family fun · Homeschool · well *I* think it's funny... · Worldschooling

Day 868: Pole Dancing and Physics

I’ve been working on our homeschool yearbook—I want to finish it before we start a new year. We’ve been so many places and done so many things (and have way, way, waaaay too many pictures) that I had a hard time figuring out how to organize it. By location? By activity type? Some other theme?

You know what, I finally said to myself, it’s a school yearbook. Do it by academic subject.

It was a great idea, if I do say so myself, because it totally appeals to our sense of humour (Mr. December’s and mine.) Homeschoolers and worldschoolers are forever saying that their kids learn school subjects through daily life (“Baking is science! Comparing quantities of chips in two people’s bowls is math!”) —you get the idea, don’t you? By taking this attitude with our yearbook, we can include pictures of everything from pole dancing to petting an alpaca, and call it all school.

I did the physics page just now. It’s not finished, but I’m including the screenshot to give you the general idea:

A two-page spread in a photo book. Title is "Physics---the study of matter, energy, and the relationships between them." Photographs are of kids in hammocks, people ziplining, playing on a slide, leaning into the wind, pole dancing, etc.
Yes, pole dancing involves rotational inertia and angular velocity.
family fun · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 863: The Cottage

Three days without a post… that might be the longest hiatus I’ve taken since our stint in Galapagos last December! The wifi at the cottage was slow (at one point during a rainstorm it cut out entirely,) so I stowed my laptop for the duration of our time there.

It was fabulous. The kids had friends to play with (self-directed, imaginative play, mostly outdoors.) We had friends to talk to. I got to kayak a few times, including once out to Cookout Island (as opposed to a shorter paddle around the bay.) I took five kids on a swim from that same island to the next one over (maybe 400-500 metres each way.)

They’re a board gaming family like we are, so there were plenty of games including a nightly Scrabble game. There was also a giant crossword puzzle posted on the wall for anyone to work on (I might steal this idea.) The beds were comfy and the lake was warm. In short, a perfect getaway.

However, I learned that uneven ground makes my knee hurt—one unexpected change in terrain and I got sharp twinges up the sides of my knee. The first few times I stepped down from the dock I hurt myself; I eventually learned to step down onto my good leg. So I was sore… but it was worth it.

family fun

Day 859: Gone Fishin’

… and kayaking, and waterskiing, and swimming.

Please excuse the brevity of today’s post. Tomorrow’s, too. Maybe Thursday’s—I don’t know. But right now, with the lake outside beckoning and the internet connection slow and spotty, it makes no sense for me to spend an hour banging out a blog post. I offer you these pics of E’s first fishing experience as a consolation prize.

family fun · gardening

Day 858: Abundance

Our plum tree is so heavy with fruit that its branches are nearly touching the ground. Today we began harvesting. My inlaws stopped by, so I put them to work, and we picked and sorted around 20 litres of plums—and I can barely see where the tree is missing any fruit at all. I’m envisioning plum jam, plum brandy, and plum crumble.

But tonight I’m exhausted, so no crumble for me. Tomorrow we’re going up to visit a friend’s cottage for a couple of days. As I’m the driver, I should probably go to sleep so I’m well rested on the road. Caffeine will only take me so far.

family fun

Day 856: That’s not a tree…

Mr. December just invited me to collaborate on a family tree. The website he chose to use is a crowdsourced one, that finds matches between your family tree and all the others in the database. I can now confirm that there are at least two people out there I’ve never heard of, who seem to know about me and my kids. It’s a bit surreal, seeing myself in someone else’s family tree (yes, I get that if I’m in it, it’s my tree too.)

As I began to fill in my own ancestors, It occurred to me that calling it a family tree is a bit misleading. It’s not much like a tree at all; I think it’s more like a spider plant, with baby plants and offshoots, some of which are connected to each other directly while others are just peripheral. It’s a pretty busy spider plant, and I’ve not even put in most of my cousins yet.

The crowdsourcing feature on this website is pretty cool, except that every time I try to confirm a “match” (i.e. the person in my tree is the same as on someone else’s family tree) the site tries to sell me an upgraded subscription. “We’ve got official documents about this person,” it teases, “which we’ll be happy to show you… for a price.” It did give me a couple of free searches, complete with importing people from other trees into my own, which is how I now know that my great-grandmother (on my mother’s father’s side) had roughly ninety bajillion cousins (I believe that’s the scientific term.)

Family tree spanning six generations, roughly five couples wide at its widest point. Names are not visible, but this is my family tree.
This actually is my family tree… or one view of it, anyhow. I haven’t added in my kids’ and my generations of cousins yet.

It all makes me wonder, at what point do we stop calling people “family”? When we lose touch with them? When they get to be our seventh cousins, thrice removed? When they stop coming to the family reunion? Or is it when they email back, “Take me off your damn mailing list!”?

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · water you paddling?

Day 852: In the Right Direction

E accompanied me on my first post-injury bike ride this morning. I was biking on the lowest possible gear, on flat terrain, and we only did 1.6 kilometres in total. My knee hurt a bit when I used that leg to pedal; but when I only used my good leg to pedal and just let my bad leg go along for the ride, it was okay. Exhausting, but okay.

While the girls were at their horseback riding camp today, I took my mum to Professor’s Lake, a tiny little lake right in the middle of Brampton. There are actually houses in Brampton that back onto a lake—who knew?

Anyhow, we rented kayaks (I still can’t carry ours and neither can Mum.) We’ve been spoiled with the comfy seats in our new kayak. The rental ones were kind of uncomfortable, and some were missing parts—I had to insist that they find me one with a proper seat cushion.

Despite the discomfort, we had a great time. I helped mum improve her paddle stroke and worked on my own form. The heat of the day was much more bearable out on the lake, and an hour’s rental seemed to fly by.

We headed over to the beach area; mum sat down to read while I waded in for a swim. Last time I swam, even the mildest current made my lower leg move, hurting my knee in the process. Today I could swim with no pain, for the first five minutes anyhow. I spent the rest of my time just wallowing in the cool water (like a hippo, with as little of my body as possible out of the water,) or floating on my back and looking up at the sky.

It was a fabulous day. My bike ride was shorter than my usual, I could only swim freestyle or breaststroke for a few minutes, and the kayak wasn’t especially comfortable. Still, I got a lot of enjoyable movement in today—and all of it in the right direction.

Selfie of me in a kayak, with the lake and some suburban-style houses in the background.
family fun · water you paddling?

Day 849: The Return

First, a few public service announcements:

  1. If you’re heading to Cherry Beach from the DVP, you have to either go west on Lakeshore and pull a U-turn or go east on Lakeshore and take Leslie street down and back around. You can’t take the Lakeshore exit from the DVP and then go straight at the light.
  2. 8:30 a.m. is a bit late to get there, if you’re averse to creating your own parking spot. We arrived at that time and got one of the last two legal spots in the parking lot.

If you’re one of my regular readers (and you probably are,) I know that you’re smarter than the average bear person. Doubtless you’ve already figured out what I did today, but I’m gonna shout it to the world anyway:

I WENT KAYAKING!!!!!!! And man, did it feel great!

Mr. December wasn’t keen on going, but he’s also not keen on watching me mope around the house while summer passes me by, so he did all the lifting, carrying, car packing, and schlepping to make this outing happen. Since K didn’t want to join us, it was just the two of us and E—and the rear cockpit in our kayak is pretty long, so she could sit right in front of me as we paddled.

We paddled for an hour or so. Then we parked the kayak on the beach and went for a swim. The lake was chilly, but not the coldest I’ve swum in, either. It was another hour before any of us was ready to go home.

Of course, no day out is complete without an injury, right? I wrenched my knee getting back into the car; so it’s sore. Still worth it, in my opinion. I’d say I’ll be more careful next time, but I think we all realize I won’t. I’ll have to make it a rule to only get in the car if I’m wearing my most restrictive knee brace, the one that makes it impossible to twist the knee at all.

Today was as perfect as it could get, I think. Kayaking and swimming, then good food and a nap. Now I’m in my hammock with a glass of sangria and—as soon as finish this blog post—my book.

family fun · Independence · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 843: To Market, to Market

(No pigs, fat or otherwise, were harmed or bought in the writing of this title.)

It was a beautiful summer day today; all I wanted was to be out on the water.

“Just give it one more week,” Mr. December cajoled me, “just until next weekend.”

Instead of the beach, we went to a nearby farmers’ market. It was small and manageable for me, in terms of walking, and we needed to buy fruits and vegetables anyhow. The vendors were friendly, the produce was beautiful, and there was even live music.

“If I had my druthers,” I told Mr. December, “I’d want to always buy my fruits and vegetables this way instead of at the supermarket.”

Wrist deep in a plate of jerk chicken, he looked up and asked, “Why? Not for environmental reasons?”

(We’ve had this conversation before: apparently small farms are worse for the environment than large ones—I presume there’s economy of scale.)

Of course not for environmental reasons, nor for cost savings. Shopping at a market just feels more… human, I guess is the word for it. You get to chat with the people producing the food you eat, you have to choose from seasonal produce rather than an international assortment—and I appreciate this not because I think importing out-of-season fruits is bad, but because being aware of (and eating) seasonal produce can make us feel more connected to our natural surroundings.

(I also won’t deny that in the event of a zombie apocalypse or other worldwide disturbance, I think it’s a good idea to maintain some capacity for local food production—just in case.)

A small farmers’ market is also an ideal place for kids to gain some confidence. E saw a cupcake she wanted, and asked me to buy it for her. I was sitting and my knee was sore, so I sent her to find out how much it cost; I watched as she spoke to the vendor, then came back to me to ask for four dollars. It’s a small thing, but buying her own cupcake is a start towards independence. And the reward was (according to E) delicious.

family fun · Kids · Unschooling

Day 842: A Family Rabbit Hole

Well, our internet and cellphone service is back up, but it’s still spotty and unreliable.

But it was good enough to watch a documentary that was recommended by a friend, called Bend or Break, about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It was more personal narrative than information, which was a bit disappointing, but Mr. December was ready and willing to google every question K had.

In the end, our conversation ranged from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to genetic screening (and the difference between autosomal and sex-linked genetic disorders) to sickle-cell anemia and how it results from what was an adaptive gene that made people more or less immune to malaria.

Then, armed with information from the vast amount of well-researched historical fiction I’ve read, I explained to K and Mr. December about malaria, how it can be seen on a simple microscope, the disease process, and treatment. Halfway through my explanation K cut me off with a slightly strangled-sounding, “I think that’s all I need to know about that.” I wisely stopped before she started feeling faint.

I was pretty happy to observe that K remembers everything we’ve discussed before (this isn’t her first time hearing about sickle-cell anemia.) Now, if I could get her to remember that empty wrappers go in the garbage…

family fun · water you paddling?

Day 824: I’ll take what’s in the box.

We all know “they” say money can’t buy happiness.

Here’s a list of things money can buy, which in turn can generate happiness:

  • a bicycle
  • time
  • bubble solution and wands
  • an evening out with friends
  • a good mattress
  • life-saving surgery
  • a captive’s freedom
  • A KAYAK!

Guess what got delivered yesterday?

photo of three large cardboard boxes labeled "Martini" and then "front piece/back piece/mid piece"
Spoiler alert: it’s a kayak.

Last winter mum decided that we should get some proper kayaks. I did my research and discovered a modular kayak that can transform from a single kayak to a double (tandem.) It seemed to me that it was a perfect option: mum is a much slower paddler than I am, so if we want to paddle together, we’d best be in the same boat. So last week we sat at my computer and clicked “buy.” It was delivered to my parents’ driveway yesterday.

Naturally we had to take it for a test run ASAP. We drove to the Humber Boat Put-In (really? “put-in?” don’t we have a less awkward word for it?) and assembled the kayak in about five minutes (including unloading the parts from the car.) Then we went out on the Humber river for an hour.

This is a seriously fun kayak. It’s easy to paddle, easy to fit in the back of the van, and the seats are really comfortable. There’s even a rudder at the back that’s controlled by the footrests, so turning is super quick and easy. It’s very stable—we were already on the water when I decided to hook up the rudder control cables, but I turned around and stretched over the back of the kayak without flipping the boat. It barely even rocked.

Now, reassured that this kayak was an excellent purchase, I can get down to the serious business of rigging up some way to store it in the garage. I guess I could keep it in the car, but then I’d have to tell my children that three of them have to ride elsewhere.