13 August 2014

The Eco-brick

We recently visited a friend and found her kitchen counters "littered" with 2 L soft drink bottles, filled with colourful bits of plastic.  Curious, we just had to ask....

Eco-bricks! Yes, all over the world, people are filling 2 L bottles with plastic bags and plastic rubbish, that would otherwise end up as landfill.  These bricks are then used in a special, but very simple building method, to build structures. So far schools, community centres and structures like benches and park equipment have been built.  In Port Elizabeth, South Africa a preschool is being built.

Yes, we understand that this plastic still does not decompose, but it is much safer than being loose and possibly blowing into our water sources and the ocean, where it damages the wildlife.  I know that sometimes plastic is recycled, but I am not too sure how healthy that is, I mean surely some of those fumes are emmitted in the process and also, what about the resources used to run those factories.  Of course the aim is to buy less plastic but I find that a real problem in South Africa.  I am tempted at times to leave all the unneccesary wrappings at the counter!

I feel better about the fact that that my garbage is taking up less space.  We used to fill about two garbage bags a week.  This way, my garbage is compressed in to the eco-brick, and takes up far less space. The aim is to get the brick as heavy as you can.  Our first one was 340 g.  We are slowly putting less and less out for muncipal collection as we learn of new ways to reduce, re-use, recycle.

Joel and Emma gladly joined in, and Joel has been responsible for ramming the plastic in.  He does it very effectively with a wooden dowel.  They both made signs at our dustbin so that we would remember not to throw away the plastic.

So, would you like to join the ecobrick challenge?  Google and find out where the nearest place is that will take your ecobricks and get making yours.

Frogs and snails ...

As Joel is very interested in all natural things, but especially frogs, we embarked on a pond building project this week.  We are far from finished, but it was great fun.  No amphibians have moved yet, and we wait in anticipation.

We chose to simply dig a hole, and line it with heavy PVC plastic, rather than lay in a cemented pond, as we are renting here.  As you may be able to see from the photo, the soil here is extremely sandy, so all around the edge we placed rocks.  We will have to fill up the gaps with some good garden soil from elsewhere.  Then I look forward to planting some lovely plants around it.  I would like to plant ferns and get some aquatic plants.  We would like these to all be indigeous, in order to attract our local hoppers.

We have seen many varieties of frogs here, even tree frogs.  I didn't even know South Africa had tree frogs!  They come in a variety of colours and some have gorgeous patterns.  I must get a photo of them.

Yesterday morning Joel found this snail... in his shower cubicle! He took great interest in it, you can head over to his blog and read all about it. 

10 May 2013

Another New Start

So much has happened in our household this last year, especially over the last two months.  We've wanted to escape the rat race for many years and have explored many options, such as farms and small holdings.  At last an opportunity opened for us and we have moved to a little coastal village in the Eastern Cape.  This has given us the security of living near others, which we felt we needed, and the break way.  Sort of the best of both worlds.

At last the move is over and we feel that Gods hand has been it in and over it in a mighty way.  so may little things have happened that have shown His face and shown us that htis is what He wants for us.  That has been so encouraging to us, as I must say it was rather a leap of faith, leaving daily work place, home and all you know.

Our new home ground-  the beach cliffs as sunset
The village where we live is quite, peaceful and oh, so very beautiful.  Our home is situated on the edge of the veld and about 1km from the beach.  We thought it might me a bit far from the beach but have found this has meant it is quieter.  The veld has enabled us to go for our long awaited Charlotte Mason style nature walks, right on our doorstep.  The road outside our home is a gravel one, and since it is a dead end, traffic is minimal.  From there it trails to a windy grass path into a beautiful bit of coastal bush.

From the lounge window, I can currently see a sprinkling of yellow and orange in the bushy veldt, as the tickberry bush and Cape honey suckle are in flower.  Shelley excitedly pointed out an aloe that has just started blooming, I think it is the coastal variety.  A large variety of birds also abound, I am embarrased to discover that I know so few of them, but it is part of the exciting learning journey.  We had a Knysna Lourie (old name) in our garden this morning.

Candelbra Flower
We are also finding a huge variety of flowers in the veld, some very interesting like the candelera, but I do not know the names of others.  I am finding my old East Cape Flower book by Ely Gledhill a little difficult.  The garden itself does not have many plants or flowers but I plan to plant it up with indigenous plants as we did in our old home.  The soil is very sandy, so I will have to start composting and go about it slowly.

Down at the sea there is a lagoon (estuary) which occsaionaly breaks through to the sea.  It is currently broken through and this has caused much delight and fun for the children.  On Sunday we found baby sole, shrimp, two varieties of prawn and tiny fish in the estuary.  I am delighted with the hours of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

Naturally our dogs are also enjoying the freedom of having space to run and have been really good about coming when they are called.  I was afraid they would go running off into the veld and disappear. They are not allowed to run wild all the time as I feel that nature must be left alone. 

Surf at sunset
 We have also been blessed move closer to a lovely big Christian Homeschool group.  Having homeschooled with either alone, or with just a handful of people in the vicinity for most of the last 7 years, this means SO much. Those of you who are supported by Christian Homeschool Groups, count your blessings ;-)  This lovely group blessed us with a meal for the first seven days after our move.  This was such a help.

Four cousins on a Jungle Gym
Of course, I cannot act as if life is all moonlight and roses, and as you my know from previous posts, one of my irks, is homeschool blogs that consistently portray homeschooling as endless days of bliss where nothing goes wrong.  I prefer to be honest here, because I believe it helps other homeschool parents more.  First, there are things to learn about living here, like that you get ticks when you walk in the bush ;-) and that there are still criminals here and that if you don't lock up your bike it'll get stolen.

And, reality is, we are just recovering as a family from a very stressful time.  Before our move, my father-in-law had a mild stroke, which was a  stressful two weeks.  Right thereafter we had overseas visitors for three weeks, then the move two weeks after that.  During the visit, we also had our most busy time of the year in the family business, which involves photographing a university graduation.  This is an all week-weekend affair for the men of the house and extra recruits are needed.  My nephew and neice were happy to be involved, and a friends young adult daughter, so at one time there were thirteen people sleeping in my house and every bed/mattress and blanket was occupied!  My sil and I did the food for the shop and all people living with us.
How many cousins can you fit in a car?

 The end result was that by the time the move occured we were all exhuasted! And we'd missed school for two months instead of just our normal holiday.  So it is back to work. We're still enjoying My Father's World.  It really suits us so much.  I have found it helpful to revise the Charlotte Mason principles behind the curriculum- such as short lessons, it's given me renewed enthusiasm for school.

Also, health wise I am sorting out some issues, always tricky when you are the Mom and life must continue.  I will probably go for an op in June. 

After years of tiredness, we're tackling the longstanding anaemia problems.  Loosing the stress, plus getting all the fresh air and sunshine here can only be a good thing.

Praise God for a New Start!

21 May 2012

Switching to My Father's World Curriculum

Learning about our precious rhinos- Folded Paper Rhinos
Our homeschool journey has been a very bumpy one.  First, we were unsure how to go about homeschooling in South Africa.  We started off rather blindly, with no support or information about homeschooling.

Then, we found curriculum, but weren't sure which one to use, as there were so many choices.  We were seldom privileged to see curriculum being used in other South African homeschools, and we just don't know that many HS'ers.  After trying many and ditching many, I found that the one that offered most of what I wanted was the Weaver curriculum.

Musical water glasses
As I have always said, I love the way Weaver has the Bible integrated into so much of the lessons.  Whilst we really loved doing the preschool Interlock, we have not had as much success with the Volumes.  I have struggled to piece it all together.  The planning took me a long time and I altered so many activities as too many were written.  I also added a lot to Weaver, such as literature.  I always feel as if I "missed" an essential part of the Weaver puzzle, and perhaps, just having another user nearby would have done it.   I've taken breaks and prayed about it and so wanted Weaver to work,. We've tried it again, but it seems that now is just not the season for Weaver in our home.  And so, I started to do my own unit studies again, and pretty soon I was burned out, and looking again...

Although I have laid out a lot of money for Weaver, and other curriculum, I am closer than ever at finding what is right for our family.  I suppose all is not lost then.  I've discovered a few things about our homeschooling:
  • We want a curriculum that is Bible based, one that doesn't just tag on Bible
  •  We'd like to concentrate on Bible, lifeskills, missions, character and service at least as much as academics
  • We love unit studies, because we can combine various grades and cover a variety of subjects, thus saving time
  • We all love books, and reading plays a huge part in our learning
  • We like our history to be more or less chronological, and don't like jumping about too much from topic to topic
  • We like to do some hands on activities, some art and picture study, study composers, learn poetry- but often don't get time for these
  • We need the curriculum to be laid out for me, in a daily schedule, so that I can just pick it up and use it, without lots of planning time
  • I want to have all the books, not have to go to our library weekly, which is just not possible
  • We don't do well with too much planned for us, as we get burned out
  • We need LA and Maths that is not too intensive and time consuming
  • We want to lay a good foundation in academics, but still have enough time to do the fun things like nature walks, science experiments, poetry and art
Starfish from an intertidal rockpool

Cape Autumn Widow Butterfly
In looking for curriculum that had all those points, I found My Father's World curriculum (abbreviated MFW).  I had heard of it before, but thought it was very "American".  By that, I mean, most curriculum from the US concentrate largely on US history and geography, naturally, and I thought it would be the same.  However, I was pleasantly delighted to discover that I was wrong! Students in Grade 2-8, begin MFW in the 5 year multi-age cycle.  The cycle starts with a year of studying geography and cultures of the world, with an emphasis on missions and the book of Matthew.  And several of the MFW years to follow are not as "American" as I suspected.  In fact MFW has suggestions for International users on how to make MFW work.  I looked at all that MFW had to offer, and decided to order.  Since Joel is in Gr5 and Emma in Grade 2, we would start Exploring Countries and Cultures.  We now eagerly await our box.

Phases of the Moon, with Oreo Cookies,  yum!
We also took the plunge and ordered all the authors suggestions for LA and Math, after reading the reasons for their choices.  I have listened to a couple of audio's by the authors and I am very impressed with all I have heard so far.  David Hazell, the author, talks of many issues relating to homeschooling and I have been able to relate so much to this excellent speaker.  It has taken a long time for me to find a curriculum that is nearly perfect.  I am praying that MFW will be the right thing for us.

11 October 2011

Our Journey into Homeschooling

So, why are you homeschooling?  I have to say, though I am often asked this question, I honestly do not tell people the full answer that you'll read here.  Why?  Because quite frankly, most of the time people are not really interested in your answer, they are just making conversation.  So for their sake and mine, I keep it brief.  For my kindred homeschoolers who visit my blog, here is how our homeschool journey started ;-) 

In 2001 our first child, a son, was born. Sometime before Joel's third birthday there was pressure from our social circles to send him to play school.  I had a deep sense of sadness about this, and wanted to keep Joel at home.  I was surprised that other parents were so keen to send their children off to school at such a young age.  Already I was the only one left who had not returned to work.  But I was loving my time at home, enjoying every moment of learning alongside my little one. 

Everyday, whilst I nursed his sister, my son and I would read books.  Then we would go for walks in the veld, and discover new birds and plants.  I really learned a lot more than I had ever learned because my little guy asked so many questions.  We did crafts, and also just "mucked about" in mud or sand or water ;-) it was glorious.  My daughter was a most obliging baby, always willing to join in. 

Around this time, my husband read a book, in which Dr. James Dobson called for parents incertain states of the United States to pull their children out of school, and home educate them. The books is called Bringing up Boys.  When my husband suggested that we homeschool our child, I thought it was a ridiculous idea.  Surely, only weird people and those living in the sticks homeschooled?  And, in any case, was homeschooling in South Africa even legal?

Well, the Lord certainly had a lot to teach me. Because of my husband’s insistence that I at least look into homeschooling, I began a season of intense research. This endeavour was less fruitful than I had hoped- I had expected there would be some sort of National Council for homeschoolers’ and of course books. 

Despite the lack of information, by the end of 2004 my husband and I both reached a place where we knew the Lord was calling us to homeschool.  And so we stepped out in faith and began.

From our first days of parenting, this verse from Deuteronomy 6 was laid on our hearts:

6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 

We had often wondered why, but now we felt  this was precisely the type of homeschooling we were being called to, a complete way of life, a walk with our children, workingalongside our children, from sunrise to sunset, so that we could impart our beliefs on our children.

Though we have tried many things over the years we are back to what the Lord led us to initally and we regret the time spent (and money wasted) in curriculum searching.  We use the Weaver curriculum, a Bible based unit study which teaches multiple levels, with hands-on methods to teach all three children at once.  The older two children use Christian Light Education Maths, Reading and Language Arts.  And my preschooler does a little Rod and Staff Preschool and a lot of playing.