Category Archives: Ontario

Ottawa – a homeschool playground

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Hunter and I extended our usual Ontario trip by 5 days and headed eastwards to Ottawa to kick off the school year and immerse ourselves in all things Canadian History and Government related.

IMG_2627We talked Grandma Lynne into joining us for the week and kicked things off by venturing four hours east down the rails with ViaRail in business class. At Grandma’s suggestion, we also based ourselves out of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which is right in the heart of Ottawa and was a thrill for Hunter on so many fronts.

We spent our first afternoon and evening at Parliament Hill. We caught the last tour at Parliament Hill and learned all about the House and the Senate as well as some of the history behind the building itself. We were also lucky to experience one of the last nights of the Canadian History lights show called Mosaika. It was 20 minutes long and walked you through the history of Canada using stories, lights and visual displays using the Parliament Buildings as the back screen. You parked yourself on the front lawn and it felt like a big summer party with a thousand of your friends…

Day two was spent split between the Supreme Court of Canada and the National History Museum. Our tour of the Supreme Court was really well done. We had to book ahead of time and it was a small group of 8 people which made it easy to engage and inquire about both the physical location and the processes. I think that Grandma Lynne and I got more out of this tour than Hunter as we learned many new things about the mechanics of what brings a case to the Supreme Court.

We took advantage of the nice summer weather and walked from the Supreme Court to the Museum over the Portage Bridge. Half way along the bridge is this really high-tech bike counter that counts the traffic in the bike lane. Hunter tried a number of times to get counted as a pedestrian but it was too smart! When we hit Gatineau (other side of the bridge), Hunter was thrilled that he was now in Quebec. Lots of discussion then quickly followed with respect to first language laws and all of the french signage.

Our primary reason for hitting the Museum of History was to attend the Imax movie about D-Day Normandy 1944, which was a big hit. One of the best educational war movies I have seen over the past few years and a great foundation for our year of studying World War I & World War II. We had some time prior to the movie so chose to explore the Children’s Museum. What an amazing resource for elementary school age kids. Through various interactive exhibits the kids travel around the world. One of our favourite stops was learning to spell our names in hieroglyphics. Travel hint – if you land at the museum around lunch time, check out the cafeteria on the ground floor which is very kid friendly compared to the fancier, more expensive restaurant on the main floor.

 

The Ottawa River runs between Gatineau/Hull and Ottawa and acts as a border between Ontario and Quebec, and it’s an interesting example of cross border collaboration and the area being called the “National Capital Region”. After a long day of walking we enjoyed the fun of taking the water taxi from the Museum across the River to the bottom of the Rideau River at the base of the Chateau Laurier Hotel and Parliament Buildings.

Day three was all about WAR… We spent a good chunk of the day at the Canadian War Museum and it was definitely a highlight for the trip for Hunter. The War Museum was only established 5 years ago so is a very new face in Ottawa. They have done a very good job building historical content in a number of different mediums to appeal to varying ages. I think we all learned a lot of interesting things here. The museum also has a lot of very helpful educational resources on-line on their website.

Tucked in between the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Parliament Buildings is the Rideau Canal System, which stretches 202km between Ottawa and Kingston. We walked by the locks almost every day and were really curious about the actual mechanics of the lock system as they looked really old and very manual compared to our experience at the Bobcaygeon locks the week before. Hunter and I got lucky on our walk back from the War Museum as there was a boat going through the lock system. It truly is all hand operated and seems to take 3 staff to make it work. The signs say that it takes up to 1.5 hours to go through the last 8 locks in Ottawa as you are moving up or down 80 feet.

Byward Market was right around the corner from the hotel and I LOVE local farmers markets. I love the ambience and the air of possibilities – being surrounded by so much fresh food and so many yummy smells! We grabbed burrito’s for lunch one day from a local mexican food vendor and Hunter also had his very first Beaver Tail experience, which he deemed a full success!

Day Four was a slower day – it was our last full day in Ottawa and people were running out of steam. Our morning stop was the National Art Gallery. It was another sunny day so we enjoyed the walk over and how bright the sun made everything inside the gallery itself. Hunter is not quite at the full art appreciation level so there was some speed walking through parts of the gallery. We checked out the Group of Seven collection and did some basic compare and contrast discussions with respect to the various European styles vs the Group of Seven. We also went through the Gustave Dore special exhibit and spent some time learning to draw caricatures, which was one of Dore’s many talents. The other special exhibit was a photography exhibit on World War I – it was all in black and white and extended our ongoing discussion about War and it’s various facets and impacts. The National Art Gallery also has a small but well run and highly engaging kids area. They have many resources to help make an art gallery tour fun, as well as many ever changing hands on art activities.

Our afternoon was spent at a tour of the National Mint. Super Duper security and you must book ahead for these tours. We had a lot of fun playing with the displays outside the main building. Even more impressed with the large brick of gold that we got to pick up (it was heavy!! and heavily guarded). The actual tour itself was somewhat of a disappointment. As it was on a Sunday, the Mint was not running so there wasn’t a lot of action. Hunter’s opinion was that it “sucked sucked sucked” as at the general currency coins are made at the mint facility in Winnipeg and that was what he was hoping to see. He wasn’t impressed with the investment and collector coins that they make in Ottawa.

One of the most memorable parts of our visit to Ottawa was our Fairmont Experience. We shared a room with Grandma, which made it more affordable and chose to stay on the Fairmont Gold floor as it included breakfasts and evening cocktail hour, which well exceeded the incremental room cost. Our very first cocktail hour Hunter got a magical hot chocolate from one of the staff – it was perfectly made and in a big cafe au lait bowl cup. The next morning the same staff member was working breakfast and he recognized Hunter from the night before and proactively brought him a hot chocolate… Talk about smiles from ear to ear. Hunter was on cloud nine and the service our entire stay was memorable and the cherry on the top was the postcard that arrived for Hunter a week after we got home from this staff member wishing him safe travels. This will be hard to beat!

Our five days in Ottawa was really just a scratching of the surface. There are so many amazing learning resources and experiences that I think you could easily spend 10-14 days in the region to cover everything off. We had a great time and, as always, in person learning is so much richer than book learning. It was a great way to launch ourselves into Grade Six Social Studies. Thanks to Grandma Lynne for hanging out with us and making the adventure that much richer.

Everything’s better with water…

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After two months of fairly non-existent “summer weather”, Hunter and I headed east in late August to hang out with family at the family cottage (aka Grandma Lynne’s house) in Sturgeon Point. This year we were staying for just over two weeks to ensure that we packed in lots of water fun as well as Great Grandma Addie’s family celebration of her 100th year.

One of the best parts about the cottage is water skiing as it is something that we don’t do at any other time during the year. Hunter learned at the end of last summer and we were both thrilled when he popped up like a charm his first time this summer. He was feeling pretty bold and also ventured outside of the wake, later telling me that he thought he was ready for slalom skiing next! I’ve been waterskiing off and on for years and love the feeling of skimming along the water at high speeds – it’s similar to kite boarding and windsurfing – freedom…

There were new tubes bought this year for behind the boat and it definitely upped the ante. No more high speed s turns and whirlpools to try to knock the kids off the single tubes – the new tubes are like floating sofas, with half the adrenaline coming from what you are feeling and the other half coming from anticipating what may happen as you have absolutely no control over the tube. The kids pushed the limits on a daily basis and by the end of the 2 weeks had managed to flip the big one. I was happy to not be on it at the time.

With lots of cousins around, the kids tend to move in and out as a pack at times. Everyone’s outside and then everyone’s back inside. Active time was spent driving circles of the property on the golf cart, along with swimming in the lake and then jumping in the hot tub. Down time seemed to be centred around the world of “i” devices as everyone now has one. Lots of discussion regarding certain apps and “mom, can I download…” could be heard on a regular basis as one cousin had something that another one didn’t.

My Grandma turns 100 in October, which is a pretty amazing thing. We decided to have a family english garden party in her honour during the summer so that as much family as possible could make the trip. With 24 of us there it was quite the party! Everyone got dressed up, we had family photos, yummy finger sandwiches and cake and played bocci ball, croquet and other lawn games.

One of Great Grandma’s requests for this summer was a boat trip so on one of our last days we headed down the lake to Bobcaygeon where she lives and went through the locks to take her out for lunch and for a short boat ride. Our cottage is on the Trent Severn waterway which is a pretty cool piece of engineering and Hunter loves going for a locks trip each summer.

Our new friends Bryon and Sarah stopped in at the cottage on their way to the Ottawa river. It was a bit weird as they were at our house in Whitehorse only a few weeks before and here we were continuing the fun together in a completely new place. Hunter was happy to have another person to play with and Bryon seems to have just a little bit of fun when you put him near water. He pushed the limit on all the toys and had Hunter following very quickly – the gauntlet had been thrown down…

It was a fabulous two weeks. Even though the weather was not as hot as normal, and we had a few big rainy days, we managed to pack in a lot of fun with the cousins, something that we all miss the rest of the year. Thanks to everyone for a great trip!