Friday, January 27, 2012

Home Schooling: Mid Way Evaluation

Here we are, half-way through the school year already. I know a lot of home educators complain of burnout this time of year but I usually feel energized right about now. This year is no exception. As I sat down to make school plans for the next few weeks I thought about what was going well and what was not.

It is a big job to choose the course of study for a year for a child. Thankfully I have only one child for whom to choose. I know we all put a lot of hours in perusing curriculum choices, reading blogs to see what everyone else is using and comparing prices on Amazon and Indigo and eBay and everywhere else. It is not so nice to find out that what you have chosen and paid good money for, just isn't working out.

The beauty of home schooling is that we can do an about face, we can drop something that is less than satisfying, we can speed up some things and slow right down on others. We can, in essence, tailor the learning to meet the needs of the child. I am very grateful for that.

So what is working and what is not?

Math: Athena's favorite subject is Math. She finds it easy so we move along quickly. We will finish this book next week. It was good and it kept coming back to each concept learned several times. I had to supplement with another workbook using Canadian money. The pictures of the US currency were not clear and she had trouble  figuring out which coins were pictured. That was a small bump in the road.
What she does need work on is her addition facts. They don't come quickly to her and she still has to count on her fingers for many of the sums. She is adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers and finds it easy to borrow a ten or carry a ten. We will be doing more flash cards and mad minutes in the following weeks to practice on her addition and subtraction.  I was surprised that multiplication wasn't introduced yet but since she has finished the second grade level we will use the spring months to start on multiplication.
So over all, math is looking good. Happy with the choice.

Language Arts: We started last year with Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and finished it up this fall. It was extraordinary. The lessons were so easy to teach and she is reading well on her own now.  First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind was to follow it, which we are doing. This book is laid out for grade 1 and grade 2. It is grammar, narration, copy work and memorization. So, in essence, we are over a year behind. I find some of the lessons very repetitive and easy, perhaps because we ARE a year behind so we are moving quickly through them at this time. Athena has a fantastic memory and has no problem with the memory work, often having it memorized in just one or two lessons. Much faster than Mom does, that is for sure. The lessons are important so I don't want to skip any but like I said, we are moving quite quickly through them. She knows that "a noun is a person, place, thing or idea" and we are working on proper and common nouns now. Good book. Another good choice.

Explode the Code. She loves that. This too, is a no-brainer. She has really good spelling on account of these lessons.

Writing with Ease. Another good choice. We don't always do all of the 4 weekly lessons. We do the copy work and the narration as well as the comprehension but I don't do the page where she tells me the most interesting thing I read to her. We are starting WWE Level 2 next week. It looks to be much more in depth so I am glad for that. Good choices all around.

Reading: Athena reads aloud to me for 30 minutes a day. We have been using some old readers of my mom's which were printed back in the '60s. They are second grade and she is doing well with them. We are almost finished the second one. Usually, when we don't use a reader, I allow her to choose her own book to read to me. We have a running list of her read alouds on the wall in the classroom. She is very proud of her long list.

I also read aloud to her from a novel for at least 30 minutes a day. We have read Owls in the Family and Mr. Popper's Penguins (which I laboured to read. I did not enjoy that book at all. She did, however.) this last month or so. We just recently finished Little House In The Big Woods. And oh was that a hit. In fact she is calling her dad "Pa". To which he calls her "Half-pint". We just began Little House on the Prairie yesterday.

So, we are making a lap book. Our first one. I don't know what I think about this yet. I do know we should have started it as we began the book. I also know to use a glue stick instead of liquid glue. I like the idea of if but it doesn't look as nice as I thought. She is right into it though so, I guess that is more important.

Science: Earth Science and Astronomy for the Grammar Stage. I do like how well it is set up. Very clear lesson plans on either a two day a  week or four day a week schedule. I still think that the book moves too quickly and so we have slowed it way down in order to study the topics more in depth. That kind of learning sticks much better. I like that there are practical experiments and Internet links as well. All but one of the experiments has worked out. Because of our slower pace, this will last for grade 3 as well. We are doing the Earth Science now (studying Biomes at the moment) and will complete Astronomy next year.

What I don't like is that there isn't room for interest based study. I plan to use some animal study and Knee High Nature: Winter next fall so perhaps Astronomy will wait until later in the year.

Overall I think it is a good program but moves too fast for in depth learning.

History: This year I put together my own Canadian History Unit. More than a unit I guess. I was able to get some really good books and then I supplement with library materials. We just finished Aboriginal people, covering Plains Indians and Inuit in a little more depth and are now moving on to the Explorers. I loved this when I was a kid and I hope she will too.

What I don't like is that I have to make each and every lesson plan, which is very time consuming. What I do like is that I get to make each and every lesson plan and learn right along with her. I LOVE learning new things. Of course we are just doing a brief outline of Canadian History and will likely revisit the subject in years to come. We can delve deeper as her understanding grows.

Our days are pretty structured and I have everything in order. I like order and clarity and a timeline. What I feel is missing in our little home school is ... the finer things. I am not so good at putting art/music lessons into play. We don't sing little songs and craft all day long. I think this would be beneficial to her learning. She doesn't play an instrument. She does take ballet class. She listens to classical music any chance she can get, which is almost daily.

Oh and another thing that I would like to mention here is Sparkle Stories.  I bought her a subscription to three of the offerings. She gets three new original stories to download each Friday. She LOVES these stories so much. Each is about 25 minutes long. It is so nice for her to listen to them while I am busy in the kitchen or otherwise engaged. She sits at her modelling clay table and listens. Excellent resource and very affordable.

In conclusion (of this very long home schooling post) I think things are going mostly well. We are right on schedule with an ending marked at the latter part of May. I need to get my History lessons in place very soon. I have slowed down the Science as I mentioned. I should add some more music and art and handwork to our days. The reading is going well. It would be nice if she would start reading on her own accord but as it stands now, she reads for her 30 minutes, listens to Audio Stories and never tires of me reading aloud to her.

Not too bad, all in all. Things are going pretty well if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Before and After

Once upon a time there was a little girl with oh so much hair.
Mommy couldn't see the little girl's face when the two of them sat across from each other in the school room.The little girl had to brush the hair out of her eyes before she was able to work her math problems.
Also, the little girl could not wash and comb through her own hair, even though she was 8 years old.
So one day, Mommy made an appointment for the little girl to get her hair cut.

The little girl agreed and now Mommy AND the girl couldn't be happier. The new "spring haircut" suited this little girl's active busy days much better. And the little girl hopes to try washing and combing it through tonight after supper. The End.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

To Sleep... Perchance to Dream

From sunrise to sunset,
the little one has her own rhythm too.
In fact, if there ever was something
I knew for sure it is this:
Little ones thrive on a daily rhythm.

We used to call it a 'schedule'
back in the day.
Is your son/daughter on a schedule?
we would ask each other.
One mom to another.
Of course he/she was.
They all were.

As long as I have been a mother
which is 29 years today,
(Happy Birth Day Jen!)
I have instinctively known that
my children thrive on a schedule.

It takes all of the unknown away from them.
Removes doubt.
Provides security.
Gives them a sense of control

We had no sleeping problems with our kids back then.
All the kids went to bed early
and got up at the same time.
We parents had the evenings to ourselves.
To nurture relationships or to
do whatever we wanted.

And yet... in all my wisdom
(she says tongue in cheek)
I sometimes forget this.

The whole month of December was a bust for Athena.
She stayed up late.
Had trouble falling asleep.
She woke up during the night.
She had a few bad dreams.
In short, it was ridiculous.
I could hardly get her out of bed in the mornings
and I could hardly get out of be myself some days.

After the holidays I determined to change it all.
I was on a mission.
It didn't take long until we were back on the right track.

This is what we did.
First of all, I took the time
to establish her bedtime routine.
Then some ground rules.
No screens after dinner.
None at all.
No TV.
No computer.
No DS.

Shortly after the evening meal I would run her bath.
Sometimes a milk bath, if the milk was about to expire.
Sometimes an Epsom salt bath.
Mostly just a bath with food coloring in it.
Before she got in I'd give her
a tablespoon of liquid

After brushing teeth and having a glass of water
I would read to her from whatever novel we were on.
Right now it is Little House in the Big Woods
by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
She would then be in bed by 8pm where she could
draw or read until 8:20.

I would come back in her room at 8:20
put on her music,
(again, You are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell)
and, now this is big,
give her a back massage.
The girl loves massage.

These simple, soothing steps
have made a world of difference.
She is asleep by 8:45pm
every single night.
She sleeps soundly all night through.
I open her door each morning at 7:30am
so she can awaken with the light from the kitchen
and the sound of Mom and Dad talking.

She awakens with a smile and the whole day
is better for this renewed sleep/wake schedule.
And Mommy is much happier
when she sleeps through the night too.

Schedule, routine, rhythm.
Like the ticking of a clock.
From sunrise to sunset.
And on it goes...

(all pictures google images)

Monday, January 16, 2012


How could this be?
Was she not, just last week a little baby?
Or does it just seem that they grow up so fast?

She had all of her cousins sleep over the night before.
Such good girls, the lot of them.
Athena awoke to what must surely be her best gift.
Snow, from Mother Nature.
(too bad she saw fit to drop off -30C temps with it)

Still, we drove through huge snow drifts
and blowing snow to go Chickadee pishing with
the girls. It was really cold but the girls
were thrilled with it.
I am so glad I could share this with my granddaughters!

We continued from Pike Lake on to Saskatoon
for a swimming party at the Y.
Not one of the pool pictures turned out.
The kids ate cake and opened gifts.

Clearly it was a good time!
Alex and Eric, her friends from next door.

Alex is her best friend.
Unfortunately we found out that day
that he is moving to an acreage just outside of town.
Of course she did not find out.
I'll tell her as late as possible.
They are not going until late spring.

And after we got back home and all the kids had gone
we had her specially pre-ordered dinner.
Beef tenderloin, plain rice and steamed broccoli with butter.
Athena says:
"Don't worry, that is NOT wine.
It is cranberry juice.
I am not old enough to drink wine."
Just so you know.

Happy Birth Day my girl!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend Rhythm

Its the weekend again. The weeks seem to fly by these days. Our weather has been so warm. Plus 3C today. Unseasonably warm. Even though we lament the lack of snow, we are not big fans of freezing to death!

I wrote about our daily rhythms. How our Monday to Thursday days unfold but we have weekly rhythms too. These steady days make our home run smoothly and the atmosphere or our home is peaceful, for the most part.

Our week looks like this: (schooling not included which is Monday to Thursday)

Monday:: laundry, menu planning, Paul picks up some groceries when he is in the city.
Tuesday:: ironing, baking (not every Tuesday but when the mood strikes)
Wednesday:: clean that closet, pantry, fridge, back porch day. Whatever needs attention
Thursday:: ballet
Friday:: change beds, laundry again (I hate full laundry baskets) dust, vac, clean bathrooms.
               library day (our town has once a week delivery) and sometimes we go to the city  
               and out for lunch.

Saturday:: we often go to the city if we didn't go the day before. If the highways are bad
                    we stay home.

Sunday:: Outside day. Hiking, snowshoeing, walking the golf course. We have a big dinner
                 and Paul will build a fire in the fireplace.

Many days, Paul is away overnight for work. He has meetings in the evening several times a month for the Fire Department and also for First Responders.
Its a good rhythm and works well for us.

There are a few things I would like to add to this weekly schedule. One is baking our bread. I would love to add this to the week. Plus bread ain't cheap and I love bread.  I would also like to make dessert on Sundays. Good yummy desserts. I am not a sweets person but I would like to do this for my people! Another is to walk every day. Every day. Athena is more of an ambler but if I start out slowly with her, perhaps she will be able to keep up.
I would also like to incorporate some art time, for ME! I always get stuck at the part "what should I make?" I'll have to think a bit about this one.

This weekend will be a little more exciting!!
Athena will be 8 years old on Sunday. She is having her very first birthday party too. She has never wanted one before, preferring to avoid noisy children. This year she planned her own party. Her cousins and the two little boys from next door will be joining her at the YMCA for a pool party. You can close your eyes and imagine her singing YMCA and doing the arm actions each time she thinks about it.
She asked for a white cake with red flowers on it. Yup, Safeway took care of that one.
Should be a fun time. I'll let you know how it went.

** I don't know what is up with the formatting but I couldn't figure out how to fix it.
(all photos from google images)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Life is full of rhythm.
The rhythm of the day...
dawn until dusk,
day to night.
Light to dark.

We have our personal daily rhythms.
We all have them.
Some of us depend on them.
I count myself one.

Each morning I get up before my little one does, preferably by 6am but it is more like 6:30 in these dark wintry days.
Often I get up before my big one does too.
These days always start me in the right direction.
Each morning is the same. Weekday morning that is.

:: go to the bathroom and prepare for the day
:: come downstairs, turn on the computer, start the coffee, get the newspaper
:: check emails, weather forecast, Facebook, blogs.
:: read the paper and drink my coffee.

Every day the same thing.
There is comfort in that for me.
( I found out the hard way this morning when Athena
woke up the same time as I did and talked, talked, talked
through that precious hour I usually have alone.)

Around 7:45 Athena usually comes down. She awakens closer to 7:0 but "plays in bed"  most days.
She, too, has her own rhythm. She is not ready for breakfast for a half hour.
By then Paul has had coffee, read the paper and had breakfast. He heads down to his office at 8am sharp.
I feed Athena breakfast and I eat two pieces of toast with butter. Some days I have yogurt.
I make beds, clean the kitchen and talk with my oldest daughter on the phone for a bit.
Same thing every day.

We start our school day at 9:30. We go until noon. Always math first. It is her favorite.
Today was rounding up and down to the nearest ten or hundred.
We move on to Language Arts. Spelling, grammar, writing.
Exploding Codes, First Language Lessons, Writing With Ease, Spelling Workout.
(more on this later)
We do either Science or History.
(Not a fan of making lunch, nor eating lunch)
After lunch (Daddy sneaks in a nap if he is able) I tend to whatever home keeping is on the go. Check emails and such and then pick up my knitting for a few minutes. She reads aloud to me for a half hour. I read aloud to her for a half hour.
Athena plays modelling clay or magnets or blocks.

2pm is Mommy time. I set Athena up with something that will occupy her for a while. Lately it has been Sparkle Stories. Other times it is Animal Jam on the computer. I get her water filled up and off I go.
My yoga time. 75 minutes each day. My refuelling. My bliss.
Even my yoga has a rhythm. I do the same series of asana on one day and switch it up the next. I come out of that room refreshed, renewed and ready for the rest of the day.

We usually go outside then. She to play and I to feed the birds, sweep up shells. We often walk around the golf course. She plays with one of two children a few times a week at this time. Alex or Erica. Thursday she goes to ballet. I go inside to prep for supper, she stays out and plays.

5pm Paul either comes up from downstairs or back home from his travels. I pour myself a glass of wine. Athena watches Wild Kratts on TV. It is where she learns all of her animal facts and boy does she know animal facts. Paul and I catch up on our days.
6pm we eat dinner.
7:30 Athena is in the bath.
8:00 She is in bed. She will draw or read for a bit and then I have been in the habit of giving her a back massage as she listens to her CD. You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell.
Every night the same. 8:30 lights out.

I come back down to visit with Paul for a while. He grinds the coffee beans and sets up the coffee maker for the next day. Then he goes down to watch TV. American Pickers or Pawn Stars or Antique Roadshow. (lucky me, no sports EVER). I read a book or a magazine or knit. At 9:30 I take my Cal/Mag,  have a shower, put lavender essential oil on my pulse points. At 10pm I am in bed. Some nights sooner.

I go to my room, sit on the edge of my bed and put foot butter on my feet. I lie in reclined cobbler for several minutes and stretch out into Savasana and drift off to sleep.

This is the rhythm of my day. It is nearly always the same. Some would say it is a boring existence and by some standards in may well be. But I keep this rhythm close to me.
It is comfort and assurance and predictable. I am a Cancer girl so you know I like things to stay the same and I don't wander too far from home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pinning It Down

I love Pinterest. My daughter told me about it a while ago and I have been using it ever since. And now Sarah and her friend Pam are hosting a Tuesday link-up called Pinning it Down. The idea is to choose a project from Pinterest and actually DO it.

I have done quite a few of the projects I have pinned and have plans to do a lot more of them in the near future. One that I did just today was ... get ready for it... put green onions in a jar so they'll re-grow. Real time consuming project. ;) I pinned it here via Debbie. It would be so great if this worked. We use a lot of green onion.

The real project that I want to get started on perhaps this evening is this pullover knit sweater. I love the neckline.  I bought the pattern PDF from Quince and Co. Only 6bucks!

I got this lovely yarn, organic cotton, from Knit Picks. The color is Golden Heather but the color is more beautiful than the picture shows.

Can you see the darker reddish highlights? No? I can hardly see them either but they are there. More of a burnt orange color. Let me assure you it is beautiful.

I sent Paul to the store in the city to pick up the needles. So handy. I just emailed the shop owner and she had these waiting behind the counter for him. That way I don't get distracted by the lovely yarns. Safer and much less expensive.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It Started Out With My Bed

This post idea started out with my bed. I am rather particular about my bed.I change the sheets every 4 days. (don't judge me) I love clean crisp sheets. Each morning I let the bed air for about an hour or sobefore I make it. I spray it with lavender, straighten the sheets
and tuck the everything in.

Something has changed in 2012 though. After a long sleepless night cuddled up with a little gal who had a bad dream in her twin sized bed, I realized something. Something life changing. So profound. After 28.5 years sleeping with a man over 6 feet tall and struggling to keep my shoulders covered, I discovered the horrid feeling of having sheets tucked in at the bottom when your feet near the edge of the bed.

Of course he had to kick the sheets out of the neatly tucked in ends. He had no choice unless
he wanted to have permanently pointed ballerina toes for the rest of his life! And no wonder I had to constantly pull the blankets up to cover myself from the chill of the night air.

But no more. Since 2012 arrived I have stopped tucking in the sheets and blankets at the bottom. (gasp) And I love it. And I sleep better for not having to fiddle with blankets
all night long.

And as I changed my sheets for the second time this week, I got to thinking that my house is so simply "outfitted". Once a sister-in-law of mine came over for the first time and after looking around asked "Where's your stuff?" And truth be told, I don't really like stuff. I don't like clutter and excess and things lying all over. My husband, on the other hand, really likes stuff. You'll note in the upcoming photos that I did NOT take pictures of the garage or most of the basement as all of his "stuff" is there. Out of my sight but not out of my mind.
Moving on...

Friday is housework day around here. I change beds, wash sheets and clean all thre bathrooms, dust and vacuum the whole place. This way I have the weekend free for whatever I want to do. (We don't homeschool on fridays) So before I did my cleaning, and yes I should have waited until after I cleaned, I took pictures for a little tour of my home.

Athena's room. A Daddy made platform for the mattress, just like in our room. The best sheets I can afford, warm blankets and as spare blanket just in case. Her reading body pillow, a shelf with favorite books, her music a bulletin board and a reading lamp. Nothing on the walls. A haven for restful sleep. She does have a glowing moon above her closet that she uses for a night light. It goes through the moon phases on one particular setting but she sets it to full each night.

My yoga studio, which I have shown you before. But look at that thrifted basket. $10. Love it.

My little altar. I found those river rocks and after years of setting them one on top of the other I finally had the idea to hot glue them together. Brilliant.

And the stick on words I ordered for the wall. Life lesson really.

And my bathroom. Paul uses the bath and shower off of the master. Athena and I share this one. And really, who on earth takes pictures of their bathrooms before cleaning day???
In this bathroom you will find soap and shampoo bar made by Renee and more essential oils and body bars by Rachel.

My living room, or front room. We switched couch and loveseats with my daughter. The fit was much better for both of us. Those antique leather topped tables belonged to my Grandparents. They are still in such good shape.

In the other corner of the room is the chaise lounge where Athena and I spend a lot of time reading aloud to each other. My laptop is stowed not so neatly underneath it.

And right across from it are the bulk of Athena's toys. Lego, wood blocks, animals, games, magnets. Open ended toys. Her Lincoln Logs and farm with horses are downstairs.

The kitchen/dining room. I know, HUGE. One of the main selling features of this house.

My desk, where I am sitting right now. My computer is there. Cook books and home management stuff are stored above.

And in the far corner of the dining room, the ever present modelling clay table, painted the same color as the walls. The girl spend hours here ever day creating her stories. Each night at bath time we have to use the nail file to clean out under her nails.

And now to the third level. ( We have a four level split. Bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. Living room and kitchen on the main.) Our classroom. A common table for work. Book case, my desk, chalk board. You know, the usual suspects. In this room on the bulletin board you will find a print by Heather and another in a place not seen in the picture. On my desk you will find some postcards made by Dawn. On the shelves you will also find a book or two by Amanda. Yes I believe in supporting friends.

The other side of this level has the tv watching room with the fish tank and behind it another bathroom.

And the most teeny tiny laundry room one has ever seen. Those cupboard above the laundry pair were taken down from above the peninsula in the kitchen. Very functional.

And the fourth level houses all of Paul's junk, the mechanical room a storage room and his office. He spends several days a week down here. He built this whole thing himself, walls, cupboards and ceiling. The rest of the week he travels to and fro.

And Dawn, if you are reading this, I took this picture for you! This is where Derek's bike trainer should be. In the basement! ;)

I am very lucky to live in a place like this. Our best house ever! We have lived here almost 6 years and it would be hard to beat a place like this. It is very very big and very very functional. Perfect for a family who is home more days than not. And the perfect house for us.