Homeschool Day 8: More social studies

Really not the most exciting day school wise. Steven got bored with yoga, so he tried out a cardio video on youtube. And then he continued working on the social studies workbook he started last week.

Then we decided to go for a walk. We’ve all been a little afraid to leave the house. And we were all very careful not to touch anything while we were out. And whenever we turned a corner and saw people we went a different direction, because as much as we’d like to believe everyone is being careful, we just don’t have control over other peoples’ actions. It kind of felt like PacMan. But it was one of the first really nice spring days and I just needed to go for a walk. Hopefully this time next week our back yard will be less mucky and we can enjoy outside by playing some games in a space we have control over.

A rock someone painted and left for people to find.

We did find this pretty rock on our walk. There are a lot of people around (or so I’ve seen on Facebook) who paint rocks like this for people to find. The idea is to find them and hide them again, and I was a little upset that the first time we actually found one was a time when I definitely didn’t want to touch it. But maybe we’ll make some ourselves some time.

This was after the initial tear-filled “what’s wrong with it?”

I just realized it’s April Fools Day. I guess none of us are really feeling like doing any practical jokes. A couple years ago, though, Easter and April Fools happened to be the same day. I made Steven a “soft boiled egg” for breakfast… only I had removed the egg and replaced it with jello! I thought it was pretty funny. He kind of freaked out a bit. Maybe I shouldn’t have used red jello.

And that led me to a thought – maybe we’ll actually find time to decorate some eggs this year! There have been a few years that we bought kits and just never got around to it.

Trying to find the positives of this situation. It makes it a bit easier, anyways. I guess that’s all for now. Hope everyone’s staying safe and doing what they can to enjoy isolation.
~Lauren

Homeschool Day 7: Heart and Lung Science Experiments

Steven did some cool science experiments today to build on what he learned about the heart and lungs last week. We did one that shows how the diaphragm and lungs work together by following the instructions here. If we did that one again, I would probably use a smaller balloon for the “lung”, so it would be easier to see it inflating and deflating.

I would use a smaller balloon inside next time so it would be easier to see it inflating.

For the heart one, we more or less followed the instructions found here because I like how the experiment was set up, but we didn’t have a lot of the supplies. In my online search for an experiment, I had seen other people doing similar things with jars covered in balloons (with tiny holes for the straws – the balloon needs to seal around the straw) and then pushing down on the balloon to “pump”, instead of squeezing the bottle, so that’s what we did instead. Oh, and we stirred some red paint into the water because we didn’t have food colouring.

Once our experiments were done, we got back to our Dungeons and Dragons game from yesterday… and Liam and I were both killed by a large group of mimics. Steven was a little upset that we didn’t get to do everything he had planned. He felt he didn’t have enough time to plan and was quite convincing in that argument. So we had another discussion about how there really aren’t any hard deadlines or schedules or anything anymore, and if he needs more time he can just say so. I expect it will still take some getting used to. But he’s already working on our next game, and this time we told him to just tell us when he’s ready, instead of setting a date we plan on playing.

And this evening we had our first big family dinner over facebook messenger’s video chat. It took a bit to get figured out, but I’m sure it will go smoother next time. We typically have dinners at Liam’s parents’ place fairly regularly, usually with his sisters and their significant others and a lot of Steven’s cousins too, and I know that’s something everyone has missed.

I’ve been trying to think of what else we’ve been missing and how to fit those things into our new reality. I’m really looking forward to warmer days so Steven and I can do yoga on the back porch, but for now I’d settle for less rain and convincing someone to go for a walk with me. We’re all a little afraid to leave the house, but we haven’t seen a lot of people or even cars outside. It should be pretty easy to stay away from other people and not touch things.

This blog has been helping too, just to organize my thoughts a bit.

Stay safe out there!
~Lauren

Homeschool day 6: Dungeons and Dragons (that’s Language Arts, right?)

Today we all kind of woke up on the wrong side of the bed. None of us slept very well over the weekend, and I think it’s finally catching up to us. We had a talk about how we rarely go anywhere (except school, work and boy scout meetings) normally and we’re just doing all the things we normally do, but that it’s different now that we can’t go anywhere, and we’re all going to try and figure out how we can make things easier on ourselves.

Luckily, today was always supposed to be a more laid back day school-wise. Since before we started homeschooling, Steven had decided he wanted to make a Dungeons and Dragons one-shot for us, and when we started homeschooling we looked at the curriculum together and talked about how he could cover some of the necessary items in Language Arts with his one-shot.

Steven getting ready to play Dungeons and Dragons

Liam and I made our own characters for this game, but Steven had to decide what the world they were in looked like, and what challenges they would face. Then he had to present it in an engaging way. But the thing with Dungeons and Dragons is, you never know what your players are going to do. Even if you try to lead them in a certain direction, they might choose another, and you need to adapt and use your knowledge of the setting and the game to either get the game back on the track (or one of the tracks) you had planned, or improvise another direction entirely on the fly.

If you haven’t played before, there are lots of resources online to get you started, a lot of which are free or inexpensive, and it might help to watch some gameplay and tutorials on YouTube (Try Handbooker Helper and Critical Role… I may be a little obsessed with those guys).

If you want to play regularly, I highly recommend at least getting the core books (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual), but here’s a link to get you started with then rules at least. You will also need pencils and paper and a set (or twenty) of polyhedral dice, but there’s also apps for that if you don’t have them on hand and can’t go out. Maps and miniatures are all available as printables online too, or you can play with just your imaginations. And if you have no idea where to start your game, find a pre-made module to run. A lot of them even have characters already made up to play with.

Homemade printable minis from the Canada Day one shot I ran. The one in front is from “The Log Driver’s Waltz”, I unfortunately don’t remember where I got the other artwork from (I wasn’t really planning on sharing at the time), but I’ll update if I find it.

Steven has been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of years now, but he watched us play and wanted to join long before that. If you’re looking for something simpler but still with just as much potential for imagination, Hero Kids is great for all ages. The math and mechanics are much simpler, the characters are cuter, but the possibilities are not limited at all. It’s just as much fun for adults as it is for kids. I noticed this morning that they currently have a Lockdown Bundle on sale for $5.99 (USD, I think?), which includes the core rules and some pre-made games to get you started, loads of content for the price. And Hero Kids comes with everything. Printable minis for all the characters and monsters, maps for the adventures, it’s all there. You just need some 6 sided dice, which you probably have somewhere in your house, and if not there’s still an app for that.

My Hero Kids collection.

We didn’t quite have time to finish our game today. I think Liam and I might have had more questions about Steven’s made-up setting than he had answers for. But that’s part of the fun! We’ll probably continue playing for an hour here and there over the next few days, after the regular lessons we have planned are done.

Hope everyone’s Monday went smoothly. Stay safe!
~Lauren

End of Week 1 in Isolation

Honestly, other than the constant feeling of impending doom, isolation isn’t really abnormal for us. It’s been nice to be home, not going to work and spending time with my family, and I don’t really miss going out because we honestly don’t really go out. We have missed dinners with family and our monthly DnD game, and Steven asked today when he would be able to have his cousin over for a playdate, but those are all things we’re working on being able to do while social distancing.

Errands have been a little more complicated, but we’re lucky to have family members (in this case Liam’s awesome sister) to help us out with our weekly grocery trip.

Groceries! Don’t mind the super dirty storm door… that someone apparently drew on…

We normally do a big grocery trip a couple of times a month and I’ll often grab a few other things on my way to/from work. But we’ve been trying to only send someone for groceries once a week and get everything we will need for a week or more. It means fewer points of contact for us, as well as for the people helping us and for the people who still need to work so we can get food.

We’ve got a system for unpacking groceries now too. Basically, Steven keeps his hands clean and runs around opening doors for us and helping remove things from boxes that we’ve opened to avoid contamination… and then we still disinfect everything we can and wash our hands even more than we already were for the first couple days after those groceries come into the house.

Found this after I posted the other memes on Friday and had to share.

I’ve really been trying to focus on the here and now because if I start trying to think even about the next few weeks I kind of drown in the uncertainty. I’ve never dealt well with uncertainty, and there’s a lot of it going around these days. I called my work a few days ago to arrange an unpaid leave of absence since I used up all my vacation days last week and I was planning on staying home for at least another week. It turns out they are working on having people work from home, which I had been told before I left was highly unlikely. So I applied to work from home and am waiting to hear back.

I’m so grateful that I will (hopefully) be able to work from home, but now I’m in this weird limbo that’s giving me some (additional) anxiety. I was expecting to be off for at least 2 weeks, we planned for it financially, and I was honestly looking forward to a second week off. But now I don’t know when I’m going back to work. I don’t know when I’m going to hear back, or how long from then it will take to get set up at home, or when I’ll actually be expected to start again. And, as it often does, it took me most of a day to process those emotions and that anxiety and form it into words, and in that time I was maybe a little grumpy and less fun to be around.

I’m pretty sure my family is used to me having days like that by now, but I always feel bad when it happens. Especially when it’s a day that I’m home. It feels like wasted time, wasted potential. I can’t help thinking of all the things I could have been doing if I hadn’t been in a funk. And it’s not like I didn’t accomplish a lot on Friday, it’s just that I wasn’t as present as I wanted to be, I didn’t connect with the people around me as much as I wanted to.

So I tried to push that out of my mind and enjoy this weekend. Steven and I coloured some pokemon pictures I had printed. He says we should do that more often because “it’s a good bonding activity”… he doesn’t yet understand why I’m laughing at that, but he’s not wrong. I feel like we might be doing more of this in the future.

Steven and I also spent quite a few hours cleaning his room. It’s his Saturday chore, but his room was such a mess that he didn’t know where to start cleaning on his own. Hopefully, now that it’s clean again he’ll be able to maintain it himself for a while.

Steven’s collection of collectables, some of which were lost in the depths of his messy room until today.

Oh, and Steven cooked toad in the hole for brunch today. Actually, yesterday he also helped make the English muffin loaf he wanted to use for eggs today. He’s decided he’s going to cook something every Sunday. I think his plan is to get back to the basics because he’s a little out of practice. We just haven’t had time to cook together as we used to the past year or so, but we will have time for the foreseeable future.

Steven cooking toad in the hole, with homemade english muffin loaf.

Hope you had a great weekend and are staying safe!
~Lauren

Homeschool day 5 and Covid Craziness

Covid-19 related news got a little weird today. Weird like “wtf?”, not like funny weird. Canada made it illegal not to isolate if you’re coming home from outside the country. It’s about time, really. I don’t know how people didn’t understand that isolating meant not going to get groceries before going home. But the weird part is people faking covid-19. I’ve seen an article about someone giving a fake doctors note saying they had covid-19 in order to get away with staying home from their job at McDonalds, forcing all the people who worked with them to isolate and the business to close and deep clean everything. I saw another article about a “prank” in which someone went into a grocery store and coughed and spit all over everything and loudly claimed they had covid-19, causing that business to close for cleaning and discard tens of thousands of dollars worth of product. If I remember correctly, that person got charged. But seriously… what is wrong with people?

Meanwhile, Trump is saying everything will be back to normal in the U.S. by Easter. That’s like 2 weeks away. And last I checked, they had the most covid-19 cases of anywhere in the world. If they keep putting the economy ahead of the people, there will be no economy because there will be no people. Oh, and they’re trying to put more troops on the border… like any Canadian wants to sneak into the States right now…

I do love all the memes, though…

Anyways… homeschooling… we made Fridays pretty laid back on purpose. We did our daily yoga and French and then had a discussion for Health about what might motivate someone to work out, or what might make them not want to work out. In preparation for this, I googled some stuff and jotted down like 5 things I wanted to make sure to mention. But mostly we put some ideas out there and let Steven carry most of the discussion. This might not work with some kids, but once you get Steven talking it’s hard to get him to stop!

Then we started our Art project, which is building the bird for the bird project we started in Language Arts on Monday.

We started with Crayola Model Magic (thank you, Staples, for offering free shipping during this time), using some copper wire for support. I had never used it before. It’s weirdly foamy and squishy, kind of like kinetic sand, and you can store it in an airtight container to keep playing with it, but it supposedly dries hard in 3 days. I’m interested to see how easy it is to paint and to glue things to.

Then Steven spent the rest of the day working on his Dungeons and Dragons campaign and finishing the writing part of the bird assignment. That reminds me, I should add “make a DnD character” to my weekend to do list, since we’re playing Monday! Steven’s one-shots are always fun.

Have a great weekend, and stay safe!
~Lauren

Homeschooling day 4: Math

We decided to do long division for our first day of math, because it would be easy to get it out of the way. Steven has always been really good at math, so it didn’t take him long to figure this out.

I printed out this cheat sheet that I used to explain long division and that he could refer to when he got stuck. Then I printed out a bunch of long division worksheets from homeschool math. I love that site, because I can click “create pdf” on the type of worksheet I want as many times as I want and it just keeps generating new problems, with answer keys too. I did the first 2 or 3 questions with Steven to make sure he understood and then left him to it.

Steven at some point decided that the solution to frustration is popping a bubble of bubble wrap and then going back to work. And then used this as an excuse to take a break and go search his room for “fresher” bubble wrap. But we have been talking a lot about coping mechanisms, and this one seemed pretty harmless, so I congratulated him on apparently finding something that worked for him (and timed how long it actually took him to find bubble wrap so he didn’t get too sidetracked).

By the time he finished all the worksheets and I marked them and he corrected the ones he had gotten wrong, it was lunch time. After lunch, since I didn’t really have anything else planned for the day, I got him to work on the workbook I had printed out from edHelper. They’ve been releasing a lot of free and fun workbooks for math, reading and writing. Lots of puzzles and drawing and creative writing. It is an American site, so some of the questions needed some extra explanation. And some of the questions involved sections of math that he hasn’t learned yet, so I told him to skip those for now. But overall I think it was more interesting and engaging than just regular worksheets.

Hope everyone’s having a good week (it’s almost over!)
Stay safe,
~Lauren

Homeschool day 3: Social Studies

Social studies was something we struggled with a little when we were planning. Not because we don’t know the material ourselves, but because there is so much of it! Where do we start? It would be easy to spend months just studying different indigenous cultures, without even touching on Europeans and why they came here and all the interactions between the two.

We needed to find a way to touch on all these subjects without going so in-depth that we ended up not covering something else because it’s all important.

We ended up purchasing a resource from Teachers Pay Teachers (which is an awesome site, with paid and free resources). This resource cost us $10, but it was so worth it! The Complete Grade 5 Ontario Social Studies Inquiry-Based Unit is exactly what you would expect it to be. It covers the whole curriculum and includes some worksheets too.

For our first day of social studies, Liam and Steven went through the first section of the booklet, which discusses how different First Nations tribes governed themselves and then did the first worksheet. And then I printed out a second worksheet so Steven could go read up (online) on other indigenous cultures and do it again. I’m sure this isn’t something there’s normally time for in the classroom, but with just one student we’re finding there’s a lot more time for additional learning.

Stay safe,
~Lauren

Homeschool day 2: Science

Steven informed us that they were just starting the body unit in Science. They had done the skeletal system, but not a lot else. Liam found a website called Kids Health that has lots of great information on all the systems (as well as on health, physical and mental).

So, Steven and I did our morning Yoga, including some meditation practice on Steven’s request (he could use a little help managing his emotions sometimes) and our 20 minutes of French. This time we started reading “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” from this free book of fairy tales. It’s free until April 15, so get it while you can! The audio is great, well enunciated and slow for beginners, and the PDF file has both French and English text. We’ve been going paragraph by paragraph, listening and following along and then reading the English out loud, reading the French again out loud to practise pronunciation, and then I ask Steven a couple of words that he might have learned from the section we read.

Once that was done, Liam took over for teaching Science. They read the pages on Kids Health about the heart and circulatory system and lungs and respiratory system together, and then watched the associated videos (found on this page).

Title screen of one of the educational videos on Kids Health.

Then Steven spent some time re-reading the information on his own, taking notes and studying. In the afternoon, Liam tested his knowledge. He wasn’t perfect, but he got most of it right. I think the plan is to give him time to study again and then test again next week before moving on to other systems.

While they were doing that, I cleaned the kitchen, made bread and made some homemade potstickers… from scratch. They were really good, but I’m not sure they were good enough to warrant the 3 hours they took to make. I guess that’s another reason to get a pasta maker. I followed this recipe for the dough but made my own simple filling with ground beef, mushrooms, carrots and peas because as much as I love Asian food, it’s not always my family’s favourite.

My homemade potstickers.

Hope everyone else is having a good day! Stay safe,
~Lauren

Homeschool Day 1: Language Arts

We started our first day a little late, and to be honest, all 3 days so far have been a little off schedule. But we decided not to get too stressed out about it. Flexibility is one of the perks of homeschooling, after all. We have so far ended up back on schedule by the end of the day.

Steven and I started with 20 minutes of yoga (I have a subscription to The Yoga Collective, I love their videos, and there are lots of good beginner ones) for Phys Ed and then took a break to make some smoothies. We then drank the smoothies while playing “Who is it? Guess it!” in French for French class. It’s a game much like “Guess Who?” that has the option to play in English, French or Spanish. Then we moved onto the subject that would take up most of the day, Language Arts.

In preparation for the first day of homeschooling, I had started googling ideas… and ended up looking at art projects because I love art and there are some crazy creative teachers out there! But we had decided that Monday was going to be Language Arts, so I needed to find something to work on reading or writing or oral presentations.

I had found this awesome blog post about an art teacher’s class making birds sculptures, and I just kind of expanded on it to turn it into a Language Arts lesson too. I made a printout that asked Steven to write out 10 of his personality traits, and then relate those to traits a bird might have. Then I got him to write why he chose each one… and by the time he finished that, he was ready to move onto something else, so we set that project aside for now.

Steven working on his “If I was a Bird” project. Wearing the same shirt he wore the day before and not caring about his messy hair. The joys of self-isolation!

My plan is that on Friday (for Art), he will make a sculpture of his bird, and then next Monday he will turn what he has written into a script for a “nature documentary”, which we will film. But since he was clearly done with it, for now, I let him continue on his self-assigned project, which is a Dungeons and Dragons one-shot that he wants to run for us (that’s got some Language and math and stuff, right? I’ll write more about that later, for those less familiar with the game). The plan is to run that for half the day next Monday and finish up the bird stuff for the other half. Though he might finish the bird assignment in other free time when other lessons are done. He worked on it a bit today too.

And while he was working on his project, I managed to make a huge pot of soup and cross some other things off my to do list. I think I was worried homeschooling would be stressful and take up all my free time, but that hasn’t been my experience so far.

I think the biggest struggle on our first day was convincing Steven that he didn’t need to stress or rush. That he could work on something else if he was getting frustrated, and the other project would still be there when he was ready, he wasn’t holding anyone else up. By the end of the day, he was even saying things like “and if we need to take a few days of summer for school, we can”.

I think that’s all for now. Stay safe everyone!
~Lauren

Making the decision to Self-isolate and to Homeschool

I don’t know if anyone is going to read this. It might just be a journal and reference for me, and that’s ok. But if you are here, thanks for reading! Say hi, share information, ask questions! I’m just figuring this out too, but we can figure it out together.

Our little family, day 1 of self-imposed isolation, March 22, 2020.

We decided to start homeschooling on our first day of self-isolation. Isolation was something we had discussed repeatedly but were on the fence about for a while.

Our son Steven had been off school since March 14 because of March Break. And this had been extended, but they hadn’t yet announced that they wouldn’t be going back to school at all. My husband Liam would be a high-risk case if he got Covid-19. He has an artificial heart valve, which causes him to be on blood thinners, which cause him to have high blood pressure, and he also has had a stroke and already has lung damage. So we had already been glued to the TV and Google every day, watching this thing progress. I was glad that Steven and Liam were home, but I was still going to work, relying on the bus to get there, and people just were not social distancing, which made me increasingly worried about possibly bringing Covid-19 home to them. But until recently there were no local cases, so we thought it was relatively safe.

On March 19th, I was on the bus on my way to work after having just heard about the first Covid-19 related death in Ontario, which happened to also be in the city we live in, and the mounting numbers of cases. My brain is very good at imagining just how bad everything could get, and sitting on the bus trying to avoid touching anyone or anything I had nothing to do but think. Think about all the people who probably touched all the surfaces around me, about all the people I had talked to at work – both coworkers and customers – who were not taking this seriously and therefore endangering my family, about just how bad it could get if my husband got it… I got off the bus a stop early and walked the rest of the way to work. I had caused myself to have the biggest panic attack I’d had in a while. I was shaking, I felt like I was going to cry, my chest was heavy (which is a great thought to have when you’re freaking out about Covid-19). I avoided eye contact and stopped at every hand sanitizer station as I navigated my way around the call centre I work at. Open the door, hand sanitizer, open the next door, hand sanitizer, find the path with the least people to get to the lunchroom, hand sanitizer, put stuff in my locker, hand sanitizer, leave the lunchroom, hand sanitizer…

I finally got to my desk. I grabbed a bunch of disinfectant wipes and wiped everything down, even though I knew no one else had been sitting there – we had switched to assigned seating because of the virus. I did breathing exercises as I scrolled through my e-mail and read the day’s updates. I took my first call a couple of minutes early, as soon as I felt I could talk without crying, knowing that focusing on someone else’s problems would help.

In between calls and on my breaks, I started writing an e-mail to my manager explaining my family’s situation and how I didn’t believe it was safe for me to work anymore. I put my vacation days towards a week off and hoped we’d get enough from taxes to cover another week or two.

But eventually, I will have to go back. Which scares me. But with all non-essentials being closed now, hopefully, there will be fewer people on the bus. And hopefully, everyone who can work from home at the call centre will be working from home by then, and those that are left at work will be more conscious about distancing. Hopefully.

Anyways. We finally decided to self-isolate. I figured it out with work. We went to H&R block and got our tax return on March 21st, went to the bank for laundry money, picked up our prescriptions and then went home to instacart (that’s a referral link if you want it 😉 ) our groceries in. Then we unpacked everything, disinfected what we could, washed our hands so many times they hurt and tried to relax, but I think we had already gotten our anxiety up for the day.

The next day, we finally relaxed somewhat. We had a lazy morning, hung out together, watched a movie. But at some point, we started talking about school. Were the schools going to open again? Would it be safe to go back if they did? We decided that either way, he would not go back… but then what? Should he finish the year at home? What would homeschooling look like to us? Where would we start?

I had found a link to a list of Ontario Curriculum Checklists for grades 1-8 a few days earlier. Someone had shared it on Facebook, and I shared it as well, thinking it might help me or someone else in the future, but not really knowing what we were doing yet at the time. I printed off the 5th-grade list, and we all sat down and went over it, item by item. We asked Steven if they had covered each thing in school, and if he said “yes” we asked him a few questions to make sure he actually had the knowledge. Then we discussed how we would fit schooling into the day. Steven immediately said he wanted a schedule, similar to school. So that was settled pretty quickly. But we needed to figure out what that schedule looked like. We decided PhysEd and French should be practised every day, which left 6 other subjects to be covered. We put the bigger subjects Monday to Thursday and then decided we could do both Health and Art on Fridays, and possibly have time left for Steven to finish anything else he hadn’t finished earlier in the week.

The homeschool schedule we came up with. Seems to be working so far.

Honestly, we’re only a few days in, but having a schedule has helped in so many ways. It keeps our school work on track, but it also has prevented the usual arguments that arise daily from repeatedly asking Steven to do his chores. He looks at the schedule in the morning, he knows what he needs to do, and after dinner when one of us thinks to ask if he did his chores the answer is “yes… oh” as he gets up because he did his chores but still needs to wash his dinner dishes.

Then Liam and I discussed how we were going to split the workload. There were obvious topics that we each excelled at, and we each already had ideas of how to go about certain things on the curriculum. We’re not strictly splitting the classes, we’ll trade-off for some parts of each subject. When I go back to work, if I’m still on the same schedule I have been on, this schedule will still likely work. On days that I teach, I’ll be able to set up a project in the morning and plan for him to work on it solo in the afternoon with Liam there to help if needed.

Stay safe out there!
~Lauren