For me, teaching my kids to care for others is more important than learning lessons from a book. Finding out about The Cadbury Bicycle Factory's mandate to build and send bicycles to rural Ghana, Africa was a great opportunity for us to get involved in an important cause, and to learn about children's lives far beyond our borders.
Imagine if your kids had to wake up at 5 am to complete an hour of chores, and then head off on a strenuous two-hour walk to school. This is the reality for many children living in Ghanian villages.
Kids in Ghana dream of success, and are eager to have an education. Yet, the long walk detracts time and energy from studies. It seems unfair that the road to success for these children begins with an uphill battle.
In Ghana, bikes are a much-needed mode of transportation that provide children with access to education. By getting them to school faster, bicycles enable both teachers and students to spend more time and energy on studies, reducing time spent travelling by up to 75 percent—the equivalent of 600 hours per year or 25 extra school days. Bicycles signify much more than a leisurely outdoor activity.
In Ghana, a bicycle is a vehicle for freedom and success. It can actually change a child's future.
What has all this to do with chocolate?
Cadbury has been connected to the land and people of Ghana cocoa bean farms for over 100 years. Committed to improving the lives of farmers and their children at a grassroots level, the company created The Cadbury Bicycle Factory. Now in its fifth year, The Cadbury Bicycle Factory has delivered more than 18,000 bikes to Ghanian cocoa farming villages.
It doesn't end there. Working directly with the Ghanian people and organizations like Village Bicycle Project, volunteers teach both students and teachers how to ride. Owners are trained in basic bike maintenance and repair. The delivery and ongoing maintenance of these bikes help children like Lawrencia and others in rural Ghana make their hopes and dreams of a better education come to life.
We take education for granted in Canada. Our kids have easy access to schooling. We are so privileged that our kids even complain about going to school. Now, that's a luxury! I felt full of admiration while listening to the enthusiasm and seriousness in the voices of Ghanian children talking about school.
We take bicycles for granted in Canada. They are a simple two-wheeled vehicle that represent a fun way to exercise and get around. In Ghana, they represent a road to a better future.
You and your family can make a difference for a child in Ghana. Sending a bike to Ghana through The Cadbury Bicycle Factory is easy. You don't have to spend any money. You don't even have to leave your house.
Get your family involved by teaching them about the value of helping others.
There are some children's books that make me cry, no matter how many times I've read them. My kids know to be embarrassed in advance. Call me weird, but Mother's Day isn't complete until I've snuggled with the kids and had a good cry with these books. My children will indulge this behaviour on Mother's Day. I'm looking forward to a good cry this Sunday. What about you? Are there children's books that move you to tears?
The Runaway Bunny. Dear Bunny, please stop being in such a hurry to grow up and be independent. All your mommy wants is for you to stay close by and be her little bunny forever. She'll turn herself into a tree, if that's what it takes. I'm tearing up just writing about it. Admittedly, the Mommy Bunny does exhibit some stalker behaviour, but it truly is a beautiful book to share with your children. Should be on your shelf, along with Margaret Wise Brown's more famous Goodnight Moon.
My Mama Had A Dancing Heart. A love song from a daughter to her mother. Now all grown up, a ballerina remembers all the times she and her mother danced together. As she prepares to go on stage, she hears her mother's voice inside her, "Bless the world/ it feels like/ a tip-tapping/ song-singing/ finger-snapping/ kind of day. / Let's celebrate." A touching tribute, and a reminder that kids really do grow to appreciate all the time we invest in them.
Giving Tree. Don't even go there, because I know this isn't about a mother, but I still cry. The tree loves the boy, and the boy loves the tree — at least while the boy is little and climbs that tree. The relationship becomes horribly unbalanced as the "boy" (that's what the tree always calls the man) grows. All the tree wants is the boy's love. The man isn't interested any more. Until he gets really really old, and all he has left is the tree stump. Sometimes I want to bang this ungrateful boy over the head. Can't you see how much this tree loves you? Why is this tree such a doormat? Sigh. It's just so sad.
Love You Forever. I hate you Robert Munsch for writing a book with the sole purpose of making mothers weep. Honestly, this mother kind of creeps me out. What kind of mom climbs up a ladder to sneak through her grown son's bedroom window and rock him to sleep? Never mind. By the time we get to the end, I'm a mess.
Happy, weepy Mother's Day!
What books make you cry?
Sometimes learning happens when we least expect it. Folding loads of laundry can turn into a sorting activity for kids. Taking out the garbage can lead to a research project on waste. You don't need to prepare lesson plans. It's simply a matter of sharing everyday moments with our kids. You might even look at your mundane activities in a whole new light. Well, maybe not the laundry! You never know what learning adventures kids will discover hidden in your routine.
Here are 3 learning moments that emerged from going about my daily business.
1- Meal Planning. Usually I do this on a Sunday when I'm organized, or I wing it daily. It's not my favourite activity. Last week, the kids grabbed some cookbooks while I rummaged through recipes. They wanted to choose a dish for the week. "Fine," "but it can't be all desserts," I said. My statement triggered protests, but then a good conversation about food groups emerged. My oldest daughter committed to making one of the meals. Score! My other kids picked dishes, and will be helping me with preparation. I think they unintentionally learned about healthy eating, measurements (math), and the work that goes into cooking.
2- Walking. I would hardly call my walks learning adventures. Just something I like to do in warmer weather. When the kids joined me, they stuffed their pockets with "cool rocks." They crouched down to watch some lady bugs. They stopped to pet every dog. By the end of my usually routine walk, the kids couldn't wait to get home and look at their rocks under water. We'll be heading to the library to read up on different kinds of rocks, because they are sure they've found some rare species. They also want to read up on dogs so we can get a pet, but that's another story!
3- Getting Dressed. Lots to learn here, right through the teen and adult years. I get dressed by myself (yay!), but will often talk with my kids about what I'm wearing and what they're wearing. Sounds weird, but it's good to talk about appropriate wear for appropriate occasions. Sometimes it turns into conversations about trends when I was a kid, style vs. fashion, clothing prices, pressure to fit in, and complementary colours. For younger kids, this everyday activity is an opportunity to practice fine motor skills, and identify colours and patterns.
Let the adventures begin!