Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scratch Patch.

On our latest trip to Simon's Town we visited Scratch Patch-Mineral World. We had been there before when the children were very small but hadn't been into the factory section as Jenna was very sensitive to loud noises then. Now that she understands more about her world and her own body she doesn't become as afraid of new noises in new environments. When you enter the factory section it is very loud because it is filled with different types of drums all completing a special part of the process of getting the stones prepared for sale.

Both Michael and Jenna put their hands to their ears and stood close by my side until they felt comfortable to move on without their special "protection". So I stood by patiently waiting for them to move on. When they were ready the first thing that they both noticed were the cogs which were turning the drums. They've had a fascination with cogs lately because they've been playing with dad's old lego and discovering what cogs do-here they got to see the real ones in action! (I love how the Lord brings little learning moments together like this!)

These are the polishing drums. They rotate at different times according to the type of stone inside and how "roughly" they can be handled.

Here they are washing the stones.

Inside a drum-I just love the colours-you probably can't quite get the same effect as we did, but when the stones are in water they shine even more.

After being washed and polished the stones are then sorted into different sizes. Here they are on a conveyor belt in sawdust, about to enter the sorting tunnel.

We had a little lesson in size and sorting here. As the stones move along the tunnel they fall into different barrels according to their size. Jen and I discussed how this was happening. After a while she figured out that the holes in the tunnel get bigger as you get further down the tunnel, thus letting the stones out according to their appropriate size. Great practical maths lesson!

After all that learning Michael said he'd had enough of the noise so we headed on to the shop. Here you can find examples of all the stones for sale. Some are fashioned into statues or ornaments. Others are just left in their natural state. And still others are polished to look all shiny and sparkly!

Jenna loved these Titanium Quartz stones-what can I say she's a girl who loves sparkly pretty things!

And Michael was impressed by these shark teeth. They are fossil teeth found in the seas in Morocco. Apparently they were ancestors of the Great White Shark.

And then we headed on to the real reason for visiting Scratch Patch! The HUGE patch of stones, found in a cave like setting with a waterfall and all, was like a treasure hunt all on it's own! We got a small bag each to fill with stones and spent some time exploring all the nooks and crannies where some stones were hiding.

Be warned though, if you go to visit you may need to pack in a new set of clothes. It can get very slippery climbing over the rocks.

Jenna loves rocks. She has an uncanny knack for finding rocks which are heart shaped. She has a little collection on her bookshelf at home. Well, she even managed to find a heart stone in the midst of all those gems! Can you see it in the right top corner?

Michael on the other hand decided to be quite selective and only went for green and orange stones. What was I to expect from my little man who knows exactly what he wants in life and determindly pursues his goals?!

The simple pleasures in life appeal to him! Here's my little gem among the gems!

Jenna discovered more interesting rocks-this is fossilized wood. Another great learning moment. Jen has been very interested in dinosaurs and fossils lately so this is why these rocks appealed to her.

And of course when mommy got home she had to do the teacher thing and I asked them to match up their little treasures to the gem stone chart we bought. Not as easy as it seems actually!

All in all we had a great time at Scratch Patch and MY little treasures learnt a lot of new information in a relaxed enjoyable manner.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Learning and living with our home school community.

At the beginning of the year I felt that I needed to step back for a while from organising activities for our co-op group and co-ordinating park days. So I handed over these duties to a very organised and creative mommy, who is doing a great job of keeping us all connected. It has been a blessing to watch as other moms have gotten involved more. And it has given opportunities for us to get to know one another even more as each mom has taken a turn to organise a co-op lesson.

This year we started off with a clay lesson. After listening to a story the children were encouraged to create something from the story with clay. They added a little sparkle with beads.

Jenna's clay canoe

Next we learnt about different seeds and what fruit they belonged to,

along with how plants need water to grow.

Just before Easter one of the mommy's was very creative and planned a whole morning of easter craft activities. The children made hot-cross buns, decorated eggs, completed an egg and spoon obstacle course and were entertained by a puppet show.

Michael's hand painted easter egg

Jenna's easter egg-this was wrapped with an elastic and had stickers stuck on it before putting it into food colouring dye. Afterwards all the "add-ons" were removed.

After decorating the easter eggs at co-op I thought our Easter tree looked a little bare with only four eggs hanging on it so the children and I made these little chicks in Fabergé eggs. I thought I was being quite daring attempting such a fiddly activity with Michael-but he loved it! He managed to complete the whole activity without loosing his concentration.

Michael's Fabergé egg

On a rainy Monday morning all the families gathered together for a music lesson which was presented by a music teacher from a Waldorf school. Her gentle singing, interesting musical instruments and flowing movement activities was just what the children needed on a rainy day.

Even the moms had a chance to learn some lullaby type songs while the children took advantage of a break in the rain to get outdoors and play with one another.

Unfortunately I don't always remember to take my camera along so I don't have a photo of our baking co-op :-( The children worked in groups to read, measure and mix their dough. And then they made their own wheat free, dairy free, yeast free and preservative free pizzas! Yes, we're even learning about how other's need to adapt their diets to cope with allergies.

I find that the co-op sessions generally inspire me to be more creative with my children. I learn from the other moms how they teach and it is exposing our children to many different new concepts too. This means that I'm learning more about Jenna and Michael and their interests and talents.

We only meet every second week for our co-ops as we felt it was still important to continue with the park days. On these days we get to meet with other families who aren't part of our co-op group. It has been good to see friendships form between the children and between the moms too. There's a core group of families who come along every time but most of the time there is at least one new family who joins us. The group has really grown-I think we're up to about 18 families on the mailing list now! There is even another co-op group which has been started.

It is amazing to see so many families coming along to spend time with one another. Even if someone just visits with us once I'm always amazed at how the Lord can use this time as a time for encouraging us moms. I'm always reminded on these days of how each family is different, we all interact differently and learn differently

BUT the Lord can use each and every single one of us to build each other up.

So if you're ever in the area on a Tuesday afternoon come along and join us on Noordhoek Common-there's lots of space to run around and it's fun for everyone!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keeping ourselves busy.

I've been trying to do more art type activities with my children lately. I was feeling a little like I wasn't giving them enough input or experiences in art. To keep it more at both of their levels we've just been learning about how to make new colours, printing with different types of objects or paints and discovering textures. Jenna loves to paint and draw and after Michael's attention span has reached it's limit she'll often carry on painting and create her own paintings. This means it also gives her the chance to explore the idea I introduce but gives her a chance to make her own discoveries! Something I think is really important when it comes to art work.

Of course there's always more fun to be had when it's clean up time and the containers need a wash! As they haven't had much water play lately I just left them to play after painting. I also bought them some funnels which have added to their water fun. Such simple things keep them busy....

like cleaning tables...

playing with felt shapes,

and playdough (Michael's favourite),

and building beds for teddies-not sure how comfortable that was!

Last year for Father's Day we printed Ray some sleep shirts. Michael had asked if we could make one for him after seeing his dad wearing his again. So we borrowed these lovely sponges from a friend and printed on these shirts.... now just to get him to wear it! Jenna wore hers the other day, but Michael is not quite convinced yet!

The seasons have been changing again so there's been lots of discussion about the leaves changing colour as Autumn has arrived. It's Michael's first year of beginning to show understanding about the season changes. I'm trying to chat about how the temperatures are getting cooler in the mornings too and how we have to choose warmer clothes to wear. He's still convinced sunshine means short sleeves! But, I remember Jenna learning about choosing appropriate seasonal clothing too, so I know he'll eventually understand! At least he's understanding rain means a tracksuit!

Rain also means RAIN SPIDERS around here! We found a nest just outside the window that is next to our dining room table-the same one where they entered last year! Well needless to say, Ray got rid of it on the week-end! (Much to Jenna's disappointment)

Rain also means tent time in our home. Here they built a pirate ship to snuggle in while they ate the last of their easter egg stash and watched a DVD.

A wedding and a sleep over!

Last week-end Ray and I had a rare childless night! We drove out to Stellenbosch to celebrate my cousin's wedding. We left the children, happily, at our friend's. They were very excited about an opportunity to sleep over the whole night! 

Stellenbosch is a beautiful wine-farming area. The wedding and reception was held on Kanu wine estate. The ceremony took place outside on the lawns and we had a spectacular view surrounding us.

The bridesmaids arrived, each one wearing a green dress which was a different shade and style-it looked beautiful.

Abbey, the elegant bride, escorted by her very proud, tearful dad arrived thereafter! Her dress was covered with lace and tiny beads. The soft chiffon veil looked so beautiful flowing in the wind. (Unfortunately it was rather windy that day-but I don't think she noticed!)

The newly weds, Lawrence and Abbey, just look at that smile! Lawrence is from New Zealand. They are both very sociable people (just like their parents!) so there were many visitors from all over the world. It made for a very lively reception, filled with laughter and love.

I recently cut my hair short and had had it coloured for the wedding (needing to hide those greys!) It was rather funny that even my mom and brother didn't recognise me at first. In fact not one family member at the reception recognised me-my brother says I've had an Extreme Makeover. I will admit it is taking some getting used to!

After a long night of dancing and Kiwi/SA/British entertainment we headed back to our B&B-which we had decided to spoil ourselves with instead of driving the long way home. It was very strange waking in the morning not to be greeted by little smiling faces, but I knew that we should make the most of our time alone so we slowly enjoyed our breakfast while relaxing in the B&B's garden.

After breakfast we drove to a nearby wine estate to try for a peaceful, romantic walk in the vineyards, but it was too early! So we headed off to Spier (a very touristy destination) to walk through their gardens. By this time it was getting close to 11:00 and I was feeling the pull to head back home to see our children.... well it turns out that they had had a great time and with very brief hello's they quickly returned to playing with their friends!

It was a blessing to spend the night out, but even more of a blessing to have our whole family sleeping under one roof again that night! What can I say? I'm a mother hen who likes her little chickens to be close to me ;-)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Family time on Easter Sunday.

On Easter Sunday we headed out to Pringle Bay to spend time with my husband's family....

We haven't been there much as a family as it's quite a long drive for a day trip-it's on the other side of False Bay-and it's almost always windy! But as we hadn't been for a while, and hence hadn't seen his cousins for a while, we thought we'd make a day of it.....

The kids loved playing in the river mouth despite the cold wind blowing! How do children manage to ignore that cold wind?!

They had loads of fun helping their uncle set up for the braai (barbecue).

As she's watched dad do this hundreds of times Jenna had lots of advice to give...

Ray had lots of time to chat with family....

and lots of time for cuddles too!

When we weren't on the beach the kids played in the garden with their new friend-Mr Snake. He was great for riding on .....

And great for sharing discoveries with. Like these "dinosaur" prints Jenna found in the bricks. Ok so YOU can't see them, but SHE could! What an imagination!!

We met a new bird-a quail we think!?

And we met a new family member.... baby Lia.

We even discovered a dragon on the beach after lunch. Which became part of the highly- protected-possibly-soon-to-become-extinct variety as Michael was in destruction mode on the beach bashing down all of Aunty Yvonne's sand castles. Actually, she built them all with the intention of distracting him from running over and jumping on the dragon.... which was a highly effective plan in the end. Once he'd had his fun bashing he calmly went over to examine this masterpiece and then....

Jenna attempted to make her own crocodile-awesome sweetpea!

....and Mikey built his own castle! I love seeing them express their creativity. Especially when it's self initiated.

And then it was time for some dune rolling,

just the perfect energy release for this energetic little man!

After another dip in the river it was time to head back to the house for some shelter from the wind. On our walk back Michael asked to be picked up: Please pick me up, God is blowing me! You are just the sweetest, my little man!

By this time I had run out of energy, but of course the kids hadn't so dad played catch and chase and hide and seek and was finally allowed to rest before bath time and our long drive home! Thanks Love! You're THE best entertainer ever!

Although it had been a windy day.....

There were many special moments with family that made it an awesome Easter Sunday!
One which I know won't be easily forgotten by all who shared it.