Tag Archives: unschooling

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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A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

I recently read a thought provoking post , but really the comments grabbed my attention more than the post.

I love Disney. Really I do. Rather, I really do. I’ve dressed my girls up as princesses and fairies many times. They’ve worn the dresses day after day, they’ve asked for the shoes, and the coats. Sometimes they get them, sometimes they don’t. One time in particular Ryan and I weren’t so keen on a certain toy because it looked, well, cheap. I didn’t want Ella to spend her hard saved money on something that would break straight away. But she wanted it. It was her choice. The toy broke. Now she asks questions about products before purchasing.

I don’t like being surrounded by labeled products, but refusing to allow my girls to experience any of those same products will only increase their desire – increase the appeal. I let them experience what they can, all the while talking about how a princess product might compare to a non-princess product. We talk about what they expect of the product, vs what the product actually is. As for seed packets specifically (see the linked post above), my girls would likely expect the flowers to resemble the princesses and would be very disappointed if they didn’t. We’d talk about those expectations before purchasing. We’d also talk about if they’d be happy with the package going in the garbage and no lasting princess likenesses, or if they’d be upset. They would be included in the conversation. And would likely choose different seeds. But if I just said, “no”, they’d likely throw a fit – and they wouldn’t have actually thought for themselves about the value of a product, media literacy, consumerism.

We talk about the difference between Disney princesses and real princesses (and real girls). We watched the Royal wedding together, enthralling my girls. They love looking at pictures of PRINCESS Kate playing hockey, being in girl guides. We talk about all the things a real princess actually does – and what makes a person a princess vs a regular girl. We also talk about history – were women always portrayed as needing rescuing etc. And ultimately I think it’s okay for them to have a princess fantasy. In their games Cinderella isn’t waiting for her prince to come, but she magics the wicked step-mother away and teaches the ugly step-sisters kindness and love. In their games they give Cinderella power Disney never dreamed possible. Why would I take that power away from them?

I think it sells our girls short when we tell them this character they love is worthless, that their idea of wonderful is worthless. Instead we talk to our girls: Do they really think all Cinderella did all day was wait for someone to rescue her? Or did she do other stuff? How do we know she was really so kind and good, she wasn’t very nice to lucifer (the cat). Then we discover there’s a whole lot more to the story than we see in the Disney movie. An old woman needed help, but didn’t have a lot of money. No one else would help her, but despite all the work she had to do, Cinderella offered to help. Why was Cinderella helping the mice? Well it turns out…The story goes on. Day after day they dream. They dream of what they might one day become. THey dream that today they are heroes. They dream that Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, are more than we knew.

I don’t want my girls to think there’s only one flat story to a person – any person. I want them to always look deeper. One day they might meet a perfectly coiffed young lady who’s very sad because her parents always expect X, Y, Z. I want my girls to approach her with compassion rather than contempt. Or they might meet a girl much as I was once upon a time, sad, lonely, with clothing that didn’t fit, hair straight down my back. Either way, I want them to approach all people with compassion. If all parents taught their children compassion, bullies would lose their power in the school yard. But the sad truth is as we tell our sons and daughters that princesses aren’t worthy, we really tell them certain types of people aren’t worthy.



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Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Oh, Oh

A few weeks ago I actually managed to get the girls to the library. Yep, the same library we walk past three times a week. That week we actually managed to go inside. While browsing the shelves I saw a book about mummies and thought the girls might enjoy it (we also took out books about animals on the prairies, weather and seasons, valentines, mining, and sheep). It turns out the girls LOVED the mummy book. So we took out a few more books about mummies, pyramids, and the sphinx.

In the one book it briefly described how the ancient Egyptians made mummies. The girls were enthralled. After asking dozens of questions about the difference between Egyptian mummies and those made in bogs, we decided to make some mummies of our own. So we took some toilet paper…

Nevermind. We didn’t actually take toilet paper. Certainly the bandages on the Egyptian mummies are one major difference, but I felt there was much more to the whole process than just wrapping. I also thought my girls would understand a lot better if they actually made REAL mummies. So we went to the store and we looked at the chickens, and the ducks, I said no to the geese and the turkeys, and they settled on a game hen each. We also bought some salt, bandages, and some oil.


Each girl chose a couple spices to add to their jar of oil (to make the scented oils). Agatha chose allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Ella wanted only anise. We added the chosen spices to the girls’ jars and capped them. We knew it would take a while to make the mummies so we thought the oils would have plenty of time to infuse. Each day we agitated the jars a bit to mix things up (the girls had a blast with that).

Then we prepped the hens. We washed them and pulled out the extra bits that were inside.

Then we filled them with salt, laid them on a bed of salt, and thoroughly covered them in more salt. Just a note for anyone thinking of doing this at home – you need ridiculous quantities of salt!

After the hens were completely covered we set them on the counter and left them there. For a very long time.

While we waited for the salt to work it’s magic we talked about what the salt was doing to the bodies, and did a quick demonstration with a bit of water and some salt. We then read a couple books about pyramids. And the girls tried there hand at building.

We determined tomb robbers might find a way into some pyramids easier than others.

After the hens sat on our counter smell free for a while (weeks) we removed all the old salt and replaced it with new salt. We really should have done this sooner, but time got away from me. Our hens were still very moist.

But a few weeks after that when we changed the salt again, things were looking much better. Then after roughly 40 days we removed the salt to see what our mummies looked like.

They were very dry and leathery. We opened our jars of scented oils and the girls rubbed the oils on the hens. Then they wrapped them in linen (gauze) bandages.

They were very proud of their handiwork and still have their mummies on our counter to show anyone who comes over.

We hoped to follow up the interest in mummies with the playmobil pyramid playset. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to save enough pennies before it was discontinued. So if anyone happens to have a pyramid playset around they’d be willing to part with, please let me know 🙂

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Ain’t Got Rhythm

Recently several Mamas I know were talking about daily rhythms – whether they have one or not, how to find one, and how to keep it. Someone mentioned I’d be a good person to talk to about not having a routine (we’re not really routine people around here). But this really got me thinking. We don’t do routines, we don’t really have a schedule at all and try to avoid timelines as much as possible. We prefer to go with the flow. Deadlines leave me frustrated and usually results in me yelling at least once. I don’t like yelling (contrary to popular belief) it just leaves me feeling very anxious and stressed out – and then more yelling. A vicious cycle I want to avoid.

On the surface it might feel like we don’t got rhythm, but underneath there’s some funky syncopation. Each morning we wake up and there’s a certain feel in the air. We don’t always do the same thing everyday, but the feeling is the same (‘Oh Gawd, is it morning already?”) Opps. I mean we wake up peacefully and cuddle in bed, or roll out of bed and let the big girls watch the baby while I take our dog out to pee, or I leave the dog in his crate and get everyone else breakfast and then take him out, it’s different each day, but our mornings are always busy. At some point I also use the morning to do the only bit of cleaning I’m likely to do in a day. Then some time between eleven and two I have a coffee (Oh how I love my espresso machine). This usually involves me making everyone a coffee (the girls either only have a 1/4 shot each or decaf) lol the rhythm of our day would be very different if I caffeinated the girls.

Our days flow. We don’t have set times for anything. There’s no set order. Some days we leave the house for the first time at five in the evening. Other days we’re out the door for eight. But there is a rhythm to it. A certain feel. The difficulty isn’t in finding rhythm, but in choosing what the rhythm will be. Will it involve yelling and stress, or will the rhythm involve flowing and taking each moment as it comes? Rejoicing in the water seeping out of the bathroom into the hallway carpet? Okay, that particular moment broke my rhythm – but the girls loved it and just laughed as I seethed on the outside of the locked bathroom door.

“We’re cleaning it up mommy. Our bathroom floor is so clean now. You’re gonna be so happy.” Those words woke me up to the sweet deal I got going on right here. The rhythm isn’t in our daily actions, but rather in our daily feel. I regulate how I respond to each situation. The rhythm is found in those moments when I stop and decide the beat I want before I begin talking.

P.S. I LOVE Phineas & Ferb


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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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