Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Four-legged Escape Artist - 12 Apr 2015

Posted by Brandon

Cookie, a Miniature Pinscher that joined our family. She is black and brown with a white dot on her forehead. When we got her, she shivered because she was very scared. Minature Pinscher is a one-person dog (Only close to one member in the family). Day one with Cookie was challenging. She was whining at night and waking all of us including the neighbours. I started to train her to follow me since it is a one-person dog. She started to follow me from the backyard all the way to the car porch and it worked! She started to trust me more when I play with her.

The next day, I taught her to walk on the grass. She was scared to walk on the grass at first but she slowly built up courage. She started to walk on the grass and trot when I ran. I was so happy. We bought her a cage, a water bottle and a bowl. One time when I sat on the mat, she went on me and slept on my lap. I was so surprised but I had to wait for two hours because she slept on me.

I trained her how to stand, sit and not to get distracted from rubbish. I trained her many more stuff. She was quite active when we got her. We realize that we must not scare her if not, she may poop or pee on the floor. She is small and active and can be a great escape artist so we had to put the netting on the gate or else she may go out. I hope she will one day be a treasure to us and be my companion.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason

We love the Charlotte Mason methods. Each school day is like a feast, lavishly spread on a long table, with an abundance of ideas and variety, and each small guest assimilates what he can. I use the weekly schedule provided by Ambleside Online, it's very flexible and I do not prepare my lessons. We're so grateful to all the wonderful moms from Ambleside Online, for making this journey possible.

We found a caterpillar when we read the Parable of how the caterpillar who did not believe it'd one day be a butterfly. We kept the caterpillar, and soon it turned to a cocoon. After some time, the cocoon dried up and disintegrated into pieces. We, too, thought that something went wrong and there's no more life. Lo and behold, one day, a moth emerged! It was so encouraging to us - to have faith in what we're doing, even when we don't feel it.
We read stories from the living books, very very slowly, sometimes we finish a short story in a week or more. The idea is to savour the story and be totally immersed in the characters, so no speed reading. A lot of patience and faith are required in this slow reading, cos the child is expected to make connections of the things he had learnt. There's no formula, sometimes it will come out from the child when we least expect it.

A key part of CM method is narration (after each single reading). The child is supposed to narrate in his own words, so he must pay attention in the first place. These stories, are mostly classics, written by time-tested authors, and sometimes the language is not so easy for a young child. It's very hard when we first started cos he's so easily distracted. In this era of iPad and smartphones, it's very hard to train focus. We enjoy the stories a lot, eg. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit, Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty, Paddle to the Sea by Holling, etc.

We used to spend a lot of time shopping for books. Now these living books are part of our daily diet, and most of them available online for free. We learn to differentiate what's twaddle books and avoid them as much as possible. It's not about filling minds with facts. Living books are different from dry facts or information like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks. Equally important is the free time every day, so that the child can reflect on and make his own connections without our interference. The most tempting part, as a teacher, is not to teach him all about anything.

Homeschooling is a bittersweet journey. Once, at the beginning of this journey, we felt like banging our heads against a brick wall at every direction. The rain had just stopped, and we decided to hang out at our backyard. I looked up and saw a soaking wet beeeater sunning itself. It was beautiful, and it's there for some time. And a Red Helen butterfly lookalike flew by. The beauty of nature really caught my heart, and it's time like this the Lord encouraged me.

Another wonderful part about CM methods is 'nature study'. Most of the bookwork is done in the morning, and we've the rest of the day free. We spend most of it in our backyard, not necessary we've to go out for nature study. Key is to do it often and observe nature, maybe the birds or a plant or the sun, over a period of time, so the child develops a relationship with it. It'll increase their skills of observation, investigation and make science or geography interesting as well as cultivate a love for God, our creator.

Picture study with CM: Monet's haystack series.

CM methods emphasise on developing relationships with a variety of subjects and letting the child make his connections between subjects for himself - like an artist going back to the same scene and painting it at different times and seasons, yet the results can still be refreshing - this, I think, is CM methods in a capsule.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Adventure Sports camp -10-12 April 2015

Posted by Xian Wei

This year, I joined an Adventure Sports camp for 3 days, also organised by Radiant Retreats. This is a level 2 camp, just before the Wilderness Skills Camp under the Bronze Category. This time there were about 16 participants. We were divided unevenly into 3 groups.

 Rope Climbing...Our first lesson of the camp. The ropes blistered my hands..

After that, we went river trekking at Kg. Chemperoh again, but this time we went further upstream.

In the midst of river trekking, we also did river crossing because the water was deep there.

When we finished, we were totally drenched... But the water activities weren't over yet! We went for rafting after that and did river tubing there.

It was really fun... By then the water activities were over. It was time to go back to the campsite... The next day, we did basic abseiling.

Next, we did map reading. We were asked to draw our dream island.

The top left corner is my team, top right corner is the Psycho Panda's and bottom left is the Pandorina's. We had a great time doing this. Up next was treasure hunting! It was a test to see how much we know about using compasses.

 It was really fun and challenging for me, as I have only learnt how to use a compass on that day. After that, we learnt about First Aid, what to do for insect or snake bite.

If you were wondering what the people in the background were doing, they were pillow fighting...
Then, it was PAINTBALL TIME!!

Like I said, it was really fun, because I experienced this before and knew what to do. It was soon the end of the day. We went back to the campsite, settled down and slept in tents. The next day, the last day of camp, we went to Skytrex in Shah Alam.

I really had a great time there. I would certainly go there again if I'm allowed. I missed the new friends I've made. I hope I am able to go back again.

Monday, 20 April 2015

What a Goat Year - Feb 2015

It's Chinese New Year. Year 2015 is the Year of Goat or Sheep or Ram, whatever. One of the things we enjoy, not sure it's a tradition or not, is making crafts for decoration. Paper cuts is a popular Chinese handicraft. It's good for training the motor skills as well. Learning some simple designs from Youtube  and the techniques of cutting can be tricky. We've some visitors this CNY, so we put up more decorations in the house than usual. The red crafts sure made our house looked cheerful and festive. 

Another tradition we enjoy is meeting up with our family members and friends. Especially those who come back from afar. We do not reside overseas so we do not feel the anticipation of travelling far for family gatherings. Most of the gatherings revolved around eating, and eating and eating. The kids enjoyed throwing the Pop-pop at each other, and the more daring ones played the firecrackers. Think the boys have outgrown the mild sparklers.

Visit from my Myanmar students. It's their first time visiting during CNY. Well, there're many firsts, as I explained to them some of the traditions, the CNY cookies and goodies and ang pows. It's good to have a break from a normal lesson and did something different. Sure they'd agree too.

Visit to Farm in the City with our relatives. It's a very nice, cooling place and small in comparison to a zoo. Suitable for younger kids. They've some rare species of tortoise, birds and reptiles. Kids can get close to touch and feed the docile animals. Like in all other parks in Malaysia, this place can be better - if only it's well-maintained.

CNY can be a drag - doing the same thing over and over - gatherings, eating and be merry. Maybe I have reached mid-life transition, but I am counting my blessings each year for the time together with loved ones.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Cameron Highlands - 31/1 - 3/2

In recent years, Cameron Highlands has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. We haven't been to this highland like for more than 7 years. This highland, surrounded by mountains and lush valleys, is the size of Singapore. It's one of those places we can go for a cool respite from the heat. We drove past the tea plantations, and they looked exactly like what we remembered years ago. Hopefully other parts of CH would be the same, despite what we read in the news.

The OMF Bungalow, an old colonial bungalow near Tanah Rata - looked like a different world hidden in the mountains. It was very windy, and COOL. We couldn't have enough of the cool, fresh, mountain air. Breathing in until every cell in our bodies was filled with the sweet, refreshing, clean air. We didn't expect at Tanah Rata, the temperature was at 15 Celcius daytime, and even lower at night.

A beautiful, well-maintained garden with rose bushes. It was simple, yet spacious so that we could spend so much time playing outdoor.

Football mania all day long. 
Just because it's colder in the mountains, they got carried away and got sunburn!

 Purestream got talents! A brilliant way to discover some hidden performing talents!

The prodigal son returned home! With this - the boys were rewarded with a cool "Ukulele"!! 

Well-fed by the caretakers cum awesome cooks - their homemade scones, jams and free flow of shortbread were just too good to resist!

The outdoor time was so needed to burn off the calories.

It was the best R&R we had for a long time. Words just could not describe the time we had together like a big family. Count our blessings that we still have a place like this so near home.

We've a short tour around CH. We dropped by one of the many strawberry farms along the winding road. The boys tried their hands at picking some fresh strawberries.

We're quite impressed with the display gallery at this bee museum. Lotsa information and exhibits of various species of bees and honeycombs.

We're glad that we have our retreat at OMF first before the tour around CH. All along the way from Brinchang to Tringkap, we saw massive and indiscriminate land clearing for farming and extensive use of plastic canopies for the farms. The air was stale with chemical-laden scent. It's in such a sad state.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Healthy Start - 17 Jan 2015

We're very unfit. Some of us are slightly better, but still lacking in stamina. So we decided as a family that we should do something. Hiking may be good for the boys, but may not be so good for our old knees. The older boys, together with their father, tried out Bukit Apek, which is near our place. It's good for beginners, we heard, yet still challenging with many trails. We're beginners, and the first thing we have to overcome is, our discipline to get up early :(( We're still trying, not so much success, but a start (hehe).

There're a few entry points to the hill, this one is from Jalan Awana 23, Taman Segar Perdana, Cheras - a famous landmark is the dessert & drinks stall just before the entry point.

This place is very popular with the locals, young and old.

The initial trails were very steep, so a walking stick is advisable. Thanks to the big trees and the lush green growth, the hike was cool and shady!

There're a few pit stops like this one, where there're benches, free water refill and drinks for sale and some DIY exercise equipment. People are friendly, mostly from the surrounding neighbourhoods, and regulars -  more like a social hiking group.

Beautiful trees and connected to nature.... as of the time of writing, I have not yet attempted any hiking there. Daddy and the older boys went there for a few 'recce' hikes. Soon, I will be able to give a better perspective from a busy, lazy SAHM.
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