Why go screen free?

Have we ever let our kids play tablets or watch tv mindlessly?  Yes.

Will we ever again?  Probably not.

What happened?

It was the first practice for my girls’ competitive cheerleading team, and my boys were looking around, bored, sticky and hot in the crowded viewing area to see if there were other kids to play with.  There were, there were almost ten other boys Caleb’s age, but they all had their necks flexed as far forward as possible, transfixed by tiny flashing screens.  There were even kids as young as Owen (who is two by the way) breathlessly holding onto their parents’ cell phones as surprise egg videos played for them.  At one point, a mom was receiving a call, when she tried to retrieve her cell phone from her toddler… you would have thought she was trying to pull out her kidney!  All the moms seemed to nod, knowingly.

Hey, I am a mom of 4, I totally get public displays of bad behaviour, but can we not see a causal link here parents?  This technology is addictive and inappropriate for this age.

The day this happened, I did still allow my kids to access screens at least most week days.  When Owen napped, the other kids could have an hour or so of tablet or tv time. Although I didn’t love it, I figured it gave me a chance to catch up on work I needed to do or have some alone time.

However, watching those small children clutching onto those screens as fiercely as a drug addict would his next hit… it flipped a switch inside of me.

It has now been a month, and I can’t see us going back to screens.  The changes that I have witnessed have been spectacular and as I have researched further into screens and their impact on young people, it has solidified my decision.

Look out for part 2 on how we have removed screens.


Art Study of Red

Today, after we completed math, language arts and science we decided to do some art.

We have been doing a lot of yellow wet on wet watercolour.  Today the kids wanted to work with tempera paints… honest reaction – boooring… however, they were inspired, so I went with it.

I gave them each a disposable coffee cup lid with red, black and white.  I told them a very short story about a red leaf on an autumn tree as I demonstrated focused slow paint strokes, washing and wiping our paint brushes and let them paint beside me.  I also encouraged them to mix in varying amounts of white or black to achieve shade or brightness.

It was really exciting to watch each child paint at their own level.  Owen painted a lot lines and circles.  The middle  girls experimented with shade and brightness and colour.  Caleb painted a red barn scene set at night, and spent about two hours improving on his night sky.


Waldorf tree ideas??

We were gifted about 8 giant oak tree logs/stumps.  They are very heavy to move, mostly sturdy, except for one stump that rocks, which my kids have dubbed “the boat”.

The kids have made up many games, such as escape from lava, pirates and boats, and of course a few shelters have already been built.  So I do want to keep them available for open ended play.

However, we don’t know where to put these long term, because the surface they are currently on, will soon turn into our ice rink.

I would love set up or play ideas!  Have any??

Homeschool Schedule – First week edition

Getting back to doing “school” after a summer filled with sun, heat, swimming, hiking, park days with friends, gardening, exploring, building, birding and deer watching can be challenging… or feel about as much fun as a toothache.


However, this year, I took a different approach.  First, we broke up our first week.  We started on Monday, but had a park day with other homeschoolers Tuesday, and took the day off otherwise.  Thursday afternoon, some of my kids spent swimming with our homeschool group.  Friday, I set aside for reading aloud, crafting, and playing with friends outside.  In total, we did only 3 full days of “school”, although if you’re a homeschooler, you know that finding bugs at the park, birdwatching in the yard, and even dealing with disagreements among grade school kids always turns into a lesson.

As we are easing back into school, our first week of school’s schedule looks something like this:

7am – wake the kids with our classical music for violin

7:30 Breakfast

8am Language arts lesson (reading, phonics, spelling, fine arts) with my 5 year old.  Independently she does her handwriting and 5 minutes of quiet reading with her assigned book.

8:30am Language arts with my 6 year old, she then independently does handwriting and 10 minutes of reading in an assigned book.

9:30am Language arts with my 8 year old, (spelling, phonics, vocabulary, writing, reading, fine arts and geography), then he does 20 minutes of quiet reading in his assigned book and handwriting.

10:30am snacks for all; and math with my 6 year old, while 8 year old listens to Musical Multiplication.

11am Math with my 8 year old

11 45am Science or History (2 days a week on each) all together

1 – Read aloud to the kids while they eat lunch

1:30pm – 2:30 Kids read quietly or sleep in their rooms

2:30 Kids play outside

3pm Art projects

Bedtime I read a few chapters of our read alouds, once the toddler is in bed.

Next week will be a whole different beast as we add a few other subjects… but at least the first week, I wasn’t sweating by 9am!!



Curriculum for this school quarter

Our first school day is Monday!  This is what we will be doing:

I will be aiming to do as many subjects as possible as a group, then each child will do individual work to complement what we learn, but at their own level.

History: we will be working through The Good and the Beautiful year 1 history curriculum.  The curriculum covers a lot, but we like to take little detours.  I am planning to add some extra projects on some topics like: castles, knights and the Vikings.  For fun, we have read ahead many books about the middle ages, I can see this is going to be a very hot topic in our home.  Caleb has been wearing a very detailed knight costume for the last week.

Car school: History, I will be putting History of the World (book 1) in the car stereo on rotation with Classical Conversations foundations cds to review what we have learned.  Who says the endless drives to and from sports and activities can’t be educational?

Science: we will be beginning the year with the Safety unit offered by the Good and the Beautiful.  There are so many cute activities included in this unit, I am especially excited about the electricity scavenger hunt!  It will help us review our emergency plans for fire and weather emergencies.  This will be especially relevant since we just lived through our first tornado a month ago.  The second unit we will be studying is Space Science.  We will use the spine of the Good and the Beautiful, but I have added a science projects kit from the magic school bus, and a craft kit to make our own solar system from Target.  I have my eyes on a few other units we may add on if we go through them quickly, such as Marine life, human body prt 1 and arthropods from the good and the beautiful.

Fine arts and Music:  We bought Creative Arts and Crafts from the good and the beautiful and the art box from Toolboxes for teaching.  The crafts are adorable, and my kids are so excited to get started on them!  This will also save me time, from going online, finding something related to our current unit study, then sourcing all the materials.  Once we are done the crafts in the good and the beautiful kit, we will work on Drawing with children, by Mona Brookes.

For music, we will continue to take violin lessons privately, and practice 5 days a week.  Our teacher had a baby over the summer, so we took the summer off.  The kids were a little cranky about practicing by the end of the school year, but 2 of 3 have been picking up their violins in the last week, and wanting to play.

Math:  My oldest was doing Singapore math last year, which was quite challenging.  However, I found I had to make up activities to explain concepts with manipulatives, as well as do exercises orally, it ended up requiring a lot of assistance and was quite stressful for everyone.  I got him the Good and the Beautiful grade 2 (which is the highest level they currently have available).  I thought this would be a good review, and be enjoyable.  There are a few concepts I wanted to review, with less pressure before we continued on.  It contains a lot of manipulatives, games, and it appears as though we will do them together.  If he completes the Good and Beautiful level 2 curriculum before the grade 3 is available, we will get the extra practice workbooks for level 2 from Singapore or get the 3A set of books.  Looking at the first few lessons from the Good and the Beautiful math, I think he will go through the curriculum really quickly, which is fine, I think having some extra practice, and a more relaxed approach will decrease the stress we were feeling around math last year.  Since it doesn’t look like the grade 2 from the Good and the Beautiful contains any multiplication or division and he did a lot last year, I got him the musical multiplication from the good and the beautiful, so that he can continue to practice as he reviews.  The songs are beautiful, and he enjoys music.

Elise would be fine to continue doing the Singapore math curriculum, she is quite strong and confident in math.  We did level 1 Singapore in the winter and spring.  However, I thought she might love the art and activities in the good and the beautiful as well.  I also will able to teach the 2 oldest a lot at the same time.  Comparing the two curriculums, although both are strong math curriculums, initially, it appears that the Good and the Beautiful has a wider content, but seems a perhaps a grade behind where Singapore would be, but I will know more once we start.

Isabelle will also be doing the Good and the Beautiful Kindergarden math program from the good and the beautiful.  We did RightStart math A last year, and quite enjoyed that.  It did feel like a little extra prep for me because there were so many different materials to be gathered for each lesson.  I am not sure how it will compare, but the reviews look very promising!

Language Arts:

All the kids will do the Good and the Beautiful Language Arts program at their own individual levels.  We haven’t received it yet, but it looks really good.  Last year, I tried to include art study and geography separately, whereas this program includes it right in the language arts curriculum, which is very exciting.  The book selection is also look great.  My kids are very big readers though, so we will be adding a lot of extra readers.  Last year, we got the reader collection from Sonlight curriculum and my two oldest kids read their whole stack and the one for their sibling within one or two months. … so now we go to the library each week with rolling luggage!

We will also keep working through the language arts program from Bravewriter, because it’s fun!  We are doing the Quiver of Arrows book club with another family from our homeschool coop, and will begin with The Wheel on the School House.  We are also doing the jot it down projects.  Which are really great fun projects, we do about one a month.  We will continue to do a poetry tea time at least once a week, but the kids are just loving poetry, I keep finding Jack Prelutsky collections in the bathrooms!

Foreign Language:

French: We will continue to read french books every school day.  We will do crafts in french or french writing 3 days a week, related to our reading.  We are also going to try a french conversation curriculum, where every week we will have a new “conversation” in french to practice.

Spanish: We will begin learning simple words in spanish once a week and reading simple books.  The goal of this is just exposure.

Latin: We will continuing to learn the basic framework through our Classical Conversations memory work each day.

German: Every quarter I plan to play a German conversation cd in the car, mostly for me, but maybe the kids will gain an ear for the language?

Memory Work:  We will be continuing to do Classical Conversation this year.  Where the kids memorize 5-10 items in 7 different subjects each week (Geography, Grammar, Science, Math, Bible, Latin and History Timeline).  What the kids have retained is amazing and I am deeply impressed with the basics that the kids gained through this rote memory work.  For example, my 4 year old was able to learn skip counting by 2’s, the geography of the fertile crescent, and the classifications of all living things months ago, and can still recite it to this day!  We are not doing it as part of a formal community, because we have too many activities already, but it was quite easy to source all the materials, and get great teaching ideas from youtube.com.

The language arts program also has a lot of memory work built in, for example quotes from great thinkers, so we will also do that.

Outdoor education:  The kids will participate in a weekly outdoor education program.  The program is run by a naturalist and they will spend 2 hours in nature learning things like: foraging, plant identification, ecosystems, animal life cycles and winter survival skills (important for where we live!).

Sports:  The oldest three are all on competitive sports teams.  Caleb will be playing hockey again.  Last year he was on a competitive travel team, we are still waiting to see which team he will place on this year.  The girls are both on a competitive cheerleading team.  This is our first year, we will reevaluate at the end of the year.  At least they will try a competitive team sport for a year and see if they like it!

If you have just read all this, thank you!  I appreciate you sticking all the way through.  I just needed to put my ideas down on paper.