April 17, 2020
Homeschool wk apr 14-17

With Monday being a holiday, I felt a little bit behind all week. I was totally convinced Tuesday was Monday and while I figured it out by the afternoon, I was discombobulated for days after.


I'm definitely finding it challenging to figure out a plan for what we're teaching when the various assignments don't arrive until after we have started school for the week. One teacher sent us this week's assignments Friday afternoon, which was far too late to make it onto my list of what we were going to accomplish. I haven't even looked at that material yet. Maybe next week! I'm assuming some of this flux will settle down as everyone gets into a groove.


School this week: Elizabeth is working on a group project on an unknown topic. So far it's involved a lot of failed attempts to all get together, but she says she doesn't need help so I'm letting her run with it. She's made some progress on her English assignments, and might actually understand mixed numbers and improper fractions now. Her teacher ran what's going to be a regularly scheduled one hour google hangout this week, but apparently we do not yet have any idea what time the video class might happen next week and Elizabeth says that "for some reason" her teacher doesn't think she can pick a consistent time every week. This is a concern because I definitely find it challenging to cope with the many one-off schedule changes that seem to be part of covid-19 life right now. I was actually thinking this week went pretty well and then I realized that we completely forgot to show up to Amelia's circle time yesterday. We also didn't manage to get to the library's circle time this week as Brendan wasn't sure of the code and I was shopping without my phone. Also, in what's definitely going to be a theme, I didn't feel we managed enough french during the school day.


On the plus side we have been doing a lot of reading and fun little craft projects with Amelia. She seems to have a great handle on her letters and the sounds each makes. She's not super fond of writing so I want to try a few activities next to switch things up eg playdough letters and tracing letters in a flour tray (if it's warm enough to do outside because I know that would otherwise end badly). I think Michael would enjoy that as well. Michael needs more directed activities because when he's bored of listening to other kids read to him he's started raiding the craft cupboard, stealing the self inking stamps and decorating the wall.


The kids had been doing Lunchtime Doodles with Mo for most art classes but since the series is now finished Elizabeth started a new set of videos called Draw Every Day with JJK done by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (of Lunch Lady and Jedi Academy fame). This week Amelia and Matthew did an episode as well and enjoyed it so we'll probably do some more next week.


We've been talking a lot about medieval times and monasteries at the moment (mostly because our last two read-aloud books were set or partially set then). The kids said we don't have a contemplative order here, but we are rocking all the bells.


Matthew has received an animal project, but luckily it's not like the one that caused so much inadvertent hilarity when Elizabeth was in grade one. He chose to write about his favourite animal (the cheetah). I am relieved to tell you that the cheetah is no koala. His reading skills aren't quite up to being able to synthesize stuff off a website but he's really come along and if he's concentrating he can read most simple french texts.


Matthew is working on subtraction with regrouping in Math-u-see, and skip counting at school. Elizabeth tended (tends) to rely on her memory for this sort of thing but struggles with understanding what's actually happening - for borrowing she just memorized that you cross out numbers and move them but it took a tedious amount of time with blocks before she really and truly got what she was doing. Matthew  seems to have immediately grasped what's happening, but relies very heavily on his fingers. It's not that he doesn't have a good memory because for reading (and piano!) he definitely relies on his memory instead of reading the words/notes on the page.


His penmanship is showing signs of improvement. I need to make a point of giving him lines to use. If he's not feeling sloppy his printing is certainly quite a bit nicer than mine was at that age. He enjoyed a number of activities on the computer this week.

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Matthew and Amelia have been building many many forts lately in their room using all their blankets and pillows, especially at the tail end of quiet time.


A few days ago, they built a castle for a sleepover. Sadly for them, it was a school night and in any case the sleeping arrangements were vetoed as they were not safe or conducive to sleeping (no mattress beyond a thin blanket).


They begged to have a sleepover on the weekend and tonight they reminded me that it was Friday and tomorrow is no school.


They want to do a second sleepover tomorrow night too; that will depend on how much they sleep tonight and whether their "fort" collapses gently on them in a heap in the middle of the night and startles the rest of house awake.

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Isolation Hairdo

Elizabeth has been asking me to help her make lots of tiny braids in her hair lately. I've been happy to oblige because it dramatically cuts down on the (normally significant) amount of time she spends fussing with her hair.


She had fourteen braids in this week in honour of Erika's birthday and took them out today. Michael was highly entertained by her new hairdo. Brendan didn't recognize her right away from the back and was a bit taken aback by the poof.

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April 16, 2020
Erika is 14

Erika is now fourteen and has the dubious honour of being the first family member to celebrate her birthday in lockdown. I doubt it will be the last.


Since a physical birthday party was not in the cards, the kids decided that we needed to pick a birthday supper to eat in her honour. They decided it had to feature bbq and pickles. I emailed Erika to ask her what cake we'd make.


Then Elizabeth and I dropped off a slice of cake, some flowers, a jar of pickles, a little miss birthday book and a bunch of birthday cards. Erika's real present was a donation towards a new phone because Erika has not been able to communicate as much with Elizabeth lately due to a bulging battery and Elizabeth asked very nicely if something could be done about this, but we had a lot of fun putting together the other stuff as well. Elizabeth was very excited to see her cousin in the flesh for the first time in a month, but less excited about not being allowed to go closer than 2m.

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April 15, 2020
Social Distancing: Day 31

We were almost out of milk so we decided it was time to go shopping again. This time I wore a mask that Margaret made me. The only person I saw during my outing without a mask was one of the grocery store employees. Most of the employees had painter canister masks etc. There was significant variation; clearly not being provided by the store.


Recent virus news seems pretty positive, with new cases seeming to flatten and ICU admissions decreased. Some of the graphs are showing that we are already past the peak of infections here in Canada and the overall deaths in Canada are showing a definite flattening trend. See RheumInfo's Covid-19 update for Apr 13th, for example. Lots of talk these days about whether we could see society reopening "soon" and what form reopening might take, even as Canada day celebrations have been cancelled.


Unfortunately, the number of tests that are pending is climbing in Ontario again so there's a question about whether the statistics actually mean anything at all. More disturbingly, the number of deaths in Ontario is still climbing. This, coupled with the certainty that there is quite a lot of asymptomatic transmission, suggests restrictions will be in our future for some time to come.


I went to Isabella, which is a fairly small Loblaws close to us. I left the house shortly after 9am. There was a staff member at the door controlling access and sanitizing carts, but the sanitizing job of the carts seemed pretty perfunctory (the Metro I went to two weeks ago was much more thorough). There was not much of a line so I only needed to wait a couple of minutes. Outside there was tape on the pavement to give people a visual for how far apart to stand. Signs outside reminded shoppers that they needed to stay 2 metres apart and asked shoppers to go away if they had any symptoms, but unlike Metro the staff member didn't mention this on the way in. Another sign stated that reusable bags were not welcome.


Inside the store there were one way arrows to direct traffic and stickers on the floor to show where to stand at the cash. Most people were completely ignoring the one way arrows, in part because if you didn't you would end up traveling about twice the distance around the store if you forgot anything and in part because the store employees were blocking various aisles while restocking which made it impossible to comply. Mind you, there are one way traffic arrows in the parking lot too that ALSO are routinely ignored.


I also noticed that about half the people in the store appeared to be professional shoppers (with tags stating as such). They were all consulting lists and filling their carts full of much food. They tended to be a bit focussed on their task at hand and I had to tell one guy who kept getting closer than I was comfortable with to back off but to his credit he not only backed off but made sure he stayed well away for the rest of the time we were in the store together. I did not see anyone shopping in groups this time out, although Brendan says that Loblaws isn't allowing multiple people to shop anymore.


All of the cash registers have plexiglass to protect the cashiers - rumours are this will be mandated across Ontario. I didn't see whether this was elevated like at the Metro; I started waiting for a register and moved to the next dot once the person in front of me moved to the end to start loading her groceries only to be told off for not waiting long enough (I had been trying to avoid being told off for not stepping forward soon enough like at the last store. Sigh). It was super unclear where to go and when. I decided that if my 5 loaves of bread were over the limit I'd have a better chance of getting them without having to leave the store and lining up again if I did the self checkout. Since I was shopping for multiple households, I did multiple receipts and stacked my scanned food neatly on the floor. Turns out they've turned off the annoying weight scanner for the self checkout so at least there was no need to try and balance everything on the scanner until you had finished scanning everything.


There were also a few limitations on products (notably bread and eggs). Since I was getting items for four different households this was irritating and stressful. Our regular 18 pack of eggs was sold out, but I did wonder whether the limit of two applied to the 18 pack since this is clearly a way around the limit of 2 dozen. Or maybe that's why it was sold out! The bread was an issue as well. I wanted gluten free bread and special Janice bread and regular bread and raisin bread. Did the limit apply to all bread cumulatively? Or two of each kind of bread? It was very unclear. In any case there did not seem to be any kind of shortage. There have been rumours of meat shortages and rumblings of strain on the food chain for meat in addition to many other items but the shelves were pretty well stocked with the exception of flour and yeast which were completely empty. The toilet paper supply appeared to be fine.


I found the whole experience quite stressful and it took me WAY longer than I anticipated. Overall the amount of food I got wasn't particularly more than a regular shopping trip, but it took twice as long. We're hoping that with some planning and a Costco run by our amazing neighbours we won't have to go again until May.

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April 14, 2020
Egg Hunt

We usually do our annual Easter egg hunt with neighbours, family and friends on Easter Monday in the woods.


This was clearly not happening, which was sad since I had already purchased much of the chocolate. The kids thought we should keep it but Amelia is on a low sugar diet and neither Matthew nor I have much self-control when it comes to chocolate so we ended up making 100 generously filled eggs and giving out 60 of them. Even though we didn't get to do the egg hunt together, it was kind of nice that we got to do it "together" with a few people anyway. 


Monday's forecast was rain, rain and more rain, with a potential "bomb cyclone" on the side. In ordinary times we probably would have moved it to Easter Sunday, or maybe even the Saturday before Easter (although that's definitely a last resort since we don't like anticipating seasons if we can help it). We considered moving it early but since we are all home anyway and there's no one else's schedule to consider we decided to do it today.


I took the kids for the traditional "hike", except that instead of the woods we navigated the urban jungle. It was the first time we've left our block since March 26(!) aside from when I went shopping March 30th. Michael obediently turned around when he got to the fire hydrant we've been using as the outer limits of where we are allowing kids to go and was quite confused when I told him he got to go further! I took them up to Lyon, to Glebe and then back down Percy to Clemow while Daddy hid the eggs. Elizabeth opted to talk to her friend instead but we're going to go for a run later just the two of us. I was pleased to discover that the streets were pretty quiet and we had no trouble at all with physical distancing this time.


When we got back the eggs were scattered all over the yard. It was not exactly the magical eggs in the woods, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances and the kids enjoyed themselves greatly. It seems silly, but our inability to do this particular tradition "properly" is probably the covid-19 related thing I'm most sad about so far.

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April 12, 2020
Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday was remarkably normal for us this year, if a bit more relaxed. Okay, so we didn't physically have family over but we did most of the same things and ate the same food and had the same conversations (over zoom).


We dressed up for Easter and had an indoor Easter egg hunt. Michael and Elizabeth both brought their bunnies for the hunt. Breakfast was chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.


After breakfast, the kids played outside until time for church. Church is still a bit choppy which is annoying when it happens in the middle of a song, but gave us an opportunity to note that the kids WERE actually paying attention despite all appearances to the contrary. Michael in particular would turn around at every interruption and go "HEY". It was adorable. After church the kids had junior church. We're using zoom for this, splitting into three breakout rooms instead of going into separate physical rooms. I think it works pretty well, except that THIS week Michael turned off my sound and apparently I read most of the story to our group on mute. Sigh. The kids were remarkably engaged given that they couldn't hear me! Elizabeth says the best part of virtual junior church is that they get to watch videos now sometimes.


After church we had cookies followed by family photo time followed by more cookies (the promised bribe for good behaviour). Then we had brunch! The middle kids played with lego. Elizabeth and Michael played outside. We had show and tell zoom with family.


Then it was time to cook Easter dinner! I was a bit late on my timing for Easter dinner but we had salad with our zoom for supper while waiting for the rest of it to be ready. Supper was lamb with gravy (or sheepling as Elizabeth refers to it), a parsnip/carrot/squash/sweet potato roasted vegetable medley, green beans oriental, steamed brussels sprouts, caesar salad, a butter lamb, crown of thorns bread (made without eggs or milk because we don't want to shop until mid next week, and crispy french fries instead of pretzels because I accidentally forgot I was saving the pretzels and let Matthew eat them) and trifle. Some of us ate our hard boiled egg, some of us ate most of it and painted the rest on their chair and surrounding floor, and some of us saved it for another day.


Then Daddy put Michael to bed and the rest of us did an out of season tenebrae service because we enjoyed it so much the day before. Most of the kids were in bed and the kitchen was clean(ish) in good time. So Brendan, Elizabeth and I finished up our day with the next installment of Star Trek TNG! It's very amusing watching her reaction to these. "Another UGLY alien?! Why are all the aliens UGLY??" or "I wouldn't go down there if I were you. Can't you hear that (ominous) music?"

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