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Friday, September 28, 2012

*Vlog* Car - Schooling

So now that I have explained a little bit more about homeschooling, I thought that you may all enjoy seeing me in action. Here is a new Vlog for you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homeschooling =/= School at Home

We are homeschoolers.

Last year was our first *official* year of registering with a school board with the intent to homeschool. Before that my son went to kindergarten in a regular public school and before that I "home schooled" preschool (but I also owned a preschool at the time so it wasn't too much of a stretch).

Of course when we decided to homeschool we came across many different opinions of why we should not. Allowing him to be behind in academics was one concern, another was not being able to be on the sports teams within his school,  or not having access to IP programs and aides for his ADHD. The biggest concern that friends and family had (and perfect strangers for that matter), was socialization.

Socialization is such a funny concept though, because if you look at our society as a whole, the schools idea of socialization and putting children into little boxes that are all the same age group isn't really how the real world works. We mix together with children of different ages, ethnicity and backgrounds (both educational and economic). So to say that one has to go to their neighbourhood public school to be socialized is erroneous at best.

Watch: Ken Robinsons Talk on Learning Revolution

Another common misconception is the "what exactly do you teach him?" What don't I teach him? If you go to your local provinces guidelines for education outcomes you can see that the ones for elementary school are really quite basic. Some of the learning outcomes kids already know before they go into the system and others can be taught by a variety of methods outside the traditional classroom.

"But you are not a teacher!" That is right. I am not trained as a professional teacher, and I don't pretend to be. I am one of those homeschooling parents who contracts out for my kids education. I look at their strengths and weaknesses and my strengths and weaknesses and I find the ones that mesh and the ones that don't.

My son goes to a particular program that is really well suited for children with ADHD in my city, and we are so lucky that it is available. He goes to classes two days a week where the professional teachers teach math, science, social and English in a thematic based approach. (Thematics means all of the subjects together, and project based). This is a wonderful approach for a child with a short attention span who can't be bothered, or gets bored, doing worksheets. The rest of the week we have other classes. Swimming lessons for gym, piano lessons for music, and an incredible City Ecosystems class for getting outside and learning about habitats every single week. (which also means me living in my car for hours on end…)

We do have days where all we do is science experiments with kits that we have bought at Scholars Choice or from The Magic School Bus. We do math games, games for learning, games for writing, and games for reading all just for fun. Not scheduled, just thrown in whenever we have a spare time to learn. We also have days when we do nothing but play and read and learn just by living. It's this balance that is so wonderful for our family, and why I choose to continue the path that we are on.

Learning is all around you. It doesn't have to be so rigid and doing what works best for your family and your child is really all that matters in the end. So if you are thinking that homeschooling needs to look like something in order for it to work, re-evaluate and see that parenting doesn't have to look like something for it to work as each and every parent will do it differently…and that is okay too.

                                                       My Vlog about Car-schooling. :P

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corn Maze Fun for Everyone

Fall in Calgary the last couple of years has been as hot as the summer. Since the winter can drag on we try to get out and enjoy ourselves as much as we can during these warm September and October days. Finding things to do is never a problem, but we like to do things that are outside and close to home. Since the Calgary Corn Maze is only 20 mins outside of the city it was a perfect outing for our family to enjoy each other and the weather. 

Visiting the Calgary Corn Maze
We love visiting the maze, so much so that we get a seasons pass every single year. There is so much to do that we usually come at least 3 or 4 times a month, which is really well worth the value. Also, my youngest son is under 2 so he is still free. (which is always a bonus). 

The Calgary Corn Maze adds new attractions each year so my kids are always excited to try out the old and the new. Plus the maze itself changes as well. 

First thing on the agenda was to go to the "Little Kids" maze. This maze is a really fun one for both the kids and the adults. The point is to find 5 different stations and colour each one of your fingers with the chalk provided. It can change every time, and each person can have a different sequence depending on the fingers that they have chosen to colour. 
"Just one finger!!!"

This maze is small enough that you can let the kids take the lead and get "lost". One year the owners let us know that if you always went right, you would find all the stations and get out quickly (if you had small children that were melting). This maze only takes about 15-30 mins, depending on how many times you get lost and how much you allow your 4 year old to choose the route. At the end of the maze there is a big board with all the colour combinations that give you a "task" to do that corresponds. I felt it was ironic that my middle child was to "act like a wrestler." He joyfully accepted the task!

See the glint in his eyes?

After the kids corn maze we decided to check out the petting zoo. My sons love goats for some reason, and so they ran as fast as they could to their enclosure. On the way, we noticed people lining up next to the pig pen and a man came out to tell us that the piglets were going to be racing. Pig racing!! How cute! We each chose a colour and cheered on our little pigs. Pigs may be one the smartest animals on the planet - but these 4 pigs were a little slow to the gate. Green came away the winner for the first race and then for the second heat. I think this was because he was the only one not concerned with getting grass in his belly! The race after lunchtime was much more of a nail biter! 

"Here, piggy, piggy, piggy!"
We headed off to see the rest of the animals. There were bunnies, chickens, and ducks to see and they did not disappoint. My middle child spotted the "yellow ducky" race and had to challenge his older brother in a game or two (or three, or four or five - you know what? I lost count really). The duck race was really a hit. It is so neat to see as well as all it is; is a piece of pipe and an old fashioned water pump. However, this was a real draw for all of the kids there and they all really wanted to have a turn. 

"Yellow Ducky, you're the one!"
We stopped at this point to eat our lunch and play on the fabulous new playground. The Calgary Corn Maze does have a concession. It sells the regular food that you would expect. Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, chips, pop, ice-cream and Popsicles. We decided that we would just brown bag it as we are vegetarian and you never know if concessions will have suitable food. I have heard that the food is really good - but I cannot comment for myself. After we had our lunch and played for a little while, the husband spotted a cow train. I have absolutely no idea how he squeezed himself in there. I had a hard time and I am only a small little lady. The sacrifices that we do for fun…I mean, our children.

Looks pretty cozy.
Since this was the first time that the husband had been to the Corn Maze with us, I wanted to show him the big maze. The kids were not as interested as there was a time when I owned my preschool that they had gotten a little traumatized by it. It was late October, it was super cold, and we were not properly dressed. We had a field trip and it was mainly little babies and their 3 year old siblings. We allowed the kids to choose the route and got incredibly lost. We walked for quite a long time before the moms started to bail out of the "emergency exits". I promised the kids that it would not happen again. (we were much more prepared and hey, daddy was with us!)

We did both phases of the maze. It was in the shape of a big gorilla and the boys liked to jump on it's head and arms etc. My husband carried the map so that we could make it out in a reasonable amount of time. (and yes, I know it was cheating). The coolest thing is that they actually have nights where you can do the maze in the dark, and if we got some childcare, we would do that for sure. Flashlights and a corn maze, how fun is that?! (unless you are Mel Gibson.) 

Running through the maze! 

Last but not least the kids visited the 3 different slides that the Corn Maze has to offer. Tip for moms - dress the kids in farm appropriate attire. The bike track, and the bouncy pillows had to be the biggest hits for my kids. Now, I am not a huge fan of these things because I like to be in control and even the dads like to double bounce whoever is on the if you have little toddlers that want to bounce, send someone with good balance or go during a weekday when all the big kids (and dads!!) are at school/work. 

My kids spent a good half an hour on these bouncy pillows. They loved to run across them and double bounce each other - much to my dismay. But, in the end, they loved them so mommy just has to learn to let go a little bit more. 

We stayed at the Calgary Corn Maze for over 4 hours and STILL did not see all of the attractions. We had an awesome time (as always) and we will be back again for sure. 

If you want to get more information about the Calgary Corn Maze you can visit their website here or like them on Facebook.

***This was not a sponsored post - I just love this place and wanted to share it with my local readers***

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can the Cupcake or Tips for Sending Treats to School

My Son's Allergy Bracelet
It's that time again, and so the topic of sweets and schools is in the forefront. With allergies and sensitivities at an all time high, many parents do not realize that sending a treat to school can lead to disappointments and tears for a growing number of children (or worse). Who can blame these parents for wanting to send something special for a class party or a birthday? Food is one of those things that has been the center of a community for countless generations.

Switch Witch
Disappointment is something that children with allergies/sensitivities and/or food preferences are just going to have to learn at an early age. As adults we can understand fully what happens when we eat something that we should not, however, children have a real hard time understanding this especially from the ages of 3-7 when being like your peers is a daily goal. Protecting our children from disappointment is easier when they are not in daycare/preschool/school as we control the environment and/or we can distract and/or we can be prepared in advance.  For example, being the "switch witch" at Halloween you can take all the candies that your kids cannot eat and leave a toy in its place, or you can take your children to venues that have goodies that they *can* eat. It is only when the child is asked to do this self-policing that things can get a bit trickier…

As a parent with a child with food challenges here are some ideas to make the early years a bit more manageable:

Can't get any simpler than that. 
1.) Ask the teacher for a list of all the birthdays in the class. Make sure that when they land that your child has a substitute (frozen treat that they can eat) already at the school or send with the child in his/her lunch.
2.) Ask the teacher for a list of all the food sensitivities/allergies and preferences and then sign up to bring a treat and make sure that it does not have any of the trouble foods in it. Tell the other parents so that they know and are aware of the food challenges in class.
3.) Get shirtspins, bracelets or labels to go on your children’s school items so that all the parents/teachers that see your child will know that they have food challenges. With more education comes more change.
4.) Get involved in your child’s parent council. Especially if your child has a severe allergy. Peanuts are not the only food that can kill a child, and again education is key.
5.) Consider doing a presentation or have a coffee meeting with the parents to let them know that having a heads up when they want to bring treats is preferable… sometimes parents will just keep kids from home, it  can be simpler that way.

As a parent of a child who does not have any food challenges.

Leave the Cupcakes at home.
1.) Try not to send baked goods. As much fun as it is to have the whole class celebrate with your child, baked goods are one of the most common things that all children can not eat. There will always be one child who must miss out. If it is the child with diabetes, the vegan child or the child with a dairy, egg or gluten allergy; one of them will be disappointed when everyone else gets to share in the celebration and they can not.
2.) If you really want to send baked goods, ask the teacher for a list of all the food challenges that are in the class and try to accommodate. The children may not be able to eat it anyway, with all of your efforts as cross-contamination is really easy to happen when baking, and most parents will not let their child take that risk.
Little Tree Crayons
3.) Send stickers, pencils or homemade crayons as a way to celebrate. This way the celebration can last longer than eating a cupcake in 5 seconds flat!! (and I bet the kids will treasure it more!)
4.) Make your child an extra special birthday lunch with their favourite foods. You could also make a themed lunch. Just typing into google-bento lunch and your child's favourite thing can give you a whole host of ideas to try. It will also make your child feel really special – and isn’t that the point entirely?
5.) Save the cupcake for home or the birthday party. A lot of it comes down to the parents of the other children not knowing that a treat is coming so that they can prepare accordingly. If you save the treats for the party the other parents can warn their child or have a substitute.
6.) Send fruit or vegetables. Childhood obesity is on the rise and many children do not get the proper servings of fruits and veggies needed for optimal growth, a celebration day is a great way to get them into children.

We don’t have to take food completely out of celebrations to make everyone happy, but we can choose other things to make it a more inclusionary practice. There are many different ways that we can dress up good allergen free foods to make them fun too. It just takes a little more creativity and some time…time you have when you are not icing 24 cupcakes. 

It's even Vegetarian!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Hidden Gem - Patterson Springs Farm

Big Sky
If there is one thing I like to do it is going on outing with my kids. The more we go out the less mess that they can make inside my house and the less work I have in the long run! After a long vacation and even longer car rides back I was excited to see that my friend Lindsie, who runs Patterson Springs Farm with her mom, was having a farm play day!

My Yummy CSA

I already love Patterson Springs Farm for the yummy CSA that I get each week and wanted to show the boys exactly where their food comes from. I called it homeschooling - and my husband called it an excuse to visit my friends. Can't argue with that - it is really the best of both worlds.

When we got there after a short drive from southeast Calgary, we were instantly surrounded by an idyllic setting. I have always wanted my kids to grow up in the country - but we honestly can't afford it and I honestly don't think I could handle the work of running a farm by myself for the most part. Being able to go to Patterson Springs and just walk around the property and explore is a really nice treat.

Rock Staircase up to the Garden
Since it was the Farm Play Day (which they have once a month) there were plenty of other mothers around to talk with and for the kids to play with. Since it was a nice day the moms had just put their blankets on the lawn and were having a picnic. We packed our lunch too, so we just joined right in.

After lunch, Lindise took us on a tour of the upper garden. It was really cool to see where all the vegetables that we get from our CSA come from. And sadly, my boys did not recognise that this garden was food. It was a great learning opportunity where I was able to get down at their level and show them what a carrot and an onion look like while still growing in the ground. The kids especially loved the sunflowers and played around them for a couple moments before heading to the bees.
Sunflowers surrounding the Veggies

Lindsie showing off her Bees! 
My son holding a piece of honeycomb.
I am not a huge fan of bees as I am afraid of being stung, but I appreciate how important they are for pollination and for food production in general. (not to mention for the honey). Lindsie carefully separated the comb so that the kids could see where honey comes from. My kids were enthralled. My eldest one loved seeing all the hexagons inside the honeycomb and took a piece home for his nature collection.

After we had seen the bees the kids ran down to visit the animals. We buy our eggs from Patterson Springs as well so the kids wanted to help feed the chickens. We had an impromptu lesson on why not to put your fingers in the cage for too long! The chickens wanted a taste of my little ones fingers!! It was so funny to see the surprised look on his face!

Careful not to get your fingers nipped!
The kids really enjoyed feeding the animals and the highlight of the day was when my middle child was able to feed the goats. These are his favorite animal and they were so friendly and trying very hard to say hello. We spent some time down by the animals as the kids just wanted to keep feeding them. Once they were done we headed back up to the farmhouse for a potty break, and a snack.

This goat was hilarious.
Magic Show
While having our snack Lindsie's son shared his magic tricks with us. He is my oldest son's best friend and so they were happy to be the magician and assistant for the duration of the show. Another friend of Lindsie's shared a Waldorf inspired puppet show with the kids about fall after the magic show. I was surprised how my kids sat so quietly and attentively for this soft, beautiful performance.

The Yurt
We ended the day by grabbing some more snacks in the Yurt (which is used much more in the Winter Farm Play Day's as it has a fireplace). The adults chatted while the kids played inside and outside until their hearts content.

As we left Patterson Springs, I felt a sense of gratitude that these ladies open up their home once a month to share it with city dwellers to get away from the hustle if only for a day.

For more information visit or like them on facebook.

Lindsie and Lousie (mom&daughter) owners of the farm.
*This is not a sponsored post - all opinions are my own.*

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