October update

We now officially have a teenager in the house. Our beautiful first born turned 13 at the end of June and I am pleased to say she has not changed at all. I keep waiting for the often talked about teenage belligerence but we haven’t seen much of it from our Zoe. Her birthday, like all other birthdays, began in the dark. She made her Frankenstein cake with only a little help from me and needed help from the rest of the family to eat it. The day was very quiet because all the birthday girl wanted to do was play Minecraft. That is what birthdays are all about in Casa Christenson, doing whatever the birthday child wants, and the other two never complain. They also get to eat their fill of the garbage food that is off limits for the rest of the year.
Recently, we allowed them to chat to some friends on an Australian Minecraft server, Addstar, via a voice chat app. To say the least, they love it. I like that they know they are chatting to other children because they can hear their voices. Interestingly, there are quite a few homeschooled children in the group. But they tell me they usually only chat about the game and they know not to ask or answer any personal questions. Yes, we are very protective and proactive about our children’s online activity and their computer lab is under the lounge room, so I can hear everything they say :)

At the end of September, the Boy turned 10. Seriously, ten years since this little guy arrived. How can the time go so fast? At least his birthday didn’t start in the dark but it was a long, quiet day of… you guessed it! Minecraft! I had them run around the house every half an hour or so, just so they didn’t get all cramped up from sitting so long but they would have happily sat at their computers and only come upstairs when they were hungry. Henry received some really cool gifts this year including a Tinker Crate from KiwiCo. I have a few of these crates waiting for birthdays and Christmas and this is the first one we have used. Henry loved putting together this pack, which is a catapult arcade game. The instructions are excellent and there are videos that show step by step how it goes together. It also comes with a little magazine with instructions to make other things.

As you can see from our photos, we have been quite busy with life and learning. Recently we took Basil up to the kennel where he was born so he could have a long-overdue clip. I tried to clip him when he was little but I nicked his ear and I nearly fainted at the sight of blood (yes, I am soft!) So we take him back to where he was born every couple of months and I don’t have to worry about cutting him again. While we were there this time, the children helped out our dear friends and awesome mini schnauzer dog breeders, Andrea and Georgina, by holding some newborn puppies. This is not the first time the monkeys have been lucky enough to cuddle puppies but it is exciting every time. You can see Zoe with the mum, Indigo, who is pure black and such a lovely dog. We are very fortunate indeed to be able to visit regularly and get to know how the breeding world works. We love hanging out with all the mini schnauzers, they are as different as children and almost as fun!

The children have been working hard playing their violins regularly and are looking forward to the end of year performance. I just want them to play together more often, but they much prefer solo performances. It really is amazing how much they can achieve with just 20 minutes of play most days of the week and a half hour lesson once a week. I still don’t know how to read music let alone play an instrument, but I love that my children can!
The weird weather had us at Redcliff contemplating a swim in early September (way too cold) and we actually braved the pool at Southbank a few weeks later. It was still way too cold and the Boy, who has not a gram of fat on him, was blue after a few minutes but he was going to brave it as long has his sisters. We then went home and curled up on the couch together under doonas.
Many days, after our schooling is complete, the children begin some kind of craft. Last month, Lily spent days constructing towers out of straws, sticky tape and printer-paper, for Henry to pretend he was a giant and cut them down with printer-paper sword. The watercolour paints and paper come out at least once a week and while none of them want me to give them a lesson, they still manage to create some lovely paintings. Another craft we like but have only done a few times is suminagashi, which is the Japanese craft of marbling. This time we tried to marble one of Lily’s shirts. It didn’t really turn out but she still wears it. We also have a huge pile of marbled paper that will probably be used as backgrounds for future paintings.

The children have begun drama lessons with other homeschooled children. Drama Works is very professional and so far, we are all enjoying the drive to Albury Creek each week. The children have made some lovely friends and even Henry is getting into being a drama llama! Term four has them preparing for an on stage performance at the end of the year. All three look forward to Thursday lessons and I get to chat to the lovely mums while we wait :)

Mid Year Update...

We have been working steadily since the first week of January and it has come as a bit of a shock that we are in June already! Late last year we changed up our routine a bit by working for four weeks followed by a week off, rather than following the public school terms. I did experiment with a five-week block, but it was just too long for all of us. I decided that the four week block worked so well that we would continue it for this year. The week off is not really a holiday and I call it a Project Week because the children use that time to work on bigger projects that require much more time that is afforded during a regular school day. This timetable has made our lives much easier because we know we only ever have four weeks at a time, which is totally doable and goes surprisingly fast. We still take Wednesdays off from formal lessons and save this day for excursions, appointments and doing the necessities of life. It means for the other four days a week there are very few interruptions and we are managing to learn so much! Also, from a planning perspective a four week block is great for a thematic approach. We have been reading a great book called Prisoners of Geography, focusing on one or two chapters a block. I have also been using this book to teach how to write essays as well as a focus on geography and history of one region at a time. For our daily map work, we use the Seterra online map site to practice learning all of the countries of the region we are studying. This block we have learned all of the countries of Africa and Zoe can do the little quiz in under two minutes! Prisoners of Geography is giving us a geographical and historical lens through which to look at how each country acts on the current world geopolitical stage. It is fascinating to understand why each region has become the culture it is today. Unfortunately there is no chapter about our own antipodean region, but I will forgive the author because we can use what we are learning about the other continents in terms of geography, to understand our own historical development.

During our Project Weeks the children have worked on a number of endeavours. In the first week, Henry and NannyO worked on creating a Minecraft tapestry while the Zoe worked on a horse tapestry. One week the children cooked dinner every night for the family including recipe sourcing and menu planning and Lily made the table beautiful each night. Lily loves to bake and has made our teeth hurt with her sweeties. She also created 3D structures out of cardboard for Henry to use in his little games, put together a few stop motion videos and made some hand stitched toys from felt. I do require something of them during the weeks off schooling, but they still get lots of play time. Sometimes their play time goes on while they are making things. I can honestly say they are never bored!

During a regular school block, each day the children get a list of tasks that they seem to enjoy ticking off. They can choose which order to do the tasks but they must complete the list. It really is surprising how this strategy reduced the amount of whinging! I say reduced not eliminated because well, they are kids! They have the morning to do as much of their list as they like, because after morning tea they must do lessons with me until lunch. They know if they get all of their individual work finished before 10am, we will be done by lunch and they will have the afternoon to do their own thing. It does mean that some mornings they are doing Latin or grammar before breakfast!
We have been doing copywork since they could hold a pen. The girls have been learning cursive for some time now but Henry only this year. They all copy good penmanship for at least 10 minutes a day and I can see the results in all of their hand writing.
They are also required to read on their own every day and to someone as well. Reading is a huge part of our day with their own reading, me reading to them and audiobooks. They have learned to read, now they are reading to learn. I consider myself very blessed to have three readers. The girls and I really like dystopian fiction and I am looking forward to them being a bit older so we can enjoy stories like The Hunger Games together.
Violin of course is required for 20 minutes a day and their half an hour lesson each Monday morning with our lovely teacher. They can all play well enough now that it is no longer a chore for them, or the listeners!
We are still using the All About Spelling for our spelling curriculum and some days I mix it up by having them teach each other the lesson. I find Lily is a hard task master and doesn’t take any rubbish from her siblings! I don’t think she will end up being a teacher, but you never know.
I try to give them art lessons but they don’t like them very much. Who knew that my four year art teaching degree means nothing in this house? They would much rather watch a Bob Ross video on Netflix. On the days they get out the acrylics and water colours, they do their best to recreate what he does in oil paints. So our art lessons are not very regular but I don’t really mind because when they are teaching themselves, they enjoy it more. Rather the same way I learned about art.

We use the play room for our together lessons after morning tea, including science, geography, language arts, history and Bible studies. We don’t spend hours on each subject because I have found that Charlotte Mason is correct, short lessons often work the best, certainly for my three. Our science this year has been in biology, specifically zoology using the Exploring Creation series. We do a few of the hands on activities and a few of the worksheet but we basically just enjoy me reading the information and learning about different animals. We add to this learning with various documentaries and we compare the information from the different sources.
For geography we are going through a really low level book called Geography From A to Z where the children write about one or two geographical terms and draw a matching picture each day. It’s an easy way to learn the terms and we talk about where in the world each picture might be at home. It goes well with the Prisoners of Geography book when understanding basic geographical terms.
For language arts this year, I am going through the text book Figuratively Speaking that I picked up somewhere cheap. It is quite dry but for some reason the children quite enjoy going through a couple of lessons a week. In fact these are probably our most enjoyable lessons together. We are usually reading a classic sort of novel (King Arthur at the moment) as well as a bed time reading (The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper) and everything we learn in language arts we can look at in our reading. Not only that, the children love making up their own poems and short stories. This text uses lots of classic literature to highlight particular terms and I love that we have read much of the literature that is used.
For Latin we are still using Getting Started with Latin, just a few sentences translated a day and one or two new concepts or words a week. Zoe is also using Visual Latin 1 which we all enjoy because the guy in the videos is really funny.
For grammar, we are using the Get Smart Grammar program and daily practice with diagramming sentences. I love this program because it has taught me more than I ever knew existed on the topic of grammar and that the children can now diagram almost any sentence. But there is still so much more to learn! I think we will be using this program for some time yet.
For maths, Zoe is using Maths U See pre algebra and at the start of this year we were sailing along and both enjoying this maths. Then we hit a wall and neither of us was understanding what we were doing. So after some searching about what could be done, Zoe and I decided to begin the level again. That is probably one of the greatest things about homeschooling, there is no rush to do anything. We are doing much better going back through the level at a slower pace with more practice. Henry and Lily are both nearing the end of Epsilon, which focuses on fractions. I did this level with Zoe a bit over a year ago and I seem to have forgotten most of it. Luckily I get to do it all agin with the other two! The Maths U See program really is the best I can get for my kids and most of the time maths doesn’t make us cranky.

Of course all of this schooling doesn’t get in the way of life! We have had time for painting, bead work, chess, writing music, playing rummyO with NannyO, being with our fur baby Basil, going to the museum to see the Nasa exhibit, hanging out with school kids at UQ for a day, catching another Shake and Stir theatre performance - this time The Fantastic Mr Fox, or just hanging out with me for a treat morning tea. Life is certainly not passing us by, we are living it :)


This picture kind of says it all!

Three books that inspire me...

I recently met a mum who was considering homeschooling her two girls who are about the same age as Zoe and Lily. It got me thinking about when our family began contemplating bringing the girls home from school (late 2013) and the books I was reading at that time. I did read a lot about home education, about general and specific education philosophies and I also read many books about parenting in general. Interestingly, I learned more about education in the first four months of homeschooling , than I did in the four years of a university education degree. Here are a few books that changed the way I think about parenting, home education and life in general. Of course this list starts with the Bible, which is the best place to start for information about how to parent and educate our children :)

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
I have written about this book in the past and it is still the first one that comes to mind when I remember the huge changes in our lives over the last few years. I realise now that I loaned out my only copy that hasn't come home, so I may have to get another copy just for a refresh. (An aside, I have always thought that one should always loan out a book but think of it as giving a gift, then if it comes home it is a nice surprise. However, I always return books!)  This book talks about the pressures in our lives, that we put on ourselves. The excesses we live in are not good for us and it is not until we take a step back can we see what this kind of life does to us. Do we really need most of the 'things' we have in our house? The ideas in this book are more than just de-cluttering your belongings, though that does play a big part, it is also about de-cluttering your life. Cutting back on activities that are bringing more harm than good to your life, cutting back rich foods for a more simple diet and most importantly - spending more time getting to know your family. It is not written from a homeschooling perspective, but it is certainly easily applicable. 


Life Under Compulsion - Ten ways to destroy the humanity of your child by Anthony Esolen. 
This one is a more cerebral read than the previous book and I did find it rather cynical at times. It doesn't really provide real life applications like Simplicity Parenting, but it does highlight a certain compulsion that western society seems to have to 'live life to the fullest' at all costs. And what it costs is relationships for the most part and the inability to live a deeper life of meaning. I do like this book and I think it needs more than one reading to fully appreciate what Esolen is saying. This is not a 'how to' kind of book for home education or parenting, more of a feast for contemplation and further study.


Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen. This book was written before Life Under Compulsion and easier to read. Esolon is a great writer and has a wonderful sense of humour. He outlines how to cultivate the imagination of your child by saying this is how to destroy his/her imagination. Again, it doesn't really have applications to be used in every day life, just some really good ideas on how to recognise what in our society is soul destroying. The first chapter is called - Method 1: Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible (or They Used to Call It "Air"). I remember when I was reading this book, Zoe was quite miffed that I wanted to destroy her imagination. It was the first time I explained irony and I don't think I did a very good job because I have had to explain it quite a few more times since then!

2018 is done...

…so it is time to check out what we have been doing for the past six months!

We have to show you this little guy. I am not a dog person, I don’t think I have ever been very interested in dogs, but Basil is very cool. Also, he likes me so I know he is a good judge of character. He doesn’t like everyone though and he makes his opinions known. The chickens however, just look like dinner to him. Oh and yes, that is a live web cam in the chicken coup. We have fascinating television viewing in our home!

He is also a great singer! I have been looking through our photos for the year and found more than half of them are of Basil! He is rather cute…


In August we made a trip over to Stradbroke Island. The beach looked very similar to Fraser but the driving was more hazardous as the sand was so soft. None of us enjoyed the beach driving and the rest of the island is mostly paved so I wouldn’t put it in the category of good for 4WDing. We went on a couple of really beautiful hikes and found a nice place to swim, even though the water was still very cold. Poor Lily fell over on the rocks (she wasn’t even doing anything silly, the rocks just came up to meet her!) so our day ended in tears and lots of bandaids. Luckily it wasn’t too long before the barge took us home and she was able to rest in the car ride home. Straddie is a lot closer than Fraser Island and we were hoping for a similar island experience but we found it to be just a barge ride to another mainland. It doesn’t have the remoteness of Fraser and the barge ride, while quite pretty and cold in the early morning hours, is very long. It is certainly an easy day trip from our home but not a place we will be trekking back to any time soon.

Our boy Henry turned nine in September. Yes, I am just as surprised as you are to realise he is no longer a little boy! This is the final year he will receive a birthday gift for every year he has been on earth. Good thing too as I found it really difficult to buy him nine gifts this year. From the age of ten on, the birthday child receives something to read, something to wear, something to play with and something to share. We have used this formula for a few years now, for Christmas as well, and it seems the children get so much more out of their gifts when there are only four. It also means our house is no longer groaning under the strain of enough toys to sink the set of a Wiggles movie. The Boy enjoyed his birthday as he was able to do whatever he wanted all day, which (surprise surprise) was to play Minecraft and eat junk food.
He also began playing tennis in the final term. Nine seems to be the magic age for him to do things on his own. I realised as I walked away from his first tennis lesson at UQ Tennis Centre, that is was the first time since our failed kindy attempt (nearly six years ago) that I have left him with anyone but family. And he loves playing tennis! He loves his tennis coach, Alejandro, and loves hanging out with the ‘strange school kids’. He and I caught the bus over the river every Tuesday together which only took a few minutes but it was a special time that I really enjoyed spending with Henry, even though he talked incessantly about computer games and the elements of the periodic table. The former I have very little interest in but the latter, gee, he taught me quite a bit about chemistry! Especially when he was comparing a bolder made of uranium and a bolder made of hydrogen and what would happen if one or the other dropped on my head. We will continue tennis in 2019 and the girls will be doing swimming at the same time at UQ’s pool.

We had some great excursions towards the end of the year. George’s Marvellous Medicine at QPAC was quite short, as is the story by Roald Dahl, but the stage production was excellent. The set changes were so imaginative and non-human characters such as the chicken were very clever! We took NannyO and her sister, Aunty Sue, and we all enjoyed our time together and the show. At the end of the year we also took NannyO to A Christmas Carol and it was by far the best show we have ever seen. The music was performed mostly live by a young woman and her violin. She played a few other instruments that we couldn’t name but her playing made the show just wonderful. It had a few of the same actors from George’s, and one from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s performance we saw earlier in the year. It was nice for the children to recognise them and get excited about the music.

I took the children to the Ancient Egyptian exhibition at the QLD museum because it had so many exhibits not usually put on display in Brisbane. I found it all quite fascinating but the children were a bit put off by the security guards watching them so closely and telling them not to touch anything, even when they wen’t touching anything. I taught them from a very young age to use their ‘gallery walk’ which is to keep their hands behind their back and to look just with their eyes. The X-rays shown under the unopened mummys were amazing as where the dozens of scrolls and carvings. There were lots to read about all of the exhibits and I really could have wandered around in there all day if the children felt more comfortable.

During the colder days this year, (there were many more than previous years) we had a small fire in the back yard with marshmallows. We also snuggled up on the couch during the day and listened to audiobooks while we drew. However, most days the children spread out in the play room and did their own thing. When it is not time for lessons, there is always an audiobook on and surprisingly, they always agree on the story. Our wonderful Vuly trampoline usually gets a daily workout and even Basil gets a jump when the children promise to be careful. I find it amazing how much noise three children can make on a trampoline and how much our poor neighbours have to endure! Sorry neighbours, the noise won’t last too many more years! I hope… Towards the middle of October it was finally warm enough to go swimming at Southbank. As it was still rather cold, for the first few Wednesday mornings we had the entire pool to ourselves! Then word got out again that Southbank has an amazing free pool and we had to share.

Lessons this year included Kumihimo, though I think I enjoy this craft way more than any of the children. I made a couple of commissioned sageo this year and have begun making some dog leads for something different. The children made some lovely key rings that were given to only a few special people at Christmas time. Something new for the children are typing lessons because this is probably going to be the most used skill they will use in the future. Also, I told them they won’t have to hand write out their writing drafts if they can type them fast on the computer, making daily practice much easier to complete. We just use a free online app that includes short videos and progress badges. Monkeys love progress badges for some reason. As you can see, book work is done wherever is comfortable though I prefer a table. Zoe likes the back deck when the air is cold and the sunshine is warm. NannyO gave some great embroidery lessons and even though the frustration levels of the children were high at times, they all produced a pretty decent sampler.

At the end of November and for Lily’s 11th birthday, we spent three nights at Q1, the tallest residential building in Australia - on the 60th floor! The first day was one of the windiest I have ever experienced and our apartment sounded like an experimental wind tunnel until the gale died down after sunrise. Surprisingly, the tower didn’t sway as much as I thought it would at that height though the outdoor balcony furniture did some windy dancing for a while. We spent the days swimming in the pool and at the beach, and Lily said the best part was having her own bedroom for the first time. Though I suspect that she would be very lonely if she was alone in her bedroom at home. We had a great time and I am already looking at the calendar for 2019 to see when we can go again. I can say it was as fun as Fraser Island without the long drive and with air con. The nearby Japanese restaurant has excellent sashimi, curry and sushi. What else do you need on holidays?

For the second year, we went to the Brickman Lego exhibition. It was very good and the highlight may have been the life size Stradivarius violin. I didn’t take as many photos this year as I was too busy enjoying each exhibit. We spent quite a bit of time checking out the full scale Toyota complete with flaming lights. There were lots of exhibits that we could touch and a few Lego building stations. This year we were again drawn to the single block building station where we could build with tiny single blocks on a small panel before our backs began to ache from bending over the low tables provided.

For something different leading up to Christmas this year, I bought Nana and the children an advent calendar of different flavoured French jams. Every morning the monkeys would spend the first hour or so after waking, setting the table, eating toast made by Papa and sampling a different jam each day. Once Nana put on Christmas carols, the three of them would chat happily and munch through the better part of a loaf of bread before packing up their mess and heading upstairs for a day of play. It was a lovely month and I think the children were quite disappointed when all the tiny jam bottles were licked clean.

This is a video of the children practicing their end of year performance piece. They did get better and on the day, we were all very proud. Our amazing violin teacher hosted a Christmas performance at her house with all of her students and their families. Our three were the only siblings and they practiced hard to make their trio piece sound good. Theirs was the final song and while the parents were staring around chatting, I was asked how I got the children to play the same instrument. It was totally their choice, but they had to commit to at least a year of lessons and must play at least five days a week for 17 minutes at a time. Sure were get a bit of whinging, but when all three have to play it actually makes things a bit easier. They either play at the same time in different parts of the house (again, sorry neighbours!) or they play at different times during the day always using a timer so they don’t do one minute more! Playing is a part of their daily lessons and must be done before any free time on the computers. Since they began playing we have worked slowly up to 17 minutes and I think we began with five minutes during the first few months of playing. In 2019, their daily practice time increases to 20 minutes which is not that much more than 17 minutes so I don’t expect a huge increase in whinging. When we have guests visit our home, we encourage the children to get out their violins and play for us. I think all three are finally seeing the results of all those lessons and daily playing. I love listening to them play and hope they will continue playing for years. Sure I tell them they have a choice, but for now (while I am in charge of their education and welfare), they really don’t… they either play violin or some other instrument and as we only have violins, that is their only choice. Pretty much the same for all of their lessons actually. They can either choose to do what I tell them, or they can whinge about it and still have to do it. Yep, that’s how I roll. Homeschool parenting - nailed it.

We hope you all had a great Christmas spent with the people you love and pray you have a happy and safe 2019.

We're still here!

No, there is nothing wrong. Everyone at Casa Christenson is happy and healthy. I have just found that life is taking up a lot of time these days, in a good way. So far this year we have been steadily studying our various lessons and I am always impressed by how much learning we can fit into each day.
As you can see from the photos below, our playroom, which is in the centre of the house and usually the centre of our learning, is a rotating state of mess created by papercraft (we download 3D block nets free from Pixelcraft and 150 or 180gsm paper from Officeworks), Hama beads (oh my gosh these tiny plastic tubular beads go everywhere and I usually my burn fingers when I get ironing the things wrong!), many Lego tableau vivant (if you are a parent, I don't need to describe to you the agony of stepping on a four by four piece of hated hell. I managed not to scream like a toddler last week when one sneaked under my slippered foot late at night - I felt like such a grown-up), washi tape and paddle pop sticks (who knew these two things could be combined to create such amazing yet frustratingly fragile structures!) and of course watercolour painting. Monday mornings the playroom is transformed into a pristinely tidy music room when our wonderful violin teacher comes over for an hour and a half to teach the children. I do my best to ensure the playroom is immaculate for a couple of days a week so we can do some formal lessons in safety from Lego foot bruises. Even Basil is allowed to enter because everything he can tear apart with his teeth (gosh that list is long!) is put away and he can relax during grammar and Latin. If the playroom is too messy, we do our lessons in the kitchen. Or the front deck. 

As a part of our daily tasks, the children have to read out loud to someone. It was never specified that the someone is not me, but the children grab a book every school day and head downstairs to a grandparent. They all enjoy reading on their own too and even though I have many photos of them reading for pleasure, they don't do it as often as they listen to audiobooks. Without effort and within an hour, they can trash the playroom with their craft, not make any noise, and listen intently to an audiobook in a dazzling display of multitasking. It does make me wonder how they can do all of this and I still have to remind them to brush their teeth!

For the last couple of years, I have taught spelling as a separate subject using All About Spelling. Unfortunately, it was one of those tasks that was first to be taken off the daily list if we had to cut our day short. Or I had Zoe teach the other two their lessons, which they all enjoy until the firstborn gets too bossy and everyone gives up. In the third term, we have done away with the tiles and whiteboard (there is an app that can be used instead of the tile board but I haven't bothered with it yet) and cut the lessons in half. Now the children do more writing, more actual spelling and the lessons are easier for all of us. Interestingly, the children's spelling is improving faster than when I stuck mostly to the lesson plan. This is an excellent program for changing and tweaking to suit individual learning, and I highly recommend it. 
Another awesome program we have been using this year is Get Smart Grammar using sentence diagraming. I was part of the generation who suffered from a failed education experiment that threw out route learning from some QLD schools in the 70s and 80s. As a result, I am learning grammar (and multiplication tables!) along with my children and I had never heard of sentence diagraming before we began homeschooling. Every week we learn a new grammar concept and we practice it for the rest of the week diagraming one or two sentences every day. It wasn't until we began learning Latin together that I realized the need for a firm understanding of English grammar to get the most out of a second language.
The children haven't really noticed that I added Latin to our grammar lessons (or did I add grammar to Latin?) to make one lesson. I am using Getting Started with Latin which was very inexpensive and very easy to follow. We study one new word or concept a week and then translate a few sentences a day.  Grammar and Latin do take some time for me to prepare for the week, but I quite enjoy the lessons and the children seem to complain less when I spend more time on preparation. Which is quite lovely that they notice my efforts, even if they only show it in their lack of whinging and moaning. 

The trampoline gets a daily work out and the children get to help out the octagenarians (Nana and Papa) and NannyO in the garden as often as they think of it. Heath splurged on a 3D printer and now we get to make lots of useless pieces of plastic and the rate of one layer at a time! I must admit though, I have used it more than anyone as this technology fascinates me and I love checking out new things to print from Thingiverse.

The start of this year was quite eventful including the arrival of Heath's brother, Addy and his wife Kimmy, from the US. We had suspected for some time that he would just 'rock up' without notice though he did give us an hour's warning with a cryptic email telling us something will be delivered that day. All school went out the window for a week when they arrived and for a few days before they flew home. We only saw them a few times in the months there were in Australia as they were staying down the Gold Coast but the time the children spend with their uncle and aunty was really special. Henry, in particular, couldn't get enough of his uncle's time and challenged him to chess almost every waking moment they stayed with us.
We fit in a weekend at Fraser Island after the heat of summer and stayed at a lovely unit with a view of the eastern horizon. The children saw their first sunrise over the water but it was way too early for holidaying Lec so I slept through it. We saw quite a few dingoes this time and Heath even used his snatch strap to rescue a car that had broken down. We drove almost to the tip of the island again though we were a little disappointed with Champagne Pools as it was full of people (how dare they!) and not enough water to swim in. I love how the island's geography changes so much between our visits. There is always something new to discover on Fraser.

In addition to our regular lessons, NannyO has begun teaching the children embroidery stitches a few times a week. I am amazed at how much they all love this class, especially NannyO! There are some frustrating times but for the most part, the children persevere in the task and are doing very well. In their free time, they are in the yard or on the front deck building things. The teepee out of bamboo in the backyard was lots of fun though the construction of... something out of the offcuts from the old cubby house, on the front deck, sent all of the adults in the house into a bit of an 'Oh my gosh that is going to fall on your head' tizzy which I resisted as I know children have to take some risks in life. Ok ok, once I saw what they had built I asked them how structurally sound they thought it was and what would happen if it fell. I made them tell me about the possibilities of cranial injuries and within a few minutes of this line of questioning from me, they decided to pack it up. Playdough is much more fun and less likely to involve a trip to the hospital. They can also listen to an audiobook while they construct their mermaids, so it is a win-win. The girls were in the year's first Australian Girls Choir performance just before the mid-year holiday. Even though it was a really long day for them both they were excited to be on stage again and I enjoyed the show. Late in term two, we paired down our daily tasks to just a few for a couple of weeks. We were all very tired for some reason so it was nice to do some half days for a while. The board in the picture above looks something like what each child has in their daily task books but for a couple of weeks, I just wrote what they had to do on the board. They would race through the tasks, ticking them off then they would be on to creating or building something for the rest of the day. Would you believe that I think I have heard the word 'bored' mentioned to me twice this year? And I was so excited to hear it that I cuddled the child and told them how wonderful it was that they were bored! Of course, said child trudged off disgusted and didn't mention the word again!

We get out and about as often as we can because we live in such a lovely city and just down the road from the galleries and the museum. One day there was a bus strike and we spent the day bus hopping through the city. Earlier in the year, it was decided that Henry and Lily needed new beds so Heath set to and built them. Henry and Basil helped... sort of. The end result was wonderful and both children are very happy.  The final picture in this set is Zoe's mapping of a mini house. It took her hours and it has some really intersting details including a bathroom. She thinks archeticture might be a good profession to pursue. 

Our wonderful first born turned 12 at the end of last month. Zoe loved her gifts and spent the day doing whatever she wanted. Which was - 5amish wake up, chocolate with breakfast (just kidding, I said no to that! It was porridge), computer time (gosh the house was quiet that day!) morning tea at Max Brenner at Southbank, to eat her fill with liquid chocolate (luckily she didn't really notice that the place was disgustingly filthy and the crockery was cracked, we will have to find another place to spend birthday morning teas!) ending the day with dinner with the family. She helped me make jelly and her requested cake of pavlova (OK I cheated and bought a case from the supermarket so it was just whipped cream she helped create!) and we all sang happy birthday. It was a special day and even though we didn't do much, it made Zoe very happy so for me, it was mission success. 
As you can see from the x-ray above, we also had a check-up at the Lady Celiento orthopedic department. Zoe passed her examination with flying colours and it is possible that it was her last check-up. Her hips are forming normally and aside from a scar and some minor nerve damage (that only affects a small area of her thigh skin), the surgery, nightmarish casting and months of horrible splinting was all a success. As is our Zoe :) 

To comment on this post...
If you can't see the comment field at the bottom of the page, click on the title of the post,
then at the bottom of the page (it can take a few seconds to load) there will be a comment section.
If you have a squarespace account you can log in using the funny Squarespace icon above the field for your name,
there is also Google+, Twitter or facebook icons you can use to log in.
However, if you have none of these accounts - it's ok!
Just write your comment and click on the little person icon and fill in the Your Name field.
Email and website are optional and all comments are moderated before publishing :)