Integrating Home School with Life by Hope

In our household, we integrate home schooling with life, which means home schooling is life and life is home schooling. We don’t just do school from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon and then do homework at night, five days a week. Our education does not consist only of academic study, which basically uses textbooks to learn, but of life skills. We want to use this time in our lives to become productive people by developing life skills and using opportunities for service.

While we do use a few textbooks, we aren’t completely focused on them.  Sometimes we replace a few of the textbooks included in our curriculum with “real books” such as biographies, autobiographies, non-fiction books, or books that have fictional characters put into an accurate historical setting.

Volunteering at an orphanage is one of the many ways we incorporate life skills and service with school. Every other week we go to an orphanage, which has mostly children with special needs. We consider this part of our education because of the practical abilities that we achieve. For instance, we have learned about different handicaps such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome and how to do appropriate therapy with the children who have them. Though we already know how to take care of kids, participating in the orphanage program has given us a chance to practice it more often. During our experience so far we have also learned some things about first aid and preventive care. Some of the most important things we have learned from the orphanage are compassion, being able to know how to react when around people who have special needs and being able to love them. This has so impacted my sister, Grace, that she has a growing desire to become more deeply involved in the orphan outreach and perhaps even to start a similar program at a different orphanage one day, though that would be a few years away from now.

Another important skill to have in China is to be able to speak Chinese. Once a week we have Chinese lessons with my sister-in-law, Christy, for most of the day, in exchange for us being her helpers in areas such as babysitting, cooking, and cleaning. Most of the time when we are at her house for Chinese lessons we try to only speak Chinese to her and she does the same for us. This deal works out quite well for us, because we get to watch her kids, whom we love, and acquire Chinese, all in one.

Furthermore, we have learned how to operate a business of baking and selling muffins. We research and try new recipes, and depending on whether a Chinese or a foreigner is buying the muffins, we have to adjust the sweetness or flavor in the recipes according to the buyer’s taste buds. Because both Grace and I own the business we also have to learn how to work together. When we sell muffins they need to be up to standard, and we have to make sure that we have all the ingredients in the kitchen. For a math project we had to calculate the price of a muffin, by figuring out how much it costs for us to buy the ingredients and use the electricity. Our business improves our baking ability and gives us extra pocket money! If we wanted to expand our business there would be much more for us to learn such as advertising, packaging, and more.

We also consider Home School Meet Ups as part of our schooling experience. Attending the Home School Meet Ups gives us a chance to practice public speaking, so that we won’t be nervous when we get up in front of other people. It also increases our writing and typing skills and through the projects we have learned to make power point presentations. The topics chosen for the Home School Meet Ups are interesting and cause us to research in areas outside of our normal range.

Because we have a lot of fellowship events we often get opportunities to apply the things we have learned and to learn more! Not long ago we had a big event for which we offered to use our baking skills to make hundreds of muffins and cookies, and our childcare abilities to watch the kids who were coming. In these ways we were able to put our expertise to good use by service.

To prepare for large gatherings, we have learned that being organized and having a plan and a timeline are helpful to keep everything on schedule.  Cleaning, cooking, and setting up rooms for events now comes easily for us, and we enjoy working together to bless others. Frequently, we’ve had people whom we don’t know come to our house, so we have had to get the hang of starting conversations, reaching out to others, and being friendly, though it can be hard especially if you’re shy! Since we often have people stay at our house we get to exercise hospitality regularly.

These are just a few of the opportunities that have arisen to enrich our learning. Integrating life with home schooling through these methods and others has definitely made our lives more interesting! And we hope God will use these life skills to make us more productive in His service.

“Making Ourselves at Home” at The Fountains by Grace

For the first several years we lived in China, we had no place to hang out with friends after church – no place to have a family retreat. Sporting facilities were inconvenient or expensive. Since some friends of ours opened the Fountains, a community center, we are much more able to “Make ourselves at home” (their slogan) in Guangzhou.

Each Sunday after church, some of the congregation shuttles over to this facility for a nice lunch, fellowship, and fun. One of my favorite things to do is to join sixteen to twenty others in a game of Ultimate Frisbee on the large, lush, green field. Most of the people have never played before but others are more experienced.  Ultimate Frisbee is an active game so everyone gets plenty of exercise!

I know you might take a big green field for granted, but we don’t! Here is the only place we know of in GZ where we can play Ultimate Frisbee!

After playing Frisbee, I sometimes buy a slushie for 3 yuan at the newly developed  café. Designed like a Starbucks, the coffee shop has colorful modern art on the walls, cushy couches and chairs scattered around the room, hard chairs and tables in the center, and the cashier’s counter at the front. The sell frappuccinos, mochas, espressos, pearl milk tea, smoothies, and cakes. Many people gather there relaxing and talking for the afternoon.

Here is my beautiful sister in the coffee shop after most everyone had left for the afternoon!

Other popular Sunday entertainments at the Fountains include checking out and returning books in the library; roaming around outside; watching a movie; playing ping pong, foosball, and air hockey; or sliding down the hill on toboggans.  Sunday afternoons at the Fountains are some of my most enjoyable times!

The game room has 3 ping pong tables, foosball, and air hockey.

Hope and I are intent on our game.

One Friday a month we attend Home School Meet Ups at this community center. Once we arrive, we get some water and head to the movie theatre where we give presentations on previously decided topics. Some of those topics have been on drama and poetry; machines; special needs and handicaps; plants and medicine; and once we had a science fair.

I didn’t get the lighting just right on this, but at the last Meet Up Hope gave a presentation about Cerebral Palsy including pictures of how much our foster sister, Abby, has progressed.

When the presentations are finished, we go down to the cafeteria to get lunch, which usually consists of hot dogs, fruits, sandwich items, and veggie sticks. Afterwards we have forty-five minutes of free time, which I usually spend in the library. Next, we have art classes, followed by reading time in the library. The books read are on the topic of the day for the Home School Meet Up. We end with a team sport such as football (although Americans call it soccer), a foosball or air hockey tournament, or a game like “Capture the Flag.”

Lunch at the Home School Meet Up

Free Time

Art Room

Organized Sports at the Meet Up

The Fountains is one of my family’s favorite places to stay for a weekend with Jeremy’s and Jason’s families (our older brothers). We rent several rooms, each one sleeping two or more people, at the Guesthouse.  The Guesthouse has a Western-style kitchen with a dishwasher, an oven, and a garbage disposal, all of which most Chinese houses don’t have! It even has a clothes dryer! It’s almost like a quick visit to America. We feel so spoiled when we stay there, but the cost is less than $10 a person making it very affordable.

Relaxing together, we might play a game we borrow from the game room; talk and pray; have discussions; play an outside sport such as croquet or Frisbee; or play with my niece Angela and my nephew Caleb in the children’s play room.

Serious Game of Croquet!

Lala’s and Caleb’s favorite thing to do in the kids’ room is to have pretend tea parties. Sitting around the table, they daintily drink their tea while “eating” fake food.  Angela, being half-Chinese, will give Caleb a fish head to “nibble”. In America you might think, “Ew, that’s disgusting!” but here that is the favorite part! After they finish their tea party, Lala “washes dishes” in the pretend sink and puts them away. 

When we stay at The Fountains as a family we usually reserve the movie theatre one night. After dinner, we pop corn and borrow a movie from the library. Then we sit in the comfortable chairs and watch a film on the big screen! We try to pick a movie that all of us, down to Lala and Caleb will enjoy. 

On Sunday mornings, we take a shuttle from there to the church, making it more convenient to worship the Lord together. Afterwards, we return to the Fountains for the Sunday afternoon meal and activities. We are thankful for such a marvelous place to have a family getaway.

Though there are many things that we can do at The Fountains, our number one choice is the library! About twelve thousand books in the English language line its shelves. It is rare to find this many English books in one place in China so this is really a great blessing for us. One of the best things about it is that we can borrow schoolbooks there, which saves us time and money. Another nice thing is that it has free wifi and computers available for use. We can also check out CD’s, movies, puzzles, games, and educational resources. 

From time to time, our family goes over to help organize the library. The last time, we browsed through books, which had been donated to see if they were suitable. Then Faith entered them into the computer, put bar codes on them, and categorized them. The library is so great that even working in it is fun!

Though none of these things may sound that exciting to those of you who live in America, these experiences are uncommon here so are special treats for us. We are very thankful for such a convenient, comfortable, and exciting place to go. It really does live up to the slogan “Make Yourself at Home” and makes our lives in China happier!

 Here are a few more pictures of special places at The Fountains.

Sometimes folks kayak on this little manmade stream.

Others prefer taking a stroll on the footpath or having a little picnic.

The younger ones love the playground! Notice that this is an oasis among the high rise buildings in the back ground!

Or have water fights in the wading pool…

But what I want to know is- how can I possibly “make myself at home” without standing on the toilet seat???

So long for now!


Shopping at the Wet Market – Pictorial Essay by Hope

Now that my brother, Zachary, isn’t here, my daddy has taken on the hard work of grocery shopping. Usually he goes to the grocery store once every two weeks and to YiDeLu (the wholesale foreign food market) once a month. But about twice a week he goes to the wet market carrying two large bags and brings them back filled with heavy food.

The wet market contains fresh foods (and some not so fresh foods). Would you like to come with me as I accompany my daddy on his shopping trip?

On the way, we pass many people selling various products. This lady is selling chickens and ducks on her bike.

Selling watermelons…. Across the street you can see a “general store.”

Welcome to our wet market! It is really busy in the mornings because they have all the fresh produce out.

First we arrive at the vegetable stalls which contain beautiful and colorful fresh vegetables.

Top row below: winter melon (a tasteless melon used in Cantonese soups) and Chinese pumpkins. Second row: cabbage, broccoli, parsnips (called “white carrots” here), and zucchini. Third row: Chinese long beans, Chinese okra, and cauliflower.

At the wet market, some of the sellers have their children with them, such as in this picture.

This girl is helping her mom by selling the vegetables. Top row: Hot peppers, Chinese cabbage (bok choy), eggplants, parsnips. Second row: Carrots (which are considerably bigger than American carrots!), zucchini, bitter melon (well-named), and Chinese green vegetable number 84 (That means we don’t know what it is. There are many Chinese green vegetables we have never seen in America). Third row: Cucumbers, long beans, leeks, and celery.

Special variety of corn, garlic, ginger, carrots, and purple sweet potatoes. (I don’t like those very much. They look ok but don’t taste so great!)

We can buy many kinds of fungus, below are a few along with one thing that we don’t know what is. It looks like artichoke but we don’t know. I took this picture because of that and the HUGE mushrooms!

This is Chinese pickled vegetable. It tastes even worse than it smells. One time we hired a new house helper and my mom took her to the wet market to show her what we would and would not like her to cook. Mom explained six times that we did not eat pickled vegetable so not to buy it or bring it to our house to cook it. She told her that if she bought it, we would throw it away because we don’t like it. (We will eat anything when we go to someone else’s house to eat, but at our house we cook things we like better.) The first day the house helper came to our house, she had bought….Chinese pickled vegetable to cook! 

As well as vegetables, we can buy various kinds of eggs, but we don’t because it’s so hot and they’re not refrigerated. When we buy eggs there in the summer one of three is spoiled. They are sold by weight so the price on the sign means 5.4 yuan for 1 jin- a jin is half a kilogram, or 1.1 pounds.

These are century eggs. They were supposed to have been buried for a hundred years. They really STINK!

Of course, it wouldn’t be China if you couldn’t buy rice! We order rice, brown rice, soy sauce, oil, and flour from this lady and it is delivered to our house.

Near the middle, we meet a happy lady selling different kinds of tofu.

Next we come to the fruit section. This sharp spiky fruit is durian, also known as “stinky fruit”. That’s a good name for it, because it’s true. They say that when people eat stinky fruit, they smell just like it for three days, but that doesn’t stop them!

At the bottom right of the picture below, you will see a melon similar to cantaloupe, but it is hami melon. It tastes like a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew – less sweet and a little crunchy. Beside it on the left, the red one is dragon fruit. It comes from a cactus and inside it is white with black specks. It tastes a little like kiwi. We like it!

Among other things, on the right you see long yuan, dragons’ eyes, which taste similar to lychee but less sweet and chewier. In the middle are pomegranates.

Our next stop is at the meat stands. This lady is making our hamburger! We can’t buy ground beef at our grocery store so we have to get it here.

Here is Daddy with our bag of ground beef. You can tell how hot it is inside because my dad is sweating through his shirt.

We can also buy a hog’s head. Doesn’t it look delicious?

Or a cow’s udder…

Or little delicious pig’s feet which in this picture look like praying hands!

Hi, I’m Hope. Nice to meet you!

How would you like to have some lovely intestines for dinner? They have a saying in China, “If ET landed in Beijing, they’d put him in a museum. If he landed in Shanghai they would do experiments on him. And if he landed in Guangzhou, they’d eat him!”

Have a heart…

These chickens are waiting for their death sentences.

How about some nice slimy fish?

Here are some frogs and turtles just for you!

The wet market isn’t just a place to buy food but you can also do some stuff such as you can do in a mall in America! It also has a food court!

You could have your hair done…

Or you could get cupping done at this Traditional Chinese Medicine shop! During cupping, they light a cotton ball, stick it inside a glass or bamboo cup, then quickly stick it on a person’s sore spot. The cotton ball fire sucks the air out of the cup, creating a vacuum, which is what makes it suck up your flesh. They leave it on for a few minutes. When they take it off it leaves big round bruises. This is supposed to bring the blood flow to the sore spots to help cure it. I don’t know if it works or not. I’ve never tried it!

You could even have your teeth checked by a dentist!

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey to the wet market. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Til next time!





Hope’s Take on the ChimeLong Safari Zoo

This is Grace and Hope’s first blog. We are using it as a learning tool, a venue for their writings, and to give a place on the blog where the children of our friends might enjoy coming to see life from the viewpoint of growing up in China. For this entry, Hope did the writing and Grace took most of the photos.

For our little nephew Caleb’s birthday we went to the Safari Zoo in PanYu. To get there was a fifteen minute walk followed by a twenty minute bus ride followed by a ten minute walk! Once we arrived at the zoo, we headed towards the ticket center, got our tickets, and entered.

Our first stop was at Swan Lake where we saw cormorants and, of course, swans. Chinese peasants use cormorants for fishing. They put a metal ring around the birds’ necks so that when they catch fish they can’t swallow them. Then the fishermen take the fish out of the birds’ mouths. After they catch enough, they either take them home to eat or sell them.

Here’s looking at you, kid!

We then went to the African gallery where we fed the monkeys peanuts that we had bought at the wet market beforehand. The monkeys caught them in their hands or even their mouths. It was fun to watch. If we threw the nuts into the water surrounding their island, the monkeys would still pick them out of the water unless they were so far away that they were out of reach. Next to the monkeys we saw ostriches, which were really stinky and dirty! Apparently, an ostrich had laid three eggs in a small nest on the ground.

Tiger Hill contained golden, white, Bengal, snow, and Siberian tigers. Siberian tigers are supposed to be the largest cat on earth. Tigers can jump up to twice their heights and when standing on their hind legs can be taller than my dad who is 6’3″! Average tigers can be from eight to ten feet long.

His pillow is an ice cube!

The China Zone of Safari Zoo contained one of our favorite animals that we saw – the panda. Most of the pandas were inside due to the hot sun. The zookeepers put ice in their cages to keep them cool even though they were inside.

The Train Ride

As our journey neared the end, we took a half-hour train ride, which was basically a tour of   uncaged animals roaming around as if living in the wilderness.

Our first stop was at the Australian Forest where we sighted black swans, red kangaroos, and emus. This little group of animals is quite colorful, wouldn’t you think so? Our brother, Jason, pointed at few emus that were gathered around an injured emu. What surprised us was that the birds were eating the invalid, which was gross but rather interesting!

At the Asian Desert there were two animals both of which we have ridden on! Those animals are the humped camels and the wild yak. They were so close to us that we probably could have touched them if we wished, but we didn’t. Here are the photos of us riding those many years ago!

Hope looked pretty nervous about both of those, didn’t she?

The fiercer animals such as the lions, tigers, and bears were on islands surrounded by ditches to keep us safe. Most of these animals were found in the Predator Territory.


Caleb’s favorite part of the whole zoo was a small amusement park called The Children’s Playground. It had bumper cars, an animal train, a tiny roller coaster in water, a merry-go-round, a hopping kangaroo that took you up and then back down quickly, and another similar to the “Flying Dumbo” at Disneyland Hong Kong.

Food kiosks and shops planted throughout the zoo were named after animals such as Giraffe food kiosk and Lesser Panda store. We took our own lunch and had a little picnic, which we thought was better than the food we could have bought at the zoo.

Both of the above pictures were taken at the Finding Madagascar performance.

We saw two of the four shows available to us – Finding Madagascar and the Kung Fu White Tiger Show which were both enjoyable and fun. The seven of us were planning to visit the Little Elephant Prince Show but unfortunately, we got lost in the big zoo. We also did not have time to see the fourth show, Primate Kingdom. Between the two shows we watched, our favorite performance was The White Tiger Show.

The White Tiger Show

In this program, twelve tigers each had their own step-ladder stool to sit on. The trainer used meat to entice the the tigers to perform tricks. One tiger didn’t want to walk on the ball, but after lots of coaxing with meat and poking, he finally walked on the ball. Some of the big cats walked on their hind legs and one of them hopped to the trainer. Another time a tiger wouldn’t jump through a hoop so a different animal did that trick. We wondered if they did this on purpose or if the tigers were just stubborn. At one point two ladies who were randomly picked from the audience were playing tug-of-war with a tiger. The tiger won and the ladies didn’t get a prize. It was hilarious to watch! Near the end of the show the tigers were posing for pictures and when they all should have gotten off the one at the top wouldn’t get down. After a little while, the tiger finally got down and they ended the show. It was very entertaining and humorous.


The Safari Zoo is a great place for a family outing or for a birthday. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had lots of fun there. The cost is about one hundred fifty RMB for children 1.5 meters or shorter and about two hundred RMB for adults (or for tall children such as Grace!) so it’s kind of expensive. Hope you all get a chance to visit the Safari Zoo.

This is the cutest thing we saw at the zoo all day- our nephew Joey!

And here are some signs we thought were funny:

Every time we slipped we tried to do it very carefully.

No glass flapping!

Whatever this means!