Saturday, December 20, 2014

Band Christmas Concert

Led by Ms. Khoo, the Homeschool band joined the Brass, Wind & Wire band for a Christmas concert at the Genesis Theatre. Many performers are beginners and they age from 8 to mid-80's! While Serena is a relatively more experienced musician in the group, she's having fun learning the dynamics of playing in a band with other musicians and their instruments. The concert wrapped up this fall term for us and what a wonderful way to start the Christmas season celebration!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Biography Fair: Eleanor Prentiss

"A true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind." (From the book "Dare the Wind: the Record Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud" by Tracy Fern)

Eleanor Prentiss was the navigator of the fastest clipper ship to sail from New York to San Francisco in 1851. She and her husband Josiah Creesy, the captain of the Flying Cloud, set the record at 89 days 21 hours. They broke their own record 3 years later at 89 days 8 hours.

I chose Eleanor Prentiss as my Biography Fair project because she stood out in a time when women did not have many rights and were often not recognized. It was very unusual to have a woman as a navigator during the time of the California Gold Rush, and she was a very good and capable one!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Romeo & Juliet

Mike Stack did his magic again and led the South Delta Homelearners through another fantastic Shakespeare workshop. The diverse group of thespians age 8 to 18 pulled off a dramatic performance of the tragic love story of Romeo & Juliet while having a ton of fun doing it!

Serena played Juliet, the role being shared by 3 girls, just as the role of Romeo being split by another 3 gals. In addition to her role as a Capulet, Serena also opened the performance playing her flute in a trio ensemble.

Act I, Scene V

Act III, Scene II

Act V, Scene III

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Cat Sonnet

The cat shoots up the gnarly barkèd tree
As noiseless as the breeze on Autumn days.
So noiseless that there is no way to see
The kitty happily tumbling as she plays.

A cat’s will is an ever-fixèd mark,
Unchanging as the seasons of the year.
Her fury is displayed in scratchèd bark,
Enflamèd are the burning eyes that sear.

The nature of a cat is always playful,
A-pouncing upon all the things it sees.
His every single motion is so graceful,
His fluid dances seem always to please.

     If all I’ve said ‘bout cats is not all true,
     Cross out all words I humbly writ for you.

Serena wrote this sonnet as part of her Shakespeare workshop this month. After playing Lady Macbeth in spring, she is back tackling another femme fatale role in another popular Shakespeare drama. See if you can guess the play by hearing this piece of flute music:

Monday, November 10, 2014

VAG: The Forbidden City Exhibit

I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see an exhibit called The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperor. This exhibit is so special because many of the artifacts (from Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty) have never left China before.

Did you know: the Forbidden City has about 1,000 buildings with about 10,000 rooms!

At the end of the tour our group did a workshop on Chinese calligraphy. I learned to write my middle name in Chinese!
photo credit:

Did you know: the most precious artifact in the exhibit is a rare Ming Dynasty cup with a rooster, a hen, and two chicks in a garden painted on it. There's only about 12 of these in the world and it's valued at approximately $42 million!!!!!!

photo credit:

Did you know: Empress Dowager Cixi loved having photos taken of herself in her most splendid attire. Notice she was wearing these fancy long fingernail guards - elite ladies wore long fingernails to show that they did not need to work!

photo credit:

Did you know: only Emperors were allowed to wear the symbol of power - a golden 5-clawed dragon. Dragons on commoners' clothes only have 3 or 4 claws, and were never in gold. Gold was reserved for the Sons of Heaven!

Other cool things we saw: the Emperor's throne room, an ornate dog blanket, jade vases, a tally (like a security key), ceremonial coat, Ming platform shoes, a fancy sedan chair...

Did you know: to carry the Empress Dowager Cixi from one end of the Forbidden City to the other would take about 1.5 hours!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Love Hershey!

Serena has fond memory of her first trip to Timberline Ranch last year, so she's excited for another chance to ride horses again at the ranch.

Hershey was her trail ride horse and you decide how much she loves that horse. She tried trotting and vaulting, but the leisurely hour-long trail ride was still her favourite.

Serena's collection of Schleich horses: Clydesdale, Frisian, Shire, Tennessee Walker, Arabian, Andalusian, Lipizzaner, and Shetland Pony. If you'd like know which one's which, you have to ask her!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Yukon Fun

Other highlights of our adventure in Whitehorse:

Yukon Legislative Assembly

Ice Age Mammals Exhibit at Yukon Arts Centre

World's Largest Weather Vane (DC-3) at Yukon Transportation Museum

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Takhini Hot Springs

Yukon's most famous artist: Ted Harrison

Serena's favourite bookstore: Mac's Fireweed Books

Serena posing with the bust of Jack London, author of "The Call of the Wild", and holding her special Whitehorse souvenir - a little bear made of real sealskin by Yukon artisan Lena White.

(Reference: The Yukon Song in Calvin and Hobbes comic by Bill Watterson)

Yukon River

The longest river in Alaska and Yukon, the Yukon River was a major transportation route during the Gold Rush. It is also an important territory for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation people. We visited the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre where we learned lots about the displacement of the Tagish Kwan people and their petition to return to their traditional territory along the Yukon River.

Kwanlin means "running water through canyon" in Southern Tutchone. Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids were major challenges for the prospectors traveling on the Yukon River during the Gold Rush. We enjoyed a good hike on a beautiful crisp day through Miles Canyon with its impressive 50-foot high basaltic walls.

The Old Log Church, built in 1900, is the one of the oldest building in Whitehorse. It was started by an Anglican missionary to minister to gold seekers and the First Nations.

Isaac O. Stringer, the second Bishop of Yukon, is widely known as the "bishop who ate his boots". He and his travelers were lost in the mountains one wintry October in 1909 and had resorted to eating their sealskin boots to survive!

Bishop noted in his diary:

"Thursday, Oct 21. Breakfast of sealskin boot, soles and tops boiled and toasted. Soles better than uppers. Soup of small scraps and bacon... the last we had; tired; hands sore; took a long time to pack up..."

Later that day, they stumbled upon human help. Two weeks later they resumed their 500-mile trek to Dawson.

Quote from the Old Log Church Museum

Yukon Ho!

We had a rare opportunity to visit Whitehorse, Yukon last week. What an eye-opener to see this northern part of our country!

We studied the Klondike Gold Rush back in May, and Yukon is of course chock full of Gold Rush history and artifacts. The MacBride Museum of Yukon History is a must-see if you ever visit Whitehorse!

This 1899 cabin belonged to the real Sam McGee, whose name became famous because of Robert W. Service's well-known (though fictional) poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee".

The Wild World Gallery of the museum features all sorts of Yukon animals and birds. Serena loved being able to touch and feel the different animal pelts, from wolf to ermine!

Serena's favourite part of the museum: dress-up closet filled with period costume from the Gold Rush era!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Skeletal & Muscular Systems

The song of choice for our study of the skeletal system is "Them Not-So-Dry Bones" by Schoolhouse Rock - Daddy remembers watching those cartoons as a kid on the weekend!

The Interactive Skeleton is a great tool to learn all about the anatomy of bones. We used it as a guide to label our skeleton model.

We watched a National Geographic video on bone stretching in China, a painful surgical procedure to make people taller. It's very scary...

It makes sense to learn about our muscles and joints in tandem with our bone study. Serena particularly enjoyed this muscular system video because she learned a new term that made her giggle: Gluteus Maximus.

Sing "Muscles Make You Stronger" and dance with a skeleton!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Poet of the People: Pablo Neruda

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

The Dreamer is a biographical fiction about a boy named Neftali who loves to dream, collect things, and write, and hopes to become a poet one day. Neftali Reyes is a famous Chilean poet who goes by the pen name of Pablo Neruda. He wrote under his pen name because his Father disapproved of Neftali's career as a poet.
I relate to Neftali in the story because I like to collect things and daydream too! Both me and Neftali love the forest and nature around us. The story is full of imagination and poetry which I love: the imagery of the full forest, the shiny beetle, the Chucao bird, the swans in the lagoon, the rolling ocean, the acorn, the feather, the yellow sheep... The story is sprinkled with beautiful daydreamy poems like this one:

"Is fire born of words? 
Or are words born of fire?"

I find the pointillism illustrations by Peter Sis very unique and symbolic to the story. My favourite part of the story is when Neftali finally gains the courage inside to realize that his Father is wrong - he is not "absent-minded" and not going to "amount to nothing".

This is the second book I've read by Pam Munoz Ryan after Riding Freedom. I'm looking forward to reading another book by the same author, Paint the Wind.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Our family went to see the dress rehearsal of Carmen by the Vancouver Opera last night. Carmen is a famous opera written by Georges Bizet. The performance was in French with subtitles.

We love the familiar songs of "Habanera" and "Toreador", and the beautiful set and elaborate costumes. I like the character of Michaela the best, and my favourite scene is when Escamillo swaggered into town singing "Toreador"! The girl who played the gypsy Carmen is really good too but the character is a little too mean!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Charlotte or Charley?

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan is about a girl named Charlotte trying to survive in the harsh west country with her love of horses and her friends Hayward and Vern to spur her on.

Charlotte was born "In the mid-eighteen hundreds, when the East was young and the West was yet to be settled" (p.2). She grew up in an orphanage where life was really tough. So she ran away but in order to survive during a time when women had no rights, she dressed up as a boy. "Charley" ended up working for Ebenezer who took "him" in as his own child.

Freedom was a horse at the orphanage, and Charlotte loved and cared for her until she died. Freedom's spirit stayed with Charlotte and helped her overcome many challenges. In the end Charlotte was able to fulfill her dream of having her own ranch. She named a new colt "Freedom", which for Charlotte, stands for her very own freedom.

The book is set during the Gold Rush, and is based on the life of a real "whip" (stage coach driver), Charley Darkey Parkhurst, or "One-eyed Charley". No one knew until "his" death that Charley was in fact a woman! Charley may have been the very first woman to have voted at a U.S. presidential election.

I love Brian Selznick's illustrations which give a very realistic feel to the book. My favourite part of the book is when Charlotte ran away from the orphanage. I also liked the part when Ebenezer challenged Charlotte to drive a 6-horse stage coach. I think "Charley" is an amazing person because she was able to do seemingly impossible things like driving a stage coach and living as a man in the old west. That must have been wild!

Circulatory System

After meeting the lungs online at Khan Academy, we decided to Meet the Heart this week. While we love all the Khan Academy teaching videos so far, we find "How does the Heart Work?" by Mocomi Kids to be the most concise explanation of a rather convoluted system. Of course we can't learn without a catchy Circulatory Song!

Mapping out the circulatory system and playing The Circulation Game really helps us understand and appreciate the workings of our heart pump.

The objective of the game is to get the red blood cells to deliver oxygen and pick up carbon dioxide from different parts of the body, and to deliver sugar & protein from the intestines to the body while bringing waste to the kidneys.

Do you know: the "lub-dub" thumping sound of your heart comes from the heart valves snapping shut to prevent backflow.