Monday, September 26, 2011

A relaxed Nature Club.

Although everyone in our Nature Club is very committed and nine times out of ten we have all four families there, last week found us having to change plans at short notice due to two families having other engagements.
So I thought it might be nice to take advantage of the great weather we had and we headed to Dale Brook Tidal pool to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of the whales in the bay.

WARNING: when heading towards Kalk Bay in a car, the entrance to the parking lot has changed it's position.  Don't drive past it like me and end up having to park far away from your planned destination!
Hopefully the road works will soon be finished.

When we met our friends in the parking lot this was our view.
More evidence that spring has sprung.

A short distance from this parking lot, heading back towards Cape Town, you will find some steps which lead to this beautiful treasure along our coast line.
Dale Brook Tidal pool.

Not too sure why I didn't pack in costumes that day.
I remembered everything but the costumes!  Why is it always one thing that gets left behind?!
Not minding that they were without costumes the children quickly stripped down to their underwear and ran with squeals of delight towards the pool.

Our rocks are not white here in South Africa-these were probably painted during a spring low tide.
Although they are not natural they add to the beauty of the surroundings. 

The water was cold and it was at quite a high level.  You could just see the wall dividing the water in the pool from the vast expanse of sea beyond the wall.
It took me a while to catch this photo, and it still doesn't show you how awesome the waves were crashing over the pool wall.

The view towards Kalk Bay Harbour.

The view from the safety of the pool side.........she just can't wait to be big enough to join those three crazy kiddies playing in the water!

And then finally the view we all had been waiting for.
A Southern Right Whale waving it's flipper at us.
These whales return here every year at this time to give birth to their calves.
In fact, one had been spotted last week which had just given birth near this spot!

So after seeing what we had come to see and after a glorious time in the pool we headed off for some more exploring.
A quick stop to watch the road works.  What fun for the big machine loving boys-we even got to see a digger which was precariously trying to balance on a mound of sand.  It quickly let down it's stabiliser's  to help it to balance, much to the delight of our boys.

Just opposite the Dale Brook pool you'll find the Shark Center.
I've wanted to pop in there for some time so I thought we'd do that on this particular day.

Inside a very friendly, shark loving guy invited us to look inside their fish or rather, shark tank.
We had fun finding some of the secrets hiding in the water.

Can you spy the shark's egg here? It's often called a mermaid's purse.

There are some lovely books and dvd's on sale there and they kindly offered for us to watch one of the dvd's in their upstairs room.
I'm not sure what this little man enjoyed more, the dvd or the plastic shark toys?

A lovely morning, once again, spent with our nature club friends.....well some of them.
No matter how small the group is it's still fun to get out into nature with our friends.
And the good news is we'll be returning to a nearby beach this week with everyone from the club.
Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to catch another glimpse of our whale friend!

Our nature fun for the day didn't end there though.
When we returned home we found a very nervous Charity who had had her own nature experience!
This little slug eater has probably been in our cupboard all winter.
(good thing we're busy doing spring cleaning!)
It was busy shedding it's skin when we found it.  

And of course this little man was only too eager to adopt it.
It took a bit of convincing to get him to agree that we couldn't keep it as a pet!

This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more.  You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.   In the meantime, head to SACH Carnival #8 - Co-ops and Support Groups for this week's carnival.  We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!

Revisiting the museum in Heritage week.

On Saturday we celebrated Heritage Day here in South Africa.
Last week the Iziko Museums kindly opened their doors to the public allowing everyone free entry to any of their museums.
Feeling a little guilty that we hadn't been to many museums this year (what is it with this mother's guilt!?) I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Natural History Museum in Cape Town.
We'd been there two years ago when Michael was a two year old.  So I knew this would be a totally different experience for both of the kids.

Of course Jenna, with her memory like an elephant, never forgot that it was the place we had seen the dinosaur displays.  So she was super excited to return.

I love the road that leads you past the Company Gardens on your way to the museum.  It's looking beautiful with all of the old oak trees dressed in their new green leaves.

On our previous visit the main attraction had been the dinosaurs and the whales.
As the kids had been quite a bit younger then we didn't walk through the whole museum.  
Now that they're a bit older their concentration and interest can be held a bit longer.

So I decided we'd start at the bottom and work our way to the top.
Our first stop was the section which classically houses the "before white man" history.
It is filled with scenes about the Zulus, Bushmen and other African tribes which inhabited our beautiful land before it was discovered.

It was a wonderful, gentle way of teaching the kids about our land's history.  Everything is laid out before them and they asked questions or I pointed out items which I thought they could relate to or would interest them.
Although admittedly I don't think that our museum has much of a wow factor.  (I visited the Natural History Museum and Science Museum when I went to England and I still think this particular museum could be made more interactive for children.)  It has improved since our last visit, so perhaps we'll catch up someday!

Of course the kids are non the wiser and so there were many oohs and aahs coming from them.
Especially in the Sea section.
I convinced Jenna to stand in the whale's mouth-but Michael was not keen on being swallowed up like Jonah!

I don't blame him when you see these creatures face to face they are rather overwhelming!

Listening to their sounds, in the whale sound box, was a little scary for them too, but they were very intrigued by that experience.

There was no convincing Mikey to enter these shark jaws!

But perhaps because he knows these are extinct, I finally managed to convince him to have a photo with the dinosaurs :-)

Sadly it seems we haven't had many dinosaurs discovered here in South Africa so there aren't many bones to see which is what Jenna was hoping for.
She had prepared a clipboard to take along on which to record all of the dinosaurs and who had discovered them.  We couldn't really find that specific info. Thankfully she wasn't put off by the lack of info and just simply enjoyed discovering each new display-even the gory ones!

We did get to see a poster explaining fossilisation, which tied in nicely with our recent visits to the wetlands and our lessons on sandstone and rock formation.
And we saw a short display by one of the museum aides who was demonstrating how they remove the bones from the hard rock.

After all of that learning it was time to get rid of some energy outdoors.
As Jen put it: Mom, I've had enough of this place, please can we leave now?
Time for learning done.........time for play to begin!

Does anybody know where all of the fish have gone to in the pond?

We shared our lunch with the friendly squirrels.........they come up very close to you.
Once Michael almost had one eating out of his hand.

After a walk through the gardens we passed the National Art Gallery.
I was surprised that the kids wanted to go inside and even more surprised to see that entrance was free that day as well!

My kids constantly amaze me simply by what grabs their interest.
Walking around the gallery Michael was intrigued by a photograph display and took himself off on his own guided tour.

Then we discovered Tretchikoff's art work .
They had a display case housing the original dress worn by the "blue faced Chinese lady".
We turned our art tour into a quick scavenger hunt as we walked through the halls of the gallery hunting for the painting in which the dress had been painted.  Finding the painting was easy, but getting Jenna to agree that it was the same dress wasn't as easy.  I guess she was right though-afterall, the original dress was blue not yellow.  A classic opportunity for teaching an artist's license to interpret the world as he sees it!
And then they asked to watch the documentary on Tretchikoff's I said, it amazes me what intrigues them. They sat as still as mice watching the movie, which I thought was totally above their level.  Just goes to show we should never underestimate what our children are capable of or rule out the topics which would interest them!

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that after all of that culture and stillness that they would have needed to move.
But perhaps the bannisters of the art gallery are not the best place for children to climb?!

Perhaps that's why they created the interactive art work out doors where they found a place to use up some energy turning the wheels to make the little lion and man move?!
But before Michael decided to make that into a jungle gym too we used up that pent up energy with a long walk back to our car.

And when we got home this is what they got up to...........

Bushmen in their little skirts adorned with necklaces and armed with digging sticks.  Oh and the panties on the head? That's supposed to be the short curly hair. (She doesn't have a black pair ;-)

I just love it when they recreate their learning experiences through creative play!
Thanks Iziko Museum for the inspiration.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week-ends are for family.....and friends.

I think we can definitely say our final good-byes to winter.....spring seems to have decided to stick around for at least four of the seven days in a week.

Saying good-bye to winter means we say good-bye to hockey for Ray and hello to cycling and training for the Argus Cycle race.
This year Ray decided to return to the hockey field after a little break.
Most week-ends the kids and I tried to tag along to watch.......or rather they would ride, make new friends or just explore the grounds while I sat huddled in the car trying to read or watch the game!
We all enjoyed these days.  And although I will confess that I'm no more clued up on hockey rules than I was since he last played, our children's interest in ball sports has definitely grown.
Proving that it is often when we as parents share our love and interests with our children that their interests are ignited.

As crazy as it may sound we went swimming in winter, and that's only because
we were blessed with a week-end away with Ray's folks at Montague Springs.
I, who will admit to not being a water baby, was even tempted to enter into the warm baths.
Of course the kids and Ray spent most of their time in the warm water despite the icy cold air which wrapped around you when you eventually ventured out again.
I was amazed at how much the kid's swimming has progressed since last summer-I think this may just be the summer we will get to throw away all swimming aids.
Jenna even surprised us by going down the super tube, once ;-) Perhaps next time she'll convince Mikey!
Now I'm really looking forward to summer days filled with swimming.
That's the kids, not me by the way......yes, I really am that bad at getting into the pool!

At the start of spring we celebrated my neice's second birthday at the Barnyard.
And that is when Jenna got to ride on a pony for the second time in her life.
She was so excited to ride on the pony. Not once, not twice but three times-thanks Aunty Susan for organising extra tickets-you made her day!

While she waited in between rides Mikey and her had such fun in the carousel. They've wanted to have a carousel ride forever so lots of little wishes were answered that day.
Jenna's excitement about riding soon rubbed off on Mikey and after initially declining a ride he proudly mounted the little pony.....

To those who don't know him this may look like an unhappy scowl but actually it's his: I'm really proud-but-don't-want-to-show-it smirk........we just missed catching the toothy grin which followed.  He couldn't hide his pride for long :-)

Winter has finally come to an end and, I may be a little too soon here, but I think I have smelt summer blooming already.

a surfer girl in the making
(thanks for the wet suit Rach!)

 sandcastles are so much fun when built with your friends

Could that be because our week-ends are once again filled with braais and beaches with friends and family?

The Scout (Nature) club????

This Nature Club happened a few weeks ago but I just have to share some of the pictures with you!
We drove around the coast, on the Scarborough side, to a picnic spot in a forest near Red Hill Pottery Studio-I hope those directions are clear enough for you, sorry I can't remember the name right now;-)

Underneath the shade of the tall pine trees our little nature clubbers got to practice some scouting survival skills.

First they had to collect kindling for a fire.
They soon discovered the pine needles and thought they would make great kindling.
(even though some of their collection was green-we left it up to nature to teach them what would happen when you put green leaves onto a fire).

And then they got to light the fire!
It was very interesting watching the experienced Daddy's-little-braai-helper's teach their friend's just how to do the job properly!

When the fire was all ablaze it was time to hunt for a sturdy stick and some more pine needles to use to create a broom.  So off they went in search of sticks while I was left to man their fire.
Soon they were racing back to get their little hands busy broom making.

They learnt how to lash their leaves onto the stick to create the broom.
Lots of co-ordination needed here!

After successfully making their brooms they had great fun sweeping the site clean.

Then the big girls got rolls ready for lunch time because we were going to cook eggs on the fire in orange peels!

Yip, you read correctly.
Eggs cooked inside orange skins on the fire.
Want to know how?
First halve your orange.
Scoop out all the flesh.
Crack an egg into the "egg cup".
And then place your egg cup onto the coals.
Wait patiently while the egg cooks.
Patiently, I said, because it does take rather long!

And then if you're a real rough-it kind of kid you'll taste the egg-even if it is covered in ash and tastes a little like orange :-)
Needless to say, although it is a great idea if you're stuck out in the wild with a only few oranges and some eggs to eat, it probably wouldn't be recommended by my rough-it kind of kids.

They preferred the marshmallows of course, but not done in mom's experimental banana split style!

After learning all those survival skills it was time to relax under the trees and gaze up at the branches high above us.

Another wonderful morning spent with our friends perfecting our survival skills and enjoying nature.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How do you encourage creativity?

Have you ever read about the Multiple Intelligence Theories?
I love that it smashes the theory of the old IQ tests and encourages you to see that people can be intelligent in different ways,
 after all......

everyone of us was created to be different, weren't we?

When I look at my children and their unique personalities I stand in awe of how God created them so differently.

I used to feel guilty about not doing art projects with Jenna every week.

She loves to create....... almost everyday there's some new project in the making.

Then I realised that I didn't have to teach her how to be creative, she already is.
All I had to do was expose,
provide and 

 I may not be creative in the traditional sense of the word.......but I am a creative thinker.
Give me an organisational problem to solve and I'll do my best to find the most practical way to make it work.

So in our home creativity is not encouraged by regular art lessons by mom, and I no longer feel guilty about it!

At times it is encouraged out of a desire.....
She wanted a crown,
so she created one.

I make art and craft materials easily available to her so that when she feels inspired she can just create.

At times it starts off as creative play and then gets built on.....
a block t.v.

I make sure toys are easily accessible too. Sometimes it helps to leave toys, which are not regularly played with, in the place of favourite toys.  

At times she expresses herself creatively through dance.......
 and manages to convince her brother to dance a part in the Nutcracker Ballet with her.

I make sure there's a variety of music playing sometime during the day.

At times she gets inspired by dvd's she's watched.....
then out come the face paints and dress up clothes.

I recognise that she is a visual learner and that she also relaxes by watching dvd's.  Buying a new dvd or borrowing from friends, makes sure she has time to unwind from all that creative thinking!

At times she just has a vision inspired by recyclables and it must be created now!
After all, every princess needs a castle doesn't she?!

I store boxes etc. and supply different materials for construction.......even though it takes up so much space and can sometimes be a fleeting idea ;-)
(recycled creations is not my idea of fun, but I've let go of my need to declutter and throw away for the sake of her creative expression)

The bonus side of her creativity is that it often involves team work to create.
The castle needed some colour.

At times she just loves to be outdoors in creation.....
and that's enough to inspire a little bit of creative play.

I've tried to encourage outdoor play and left my children to entertain themselves a lot........I've never wanted to hear: what can I do now mom?

At times the books she reads (or those which are read to her) inspire her to create.

I've shared my love of books with her by having reading times and books available around our home all the time.

{Jesus baptising men in the river-she drew this while we were reading Bible stories one morning.... just something she wanted to do}

At times she gets inspired by beauty she see's around her....
and so she plans,

and then she paints....

and draws.........a bird's view of it all.

I sometimes set up our dining table for painting time while I prepare's a peaceful activity at the end of a busy day 

We're all gifted in different ways.  
When it comes to arts and crafts I'm not going to be the first mom to offer you ideas for creative activities to do with your children.....
but I will encourage you to use your gifts to discover your child's unique abilities,
because being creative isn't just about arts and crafts!