October 2, 2020
Virtual school: Week 4

This week's kindergarten stations: leaf sensory bin, books, tunnels, Lego, dominos. I think I'm going to switch up the stations slightly mid-week. Amelia got bored of the tunnels by Wednesday and told me I didn't need to bother putting them out. Her class was talking about carrots this week. Amelia was pleased to be able to inform her teacher that some carrots are white (and no, they are not parsnips). She's doing an experiment to see whether carrot tops grow better in dirt or water. They did a painting exercise which ended in disaster when I chose to prevent paint on the couch instead of following Michael to the sink where he went to "wash his hands". I swear he was out of sight for a couple of minutes at most but it was enough to spray an inch of water all over the kitchen, the hall and part of the dining room, through the ceiling and into the basement. We seem to have escaped without significant damage, though Brendan liberated a cupful of water out of the light fixture over Amelia's desk. She wasn't too happy as some of her art was destroyed.


At school this week Matthew was working on sorting animals based on their characteristics, writing numbers by place value notation and basic literacy.


I talked to his math teacher and she commented that she didn't have a good read on Matthew because often he seemed to be following along but then suddenly she'd be asking him a question and he'd fail to respond. I did explain that he likes to turn off the camera because he hates being on video and she's fine with that but would like us to work with him to make sure he knows that he still needs to pay attention even if he's off screen. "He seems to have a lot of technical issues." We realized that perhaps we need to let the teacher know when he leaves for things like riding lessons. Also it turns out that he has discovered how to make it look like things aren't working. For instance he can make his screen appear to "freeze" so that if he goes to the bathroom or is just tired of being on camera he can have a little break without anyone knowing. I was telling Elizabeth that I hoped she wasn't doing the same thing. "Of course not mom", she replied. "I use the app!" Apparently she has a program that not only freezes your screen but can make your sound glitch. Ahem. So virtual school is teaching our children technical skills. Matthew has been figuring out what all his desktop settings do and is quite taken with his newfound powers.


I asked his teacher whether the level of work being done was deliberately easy as a review and she confirmed that was the case. She said that they were taking things extra easy this year because they were worried about kids who didn't do much after March, but was glad to know that the work was much too easy for Matthew. We talked about his reading difficulties and we have a plan for that as well. Mid-week she pulled Matthew and the other kid that's quite far ahead in math into their own private Google Meet. She's giving them extra work. Matthew is somewhat inclined to be dismissive of the "friends" who aren't so good at math, so we're working on being self confident without being prideful... He very much enjoyed the extra work so far.


 It was orange shirt day this week. Elizabeth had much angst because she does not like orange and therefore has no orange shirt. Since only her front had to be presentable, we ended up taking a piece of orange fabric and pinning it to approximate something shirt-like. The only photos are the night-before concept and the "quick, put your clothes back on so we can get a photo" - strangely she unpinned herself to do her karate and dance classes...

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Happy Birthday Daddy

We celebrated Brendan's birthday with candles at every meal, including the whole 42 all on one cake. The heat was so intense that in the time it took to bring it from the kitchen to table the cream and chocolate chips on top melted!


There were many cards. Xander drew some fireworks. Not to be outdone, Isabelle made a card with detachable fireworks and a cake! They are all into 3D card effects right now - Theo's blueberry is particularly cute. Michael painted the outside of his card and then absolutely refused to put anything in the inside. Matthew made his on the computer. It's DJ for "Daddy J", in case anyone is wondering. He made a race track with a beach and an island. Amelia drew many unicorns and made a paper airplane as her gift (the number is its call sign?) Elizabeth didn't like her initial card so made about six different variants as is her current modus operandi. She spent hours working on them, especially the water colour.


We had Grandma J over for cake and lasagna. Sunnyside, Janice and Teevens all joined remotely to sing Happy Birthday and open presents. Brendan said it was a very peaceful birthday.

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September 30, 2020
September Food

Food highlights from September:

-Making donuts with Matthew

-Making pie with Elizabeth

-So much corn

-Michael helping himself to his favourite snack of "peanuts, chocolate and cranberries". He also likes mixed nuts and raisins.

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September 29, 2020
Last sail of the season

It was the last race of the season. There was wind! Elizabeth thought we "almost tipped" about ten times, so she's not that comfortable with heeling yet. We actually had her stand in the cockpit for most of the race - I think Mike's son was a little nervous about a repeat of the shoe incident. She said she didn't mind.


It was not too cold, it didn't rain and there was the most glorious sunset. All in all a very fitting end to a rather weird season. In the end we got out five times, which is five times more than I had expected at the beginning.

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September 27, 2020
A fall day

Today featured a socially distanced leaf fight with neighbour Simon, climbing trees (the latest obsession) and a socially distanced bike ride with Erika down to the locks. On the way to the locks we stopped to do a buy nothing pickup of doll clothes for Amelia's teddy - to her great delight!


At the locks we stopped to look around and found a friend! Mister snake needed protecting from all the bikes trying to squash him as he glided across the path. We were interested to discover that snakes know how to swim, but he didn't seem to be having much success climbing back out on the other side. With the lock water level dropping rapidly and Erika not having much success with rescue attempts the kids were not too happy when I declared we better move on. (I was getting increasingly concerned about Michael or Matthew falling in!) Luckily for the snake, as I was buckling the littler kids into their chariot Erika finally managed a rescue and we were able to return triumphantly home.

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September 25, 2020
Virtual school: Week 3

We are starting to get into a rhythm of school I think.

Kindergarten stations this week: Fall sensory bucket, play kitchen, reading, paper dolls, math games. Daddy was not a fan of the "kitty litter". Amelia's class had a story about a mouse this week and they wrote mail to special people. She made an envelope and gave it to Matthew. Matthew returned the favour by drawing things on the computer for his sisters (and Erika). Both Amelia and Matthew worked on sorting things alphabetically, which I found amusing. Amelia only had to sort by the first letter though. Amelia's class spent an inordinate amount of time discussing unicorns (they are following the interests of the class). Apparently Amelia's small group owns quite a herd of unicorns. Amelia knows a surprising amount of unicorn related vocabulary and was heard educating the teacher as to the difference between a unicorn and a Pegasus.


On Wednesday I took the younger three to a nearby park to meet up with a couple of Amelia's classmates "in real life". It was fun but hairy - the park was very, very busy. Our kids and classmates mostly kept away from the other kids and we didn't do too badly at the distance. Then a completely random kid literally grabbed Michael by the hand in order to "help him" while Michael was minding his own business climbing the play structure. I was not amused but was proud I didn't completely lose my temper. We shortly thereafter moved to a completely different (quieter area), before leaving altogether.


Elizabeth and Erika went for a socially distanced bike ride; the perks of virtual and pandemic school means that they are both free earlier in the day and can do stuff between school and activities.


Matthew is still often at loose ends during much of his class, especially in math. We aren't sure whether or not this is because the class is in a review period. At the same time, he is struggling quite a bit with the reading requirements. I *think* his reading level is better than Elizabeth's was at the same age but he's definitely prone to trying to read, finding it hard or too many unknown words and then just throwing up his hands in the air and goofing off for the rest of the period. I've got a teacher interview lined up with the math/science teacher Monday morning which should give us a better idea of where things are at.


Matthew was supposed to have a supply teacher Friday afternoon, but there's a teacher shortage generally so no one showed up. Matthew played prodigy for a bit while refreshing the meet screen periodically. We eventually decided no one was coming after about half an hour.


I still have no idea what Elizabeth is doing but she seems happy. I'm not getting alarmed emails from teachers so for the moment while we're figuring out the things I know are problems I'm trusting that the school is actually teaching her something.


Friday was also Franco Ontario Day, so we wore green and white and had green and white snacks and lunch.

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