Tag Archives: Education

Time after Time

It seems I underestimated Agatha. I know she can’t really count in sequence yet. At least not passed 10. I also assumed she didn’t know her numbers or letters. It seems I was wrong. She knows most number by sight up to thirty. She can also identify most letters without issue, though certain things like lowercase ‘d’ and ‘b’ as well as ‘W’ and ‘M’ confuse her, but hey I can handle that.

Today we stopped at Chapters and picked up a book about time to read together. She knew all the numbers needed to identify the different hours and minutes not he clock. But more importantly once I showed her how to move the hands to make 1 O’ clock, she was able to move the hands to make any other hourly time. I showed her how to make a half past time, and she could figure it out for the rest. I certainly underestimated her ability to decode time. Now we just need to practice and see if she can begin telling time on her own soon.

Though I really don’t think it will make that big of a difference if she could tell ‘real’ time. She has no concept of time, other than now. It’s only been recently that yesterday came to mean a specific day rather than any day in the past. But five minutes, three minutes, seconds, hours, days, weeks, years. These are concepts that are still very fluid to her. For now she’s learning the vocabulary.

A wonderful book we read to help the girls learn the concept between different lengths of time is : A Second is a Hiccup This is a sweet story in verse that goes over time from seconds through to the length of childhood. It paints a clear picture using ideas children know. scrape your shin – ‘in a month you’ll grow new skin’.

Do you have any books or resources about time that you loved for this age group?


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Measuring the Marigolds

Wow, we’ve been busy the past few weeks. In many ways our busiest days were the ones we stayed home and did nothing.

As we wait for our fence, grass, patio, gardens, and trees we spend the days with our noses pressed to the window dreaming. Today Ella dreamed the weeds growing in our backyard grew into beanstalks. We were able to climb them all the way to space. There were no giants in the clouds though. Because clouds are made of condensed air and nobody can stand on air. Okay then.

We also spend quite a bit of time caring for the plants we have in the house. A grapefruit, a lemon, lime, and mandarin tree. Each tree should have 5 or so fruit on it that’ll be big enough to eat. From caring for these plants the girls have learnt about the different parts of flowers, they’ve loved being little bumble bees pollinating the flowers. They’ve also successfully planted an apple seed from an apple they were eating. Which lead to us getting several pots and growing herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. The different sizes and shapes of the seeds fascinated them.

The citrus trees gave the girls another opportunity. The trees came with a few friends. Besides hundreds of aphids (that we’ve faithfully been squishing by hand every day), they also came with millipedes, pill bugs, and spider mites. We diminished the millipede population very quickly (they were everywhere), killed every spider its and aphid we could find. Added a couple lady bugs to the mix and the girls went to work adding a few pets to our family.

They took our old sugar dish (looks like a  fish bowl) added a few inches of dirt to the bottom, layering the dirt with fallen leaves, blossoms, fallen fruit buds, and anything else they could find that was rotten. We added a spider plant shoot that needed a home and a tomato plant that wasn’t doing very well. They carefully added water to half the terrarium and left he other side mostly dry. They named their new pet pill bug Aliza. It didn’t take long for them to find more. Soon our little terrarium housed four pill bugs. The tomato plant is doing fabulous, the spider plant has taken over the rest of the space, effectively sealing the top. The air below is moist and the dirt stays damp. The perfect environment for pill bugs. The girls can see through the glass to see when the dirt becomes homogenous allowing them to know when to add ‘food’ to the space. In the meantime they have a glass they put all fallen leaves and such until it’s time to feed their little pets.

From here we talked about bugs, what makes a bug? was a pill bug actually a bug? (nope, it’s a crustacean). We talked about bugs, crustaceans, turtles, shrimp, then we moved on to talking about mammals. We spent an hour or so classifying different creatures, then dissolved into fits of being sabre-toothed, crustacean eating dogs. It wasn’t pretty. And there were still six hours until Ryan came home.

Ninjas are deadly and silent. I set up a laser obstacle course out of yarn through our upstairs hallway. The girls had a blast climbing over and under the different strands. Cordelia managed to get herself tied in knots, Chester managed to rip it all down (and get himself tied in knots), Agatha couldn’t tell where her bum was (so it’s a good thing these lasers did not actually slice off the body part it touched), Ella managed pretty well. I’m still working on the overall costume, but did manage to get a couple of black jumpsuits made in a day so the girls have Ninja costumes to play in. Ella wants to start wrestling, but I think if I introduce her to martial arts she might go for that more so now than wrestling. Youtube here we come!

For her birthday Ella received a Mexican cookbook with spanish vocabulary in it. She’s so exceed and wants to learn Spanish so badly. We intended to start her in French (makes sense around here) but think we’ll start with Spanish after all. As soon as we (fill out the paperwork) get funding, we’ll buy the Rosetta stone for Spanish. Ever since she received this cookbook she’s actually started eating food with flavour again! She happily dumped cumin and onion into a pot because her book told her to.

As such she’s really working hard to learn to read and write. She practices writing almost daily, but at this point if she writes a letter it’s just a letter unless Ryan or I give it meaning (within a word). If we spell words for her she can write them down. Certain words she can see and read quite well, but often we have to stop her and actually have her look t the word. She just assumes she doesn’t know it, so doesn’t try until we tell her she either knows it or can figure it out.

As she works on her letters, she also works on her numbers. In fact numbers are very important to her right now. She owns her own store you see. She creates items every day and sells them to unsuspecting passer-by’s   Ryan and me. It started with her asking for a certain number of coins, exact change only. Then moving onto asking for specific coins. She’s slowly moving toward asking for a certain price. Though this is difficult for her. The numbers are bigger than she comprehends yet.

Ella: Mommy this twirly costs two coins.

Me: Which two?

Ella: The ones with the reindeer.

Me: Quarters. This costs two quarters?

Ella: (Beaming) Yes.

I really didn’t think she could count to fifty, let alone try to teach about change for those numbers. And using two quarters to her is easy, fifty cents. She doesn’t have a comparison. As an experiment I did ask if she could count to fifty. She made it to twenty no problem. Then she paused and thought about it. Asked what the next number was. I told her twenty-one. She then guessed twenty-two. I said yes. She then slowly counted twenty-three, twenty-four up to twenty-nine where she paused. I told her thirty, then she went on. Only pausing for the tens to figure out what the number was. We counted to one-hundred ten. in this fashion. She didn’t know it previously, but she knew the pattern and could manage from that point.

Ella: This costs three pennies

Me: Okay. Here’s a nickel. Can I have change please?

Ella: Sorry my store doesn’t work that way.

I explained to her about change. I promised I wouldn’t take her money, but wanted to demonstrate what how change worked. If she liked it, she could make change. Or I wouldn’t buy the item. We took out all her coins we talked about the different coins, how much they cost, size, shape, colour. We then made piles of each one so each pile was worth the same amount. I then showed her how to make change for a nickel from pennies. In the end she wasn’t certain, but her jar had more money than when she started so she’s trying it out for now.

Ella’s been fairly proficient with addition and subtracting. She uses her fingers, or objects to visualize, but she knows the terms and the concepts. Recently we’ve begun multiplying and dividing small numbers as well. Usually in relation to food. She’ll glance at a cake and tell me how many pieces everyone gets. But she can’t tell me how she knows that. So I’ve been helping her figure out how she knows the answer. The whole number we start with is the number of pieces total. Then we get out the same number of plates as people. Before we start we make note of how many pieces she thought were for everyone. Then we divide. She’s usually right. Though now that I’ve pointed out the concept to her I’ve noticed she doesn’t get the right answer as often. But I can see her trying to get the answer.

For the most part everyone seems to do the same thing, just different levels. While Ella’s writing about numbers, Agatha’s counting objects or colouring and Cordelia’s eating markers.

Agatha’s working on letter recognition and writing her own name. We’re also talking about places in the world and where she fits in. I have a couple ideas for projects, just a matter of doing them.

Agatha’s fascinated by Benjamin Franklin and journalists. She’s been creating news daily, writing everything she can down. Her and Ella team up to sell it to us from their news office in the basement. She’s also practicing counting a starting to add and subtract. Though mostly that’s because that’s what Ella’s doing. Agatha’s not interested in ‘actual’ math yet.

Cordelia’s climbing everything and has a ton of words. There is some interpretation needed, but once you know what she’s saying it’s easy to understand the next time she says it. Certain words are clearer than others. Her doggie commands are perfect. “‘Hester Siiiiit” (Hester = Chester) “‘Hester Stttayy” both commands complete with hand signals.

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Fact 252

It’s a fact that you can’t trust everything you read.

Disney Junior Fun Facts To Understand Our World

Whether on the internet, in the newspaper, a magazine, or a book, we need to question the information handed to us. As parents, our relationship with our children involves some leading, and a lot of following. We strew different topics through our children’s lives and wait to see what catches their interest, then we follow along for the ride ready with something new when, and if, their interest wanes. They might not find a certain topic particularly interesting, while a different one catches their fancy. The first topic gets tucked away for a different day, while we seek out more information on the topic they’re eager to learn about.

Encyclopedia’s and other such books are great resources for strewing. So many different topics to pique someone’s interest in one place. However, it’s important for parents to have either a passing knowledge about the subject matter, or double (triple) check every resource. Otherwise we could inadvertently lead our children to false information.

The page pictured above came from a book Ella got for her birthday. Can you see what’s wrong with it? There are many people who might not see what’s wrong. Their children in turn also won’t know the information’s incorrect. Is it a major cause for concern? With this specific error, no. However, some incorrect information could lead to any number of problems depending on the information. As a nurse it’s important the information I use to influence my practice is accurate and from reliable sources. Neither life nor death is on the line when it comes to children’s books, but teaching our children young to be discerning readers will help them later in life.

This doesn’t mean we need to know everything in order to guide our children’s education (teachers certainly don’t) however it does mean there are certain things parents should do to ensure their children get accurate information. First read everything either before your child gets it, or with them. With young children (i.e. not reading yet) you can change the words to reflect the real information. As children get older you can point out the inaccuracy and find the real information together. It becomes a learning moment.

Unfortunately there’s also the possibility that a trusted source, a source that should provide accurate information, makes a mistake. For instance the Disney Press company is usually pretty good about providing accurate, if brief, information. This book in particular also has a list of respected individuals that vetted the book prior to publication. Though none of them seem to have any particular geographical knowledge. Otherwise one of them might have noticed that Newfoundland is not, in fact, a country. Of course the information about glaciers is correct (I hope).

One last thought. Just because the book is about one topic, glaciers for instance, doesn’t mean there isn’t valuable information about other topics. A short paragraph about glaciers also gave information about the geography of our planet. No subject stands alone.

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Now That You’re Unschooling, Whatcha Gonna Do Next?

I’m absolutely certain the path we’re on is the right one. However, I also believe it’s our responsibility as parents to make sure we’re still on the proper path. Did we miss a turn somewhere? Has something obscured the road making it difficult to see?

I know many homeschoolers follow a curriculum. Even at four or five years old their children sit at tables and work. The parents choose the subjects the children must study before playing. Sometimes, I envy the organization involved, but I know that’s not for us. I can barely keep my kitchen clean without going nuts. There’s no way I could teach a set lesson every day without driving everyone batty.

Instead, right now we just live life. We’re focusing most of our attention on certain experiences and ideas. Preparing the girls for something we have coming up soon. But it’s a surprise so we’re being sneaky about it. We’re not telling them why we’re looking at the youtube videos or watching that movie or this one. We’re doing a lot of talking right now. I can certainly see with this one subject, that’s so important to Ryan and I, exactly how unschooling should be done. Watch a movie, read a book, follow-up with a short video, play a game here or there, talk about the topic – “what did you think about…”, “Wow, I thought that was pretty scary. I like the way they did X, Y, Z”.

The important point to get out of this is that we know what it looks like to have a rich experience with a topic, and make sure we take the same level of passion into the subjects the girls choose, not just the ones we deem ‘worthy’. Luckily the girls love the current subject as much as we do so they jump right in and ask a dozen questions and have many suggestions for what to look at next.





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Realizing Science

Motion: A change in the position of an object in relation to time.

Velocity: Speed in a given direction

Displacement: The shortest distance from the initial to the final position of a point. Or the volume or weight of fluid displaced by a floating body of equal weight.

Acceleration: The rate of change of velocity over time; or an increase in speed.

Time: A measuring system used to sequence events.

Consistency: A degree of density, firmness, viscosity.

Our life provides endless opportunities to learn about the way our world works. From the moment Ella/Agatha wakes up in the morning (time), until she goes to bed at night, she’s in constant motion. At times she merely wiggles while she sits and reads a book, or watches a show(velocity). At other times she jumps up and races around the house (acceleration), only to slow down (deceleration) long enough to grab a bite to eat. She might be sitting at the table and need a glass of water from the counter, but instead of taking the shortest possible route, she first runs to the living room, then passed the front door, throughout the pantry, and back in to the kitchen to get the water that had been only 3 feet away from her in the first place (displacement).

As she’s drinking her water, she drops an ice-cube into it. Then she might spy a strawberry and decide to drop that in as well. After each addition she tastes it and observes for changes in colour and consistency. With each addition she also makes note of the water level in the glass (Displacement).

Periodically she’ll make note of how dark it’s getting (Time) or reference some past or future event that has meaning to her.

Science is all a round us. We don’t need to force it on our children, but we can bring it to their attention. A few well asked questions can do more than hours of instruction in a school setting. Right now, I don’t usually mention definitions, unless it really does help the understanding or discussion, those can come with time. Once she’s explored a subject and understands it, then a definition would broaden her perspective without offering more confusion.

During the day, I may point out something to see if the girls noticed it – for instance  the water level rising with each addition to the glass. But other times I won’t bother. A lot has to do with how many times an experiment’s taken place. The first few times I won’t interfere – after all, they need to test, test, and re-test to see if they get the same result each time. However, there comes a point where I like to see if they’re actually getting anything from the mess they’re making.

“What do you think will happen when you drop the potatoes in to the glass?” Depending on the answer, I may encourage them to consider other alternatives. “Will there still be the same amount of water in the glass? Will it still be the same colour?”

“What happened when you dropped the potatoes into your milk?”

“Was that what you expected?”

“Wow, what caused your water to turn grey?”

“I filled your cup half full, that means there was as much water in the glass as empty space, so how did it get so full?”

“How did the carrots get on the ceiling?”

I don’t need to drill my children to make the lessons ‘stick’. But a few questions here and there can help broaden their world as well as lead me in new directions for fun activities for us to do together. For instance, hmm they really like mixing things together – and throwing what they mix. I can find all kinds of things to mix together cornstarch, food colouring and water – then bring them to the park and let them fling it all over – the snow will cover it up soon enough. And hopefully the carrots will remain on their plates next time.

Science is all around us. Sometimes we just need to realize it.



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The Path to Literacy

I’m not concerned about when our children learn to read. I have no doubt they will – after all they’re fascinated with books. And they really want to find their shows and play their games on their own. In order to do that, they need to read.

We’ve watched Ella learn so many things since she was born. I have to admit, we’ve done a lot of encouraging. When she was learning to walk, we held her hands and walked around with her for hours. When she was learning to talk we repeated words over, and over, and over again. We listened patiently while it took her a minute or longer to finally get the word she wanted. We didn’t rush her. What she had to say was important to us. Now, as she’s growing again, she stutters. We wait for her to finish saying what she has to say. It would be faster to finish for her. We know what she’s trying to say. But we trust her to get it, and that is more important that moving on.

Reading is no different than any other skill she’s already mastered. She’s started and we reinforce  what she’s learned. She points out a letter and tells us the sound, we repeat it, then add a word that starts with the letter/sound. When she asks us to read to her, we read. When she asks us to listen to her read, we listen. It doesn’t matter that what she’s saying isn’t what’s actually written. For now she’s learning the ‘act’ of reading and mastery will come later.

Most recently she’s taken to looking at pictures, and trying to figure out the words. She’s pretty good and has completely ‘read’ several books on her own. Yep the picture gave it away, but she still got the correct words.

She’s also taken to writing. She writes her name, she writes her letters, she tries other names. Agatha is such  fun name for her to write. So she tries. Over and over, and over again. She also types. She sends messages frequently. Usually to Ryan and I. She’s taken to learning new words just by writing them and typing them repeatedly.

It’s possible she might not master reading for a couple years, but it’s clear she’s heading in that direction. We haven’t sat down with her and forced her to learn her letters or sounds. She picked it up on her own, based on her interest. Allowing her to continue to choose her own path paves the way for a love of learning that, we hope, will stay with her for life.

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Our Decision To Homeschool

The decision to homeschool is an easy – and a hard – one to make. For us there weren’t many factors to consider. We don’t like the school system. And we can’t find an alternate school capable of providing what we think is a better option. However, everywhere we turn someone questions our choice. The funny thing is that not only do people question our choice, but they seem to take it as a personal affront.

The biggest argument against homeschooling is that children won’t be socialized properly. I can only shake my head and laugh at that. Though I can understand where the argument comes from. People believe that homeschooling is school at home. In the sense that mom or dad or both parents sit their child(ren) down at the table and teach them much the same as teachers in schools teach. I’m sure some people homeschool this way, but many don’t. Home-schoolers meet up with each other regularly and their children grow up with mostly the same group of children around them. The biggest difference is that the home schooled children have a wider variety of ages and abilities surrounding them. Because we aren’t tied to particular lessons or methods of learning we also have the opportunity to spend time socializing with random people in the neighbourhood. We can spend a larger period of time at the library, grocery store, museum, or any other place that catches our interest.

I’m happy to say we socialize so much we’ve worn ourselves out and needed to take a bit of a break from all our play-dates. The girls are learning which people they prefer playing with as well as how to play with them. Parents are always close at hand to help our children navigate the tricky social interactions.

The second biggest concern with homeschooling is how children learn X, Y, Z. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is reading, calculus, biology, or some other subject. Other people are always concerned that our children won’t learn.

I’m not concerned. After all, I never took calculus. It wasn’t necessary. I also don’t think it would really add anything to my current life so I don’t pursue it now either. I did learn world history, American history, and a pile of other stuff that I don’t recall. But that’s the point. I don’t recall it at all. All I know about the world is based on actively finding the information now. Being forced to bring newspaper articles to school (didn’t it ever occur to them that not everyone buys the paper?) never encouraged me to delve into current events.

Certainly there will be things our children don’t learn. They might never be interested in the Renaissance, American or Canadian history. They might never learn about sin or cosine waves. They may not learn how to write a chemical formula. Sending them to school won’t guarantee they learn that either.  Teaching the information isn’t enough to make a student want to learn. Unless the desire is there, the information won’t stick.

If our children want to follow a path that requires they understand the finer details of the evolution of passerines, then they will find the information they need. We’ll help when necessary.

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