All posts by katiefurlong

How we choose our curriculum (and a free printable to help you plan your home school year!)

10377014_10152484073918791_8201139499869093238_nWhen it comes to homeschooling 2 very different special needs children, there was a lot of trial and error involved before I landed on a method that worked the best for all of us.

Both my children have a few things in common when it comes to their learning styles and a whole lot of differences.

They both are extremely intelligent, articulate, energetic, hands on learners and hate any kind of paper and pencil work.

I tried various kinds of worksheets found on-line for free or paid sites, workbooks, letting the kids choose the topics, letting them choose the order of their work, time of day to do their work but nothing seemed to go smoothly.

The kids would end up complaining like they were being tortured or would rush through their work and make silly errors. My daughter said she could not work in the same room as my son because the sound of his pencil on the paper was driving her crazy.

Neither were able to work independently and I wanted both kids to be able to complete their work as independently as possible, to prepare them for post secondary education.

10690236_10152439280533791_3822242993217861758_nMy kids have very limited screen time (1 hour a day only if they get their school work, chores done and behave in an appropriate manner) so I looked into on-line curriculum. I figured that may appeal to them since they had very minimal screen time and they liked technology.

We tried a few free trial sites before settling down with Time4learning

It’s a on-line curriculum that covers preschool right up grade 12. All the lessons are taught in a fun, cute and child friendly way making it very appealing to children.

The activities and quizzes are fun and don’t seem like quizzes at all. The kids get to choose what order they want to complete their work. Sometimes they do a little of each subject each day and sometimes they get into a groove where they only want to work on one subject at a time.

They have access to 3 grade levels at a time so if they complete grade 4 language they can move on to grade 5 and still be working on grade 4 math and science for example.

I can see everything they have worked on in the parent login including their marks. If they didn’t get a mark I feel was high enough then I have them re-do the activity.

The really neat thing about this curriculum is that working 1 hour a day at the program my kids have completed 3 full school grades (math, science, language arts, language and social studies) in under 12 months.

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My daughter dog sitting for a neighbour

This leaves so much time in the day for hands on learning through homeschool programs, practical life activities plus lots of unstructured time for the kids to play and explore the things that interest them. The “non curriculum” time is just as important as its teaching my kids job skills through volunteering, practical life skills at home, independence and social skills in a fun hands on way.

How do you choose your curriculum?

Thanks to Lisa at the Canadian Homeschooler, we have a free printable to offer our readers. Click on this link to get a free printable to help plan, purchase and compare your materials for the next year.

 http://thecanadianhomeschooler.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/curriculumpurchaseplanner.pdf

 

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Picaboo yearbook creator review (and giveaway!)

A few years ago my children and I used Picaboo to make a photo album for my elderly neighbour. He is like a great-grandfather to my children.

I really enjoyed making the book and he loves flipping through the pages remembering all the fun times he has had with my kids.

I was so excited when I was asked to review Picaboo yearbooks to be used as a home school yearbook.  Untitled

As soon as I logged on I noticed the yearbook software was a little more complicated then the straight forward photo album software I had used a few years ago but I still found the yearbook software very user-friendly.

The only time I did get stumped I was able to refer to the video tutorial for help and quickly got my answer.

I choose to do a yearbook that included the past 4 years we have home schooled, instead of a yearbook including only 1 year.

The various page layout choices made it quick, easy and almost effortless to create organized and eye-catching pages. yearbook3

Picaboo offers a ton of options for backgrounds under the photo’s on each page. I chose to simply go with a plain white background under my photo’s and text. I liked the background choices, I just don’t have an eye for choosing one that makes it look good.

Adding text was simple. The software has a built-in spell checker to catch all the typo’s and spelling mistakes. It also has a ton of choices for font style. Its easy to adjust the font size and style.

This program would be great not only for homeschool yearbooks but also for keepsake books for team sports and other clubs.yearbook2

I enjoyed building this yearbook with the kids so much that I will be creating a yearbook again next year. It will make a great keepsake to enjoy.

 

If you would like a chance to create your own Picaboo year book click here

to enter: Entry-Form

How we have fun homeschooling

Every child is unique so it makes sense that no 2 home school families are the same.

190531_10150120354033791_4366_nSome children thrive on routine, some do best with free range learning, some children enjoy paper and pencil and others love hands on learning.

In my home school I have the challenge of home-schooling 2 very different special needs children.

It has taken a few years to find a system of guiding them in a way that they both are learning independently, are allowed long periods of uninterrupted play/learning, enjoy what they are working on, 1185307_10151680175188791_2138601274_nhave lots of hands on learning opportunities and allow them the time needed to fully comprehend what they are working on.

In terms of “sit down” academics we use a self guided on-line curriculum. This allows my children to choose the order of their lessons. They have control over what they are working on and that makes learning more enjoyable.

550469_10150891628308791_1509430123_nBoth my children have a learning disability so paper and pencil work is like torture to them. The on-line curriculum is fun, interactive and the least frustrating way for my kids to learn their basic subjects.

I am a big advocate of children learning how to be independent and develop skills that will help them get a job and be independent. Through practical life skills such as baking, basic home repair, gardening and volunteering in the community my children are practising how to take care of themselves in a real hands on way while having fun.1374248_10152563195628791_1227155916881035088_n

Another way we have fun with our home-school is by interacting with children of all ages. This is accomplished through sports, classes, field trips and social meet ups. During these social activities my children develop skills like conflict resolution, how to be a good friend and team player, a positive roll model for the other children and respect for each other in a fun hands on way.

I am a firm believer that a lot of life’s lessons that children learn comes from playing 548137_10150947787508791_723773475_noutside with other kids. I like to make sure my children have long, uninterrupted, unstructured periods of time outside with their friends. These are times where they are not only getting fresh air and exercise but also exploring nature, interacting with their friends, using their imagination and having a blast at the same time.

How do you have fun in your home school?

Five nature based places to visit in Central Ontario (and triple give-away!)

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Ontario has so many opportunities to experience nature up close and hands on. It would be impossible to list them all so my children and I have come up with a list of five of our favorite outdoor field trips located in central Ontario. These are all places we have visited for day trips, some are only open seasonally so always double-check days and hours of operation.

 

 

68969_446179798790_6676439_nWarsaw caves is located just 30 minutes northeast of Peterborough and offers 7 caves, hiking trails, beach  with swimming area  and campground. This unique conservation area was formed thousands of years ago when Ontario was covered with thick glaciers. When the glaciers began to melt the flowing water formed caves, ledges, cliffs, kettles and underground channels in the bedrock creating an interesting landscape to enjoy.  In addition to the caves there are great hiking trails with some interesting features. Along the trail there is a point where the river disappears underground and can be heard flowing beneath your feet! Another really neat aspect of the hiking trails are the kettles and no I am not talking about tea. Kettles are round holes in the bedrock that were carved thousands of years ago when a boulder got caught in the river in a whirlpool. It spun around long enough to actually carve some pretty impressive 67319_446187583790_4262254_nholes in the bedrock, some big enough to fit  few adults inside.  We only visited for day trips but they also offer overnight camping. We would recommend headlamp flash lights instead of handheld flash lights as you will want your hands free for climbing in and out of some caves.

 

Petroglyphs provincial park is located a little over 2 hours north-east of Toronto and is home to one of thMinolta DSCe largest collections of aboriginal rock carvings in Canada. These carvings are on a gigantic rock housed in a huge building in the forest and it is pretty impressive! There is staff on site to help interpret the carvings and it is a very unique experience. You can also visit the Learning Place to learn about the traditions of the Ojibway people. This provincial park has 4  peaceful hiking trails ranging from 1km long to 5.5 kms long and offers various natural landscape to enjoy such as mixed forest, a marsh trail and a trail that runs along the unique McGinnis Lake, a rare metronomic lake. This is a blue/green lake of waters that don’t intermix. Since petroglyphs provincial park is on the border of the Peterborough Crown Game Reserve it is a great place for bird watching.

262509_10150278083758791_5497853_nCobourg beach is located a little over an hour east of Toronto and is easily accessible via the 401. It has the largest and nicest soft white sand beach that I have visited in Ontario. The swimming is wonderful as the water is shallow for the little ones and very slowly gets deeper. You can spend the entire day just relaxing on the beach enjoying the sun, water and fresh air. Victoria park adjoins the beach and has large grassy areas, a good size splash pad, playground, snack bar, trees to provide shade and a band-shell. The marina offers sailing lessons and fishing charters too.

Peterborough zoo (Riverview park and zoo) is a 55 acre zoo and  is located about an hour and half north-east of Toronto. This is a fantastic little zoo and so much more!! It is open year round and has free admissions and parking,  but donations are greatly appreciated. It is home to over 27 animals exhibits and over 40 species of animals to observe ad enjoy. Take a 15 mi564255_10151073820803791_391137761_nnute trip on the vintage train ride or cool off in the large splash pad.  The zoo is also home to Peterborough’s largest playground. There are various playgrounds geared towards
age group from a tot lot to a large school age playground and don’t forget to hop on the 80 foot long super slide! Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the many picnic tables throughout the park or the various picnic shelters. The zoo is a great to place visit in the winter as most of the animals are active during the winter, there is room to cross-country ski or bring a sled and go tobogganing.

Greenwood opening weekend celebrations
Greenwood opening weekend celebrations

Greenwood conservation area is located in Ajax and is perfect for the city folk who want to enjoy nature close to home. Greenwood is situated along the banks of Duffins creek, a cool clear water creek. This conservation area offers great hiking trails, some amazing fishing beginning with the trout season opening in the spring. There is also picnic areas and a playground making it a perfect location for family picnics or other social gatherings.

Where are some of your favorite places to visit in Canada?

I am very excited to be involved in not only one but a triple give-away for all my loyal readers. This months give-away is:

1) Family/Group Discovery Pass from Parks Canada. Valid for 1 year from date of issue. Value $136.40.    

2) Rough Guide: Canada – travel guide book. Value $29.99.

3)The Ultimate Guide to Field Trips in Canada ebook. Value: $5.99.

To enter click: Entry-Form

Good luck to all those entering and please share.

Please visit The Canadian Homeschooler for more great virtual field trips from across Canada.

Canadian book review and giveaway!!!

IMG-20150224-01593My mother is an amazing cook and taught me everything I know about cooking. I remember standing  on a chair at the kitchen counter baking sugar cookies with my mother as preschooler.

To this day when I have a cooking related question she is the first person I call.

When my daughter was a toddler and beginning to try big kid foods, my mother bought me “Better Food For Kids” by The Hospital For Sick Children as a Christmas gift.

This is a wonderful Canadian book filled with a ton of nutritional information for feeding children ages 2-6 years old and 150 healthy recipes that children of all ages and adults will enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert.

Recipes such as easy quiche, strawberry salad, tomato herbed chicken and pita crisps will satisfy children’s appetite and make parents happy knowing their child is eating healthy.

Along with the Canadian Homeschooler I am happy to be involved in another great giveaway  (Entry-Form )here on my blog. 65080_10155307944420226_7587556391727268620_nResidents of Canada (sorry to our readers outside of Canada) aged 18 years and older can enter this giveaway. Beginning Wednesday February 25th at 6am until March 11th at 11:59EST readers can enter for a chance to win a set of 8 youth books from Coteau Books called the Disaster Strikes! Series

Feel free to share your favorite Canadian book below in the comments. Good  luck to everyone entering!

Gluten free/dairy free zucchini mini quiche (with gluten and dairy opions)

 

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If you have ever planted a vegetable  garden that included zucchini then chances are you have ended up with so many zucchini  you didn’t know what to do with them all. Here is a great recipe that helps to put some of that surplus zucchini to good use.

 

 

Gluten free/dairy free zucchini mini Quiche

Ingredients

3 cups shredded zucchini (can even use the club size zucchini as long as the skin is still tender)
1 large onion shredded
5 eggs
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch ground black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Mix all of the above ingredients  and fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until cooked.

For those of you not on a gluten-free/dairy free diet you can replace the gf flour with 1 cup all-purpose flour and add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.

13 important questions to ask a potential home childcare provider

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My kids at the zoo with my home daycare

Whether you are returning to work or going back to school choosing a qualified home childcare provider is one of the most difficult decisions you will make as a parent.

I have 20 years teaching experience in licensed childcare settings, a private school and in the home childcare community.  Some of these questions I have been asked by parents and some are questions that I think every parent should be asking.

The suggestions below are good questions to ask in addition to the general questions (ie is the yard fenced, where do the children nap and play and so on) Some of the questions might seem a bit excessive but I have seen more than a few people who should have not been responsible for young children in one way or another.

1) How long have they been providing childcare?

2) What is their experience with young children? There CAN  be a huge difference between someone who likes kids and someone who has gone to school for 2 years to study early childhood education.

3) Do they have any pets? If so how and when are the pets involved? Can they provide you with up to date rabies vaccination records?

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My son at our home childcare field trip to the pumpkin patch

4) Do they have home childcare insurance? God forbid if there is an accident, is your child covered? It can be very tricky to find home daycare insurance BUT it can be done. This  insurance will usually follow the children at the caregivers home, personal vehicle, bus, walking trips and so on. My experience  in Ontario is that if the home childcare has a pool large enough that it has a filter and doesn’t get dumped out every night they either do not have insurance or their insurance will be void if the insurance company finds out.

5) Do the children travel in the childcare providers vehicle? If so does he/she have a clean driving abstract? Does the childcare provider provide up to date car seats and knows how to use them correctly. 75% of car seats are installed  incorrectly!

6) Can the childcare provider provide a clean up to date (within 6 months) criminal record check? Also who else lives in the home and is involved with the children?

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My son checking out the tadpoles at a local park with my daycare kids.

7) Does the childcare provider have references you may contact of past and current clients

8) Does the childcare provider provide food or is the parent responsible for sending food? If so what kind of food is served? Can they cater to children with food allergies/sensitivities?

9) If the children are allowed to watch TV exactly what programs are they watching and how long each day?

10) Does the childcare provider give receipts for your income taxes?

11) How are the children disciplined? What is the home childcare’s policy on children who are aggressive?

12) How many children does the caregiver have each day? Check your area for the max number of children and their ages.

A fun childcare trip to a local farm.
A fun childcare trip to a local farm.

13) Does the childcare provider have any extra qualifications? Infant and child CPR, food handler safety course, workshops relating to children are all very  useful in a home daycare environment and can help parents decided between one childcare provider or another.

Hope this helps parents find a safe environment for their child to learn and grow while away from home.

O Canada! It’s time for school. All about learning press giveaway!

 

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I am happy to introduce the first giveaway on my blog.  All about learning press is giving away your choice of levels from either All About Reading or All About Spelling, plus an Interactive Kit. This prize is valued at $150!

 

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Simply fill out the  Entry-Form   to enter. The winner will be chosen July 23, 2014 and the contest is open to residents of Canada and the US.

 

 

Easy Dairy Free Banana Pancakes with Berry Sauce

IMG-20140702-00653 (1)What do you do with extra over ripe fruit?

Don’t throw it out!

Make banana pancakes with berry sauce instead.

This is a great recipe to use up fruit like banana’s and berries when they get over ripe. It also works great with frozen berries such as those handfuls of frozen berries left in the freezer from smoothie making.

Dairy free banana pancakes

1 1/2 cup dairy free pancake mix
1 cup water
1 egg
4 very ripe banana’s, peeled

  1. Mix above ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl with electric mixer
  2. Cook on greased hot griddle
  3. Top with berry sauce or maple syrup

Berry sauce

Assorted berries fresh or frozen  (strawberries, black berries, raspberries, blueberries)
Liquid honey

  1. Cook berries on low to medium heat on the stove
  2. Add honey to taste
  3. Stir often until berries are soft

Berry sauce can be used on pancakes, waffles, crepes, ice cream or added to yogurt