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!

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March 23, 2017 at 14:02 1 comment

trying new things

there’s no delicate way to avoid being laughed at for this, so i’ll just come out with it: i’m taking ballet lessons. i started in january, at the request of anne’s ballet teacher. anne’s been struggling to stay focused in class for a little while, and i was “strongly encouraged” to join in the class with her.   

if you know me, then you know that i’m the most tom-boyish, awkward, clumsy, and uncoordinated human in the world. it’s okay if you’re laughing at the idea of my dancing– i certainly laughed for days at the idea of joining the class! i laughed for days, i brainstormed ways to say “no”, i laughed some more, and then i said “yes”.

also this winter, i finally said “yes” to skiing with my friend krista, who has been inviting us to join her for years. we’ve always had something else happening on fridays, but this year the calendar finally supported the homeschool skiing lessons schedule. i’ve tried skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice climbing, and various other winter sports. and although they are a lot of fun, my lack of coordination means that i am good at none of them. 

if you were to ask me what i fear the most in this life, i would answer “regret”. so as much as i had every confidence that i would embarass myself in ballet class, and bounce down the ski hills, i HAD to say yes.  

and now, as ski lessons give way to spring, and ballet transitions into recital preparation; i can say that i’m so glad that i didn’t say “no” to either of these activities. i want to be the sort of person who always challenges herself, is always learning, and one who faces intimidation and fears.  

a year ago, my friend liz and i confronted our fears of “the man section” at the gym, and decided to pursue weight-lifting.  we refused to be intimidated by unfamiliar machines and our own inexperience. familiarity and experience came quickly.

i want to encourage you, reader, to try new things. i want for you to feel intimidation, and the accompanying pride when you overcome.  suprise yourself, and maybe you will inspire others in the process.  as my husband has wisely said to me too many times: don’t let fear run your life.  not great to hear when i’m standing on the kitchen counter screaming that i saw a mouse,  but great life advice nonetheless.  

so, what will you say yes to?

February 26, 2017 at 22:01 Leave a comment

january=success

despite (or maybe because of) the scoffers and naysayers (aka: my sisters), i have successfully completed my hefty to-do list for the month of january regarding my list of new year’s resolutions.  you can see the full post here, but i’ll summarize below:

  1. bible in a year: on track! loving the bible project app, and totally recommend it. 
  2. stretching after working out:  i started out january with an ankle injury and no time to rest it, but modifying my workouts and stretches has kept me successful with this one.
  3. meal planning: stayed consistent with this.
  4. not wasting food: i was far from perfect on this, but i did order my groceries online as planned, and that definitely cut back big time on the wasted food. also, my freezer is full of jars of veggie stock! room for improvement next month, but also experienced an improvement compared to 2016.
  5. blog once per month: yup.
  6. practice flute 3x per week: i’ve loved being reunited with my flute! fave thing to do: put on some beatles music and play along with it.  i’m in the band!
  7. practice french every week day: finally broke the 40% mark! i’ve been struggling with getting out of the 30s for so long, and that threshold felt reeeaaally good!
  8. knit something: i knit a clapotis scarf out of knit picks chroma, and although it was a boring knit, it was a perfect project to get back into the craft, and the self-striping yarn kept me interested.
  9. home improvement:  i mudded, repaired, and sanded every wall on my main floor, plus the back stairwell that has been neglected for over a decade.  huge task, but what a relief to have it finished even if my house is now covered in drywall dust.
  10. woodworking: this was by far the most intimidating item on my list! it had been too long since i’d built anything, i couldn’t make a decision, and i was honestly just intimidated by the whole process.  odd, considering how comfortable i used to be in a woodshop. time does strange things.  anyway,  i eventually settled on an easy project from anawhite.com to get me back into “it”, and i had a lot of fun! the smell of sawdust will always feel like home to me. 

and now it starts all over again! choosing projects for february and finding time to complete them. i’m definitely enjoying the feeling of productivity that accompanied january, and am looking forward to another big list at the end of this short month.

how are you guys doing with your new year’s resolutions?

February 4, 2017 at 15:55 1 comment

koombaya


i’m a big fan of this quote by the father of medicine, and have been convicted by it for a long time.  for the last 4 years i’ve been testing this theory, and recently have been seeing some almost-miraculous results. 

for the last 2 years, i had rejected my friend trina’s offer to try kombucha. i was down to manageable levels of pain, and my need to call in sick to various activities was at a minimum. besides the fact that i couldn’t remember or say the name (koombaya? komboochoo?), it looked disgusting, and i was not going to risk it sending me back to my former levels of chronic pain.

for those of you who don’t know my backstory or what i’ve gone through for the last 4 years, here’s the basic summary:
i took antibiotics of increasing potency almost non-stop for about 6 months to fight your standard UTI. the antibiotics stripped away my ability to digest anything, and i’ve since been on a journey involving doctors, specialists, many days in bed praying for the pain to pass, many events/appointmets bailed upon.  having been burned by prescriptions in the past, i decided to decline the lifelong pain management prescription offered, and attempt to find my own way to just… deal.

as i said, after about 2 years of playing with diet, i’d reached a comfortable place that was neither ideal nor crippling: a sort of compromising balance.  i became dissatisfied with this compromise after my belly took me down this summer when i really needed it to be non-participatory.  a series of following disappointing setbacks forced me to rethink the solution that i’d thought i’d found.  so i gave trina’s crazy hippie drink a try. 


at first i had to choke it down, but after about a week, i started to aquire a taste for this strong beverage.  within 2 weeks, i actually started to like the kombucha!  even better than my tastebuds accepting this strange new drink, were the results that i was feeling in my belly.  it’s been about 6 weeks of drinking one cup each morning, and i haven’t spent one single day in the fetal position in my bed.  

i’m not functioning at 100%, but for the first time since beginning this journey, i am starting to feel a glimmer of hope. 

anyone with dietary restrictions will understand how big that little word can be: HOPE.  the idea that i can travel without reading food lables via google translator.  the crazy idea that i won’t be hangry in social settings because i forgot to bring food with me.  being able to share a meal with friends without having to “be special”.  to not fear food will be such freedom!  even just writing that paragraph makes me so thankful for the leaps in health that i’ve experienced since drinking my daily kombucha.

here are a few links for the how-to.  i won’t bother writing out my technique because there’s no need to make the internet redundant.  if you’re local and you want to try making your own though, i’d be happy to donate a scoby and help in any way you need. i don’t think that kombucha is the cure of the ages or anything, but if you’ve been struggling with gut health then you should skip the skepticism and give it a shot! i’m so glad that i finally did!

tools i use:

  • 1L mason jars
  • fabric scraps to replace lids
  • funnel
  • nylon mesh strainer
  • korken bottles from ikea
  • kettle
  • black tea

links that have helped me:

i’d love to hear if anyone else has had great success with kombucha, or advice, or flavouring combinations that win. happy fermenting!

January 7, 2017 at 22:42 1 comment

i’m in the 8%!

i have literally been obsessing over what my resolution will be for the new year.  i have a healthy post-it note board of options, plus a brain-full that haven’t made it to paper.  

normally i wouldn’t agonize over such a decision, because, who does?  it’s your standard new year’s resolve to try to be better for maybe a month or two.  however!!  i actually completed my NYR for 2016!  the internet tells me that 92% of the people who make resolutions, don’t keep them.  so, i’m celebrating this!

in light of the fact that NYR success is possible, the decision becomes more significant.  as a non-decision-maker, this leads to the abnormal “agonizing” mentioned in the previous paragraph.  there’s just so much room for improvement! 


i was whining to a friend about how impossible it was to choose just ONE area to improve upon, and she shot back “why choose?” –good point!  

my 2016 resolution was to basically become an adult. more specifically, to do dishes, sweep the floors, and clean the bathroom before bed each night.  i know some would cringe at the fact that i wasn’t already there, but we’re all programmed differently!  for me, this was an area of self-improvement that i knew i needed to make.  it’s been so great to wake up to a house that’s ready for me, instead of being presented with a “to do” list each morning.

as for the daunting post-it note list, i want to tackle it all.  i know that it’s too much to focus on, but instead of making cuts to ensure success, i’m going forward with a plan.  you may not care to read it, but part of the commitment process involves “telling others”, so here i go!

  • bible in a year: daily, and with a friend for accountability (already coordinated).
  • blog: basically just take the mental blogs that i write all the time, and actually put them onto the site. aim for once/month, but i’m not going to make up content if i have nothing to say.
  • don’t waste food/ meal planning:  i’m already a pretty decent meal planner, it’s the “going shopping for the planned meals” part that i have a hard time with.  i’ll often grab containers of fruit at costco because i’m already there, but i really only needed 3 apples, not the giganto bag.  not sure if that makes any sense to you, but trust me- it translates into food going into the compost bin.  action plan: shop for groceries online and go pick them up. make something out of the food about to spoil (like apple crisp!), or don’t buy it at all.
  • woodworking: fun fact- i used to be a carpenter.  my plan to get back into my shop is pretty simple: schedule one small project each month. i have a pinterest board of things that i want to make, and i feel like setting myself a 2017 goal is just the kick that i need.  one of the warmer months will definitely be a “clean out the garage” month if i’m to have any success though!
  • music:  leave my flute out of its case, and practice 3 times each week.  i tell my kids to practice their instruments daily, and i feel like this is something that i can set an example in.  also,  i plan to buy myself a piccolo at the end of 2017 if i have been successful in this resolution.
  • stretch: i already have pretty good habits for waking up and doing daily cardio, and my gym buddy and i are lifting weights thrice a week.  so i feel like stretching NEEDS to be added to this schedule if i’m going to be able to stay in it. action plan: add 10 minutes of stretching to each morning workout.
  • french: i’ve always wanted to be fluent enough to speak to my french half of the family.  i’ve been doing duolingo for a few years now, but i need to make it more of a commitment.  action plan: duolingo every week day, 50xp. also, when  costco gets the french smart books back in stock, i’m going to buy and work through them.  goal: to be able to communicate with our host family the next time our youth group does a missions trip to quebec.
  • knit/crochet: i go through phases on this one, and i’m looking to be more consistent.  the plan is pretty similar to the woodworking one: pick a project for each month and do it.  part of the goal with this one is to be off of my phone when watching a tv show with derek, and to stave off carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • home improvement: again, one project per month. some of it will be DIY, and some of it hired out. if you’ve ever been in our home, you’ve seen plenty of half-projects. walls that are drywalled and mudded, but not primed and painted. my goal is to complete our projects.

so there you go. basically broken down into manageable time frames and more set-up for success.  the last thing that i have to do is pick out the monthly projects and schedule them, but i have lists and pin boards already made, so it’s just a matter of picking and choosing. the sticky note wall that i just wrote on, will be at the top of the home improvement list :)

what do you think? am i taking on too much and setting myself up for failure? (if someone says “yes” to that last question, you’re basically locking me into success because i excel at being stubbornly defiant!).  i absolutely love that i completed my 2016 NYR, and am looking forward to a year of seeing my goals accomplished, and wistful regrets disappearing. 

anyone else in the 8% club with me? 

December 30, 2016 at 23:36 2 comments

allergen-free sugar cookies

it’s been almost 4 years since i had to carve out a diet from a stifling list of restrictions.  growing up in a house that always smelled of fresh bread and cookies, meant that giving up gluten was the most difficult of the decisions that i had to make to improve my health.

every christmas, my amazing mom fills freezers and tables with a collection of cookies, breads, pastries, and tarts.  every christmas for the last 4 years, i have stared at the buffet and hated my belly and the restrictions that it has placed on me. 

this year, a friend posted a picture of her gluten-free sugar cookies on instagram, and i was snapped into action.  many of you have commented on the photo that i posted of my own gluten/dairy/soy-free cookies, and with tina’s permission, i am sharing the recipe as requested:

full disclosure: you will hide these cookies from your children, because they are too good to share.


tina’s sugar cookies:

  • ⅔ cup soy-free earth balance (or whatever “butter” you like to use)
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp almond milk (or whichever milk you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ cup potato starch flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • dash of salt. 

glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • water to establish consistency

wrap up dough and chill for at least 2 hours. roll out dough to ½ inch thickness. Bake for about 10 mins at 350° or until edges start to turn golden brown.  dip cookies in glaze once they have cooled. 

my sister posted a copy-cat recipe of my mom’s famous candy cane cookies with gluten & dairy-free revisions. you should definitely check them out too! because i’m lazy and like to multi-task, i sprinkled crushed candy cane dust onto the tops of some of these sugar cookies, and the result was resminiscent of my mom’s cookies! so, you have options :)

December 26, 2016 at 20:27 1 comment

traditions

proactive about forming traditions, or not; we all have them.  i’m the type of person who despises routine, but cherishes the traditions that our little family has organically formed. 

on christmas eve, we squish into the living room, and have a sleepover. there is always one gift opened, and that gift in itself is a tradition: footy pyjamas, and a toy made by me.  we sleep late the next morning, and slowly get through breakfast, and reading the christmas story from the bible. 

my kids are growing up, and so am i.  they no longer “play” with the toys that i make them, and i no longer have the time to make weekly toys.  so this year, i really struggled with what to make them for their christmas eve gifts.  i didn’t want to break with tradition, but i also didn’t want to waste time and resources. 

i brainstormed and consulted with friends and family, and came up with handmade ornaments.  and now i kind of wish that i’d had the idea many years ago.  the ornaments summarize the year that is coming to a close.  in doing this, the kids can have a chronological record of their childhoods. practically, they can start a collection for their own trees in their own homes- days which are too rapidly approaching.


elliot has been into pokemon for years, but this year he was pretty focused on the release of a new game, and counted down the days for at least ⅓ of the year.  given his history with pokemon (it was really the first “thing” he was into), i thought it fitting that his first ornament be a pokeball.

anne’s been in ballet for almost 4 years now, but this year she made the decision to focus on it more seriously.  she doubled-up her lessons, and began daily practice at home. she’s even been teaching me!

tomorrow night we’ll continue our tradition of pyjamas, handmade “toy”, and a sleepover.  i’m looking forward to seeing the reactions of my not so midgety-midgets when they see the new twist on an old tradition.

merry christmas to you all! thanks for reading!

December 23, 2016 at 23:14 Leave a comment

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