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.

Dividing Lines

I forgot to get my camera out this week so sadly, no pictures 😦
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.
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When all the posters were up we broke into groups for the kids to sort our library into the appropriate sections.
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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… 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!
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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.
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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
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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!
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May the autumn winds blow good changes in your direction 🙂

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!

 

Making Friends

Another week has flown by and I wonder if we’ll actually get to everything on our bucket list in the next 6 months! We started off the week with plenty of fun. We went to an American themed restaurant called The Spur, with ribs and hamburgers on the menu and a huge outdoor playground. It was funny to me that this “American” style place was unlike anything I’ve ever been to in the US or Canada! There was a distinct African flavour though in the birthday song that was sung many times through the afternoon, the staff would gather with a large drum, plenty of rhythmic clapping and a birthday song in Zulu!

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We did some science in the backyard with an interactive experiment in the states of matter. We had some fabulous powder that when mixed with warm water set into a very firm jelly mixture after only 5 mins. IMG_5635 IMG_5652

The kids loved the sensory play and we talked about liquids, solids and gasses as we played. They also hypothesized  how much water they could add to change the consistency then tested said hypothesis to find the perfect results!IMG_5665

This week we marked D’s first full week in a local nursery school. The system is a bit different here than in Canada. They don’t really have kindergarten in the primary schools but children attend nursery schools for 3 or 4 years before they enter primary school. D is really enjoying it, however we did find out that he seems a bit behind the other children in his fine motor skills. This was not surprising to me as he has always been more of a gross motor kid, however, the interesting thing in SA is that there is a much broader scope of early intervention in these things here than in Canada. It has been suggested that he might benefit from Occupational Therapy, something I would never consider at home given the stigma associated and the general practise of OT, PT and ST being allocated for children with more pronounced limitations. I had an interesting discussion with my friend on the cultural and political nature of these differences and how in a state-funded healthcare system these stigmas are useful to limit funding to profound need. SA has a private/ public system and these supportive health practises are generally paid privately so the onus is on the parents to take full advantage of the various professional services that may benefit their child. Consequently I am pondering an assessment for both E and D to see what improvements could be achieved.

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This week was also the week that homeschooling began in earnest and E is doing some review work in math and digging into a new spelling book with grammar and punctuation lessons. Her first unit came on the heels of our trip to the bushveld and is all about camping!

E and I were able to drop in on a home-school social gathering at an  ice-rink. It is somewhat ironic that as Canadians who live in the most moderate climate in Canada we rarely go skating. Now as visitors to South Africa, in spring no less, we are brushing up on our ice-skating technique! We made some lovely new friends and were invited to some other events next week that we’re looking forward to sharing with you then.  (apologies for the lousy phone pics!)IMG_2596IMG_2601

To wrap up our week we decided to be very Canadian and thank our SA hosts and their extended family by preparing them a traditional CA Thanksgiving dinner. I have to say that cooking a turkey on the braii and eating outside on the patio in the warm spring evening was a delightful change from the traditional Canadian experience!

IMG_5698 IMG_5686 IMG_5697These people have all opened their homes and hearts to us for our sojourn with them and we are so very  grateful to be part of their family circle!

Light a lantern and pour a cup of tea… learning about Chinese customs!

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This week at co-op we learned about China again and reviewed our memory verses in preparation for our recording session next week! Ms. K brought some beautiful items to display from her time in China.

IMG_2843Ms. K then demonstrated a proper Chinese tea ceremony in which the children were very happy to participate!IMG_2860They were great sports and even though the tea was stronger and more bitter than they were accustomed to they were enthusiastic to learn.IMG_2851They followed the tea ceremony with a lesson on Chinese New Year and created a lantern book full of facts about China.IMG_2870

IMG_2871Ms. K also had a great pictograph lesson using the Chinese Zodiac. She had each grade 2 student say the year they were born then come and place the appropriate symbol on the graph. IMG_2879The kids immediately saw the utility of a graphic organizer for it’s ability to show information.IMG_2885 IMG_2889After co-op we had our final day of sports camp. We were so thankful to finally have a sunny day!IMG_2920They played a version of capture the flag trying to capture soccer balls from the opposing team’s net and get them back to their own net. They loved it!IMG_2956 IMG_2981And at the end of the day there was a certificate and freezies for everybody!!IMG_3056We love our co-op group and look forward to each week’s adventures. What is the highlight of your week?

Feeding the world through a small Farmer’s Market!

Finally the Farmer’s Market is here and we are finishing up our products and labelling for the sale! From making and packaging our home-made granola,

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to creating labels for our custom felt creations! It was fully integrated learning this week.IMG_2497

Modelling their choices and planning for everyone to wear their headbands at the sale.IMG_2498

Finally the day arrived with some light rain and occasional downpours. Our spirits were not dampened by the weather though as we were so excited to see it all come together after months of planning and creating! Throughout the year we have focussed on global poverty issues with our children and in partnership with Food for the Hungry, we are planning to donate 100% of our  profits to support various  FH projects around the world.IMG_2591 IMG_2593 IMG_2595 IMG_2597

Almost as exciting as the market was the actual presentation of our funds at the FH office! We met the office staff and found out which countries FH is currently working in.

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We learned about their child sponsorship program and how little it takes to feed a child in the developing world.IMG_2736

The children were given prayer cards for the different projects so that they can continue to support FH in prayer and to be mindful of the work still to be done.IMG_2744

We watched a video of a welcome ceremony in Burundi and the graduation of a school project in Uganda!IMG_2756

We met Mr. H, the director of FH Canda…IMG_2759

… and E was a ready and confident spokesperson for our group in explaining to Mr. H why were were touring his office and what we had done to fundraise for their organization!IMG_2761

Ms. M had thoughtfuully created a shopping list with the kids using the FH gift catalogue and an interactive, sticker voting system. The children were able to present the funds we raised along with their choices of projects to support. Their top choices were building a school, and a surprising choice of latrines.(Perhaps not so surprising though if you look back at our lesson on the Ganges river in India, they were all appalled at the devastating health effects of poor sanitation!)IMG_2762

I am so proud of these kids and the way they have embraced their global community through learning and acts of service!

Bees, Butterflies and Caterpillars, oh my!

With a long weekend and warmer summer weather starting school is really winding down, however, we’re not really done yet so without further adieu here are the missing weeks since my last update in mid-may!

First, we went on a great impromptu field trip to the Honeybee Centre as we had run out of honey and wanted to source out some raw local honey to try. This turned out to be a very educational trip with hives to observe, books to look at and samples to try!

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E has been embracing Language Arts this term with reading more complex novels, and a new-found love of writing, Hallelujah!!!! She and her cousin are now engaging in a regular pen pal exchange, she has a diary that is extremely PRIVATE and our house is filling up with little signs and cards that she makes every day.

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In co-op this week we had a medieval market to teach the children a tiny bit about medieval Europe but also to prepare them for the Farmer’s Market sale they will be participating in shortly. We all dressed in prince, princess and pauper clothes and the kids started by reviewing Canadian money denominations by doing coin rubbings and working out some basic change calculations. (ie. “what are three different ways you can make $1?”)

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After practising the money we set up our wares and designated shoppers and sellers.

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Ms. M .made a great observation with the children that a sad or bored seller does not attract customers…

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But a happy, enthusiastic seller does! She demonstrated how you can call out to customers and promote the items you are selling to increase business!

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A few days later we had the pleasure of attending a birthday party for one of our co-op littles that was based on the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

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The moms in our group are always amazing but this party really stood out as a fantastic holistic, community learning adventure! From the decor, to the food and the great activities my children were engaged and enthusiastic throughout!

We made multi-media caterpillars with printed outlines and tissue paper strips and glue,

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butterflies with coffee filters, clothes pegs and food colouring,

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and tiny hungry caterpillar food sculptures with clay. Then Ms. J read the story to the kids.

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They loved every second of it!

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What is the best birthday party you’ve ever been to?