Posted in Homeschooling, Life

Motivation

I’ve been trying to think of ways to make this year more fun, ways to keep Steven engaged and motivate him to keep trying instead of getting frustrated and arguing with us all the time (which happened a lot last school year, first with home schooling and then with the distance learning provided by the school). Motivating him has been hard over the years. He willingly tries everything, but if he doesn’t get it right away he often gives up. Sometimes he’ll get really into something and he’ll get past the “I’m not good at this” stage and start to improve, but then he reaches a harder part and gives up. We all do this sometimes, and we’ve talked about how this is normal and you just can’t give up, but often it ends in arguing.

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Posted in Covid-19, Homeschooling, Life

2020 school year – grade 6

We’ve done a lot of talking about school over the last few months, especially recently. We were waiting to see what the school board had planned, but school is only a few weeks away and they haven’t given us much. Schools are opening again. Grades 4+ are expected to wear masks, but class sizes aren’t reduced at all so social distancing will be impossible. They are “cohorting” so that kids are with all the same kids all the time, and staggering breaks, but teachers for French and Music and such will still be visiting all classes. And there are some huge things they haven’t addressed. Like, Steven’s school only has 3 washrooms. Each one is shared by like 8 classrooms. Is it someone’s job to constantly clean the washroom? What about shared resources? Library books? Art supplies? Toys?

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Posted in Covid-19, Homeschooling, Language Arts, Life

Homeschool days 10 and 11

Yesterday was crazy, so I didn’t post. Steven started distance learning and I started working from home after putting on one of my homemade masks and leaving the house for the first time in 2 weeks to take the bus to work and get some on-site training and pick up my computer and take a taxi back home… we were all busy and I was so anxious about going out and setting everything up at home was hectic… But today everything calmed down, and hopefully it will be the start of a new routine.

The buses have been split in two and back boarding for free for weeks, but this time when I went on there were signs saying no more than 15 passengers allowed and stopping people from sitting beside each other… and still someone thought it was ok to stand directly behind me at the door when we were waiting to get off the bus!

Steven’s teachers are providing weekly work for Language Arts, Math, French and Music so far (yesterday it was just the first two, but the others were added this afternoon). Each subject is broken down to do a bit every day, but Steven has decided he wants to stick to the homeschool schedule we had already established. So yesterday he did as much of the assigned language work for the week as he could, and then today he studied the next part of the body (the digestive system on Kids Health) and did the rest of the language work.

Steven’s teachers are using Google Classroom to communicate, and Steven has really been enjoying being able to talk to his school friends again in the chat room there. Their first assignment was to write about what they have been doing since school ended. They were supposed to write a paragraph and maybe add a picture or two, I’m pretty sure Steven wrote a few pages. But he was really excited to tell everyone about our adventures in the last few weeks.

This morning, it was really nice outside, so Steven wanted to do PhysEd outside. He probably also didn’t want to clean up the mess in the living room, but he said it was because of the weather anyways. So found a recording of the beep test. Our yard is nowhere near 20 meters, but he’s younger than the kids that normally do this test, and I didn’t want to make it too hard on him anyways.

I gave him some chalk and told him that if he ran really fast to the other side, he could draw on the fence until the next beep. It ended up being a pretty fun activity for him. There was some laughter anyways, as his drawings were repeatedly interrupted and he tried to rush to the other side in time to continue.

I mostly work in the afternoons, and I’m hoping that will continue to be my schedule so that I can do PhysEd and French with Steven in the mornings and then get him set up with the day’s work before I have to start working myself.

Working from home is eerily quiet. Everyone has been doing a great job keeping quiet while I’m working, but I’m used to being in a call centre surrounded by people. I’ve often complained about the noise, but now I miss it. Especially when there’s time between calls, and I can’t just turn to my neighbour and start a conversation. But I often knit when I’m on the phone, and I realized today that I am no longer limited to small, portable projects at work. I could totally make a sweater or something, because I don’t have to take it with me to and from work and keep it out of my coworkers’ space. I have a whole room! So that’s exciting.

My posts might become less frequent now that I’m working again because that’s taking up 9 hours of my day, but I’m going to keep updating when I can.

Stay safe!
~Lauren

Posted in French, Homeschooling, Math

Homeschool day 9: French and Math

We do some French every day, but it has become pretty obvious that Steven has lost most of what he learned last year. Last year he could form simple sentences and this year he barely has a vocabulary. He has also expressed frustration multiple times over the fact that the teacher he had was very strict and wouldn’t let them speak or use words they knew that weren’t part of what they were studying. I wasn’t there, so I only have what he says, but he gets really, really frustrated whenever we ask about his French class. I don’t think it’s entirely the teacher’s fault. She’s probably just teaching what she teaches his grade normally. But the teacher he had last year being so awesome. She went above and beyond to make sure the students could actually use what they were learning, which impressed me because I remember being in French immersion in High School and having friends in core French who still didn’t know any French. So I was really proud of all the progress he had made in French, and it’s frustrating to see him lose it.

I printed signs to place all over the house to encourage the use of French. The month and day part of the calendar was an afterthought, so it was done by hand.

All that to say we’re going to start working on vocabulary even more. I labelled things around the house in French so he can see them often, and we’re going to start speaking partially in french. Just simple phrases like asking what he wants to eat or telling him to wash his hands but it will hopefully help in the long run. Oh, and I found these posters that help ask simple questions in French, too. I printed them out 6 to a page, removing some that don’t really apply outside of school, and posted them on the wall.

We also started working on area and perimeter in math today, using legos to help out. I printed out these worksheets and had Steven make shapes with legos, draw them on the sheet and figure out the area and perimeter.

Steven making a shape with legos to calculate the area and perimeter.

It looks like I’m going to be able to work from home starting early next week. We’ve cleaned out our spare room and I will be clearing off my sewing table to move in there and use as a desk. But before I pack away my sewing machine, I wanted to make some reusable masks. The CDC went from saying there’s no point in wearing one to saying it will probably help but they don’t want people to have a false sense of security. Definitely no false sense of security here, but I do need to go into work for some training to work from home, and I’m sure there will be other times when we need to go out as much as we don’t want to.

I’m using this pattern and literally whatever fabric I have around. I’m cutting up a couple of Steven’s old shirts, even. But for the inside, I’m using some reusable bamboo paper towels that we bought recently (originally because there were no regular ones anywhere, but I actually really like them). I had read an article in which they interviewed someone who worked on the n95 masks we currently use, and he said anything is better than nothing but bonded fabrics would be better than knit or woven. His example was the blue shop towels, but I think this is pretty close. I did the version with the pocket so we could add another layer if we wanted to.

Stay safe!
~Lauren

Posted in Homeschooling, Life, Social Studies

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

Posted in Homeschooling, Science

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

Posted in Homeschooling, Language Arts

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

Posted in Art, Covid-19, Health, Homeschooling, Life, Memes

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

Posted in Homeschooling, Math

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

Posted in Homeschooling, Social Studies

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