A glimpse into life a world away

Driving in SA is always a bit of an adventure. First of all there is wrapping your head around driving on the “other” side of the road, then there are the taxis and lorries, predictably unpredictable, and once you get sort of used to all that you have the constant parade of “bakkies” full of people in the box and people everywhere selling, or trying to sell you something.IMG_2664 IMG_2665

The adjustments of coming from Canada to Africa are not unpleasant though. As we arrived here at the beginning of spring we have been humbled by the abundant beauty of this place.IMG_2678Jacaranda trees in bloom – a stunning sight!IMG_2679Inexpensive and tasty cappuccino in the morning sun with my sweeties.IMG_2682And the blessing of homeschooling throughout it all! We’ve  been doing lots of art as we lost power for 3 days and had a wicked virus going through everybody. Art was a quiet activity to pass the days and find ways to keep moving ahead with school without electronic support.IMG_6649IMG_6651IMG_6648E has become the resident story time gal when the moms and dads are preoccupied with other tasks. They love to curl up in different corners of the house with a pile of books.IMG_6653 IMG_6654 IMG_6655D has been challenged at school to work on his puzzle skills. He is taking it quite seriously and is continually trying to do more complex puzzles than previously mastered.IMG_6656And as we got into our art vibe we decided to start planning ahead towards advent. I went to my favourite source of inspiration, pinterest, and combined a few different ideas to come up with this cheap and cheerful advent calendar:

Step one: Take a 24 egg flat egg carton. IMG_66862) Number the depressions 1-25IMG_6687 3) measure corresponding squares on an 11×14 piece of and plan a design.IMG_66904) We worked on a couple of art objectives such as using and creating shades of a colour and staying in a cool or warm palette. Silhouette style figures and then pastel technique; rubbing pastels to get a solid coverage and blending for effect. Finally, we sealed the picture with a fabric paint sealer but you could use modge podge or even white glue.IMG_66915) Last you can decide what to put in your calendar. Fill up your slots and then glue, or tape the whole thing closed. I used a cereal box to edge mine and tidy it all up.IMG_6693In and out of arting we have been working away at spelling, reading, math and science. As the children here are preparing for the end of the school year we are prepping for the end of term 1. It will be our first report card meeting by Skype/ Facetime and will require some good planning to accommodate everyone’s schedules and the 10 hour time difference. We are enjoying our life here and feeling so blessed to be in this adventure!

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Finding Our Way

First to apologize for the delay on this post. It turns out my computer doesn’t like the number of pictures I’ve been taking and forcing it to store, as a result I have been negotiating with the mac-no-brain and trying to troubleshoot the problem. 🙂

This week was full of fun and learning. E and D are getting the swing of how things work  in Africa. D has begun to adopt the accent and E is determined to learn Afrikaans! It is fun watching them adapt to their new environment and accept the differences from what they’re used to.

It helps that we have this lovely pool around the corner from our house!

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And D loves playball, a mixed sports group that he participates in after nursery school once a week.IMG_2618

Then there are the trips to the shopping centres, restaurants and general fun out and abouting that we get to do.IMG_2658

I think it would be difficult for them not to enjoy themselves given the glorious weather and fantastic people here. We have tried to prioritize weekends for some family time and broader exploration so on Saturday we went for a hike at a nearby nature reserve. We saw some kind of bok (deer), and many colourful birds. This is a glossy starling. IMG_6090

They had an interactive model of the solar system showing the scale of the different planets and here the kids are enjoying climbing into the “sun”. IMG_6095
The anthills are always facinating as they are so huge! We often see both the closed and open variety and we had a good discussion of which animals would likely be in the area that would eat ants. They have pangolins ,(http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_pangolin.html), and aardvarks, (http://www.diffen.com/difference/Aardvark_vs_Anteater), here so it is fun to try and identify spoor and discuss the possibilities.

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jWe primarily chose this site to explore because of its proximity but once there discovered that it was also the original site of the first gold strike in SA. Now that’s a whole pile of history and social issues that we haven’t gotten into with the kids yet!!! This country has such an intricately woven tapestry of stories and we hope to at least learn with our children to identify the different threads and try and understand how the past of this place deeply affects the present. IMG_6114

We are fortunate to be here, and even more so to be here as Canadians with our strange accent that causes people to ask us where we are from constantly. We are spared the tensions that others who are born here experience daily as they struggle with ever-changing political and economic system. To have dark skin may be an advantage in the professional world, however, many black South Africans are still trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, overcrowding, poor education and violence while white South Africans largely enjoy a higher standard of living. This is of course tied to history and geo-politics of the 20th century. E and I are beginning a  research project to learn more about Apartheid and what actually happened. We have the opportunity of collecting primary research through interviews and museums and we want to genuinely understand the emotional climate that we find ourselves in.IMG_6123

South Africans, black and white alike, share some amazing values that are demonstrated by the meerkats. These meerkats (sorry I just cant get enough of these guys :), have amazing family ties and community relationships. The adults are all extremely protective of their young and despite their small size they can defend themselves against deadly snakes and larger predators by using their god-given abilities and working together. IMG_6148One of the strongest first impressions I had of South African culture is the way it values children. I was struck by how many terms of endearments people used with their children and how rarely I heard a parent rebuke their child. If the child was acting inappropriately the parents were often firm but gentle and constantly reaffirmed the child’s value even as they corrected them. I have to admit that I am not a patient parent and so I was really convicted as I saw this patience and acceptance of children here. I have so much hope for this country that a collection of people who value their children and can show so much kindness to these little ones, can somehow find a way to show kindness to each other as adults too!

 

Life in the limelight!

Our weekly routine was off this week as we suspended co-op to allow for the longer theatre camp practise and final performance of the evening. E had the honour of introducing the show and sang and acted her heart out!

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The early part of this week was very rainy and we stayed inside enjoying some extra time home with Dad and more seat work. E has been working on an integrated unit on Australian animals. She has been working through some information reading sheets on different Australian animals and looking up youtube videos on Platypuses and Tasmanian Devils and Echidnas. She is fascinated by animal behaviours and habitats. She is increasing her science vocabulary as well in adding the words monotreme, marsupial, venom, gland and gestation.

After a couple of days of heavy rain we needed to find new ways to be active so we parked our car in the driveway and rearranged our garage. E is determined to learn how to rollerblade and is anxious to try at every opportunity.

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E and her brother decided to increase the challenge to add in a game of catch while on rollerblades!IMG_9896

We worked on measurement more this week using our tape measure to go around the house and measure lengths and heights in metric and imperial units. E has been intrigued by our family’s everyday use of pounds to measure weight but using metric to measure distances.

We had piano lessons as usual and E is now branching out to incorporate ipad apps to her music learning. She loves the Tiny Piano app. She has also been using Sparklefish to create  silly stories and learn parts of speech, essentially mad-libs. She also enjoys another story-maker app called Toontastic and is working on improving her speed and skill in math through Math iXL and Meerkat Math.

Finally the end of the week brought some sunshine and we couldn’t wait to get outside! We went for a long walk and spent the afternoon playing frisbee and scrub baseball in a nearby park.

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Spring is in the air!

We are blessed to live in one of the mildest regions of our country and now in the middle of February we have signs of spring everywhere! The robins have returned, the crocuses and daffodils are triumphantly raising their green fists to the sky, and the pussy willows are peeping out on the trees.

In co-op we are finishing our section on Australia with a science lesson about air and some of it’s properties. Ms J presented a variety of experiments and the children were enthralled by all the demonstrations.

First we learned that air can have force: in this experiment she filled a glass half full with water than put a lid on and inverted the glass. The air created a vacuum keeping the water in the glass and holding the lid on.

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Then to further demonstrate this force, she gave the kids juice boxes to drink and had them practise blowing air in and out after they finished to see how the air could change the shape of the box.

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Next Ms. J demonstrated that air reacts to temperature: first the children crushed some ice and then put it into an empty plastic bottle. Ms. J put on the lid and shook the ice around and then asked the kids to make observations. After some random suggestions they noticed indentations in the bottle and we talked about how the lower temperature of the ice was causing the air inside the bottle to contract or shrink and was pulling the plastic in with it as a result.

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Following the demonstration of the effects of cold temperature on the air, Ms. J asked the kids to hypothesize how heat would affect the air in the bottle. She ran hot water over the outside of the bottle and the children were able to see the sides bulge out as the air expanded.

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The next two demonstrations showed how air also contains gases and those gases interact with other forces in interesting ways. First we saw two tea-light candles covered by glasses of different sizes. The children discussed their ideas about what would happen and then observed as first the tea-light in the shorter glass went out followed a few seconds later by the other one in the taller glass. They learned that our air on earth is full of oxygen which we breathe and which is also fuel for fire. The kids discovered that the fire starved once it consumed all the O2 in the glass and that the glass with the larger volume allowed one fire to live longer than the other.

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Next Ms. J placed a tea-light in a bowl with baking soda in the bottom. She lit the candle then carefully poured vinegar around the candle onto the baking soda. The children watched the solution bubble and the flame go out then discussed what caused the fire to lose oxygen when it wasn’t covered by anything. They found out that the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar created CO2 which also used up the oxygen and took away the fire’s source of that fuel.

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The last experiment of the morning was a final example of  the force that air can produce. The kids threaded a straw onto a string then taped the string between 2 chairs. Meanwhile, E was asked to blow up a balloon which we carefully taped to the straw while holding the opening closed. When E let go of the balloon it traveled the distance of the string with force and speed. The children were able to see how harnessing air can actually provide power and might have good environmental implications as a source of energy.

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The balloon demo provided an excellent segue into an exploration of wind power and the use of windmills to create energy. Two kids volunteered to represent positive or negative ideas about wind energy. Then the rest of the children took cards from a basket with statements about wind energy. They discussed each statement then decided if it was a positive or negative and pinned it on the appropriate person.

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Finally it was time for recess! The kids practised some windmill arms and ran into and away from the wind to explore the way that wind moved on their bodies.

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This week in co-op our verse is:

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Following co-op was our second last theatre camp and E has been working so hard on memorizing her lines and all the songs!

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of family visiting with an out-of-town uncle visiting and a few regular events at the end of the week such as piano and play-dates. We spent one exciting afternoon playing on a wharf with different children’s interactive displays and were able to drop in on a free juggling lesson with a local circus school!

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We enjoyed the beautiful sunshine, mountains and ocean and spent as much time as we could outside playing!IMG_9589

E is gaining so much confidence with her reading and here she is practising her lines for Theatre Camp with her Oma.

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We had some creative time with playdough. This is the world’s largest brownie with a surprise hidden inside!

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As a new method to foster better sibling co-operation, my kids now experience time out as a moment to hold hands with their beloved sister or brother whenever they fight. The time-out ends as soon as they can forgive each other and move forward as friends. So far we are having some reasonable success. 🙂IMG_9667

To fill in our week we spent some time on patterning with Math iXL, reading some great books from the library and a science construction project with dad to try and build a rocket.

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Wrapping it up with a bit more time outside! We love the sun! Here we are getting our upper body workout at the playground, Mom even got in on the action 🙂

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E is trying to master roller blading whenever it’s dry and she is making great progress with her balance and control.IMG_9705

May the sun shine brightly on you today!

Can Learning be Fun too?

Due to a new stat holiday and a public school holiday this was a short week for school attenders but our home-learning journey continues along it’s regular ambling path! We drove home from our trip to see family on Monday so filled our car ride with ipad apps, audio books and sleep.

Tuesday we repacked our suitcases and jumped in the car for a spontaneous get-away by ourselves. We drove to a beautiful lake with a natural hot spring and spent 48 glorious hours floating in the steaming pools outdoors in the rain and sunshine! We met a family from Zimbabwe who told us wonderful stories about Africa and it’s incredible environment!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! We spent a much needed day at home doing the everyday chores of life. We had a great time finding our family Valentine’s surprises and E was such a caring sister she read her brothers’ cards to them before she even cracked her own!

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For some added Valentine’s fun, E helped me make some special V-day pancakes! Pink pancake anyone? 🙂 We put blended strawberries and bananas in the batter than added pink food colouring for some real pop and chocolate chips because these were sweet treats for our sweeties after all! 🙂

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E and her brother worked on Canadian maps together following a colour key to identify the provinces and labelling them.

Friday was clean up day and chores routines to accomplish, however, after a week away it was pretty light duty so we collected our middle one from pre-school along with a friend and headed off to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the zoo! The day was a perfect spring day with sun-soaked earth warming our tired-of-winter feet! I know in this part of the country there is no real winter to complain of, but the often grey skies do wear us down sometimes, and as we emerge from our dens blinking into that dazzling orb in the sky, we are overwhelmed with the blessing of sunlight!

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The weather held for the weekend and we enjoyed it immensely. Somehow, I feel refreshed and ready for another week of adventurous learning. Tonight we have a family member arriving for a visit so home learning will be full of twists and turns as we enjoy our time with him, but that is the wonderful thing about this learning exploration from home – it’s a wonderful journey and we know to enjoy the path as much as the destination!

Sunshine and smiles to you!

January: it all begins again

Our first week back into  home learning was a great beginning.

What a creative and co-operative crew we had on Monday! We started the day with a wonderful lesson on the Epiphany in opening circle and our first virtue of 2013 is… COMPASSION. Our first bible verse of the year is Isaiah 54:10 and to celebrate the Epiphany Ms. M introduced us to this delicious Swiss tradition of Kings bread. It was a very satisfying lesson! 🙂
Today Ms. J. taught the kids about France’s tradition of perfume, cosmetics and luxury bath products then instructed them in our project of the day – making bath salts to sell in the spring. This is a comprehensive project in conjunction with Compassion and Food for the Hungry. Our kids are learning about cottage industries, small business practise, global poverty and our role as people of faith to show compassion to those in the developing world. They will be making a few different projects to sell and raise money to donate to the above organizations.  The children practised measuring, counting in French, printing, and working co-operatively to mix the salts, fill the containers and then create labels for them. We had a great time together and are so glad to be back in our co-op routine!
 
We played some interesting french games at recess called Zic, Zac, Zuc and Cups & Balls. The kids enjoyed the new games and made the most of another indoor recess. We finished our morning creating labels.
This week E began learning about Data management and graphic representations. We began by creating a survey and then E called 20 different friends on the phone and collected their answers to her survey questions. It took a couple of days to get ahold of everyone and gather all the data. Then we began creating tables to organize the information we collected and begin formulating some conclusions. We discussed the importance of asking a question so that you can actually obtain measurable results. E created 2 open variable questions and one question that had 2 variables. E saw that it was much easier to make a definite statement of preference when people had less choices to answer from. It took some work getting our tables in order so we’ll work on creating some graphs from our data next week. E will be creating a variety of graphs this month to show different data sets and to learn how to interpret different models.
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In reading E has been continuing to expand her ability. E did an online reading test and had a 100% score for her grade level. The test was a read -aloud passage, one fiction and one informational, then answering a series of questions about the passage after. She showed excellent understanding of what she read and self-corrected all her mistakes using context and rereading the sentence. E is clearly able to read for meaning and will always ask to make sure she understands what she is reading. E loves stories and informational texts and understands that books are a source of information about new and familiar topics alike. She understands that we can read for leisure as well as for work or research.
Books this week: Tintin and Explorers on the Moon, Asterix in Spain, How to Drive your Sister Crazy, The Truth about Hansel & Gretel and Get Well Good Knight.
E is continuing with her poetry and bible memorization. She is working on learning I’m a Manatee by John Lithgow and has nearly mastered Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. She practised typing out Psalm 23 on the computer and is creating a piece of art to hang in her room with the passage on it.
In Science Eva learned aboutevaporation. E learned about water vapour and steam and how mist, clouds, rain and snow are all part of the water cycle.
In PE we have started swimming lessons again and E goes twice a week. We went skating, rode bikes, went for a walk in the forest and another long walk in town and played at the playgrounds on a couple of cold, but clear sunny days.
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October 14-27

When we went to the clinic to get E’s stitches out we found out that her toe is infected and she has been ordered to complete bed rest for 3 days and a course of antibiotics. Consequently we are taking things slow with lots of book reading and some seat work. Continuing with  Time and Money and our Reading Skills workbooks. Our bible verses are Hebrews 4:12 , Ephesians 5:16-18. Following our quiet week E finally felt herself again and was able to  get out and about.

We headed north to Barrie for a couple of days with good friends and some outdoor exploring. We were able to visit a provincial park that had a collection of rescued/ injured Canadian wildlife. E and her brothers were enraptured with the friendly deer and had fun honking back at a territorial Trumpeter swan (from a distance of course :).

After that we headed south to downtown Toronto on a rainy day to see friends and spent some time at the public library reading books and doing puzzles. E discovered the Scaredy Squirrel books and thoroughly enjoyed the humour.

One day to rest then on the road eastward to the Toronto Zoo to see White Lions, Orangutans, Gorillas, Elephants, Giraffes, penguins and so many more animals than we have time to list here!

Pretending to be on safari on the African Savannah!

Finding out how penguins communicate:

Practising kindness in helping the smaller kids with us look through the view finder:

This is Hudson the one year old Polar Bear that was born at the zoo. He’s much bigger than the one year old in our family! We talked about the different growth rates between humans and animals like Polar Bears. 

At the end of a full day at the zoo we hopped in the van and drove a couple of hours  further east to Kingston to see our cousins at University. We spent a warm sunny day seeing the sights and had an impromptu history lesson on the border wars of Lake Ontario. This is a view of Fort Henry from the Wolfe Island ferry:

In an historically rich area like eastern Ontario one finds history lessons all around. This gentleman is a local musician (Sheesham & Lotus), who specializes in traditional instruments and we were the privileged first row audience during a spontaneous concert on the ferry that included a banjo, gourd banjo and a mouth bow. The man explained and demonstrated each instrument and told us about some of the interesting artefacts he collects. One of which is a penny farthing bicycle!We went on to go through a corn maze and enjoy a picnic and playtime in the park with the big cousins!