We woke up to -16 degrees this morning, feeling like -26 with the windchill. It felt nearly that cold inside the house since the machine that’s taking the smoke smell out of the house also blows out cold air. Brrrrrrrr. I wished I could stay in my pyjamas, under the covers, all day, with a book; but that wasn’t in the cards.

watercolour paintingWe ate breakfast and tried to stay out of the photos an insurance agent was taking of the house. After he left, we settled into the Work Room and got to, well, work! I sat with Zahra and Noah individually to review some math and writing that they had struggled with yesterday. Leila had a ped day, so I gave her her own stack of work: practising her handwriting, experimenting with watercolour pencils, and doing a couple activities with her trousse de lecture from school. We also went over her winter-themed words from francisation. She gets crazy excited when she comes to “motoneige”, my little Canadian girl.

painting

And since we’re on the subject, I picked up a “treasury” of Our Canadian Girl stories from the used book store last week, and Zahra fell in love. The book I found has the first story of four of the girls, and when she finished it, she had picked two of the girls whose stories she wanted to follow. We also did some research online and found that, chronologically, the first girl is Angélique, a Métis girl—and so we hunted down Angélique’s four books online and ordered them used. I want to read them myself, historical fiction being my favourite genre.

magic squareZahra and Noah spent some time working on their magic squares. Using the numbers 0 to 8, they had to place them in the square so that every horizontal, vertical and diagonal line added up to 12. We eventually figured it out and tried to apply that knowledge to make the magic square using the numbers 1 to 9 (each line adding up to 15), but we didn’t get that one yet. They’ll keep working on that—they’re eager to show Beth their progress when she gets back from her writing retreat.

After that, we took a break. Zahra worked on her Lego Mindstorm robot. She and her brother participate in a biweekly robotics club, and we arranged to rent the robot kit for the two weeks between our meetings in order to spend some more time on it. Quite a bit more time, it turns out. Zahra worked for a total of four hours to put together a scorpion robot that can shoot balls out of its tail. She connected her robot to the program on her iPad via Bluetooth and created a simple program—but something’s not working. I’m useless in this area, but perhaps Saïd can help them this weekend. We also put out a call to find someone in our community who can help and already have one lead.

Scorpion robot

cuneiformAfter lunch, the kids practised piano, and then we sat down around the table again for a history lesson. I read a chapter from our book on the emergence of writing. We talked about cuneiform in Sumer and hieroglyphs in Egypt, stone and clay tablets, papyrus. While listening to the Bangles (Walk Like an Egyptian—what else?), the kids each made their own clay tablet and inscribed a message in cuneiform. We plan to send these to my mom, along with the cuneiform alphabet, and see if she can decode them.

EgyptWe also took out a kit that we had bought during our road trip last year at the art museum in Cleveland, Ohio. We’re making our own papyrus paper—and this kit has real papyrus strips from plants along the Nile River! How cool is that? We soaked the strips in water, holding them down with a stone to keep them submerged. This will be about a week-long process of soaking, draining, re-soaking, rolling out, pressing, and drying.

We did some map work and also pulled out our materials on Egypt from Little Passports for a little refresher.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on a chess tournament, rotating between Zahra, Noah and I playing the winner of each game. Even Leila found a spot in the brackets for a round or two. Finally, the kids had had enough of hunkering down and went outside to play in the woods.

chess tournament

Just as I finished making dinner and was about to serve it, Noah came bursting back into the kitchen, shouting excitedly that he had found coyote tracks in the woods, and that he wanted to go on the search for a den. So I pulled on my winter gear and went to join them. The tracks were very big! But we couldn’t conclusively say what made them. We did find a den, though not for a coyote. For a smaller animal. And we did enjoy a beautiful walk in the woods at dusk, circling back home along the road, Noah walking…like an Egyptian.

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