Friday, May 29, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Part of the reason this house enchanted Shannon and I so much when we were looking this past winter is the fact that it's surrounded by woodland. Our 2 acres are cleared but we back on woodland that goes back for miles and miles. It's not a green belt but genuine forest. It's meant the kids have seen a wide variety of birds, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and all of it close up, within 10 or 15 feet of the french doors in our dining room.

So we have what we wanted and we've been loving it.

And then today I woke up to see a healthy young black bear rifling through our organics cart not 10 feet from those french doors.

I yelled for the kids and husband. Catherine saw it but before Shannon and Harry got there the dog saw it and began barking and that sent the bear running back to the woods.

I'm not all that worried about bears. We have bobcats, lynx and (according to some) cougars in our province and any one of those three concern me more then an easy-to-spook omnivore. But still, it's made the husband and I realize our choice to live here does mean there are a few inherrant risks we should be prepared to deal with.

As we cleaned up the organics mess, shoveled a pile of bear poop up and examined the paw prints with the kids we decided that it would not be a bad thing for the two of us to get our firearms certificates (here you have to take a course before you're allowed to purchase firearms) and pick up a rifle. Our compost will be getting moved out front into the open where a shy bloke from the forest might be more reluctant to visit and we've also decided that perhaps the backyard, which is really only a small strip of lawn between the house and the forest, isn't the best place for the kids to play.

I have to admit though, sobering though the black bear visit was, it was also completely and totally awesome. Catherine hasn't stopped talking about it and I'm secretly hoping I get to see him again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ovid! Can You Believe it?

So how do you get a 10 year old girl to giggle and snuggle in with you on the couch and keep her smiling for a good hour and make her so happy that she ends up hugging you and dancing around the living room?

Why, you start reading her Rolfe Humphries' translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses of course. Of course.

We went to our little local thrift store (now a not-so-local half hour drive) last week and as the kids dug through toy boxes in search of Hot Wheels and stuffed NeoPets I poured over the book section. I found some damn nice books too; an old edition of Mrs. Browning's Poems, a children's book called Famous Scientific Expeditions (do they even publish books for kids like that anymore?) and a nice Nat. Geo. book on the Renaissance. But the one I was excited about and the one my husband teased me about was Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Yes, he teased me. The guy I fell for because he was reading Appian's The Civil Wars while pumping gas at the truck stop we worked at. Some people.)

The husband figured it would never get read. He thought it might sit beside my Penguin edition of The Illiad, the one I swore I was going to read after zipping through a Colleen McCullough (yes, she of The Thornbirds fame) version. Or he thought I'd torture the daughter with it for a bit (after all, how fun could an ancient Roman poet really be?) and then forget I had it.


I picked it up today, started reading and thought, damn, this is good. I sat down with Catherine tonight on the couch and before we were a dozen verses in she was as hooked as I was. We talked as I read and also consulted my Oxford NRSV Bible when we noticed some similarities between Ovid's creation story and the first creation story of the Bible. We giggled over Jove and Io ("Mom, do you remember when you said Zeus couldn't keep his pants on and Dad said, "of course not! The Greeks didn't wear pants!"). Catherine grew grave and I almost got teary as we read about the earth burning when Phaethon failed to control his father's chariot. When I finished for tonight Catherine bounced over (the dancing, remember the dancing)and gave me the biggest hug I'd had in days and a heartfelt thank you.

And should I add that by the time I was into the story of Phaethon Harry and my doubter of a husband were sitting in the living room listening to me read.

So if you want to enchant you children and show up your husband, Ovid, as translated by Rolfe Humphries, is your man.

She's in Horse Heaven

My daughter had a call from my mother today. Seems a neighbour of mom's has offered to teach my daughter how to look after horses and to ride. For free. Catherine would have to spend a couple of weeks at my parent's house but she doesn't seem fazed by that in the least.

This is good news because Catherine has wanted to learn how to ride and, more importantly, how to care for horses since about, oh, forever. This is great news because our new neighbours across the road, who bought their house just as we closed on ours, have spent the last couple of weeks putting up fencing and a shelter for the horses they have. Catherine is already hoping they might not mind a little help mucking out stables or brushing down horses and the fact that she'll actually have a little bit of knowledge to start with can't be a bad thing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bird Watching Resources

In the new house a lot of spare time has been devoted to watching the birds that come out to our feeder. Being on the edge of woodland seems to be a boon as we've been getting quite a variety. Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finches, Common Grackles, Redpolls, Bluejays, etc. Our indespensible tools are a good pair of field binoculars and a Sibly Guide.

Bird watching has also led to a lot less school work. We're working on Winston Grammar again and Catherine loves Aleks math but that's about it for the moment. The birds have been dragging us back into unschooling and we've been happy to let that happen.

For anyone else who's eagerly putting up feeders and has a pair of binoculars close by just in case here's a list of resources that I've been looking through or have used:

Checklists- here are checklists of birds by state and province.

Homeschooler's Guide to Project FeederWatch - a PDF with lots of ideas for activities and resources to help a kid with an interest in bird watching.

All About Birds - An amazing resource with just about everything you might need from help with the basics to multimedia resources. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Okay, we have the month long free trial and Catherine loves it. Too excess. She'll spend and hour and a half to 2 hours a day on it between the site and the worksheets. She thinks exponents and geometry are cool, likes the variety and speeds along at a good clip. The problem? There's no time left for Singapore or the Key to Series.

To those using ALEKS (okay, to my one reader who uses it :)), do you think it's enough? Sure, I'll through in some CWP and Life of Fred as supplements but could ALEKS be the core of a decent pre-algebra program for a 10 year old?