Monday, July 30, 2012

Every Child...

"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education."

— Luther Burbank (American horticulturalist and botanist, 1849 – 1926)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Early Morning Hike

We got up early today and headed for the woods before it became too hot. It was peaceful, quiet, just the right temperature, and beautifully lit by the morning sun through the trees.  Exploring the trails around here always makes me grateful that we live where we do.

The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.
                                                                     ~ Plato

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Preparing for camping

William, Charlie and I are heading up to Cyprus Lake next week for a few days of camping, and we have been in full preparation mode.  The living room is full of sleeping bags, enamel plates, and marshmallows.  Through all of this, William has been adamant that he is old enough to sleep in his own tent (I beg to differ, but I am pretty sure that has to do with my own Mama-ness rather than his lack of skill or maturity).  Actually, he has been talking about going it alone for quite a while now - the afterglow of some great camping trips with his Cub Troupe, I think.

Today we went into town to pick up a few last minute things, and he finally won me over.  Canadian Tire had a little 1-2 man tent on sale for $20, and it ended up coming home with us.

Here is William getting ready for his first almost-solo camping trip.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The NEW Nature Table

We have had this nature table in our living room for a few years now, and the boys have enjoyed playing with it on and off through the seasons.  They both love setting it up and changing it over each season, but lately it has been gathering a bit of dust (I guess that is what happens when you leave gnomes out for 9 year old boys to play with!!)

I decided that rather than scrapping the whole thing (which I really love) we just needed to update it a bit, and fill it a less with things cute and magical, and more with things natural, and creepy.

So, here is the grand unveiling of the 'new and improved nature table'. 

They have been much more interested after the re-vamping, and have been on an endless search for magnifying glasses and field guides - perfect!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Farm Camp

This past week, both boys have been spending their days 'playing farmer' at Everdale, a local organic farm / education centre / CSA.  For kids who are not used to other people directing so much of their time, they both came home with nothing but good things to day about their time at Farm Camp.

Brushing the donkeys was definitely a favorite for William.

Charlie loved the sheep,

And they both loved the maze.

They also gathered eggs, made ice cream, picked beets, ground flour that ended up as pizza crust, did crafts, and planted peas. 

And the verdict is...they both want to go back next year.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Love

A little something juicy from my garden this morning...

Sunday, July 15, 2012


You all know by know that the boys (and Jim, for that matter) get a little crazy when it comes to LEGO.  Today I look William and Charlie to a LEGO fete in Toronto - an exhibition of different models made by adult LEGO enthusiasts.  Even I was thoroughly impressed with the displays, and the boys walked around open-mouthed for almost 2 hours.  Here are some of their favourite displays...

Somehow I see a lot of extra LEGO building in our future...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life Learning...Dogs

Homeschooling for us looks different day to day.  Sometimes we stay close to home, reading, working on projects, or just playing.  Some days we head out exploring all of the great places that the world (or at least our little corner of it) has to offer: museums and art galleries, conservation areas and trails, historical sights and science centers.  Today, we were somewhere in between.

The business association in our little town hosted their first annual Dog Days, and the boys wanted to check it out.  There were displays by the local humane society and pet-related businesses, contests for the most doggy sit-ups, the longest tail, and the dog and owner who looked most alike.  Most importantly, there were a lot of dogs.

The boys spent a good part of the afternoon chatting with dog breeders, groomers, trainers, and owners.  They chatted about what kind of dog they would each like (when Mama and Daddy finally give in and add another pet to our brood).  Most of all, they pet and played with lots of furry friends.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Literary Carry-Over

 I LOVE literary carry-over.  You know, those times when kids read about something that the characters in their favorite books are doing, and absolutely have to try it?

When we were reading The Mysterious Benedict Society books, William took to carrying a tool box around with him that was filled with pocket knives, flashlight, string, band aids etc. in deference to one of the characters, Kate, from the book.

Last night he started the second book in the Series of Unfortunate Events series and finished off at:

"Hello hello hello!" a loud voice boomed out, and from behind the door stepped a short, chubby man with a round red face.  "I am your Uncle Monty, and this is really perfect timing!  I just finished making a coconut cream cake!"

Well, you don't need much more of an invitation than that, do you?  William woke up this morning with baking on his mind, and here is the finished product:

With a little bit left sans coconut for his brother, of course...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Soccer Season (Here's to great coaches!)

We are not a terribly sports-oriented family (more into activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking...) but I do think it is important for the boys to be part of some team sports once in a while.  They both enjoy soccer, and look forward to it each summer.

This year, they both have great coaches (which makes all the difference in the world).  A few weeks ago, I was struck by how lucky they are.  As you know, when the coaches are all volunteers, you get what you get and try to be happy about it.

On the night in question, Charlie's team was rather unattended, with only 5 little ones showing up.  It was crazy-hot at almost 40 degrees (which likely accounts for so many missing players) and they were playing the most competitive team in the league, which in itself is frustrating, given that this is a recreational league for 6 and 7 year old boys.

Here are our little ones, exhausted and hot because they didn't even have enough players to make a full shift let along have any subs.  The coach of the other team, who were scoring so much that we lost count (I think the final score was something like 18 - 0 for the other guys) was ridiculously competitive, and had the sportsmanship skills of one of those crazy-drunk-idiotic hockey parents that you see on YouTube.  With every goal (all 18!!!)  he paused the game, called his players into the centre of the field, and let out a horrendously loud "YEAH RED!!  WE ARE THE BEST!!!!!"

Out little blue team was struggling just to stay upright, let alone score.

SO, here is what I want to say about our coach.  William (the coach, not the son) is in his early to mid twenties.  He doesn't have any kids.  He was the last volunteer coach to join, and did so only because there were more kids registered than could play unless the league found another coach, and he didn't want any of them to miss out.  He works hard all day, then hangs out on the soccer pitch cheering on a group of unskilled 6 and 7 year old boys as they kick the ball around.

And while the other coach was boasting around like a rooster and making everyone feel bad, Will was cheering on our non-scoring kids like they were true champions.  He was high-fiving everyone in turn, and offering sincere congratulations on good plays and gentle pointers on how they could improve.  He checked in with all of the kids, often, to make sure they were drinking enough and not getting too tired.  He called water breaks so that they didn't get overheated, and told jokes to keep their spirits up.  He connected with each child by name, pointed out to them when they did something they had not been able to do before, and made sure to praise them for their sportsmanship as well as they skill.  Charlie left that game full of great things to talk about: how he was getting better at passing, how good snack was, how much fun it was, what he wanted to practice before the next week.  He never even mentioned the final score.

THAT, ladies and gentleman, is a coach.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lego Love...

My camera has been being rather temperamental lately, so I borrowed Williams.  I just had to share this pic that I found on his memory card...

Monday, July 9, 2012

More time in the woods

It must get a little boring to see so many pictures of the boys playing in the woods, but it really is a great way to spend an afternoon.  Feel free to skip through if you have had enough...

Today we brought some neighbourhood friends to a favorite part of the Bruce Trail that was spectacular that last time we were there (last year in the early spring on one of the first really warm days) and was decidedly less appealing today (midway through one of the hottest, driest summers on record).  What used to be a beautiful, alive waterfall flowing with clear, cool blue water was more of a light brown, mosquitoed trickle this time around.  You would think I would have given it a bit more forethought, wouldn't you?

Still, the kids had fun for a while before the bugs got to be too bad.  William and Charlie love showing off 'their' wild places, and Ben and Maddie are usually game to explore with us.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reading Lessons for Me

I have been homeschooling long enough that I should know this, but sometimes even moms forget their lessons. Here is what I have (finally!!) remembered today:  Homeschooling works so well because you can help kids to learn what, when,and how they learn best.  I know this.  Really, I do.

Still, I have been getting more and more stressed lately because Charlie is now 7 years old, and no where near reading.  He has a few sight words, of course, but his progress has been moving at a much slower pace than my anxiety ( I know, I know - my misplaced issues rather than his errors).

My approach to reading with both boys has always been to focus on encouraging their love for reading first and foremost, rather than pushing them to develop the actual skills and end up becoming good readers who hate to pick up a book.  I think that generally I have succeeded - both boys look forward to lots of reading at bedtime and throughout the day,  and they have story books lined up one after the other so that we are never at a loss of what to read next.  William is now a really good reader (after a slow-by-common-standards-start) who has a book with him almost all of the time, is always happy to share his list of favorites if you are looking for something to read.

But Charlie was struggling.  The preparing to read, leveled readers that I had for him (that worked well for William, I might add) were completely uninspiring to him.  He was not at all interested in them, and got by with reading as little as he possibly could while still feeling that he was keeping up with his older brother. 

Finally, yesterday, my brain somehow clicked on again.  I realized (right after he said "Mom, this is how it is") that those readers were excruciatingly boring and infantile for my oh, so grown up son.  He wanted a good story.  He wanted adventure.  Drama even.

So we stared reading The Fire Cat by Esther Averill together (maybe not high drama by adult standards, but not bad to a 7 year old).  We sit side by side and read it together.  He reads the words that he is able (smaller sight words, names that he can recognize easily, what he can guess from the illustrations or the sentences themselves) and I fill in the rest.  And, Viola!!  A book that he is bringing to me himself throughout the day to read.  A book that has him begging to read just a few more pages at night before we shut out the lights. And a 'real' book, where he recognizes enough of the words that he feels his as 'really' reading.  The other important fact being that each time we pick it up together he is reading more and more of the words on his own.

So, there you have it - my lesson for the day: listen to your kids.  If something is not working, try something new.  There are a million different ways to learn, and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.  The more I remember that, the happier we will all be.