Thursday, 31 March 2016

The last day of March 2016

Nau mai, hoki mai and welcome back!

{This post was actually drafted before Easter.  I had intended to post it before now, but, well, I didn't.  I've tacked on a little bit to the end to try and bring it up-to-date.}


Because we kept pushing history out, I decided that our lessons will be done in small chunks every day; or, at least, four days of the week.

We have watched the following over the past few weeks to conclude our Chapter 2 and introduce Chapter 3:

Neil Oliver is one of my favourites.  We enjoy many of his documentaries.

Watching this week:

Although I have the set of SOTW books, I decided last year to purchase the pdf versions, together with the student activity books.  I have printed out 20 plus chapters from the Volume 2 Activity Book at this stage and will add more as I feel like printing.  I placed a divider to the back and in that section are the test answer keys.

Another difference is that I am printing out our chapter readings each week.  I hand a copy to ngā tamariki to highlight what they think are important points (the younger boys in particular) as we read and discuss the text.  They then place their copy in their folders, ready for reviewing when they need to.


Tamāhine 1 chose to write a dialogue for her tarea which she had to present a couple of weeks ago.  I suggested she have some fun with it and use some props to go along with her story:

She also created this prop as part of her tarea the following week:

Following Easter, tamāhine 1 presented her La Asignacion de Investigar on La Isla de Fernando de Naranho.  I am very pleased with her effort.  She's definitely come a long with her researching and presentation skills.  Yet another sign of her independence.  That's pretty darn cool I reckon.


Tamāhine 2 is doing her very, very best with maths.  You may recall I mentioned in a post recently that I repeat many of the exercises (year 1 and year 2 levels)?  This means she doesn't receive as many "prizes," but over the last few lessons she's actually moved on to new exercises (I'm moving her through subtractions at the moment) which means she's managed to receive some prizes. :) I decided to take a screenshot of her latest prize:

She asked what kind of bird this was, so I took a detour before continuing with another exercise to show her a photo of a real one.  Cassowaries are native to Papua New Guinea, surrounding islands and even northeastern Australia.  So, we did geography by looking at the world map to see where they are found.  Interestingly, they are ratites, just like a kiwi (the kiwi being the smallest of ratities) - therefore it is a flightless bird as well.  So there yah go, more than just a math lesson, huh!?

When I first wrote this, I would say she really struggled with subtraction.  She's improved, but she's still struggling.  Long way to go ...

Physical Education

The other day week I sent the boys down to the lake for a paddle.  Although it was drizzling, I knew the lake would be relatively calm.  They decided to duct tape the Go-Pro to the kayak. (Whaiāipo won the Go Pro last year but we've never really used it.)  I'm glad they took the initiative to take it with them.  The following are some screenshots.  They actually videoed the whole time they were down there, but it's too long to bore you with that.

Tama 1 took the Go-Pro off the kayak and held it under the water.  Gosh, it is amazing how clear the video is under water.  The photo doesn't do it justice in the slightest.

Really pleased with the results of the Go-Pro.  It will be used for another assignment this week.


Review with tama 3
We have used Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press for a number of years.  It's ideal for younger tamariki.  I didn't have SSL when tama 1 began homeschooling, and I don't think I actually had it for tamāhine 1 either.  I must have started it with tama 3, but we never finished it.  Having another baby I let it slide.  (I found it difficult to keep up Latin when I had another baby.  It always went on the back-burner.  It just took too much brain power and time.)  I can at least say we've retained the songs in our memory banks, lol.  We always picked it up, but it was always the first thing to set aside when the next baby came - or if I just struggled with a new grammar point.  By the time we picked it up again, tama 2 had moved on with his older siblings to another curriculum.

Anyway, fast forward to our new season (ie  no more babies, so I can supposedly achieve more with a three-year-old in tow).

Tama 1 has progressed steadily since last year with his Latin.  He is enjoying it and at this stage is coping extremely well.  He enjoys his independent study which is simply fantastic.  My goal is to prepare the next two to follow this same route.

At the moment, I'm still reviewing with tamāhine 1 and tama 2 much to my surprise.  We've had a number of interruptions this term, so we haven't quite managed to get back to Lesson 20 (or was it 22? ... I'll have to check that ... uh huh, it was Lesson 22 ... we aren't quite back to Lesson 22, so I'm really hoping we get there in the early weeks of term 2.

Tama 3 is using Song School Latin.  He has grown up hearing the tunes, so he knows a lot of it already, but of course, it needs fine tuning.  At the moment, we are in Chapter 4 which is a review Chapter 5.  Tama 4 and tama 5 love singing, or humming the tunes.  They are picking up the odd word here and there.

Fix-It Grammar - IEW

The three big tamariki have completed The Nose Tree.  Only a few minor errors here and there. Really pleased with their efforts.  They are keen to commence Robin Hood, even though I asked if we should start it next term.  Hei aha, I'll aim to start it next week.  It all depends if we finish the EOY project for tamāhine 1.

Geography - Drawing Around the World - Europe

We are at Week 8.  Romania.  This is rolling along fabulously.  Tama 3 is always quick to grab his folder after lunch to do the next lesson.  As I say, they are short lessons and as repetitive as it seems, it is working really well.  I am so impressed that tama 4 can recall the names of the countries (we are up to the 13th country).

Something that's working for me

Having our own comb binding machine now, I have really got into printing and binding all the teacher resources for subjects rather than having them in ring binders.  So much easier for me to cart around. I plan to put stickers down the spine of the comb too because it's just like a ring binder; once you have too many, it's hard to know what's in them without having something written on the spine.

Considering we use a lot of ringbinders, space becomes an issue.  Comb binding aids to free up some space, which pleases me no end.  Although I have discarded some of the kids mahi kura, I am guilty of holding on to a lot.  Binding old work will help me with this hoarding issue.

Another thing I did is used the binding to make some note pads for tama 3.  At Christmas, Uncle Craig gave me two packets of A5 paper.  I hadn't found a use for them, until the other day when I was grumbling about tama 3 cutting up our A4 paper and stapling a bunch together to make a book.  (He does this frequently and oftentimes he only uses a few of those pages.  Grrr ....)  So, I figured if I put used the comb binding, he might like the idea.  It's working a treat so far. :)

I just wanted to record that - for myself really, but perhaps someone might find the idea useful.

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Snippets from this week

Nau mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

Monday, we awoke to a guest:

I didn't rush to find out who it belonged to.  He was happy to roam around and munch and just hang out with us for a few hours. By mid-morning we finally got him home.

Tuesday morning kura was interrupted with:

Going!!!  Going!!!! GONE!!!

Steel is worthless nowadays, which means the scrap guys aren't particularly keen to pick it up.  Gone are the days when they would come out and collect whenever they were passing.  To cut a very long story short, the scrap metal truck rocked on down the drive this morning and at long, long, last the van and all the sheets of metal, an old ride-on and an old quad bike have (thankfully) been removed without costing us a cent.  Such a relief, because whaiāipo knew exactly how much it was all grating on my nerves.

Within minutes of the scrap truck leaving, a contractor dropped in to borrow some equipment. By the time he left it was near enough lunch, so I headed off to make that while the kids finally returned to their mahi.  Because the morning had been such a muddle, I sent the kids to the lake after lunch while I organised their afternoon kura.


No interruptions, thank goodness! (unless you count mum having a long kōrero with the postie)

Tama 3 enjoyed making the six times table
It's important the big kids know their schedules well enough because Wednesdays, in particular, are our busiest days.  I wish I could spread myself to learn with everyone because I honestly do miss learning alongside the bigger kids for all subjects.  Although we learn many subjects together as a family, we now have three tamariki with total ownership with certain studies.  As wonderful as it is to have the children grow increasingly more independent, I need to work harder to ensure we all network our schedules to sustain that family learning time - even on our busy Wednesdays.

This week tama 5 (that's the three-year-old) has come to me seeking some mathematics. He enjoys hovering as I work with tamāhine 2 and tama 3. By the time I work with tama 4, you will find tama 5 has sat down awaiting his turn. This week, to oblige, I had him look at the pictures in the MUS Primer to count and then we tried a little IXL. This particular day I gave tama 4 an easy lesson so that tama 5 could join in:

As my long-time readers will recall, we use MUS and always have done since tama 1 began homeschooling.  However, tamāhine 2 reached a point where she struggled and it became evident we needed something else. I had a dear friend recommend IXL, so we gave it a whirl.  It seemed to appeal to tamāhine 2, so eventually, we opted for the paid version and I would hazard a guess we have been using it for 14+ months.

The paid option records your child's progress and a report is e-mailed to the parent. On occasion, the child receives awards, which is neither here nor there for me, because oftentimes we repeat so many of the lessons that it can take a very long time (ie days) before tamāhine 2 gets another prize. She was disappointed not to be receiving her awards, so I came up with a sneaky strategy which worked brilliantly. Luckily she is no longer fazed with the lack of awards, so I don't need to be creative about it anymore.  Phew!

IXL also has a free option which lets you do a good portion of questions before a message appears advising you have reached your daily limit.  The mathematics can be aligned to the kiwi curriculum when you set up your child.  They also have an English programme which works similarly (reports, free or paid versions etc).  

Tamāhine 2 responds far better to this visual maths programme, and this week she showed tremendous improvement.  My approach to her learning this year is somewhat different to anything I've tried in the past.  Without getting ahead of myself, I will, at least, record it is working much better for her right now.  We shall pursue with this method and hopefully enjoy more weeks like we've just experienced.

Ngā tamariki enjoyed their short Nihongo lesson.  I printed out Hiragana practice sheets. Once they are familiar with the strokes, I will change practice sheets. To begin with, though, I think it is much easier to practice with a large script. Our lessons may only be once per week, but I am sure they will all learn the Hiragana with correct stroke order very quickly.


Something we enjoy with tama 1, is keeping abreast of the US presidential debates.  We watch as often as possible these days, especially now that so many states have been voting.

Thursday we watched the Democratic debate on CNN.  (Certainly made a change from listening to the Republicans.)  Of course, I'm not likely to share my feelings about it all in this public forum, no thank you very much. We simply enjoy following the politics, especially from this super power nation.  And, I count that towards Government Studies, Current Affairs, etc.  Because it's playing in a couple of rooms, the kids can't very well escape it. (Even tamāhine 1 and tama 2 and tama 3 will occasionally stop to take it in and periodically ask a question or two.  We will expand on this next term.)
During the previous presidential election, tama 1 enjoyed his (extremely) in-depth studies of the American Government.  I'm so glad we studied it then because tama 1 maintains that same interest. He is more informed with what's going on in the political arena both here in Aotearoa and overseas than his parents at times! Perhaps political science in the future?  Hope so.


I had these four working with me in the classroom while the big kids were - wherever - doing their mahi.
Tama 5

Tama 4

Tama 3

Tamāhine 2

In the above photo, you can see tamāhine 2 is working on her reading.  We have had ClickN Kids ever since tama 2 was learning to read.  He's 11 now, so that's what? Five or six years?  He loved it and completed ClicknRead with ease (yay!) and then I tried him with ClicknSpell which he enjoyed. (I don't recall if we finished the entire ClicknSpell though.)  

One of the beauties for me with ClickNKids is that it is a lifetime membership.  You simply change a child's name and start all over again.

Not only did I use it successfully with tama 2, but I also used it successfully with tama 3 and he is now using ClicknSpell.  Which brings me to the photo of tamāhine 2.  

I reset her lessons when we started back this year because the break proved too long. Unfortunately, she had forgotten a lot more than I would have liked. (You can reset the lessons under the parent access, just as you do with Reading Eggs).

Her daily reading now is Progressive Phonics after mathematics, then either Reading Eggs or CliknKids in the afternoon following Geography. Whichever one we didn't do after Geography, I try my best to squeeze that in after kai each evening.  It all depends on the day, though.  She enjoys this new format and I am determined to have her reading (more fluently) by the end of the year.

The schooling that I am doing with tamāhine 2 now, would not be able to work if the three big kids did not take complete ownership of their studies (well, in all fairness, tama 1 was already in control of his, I just needed to get the other two completely independent).  It was either they took over, or I send them to school because I was failing my second daughter. And yes! I definitely did look at prospectuses of a number of kura.

From 3.00pm NZ time we watched the 12th Republican Debate.  Tama 1 and tama 2 sat in the lounge reading their science while watching, and I listened as I worked in the classroom.

As I was working my printer ran low with ink.  Hardly exciting!  Yes, that's true.  But, having refilled the ink, said printer decided to pack a sad.  No matter what I tried it didn't work. I've never received a message like this before:

We paid good money for this printer yet it's been a headache ever since we purchased it.  I mucked around for what felt like far too long and then decided to flag it.  The upshot of the printer failing meant I couldn't print our History pages!  Grrr...  As a homeschooler, we can't do without a printer for very long.  As a small business, we definitely need a printer even sooner!

With all that frustration, I decided to exercise and watch the follow-up discussion to the Republican Debate with the boys. Tamāhine 1 joined us once she had finished with some of her kura.  The big kids also made dinner to allow their mum to shower after exercising.

Friday night our family settled in and we enjoyed the final of Masterchef Australia 2015 (yeah, that's how far behind we are.  Typical.). I'm not a fan of reality shows except Masterchef.  I loathe any other reality show.  What a close race.  We loved both finalists and were thrilled Billie won.  We would have been thrilled if Georgia won too!  They were both very deserving of being in the finals. There aren't many programmes we watch on TV yet Masterchef has always been a hit with everyone in our family, and it's nice to blob out at the end of a week in mum and dad's room to watch something as a family. We don't do it nearly enough.


Took the printer back to the shop. I don't have time to have it fixed, so we bought a new one.  I wonder how many printers I've had over the years?  Nothing is built to last anymore.

Right, my youngest son is hinting I need to clean the house.  I said I was going to mop the floors and he's taken it upon himself to help mum with some extra chores:

My fitness this week.  I've run 16km.  A great improvement, but I won't be running any marathons soon.  Am I planning to?  No!!! Seeing as I'm unlikely to have another pēpe I just want to get my weight down to where I'm happy - hence no photos of me on the blog.  Hell no!!

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Anyone care for a muffin?

Nau  mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

Last night tama 2 made a large batch of muffins.  He iced them while we were all watching the 50th Anniversary of the New Zealand programme, Country Calendar, (1966 was a brilliant year!)

I was working in the classroom at the end of the show, when tama 2 came in and showed me:

(I wondered why he kept coming by my office area to use the printer and sneaking off without a word to me!  I like sneaky surprises!)

Hmmm .... maybe a small business venture?

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Is summer really over?

Nau mai, hoki mai, and welcome back!

Having enjoyed a lovely summer, we now move into Autumn.  Although the weather is still gorgeous the days are noticeably shorter, albeit 30-45 minutes either side of the day.

With summer drawing to an end, school has been pretty muddled.  I've ensured the kids get to the lake every day to make the most of swimming and paddling in the kayak.  And because this activity takes up a minimum of two hours per day, we aren't doing as much kura.  Although we are doing "stuff" I've just struggled to think about what to share without sounding more boring than usual.

Take History for example.  We're only just finishing up Chapter 1 in SOTW Vol 2.  The kids took their tests and they all scored very high.  

Last year I didn't have tama 3 take the tests, but for some reason I decided to see how he would cope now. He certainly felt daunted when I gave him the pages and I almost whipped it away saying he could leave it, but I stuck to the plan and pushed on.

It probably took us an hour as I read the questions and discussed every minute detail providing the best hints possible on the questions he struggled with.  In all fairness, I actually read the chapter aloud to tama 3 before we did the test to give him that extra edge.  I also did Google searches for images as I read.  These seemed to pay off because he did just as well as his older siblings.

      For the chosen activity, we decided to make the Cookie Dough Roman Pillar.  The idea is to have a crumbling Roman building.  So, tama 1 decided they could attempt making a crumbling Pantheon. It looked far more impressive pre-cook!  Let's just say, they enjoyed acting as barbarians afterwards. ;)

      We can finally move onto Chapter 2.  I've yet to vet this video for the younger ones but am adding here to remind me.  The second video is for a bit of fun.

      I'll also use this video to talk about the Celtic art:

      Had the kids not spent so much time at the lake, we would have covered it this week.  Hei aha.  We're not following a strict 12 or 24 week schedule for History.  We have all year. :)


      This is tamāhine 1's mahi from yesterday (Friday)

      The kids will gradually understand to draw the countries smaller.  At the moment we've only learned eight countries and they are concentrating on correctly drawing the shapes of the "islands" as tama 4 keeps calling them (shouldn't have started with Iceland - he thinks every country is an island now! Mind you, Aotearoa is an island country so no wonder he gets confused).

      Fix-It Grammar

      Completed Week 16 yesterday.  I'm doing this alongside the kids.  Mine is done in a hiss and a roar. I have one of the kids read out the week's sentences and I scribble in shorthand then quickly do my Fix-It.  And yes!  It does look completely weird having 'vb' or 'n' etc written above shorthand.  Pretty nifty code though, lol.  I've missed the odd grammar in my haste and keep telling myself I should try doing it at night when I'm sitting in bed with the little ones watching Harry Potter for the millionth time.  (Seriously! That's a topic within itself I think - Harry Potter.)

      Tama 2 needs to catch up.  He completed Week 14 yesterday.  Having their break to Ohope Beach with their uncle etc around my birthday, he didn't pick up his books without prompting, unlike tamāhine 1. She really enjoys Fix-It.  I see her picking up her folder as soon as she's finished her math each day. :)

      Foreign Language

      French: Tama 1 and tamāhine 1 completed their next quiz.  They both got one wrong, but they've grasped the leçon well enough and therefore move on to Unité 7 - Le Shopping. They learned about les vêtements et accessoires this week.

      We will either continue with this textbook and complete it this year, or perhaps move to a different format.  We have watched some free videos on YouTube on and off to supplement our textbook for the last two years, and in all honesty, I'm leaning towards taking a paid option and move the kids across to the video lessons.  I'll write about that when we do.

      Spanish:  Tama 1 continues to do well with High School Spanish III.  This is the second semester for both he and tamāhine 1 (she is in High School Spanish I).  We absolutely adore their teacher and the 12 weeks always whizz by far too quickly.  Being the second semester, I know we'll have videos to make again.  I just hope we have good weather. The last video we made for tama 1 we had to make in the rain.  What memories I have of that! LOL. That's when we were without a waka for a month or so.  We no sooner received the WOF and off we drove around Rotorua.  Rushed, stressful, but hilarious at the same time. LOL.  I sat inside the waka filming tama 1 (having instructed his siblings all to "shush, we're recording" and I'm trying to make sure rain doesn't fall on the camera!) Oh it was too funny!!!

      Latin:  Tama 1 enjoys his Latin.  If he doesn't have his head in Physical Science, he's reading his Latin.

      My plan is to start everyone else next week.  I have printed out everything for tamāhine 1 and tama 2. Videos will supplement everything.

      Latin on Mondays, Japanese on Wednesdays and German on Fridays is the plan.  As a general rule, when we have interruptions we simply catch up the following week. It depends on the day we're having.  Sometimes we might squeeze it in for 10 minutes before dinner, or if I can have the older kids do something with the little ones as I prep kai, then it can work out.  Otherwise, I don't get into a fluster and think "Aaah!  We're so behind! We better squeeze more in tomorrow!" It's meant to be a fun, relaxed learning of other languages and cultures.  I am introducing them to foreign language so they can become familiar and as they get older they can decide which one they'd like to pursue.

      Spanish and French our two older kids love and those subjects have a formal structure. Latin is formal for tama 1 because he loves it and can devote his time to studying.  When I introduced our 'informal' German, he became very interested, but at this stage it will remain casual.  If he wants to grab the textbook and have a read then that's kei te pai. This term we are only dipping our toes into these other languages to hear the different sounds, enjoy what we can recognise and make connections between languages, but that's it. Only 10 minutes per language per week.  Next post I'll record what we do so you can see how short and sweet the lessons are.  No stress.

      Mathematics - Math U See (MUS)

      Tama 1 - Algebra 1 - he just completed the test for Lesson 16.  Next week he will commence Lesson 17 Multiplication and Division with Exponents.

      Tamāhine 1 - Pre-Algebra - she just did the test for Lesson 26.  Next week she will commence Lesson 27 Volume of a Cone and a Pyramid.

      Tama 2 - Pre-Algebra - he has finished 6A and 6B.  Therefore he'll be on 6C this Monday. Lesson 6 is Place Value with Expanded and Exponential Notation.

      Tamāhine 2 - We continue to work through Year 2 on IXL.  It follows the NZ Curriculum and I struggle most days knowing she is so far behind her peers, but I can only take it at her pace.  Rather than race through the syllabus, I actually repeat many of the tasks to truly cement them in her mind.

      The other day I could see the look of dread written all over her face when she saw what was on the screen.  I could read her mind, "I can't do this!"  

      We hadn't even started!!!!  Then we tried the first question.  

      HELLO!!!  A light bulb moment!!!

      I wish I had a camera that day!!!  Her eyes went large with surprise at herself. She got it correct. Then the next one, and the next one.  Oh boy! I wish we had more days like that. She felt so proud of herself - and I felt the happiest I had for her in a very long time.  

      Every day I try to bring a smile and optimism, encouraging her to sit with me. Some days she just says, "I can't do it!" and that's when trying to think outside the box and find some way to make it click for her can be a massive effort.  So many days I will try one way, then another and then another. Yet, no matter what I try, she digs her heels in and makes it a thousand times harder than it ever should be. Eventually we get through, but not without an upward climb!!

      Having her at home, I know only too well her struggles. I know what she can do, and I certainly know what she cannot do.

      And I know, that if she were at school, she would be coming home crying every single day. Although we may struggle many days, I know I am the only one who can give her time and work at her pace. I would much rather she sat there looking at me bewildered than me having her in a school system where she would be ridiculed or ignored. 

      We may be miles behind everybody else her age, but she has a lifetime to learn.  It's not a case of reaching 16 or 18 and that's it, you should know everything within a curriculum.

      My method is not what others would do, but I'm not them.  I have to remain optimistic and persevere to the best of my own ability.

      (Nothing like a pep talk to myself through a blog post!)

      Tama 3 - Gamma - He just completed Lesson 16F and therefore has the test to do on Monday. Lesson 16 covered Multiply by 4.  He will commence Lesson 17 Skip Count by 7 and Multiplication by Multiples of 10.

      Tama 4 - We continue to work through Year 1 on IXL. He's progressing very well.  I have avoided skip counting, so having voiced that, I guess I better do it this week.

      Some last minute things to add:
      • The three big kids continue with TKD.  Their instructor broke away from the school they were all with since the kids began.  He has started his own school and our family moved with him. We remain loyal to him, because he has always held our family in high regards and spoke to us before doing anything.
      • Tama 2 continues his music theory - thank goodness he doesn't ask me for any help!  
      • The two bigs and tama 3 continue with art when they can; and 
      • Mum is desperately trying to build up her fitness but failed since the last time I mentioned I was attempting to jog.  This week I did a pathetic 10 kms.  What an absolute disgrace!

      Considering I didn't think I had anything to write about, for fear we don't do enough, I guess I managed to write something of relative interest for my three followers. :)  Well, at least I hope you liked it.

      Thanks for dropping by
      ka kite ano