Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve we made cookies. Here we are making shortbread cookies and got a bit carried away with the powdered sugar. 
Here they are baking. These cookies have some dried cranberries on top.

Daddy made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies because that is Santa's favourite, of course.

Here they are on the cooling rack.

For supper I made Minestrone Soup in the crock pot.

They wrapped gifts that they picked out. I love how they did printed on their tags and just had to get a picture.

The kids made pictures for Santa and put out cookies and milk with carrots for the reindeer.

We usually all open one small gift on Christmas Eve but this year just the kids opened one.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Handy Crafts Before Christmas

Here are some crafts we worked on this week. It was my first attempt at beeding. I'm making a snake bookmark for Austyn. Zoe made the dog (well she started it and I finished it for her) and it's orange on the otherside (we worked with what pieces of felt we could find). Austyn made the bird almost completely by himself and he started beeding himself a bracelet. We threw out all of the recycled stuffing we had before we moved here to save space so we stuffed the bird and the dog with dried rice. Austyn put a large bead in the birds head for a brain.

The three of us spent some bonding time while we worked away at our crafts and chatted. It was nice.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Silly Kids say Happy Holidays!

We haven't done much this year for the Holidays, but we still had fun. Moving across the country and selling a house tend to get in the way of any homeschool plans but we still found many fun educational things to do each day.This is a game called Guess What I am. You put your face in an unknown board and you ask yes or no questions to figure out what you are. We took this a step farther and made it a fun drama moment where the kids chose the animals they wanted to be and they made the faces or acted out the character. We had so much fun! This is what I hope for everyone during the Holidays. It is our hope that you have fun this season! Happy Holidays!

West Edmonton Mall

We went to West Edmonon Mall and got our picture taken with Santa. If you don't know anything about this mall, it was the largest mall in the world for many years. It's huge!

Galaxyland is located here. It's a huge indoor amusment park. There are rides and games for all ages.

It's amazing to see the roller coasters that they were able to fit in this mall. This picture only shows a small portion of Galaxyland.

We purchased a pass to a four story kids play area. There was a cave, slides and all kinds of fun places to explore for the kids. This was the area we used the most. With our pass we could return as many times as we wanted until 9PM. Before we left the mall we went on a few rides. Here Austyn and Daddy are on the swing ride.
There are other attractions. To the left is an underground aquarium and a live seal show that plays twice a day. The the right at the back is a replica of the Santa Marie Ship. To the bottom there are some bumper boats that squirt water. We rode them and got all wet. It was fun. Beside the Santa Maria there are remote control boats. Behind it there is a big movie theatre with a fire breathing dragon. The dragon was broken on this trip so Austyn was a bit bummed to not see it breath fire.

This is a picture of the seal show. We watched part of it from a distance.
This is the skating rink. There is also a large indoor water park.

The mall is so big it has more than one food court. It has a section with all kinds of popular restaurants. There is a famous themed hotel attached. This is part of the mall that looks like old buildings.

Some of the stores we were not use to seeing in malls. I don't even know how many tatoo parlours we passed walking through and that was only on one level.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


We have some new pets. We brought this Triop kit with us from Ontario. Once we were settled enough I pulled it out and we set up our little aquarium. We waited for a couple of days and didn't see anything happen. The following night before I went to bed I saw two babies swimming around. When the kids woke up and looked we counted four or five of them. We now only see two. The others may have died.

This little guy is only two days old, but growing extremely fast. If you don't know much about triops I can share what I know. They are a species that has survived since dinosaur times. They live in little pools and have to grow fast to reproduce before the pools are gone. The eggs they lay can be frozen and dried out without being harmed. 

We got the Smithsonian Triop Kit from Toys R Us. If you decide to get some triops of your own here are some links:

Nature in the City

We took a walk on one of the warmer days (-5 degrees Celsius) to find out what was in our area. We found a park area. Looking at a map, I wondered if it would be a challenge to find nature in the City. I think we just need to be more aware of the nature that does exist. Austyn has been watching the Magpies and asking questions. He has been picking off the tiny pine cones and observing how they are different than the large ones we are use to in Ontario and how they open up within hours when left on the counter.

The snow is even different than at home. It's deeper than we are use to, but much lighter and powdery. Zoe got tired quickly while walking through it.

We found a small hill that looks like people are using as a toboggan hill. Someone made a large picture of a smiling man on the hill. I captured a picture of it with my cell phone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

100% Natural Learning!

Since we've been here I've just let the kids do as they please. It's so cool to see what they choose to do. They've been helping out more than I remember. They both love to do dishes and they have taken on their roles with it without fighting over who is going to wash.

Since Daddy started work one of the daily activities Austyn chooses is making booby-traps for when Daddy comes home. This elaborate system shoots a Nerf gun when Austyn pulls the string.
Zoe designed some outfits for her cabbage patch dolls out of string and tissue paper.

They decided a couple of times to make potions out of juices.
Here Zoe is adding peanut butter and candy sprinkles to her potions.
We purchased some fish that are from the times of dinosaurs before we left Ontario. We set them up to get them to hatch out of their eggs but they haven't hatched yet. We may have damaged them on the trip to Alberta.

Austyn has been really into reading (on his own), making up stories about dragons, and drawing. He made this scroll that illustrates a dragon and castle scene.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Natural Math

Okay, okay... you got me! This is a completely unrelated picture! Right?! Or is it???? I mean, what is a math learning time and what isn't? Couldn't math happen at any moment? Even standing in line waiting to see Santa Clause? We grow up, going to school, and end up having this idea that math learning is something that happens when someone teaches. Don't we need worksheets?! Shouldn't we follow what our public schools are doing? What about calculators and how are kids suppose to learn everything they need to know? It doesn't just happen right? If this is what you believe, it's understandable. I use to think this way too.

I couldn't even count on my fingers and toes how many times I was asked how I teach math. People assume that I must be a math whiz. How else are my kids, suppose to learn what they need unless I'm teaching them all the math concepts that the "other" kids get taught in school? Now, I'm an honest person. I usually say that I'm TERRIBLE in math. Or at least I use to be. I explain that I learn right along with them and even after grade one I learned so much and in such a different way than I was taught in school. The expression is usually that of utter surprise or terror, on their end. Mainstream people can't seem to get their heads around the idea of not having to be taught, or even of learning something together with their kids. After all, I don't usually see myself above my kids when we learn together. We learn together even if I know more.

I'm sure your wheels may be turning by this point. You may want to ask what program we use or you may be afraid to ask if we are even using a program at all! Well, you'll be comforted to know that I do purchase a program and I have to say it is AMAZING! It's RightStart Math. Here is the website: This program, in my opinion, is the opposite of what math is in school. It's more of an Eastern way of doing math. They use manipulatives (especially an abacus) and we learn concepts slowly from one concept to another. Worksheets? Hardly any!!! Nope!! This program doesn't feel like work. It's just plain fun! There are games and we learn many ways to do each concept. Memorization isn't a big part. Instead we learn how math really happens instead of trusting that the memorization is correct and just using that. At some point we would need to know how what we memorized really happened. We learn that right up front.

One thing that may make you uncomfortable is that we only do math when the kids want to. Yes! I don't sit down and drill it into their heads. Yes! They even ask for math! Why not?! It's fun! It's hands on!! It's real life! But, speaking of real life... back to the picture. Is it related to this post? Of course! Math happens. It really happens! All the time. In the mall. At home. In the van. All day!! It can happen anywhere. Even in line waiting for Santa. How much is the picture of us with Santa going to cost? How much do we have? How much is left over? How many minutes have we been in line? What time is it? The list goes on and on.

I will share two great, real life examples of my kids doing math, all on their own, in life:

Example one: Austyn was eating supper the other night. He got quiet while eating (that's unusual for him) and then told me that he figured out, just then, that two hours is 7200 seconds. Then he went on to tell me how he came up with that answer. I didn't prompt this. He thought of it in his own head and in his own time (while he was eating supper) and because he really wanted to know this, he figured it quietly in his head.

Example two: Zoe is younger and her math is obviously much less complicated. I was reading a storybook to them while they were having their bedtime snack. It was the Franklin Classic book. I was reading along and didn't let them know that the book actually had four stories. I went from one story to the next without much of a break. Well, if you know Franklin stories you'll know that the author always starts the book in the same way "Franklin knows how to tie his shoes... bla bla bla..." Zoe noticed that I read the same intro before and commented. I let her know at that point that this book had four stories in it and I just didn't show her that we are in another story. So she said "So, that means we have already read a story and now we are reading another story and that means that after this story we have two stories left! Right mommy?!" I said that yes that would be right except that we've already read two stories and now we are on another story. And she said "Oh, so if we read two stories and are on another story there is one more story after that!"

I'm not saying that regular school kids would never do anything like this. I think this happens naturally when there is interest. That is the key! Keeping the interest is so important. I know that for me, math was dumb and I had no interest. It was something I had to do. Work! It's not this, at all, for my kids and so they do it every day without being prompted. I'm so grateful to be able to give my kids a good math experience. Sure from what other parents, who have their kids in school tell me, the math is getting more and more advanced and the kids are getting pushed ahead more and more. The fact is Austyn talks about math and many other subjects with his school friends and he is surprised time and time again that they aren't interested and they don't know what he knows. So, you may think that it's good that the kids in school in grade 3 are now doing grade 5 math but you must ask yourself "Do they like it?", "Are they really going to remember it", and "Is it good for them". Maybe you can answer yes to all of these for your own kids and that it great. I can't answer yes to these for my kids. I want them to have a great math experience in life... naturally. This remains my goal.

Happy math learning to everyone!! :)

Book Sharing Monday - The Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas

I really love flipping through this book and dreaming about doing some of the fun activities in it. I say "dreaming" because, let's face it, my kids are still young and making homemade lace could just be a bit too advanced for their skill level. The Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas by Jane Watson Hopping is a great book for you if you want to share with your children old traditions, food, crafts, poems, stories, and pictures of Christmas in the past. The stories and poems could be dabbled here and there with Christian ideals but even if you are secular like we are it still is well worth a read. The recipes are so interesting because they are different from our modern day meals.

I own this book now because our library took it out of their collection. It's not in print anymore so if you want to purchase it you'll have to look for a used version.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Adjusting to Our New Home.

It is an adjustment being here. Everything is foreign to us, it seems. The weather is colder and much dryer. The snow is like dust and keeps accumulating instead of melting. The days are shorter. The snow plows don't travel down our street. Transitioning from a large detached home to an apartment with thin walls. Bringing only some of our things. Getting to know what is around us and who our neighbours are. Leaving old friends behind and attempting to get into the homeschool circles in a new place to meet new friends. Moving from a small town to a City. The list just goes on and on. There is a huge transition that we need to get through.
Don't take me wrong. I'm not saying it's a negative experience. We've lived in Alberta before but farther South. There are some things that we expect when looking back at our first Alberta experience. One thing we loved about living here is the variety of food. One of the first things we ordered was a Panago Pizza. The kids enjoyed watching, up close, how they made the pizzas from scratch.

We are excited about the educational attractions that a city has to offer a homeschooling family. There are so many things to do and see here. I expect that in a city with over 8000 registered homeschoolers I will meet many unschoolers, which didn't happen much at home, in small town, Ontario.
All of these changes are taking a toll on us all. The kids both have their own rooms and with that plus all of the other changes I'm seeing much more sibling rivalry. Zoe now seems to need a nap during the day again, when she never needed that at home.
 Back in Ontario we had a nice sized yard that was fully fenced, yet Austyn rarely ever went out there by himself. It was like pulling teeth getting him to go outside. Since we've been here and Daddy has been at his new job, Austyn has been outside by himself just about every day. We have a tiny patch that is ours to use, but he is happy to be in that small spot playing. We didn't bring any shovels or our toboggan so he is using the dust pan as a snow shovel.
There are many other things to get use to. Customer service still seems low, especially at places that are reasonably priced. Daddy waited over 40 minutes in line at the grocery store, but groceries are much cheaper here than they were at home. There seems to still be a boom here, especially when comparing it to Ontario.


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