Home Education/Homeschooling

I recently received an email with the following passage –

“Lovers of the English language might enjoy this…

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP’.

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP! When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so………it is time to (hush) UP!”

I found this really fascinating.  Mostly, because I had never thought of the word ‘up’ being so versatile before.  I think it’s mostly habit that we use it the way we do.

But, let’s face it, English is an incredibly complicated language to learn – you just have to try to teach a child to read to be reminded of that.   Did you know we actually do have the most complex language when it comes to speech and pronunciation?   We  have more than double the sounds than we do letters, where most languages are equal in sounds/letters or characters.

Not only that, we use various spellings to convey the same pronunciation as well as the same WORDS to describe different things.  No wonder kids are falling behind when it comes to literacy in school.  It takes an incredible amount of commitment and love to properly instill the english language into our little ones, but it is possible.  I promise.

And, just when you think you’re going crazy, re-visit the fact that you’re NOT crazy, in fact, it’s the language that has lost ‘its’ mind!!!

Not exactly the same thing - but close enough...


The Winter Blues have bitten me– big time. (So bad, apparently, that I am finding alliteration a bit too fun…).  I dislike the cold, I dislike the grey skies, I dislike the sickness that tends to circle like a vulture.  Maybe I’m just grumpy today, but this season IS getting to me!

If you’re a stay-at-home parent like me, and you have little ones that need entertaining, I’m sure you may be going through many of the same feelings!

This is an activity that is a great way to blast away an afternoon.   I’m going to try to look at Winter, not as a time we’re stuck inside (when it’s too cold out), but a time when we can spend cozy afternoons of interactive fun with our little ones.  Yes, that’s my new outlook.  *cough*

Honestly, though – this activity is really great!

Homemade Carnival Toss

Needs: Cardboard Box, Scissors, Markers, Crayons, or Paint, Items for Tossing.

What to do:

1. Take your cardboard box (or use more than one – I had one for each child) and place it vertically on the floor. (The largest side of the box, standing up, should be towards you and your child).

2. Have your children draw colourful circles of different sizes in various locations on the face of the box.

Colouring circles.

3. If your kids are old enough/able, have them cut out the circles, either entirely or leave them as flaps/doors.

4. Now have your children number the circles (or if they are unable to write numbers, do it for them while engaging them in the process). These numbers will be their ‘points’. For an added challenge, ask older children (preschoolers+) to number them from biggest to smallest, giving the most points for the smallest holes and less points for the bigger ones. I don’t suggest any more than 10 holes – we used five.

5. Collect your tossing items, count them out, and distribute them fairly. We used large pom-poms and pipe cleaners bent into arrows. The pom-poms worked much better. Think of some creative objects to use for tossing and discuss how the different objects launch differently (depending on size, weight, etc.).

Vary the distance the kids are shooting from and challenge them to challenge THEMSELVES! We used a pipe cleaner to mark the starting point and moved back for successful rounds or closer if it was too difficult.



Number Recognition. As the kids toss and score points, they are constantly shouting,”I’m going for 5!” or “You got 3!”. What a fun way to encourage reading numbers, they don’t even realize they’re doing it… that’s when the real ‘clicking’ happens.

Hand-Eye Coordination. Throwing objects into a target is a good developmental skill-building tool. Concentration, accuracy, aim, hand-eye coordination… it all ties in.

Adding and Counting. Kids will naturally add up their points and the points of their siblings (or friends). Have older children record their points on a chart and give a small reward for accomplishing a goal of a set number of points if you wish.  This is great printing and penmanship practice too.

Beginning Dividing. I had Simon (5 yrs) divide up the pom-poms and evenly distribute them between himself and his siblings. He was able to quickly tell me that if there were only 2 of them playing, and 12 pom-poms, they’d each get 6. So, I asked him what would happen if his younger brother joined in, making 3 siblings in the mix? I’m asking him math questions, but he decodes them as simply a part of the game.

Fostering Healthy Competition. A little competition never hurt any one. With a loving parent involved and encouraging all the players, competition is a great leaning experience. How to be a good winner, how to cope with not winning, how to help others, how to take turns.

Hope you can have lots of fun on a cold afternoon!


Blessings to you all and STAY HEALTHY!

This week my mood has changed from complete stress-mess to only a bit of a stress-mess.  I figure it’s a good improvement, given the circumstances.  My Dad, again, has been hard at work with myself and Wes acting as mostly a support, given that Wes works full-time and I’m with the three munchkins all day.  The evenings and weekends are full-out work time though…  and today was no exception.

Today I really got my hands dirty and helped Dad wire.  I’m learning so much about things I never would have dabbled in before, and I’m loving it!

Fishing for wire with Dad's help.

Human nature is impatient.  We want to see results.  Now.   In other words, “There have been new kitchen cupboards in the Sunroom for almost 2 weeks… WHY AREN’T THE UP?  Where’s my KITCHEN?!?”  (haha)   But, there is so much more to do that you DON’T see before you get to the fun part you DO see.  Leveling floors, running wires, insulation, layout, design, receptacles and placement, working with code, trimming wainscoting, laying new flooring, on and on.

Running wires sucks.  It’s boring, it’s dirty, it’s time-consuming, and it’s gross.  Trust me, I’m not a girly-girl but it’s just plain ‘yucky’ to put your hand and arm in a wall that’s 150 years old.  It’s covered in cobwebs, nasty “stuff” and, heaven forbid – I was just waiting to feel something furry and dead.  It could happen.  It’s happened to me before!  So, like any good city girl would, I wrapped my sleeve around my hand shoved it down as fast as I could and said, “Mom, take a picture… I need proof.”  *snort*  Oh, the things I do for my Dad… not that it’s my house or anything!

We did accomplish running all the wiring for the Kitchen and I’m amazed at what can be done (to code too!) with a Dad who knows his stuff and a couple willing helpers!  Hooray for electricity in the kitchen… pretty useful stuff!

Rm. 1

Wes’ Dad also helped us pull the ceiling tiles off the rooms on the second level.  The reason for doing this is 2-fold :

  1. The tiles are just plain ugly and we want fresh drywall.
  2. We want to insulate properly up there.

Room number 1 (the boys’ room) didn’t look so bad!  Just older plaster, covered by 1x2s (placed to attach the tiles).  Everything is quite level and pretty much ready for new drywall and touch ups after the insulation guys do their thing with Drill and Fill and foam.

Room 2 was a different story – the plaster was falling off in chunks and the ancient slats and putty were showing…. er… along with a gambit of other disgusting-looking things.  Luckily, no mold or anything scary (health-wise).    The basic plan is to tear everything down to where we have to, clean it up really well, insulate (done professionally by Insta-Insulation), sturdy of the studs, level it off, re-drywall, and then we have a professional plaster guy coming it to finish everything to perfection.  It’s going to look FANTASTIC.  (Pics to come, of course!)

Room 2. A glance at history - we figure this is original.

A Step Back in Time…

I don’t know if I’m just sappy or a sucker for history or what, but I love finding old wallpaper on walls.  I’m filled with wonder about the kind of person who put it up, the child who lived in that room, what year it was, what events happened, all sorts of questions flow through my mind.  I wish I could have a full history of our home and see photos of the families who’ve lived there.  I  love seeing the old styles and giggle at the thought that this wallpaper was actually really, really cool at some point in time…


Under the Kitchen wood... 1970s/80s?



In one of the upstairs rooms... 1940s/1950s?


In our master - 1960s/70s? Not sure... guesses?


That’s it for now… more to come…  an update pic on the progress of the kitchen –


Kitchen - Nov. 6, 2010

God Bless, all!

When we got the keys to our new place Friday, I was excited.  REALLY excited.

When we actually pulled up Saturday morning, unlocked the door, and stepped in – I saw everything with new eyes.  New, scared, reality-based eyes.  I’m willing to admit – most of Saturday consisted of me acting as a mini-tyrant, running around upset at the world in ‘almost’ tears, looking at this tiny, beat-up country home we wanted so badly.  Thank goodness my husband and parents are so forgiving and understanding.

The past 5 days have been a roller-coaster of emotions.  I’ve hit everything from elated to completely devastated to laughing out loud.  The home we bought is the kind of house you drive by and think, “Aw, that’s a cute little country home!”.  But, you never really know what that can mean until you move into one – or start to.  (We don’t actually move in until late November).  Almost everything is needed.  None of the electrical outlets are grounded and there are almost no outlets in the upper level and none in the bathrooms at all.  The walls move when you push them because the plaster is so old and poorly done – everything inside seems to slant in some way or another (though the foundation is very solid).  There is almost no storage, we need a new septic system, a complete outdoor re-vamp (including what takes a digger), insulation, better and more efficient heating, new windows (they’re original – with the old pullies… pretty neat!), the basement has it’s own little stream (great for the kids! *snort*) and needs to be completely fixed,  the cistern needs emptying, cleaning, servicing, and re-filling because our water is currently toxic and filled with E coli.  And that’s just to start…


But this is what we signed up for!  We knew all this when we invested in this beautiful little home on a gorgeous 1/4 acre property on the escarpment.  And it’s going to be worth it!  Right?  Please, just say, “Right!”.

Despite the ups and downs, I have been consistently ‘up’ for about 48 hours now, so I think I’m well on my way to being generally okay with this decision.  A whole lot of coffee, chocolate, and a new kitchen have also REALLY helped my transition.  This is a journey, and I’m excited, for sure.  I’m

Alex almost conked out on the new living room floor... just thinking about all the renovating is TIRING!

especially excited my Dad is so excited because without him, we’re sunk.  And, that would pretty much sink the excitement too.  Excitement is the word here.  I’m building on it.   Literally, actually!  And my Mom’s continued support in every way keeps me going too.  Wes and I are really, really – well – excited about what is to come.  Even if it is a ridiculous amount of work.  And money.

The first big decision we made that was above and beyond what we were planning to do right away is the kitchen (as mentioned).  The kitchen is the heart of the home, and especially for us – as it’s where we do a lot of home schooling (art projects, science experiments, games, activities, reading, phonics lessons, math, on and on) every single day.  When I stepped into our new house and really took a good look at the kitchen, my heart sank to my toes.  Don’t get me wrong, the room is beautiful – three huge country windows and lots of space – but the cabinets were almost non-existent and what was there was old, tacky, and falling apart.  We originally said we’d rough it out for a while, but our hearts are telling

The kitchen as it is right now. Yikes.

us a different story.  And thank goodness we have my Dad, who is so willing to help with the install.

As soon as I found out we were doing the kitchen, my spirits lifted.  I felt there was hope in the world, so long as I could have a beautiful kitchen.  Who cares if there’s no water and I’ll have to run extension cords to run the blender – dangit, I’ll have my kitchen!  ha…

In all honesty, despite the chaos of dealing with BIG issues like water, septic, and electrical concerns, there’s something therapeutic about doing something simple and soul-warming like picking out paint colours and buying cabinets.  Funny, because I’m not at all a shopper and would never ‘shop’ for therapy – but in this case, that kind of stuff has been and will most-likely continue to be my refuge!  For all else, we can only look up.  We truly believe this home is a gift from God to us – if only we could fit a bow around it.  All the quirks and bumps in the road will only make us stronger and help us appreciate life-as-we-know-it more.  We are so blessed – as a family, in this community, in this country – and by God!  Let the fun begin!


Proof the new Kitchen is a sure-thing! 🙂

Paint choices... comments?



“Moving House” will invite you to join me and my family as we go through the ups and downs of moving into our first country house – and our journey to make it a home.

We aren’t really Unschoolers.  But we aren’t really traditional “Homeschoolers” either.  We’re somewhere in the bliss which is between.

In a nut-shell, Unschooling is home-based, child-led learning that focuses on education and growth that stems from real life experiences.  It’s about kids learning things in context, when they are actually interested in them, and thus most likely to actually absorb and retain what they are learning.  It’s about trusting our children’s God-given ability to learn.  To me, it just MAKES SENSE to learn something in context to the world around us rather than reading it in a textbook.  And I rather enjoy the idea of having children learn what they WANT to learn rather than forcing a boxed curriculum on kids that covers topics that someone has selected for  mass distribution and grading.

I consider us only ‘sort of’ Unschoolers because I do still introduce many ‘lessons’ to our children.  Some extremely passionate Unschoolers have never done a formal lesson with their child – and many of these children are brilliant, University bound scholars with amazing critical thinking skills and academic awareness!  We work on curriculum-based phonics lessons, math, and core subjects, but only when our children are actively seeking it.  It is never forced.  Everything we do that is “educational”, is essentially fun and requested by our children or at least happily complied to.  We do not buy/adhere to boxed curriculum that doesn’t use real books, hands-on activities, and lots of fun.

The truth is, children are sponges, born to learn – they are little eager knowledge seeking machines.  Leaning towards Unschooling doesn’t mean doing ‘nothing’, as I’ve heard people say.  Very much the contrary.  We do PLENTY.  I spend more time actively engaging with our children in “educational” ventures than I spend doing anything else in life.  But, despite my initial gut feeling and wholehearted belief that self-led learning is how our kids would learn best, when our eldest, Simon, was in “JK” I caved and bought a boxed Kindergarten curriculum for Math and Phonics.  He hated it.  It was so repetitive and boring.  One day, about 3 weeks into our “schedule”, I found myself saying, “Simon, hunny, if you want to do school at home, you need to do your work.”  As soon as I said it, I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head and I physically shuttered.

I was programed.  I was pre-programed to believe that kids could only “learn” a certain way.  Write the letter, repeat the letter, write the letter again, say the sound, etc. etc.  It’s like I need some kind of physical evidence of what my kid knows.  I already understood I’d have to fight those deeply embedded (brainwashed?) thoughts, but I think it really hit me that day.  Since then I’ve worked HARD to fight those false concepts, burned into me from years of controlled schooling.  I mean, since when did “learning” mean filling out pages of arbitrary math equations or writing the letter “A” 25 times?

I mean, our kid can beat incredibly intelligent 50-year old University Professors at Chess and does second grade math.

Homeschooling is uncommon enough.  Try going the Unschooling route and most people look at you like you have 3 heads.  No, actually, 3 heads oozing rainbow goop.  It’s just not something most people understand or have ever considered – which is understandable – it’s very much against the grain.  However, because of the mass skepticism about allowing children to lead their own learning adventure, parents of this method must have a thick skin and a genuine belief in and passion for what they do.

Yesterday, I was again reminded and reassured that my instincts are correct – our kids are learning every day and in every  moment.

In the afternoon I had planned to do some Math games and a fun phonics print-out with Simon (5) and Audrey (3).  But – it was a gorgeous sunny Spring day and they wanted to play outside.  We’d been at the park all morning and my pre-programmed schooling-self was telling me, “No!  It’s LEARNING time now!”.  I had to physically shake my head and force myself to say, “Sure, let’s go play in the sand box.”

As we sat enjoying the sun, conflict was still brewing within me.  While I was trying to convince myself it was OK that we weren’t doing those planned ‘educational’ activities, my thoughts were interrupted by Simon saying he’d ‘be right back’.  A few moments later he returned and dumped a huge container of old shells in the sand.

“Let’s sort ’em”, he announced.  So, Simon, Audrey, and I spent the next 15 minutes sorting shells by size, then colour, then shape.  Simon made a line and helped Audrey count all 30-something of them.  He then initiated a hiding game, playing with subtraction.  Simon then asked me how to spell “shell” and if it started with an S.  I told him it did and explained the letters and sounds of the words and wrote it in the sand.  He then spent time writing his own words and Audrey practiced tracing her A and H with a stick.

When we had a snack,  the kids played with division, subtraction, and fractions as I cut cheese into several pieces.

Then Simon wore his new watch and kept a close eye on the time while we went to the stream and played with rocks.

After we came home, Simon and Audrey climbed up to the kitchen table and started writing all the words they “knew”.  Simon wrote all kinds of silly words that were ridiculously goofy but, surprisingly, phonetically correct.  Audrey had fun with the few letters she knows and just making lines and shapes.  She also sat explaining the alphabet to Alex (19 months).  Simon then counted the money in his wallet, completing grade 2 level addition and multiplication using coins and bills.

And so – I look back on my attitude about “formal” educational activities with a huge, sheepish grin on my face.  My children never fail to amaze me with their God-given ability to learn and grow.  All I do is make myself extremely present (in body, mind, and spirit), give them a stimulating and enriching environment, answer questions, and stimulate thought.  And I trust our children intensely.  Unschooling requires a lot of trust.

Our kids do all the exciting work of learning on their own and within themselves, it’s only my job to facilitate.  It’s unbelievable how much real ‘education’ goes on in our home… no ‘schooling’ required.

A sandy “phonics lesson”

Simon’s words

A great article about Unschooling – http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/earl_stevens.html

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.”

– Anne Sullivan