Posts filed under ‘homeschool’

homeschool french

hi friends! just writing a quick note to share with you how we answer the dreaded homeschool question: what about french? 

there are so many options out there, and we’ve probably tried most of them.  we tried a computer curriculum from costco, then the french smart books, then rosetta stone, and back to the french smart books. we tried duolingo, then duolingo in tandem with the french smart books. mango languages also fit in there somewhere.   

all of these choices were fine, but not great. they taught vocabulary and grammar, but there was never enough life-application to make the language stick.  a while ago i stumbled across a podcast called coffee break french. i listened to about 10 episodes before realizing that CONVERSATIONAL french was exactly what my kids needed! they didn’t enjoy the subject of french, because they didn’t see any reason for it (despite the relevant history of canada).  

the best part of listening to the coffee break french podcasts, is that we do it over breakfast.  once the kids are done breakfast, they copy out the notes that i’ve made into their french journals- bonus penmanship practice, and time efficiency!

if the idea of making notes intimidates you,  don’t sweat it.  download the google translater app, or open the website on your computer.  pause the podcast if the pace is too quick for you; the explanations are very clear on the podcast.  as you can see from elliot’s notebook above, the content of each episode is quite manageable. you can also pay for notes through the radio lingua website, but i’m a fan of free.

once we have about 5 episodes listened to and written out, i give the kids an assignment to put all 5 episodes into a comic strip. you can find blank comic strip templates for free and to print, all over pinterest. 

we’ve been enjoying learning french together and using it in real life. the kids are actually forming sentences and asking “how do i say ______ in french?”. 

i don’t think that there’s a perfect curriculum out there guaranteed to engage your children and turn them bilingual.  i DO think that not giving up until you find the right one, is really important.  i also think that we’ve found the one that works for us, and maybe it’ll work for you too.

bonne chance!

March 23, 2017 at 14:02 1 comment

less is more

this summer we breathed more fresh air, gazed at more stars, hammocked in more trees, and slept on the ground more often than in our beds.  it was an amazing summer to follow a super-full and busy year.  this school year, i am determined to do more summer, less last-year.   

none of the extra-curriculars that we did last year were “bad”, but always rushing out the door didn’t necessarily feel “good” either.  this year i’m practicing saying “no” to many of the amazing opportunities offered to homeschoolers, and “yes” to impromptu rollerblading/scooter rides.

i can’t describe how freeing it is to be able to complete schoolwork each day, and still have time left over for spontaneity.  to look at  the calendar and see entire rectangles of unscheduled day, is the stuff that homeschool magic is made of.


this year we are back to the basics of homeschooling, and basic is so, so good.

September 24, 2015 at 19:40 Leave a comment

summer school

we finished  our school year near the beginning of may.  two things contributed to that: one, i planned out the school year incorrectly and we basically crammed for 2/3 of the year.  two, summer school.


loads of people have asked me WHY WE SUMMER SCHOOL.  naturally, i’d prefer to spend all of our days doing nothing, and i’ve really enjoyed the big break in previous years.  what i didn’t enjoy, was september.

most of the people who have asked about summer school, were moms.  so moms– you know how it is:  summer is so wonderfully spontaneous and relaxing, but then september hits like a sledgehammer with clubs and school and extra-curricular activities, and physicals and dental, and it’s all so suddenly out of control!  the calendar can go from beautifully empty to several appointments and tasks squeezed into each and every day.

surprisingly, i’m not new to homeschooling anymore.  anne just finished grade 2, and eli completed grade 4.  that means that i’ve been homeschooling for… pfffff…. SIX YEARS!  so i’ve endured several summers of “i’m bored”, paired with several septembers of basically a wasted month while we tried to get back into routine.


the kids have four basic elements to their day:  morning routine, practice piano, reading, and workbook.

morning routine has been around for years!  it makes our life much more simple, especially when the kids do it without me nagging them to get it done.  our routine is: breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, read bible.

practice piano is pretty self-explanatory.  right now they’re getting ready for their recital, but for the rest of the summer, i’ll just have them set a timer for 15 minutes and let them play whatever songs they want.

reading together with anne each day is great quality time, and very rewarding as i see her proficiency emerging.   elliot and i have been reading through a book together as well, but it’s usually a case of me trying to keep up to him in our book, since he’s such a loveable little bookworm.



i love these books!  they not only have daily activities in reading, writing, math, language arts, and social studies, but also have recommended reading lists, flashcards, incentive contracts, and a certificate of completion.  best part: CANADIAN!! happy happy happy dance.   i also love these books for the accountability they provide me with staying on track with the kids’ grade level expectations, should they ever go into the public system.

all of this stuff doesn’t have to take up much of the day.  the morning routine, piano practice, and workbook can all be completed within an hour, if my kids are motivated.   they’re not allowed to have free time or electronics until after summer school is done, so they’re usually pretty great about it.

when september comes, and the foundation built in the previous year is still standing firm, we are able to “just do school”.  we are free to start at the beginning of the new grade, instead of trying to build on the past year’s crumbling foundation.  it’s a small sacrifice each day in the summer, but a huge advantage that contributes to a longer summer for the next year.

we’ve also done oodles of fun outings, and i’ve been meaning to write a post about retirement too. it hasn’t been all about school around here, and i’ll fill you in in a later post.  thanks for reading!

June 15, 2014 at 13:39 1 comment

lynde shores

being part of a group means that you’re not doing it alone.  the “it” that i was doing alone, was homeschooling.   joining a group was one of those cases where you think everything is great, but then something changes and suddenly “great” is so much greater.  y’know?

this past week, the kids and i had a chance to go to lynde shores conservation area, twice!

once as a photo gig, and the second as a field trip with the homeschool group.    i’d never been to the conservation area before, but within one week it’s moved into one of our top places to visit.

check it out!

October 26, 2012 at 19:50 Leave a comment

calendar tutorial



one of the benefits and curses of homeschooling  (combined with my husband being a shift w0rker) is that i never really ever know what day of the week/month it is.  i’ve never thought of/acknowledged this as a problem before, but now that my kids are supposed to know this stuff, something had to be done.  

there was no way i was going to buy a cheap-o bristol board one to tape to my wall, and i wasn’t going to spend $40+ on the “calendar systems” offered at educational stores.  i knew i could do this one, i just needed to DO it.

cast of characters:


  •  mod podge
  • scissors for paper
  • scissors that can cut felt.
  • lots of felt (i bought a mix of normal and the pre-stiffened stuff)
  • felt sticky-backed numbers
  • foam project display board (20″x30″) from walmart
  • big sheet of  white “basic felt”
  • and my glue gun came in handy too.

all of the above came from michael’s accompanied by coupon magic.  except for the thing that says it’s from walmart, that was by the crayola markers.  i feel the need to tell you where i found it because i spent a really super-long time getting lost looking for it– so unacquainted with that place!

step the first:

i sketched a very basic idea of what i wanted onto the back of the board, then took a picture of it so that i’d remember my initial plan.  then i laid the foam board on top of the basic felt and cut it to size, leaving about 3 inches extra on each side.
after that i slathered mod podge (but any adhesive would work here) all over the surface of the foam board, and smoothed the foam out over top of the goo, making sure there were no wrinkles or bubbles.

deuxième step:

i pulled out my glue gun and started at the corners, bringing them in at a 45˚ angle.  i remember math.  after that it was just a matter of glueing down the excess fabric to completely wrap the foam board in soft squishy felt.


applying some more of that math stuff, i started measuring out 2¼ x 2¼ squares from my main felt pieces.  these are the number squares that make up the basic calendar, and i chose to use repositionable squares and use the white space as a frame because it just seemed easier both to build, and to customize for each month.  also in the background of the above pic you can see the bare tree that i cut out.  i just free-handed it, but i’m sure that you could also print off a picture from google images and just trace it onto your felt before cutting it out.


to make the digits on the number squares, i used pre-made felt stickers.  they were kind of pricey even with the coupons, and since i’m el-cheapo, i refused to buy the necessary number of packages for all of those ones and twos that the calendar requires.  so i ended up piecing together a bunch of twos from different letters (hook of the J plus the two bottom strokes of a ZED = number 2).  to make the days of the week, i had neither the money nor the required letters nor the necessary space to use the same technique.  so i used one on my favourite fonts (porky’s) to print off the days of the week and the names of the seasons.  i cut them out and modpodged them to a piece of felt and then hoped it would turn out alright.  when i found the dried fabric the next morning i was jubilant, and kind of wished i’d done the numbers on the squares the same way.


i stuck it all together.
it’s really just a matter of cutting and pasting to make stuff like the sun & clouds.  i also made storm clouds, a lightning bolt, and several rain drops so that the kids can look out the window each morning and copy the weather onto the felt board, and there are different leaves to decorate the tree with for when the seasons roll over.    as the seasons and days progress we move contrasting colour blocks to highlight the appropriate item.  i free-handed the letters/numbers for the month and year, but again– you can find that stuff online and just trace it if you don’t feel super-confident in your scissor skills.  i’m really just too impatient to bother with extra steps!

so there we have it: with one simple interactive display the kids can learn/review the days of the week, seasons, weather, months of the year, and most importantly– i know what day it is!


September 17, 2011 at 19:28 2 comments

my school is better than your school

we’ve been having beautiful weather lately, no?   it seems like spring lasted about 2 weeks and then fast-tracked straight to summer.  the kids and i have been altering our schedules to fit as much outdoor time in as possible.   we’ve flown kites, rollerbladed, and practiced practiced practiced riding bikes without training wheels.   elliot actually conquered the two-wheeler last week; so proud of him.

the weather forecast spelled doom and gloom for all eternity  when i glanced at it on friday morning.   so with the forecast telling me that there was only one day of sunshine left FOREVER, we polished off school work and made the most of the rest of our free time.

a backpack full of food and a half hour walk later, the kids and i found ourselves in one of our city’s most beautiful parks enjoying a picnic and the sunshine.

we ate, and then played for a long time at the playground, but it was the huge field of dandelions that held my kids’ attention.  this is the time of year when anne’s nose is permanently yellow from sniffing dandelions.  elliot loves to pick the flowers and shove them in his pockets which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it’s definitely quirky.

today the sky is frozen in a permanent  dusk, and the air is thick with the suspense of rain.  there is a sharp contrast between the great outdoors that we enjoyed yesterday and the outdoors that we’re watching from our windows today.    and that makes me really extremely super thankful for the privilege of homeschooling, because i would have absolutely hated to have watched the sunshine from inside windows yesterday knowing that it was the last day to experience “summer” until summer really arrives.

May 14, 2011 at 14:56 Leave a comment

march break

we didn’t technically observe march break.  at least we didn’t stop doing school for the week just because the rest of north america did.  the week that we went to great wolf lodge ended up being a no-school week, as well as the several weeks after that where one or the other of the kids were sick.   i’m not starting to feel stressed out about the school schedule yet, but definitely “aware” that if we take any more time off then we’ll be doing school into the summer.   we did however take monday off for a “field trip” , which is a homeschooler’s term for “something better than school came along.”

every year desiree, mom and myself (with our kids) head out to the sugar bush at white meadow farms in vineland.  this year derek came along with us, which i was really grateful for because i still wasn’t 100% better from being sick the days before, and i had major insomnia the night before i would have been making the 2+ hour drive.    also because he was with us we were able to take our time coming home, knowing that nobody was waiting for their family to return to them.

the sugar bush was even more fun than last year, even though the horse-drawn carriage was absent and the weather was absolutely freezing.  each year my kids are a little bit bigger, another year older,  have become more independent, and actually enjoy learning from each demonstration on our path to the pancake house.  i don’t have to hold their hands or take rocks out of their mouths or ask them not to pick their nose while i’m trying to take a picture.  they put up their hands to ask a question after the demonstrations, and patiently wait in line for their turns at making maple syrup.  plus the added bonus that when it’s cold outside like it was this year, i don’t have to keep pulling their hats down over their ears or their mittens back over their hands.  as much as i lament not having babies anymore, i really do appreciate having older kids, especially when we do fun stuff like going to the sugar bush.

some highlights of the trip for me were watching the kids have a blast during a spontaneous square dance in the middle of the woods (you can see the fiddler behind the kids in the pics),   going through the tap-line maze in the woods, watching elliot read every informative billboard, each moment that we stood in front of a campfire and our clothes absorbed the campfire smell, watching derek correct one of the “pioneers” when she incorrectly used the word “diameter” instead of “circumference”,  thawing our fingers in the pancake house and eating fresh maple syrup,  and meeting the 5-day old baby goat at the petting zoo.

after we said goodbye to dez & my mom, and on our way to meet a new little baby and see some old friends, derek and i drove past the most surprising and beautiful gorge, made even more magnificent because it was so unexpected.    we turned around and parked, and then took the kids and the camera closer to appreciate the beauty of the water gushing down the side of the escarpment.

we didn’t have the equipment, and the sun was against us, so we weren’t able to fully-capture the height and power of the waterfall, but enough of a picture to help us preserve the memory, and i thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneous photoshoot.

and as if we needed any further reminder of how beautifully God creates;

after the sugar bush, and the gorge, we stopped at our friends’ place to meet their sweet little daughter, charlotte.  we had a great visit catching up with the grants.  elliot showed lyndsay how to work a DS, lynday’s mom read books to all the kids, and we drank hot chocolate and yacked it up until the midgets started to feel a little too comfortable in that home and started running around like monkeys.   we packed the kids into the van and made our way back home, stopping in at ikea for some supper and browsing (and to let the energetic kids loose in the playroom) while we waited for traffic to clear.      it was a great and full day, and since we’d packed so much into it, we were free to finish up a solid week of school with the rest of the days of march break.     i’m sure that as the weather gets nicer there will be many more spontaneous “field trips”  before the year is up, but hopefully i can be disciplined enough to get our work done before the public schools are out for the summer!

March 20, 2011 at 21:57 1 comment

this week was crazy fast!

school this week was ahhh-mazing!  i couldn’t believe how well and how quickly it went!   math is getting a bit more complicated for anne, so there was some frustration with harnessing her focus, but that’s nothing compared to the first few weeks of school!  can’t believe that we’re going into week 10.

and speaking of 10… (master of segues!).. i’ve been making myself go to bed at 10 o’clock every night.   i normally like to go to bed around, say, 1? 2?  yeah, i’m a late night girl.  do you have any idea how going to bed at 10 cramps my style?!  i have time for NOTHING.

so why am i cutting my productive hours so short?

i intended to get up earlier.  not at an indecent hour like 6 or anything, but around 8 at the latest.  HOWEVER.  the midgets wake up around 7:30/8, and then go play quietly for an hour or two and let me sleep!  they don’t bug me for breakfast or anything… it’s really quite the problem and nobody else on earth will give me sympathy for it.  i thought that by going to bed at 10, i’d be more alert in the morning and just get up with them, but no– still the same problem.   i’m incredibly well-rested, but i only have enough time to get the required tasks out of the way before it’s bed time again!


i’m hoping that daylight savings time fixes this problem, because i am completely emphatic about not using an alarm clock.

this week’s crafts, despite the lack of time to do them:


arm warmers for the kids.  my friend natasha (hi gnat!) gave me some old knee socks, and i cut them up and sewed them up into way cool accessories for my midgets.    i love how anne’s intentionally posing in this picture.

i got my first order of fabric from connecting threads (an online fabric site that is run by the same company that i order most of my yarn from) this week and i’ve been positively itching to get into it!  i finally got a chance to sew up a christmas gift today for my 11 year old niece.  the pattern was free, and the whole thing only use 1½ fat quarters.   love those things!  i didn’t take a picture of the lining, but it looks like this.  inside is a magnetic closure and a pocket where i’ll hide an itunes gift card for her.

and one last picture for you:

elliot woke me up at 6:40 this morning to show me this!  it’s the first lost tooth in this house and there was too much enthusiasm for sleeping after that!  i’m not going to count on this to get me out of bed early every day, but it sure was a great way to wake up!

November 6, 2010 at 16:58 Leave a comment


1. school is going really well!  like, REALLY.    it’s so much better than i ever thought that it could be, and we’re flying through the weeks at an alarming rate– already into 8 weeks!   i can’t believe that i’m actually enjoying being part of a routine and schedule and being responsible for my kids’ education.  that just floors me.

2. another thing that i didn’t think i could actually enjoy:  sewing.  i’m actually, surprisingly at a point where i’d rather sew than knit.  part of that is because i love learning new things, and part of it is because sewing doesn’t hurt my wrists the way my marathon-style of finishing a knitted project does.    elliot really enjoys sewing as well, actually.  he has a stuffed animal collection, and we’ve been working on expanding that together.  last night we brainstormed a penguin design together, then went out to michael’s and spent $3.30 on felt, came home and sewed up penguins.  elliot traced the beak-triangle on the yellow felt, cut it out (using the sharpest scissors i own!) and drew the pupils into the eyes below:

why two? because i can't make one for elliot without making one for anne too :P

3.  i’m still knitting.  i was recently commissioned to make a dress for a friend of a friend, and i actually got to make it up and ship it off to a stranger!  i can’t really explain why that felt so cool, but it did.  plus, getting paid for knitting is a nice perk.  i’ve also been knitting hacky sacks.  derek wanted a jack skellington one, and then that was so fun i decided to make myself a goomba one.  then people started asking for their own, and suddenly i’m a hacky sack factory.  totally suits me though, since i really live for completing the project and those babies [aside from embroidery] can be done in one movie!

4. i’m trying to learn how to hacky sack.  we played socially during our lunch breaks in high school for a while, but i don’t know if i ever even hit it without someone shouting “hand!” as soon as i made contact.  i’m up to 3 consecutive NON-hand hits, but derek’s at 14 so i’ve got some catching up to do.

5.i’m teaching my kids to walk.  distances.  i don’t think they’re too bad to start off, but since i homeschool and phys-ed is good for all of us, we’re ditching the stroller and the car in favour of strengthening legs and building endurance.  today’s endurance was a little more directed at me, i guess.  as i had to carry anne half of each way squashed between my back and my backpack full of library books.  45lbs.  uphill both ways.  haha.

6. i’m going to see wicked tomorrow!  i’m really looking forward to a train ride (full of knitting) into toronto,  hanging out with a friend and absorbing some performing arts.  as much as i’m enjoying homeschooling, crafting toys, and carrying kids all over the city;   i’m really looking forward to my break tomorrow!


October 26, 2010 at 21:28 4 comments

lessons this week

derek and i left the kids with their grandparents last weekend and joined a few other adults in taking 40 teenagers to a youth event held by some of the churches in our area.  it was somewhat unnerving to leave the midgets, but i knew that they were loved and safe so that eased the abandonment issue enough to allow me to have a great time with the teenagers of our church.
we had a fantastic weekend, but didn’t get home from picking the kids up until about 8:00 sunday night and after putting them in their beds, i went comatose on the couch attempting to catch up on emails.

mondays are always the most stressful when it comes to our homeschool.  it’s the start of new math units, the reenforcing of schedule and the day where you can see the whole week stretching out before you with no end in sight.   i try to combat the monday thing by spending sunday night cleaning the house, planning the menu and groceries for the next week and making sure that i have everything on hand for science experiments and the like.  ideally i start with a clean slate on monday.   ideally i don’t fall asleep at 8:30 sunday nights.

this monday, the monday after a weekend away, we started with suitcases and backpacks and laundry all over the floor, no ideas for meals that day, and plans for the afternoon.   not a great start, and it was all topped off with squirrel poo.

apparently, while we were gone for the weekend a squirrel decided to house sit for us.  except it didn’t leave when we got home.  it stayed and trashed the house while we slept.  it chewed through cracker boxes and insulation and even chewed the part of the window that you pull when you want to open it.   it kept the kids up at night, and woke them up early in the morning.  what it didn’t do, was go into the trap.  it went everywhere else (according to the feces) but stubbornly avoided the ritz cracker and peanut butter in the cozy little cage.

so not only was i overwhelmed with piles of  to-do laundry and luggage and library books and toys littering the house, i was confronted with areas to disinfect before i could accomplish a simple task.

elliot’s also had a cold this week, so the “monday” factor was multiplied by a billion and i had such a hard time getting him to focus and finish his work.

FINALLY, tuesday morning the stupid animal took the bait.

the kids spent some time taking pictures of it and feeding it almonds before we released it back into the wild.  this is possibly when the week started to pick up for me a little, because derek asked if elliot could go with him to drive the squirrel out of the city, and my reflex response was “we have two days of school to do right now, and it’s not going well.”  but then i realized that those kind of moments are exactly why i homeschool, and should be cherished.  so elliot went off with his father to have some boy-bonding time and anne and i had some one-on-one time of reading books, which was really a great thing for me too.

after that, the school thing wasn’t so stressful.  elliot started to get over his cold and ended up doing so great for the last two days of the week.  i was able to clean the house little-by-little, now that i didn’t have to decontaminate it every morning.  and i got the laundry done.  well, sort of.  i have it cleaned and dried– the folding/putting away is pending but i’m making progress!  and, i’ve learned a valuable lesson:  if i want to avoid the “mondays”.  i really have to embrace the “sundays”.

ps:  we’ve been all about learning lessons this week.  lesson number two:  taco shells and toasters don’t mix.

October 8, 2010 at 16:49 Leave a comment

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