Archive | December 2016

Homeschool rules to live by…

I’ve been homeschooling Peanut for 2 years now, and at first it was so scary, thoughts filled my head like:

  • “Can I really do this?”
  • “Will he be missing out by not going to ‘real’ school?”
  • “What if I don’t know the topic?”
  • “What happens if he wants to go to college or university?”

I was tormented by these questions, many more.  But I did what I always do when things are unknown and a bit scary. I did a bit of research and then jumped into the deep end both feet first.

Although I’m no homeschooling pro, I’ve definitely learned a lot about what works for us. Your mileage may vary, hahaha!

img_20161230_091921

Just because you have the book doesn’t mean you have to use it right away! This year we bought a customized “boxed curriculum” from Timberdoodle instead of building my own curriculum.  It came with a couple of books that I ended up putting on the shelf to be used either later this school year, or even for the next grade. I tried to make it work for Peanut, but when I realized he hated it, and I dreaded pulling the book out, something had to change. I took a look at what was different about these books, and it struck me! Peanut wasn’t ready for them! He was frustrated, and that’s why he was acting the way he did when it was time to do these subjects!

Don’t compare my homeschool with other homeschool families! I respect your choices, and although your little boy and mine may be the same age, they learn differently. Yours may be able to multiply and divide while mine is eating glue off his fingers, but mine can understand the concept of gravity while yours is pushing crayons up his nose! You may want your child to have a more religious schooling, while I prefer secular. In the end, we all are doing what is best for our own children. Homeschool, private school, public school, we all want our children to succeed and be the best they can be.

Make learning fun!  I’m not saying you have to be entertaining your kids every second of school, but foster a love of learning! Peanut hates reading, so I make it fun by doing silly things with him randomly. If he reads 4 words without struggling, I give him an “earthquake” by shaking him! If he finally sounds out a word he’s been stuck on for a while, I cheer and have him jump up and down. When he finishes reading for the day, I’ll give him a few fast spins on our computer chair. It makes the difference between Peanut not wanting to read and Peanut looking forward to reading!

Be flexible, and do what’s best for you and your child! There are days when we just don’t feel like school. This doesn’t mean we don’t work, it means I grab another coffee, Peanut plays more Minecraft, and we do school later in the day. I know some families insist on rigid timelines, some even insist of school uniforms, packing a lunch, and strict routines. It works for them, but for me, I’d have burnout within the first two days. I usually am still in my pajamas, Peanut is usually shirtless, and still we get school done. We don’t follow a daily routine – shocking since *most* autistic children thrive on it, but Peanut doesn’t, and neither do I.

There will be days when school takes a backseat, and that’s okay. Our school year is 144 days long, and we homeschool all year, so this gives us a lot of wiggle room. We also aren’t tethered to “public school” rules of learning between Monday to Friday and 8am to 2pm. It’s okay to do school on Sunday afternoon, Tuesday evening, or even Thursday after a trip to the beach. Sometimes there are days when school doesn’t even happen. That’s okay too! We have a Monday to Thursday schedule, so if we miss a day, we can do school on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday! We were supposed to have school up to December 22, but we ended up taking from the 19th off, only doing minimal reading and read alouds. Are we behind? Yes and no. Peanut is already ahead in math and science, so all we need to catch up on is Phonics, but since he’s already doing reading daily, Phonics will be easy to catch up on!

There will be difficult days! Homeschooling is frustrating at times. When your child is sounding out the word “cat” and comes up with “dog” for the 18th time, or they consistently count from 0-20 but always skip 13-16, you want to bang your head against the wall and pull your hair out! Trust me, there will be days like this! Finish your lessons and let that be the end of the day!

Don’t make EVERYTHING about homeschool! There will be times when your kids just want to cuddle, snuggle up and listen to you read a story, or eat popcorn while watching a movie, no strings attached! Don’t analyse the book or the movie (unless your kids initiate this). Let a beach day be a beach day, don’t start explaining tides or insisting on building a medieval castle complete with moat and working drawbridge to supplement your history lessons. Just relax, enjoy the simple pleasures!

And of course, my most important rule for our homeschool: Always make sure mommy has a coffee! Trust me, you don’t want me around you if java isn’t flowing through my veins!

As for all the questions I had at the start of this journey, that’s going to be another post!

School daze

We have been in a “let’s not do school today” mood for about a week now. I know it’s because of the Christmas season, and we are all feeling the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the season.

Cookies to bake and decorate, dinners to plan, plus getting the house clean and fresh for the holidays. Allergies acting up, and one of my older sons is sick with a head cold. Not enough sleep, too much coffee, and too much sweets.

So our plan to do our last week of schooling for 2016 didn’t work as planned. Instead of trying to cram it all in, we are now scaling back to only the really important things this week.

Geography, science, art, and phonics have been set aside. So has fine motor skills. We now are pulling out only Peanut’s reading practice, a bit of math, and some read-alouds. This takes about 30 minutes of our day, but spread out over several hours. A bit here and there.

One thing about this season, it really lends itself to learning without even trying.

When we make cookies, Peanut gets to learn about math (counting the measurements for the ingredients), science (how blending the cookies, watching them bake, changes them), and we even throw in art and fine motor skills with the decorating!

Christmas movies and stories teach Peanut about Geography (he learns about the North Pole, Canada), about physics (how Santa gets down chimneys in The Santa Clause), math (counting the reindeer), and even music (all those christmas songs!).

So once again, thank you, homeschooling. I love how flexible and fun you can be, and hopefully these memories will last for years to come.

A Canadian now experiencing Caribbean Christmas

I’m Canadian. Maple syrup flows through these veins, poutine is food of the gods for me, and Christmas has very specific and special meanings.

A Canadian Christmas season means snow. Lots and lots of snow. Ice skating. Tobogganing down a hill and almost killing yourself doing it. Skiing. Fireplaces light the room with a warm glow, the fire cozy, and perfect for toasting marshmallows.

Everyone has their own traditions, and for over 40 years, our tradition on Christmas day was to ensure all the kids (even adult ‘kids’) wake up to a full Christmas stocking. Lots of little trinkets and toys, snacks, the required chocolate orange, and a few pieces of fruit (usually mandarin oranges and an exotic apple or two), and a pair of funky socks too!

The reason behind the stocking was not to delight the kids, nope! Not at all! It was so mama could grab a nice hot coffee and relax in peace before the mayhem of opening gifts began. Oh, sweet elixir of life, coffee is my salvation on Christmas morning more than at any other time!

So now the sun has risen, the stockings from “Santa” have been strewn all over the place, and it’s time to get to the serious business of opening the much anticipated gifts. One child gets to wear the Santa hat and give out the gifts. One by one, the pretty boxes, so carefully and thoughtfully wrapped with pretty paper and tied lovingly with colorful ribbons and hand made bows are decimated in minutes. Toys, clothes, and all sorts of surprises now fill the room, the kids happily play for the rest of the day.

Mama now hustles to the kitchen and gets that huge turkey in the oven, peels all the veggies, and munches on cookies with the coffee. Christmas music fills the air, kids laughing, cats playing in the boxes and batting at the discarded ribbons and bows, the dog begging at my feet for any yummy tidbits I can spare him, then running off to play with the kids.

Dinner is usually early, and the usual fare is turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnip that nobody likes, tourtiere, and desert is pies. Pumpkin, sugar, raisin, rhubarb, apple, and berry. We stuff ourselves till we can barely move, then go back for seconds!

Caribbean Christmas is very different from the traditional Canadian one. Snow? nope! Fireplace? nope! (watching The Santa Clause” helped explain how he gets in a house with no chimney, thank you Tim Allen!) Christmas tree? Some houses have artificial ones, we don’t though. So the usual gifts under the tree, and even stockings just don’t happen here in our house. It seems a bit sad in some ways. I want Peanut to experience the joys of Christmas, my Christmas. But what the Caribbean Christmas lacks, it also has other very awesome things going for it.

Sunshine and hot weather! Drinking ice cold sorrel or punche de creme on the patio outside! Hit the beach Christmas Eve or on boxing day! And food! Some of the same fare here, like turkey, gravy, but also pastelles, macaroni pie, stewed meats like pork and chicken, curries like duck and chicken  (sometimes even wild game), pulled pork, salads, and lots of goodies for desert. Parang instead of Christmas carols fill the air. It seems so happy, so lively, and in some ways, more relaxed too.

A Caribbean Christmas seems to be less commercial, and more close to home, family, and friends. I think I really like both the old and new traditions in my life, and if I can find a way to combine them, what an amazingly awesome Christmas it would be!

My desk: A list a day for Dec 7

What’s on my desk today/this week?

  • Coffee! (that’s a no brainer, always there, bwahaha!)
  • Planners, lots of planners. One for Peanut’s homeschooling, one for his completed work so far this year, one for me, one for our house, and one for upcoming events.
  • Some of Peanut’s curricula. Math, science, phonics, and reading. These things can’t be scheduled since some days he may do two pages, other days he may do 8. So I have them at hand in case he flies through them quickly.
  • A basket for Peanut’s finished schoolwork. It also holds my pens, markers, highlighters, rulers, etc. and his flashcards for his phonics.
  • Peanut’s Lego

As for what is on my agenda today/this week, it’s:

  • The usual stuff – make and bake fresh bread, sweep, clean, keep the house running.
  • Peanut’s homeschooling: fine motor skills, handwriting, phonics, coloring, thinking skills games, teaching him to read, a puzzle or two, math, science, geography, a couple of sticker books, some STEM using either Lego, Morphun blocks, or some other construction toys, and a read aloud book (this week is Magic Tree House #1 and Danny and the Dinosaur).
  • Do some sewing. Peanut is growing like a bad weed, and he is in desperate need of some t-shirts and pajamas.
  • Doing some crochet for gifts
  • Get to the craft shop for some much needed supplies
  • Binging on Netflix in the evenings!

Crochet color pooling, a test of willpower and overcoming frustration

Color Pooling. What is it? It’s taking a skein of variegated yarn and making it into an argyle pattern. It’s not for a beginner, and even the most experienced crocheter will be ready to burn their yarn and throw away all their crochet hooks at some point in this journey.

Most color pooling uses the moss stitch (ch1, sc in space below, ch 1) and although it’s a very easy stitch pattern, getting the tension right is an exercise in frustration. The yarn will never just fall in line. It’s a constant battle. Here is a video by Marly Bird explaining the technique as well as some tips.

Here is an example of an easier yarn. This is Red Heart Super Saver in Sedona. It was a challenge, but it seemed to have well defined color changes, and the lengths of the colors were pretty uniform. There was still a constant battle, but the colors fell in line most of the time, and frogging (aka, taking stitches out, or “rip it, rip it” as a frog says) happened almost every few rows to adjust tension and keep everything lining up.

14712968_10157594625320068_8954276040405715238_o

My next project is with the Red Heart Super Saver in Mistletoe. This is not for the faint of heart! The color changes are more “blended” so it goes from red to a faded pink before the white, then a faded green before coming to the green. The trick with this one is to try to hide the faded parts on each end of the red and green color.

I’ve spent a whole day crocheting, frogging, crocheting, frogging, starting over. I’ve tried different hook sizes from 6.5mm, 6mm, 5.5mm, 4.5mm, and even a 2mm hook. I’ve had the best success with the 4.5mm, but I really need to invest in a 4mm and 5mm hook ASAP.

Here is the best attempt so far, it’s far from my standards, but it’s getting there. As my Hubby said, it looks good, but in the white, it looks like the other colors ran. If it were just for me, I’d keep going, I’m not as picky about things I’ll be keeping for us. But it’s going to be a gift, so guess what? It’s frogging time. Again. I can honestly see why some people want to throw this yarn into the trash and never pick up a crochet hook again.

But as any of my friends and family can tell you, I am STUBBORN. Extremely stubborn. I will NOT be defeated by a ball of yarn that weighs less than my morning coffee! I may need a few coffees to get through this, or some wine so I don’t care (hahaha!) but I’m going to get this to fall in line.

So please excuse me while I go grab a coffee, stock up on chocolate, and continue my battle with these Christmas colors that want to defeat me! Not today, Mistletoe, not today…

Things I learned about myself this year…

A list a day’s topic for today is Things I learned about myself this year:

  • I love homeschooling our son
  • I don’t need anyone’s approval to be ME!
  • I have an anxiety disorder that I probably will never “grow out of”, it’s been a part of me since I was a child, and may be connected to an underlying undiagnosed ASD. And I’m okay with that!
  • I’m not immune to getting sick (haha) and getting the Zika virus has caused me to step out of my independent ways and ask for help when I need it. I’m still feeling the effects of this 4 months later, it has affected my fine motor muscles in my wrists, fingers, ankles, and feet. I’ve learned that it’s okay to lean on others when I need to!

I find magic in…

30 lists day #4

I find magic in:

  • My husband. 
  • My children. Some days I still can’t believe that these people I created are so amazing
  • The beach! How the ocean makes me feel so small. The breeze, the sand, the waves, they remind me just how wonderous this world is.
  • The little things like the taste of a fresh strawberry or mango. The smell of roses and lilacs. Flowers. 
  • The miracle of birth. How two beings can create life is definitely magic.
  • The rain. From a gentle rain to a raging downpour, I’m drawn to rain like a moth to a flame.
  • Homeschooling our son. I can’t believe that he’s learning so much, and I’ve been there at the helm all the way! This is totally magical to me, and I treasure it.
  • The universe.