Sunday, January 31, 2010

Death, Dying, and Heaven

For the last six months or so one of our kids has been asking a lot of questions about death, dying, and heaven. This all came about during conversations about my Dad who passed away when I was 21. To be honest, we haven't talked much about Heinrich's mom yet because of the questions that could come up. Cancer is a tricky one to explain. It's important to us to talked about our loved ones but it's also very difficult to explain illness, death and heaven. The questions often get asked when we least expect it and lately there's been worry and concern. Of course the questions are not easy ones to answer and often lead to more questions. The conversation can go on and on. It's a fine line between telling the truth and scaring the child. If you haven't had this discussion with your child yet I'll share some of the questions that were asked. Perhaps it will give you enough of a heads up to prepare yourself with your answers for when your child is ready to ask them.

1) Why did Grandpa's heart stop.

2) If we eat well and exercise will we live forever. Will the dogs live forever?

3) Do teenagers die?

4) Do children die? Babies?

5) What does Heaven look like?

6) Can I go there?

7) How do we get to Heaven?

8) Will we know when we're going?

9) Who will we see in Heaven?

10) How do people die (be prepared to explain that there are many kinds of sick)?

There have been so many more but that's all I can think of for now. We did really enjoy the book "What is Heaven Like" by Beverly Lewis. We are going to start working on a detailed family tree soon and I'm sure that these discussions will come up again. I'm happy with how I dealt with the questions and concerns and feel that I've reassured my child until the next question comes up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I'm Reading

I just finished a Design Your Own Learning Plan with my students at school. I try different ways of bringing homeschooling or differentiated learning into the classroom. This was a new invention for me. My colleague and I gave the students 5 or 6 culminating tasks that they could choose from in each of our subjects (oral communication, reading, writing, measurement and numeration) and they could decide when they would work on them. The assignments we offered usually included all learning styles. Students also had the opportunity to come up with their own assignment/project as long as it demonstrated the required expectations (eg/ surface area and volume of a cylinder). They had 2 weeks to complete their goals. The students loved the freedom and choice and it gave us, the teachers, time to work one-on-one with individuals and let those students who soar independently, do so.

Now we're moving on to Literature Circles. I was told by many colleagues to avoid them but I'm trying them out anyway. We've selected 5 books and the students have to choose one. Each week they have required reading and a role to play in the group (director, vocabulary, summarizer, illustrator, travelling, etc...). Often the problem with Literature Circles is that if a student doesn't keep up, it lets the group down. I have a great group of students this year so I think we can pull this off and they all chose their books wisely. I however may not keep up! I have to read all 5 books and the only one I have any experience with is A Wrinkle in Time and I don't remember it well at all. I'm looking forward to a lot of great discussion and debate.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trip to Blue

A few days ago we went for a short trip to Blue Mountain Village with some friends of ours. What a perfect winter destination! We had a lovely stay at the Trillium Westin Hotel (below). The rooms are very nice and are outfitted with kitchenettes which are perfect for families wanting to make some of their own meals. The hotel has a really neat outdoor pool and spa heated for winter swimming. We all braved it and it was fantastic. Some of us (not me) even rolled in the snow before jumping in the spa!

Mason and his friend had their first downhill ski lesson. He REALLY wanted to snowboard but because of his age could only try snowboarding in a private lesson ($$). Instead we opted for an afternoon camp which turned out to be a great choice as there were only three of them in the class. They accomplished a lot in the afternoon. This is definitely something we'll pursue in the future. Before the end of the season we've promised an introduction to snowboarding (at our local hill) and Mickey will try downhill next winter. The coaches were excellent and we highly recommend their programs.

Blue Mountain is beautiful, especially at night. It's just such a great atmosphere.

Another fun outing was to Aqua Plunge which happens to be attached to the Westin Trillium. It's an indoor/outdoor water park. It's not huge and has a design resembling a boathouse. Again the outdoor pools are awesome. The boys and Mick had a blast on the rope swing and outdoor slide.

On the morning of the 20th Mason and I went for a walk to check out a race course. We completely lucked out and happened to book our trip the week of the Ski Cross World Cup. Our friend at Blue was actually one of the organizers. In the afternoon we all went to check out the excitement. There were 150 racers from all over the world and many of the Canadians were also competing for a place on the yet to be determined Olympic team. If you haven't watched a ski cross race it is worth checking out. Very exciting! We watched a number of the trials and man, are they fast! Even saw a couple of spills (everyone was fine). Canadians came out and showed their spirit. We will definitely be cheering on our woman and men's team at the Olympics.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fingerprint People

On Friday we needed an easy art activity that we could do while we listened to Story of the World. We made fingerprint people. You can use paint or ink. We used ink... less messy. The fingerprints can be used as the head or the body. Kids can add faces, hair, hats, arms, legs, clothes, accessories etc... Mason even decided to add a background. They really enjoyed this activity and could have taken it further.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I never thought that a technological invention would make me teary but Skype just did! We finally (thanks Heidi) connected with our family in Western Australia. We've been meaning to do it for ages and Heinrich's sister finally got us there! Heinrich's sister moved to Australia 12 (I think) years ago when she married her Australian boyfriend. We meet her two boys when they were really young and have never met her daughter. Miranda is just three weeks younger than Mickey. It was so awesome to connect on Skype. I can't tell you how amazing. We were able to go on a tour of her house and Miranda gave us a peek at all of her prized possessions. As Heidi cooked breakfast we chatted and got quick glimpses of the boys and their toys. Next time kids we'll sit and chat with you while your mom puts her feat up with a cuppa tea! Thanks to Skype our kids might actually be able to develop a relationship with their cousins that they might not have otherwise.

Two Books We're Loving

Here are two of our favourite books right now:

Hugo Cabret
is a book I started reading to the kids in the fall. It's huge but half filled with amazing pencil drawings which help tell the story. Both kids love it.

Our fantastic little local library purchased a copy of the Jenny and the Cat Club series after attempting an interlibrary loan. The book they purchased includes 5 of the Jenny and The Cat Club stories. I believe that they can also be purchased separately. The stories are quite long with a few pictures. This is currently what Mason is reading. As a compromise I read a page and then he reads a page. They're very cute and innocent.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You've got to see this!

Wow! Check this out. Quite something isn't it! So many of her elements appear to be deliberate. It's so incredible to see such talent at such a young age. Incredibly powerful. Her story will be on TVO tonight at 10 pm.

Is this structured homeschooling?

I'm not too sure what type of homeschooler I'd call myself. I'm a little bit of everything. Back in August I took my calendar and scheduled all of their reading, grammar, math and history curriculum lessons. Not that I planned on sticking to this plan religiously but it gave me a rough idea for how the year should go. In the first picture you can see my scheduled plans (done in August).

In this picture you can see reality. I rarely ever do what I had initially planned. Sometimes I'm behind schedule and sometimes I'm ahead of schedule. Each day we do learning activities I try to record what we've done and I highlight them. The stuff in yellow is the work we've done. I do this for two reason; one to keep a record for myself and anyone else who cares and the other, to reassure myself that we're actually getting work done!

Art is always done on Thursday when another learning buddy is here with us. As far as the other learning activities go, we learn on a whim or follow a unit study (on a particular interest). These areas aren't structured as far as what I'm going to do when but once I decide on a topic or subject I usually set up activities which are "somewhat" structured. I throw a little Charlotte Mason in here and a little unschooling there. We're definitely a hodge podge of homeschooling styles, but it works for us!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Best Selling Children's Books

I found this list of best selling children's books. Interesting!

New to Knitting

A friend gave Mickey a knitting kit for her birthday. The kit knits up a scarf and hat. She is quite taken with it. I have her sit between my legs, while she works the needs and I work the yarn. As she progressed I was able to move my hands to the end of the needles to prevent stitches from falling off. I think she'll soon be able to knit all on her own. The biggest hurdle is figuring out how to hang onto the yarn and needle at the same time. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Another Near Miss

Heinrich had a close call on our local 4-8 lane highway on his way to work. His windshield was hit by an object he didn't see coming. He's quite sure it wasn't ice. This isn't the first time this has happened but it's certainly the first time he was hit this hard. It almost came through the windshield and could have caused him to have a collision. It's bad enough that he can't drive it far. He was very lucky. Needless to say that we are dealing with repairs and insurance companies AGAIN! Aarrrghhh! the end of January I was scheduled to appear in our local court because the accused who had rear ended me in September chose to fight her charges of careless driving. I got a call last week saying that I was no longer needed and that the courts had settled on a charge of following too close. I was so frustrated. Not that I want a 17 year old to suffer and pay huge insurance premiums but there is no way that this was a case of following too close. This is just another fine example of our justice system in action!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolutions in Print

Alright, I'm putting my New Year's Resolutions in print. Here we go, 12 goals for 12 months.

January - Get into fitness regimen

February - cross country ski at least 10 times by the end of February

March - run the 5K Around the Bay (was asked by a friend to join her)

April - take a half day photography course with well known photographer in town

May - run the 10K in Ottawa

June - complete Mason and Mikhaila's schooling program for the year

July - complete planning for 2010-2011 school and homeschool year

August - take a significant road trip

September - start 8 wk photography course

October - plan future kitchen renovation

November - plan a weekend away for Heinrich's birthday (used to do yearly)

December - start Christmas plans early and celebrate Mickey's birthday early in the month

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reading Lists

After reading a number of blogs and looking at everyone's reading lists for the coming year I've decided to put together a list of books that I really want the kids to read or for us to read to them. It's a daunting task. I found this book site that I've quite enjoyed looking at. My book list will be posted in a few days.