Thursday, December 24, 2015

Taekwondo Brown Belt

Newly minted brown belt, woohoo!

Serena has come a long way from her white belt 5 years ago. She's recently passed her promotional test and received her 8th level belt. Now there's only a red belt in the way of her goal to black belt!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Reads

I recently read a book called Last Airlift by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. It is about a Vietnamese orphan Tuyet who was rescued by the last Canadian airlift operation. She is one of 57 kids rescued from Saigon, Vietnam. It is a true story with many cool archive pictures and based on an interview of Tuyet as an adult now living happily in Canada.

I find the story very uplifting and parts of Tuyet's first experience in Canada very humorous. She thought that the lawns in front of all the houses were rice paddies!

I also read Stolen Child by the same author as Last Airlift.  It is about a girl named Nadia who was stolen from her Ukrainian family because of the secret Nazi project "Lebensborn".  The children stolen were believed to have "Aryan" traits and were brainwashed to be "superior" Germans and placed with German adoptive families.  It is a historical fiction that is both interesting and very sad.
As well as Stolen Child, I read a book that I couldn't put down, The View from Saturday by E. L. Konisberg, while on vacation in Hong Kong. It is about "The Souls", a group of four very unusual grade 6 children who compete in the Academic Bowl, a knowledge competition between schools, with the guidance of their coach Mrs. Olinski.

I love this book because of the wonderful personalities of the characters and the touching friendship of The Souls.

E. L. Konisberg is also the author of two other books I like a lot: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver.  

Happy holiday reading!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shakespeare Fun

Our annual pilgrimage to Bard on the Beach landed us at a fantastic performance of Love's Labour's Lost set in the Roaring Twenties of Chicago. As much fun as the musical was though, I enjoyed even more so the presentation of Henry V by the South Delta Homelearners!

Serena was one of four thespians playing the title role of King Henry V. The clips here include her rousing speech to the English soldiers and the wooing of the French princess Katherine.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crystal Habit

Crystal habit is what scientists call the uniqueness of the crystal structure of every mineral.  Certain minerals, such as table salt and epsom salt, have distinctive habits in the way their crystals grow.

My mom and I did an experiment to see how the crystal habits of the two different kinds of salts differed. We simply mixed teaspoons of salt in water and waited for the water to evaporate completely - that took weeks!

Table salt has crystal habits that are cube-shaped and they look a bit like little glass boxes. Quite pretty!

The habit of epsom salt grows in long, needle like crystals that can sometimes look like snow flakes.

I really enjoyed looking at the crystals through my jeweller's loop.  So did my mom!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Gems & Minerals

I have recently developed an interest in minerals and especially, gemstones.  I went to an incredible gallery called Crystalworks Designs in Vancouver which helped spur on my passion.  Another good spot is this tiny little shop called Amethyst Creations.  I also love going to the UBC Pacific Museum of the Earth with its giant amethyst crystals and slab of malachite.

However the origin of my new hobby was The Elements: an Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. I know what you're thinking - the same book that inspired the use of Glenn Seaborg for my Biography Fair project? Yup. That's the one!  It mentioned so many interesting gemstones that led me to borrow my all time favourite gem book, Gemstones of the World. I have read that book from cover to cover at least twice. And that's how it all happened.

Here is my collection of gemstones so far.  Some of my favourite pieces are my geode (top right), my sand tumbled Gobi Dessert agate (bottom left), and basically all the rest - I love them all!  As to where I search for buyable gems 99.99999 percent?  eBay!  Whether it's dumortierite, benitoite, or rhodochrisite, eBay has it.  I got my sea jasper (bottom right) from eBay.

Now, some gemstone trivia.  Do you know what the green leaf-like spot on my geode is?  That's not totally a fair question 'cause I have no clue what it is myself!  How about the greenish/purple gemstone in the centre of the silver box?  What is the cluster of purple crystals called?  Are the seven objects on the left blue bag gems or minerals?

(Answers: flourite, amethyst, both)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Flute Gold Medalist

After 3 years of lessons, Serena's flute teacher encouraged her to take the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) practical exam to see where she's at.

It was an intensive few months of practice as she prepared for the big exam in spring. The adjudicated exam included these segments: Repertoire, Technical Requirements, Ear Tests, and Sight Reading.

With a score of 90% and glorious remarks from the examiner, Serena received the highest mark in B.C. and is the recipient of the 2015 Gold Medal for Level 4 Flute!

We attended the ceremony for the presentation of national & regional gold medals as well as diplomas for the 2015 graduating class. It was a very joyous celebration for all the medalists & graduates and their proud families & teachers.

Keep up the great work, Serena!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Glenn Seaborg

Serena broke tradition this year. Having always chosen to study female historical figures for the past 5 years, she picked a male subject for her 6th Biography Fair presentation.

We've been reading through The Elements by Theodore Gray, a book about the periodic table. The name Glenn Seaborg kept showing up and piqued Serena's curiosity. Turns out he was a really cool chemist who helped discover 10 of the elements (including the infamous plutonium) and won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He had worked closely with 10 U.S. presidents from Roosevelt to Bush Sr., and was one of the lead scientists in the Manhattan Project.

After all her research, Serena decided to play off of how Glenn Seaborg was involved in many classified government projects. Her display included a little detective quiz and some "top secret" & "confidential" letters that she fabricated based on what she's learnt about Seaborg.

"Secrecy was an issue that improved with time but has not yet been satisfactorily resolved, especially with respect to the cumbersome and difficult declassification of so-called secret material."
Quote from "A Chemist in the White House: From Manhattan Project to the End of the Cold War" by Glenn Seaborg.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Student Vote 2015

On October 13th, a few fellow homeschoolers & I participated in a Student Vote event. This vote was different than the normal election because to legally vote you have to be 18 or over.

Before the vote, we reviewed the four main parties: Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Green (there was no Bloc Quebecois candidate in Delta).  We also talked about the responsibilities of the three levels of government: Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. After that, we got to "vote" for real Delta candidates.

This year's election was an interesting one, the longest in modern Canadian history. With Stephen Harper running for a fourth term, everyone was ready for somebody else! It was quite exciting to watch the election broadcast last night and see the Liberals winning a majority.

We vote because we are part of a democracy which allows us to vote for MPs (Members of Parliament) to express our support to his or her party. I had a lot of fun doing the practice vote. For our Student Vote, I found out that 40.5% of us voted for the Green party!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My First Turkey

 My family and I served a free Thanksgiving dinner with our church to the people in need from our community. Some volunteers would make turkeys, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, etc. Other volunteers would serve the people, set the tables, and slice the pies and meat. Everyone worked together helping people who needed it, I loved it! I hope I can do it again next year!

My dad and I consulted the tested-and-approved recipe of chef Gordon Ramsey.  (Our turkey recipe from last year was the same one as this.)  We stuffed the turkey cavity with lemons and onions.  The best part was slathering the turkey with herb butter, under the skin, on the outside and even a little in the cavity.

We drizzle the turkey with a little olive oil to keep the butter from burning then popped it in the oven.  The glorious smell that drifted through the house was enough to drift me out the window.

We took the turkey out from the oven and covered it with a few thick slices of bacon. Because the recipe said so, and, (obviously) everything is better with bacon.

With our first turkey made just by me and dad beautifully browned, it took extreme effort from us not to ask my mom for two forks and just start eating...

At last, with the turkey carved and on the platter, we headed out the door. Serving the food was an incredible experience. I served cranberry sauce and rolls in the first round.  Then at seconds I was elevated to mashed potatoes, discovering that I had a knack with the "ice-cream" scooper.  All in all, this Thanksgiving was a rewarding experience and incredibly fun! 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bikes & Gears

Serena has caught the bike fever. It started when she rode a high-end speedy racing bike at the triathlon this summer. Now she & Daddy go on long bike rides on nice weekends. Curiously their excursions always end up at a place that sells ice-cream or milkshakes or hot chocolate...

While they're out spinning around, I sit and contemplate how to weave this new interest into our homeschool days.

Gears! Physical science unit, checked.

We watched a few intro videos like Gear Basics and How Do Bike Gears Work. We love the Smarter Every Day video called The Backwards Brain Bicycle - so cool how our brains get hardwired! Some excellent books on the subject include Pedal It! and Go Fly A Bike!.

The best part about science though is always the hands on stuff. There's no shortage of bikes in this home for show & tell! Serena gets to tinker with bike mechanic Daddy.

We borrowed a set of K'Nex with instructions to build a cool little stationary bike. It showed us a simplified version of a sprocket gear system, but it didn't really illustrate the power of gear ratio as the front & back gears are of the same size.

This crank fan, however, did the trick marvellously. We started with 2 identical gears in the fan's spur gear system, then switched to using one big and one small gears. The speed of the fan is significantly different depending on whether we use the big gear to drive the small one or vice versa.

Next K'Nex model to build is a blender that uses a crown gear system. Fun!

"Life is like riding a bicycle: you don't fall off unless you stop pedaling." Claude Pepper

"Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use." Charles Schultz

Better keep pedaling and use those gears!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Mystery of History

It has become a habit for us to listen to a chapter of The Mystery of History by Linda Lacour Hobar during breakfast. We went through Volume II: The Early Church and the Middle Ages and Volume III: The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations this way; it took us about 2 leisurely years! The fascinating historical figures provided us with plenty of good conversation at the breakfast table.

We memorized some key dates and built quite an elaborate "Wall of Fame" timeline with each important figure or event we studied. It's been such a constant on our wall that it's a little sad to take it all off.

The history lesson often led us to investigate more online and in books. Crash Course World History on YouTube is one of our favourites, and we've recently discovered an awesome book about Eleanor of Aquitaine called A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg.

Serena, what's your most memorable historical figure or event that we've studied?
Pentecost (A.D. 29) because it's the first date I memorized and it's such an important aspect in Christian life, and Good King Wenceslas (929) because he was an amazing king without the usual power hunger downfall of many kings in history.

If you could go back in time, which period in history would you visit?
The Renaissance!  Because it was such an artistic period of time, everything seemed to flourish during the Renaissance.

If you could meet one of the people you've studied, who would that be?
Nicholas Copernicus. I'd love to talk ideas with him because he's so smart. Also Eleanor of Aquitaine, just because she's such a great character, so outlandish and daring and fun loving!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams is a great story about the endearing friendship and struggles of a group of rabbits. I really enjoyed the audiobook and the unique personalities of the different characters. I especially liked the character Bigwig.

I love bunnies and rabbits alike and know many friends who own them. Drawing rabbits and bunnies is very fun and I enjoyed drawing these pictures. I recommend Watership Down as it is such a great story and I know that anyone who reads it will love it!

Saturday, August 29, 2015


When it came to swimming in Kamloops, the overall experience wasn't what I'd call enjoyable. The Thompson River, my first swimming place, was absolutely freezing. I mean bone numbing, so-cold-I'm-warm freezing. As the biggest tributary of the Fraser River, Thompson River also has strong currents, which doesn't help. There are some up factors though, such as plentiful skipping stones and a park nearby with music every night. The second swimming location was a lake called Lac Le Jeune. It was just as freezing as the river and also contained dead flies and leeches. Enough said. (Though the landscape was beautiful, and there were lots of fish.)

The Secwepemc (pronounced sehk-hwep-mehk) Museum is a really interesting sight where I learned a lot about the Secwepemc culture, about its continual struggle through the generations. The museum contains many interesting artifacts such as native american clothing and headdresses adorned with bear claws. My favourite part was going inside a pit house. The museum is also next to the historic Kamloops Indian Residential School. The school's story is a sad one with children carted away and native kids being beaten for not understanding English instructions.

FOOD!!! The food in Kamloops was yummy. The highly rated soup from The Art We Are, a restaurant and local art shop, was simply amazing. The bison bolognese and lamb burger from The Noble Pig were awesome. The teryaki burgers from Burger Café Joy were delicious. The beef udon and pork cutlets from Jimmy's Noodle and Cutlet were astounding (plus grape Crush floats and make-your-own sesame sauce. Bonus!) With the company of Magnum Chocolate Infinities at the apartment, my Kamloops food experience was really great!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Help Protect Our World!

Serena was inspired to clean up our neighbourhood this weekend. She got busy creating snazzy clothes tags and signs. On behalf of "Chipmunk", she posted notes to encourage our neighbours to "help protect our world!". Together with Daddy, they picked up 4 full bags of garbage around the block.

Very proud of your initiative and reminding us all of Genesis 1:31, Serena!