Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birth, death and life

Bit of a sad day here in Defying Gravity land. A family member has passed away. Pinkie, the albino guinea pig we've had since her birth died yesterday. Sniff. Well actually, great big sobs.

We got Wombat Girl a couple of guinea pigs for her 5th birthday (when I say "we" it was us and my brother and his partner - you know, the royal 'we').

So exciting!




Whitey was an albino (white with red eyes) long-haired rosette female and Sarah was a tortoiseshell short-haired female. Good! Two females, no babies! Unbeknownst to us, Whitey was already pregnant...and got really "fat" and then her tummy was moving and then there were five! She had three babies - two long-haired rosette boys (Tim and Reddy) and short-hair girl (Pinkie) - all albino.

Guinea pig babies are "fully formed" with fur and eyes open and walking, so by day 2 after mum had cleaned them up they looked great!

Tim, Pinkie and Reddy


Tim and Reddy

After about 5 weeks, we took the boys back to the pet shop "from whence they came" just before Christmas and we hope they found lovely homes. Now we just had three (not pregnant!) girls.

Whitey, Pinkie and Reddy

Reddy and Tim - off to the pet shop

We live in a small fishing village and every year we have a "Blessing of the Fleet" festival. When we had had them about a year, the kids school (I know, they went to school back in the day) had a "Blessing of the Pets" day and Father gave our guinea pigs the shower of a higher spirit.

Wombat Girl with Pinkie, Sarah and Whitey

I don't think it worked for poor Sarah and Whitey as they passed away fairly quickly from unknown causes (maybe heat exposure??). It was pretty sad, but we hadn't had them that long.

Pinkie had a close shave when Hubby let Video Boy drive our car around the backyard and he ran over her cage! (probably lucky that was all he ran into). So she got a nice new cage which we could easily move around the backyard to give her nice fresh grass to nibble and a nice dry clean patch of backyard (I am still amazed at the amount of excreta one little rodent can produce!!!). I have read recently they shouldn't be kept outside because of the temperature variations.

Wombat Girl adored her Pinkie. She would get her out of her cage and cuddle her. She bought a guinea pig lead so she could walk her. She came to visit in her room on frequent occasions. When Wombat Girl loves, she loves with her whole heart and she LOVED Pinkie.

Guinea pigs are not pets in other parts of the world - it just seems so wrong, but I am sure that is just social conditioning. They live, according to one website, on average 5-10 years, but according to most others, 5-7 years. Pinky was 6 and half. 

I noticed about a two weeks ago that Pinkie was getting pretty stinky. I thought she might have diarrhoea, so I moved her frequently and kept her water up. It did not improve. I Googled and decided to bring her inside. We put her in a container with clean, dry towels. Gave her a lovely big bath and dried her off. Varied up her diet and provided heaps of water and cuddles and company. Her urine was stained red (hard to see on the grass). Dr Google said a urinary tract infection or bladder stones. She seemed to improve a bit, but this last week was very skinny and not very happy.

We popped her outside the day before yesterday to catch some sunshine. As the southerly change came in, I brought her inside. She was so cold. I put a towel in the dryer to warm it up and gave her a cuddle for a couple of hours. She seemed to improve a bit.

Yesterday morning Wombat Girl changed her towel and her water. I went in an hour later to check on her and she was very still. Too still. Too cold. Our little baby girl had died, quietly, slipped away. Oh no! The tears (sobs) fell unchecked. Poor sweet baby. I took her to Wombat Girl and we wept together (I'm crying now as I type).

So this morning we buried Pinkie. I found an old shoe box (we don't need the dog sniffing out the gravesite) and asked Wombat Girl if she wanted to put anything special in with her. She got out a "medal". It was time to say goodbye. She had a good life with people who loved her. She was suffering and it was her time to go. She spent her last few days in the company of a girl who loved her. She is with Whitey and Sarah now (in the spot behind the shed). 

Rest in peace, little Pinkie. We will always remember you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ode to Joy - Homeschool style!

Oh. Poo. I had this FABULOUS blog post all done. Pressed "Publish" and up it popped - but some of the text was formatted strangely, so I went back to edit and "poof!". Gone. All gone. Poo. Can I remember my fabulous words (and pictures and links)? Let's give it a shot...(and press "Save" a lot, just to be sure):

There seems to be a lot of goodliness in the homeschooling air lately. And it's not just me! Helena at Loving to Learn is loving having their days to own, and to fill with joy and learning. Sounds nice, huh? And over at Our Journey 'Round the Mulberry Bush they have been so happy with the changes in their lives and the real, retained learning that is happening there. And my friend who emailed me to say "What a joy to just be able to continue on, and not be haltered by any artificial limitation and that he is enjoying some learning". What a joy indeed:

Reading and puzzles


Making mudpies

Minecraft buddies

Types of clouds (this one's a cirrus)

Rebuilding a PC (with a Dad's help)

Grammar and a blanket

Inserting a wireless card (with a brother's help)

Setting up a Minecraft server

Turning old school writing (check out all the red pen and scribble)

into new, interesting research on Corroboree Frogs (and smiling about it!)

Asking about latitude, longitude and the International Date Line

and a brother would like to know too

Google Maps, atlases, drawing maps, and Google Earth

Some acid-base chemistry

More Minecraft with friends (via Skype)

And also Vi Hart on Pi and Shakespeare (in iambic pentameter):

And Light Fantastic - Light, the Universe and Everything:

And Two on the Great Divide:

Oh yes, much joy! And deep, meaningful, relevant and useful learning. In a safe and respectful environment. Not everyone gets to say that. But we do - just about every day. How good is that?! And just about all of the above came from them - not me telling them what to do, but from questions or want-to-learn-abouts or just living.

Yep. Home's a pretty great place to be!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Variation on a Theme...

It's school holidays here. But Hubby and Video Boy have been sick (with a cold that refuses to leave the premises) and then the rain has set in, so it's been a bit blah. There has been much YouTube watching and Minecraft playing.

But Wombat Girl has also been playing and practising her keyboard. She ebbs and flows with it a little. Right now is a flow time (well, that sounds a bit odd, but you know what I mean). Spare moments in the day have been taken up with learning new music and practising older pieces. Our local homeschooling friends have acquired a baby grand piano, and it was so lovely to go visit and have the opportunity of playing on it!

A little while ago, I printed out Carter Burwell's Bella's Lullaby from Twilight (from Music Notes). It was something I thought I might be able to figure out, but it's way beyond my limited capabilities. But Wombat Girl discovered it and has been very persistent working it out and trying to coordinate chords and melody (I have video of her playing the grand piano, but it wouldn't this is her this morning)

She it getting there! I'll post another video when she has it perfected.

Meanwhile, I've been having fun trolling iTunes for lots of lovely new music and making playlists on my iPod (and errrr, getting frowns from Hubby for spending money...oh well). But I thought I'd share some of my favourites pieces of piano music:

Scott Joplin, who most will recognise as the composer of the Entertainer (in The Sting and for Aussies, Paul Hogan) wrote so much more! Solace (A Mexican Seranade), and is my all-time absolute favourite from him.  It is hauntingly beautiful...

A long time ago now, I watched Man From Snowy River - a movie adaptation of the famous Banjo Patterson poem, starring a very young, very handsome Tom Burlinson....oh, sorry, where was I? (BTW, Tom Burlinson also sings and his voice bears a strong resemblance to Frank Sinatra - and he is currently on tour!):

Anyhoo, Bruce Rowland wrote the score for the movie and it included the very beautiful Jessica's Theme (Breaking in the Colt) where they fall in luurrvve....and is a beautiful piece many budding pianists attempt:

One of my absolute favourite pieces of music of all time is "January Stars" by George Winston. I first came across it watching ice-dancers Torvill and Dean in 1984 (yes, I am old). It took me many years before I found out who composed it and then got myself a copy on CD (Winter Into Spring - gorgeous stuff - and now I even own it on vinyl, despite not having a turntable...sad, I know!) - see how difficult life was without the internet? The choreography is so beautiful and effortless and the music is haunting:

Another favourite of mine going back to the 80's is the mini-series Anne of Green Gables. Oh! How I loved Anne! And Gilbert...but I digress again. I also loved the soundtrack (composed by Hagood Hardy) and managed to track down a copy...

And finally I have shared with you the music of Kelsey James before ( "Whistle If You Need Me" - scroll down to the Learn video at the bottom), but in keeping with my last blog post theme of travel and learning, here is Move, with Kelsey's "Play On" (and any time they need someone to go film those videos, I'm available!!)

I am in awe of the beautiful music able to be created from just 88 keys (and 12 notes). Wombat Girl is only just starting on her musical journey, but I know music will be part of her life (and mine) forever.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Another day in the big world...

Linking up again with Stephanie's Ordinary Life Magic's Unschooling Tools. This week's theme is "About Town".

A huge advantage of homeschooling over school-schooling is that we learn not just in our "classrooms", but in the wider community as well (which is much harder to achieve when as a teacher you have 30 kids in your care - believe me!).

Well, for sure, we spend a lot of time at our desk.

Which currently is not as neat...

And dining table. And loungeroom. And kitchen. And backyard. But yanno, I try not to keep the kids locked up in the cupboard under the stairs too much...they get kinda antsy when I do that!

We live in a small-ish seaside town a few hours south of Sydney, Australia. We are very lucky, for given it's small-ish size, it has a lot to offer:

Indoor pool (and outdoor Olympic sized pool and gym)

Harbour complete with Permian fossils

Oval for dog running (and apparently, football, soccer and cricket)

Run/walk paths next to stunning beaches
More beaches....more geology, biology, physics etc

...and yet more fabulous beaches for running, swimming, playing

Not too shabby, hey?  And if you felt so inclined (which we have done at various times, or may do in the future) we also have:
  • library (and chess club)
  • gymnastics club
  • karate club
  • scouts/guides
  • tennis courts
  • ballet/jazz/tap/contemporary/hip hop dancing schools
  • physical culture club
  • drama class
  • circus school! (yes, really!)
  • golf courses
  • squash courts
  • bowling alley
  • art and craft lessons
  • music lessons
  • movie theatre
  • musical theatre groups
  • art galleries

And even everyday events like banking and shopping turn into learning opportunities:

Learning about the eye and focal lengths at the optometrist
  • local courthouse
  • policestation
  • firestation
  • Local Council offices
  • marine rescue
  • fishing co-op
  • bank
  • hospital
  • supermarket 
and any other public and/or private entity in town to see how they function and impact on the world in which we live - and they would gladly have us!

Further out of town, we have a lot of fabulous National Parks and other nearby towns that provide more fun and learning:

Rainforest walks

Rock platform walks
Bike paths
Small, privately owned, well-run zoos to the north and south of us
Fabbo playgrounds!
Homeschool group meetups

Living within a reasonably easy driving distance to Sydney means we can pop up there to visit the relo's and also to take advantage of all that a big city has to offer:


Tourist activities!

Musicals and plays

The world really is your oyster when you homeschool and we love a bit of a holiday, which always brings learning opportunities:

P.E. at the snow
Zoology at the zoo

Marine biology in the South Pacific

Botany in forests


Marine navigation

Science and maths

Maths and problem solving




Music and nature

Australian history

Chemistry and geology in caves

History and geography at old mines

Boating and oceans

Forestry and history

We just love getting out there!!

The bit I have come to love about "home" schooling, is that everything and everywhere is an opportunity for learning. Spending time as a family, doing activities that we enjoy and enrich our lives is also part of learning and education. And there is a heck of a lot less paperwork to organise an "excursion" compared to when I was teaching in schools....


Embroidery Project - Blue Butterfly

I downloaded this pattern as a PDF from Hoop Embroidery Co on Esty as my first attempt at the technique known as "thread painting"...