Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

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Lest We Forget

This evening, my daughters and I had the privilege of planting Canadian flags on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.

Remembrance Day 2017

Raise a Flag at Sunnybrook Hospital

This is our third year participating in this project. The goal is to plant 30,000 flags across the grounds, so that on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the veterans at the hospital will wake up to fields of Canadian flags and know that we will remember.

Although we’ve been doing this for a few years, this is the first year that Little Miss has had so many questions about war. Why do we have an army? Why do people fight? Why? Questions that really make you pause, and think.

I happened to have purchased A Poppy is to Remember, by Heather Patterson, way back in my teaching days, so we brought it out this evening to help explain.

poppyposter

Given that Little Miss will soon be turning 4, this was right on her level, and she wanted to read it twice! Although the topic of war is tough, I think it’s important, and possible, to address it on an age appropriate level. Do you have any other suggestions for books about, or related to, Remembrance Day?

Blessings,

Liz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

Swing Low

You’ve read about our beloved experiences with our Forest Playgroup before, and here we go again.

This week, rope swings were of interest. A couple of weeks ago, one of our most adventurous forest friends tied a rope to a fallen tree, and made a rope swing which he thoroughly enjoyed. He learned to tie the appropriate knot, and got to swinging!

Well, since that time, Little Miss had had the opportunity to try out the rope swing at gymnastics. Naturally, she wanted to extend that experience to the forest, so I tied this rope to the tree, and away she went.

Rope Swing

Why is swinging important? Angela Hanscom has this to say in her book, Balanced and Barefoot, “in order to hold on to the rope swing, children must have a strong core, upper body and grip” (Hanscom, 2016), which the majority of children today are lacking.

Now, take a look back at that picture, and do you notice a string on Little Miss’ right side? The one with the stick tied to it? Well, our forest friend, after tying, and trying, his own knot (he forgot the one he learned a couple of weeks back), tied this stick onto his swing, to create a seat for himself. He did this all on his own – and he’s 5!

It is so exciting to watch these children learn together, encourage one another, and have fun. I went back to the head gymnastics coach last week, and told her that at first I thought the rope swing was just for fun. Then I learned that this is an essential part of developing a child’s core strength. Fun and developmentally necessary… who would have thought?

Blessings!

Liz

The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz

Go Home and Learn (About Camouflage)

This morning, we went on our morning walk. It was a somewhat typical September morning, other than the fact that it’s been in the high 20s (Celcius) the last few days, which is unusual for Toronto at this time of year. As we walked along, we came across this little guy:

He’s a leaf insect! At first, I thought it was an ant, carrying a leaf. The insect’s colour was so vibrant! It was quite beautiful. It even had veins to accentuate his “leafy-ness”. This nifty creature then sparked a discussion on camouflage, naturally.

As we were talking, our neighbour was walking by, and said “hello”. As typically happens lately, he asked Little Miss if she was starting school next year (our walks tend to happen mid morning, during school). I commented that we were homeschooling (she would have technically started school this year), and we continued our conversation about the housing market in our area. As we ended our conversation, he turned to Little Miss and told her that she had better “go home and learn”.

I thought it was a little funny. Here we were, outside in God’s creation, learning about camouflage, colours, and construction equipment (they’re doing work on our street), but he thought learning only happened at home. Learning happens everywhere! If we simply keep our eyes open, there are many opportunities to learn naturally, and dare I say it, more meaningfully.

Perhaps we’ll pick up a book at the library that discusses camouflage. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the local pet store, and see what the chameleons are up to. Or, maybe we’ll simply look for more instances of camouflage, as they come up naturally, in our day to day lives. However, we won’t be working on a worksheet about it. Nor will I make Little Miss create a science fair project, that requires 5 examples of camouflage, while she dresses in military camo gear. If she chooses to dress up, and cover herself in mud, then so be it (and probably more likely than less, actually…), but I want to avoid forcing the subject. I don’t want to crush her natural curiosity by over extending our natural lesson.

I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to learn naturally, because they are everywhere. And I firmly believe that naturally occurring learning is more meaningful, and will have more staying power, than preconceived unit studies.

What have you learned lately?

Blessings!

Her Journey Stick

As I may have mentioned before, we are part of a Forest School Playgroup. We meet once a week, year round, in the forest. We have a beautiful creek that the children can explore, as well as fallen trees that are great for climbing. So, if you happen to see photos of us in the forest, they are likely from our playgroup.

One of the leaders brought yarn last week, so the children could make Journey Sticks. My mom had told me about them a few months ago, so I was eager to see if Little Miss was interested in making one. The purpose of the Journey Stick is to attach items you find along your journey – a collection of sorts – to a stick of your choice. Here is hers:

She chose flowers, weeds, leaves, and grass, because she felt they were beautiful. Some children decided to attach acorns, while others wanted a rock – creativity was needed to attach those items.

A journey stick is a fun way to have a momento from the forest. However, please be aware of your impact on your surroundings. This is not an activity we do every week, nor do we regularly pick items from the forest. Some flowers are protected in Ontario (like the Trillium), and if you pick them, you can face hefty fines. We generally take the approach of take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, but occasionally, we create something from the forest. We try to be as hands on as possible, while also minimizing our impact as much as we can.

Blessings!

What Letter Is That?

Yesterday was our “first day of school”. Although, for us, it was no different than any other day. We opted to spend the day with friends visiting Riverdale Farm, in downtown Toronto, and we made a pit stop at the bank.

On our way downtown, Little Miss (who we just turned around from rear facing in her car seat, but that’s another topic for another post) saw this logo on the back of a trailer:

“What letter is that, Mommy?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not a letter. It’s a logo, which is a picture for a company. But it is made up of 2 letters smooshed together,” I replied.

Little Miss, 3.5, doesn’t know all of her letters yet. She knows some, but not all. But she did recognize that this one was somewhat familiar.

They’re always learning, aren’t they?

Blessings.

Solar Eclipse 2017

On August 21, we here in Southern Ontario had the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse, like most of North America. Well, part of one at least – we received 67% coverage. Not one to shy away from an experience such as this, we did not hide inside for the day. We spoke about the risks of looking at the sun early that morning, and we created a viewer using a piece of cardboard (everywhere was sold out of eclipse viewing glasses, plus I’m pretty thrifty. i.e. cheap). We simply took a piece of cardboard, and poked a hole in the middle of it. I realized quickly that we needed a solid colour surface in order to see anything, so I grabbed a shelf my parents had inside, and used that.

Little Miss watching the moon partially cover the sun

It was really neat watching the sun’s crescent grow smaller. We didn’t experience darkness, per se, but the best I could describe it is the world looked a brown/tan colour at its peak.

A few minutes prior to its peak.

 

The peak of the eclipse – 67% coverage

We did notice a brief drop in temperature (maybe 2-3 degrees Celcius), as well as increased winds. Little Miss did not look up at the sun, even though she knew what was going on. Truthfully, she wasn’t incredibly interested for more than a short period of time. Earlier that morning, we watched a brief video (about a minute or 2) about what happens when there is a solar eclipse. Interestingly, she inquired as to why there was pink around the moon. This was a great opportunity to discuss solar flares, which we expanded on. Another friend’s daughter asked about sun spots when they discussed the eclipse, and yet another friend’s family investigated why the eye’s pupil dilates, and how that is affected during an eclipse. All of these children are between 3-6 years old. I love how curiosity can take many different forms, and lead you down such varying paths.

Then this happened:

Can you make your broom stand on end?

While I was scrolling through Facebook that afternoon, I came across a post that read:

“Do you have a broom? When you get a chance try standing a broom up in the middle of the room. Only on eclipse day will a broom stand straight on its own perfectly straight. Let me know if it works for you…”

Well, naturally, I grabbed my broom, and lo and behold, it stood!

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to wait for the next solar eclipse, nor the next equinox (August 21st was the vernal equinox, so that was another explanation proposed). It actually has nothing to do with planetary alignment. Rather, it’s due to the broom’s mass distribution. But, give it a go none the less. It’s fun to leave a broom standing on end for the next person to find 😉

Blessings!

Snap Chat Continued…

A couple of days ago, I posted about our snapdragon experience. I shared some photos of orange snapdragons, and their explosive fun. Well, we went back down to the ravine yesterday, and came across these pink and purple snapdragons:

Pink Snapdragons

You’ll notice that the seed pod (the green “bean” in the top middle of the photo) is significantly different from the orange snap dragon, being larger and shiny. The leaves are also quite different (jagged, as opposed to the smooth edges of the orange variety). The large pods are also harder to pop, and you really need to wait until they are quite engorged. But, when they’re ready, brace yourself, because there is also a much larger “pop”! So much fun!

Another significant difference was the seeds:

Snapdragon Seeds

Can you guess which seeds belong to which plant? The orange snapdragon had 2-4 seeds, on average, per pod, whereas the pink and purple snapdragons had 10+! It was a really neat experience to note the differences among the species of plant, as well as practice our math skills of counting and addition. Learning happens everywhere!

Blessings!

P.S. The seed answer is: Left, pink and purple. Right, orange. We collected the seeds and will be planting them in the spring. I really hope they come up in our backyard.