Thursday, 18 April 2019

Another cat!

A couple of months ago my blog post asked the question of another cat.

That question has now been answered.

Yesterday, we took Mushroom the cat to our local vet to get her microchipped and vaccinated.  I guess that makes her officially ours.

To refresh your memory, a couple of months ago we found Mushroom wandering around our property super-skinny and probably near death.  We fed her and she stayed with us.  We put up ads for her on Lost Pet and at the vets nearby.  But nobody claimed her.

Over the past two months our other two cats, Maggie and Kitty, have gradually got used to Mushroom being around.  Things are mostly okay between the three of them now, other than the occasional small hiss if one surprises another around a corner.

At night we bring all three cats inside the house (the recommended thing to do, for the sake of the native wildlife).  When we go to bed Mushroom goes in the bathroom, while the other two cats have the run of the house.

With the new microchip, Mushroom also got the key to the catflap.  Our smart catflap now reads Mushroom's chip, and lets her in and out.  So far she only goes in and out when we push her through, but hopefully she is smart enough to quickly learn to do it herself.

Miya took this photo of Mushroom the other day:


On Tuesday, we all went to MOTAT.

For those who don't know, MOTAT is the Museum of Transport and Technology.

This month they've got a special on for educators.  Bring your educator ID, and you get a free family pass (normally $45).  They had this special last year, but there was some confusion and home educators (like us) were excluded from the special.  This year they got it right and extended it to us home educators.

So, the four of us went along for the day.  (Mama had to leave early to work, but the girls and I stayed until closing time.)

For the first hour or so we did the usual museum-y thing of starting at one end and looking systematically at everything, one by one.

But then we came across their special school holiday activity.  This was a find-the-item style treasure hunt.  The "X" on the map showed the general location, then the kids had to find the museum piece that matched the clue.  Completing each page of clues (there were five in total) won them a badge.

This was much more fun for Mulan and Miya, so we spent the rest of the day dashing back and forth around the grounds solving clues.  The girls completed it just before closing time, and won themselves lots of badges.

We possibly didn't look at everything quite as closely doing the treasure hunt, but it may have been more memorable and it was definitely more fun for the girls.  So, great idea.  Thanks MOTAT!

We're seriously thinking of buying the MOTAT annual pass.  This allows a family unlimited access to MOTAT for one year.  At only $95 it seems very good value.

The thing is, as Mulan is getting older I have been thinking more and more about how to introduce secondary school level science into her education.  Spending time at MOTAT and doing some more serious studies there would be very helpful, we think.

Another possibility is getting the Auckland Zoo annual pass.  This one is $220.  Maybe we get one pass one year and the other the following year.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Maths: Khan Academy high school

A few days ago I mentioned that Mulan was almost finished Khan Academy 8th Grade maths.

Well, she finished it today, and we had a look at what comes next.

It's all very easy.  Next up is High school Mathematics I.  Mulan is already 47% through it, as there is some overlap between grades.

So, life will just continue on as normal, doing a little every day.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Maths: Khan Academy

Usually I label these posts "Congratulations Miya" or "Congratulations Mulan", but they are happening too often these days.

Miya has just finished Khan Academy 3rd Grade maths.

A sticking point for her has been learning her times tables facts, but she has got them for the most part now, and has now been able to complete 3rd Grade.  It is still a work in progress to get them all fast and automatic, but the ones she doesn't know automatically she can work out in her head fairly quickly.

Miya is also 68% of her way through 4th Grade.  Our gentle, no-stress goal is to finish 4th Grade in the next few months.  If she was in the US she'd currently be in 3rd Grade, so our no-stress goal would mean that she'd be over one year ahead of her age.


Meanwhile, Mulan is 98% of her way through Khan Academy 8th Grade maths.

When she finishes this in the next few days I'll need to figure out the system Khan Academy uses for its "High school" level maths.  After 8th Grade it uses a different system that doesn't label the grades year-by-year.

If Mulan was in the US she'd be in 6th Grade, so she is over two years ahead of her age.


As I've commented before, in US/China Mulan is three school years older than Miya.  However, in New Zealand Mulan is four school years older than Miya.  The school year system is fairly arbitrary, so how they compare with their school year is at best merely a useful rough guide to check that we are doing the right amount of work here at home.

Practically, what is more important is that the children are learning to their own individual potential.  These achievements are a result of spending anywhere between 3 and 30 minutes a day, every day, on maths problems that are typically challenging but do-able for them.

(I last commented on the girls' maths in January.)

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

North Shore primary school swimming champs

Yesterday, Mulan and Miya competed at the North Shore primary school swimming champs.  This was an inter-school swimming competition between about 30 primary schools in our local area.

I mentioned earlier that we'd recently had the Auckland homeschool swimming champs.  It was a huge success, the kids loved it, and for many it was their first time competing in a real swimming competition.

I also mentioned that we'd been invited to enter a homeschool (HASCA) team into the primary inter-schools competition.  Well, yesterday was the day.

(I also mentioned that the local intermediate and secondary schools are scared, selfish meanies (!), as so far they are not letting us homeschoolers enter the swimming inter-school competitions for those age groups.)

Anyway, we sent out invites to all the 7- to 11-years olds who competed at the homeschool swimming champs, and six (including Mulan and Miya) decided they would like to compete at the inter-schools.

All six children did extremely well, competing admirably alongside the best swimmers on the Shore.  This was not just a token team.  We had no last places, and quite a few high-ranked performances.  Equally importantly, we had lots of new PBs (personal bests), and often by a huge margin.

Miya competed in the 8 years and under girls, she did:
  • 25m breaststroke, 32.77 sec, 15th (out of 27)
  • 25m backstroke, 29.39 sec, 35th (out of 42)
  • 25m freestyle, 27.62 sec, 46th (out of 51)
Miya also joined the HASCA relay team in the 11 years and under girls age group.  This was a pretty tough ask for an 8-year-old to compete against girls two and three years older than her.  They did:
  • 4x25m freestyle relay, 1:29.69, 17th (out of 18)
  • 4x25m medley relay, 1:45.07, 16th (out of 18)

Mulan turned 12 just a week before the competition.  Since it was for children 11 years and under, she was unable to compete for places/medals.  Nonetheless, the organisers very kindly allowed Mulan to participate (did I mention how awful the intermediate and secondary schools are?!).  Mulan did:
  • 25m breaststroke, 22.88 sec, 2nd= (out of 41)
  • 25m freestyle, 18.08 sec, 5th (out of 57)
  • 25m backstroke, 21.68 sec, 11th (out of 41)

I think I am not merely being a proud daddy when I say that these are pretty awesome results.  Mulan and Miya started swimming lessons four years ago (learning at Swim Lovers' Swim School), when we first moved from China to New Zealand.  At that time they were pretty much complete beginners.  Since then they have both been doing 30-minute lessons once a week during term-time.  This term, for the first time they also joined a squad training group, doing an extra 1-hour session each week.

I mentioned to the girls that if they wanted to we could look into them joining the local swim club.  Mulan rightly wondered where they are going to find the time.  Yep, that is always the big thing -- finding enough time in the day to do everything we enjoy doing.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Homeschool swimming

Last Wednesday, Mulan and Miya attended the Auckland homeschool swimming competition.  (I mentioned earlier that we were planning it.)

I also mentioned earlier that Wednesday was a busy day for us.  As well as the swimming in the morning, we did the Takapuna Athletics Club Championships in the evening.  Needless to say, it was a physically intense day for the girls.

This was the first time the girls had ever competed in a swimming competition, and they both wanted to make the most of it.  This meant they didn't want to just swim three or five events.  Rather, they both did 13 events each, during the four hours we were there!

First up, they joined in with a 25m warm-up crazy/fun relay, with balls and pool noodles and stuff.  Next, they got into the serious swim races.  They completed:

25m Freestyle: 19.64 sec
25m Backstroke: 22.75 sec
25m Breaststroke: 27.31 sec
25m Butterfly: 31.38 sec
50m Freestyle: 45.42 sec
4x25m IM: 2:02.87 min
50m Backstroke: 56.49 sec
50m Breaststroke:56.69 sec
100m Freestyle: 1:55.09 min
100m Backstroke: 2:18.56 min
100m Breaststroke: 2:13.66 min
200m Freestyle: 4:29.75 min

25m Freestyle: 27.19 sec
25m Backstroke: 32.15 sec
25m Breaststroke: 36.15 sec
25m Butterfly: 1:06.18 min
50m Freestyle: 1:11.65 min
4x25m IM: 3:41.63 min
50m Backstroke: 1:40.09 min
50m Breaststroke: 1:36.91 min
100m Freestyle: 2:56.13 min
100m Backstroke: 3:55.43 min
100m Breaststroke: 3:34.38 min
200m Freestyle: 6:45.44 min (sadly, her goggles fell off at the start, and she took about 30 seconds to re-set herself)

A hugely fun day was had by all, and we're planning to make this homeschool competition a yearly event.

We've also been invited to enter a homeschool team into the North Shore Primary inter-schools competition on the 2nd of April.  (Sadly, the Intermediate and Secondary schools are still excluding us.)  Each child is allowed to compete in at most three individual events on the day.

The restriction on the number of events has made things tricky for us newbies.  Never having been involved in competition swimming, we have no idea what a decent time is, and so which events would best suit the children.

Google came to the rescue, and I found the results of last year's competition.  It has been very interesting reading.

We also went to the Takapuna Pools yesterday, timing Miya doing some 50m swims in the public lanes.  She improved significantly in both her 50m backstroke (1:21 min) and 50m breaststroke (1:29 min), but not enough to think that these events would be best for her.

Based on all this, Miya decided that she should enter the 25m freestyle, 25m backstroke and 25m breaststroke.

We've got four homeschool girls competing (including Miya), so they'll do two relays together -- the 4x25m freestyle and 4x25m medley.  It'll be hugely tough for 8-year-old Miya to compete against the best 10 and 11-year-olds, but she is happy to simply get in the pool and have a swim.

The organisers of the inter-schools have super-kindly allowed Mulan to also join the races on the day, even though she is slightly too old (the competition is for 11 years and under, and Mulan turned 12 today).  She will enter as an "exhibition swimmer," receiving a participation ribbon but not qualifying for any medals or places.  Awesome!

Choosing three events for Mulan is more difficult than for Miya.  She could possibly do 25m or 50m in any of freestyle, backstroke or breaststroke.  She chose the same as Miya -- 25m freestyle, 25m backstroke and 25m breaststroke.

Friday, 22 March 2019


We finished our athletics season at Takapuna Athletic Club on Wednesday evening, when we had the second of our Club Championship days.  Except for our Club prize-giving in May, we won't have any more athletics until the new season in October.

Wednesday was a busy day for us, as the girls also had their homeschool swimming championships earlier that day.  (I'll write something about this soon.)

This season, the girls both chose to prioritise their ballet over their athletics. This meant that they both missed athletics clubnights and coaching when they had clashes with their ballet lessons.  Also, with having music on Saturdays we didn't try to do any regional/inter-club athletics championship events.

Nonetheless, both girls did extremely well in the Club Champs.

Miya came first in both the shot put and discus in her Grade 8 competition.  In her other events she placed just outside of the top three, but still performed very well.  In particular, she got a new PB (personal best) of 3.10m in the long jump, gaining fourth place.

There's a really nice bunch of about half a dozen girls in Mulan's Grade 11 group.  At this age the casual competitors tend to drop out, leaving the more motivated ones.  The girls often share the placings between them as they go from event to event.  This year, Mulan got first in the long jump (4.22m) and 800m, second in the high jump, third in the shot put, discus, 100m, 400m and 1500m, and fourth in the 200m.

In the Veteran (over 40s) group, I'm the only regular competitor, though there are a couple of other guys who occasionally join in.  So, I got seven firsts and two seconds.  We had an awesome fun 100m race, where the electronic timer registered two of us at 13.51 seconds -- I was beaten into second place by a few thousandths of a second!  On a good day I can still get in the low 13 seconds, though it looks like these days under 13 seconds is increasingly unlikely.

Nonetheless, with doing a bit of fitness training this season, I got a new "old man personal best" (over 40 years old) in the 800m, of 2.38.36 sec.  I was also just 0.1 seconds off my 400m old man best, when I got 1.02.00 sec.

Mulan and Miya have had a fun competition between themselves this year.  Mulan's first season of athletics was Grade 8, so they have been looking back at her old PBs of that year and comparing them with Miya's.  Let's just say the competition has been fairly well matched, though Miya has had a slight advantage because she started athletics younger and has had more years to practice technique.

The girls and I have all agreed that when I turn 50 (in 2025) the three of us will have a few races together.  Mulan will be 18 and Miya will be 15.  I wonder if I'll be able to keep up with them.

(This time last year I also wrote about our athletics season just finished.)