Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Lowdown on Extra Mural Activities

After having posted recently on the extra mural activites that we do as a family which include:
Sport, Creative Expression, Spiritual Growth and Learning Enrichment - some of you spoke to me personally about feeling quite inadequate, lacking in someway in comparison or just feeling overwhelmed.  And so I felt it was important to bring some balance to these articles.  I would like to just emphasise some points which I think are important to consider.
*   Everything doesn't happen all the time or every day. A number of the listed activities only happen once a month, some are only once a week and some are only when I am up to it.  The only activity we do a lot of is Nippers, as their schedule is very busy.  The lists may look long, but the aim of these articles - is to emphasise balance.  We need to consistently weigh up what our children are involved with, so that we don't place special emphasis or have a slanted activity program based on our own interests/like/dislikes.  We need to see the child as a whole and to help grow and develop all aspects of who they are.

Extra murals do not have to cost a lot.  I don't send my children to tennis lessons (though they love it) because we can't afford it.  A lot of the monthly activities cost a minimal amount, and are affordable to us as a family.  Don't get into debt to do activities - and what you can't pay someone to do, you can do yourself.  There was a long time where we couldn't afford swimming lessons and so I found an amazing online program which shows you with online videos and activities, how to teach your child to swim.  It meant having to get into the water with them, and being the instructor - but if you really want them to do it, then do it with them.

Look for open days for museums and local attractions - so many of these places have special deals over off peak seasons/ holidays or specials on public holidays. 

You do, I do - have turns to organised extra mural activities - there are so many fun things you can do if you partner with other moms or if you are part of a co-op.  If you're not - start your own.  Cooking, photography, art, sewing, sculpture, outreach to community projects, volunteering... the list is endless.

Your children are different to mine - obvious but something we all forget.  We are all prone to comparing and forgetting that we are so different.  Don't try and do what we do, because this is the Grant Family not your family.  Even the fact that Sean works from home influences the dynamics of how it all fits together.  He works from home and is therefore able to take time out to do some activities with the children.  Your husband might not be as available or willing after a long day at the office and peak hour traffic.

*   We go through seasons of busy times to quiet times, work and rest, play and learn.  Consider your season and enjoy it!  Just don't go into hibernation:)  Cabin fever is not good for the children and for mom!

 *  Age plays a vital part in your choice of activity.  You may have noticed how many activities we are involved in, but only a few of them are applicable to Ruthie, who is only 4.  She plays more than anything else where ever we go and that's fine.  Soon she too will start Nippers (or Starfish for her age) but for the moment she just wants to play play play. She loves her swimming lessons and she is doing so well. And that's enough for her.

* Location, Location, Location :  when we lived in a little "dorpie" (town for my English readers) in KwaZulu Natal - there was a  lot less places to go to.  Our homeschooling community was also tiny!  But here in False Bay in the Western Cape, homeschoolers are everywhere.  Also if you only have one car, like we do - and Sean takes the car for work (which always gets preference in our house) - we need to be able to get to where the activities are. Now fortunately we live along the train line so we use the train a lot. The children love it and it enables us to go to a lot of  places. However, there are also a lot of places we would  love to go to that we can't when we don't have the car, because sadly in South Africa (yes even in the Western Cape) - a lot of the infrastructure is rather poor.

Building balance into your children's lives - growing them in their relationship with God, their relationship with others, in stature and mind - this is your key.  Don't try and do everything and don't leave one of these things out.  And while you are building balance into their lives - don't forget to do the same for yourself mom - they need you and they need you to be looking after you too.

Have a great weekend filled with new experiences and special moments!

Linking up with Wise Woman Link-Up,  Women Living Well,  Raising Homemakers

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities: Spiritual

I believe that though one's life as a Christian cannot be compartmentalised, it's important to ensure that my children participate in extra curricular activities that are spiritual in nature - that feed their soul, remind them of who they are in God and develop good healthy relationships with the church.  I want to encourage them to enjoy fellowship, the gathering of the saints and being part of a body - at a young age.  We study the word and pray every day with our children but if we relied only our input into their lives, they would be limited in their growth.  This gives them many opportunities to grow, to be challenged, to  learn and to have fellowship.
There are a number of spiritual extra curricular activities our children are involved in on a weekly basis:

Friday we priortize Youth, which for us happens at a local church.  The balance of fun and the gospel is a winning combination for us. It has included carnival days, youth camps and excursions.  Of course if there is a themed holiday club we are the first to sign up. I always endeavour to find Christian based activities that remind them that life with God is not always about struggles and sacrifice but that you can have lots and lots of fun while walking with Him and others.
Life Group
Though our children are not actively involved in our lifegroup (for some of you that might mean Bible Study or Cell Group), again its an opportunity to get together with families in our church and beyond while studying the word, praying and lots and lots of laughter.  The children normally play in the other room but they are very aware of what's going on and they get to spend time with their friends.  And of course cake and chatting afterwards is always a winner.

As parents we are modelling something to our children.  Fellowship, Prayer, Faith, Friendship - the list is endless.  They are often part of worship and prayer, putting into practice some of the things they read about in the Bible or hear in our Bible Study time.
Meaningful relationships are important to adults and children alike.  Though I think you can spend time with almost anyone, our closest friends need to be people who have the same love for God as we do.  This is not exclusive in nature but rather a way to encourage our children to ensure that the people they walk the closest to, are like minded.  It's easy to think that these like minded souls can only be found in your own church or denomination but we have really enjoyed getting to know a number of Christians in the valley who are not members of our church.
Through our other sport, learning enrichment and creative extra mural activities - there are lots of opportunities to build relationally with others, often the activity you are busy with, will keep you from forging deep friendships.  So we need to make time.  And we do.  We limit the number of times we do this in a week, as it can get really busy, so much so that our house is a shambles and my husband has to wait for supper - but we do make a point of scheduling time for friendships every week.

There are moms that I spend time with who are my spiritual sisters and so I love that our children can build lasting relationships with their children.  They might not be the same age but I believe in giving my children the opportunity to build cross- racial, cross- generational and cross -cultural relationships that span a variety of ages.  Older and younger.  A chance to follow and be followed.  Hopefully children that younger children can look up to and friendships with older children who will help them grow and challenge them to greatness.
So those are our spiritual extra curricular activitie, just one type of extra curricular activities we are involved with.
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This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.  We hope you enjoy the
 carnival as much as we have!
This month's blog carnival is being hosted by Trixi's HomeEd Academy

Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities: Creativity

What I often love about extra curricular activities while homeschooling, is that often there are opportunities for the children to engage with other very noble, wise and talented individuals - while Mom gets some head space.  Yes I do need it occasionally. 
Creativity is not one of my strengths but I love artistic expression in different forms.  The more varied, the better.  I don't just want my children to be limited to arts and crafts, though they do that too, but I want them to experience the joy of creating whether its from a piece of wood, beads, paper or wood.  The sky is the limit.  And so where there is an opportunity for creative expression, we do it.
Forget the fancy name - this is all about woodworking (formally - design and technology workshops).  This is a new company based in the Western Cape.  The boys have had the chance to really grow in their creative and handwork skills. So far we've got birdfeeders, plant holders and picture frames, all made out of pine wood and handcrafted.  I love the fact that they get to play with power tools without me having to be around to watch.  I don't think I could bare it.  Normally the group is about 10 large, at someone's house -and we all have turns to bring a snack.  It's a real winner - hammers, nails, drills, sander - and no mom!
Once a week they go to music lessons, where the children are given the opportunity to play all those instruments you and I used to play when we were at school - recorders, xylophones, triangles, tambourines and drums. And they learn the theory of music, playing a variety of instruments - though recorder seems to be the base instrument to learn the theory. You can imagine what practise time sounds like with 3 boys playing recorders when they are not yet fully proficient.  Let's just say that I prefer to be outside hanging up washing during their practise sessions (which says a lot).  And and top of that, Ruthie has her own recorder and just practices artistic expression - a real cacophony.(no that's not a swear word, it means lots of noise - you can relax now)

The children also have further music lessons individually in drumming and guitar. A lot of this is also practised  with online programs and at home.  I don't believe that lessons always need to cost money.  There are so many free online resources available that you can use to help your child grow in this area.
This is an especially fun activity to do.  I have spent large chunks of my afternoons teaching my children to cook, bake and prepare all sorts of delicious treats.  I want to raise my children to be good husbands and wives (and of course - children when they bless their mother with a night off)
I allow them to choose an item to cook, they make the shopping list and then make whatever it is that they have chosen with varied levels of intervention depending on their age.  I have had to deal with overcoming my desire for perfection, and let them get on with their creations - I only help when they ask.  I sometimes ask questions which helps them to stay focused.  It can make the difference between a teaspoon of salt versus a tablespoon - which could be a real problem.  
Cooking at the Dairy Expo with some well known food bloggers
They love this activity so much they fight over who is next.  I hope to continue to inspire them in excellence and creativity in the kitchen, that they will never fear something unknown and be radically adventurous in their choices.  

Cultural Excursions
We love the theatre - be it dance, song, music, ballet, ice skating, fairy tales or dramatic productions of well loved books.  We always try to take our children to at least one theatrical production a term.  It doesn't sound like much but it does get really expensive to pay for a family of 6.  We have also been invited on occasion to review a new show. that would appeal to families with children. which has been a real privilege and a real treat.
Arts and Crafts
This is something we do frequently.  When we can't get out to sport because of the weather, and we are housebound - rather than switch on a television (no matter how tempting that might be), we bring out the art supplies.  Box construction is a firm favourite of the boys.  Lots of boxes of various sizes, lids, glue and paint - and then they are able to make whatever they want.  After a two or three hour session they have designed robots, ships, sailboats, aeroplanes and buildings.  Though my eldest is 11, he still loves this activity.  They initially struggle, as you can seem them having to switch brain hemispheres and off they go.

Often its just a large blank piece of newspaper print and they create a new world, all of them working on one  scene, cities with strange creatures or the jungles of Africa.  In all of this there is just the freedom of expression and the opportunity to create and create and create.  Awesomeness!

So that's extra curricular activities for creative expression, just one type of extra curricular activities we are involved with.
See the other posts on Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities in:
* Sport

This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.  We hope you enjoy the
 carnival as much as we have!
This month's blog carnival is being hosted by Trixi's HomeEd Academy

Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities: Enrichment

As I mentioned before, extra curricular activities play a vital role in bringing balance to our children.  After I have ensured that the children have lots and lots of sporting and physical activities to do, I can then focus on taking my children out into a learning environment.  Learning comes alive when there is an authentic interaction with the subject and this is where our extra curricular activities for enrichment play an important role.  I want my children to love learning.  I want them to find joy in discovering and adventuring and questioning. Sometimes they do a little too much but they are thriving in this environment.  It's all about maintaining a lifestyle of learning.  Sometimes we take notes, sometimes we do report backs, sometimes we just have fun. We never do the same thing in the same way.  But if you ask them questions about what they have learnt you will be amazed at what they remember and their experiences.  
This is our Biology/ Zoology/ History homeschooling Co -Op.  We meet at Cape Point once a month where we study various aspects of Cape Point which is part of the Table Mountain National Park. So far we have studied subjects like fynbos, the history of the Cape, life cycles and food chains and  pollination.  Again this is one of those courses that you can continue with until you are 12.  Then our children can start with the Junior Rangers program which will eventually allow them to be trained up in this field.  It will definitely give them a head start in being trained and equipped to work full time when they are adults, at SanParks.
Science Group
Cape Town Science Centre has got the greatest learning programmes, I could visit and visit and visit.  You can never see everything that there is to see.  I am always finding a new learning experience, activity or item to read about.
Our homeschooling Science Co-Op get together once a month and focus on one aspect of science.  What's great is the children go into a classroom situation and are given science equipment which they then use for a very hands on practical science lesson.  They have made their own steam turbines, electric circuits and worked with magnets.  They also normally attend a big science demonstration in line with what they are learning.  This normally involves lots of bangs, chemicals, smoke and laughter.  And of course once they are finished with the lesson which normally takes about an hour, they spend the rest of the time, making their way through the Cape Town Science Centre and their interactive learning stations.  Who doesn't love science? And this little girl loves it! She spends hours exploring while her brothers are in class.
This is a regular feature on a weekly basis.  It used to be a quick visit - in to fetch books and then out again.  Now it's become a really lengthy visit.  The children love browsing and reading and chatting to friends.  They take out books for home and then read as many as they can while they are there.  Moms take it in turn to read to the little ones.  Friday mornings they do an arts and crafts lesson for little ones and holidays are full of holiday activities.  The librarians know us well and often recommend books for the children to read!  This is definitely a highlight which we really enjoy.

This is also a new addition, we haven't started yet but one of our local homeschooling moms, has set up a program where we will get together twice a month to explore Cape Town. We are excited about this, as its just another opportunity for our children to learn by interacting with their environment.
Other Excursions
There is always someone in the local homeschooling group that likes (in their super duper organised way) to arrange excursions, and if they don't then I do.  There is always learning opportunities available out there.  Most of the enrichment programs take place on a Friday which is perfect because by Friday, this homeschooling mother is exhausted.  And if we are not attending any of the above then we will arrange our own activity.  I believe it's vital to learning for children to interact with their learning material or with learning opportunities in a real and authentic way.  These are highlights for the whole family!

So that's extra curricular activities for enrichment, just one type of extra curricular activities we are involved with.
See the other posts on Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities in:
* Sport

This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.  We hope you enjoy the
 carnival as much as we have!
This month's blog carnival is being hosted by Trixi's HomeEd Academy

Homeschooling and Extra Curricular Activities :Sport

Its difficult to define what are extra curricular activities when everything is considered school in our house.  That's homeschooling, it's a lifestyle of learning - it's not an event.  Chores and meal preparation are life skills, swimming is PE (physical education), fundraising initiatives are entrepreneurial.  But for arguments sake lets assume that extra curricular is anything that requires external involvement or activities.  Though doing these activities is about spending time with friends, its more importantly about maintaining a balance in my  children's life.  
You may have seen that I will be starting a series on Growing up as Jesus did - and it is all about ensuring that all aspects of a child's life are given the opportunity to grow - the spiritual, the physical, the mental and the relational.  When we ignore any  one of these aspects in their development, their growth is stunted.  I am sure you can think of lots of examples of that - the consequences of ignoring anyone of these areas can be harmful.  Of course this is simply put and there is much more complexity to these thoughts.  (for eg mental is not just academic but left brain right brain, physical is not just exercise but food, sleep etc).  However I will keep you in suspense for when we get there!

For now I want to just give you some idea of what we do and when we do it, bearing in mind that I have 3 boys and 1 girl (who forgets she is a girl sometimes!).  There are some of you that think there is no difference - but believe me there is!

And Sport is up first!  Why?  Because in my opinion (after all - my tag line says "A South African homeschooling mother, with an opinion), is that boys spend far too much time in front of television or computers.  So much so, that more and more research is coming to the fore about the detrimental effects of too much screen time.

I have to be intentional in my approach to physical activity.  I am not a natural physically active person, it takes lots and lots of effort to get this lazy body moving, but like I have said before - you need to be who you say you are, and what you tell your children to be.  So if I expect them to be physical then I need to be too.  So my first priority,  when it comes to extra curricular activities is - sport, movement, exercise! And this is how we do it:
Nippers(Junior Lifesavers)
This is our primary sport for the year.  This is a real winner for us.  The season starts in wintery August and finishes in April.  What makes this an especially good sport - is that it builds such confidence, individual ability and team spirit.  Our Nippers coaches are all volunteers but they offer such a wide range of sporting activities within the scope of Nippers.  Swimming, lifesaving, body boarding, malibu, long distance and short distance running are but a few.

The children do a practical and written exams to qualify for each age group and as they get older, these qualifications allow them to be junior lifesavers and ultimately lifesavers.  The qualifications are international which means you can travel the world and work as a lifesaver.  And boys, with their need for competition and all that extra boyhood energy, have the opportunity to participate in monthly competitions.  Once they get to Under 12 level, they can qualify for WP colours.
Sharks you say?  Yes some of you that are reading this have no idea where we stay but we stay in the False Bay area, which has the highest occurrence of great whites in the world. But really they are so looked after - the parents are out there as  deterrents(or shark bait as we often joke), they put up shark deterrent buoys and there is craft which rides up and down to keep an eye on the children in the water.

Our children have really grown in stature in the last 2 years participating in this sport.  With practices ranging from 2 to 5 times a week which includes swimming training in a local school pool, they get lots of opportunities to burn out all that excess energy.  Ruthie will be starting the introduction to Nippers - otherwise known as Starfish, this year - so you'll soon see photographs of her in a wetsuit!
OK so we haven't started this one yet.  I wasn't so sure whether I should include this but just to say that my boys have tried rugby - and we heard horror stories wherever we went.  Metal plates in cheeks, clots on brains, hip and knee replacements because of rugby injuries. Even our doctor said we should avoid rugby. Funny because I love watching the game and my father is an avid supporter but I decided not to knowingly make a decision that could have long term effects on my children's physical well being.  There are some of you that will read this and think, our boys are just not tough enough.  The problem is,  that they are tough enough and do not shy away from any scrum or battle.  And so already in our first match we walked away with a back injury because the opposing team played dirty - and there were even concerns of vertebra injury - so it was really a deciding factor for us.

Now to the actual case of TAG, it's rugby but touch rugby.  So the boys get the chance to enjoy the same fun and interaction but without tackles.  And so we are looking forward to them being able to participate in a sport which they love.
Swimming Lessons
Our children train throughout the year as its vital to maintain fitness levels for Nippers.  And so all of them attend swimming lessons at the Virgin Gym. This works out really well for me, as while they are doing their swimming lesson, I am able to sit and have a coffee.  This can take up to 3 hours as we have to rotate and each child has their own session.
This is not the only swimming they do - this is mostly for learning, stroke correction and improvement.  I then take them 2 to 3 times a week to swim lengths and put into practice some of what they have already learnt.  I have downloaded my own training schedule for the boys, which I then give to them before each practice and they then just swim and swim and swim.

We go to Virgin Gym for swimming but we also go to gym to gym (OK I know that sounds rather obvious) but you get my meaning.  Our children belong to Club V at the gym, which is an activity bases child care facility for children.  They do arts and crafts, Wii, movies, ball games and sports.  But we mostly use this for Ruthie and sometimes Chad.  Otherwise they all head upstairs with their dad.  He then supervises them while they do exercises upstairs.  Though they would love to do weights they don't because they are still too young but I think it's a great opportunity for dad and the boys to do a "manly" activity together while having fun.  He works them hard, and they keep him motivated.  Have I mentioned he has the patience of Job.  (I run off to one of my classes crazy fast paced aerobic classes)
Surfing and Body Boarding
Our children love the ocean and they are in the water any time they get the opportunity. The water is freezing but they put their wetsuits on and head into the water with a body board or a surfboard, rain or shine - winter or summer.  I am a reluctant winter beacher but occasionally  I brave the cold weather and take them to the beach to catch some waves.  And they love Muizenberg as far as surfing goes, and if they aren't catching waves themselves, then they are watching others catch the waves.
Other family based sporting activities
We regularly do activities together as a family - walking along Boyes Drive, climbing various routes up the Table Mountain Nature Reserve, cycling, running on the beach - the list is always growing and it gets more and more creative as we come up with more ideas.  Again, it's all about living the life we tell them they should   live.  We always try and make family activities outdoors if we can help it.
So that's sport in our family, just one type of extra curricular activities we are involved with.

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This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.  We hope you enjoy the
 carnival as much as we have!
This month's blog carnival is being hosted by Trixi's HomeEd Academy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Out and About: The Artscape Theatre: Make Way for Noddy

Saturday morning arrived, and the sky was grey with an occasional downpour.  However we were headed for a morning of entertainment. We were on our way to the Artscape Theatre to watch Make Way for Noddy.  After having attended a previous show, it was time to take the whole family for some holiday entertainment. And though we homeschool and run with a fairly flexible schedule, we generally have holidays when everyone else does because of all the great things there are to do in and around Cape Town.

Make Way for Noddy - was our first significant holiday activity.  As an Enid Blyton fan, this was one production I was looking forward to, having read endless stories about Noddy as a child.  And I wasn't to be disappointed.

With a cast made up mostly of children (ranging from 6 to 12 years!), brightly coloured professional costumes and a beautifully created set - this production caught the attention of the children immediately (and their parents).
This highly entertaining production, consisted of a number of short stories.  As Noddy tries to be kind and considerate, chaos seems to follow him.  And it seems that the goblins Sly and Gobbo are the centre of all mayhem.  Poor Noddy is intent on doing the right thing, while the goblins are determined to sabotage everything he does.  From fake gifts full of rubbish to recruiting other "would be goblins", their antics will have you in stitches.  And Mr Plod, poor Mr Plod - really seems to be 5 steps behind in his investigative skills.

With the assistance of characters like Mrs Skittle and her little Skittles, Clockwork Mouse, Tubby Bear, Dinah Doll (our very own Fish Hoek Primary's Head Girl), Martha Monkey, Tessie Bear,  Pink Cat, the Ladybirds -the cast encouraged the audience to participate actively by standing up and singing and following their actions. Even the more adventurous moms and dads in the audience could be seen mouthing the words and clapping their hands. 
The director responsible for this production,  Cheryl Abromowitz, had been directing productions like this at the Artscape for 20 years!   And this one is one of her most successful shows.Looks like there are lots of Noddy fans out there (all under cover of course).  On a side note, there were LOTS and LOTS of dads, a real family affair.  In fact a number of them were sitting on the floor with their children as enthralled and delighted as their kids were.

All in all a great way to spend a morning as a family and we would highly recommend this has a wholesome family excursion.

 Useful Facts to know:
*  The show is performed in the Artscape Theatre Foyer, which is simply great for the children who can interact with the cast and get up close to the set.
*  It starts at 10:30 am but get there early otherwise you will find yourself clamouring over children and parents to find a place to sit. 
*  Snacks and cooldrinks (and coffees for moms and dads) are on sale but bring cash, there are no card machines.
*  The show is for an hour. Get your snacks and drinks before the production starts.  The children are allowed to munch and drink throughout, and for those that drink lots and lots - the toilets are right there. 
*  Take your camera, even though you are not allowed to take photos during the show, the characters are all available for photographs afterwards.
*  All my children enjoyed this production, but I would definitely think that this is a show for children 10 or under.  Even really little kiddies will love this, as the bright characters and their winning personalities will keep them engaged.  The older actors definitely appeal to the more adult audience (I had a goofy smile on my face the entire hour!) but I know that my boys were very aware of the fact that they were older than a lot of the younger audience.
*  This production comes to a close on the 7th July 2012.
*  Ticket Price is R50, and bookings can be made online.

Thanks to Linette De Kock and Artscape Theatre for hosting our family at this event.  This was a great family event for all of us!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reasons I love Twitter

I didn't get into this tweeting thing quickly, I Facebook more than I tweet.   Maybe it's because I enjoy looking at everyone's photographs and I understand most of the comments.  Whenever I went to look at my home page in twitter there were all these ###### and @@@ and tinyurl?  And this just looked like a lot of rather random individuals who were swearing comic book style.  Of course, my confusion has lessened (to some degree) and I enjoy reading and following a number of tweeters.

Reasons that I love twitter: 
(because I am a twit I can hear some of you say! Well that could be it but there are far better reasons than that). 

*  It's short and sweet - because comments are limited, you can scan comments really quickly

Keeping up to date with my favourite bloggers is a lot easier than getting their latest posts in my inbox.  Normally in their tweet they will mention what their post or article is about and then I can decide if I want to read about it or not. By doing this I avoid cluttering up my inbox.

* I can look up specific subjects and see current trends by the types of conversations people are having which keeps me up to date with current events in South Africa and worldwide.

* I get to practice the art of summary - boy is that hard for someone like me who likes to chat.  140 characters, that's all you allowed (and that includes the spaces between words!) But its immensely rewarding to know that you can!

*It's good for business/blogging/sales/marketing - whatever you are doing, Twitter gives you the platform to announce it to your peers or those interested in what you write about.  And then they spread the word by retweeting it (yep there is such a word but that will be explained on another day) and if you're lucky, it will spread far and wide.

* I don't have endless hours to blog but I can share information that's really useful very quickly, without having to sit down and write a post about it.

* It's on my phone, which make tweeting all the easier!  And I can share photos too.

* I get inspired.  I read articles, I chew on quotes and allow them to speak to my soul, I make friends and I reply randomly to tweets I like.

And if this is your first visit here why not Sign up and make sure that you get each post in your inbox or alternatively follow on the RSS feed.

Why do you love twitter, or have you avoided it as just another social media platform?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Learning Chinese Mandarin using television or online videos

 As you know, we are a homeschooling family who decided to learn Chinese Mandarin as our second language.  It's been an interesting experience and though we have been doing this for some time, it feels like we have barely scratched the surface of this amazingly musical language.  I spend hours researching different resources and techniques to stimulate further learner or just to add variety and interest.
There are a few websites we visit to watch various cartoons in Chinese Mandarin.  I enjoy these especially because they are familiar to us and so does not feel so "foreign".  These programs could keep you busy for the whole year, because there are so many episodes to watch.  My children have also started learning Chinese characters and though the characters appear very quickly on the screen, they like to test their knowledge of what they are learning all the time.

Dora the Explorer
Bob the Builder
Adventures of Little Carp
Handy Manny
Berenstein Bears
Spongebob Squarepants

We also make use of Chinese TV which has so many channels, where both you and your children can choose programs from news, to documentaries or cartoons if you look around (you will obviously need to screen them just like you do at home.)  I have found the site quite difficult to navigate around but I often ask Google to translate the page for me, as I don't want to be heading off to any strange sites or advertisements.

Remember that Barnie or any of these characters are not able to teach you Chinese Mandarin but are rather a way to supplement the method you use, when learning the language.

If you are learning Chinese Mandarin as a second language, whether you homeschool or not - why not share what websites you have found to learn the language or that have made lessons really fun.

And if this is your first visit here why not Sign up and make sure that you get each post in your inbox or alternatively follow on the RSS feed.

Linking up with Raising HomemakersLiving Well Wednesdays

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grow Up as Jesus Did

Jesus was a child.  OK so I am stating the obvious, but he was.  He was a child who became a man and changed the lives of those he came into contact with and ultimately changed the destiny of every single one us.
And for him to do that, he had to be a child first.  Though he could have probably jumped past the difficult years and just arrived on earth as an adult, he set some things in place so that we could learn from them.  And this one scripture about his childhood years has always struck a cord with me.
Luke 2: 52 NIV
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

And the Amplified Bible adds some further clarification
And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favour with God and man
From the 1st of July, I will be looking at what this means to us as parents, in how we raise our children to do great things in and for God.  You are welcome to join me as we discover more about how our children can Grow Up as Jesus Did.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ordinary Hero

The question was asked and the room fell silent: "Does anyone ever feel they've lived up to their potential?" It was a loaded question, not only because it was asked in a group of persons struggling with vocation, but also because the word "potential" is elusive in its definition. What does "potential" mean in a world that views achievement as athletic prowess, celebrity status, or economic success? If the exceptional is the guide for the achievement of one's potential, how will those of us who live somewhere between the average and the ordinary ever feel we've arrived?
The inherent routine and mundane tasks that fill our days contribute to the struggle to understand our "potential." How can one possibly feel substantial when one's day-in, day-out existence is filled with the tedium of housework, paying bills, pulling weeds, and running endless errands? These tasks are not celebrated, or noticed. They are the daily details that make up our routine. Indeed for artists and bus drivers, homemakers and neurosurgeons, astronauts and cashiers our days are filled with repetitive motion, even if we do have moments of great challenge or extraordinary success. It is no wonder then, with our societal standards and our routine-filled lives that we wonder about our potential. Indeed, does much of what we do even matter when it feels so ordinary? Does the "ordinary" contribute to our sense of meeting our potential, or does its predominance in our lives simply serve as a perpetual reminder of a failure to thrive?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Science Study: Air Resistance: How to make a parachute

We spent the morning studying air resistance, which of course involved making parachutes out of plastic bags.  We are working our way through a great science book at the moment.

So instead of writing my instructions I decided to make a short video clip so that you can watch how we did it.

I filmed this on my phone(so the quality is not the best).  If you don't understand the instructions, here's a website that can help you.

My science approach with the children is try, try, try.  They were inclined in the beginning to attempt an experiment and if it didn't work the first time, they would just give it up as a failed effort.  But I have been encouraging them to find the problem or the solution to why their experiment did not work.

I ask them questions like:
What do you think made it work/didn't work?
Why do you have a different result to your brother?
What could you do differently to change the results?
What is happening?

This has been one of the best ways to stimulate their thinking because now I don't even have to ask the questions, they just discuss these among themselves.  They also extend the science experiment by changing the variables (if the string were shorter, if we changed the temperature what would it do?).  It does mean that Science can take almost the whole morning but it's amazing what they learn through observation, trial and error, and asking themselves questions.  These are true learning experiences that they will internalize, rather than me just telling them what to do.

Other activities I included were:
An Online game to explain forces in action (very basic but effective especially when they filled out the information in the table and could make a real comparison based on results)
Notebooking where they wrote about their experiences, what they learnt and the experiment they did.  I quickly made a little notebooking page of my own ( was going to share it and then deleted it by accident - I'm clever in that way haha)
They headed to the beach to fly kites, watch kite surfers and learn even more about air resistance.  And they keep making parachutes - different sizes, different length string- I think Chad has already made 5 parachutes.  Definitely a winner with the children!

Can Barnie teach you Chinese Mandarin?

Can you put your child in front of a television and find that after a month or two that he has started speaking a new language?  Dora the explorer, Thomas the Train and the Berenstein Bears can all be found in Mandarin.  Could they teach your child the intricacies of the language.  Unlikely, I do not believe that television can be used to teach a second language like Chinese Mandarin but I do think it can be beneficial in the following ways:

*  Becoming familiar with the sound of the language and real time talking
A lot of programs that teach you a second language, speak at a speed which is beneficial for learning but is not the speed with which most native Chinese people speak.  Watching television in Mandarin will give you a far more realistic awareness of the language and what Mandarin sounds like by a native speaker.
*  Practise
Writing Chinese characters, learning Pinyin and vocabulary can all be practised.  This is especially relevant when you use television programs aimed at little children as the presentation is far simpler and easier to understand.
*  Fun
Ever tried to watch the Lion King in Chinese?  It can be both entertaining and fun, especially if your children know the story in English.  We have had some really funny moments listening to Simba speaking with in Mandarin.

I also find that the children get tired of doing the same programs every day (even if you alternate them), adding a bit of telly seems to bring the language to life
*  Culture
Part of our language study includes culture.  We have done some cooking, some social studies and some online research into the Chinese culture. Language cannot exist without the understanding of the culture too.  We might not always understand the language but the understanding of the culture, will definitely help you to navigate in certain situations.

So don't expect the likes of Barnie or Thomas the Train to do the hard work for you but it certainly will make a difference in your child's language learning and they will enjoy it even more.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vote for me on Circle of Moms

There you have it, I am in the competition too to be one of the top 25 Homeschooling Mom blogs.  If you have the time, and if you think that this blog is worth reading, head over and vote for me today
I am still pending.... I like that, pending .... but hopefully soon I will be legit!