Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Preparing for 2009

I'm not big into New Year's Resolutions only because I'm not good at keeping them. It's not that I don't consider them but follow through is often difficult.

This year my focus is on home management and getting better organized. Here are some sites I've recently come across.

From Simple Mom here are Reflection Questions for 2008 to help prepare yourself for 2009.

Here's a good Master Checklist - again from Simple Mom. You can't make changes to it but you can at least get some ideas.

If you need a suggested booklist for 2009, here's one from Mt Hope Academy. I always like to see what others are reading - especially to their kids.

One thing I'm working on this weekend is a home management binder. Here are some ideas of things to include in it.

Some FREE do-it-yourself planners. Gotta love these.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Mickey!

Wow, How can you be 4 already! My little darling.

Mik (as Mason calls you), Mickey, Mickey Mouse, Mikhaila, Doodle Bug.....



Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Fantastic Christmas! Hope everyone had the same. Lots of Playmobil....which we LOVE! Mommy got a guitar. Find the earplugs! New oil paints for Mommy - yippee! Clothes for Daddy, and just so no one feels sorry for him, he loves getting clothes!

Hi to Heidi, Wayne, Jeremy, Toby and Miranda in Australia. Hope you guys have a fantastic New Year! Hi to Oma and Opa in Germany. We missed you this Christmas!

Health and happiness to everyone for 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tradition #3: Present Opening

I'm jumping the gun a little here but I'll back up in the next post! The first gift the kids open is Santa's. In the past we've always had this one out of the box and/or assembled. This year they will open this gift and while I'm getting breakfast ready they will do the assembly with Daddy! I've heard rumblings from some Elves that they're getting Playmobil! This way they can savour Santa's gift! When the present opening starts we open one present at a time. I divvy out a gift to each person and they get opened one at a time so that the present gets our full attention. We make sure that the kids know who the present if from since some are from special relatives who are out of the country. We try to take a photo as well to share with the missing relative or friend in a thank you card. By opening them one at a time this slows the process down. It's also a chance for the kids to see that it's not just about them but about everyone being appreciated on Christmas.

Last year we put some of Mickey's gifts away after Christmas because she got a fair bit between her birthday and Christmas. Throughout the year we pulled them out and she loved the idea of a new toy in the middle of the year. We may try to do this with both this year. We'll see what a sales job we can do!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tradition #2: Baking

Baking. Lots of Baking. We cannot have a Christmas without pressed shortbread cookies. You need a GOOD cookie press for these. A good one will cost approximately $50 (perhaps more). Lots of fun for the kids to decorate. Here's the recipe:

Mrs. Mac's Pressed Shortbread

1 lb butter - softened slightly
1 tbsp shortening
1 cup icing shortening
4 cups all purpose flour

Cream butter and shortening. Mix in icing sugar. Gradually add flour. Sometimes it's easier to mix with your fingers rather than a beater. Use a cookie press. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet after they've been decorated. Bake at 300 degrees F for 13-15 minutes.

Amy Butler Fabrics

I've been feverishly working on some Christmas gifts which I still can't show. I will however show a photo of some of the fabrics I've been using. I purchased them from ETSY and love them. They're Amy Butler fabrics and I'm in love. I just may take up sewing on a more regular basis! Yah, right!

Wooden Snowmen and Easy Christmas Tree

A easy craft that looks good too!
1) Cut square based blocks of wood in different sizes.

2) Drill holes 2/3 the way down on both sides (for the arms)

3) Prime and paint white.

4) Place a sock (kids size) on top. Knot end.

5) Take small branches and hot glue into the holes.

6) Tie a small piece of ribbon above the holes/arms.

7) Using hot glue, glue buttons down centre.

8) Glue on a nose (orange pipecleaner would work)

9) With a black felt tip marker, draw on the face.

1) Take a wooden skewer and place in square of plastercine

2) Cut out 6-8 concentric circles in green felt or bristol board.

3) Centre the circles on skewer and place them on from large to small (to form a tree).

4) Decorate!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tradition #1: Sentimental Ornaments

I'm a big believer in traditions. I think it gives kids security and something that can be passed down through the generations. I love our Christmas tree and all of it's ornaments. It is not a designer tree. The colours are not all coordinated and some ornaments are just downright gaudy. Every year, in the months leading up to Christmas we usually pick up 2 or 3 ornaments that represent a time in our year. It may be a trip, an activity, or a special memory. At least three quarters of our ornaments (and we have A LOT) have a memory. When we go to trim the tree our family talks about each ornament and the memory they represent. Eventually these ornaments will be divided up between the two kids and passed on to their families.

A bike to remember Heinrich's mountain bike outing with Humpy DOWN Blue Mountain. CRAAAAZY!

An ornament in memory of a very special student of mine and Mason's namesake.

Our trip to Nova Scotia in an RV.

This ornaments remind us of some of our favourite Jan Brett books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Design Challenge!

To celebrate the end of a difficult unit in our grade 8 science program at school I decided to offer my students a design challenge. They had to design a sail boat made only of paper products. They could bring the paper materials from home but if they didn't bring anything, then the only material I supplied was paper. For fasteners I supplied tape, glue sticks, hot glue sticks and staples. Paint was supplied for decoration only and I applied contact cement to each boat for waterproofing. The boat was required to have a sail and to travel 8 feet. It's dimension could not exceed 5" in width and 12" in length. They had 100 minutes to design and race the boat down a river made from an eavestrough. The students competed for the fastest, most attractive and the one that held the most load (loonies). They had a blast. Even the MID kids who find the regular requirements of the curriculum beyond their abilities, delved deep into their designs and many produced boats at home on their own and brought them in for the race.
We had some titanics, some that resembled paper airplanes on water, but overall the designs were great.

When I taught high school technology we were fortunate enough to have a pool in our school. I did a similar project with my grade 10 design & technology students but instead of making a model, they had to make a boat out of cardboard that they could fit into and paddle the length of the pool. Very fun project! Bathing suits required!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our girl, Emma

We've had our girl Emma since we were married. She'll be 11 in January. Can't believe it. She's a typical Rotti, or I should say, what a Rotti really is. She's sweet, loving, gentle, and incredibly loyal. She has always been MY dog. Heinrich is her playmate, as are the kids, but she's mine, all mine! She's never been much of a guard dog but has on occasion demonstrated some potential. Rotties have a terrible reputation but the fact of the matter is, they're really nothing like what the uninformed think of them. When Emma was younger we had to get our neighbour to come into the house to let her out when we were away for an extended amount of time. Karen came in and couldn't find her. Eventually she found her hiding under a desk in one of our bedrooms. Quite the guard dog!

So last night we were out with friends for dinner and we left the kids with a new sitter. A sweet fellow homeschooler who is 20 days away from her 12th birthday!! Anyhow, she was thrilled to have Emma keep her company. We imagined that Emma would be glued to her side until we got home. When we came home, Emma was laying between the front door and the hallway to the kid's bedrooms. She was in the precise location that would enable her to have one eye on the front window and door and one eye on the kid's rooms. I've always wondered if she would protect the kids and low and behold, I guess she would. Who needs a sitter when you have a Rott! She's awesome!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Crafting

We have been busy little elves over the last month. I've decided that we are going to make some of our gifts this year. This always turns out to be way more time consuming and costly that I had originally planned. But it's the thought that counts and I love thinking about each receiver and what suits them! We're working on lots of stuff but I'll only show a few photos because I don't want to give away any surprises. After the holidays I'll post more photos and instructions! Here are some photos of the glycerin soaps we've been working on. I don't have pictures of our "best" soaps because I gave them away before I had a chance to get some shots of them. Really easy project to do with young or old!

Winter Birds

A few weeks ago we had a great day with friends learning about what birds do in the winter. After a little discussion the kids crafted a 3D bird - feathers and all! I love them! I'm tempted to have the kids make some more after the holidays and have them hang them from the dining room window. Perhaps we'll try an owl!

Basically cut out two bird shapes. Paint and decorate one. When it's dry, put the two pieces together and glue along the top edge. Stuff with crumbled paper or cotton balls and then glue the rest of the unglued edges together. Hang with string or twine. Thanks Laura! Love the idea.

Blog Catch-Up!

Volcano building accompanied by a drawing of the interior of an active volcano and a Magic Tree House book about Pompeii. When we find time we'll talk more about active and dormant volcanoes and find their locations on our big floor mat.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Good link

Just wanted to have a photo here. I don't like having posts without a photo. This is one from some time ago!

Found a link to what looks like a fairly comprehensive book list.

Homeschooling Styles

At our last General Meeting we had 5 members form a panel and talk about their homeschooling practices following a particular style. Represented were; Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Waldorf, Curriculum Based and Eclectic. I think most people follow a combination of styles but it was nice to hear these speakers focus on one particular method. I took a few things away from this meeting:

1) Use more living books and try to cut out the "junk" books. Allow a few but limit them. I'm really noticing quality when it comes to finding early and advanced readers for Mason. The "junk" readers don't advance logically and use words which are inappropriate for the level.

2) Start a nature journal and get some good field guides. Utilize Handbook of Nature Study

3) Make outside/physical activity time a regular part of our day. We've gotten quite good at this but with winter approaching I want to make sure that we continue on!! It's too easy to hibernate!

4) Formal learning in the morning, field trips and extracurricular in the afternoon.

5) Being organized makes homeschooling easier.

6) Plan a character ed program. I've been wanting to do this for a while. Perhaps I'll choose 10 characteristics and we'll work on those.

7) Sources for copy work

8) Art is definitely a part of my program already but we're lacking in music this year. We'll incorporate a music study and appreciation on a monthly basis and aim to have music lessons in our schedule by next year.

9) Continue with my plan to start a Lifelong Project Timeline. It will not be in a book format as many of them are. Rather it will be accordion style so that it can easily fold out into a true line. I'll post more on this, hopefully in the near future!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zoo Diaries

So we've made good use of our Zoo membership. We've probably already been 5 times since we got it in May. I think that we will get a different membership every year and do it to death! I think by May we will have done all we can do at the zoo for now. In a few years we may be ready to revisit a membership. It was of course an awesome day to go yesterday. Weather was great and not a lot of people.

Yesterday each child made up their own zoo diary. We used a file folder and using templates I made up, put them into the folder to make a diary. On the template there's space for a photo, drawing, and blanks for animal name, food, habitat, classification, country of origin and description of what the animal was doing when we visited. My intention was for each child to choose 5 different animals to study for the day, giving us a total of 10 that we would learn about on this visit. So we plunked ourselves down on the boardwalk overlooking the tigers. When we started we were essentially alone although there were a couple of pacing tigers below!! The kids got right into their animal study. Mickey was writing and drawing about orangutans while Mason was drawing a detailed drawing of the tiger. Before we knew it, we had a bit of a gathering around us! It was nice to hear positive comments about what the kids were doing.

Today the kids finished off their write-ups. We needed to look up more information about some of the animals they chose. Of course the conversation took off and we got into a variety of topics including; endangered species, habitats, kingdoms, classification, vertibrates/invertibrates, animals without a face, etc...!! Next week we will graph weights and lengths of various animals using both horizontal and vertical bar graphs. I'm hoping that this will reinforce that a reticulating snake can indeed be longer than our truck! This was a tricky thought.

We also tackled place value today. With my schedule I have to put thought into what resources/manipulatives I'm going to buy and what I'm going to make. So anyhow, I caved and bought a place value chart for $14. It was worth every penny. I could so easily have bought straws and made the number cards but it would have taken valuable time away! Anyhow, the kids got the concept fairly quickly and it really helped to cement their understanding of numeracy and the values 1 to 100. We will of course constantly revisit this!

Our day also included a play date with a neighbour we recently discovered who also homeschools and a treasure hunt for sight words.

Tonight Mason and I are being Invested at Beavers. Stay tuned! My leader name is Tic Tac!! I'm sure it could have been worse!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You MUST meet this family!

I had never heard of the blog the Nie Nie Dialogues until I stumbled across it in September through another blog site. Stephanie, the writer of this blog and her husband Christian were in a horrific plane crash in August. Christian suffered burns to 30% of his body and Stephanie to 80% of her body.

It's my understanding that since the crash it's become very clear how loved her blog was and as a result her and her family have been receiving tremendous support. On CJane her sister Jane blogs about her own life but since the accident has been using much of her blog space to write about Christian and Stephanie's recovery and about how their family (incl. Stephanie & Christian's four children) are doing.

I love both blogs because these people are just so real and so committed to each other. It's raw and very real but the love they have for each other is truly inspiring. If you have time to check both blogs out, go back to at least July and read forward. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween

On Tuesday we had a small Halloween party here with some friends. We read stories and dressed the kids up as Mummies. Heinrich came home to a huge bag full of toilet paper!! We made Halloween themed chocolate suckers and did some Halloween themed work sheets. Kerry had a neat idea of punching butterfly clips into pumpkins (using a overlay picture) and then painting the round tops with glo-in-the-dark paint. Lots of fun.

Mason was a friendly dragon this year and Mickey was a butterfly. The cars I made for them last year wore me out so I've decided to make their costumes every other year!! Trick or treating is always lots of fun. We went out for an hour and a quarter. Heinrich and I like meeting up with the neighbours. It's especially neat for me since I grew up in the neighbourhood. It brings back many found memories of visiting the same homes and families.

Learning to swing

It never ceases to amaze me how one day a child is just not getting it and then all of sudden they are. Sometimes without even practicing. It's as though a switch is turned on in their body and/or brain! All summer long I've been pushing both kids on the swings until my arms (and my boredom) couldn't take any more. No matter how much teaching I did, it didn't seem to matter. FINALLY one day in September I was busy in the house and I looked out and there was Mason, proud as punch, pumping his legs away on the swing. It kept him busy for quite a while!

Now our little Mickey could not take being left on the sidelines and having to depend on Mommy and Daddy for a push. She didn't complain but a few days later, same situation, I looked out the window and there she was pumping away, going higher than her brother!


I hated having curly hair but I have to admit I love MIckey's curls. I just want to play with them all the time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I Know For Sure

In this month's issue of O Magazine, Oprah posed the question, "What do you know for sure?". It wasn't as easy as I thought. I tried to come up with twenty things but only made it to nine. I need to work on this!

These are the things I know for sure....
- trust your instincts but be prepared to be surprised
- making an effort to smile and laugh will make you happier
- EVERYTHING (incl. death) happens for a reason
- stop wasting time on people who don't care or make an effort because life's too short
- lead your children by example
- if everyone would talk about their feelings the world word be a happier place
- learn from death
- embrace your passions
- travel outside your comfort zone
- you can LOVE someone but not LIKE them

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What a great week!

So we finally have our basement reno 95% done. It is so nice to have the extra space and I am so enjoying having a workspace for the kids where we can keep all of our learning supplies without my feeling like they have taken over the house!

Tuesday was a very enjoyable day. After gymnastics we did some odds and ends and then headed up to Kerry's to make some collages with some other friends. Kerry had examples that her mom (an artist) had done in University and they were fabulous. I think the examples really inspired the kids to create. I was amazed at how focused they were. They really got into it and put a lot of thought into the textures that they were using. My guys loved seeing the finished effect of them being spray painted white. Of course highlights of the afternoon were playing outside in the playhouse and on the play structure. It was a gorgeous day out.

So Wednesday was one of those learning days that didn't go as well as I had hoped. Mason was not eager to work on his reading lesson. It was a real struggle so we gave up and moved on to math which went very well. He is one of the few kids I know that learns better later in the day. This is not my preference! After some reading and math we went to the Doctor where Mickey got her stitches out and it went relatively well. We then rushed to the library to pick up a stack of books waiting for me. Lunch was eaten somewhere along the way and then we were off to swimming lessons. Having the hour long lesson is making a big difference. I'm loving the homeschool swimming lessons. What happened after swimming is a bit of a blur but I do know there was a lot of time spent on marking Gr. 8 Science assignments.

Today was a fantastic day for learning. I have no idea what was different but I wish every day looked like today. We started the day with some art which the kids LOVED. In their sketchbooks they worked on the first lesson in "Drawing with Children". Mason's (fine motor) hand eye coordination is really quite remarkable. I really must help him develop this further. We then played the game "TENS", or at least Mason and I did. Mickey just used the triangles to make up new shapes. We then created underwater paintings with oil pastels and water colours. They had so much fun with this. Next I was on a mission. I had discovered yesterday when looking at the homeschool address book that another member lives in our neighbourhood, so off we went for a walk to scope them out!! So when I came to the house that had 3 teenage girls with a mom and dad in the driveway and some sort of catapult device shooting off water balloons down their very long and hilly driveway, I knew that we had found them. We went up and introduced ourselves and made promises to get together soon. When we got back Mason had his much needed play time with Mickey and then we went back to our learning. He took off with his reading. I know people are skeptical about the book, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" but it has been AMAZING for him. He did super today and to really raise his confidence we went back to some early Bob books and he just breezed through them. He was giddy! This did wonders for them. Then we moved on to his word box and worked through at least 50 words and put them into three piles - easy, hard and somewhere in between. This process really motivated him. Great, great day!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Visit to the ER

Well I wouldn't have predicted that Mickey would be the first to get stitches but so be it! 10 minutes before bedtime last night she slid on the new floor downstairs and clocked her head on the (Ikea!) wooden step stool. She is always one to pick herself up, dust off, and keep going but when I saw her face I knew this time it was different. She had a nice laceration at the side of her eye. If Heinrich hadn't been home I probably wouldn't have taken her to the hospital because I thought they'd laugh at me!! Once the initial shock was over she was fine and was ordering me around with requests of what to bring with us! Mason was fantastic and didn't fuss a bit over all the blood. He even made sure she didn't get blood on Ruffy. My little clean freak!

So we got to the hospital and had to wait 45 minutes just to be triaged. I knew this was a bad sign. The nurse (a childhood friend) said that she definitely needed the glue or stitches, so the wait began. She kept herself busy with Dora books (of course), colouring and by entertaining the waiting room with Ruffy and his blanket! Three and a half hours in we finally were given a room where I finally convinced her to sleep (it was now 11:30 and she usually goes to sleep at 7 am). We sat there for another hour and a half before a physician's assistant came in. He was awesome. Ontario is getting 40 more. Yippee! Anyhow, he tried to give her a topical freezing (while she was asleep but it didn't take). I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to watch but didn't want to leave her at the same time. We decided to wake her and she was NOT happy!! He thought that they were going to have to do a bunny hold on her so off he went to get the nurse. While he was gone I managed to convince her to settle down enough for the procedure to be done. The bunny hold can be very tramatizing. The nurse held her head while I kept her hands still. She's strong!! Unfortunatel he had to give her freezing by needle and that was quite unpleasant. It was so close to the eye that we were all a little nervous and she could see everything. She was great. The promise of tim bits for breakfast helped a little too! So three stitches later we went home at 1:30 am. We're exhausted!!

Fun With Friends in Mono!