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Homeschool Horizons Canada’s Homeschool Encouragement Magazine

Volume 1, Issue 2 - November 2011

< Sparking Creativity > * Numeracy * Square Dance Spelling * SAT, ACT & Other Tests * Ten-Day Toonie Challenge

* Fibre Fun * Dad’s Eye-View * What Do I Do With Baby? * And SO MUCH More!


Volume 1, Issue 2 ~ November 2011

Homeschool Horizons Magazine Our Special Thanks to

In This Issue

The Homeschool Horizons Team Publishers | Tony & Shannon Ratcliffe Senior Copy Editor | Paula Pike Advertising Director | Kimberly Charron Administration Assistant | Grace Lindeman Images | Dreamstime & Families Like Yours Print Production | Universal Printing Ingersoll, Ontario Post Production | McKenzie Ratcliffe Website | www.homeschoolhorizons.ca Homeschool Horizons Magazine is a support and encouragement magazine for homeschoolers from a Canadian Perspective. Homeschooling is a choice your family should make together with the best interest of all family members in mind.

4 Helping our Children Remember

23 What do I do with Baby?

6 Cultivating Creativity

24 C H A N G E

8 Chill Out Mom!

25 A Homemade Christmas

9 Literate Living: Too Explicit, Part 2 10 Learning Games

28 Flying Solo: But Not Alone

12 Teachable Moments

30 Counter-Cultural Christmas

14 Dad’s Eye-View 16 Singular Sensation 18 The CM Homeschool: The Problem with Blobs

family choices.

20 Ten-Day Toonie Challenge

To contact Homeschool Horizons or if you are interested in

22 Fibre Fun

Homeschool Horizions is not to be held responsible for personal

26 Learning, Personality & Creativity

advertising in Homeschool Horizons, please contact us at

32 Natural Math: Numeracy 34 SAT, ACT and Other Tests 38 Pen to Paper 40 Letters From Home

staff@homeschoolhorizons.ca or call toll-free 1-855-HSCANADA

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November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 1


A Directory of our Advertisers in Alphabetical Order: 29 Complete Creation DVDs

BC Music for Young Children

39 Distribution Access

29 Penelope’s World Famous Cookies Book

11 Generations with Vision Radio

19 See The Light

15 Globe in a Nutshell

IFC The Canadian Homeschooler/ Homeschool Canada

IBC ITCA Digital Education 15 Joy Center of Learning 37 Kimberly Charron’s Usborne Books

36 The Write Foundation 13 Tree of Life Books 9 Wycliffe Bible Translators

From our house to yours... Phew! What a learning curve we’ve been on these past few months... As I, Shannon, type this note to you, it is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada... and we have a LOT to be thankful for this year. We are SO thankful for the grace and kindness everyone has shown towards us as all the little “technical glitches” came to light in the very first issue. We are thankful for an amazing advertiser who didn’t get upset when we cut off their web address (ITCA, you ROCK!), we are thankful for writers who giggled at our forgetting them on our “Writers” page (Maxine and Kathleen - you are so sweet!) and the very forgiving Sarah Rainsberger whom I moved back and forth provinces (hope it wasn’t as stressful as REAL moving)! We’re also happy to report that thanks to the wonderful printing company we’ve hired (the fabulous Universal Printing in Ingersoll, Ontario), and the tireless efforts of their graphic designer, Heather, we will hopefully have resolved many of the other small issues that came up such as dark photos and the like. Please, don’t forget to fill in our issue survey - it’s available on-line at http://www.homeschoolhorizons.ca/ issuesurvey - and it REALLY helps us to make this magazine the best it can be! We really do read feedback as it comes in, and it helps us to determine how the next issue gets put together - Thank You! I know that when you’ll be reading this, the “November Blah’s” will be threatening to set in, so why not take an “Autumn Break” and do something out of the ordinary - after all, why should Spring get all the fun? And remember... you are not alone! Grab another homeschool family and spice up your daily grind with a trip to a museum, or a picnic at the park, or even a special mini-unit on Remembrance Day. Whatever you decide, be sure to have fun! As you celebrate this holiday season, we wish you peace and joy!

Tony and Shannon

2 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011


Anne moderates the CMCanada Yahoo Group and is one of the founding advisors of Ambleside Online. She loves homeschooling her children the Charlotte Mason way.

Our Writers This Issue: Anne White, Ontario Aubyn Baker, Ontario

Cori is the owner of Maple Tree Publications and enjoys balancing business and homeschooling her four daughters.

Cathilyn is the author of ScitaScienda.com and unschools her four children while humouring her quirky husband.

Cathilyn Dyck, Manitoba

Dean, when he’s not in his music studio, is proud to be an actively involved homeschool Dad.

Dean Stairs, Newfoundland

Emma enjoys emparting a love of literature to her homeschooled children. Kimberly runs her own music studio for children under the Music for Young Children while juggling her son’s budding acting career. She loves the Classical Method of homeschooling. Lindsay homeschools her joy-filled family of eleven children with an eclectic curriculum while also breeding her beloved boxer dogs. Lynn is a homeschooling mom of highschoolers who misses the days of “fun”schooling her children with games and activities. Maxine is the owner of Joy Center of Learning and homeschooled her children despite struggling with her own learning challenges. Sarah is the host of the site www.universityadmissions. ca and although not a homeschooler, she is proud to encourage those who are. Stephanie heads up HEMS, while following her heart homeschooling her four youngest children.

Aubyn enjoys the simple life of homeschooling her only daughter, and jokingly asks us not to hold it against her that she was once a CAS worker.

Cori Dean, Ontario

Donna Fawcett, Ontario

Donna reflects with fondness on her joy-filled homeschool days with her children while teaching at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. Freya is a courageous s i n g l e - p a r e n t homeschooler who rests easy in knowing that despite the challenges, she is offering her children her very best.

Emma Jones, Ontario Freya Bates, Alberta Grace Lindeman, Ontario Jorie Soames, British Columbia Katrina Miller, Nova Scotia Kimberly Charron, Nova Scotia Linda Hoffman, Ontario Lindsay Durant, Nova Scotia Lisa-Marie Fletcher, Ontario Lynn Long, Ontario Maxine McLellan, Ontario

Grace is a newlywed homeschool graduate who’s passion is the written word. She laughs looking back on her mother’s worries over her homeschool journey. Katrina homeschools her children with a personalized Waldorfstyle method. She loves offering her children a real-life experience. Linda loves to reflect on the learning that happens all around her in the lives of her children. Lisa-Marie is the founder of The Canadian Homeschooler and enjoys the rambuncious life of homeschooling her three young boys.

Paula Pike, Ontario Sarah Rainsberger, PEI Stephanie Jackson, Nova Scotia

Paula, who is known for her creative spirit cherishes the blessing of teaching her children at home.

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 3


Helping our Children Remember

Donna Fawcett, Ontario Homeschooled her children 1994 through 2005

M

y earliest memory of my father was of a man in uniform. We six children were scattered along the stairs that ran the length of the wall of the narrow hallway to our front door. We were waiting. Even I, the youngest, understood that the waiting was for Daddy to come home. The sky was just dimming when we saw the flash of headlights skirt across the wall and our excited chatter began. Then he was there, standing in the hall, ramrod straight in a uniform boasting polished brass buttons and strange bands and patches. We all scrambled to be the first into our father’s embrace and then milled around him as he hauled his kit bag into the living room. Not long after that fond memory, my father retired from the military. Twenty years of service -postings that ranged from post-WWII Germany to the strip of land that separated Gaza from the re-birthed nation of Israel. I was so young then and yet the memory remains true. I never forgot. I listened to Remembrance Day speeches knowing that my father had a hand in the hard-won freedoms of nations. I watched him in silence as he added to his collection of military memorabilia, and I remembered. I grew and moved into the distractions of childhood and yet, I never 4 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

forgot that soldier who had returned home. When I married, he stood by my side with his ramrod posture and accepted the fact that I was no longer the child who greeted him at the door. He continued to march his way through life as I journeyed through mine, and I began to wonder how I would impress upon my children the importance of Remembrance Day. How could I teach them that while war is an evil thing, the warriors who fight should continue to be honoured for their willingness to stand against a tyranny that shows no restraint? The answer came to me as my father was sifting through some of his military ‘stuff’. He was trying to find some artifacts to loan to a local business owner who wished to set up a Remembrance Day theme in his display window. “I’ll loan him my greens.” He pushed past a pristine navy uniform to the olive hued, coarser clothing. I asked him what the blue uniform was all about. “Oh that’s my dress uniform. It was for formal events.” The idea struck full force in that moment.


“Dad, would you be willing to wear your dress uniform on Remembrance Day for a ceremony at our home? I want our girls to understand the importance of remembering our military heroes.” He grew shy, shrugged, and wondered aloud if it still fit. I didn’t push the issue. I knew that some memories were difficult to bring to the present. A week passed and Remembrance Day morning came. We turned on the radio at 10:45 a.m. and waited for the moment of silence, for the reading of In Flanders Fields, and for the sound of the trumpet calling the world to remember the horrors of war and the courage of those who held it at bay. We listened as the station’s country music played and I missed the sound of a car pulling into the drive. A knock came to the door. My oldest daughter opened it and shouted. “Mom, it’s Poppy and he’s all dressed up!” I turned to see my father as I had remembered him -straight and trim. Instead of the military greens however, he was dressed in the navy dress uniform: white gloves, red sash, brass buttons, and a row of five medals that I had never before seen. I was shocked. My father had received medals? Under his arm was an old photo album, and he stepped into the room as though he had stepped from the pages of history. The minutes ticked by until the clock rolled over to 11:00 a.m. The sound of a trumpet interrupted our welcome and there, in the living room, my father snapped to attention and raised a hand in salute. Like a statue he stood, while the trumpet blared out its call, honouring those who had been left behind. Then the silence descended and he lowered the salute and remained steadfast. We watched in awe, overwhelmed by what we were experiencing. My children—my busy, chatty children—were silent. The poem was read, and the moment of universal remembrance passed.

My father moved to the couch. Gathering my children around him, he opened the pages of a photo album. It contained pictures of an empty concentration camp. Photo after photo opened the girls’ eyes to the need for good men and women to stand firm in the face of fear. Buildings once used to cage innocent people stood vacant—silent reminders of the depths of man’s depravity. My father talked of his days in Bergen Belsen after the camp had been cleansed—of the fear in the surrounding communities—of the feeling of satisfaction that something so horrendous had been stopped. Then he closed the book and looked my children in the eye. “So long as you remember—so long as you understand what we fought for—war will remain far away. When you forget to stand firm, this will happen again.” The lessons were driven home. My children talked for days of their grandfather in his uniform. They pondered the photo album. They wrote essays about what they had learned. Every year thereafter, my father donned his uniform and brought the album to remind them repeatedly of why we must not forget. Those years are gone. My father is 81. I have often wondered what my children would do to teach their children about the importance of Remembrance Day. Would they consider it worth remembering at all? Would they value the service my father had given—or the service my brother had given in his 21 years in the military? I didn’t really know the answer to that but I hoped that the special Remembrance Day ceremonies we had held would keep complacency at bay. Then one day, as my daughter prepared her curriculum for next year’s home teaching year, she asked me a question that nearly brought me to tears. “Mom, do you think Poppy would dress in his uniform and come to our house for Remembrance Day if I asked him to?” ●

There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns. ~ Edward de Bono November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 5


Cultivating Creativity Paula Pike, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2001 which to foster a creative spirit in our children – and ourselves. Creative idea books (related to drawing, painting, creating costumes, inventing, building, quilting, cooking, paper crafting, seasonal activities, solving mysteries, logic, etc.) and art supplies (including beads, crayons, markers, coloured pencils, paint, various kinds of paper, fabric, pastels, clay, adhesives, decorative scissors, sparkles, stickers, materials from the recycling bin, etc.) are staples to keep on hand – even in small quantities. Books about art and artists, as well as scientists and inventors, are also useful because they offer a wide variety of styles and creative options to explore and imitate -- or inspire. A variety of reproductions of famous art – sometimes just postcard size (old art calendars are great for this) – are also good fodder for the creative mind. We mustn’t forget the ultimate inspiration for creativity – access to the natural world, which has inspired creators since, well, the creation of the world!

W

e all believe it’s important, don’t we, this thing called creativity? Yet with the three R’s and other “academic” stuff that seems to take priority in our days, sometimes the “artsy” stuff takes a back seat. Since I started my blog, Created 2B Creative, I’ve become more and more aware of the need to foster creativity – in myself and in my family. That had me thinking about the ways in which we can nurture creativity within our families. I narrowed it down to three broad categories that provide a framework for our endeavours: Resources, Models, and the Union of Work and Play. I’ll elabourate with some specifics in hopes that perhaps you will recognize what you’re already doing to foster your family’s creativity -- or you will be inspired to explore some new options. Resources: While sometimes it can devolve into the curse of clutter (at which point we can Freecycle or sell!), it’s very helpful to have a vast array of resources with 6 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

Of course, costumes/dress-up clothes (including animal outfits, shoes, dresses, scarves, hats, shirts, accessories) are essentials for the dramatic types and for those impromptu performances that make us grimace and grin at the same time. (You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?!) For the more advanced creators (i.e. those beyond their toddler years), journals (different ones for nature study, art, writing, ideas, travel, gratitude, copywork) are useful tools for documenting all manner of things – as well as providing a “canvas” for personal creativity as books to be altered (see the Creative Kick-Start.) Technology (including computers and cameras for making movies, photography, fort designs, dream house designs, blogging, creative writing) is a modern asset to creativity – but really an essential tool in contemporary society. The more opportunities


children have to use technological tools for creative endeavours, the better prepared they’ll be for their futures, I believe, since technology is only going to advance, not diminish. Even “old” technology is valuable – we can take apart and rebuild things with old blenders, mixers, electric tools – you name it, it can foster creativity. A small collection of tools (hammer, nails, scraps of wood, screwdriver, measuring tape) will inspire all kinds of ingenuity. Finally, instruments (recorders, harmonicas, drums, cymbals, maracas, piano -- and a karaoke machine for those that like to belt it out, loud and clear) are fabulous components of a creativity collection. These don’t have to be authentic – they can be homemade from pots and pans and recycled containers (encouraging even further creativity). Models: Perhaps most importantly, our children should see us modelling creativity. For example, in our household, the children observe me creating art, scrapbooking, decorating seasonally, cooking/baking, making gifts, writing/blogging, journalling (art, nature, prayer), and sewing. Dad can be seen woodworking, repurposing things (such as turning beds into benches, and windows into photo frames), cooking/ baking, designing and building furniture, constructing functional things around the house, decorating, scrapbooking, composing, directing dramas, singing, making gifts, and drawing. It’s also important to give value to displays of family art work, visiting art galleries (and participating in hands-on activities) and museums, touring community places where people use or display their creativity, including farms, gardens, apiaries, gift shops, and science centres.

Union of Work and Play: When people have the freedom to play in the process of their work, imagination can open new worlds of creativity and innovation. In the homeschooling context, that can happen during read alouds, when children may be engaged in quiet creativity, including drawing, coloring, building, and imaginative play with small figures -- as long as they can demonstrate their attentiveness by participating in discussions about the readings. Incorporating a creative component to academic assignments (such as building a model of a scene from a novel, participating in an activity enjoyed by a character in a book, making a poster, writing a story that extends from the end of a book, re-enacting a component of something studied) also allows room for original inspiration. Even developing character by requiring children to play together (i.e. if two siblings have been fighting, they might be required to play a jointly-selected game together in order to restore peace) helps to nurture a creative, problemsolving spirit, and injects some fun into an otherwise unpleasant atmosphere. Finally, we can nurture creativity within our families by engaging everyone in menu planning and preparation, as well as imaginative table settings. Cooking is a necessary creative process that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and decorating the table for even the simplest meal can bring delight and inspiration to all. ● Visit Created2BCreative.blogspot.com for more inspiration about nurturing creativity at home.

Creative Kick-Start As mentioned above, journals are a valuable tool for all manner of inspired work – recording ideas, writing stories or memories, drawing from imagination or life, sketching invention concepts, jogging memory, making lists – and the possibilities are endless. So, here’s a creative challenge for each person in your family to try: Personalize a journal to be used for whatever purpose you’d like. Materials Needed: • Blank journal (I prefer wire bound, which can flip back on itself) • PVA Glue (that’s the plain, old white stuff) • Assorted ephemera (stuff to glue on – fabric and/or paper scraps, stickers, jewels, ribbon, yarn – really anything you have on hand) • Scissors Instructions: You can figure it out – attach your decorative bits with glue in whatever way pleases you. Once it’s dry, start filling your journal with all your fabulous creativity!

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 7


Chill Out, Mom!

On Socialization...

Grace Lindeman, Ontario Homeschool Graduate 2011

“Y

ou’re homeschooled? ...Do you have any friends?” This was a question I often was asked when I explained why I didn’t go to public school. “Yes,” I would say “I have many friends.” I know one of the main arguments people pull out against homeschooling is its fabled ‘lack of socialization’. When I was a kid, I sometimes wished that socialization really was an issue! At several points during each school year, we had events happening every day of the week, and a day spent at home toiling over math problems and fumbling through piano pieces was welcome. There were always things happening, like homeschooling expos, drama clubs, conferences, unit studies, field trips to museums, marshes, the parliament buildings, etc. All of them were organized by the group of homeschoolers in our area. I am the oldest daughter from a family of nine children, all homeschooled. Even if I had no other friends (though I do have many), my siblings would have given me enough socialization. I can see how it could be hard for a mother who knows no other homeschooling families to find socialization for an only child. However, if you look, you can find many other homeschoolers around. Don’t worry -- you are not alone in the daunting, exciting, exhausting endeavour to educate your children at home. What happens when you come across a subject you have no idea how to teach? Math problems you can’t even solve yourself? Teaching an instrument you don’t know how to play? Or what happens when you find 8 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

that you could teach all of those things, but you find that you’re in over your head with lessons, correcting homework, and a lack of sleep? This is another problem I have often heard raised that discourages some moms from starting to homeschool -- or if they start, from finishing. The wonderful part about being in a homeschooling community is the diversity of the people belonging to it. You can have a physiotherapist, a nurse, a musician, an English teacher, and a self-taught mother who knows everything from gourmet cooking to business, and anything in-between, all in the same group. My siblings and I took courses in logic, biology, chemistry, math, music, gym, art and many other things, all led by local homeschooling parents. Maybe you’re worried about what happens when your kids start their high school years. Maybe you don’t have access to all of these things for kids of high school age and above, and that’s worrying you. This is where all your previous hard work comes in handy! If your child has been taught to learn on his own, teaching himself often comes easily. If you have a book telling you all about a subject, all you have to do is apply it. And, if that doesn’t work, there are always resources available online. With tools like Google bringing all that information easily to your fingertips, and a pool of resources that vast, you are bound to find the answers to any sort of problem the book fails to explain adequately. If you are part of a homeschooling group, resources and socialization are the least of your problems! ●


Literate Living

Too Explicit, Part 2

I

n our last issue, we discussed the worthiness of the books we “feed” our children. We distinguished between nourishing books and books that are not harmful if consumed in moderate quantities, but are unhealthy if they comprise the complete literary diet. It is important when making this distinction to distinguish between what skills a child is able to replicate (reading, writing) and what they are able to conceptualize and comprehend. Children have exceptionally alert minds that are fine tuned to receive and decode data from all sorts of sources. When learning to talk, children are doing more than learning to communicate needs; they are decoding the social behaviours of the group they have been born into, from how to express love to what is considered silly or rude. Their moral centre is alive and well and being fed information from everything around them. “Is this

Emma Jones, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2010

ok?” “What happens if I do this?” “Have the rules changed?” “How does this make me feel?” All of these concepts (and many more) are at the very core of what it is to be human, and good quality literature, at its core, is about the business of exploring and unraveling these concepts and experiences. There is plenty of “written for purpose” literature that aims to didactically explore these concepts, but it lacks something significant which makes it, in my opinion, less than successful. It lacks artistry. Working with language in an effective manner takes skill and a desire to communicate a story to a reader. This simple formula is at the heart of every great work of literature, each of which enriches us, challenges us, and teaches us, whilst simultaneously whisking us along with characters that burst with life, stories that fascinate us, and language that fills our minds with (Continued on Page 36...)

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 9


Lynn Long, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2002

T

hrough my years of homeschooling, I have grown to appreciate learning activities that can do double duty. With a little creativity, you can design a geography lesson that incorporates elements of art, a writing assignment based on the current science unit, or a cooking project that also teaches math and nutrition. These kinds of learning experiences save not only time but also often serve to liven up the subjects that my kids enjoy least. Similarly, once you begin to design learning games, you will realize that they can often do double duty, too. With a little creativity, you can design a game like Square Dance Spelling, which is just as much fun to put together as it is to play. You not only end up with a fun learning game to liven up your spelling lesson, you also get to share a time of creativity and laughter with your kids in the process. Other games, like Math Review Treasure Hunt, can provide older children with the opportunity to create an enjoyable learning experience for their siblings while anticipating a shared treasure at the end. Both of these games require much more elaborate preparation than the learning games I have typically used in my homeschool, but because this preparation can involve the whole family and lead to a time of shared fun, they are worth the effort.

Learning Games

On the day that we put together Square Dance Spelling, I gathered up all our old fabric paints and glitter glue along with a large remnant of denim from a sewing project. My kids watched in anticipation as I mixed partial containers of sparkle paint and wondered what we were going to do. I pencilled all the consonants around the perimeter of the fabric, drew a large dot in the centre, and pencilled in the vowels around this dot. Then, I gave each child a squeeze bottle of paint to use in tracing the letters. It is best to put down a large plastic drop cloth before tackling this project, and very young children will need adult assistance. Completion of the mat 10 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

took quite some time since we began by filling in the centre dot and tracing only the inner letters. While these dried, we went off to do our lessons for the day, but anticipation of this wonderful, sparkly game was in the back of our minds, and this motivated everyone to get their bookwork done quickly. Later, we filled in the outer letters with the remaining paint. The kids were enthralled with watching the paint dry since the sparkles became more glittery over time. This project was interspersed with our schoolwork throughout one day but had to dry overnight. After all that preparation, the kids were aching to know what kind of game we had made because, of course, I had refused to let them in on this secret. The next day, they zipped through their lessons so that they could finally play the long awaited, glittery game. When I explained that this game would involve music and dancing, their excitement grew even greater, so when I finally revealed that this game also involved


Square Dance Spelling Number of Players: One or More Materials: 3’x3’ fabric square, fabric paint in colours that will contrast with the fabric Preparation: - Paint a brightly coloured dot in the center of the fabric. - Paint the six vowels around the red dot. Make the letters about 3” high. - Paint the consonants around the outside edge of the fabric square. How to Play: - Turn on some lively music. - You call out a spelling word. - Player #1 spells the word. As they spell the word, they place each foot in turn on the letters of the word. - The dot can be used when an extra step is needed to move from one letter to another. - If the word is spelled incorrectly, you correct them and they try again. - Repeat this process for each player and then return to Player #1 with a second spelling word. - Continue until all spelling words are done. - This game is not competitive, just fun. (Note: To prevent slipping, it is best to use this on a carpeted surface or add non-slip rubber to the bottom of the mat.) Adaptations: This could be used for students who are learning their letters or letter sounds as well.

spelling, a hated subject in our house, they really didn’t care as long as they got their turn dancing on the glittery mat. With the music playing, we danced out our spelling words while giggling and snickering at each other’s antics. By the time everyone had taken a turn, we were laughing uncontrollably. How much better does homeschooling get than this? Amidst the business of homeschooling this month, take a little extra time to get creative and see how it livens up your school day. ●

Creativity is, inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. ~ Mary Lou Cook

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 11


Teachable Moments

Stephanie Jackson, Nova Scotia Homeschooling Since 1998

A

ny mum who has homeschooled multiple subjects for multiple ages knows what an overwhelming task it can be. Trying to meet the needs of any diverse group requires a lot of planning and often a lot of organizing too. Having a houseful of little ones or an assortment of children aged all over the grade spectrum, I’ve yet to meet a homeschool mum who would say that she has ‘time on her hands’. This fact makes organization essential. There are many different ways of organizing a homeschool program, but something that we have always found to work for our family is subject grouping. Subject grouping is something I tend to use for sciences and social studies in particular. All of the children work together on the assigned subject. The difference is that they are all working at their own level with age appropriate assignments. A few years ago, we were studying medieval kings and queens. We were using the KONOS Character in a Box, Obedience program. KONOS is great for providing a lot of alternatives for every activity. One of the projects was to host a medieval feast. In order to make that happen ‘authentically’, we needed costumes. Everyone had to research the costume of their character and then we went through the house and collected the supplies to create the costumes. Two of our older children engineered the drawbridge that extended from our front door. The castle wall, that was the entrance to the great banquet hall, was decorated

12 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

and sported a table laden with culinary delights. All of the children created family crests that represented what they believed to be important testimonies and characteristics for their kingdoms. One child learned a poem for recitation. Another child learned a Latin table blessing. Yet another child played a musical piece. Two children (the little ones) sang a song. The children contributed to the preparation of the various parts of the meal. We had jellies, cheeses, pasta and a scrumptious boar’s head (fashioned out of ground pork, complete with an apple in its mouth) - all served on bread trenchers (Italian Bread from Sobeys). To wash down our succulent feast, we shared a tankard of ale... ginger ale that is. The older ones created a family tree of the English monarchy while the younger ones played king of the castle. To make it come alive, we also charted our own family tree. We recorded the memories with many photographs. Our children still remember details that I am certain would not have stuck had we simply read the information from a book. The key to the success of this family study was that individuals worked on separate aspects of a single subject. The year before we did the medieval feast, we used the Prairie Primer for our social studies. This program is based on the Little House on the Prairie series. One of the best activities in this study was focused on recreation. During the fall slaughter, the children all eagerly anticipated the fun of the day, while the grown-ups did all of the hard work. Pa Ingalls treated


the children by providing the pig’s bladder as an inflatable ball. Guess what we did? Off we went to Sobeys and we got a pig’s bladder. Once dried and tied, it was supposed to make a fantastic ball. (Just a note: Organs not dried properly actually become quite gross and smelly and make wonderful science projects – especially if you have a good microscope so you can see why they have such an awful stink! Remember to use hot soapy water if this happens to you and make sure you get your hands really clean!) Two years ago, we were studying Canadian history and geography. I got a copy of the CBC series, Canada: A People’s History. Together, we all watched the videos (it worked out to be about an hour a day, four days a week for the school year). The little ones were excused to do some map work during a couple of the more intense episodes. The older ones were able to write essays at their grade levels. Middle children produced lap books and the oldest one rewrote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in modern vernacular in order to demonstrate his understanding of the contents. Playing RISK and collecting shoe boxes that we filled with bits and pieces from every Province and Territory aided in understanding the geography of our country, and the places Canadians have gone to help others maintain the rights of humanity and freedom. Simple book reports to detailed literary analysis projects covered the scope of Canadian authors on our list.

machines. This young man was in grade twelve and getting ready to go into engineering. The simplicity of the material was not a challenge to him, but the skill involved in breaking the components of a machine into their finest parts so that a young child could understand was a very helpful exercise in problem solving. Probably the biggest rewards of working together as a family for these subjects have been the bonds and the memories that have been fostered and nourished. Our children will be able to look back on the special times we spent together HAVING FUN LEARNING. With a ten year spread, the time together has also been an opportunity for our little ones to really get to know their older siblings before they go away to university or whatever is next after their homeschool journey with us. ●

This year, we delved into Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament by Veritas Press. Again, we made costumes, staged battles, wrote reports, sang songs, created maps, traced the travels of the Israelites through the wilderness, built pyramids, excavated Egyptian ruins and even built Solomon’s Temple to scale. Everyone was able to work on a different part of the whole and when we put it all together, we had a marvelous adventure story to excite us and inspire us to study more next year. Science has worked much the same way. Projects on the kitchen table, extra fire extinguishers, dissection kits, and science fairs all find their way into our week. One day in the fall, one of our kitties brought home a dead squirrel. There was no way to save it so one of our sons donned the gloves, got out the kit, and dissected the squirrel. Untreated, no-formaldehyde cadavers contain a great deal more material (“gucky” inside stuff) than the pretreated kind we ordered on line. Our son also stretched the pelt and went through the process to dry it. Sadly, another creature made off with our pelt... we often wondered if it was one of the squirrels in the woods behind the house. They certainly were vocal during the surgical procedure! Having older ones spend a bit of time each week helping a younger sibling with science is a fantastic opportunity. Our older son spent one hour a week for the year teaching his two littlest sisters about simple

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 13


Dad’s Eye-View

Dean Stairs, Newfoundland Homeschooling Since 1993

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y trusty computer dictionary defines creativity as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.” I would expand that definition to include more than artistic work. Creativity is a guiding principle that we should use as we approach all facets of our life. It allows us to find new solutions to old problems. Creativity is not a denial of reality, but rather an application of real tools, real principles, in different ways to achieve new results. For example, the law of gravity cannot be denied or circumvented, however, in ages past, a creative and experimental mind developed the principle of the simple lever and a pivot point. From these humble principles there developed multitudes of simple tools -- everything from the wheelbarrow to balance scales. Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world.” The creative mind finds application in all facets of our life and permeates all aspects of our civilization. So how are we to encourage creative thinking within our children and ourselves? We need tools. The basic fundamental building blocks of academia are what is required for truly aweinspiring creative thought. We must understand how something works, or doesn’t, before we can apply new methods to the solution. Mathematics is crucial to creative thought -- not because we must all be able to manipulate vectoring algorithms “on the fly”, but because mathematics teaches us logical thought, and objective truth. One plus one is two, every time, without question, provable beyond a shadow of a doubt. I recall my grade 8 Euclidean geometry class. My teacher was a Jesuit Priest, a missionary to Brazil. I loved learning how to solve problems that required a systematic, logical, verifiable, train of thought - postulates building on prior postulates to make the final proof. It was heady stuff at my age - to clearly see there were irrevocable truths in the natural world - it was heaven on earth. In our house, we teach math, not because all my children 14 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

will necessarily use calculus and/or trigonometry in their day-to-day affairs, rather so that they learn to develop their thinking in a systematic way. However, the creative mind must also be able to articulate thoughts. The creative individual must somehow be able to get his or her point across. It’s no good to have creativity if it cannot be communicated. So my children read. They read the masters, so that they learn from the best. They also write. And here is the beginning of the outward flow of this process to teach creativity. We make no recommendation about the subject matter. We correct only for grammar and spelling. They write about whatever they choose to write about. They must “create” a new essay daily. Creativity involves experimentation. Experimentation often results in mistakes. Here, I think, is the real difficulty in raising a creative thinker. We don’t want our child to make mistakes, certainly not in public. Moreover, we don’t want our child to be “the only one”. Yet creativity and uniqueness walk hand in hand. I work in the business of music. In my position as studio owner and music producer, I am in close contact with creative people on a daily basis. I am here to tell you that the creative process is a messy one. It’s largely a process of eliminating mistakes. As we say in Newfoundland, “It’s maggoty with ‘em”. There is a saying amongst jazz musicians: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” Over time, the creative mind learns to limit the negative effects of experimentation. Usually, by the process of trial and error, one learns what works and what doesn’t, diminishing opportunities to make the same mistake twice. The uniqueness factor is one of the elements of being first. Creativity, by definition, involves individualism, and the result is often being “one in a field of many.” Let me console you with this quote from Bertrand


Russell: “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” The highest form of creative thinking usually involves some form of bridging disciplines. The truly creative thinker applies the lessons learned in one area of life to the problems of another area of life. The creative mind does not have rigid barriers between various “schools” of thought. Math is not confined to the textbook. Science is not confined to the laboratory. Art is not merely about the what we see and hear. The creative mind is a mind of synthesis - it is a mind of combination. When we are teaching our children, we should not be afraid to stray from the math lesson, for example, if it sparks discussion that leads to another field of thought - these are valuable times that should be savoured. As already mentioned, developing the creative mind requires a willingness to accept mistakes. We must also provide our children with the freedom to discover solutions. If we always directly answer the “why” questions, it will be difficult for the child to learn that they can find the answers for themselves. Early in the education path, we must give them the tools with which to pursue the answers. However, over time, they must be given the ability to discover their own answers and the freedom to experiment with new options.

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. ~ Edwin Land

As in all things, wisdom should prevail as we pursue creative thought. I am not advocating a socially irresponsible lifestyle, or an experiment with dangerous liaisons. Nobody has to put their hand in the fire to realize that they might be burned by the action. Truth is irrefutable, both truth in the natural world and truth in the spiritual world. I am advocating that we teach our children the truth as we understand it, give them a lever and a pivot point, and watch them move their world. ●

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 15


Singular Sensation

Aubyn Baker, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2007

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omeschooling is a journey, one step at a time, both for the child and for the parent.I say this as someone who had no intention of homeschooling. We did not KNOW we were going to homeschool. We didn’t plan for it. But we leapt into it with BOTH FEET and hoped we would land feet first. Along the way, we have managed to learn with each other, and from each other. We learned that we are not alone, as we originally thought we were -- that there are many people taking this journey along side us: in our city, in our province, and even in our country. It takes a while to get there and realize that we do not always have to reinvent the wheel. It takes some creativity to produce the outcomes we want, and our child wants, from homeschooling. I would have told you four years ago that I was NOT a creative person. I am not an artist, a musician, a singer, or a dancer. But I can find likeminded people, courses for Peanut to take, places for us to visit, and people to support us very well, if I do say so myself. I think OUTSIDE the box about educating my daughter. When we started on this journey, I knew very little. Really, I knew nothing about homeschooling. I assumed that homeschoolers sat at a table during traditional school hours and did worksheets. Well guess what! Some do, some don’t. We don’t. I thought we would be HOME all the time. So did/do others. We aren’t. In fact, we are often out of the house too much. I have to be careful not to overschedule us. I thought inside the box for that first year, possibly even the second, but by last year, our third year of homeschooling, I was getting the hang of this creative learning and eclectic homeschooling, even unschooling to a certain extent. Peanut has done horseback riding, gymnastics, and swimming lessons during weekdays with other

16 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

homeschooling kids. We have participated in two co-ops at different times. She has taken structured classes with a group of homeschoolers, covering science and history, taught by an awesome teacher who used to work in the public school system, but chooses to teach homeschoolers now. She takes a creative writing class online with a local teacher who, again, used to work in the school system. It is hard to believe that last year she was not keen on doing the class, but now she is an avid writer and chooses to do her creative writing first, before other work, all the time. And if I do say so myself, she is gifted, truly gifted. Pretty good for a kid the school system said couldn’t write. We have come together with other parents and homeschooling kids for field trips, some that I organize because either Peanut or I am interested. I am involved in many homeschooling groups, lists, and internet sites to get information about homeschooling-related activities. I sign up for information from many different government sites (i.e. VeteransAffairs, Statistics Canada), and get class kits with lesson plans, workbooks, posters, and bookmarks. I spend a lot of time and energy finding new things, new ways to present information, and new ways to engage Peanut in learning. We have gone on family trips off-season now many times, and have utilized our skills as map-readers, as navigators, and as researchers to find each particular place within Canada and within North America. She is learning about different places by spending time in them and meeting people. What a gift, to travel when tourists are not swarming the attractions, when she can ask questions! As our experiences of homeschooling have grown, so has the ability to let go and have faith that she is getting the learning she needs, even when times are tough and there are bumps or roadblocks along the journey. There has been a priceless resource in our lives


since we began this journey of homeschooling: Peanut’s paternal grandfather. From day one when we announced we were homeschooling, he has been one of our greatest supporters. I was surprised at first that he was so supportive, but it meant that he could spend more time with Peanut at the farm. She loved going to the farm and spending time there with Grandpa, taking care of the animals, tending to the fences, collecting maple syrup, and just spending time with Grandpa. We grew vegetables from seeds out at the farm one year, planted them ourselves and tended them ourselves, harvesting them as well. What an amazing and unusual experience for a CITY GIRL to have. We spent time there during maple syrup season, helping with the entire process; watching, learning, and sharing our experiences with other homeschoolers. One June she spent an entire week with Grandpa helping to build (after she had helped to plan for and purchase the materials for) a tree house for her to use. From start to finish, it was her and Grandpa’s project, and they did it together without me around. There are many other projects they did together, but unfortunately they are all in the past. Last November, 2009, we were informed that Peanut’s grandpa was dying. He was told he had three to six months to live. Our lives went on hold. We pulled up stakes and were there every weekend. Peanut was there for two or three weeks before Christmas and then things got rougher. We talked about what was going on openly and honestly with her, and talked about what Grandpa needed us to do to help out. We were a part of his life in a meaningful way from diagnosis through to his death on February 11, 2010. Lessons, formal and otherwise, took a back

seat for us. Living and dying were our life lessons that term and he was grateful we were there, and part of the whole process. What gifts -- of our time, our love, and our memories -- gifts that blessed each of us, not just him. This experience gave us ALL a newfound belief that homeschooling was the right path for us. Death and dying is a part of life, as hard as it is, and we would not have been able to have that experience with Peanut in the school system. I will never forget the conversation I had in the wee morning hours one day when I was taking my turn Grandpa-sitting. He asked me, “What are your intentions for schooling for my granddaughter”? I loved the way he phrased that. I told him we would continue to homeschool as long as it worked for us all and she received the learning opportunities she needed. I thanked him that morning for his support in homeschooling and reminded him how important it was to all of us, but mostly to Peanut. I am grateful to my spouse and my daughter both, but most recently my father-in-law for giving me the strength and support to continue on this journey of homeschooling. It is a tough journey sometimes, but the rewards are endless. Our daughter is a self-confident teen, true to herself, sure of who loves her and what she is worth. She is creative, a deep thinker, and compassionate. She has learned that real learning does not come from sitting at a desk looking at 25 other children her age that are forced to be there at the same time. She looks outside the box and sees that there are many ways to learn, many people to learn from. She knows that sometimes LIFE takes over and we all need to allow that to happen and be creative about it. What a gift of creative thinking homeschooling can be! ●

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. ~ Steve Jobs November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 17


The Charlotte Mason Homeschool “The Problem with Blobs”

Anne White, Ontario Homeschooling Since 1996

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n all of Charlotte Mason’s six books on education, she never used the word “creativity.”“Artistic perception,” yes. “Poetic insight,” yes. Encouragement in literature, in art appreciation, in music, in writing verse, yes. Children in CM schools are described as not only reading Shakespeare’s plays together, but also staging them, producing costumes and scenery, and acting them out once a year. The Parents’ Review (the monthly magazine edited by Charlotte Mason) ran a series of art instruction columns around the turn of the last century, where students were encouraged to send in their completed assignments, but there is no mention of “creativity.” Why didn’t Charlotte Mason seem to have much to say about this favourite educational concept? What do we really mean by “creativity” in education? Is it one of those words like “socialization” that seems to mean less the more we use it? To answer the first question, “creativity” doesn’t seem to have become a commonly used term, at least in psychology and education, until the late 1920’s, soon after Charlotte Mason’s death. We are so used to educators extolling the virtues of creativity and imagination, that it’s hard to remember a time when too much “imagination” might get you kicked out of the classroom. Is it just a question of semantics, or did people view what we now call “creativity” differently a hundred years ago? Actually, Charlotte Mason was ahead of her time when it came to including subjects like art appreciation

18 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

and literature. Think of any typical children’s book describing lessons in a one-room schoolhouse; frills like art were uncommon. In Eleanor Estes’ The Moffats, set during World War I, the children in a small-town school have occasional visits from a drawing teacher. “It is true that sometimes the children grew tired of drawing leaves, pumpkins, and apples. However, Miss Partridge never thought of letting them draw anything else.” Charlotte Mason was also far ahead of many other educators of her own time, and perhaps ours also, with her insistence on “feeling for the natural object which is the very soul of the art.” She disapproved of teaching children to paint with “blobs,” which were similar to thumbprint art. Make a red thumbprint; draw spots, eyes and legs, and you have a ladybug. Cute, but does this really help children to see a ladybug, to draw a ladybug, or to appreciate an artist’s rendering of a ladybug? Should we encourage children to draw imaginary flowers with multiple petals sticking out like daisies? Or should we teach them to see the difference between a forget-me-not, with its five petals and white star surrounding a yellow centre that looks like embroidery, and a violet, which also has five petals, lacks the fancy centre, but has the fascinating characteristic of one petal pointing downwards? Do we save all that for science class, or take it as an example of the beauty and fine detail in Creation? Children taught to look carefully at natural objects, including animals, and to draw what they really see, will be less likely to settle for “blobs.” Please note


that this is not the same as insisting, to quote Harry Chapin, that “flowers are red, young man, green leaves are green.” Many paintings of red flowers and green leaves are a fascinating variety of colours; and yes, there are legitimate forms of art that are nonrepresentational. But that’s not the same thing as dumbing down a child’s artistic experience. Another example mentioned in Charlotte Mason’s first book is the way that young children first experience clay modeling. Do they make “neat little birds-nests, baskets of eggs, etc.,” because rolling tiny balls is such an obvious first thing to do? Or do we give them something real to learn from—she suggests “an apple, banana, or Brazil nut”—and show them how to build up their clay sculpture rather than just squeezing it out? Charlotte Mason also warned that “blob” training might give children too much confidence in their own abilities. By learning a few tricks, a child could “produce effects beyond his legitimate power as

an artist.” In our age of self-esteem, this limit on over-confidence is almost unheard of, but it deserves consideration. Is it truly “creative” to use computer software to produce musical or artistic effects beyond most children’s natural skills? Should children who have barely learned to read be expected to write “blob” poems, usually according to some favourite classroom formula such as the haiku, and then be praised as wonderful poets? In CM thinking, it is better to give children many opportunities to hear poetry, copy poetry, memorize poetry, and sing poetry (through folk songs and other music) before expecting them to write their own. If they have been exposed to a variety of artists and writers, Charlotte Mason argues, they will not produce poor imitations of just one style, but will begin to use their own powers of perception and observation, their sense of beauty and proportion, and to combine those with increasing technical skill in the various artistic areas. ●

Neither intelligence nor judgement are creative. If a sculptor is nothing but science and intelligence, his hands will have no talent. ~Antoine de St. Exupery November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 19


Ten-Day Toonie Challenge

Jorie Soames, British Columbia Homeschooling Since 1988

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or ten days, pots and frying pans wielded by enthusiastic children covered the stove and filled the sink. Counters and shelves boasted small bags of grains and personal piles of potatoes, stashes of bannock and other tasty morsels. Grocery lists, menus, receipts and recipes littered the school table, waiting to be recorded into journal/blogs. It was the result of an eating challenge concocted by my teenage boys to buy food on two dollars per day. The idea emerged from lunch table discussions about people, in other countries and in our city, managing to live on very little. Having access to a few simple foods each day, many people around the world live much more cheaply, and often with more contentment than we do in Canada. Contrasting this with our varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, sweets and packaged foods, my boys became intrigued with the idea of spending less on eating. This spring, my fifteen year old launched a Ten Day Toonie Challenge, joined by four friends, two siblings (12 and 9), and his mom. His aim was to host the project in order to raise awareness of our privileged lifestyle, and to explore the project’s potential as a fund raiser for the local food bank. The four participants at our house started by creating individual menus, estimating how many servings of various foods were required to get through ten days of eating. We opted to shop twice, once the night before and once during the challenge. Armed with menus, lists and $20.00 for each person, we headed to the grocery store, where we learned to weigh small bags of bulk food and put vegetables on the scale to calculate the cost. Keeping careful track was a must. Taking ownership of keeping their stomachs full, as well as paying attention to healthy eating, my kids surprised me with their determination and ingenuity. Oatmeal sprinkled with sugar was a popular choice on the first morning and remained a breakfast staple throughout the ten days. Later in the week, millet, pancakes with homemade syrup, eggs, and toast made their breakfast debuts. Lunch and dinner were combinations of rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pinto beans, corn tortillas, carrots, dandelion greens, soup, and bread. Memorable snacks bragged hot bannock smothered in margarine, salted peanuts, freshly squeezed lemonade, potato skin chips, and brownies. Things got tough around day three, when we realized it was a long commitment. What I thought was a holiday from culinary duty, turned into time helping kids learn 20 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

to cook and clean up their messes. By day five, we developed a good routine and creative cooking began to blossom. On day seven, we attended a sandwich and cake luncheon at the church, which lifted our spirits in more ways than one. Throughout the project, my son kept in touch with other participants, entertaining us with their food stories. Unfolding in our kitchen was a mesmerizing food dance, choreographed by cravings, costumed by colourful foods, and danced to the sound of camaraderie, bartering, and laughter. Even though we shopped and cooked separately, trading and bartering became an important part of our existence. Brownies were made from an add water brownie mix, and sold in advance for the eggs needed to make them. An additional thirty cents was solicited by selling a slice of brownie to the last person with actual money left, then used to buy corn flour to make tortillas. The bartering gave us a better understanding of Esau selling his birth right to Jacob for a bowl of soup. The tortillas were so delicious and plentiful- the cook passed out free samples around the room. I was struck by the way my kids shared knowledge about cooking, menu ideas, and food. And so the dance of community played out in our kitchen. The challenge offered many learning opportunities, such as: cooking, menu planning, budgeting, journal keeping, as well as community and global awareness. We came away from the experience knowing ways to survive on less, which produced confidence in my kids’ outlook on earning a living some day. My son recorded the experience and received credit towards his Planning 10 course. Other participants reported similar life lessons learned from their experience, making the Ten Day Toonie Challenge successful, rewarding, and fun. On the last day, there were pots and frying pans all over the stove and in the sink, as we cooked and feasted and cooked and feasted some more until our stomachs should have popped. Still, there was a mountain of food left over – a mountain so big, it covered the kitchen table. We learned Jesus was serious when he said “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12: 29, 31). We became satisfied with less, but at the same time, we were amazed at the abundance. ●


Our Leftovers

Tips On Starting Your Own 10 Day Challenge: > Pick dates well in advance. This allows friends or the local youth group to join you. > Talk about guidelines for the challenge and map them out on paper. You can also cater to individual abilities within the group. (Someone was hesitant to try at first, so my son suggested a $3.00 challenge for them.) > If you decide to raise money, pick a charity or cause in advance. > Advise participants to set aside two weeks for the project. Four days for planning and seeking sponsorship, ten days for the challenge. > Seek sponsorship from stores and organizations. Parents may be willing to donate what they would have spent on their childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s food bill. > Be aware that preparing food from scratch can be time consuming. > Because you learn as you go, plan to shop three or four times. > Plan a field trip to eat and/or volunteer at a soup kitchen in your area during the challenge. Tour the local food bank. > Keep a blog and hand it in for school credit, or publish it. > Plan a potluck feast of nonchallenge foods when the project is over.

Possible Guidelines: > Spend $2.00/day, per person, on food for 10 days. > Shop for food needed, rather than prorating supplies from home. (This teaches that buying power and storage is a blessing. It also provides opportunity for shopping skills.) > Eat healthy meals. > Salt and pepper can be free. > Free public food is encouraged (but not eating at friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s houses). > Food crafting from wild sources, such as Dandelion greens, Nettle tea, Burdock root, wild berries or asparagus is allowed, but not eating from home gardens.

Our Most Treasured Purchases? Margarine, Sugar, Hot sauce, Burrito Spices, Bananas, Apples, and Lemons!

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 21


Fibre Fun Kimberly Charron, Nova Scotia Homeschooling Since 2005

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and-crafting is a big part of our homeschool. We take particular joy in the fibre arts. Every Friday afternoon we can be found at the local library for Fibre Friday, surrounded by people hand-spinning, knitting, crocheting, sewing, and probably some fibre arts you’ve never even seen or heard of before. Fibre arts are anything that includes using natural or synthetic fibres, textiles, fabric, or yarn.

kind of yarn, from acrylic to wool, to cotton or even fancy sparkly yarns or raffia. Just make sure that your yarn isn’t super chunky are you’ll have trouble pulling it through the spool.

In addition to being a tactile and kinesthetic activity that children love, making fibre arts is a connection with a long, historical tradition. You can complement your study of history with the study of fibre arts. Corking is a terrific first introduction to the world of fibre arts for children, as it is so easy it can be done by very young children, probably as young as 3. Corking is known by many names: knitting spool, knitting knobby, knitting nancy, french knitter, or spool knitter. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a fun and useful fibre craft for children and adults alike. Corking with my children makes me a little nostalgic, as it’s something I used to do when I was a child myself.

Bookmarks (we like putting googly eyes and a long “tail” on ours to make them “bookworms”) Jewelery: bracelets, anklets, rings Belts Hats Straps Rugs, mats, or quilts Coasters Doll or Barbie clothes or rugs/mats for the dollhouse

First you’ll need a corking tool. You can find one at your local arts and crafts store. A fantastic website which has pictures of a variety of corking tools, including how-to instructions on using a corker is Waynes This and That http://www. waynesthisandthat.com/knittingnancys.html.

You may want to explore how corking began in your homeschool. It all started with a two-pronged tool made out of wood, known as the lucet. The lucet has been making cords for over a thousand years, since the time of the Vikings. Doublet and hose were tied and laced with lucet cord in the Elizabethan period. In the Victorian era, they liked to make cords out of silk. The Victorians also had fancy lucets made out of carved ivory, mother of pearl, or tortoiseshell.

Of course, you can also make your own corker. This can be as easy as tapping 4 or more nails into the top of an empty wooden thread spool (available at craft stores if you don’t have one around the house). The Pella Historical Village website http://www. pellatuliptime.com/historical-village/history/lessonplans-2/life-in-a-straw-house-log-cabin/spoolknitting/ has a brief description on how to make a corker yourself, as well as step-by-step pictures to show how to do corking, and projects you can make including a snake and a crazy quilt. What kinds of yarns can you use? You can use any 22 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

What can you make with your finished creations? It’s only limited by your imagination, but here are some ideas…

There are books available on corking which you can likely find at your local library. You can also do a search on corking in a search engine and see all the terrific resources that pop up.

There is a terrific series of step-by-step photos depicting how to use a lucet at a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) website here: http:// kws.atlantia.sca.org/photos/lucet/ Lucets are still available for purchase on various websites. If you’re studying one of the periods of history which used the lucet, you could experiment with one. Perhaps you would like to get into period dress and pretend you live in “the old days”. ●


What do I do with Baby? Katrina Miller, Nova Scotia Homeschooling Since 2008

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omeschooling with an infant or a toddler in the house can be a challenge. There may be days when you feel like you aren’t getting anything accomplished. You might even see that big yellow bus go down the road and wonder if maybe your kids would learn more at school. I’ve certainly been there, and I just want to let you know that you CAN do it, and I have some creative tips to help you incorporate a little one into your homeschooling day. Have your toddler get involved in whatever you are learning about. Have some big blocks that you can stack and count during math class (your child will like that you are talking to him or her in the same language as your older children). Give them some measuring cups and spoons when you are baking. Let them have a turn to stir the batter. This isn’t about teaching the little one, but making them feel like they are part of the group, too. Let them splash in water or pour rice from one cup to another in science class (keep a baggy of rice just for them if you don’t want to be wasteful). Have a basket of special toys/activities for your toddler that only come out at school time. Some good choices are wooden puzzles, colouring books and crayons, puppets, stacking cups, and even things like scarves can provide a lot of fun for little ones. Generally, you’ll want to keep these quiet activities, but gear things towards what will catch your little one’s attention without requiring too much input on your part. Get the older kids moving. Teach them to spell by tossing a beanbag back and forth as you spell out the words. You can do the same for multiplication and count by 5’s, 10’s, 7’s (or whatever). The little one will enjoy watching and like having his turn at playing ball with Mama, too. Other ideas are reciting poetry while marching around the house or having them re-enact something that they’ve read about in history or one of their books. Have an older sibling teach a younger sibling. My son loves to teach my daughter math. While I still have to cover some material, my daughter is learning well and my son is learning the valuable lesson of patience, as he has to pace what he is teaching her to her abilities at any given time. You never know, your children might like to play (home) school, too!

Dance. Carry your baby/toddler on your back in a carrier and dance/sway while you are teaching/ correcting lessons. Yes, like singing, your older children may think you are crazy, but this is about keeping the baby calm so that you can get schoolwork done. By far, most of my after school preparation for the next day has been done with a little one on my back. He is generally content and I’m able to go about gathering materials for the older kids. Babies love motion and it is good exercise, too! Schedule read aloud time around your toddlers snack time. He’ll be too busy eating to be fussy over not getting attention while you read. This has been the trickiest time in our homeschool as we love reading together and it was the main focus of our homeschool in previous years. However, my little one does not like me giving attention to books instead of him (or rather HE wants the books, which makes it VERY hard for me to read). Scheduling him to be busy eating has been a huge help. As always, leave the trickiest/most time consuming subjects for a time when the baby is sleeping. Don’t even try to get involved in a hard to set up science experiment if the baby is awake. You are setting yourself up for disappointment. Just wait. Everyone will be happier because of it. If things aren’t going well, STOP, take a breather and don’t worry about it. The baby will only be little for a short while. Your children are still learning all kinds of things at home. Learning to adjust to a new baby or a toddler’s busy schedule is still learning, and your children are developing new skills as they take care of, nurture, and watch you with their younger sibling. Public school often moves slower than you might think, so your children will not fall behind if you do have to move slower than you might usually. If you are concerned, you may consider extending the school year into the summer if you don’t already homeschool year round. However, know that no matter how you work it, homeschooling with a little one CAN be done and you’ll be able to come up with little tricks as you go along that help things move along in your family. Enjoy the time as much as you can. As you know, they are only little for so long. ● November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 23


Outside the Box

Maxine McLellan, Ontario Homeschooled her children from 1985 throught 2005

C-H-A-N-G-E

– a string of letters which, when put together into a single syllable word, signal something or someone becoming different, the putting of one thing in place of another, substituting one state to another state, putting fresh clothes or coverings on, and even a complete realignment of life and routine. Change a word many people dread, while others look to the challenge or possible excitement of what is about to happen. And, then again, how you receive change will depend on who you are at the time and just what the change will mean. Change can be scary, exciting, depressing, exhilarating, bewildering, enlightening, terrifying, calming, intimidating, and reassuring. God, it appears, enjoyed the concept of change, so much so that He created no two things in the world that are completely and totally identical. I believe God knew that “change” would be a difficult concept for humans to always readily accept and so He built change into our world to reassure us continuously that no matter what the change we face, God is still in final control. We can expect life changes at any time. People with physical or mental challenges often face changes and challenges almost daily. Change can give a nudge towards using creativity as you seek to figure out new approaches, new ways to cope, and to see how others have conquered and/or adapted to challenges and change. How we face change and challenges depends entirely on attitude - that of victor or victim! Perhaps you are just beginning your home school journey with a child who has special needs. It can all be challenging and 24 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

scary. New beginnings can be a catalyst for growth, development, and preparation for a new phase in life. I have personally found that when I face changes with God by my side and in my plans, I come out on the other side - spring, summer, autumn or winter stronger and a better person. Challenge and change are often the mother of creativity. An older woman I know has ALS. Having lived well beyond the “expected” life span of a person with this deathly disease, she and her husband have chosen to ignore the label and to creatively rise to the challenges. Her husband has created special gizmos to help her move around, to eat, to sit comfortably, for personal hygiene and so on. Sometimes her voice sounds like a squeaky chipmunk so we all laugh together with her. They have chosen not to acquiesce but to be victors and they employ creativity almost daily, looking for ways to make things work. Most inventions came about from a need. Have your child study the lives of inventors and entrepreneurs to see what they created. Consider what might be aggravating to do around the house. Brainstorm some ways to streamline the task or to make it easier. Examine a simple item, such as a table knife and brainstorm all the possible uses for a knife: spread butter, screwdriver, spreader, prying, opening, cutting, sharpening, to hold a window up, poker, chisel . . . Have a family night where you figure out how to make a bridge out of newspaper and tape to span a distance between two tables. Train your children to look beyond the obvious to even the ridiculous as they look for creative uses for something as part of solutions. Go to a mall to watch people, observing what they are using to make their shopping experience more (Continued on Page 37...)


A Homemade Christmas Lindsay Durant, Nova Scotia Homeschooling since 1999

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he irony was just too much for us not to notice. The children and I had just gone through their toys to pare them down…so I could buy them more for Christmas? Yes, once again, at the beginning of December, I piled all of our toys on our dining room table and had the children choose their two favourites each. The rest were bagged up and sent to the thrift shop. “Why?”you may ask. Well, the reason is simple: we had made a commitment, years earlier, to purchase three gifts for each of the children and we had to fulfill that. The grandparents also sent money and expected that we use it to purchase more toys as well. But something dawned on us one year. With ten children, that made a grand total of adding 30-40 new toys to our household each Christmas! As we bagged up all of these perfectly good toys, to replace them with more of the same that would then be bagged up next year, we realized that something was very wrong. Why would any sane person buy more stuff when we clearly had enough, just to fulfill the commitments of a commercial holiday? We try to tell ourselves that we buy this stuff to bless our children, but then laugh about the fact that they play with the boxes for longer than they play with the toy, even if we are just a little secretly put-out about it. We didn’t fully learn that year -- only partially. The next year, we had moved across the country again and had rid ourselves of the majority of the toys before our move, so buying some toys for Christmas made sense. We made sure to purchase good quality toys that would last for many, many years. The next year, my husband and I purchased non-toy related gifts, from us, but still found ourselves walking up and down the aisles of every store that sold toys in the area trying desperately to spend the money that the grandparents sent that they wanted us to spend on toys. There was really nothing more that the children wanted other than what we already had. We ended up adding more to the sets that we already had, because we just couldn’t find anything appealing. That year we made a decision, one of the best we have ever made. We decided that the next year,

the entire cheque from the grandparents would be spent on all the extra food that the children love to bake and eat at that time of year. Each child picked a recipe or two they wanted to try that month and the grandparents paid for it. We also had our first “homemade” Christmas, where everything we gave had to be homemade. We have never looked back and in fact, our stance in this area has spring boarded to many other areas of our lives. Although we still have a lot of stuff, and always will, we have stopped replacing things and buying more things, when what we have is still good and works. I hear you asking now, what do you give for a “homemade” Christmas? Well, we asked the children what colours they wanted to change their bedrooms to, for example. Out of the three girls that share a room, one’s favourite colours are green and pink, the other’s is orange and pink, and the third’s is purple and pink. We had a funky combination there, but boy, do those four colours ever look good together. I purchased the fleece to make them each a nosew fleece blanket, with a matching pink side and the other side with their favourite colour. Instead of making the blanket for them, I wrapped up the fabric and sat down with each of them to make the blankets with them. It was a lot of fun! The boys got the same thing, with their favourite colours, and enjoyed making the blankets just as much as the girls. It is quite easy, all you do is cut and tie, and a child who can tie a knot is old enough to help. We did buy them each their own mug for their morning tea. They were not homemade, but we purchased them at the dollar store. WOW, this was easy, two presents down and less than $20 per child spent -and nothing needed to go to the thrift shop so we could buy more! The third presents were individually geared to each child, but homemade, or the materials to make something with their own hands and my guidance. We spent more time that day doing fun family things other than cleaning up packaging and putting together toys, and then packing some up the next day and exchanging them because they were broken already! (Continued on Page 35...)

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 25


Learning, Personality, and Creativity Cathilyn Dyck, Manitoba Homeschooling Since 2001

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ur four children, now at an age range of middle school to late junior high, are all creative in their own ways. Because we use a highly relaxed method of homeschooling, our idea of creativity blends into all areas of learning. For us, creativity is an environmental mindset rather than a subject-oriented one. For each child, we try to stand back when their creative learning would be impaired by our intervention, and give guidance when they need new ideas or a demonstration of how to be more constructive in their adventures. The Physical Learner Supper was just about to go on the table when my nine-year-old came to find me. “Mom, I want you to see what I made. But I can’t bring it here, or else it’ll fall apart on me.” Dutifully, I marched downstairs behind the young bundle of intrepidness. My antique desk chair had been pushed to the middle of the room. Upon it was a jumble of foam letters and numbers and the squares into which they fit—a set of ‘stealth-learning’ aids we’ve had since the toddler years. The stack was thoughtfully arranged into an abstract sculpture of dazzling complexity. Dazzling complexity, I tell you. It only took me a quick glance to see that he’d been conducting an experiment in engineering three-dimensional forms and their geometric interrelationships. (That’s grownup talk for figuring out how to balance a ‘9’ in a ‘Z’ shaped hole without it falling over or weakening the structure.) He is going to outsmart me one of these days, and when he does, either great art or great catastrophe will result. What did we do to ‘spark’ this child’s creativity? Well, it’s more that we kept him away from sparks and open flame. My husband understands him and channels his experimentation through example, letting him work with safe grownup tools for car repairs, or hammer on 26 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

scraps of wood. They look at building plans together and read maps. They measure things and go see what different places look like. For my part, I gave up on sparing the craft supplies. The Scotch tape, when it’s not used up, has been free roam ever since we discovered a need to redirect him away from the duct tape. The scissors and paper are always on hand (paper litter is better than the time he cut his own hair). We try different fasteners for popsicle-stick models he invents—sticky-tack, glue, string, anything but the air nailer. We set safety guidelines rather than using a banneditems-and-activities list. This child will experiment with how to execute the guidelines correctly and still achieve his goals. We’ve spent a lot of energy modelling that this can be done, and that it provides new and different environmental challenges of interest. We only run into behaviour issues when our guidelines thwart his explorations. In other words, we had to be more proactive with him when he was younger and less capable of getting guided results. The older and more skillful he gets, the easier he is to parent and educate. This is the child who stretches us to reexamine our ideas of freedom and safety.


The Academic Learner I run a literary freelancing business. I work primarily with training individual writers, but I also act as an editing contractor to publishers. This fascinates my 13-year-old, who had an epiphany the first time she handled a real book that I’d worked on. As she started to engage in discussions of the technical side of my work, she became interested in learning to do what I do. It only makes sense. She’s the bookworm child. I printed off some sample text for her, handed her a list of proofreading marks, and gave her a book on the art and craft of writing fiction. She soon came back to discuss not just proofreading, but problems with sentence flow and clarity. As it turns out, she has a copyediting instinct developed by years spent with her nose buried in high quality reading. The framework of grammar, syntax, and semantics is an instinctive fit with her way of seeing the world. As an academic learner, she does well with methodologies. She loves cooking and baking beyond all else, and nurtures a dream of going into culinary arts. She has spent hours learning to sketch, enjoys music, and does well with math and science coursework. Her creativity is sparked by being given a framework to build on. Hand her a book, and she’ll try writing one. Hand her a sketching method, and she’ll learn to draw almost anything. In many ways, this feels like the easiest child to educate because our cultural mindset is so attuned to measurements and results. However, the challenge is to ensure that her comfort zone doesn’t box her in, and that slowly but surely, she becomes psychologically equipped to deal with unexpected events, unsatisfactory results, and new pressures and demands. These things irritate her and can cause her to balk. We have seen her turn down experiences we know she would love because they are too challenging to her sense of the usual. Because she’s results-oriented, she can get discouraged or hurt by any of these things. Our job as parents is to nurture her through dealing with that. This is the child who stretches us to examine our own comfort zones and routines, and whether we can expand them more. The Social Learner At the 25th anniversary gala of our local community orchestra, a fundraising auction took place. Upon a cushion worthy of any wedding ring bearer was a baton. On the program was a piece reserved for a guest conductor. The baton was open to bids. As the official baton bearer, my 11-year-old picked up the cushion, navigated the media cables on the floor, and paced forward along the central aisle of the crowded banquet room. She arrived at the podium and turned around to face the audience and the television cameras. There she stood, cool and sophisticated as any 11-year-old in a velvet

gown, while the auctioning of the baton proceeded. I asked her afterward what she thought of the whole thing. She shrugged and smiled. “It was interesting watching the people bidding,” she said. Like my physical learner, my social learner is more outgoing than her older siblings. But while she has high physical aptitudes, she learns through conversation and interaction rather than acting out her creativity in a solo environment. Books are important to her, because in her imagination, she’s interacting with the characters. Academics are fascinating to figure out, because they provide insight into the minds of other people. Academically, this is a fairly easy type of child. However, our challenge is to model and actively discuss social boundaries and interactions, personal values and personal safety. The grownup world is full of subtle trap doors. We have to mentor her on when to give trust and when to hold back, when to speak and when to give space. Friends, dating, strangers, the internet, and the social hierarchies involved in work and higher education are fascinating mysteries to a pre-teen, but extra demanding on a parent’s wisdom when that child learns through socializing. The Introverted Learner My most challenging child to nurture is my introverted learner. For my 15-year-old, the process of learning is very private. He doesn’t want to express himself to the rest of the world until he’s got it figured out for himself. Asking for help doesn’t come naturally, and he can drive himself to distraction trying to wrangle a problem—or he may simply ignore it rather than deal with it. For this child, imagination is a place he goes to heal and rest, rather than a doorway to action, a conversation, or a tool that interacts with methodologies to produce a result. He loves bird watching, hiking, and sailing. He’s an accomplished musician on multiple instruments, and will spend hours practicing. On the other hand, asking him to complete formal academics means woe and pain. Requiring method of him is an utter disaster, because it places a results-oriented obligation on his restful mental zone—and that’s the opposite of restful. Trying to convince him to socialize, unless there’s an underlying purpose which aligns with his interests, can be like talking to a brick wall. He is highly sociable, can be extremely methodological, and is well studied. None of this has occurred under the circumstances we expected. If his sense of creativity isn’t engaged, or if the boundaries of his inner world are trespassed, he will simply refuse whatever’s before him. Entering into his creative world requires careful handling, because it’s primarily (... Continued on page 29)

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 27


Flying Solo...

Freya Bates, Alberta Homeschooling Since 2003

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ast week, my good friend, Peri, descended on my house with rubber gloves and bottles of cleaner and set about tackling my kitchen and bathroom, two areas in desperate need of a maid. She motivated the kids to really pitch in, and when I came home for lunch, the place was a hive of busy activity. In short order, things were thoroughly clean, and the kids were proud of their efforts. They were rewarded with a trip to the video store, ice cream, and a sleepover. Mom enjoyed a clean house and a nice quiet break in which to regroup. When the kids returned home, we were all refreshed and able to resume the daily grind with renewed vigour. If you are a single parent considering homeschooling, you may be overwhelmed by the whole notion. “How am I supposed to do it all?” you wonder. The good news is that you won’t have to do it all. You have people and resources within reach and all that is required is a little asking, trading, and juggling. First, don’t ever think that you, alone, will need to do all the work. Think of yourself more as the manager of your children’s education. You will be the guide, cheerleader, and motivator all rolled into one. The best thing you can do right off the bat is to instil in your children excitement and passion about learning at home. Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to explain (sometimes repeatedly) your need for their cooperation and dedication. They should understand that a single parent is trying to do the work of two and that when the whole family pulls together, everyone benefits. Get your children onboard and have them contribute to the planning of their curriculum. What areas and topics are they curious about? Keep in mind that they will pick up and retain far more if the topics they are studying are interesting to them and are linked, somehow, to real life. Excite them about the upcoming school year. Have them help organize the study space, choose and decorate notebooks, and gather supplies. Children who feel they have contributed, and have some say in matters, are less likely to feel that learning is being forced upon them.

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If you are separated or divorced, it may be possible to enlist the help of your children’s other parent. After all, both of you are invested in how your children get educated. What about extended family members? Grandparents can make wonderful teachers, or at least give mom or dad a much-needed breather. My children always look forward to Grandma visiting. She has taught my daughters to knit and paint, and has an infectious enthusiasm for math which I greatly appreciate when we’ve hit a snag. Grandpa knows wonderful things about rockets and electronics and finds cool science toys and kits. I understand though, that not all family relationships are as smooth as one would like. Determine whether differences in points of view and personality are something you can overcome, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Just because you accept help from family doesn’t mean you are beneath them. Friends and neighbours are another often-untapped resource. Try asking for help once in a while, and make it known to your community members that you are interested in their involvement. Would someone be willing to have extra children along on an outing? A couple of older gentlemen in our neighbourhood always remember to include my son in their icefishing expeditions, giving him male role models and a break from a house full of girls. My employer has been welcoming in having my kids involved with certain farm activities, like cattle round-ups and carpentry projects. Another possibility is to swap help with other single parents. I welcome an occasional break from the kids (and they from me, I’m sure) and am quite happy to give another parent the same sort of reprieve. Trading help with housecleaning and other projects is rewarding as well as teaching our kids some valuable life lessons. Can you find a nearby homeschooling family willing to take on an extra pupil or two? Maybe this would work well for part or all of the time. Again, it all depends on the (Continued on Page 37...)


(Continued from page 27...) the home of his soul, and only secondarily a soulful expression. As a result, learning and exploration are deeply personal for this child. In fact, they can quickly challenge his sense of self. For him, the way he interacts makes all the difference—the difference between having your home seized by the authorities, and choosing to open it to invited friends. Although this child feels hard to educate, he’s actually not. He’s an independent learner who is best sparked by parallel activity. For example, if he sees a parent doing math, he may choose to engage or he may pick up the materials on his own when no one’s looking. If a learning topic is surrounded by parental love and a communal vibe, his door is open. Our challenge as parents is to love him and to avoid twisting him out of his natural shape, so that we can maintain an open invitation into the home of his soul. At the same time, we have the challenge of teaching him underlying, creative reasons for responding to life’s requirements. For instance, understanding how to carry through on coursework is important for getting jobs, and jobs are important for funding those creative activities which provide that essential internal restfulness. This is the child who stretches us to be mature about life’s realities and what’s really necessary to live well. The Learning Parent Every child is also a teacher. Ours have unique lessons that shape us in multidimensional ways beyond what we could experience anywhere else, because of the ingredient of love. The workplace doesn’t love us. The world is unaware of us. Here at home, we’re both under a microscope and intensely loved. Our children spark our own creativity as we work to balance all their strengths and growth challenges at once: freedom and safety, comfortable routine and adventure, social and personal values, the realities of life and living well. Life is art, and the creativity of children is a curriculum. ●

The creative process takes its own course. If it did otherwise, it would not be creative. ~ F. W. Martin November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 29


A Counter-Cultural

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ver the years I have been learning that I can decrease my stress level by getting my expectations under control. One area where my expectations can soar is during the Christmas season. There are so many awesome activities that can add to the celebration experience. Then there are years where there are so many other events happening that Christmas could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back! One of those years was the winter of 1999, when many events occurred that were atypical to our normal everyday living. I had just returned home from a mission trip to Uganda in November and was greeted at the door by a very lethargic and sick eight-year-old daughter. My husband, who had been out of work for three months, had just started a new job while I was in Africa. Within three days of my return from this trip, we needed to pack up our home and put everything in storage except a month’s supply of necessities. We were in transition between selling one home and not moving into our new home for one month. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve day that we actually moved to our newly built, wheelchair accessible home, unpacked and prepared for Christmas! As you can imagine, that month of December looked different from most. While in the hotel for a month, we homeschooled, did some very basic Christmas crafts, wrote some greeting cards, nursed my daughter back to health, and made some last decisions on the new house. Although it had the potential to be one of our most stressful Christmases, it actually was one of the most enjoyable. In previous years, the whole month of December was typically a marathon of Christmas busyness. We cooked, baked, prepared gifts (both shopped for and made by hand), decorated the home, made crafts, and wrote greeting cards and 30 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

family newsletters. We would normally be involved in church rehearsals for productions or choirs, extra entertaining, and packing to travel to visit relatives in southern Ontario. On top of this, I tried to make everything an educational experience, run a household, and care for our special needs child. If I passed up a good craft or an opportunity to teach, I felt guilty! I know I am not alone in this. For weeks prior to Christmas, many families add these extras. For the homeschooling mom this can mean absolute exhaustion if we aren’t very deliberate about what we leave in our day and what we give the boot. That Christmas of 1999 was very pared-down. My expectations for the weeks in December and the actual celebration were low. We had fun in our adventures and were enjoying one another. Ironically, it is the years when very little else is occurring that are the most stressful. It is those years when I have no excuse to pare down the month’s activities, that I succumb to the pressure of my children’s eagerness to do it all, and society’s expectations of what a successful Christmas should look like. Where did I acquire this perspective of what makes a good Christmas celebration? For me it has come from various places. There is the way my husband’s and my families celebrated as we were growing up. There are the covers of the magazines that come in the mail or at the check out counter and the articles written within. There are TV shows that illustrate beautifully decorated trees, garland streaming down the railings, and elegantly set dining room tables. There are homes around our neighbourhood that have lights hanging from roofs and trees. There are advertisements everywhere. There are friends that give us homemade gifts. There is the church Christmas banquet and opportunities for my kids to


Christmas Linda Hoffman, Ontario Homeschooling Since 1996

act and sing in the church performance. And, there are both historical and fictional accounts of Christmas celebrations from the many novels my children and I read. We are immersed in our society, and it has a powerful impact on all aspects of our life including what we consider a proper way to celebrate Christmas. If I feel guilt because I am not making handmade presents or buying high tech gifts, decorating a tree or singing in the choir, I am allowing my “society,” however big or small that is, to dictate standards for my family. Homeschoolers are often known for being countercultural. We have baulked at society raising our children for one reason or another. And yet, there are still many ways this same culture has influenced us without our even knowing it. Last year I stopped to analyze my Christmas expectations. My eyes were opened as I realized I do not need to do these things in order to be a good parent. I do not need to do these things in order to have happy, well-adjusted children. And the Bible certainly does not tell me to do any of these things in order to honour Christ’s birth. If I find joy in doing them, that is great. But if I am doing them out of guilt and I am experiencing burnout, then that is not great, nor is it necessary. Over the years, we have included many of the things society would say creates a successful Christmas. We have also excluded others, such as Santa Claus and Christmas television specials. Wondering what my children thought of it all, I asked my eldest daughter, “What do you like about Christmas?” and “What are some of your favorite memories of Christmas?” My daughter’s response was “the people.” She loves to see her family that she doesn’t get to see often. The memory that came immediately to her mind was of her two older cousins sitting and playing finger games with her on a sofa about twelve years ago.

Did she enjoy the baking and crafts we did? The decorating and entertaining? The church productions? Of course! I am realizing though, that children will suck us dry if we don’t say “no” at some point. We, as parents - both mom and dad - must be wise. We need to seek with deliberation our goals and vision for our family. But what about our four year old? Wouldn’t we be denying her the experience if we didn’t expose her to all these wonderful ways to celebrate? This was one place where guilt and self doubt really affected me. One of our goals for our children is that they will learn discernment and be able to evaluate priorities. If my children, year after year, see me overwhelmed, joyless, and unable to say “no”, this is what they will learn is normal. Because I am my children’s major role model, I need to take this life skill seriously. If this year that means that my Christmas decorations will simply be our nativity scene, then that is okay. If it means there is room for creative projects, then that is okay too. I don’t want to deny my children these experiences, but more than that, I don’t want to deny them a joyful mother and home. With all my heart I want to encourage you, my homeschooling family, to be free during this season. Refuse the feeling of guilt that comes from other’s expectations of you or what our society wants from you this Christmas. Understand why you expect what you do of yourself. Seek what is a realistic expectation for your family this year. Stand firm, guilt-free and rest in the choices you make, happily home educating during the holiday season, however that looks for you. ●

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 31


NaturalMath: Numeracy Cori Dean, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2003

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s I sit down to tap these few thoughts into my laptop, my washer and dryer are humming and thumping in the background. My dishwasher is crashing away the leftovers from lunch, and I hear my husband alternately turning off and on his power tools in the garage while the kids veg out in front of the TV for some lazy weekend time. I hear cars whizzing through our subdivision, rushing their passengers home or off to the store or to work. In the midst of all this, it strikes me that there are many conveniences in our lives that I just don’t understand! How do all of those little pieces on a circuit board unite to respond to my touch on the keyboard in so predictable a manner? (Well, sort of!) How exactly do my appliances get their jobs done? How did Nikolaus Otto invent the internal combustion engine? What would life be like without basic tools like electric saws and my kitchen stove? The fact is that technology steadily produces more and new inventions meant to give us more leisure and convenience in life. Really, since the beginning of time, we have been trying to optimize our surroundings, to get farther faster, and to have more fun.

there was a time when he and his cohorts scratched their accounts in the dirt, making little notches in clay that they later dried and kept as records of their yield. Perhaps the merchant wrote an IOU on another piece of clay and they agreed on a price. In fact, this is just what we see in the records of very ancient people: the Egyptians wrote mainly on papyrus; the Babylonians made notches in clay. They developed ways of describing their calculations that gradually moved from long-winded paragraphs listing every detail of the problem to shorter phrases that used a sort of short hand - the beginnings of mathematical symbolism. We often think of math as that purely symbolic practice of counting, calculating, and measuring- of scratching numbers onto a sheet of lined paper with a dull pencil. However, mathematics has its purest roots in the everyday, in trying to make sense of the world around us - not in numerals and operators, in properties and variables.

When I realize just how much I don’t know about how things work, it reminds me of the way that we often approach the teaching of math. Believe it or not, math really is mankind’s response to the desire to make things easier and more convenient, one of the earliest forms of technology. I always tell my students that mathematicians really are quite lazy, as their passion is in finding short cuts - patterns for the way things work - so that they can use the short cut and not have to work so hard on a similar problem again.

It would help us all as parents and teachers to take a step back from the math that we are teaching and seek out answers to some of the questions that our kids often have about math: Why do I have to do this? When is this ever going to be useful? What is the point of learning all of this? If we keep in mind that math truly had its roots in the practical, then we needn’t reinvent the wheel with our answers. In fact, we don’t even really need to know how the wheel works, who invented it, or the optimal properties of it. Simply knowing some practical uses of math, just like practical uses of a set of wheels, will take us a long way in being able to use this technology to its fullest.

I imagine a farmer in ancient times who is trying to keep track of his yield and his sales at market. Surely

When parents share their concerns with me about homeschooling, they often centre on their adequacy

32 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011


to do the job: What if I don’t know the stuff I have to teach them? What is going to happen when I have to teach them {gasp} Calculus? I don’t understand calculus; let alone what it could be used for. If we apply the logic above that you needn’t understand something fully in order to be able to use it, we can certainly delve into these scary topics without having to faint in fear of the need to conquer it all. Consider this: you learned to drive a car but you don’t need to know how to manufacture one in order to do so. Learning to drive had a very practical application: it made life easier. Math can have the same impact. If we want our kids to gain the most out of their mathematical education, or from education in general, then we need to build the foundation of their knowledge on that which is most useful to them, both as they are growing, and later when they are grown and are needing to keep a job and to care for their home and family. Mathematics learning, then, should be at its core a daily pursuit of methods and skills that help to make connections in life, that develop patterns of knowledge, that pursue the lazy goal of finding short cuts and an easier way. (So, when your son has been given the assignment to write all that he knows about owls after reading a good book like Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat, and he writes only two sentences when you expected a page, don’t get frustrated. Instead, pat him on the back and say, “Son, I can see that you were meant to be a mathematician!”) This pursuit of the practical, everyday use of mathematics is the core of numeracy, in fact, it defines numeracy. We teach our children grammar, have them write essays and ask them to read Shakespeare -- not so that they can quote Hamlet at the grocery store, but so that they can read, analyze, and integrate ideas and can communicate more effectively and forcefully -- so that they become literate. In the same way, for the most part, every one of us takes a turn at studying math, not because we will all become rocket scientists, but because learning algebra and geometry, and the principles of optimization, will help us to be able to think through a problem logically, to be able to decide when we are getting a good deal at the grocery store or on a mortgage -- to become numerate. The greatest goal, then, of a mathematics education is numeracy: that our students learn to use mathematics to help them to deal with the practical demands of everyday life and understand the language of the symbolic shorthand (mathematical notation) well enough to solve the problems at hand. Of course, many students will go on to become engineers and physicists, to be the inventors and builders of the things that the rest of us learn to use. Those students won’t be hard to convince to work on

higher order maths and sciences. It won’t be hard for them to find useful applications to their studies. For the rest of your pupils, relax and don’t sweat it if it looks like they will only complete the basics of high school math. Remember that the real goal of education is not to get the best marks and a high earning potential, but to prepare our students for everyday life, and to help them to develop a love of knowledge and learning. Besides, your student’s numeracy skills will have a greater impact on their earning potential than will their math skills. My husband encourages me to pick on him as an example: he repeatedly failed his high school math courses. He even got a final mark in the single digits once! Yet, he is able to create strong and sturdy woodwork, to intuitively overcome mechanical difficulties, and to balance the budget of a multimillion dollar retail store. He has strong numeracy skills that have helped in his ability to earn and to provide for our family, yet his math skills in general were not strong in the higher grades. Practical math was just so much more relevant to him, that he was able to learn it, to internalize it, and to apply it. So take time to focus on the “why’s” of the math that you study rather than on the amount of new content that your kids get. Refuse to let math be a tedious subject that adds complexity to your life and studies. Instead, daily ask the questions “Why are we doing this?” “What is the use of it?” “What is the use of this?” Indulge in the lazy man’s subject. Why do I have to study…? Adding…. So that you will be able to count up all of your silly bands Multiplying by 5…. So that you can tell time. Fractions…. So that you can tell if your sister got more of the chocolate bar than you did! Decimals…. So you will know if you got the right change when you bought ice cream. Percentages… So you can understand why that sweatshirt costs more than the price tag says that it does - taxes! Algebra… So that you can calculate how much money should be on each of your pay cheques from Bob’s Burger Barn. Trigonometry.... So that you can decide how tall the ladder needs to be to get into the top of the tree fort with out actually having to climb up there first. Quadratic equations…. So that you can brag to your friends not just about how far you hit the ball but also how high! Calculus…. So that you can calculate how big your back yard really is and figure out how many people can fit into it for the party! ●

bd November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 33


SAT, ACT, and Other Tests

Sarah Rainsberger, Prince Edward Island www.universityadmissions.ca

D

o I need to take the SAT for admission to university in Canada? What about the ACT? Or is there some other test I need to worry about? ANSWER: Before you start worrying about two trains leaving different stations heading towards each other at different speeds, here’s the scoop on university admissions testing. Both the SAT and the ACT are “general achievement tests” used by the majority of U.S. colleges and universities in their admissions decisions. These tests measure basic English language (reading, writing, grammar) and mathematics skills which are typically taught by the early part of grade 11 in a Canadian high school. Canadian universities do not require such tests of students with Canadian accredited high school diplomas, but our universities may suggest or require these tests of homeschoolers as a form of external evaluation in the absence of other formal credentials or evaluation. In addition to these general achievement tests, a Canadian university may suggest or require “subjectspecific” tests intended to measure actual content knowledge at the senior high school level. For example, in the U.S., many students will write not only the general SAT reasoning test, but also a few SAT subject tests to demonstrate their content knowledge at the senior high school level. These subject tests evaluate material typically taught in a senior (grade 12) Canadian high school course. While a general reasoning test focuses on general content and skills, subject-specific tests can demonstrate knowledge that is more specialized. There are also some standardized examinations that are comparable to final exams for first-year university courses. The Advanced Placement (AP) and CLEP programs are two sets of examinations that allow students to enter university and be granted “advanced standing” in their university program. This can take

34 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

the form of “skipping” some first year courses and placement immediately into a more advanced course, or it can take the form of actual university credit for some first year courses. High school students, homeschooled or not, have all these tests at their disposal to satisfy university admissions criteria for general academic ability, subject pre-requisites, and advanced standing eligibility. How a student will use these tests, or whether one will use any of them at all, will depend on one’s individual situation. Here are a few points to keep in mind as you decide whether standardized admissions testing will be a part of your high school homeschooling strategy: 1. Check out the homeschool admissions requirements of a few universities you are considering. Do any of them require the SAT or ACT? Do they require a subject-specific test to fulfill prerequisites for your desired program? 2. Are you (the student) a good test-taker? All of these tests are “standardized” tests, which means that they follow predictable patterns of questions and it is possible to prepare and be coached for them if you’re willing to put in the time and effort into crack the code. 3. Are you trying to save money? All tests have an administration fee for writing, but this is only a small fraction of the cost of tuition for a university course. If you feel you (or your child) can study a first-year university course independently, with self-gathered resources from the library or the internet and without a formal course structure, then you may wish to consider using AP or CLEP examinations for university credit. 4. Is your greatest concern just getting into a Canadian university? Are you less concerned about the exact school or specific major? Are you thinking of taking these tests as only a backup plan? Remember that there are “open” universities (universities with


open admissions policies i.e. Athabasca University) in Canada who accept students into first year at any time without requiring any formal prerequisites or testing. This should be your Plan B (if not Plan A itself!), and it does not require any standardized tests. Preparing for standardized tests can be a lot of effort for just a backup plan, or if your educational goals can be met by an open university. 5. Take the time to learn about the various tests so that you can find the ones that best suit your needs. The SAT and ACT can be used interchangeably, but there are differences between the tests that favour different types of students. AP exams offer university credit, but only for a high score (and the score required depends on the admitting university’s AP policies).

(...continued from Page 25) Another tradition that has been very fun and cost efficient has been the advent presents that we opened daily for the month of December. We started this a few years ago. First, I went searching for all of the movies, books and music that were Christmas themed and put them away with the Christmas decorations to have the “out of sight, out of mind” effect. I had almost enough to make it the 24 days after adding a few. I made up the difference by adding a few boxes of chocolates and a couple of ornament-making kits. On the 24th, the gift was all the supplies needed to make the graham cracker “gingerbread” houses that were the tradition for Christmas Eve. In the last week of November, I wrapped all of the ‘gifts’ up and numbered them from 1 to 24 and placed them around the living room and each day the children took turns opening them. If it was music, the CD went into the player. If it was a book, we sat down and read it. If it was a movie, we watched it that day as well. If it was edible…mmmmmmm, we ate it! This was fun, and after a couple of years of it, we didn’t have to add anything else because we had acquired enough Christmas themed books and movies. Each year, the children sit with the unopened gift in their laps and try to guess which book or movie or CD is in the package, hoping that it is finally time for their favourite to be opened! After Christmas, when we are taking down the decorations, I also gather up all of the advent presents and put them away for the next year. We used to have a long list of people to buy for outside of the family, but years ago we realized that there was not one person on our list that actually

AP exams must also be written at an approved high school only once per year, so homeschoolers must find a school willing to let them sit in on their own exams. CLEP exams grant university credit simply for an acceptable passing grade and are held a few times per year, but there are very few test centres in Canada and many students end up making a trip to the United States in order to access a test centre. There are also very few resources directly aimed at preparing for CLEP exams, so students are left to their own devices to create an appropriate study plan. ● For more information, visit: The College Board Website (SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP, CLEP): www.collegeboard.org ACT Official Website: www.act.org

needed us to buy anything for them. We started to “give” each of our family members Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes. I would make up business card size slips of paper to slip inside a Christmas card for each of our family members stating that in lieu of giving them a gift, we had given a needy child oversees a much-needed gift of a shoebox filled with desperately needed items. I would start to collect for the boxes on Boxing Day and by the time the shoebox deadline was near, I would have a few large Rubbermaid totes filled with gifts. We would place about 40 shoeboxes around the room and start filling them with all the gifts I had accumulated through the year! We did this for quite a few years before starting to buy the gifts in the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue each year. For example, you can buy a soccer ball for a village for $15. Then I would print out a certificate and give it to someone who would be blessed, knowing that a needy village got a soccer ball. We feel that this is a better use of our money than buying someone yet another gift basket or singing ice cream scoop! The holiday season is what we make of it. It can be stressful, hectic, and debt inducing; or it can be serene, pleasant, and very inexpensive with the focus being on the right things. My children actually prefer the second choice; it wasn’t hard at all to convince them to switch. Some confided in us that they didn’t like “having” to open so many presents on Christmas day! They love to bake and create gifts for each other and there are many “secrets” for the month or so before the holiday. What are some of the things you can do to make this season just a little less stressful and expensive? ●

The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

~Alan Alda

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 35


(...continued from Page 9) vivid images that are truly real. When we read a “real” book, as opposed to something that is written either as a way for publishers to make money or something written with an overly contrived purpose running through it, we are filled up rather than depleted. Though our children are not able to independently access complex writing in their early stages of reading, they are enriched by exposure to elegant phrasing, vibrant vocabulary, and pleasing punctuation and grammar. They absorb it, just as they absorbed the tones and cadences of their caregivers’ voices. In the same way as they imitated the speech they heard every day, eventually so too will they imitate the written word to which they are constantly exposed. When I switched my five-year old son from reading five picture books a night to reading chapters of novels, I expected resistance and the occasional cry of ‘boring!’. Moving from a simple and easily accessed picture book to a novel with hardly any images is a big shift. I was nervous but determined to push through the rough patches and prevail; but the rough patches never came. That first night as we sat on the sofa and embarked upon the adventures of Stuart Little by E.B.White, the only complaint I had was when we reached the end of the chapter. I think we read four or five chapters that night and we have continued on ever since. Novel after novel has been devoured and my son has never once asked to go back to the picture books. I chose the books using the Amblesideonline.com year 0 booklist suggestions and I have yet to find a ‘dud’. We have read Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows and are now working our way through the Little House On the Prairie series. Each night I find myself just as gripped as my son, reading through the adventures and hardships of the Ingalls family in a world so different and alien yet with many threads of the familiar. We are caught up by the tales of blizzards and snowstorms, wild floods and travels across pioneer America and the open prairies that are brought alive by the vivid prose of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These books require no explaining. We don’t discuss “Did she do the right thing?” or “What do you think Laura should have done?” In years to come, when my

YEP, THEY’RE HOMESCHOOLED! On a recent drive through the country, my 6-year-old proudly declared, “MOM! I just saw a Flock of Cows!” 36 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

son is reading independently, we will certainly discuss and deconstruct, and there will be plenty to talk about. But for now, we just enjoy. We revel in the fascinating stories and words that fly off the page. The lessons are all there, just below the surface. Moral behaviour, good punctuation and grammar, varied vocabulary, structure, narrative voice, historical context, family life, what it means to be a person...I could go on because there really is no end. These books teach us so much but, like learning to speak by simply listening to those around us, there is much value in simply being exposed to them. When we limit children to books with simple sentences, concepts, and images, when we subtract complexity and humanity from the equation, we are doing them and ourselves a massive disservice. These books are capable of reaching out across the years and teaching us that, on a fundamental level, being human doesn’t change. When we explore Shakespeare, we discover that people have always been filled with jealousy, anger, love, passion and fearfulness. When we read A.A. Milne, we realize that little boys are the same now as they were 60 years ago: that sticks and rivers and mud are still their natural domain, that joy and adventure is in their DNA. Our technology may have changed, but the construction of the human heart remains the same as it ever did. We don’t have to explain these messages or point them out; we can allow them to sit within our children like a seed planted in fertile earth. Just as they absorb lessons of all kinds seemingly through their pores, so too they can absorb beauty, art, wonder. They don’t need us to teach them what to think, they need our help learning how to think. We cannot determine what they will make of a text and I know I have been constantly amazed in years of teaching English at the insights a young person can bring to a text. By limiting them to what they can read or look at independently, we are robbing them of access to a world filled with riches. Just as we can catch a cold by exposure to germs, so, too, can we “catch” literature by simply being regularly exposed to it. The symptoms of this exposure? A vivid imagination, excellent vocabulary, a love of language, and a serious library addiction. The cure? Well, I don’t think any of us really want the answer to that, do we? Happy reading! ●


(...continued from Page 24) enjoyable: strollers for the babies, shopping carts, shopping bags, cloth bags, little plastic handles for the bags to protect the hands, walkers, etc. and see if you can identify modifications to those items that would make life even easier. Creativity is refusing to aggravation, and defeat.

settle

for

frustration,

Creativity comes in handy in teaching. Rather than having the children sitting quietly at tables or desks for their studies, think of or creative locations to make the learning experience more memorable. For instance, why not on the front porch, under or in a tree, in a location that complements the subject being studied? You are studying the migratory patterns of birds - go to a place where birds are known to congregate and do your lessons there with a pair of binoculars handy. Children do not have to be sitting to learn. In fact, often movement helps with the learning process. They can stand beside the table, jump on a trampoline or rebounder to do their spelling words or math facts, run laps around the house while they recite their memory work . . . Be creative! Being creative is not natural to many people, but it can be a learned skill. Walk around the neighbourhood to

observe how others have been creative, perhaps in using old castoffs in their gardens or on their front porch - old sinks, screen doors, wheelbarrows, tires, etc. When something is broken, before throwing it out, let the children take it apart and attempt to fix it or figure out how it can be re-purposed as something else. One time we had a large couch to dispose of and it was going to cost us money for the city garbage truck to haul it away as one piece. We took it all apart using a sharp knife, hammers and screwdrivers. By the time we were done, we used some of the upholstery fabric for a project, the rest and the padding fit nicely into two or three garbage bags. Some of the wood was used for another project and some was sent off for burning in a stove, and the few metal parts we took to a place that collected scrap metal. In the end, no cost was incurred and we had learned how a couch was built. We used that knowledge later in an upholstering task we took on. We also had a LOT of fun doing it. Be encouraged by the words of Ecc. 3: 1-8 which begin with, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven . . .” Whatever life changes and challenges you are facing, be sure to remember that there is no change or challenge you will encounter that God and you cannot creatively face together! ●

(...continued from Page 28)

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.

~ Henry David Thoreau

circumstances. A neighbour of mine homeschooled a friend’s son along with her own, and the two boys kept each other company and learned well together. Don’t forget internet communities. I once believed that friends made on-line were not as real as those made face-to-face, but after a few months belonging to a pen pal website, I have come to think otherwise. Corresponding with people around the globe, I look forward to interacting with them as much as I do some of my close friends locally. Like any group of people, you may have to do a bit of sifting before discovering the real gems. A pen pal from Maryland even sent a box of old quilting blocks when she heard that my daughter was enthusiastically sewing her first quilt. Now my daughter is writing back and has made a new friend. There are online communities for single parent homeschoolers, too. Reading blogs and participating in chats and forums can ease the isolation a single parent can feel. Sometimes the greatest help of all is not physical, but comes in the form of encouragement and inspiration and the knowledge that we are not alone on the journey. They say that it takes a whole community to raise a child. This is especially true in the case of single families and when you‘re homeschooling. Find your support network, build it, nourish it, and reap the benefits of more time and less burnout. ● November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 37


Lisa-Marie Fletcher, Ontario Homeschooling Since 2008

Pen to Paper I

f you have a child like mine, who thinks that writing time is a form of personalized torture, it can take some ingenuity to come up with exciting, original, and off-thepage ways to inspire writing. Here are twenty ways to inspire writing creativity in your child. 1. Pen Pals. Have your child exchange letters with your neighbour, family member, or someone far away that you’ve never met before. You can find another homeschooling family who would be interested in having a writing partner and before you know it, your child has a new friend! 2. Postcard Exchanges. Collect a stack of postcards from your hometown (or make your own!) and exchange them with people worldwide! There are many homeschooling post card exchange groups, including specifically Canadian ones. Then take all the postcards you receive and find where they are on the map together!

7. Comic Strip Narration. Print out / photocopy a comic strip, which has the words missing from the speech bubbles. Get your child to fill in the missing narration and make an adventure story they can actually see.

3. Grocery List. Have your child write down a list of what you need to get at the store while you run around the kitchen looking at what is missing.

8. Board Games. Find a game that uses a pencil and paper and have a family game night. Some examples of good games to play would be Scattergories, Boggle, or Cranium Scribblish.

4. Chocolate Pudding. Make a batch of instant chocolate pudding and place some in a cookie sheet. Have your children use their pointer finger to practise the shapes and motions used when writing or printing. It’s a tasty, tactile way to reinforce penmanship.

9. Use a Quill or Feather. Using a new medium is a great way to reignite interest. Try using an old-school ink and quill. Is it harder or easier for your child to write with than a ballpoint pen or sharpened pencil?

5. Make a Wish List. Take a pad of paper and pencil to the local toy store. Wander around and get children to make themselves a wish list of anything they can see. This can be for money they earn, birthday/Christmas gift ideas, or even just for fun – for example, what they would get if they won a lottery! 6. Diary/Journal. Encourage your child to document faces, places, and moments of everyday life. These little memories will be amazing to read in the future and because the activity of writing in a journal is highly personal and non-structured, it may be of more interest than an assignment or project.

38 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011

10. Mud Printing. Take it outdoors. Your child can make a mud pit, grab a paintbrush, and practise printing all over the patio, sidewalk, or other flat surface. The good news is - it’s washable! 11. Make and Send a Card. There is something special about a handwritten note. Get your children to make a birthday, holiday, or thank you card for someone they know. Make sure they include some writing – expressly directed to the topic of the card they are sending. 12. Invisible Ink. Make the message a mystery using lemon juice and a cotton swab. To read the message, hold up to a heat source – the sun or a light bulb – and your


lemon juice should change from clear to brown, making it readable. 13. Calligraphy. Have your child learn a new way to write. Practise old school, formal calligraphy skills using a special pen. This style of writing is an art form, and comes in different variations and styles. It requires focus and practice, but is so elegant it’s worth it.

about their topic - each page dedicated to a different item. For example, if your child loves a certain hockey team, let them do a page on each player of that team including stats, information etc. If they like fantasy role-playing games, let them develop their own fantasy game – characters, settings, items, etc. Let them put it together themselves and be proud of all the new things they’ve learned about their current, favourite passion.

14. Use Wacky Story Starters. When the story is outrageous, it makes kids all but burst at the seams with creativity. Think aliens landing in the swimming pool, a genie popping out of your sock drawer and offering you 3 wishes, attack of the Jell-O people... you get the idea.

18. Make Letters into Art. How can you make their handwriting into something else? Get them to write out words, and then add that “something special” - turn it into an animal, add flowers or dots along the corners to give it stitches, etc. Make it fun.

15. Go on a word hunt. Clipboard and pen in hand, send your child out on a word hunt in whatever environment they are in. If you are encouraging cursive writing, ask that they write all the words – even if in manuscript/block letters -- as cursive. Give points for each word they find. What place can they find the most words/get the most points?

19. Join NaNoWriMo. Weird name – great challenge! Every November is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge for adults is to write a complete novel of 50,000 words in a single month! They have one for kids too – they set their own word challenge and work towards accomplishing it. They receive personal recognition for completion. The website has great thought process workbooks for every level of writer. It’s a good way to get started in creative writing.

16. Chocolate Letters. Melt some chocolate chips with some shortening and allow it to cool enough to touch. Then fill an icing piping bag with a fine tip. On a piece of paper, have your child write – either the alphabet or a phrase of their choice. Cover with a piece of waxed or parchment paper. Then, using the melted chocolate, trace the letters. Allow to harden and enjoy a tasty letter treat! 17. Pick a Passionate Topic. It might not be your topic of choice, but it may get them writing. Does your child have an obsession with Pokemon, animals, flowers, or cars? Use that to your advantage. Get them to make a notebook all

20. Write to a Celebrity. Get your child to write to their favourite celebrity. This is something they will be excited about and maybe even get something in return! The key is to make it fun on their terms, while still getting the skills and practice they need. There will still be times where they will be obligated to do the dreaded writing for work they don’t want to, but these activities can help them become more confident in their skills and maybe even enjoy writing! ●

GET INVOLVED! Have YOU a story to tell? An article burning within? Or the *perfect* cover shot? HomeschoolHorizonsiswaitingto hear from you! We have an urgent need for Real In The Trenches pictures from homeschooling families across Canada! Email Head Office at staff@homeschoolhorizons.ca for writer and photographer guidelines today!

November 2011 ~ Homeschool Horizons | 39


Letters From Home

I

’m up at six; this at least is semi-normal. Sometimes it’s 5:30. It’s rarely later than 6:30, but this morning it’s exactly six. My husband, David, is up, showering, while I make the bed and quietly start my day. He leaves for work and I spend half an hour answering emails and doing a bit of work on the computer. I hear Charlie, our youngest, get up. We go downstairs and pour some Cheerios. I get myself another cup of coffee. Charlie wanders over with my wedding album and says, “This is really old. It must be at least a hundred!” “Well, not quite. Less than twenty, actually.” He looks up. “How many years did it take for me to turn five? Five or four?” I make a mental note to do a math lesson with the poor kid today. At 8:30 the other boys wander down. Jacob, eleven, and Aidan, nine. Charlie greets them with glee, “Mom says no screens today!” He’s got them now. “Why?” asks Aidan. “Because it’s a school day,” I say. “Besides, I let you sleep in.” I don’t tell them that it’s summer vacation. By 9:30 Aidan is practicing his cello. We’ve been doing Suzuki lessons, which means I spend a lot of time in the music room while each of them practices. When Aidan finishes his practice and I go up to my room to check my email. At 9:50, I hear all three of the boys downstairs playing Lego. I let Jacob know that it’s time for his violin practice. Twenty minutes and three reminders later and Jacob still hasn’t managed to tear himself away from the Lego. I call him again, this time with the threat of having to do his own and his brother’s chores. He runs upstairs and grabs his violin. By the time we’re finished with violin it’s already 11:15. It’s already 11:15 and we have done nothing except for music practice and breakfast. Aidan pokes his head into the room, “Mom? Can you come and help me with my math?” I give him a big hug and follow him down to the school room. This is very unusual behavior for Aidan and I briefly wonder if he did something terrible while I was up with Jacob. No, it turned out to be a little bit of remorse over how long they had spent playing Lego on a school day. I still don’t tell him it’s summer. Jacob isn’t feeling as angelic today so we end up having a big argument over whether doing math is a worthwhile or pointless endeavor. I win. He does his math. Ok, I didn’t win – he still thinks math is pointless, but at least he’s doing it. Aidan’s on the computer writing a story that involves people getting killed in a battle. I momentarily forget that math is a priority and instead squeeze in a reading lesson with Charlie. I have to remind him on five separate occasions that the word “the” is not pronounced “thee”. He’s feeling productive so after finishing his lesson he goes over to his desk and practices using a correct pencil grip. I give him a sticker to put on his chart. He’s happy about having “millions” of stickers. I look over at his math book and bang my head against the wall. Something compels me to check the time. It’s 12:30. I realize suddenly that we’ll have to run in order to be able to eat something and still get to our 1pm tennis lesson. At the same time, I also realize that Abbie, my fifteen year old daughter, is still asleep. I’m not sure which thought bothers me the most, but I’m up and moving and so are the boys. I shout for Abbie and she comes down in her pj’s, hair askew. She makes the sandwiches while I get waters and tennis rackets. I check to see that Aidan isn’t wearing the same t-shirt that he’s worn for the last three days in a row and that Charlie has brushed his hair. Aidan gets sent back upstairs to find a clean shirt (“Why, mom?”) and Charlie gets sent back up to brush his hair. I think Abbie’s relieved to see us go. She finished up her last exam yesterday and had planned to give herself a break day. We make it to tennis on time and I get to chat with my friend, Esther, for an hour while our boys play tennis. She offers to take my boys to Taekwon-do at 3:30. Happy day! I go home where it’s quiet and Abbie is in a good mood. I put a load of laundry in and do a bit of work on the computer. Abbie comes up and asks if I want to watch a little TV. “I’m all done my exams and I just need to relax a little,” she says. I’m up for a little relaxation. After the boys get home we eat dinner and then it’s time to get ready for bed. David is out of town for the night so we can’t read The Hobbit. I put the boys to bed and watch a bit more TV with Abbie. I’m tired, but Abbie follows me upstairs wanting to chat. I refrain from making a comment about how wide awake she must be after sleeping past noon. Instead, we talk. She’ll be attending classes at the local high school in the fall and she says she’s going to miss us. Coming from my super-independent daughter this is high praise but by 10:30 even high praise isn’t going to keep me awake so we both go to bed. This wasn’t the ideal day, by any means. But it was a day – an atypical day, which tends to occur more often than a typical day…especially during summer vacation. Humbly, Sarah B from Kelowna, BC

Share a glimpse into YOUR homeschool! Send your story to staff@homeschoolhorizons.ca) 40 | Homeschool Horizons ~ November 2011


Homeschool Horizons Magazine  

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