August 2018 Photos

A friend invited our boys to go fishing with him one Saturday, so Gayle went with all the children to Greymouth. The friend had this kontiki, which takes a longline out a kilometer or two from shore, and has a section with a number of hooks on it. They ended up catching one kowai and a shark that got tangled in the line as they were reeling it in.


When they opened up the shark, they found a number of babies inside! They put the babies in the water, and they swam away.


One evening I noticed the most beautiful sunset over the mountains to the west! The colors were much more vivid than my camera was able to capture.


We took another trip to Pancake Rocks with some more friends who came to visit. This time, it was cloudy and misty, but there was a lot of water coming up out of the blowholes!


Simon had a week off work, so he spent some time on his canoe. Here are the first two strips in place!


The boys spent one afternoon digging up weed plants from the paddocks across the road. I was amused to see Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Imagination coming home this way!


Little Miss loves to listen to her grandma read to her. Grandma recorded herself reading a number of picture books, and Little Miss frequently wants to listen to the whole stack of books.36-IMG_4850

Mr. Imagination likes to listen, too! Once the others were finished with school, I let them listen without earphones.


Mr. Imagination found an old pingpong paddle, and made it into a paddle for a canoe! I noticed the blade laying around the other day, though.


I went out to our garden with my camera one evening a few weeks ago, and saw the clouds rolling in over the mountains to the west.


Mr. Imagination and Little Miss dressed their toy monkey up with gloves and shoes, and then wanted a picture. I let Mr. Imagination take the picture—it took about a dozen tries.


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One of the things my boys most love to do in this area is exploring caves. Back when there was a lot of gold mining happening, a lot of tunnels were dug through hills. Many of these tunnels were dug for a place to wash away the dirt after it had been sifted through, as the men looked for gold. Exploring these tunnels can be rather dangerous, but that’s probably part of the appeal to the boys. Their daddy does always go with them, and as you’ll see in some of these photos from a recent expedition, they are using ladders and ropes and trying to stay safe.

They started out by driving Simon’s Suzuki as far as they could up a rough track. Once they got to where it would have gotten stuck, they walked the rest of the way to some tunnels they had spotted nearly a year ago and wanted to explore more. (By the way, we ladies stayed at home where it was safe and dry!)


They got a lot of practice with rock-climbing—something my fellows love to do!


Here, Simon is going from one cave to another, over a deep ravine. There was an old, squared-off log for a bridge; as you can see, he had a rope tied around himself and secured to a tree.


Here is Mr. Intellectual doing the same thing.


And here is Mr. Sweetie, rappelling down a cliff into a trench that the government financed in the early 1900s to bring water from a lake to wash gold out of the soil (that scheme didn’t work).


Here is the account Mr. Diligence wrote of this adventure in a letter to a relative: Yesterday we went cave exploring up in the hills. [A friend] took us up there the second time we came to visit them. We took the Suzuki because it was a 4-wheel drive and you need a 4-wheel drive to get up there. The first time, we had found a cave and had gone through it. At the other end of the cave was a deep ravine with a river flowing through it. It was about 50 meters deep. There was a square log laid across the ravine to act as a bridge and on the other side was another cave with a bunch of wood inside it. The bridge was covered in moss. Ever since then, we have been talking about getting back in there and how we would get across the ravine. Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful sunny day and we  had time. We went back in there and got there by 3:30. Then we climbed a 4-meter high cliff, using the ladder to help. We pulled up the ladder and walked through the cave to one end of the bridge. Simon lowered the ladder down onto one end of the bridge. The bridge shook a little but didn’t give way. Then we tied a rope to the ladder so that if the bridge gave way it wouldn’t fall down. Then we tied the rope to a tree and back to Simon. Simon carefully climbed down the ladder and onto the bridge. It held so he took another step. A few more steps and he was in the mouth of the cave. Since the cave was covered with bushes over the front, he used his machete to chop them away. Within half an hour, we had got all of us across safely and we were exploring. [Mr. Sweetie] found an old pair of shoes with metal soles that looked like they used to have spikes coming out of them. The leather was rotten. We found another cave crossing that one and followed it. It just went out to the ravine again. There was a small shelf that looked like it might have been a walkway going along the ravine. It was two feet wide. I started walking on it and after 10 yards it narrowed down to 1 foot and then it was too narrow to walk on. I looked down across the ravine and saw a square post about 2 inches by 6 inches leaning against the other wall of the ravine. It appeared to have ropes and cables hanging off of it and maybe a tow rope as well. We wanted to go check it out so we went back across the ravine and we got back to the Suzuki. We left the ladder at the car and went down to the river. We waded upstream until we found the climbing apparatus or whatever it was. We climbed up and looked at it and we don’t know what it was. Then we climbed back down and headed home. Thankfully, none of us got hurt and we didn’t get stuck going out again.

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Product Review—Picta Dicta Natural World from Roman Roads Media

Have you ever thought it would be interesting to learn some Latin? We really haven’t done much of anything towards learning a second language; we dabbled a bit in Spanish and German, but with two boys who struggled majorly with just English, other languages haven’t been a priority. However, when Roman Roads Media asked for reviewers for their Picta Dicta online courses, Mr. Intellectual expressed interest in it. We were given a subscription to Picta Dicta Natural World, and I have been using it a little myself, too. PictaDicta Natural World

When I set up an account, when we were first given access to Picta Dicta, I added myself as a student as well as being the administrator, and then signed up Mr. Intellectual with our other license. As part of creating the accounts, we had to choose which level to use. There are six levels to choose from: Basic, English, Reader I, Reader II, Express, and Teacher. Basic and English both focus on English words, and everything is read to the child. Reader I and Reader II introduce the Latin words for the same words that are introduced in the first two; I’m not sure what the difference is between them. Teacher appears to only have the introductory pictures for each word, without any activities. It is very easy to switch from one level to another by simply logging in to the administrator account and editing the student’s settings.

Both Mr. Intellectual and I chose to use the Express level. It teaches everything that is in the other levels, but faster. Words are introduced, with a story about each word to help you remember it.

Picta Dicta 5

After you have been introduced to about six words, Picta Dicta 6you are given one of the words.

On the next screen there are pictures and a phrase about six words, some that you have learned and a few others that you will learn soon, and you have to choose the correct one. picta dicta 7

After going through all of them, you are introduced to a few more words, until you have learned all the words for that topic. For example, in the first topic, Basic Animals, you learn the Latin words for cow, horse, donkey, goat, sheep, cat, dog, lamb, kid, boar, stag, bull, bear, and wolf. You get to match the spoken/written word to the picture, then the picture to the written word, and finally, learn to spell the words. If you make a mistake, you are given more chances with the same word until you get it right. The program is totally self-paced.

So what do we think about this program? I find it fun! Quite often, when I’m working on it, one or another of the littler ones (ages 8, 6, and 3) come along and help me out. They occasionally get something right that I was going to get wrong! It’s a game, where you try to match the right words and pictures. The spelling parts are more difficult, but otherwise it’s pretty easy. There is a small incentive built in, as you can see from my account, here. You get stars for completed lessons, based on how many questions you answered correctly. A perfect score earns you five stars—looks like I should redo a few!

Picta Dicta 8

It’s good to have at least a little grasp of Latin, as so many English words come from languages that came from Latin. Mr. Intellectual mentioned the other day after he worked on Picta Dicta that he had learned the Latin word for head, which was caput. He figured out that must be where capital comes from, as in the head city of a region. He was pretty excited about that. So, if you are needing to know Latin, or have someone who enjoys words, this program would be a great introduction. By going through it, you will not only learn many words having to do with animals, but also fruits and vegetables, anatomy, land forms and terrain, parts of trees and plants, water…and that’s just the first few topics! Over 400 nouns are taught in this program. I appreciate learning how to properly pronounce these words; when you read a lot but don’t hear words, it’s hard to know how to say them. Oh, one more thing I noticed: A number of words were very similar to the Spanish words for the same animal. Learning Latin might be a good base for going on with another of the Romance languages, such as French, Spanish or Italian.

Please click on the image below if you want to learn more about this course; some of the other reviewers have given a lot more detail!

Classical Rhetoric and Picta Dicta {Roman Roads Media Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Truman Track

When some friends came for a weekend in July, we took them to Pancake Rocks. After enjoying the beautiful sunny day there, we went up the coast a few minute’s drive and walked the Truman Track down to the sea. This is a short track that winds through a lush rainforest with palms and tree ferns everywhere before it opens out onto the shore. The boys enjoyed climbing rocks and poking into caves, and the little ones played in the water.


The wet rocks were very slick!


We had a little bonus when we noticed spray coming up from invisible holes near the edge of these rocks as the waves came in!


There were fossils everywhere we looked in the rocks! It was quite interesting to see how many different kinds we could find.


We also found a lot of living shellfish.


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July 2018 Photos

One evening the boys were trying to stand on their heads. Mr. Diligence did the best.


Esther crocheted this bear for Little Miss. She named it Strawberry. Strawberry often sleeps with her.


We took some visitors to see the old gold dredge down near the river.


We also walked on the floodwall along the Grey River in Greymouth.



Simon had to prove that he can still get Mr. Diligence down!


Little Miss loves to draw people. I don’t think I’ve ever had a 3-year-old who drew and colored as much as this one does.


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Product Review—GrammarPlanet

Who likes grammar? I didn’t when I was in school! It’s still not my favorite subject, by any means, but at least I’m starting to understand it better now. However, trying to teach my boys the parts of speech? Difficult to say the least! So, when GrammarPlanet was offered for review, I tentatively asked for it even though it wasn’t developed enough yet to even be able to find out how it worked. I almost hoped we wouldn’t get chosen for this review team, but we were, so Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Diligence have been using it, and so have I, as I try to stay a lesson or two ahead of them. GrammarPlannet

Every lesson has a video, in which the part of speech taught in this lesson is introduced. These videos are crucial; if you don’t watch them, you will not understand what you need to.

Grammar Planet screenshot 

There are also printable notes for each lesson. These are very important, as well; we often refer to them while working through the lesson. After watching the video, the student moves on to the practice sentences. At a minimum you will have ten sentences; each time you make a mistake the program will automatically add one more sentence for you. If you make five errors, you will be locked out of the program until your teacher unlocks it—that gives the teacher (me, in our case!) a chance to see what is going on. I have ended up sitting beside Mr. Diligence each time he works with this, because he takes more time and is more careful with supervision. I can help him figure out what he’s getting wrong that way. The set of sentences in each lesson tells a more or less interesting story. One story was about the steepest residential street in the world, which is in Dunedin—a friend of ours had told our boys about this street (he worked on a house on it once), so they could really relate to it while doing the lesson! Each sentence is to be parsed—you are to identify the part of speech of each word. For the first lesson, you only have to identify common nouns; the second lesson adds proper nouns. The third lesson introduces adjectives and articles, and then pronouns are introduced in Lesson 4. After that it gets more complicated, as possessive pronouns and the prepositions are introduced. Lesson 6 begins requiring students to diagram sentences—and there are answer keys for each one!




And here is an answer key for a random sentence:

Grammar Planet Screenshot 3

When we started using GrammarPlanet, I told my boys that they had to use it until I wrote the review, and then they could quit. Well, as we worked through it and the bugs were worked out of this brand-new program, I saw how well it was working, and last week I informed them that I had changed my mind. I want them to continue using it. The recommendation is to only spend 10-15 minutes per day with this program, to give it time to really soak into a student’s mind, so we’re going to do that. It meshes quite well with the grammar Mr. Diligent is already doing, and reinforces it. I’ve ended up glad to have been put on the team! IMG_4871

I have never used or even looked at Analytical Grammar, but I’m told that GrammarPlanet is set up the same way, only online. It is free for anyone to use; if you want an ad-free version there is a one-time fee to remove the ads. When you set up an account, your student’s progress will be saved, and you can look back at their history any time. (This is very helpful sometimes, when you need to figure out why a word is marked as it is!)

Grammar Planet screenshot 2

*Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Clearing Land

The boys, with some help from their daddy, have been working diligently since the end of May to clear the land across the road for grazing for the cow. This first picture shows where they have been working for the past several weeks; what I can see of it from the kitchen window. This spot is to the left of the first and last photos in the other post I wrote about this project, at the end of the hill.


I walked up there last weekend to see how much they had accomplished. The arrow points to our house.



The boys found some wetas in an old rotten stump at the top of the hill. This is a small one.


If you look at the other post, these next two pictures were taken at the same place as the fourth and fifth pictures in that one. Lots of progress!



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One of the fun things about moving to a new house is seeing what blooms in the spring. We have a lot of flowers coming out right now. Since Esther is away, I have the perfect excuse to post pictures of them! She’s missing out.

Two weeks ago, one of the boys brought this in. It came from a tree in the paddock; we’d been wondering what the tree was ever since we bought this place. I had no idea, but a friend asked if it might be a magnolia. I did a quick Google search and sure enough, that’s what it looks like!


The magnolia tree a week ago, with a rain storm approaching behind it. Notice the sheep to the right; she’s apparently a hair sheep! All three were orphan lambs that we raised last year, and we had no idea what breed they were.


Our new cow, Poppy. She will, hopefully, be calving within the next three weeks. She looks very young, and is quite tiny compared to our last cow, but she’s three years old and this will be her second calf.


This ugly, scraggly bush in front of the house turns out to be a forsythia! I’ve always wanted one.


I have no idea what these are, but they’re blooming on the shady side of the house.


Daffodils, of course!


I noticed a couple of days ago that the kowai tree was blooming.


This is the magnolia a few days ago.


Yesterday I went out for another photo of the magnolia, and Little Miss wanted me to take a picture of her ladybug.


Mr. Intellectual is spending his breaks from school digging a garden for me. I am grateful! As soon as the sheep are out of the way, I can start planting.


The forsythia yesterday. Right in front of it are my broad beans and garlic.


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Math Facts

Mr. Imagination has been struggling to learn his addition and subtraction facts lately. One morning I was praying about this problem and an idea popped into my head, so I decided to try it. I’m still not sure if it’s working, but he likes this better than flashcards. The idea is to learn the pairs of numbers that go together to make each of the numbers from 1-18, and then he should know all the basic addition and subtraction facts. We’ve only used this game four days now, so time will tell. Esther is away for awhile, helping a family who are going through difficult circumstances, and one of her jobs is to teach the 7-year-old in the family math. I tried to describe this over the phone and failed, so thought I’d write up what I’m doing.


I cut index cards in half and put a number on each one. He has only worked with up to 6+9=15 so far, so I’ve only given him the numbers 1-15 so far. Then, on smaller bits of cards, I printed the number pairs that make up each larger number. For example, 2 has two smaller cards, with 0 and 2 on one and 1 and 1 on the other. Five has three cards, with 0 and 5, 1 and 4, and 2 and 3 on them. Ten has 1 and 9, 2 and 8, 3 and 7, 4 and 6, and 5 and 5. He is to match each little card with the correct big one, and I time him to make it a competition.

Does that help, Esther?

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Mr. Intellectual has been working for a couple of months on building himself a canoe. He flattened some sheets of roofing iron and riveted them together in the proper shape, then built seats and finished the edges. He completed the job one Saturday evening, so the next afternoon, after we had church here, everyone walked down to the river to watch him try out his creation.





The launch!





The canoe started leaking immediately at every rivet.


Dumping out the water was a task which had to be done frequently.


It was also rather tipsy—and the water was cold!


Little Miss and her friends played safely on the bank!


Esther noticed this wood pigeon in a tree.


Simon soon gave up on the canoe and ran home for the boys’ half barrels. The children all had a lot of fun with them and the canoe. Despite the cold water, they played in it for an hour or so!


This was the view up the river from where we were enjoying the day. It was such a lovely, sunny afternoon! We’re enjoying the beginning of spring.


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