26 January 2009

Partial Eclispe of the Sun

Today we experienced a partial eclipse of the sun, in South Africa. It proved a great Science lesson, presented by Dad, who was extremely clever at the various ways he showed the children the eclipse.

Firstly let me say that we are blessed to own 2 telescopes, the one is a (I may be wrong here) 8 inch one. And then, I must add that Dad is an amateur astonomer and LOVES this type of thing. It seems that Joel is going to follow in his steps.

The sighting was due at 7am, but it was very over cast where we live. This turned out to be a blessing, as we slowly viewed it becoming clearer as the cloud cover cleared. See below. The cresent is actually the sun and therefore the shadow on it is the moon. Joel points to it in the sky. Click on these photos to enlarge them.

We also had some special viewing glasses that were safe to use. Then Daddy took the telescope and reflected the sun onto paper first and then onto each persons hand. See below. Then we reflected it onto a large poster board, and Joel drew the outline and watched how it moved every few seconds.

Daddy also gave a lesson using the globe, and explained the rotation of the earth and moon, and it all so that it made sense, even to me! Ihave seen eclipses before but I really appreciated it this time. I wonder what the ancient folk thought of them?

Then he took a large projector screen, the type used for movies, and reflected the sun onto that. It was an awesome sight.

To explain to the children the danger of looking at the sun throuh a telescope, and the dangers of looking at the sun without correct eye protection, James took a feather and reflected the sun onto it. Within seconds it burned, it was a very visiual lesson.

I thought that the sun may be watery today and cooler but it ended up being a whopping 37 degrees celsius (98.6 degrees farenheit) and 28 degrees inside. And at last we had a thunder storm and some rain. Yeah!

24 January 2009

Let me hold on longer, God

I recently heard a broadcast at Familylife.com, where author Karen Kigsbury read from her book, "Let me hold you longer". I was absolutely moved to tears by the poem she read, below:

Let me Hold you Longer

"Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts;
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away and leave to me your past
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts.
The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips
The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip,
The last night when you woke up crying,
Needing to be walked,
When last you crawled up with your blanket
Wanting to be rocked.
The last time when you ran to me still small enough to hold
The last time when you said you'd marry me when you grew old.
Precious simple moments and bright flashes from your past
Would I have held on longer if I'd known they were your last?
Our last adventure to the park, your final midday nap
The last time when you wore your favorite faded baseball cap.
Your last few hours of kindergarten, last days of first grade,
Your last at bat in Little League, last colored picture made.
I never said goodbye to all your yesterdays long past
So what about tomorrow? Will I recognize your lasts?
The last time that you catch a frog in that old backyard pond
The last that you ran barefoot across our fresh-cut lawn
Silly, scattered moments and bright flashes from your past
I keep on taking pictures, never quite sure of your last.
The last time that I comb your hair or stop a pillow fight,
The last time that I tuck you in and pray with you at night.
The last time when we cuddled with a book just me and you,
The last time you jump in our bed and sleep between us two.
The last piano lesson, the last vacation to the lake
Your last few weeks of middle school, last soccer goal you make.
I look ahead and dream of days that haven't come to pass
But as I do I sometimes miss today's sweet precious lasts.
The last time that I help you with a math or spelling test
The last time when I shout that "Yes! Your room is still a mess!"
The last time that you need me for a ride from here to there
The last time that you spend the night with your old tattered bear.
My life keeps moving faster, stealing precious days that pass
I want to hold on longer, want to recognize your lasts.
The last thing that you need my help with, details of a dance,
And the last time that you asked me for advice about romance.
The last time that you talked to me about your hopes and dreams
The last time that you wear a jersey for your high school team.
I've watched you grow and barely noticed seasons as they pass
If I could freeze the hands of time, I'd hold onto your lasts.
For come some bright fall morning, you'll be going far away
College life will beckon in a brilliant sort of way
One last hug, one last goodbye, one quick and hurried kiss,
One last time to understand just how much you'll be missed.
I'll watch you leave and think how fast our time together passed
So let me hold on longer, God, to every precious last."

20 January 2009

My hay box

A friend in Cape Town requested that I post some pics and info about my haybox (hot box) here, so after yesterdays post I thought a bit of light hearted cheer would be in order.

A simple hot box or hay box

A hot box is any type of bag that is filled with insulative material, used to cook foods. Traditionally hay was used in these boxes, I've also heard of newspaper but we use polystyrene chips. (ONE good use for these dreadful things) You can usually find these chips or balls at a chemist shop or some other shop that receives packages of fragile goods regularily and they will probably be happy to give them to you. The chips are placed in a cloth bag, like a pillow slip. It helps if you make a cover for the pillows are they sometimes get food spills on them. Mine have velcro strips and were made by my Mom. (Thanks Mom) The pillows are placed in a cardboard box, which also helps keep the heat in. My mother has a box with a lid flaps, but mine is open, simply cos it is all I could find and it works well.

Note the inner cover cushion and removable slip.

Obviously the box has no heat source of its' own, so hot/boiling food must be placed in it, to cook. Once food is brought to the boil or a high temperature on a conventional stove the pot is placed in the hot box and cooking continues as the insulative materials keep the food at a constant temperature for long peroids. Food that is suitable to be cooked in the hay box include pulses and legumes, porridges, rice and such.

At the moment I am using it to cook porridge for my family. In the evening I bring 1 cup of cereal grain and 4 cups of hot water to boil in a pot on the stove. Add a bit of salt. I boil it only a bit and stir till the liquid is a little thicker. Less than 5 min on the stove. Then I pop on the lid of the pot and once the pot lid is very hot to touch I put it in the hot box, closing it up well and making sure their are no gaps.

Pot snug in the cushion

We are using oats, maize meal and tasty wheat at the moment and everyone is enjoying it for breakfast and I'm cutting my shopping bills as I am no longer buying heaps of ready made cereals and Pro-Nutro.

You may need to find a spot for the box in your kitchen before you make your box as they tend to take up a bit of room. I tuck mine in the bottom shelf of the dinner trolley.

19 January 2009

The REAL moments of homeschooling

I love reading other blogs by homeschooling Moms, I mean you guys are so encouraging and you inspire me. I love being reminded why I am homeschooling, and when our homeschool days are going well, I mentally write blog posts. I want to share all the lovely things we did, my childrens funny comments and of course how clever they are!

Of course not too many of us write about our dull days, our days of struggling, the days when we secretely wonder,"Lord is this really worth it?" and "What am I doing to these kids?"

It's hard to confess that I have to grit my teeth at times and remind myself to be patient when my son forgets a Math fact he learned months ago...again. When my toddler whines for my attention for what seems like all morning, despite all attempts to distract her and my four year old starts and unfinishes about a dozen projects, leaving little bits of paper and glue and supplies scattered all over, I think, "oh boy, this would be a terrible advert for homeschooling"

You see, I visualise you other sweet Moms, smiling, as you tackle the math problem with your smoothly thought out tactics, whilst you have a toddler playing quietly at your feet with her toys in your neatly organised school room. Your 4 year old is of course coloring in her "school books" and playing with the educational games you specially laid out the night before, packing each one away before she takes out another, just as you trained her.


Well, let me tell you about today then, honestly. It started with me reminding Mr J that it was school in about an hour. (You know, it is Monday, this happens. SA only starts school officially on Wed but we've been at it for a while, easing in slowly) That was a BAD thing to say. My sweet content 7 year old who had been spooning his way through a bowl of porridge turned into a little dark thunder cloud.

The storm drifted upstairs for a little chat with pappa. (this never happens in your house of course) And returned downstairs as a deluge, 30 in later, as floods of tears erupted all over my couch, with me and pappa trying hard to be firm but express the need for consistency in doing school, sticking to the job etc etc

Eventually he sobbed, "I hate school" (your children all love homeschooling and always thank you for homeschooling them :-)

When we asked him if he particularily liked anything about school, he said, "only reading, none of the rest" So me, forever hopeful, asked, "But what about Weaver?" No.
"You seem to love your CLE LA"
No no no, it is all too much. All the CLE is too hard. I am only seven.
Too much work, too hard, school goes on forever.

We graciously point out that at the worst we're doing formal work for 3 hours and that is not solid time and that the neighbours children are at school from before 8 till way after 1pm. No effect.

Pappa makes an exit for work at this stage, (wise man) and leaves me with the chap, who is now just eager to "get school over with" so that he can go play. Upstairs, slump at the desk. Rigid, stares in front of him. A pencil. Fumble fumble, clatter goes the whole bunch of stationery. Never mind, I'll get it....

Ok, which subject shall we do first. You choose. Okay, CLE Social Science, that's great. See you get a sticker for each subject you complete today. Ten minutes pass. No great enthusiasm but one subject completed and sticker applied on chart. Well done, that is lovely. See you're doing fine, now just a little more. You ony need to do corrections for LA today and the rest of your lst Math lesson and Science.

What next? CLE Math. Okay. We work together just fine for 5 min till he needs to do the "on my own" part. He can't concentrate. Stares into space, throws a fit, thumps the desk with his fist. I count slowly under my breath. "Do you need a quiet spot to work in?" Yes, that is what he needs. Off he goes, down the passage. To the spare room desk. ( I think) No, no no, he's heading for our room. Now what 7 yo can write neatly on a bed or concentrate amongst cuddly pink pillows? But I must try make allowances, after all this is homeschool. Trying to think rationally balancing mommy thoughts and teacher thoughts. Interuppted by "Mommmmmmy I need to go potty" I exit to sort out toddler whilst Mr J settles to his Math lesson. (Amongst the puffy pillows)

Duty done, I now engage Shelley in a bit of quality time whilst Mr J is occupied. Miss Emma is playing with a friend so no problem there today. We do lots together. Time check, how are you doing J. No, we're not doing well. We just cannot concentrate. Try the desk, no no just needed fresh air. Returns to puffy pillow spot.

Then Emma, Lusanda and Shelley and I make elephants with paper plates. Crayone, glue, paper and mess everywhere. Shelley is petrified of hers and won't even look at it. Emma wants to cut holes in her plate for eyes with a craft knife, so it can be a mask. Now Shelley is beside herself with fear. It's alive! Lusands also wants mask. Okay, two happy elephants charge around the house. Shelley is glued to my hip. Time check. Oh my has half an hour already passed?

Proceed to bedroom, to find Mr J crumpled up asleep over Math book. Hard to control feelings at this point. Things are not looking good. My Monday schedule and all it's goals lay crumpled on my pink duvet. He awakes bleary eyed. I say he should just sleep and forget school today.

The nap must have revivied him. He insists that we do school NOW. I agree. (why?) Painstackingly complete the Math lesson. Attempt to do speed drill. Give up after each sum is repeated about five times and returned with that look. You know the one that says, "I am miles away from here"

Okay let's do some drill work instead, with manipulatives and other Math stuff. (thanks Mark Shuttleworth, you're an inspiration to a 7 yo) Sticker applied to chart very half heartedly as I glance at how little of our goal we accomplished.

Right LA corrections, some arguing about the grammar rules, intense shaking and thumping again, then a "oh, yes I remember now".

By now Shelley is whining for Barney. You see she is on a rehab program for Barney addicts and bwing weaned. The new rule in 2009 is NO BARNEY DURING SCHOOL! My head is thumping and I could do with a cup of tea. Shall we have a short break and then finish up? NO, I want to do it all now, I can do it. Otherwise we won't get to it. Right okay, press on...

LA done. Now spelling. I excitedly pull out my trump card of the day. "Today you do not have to write out your spelling words. We are going to use Spell City on the computer, and it's going to be fun" Eyes lighten up, like the day is at last saved. Ready to go... yes?

NO.... Mom underestimated the skill required for typing and thinking and spelling all at once. First word is t-y-p-e-d. Shall I type and you spell aloud? NO! I can do it. Melt down, tears... Okay let us do it slowly, it will be ok, it is just ten words, see? Restored we press on at snails pace. Shelley likes the sound effects and repeats each word, American accent and all.

Number nine at last, ooops the return key is pressed. Disaster. Test erased. Mr J falls off chair dramatically in tears. I hurriedly re-enter all the words as he had them. Final score 2 wrong. Crisis. Not full marks. Want to do them over? (pleeez say no, I pray) Yes, typing a bit faster now, we're getting the hang of this. BINGO 100%. Yeah well done, okay now you can put the sticker on your chart.

Are we done yet? Just CLE Science level 100 LU 1 . Slump, head rolls back. Take book out, open pages, show him how little it is and how easy the lesson is for him. Growl. What is this stuff? You call this science? I explain patiently. Enthusiasm, or the closest I have seen to it rises.

Joel, it says to colour (color in US) the pictures in, would you like to leave that since it is so late? NO, I must do it all. Pages completed, lesson all about colours, beautifully. Well done Joel, you really tried there. Sticker on chart. At last we're all done.

Barney dvd slides into place, Shelley slides into her comfy chair, happy at last to be re-united with the purple creature that loves her.

Suddenly there is a spark in his step and a twinkle in his eyes, "Can I have computer time now?" I look at the clock. When are we going to do Weaver I wonder? With a sigh I realise we that we have no milk and nappies (diapers) and still have to go shopping and it's after 12. Daddy will be home at 1pm.

I hurry downstairs, though I feel like crawling into bed. Set the table and lay it all pretty for lunch with a loaf of bread out the bread maker (at least I got something right today) Time for a quick cup of tea and a headache tablet.

Later, over lunch, Pappa asks Joel, so how was school?
"It was the best day we've had this year" he says.

Mmmm.... I feel like I have been hit with a ten pound hammer. My thought race about, "Lord if this was a good day, how bad can it get?" I think I hear Him saying "Trust me" But I think of my beautiful schedule that I took so long to write. I want to trust the schedule. I hear him saying somewhere in the noise that there are other lessons to be learned this year. And I remember what it is all about, wearily, and thank Him for the opportunity to work with His gift to me. Scrap the schedule, I'm going to pray about tomorrow.

But of course, these things never happen in your house.


17 January 2009

On the go: Transportation Chapter

School has started for 2009. We've started with lots of fun field trips for our Weaver curriculum chapter.

We've been studying the transportation chapter in Weaver Vol 1, and had the opportunity to go to various places in Port Elizabeth with children.We did the airport, the harbour, and the highlight was a visit to the Volkswagen Museum in Uitenhage, also known as Auto Pavilion. It really was an awesome place, we'll have to visit when the children are older.
There was an interesting display where a new model beetle (what do you call them?) had been cut in half with a laser, and every few minutes the car would "open up" in half so that you could view the interior. That was amazing.

We also had some fun with Dad, who made the balloon project. (Okay slightly revised, it became a parachute instead) We cheated a bit, I was clearing out my sewing stuff and found an old umbrella, you know the plasticy kind with mulit-colours? How why I had not thrown that out, is just a mystery, but it now has a good use. The children were all for testing it by jumping off the deck, but we managed to persuade them to test drive it with Barbie dolls instead. It really worked better than we had anticipated and a gust of wind had barbie on the roof withthe parachute. What fun!
Dad also took out the old steam engine and demonstrated some science there. Joel really enjoyed it and it was quite amusing hearing him explain it all to Emma. I learned alot too!

And if anybody can leave a comment on how to figure out posting my images in blogspot, as well as adding movies from my camera it would be a great help! They keep coming out centred wrong and I can't move them. Arghhh....