Practical Homeschooling

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Is a Public School Education Even Worth It?

By Laura | February 7, 2009

This video puts a lot of perspective on how fast your society is progressing. It makes me wonder whether it’s worth cramming our children’s brains with knowledge that will be useless within only a few years. There will always be a need for basics, but why instill an education in technology for things that won’t even exist in 5 years? 

Thus comes my firm belief that teaching HOW to learn and how to research is more valuable than actually memorizing facts and functions that will be useless later on. Let them learn it when it’s relevant. Watch the video and share your own thoughts on this subject!

Topics: 101 reasons to homeschool, homeschooling | No Comments »

30 Simple Family Pleasures

By Laura | February 6, 2009

This post was authored by Vered Deleeuw, owner of mommy blogger as a guest post on Zen Habits. Vered reminds us to look for the simple things in life when it comes to having fun together as a family…


Do you remember to have fun every day?

I’m sure you remember to brush your teeth, to eat, and to go to work. I’m confident you have a handwritten or a technology-based to-do list that you carefully go through each day. But if you read this blog, it means you want more from your life. You want to de-stress, to be present, to enjoy the journey instead of rushing through it like a madman.

Having fun with your family, especially the simple kind of fun - the one that doesn’t drain you emotionally and financially, is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy life. And in times of economic uncertainty, it is especially important to enjoy family time that does not involve spending lots of money. Here are 30 ideas for high-quality, low-cost, stress-free family fun.

1. Play together in the snow or in the rain, then go inside for a cup of hot chocolate made with real chocolate and marshmallows.

2. Make a large bowl of popcorn and snuggle in front of the DVD to watch a family movie.

3. Have a picnic. In wintertime, it’s just as fun to have a picnic indoors.

4. Snuggle together in bed on a cold Sunday morning.

5. Go out for a leisurely Sunday brunch. Many restaurants offer great Sunday buffets, and prices these days are more reasonable than ever. Kids often eat free of charge. Although buffets can be challenging if you’re trying to lose weight, or maintain your goal weight, once in a while is probably OK. Since kids usually have very limited choices as far as food goes � they eat what we give them - they really appreeciate the selection and choice a buffet offers.

6. Just talk. The older my kids are, the more interesting our conversations become.

7. Try tongue twisters. Last week when we waited forever for the check to arrive at a restaurant, my husband started a tongue twisters game. We laughed so hard, I nearly choked. My favorite tongue twister: “She sells seashells by the seashore.” Repeat three times, FAST!

8. During dinner, ask each family member to tell one good thing and one bad thing that happened to them that day. The good things are obviously fun to share. The “bad things” are a great opportunity for your kids to talk about things that bother them and for you to be more involved in their lives.

9. Create a story together. Each family member gets to add one sentence at a time. These stories can be seriously funny, especially if one of the kids happens to be in a silly mood.

10. Look at a picture album together and tell your kids the stories behind the pictures.

11. Make cookies or cupcakes together and decorate them. Try this fabulous recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies.

12. Watch old family movies.

13. Visit the library. Browse the children’s books together. Read them a story or two. Listen to Story Time if the library offers it. Browse the grownups’ selection too: it’s good for your kids to see you’re interested in books.

14. Have a family make-your-own-pizza night. Prepare several topping options. Let each child decide what kind of pizza they want. More tips here.

15. Play a board game. I don’t know about you, but my husband and I play to win. We don’t believe in letting the kids win. After all, their friends won’t let them win. The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view): they often win anyway!

16. Go for a hike. We love to go to a local park that has beautiful redwood trees in addition to a small playground and a shaded picnic area.

17. Go to the museum. If your kids are younger than 5, take them to the children’s museum. If they are older, they can probably handle an hour or two in a “real” museum. A natural history museum is great, but many kids enjoy modern art museums as well. Many museums are free of charge for kids under 12, and many offer free admission for the entire family on monthly “family days.”

18. Go ice-skating.

19. Go to the movies. While going to the movies is not as cheap as it used to be, matinee tickets are usually reasonably priced. It’s entirely possible to find PG-rated movies that are appropriate for elementary school kids yet are fun (or at least not mind-numbingly boring) for the grownups. During winter break we took the kids to see “Marley and Me” and “Bedtime Stories.”

20. Make breakfast foods for dinner, together. It never fails to make the kids happy. We like to make pancakes together. When they’re ready, we decorate them with berries to make fun “faces.” If your kids have milk and fruit with those homemade pancakes, it’s a pretty balanced meal. And if you’re really brave, try making whole-wheat pancakes.

21. Go to the beach. The beaches here in Northern California are cold and windy, even in summertime, and very rocky. But even though they don’t provide the classic beach experience, we love to go tidepooling. We often manage to spot interesting sea creatures and shells.

22. On a warm summer night, it’s fun to go camping in your own backyard and sleep in sleeping bags, under the stars.

23. Jump rope. We do it outside in the yard in summer and inside during the winter. My kids are already experts. I’m still learning, or rather relearning.

24. Make the most of power outages. During a recent power outage, we all sat together in the kitchen. Since we were bored (no technology!) and had to use candlelight to light the kitchen, we used the candles to make s’mores. Seriously. It was one of our best nights ever. More tips for making indoor s’mores here.

25. Exercise together. I exercise at home using a yoga mat which was bought online with free amazon gift card codes. My kids love to watch me exercise and they love even more trying to imitate what I’m doing on our extra mat.

26. Dance together. Play some loud music and go crazy with the moves. Don’t tell anyone, but I love to dance to ABBA music.

27. Bake homemade bread. You can use a bread machine if you have one, or you can knead the dough by hand. This takes time and is great for a winter day when you’re inside anyway. There’s nothing like the smell of bread as it’s baking, and there’s nothing like eating it fresh with homemade butter on top. Try this bread recipe.  To make homemade butter, simply whip heavy cream with a pinch of salt until it turns into butter. Separate it from the remaining liquid (buttermilk) and spread on the freshly baked bread.

28. Write letters to the grandparents. Even if they live nearby, they will love getting letters from their grandchildren. If you join your kids and write a few words too, you will not only set a great example for your kids but will also make your parents very happy.

29. Read a book together. You can read to your child, or she can read to you, or you can simply snuggle together, each of you reading her own book.

30. Watch TV together. TV is not just a convenient babysitter: it can be an opportunity to share an experience with your kids. Once in a while I join my kids when they watch one of their favorite TV shows. They snuggle close to me, and whenever something funny happens on the show, they watch me closely to make sure I get it. When we’re done watching, we talk about what we saw. I often use it as an opportunity to talk about advertising, since there’s so much of it these days aimed at children.

To read more from Vered, see her blog: mommy blogger.

Topics: activity ideas, parenting | No Comments »

Tenured College Professor Fired for Giving Students A+

By Laura | February 6, 2009

In an article dated today, the Globe and Mail reports a story of a physics professor at the University of Ottawa who has been suspended, pending dismissal, for giving all his students an A+ grade. 

I think that it’s time that society re-evaluate the purpose of grades and if they truly help us to judge a person’s knowledge. 

Professor makes his mark, but it costs him his job

Topics: in the community | No Comments »

Learning About the Properties of Water

By Laura | February 6, 2009

Among the books Dawn chose from the library last week was the book Solids, Liquids, and Gases by Ginger Garrett. 

It’s a nice little book which, in simple terms, explains the difference between solid, liquid, and gaseous matter. I wanted her to gain a better understanding of what the book was talking about, so I decided to illustrate the matter in the kitchen. 


Waiting to see what happens to the ice...

Waiting to see what happens to the ice...

First going over safety rules of being near a stove, I took the ice I had in the freezer (and probably long-freezer burned by now) and we emptied it into a pot. I turned on the burner so that the girls could watch what happened. 

I showed Dawn how the ice was hard (solid) and how, with heat, it was starting to melt (transforming into a liquid). Ice, turned into water when the temperature rose. 

After that, the ice disappeared and started to get hot. Vapour rose and I showed Dawn that this was steam (not smoke) and steam was the water turning to gas. 

This was a very simple lesson, but a great one to illustrate what happens to things under different temperatures. I don’t expect her to give a lengthy explanation of the process, but now she knows that ice, water and steam are the same thing in different forms.l

Topics: Dawn, activity ideas, our journey | No Comments »

Welcoming a New Member to Our Family

By Laura | February 4, 2009

Pumpkin came to us on Friday thanks to the 4PawsRescue Society. I hunted around Craig’s List and Kijiji and strangely, couldn’t find anyone giving away a cat that interested us (usually there’s an over-abundance).

I then did some research and found out that PetSmart had an adoption program. Instead of selling cats or dogs, they have a section showing rescue animals that are up for adoption. 

It was love at first sight. Pumpkin was friendly and couldn’t wait to get to know the girls. In my experience, new cats will get home and hide! Not this one! She got out and immadiately started to play with the girls. That first night, she joined us on the bed and slept along side us…taking time out to try to play…thus waking me up 5 or 6 times. 

She’s six months old and looks pretty healthy. I need to make a vet appointment to have her checked (included in the adoption fees), as well as find a scratching post for her. The kids are having a blast with her and I’m hoping that they’ll learn a lot by having this new friend around.

Topics: off-topic, our journey, unschooling | No Comments »

Off to the Museum!

By Laura | February 2, 2009

Workers came in to change all our windowson Thursday and it being winter, that translated to our having to leave and find something to do for the day. I decided to take the girls to the Telus World of Science since we hadn’t been in a while and they had a LEGO exhibit that I had been wanting to see.

We went with some friends and everyone seems to have had a good time. My girls who have iPhone and love itunes cards had a blast sharing some of their favorite spots with their friends and as usual, there was lots to discover!

Emily and Dawn exploring.

Emily and Dawn exploring.

Checking out the exhibits.

Checking out the exhibits.

The LEGO exhibit was somewhat disapointing...I had already seen all of these online.

The LEGO exhibit was somewhat disapointing...I had already seen all of these online.

Despite their love for all things LEGO, the girls weren't really into this exhibit either. I guess it's much more fun to create than to look at what other people have done.

Despite their love for all things LEGO, the girls weren't really into this exhibit either. I guess it's much more fun to create than to look at what other people have done.


Emily's favorite part was the water table.

Emily's favorite part was the water table.


Ditto for Dawn!

Ditto for Dawn!

Topics: Dawn, Emily, in the community, our journey, unschooling | No Comments »

My Daughter the Smurf

By Laura | January 28, 2009

It’s not unusual for me to take a nap during the day. Life with MS seems to make every day quite unique, but one thing that consistent is the incredible fatigue that can overwhelm you. 

After a busy day, I found that I I could barely move or keep my eyes open. Hubby was home (day off) so I saw a change to grab some sleep. The girls came with me, but quickly decided that they’d rather play. I fell asleep and they certainly took advantage of the situation. 

Leave it to a man to find a way to blame the sleeping mother for what her children do during that time; even though he’s the one who should be watching them at the time.

After waking up, the house had that eerie quietness that only means that the children are up to no good. I went downstairs and took a quick survey of the basement. My first reaction was to yell at them; there was paper everywhere, open PERMANENT markers sitting on the couch, the table was blue, as were quite a few other things! Once I gave myself a second or two to digest what I saw, I realized that it wasn’t so bad. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed or if it couldn’t, it wasn’t so important that it was a big problem.


Emily "looking innocent!"

Emily "looking innocent!"

The best though, were Dawn’s hands! She was in the corner with baby wipes, furiously trying to get the permanent marker off her hands to no avail. I told her to come to me and afraid of my reaction, came slowly, eyes down and hands behind her back. I smiled and she finally found the courage to show them. From wrist to fingertips, there was nothing but the dark blue permanent marker! My response to that was “your hands are going to be blue for a few days.” She giggled, apparently pleased at the idea. 


My daughters ascent into smurfdom.

My daughter's ascent into smurfdom.

Sparkles carpeted the floor. She apparently couldn’t resist the container of sparkles I had stored in my desk drawer and my abcense made the temptation too strong. For those of you who remember the beanbag chair incident, well this one was worse! Unfortunately, as good as my new camera is, it wasn’t good enough to capture all the sparkles that were lying around everywhere.  I made a good attempt to vacuum, the there’s now a toss up as to what I will be finding longer…polyethylene balls or sparkles…

In the meantime, Dawn decided that her hands weren’t blue enough, so she went back downstairs as I was preparing diner to “reinforce” her efforts…and did it agian this morning. She’s now been informed that we’ll be going to the museum tomorrow with her blue hands. She’s not too happy about it, but withthe workers coming in to change the windows tomorrow, there’s not much choice about the matter.

And thus, passes another day in the Beaudin household. I’m now waiting for my husband to come home so I can go out and buy some magic erasers in hopes that they’ll remove all those blue smudges blanketing the walls from the basement to the second floor (gee, I hope my landlord isn’t reading this!).


Topics: Dawn, Emily, humour, our journey, unschooling | No Comments »

A Sign Of The Times…

By Laura | January 24, 2009

Chris Brogan flagged this one down from twitter

One of Playmobil Toys‘ more err…interesting releases recently is the Airport Security Checkpoint which lets children move their plastic men through airport security on their way to catch their flights. It’s kinda sad when such a toy is developped to make children more at ease with travelling.  I guess that the only reason they didn’t include a “terrorist” doll is the potential for law suits (tongue in cheek)!

Even better than this product, are the comments below it. Please take the time to read what people have to say about this product, but make sure that you’ve emptied your bladder first! I love the snarkiness that people used when they reviewed the product and these are more entertaining than the product itself!

Topics: humour, off-topic | 2 Comments »

And the Winner Is…

By Laura | January 24, 2009

Thanks to all of you who participated in the “A day in the life” contest. I hope you enjoyed yourselves; I certainly enjoyed reading all of the comments!

Without further ado, our winner is Leslie Howard who, on top of a wonderful submission, also received some impressive comments. Everyone did such a great job and I wish I had other Montessori cards to give a way. Please keep checking in and look out for the next contest coming soon!

Topics: contests | 1 Comment »

Running With Scissors

By Laura | January 22, 2009

“Careful, or you’ll poke your eye out!” How many times have we heard that expression as we’ve grown up? Frankly, I’ve never had any form of injury to my eyes, nor have my children.

People often wonder why I allow my young children to use sharp scissors and knives to work with. I might get a lot of flack for this, but I think that safety-wise, it’s much safer to use proper tools than “dumbed down” ones for several reasons:

1. Children will learn from the beginning that using a tool has risks and it’s essential to be careful.

2. It’s actually safer. Chances of injury are much higher if using a dull knife or scissors. When a tool is not in it’s prime condition, chances of the blade slipping or not doing its job as intended is much higher. 

3. Children develop an immediate respect for the tool. If you show them the potential for harm from the beginning, they are more apt to be cautious.

In order for this to be a positive experience rather than ending up in the ER, supervision is tantamount. If you’re unable to put your full attention on your child, please choose a better time when your child can be your one priority. 

Show your child how the scissors/knife/tool works and point out ways that they can potentially injure themselves. If practical, have them touch the edge carefully (with your hand guiding them) to see how really sharp it is. 

Demonstrate how to use the tool in order to not be injured; how to watch for the fingers and to hold it for best results.

Make it a strict rule that if the child needs to leave the table, the tool remains on the table–it is not to be taken with them. I think that the greatest potential for injury is when a child might become distracted and follows his impulses. If an adult is present to avoid that, accidents are lowered to almost 0%. 

Emily loves cutting with my bee scissors, but being impulsive as she is, it’s not unusual for her to jump up and run to see something or grab a toy she decided she wants. These are the times I need to remind her to put the scissors on the table and THEN get her toy or whatever she wanted. While she is actually cutting paper, she is 100% focused on the task at hand and has never nicked herself. 

Give your children a little credit. We are starting to live in a society with padded walls because of all the “what ifs” in  life. Much better to teach proper safety and techniques than to live in fear of what could possibly happen.

Topics: Emily, homeschooling, montessori, our journey, parenting | No Comments »

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