Attention - The previous blog entry has had numerous PICTURES added - so go check-em out!
January 30 - February 7, 2012
After Wendy and John left us we were very tired and mostly slept for the next three days. We slept very late each morning, getting up around 10AM, having brunch around 11:00 and getting our day started around noon. We weren't up particularly late each night, just very tired. We all felt a little down at finding ourselves by ourselves again - with no excuse to spend money on pizza or anything fun like that. It was time to hunker down and start home schooling again. The school year in New Zealand begins at the end of January.
We were also being plagued by nonos, tiny black flies that leave a nasty mosquito like bite (although much more itchy). The nonos in New Zealand seemed more persistent than anywhere else we have been. In the tropics, they only bit if we went on land and walked through their territory. In New Zealand, our boat seems to be their territory. They do not make a sound like mosquitos. The only time you notice them is when they are biting you and by then it is too late. They show up the minute the wind dies down or twilight - which ever comes first and they do not leave. So if they didn't manage to get in a good couple of bites before bed, they bite you while you sleep and then again the minute you wake up and walk into the galley with bare feet. Oh, they also have a penchant for exposed skin below the knee. We have some theories about why they mostly bite very low. The best theory is that they are poor flyers - and the lower - the more accessible. They also seem to like foreigners better than the locals here in New Zealand. So all the cruisers are constantly scratching (and in private swearing). Owen's bites have turned into nasty scabs, some have even gotten infected. Mine just itch to the point where I want to scream, (calamine lotion has no effect.) Luckily our kids for some reason are not as tasty to them. When we finally thought we'd loose our minds, the weather changed.
But before I tell you what the weather changed to, I wanted to tell you more about our home schooling. We begin our day around 9:30 AM with Math (30 minutes). Owen works with Tamsyn and I work with Griffyn. Griffyn is on track to be half way through Kindergarten and Tamsyn is working through third grade problems. The Math class varies in content each day of the week. For instance Wednesdays (allowance day), Math is all about counting out the proper change (currently using U.S. currency). The kids solve problems to purchase candy. The candy is real and they are very motivated to learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide and count back change correctly. On Tuesdays we work with visual aids like clocks (learning to tell time), calendars (to discuss how February is different in New Zealand than in Washington), an abacus (or other historical methods of solving math problems). On Mondays and Thursdays we work on equations, the bread and butter of most arithmetic. After Math is recess (15 minutes) - which means that Tamsyn and Griffyn must leave the cabin, go above, and play by themselves on deck. They usually swing on a black halliard (which we do not use at anchor). Often Owen or I go up with them and play "Captain Says," which they love and of-course 'the best listener' wins.
At 10:20, Tamsyn sits down to work on a writing project while Griffyn and I work on his reading lesson. Tamsyn is currently working on a "How To" assignment in which she must write down the directions for someone to make something. She is writing to Aunt Kelly (specifically) about how to make a 'Saturday Snake'. We will post her project once she has finished. Her writing projects usually take a week. She spends at least 45 minutes a day four times a week on them. The writing projects provide many opportunities for learning new skills and practicing old ones. She has to write out the project, correct her punctuation and spelling, revise and edit her writing, write a final draft in cursive, and then present it to us before it ends up on the blog. Tamsyn spends the first 25 minutes (of 45) by herself while I work with Griffyn on his reading lesson. After that I work with her on her writing while Griffyn takes a break. Griffyn is reading at a 1st grade level and it is very tedious. At this stage, he still must sound out most words. His lessons vary depending on how frustrated he is with the first effort we make. We are working our way through "Green Eggs and Ham" - but if he is really struggling after a couple words, I will revert back to our lesson book, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" (a reading curriculum I cannot say enough good things about!) And sometimes we skip both of those and chose a pictorial encyclopedia. I read him the captions of each type of spider (for instance) if he counts the sentences, the capital letters, and sounds out a couple words. We make it a game and he learns about reading in a playful way.
At 11:05, it's snack time. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11:20 Owen sits down with Tamsyn while I sit down with Griffyn to work on an elective (40 minutes). The electives are: History, Geography, and Science. (Every Thursday we study Music at this time.) The elective is taught for a week or two depending on the topic, before another elective is studied. Currently Owen and Tamsyn are delving into the basic concepts behind scientific investigation. I have over heard some of it and Owen has the perfect background for this discussion. He also found a 5th or 6th grade student Science activity book which is too advanced for Tamsyn, but a good resource guide for them. I am reading a chapter on History & Geography from the "Everything your Kindergardener Needs to Know" series with Griffyn. This is another great series of books for the home school teacher. I am not as fluent in History and Geography as Owen, nor do I have a curriculum for these subjects other than what they learn by traveling, but this book is great for a child just beginning to learn about the world and U.S. History. I also have a "Children's Atlas of the World" to provide us with maps and facts about what we read, an inflatable globe and other children's non-fiction to help us locate important sites and read more in depth. So far Griffyn has a terrific grasp of "countries" (which each have their own flag and currency). For each country we have visited, the kids have made a flag and collected some coins (in addition to what they spend on candy while in country).
At noon it's lunch time - and school is over for the day unless we started school late or are still engrossed in a project. Sometimes the kids continue working on the 'elective' on their own. Sometimes we finish school around 2:00PM due to something unforeseen like running out of water (which pushes ahead the start time). On Fridays we have Art Day. Fridays begin at breakfast with sharing about what we have learned during the week in our elective studies, our writing projects, or stories we have read. At some natural break in the day, Tamsyn gets computer time (30 minutes). But most of the day is devoted to art. Generally the kids make art in the morning and by afternoon are finished. We let them watch movies so that Owen and I can continue working on our own art projects.
Both Owen and I need to make more art than we have been able to thus far - we are both artists - so we decided we needed a whole day each week for art. I have tried a number of different home school schedules, over the past year, and most of them didn't work for long. I kept trying to teach too many subjects in a day or in a week. I was trying to emulate an elementary school schedule (designed for 25 students per class, a teacher and parent volunteers). It just never worked. I couldn't teach in such short bursts and really cover anything while teaching two age groups at once. Every interesting or fun project we started always went too long and messed up the schedule. And there are so many things that interrupt school while traveling (like the days before disembarking - which must be devoted to boat maintenance/repair, provisioning, laundry and stowing). I never found time for myself much less art, when I was emulating these school models (and doing all the domestic chores). Domestic chores on a boat, take twice as long as they do in a house or apartment. I make bread (because often there isn't a bakery handy). I do the laundry - completely by hand. We do not have any electronics for the kitchen - no dish washer, microwave, toaster, blender, coffee grinder or any other time saving domestic devices like washing machines or dryers. We have to do everything by hand. And grocery shopping may take all day if we have to walk a couple miles or hitch hike or share a ride. Home maintanence (on a boat) takes up a lot of Owen's time plus he has to work for our income. Often over the past year, I felt totally overwhelmed by the school schedule in addition to my chores. This latest school schedule allows us enough time each day for chores and has built in time for the teachers to regenerate. This schedule focuses on the most important subjects of an elementary education (reading, writing and arithmetic) as well as the other subjects that are introduced (History, Geography, Science, Music). And because we home school, the kids get more one on one time than they ever would in a classroom.
Now back to the weather change and how it relieved us of our nonos. Sometime about half-way through the last week, the winds picked up and a gale set in. (Gale winds are upwards of 25 knots - blustery day!) The winds blew so hard that the nonos couldn't land on the boat! Thank God!!! But the gusts continued to blow in the 30 knot range for days. Now despite how much we hated living day to day with nonos, continuous high winds with occasional rain and consistently overcast skies can wear one down. The winds were so bad that Owen camped out on the starboard settee for most of the week just to be near the GPS - so he could hear the drag alarm (the alarm attached to our GPS system that starts beeping if the boat moves beyond the scope of the 'normal' anchor swing.) I woke up a couple of times during the night just because the waves were knocking the boat around so much I couldn't sleep. (Once I had to take Meclazine - seasickness medicine - before I could fall back asleep.) When winds blow 30 knots for any length of time the long fetch here near the Opua Marina gathers momentum. Try balancing on a bouncing deck while reaching up to hang out a soaking wet queen sized flat sheet. If it doesn't smack you in the face - then you are not experiencing 30 knot winds on a sail boat (our boat changes direction because of the river currents and the winds so often that I have had to learn to dodge my laundry as quickly as I hang it.) We had a couple days where white caps around our boat were the norm for the day. As big waves make for very wet dinghy rides, we weren't too eager to jump in and get completely soaked with salt water and then frozen by the winds just to go ashore. We also worried about the boat dragging when we were ashore (the one time we left the boat), so mostly we just hung out. Owen went in twice (alone) to fill gerry cans with water because we were out and because we needed to wash clothes - otherwise we stayed put. The winds were so annoying, so consistently too strong, that we are now all taking sea sickness medicine just to survive on the boat. The main symptoms of sea sickness at anchor are irritability, stomach upset, drowsiness and short tempers. Despite all of our efforts to curtail Griffyn and Tamsyn's antics during this week - with planned snacks, school schedules, and recess - it is likely that they could be thrown overboard if we do not soon go ashore. By tonight (hopefully the last blessed day of this God-forsaken wind) we are all showing signs of cabin fever. We WILL leave the boat tomorrow come Hell or high water!