Friday, November 29, 2013

Meet Jennifer Lanthier

"This is the story of not long ago and not far away. 
It is the story of a boy who loves stamps
and a boy who loves words.
This is the story of a life that is lost.
And found."

These are the opening words of a beautiful picture book called "The Stamp Collector", a story inspired by writers imprisoned around the world. It is a book about the power of words and the importance of freedom of expression.

The Canadian author, Jennifer Lanthier, spent an hour with a group of students at our local library during her book tour across the country. With her warm smile and gentle voice, she did a reading of "The Stamp Collector", answered questions, and shared with us her passion to advocate for imprisoned writers as a member of PEN Canada.

During her tour, Ms. Lanthier has asked students at every stop to draw her pictures of stamps as souvenirs. She also encourages us to write to prisoners, as in the story of her book, to reassure them that they are not forgotten.

Liu Xiaobo, a renowned writer, literary scholar, political activist, and 2010 Nobel Peace prizewinner, is currently serving a 11-year prison sentence in China for undermining the state authorities. His wife is under house arrest.

It's unlikely that Serena's postcard will ever reach Mr. Liu's hands, but perhaps, just like "The Stamp Collector", the prison guard would look at the Canadian stamp and wonder...

"The stamps are so beautiful - bright and colorful, large and small. They are like seeds blown by powerful winds from all corners of the world. Like wishes."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Biography: Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael was often quoted to have said, "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." She exemplified that generous gift of love through her courageous work as a missionary in India for 55 years.

Amy Carmichael, originally from Northern Ireland, founded the Dohnavur Fellowship in 1901 in Tamil Nadu, a small village in the southern tip of India. She was horrified by the Hindu practice of sacrificing children to the temple gods and enslaving them to the priests. Dohnavur became a sanctuary for these temple children and it is still in operation to this day.

When she died in 1951, Amy asked that no stone be put over her grave at Dohnavur. Instead the children she cared for put a bird bath over it with the inscription "Ammai", meaning "true mother" in Tamil.

Serena decided to use the bird bath as the focal point of her project on Amy Carmichael for the SDHL Biography Fair this year.

After many stages of building, pasting, drying, painting, and decorating, the paper mache bird bath was finally done. Serena wrote what she has learnt about Amy Carmichael on cross-shaped papers dangling from the bird bath and on the back of the various pictures about the missionary's life in India.

Serena received many compliments for her very original and creative display this year. With over 30 biography projects to peruse, she enjoyed another great evening of sharing and learning with her homeschool friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cedar: The Tree of Life

In Cedar: The Tree of Life program at the Museum of Anthropology, Serena and her HCOS friends learned the importance of cedar tree among First Nations of the Northwest Coast.

The field trip included a silent, observational walk to observe cedar objects, a presentation to the process of collecting, splitting, and sawing cedar planks, and hands on activity to learn about different objects relating to cedar such as Bentwood Box and Canoe.

Serena was particular intrigued by the new knowledge that you could use the inner bark of cedar as diapers...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weather Weather Whether You Like It Or Not

It was a very rainy day in September. Seemed like a perfect time to start a unit study on weather!

We did a few fun experiments on water cycle and air pressure. We read some books. We did some research online. We rummaged and collected all the necessary pieces to make our weather tracking apparatus.

Glass jar, rubber band, balloon, some tape and a straw. We got a barometer!

Another jam jar, a ruler and more tape. Just like that we got ourselves a simple rain gauge.

With a pad of paper, we started collecting data.

Our homemade barometer was surprisingly accurate when we checked its daily measurements against the air pressure recorded on Government of Canada Weather Forecast.

 Just as we learned from our egg-in-a-bottle experiment, when the atmospheric air pressure drops, the higher pressure inside our barometer jar tries to push the air out, thus stretching the balloon outward and making the pointer drop. It really works!

While we're at it, might as well learn something about clouds!

We added an extra column and started tracking the clouds too. Lots of cumulus and stratus clouds this time of year, but we've had a surprisingly nice fall which allowed us to catch glimpses of those wispy cirrus and cirrostratus clouds.

When we set out to study weather, one of the things we were curious about was how it relates to migraines, something Serena and daddy suffer especially in the fall and winter.

After a month and a half of data collection, Serena charted her findings and made some interesting observations. For one, it seems like she and daddy both get headaches when the air pressure goes up significantly in a short time span. Who needs the weather channel when you have two human barometers at home!

Related Readings:
"50 Climate Questions" by Peter Christie
"Weather" by Deborah Chancellor
"Everything Weather" by Tim Samaras
"How Do Clouds Form?" by Lynn Peppas
"Global Warming" by Seymour Simon

No Recycling At Canadian Tire?!

We found out recently that Canadian Tire does not recycle the multitude of products they sell. So Serena and I decided to each write a letter to their corporate head office to express our disappointment.

We were excited to receive a reply from Canadian Tire, even though their explanation is, in my opinion, far from adequate. Nevertheless, it was a good opportunity for us to learn to be active global citizens and to engage in dialogues with companies regarding social responsibility.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013


As part of our study of the Aboriginal people of Canada, we learned that Bannock is a type of bread the Inuit made by wrapping dough around a stick and cooking over an open fire. Here's Serena's attempt at making her own Bannock:

Put 4 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl:

Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1-1/2 tbsp of baking powder:

Add 1-1/2 cups of water:

Mix all the ingredients together:

Knead the dough:

Roll the dough into a loaf:

Have fun & create different shapes!

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 mins:

Crusty on the outside, soft & warm on the inside!

Eat with jam or honey or both!

Recipe from "Aboriginal Peoples of Canada: Inuit" by Erinn Banting

Aboriginal Peoples of Canada

Can you name the 3 distinct groups of Aboriginal people as recognized by the Canadian Constitution? How about the 6 Aboriginal culture areas in Canada? Don't feel too bad if you're like one of those tongue-tied people in the CBC 8th Fire "Aboriginal 101" interview. I'm in the same boat; so glad we homeschool so I get a second chance to fill in the blanks!

The book series "Aboriginal Peoples of Canada" (courtesy of our wonderful library) take us through 13 different Aboriginal groups where we learn about each group's tradition, homes, clothing, transportation, food, tools, music, etc. By the time we finished reading all 13 books, it's not hard to notice one common thread among the different groups - their respect for and dependence on their natural environments. They all have such a deep sense of spiritual connection and stewardship with nature and their land.

"Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the Great Sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Good Spirit make them all for the use of his children?" - Tecumseh

"When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money." - Cree Prophecy

Web Resources:
Canadian Encyclopedia - Canada's Native Peoples
EcoKids - First Nations & Inuit
Library and Archives Canada - The Kids' Site of Canadian Settlement
Villagers TV - Canadian Aboriginal History: Origins