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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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and seeing the grizzlies!

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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!

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

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and friends.

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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

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

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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

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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!