26 February 2009

School Update

I attended "Meet the Teacher" on Monday, 13 February. It was very interesting for me. It was great to meet each of the children's teachers. There were assigned times for the parents to hear directly from the teachers an overview of what is covered in the next few weeks/year.

Zoe's teacher told us that the children will be assessed for the "Best Start" program. The teacher observes and records what the child already knows. It's used in all the schools in NSW. They are busy learning individual letters and the sounds they make. They are taught a story and hand motions for each letter. Zoe especially likes this. This week it's "talking Tess". They have also been learning sight words. This week, Zoe brought home the first of the weekly Readers, "Can We Get a Pet?". I had to laugh because the kindy parents were all gathered together waiting for the children after school. Someone said how was the reader. Another said, lots of strange animals. A third said, Yeah, it must be geared to an American audience. Then they asked me how did I like the Reader. I hadn't really noticed - animals like Moose, Skunk, Racoon, Beaver are not unusual in my vocabulary. Too funny!

Tristan wearing his sport uniform

Tristan's teacher explained that he is in the second year of Stage 1 learning. Each stage takes 2 years to complete. Tristan's class will have swimming lessons for 2 weeks in March. The lessons are every day and take the most of the day, between bus there and back, lessons and lunch. They'll be having class at the Peninsula Leisure Center. Tristan has 20 spelling words and homework each week. Tristan has been bringing his Readers home. He is working hard to get 20 books read (3 times each) so he can achieve the first reward.

I spoke with Tristan's teacher today about his placement and the level of books he's bringing home to read. I think the levels are the same in the US and AUS. I am judging this from having Tristan bring level books home for the last 2 weeks. He must have been rusty or nervous or some combination when they tested him the first day of school because he reads at a higher level. Teacher agreed based on her observations. She is tested him. We'll discuss the results and what we might do next week.

Clara wearing her Sport Uniform - the Yellow Ribbon is for the Victoria Bush Fire Victims

Clara is in Stage 3 learning. She has weekly spelling tests - 30 words a week. Teacher has DEAR time on their schedule - it stands for Drop Everything And Read. Clara can take some University of NSW tests. We have decided that she will take the tests in Mathematics, Writing, and Computer. I told Clara that I think she is getting a better education here....and she agrees.

They each have Aus Kick on Thursdays. They also have library, computer, and Scripture once a week. They have school assembly on Fridays at 1:45. During that time awards are bestowed, that's when Zoe received her award last week. They also sing "Australia Fair", the national anthem of Australia.

Clara has volunteered in the canteen. The canteen is amazing. All the lunches and snacks are fresh made on site. The prices are reasonable too.

Clara likes to walk home most days. Yesterday on her way home from school, she was admiring the Cockatoos, when one pooped on her face!

23 February 2009

Maitland Bay - in the Wet

Maitland Bay from Lookout
The first time the kids and I went to Maitland Bay without Dave. I thought he would really enjoy going down to Maitland Bay sometime because it's truly beautiful. Plus the bushwalk down and back up is interesting - with a couple of look outs, a small stream, a bridge and many steps.

On Sunday, Dave suggested we go down to Maitland Bay - he drives past the entrance every day. We all agreed and were off. The trail was very different this time though. Because of the rain, it was muddy, and there was some standing water and a few mosquitoes. Never mind, keep going.

Zoe, Tristan and Neo on Lookout Rock

As we crossed the stream, Clara screamed "There's a slug on my foot!" We all stopped to find that it wasn't a slug, but a LEECH! Clara was horrified. I had to take it off. It had not bit her, yet, but the leech really does hang on with it's "foot" while it attaches it's mouth to the skin. I managed to get it off - but it's not an easy task because it's very slippery and moves away from you while you're trying to grab it. A few steps later, Clara called that she had another leech on her foot. Again, I pulled it off before it had a chance to bite her.

Clara and Tristan on Lookout Rock

We made our way down to the beach. When we arrived, we checked everyone's feet for leeches. I had one on my foot that was attached. Probably happened while I was removing one from Clara.

Tristan on the beach with saiboats in the bay
We did enjoy the beach at Maitland Bay. But Clara was shaken and worried about the climb back up. She really was having a hard time shaking the memory of the leeches crawling on her.

We discovered a lagoon just inland from the bay. And a clear path that the ocean had made to deposit water there. Here's Zoe on the edge of the path.

We came across a group of people/tourists that had been bushwalking. There were several leeches attached to those people. The guide said they were out because of the rains.

On the climb back up, we ran into my friend, Jennefer and her family. One leech grabbed my foot but I got it off before it could attach.

18 February 2009

A Rose by Other Names.....

As you probably know, Aussie/British English and US English are different in a few contexts. Most people are familiar with the English term "boot" meaning "trunk". Here are some from our travels in Australia.

Mince or Mince Beef = Ground Beef or Hamburger
Rockmelon or Rocky for short = Muskmelon or Cantaloupe
chooks = chickens
biro = pen
textas = markers
rubber = eraser
capsicum = pepper
pumpkin = squash - signs say pumpkin, butternut
bowser = gas pump
nappies = diapers

This is a Footie
footie = Aussie Rules Football ball
lollie = any kind of candy
fringe = bangs
torch = flashlight
swimming costume or cosi = swimming suit
short white = milk based coffee drink

trolley = cart (also the carts at the air port)
I have to say that there is a significant difference in the design of the trolley vs the cart. The cart goes straight, for the most part, whereas the trolley's wheels can go in any direction. I find myself struggling against these trolleys - especially when loaded and in the parking lot.

"queue up" = "form a line"
"have a go" = "give it a try"
"one off" = "just one" or "once"
"top of" 30 degrees = "high" of 30 degrees

There are more, but that's all I can think of at the mo (Aussie for moment).

We use our cloth enviro bags a lot more here. In part because they are very inexpensive to purchase and are ubiquitous. Also there are no paper bags used at all. Many of the plastic bags offered at the stores are weak. Much better to bring your own enviro bag then risk having smashed eggs in the parking lot. Which reminds me, the eggs are in the grocery aisle in most stores. Not refrigerated section. And I haven't seen a white egg shell since I arrived in Australia.

Some of the conveniences I miss: pay at the pump. Parcel pick up at the grocery store.

Neo has discovered Australian sausage rolls, and likes them. We do not have anything like those in the US. The sausage is mild. The rolls are like calzone bread. Delicious.

Zoe won a merit reward in school this week. She was honored in a school assembly on Friday. Two students per classroom per week are given merit awards.

The weather here is greatly improved. Temps in the 70s and beautiful blue skies. The fire danger in this area is "low" because of all of the rainfall.

The death toll from the fires is over 200. There are still fires burning. One firefighter died tending to fires. The children from Copacabana school raised over $1000 from their Mufti day. There are more fundraisers planned to aid schools in Victoria affected by the fires.

12 February 2009

One Week of Rain

It's been overcast and either raining, misting, sprinkling, or down pour all week long. The forecast is for more of the same over Valentine's day weekend.

Pumice with Dave's and Neo's hands

Dave took Friday the 13th off to be home with me - isn't that sweet? He went down to the beach to see what treasures might have washed up with all these storms. He was not disappointed. He found pumice rock. Pumice is very light and will float on the water. This has no doubt been floating on the water for a very long time. There was even a sponge growing on one of the pieces. Dave believes these are from a volcano that had created a new island in Fiji in 2004.

Because it's been so wet, our evening walks to feed the ducks are limited. Instead, more birds are coming to us on our balcony.

This Sulfur Crested Cockatoo landed on our roof. He didn't seem to mind that I was right below him taking pictures. These birds are very loud and usually travel in flocks.

These are Rainbow Lorikeets. We had 6 sitting on our balcony eating bread pieces tonight. The kids were very excited and spent a good hour watching them and throwing bread. Very exciting.

Clara with Green Parrots on Balcony

The children completed their first full week of school with their assigned teachers. They seem happy. Tristan is a little put out in the morning but generally comes home with great excitement over an event at school - either earning a sticker or a "Copa Blue". Copa Blues are a reward program. Apparently the child will receive a reward when they have collected a minimum amount. Each child is given a lanyard to keep their Copa Blues in.

Because it has been so wet - and the temperature is in the low 20s, I have had to buy the children their "winter" uniforms. I bought each of them "jumpers" aka sweaters/sweatshirts. Zoe's jumper is like a cardigan but made of sweatshirt material and snaps up. Clara's is a pull over sweatshirt. And Tristan has a hoodie sweatshirt. All the jumpers are in Navy blue with the school crest on the chest. I spent most of my week driving to stores looking for the uniform pants for Tristan and leggings for the girls because the uniform shop is sold out....and so were many of the stores. Zoe also wanted a "chair bag". It's a cloth bag attached to a piece of cloth that is the right size to slip over the back of the chair the child sits in. She can keep her text book there.

On Monday, the children can pay a fee for the privilege of wearing "street" clothes. It's called Mufti day. The money raised will go to help the families in Victoria burned out of their homes.

I went to my first P&C meeting - it's like the PTA. I believe the P = Principle, but I'm not sure. They meet the first Tuesday of the month at 1pm. Very convenient for me. No problem bringing Neo.

Part of the monies that the P&C raises goes for insurance for the school Canteen. The Canteen is where the children can buy lunch and other snacks. It runs 4 days a week (not on Tuesdays). It's a kitchen with 1 staff person and parent volunteers. The order is placed in the AM. By lunch time, it's ready. Most of the food is fresh. There's an talk of growing vegetables for the canteen to use. Very special!

In other news, the Australian government passed a $42 Billion stimulus plan. It was very interesting to listen to the debate live on BBC last night. Their Parliament is similar to the British system - where the other representatives comment audibly. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated that the Australian stimulus for 2009 is equal to 2% of Australia's GDP....compared to the 6% of GDP for the USA.

09 February 2009

Black Swan

I had never never seen a black swan before these two. Amazing.

If you look closely on the right side, you can see young swans. We saw a family of 7 on Friday 20 February.

We really enjoy the birds of Australia.

When we first arrived in Queensland, we saw these grey and rose Correllas, but we haven't seen them here on the Central Coast, until recently.

Recently we've been having King Parrots land on our balcony, looking for a feeding. They still stop by even though the amount of food left out has diminished (can't find the nuts in our trees).

This bird is called a Crested Pigeon or a Crested Dove (depends on the source)

We also enjoy walking down to the lagoon to feed the ducks. Recently a new family of ducks arrived, but we haven't seen them since this picture was taken.

Tristan likes to drop bits of bread into the water. The fish pounce on the bread. He then takes his jar and scoops them up. He always puts them back.

These are wild turkeys. Just strolling down the road on the way to school one day. (we were on the way to school....not the turkeys)

It was really hot and humid last week. Teachers had the air con on in the school classrooms. But this week it's been cool and overcast and rainy. Can only help the fire fighters in Victoria.

Well, you know your child is attending school in Australia when they bring home their school work. Tristan brought home a word story called "Wombat Stew". Zoe brought home a count to 5 worksheet book. One wombat, two kangaroos, three koalas, four possums, five echidnas. And a fill in the blank sheet that states: My mum ____

08 February 2009


The fires and floods in Australia have made the news world wide.

It is now officially Australia's Worst Bush Fire Disaster. There have been terrible fires roaring out of control in southeastern Australia - mainly in the State of Victoria. Melbourne is the capitol city of Victoria. There have been over 750 homes burned down. 108 people have been confirmed dead with more expected.

There are currently 5 fires raging out of control. Victoria has also been hit with record breaking temperatures: 43 C = over 100 degrees F, for days.

Fortunately, it has turned cooler today, so those battling the fires have a chance to try to gain control - but even still they are predicting another 3 or 4 days for containment.

Two people have been arrested because they are suspected of setting a fire.

In the Central Coast of New South Wales, a man has been arrested for setting fires near Gosford - not far from where we live. On Friday night, there was heavy particulate in the air when Dave got off the train in Woy Woy. On Saturday morning, there was smoke and haze in the air at our home....but it cleared during the day.

Here are some links: ABC News with video http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/09/2485712.htm; Herald Sun picture gallery http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/gallery/0,22010,5037339-5006020,00.html#

In Northern Queensland, there are massive floods - specifically in Ingham. Fortunately, the flood waters have begun to recede.

02 February 2009

Copa School Update

The student population at the Copacabana Public School has swelled to 261. Which means that there are enough to retain all 11 teachers. YEAH! We were concerned. At the Monday Parent meeting, our principal indicated that there might be an additional student enrolled too. So all good.

There will be 2 kindergarten rooms, a Year 1, Year 1&2 blend, Year 2, Year 2&3 blend, Year 3, Year 4&5 blend, Years 4,5,6 blend, Year 5&6 blend, and Year 5&6 blend. The principal indicated that Year 4 is a small group and that they needed some time apart, which is the reason for the 4,5,6 composite classroom.

None of us parents will know which teacher our child will be with until Wednesday afternoon, after the numbers have been reported. Following that, the children will be placed into their classrooms. In the first few days of the school year, the children have been gathering with the teachers they had the previous year until the enrollment numbers and teacher assignments could be ironed out.

I received the book fees for this year: Zoe $15 - 1 book, Tristan $40 - 3 books; Clara - $40 3 books. Only Clara brought home a list of supplies required for school. Her supply list: 2 blue biros and 2 red biros, 2 HB pencils, pencil sharpener, eraser, ruler, colored pencils. See the picture to understand the list. I didn't know what a "brios" was. The pencils look odd to me because of the lack of eraser on the end. The kids thought that too.

The teacher assignments happened this afternoon ("Avro" as they say here). Clara is in 5/6L (Miss Lanning) and Tristan is in 2L (Mrs. Lamm). Zoe remains in her KC room (Mrs. Chapmann)