brave enough to start

family of five who can, should and definitely will, see more of the world


Days 35 – 37 Waterfalls, Panda Cubs and some Weird Science

Incorporating geography into a homeschooling schedule when you are travelling is easy enough, easier still  when you have the opportunity to visit one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls. We did the tourist thing and paid for a Hornblower cruise into the mist and, at less than $65 for all five of us, it was worth every cent. We took a 20 minute daytime cruise into the falls and got to feel the power of the water thundering down all around us. Standing on a swaying boat, drenched by the gossamer spray despite the plastic ponchos, our bodies reverberating with the roaring deluge, this was an exhilarating experience for us all.  Now when we talk about hydroelectric power, the kids have a very clear idea of what that means.

Perhaps it was the receding adrenaline, or the general high of the experience that allowed the kids to persuade us to have dinner at the Rainforest Cafe before we went home. They loved the fake thunderstorms and animatronic beasts almost as much as the Falls themselves and by the time we left the water was lit up for the evening. It was indeed a magical day.

Tuesday saw us heading over to Toronto Zoo to see some real animals. Nick and I first visited in 2003 but since then the zoo has become home to two Giant Pandas and, not to be outdone by Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, their female Er Shun had given birth to twins just two weeks before our arrival. As before, the cubs wouldn’t be on public display for many months and we couldn’t help but laugh at the co-incidence. It was beginning to feel like our family could have a very positive influence on the breeding success of Giant Pandas in captivity, albeit we were destined never to see any actual cubs!

We did have more success with the hitherto elusive moose.  I’ll be honest, I was anticipating a fine pair of antlers, a la Rocky and Bullwinkle but alas, it was the wrong time of year and apparently the antlers had been shed. Still, a moose is a moose right? Certainly we’d have preferred to see one in the wild and that discussion raised all kinds of ethical questions about whether zoos are really an acceptable place for wild animals at all.  It’s a complex issue not least because many of the finest zoos play an enormous role in conservation and education. Should some animals be locked up, albeit with the best that modern zoos can offer in the way of enrichment, in order to improve the chances of other species?  Luckily that’s not a question on the primary school curriculum this year.

With a hurricane forecast, we made our way to the Ontario Science Centre the following day.  I don’t remember ever looking forward to museum visits as a child in the way that our boys have come to love a day in a science centre. These days the exhibits are so much more interactive and the kids feel like they are playing all day long.  They particularly enjoyed testing the effectiveness of an ice hockey helmet when hit at 6m/s with a sledge hammer!  If their only learning outcome is the desire to wear a helmet for certain sports then I’m more than happy with that!

We all played with the giant marble run and later got stuck in (literally) to creating a pin screen for our website.


No idea what the science behind this is but it was great fun nevertheless.



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Days 32 – 34 At home in Hamilton

Luckily for us, our host’s husband was an easy going sort of fellow, not phased by the rather idiotic sounding “we don’t seem to know what day it is anymore” line. His wife, the lovely Beata, was equally understanding and after a few frantic emails the whole thing was cleared up, meaning we didn’t have to sleep in the car after all.

Taking it as a sign from the gods that we needed to slow down and take a breath, we took a couple of days doing very little. We got up late, we wandered around the neighbourhood and we ate pizza with some old friends living in the area. All four boys were in desperate need of a haircut so we called into Mario’s place and he kindly worked his magic to turn our street urchins back into semi presentable children again.


After an hour or so chatting with him about our adventures he refused to take the proper payment, even knowing he would likely never see us again. Mario, as they say, is good people, just like Beata. I could feel some of my ingrained British cynicism melting away; all these fellow humans who had chosen Canada to be their home and who were extending such kindness to a British family on the road. What would the Daily Mail make of that?

With Halloween around the corner, we took the opportunity to visit a pumpkin patch with some friends. This was a first for us; if such things exist in England we’ve never been, so we had no idea what to expect.  Howell’s Farm in Fonthill opens annually in the run up to Halloween transforming into a family playground with a corn maze, a haunted spooky barn and a great variety of rides, shows and games to entertain all ages. The boys particularly loved messing around with the autumn leaves and rolling down the hills, whilst the pumpkin slingshot was a hit with both the adults and kids alike.


After such a fun and relaxed weekend we were ready to step up the pace again come Monday and top of our list – Niagara Falls.