The Bath House

Last month the Oh Waily kids and I went for a visit to their grandparents in Tauranga.  On this trip I finally decided that we would do some day trips while we visited instead of spending most of the time locally.

To that end we headed to Rotorua for the day.  We started with a gentle stroll along the lakefront, a run around in the lovely playground before refueling with morning tea in a local cafe.  We reinforced our recognition of the Scaup from our visit to Nga Manu as there was a huge number of them floating around the jetty.

We then drove around to The Bath House, which now houses Rotorua’s museum.  On the way we stopped and admired the beautiful waka on the lakefront.  You can’t help but love the prow, can you?


Unfortunately I can’t show you any photographs of the wonderful inside of the Bath House building as you aren’t allowed to take any.  But I can recommend a visit.  It is a small museum, but it is very modern and very nicely presented.  It was especially fun to see the restored and excavated sections of the original bath house stalls.  It was even more fun when we got to walk under the building, hard hats and all, to see all the underground workings involved in “taking the cure”.
Then I took the kids to the top viewing platform, through the attic, looking out for the ghost all the way.  It was a very nice experience all around.

After this we headed out to the Redwoods on the outskirts of Rotorua, stopping for a late lunch on the way.  I’ve driven past this area so many times in the last three years and had no idea that this existed.  What a waste!
So, we started by getting the kiddie’s questionnaire to encourage them to observe their surroundings and then set off for the short walk, Redwood Memorial Grove track.  It’s two kilometres of mostly easy walking, and it takes you through some beautiful parts of the forest.  Here’s a couple of photographs I took along the way.

Redwood Path

Redwood Stand

And when we reached the end, we had to stop and say hello to the Redwood Family. Apparently one of them might have had a bit of a headache the day we visited. Maybe they’d spent all day trailing around after small people?

Oh my Head!

If you are visiting the central North Island, or just passing through, I can recommend visiting both the Bath House and the Redwoods.  By the time we had visited these two spots we were pretty done for the day, with an hour and a bit drive each way from the Oh Waily grandparents’ house to bookend our day.

Following on from our successful trip to Rotorua, we headed out on one more day trip a little later in our stay, this time to a hidden valley just outside Taupo.


Art Detectives

Today’s Thursday Adventure Club* outing was to Te Papa Tongarewa, known simply as Te Papa.

I had let my fingers do the walking and found an interesting link on their site, at the bottom of the What’s on for kids page.  The Family Trails.
I mean, who could pass up he chance of becoming an Art Detective?  Not us.

So this rather soggy Wellington morning saw us in town bright and early.  We headed to the Information Desk and were kitted out with our Art Detective bag and gear.  What did we get?

  • a deerstalker hat (what self-respecting detective goes without one?)
  • a matching cape
  • a pair of Harry Potter-style spectacles
  • a magnifying glass
  • some pipe cleaners
  • a foldable box
  • pencils
  • the Art Detective guide

Once we were all dressed for the occasion, Detective G and Detective M and their guide (me) headed off to Level 5 to work our way through the different galleries and the tasks set out in the AD guide book.

Do they look cute, or do they look cute?

Detective GDetective M

The amount of double takes and smiles the costumes generated was worth it alone.  But, in the process of following the art trail they were exposed to a range of artists and artistic styles.

We started off in the Artist In Focus gallery where they did a bit of counting, writing and creating with their pipe cleaners.  Then we moved through to the Arts Studio, which we will try to visit again when there isn’t a school class in the galleries, where I helped them make their own small cardboard waka huia to store their treasures in.  Then in the same area they had to find and then work out how to use a mystery box to help them with one of the following clues.
Then it was off to the Maori & Pacific Encounters gallery to look at and answer questions about a painting done by John Webber 200 years ago while sailing with James Cook.

Next we headed to the Framing the  View gallery where we used the descriptions noted from the Mystery Box to find an art work.  We did some more counting here and also a bit of geometry.   Miss Oh Waily took over the writing duties from here on.  She also drew the geometrical shapes that were used in the art work.
We stayed here and using a set of three clues supplied in our detective bag we had to work out which painting they represented.  And Miss Oh then had to make up a story to go with that particular piece of art.  I was her secretary here or we would have struggled for space and time.

From here we headed into the gallery Emblems of Identity where we got to see a number of Rita Angus portraits including Rutu which was the subject of this section of the trail.  We learned about symbols in art – in this case a white lotus – and made one of our own for our waka huia.  Then we did several word clues to identify the next artworks including McCahon’s The Valley of Dry Bones and then the kids got to draw their version of some Angus portraits and added speech bubbles to them.  Then we moved on to the Being Modern gallery into the Modern Maori Art gallery where there was more writing and drawing to be done.

Finally we made our way through the Art & Change and Contemporary galleries.  This latter one was a bit of a toughie.  It houses a couple of interesting works by Ralph Hotere which were the subject of another project in the book.  But by this stage they were getting to the end of their attention span (almost an hour and a half of detecting by this time) and the glossy attractions of Michael Parekowhai’s amazing piano was proving a bit much for Detective G.  Clearly she is a tactile person (and curious with it) so I had a bit of trouble keeping her hands off it.

We whizzed through the remaining gallery and we were done.  A fluffy and biscuit were their rewards for being so good at detecting and keeping on the trail for almost the entire time.  They did fabulously well.  And I am most definitely going to keep an eye on the Family Trails section for any new options elsewhere in the museum.  It’s a great way to make kids this little stop and actually look at art in galleries.  It makes it interactive and fun, but not laborious.

A complete Pukeko Patch thumbs up for this activity.

But be aware that they only had four or five detective bags at the information desk.  I’d suggest going early on a weekday in order to ensure your little detectives are able to enjoy themselves.  Oh, and you do have to be interactive throughout the process (not just reading the guide book) so that they get the most out of it.  But well worth it in my opinion.

* My arbitrary name for our family field trips.  Makes it sound flashy for the small ones.

Welcome to Egypt

All Gizah PyramidsWe have been taking a trip into the world of Ancient Egypt.

We are following the reading suggestion in the pre-made classical curriculum and read through the excellent, short, story book in no time flat.

I am now officially in love with the Magic Tree House series, and I’ve only read the one book, Mummies in the Morning.  It has two characters, Jack and Annie, who are brother and sister.  They visit a treehouse in which there are many books on different subjects.  Opening a book and wishing to be taken to the scene inside magically transports them and the treehouse there.  In our case, to ancient Egypt.

The nice thing about this series of books is that they are accompanied by a non-fiction book on the same topic, Mummies and Pyramids.  Using the same characters, we are able to learn a range of bite-sized snippets of information about Egypt and it’s culture in a non-fiction form.  Both books have some drawings and photographs, so that helps with keeping up the interest and aids in understanding.

I have also been directed to Activity Village’s Ancient Egypt theme section where we printed off many, many copies of images for colouring in.  We revisited the Creation Myth book that we had been using for earlier reading, and read about Ra and Apophis.

We have been reading about making mummies, sarcophagi, the pyramids, the Black Land and the Red Land, the Sphinx and the Nile.  So far it seems to be interesting enough to have Miss Oh Waily ask me to read about Egypt to her while she is having her lunch.

Here are some of the things she has done so far.

Egyptian Narration & Art

Using the creation myth book from previous entries, we read about Ra and Apophis with Miss Oh Waily doing a drawing of them fighting it out. Then I printed a few different colouring-in sheets for her to do (and her brother had to have some too). Can you tell that she is a bit in love with the gold and silver Artline pens? Perfect for those gilded and bright masks and sarcophagi.

Home made Pyramid

Then I cut out (they were a bit fiddly) the shape of a pyramid and let her colour it in. Together we used sellotape to make the final 3D item.  I’m not sure what the Pharoahs would have thought of the aesthetics, but hey a five year old had fun designing it.

Home made Cartouche

And finally, we collaborated on creating a cartouche.  Miss Oh helped a bit with the rolling out of the base and the making of the sausage that created the edge.  Then once it was dry* she set to it with her paints.  I’m contemplating whether to create the hieroglyphics to spell out her name and seeing if she wants to add them to it later.  I’ll see how it goes.

And that has been our first foray into the world of ancient Egypt.  No doubt we will now move on for a while, but I hope to come back for a visit soon.


* it’s made of DAS modeling clay, so she had to wait.  A great lesson in patience alone.

History in a nutshell: Volume 1

So it will come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m a bit of a history geek.  And when I decided to try out the classical education ready-made curriculum that I’ve been talking about lately, I was introduced to a series of potted histories of the world designed for children.  I figured I might as well go the whole hog if I was going to give this a fair chance, so after rummaging around the local library systems and coming up blank I headed off to my beloved Book Depository and placed my order.

It arrived today.  And I think I might just be a little bitty bit in love with a book.

As you can see from the title this is Volume 1: Ancient Times.  It will be introducing history and cultures to my children that I did not get to know in any great way until I was in my late teens/early twenties.

I get to tell them about Hammurabi and that I’ve seen his stele in the flesh, so to speak.  We get to chat about Sargon, the Mycenaeans (been there too, got the photographs to prove it), Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Confucius.  A snippet by snippet introduction to our earliest history and some of the legacies of those times and people.  A great way to put your alphabet and writing into a context while you are practicing using it.

I can see myself using a relaxed version of Classical Education, no stress, no long hours of study, or copy work, just gentle reading and scene setting with some arts and crafts thrown in for good measure.

Look out for my post about our current reading and learning adventures in Ancient Egypt, that’s coming up next week.

So, what do your kids know about the history of the world?  Do you think it’s important or irrelevant to your child’s education?  Leave a comment, I’d love to know what you think and what you do.

Phan Ku

As I mentioned yesterday, we have started working through some creation stories, Bursting From The Hen’s Egg and Spider Ananse Finds Something.

The first of these is about Phan Ku and comes from China.  We went over this a couple of times yesterday, and Miss Oh struggled to concentrate on the story enough to be able to relate back the events in her own words.  So after leaving it overnight we had another, relaxed, morning of revisiting this story.  I chose to work more on getting her to draw Phan Ku, which she did.

Here are the three sheets she produced about this story.  The first is the sheet provided, and includes a section where you can write things your child tells you they remember or like about the work.  Or, if they are writing on their own, where they can write about the story.
Above that you can see a square to allow for illustration, which Miss Oh enjoyed doing.  She described all the aspects as she drew them – Phan Ku’s horns, tusks, his chisel and his breath (that’s the funny little dotted line on the left and around the bottom of his chisel).  The image in the middle is one she did yesterday of Phan Ku.  And the one on the right is the Egg with Phan Ku inside the small squiggles that are the egg cracking and the squiggly lines around the egg is the “bursting out” that is happening.

Phan Ku

So I think tomorrow we will move on to Spider Ananse and do the same for that story.  We will be following our own schedule for working through the suggested curriculum, but that’s just fine by me.  After all, that is one of the main points of choosing to homeschool – working at the kids’ pace.

Some things I’ve learned today:

– we will try to work at the table until her concentration level is good enough to work wherever.
– we will work specifically on her handwriting from now on rather than just letting her write as and when she wants.  But only in short bursts.
– Master Oh can work quite happily with the Montessori apps on the iPad while Miss Oh is listening or drawing.  An hour should be possible.
– I am very impatient at the moment and that was coming out in my approach to “teaching” this lesson.   I learned my own lesson yesterday.

So tomorrow we will move ourselves into the creation stories of Africa.  I can’t wait to see what sort of spider Ananse will turn out to be when he’s drawn.  And I will relax about what to expect Miss Oh to be capable of doing from now on.

Remind me – whose learning journey is this again?

Classical Education – First Steps

Well, we are going to dip our toes into the waters of a Classical Education this week.
With the help and assistance of the Ancients downloadable curriculum from Classical House of Learning we are starting off with a variety of Creation Myths/Stories.

So today we read about Phan Ku* and Ananse.  A giant with horns and tusks, and a wily spider.

I will need my patience hat on, that much is clear.  Due to the recent sickness we seem to have lost our ability to concentrate following on from a super dose of television watching / recovery.  Thankfully, in a roundabout sort of way, I am unable to source the suggested reading book for the second week so we will perhaps just take a bit longer going through more than the myths/stories suggested.

I can also see that doing this may be difficult with a three year old fidgeting away next to us.  The problem is – he will not want to be excluded, and I am doubtful of any meaningful distraction too.  Oh well, no one said this journey was an easy one.  My intelligence and versatility will surely be tested.

So what Creation stories have you read to your children?

* It’s quite interesting to see the differences between the version in our library book and the wikipedia entry.  I’m sure my eyes would spin up into the back of my head if I tried to reconcile all the variations.  🙂