Apparently there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the moderator department, which meant I completely forgot about the moderation until the new moderator rocked up on my door towards the end of my work period. Oops. Fortunately I work from home and can make up hours easy, and I hadn't gone out to pick up my shiny new computer yet, though I had gotten dressed to do so. So all she saw was that my place is a mess, which is about normal and I don't clean up for anyone!
We chatted and she seems like a nice person. I gave her enough information to write a happy report and get us approved for another year. She also sent me the literacy outcomes to help with the learning program which I have only just worked out that I do actually have (I'm a bit slow, I seem to do a lot of things because they make sense or because I need to do them to do other things etc and never realise they are processes that have names or that I'm implementing a program).
So what's been happening around here, we've managed to cram a bit into the couple of weeks we've been back.
Lookit mah shiny new toy!
I got me a new computer that's so new the new computer smell is still wearing off. It's a maxed out 27" iMac, so am revelling in the awesomeness that is triple screening, and enjoying the skyrocketing of art productivity as my brushstrokes now happen in real time and my point pushing is very slightly lagging behind the cursor as opposed to taking effect 10 seconds after I've done the stroke to get it roughly where I need it to go. I have yet to cut code on it but already know how it's all going to be set up. The trackpad took a little while to set up and get used to as I'm used to how it works on my MacBook, but now that it's all sorted out I'm loving gadding about and doing stuff by gesture.
That's a Mai Hime (article contains spoilers) wallpaper visible in the background on the 21" monitor behind my Lightwave panels. An AR script is on the 27" and my comparatively tiny little 12" Cintiq has Lightwave on it. I wasn't quite reading and modelling simultaenously, the reading happened when the modelling was giving me a headache. Lightwave gets swapped between the big screen and the small screen semi-regularly depending on what I need to do with it; it goes to the big screen when I need to do fine detail work while being aware of the surrounding area, otherwise the model is being worked on directly on the Cintiq. I did attempt to stretch it over both screens but the vast difference in resolution (big screen is 2560x1440, small screen is 1280x800) made it laggy and somewhat uncomfortable.
We're calling it my birthday present. I've been trying to plan something for Cub's birthday and actually forgot mine is on the weekend til my mother-in-law came round and informed me tha she'd bought me a birthday present and handed over a plastic bag full of clothes she'd picked up at KMart (she always buys me clothes because we don't, we will wear ours down to the barest threads before we buy new clothes and she can't stand old tatty clothes :).
For those that care, the specs on the thing are:
- 3.4Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7
- 16Gb 1333MHz DDR3
- 256Gb SSD + 2Tb Serial-ATA
- AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2Gb GDDR5
- 27" built in screen: 2560x1440
- 21" Acer monitor: 1680x1050
- 12" Wacom Cintiq: 1280x800
Last desktop I bought was my 24" iMac and it's still going strong (though it has Ubuntu on it these days and only 2Gb of RAM, I have the two 2Gb sticks that were originally in my new computer kicking around so should put them to good use). It's great for Josh who doesn't abuse his machines as much as I do. Anyway I got the 24" iMac when my 7yo was about half a year old (give or take) so I figure I'll have this baby for quite a while.
Josh spent the last couple of weeks flat out getting an aquaponics system up. We got the siphons between each set of tanks going but the overflow leaked, so he had to go and get something else from some aquarium shop to seal it with. It has to cure for the next 4-7 days, which means we'll be trying the overflow again on Monday.
Apparently our system is supposed to be a CHIFT PIST. The two further away tanks are dug slightly into the ground a little bit lower than the two near tanks. Each pair of tanks is connected by a siphon which keeps their water levels the same. There's an overflow pipe between the higher and lower tanks closest to each other, the idea being when the water in the higher tanks gets to a certain height, it will overflow into the lower tanks. There's a pump in one of the lower tanks which is supposed to be on only some of the time (Josh did tell me what the timing was but I can't remember, hey all I ever do is maintain these things ;), when it's on it pumps the water back up into one of the higher tanks.
He seems to already have plans about what he's going to run (I maintain it should be "swim" rather than "run") in the tanks each season, and is planning what to plant.
Vege patches and fruit trees
Flowing on nicely from there, our vege patches have finished their current seasons. We've opened up the back and side ones to the chickens, who have had several field days scratching through there. The front one still has stuff coming up but not much. The dead plants will need to be cleared out, and we'll clean out the chicken coop into the vege patches possibly with some compost (which reminds me, I need to check and possibly stir up the compost bins, not sure how much there is as we haven't been adding much to them since we got the chickens) and then I'm not sure what happens after that. It might get left to rest for a while before getting planted out again. Be interesting to see what comes up as a lot of the stuff went to seed and while I'm pretty sure we got most of the seeds at least some of them would have fallen.
We were down one and up four roosters when we got back. Scraggly went walkabout and ended up getting picked up by the ranger and shipped off to some orchard to peacefully live out the rest of his days (theoretically), so the story goes. We still have Rhaegar and four others. The other four are getting butchered soon. I still haven't been able to figure out their names.
The trees have dropped a metric buttload of leaves around the yard (I think a lot of it had help from the wind storms we've had blowing through the area) so they need to get raked up and put down in the chicken coop.
Daenerys and her chick have started sleeping up on the roost. There were five broody chickens, four of them in the nesting box playing musical eggs. We've moved Ella and her three chicklets (two yellow, one black, at least one yellow is a feather-foot, four hatched but unfortunately one didn't make it) and four as yet unhatched eggs from the washing machine to The Brooder, mostly because the two yellow chicks had managed to fall out of it and couldn't work out how to get back in. Henny Penny and her two chicks were put in Solitary on the grounds of her being a nutter and her chicks being a couple of weeks old so they're pretty mobile and would only sleep in the box. Powderpuff (psycho chicken is on her third or fourth clutch this season) and her two freshly hatched and extremely tiny chicklets, Billie and the other Aracauna and their eggs were moved into The Crate. We may now get eggs again, or possibly just more broody chickens.
Last year was a bit chaotic with me sorting out working hours and whatnot, but we got through and stuff got done. End of last year I launched into Yet Another Mission to Be Organised. I've had heaps and heaps of practice at trying to be organised and each attempt has been slightly more successful than the last attempt. This attempt is again more successful than the last attempt. All work-related stuff and planned activities have been timetabled, I've added in blocks of AR time (in which I mostly do AR stuff but occasionally use for blogging or other miscellany). There's a whole pile of time left over to be flexible if stuff needs to be temporarily shifted, and of course to either do socially accepted educational stuff or do stuff that is educational but not necessarily immediately recognised as such.
I also need to get another shelf unit type thing for the dining room to store their workbooks on. The kids seem to enjoy doing workbooks so we went out and got some, though they rarely do them as I keep forgetting to put them out on the table and the kids never see them, sequestered as they are in the art cupboard. They do pick them up when I remember to get them out, so I figure if they're out all the time, theoretically they should get used more.
I completely failed at doing the notebook record keepy thing last year. I'm thinking of buying a camera pouch to haul around the dSLR and my favourite lens (possibly one other depending on how big the pouch can be without being too big) and making an attempt to blog their progress more frequently. In the interests of blogging their progress, here we go.
Tao really struggled with reading last year. He normally picks things up very quickly so I think he found the fact that he was struggling more freaky than what he was struggling with. I knew he could read and that he was picking up extremely slowly and struggling with a lot of concepts, so I wasn't worried because he was making progress, just not as fast as he or anyone else wanted him to. Being pushed too hard really didn't help and in fact made things worse, so it was a challenge trying to keep things fairly relaxed and cruisy when other people were being overanxious and stressing hugely about how he "wasn't keeping up".
Earlier this year the two big kids expressed interest in getting new Pokemon games for their DSs. Initially I agreed, and then reneged shortly afterwards when I realised that meant I would be reading them game screens every 10 seconds. I then seized on the opportunity to bribe of a learning aid and told Tao that I would get them the games when he proved to me that he was capable of reading at least short sentences, adding that I would help with long words he was struggling with, but not with entire screens.
He quite rapidly proved that he could in fact read short sentences. And so they got Pokemon Black and White. To reinforce this, I then started telling him to read his own game screens when he was playing the PS3 instead of coming in to me every 10 seconds to ask what he had to do next. The first time, this resulted in a massive tantrum when he was playing his Transformers game as he wasn't sure what he had to do and was making the usual excuses of there were too many words and they were too big and he only wanted to read one or two of them etc. I was in the middle of something so I told him he could either wait or figure it out himself. I heard him struggling to find the "Mission Objective" (I told him it was in the bottom right hand corner to cut him a bit of slack) and he eventually worked out what it was he had to do.
When the new moderator came over and asked if I had any concerns, I said I didn't really but Josh and other family members were worried about his reading. To make them happy (plus by this stage it wasn't as stressful as it had been previously) I was getting Tao to do at least one exercise of Reading Eggs per day, though seeing as he rapidly gets bored of the excessive repetition in some of the exercises (he showed the moderator one of the exercises and she said quietly to me that she saw what I meant about the excessive repetition in some of the exercises), but allowing him to forego it if he read sentences I wrote on the whiteboard, wrote his own words/sentences on the whiteboard or on paper, or just around the place when we went out. Josh went and extended it to no video games or tv until he'd read "something" which I really wasn't happy about.
Fortunately that particular plan had barely gotten off the ground before it got shelved, because recently he seems to have hit that point of understanding the very basic concepts behind reading. He knows all the letter sounds and is working on blends, and is having a much easier time of working out words, which has boosted his confidence a lot in tryng out short sentences and made him slightly more willing to at least attempt anything that looks to him like a big block of text. He voluntarily stops to try out signs and read things just to see what they say rather than to be able to get to play his video games. It's clicked in a little more when I told him that sometimes some words were just as they were even if they were unfamiliar to him, and that in the future when he's good at reading he will be able to recognise when a word is spelled or used incorrectly and correct it, but until then he should just try to read the word as it is, even if it's unfamiliar, rather than trying to turn it into what he thinks it should be or something that he knows. It seems to have made things a lot easier for him, or so it seemed when he popped up randomly and happily informed me there was an "Intel" on my computer and he knew this because he read it on the box the machine came in. It brings to mind something another homeschooler said to me about one of her kids being "so much happier now that he can read". I am noticing a difference.
Writing is a little bit harder as he doesn't like to sit still for long periods of time. He writes out the shopping lists weekly and writes stuff on the whiteboard and on paper randomly. Next stop is writing a sentence and from there we will see if we can get some narration happening.
With the other areas, I think most of them have been touched to an appreciable depth by the Christmas Island trip and setting up the aquaponics system.
This year, he's doing Auskick again and coming with me to kung fu (but not so much to tai chi) and occasionally participating in at least parts of the lessons. I've renewed the Reading Eggs subscriptions and gotten him the Mega Bookpack, figured he could have the harder books and Ruan and Cub could have the easier ones. Also going to see if I can get him interested in the ABC Schools programs again. He got into them for a little while when they were after Playschool, but now they keep going to find Playschool on ABC2 and then it's followed by more kids' shows.
Last year, Ruan startled me when I received an email from Reading Eggs cheerfully informing me that she was on level something or other in Map 5. This was news to me as while she voluntarily plays Reading Eggs regularly, I have only ever seen her in the playroom and caught her on the maps on perhaps two occasions. I'd also expected her to need help with the quizzes. Apparently not.
On our last trip to Riot to get her another canvas, she decided to try something new while we were floating around in the craft section looking for something for her brothers to do while she was painting. She decided to try something different and grabbed a no-sew finger puppet kit. "No-sew" meant the finger puppet shapes were already sewn, and they came with a bunch of accessories that could be glued on.
Of course she wanted to do them as soon as we got home, and of course I had a tired, cranky toddler to put to bed. Of course, this is a tired, cranky toddler who takes bloody ages (at least half an hour but usually upwards of an hour) to go to sleep. When I'd finally settled him, I popped into the lounge room to tell Ruan we could make her finger puppets now and she proudly held up the completed finger puppets. From thumb to little finger they are: a ghost, a koala, a hippo, a pig, and a fwog. They've been used in a fair few puppet shows.
She still loves drawing and painting and knows her way around the art cupboard and supplies, and will often help herself to the drawing implements box, paper, scissors, glue etc whenever the mood takes her (quite often). She's not so good at packing up yet, we're working on that. She loves writing and will happily copy anything anyone writes, otherwise she scribbles and calls it writing. She also loves "working" on Josh's computer which involves firing up LibreOffice, choosing a random background for her page, typing her name, and then mashing the keyboard. Guess she figures that's what we're doing whenever we use the computer.
This year she was extremely eager to do dance classes. We went for a trial lesson and she had an epic meltdown and refused to join in. We went outside til she calmed down, then went back in and watched. She decided she was not under any circumstances doing dance classes. The other thing she has said she wanted to do was "learn to ride a pony", so going to see if we have any luck with that. There's a Pony Club down the road, suppose I can find out if you need to have one to play.
The child is a pesticle and lucky he's cute. That is all. I've been told he's quite good with his shapes and colours. He comes with me to kung fu and tai chi and doesn't so much get dragged along to the activities the other two do as beg to be allowed to tag along and get terribly upset if he gets left behind. Less problem if he's going somewhere else with someone else, then he just gets a little confused as he's used to at least one of his older "simblings" being with him. He's getting a lot better at entertaining himself. Last year he would be completely lost unless at least one of the other two were present. Now he is quite happily to play by himself if they're not around or don't want to play or he isn't interested in whatever it is they're doing.
Phew. Well I knew this was going to be a bit of an epic when I outlined it in my head when we were still on Christmas Island. Think we're more or less caught up now. Back to the regular rhythm!