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 :) 

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