Charlotte joins the Patch

When I went to hang out our laundry early last week I was greeted by a large spider’s web.  This isn’t particularly unusual, with the exception of the size of the web and the fact that the spider was currently hanging around in the centre of it.  The other shocking fact about the new web was the size of the spider who made it.  I had a small heart attack moment when I spotted her.  She is about 3+ cm from back toe-tip to front toe-tip, with a body roughly 1.5 cm long.  That makes her the biggest spider we have come across since our move.  We won’t count all the large Daddy-Longlegs spiders, who may be large and gangly but cut a considerably less imposing figure.

Here she is on that first day, caught in the middle of web-making, I suspect.

We left her alone, as I had no idea of what sort of spider she was.  I took a photograph and went online to try to identify her.  My usual Landcare site and Te Papa both let me down, as I couldn’t make a fair match to any of their photographs.  I then asked my home educating colleagues for suggestions on alternative places to get an identification and was directed to a wonderful Facebook group called NZ Bug identification – Spiders, Insects etc where I posted this photograph.  In a twinkling of an eye, I was informed that it is a garden orb web, and we’ve been watching ‘Charlotte’ ever since.

On the first day we were cruel and heartless homeowners and knocked down her web. I really wanted to be able to hang out my laundry without finding her in my undies!  But just as swiftly as we knocked it down, she had built it back up.  After trying one more time, I decided it was rather like Cnut trying to hold back the waves, and that for now my undies would be drying indoors on racks!  Instead we would turn in to nature observers and watch our new lodger.

We have learned a few interesting things about Charlotte – the first is that according to the MPI’s website,

The garden orbweb spider will construct or repair its snare by night, then sit in the centre.

Charlotte most certainly constructs, repairs and does her housework overnight.   Not only did she rebuild her web after our destruction, she also cleaned off a vast array of plant bits that the kids had flung on to the web in an attempt to pretend to be her dinner.  The trickery failed miserably, but the next morning we awoke to a beautifully clean and restored web.  She’s a pretty house-proud member of her species.

We have also noticed that this observation on the MPI site is also very true, even though Charlotte’s choice of hiding place may be slightly unorthodox.

During the day, garden orbweb spiders usually hides outside the web, but will rest a leg on a thread that runs to the centre.

Here is Charlotte tucked up in the peg basket, which is her home-away-from-home, with her back leg hanging on to her web.  I’ve enhanced the white in the photo in the hope that you can make out the single strand of web that she’s hanging on to. (Click on the photograph to see a larger version.)

She’s also pretty tidy at wrapping up her dinner, when it is foolish enough to become home delivery. Here’s a shot of her handiwork which, by the way, was gone the next morning.  Midnight snack anyone?

The newest development in the past couple of days has been the arrival of what look like two or three baby spiders on the actual web.  They started out with large silvery half-shell-like things (presumably they were shells) on their back ends and are now graduating to small, unshelled spiders.  Unfortunately they are too tiny for my camera to focus on without something held behind the web.  Between the gentle breeze blowing the web back and forth and my kids being slightly worried that they’ll be webbed or spidered if they get too close, it’s been impossible for me to get them to help me take a photograph.
With the imminent arrival home of Mr Oh Waily, from his gallivanting overseas, I may only have to combat the camera’s ability to focus on insects so small.  I will update the post if I manage to get a clear image of her children.

Here are a couple of final photographs for you.  She ventured out on to the web a couple of days ago and we were able to see her speedy retreat from mid-web back to the peg basket.  She paused briefly, still attached to the web that enters the basket and I was able to move around behind her and get a shot of her undercarriage.  Most indelicate of me, I know, but totally fascinating nonetheless.

The final image is of me looking straight down at her, which is something of a change, as I’m usually forced to look at her side or her backside.

An interesting development has occurred at the Patch since we’ve begun watching Charlotte — the Oh Waily kids have been noticing far more insects.  They’ve been coming to me and saying, ‘You’ve got to come see this Mum’, and ‘You’ve got to take a photo of this’, and ‘Can I borrow your phone to take a photograph of…, please.’   As this has been the case, I have more interesting insect images to share with you.  Fleeting glimpses in to a smaller world, with lots of learning potential.

Oh, and more Charlotte updates as they come to hand.



We stopped off at the garden centre in our local Mitre 10 a few days ago while on an errand to get a couple of other DIY items that we needed.  The kids had a play in their indoor playground and we all had a drink to revive us after a morning of doing.  While sitting there, innocently enjoying the rest, we were inspired to plant strawberries.  So I brought home the bits and bobs required and they sat waiting for an opportune time to do the work, and tonight brought that.

It was late in the day, not long until bedtime, when the Oh Waily kids headed outside with Mr Oh Waily.  Still sunny and bright, the kids got their gardening gloves on and dove in to the potting mix.  They set out the four plants and filled the pot right up.

So now all we have to do is wait, watch, keep any pesky snack-seekers away, and make sure they get all the love they need to turn into juicy summer treats.  Fingers crossed !

Strawberries before bed


Everyday on Wednesday, Think about my baby

The Oh Waily household had a bit of a role reversal today.  Mr Oh took the day off work and spent it with the kids, thus creating enough quiet time for me to do some real world work.
Otherwise known as getting on with creating our new work website.

So while I tipped and tapped; cursed and curated my way through a few solitary hours, the rest of the Oh Waily family headed up the coast to a PYO market garden.  By way of Facebook, I had the heads up that the strawberry patch was going to be open for picking today and tomorrow, so suggested a fun day out with a bit of a purpose.

Miss Oh loves strawberries so it was a complete no-brainer as far as she was concerned.  Master Oh, not so much.  He went, he picked, he had a good time.  Whether we can convince him to eat one of the juicy, smelly (in a super-yummy way), huge strawberries… well, let’s just say… we’ll see.



Yesterday’s blog title was from “Tuesday Afternoon” by The Moody Blues.
Today’s is from yet another song.

Meet “Leafy”

When in foreign places expect to meet interesting ‘locals’. Here is “Leafy” who provided much interest and amusement one day. He stayed with us until night fell and then wandered off at his own leisure. We have no idea what he actually is, other than pretty darn big – probably a good 10cm long or more – no one was game to measure.

If you know what Leafy is, feel free to leave a comment below so the Oh Waily kids can look up his relatives from the comfort of their computer.



Family Field Trip: Singapore

Back in October the Oh Waily family had a very short stay in one of my favourite places, Singapore.
The kids got to see, feel and enjoy some of the sights.

On Orchard Road it was hard to miss the sculpture exhibition.

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Art display


Rhino meets child-2


We also took a trip around the Zoo to see some animals that are not so common in our part of the world.  The kids got to watch the sea lion display, see polar bears, orang-utans and more.  The highlight for all would be the elephant ride.  Yes, on the back of a real elephant.  Very popular it was.

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Bearly there


On safari


We also took a trip to the Botanic Gardens, specifically the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.  The kids had great fun in the treehouse play area, learning about photosynthesis and most importantly in the heat of mid-morning Singapore, getting in to their togs and playing in the water play area with a bunch of local pre-schoolers.

Butterfly entrance way

And as usual, the swimming pool attached to where we stayed was also a popular spot.  Unsurprising in the equatorial heat really.

Spidey in the water

They must have had a nice time because they keep saying ‘the next time we go to Singapore we can…’ every now and then.  And frankly I can’t wait for it.  There was plenty to do that we simply didn’t have time to and as they get older they will be that much more able to withstand the temperature so that we don’t have to have a daily siesta.


Mount Kaukau walk

Today, on the invitation of a friend, my two small people and I took a long uphill walk to the top of Mount Kaukau.
And what a walk it was.  It’s roughly 2-3 kilometres in length but will take you to 445m above sea level in an hour or so.  I have no idea how long it took to get to the summit, I just know that I am:
a) unfit;
b) unfit;
c) very unfit.

I also note that I will be unable to get out of bed tomorrow or walk more than a few paces.  The amount of steps and steep inclines will guarantee that sitting will be uncomfortable for days to come, and my thighs will be protesting their misuse on the downhill slopes.  I was tail-end Charlie for the entire walk uphill… even after the small children in our group.  Frankly, I was stuffed.

In a first, however, Master Oh Waily led the way.  So keen was he, apparently, that he regularly disappeared out of view of his lagging and feeble mother.  I suspect he was out of view of most of us for quite a bit of the time it took to get to the top.  This is the same boy that would complain bitterly about walking around our neighbourhood (on the flat) and any attempt by me to get him to go for bush walks nearly always ended with me carrying him at some point.  In light of other developmental changes (which I will probably blog about soonish) in him, perhaps this is another small milestone ticking over.  He also led the way downhill, not quite so far ahead this time and often with me.  At least on the downhill I was able to keep up with everyone.

The walk, leg- and bum-killing as it was for the unfit, has a brilliant payoff at the end.  Stunning views of the city, harbour, north and across to the South Island too.  Very well worth all of the discomfort (for those of us who were discomforted).

Here are a couple of snaps taken with my phone at the top.

At the top

Master Oh with central Wellington in the background


At the top too

Miss Oh with central Wellington in the background

They did a fantastic job of the whole walk. I’m very proud of them, despite Miss Oh’s merciless teasing at being the slowest of the slowpokes.

In the process of the walk we saw lots of neat locals – tuis by the dozen, some wood pigeons and on one of my many rest-stops I was joined by a small bird that may have been a wax-eye or perhaps it was a bellbird – hard to tell as it was doing it’s best to stay hidden behind some large leaves in the nearby tree.  And the piece de resistance, on the way back down the hill, we came across a kaka ripping away at the bark of a tree.  According to what I’ve read since coming home, it’s possible he was using that very pointy beak to get at the tree’s sap.  See what you think.
Thanks to Mel for sending through the video. 🙂

We’ve been away

Not only have we been absent because of moving blog homes but we’ve also been on a family holiday.  I’m hoping our blog move is all under control now, so here’s a brief gallery of holiday photographs showing the team doing their usual thing while away.  Since this blog is meant to be about our home educating journey, perhaps it might be nice to indicate what sort of things our trip included.

First off we are definitely hitting the geography button with a trip to a different country and the logistics involved in getting there – passports, boarding passes and most importantly, the in-flight entertainment.

Once there, we can indulge in strange rituals like… face painting.

Puppy face

Then maybe we might indulge in a bit of art and creativity.  In this case we will use the new environment to sharpen up our photography skills, as you can see from Miss Oh Waily’s creative positioning of her companion Lumpy.

Little photographer

Then a bit later we have to have a photograph-off.

Little photographer IINot to ignore the fundamentals of mathematics, Miss Oh then indulged in learning all about the different angles while playing a really rough game of pool or two.

ConcentrationOr maybe to work out all the angles, speed and ricochet effect of mini-golf might also go some way to teaching some basic mathematics and physics.  Never mind the score keeping.
Oh, and be a darned fun way to do it too.

GolfingThen finally we come to a bit of culture. In this case the acquisition of henna tattoos.  Or mehndi.  Master Oh has a *dragon* design, while Miss Oh chose a lovely floral design.

Pretty flower design

Dragon designThen there was the usual nature studies – the frogs at night, the flowers, the birds, the fish and our nightly visitors – the gecko.  Much time was spent watching these guys on the windows in the evening, including the odd fight between them.  Sorry about the dark & grainy picture as it was quite late at night and it was taken by hand rather than with a tripod.


I think that’s a pretty good range of learning experiences for the Oh Waily kids.

What a great way to cover lots of topics in a fun and entertaining way.


Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Back in July I took the two Oh Waily kids for a drive up the coast to Kapiti and the    Nga Manu Nature Reserve.  We went mid-morning in order to join the feed out tour, in which visitors get to meet some of the birds up close and help feed them.

On arrival we were met by some friendly locals.  Perhaps they look a little familiar.


Once we headed off on the tour with our lovely guide, we were able to enter enclosures and offer food to a variety of native bird species.  Robyn was very patient with my fidgety pair and explained about each of the birds as we met them.  By the time we had visited the first two enclosures I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take photographs, corral children, feed birds and listen to Robyn.  So the photography was ditched.  The only native that I got a shot of before realising this was a kaka.  It was fabulous getting to see them all up close for the first time.


Along with the kaka, there were kereru, morepork, kiwi, swans, ducks of all stripes including a group of scaup, and the world famous kea.  Who really are just as cheeky and smart as their reputation suggests.

We got to watch the whirlpool effect of the scaup’s webbed feet as they dove for food, and saw the kiwi snuggled up in their nesting box.  We learned that pukeko are the worst predators of other native birds and that the resident head kea has a rather understandable penchant for creamed rice and will try to sneak it at every opportunity.

After we had made our way around the feeding route we then headed off to explore the lovely bush walk.

Bush Walk

And enjoyed the bright undergrowth that was fallen and aged ferns.  It was rather spectacularly bright and cheery.  And unexpected.

Bright ferns

And then there was the view from the tower.

The View

Very well worth the couple or so hours we spent there. The only thing I would do different next time is to take a second pair of hands to wrangle the kids on the feeding tour. They needed to be lifted to reach many of the birds so were ever so slightly too young to get full value out of it.

If you just wanted to see the birds and have a nice picnic and walk in an easy setting then this is a great option for a few hours.

Integrated Learning

I am about a third of the way through creating our first exemption application and it has been going well.  That is to say, it is going well now that I have managed to overcome a rather large dose of writer’s block.
Part of the issue is how to explain that, from our perspective, most of our learning is done in an integrated way.  Certainly we use single focus resources like Reading Eggs or My Pals Are Here! for learning to read and for guidance on age-appropriate maths skills, but for the most part opportunities for learning do not come pre-packaged in a ‘subject-specific’ way.  Take for example our walk yesterday.

We walked along a part of the Hutt River Trail.  On this part we walked from a little inlet by the river, along the stopbank, through a golf club and almost right to the river mouth.  In this two hour walk (we stopped for fluffies at the halfway point) and play we were able to learn and do a whole bunch of stuff.

Physical education
– the kids got a decent walk and a run in the playground.

– talking about the different aspects of golf including terminology used in the game and the environment it is played in.  (Also chatting to a couple of golfers.)

– I pre-prepared a checklist of things to find or look for on the walk.
(Miss Oh Waily has discovered a liking for the tick mark.)

Nature (Science)
– we saw a total of seven different sorts of non-garden birds including mallards, white-faced herons, little shag, yellowhammer, chaffinch, southern black backed gulls (adults & juveniles), and canada geese.

Technology (and Research skills)
– to ensure that we identified the different birds correctly we used an online encyclopaedia of New Zealand birds to help us.  We used the photographs that I took while we walked to do so.  When Miss Oh is a little older I may *gasp* even let her use my new camera when we walk, since she asks to do so regularly.
For the record, the site we used is New Zealand Birds Online.

So as you can see a good chunk of our learning experiences are integrated.  How can you possibly timetable that out, which is one of the apparent* pushes for more information from applicants?  We walked for two hours, how much of that do I apportion to the various aspects of our learning experience?  It is a puzzle.

Anyway, I shall continue on with the exemption writing.  I’m hoping to have the first draft all wrapped up this weekend, quiet time and kids willing.  But today I shall leave you with some images of our native fauna from yesterday’s walk.
Click through for bigger images – the small birds will need you to since they don’t like it when we get too close.



White-faced herons

Duck Squad

On the Stopbank II

On the Stopbank

* please note:  I have had no contact with the local MoE office, so this is simply what I am hearing of other people’s experiences and may not be a complete reflection of the situation.

Family Field Trip: Cape Palliser

Once we came down from the lighthouse, we made our way back to the beach below.  Locals were heading in to the rocky outcrop at the end and were clearly bringing up shellfish, probably paua.  The beach was mainly a variety of large or small rocks, but hiding amongst the larger parts were a few other natives.  (Just a word of caution, this is going to be a seally gratuitous photoblog today.)

Beach Seal

He would have been about 20 metres away, give or take.  There was at least one more a bit further down the beach, but I couldn’t get a good photograph of him as he was partly hiding on the seaward side of a rocky outcrop, and I wasn’t game enough to get any closer than I did.

After Miss Oh and I walked down the beach away from the rocky area, and she had some time to get her feet wet in the sea, we headed back to the rocks where Mr and Master Oh had been fossicking in the rockpools.  We decided to head back along the road to a nice, photogenic outcrop of rocks and let me have a bit of a fiddle with the new camera.  The bonus being yet more natives.

The Outcrop:

Rocky outcrop

The Local’s Bathing & Snoozing Spot:

Seal sunbathing spot

A Native:

Sleeping Seal

He was across a water gap and the photo was taken with my longer lens, but he would also have not been more than 20 metres away.
As it turned out, you had to be very careful of this bathing spot.  Just where it was easiest to get down on to it there was a nice little rock “cave” inside which yet another local was avoiding the sun and trying to take a nap.  Gave me the fright of my life when he raised his head and took a good look at me.  Anyway, he just looked (all of a few metres away from me) and I duly scampered back a few metres and let him settle back down.

After taking some more photographs of my little outcrop and the seaweed, I turned to snap one more of the sleepy friend above when I heard something that was slightly cough-like.  I was on the outcrop on my own, so it wasn’t any of the Oh Wailys.  I turned around and just about broke the sound barrier with the speed at which I launched myself up the rocks leading to the road.  Unbeknownst to me, while my back was turned, another native who had been frolicking in the water decided that the flat sunbathing spot was where he wanted to be.


Again, he would have been less than 20 metres away when this was taken, and a darn sight nearer before I realised he was there.   In hindsight, I needn’t have worried, he showed absolutely no interest in me at all.  But isn’t he wonderfully shiny?

So Cape Palliser was a very nice drive from town, and had the added advantage of the lighthouse at the end and the seals just below.  A very nice day trip.  Next time I head out here I plan to have a trek to the Dimholt Road, but that will need to be child free as our recce visit showed me that it is just a little too far and a little too steep and a little too rocky for little legs.

And to finish off our trip home, we had to stop in Ngawi and take some photographs of the grader/tractor fleet – and I mean fleet.


This barely scratches the surface, there were loads of them, absolutely loads !!  And some of them were very humorous, eh, Tinky-Winky?

So if you’re in the neighbourhood and you want a fairly pleasant drive with a beautiful bay to take plenty of photographs of, a lighthouse to climb to and some native animals to admire, then you could do very well to take a trip out here.

Have you been on a Field Trip lately?  Let me know, I’d love to visit.