Saturday, August 25, 2012

Then and now - a reality check...

It's a lovely day here today - the fierce winds of earlier this week have died down, the sun is shining, the temperature is heralding signs of spring, the guy next door is testing out the low bass of his car's doof-doof sound system (dude - it's working! I think you found my dog's brown note!).

So of course it's a perfect time of year to do a little spring-cleaning. Starting with my bedroom. I painted it and decluttered a year ago! My, how time flies when you are having fun...Anyway, I guess that would explain the creeping clutter, dust bunnies under the bed and overflowing "wardrobe" (which is, in fact, just hangers on the wall - all we have space for).

It always is messier before it looks tidier!

Because we only have hangers on the wall, I keep my off-season clothes in our big shed down the backyard in old wardrobes we got from tip for $10 each. Bargain! Today was season swap-over day and clean/dust/declutter the bedroom day!

The big shed (a.k.a. The Tardis)

See the wardrobes down the back? 

As I do when I have a little wardrobe swap-a-roony, I put some of the less-loved pieces in a garbage bag (clean one!) and donate to our local charity shop. Today I went through everything - in the house and in the shed - and got rid of all clothes I had not worn in the last three years and those that had got a bit small.

Hang on. Wait a second. Clothes don't "get small". People (ahem, me) get big.

Size Small - but not me anymore!

I don't think I belong to the Petite Club anymore (or the Size 10 club).

For those that need to know, Australian size 10 is the equivalent of a US size 6. I'm about a 14/16 now (or 10/12 if I moved to the US...hey...that's not sounding like such a bad idea!).

So now I only own clothes that actually fit. If by some miracle I get back to a size 12, then I guess I owe me a huge shopping spree! Vinnies have bags of clothes to sell (mine and the kids, because they are growing upwards). And I have a clean, tidy bedroom (until Hubby gets home from work and chucks his clothes everywhere).

Grr... that was spotless!

But today was a body reality check. The body is getting older, but it is also getting larger. I've slacked off on the exercise, have not been making very good food choices and have been enjoying my wine a little too often. The end result is not pretty, not healthy and severely reduces my clothing options.

So today is my reality check. 

In 2 months I will be attending my 25 year school reunion. 25 years!!!

That's me in the front with the seemingly long legs (they weren't)

I'm 43 years old. I don't expect to look as I did when I was 18. I may not be size 10 any more, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be the one that makes everyone else feel better about themselves because "didn't she let herself go?"



So, for the next 8 weeks it will be my mission in life to shift some of those kilos. To make the existing clothes I have feel a little looser. To gain some years back on my expected life span. Reality check - time to start looking after yourself, Ingi.

Do you struggle with your weight?
Does what you see in the mirror match up with the image in your head?
What is your best diet/exercise tip?

PS: I managed to get to Day 18 of A Photo A Day before I fell off that wagon as well. For some reason it seemed too hard to climb back on that wagon, but it was nice while it lasted :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Science at home

Did you know that in Australia, right now, as we speak, it is National Science Week?? Well, it is!

National Science Week is designed to celebrate science in Australia - to enjoy and explore the wonders of science!

What does that mean for us homeschoolers? I think we are in a unique position - for us, science easily becomes "wonderful". But I also think a lot of homeschooling parents are a bit frightened of science, particularly in the high school years. I've been reading feedback from parents considering homeschooling on forums, and one of their concerns is that their kids won't get the same "quality" science education at home as you do in school.

But fear not! In a past life, I was a high school science teacher! So I thought today I would share with you some ideas, links and experiences for doing science at home!

As you are no doubt aware, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. So, your approach to science is going to differ, depending on your homeschool outlook.

Purchased curriculum/kits:
There is a lot of science curriculum out there, which sets out topic by topic, a list of knowledge and activities for you to do at home - suitable for those that err more towards a school at home approach or if you really remember nothing about science from your own school days and the prospect of science freaks you out. Text books would also fit in this genre. The big elephant in the room is whether you opt for a secular or Christian approach. We are pretty secular here and as a scientist, I've seen some fairly "dodgy" science in the name of Christianity:

The goal of this post is not to start a religion vs science debate, but just be aware that some texts have bias (especially in the areas of evolution and geological history). However some incorporate religious ideas quite well within the text, without throwing out the science.  You just need to decide what you are comfortable with in your home.

The "alternative" approaches to home ed (eg: Steiner, Classical, Charlotte Mason etc) do not have a big emphasis on science, particularly in the early years, except for perhaps nature journalling. So if you want to explore more science within these contexts (and it's one of the reasons we don't really go for them), you would have to seek out extra materials/experiences.

Some common science homeschool curriculum (mostly from the U.S.) include:
  • Noeo Homeschool Science - gets good reviews. It picks and chooses resources from multiple sources (much like I do as a teacher), so hopefully doesn't get boring and you can buy the prac kits all sealed up and ready to roll.
  • Apologia Science - Christian resource, which has a good scope and sequence (for those that like to follow along) and good pracs, with easily obtainable resources.
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey - Secular, homeschool-orientated with lots of hands on activities
  • Sonlight Science - Christian perspective - includes books, activity sheets, kits, DVDs, instructors manuals.

Good Australian textbooks include:
  • Pearson Ed - Australian curriculum including student books, activity books, teachers guides.
  • Science Quest - I used/use these as a teacher - lots of great pics, good questions, extension activities, good pracs.

In the later high school years, there are still plenty of ready-bought curriculum and textbooks, and even if you need full-on chemistry or physics, there are resources for you too - we have The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab No Lecture!

There are also growing numbers of online courses and many of the open university subjects have bridging courses in the sciences.

DIY science curriculum:
This is the approach I take (for all subjects, including science). I start with the BOS Science Syllabus (K-6 here and 7-10 here, Australian curriculum here). I go through these and get a feel for where my kids are up to. Video Boy, in particular, has a phenomenal amount of science content stored in that big brain of his, and I often have to tailor the topic to suit his huge discrepancy between what he knows and what he can do. Then I go searching for a balance of written work and hands on activities and visual learning that will suit us. My sources come from:
  • Textbooks - see above. I also have some of the student activity books linked to these, which are good for worksheets etc.
  • General science books - we particularly love the Usborne Science Encyclopedia (Internet Linked) and LOVE Horrible Science (check out eBay for cheap copies)
  • Science experiment books - you can pick these up (usually cheaply) in any bookshop or even Aldi
  • Prepared science kits - again, usually going cheap in Aldi or the Warehouse or have a look at Fizzics, Jaycar (click on Kits, Science and Learning on the left), CSIRO, or Mad About Science. Bear in mind that you are able to replicate many of these "experiments" using stuff at home for much cheaper, but you can end up with a nice collection of equipment from them.

  • Videos - we got the entire set of Magic School Bus from Scholastic, we adore Bill Nye (I may or may not have the entire series via dodgy downloads from someone else, but most are on YouTube), Khan Academy has higher level science, we have quite a few DVDs from The Great Courses and you can't go past Top Documentary Films for a range of docos on just about any science topic you care to think about!
  • Websites - just Google whatever topic you are interested in, and I usually include "teacher resources" in the search terms - it's amazing what is out there. More generally, we love ABC Science, Discovery Science, Exploratorium, and Steve Spangler.
  • Museums and Science Discovery Centres - this is obviously going to vary according to where you live. But they are a great resource and usually worth the drive. Most go out of their way to have interesting, updated, interactive hands-on displays, but don't forget to read some of the panels too - a wealth of information! Some even offer courses or special days (if you're really lucky, especially for homeschoolers!).

  • Your local library - you don't have to buy everything! Don't forget this wonderful resource for a range of topics and often they will get in books from other libraries if they don't have what you are after. For Free!
  • Lapbooks - we have discovered that lapbooks are particularly useful for recording written information as well as experiments or activities you may have done. I usually just Google "lapbook + topic" but there are a range of templates you can buy at CurrClick. If feel up to it, you can download blank templates and make your own.

Science equipment:
Most people think science and an image of a test-tube pops into your head! Whilst bunsen burners and beakers and test-tubes are firmly fixed in our memories of school science, they are not essential for science at home, although you can purchase them if you wish. Most topics have hands-on activities that can be done with basic equipment around the house (saucepans, eye-droppers, bicarb, balloons etc). 

There are science kits to explore particular topics (magnets, electronics, etc). Some of these are worthwhile and some are not. It really depends on your child's interests and how hands on they are and your budget. A lot of "experiments" can also be done virtually (eye dissection, circuits, nuclear physics, etc, etc).

A microscope is something that most families purchase eventually - we just have a cheapy that came with the Horrible Science magazine subscription, and surprisingly it works well for the level of work that we are doing. We may upgrade later...

Scientific Literacy:
I did particularly want to touch on this topic as opposed to "content" or "knowledge". Whilst kits and hands-on activities have their place (and help kinaesthetic learners), they are not necessarily "real science" or not really how science is done by real scientists. They are what I call "recipe" skills - you follow the instructions and voila! Concept demonstrated!

A big part of science is learning what actually makes something "scientific" - as opposed to belief, dogma, etc. And this is understanding the scientific method. How do we "know" what we know? How did things become "facts"? How do we understand what are dodgy claims and what is real, peer-reviewed science? This is more than just knowing the steps to doing a scientific experiment or first hand investigations - although this is a big part of it. It is understanding scientific theory and law. Understanding the work of scientists in the "real" world. The world of variables, data, analysis, research. 

Once of the best resources I know for this is Mark Hackling's publication Working Scientifically - it covers primary and secondary levels, has templates and scaffolds, and explains how science investigations work. The NSW DET's Curriculum Support Unit also has some good links for scientific literacy.

It would be great if you are trying to get your head around science for homeschooling that you spend at least a little bit of time developing your own and your child's scientific literacy - because in the end, that will enable us to think critically about the world around us (and bonus points - the data part links nicely with maths!).

Finally, the Australian Science Teachers Association produces a resource booklet each year which are very handy! This year is the Energy Evolution available as a PDF download and last year's React to Chemistry (gotta love freebies!!).

So many resources - so little time!! It can be a little overwhelming. But I would strongly encourage you to take it a topic at a time, gather info, and enjoy learning alongside your kids! There is almost nothing that is available at schools that you cannot do at home (if not better!).

Do you freak out at the thought of homeschool science?
What's your best science resource?

*Disclaimer - I have not been paid for any of the recommendations here - they are not sponsored. I have also not used all of the curriculum mentioned and cannot vouch for it's suitability for your circumstances - I'll leave that in your capable hands (although feel free to ask questions!).

Photo a Day - Day 18

Day 18 - Inside (playing games, as you do)

Friday, August 17, 2012

I've got a crush on you...

My baby girl is growing up. Yesterday, Hubby went to the snow for his boys weekend away, leaving me in charge of the TV remote (for a very rare change). So last night, Wombat Girl and I sat up and watched some quality telly - Big Brother, Farmer Wants A Wife, and My Strange Addiction (chalk, anyone?). Then we stayed up late watching 10 Things I Hate About You - not a bad adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (although I do prefer Kiss Me Kate!).

And I realised my girl is growing up; getting older. She's enjoying watching rom-coms with her mum! She still feels uncomfortable if they get further than kissing (which is OK by me - she's only 11), but you can sense she's enjoying the romance aspect of these movies more and more.

I remember my first TV romance/crush - Simon and Vicky from A Country Practice. I was a tiny bit in love with Grant Dodwell, who played Simon and each week I would eagerly await the new edition of TV Week, to see if the romance would progress and then watch enthralled. I was less than happy when my Mum and Dad decided to go camping down the coast the same week as they got married!!! (this was obviously pre-VCR days). How cruel...

Simon and Fatso the Wombat - great quality Aussie TV

In a similar vein, I fell a tiny bit in love with (OK, a lot) Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. I love me a bit of U.R.S.T. in a TV series or movie - "will they?" or "won't they?" gets me in every time (fast forward to Bones and nothing much has changed for me, really).

I saved my biggest crush for Michael J. Fox in Family Ties. I went to see Back to the Future 13 times at the movies - 13 times! I also admit to being one of the few who went to see Teen Wolf (the original and best) and Doc Hollywood. I still have my scrapbooks down in the shed somewhere...

I had this exact poster on my wall...

These teen crushes are an important part of growing up. A delicious, lovely, innocent way to explore those romantic feelings before you are actually  ready to explore them. This explains Beatles Mania and Bieber Fever. There have been many, many other crushes for me (I'm nothing, if not fickle). I can totally get the Zac Efron thing (and happy to watch High School Musical any day of the week...) and I'll happily admit to being a Twi-Mum and if that KStew chick doesn't want Robert Pattinson, now that he has quit smoking, I don't see any impediment to us being together (what? apart from fact I'm married, 43, fat and live in Australia? pfttt...mere trivialities).

My "get out of jail free" card...

So, although my "baby" is growing into a young woman and I miss her chubby cheeks and lisp, I'm looking forward to sharing my stash of rom-coms in my DVD collection with her. And I'm looking forward to see what posters she will have up on her wall in years to come....

What about you? Who was your biggest teen idol crush?
Is there anyone you would admit to having a crush on now?
No bagging out RPatz...I take our love affair very seriously! ;-)

A Photo A Day - Day 17

Day 17 - Faces (my babies)

Photo A Day - Day 16

Day 16 - Food (pizza - because Hubby is away at the snow and I worked this afternoon and there was no food in the fridge)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Game over

It's so weird to wake up to morning TV again, instead of the Olympics. I'm a bit of an Olympics nut - I love watching all the sports - love the glory of winning, the agony of defeat, the weird and wonderful sports you don't get to usually see. I don't usually enjoy watching sport, but once every 4 years, I get my fix. (I did not love listening to the inane commentary of Karl Stefanovic (overseas readers, be thankful you don't have to suffer him too). I do not know how Lisa Wilkinson has not slapped him. Oh, but hold the phone! Apparently someone has!! I feel better now).

Anyhoo, I digress. Australia came 10th out of 204 countries that competed. We got 7 gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze medals. The press here have been scathing about our "poor" performance. Although if you twiddle the stats enough, some reckon we did OK. Tears were shed over silver medal performances - and not of joy. And now of course, comes the recriminations and suggestions for how we can improve our Olympic performance.

Future Olympians?
 I'll just be happy if they can swim to save their lives and for fitness!

You know what's coming next, don't you?  The calls for "we need to spend more money on sports funding". And the ubiquitous "let's put more sports in schools". Sigh. Every time there is an "issue" that needs fixing, inevitably the suggestion is to fix it by putting it in the school curriculum (like bike safety and drugs awareness). Obviously these well-meaning souls have never actually either a) looked at the current curriculum to see how over-crowded it is with well-meaning outcomes that really should be covered by families at home or b) never actually spent any time in school to see how over-crowded the days are already trying to fit every outcome in.

Go Video Boy! Try your hardest!!

I have a couple of issues with the push to fit more sport into schools.

Firstly, in NSW at least, there is ALREADY sport in schools. Compulsory school sport, once a week up to Year 10. And also Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), where some schools take physical activity so seriously it is done every morning. In addition to the standard "curriculum", there are sports carnivals, swimming carnivals, cross-country carnivals and if you child succeeds at those, there are Regional, State and National carnivals. And not just in athletics and swimming - you can also represent the school in rugby league, rugby union, AFL, soccer, touch football, hockey, gymnastics, tennis, squash, cricket, skiing, snow-boarding and surfing (and more, except I forget all the teams fielded by the high school I taught at). There are presentation days, complete with trophies, certificates and medals, for sport. I think if you have any kind of talent for any kind of physical activity, there is ample opportunity at school to develop and improve that talent.

Wombat Girl at Regional (that's right, baby! Regional!) cross-country

Secondly, if you (god forbid) do not excel in the sporting arena, I don't see how doing more PE or sport will encourage you to gold medal winning performances at the Olympics. But I could be wrong...

Thirdly (and you knew this was coming), why aren't we pushing for more funding for the Maths or Biology Olympiads?? Where is our national pride in academic achievements? Why are there always more sports awards than academic awards? Why are they not more balanced? Because let's face it, the vast majority of us are never going to be elite level athletes that represent our country (we can dream, we can try, but it's unlikely). Most of us are like me, sitting on our couches yelling at the TV, while periodically going out and trying to stay fit and healthy (and sometimes succeeding, sometimes not). But we have the potential to do more with our academic talent than we currently do. Why more of our taxpayer dollars should be spent on an already well-funded activity so we can feel better about ourselves as a sport-watching nation is a bit beyond me.

Video Boy receiving his High Distinction in the UNSW Science exams

I'm not saying here that there should be no, or less, sports funding. We obviously get some benefits out of our elite level sportspeople. And I'm not saying that our more academically-minded kids can never be good at sport (it can and does happen...not in this household, but apparently in others). And I'm a firm believer in developing good life-long habits of physical exercise that we enjoy that can help keep us healthy (and also boosts brain-function), which is why I try to drag my lard-ass off the couch and go running.

Our national pre-occupation with sport, sporting outcomes, and sporting heroes is, in my humble opinion, a little skewed. We need to value other achievements a little more equally. And for goodness sake, let's not shove more stuff into an already over-crowded school curriculum for the sake of a bunch of couch potatoes' satisfaction every 4 years!

 What do you think? 
Do you like watching the Olympics?
Do you care about the medal tally?
Should there be more sport in schools/curriculum?
Do we have too much emphasis on sport, at the expense of other fields of endeavour?

Photo A Day - Day 15

Day 15 - Ready (for a run!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Photo a Day - Day 14

Day 14 - arrow

....what to take? There are no arrows in my house at 9:10pm on a Tuesday night! Looking, looking...oh! It was there on my screen the whole time!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Photo a Day - 11,12 & 13

Day 11 - Purple - beany that the kids got me for Mother's Day

Day 12 - Spoon (teaspoon - the best kind!)

Day 13 - Simple (the simplest things in life are often the best)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Photo A Day - Day 10

Day 10 - Ring

Did you ever see such a thing in your life?

We have spent the last couple of days livin' the high life in the nation's capital - Canberra. You could argue that if Canberra is my idea of the "high life" then maybe I need to get out more, and maybe I do, but as I've said before, we love it!

The prime purpose of this trip was to see Agatha Christie's famous long-running play The Mousetrap. It has been running continuously in London since 1952 for 60 years! 60 Years!!! That is amazing. Hubby is a long-time AC fan and has influenced the kids heavily. They read the books, they watch the TV series.

I wish I could say I was a huge fan too, but my brain hurts too much at the end of a long day and I never seem to be able to keep track of who's who and who did what, unless I concentrate a LOT.

But I'm always up for a good stage play! So when Hubby emailed me and said "if we ever go to see anything, it has to be this" I had my finger hovering over the "Pay Now" button quicker than you can say "Three Blind Mice".

We watched the Wednesday matinee performance - the kids were the youngest there by about 30 years! It was a veritable sea of grey (luckily my own greys have just been dyed out of existence). But I guarantee my young whipper-snappers enjoyed it every bit as much as the oldies!

The play itself was fabulous! It's clever - lots of plot twists and turns and AC cleverly makes everyone into a suspect or the next murder victim, so you never know where the plot will head next - no-one is free from suspicion! Fabulous, memorable characters that are slowly developed throughout the play. Wonderful dialogue - beautifully crafted, easy on the ear and at times, laugh-out-loud funny (I didn't really expect that). And stunning performances - great delivery of the dialogue, some slapstick, quirky characters. Everything you expect from a great play! It totally engaged not only me, but the kids as well. A little fidgeting from Wombat Girl, but they were totally enthralled from start to finish. We especially loved the plea from the cast at the end  to "keep the secret of the whodunnit locked in your hearts". Which we shall.

The opportunity to enjoy the "big smoke" was nice too. We loved our hotel room:

Enjoyed eating out:

Video Boy's mango and coconut Bombe Alaska

Dessert King!

Mocktails before steak at Hogs Breath
Hubby and I wiped out the Kathmandu Clearance store that was conveniently located across the road from the hotel! $10 tees and I got a Goretex jacket ($799 down to $187!!) Score!

AND we found the best board-game store EVAH - Mind Games!

And what trip to Canberra is complete without a visit to Nerdsville Heaven (aka Questacon)? They had some nice, new exhibitions that we hadn't seen:

Thank you Canberra! We enjoyed ourselves and we are sure to be back again soon!

52 Ancestors - Unusual Name

In this week's post, we have been asked to look behind an "unusual name" and I've chosen my great-aunt's husband, Fred...