Sunday, 28 February 2016

Happy Birthday to Me :)

Nau mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

I turned 50 today.  Yes, you read correctly. 

I'm a 50 year old mum.  My eldest is 14.  My youngest is three.  Five souls in Heaven.

The weekend was spent with visits from family.  My third brother came home from Auckland.  He's staying till Monday.  My younger brother took time off mahi and took the three big kids to Ōhope. Phone calls from my brothers in Aussie and Bahrain.  Out to the urupā to see mum and the rellies.

We all ate and laughed way too much.

The weather was hot and sticky!!!  Perfect end to summer. :)  Thank goodness for the lake!  Lots of dips and paddles in the kayak.

He pāti nui?  Kāore!

Since Thursday right through to tonight on Sunday, I've had something better than a party.  Surrounded by my family.  I love laughing and being with them above all else.

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Looking into IGCSE

Nau mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

Bear with me as I record my IGCSE research/mission.  Really, it's just a bunch of notes, but I've decided to share them here in case anyone is considering the same path.
  1. Joined the kiwi yahoo group (NZHomeEdCambridge) and the FB group - (Cambridge Homeschooling NZ).  Sought help by canvassing a few questions seeking advice - printed that out so I can refer to it.
  2. Read this page on the ACSNZ website and noted the school for our area. (Western Heights High School, here in Rotorua.  I rang and spoke with the lady who deals with IGCSE.   One of the things she pointed out is that we need a passport for tama 1 as ID.  I doubt we'll be sitting anything this year so I won't worry about that at this second but as a 'just in case' I'm noting it as a reminder.)
  3. Printed out the Private Candidate Handbook.  I added dividers to make it easier to locate Resources and IGCSE Subject Overview sections.  I also wrote the Subject Code Number on the table located in the Resources area.  Now I know what those numbers mean!
  4. The Cambridge International Examinations website is where I spend the bulk of my time. This link takes me directly to the Subject area.  Clicking on a subject, I can then see the Syllabus for 2015, 2016, 2017-2019.  I have so far printed and comb bind the 2016 syllabi for Business Studies, Geography, First Language English, English Literature, Geography, History, Mathematics Extended, Combined Science and Spanish.  From what I can see - and I'll need to inquire on the groups to be sure - Latin is not until AS level.  (I could be wrong). At this stage these are some of the subjects we're interested in, so I've printed them out to help choose which ones we'll start with.  Having them in print is just loads easier for me to read rather than too much screen use.
  5. Textbooks?  On the same CIE website, under Support Material are suggested textbooks.  Can also see a list of recommended text at the IGCSECentre web site.
  6. Purchase books from?  I have used Book Depository and TradeMe.  Also, I purchased a second-hand text from within the Cambridge homeschooling community.  I researched many other sites to see if they:  (a) sold them; and (b) were competitive.  Basically, no, they're not.  I ran into a glitch sourcing the recommended text for Spanish too because BD doesn't have it in stock (but yes!  I did ask to be notified when it's back).  As expected, nobody is selling it on TM.  I quizzed others if they had something to recommend and in response to my query, another lady suggested ¡Listos! which BD does have in stock. Have yet to decide if I'll get it, or rely on the list of vocab etc I found via Syllabus, past exams, revision material even for a while.  If we don't sit it November 2016 then I can push the purchase of a textbook further out into the year (ie  when homeschooling allowance comes in). Hopefully I won't disadvantage tama 1 with that decision.
  7. This is a link to online revision courses.
  8. Unfortunately the BBC Bitesize video clips do not work outside the UK.  They do provide links to other sites though.  I added one example to the Romankids Homeschool Facebook page.

Will we succeed in following IGCSE, or will we take the NCEA route?  Preferably not the latter, but it's too hard to answer at the moment.  Everything feels very foreign still. I've managed to answer some questions for myself, but these are some of the points I've yet to figure out:

  • There are Papers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.  Does the student receive all the Papers in one sitting, or how exactly does that work?
  • How many papers would be ideal this first year?   ...    Two?  ...    More?    ...    One?
  • Research assignments - how and when do we submit those?
  • Some exams have group activities ... ?? I realise there are options, so do I presume we opt for an exam question that is not a group activity?
  • Scheduling - any advice?  We work well with a schedule.  Could do with some guidance.
  • Tutors - when should I get in touch with someone?  Wait until we've muddled along for a while?
  • Ditto for Workshops.  I feel like we need to do things ourselves for a while before venturing to workshops - especially as they are in Auckland etc.

As at today's date, I have only purchased one Teacher's Resource (First Language English).  I won't even describe how it makes me feel when I started glancing through it!!

Purchasing textbooks via BD and/or TM is a must for me.  The cost of freight will make the price escalate out of control otherwise.  Although, in saying that, buying second-hand through Amazon can sometimes be a massive saving, so I'll continue to check prices that way.  Like many families, we are on one income, so it's important to be economical.

I would seriously welcome having a Cambridge homeschooling buddy!  How about an IGCSE for Dummies?

Anyway, that's pretty much everything I had scribbled down.

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A rainy few days

Nau mai, hoki mai and welcome back!


Rain meant we were indoors today.  More is expected over the next 48 hours, thanks to Cyclone Winston.

Regardless of the rain, our school day commenced with mathematics, as always.

For the first time in a very long time, tama 3 used his MUS blocks.  Okay, when I say used, I mean it in the sense of mathematical learning.  He plays with them often enough, (creating structures for lego usually), but today his lesson actually asked him to use the blocks to build the three times table.

Our rhythm seems to be that Geography follows the lunch break.

Tama 3 asked to do his Geography in the lounge.  These photos show the younger boys working on their freehand drawings of countries they have learned to date.

Tamāhine 1 worked on some art ...


I used the following videos with tamāhine 1 and tama 2's Science in the Beginning lessons. They will finish with Day 4 Sun, Moon and Stars:


Tama 1 has kept an eye on the ISS schedule for a good few years now.  As such, you will often find our family heading outside when the ISS passes over our neck of the woods. Because the younger kids are familiar with the ISS, they were able to relate to the next video also:


We finally began German. Their confidence was high today because I wrote 40 or so words on the board which they could easily figure out the English translation for. I then wrote up a dozen sentences. They successfully translated them all. :) The last things I covered was the article "the" and that nouns are capitalised.  End of lesson 1.

Perhaps you're very observant and notice I haven't added the trim around the chalkboard. Well, you'd be right!  It's annoying me immensely.  Maybe this weekend I'll get to the hardware store, lol.

The rain continues, so Tamāhine 1 carried on with her art today.  This one is not quite finished, but I asked her to hold it up for a quick pic nonetheless:


Tama 2 began making his own wall calendar yesterday, and by the end of the night tama 3 decided he would also create one.  Today he has been drawing pictures following Artventure.  He has drawn four, so only eight more to go. ;)

Fix-It Grammar is moving along.  We completed Week 9 today. Any advanced grammar I mention to the kids, as guided by the Teacher's Resource, but no one is penalised if they did not spot them. Correctly determining the required elements is all we will be concerned with and build upon that as we progress over the next few weeks.

We finally began our History lessons.  SOTW Chapter 1.  We watched the following video as I read Chapter 1 aloud.

Then we watched this next video:

For our activity we are making a Cookie Dough Roman Pillar.  At the moment the mixture is in the fridge.  Hopefully I'll remember to add photos next time.

We have a couple more videos to watch for next week to finish off, together with the test.

That's pretty much what I wanted to record from this week's kura.  

The weather has played havoc with our internet connection.  I was trying to publish this on Friday afternoon but gave up in the end.  The connection kept dropping throughout the day.  By evening I felt I'd wasted enough time sitting at a computer, so I'm posting this Saturday morning. At least we've awoken to blue skies and sunshine.  Yay!

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Mid-February - already?!

Nau mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

Couldn't resist taking a snapshot of the younger boys occupying themselves while I worked with the older kids the other day.

Here we are working on Geography.  Tama 5 insisted he have his own folder.  He managed to hole punch a few pages, so I printed out the sheet we were working on and he happily drew alongside -- then hole punched it a billion times, lol.

The kids tracing their new country.

{This week was very much a repeat of last week's kura, hence some photos so you're not bored.}

As expected, we didn't manage History or German because of the short week. Kei te pai,nē?  I could easily have squeezed it in rather than allowing the kids to go for a swim, but this is summer - and that's one of the beauty's of homeschooling.  There's only so much academics one should do while the summer sun is so delightful.  Besides, it provides life skills and exercise, therefore one cannot feel guilty of downing tools to enjoy fresh air, can one?

Perhaps you'll recall I'm planning to go down the IGCSE route?  Well, the main reason for this post was to record my preparation.  If you'd rather skip it, then feel free to close the window.  

Yes, the first few days I suffered information overload as I swamped myself in everything I could search via Google. (It's as though we're starting homeschooling all over again in many respects, lol.) 

You know how it is when you are looking at a curriculum, you're wading through the choices of books available to teach a subject?  Well, this is no different.  Hitting the search key after entering "IGCSE Extended Mathematics", for example, you have a selection of choices.  That's what I did when I was searching initially.  It wasn't long before I determined there had to be any easier way: Ask from those who use it!!  Which textbook to choose?  How do you narrow down the choices?

Thankfully, I sought advice from the NZ Cambridge Facebook group on day two of my researching.

By late afternoon, I was reading and re-reading replies to my queries, convinced I'd never get a handle on it all.  With a tremendous amount of relief, a large chunk of that information began to make more sense once I read the Private Candidate Handbook which I was reminded about on the Yahoo group.

(Sidenote: I printed out the Handbook and comb bound it, adding some dividers to help locate specific areas with ease.  I have the feeling I'll be referring to this a lot.)

Within the Handbook you'll find a list of subjects available at the IGCSE level in Aotearoa, links to Private Candidate rules, syllabus and past papers etc.  Having read the Handbook, it not only confirmed, but clarified a lot of the helpful advice I'd received. (Hmmm, that sentence is redundant.  I already said something similar above I'm fairly sure!)

At least now I am able to Google recommended textbooks without being left wondering if I'm looking at a good choice or not.  You know what I mean?

Two important points I picked up when searching:
  1. Check the syllabus for the year your child is sitting for any important changes.
  2. Look for Endorsed text.

My weekend was spent searching and printing Spanish-related resources.  There's only so much I can handle reading on the computer.  It's nice to have the syllabus and a copy of an old exam for me to glance at.  I will bind these, and hazard a guess I'll do the same with all the subjects we're considering.

The Handbook's recommended text is unavailable at Book Depository.  I made an exhaustive search to locate it elsewhere.  I tried the usual haunts and hummed and haaed whether to buy a second-hand copy, but decided against it once I looked at the Defined Content.  With the amount of years tama 1 has studied español, I'm confident he could do well no matter what text.  Ideally I want to use what Cambridge endorses, so again, I put the feelers out - this time on the Yahoo group (Yeah, I'm still not keen using Facebook for anything other than recording good homeschooling resources on our Page.) Anyway, one member mentioned the title of another book - and that's at least available on Book Depository.

My credit card is feeling pretty fit!  I've given it quite a workout, yet unfortunately, I haven't actually ordered everything I've placed on the Wishlist.  Blimey!  It doesn't take long to add up does it - especially the Teacher Guides.  Holy cow!! (I told you it was like starting homeschooling all over again!)  Me thinks it's time to sell some books to pay for all of this!  (Argh!! Do I have to? ....)

What did you do for Valentine's Day? Well, whaiāipo managed to work on our stairway, so that's getting further along.  And, he installed a second washing machine.  (Long story, suffice to say, I'm happy to have two, thank you very much!)  Then we spent time as an entire family at the lake.  No photos though - batteries went kaput on me!  Awwww!!  Shame!!!

Have a great week!

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Back to school 2016

Nau mai, hoki mai and welcome back!

Truthfully, I am thankful we had Auckland Anniversary last Monday as we started back at kura more fully.  It was a long week for everyone, but none more so than whaiāipo who worked a hideous amount of hours - even on Saturday!

Sunday should have been our day of rest which it was for the most part.  We just had Uncle Russell come over with a couple of the family's Velocettes for whaiāipo to work on. We also had whaiāipo's sub-contractor here for a about three hours.  The phone seemed to ring constantly also.

The week simply flew by, and I'm amazed we achieved everything I had planned.

This weekend is another long weekend - Waitangi Weekend.

(For my overseas friends: Until last year, Waitangi Day (and ANZAC Day) were not Mondayised, which obviously means, if it fell on a Saturday (which it does this year) - or a Sunday for that matter - you simply missed out on the Public Holiday.)

On the same weekend, the annual Classic races are held in Pukekohe.  We aren't going this year, because whaiāipo has a lot of mahi to do.  Maybe next year?  ... that's a fairly big maybe though! But I do know that one of these days whaiāipo will get the other Velocette going.  It doesn't take a genius to see he misses spending hours doing all things Velo.

Monday (tomorrow) is tama 1's birthday.  Fourteen!!!!

He received his birthday present already.  Whaiāipo picked it up this afternoon - a kayak. There was no time for a paddle today though.  Whaiāipo no sooner arrived home and dropped the kayak off before we all bundled into the van venturing into the city to the stationery store.

Kura went really well.  Tama 1 commenced the second semester of HS Spanish III.  I can't remember if I mentioned tamāhine 1 started HS I; four weeks ago now already!   She'll have to practice her current assigned literatura every day to really get the pronunciation down-pat as there are some rather tricky words this time, such as religiosas.  Actually Generalife was tripping her up the first few times we practiced, but she sounded fine when she practiced today.  She hasn't required my help with tarea.  That goes to show how independent she's become.

I must remember I want to go over the use of nadie y alguien as opposed to alguno y ninguno.  Actually, we could do with revising siempre, nunca y jamás. 

I find Señor Jordan's videos very helpful:

Tama 1 has certainly zoomed ahead with his understanding of the language.  I will even call upon him nowadays to listen to his sister recite, to check she is stressing the correct syllable.  In comparison to tama 1's literatura, tamāhine 1's is a walk in the park. Pretty amazing how far tama 1's come in just a couple of years.  I am quite sure she will be amazed at herself as she advances.

Yep! I'm so glad we took a step back with Latin all those years ago and commenced Spanish instead. Tama 1's understanding of grammar has just soared, which has reflected in his Latin.  He jumped in leaps and bounds last year.

I introduced Japanese on Friday.  You will recall I mentioned we will be going super slow with this language.  Our first lesson was so super slow in fact, that it was finished within five minutes.  We simply looked at ichi and the vowel a.  I explained a little about romaji and how to write the kanji, emphasising how crucial the stroke order is.  A little practice at writing and that was the lesson completed!  With everything we are studying, the length of the lesson was perfect.  Nobody felt stressed. It was just like having a casual conversation over a cuppa.

German will be introduced either next week or possibly be pushed out to the following due to the four-day week.  Like Nihongo lessons, our German studies will be super short.  To begin with, we will look at words we recognise in English together with learning correct pronunciation.  I'm looking at some YouTube videos to help with that, for example:

I feel quietly confident ngā tamariki will enjoy this phonetic language.  Tama 1, especially, will relish connecting the dots between German and his English History studies.

French recommences this coming Tuesday for the older two.  At the end of this semester we'll probably definitely head in a new direction.  There are three or four online sources I have in mind to choose from, but will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Tama 2 picked up his next Music Theory textbook.  I'm glad he's persevering with this and if he gets stuck, eek!  I'll no doubt be hunting on YouTube for helpful tutorials, lol.

Everyone is doing well with their maths.  I'm glad we didn't have too long a break with this subject. Tama 3, in particular, has forgotten a little bit of his times tables, which meant the first day or two were spent revising the eight and nine times tables.

Tama 3 is on Lesson 11.

My two Pre-Algebra -

Tama 2 is on Lesson 3
Tamāhine 1 is on Lesson 23

Tama 1 is back into his MUS Algebra.  He did really well with the online co-op, but at this stage we will pick up where we left off in MUS while I figure out a convenient time with his co-op group. Hopefully we can tee something up.

I have tama 2 and tama 3 using the IXL English for 5-10 minutes per day (the free version).

Tama 3 is enjoying his spelling lessons.  He even reminded me on Friday afternoon that I'd forgotten to do his lesson.  He's always liked spelling, and I certainly want that enthusiasm maintained.

Our first week with Fix-It Grammar was fantastic:
The first day we ONLY did Week 1, Day 1.  That was it.  By the time everyone understood exactly how we will be approaching it and then putting that into action, well, it was over the 15 minute time slot.  It took more time than I expected for tama 2 to grasp the concept properly, but that may have been my fault for choosing to introduce it at 6 o'clock at night, filling in time because whaiāipo was going to be working really late (he arrived home after 9.00 pm actually - second time this week!)

There are 33 weeks, but we have scheduled our lessons to move through The Nose Tree as quickly as possible.  If anyone shows signs of difficulty, we will slow down, but by the end of the week, the three big kids were comfortable with the system, and agreed we could keep the pace for the time being.  I have an older version of Fix-It which we attempted this time last year, or was it the year before?  Whatever it was it doesn't matter.  I decided to invest in the newer edition because it is split into six books and clearly laid out.  Here's a good video which includes a sample of work:

Tamāhine 2 is making progress with her reading.  The break did her wonders.  I'm surprised at how well she did in revisiting Progressive Phonics this week.

Rather than going back to Reading Eggs at the moment, I decided to try PP again because ... well ... I can't really explain why.  Perhaps it's because I used it so successfully since tama 1 began his learning all those years ago.  For some reason I feel compelled to attempt it again with her.  I'm trying a different tactic this time around though.

For a kid who needs regularity, she has accepted the change without fuss.  (Huge sigh of relief!) That's not to say I've ruled out Reading Eggs.  I'll probably renew her subscription, because it is very cheap through NCHENZ.

As for her writing?  Hmmm, that still leaves a lot to be desired, but compared to this time last year, I can see a marked improvement.  She seems to have muddled up b and d which she never used to do, so the break we had in writing has not done us any favours, more's the pity.

Geography is very short and sweet.  This semester we are:

I purchased the e-book version.  Major saving! :)

It begins with Iceland.  Everyone did a great job with their maps.  Tama 3 (age 8) and even tama 4 (age 6) produced brilliant work like their older siblings.

Day 1 probably takes the longest because we look up information and fill in the sheet.  Days 2-4 are map practice.

As each week progresses we will add another country to the map.  Although we only spent a few minutes each day on it this week, it won't be too long before we are all scratching our heads wondering the location of such-and-such-a-country and 'hello!' half an hour will pass which is plenty long enough.

This is a far cry from any in-depth study, but this term is all about introducing subjects with as little information-overload as possible.  I don't have the same amount of time to spend on World Geography by BJU Press like I did with tama 1, but the kids will still benefit.

To go along with our geography studies, the plan is to cook or bake some kind of dish from as many countries as possible.  We have included this sort of thing in the past, and is one area we continue to enjoy as a family.

Tamāhine 1 pushes herself experimenting in Art.  We also got back into Meet the Masters.

This week we learned about Henri Matisse.  What an interesting character.  I loved the way he painted directly on to the walls in his old age - and what about the way he did cut-out art?  Go figure!

Tamāhine 1 will put some thought into her art piece over the weekend.  I'm looking forward to seeing what she creates.

I have finally taken steps to really ask others about IGCSE.  Oh my word!  Talk about trying to get my head around all of this!  No, seriously!  I'm feeling like a fish out of water.  I also touched base with Western Heights High School to ask what subjects we can sit at their kura and what they require from us.

Then I asked for advice over on the Cambridge Homeschooling NZ Facebook group - as you do - and I am gleaning from the wealth of information one member in particular has kindly been teaching me. I am more informed but still a long way off from feeling like I have it figured out, if I'm brutally honest.

Definitely kicking myself for not digging deeper when I first looked into IGCSE over two years ago!!! Gulp!!!  Don't you just hate that?!

In the meantime, tama 1 is working diligently in Latin, Physical Science, English, Art etc.  I'm leaning towards trying him with Business Studies, History, Coordinated Sciences (that's what the lady from WHHS told me it's called) and some form of English.  I'm not sure which paper to look at for English.  If I'm correct, there's a couple of different English papers to choose from, so I have yet to figure that out.  I'm fumbling my way through CIE, as well as trying to figure out which books I'm meant to get.

What are we doing for PE?  Well, while it's still summer, we have swimming, cricket, the new trampoline and of course TKD.  As for myself I started getting back into a little bit of jogging.  When I say little, I really mean little.  I only ran 12 kms this week.  I cut myself a little bit of slack because every week I hand mow, but I don't have a fancy pedometer to gauge my distance.  It takes me just under two hours to mow, so I know I have a good workout.  Just a pity I don't know how far I've walked.

I'll have to scroll back up to see if I mentioned History.  Did I mention History?


Well, it doesn't matter anyway because we haven't actually started.  I know I mentioned we'll be doing IEW Medieval History-Based Writing to coincide with our SOTW. The kids will be keen to do some more hands-on activities.  Those are always fun, huh?

Hopefully I'll add photos from some of the science experiments we're doing next time.  It's very late and I've spent a lot longer than I expected in writing up this post!

Please note:  Any links I have added in this post are not affiliated at all.

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano