You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2007.

dsc00086.jpgdsc00085.jpgdsc00083.jpgI spent the weekend thinking that it would be good to do something different on Monday for homeschooling.  I decided to try a theme day approach to learning.  The theme for today was camping.

We started the day setting up the tent in the basement.  This was an exercise in following oral instructions for D-11 and P-9 and an exercise in patience for me.  Right from the get-go I was a little discouraged when P-9 pulled out a collapsible tent pole, assumed the warrior stance, and said, “Cool … numchucks”.   I gave him one of those looks that I am sure I have perfected over the years and we all got down to business.  (P-9 had a bit of a relapse when another pole looked strangely like a lance to him.)  The exercise was compounded by the fact that I was only able to clear out just enough space in the basement for the tent.  There’s nothing like trying to do something challenging with young boys when you don’t have quite enough space!  In the end, we got the tent up and only took out one light bulb in the process.  That particular bulb was already hanging somewhat precariously from some other bygone fun project.  I clipped it with a tent pole and it spectacularly rained down sparks, tripped the electrical switch and plunged us into darkness.  Fortunately, Super Mom showed up, leapt over tent paraphenilia, found the electrical box and saved the lesson in patience.  Good old Super Mom.  What would we do without her? 

We then made homemade camp journals inside the tent.  We don’t do a lot of crafty things usually.  Over the years, I have found that there is nothing like crafts to highlight the difference between me and my boys.  At their age, I would have measured and cut everything very carefully.  The end product would have been a thing of unusual beauty.  D-11 and P-9 attacked the paper with reckless abandon and really didn’t care too much how they applied the glue.  I think that D-11 sensed that I was wincing at their less than tidy attempts to put this journal together.  At one point he said, “Mom, you said these are camp journals.  They’re supposed to look rustic.”  We finished the journals after finding appropriate sticks to hold them together during our afternoon nature walk.  That proved to be harder than I thought it would be.  D-11 managed to cleverly figure out an easier way to attach the stick with the elastic to hold the journal together.  After several failed attempts at P-9’s journal (he had given up saying it was just impossible), I adopted D-11’s method and now we have two very nice camp journals.  I think that we will use them to write nature observations in.

For math, D-11 and P-9 worked at the improv camp store.  They had to fill orders from ficticious campers, figuring out how much each order would be and what the appropriate change would be.  I basically wrote out my own story problems and incorporated some of the math concepts they were currently working on.  They had to pack bags for each of these make-believe campers putting the appropriate items and slips in. 

We then headed back to the tent for a few read-aloud ghost stories.  I chose two classics – Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Guy de Maupassant’s “The Hand”.  Both boys felt that “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” wasn’t very scary (it’s hard to do that one justice sitting in absolute safety in a tent in your basement) and that “The Hand” was kind of creepy.  My intention was to get them to write their own ghost story but we didn’t have enough time for that.  Perhaps another day.

In the afternoon, we headed out into the great outdoors to do some nature observation.  My budding naturalists had a great time exploring the Jack Pine Trail.  We didn’t get very far in before we saw three deer cross the path.  That was an unexpected pleasure.  It was cool to see a fresh deer track on the somewhat muddy path.  D-11 had a fantastic time with the new digital camera.  (He took the photos above).  He carefully snuck up on a red squirrel and took some shots of it eating out of a feeder.  P-9 spotted  male and female mallard ducks and D-11 worked hard to get a shot of the male.  We also got up close to a Canada goose.  P-9 tried extending his seed-laden hand towards  it and we all got a surprise when it stuck out its tongue and hissed at us.  The boys asked if it had rabies.  That started an interesting conversation on rabies, one that made me realize that I don’t know very much about the disease.  Both boys took great pleasure in spotting trees that had woodpecker holes in them, holes that could be lairs, and generally anything that looked unusual.  They were very eager to find a “porcupine tree” and look about for porcupine quills.   It was great to see the boys using all their senses to discover.  The conversation we had along the trail made the experience a good educational one.

Well, now I have to get to cleaning up.  Isn’t that the one thing we all hate about camping?

The Rescue by Kathryn Lasky

In book 3 of the Guardian of Ga’Hoole series, Soren takes it upon himself to find his missing teacher Ezylryb.  He has some gizzard instincts to lead him but his first real clue comes from a warning from the scrooms of his parents about an evil owl named Metal Beak.  To find out more about this owl, Soren and his band fly a secret mission to the rogue smith of Silverveil.  There they find out more about Ezylryb’s past.  The truth of Ezylryb comes out further when they secretly search his hollow and encounter Octavia, the fat, old nest-maid snake.  All of this information jars Eglantine’s memory of what happened to her before she was found.  Soren is sure this information is connected to Ezylryb.  In the end, they find Ezylryb and a whole lot more.  The mystery of the flecks that so perplexed them in the first two books is discovered.  The flecks are part of Metal Beak’s diabolical plan to take over all the owl kingdoms and create one pure race.  Soren and his band destroy Metal Beak’s plan and find themselves fighting the infamous evil owl.  The battle reveals that Metal Beak is none other than Soren’s older brother Kludd.  Soren and his band win the battle but not the war.  Metal Beak escapes alive to wreak havoc another day.

D-11 and P-9 are really getting into this series now.  They have started the oh-so-familiar plea of “just one more chapter”.  They still love to be read to and I think I will continue to accommadate them as long as they like.  It’s such a joy to snuggle on the “reading couch”, crack open a book, and hold everyone’s attention with a good story.

I had a hard day today.  I had to laugh.  I read in a devotional this morning that “the glory of tomorrow is rooted in the drudgery of today”.  Glory! Hallelujah!  Tomorrow promises to be glorious!

I often try to go for a prayer walk after days like today and this afternoon after the last of the lessons were done I had a chance to slip out.  I often gravitate towards a particular park for these prayer walks and today was no exception.   The park in question has a lot of big rocks in it and one boulder in particular I have dubbed “the rock that is higher than I”.  It has become a favourite trysting place for myself and the “lover of my soul”.  As I was on route, I was reminded that David called the Lord his rock.  I had a bit of a “light bulb” moment.  I love going to the boulder in the park because I know it will be there.  It never has moved all the years I’ve been going to it.  It just is.  It’s proven itself 100% reliable.  What a wonderful picture of my God.  He’s always there.  He never moves and He never changes.  I can count on Him because He never will.

Somehow, I change sitting on that rock.  I come feeling defeated and weighted down.  Then I notice a robin grubbing about on the ground for its daily meal and I am reminded to “consider the birds of the heavens, how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns and yet my Heavenly Father feeds them.  Am I not worth much more than they?”  I also see the buds opening up on the trees.  It’s a visible reminder that spring always follows winter.  In the same way, seasons of growth always come after seasons of difficulty and hardship.  The birds chirp, the red squirrels chase each other and chatter noisily and a tiny chipmunk scurries under a rock ledge.  It is all so beautiful and my eyes are lifted to consider the greatness of the Creator.  Seeing who He is changes my perspective of all that is weighing me down.  I leave feeling lightened knowing that I have a great God taking care of me.  PTL there is a Rock that I can go to.

dsc00015.jpgWell, I am officially older today. I’m not going to talk about my age. Instead I am going to talk about how great I feel. I have been eating according to the PC 1500 calorie healthy living plan for about 10 weeks now and I have lost 12 pounds.  I am getting closer to my pre-kid weight and am feeling really good about it.  I have also started a Pilates class which is something that I have been wanting to do for a while.  I can’t give the Pilates class the credit for that miniscule bump on my arm (a.k.a a muscle).  I think that has to do more with heaving and hauling flyers for almost two years now.  Still there is something noticeable there and like James Brown, “I feel good!”

When people find out that I homeschool my children,  they often get a concerned look on their faces and ask, “What about socialization?”  They seem to assume that because D-11 and P-9 aren’t in a classroom full of kids their own age from Monday to Friday they will somehow be doomed to be social misfits.  I wish that the people who have asked me that question could have watched my boys today.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we decided to pack some play stuff and head out to Brittania Beach for the afternoon.  I think D-11 and P-9 were on the beach for about a minute before they made friends with a boy about their age.  They happily dug in the sand and built their amazing engineering marvels with this new boy who just a minute ago was a total stranger to them.  Some time later, when they tired of sand and water, we headed over to the play structure.  P-9 decided that he was in the mood to play tag.  He spotted a posse of boys chasing after each other and asked if he could join the game. They agreed, called him “Timbits” (he was wearing a Tim Horton’s t-shirt) and off they all went playing together with perfect ease.  D-11 joined in not long afterward.  These boys certainly weren’t “clinging to their mamma’s skirt” afraid of the big scary world.  They were venturing out confidently.   Now if only I could encapsulate that succinctly for all those fearful questioners out there!

When the boys were little there were a lot of firsts to celebrate – first haircut (which came quickly for my guys), first tooth to come through (which didn’t happen quick enough), first step, first time riding a two-wheeler solo, etc.  I was reminded of that when another first happened this week.  (It seems to me like we haven’t had one for a while!).  D-11 lost his first molar.  It had only been slightly loose but a few days ago while chewing gum he heard a crack and found a nice bicuspid in the wad that had left his mouth to sit in his hand for a while.  I had to laugh when he excitedly asked, “Hey Mom, want to see my pearly yellow?”  Of course I did!  My little guy is getting big!  Well, the “pearly yellow” is on the display shelf in his room now alongside some other special memorabilia.  I think that it is time to get nostalgic, pull out the old photo albums  and reminisce some of those other memorable firsts… 

Since we had co-op today and the boys had a number of things to work on and finish before we went, I kept the morning’s schedule pretty light in terms of academics.  One thing that we did get to do was another chemistry experiment.  This time we filled four vials and a glass with ordinary vinegar and dropped various objects in them.  In the first vial we added baking soda and there was a spectacular fizzing effect.  The boys knew this would happen so it didn’t get a “wow reaction”.  We tried laundry detergent in the second vial.  It mostly floated but it did produce some bubbles.  The next vial got a shell put in it.  It bubbled more than the laundry detergent and after a short while we noted that although the shell had started out white, it was quickly turning brown.  Its outer layer was being stripped off by the acidic vinegar.  The last vial had a piece of chalk added to it.  It fizzed quite spectacularly and got the “wow reaction” every homeschool mom likes to see on her young learners’ faces.  A limestone rock was added to the cup of vinegar.  It too let off bubbles.  We learned that many compounds are classified as carbonates – things that contain the basic molecular component of carbon dioxide.  Vinegar, being an acid, reacts with the carbonates so that their trapped CO2 gas is released.  Hence the bubbles.  Who would have thought that such ordinary things had carbon dioxide in them or that the wonder ingredient of science (vinegar) could release it?  Certainly not I.  I’m so glad that I can learn right alongside D-11 and P-9.

Poppy by Avi

We finished rereading this story this morning.  It’s an action filled book about a little deer mouse named Poppy.  Poppy has been brought up to fear Mr. Ocax, a great horned owl, and to obey his rules.  Her boyfriend, Ragweed, doesn’t want to obey rules.  He and Poppy sneak to Bannock Hill without asking Mr. Ocax’s permission and Ragweed ends up becoming the owl’s dinner.  Poppy escapes only to find that her family is in distress because of a food shortage and that her father has decided that she should go with him to ask Mr. Ocax’s permission to move.  Mr. Ocax refuses her father’s request on the grounds that Poppy and Ragweed disobeyed his rules.  Poppy suspects that Mr. Ocax is uneasy about the mice moving to New House for other reasons.  She sets out to find out what it is that has Mr. Ocax uneasy about New House.  On the way, she accidently meets Ereth the porcupine.  All her life she has been told that porcupines are a mouse’s worst enemy.  She finds out that porcupines are really vegetarians and that a lot of things her family learned through Mr. Ocax are in fact lies.  Together with Ereth she reaches new house only to find that there is an even larger owl waiting there.  Poppy soon learns that the new owl is fake but that Mr. Ocax doesn’t know that.  The book ends with a spectacular fight between Poppy and Mr. Ocax.  The dreaded owl dies in the fight and Poppy becomes the heroine that saves her family from the doom of staying at their old home at Grey House. 

D-11 and P-9 really enjoyed this tale.  After we read it the first time, we took out the other “Poppy books” from the library.   Each one kept them asking for more. 

That’s a pretty catchy title for a single gal like me to write! The ring is actually on my thumb.  D-11 and P-9 sometimes like to spend their hard-earned Flyer Force cash at a little store near us called Brass and Gifts.  Today they returned all excitedly with an early Mother’s Day gift for me.  They handed me a tiny silver coloured box with a pretty fuschia coloured ribbon on top.  Inside the box was a plastic silver ring with a pink “stone” in it.  The ring is so large that I have to wear it on my thumb.  I think that if it was made of the purest gold and had the most expensive gem in it, it would not mean more to me than it does.  P-9 confided to me that they had to pay an extra 75 cents for the special box.  How precious!  It’s good to feel loved. 

D-11 and P-9 are participating in a co-op novel study this Thursday.  One of the things they have to do is prepare something that has to do with one of the selected novels and present it.  I showed D-11 what string art is and he enthusiastically went to town with the idea.  We had the perfect board in our back yard shed and with some nails, a hammer and some leftover skeins of embroidery floss he made a very impressive rendition of Mr. Ocax, the great horned owl from the book “Poppy” by Avi.  He was so motivated by the project that even when I announced it was time for a break he chose to continue working on it.  He finished up the golden eyes today and I was amazed at what he had made with very inexpensive materials and some imagination.

P-9 had even less to work with than D-11 for his project.  He made a diminuative version of Poppy, a deer mouse, holding a porcupine quill.  He started by taking bits and pieces of dollar store clay, mixing them together in the hopes of creating the colour brown.  He came up rather dejectedly when the mixed clay looked more dark gray than the colour he was hoping to make.  I encouraged him to go ahead and make his sculpture mentioning that we had lots of little tubs of leftover paint to give it the correct colours.  He worked very hard and made a convincing little mouse that looked really good when it was painted.  He used a sawed off, painted wooden skewer as a porcupine quill and a piece of raffia painted green for the blade of grass Poppy used as a sash about her waist.  The final touch will be Ragweed’s bauble earring to Poppy’s ear.  I think I have just the bead upstairs to use for that.  We placed his mixed media creation on a foam bed of grass and put it on display in the kitchen so that we can all admire it.

Overall, everyone was pretty pleased with their projects.  It’s always good when that happens. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.