Archive for the ‘Home Learning’ Category

The princess had a school assignment: To prepare a three-minute speech about a topic she considered the most important issue facing the world today.

“Everyone’s going to be talking about the environment,” she said, while thumping a sprawl of papers on the kitchen table. “I want to talk about something else.”

Of course there are lots of others things to talk about, but what would resonate with an 11-year-old, her classmates and a teacher?

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Good morning, everyone: Before I begin, I would like you to do something. You don’t need to close your eyes but please think of someone living in poverty somewhere in the world. 

Look at the person, look at their surroundings, where they live, how they’re dressed, what they have to eat.

My fellow classmates and teachers.  I have a concern that is very near to my heart and I would like to share it with you. It has to do with people who are living in poverty. 

Please, let us return to the person you have imagined, living in poverty somewhere in the world.

I will guess that the person in your imagination is not living in Canada, is not living in B.C., and is not living on Bowen Island.

How strange that we always think that the poor live far away from us when, they may actually be our neighbours and we do not know.

We’ve all seen people living on the street, asking for money. How do you think they got there? 

One reason could be some kind of family abuse, and the person now feels safer on the street than they did in their own home.

Another could be job loss, something that could happen to any one of the adults we know.

A third (but certainly not the only) road to poverty, and one that I feel particularly close to, is mental illness.

Mental illness is a disease, just like diabetes or arthritis, that can come when you are a child or adult. It comes without any warning. It can happen to anyone.

Very recently someone I have known for years was diagnosed with an extreme mental illness. She was in the hospital for more than six weeks. Her three children and her husband were suddenly without a wife and mother, and she could not earn any money. This person is a nurse and has not been to work since the end of February. 

I also know someone here on Bowen, in fact someone who use to go to IPS, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This means he cannot keep a job because sometimes he cannot tell what is real and what is not. For example, one time when he became psychotic, he thought it would be interesting to learn to fly. So he jumped off his roof!

Fortunately he didn’t die, but the point I’m trying to make is that bad luck and poverty can happen to anyone.

I know a lot of people think saving the environment is important, and I agree. 

However, what is the point of taking care of the planet if we can’t even take care of our own friends and neighbours? 

Here is my hope:

That every one of us here reaches out to someone in poverty. Maybe not every day, but at least every week.

There are the usual ways, such as giving to the food bank or donating to the second hand stores.

But more importantly, we have to stop ignoring the people on the street as though they were invisible. We have to look them in the eye and truly SEE them.

I know of a homeless man who was living in the woods across from the ferry. I know the family who  gave him a place to stay and the person repaid their kindness by fixing their roof and building a fence. The family didn’t IGNORE the poor person.

There’s no single solution to poverty but I hope that if we think and talk about it, and be generous with our TIME as well as our money, maybe we can be part of the answer to ending poverty in the world, starting with our own country, in our own small community.

Thank you very much.

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Some of you have been to where this headstone lies and knew the most wonderful woman buried there.

When we had to decide what words, if any, would summarize the issue most important to my mother, the choice was easy:

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me.”

As my friend Alice suggested, I can’t help but think our mothers’ spirits continue to guide our lives.


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Once upon a time there was a little boy who, to his mother’s bittersweet dismay, was getting taller and taller every day.

Wah! Start the story over.

Once there was a strapping pre-adolescent who had revolving interests regarding fine art, the great outdoors, construction sets and odd little Japanese animated creatures from a bizarre story where the creatures were trained by their human masters.

One day the lad, whom we’ll call Pokéboy, wandered into the deep dark woods behind his house. He took along with him something of great importance to his mother, something he took without her permission, something he later returned to her, with water all over the body and splash marks on the lens and she tried so hard not to have a private meltdown!!!

*Deep breath*

So the boy wandered into the deep dark woods behind his house.

But he was not alone as he had tucked with great care, into his pockets, the strange little creatures he’d created from clay.

He took the little creatures over to the pond in his yard where he spoke to them, asked them their plans for the future, arranged for a photoshoot and promised to put their names in lights.

Oh gosh, I don’t know. I don’t even know why he makes these things.

They’re cute, tho.

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We’re very serious about child labour laws around here.

If you can wash your hands, you can scrub the sink.

If you can sort your crayons, you can sort the silverware.

If you can stand without assistance you can clear the table.

If you can zip up your jacket, you can hang up your clothes.

If you want money there’s a stack of dress shirts on the ironing board.

It’s important to delegate tasks when you’re homeschooling.

How else will you find the time to write on your blog?

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Yesterday’s science class was for real.

The children from the Princess’s home learning program, along with hundreds of children from other parts of the Lower Mainland, were invited to spend the day at Playland — B.C.’s version of Manitoba’s Red River Ex and Ontario’s CNE. Same candy floss, carnival music, screaming SCREAMING ridership.

(One needs to be a special kind of person to work in a place like this and much praise and gratitude must go to the constantly smiling young staff who loaded all the thrill-seekers in to the rides before the SCREAMING began.)

Groups of students carried worksheets to focus them on the physics of the ride and to hear them chattering about the questions would have made any elementary science teacher proud.

“That’s called an example of centi- centri- cen- cen- centrifugal force, right?”

“Whoa! That was 4 Gs for sure!”

“Why did I scream? I couldn’t stop screaming. Now I’m shaking. Why am I crying? I’m not even sad!” (That would be my child, BTW.)

The artwork on the upper layer of this ride is astonishing. On the outiside, in a detailed hand-lettered script, were the name of the ride and the man who designed it in Germany.

After looking at the basic forces and simple machines in some of the gentler rides, the children were allowed to take on some of the ah, more challenging rides where they also experienced the physiological effects of an adrenalin rush.

The Princess was pretty quiet on the way home.

Queasy would be one way to describe it. As for me, well, my inner ear ain’t what it used to be and just watching the screamers tackle an event called ‘The Corkscrew’ left me looking for the horizon.

All kudos to the folks at Playland. A really great opportunity to show future physicists and engineers what they can create with their science degrees!

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Science Lesson

An object at rest stays at rest.

An object in motion stays in motion.

Unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

– Newton’s first law of motion.

Newton’s second law of motion:

Newton’s third law:

For every action,

there is an equal

and opposite


Have a great day!

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Dawn of a new day

As one of the staff members of the Princess’s new homeschooling department, yours truly deemed the time had arrived for an off-campus field trip.

(Two weeks on the job and I’m already bursting with bureaucracy!)

The UBC’s School of Music Opera program opened its doors to members of the Bowen Island Fibre Arts guild and allowed us to tour its costume department. What an amazing venue that is!


At present the opera students are preparing for a presentation of Cendrillon, the French version of Cinderella.


Check out the fairy godmother’s dress. Looks like something you’ve seen before?  Budgets are tight (as are the singers’ corsets) so some creative recycling is in order. In this case, a pouffy-sleeved sequined and pearled wedding dress. Ahhhhh, lovely.

Here’s some early planning of the garb for that ever-cranky stepmother — deliberately parodied to be grotesquely and humourously disproportionate.


Adding to the realism. (You can tell this is XXXXXXL, right?)


The costume room is one great big brainstorming session. Bits of fabric, sequins, feathers, ruffles are stashed and categorized for future dress-up possibilities.


The costume designers comb second-hand stores and catalogue their finds. A recently completed television series shot here in Vancouver donated all its outer space-style costumes which will be re-tooled for a future opera.

A great first cultural outing.

We’re thinking the next field trip should have a phys-ed component. A day of skiing, perhaps?



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