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

our homeschool method, for becky

a few notes before we get to it:

1) i’m sorry.  sorry that i haven’t been physically writing all of the blog posts that i’ve written mentally.  not sorry that i’ve been putting other things before the blog though!

2) things i’ve been putting before the blog:  school, school, school, SCHOOL.

we took a lot of time off in the winter, so we’ve been doing double-days for the last 4 weeks (at least!) to get done in time for a decent summer vacation.

with that in mind, becky, i’m writing this for you because you wanted to see our system, but TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!  woot!  we were hoping to be done by the end of june, and the kids have been working so hard, that we’ll be done way ahead of schedule!

forgive me for the iPhone photos!  i had to take the pics quickly while i still had stuff to take photos of!


totally have strongbad singing “the system, is down” in my head now!


1) the curriculum.  i’ll put links for what i use at the end of the post, but i wanted to say that the curriculum you choose can make or break your homeschool experience.  we almost broke.  the experience of learning that lesson saved us though.  i always recommend Cathy Duffy’s book “100 Top Picks for Homeschooling Curriculum” to find out what will work best with your kids’ learning style, and your teaching style.

2) method. again, experience is the only thing that can teach you what’s best for your family, but here’s how we do it.

i keep a binder with about 10 weeks of curriculum schedules sorted and divided with labels.  this year anne’s in SK, eli’s in grade 2, and this is the best way for me to combine their days so i could teach them separately but at the same time.  i try to keep it basic: history/geog (core), language arts, reading, and science.  the math doesn’t require a schedule, since we go through the books unit by unit, as the kids develop proficiency.

each morning (or the night before) i go through the binder, and pull out the books required for the day’s work.  i picked up these cheap-o file folders at staples, and although they’re pretty beat up now, they’ve been a great help throughout this year.  each kid’s file rack is a visual overview of what they have to do each day.
i let the kids work though the folders, choosing the subject that they’d like to do next.  as they finish a subject, they put the books and work on my desk, and rejoice that they can see the work in their folders shrinking.  i also throw their piano books in to make sure they practice every day.  sneaky!

ps: we just use the dining room table & couch to do school.  i used to have a designated classroom, but i really prefer having school happen in the actual living space of our house, instead of contained to a room.

the books go back on the shelf until the next day, and written work gets stored in these neat zip-up binder pouches that i found at costco.  they also serve as great dividers in my school binder, to separate each week in the schedule.

that’s basically it!  prep. work. organize.  do it all again the next day.  except soon it’ll be prep. work. HAPPY DANCE!!!  wahoo!  totally love this time of the year!!!

curriculum details:

  • reading/history/geography/language arts/science: SONLIGHT.
    the expense of it put me off for a loooooong time, during which i spend a ton of extra money on curriculum that didn’t work for us.  so basically i spent more on not-sonlight, before i learned to just bite the bullet and buy what would work.  no regrets.  it can be a little overwhelming to look at the site because there’s so much stuff, but they have some great information sifting tools here.
  • math: MATH-U-SEE.
    i like canadian math.  i tried Horizons math, but it was just too irrelevant for the awesome country that we live in.  math-u-see is a great tool for teaching math, and the site also has worksheet generators, and extra drill pages that you can print out if your child needs a bit more practice on a particular unit.
  • writing:
    i tried Handwriting Without Tears.  i’ve used it for a couple of years now, but i feel like letter practice is pretty mundane.  once the basic letter shapes are learned, the best tool is simply practice.  my kids keep journals.
    anne is still at a stage where she needs help writing neatly, and i found this tool on pintrest that has totally replaced any handwriting curriculum that i’ve invested in in the past.

i know there are a lot of homeschoolers out there!  i’d love to hear what system works for you and your family.  every year of homeschooling builds on the previous year’s experience, so give me your experience!

June 12, 2012 at 07:49 3 comments

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

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