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Month: February 2013

February is Maths Month

February is Maths Month

Over Christmas Stephen and I spent some time talking about our homeschool priorities for the rest of the year.  Ok, well I spent a lot of time blathering endlessly and he talked rather less but with much more purpose about how we could meet our ‘targets’ in 2013.  Basically we decided that I would devote January to reading, reading and more reading.

Over Christmas I noticed that Huwyl was having more trouble with his reading than really seemed reasonable, he’s bright and interested and really likes books, but it just wasn’t ‘clicking’.  When I thought about it I realised that our devotion to learning reading skills had been less than it should have been to help him be successful and, as reading is the cornerstone of everything, we decided that until that was sorted nothing else was important.  So January was allocated as reading month.  And read we did.

I was pretty astonished to see how quickly this approach bore fruit, we went from very fractured and laborious reading to, well, reading!  January is the perfect month for some good sofa time so it was no chore to sit with the boys for hours each day, reading with them, to them and near them.  They loved it and so did I, a great way to start 2013.

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At the beginning of January I also invested in a bunch of Star Wars DK readers, Huwyl has developed a sincere and abiding interest in Star Wars and so it seemed the perfect tie in, it worked like a charm.  Though there was a little Charlotte Mason voice nagging inside me (twaddle! she cried) the important thing was that my little boy was reading and interested in the stories, that’s all that counted to me.  He’s moved from struggling to reading pretty easily (for his age) and is now enjoying a good rate of progress, he’s even requested to move on to chapter books, his confidence is so high.

Alongside the reading we worked on Writing With Ease 2, a complete writing programme that includes narration, dictation and copywork, using great excerpts from children’s literature.  We really enjoy it and the narration part particularly plays to Huwyl’s strengths so it doesn’t feel like a chore.  It’s been lovely to hear him reading the copywork sentences with ease now, he does it without even thinking; it’s amazing what practice and confidence can do for a child!

As this approach worked really well I began thinking that working in blocks may just be the way forward for us, certainly for grade 2.  I really like the idea of immersing ourselves in a subject before we move on, getting much more deeply under the skin of it and increasing confidence and skills at the same time.  With that in mind I’ve made February Maths Month.  While we are not leaving our language work behind entirely we’ll be spending a good hour or so a day working just on different maths activities, from place value to spelling maths words.


My hope is that by giving ourselves more time we can cover a greater breadth of work, revising concepts we’ve been working on since September (place value, time, addition and subtraction) but going into them in much more depth, exploring them more fully.  As with reading I think it is crucial for a solid foundation to be built before moving on and I think this is where we have the edge as homeschoolers, not only can we whizz along when it suits us but we can slow right down and take our time when necessary too.

For this month we’ll still be working on our Writing With Ease and some First Language Lessons (combined they take about 20 minutes) as well as continued work on reading each morning.  Huwyl is finishing off Explode the Code 3 and Neirin has just begun Get Ready for the Code book A which he is enjoying but we are taking slowly.  My other preschool resources come from Confessions of a Homeschooler and lots of lovely apps for the ipad that allow him to practice letter tracing and matching, something he really seems to enjoy!

This block of work is what I’m thinking of a ‘core’ skills, this is the ongoing work that needs to be practiced a little each day; the second block of work will be maths and maths only, so we’re not currently practicing that in the core block.  In March, when our second block is history,  I’ll include maths in a core block to practice the skills we’ve been learning in our maths block, make sense?  Excellent!

It all makes sense in my head I promise.

So for the rest of this month we are spending a big chunk of our day working on maths, I know that might sound like some kind of hellish demon dimension and there was a time that I would agree with that assessment.  When I was at school maths was my least favourite and least successful subject.  I even had to retake my maths qualification when I decided to become an English teacher and spent many hours and weekends working with Stephen to pass my exam.  I duly did but maths was never going to be my favourite subject.

But I’m determined that the boys will have a different experience than I did.  If something isn’t gelling then we will slow down until it does, I really want them to truly know their maths concepts rather than just paying lip service to a ticky box list of ‘nice to haves’.  I think that if they have a truly strong foundation, maths need not be the horrid torture that it is for so many people, it can be a joyful revelation into a magical world of knowledge.

Well at the very least I’d like it if they didn’t cry when the word maths is mentioned ;  )

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So I’m approaching our lessons in different ways using lots of different resources.  I’ve set aside our Singapore Maths for now and instead I’m using Jump Maths (right now we are using the Jump at Home book 2 as a sort of revision book) as well as some great resources that I’ve purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you haven’t discovered this site yet get over there!  There are some truly fantastic resources at extremely reasonable prices (and lots of free ones too!) and you are paying the money directly to the producer, always good news in my book.  We’ve been particularly enjoying Snow Much Fun Place Value which explores 2 and 3 digit place value, number bonds, greater than and less than and recording.  Not bad for $5! Here is a list of the other resources I’ll be using this month;

Rainbow Skip Counting         Pirate Time         February Maths – grade 2    Jump Math 2  

This month we are going to be working on skip counting (2’s, 5’s, 10’s and 100’s), place value, number bonds, number words, time, measuring, money,patterns and a bit of foundational algebra skills.  We’ll also keep working on double digit addition and number carrying using Math Bingo and good old fashioned pencil and paper!  Some of these things will just be the work of an hour or two, others are concepts we will keep returning to and revising for the next few years.

So far I’ve found it so much easier to organize my morning and my brain around just one subject.  I’m trying to make sure that we move between different mediums (computer, pen and paper, manipulatives, games…) as well as different areas of focus.  This keeps us from getting too bogged down and encourages me to branch out, nervous as I am of ‘getting it wrong’.

Has anyone else tried teaching this way?  How did it work out for you?


Skater Boy

Skater Boy

On Saturdays I take Huwyl to drama class right across town, after that I run errands so we are gone pretty much all afternoon.  It was a beautiful day, blue skies burned down on us and the white ice and snow that still covers the ground seemed to glow.  Imagine my delight to come home to discover we had ourselves an ice rink!

ice-7732 ice-7734 ice-7736The boys set too pretty quickly and soon it was all about the ‘skating’.   Neirin started asking to skate and even Huwyl expressed an interest, despite his earlier assertions that no skater would he be.

ice-7731ice-7735ice-7737As the sun set we were all full of skating plans for the next day.  Stephen and I decided we would invest in some skates for the boys so that they could have some ice time on the pond while it is still good and cold.  If they can learn to at least stand up I can take them to local rinks for some good whizzing around and, after all, they are Canadian.

By the next morning Huwyl had decided he was too nervous to try skating and wasn’t even willing to give it a go.  He was convinced he would crash into someone and so was not going to try.  No way, no how.

Now I don’t like pushing my kids into activities, but I also know that this kind of reluctance is a barrier to fun times, this is my own temperament too, I know how it goes.  So I told Huwyl a story about when I was little myself, it went like this.

When I was little a circus came to town, I don’t remember where it was but I do remember that we were out on a street and there was an elephant!  All the children were allowed to stroke it but I refused.  No way, I wasn’t touching that crazy creature!  I hung back and clung to my Mum instead.  But as the elephant walked away I was suddenly gripped by the desire to try, to reach out and touch it’s wrinkled skin, to feed it’s massive trunk.  Unfortunately it was too late, the elephant was gone and I had missed my chance.  I was an adult before I had another chance to touch an elephant, this time I rode on it and it was wonderful.  

When I had finished Huwyl immediately said “Skating is like the elephant!” and told me he really wanted to give skating a try.  So after an expensive visit to the skates store we headed to the biggest skating rink in the world, right in downtown Ottawa.

ice-7748  ice-7753 ice-7752ice-7754Suffice to say, the boy skated.  Before I knew it he was off, giving it his best.  He is still tentative and is just getting his bearings but he is trying and learning as he goes.  But the thing I am most proud of is that when he falls, which he is doing a lot right now, he gets right back up again and keeps trying.

We spent some time together down at the pond today, working on his skating.  Even in that short time he saw improvement and skated further and further away from his scared self and closer to his confident self.  The three rules that apply to skating seem to also apply to life in their own simple way.

Be confident, keep your head up and glide.


Soaked Oat Pancakes

Soaked Oat Pancakes

When we first moved to Canada, pancakes meant only one thing;  thin, light, round and flat.  Where we live now they are referred to as crepes, differentiating them from the thick, fluffy and maple syrup laden yummies known as pancakes here in Canadaland.

Over the years of living here we have succumbed to the fluffy sweet goodness, but we’ve refined the recipe to our own tastes and now have one that works beautifully and provides a hearty breakfast, snack or even dinner on occasion.  Slathered with butter and maple syrup, paired with fruit or a smoothie if so desired, these pancakes fill you up and set you on for a busy day.

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Neirin is a particular fan of these pancakes, a real blessing as he is still in a fussy phase when it comes to food.  He will happily motor down not only his own pancakes but his Daddy’s too, carrying on a long and treasured tradition of nicking Daddy’s breakfast passed from mother to son.

The art of pancake war is one that is ever evolving and relies upon much sneakiness and cunning and, of course, a large stack of maple syrup soaked oaty pancakes.  Being made from oats they are much more satisfying and filling, definitely something worth fighting over.  Luckily there are enough pancakes made in a batch to allow for pancake stealing and even leaving a couple to be warmed up for snack later.

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We buy our rolled oats from a nearby farmer friend who grows organically, mills them regularly and they are certified gluten free.  The ones we bought yesterday had just been rolled and so benefited beautifully from the soaking I had in mind for them.  I buy rolled so that I can use them to make granola too but steel cut work just as well and maintain even more of their beneficial nutrients.  Oats are a really nutritious grain full of fibre, they don’t spike blood sugar the way wheat does and are linked to a long life and shiny digestion!

In keeping with all the reading I’ve been doing about traditional eating and the importance of soaking grains I’ve changed this recipe (it is Stephen’s genius concoction) to benefit from some soaking with an acidic medium to break down phytic acid and help release the nutrients more easily.  I won’t go into it here as it is a big subject that I am only just learning about and I’m sure my technique is far from perfect but I do know two things for sure:

1) Some soaking is better than no soaking, so it’s worth doing,

2) These pancakes are delicious, filling and a great way to start the day!

Here is our recipe, I hope you enjoy them.



2 cups of rolled or steel cut oats (not instant!)

1/2 cup of cultured buttermilk.  You could also use yoghurt or kefir but I haven’t tried that.  This is the acidic medium that will help break down phytic acid and improve the digestion of nutrients.

1 1/2 cups of milk (either dairy or non dairy, your choice)

1 tsp of baking powder

1 tblespn of maple syrup or honey

1tsp-1tblespn of vanilla essence

1/4 tsp of almond extract

1 free range egg

The night before:

Pop your oats into a blender with the butter milk and milk, leave to soak overnight.

The next morning:

Add all the other ingredients except the egg, whizz in the blender until smooth.  Add the egg and whizz again, the egg will aid in the thickening.  Leaving it to settle for 10 minutes gives it time to thicken a little more too.  If you find the mixture becomes too thick add a little more milk.

Heat a frying pan or griddle and melt butter or coconut oil onto it.  Pour or spoon out the mixture to the desired size and wait until bubbles form on the top and then burst leaving little holes in the mixture, this is when you flip.  Don’t have the heat on too high as they will burn before the top is set making flipping a bit tricky.

When they are golden brown on both sides pop on a plate, add something delicious to the top (butter and maple syrup work well for us) and rejoice in a job well done.




As much as January seems to drag, February seems to whizz by.  Each day has been full of school and cooking and reading books and all the other things daily life is made up of.  We are now doing 2 homeschool co-ops a week (busyness is my plan for getting through winter without going too mad) as well as other activities that keep us out and about, so on the other days I’m grateful to be home, safe and warm.

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I’ve been thinking about my health a lot this month, working on making myself as well as possible. January was a tough month and with spring right around the corner I want to feel that I have the energy I need to tackle not only the daily chores but the demands of an expanding farm.

I’ve been indulging heavily in my favourite tea, a locally made brew that has a teeny crystal in each bag and tastes blissful to boot.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as a pot of tea, knowing you can go back for a second cup anytime you like.  I’ve also been a lot stricter with taking my supplements and adding new ones into the mix to boost my overall health.  I’ve even done a 9 day cleanse to work of detoxing my system and boosting my energy, I have to say it’s really worked!

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Aside from our homeschool co-ops and our own school work the boys seem to have little trouble keeping themselves busy.  Sometimes they are busy arguing with each other and making as much mess as possible (ahem) but at least they are occupied.

The lego obsession continues and Huwyl is becoming ever more creative and ambitious with his projects, there always seems to be an ongoing story that the boys are participating in that weaves in and out of their games, art projects and car journeys.  It is a background chatter that I really enjoy, it soothes me to hear their imaginations running wild; it’s especially lovely to hear Neirin’s little voice piping up more and more, setting his own pace and creating his own stories.

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Bread and jam seems to be a current favourite for breakfast, snack or supper.  The whole wheat berries I buy come from a farm just a few miles away, I think there must be something intrinsically good about that.  Though I find whole wheat baking a challenge (and using heritage grains even more so) it seems worth it, especially when the boys can monster down a loaf in the course of a day.  Knowing that what they are eating is nourishing and contains only simple ingredients gives me great peace of mind.

Huwyl is particularly keen to try out all the different jams we have in the pantry, he is entering a phase where he relishes the new a bit more.  Neirin is still cautious, happily staying with tangy strawberry from berries he helped pick himself, a good choice on a cold day.

I have to admit I harbour guilt about not heading out into the great white world on our doorstep but I just can’t quite summon the enthusiasm!  My friend was telling me about how they are getting out skiing, skating and playing in the snow and I felt that niggly twist of doubt in my own tummy.  But I have to let myself off the hook, at least for this year.  Winter sports are new to me and I think that next year will be the perfect time to throw ourselves into all the fun the snowy months have to offer.

For now I’m content to watch it all through the bank of glass that separates us from the outside world, curled around a cup of tea and indulging in the stories my own imagination comes up with.  That feels right just now, so I’ll stick with it.

18 Years

18 Years

18 Years ago a silly girl and a hard working boy met in his living room, while he was eating a pie.  For some reason they rather liked each other and 18 years later they ended up with 2 children, 2 dogs, a cat, lots of chickens and a farm on which they had many, many adventures.

emma and stephen


Not The End.

P.S. I love you xxx

Staying in

Staying in

The snow has come again, we are told 15-25 cms today, we’ll see.   From soft icing sugar it has thickened and is now blowing around rather crossly.  It seems like a good day to stay at home and stay warm. On days like this I’m grateful for the chance to remain cosily by the fire and take it slowly.

soft-7700 soft-7701soft-7706soft-7710The boys are a bit fractious with all of the staying in but there is nothing about this day that entices me out!  Instead I will attempt to pacify them with some good books and perhaps a nice movie in front of the fire. soft-7708soft-7711soft-7707The snow is getting thicker, the fire warmer and my desire to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a child or two stronger.  Why fight it?

Stay warm and cosy, wherever you are.