Sunday, 29 May 2011

VIDEOS ~ Footage from 2010 "Lose the Training Wheels" Camp ~ Victoria, BC

If you watch this video, you will learn about an exciting program called "Lose the Training Wheels."  This group had a successful Camp last summer in Victoria, British Columbia, sponsored by the Queen Alexandra Children's Hospital.  The group plans to run another camp in 2011 ~ from July 11th to 16th.

Participants will ride the modified bikes shown in the video for 90-minutes per day.  Alisdair's dyspraxia has made it difficult for him to be able to balance enough to ride a two-wheeler and so he is anxious to "lose the training wheels" this summer.

"Whenever I go riding on my bike, with the training wheels, I feel like lots of people are making fun of me," says Alisdair.  "It humiliates me to think that I'm going on 12 and there are children, not much bigger than my little sister, who can ride with two wheels."

Since Alisdair feels so strongly about this, we have decided to attend the upcoming Camp.  When we initially inquired about it, we were told participants from the Queen Alexandra Children's Hospital would be given top priority.  However, after the enrollment deadline, there was a vacancy and we were told Alisdair would be eligible to attend.  After receiving that news, we managed to find a WestJet seat sale and book plane tickets.  The organizers are now holding a space for him in their program.  We even managed to find economical accomodations at a hostel for the week!

Alisdair and I are both looking forward to our adventure on Vancouver Island . . . he'll be "losing the training wheels" and hopefully I'll be losing weight ~ chasing his bicycle around the riding arena!  It makes me tired and out of breath just thinking about it . . . wish us both luck!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

SCIENCE ~ "Sound Waves" ~ Energy in Action ~ By: Ian F. Mahaney

"Sounds are caused by vibrations.  When an object vibrates, it moves the air around it.  You can hear and feel vibrations.  You can't see vibrations in the air, but you can see and hear the things they have an effect on, like a guitar string," (Page 20), explains Ian F. Mahaney in his book titled, "Sound Waves."

On Page 23 of Mahaney's book, readers are provided with a list of "Glossary Words," worth noting for future reference.  These include:
anvil (AN-vul) A small bone in the middle ear that vibrates.
atoms (A-temz) The smallest parts of an element, which can exist either alone or with other elements.
audible range (AH-duh-bul RAYNJ) The sounds that a certain animal can hear.
cochlea (KO-klee-uh) A snail-shaped tube found in the inner ear.
energy (EH-nur-jee)  The power to work or to act.
frequencies (FREE-kwen-seez)  The numbers of waves moving in a certain space each second.
hammer (HA-mur) A small bone in the middle ear that shakes.
hertz (HURTS) A measurement of number of vibrations in a sound wave.
infrasound (IN-frah-sownd) Sound waves less than 20 Hz.
larynx (LER-inks) The part of our throat that holds vocal cords.
marine (muh-REEN) Having to do with the sea.
matter (MA-ter) Something that has weight and takes up space.
molecules (MAH-lih-kyoolz) Two or more atoms joined together.
stirrup (STUR-up) A small bone in the middle ear that shakes.
translates (trans-LAYTS) Changes from one form into another.
ultrasound (UL-truh-sownd) Sound waves greater than 20,000 Hz.
vibration (vy-BRAY-shun) Fast movement up and down or back and forth.
vocal cords (VOH-kul KORDZ) Two small bands that reach across the voice box and move to make sounds.

At the back of the 24-page book, Mahaney has also included two experiments that we are eager to try.  Watch for further posts!   

Friday, 27 May 2011

FAMILY LIFE ~ First Wiener Roast of 2011

Successfully roasted "dog"!
Earlier this month, Alisdair and Isobel enjoyed their first wiener roast of the season in our backyard.  I hasten to add, this was prior to the tragic fire in Slave Lake, Alberta.  Since that took place, we haven't had a fire as it is just too dry.

The neighbouring R. M. of Manitou Lake has imposed a total fire ban and although we are in the R. M. of Hillsdale, we have similar conditions.  I'm sure the ban will be lifted in a little while and the children will be able to have a few more outdoor meals.  I think they enjoy cooking the hot dogs and marshmallows more than they enjoy eating them!

Chef Alisdair with his "dog"

All dressed ...

. . . into the flames . . .

. . . almost charred enough to eat!

DID YOU KNOW? ~ Facts about "The Race Across America"

What is the ... Race Across America (RAAM)?

Until Alisdair and I read "Geronimo Stilton:  The Race Across America," we were unaware this grueling race even existed!  On Page 14 of the novel, this event is described as follows:

"The Race Across America is the longest and most strenuous bicycle race in the world.  It's an ultra-marathon race that's more than 3,000 miles long.  Cyclists pedal for nine to twelve consecutive days, some resting only one to three hours every day.  The race starts on the West Coast, near San Diego, California, and ends on the East Coast.  The exact finish line changes from year to year, but was most recently in Annapolis, Maryland."

"The race requires an incredible amount of physical energy, but mental concentration is also absolutely essential.  In fact, some people believe that mental concentration is the most important factor in the race."

"Cyclists climb more than 100,000 feet along the racecourse.  Participants must pedal across the California and Arizona deserts, enduring brutal temperatures that can reach as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then racers must face the Rocky Mountains, the plains of Kansas, and the Appalachian Mountains on their way to the East Coast.  It's easy to see why the Race Across America is considered one of the most difficult racing challenges in the world."  

In just a few days, the 2011 version of the "Race Across America" will play out along the highways designated as the official route.  Very detailed information for each leg, of the race, can be found at 2011 Race Across America .  This website also provides information on the racers who will be competing, the sponsors, interesting historical information and a listing of the records held by riders who have completed the Race Across America.

There are three different "starts" to the race!  The Solo Women start 12:00pm (PDT) Tuesday June 14, 2011;  The Solo Men start 12:00pm (PDT) Wednesday June 15, 2011; and the Teams start 2:00pm (PDT) Saturday June 18, 2011.

Now that we know about this race, it will be interesting to follow the event (via the website), and to keep track of the amazing athletes who are part of this difficult challenge.

After all, even Geronimo Stilton found the course difficult to complete! I have nothing but respect, and best wishes, for the racers planning to race next month.  Good luck to all!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

FIELD TRIPS ~ Creative Kids Museum/TELUS World of Science, Calgary

The TELUS "World of Science" website describes their "Creative Kids Museum" as a place "where curiosity grows."  It urges patrons to "explore the sights and sounds of an area that immerses children in a world of art, science and technology."

Since Isobel wasn't too interested in viewing the many artifacts salvaged from the wreck of the RMS Titanic, the "Creative Kids Museum" was a lifesaver.  She loved participating in the many activities available for youngsters.  Eventually John came to "spell me off" so I could go back to look at the exhibits that I had been looking forward to seeing for several months.

Activities for children included ~ a pattern wall; a special heat wall you could touch and see various colours in your handprint; a centre where you could make crafts with fabric and foam stickers; a bed of nails to lie on; musical tiles on the floor you could jump on; play tunnels you could climb through; a quiet room for Mums and children aged 5 and under; and other activities, far too numerous to mention!  It seemed like the creators of this space for children literally "thought of everything!"

I took photos of Isobel enjoying several of the activities offered:

Children could play guitars on a little stage
 with real music and a mirror to watch themselves in ... 
... build with huge foam blocks ... 
... write on a wall with markers (Isobel drew a heart) ... 
... make pictures with ice cubes and powdered paint ...

...  sit in a wacky, giant chair ...

... and play with interlocking blocks.
Admission to the "Creative Kids Museum" was included in the price of the tickets to the main TELUS "World of Science" exhibit. (This was $12 per child.)

I'm sure Isobel would love to go back to play some more ~ if only Calgary wasn't quite so far away!

FAMILY LIFE ~ Meet "Little Jack!"

Jack Stark Ferguson
"Little Jack" was born to my oldest niece, Rebekah, and her husband Josh on April Fool's Day.  Great Grandpa and Great Grandma were lucky enough to meet the little fellow over the Easter holidays.  It didn't take much coaxing for them to decide to join us when we decided to make a quick trip to Calgary this past weekend as "seeing Jack" was a big drawing card!

It makes me feel "old" to think I am now a "Great Aunt" ~ as I've suddenly jumped a generation.  But "Little Jack" makes the instant aging process worthwhile.

Welcome to our world, "Little Jack!"  It was a pleasure getting to know you!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

GARDENING ~ Planting Purple Potatoes . . .

We spent most of the day outside -- getting the garden ready and planting various things (beets, cucumbers, carrots, chard, radishes, lettuce, etc.)  We were also trying to weed out the quackgrass, which was a very nasty job!  After John rototilled the plot, Alisdair and I spent a long time picking up the biggest bits of the green weeds from the dirt.  Then he rototilled for a second time before we began planting the potatoes.

We had a 10 pound bag of "Red Pontiacs" and a 5 gallon pail of purple potatoes (the flesh inside is white) a friend had given us.  And so the planting began.

Alisdair helped lay the sprouted seed potatoes on the ground and then John came by later with a shovel and dug up some dirt to cover them.  Alisdair was having a lot of trouble trying to accurately space the potatoes 12 to 14 inches apart.  Finally, John came up with an idea and told him to go inside the house and to get one of his shoes and a measuring tape!

When Alisdair returned, they measured John's shoe and discovered it was 13 inches long.  Now Alisdair could place a potato beside the string in the designated row and then put the heel of the shoe next to it.  The next potato was placed at the toe-end of the shoe. Then the heel of the shoe was set down next to the last potato, continuing with this sequence until he got to the stake at the end of the row.

"Everybody should get one of these fancy gadgets for their gardening projects," Alisdair exclaimed.  "Home Depot, and other department stores, could make millions off this nifty measuring device.  Best of all, it is easy to use and it is fairly accurate.  Why hasn't anyone else thought of this?"

You've got to admit, it is a good question!  Alisdair thought it was a lot more fun planting potatoes using the "shoe method."  I'm just glad it didn't "defeet" the purpose of our gardening! 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

FAMILY LIFE ~ A Pause for Station Identification!

You may have noticed new posts have been few and far between lately.  We've been busy and have lots to share but it will have to wait until another day...

We've been planting potatoes, enjoying the Newcap News TV and radio tour with the Lloydminster Homeschool Association, taking swimming lessons, and now we're heading off on another adventure!  We're going to take a "journey back in time" and visit what's left of the RMS Titanic at Telus World of Science in Calgary.  We're also going to visit family and get to see little baby Jack (my Great Nephew) for the first time!  It's going to be a three generation excursion as Granny and Grandpa don't want to miss out on the fun, either!

... and so, later in the coming week, we'll have lots of exciting posts to share with our readers.  Enjoy your Victoria Day long weekend (even if it isn't on the 24th of May this year!) ... and stay safe!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

READING ~ 125 Books and Counting ... 150 will be Just Around the Corner!

We didn't really set a specific numeric goal for our reading but we're just seeing how many titles we can  enjoy together.  We've just surpassed 125 titles (currently at 127) but there are more waiting, at the local library, for pick-up ... so I am sure the tally will be going higher very quickly!

Many of our recent books have been from "Tiger Tales" publications.  They usually have a surprising "twist" at the conclusion of the story which makes bedtime reading fun!

Just a few more books and we'll hit the 150 title mark!  If you don't regularly go to your local library, why don't you make a trip there to borrow some books for your summer reading?  I'm sure you'd be glad you did!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

VIDEOS/BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Silverlicious" ~ By: Victoria Kann

Victoria Kann has a new book hot off the press called "Silverlicious."  It follows in the footsteps of "Pinkalicious" and several other "colourful" books this author has penned.  (See previous blog post ~  "Pink? Purple? Gold? They Are All Delicious ~ February 10, 2011"). We were lucky to get ahold of a copy as it is very much in demand ~ even at the library, with several patrons placing "holds" on the material.  The dustjacket of the copy we received had a blue and white sticker on it, indicating the "Girl Guides of Canada" endorsed the book.

At the beginning of this story, Pinkalicious Pinkerton realizes she has a serious problem.  When she loses a tooth, Pinkalicious is suddenly unable to taste anything sweet.  Candy, cookies, cakes ... they all taste disgusting!  Poor Pinkalicious ... even visits from Edgar Easter Bunny, Carlos Cupid and Elf #351 do not help. Finally Tootheetina (the young girl's own personal tooth fairy) is able to solve the dilemma.  Tootheetina leaves Pinkalicious a note.  It says: "Sweetness comes from the inside.  When you are sweet, the world and all the delicious things in it will be sweet too!"  When Pinkalicious takes this wise advice to heart, she realizes that she has not been very grateful or polite.  On the last page she vows, "From now on I am always going to be as sweet as my sweet tooth." 

This video is a "trailer" for "Silverlicious":

There is also a website devoted to all things Pinkalicious.  Check it out at Think Pinkalicious!  There are e-cards to send, games to play, activity pages to print and colour, and you can even put your own photo into a graphic of Pinkalicious to "pinkafy" yourself (or your little one!)  Isobel loved it!


After reading this book, last week Alisdair lost one of his own teeth.  Luckily the molar was NOT his sweet tooth (although I'm not sure he actually has one!)  We did have fun joking about it, though!

CELEBRATIONS ~ Kindergarten Class Hosts "Mother's Day Tea"

Chit Rose and her daughter, Dianne
(One of Isobel's classmates)
Isobel's Kindergarten class held a "Mother's Day Tea" on Friday, May 6th.

Most of the mothers attended for the short program and refreshments.  The children sang several songs and then the teacher read a little book the students had put together.  Each child had drawn a page and the teacher had written on it why they loved their Mother.  Isobel said she loved me because we "cuddled in church and I gave her snacks!" After the entertainment, the children served puffed wheat cake and rice krispie squares to their Mums, accompanied by tea or juice.  After we'd eaten, the children played while the Mothers visited.

Before long, the tea was over and it was back to regular classes for the Kindergarten students ... definitely "a special moment to remember!"

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

COOKING ~ "Blue's Banana Muffins"

Isobel borrowed a book from the school library called "Blue Makes Breakfast."  On the last page there is a recipe for "Blue's Banana Muffins."  Isobel wants to make them.  Maybe you'll want to mix up a batch for your breakfast, too!


3 large bananas
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream together butter and sugar.
3. Add sour cream, eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla.
4. Mix all dry ingredients and add to mixture.
5. Pour batter into greased muffin tins (or line with muffin cups).
6. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes until muffins are golden brown and spring back to the touch.  Enjoy!

DID YOU KNOW? ~ The Most Challenging Races in the World

Until Alisdair and I read "Geronimo Stilton - The Race Across America," I didn't know about the four "Most Challenging Races in the World."  I can't say I'm planning to enter any of them, as a participant, but they would be interesting to watch as they are run each year!  On Page 15, of the novel, readers are told the following information about the four races:

"1.  THE RACE ACROSS AMERICA is a 3,000 mile bicycle race across the United States.

2. THE VENDEE GLOBE began in 1989.  In this famous race, sailboats sail around the world without stopping.  The race begins and ends in France.

3. THE IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE is an annual sled dog race in which mushers with teams of ten to sixteen dogs cross Alaska from east to west, covering 1,161 miles in eight to fifteen days.

4. THE IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP is the world's oldest, longest, and most prestigious triathlon.  The first Ironman competition was held in Waikiki, Hawaii, on February 18, 1978.  Competitors must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles."



"Riders can participate in the Race Across America as individuals or as part of a group.  An individual cyclist can travel about 430 miles a day in approximately 22 hours.  In the race's 26-year history, fewer than 200 solo cyclists have finished the race.

* In 1986, Pete Penseyres set a world record for biking 3,107 miles in 8 days, 9 hours, and 47 minutes.

* A cyclist burns an average of 300 calories an hour (a total of 7,000 calories a day) during the race!"

GEOGRAPHY ~ "Miracle Rock" ~ Colorado

Miracle Rock

Geronimo Stilton's "The Race Across America" also describes an interesting landmark in Colorado. 

On Page 80 the author tells us, "In the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers named the area Colorado because of its red-colored earth.  Colorado means "red" in Spanish.  Colorado has fifty-four mountain peaks that are more than 14,000 feet high.  Colorado National Monument preserves 32 square miles of canyons and mesas sculpted from years of erosion.  A few miles west is Miracle Rock, a huge sandstone outcropping perched on a narrow cliff.  It may be the biggest wobbly rock in the world."

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

VIDEOS ~ Edward Reid Singing on "Britain's Got Talent"

This entertaining fellow is a drama teacher from Coatbridge, Scotland.  His performance on "Britain's Got Talent" was shown on the Canada AM morning newscast recently.  Alisdair and I loved it!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

GEOGRAPHY ~ Arizona ~ Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Another geography lesson from Geronimo Stilton, highlighted in the novel "The Race Across America," provides information about Arizona's Monument Valley.  Readers are told, on Pages 76 and 77:  "Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is 91,696 acres (143 square miles), and it's filled with many strange and unique sandstone formations that have been shaped through time.  They include buttes, mesas, canyons, and freestanding formations with enchanting names."

Ear of the Wind
"EAR OF THE WIND:  If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of the wind passing through the hole in this formation."

Eye of the Sun Arch
"EYE OF THE SUN ARCH:  At a particular time of day, you can see the sun through the middle of the hole.  It acts like a natural clock."

Three Sisters
"The most famous formations are the unmistakable THREE SISTERS, which appear in many Westerns."


"Some of the most famous Westerns of all time were shot right in Monument Valley:

Stagecoach (1939)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
Fort Apache (1948)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Rio Bravo (1950)
The Searchers (1956)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
How the West Was Won (1982)"

GEOGRAPHY ~ "The Grand Canyon"

Another stop on the "The Race Across America" for Geronimo Stilton was "The Grand Canyon."  Pages 68 and 69 of the novel, of the same name, tells readers "the Grand Canyon is a World Heritage Site in the state of Arizona.  It is considered one of the wonders of the world.  The canyon is a huge crack in a rock that averages 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles.  It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles wide at its widest point."

The Grand Canyon
"The canyon was formed by the path of the Colorado River over the past five or six million years.  Over time, the canyon's walls grew wider and wider from summer thunderstorms and winter snowmelts.

"The Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon.  It begins in Rocky Mountain National Park, and flows approximately 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California in Mexico.  Its waters change color from red to blue to green, depending on weather conditions and the different sediments in the riverbed."

GEOGRAPHY ~ San Diego, California

Since the "The Race Across America" begins in San Diego, California, the Geronimo Stilton book, of the same name, has a full colour page of information about this city on Page 40 of the novel.


Geronimo tell us, "California is the third largest state in the United States, after Alaska and Texas.  It is also the most populous.  One of its largest cities is San Diego, which is located at the southern tip of the state on the Pacific coast."

"The Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, hoping to find the wealthy cities known as Cibola.  Today, if you walk along the waterfront, the Embarcadero, you will reach the Maritime Museum, which features one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world.  One of the ships there, the Star of India (1863), is the world's oldest working ship."

The Star of India

"In the heart of San Diego is Balboa Park.  It is the largest urban cultural park in the United States.  Founded in 1868, it is home to major museums, botanical gardens, performing arts centers, and the San Diego Zoo, which holds more than 4,000 animals."

A view of Balboa Park

Thanks for the geography lesson, Geronimo!

FIELD TRIPS ~ New Cap Television Tour Postponed...

The Lloydminster Homeschool Association has planned another field trip opportunity for local homeschoolers ~ a tour of the New Cap television and radio studio in Lloydminster.  We were supposed to be going this Thursday, May 12th at 10 AM.  After a general "sign up" organizers had over 75 people interested in attending the event!  Due to space restrictions, the Homeschool Association has now planned a second tour for Thursday, May 19th.  We have been bumped a week, to the second tour date.  We are all looking forward to this upcoming event!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

DID YOU KNOW? ~ A Brief "History of the Bicycle"

Who would have thought you could learn historical information from a "Geronimo Stilton" novel about mice?  On Saturday afternoon, I read "The Race Across America" aloud to Alisdair and was surprised to find Page 13 devoted to the "The History of the Bicycle."

The book tells readers "the first bicycle was invented in 1861 by the French mechanic Ernest Michaux.  It was called the velocipede.  The velocipede had pedals mounted on a large front wheel.  This helped riders travel very fast with very little effort."

It goes on to explain "the modern bicycle was born in 1880 with the invention of the chain, which transfers power from the bicycle's pedals to its wheels.  A few years later, rubber tires were added.  Tires made riding a bike a lot more comfortable.  Before they were invented, cyclists rode on wheels made of wood or iron."

"Today racing bicycles have narrow tires, curved handlebars, and most important, a gear mechanism that makes it easier to pedal up even the steepest hills.  These bikes are made from ultralight materials, like carbon fiber or titanium.  Every piece of the bicycle is designed to be as light as possible to help improve the rider's speed."

I've seen velocipede's ridden in parades, but I sure wouldn't want to try it myself . . .  teaching someone to ride would be a nightmare!  Give me a modern bike and some training wheels any day!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

CELEBRATIONS ~ Late Night Fireworks Fun!

On Saturday evening (May 7), as part of the Neilburg Composite School graduation festivities, for the Class of 2011, a fireworks display was held!  Since it was just down the block, both Alisdair and Isobel were excited to go to see the show.  So, just before 11 PM, we drove down to the school and climbed the small hill at the back of the playground, near the track, to enjoy the presentation.  It was a little chilly, but a fun new twist, to graduation!

The show lasted for approximately 15 minutes and, I am told, cost about $600.  Isobel was enjoying herself so much, she jumped up and down exclaiming, "I can't believe Johnny is missing this!"  (Her stepdad had chosen to go to sleep instead of watching the display and she felt he had made the wrong decision!)

After the fun was over, we headed home and the children went to bed, with visions of fireworks dancing in their heads!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

FIELD TRIP ~ RCMP Police Dog Demonstration Held

The Lloydminster Homeschool Association sponsored an interesting field trip on Friday evening, May 6th ~ an RCMP police dog demonstration!  The group met in Lloydminster, behind City Hall, near the gazebo.  Several RCMP officers were waiting for us there.  The evening began with Homeschool President, Tim Krenz, warning everyone not to try to touch the police dog.  He also advised us the Constables at the event were on active duty and if there was an emergency, they could be called away at a moment's notice!  Luckily that didn't happen!

The first Member of the Force to speak was Cst. Stack.  He talked about general police duties and how everyone goes to Regina for six months to "Depot," for their initial training.  Last summer, Alisdair and Isobel toured the RCMP facilities in Regina with their Scottish grandparents, so that dovetailed nicely, to give them a broader understanding of what was being talked about.

Cst. Stack told us about the Lloydminster Detachment boundaries and that there are four platoons of officers who work each week.  He also noted that for every call there is alot of paperwork to complete to keep an accurate record of what took place.  Even a false 911 call requires a paper trail!

Next up was Cst. Trevor Lyster.  I recognized his name as he worked from the Cut Knife RCMP Detachment for several years.  Cst. Lyster is now working at IDENT in Lloydminster.  He gave a demonstration of the fingerprinting process.

First, he had Cst. Stack touch his sweaty brow.  Then Stack touched an empty beer bottle that had been brought along for that purpose.  Cst. Lyster said there are often beer bottles at a crime scene and they are routinely used to gather fingerprint evidence. We could see smudges on the bottle before Cst. Lyster went to work.  He brought out his "kit" and opened a container with some gray powder and a small brush inside.  When the powder was applied to the beer bottle, the fingerprints were clearly visible.  The next step was to preserve the prints on a sticky piece of plastic.  Once the backing was stuck to the prints, they were preserved between the plastic sections and could be analyzed as evidence.

The next item on the program was what everyone had been waiting for ~ the police dog demonstration!  Cst. Troy Raddatz brought his partner, "Argo," out of the mobile kennel in the back of his truck, and began explaining some of the things they can do as a team.

Cst. Raddatz and "Argo"

"Argo" is a German Shepherd who was born in Czechoslovakia and purchased for approximately $10,000.00.  Apparently there was a guarantee that he would be an excellent police dog.  If "Agro" had not been able to meet the rigorous RCMP standards, another dog would have been made available to the force.  Dogs are also bred in Canada, especially for the purpose of training them for work with police services across the country.  While Cst. Raddatz was talking, "Argo" enjoyed chewing his red ball!

Cst. Stack and another Member of the RCMP
 look on, while Cst. Raddatz explains some
 of the things "Argo" can do.

Initially, "Argo" and Cst. Raddatz were trained to sniff out bomb threats.  The pair went to the Olympics in Vancouver where they were part of the large security beat to keep athletes and visitors safe.  Afterwards, they were retrained to sniff out narcotics.  "Argo" can also track criminals or search for missing persons.  The RCMP hope to get approximately five years of service from each canine ~ however some work eight or nine years, while others need to be retired earlier in their career.

The "guard arm" is in place ...
Since everyone wanted to see what "Argo" could actually do, another Member of the RCMP was selected to assist with the demonstration.  He put on a "guard arm" to provide protection from "Argo's" sharp teeth.  Initially, Cst. Raddatz told "Argo" to attack the other officer.  The dog did as he was told and rushed forward.  Suddenly, Raddatz gave another command and the dog obediently quit running toward the intended target and returned to his handler's side.  Cst. Raddatz explained that it was sometimes necessary to get "Argo" to stop approaching someone midstream, as an innocent bystander could walk between himself and a criminal, or an incorrect identification of a particular target could have been made.

"Argo" goes into attack mode, lunging at the "guard arm."
The second time, "Argo" grabbed on to the "guard arm" with all of his might.  Cst. Raddatz came up from behind and demonstrated how the dog would not open his jaws until he was commanded to do so.  To illustrate this point, Raddatz actually picked up the canine's hind legs and tried to pull him away from the "guard arm" but the dog didn't even loosen his grip!

"Argo" waits for a command from his handler.
At the conclusion of the dog demonstration, three police cruisers were made available for the group to view.  The children had a lot of fun, climbing into the backseat where people are usually detained behind plexi-glass.  They were also able to turn on the lights and the siren (to either 'yelp' or 'wail' mode).  One officer even obligingly handcuffed the homeschoolers upon request!

Homeschool President, Tim Krenz
 is shown some of the features of a 
police cruiser on display.
Isobel wanted to go for a ride in the police car!
The next field trip, sponsored by the Lloydminster Homeschool Association, will be held Thursday, May 12th, when members of the group, who wish to do so, can tour the local radio and television station.  Although Isobel is scheduled to attend Kindergarten that day, we hope to be able to participate in the event.  Later in the school year, a field trip to explore the Lloydminster Airport is planned.  There will also be a "farm safety" seminar, and a wind-up BBQ.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Election Day" ~ By: Margaret McNamara

It's a thin (32-page) "Ready-to-Read" book, but I think every politican should take a moment or two to read this childrens' book!  It's called "Election Day" and was written by Margaret McNamara, as part of the "Robin Hill School" series.

There is a new student in Mrs. Connor's class at Robin Hill School.  Becky has arrived on the day voting was to take place for the position of class president.  Who will lead the students in the room?

"After lunch, the children gave speeches.  'I promise to get us a candy machine!' said Nick.  'Hooray!' said the class.

" 'I promise no homework!' said Emma.  'Hooray!  Hooray!' said the class.

" 'I promise summer vacation will last for six months!' said Nia.  'Hooray!  Hooray!  Hooray!' said the class."

At this point, Mrs. Connor asks if there are any other students who would like to give a speech.

"Becky thought she could be a good class president.  But she was new.  She did not have any friends.  She did not have a speech."

" 'Anyone?' asked Mrs. Connor.  She was looking right at Becky."

"Becky took a deep breath.  She got up from her chair.  'I cannot promise candy machines, or less homework, or more vacation,' she said.  'I can only promise to do my best.'  Becky sat down.  No one else said a word.  Especially not 'Hooray.' "

" 'Now,' said Mrs. Connor.  'It is time to vote.'  The children put their heads on their desks and their hands in the air.  Mrs. Connor counted all the votes.  'Becky is the winner!' she said.  The new class president was happy."

" 'You made a good promise,' Hannah said.  'It is a promise I will keep,' said Becky."


That message seems particularly appropriate as Monday, May 2 was "Election Day" in Canada. The results were somewhat surprising ~ with the Liberals losing most of their seats, the New Democratic Party becoming the official opposition, and Harper's Conservatives gaining a majority for the first time ever.

It's true ~ we DON'T need empty promises or charismatic, flamboyant individuals to represent us. But we DO need honest, dedicated, hard-working politicians at all levels of governance ~ local, provincial and federal. Are you willing to run for office and to serve your country in that way? Perhaps YOU could make a difference next time the call for nominations goes forth.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
                                                                                                                          ~  John Quincy Adams

Thursday, 5 May 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "I Am Rosa Parks" ~ By: Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins

A little while ago, Alisdair was learning about Rosa Parks and her role in the Civil Rights Movement.  While searching the library catalogue for additional books on the topic, I came across an "Easy-to-Read Book For Young Readers." 

"I Am Rosa Parks," is a 48-page book, at the perfect level for reading to a child of Isobel's age.  The story begins with a chapter called "I Get Arrested."  Here, Parks explains the concept of segregation. Readers are told about separate schools, restaurants and water fountains.  Then she writes:  "When we rode a bus, we could only sit in the back seats.  The front seats were just for white people.  If all the front seats were filled with white people, we black people had to give up our seats to the next white people who got on the bus.  That's the way we rode the buses in the South when I was younger.  I rode the buses and obeyed the laws that kept me apart from white people.  But I did not think they were right" (Pages 6 - 8). 

The chapter goes on to detail the now legendary events of the fateful day when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat.  Parks writes:  "The policemen took me to jail.  They took my picture.  They put my fingers on a pad of ink and rolled my fingers onto white cards.  That way, they had my fingerprints.  Then they put me in a jail cell.  I did not have to spend the night in jail.  My husband came to get me.  A friend paid my bail money.  That meant I could go free for now.  The police told me to come to court in three days.  I went to court.  The judge said I was guilty of breaking the law.  I was fined ten dollars, plus four dollars in court costs.  I never paid it.  I did not feel I had broken the law.  I thought black people should not have to give up their seats on the bus to white people.  I thought the law should treat black people and white people just the same way.  I always wanted rules to be fair, even when I was small" (Pages 12 - 15).

The second chapter is titled, "How I Grew Up" and it gives biographical information on this interesting woman, who was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913.  She was named after her grandmother and grew up in Pine Level, Alabama. Parks tells the reader about her parents and grandparents and about the farm where she was raised.  As a young girl, she liked to go fishing.

This section of the book also gives details about what schools for black children were like.  Parks recalls, "Sylvester [her little brother], and I went to a school for black children.  It had only one room.  White children went to a bigger school.  There was a school bus for the white children.  There was no school bus for us.  Sometimes when we walked to school, the bus would go by carrying the white children.  They would laugh at us and throw trash out the window.  There was no way to stop them.  One day a white boy named Franklin tried to hit me.  I picked up a brick, and I dared him to hit me.  He went away.  My grandma was angry.  She told me not to talk back to white folks.  I thought I was right to talk back" (Pages 22 - 24). 

Next Rosa tells about her marriage, in 1932, to Raymond Parks.  He was a barber and lived in Montgomery, Alabama.  She writes:  "I was proud of my husband because he worked to help black people.  He helped get lawyers for people who had been arrested.  I began to work to help black people too.  I wrote down their stories when they were hurt by whites.  I asked young black people to try to use the white library.  It was very hard work.  It was also very sad work, because nothing we did really helped make our lives better.  Then came that day on the bus when I would not give up my seat to a white person.  I was tired of black people being pushed around.  Some people think I kept my seat because I'd had a hard day, but that is not true.  I was just tired of giving in" (Pages 26-28).

The third chapter is titled, "We Stay Off The Buses."  It outlines the events of the bus boycott, that began on December 1, 1955 and concluded on December 20, 1956.  The boycott began, thanks to the footwork of Jo Ann Robinson, who "passed out leaflets asking all black people in the city of Montgomery to stay off the buses for one day" (Page 30).  "The day of the boycott came.  The buses were almost empty.  Very few black people were on them.  A man named E. D. Nixon called a big meeting of black people.  The meeting was held in a church.  A young minister named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told all the black people to keep off the buses.  Everyone at the meeting cheered, and the boycott went on.  We walked to work or took taxis.  We got rides from our friends.  But we did not ride the buses.  Christmas passed.  It was very cold, but we did not ride the buses.  White people were very angry.  They wanted us to ride the buses again.  Some black people even lost their jobs because they would not ride the buses.  Some black people were arrested.  Some were beaten up.  I got telephone calls from people who would not give their names.  They said they wanted to hurt me.  Spring came.  Now it was nice weather for walking.  All the black churches had station wagons to drive the people who could not walk.  Summer came.  The buses had stopped running.  There were not enough riders without the black people" (Pages 31 - 38). 

Eventually there was a ruling by The Supreme Court, "that the segregation laws were wrong.  Black people should not have to give up their bus seats to white people.  Our boycott worked, and we had won.  We went back to the buses at last.  We did not have to give up our seats anymore.  We had stayed off the buses for a whole year" (Pages 39 and 40).

The final chapter, of the book, is titled, "Since the Boycott."  Due to worries about their safety, Rosa, her husband and mother, soon moved North to Detroit, Michigan.  The reader is then told about Martin Luther King, Jr. It says, "He led black people in the fight to vote and to eat in restaurants, just as white people did.  He was fighting for their rights.  This fight was called the civil rights movement.  Some white people joined the fight.  Most went down South from the North.  But some white people in the South joined the civil rights movement too " (Page 42 - 44).  Parks made speeches, telling of her personal experience, when she was arrested.  "I went down South for some of the big marches for black people's rights.  The civil rights movement won many rights for black people.  New laws for equal rights were passed.  The old segregation laws were over" (Page 44).

Parks is quick to downplay her role in the fight against segregation.  She writes, "Some people say I started the whole civil rights movement because I would not give up my seat on the bus.  I know that many people started the civil rights movement.  And many people worked very hard to win the rights that black people have today.  But I am glad I did my part" (Pages 45 - 47).

The book concludes with a challenge.  It states, "There is still much work to be done.  The laws that kept black and white people apart have been changed.  But there are still many people who have not changed their hearts.  I hope that children today will grow up without hate.  I hope they will learn to respect one another, no matter what colour they are" (Page 47 - 48).

I, for one, hope so too!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

HEALTH ~ HEPATITIS 'B' Vaccination Series Completed

The telephone rang.  When I answered, it was the local Public Health Nurse on the other end of the line.  Could Alisdair come over to the clinic for the last of his series of immunizations Saskatchewan students receive in Grade 6?  Reluctantly I made the appointment, as I knew he would be upset.

This was the third time we'd had to meet with her for a Hepatitis 'B' immunization as it is given in three doses.  On one of the first occasions, Alisdair tried to tell the Nurse that he wasn't going to be a drug user and he wasn't going to "sleep with a lot of partners" so therefore he didn't need the shot.

Alisdair was also very concerned about the possibility the vaccines contained "high levels of mercury."  Although she appreciated his knowledge about the reasons for having the shots, the Public Health Nurse didn't "buy" his excuses and neither of us let him off the hook!  She tried to reassure him that she wouldn't have immunized her own daughters, if it wasn't safe to do so.  Regardless, it was a relief to get the procedure over with!

Notice of Immunization
The Public Health Nurse said the next set of booster shots are not until Grade 8 ~ so it's good to know we don't have to go through this again for a while!

In his search to find evidence against getting children vaccinated, Alisdair found this amusing video by Sid the Science Kid called, "It's Gonna Help A Whole Lot," which was made by PBS.  Enjoy!