Thursday, September 27, 2012

Snorkling Counts as a Lesson

In November of this year, Jerry and I are taking the family to Cairns QLD, one of Australia's popular "getaway" spots, for a little vacay of our own.

Soar Eclipse,
The Earth, passing in the shadow of the moon
as is passes in front of the sun
Our basic reason for going to Cairns is that there will be a solar eclipse on November 13th, 2012 and Cairns in a location of totality.  That means we will have FIVE SECONDS of extra totality as compared to the nearest inhabited village in Australia!  Yes, almost TWO FULL MINUTES of totality, or our sun being completely blocked by our moon!  We will be in the shadow of that moon pass.

I remember a total solar eclipse when I was in the fourth grade.  I few kids asked to go outside, me included, but most kids stayed inside, completely uncaring about the event!
I had some glasses my parents had given me...I was excited and it was very memorable.
I hope my kids are just as excited.  But I'll bet you that The Doctor sleeps through the whole thing!  LOL

The Great Barrier Reef

While we are in Cairns, we plan on taking a tour out to a little atoll island and learn to snorkel the reef!  As you know, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.  It is made up of nearly 3000 individual reefs, over 800 islands, and thousands of types of plants and animals unique to this place that stretched over 2500km down the coast of Queensland.  We will be in the tropical zone, and taking hundreds of pics, I'm sure!

We will be taking a cool glass-bottom boat tour out from the island so we can see the amazing reef and see animals.  Snorkeling experts will help us with the necessary equipment and lessons.  Then we will snorkel in the safe, shallow beach until we are ready to move a bit further into the reef.
We can explore the beach and the rainforest with naturalists.   With all of our various interests, there is no telling how we will spend our time!

We have other upcoming plans we will share with you as the time nears...for now, WOW, we're going to Cairns!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Free, Online Courses: Coursera

A colleague of my husband (Stephanie!) told us about an online source for college courses that one can take for free.  It's called Coursera.   They offer courses by top professors at top universities. 
We spend some time looking at their offerings to day and The Doctor made the decision to take two courses with them:  Logic with a professor at Stanford University and Greek and Roman Mythology with a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

She and I started watching the first week of lectures for Logic and she thought they were very easy to follow and she totally "got it".  And that is FAR better than I can say for myself the first time I took college Logic...  (I had to drop it for failing...sob, circa 1981.)

The Doctor was pretty thrilled to discover she had covered much of the material already with our own work and with a math class at our home last semester that my friend, Karen Brandt, taught.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Karen Brandt!

So, The Doctor will be working on these two courses independently over the next ten weeks...
I'm very proud of her desire to take control of her own education!
Also, WOW am I feeling inspired to take a course too...LOL

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Top Ten Random Things on my Mind

     What's on your mind?  Grab a cup of tea and let's chat.
Here's what is on my mind:
  1.  We are finding the homeschool community far less cohesive than we had hoped.  And far less interested in "groups".  While I get the whole "we are on our own" thing, it certainly makes it harder to make friends.   Also, not alot of teens around the homeschool community...
  2. After driving around on my own this afternoon, I have to say that I find the roadways BIZARRE!  But I enjoy the various neighborhoods/suburbs of Brisbane.  Each one has it's own little, unique flavor and places of interest.
  3. I'm tired of my clothes.  I brought a single bag of clothing and, besides starting to fade from drying out in the strong sun, I'm just tired of them and want some new things.  
  4.  I have a number of friends who are strong Romney supporters, strong Republicans, anyway.  I wonder how they are reacting to that audio/video of him insulting almost everyone in the nation.
  5. John needs a bike and a scooter for getting around, for playing on, and for the excellent bike parks around here.  Very Expensive.
  6. Jerry and I are constantly amazed with the bird sounds.  Sometimes, during the night, you could swear you were in the middle of the jungle from the squawking.
  7. We are learning that there are many traffic cameras on the traffic lights here.  Jerry just paid about a hundred dollars for speeding a few weeks ago...
  8. We have a forced air oven here and we are learning to use it on the fly...  I wonder if there are any on-line cooking guides for a thing like this?
  9. I had forgotten how lovely laundry smells after drying outside on the line.
  10. And, Hmmm...what's for dinner?

Friday, September 21, 2012

SAQ - Seldom Asked Questions About Homeschool



I have seen dozens of FAQ pages for homeschooling
here on the WWW.
But none of the FAQ sites appeal to me, so I decided,
HEY, I like my Seldom Asked Questions Better!

Welcome to this page for newbie homeschoolers. 
Most of your seldom asked questions will be here.
If you don't see the answer to your question here,
please feel free to contact the management.

1. Do you feel luckier than other moms because you get to spend so much time with your children?

Sometimes, I really do!  We have so much flexibility with our schedule and we truly enjoy one another.  I do feel fortunate that I can offer lessons to the kids when they are feeling their best during the day and stay with those lessons until we need a break.
As the mom, I feel so thrilled to get to watch them using their imaginations!

2. Did you decide to homeschool for the socialization?

Actually, we didn't start homeschooling for this reason.  But, at times, I admit, I'm thrilled we do homeschool whenever I hear about socialization problems in the public schools.  So I'm not going to kid you, today, it is as major reason why we homeschool.

As for why we DID begin homeschoooling, it wasn't for any sort of rejection of the school system.  Instead, we simply embrace the homeschool lifestyle.

3. Aren’t you happy to not have to worry about pleasing the state requirements or your local school district?!

I seriously am!  I don't see how the state has made things any better for public school kids lately.  Don't get me wrong, I know some great public or private school kids.  And I'm happy to see them thriving despite the limitations offered by their school.
On the positive side of the question, I am happy that I don't have to expect the teacher, school, or school district to try to meet the needs of my children while, simultaneously, trying to meet the needs of so many other students.

The Next Doctor
4. It’s so obvious why a family would choose a homeschooling lifestyle.  Why do you think more families don’t do it?

I think most families don't understand how wonderful the lifestyle can be.  Most of us have been trained or brain-washed to think that a child needs school in order to be truly educated.  But I know that most families who do not homeschool do public school (or other educational institution) for their own reasons.  I wouldn't try to stereotype anyone.
I'm sure most parents are very thoughtful about the education they offer to their children.

5. You homeschool.  Does that mean your family fits the societal stereotypes, pigeon-holes, or labels?

Of course not.  And neither does any other homeschool family that I know.  Every family, homeschool or not, is unique.

6. Your family must be bustling with activity from all of the community opportunities available to them!  How do you ever find down time?

Yes we are!  It can be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time!  Naturally we have a good calendar and we communicate daily about our upcoming events.

7. It must be a thrill to watch your children learning about things you are unfamiliar with...simply because they have an interest!

It is!  I love knowing that we are learning current events and up-to-the-moment data.  Dinner conversations can be so interesting when the kids share their interests with us!  Especially when they've had the freedom to follow their own interests for extended periods of time.  You just never know what they will come up with.

8. Since your child is actually living in the world at large on a daily basis, you must enjoy their ability to move comfortably through the different people with whom they come in contact!

People we meet often comment on how friendly and interesting my kids are.  It's nice being the "Face of Homeschool" to people we meet.  We have the opportunity to meet people from every economic/social strata available and to befriend them.

9. Being present with your child daily, and, therefore, being aware of those moments when your child is “getting” a concept or struggling with it, you must, therefore, be the first one to know if your child is learning or not in the homeschool environment.  Is this true?

Of course it's true.  And all without a single "test".  In fact, the very moment my child(ren) need help, they can ask.  Or I simply notice.  You know, just the way you notice when they need help opening a can or closing a zipper.  I can see us making such progress!

10.  With all of the many reputable universities enthusiastically accepting the independent-learning homeschooled students, you must look forward to seeing your child pursue their education into adulthood!

We have seen our friends go on to colleges all over the country, and they thrive!  I haven't spoken to any university reps yet, but I know that, when I do, they will be pretty impressed with my kids.  Academically, socially, hobbies and activities, passion for learning, all of these things join together to make most homeschooled kids highly desirable to admissions offices of colleges.


I acknowledge that my daughter and I were feeling rather doldrum-my today, and yet I still decided to write an upbeat piece.  The Doctor was amused and supportive.

Here's a nice blog post of common HS myths exposed:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Know a Homeschooling Mom

I’ve been meeting many new people while here in Australia, and I have discovered (call that rediscovered) a singular homeschooling fact:  

Homeschooling Mothers are AMAZING!

Homeschool mothers have an astonishing ability to make things happen.
I know of mothers who have created theater groups and learning groups, mothers who have taken kids on cross-country trips, mothers who have established small businesses, mothers who are organized enough to educate children of many different ages and skill levels, mothers who are trendy and current, mothers who are willing to take on any Establishment in order to get the needs of their children met, mothers who research and learn continuously, mothers who improve themselves and their understanding of the needs of their children and of themselves, mothers who sacrifice their own careers to improve the lives of their children, mothers who have not sacrificed their own careers in order to pass along important lessons to their children, mothers who have the ability to create opportunities from scratch and hard work that are not already available in the world at large, mothers who have amazing integrity, mothers who are familiar with guerilla education-fare, mothers who are operating on no sleep or on all four engines running, and mothers who have the ability to create and re-create auspicious learning environments, perhaps daily!  

I know of mothers who cry and fret about their fears and concerns and difficulties regarding homeschool and get up again the next day to watch and wait, lovingly trusting their children.

I know of mothers who are willing to live with the uncertainty of educational decisions a little longer as they watch their child begin to thrive.

I know of mothers who change educational paradigms again and again until finding the correct one the works for each child.

I know of mothers who are so patient and serene and whose countenance always seems to exhibit love and kindness.

I know of mothers who are a but nutty, extremely unique, and who give homeschooling it’s color and grandeur.  

I know of mothers who have followed incredibly non-traditional approaches and ideas in order to do what is best for their own child.

And I know of mothers who have become warriors for their children.

Not all of the mothers that I admire are homeschooing moms, though!  I’m very certain there is something about becoming a mother that makes each one of us into something we never thought we’d be:  warriors, doctors, explorers, scientists, entrepreneurs, fighters, acrobats, advocates, politicians.  And some how, have so much love inside we weep from our efforts...

How could we know how much homeschooling would do for us?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are the Typical Courses of Study in High School Pointless?

I LOVE this article and I must pass it along to everyone who reads this blog.
The article is entitled "Why Kids Hate School - Subject by Subject" by Valerie Strauss from The Washington Post .

For a quick summary:

So here’s my advice: Learn what matters to you.
 If you want to graduate from high school,
 go ahead and memorize a lot of nonsense
 but don’t expect it to matter a bit when high school is over.

 Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter...
and I will be back with comments of my own when I have a moment. 

Comments I am writing later:
I have a high school aged child myself. We spend lots of time reviewing materials and reading texts. It is from reading some of these texts that I have formed my opinions on this matter. Having a masters degree myself, I, certainly, wish my own children to create lives for themselves that they consider "successful", however they define that.
As for how this effects our homeschooling, I find that I am far more focused on guiding my children towards learning skills on how to learn, how to evaluate information, how to research and locate reputable sources, how to note take, how to listen for facts, outlining, etc.
In other words, how to be a successful college student. I'm not saying that Elizabeth is ready for uni, but she is getting an appreciation for what it will take to be a successful college student.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When it's Good, It's Great

My son has the absolute sweetest heart on earth.
Today he and I were running errands:  new shoes, library, post office, video store, etc.
Just he and I in the car, flipping through the Brisbane radio stations, talking about what we liked and didn't like, listening to news, reading signs as we drive past, he turns to me and says, "This is the best day, Mom.  Just you and me!"


We get home, me prepared to pull together some dinner, when The Doctor comes dancing out to me, happier than I've seen her in days.  She and I are looking for a place for her to begin guitar lessons...  Maybe she'll be the next John Denver!!!  LOL

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Traveling Light

Imagine having THREE BAGS to carry only your essentials all of the way around the world, to the other side of the globe.  Imagine trying to decide exactly what was necessary to "take" and what was possible to leave behind.  You have weeks to think about it and your list of "indispensables" grows daily.  Everything else gets left behind for a full year.
Do you take your pictures?  Spices?  Your pillow?  Socks?  Your favorite snack?  Do you expect to just buy new shoes?  jewelry?  electronics?  Tylenol?  clothing?

The Doctor struggled and struggled with her limited baggage capacity.  At home, she has closets and dressers full of excellent clothing and accessories.  But she only brought a few essential pieces of clothing.  Her bags contained THIRTEEN pairs of shoes and TEN huge hardback books, including "The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes"!  She also brought her writing notebooks and her iPod.  All essential to her.

Bonobo brought an entire bag full of his favorite to inspire his imagination. He brought a large bag full of Crazy Bones (little figures that he likes to play with) some basic weaponry, and decks of his favorite card games.  And his DSi, of course.

Jerry brought work clothes and shoes, electronic essentials, and books and gadgets necessary to basic astronomical observation.

I gave about half of my space to The Doctor's books, some games we enjoy playing, homeschool lesson books, essential paperwork and whatnot, some favorite family and personal CDs and DVDs, some extra-favorite snacks, and basic mix-and-match casual tops and bottoms.  And a fully-loaded Nook!

We have missed a few things.  Mostly familiar foods.

 Mostly we found that STUFF has absolutely no effect on our days here.  The most important things we brought are our senses of adventure, our love for one another, and a willingness to try new things!
And now, on to the adventure!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



The general knowledge is that the toilets that flush in a clock-wise motion north of the equator, flush counter-clockwise when one gets south of the equator.

But is this true?  Homeschool Atheist Momma's crack mythbusting team set to find out.

We know several things.  First, people in America are absolutely amazed, concerned, and perplexed with this issue.  Although we don't know why that is so, it is darn near the first question everyone asks us!  Secondly, we have seen many different toilets here in Australia and our discovery seems to be universally true.  Thirdly, the water in the northern hemisphere has a strong and distinctly clock-wise rotation each and every time.  And Fourthly, we know that hurricanes do, in face, spin one way in the northern hemisphere and cyclones spin the other.

We gathered around the local...watering hole...and watched as The Doctor started the initial flush to illustrate what we already know:

The flush here is very different.  It does not rotate at all, but rather gush-fills and drains straight down the bottom in one quick, so to speak.

So we turned our attentions to the sink, hoping to solve this below-the-equator drain dilemma.

Bonobo and I filled the sink and our Water-Down-the-Down-Under-Drain experiment proceeded.

Our discovery?

Difficult to see, but Clockwise

Counter clock-wise!

clearly counter clockwise, as the bubbles show

No rotation at all

Did we see that correctly?  The water went counter clockwise the first time, clockwise the second time, no rotation at all the third time!  Did the amount of bubbles have something to do with it?  (Bubbles were added to make the movement more apparent.)  Did the shape or size of the sink have anything to do with it?
It turns out that we did see it correctly.

Major weather storms (such as hurricanes & cyclones) swirl counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern, due to Coriolis forces arising from Earth's rotation.

Small-scale phenomena such as water swirling down a drain are influenced far more by the design of the basin and drain than by Coriolis effect forces, which are tiny indeed in a toilet, north or south hemisphere.  Here in the southern hemisphere, the Coriolis effect does not seem to effect our small drains and toilets.  Therefore, spin direction can be attributed more to shape and consistency of the

Just read this explanation from the Just Answer website. 

Who wouldn't post a comment regarding a science experiment that involves flushing the toilet? ____________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, you might like this one!

Another Day in Paradise


Today we had our best day YET in  Australia.

Bonobo on the zip line at the park
After a slow and rough start, we decided to do what ought to be the prerogative of everyone who lives on the coast:  blow off all lessons and run off to the beach!  We got into our rental car and buzzed down Highway 1 all of the way to Gold Coast QLD.  The drive was about an hour and really resembled a drive we've had in Florida.  Nice highway, very little traffic, and lots of palm trees.

Getting into Gold Coast, first, we saw Griffith University.  Lots of college kids hanging around, LOTS of gorgeous, white high-rises, green trees, blue skies, bright sunshine, mild temps.  It is a freaking IDYLLIC location for a university.  I can't imagine going to school anyplace more gorgeous than in  Gold Coast.
We simply drove until we wanted to stop and we found this adorable, perfect little town beach and playground called Anzac park that entertained us and raised our spirits.

I can't describe the beauty.

Even the landscape was gorgeous.

Not one of these pictures does justice to the beauty of the coast.  The waters are crystal clear, so many different shades of blue, and sparkling in the sun.

Anyway, so we spent the afternoon in the sand.  A lovely breeze coming ashore.  Bonobo dug on the shoreline and found a blue crab to play with.  The Doctor and I walked along the shore, The Doctor with her usual lament, "Why am I always in the most romantic locations with you, Mom?"

This afternoon totally changed our gloomy morning attitudes and made us SHINE.

Then, this afternoon, some of our new neighbors came over to visit.  Haven is The Doctor's age and Soles (read: soul-less) is Bonobo's age.  GREAT times were had by all.  My children have been celebrating all evening for having new friends!

And so, a great day. Just another day in paradise!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Wonder it's Called Queens Land


This place is GORGEOUS.  The weather is wonderful, the mountain range is picturesque, and the sea shore is refreshing!
Today we drove to the seaside, about fourteen kilometers from here.
And, as it happens, it's Father's Day here in Australia.  So we went out to celebrate Jerry!

We started out with a scenic drive along the shore of Moreton Bay.  Then an excellent walk through a mangrove area and mud flats of the scenic shore.  We thought it was interesting that all of the trees seemed to lean toward the land, away from the water.  It doesn't seem very windy around here...  Also, for every large tree, there are thousands of tiny saplings in the mud...

Lucky for us, it is very early spring and the temps are very mind.  Otherwise, I'm pretty sure our trip through the mangroves would have been far more odiferous.

Next there was some Frisbee play...
Across the bay we could hear some music playing, so we got back into our rental car and followed it...

To our delight, we found a jazz festival in a nearby park, just along the sea side.   The music was less-than-professional, but when they played "What a Wonderful World,"  Jer and I had to agree.
The Doctor and I spent some time sitting by the shore and she picked up some shells...  It was great to see her enjoying herself in the sunshine!

And so ends a sunny and mild day here in Brisbane!
We are having a wonderful time in a land fit for a Queen!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Aussie Update

Green Road Sign - Brisbane, Australia What is going on “Down Under”?
We made the move to Brisbane on August 17th, have had no internet until now! 
Can you say JONSING?
In the meantime, we have had many, many adventures, both in San Francisco (on our layover to Australia) and in Brisbane.  Although there have been some meltdowns, I’m so proud of how the kids are handling the change and the wait.  We have been working hard to set up our household here and that has taken precedent to meeting people and getting out.
So, a huge THANK YOU to the Doctor and Bonobo for all they have put up with over these weeks.

As for lessons, I consider every moment of the last weeks as lessons.  We have experienced so many changes as well as working to get our household in order and the kids have been there every step of the way.  From the shuffle with the luggage to the setting up of a checking account, they have been a part of that.  Jerry and I are thrilled to have our kids exposed to such opportunities for growth.

As for the kids, they would say that they have learned some beginning metrics, how to speak with an Aussie accent, how to locate unfamiliar plants in the local plant book we found, trying unfamiliar foods, how to handle their own jet lag moods, Brisbane shopping, local cultures, and lots of Brisbane geography and history.  Bonobo says he has learned that Australia is almost as huge at the US.  The Doctor has learned that living in Australia is tremendously expensive and she hopes to use the lessons learned here to learn how to live on her own once she moves to London.

We have watched more tv in these two weeks than we have in the last two years...and none of us want to repeat that.  But we are happy and enjoying out time here tremendously! 

And looking forward to meeting some new people. 
If YOU are a Brisbane homeschooler, please contact me!!!!!!!!!!

File:Mt Coot-tha Kiosk.jpg
Cafe at the Mount Coot Tha Look out Area

We are LOVING Brisbane!