That’s Not a Rocket Ship!

Little Miss and I went to the pool today! We had a blast splashing around. We went to Agincourt Pool, which is a lovely, free pool in Scarborough. As we were playing around, a little boy, probably around 3, confidently commanded everyone around him to “get on the rocket ship!!!” No one really followed his directions, so he yelled it a couple more times, each time more convincing than before. A woman beside him (not his mom), said “that’s not a rocket ship, that’s a snake,” while giving me that knowing look.

Agincourt Pool

And yes, technically it was a snake. But to this child, it was his rocket ship, that was his to commandeer. To another child, it might have been a bus, that was taking them to school. He looked at me, and I told him “I like your rocket ship! I think it’s really cool!” And he went back to being his assertive self, trying to get everyone onto his ship before take off.

Let’s encourage imaginative play. As adults, sometimes it’s hard for us to get into the mood, or even to understand why they may create crazy stories. However, it is an integral part of play and development, one which needs to be nurtured, and not squelched.

Let’s “dive in” to imaginative play! (I’m so puny!)

Blessings,

Liz

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The Grocery List – Early Literacy

Little Miss has recently turned 4. Naturally, some have started to wonder when will this child start to read? We’ve taken the approach that she will start to read when she’s ready. We’re not doing sight word flash cards, and we don’t quiz her on various letters of the alphabet (well, most of us don’t…).

However, we read a lot. We generally read about 5 books a day, sometimes significantly more, and sometimes less. We really want to encourage a love of reading, and studies have shown that forcing a child to read before they are ready can lead to a dislike of reading. In Finland, they don’t start to formally teach reading until 6 or 7, and they are no farther behind their peers within 2-3 years, and often excel later on.

We read books about the various letters of the alphabet, we point out letters when we’re walking and driving, and we talk about which names start with which letters (Grandma and Grandpa both start with “G”).

As we’re setting the groundwork for reading, one tool we’ve starting using is the Grocery List. I used to have our grocery list on the side of our fridge, so that I could add to it as we ran out of items. However, I often forgot it, so I starting using my phone to log our household needs. This is a screenshot of our grocery list using the app ColorNote:

Grocery List

It’s pretty handy, as the checklist mode will allow you to tap a line, and it strikes it out for you (Little Miss likes that part). As I was adding to our list a few weeks ago, I realized that when I entered “honey” my phone offered a cute little emoji option (see above). Although I like to think that we’ve moved past hieroglyphics as a form of communication, this generation seems to gravitate right back to them. All kidding aside, this has been a great tool to get Little Miss engaged in language, in a practical, experiential way. As we pick up the items on our list, I ask her to cross them out. “Do you see sugar on our list?”, and I emphasize the “s” sound for her. She’s gotten quite good at finding them, and the emoji items are also a confidence booster.

What type of casual learning do you experience in your day to day life?

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Speaking of experiential (practical) learning, I learned how to take a screenshot for this blog post! I know, how could someone not know that in 2018? Well, that was me until this morning. Yay for continuing education!

Art Is Not My Forte – A Nature Journal

I love to look at art. I think it’s beautiful, and I marvel at how people can create such magnificent pieces. I enjoy looking at the children’s books we take out at the library, and I examine the various techniques the illustrators use. That being said, I suck at drawing, and most things related to the visual arts.

No, seriously. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, nor am I fishing for compliments (what? No! You’re fantastic! – Liar). I’ve simply come to the realization that art (drawing, painting, etc.) is not something I’m good at. I’m OK with that. I have other strong points, and frankly, I’ve never had the patience or determination to work at it in order to get better at it. I would try to draw here and there, but I never put any true effort into it. I expected it to come naturally to me. If you’ve ever seen my drawing of Peppa Pig’s father, you would wholeheartedly agree.

But, because we are choosing to homeschool, I so desperately want to give our daughters a well rounded experience, which includes art. So, I’m giving it the good old college try – I’ve started a Nature Journal.

A nature journal is where you record your experiences and discoveries in nature. I recently read I Love Dirt, and one of the suggestions for a winter activity was to sketch a slumbering tree. Here is the view from our backyard:

Winter Window

And here is my rendition:

Winter Window Sketch

On the left is one type of tree (which, after a quick Google search, would appear to be a Corkscrew Willow Tree) and on the right we have a Maple tree.

It was frigidly cold here in Toronto today (-18 Celcius, with a windchill somewhere around the -37 Celcius mark), so we opted to hunker down inside today.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by doing art in the first place. I’m also working on my Wreck This Journal. I got it shortly after having Little Miss. I wanted to stretch myself in terms of my creativity, and this has been an interesting outlet. I’m also demonstrating creating with Little Miss, in hopes that she will take an interest and enjoy partaking in the creating experience. Thankfully, Grandma loves art, and has significantly more talent, so she’ll likely be covering many of these art areas.

What do you feel is not your forte?

Blessings,

Liz

I Love Dirt! A New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2018 friends! I love New year’s. A time of review, and fresh beginnings. Up until just a few of years ago, we would celebrate with my grandparents, and my extended family, by having a family dinner on New Year’s day. I loved it – even the silly tinsel necklaces. My grandparents would go out dancing New Year’s Eve, with my Great Aunt (my Grandma’s sister) and her husband,  until 2 in the morning! I was always pleasantly surprised that they could out-party me. As with all good things, those too have come to an end, but I savour those memories.

With this time of reflection, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time outside. I like to think that we spend more time outside than the average family, but with a new baby in 2017, I have certainly come up with my fair share of excuses to dodge excursions, particularly in this frosty weather. This book, I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward, is a great quick read to get you in the mood to get outside.

i-love-dirt

With 52 simple suggestions for the varying seasons, this book inspires you to take your children outside, and connect with nature. I also really loved the science applications that are recommended to incorporate into your explorations.

What are your New Year resolutions?

Blessings,

Liz

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

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!