Wednesday, January 30, 2013



The kids were wanting to watch a DVD this afternoon so I obliged.  We had finished our school work, had been for a very wet, puddle jumping filled walk with the dog, and all our house keeping chores were complete.  

And really, it isn't that hard to convince me to watch a dvd on a rainy afternoon.

The kids picked a DVD and I put it in but it kept on skipping. So I pulled it out and looked on the back.

It was covered in about four little finger prints.

We have a BIG rule in the house that the kids are not allowed to touch the DVDs or DVD player.  So these teeny tiny finger prints were a sign that someone isn't following the rules.

The kids both denied it, repeatedly saying "REALLY!  It wasn't us!"

So I decided to teach them about a little thing called fingerprint lifting.  

Yes, I'm ready to turn any event in to a learning opportunity. 

So I got out the superfine cocoa powder and our camel hair paint brush, dusted the fingerprint on the back of the DVD, lifted it with tape and stuck it to an index card. 

Then we got out the magnifier and the kids were in total awe over what they saw.  We went over the different kinds of finger prints, I printed off a bunch of pictures from the computer and we talked about how no two finger prints are the same and that everyone has their own set that is totally unique. 

Then I showed them how they could take prints of their own finger prints. Each took an index card and a stamp pad and made fingerprint cards of their own.  They. Were. Amazed. The excitement was so wonderful to see and they spent a good twenty minutes comparing their prints to each others and talking about how they are different.  

Then, we compared these to the cocoa lift from the DVD, one by one, trying to find the culprit.

But none of them were a match.  

Then they pulled over MY finger prints. 

And apparently, those pesky finger prints are partials of my pinky finger.

Excuse me while I blush a bit.  

I found myself trying to defend the placement of those finger prints, explaining that it must have happened because i place one finger in the center and my finger must have grazed the disc.

They weren't buying it.  Their exact words?

"Mommy!  Maybe you shouldn't put DVDs in the player anymore if you can't be responsible. That is one of my favourite movies.  Wouldn't want it to get damaged!"


So I said yes, I obviously need to be more careful and that I would try to make sure it wouldn't happen again. The kids offered suggestions that I could always wash my hands before touching the discs, that maybe I should use the salad tongs to pick them up, that maybe, it would be a good idea if my oldest made us a "disc putter-inner-inator" so that I didn't have to actually touch the discs and risk damaging them.

I distracted them by making stove top pop corn and then went to put the nice clean disc in the player.

"Mommy, did you wash your hands?"


Homeschooling can be such a humbling experience sometimes. 



What do you do all day? part deux

Since I started homeschooling, I've found the biggest concern people have for my kids is their social lives.  The question I get asked most often is "How will they make friends?"

Followed by, "Won't they get lonely? They won't have anyone to interact with."

And finally, "How will they learn to live in the real world if they never have to deal with people?"

All valid questions, and honestly, they focus on an area that my husband had the most concerns about.

See, we initially started homeschooling because I felt really strongly that my son wasn't ready to go to junior kindergarten.  He was very shy, had a lot of anxiety, and was very stressed out about going to school.  Really stressed out.  When we went to fill out the enrollment package, his hands were shaking, and when we got home half an hour later, he started to talk about his concerns and threw up he was so upset about it.

So I talked to my husband about keeping him home for junior kindergarten, and while he wasn't thrilled with the idea, he agreed that he wasn't ready for school, and we started on this wonderful road to homeschooling.

My husband's main concern was that our son wouldn't have any friends and that he would be seen as odd or weird by people.  Especially since he was so shy already.

So I asked him this question: "When did school become about making friends?  Isn't it supposed to be about learning?  How many people from school are you actually friends with now?", "When did we start caring what people thought of our family decision" and a host of other questions to prove my point.

I will admit that behind my bravado, I had the same concerns.  But after a year of homeschooling, the way I see things is so different.

School, to me, is a very contrived environment.  There are 20 kids mostly the same age in a class, all mostly at the same stage in development.  All are there based on their age because the system works better that way. And for many kids, this system works well.  I'll even venture to say for MOST kids this system works well.

But that doesn't mean that those same children wouldn't thrive in a mixed aged setting.  Just because something is the norm, doesn't always mean it is the best way.

Think of the skills that can be learned by having a group of children that are of different ages.  And I'm not talking about a combined junior and senior kindergarten class.  I'm talking about a room full of kids aged 3-12.  A room where the older kids interact with younger kids, lead them in games, help them.  And where younger children observe the behaviour of the older children, learn from their example.

Aren't taught social skills, but they learn them by example.

I'm not trying to paint an idealistic vision of what can be.  I know that when kids get together they aren't always like that.   And yes, I know that children will learn undesired behaviour from each other just as quickly as the desired. But what I'm saying is, that kids learn better from other kids, and I have seen first hand the good that can come of that kind of environment.

One thing I remember most from my time as an ECE working in the toddler room is when I heard another teacher saying to a parent when a child bit or hit another child "Don't worry. It is a toddler room, it is bound to happen".

And it is bound to happen.  It is bound to happen because in a room full of children the same age, children have less opportunity to learn from each other and it become the teacher's job to teach social skills.

My view is that maybe social skills are easier to learn from a setting where they can observe the interactions of other, older children and learn from their example.

Okay, off my soapbox and on to the point of this blog.

So how do we combat the social aspect of school?

We leave the house.

No, seriously, we really do.

Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers do a variety of things other than stay at home and school!

We have participated in a host of activities in our year and a half of homeschooling.  I started a co-op last year, and while it didn't really get off the ground we met so many wonderful families who continue to participate in activities that I plan.

We participate in nature programs in High Park, go on regular play dates, join group trips to parks, pioneer village, art workshops, the ballet and plays, hiking and music classes.  We recently went to a weekly drop-in free play time that the kids loved.  And on top of all that, the kids have cousins that they play with at least twice a week and both are enrolled in weekly gymnastics classes.

And yes, I am always there, where ever they are.  My kids just feel safer knowing I'm there.  My oldest hangs out a bit while he gets comfortable with new situations, my youngest goes right off and does her own thing, coming back frequently to say hello or tell me about what she is doing. And I cherish the times we are at a program with an instructor because for those two sweet hours, I get to be just the parent while my kids go off and enjoy the knowledge of someone else!

We are social. Sometimes I wish we didn't have so much to do!

So that's that in a nutshell.  We aren't recluses.

The Bouviers don't live here.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What do you do all day long?

"What do you do all day long?"

That is the standard question I get when I tell people I homeschool.  Well, that and "Aren't you worried that they won't have any friends?".  A few readers have recently asked me how I homeschool, so I thought I would create a series of posts that reflect what we do during "school".  I use that term loosely, and you'll see why as you read on.

Firstly, I don't follow one theory or method or curriculum.  We are a hodge podge of everything and anything I can get my hands on that looks like an interesting way to learn something.  I create a lot of my own materials, use a variety of teacher resources, and more often then not, just muck about until we've learned something about something.

I'm not an unschooler, although when it comes to history, geography, science, art and music, we could technically be called unschoolers, because what my kids are interested in is what we are learning about when it comes to those topics. Right now we jump from topic to topic, based on interest.  Next year when my oldest is in "grade one" I intend to follow a more classical approach to these topics.

But I'm not a classical education guru either.  I do love the structure of learning in a classical education, and I  I use many of the ideas.  Mostly though, I like how classical method structures learning through history.  If you follow history like a story, starting from the beginning and working toward the present, you can cover many topics in detail.  And because it is chronologically presented, everything ties together and makes a lot more sense for kids.

One thing that I AM a stickler for is reading and math.  Those topics are what make up table work at our place.  My biggest focus this last year and a half has been to get my little man reading.  We have done this through phonics worksheets and simple reading books.

And today, that was the main focus of our school time.  While we always start each day with some reading, today's focus was all reading and writing.  We don't have a schedule, we don't follow a plan, and i don't have a checklist.  Today, my little man felt like reading. Tomorrow will be something else.  The next day might be everything.  What we do really depends on our mood.  But we ALWAYS do some reading.

Here is what we did today! (We didn't have any outings planned today, so it was just us.)

My little lady started off the school day today.  Her schooling has been her own choice.  She wants to do everything her big brother does. So I got her a collection of dry erase books and some basic preschool activity books, and we work on counting and colours with toys, blocks and legos. She also knows most of her letter sounds already because she is a sponge and picked it up from little man last year.

Here she is doing some colour matching.

Her favourite activity is cut and paste.

Doing some mazes.

And, back to cut and paste.

Then, she was done for the day.  And it was little man's turn.  They are almost always at the table at separate times.  
Start off the day with reading.


These are the books we read for school.  He REALLY enjoys them and the illustrations and basic text are great for emerging readers. I'm really amazed at how quickly he is working through them, and how he is really picking up words independently now.  






Next up: Sight words.  

These are little booklets that we cut out and put together, each focusing on one sight word.  He really enjoys doing them, and I like that each book gets him to read the word, write the word and look for the word in a word search, plus it exposes him to other words with a picture cue. 

(I have no clue why this silly picture will not centre, and after five minutes of cutting, pasting, clicking and cursing, I'm giving up.  Annoying, isn't it?)

Sight words have been a sticking point for my little man, because it really annoys him that words don't follow the phonics that he has been taught.  His exact words were "Well then why did you teach me the letter sounds then!?!".  He brings up a valid point.  Many homeschoolers aren't bothered with phonics and readers and teaching reading.  They allow their children to develop the skill on their own through time and exposure to written word, and I really admire that ability to let go.  

I can't let it go.   

I need to know that he is learning to read.  I'm anal like that. And I feel that learning the letter sounds provides a strong base for literacy, because even if it isn't a phonetic word, if you sound it out you can sometimes make out what the word is.  Regardless, we've done it, and despite his initial grumps and groans when it came to sight words, he is really enjoying it now because it helps him read books other than his Bob readers. 

By the way, while this is going on at the table...

This is going on in the living room:

Legos have taken over our home.  It is an addiction, and one that I am happy to let them indulge in. 

And lastly (for table work anyway) he did his picture and copy work. 



This involves him drawing a picture of anything he wants (this time he needed a bigger page than the box at the top of his working page because he was drawing an Angry Birds scene), and then he tells me a sentence about it, I write it out and he copies it.  Simple stuff.

And in case you were wondering, while he was doing this, this is what was going on in the living room:


Apparently she felt she wasn't done with work yet, so she found some colouring activity books and started doing those. Mazes are a bit of an obsession of hers now.  

That was the "school" part of our day.  Then we threw on our snow suits and spent the afternoon playing in the snow!  Three hours actually.  My legs are still frozen. 


And we learned a lot playing in the snow.  It wasn't the best snow for making snow balls, so we got the spray bottle out and sprayed some so it would become packing snow.  This evolved in to a whole conversation about the making of snow and why sometimes it is sticky and sometimes it is fluffy or powdery, which then carried the conversation over to lake effect snow and what that is, and then a big conversation about skiing and snowboarding and sledding and the types of snow that would be best for those sports.  

See? We learn a lot more away from the table then we do at the table.  

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You really are learning all the time!

After I finally convinced them it would be nice if Mommy could save at least one leg from frost bite (to which they said I should get warmer snow pants.  They seem to have an answer for everything these days.), they settled in with some hot chocolate and a DVD while I made these for dinner: 

Cookie cutter pancakes!!!  

They may look cute, but they take forever to make.  Whew!  Almost there. 

After dinner (just when you think we couldn't cram anymore learning in to the day), my little man found a book about bridges and wanted to make some with his toys.  We pulled out the tinker toys and away he and little lady went, building and taking apart and rebuilding, trying to make the structure as strong as he could.  He came to the triangle answer all by himself, "They are the strongest, Mama.".  And after describing each of the models he made based on the pictures in the books, he came to some very good conclusions and observations. I was impressed with the thought process.  

And after bath and a book, they are asleep.  

A day well spent in my books.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slow Start to the Year

Anyone else dragging their feet this year?

I know we are only a few weeks in, but my house can't seem to get out of vacation mode.

We were all sick with the flu from just before Christmas to New Years.  Just when we got better I got hit with another wave for the last few days of 2012.  So much for a rip roaring new years eve.  I went to bed at 10pm. And that was pushing it.

With all the sickness, we were sleeping until 10am each day, sometimes later, going to bed early, lazing around on the couch.  The kids played with new toys, watched new DVDs, played new Wii games, did crafts.  Just a generally quiet, peaceful, lovely holiday.  With the husband home too, which made it that much more blissful (well, as blissful as you can get with throw-up buckets in every room).

And then the regularly schooled kids went back to school.  So we attempted to get back in the swing of things as well.  It just didn't quite work out that way.

We are still sleeping in until around 8:30 each day, not getting ourselves out the door before 10am on a good day.  We've at least started homeschooling again. When the kids started asking to do school and pulling out their workbooks and readers last week, I figured that was a bit of a clue.  Time to get my bottom in gear.

But I'm still dragging my feet.  I don't fee blue or depressed or sad.  I don't even feel lazy.  I just really like curling up on the couch with a good book, my littles, a blanket and reading the afternoon away.

I know that many homeschoolers love the flexibility homeschooling provides.  The ability to make your own schedule, take longer vacations, relaxing and learning naturally.  But we are just a family that thrives with structure and routine.  We are struggling with the added freedom, getting cranky, a bit short with each other and generally not getting along all that well this week.

I guess I'll be setting my alarm tonight for a 7:30am wake up call.  I still hold fast to the "never wake a sleeping baby" saying, and while my kids are far from babies anymore, it still pains me to think of taking away our 8:30 sleep ins.

I weep at the thought.

What sane mother does that????

Well, my sanity has always been questioned.  I guess this'll give 'em the answer.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year, New Focus

Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here.

Heck, fancy meeting ME here!

It has been a long time.

Last week someone asked me for the link to my blog.  After sharing it with them , I took some time to flip through it myself. I read through the many blog posts, looking at the pictures of my littles and oooing and ahhing about how tiny they were.

One thing that really struck me about my posts is how much they weren't about organizing at the end.  They were more about the time I spent with my kids, and it was really nice going down memory lane.

And then I started questioning why I stopped blogging.  I really enjoyed my time blogging.  I love to write and fancy it my hobby.  So why, why, WHY did I stop blogging??

Then I vowed to start blogging that night.  I went to create new post and read through the tutorial (apparently when you don't blog for a long time they change everything as punishment for not blogging. Meh.)

And I started typing my very first blog post in a year and a half.

But then my youngest little woke up and had to go pee.

Then my dog needed to go pee.

Then I needed to go pee.

Then got totally side tracked until I went to bed and saw my computer open in my bedside table.


That's why I stopped blogging.  Life kind of got in the way.

I started homeschooling my oldest.  My youngest decided to join us.  I started babysitting.  Life just got really busy.

But things have settled now, and so here I am.

This blog won't be about organization or finding my inner housewife. That part of my life is done.  I'm organized, I'm happy with my house-wifey status and job description, and I homeschool.

Life can only be so organized when school happens every day at your dining room table.

This time, it is going to be about my family.  All the fun, un-fun, crazy, laughable moments we have together.  Our homeschooling, my baking, my sewing, Lego Challenges.  Everything.

The focus in our family.

But first...

I have to pee.