Category Archives: Parenting

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.

10687213_10152484110378791_3318591856181257703_n (1)
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

 

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

10312606_10155380341595226_3882308755310945764_n

 

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!

13 important questions to ask a potential home childcare provider

549610_10151073821258791_649902245_n
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?

420944_10151133910518791_1887644597_n
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?

1016385_10151522315693791_1248501169_n
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!

 

AAR_Giveaway_300x250 (1)

 

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!

 

AAS_Giveaway_300x250_Web

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.

 

 

When it comes to homeschooling there is more then one method?

225921_8919793790_6145_n
My daughter, age 4 practicing her Montessori practical life activities.

Have you ever wondered about the various methods of homeschooling? If so, look no further! Alecia is a fellow homeschooling blogger who is currently running a series called: There’s more than one homeschooling method?

Last week featured a blog written by  Lisa, Kathy and Karen all fellow homeschooling parents and bloggers who talked about the Eclectic approach to homeschooling. This week features a blog about the Montessori approach to homeschooling that I wrote! Click on the link below to read my blog about the Montessori method:

http://learning2walk.com/montessori-theres-1-way-homeschool/

Please check out this great series (see link below) guaranteed to give you a good look at the various methods of homeschooling written by myself and other great homeschooling blogging parents!

http://learning2walk.com/

 

 

How to quiet a squeaky trampoline for under 6 bucks

GetAttachmentMy kids have always had a trampoline. We love it. It is one of the best investments I have ever made for the kids. They never get tired of it. They are on the trampoline every single day.

What I don’t love is the horrible annoying squeaky noise it makes. It drives me crazy and I’m sure my neighbors don’t like hearing it either.

Here is how to quiet a squeaky trampoline for under 6 bucks

1) Buy one can of WD-40

2) Ask someone to jump on the trampoline. This will help to pull the springs apart and wiggle the other squeaky parts

3) Spray the springs GetAttachment (1)

 

 

 

 

4) Spray where the legs connectGetAttachment (4)

 

 

 

5) Spray where the top ring connectsGetAttachment (3)

 

 

 

6) Spray spacersGetAttachment (2)

 

 

 

 

 

It will not be 100% silent at first but its pretty close. The more the kids jump on it they will work the oil in and the quieter it will get. I seemed to notice the biggest improvement when I sprayed the legs and top ring.

Happy jumping 🙂

Go Play Outside!

295292_10151064769948791_1786339914_nAs a child , when my friends and I were not in my backyard pool we were playing in the woods in our neighborhood. Those were some of the best days of my life.

We would spend hours unsupervised hiking on trails, climbing trees, walking in the creek, catching crayfish, getting dirty and playing hide and seek.  We never got hurt or hurt each other.  We respected each other, the creatures living around us and the environment. Despite being without all the modern technology available today, we all grew into smart, independent and caring adults. 296743_10150341199488791_276201106_n

Playing outside in nature allowed us to burn off energy, develop our fine and gross motor skills, learn about our natural environment, get fresh air and reduce stress. It also helped us develop important  skills in a hands on way such as teamwork, trust and problem solving  skills. These skills are not learned while sitting in front of a screen.

There are hundreds of pages of reports with information on the many benefits of children being allowed unstructured play time in nature and the negative effects (both physical and psychological) of children who spend too  much time in front of a screen.

As a former teacher it was very obvious in my classroom which children spent most of their time at home in front of a screen compared to the children who had minimal or no screen time. The children who had the most screen time were severely delayed in social skills, language, had difficulty concentrating and were less motivated to learn compared to the children with the least amount of screen time.

Unfortunately  today in some areas it is no longer safe or practical to allow children to roam free as did the kids of my generation but that is no reason to deny children time outside in nature. 1932232_10152030823838791_1481896414_n

So, grab your kids and get outside to play, being in nature is good for adults too!

(below are 2 articles about the benefits of children playing outside in nature)

 

 

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/kid_play_zones_in_parks_leave_no_trace_inhibits_fun_and_bonding_with_nature.single.html

http://www.nwf.org/be-out-there/why-be-out-there/health-benefits.aspx

5 reasons people oppose homeschooling and are you qualified to home-school?

My kids age 5 and 8 at their home-school art lessons (2011)

Even though home schooling is becoming more popular each year, there are still many people who are uncertain what it means to home school a child.

The following 2 articles are informative and nicely written on the subject of homeschooling.

Enjoy

 

 

 

http://thecanadianhomeschooler.com/2014/06/5-reasons-people-oppose-homeschooling/

http://hedua.com/blog/know-im-qualified-homeschool/

 

A Montessori morning- must watch video

225356_8918163790_5732_n
My daughter age 4, in her Montessori classroom.

Most people have heard of Montessori education, but not too many have had the opportunity to be inside a real working Montessori classroom during school hours.

It is truly a unique, inspiring and amazing way of educating children.

Below is a fantastic link to a video that a classmate of mine from Montessori Teachers College made. It shows what a 3 hour work cycle can look like in a Montessori classroom for a 4 year old.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09Y-huCMjIc