Tag Archive | penpals

Australia… the Country/Island/Continent and Then Some

Our newest focus of interest for school is a new one… we have turned our learning to all things AUSTRALIAN! This was precipitated by having some wonderful penpals who live in Australia… add to that multiple facebook and egroup friends who ALSO come from this continent and we were ready to jump in with both feet.

I have to admit I came into this knowing a lot of the stereotypical things… Vegemite is a favourite food, Sydney has a wicked looking opera house, Aboriginal art is fantastic… But I have personally learned so much! Every day there is something new and the kids have been over the moon with their wish to share daily facts and nuggets of information.

I am going to share out resources a little differently with this one. We have our list of books which I will share, and some main websites… but a lot of our information came from friends and general web inquires. I don’t plan on sharing each and every site we used, but I will highlight some I found amazingly useful of course. I will also share out outline of topics covered. I tried to vary them as much as possible and give the kids a range of simple and complicated questions to answer with the intent that if they found something they loved learning about (ie. animals of Australia) we could always go a wee bit further with that.

Of course we had a laundry list of books and DVDs but I will try and share as many as I can… starting with books!

  • Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia HERE
  • Countries of the World: Australia by Michael Dahl HERE
  • Life in the Australian Outback by Jann Einfeld HERE. This one was a great resource that we had to re-request, as apparently someone else figured that out as well!
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Be an 18th-Century British Convict! (A Trip to Australia You’d Rather Not Take) by Meredith Costain HERE. We love this series of books. A humorous and rather frank discussion about some sucky times in different places.
  • Australia and New Zealand (A True Book) by Elaine Landau HERE. I admit it, we got caught up in the joy that is learning about Australia and only gave New Zealand a nod. I think we will do a mini report on it in the summer.
  • Australia in Pictures by Ann Kerns HERE
  • Cultures of the World Australia by Vijeya Rajendra HERE
  • Ready to Dream by Donna Jo Napoli HERE, this is a book I would love to own myself. Gorgeous story about aboriginal art and how it is made in nature and often transient. LOVE THIS ONE, worth the read even if you are not doing an Austrlian focus.
  • It’s a Baby! – Koala and Tasmanian Devil. These are cute books, simple but a great resource. Both are by Katherine Hengel.
  • A Look at Australia by Helen Frost HERE
  • Countries of the World Australia by Kate Turner HERE this is a National Geographic publication.
  • The Koalas of Australia by Linda George HERE
  • Emu by Claire Saxby. It is both a story and an information book. Great illustrations HERE.
  • Sand Swimmers by Narelle Oliver. This covers life in “Australia’s Desert Wilderness” HERE.
  • Minmi and Other Dinosaurs of Australia by Dougal Dixon. This was our launching pad for our dinosaur research. Not an easy task since there are no full skeletons of dinosaurs from Australia! HERE.
  • Koala Hospital by . ADORABLE and so informative HERE.
  • Not-For-Parents Australia Everything You Ever Wanted to Know a wacky fact book HERE.
  • Australia by Ann Heinrichs (her name pops up in almost every country unit we do) HERE.
  • Australia by Katie Bagley HERE
  • Australia by Mary Berendes HERE
  • Sugar Gliders by Caroline Wightman HERE
  • Explore Australia and Oceania by Bobbie Kalman HERE
  • Early People by EyeWonder HERE
  • Bilby: Secrets of an Australian Marsupial by Edel Wignell HERE
  • Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst HERE
  • Nocturne Creatures of the Night by Traer Scott HERE
  • Who Was Steve Irwin? by Dina Anastasio HERE
  • Great Barrier Reef by David Doubilet HERE

Story Books… or at least ones that are a large part story or fable or something…

  • Stories From the Billabong by James Vance Marshall. I should say RETOLD by… excellent collection of Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. HERE
  • Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures #8 – The Australian Boomerang Bonanza by Jeff Brown HERE
  • How to Scratch a Wombat by Jackie French (a famous Australian author) HERE. Gavin used this one on his mini wombat report and enjoyed it greatly.
  • Fimding Serendipity. While not a book about Australia it is written by Angelica Banks – two Tasmanian authors. AMAZING book. Trinity and I read it chapter by chapter. HERE
  • Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under by Marianne Berkes HERE
  • Dial-a-Croc by Mike Dumbleton HERE. This one made us all laugh. It is all about a girl making a deal with a crocodile to make money.
  • The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths. This one made us all giggle… lots of fun pictures and crazy antics HERE.
  • My Uncle the Werewolf by Jackie French… we absolutely loved EVERYTHING we read by her! HERE
  • And then there were the Jackie French wombat books – Diary of a Wombat HERE, Christmas Wombat HERE, and Diary of a Baby Wombat HERE.


  • Rescuers Down Under (More for fun than anything else but the kids really enjoyed this classic) HERE
  • Kangaroo Mob HERE, a 2012 PBS video about the issue with encroaching kangaroo and city living.
  • Great Barrier Reef by BBC Earth HERE.
  • Destination Travel Guide Australia, this one was amazing one second and then… well I would suggest pre watching or at least watching with your kids. The woman sees AMAZING portions of Australia we did not see on other shows, books etc… BUT she also stops into a lingerie bar and talks to a madam at a brothel… yup mom is quick on the fast forward. We watched the first area on the DVD so I cannot vouch for the rest, but some of the locations she saw were BREATH TAKING and the opal mine with its underground living amazing as well. HERE

I do like to, even when we are not actually creating a lapbook per say, use the resources. I glue them onto flat pages and we still use the flapbooks etc for a bit of a change up from the written and typed reports. Homeschool Share has one HERE. The same group has a Coral Reef lapbook we found useful HERE. Not all helpful resources are free ones, though I did not spend much on this unit out of necessity. We paid 1.50 US for a Great Barrier Reef lapbook by Only Passionate Curiosity HERE. Iman’s Home-School has a helpful page with links that we used HERE, again lapbook. DIY Homeschooler has a unit study set up with links  to different resources HERE. Homeschool Creations has their own study set out HERE. Those are basically the links for the pages that could let you run an independent unit of varying sizes. We took bits and pieces out of all of these.

Of course we also enjoy art and crafts. Our book was Super Simple Australian Art by Alex Kuskowski. It is a great reference and most of the projects used things around the house. For more ideas we had some websites to check out… A sugar glider brown paperbag puppet HERE thanks to Beatrice the Biologist… Activity Village has a whole series of Australian Animal crafts HERE… The Craft Train had a fun frilled lizard out of toilet paper rolls we didn’t quite get right but enjoyed trying out HERE, there are 9 crafts to choose from on Suzie’s Home Education Ideas page

Of course we covered dinosaurs… Emanuel would not let that pass us by. I won’t hunt them all down for  you but the book I listed in the book list (Minmi) is our basis and we used these two links for report pages… one by Sammy Ironleggs HERE which is free and the other by Kelly Lynch also free HERE. Dinosaur Zoo Live has a great resource with a list of Australian dinosaurs and print outs. I picked and chose out of this one HERE. It is a download and save right off the bat. I did find the information at Walking With Dinosaurs HERE interesting though.

One of our best resources was For Teachers For Students HERE. It is a resource site for Australian education and educators. Look up the specific states and territories and each has a great series of fact sheets.

Ok now for topics… we did a rather broad overview but here is a list of some we touched on and loved.

  • Government
  • Food
  • Schooling
  • Outback
  • First Peoples/famous people/demographics
  • New Zealand and Tasmania
  • Dinosaurs
  • Inventions
  • Tourist locations/locations of interest
  • Great Barrier Reef – we actually made ourselves a reef in our window. We drew our sourced out images that would work, coloured and cut them out and BAM hung in the window.20160729_143056
  • Mapping/natural resources
  • History
  • Culture/Art/Crafts
  • … the list goes on!

So all in all give Australia a good look. We enjoyed it extensively thanks to all of our Australian friends. Sorry this took so long to get up! I hope the resources are helpful!20170107_203827




Visiting Canada Through Proxy

Definitely less stressful, tiring and frustrating taking the drive through text message updates. We went to bed with the menfolk in Montana and proceeded until a little after lunch with them at the border. We are told the line was long but the process relatively painless. That is until they hit Calgary traffic… in rush hour (poor guys). I look forward to hearing their tale first hand. I am sure Ken will be more than willing to spin us a good one. 

Way to go Daddy and Baba!


So instead of go go go with 5 kids and 2 ladies we did a more relax, unwind and sit around sort of day. Wrote a letter or two, coloured in colouring books… you know, restive things.

Colouring Angry Birds

The kids did spend SOME time outside. Those neighbour boys (Billy, Jimmy and Charlie) while older than the boys are absolutely a godsend. Whenever they are out in the back so are ours running and playing and hopefully not making nuisances of themselves.

Gotta love a sunny day (Zander left)

We ended our evening with another movie – Anastasia, after watching a trip video of Nana and Baba’s from way back of them swimming with the sting rays. I think Echo preferred the fishy show. It was so quiet last night, going to bed without Ken sitting in the room typing away… and dark with the monitor and his usual ONE LIGHT turned off. It is so surreal, yesterday morning we were talking about Saturday with the Novaks and Friday afternoon walk around the blocks to check for garage sales… and here we are – guys in Canada packing up our long awaited personal items so that we can close down the storage unit. It feels like one more tie cut to our old life and I am unsure if that is a positive or negative. 

Pre movie supper

Emanuel’s creative endeavor

Anyway tonight there is more time to work on the cross stitch I have been doing. And of course work on the book reviews for the books I have read. Goodreads and my Kindle apphas been great to me lately. BUT I really want to make my way to the library soon! So be sure to check back for more reviews!  

Who IS that cute baby in the window?

Two Good-Byes…

With a bit of a hello tacked on to boot! So let’s start with the most interesting… as was pointed out to me in a comment we should probably have rehung our chrysalis right away. Well we took some mesh and made a hanging sort of bed and gave our butterfly (when it arrived) the means to climb up and hang to dry off… we did not have long to wait! We checked our butterfly in the morning and then after my bath closer to lunch there she/he was! Since our container was tiny and our butterfly… not… it was time to head out to the bushes and give it the best start in life. So we found a portion of the bush that was out of the wind and let it climb out to dry off. It managed to end up behind  the leaves (for privacy?) and we said good bye and let it be. Emanuel was absolutely in love with the colours in the wing. Of course the boys ALL had to draw their own butterfly and once we get to the library we will talk all about the cycle that that lovely specimen went through.

In our container

On the way to freedom

Now anyone who has watched this blog for the last few months has got to have realize that once a plan gets put in place with this family we zip right along to completion. This was no exception. When we came down here we had our massive downsize and accompanying garage sale (thank you so much again Kristen, Fydo, Karyn and Sean!!!). Well the remains of that went into a storage unit, one box to Victoria, a bag forgotten in Karyn’s car (Bob) and Christmas items and tires left at Chris and Chris’. Well… FINALLY the forward motion has been taken to collect those items and bring them here… bring them HOME.

We looked at various options – U-Haul, fill a pod to be shipped, professional movers, the list goes on… and in the end, this morning… we came to the realization that the best thing to do is simply rent a U-Haul and use the Envoy to pull it to Canada and back again. Well, with the knowledge that Ken’s first interview of the Minnesota job hunt is MONDAY (ACK) and not tomorrow… the plan went into overdrive. A trailer was found, collected and hitched up… the menfolk ate supper, collected the necessities for a long drive (Ken turned down our Hello Kitty packed backpack and repacked in something much more… boring…) and off they went! Watch the whiplash! 

Watching a movie before bed

So that leaves yours truly and Nana as the adults in charge and for the first time EVER the girls outnumber the boys!!! 4 to 3! I am not sure what that will mean for the weekend but it HAS put our plans to spend Saturday with the Novak family on the backburner. Thank goodness we have all the weekends we want to fill with visits with them. We are HOME… I can honestly say I feel that now. While I miss A LOT in Canada… the list seems to unexpectedly grow at the oddest times. Did you know that there are no Cheezies in the US? Yup, add to the list… there is a lot to learn, see and do here. 

Working on some art together

Really I am finally starting to see the reason why we are here… we have family and friends to reconnect with, lakes to visit, and a whole new life to live. We absolutely canNOT forget about Canada and everyone and thing that mean something to us there but a new start is nothing to scoff at. Now if we could just get registered here for homeschooling… no word on the hiring and now we may be able to CHOOSE between two school districts we have some research to do. I am not sure if there are uniform benefits but it is worth doing the leg work. 

So we end our week on a brand new note… one full of excitement and all that for our stuff will be here by Sunday… Ken will be interviewing Monday and the rest of the month is there to be planned!!! Oh and did I mention we got our first letter back from our penpals! This was a lovely series of cards from Jimmie’s Gammie. (remember her from the Tyrell Museum trip or Echo’s Early Birthday?) She also included money for them ALL to have a slurpee… or in the case of Minnesota’s availability… Icees. So now we just need to pick a date to head out to a gas station and enjoy a replica of what we are used to. 

Thank you Gammie!!!!

So while life is NEVER perfect (I don’t care who you talk to) ours is pretty amazing! We have some minor ups and downs lately but life is settling down. The kids are happy, the time with family and friends absolutely amazing and the future plans are in the making. Of course a lot hinges on this weekend getting accomplished and Ken’s employment but that all sounds attainable! Feels good to feel optimism.

Trinity and her response to Gammie AND her name written out by her solo (not sure you can see it.. the y looks a little like an x but still WOW)