NO TRADE: Kindles are exempt from the home schooling formula, otherwise the Devereaux kids read for an hour at night and claim back electronics time.
NO TRADE: Kindles are exempt from the home schooling formula, otherwise the Devereaux kids read for an hour at night and claim back electronics time.

All-star homework a spectacular effort

"LOOK at the stars tonight,” I said to the kids as we sat around a camp fire sipping tea and waiting for our potatoes to bake in the embers. "Aren't they spectacular?”

They agreed they were, and we got into a chat about stars and I was able to point out everywhere the Southern Cross wasn't. Suddenly I realised, instead of showing how little I knew about constellations, I had a chance to impart some of the smarts I've picked up on Youtube about stuff I do know about.

"The universe is big on recycling. Did you know we're all made up of stars?” I said in my best wiseman-mystic-mentor voice. "Because,” I went on, "every molecule in our bodies, in everything around us, was once a part of a star. An actual star. Like our sun. Metals like iron and gold are made in the hearts of stars.”

"Wow,” said Master12.

"Awesome,” said Miss13.

"This counts towards our home schooling time, right Dad?” asked Miss10.

"No, of course it doesn't,” I answered her.

"Oh,” said Master12 and Miss13 simultaneously, and turned away from me.

We've recently brought in a trade system for home schooling work. For every hour of home schooling they do, they can claim one hour of electronics time - be it on an iPad, DS, iPhone or laptop.

The advantages have been twofold. One, it sets a limit on how long they can play their devices without us having to snap "because I said so” every couple of hours. And two, they're waking up in the morning and hitting the books hard even before we're out of bed.

The downside has been them trying to claim everything from watching us cook to overhearing us discussing work as a learning experience.

"I've got some good news and the bad news,” I said to my wife after returning from a chat with Steve, the owner of Three Waters, the 226-hectare property on which we're camping.

"Good,” she said.

"There are no brown snakes or taipans in this area. At all. Don't give them a second thought.”

Her eyes thinned suspiciously. "Because?”

"The red belly blacks eat them all,” I said, grinning so as to soften the blow. "He said they aren't a problem though. Apparently, even if you're bitten they don't necessarily inject their venom - they can control that. He's just recommended if we see one to not touch it.”

At which point Master12, who happened to be with me at the time, told the owner there was no chance of that because Dad would wet his pants and run off screaming.

"Thanks for building me down, bro,” I told him.

"That's really interesting, Dad,” said Miss10 when she overheard me telling Tracey this. "Of course, I'm not leaving the bus again now until we're back in Gympie.”

I reiterated if would still be safe. Over and over and over, until she either believed me or got sick of me. I didn't care which.

"Fine, but I'm counting this towards my electronics time because I learned something.”

Yeah, no she wasn't.

Just like the cheeky little bugger also wasn't counting the campfire chat. Ignoring them ignoring me, I went on.

"The whole universe is so old stars have been born and died, exploding and sending all the materials which made them up flying out,” I said, getting animated now with my arms flying about in an exploding star impersonation, "and new stars have then been born from that material. Nothing is new. Every atom has been here since the big bang. Sort of like every bit of water you drink has been around from before humans walked on the Earth. It's been through millions of animals. Billions. Drunk, peed, swum in. Drunk, peed again. Over and over.”

Even as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I'd made a mistake.

"Eww,” said Miss7, horrified even more than the whole snake debacle earlier. "We're drinking pee?!”

"It's filtered,” I assured her weakly, explaining how when evaporation happens it leaves the nasty bits behind and gives us nice clean water when it rains. This idea immediately set Miss10's mind at ease. Not one bit.

"You are now responsible for me dying of dehydration,” she told me.

Pretty sure, the way things are going, the only thing I won't be responsible for on this trip is the home schooling.

Learn more about Bruce's efforts to raise his family on little more than laughs at bigfamilylittleincome.com

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