October 9, 2020
Virtual school: Week 5

This week's kindergarten stations: oil and food colouring leaf sensory bag, playdough, obstacle course, shopkins, play kitchen, books.


I went to the library this week and swapped out most of our books, which was very exciting! Not that they are really reading all the new books as Michael is mostly demanding the same book about a fox and a rabbit and Matthew and Amelia are obsessed with Asterix and Obelix books at the moment.


Amelia's class had to find vegetables and then make them into soup. They did a lot of story telling this week, especially with playdough. Amelia was particularly amused by the role playing for Goldilocks.


Matthew's class is making "land art" outdoors. Elizabeth is making a lot of turkey and spooky art for Matthew who has demanded she help him produce decorations so that we can "properly" decorate our house for Thanksgiving and Halloween. In addition to land art, Matthew also worked on the difference between masculin and feminin, and proper punctuation placement. He likes doing it on the computer because then if he gets it wrong the computer will tell him. So his tech skills are improving, if not his french... In math they had an independent evaluation. He said it was easy. I did get summoned to help him with the reading of one part - he had read "order" as "orange", which did make it confusing. I decided that telling him the word was allowed but otherwise insisted he complete it without any assistance. I'm super curious to know how he did.


Elizabeth's class is doing a new thing now where they periodically get put into teams of 3-5 kids and they have ten minutes in a private breakout room to get to know each other. She says this is instead of the time they would get to know each other at recess if they were in person. Apparently this was fun.


We got to have virtual parent teacher interviews this week. Apparently the CEPEO consists mostly of only children, or two child families with two parents. Said parents also apparently don't work or can easily take time off because all of the interviews ran simultaneously from 4-5pm. They started out with a lovely video introducing the principal and vice-principals of the virtual school and explaining how virtual school runs. It was pretty well done, but about five weeks too late. Hopefully they post this online somewhere for parents who are just coming into the virtual system, but it was a complete waste of time for the rest of us, aside from being appreciated to put a face to the name.


Since Brendan and I couldn't be in two places at once even virtually, we opted to skip Amelia's presentation. I've got a meeting with her teacher next week instead. We were interested to note right off the bat that Elizabeth's teachers are clearly more comfortable with technology, providing us with a direct link to the PAVE video whereas Matthew's teachers turned their camera around and filmed their screen. Matthew frequently comments he can't see what his teacher is showing - if she doesn't know how to share her screen directly that would probably explain some of that. Elizabeth's teachers also opted to do their presentation together. Brendan says they clearly are very comfortable working together and great with technology. Matthew's teachers seem to work a bit more independently and opted to run their presentations separately. His french teacher went way overtime, explaining topics like how asynchronous time works. I thought this was very odd - five weeks in I think everyone understands the basic structure of the classes. Unlike traditional school we have a really clear window into the classroom.

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October 8, 2020
Riding update

It's probably as good a time as any to give a Matthew riding update. He loves "horseback" as he calls it and looks forward to it every week.


In the past month he has learned how to guide his horse around cones, to do a sitting trot, to put the bridle on his horse, to adjust his stirrups. He's also been working a lot on stopping and starting his horse and a "rising trot". It's possible he's learned other things too - it's about as mysterious to me as karate lol. They are doing the Equine Canada levels, and he's looking forward to getting stuff he can do at home (!)


I was originally not allowed to tell most people about this, but Matthew has now also experienced his first gallop and his first fall. I was very very happy that I happened to be recording it at the time because I was able to review the video and assure myself that he did not bang his head. It was certainly terrifying to watch live. Matthew found the galloping part quite scary but kept his head if not his seat. He says he was mostly worried about getting stepped on (me too!) His teacher handled it very well, checking him out and encouraging him to get back on the horse.


Matthew was completely fine - they checked with me to make sure the following day - but escaped without so much as a bruise! The next week he was still completely fine, but I confess I was quite relieved to find out he was on a different horse. The only residual effect he seemed to have had was that when his teacher suggested he try trotting around the arena he insisted she better run beside him. So perhaps a few (understandable!) nerves.


As I said, at first he told me I couldn't post the video, but at Thanksgiving he wanted to know what everyone thought of the video and was surprised that they hadn't all seen it. So I reminded him he didn't want it posted. "Oh!" he said. "Well you can post it to everyone now. I don't mind anymore."

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October 6, 2020

We mostly left the garden up to the kids this year. I did give some guidance on what was planted but they


Matthew planted tomatoes and carrots, Elizabeth planted many herbs, sunflowers, a pepper and beans. Amelia planted beans and two kinds of tomatoes, and Michael planted potatoes. Actually originally Michael helped with the pumpkins, but I realized early on that I didn't want him watering the pumpkins because they don't really like getting their leaves wet. The pumpkins were a disappointment as we were plagued with cucumber beetles. We ended up with only a couple pumpkins, both very small and one of whom started rotting before it was ripe.


The larger tomatoes, herbs and pepper didn't do that well either - there was too much shade from the sunflowers and the beans. In retrospect Elizabeth says she should have planted the sunflowers more strategically. The flowers gave her great joy and certainly did well. She was disappointed to discover that the squirrels and birds ate ALL her seeds by the time she got around to harvesting!


Amelia's baby tomatoes were very prolific, but prone to splitting this year. So she mostly refused to pick them. She was more interested in the beans. I don't really have a good sense of how our crop did - the kids certainly ate many meals worth raw straight from the garden, and we managed to grab quite a few to eat at dinner. More diligent picking would have improved our crop, but the overall yield was quite good.


Michael enjoyed harvesting the potatoes (I actually let everyone help) and we got about the expected amount.


Matthew's garden probably did the best of the lot - he planted six tomatoes and about five times as many carrots as I would have ever imagined. He was thrilled with his harvest. Next year he says he might agree to do even more thinning but he kind of liked his weird shaped carrots!


Overall the kids spent more time in the garden than usual and worked pretty diligently to look after it, so I think the experiment can be called a success.

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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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