Saturday, November 26, 2011

Baby is Here

Lauchlin James arrived at 4:15 pm on Nov. 4. Yes, I'm quit late but although labour was quick (just 2 hours - no time for an epidural!) and, in the words of the nurses, was the most beautiful and controlled delivery they had seen in awhile, his actual trip down the birth canal did some major damage to me. I lost about half my blood and have more stitches then Frankenstein's monster and have spent the last 3 weeks mostly resting. My backside is now sufficiently pain-free enough to let me sit here and post a picture of our absolutely beautiful new addition so here goes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

He's Not Here Yet

Oh yes, the baby is a he. :) Found that out at a late ultrasound a couple of weeks ago.

He's due on Friday but there are no signs that labour is imminent. I had an OB appointment today and the doctor has me scheduled for one more ultrasound Monday (I have big babies. They keep wanting a sneak peek into how big this one might be) and at that point I'll probably be scheduled for an induction. That's absolutely fine by me. My other two were both induced and I rather like the predictable nature of inductions.

Anyhow, hopefully there will be pictures of the new arrival for everyone sometime next week!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Odd Ideas About Math

I was in the hospital Friday. Thought the baby might be coming but it turned out to be a false alarm. Like any good homeschooling mom I took along a new Algebra text I'd picked up in a thrift store and wanted to look over. New is relative of course; the text was published in 1945.

I had it sitting beside the bed on a table when a nurse came in to take some blood. She noticed the book, asked about it and I explained I was looking it over to see if we would use it in our homeschooling. She said it looked like something she would have used in school so I told her how old it was. She decided it must be outdated.

Outdated? Algebra? Huh?

I said that I didn't think it could be but she assured me that the math kids do today is very different from what she did as a teenager and the implication was that a 65 year old text book simply couldn't work in 2011. I disagreed. Catherine even spoke up and said she prefered her current older text (of the same vintage). I will admit, some terms might be a little dated but that's an easy and quick fix when faced with more modern terms.

I then made the mistake of mentioning that my daughter doesn't use a calculator for her algebra. Oy. Apparently she translated that to mean I will never teach my kids to use calculators and she then educated me about how essential calculator skills are. Yes, I know this. But no 8th grader needs a calculator for basic algebra. *sigh*

None of this was nasty of course. She was very pleasant and I did think the conversation was interesting but this idea that math from the 40's is somehow fundamentally different from math today is a puzzling one. What would she have said if I mentioned that many homeschoolers like Euclid for geometry? Goodness.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Homeschooling History Deal of the Decade!

The World in Ancient Times set, a collection of books on Ancient history published by Oxford University Press, is on sale right now at and the publisher's site for just over $35!

This is a set that is wonderfully well written, has a volume of primary sources and usually costs over $200. I own the other set in the series, The Medieval and Early Modern World set (bought on sale as well although not nearly as good a sale) and can certainly vouch for it's quality. Even the husband, a history buff, has enjoyed reading through the set.

Use it as spine, as an extra resource or just put it on a book shelf and let the kids explore it but for gosh sakes, don't let this deal pass you by!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The New Chicken Coop!

For the past 3 months or so I've been checking out our local Kijiji ads to see if I could find a used chicken coop or shed that would be suitable for our layers. Although I found a few that would have been suitable my husband nixed them The conditions were that it had to be cheaper then building our own, wood and not too far away so that it wasn't that difficult to get here. Saturday morning I found winner.

This winner was a coop, not a shed we'd have to convert. It was 8' by 12' so big enough for our layers plus the 10 or so a friend of our parents would be giving us and was only a half hour drive away over low traffic rural roads. It came with all the accessories and, unfortunately, even more chickens. But we thought we'd make an offer and see if we could get the coop sans chickens.

Saturday afternoon we went to see it and gosh darn it, wouldn't you know it, but we fell for the chickens. You'll see why in the pictures.

Today we borrowed a truck from my brother, a trailer from my husband's uncle and manpower from family members and got the things home. For much, much less then the cost of building our own coop (that never would have looked this good anyway) we have a chicken mansion.

Here my husband (in the black shirt) and our neighbour guiding my father-in-law as he moves the coop into position.

After much levering and blocking the coop is down and the new chickens are out. All of our other chickens are normal red production hens. These guys are something special.

Here's Dolly:

Here she is again with two, as yet unnamed, chickens. The black one is a rooster and we're considering the name Snape.

These are most of the rest. The reddish-brown fellow is another rooster and a Rhode Island Red. You can just see another beige hen behind one of the black and white girls.

And here's everyone's favourite so far. He's the third and last rooster of the new crew, a little Silkie rooster named Brutus. Yes, he looks a little weird but he's very sweet and quite willing to be caught and carried around.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Being Very Pregnant While Homeschooling - Help!


I'm 37 weeks now and can't get enough sleep these days. When I think I have had enough sleep my body usually puts the lie to that by slowing down a couple of hours after getting up. I'm cranky with the kids and not getting normal stuff done around the house. Homeschooling is getting to be very, very hard.

Today is the second day in a row where my son ended our homeschooling with a fight. I don't have any patience to help my daughter when she comes to me for help. I KNOW what the answer is. The answer is to take a break, right? Except we're not getting enough done right now. And I will definitely be taking a break after the baby gets here. And soon after that we'll be taking a break for Christmas. With all those breaks, when does the work get done?

The perfect solution would be if the little guy (and it is a guy, I received confirmation of that this past Monday) decided to show up tomorrow. Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend so it would be ever so convenient to break right now. *sigh* I may have to do that anyhow before the kids revolt and toss me out a window.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Update 30/09/11

This week was busy but it had more to do with things unrelated to homeschooling. There were errands to run, folks to visit and doctor's appointments to be kept. Next week, with me officially in the four week countdown until my due date, it gets worse. A little part of me wants to stop the homschooling and just rest for the next month but most of me is thrilled with the progress the kids and I are making and doesn't want to stop just yet. So we keep plugging away.

Our progress this week is best summed up in the following photo.

We got timelines up for both Ancient and Medieval history (although the medieval history one is the chopped up one on the bottom and needs to be moved so it goes straight across). Harry put King Menes of Egypt on his. The books were sorted to get rid of anything we don't need or have finished. The built-in bookshelf was emptied of knick-knacks and filled with the new binders for their different subjects and related reference and activity books. Dish trays now only hold textbooks and work books. Computer speakers were moved in so that I can plug my MP3 player in anytime we need to listen to Story of the World, music, audio books or lectures. Bristol board was put up for us to stick on visual reference materials like maps and charts related to history and science.

With our days getting more routine, the kids' work getting more consistent, and homeschooling time getting more non-negotiable it seems that the space we use for work is getting more organized and useful. *phew* It feels brilliant.

PS: I made that table runner all by my lonesome one day last year when I was bored.

PSS: It's my birthday today. I'm 38.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (With Title-Defeating Commentary)

The start of the day from the front porch.

After the tough stuff, Harry does some history and builds pyramids.

Then, with school over, onto making Martians with his Martian Matter supplies. Feel for the poor Martians because they're only headed for dissection.

The nest of baby spiders Harry discovered in the box that held his Martian Matter stuff.

While the son played the daughter plugged away (and hid from the camera). 7+ hours of school work today because she didn't finish yesterday's work when she should have. Heh heh heh. Good thing she's a good sport.

The game of Monopoly where Harry mercilessly, "beat the poop out of," (direct quote from the boy) his mom and dad. His tired dad and pregnant mom no less. Daughter choose to play the Xbox 360 after all her work.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why NOT to Consult Your Child on Curriculum Purchases

Catherine has whipped through Grammar Voyage and is ready for more grammar. I was going to order Jensen's Grammar . Jensen's Punctuation has been a great success and we could finish it in a year.

Yay! Right?


I told Catherine that her choice was either Magic Lens V.1 (the next in the series after Grammar Voyage) or Jensen's and tried to sell Jensen's on the fact that it was just one more year as opposed to three for Magic Lens.

Her eyes got big, she hugged her Practice Voyage book and put the back of her free hand to her forehead and cried, "No more grammar after next year? But I LOVE grammar."

And she does. She really, truly, deeply loves it. And the MCT materials are why.

Jensen's would have been maybe $40 Canadian after shipping from a local supplier. Magic Lens is $50 US, for just one year, plus $27 shipping to get it here to Canada.

Needless to say I ordered next year's as well since the RFP lady said it would also fit in the box (not so the third volume though) so I'll at least save the shipping next year but holy macaroni, I just about keeled over.

But her eyes were SOOO big...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Benefits of Latin

Catherine and Harry got the day off Friday due to lack of motivation on my part. I have learned that there will be days in this pregnancy when I just have to sit back and rest and Friday was one of them. So today was catch-up day.

Extraordinary kid that she is she started her work with almost no prompting. While she worked on her grammar she called me over to explain how much she felt punctuation and Latin, especially Latin, were helping her grammar.

This wasn't a surprise to me. I've watched as her increasing knowledge of Latin has helped her grammar and spelling, had her make connections in language she's never made before, helped her French, and generally filled the world of words with an excitement and wonder that they hadn't had for her before.

She followed up her grammar comment with, "I love Latin. It's so cool."

I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Benefits of Low Expectations

I made lunch a little while ago. I got a little creative and when my son saw what I had done he was enormously impressed and showered me with compliments about what great cook I was.

What did I do?

I mixed cut-up hot dogs in with the Kraft Dinner.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Update 09/23/11

It was a busy week this week and I finally came to realize that not only are the mornings off limits for appointments and such, most afternoons are going to have to be as well. While Harry's work can be done in a morning Catherine is not so lucky. While most of English as well as Math,French and Latin can be done in the morning that still leaves history and science (on alternating days thank goodness), writing and violin. And just those 3 subjects often take a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


And guess what? Although Catherine loves Latin her first real interest when it came to ancient languages was Attic Greek (blame Homer). We worked through A Greek Hupogrammon so she could learn the alphabet and then retreated, stumped by the search to find a good homeschooling course that wasn't Koine (Biblical) Greek. But just last night on the evil Well Trained Mind forums another posted mentioned Athenaze, a text from Oxford University Press on learning, you guessed it, Attic Greek. And I had to mention it to Catherine. Her eyes lit up.

No, we will NOT be adding Attic Greek this year but I suspect it will be entering the lineup next year. And no, we will not be dropping Latin or French. And yes, my daughter will be learning some scheduling, organization and study skills this year. Why do you ask?

Catherine did do well in history this week, starting The Teaching Company's Early Middle Ages audio course. Her writing work wasn't completed though but I've got a promise for her that she WILL complete it tomorrow afternoon. I also dug out a vintage algebra text that I think I bought in a used book store in Newmarket, Ontario. Catherine liked the looks of it and needs a little more review then she's getting from her current text so we might dive into it a bit in the coming weeks.

Harry's big excitement for the week was when the Purolator truck arrived with the next levels in his reading and spelling programs. He was thrilled! Thrilled and yet sometimes trying to get him to work through Apples and Pears is like pulling teeth. I think though, being able to see those books also meant seeing his progress. One year ago he couldn't read at all. Now he's worked through two levels of reading and one level of spelling and only seems to be progressing faster as we go. Such a relief for both of us after several years and several programs that amounted to nothing.

We made a trip to the library where I picked up Adventure in Atoms and Molecules for his science this year. We DO have the Singapore My Pals are Here program but it's very light on experiments and what it's very good with, thinking skills, aren't really hitting home with Harry. It takes a little more reading skill and focus then he has right now. We'll finish out the books we have but rather then get the rest in the series I think we'll start a science notebook and either dive into Adventures with Atoms and Molecules or physics experiments so that he and Catherine (who I think I'll use Hewitt's Conceptual Physical Science with) can have one subject they can work on together. Not at the same level of course but parallel.

You'd think I'd have had this sorted before we started up our work. Not so. I wonder if that ever happens.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thrifty Thursday

A lot of the materials we us in homeschooling are things I pick up at local thrift stores or yard sales. I thought it might be fun to post pictures here and invite others to who also buy a lot of used materials to do the same.

One local thrift store is the product of one women's ministry and as a result has a great deal of religious material. Much of it is too conservative for me but these items seemed useful. One book is a bible study book that I thought might have some interesting questions the kids and I could reflect on. The other is a Jesus comic. Yes, a Jesus comic! How on earth could I leave THAT behind? The cassettes are the entire New Testament as read by Darth Vader. Okay, James Earl Jones but he did Darth Vader's voice in the original movies so that's the next best thing, right?

I'm a sucker for good binders so as soon as I spotted the ones above I knew I was bringing them home. They're clean, solid and have clear plastic on the covers so the kids can make up a cover and slip it into the plastic. The book on Feudal society might come in handy with Catherine learnign about the Middle Ages, the National Geographic video will be viewed some family movie night and The Young Victoria is for me to relax with. The 10 cent roll of register tape is the start of timelines for the kids.

The best find at that thrift store. I went in looking for a good dictionary after yet more frustration from my daughter with her little Webster's Student Dictionary. Awful little thing. There was nothing on the bookshelves but when I turned around to leave I saw that handsome beast lying on a side table just waiting for me to notice it. $5 just for it but it was worth every single penny.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On With the Early Middle Ages

I love the The Teaching Company audio courses. I've learned a lot over the years on subjects ranging from philosophy to science fiction literature. They're generally engaging and informative and always leave me curious and unsatisfied which in my books is good thing because I'll then go on to pursue a subject on my own. Since Catherine is doing the Middle Ages in history this year I though I'd cross my fingers and have her listen to a lecture from The Early Middle Ages course. These are college lever lectures so I wasn't sure what she'd think but hey, it's worth a try, right?

She loved it. She didn't stop at one lecture but went on to listen to three and only stopped because the battery in my MP3 player died. She went from Diocletian (who was nasty to the Christian folk but I like anyway) to Constantine to Julian the Apostate. I quized her when she was finished and she'd not just understood the main message of the lectures but came away with a lot of extra bits of information; "Oh yes, Julian, him and his beard," (accompanied by a grin and an eyeroll). When I asked if she'd like to listen to the whole course her answer was an enthusiastic yes.

Whoo hoo! This simplifies history greatly. It gives me a really in-depth resource to use as a spine and gives her practice in listening to and eventually, taking notes from, a lecture.

I'll still be assigning lots of extra reading and she's got another biographical report, this one on Constantine, due by the end of the week but it's fantastic to find one more way for her to approach and be engaged with the material.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Challenge #1

In our new schedule Sunday is supposed to be the day for art, music and poetry. We didn't get to that today. It was Open Farm Day in Nova Scotia so that meant that part of the day would be taken up by a trip to a local farm. Since I'm only 6 weeks from a baby just the thought of that outing was tiring to me so I came up with an alternative Sunday activity for this week.

I pulled out a little wood puzzle-sculpture kit (Purchased several years ago at a dollar store), put it out on the table and then told the kids they were to put it together by themselves. They had to work as a team and my husband and I would not be giving them any help. Harry seemed eager but Catherine gave me a bit of that tired, "do I have to?" teenager attitude. Didn't matter, they had to do it. When each had the carbonated beverage of their choice, they started working.

Catherine did most of the construction. When she realized I wasn't going to jump in after a few complaints that Harry wasn't helping she found a way for him to be more involved by getting him to find the next pieces she'd need. Her attitude changed from a bit sullen to engaged and polite, especially with her brother.

Soon enough, they were finished.

With the dinosaur done we went off to Open Farm day. I forgot my camera so I have no pictures but they had a fairly good time. The farm we choose was a vinyard that had hired a bouncy castle, brought in some local farm animals and tradespeople and even some absolutely gorgeous but almost unbelievably huge Percherons for wagon rides. When Harry got out of the bouncy castle and needed help with his sneakers, Catherine bent down and helped him. When I made a sarcastic remark about Catherine, Harry stepped in and defended her.

When we got home they pulled out Harry's Star Wars toys and spent the next hour playing together.

I'm calling the Sunday Challenge a success on several levels. Not only did it give me some quiet time, it gave the kids a challenge they had to sort out on their own and seemed to set the tone for a day of sibling fun.

Next week I'm thinking of dragging out the pizza boxes we've been hoarding, handing them over and telling them to construct the giant dice Harry has been wanting to make for some time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Update 09/16/11

It's been a busy week here. We started school a couple of weeks ago but began with the basics and slowly added in the other subjects until we're now almost at the point where I feel like we've got almost everything covered. I still need to find a satisfactory way to approach science for both kids because although I do love the Singapore programs they aren't quite doing it for us. We're also adding poetry, art and music appreciation into Sunday afternoons and I need to figure out what to use for that but we're getting there.

Anyway, on with the weekly rundown.

Catherine - We started the week by drawing up a weekly schedule. If everything is done Catherine should have a minimum of 6 hours of work on school days. Yikes. Thankfully, this didn't seem to phase her as she enjoys most of it.

On top of the math, languages and English studies we added in histoy this week. I think I've finally found something that's not too pricey and a good compromise between structured and flexible. It's Medieval History Portfolio from Homeschool Journey. I bought the to-die-for Oxford Medieval and Early Modern World set (at about 60% off the regular price so don't go thinking I spent the $200 plus at the link) last year but for the most part it sat on our shelves unused. I'm hoping that having the portfolio will give us the spine we need to have some activities lined up and to branch out into the set and other readings. The only hitch I ran into with History Portfolio is the expense. I could buy the teacher/activity guide and maps in PDF but I would have had to buy the hard copy of the binder and have it shipped here to Canada and that would have been ridiculously expensive. So we made our own binder for this year and I would provide a picture but my internet is desperately slow today and despite a few attempts, won't let me upload pictures. I also added a section to the binder for a glossary so Catherine can write in unfamiliar words and a bibliography to record her sources. She spent this week learning about the early Christians and only just finished up a short report on St. Paul.

Catherine also requested a firmer focus on her cursive and an extra language - Tolkien's Runic from Lord of the Rings. :)

Harry - Harry's work last year focused on basic reading and writing to get him up to speed now that we've finally found programs that actually work for him. This year we're sticking with both Dancing Bears and Apples and Pears and adding Math Mammoth to our math lineup. I love Singapore but there inevitably seems to be a point where the kids need some reinforcement in something and that's when I can bring out the Math Mammoth worksheets.

We also added in writing this week. It's Emma Serle's Primary Language Lessons. It's actually from the same series as Catherine's writing program but this is only a slightly reworked version of the 1914 original from Downunder Literature while Catherine's has been reworked a bit more for a Catholic student. It's pretty much what I've wanted for the kids for years but never knew existed.

That's the new and exciting stuff. Most of the rest is same-old, same-old.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

High Expectations Can be a Bummer.

Catherine wrote her Basic Rudiments music theory exam for the Royal Conservatory of Music here in Canada in August. We just got her results online.

87% and First Class Honours.

We both would have been thrilled with this a couple of years ago but with the higher expectations philosophy that we've been adopting this is sort of disappointing for her. She was shooting for at least 90% and Honours.

Ah well. Without high expectations she may not have gotten the mark she did. Next time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

RIP Nudie Bum


Lost our second chicken yesterday. It was Nudie Bum, the little guy I spent much time trying to help as a little fluff ball. He had issues with his vent. It wasn't formed quite right and he wasn't eliminating waste in the same way as the other chickens. For the longest time he seemed fine but this last week his comb turned a shade of purple and he often seemed to hang back from the others. We were all rooting for him but it wasn't to be.

I guess the things with deformities though is that if you see one on the outside there's likely more on the inside. Perhaps there was something going on with Nudie Bum that got worse as he grew and maybe judging from the purplish comb, it was his heart.

Harry took it a little hard. He wasn't really close to Nudie Bum but I think that the fact that that one little rooster had a name was a factor.

Lessons learned for next year?

- No names at all.
- Check the chicks the farm store gives us before taking them home.
- Cull, yes cull, any aberrant chicks to save us emotional investment and money on feed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

One Down, Twenty-Five to Go

The reaper visited our chickens yesterday.

The Cornish Crosses are known for dropping dead occasionally, the result I suppose of being a hybrid that grows so darn fast. Sometimes they grow so fast their hearts can't keep up and they "flip", die suddenly of heart failure. We were sure Death was coming for one little guy, Nudie Bum (the only one with a name. You may remember him from a past post - he has issues with his vent), as his comb has been an awful shade of purple for the last week but he's still alive and kicking.

No, Nudie Bum lives but an anonymous hen is no more. The husband let them out of their ramshackle coop yesterday morning to eat and free range and between the time he opened the door and set down the feeder one hen tipped over and died. Bummer.

Two things to be thankful for though. Although we ordered and paid for 25 chickens we recently realized we do indeed have 26 and the dead chicken is a hen and not one of the much meatier roosters. Wait, three things to be thankful for. It was compost day yesterday and since it's not advisable to eat a chicken when you can't be sure what it died from we could toss it right into the compost bin for the truck to pick up in the afternoon.

Good timing on Death's part.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


My husband and I could only watch as, just half and hour ago, our old rotti/lab mix walked around the entire living room, peeing.

There was nothing we could do. If it was the other dog we could have shooed her out the front door but the old dog is a runner and it takes forever to catch her when she gets loose.

Ugh. Usually she's fine but I suspect it was such a hot day that she spent most of it lapping of the contents of one of the toilets so that, despite a couple of walks, her bladder could no longer take the pressure.

I've finished the mopping. I sort of wish I could finish the dog.

Friday, July 8, 2011

All Aboard the Chickenmobile!

For the last week our Cornish cross chicks have been getting loaded into a wheelbarrow and wheeled outside to spend the days outdoors. We've borrowed a dog pen from my brother, run chicken wire around the bottom and covered it with a tarp for shade and this is where the chicks spend the day lounging and eating and grazing and eating...and eating. These are meat chicks after all. Food is an obsession.

Today is the last day in the basement at night for at least a good portion of the little guys. Our brooding box is now officially too small for 25 three and a half week old chicks, the nights are warmer and many are almost fully feathered. It's a good thing too because the maintenance required to keep down the stink from these poop machines is something else. Anyhow, I thought I'd better snap a few pictures.

Here are almost half the little buggers after being wheeled out of the basement. After some initial clucking and cheeping they all seem to settle down and enjoy the ride.

Inevitably one malcontent tries to escape.

Harry, who is earning the reputation of being a chicken-whisperer in our house, is becoming the one that does most of the handling. The rest of us just want to load or unload as quickly as possible. Harry talks to them, waits for his moment and then carefully and tenderly lifts them. They, in turn, are calmer with him then the rest of us. Despite his expression (the sun was in his eyes), he enjoys being the one the chickens like most.

As we unloaded the second load of chicks today they began to realize they had wings. In just a few minutes they had all jumped ship onto the lawn.

The escape was not a worry. These guys just don't run and eventually they all headed right into the enclosure of their own accord. That's where their fellow chicks were, where the water was and most importantly to these little fatties, where the food was.

The End.

Not really. I went up to fill the water bucket for the chicks and handed Harry the camera. As I was turning on the tap I heard him giggling wildly. When I checked the pictures a few minutes ago I found this:

A lovely picture of my pregnant arse. Of MY end.


The End.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Tiff, a Snit, and a Happy Ending

Tuesday, homeschooling for my son and I was horrible. I was tired and he was unfocused and after an hour of struggling everything dissolved into anger and we both marched off in a snit. He was convinced I was the meanest mom ever and I was convinced I should ship him off to school.

As I was lying on my bed trying to work my way back to calm and reason my daughter came in and handed me a note from Harry. I read it, smiled and wrote a response. The note went back and forth a couple of times and ended with Harry and I having a big snuggly hug.

Here it is:

It was so hard getting him to read and spell yesterday. After our tiff I was convinced I was getting absolutely nowhere with him or that his focus issues were insurmountable but gosh, when I read the first sentence of that note I realized just how far he'd come. Six months ago he was barely reading. His handwriting was indecipherable. Spelling was non-existent. And yet now he could produce this bittersweet little message where even the misspellings showed a new competence.

So it was just one bad homeschooling session, not some huge failure, and in the end Harry showed me that all the work and frustration have been absolutely worth it and that despite our problems, we're getting there.

What a great kid.

ETA: In case anyone is wondering the progress we made was after several other reading programs got us nowhere after the last couple of years. It was only when we started using Apples and Pears and Dancing Bears, programs meant to help kids with learning difficulties, that Harry really started to understand phonics and begin to read and write.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Only in Canada?

I finally found my camera and so I can post a some pictures from our little local Canada Day parade.

I don't know what other local parades look like but ours always starts with the town cryer outfitted, of course, in a kilt made from the provincial tartan.

Local businesses take the opportunity to promote themselves a bit.

Anyone with a cool vintage vehicle drives in the parade.

Anyone with a cool miniature vehicle drives in the parade.

The kids wait for candy to be thrown by those in the parade.

There are horses and dogs, local community groups, usually pipers but none this year and, of course, firetrucks from all the local volunteer departments. And then there was this...?

And this?!

So what is a float dedicated to the Boston Bruins doing in a Canada Day parade you ask? Well, turns out that there are a LOT of Bruins fans here. Yeah, yeah, I know it seems like we should all be cheering for a Canadian team but the only teams in the east are the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs. So if you aren't a Montreal fan and don't want to lower yourself to being a Toronto fan there's generally one other clear choice. Boston is closer to us culturally and physically then most Canadian cities. We've got firm ties from events in the past like the Halifax Explosion when Boston came to the aid of Halifax and I've been assured by many people that Boston is so similar to Halifax that it almost feels like home to transplanted Bluenosers. Add to that that Boston is an Original Six team with more istory then half the Canadian teams and it makes sense that so many Nova Scotians love the Bruins.

And lots of the parade viewers loved that float, especially when it went past and they saw the fellow on the back with the paper bag over his head.

There is nothing more Canadian then taking a jab at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Monday, July 4, 2011

And So It Begins?


Harry has some issues. He has trouble with focus in certain circumstances. His hearing is odd. His recall is sometimes odder. There are a lot of little things that, pieced together, make me suspect he's got some sort of auditory processing delay. I called up our provincial hearing and speech clinic and Harry's now on the wait list to get assessed*. I should have a better idea in two to three months. I'm also thinking of mentioning this to our family doctor and getting a referral to see if there isn't an issue with learning disabilities. They DO sort of run in the family after all.

He's a bright, clever, sensitive kid so to sit at the table with him and help him with his work should not be as frustrating as it is much of the time. I should not leave the table exhausted. He should not leave the table despairing. But that's how it is sometimes. He's made remarkable progress in reading ever since we've switched to a program oringinally designed for dyslexics, Dancing Bears, but it should not have taken this long to get where we are.

So off to assessments we go so both of us can get a handle on what's really going on. Wish us luck!

*For the Americans looking for health care info this is a no-cost service here in Nova Scotia. I could get Harry in quicker at a private clinic and pay out-of-pocket or possibly through our health insurance but it's not an emergency so I'm happy with this approach.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Better Than Chocolate

Now that the postal strike here in Canada is over I'm finally getting mail, and in the mail yesterday was Catherine's writing program for Grade 8. It's Lingua Mater and it's had me drooling ever since I was introduced to it by a member of the Well Trained Mind forums.

It's actually a rewrite of a program written by Emma Serl much earlier in the (ETA: last) century. Some of her other books are available on Amazon or for free on but Lingua Mater seemed to be the nicest package, most open-and-go and I also liked the Catholic content.

Yes, yes. I know I use secular materials but my kids know next to nothing about the Catholic church, and it is a part of my family history and culture. Besides, many of the teachings and values are really not very different from mine. The odd difference will simply be an opportunity to teach my daughter about Catholicism.

The book contains a good grammar review. Much of it will be very basic for my daughter who has zoomed through MCT's Grammar Voyage but it will stretch her a bit by the end and hopefully lead into Jensen's Grammar for grade 9. There is a heavy dose of classical imitation writing and a big focus on having the student critically examine and edit their own work rather then have the parent mark it.

Bascially, this is the program I've been looking for but haven't managed to find until now and when I opened the envelope yesterday I just wanted to sit down and hug the books. The only problem is that I was set on Writing Tales 1 for my son. Now I'm wondering if I might not want to start him with the first book in this series, Primary Language Lessons. I have a about two months to decide.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Carnival of Homeschooling

For the first time in ages I've actually submitted something. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mysterious Disappearance on the Front Lawn

Every spring a lovely pair of tree swallows moves into a broken down little bird house on our front lawn. Last year it was invaded by some sort of predatory bird. The attack did even more damage to the already decrepit house and being the slum lords we are we did nothing to fix it. The swallows were back this spring and just yesterday my daughter said I should go out and check the house out because she could hear and even see the chicks.

But this morning we discovered this (the windows are for the chicken coop. Pay them no attention),

On the ground are the feathers the little parents collected to insulate their nest.

In the nest are a couple of tiny older eggs (a year, two years old? No bigger than an almond in any case) that never hatched.

And we don't know if the chicks got away or were eaten by whatever tore the floor out from under the house.

Years ago my daughter built a very study bird house from a kit so in short order we're going to get a much taller pole, mount the bird house to it and replace the house of death that now decorates the lawn. Too late for the swallows this year but hopefully they'll find the new pad to their liking next year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Something in Our Basement

If you head down to our basement right now you'll see this,

Flick the light on.

See? It's just a heat lamp. And undneath that lamp? In the box?

Two week old Chicks! 25 little Cornish X chicks that will be our guests for the next three months. They'll be fed and watered and housed and adored and then, somewhere around the end of August they'll be butchered and stored away in the freezer. Yum.

This is something we've been talking about for ages. It's partly why we bought this house with it's two acres out in the middle of nowhere. We've got no great concerns about organic meat but we do worry about what kind of lives the animals we eat have led so this is one small step to making our consumption a bit more ethical.

These guys grow like crazy. When we picked them up on June 14th they were only, at most, a few days old. I could scoop them up, 2 or 3 to the handful. Now just one is a handful.

Only one is still a little smaller and, poor little guy, relegated to isolation to save him from being pecked by the others. As you may be able to tell from the pictures, it has issues with its vent. I won't bore (or gross you out) with the details but suffice to say I have to clean him frequently with warm water and apply a few different products to backside and vent in an attempt to get him (her,it) through. He's still eating, drinking, pooping and growing and has enough attitude for 3 chicks so we've deciding to put the effort into keeping him healthy rather then cull him. I must admit, I'm getting quite attached to this little guy.

Another couple of weeks or sooner if summer ever decides to show up, and these guys will be heading out to enjoy the sunshine. Not free range though. We eventually want them as our supper, not as coyote or raccoon supper.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Easy and Cheap Homeschool Organization

I've always had my eye out for a way to organize the kids' homeschooling work that I could maintain and that wouldn't take up much room. About a year ago I finally put something together and it's been working like a charm ever since. I kept meaning to post about it but never got around to it until a few days ago when I mentioned it on a forum I frequent. It was a big hit so I'll share it here and hope someone else finds it useful.

The first and most important components are the wire dish racks. Yup, wire dish racks. I first starting using these years ago for picture books. I'd read about them in a blog somewhere. You stand the picture books up in the rack and then your younger children can flip through the books without making a mess. Works for homeschooling stuff too. I stick all the texts and workbooks that we use daily in the rack where the plates would go, the binders along the side and the pencils, erasers, rulers, etc. in the utensil bucket. Both kids have one.

Here's what my daughter's dish rack looks like:

The dish racks sit on a couple of old press board nightstands I picked up at a yardsale. I use the drawer for staples, flashcards, tape, stickers, glues and any other assorted supplies we might need on occasion. On the bottom shelf are the science or craft kits, books and binders I need more occasionally, and the texts and workbooks we've completed or will be using within the next 6 months or so. The Big Box of Colours also gets stuck in there.

I tend to get confuddled when there's too much stuff so this forces me to keep our materials compact and well edited and stop the homeschooling from taking over too much of the house. It also means it's all within reach of the dining room table where we work.

Another tool that keeps the walls from getting cluttered and helps the kids focus and shut out distractions are the tri-fold presentation boards I picked up. School kids usually use these for science fair projects but they make excellent mini-cubicles and give the kids a place to keep reference sheets. The board facing the camera is Catherine's and contains the vocab lists from Jensen's Vocabulary (I like to mount such things on construction paper first so they stand out a bit). When these aren't in use I can fold them up and tuck them away.

I have a couple of other little tricks that make things easier as well. I mark the current pages of all our texts and workbooks with little plastic sticky tabs so that I don't need to flip through a book to find where we are. I use Donna Young's weekly planning sheets (I only really plan a week at a time. Any more and I find I'm too easily thrown off if we miss a day or two) and give my older child the sheet when she's doing her work. As she finished her work she corrects it and then figures out how she did in percentage terms and records it in the slot for that subject and day on the sheet. It's a lazy way for me to record grades if I ever need them and it gives her some much needed percentage practice.

Total cost for all this? Not quite sure. I think the dish racks were $5 - $10 at a local hardware store. I've seen plastic ones for cheaper. The used night stands cost me between $10 and $30 for the two. Can't remember. I do know the presentation boards were $8.99 each because that seemed like a lot for a couple of sheets of cardboard. I probably could have made similar ones from old cardboard boxes for free. Sticky tabs were a buck or two at the local Dollar Store.

It's an easy system that requires hardly any work, is not expensive to put together and is one that my ADD brain can live with. If anyone else finds this useful and sets up their own version please let me know and leave a link with pictures. If anyone comes up with improvements or tweaks that makes it even better I'd love to know about that as well.

Update: Jamie has a picture of her version of this up at her blog, The Chemist at Bradford Academy