Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our recent outing to Simon's Town.

We haven't been on an outing in a while-winter weather, winter illnesses and a need to stay indoors has kept us at home. So I thought that it would be good to get the kids out to continue our exploration of Simon's Town.

My plan was to visit the Heritage Museum but when we arrived at 10:00 we discovered that it only opened at 11:00. Not wanting to waste the opportunity of being out I decided to take my chances on visiting the Bronze Art Gallery just across the road. When we looked through the doors it looked like they had closed down as everything was grouped together in one corner and not displayed neatly on shelves. But, luckily for us, there was a lady working inside who opened the doors to let us in explaining that they no longer function as a gallery but they still create the bronze works there. And that's where our fun began!
I asked if we could do a behind the scenes tour and was surprisingly allowed to enter the workshop unassisted. We entered through large glass doors to the smell of melting wax and bunsen burner gas. As there was nobody to guide us I started asking questions of the ladies working at the workbenches. They seemed to be working with wax! Wasn't this a bronze sculpture house? After a few questions and photographs a very enthusiastic man decided he would give us our own special tour.

So here goes. I'm going to try to remember the whole tour for you:

The whole process starts with a sculpture. But not one of bronze. It can be wood, clay or any other medium which is easier to mould or carve. If the sculpture is a large one they "break" it into smaller parts.

This is a large sculpture (of a very thin Madiba) which they were supposed to use for the World Cup Soccer, but it hasn't made it to the bronzing stage.

After dismantling the original sculpture they make a rubber mould of it. These are moulds of smaller soccer sculptures.

The rubber mould is then filled with hot wax. When the hot wax is removed from the rubber it looks like the original art work, well mostly. If it doesn't this is where the bunsen burners and blades come into the process. Using a heated tool, workers neaten the wax works.

The wax statue is then taken to be dipped into another formula-which we were told is another type of wax.....

and is then covered in sand. This whole process is repeated around three times with different types of sands each time.

In between each dipping it is left to be dried by fans.

Once the sand is dry the "sand" statue is placed in a large sand pit. Now you have a hollow sand statue, lined with wax. Or so I understood?! The bronze is then heated in this large pot and poured into the hollow statue, melting the wax.

Our tour guide shortened the tour here. But basically there's a sandblasting procedure next, followed by a burning/colouring procedure. And the end result....

Something like this! Fascinating for me, think we lost the kids at the sand covering stage-but they still enjoyed all the business and interesting new apparatus to look at.

By this time it was close to 11:00 so we walked on over to the Heritage Museum. This museum was created in the memory of the Muslim community which had been forcibly removed in the early 70's. I never knew that the original Simon's Town community had consisted of mainly Muslims and I'd never learnt about the fact that this community had also been forcibly removed. We had always only heard about the District Six community being removed. This is why I love visiting museums-I hated learning History at school-but learning South African history right here on my doorstep makes History so much more interesting!

The museum is small but it is filled with memorabilia from bygone days. Photographs of the Muslim community cover the walls. There's a traditional eats table filled with examples of typical Malay foods.

And lots of old kitchen utensils to look at and learn how people from the past lived.

Jenna enjoyed looking at the Bridal gowns in both Bridal rooms where there are examples of wedding attire for children too.

Michael was sure that granny had one of these-no she doesn't use it still, it's just on display in her hallway.

The owner of the house is very keen to share his memories with you as he guides you through the rooms. He enjoyed showing the kids the old games he played.

Can you believe that this old newspaper kite would survive the Simon's Town winds?

Jen's highlight was seeing this doll all dressed up in it's finery-this is how Muslim babies are dressed for their dedication ceremony.

We enjoyed this museum, although it was small, it was interesting to get a peek into the history of another culture. A lovely morning spent covering History and Art in one outing!

A few more reasons....

When Charity and her family moved in we cleared out our shed so they would have a place to sleep. But all that stuff had to go somewhere and the only space available was the children's outside play room-cum school room. For a while that room couldn't be used for anything-there was a lot to sort through!

This gave me a little time to finally sort through 10 years of teaching equipment which had been out of sight (but not out of mind) in the shed. Looking through old worksheets, posters and work cards has given me lots of inspiration for teaching Jenna. I've been looking at a lot of my old teaching resources through new eyes: how to use them in a less time consuming way? Was this activity really just a "keep 'em busy" worksheet or a useful learning tool? Did I really need to keep it all? Parting with apparatus and posters which took me hours to make is not as easy. I'm hoping I'll be able to find a use for most of it with at least one of my kids!

This brings me to our fourth reason: schools are full of busy work-work which is designed to keep a child working while the teacher can teach other children or get on with admin. While I fully accept and understand the reason for this when one is in a classroom teaching 35 children, I also see it as wasted time in the big scheme of things. I remember those days when I walked out of school at the end of the day and thought: Wow, this must have been a beautiful day! Wish I had experienced it.
Not much time is spent outdoors when you're at school. A lot of time is spent (especially in the early years) doing a keep busy activity, waiting to be taught. While I recognise that this will still happen in a home situation, it certainly doesn't need to take so long when you only have a few siblings to wait for. Reason number four: less time spent schooling means more time outdoors, playing or persuing your own interests-just what I believe children in the early years need to spend most of their time doing!

painting outdoors in the sunshine

Michael has started labeling/naming his pictures: The forest

Sorting through my teaching crates is taking a looooooooong time! After a while Jenna started asking: When are we going to start school mom? I had told her we could start with school-like activities when the room was sorted again. So I had to put a stop to my sorting. I was spending more time with worksheets than with my children. Some much needed mom and kids time was called for! As I still think Jen and Mikey need time to play I'm not planning to spend everyday schooling. We have a flexible three day plan which allows us to fit in free-play days, nature walks, outings and visiting grannies and grandpa. Reason number five: We can choose when to do school or not, allowing us to fit in other important activities like building family relationships or exploring the our world.

Bags packed by Jen, waiting for school to start now the room can be used!

Although I fully believe in integrated ages for learning (allowing for younger children to learn from older and vice versa) one of the reasons I've been holding back on following a daily school routine or teaching for long periods of time: I have a VERY busy 3 year old boy! :-) Michael moves non-stop! Even in his sleep! When he was a baby at sitting stage, he had a habit of flicking his fingers at a rapid pace. He was a happy little boy who watched all from a far, while he was still seated, excitedly flicking his little fingers!! While Jen likes to sit quietly creating, he loves to move. (The only way I've found to get him to concentrate for long periods is to introduce him to Lego.) Figuring out how to do activities with Jenna and not to leave Michael out has been challenging. But we're learning. I still think it's not necessary for him to be doing any formal work. It seems he's the extrovert in our family who loves to have someone within sight when he plays. This means if Jen and I are busy I need to find something to occupy him. We try to include him as much as we can, but I really don't think it's important for him to be learning his ABC's and 1,2,3's in a formal way right now. Reasons number six, seven and eight: 6) home schooling allows for individual attention to teach new concepts when your child is ready, 7) it also allows for interaction between ages and sibling bonding, 8) you can adapt your teaching to the learner's style of learning, personality and interests.

learning my numbers through play

making use of some of moms old teaching equipment

I am almost finished going through the first two crates-three more to go! Perhaps by next January, when Jenna's official Grade R year should begin, I will finally be all sorted! You think?!