Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day Camp

This weeks the boys are going to a local day camp, as both Jim and I have to work a lot (sigh). This may not sound like too big a deal, but for kids who are home schooled and spend most of their time in self-directed activities or 'lessons' planned with their interests and abilities in mind, this presents a major culture shock. You can bet we have had some very interesting conversations every evening.

One of Williams biggest complaints is that 'they treat me like I don't have a brain'. He is referring to the counsellors directing the activities - something that they are hired to do, and apparently do very well. Now, there is certainly a part of me that feels the need for my kids to spend some time directed by others - unfortunately, life is just like that sometimes. But William raises some very good points - if camp is supposed to be fun, and he is having fun playing with building toys, why should he stop in order to play pin-the-tail-on-the-elephant which is not fun?

The other frustration, for both of us, is how tied the counsellors are to the 'rules', Part of this is a function of their age - as young summer staff, I don't imagine they are encouraged a whole lot to think for themselves.

Example #1 Each child is supposed to bring a lunch and 2 snacks every day. I have two kids going to this camp, so each morning I pack a cooler bag with enough food for 2 kids (2 lunches, and 4 snacks). I put in one treat each, and the rest is nutritious foods. At ages 7 and 5, I trust them to eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are not. If they choose to have their treat first thing, so be it - they will have lots of healthy stuff for the rest of the day. Apparently, that is not good enough. I have been requested to divide the food up by child, and by meal - each to be clearly marked.

Example #2 It so happens that there are fairly few kids registered for camp this week (about 10 kids) and most of them are between the ages of 3-5. That makes William the oldest by about 2 years. Monday night when he came home, William expressed a bit of frustration at feeling left out - and not all that interested in the activities planned that have been geared for younger kids. I suggested that he speak to the leaders and offer instead to help with the younger kids - something he currently does at soccer, and loves it. This, apparently was not an option. I am not sure if the counsellors are not able to think of anything for him to do, or rather it is just too different from how things normally happen. Either way, Will is still bored, and now feeling a bit rejected, too.

So here is where we are at - unfortunately, we don't have any other options for child care this week. And really, although they are not loving it, it is not a horrible place for them to be. We have had some great conversations about making the best of a less than ideal situation, and about how we all learn best. So this post, I guess, is a bit about venting my frustration, and even more about appreciating how blessed I feel to be able to home school my kids. These frustrations that we are facing are for a week, not for a whole school year. They are the exception rather than the rule to how we live our lives. And after all, there are only two camp days left in the week.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Grand River Powwow

The boys and I have really enjoyed the amount of time we get to spend while homeschooling learning about other cultures - not only from a text book or a museum, but from speaking to others, listening to them, and opening ourselves up to how we are the same and different. Appreciating our common humanity and celebrating how we see things differently is one of the most beautiful things about meeting new people. We went to the Grand River Pow Wow this morning and were awed by the beautiful costumes, drumming, dances, and singing. The kids explored the vendor booths, asking lots of questions about the crafts they found. They were intrigued by the idea of a medicine bag (something I hope to make with them soon) and each bought a braid of sweet grass to take home, sniffing it all the way. It was wonderful to have the values of respect, honour, integrity, wisdom, and spirituality that we have been learning about echoed in the dances that we saw - honoring the veterans, the elders, the visitors to the Powwow, and the children who are being raised to carry on the values and traditions of the culture.

What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and pecularities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death. The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us. Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life.
~Octavio Paz

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Song My Paddle Sings

I had forgotten how much I love this poem, until our exploration of Aboriginal culture brought it back to memory. Pauline Johnson was a poet born in the early 1800 on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario - the daughter of a Mohawk Chief and a non-native mother. At a time when most young women her age were getting married and raising families, Pauline made a living for herself as a writer and performer.

The Song My Paddle Sings
-E. Pauline Johnson

West wind, blow from your prairie nest
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west.
The sail is idle, the sailor too;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
Blow, blow!
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.

I stow the sail, unship the mast:
I wooed you long but my wooing's past;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.

August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.

The river rolls in its rocky bed;
My paddle is plying its way ahead;
Dip, dip,
While the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.

And oh, the river runs swifter now;
The eddies circle about my bow.
Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!

And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
Dash, dash,
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.

Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
Reel, reel.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.

We've raced the rapid, we're far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway,
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.

And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Singing Sands

Our last stop on the peninsula before heading home was to the singing sands, just across Highway 6 from the entrance to Cyprus Lake. The water is clean and clear, and the beach goes on forever. It has a great beach for young children - the water starts at ankle depth, and it is a very long walk in before it even gets up to your knees. Fun but safe for little swimmers.

Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.
~Loren Eiseley

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


On Wednesday, we decided to head into the town of Tobermory to take a look around and grab a late lunch. We watched all fo the boats coming and going in the harbour...

looked for fish and ducks off the pier...

took in the sights...

and of course, stopped at The Sweet Shop...


The Bruce Trail Visitors Center

The Bruce Trail is a fabulous foot trail made up of over 1000km of main and side trails that run along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Falls in the south, to Tobermory in the North. A section of the trail runs fairly close by our home, and the boys love exploring their own little part of something so big. At the end (or beginning?) of the trail in Tobermory there is a great visitors center that houses displays on the local environment, trails, aboriginal culture, marine park, and wildlife. There is also a great look out tower that offers views of the sea of trees that covers the tip of the peninsula. The staff have lots of knowledge to share, and helped the boys and I to identify a leech that we saw at Cyprus lake (did you know that they can stretch out to be almost a foot long, and orange?!?!) and shared our excitement at other wildlife sightings. Here are a few pics.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Grotto

The highlight of our trip to the Bruce Peninsula was descending into The Grotto. This beautiful partly under water cave is on the east edge of the Bruce Peninsula, between Marr lake and the boulder beach, near Cyprus Lake National Park. The trails to it wind along the edge of the Niagara Escarepement, through ancient cedar forests and by crystal clear lakes. It is stunning to look at, and exhilarating to explore. We visited the grotto last year as a family, but for all sorts of reasons didn't think it was the right time to climb inside. This year, the boys and I made the trek and it was well worth it. The look on the boys' faces when we made it to the bottom was priceless - such a great combination of awe, pride, and adrenalin rush. We stayed and played for a few hours, checking out the cave, swimming in the cool blue water, watching the 'older kids' jump off of the rocks, and trying to coach others down the rock face. I am sure that it was an afternoon none of us will forget.

Cyprus Lake

I was so glad to get two days in a row this week with no commitments, so the boys and I went off on a mini-vacation leaving poor Daddy at home to work. We drove North for about 3 1/3 hours until the land the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. This is by far my favorite place on earth (not that I am a great world traveller, or anything!!) and it meant so much to me to spend some time there, if only for 2 days. I could ramble on about how great this part of the province is, but there is really no way I could do it justice. So for the next few posts there are likely to be may pics and few words. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rites of Summer

The road side lemonade of the best parts of summer, isn't it? The boys set this up this afternoon with their friends next door, and waited at the end of the driveway to accost any passers by. It is so wonderful to live in a neighbourhood where not only do people stop to buy a cup, but even go home and then come back if they didn't have any change on them at first pass. The kids had a great time, and will be smelling like lemons for a week.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Woman Work

Woman Work

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.

~Maya Angelou

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Banana Bread

We eat a fair bit of home made quick breads around here - zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, lemon bread, and of course banana bread. This is a great recipe - one of those breads that is delicious enough to have for desert (especially when there are chocolate chips on top!) and healthy enough to have for breakfast. Although it has quite a bit of sugar, it also has the most bananas I have been able to find in a recipe. YUM!

Banana Bread:
4 bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla and eggs. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Alternate adding mashed bananas and dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips or nuts if desired. Pour into a large greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for approx 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sainte-Marie among the Huron

The boys and I are going to spend some time this summer exploring Aboriginal culture, and visiting Sainte-Marie Among The Huron, a Jesuit mission from the 1600s located in Wendat territory, has been on our list of places to visit. Granted, it is a fair bit backwards to visit this site at the beginning of our exploration instead of the end, but the weather was fine, and Jim was sleeping so the kids and I had to be quiet or gone for the day. Off we went.

The mission was built in the early 1600s, by Jesuit Priests whose goal was to convert the Wendat(Huron) people to Christianity. They were active for only 10 years, when a combination of disease, warfare with the Iroquois, and division within the Wendat community led the Jesuits to set fire to the village and move on. They established another mission in the same region and continued their work for one more winter, before returning to Quebec with about 600 Christian Wendat people.

The village has been reconstructed on the site of the original village, with the buildings placed over top of the ruins. We spent time exploring the sleeping and eating quarters, the canals, chapel, long houses, and tee pees. We tried our hands at making clay amulets, dipping candles, grinding corn, and writing with quills. We listened to aboriginal stories by the fire, and hymns sung by a choir.

This trip was a real eye-opener for me. The village itself was incredible to see, but I was really taken aback by the conversations that William and I had on the drive to and from. I don't know how it happened, but somehow my little baby has grown into a boy capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation about colonialism, racial supremacy, diversity and tolerance. Not his words, of course, but the point was there. We spent a great deal of time talking about how important history is not only so that we can know where we come from, but more importantly so that we can avoid making again the mistakes of the past.

I know that kids go on this type of field trip with their school classes, but somehow I doubt that the conversations on the school bus were anything like this...