Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mana Wairua's First Workshop

This year The Fashionista  joined a recently formed "Youth Contemporary Dance Company" named - Mana Wairua, set up by the amazing dancing son and daughter, of one of TF's old teachers.  Their aim is to perform at festivals and other events.

Last week they were lucky to attend a two day contemporary dance workshop.

Cathy Livermore (in the black top on the right) 'discover all that you are' and an amazing dancer and choreographer, took them on the Saturday and again on the Sunday. Cathy is originally from Aussie but has Maori roots which brought her back to NZ to investigate further and she has really become involved in the Maori culture and incorporating it into her dance. She's simply the loveliest, most authentic woman.
Here's Cathy working with the Kila Kokonut Krew, at the factory, who toured Aussie last year along with the Endiburgh Festival.
Trey Pickett visiting from New Mexico, USA taught them on the Saturday. Trey is the sweetest most beautiful man and he doesn't actually seem to dance, dance simply seems to be part of him, just like you and I breathe, he just dances.

"Trey Pickett is an acclaimed performer and choreographer in New Mexico. He was first inspired as a young boy performing with his family when he then ventured into street dancing. Trey's passion for dance has grown through-out the years and has inspired him to share his passion by opening his own dance company, Disciples of Chaos(DC). He has performed in NY, has danced in the UNM dance program, as well as being the first black principle dancer at New Mexico Ballet Company."

This is from YouTube, there's a few other things on there with Trey also.

Anyway TF really enjoyed it but there were parts where she was VERY out of her comfort level. The students were asked to really be authentic and to simply throw themselves into it but there was still a bit of stiltedness and reservedness (I could have just made those words up) in them which I think will go with more time and further experience.

TF hadn't never danced with a male before and the kids all had to dance together and had to sometimes touch and connect, and she felt a bit conscious doing this as a lot of 12 year olds would I imagine. They also brought a lot of Maori spiritualism into it and it is all quite new to her but it was seriously a really great experience and she enjoyed but felt a bit lost at times. It was a steep learning experience for her. She actually has been loving learning more about the Maori culture and dance, so is getting more than she bargained for with this beautiful cultural opportunity being added to her dancing.

How lucky are these kids to get these opportunities to learn from professionals, at such a young age and there's a different work shop coming up soon!!!

If you'd like to follow these kids and their contemporary dance group, they can be found on Facebook on this link ... Mana Wairua - NZ  The more likes and support the better!

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Adventurous Day Out

Recently I took Agent Smelly and one of her friends, Miss Y, to Sonshine Ranch as part of a homeschool outing.

As part of the day included some horse riding the children needed to wear closed in shoes. When I picked up Miss Y, I asked her if she had togs and sneakers in her bag as she was wearing jandals (thongs for you Aussies and flip flops for you Americans and Brits). She told me that she had, but unfortunately when we arrived at the camp / adventure park and she went to put on her sneakers she found that she had forgotten to pack them. Well her bottom lip actually started to tremble (seriously was the cutest thing I have ever seen) and she was about to burst into tears when I quickly said "here try these on" and kicked off my own sneakers (we were over an hour away so wasn't like I could slip back home). She tried them on and thankfully these sneakers that are loose on me fitted her perfectly. Unfortunately her jandals were slightly a bit big for me (I have tiny feet) but I managed to tramp all over the hills and through the trail in them without breaking my neck ... the things we do!

Agent Smelly on the Flying Fox
It was quite a long ride through the bush ... I wouldn't have done it!

Anyway our first trip was down to the flying fox and the rope swing.

Agent Smelly on the rope swing

Then our group (there were 58 kids, two groups) was moved onto the horse riding. Agent Smelly was a bit disappointed that the trail ride was very short as she was dying to have a proper ride of her horse.

When I finally got up the hill from helping the remainder of the kids on the flying fox (parents lend a hand at each activity) they had already set off. When they returned I saw the kids on their sweet little horsies and then she comes out of the trail on bloody Phar lap. Apparently when they asked if anyone wanted the largest horse they had on the farm, she threw her arm straight up! She so was pleased she got him as she loves big horses. His name was Flash and he was missing one eye.

We then broke for lunch and sat on the grass in the most idyllic little area with all these lovely ferns and bush around us.

After lunch we moved onto their last activity which was a water confidence course. It was pretty gross to be honest ... but the kids had fun trying to get across the water without landing in it. Miss Y was really struggling on that type bit you can see in the bottom photo. You need to swing back and forth to get to the next one. She was taking ages and Agent Smelly was right behind her. AS's hands get really sweaty and whilst she had no trouble swinging and grabbing the next one, holding onto the same rope waiting for Miss Y to move was too much and she slipped into the drink. It was really quite funny, especially as Miss Y was just a tyre or two from the end and actually made it to the end without falling and all the kids behind waiting started dropping like flies ... haha

Agent Smell pink togs right in the centre.
Miss Y bottom left sitting on one of the tyres holding on ... haha
That's a water wheel the kids climb onto and try and move by running on it like a giant hamster!

We had really lovely weather and the activities kept moving and the girls really seemed to enjoy their day out together doing some fun and new activities.

Agent Smelly really seems to be gaining confidence at these activities without her big sister around. In the past she hung back, she did them but now she is putting herself out more to the front. It is interesting to see.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reward Scheme

The Fashionista's new school (how long before I can stop saying 'new' school I wonder) came home from her first day of school and showed me one of the things that they do there, that I think is a pretty cool idea and have been meaning to share.

Her tutor teacher explained to the girls that at their school they prefer to encourage the students for good behaviour rather than punish them for bad. I was very happy to hear that, as that is how I attempt to bring up my children. I say attempt as sometimes I do end up giving them punishments ... I mean how many times can one ask someone to please get off minecraft and set the table! So no tablet or device punishments come into place sometimes.

So essentially what happens is that each student gets a card which they can place in front of themselves on their desk during their class.

The rules are the student needs to display
  • a willingness to learn
  • interaction with respect
  • strive to understand
  • engage to achieve

If they are displaying these behaviours whilst in class, then the teacher of that class signs it. Not all teachers remember to walk around the classroom, so if they want to, the students can go up to the teacher to have it signed once class is finished. Once the card has been filled they hand it back to their tutor teacher for a new one and the signed one gets submitted to the office.

Once three are accrued they received a Bronze certificate, 6 for Silver and 10 they earn a gold owl badge to proudly wear on the lapel of their blazers. They also have it presented by the School Principal at a special ceremony.

No guessing who already has her sights set on getting that badge. She has completed three cards already ... that poor school won't know what's hit them.

I have discussed it with Agent Smelly and we are going to make up something similar here for her so she can earn stuff at home. She doesn't want a certificate though she has chosen food rewards ... no surprises there either!


Monday, February 16, 2015

High School Update - Week 3

The third official week of High School has gone a lot better.
The worst bit for TF is getting up at 6am or even 5.30 if she wants a shower in the morning! She still gets herself up and doesn't display any bad temper but, she says she is tired and could happily creep back into bed each morning.
Science that had gone so badly for her the previous week, went exceptionally well. She got a score (1 point less than the top score) that her tutor teacher (who is also a science teacher) told her was a really high score to get on that particular test.  She told her the first one actually didn't matter, so that has returned her to her previous good feelings about science. A huge relief to me!

She was made the Junior Council Leader (Year 9's and 10's) of her tutorial group which she was thrilled about. In full disclosure she admitted to us, with a big giggle, that she was the only one who had put her name forward for it in her tutor group. Apparently in her merry group of 7 friends all them had put their names forward to represent their respective tutor groups but sadly they didn't get elected. I am not sure exactly what's involved in the position but they attend meetings. She thinks it will be good experience for when she applies for more senior leadership roles down the track ... seriously I never looked that far ahead as a kid ... who is she???

She just loves her drama class so much. They are split into groups and have to put on a little performance to be shown to the rest of the group in a few weeks, based on (not the same as) the movie, The Little Princess (with Shirley Temple).

She did her first Beep Test (running test) ... ever ... and got a pretty good score showing she is quite fast. So bam, in response to "how do home schoolers do PE?" ... like a boss I say!

She had her first real homework this weekend which freaked her out and like all good students spent the first part of the weekend putting off. She spent a lot of Sunday doing it. All she wanted to do was rest but it had to be done, so I had to give her a gentle nudge in getting it complete. Some of it wasn't due until later in the week but seeing she has so much dancing it doesn't leave much time during the week to do it, not to mention she's exhausted of an evening too. Got to say, the homework is crazy and I can't see why they can't do it in class. Write an essay on a biography they have read (English), write about a scientist (Science), write about the appendix (Health/PE and all kids got different body parts) and lastly Social Studies which really annoyed me as it was stuff like, what Iwi do you belong to (it's your Maori tribe), what is your spirit mountain, what beach are you connected to, where do you meet friends and a personal favourite 'how do you get to these places?'. Seriously important stuff there!

I have to say she is really enjoying the social side of things and is having fun with her new friends. She has the group she hangs around with ... I call them the seven dwarves as there are seven of them, and also some other lasses that she has met in other classes. A couple even attend her new dance academy, so she is slowly building up a nice group of girls to associate with again. They text each quite a bit even outside school and are quite a diverse but nice young girls. She has tried a lot of new things too that we probably wouldn't necessarily do in a home school environment. The school had a different sport on each lunchtime for the new girls to go out and try and see if they'd like to join. She is keen to join the dance or drama groups so as much as she'd like to join some sports groups she simply can't fit it all in.

In full disclosure it's not all a bed of roses, besides the travel and homework, she doesn't like the time when they are not doing anything and she doesn't feel that they learn enough or are especially challenged and whilst she thinks all her teachers are actually really nice and helpful, she finds it amazing that they can take a subject and teach it so boringly. She said mum, you aren't even a 'proper' (ahem, I think she means qualified) teacher and you always made learning stuff really fun and interesting. She doesn't have much time for emailing, talking to her 'old' home school friends or even visiting them which saddens her.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How Home Educating has been going ...

Well due to the very busy and new demands put on us by The Fashionista's move to High School, we have slowly eased into home schooling. So we have completed 2 weeks now and here's what we've been up to.

This photo is from last weeks Home School picnic that was held at a city park on a lake. Such a good turn out despite a lot of people not being able to make it. They held an egg n spoon race, three-legged races and sack races. It was a lot of fun and despite it being held from 10-12pm many of us were still there at 2pm!

On our first "official" school day Agent Smelly was a bit of a whiner to be honest. I had only planned a couple of easy lessons to ease her back into things which would have taken about an hour at most so was kind of annoyed at her dragging stuff on and behaving like a brat. She's been on her tablet playing Minecraft much more than is good for her over the school holidays. I know some people suggest letting them self-regulate but she will spend the whole day on it if we let her and then she is a real beast when we ask her to come down for dinner or do anything to tidy her room or help around the house.  We had to have a bit of a chat that evening (I really wanted to know If this was how she was going to be acting all year) and the next day she was much more happy and ready to get on with stuff and get it finished rather than dragging everything out.

She's started working on Math-U-See Epsilon which is mostly on fractions at the beginning. She managed to complete three levels, tests included, in less than two weeks and got every single answer correct. All it appears to take is me sitting beside her, otherwise I hear "it's too hard", "I don't know what to do" and "I can't do it". Once I sit next her, she just cracks on and does it although she will occasionally ask me valid questions or for help to understand the question more and I am fine with that.
She's also continuing on with a spelling curriculum, Spelling Workout Level E, by Modern Curriculum Press, that she worked on last year. More so because her new English curriculum hasn't arrived yet, than because I particularly think highly of it. In case you can't read the above, she was supposed to write down words that she struggled with in lessons 13-17 ... her response "none, I'm brilliant". Rather her getting told to do things like this properly I simply have a laugh (as does her Papa) and let is slide. I really can't see what it would prove to do otherwise.

So on day 2 we did the same lessons as the day before but, this time I put her onto to complete some badge activities from there. She has been signed up for ages when blogger Sue Elvis put us onto it but, we always had trouble getting onto it properly. Turns out we simply have to go through Chrome to have full access to is. I knew she would be enthused when she saw she could earn a minecrafting badge and she was!
She completed her Stitcher badge ... watch out Aunty Sheryl, there will be a little something on it's way for you.
And of course she completed her Minecraft badge. She had to do a minecraft 'art' challenge and so she designed an owl with a 3d heart on Valentines Day. 
I like the fact that by introducing DIY into her curriculum, it has been keeping things interesting and she has more control over what she'd like to.

For her literature study she chose "Sherlock Holmes" for us to work on. It's an abridged version, so I didn't think it was that great and unlike other abridged classics we have read this one didn't have her yearning for more. We have already completed it and begun work on Alice in Wonderland. She chose that one next (I suggested Little Women) and then complained that she had already read it, so why where we bothering ... sigh ...  

We continued with our Story of the World, Volume 3 for history and because the chapters we were working on were on American history I put on Liberty Kids off YouTube which is a cartoon series that was made about the American Revolution, Boston Tea Party, etc. It is really thorough and quite good and from what I can tell she is retaining the knowledge. I pop a show or two (or three if I wander off and forget about her) on each day whilst she is eating her lunch.

We also have started work on an old Introductory course to Physics program that I purchased years ago and forgot on the shelves ... as you do. Am using it as an opportunity for me to start teaching her about Mind Mapping too.

She is also taking a weekly Jazz and Hip Hop class and also a performance class. Mostly because some of her old home school friends attend also and I feel she needs to be out amongst some mates more so than even before.

So we are starting to get in the groove again but, I must admit I am still adjusting to having just one student. It's not quite as much fun for either of doing some of the group activities that the girls both enjoyed doing together and laughing over.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

High School Update

Well The Fashionista has completed two part weeks back at school (Friday was a public holiday in NZ).

She gets herself up every morning at 6am, and gets her breakfast and gets ready (we do her bag and lunch the night before) to leave at 6.50 with me. I drive her to the nearest town to catch a bus into her school for a 8.45 start. Then she arrives back at the bus stop at 4.30ish for me to pick her up and drive her back home ... you can see the exhaustion in her little face. Frankly I ain't loving the early mornings too much myself and I get up half an hour later than she does.

In year 9 they place all the 300 odd girls in random classes, except for 2 classes which they call extended class for the girls who did well in their placement exams that they took late last year and 1 class for children that didn't do so well and require a little extra help to bring them up to speed.

TF was placed in one of the extended classes which she was pretty chuffed about ... don't get me started on how thrilled the mama, papa and extended family were too. It's kind of nice to have confirmation that home education works as well as we all believe it too. She stays in that class for most subjects except for her electives and math. For math they have another smaller special class for top performers which she ended up in apparently so far it is very boring whilst they review math which frankly if they don't know they shouldn't even be in High School.

She also has a "tutor teacher" and every day a tutorial session is scheduled. There are 5 girls from each year level (Year 9 -13 are the High School years in NZ) in her tutor class and the reason they do it this way is for the older girls to help mentor the younger girls with any issues they may have also.

She started off loving just about everything about school but within a week there was a major melt down one evening. She did not do well in a science test (just to see where they were at), fell down a flight of stairs in one of the buildings (there are 1800 girls at the school and apparently it is pretty manic at times), was petrified of her new Social Studies teacher, and was having issues with her IPad and kept heading to the library every day to get it online but the person was never there, so she ended up at the school office which had a queue a mile long and so missed lunch. She just exploded into tears that night. She wanted to keep going to school, but not that one because it was too busy, etc., etc.

Her Papa, who was at work, told me over the phone later when I explained what had happened, to tell her she could have the day off if she needed it, which really brightened her up. Not because she could have the day off, but I think because she realised we had her back. She and I discussed it but agreed that it would be better to get everything sorted the next day, and after a cuddle and our chat she went off happily to bed. I actually drove into her school the next day to pick her up as I was pretty sure it was simply tiredness that had made things so bad the day before (the bus trip home exhausts her as she has to stand sometimes and it's nearly an hour trip), and was pleased to hear that her day went really well. I took her and her sister out for an early dinner and we had a little bit of fun shopping. 

There has been minimal homework so far, more tasks like doing their front pages for their classes, etc. and introducing themselves.  Much to her surprise the scary Texan Social Studies teacher has turned out to be really nice and has offered to help her catch up on any work she has missed due to problems with the IPad situation. There were 3 in her class that had issues but she was the only one she offered to help, when TF was packing up her bag after class. Apparently everyone else rushes out of the classrooms but TF likes to place everything properly away.

I must say that the teachers there do sound quite lovely. All very supportive and nice so far, I am impressed with that.

She absolutely LOVES her electives, drama and digital technology but they only go for 6 months of the year, so will be interesting to see what happens next semester.

I am really not sure how it is going. She gets quite frustrated with some of the things that happen and more especially seem to take forever to happen. She does enjoy most of the actual classes though. So at the moment it's one day at a time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weighing In

Recently I had to change the batteries in my scales and ended up leaving them in the kitchen as the whole household wanted to use them.

This is what I woke to this morning ...

Apparently the bubble wrap should make the weighing in more fun ... thank you Agent Smelly you never cease to amaze me.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pretty in Pink

I went slightly batty covering The Fashionista's school books. Curriculum is such fun, and wasn't too expensive overall, except for the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) which was costly seeing that she got an ipad.

She chose the covering paper and left me to it. She probably shouldn't have ... you really would think that these girls would know what I am like by now ...

Apparently adding little pieces to her pens case was "a bit much" but, the best moment was when I took her glue stick into her ... all pinkefied; she nearly wet herself laughing. I was pretty chuffed with myself. The glue stick has also given a bit of a laugh to her friends and even her teachers have laughed. 

A couple of her teachers have professed they love her books and wish they'd picked that colour too -- her English teacher went the sparkly silver and supposedly is having regrets about not going pink now. Some of the poor teachers have complained to her that they have had to use leftovers from their kids books so had no choice in paper. So tragic!

She already had the pencil case and yes she chose a pink scientific calculator too.

This little Sansha ballet slipper keyring with her locker key was a bit of an oops. TF picked some dance gear for Christmas and whilst in the dance shop I slipped the keyring into my purchases so she at least had something she didn't know about. When I got home, I saw that the price was $15! Seriously $15 for a keyring ... thankfully she loves it ... but seriously I spent $15 on a keyring!  Some of the gear on special, cost me less.

I suggested covering Agent Smelly's books if she wanted me to and she raised her eyes and very dryly said "why bother" and shook her head at me. Pfft ... kids! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dietary Changes

November last year when I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor simply said "You are right on the line, do NOT eat anything ever again with sugar". He also scooted around his desk in his chair, looked me up and down and said "and lose 10 maybe 15 kilos and you'll be fine. You can make this go away by doing these simple things". My doctor and I have a good relationship, he is honest and straight with me and I pay him for it. In case you think he was being rude by saying that about my weight , he wasn't, I can easily afford to lose 20-25 kilos and still not hit the ideal weight for my height so he was actually being rather kind.

So I left the surgery and with a couple of small exceptions I haven't had any sugary drinks or foods, except for the stuff that's found in fruit and veg. I now only drink herbal tea, the occasional regular tea with almond milk and water. I don't drink or eat anything with "fake" sugar because all it does is make you continue to want the sweet tasted in foods and drinks. Many of my recipes for sweet desserts are now made from raw food recipes so I am still getting "my fix" every now and then. Surprisingly it has not been that hard, maybe because I have HAD to give it up. If I simply wanted to for diet reasons I know I'd fail almost immediately. So I am counting this news as a blessing really; a necessary boycott of sugar.

Ideally I would like to give up wheat and bread but that seems to be harder for me. I am making a little bit of my own to ensure it has no sugar and I try and make it with rice flour, etc. I suppose every little bit helps.

I also no longer drink milk except for almond milk, but I haven't been able to give up cheese or some natural yoghurt (I am not even sure I want to) and as for eggs I get mine from my own free range chookens so I can live with that.

A couple of weeks later, after more tests, it was found another couple of organs were struggling so I was advised again to stay away from anything with FAT. I then made the decision to cut out meat to make life easier for my liver and gall bladder.

So people I am now a pescatarian which means I can still eat seafood but although I ate a bit of it at the beginning I don't eat too much of it now as my repertoire of vegetarian recipes has increased. I am happy to report that the pain in my gall bladder area has cleared up. I had thought once my liver and gall bladder were recovered I would return to having a bit of meat every now and then but, I have tried a small bit of meat on a couple of occasions over the last couple of months and found that it doesn't agree with me when I do. I end up in a bit of pain, bloated and nauseous. So I am not sure what will happen with regards to meat but for the moment I am doing OK without it and it's no real hardship. Now if you think you could never give up meat, think again, I was a huge meat eater so if I can anyone can. I just adored the taste of meat. The Fashionista has joined me, although occasionally she might have a bite of her sister's meat simply to see what it's like. Agent Smelly wanted to do it too but lasted 24 hours, although I have noticed recently that she often enjoys the non meat dishes more than the meat which surprises her. The Papa has been fully supportive and happy to have vegetarian meals and says not to make him meat especially as he likes the idea of eating less meat and is happy to go without it.

You can see the difference in my skin too, it was quite blotchy before the dietary changes and despite not exercising much due to my recovery from the op (like I really need an excuse not to exercise ...who am I kidding) I have still managed to drop 5 kilos. So I am heading towards to my target of 15 kilos minimum.  I would love to face my next operation having lost 10 kilos ... so wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Fashionista farewells the Tooth Fairy ...

Now of course my children understand there is no tooth fairy but even so this has not stopped either myself or the kids still indulging in a little bit of fun and make believe. My girls tell me I am a nut but, they simply love it and I enjoy bringing laughter into their lives.

Well last Saturday morning The Fashionista had to have her last baby tooth removed. It has been loosely hanging for the past week (perfect timing with starting school) and kept bleeding whilst she ate. I tried pliers much to her horror but was unsuccessful and thought a professional might be best under the circumstances. Not to mention she kept running away whenever she saw me coming near her ... haha

Now TF is petrified of the dentist (no idea why there have been no bad experiences) and was starting to make a few whimpers in the dentist chair so I kept talking to her to keep her calm and somehow ended up saying that if she was really brave then the 'tooth fairy' would bring her $10 because it was her last tooth ... the things we say and do!  Anyway she was really good about getting it out and afterwards had to clamp down on medical padding for nearly 3 hours afterwards as the darn area kept bleeding. She remained quite calm and good about it all, so she definitely deserved a treat.

So I not only popped $10 into her little white 'April' jar that we have used over the years for her teeth and dusted glitter, pink of course, but wrote 'bye' in it (hey this is her last visit) with a trail to one of her beautiful faeries made by Wildflower Innocence.  Yup that's the kind of person I am. She of course loved it and when I suggested she could wipe it up now, she said "Noooo, it's too cute". She did remove her cash and stash it though.

So my first baby has now lost all of her baby teeth (and apparently requires braces due to over crowding ... sigh ... kaching, kaching) yet another sign that she is maturing into a young lady.

Funnily enough Agent Smelly was at a birthday party whilst we were at the dentist and came home with one of her front teeth that had fallen out whilst chewing a 'skittle'.

By the way if you order a doll (check out her site as there are all kinds of dolls, not just faeries) from the talented Suzanne at Wildflower Innocence, let her know we sent you, she's a friend and a homeschooler too!  Which reminds me I must ask her about some Easter bunny dolls for the little Misses.

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