We seriously contemplated homeschooling Elizabeth full time instead of sending her to school last year, but felt we lacked resources to help her become truly bilingual. Elizabeth has enjoyed school greatly and so far we have been quite impressed with the school. But Brendan and I feel education shouldn't be completely "outsourced". So we've continued on with many of the various school-like things we started to do last year and tried to keep Elizabeth connected to other homeschoolers so that she doesn't start to think that school is the only option out there. Since we did send her to school most of the day, we had to be creative in how we approached our educational goals during the year to avoid eating up all her unstructured leisure time.
As we send her to school full time for the moment, the bulk of our homeschooling this year has been weekends and school holidays. As summer approached, Elizabeth was very much looking forward to getting to do more "school at home".
Math: Elizabeth tends to skip 13 and 16 when counting to twenty in English, and fifteen in French, so we've been working on tens and units on the theory that if she doesn't just memorize the numbers in sequence but actually connects the amounts to the numbers it will be easier for her. She's actually pretty good at math, but she cheats whenever she can (just like Mommy always did) in order to avoid thinking. Her favourite math activity is currently playing dominos, as long as Matthew isn't allowed to "help" too much, although "lego math" is a close second.
Reading: Elizabeth can read quite a lot of words now, but it seems requires enormous effort for her to read more than a few sentences at a time. Daddy thinks that it is more frustration that she can't just rattle them off with ease. We've been reading to her as well (she's into the Boxcar kids series) She really enjoyed doing a couple of "paper bag book reports" on books she read to us, though Matthew did keep stealing the items she wanted to put in her bag to present to Daddy... We're also working on storytelling - Auntie Karen introduced us to a cool app called "Toontastic" which Elizabeth really loves. So far her stories are mostly about cats and trains and owners being sad when the cat gets squished by the train. Don't ask me why, because I don't know.
Memorization: We asked Elizabeth to learn three poems this summer, to be recited either to family or on the stage at the museum of Civilization. She really wanted to visit the museum, so she agreed to try the stage but a natural born actress she is not. After watching her agonize for a while, I dragged her on stage once there were no strangers in the room (except for one really annoying guide who clearly had his own ideas about what Elizabeth "should" do in the theatre and kept interrupting us to try to get Elizabeth to dress up. Sigh). Anyway, we both dressed up and I went on stage too (because clearly she would have run off again like a frightened rabbit immediately without Mommy's moral support). And then she whispered "The three little kittens" in the tiniest whisper ever, as quickly as possible. We did it again backstage away from prying eyes on video. She was marginally louder. We let her recite the next poem at home.
Science: Elizabeth and Daddy have been working through a series of simple science experiments with Elizabeth that we'd dug up for potential home schooling group lessons in short chunks. The chunks tend to build on each other and we've been trying to get Elizabeth to draw connections between the lessons. For example we talked about simple machines (making it easier to do things), about air (how it is there even if we can't see it) and then about moving air with fans (simple machines moving air). Elizabeth has been enjoying both the lessons and the "Daddy time" raving to mommy about how she got to do x and y with daddy and how wonderful it was. We realized that she actually hasn't spent much time one on one with Daddy since Matthew was born and apparently she's been missing this.
Mommy and Elizabeth do science experiments too, but ours are all designed to talk about the scientific method and tend to run over several days. A favourite was the vinegar bath for an egg. It got much bigger and squishy. Turns out it also explodes if squeezed with enough vim. We've also managed to turn one caterpillar into a moth this summer, and another into a corpse...
Penmanship: I asked her if there was anything in particular she wanted to learn this summer. I was quite surprised when she demanded to learn how to do "joined up writing". But she was very determined and so I ordered a how to write cursive book that had been recommended by a couple folk in our local homeschooling group "Handwriting without Tears". Lots of helicopters and monkey bars are involved, to our great amusement. Elizabeth's handwriting is becoming surprisingly legible, though her spelling is still creative enough that we usually require "translation"!
We recently discovered that the Museum of Nature has a really cool science club for kids ages 4 to 13 (?)
The kids bring in "interesting" things that they find, like rocks and leaves. They trade for points, which they can redeem for other interesting things, like fossils and shells.
Elizabeth made her very first trade the other day. She brought in a couple of rocks and took home a shinier rock and a shell. She also brought in a nest that Auntie Karen found, because she wanted to know more about it. They gave her a specimen box to keep it in and explained how to kill any bug living in it (store in freezer for two weeks).
We'd already figured out that it was a "cup" nest, and therefore probably belonging to a songbird. It was small, so the bird had to be small. We have a lot of chickadees, cardinals, starlings and crows living in our backyard. Elizabeth figured the only bird that matched had to be the chickadee. But chickadees make their nests in hollows. The scientist at the museum was interested in the nest, because it was mainly made of string and deer hair and what she thought was larch branches. That was strange - we don't have deer or larch trees near us. She felt it was hard to say what kind of bird exactly from the nest, but theorized a sparrow of some kind. Elizabeth immediately dragged Matthew and me off to the bird section, so she could look at sparrows.
Brendan thought it would be hard to gather "interesting stuff" but we have a huge collection of items waiting to be traded and a growing collections of treasures that have been deemed "too special" to give up. Bull rushes, turtle shell pieces, a caterpillar chrysalis, a piece of chameleon skin...
Well, okay - so Isabelle's birthday was technically last week but she was frolicking in a different part of the province at the time. Elizabeth didn't end up going to the great party because she was invited to not one, but two other birthday parties that day (and one of those was a joint party). Party #1 was with her good friends Shaughnessy and Harry from Je d'école. They Party #2 was at the splash wave pool with her classmate Emilia and a couple of other kids from her class. Elizabeth had never been in waves before. The first time the buzzer sounded she literally sprinted out of the pool. But gradually her friend Madeleine coaxed her to try it out again and I had to drag her out at the end for cake!
Meanwhile Zee was rocking out at her house, being perplexed by cupcakes and opening much loot - Matthew was happy to help her play with it all... I gather she didn't blow at the candle, but we saved a cupcake for Elizabeth and had supper later in the evening. Zee blew THAT candle, though she was a bit surprised when the flame went out.
At seventeen months Matthew is now definitely a toddler, complete with temper tantrums. It's the classic fit complete with lying down on the floor and pounding his feet and hands on the floor. We are comforted knowing that Elizabeth did exactly the same thing at seventeen months, although perhaps with less deliberate biting.
Seventeen months is also when we got more serious about discipline. For the sake of our eardrums we've been removing him to his room (or living room if strapped into his chair) if he shrieks for a little while now. He knows he can come back if he a) stops shrieking and b) says/signs sorry. But this month we put the playpen in the living room and started sticking him in there immediately if he shrieks, hits, or bites. The undesirable behaviours have dropped off dramatically, though there were a few incidents where he flatly refused to apologize at first - saying all done and deliberately looking away from Dad or shrieking in his face instead of signing sorry. Both our kids seem to need space to calm down if they get very riled up. And sadly they are good at riling each other up. Elizabeth by deliberately blocking Matthew from toys that he wants and taunting him with kind words like "No no no Matthew, you are TOO small". And Matthew may be smaller but he fights dirty. Elizabeth almost always ends up on the losing side if they get into a bona fide scuffle. Yet, he is also an extremely affectionate little boy most of the time, especially with his sister. He loves to give her hugs and kisses. In general he's quite snuggly.
His imaginative play has gotten more complex too. Recently he got hold of a paintbrush and used a bucket of water to carefully "paint" the patio stones outside of the garage!
He's very observant - even if he sees something once, he may try to imitate it much later. He especially likes to copy big sister. He loves to help. This can lead to some difficult moments like the time I was trapped on the toilet while he managed to open the cupboard full of cleaning supplies and attempted to lick the toilet brush. While I was putting that away, he flushed for me, retrieved what we had thought was an empty toilet cleaner bottle from the garbage and expertly swished it around on top of the lid. The lid was not open, which meant the cleaning solution poured all over the top. What a mess! And yet hard to be mad when he's such an adorable cutie pie just trying to be helpful! He loves cleaning.