Monday, October 24, 2016

Curriculum Picks for 2016-2017 (2nd & 4th grades)

 Lukka's new math text book- Beast Academy

I honestly meant to write this a solid two months ago when bouquets of newly sharpened pencils* were like stars in my eyes, but let's just cut to the chase-that back-to-school Great Expectations mumbo jumbo is over and we're eyeballs thick into the work of the year. So far, the past 6 weeks have been going pretty well, but talk to me at the beginning of February and I may have 4 pencils sticking out of my hair, glue hanging off the table in a hardened state, and tears of mania in my eyes. 

Besides my less than stellar blogging stats as of late, I do want to share our curriculum for the year, because I find those posts by other home schoolers both fun and helpful to me when I'm in a slump, need to switch, or just find something new to get the train up the hill (I'm looking at you, early May sunshine!). Here's what we've got for the kids:

Lukka is starting a new math program this year after 4 years of Singapore. We love Singapore, and if Beast Academy doesn't work out, we'll go back. But...I had to try a curriculum that I'd heard good things about (though it's so new most vendors don't even know about it) that has a full-color comic book for each textbook level.  Ani is working on Singapore 2B, having finished 2A in first grade. She's nearly half-way through it in just 6 weeks, so I don't doubt she'll move up to level 3 within the year. She's always been a math whiz. We also had the school buy us Say Cheese, a multiplication board game for extra practice. 

During Morning Time we usually do bible, handwriting, and a read-aloud (usually a chapter of a novel). We're still using the Ergermeier kid's bible, an Odyssey devotions based in Matthew, and  the Truth & Grace Memory Book 1 from my online friend Renee. Every once in awhile they'll watch something on our school-subscription of Right Now Media, which I love but barely find the time to get to. 
The kids have started using Handwriting without Tears; Ani doing level 1 printing and Lukka doing level 3 cursive, which he finds much easier than print.  For Language Arts, we're reading through the entire Narnia series in their originally published order, and we're 2 books down. Ani is still working steadily at one level per day on and Lukka is now on Level 3 of Susan Barton remedial phonetic program. He is on an iep for dyslexia and has been since early Spring. More info on that soon. 

This year the kids are a part of a local co-op and that has been so wonderful. Lukka's class is learning about the Japanese Canadian internment during WWII, and taking learning camps (4-8 week focused programs that our school puts out) including Little Bits and Cubelets. Later in the year he'll be doing an awesome hands-on Space unit, and another term is unknown to me as of now. Ani's group (the group I teach with) are doing a Grammar/ Parts of Speech lapbook and also a Geography/Wonders of the World unit study, which has been not only so fun, but so full of great learning, too. Later she'll be doing a Private Eye (writing, nature study, art) unit and also a lapbook on nutrition. There is one other term unaccounted for that is unknown subject matter to me but another teacher is in charge of that!

As for social studies, this first term the kids are learning all about First Nations tribes of the Pacific side from BC up north through the Artic circle, including tribes like Haida, Coast Salish, Inuit, and more. We've been reading myths, learning about culture including art, tools, daily life and also about geography and food sources in their areas. One of two best books we've used (mostly all library resources) are A Native American Thought of It! Inventions and Technology and Keepers of the Animals, an anthology. The kids are creating lapbooks about what they find interesting in all our study. 

Right now, these are the things we've been using on a daily or weekly basis and have been enjoying. I haven't been focusing on Science this term but we'll get to it later. I like to divide Socials and Science into different terms so we can go deep with the subject matter and not feel rushed. What are your kids enjoying in their school year? 

*Always watch You've Got Mail in the Fall. It's a thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 Hey all, my favorite blog reader is Bloglovin', and I thought I'd add it there for others to find. I know I'm not writing as regularly as I once had time for, but please believe me when I say I've got meaty blog posts just waiting for time to be worked on, including thoughts on homeschooling, dyslexia, our June vacation (!!!), my girls trip, a new co-op adventure, and more. If you'd like to follow along via bloglovin, just click the link at the top of this post. See you around, and for the non-negotiable last-day-of-the-month book reports!

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Titles (2016)

checking out my new amazon treat! 

Last month and this month were good to me in the book department. My time of watching TV voraciously (catching up with my 3 favorite shows once they're on netflix, and watching all of Parenthood in one summer) is over and I am back turning to books in every spare moment. Surprisingly, this month went to a lot of history all across Canada. Funny how one can find the right books at the right time. Lukka will be learning all about BC history this year in (home)school, so reading a few of these books were so helpful even from a homeschooling perspective, let alone enjoyable to read on their own. Here's my September reads:

*Vancouver Island Scoundrels, Eccentrics, and Originals by Stephen Ruttan - This quirky little book was one I had seen while on vacation on Vancouver Island and it seemed like a fun little history lesson, complete with photos, odd stories, and few pages (170+). I picked it up at our library and I thought it was so interesting. I know very little of the history of British Columbia, and this certainly was an entertaining intro. The stories were well-written and seeing the old pictures of people and places helped tremendously to add character and setting. I liked it so well I thought I'd write to the author and tell him we're planning on reading a bit of it aloud in our homeschool. This year Lukka has to learn about BC's history, and a number of these stories are a perfect fit.

*In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail - I really learned a lot from this anthology of essays from authors (both native and non-native) across Canada retelling experiences involving First Nations issues and people. Just this year in BC the ministry of education has begun to include much more First Nations curriculum/topics in every grade, signaling good things for reconciliation between First Nations people groups and the general population who may or may not know of the horrific pasts of many tribes. Of course, in thinking of my own country, I see Canada light-years ahead. Each essay in this book had a different tone, conflict, and theme and through all of those different sets of eyes I gained a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed it!

*Bent Hope by Tim Huff - This book is a collection of Toronto's street kids' stories told by the man who ministered to them. They are raw, tragic, and at times, horrifying, but sitting at the end of each chapter is a deep sincere love by the author that one day, these kids would know the love God has for them. It's both deeply troubling and deeply hopeful. A book like this is what needs to be shared in youth groups, and older children's lives along with frank discussions on things like abuse, cyclical problems like mental illness, financial and spiritual poverty, and solutions that honor the God who loves the 1 out of the 99 so much He goes looking for them. Thankful a friend of mine let me borrow this book, as I don't know I would have come across it otherwise.

*Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist - This is a book full of short essays that mostly center on the themes of peace, grace, slowing down life, and margin. I appreciated the encouragement Niequist offers but didn't find anything new or mind-blowing. Mostly, this is a quiet book that helps give you permission to do what you want with your life. If you're a woman, you may feel like you need permission to take care of yourself without feeling guilty. Shauna is trying to give you back that power. Though this is a quick read, and a gentle book, I didn't find it very fluid, and sometimes the sections didn't  feel that different, even though there were 5 or 6 of them. This could be a really lovely book for some, but it was a shoulder-shrugger for me.

*I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam - In this book, Vanderkam takes her 168 Hours log idea, presents it to high-earning women (over $100K/year), and maps out how they spend their time, and how they really do have it all, it just looks different than what you'd think. I sort of take issue with this idea because although I'm high on efficiency and productivity, I need a lot of down-time to rejuvenate, and I just didn't see much margin in these lives, though they are in powerful or interesting careers and are able to spend quality time with their kids. I hope at some point she decides to study women that feel more aligned to the average-"jo", those who make much less, single mothers, women who have children who have special needs, etc. This book feels too much like a niche book. A small, riche, non-margin niche. I appreciate what she's trying to do-to empower women to go for the big jobs AND the family, but honestly? It made me tired FOR these women. I'll take my simple life, one-income, and plenty of whitespace. I hate to say I think this book backfired for me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

16 in 2016: More Plants!

 snapped out front of Rook & Rose, in Victoria

Early every year I love to make a goal list that I can slowly work through as opportunities present themselves. Sometimes they're big, sometimes small, and this one was home-centered: get more greenery in for our small basement suite. My sister-in-law does plants so well, and that has inspired me to get a few more plants to spruce up the place {see what I did there?}.  Stefan has liked this goal because he would have a house full of green if our budget allowed it!

 My ZZ plant and broad leaf succulent from R&R

When I went to Victoria with my friend Emily, we found this beautiful plant boutique (is that even a thing?!) and I bought two beautiful plants that were extremely well priced, and had a healthy gloss to them. The two plants above are from Rook & Rose, and if you're ever in Victoria and you have plant goals, go see them. They had an air plant that was nearly $100 (it was huge, most are quite small) and it was over 62 years old! I could have easily spent a chunk of my cash in that store, but had to make it out with just one bag since we were walking all over Victoria for the day. 

 3 out of these 4 from IKEA (African violent from friend)

This last photo is the spot where the majority of my plants are-on one of our brightest window ledges. The tiny African violet is still blooming after at least 6 months. It goes through phases of no buds, to 10-12 flowers opening at once, and although I don't have a great container for it, I'm glad I kept this little gift from a friend instead of tossing it once it became really dry. 

The other three very different plants are all from IKEA and started out quite small. The broad leafed plant has actually dropped two large leaves and just keeps sprouting from the stem and they are getting darker with each new leaf that pops out. I'm sure this could become a large plant but without the space, I don't want to switch it into a bigger pot. 

The 'spikey' looking plant has grown a solid 6 inches in height (at least) in the last year. It loves the simple little pot because it continues to grow up and doesn't seem to need more space, which is perfect. The last is my favorite, and has grown out at least 6-8 inches, and is starting to trickle down the ledge with new vine sprouts everywhere. 

I often water one 'big' time per week, and if I think any of them are looking a bit 'weary' between watering, I'll drop an ice-cube in the top, a tip I got from Elise that really works!

Do you know the names of these last 3? Do you have a great hanging plant suggestion that doesn't need much natural sunlight? I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

16 in 2016: Get a Dog!

When we moved to Ft. Langley about 18 months ago, we notified the owners of our rental suite that we were interested in-at some point- getting a mid-sized dog. Thankfully (hallelujah!) they were okay with that, since the previous tenants had a large-breed dog. 

Another one of our 16 in 2016 goal list was to get a dog. This has been a looooong time in the making, and our kids are absolutely over the moon with their new pet dog, Copper.

When we were ready to get a dog, we had a few stipulations: we wanted to get a dog from a shelter (the pure-breds in this area are outrageously expensive, even for very common breeds), the kids had to show us they were responsible enough to help out with the chores like picking up poop, feeding, running around/exercise, and spending time training. The last thing we were waiting for was to get back from vacation, so we could have a solid 6 weeks of assimilating the dog into our home until we were back 'in the thick' of things with homeschooling, etc. These last few weeks of summer have been some of our kids' most memorable.

When we told the kids we were going to the Bellingham shelter after church one day we were explaining over and over that we were just looking, because we didn't have an interest in any of the dogs that were on their website. This guy, however, wasn't even listed yet, and when we found him, we couldn't believe no one else was in line to look at him, especially because the shelter was packed when we went.

The shelter makes matching dogs + owners really easy with a detailed description on their info sheet outside of each dog's kennel. When we went into the busy shelter, and walked around and saw all the dogs at first glance, the rest of the dogs were jumping up, barking, growling, etc. and this guy was calmly laying down, wagging his tail, which is a very good sign of the personality of a dog. A calm dog is highly desirable for a pet.

Bringing a dog home from a local shelter is not only helping animals who are strays, or surrendered from owners (Copper was a stray and picked up) from being neighborhood problems, but it's also ensured that the dog is fixed, microchipped, 'cleaned out' from various issues (they deworm, preventative meds, etc.) and updated with vaccines including rabies. It's very affordable, as well. Copper cost us $85 as an adopt fee, whereas in BC, the local shelters are over $300 for the same services! We were only considering dogs found in WA because of the cost alone.

Copper is a Rottie-lab mix and has the coloring of a rottweiler (which makes his Disney-inspired name work, because of his copper-colored 'socks'), and the build of a lab. He's so friendly with people and will let even small children from the park bop him on the head and he'll just keep his tail wagging. We had a bit of trouble putting him in a kennel and for two weeks I thought maybe we'd be evicted because he wouldn't stop barking the entire time we'd be gone. We bought a sonic egg and now we just hook him up with his leash around the couch and he can sleep on his blanket and be right next to his water dish. They haven't heard a peep out of him and so this solution has worked wonders! We wonder if he was abused at some point with a kennel, because the minute we brought him home, he averted the kennel under all circumstances!

Copper was a stray when the shelter picked him up, but certainly someone must have worked with him beforehand, because he knew a few commands, is very friendly with people, and is very well-behaved. He's estimated to be about 18 months, and dogs aren't on the streets for that long without being picked up by animal control. He must have been dumped or ran away though we'll never know. He is an excellent walker (even with the kids won't pull), loves the chuck-it, and is getting trained to wear a pack and hike with us, and goes on near-daily runs with Stefan and the kids on bikerides! We have to be careful around other dogs, though, as he is not very well socialized and can get aggressive with other dogs very quickly, and can escalate to dog fights if we're not vigilant with his body language. Unfortunate, because dogs like having dog friends to play with. We'll get there, but that is the only 'bad' part of his personality. He is, overall, a fantastic dog, and with lowered expectations knowing he was a stray, he has far surpassed where we thought he'd be in only three weeks!
He has found his forever family and we couldn't be more thrilled! I think the shelter would like to know he is being well-cared for, and has found his pack. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ft. Langley 'Blooming Bush Bike Tour'

This was something brand new we did early in the Spring (yikes! I've neglected this blog for a long time...) around our town, Ft. Langley, BC. There was a 2-3 week period where nearly every house in Ft. Langley, which is home to so many beautifully landscaped properties, had a 'blooming bush' in their yard. The kids and I made up an activity--go on a "blooming bush bike tour" and take photos of all the gorgeous blooms. 
Most of these photos were snapped by the kids, and people, we didn't even get farther than 4 city blocks before we were done because we had taken over 50+ photos!

Here are a few of our favorites, and I tried to get a good array of colors presented. 
If you know which flower/bush it is, leave it for me in the comments (and describe the photo/color of flower so we can know which is which). 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Titles Read (2016)

*The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD - Listen, peeps, I don't know what to tell you other than I feel like my hormones have been out of whack for a solid few years now. I'm putting in the effort to figure out WHAT all of them are for, HOW they do what they do (in their prime) and WHY I have certain symptoms that won't go away. This is book one by Gottfried, and I'll follow it by her #2, The Hormone Reset Diet.  If you're a woman aged 30-55, this might be a worthwhile side-table read. I know I'm learning a lot.

*50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe - This book is one I found (amazingly!) at a big thrift store for about $3. I'd wanted to read it since I read it's sister book last year (different author) about 50 Women. I didn't like this one as much because it included too much of each bio to what the person had written in their lifetime, and the author's opinion of those books. I'd much rather have read more short stories or bits of the person's life, not just what they did in their religious vocation. I read one biography per day and learned a lot. Who knew Scotland had so many amazing spiritual men bring people to the Lord in the 1800 and 1900s?! I'd have liked to see more women included, since I believe there were only two within the fifty, but the 50 Women book certainly took care of that.

*Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany - This was the long awaited story of Harry and the gang 19 years later. No spoilers here-it's mostly about their kids and an alternate reality. It's intriguing, and because it's written as a play (going strong in London, there are literally 80+THOUSAND people waiting in line when they open ticket sales!), it's hard to get into the flow, but in the  Rowling way, once you do, you breeze through the book. There are a number of spots that get confusing, and it'd be less so on stage, but then there are parts where I thought, "HOW can they possibly make that work on a stage?" Read it in less than 48 hours, in natural Potter fashion.

*Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - This book was SO interesting. I'm not sure if I was just in the mood to read it, or if it's because of my life-long love for any type of advice columns like Dear Abby that aided my enjoyment of this book. Strayed, or "Sugar" (Dear Sugar), as she is anonymously known, ran an advice column on The for years and this is a collection of some of her most famous responses. The writing is superb, the advice mostly excellent**, and the language salty. The 'chapters' are just broken up by her the letter writer/question-asker, and her response, so you can get through it really quickly, too. Some of her responses bring you to tears, some make you laugh and punch your fist in the air in solidarity, a few I inwardly cringed at. I rarely give 4 stars, but there it is.

*Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch - I can't remember where I came across this book first, but I knew I quickly pinned it to my Bookshelf pinterest board because I was intrigued. I read this book in just a few days, and it's filled with personal stories and practical advice, perfect for a 200 page nonfiction parenting book. I often see entitlement creep into one or both of my kids (ahem, one more than the other), and so I need all the help I can get in this department. It's funny because we don't have much compared to the wealth out here in the lowermainland, and still, trying to get out of hard work, complaining, and unrealistic expectations still hit our home. I especially liked the age-appropriate action items at the end of each chapter.

*Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - I was half-way through this book when I had to give it back to the library, and it's an easy read for me because it's part apocalyptic (in the mildest sense, really), and is also filled to the brim with 80s references. So many, in fact, that even I've been stumped by a few (and I thought my 80s pop culture references were pretty good!). Some people have enjoyed the book simply for that, I actually liked the characters, the satirical aspect of the cyberworld OASIS, and the writing.

Read Alouds

*Sophie Mouse Winter's No Time to Sleep! by Poppy Green - This was the 6th in the series we read aloud, and just like the others, they are short, sweet, and with very cute illustrations. In this 'episode', the gang meets a new friend, who is a nocturnal hedgehog. I definitely recommend these to the K-3 crowd. They're especially great for readers who need more confidence with chapter books as the print is large and nearly every other page or two is covered in illustrations.

*Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolf Wyss - This was the abriged, illustrated version of the classic, and the kids loved it. I had never read this book before, but I knew Lukka would enjoy the hilarious adventures the family has, and all the interesting animals and items they found on the island to help them in their new life on a deserted island. After finishing this book, we of course rented the original Disney movie to go with it, as it should be.

*Mathematicians Are People, Too! (Vol. 1) by Luetta Reimer - This was a fun 'school but you don't know it's school' book to read aloud to the kids. It's a book with biographical stories of 15 different mathematicians from all over the world, and from all time periods, told in engaging story format. My kids really enjoyed listening to a chapter or two per night before bed, and although some of the mathematical theories, or discoveries were a bit over their head, I'm of the mind that it's never too soon to start learning about these men and women that will eventually influence them in science and math. I'm looking forward to reading Vol. II!

**Some advice I highly disagree with, but that's to be expected.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

16 in 2016: Take the kids to see "The Secret Life of Pets" in the theater

One of my kid-oriented goals this year was to take my kids to a movie. We never go to the actual theater because it's so expensive (this afternoon matinee was $30!), but it's something fun to do over the summer, and when it's very rare, it's a big treat. I had seen the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets last year and thought it looked really cute.

The kids loved this movie and laughed quite a bit, though to be honest, I was a little disappointed in this movie. It wasn't nearly as funny as the trailer made it look, and the plot was only so-so. I wished I had watched this at home after it came out on DVD from the library, but the kids enjoyed the movie treat, and that's what I cared about. We enjoyed our time together. I'm here to tell you, however, to skip this one in the theaters and wait for a better Pixar or Disney movie, and watch this one at home on the couch with a bucket full of popcorn made in the microwave.  It tastes just as good. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

#GiveYourChildTheWorld -- Beautiful British Columbia!

family shot in Salmon Arm, BC

Our family lives in Ft. Langley, British Columbia. This small village is part of the lowermainland of BC, which encompasses many large cities, farmland, mountain towns, and Vancouver metro that total about 3 million people! We love living right on the Fraser river where The Fort started the province of British Columbia as a famous trading post.  My husband is from this area, and I'm from Nebraska, where our two children were born. We've lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost 4 years (we lived in Blaine, WA, while I finished my immigration work while my husband commuted across the border every day to work in Canada), and in BC for two. 

Here in Langley, we have a fantastic homeschooling community, and my children Lukka, 9, and Ani, 7, spend many of their days riding bikes through town, going to the library, playing with Copper, our dog, or listening to loads of audiobooks. We hike on the weekends all over 'Beautiful BC', hit the beach when it's sunny, and head into Washington state when we need a change (or just some Trader Joe's!), or to pick up our American-bought packages. 

Ani and dad reading 

We love living in BC, and of course, my husband feels he's finally 'home' after 11 years living in the US. We love living in the area because there are so many spots for outdoor recreation. This includes lakes, mountains for hiking, beaches and the coast, islands to ferry to and canoe around, and plenty of camping options on or off the grid. Tourism is a big money-maker for this area because it's simply STUNNING. Imagine farmland landscapes with horses, berry farms and fresh fruit stands everywhere, mountains in the background, and when you're entering the city of Vancouver: bridges crossing over the water channels, snow-capped mountains always looming, beautiful forests, and the ocean always so close on the west side!
It's also such a delightful temperature most of the year-very mild with the majority of the year between 50 and 75 degrees F. Of course, deep winter and deep summer there are a few weeks of colder, but it's pretty moderate.

Canada has English and French as the national languages, and in BC, kids in all schools start learning French from grade 5 on. There are plenty of French Immersion schools, where every single subject is taught in French, and it's the best way to become fluent, but the wait-lists are often 3-5+ years long!

Fresh seafood, sushi, Asian and Indian food is very popular out here. Seafood because we're on the coast, Asian and Indian foods because that is a big part of the population, so great food is easy to come by. My husband enjoys a $3 California roll nearly once a week, though the three of us Midwesterners are a bit more slow to enjoy the seafood.... Another Canadian food is poutine, which is basically the most delicious heart-attack food ever made. If you ever come  here trying it is a must! French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It sounds bizarre, but just trust me.

Ani with her favorite Paris books

Most kids go to traditional public schools, but there are a few other options including French Immersion, Fine Arts schools, and homeschooling is also very popular up here. A difference we noticed in coming from the midwest is that the kids here only get 2 months of summer (instead of 3) but so many breaks and days off throughout the year. We homeschool, so we live on our own schedule.

Homeschooling is a bit different here than in the States, and we enroll with a long-distance school. When a family enrolls, each child gets a certain amount of funding for things like books, field trips, learning camps, etc. I won't tell you how much, or you might want to move! It's a pretty sweet deal.

You can also register, which means you align yourself with a school, and get a small amount of funding, but you don't have to be accountable to a school and teacher to prove your children are learning x, y, and z. Both options are great-it just depends on what your priorities and needs are! Homeschooling is respected here and it's very common to have people say, "lucky you!" when they find out we homeschool.

There are so many ethnic festivals in this area, and so many fun free things to do in Vancouver alone. In our small village of Ft. Langley (pop. 3,500), a few big ones are the Victoria Day in May where there is an old-fashioned parade, Canada Day in July where there are tons of free and fun things to do, including free admission to the museums, 'birthday cake', a petting zoo, and re-enactments. In October there is the Cranberry Festival with lots of craft vendors, and the like, and plenty of community-based events throughout the year including an Easter egg hunt, Christmas break pancakes, and a food truck festival every summer. It's the place where people from 'the city' come on the weekends to relax and get away!

I have too many favorite books, it's hard to pick just one. There are a lot of First Nations influence throughout the Pacific Northwest, and I love a lot of children's literature that include myths from coastal nations like this gorgeous board book, Learn & Count, Yetsa's Sweater, and  Secret of the Dance,.  For books just about Vancouver, I love My Vancouver Sketchbook, Vancouver Kids, and anything by Canadian author, Munsch is very popular.

Monday, August 15, 2016

16 in 2016: Read the "Little House on the Prairie" (Laura Ingalls Wilder) series to the kids

At the end of June we finished a monumental task- we finished the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series; nine books where the shortest one was 150 pages, and most were well over 300. It took us a solid 7 months of reading aloud, during school time, bedtimes, bored times, etc. and I am so glad I made this a year-long goal, because quite frankly, it was a doozy.

I had never read the entire series myself, I remember reading at least two of them, but I knew my kids were at the right age to enjoy these books. There are a number of series I have 'planned' to read to them through the next 3 years or so, and these were the books that I thought best to start with, because the kids would enjoy the simple stories of pioneer life, and were considered the 'youngest' of the series.

The last two large books, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years, were listened aloud on audio with Cherry Jones (thanks for the tip, Jamie Martin!) because I needed a break, and my kids needed someone to still be excited about reading 700 more pages. I finished up the series myself with The First Four Years, refreshed and excited to end on a good note. My kids were 8 and 6 when we started, and when we ended, 9 and 7! If your kids can sit still and enjoy chapter books to be read aloud, our experience was great.

I really hope to take the kids to the Ingalls homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, next time we drive back to Nebraska for a visit, and they're excited, too. I was really glad to enjoy this classic series with my kids and although it was seemingly a long-term effort, I know I'll look back in our homeschool journey and really appreciate that we took the time to read these stories together. Next year, Narnia!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Titles Read (2016)

outside; Telus Spark playground

*Give Your Child The World by Jamie C. Martin - This literary list book is for the parent eager to introduce different cultures to their family members. It's organized very well, by continent, and further, by age. The first section of this book is the author's family's journey of multiculturalism. They have two children adopted from outside the US, and her husband is from England. I bought this book (and I buy so few books) because I knew it'd last us for years of homeschooling, though I don't think you need to be homeschoolers to use and enjoy this--just passionate about reading with your kids.

*The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss - This is the third (and last, for awhile) book I've read about dyslexia for research into a new chapter of our homeschool. I know that's very few details, but this book was helpful in understanding the specific strengths of your own child/self; and provided real-life stories of people who had those same strengths and what they're doing professionally. Foss is very creative, intelligent, and a product designer in his own right, and a large portion focused on adaptations. I chose not to read this portion (maybe 70 pages?) because we don't have that need yet, but I have seen some of these things organically already happen wtihin our own homeschool and thought this was a great book on the topic.

*Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo - DiCamillo is hands-down my favorite children's author. Her quick novels are always written beautifully and more importantly-believably-from a child's perspective, with the perfect analogies along the way to enhance the story. This is a middle grade novel about a girl whose father has just left their family, the friendship of two girls in her baton twirling class, and saving their little corner of the world. If you have never heard of DiCamillo, start with Because of Winn-Dixie, then The Tale of Despereaux, and after you've fallen completely head over heels, any other her others. She's been awarded or up for THREE Newbery awards (the highest award in children's publishing) and it's no surprise why. She can take very hard topics (this novel's happens to be abandonment, abuse, and suicide) and talk about them in ways that just make sense to children. It's heavy, but it's also worth it.

Read Alouds

*The Case for Christ for Kids by Lee Strobel - This apologetics book is made for kids and is great for discussion. Edited from the original (The Case for Christ), this includes the major questions and arguments around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, with a lot of built in historical facts and questions to get your kids thinking and talking. I think it's a great resource for younger kids who are interested in the topic, or older kids (tweens) who maybe have some questions.

*The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This story is quite a bit different from the famous Little House stories, because it's written in 134 pages (a solid 200 pages less than her others), and it's written over four years, from harvest to harvest. Most of the series covers 1-2 years max in Laura's childhood, but of course, now Laura's all grown up with a home and a family. We struggled to get through this one because the chapters range from 15-60 pages, and without a good stopping point, it's hard to just leave off and then pick it back up again. Die hards will want to finish this series with the book, but everyday Little House fans might not enjoy it as much. Decide which one you are, and either take it or leave it.

*Sophie Mouse: Looking for Winston by Poppy Green  - These are sweet little books that first got me by their adorable (and a plethora of them, at that!) illustrations and I started reading them aloud to Ani and Lukka sneaks next to us nearly every time I pop it out. They are each about 100 pages, big letters, and short chapters with a cute storyline make these excellent early chapter books that I can usually finish in 1-2 sittings. This one is about Sophie's younger brother, Winston, and sibling relationships in good and bad. I highly recommend these for kids aged 4-8.

*Sophie Mouse: The Maple Festival by Poppy Green - This one is about Sophie's mother, Lily Mouse, ,who owns a bakery and has the huge job of making the treats for a vendor booth at the Maple Festival coming up. It's just another cute book in the Sophie Mouse series that both Ani and Lukka enjoyed, and I enjoyed the fact that it took me 2 20-minute sittings to read it in entirety!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

16 in 2016: Canoe Somewhere New (False Creek, Vancouver)

This past Saturday was Stefan and my 11th wedding anniversary, and to celebrate we got out the canoe for the first time this year. We took the kids to a new place (we'd never canoed-one of my 2016 Goals), False Creek. This is a main waterway in downtown Vanouver, and with cheap all-day parking ($11/day) at Kits beach, we hauled it all the way down to Science World, where the water ends, and back again.

We saw so much this morning, including these wild murals painted on a factory, a cute little multicolored houseboat community (see below), and plenty of seagulls. Unfortunately, we didn't see any sea otters, seals, or other wildlife, but we did dock at Granville Island while they were having an outdoor jazz concert. We stopped for a little bit more food since we were staying in the city much longer than originally planned. Nothing that a few apples, cheese, and bread can't fix!

As the morning went on, the sun came out of the clouds and so many yachts and sailboats were out on the water. We also saw the cute little aquabuses that were chugging here and there for tourists and pedestrians wanting to to to the other side. If you're a visitor to Vancouver and have a sunny day, an aquabus tour would be a fun and inexpensive way to see downtown Vancouver and Granville Island-a popular market area-for a price much less than a private yacht or sailboat tour.

This paddle took us about 90 minutes each way, and earned us all a few pink cheeks (ahem). Once we pulled into Kits beach, Stefan and I were contentedly tired from paddling nearly 4 miles. We got the canoe up and secured onto the car and headed down to the dog beach they have to let the kids play with some dogs for awhile, but the entire 45 minutes they were too shy to play with any dogs, and the dogs were too busy playing with each other!

After our canoe trip ended, we stopped at Lemonade - my favorite gluten-free bakery - for some delicious treats before heading home to shower and have a bit of downtime before our night out. It was a fun new place to paddle and I hope to get the canoe out a few more times before the summer ends. We don't have a great way to haul it since we don't have a roof rack, so it's not something we'd do every weekend, but for $150 on craigslist, a canoe is an inexpensive and fun family memory-maker!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Titles (2016)

I can't remember where this photo is from, but it's not mine.

I did not get a ton of books read this month. June for me was like December is for everyone else....bonkers! I read (but didn't finish) a very slow-going classic, and then tried to play catch up with book candy the rest of the month. I read a bit of books here and there that I haven't finished for one reason or another, but to be honest I wasn't excited about them. We did, however, read a lot of great books via audio with the kids!

*The Progeny by Tosca Lee - This was what I call a "candy book". It's just total fun, easy, and a thriller or page-turner (both, in this case). I love Lee's historical fiction books that generally lead toward biblical history, and this was her first of hers that is not in that category. This story was about a girl who is Progeny--a long line of nobility that has strong powers--that come from a Hungarian noblewoman named Elizabeth Bathory. The graphic parts of this book are very light (they don't go into much detail) and the historicity that is in the book are more about old languages; numerals, underground caverns, and Franciscan monks. It was fun!

*The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje - This book is a glittering, poetic book about four very different people, intersecting in WWII, and their story of survival, love, and loss. It was a book club book and although I probably never would have picked this book up because Elaine hated the movie, I'm glad I stayed the course. It took me an incredibly long time to read this (think 30 pages per hour) because the detail is thick, the time sequences sketchy, and the story bizarre at times. If you're looking for a beach read, skip this one, this is a savor book, perhaps best read over a long break, like Christmas or a rainy Spring break.

*Stiff by Mary Roach - I have been "reading" this book for months and have kept stalling when I had a book club book to finish, got interested in something else, or just wanted something lighter. Ahem. This book really is about what happens after you die. Like, the scientific, the grotesque, the fascinating, and the literal. Mary Roach is one of the funniest nonfiction writers because even she can make dark jokes about a very morbid subject. It's laugh out loud funny at times but not for the squeamish. If you've ever wondered the history of the guillotine, how med students practice for surgery in med school, and have heard a weird rumor that a head transplant can actually be done, this book is for you. Others, just watch the surgery channel and see if you can hack it (pun intended). If not? Let this one lie (sorry! last one).

Read Aloud/ Listened to with kids:

*Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - We listened to this story on audio and what a relief it has been not to read aloud these very detailed stories of Laura and her very detailed life! I love the stories, but after about five or six of these aloud, I'm fully ready to give the voice to another person who has enthusiasm in their voice (thanks Cherry Jones!). This story is about sending Mary to the college of the blind, all that happens in the town after the long winter, and Laura's restlessness and angst as she gets older-too old to play, but too young to be an adult.

*These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This is another audio we listened to and the second last in the series. I can't believe we'll finish them in early summer. It feels like a major accomplishment! My kids really enjoyed this story, as Laura starts teaching, Almanzo and his beautiful horses come pick her up every Friday night, and the rest...well, you'll just have to read it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lukka's 9th Birthday Interview

playing frisbee with dad at Crescent Beach

What is your favorite color? Blue
Who are some of your friends? Nya, Brody, Ian and Ana, Caleb and Logan, Nathaniel, Cole, Ethan
What do you want to be when you grow up? I don't know
What makes you happy? origami, tech stuff, and music
What makes you sad? I don't know

Science World fun

What is your favorite animal? tiger
What is your favorite book? the Origami Yoda (series)
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? read books
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? frisbee
What is your favorite thing to do with Ani? play with tigers 
What do you like to do with your friends? bounce on trampolines, shoot nerf guns, play

Lukka shooting water at Science World to get the toilet to 'flush' (I kid you not)

What do you like to do outside? kick the ball with dad or play frisbee
Where do you like to go? Saskatchewan (no idea on that one, folks!)
What is your favorite food? alfraedo pasta with peas and carrots
What is your favorite drink?  soda
What is your favorite restaurant? Boston Pizza
What is your favorite subject in school? reading 

Lukka and his fort building!

What is your favorite thing to watch? Power Rangers
What is your favorite song to listen to or sing? Blink 182 
What is your favorite toy? my light saber
What is your favorite way to exercise? bicycle and rollerblade
Anything else you'd like to say? (shrugs shoulders)

Lukka's older birthday interviews at EIGHT, SEVEN, and SIX.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday Links

friends, imagination and Lego

I've been collecting these goodies for awhile now. They're all fairly random and lovely. Enjoy!

*Sylvia Plath is one of my all time favorite poet/authors and I've spent an inordinate amount of time studying her work. Here is Plath reading "Spinster" link, which is a rare recording.

*Enough with the TV shame--one of the best blog entries I've read in the past month. Especially as we enter the summer.

*I think I know why you're yelling.

*Oh crap. I use a lot of baby powder. This is sort of horrifying. Stop. Just stop now.

*Overwhelmed? 5 questions to ask yourself if you're doing too much.

*Do you have comic-loving kids? Check this out.

*My kids can't wait to watch this Nova/PBS Robot movie.

*Want, and trying to convince my friends it'll be a commemorative of our vacation together in July.

*You guys are gonna' love this short (4 min.) animated movie. Watch it til' the end and then burst into tears.

*Gorgeous video, sound, and lyrics.


*Looking forward to putting a few of these places on the calendar when we need a local family hike/adventure.

*Got a kid in your life who loves STEAM-related things (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)? Take them to PBS' Design Squad!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I Read: May 2016

A very ambitious pile

So many 'to-do's' this month, not enough reading time. Sadly, over half of that pile never got digested before having to be returned. But here's what I did read this month:

*The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax-- Just like all his other books, Sax's latest did not disappoint. His main premise for this book is that in the last 30 years, there has been a transfer of authority from parents to peers, and it's ruining our kids and our culture. He makes really great points, uses stories from his practice to illustrate, and science to back up. I'm definitely the choir here, but if parenting, sociology/cultural trends, and brain science appeals to you at all you'd probably find his books really interesting. 

*Le'ts Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson -- This memoir was laugh out loud funny. She is the female David Sedaris, only way more open about her neurosis. Some of these stories I was laughing so hard I was crying at, but they do come at a cost (think, "I'm so glad I'm not that screwed up") and the way she writes does get a bit draining to read after awhile. She's at times a glutton for witty remarks or puns, when 2 would suffice per sentence. I had to have a few weeks break between this one and the one below, even though they were both very funny. My favorite parts were the re-hashing of conversations between her and her husband. 

*When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi -- This was a beautiful book, a memoir about an award-winning neurosurgeon who develops progressive cancer and dies (not a spoiler) in his 30s. It's nearly poetry, but Kalanithi has been delving deep into classics his whole life and so it's no wonder his language is so highbrow. It's a very tragic book, but if you're a deep thinker, philosopher, or just love 'meaning of life' conversations, this is your book. 

*Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson -- This book is a little bit heavier than her other (Let's Pretend), but it's just as funny, if not more so, because there are so many more chapters that involve her husband, Victor. Victor conversations are gold. This book talks a lot about her mental illness and therefore a bit more on the serious side at times, but still just as laugh-out-loud funny.

Read Aloud to the kids:
*The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- This book was looooooooong. It has been the most serious book we've read so far in the Ingalls Wilder series and mostly about a very hard time in the family's life. The Ingalls lived in a house in town and for nearly 7 straight months there were blizzards and frigid temperatures. They'd been warned by a Native American that this winter would be bad, and Pa took it seriously. They couldn't get their supplies in before everything iced over, and the story goes into detail about how lean and dangerous the winter was for them. The kids enjoyed it, as they enjoy nearly 100% of my read-aloud picks, but I'm glad to be moving on to Little Town on the Prairie.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Hayward Lake Reservoir Trail

 peek through the trees looking at Hayward Lake 

A couple weekends ago, we planned a hike. We've got to be really intentional about getting it on the calendar. The work doesn't end there. There's lunches and water for four people, researching where to go and get directions, find car items for kids if we have quite a drive, and get out the door at a decent hour before most recreational parks get too busy. 

Stefan found Hayward Lake and said that it would be a walk around a lake. That sounded alright, since we hadn't been hiking hiking in over a month, but thankfully we talked to a very nice and engaging Parks worker cleaning the bathroom who told us, 'oh no, this is for the dog-walkers, if you want a hike, go to the Reservoir trail'. 

 Ani near the water taking a quick break with a power ball in her mouth!

I'm really glad we took her advice, though it took us two tries to find it, and we happened upon the BC Hydro Stave Falls visitor center which was HUGE and looked like something out of 1920s Gatsby-era and which I hope to go back to at some point for a field trip with the kids. I especially think Lukka would love to see how all those machines work!

The Parks worker told us that the hike on the other side of the lake (Reservoir trail E) ended up at a bridge, but unfortunately we found out they were taking that bridge out, which cut Lukka's motivation to hike nearly to zilch. Good thing he noticed those signs when we were half-way finished with our hike and just had to turn around, hike back, quickly see the falls, and be at the car.

Stave Falls near Hayward Lake in Mission, BC

Stave Falls is not small by any means. Any level of hiker could get to this point, but you can't get any closer. It's perhaps 1/2 mile from the parking lot, but the rest of the hike was lovely. We did 6 miles (10KM) and stopped for 20 minutes for lunch. The 6 miles and lunch took us just over 2 hours. There were a lot of gentle hills throughout but nothing too strenuous. In fact, Stefan was walking so quickly I and the kids had to jog at least one-third of the way to keep up, and it felt great, hills and all. 

The kids were exhausted (probably from running miles) when we got back to the car, but it was an excellent workout for all of us, because we hiked so quickly. There were some great views, a good challenge, and minimal whining (ahem).  We only went half-way on this trail, so the entire thing from parking lot to end is 20 km (12 miles). Have you done this one? What's your favorite hike in Mission? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cooked as Curriculum: History, Science, Health, Geography, and Politics

As the kids start to get older I'm putting a lot of energy into finding excellent resources to teach my kids that are affordable and interesting outside of picture books. Cooked, a 4-part series by Michael Pollan on Netflix, is one of those resources. 

As an American in Canada, I sometimes feel a bit snobbish turning my nose down at the options found here. My pitiful, first-world-problem attitude of 'there's nothing on this Netflix'! led me to this series, which I'd never pick in a million years if I could watch Parenthood, Nashville, and New Girl back to back. Such is life, and I'm glad, because watching this--a show I was only marginally interested in--became a full supply of conversation between myself and my kids when we watched all four parts together. 

I own one of Michael Pollan's foodie books, but I haven't read it yet. This documentary series is four parts named after elements used in or with cooking: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. I will say, the first part of the Fire episode was fairly boring; both my kids and I loosing interest, but the other three were so fascinating.  
As my kids and I were watching these episodes together, so many questions about history, food culture, farming and more came to the surface. We could just hit pause for a few minutes while we had a brief discussion about it (or lengthy-I think 20 minutes was our longest) and then go back to watching more. 

Now, how does one use these as home school or after-school curriculum? Well here are a few ideas:

*Conversations:  Honestly, the best way to use this series is to talk with your kids about what you're all learning. Our conversations with my kids being ages 7 & 8 included topics like the following: poverty & obesity, fast food vs. home cooking, moderation, historically who cooks in different cultures, and how we can use food as activism (i.e. shopping locally from farmers, with in season produce, local meat and dairy sources). Conversations may not be qualifiers for a letter grade, but they are valuable learning tools and shouldn't be discounted. 

*Research: A child might get really hooked on one of the topics mentioned in Cooked, just like I was fascinated with the bacteria/mold that created perfect French cheese in the nunnery! If your kid wants to know more about x, y, or z, why not guide them to the kid search engine,, and let them have at it. This search engine filters for kids, so no risk in letting them tool around looking for more information about their interests. Do you see a project in their future? 

*Cooking:  This one is very obvious. Get in the kitchen and cook with your kids! Bake bread (air), have them help you make veggie kabobs on the bbq now that it's summer (fire), do an easy cheese experiment (earth), and show your kids how to independently make pasta with boiling (water). 

*Presentation or Science Experiment: Test your science knowledge with what types of chemical reactions are found when ingredients are heated up or mixed together. I know my son is especially fascinated with science topics and The Science of Cooking book/cookbook might be a great resource for those who want to try their theories in the kitchen. Many homeschooling families favor presentations (a la science fair or classical conversations) and this series has a plethora of ideas and information to elicit some sort of presentation project!

*Family Food Traditions: Celebrating within your own family and ethnic food traditions are important not only for unity and memories, but paired with this series can mean even more to your kids after they learn the whys behind the kinds of foods that are always on the holiday table! "This is where we're from, so we celebrate with these" ties them to a background that is bigger than themselves. Food traditions are unique and important all around the globe. 

*Mapping: This series goes all over the globe to identify seasonal foods (creating, growing, or raising) and a fun idea would be to write down every country they visit and map it, alongside what they're making for dinner. A few examples from the show would be: Morocco, France, India, New Zealand, and United States. There are a lot more. 

In my best homeschooling days, I can pinpoint where so many of these resources could be endlessly inspiring for projects, activities, and learning opportunities (on my worst I'm checking what school we're closest to!), but this was definitely a 'great homeschooling day' for us, when we found this series. I hope you and your kids enjoy it as much as we did!

***These all cover subjects such as socials + geography (people, family systems, places, season/local food grown), health/career(cooking, work choices), science (processes within cooking including air, water, fire, earth as natural resources, chemical reactions, plants & animals as food, ecosystems and weather), and math (recipe following including time, measurements, multiplication). ****