Time flies when you’re having fun!

Another post after weeks of absence and time to regroup! We have been touring this beautiful country again this time with some intrepid grand-parents from Canada. IMG_9520We went to visit the Rhino and Lion Park again: a hungry lion/ ngonyama approaching his dinner.IMG_9220 we so enjoy these incredible views of some of the harder animals to see in the open veld/bush. Cheetahs are such graceful animals and I think they might be my favourite 🙂IMG_9248We found this baby leopard tortoise/ mfutsu crossing the road. We gently helped it safely clear the road and held it for a few minutes.IMG_9363Elands are the larges antelope in SA and are called impofu – the humble one.IMG_9289

Although in captivity, these rare white lions are protected and breeding well in this park. It is with mixed feelings that we participated in the “pet the cubs” creche. The cubs are being hand reared and are regularly exposed to human contact. They are not likely to be released into the wild so the impact of this contact is probably negligible. The wild territories these animals once enjoyed are restricted now to game parks with limited capacities.

I enjoy zoos and aquariums so that my children can experience animals they might never otherwise see so closely. In the wake of recent media attention and the documentary Blackfish,  I have become more concerned about the prioritization of feeding the public appetite for such things over the well-being and general health of the animals. This is my current dilemma as we try to teach our children about God’s beautiful creation and how to be good stewards in caring for our environment and the many creatures within. How do you respond to the questions of viewing/ supporting facilities that keep animals in captivity?IMG_9393From the Rhino and Lion Park we picked up Daddy and drove up, up, up, into the mountains. To show our BC family that Africa too has some respectable mountains of it’s own! We drove through rain and fog beside frightfully unknown drop-offs following the taillights of a taxi ahead that seemed to know the way. We arrived in the dark and woke up to a blanket of clouds so instead of our planned hike to a scenic lookout, the kids went horseback riding instead!USER0938IMG_9487 Later the clouds cleared a little and we went for a short hike to the waterfall pools. We got to see this troop of wild baboons/ imfene(s) along the way, (from a safe distance of course 🙂IMG_9538 Sunrise the next morning was a riot of colour and beauty!IMG_9546 The Drakensberg mountains are stunning in their full glory and we soaked in the serenity and majesty of the landscape!IMG_9552IMG_9553IMG_9566One of the great things about touring SA by car is the opportunity to see these traditional Zulu villages scattered over the hillsides.USER1051Cars also provide some important family memories as we let the kids take turns on various laps while on game drives. (*** We only allow this on game drives as we are inside a park with speed limits of 20km per hour or less and little to no opposing traffic).IMG_0205The reality of another road trip and visiting with special people was that a little less bookwork got done. However, life is a learning journey and as the kids grab onto their field experience with both hands we are seeing them really develop a strong knowledge of South African flora and fauna! We are continuing our quest to learn the Zulu names for every animal we see and try to use only Zulu names when spotting game in the bush. If you would like to learn more about the interesting cultural perceptions of different animals and associated idioms go to this page: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-2-1-animals-name-18978.html (if that link doesn’t work then google Zulu names for animals). D is especially quick to remember the names and seems to have an aptitude for language. E remembers more complex info about the individual creatures such as their proper classification and habitat details. She can tell you how many muscles and elephant has in its trunk, (40,000), why it has such wrinkled skin (helps trap water and make it evaporate slowly thereby cooling the elephant off) and how elephants / indlovus communicate.

A very full croc/ ngwenya relaxing on the shore. I love the zulu name for Croc since my sister is named Gwen and after reading the zulu idioms about crocs I am choosing this one for her: “kuva ngwenya emtini” -to be a champion fighter 🙂IMG_0191Southern Yellow HornbillsIMG_0208FrancolinIMG_0217European Bee-EatersIMG_0220  Herd of Indlovus at sunsetIMG_9717 African fish eagleIMG_9813 Snorkeling with Papa in the Indian Ocean.IMG_9884 We don’t know if this is an albino or natural colour variation of a rare Samango monkey. IMG_9924 Normally they look more like this:IMG_9913Rare Canadian monkeys at the seaside in Febrary 🙂IMG_9937 Baby vervet monkeyIMG_9963 Mother and baby, in any species this is always beautiful!IMG_9991

Science experiments in the garden are always a favourite! We learned about fat solubility and tested out a variety of liquids the kids suggested to determine what would happen with different ingredients. Milk produced the most satisfying result!IMG_0222IMG_0224IMG_0229as we prepared to say goodbye to Nana and Papa, we went out to an African themed restaurant with face painting and live music.IMG_0263IMG_0267IMG_0272We all enjoyed the exotic meals of roasted Springbok Shank, Oxtail Stew and Ostrich steak and the kids were pretty willing to be adventurous too. E had a few qualms about eating the national animal, (Springbok), IMG_9298but D decided that it tasted pretty good!

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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!

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?

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!

January Swing (7-21, 2013)

Co-op this week was another look at French traditions and more creative fundraising for global poverty initiatives.

First off in our scripture circle time, the children started off with repeating the song from Isa. 54:10 and came up with some action ideas then divided into 4 groups where they practiced a mini play to show the others how to show compassion to others in our life.

Ms M taught the children how to make Jacob’s Ladder toys and then Ms M & Ms S turned the room into a factory giving the children specific roles at designated stations and thereby demonstrating the actual realities of mass production and the global economy. After snack we started our work in the production line for our Jacob’s ladders. The word that Ms S. pointed out was precision. At each table the children were reminded that precision in each task was important for the ladders to be working properly. There was a measuring, cutting, gluing, and sticking table and numerous helpers that made deliveries from one table to the other.

We ‘worked’ until the kids were tired at 12pm. Our ‘sweat shop’ was humane and actually enjoyable but it will set a foundation of understanding for child labour and poor working conditions in the developing world and hopefully helped to foster the compassion for those children that we want to encourage in our children. We talked about money in France and learned about Euros versus Canadian dollars. As an extension activity the kids drew some Euros  and visited a store to ‘buy’ a Jacob’s Ladder using the french they had learned earlier(greeting, colours and numbers). The coins they made had to add up to 5 Euros. Finally Ms. S read a story about a cat that walked through France, revisiting several facts that the kids had heard from that country before.

In Math E worked on creating bar graphs of the survey data that she had collected last week. She learned how to set up the graph, display the necessary information and make the graph easy to understand. She also saw how much more effective our 2 variable question was in a graph versus the open-ended questions that had a large variety of responses.IMG_8302

We had swimming lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, and piano lesson on Thursday then wrapped up our week with a trip to the Aquarium on Friday. It was a great science outing with a presentation on Bioluminescence. E really enjoyed the demonstrations and discussion of bioluminescence, electric light, incandescent light and fluorescing light.

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Next we were able to attend another presentation about the realities and myths about sharks versus humans. The presenter started off with common assumptions about sharks ie, they are faster, they attack/ kill many humans each year, and they are bigger than humans. Then working co-operatively with a diver in the shark exhibit, the presenter refuted each of those claims and showed us that people generally move faster than sharks (in boats), in general we are 2x as big (average shark is less than 1m long), and current numbers show 100 MILLION sharks are killed each year by humans!! Conclusion: sharks have far more to fear from humans than humans have to fear from sharks.

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Last we went to the 4D show on the Salmon run and learned what an important role these fish play in our ecosystem. The film showed the complete life cycle of the salmon and the importance their spawning run plays in the life cycle of other creatures like bears and eagles.

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And an exciting feature of this trip to the aquarium was a QR code scavenger hunt where the kids searched each exhibit for the QR code symbol then answered the questions or found different items in the display. It was a great interactive feature and engaged the children’s interest in a new way.

We also enjoyed the new penguin exhibit and the kids are excited to make a weekend trip to Cape Town when we go to SA to see the African penguins that we learned about!

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Independent reading this week E has logged: Silent Kay & the Dragon (Larry Dane Brimner), How to Drive Your Sister Crazy (Diane Z. Shore) and E is working her way through Tintin; Destination Moon independently as well. She usually reads about 5 or so pages in a sitting but is really chugging along with it and only has trouble with the cursive writing in some of the insets.

Nov. 12-17

A long weekend Monday was the perfect chance for us to settle in at home and get back into routine after our extended holiday. We worked on cardinal directions and mapping and then spent time doing some writing and our favourite math dice game. It was a rainy dreary day with lots of housework to do so not much in the way of pictures today.

Tuesday we worked at finishing up some of the tasks in our travel journals and in seeking to find out the proper pronunciation for Neuwanstein Castle ended up watching a great YouTube video about King Ludwig the mad king of Bavaria. For the afternoon E and her brother experimented with structures and different materials making themselves a reading fort complete with booby traps all around to foil the infamous book bandits!

E is really enjoying Mo Willems’ books and is reading them to herself and her brothers all the time. She has renamed Gerald the Elephant Grandall. It started as an accidental mispronunciation but she has decided she likes her name for him best so she substitutes it into the text.

Wednesday E and her brother did some fun math by playing Crazy 8s, math puzzles and Math Bingo.

We are in a short session for swimming lessons and E is working on her front crawl technique.

Thursday we restarted piano lessons and E is making excellent progress. She is now learning some Christmas songs and really enjoys singing and accompanying herself. We had friends over after for some important social connection time.

On the weekend we had a science fest and conducted a couple of different kitchen experiments. First we learned about vacuums and watched an egg get pulled into a bottle. Next we placed an egg into a jar of vinegar and then waited a couple of days to see what would happen. E’s hypothesis was that the egg would be cooked by the vinegar, then as we watched it change, she changed her hypothesis to suggest that it was decomposing in the vinegar. Finally we took it out and investigated what changes had occurred in the egg’s shell and overall structure. E felt it and observed that it was rubbery but still soft. I accidentally dropped the egg into the sink in trying to gently rub off the last grainy bits of the shell and sadly broke the membrane. E was able to examine the membrane and we discussed the chemical changes that had happened to the shell. We plan to repeat the experiment and leave the egg for a longer time to see if it will be less fragile.

That was our week… in an eggshell 🙂