October 16, 2020
Virtual School: Week 6

A short week of virtual school due to Thanksgiving.

We spent Monday cooking, painting and playing board games. Elizabeth and Matthew played a game that involved dressing up and pretending that Elizabeth was Matthew's piano teacher over zoom. It was a pretty spot on imitation of Mrs Shana, to be honest. Then they worked on their lego movie a bit.


A hermit thrush flew into the corner of our window (the actual wall?) and stunned itself. Elizabeth gave up most of her recrée to help me bring it to the wild bird rescuer who lives not too far from us. That's how I know it was a hermit thrush. She reckoned it had maybe hit another window before hitting us - it was flying very erratically before it thumped down onto our deck. Michael came too (he always tries to come along for any car rides).


Kindergarten stations this week: leaf bubble sensory bucket (playing with syringes!), coloured ball pit, little wooden animals, wooden tractor shape sorting, wax pixy sticks, wooden and magnetic tangrams. They read a story about a monster "le grand cornichon" and had all sorts of related activities. No photo apparently but in my opinion it did not exactly resemble a pickle. Amelia "read" the class a library book about monsters - she has memorized "ce n'est pas mon monstre" apparently. They also worked on geometric shapes and making graphs. A few rendez-vous were devoted to asking the class who liked chocolate or vanilla ice cream (for instance) and using bar graphs to figure out who liked what more. They asked Amelia how many balls she had of each colour in her ball pit, so we spent some time counting and writing down the numbers. Turns out we've misplaced a few... Right now we have more red than anything else!


Elizabeth worked on a presentation about the different species of fox. They've switched to giving them the entire week's worth of work at once, which she appreciates.


Matthew's class has also been working on graphing and sorting, and they did an evaluation towards the end of the week. They've started doing small groups for reading during asynchronous time. I spoke to his other teacher this week. One problem is that Matthew is using technology to cheat (eg an assignment on the proper article 'le' or 'la' is much easier if the software is correcting you). She says they are going to switch to using PDFs and have purchased Kami for exactly this reason. I'm not sure if this is going to be a panacea though because Matthew has discovered that Kami has built in text to speech which means he can avoid reading and get the computer to do it. He's also a big fan of copy and pasting things, and if he doesn't know what a word is he'll fire up google and see what comes back.


In general he has spent more time fiddling with his computer than concentrating on schoolwork (although he is always getting it done). On one hand he's figured out how to do a frightening number of things in Windows (changing icons on all his saved desktop links so he knows what they are), but on the other he accidentally put himself into the wrong part of the network and then couldn't access stuff.

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October 11, 2020
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving was a little different this year, but we still had turkey and gathered as a family both online and in person (in a limited fashion).


We decided an outdoor Thanksgiving was an acceptable risk to take, especially since we believe that Christmas will likely need to be entirely virtual. Also we have not seen Uncle Mark in quite a long time as he is not a fan of cameras.


Some of the precautions we took:

  • We prepared our food using masks.
  • We ate outdoors.
  • Each household was seated at a physically separate table at least 2m apart. (Margaret is bubbling with us, so we consider her part of our household).
  • We had "waiters" bring food to our visitors while wearing masks.
  • Other than the washroom, no visitors came into our house.
  • We requested visitors use the washroom prior to coming, and we disinfected our washroom in the basement just in case. We did have one person use the washroom, entering from the side door to minimize time in the house. Afterwards we left the washroom for a few hours and then re-disinfected it.
  • Most of our guests had limited contacts (for instance, we do not attend school or work in person)

Uncle Chris and Maria stayed at Sunnyside in order to enjoy the warmth and lack of turkey. Uncle Brendan and Michael also ate indoors, deciding that it was really too cold to be outdoors, which meant that we were well under the 25 person gathering limit.


Uncle Chris made a pumpkin pie, Auntie Yukiko made a coleslaw and beans, Margaret provided lentils, the stuffed GF turkey and sweet potato, and I made a GF pumpkin pie, some sugar free tarts, gravy and a root vegetable medley. The turkey was supposed to take 5 hours but even though we took an hour off to adjust for our oven it was done by 11:30am. My oven cooks so quickly! I just turned it off once it reached 180F and hoped for the best. In the end it was still hot and not overcooked.


Our immediate family went for our traditional Thanksgiving walk to check out the leaves at Commissioner's park before lunch, which is probably why I totally forgot to make cranberry sauce!


At dinner we zoomed with the rest of the family. I had worried that our guests would not still be at our house by our original zoom of 2pm thinking that at 10C or less we might eat and then flee. But predictably we were running late and only just starting to eat main course at 1:30pm. It was nice to eat together. There were an additional 14 people on zoom (Teevens crew, Auntie Janice, Auntie Heather, the indoor eaters from Clemow and Sunnyside, Auntie Mary and Grandma and Grandpa H) and we chatted until nearly time for our Sunday school in the evening.


Overall we are thankful for continued good health, for a good start to the school year and all the blessings that God has given us this year.

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October 10, 2020

Carleton's annual butterfly show went virtual this year.


Elizabeth was relieved to not be subject to BUGS everywhere and maybe even landing on her. The rest of us missed not being able to go into the greenhouse, but it was fun to follow them around with the volunteer's camera and to ask them questions. It reminded me of the first few times we went to visit butterflies and there were hardly any people back before this event got so popular.


We did the virtual tour and then the following day we participated in a hands on demonstration which turned out to be drawing a butterfly's life cycle and then watching some videos of caterpillars pupating. The virtual tour was more interesting than the life cycle but we still enjoyed both.


We actually learned a lot more about butterflies this year - it was surprisingly informative, though it was done by students who didn't always seem completely sure of their facts. The kids enjoyed it and said we should do more virtual museums and other demonstrations like this.

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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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