Search & Win

Ambience and Fraud

Sher Bear takes a break from swimming at Tiquisate, Guatemala
People comment that my kids seem well educated.  How can they tell that?  I wonder.  I think it must be their vocabulary.  All three kids, but Campster especially, have an amazing repetoire of words they use in everyday conversation.
How did that happen?  Here's a few guesses:

1.  They don't go to school.  Because they are around Mom, Dad, and other grownups most days, their vocabulary reflects the word choices of adults over those of children.

2.  They don't watch television.  We have a plasma.  But we do not have cable tv or sattelite.  Instead we watch hand-picked movies from time to time.  Everytime I do get a chance to watch tv, I am amazed how dumbed-down much of it is.

3.  We read, a lot.  Big Dad is especially great about reading to the kids.  I prefer books on tape.  But one way or another, they listen to or read plenty of good literature.  That's not to say that we completely disallow "twaddle", but that is not the bulk of their reading.

4.  We don't "talk down" to them.  Big Dad and I talk about almost anything in front of the kids.  And we discuss it as though we are talking with our adult friends.  The kids have great insight and opinions on things.  And when they don't understand a word, they ask us.

Like today, in the car, I said the word "ambience".  I can't remember what the context was.  But Campster asked me what that meant.  We had a whole discussion on the feel of certain rooms.  And we decided that the ambience in the girls' room is much improved now that the old wallpaper is gone and the new wainscoting and beautiful pink paint is in it's place.

And then this evening, Jor Man and I were looking at a video on the internet, and they said that someone was a fraud.  Jor Man wanted to know what fraud meant.  We talked about the Wizard of OZ and how he wasn't "The Great and Powerful OZ" after all, but a fraud - a lie.

And since I don't have any great pictures of vocabulary - I thought I'd post this cute one of Sher Bear swimming in Guatemala.  She loves swimming!

Wish you were here!

Dressing the Part

Jor Man as Leif Erikson for Halloween 2006.
Our kids love playing dress up.  Costume changes happen several times a day.  When we studied the Vikings three years ago, Jor Man wanted to be Leif Erikson for Halloween.  

Dressing up naturally leads to acting out the story.  And making up new stories, too.  Around that same time, we also saw Mary Poppins for the first time.  Jor Man decided to write a play in which Erik the Red and the Vikings pillage a town, and then they get on horses that fly away (like Mary Poppins' carousel!).  He may have been taking a little poetic license with the history, but he will never forget the Vikings.

Sher Bear laughs at the pinata in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
We bought traditional outfits for the girls in Guatemala.  (Jor Man didn't want one!)  They love dressing up Guatemalan.  They ask to wear their new clothes almost everyday.

Campster gets sun block from Big Dad in Guatemala
Making costumes (or buying them) is an easy way to make learning fun, and connect with another culture.

Campster and her doll posing with a girl in native costume at the Central Market in Guatemala City.
This fall, Sher Bear wants to study Egypt.  So I am putting together a study of Ancient Civilizations to do with her and with Campster.  I found this cool book at the Homeschool Convention.  I think making hats to wear will help make studying the Ancients memorable and fun!

Wish you were here!


Cacao growing outside of Tiquisate, Guatemala

There, on the tree.  That football shaped, greenish fruit growing out of the trunk or branch.  That's it.    That's a cacao pod.  That is where chocolate comes from.

I remember seeing it for the first time when I was nine years old, and thinking it was the strangest thing - stuck there on the side of the trunk.

But, oh, how I love chocolate!  Jor Man went through a phase a couple of years ago when he was very interested in making chocolate.  We tried it, and failed miserably.  It didn't even taste good.

I asked my cousin, while we were in Guatemala, to get us one so that the kids could see for themselves where chocolate comes from.  He got us two!!  These were yellow (ripe?).

We played with them a bit, first, of course.  And then we cut them open.

Campster and Sher Bear playing with the cacao pods
They cut very easily, which surprised me.  The skin in hard like a winter squash, but the inside is soft.  It's whitish inside, and then there are little beans, cacao beans in the white.  It doesn't look a thing like chocolate - or taste like it.

Pretty much every kid I know has smelled unsweetened cocoa powder, or unsweetened baker's chocolate and taken a taste. Horrible bitter stuff!  Well, straight cacao beans make that seem yummy!

What the cacao beans look like raw
Jor Man tried tasting one and hated it!!  Before the beans can be used, they are roasted.  Then they add fat and sugar, and sometimes milk.  Well, that's the short-version.  If you want to read about how to really make chocolate, The Story of Chocolate is a great book for kids.  It has information on the history, geography, and manufacturing process.  We read that and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl one year.  Of course we watched the movies, too.  It's fun to compare the old and the new - an opportunity to compare and contrast.  Makes a fun unit study.  Delicious, too!

Wish you were here!

Auto Safari Chapin

Sher Bear looking out the window at the Zebras
Near the south coast of Guatemala, in Escuintla, is a place called Auto Safari Chapin.  I am told that originally it was the private collection (of animals) of one man who eventually opened it to the public.

A rhino.  It looks like he's going to charge us, but he was actually walking quite slowly.
Sher Bear checks out the giraffes.
The first part is a drive through safari.  We saw zebras, lions, hippos, a rhino, giraffes, monkeys, many birds, antelope and even water buffalo.  Only for the lion exhibit did we need to have our windows up.  Otherwise, our windows were down and we were driving right by the animals - amazing!  Not all of the animals were from Guatemala - they had animals from all over the world.

Two lions lounging in the grass
After the driving portion of the tour, we parked and walked through a more traditional zoo.  We especially liked the jaguars and pumas.  The scenery was lovely.  The animals were easy to see and active even during the day.  Considering that we used to live 5 miles from the San Diego Wild Animal Park, I thought I was difficult to impress when it came to zoos.  But this place was really amazing.

Beautiful Toucan
I believe this is a Puma.  It's actually yawning, not growling.
The entire time we were there, we only saw one other family.  We had the place to ourselves.  Of course, it was during the day on a weekday, during their school year.  I understand it's crowded on weekends and holidays.

The kids have discovered the Lagoon.
Jor Man in the bow of the boat
Once we had seen all the animals, the kids noticed the boats on the lagoon.  I let Big Dad take the kids because I get a little seasick.  They had a great time and saw a lot more spider monkeys.

Don't they look like an ad for "Spy Kids"?
There was also a swimming area.  Luckily, we had our suits packed!  The kids loved the wonderful pools: a shallow kiddy pool that was perfect for Sher Bear and a larger, deeper pool with a slide for the big kids.    By now you know that my children are really fish in disguise.  They swam and swam.

All this for the incredible price of $8 for adults and $6.67 for kids.  Isn't that crazy?

Campster's first run down the slide to Big Dad.  Jor Man looks scared for her!
Wish you were here!

A Leap of Faith

The rumbly truck that would take us to the top - and shake our fillings loose in the process!
We discussed before leaving for Guatemala that things would not be the same there as they are in the states.  We talked about how the food would be different, and it was (sooo yummy!!).  We considered that things might not be as clean or well kept as we are used to them being (bathrooms come to mind).  We talked about how being on a trip is an adventure - and if you are only going to do the things you are used to or comfortable with, you might as well just stay home.

Sher Bear is ready to go!
Well, that was never more true than when we went to Antigua, and visited Finca Filadefia.  My wonderful relatives who planned out all the details of our itinerary told us that we were going on the canopy tour.  I asked for some clarification.  "It's up in the trees with ropes."  Still confused.  Is this a ropes course?  Or more like a zip line.  "Zip line!"

Here goes Jor Man!  He loved it!

Well, good.  Jor Man has been begging to do a real zip line for some time now.  But could little four-year-old Sher Bear go on it?  "Oh, sure!  The owners' kid has been on it and they are three."  So, we boarded the truck for the drive up the mountain.  I assure you - that ride was half the fun.  The road was rocky and one lane with hairpin turns.  The engine sounded as if it might give out up the steep slopes.  But the views of the surrounding volcanos were gorgeous.

Campster showing perfect zipline form - leg crossed, knees slightly bent, holding on.

All the way up, Campster asserted that she was not going to do it, and we couldn't make her.  Hmmm.  This will be interesting, I thought, and asked God for help.  When we got to the top, and Jor Man saw the ropes and how high up we were, he began insisting that he wasn't doing it either.

But, Buddy!  You've been begging to go on a zip line!  "NOPE!  Not doing it!"  More silent prayers.

We all got suited up with our harnesses and hard hats.  And then the lead instructor showed us how it is done.  "Watch!"  I said to Sher Bear, "it's like a big swing!"  And she was so excited.  Really.  And then the big kids were as well.

Big Dad zips through the trees.
It never even occurred to me, until it was my turn to, well, jump, to be scared.  I was so busy talking the kids into doing it, and taking pictures, that I didn't realize how utterly terrified I was until it was really too late.  Practice what you preach, right?  So I jumped.  And it was really cool.

All in all, there were 7 runs.  The longest run was 715 feet long and 100 feet off the ground.  Everyone loved it.  It was amazing.  The pictures really don't do it justice.

Wish you were here!

The Bridge

Sher Bear and Beauty Mom ready to cross
The first time I ever went to Guatemala, I was nine years old.  I still have vivid memories of that trip - and I hope that my kids will remember their trip always as well.

One of the things that I remembered from that first trip was the hammock bridge.  My family in Guatemala has a farm (una finca) that is now primarily a mango plantation.  It was a cattle ranch 36 years ago.  In the dry season, you drive through the river to the other side.  But this is the rainy season, and the only way to get to the finca now is to go across the hammock bridge.

When I was nine, my mother wouldn't let me do it.  At that time only one person could cross at a time.  Now many people cross at once.

Just so that you get the full picture - this river was running very high and very fast.  And, I am told, has alligators.  Although, thankfully, I didn't see any.

Big Dad and Sher Bear on their way back
So we said our prayers and crossed the bridge.  Sher Bear had the hardest time, because she could not reach the wires on the side.  So Beauty Mom crossed over with her on the way there, and Big Dad on the way back.

The kids loved it!  The adults survived it.  And we all had a lovely time at the mango farm.  Traveling is all about doing the things you don't do in your every day life.  We dubbed this the "Indiana Jones Adventure".

Campster's drawing of the bridge
I bought journals for each of us to draw and write in on our trip.  (I didn't like the pencils I got, because they smeared.  I also forgot to bring a pencil sharpener.)  The girls especially loved this process of drawing what happened each day.  On the left is Campster's picture of the bridge.  And below, on the right, is Sher Bear's.  I love the alligator!

I love that Sher Bear did not show a parent with her!
Wish you were here!

Writers' Block

We are back, and we had a fabulous time.  There is so much to tell.

And yet, every time I sit down and try to put it into words - I am at a loss.  Which got me thinking - What do I do when I want the kids to write?  How do I encourage their writing?

When words fail us, or feel too intimidating, pictures can help the process.  Perhaps a child does not know where to begin when writing a story - have him or her draw a picture.  Then ask them to tell you about their picture:  What is happening?  How did it start?  Who is in the picture?  Where is it happening?  When did it happen?  And what happens next?

If you write down what they answer, you will have the rough draft of the story.  Little kids love to have you write out the story they dictate based on a picture.  And bigger kids will get the start they need to get a paper or a story going.

So, taking my own advice, here's my picture:

Rosa, Beauty Mom, Sher Bear and Campster with our tortillas
This is Rosa.  Rosa is the maid (or in spanish, criada) at my cousin, Ricardo's home.  We arrived in Guatemala City in the evening on Sunday. And first thing we did on Monday morning when we woke up was to go into the kitchen and meet Rosa.  She is so sweet.

Here Rosa is making tortillas for the family.  She taught the girls and me how to make them.  It's harder than it looks.

Our tortillas were not round and flat like Rosa's.  But they were still edible.  The girls made sure that everyone got to try their tortillas!

Rosa does not speak any english.  So the girls also got a chance to communicate non verbally with someone.  And they began to ask how to say things in spanish.

I took over 600 pictures while in Guatemala.  I promise not to show them all to you - just the highlights.  But the next few weeks will probably be a lot of Guatemala.  It is a lovely place.

Wish you were here!

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