What are you most looking forward to this year?

TOPIC: What are you looking forward to in the new year? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions, and if so, please share one or two. Is there anything you are dreading? Any changes you have made? What are you most looking forward to this year? ANSWERS: The one New Year’s Resolution I have made this year is to "engage" more with our children. So often I pretend to listen to them while my mind is wandering off to "what to have for dinner, when can I go shopping, how would the couch look over there…?" The days go by and while these precious souls are with me constantly, I am more concerned with barking out orders and running the ship. As we look toward (probably) sending our 2 eldest to school next year I wonder where the years have gone and I begin to panic that I will no longer have unlimited time with them. So I want to make each day count and somehow remember to look them in the eyes, and listen for real and really enjoy and appreciate the amazing people they are. ------- I have had the kids make some goals for themselves for the remainder of this school year, so that's something new for us. In the past, I have been the one to set goals for them such as "learn to read" and they have been aware of the goal, but really not an active pursuer of it. They had no real sense of ownership. This year I asked the kids what they would like to aim to achieve and I was...

What daily schedule do you follow?

TOPIC: What sort of daily schedule do you follow? How structured is your school time? What about chores? What tricks have you found to help you manage your time? ANSWERS: Through the years we have moved to a much less structured approach to schooling. By nature I live in the moment and have always found it hard to maintain a schedule, especially when the children were younger. Now, with 2 older kids in brick and mortar high school, and just 2 at home it seems it should be easier to stay on track. But I can’t do it; it’s just not me. So here’s our “schedule”: before lunch, the Math and piano practice needs to be done. Sometimes we do a writing project; occasionally Science or Social Studies. Mondays are piano lessons, Tuesdays is a regular childcare job at the church, Wed. to Place des Arts and Friday to musical theatre. The rest of the time we simply live life together. Dare I say that we’ve become un-schoolers? Maybe, maybe not. I feel like I am teaching all the time but a lot of it happens on the fly and a good deal of it has nothing to do with school curriculum. As to chores, our family is divided into dish crews, one son cuts the lawn once a week and the other does the recycling. We used to have laundry teams but now that the kids are older, we’re all responsible for our own. We pay whoever is willing to clean the bathrooms (not often enough!) and vacuum (also not often enough!). ------- I always tell people that...

What are some ideas for the summer?

TOPIC: What are some ideas for the summer? ANSWERS: 1) Join the summer reading club at your library. 2) Go to story time at the library. 3) Go for a family bike ride. 4) Make lemonade from fresh lemons. 5) Go to a cheap movie. 6) Plant a small garden. 7) Make smiley faces on your lunch. 8) Spend an afternoon reading under a tree. 9) Splash around in a sprinkler. 10) Hang out in a hammock. 11) Learn something new together. 12) Sew a doll’s outfit. 13) Visit a museum. 14) Go bowling. 15) Make your own ice cream. 16) Host a block party. 17) Tie-dye t-shirts. 18) Spend the day at the beach. 19) Raise butterflies. 20) Go bug-catching. 21) Press flowers. 22) Make leaf prints. 23) Raise an herb garden. 24) Take a picnic to the park. 25) Play Frisbee. 26) Paint on a canvas. 27) Paint your sidewalk or house with water. 28) Decorate your driveway with sidewalk chalk. 29) Pick berries. 30) Use your berries to make jam or a pie. 31) Have a water balloon fight. 32) Host a teddy bear picnic. 33) Swing on swings. 34) Play miniature golf. 35) Blow bubbles. 36) Go to a fireworks display. 37) Take a hike. 38) Build a campfire and make smores. 39) Camp in your own backyard. 40) Build a sand castle. 41) Swim. 42) Sleep late. 43) Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest. 44) Host a treasure or scavenger hunt. 45) Star gaze. 46) Go to a farmer’s market. 47) Set up an obstacle course in your backyard. 48) Run a lemonade stand. 49)...

What plans do you have for the summer as a homeschooling family?

TOPIC: I would really like to know what people do for the summer. How do they schedule, do they take a complete break, or only from some things? Do they find any disadvantages to the kids by taking a full summer break? ANSWERS: We have traditionally taken a full summer break, but... this year I am hoping to focus on very deliberate, yet fun, focused learning through life experiences rather than just a lazy summer. We will definitely keep going with devotions and character building. I am also hoping to do some sort of math drill practice at least a few times a month so as to keep that left side of the brain going and not lose those skills. Previously we have taken a break over the summer and 1. it doesn't make sense, life goes on, so why should the learning stop? 2. starting again in September can be such a grind after coming to a complete halt 3. the summer offers so many rich learning opportunities so we will enjoy those ------- I usually schedule a week of swimming lessons in July and a week of another type of camp in August - we have done sailing at Jericho beach, and horseback riding on the North shore. We usually have 2 weeks of holidays, so that leaves 4 weeks of lazy days. My daughter may do a little catch up if something is behind... Last summer it was math, and I usually have a couple of good books for her to read. There are lots of 'day' camps in different areas for an amazing array of...

How do you develop an appreciation for nature?

TOPIC: What do you do to develop an appreciation of nature and the outdoors in your family? Are there any activities you particularly enjoy? What resources have you found most helpful? Any other tips you have for other homeschooling families? ANSWERS: I remember a time when on our nature walk we "collected words". We had a notebook in which we jotted down phrases that came to mind - for example, "waters sparkling like diamonds", or "ducks squawking", or... Then we went home and created a free verse poem with our words. Our efforts were collective and we were all quite happy with the result. Another time we brought home leaves and sticks and moss and used them to create a 3D collage of what we saw. I love the times we take our books to a park and hang out in the great outdoors. Of course just playing and being in nature is good and we enjoy gardening and feeding the birds in our own back yard. ------- We love to go for walks through forested parks. We take our time pointing out interesting plants, birds etc. along the way. Many times we bring home leaves, cones, and mushrooms to see what they are using our field guides. We also keep our bird field guide handy so whenever an unusual bird appears in our yard we can find out what it is. After we identify the bird, we use http://AllAboutBirds.org to hear the birds song, see where it lives, migration habits and similar birds. We LOVE that website. Also, http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com has a wealth of ideas for nature study. There...

What are your Christmas traditions?

TOPIC: What are your best tips for homeschooling in December? What Christmas resources have helped you most both as a homeschooler and as a Christian family? What is your favourite Christmas tradition? What are you most looking forward to doing or focusing on this Christmas? Are you trying any new traditions this year? ANSWERS: Generally we don’t homeschool in December as the season is too busy and stressful, but this year, thanks to the suggestion of a friend, we’re going to adopt a country (Germany), and study and do their Christmas traditions so that we can tie school in. We’re learning about Martin Luther as he was the one who started a lot of the German traditions. We’re also reading "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, as well as a Dickens biography. ------- Here are some resources and traditions that my family has enjoyed during Advent. Reading together -- "Jotham's Journey" by Arnold Ytreeide is a fictional story set at the time of Jesus birth which is meant to be read one short chapter a night during Advent. "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a good family read, probably for grade 4 or 5 and up. While not a story about the birth of Jesus, it is a story about values and priorities. "The Family Under the Bridge" is a great read for younger children (I think it is in the Sonlight grade 1 read aloud list). It is about a homeless family in Paris. Advent Wreath -- We always make an advent wreath. Every Sunday we light another candle and have a family devotional. Singing -- We...