Monday, December 31, 2012

Lego Creations

Something that never goes away in our house, and I'm glad it doesn't, is Lego. Many of the creations that Austyn makes I don't get pictures of. He makes so many things! This is an apartment building he made. 

The cats don't seem to mind it at all. LOL!


 Zoe has been showing such a big interest in gymnastics. 

 She is definitely talented. 

 She has been in the invitational advanced level for this past session.

 I've seen huge improvements and she practices all day and all night long!

She has told me that if she had to choose between all of the activities she is currently in, she'd choose gymnastics as the only one. 

She is talented. She is only 6 years old and can already do back-hand-springs. She did, what I thought were some back flips the other night. I told the teacher about it and she said that she doesn't usually get parents that tell her that so early. Zoe needs to practice in a higher level to work on those new skills. 

She went to an invite-only try-out and made it to the next level. We are deciding what to do. It will be much more expensive and will take three times more of our time each week. It seems to be her thing though, so this is a big decision.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Facebook Inspired...

This craft was inspired by a post on Facebook. This is a homemade docking station for an iPod. It really works, too! Not as well as a proper docking station, but better than nothing!

Interest-Led Learning

Many of the people we have met in this area don't know about other ways of learning other than going to school and doing the curriculum assigned to them. Many seem to think that education is enforced through a scheduled lesson plan and proven with weekly tests. They think that kids have to be at a certain level at each age for each subject and if they aren't they are labeled and given more attention to bring them back up to the "level" of the others. This sounds right to most, but this overlooks that kids have different learning speeds for different areas of learning and they all learn differently. This is forcing kids to all fit into a small box of how it has to be according to the adults. It's very stressful for them.

I don't see what is wrong with letting kids live and follow their interests to learn. Sure... reading and math are important. At a certain age kids realize that it is and focus on it more because they just know that they need it. That is where Austyn is. He knows that he needs certain things. It's just like taking medicine if we are sick. We may not like the taste all of the time but we know that we need it to get better. So, sometimes we do Math and Reading practice (if it hasn't been touched on naturally for a while), but the best learning still happens when these things show up naturally and there is a strong curiosity that is driving the child to learn.

What I want to share in this post, is how learning happens well through interests. ANY interest. It doesn't have to be rocket ships or architecture. It can be a TV show, a book, a sport or anything else. In this case, Austyn is interested in a Japanese Cartoon called D. Gray Man that was introduced to him by a babysitter who traveled to Japan. He watched the whole series on NetFlix. I know that it's rated Teen and has some violence, but I don't care. He loves it and because of this, it drives him to learn more.

Shortly after becoming interested he realized that the cartoon was inspired by comics. We borrowed the first volume from the Library. Guess what!!! He's been reading it and got a copy for Christmas! He loves it!! This is HUGE since he wasn't all that interested in reading in the past.

 He enlarged the pictures that he liked of different levels of Akuma on our photocopier. He cut them out and pasted them on coloured paper to keep track of what each one looks like.

 Here are the pages he made and labeled.

 The theme of his interest shows up in many of the things he does each day. Here are Lego characters and other things that were inspired by D. Gray Man. This is a fairly recent interest. I assume that he will start to draw pictures and write about it as well. Time will tell. That is what happened with his other interests.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

First Major Snow Storm

We had our first major snow storm during the Holidays this year. The kids and their dad went around and helped the neighbours clean out their driveways and walkways. Some of them are seniors and really do appreciate the help. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves even though it was hard work. They had the hard job of shoveling. I usually don't post when we help others, but I just thought it was a good example of how helping others gets other involved in helping others. Our one neighbour was just a bit slow getting to his drive so after the kids and their dad were done he went and did his other neighbours driveway and passed along the favour even though his driveway was already done.

Most Used Gifts

 Zoe's favourite gift was her American Girl Doll. They aren't as assessable to us because we are in Canada, but we were able to get her anyway, without having to pay all of the extra costs of shipping her into Canada. She got two dolls this Christmas but this is her favourite. McKenna is the Doll of the year for 2012 and Zoe loves her because she is a gymnast! I'm so proud of her for getting rid of so many of her toys. Honestly, I can't see her playing with anything else for a very long time. McKenna hasn't left her side since she opened her up on Christmas morning. She has been making crafts for her doll. I will post about this later.

Austyn loves his mini-sticks. His favourite thing to do is play hockey, so his favourite and most used gifts are hockey related. He has said that he may even want to go to the arena more, since he has that advantage with homeschooling. He has been learning about the history of hockey, the players, awards, and some of the strange rules of the game. He has learned about quality of equipment and the science that goes into making the equipment. The Discovery Channel and some trivia games have helped greatly in this area.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Independant Crafter

Zoe has been looking up crafts on YouTube and making them all on her own.

 Here are only a few of the things she has made on her own by looking online.

 This little elf who hung out on our Christmas tree was her attempt to make an Elf on a Shelf. We didn't end up getting one this year. By the time we decided we wanted one they were all sold out. She made this guy with no video and no help from me.

Zoe has a very independent personality, so this is something she does naturally.

T'was just before Christmas

 The last few things we did before Christmas were fun.

 We made homemade cards and had treats. One treat was ginger-ale in a bottle.

 Daddy always makes cookies for Santa with them!

Usually we wait until these kits go on sale, but this year the kids decorated a gingerbread house early. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snowflakes and Stars

 This holiday season we learned how to make a crystal snowflake. 
HERE is a website to show you how to make it.

I made some paper crafts with Zoe. We weaved paper into a little coaster and we also made these ornaments. The one on the left is the correct way to make it and the one on the right I tried to do it backwards to see what it looks like. HERE you can find the directions to make this paper star. We used card stock.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Baking?! Me?!

This is my attempt to bake with the kids. Joking aside... we are all lucky the house wasn't burned down. I'm terrible at baking. Maybe I'm not so bad compared to the average person, but because there are such good bakers in my husband's family, I rate very low on that scale of skill. These shortbread cookies needed something on top, but we didn't have cherries so we used some jam that we got from a wedding we just attended. I think they turned out okay. We also made a type of shortbread squares.

Reindeer Poop!!

 I'm not sure how she remembered, but I think it was three years ago, that we made Raindeer Poop at a friend's house, and Zoe has been bugging me to make it with her. I wasn't even sure that the kids liked it, and if I recall, I threw most of it out.

 I looked it up on the internet, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to find the original recipe we used. It turns out that there are many versions of it. I did end up finding our original recipe in the recipe cupboard and that is what we used. 

Reindeer Poop Recipe:

8 C Chex cereal
1-2 C puffed rice cereal
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c peanut butter (could substitute with more chocolate chips)
2 T butter
1/2 t vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

1. Place cereal in a large heat-proof pan
2. In a microwave-safe dish melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. (Heat one minute and stir. Repeat heating only 30 seconds and stirring until melted)
3. Stir vanilla into chocolate mixture.
4. Pour chocolate over cereal and stir until well coated.
5. Pour cereal mixture on waxed paper and allow to cool slightly. Break up the big chunks. (If you are doing 1/4 at a time, add powdered sugar to the mixture in a large zip-lock bag and shake until all the pieces are well coated. Pour into a large pan and refrigerate until hard.

While searching for versions of the above recipe I came across some great poems to go along with our Reindeer Poop!

Short Reindeer Poop Poem
I heard you’ve been naughty,
so here’s the scoop.
All you get for Christmas this year
is reindeer poop.

Long Reindeer Poop Poem
I woke with such a fright when I heard Santa call…
“Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
I ran to the lawn and in the snowy white drifts,
those nasty reindeer had left “little gifts.”
I got an old shovel and started to scoop
neat little piles of reindeer poop!
But to throw them away seemed such a waste,
so I saved them, thinking-you might like a taste!
As I finished my task, which took quite awhile,
Old Santa passed by and he sheepishly smiled.
And I heard him exclaim as he sped off in the sky…
“Well they’re not potty trained, but at least they can fly!”

HERE is the website I found with the poems and there is a free printable reindeer poop label in case you'd like to give it as a gift.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Card Exchange

Less and less people send Christmas cards each year. Postage can get expensive and more people use Social media or email to send good wishes. This year we joined a Christmas Card Exchange with our homeschool group. There were only a handful of us who signed up. The kids went over to visit their Nanny to make cards since she makes cards as a hobby. Here are the results. I was so impressed with how well they turned out. These were sent out as soon as we could and we are starting to receive cards from other families. The kids learned about how to send a letter (if they didn't remember other times that we've done it) and they got to be creative. I think this was a great activity.

Large Paper Snowflake Craft

Ever since we made one of these at a homeschool co-op, we make at least one each year. Last year we each made our own and hung them in the window. They are so pretty, so big, and so pretty. 

Here is a video to show you how to make them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Tree

 I like decorating the Christmas tree. This year we had some hick-ups with our tree. First we didn't have one. We left our old tree in Edmonton when we moved back to Ontario, because of lack of space in the trailer. So, we had to go and get a new one, which didn't happen until about two weeks before Christmas. Secondly we had a very grumpy little girl who was starting to get sick. This made for a negative tone in the air while decorating. We also thought we had no lights and bought lights. Then we thought that we needed more and ran into the city to get more. The next day we found our lights from last year. Sigh... 

 What I love about the Christmas tree is that it's a Pegan activity. I guess some might see me as a bit of a rebel, but I like the idea of eventually creating traditions that are a mix of beliefs. The Christmas tree however, as I have read, isn't a Christian activity and was kept by the early Christians as a tradition, because it was an activity that they didn't want to part with. I even looked up the scripture in the Bible about the Christmas tree and it says that Christians should not have one because it's Pegan. 

I think I'd like to incorporate the Hanukkah Dreidel into our traditions of the Holidays. It looks like a fun game! We learn about all of the Holidays, but it seems that the only way for the kids to remember something about each is to have at least one activity for each. This is something I'd like to look at doing in the next couple of years.

Poor kid. You can see by her eyes that she is getting sick. She ended up in bed for three days after this with a cough and a fever.

Christmas Tree Decorations

 We made some simple decorations with pipe cleaners, glue and glitter. 

I tried to make some string decorations. The balloons didn't hold out for me. I think that if you are going to attempt this craft, be sure to purchase some really good quality balloons. They didn't turn out so well. HERE is a website to explain how to make them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Letter to Santa

This year we sent a letter to Santa on the computer. I think it's great that they have this. It takes at least a year or two in a house to get use to how things will go this time of year. All of the little things like having a Christmas tree, figuring out where in the house it works best, purging our things to make space for new items, knowing where things are stored, and just getting organized all end up taking time when you move into a new house. The ebb and flow of the year needs to run it's course at least once or twice before these little things flow easily. So, with the business of trying to figure out how to have Christmas in this house for the first time, Santa's letter ended up on the back burner. Luckily with the easy-to-use website we were able to send a letter and got a letter back quickly.

Austyn knows about Santa this year, but Zoe is a believer and loved this. We also do the Santa Video each year for both of them.

HERE is the website to email a letter and HERE is the website for the video.

Christmas Activities Early

We started doing Christmas activities right after Halloween. We purchased some cookies to decorate. The kids loved to decorate them, but they just were not as good as fresh baked. Too bad I can't bake well.

We started to read Christmas books as soon as our library had them available on the shelf. It was nice to get a head start on them, because other years we miss some of the classics due to other people checking them out.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Teddy Bear Toss!

 Our local hockey team holds a yearly Teddy Bear Toss before Christmas. Stuffed animals in excellent condition or new stuffed animals are tossed on the ice when the home team scores the first goal of the game. These toys are given to kids who need them more then we do. My kids went through their toys and found some perfectly good stuffed animals. We also purchased one teddy bear at the game. The proceeds went to a local charity. 

It was kind of emotional to see an almost full house of fans throw stuffed animals of all sizes onto the ice all at the same time. It was amazing!

The camera came in handy after the teddy bear toss. Zoe asked me to use the camera to take pictures of the rest of the game. They both love to use my camera and sometimes they get creative.

Project Feeder Watch

We have signed up for Project Feeder Watch. We've not been good at reporting the birds we see. We can do it when we want to but it needs to be two consecutive days each week when we do decide to report it. It's still not too late to sign up. HERE is the website. 

It's another great way to learn about birds through observation and helping scientists to monitor bird numbers.

There is another online activity we may do in February. It's called Great Backyard Bird Watch and the website for that is found HERE.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Journey North Tulip Test Garden

 This fall we planted a Test Garden for the first time. The test garden is a garden that citizens watch and report on a website when the tulips show themselves in the spring. This helps scientists to determine how climate changes affect plant life. Many schools and homeschooling families sign up for this and keep track. If you are interested in getting involved in this the website is found HERE.

 There are strict guidelines on what bulbs to use and how to plant it. The location, depth and distance apart are all important factors in ensuring that each test garden is planted in the exact same way. This will prevent inconsistencies in the results.

 We planted on one of the last warm days of this year. It was a great day to plant.

 Because our soil is clay it took a long time to do. When the kids got bored they occupied themselves with other things. Austyn played hockey on the street and Zoe rolled down the driveway on a skateboard. I couldn't resist getting a picture of her.


 I don't think Austyn will ever get tired of building. K'nex is always a perfect gift for him. This is a roller coaster.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Zoe has been into crafts and sewing lately. This is an easy child's sewing kit. She is making a teddy bear.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Real Life Math!

Okay... so the title is a lie! This is pretend real life math. Usually when we do math it turns into something else. I let her lead the lesson into something she wants to do. Here she is pretending to be a grocery store clerk and selling food to me with pretend money. She is using her cash register to check that all of the prices are added together correctly to give me a total. I pay her and she checks my money to be sure that I've paid her the right amount.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Make-Up Art!

 What do your art projects look like? Zoe's looks like this!

 She loves to do her make-up and paints elaborate designs all over her face.

This is one that her cousin drew on her face and the next morning she altered it and added.


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