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. ūüôā

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!

 

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This is Africa…

This past week began with a dramatic medical incident, I was preparing lunch for myself and 6 children and neatly cut off the tip of my finger with a new knife. I spent Monday afternoon getting my fingertip reattached and witnessing the surgical talents of my new friend who is a typical SA GP. It is healing  beautifully and we are beginning to learn our way in this place we currently call home.

We are living in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg and enjoying making new friends and deepening our friendship with our South African hosts. Our residence is lovely and we have a great mall nearby and all the conveniences of home at our fingertips.IMG_0152We were using a ¬†KIA van last week that was rented to us by a friend but it had an oil leak and is in the garage so we’ve had to adjust to driving this instead ūüôā ¬†Driving on the other side of the road is beginning to feel more natural and those right turns are getting a bit less scary.IMG_0155

However, there is another side of South Africa and we are not blind to it. We have seen the poor on street corners and lying under the shade in the parks. We have learned to live with an awareness of the dangers around us and to be suspicious of anyone who would try to approach our car or home. We have learned how to enter a driveway safely and which neighbourhoods to avoid driving through. The children have had a greater number of bad dreams as their little sub-concsious minds wrestle with the realities of these dangers. We have to tell them constantly that they must not roll down the windows, they must never open the gate, they must never leave our sight in a public place and they must never tell anyone details about themselves. We have had to explain that there are robbers who would steal our belongings and robbers who steal children. It is sad to tear away the thin veil of their innocence but essential for their own safety that they understand!IMG_4989¬†My wonderful husband had the opportunity to attend a big rugby match on Saturday between the SA Springboks and the NZ All Blacks. It was a great game with an old rivalry creating intense energy between players and fans alike. The hubs enjoyed it thoroughly but then the other side of Africa asserts itself. ¬†As they were driving home they made a wrong turn and accidentally drove through a neighbourhood colloquially called Death Valley. J said there was a recent shooting victim laying on the road and police attending the scene. They kept driving and got out onto the main highway as quickly as they could. Monday we heard that our new domestic helper was ill and would be unable to come in this week, this morning we were shocked and greatly saddened ¬†to find out that she has passed away. There is no word yet as to what kind of illness took her life so suddenly. She was only 28 years old and leaves behind 2 children! As my dear friend shared the terrible news with me she looked at me with great sadness in her eyes and said, “this is Africa”.

And so I write about my learning journey with the kids last week. The curriculum calls it Health and Career: injury prevention and personal safety, Social Studies: communities, and global economics, Math: money, comparing quantities and addition and subtraction. We call it “life in Africa” and the sad reality of 2 less humans in the world this week. RIP Anna and the nameless others whose lives are snuffed out too early.

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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!

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,

IMG_2375¬†to huge steam powered tractors…

IMG_2370¬†… to trucks and cars!

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

Crafting, Patterning and Play

This week we had another look at our littles in their play zone. They have so much fun together!

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We are so blessed to have the talent and ministry of Ms. K and Ms. J working with our littles each week. We can see the love they have for our kids and our children love them in return! 

 

Ms. M wore a beautiful African dress and is continuing to focus on the virtue of truth and introduced an African fable about selfishness.  She did an African song with the children which they loved! 
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The children were able to play with their Jacob’s ladders again and spent some time placing stickers on them to mark the steps when doing tricks.¬†
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Then a wonderful surprise today with a special puppet theatre and loads of puppets! We continued our African literature study learning about various fables and the lessons that were being presented in them.  The children then split into groups to do a puppet show that taught a lesson, using African animal puppets.

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And our Actors in training took turns putting on shows for the group. 
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Here is our lovely audience showing their attentive listening!
 
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Some of us got very excited during the performance. ūüôā

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For recess today Ms. S and Ms. M took advantage of the dry weather and took the group to the park for playground time and snack.

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Everyone loves the playground!
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After recess, Ms. S presented  a variety of examples of African geometric patterns and instructed the children to decorate their own African birdhouse with geometric patterns. We modelled our work after the artwork in the book African Animals ABC’s.  The children each worked on a miniature bird house using these techniques.  They were incredibly focussed working for over half an hour straight.)
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Here’s an independent inquiry to do with your children: look up pictures of African villages. These little houses look very similar to the grass and stick roofed homes found in the more¬†rural/ traditional African villages.¬†

The children really embraced this project and we saw great diversity in their choice of patterns and colours!¬†While they were colouring Ms. S read them the story of the Greedy Zebra ‚Äď E really enjoyed retelling her brothers the story, she thought it was pretty funny.¬†

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One thing we are really proud of is how our children are becoming encouragers.  We have modelled walking around to gain inspiration from one another’s art work and pointing out the great thing that each child is doing.  Today we heard so many encouraging comments and compliments that were unsolicited by us, and were so uplifting to the students.

For closing circle Ms. M had the kids review all their memory verses from the past months. It was great to see their joy and pride in singing all the verses and seeing that they had learned  so many! 

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 If I as an earthly parent am filled with joy at these moments, how much more is our father in heaven delighted by the love our children are developing for him!!

 

Ubuntu! Bringing African philosophy around the World

This week our co-op travelled to South Africa! We had a display featuring some African arts, crafts and animals to set the stage for our journey and the word of the day was: UBUNTU
Ubuntu is a Zulu word that does not translate directly into English. The best definition I found was: “we are all family, belonging to God.” You see, Ubuntu is a concept rather than a word and this concept means that one person should never do something selfish because it would impact another member of their community negatively, or even better one can say that this word translates to “love your neighbour as yourself!” What a great summary of all the wonderful virtues are children are learning this year!

In circle time this week the children talked about the virtue of Honesty and Ms. M & Ms. C role-played a demonstration how even silence can be dishonest if you do not speak the truth when needed. Bible verse this week: Proverbs 12:19

 
We had a fantastic slide show from some far away friends telling us all about their life in South Africa and some special treats that they sent for us to enjoy! 
RECESS! With the glorious sunshine we spent about 20 minutes outside getting our vitamin D and practising our South African sports – soccer! We also learned about Cricket and had a brief discussion of how Rugby is played but due to the rather violent nature of Rugby opted to stick with soccer ūüôā

In our discussion we talked about poverty in South Africa and as a hands-on experience of the innovations people can come up with, we played with a “ball” made from plastic grocery bags and string. We encouraged the children to think about how they can reuse things they have in their house for new purposes and hope you will all be upcycling all kinds of interesting things! ūüôā Please share pics and stories of any creations you make!!

Some observations after comparing the real soccer ball with our home-made one were: it doesn’t roll away too far, it is lighter and more fun to kick and easier to control. A great tool perhaps for teaching younger children some kicking skills without spending all your time corralling the ball! ūüôā
 
After recess we learned about the African tradition of weaving and the children created their own book-covers and baskets.
 
 
Instructions for weaving the basic mat:
 
1) Using a piece of card-stock, fold in half and cut from the middle toward the edges stopping the cut about 2 cm from the edge of the paper.
2) Repeat all the way down so you have a folded piece of paper with a rows of slits going from top to bottom.
3) Taking strips of paper scraps weave them between the rows in an over-under-over-under pattern until each strip is fed all the way through.
4) Repeat this action with another strip of paper reversing the order from the previous piece (ie: under-over-under-over…)
5) Continue feeding strips through the slots in an alternating order and wiggle strips over until they are quite snug to each other and you have filled the page
6) Glue all the loose ends to the card then trim off any excess paper
 The kids were focussed and really industrious with creating these beautiful pieces!
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 The skills in this activity were patterning (MATH), Three-dimensional art with found materials, paper craft, (ART), and great fine motor skill development (PE).


 
Instructions for turning your woven mat into a basket:
 
2) Figure out how tall the sides will be (ie, does the child want a taller/narrower basket or a wider/shallower one?)
2) fold the edges over to show where the sides will be
3) carefully cut in from each end to make three sections, and try not to cut along an existing slot rather cut just over on the card stock as it will be stronger
4) taking the outer flaps, you should be able to pull them toward the center and over lap them to create a 3d square. Glue the 2 outer flaps together
5) Lift the 3rd middle flap and glue it to the other two flaps creating the outside “cap” piece to the basket (you can also staple them)
6) repeat on the other side and you should now have an open basket without a handle
7) to make the handle take an extra strip of cardstock and glue a strip of paper on the outside or colour to decorate
8) Cut a small slit in each end
9) put one side of the slit on the inside of the basket and one on the outside then glue, tape or staple it to the base
10) repeat on the other side and your basket should be done!


Next, as part of our ARTs PLOs; (create movement sequence based on patterns, move safely in both personal space and general space, move in a variety of levels, move in time to a variety of rhythms), Ms. C taught the children the beginning steps of the African Gumboot Dance. Here is the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdvD5E4rZoE
Gumboot Dance Breakdown:
 
1) Quick hopping step of RIGHT – LEFT- RIGHT
2) cross right leg behind left and slap the sole of the right foot with your left hand
3) slap left thigh – right thigh – stomp right foot down – clap hands
 
do the above sequence 3 times then transition with the hop step (1) to the next move
 
4) criss cross arms while kicking right leg up and shout HA!
5) criss cross arms kicking left leg up and shouting HA!’
6) kick right leg and clap under knee while shouting HA! 

The tradition of this dance comes from men working in the mines and shuffling in and out of the tunnels while slapping out a marching rhythm on their gumboots!

 
We also learned some other South African words today: “a monkey’s wedding” – raining when it’s sunny, “robot”- a traffic light, and “Mbube”- lion
 
We played a game at the end of our lesson called Mbube, Mbube where 2 children were blindfolded while the rest formed a circle around them. One child was the lion and the other was the antelope. ¬†The kids would say Mbube Mbube softly if the lion was far away from the antelope and louder as the lion got closer. The lion’s job was to catch the antelope while the antelope could try to hide ¬†or keep away. They all enjoyed the game and loved switching roles and taking turns being in the centre!¬†
That was our day at co-op! The rest of the week looks to be good so stay tuned for more home learning adventures!

January around the World – Looking at the Southern Hemisphere

Today’s co-op was special because E ¬†got to stay in her PJ’s!!! ¬†And you know how much kids love that. ¬†Mrs. M led a great circle time with show and tell, our virtues of compassion and courage, and of course a bedtime story (and a dance:) ¬†How many of you dance before bed? A great time was had by all reading and acting out the story Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton. Our verse this week is: Phil. 4:13.

After circle time the kids shared their post card from Australia. ¬†It was great to listen to what they could discover from the cards. ¬†We then read the letter from Sam and Sophia to learn about their adventure in Australia. The kids learned about animal¬†habitats – and unique features of animals of Australia – mammals, marsupials, and monotones.¬†The grade one and two’s were then given a research assignment to pick and learn about one Australian animal. ¬†Using books and the internet they are to write point form things they discover about habitat, unique features of how they look, what they eat, how the move, how they reproduce, etc. ¬†This is now a homework assignment to finish over the next 2 weeks.

We practised our 3Rs by reusing toilet paper rolls to make Koala bears. The kids used a template and paint to create the craft. There were lots of take home worksheets this week including a kangaroo print-out  that E enjoyed using to make australian dot art Рusing a Q tip for the paint ( they saw an example of one from the Sam & Sophia travel kit).  She loves learning about different art techniques and it was interesting to see and practise this form after looking at Seurat and Le Grande Jatte in detail during our French unit! It might be fun to expand this art lesson into a global investigation of painting styles around the world that use circles or dots primarily in the composition of their pieces.

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Tuesday we worked on some spelling tasks, and patterning in math and some outside time playing soccer with her brother then finished the day with swimming lessons.

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Wednesday E was a childcare helper at a church program that we went to in the morning then in the afternoon E practised her independent reading and then we had a great dance party for PE just before supper! Our current favourite song is Waka Waka by Shakira as we love the African sound of the song and the kids like singing the words Waka Waka because it sounds silly ūüôā

Thursday ¬†E started the day with piano lessons. She ¬†has been making excellent progress and has on average learned 3 new songs each week! We have started using the RAZ kids website for our reading program. E loves reading the stories and recording herself and is enjoying playing back her recordings for her brothers as well. She is also continuing with her poetry memorization program. This week E and her brother learned The Man who Wasn’t There by Hugh Mearnes and Singing Time by Robert Louis Stevenson. We have also started a French Program called Little Pim and began watching the dvds and doing the flash card exercises.

Friday we focussed on math doing some patterning activities on the practice section of Math iXL and the following websites: http://www.coolmath-games.com/0-patternmemory/index.html E was able to work on the Math iXL and Coolmath games independently and easily filled in the missing spaces in repeating patterns with 2 and 3 variables in a variety of number, colour and shape sequences.

http://www.free-training-tutorial.com/math-games/sequences-line-dry.html?1&

She found the Line Dry patterns quite difficult and although understood the concept of having a repeating interval number she needed assistance with each series picking out the interval from the 3 digit numbers. I think these patterns are above our local grade expectations so we just used it as enrichment.

Wrapping up the week with some great social time we had a wonderful creative evening with musical friends on Friday, invited our neighbours over on Saturday and explained the concept of missions in your backyard then took it global attending Missions Fest for the afternoon and evening. E really enjoyed looking at all the booths in the exhibitor hall and the children’s programs. She was given a passport with information about missionaries around the world and also acquired a prayer bracelet to encourage prayer for global workers, the poor and oppressed around the world, and more specifically widows and orphans in Uganda.

It was a great week!