Sunday, May 31, 2009

Well, that was an interesting day.

I was out this morning in shirtsleeves doing a little yard work. It was cool, but not remarkably so, sunny, but not hot. Then, this afternoon we were just headed out the door to do some errands when this started:

I'd never seen hail like this. I've seen bigger hail, but nothing prolonged like this was. It continued for a good ten minutes. I had to brave the hailstones and rescue some new sprouts I had in pots.

Crazy. I had planned to go kayaking after lunch. Instead, I decided to go out with the rest of the family to pick up a few things we'll need this week. I'm glad I did. I'd hate to have been caught out on the river in this!


Bits of Independence

As we forge on into the adolescent years, I am keeping my eyes open for ways in which The Boy and The Girl can try out their growing independence. It's very easy, really, as they both let me know when they're ready for something more.

The latest adventure is leaving them at home for short periods of time. Years ago, I thought it would be difficult and anxiety provoking. Silly me! I make sure they're fed and generally happy and they take care of the rest. When I'm out and the kids are at home, I feel fine. I'm relaxed. I'm focused on the activity at hand (usually groceries) and I go about my business without hardly giving a thought to the kids.

For years the kids have been 'practicing' their independence around the house with decreasing supervision. The Girl gets a lot of satisfaction out of making herself breakfast every day. I quit snack duty years ago and the kids now forage for themselves. They direct their own hobbies and interests, they're responsible for certain household tasks and they are making good progress in learning things that have been my job in the past. They are responsible to keep their rooms as they like them, to pick out their own clothes when shopping and for deciding how to spend most of their time.

Leaving them at home seemed like a natural and logical step. If I was at all anxious about it, I wouldn't do it. I know I've been long enough on my errands when that 'funny feeling' starts. Years ago when I read Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker, I was happy to read about trusting your intuition. For a long time, I'd been doing things that set off warning bells within myself. Since then, I have been much more confident in listening to my intuition - particularly my 'parenting radar'. When it goes off, I come home or call home.

I'm so glad that this is working out - for the kids' sake, not mine. I'm glad I'm able to help them feel grown up and mature and responsible. It's exciting to help them foster the independence that will be so important to them in the coming years. And I love how when I come home, I usually find this:

A couple of happy kids reading aloud to each other while their parents were at the mall.


The Boy Finds Something To Do

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This is The Boy 'finding something to do'. He 'decided to do chemistry, Mom, because I like to blow stuff up.' I'm not worried. I think. I need new baking powder. And new lemon juice. Hmm. Seeing the grin on his face now in these pictures, I may be somewhat worried. He has the same look when talking about the grappling hook he wants for his birthday...


Meaningful Work

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Most recently, I thought I'd try knitting socks. I have the coolest sock knitting book that has been collecting dust for two years. It tells you how to get a good custom fit taking all things into consideration (gauge, yarn weight, foot size, needle size) and setting it out for you in a chart to follow. I collected my supplies and began with an acrylic yarn. This was to be my 'practice sock'. If it fit when it was done, then I would allow myself to graduate to a lovely red wool I have stashed away.

This is really not the way to do things! No wonder I'm not feeling motivated. So, I saved myself from my misery and bought a lovely skein of bamboo that would make a soft and wearable pair of 'first socks'. I've frogged the practice piece and set myself up with the new yarn. I don't know what I was thinking.

As the child becomes absorbed in meaningful work that he chooses himself and which thus meets his needs, he works with continued concentration and inner satisfaction.~Montessori


A New Project

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A new project is in the works. After much searching, I was able to find some paper I like. I have an album on hand. Next, I will need to get some pictures together. If all goes well, I'll have a picture album ready for The Boy Child's 10th birthday which is quickly approaching.


Doors Open Ontario 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For three years, I've been meaning to get out of the house on a particular Saturday morning to take part in Doors Open Ontario. It's like a Free Field Trip day to all the interesting, historic places in the community. How educational is that?! Finally, today, we were able to take part.

I was up early and, of all the ways to spend my time, I chose to spend it in the driveway with my kayak. I practiced loading it and unloading it from the car by myself, much to my neighbour's amusement. I think I have a system worked out.

Once everyone was ready to go, we packed up (I even had juice boxes for the kids!) and headed out. I made our first stop the local plant sale where I bought a Bleeding Heart plant. No worries, I paid extra for a well established plant. I should be able to keep it alive if I don't play with it too much.

Our first Doors Open Ontario stop was a local mansion, built at the turn of the last century. No pictures allowed, so we won't talk about all the wonderful treasure and history that's going on on the inside. We all remarked on the enthusiastic and over-vigilant guides, though. We agreed that they are there, really, to ensure that no pictures are taken and that noone sits on the furniture.

After our first tour, I scrapped our next two planned tours in favour of an outdoor walk. The local sidewalk sale was in full swing and the weather could not have been better. Here, the kids were able to love on the police dog - a rare occurrence.

I was reminded of how wonderful our market is, even though we only did a fast pass-by. I want to make a better effort to get there more often. I was also reminded of how sparse downtown is getting. It's too bad, really, as downtown is such a beautiful and (relatively) historic area. I wish there was more down there to anchor a shopping population.

At lunchtime, we were headed home to BBQ. A nice morning all around. Next year, I look forward to hitting a few more sites. However, for those who know me, you will be suitably impressed at my ready-by-10-on-a-Saturday-morning excursion.


2 Weeks Left...Maybe

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mini marshmallows are essential to understanding exponents.

This week I felt busy. We didn't accomplish a lot of school work, but my wheels sure were spinning.

We're coming to the end of our planned book work. I'm trying to strike a balance - I don't want to get all stressed out over sticking to The Schedule, yet I don't want to have the rest of our work hanging over our heads come the middle of July, either.

For a couple of weeks now - since the nice weather has hit - I haven't been keeping to our planned schedule. We've keeping up with much of it, but many things have been calling us away from the table.

We have about two weeks left if we buckle down and get to it. (That would be mostly my responsibility.) Grant me patience while I deal with the surprised looks, the rolling eyes and the disappointed sighs when I foist a full days' work on the recreating, tanned, comic drawing, playing-with-Playmobil, Lego-designing Children.

...on second thought...maybe we'll just see how it goes...


Scholastic Book Sale

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My relationship with Scholastic Books goes way, way back. I think my favourite part of going to school was the Scholastic Book Order.

When the kids were at Montessori, I was re-introduced to those little newsprint flyers that would be sent home every month. I was a regular supporter of the book order. Through my contribution alone, I think the teacher earned a bookshelf worth of free books. Those early days of obsessive book-collecting should have been my first clue that I was destined to be a homeschooler!

Once I became a board member at Montessori, I took on the responsibility for the two classroom's Scholastic accounts. I handed out monthly flyers. I got to open the book boxes when they arrived. I got to sort and send home all those new, shiny books. I got to fiddle with the order paperwork in order to earn the teachers the maximum amount of Book Bucks which they could use to order classroom supplies. I even got to organize a Book Fair, which isn't hard at all. A big truck comes by and drops off everything you need. All I had to do was park a rolling bookcase, fill in some posters with the date and ta-da!! I had a successful book sale. Still, I was pretty excited. As a board-member/Scholastic account manager, I even got to attend a super-secret 50%-off Scholastic Warehouse Sale. My bookshelves have never been the same.

Once I began homeschooling, I found I really missed the monthly supply of new books. I didn't really order a lot, but those monthly $1.99 specials, for birthday gifts and holidays, for reference books, Scholastic sure had been handy. I looked into getting my own account.

Homeschoolers have some hoops to jump through in order to be able to participate in the Scholastic Book Clubs. Once I finally took the plunge and did so, I was disappointed to discover that Scholastic can't mail single copies of their monthly flyers. They come in chunks of 30. I received 30 flyers for the Grade 1-3 Book Club, 30 flyers for the Grade 4-6 Book Club and 30 flyers for the Special Order Book Club. I also received two teacher catalogues. A bit much, me thinks, especially if I wasn't ordering anything that month.

I decided I could peruse the monthly selections via Internet. Another frustrating venture. It takes sooooo looonnnggggg for the .pdf of the monthly flyer to load. Scrolling becomes a torturous nightmare as each page has to reload again and again. At this point, Scholastic went on the back burner for me. Too much frustration made me want to ignore it completely. Every now and then, I'd revisit the website but I wasn't motivated to find a way around my frustrations.

Today our French Tutor called. She'd just been to the Scholastic Sale. What is a Scholastic Sale, you ask? The Scholastic Warehouse Sale is a wonderful invention for book loving people. Twice a year, the Scholastic Warehouse has this giant sale where everything they stock is 50% off. I'm sure the purpose is to clear out the stock to make way for new stock. But whatever the reason, it's a Very Awesome Event.

The annoying thing about Scholastic Warehouse Sales is that invitations are not usually forthcoming. It seems that school teachers get invited, but not everyone with a Scholastic account. In our community, some of the public school teachers make a Special Secret Spy Club out of their Warehouse Sale 'privileges'. Annoying, really, as anyone can walk in and shop for books if they know about the sale. There are no bouncers checking I.D., no printed invitations to hand out, no retina scans to get in. So those little comments about 'The Sale' that you hear are just popularity posturing. A whispered "Have you been to The Sale?" will rally all public school teachers within a soccer pitch sized area and turn them in to a bunch of clucking hens showing off their feathers.

So, in light of this Very Awesome Event and due to my party-crashing nature and because buying cheap books is always a good time, when I got off the phone with the French Tutor, I rallied my resources (wallet, keys, responsible parent person to assume child supervision responsibilities) and I sped down the road to the warehouse. I had one hour to scour racks and racks of books. I limited myself to mostly resource material for the School Shelf. When all was said and done, I brought home $86 worth of books for just $41. Not a bad deal.

I should really get over myself and get a Scholastic Book Club arranged for our local homeschooling group. Then I could justify the copious mailings while enjoying the joys of new books. I will meditate upon the practicalities of the situation. In the meantime, I will enjoy my small haul of books.


Silver Birch Book Club 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We've just wrapped up our annual Spring book club. This year was especially exciting as there is a new children's librarian at our local public library.

New books, new games, new activities, new friends.

Things started off with the creation of getting-to-know-you posters. A quick photo and five things about yourself. I was quite amused by the 5 things the kids chose. Each week, leaves were added. One leaf per book read. I like how the librarian kept things independent and personal for each of the kids. There was no competition to see who had read the most books. Whatever you read was great. Each meeting would begin with logging books, adding leaves to posters, picking new books to read. Then there was some discussion about one of the featured Canadian authors. Meetings finished with games and snacks. There were no wimpy 'little-kid' games either. I was surprised to hear the kids played Crab-Walk Soccer and life-sized board games where their bodies were the pieces that moved around the carpet-square game board. Fun times.

The Boy Child's Getting-To-Know-You Poster
'I HATE math-I like penguins-I like music-I love Lego-I LOVE hockey'

At the last meeting, the kids were treated to a surprise pizza party. They carefully selected their favourite book from different categories and they entered the official votes of their choices. They came home with a thank you card, thoughtfully personalized, thanking each of them for participating and mentioning an appreciated contribution noticed by the librarian. A group photo was included.

The Girl Child's Getting-To-Know-You Poster
'I like to draw-I like being with my friends-I like reading-My fav animals are pandas-I like playing soccer'

I'm so glad I"m able to offer the kids these opportunities. They learn so much while enjoying themselves. They are respected and appreciated. They feel like they are contributing to and participating in a worthwhile endeavour and not just wasting time at some pre-fab put-your-time-in babysitting service.
Both the Boy Child and the Girl Child are looking forward to participating in the librarian's next planned program. Up next will be the Spy/Secret Mission themed summer programs, usually sponsored by the TD Bank.

In the meantime, the kids are planning a thoughtful thank-you for the librarian since they so enjoyed the Silver Birch Book Club. I can't wait to see what they come up with.


Organizing Our Homeschool - Motivation

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If you asked me what kind of homeschooler I was, or which homeshcooling philosophy I most identified with, up until last summer I would have answered "Relaxed Eclectic with Unschoolish Tendencies".

Then, last summer, we made some changes to our homeschool. Mr. B and I had some discussions and got on the same page about expectations, style, outcomes, methods and content. Armed with this new information, I went ahead and planned - really planned - our current homeschooling year.

I can't tell you how encouraging and motivating it's been to have Mr. B's input. I always thought I was one of those 'lucky' homeschooling moms whose husband didn't really care what I did with the kids, as long as I was doing something. As it turns out, with Mr. B's input and opinion on hand, I feel more confident making homeschooling decisions for our kids. I feel more direction and structure within myself - which is very helpful when it comes to planning and organizing our homeschool.

(The secondary benefit is that now I'm feeling very prepared with answers to those age-old stereotypical homeschooling questions. The 'How do you know they're learning?" and "How do you know what to teach?" and "The government lets you do that?!" kind of questions.)

I think everyone's motivation to plan has to come from within themselves for their own special reason. Just because I got all excited when Mr. B and I ended up on the same page doesn't mean anyone else is. Maybe you're motivated to get something in place because your own Mr. B isn't on any homeschooling page. Maybe you're motivated to plan because you're a planner by nature. Maybe your homeschooler now has aspirations of greatness requiring some fairly specific prerequisites and those plans are what gets you moving. I know I'm feeling some anticipation to get into the new materials I have waiting for our next school year - maybe New Book Fever motivates you. Whatever it is, it's going to be personal for you.

So, what motivates you? Why do you want to plan out your school year? What's making you get your self organized?

Next up, my thoughts on curriculum, scope and sequence and building a framework to organize from.


Victoria Day At The Farm

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mr. B pulled taffy...twice. The first batch turned to hard candy...

...the second batch was a bit too soft.

The Skittish White Dog was happy to help. I need new baking sheets now.

While Mr. B pulled taffy, I made a cake to celebrate my dad's semi-retirement. He was amused.

After dinner, the kids helped find the new kittens. This one is black and blue-eyed...

And this one is grey, white and orange.
There are two others and if people would have quit crowding,
the lady with the camera might have been able to get a picture.


Pulling The Plug

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today I wimped out.

Today I got up looking forward to a nice, relaxing kayak with my Dad. Envision this: a quiet paddle in a local conservation area among the cattails and shallow water, watching out for geese and goslings and perhaps an osprey.

Today I went to the garage to pack up my boating things and discovered how cold it was. Long sleeves, a heavy hoodie and a windbreaker later, I was the picture of Canadian layering. I loaded the car.

We arrived at the muddy little parking lot and checked out the muddy little path that was the boat launch. More noticeable than the mud was the wind. The baby geese were paddling in to the West wind for all they were worth and they were doing a poor job of holding their positions. Even the waves weren't waves - more like the top 6 inches of water were just skidding East. Quickly. Forcefully.

That was when I wimped out. Dad and I drove back home and I made waffles. In my defence, I did leave the boat on the car (tie-downs loose and locked to the roof rack) in case the wind quit. But the wind never quit. So I didn't go out.

I had really wanted to go kayaking. But I pulled the plug on our adventure. I should have been happy with my decision. But it bothered me all day.

This evening, my Dad called. It seems he had returned home after waffles this morning and put his boat away. And there, sitting there waiting for him, were the plugs he had removed from his kayak the last time he unloaded. Had he put his kayak in the water this morning, he would have been very wet and mostly submerged very shortly after putting in.

Sometimes it's funny the way things just work out for the best.


Signs of Spring

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Cleats in the Hallway


Picky Eaters

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I've never been one of those 'Milestone Mom' people. I don't have the pencil marks on my doorway keeping track of my kids' growth. That's what well-kid check-ups are for. I don't have a baby book with dates when teeth were first gained and then lost and gained again. That's what the dentist is for.

I'm more of a camera person. So when a milestone sneaks up on me, I do try to snap a pic for posterity. After all, I'm sure when the kids grow up and have kids of their own, they'll want to know when they first slept though the night (age 9 for The Boy Child) or when they started reading (age 3 for The Girl Child) or when they got the Chicken Pox (Spring 2008, ages 8 and 10). They're gonna love the Chicken Pox pics I've got filed away.

Today we had another of those milestone surprises. Mr. B and I BBQ'd chicken burgers for dinner. Being the mean mom that I am, I didn't make an additional dinner for the children. They're not burger people. They're not really even ground beef people. They're kinda reluctant BBQ people, in fact. They are chicken nugget people. It occurred to me that if there was no other option, they might go for a chicken burger.

After a little anxiety inducing discussion they both understood that it was chicken burgers all around. They could eat the naked chicken breast and leave the bun, for all I cared. It's just chicken breast for goodness sake!

In the end, chicken burgers were added to the (very short) list of dinners that we all will eat. Much to my surprise, The Boy Child even ate the bun. It's a good thing I was sitting down. For the Boy, it's the chicken with ketchup, naked bun. For the Girl, lettuce, cheese, the chicken and the bun.

Please excuse the strange facial expressions in the pictures. After all, their mouths were full and they were laughing at their crazy mother who insisted on taking pictures of them eating.


The School Shelf - Spring 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here we have the Shelf. The Shelf has become an institution in our home. As we have made the transition to more structured, schoolish homeschoolers, I have come to rely on the Shelf more and more.

The most recent change has been to remove the clutter from the top of Shelf replacing it with a few household items. The aloe plant I have managed to keep alive since February. I figured it deserved a permanent place. I unpacked some pictures (which had been away since we had the floors done...a while ago). Much more homey.

This school year began with a Shelf Spa Day back in August. I assigned subject areas to different cubes, cleared out the excess stuff, planned out a term's worth of work and set up notebooks and binders. Without a while lot of additional attention, the set-up that was done has held up. The magic piece of the puzzle, me thinks, is the blue lidded bin I keep at the bottom left of the Shelf. I'll save the particulars of that for another day's blog. Although the stationary supplies need a good tidy up, we've made it through the school year with everything we need very close to our fingertips. I'm so impressed with myself, that I'm actually looking forward to planning and organizing our next school year.

In fact, I'm so looking forward to diving into new books and planning fresh work that it's all sitting there waiting in front of the shelf. The red shopping bag is full of next year's materials. I thought the additional clutter of a bag sitting there would bug me - but I look at it and I'm excited about getting next year set up.

Over on the other side of the room, I've added the small white shelf to control Shelf overflow. It fits very snugly there under our display boards. It looks especially tiny beside the tall table, but one doesn't complain about such things when they are working in such a small living space.

There's only a few more weeks of school work left. Officially, we're about to start Week #35 of 36 weeks. As the school year is wrapping up, we're relaxing a bit and we'll finish when we finish. The kids are happy with that arrangement as it leaves plenty of time for sleeping in, bike rides, soccer and playing with friends. My motivation to finish up has not waned, though. (I think the March conference really helped!) I'm excited to see what the Shelf will look like once the planning is done and we're ready for September 2009.


First Paddle

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

After puttering about the waterfront yesterday, I was all jazzed up to get out to enjoy a real paddle in my new 'yak.

Yes, I took the camera. I even stowed it in the handy-dandy day hatch - that little round hole in the deck that I can reach if I bend around backward in the seat. As it turns out, there wasn't really a great time to pull it out.

Home of the new kayak. Decorating rights and floor space not included.

My sister and I headed down to the river after dinner, about 6:30ish. Sister had been down to check out the water earlier in the day and she assured me it was 'calm'. I should have guessed otherwise when I saw the giant trio of kites in the distance as we drove. The clincher was all the sailboats out practicing their manoeuvers.

We put in anyway and fought the wind and waves upriver for a good half hour. I am happy to report that the few adjustments I had made to the seat and foot pedals made all the difference in the world. I was able to focus on getting a good paddle stroke - very important in making progress against the chop and wind.

Soon enough the wind died down. The sailboats went in to their docks and we had an easier time of making our way upriver. I figure we went about 3.5km before turning around. The paddle back was interesting. With the river that much calmer, Sister is able to go that much faster in her boat. So although there was less wind and wave resistance, I was forced to paddle at a very steady pace to keep up.

I decided to put the rudder down to see how it worked. Ok, really, I needed a bit of a break and was being lazy. But I was tired and I'm out of shape. I thought it would be tougher to keep a good position in the boat what with my feet using my foot pedals to steer. Not so. These designers really know what they're doing. So if you think it's weird that the pedals you use to keep yourself propped up in the seat are the very same ones that are used to direct your course, don't knock it until you try it. I played with the rudder all the way back to our starting point.

Checking the fit. There's a weather-safe hatch for little things and a cup holder in the seat. Sweet.

All in all, a good paddle. I was very happy. Happy about the boat; happy about being comfortable; happy to be on the river; happy that we braved the weather; happy that I could keep up with my sister (she gets to paddle with two long oars); happy that the kayak didn't fly off the car into traffic the first time I loaded it without Mr. B to help.

We loaded both boats back onto our respective vehicles without incident. We were fairly impressed that from dock to departure it only took us 10 minutes. Impressive for a pair of rookies without our men-folk to help.

I probably won't get out in the kayak again until the weekend. I will scope out a new spot - a giant pond - for my next outing. Instead of an invigorating paddle, it will be more along the lines of a 'nature hike' with plenty of opportunity for pictures.


Maiden Voyage

Monday, May 11, 2009

My long-awaited acquisition: Pelican Elite Strait 140 XE

Well, won't this be a whole new adventure?! Outfitted in a great boat - very nearly new - with a literal boatload of new gear, I put in for the first time. I had a little help from The Boy and The Girl, while The Husband manned the camera.

I really hope the skirt doesn't fly off while I fiddle with this stuff.

Besides the fact that I'm a complete rookie and could very easily get myself in over my head (literally), there are a great many new things to get used to: the new seat (very comfortable), the rudder/foot pedal system (needs adjusting), the splash skirt (takes two hands, two elbows, luck, planetary alignment and some teeth-gritting to get on), the PFD (not designed for kayaking and therefore a tad cumbersome and uncomfortable) and a gorgeous paddle (safely leashed to the deck rigging).

I have no clue what I"m doing, but it sure feels good!

Nothing adventurous for my maiden voyage. I knew the new kayak would be a bit 'tippier' than the shorter, recreational kayak I'd been paddling in recently. I hadn't counted on how smooth and easy it would paddle. There is very little resistance. I could very easily get used to this boat.
How cool is it that it's mine?!

Off I went along the shoreline while my entourage eventually headed off to the playground. The river was busy with late afternoon traffic. The rowers were out in their shells; crash boats alongside. Lots of people enjoying the waterfront. I think I like less of an audience. However, if I had watched myself getting in to the kayak, I would have been watching myself to see when I was going to flip it. Small Town entertainment at it's best.

Have I mentioned how much I love this river?!

After an hour, I decided I could really enjoy getting to know this boat. Some adjustments are needed, some technique is needed, but overall, I'm so happy I waited for this boat to come along. It's funny how you're often sent just the thing you need.

One successful maiden voyage down, a summer full of voyages ahead. Not unlike the new blog. First blog down, many more to go. I'm excited to see what directions this new blog will take. As the days pass, I'm sure the story of the new blog will be revealed. I'm looking forward to exploring new parts of the blogging world - hopefully with a few old friends.

Please let me know you've stopped in. My email's up there on the left.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stick Figure Family at FreeFlashToys.com


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