The Adventures of a Canadian Family in South Africa…

We arrived in Jo’burg a week ago and after a day of adjusting to the new time zone and repacking our things we headed off to a bush lodge in the Limpopo province. It was  perfect introduction to Africa with a relaxing environment to reconnect with old friends and make new friends all at the same time! The kids have loved every second of our trip so far and despite my Canadian mama fears of Mozambique spitting cobras and Black Mambas lurking in each patch of tall grass, I managed to chill out and let them follow the lead of their African friends! I even managed to work up a bit of courage and do some things outside of my comfort zone too!

This is a lovely example of some of the Afrikaans architecture:

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And this is a pic of a shantytown we passed along the road, a sad reality in this land of contrasts.IMG_4988

To heighten the contrast we arrived at our lovely lodge in the bushveld with all the trimmings.IMG_5000

A full African moon rising over the mountain:

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A herd of Red-faced Hartebees:

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Zebra in the bush:

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Wildebeest:

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The camp we were at was full of hiking an mountain biking trails so off we went to explore a trail to a lookout.IMG_5046

Everybody had heir binos for spotting game!

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Sitting atop a cairn at the lookout

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A porcupine quill, quite a bit bigger than it’s Canadian counterpart!

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Our hosts made us a  traditional Afrikaans dish called Potjie, which is cooked over a low fire all day in a big 3 legged cast iron potIMG_5233 IMG_5284

E and her old and new friends

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A group of Impala bucks at sunset

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The only clear shot I could get of the baboons, even though at one point they were bedding down for the night near our supper picnic site!

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And the beautiful giraffe! They are so unusual looking; somehow awkward and graceful at the same time!IMG_5525

Finally the brave safari club driving round the bush and waiting for Mom to take the pictures!IMG_5573

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Time-travel and the quick Summer Highlights Reel

Exciting adventures await in a mere 24 hours so before we start sharing the new we’ll spend a few minutes catching up with y’all  and showing you what our summer looked like.

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We went to visit our dear great aunt and uncle and attend a family reunion. One of the many highlights of this visit is always a chance to drive the big machines connected to the family gravel business!

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Coming home it was time to harvest our yellow plums again and this year they became jam! Yummy!

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Another long awaited project, spreading sand over our yard to improve drainage and prep the ground for our small swimming pool.

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A walk in the canopy

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discovering the inside of a red cedar.Image

rock climbing at family camp!

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Pirate festival

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Hanging out watching the blacksmith at a local historic site.ImageImageImage

surprise rain at the zoo = fun new ponchos all around!Image

A few days with mom’s grandparents up north at the farm.Image

Haying season

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Stepping back in time to the Fraser River Goldrush in the historic community of Barkerville.ImageImageImageImageImage

Learning how a rocker box works to sluice gravel for gold.Image

Gold panning in the trough!

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A moment of repose with the cast from the local variety show.Image

new friends

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Learning about a Cornish waterwheel and how to sluice for gold! IMG_4909Ahhhh summer, you went by too fast. But stay tuned, there are some unexpected twists ahead in the road for this homeschooling family.

Investigating and Invigorating; from the seashore to the park and all things inbetween

After co-op this week we drove to the beach to enjoy and beautiful day and explore our beautiful area!IMG_3110 IMG_3119 The next day we participated in our local homeschool association Sports Day event. E was worn out after all the running, hopping, obstacle course running and swimming at the end!IMG_3148 IMG_3149 IMG_3150As the end of the week approached we joined friends for a field trip to a local animal shelter. E saw the rooms where the animals were kept.IMG_3177The girls met a couple of volunteers who come to walk the dogs…IMG_3178And enjoyed some petting time with a friendly cat.IMG_3184She practised her interview skills by asking the receptionist some questions about the shelter and how it operates.IMG_3192  IMG_3203At the end of the day she wrote a detailed journal entry about her experience:Photo on 2013-06-20 at 23.06We finished off our day with a trip to a local berry farm and a walk through their beautiful sitting garden.IMG_3215As we explored the garden we saw these bees hard at work and discussed their important role in our farm ecology and their current threatened status. We talked about the possible outcomes if we don’t protect our bees and made sure to give them wide berth so they can continue their vital pollination work!IMG_3211

 

Random Acts of Kindness

In our part of the world we have a long weekend in May to celebrate the birthday of England’s Queen Victoria. This is always a holiday that kicks off summer but due to the unpredictable climate in our region summer sometimes looks pretty grey and overcast! Not to be deterred we headed off to do some local exploring along the coast, however, to our surprise, the water was warm and the rain was more of a gentle mist and our kids decided that it qualified as swimming weather! IMG_2274IMG_2304 It turned out to be a beautiful day with outdoor adventure, cultural exploration (their first Korean barbeque) and family connecting! Bring on summer!

IMG_2338 The next day we attended a parade in a nearby historic community and enjoyed seeing the tangible development of modes of transportation. From the pioneer days of covered wagons and horses,

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IMG_2358 The marching bands were in good supply as well and we talked about the different instruments and how important it is for the band to keep the correct tempo in order to march and play in unison.

IMG_2372 Following the parade we joined some friends to participate in another nearby community celebration of kindness. 10 years ago a local church started doing small renovation projects for families in need. Over the years this has developed into an Extreme Home Makeover program that is supported by the local churches and community to help one family in need each year improve their home and by extension their lives.

IMG_2397  This single mom and her two boys were living in a mould-infested bungalow with no way of dealing with the problems. The A-OK team completely stripped their house down to the studs and rebuilt it from the inside out! What a thrill to watch this family see their new home for the first time and to join with this community in showing support and love to one another!

IMG_2396 For the kids there were hot-dogs, cake, fire trucks to clamber about in…

IMG_2416 and most importantly, friends to share it with.

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The greatest commandment is this, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. – Matthew 22:38-39

Homeschooling beyond co-op!

Well co-op is getting so full it requires it’s own post, so if’ I can keep up I will be posting twice a week whenever we have co-op! Henceforth this section will be categorized as the week in review!

Our week was pleasantly motivated this week by our portfolio meeting with our support teacher scheduled for Friday morning. This meant we had a very productive time of seatwork with E completing the last pages of her Australian animals unit, a small unit on measurement and one final set of mapping skills sheets.

We focussed on putting the organic learning that we experience all the time down on paper and I was so happy that despite a small amount of grumbling E actually showed great focus and commitment to the process!

Monday was a beautiful day so after we finished co-op we picked up our boys and headed for a wetlands area to try out new binoculars and birdwatching! E really enjoyed using the binoculars and spotted several ducks and small birds. We also practised using our eyes to look for signs and spring.

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Along our walk, we found some great plaques that provided information on the different animals in this habitat. This one in particular included a First Nations story about the Beaver and it’s role in the world.IMG_0068

Tuesday we had a productive kitchen table morning then headed out for some more animal science with friends. We visited a man called The Reptile Guy and had an amazing tour of his reptile rescue/ rehab facility. We had a chance to get VERY up close and personal with the animals and E surprised me by being not only brave but actually enjoying some of the creepiest critters on the planet!!!

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YIKES! It was great fun though and we learned so much about problems with pet stores not properly informing consumers about growth and habitat requirements as well as the widespread problems of illegally releasing red-sided turtles into local ponds and their devastating impact on our local painted turtle population! Mike, AKA the reptile guy was so passionate about these animals and desperately seeks to inform people of the necessity of giving these animals proper homes and what to do with them if they can no longer care for them.

This outing provided a great opportunity to discuss with E the problems around pet stores and people making impulsive choices and then being unprepared to live with the consequences. (ie: 2 of the 3 little snakes that are wrapped around her hands can eventually become the size of the one wrapped around her shoulders. It’s important when people see them in the pet store and decide to buy them that they have a long term plan in mind.)

Wednesday we worked on our measurement and E and I talked about the need for different units of measurement. I played a Q&A game with her to ask which unit of measurement would she use to measure a doll, the room, the distance to Grandma’s house? Then changed my questions to “name something you would measure in centimetres”, “name something you would measure in metres”, “name something you would measure in kilometres”. After a little while of playing she seemed to have a good grasp of the subject but we will be spending a bit more time reviewing it this month.

Thursday we had a funny incident where I prepared everything for our teacher to visit and then when he was a half an hour overdue with no phone call, reviewed my email and realized I had the date wrong! This turned out to be a blessing as we now felt fairly organized and had a little bit of grace time to finish up a few things.

Finally Friday arrived, the meeting went beautifully and E was relatively confident reciting her poetry and showing her work to Mr. V.

The pressure was suddenly off and it was another sunny day so as soon as everyone could be rounded up we packed up our car and binoculars and explored a Great Blue Heron reserve. It was a lovely facility with a fantastic interpretive centre with helpful volunteers, well marked walking trails and most amazingly a colony of nesting Herons! We saw a cluster of about 20 nests and Herons flying to and fro between the water and the nests. What a neat experience to see them in their natural habitat and have such a good view of their nesting behaviour!

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E enjoyed observing the ducks building their nests from behind this bird blind.IMG_0430 IMG_0432 IMG_0435 IMG_0444

We found some tracks along the path to the river and examined them to see what information we could take from them. E was able to identify both sets of tracks, dog and horse, and show which direction the horses had been going at that spot.

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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!