Psst…

IMG_20141008_063428295Lauren beckoned me over to her the other night and made me lean in close, a glimmer in her eyes and a grin playing on her lips. She cupped her hands around my ear and whispered, “I can read some words now”. It was a beautiful moment. She was so proud of herself, so pleased at her progress – and totally justified in those things.

This morning, she set about showing me her wonderful new skills. She got out the silver box containing all the early readers, and selected one. She ran her fingers along the words, glancing at me for encouragement. We went over some of the basic skills of learning to read again and off she went. It was awesome. I love that she’s decided she is ready, that she is excited by the prospects – even if after reading through every single book she decided that those ones were boring (this was the same issue we encountered last time). I agree, they are boring. The extra words she added to the stories made them all better. It’s not just a whale, but a humpback whale – she wanted to know why they just said whale? And that shark is a great white, why do they only say shark? And the fish in this book aren’t just laughing together, they are pulling funny faces…

IMG_20141008_063440690It was an interesting contrast to me. I remember when Ivy learned to read at school and how she didn’t ask questions, never pushed past the story on the page or embellished, adding her own details that made it more interesting to her, and I wonder if this is a reflection of the way I’ve changed, more than anything else.

After she read the stories the ‘right’ way she went back and made up her own, adding things to her hearts content, and then passed the books on to Natalie who mimicked her big sister – I can see that they will be learning to read fairly close together if this continues, an unexpected benefit of having kids less than two years apart. Natalie never likes to be left out of anything, and Lauren is kind enough to want to help teach her little sister.

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Farm visit – Part 1

A few months ago we took some of our home schooling friends down to the farm my brother had just moved onto. They have a nice native ecosystem there to explore, and also he was happy to take them on a tour of the cowshed and demonstrate the process with the few cows he was already milking. There were 9 kids in total, and 5 adults.

Part One will be about our bush walk, and part Two about the Cow shed. There will be a Part Three at some point when I get the photos from one of the other mums. My brother is an avid archer and set up his little range and taught the kids the basics of archery – they all LOVED getting to have a go!

the safety talkWe walked down the track and through a paddock to get to the top entrance of this piece of bush. Sam gave the kids a bit of a safety talk before we headed in because there is a big drop about 5 metres to one side of where we walked – the children were to stay well back, ask for help if they needed it, and make sure to stay with the group. Here Sam is beginning to lead the group into the bush.

IMG_20140703_132506927We had brought along our book about fungus in New Zealand, and while the bigger kids tromped ahead with Sam, the younger ones hung back with me and another mum and we spotted a huge variety of fungus, and then found them in the book so we could learn a little more about them. I was amazed by the variety we found, but also really impressed with how closely the kids were looking for new types, and their deductive skills in searching through the book to find a match.

IMG_20140703_133020063 IMG_20140703_133011626Some weren’t quite as obvious as the images in the book, but we still managed to identify the majority.

I thought this one was pretty cool. We did see some less trampled specimens a bit further on, but I didn’t snap a pic of those.

Probably the most amazing part of our bush adventure was seeing a morepork! I think the parents were more impressed than the kids were (it’s just an owl, mum, what’s the big deal), so we had to explain to them that morepork are nocturnal, but also rarely seen.

moreporkI grew up in the country and heard them most nights, but I’ve never seen one before, let alone in the middle of the day. The photo doesn’t do this small, beautiful bird justice.

I heard something rustle a tree and then it swooped out of the branches and landed on the branch of another, about 8 feet from the ground and the same distance from us. It literally sat there watching us for a few minutes, not at all bothered as we crept closer for a better view. The kids were so quiet, and the adults were in awe. Gosh, it was magical. A gift.

When we’d all had a good look, the morepork swooped off, completely silent. Majestic.

Term 3 Swimming

Since beginning the term, we’ve managed to make all but one week of our new swimming session (and we only missed it then because we were all going to Chipmunks for one of our friends birthday parties). This regular time slot, swimming with our friends, has been amazing for the girls confidence in the water and every week I’ve been impressed to see them trying new things.

Ivy has stopped wanting to hold her nose when she’s under the water, improved her freestyle vastly and been enjoying lots of swimming in the deep end. She’s still working on mastering sculling, but she’s getting there. She’s also taken part in several sessions with a lifeguard and the other older kids in our group, learning how to do ‘safety jumps’. The lifeguards have been great since we’ve spoken to them about having time in the deep end, and it’s nice that our kids can splash around now without annoying any aqua-joggers.

Lauren has gone from being afraid to getting her head under the water, to being a little dolphin! She spends most of her time under the water now, learning new ways to move her body and travel. She loves to jump in and does so without needing me to catch her now. She’s spending time in the deep end too, though still needs my assistance – but she can get back to the edge on her own now which is awesome. The jump is too high for her to do safety jumps, but just last week her and a friend were doing their own version off the edge in the shallower ends. Love that they are copying what the big kids are doing in a way that is safe for them! She’s been a great motivator for one of her younger friends too, role modelling and encouraging her to go under the water as well and take some more (safe) risks. I have loved watching the two of them become so confident in the water over the term.

Natalie has been doing her own thing as well. She’s moving around a lot more confidently, and jumping off the side of the poo into my arms, and occasionally by herself in the shallower parts, though until just last week, was entirely unconvinced about a) wearing goggles, and b) putting her head under the water. This last week she decided to give the new goggles a better go and seemed to enjoy not getting water in her eyes as much. Funnily, it was after she discarded them that she decided to show me a new trick – putting her head under the water! I was so thrilled. She showed a few other people, and is feeling pretty chuffed with herself. I imagine that in another six months she’ll be just as active beneath the water as her sisters.

I wish I had some pics to share, but I’m always in the water with them. It’s lovely to see their confidence blooming and their skills growing – every week at least one of them has tried something new. We’re looking forward to the weather warming up and doing some swimming in the sea and rivers around the area – which will mean a whole new set of skills!

Minecraft!

minecraftThe game that everyone seems to love has finally arrived in our house! For some reason I’d been holding out until we could get a decent computer set up for the girls to run Minecraft on, and then it hit me that a friend of ours plays it on the PS3, and… well, we have a PS3!! So, I downloaded it.

The girls were beside themselves with excitement. We’ve had the game for three weeks now and I don’t think there has been a single day that they haven’t been dying to play it. And quite frankly, I have been stunned with how quickly they picked it up. Lauren struggled with the controls for all of a day before she got the hang of it, and they build SO fast these days.

The beauty of having it on the PS3 is that the two big girls can play it together, and we only need the one account. They take turns generating worlds, and are actually being really mindful of the other. I was surprised. Even when their friend came to play in their world, there were no issues. They ask each other before they do anything (Can I build here? Can I live in this particular building of yours? Is it okay if I add/change this), they never break something someone else has built – so courteous and respectful, which is wonderful! I actually think it’s improved their play outside of the game, because they are now more aware of the effort that other people put into things.

Anyway, I’ve given them free reign over the school holidays. They play for several hours a day, and spend a couple more watching minecraft videos on youtube (Stampey is their fav), getting ideas which they then take back into their own worlds. Lauren wanted to know a good way to build a castle, so they watched a video on that and then she went and made her own version of it. Pretty cool! The complexity of their buildings is increasing daily, as are the number of buildings they develop. Not knowing a lot about the game myself, I’ve not been able to give them any instruction and they are learning as they go. It’s wonderful.

Because I like to use their passions to help with home schooling, I’ve been kicking around some ideas for how we can use Minecraft to expand their knowledge even more. There are quite a few places online that offer lessons for homeschoolers using Minecraft, but I think because we’re using the PS3 version, and are in different times zones, that might not work so well. So this morning I broached the topic and asked how they would feel if we did some learning about different cultures and times in history, and then they could work on building villages from those times and cultures.

They thought that was an awesome idea! They are always looking for new things to build.

I suggested we start here at home, with a Maori Pa. I have heaps of resources from New Zealands history, so this is a no brainer. We have already done quite a lot of learning there and I don’t think it will take them long to learn the basics and design their own. The school term officially begins on Monday, and I’m dying to see how this plays out. Looking forward to sharing with you how it goes!

Long overdue catch up…

Well, it’s been almost a month since my last post and while we’ve been doing stuff, I have not been blogging! We’ve spent the last three weeks with one bug or another – colds and tummy bugs for everyone – and are just coming right now. Over that time the kids have discovered Minecraft, we’ve taken part in forming a group of like-minded home schoolers, we’ve been doing a lot of reading, and have finally come to the right dose/right type of medication for Ivy. I intend to blog more about all of these things in the near future, but thought I would simply start by breaking the silence – sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

I’ll endeavor to post more soon!