April 2018 Pictures

Ok, time to finish cleaning out the folder of pictures from April. This first set was taken on our way home from Timaru over Easter. We came home via Arthur’s Pass, and I couldn’t believe the colors on this mountain side, which was, I believe, somewhere near Porter’s Pass on the way to Arthur’s. I know we’ve driven past this mountain a number of times, but somehow the light conditions made it just glow, even though the sun wasn’t hitting it.


This was a cloud front we saw. The upper part of the sky is actually a thick cloud, even if it doesn’t quite look like it here.


A few minutes later, it started raining, and poured the rest of our way home!


I often make a batch of “fudge”, with peanut butter, carob powder, coconut oil, and flake coconut. Mr. Diligence loves to cut it up for me so that he can eat some of it, and this time he was clowning around pretending he would eat the whole thing!


Little Miss refused to take her nap this day, and for about the first time in her life she just fell asleep on the couch when she was looking at a book!


Mr. Imagination loves the cats!


This is what I saw in the living room one morning. She told me afterward, “Mommy, I was enjoying that book.”


When some friends from Canterbury came to visit on weekend, we walked down to the river. The boys, of course, had to throw stones.


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Several years ago, we got a book out of the library titled, Six Dinner Sid. Sid was a cat who had six homes. He had to keep up six different personalities, but he also got six different dinners, had six different beds, and had six different people who doted on him.

Our cat Princess has been away a lot of days lately. She decided about the first of April that it was time to wean her kittens, and ever since she has been very nasty to them, and sometimes to us when she’s upset at the kittens daring to exist in her presence. Some days, we wouldn’t see her until late afternoon. When we got home from our weekend trip on Tuesday evening, she was missing, and we didn’t see her again until Saturday morning. By then, I was figuring that either she had met with a sad end, or had moved in with someone else.

Saturday morning we were sitting in the living room having family worship when someone spotted Princess outside! We let her in, since she had been gone so long, even though we don’t normally pay attention to the cats during worship. A few minutes later, the neighbor who had taken care of the animals while we were gone came over. She had a newspaper clipping for us:


Now we know where Princess is spending her days! And the moral of this story is? You can’t own a cat!


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Walk in the Hills

We spent last weekend visiting friends back in Canterbury. Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day. The boys wanted to go hunting and set lines for eels at the creek down the hill from the house. The girls tagged along behind them, and Gayle and I followed the girls. We spent a couple of hours going up and down the rugged hills, and over the creek several times. It was so nice to be outside in that beautiful, peaceful setting, in the sunshine!


Simon’s bow and arrows were popular!


The boys lost a couple of arrows. Here they are looking for one, unsuccessfully.


The only thing they caught when hunting was some geese who live near the woolshed. They caught four altogether, and I was glad when they decided to let them go unharmed.


After a few crossings, the boys started chopping down branches to make bridges for us. At one crossing before that, however, Gayle offered to carry me across so I wouldn’t get wet, since I can’t find my gumboots (they got lost when we moved). I apprehensively said he could, so he picked me up, stepped into the creek—and suddenly sat down on the bank! His foot had slipped. My foot got wet, so I just walked across without worrying anymore about cold, wet feet. It was pretty funny, but I was just as glad no children were within sight at the moment!


We climbed the top of this ridge to get above the ravine where the creek was.


The farmer whose family we were visiting came in sight as we started walking along the hill, driving a small herd of cows with his dogs.


One last bridge.


The boys stood in the water to form a human hand rail for us older folks.


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The girls moved back into their bedroom a week ago, after only a week and a half out of it. They are really enjoying having a beautiful new room, rather than than the old room with its horrible pink and purple walls. It now looks quite beautiful! Here are a few pictures of the process of building. This first one was taken by one of my boys, who said, “Safety first!”



By Saturday night, the room was painted!


Little Miss got into some glue, and our friend had just finished cleaning her up when I grabbed my camera. That hat!


Sunday afternoon the boys took advantage of an empty room to play games. It was also warm; since we insulated it, it’s probably the warmest room in the house.


The girls moved back in Tuesday afternoon, after Esther finished painting the trim. In case you wonder what it looked like before, there is a picture in this post.


Esther found the wardrobe in the corner out in the carport when we moved in here. She needed a closet, so decided to strip and refinish it. The project took a lot more time than she anticipated, but she’s happy with the result.

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Product Review—PandaParents

I have a little girl who loves doing school. She is only three years old, but she badly wants to do school just like everyone else does, and is thrilled when I print her a page to do. When PandaParents asked for people to review their program, MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS, I showed it to her. She wanted me to print it out immediately so she could get started that night, and wasn’t real happy when I told her she had to wait till it was sent to us. Ever since we got it, she has been wanting to do her “new school” almost every day. One Sunday night when I was putting her to bed and she was overtired, she cried that she “had to do her school” and therefore couldn’t go to bed yet! Of course, I let her know that she was definitely going to bed right then, and had to wait till morning to do school, and then Gayle and I had a chuckle about the latest excuse for prolonging bedtime. Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

Each month of MESSYLEARNING has a storybook and a video of the same story being read, and then a lot of activities to go along with the story. These activities teach concepts such as patterns, shapes, sounds, and numbers.

We were sent three months of the program. I did not use A Jolly Jingling Journey, because we don’t do Santa Claus. I did look over it a bit; basically the story is about a little boy dreaming about going to the North Pole and meeting Santa Claus.

The first month we did is titled Mommy Baby. The story has to do with a child who doesn’t want to go to bed, and she and her mother play a game of Mommy and Baby–(“Are you Mommy’s little mittens? I am your little mittens.”) and so on. In the activities, several letters of the alphabet are introduced. There are activities that test comprehension and retention of the story, and others that talk about emotions and feelings. One section of pages discusses animal’s tails, what they look like and how they are used. One page matches animal mothers to babies, and some talk about big and little. There are also pages for matching pictures to silhouettes, and objects to their shapes. I was really surprised with how well Little Miss did on this one. I had her cut out the objects and glue them to the shapes, and even though her cutting skills still need some improvement she remembered the shape of the object and matched them all correctly. Toward the end of the book is a project of coloring and cutting out shapes and glueing them together to build a panda. Little Miss isn’t quite ready for this one, so we didn’t do it.








The other month we did is titled Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound. This story involves a skunk searching, through the four seasons of the year, for a good home. I don’t think the seasons mean anything to Little Miss yet; she couldn’t seem to grasp that concept. She loved doing dot-to-dots of a few letters, though, and coloring the S’s in a grid to make a path for the skunk. She did very well with the pages of matching animals to their homes and to silhouettes. Farther on, there is a project in which you are to make a picture of a sailboat by cutting and glueing shapes. I think she’ll be able to do that.







This course is fun for little ones who are begging to do school. For us, the timing was perfect, since I don’t have much suitable for a three-year-old, but have one who needs to feel like she’s doing the same kind of things the older children do. One thing that would have made it a lot better would be to have a physical copy of the book. There are so many pages to print, in color, that it would just be a lot nicer to have a workbook to use. Also, the instructions often suggest using stickers to cover pictures; it looks like these will be included in print versions, but obviously we only had pictures to cut out and glue. We did do some of the activities on the screen, but I don’t like to do that very much. For this age, I really prefer a hard copy. I liked all the practice Little Miss got with her fine motor skills. She has done a lot of tracing, coloring, and cutting with this program. I’ve been letting her glue the pictures she cuts out into a notebook, so we have somewhat of a record of what she has done at this age. I do think that for most children 4 or 5 would be a better age to do these books. There are a number of concepts that she wasn’t able to grasp yet, as I mentioned above. Maybe the best way to use it would be to use part of it as a preschool program and then again in a couple of years as a kindergarten program! It introduces a wide variety of concepts.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Product Review—Kids Email

We were recently assigned to do a review of Kids Email Safe Email for Kids, and given a one-year subscription. I wasn’t at all sure we needed it, because when my children wanted to email someone I just let them use my gmail account. We were put on the review team, however, so I signed the four up who are in school this year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results, and may just end up paying for this service after our year ends.

Kids Email

Kids Email was started in 2009 as a safe way for children to email. Parents have the control over what happens with the child’s account; there are many settings you can tweak so that your child can only use it the way you want them to. All incoming and outgoing messages can be sent to your inbox, and you can set it so that only letters from approved senders are visible to your child (you have to approve a person the first time they send something). You can also set particular times or days when the program can be accessed, if you wish. There is also a filter watching for bad language. We had to laugh at one email that Mr. Imagination got from a cousin. The cousin was listing the baby animals on their farm, and one item in the list was 250 CENSORED. We knew from the context that it was chicks, and of course we knew it was the kind of chicks we approve of, but I was happy to see how the filter works.

Here is what I see when one of the boys gets an email from someone I haven’t previously approved:Kids Email screenshot

One feature that my boys have loved playing with is the ability to draw pictures. They use the computer mouse, and can choose the size of line or dot they want, and the color, and draw whatever they want to. That is good eye/hand coordination! When they are finished, they simply attach the picture to the email they have written. I have heard some complaints that there aren’t enough colors, but otherwise they are very happy with that part of this email.

Here are a couple of the pictures they have come up with. This was at the beginning; they are getting a little more skillful now.08-IMG_441910-IMG_4423

The boys also like that they can choose the background for their inbox. There are a number of pictures to choose from; I think all of them chose either the wolves or the horses. For girls, there are some princess-type pictures, too. These just make it more fun!

Kids Email screenshot 2

Another thing I really like about it is that it gives some of the boys a lot of practice in typing. They do typing courses, but this forces them to make up what they are typing as they go, rather than copying. I type what the younger ones dictate, but the older ones have to do it themselves, and then I help correct spelling so that the recipient can understand what they get! One problem we have run into, though, is that there doesn’t seem to be an autosave function. I might be missing something (it’s not unlikely), but if the page is accidentally reloaded, everything that has been typed so far is gone. Once, I was helping someone send an email that took a long time to write, and the internet blinked off, which it often does here. The email was lost. That usually brings tears of frustration, even if I help them redo the letter.

This program also grows with the children. When they are young, their address is @kidsemail.org, but when they are a bit older, you have the option of changing to @kmail.org, if they want a more adult-looking address. Children who use the kidsemail.org address have the option to have an incoming email read aloud to them. This worked the first time or two that we tried it, but after that it didn’t; probably my old computer was the problem. I like the idea—it’s another way to get children to practice reading as they follow along!

Overall, I am very happy with Kids Email. This is one review product that I didn’t think we needed, but I’m now glad we got it. Because of this, I have incorporated writing an email a week into each of their schedules, which is something I had wanted to do but never got around to doing. So, Grandma, aunts, and cousins get to hear from my children a little more! On the other hand, some of my boys aren’t too happy about it. They would rather not have to type something out of their heads, but rely on me to write letters when they want them sent.

Safe Email for Kids {Kids Email Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Pancake Rocks

We have a lot of cloudy, rainy days here on the West Coast. Wednesday, however, was bright and sunny all day (today is, too—yay!), so at lunch time we decided to take the afternoon off from working on the girls’ room and take our friend to Pancake Rocks. It turns out that the world-famous geological formation is only about an hour from here, so if anyone comes to visit us, we may well take you there.

Just going to Pancake Rocks is quite the scenic adventure! The road winds along the coast; here, I took a picture out the side window of the van at the part of the road we would be on in less than a minute after going across a small river.


The swells were pretty high that day because of an air mass that had come across from Australia.


Because we had someone along with us, we decided to try to get a family picture. I’m not real happy with the shadows on our faces; any of you have an opinion as to whether we should get prints made for family in America, or try for a better one?


There was some action in the blowholes already at 4:00. High tide was just before 6:00, so we decided to drive just a short distance to a track that takes you down to the beach, then come back here and walk around the blowholes again later, when there would hopefully be more water spraying up through the rocks.


The Truman Track goes through some amazing ecosystems. This was two trees or more, grown together.


When we came out onto the beach, we could look south from the viewing platform and see this:


or north, and see this:


Part of our happy crew. This is, from left to right, Simon, Little Miss, Mr. Imagination, Mr. Sweetie, and Mr. Intellectual.


Gayle wanted to get a closer look at a small waterfall shooting out of the cliff, so he, Simon, and our friend who was with us raced the waves across the beach. The tide was coming in, so the waves were coming in farther and farther. The rest of us stayed on the viewing platform and watched.


Here are two pictures Gayle took with his phone.


As we went back to the van, we noticed this pool with a perfect reflection.


Back to Pancake Rocks. I admired the silhouettes of the palms and cabbage trees.


There was a bit more action at the blowholes, but not as much as we saw another time we were there.


To top off a wonderful day, we got to see the sun set over the Tasman! And then, we hurried back and enjoyed a picnic as it got dark before we thankfully got into the warm van to go home.


One last rock formation as we took the trail back to the visitor’s centre.


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Product Review—Reading Kingdom

Sometimes we end up with products to review that I wasn’t very excited about. Reading Kingdom was one of those; my hesitation was because it is an online program, and I don’t like my younger children to have a lot of screen time. We were assigned to this review, however, so I had Mr. Sweetie and Mr. Imagination use it every day as part of their schoolwork. I’m still not sure what I think of it! Reading Kingdom


Reading Kingdom claims to teach reading by immersion, the way young children learn to talk. Rather than only teaching sounds, as phonics does, Reading Kingdom also teaches sequencing, writing, meaning, grammar and comprehension. The course is made up of a series of stories. Each story is introduced by first teaching each word. A variety of methods are used to teach the word, including showing several words with blanks and the child has to choose which one can turn into the desired word. After all the words in the story have been mastered, both on its own and in a sentence, the child gets to read a book on the screen. Here is an example of one activity, this one teaching the word “they.” Also on this screenshot you can see a couple of other features that enhance the program. The number in the yellow box is the number of points earned so far; each 20,000 points advances the child to the next level. The reward isn’t much, but they enjoy seeing what happens next when they open their passport. 2/15 indicates how many parts they have done out of the total in the session; this session has 15 parts, and he is on the second one.

Reading Kingdom screenshot

Children are supposed to use this program four days a week or more for best results. My boys have averaged 3.6 days and 4.4 times a week—yes, they have those numbers on the dashboard where we go every day to access the lessons! It is recommended to only do one or two sessions per day (in the lower levels, only one word is taught in a session), but there is a way to override this if you want your child to do more. A couple of times, I allowed my boys to do up to four sessions, with breaks in between, but most of the time they did just one or two, depending on time. They did enjoy this; I don’t very often let them play games on the computer, so this was a game they were allowed to do and that made it fun. One problem Mr. Imagination had was that the screen moved on too fast for him, but after I got into the settings and changed it to move slower, he could handle the lessons much better. The default speed was just right for Mr. Sweetie.

I have thought of some pros and cons for Reading Kingdom:

Pros: Children can do this program with very little input from an adult. It is set up so that they can do it completely independently. Using this program helps children learn to spell and use the keyboard at the same time they are learning to read.

Cons: Children are expected to figure out without being told when to use a capital letter to begin a sentence, and when to use the correct punctuation. The punctuation wasn’t too hard for my boys to pick up, but the capitalization was a major frustration for them. Many times I had to rescue someone who was crying because he kept hitting the right key and it wasn’t accepted! Also, teaching reading by immersion, while it works for some children, will not work for others. I have had children who could only learn something if it was specifically told to them—they could not figure things out from context clues.

I asked the little boys what they think of it. Mr. Imagination said, “I like every single bit of it except the aliens.” These “aliens” are pictures that appear every so often. I’m guessing they are included to appeal to children who play a lot of video games, but I could sure do without them! Most of the pictures are alright, though. Mr. Sweetie said, “I have learned to spell a few words, but didn’t learn much about reading.”

I really haven’t decided yet whether Reading Kingdom will help my boys or not. I had Mr. Sweetie use a reading fluency test when he began using the course and again after five weeks of using it, and there was really no difference in the two tests. They are enjoying it, however, so I will let them continue doing it. It’s better than most computer games I’ve seen!

The same company has also developed a program called ASD Reading, which is for children on the autism spectrum. If you have a child like that, you may want to look into this program.

Learn to Read with Reading Kingdom OR ASD Reading {Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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A friend from Dunedin, who is a builder, offered to spend a week helping us work on the house. For two months we have been anticipating this week, and finally, he is here. We decided that, although the exterior of the house is badly in need of some help, we don’t have the money to work on that right now, so we decided to do the next most urgent project, redoing the girls’ room. We told Esther before we moved in here that we would do it up and get rid of the pink and purple walls. She hated them, even if Little Miss loved them. Saturday, Esther moved everything out of the room, and the boys began the demolition job. They had great fun ripping old wallpaper off, and then they began the task of taking down the boards that were underneath the wallpaper (five layers in places, with the top layer being painted). They also played hard in the room for a little while, since it was an open space!


Typical cat—as soon as the mattress was moved out of the room she was relaxed on the highest point!


We’re looking forward to seeing what the room looks like in a few days, when the gib board is finished and the walls are painted!

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Art Projects

There have been a few art projects done around here lately, which is unusual for our family. Some were assigned, some were spontaneous. This first one was part of our Geography lesson about Colombia. The three youngest colored the pictures of poison dart frogs, cut them out and glued them together, then glued them onto a leaf. The top one is Mr. Imagination’s, Mr. Sweetie’s is next, and Little Miss did the third one.


Little Miss laid out this pattern with crayons one day. She spent a lot of time working on it.


Another day, she got the school crayons and told me she was making squares.


Her next activity was to draw circles! I think one of her brothers drew the stick figure, but she can do stylized people herself.


This was another activity from Geography, this time from Ecuador.


For science one day, we dissected a flower and taped the parts to a sheet of paper. Mr. Imagination put his parts in the shape of a face.


This is Mr. Diligence’s. I didn’t get a picture of Mr. Sweetie’s; after I took the first two pictures someone suggested making a color copy of the pages to put in their notebooks instead of printing photos—what a good idea!


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