October 23, 2020
Virtual School: Week 7

I had help setting up virtual kindergarten for the week - Matthew and Elizabeth were "kindergarten fairies". Stations were: Fort magic building pieces, blocks, doctor stuff, playmobile people, books and balls. We rearranged the couches to try and cordon off a place for kids to roll around on balls without rolling into radiator knobs or fabric cupboard doors. It was fairly successful, although my fairies did rearrange the furniture a bit through the week until told to knock it off.


We have a new cover for the coffee table, so we setup a station upstairs where the kids are allowed to paint. We're thinking of getting something to cover the couches too... Amelia's been working on a presentation about hummingbirds, which involves a lot of paint and glue. She's enjoying "teaching" Michael how to make things.


For science they cut up mushrooms. Amelia also enjoyed showing off the results of her experiment a few weeks ago to plant carrot tops in water and dirt. The carrot top in water grew much better than the one in dirt - she was very surprised!


Amelia's class is now doing this new thing where the rendez-vous times are split by teacher. She had "la petite classe" with the ECE in the morning slot, and "la grande classe" with the teacher in the afternoons. She's not super fond of the small class because that teacher "only plays boring math games". This week they were reading a story about a monster that brings a bird into a cave, so the house Matthew built Amelia became the monster's cave and we played out the story at home. This was much more interesting to Amelia than her actual school, where they were working on retelling narratives. Amelia thought this was also "very boring". "I'd much rather roll on the ball!" She rather creatively suggested to the teacher that they rewrite the story to be more interesting "what if we add a hummingbird to be the other bird's friend?" but although the teacher has been pretty good at following the interests of the kids there was nothing doing. Amelia was inclined to pout - "I had a PROBLEM and I thought of a FIX and NO ONE liiiiiiked it". I was inclined to think of this as a valuable life lesson.


I spoke to the school board this week about the stupidity of having a schedule where kindergartners and upper elementary don't share the same breaks and long story short Amelia is now able to skip her first afternoon period to play with her siblings outside without getting marked absent.


Matthew's class was working on the selection of the proper article in front of nouns (also a main topic). He discovered the dictionary this week, which tends to be more accurate for getting the gender BUT it's not as fast as using siri to look things up on Google. The number of ways he uses technology to cheat is rather astounding. He continues to have little to nothing to do in math. In theory they are working on series of numbers but the actual work is entirely busy work. He commented that he thinks teachers don't know that kids actually remember stuff.


Elizabeth had a pj day and got to watch a movie. It rained all week, but that didn't stop her from doing her bo lesson in the rain.


We've been getting ready for winter too, so we cleaned up outside, took down the swing for the winter and thoroughly cleaned out the car.

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October 17, 2020
A birthday party

We celebrated Grandma's birthday with chicken teriyaki and carrot cake. Grandma came over for dinner first, then Chris and Yukiko and the girls dropped by for some cake and present opening outside.


It was nippy, despite the large number of barefooted and barelegged children that insisted on hanging out outdoors. I was particularly amused by Amelia's insistence that it was so cold she needed a full snowsuit... but no shoes...


After supper Brendan and I watched the Elton John movie with Grandma in the basement, which we all enjoyed.

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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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