A Living Museum from 1745

©Eric Wood/allinadadswork.wordpress.com

Imagine living in a remote location, possible across a cold, giant ocean. Also, it’s 250 years ago. The village you have settled is among the best fishing waters in the world. Your village’s currency is now cod. Though, you yourself still deal with your native France’s livre. In the summer there would be 7-8,000 people. Just 1 or 2,000 come winter time. It was so successful, so profitable that walls 30 feet high were built. 800 soldiers are commissioned to protect the fishing grounds and the village. 400 fishing vessels fill the harbor every day.

Today, just one fifth of that village and it’s reconstructed buildings exist. Its inhabitants are merely actors, characters to educate. Today, a living museum stands in its place. It is a very interesting piece of history.

Settled in 1713 by France the fishing port grew and by the mid 1740s it was the 3rd busiest port in North America after Boston and Philadelphia. The British, seeing it’s success, laid siege to the fortress in 1745 and won. The French tried and failed to take it back the following year. In 1748, the British returned it to France for lands in Austrian Netherlands and a trading post in India. In 1754 a few skirmishes developed into the French and Indian War which expanded into the Seven Years’ War in 1756. In 1758 the British regained control of the fortress after a six week siege. Two years later the British systematically destroyed the fortifications to prevent the French from using the port when peace returned to Cape Breton Island.

Upon our arrival a French soldier greeted us in full uniform complete with musket. He informed us we needed to be out by 5:00 before the gates closed. Should we not be out before the closing we would be stuck inside the fortress but not to worry, there would be plenty of space in the jail to sleep. Our poor little Bang, seeing a soldier in uniform with a gun five feet long, didn’t understand that he was just an actor and he couldn’t stop his tears. Fortunately, the soldier was kind-hearted and gently explained that he was only kidding. He showed him hat (which had fake hair on it to make it look like he had a pony tail) and his gun. Bang was good after that.

On our journey to the Fortress we told the boys that they could ask questions to the people there. Anything they wanted to know they could ask. All the people have French names so they could even ask them that. They are in character and will answer your question as if it is 1740. The Blacksmith, for instance, started working with his father in the forge when he was 7.


FB_IMG_1500347450259There was a cannon demonstration, too. Atop the fortress wall, from the hill upon which the top picture was taken, were two cannons (though they faced outward, of course). Once was loaded with six pounds of gunpowder and fired. The boys (and their parents) were seriously impressed. After the firing we were allowed to approach the armaments to see them for ourselves and to talk to the soldiers in charge. We were informed that the cannons could fire a cannonball 2 miles and it would take about 22 seconds to reach its target. Though the cannon was only accurate at a mile and a half. Again, we were impressed.


After that we listened to another soldier tell us about the muskets. How they work, how to use them, and how to fire it. We even got to see it fired. We were told that musketballs were extremely inaccurate, 50 yards was their maximum range. Soldiers weren’t to fire until they could see the whites of the enemies eyes. This demonstration was Bang’s favorite part of the day.

Just before we left, just before the gates closed, we saw a smaller cannon fire. The boys were impressed by the sound of it. Just think of what it sounded like with all 100 cannons firing along with those on the ships that were storming the harbor!

It was definitely a learning experience and one I hope the boys remember if not forever, at least for a very long time. Characters, questions, cannons, muskets, costumes, buildings, animals, blacksmiths, bread makers…

One busy port

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Go Ask Your Father: Hummingbirds, Potter, Recorder, and Clouds

Happy Friday!

The boys are off to Nanny’s for a sleepover. We’re off to our date night. Too bad it’s raining. Oh well, at least I’m not getting sunburned. I swear, if this rain keeps up I’m expecting the vampires to take up residence here. Please, dear Lord, don’t them be the sparkly kind!

How do hummingbirds drink?

Hummingbirds eat insects and and insect eggs. Over easy. Sometimes scrambled. Apparently their favorite is spider. So all you arachnophobes, the hummingbird is your best friend. However, they also feed from flowers. They will feed from your hummingbird feeder, too. I remember when we lived in Virginia we would have a dozen or more trying to feed from one feeder. It was amazing. (hint: to make your own hummingbird food boil 4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar) Scientist once thought that they used their tongues as a wick. Recently, thanks to high speed footage, scientists have witnessed hummers using their tongues as a pump. Liquid is gathered on the end of their tongue. Then it contracts and the liquid is forced up their tongue into their mouth. Think of how you squeeze the last of the toothpaste out of the tube, it’s much the same motion. Except it’s their tongue, not a toothpaste tube.


Can I read Harry Potter?

Merlin’s beard! Of course you can. That would have been my answer had it been Crash who asked. However, Bang is only 5, and not quite ready for something that intense. We are Potterheads here. Bang will get his turn and I can’t wait. But I will. I started reading Harry to Crash when he was in 2nd grade. The first 3 books are basically an introduction. Things pick up and get scarier in book 4 The Goblet of Fire. We typically read a book then watch the movie and talk about the differences. I have read each book to him. He is now reading The Philosopher’s Stone on his own and I’m quite pleased. Pleased that he can read something that difficult on his own and pleased that he chose to on his own. He’d be Gryffindor for sure!

Can we make a recorder video?

Thank you music class. Never have I wanted smash an instrument as much as I’d like to smash that recorder. He has learned to play Hot Cross Buns. The iconic first song learned on any instrument. Wonder what AC/DC would sound like playing Hot Cross Buns? Over and over and over again he plays it. Mom, Dad, I’m sorry for that you had hear while I was learning to play the trumpet. Karma sucks ass. Anyway, I’m not musically gifted, but having learned the trumpet, I understand it a bit. So I taught Crash how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Now he has two songs he plays on repeat. While no one was home, I learned Ode to Joy. One of these days, yes, we will make a video of us playing a duet. It’ll best be listened to with your speakers turned off.

Are the clouds in space?

My mom used to calls me a space cadet, not because go to space but because I space out. Bang was a bit confused. He sees the clouds up there, the sun up there, the moon up there, the stars up there, isn’t that all space? Nope. By Earth law, the Kármán line- where space officially begins- is at 100 km (62 miles) straight up. There is no definitive line between Earth and outer space. Just like there’s no definitive line between paying attention and spacing out. While the space station is 250 miles above the Earth, clouds can range anywhere from 0 feet (fog) and 53 miles (Noctilucent, or night clouds). That’s 9 miles shy of where space begins. Pretty much where I go when I space out. 

bonus:

Q: Where do astronauts go for a drink?
A: To the space bar!

My Least Favorite Season


I love winter. We’re still in the throws of it. The ground is still white. Last week had 3 days of school cancellations due to snow. We’re getting more snow tomorrow afternoon and night. I enjoy making snowmen and igloos and going sledding and pelting the kids with snowballs. I love skiing, though I haven’t done that since my university days a few hundred years ago.

I love Spring, too. The snow finally melts and the grass turns green. Flowers emerge and color our world with something other than white. The trees bud. Birds come back to our feeder and sing their praises. We can put away the cumbersome winter jackets. Baseball season gets underway (my favorite).

I love summer. Hikes through the woods and visits to waterfalls. Beach days and lazy days kayaking up the river. The continuation of baseball season. Jumping on the trampoline. No school. Late nights and bonfires. Running barefoot through the yard. Listening to DW freak out when she hears June Bugs.

I love autumn, too. Warm days and cool nights. Hoodies by the bonfires. The best weather for running. Mother nature wearing her brightest colors. The World Series. Pumpkins and trick-or-treating. Bouquets of newly sharpened pencils.

Do you know which season I hate the most?

Tax season.

Once upon a time we used to get a refund. Not any more. I know the government needs their share to keep the country running and money in the politicians pockets. Do they really need so much? To make matters worse and thanks to the US government, I still have file taxes in the US even though we don’t live there any more. Usually it works to our advantage. We get money in return for letting the US government know how much we made in Canada.

Six years or so ago we opened an RESP (Registered Education Savings Account) for the boys. We put a bit of money into it and government puts a little money into it and over the years it adds up and then when it comes time the boys can withdraw it to use for University.

Turns out the US wants us to pay tax on it because they think it’s a foreign trust fund. The little bit of tax the US would collect off it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, the forms that need to be completed and filed with IRS will cost us at least $1,000. Every. Single. Year. Here we were being all responsible, planning for our children’s future and instead we get robbed because of taxes. And not even Canadian taxes.

So now we’ll close those accounts, take the penalty for closing them early, pay the bit of back tax on it and then find another way to save for the future.

For now, I’ll get back to enjoying the strong hold Old Man Winter has on Nova Scotia and curl up under a blanket in my pyjamas and watch The Voice with DW.

The Ugly Divorce in the Nova Scotia Education System

When something is broken, you fix it. When it’s a marriage, you do what you can make amends.

However, when pillars can no longer support and bridges collapse things can get ugly, especially when money and kids are involved. The ruthless ones will use the kids as pawns. The children unknowingly becomes players in a game in which they have no voice. Both sides trying their damnedest to make the other look like an unfit parent. When both sides are throwing mud and words the only ones who get dirty and hurt are the kids.

We are now into the second week of a province wide work to rule teacher strike. I’m pretty sure the only ones who have noticed anything change are the teachers, parents, and the few kids who participated in extracurricular activities. Otherwise, it’s been business as usual for the kids.

Except it hasn’t been.

You see, when the announcement was first made that the teachers would strike as a “work to rule” my first thought was that teachers’ job are about to get significantly easier. No more supervision. No more after school activities. Teachers arrive 20 minutes before school starts and leave 20 minutes after it ends. No more data entry – mandated testing, attendance, etc…

My second thought followed close behind. This isn’t going to make teacher’s jobs easier. In fact, it will be the exact opposite. Planning a day for 20-25 five and six year olds (or any year olds, for that matter) takes longer than the allowed 20 minutes. Teachers are discouraged from planning at home as they normally would. Being a teacher, I know first hand what can happen if you don’t have a lesson plan ready. It’s not pretty. Suddenly, it’s no longer teaching. It’s just keeping students busy so they don’t find other ways to entertain themselves that could potentially be destructive – self or otherwise. Reining them back in once they’ve lost focus is difficult indeed. Without the proper planning, students may not be receiving a proper education because they can’t do all the extras a teacher would normally plan.

The students who need a bit of extra help before a test, whether science, math, social studies, won’t receive it from the teacher who knows best. The senior working so hard on the sports team in an attempt to receive a sports scholarship to help pay for university is no longer being coached. They’re sidelined hoping their day comes before it’s too late.

Teachers are fed up. Hence the reason they have taken a stand. It’s the first time this has happened here in 125 years. Classes are too big, there is insufficient support, and teachers are doing far more than they are required to do. Has the government listened? When they found out that teachers wouldn’t be supervising students any longer, they deemed schools “unsafe” and locked students out. During the first and only day of the lockout, the government then said, “Our bad. We didn’t know schools had already taken measures to ensure supervision and student safety”. Again, the only ones who are being hurt here are the kids. I don’t think the government understands the irony of their lie. It’s the extras, the stuff teachers aren’t getting paid to do, that keep our students, our children, safe.

The only news I’ve heard from the government was about a bill they were going to try to force through legislation to impose a contract on teachers. That’s not negotiating. That’s not fair bargaining. That’s being a bully simply because you’re bigger. That’s being the parent who says, “Because I said so.”

I don’t know how long this work to rule strike will last. I doubt anyone does, really. It could be weeks, it could be months, it could be all year. At this point, I don’t think the government minds. To my knowledge it’s no skin off their backs. Other than looking bad by not working with the teachers to improve our education system, what’s it to them? They’re still getting paid. They’re not inconvenienced in any way. The government seems to be in no rush to resolve this.

This won’t affect our children today. Today they’re okay. It will most definitely affect them in the days to come. If we’re not careful many of them may become buried in the fallout and will be left behind. They will slip through the cracks of a broken education system. No, this isn’t hurting today. But it will hurt the future.

Our children are not pawns to be used to to make the other side appear to be the ugly parent. This isn’t a battle over custody. It’s a battle for what’s best for students. In my opinion, the ones in the classroom, the ones who know our students’ needs best, are the ones we should be heeding, not the absent parent.

The Order of the Phoenix

Any Harry Potter fan knows this story. The ministry denied that He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named had come back into power. Harry himself had seen otherwise and Dumbledore, the headmaster of the famous Hogwarts, believed him. What ensues is a major conflict between the school and the ministry with many forced decrees and rules imposed by said ministry.

It seems, though Voldemort hasn’t returned to Nova Scotia, there is still a battle raging between the ministry and schools. More specifically, between teachers and Karen Casey the education minister and Steven McNeil the premier.

Teachers and their Order (aka Union) have been trying to settle on a contract for 18 months now. Teachers need things in the classroom to change, yet the government is not willing to negotiate “working conditions” into the contract. The government doesn’t want to negotiate things like class size, data recording, individualized program plans (IPPs), smartphones in the classroom, standardized assessment, lack of preparation time, lack of specialists or supports for the classroom teacher.

The Order has proposed it’s set of beliefs that will change the education system to what it should be. They estimated their proposal to be $508 million. The Ministry said no. How about $41 million instead? The Ministry isn’t even willing to discuss working conditions.

The Ministry is so against this, they locked students out of school yesterday. Teachers reported to work as usual, but not one student stepped foot inside. Teachers voted to work to rule because they didn’t want to disrupt students learning. They still wanted to teach. The Ministry said too bad. If all teachers are doing is teaching, then students will not be supervised during lunch and recess and therefore won’t be safe.

That was a bold-faced lie.

The Order told the Ministry that schools were working to implement supervision to keep students safe. Teachers made it their number one priority to ensure student safety before the strike took effect. Yet the Ministry claims they didn’t know so they closed every school across the province. This forced parents to scramble to find child care and make arrangements for their kids while they were at work.

Voldemort fights dirty and does what is needed to rise to power and stay in power. He doesn’t work for the good of the future, he works for the good of himself. Denying his existence doesn’t make him go away.

Ministry, this is not a game we’re playing here. This is our future, our students, our children, who are affected most. Let the teachers teach and let them do in the best way they know how.

afe

Where Would We Be?

Imagine a world without teachers. What would our world look like without classrooms, without schools, without the teachers our children adore?

This is the path Nova Scotia has found itself wandering along. Our teacher’s union has been in negotiations for over a year trying to bargain for better classroom conditions, better pay, and to save their long-service award – a bonus upon retirement for serving 25+ years. The union’s proposal would an cost an estimated $508 million. The bulk of that, $340 million, would be put towards a better working conditions. The province has countered with a $41 million proposal. That’s a difference of $467 million. I may have been born in the morning, but it wasn’t yesterday morning. I compare solving the the education problem with $41 million to buying a new car with the change you can find in your couch cushions.

After a year with no progress, after a year of the government saying things will change without changing anything, after a year of empty promises and no action teachers have taken a stand. They’re standing up for our kids, our children and their own, for a better place for themselves and for our most precious commodity. Our future. 9,300 teachers voted. An outstanding number of them, 96% to be precise, have voted in favor of a province wide strike. Teachers want to be heard. Teachers need to be heard. The government says they’re listening, but they’re not doing. The government says they’re already putting money into classrooms. However, it’s either so little it’s unnoticeable or it’s putting it in the wrong places.

When was the trust between the government and the classroom lost? When did those who are now removed from the classroom working in administration higher up lose their faith in teachers’ abilities and opinions? Does the government not realize how thin teachers are spread and understand their desire to simply teach again? As it stands, elementary teachers are required to test and track their student’s abilities in reading, writing and math. Report cards can take weeks to complete. Reading assessments for each student takes time away from teaching, not to mention time to evaluate them, score them, and assess their development level compared to how they tested previously. All this while teaching 25 other students.

Teachers work in the public sector and that seems to be the Premiere’s argument because he doesn’t want to treat employees within the public services differently. Aren’t teachers so much more? Teachers come in early and leave late. They take their work home with them. They spend time after school in clubs, sports, bands and countless other activities. Now teachers are taking a stand and demanding to be heard. A “work to rule” strike begins next Monday. This means all the extras are gone. Teachers are to enter school and leave school at the times depicted in the contract, 20 minutes before students arrive and 20 minutes after they leave. No clubs. No sports. No bands. No extra curricular activities. This saddens me because it means my youngest son misses his first performance in his first Christmas concert- there will be no Christmas concert. While I will miss it greatly, I completely understand it and fully support it.

I perceive this to be the next step of negotiations. Teachers have had to take a drastic measure to be heard by the government. However, this isn’t worst case scenario. There is one more step. A full shut down. A full strike that would close schools entirely. A world without teachers.

None of us would be where we are today without someone teaching us, without guiding us to enlightenment, without broadening our horizons and deepening our understanding. If teachers aren’t heard by their government soon, if action isn’t taken soon, a world without teachers will become a reality in Nova Scotia.

To read further please visit Teachers of Nova Scotia.

From left: Kate Ervine NS Parents for Teachers, Liette Doucet NS Teacher’s Union President, Stephen McNeil NS Premiere

Questions I Asked My Kids About School

Just as a foreword, these questions were asked at totally separate times. Neither one saw each other’s answers. Yet their answers are very similar. Who doesn’t love gym, though!

1 What was your favorite part of school today?

Crash: Gym
Bang: The gym

What is one thing you learned about today?

Crash: Filling out stuff (he filled in a hundreds chart)
Bang: I learned a new game in gym

3 What did you eat for lunch?

Crash: Ham/cheese/turkey wrap, Goldfish, strawberries, Oreo crackers (Thinsations)
Bang: Cheese, butter crackers, granola bar

4 What is your teacher like?

Crash: Extremely nice (he needs strict, not nice)
Bang: She is kind.

5 What’s one thing you want to learn in school this year?

Crash: Division or how to do a backflip in gym
Bang: Play new games

6 Did you or your teacher read any books today?

Crash: I did. I read two chapters of Geromino Stilton The Journey Through Time “Midieval Mission”
Bang: The Kissing Hand

7 What’s your favorite thing to do in school?

Crash: Math (This is shocking, actually. He used to hate math)
Bang: Play in the water table

8 What did you play at recess?

Crash: All I can remember is that it was two friends and I. All we did was walk around.
Bang: I was playing train and saying “All Aboard!” and I was climbing up to steer the train.

9 Did anything funny happen at school?

Crash: One friend did something funny (I don’t remember what he did) and another friend said “real funny friend”
Bang: My teacher read one book that was funny. I don’t remember what book it was.

10 Did you have any dreams?

Crash: Yes. I was getting a newspaper from the dumpster and then I fell in. Then the recycling truck came and it threw me in the back into the stinky garbage. It went to the dump and that’s when I woke up.
Bang: Nope.

quotes-about-education-14
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Teacher’s Kids

What’s it like having two teachers as parents? Kelly over at Bustle knows pretty well it’s like.

Crash and Bang have the advantage (curse?) of having not one teacher parent, but two.  It has its advantages – access to parts of the school other kids don’t get to see, get to be in school when there is no one else there, get to have mom or dad as a teacher (this is both a pro and a con). On the other hand, it also has some disadvantages – you get mom or dad as your teacher, every teacher in the school knows who you are, you have to stay after school when you’d rather go home, and expectations are set a bit higher.

So far Crash is still pretty excited to see me in school. Even as his substitute teacher. I’m hoping it stays this way, but I’m certainly not expecting it to.

Right now I’m only substituting. However, this still gives me access to the school as if I were a full time teacher. I use the teacher’s lounge. I can enter and exit through the staff doors. I am the first one in and last one out of the classroom. This means that Crash can do these things, too. Though, I keep him out of the staff room if there are other teachers in there. It’s not a place for sensitive ears. If I’m subbing for the gym teacher he gets to use the whole gym. To himself. Show me a kid who doesn’t want full run of a gymnasium and I’ll show you a kid who probably doesn’t like gym! This is true of the classroom, too. It’s something different for a kid to be in their teacher’s classroom all by themselves.  The quiet. The empty desks. The cleanliness.

Then there’s being your kid’s teacher. I’m not sure exactly how he feels when hears his classmates tell him “Your dad is our teacher!” He knew this before he even got to school. Now he has to hear it over and over as each classmate realizes this. Over and over. And Over.saint

Then there are the expectations. Stereotypical teacher’s kids are held to slightly higher standards than the general population of the school. Being teachers, we know how students should behave in school and we therefore start teaching this to our own kids at birth. Also, as teachers who love to teach, we begin teaching our own kids while still in the womb. I know I was reading to DW’s baby belly for both of our sons. So teacher’s kids are not only expected to behave, but also be smart.

Every teacher in the school knows who Crash is. Or at least every teacher who knows me and DW (also a teacher). Therefore, there are eyes on him at all times. I know about things he’s done before he knows I know about them. One day he’ll tell me I was always spying on it. S’okay, though, it’s for his own good. And I do spy, by the way. If I’m subbing at his school I will, at least once, peek through his classroom door at him to see what he’s up to.

peeking

It’s not so bad being a teacher’s kid. Except, this evening, Crash was complaining about having to practice math. “I have to do math for like two hours in school. Then, I come home and have to do it for 15 more!” Sorry kiddo. Not everyone gets to have a teacher mom and dad. But you do. So lets get ‘er done and make ya fast at addition and subtraction so we can do some multiplication! HA!

Science on youtube

There are a couple Youtube channels I keep an eye on. They’re both science related.

One is Michael here Stevens of Vsauce. While not strictly science, his videos are highly educational and entertaining. He answers everything from why “bad words” are bad to “Is the Earth really flat?” With 9 and half million subscribers, He must be doing something right.

The other is Derek Muller’s Veritasium. Born in Australia, moved to Canada as a kid, then moved back to Australia to do his PhD at Sydney University. His videos are all based on science and engineering and are also very educational. He understands how we learn and his videos are conducive to the methods he studied in his PhD.  He has a following of nearly 3 million. He covers everything from the truth of the swirl in the southern hemisphere to explaining the magnus effect.

Crash and Bang are currently obsessed with Minecraft parodies. These silly songs are all about minecraft, however, they’re sung to the tune to currently popular songs. Like Maroon 5’s Animal becomes “Craftable”. Or Eminem’s Friends with a Monster becomes “Friends with a Creeper”. We (meaning I) put a few of them on the cell phone so the boys could listen to them in the truck. The tough part is checking them to make sure they’re okay. None of these songs have swear words. There was one song (The Creeper Rap) that sings of blowing up blocks like Al Qaeda and being a suicide bomber. That’s what a “Creeper” is in minecraft, but the boys don’t need to be hearing about such bombers. There’s a ban on that song in our house, now.

What do you watch on YouTube? Is there a particular channel you follow? Are you on YouTube? Feel free to leave a link to your channel in the comments for us to check out.

Our Little Geek

Today is report card day. I am always impressed by how much work goes into these things here. In Virginia we simply put the student’s grade and comment or two from a drop down menu. Talks too much. Pleasure to have in class. Needs to turn in more homework. Great job! That kind of thing. Not here. Here, there are paragraphs written about each subject that was studied. It’s a three page report!

Crash’s first report card last November was shining. All A’s and one B. He also nearly had straight C’s (C is for constantly which means he was able to do the task all on his own). Though he did have one P (which would be for prompting. He was able to do what was needed after being asked to do it a couple times. Fortunately, he only had the one P because if he were like me he would have had A LOT more). I wonder what what kind of grades his teacher will give him he will earn this time around? Check back this evening and I’ll let you know.


For those checking back, the report card has arrived. We have tried to set high standards without applying too much pressure. I think we’re succeeding. He doesn’t seem stressed about it at all. Then there’s that consistent B in speaking and listening. He’s 7, he doesn’t listen to much of anything other people tell him unless it involves video games, farts, or the Lego Movie. On the flip side, his interaction with others – being positive, resolving conflicts, and working collaboratively – is outstanding. He’s a people person who strives to please. Room for improvement? Of course. Are we proud? As punch.