Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Serena took in her first Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley at the age of 2, when she stood just about the height of the tulips. Seven years later she still loves those pretty flowers. Must be the Dutch running in her blood. Our favourite stop is RoozenGaarde, operated by the Roozen family who started raising tulips in Holland in the mid-1700's.

With such beautiful backdrop, Serena was inspired by the explosion of colours around her and penned a few "snapshots" for her Pencraft course:
Blushing Beauty -
"Twisted like a lollipop,
with rose and yellow hue.
It's no wonder it's in the specialty row."

Menton / Maureen / Maja -
"Yummy as a macaroon,
lemon, strawberry, pistachio,
waving in the breeze.
They look so yummy,
I wish I were a bee!"

Saturday, April 27, 2013


After Planet Narnia, Serena joined Pencraft, a 6-week writing course for homelearners led again by our brilliant Mrs. Cowley.

Snapshot Exercise: look around and take a mental snapshot of something, then write down a brief description of the image - describe it, don't just name it! This will help you begin to build your "Writer's Recall".

For their first session last week, the kids went outside to take their "snapshots".  Here are Serena's:

"A beutiful blooming daisy, in ful blosum, shaping the glory and beuty it bestows. It gives light to the feild making all look divine."

"A lovely pach of pearl white flowers, their beuty clear as christal, their leafey stems waving in the spring breeze, what a sight."

Best Homeschool Day

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Plate Food Guide

Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has replaced MyPyramid with a simplified MyPlate as the U.S. government's primary food group symbol? It certainly seems to make more sense to visualize food on a plate than on a pyramid! MyPyramid retired after 19 years of service.

We enjoy reading all the goofy rhyming books by Brian P. Cleary and were glad to discover his "Food is Categorical" series. There's a book for each of the five major food groups, and even one for oils: "Oils (Just A Bit) To Keep Your Body Fit: What Are Oils?"

Serena created her own Plate, learning the importance and roles of each food group. Having an aversion to all meat, she's glad to know the power of peanut butter in satisfying her protein needs. Not that I need her to have a legitimate excuse for not eating her chicken at dinner...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Phantom Tollbooth & Fibonacci

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a brilliant classic and a riot to read. Serena loves the endless puns and wordplay; the Doldrums and its Lethargarians, the Island of Conclusions, the Mountains of Ignorance, Digitopolis, Dictionopolis, the princesses Rhyme and Reason... have now entered into our daily vocabulary.

We watched the 1970 movie in which Milo, the main character in the book, mentioned "fibonacci". While Serena would likely be a loyal subject of King Azaz The Unabridged at Dictionopolis, I would pledge my loyalty to the Mathemagician over at Digitopolis. Hence I felt obliged to seize the opportunity and enlighten Serena on the fascinating fibonacci sequence.

Thankfully we have learnt from Milo's adventures that both words and numbers are important, and "the process of seeking knowledge" is not "the greatest waste of time of all" as Milo thought in the beginning. The fibonacci sequence is one proof that math can be seen in the beauty of nature and life.

"As Pilgrim's Progress is concerned with the awakening of the sluggardly spirit, The Phantom Tollbooth is concerned with the awakening of the lazy mind." (Excerpt from The New Yorker's review of The Phantom Tollbooth, 1961)

Related Readings:
"Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci" by Joseph D'Agnese
"Wild Fibonacci: Natures Secret Code Revealed" by Joy N. Hulme
"Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature" by Sarah C. Campbell

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pacific Northwest First Nations Art

After our field trip to the Museum of Anthropology on a beautiful spring day, we spent an afternoon making and learning about First Nations art with our homeschool friends. 

Bentwood boxes traditionally made by First Nations people on the west coast have special designs that are over 1000 years old. By using variations of two simple forms - "ovoid" and "U" - the kids created their own unique bentwood boxes.

The Pacific Northwest Coastal people include many different groups such as the Haida, the Tlinglit, the Tsimshian, the Nootka, and the Salishan, speaking many distinct languages.

The kids enjoyed playing with a Kwakiutl bear mask, a Makah bird mask, and a traditional tribal button blanket made by another homeschool family.

Resource: "The Bentwood Box: An Activity Book" by Nan McNutt

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fort Langley National Historic Site

Fort Langley National Historic Site was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1827 as a fur trade post, located on the Fraser River with a large population of First Nations Stó:lō - "people of the river". The Stó:lō people traded cranberries, salmon, furs, etc. in exchange for materials such as ropes, metals, and the famous HBC point blankets from European traders.

With our HCOS friends, we traveled back in time on this field trip and learned about the history of Fort Langley through many interactive displays and activities.
Matchmaker - marriages between the First Nations women and Hudson's Bay Company men helped build trust and secure trade relationships. Chief Trader Archibald McDonald was one shrewd businessman, with 17 of his 18 men having Aboriginal wives!
The Fraser River Bateau - flat-bottomed boats such as this were used by Hudson's Bay Company to transport furs and provisions between Fort Langley and Fort Hope.
Blacksmith Shop - a blacksmith gave us a demonstration on how to forge a hook. Farm tools and other hardware were forged here for the fort and other trading posts.
Cooperage - this was where barrels were built to store and transport salmon, cranberries, produce, etc. The kids got to test if they're "skookum" with a barrel rolling race.
Fur Press - before being shipped to London, the furs were first compressed by this simple machine.
Storehouse - this is the only original building left at this historical site. Pelts of different animals such as beavers, minks, wolverines, raccoons, muskrats, and otters were on display.
Big House - the residence of the chief trader, the clerk, and their families. This building was reconstructed to celebrate the centennial of a historical event on November 19, 1858, when British Columbia was proclaimed a colony at a ceremony in the original Big House. James Douglas, a HBC manager, was installed as the first governor.
Gold Panning - Fort Langley became world famous as gold finds on the Fraser River were reported in 1858. It was a popular spot for prospectors to stop and stock up supplies. The kids tried their hand at gold panning and Serena was lucky enough to strike it twice!
Bastions & Gallery - bastions were lookout stations and also used as temporary housing. The gallery, or walkway between the bastions, offers a beautiful view of the entire fort.
Model Piece-On-Piece Building - Fort Langley's buildings were constructed using tongue-and-groove to save expensive metal nails and to make them easier to relocate. Kids had the opportunity to build a little play house model.

At the end of our field trip, we all sat around the fire pit and were told a true story: a blacksmith, Jean Baptiste Brûlé, accidentally caused a big fire at the fort on this very day in 1840. Ironically, his last name, Brûlé, means "burnt" in French!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Secret Felties Society

A secret society of evil felties are plotting for world domination. It is suspected that the felties have their command centre somewhere in Vancouver and they communicate with felties around the world.

Serena has noticed suspicious activities of her felties in the past months and an infiltration of new felties who stealthily hide themselves in letters. She has been exchanging intelligence by mail with her friend Jackie who believes her own home has secretly been taken over by her felties as headquarter. The two friends have intercepted coded messages between their felties and are working hard to foil their world domination plans. Will they succeed? Or will our world be taken over by these felties scoundrels?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Queen Lucy The Valiant

After going through all seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, Serena and her book club "Planet Narnia" friends had a dress-up celebration. Present were Reepicheep, Lady Polly, Queen Susan, Jill Pole, Poggin the dwarf, and two Queen Lucy, Serena being one of them.

"But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan." C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Monday, April 1, 2013

Case of the Lost Bunny

Brittany, the baby bunny, was lost, somewhere in the woods of Burnaby Lake Regional Park. Detective Serena, along with others from the Detective Headquarters, had to retrace the lost bunny's route to bring her home.

After careful analysis of clues including fur, scats, gaits, and teeth marks, Detective Serena concluded that Brittany was a snowshoe hare who wandered off to a big leaf maple tree, then sidetracked by the smell of fresh mint and the croaking of a tree frog. Based on the polygraph test, the robin told the truth of Brittany's whereabouts. Case solved.