Term 3 Summary 2016

So what have we been up to in our school work?

All sorts of things.

Lots of reading.

Lots of written narrations and essay writing.

Lots of discussions.

Lots of documentaries.

Lots of books.

Lots of exploration and research

All of which just leads to more questions and more investigation.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure (and my personal records)

below are the things we did together as ‘official’ schoolwork over the last ten weeks.





–  Read the gospel of Luke

–  Finished reading “Big Truths for Young Hearts”




– Read half of “String, Straight-Edge, and Shadow:  The Story of Geometry”

– Daily work on Math Mentals

– Daily Math work from “Dimensions Mathematics” (highschool Singapore Math)

– Watched youtube videos for Math review

– Watched youtube about builders using 3-4-5 method of making right angles

– Visited the Science Centre to explore the “Measure Island” exhibition

– Watched “Story of Maths” documentaries




– Independent silent reading

– Daily sentence parsing, diagramming, punctuation, spelling and cursive activities

– Daily work on current essays and written narrations

– Listened to audio “Dandelion Fire”

– Listened to audio “Chestnut King”

– Listened to the audio “The Day of the Triffids”

– Watched the dvd of “The Day of the Triffids”

– Listened to audio “Oliver Twist”

– Continued reading The Brothers Grimm original Fairytales and discussed the stories

– Read a children’s version of “The Phantom of the Opera”

– Read “Treasure Island”

– Read “Hamlet” from “Stories from Shakespeare” by McCaughrean

– Watched the movie “Hamlet” (with Mel Gibson)

– Read all of Beatrix Potter’s 23 original tales

– Watched a Globe theatre dvd of Twelfth Night

– Attended the QLD Shakespeare Ensemble’s performance of “The Twelfth Night”

– Read Alfred Noyes “The Highwayman”

– Read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”

– Read “Mark Twain” a biography about the author




– Daily lessons in Visual Latin (Ethan) and Latin’s Not So Tough (Braydeon)




– Watched the dvd series “Science of Stupid” (about the physics of stunts)

– Watched “My Brilliant Brain”

– Watched “Superhuman” (about the human body)

– Read “Snowflake Bentley”

– Read “The Secret Life of a Snowflake”

– Read “Curious about Snow”

– Read “The Snowflake:  Winters Frozne Artistry”

– Explored the lowest temperatures in Australia and Australian snowflakes

– Watched videos of snow crystals being grown in a laboratory

– Watched videos of very large snowflakes falling

– Read “What Makes Your Body Work”

– Explored human reaction times

– Read “Complex Circulatory System”

– Read “Invincible Microbe” (about tuberculosis)

– Watched the dvd “The Deadliest Killer in Human History” (about tuberculosis)

– Watched two youtube videos on Heart Anatomy from “Dr Fabian’s Human Anatomy Lectures”

– Watched the David Attenborough dvd “Life That Glows” (about bioluminescent animals)

– Watched “Particle Fever” (about the Hadron Collider)

– Watched youtube videos to explain particle theory and Boson-Higgs particle

– Experimented with pendulums and their swing times

– Visited the Science Centre to explore the “Measure Island” exhibition

– Read “Bones”

– Read “Lungs”

– Read “The Breathtaking Respiratory System”

– Watched the dvd “The Theory of Everything” (about Stephen Hawkings)

– Watched the dvd series “Pain, Pus and Poison”

– Did water quality testing at Wivenhoe Dam as part of excursion

– Read “Jonas Salk:  Creatorof the Polio Vaccine”

– Watched the documentary called “The Polio Crusade”

– Watch documentary about Martha Mason (who lived out her life in an iron lung)

– Watched an episode of “Cosmos”

– Read “The Flu” (about the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic)

– Watched “America’s Forgotten Pandemic” (about influenza pandemic)

– Watched “Victorian Pharmacy”

– Read “The Electrifying Nervous System”


Geography:  –


– Read “Hachiko Waits”

– Watched the movie “Hachiko”

– Read about the Australian Dog on the Tuckerbox at Gundegai to compare it to Hachiko

– Read original poems that began the legend of the Dog on the Tuckerbox

– Read the picture book “Dog on the Tuckerbox” (about pioneers and their faithful dogs)

– Watched “Lost Treasures of the Ancient World:  Samurai Japan”

– Read and discussed “Sky Sweeper” (about Japanese gardens and the value of work)

– Watched “Rapa Nui” (about Easter Island and the moais)

– Read “Shipwrecked” (about shipwrecked Japanese fisherman who are picked up by Americans)

– Read “Commodore Perry and the Land of the Shogun”

– Watched some youtubes videos of the “Black Ships Festival” that is held in Japan

-Watched “Japan:  Memoirs of a Secret Empire”

– Read “The Way We Do It In Japan”

– Read “Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll”

– Read “Japanese Traditions”

– Read “The Big Wave” (about an earthquake and tsunami in Japan)




– Read D’Aulaire’s “Columbus”

– Read “Queen of Scots”

– Read “Encounter” (about Columbus from a natives’ perspective)

– Read “Legend of St Christopher”

– Read “Forgotten Voyager” ( about Amerigo Vespucci)

– Read” Along Came Galileo”

– Watched the dvd “Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens”

– Read “The Sea King” (about Sir Francis Drake)

– Watched “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce

– Watched “The Map Makers” ( about The Waldseemuller map, the Mercator map and the maps that were made for D-Day)

– Watched “The Empire of the Sea” (about the history of the English navy)


Civics & Finances:


– Discussed voting; Went to the polling booths

– Read “Journey Through the Pipes” (about getting water to and from homes)

– Went on an excursion to tour Wivenhoe Dam and the Mt Crosby Water treatment plant

– Explored the website “Up a Dry Gully” (to learn about catchments, dams, and treating water)


The Arts: 


– Attended theatre performance of “The Peasant Prince”

– Attended a theatre performance of “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”

– Attended a performance (at the museum) by a Thursday Island music and dance troupe

– Attended the QLD Shakespeare Ensemble’s performance of “The Twelfth Night”


Tech & Design:


– Assisted with weekly computer programming class at a school (Ethan)

– Provided phone support to school teacher teaching a HTML class

– Daily worked on computer programming assignments (30 minutes a day) (Ethan)

– Attended LittleBits electronics workshop (QUT Stem workshop)

– Attended Lego Robotics workshop “Driving into the Future with Lego Robotics” (QUT Stem Workshop)

– Programmed and used Mindstorm Lego Robotic kit at home

– Made a reaction time program on the computer using Scratch (Ethan)

– Began working with the Raspberry Pi to set it up as a working computer (Ethan)

– Read “Australia’s Best Inventions”


Health & PE:


– weekly park plays

– bike riding, frisbee games, table tennis, walking

– monthly trips to Skyzone for trampolining and laser tag

– Read “Slow Death by Rubber Duck”

– Watched the dvd “That Sugar Film”

– Watched the dvd “Unacceptable Levels” (about chemicals in our day to day life)

– Read “Drink and Drugs and Your Body”

– Watched youtube videos of healthy lungs and smoker’s lungs

– Watched a number of smoking commercials on youtube




– Two trips to Dreamworld

– Attended theatre performance of “The Peasant Prince”

– Attended a theatre performance of “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”

– Participated in a QUT Stem workshop using Little Bit electronics

– Visited the Science Centre to explore the “Measure Island” exhibition

– Participated in a Lego Robotics workshop “Driving into the Future with Lego Robotics” (QUT Stem Workshop)

– Attended the QLD Shakespeare Ensemble’s performance of “The Twelfth Night”

– Went on an excursion to tour Wivenhoe Dam and the Mt Crosby Water treatment plant

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Posted by on September 17, 2016 in Homeschooling Days


Wivenhoe Dam and Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant

The other week we went on an awesome homeschool excursion

to Wivenhoe Dam and Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant.

It was a very big day with lots of driving.

We arrived early so we could stop off and see the spillway gates

(which weren’t part of the official tour).
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How impressive would it be to see all 5 gates open and spilling water out into the river!

I’d love to take the boys out to see this one time.

(However, I have concerns that the roads around Spillway Common

and the carparking facilities at the lookout

wouldn’t cope well with too many sightseers and that’s a major deterrent for me.)
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I wonder how far up the water reaches when the 5 spillway gates are open.

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On the day we visited, the only water we saw running was this little tinkle,

which I assuming is just the tiny continual release that keeps the water moving and healthy.

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Of course, I positioned the boys for the mandatory ‘I’ve been there’ photo.

Don’t they look thrilled.

Okay, well it had started to rain.

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The morning certainly made us worried about the weather for the day.

It was drizzly and rather miserable looking.

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But we continued on anyway,

stopping to check out the dam wall before meeting up with our tour group.

Did you know that Wivenhoe Dam is an earth and rock embankment wall dam?

Only the spillway section is concrete.

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As you get your first view of the dam,

it’s kind of a ‘wow’ moment,

especially when you stop to think that it was once a valley

that man flooded to create a dam.

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Oh and this view shows only a very small part of the dam.

At a guess, using a map to estimate, I’d say this is about a tenth of the dam.

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That white building you can see in the distance is Wivenhoe Hydroelectric Power Station.

They pump water up from Wivenhoe Dam into Splityard Creek Dam,

and then, during peak demand,

they release the water from Splityard Creek Dam

through the turbine generators.

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Yep, more ‘stand there and smile’ family shots.

The kids just love them….NOT!

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After an hour of exploring on our own,

we met up with our homeschool group and our education guide,

who would be with us for the day.

After a discussion about the dam and why we need it,

our guide sent the children into the information centre to search for information about 5 things.

1) How long is the dam wall?

2) How high is the dam wall?

3) How does the dam operate?

4) The name of a special fish that lives in the dam

5) Why that fish is special?

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The children hunted around the centre

and discovered that the dam wall is 2.3km long and 50m high.

They watched a video about how the dam works.

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Then they found the lungfish.

(Isn’t it ugly?!  And this fella is just a baby.

On average, they grow up to about a metre in length.)

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It’s special because it has an unusual swim bladder that allows it to breath air

when it is unable to breath using its gills.

That’s kinda cool.

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After the children reported their findings,

the group headed down to the banks of the dam

to do some water quality testing.

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They received their instructions and supplies

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and then found their own locations

to begin testing.

First they collected some macro-organisms from the water

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to examine and identify.

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This little fellow is a water snail.

He’s a very tolerant fellow and is happy to live in dirty water.

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I think this fellow is our mayfly nymph

and he’s a very sensitive fellow,

who hates dirty water,

which told us that the dam water was lovely and clean.

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Once the children had finished investigating the critters,

they turned their attention to the water itself.

First, the boys tested the turbidity of the water.

Even at the top of the tube, they could still see the cross on the bottom of the tube,

which told them that the water was clear.

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Then the boys collected samples of water

added their testing tablets,

and measured the level of dissolved oxygen, the pH levels and the phosphate levels.

All of the children’s results showed that the dam water is in very good shape.

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After the water testing, our guide explained the purpose of the auxiliary spillway

which was located beside the information centre

where we had gathered.

Apparently it’s like a fuse plug.

If the water gets too high, the middle section of the auxiliary spillway

(it goes first and is then possibly followed by the others)

erodes away and releases the excess water

that threatens the integrity of the whole dam.

During the 2011 flood crisis, the dam waters were only 70cm from eroding that middle section.

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Before leaving Wivenhoe Dam, our guide showed us a Whistling Kite nest up in a tree.

A Whistling Kite is a bird of prey so, after eating, there are lots of bones and feathers and such to be disposed of.

But these birds do not drop their rubbish beneath their nest.

That would attract goannas to their babies in the nest.

Instead, the Whistling Kite takes all of their rubbish and disposes of it in the same place

away from their nest.

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Our guide took us to the Whistling Kite’s rubbish dumb

and the kids found all sorts of fascinating (gross) things.

Bones, skulls, jaws,

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and plenty of pellets

– that’s the fur or feathers that the bird of prey vomits up after a meal!

(There’s always something terribly gross to be found on my blog.)

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And how do you follow up a discussion of vomited up pellets?

With lunch of course.

We left the dam just before lunch and drove to Mt Crosby

and enjoyed lunch in a park across the road from the water treatment plant.

The tour through the Water Treatment plant was really interesting.

I mean, how often do you get to do this kind of thing.

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The rules inside the plant were quite stringent.

The children had to obey instructions immediately

and everyone had to walk inside the blue lines at all times.

(See, children don’t need 12 years of institutional schooling to learn these things.)

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How our water is treated is really quite interesting.

It’s sucked up out of the Mt Crosby Weir

(I finally understand what a weir is!)

and filtered through this big brown ‘inlet screen’.

There are two.  One is in use while the other is cleaned.

These filters catch the really big stuff – leaves, twigs etc.

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The first stage in the water treatment process

involves adjusting the pH levels by adding Caustic Soda

(if necessary; and in order to help the next process).

Then aluminum sulphate, a coagulant, is added to the water.

It makes the dirt and gunk clump together

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into what they call a ‘floc’.

Isn’t it gross?!

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As the flocs get heavier,

they sink and settle to the bottom of the sedimentation tanks.

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That lovely sludge is then ‘vacuumed’ up

by this big vacuum system that slowly rolls down the tank.

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Then water is pumped into a building

where the water is further clarified

through the process of dissolved air filtration.

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Air is released into the tanks at the bottom of the pool

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and as it rises to the top,

it brings with it even more gross stuff.

Doesn’t it look like sea foam from the beach?!

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This ‘foamy grossness’ sloshes over the end of the pool

leaving behind even cleaner water

but still not clean enough to drink.

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The remaining water is then dropped down through a sand filter

to remove any remaining impurities.

Of course, they’ve only removed the dirt and organic matter.

The water is still full of micro-organisms.

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These pipes are beneath the indoor pools

and it is down here (I think)

that the water is disinfected with chlorine,

the pH is corrected with Lime

and the fluoride is added (for our teeth).

(Later, at the water reservoir, they add Chloramine – a combo of Chlorine and Ammonia

– to make sure nothing new can grow as it travels along the pipes to our homes)

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So now the water is drinkable,

but we mustn’t forget the sludge that was removed from the water.

It is also treated.

These are sludge thickening tanks.

They add a chemical to make the sludge once again sink to the bottom,

separating it further from the wastewater.

The wastewater can then be sent back through the treatment plant

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while the remaining muddy sludge

is pumped to a centrifuge tank (hard to see in this picture)

to remove even more water

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and the almost water-free mud cakes plop out of the tank

to be scooped up and left in the drying pans

before being scattered over land.

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And that’s the process of how ‘clean’ water gets to your taps.

So what do you reckon.

Does it make you feel better or worse about what comes out of your taps?!

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(The Up A Dry Gully website has a brilliant virtual tour

of both the dam and the water treatment plants,

as well as other water-related locations.)



Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Field Trips, Science, Technology


Lego Mindstorms Workshop

The third QUT (university) workshop we attended was one focused on Lego Mindstorms.

Of the three workshops, this was the very best.

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The presenters were brilliant.

They engaged and managed the group excellently

and created an environment that was cooperative and challenging.

Our children LOVED this workshop.

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They were working with the EV3 Lego Mindstorm Robot

and had a series of tasks to complete.

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Their first task was to create an addition to their vehicle that,

once programmed,

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would drive around a setting

clearing debris but avoiding obstacles like buildings and vehicles.

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The second task gave the children the skills

to program their vehicles to follow and drive along

specific coloured lines.

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The programming isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.

The Lego Mindstorm uses ‘drag and drop’ programming

so there’s no language to learn,

which makes the task very simple.

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The children merely need to comprehend what they want their robot to do

and translate that into accurate and precise commands.

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The first two workshop tasks taught the children a number of programming skills,

which would be needed in the third task.

The third task was the greatest challenge.

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The children had to program their robot,

using the skills they had previously learned,

to drive up a ramp,

continue driving until the vehicle sensed the edge of the structure,

then turn and drive across the structure,

turn again in line with the target,

and finally drive towards the target,

to push on its bar to raise a satellite.

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It was a fairly involved task,

which required a lot of adjustments,

but, before long, the three boys had worked it out.

The boys worked together beautifully.

In fact, the presenters gave them very high praise

saying their programming skills were outstanding

their collaborative skills were excellent

and they were very impressed with how quickly and well they completed all of the tasks.

The boys loved this workshop!

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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Field Trips, Technology


Little Bits Workshop

A few weeks back we went to a “Little Bits” workshop at QUT.

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Little Bits are electronic building blocks

that snap together magnetically.

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We own “Snap Circuits” sets (also called “Brainboxes”)

but Little Bits are a step up in complexity

(and a jump up in price too).

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The workshop set the students a number of challenges

that increased in complexity

throughout the morning.

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Little Bits also differ from Snap Circuits

in that they can be used in conjunction

with other items

to invent gadgets.

I think this makes Little Bits a more versatile tool.

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One of the challenges that was set for the students

was to create a device

that could grab an object like a pencil.

This is what our group of boys came up with.

Another challenge the boys were given

was to use recyclable items

to create a satellite dish

that would work in conjunction

with their Little Bit configuration

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to convert sound to light

to travel across a distance to their dish

and then bounce to their receiver

which would convert the light back into sound.

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It’s simpler than it sounds

…at least that’s what the kids said.

Before long the kids had “We Will Rock You”

blaring out of their “Little Bit” speaker.

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My boys thoroughly enjoyed this workshop

We might just have to invest in a set

…one day.

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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Field Trips, Technology