Saturday, November 22, 2014

Great Expectations

We're getting ready for our next great adventure.

We still don't know where we're going to be next year but, we are expecting another little one to join us for the ride!

Baby Tsoi #3 is coming in April 2015 and we are so excited!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Full Day

Caleb's been going to school for about 4 months now and he's still excited as ever to go to school every morning.

Towards the end of October, he got this idea in his head that he should stay for lunch. I let the idea sit for a while to see if it was just something he was saying, or if he actually wanted it. Sure enough, he kept asking so by the beginning of November, he started staying for lunch.

I had a quick meeting with his class directors and both of them agreed he was definitely ready to stay for longer - he has a good, focused work cycle and has the stamina to last through the afternoon. They were both excited about getting to do some work with him in the afternoons so that was reassuring for me.

He loved that he got to play with his friends at break time and have lunch with them. I was so surprised to see his lunch container completely empty every afternoon. I had expected him to be too busy chatting away to finish his food, but then again, the boy loves his food.

A week later, Caleb started staying until 2pm. That was such an awkward pick-up time for me to work around seeing as how I had to be back at 3pm to pick up Nathan.

Luckily, that only lasted 5 days because Caleb's decided that starting today, he will go to school for the full day. 

This happened so much faster than I had planned, but I'm glad Caleb knows himself well enough to decide this is what he needs to do.

I'm so proud of you, big guy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Inspired by His Learning

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether we're doing the right thing by putting our boys in a school that follows a non-traditional method of education. It's scary sending your child through a system you didn't personally experience. Andrew went to a private Christian school while I grew up in the public school system. The Montessori system doesn't allow us to gauge how well our boys are doing by comparing them to our own educational experiences, nor does the school do formalized testing or provide standardized report cards for us to see how they compare with their peers. So we basically have to trust the system and hope that if we ever leave this school, our boys will be able to measure up.

Luckily, we do get glimpses ever so often to reassure us that this system is working for our boys. Take, for instance, Nathan's most recent class breakfast. Each time I go to a breakfast, I'm becoming more impressed with the way they introduce different concepts in Montessori. Especially math concepts.

As a highly visual learner, it was so interesting for me to see how they used bead bars to illustrate decanomials. They start off with a physical representation of the multiplication table. Setting this part up took a long time but the boys were meticulous and precise.

They found all the squares, exchanged the pieces into fixed squares and exchanged the remaining bead bars via the commutative law.

Afterwards, they combined bars to create more fixed squares, eventually building cubes. These cubes can be stacked into a tower, which is exactly like the pink tower Caleb gets to work with in his classroom. It's amazing to see how they build the foundation for such complex ideas even from the beginning.

Once Nathan and his friend packed the beads up, we moved onto the river model. This interactive model shows how a river is formed, and then the students can also label the different parts of a river.

The model starts off as a solid mass of sand. As they continuously pour water in the same spot, the sand eventually erodes away and right before your eyes in minutes, you see what would take hundreds of years to happen in nature. It's like watching a time-lapse video, and so much more interesting than having someone tell you that it takes millions of years for water to carve out a path through the surface of the earth to create a river.

And of course, here's Nathan's diagram, complete with two dudes chilling out under a tree by the river. Hah!

Then, we attended a maths curriculum night in which they explained how math is taught throughout the curriculum, not just as an isolated subject. They also invited some students along to give us parents presentations (lessons) on different areas of math. Nathan was one of the presenters, and I've always told him that if he can't teach someone what he's learned, he hasn't learned it well enough. He did well that night in walking us step-by-step through the process of multiplying large numbers.

It was amazing to see these materials in actions, how it makes these abstract concepts make so much more sense. I even got to (finally) see how the binomial cube works. This is a lesson I missed out on during our first curriculum event here and I've been wondering how it is used ever since. Now, I know.

I think one of the best parts of the Montessori education is how it teaches the children to take ownership of what they're learning, and how comfortable the students are with talking with adults. I can say right now that Nathan is really enjoying and thriving in this environment. This system is definitely working for him, and seeing him so excited and confident in teaching others what he's learned is inspiring to me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Around Here: Signs of Summer

It's not officially summer yet but it sure feels like it! It's supposed to hit 40°C this weekend. And what better way to welcome unofficial summer than to have a BBQ with friends? It's still early in the mango season but we couldn't resist buying a few at the markets this weekend to toss into our new favourite salad. They smell so sweet!

In other news, Andrew had a quick lesson in how to drive manual from the same friends who fed us. Our friends are truly the best.

(Learning to drive manual is yet another thing we should have learned before we became adults. Note to self: Make sure the boys learn it early.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

G20 Public Holiday

Andrew's first day of freedom ended up coinciding with the G20 public holiday in Brisbane so while I feel like he was cheated a little because he probably would have gotten the day off anyway, he didn't care. He was free.

We took things slow and easy that day, kind of like this little guy.

Instead of joining the mass exodus out of Brisbane, we stayed in town. It was so quiet and safe with all the extra police milling about. And we managed to cross one thing off our mile-long to-do list: renew our Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary memberships!

It was nice to just leisurely wander around the park, letting the boys choose what they wanted to see.

Of course, the boys wanted to feed the kangaroos first. There were so many little kangaroos this time around and they were eager to eat.

Oh, Caleb. He loves petting animals so much. He gave this kanga a nice long neck rub, then discovered how soft his ears were!

The kanga must have liked it because she stood still for so long, soaking in the love. I even managed to get a picture with her and both the boys.

It slipped my mind that Andrew didn't have a membership last year so when we went to watch all the animal shows, he wasn't there. We missed the birds of prey show but he finally got to see the sheep herding show that the boys were so excited about.

Those dogs do such a good job keeping those sheep together, going where they need to go. I wonder how they do with rounding children up?

I know my boys would love to have a dog of their own. 


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