Thursday, April 30, 2009


I am SOOOOOOO excited!!!!! We have been recently re-discovering some beautiful trails just a short walk from our home, and when we went there today after having been away for about a week, the whole forest has changed. A week ago I couldn't see it, but now it is just about ready to explode with trilliums. Since we were there last, the leaves have grown tall and are now recognizable, and the blooms are peaking out and offering a hint of the beautiful things that are to come. Staring down into the valley, you can see that the whole floor is absolutely covered with white trilliums. In another 2 or 3 days it will be breath-taking. It goes without saying that over the next week or so you will likely be bombarded with dozens of pictures of trilliums.......

And, Mother Nature being the kind and gracious being that she is, we are not left on our own to wait for the trilliums. There are still Dutchmen's Breeches.....................

And Trout Lilies .....................

And Carolina Spring Beauty.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Today has been a LEGO day in the true sense of the word. William got up this morning and dove right into putting together this LEGO set which he bought yesterday after plundering his piggy bank. He spend virtually all of the day huddled up in the guest bedroom (where he can lock the door to keep younger brothers at bay...) and built to his hearts content. He stayed in his pajamas until 3pm. He refused soup and would only eat leftover pizza for lunch, because he could not tear himself away to sit at the kitchen table. 7-8 hours of building, I swear it.
And here is the final product!!!

The proud but slightly crazed look is what you get after spending all day playing with LEGO!!! There has got to be an engineer in the making here, somewhere.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tree Planting

Today was tree planting day with William's Beaver Troupe (lodge?) . After a little bit of grumbling over the gloves being too big, all of the boys got to work and together we planted 600 trees this morning!! I have to say, I am rather proud of us all.

It is wonderful to see the boys getting together with a leader who has the expectation that not only will they work hard, but that they are capable of doing a good job. Any child who had the inclination to get a little whiny (not mine, of course!) seemed to get over it very quickly. They were handed gloves, a shovel and a few trees, and everyone got to work. Two hours later, tired and hot, we all looked over our work and felt wonderful. The leader (I am not up to date enough to know what his title is) says a serious "good work, boys - I'm proud of you all" and 20 boys break out in ear-to-ear grins. Quite an accomplishment for a group of 6 years old boys and a handful of inexperienced parents!

Happy Earth Week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Raptor Center

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful birds of prey sanctuary close by and today was a beautiful day for a visit. These birds are all ones who have been injured or are for some other reasons not able to be released back into the wild. Above is an American Kestrel.

Apparently William has the approximate wing-span of a Red Tailed Hawk!

Not exactly a 'bird of prey', but Leopard Frogs are fun, anyway.

This Great Horned Owl has imprinted on humans, and therefore cannot be released. Someone found her as a hatchling, and apparently thought that she would make a great pet. She was raised on bacon and potato chips (her natural diet ?!?!) and was turned over to the center when it became obvious (as if it wasn't from the beginning) that solitary carnivorous birds with huge talons might not make greatest house pets.

Did you know that it is not physically possible for young boys to pass by a fort in the woods without going in?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quote of the day

One of my favorites...

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Outside it is a grey, wet, and miserable day - the perfect day to stay inside, read a good book, play LEGO (of course!) and bask in the beautiful green of our seedlings that are waiting patiently for their chance to be planted out in the great big world outside. We are still a few weeks away from the May 24 weekend (our usually 'safe' weekend to plant outside) and our seedlings are coming along well, meaning that I have not killed them yet!! I think that this is the 5th or 6th spring that I have started seeds inside, and I have yet to get any of them successfully transplanted into an actual garden. I know, it is sad. I like the idea of calling myself a gardener, but really, that is a stretch. I am a 'throw it in the ground and see what happens' kind of gardener. You know that first beautiful Saturday that comes about toward the end of May? That is the day I get really excited, raid the garden store (because of course, all of my seedlings have suffered a slow and painful death by then), and get all of the lovely little plants tucked nicely into the ground. That is about it. By the end of the day I am tired, and have, apparently, had my fill of gardening for the season. I may on occasion motivate myself to try to dig out the weeds (especially if we are having people over who are in fact competent gardeners...) This all works well, of course for things like lettuce and carrots, but really, as an approach to cultivation it has its limits. But perhaps this is the year. William and Charlie are old enough to help out in the garden (and are the perfect height for pulling weeds) and the 'economic climate' certainly encourages growing our own food. So here's to a fresh start this year - to my own plants started from seed, to a healthy garden, to fresh produce sans chemicals, and to the whole thing recorded with pride on my blog. So please wish me luck, and if you don't find any more pictures of my garden in the future, please take a minute to remember this years' seedlings, sacrificed in the name of my dream of becoming a gardener.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009


A good friend of mine once commented about homeschooling that she felt that children needed more people than their mothers as teachers in their lives. I couldn't agree more. One of the things that I love about homeschooling is the time and opportunity to make use of all of the wonderful teachers who are around. I am using the term 'teacher' in a very broad (and perhaps a more discriminating ?) way than most. I am not talking about someone who has gone to university for any number of years, has the certificate on the wall, and the regular pay cheque for their time. I am talking about people who are passionate about a subject, who are immersed in it, steeped in it, and radiate a love for it, and who what to share their love with others. Just as kids learn most when they are excited about something, they also learn better when their teacher is enthusiastic. The kind of teacher that I am referring to and the traditional kind who work in schools are not mutually exclusive. I know many wonderful teachers who work in the public and private school system who genuinely love what they do, and go out of their way to share their excitement with the children in their charge. May of them even mamage to bring some of their own interests and passions into the classroom to share, in spite of the rigid curriculum guidelines set out for them. I think, though, that it is not easily done - not through fault of the teachers, but rather as a function of the system that they are working in.

Our neighbors across the street know that we are homeschooling our children. One thing about being known as a homeschooling family is that teachers, the real kind, emerge from the wood work to share what they know. This wonderful woman first came over to introduce herself to us last fall. She had seen us around, and knew that our approach to education did not require the kids to be in bed by 7:30 at night. This piece was essential - she is an astronomer, and the stars are most often not out before 'bedtime'. This woman absolutely radiates a love of astronomy. It is a hobby of hers, not a paid profession, but you can see that it is a key part of her life, and of her identity. She has taken over a year (and a great deal of money) to build her own high powered telescope, and on clear nights she sets it up in the back yard. She invited the boys to come over to check it out!!!

This woman is not a teacher in the traditional sense. But boy, does she love to look at the stars!!! Last night William saw the Owl cluster, the Orion nebula, two spiral galaxies (one of which is enveloping the other) and Saturn, including its rings - very cool!!!!! This is the kind of learning that is fun - not forced pages in a work book. This is the kind of learning that is exciting for the student and for the teacher, and it is the kind of education that I would hope will continue to be a part of all of our lives.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Bad Lands

Today has been declared "the best day every!!!!" and I have to agree. We went, along with a great group of other homeschoolers, to The Bad Lands (local clay hills) and the kids ran crazy for the afternoon. These clay hills began to form, as I understand it, when local farmers cleared the trees to make the land farmable (is that a word?). Without the trees to hold the top soil in place, it soon blew away revealing the deep red clay soil underneath. Not healthy for the environment, but very fun to explore anyway. It was beautiful 17 degrees and sunny, and we all came home with a nice rosy glow, underneath the layers of clay dust.
I have only posted pictures of my boys here, but there were actually about 25 kids there with us, most of them boys under 10 years old. And the best thing was there were not fights, no injuries, and no tears. Wonderful!!
Charlie and another young girl spend the better part of an hour filling their rubber boots with sand, and became totally filthy in the process, but boy did they have fun. All over the area last night mothers were looking despairingly at the clay dust and grime that they would need to scrub off of the bath tub...............

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Civic Museum

I can't say enough good things about our local civic museum. It is small (tiny, really!) and the exhibits don't change all that often, but the kid love it!!!! For a yearly membership of about $40 for the family, we can come here any time we want, the the kids know that they are free to explore, touch, pick up, play with, anything that they want. They have an extra-large snakes and ladder game, puzzled galore.....
Way cool puppet theatre made intoa tree trunk with a huge selection of animal puppets...

A dino dig.....
Not to mention the fish tank, pretend fire station, paper craft tables, bird call machines, dress-up costumes, games, pioneer toys, pull trains.......You get the picture. We spent almost 3 hours there this afternoon, and will be back again soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

And if he were really to do good, he would have needed, in addition to principles, a heart capable of violating them - a heart which knows only of the particular, not of the general case, and which achieves greatness in little actions.

Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

the launch...
the hunt...

the crash!
Happy Easter, everyone!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Earth Science Museum

We spend some time today at the Earth Science Museum at the local University with a group of friends. What a great combination of a guided 'tour', and free time for the kids to explore on their own. It always amazes me to watch the boys explore a new place - to see what they look at, the focus on their faces when they find something that interests them, and how much information they ask for or figure out on their own.

Days like this always remind me that one of the best parts of homeschooling, at least for our family, is the time. Having time to look, listen, touch, and explore at their own pace. Having time available during the day to go to all of these wonderful places when there are no crowds or line ups. Having time to stay until we are ready to go, and not have to rush back to 'school' by a certain time. And, of course, time for Charlie to stop and play in the puddle on the way back to the car.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What we are reading today

Here's what our family is reading today....

*Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat ( what a great, truly Canadian adventure story. I can't wait until the boys are a little bit older to read it again with them!)
*Just Because It's Not Wrong Doesn't Make It Right by Barbara Coloroso (I have just started this one, but I am really enjoying it already. It is wonderful to find a book dedicated to helping children learn how to make truly ethical decisions, not just teaching them a list of "always do this" and "never do this".)

*Hilarious Canadian Histories: First Folks and Vile Voyageurs by Claire Mackay (William has been loving all of the books and audios in this series - history and science geared to all of the funny, gross and weird stuff that little boys love)
*The King At The Door by Brock Cole (This was a great thrift store find - a cute story about a little boy who greets a 'king' dressed in rags at the door)

*Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (This is on everyone's favorite list, isn't it? We have been reading it so much lately that I can almost get through it without crying. Almost.)
*I love You, Little One by Nancy Tafuri (Another wonderful Mommy - Baby story with beautiful illustrations of all sorts of cute animal babies.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Best Pumpkin Bread

This is the best, homiest, most wonderfully sweet and spicy smelling recipe that I could find for such a cold winter-ish day. It is almost worth baking just for how it makes the house smell! The recipe makes 3 loaves - if you don't eat them all right away, they freeze well and are great to share. Enjoy!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (from

1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and sugar. In another bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into 3 greased 7 x 3 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for approx 50 minutes. Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Wonderful!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Ahhhhh April. In like a *!#$#!* lion, right? The boys woke up this morning, looked outside, and declared this "The worst day ever!!!". I am not sure that I would go that far, but I do admit to being somewhat irritated that all of our nice almost-green grass is now buried under 15 cm of snow!! Oh well. It will add some nice variety to the weather chart we have been working on, and the boys were wonderfully sweet in their concern about the robins, who now have a smorgasbord of bird seed scattered throughout the yard. Happy Spring, Everyone!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Two Magic Coins

Nothing warms my heart more than the stories that childen write. Here is William's latest masterpiece - Enjoy!

The Two Magic Coins

Once there was a poor shepherd boy. He was mostly poor except for his sheep. One day when he was selling some of his sheep, an old man came up beside him and said “I would like one of your sheep, please. I will give you two gold medallions. They only work once, so use them wisely. Never let them out of your sight and never sell them. Be aware of the rain – never go outside in the rain with your coins, or they will vanish”. The boy said yes to the old mans warnings.

The man quietly went over with the shepherd boy and showed him the sheep that he wanted. It was a quiet little lamb grazing in a field near the shepherds fathers old tree. The shepherd boy gave him the sheep and then he bent down on the ground and he took one of the coins from his little leather sack. He thought of a happy thought, and thought of what he wanted at the same time. He looked up and saw what he had wished for right in front of him. It was a little house with some furniture – one bed and a coffee table, and one pen with all of his sheep in it behind the house. He heard a storm and ran inside. He waved to the old man as he walked away.

The next day an old lady came to the door and asked if she could have one of his coins. He forgot that they were not just regular coins and gave her both of them. She did the exact same thing that he had done – she put the coins on the ground and took some dark magic from her pocket and sprinkled it over both of the coins and then she went away.

The next day the man was there again and he said “How have you been doing with the special coins?” Finally it came back to the shepherd boy – he remembered that they were magic coins. He said sorry and bowed his head. The old man said “It is ok about those coins. Those coins only work once. I wanted you to try them out. Here are some more coins. The little shepherd boy said thank you and the man walked away.

The old man sometimes walked by the shepherd’s little cottage, and sometimes he winked, and sometimes he walked up to the door and gave the little boy some wool that his sheep had made.

By: William (Age 6)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The First Climb of the Year

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.- William Blake, 1799, The Letters

This is the first spring that William is really big enough to climb the maple tree in the front yard (although he has been eyeing it longingly for several years now). As I was standing outside trying not to interfere with his experience (he's still not big enough to be up there without a 'spotter') I began to really appreciate how lucky we are to have something as simple as trees that are part of our daily lives. When I drive through some of the cities nearby, particularly the new subdivisions, I am struck by the lack of trees. If new home owners there are lucky, they may get one newly planted tree on their 30 foot lot, a tree that will certainly not be able to support a child's weight, or provide much shade, for many years to come. What a sad state of affairs that for so many families and because of so many reasons, trees have become a luxury - something of note, that you drive elsewhere see. What a loss not to be able to run your hands over the smooth bark of a Birch tree, to gather pockets full of acorns under the branches of an ancient Oak, or experience the magical transformations of Maple leaves in the fall. What a loss that as a society, trees are seen as things of lower importance than parking lots and Seven-Elevens. What a legacy to leave for our children.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Throwing Marshmallows

What could be more fun than an afternoon spent with friends turning PCV pipe into super-high-tech-launch'm-across-the-yard marshmallow guns?????? This idea came from the instructables site ( and kept the boys busy for ever. After lots of elbow grease cutting the pipes to length, they could pull them apart again and again to make different models, try for a better launch, more speed, one handle or get the picture. Definitely a worth while investment of $4. And, of course, anything that provides a reason to bring a bag of little colored marshmallows into the house is good in my books!
Thanks for the great day!