One of the first things the children did was ask to play in the creek. We waited until around 4:00pm after the worst heat of the day and they all rushed in.
Luckily some farms downstream had requested water to be released from the dam upstream so there was water in the creek. Although we didn't worry too much about snakes as the ground cover was reasonably thin, Peter wasn't impressed with getting nipped by a Yabbie (also known as a Crawdad in Georgia)
Even so they came out quite muddy and we washed them off with a hose before they were allowed back into the house.
Compare this creek to Coopers Creek (the green photo) we visited when we were in the US (here, here and here). This is at the equivalent time in the Summer.
This is one of the things we found so startling about the seasons we experienced during our stay in the US. The GREEN of Spring and Summer make an astounding difference in one's view of the changing seasons.

Unforgettable Fudge

We obtained this recipe from family friends in Melbourne and it makes marvellous creamy fudge. I tried getting a photo of the fudge alone but those hands couldn't stop!

500g (16 oz) Milk Chocolate (*)
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
50g (2 tblsp) butter (**)
125g (1/2 cup) peanut butter

Put the lot in a saucepan and stir over low heat until it all melts and then place into lined tray. Once set in the fridge cut into small squares and stand back.
You can add in sultanas or raisins and crunchy peanut butter (as we did for the batch in the photo).

(*) Chocolate - In Australia Cadbury's works a treat. In the US you could use Hershey's (we wouldn't) but you would be better using the Sam's Club Belgian chocolate ($1 a bar at Walmart when we were there last).
(**) shortening and margarine are NOT alternatives. This works much better with real butter.

11 January 2006

Homeschooling Carnival Week 2

There is another Homeschooling Carnival now up at On the Company Porch with over 65 entries from homeschooling families around the world (including us of course!)
These carnivals provide a great way to discover the huge variety of families sharing their stories from around the world.

10 January 2006

Australia is funner

Clare was having a chat with Grandma yesterday over tea. Grandma asked her how she enjoyed America.
Clare's face brightened and she replied cheerfully, "America was fun!"
"What about Australia?" Grandma then asked.
"Oh," Clare replied with a serious look, "Australia is funner."

A treasure table

During our visit to some friends in New York we discovered a table which had a glass top and a deep drawer. They kept all their nature discoveries inside - on view for all and protected too.
One of our friends here is a fine furniture maker and we explained what we wanted. He has lots of brothers and sisters and understood our need for strength and safety as well.
So we returned home the other day to find this beautiful table in the centre of our living room. It is made from a lovely hardwood and the glass top is 10mm thick with double laminating and balcony strength. Lucky for that as when we next had a look Rose was dancing on the top!
The drawer is hidden with the handle being only a groove underneath the base.
When I was taking this photo I tried giving the table a quick nudge with my foot. No way! It requires a determined effort to move.
So our collection of treasures now has a home for all to admire.

9 January 2006

A day at the races

This last weekend we went to the Bowral Agricultural Show. This is the season for Agricultural shows which normally have a variety of events such as horse and livestock competitions, gardening, races, entertainment, sideshows and a pavilion whereby all sorts of things are put on show and judged. It is sort of like a State Fair on a smaller scale for each town with a showground.
The Bowral Show was smaller than most and is just beginning to diversify from horse stuff with a small pavilion competition. We entered a variety of items in the photography, children's crafts (lego creations), cross stitch and cushion sections. The boys had Lego creations of their own design of a Mumakil (large Lord of the Rings elephant), and two Star Wars ships. They scooped 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize.
We all won a collection of 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes (no money - just certificates). It was fun putting things in the show and having our work on display. Also it means we can write in our school diary "Craft - Done!"

The top picture is the best we could do to get Rose with sunglasses, but pointing was just not on her agenda!

We also took the oppotunity to watch some show jumping and other horse events but most of the interesting ones were on day two when we weren't there. I was able to have a good test of our new camera which can take some fine action photos! This horse and rider was caught in mid leap with hardly any blurring. Cool!

Spotty Shaggy Dog

The stitch along continues.
As always you can click for more detail.

Lana is eagerly awaiting the next pattern. Can you guess where that part goes?

The Perfect Home

We have been having a chat with other homeschooling families regarding the "disasters" that seem to strike with frightening regularity in our homes. As many homeschooling families are spread far and wide a common method of understanding the inner workings of other families is via blogs, web sites, articles or email groups. There is only one problem with this method.
These sources mostly record the happier things in life. Like any journal, or even our own memories, we record the good things. If our memories were dominated by the "disasters" it would be very easy to become discouraged. In fact those type of books or sites have limited appeal.

We are not destined to have a "perfect" home. The home in which everything has a place, everything is in that place and the furniture, walls and floors are spotless and pristine will not be our house. "Home and Gardens" is unlikely to drop in for an article.
Thank goodness for that! Our home is a co-operative affair. All family members contribute to the cleanliness and order (as well as mess and disorder) and that is as it should be.
I have used the word disasters above in inverted commas ("") because they are really just the normal day to day disturbances of the plans we make. "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" should be the basis of all our plans.
In reading the history of our adventures in this blog we have mentioned many incidents which could be called "disasters" but in reality they are better described as growth experiences, or better still, "Shared Experiences". It is these unplanned events - and how we handle them - that make family life the adventure it really is.
The benefit of homeschooling is that you are actually there for more of these events.
Each of these experiences provides an opportunity to teach and learn for all involved. Staring a conversation with, "Remember when xxx cut his head, or yyy broke her arm" leads to the memories of how everyone handled the situation and even more importantly how it turned out OK after all.
(BTW The photo above is of our two youngest "helping" clean up the kitchen)

8 January 2006

Movie Etiquette

Once we had decided California wouldn't work as a celebration of the last day of Christmas, the children were willing to spend their own pocket money (saved over the last month or so plus birthday money) to see Narnia again. So we invited Lana's parents to join us and we all went to the movies.
Peter (7) is not used to visiting the cinema and so thinks of it as a large living room. When a question or comment occurs to him he just tells us. Loudly.
"When will the stone table break?"
"Their mum's staying behind to make guns because their dad is already fighting."
... and so on.
I sat next to him to encourage him to be quiet(er).
We were glad to be able to use our bus to take all of us in the one vehicle.

No Standing

Lana's dad seems to have taken the parking sign very literally - "No Standing" indeed!

Eric has now learned how to do this neat balancing trick too. It is all in how you hold yourself up using the pole with your arms locked against your body. When you get the hang of it you can hold yourself at right angles to the pole for some time.

A quick trip to California?

The feast of Epiphany (the coming of the wise men) is celebrated by the Church today (the closest Sunday to 6 January). The children had lamented that our 12 days of compulsory Christmas celebrations ended on Friday, but now figured they could celebrate one last time! "OK" we said, "How will we celebrate?"
"Can we go out somewhere?" one asked.
"Where?" we replied.
"California!" yelled out Clare (4). We probably can't get there today, but it does show that our geography table is working well!

Leap frog

When we were playing at the park, the children decided we all should play leap frog. "Sure" I said, "Why not?"
So we all got into a line and crouched over. The aim is for the rear one to jump over all the others until he gets to the front. Then the new rearmost player does the same. Normally this is a race between two teams but the children like to just see how fast they can move forward.
The problem is the varying sizes from little Rose to Ariel and me.
I had to help Rose over the others and the others had great difficulty jumping onto/over me.
Still, it was good fun!

7 January 2006

B2 wins in the spotting game

B2 is very quick to compete in the spotting game when we are out.

This lovely red bug gains B2 1.5 points and matches her top. A double bonus!

(Cross posted at the "B Where's?" blog)

5 January 2006

S7 shows us her Joey

None of the B clan were available so we roped in S7 to show us the joey they had rescued from its dead mother's pouch. The joey is quite happy in the converted jumper/sweater and is growing stronger every day.

We considered putting sunglasses on the Joey but felt it was allowed to exemption from the rule.

(Cross posted at the "B Where's?" blog)

B6 shows us a hanging rock

Some local wag decided to add interest to a local road sign. It was B6's turn to show us the rock.

(The weather was a lot different from the 45C (115F) temperature on New Year's day!)

(Cross posted at the "B Where's?" blog)

3 January 2006

100 Words you ought to know

The editors of the American Heritage® dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know. These include words such as abjure, lugubrious, deciduous, circumnavigate and 96 more.

To make it easy the Mental Multivitamin blog compiled a study list complete with definitions so you can use them correctly too!

Updated: Fixed a typo! It's hard enough knowing 100 words when they are correctly spelled!

Homeschool Carnival

Over at Why Homeschool? is a Carnival of Homeschooling. This is a post which links to lots of other homeschooling blogs providing for quite a wide variety of ideas. Bruggie Tales was the first post mentioned with our "Why we Homeschool" post.

A carnival is a great way to discover new blogs and web sites on a certain area of interest. Jump over and have a look.

2 January 2006

Tabletop Geography

Lana wanted to use some very nice place mats she had made but didn't fancy the idea of washing them every day. To solve this problem we purchased some medium thickness plastic allowing about 15cm (6") overlap on each side to place over the table and put the placemats underneath.
This worked great. Then at Christmas we had some special patchwork Christmas decorations which could now be seen but not damaged.
Now we have placed wall maps of the world and the US under the plastic. In a few weeks we'll rotate the maps with ones of Australia and Europe and so on. The children have already been announcing, "I'm having dinner in the Pacific Ocean", or "Pass the Idaho" (where the potatoes are). Whenever something needs to be passed it is referred to by location, not name. It's amazing how quick all the children are learning their countries!
In addition, as the maps are already laminated, we have drawn our trip routes on them. We have spotted the children tracing the route and commenting on what we did along the way and people we met.
Placing them under the plastic on the table top has really brought the maps into full use.

Procrastinating the good way

Paul Graham has written a fine article on Procrastination and the trick to doing the hard yards in your best work.
The key is to ask yourself three questions:

1. What are the most important problems in your field?
2. Are you working on one of them?
3. Why not?

So why are you waiting? Read it now...

(Thanks to Marginal Revolution for the pointer)

A hot and fiery start to 2006

Whilst we were sweltering in 45C (113F) heat with 50 knot winds and 15% humidity yesterday, bushfighters across NSW and Victoria were fighting many blazes. (The photo is from the ABC news site) Lana's dad and the other members of our volunteer fire brigade stayed near home and in radio/phone range. We attended a day to celebrate New Year's Day and the feast of "Mary Mother of God" with a bunch of other homeschooling families.
All awaited the cool Southerly which finally arrived at about 8:30pm. Meanwhile the pool was in constant use and plenty of drinks were drunk. Lana noted that "You know it's hot when you drink all day but don't go to the bathroom." Sweat was almost constant.
Last night we had some light rain and this morning fog. It was very refreshing to have such a cool start to the day!