Metamorphosis

How do you respond to changing seasons? We are experiencing change in many seasons right now; the weather in SA  is shifting from summer to autumn, our family is preparing to return to life in Canada and our children are changing and growing in so many ways. I have to admit, I’m not always good at change. I love going new places, meeting new people and having new experiences… within a controlled, predictable and generally reliable context. For example going on a holiday to the beach, staying in a nice hotel and eating great food is always a fun change. However, I know I will come back to my known life at the end of the holiday. As we begin our transition out of SA back to CA, I am faced with the great  unknown again. I have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends we’ve made, the beautiful country and the warm sunny climate. I am excited to return to family and friends but also nervous about re-entry into our life there. The kid’s friends will have new social dynamics, my friends will have their own routines and we will be coming back to rainy days and a big house to clean. First world problems entirely, but this blog is where I share our joys and struggles and we are at a bittersweet time right now caught between changing worlds.

We are always ready to go out and enjoy the local fauna and flora. This is a local Cheetah breeding project. We went on a tour of the Cheetah enclosures and listened to the tour guide tell us about Cheetah breeding habits and what factors most seem to determine their survival and ability to thrive in the wild.IMG_0300 The beautiful King Cheetah is a  rare recessive genetic colour pattern. We found out that the reason they are so rare is twofold; first of all they only occur when a mating pair each carry the recessive gene, and secondly this pattern does not actually camouflage as well with the landscape so consequently they are usually unable to hunt as well or are more easily spotted by other predators such as hyaenas.IMG_0292To compare the two here is a typical cheetah colour pattern.IMG_0305D has been taking tennis lessons much to his delight.IMG_0278He loves the activity and even more, loves his friends K and C who are in the same class.IMG_0282 We made our monthly rounds of the zoo for E’s honey badgers program. It was a cold rainy day this week so we spent a bit of time hiding under the umbrellas at the cafe…IMG_0359 …with hot chocolate of course!IMG_0332Despite the rain the animals were out and about and we had some great viewing of animals we don’t always see on sunny days.IMG_0382E’s s group stayed mostly indoors learning about bats and doing more paper-based tasks.IMG_0391E practised her reading aloud with some story time for the younger kids.IMG_0412Our beautiful sweet potato vine is finally living outdoors in a pot.IMG_0442This is the jungle gym  at our house and in all this rain we have to get out and play whenever the sun comes out for a few minutes.IMG_0452

We have been so blessed in our time here in SA. We’ve connected with a vibrant and diverse homeschooling community with many social learning opportunities as well as just making great friends. We did an art co-op with another family this week.IMG_0518 Who doesn’t love to play with finger paint??IMG_0525 IMG_0529 Tying into our pioneer/voortrekker theme we have been working on an multidicipinary project; a paper quilt using symmetry, geometry colour, pattern and line. I explained to the children that pioneers were very frugal and because they couldn’t always buy new things they learned to make most items for themselves. They used small scraps of fabric to make quilts out of whatever they had. The use of pattern was a way to beautify their simple, rustic homes and express their own creativity. It also gave them an activity to fill their time during long evenings or days indoors during winter. IMG_0533 We went to our last homeschool skating time 😦 IMG_0543 One of the highlights at skating is hot chips with lots of tomato sauce or as we would say in Canada; fries smothered in ketchup!IMG_0547 Ending our week we had a joint dinner with two families who have been dear friends to us here. Between our families we represent, British SA, Afrikaans SA, Italy, England and of course Canada.IMG_0557 The 3 musketeers!IMG_0578 And what dinner party would be complete without Kareoke? C rocked out the Afrikaans alt/country beat!IMG_0592 Sweet A singing a beautiful rendition of Norah JonesIMG_0614 Me pretending to a be an 80s rock star with Summer of 69, LOL!IMG_0615A mother-daughter moment with Abba!IMG_0621 These times together have been rich. full of laughter, heart sharing, growing and simply sharing our lives together. This morning we slept in after the late night last night and I watched E and her dad cuddle at the breakfast table  with a full heart. This life I have is so good! How can I measure the value of these days? The answer is that I simply can’t, these moments are priceless. Today is Sunday and I am counting the 1000+ gifts in my life and feeling profoundly grateful. IMG_0639Change will happen and we will adjust and choose gratitude wherever we find ourselves.

Finding Our Way

First to apologize for the delay on this post. It turns out my computer doesn’t like the number of pictures I’ve been taking and forcing it to store, as a result I have been negotiating with the mac-no-brain and trying to troubleshoot the problem. 🙂

This week was full of fun and learning. E and D are getting the swing of how things work  in Africa. D has begun to adopt the accent and E is determined to learn Afrikaans! It is fun watching them adapt to their new environment and accept the differences from what they’re used to.

It helps that we have this lovely pool around the corner from our house!

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And D loves playball, a mixed sports group that he participates in after nursery school once a week.IMG_2618

Then there are the trips to the shopping centres, restaurants and general fun out and abouting that we get to do.IMG_2658

I think it would be difficult for them not to enjoy themselves given the glorious weather and fantastic people here. We have tried to prioritize weekends for some family time and broader exploration so on Saturday we went for a hike at a nearby nature reserve. We saw some kind of bok (deer), and many colourful birds. This is a glossy starling. IMG_6090

They had an interactive model of the solar system showing the scale of the different planets and here the kids are enjoying climbing into the “sun”. IMG_6095
The anthills are always facinating as they are so huge! We often see both the closed and open variety and we had a good discussion of which animals would likely be in the area that would eat ants. They have pangolins ,(http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_pangolin.html), and aardvarks, (http://www.diffen.com/difference/Aardvark_vs_Anteater), here so it is fun to try and identify spoor and discuss the possibilities.

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jWe primarily chose this site to explore because of its proximity but once there discovered that it was also the original site of the first gold strike in SA. Now that’s a whole pile of history and social issues that we haven’t gotten into with the kids yet!!! This country has such an intricately woven tapestry of stories and we hope to at least learn with our children to identify the different threads and try and understand how the past of this place deeply affects the present. IMG_6114

We are fortunate to be here, and even more so to be here as Canadians with our strange accent that causes people to ask us where we are from constantly. We are spared the tensions that others who are born here experience daily as they struggle with ever-changing political and economic system. To have dark skin may be an advantage in the professional world, however, many black South Africans are still trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, overcrowding, poor education and violence while white South Africans largely enjoy a higher standard of living. This is of course tied to history and geo-politics of the 20th century. E and I are beginning a  research project to learn more about Apartheid and what actually happened. We have the opportunity of collecting primary research through interviews and museums and we want to genuinely understand the emotional climate that we find ourselves in.IMG_6123

South Africans, black and white alike, share some amazing values that are demonstrated by the meerkats. These meerkats (sorry I just cant get enough of these guys :), have amazing family ties and community relationships. The adults are all extremely protective of their young and despite their small size they can defend themselves against deadly snakes and larger predators by using their god-given abilities and working together. IMG_6148One of the strongest first impressions I had of South African culture is the way it values children. I was struck by how many terms of endearments people used with their children and how rarely I heard a parent rebuke their child. If the child was acting inappropriately the parents were often firm but gentle and constantly reaffirmed the child’s value even as they corrected them. I have to admit that I am not a patient parent and so I was really convicted as I saw this patience and acceptance of children here. I have so much hope for this country that a collection of people who value their children and can show so much kindness to these little ones, can somehow find a way to show kindness to each other as adults too!

 

Getting our Game on

Life here is starting to get hectic as we plug in with so many great opportunities around us! E and I did Christmas shopping on Monday to send a parcel with our friend who was flying to the US this week. It was fun to pick out special items for our family and to be done the majority of my Christmas shopping at such an early stage! 🙂Image

The following day E was able to join in with a local program called Honey Badgers at the zoo. IMG_5712

One of the many things this group does is participate in the care of the animals and so with the proper safety precautions, (the keepers put the animals into the locked section of their enclosures), E was able to make a fruit/bamboo kebab for the baboons then the kids were allowed into the enclosure to hide the food for the baboons to find.IMG_5727 IMG_5724

IMG_5746And this is why the baboons needed to be locked up before the kids were allowed in, check out the canines on this big boy!!! The baboon below is the dominant male in the Hamydras baboon troop. We learned that the male Chacma or Cape baboons actually have longer canines than a lion, YIKES!!! IMG_5718E had a great time connecting with her new friends from ice-skating and seeing the zoo. She listened to a presentation on owls and was able to observe a Southern White-faced Scops owl close up then followed up with a short research assignment about South African owls. (For more info check out this website: http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Ptilopsis&species=granti )IMG_5893

Here are E and her new friends posing with… can you figure out what kind of skull this is?IMG_5843

The flora and fauna here is lovely and exotic to our Canadian eyes!  This flower is called Buddleja, and is indigenous to South AfricaIMG_5866

These meerkats were vigilant in their guard duty!IMG_5828

E also joined the sports program at a Christian school around the corner from our house. She will be swimming and playing tennis 4 days a week for the school terms that we are here for. She enjoys it immensely and the pool has a lovely baby pool where the kiddos can splash about after lessons. We are continuing with our math and language programs in the mornings but our science and socials has really been exploring our new environment.

We wrapped up our week with a trip to another homeschooler gathering at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day with new families to meet. IMG_5936What fun is it to explore a garden without getting dirty in the process?IMG_5987

And again, the flora and fauna here is just stunning! We have yet to find out what kind of bird and butterfly these are.IMG_5961IMG_6008

South Africa is a place of such beauty in landscape and people. We are all learning so much and enjoying the journey!IMG_5908

Can Learning be Fun too?

Due to a new stat holiday and a public school holiday this was a short week for school attenders but our home-learning journey continues along it’s regular ambling path! We drove home from our trip to see family on Monday so filled our car ride with ipad apps, audio books and sleep.

Tuesday we repacked our suitcases and jumped in the car for a spontaneous get-away by ourselves. We drove to a beautiful lake with a natural hot spring and spent 48 glorious hours floating in the steaming pools outdoors in the rain and sunshine! We met a family from Zimbabwe who told us wonderful stories about Africa and it’s incredible environment!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! We spent a much needed day at home doing the everyday chores of life. We had a great time finding our family Valentine’s surprises and E was such a caring sister she read her brothers’ cards to them before she even cracked her own!

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For some added Valentine’s fun, E helped me make some special V-day pancakes! Pink pancake anyone? 🙂 We put blended strawberries and bananas in the batter than added pink food colouring for some real pop and chocolate chips because these were sweet treats for our sweeties after all! 🙂

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E and her brother worked on Canadian maps together following a colour key to identify the provinces and labelling them.

Friday was clean up day and chores routines to accomplish, however, after a week away it was pretty light duty so we collected our middle one from pre-school along with a friend and headed off to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the zoo! The day was a perfect spring day with sun-soaked earth warming our tired-of-winter feet! I know in this part of the country there is no real winter to complain of, but the often grey skies do wear us down sometimes, and as we emerge from our dens blinking into that dazzling orb in the sky, we are overwhelmed with the blessing of sunlight!

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The weather held for the weekend and we enjoyed it immensely. Somehow, I feel refreshed and ready for another week of adventurous learning. Tonight we have a family member arriving for a visit so home learning will be full of twists and turns as we enjoy our time with him, but that is the wonderful thing about this learning exploration from home – it’s a wonderful journey and we know to enjoy the path as much as the destination!

Sunshine and smiles to you!

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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January 28 – February 1 2013 – Life Down Under

This week is all about the wonderful world of Oz, aka: Australia. We started the week with a co-op lesson on the Great Barrier Reef and dot paintings of tropical fish

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Then following co-op E was immersed in the world of theatre with stretching, singing, memorizing lines and learning choreography.

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Tuesday we used research we collected last week and began creating a poster for E’s presentation on Emu’s next week. She is creating a presentation board that shows the Emu in it’s habitat and uses an interactive display to give additional info about Emus and their life cycle. Swimming lessons followed by a family swim at the end of the day made for a late night and an exhausted girly!

This is the website for the language dvds we are using. Even though they are intended for a young audience E seems to enjoy them and is remembering a lot of vocab. We have mostly French but I bought one Spanish and would like to work on that as well;

http://www.push44.com/hokx11a5

Wednesday I had a meeting in the morning so it was time with Dad and some more emu research. We have been incorporating more electronic mediums into our school program and with the arrival of E’s school ipad it has been a whole new learning world for us. We are using Math IXL for patterning activities and Raz Kids for reading as well as ibooks and Kindle e-books. We have installed Overdrive and hope to begin using our DL e-library as well. E is enjoying reading so much now and is making great strides across the curriculum! PE today was our suppertime dance party and for supper in the spirit of research we had some delicious Emu Steak!

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Thursday we started the morning with piano lessons then worked on E’s research project board. She is also working on organizing her information into an outline for her presentation. Swimming lessons at the end of the day for PE.

Friday morning was full of errands then we headed to E’s grandparents for a night spent playing with cousins and her brothers!

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Saturday brought our final research exercise with a trip to the zoo to visit the emus and check out what kinds of props we might procure

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Emu scat, actually an important feature of E’s presentation and yes this is a gross pic!

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A curious Roosevelt Elk wondering what we were up to when all the other visitors appeared to be gone for the day.

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Bald Eagles are native to our area and we see them frequently at this time of year. Their nests are always so dramatic that I just can’t resist taking pics of them.

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This is actually an Ostrich egg and we are hoping we will be able to find an Emu egg for next week but if not, this will be a size comparison at least. How many people would 1 Ostrich Egg Omelette feed?

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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.