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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Getting Back Into Gear.

I admit this year has been tough. Not only in our homeschool life but our life in general. Sometimes taking a step back and seeing things for what they are is needed. Now moving forward toward a new school year I find myself getting excited.

This excitement comes not only from our new curriculum slowly trickling in . It also comes from our life here. The kids have both reached middle school age this year. With that I find the old schooling methodology giving way to new more advanced paths of learning. It had been overwhelming a little me frankly. The idea that the kids were no longer just small. The idea that life is moving on it's course maybe faster than I was anticipating or prepared for, if one is or can be prepared. It was a bittersweet realization that that phase of little kids has passed by so quickly. It has been even more daunting to realize that I may be homeschooling through highschool in the years to come.

So where am I going with all of this? Well forward I guess. I am looking forward for school to begin even though our classroom is being renovated and has to get done first. I think in part because I feel confident that the curriculum choices I have made thus far for this year will inspire my kids to greater learning.

Our first curriculum conundrum was what were we going to use for English this year. Now I know there are many homeschoolers with far more experience who would say stick with a program for the whole school career of the student. I think that would be failing my kids and their individual needs. We used Shirley English this last year because that's what they needed a grammar heavy curriculum that taught them the technicalities of writing. The jingles for the grammar will stick with them for a long time and aid in their further learning. My goal now is to see them writing with feeling not because it's required by me. How was I going to achieve this? Research and lots of it. Looking each programme over for it's pro's and con's, reading review after review, and then happily stumbling upon what looked like a complete fit for our needs.

Enter "Cover Story". Put out by the same people who make the older One Year Adventure Novel. I first have to say it's not a cheap programme for more than one student and even less so with the exchange rate and shipping. But having cracked open the teachers manual I am so excited to see the kids writing this year. The variety, the methodology, and creativeness to this course make it very exciting. So follow along with us throughout the year I may just have more to say about this unique programme.

What's next? Waiting on the arrival our our Geography programme. I also want to plug here for what's been keeping me busy and what's still keeping me busy in spare moments and that is our local groups website. Well that in itself isn't that interesting I am sure...but the curriculum section is. I have pulled almost every curriculum maker, supplier, resource I have found and made it easy to browse on one site.  So grab a coffee and browse away folks you may just find the hidden gem of curriculum you have been searching for!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Welcome to Our Neck of the Woods. A Tour of SSM Ontario Attractions.

 On the face of it one living in any particular area of Canada may possibly think there isn't a whole lot to do. If they were to be asked to write about it they would soon discover there is a LOT more to their local area then meets the eye. There is so much natural beauty, many outdoor pursuits, and a large variety of tourist attractions to keep even the most picky person happy. I want to share just a bit with you about where we live in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

 This far North in Ontario it can feel pretty isolating with only the Trans Canada Highway connecting us to the rest of the world. If one is to scratch the surface though you can find all sorts of interesting sites to see and keep you occupied. Some that you may find on a site like Trip Advisor and some that you may miss if you don't know they exist. 

One of our kids favorite places to go is the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center. It's interactive movie is a must see as are all the great exhibits about Bushplanes. If you are a car enthusiast you may also be lucky to see some of the antique cars that are on display throughout the hanger. 

The Fire Spotter's Tower. You can climb up and look around the museum from a new angle

Another couple of worthwhile museum's to see are the Ermatinger-Clergue Historic Site and the Sault Ste Marie Museum.  If you are willing to go off the beaten path and experience more in the way of interesting museum's the Prince Township Museum is a great little one. The St. Joseph Island Museum is also a fantastic look into the past. Tour it's various out buildings to learn more about farming and pioneer life in the area.

Of course if you are visiting at this time of  year we still have lots of winter fun! The largest hill in the area Finn Hill is still LEGAL (that's ride sliding has been banned in some parts of the country due to it's dangerous possibilities) to slide on. Our city mayor has proclaimed that it will remain so as it has been a tradition for many generations. The hill is well taken care of with snow fencing, parking, ,and straw for traction to climb back up. Best free family activity winter can bring.  

If sledding isn't your thing there is downhill skiing at Searchmont, snowshoeing and cross country trails at Hiawatha Highlands, and indoor archery at the Rod and Gun Club. If all these wintry activities leave you missing summer have no fear there are a lot of outdoor summer pursuits as well. 

In the summer you can find kids filling up local parks as each neighborhood generally has one or two. You can see our family out canoeing in one of the many Ontario lakes found in the area. Not only is the fishing great.....

..okay well great doesn't always mean a HUGE catch! LOL. But you can and likely will see some amazing wildlife while out canoeing. Remember most animals like early morning so the early bird catches the worm ;) 

Painted Turtle

Turtles aside there is more to see. Our new Mill Market is also a temporary home to Entomica which although it is small is a real crowd pleaser. Once you leave Entomica you can stroll down the cities lovely boardwalk and enjoy the sculptures that are dotted along it. Follow it down to the Roberta Bondar Pavilion where there is often some outdoor activity taking place throughout the summer months. If you continue to walk the cities board walk you will come to the Art Gallery of Algoma and the city library.

Not feeling like walking? You can bike along the bike path which is part of an extensive trail system the city is working on named after our last mayor who passed away after a long battle with cancer. The John Roswell Hub Trail is impressive and a really great way for people to get out there and enjoy the city. If a long bike ride doesn't seem like your thing and you rather BMX then try out Velorution's Dirt Park. If you rather skateboard then check out the cities board park

If all that outdoorsy stuff has you exhausted and you rather relax you can bet you will find some great places to eat, shop, or poke your nose around in. Remember if you are coming for a visit you better check in with a local homeschool family aka us we would love to share some fun places with you!

Guess what? We have another exciting giveaway for you brought to you by The Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team! Details: Open to Canada only – excluding Quebec. Must be 18+ to enter. Ends April 15th, 2015 @11:59pm EST. Please use the entry form below!

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Canadian Content. It Does Exist!

One of the things I think a lot of Canadians find hard when homeschooling is finding a curriculum that has Canadian content. One can say well why is having Canadian content so important? There are numerous reasons.
  1. Canadian math uses metric not imperial. 
  2. Canadian history is obviously going to be more specific when written from a Canadian perspective.
  3. Canadian geography well don't even get me started with how many curriculum leave it out or just plain have it wrong.
  4. Canadian cultural studies are also often generalized and not accurate
  I could go on listing reasons why content matters but if you've been schooling at home you likely have already discovered some of these reasons for yourself. What I do want to convey here is that there are some great Canadian content pieces out there for use. The Canadian Homeschooler  has compiled a great list of these as well.

 For us one such resource is Complete French Smart by Popular Books, the makers of The Complete Canadian Curriculum books. Here are my reasons for recommending this book line. The books are grade leveled and although I don't put much stock into worrying about what actual grade my child is in it's nice to find a curriculum that offers easier levels working toward more complex levels after a good amount of practice. The books are colorful, no one wants to look at black and white all the time. Each word is translated into English and has the phonetic pronunciation under each word as well. This is a major boost to teaching. Even when you have a full curriculum that comes with a cd for pronunciation it can hinder class time to search through it for a particular word or phrase. Having the phonics right in from of the student also helps them to take control over their learning. In addition to that being able to do a lot of writing, reading, and translating in French better enables students to grasp the language and use it more effectively. These books are also budget friendly at only $20 per book.

This month the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team is having a terrific giveaway from Couteau Books The contest is open to CANADA only. 18+. Ends March 11th at 11:59EST. The prize pack is a set of 8 books called Disaster Strikes. 

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Multicultural Fair--Homeschool Fun

Our local homeschool group added a new event this year, multicultural fair. The kids were to study a country and choose how they were going to present or represent that country. My kids choose to go with our roots of Scottish and English. My son dressed in the "Great Kilt". This kilt style is 8 yards of fabric folded in half lengthwise lain on top of a belt and folded to have pleats. The wearer then was to lie on the belt section wrap it around themselves and take the remaining fabric up and over their shoulder to tuck in again in the belt line. Kilts were used not only as clothing but also as bedding for their wearers. To complete the Scottish presentation my son made Sugarelli aka Licorice water, Rumbledeethump aka Bubble and Squeak, and he handed out Scottish toffee.

My daughter chose to study England. She was disappointed that there was no tradition style of dress to wear so she decided to dress like a Victorian lady. She had fun learning about the Church of England and making a big assortment of goodies to share. Scones with lemon curd, clotted cream, and marmalade, and watercress sandwiches. Marmite on crackers and black tea for people.

Of the 26 kids who participated it was a terrific day of laughter, food, and friends. We are looking forward to next year and the next fair.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lake Effect Snow in the North. Homeschooling During the Deep Freeze. GIVEAWAY!

Here in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron we get SNOW! Our bank in front of our home is at least six feet high. And while there are those who jump gleefully into a snowbank at 40, I am not one of them. I grew up with enough outdoor time during the winter to satisfy my inner husky...which is more a toy poodle really (minus the slipper chewing). I have contemplated taking up some winter sport like snowshoeing or donning my ice skates again but the reality is I don't. The kids although they enjoy playing in the snow have no overwhelming affection for it either. As a matter of fact my son asked how much more he would have to look at the boring white of outside before spring. He's into herbs, gardening, and bees so naturally this season has less appeal for him. Homeschooling then can be challenging in January as we are in the deep freeze until the end of February when it starts to warm up. Thankfully we know this will happen and so aside from jumping deeper into our studies we use some of our rare free time to explore other things.

 I like to include more art lessons. Even though my son is admittedly not very artistic he enjoys the process. My daughter is artistic and loves practicing new techniques and having time devoted to the study. This past week the kids art project was to create a tinted painting and apply a painted paper moose. They were to pick one color and gradually tint it until it was solid creating the effect of the moon in winter. The moose was drawn on paper and painted before being cut out and applied with some white glue to the dried canvas. After the glue adhered they added some snow to the moose antlers and snowflakes. Projects like these are so enjoyable and to see each child's personality shine through their work is amazing.

Their Dad has been working shifts out of town so we took the opportunity to have picnic meals (partly because our table was covered in puzzle pieces) and delve into a 1000 piece puzzle that my son had received for the holidays. It was immensely frustrating at times and other times hilarity ensued from our conversations over the bees and life.

As the kids have grown older and they are stepping away from the childish games of youth that they used to enjoy and I find it's a good time to let them unschool themselves  on their laptops. By simply showing them a program like Open Office and then asking them to explore it they have now started typing out stories. Long evenings are filled with laughter as my son sits side by side with my daughter helping her with her spelling which is terrible. Yes I admit it needs a LOT of work. But she's young and I am sure with time and practice it will improve. She has been writing stories with spell check on and it has proven to her that it's not just Mommy saying her spelling is bad it really is. It's been slightly eye opening for her and I think she is going to see some leaps in learning in that area from her story writing.

The most frustrating part of wintertime homeschooling is the mess! We are inside a lot more and we have to clean up piles of this and that a lot more. Added to our regular winter mess we added two ferrets, Tinsel and Slinky, to our family. While they make excellent, interactive pets they do also act as little dust mops pulling all manner of dust bunnies into the light of day. I can only hope they will have under the cupboards cleaned out soon because sweeping three times a day is not only time consuming it just generally annoying.

We also have a multicultural day coming up for our homeschooling group which is both exciting and daunting. It's the first one the kids and I have done so it's new. Be sure to check back to read more about it!

The Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team is excited to offer you a chance to win this book package from On the Mark Press
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Leading on the Winter Path. Being Your Child's Guide Through the Winter Months.

When I was a child we had no real driveway and my mother would break trail for us on the winter mornings with her old leather laced snowshoes. We would follow her begrudgingly down the half mile that made up our driveway often sinking in the snow well up over our knees. One day after getting off the school bus from kindergarten I demanded I was allowed to be the leader on the way home. Now of course a small child likely wouldn't be able to accomplish that for long. My mother though allowed me to take up the challenge. Why is this important? Because that challenge changed my life. In that moment of taking the role of leader I realized it was hard to be a leader. I felt the weight of that responsibility. I think I maybe took twenty steps before I gave the role back to my very amused mother. The point here is that winter is a great time to allow the kids more time to find roles that suit them. Sure January signals the deep freeze of winter and it limits what we want to do outside. But there are many roles and responsibilities that kids can choose to learn in the home.

As homeschool families we have a great gift of time with our kids. Also we have a very great responsibility to make sure we raise our kids to be competent adults. I have often heard that college aged kids can't do laundry or know how to change a fuse etc..Why? They weren't given those jobs growing up. Often times we want to be there for our kids in every way and sometimes yes we want to coddle them. I see the quieter months of winter as the best time of the year to focus on learning some of those needed skills. We have more time in the home and less distractions from outside to take our focus away. Challenging kids to do more gives them confidence in their persons and allows for personal growth. 

Ultimately each and everyday we need to strive to make ourselves better human beings. Some days we fail miserably and some days we surprise even ourselves with how much we can do. It's the days in between that fill our lives and make life what it is. It's the laughter and joy in the simple, silly things that make life worth living. In the end we are all just trying to do what is right for our children and ourselves.
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