Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Perfect Peacock Crime

Long time no blog - apologies, but have been super busy in the schoolroom trying to get Unit 2 finished for term. The kids missed the last week of school because they have been galavanting around Brisbane. The Sparrow's left on Sunday afternoon, unfortunately the creek had come to the highest it's been since we've been here and went over the handy footbridge, which meant Alex and Matt had to boat the luggage and passengers across. Luckily they had got the car out earlier in the week when you could still drive through the creek. 

So off they went to the big smoke, leaving us a big list of jobs to do during the week and in charge of all the Malden animals. It was barely day one and we discovered what appeared to be a dead chook in the pen. Yep definitely dead after closer inspection. How mysterious. Poor chicken. The day before Alex had locked the peacock, peahen and peachicks in with the chickens. Oh you didn't know we had peacocks in our midst? Sure we do. Here's Mr Peacock...

He used to be much more impressive with a big long tail but he seems to have lost all his tail feathers, when they grow back I'll take some of him doing his dance. He spends most of his time strutting about the backyard, shaking his tail feathers, dancing about and being quite the ladies man. The peahen I hadn't really sighted, she had gone bush since we've been here to make a nest we presumed, lay some eggs and hatch some peachicks like a good mama peahen. Well in the last week or so she has re-emerged from the scrub with three little 'chick peas' bobbing behind her. Slowly but surely she has been coming back to the house, more confidant each time, looking for food most likely. 

I remembered that Alex had told me the rooster had also 'mysteriously' been found dead in the chook pen not long after the peacock came to live with them. Now a dead chicken. The question had to be asked...could we have a rogue peacock murderer on our hands?! I liked to think the best of Mr Peacock, so I looked for the only other witness to the crime (the other chickens were too distraught to talk, just seemed to cluck a lot). Miss Piggy lives next door in her own pen, a high rise apartment of sorts, so I questioned her as to the whereabouts of Mr Peacock on the night in question. Unfortunately she wasn't giving out too much information, not a big talker...

Matt disposed of poor dead chooky, we seperated the two types of fowl in case the rogue murderer had the taste for blood and got back to our list of jobs to do for the Sparrow family. Have you ever seen more neatly rolled ribbon and wound lace? I think not.

Matt has also been busy this week sanding the outdoor table and chairs, oiling them, cleaning out the water feature, whipper-snippering, putting a new blind in the store room and the last two days cleaning out the cattle grids with Alex's twin brother, Glenn.

In other news, the week before this was wet, wet, wet. Miss Emma's 4wding skills have been put to the test every morning and evening making the 3km journey from the donga to the house for school. Luxie and I became much more acquainted and I didn't get bogged, I was dreading having to call Matt or Alex to pull me out. 

School holidays now before Matt and I fly home for a little holiday! How exciting. Easter egg hunts, Easter Sunday mass with my family, our niece Laura's birthday, a wedding (!!!) and our niece Violet's baptism. Phew! We fly into Melbourne on Good Friday, how I miss Melbourne and Gippsland's rolling green hills! 

Now...the passionfruit vine seems to be laden with fruit - anyone got any passionfruit recipes???

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Boat building, webcams and Tara Dennis...

I thought I would share what our week in the Malden schoolroom was like. Let me start by saying I don't think there is such a thing as an 'average' week, or day, in the schoolroom! This week for example we had to go to Emerald on Monday (about two and half hour drive) for the kids to go to the dentists and parents to go to the accountants. I packed up their schoolwork though and we went to a friends house to attempt to finish our lessons. Then on Friday Little Miss Netball Star had to go to Barcaldine to play so we had a very quick lesson in the morning before waving mum and netball star goodbye walking across the creek. Yep flooded in still. Tom and I held the fort whilst his Dad and Matt worked in the yards Saturday. 

We did, however, learn all about area this week in maths. We learnt that it is measuring the space inside a shape and that you multiply the sides to find out how many metres/centimetres squared take up the space. Ways we learnt this were by measuring the deck, the pool, the get the idea. We had some super tricky problems to solve, like working out if we wanted to paint two walls of the schoolroom, how much paint would we need if 1 litre does 15 square metres and we need to do two coats. Poor Miss Emma's limited maths brain was hurting!

Measuring the pool
Measuring how long the backyard is

Whilst we were busy doing maths lessons, the chopper came this week to help Matt and Alex muster. I managed to get this very dodgy photo of the chopper 'parked' at the Malden house for lunch. 

This week in the schoolroom I tried to get the kids (and myself) to keep it tidy - everything in it's place and all that. One idea I brought home from home tutor workshop was to use a daily schoolwork folder. Rather than the kids sifting through their whole unit of work to find what we are doing today and it totally overwhelming them, they can now come into the schoolroom and be handed one folded that has just what we are doing today in it. Little Miss I Love Rules loves it because it brings structure, Little Mr I Hate School loves it because if it's not in the folder Miss Emma can't make him do it!

New daily schoolwork folders

The schoolroom is in the house, just off the kitchen/dining/lounge. It's both an advantage and disadvantage having a schoolroom in the house, the store room and cold room are off the schoolroom which makes it tempting for the kids to get something to eat instead of do their work, or Mum/Dad can be in and out of the schoolroom getting things.

The twins desks are in the centre of the room, divided by a wall so they can't annoy one another...too much. The computers are on one side of the room and my whiteboard and the storage cupboards on the other. A lot of things are now done on computer for distance ed (and I'm sure mainstream schools) so we alternate between the kids desks and the computers, depending if they are typing work, playing a spelling or maths game or listening to an audio piece. 

Maddy's desk
Tom's desk
The kids on air
Where Miss Emma 'teaches' (aka harps on about things the kids generally don't care about...)

Part of the 'structure' I was wanting to bring to the schoolroom was a set routine for the day. I went through The Plan with the kids and they told me what they would like to do first, second, third etc. I printed it out and put it on the wall so they can know what's coming next. This week I introduced reading a book just for fun after lunch to coax them back into the schoolroom - so far so good! We're reading Enid Blyton's The Wishing Chair, reliving my own childhood, I don't know if me or the kids are enjoying it more :)

New school routine and Miss Emma's rules...both are works in progress!
The kids have on air lessons Monday-Thursday at midday for about an hour. It's a blessing and a curse - a blessing because they get to have a 'real' lesson with a real teacher and interact with their classmates, and a curse because it's at the end of the main part of my teaching for the day so they're a bit drained and also Tom hates on air, mainly because he has to sit and listen. Booooooring. He can generally be found slouched in his chair, spinning around on his chair, throwing his headset at the screen, lying under the know, the usual. This week was particularly tough as their class teacher has been wanting them to turn their webcams on. Great! I thought, they get to interact and be more like a 'real' classroom, but Tom hated the idea. It meant his teacher could see everything he did (or didn't do). Sigh!

The kids class teacher, Mr Grubb

After we finish school for the day (usually at about 2.30pm) we get to do fun activities - painting, drawing, swimming, sports, games. I try to do an activity each day with each child so one doesn't feel left out, I think Tom is wondering why there are no male governesses?! Maddy wanted to make 'something like on Better Homes & Gardens, you knooooow!' Luckily Matt and I watched it last week and I knew what she wanted to do - a painting using masking tape to make lines across it. Move over Tara Dennis.

Next day and it was Tom's turn - this time boat building, inspired by our current work we're doing on the first fleet arriving in Botany Bay. We would set sail in the pool with our trusty vessels! I was super impressed with Tom's ingenuity when building his boat, a true engineer. He used two empty yogurt tubs and a prima box for super buoyancy. I made a viking ship (obviously, can't you tell?!) out of a paper plate, some pencils with paper sails and paddle-pop stick 'oars'. Maddy's was a paddle-pop raft which took on water quickly! Perhaps not a true engineer.

My Viking ship 
Tom's creation

Maddy's creation

Tom's finished boat. Arrrrr!!! Trying out his best pirate impersonation, can't you tell?!

Another great week in the schoolroom as well as in the paddock here at Malden. Matt has been doing lots of mustering this week, then drafting weaners, branding, marking, preg-testing in the yards. Some big days with a very sleepy husband by the end but we all know he wouldn't have it any other way. Hoping for an uninterrupted (and therefore productive!) week in the schoolroom next week...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Longreach Home Tutor Workshop

I've just spent the past week in Longreach attending the Home Tutor Workshop - the kids have been attending 'real' school with their classmates and teachers whilst us home tutors (other govies and mostly mums) learnt about how to understand this new curriculum which has just started this year in Queensland as well as share ideas and better ways to teach in our remote area schoolrooms. I met lots of lovely people at LSODE (Longreach School of Distance Education) - the staff, teachers, other govies, mums and students. 

With the creek still up we had to depart Malden via the trusty footbridge on motorbikes Monday morning - it's a three hour drive to Longreach, through Jericho, Barcaldine and Ilfracombe. Whilst in Longreach the kids got overdue haircuts and Kristy hit the supermarket while I took each of the kids seperately to the pool to practice their medley, swimming sports was on Wednesday and the kids weren't used to swimming in a big pool! Tom did really well and even did a lap of the 50 metre pool...

Tuesday morning we headed to LSODE for registration and school assembly, new school and house captains were introduced and the house war cry's chanted with gusto. Maddy and Tom are in Boree house (there is only one other house, Coolibah). Here is their war cry, impressive...

Whilst the kids had lessons with their classmates and teachers, home tutors had workshops to recognise how your child learns, how you teach and how together they can make it a winning combination. Turns out I am a dolphin/wombat teaching a wombat and a kangaroo/eagle. Don't ask.

We stayed at cabins just near the school, other mums and kids were also there which meant a wine (or three) of an evening, kids in the pool and take-away dinners together.

Pool time after school

Tom with a very cute pup one of the mum's had with her

On Wednesday we had some more learning to do, both home tutors and kids, before the much anticipated swimming carnival in the afternoon. I took the kids back to the cabins to get ready with yellow hair spray and grass hula skirts. Boree's theme was Hawaiian and Coolibah's was Australian Lifesavers. 

Little Sienna getting into it!

Maddy showing some Boree spirit

Tom making some noise

Miss Emma - getting in the spirit of things and chief sports photographer

The carnival is held at the Longreach pool, thankfully undercover but still very hot spilling out onto the grass with all the other parents/govies. Maddy did really well with a few firsts, a third and seconds. The medley practice at home last week obviously must have done something as she came through with a blue ribbon! Confusion and chaos ensued to begin with though as I'd taught them one sequence of strokes and apparently they had to swim a different sequence! I stood at the end of the pool though like a paranoid govie yelling the different strokes to Maddy and her friend Rosie as they reached the end of the pool. Tom got three seconds and a third - terrific efforts by both of them. So proud!

Tired and grumpy kids by the end of it all. The next morning was an early start at school for more sport (netball and football) which was a struggle for most kids. Home tutors got to have a session with the new curriculum writers which was great, a lot of opinions aired and things off chests I think. In the afternoon Kristy and I got to hit the supermarket to do much needed shopping, Kristy has been stuck at Malden for 8 weeks while the creek has been flooded. Returned to LSODE to discover Maddy had made the netball team and selected to play tomorrow! Good and bad news, great she made the team, not so great that we had a heap of cold/frozen groceries and now had to stay another night. After a run back to the cabins to book in for another night and storing our cold food in the school's cool room we tried to get hold of the husbands to let them know we wouldn't be home. Unimpressed, said they were starving!

Maddy's netball on Friday was really good though, she played so well despite the fact the poor small school's team she was on was outplayed ten fold against girls who clearly play as a team all the time, not like these distant ed kids. Maddy was one of two grade five's selected so she was against giant's and much more experienced players. She did a few sneaky moves though and most importantly had so much fun. 

Back home to Malden and trying to catch up on school on a Saturday - poor kids, but next week we're in Emerald one day for the dentist and a hair cut for Miss Emma, as well as a day in Barcaldine as Maddy is playing netball again. Disrupted school week ahead but kids going well I think...I hope! 

I had a great week - full of insights into how to teach two very different kids well. I was inspired and impressed by the hard working families behind distance education - especially the mum's who are so dedicated and committed to giving their children every opportunity in their educations. Effort really does conquer distance.