What to Do?

This free blog is running out of space and since I don’t want to pay the upgrade I am trying to start another blog to carry on. We tried another publishing platform but I really like WP so I think we will just use a new name and carry forward. To continue following our journey please see Es personal blog at divatravelsblog.wordpress.com or the family news/ homeschool stuff at chaosintoeducation2.wordpress.com

3_SLML510143408289

Winter Wanderings

We are much overdue for a homeschooling update, however, some technical issues (probably user interface based ūüôā have been getting in the way of posting. We have been busy since our last post in November! We had many end of term projects to wrap up for term 1 then it was all about Christmas! The kids were busy making Christmas cards for friends and designing and building our own gingerbread from scratch. A first for us! I was quite ill and as an activity to keep her brothers busy E made the gingerbread dough herself. ¬†A couple of days later as I recovered, we rolled it out and measured and cut the pieces then baked them. We had lots of interesting science and structures discussions how to attach the pieces and hold the entire thing together. In the end, Dad tied a string around it until the icing hardened. We admired our handiwork for about 24 hours then in the interest of our imminent departure for the holidays, we devoured it!

We were in Ontario from Christmas until the 3rd week of January and as it is the deep dark winter there, endured some truly chilling temps. Our coldest day of the trip was -30C in a town about 100km north of Toronto. The kids enjoyed the snow and despite the cold we went outside to play almost everyday. Keeping up on our regular school work was tough so we decided to focus our time into a couple of research projects that tied into some of our sightseeing activities. We had an amazing time exploring the new Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto and D was inspired by the sharks.

IMG_4878 IMG_4912 IMG_4923

He begged and pleaded for a stuffed hammerhead shark from the gift shop so we made a deal: he could buy the shark IF he would learn all about hammerheads and prepare a report to demonstrate what he learned. We’ve been using a variety of sources to conduct our research such as magazines like National Geographic Kids, educational books and of course web resources. D watched a documentary on sharks and has a good understanding of their important role in the ecosystem as apex predators.

E’s research was a little more intentional as I knew we needed to spend some time learning about Canada’s aboriginal people. We planned an outing to a nearby¬†conservation area that has a traditional Iroquois village reconstructed on the original site which has been dated to the mid 1500s by archaeologists. We had the good fortune of visiting the longhouse at the same time as a school tour came through and so we were able to listen to the curator explain the various artifacts and describe the lives of the longhouse inhabitants.

On the weekend we went to our local historic fort to celebrate the voyageurs and their intrinsic connection to the Metis people of Canada. E was fascinated by the Metis artifacts and enjoyed speaking the the Metis elders who were presenting their histories at the fort. We learned spoon jigging, Metis dancing and listened to traditional french-Canadian music by a local band.IMG_4432

A week later we visited a local west coast longhouse to compare these different aboriginal experiences. Our guides were very helpful and answered many questions. An elder showed the kids how to make cedar bark into a variety of useful and decorative items and we tried our hand at weaving. IMG_4166

Coming back to the lower mainland gave us opportunity to get outdoors again in the milder weather conditions. We’ve been out hiking and cycling every weekend and E loves being back in her horse-back riding routine! D is trying a new gymnastics program and loves going to drop in times at the gym.

IMG_4131

For Narnia!

October 31st¬†was the culmination of a month of planning and prepping. We transformed our house into the magical world of Narnia and hosted 23 of our friends¬†in a series of ¬†grand¬†adventures! Throughout the party we tried to give “coles notes” versions of each book in the Chronicles of Narnia through our games and activities. We drank cordial and ate Turkish Delight, we made shields, and jumped in imaginary ponds in the wood between the worlds. Our party was an in-depth, hands-on exploration of the text we read and enjoyed so thoroughly. Through the planning and implementing of this party E and D were making text to film connections, text to self connections and text to text connections as they related each book to other reference points in planning our decor and events. We thought about what it would be like to go into the underground realm where Prince Rinian was imprisoned, or how the wind would blow the sails if we were sailing on the Dawn Treader. We used those queries to recreate the¬†feelings we imagined by using our crawl space as a dark, underground realm and setting a fan and streamers on the ceiling to simulate sailing on the Narnian Sea.

We greeted our guests with a Narnian quote that seemed apt for the beginning of our fantasy.

IMG_4058

Then this is what they saw when we opened the door:

IMG_4056 IMG_4053

The child guests, (adults had a alternate entrance), had to crawl through the wardrobe and enter the Narnian forest. This is the view of hallway from inside the wardrobe and then a look backwards! Our entrance was also our main reference to the book The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

IMG_4061IMG_4124IMG_4052

We “bobbed” for apples and made yellow and green rings as part of our exploration of the Wood between the Worlds from The Magicians Nephew.

IMG_4100IMG_4136IMG_4161

We were fortunate enough to already have a wonderful horse for The Horse & His Boy! We decorated this room to give a sense of the forests of Archenland and a couple of palm trees to represent Calormen. The kids played a game of Hot and Cold with two play mobile figures. We recapped the scenario of Cor the lost prince of Archenland and told the children they needed to find the identical twins and reunite them. After reuniting the twins the children were told they could each rock on the horse 5 times to join the race to warn Narnia that the Telmarines were marching towards them.

IMG_4067

Next we toured the ruins of Cair Paravel in the saga of Prince Caspian. The task in this room was to search for the missing treasures of the High Kings and Queens of Narnia. We hid 5 small treasure boxes around the room and each box contained 3 miniature copies of the gifts from Father Christmas: Peter’s sword and shield, Susan’s Bow, Susan’s horn, (for the purists – we recognize that this is a departure from the original story as Susan’s horn was actually in the possession of Prince Caspian), Lucy’s dagger and cordial, and a small cutout of Aslan (also a wee departure but we thought it fit and couldn’t find a good image of Edmund’s sword so did this instead).

IMG_4082Photo on 2014-11-01 at 3.30 PM

Further up and Further in to this wonderful series we went to the Far Islands on the Dawn Treader. In this room the kids played a Narnian version of the game Wink/ Murder. One person is chosen to be Ramandu who must put everyone to sleep with a wink while trying not to¬†get caught in the act. the first person to identify him by catching him winking is the winner. My wonderful hubby wrote this on a sign in the room: “On the island of Ramandu, the star has just told you that to rescue the last lords, you must sail into the utter east and leave one of your company there. Yes, one of you will get to travel on into Aslan’s country, and the others must return to Narnia to await His return there. who will is be? The last to be put to sleep by Ranandu or the first to identify him?

IMG_4068IMG_4078IMG_4071

We had a break and enjoyed a lovely Narnian feast complete with Dufflepud cookies and Turkish Delight.

IMG_4048 IMG_3444

For the next book, The Silver Chair, we painted a small doll chair silver and hid it in our crawl space. E and D, together with a couple of friends had been busy setting up the crawl space like a play castle and for the day of the party we turned out all the lights and spread glowsticks everywhere. The kids were given flashlights and small LED lanterns to search for the hidden chair. There was also a green rubber snake hidden that they could find if they wanted to search more.

IMG_4196         IMG_4184IMG_4192IMG_4115

This was definitely the hit of the party. Everyone wanted to play downstairs in the dark. We had more games planned but due to the popularity of this space we let them spend the rest of the time exploring all the rooms and playing with the props.

We paid homage to The Last Battle with a shield-making craft.  We cut out shield templates from cardboard then spray-painted them silver and gold. The party guests then used coloured duct tape to decorate them.

Photo on 2014-11-01 at 3.34 PMIMG_4171IMG_4175

At the end of the party we presented everyone with certificates to appoint them official Narnian status. TheLionTheWitchAndTheWardrobeCertificate

We had goody bags with small gold lions, lion stamps, gold and silver coins  (bubble gum) and ring pops. It was a loud and rambunctious party that I hope the kids will remember for a long time!

IMG_4168IMG_4166

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year where we are all reminded to be thankful. I love autumn because of the changing colours and sense of transition that it entails. I hate that it means the weather is going to grow colder! . IMG_3844 IMG_3840IMG_3831

IMG_3920 IMG_3948

So to embrace the inevitable we decided to head north for Thanksgiving and spend time with the kids’ great-grandparents at their remote ranch.

IMG_3972

We always love our time at the ranch spending precious moments with my grandparents, enjoying the wide open spaces, free-range play and all the animals!

IMG_4046 IMG_4038 IMG_4022 IMG_4010 IMG_3995IMG_3998

We were able to maintain a good school routine at the ranch and kept up our math and journals during our time away.

In the past couple of weeks we have had our skating lessons. The kids are really enjoying the lessons and are developing their endurance during the one hour recreation skate afterwards.

IMG_3891IMG_3896

E will perform her group piece at Worship Dance next week and is preparing to auction for the church Christmas play.

In Co-op the kids had a great week reading All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.

Unknown

They spent time talking about important places to their family and are now writing individual books about the meaningful places in their lives.  They have been doing lots of work on structures at STEM camp and at Community Connections they are learning how to paint with an airbrush and are working on still life painting. E is learning about the human brain and is examining the similarities and differences between her life in Canada and the life of a girl growing up in Uganda. D is working on poetry and learning about the seasons. They are both learning movement skills in the PE time.

We also received the link for the documentary we participated in. We show up at 11:24 in Part 1 and if you are interested, you can view it here: http://www.fairchildtv.com/newsarchive_detail.php?n=27&topic=330&episode=609

We are thankful this week for our loving immediate and extended family, wonderful learning community, our friends and the beautiful country we live in. We are truly blessed.

Dividing Lines

I forgot to get my camera out this week so sadly, no pictures ūüė¶
The kids had a great circle time with M and are really taking their apples/ good character traits to heart!
In my lesson we continued learning about genre this week by extending last week’s lesson. The kids played a couple of quick sorting games such as grouping themselves according to who was wearing shorts or pants. Then we grouped according to what colour we were wearing. As they were each wearing more than one of the colours listed they began to consider which group to place themselves in more deliberately. As we became more complicated in our sorting criteria they had to begin asking more questions to determine which category they belonged in. We returned to the library table I had set up and reviewed our genres of fiction and non-fiction. I picked up a storybook, a novel and a poetry book and asked if they were all the same. The kids decided that even though they were all fiction they had very different features. I then start pulling out posters of 12 different genres and we read the definitions together and looked at examples then placed the posters around the room.
images-4
When all the posters were up we broke into groups for the kids to sort our library into the appropriate sections.
images-3
We wrote down some questions to consider as we sorted and learned to delve a little more deeply into how we look at books. There was lots of great discussion during this activity and at the end I asked them to think about which category might be their favourite.
As it was pretty wet out and not everyone had rain gear, we opted for an indoor recess. Most of the kids skipped and then we played a game called Grab the Bacon. I don’t know why this game is called this but played it as a child and always enjoyed it. We created two teams and numbered off each team so that each team had a number 1, 2, 3‚Ķ player. The teams line up at opposite ends of the playing area then the caller shouts out a number and the two corresponding players have to race to grab an object in the middle called the “bacon”. We used a bright scarf and the ¬†kids were very engaged and competitive about grabbing the scarf! It was lots of fun and a good way to be active on a rainy day!
 Unknown
In the second half of the class we began making a lapbook that we will add to throughout the term.  For the first activity the children created a little library card index with pockets labelled for each genre. Some of them also worked on their cover designs. Next lesson we will add in more mini-books and some of their personal reflections on genre. I found a great *** free ***link here: http://hedua.com/literary-genres-lapbook which includes all the printables you could want to fill in the lapbook using these 10 genre categories: fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, science-fiction, realistic fiction, poetry, biography, autobiography, fairytale, and tall tales.
Unknown-1
If you haven’t tried lapbooks yet and are interested in learning more then go here: http://howtohomeschoolforfree.com/free-lapbook-notebook-resources/
And for more fun with genre lessons check this out: http://www.3rdgradethoughts.com/2013/10/sorting-books-by-genre-freebie.html
images-5
For the rest of the week we continued with our math and journals. We are also working on a BIG reading response activity. We are planning a Narnia party for October 31! We are so excited and are busy sourcing out props to decorate our house to represent scenes from each book. We will publish a blog post about the party full of pictures after that day but in the meantime we are digging in to our planning and preparation!
narnia_10
May the autumn winds blow good changes in your direction ūüôā

Getting Sorted

It was a very busy week last week. We are now fully up and running in our our programs. I am finding it tiring but the kids are really enjoying the extra-curriculars so we are going to keep it up for now. Our week has taken on a very different rhythm this year: Monday we have co-op followed by an afternoon learning camp. Right now it is a Science and Tech camp for 4 weeks then for Oct/ Nov. it will be gymnastics. Tuesdays the children are at our new Community Connection class where they spend the whole day doing “school” with a cohort of their homeschooling peers. (Tuesday night is early bedtime as they are ¬†usually exhausted!). Wednesday E has a worship dance class, Thursday D has a circus/ gymnastics class and E has horseback riding, Friday we have skating lessons for 10 weeks then rec skating for an hour. Whew! In my last post I outlined that we spend our mornings doing math and language and so far we seem to be getting it all in!

This week at co-op we learned about genre in writing and reading. We played games where we sorted ourselves by hair colour, eye colour and then by age group. We talked about how we sort books too and introduced the genres of fiction and non-fiction. We had a large library display set up so I asked the¬†kids to sort the books from the display into the appropriate categories. After they were finished we talked about what criteria they used to sort the books; such as looking at the cover, looking inside at whether it is a story or information book and even the clues of what kind of illustrations were used. IMG_3868Then we added in one more genre to the lesson as we talked about journals and the idea that they are neither fiction or non-fiction just like some people had hazel or green eyes and couldn’t join either the blue eyed or brown eyed group. The children brainstormed about why a journal doesn’t fit and came to the conclusion that a journal holds our thoughts which are sometimes about real things and sometimes about made up things, feelings, or ideas. As an extension I told the kids to go sit by whatever pile of books they thought looked most interesting and we made a bar graph showing our surprising class preference for non-fiction books. Finally we used a journal prompt page which they enjoyed filling in and exploring different ways to do journalling. IMG_3880

We enjoyed a brief respite from the rain so we went outside and  had a game of soccer and a skipping challenge at recess.IMG_3877

 

After recess we read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. The children had to think about the patterns in the writing and then at the end of the book we talked about them. We looked back at our piles of books and talked about Author’s purpose and audience then tied it into The Important Book. I led a shared writing lesson where we started with the line: “the important thing about an author is that they write.” Then the children brainstormed other thoughts about authors to create the middle of the writing and finally at the end we repeated the opening statement: “the important thing about an author is that they write.” The children returned to the table and began a guided writing activity to make up an independent version of this piece. (For our littlest ones I provided sentence strips and they had help from older students or adults reading the strips and then they chose which ones they wanted to put in their poem.)

mZgRBbaE_gA1MGYlZIHD2Sg

We had a special event on Wednesday this week as we hosted a documentary crew in our home for a couple of hours to talk about homeschooling and co-operative learning groups. We did a small co-op lesson with a couple of other families about rhyming couplets and the kids wrote silly poems with the rhyming words we brainstormed. The crew interviewed me then filmed our lesson and the kids working. They also asked to film our homeschooling areas around our house and how we organize our curriculum. It was a great interactive opportunity for the kids to learn about media and how information is gathered and presented for television.

Due to the high intensity of¬†all this new busyness,¬†I forgot to get my camera out the rest of the week so don’t have much in the way of pictures for this¬†post. E had a great time at her first horse-back riding lesson, D loves circus class, skating is improving and Saturday is our make up day as we catch up from the busy week. We had a wonderful Sabbath with friends over for the day and as I look back at the week that was I am so thankful for all of these opportunities and life learning that we get to do together.

School is On!

Due to the extended teacher strike in our province, we got the jump on the public school students this year by launching into our programs while they are still out of the classroom. Our co-op was up and running this Monday and we started off with a strong emphasis on routine. At our co-op time M spent time refamiliarzing the children with our rules and organization. She then led them in a thoughtful discussion of how they can manifest the fruit of the spirit in our co-op time. They had a large fabric tree and felt apples that they wrote different character traits on. They took turns placing the apples on the tree and then also discussed the “bad fruit” that we don’t want to see at co-op.

IMG_3770

After M’s lovely introduction to our year together I introduced an re-enforcement activity that I found on pinterest called Recipe for Success: http://travelingtogether.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/teachers-talk-first-day-of-school/ The lesson plan was to make individual bags of trail mix using a recipe. The catch is that the recipe includes things like 2 cups of kindness or 1 cup of effort. I had already set up a bakery area and labelled all of our trail mix items with the labels provided in the free download from the link. Using a whiteboard I walked the kids through the vocab of the “ingredients” in our recipe. I wanted to make sure our whole group ranging from kindergarten to grade 4 understood what we meant when we said effort or curiosity. After we brainstormed and discussed the definition of each word I explained how the activity would work and we then got the kids in an assembly line with older ones helping the younger and made up the bags of trail mix. I laminated the recipe cards to place in their binders and will refer to it throughout the year as we aim to develop the character of each child in our circle.

IMG_3768

Finally, K read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes and facilitated a think-pair-share reading exercise as they read the picture book. The children were encouraged to infer, reflect and connect with the story in a variety of ways then they did a vocabulary exercise using tier 2 or slightly challenging vocab words. The words of the week were: possession, envious, scarcely, and precious.

chrysanthemum_main

After co-op we had a fabulous time doing “forest school” at one of our family’s homes. They have a new property that includes all kinds of natural vegetation and a creek running through it. The children explored to their hearts content while the moms debriefed and planned a bit for the coming weeks.

IMG_3816

The rest of the week was about setting our new routine. During breakfast we practise our bible memory work and do our devotions. After breakfast is over we are extending responsibilities and taking turns at the clean up and setting up for our school time. E and D get out their journals and are expected to do one page each. So far E is choosing a reporting plan in her journal and simply retells the previous day’s activities. She is discovering her author’s voice and using good details to add interest to the recount. D on the other hand is only in grade 1 and is still in a pre-writing stage. He has been drawing a picture and then he copies the date at the top of the page and traces over my writing to write 3 or 4 sentences about his drawing. We have been using a simple format that goes like this: This is a ________. It has __ eyes. It has __ arms. It can ______. I have been drawing circles for the numbers and getting him to write them in without tracing. I am also trying to use this format to help build his skill and confidence, (scaffolding), into being able to write these simple sentences without tracing. So far he is enjoying the freedom to draw whatever he wants and just describing it for his entry. Journal time takes about 40 minutes then I give the kids an active break to go on the trampoline if it’s dry or run around the house for 15 minutes. I keep it fairly short then bring them back to our work area to get into our day’s math. They are both doing Singapore and E has jumped forward into book 3A while D is doing 1A. He has a lot of reversals when writing his numbers, but he recognizes all the numbers from 1-50 without difficulty and is able to do the exercises so far without difficulty. We may jump forward in the book but for now are treating it as review and reinforcement.

After math is done we are usually at lunch so we pack up our school work eat and head out to our afternoon activities. Tuesday afternoon his we rode our bikes to a park where we met with a couple of new families to help broaden D’s circle of friends. Wednesday afternoon we met up with friends for an afternoon of cycling around the zoo. Thursday afternoon we went to Chuck-E-Cheese for a final school hours get together with public school friends and Friday afternoon we went to ice-skating with the local home learners group. Next week we start more of our formal learning activities so it was nice to get in some social time this week.

An almost endless summer

I’ll try to be brief but will warn you if you don’t like the family slide show after vacation, you may want to skip this post! Our summer was full of hot days with weekly swimming lessons, camping at the lake and playing at the beach. I love to travel but I will brag to anyone¬†that my home region is one of the most beautiful places in the world‚Ķ in the summer.

We started off the summer with E’s 9th birthday: it was a girls extravaganza with tie-dying, scavenger hunt and‚ĶIMG_2665 IMG_2673

a big screen movie Рat home! IMG_2684

We love the beach and spent many lovely afternoons exploring tide pools and building sandcastles.IMG_2792 IMG_2798 IMG_2857

With Dad’s work keeping him busy this summer we explored our area more in one day vacations. This was a fun day spent going up Grouse Mountain in a large gondola

IMG_2862

and seeing the grizzlies!

IMG_2879 IMG_2884

We also really enjoyed the lumberjack show which highlighted the skills and dangers in the job of felling trees. It was a lively program with lots of rivalry and humour. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend it!

IMG_2899 IMG_2906 IMG_2914 IMG_2923 IMG_2933

We went camping a couple of times this summer with family,

IMG_2971 f

and friends.

IMG_2986 IMG_3008

We had the opportunity to attend a special event for our Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative¬†party that was happening in our area. E and I spent a lot of time discussing the 3 main political parties and what they are known for. We also talked about left-wing versus right-wing politics and fiscal policy such as discussed in the Prime Minister’s speech to his party members

.IMG_3034

It was a great learning experience and the kids were thrilled to shake his hand and meet such an important person to our country.

IMG_3038

Some of the things we did this summer were insider gigs. The salmon run has been good this year so many people have been taking to the rivers to fish. We asked Papa the resident fishing expert and boat owner in our family to take us fishing. When we got to the river it was so crowded with fishermen that we gave up and found a quiet-ish back channel to have a picnic. The local sights were bald eagles soaring over the river, hazy mountains in the distance, fish surfacing in the river and dirt bikes and atvs ripping around everywhere. It wasn’t quite my picture of an afternoon enjoying the great outdoors but the kids rather enjoyed the entertainment ūüôā

IMG_3074

We extended our summer into September taking a week of family vacation to Vancouver Island. The weather was glorious, the island was peaceful and we spent some wonderful days with friends and family while also enjoying the natural beauty of the island. I haven’t uploaded the pics yet but will try to¬†edit this and add them in soon.

Summer is my favourite time of year, but now that it is really and truly September this blog will be updated regularly again and life will take on some¬†structure for the next 10 months. Ahhh… let the craziness begin!

The Road Less Travelled

 

Hello World, in words of the Whos, ‚Äúwe are here, we are here, WE ARE HERE!‚ÄĚ Back in Canada that is after an appallingly long blog absence!. I have a million excuses but rather than tire you with them let me tell you what we‚Äôve been up to in the meantime!

 

We made our final tour of this country at the end of March with long drive through the Karoo Desert to Cape Town (CT). The iconic image of this drive is the many windmills one sees scattered through the dry scrub. IMG_0915IMG_3177We spent 5 days in CT we exploring the Cape of Good Hope, (the southern tip of Africa, next stop Antarctica ), Boulders Beach full of African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals at … the Scratch Patch at the Virginia & Alfred Waterfront and Kirstenbosch Gardens.IMG_3306IMG_1199IMG_1106

IMG_3038IMG_3248

From CT we drove through the beautiful Stellenbosch wine farm region and stunning mountain passes toOuntshoorn. Ountshoorn is famous for two things: Ostrich Farms and the Cango Caves. Our primary purpose in stopping here was the latter and so we put on geology hats and explored these extraordinary caves. E‚Äôs first comment was ‚ÄúI can totally imagine the Hidden Cave now‚ÄĚ (reference to the Jonathan Park audiobooks). We had the most wonderful hands-on science lesson as we observed century old stalagmites, and stalatites. We discussed geological time scale and earth science chemistry of solvents. E and D learned how water flows over the rock/solute picking up/ dissolving calcium. This calcium-rich water/solvent passes through the rock layers into a cave. As the water drips from the ceiling of the cave the H2O evaporates dropping some calcium to the floor while the remaining calcium is left behind in the water drop shape eventually forming the stalagmites and stalatites.. They learned the words, dissolve, solvent, solute and how ratios apply to the process of crystallization.IMG_1610

Next stop on our adventure was a night in a tree-house! This wasn‚Äôt any ordinary treehouse though. We had two bedrooms with real beds, a full kitchen and bathroom, dining area and even a braai all up in the soaring branches of Teniqua Treetops. It was a very novel experience and although I personally do prefer luxury hotels, ūüėČ this was a lot of fun!IMG_1634

From the treehouse we headed down to the Indian Ocean for a two days of beach combing at Knysna. We were in a beautiful guesthouse with our own apartment on the edge of the water. Knysna is a beautiful bay which is guarded from the open sea by a narrow entrance called the Heads. At low tide almost the entire bay is emptied and you can wander for ages looking at anemones, hermit crabs and snails.

After a lovely stay in Knysna we headed north to Kenton-On-Sea. We chose to say in Kenton-On-Sea for two reasons, this picture:(Shelley’s Baii) IMG_3152and the Sibuya Game Reserve. We opted to visit this game reserve because we were able to book a private, guided game drive to see the animals with ALL the kids. In our various game reserve experiences to date, small children are not generally permitted in open vehicle game drives for safety reasons. It began with an 8km boat ride upriver ending up at the main lodge in time for lunch. Following our delicious lunch we got in the landcruiser and went to visit the elephants, lions, buffalo, and various other fabulous animals! It was great letting the kids see the animals up close while still being in the wild! We had a very knowledgeable ranger who stopped to show us everything we could possibly want to look at as well as a fascinating lecture on the different digestive systems of herbivores or ruminants.IMG_7084

After consulting many friends we decided to drive through the politically charged area known as the Transkei. This is an interesting area both geographically and historically. It is hilly, lush countryside winding through rural villages and two larger towns. Politically this area was known as a bantustand or homeland to the Xhosa people. As such it was set aside by the Apartheid government for Xhosa inhabitants only and there was no outside development of infrastructure during that era. Since the end of Apartheid in 1994 the government has been working to rectify the situation bring the basic necessities to the area such as municipally regulated electricity and running water. It is a credit to Nelson Mandela and the new national government that this kind of technology and governance is now available throughout South Africa.IMG_1970

The end of the Transkei brought us to the South Coast of Durban. We spent a lovely day at the beach in Southbroom then we headed into Durban/ Umhlanga for another trip to the fabulous Ushaka Marine World.IMG_3475IMG_3189

One of the big events of the last couple months include a certain little boy turning 6 years old! We were very priveleged to be able to celebrate with D’s best friend J in Ballito and a few new toothy friends at the Crocodile Farm! IMG_2022 IMG_2080 IMG_2172We spent our final week in Ballito with our friends swimming, beaching and generally enjoying life together.

IMG_2195One of the cool things we go to see on this trip was a rugby match where a team with mostly Zulu players entered the playing field singing and dancing in traditional warrior manner. It was amazing to see the translation of traditional war intimidation to the modern arena of rugby!IMG_2202We arrived back in Joburg on April 19th leaving us just 10 days until our flight to Canada on April 29th! We were able to keep up some work on our core subjects with time on Math and English each morning. However, the rounds of goodbyes and packing were overwhelming as we had to face the final days of our adventures in Africa.

We spent a day in Pretoria with good friends and visited the Voortrekkers Monument.IMG_2343 This is an amazing tribute to the history of SA’s Afrikaans pioneers. A marble bas-relief tells of the major events of the great trek from the Eastern Cape to the interior of the country.

IMG_2261We were blessed by the opportunity to gift our extra belongings to an orphanage in Pretoria before we left. I will write more about that in my next post. Our amazing knitting Oma had sent 20 warm hats with us to Africa to give away and we were so thrilled to hand them out personally to the children. IMG_2382 IMG_2394

We went to one last picnic at the botanical gardens, hosted a braai for our close friends and attended a baby dedication tea¬†and an Easter braai complete with Easter egg hunt!. ¬†IMG_3722¬†We finally redeemed an invitation to a boat cruise on Hartebeestport Dam.IMG_3759¬†We even squeezed in a combined family science lesson on structures!IMG_0329 IMG_0330¬†It has been an amazing journey and although we are caught in the pangs of goodbyes and yearnings for “home”. We’ve been asked many times if we’ll be back and the answer is emphatically YES, we just don’t know when yet. What we do know is that adventure and freedom are always calling and we will follow God’s plan for our lives and this less travelled road wherever it may lead us.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 

Metamorphosis

How do you respond to changing seasons? We are experiencing change in many seasons right now; the weather in SA ¬†is shifting from summer to autumn, our family is preparing to return to life in Canada and our children are changing and growing in so many ways. I have to admit, I’m not always good at change. I love going new places, meeting new people and having new experiences‚Ķ within a controlled, predictable and generally reliable context. For example going on a holiday to the beach, staying in a nice hotel and eating great food is always a fun change. However, I know I will come back to my known life at the end of the holiday. As we begin our transition out of SA back to CA, I am faced with the great ¬†unknown again. I have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends we’ve made, the beautiful country and the warm sunny climate. I am excited to return to family and friends but also nervous about re-entry into our life there. The kid’s friends will have new social dynamics, my friends will have their own routines and we will be coming back to rainy days and a big house to clean. First world problems entirely, but this blog is where I share our joys and struggles and we are at a bittersweet time right now caught between changing worlds.

We are always ready to go out and enjoy the local fauna and flora. This is a local Cheetah breeding project. We went on a tour of the Cheetah enclosures and listened to the tour guide tell us about Cheetah breeding habits and what factors most seem to determine their survival and ability to thrive in the wild.IMG_0300¬†The beautiful King Cheetah is a ¬†rare recessive genetic colour pattern. We found out that the reason they are so rare is twofold; first of all they only occur when a mating pair each carry the recessive gene, and secondly this pattern does not actually camouflage as well with the landscape so consequently they are usually unable to hunt as well or are more easily spotted by other predators such as hyaenas.IMG_0292To compare the two here is a typical cheetah colour pattern.IMG_0305D has been taking tennis lessons much to his delight.IMG_0278He loves the activity and even more, loves his friends K and C who are in the same class.IMG_0282¬†We made our monthly rounds of the zoo for E’s honey badgers program. It was a cold rainy day this week so we spent a bit of time hiding under the umbrellas at the cafe‚ĶIMG_0359¬†‚Ķwith hot chocolate of course!IMG_0332Despite the rain the animals were out and about and we had some great viewing of animals we don’t always see on sunny days.IMG_0382E’s¬†s group stayed mostly indoors learning about bats and doing more paper-based tasks.IMG_0391E practised her reading aloud with some story time for the younger kids.IMG_0412Our beautiful sweet potato vine is finally living outdoors in a pot.IMG_0442This is the jungle gym ¬†at our house and in all this rain we have to get out and play whenever the sun comes out for a few minutes.IMG_0452

We have been so blessed in our time here in SA. We’ve connected with a vibrant and diverse homeschooling community with many social learning opportunities as well as just making great friends. We did an art co-op with another family this week.IMG_0518¬†Who doesn’t love to play with finger paint??IMG_0525 IMG_0529¬†Tying into our pioneer/voortrekker theme we have been working on an multidicipinary project; a paper quilt using symmetry, geometry colour, pattern and line. I explained to the children that pioneers were very frugal and because they couldn’t always buy new things they learned to make most items for themselves. They used small scraps of fabric to make quilts out of whatever they had. The use of pattern was a way to beautify their simple, rustic homes and express their own creativity. It also gave them an activity to fill their time during long evenings or days indoors during winter.¬†IMG_0533¬†We went to our last homeschool skating time ūüė¶¬†IMG_0543¬†One of the highlights at skating is hot chips with lots of tomato sauce or as we would say in Canada; fries smothered in ketchup!IMG_0547¬†Ending our week we had a joint dinner with two families who have been dear friends to us here. Between our families we represent, British SA, Afrikaans SA, Italy, England and of course Canada.IMG_0557¬†The 3 musketeers!IMG_0578¬†And what dinner party would be complete without Kareoke? C rocked out the Afrikaans alt/country beat!IMG_0592¬†Sweet A singing a beautiful rendition of Norah JonesIMG_0614¬†Me pretending to a be an 80s rock star with Summer of 69, LOL!IMG_0615A mother-daughter moment with Abba!IMG_0621¬†These times together have been rich. full of laughter, heart sharing, growing and simply sharing our lives together. This morning we slept in after the late night last night and I watched E and her dad cuddle at the breakfast table ¬†with a full heart. This life I have is so good! How can I measure the value of these days? The answer is that I simply can’t, these moments are priceless. Today is Sunday and I am counting the 1000+ gifts in my life and feeling profoundly grateful.¬†IMG_0639Change will happen and we will adjust and choose gratitude wherever we find ourselves.