Posts Tagged ‘homeschool’


It’s been an emotionally harrowing couple of days around here. The kids are confused, angry, scared, and sad, and I don’t have any good answers for them. I’ve done my best to comfort and support them, and I feel positively heroic for managing to contain my own feelings about what’s happened while helping them deal with theirs. For the time being I think they’ll have to go to school. I don’t see any way around it. So I’ve tried to help them think of ways to cope with the sudden change in plans. Trouble is, they’re not exactly buying it. I come up with a list of things that might be fun or exciting, and they come back with a list of all the things they’ll be missing.  Tee can’t even talk about it without crying. I feel awful, being all positive and hopeful about sending them to a place they don’t want go, that I don’t want to send them to, but they have to go, so I have to help them with it. It’s like being on a dreadful, nightmarish hamster wheel.

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00002 Overcoming my ambivalent feelings about zoos, I took the kids to one today so that they could learn about frogs and toads. A particularly timely topic given our tadpole project. Our zoo doesn’t have much of a reptile house, but we were shown an interesting powerpoint presentation, saw reptile skeletons, and afterwards, took a tour to see some of the other animals.

I’ve taken the kids there a few times in the distant past, and remember lots of dragging feet and complaints of boredom, but this time I should have packed a lunch and made a day of it. The animals were all out and about, highly visible and very active. There were lots of baby animals, and we witnessed a few dramatic fights.

When we went past the fox enclosure, I saw the well-worn ring that the animal had made around the inside perimeter of it’s fence, and felt sad. I know that captive animals generally have twice the life expectancy of wild ones, and that zoo breeding programs have made a difference for some endangered animals, but I still feel uncomfortable about the idea of wild animals being in cages.

It did make for another interesting discussion in our ongoing “Advantages/Disadvantages Game” though. Would you rather be well-fed and safe but give up your freedom, or have to hunt for food and worry about predators but be out in the wild?

Speaking of wild animals, I took a picture of J’s hands when she got out of the van at the zoo. Isn’t someone in charge of cutting that kid’s fingernails? And look at the dirt!


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Owl Pellet


Dissecting this owl pellet was the highlight of the morning. At least for Jay. Tee was more interested in the book he was reading.


I’m pretty sure that the skeleton was of a mouse, not a rat, based on the size of it, but it still had very impressive incisors.

Jay squealed with excitement at every new bone she found, and announced that she’s decided that she’d rather be a naturalist when she grows up than a plasticine sculptress. She spent the rest of the morning making observations in our backyard and jotting them down in her naturalist’s journal. Things like I saw a squirrel. I saw a bird.

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Look! Isn’t that a beautiful little bird? She/he’s eating right out of my hand! It’s my Mother Earth dream! I’m so close to nature that all of the little animals come right up to my skirts to eat the fresh bread crumbs I’ve collected in my apron for them.


Here’s another one! I even know it’s name. It’s a yellow warbler.


This is a particularly large variety of sparrow.

They’re actually in the hands of a naturalist, who was in the process of banding them. We got a chance to watch, and we saw oodles of different song birds. They were banded, had their wings measured, were identified, had the amount of fat on their breasts recorded, and put into little envelopes to be weighed before they were released. I was surprised at how docile they were during their ordeal, and also, how completely unscathed they seemed when they flew away.


It was difficult to get a good shot of the mist net, the net that the birds are captured in, because it was virtually impossible to see.


No day at the wetland is complete without some water organism identification.



The kids got to play at being scientists, and they were excited with the sheer number of little squigglies that live in the water. When we were on the way home, Tee looked at a sparkling pond at the side of the road, and said that while it looked inviting, he wasn’t sure he would want to swim in it now that he knows how many nymphs, leeches and larvae are in there.


That’s a damselfly nymph. It looked like it was big enough to fly right out of the water.

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Kids sure like a fire. The big boys were home, and they were eager to help when the little boys wanted a fire to boil up the ink they’d made.


I’ve donated one of our indoor paintbrushes to the ink project. Seems like a small contribution to such a worthwhile endeavour.


This is their work bench.


In addition to the ink they made gunpowder and bullets. I guess the gunpowder idea came from Tee’s research on the Gunpowder Plot, but I’m not sure how they plan on using it or the bullets. Maybe the fun was in the making. They sure have a neat and tidy cache.

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These were fun to make. Sugar cookies rolled in toasted coconut, then baked. I think they would have turned out more “nest-like” if we’d made dough balls and just made thumbprints in them before they were baked, instead of trying to shape them into nests, because they just flattened out in the oven. J had a lot of fun sorting out the jellybeans so that she could find speckled ones that looked like eggs.


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We learned that it’s way cheaper to buy peanut butter (even organic, nothing-but-peanuts-peanut butter) than it is to make it. That was a mini-lesson in itself. Why the unit price of a truckload of peanuts is cheaper than the unit price of a bagful of peanuts.

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  1. Cut a strip of coffee filter
  2. Mark a dot on it with water soluble marker
  3. Fill a glass with water just high enough to wet the end of the strip of paper when it dangles into the glass
  4. Attach the strip to a pencil so that the pencil will bridge the mouth of the glass and allow the strip to dangle into the water
  5. Watch the water creep up the strip, taking the pigment with it, and, it your strip is long enough, separating out into the different pigments that made up that color of marker

I fudged just a bit and used this to help explain how plants “suck” water up from the ground with their roots. Not exactly the same process, because for plants it’s really capillary action, but similar enough.

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Spring Break

The Canada Geese are back, winging low over the still-frozen river in search of open water. Spring is here, Spring Break is here, and while many people will be off on some sort of exciting travel adventure, we’re still here.

That’s okay though.

Realizing that it might be in my best interest to have a semblance of structure around here for the next week, or at least one outing a day on which to hang our hats, I tried to come up with a game plan. With every single school aged child in this city on holidays, I absolutely refuse to enter any public building, so exciting visits to the museum were out. Nature walks, well, okay, maybe one of them, but what to do with the rest of the days?

Then it hit me. My brilliant plan. There are at least four little diner type eating establishments quite close to where we live. We drive by them every single day on our way to diving, and I’ve always wondered what they looked like inside. So I decided that the kids and I would walk to one of those places every day for lunch, check it out, rate it on our private score sheet, and then walk home. A bit of exercise, some fresh air, greasy diner food, and I don’t have to make lunch.

Today we went to The Nook. What a dive. Honestly, they could try painting the place. It was well-visited though, there was all-day breakfast, and the portions were absolutely enormous. I think we were all a bit new to the idea though, because it was kind of strained and awkward, staring at each other and making conversation while we waited for our omelettes. I guess we don’t go out to eat that often.

I didn’t have my camera with me, or I would have included a shot of the mini plastic sunflower on our formica table. It was quite a cheerful little thing.

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Isn’t that a cute little beaver? The creature in the background is a moose.

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L and her dad and I are at a bit of a crossroads.

It’s the time of year when grade 6 students have to apply for the schools that they want to attend for junior high. L is in school for grade 6 this year, and she’s been hearing which schools each of her friends will be going to, as well as listening to presentations given by various schools to her grade 6 class. Up until now, she’d been leaning towards homeschooling for grades 7 and 8, with an eye towards going back to school for highschool, but in the last two weeks, she’s become enamoured of the idea of a “late french-immersion” class in a particular school. We went to an open house last night, to check it out.

I thought that I was open to the idea of her choosing her own path, and, listening to the presentation, I thought I was keeping an open mind, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I have some major reservations about her attending school for grades 7 and 8.

I worry about the unnecessarily hectic schedule, with her commuting to the school in the morning, being there all day, including lunch, and then diving 3 hours every night. Not to mention the homework, which would, I guess, have to be done on the weekend. I don’t like the idea of not seeing her from 7am till 8pm every school day, and her not being connected to the rest of the kids in the family. I worry about this being a particularly vulnerable age, about her being exposed to all sorts of dangerous activities, about her losing her strong sense of self. I worry about her becoming a passive absorber of information, as opposed to an active seeker of information.

Truth be told, I don’t see any huge advantage to her going to school next year, just disadvantages.

This year she went to a small school two blocks from the house with kids from the immediate neighborhood, came home for lunch every day, and had the entire weekend to do with what she pleased. She still sometimes felt pressed for time, and had a few “burnout” periods, when the pressures of diving and school seemed too much. She mourned the loss of free time, and felt sad about how little she saw her best friend, who homeschools.

I don’t want to force her to homeschool against her wishes, because that would be a recipe for disaster, but now that the time is upon us, I’m finding that I DO have fairly strong feelings about this decision. I’ve voiced them to L, which was hard for her, because she feels torn, and is having difficulty articulating her own reasons for wanting to go to school.

Not sure what to do.

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When Tee was ready to begin baking his birthday cake, he asked me which of the pans was 9×13. I showed him, and asked if he knew what the names of those dimensions were. He did, so I asked if he knew how to find the area of that rectangle. He did, so I began talking volume. He yawned. (Which infuriated me, but that’s a side note, related to him being “unable” to fall asleep at a reasonable hour at night, an ongoing issue around here.)

 Anyway, we moved on to a discussion of square and cube numbers, which he kind of knew, and then, because I was annoyed with him for looking uninterested, I told him I wanted him to figure out the surface area of a dodecahedron. I had to help him figure out the formula for the area of a triangle, but once he knew that, he was on a roll. He worked on that math problem for an hour, and took great pride in getting the answer. I asked him to “show his work”, and he wrote it down step-by-step in the neatest printing I’ve ever seen him produce.

Sit this kid down with a math workbook, and it’s like he’s in a torture chamber. Rolling eyes, flopping arms, doodling, procrastinating, whining, and very little productive work. Give him a challenge, and he’s all over it. That’s clearly the way to interest this kid. Find ways of posing information he doesn’t know in the form of a problem that he needs to solve. Give him a reason for learning. He sees no reason to sit down and work on pen-and-pencil math questions, and isn’t interested in showing me what a good little student he is. He’s a smart kid, an independent thinker, and he wants to know why he should be bothered with any of it. Fair enough. He is my son after all. Another apple not falling too far from mama tree. He doesn’t like slow and steady instruction. He likes a challenge.

By jove, I think I’ve got it!

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Insulation Experiment

Bare Hand In Ice Water

With Blubber

The blubber was Crisco. I was trying to show the kids how a layer of blubber keeps arctic mammals warm in icy water.

Then I forced Tee to look up the word insulation in the dictionary, and we did an experiment with glasses of boiling water, to see what kind of material around the house would keep the water hot the longest. Of these materials: towel, tinfoil, leather, and winter jacket, the winter jacket won. Phew! I can just imagine how these two would look wearing tin foil all winter.

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This is a fun art idea.

Cut a black and white picture in half, and glue to a page. Try to draw the other half. L did this cat for homework last night. I think I’ll try it with the Littles.

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Feeling Good

Skating in the morning….beautiful weather, the rink to ourselves, both kids independent on their skates, and after an hour and a half, me saying time to go, them begging to stay. A nice change from years previous, with at least one kid cold and miserable, someone else crying because they’d taken a bad fall, and me barely able to stand up straight after being hunched over a little skater-to-be. Today was really fun. I’m actually looking forward to going again.

In the afternoon we all went to see L sing in her school’s concert. It too was lovely. Jay and Tee are always welcomed so warmly into that little community, and they have so many friends there. I had to wait for a while after the performance, because Tee was quite busy chatting and high-fiving, and another mom remarked on how happy he seemed to see all of the kids. I agreed, but added that I didn’t think he wanted to be in school with them, and she said that she had asked him how he liked learning at home, and he had said,”It’s great! I love it! I have everything I could wish for!” and that he had gone on to say that he felt sad for his friends, and wished that they could have the chance to homeschool too, because he loved it so much.

I was taken aback by the enthusiasm of his endorsement, considering our occasional power struggles, and kind of hehhed, and mumbled something along the lines of him probably exaggerating a wee bit, and really, it wasn’t all a bed of roses, but the other mom said that he was quite adamant about it.

So I felt good. Maybe my Ogremotherishness isn’t affecting him in quite as profoundly a negative way as I was thinking it was.

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Funny Homeschool Video

 Short, fun-poking video here, set to the tune of the Addams Family.

I found the link at Making This Up As I Go.

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Warning do not put magnets in front of a computer!

If you do the magnet will pull some pixels to the magnet and if you move it or keep it in the same place it will make your computer skreen multicoloured and shiny or worse 

How to fix it

 if you do do it, get a drill and tape (or just something to strap a magnet on to the drill) and strap a magnet on the drill and point it at the computer and……. FIRE! for some reason the spinning magnet(s) fix the computer.   

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Why To Homeschool

Oh me. Oh my. I just read the very best explanation for why to homeschool at Ideas, which I of course immediately added to my blogroll. If you do read that post, be sure to check out the comments, which were very interesting too.

The author is an academic economist who teaches at a law school, and who has never taken a course for credit in either field.

I’m looking forward to having time to do further reading on that blog.

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Shout it Out!


Here’s a variation on one of the multitudes of card and dice games that reinforce math skills:

Need: 1 deck of cards, face cards removed, and 1 die.

One player rolls the die. Everyone looks at it. Another player flips over a card. Everyone multiplies the dice number and the card number in their heads, and the first person to shout it out gets the card. If the players shout at the same time, the card goes under the deck. If the shouter says the wrong number, the other players can challenge. If the shouter is right, he/she gets the card and a bonus card, and if he/she is wrong, the challenger gets the card.

Winner is first person to win 3 rounds, or whomever has the most cards at the end.

Jay, Tee and L had a lot of fun with this one until, inevitably, the most competitive player started to get uptight, and their game came to an end with a storming off amid a flurry of tears.

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This is the most crystallized of them all. I don’t think we put enough Borax into solution.

As for the sugar crystals, nothing is happening at all, and we put a TON of sugar into the water. Might be time to do a little internet research.

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