Monday, March 31, 2008
I came in late so I am actually going to backtrack here & do what everyone else did on Sunday. Seeing as my time zoning means I never know which day anyone is on anyway I figure it is probably still Sunday somewhere ~ & if it's not yet then it will be soon.
I used to have another blog before this one. I crashed it it in rather spectacular fashion but therein I posted about how we ended up homeschooling. I have no idea what I waffled about there so I will assume no~one knows anything about me & start from there. Oh, well, I guess you figured I'm a little...um, shall we say... eccentric?
I have 5 children. My oldest is 25 & we homschooled him for his last 2 years of school. Long story; strange child. He used to be a twin. Well, I guess he's still a twin but we lost his sibling in utero & he has always seemed as if he's only half there. Like I said.
Then there's the actual twins who declared to their flabbergasted teachers they only came to school to play sport & socialize. Their teachers complained to me but, hey, they had them in school, not me.
Liddy is my Queen Bee. After 3 boys she was spoilt abominably by everyone but having a sweet & biddable disposition she survived quite well. She begged to come home & did so in grade 9.
Then there's Ditz, the surprise baby. By the time Ditz came along I'd had it with the school system. I never liked it but couldn't talk Dearest into considering Homeschool. My boys all have dyslexia, some are just worse than others. The twins were tactile, kinesthetic learners. They did just great in school! Yeah right. They were also ADHD ~ but not behavioural problems. Liddy is also kinesthetic/auditory & Jossie was gifted. School was a circus. School stressed me out. I spent half my life up at the school sorting teachers out with my kids. The kids were hardly ever in school anyway. The middle 3 excelled at sport & were always away at carnivals & trials & long distance cross country runs.
Ditz was due to start primary school the year her big sister moved to high school. She seemed at least as bright as her oldest brother but what would I know? I think all my kids are gifted. Anyway, this was the baby I was never allowed to discipline. If she cried 5 other people rushed to rescue her. Cries of, 'Mum! You've made her cry! How could you?' were not uncommon. She began talking at just 5 months. That's right, 5 months. He first words were, 'Ryuke, where are you?' Yep, she spoke in sentences right from the beginning. A month later her siblings were bribing her to walk by holding strawberries just out of her reach. She was one motivated baby I can tell you.
Now I'd watched my older kiddies struggle with reading & as a BA in language & literature, who has a bigger children's library than our actual library, I was less than impressed with this state of affairs. I decided Ditz didn't need pre~school half as much as she needed plenty of pre~reading skills so I kept her home, made up a set of lower case letters, bought a super large bag of choc chips & proceeded to teach my four year old to read. There's nothing like chocolate for that feel good feeling! I don't know why I was surprised the child actually learnt to read but she did & I was.
I then had a huge dilemma. What was she supposed to do for the first 6 months of grade one while the rest of her class caught up? And we all know what happens to a bored child in a regular classroom. Been there, done that. Hat in humble hand I approached Dearest & told him my sad & sorry tale. By this stage he was fed up with the teachers complaining about our kids too & the amount of stress I was under so he agreed a year of homeschool would be best & she could start school a year late in grade two. Any reprieve was a bonus in my book so I took what was offered gratefully & proceeded as we'd begun. You all know how this goes, don't you? A year later Ditz was even further ahead so we got another year's reprieve...& another until Dearest just accepted we were homeschooling & he connived to bring Liddy home. Now he loves homeschooling & Ditz thinks she's been done like a dog's dinner.
Given Ditz has the attention span of a gnat, the social instincts of a party girl, & the academic interest of said gnat, what was my bright, musical, artistically gifted Ditz to do in a school situation that offered one 1/2 hour of music a week & no art? It doesn't even bear thinking about. Oh, she'd have survived...but at what cost? Instead we battle the academics together & she has time & then some for her art & music & no put downs either for being good at both. I hope one day she will rise up & call me blessed...but if she doesn't I'm pretty sure God's good with the road we chose for her.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
To what I've already planted he added coriander (because I said he had to; I like to cook with it), tomatoes, silverbeet, zucchini, capsicum, climbing beans & celery. Six weeks & we should be starting to pick the first fruits. I adore my silverbeet small & sweet & lashed with lemon & cracked black pepper. Actually I'll eat pretty much anything that way bar anything that comes out of the ocean. That stuff is totally inedible no matter what you do to it.
This is pretty much Ditz's first excursion into a home veggie garden as when we had free ranging chooks they pretty much put an end to the vegetables. Nothing could get above 2'' above the ground. I miss running chooks & Ditz totally adored them but I have never met a doey~er animal than a chook & ours were particularly idiotic. They'd been battery hens & came 'pre~plucked'. While waiting on their feathers growing back they would flop all over the brick walkway, basking in the sun & moving for nothing & no~one. Issi spent ages trying to work out how to stalk & catch one but they were considerably bigger than he was & he never did manage to work it out.
We began with a half dozen fruit trees as well but the mulberry & peach developed rot & keeled over, the bananas didn't do well in the drought & the lemonade & orange trees took a battering one cyclone season & never recovered. That leaves us with a monged mandarin (it was grafted onto a bush lemon & now 1/2 the tree produces mandarins & the other 1/2 produces 2'' long spikes & huge lemons), a tropical nectarine that is prone to fruit fly, bush apples (yuck!) & a bush plum that neither flowers nor fruits. No~one in their right senses eats lilly~pillies though I'm told they make nice jam.
We do really well given that our ground was solid clay when we moved here & set like cement. I brought some soil in & mulched like crazy & now we can grow pretty much anything we like ~ except those things that prefer a cold climate.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
For the first time in a month Ditz & I managed a soccer game ~ one wherein we played rather than merely watched Liddy play. As hardly anyone turned up we played a 6~a~side game. I should have walked off then & there. For starters both Liddy & Dino were also playing ~ on the other side! Oops! Secondly, all the good players were on their side & thirdly we had Ditz in goal. What were we thinking?
Both Liddy & Dino can run rings around me. Come to think of it everyone can run rings around me except Ditz. So there I was hurtling up the sideline after a stray ball & serious exercise is not my thing at all so I always take the shortcut if it's offered. In this instance the shortcut was to backheel the ball before it crossed the line. At least that was the idea. What I actually did was step right on the ball. This was not a good idea. I am not a seal & my sense of balance is not that good. I went down like a pack of cards with Liddy giggling like a maniac as she helped me up again. Ooh, ah, ouch! Why do I do these things to myself. Oh, yeah, right; I'm a dork.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Nothing delights the senses as much as shells. They are beautiful to look at & a delight to hold.
I have a large collection: cowries and cones, eagles wings, bonnet shells, china men's hats, cat's eyes, angle's wings; smooth & not so smooth, dull, shiny, spiky. God has created an enormous variety. These are like magnets to any child who spots them. Instinctively they reach out to touch, feeling the rich textured surfaces, arranging & rearranging them in beautiful & intricate pattens.
Where have we got them all from? Well most of my family are 'boaties'. They live aboard a yatch for at least part of their year & cruise the Australian coastline. Sometimes we join them for a while though in all honesty I dislike salt water. It itches. Others of us live along the coastline. Whichever we do we are inveterate beachcombers, walking vast stretches of beach with our eyes glued to the sand under our feet looking for a perfect unbroken shell. Some of my more unusual shells are courtesy of my middle son who worked the W.A trawlers & brought home some of the stranger things that came up in the nets.
My Ditz & I did a bit of a homeschool study on shells to learn about how they are formed ~ which is disgusting really. Sluggy mollusks secrete a calcium slime (I told you it was disgusting) around themselves & this grows into the beautiful shells that are found all over the world. You didn't need to know that, did you?
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Four~thirty in the morning is not when I expect incoming e~mails to pop up on my screen. Normally I can clutch my first cuppa of the day & peaceably read through my bloggy friends news free of interuptions or distractions. As it was from Ditz's flute teacher I promptly opened it to find our lesson times had been changed & I was going to have to wake my child & harrass her out the door by eight o'clock. This is never a good way to start our day.
Predictably enough Ditz came to snapping & snarling, having had a late night after choir & in need of far more sleep. She was so not happy to find she also had an early lesson & that it was drizzling down rain.
Now if I'd been the one working with her after all that I would have suffered from a bout of serious procrastionation, whinging & whining, & other unsavouray habits my child likes to indulge in when she is not at her best & feeling hard done by. But because it was music & flute & Jan (who has the happy knack of terrifying my small daughter, in the nicest possible way) she only muttered unhappily to me on the boat.
Jan has extraordinarily high expectations & I am always amazed at how much he can get out of Ditz because he makes her work very, very hard until the moment he can see she's flagging & the mistakes are mounting up & only then does he call it quits. However he has managed to get through to Ditz that not only does she need to practise, she needs to practise in a particular way. He has carefully shown her over & over what she needs to do with any passage that is giving her trouble & though I rarely stay in the same room when Ditz is practising (anyone who has suffered through flute practises will understand why) I can hear her all over the house, so I know that she has actually been practising as instructed. It is paying off, & Ditz can see it's paying off. Jan is very happy with her.
I breathed a small prayer of thanks. Ditz has only been learning for barely 2 years & then with a school band, so I was slightly worried when Jan announced Ditz was perfectly capable of attempting the grade three work, though it would be a bit of a stretch for her initially. Seems he was right. The piece that was giving her untold difficulties at the beginning of term is now almost ready ~ without tears. She is still struggling with one of her scales (A major I think) as there are 3 new notes & fingering that she is not using anywhere else yet so is struggling to remember both notes & fingerings.
I stand amazed at how much Ditz seems to absorb by a process of osmosis. No~one has actually ever explained to her what a tonic or a fifth or any number of other things are; certainly not me because I have no idea, but Ditz obviously knows. I wish I could teach her math by osmosis. Come to that, I wish I could learn math by osmosis. All I know is we learn easily what we love best & I really wonder what would have become of Ditz if she'd been in a regular classroom getting her regulation 1/2 hour music lesson a week & expected to sit quietly for long periods of time because Ditz has never been a quiet child.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
And it gets worse. Being a visual I only write what I can *see*. So to immerse myself in writing is to live with double vision, seeing things that just aren't there, & once turned on it's not like a tap you can just turn off again & it is, unfortunately, far more alluring than the real world. This is a frustrating predicament when you are a committed homeschooling mama with the sort of schedule we have. I do not know of any greater frustration than the ache to write & a lack of time to indulge it ~ especially when to write is to meet up with long time *friends* who have been hanging round happily doing their own thing inside your head & are now begging for some overdue attention.
I can remember thinking, when my kiddies were tiny & I wrote my first novel amidst a plethora of temper tantrums, diapers, & massive bedlam, that I would have time to write when my children were older...well, no~one explained to me it doesn't work quite like that so I was happily ignorant for years. Now I am rusty & my confidence is low but Ari & co., are still hanging round & Ari, being Ari, is running out of patience. I like Ari; I really do. She is fun, but I am extremely aware that this is the character who soaked her Ollamhs' white silk shirts in beet soup turning them a charming pink, put tadpoles in his soup & ferrets in his bed. Really, she's perfectly lovely; She just has a small problem with her Ollamh. And now she has one with me. No I'm not mad ~ not yet anyway. I just need to write so that, maybe, Ari will leave me alone. I will miss her when she's gone.
Mamaolive ~ this is for you.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Of all the instruments Ditz does violin has proved the most difficult. It doesn't help that she just won't practise but any time I suggest she may want to give this instrument up she protests vehemently. I might insist except I can see how even the little bit she does do helps everything else so we are persevering.
We have been nearly three weeks without a lesson. Between the car & the teacher's rehearsal schedule it just didn't happen ~ & nor did any practise. Somewhere else I bury my head in a book while Ditz makes extraordinary noises.
Anyway, at the back of my mind I must have been paying subconcious attention because it suddenly struck me that Ditz was actually improving. It wasn't that Ditz was actually playing the right notes; she's always managed that ~ more or less; she does tend to be a little sharp on occasions. Nor was it that she was playing Greensleeves at time. She has been playing Greensleeves at time for some time.lol. It wasn't that she was reading her music; Ditz has no problems with her reading. No, rather she was playing with a measure of confidence that has been sadly lacking with the violin. She has tended to play over carefully, clutching the violin like a drowing man instead of holding it in the relaxed caress necessary for good technique.
Now this might seem like a small thing but Ditz does not normally lack for confidence & consequentially has rarely had to struggle to learn anything she really puts her mind to. Violin has been the exception. She has struggled. I have heard, 'I'm dumb', more than once. Over & over I've had to remind her what happened when she first began to learn the piano. Every time Sian gave her a new piece Ditz went into meltdown & we got the 'I can'ts, it's too hard's. She refrained from this morbid monologue with violin & has always enjoyed her lessons. Her teacher is a sweet, gentle lady who always plays one part while Ditz does the other & during holiday periods forms impromptu ensembles of all her island students, which is heaps of fun & good experience.
Part of the problem I suspect was Ditz's own expectations. Piano, & especially flute, she made progress really fast & got a lot of positive feedback. Violin has not been like that. Progress has been achingly slow. Now there are at least 16 things a violin player needs to remember before they begin to play: stance, bow hold, bow position, violin position, violin hold, fingers. Then there is reading the music, deciding which string a note is on, remembering the correct fingering for that note, hearing the note correctly in your head, hearing if you have played the right note, hearing if you need to be sharper or flatter in comparison to other players, 1st position, 2nd position, 3rd position.....yadda, yadda,yadda. It makes my head spin just thinking about it & Ditz is not my most co~ordinated child.
Any time Ditz is asked to comment on her violin she clams up or gapes like a stunned mullet leaving her teacher helplessly trying to 2nd guess her so I nearly fell over when I heard Ditz explaining a problem clearly & sensibly. She has been working on her dynamics too & it seems everything is finally coming together. Maybe it is just her age. She's moving out of childhood fairly confidently. Maybe this is just the little boost she needs to get a grip on this instrument too. I guess time will tell.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This is the Great Wall of China watchtower Ditz made, having discarded the instructions as pretty useless, which they were. It came up ok in the end but was the butt of lots of jokes thanks to an internet add out here which has an internet clueless father telling his son the Great Wall was built to keep rabbits out of China!!! Yes, well we have a rabbit plague & they built fences across the desert to try & keep them under control so it's actually quite a clever add. Just the same you will notice there are no rabbits around Ditz's watchtower. I am just waiting on one of the boys getting clever & deciding this would be greatly improved by the addition of a rabbit or two. lol.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It's the same with the hand movements. There is a hand movement to go with each note of a scale ~ absolutely brilliant in my book but Ditz is completely unco~ordinated at this level (like her mama) & flounders round with her hands all over the place. It does not matter; she can hit the right note without the hand movements.
I get it, I truely do. I either get something in one blinding flash or you're wasting your time trying to instruct me, but try explaining that to a sequential thinker. They can't grasp how you can arrive at D correctly if you have missed steps A,B, & C. Wht bother with A,B & C if you've got D? And this is why my child doesn't show her working in math, draws beautifully, & happily wallows in musical terms that no~one has ever bothered to actually explain to her. On the other hand teaching her is a teacher's nightmare.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I was travelling home on the boats one night last week, both girls with me. It's something we do regularly; have done for 2o odd years. It was late & we were tired & the boat was late but we settled gratefully in our seats, tickets at the ready, just happy to be going home.
Eventually the deckie started making his rounds of the packed boat. Most of us are regulars & we have multi~tickets that get clicked off but a few people were handing over coins & the deckie was apologising as he went because there had been a mechanical breakdown & that had thrown all the boats off schedule. It happens. The boats run constantly during the day, seven days a week & the occasional breakdown is inevitable. Most of us understand that & accept it as just another quirk of island life. At least a boat eventually arrived.
What we didn't expect was the man in front of us who belligerently refused to pay his fare ~ or his family's fare ~because the boat they wanted to come home on hadn't run! ??? Pardon? He gave the poor deckie an absolute earful. It wasn't the deckie's fault & there was nothing the deckie could do about any of it. The man still refused to pay. He was getting more & more irate as he listed the injustice of having to wait for a boat. Eventually the deckie referred the matter to the driver. The driver slowed the boat & announced loudly to all & sundry that this man up the front was refusing to pay his fare when all the rest of us had paid ours. How embarrassing! I was mortified for the man. Surely he would pay his fare now? Not a bit of it! He stood up & took a bow, flexed his muscles, terribly proud of himself for taking on the big, bad boat company & winning. I'm sorry, I know I'm old fashioned, but that is stealing. What has happened to us that there is no sense of shame when we are caught doing wrong? The worst thing is, I'm told that this form of theft happens a lot!
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
This is a tawny frogmouth. Technically they are a nightjar not an owl but they are one of nature's master disguisers. They perch on a branch during daylight hours as if petrified looking for all the world like a bit of broken old branch. Not only are they cute (well, I think they're cute) they mate for life, are excellent parents & even when the chicks have left the nest will roost in close proximity to each other. Why is it that all too often animals get it together so much better than humans do?
Yes, we have quite a few of them round here. I have to watch if I'm driving round at night as they sometimes huddle in the middle of the road, no doubt having just feasted on some stray tit~bit. They have a distinctive oom~oom like call but in flight are practically soundless.
These are another bird that need big old trees for roosting & nesting & I get wild because there has been a push in the last decade or so for people to plant natives rather than exotics in their gardens & that is a good thing but it has it's limitations. We see plenty of the pretty bushy things: grevillias, hakias, the smaller tea trees & bronias which bring the honeyeaters &
Image by Niall Stanton
parrots who are all nectar feeders. No~one wants to plant the thorny spikey grevillas or similar plants. Weeding round them is a pain ~ literally~ but these are exactly the plants the small song birds need for protection. Lantana, that introduced bane of the bush, is actually an excellent habitat for the fairy wrens & many of our tiny birds who find sanctuary in it's spikey depths. Similarly no~one wants the dirty great gum trees shedding a ton of leaves a day in the swimming pool. My issues with swimming pools in a water starved country are another issue entirely. We need the big gum trees (as oppossed to the boring old palms & smaller trees). The number of our bird species that nest in the cracks & hollows only age can bring is large.
We have left most of our block untouched. As the clearing & building goes on around us more & more species are competing for a share of what we can provide. The bigger, stronger birds almost always dispose of the tiny ones. Already the robins & flycatchers are gone. The quail still survive in the bracken (despite me having always owned a cat) & for now there are still frogmouths silently hunting the nights.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Then I had a very embarrassed e~mail (sorry Moly, I can't tell the story without adding in this bit) to say mum had forgotten to mail daughter's letter but it was now on its way. I figured roughly 10 days ~ give or take a few. (Yes, that's right, we waited...& waited.) We'd pretty much forgotten all about it then yesterday a parcel arrived for Ditz. Parcels for Ditz are a wonderment for the whole family so we clustered round saying intelligent things like, 'Who's that from? Where's it from? Are there any stamps on it? While Ditz beamed from ear to ear. (I'm sorry there are no pictures to go with this; the camera needs new batteries.)
'Christmas is still going!' exclaimed Ditz as she pulled out a swag of items & four cards! We are just stunned by your bridge. We have nowhere near as much water to negotiate & people are quibbling about the cost. Ditz says the lighthouse was in the Anne movies. She was soooo thrilled & carried her smiling sunflower on it's very long bright green stalk to ch0ir with her. (And she wore one of the blue bands in her ponytail.)
The parcel has landed!
Monday, March 10, 2008
As you know I spend a lot of time sitting round waiting on Ditz & without the car a trip to the library to stock up on reading supplies is out of the question; I have no self control in a library & always borrow more than I could possibly carry. Sooo, I have resorted to Ditz's reading list. There are one or two books there I haven't read. Jean Craighead George's Water Sky is an absolute winner ~ & I'm no fan of books where things get killed. I know, I'm just a woos. I love books that teach without effort & without even seeming to & as we have watched (ok, I haven't but the rest of the house has) all the episodes of the crabbers on the Bering Sea my visual/spatial learner has plenty of pictures to go with the descriptions of life in the Arctic circle. I've suggested Dino read it when I'm done. I think he'd really enjoy it too.
The last book, the Cat Who Looked at the Sky, was one I thought I wasn't going to enjoy & ended up thoroughly loving. Odd writing style but it grew on me. Helps that I adore cats, so thanks, Siano.
I am also wading through Tracy Chevalier's ShiningBright; it's tough going. I should have learnt from her other books. Once she moves out of the medieval period she is never as engaging as when she stays within that time frame ~ & she is much, much better when discussing art than literature, or anything else for that matter. This has been mostly a terribly dull read ~ & about Blake too, of all people. Maybe it's because she tries too hard to be historically accurate ~ in which case she should take a leaf out of Phillipa Gregory's book ( the Other Bolyn Girl), write a rollicking good story & don't fuss over much about the history? Say I, who can't stand Stephen Lawhead for taking such huge liberties with the Arthurian period & will happily tell any unfortunate enough to mention they like him just how awful he is & all the things he's got so terribly wrong! Drives me wild, but then I know more about Pre~Christian Britain than I do about Elizabethan England. Did I mention I'm a fantasy reader who doesn't read much fantasy because it's all so terrible?! Fussy is my other name.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Anyway, I have been poking & tweaking & chatting on~line ever since to get the sort of program for Ditz that I think will work for both of us ~ me as teacher, her as student. It has taken a bit of time. I got badly burnt by DE & while not lacking in confidence was loath to rock any more boats so went with the LLATL recommended by the school even though I knew in my gut it was a bad fit for us ~ & so it was. Ditched it for Sonlight which works surprisingly well despite being a very academic program ~ well, the program as written is quite academic; I've made quite a few changes. lol. We do peculiar things to the history ~ but I adore history & teach it from my love of people & culture rather from timelines & politics ~ both of which tend to bore me (there's that word again.) I figure if you understand culture you get the political picture by default. Math, well we have a program that works for us but no~one round here gets too excited about math though we can all manage what needs to be done in a day to day sense.
So I was thrilled (no getting round it ~ I was thrilled) when Ditz finished up Star of Light (sorry Mrs D, Ditz never did get to like that book) & immediately reached for Rascal as her new reader. My little heart went pit~a~pat. Moved on, all on her own, to her math. Didn't get much done. Both of us are struggling to make sense of the math but she is starting to organize herself. This is huge for us. Ditz has always wanted me to organize her & hold her hand through all her work so any show of independence is HUGE! I mean, isn't the goal to have a self~motivated learner? Needed me for bible & her grammar but overall we got a lot of school done & I got my housework done as well.
Teaching is exhausting so I am always intrigued by how others do it & watching Alison teach music theory is an education all on it's own. Crotchets & dotted minums are now forever etched in my mind because the crotchet is mummy Alsion & the dot is her baby. Bubs gets in for half price. Ditz's face was priceless. She thought I was weird but I've got nothing on Alison! I'm learning though. Watch out Ditz! I have never seen such a kinesthetic teacher & boy, oh boy, does she manage to reach every child in the room! Twelve or so kiddies & every single one of them will have a different learning style but all of them are catching on pretty fast. It is a joy to watch.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
I needs must be brief this morning too. Ditz's supervisor is coming for her home visit this morning & I'm as disorganized as ever. She is a lovely Christian woman, very sweet, & we enjoy our time with her. It helps that we know she has other families on the islands to visit & is worried about missing boats & connections. We get to feel knowledgeable & competent. (Yeah, right!)
We weren't really expecting her this term as it is such a short term (something like 8 weeks) so really only have some history & math (& not much of that lol) to show for our efforts. The science is still only half done (Ditz is baulking at having to do so much thinking) & though Ditz is ploughing through her reader she hasn't enjoyed it & I don't want to move onto the new written work until she moves onto her new reader. Music is eating up such scads of time that academics is going to be a slow old process this year.