Parenthood
July 16, 2014
Children's Exploration Garden
Auntie Janice here. When Elizabeth, Matthew and I go out walking, I like to walk down to Bank Street. Our street has so many beautiful houses, and a wide variety of trees. This summer we've developed a routine: as we walk down the street I point out the major trees we can easily identify: Maple (three big sections on one leaf), Oak (acorns and leaves with pointy bits all over), Birch (white bark), Spruce (small needles all over), Pine (big needles in clumps), and... Elizabeth's favourite, the "Elmo" tree. Can you guess? The tree itself is very tall and as a whole resembles either a giant ice cream cone or an umbrella. If you guessed Elm, you're right! Apparently that's a tricky one to say.

Anyways, usually we walk around various stores while I do a few errands, occasionally stopping for a snack, though that happens less often now that BOTH cupcake stores have closed. :'(

But a few weeks ago we found a brand new park, and it's AMAZING! So new it doesn't yet have a sign, there's a spot to park strollers and a bench for any particularly tired adults by the only gated entrance. There's a little bridge to clamber over, little stumps everywhere to sit on, stand on, or jump from one to another, and generally has a very natural feel to it. On the right there are a few logs set up in front of two stages- one of which is open to imagination, and the other has musical instruments. There are drums and a really fun set of 2x4's that work almost like a xylophone. I forget the right name... Anyways you do need to forage a bit to find a suitable stick, but Matthew loves the fact that he is allowed to enthusiastically hit these things and I even clap and cheer for it. Elizabeth prefers showing off how well she can clamber on top of the drums. She's getting pretty tall.

The other awesome part of the park is the sandbox area. It's circular and flush with the ground (no tripping hazard to get in), and has a great chalkboard behind it. Volunteers replenish the sidewalk chalk and occasionally wash it down. One of them came by while we were playing the second or third time we came by, and told us that the park was mostly intended for toddlers, but that of course all were welcome. She asked E if she had found the dinosaur bones yet.

"DINOSAUR BONES?!?" This feature makes the park even more amazing. At the bottom of the sandbox, they cemented in dinosaur bones. There's a broom nearby that works both to help clean up the sandbox and to brush off the bones. I'm tempted to bring a shovel next time and find a way to do some grid mapping so we could do a proper archeological excavation.... We definitely found something but couldn't tell what type of Dino it was. I think I was more covered in sand than the kids!

Anyways, the park is still a big secret, but if you'd like to dig for dinosaur bones yourself, it's right at the entrance to Glebe Central Park. Which is a big secret in itself, and has two Catalpa trees (my second favourite tree after Magnolias). Or I guess I could show you some day...

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July 15, 2014
Summer School

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"!

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July 14, 2014
Minions
The kids are getting old enough that not only can they pick the garden, they can do the dishes after supper too! The girls did all the washing!
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July 13, 2014
Trading Post

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...

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July 12, 2014
Zee has begun!

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.



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