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