Friday, 29 February 2008

This blog has been awarded...

Thanks to Andrea from Heritage Academy, who awarded my Equip Academy blog with the "E for Excellent" blog award.

The award states that when you receive it, you're meant to award at least 10 other blogs. To be perfectly honest, I don't have time to read 10 other blogs regularly. I have four children and the eldest has just turned five, how on earth could I? (Don't answer that!)

So the only blog that I'd like to award with no obligation ;) because she has priorities other than blog-surfing as well, is for Rina's amazing photos and the stories of her life lived in such a different situation to mine. Rina studied with Jeff in his first year at Theol College and is now working with Global Interaction in Malawi, and you can check out her blog at jellybeans. Maybe while you visit her blog you can spend a few moments praying for her and for the people she meets and shares God's love with.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Religious Schools in The Age

My husband just pointed me to this article from The Age. It considers the role of private religious schools in Australia (highlighting Victoria) in helping or hindering social harmony.

I haven't read much from The Age before, so I don't have any idea whether its generally left or right on the political front, however this article seems to provide a very balanced consideration of views. One criticism is that it focusses too much on flashpoint stereotypical issues like the teaching of creation vs evolution, and sex/sexuality education, but this is balanced by the effort to present an Islamic perspective as well as the Christian viewpoint. This makes it clear that many of the philosophical and moral stands upheld in religious schools are common to diverse religions, and not just held by "those fundamentalist Christian nutters" as some would suggest.

And in the midst of this heavy thought I am interrupted my dd2 telling me ds1 has just flushed her undies down the toilet. There'll be more deep thoughts later, I'm sure.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

First day in Day Care

Samuel had his first day - well, four-and-a-half hours - of child care at Mercy Child Day Care today. He was happy when I left, and happy when I came back, and according to his carer, he was mostly happy in between, also. "A very contented and placid boy." And aren't I pleased? As soon as we got in the babies room and I put him down, he was off exploring. I think it helped that I took the bigger kids in to say goodbye and they wandered around the room looking at stuff; he quite possibly took his cue from their comfort in the new situation.

I was so glad to see, when I went in for an orientation to the centre on Tuesday, that the carer that I met is Christian. I know that Christians aren't perfect - we're just the ones who admit to being sinful - but it does help me to know that on Wednesdays, Samuel is in God's care through her hands.

I kept feeling a bit like something (someone) was missing today, but having Sam cared for so close to home actually made things run very smoothly. Although I walked out of Mercy 15 min later than I had planned, this was because we got there late, not because he took time settling in. We were still on time for BSF, and I was able to find an easy car park nearby. Hooray! Lunch with Jeff afterwards was that bit less rushed and stressed because I didn't have to collect Samuel until after lunch instead of immediately after class. Hmmm... I can definitely begin to appreciate the convenience of professional organised child care.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

So proud of my husband

Monday night Jeff's Theol College held its Commencement and Graduation ceremony. After the graduates received their degrees, the college made four awards. The first three were academic, and only graduates were eligible. But I am quite pleased to brag that, for the second year in a row, Jeff won an award which is open to all students, the recipient being the one who received the most votes from staff and students: the award was given for "Service to the College".
Obviously someone(s) have noticed that Jeff works hard to make the college a great place to study. As I mentioned recently, he's done several major woodworking projects for the college. He has also organised a supply of cold drinks and dehydrated foods for the students to purchase in their common room, which raised enough funds to buy an expresso machine for the students last year, as well as subsidising their end of year dinner (which Jeff has also had a fair bit to do with). Jeff co-ordinates a staff and student BBQ every term, and we host informal pizza nights here at our house once or twice a term with students from his year. As well as volunteering to help out with the odd jobs that come up when the college holds events like Ministry Matters, which he set up for on Monday morning.

All this is to say... I admire my husband's energy! (Although I do see the other side of the coin in time not spent studying or with us.) When I see how well he has served our college community over the past two years, I am confident he will serve well in the church community where he is one day employed.

Overheard this morning

Joshua: (most polite) I'm the boss of the pirates and I'm going to shoot something if you don't mind.

Anna: (matter-of-factly) I don't mind if you shoot [mumble] but I do mind if you shoot my dollies.

Monday, 25 February 2008

My very own carpenter

Not Jesus... my husband. Jeff's woodworking hobby started soon after we married and realised we needed some bookcases to fit our combined collection of books (which has since multiplied many times over). Jeff asked a friend (who was also the photographer at our wedding) for some lessons in woodworking and Jeff's been selling Batman comics on ebay to finance his hobby ever since. Jeff has just finished his first commissioned and purchased item, a secure box for students at his Theological College to post their assignments into. (Actually, we sold Jeff's first two bookcases to the couple who bought our house in Darwin, but that was after we'd had several years of good use from them already). Jeff has built at least four bookcases, the cot that all our children have slept in as babies, our change table, student and staff pigeonholes for the Theological College, a magazine rack for Jeff's stepfather. He hopes to be able to make me a desk one day, and his major dream is a new dining table and possibly even chairs. His most recent works have been getting more decorative as he has finely tuned his skills and purchased ever more expensive tools.

So here is his latest effort:
The darker wood is recycled jarrah, from a neighbour who was cutting down and throwing out the wood from their old verandah. Jeff removed bent and rusty nails, cut the posts into planks, which he joined together with biscuits, planed and planed and planed, and later sanded and sanded and sanded.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Pirate Party Pictures

My mother-in-law is a wonder woman! On Saturday we drove two-and-a-half hours south and Granny and Gramps drove two-and-a-half hours north from Albany and we me half way roughly between our homes at a small county townlet called Williams. Our motive? Some family together time at a birthday party organised by Granny.
It was amazing! When we arrived Granny had up a pirate banner but things just kept getting more piratey from there on. Joshua's presents from his grandies included a pirate dress up set complete with cutlass, flintlock pistol and hook, a wood and copper treasurebox with jewels and pieces of eight, as well as a Jolly Roger (a skull and crossbones flag) to hoist.
At the table we had a choice of pirate party hats and the kids wore pirate vest bibs. Then out came the food: mini chicken drumsticks attacjed with string to toothpicks to make "wooden legs", meatball "canonballs", half hard-boiled egg "ships" with sliced cheese "sails" hoisted on toothpick "masts", sandwich soldiers made from brown bread for "planks", smoked salmon treats for the pirate staple fish, and a little bit of salad and fruit to keep the scurvy at bay. For desert there were gingerbread biscuits iced to form "compasses", cupcakes iced with pirate faces, mini cupcakes with those silver and gold balls on them for "treasure chests". After all that, no-one had room for the amazing treasure chest cake, replete with pirate candles that unfortunately it was too windy to light.
After lunch, the kids climbed trees and rolled around on the grass with Dad and Granny.Samuel was tottering everywhere at once, and Gramps was pretty impressed at how he's improved since Christmas. It was an amazing day, and we were exhausted heading off for the long drive home. The only thing I regret is that we were so excited from the moment we got out of the car that we forgot to put on any sunburn cream, and the wind kept us from noticing how sunburnt we were all getting.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Excursions are exhausting

On Friday I took the kids to visit Scitech, the hands-on science museum here in Perth, during their "Toddler Week". It was a complete madhouse! Hundreds of toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners, not to mention their frazzled mummies and daddies, with five rooms of exhibits to see, watch and touch or play with. And in the midst of it I was trying to keep tabs on four fast kids, the tallest of whom is only 110cm, who do not have matching homeschool tshirts yet! I met up with My homeschooling friend Mrs T and her five kids (the smallest is a baby, so at least she was one child who could be guaranteed not to wander off), and we also caught up with Mrs E from our mum's group with her four homeschoolers (including twins, most disconcerting when counting heads).

One of the highlights was the bubble show, a demonstration of balloons and soap bubbles which held the kids' fascination for at least a quarter of an hour. Mrs T & I sat up the back of the open space but our kids all took themselves down the front. Joshua was picked as a volunteer for one demo and when asked his name, did he say nicely and politely, "My name is Joshua J*****", as he's been taught? No. "I'm Rescue Man!" he declared proudly, to much laughter from the audience. Joshua's friend D stood up then to explain he does have a normal name, but the presenter was content to speak to "Rescue Man". I never thought I'd be the parent of one of those quirky children who introduces themselves by some made-up name, or has imaginary friends... but I guess that's the price one has to pay when one actually reads aloud to their kids(!) and they develop that terrible, scary thing called an imagination.

Another highlight was the room called Discoverland, which is set up all the time for 3-7 year olds. The kids particularly liked the physics section which had a series of platforms accessed by ramps with different slopes, with kid-sized wheelbarrows and several rope and pulley systems attached to large canvas buckets, all so the kids could hoist up pink bricks (made from that recycled tyre rubber stuff) to construct a wall. The kids slapped on their hard hats (even Samuel had a go at this one) and could hardly be dragged away.

We also watched a puppet show which taught the kids that even scientists get some of their most "creative" ideas from the Creator (well, the puppet master called it Nature, but we know who invented Nature, don't we?) Samuel was too tired to pay attention but Abigail and Anna appreciated the puppets and Joshua keeps asking me more about burrs and velcro and the sound it makes that sounds like your pants ripping... science can be fun but it can also be exhausting.

So, being the exhausted mamma that I was, on the way back to the car (3pm) I stopped in at Gloria Jeans for a large mocha and (never again!!) I forgot to order decaf. I was still shaking 5 hours later as I drove over to the T family to babysit for their date night, and even though I only got into bed around midnight, my head was still whirling. It is truly a wonder I got any sleep that night. I must remember decaf, I must, I must, I must!

Friday, 22 February 2008

The brontosaurus saga continues

I was flicking through Joshua's copy of Imagine by Alison Lester (copyright 1989), and the "dinosaur swamp" had three sauropods: a Diplodocus, a Brachiosaurus and (you guessed it!) a Brontosaurus. Being pedantic as I am, I'm going to have to white out over the captions (and the answer page in the back of the book), but I don't know what I can do about the way the "Brontosaurus" is drawn, with that characteristic square-shaped Camarasaurus-type skull, rather than the Diplodocus-type skull that the Apatosaurus has. O dear O deary me.
If you're wondering what on earth I'm complaining about, read my last post. Unless you have absolutely no interest in donosaurs. Which is okay with me - I've about run out of patience with them and paleontologists and archaeologists and book author/illustrators and the whole lot myself.

PS I am posting this from a friend's house where I am babysitting. I'll scan the offending image when I get home and add it to this post then. ~done~ Couldn't make any science-related claim without evidence, now, could I?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

O Brontosaurus where art thou?

My Dad sent an email (and I have to credit him for my post title) sparked by some of the content from Joshua's narration on Dinosaurs:

Recently I have noticed the apparent disappearance of the Brontosaurus. When I was younger it was possibly the only dinosaur that I could name, and that would go for the rest of the population. Now you are telling me I had it wrong from the start.

So I did a little research. I read the "special edition for young people" of David Attenborough's "Discovering Life on Earth". At p109 it states "Apatosaurus [which used to be called Brontosaurus .....]". This suggests that it has been rebadged since my youth. Why?

For those of you out there who have been wondering the same thing, this was my answer:

I remember being taught something about this Brontosaurus issue in school. Joshua's dinosaur book answers this question very well (on p54) so I will quote it, with a few of my comments [in square brackets]:

Apatosaurus as called the "deceptive reptile". The name "deceptive" is well chosen due to the confusion its fossils caused. In 1877, Othniel Marsh gave the name Apatosaurus to a dinosaur whose hip and back bone fossils were found in a quarry near Morrison, Colorado. Over the next few years, more fossils of Apatosaurus were found, including fragments of a skull.

In 1879, Marsh gave the name Brontosaurus to an almost complete skeleton, found at Como Bluff, Wyoming, which was missing its skull. Marsh later reconstructed the skeleton of this "Brontosaurus", but gave it a square-shaped Camarasaurus-type skull that had been found in a different quarry, and in a different layer of strata. [This was a bit of bad science. A case demonstrating the proverb of the nature of assumptions.]

In 1975 [after Dad went to school and before I did] Dr Jack McIntosh and Dr David Berman convinced the scientific community that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were the same animal, and that Apatosaurus had a skull exactly like that of Diplodocus. [Perhaps the reason why Marsh was so hasty to name a second species in the first place had something to do with the cachet among the scientific community of having discovered and named two species of dino rather than just one - especially if this helped Marsh to successfully lobby for more funding for his dino discovery digs. I'm pretty sure this sort of premature public announcement happens fairly frequently in today also, especially in the areas of medicine and genetics. This paragraph does, however, raise another question for me, namely: How are Apatosaurus and Diplodocus different and will they too, at some stage, be recognised as being of the same species? (Perhaps males/females or skeletons of mature/immature individuals.) After all, the definition I was taught at Uni that is used to define species is "Individuals which are able to mate to produce viable, fertile offspring are members of the same species." Pretty hard to defend that argument on either side, I should think, when you only have the evidence of skeletons and fossilised ones at that. Consider the variety among the dog (Canis familiaris) species today! Yet some pretty unlikely mating combinations continue to prove that diversity of physiogonomy in this particular species is no barrier to the production of "viable, fertile offspring" aka mongrels.]

Since the rules used for giving scientific names to animals state that the first name given is the one kept, the name Apatosaurus stayed and Brontosaurus was dropped. [The problem with this resolution is that, in this case, the name Brontosaurus was and continues to be more well known, well, probably not among paleontologists, but for the rest of us commoners, at least. I'll probably be having a similar problem with discussions of the planet/non-planet Pluto in a few years with my kids or grandkids. This is a catch-22 with science studies: If you use old text books you read info that has since been disproved. But if you use very new textbooks, you'll probably be learning some info that will be disproved in a few years (or decades). And how to know which "fact" will be the one that is later "proved" to be "erroneous"?. This is one of the benefits I see in homeschooling, that I can point out to my kids that we don't know everything (!) and we probably never will (!!) so to test logic by looking for faulty assumptions and unfounded premises and ... generally try to make up their own minds if any given idea has merit or not.]

The confusion remains today as you can see by the "Brontosaurus" stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 1989. ...

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Thank You God for child care!

I am very excited and just a little bit nervous. BSF starts back up tomorrow and until today we had been unable to find a babysitter for Samuel who is too young for their children's program. Last year he spent time with a succession of babysitters and none of them were suitable for this year. I could just go to an evening BSF class, which is a lot closer and on a night when Jeff is home, but we really want Joshua, Anna and Abigail to be able to go to the pre-school level children's program, which is only offered during day BSF classes. They learn a lot, and it offers a structured social environment where they can experience non-parental authority and spend time with peers who are not part of their usual circle of friends. But what to do with Sam while we're all at BSF? I've been praying for the last month for a solution to this dilemma.

This morning I took the kids to the local park to play with Joshua's birthday rocket and then we walked past the Mercy Child Daycare Centre to go home. I walked in, asked a lady if there was any chance of a place for Samuel and - amazingly - she said, "Yes, actually we do have a place in our babies room for 0 to 2 year olds on Wednesdays. When would you like him to start?" You could have blown me over with a feather! This was the first and only child care place I had inquired at, and the media are constantly saying that child care services are at an absolute premium all over Australia. I should even be able to get the federal child care rebate to help with fees. God truly went in front of me as I walked through Mercy's door.

Now I just have to get over the shock of having a child in formal child care. None of my kids has ever been in formal child care before. Well, the closest was the creche at Theological College. I was filled with trepidation at the thought, but having things fall into place this easily does give me peace of mind that it is the right solution.

Monday, 18 February 2008


For the last fortnight we have been reading about dinosaurs for science. We read much of Dinosaurs by Design and also read through an assortment of books on individual dinosaurs that we borrowed from the library. Our two favourite fiction books about dinosaurs are Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs by Ian Whybrow, illus. Adrian Reynolds, which Joshua picked out at the bookstore on Saturday to spend his birthday gift voucher on (thanks Uncle Michael!) and Dinosaur Encore by Patricia Mullins, which we were given second hand from Jeff's cousins.

Of course, our time learning about dinosaurs wasn't all reading. This afternoon, Joshua had a lot of fun burying his plastic dinosaurs in a "swamp" in our sandpit, and then washing them off in the sink just like Harry with his Bucketful of Dinos. I think I overheard him saying something about burying them in mud like during Noah's flood...
Below is Joshua's first oral report for Science. The only bits I've added are [in square brackets]. I did help him with some of the names but only giving hints (eg first two phonemes) - he had to be able to tell me the whole name himself. I did do a fair bit of prompting with questions. Remember, he's only just turned five!

Dinosaurs are reptiles. Well, dinosaurs can squash you even if you are trying to be careful so just make sure you are careful. [Some] dinosaurs are predators like meat-eating Rex, the king of dinosaurs. Brains of dinosaurs can be big or small. Some can be clever and some can be not clever, like some can run and some can not run, some can run fast and some can run slow. Most dinosaurs are predators and they are extinct.

The first dinosaur fossil that was found was the tooth of an Iguanodon. It was found [in 1822] in England by a lady called Mary who was married to a doctor [Dr Gideon Mantell], who liked finding fossils. Sometimes fossils are of bones and some fossils are found in jumbled heaps like they were tossed around. [In 1840 Sir Richard Owen] thought the fossilised animals should have a new name and he called them “Dinosaurs” which means “terrible lizards”. [In 1877] some miners in a coal mine in Belgium in Europe found fossilised Iguanodon bones. They found lots of Iguanodon bones, of more than 30 Iguanodons.

Some dinosaurs have horns. Some of these are called Triceratops and Styracosaurus.

Some dinosaurs have plates on their tails and backs, and some have spikes on the end of their tails to smash meat-eating dinosaurs. Some of these are called Stegosaurus, Kentrosaurus and Tuojiangosaurus, which was found in China.

Some dinosaurs have armour. Some of them are called Ankylosaurus and Polacanthus. Ankylosaurs have a club on their tail and they have spikes all over their back and what’s under the spikes is thick skin like armour. They smash predators with their tail.

The duck-billed dinosaurs include Edmontosaurus and Parasaurolophus. Their fossils were found in North America.

Tyrannosaurus rex stood on two legs.

The biggest dinosaur was Seismosaurus. Long dinosaurs included Diplodocus, Apatosaurus [also sometimes called Brontosaurus by mistake] and Brachiosaurus, which was tall.

Pterodactyls were flying dinosaurs. They flew up in the sky and you couldn’t catch them because they were so fast and high. Scientists used to think they jumped off cliffs, but they could fly like birds. A big flying dinosaur from North America was the Quetzalcoatlus, which was very big.

Well, I think you’ve learnt enough now.

Weekly Report 2008:7

We had a busy week last week with Samuel sick. He's almost finished his antibiotics now and getting a lot better - he's even smiling at me again now. We kept up with the basic academics but got a bit "behind the plan" in some things. That's fine, we'll catch up some time, and besides, this is only 5yo kindergarten. One of the best benefits of homeschooling is that our family is able to spend time caring for each other. We did a lot of that with Sam this week. He got lots of cuddles from everyone, whenever he was feeling good enough to stand them. And I used a lot of head-space just keeping track of the doses and timing of all his medication.

Joshua did manage some "natural learning", experimenting with the physics of forces:Joshua built a tunnel out of Duplo just to act as a guiding channel for his Duplo arrow. I think it was mostly for the fun of seeing his arrow start at one end and blast out the other. He didn't manage to knock over his sturdy three storey house, no matter how many times he tried. And he did spend quite a while trying! I love Lego!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Rescue Man prepared to evangelise the nations

Joshua has developed an alter ego called "Rescue Man", as I've posted before. Rescue Man continues to develop new super hero abilities every now and again, and recently he's broadened his definition of saving people from the standard super hero fare of saving from emergencies to sharing the good news of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. He is also all boy, no matter what challenge he's facing:

This morning Joshua told me confidently, "Rescue Man knows lots about Jesus. Mum, do you know what Rescue Man can say? 'Turn back to God for forgivenness of sins and don't worship idols!' And sometimes he sleeps under trees at night and doesn't even go home to his wife Pollyanna Whittier..."

A word of explanation: Anna's alter ego is "Pollyanna Whittier", and they often pretend they're married. You can see a photo of her in costume here. Abigail has started referring to herself in the third person as "Baby" and often calls Anna "Mother" (I am still "Mummy" or "Mum"). I'm not sure what Pollyanna Whittier thinks about her husband sleeping under trees and not coming home, but then you know the quote: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news!"

This is how Anna naps

I thought since I'd posted Abigail and Samuel sleeping recently, I'd show you how Anna had her nap on Friday: She fell asleep reading her Beginner's Bible, and really looks quite relaxed!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentine's Day Tribute

Thinking over what to write in Jeff's Valentine's Day card, I realised how genuinely pleased I am to be married to him. It seems that each year of our marriage we get closer and are better able to express love for each other in ways that the other will appreciate. I am getting better at serving him, and he is getting better at thanking and encouraging me. I have noticed especially in the last six months since we have the luxury of regular dates (because we swap babysitting with another family), we are sharing more with each other and as a result are better able to support and encourage eachother in prayer and in kindness and sacrifice. I am so glad God brought Jeff to me!

Update on Sam

We took Samuel to the doctor this morning and it seemed that everything he looked at or measured had him saying there was something else worse! Sam has a very red and inflamed throat and soft palate (which explains why he didn't want breakfast this morning) and is getting a secondary infection in his right ear canal which already looks pretty bad, apparently. His thumb has raw patches on it because he's been sucking it so much while he's miserable and one blister which the doctor said was probably associated with over-hydration (ie too much in the mouth) but could be the first sign of Foot and Mouth Disease. Foot and Mouth Disease?!?!?! He checked Samuel's palms and the soles of his feet and couldn't see any other sores, so said that was probably not the case.

Then he said, "We don't like to give antibiotics to kids very often nowadays but this is definitely one case where we need to." So Samuel has to take Amoxycillin three times a day, but hopefully should be getting better by Saturday. If not, we're to head back to the doc on Monday. Also the doc said while it generally isn't a good idea to give paracetomol and ibuprofen doses consistently only the minimum recommended time apart, but to wait longer if possible, in this case because Samuel's fever was so high it needs to be kept down with regularly spaced analgesic doses rather than wait until he wakes from a long nap with a very high temp.

I was glad to get a doctor's opinion. And glad I didn't wait to see if he got better on his own. From what the doctor said, he wasn't getting better, he was getting worse. Poor little boy! And the other thing I was glad about... that I live near a doctor's surgery that bulk bills our whole family because we qualify for a health care card. The doctor's visit was free and the prescription only cost $5. Hooray for Medicare!
Samuel is currently sleeping peacefully. Thanks for your prayers and kind comments.

What I found when I woke up this morning:

Obviously, we had a restless night last night. Abi and Anna are getting runny noses and fevers, and Samuel has had a fever over 40 degrees (higher than my thermometer can measure, equivalent to 104+ degrees Farenheit) for the last two days. I had to go to Emergency on Tuesday, and we're off to our doc very soon. At the moment Samuel is listless and fretting, although he's more clammy than hot, having had lots of medicine at 6:30am when he woke up. Please pray for him and all our little ones.

Oh, and for a Happy Birthday for me! I think I might celebrate some other time, though...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Singing Sam

Last year I posted about Anna singing at the washing line. A few days ago Samuel was caught doing exactly the same thing, even though he has to stand on tippy toes to reach the winder.I love this pic because Samuel is growing up so fast and it really shows how much he is learning from his siblings. He loves them all and they love him as well. This morning when I was putting Samuel down for his nap, Abigail came into his room and he saw her over my shoulder. The first I knew of her presence in the room was his happy chirp, "Ab-bee!" It is funny to see his vocab developing around his relationships rather than what he sees and does. Joshua's first words were things like dog, but Sam says hello, Dank-yoo (thank you), Mumma, Dada, Ab-bee, Anna, Ya-wa (that's Joshua), and bye-bye. Also brrmm when he's playing with toy cars, and oh-oh when he drops things or falls over.

First day being five

Thank you to all who have sent and given marvellous birthday presents and made this day so fun for my biggest boy. He told me wonderingly this morning, "Mummy, this is my first day being five!" and I know he's enjoying it.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Weekly Report 2008:6

I hardly posted at all last week. We were busy enjoying homeschooling and not enjoying the hot weather but mostly I was caught up in reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell during every free moment. I finished it late last night and thoroughly enjoyed it; I'll do a blog review soon.
Joshua and Anna have each had one sentence of penmanship to copy each day last week. Anna has had a few individual letters to trace first then a short sentence with VC and CVC words, such as "Sam sat on a mat." I am coaching Anna in her pencil grip often throughout the lesson, but I know she will settle into it eventually, just as Joshua did. She tends to fuss when Joshua is at the table, but if I send him out she works much better. I was planning to have them do their academics at the same time, but now I am thinking I might give Joshua a short Individual Play Time (or playtime with Abigail, which might help her to stay away from the dining table as well) after Circle Time while I teach Anna, and then Anna and Abigail can play while I teach Joshua. I think I'll try this this week.Joshua has moved up a level in difficulty and has begun doing copywork, writing his line of text underneath my handwritten exemplar. This is a big step up from the tracework as he has to think about each and every letter as well as such penmanship issues as spacing between words. He struggled quite a bit through his first week, but Friday completed his sentence, "Percy is green and James is red." with only minimal fuss after he got past the capital P. The first letter seemed to give him grief every day, and I think this may be because he has less experience writing capitals. Sometimes he asked me to write dots as markers for the start, stop and turns of the pencil; once he has these reminders he does very well. Now that I think about it, I might give him example capitals to trace this week to get him started with less complaints and trouble. He does the other letters with much less fuss, although I am having to get him to re-do a few of his as because he prefers to write the stick first, and hence does not form the circle correctly or completely.For the first few days last week Joshua was reading aloud from Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman, but on Wednesday night at Bible Study I was able to borrow the first two sets of Bob readers, which are at a much lower level. So far, Joshua has read three including reading Sam (the second Bob book) aloud to Jeff, who was impressed with Joshua's effort. Even though the binding is fairly flimsy paperback, Joshua sees these as "real books" and he is very pleased with himself when he has read a whole book. It helps that they tell a simple, often funny story also. These books are also furnishing appropriate reading and penmanship sentences for Anna. I am hoping to move Joshua through the first set of readers at a reasonable pace (perhaps one review book and one new book read each day) because Anna read the first book Mat aloud today, with greater fluency than Joshua, to my surprise (and Jeff's). Admittedly, she had heard Joshua read it several times, but she'll overtake him if I am not careful, and I think that Joshua would find this depressing rather than a challenge, knowing his personality. My friend has all five sets of Bob books so I may borrow the higher level books as well, or possibly purchase them myself, since we'll be likely to have four kids using them.

Science and Geography
I'm blending Science and Geography into a series of unit studies this year. This has been our first week on Dinosaurs ~ Continents and Oceans. Last Saturday afternoon Joshua and I went to the library together and borrowed a whole lot of non-fiction books on Dinosaurs to supplement the dino books we already have. Joshua and I really like Dinosaurs by Design by Duane T Gish (from Master Books, which is associated with Answers in Genesis), I have used this to explain how fossils form and what paleontologists et al do with fossils once they find them, as well as reading some of the detailed descriptions it contains of a variety of dinosaurs. As we read about each type of dinosaur, we looked up the location of it's fossils on the world globe that Joshua was given for his birthday. At the end of the unit I will get Joshua to do a few narrations to summarise what he remembers.

Circle Time and Maths continued to go well. Abigail has begun to join in with our memory verses now and she is a champ at them.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Overheard this morning

Anna: (imperious) "Bow before me!"

Joshua: (determined) "Never! I only bow before the one true God."

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Abigail, the Bag Lady

Weekly Report 2008:5

With Jeff back in the house we've managed to have a social life as well as keeping up with our school work this week. The fact that it is the last week of institutional school holidays has spurred us on. Although many of the people we spent time with are homeschooling, I know that all of us will be a lot busier and have less free time from Monday. This week I'm doing a day-by-day snapshot rather than taking things by academic area.

A public holiday after Australia Day (Jan 26) was on the Saturday, we had a BBQ lunch with the our homeschooling friends the B***** family. I met Mrs B online, and she was brave enough to invite me and my kids to share regular playdates with her family last year. We've really enjoyed getting to know them, so it was quite strange to thing that this was our first opportunity to meet Mr B, who is normally at work when we get together. The kids loved a water balloon fight and our version of water pistols - cheap plastic spray bottles from the local shop. The presence of water, even in limited amounts, kept the kids mostly happy in the heat... and I stayed inside in the airconditioning catching up with Mrs B.

Was a regular day. We got our academics done in the morning and rested in the afternoon. Jeff had to go in to college to speak to the incoming students about the student facilities, but he was back by 5. The kids were sad to have him out for the day, and I suspect that this does not bode well for him going back to full-time study as of Monday next week. We did manage all our school work. This was extra, not sure if it qualifies as "Art":"Look at my dark forest, Mummy!"

Jeff went into college on Wednesday as well. He is now busy getting into prep for college. He's meant to have completed translating the first three chapters of Romans from the Greek by Monday, but Wed was not a good day. When he got home he announced he'd only just completed the first seven verses, Paul's introduction! To relax, Jeff took the kids for a few rides up and down our footpath in their home-made go-cart.
Samuel was very comfortable sitting on Anna's lap.

Joshua finished his maths for the week, with his last page of Lesson 2 from the Earlybird Maths 2A book. So far, nothing has been difficult intellectually. Some days, he starts the math page in the morning and needs to finish it in the afternoon before Play School is on TV. This has not been because of the mental effort, but the physical effort of neat writing in maths after doing his Circle Time colouring and reading/penmanship lesson, which means his hand gets tired. At the moment, I'd still like to keep all these lessons together in one hit rather than spacing them through the day, because I do think it is better to be doing academics when we're fresh and not wilting from the heat and it helps me to actually get them done rather than put them off. Anyway, I guess so long as I remember not to push him too much, and concentrate on whether there is a legitimate problem or he's just being lazy, it'll work itself out in time. A little homework never hurt anyone!I write extra example numerals for Joshua to trace on the pages which are principally penmanship, but he forms his numbers without this help on the problem pages. The 4 on this page was formed perfectly and correctly, and I was very pleased. I have been making him re-do numbers if he writes them incorrectly, because I don't want him to develop bad habits that will be hard to overcome later.
Thursday seemed to be hospitality day. Soon after Joshua finished his maths, the T***** family arrived for a loud morning together and another water balloon fight. Jeff and Mr T spent one and a half hours filling water balloons! At least our back lawn might be a touch greener after all this. Mrs T is officially starting homeschooling with her two oldest children this year, with her boy in grade 2 and her oldest girl in pre-primary (the same as Joshua), so we spent a bit of time chatting about schedules and stuff. Mrs T has already taught these two to read and a heap of other stuff, so knowing she could do homeschooling wasn't the question. They've just had their fifth child, though, so the dust might take a while to settle.
We also enjoyed a visit from one of Jeff's college friends for dinner.

Joshua finally finished his third Penmanship Reader, just in time to start the new one sentence a day copywork that Jeff and I decided I'd implement with him this year. Joshua is really looking forward to writing sentences that involve himself and familiar people, activities and objects.I went to the gym for an aqua aerobics class with another friend Mrs B*** (different Mrs B to the one above). We both put our kids in the creche and had a great chat in between leaping all over the pool. I was very glad to at last get back to the gym after hardly going at all over the holidays, and I've booked the kids into the creche for next Friday as well. As long as we can manage to get our schoolwork done either early or in the afternoon, I'll keep it up. It was very encouraging to be there with a friend, I hadn't realised how much difference that could make.

Jeff spent much of today with his woodworking tools out in the garage (right at the side of our house) and I am amazed he could keep at it in the heat. I took the kids for the short walk to the local shops and was absolutely exhausted by the heat when we arrived home. In the afternoon while the girls and Samuel napped and Jeff worked on his Romans translation, I took Joshua to the bigger, airconditioned, shopping centre nearby, and bought him Go, Dog, Go by PD Eastman for his first "proper" book that he will read himself. We also went to the library for some books on Dinosaurs, but I'll write more on how that goes next week.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Some questions from Wuthering Heights

I finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte this week and found it very confronting and confusing. When you pick up a mystery, you expect to spend your reading time second guessing the author, but most people wouldn't tend to expect that of a book some have described (oddly, in my opinion) as a romance. It seemed that each chapter brought up further questions and hardly any of them were answered satisfactorily, yet I was absorbed and not annoyed. I think Emily Bronte was an extremely talented author - one who could take me out of my comfort zone and yet not frustrate me by doing so.

I found myself asking just what manner of being Emily believed Heathcliff to be. Was he a man, whose brutal nature had been formed early by his desertion (for whatever reason) by his unknown parents and his treatment at the hands of his foster brother Hindley? Had his rejection by Catherine driven him from a barbaric childhood to utterly evil manhood? Or was he some evil fairy who cast a spell upon Mr Linton and perhaps Catherine also? Was he mad, or possessed or just obsessed? At different parts of the novel one or other of these possibilities presented itself as more likely, only to be supplanted by another possibility later in the narrative.

I wondered, why did the first Catherine become so enraptured by Heathcliff? Was it simply the blind adoration a lonely child has for a playmate, borne unquestioning into adulthood? Yet she seemed to have such a realistic understanding of his repulsive and cruel nature when she attempted to warn Isobella away from him. Or was that conversation itself merely intended to portray Catherine describing the most horrible person she could imagine, selfishly hoping that Isobella would give up her romantic aspirations and Catherine could have Heathcliff all to herself, while Catherine did not actually believe her own description to be true? (That is, was it a sort of masterful co-incidence?) In what way did she see their lives to be entwined, as she described thusly: "Nelly, I am Heathcliff"? Did she see in herself his cruel nature? And when she experienced fits, etc, towards the end of her life, was this meant to indicate madness brought on by her previous illness, or madness brought on by possession perhaps through her proximity to the demonic Heathcliff, or was it madness brought on by her own unruly self-will?

Did Emily intend this novel to be a testament to the power of nurture over nature, in the twisting of somewhat pleasant (or, at least, bland) people into barbaric and sadistic creatures? Or did she intend to show how the taint of evil present in only one person (perhaps from birth, given Heathcliff's unexplained history and parentage) can spread and infect others without limit? If this was the case (I return to an earlier question), did she have an understanding of Heathcliff as being of a demonic nature? Or was he simply orchestrating situations which made it easy for others to be overcome by their own humanly sinful natures?

Lastly, I wondered whatever happened to Emily in her life that she would write such a novel. Her poetry (at least, that of it which was quoted in the editorial notes) portrayed a dark and bleak view of life and a fascination with life and the afterlife. Was Emily really like this in person? If so, was this the result of her many illnesses, or the death of her mother and elder sisters, or her exposure to the sordid life of her adict brother? Honestly, my first thought when I attempted to hypothesise an answer to this question was that Emily must have been abused as a child! Because what other sort of personality imagines these sorts of people and situations otherwise? The very close friendship she maintained with her younger sister Anne throughout her life and the (questionable) biography given by her elder sister Charlotte would seem to indicate that Emily was not a monster herself. So where did the germs of Heathcliff and Catherine (and even Ellen, the terminally bungling foster-sister cum servant) come from? Were they nothing but figments of an immensely fertile imagination?

As I said, the novel inspired many questions. I wish Emily had lived longer to be interviewed by the press of her time to give an authorial explanation to some of these matters. Or that she had lived long enough to write other novels so I could at least, by comparison, obtain a greater understanding of Emily's own nature. Perhaps a sign of the power of this novel is that it planted in me a desire to know more - not of the characters, but of their creator.