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!

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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

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!

Presenting Australian Animals! Feb. 4-9th

So this week at co-op our verse was Deut. 31:6 and the last week learning about courage. After opening circle, we shared our presentations and E finally got to present her research on Emu’s. She practised her audience skills with active listening, asking relevant questions, and showing appreciation and respect to the speaker.IMG_8677

When it was her turn, E spoke clearly and showed enthusiasm for some parts of her topic. Unfortunately she placed her notes on the table on the table behind her so spent the first part of her presentation with her back to the audience 😦 When reminded,  she pulled her notes out and faced her audience with good expression and volume. She was so excited to share her Emu egg, feather and prepared Emu meat with the other children!

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At recess we carried on our Australian theme with “What time is it Mr/Ms Koala/ Kangaroo/Dingo…” When the appropriate moment arose the chosen animal would shout “Tea Time!” We had a great running game and finished up with some laps around the parking lot, jumping jacks and then a stretch to keep us limber.

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Before co-op ended we also shared a special treat called Lamingtons. This is supposedly the national dessert of Australia and the recipe can be found under the food tab on the left.

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Following co-op E had another great week of theatre camp where she is learning songs and selected dialogue from several well-known musicals such as Annie, Charlie Brown, and Peter Pan. We love her Miss. Hannigan impressions!

Tuesday we celebrated International Pancake Day with lots of family baking time! E is becoming very adept at reading and following a recipe and shows good safety awareness at the stove. She is consistently able to measure ingredients for a recipe using imperial and metric systems. E is also beginning to convert her measurements when necessary to use the tools available. ie: if the 1 cup measure is dirty E is learning that she can use 2x 1/2 cup measures or 4 x 1/4 cup measures.

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Tuesday night we had swimming lessons and some playtime in the pool afterward.

Wednesday was a time for more math as E practised patterning on Math iXL

Thursday we focussed on literacy with our weekly trip to the library and E had her final swimming lesson. She passed her level with flying colours and is excited to proceed to the next.

Friday was our cleaning, packing and organizing day. E is developing good personal habits in being responsible for her own room and is starting to help with laundry. After our morning chores were done, E attended a Valentine’s party at a homeschooling friend’s house.

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Saturday we headed off on a small road trip to celebrate E’s Great-Grandma’s 80th birthday! It was fun to drive over the mountains and observe the difference in temperature and weather on our drive. When we stopped at the top of a high mountain pass to use the facilities there was a huge bank of snow covering the edge of the building up to the eaves!

E had a fun-filled weekend with cousins, cuddling up to e-books & games, cuddling Papa, and swimming at the hotel.

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E was happy to show Great-Grandma her growing skill as a reader and some of the projects she’s been working on.

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E was delighted to honour the family tradition of a special tea party with Great-Grandma and her cousin G and her Mama. Usually these tea parties are just for E and her GG but this one was extra special! We always practise our best manners with GG and this tea party E spent time asking some good questions about when GG was a little girl and found out all kinds of interesting things about life 70 odd years ago! GG rode a horse to school without a saddle, she had 11 younger siblings and she didn’t have water in a tap, she had to carry it from the spring in a bucket!

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Finally the best way to wrap up a weekend in a sunny and snowy location was sledding on pieces of cardboard, the most timeless of childhood toys! 🙂

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