During the first two weeks of April the kids & I took a road trip to Winnipeg. It reinforced for me how much learning really takes place while we're experiencing things, not necessarily reading and writing them down. Here's a list of the topics that come to mind.
Obviously geography is huge when you drive from the Okanagan, through the mountains and out onto the plains. Changes in terrain, altitude and weather were duly noted. While we were in Winnipeg there was a critical focus on the impending flooding. We saw the Red River rise over the week we were there and we spent a fair bit of time trying to explain how river diversions and flood gates work to protect the houses within them (and what it means down and upstream). On the way home through SK we ended up taking a 65km+ detour due to flooding on the trans Canada highway. Not what we had been planning!
One morning we took a trip to the historic Forks area and had a lovely breakfast in the market, which Ivy wrote about in her blog. We briefly talked about the value of the forks to the First Nations of the area and how it was the heart of Winnipeg. It was neat to see the 2 rivers converge and note how much more quickly one was moving (the Red River) than the other (Assiniboine). We were disappointed that the Manitoba Children's Museum was under construction, since we've enjoyed it in the past, but look forward to returning again a different year!
The girls probably wouldn't count this as learning, but I toured them through many of my childhood haunts, houses and schools. I love the idea of helping them establish a sense of roots and family history. Whether or not it succeeded I may never know!
While we were in Winnipeg we made a visit to see the kids' great grandma in the hospital. They have met her a few times but hadn't seen her in over a year. It was the first time they had visited someone quite ill in a hospital and it was a bit shocking for all of us. They slowly absorbed what they were seeing in the hallways, in her shared room and in conversation with her. She was conscious and her memory is amazing, but physically she was very weak. We took half an hour in the lobby afterwards (over snacks) to talk about what we had seen and how we felt. This isn't in the curriculum anywhere but was a major learning time.
Ivy may not recall this as it was late evening after 12 hours of driving, but we had a reasonably long discussion about Canada's political parties and how our voting system works (based on all the election signs we were seeing). We touched on the concepts of "left" and "right" wings and how we might compare to some other countries in general.
In the car the girls listened to books on tape to help pass the time. They also got a new DSi game called "Scribblenauts" that I love. You face obstacles and can type in the name of any tool you want to help you overcome it (eg. you reach a deep river and need to cross - you could type in "bridge", "jet pack", "trampoline" or whatever you can come up with). It's very creative and requires correct spelling! One rainy day we walked the 2 blocks over to the library near my parent's place and spent some happy, mellow time choosing books to read over the next days.
The kids' only 2 cousins live in Winnipeg and they're active! We met them at the pool one evening and followed it up with pizza. We also took the time to watch Marissa (11years old) do some gymnastics training. Since Ella has just gotten back into this it was neat to see her facility and what level she's working at. On a few of the sunny afternoons we took advantage of the selection of outdoor toys available. Frisbee, skipping, football, catch, lawn "darts" and shovelling leftover snow were popular activities. We only made it to a playground one day but it was good for over an hour of exploring! On the road trip itself we had a few stops at motels with pools, which was good for blowing off some accumulated energy.
On the way home we spent 2 nights in Calgary, with the dual purposes of hanging out with my brother and his partner (Uncle Mark and Roel) and seeing the Calgary Zoo. Ella blogged about it on her new site (we're hoping to add updates most Mondays). Although it was chilly the kids hadn't remembered ever being at a zoo and were blown away. I had never been to one like that either! They fell in love with the Red Pandas but enjoyed seeing almost everything there. Ella especially liked the elephants and Ezra was thrilled with the zebras, tigers and monkeys. Mom was most enamoured with the (warm) tropical & butterfly gardens. There were some neat science displays there that were related to solar heat/light.
Our last night on the return road trip was in Vernon, an unusual stopping point for us. We slid into town with 15min to spare to watch some of Ivy's friends in their dance performance. Afterwards, we checked into our lovely hotel and had a long swim. The next morning we visited the Okanagan Science Centre for the first time. As it was very quiet, Ivy pronounced it "much better" than the one in Vancouver. I could not tear the girls away from the flight simulator!
There was a LOT of discussion about how many hours/kms there were until the next stop, and how many left in the day. It lead to a lot of talk about how fast I may have been driving to get those results...
Not bad for two weeks without textbooks!