family fun · Homeschool · Kids

Day 669: Snow Day II

We’re snowed in over here. Even after digging our car out of snowdrifts up to the windows, there’s a giant pile of snow at the bottom of our driveway that the snowplows kindly left for us. Much of our school day today was spent in “gym class”—in other words, shoveling. K worked for an especially long time; she was quick to point out that she expected to be excused from our family workouts for the rest of the week.

We gathered by the fireplace, hot chocolate in hand, to read Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast from 1756. The kids acknowledged that the original story is far closer to the myth of Psyche and Eros than any of the other versions they’re familiar with.

I sat down with R for her first fashion design class on Outschool. Today’s lesson was about necklines and how to sketch them on a croquis form. R was completely absorbed in it and in the follow-up assignment, which was to search our closets for examples of as many different necklines as possible. She found nine and photographed them to post to her class chat board.

I also dragged myself away from my computer and opened up an escape-room-in-a-box that’s been on our shelf for a year. The kids have never been keen to do these with me, so I decided to stop making it a family activity and just do the puzzles by myself. N came over while I was doing the first puzzle—a number puzzle requiring algebra—and insisted on working it out by himself… so I got some kid participation. Maybe next time I should work on the puzzles with a bowl of Skittles next to me, and when the kids ask if they can have some I’ll just say, “These are my thinking Skittles. If you want to work on the puzzles, you can have some while you think.”

I’m sleepy. Last night around 10:30, Mr. December looked over at me (we were both reading in bed) and asked, “Ready to go to sleep now? Or would you rather read for another two hours?” He knows me so well. I turned out the light at midnight, which is two hours later than I should have. My goal for tonight is to only read until eleven.

Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 668: Snow Day

The doorbell rang. I groaned, rolled over, and looked at my phone. 8:00.

I hope someone gets that, I thought as I closed my eyes again.

The doorbell rang again.

We have a similar problem with the phone. Nobody picks up—I guess everyone assumes it’s for someone else. Or it might be the duct cleaning companies calling again. Either way, a lot of phone calls go unanswered because the people closest to the phone can’t be bothered to pick up. Either that, or one of the kids has taken the phone from its base at my desk and I’m sitting here yelling, “Who the heck took my phone?”

Anyway, back to this morning.

When I eventually went downstairs, I learned that we had a guest: K’s bestie from down the street, whose parents said, “Snow like this is magical, and it’s criminal to make you sit at a desk all day doing online school. Go to K’s house.”

I guess they didn’t think about how homeschoolers might not have snow days because the snow is no obstacle to our daily routine. K’s friend became our first ever “exchange student”; she participated in Mr. December’s science class this morning. Two hours of equations later, she was still smiling.

We didn’t do any more school today—the kids were shooed outside to play in the snow, which according to our metre stick was about 47cm deep (that’s around 18.5 inches, for those of you still mired in the Imperial system.)

They spent hours trudging up a hill so they could zoom down it; they came home sweaty and flushed (and that was after a rest at K’s friend’s house a mere block away. It’s that hard to walk in snow this deep.)

I just found out that tomorrow has been declared a real snow day for the local school boards. Will our kids get the day off as well? Maybe, if they actually go outside and take advantage of the snow. Otherwise they’ll be doing school—with or without exchange students.

Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Kids

Day 663: Cinderella, you slut.

E has been on a “finishing workbooks” kick lately. Last week she completed her cursive writing book. Today she worked for four hours (or so) on finishing her Kumon math book. I didn’t interrupt her for other things like reading or social studies; just like you should not wake a sleeping baby (unless you have to for specific medical reasons, obviously,) you should not interrupt a kid who’s intently focussed on working towards a goal. There’s something magical about letting kids finish what they started instead of switching subjects every forty minutes.

Long story short: she finished her Grade 2: Measurement and Geometry workbook today.

Math workbook opened to a page titled, "Counting money". Next to it on the table, there are Canadian coins with a child's hand pointing to one of them.

Actually, we did sneak in some social studies: when E’s book got to the “counting money” section it was all in American currency. I pointed that out to her, then went to dig up some change and a few bills so I could show E what Canadian money looks like (and the denominations for the coins.) After looking at the bills, we watched “Heritage Minute” videos related to the subject of each bill. So E learned a bit about Viola Davis, Vimy Ridge, Canadarm, and the invention of insulin; we also watched a video about all the neat features of our banknotes.


I’m fibro-flaring again, possibly because I had a couple of late nights in a row. So I wasn’t as quick to fill the children’s time as I might have been otherwise. In the absence of instructions, N sat down with his sheet music and figured out all the notes to Waving Through a Window, then went and practiced playing it. He also helped E with her math work.

In the afternoon I read them two versions of Cinderella: the first written version by Perrault (published in 1697) and then a version by The Brothers Grimm. R was most displeased that at the end of both versions, Cinderella forgives her stepsisters wholeheartedly. K was amused that the eighteenth-century translation used the phrased “decked out” to describe the stepsisters all dressed up for the ball. We also encountered the archaic use of the word “slut” as in, “A slut like you can’t go to a ball!”

I preemptively explained that “slut” used to mean “messy” or “dirty.”

“Okay,” Rebecca said, “but what does it mean now?”

(I guess my explanation hadn’t preempted anything after all; sometimes I forget how young my kids are.)

“A sexually promiscuous woman,” I told her.

“Which means…?” she pressed.

This sort of exchange is probably why my kids have such expansive vocabularies.

Homeschool · Kids

Day 662: A Fairy Tale Lesson

We discussed fairy tales today, specifically the elements of the stories. I started by reading the kids this summary of every fairy tale ever:

“Once upon a time, there was a character who lived in a setting. The character had a problem, but magic intervened and everyone learned a theme.”

We spent a while discussing archetypal characters, fairy tale settings, conflicts, magic, and themes. Then K started a lively debate about what elements have to be the same for two stories to be versions of the same story. I pushed them to get specific by reading a book that contained four “Cinderella Stories”; the kids all agreed that the setting doesn’t much matter, but you definitely have to have the same archetypal character with the same conflict, and the same type of magical assistance to resolve it.

The kids participated so enthusiastically, it felt like I was living the happy resolution to a fairy tale.

I’m not sure what exactly made this lesson good, but I know how I’m going to keep their interest going forward: dramatic readings of fairy tales—the gory Grimm versions. They can’t wait.

blogging · crafty · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · whine and cheese

Day 658: Same Day Two Ways

It was lunchtime, and I was sitting at my desk researching art markers for R. It was taking me forever—not because of the sheer number of choices (although that was staggering,) but because kids kept coming over and making demands:

N: “Eema, can you please do my Hebrew reading with me now so I can finish all my work sooner?”

K: “Eema, I want to do more viola practice… and I need you to help me.”

R: “Eema, tune my guitar?”

I kept begging them to leave me alone and let me think my own thoughts for five consecutive minutes. Eventually I just snapped.

“GO AWAY!”


OR


It was lunchtime, and I was sitting at my desk researching art markers for R. It was taking me forever—not because of the sheer number of choices (although that was staggering,) but because each of the kids was eager to do something semi-independently, and they needed me to help them get started.

N had a goal: to finish school early today. To that end, he took the initiative to find the Hebrew reading book and bring it to me, asking me to please listen to his reading now.

R wanted to learn a new song on her guitar, and she needed me to tune it first. Then she went off happily with the chord sheet in one hand and the guitar in the other.

K was feeling inspired to do some extra viola practice (she already did one session with me in the morning.) She invited me to come and help her.

I was still in the middle of purchasing R’s art markers, so I encouraged them to work independently for a while. Next thing I knew, all four kids were in the library, taking turns helping each other with their music practice.


AND THEN…


We got almost no work done this afternoon. Writing got pushed aside because the kids were hyperfocused on their music; Hebrew didn’t happen, either. When I joined them in the library and started explaining some of the music theory that would make N’s piece easier for him, they complained about it being too complicated or too useless. In art, N flatly refused to work, and E cried about how she needed me to draw the picture she wanted so she could colour it in.


OR


Our afternoon took an unexpected turn: when I joined the kids in the library, they asked me to help N figure out the chords for Twinkle. Some debate about which key it should be in led to me explaining some music theory, with N demonstrating on the piano. In art, N didn’t want to draw at first. He couldn’t resist just trying out the oil pastels when I unboxed them for the first time, though. He experimented with blending and shading and ended up drawing a very credible likeness of his new octopus stuffie. K really got into it too, staying at the table long past our usual ending time so that she could perfect the colours in her sketch.


It’s all true, you know. My day was a little chaotic and I had to be flexible and follow the children’s lead. I also had a chance to relax my expectation and use some of my expert knowledge (I do have a degree in music, after all) to help them with something they were trying to do together. They exasperated me with their repeated interruptions; they sought my help and guidance to further their own learning goals. The day’s events were simultaneously frustrating and exciting, so much so that I couldn’t decide which angle I wanted to write for this post… so I wrote you both.

Apathy · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 656: Three out of Four Ain’t Bad…

We’re getting back into a homeschooling routine, and a good one at that. I don’t want to jinx anything, but K has been practicing viola every day this week—yes, I know it’s Wednesday, and it’s a three-day streak… but it’s actually a long daily practice streak for her. Even better, she’s motivated to learn and improve; gone are the days of me forcing her to practice. I’m so enjoying practice time with her.

E has been going into the library when nobody’s there and practicing her violin. I’m not sure what happened to flute, but it’s really exciting that she’s going in and exploring the instrument on her own. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t sell off all the kid-sized violins when I wanted to last year.

We’ve even been doing Hebrew, which is something that often went by the wayside last year. E is happily soaking it all up and demanding more; R is happy to be spoken to in Hebrew in the mornings, when her brain is rested enough to process things.

Speaking of R, she’s been practicing her guitar this week and it’s really starting to pay off.

And N? Well… he practices his piano happily and is doing incredible work in math; he helped E with her music theory work today. But in Hebrew he refused to speak and then he left the table. When I gave him the writing assignment for the day, he looked away and then left the room. I offered assistance, but he wouldn’t tell me what the problem was; he just went mute and walked away.

On a side note, guess who has no screen privileges right now?

By 3:30 p.m. my brain was fried and I needed a break, but R wanted me to help her flesh out ideas for her writing assignment. “It’s your DUTY as a teacher to help your students!” she admonished me when I asked if we could do it later. So I helped her, which I actually enjoyed despite the descending brain fog.

And then I went down the rabbit hole of Air BnBs in sunny locales. I want to stick to this successful routine we’re establishing; I also want to see the sun. I can probably do both, if I can overcome my apathy to plan and pack and travel again.

birthing babies · Kids · Resorting to Violins

Day 655: Seven!

My baby really truly isn’t a baby anymore. I probably say that every year, but this time I really mean it.

For her birthday, we teamed up with my parents and gave E a Kobo of her very own. I pre-loaded it with a book that I’m pretty sure she’ll like, but it’s on my Kobo account (along with everyone else in the family,) so she has everyone’s books available to her. She just came running down to my desk screaming, “Eema! Eema! I can read Percy Jackson! I just read some with N!”

Not that there’s anything too objectionable in Percy Jackson, but I took the opportunity to remind E that being trusted with a Kobo also means she has to be trustworthy: if I guide her away from certain books on the Kobo, she needs to follow my recommendations.

(Of course, between you and me, I know that the fastest way to get a kid interested in something is to ban it. I think I’ll prohibit a whole whack of classic kids’ books.)

Anyhoo… she’s seven. She’s not a “little kid” anymore (although in this family, she’s still little.) She can read, multiply, knead challah dough, ride a bike, sew a quilt, and play her flute.

By-the-by, she decided yesterday that she wants to play violin as well. We dug out R’s old ⅛ size violin and I tuned it up for her. Today she came to me and proudly played the first seven notes of “Twinkle, twinkle little star.”

E brings the sunshine to every room; she brings the “shnoogles” (snuggles) too; she’s clever, articulate, and cute (and she knows it, but somehow has managed not to be insufferable about it.) Her heart, mind, and arms are wide open. I’m so thankful I got this beautiful neshama (soul) to guide into adulthood.

Happy birthday, E!

family fun · Kids

Day 652: I made it after all.

As it turns out, I stayed awake just past midnight. The kids wanted to watch something in the attic, and I went up there assuming I’d fall asleep on the comfy beanbag. An hour and a half later, sometime around 11:40, we paused our movie and turned on the broadcast of the Times Square ball drop.

What happened next was inane. One commercial after another, and then the two hosts doing nothing but hyping up the party. I don’t care how excited they act, repeating “We’re all having such a fabulous time! What a great party!” does not a great party make. That was twenty minutes of my life I’m never getting back. At least I got the comfiest beanbag.


We had a lovely visit around midday; my bestie S came over with her dog (I mean, he’s so tiny he seems more like a stuffed animal with a soul, but he’s technically a dog) and some belated Chanuka gifts for the children. You know how some people are just tremendously gifted at gifting? S is one of those people. Although I’m pretty sure half of her aptitude involves just listening when people tell her things, the bottom line is that her gifts always elicit delight.

She brought the kids fuzzy one-piece pyjamas, which they adored. Yes, she also bought them onesies last year—they adored those, too, and then mostly grew out of them. They loved their gifts so much that they immediately ran to try them on, and then proceeded to wear their new jammies for the rest of the day.

Pictures of the kids in their new PJs. K’s has a hood with ears; N’s has a tail, which he seems to have just discovered in the first photo and which the girls are all inspecting in the second.

birthing babies · Kids

Day 650: Fourteen.

K turned fourteen today. I can’t believe it’s been another year already.

This is the part where I brag about her, right? Okay, then.

She’s awesome. Bright, funny, affectionate, unashamedly quirky. She’s rapidly growing into an adult I want to be friends with, but she hugs me like she’s still a tiny baby snuggling up to mama. At times she’s been challenging to parent, but the payoff is spectacular. What a kid.

Happy Birthday, K.

(For the record: K is reading over my shoulder while I type this. She objects to my use of the photo on the right because, and I quote, “Technically I was thirteen when you took that one. I’m fourteen now.”)

Kids · snarky · Travelogue · whine and cheese

Day 649: Explain it like I’m five?

Let me tell you a story of two travellers. Sisters, in fact.

Traveller one, an unvaccinated child, returned to Canada from abroad with her two fully vaccinated parents. She was tested for COVID at the airport on arrival and sent home with a testing kit for Day Eight testing. The family was given instructions like, “Your child cannot attend school for 14 days,” and “If your child is interacting with someone from outside your household, they should wear a mask.” So basically the instructions boiled down to “be careful and please don’t go anywhere crowded.”

Traveller two, also unvaccinated, returned to Canada as an Unaccompanied Minor. Because she was not travelling with fully vaccinated adults, she is required to quarantine for 14 days. She was not tested at the airport on arrival, and was given no instructions regarding further tests. The printed instructions say things like “Only go outside on a private balcony or yard with those who travelled with you”, “Do not have any visitors”, and “Report daily on your health status by calling our toll-free number.” Apparently enforcement officers will call and possibly visit to make sure this traveller complies with the rules.

Now, I get why completely unvaccinated people should quarantine—and I support it. But what, exactly, is the difference between my two travellers, both of whom travelled from a place with fully vaccinated adults to another place with fully vaccinated adults? From a risk profile perspective, I see absolutely no difference. Is there a rational explanation?


R and N have arrived home, obviously. In case the quarantine enforcement officers are reading this, I won’t disclose whether they hugged me or for how long we cuddled on the couch (if indeed we did.)