Saturday, December 8, 2012

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly

Following our annual tradition, the tree-hugging monkey picked this year's Christmas tree from our favourite tree farm, thus marking the official beginning of Christmas season in our home.

We brought along our homestay student from China who was quite intrigued by our Christmas rituals - buy tree, roast hotdog & marshmallow by fire pit, drink hot chocolate, bring tree home.

A couple recent field trips to kick off this Christmas season:

The signature production of C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Pacific Theatre: one armchair, one lamp, one woolen blanket, a wardrobe full of fur coats, and two brilliant actors who brought the whole story alive. "I've come at last," said he [Father Christmas].

Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum: Christmas in the 1920s. A ride on the C. W. Parker Carousel puts everyone in a jolly spirit!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Christmas Assignment


After 9 weeks of rehearsals, Serena and her Sunday school friends at Willingdon Church put on a spectacular musical, "The Christmas Assignment", this past weekend. Serena sang in the choir and performed one of the dances. The children's worship was a wonderful and appropriate start to the season of Advent, preparing our hearts to celebrate the first advent of Jesus two millenia ago, and to anticipate Jesus' second advent.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Last Queen of Egypt: Cleopatra VII


This is Serena's 3rd Biography Fair.  After Princess Grace Kelly and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Serena has decided to pick someone from ancient history this year, given her recent obsession with the Greek and Roman gods. Cleopatra was a ton of fun to do - the last Pharaoh of Egypt, full of glam and drama and mystery!


There's a ton of great books in the library on this fascinating historical character:

Cleopatra: Discover the World of Cleopatra Through the Diary of Her Handmaid Nefret by Adele Geras
Cleopatra: "Serpent of the Nile" by Mary Fisk Pack
Everything Ancient Egypt by Crispin Boyer
Cleopatra: Egypt's Last and Greatest Queen by Susan Blackaby
Cleopatra by Haydn Middleton
Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams

We found a fun online hieroglyphic typewriter. Serena used it to make cartouche hieroglyphs of Cleopatra and the men in her life: Ptolemy XIII, Ptolemy XIV, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony.
We created pages of fictional diary entries by Cleopatra to tell her story from the death of her father Ptolemy XII in 51 B.C. to her own death in 30 B.C.. To make the paper look like ancient papyrus, Serena stained them with tea bags and I scorched the edges of the papers with a lighter. Playing with food and fire was really quite fun.

Instead of a project board, we decided to use the room divider that sits in our kitchen - an idea that came to us as we were chatting about the project over dinner. Actually many crazy ideas came about, like building a replica of the Pharos of Alexandria and writing the entire project in hieroglyphs.
Serena dug up a bunch of her play jewellery and did a fine job decorating her display board. We kept her wonderful idea of using a "scroll" instead of note cards for comments. Her favourite part, as always, was dressing up in character. That's her area of specialty and it requires zero input from me.

Serena enjoyed being in character as Cleopatra in her presentation, and Daddy seemed to equally enjoy his character as Julius Caesar.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Flutist In Training

Serena has a new flute teacher since October. Thanks to Ms. Christine, we've seen some significant growth in two short months. Serena performed a short piece at our last Wednesday Club meeting - the theme was Fine Arts. We were all thoroughly impressed by these talented homeschoolers: there were many pianists, a couple of singers, some dancers, a movie producer, and even a cake decorator. Serena was the lone flutist and enjoyed showing off her shiny flute to her friends as they ate cupcakes and learned dance moves together.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader concluded the fall term of Planet Narnia Book Club. It was a visual treat to map out King Caspian's voyage toward Aslan's country as Mrs. Cowley cleverly led the readers through an exploration of the imagery of the Sun (Sol) throughout the book.

It's been a pleasure watching Serena and her friends soak in the enchanted world of Narnia. The magic of C. S. Lewis endures!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reformation & Persecution

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9


On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Instead of trick-or-treating, we stayed home, coloured the Lutheran rose, memorized Ephesians 2:8-9, and sang "Martin the German" and "Reformation Carol". We agreed that it's a more civilized way to spend a rainy Halloween evening.

This Sunday, November 4, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Serena was struck by the brutality Christians have to endure in many other parts of the world. What a reminder to be truly thankful for our freedom to worship here.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Human Body


We had a little co-op learning with our fellow homeschool friends this week. The future scientists looked at cells from different parts of the body through a microscope; they made their own mock cells with jello and candies, DNA with marshmallows and twizzlers, mechanical robot hands with straws and stings, spines with pipe cleaners and beads. Who knew cells and DNA could be so tasty!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Math Out Loud

M. C. Escher, Joseph Fourier, Eratosthenes, Euclid, recursion, mobius strip, binary numbers, pi, probability... some stuff just went way over our heads, but Math Out Loud: A Mathical Mystery Tour was definitely fun and zany! (Did you know that Pi is in everything?)

Funny enough, we recently checked out a book called "The Librarian Who Measured the Earth" by Kathryn Lasky. This "librarian" happens to be... Eratosthenes! He's a great thinker of ancient Greece who figured out the circumference of the earth over two thousand years ago. (Told you we're all about  ancient Greece these days.) Thanks to Math Out Loud, we now know how to pronounce "Eratosthenes" properly.

I try to keep the heavy subject of Math light at home. No longer do we say "Let's do some Math" in our house; the "M" word seems to inevitably trigger an alarm bell in child and high blood pressure in mom. But we meet with Fred. "Let's see what Fred's up to today."

Fred Gauss is a 3 feet tall boy genius with a flat head, a Professor of meta-mathematics at KITTENS University. He's the protagonist in the 10-book Elementary Series of Life of Fred, the creation of Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt. We're on book 8 of the series, Life of Fred: Honey. It's a good fit for a literary kid like Serena who loves the story format and enjoys the lighthearted humour.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Planets & Gods


Serena's recent obsession with Greek Mythology has led us right into the study of our solar system.  The planets are so much more interesting when she realized that they're all named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

Venus is the current favourite - goddess of love, beauty, and springtime. "I was born in spring!" She's also taken a liking to Saturn, the grandfather of the gods, Jupiter's father, because she was born on a Saturday - named for Saturn.

This ties nicely into her Planet Narnia book club reading:
The group has already finished discussing The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (imagery: Jupiter) and Prince Caspian (imagery: Mars), and they are now diving into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (imagery: Sun). Serena is also totally drawn into the world of Percy Jackson, devouring the The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

Another logical extension of this whole Greek myths craze is ancient history. We love the DVD series Drive Thru History with Dave Stotts. It covers Rome, Greece, Turkey, and Asia Minor, though we've been focusing most of our exploration on Greece.

Related Reading:
Curious Kids Guides: Ancient Greece by Fiona Macdonald
Hail! Ancient Greeks by Jen Green
Alexander the Great by Demi
Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey
National Geographic Kids: 13 Planets by David A. Aguilar
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian
The Planets by Gail Gibbons

Saturday, October 13, 2012

All Things Canada

In writing different Sandwich Book Reports, I notice that it's tricky for Serena to condense a story. Partly because she reads beyond her grade level so the plot lines of her books tend to be quite elaborate, but also partly because she favours intricate details. It's hard to summarize a story in one paragraph when she spends the whole time describing what the characters ate for breakfast...


All Things Canada is a handy theme-based writing curriculum that teaches the techniques of making a "Key Word Outline" and rewriting the original passage in your own words based on your outline. The content is all Canadian-based so we cover Language Arts and Socials at the same time - bonus!

Speaking of Canada, Serena loves the coast to coast road trip with Bucko Beaver in Wow Canada! by Vivien Bowers. With each province explored, we supplement the reading with a great series by Sleeping Bear Press:

Canada: M is for Maple
BC: S is for Spirit Bear
AB: C is for Chinook
SK: L is for Land of the Living Skies
MN: G is for Golden Boy
ON: A is for Algonquin
NB: F is for Fiddlehead
NS: B is for Bluenose
NL: P is for Puffin

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cyrano de Bergerac


With plenty of panache, Serena delivered a gallant presentation at our annual Book In A Bag with the VCHEA Wednesday Club.

The book, Cyrano, by Geraldine McCaughrean, became a fast favourite this past summer - love story, comedy, poetry, drama, all rolled together with a big dose of panache, an irresistible package for this literary child.


(Quote in Serena's presentation came from the original Cyrano de Bergerac, Act 1, by Edmond Rostand,written in Paris, France 1897.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Burns Bog

Pileated Woodpeckers
By Serena
{Inspiration: "On The Wing" - bird poems and paintings by Douglas Florian}

Look at my amazing crest,
Good enough to invite a guest!
My colour is absolutely the best
When it comes to my flaming red crest.

A snack of carpenter ants is just fine
When it comes to the time to dine.
I'm the biggest, I'm omnivores,
No doubt I am the prettiest!



These 2 pileated woodpeckers were definitely the highlight of our two & a half hour hike around Burns Bog yesterday. Pileated woodpeckers are the largest of its kind in North America. Serena was quick to inform me that the smallest is the Downy woodpecker. Don't know how she comes up with these things...

Other spectacles:

Lots of bees buzzing in and out of these beautiful bog orchids;


Dainty little dragonflies flitting around;


and a fierce BOG MONSTER!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pigs Do Fly!

Now we have proof: Check out our very own Flying Pig automaton!

We first learned of automata through the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Then we found this Flying Pig online store that sells all sorts of cool mechanical paper animation kits. We couldn't resist the opportunity to make a pig fly so we ordered a kit.

The design is quite ingenious. We popped the paper parts out, folded and glued according to instructions, and there's our amazing Flying Pig automaton!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shoreline Cleanup


It's amazing how much garbage you can gather outside in an hour. We were at the Tsawwassen Ferry Causeway for a community shoreline cleanup project organized by Scouts Canada. Serena and her buddy picked up enough cigarette tips, food wrappers, containers, plastic bits, glasses, etc. to fill 4 shopping bags. I had a hard time trying to tally every bit of garbage for data collection; she was calling them out faster than I could find the item on the tracking sheet, and I was shivering cold... We weren't exactly prepared for this grey chilly fall weather because it was like this the day before:


Summer is sadly and officially over.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Planet Narnia Book Club

Author Dr. Michael Ward suggested in his book Planet Narnia that the 7 books in The Chronicles of Narnia parallel the 7 planets of the medieval cosmos. That sets the backdrop for the Planet Narnia Book Club, a faith-based book club for young readers led by a very capable Mrs. Cowley.

For our first meeting this month, we discussed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which embodies the imagery of Jupiter, according to Dr. Ward. Mrs. Cowley took us through a brief history of the Middle Ages cosmology, the Ptolemy's model of the universe, and C. S. Lewis' background as a professor steeped in medieval literature.

Serena is obsessed with Greek mythology these days and has become quite an expert in the gods & goddesses of Mount Olympus. Cracking this Narnia Code with all its fascinating imagery of Roman gods has come at a very opportune time for her!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Taming Of The Shrew

Bard On The Beach - a perfect start to a new homeschool year.  Serena was quick to notice that the actor (Lois Anderson) who played Katharina was the same one who played Rosalind in As You Like It last year. As always, it was a fantastic production with many well executed comedic elements.

With her love for words, Serena enjoyed reading aloud the Shakespearean dialogue with me in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. We particularly liked the interplay between Kate and Petruchio in Act 4, Scene 5, where Kate was finally tamed:

"I say it is the moon."
"I know it is the moon."
"Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun."
"Then, God be bless'd: it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summer of Guests & Books


We hosted a total of 10 guests this summer, staying from 1 night to 2 months, coming from Oregon, Ontario, Ecuador, and Japan. Had their itineraries not overlapped, it would've taken us over 4 months to host them all. Serena enjoyed the mix of company, and I got a taste of what it's like to run a B&B. I think I'll stick with homeschooling.

With a revolving door of visitors, "school" was out the question but we managed to keep indulging in our favourite thing: books.  Serena polished off two good reads this summer:

Varjak Paw by S. F. Said
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

She is re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia for a new book club starting this month. We are looking forward to our first experience in a book club.

Serena loves her audiobooks so our summer guests had no choice but to listen to these classic stories with us whenever we rode in the car together:

Focus On The Family Radio Theatre: Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" by Paul McCusker & Philip Glassborow
Full Cast Audio: Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano" by Geraldine McCaughrean
Tantor Unabridged Classics: Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" by Simon Vance

Serena's favourite?  "Black Beauty. I love horses!"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A New Beginning

The first time Serena used the expression, "That'll happen when pigs fly!", I fell off the chair laughing. On and off we joke about these flying pigs, that someday somewhere, a pig might just fly.

I once scoffed at the idea of marriage, of kids, of homeschooling. Now I'm guilty of all charges. What we believe impossible one day might just be a reality in another. Never say never!

So this Flying Pig mom is renewing her motivation to tackle the daunting task of homeschooling a free spirit Swinging Monkey, because you never know. That Monkey might just love math, someday.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tomatosphere (Part III)

Unlike those gifted gardeners blessed with their green thumbs, I have a black thumb. Plants simply do not thrive under my supervision. My seasonal allergy further discourages my desire to be out in the garden. So imagine my excitement (and shock) when I saw these beautiful tomatoes popping all over our backyard. Not too long ago, they were mere little seeds in an envelope!

"Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." 
Mark 4:27

Friday, August 31, 2012

Yui 小松由依

We hosted a university student from Shikoku, Japan for 3 weeks in August. Gentle and soft-spoken, Yui came here to polish her verbal English skills, and she worked very hard at it. Great job, Yui!

Serena was a considerate host and always spoke slowly and clearly to our guest. She was excited to surprise Yui with an ice-cream cake on her birthday, and she introduced Yui to a whole new world of treats: Nutella, chocolate soy, Dairy Queen blizzards, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, whipped cream... Needless to say, they became fast friends!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Greek Mythology

It started with Full Cast Audio's Hercules by Geraldine McCaughrean. Then the 6-book series Mary Pope Osborne's Tales From The Odyssey. Serena is completely drawn into the world of Greek myths and the gods & goddesses of Mount Olympus. She enjoyed so much the story of Odysseus' long journey home from the Trojan War that when she heard of Homer's other classic epic poem, Iliad, she wanted to read it.  That is, until I showed her the real thing, which doesn't come translated in any kid-friendly versions as far as I know.


Coincidentally, the featured exhibition at the Surrey Museum this summer is LEGO: Myths & Muses! Zeus & Hera standing on Mount Olympus, the epic battles of Trojan War with its famed Trojan horse, the Underworld of Hades and his 3-headed dog Cerberus, Hercules slaying the Nemean lion and battling the water beast Hydra, huge models of Poseidon and Atlas... all intricately built with those little LEGO blocks. The exhibition came alive to Serena as she was able to identify all the characters she's read about.  We're looking forward to reading 2 new books on the topic that we recently bought:

Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek and Roman Mythology by William F. Russell
National Geographic's Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters by Donna Jo Napoli.

Friday, August 10, 2012

War of 1812 Anniversary


To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, Canada Place has a free public exhibit sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Serena was first introduced to this historical event when we read about Laura Secord back in October. The War of 1812 Experience is very informative and well designed with many interactive components. The exhibit is located right on the Promenade, so pick a sunny day and take in the beautiful downtown scenery at the same time!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Camping Fun


Our very first family camping trip! We were tent-camping at Golden Ears Provincial Park with two other families and ate way too many marshmallows. Kids enjoyed the simple pleasure of running around the woods and finding all sorts of slugs. Sleeping under the stars, s'mores, open fire pit, s'mores, no baths, s'mores, nature galore, s'mores... what's not to like?  Did I mention s'mores?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Starry Night



Serena's artworks from a recent art camp are inspired by "De sterrennacht" by Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh who painted the original in 1889.

"I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream." ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Yugo & Daichi


Yugo and Daichi from Japan stayed at our home for 2 weeks as they learned English and experienced Canadian living. We had great fun hosting and sharing our family life with them. Hopefully they're able to improve their English vocabulary during their stay. We know for sure that they've mastered this one liner since they heard it at every dinner: "Serena, eat your meat!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wed Club Park Days


While our official VCHEA Wed Club takes a break for the summer, all the homeschool families continue to meet every Wed for Park Days throughout the summer. Jericho Beach was a blast last week as it was hot enough for the kids to dip in the ocean. Serena turned into a fish and became one with the sea. The joy of hot summer days!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Triathlon

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what's possible; and soon you will be doing the impossible.
    ~ St. Francis of Assisi


Serena attempted her first triathlon at the Exceleration's KOS TRI IT Triathlon. It was a fantastic family event and a great exposure for children to a multisport environment. Serena had a great start in the pool with swimming being her strongest sport among the three. She said the last 1-km run was the hardest but she persevered and crossed the Finish line to get her well-earned medal and prize package. She had great fun cheering her friends on and enjoyed the whole experience so much that she already said, "I want to do it again!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Beaver? A Rat? Remy?


We went on a family pyjama walk (we all wore plaid pyjama pants, very stylish) this evening and saw this most unusual creature swimming in a ditch. We couldn't figure out what it was. I thought it looked like a big rodent, but rats don't like water. Daddy thought it looked more like a mini beaver but a beaver in our neighbourhood?? Could it be a groundhog? A vole? Remy from Ratatouille? We solved the mystery as soon as we got home to our computer - a muskrat!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lazy Summer Days Begin

Blossoms & butterflies...

Sombrero & summer dresses...

Street festivals & sunshine...

Swings & popsicles...

Pastels & artsy afternoons...

Fancy treats & cocoa...

More fancy treats & cocoa...

Fresh strawberries & ice-cream...

We are ready for summer!