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April Homeschooling Miscellany

posted on: Wednesday, 3 May 2017 @ 2:13pm in

We spent almost the entire month of April on Christmas Island. This post is part homeschool log and part “travel photos” therefore more picture heavy than usual so grab a drink and a snack.


The idea behind going up for Easter was to avoid getting crabbed in as often happens when we go up for Christmas. Being a tropical island we just got rained in for a bit of it instead. Additionally we spent a fair bit of time hanging with family and general chilling. In the first couple of days we decided to go out foraging and see if we could find some limes for Mum.


We found some, but some of them turned out to be underripe mandarins. Unfortunately it was not enough to make lime juice but I think they did get used for cooking.

One of the first places we went to was Margaret’s Knoll.

View from Margaret's Knoll, Christmas Island

The pinnacles and the ground below Margaret’s Knoll had been ravaged for phosphate at some stage in the past and have looked pretty bleak for a very long time. Recently (sometime in the last few years) the jungle has been taking over again.

Pinnacles below Margaret's Knoll being grown over by jungle, Christmas Island

12yo finally learned how to ride a bike after two days of alternately cracking it about not being able to do it and just sucking it up and working at it and finally taking my advice to just run along the ground til he got his balance before obsessing about the pedals.

12yo riding bike on school oval, Christmas Island

He’s now decided that after he gets his computer, he’s going to buy a bike and a helmet (he did ride to the school with one on, just didn’t put it on while riding around the school oval). After nailing it, the bigs spent a lot of time riding my parents’ bikes to the school and around the place in general.

We went to the Cove to swim and look at fish in the reef, and 8yo’s borrowed snorkel mask broke (it was a million years old).

Later in the evening the kids helped with preparations for Easter dinner by arranging centrepieces on the extra tables.

Next fine day we had coincided with some holidays so we went driving around with my parents and sister. We decided to go have a look at the Golf Course lookout which had apparently been done up nicely recently. We had to go through one of the old Chinese cemetaries, or perhaps it was Japanese, there was some disagreement on that front.

Going down towards one of the old Chinese cemetaries on Christmas Island

Sprat was wondering if the stone in the above picture was a grave or a signpost. As none of us can read Chinese, no one knew the answer. After a decent hike through jungle:


…we found the Golf Course lookout without the work done.

Golf Course lookout, Christmas Island

It was pretty much the side of a cliff which fascinated 8yo so much he wanted to lean over the side to look out and was quite miffed with JJ stopping him from plummeting to his doom. The bigs were a little bit more sensible about looking over.

Looking out over the Christmas Island Golf Club

After the hike back up the hill and a brief discussion about whether or not we were going to go look for the alleged other lookout (my only contribution to that discussion was that I was pretty sure the graves looked different the last time we had been past many years ago, so it’s possible we walked through a different cemetary unless someone came along and changed/upgraded all the gravestones), we decided to hit up The Blowholes. I did get one semi-decent video from the side of where I took the last video (I have no idea why it’s portrait o_O).

It was putting on a pretty decent show up the other end too (behind me where everyone pointed on occasion).

Other side of the walkway, Blowholes, Christmas Island

And our last bit of excitement for that day as we were trying to leave:


Good thing Dad was keeping an eye on us in the rear view mirror and paused when he realised we’d disappeared so I didn’t have to run too far to catch up and tell them what had happened (no I don’t run that fast, it’s a very rough track so we were driving slowly). They had a hell of a time trying to get the jack under the jack point and in the end had to make do with another hard part.

A couple of days later we went to a restaurant to celebrate aunty’s birthday and on our return we were greeted by one of the Alberts (there’s a couple of robber crabs in the area/under the house, apparently they are all Albert):

Little Albert the resident robber crab

Another place we go once when we’re back is Dolly Beach (we went semi-frequently when I was growing up, these days the family only goes when we’re in town), which is a pretty long hike through wild untamed jungle:

Random shot in the wild jungle we had to battle through! Christmas Island

Okay so that was a random shot as I was hiking down the path which was just track in places and nice boardwalk in others.


I was rather sad that the rubbish that is annoyingly part of the scenery at Greta Beach was starting to blemish this beach as well. It is however still a pretty spectacular beach.

Dolly Beach, Christmas Island

The tide was the highest that anyone has ever seen it ever. The kids and Sprat had an awesome time bodysurfing, I didn’t join them as the rock pools could only hold so many people without someone getting crunched.

There was a scary moment where 8yo got dragged onto the rocks by the backwash and Sprat was yelling at him to swim in and he replied “I CAN’T COME BACK!” On realising that there was actually a problem JJ ran out to get him. Watching from the shore, Mum and I couldn’t work out why both Sprat and JJ were taking so long to go and get him and we found out later it was because they were having trouble getting over the rocks. JJ managed to retrieve the small and because it ended well it was a good lesson (as opposed to a tragic one) about why you keep an eye on the water, pay attention to where it’s moving and bloody well listen sometimes.

Because we had food some robber crabs came to investigate. To keep them occupied/away from the food, we gave them a bit of ham from some of the sandwiches.

Feeding robber crabs at Dolly Beach, Christmas Island

We do have a lot of other crabs on Christmas Island but they tend to get overshadowed by the famous reds and the intimidating robbers/coconut crabs. Dad found this cute little critter somewhere while he was wandering around the beach:


All the kids carefully held and examined the crab, though 10yo’s efforts were accompanied by much squealing.

One of the kids’ favourite things to do when we’re on Christmas Island is to have a campfire at Lily Beach. This time round it got postponed numerous times due to the weather (instead of getting crabbed in we got rained in for a lot of the time). On a day that looked likely we headed down to Lily Beach, but the conditions were not looking favourable.

Choppy waters at Lily Beach, Christmas Island

My waterbaby decided he was going to try to swim anyway (much to JJ’s annoyance as he had to try to play lifeguard in water he was getting buffeted by). 12yo and I decided to take a look around “upstairs”. As we were walking along the boardwalk (and thinking that 10yo could have come with us as it was actually safe to walk barefoot, I had initially told her she couldn’t come up as she didn’t bring footwear), I spotted this view and took a photo.


I explained to 12yo that while I was doing research for my animation project, I found out that one of the possible origins of the name Canberra was from an Aboriginal word “nganbira” which means “woman’s breasts” or “hollow between a woman’s breasts” and this view triggered that memory. As an added bonus we also got a nice shot of the plant strata, with the more salt tolerant plants in the foreground, pandanos in the midground and going into rainforest trees and whatnot in the background away from flying salt.

The grandparents and Sprat eventually arrived with the campfire supplies and we ended up building a “wokfire” which is much quicker and easier to manage and we could do it under cover as it was raining on and off.

Helping to set up the wokfire, Lily Beach, Christmas Island

Once the wokfire was going, we got onto the serious business of eating satay (cooked on the portable barbeque), toasting marshmallows (copious amounts) and making smores.

We went looking for a pool in the jungle which is by all accounts a very nice pool but is otherwise best known as the place where a kid drowned while on a school excursion a long time ago. We didn’t find it (possibly because we were in completely the wrong place), but we did have an interesting walk through the jungle:


And found a somewhat unexpected source for the stream we were following:

Water escaping from a busted pipe

Not sure if that pipe was supposed to be like that or not but either way JJ reckons that if that had happened in Perth someone would have been shot.

To make up for not finding the pool, we engaged in another activity we do every time we come down and went looking for coconuts. We found some in the usual spots:

Shortly after taking the above photo, I resumed my seat on the front bumper of Dad’s ute. Not long after that JJ finally succeeded in cutting the coconuts down (the saw was blunt so he and Dad were taking turns). Instead of just plopping down with a few cocnuts breaking free as expected, the bunch exploded when it hit the ground and coconuts flew everywhere. I stood up but took too long to work out which way the coconuts were going and thus which way would be the safe way to dodge, and in the end was forced to shin check the one that was flying at high speed towards my torso. The good news was that I survived, nothing broke and I got to explain to the kids what a bone bruise was, the bad news was that I had a bone bruise, couldn’t walk for pretty much the rest of the day and it’s still occasionally sore at the time of writing!

8yo has for a while desperately wanted to have a birthday party on Christmas Island and this year he finally got it, admittedly very belatedly.

8yo's birthday cake on Christmas Island

The cake was made by my mum with some help from 10yo, and designed by 10yo. 8yo loved it.

The bigs were so industrious and hardworking, practising their writing (12yo finally sees the value in it and 10yo was interested in learning cursive because she thought it looked cool):

It was probably just to alleviate boredom as they couldn’t watch endless Youtube or play online games on Christmas Island due to bandwidth issues as they started binging on the things they’d missed shortly after we got back.

In the last few days before coming back to Perth, we made our usual visit to the Tai Jin House museum, where 10yo found me in the 1985 school yearbook, back in the days where the kindy was in a donga in Silver City, pre-primary was in the Tom Paterson building, the primary school was called “Christmas Island Area School” and the high school was the George Fam centre which now houses the Shire offices (the pre-primary and high school both got moved to the primary school and the whole lot renamed Christmas Island District High School).

8yo was slightly more attentive and on finding the lion head exclaimed “You use these don’t you Mummy?”

8yo recognises a Chinese lion head as something I use, Tai Jin House, Christmas Island

After that it was the usual effort of preventing him from fiddling with things that looked like they could be fiddled with and looked oh so very interesting. Unfortunately they were also very old things that would probably not be able to tolerate extensive fiddling.

8yo looking at one of the main displays at Tai Jin House, Christmas Island

He was also terribly excited when he recognised a photo of one of my dad’s friends (a long time islander who now lives in Perth and has an OAM) prominently displayed, though as per normal for him he couldn’t remember the name and had to be reminded by one of his siblings.

8yo went with JJ to check out the cannon while the bigs and I continued looking around inside, we didn’t really look at the outbuildings this time round due to the weather. After joining my parents for lunch at the CLA, Mum informed us that there was a Chinese museum literally across the road from the CLA. She asked a friend if it was open today, we got an affirmative and seeing as the kids had enjoyed the Chinese museum in Melbourne, we decided to stop by.

The Christmas Island Chinese Cultural and Heritage Museum is also tiny, it only occupies what used to be two tiny conjoined houses/flats (which I couldn’t get a picture of from the outside at the time because it was hammering down with rain). This was one side:

One half of the Chinese Cultural and Heritage Museum, Christmas Island

The kids found these “puppy lions” (as we refer to the Northern lions, the round ones that we use are Southern lions) on the other side (quite literally the other side, both the preceding and following photos were taken from just inside the door with perhaps a step taken for compositional purposes):

Northern lions at Chinese Cultural and Heritage Museum, Christmas Island

There was a wealth of interesting information that 10yo and I were better able to look through and absorb after JJ had taken the boys home (12yo was a bit tired and over it and 8yo was gettng a bit hard to manage so needed to be taken home).

On the last day, Mum found some odds and ends which she gave to the kids, and supervised them making swords and daggers and painting them. They got played with extensively before being left there for when we come back:

Kids making foam swords

And JJ and Dad managed to get a pump which meant they were able to finish up the bulk of the work on the hydroponics system Dad has been trying to set up for ages but only ever seems to get bits and pieces worked on when we’re in town and JJ is there to help.

Backfilling a hole for a hydroponics system now the water supply is in

12yo helped to dig out the hole the two bins are in, but was busy crafting foam swords at the time of the above. Hopefully when we come back Mum will have been able to get some veges going!

There is a chance we may be going back for Christmas, otherwise it will be in a couple of years again.