Fun Family Homeschool

Are we having fun yet?

Author: Eleasha Thorpe

10 Minute Molly Maids

Of all the chore systems we have tried, this one has lasted the longest and had the most success. It’s basic, easy to remember and quick but most important, it provides a reminder to work with and train my kids how to do the jobs well.  Here is how it works:

We take 10 minutes either in the morning or right after lunch to tackle a task.  These are basic areas that need regular attention but would be neglected if I did not have a schedule.  Now that I have older kids, I send them to one area of the house while I train the little ones in another area.

Monday is Mending and Maintenace. That means if a button has fallen off a shirt or pants have a ripped knee, we practice sewing and mend it.  If a light bulb needs replacing or a gash in wall needs spackle, we do it then.  We don’t need to cross every item off the list, just work at it for 10 minutes and get done what we can… together.

It’s good to have a running list of items that need doing so that you can delegate a small job and help with a bigger one.  This does not mean that we leave every maintenance and mending job for Monday’s,  it just means that once a week, we are prompted to look around and care for things that need our attention.

Tuesday is Tubs and Toilets.  Pretty self-explanitory but while we are in the bathroom cleaning those fixtures, we do the sink and mirrors too, because, why not?  We have lots of bathrooms so we spilt up and I rotate which one I help with so that each one gets a really good clean every few weeks.  I do not inspect the bathroom being cleaned by the older kids, though I work along side them often for refreshers. The point is to be done in 10 minutes and move on with the day.  It is not an exam, it’s a contribution made to the household.  Somedays they give their best, other days, not so much. That’s life.

Wednesday is for Windows and Walls.  I have these amazing cloths called KAWOS (kleen anything with out streaks) you get them wet, wring them well and wipe ANYTHING! No streaks! So everyone gets one and we spread out, washing windows, doors, doorknobs, marks on walls, door jambs, ect…. fun and done! Moving on….

Thursday is to Tidy Thoroughly, putting all those items that are not where they should be back in their propper place. Stuff just seems to migrate through the house. I am an offender too.  Remember 10 minutes only!

Friday is Floors.  Vacuume carpets, sweep and wash what you can of the rest in 10 minutes.  I often do a good sweep and vacume with the kids during this time, then wash the floor once the littles are in bed.

Sometimes we miss a day, but we get it the next week so it is still better than what happens when we have no plan at all.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the things that need doing in the house every week ( dusting is not on the list and never gets done….I should really add it in somewhere, what day rhymes with dusting? 😂) And I do often have to clean a toilet between tuesdays, but the point is that the kids are learning that these jobs are easier when done regularily and that they are not all that hard to do, even the little kids can help.

By using alliteration to assign these tasks, I dont need to take my list with me when we travel, we all know what needs doing each day, no matter where we are in the world.

Whats your cleaning schedule? Any tips to share?

Eleasha

 

Homeschooling Through Loss

We recently lost a very dear family friend.  She was 61 and essentially an adopted grandmother to my kiddos, though she was like an older sister to me.  Unmarried and childless, she gratefully joined in on any activity we invited her to, from swimming at the community pool to gymnastics class to going to the zoo.  She was one of my foremost homeschool supporters.

Though she fought hard against multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) for 6 months or so, it was her kidneys that gave out in then and sent her into a rapid downward spiral.  Through all the doctors apointments and hospital visits and extra help with shopping and around the house, we put on our brave faces and tried never to complain about the inconvinience.  I would be lying if I told you that I never thought to myself: ‘it will be easier once she dies’.  I thought it… but I was dead wrong!

Losing a loved one may release them of their suffering but it also releases you of the need to put on that brave face, and the trapped emotions just might come crashing in on you all at once. The guilt, the anger, the blame, the sadness.  And when your children are suffering the loss too, it is all multiplied.

It might seem to make perfect sense to throw out the homeschool schedule for a while and ride the wave of grief.   And for some, that may actually work. But I want to offer my personal experience so that others may benefit from considering it.

Aimlessness and sorrow can get into all sort of trouble when they chum up.  If everyone in the family is feeling stung, then having no purpose in your day will likely lead to fights and chaos and anarchy…which will lead to more pain, of a different sort.  Don’t pile hurt upon hurt.

If you are fortunate enough to get a heads-up that a loved one is dying, have a plan for your own family to carry you through the storm. There are a few things I wish I had known to do:

1) Prepare freezer meals. I have not only found it hard to think about food, or what to make, but have also felt overwhelmed at the thought of having to grocery shop.  Think comfort food.

2)Have babysitters lined up. Friends or family who will take the kids so that you can have some time to process your own feelings, or so that you can devote time to helping with nessesary tasks after the death of your loved one without feeling like you are neglecting your kids.  Little kids are resilient, they need to get back to playing and can seem unbothered by the loss, which can almost irritate older kids and adults who are processing dificult feelings. I sent my littles to daycare for a couple days and it was a nice break for us all.  I only wish I had lined up an overnight or two as well, bedtime routine was harder than usual and I would get quite cranky with them.

3) Stock snacks. People may come visit to consol you, be ready to receive them with tea and cookies. It may even be that tea time is what your kids need more of too. Or perhaps you will welcome the distraction of a playdate, snacks would be good to have on hand.

4) Discuss what roles you may be called on to fill, post-mortem, with with the ailing party so that you can be prepared.  If you will be asked to say a few words at the funeral, start writing things down now.  If you will be asked to help file the taxes and claim insurance, know where the paperwork is.  Etc…

5) Prepare several weeks of school lessons ahead.more on this in a bit.

6) Prepare how you will explain death to the little ones. Continue reading

Dominoes for preschoolers

Dominoes are great for toddlers and pre-schoolers. They help with grasping the relationship between numbers and amounts, and importantly, the quantity of zero. Depending on the set you have, they are great for teaching colours too.  I have a Cardinal set that uses a different colour for each number of dots.  The other thing I love about dominoes is that most sets have great tactile value.  The ones we use are pretty heavy,smooth and shiny.  I love fiddling with them.  They make a lovely “clack” sound when they touch each other. I have seen metal sets and wood sets that would also be awesome for this reason.

Here are a few activities suggestions:

1. Make a train track. Work together to line up the tiles end-to-end, making a long ‘train track’ then drive a little train along it.  The Cardinal set I have came with little trains but they could be a choke hazard so whatever safe sized vehicle you have on hand will do just fine.  Preschoolers might be able to work at matching the amounts of dots/colours as they make their line (don’t insist, let it be fun)

2. Train station.  Gather all the dominoes that have no more than five dots on either side. You will have 21 tiles.  Put one of the ‘doubles’ into the center and show how to pull the matching pieces into the ‘station’ . Choo choo! You can use the little starter piece from the set or just pull the tiles up to the double. Its great for  visual quantity recognition.

 

 

3. Sum sort. Write the numbers 1-10 (or start with 1-5) on a piece of paper spaced out. Count the dots on both ends and add them together.  Place the domino in front of the number that shows the sum.   Continue until all the tiles are sorted .

4. Build a Castle.  Dominoes are fun to just build with too.  Great for hand-eye coordination and balancing.

 

5. Let’s not forget everyones favourite thing to do with dominoes….

A double twelve set of dominoes will run about 20.00  so they are a fantastic math manipulative and fun family game.  Happy playing!

 

Master Shopping List

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Ever write your shopping list… do the shop… then return home only to realize there were items you forgot to buy because you forgot to put them on your list…because your forgot that you needed them?

That is pretty much how every one of my shopping trips went until I tripped over a Life changing Pin in the meal planning category.  It took me some digging to find it again but credit ought to go where it belongs.  Check out the Resourceful Gals Monthly Meal Planning post to see the whole amazing system.  I hope to implement more of it someday, but for now I have fully adopted the Master Shopping List concept from them.

I have adapted the idea slightly.  The Master Shopping List is essentially a full list of every consumable that enters my home, including things like toothpaste, toilet paper and diapers, but mostly food.  I found it easier to start my own Excel spreadsheet and make adjustments as I went along.  For example, I would do a shop but if I realise there were items missing from my master list, I just jot them down on the list and when I get home I take a moment to edit the spreadsheet and add them.

It works like this: print the list, then take inventory of all the items on it.  Highlight what needs to be purchased with a highlighter and, if needed, indicate how many need to be purchased.  When unpacking groceries at home, take a moment to circle items you were unable to get and keep the list in your purse for weekly errands, perhaps you can get those items while out and about. Eventually, I changed the print color for all the items I typically buy at Costco to blue.  That way, if that is the store I am headed to, I only have to check my current inventory of the items in blue on my list.

Interested in seeing my list?

Here is the shopping list and ere it is as a PDF

I hope you found this helpful.  You can leave a comment or send me an email using the Contact Us form .  I’m new to this blog thing so please let me know how I am doing and what I need to work on.

Happy Shopping!

Experimenting with fermented veggies

 

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A few years back, my polish friend handed me a shot glass with cloudy liquid in it and told me to drink it.  I trusted her implicitly, so I drank.  A familiar yet exotic tang that I simply could not put my finger on filled my senses.  I really liked it and I wanted more. She tried to explain to me that it was the bi-product of some fermentation proccess common in polish kitchens and that it is super good for you.  Then I moved and no longer got to hang out in her kitchen and forgot all about it

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Fast forward to 2015, I stumble upon posts about fermented veggies.  I listened to a podcast that really made me think and that started my thirst for that tangy taste again.

As a result of reading articles and blogs and searching Pinterest and Youtube, I decided to dive in and try this crazy veggie-fermenting thing that is supposed to be good for my gut.

Here is how I did it.

Cabbage:

  • Shred cabbage and place in bowl
  • sprinkle generously with salt and mix well
  • using clean hands, squeeze cabbage to ecourage juices out
  • Pack tightly into large, wide mouth mason or other container (there is some variation among the sources I looked at as to what to use, I like the Mason jars)
  • cabbage should make its own brine as you pack it, but you can top up if needed with 1 tbsp kosher salt disolved in 1 cup water.
  • make sure the veggies stay below the water-line.  I use Pickle Pebbles glass weights to hold foods down, they will start to float once bubbling begins.
  • cover using lid, or air lock (I like the peace of mind that the air lock gives me, but most people just burp the lid every day to let gasses escape.  It is worth reading about the different methods and their pros and cons but I am not going to attempt to explain here.)
  • leave on counter or place in cool dark place, I leave mine on the counter, I like to watch the bubbles.
  • observe.  It will begin to bubble over the next day or two, a sign that it is doing as it should, the beneficial bacteria are multiplying! Yay!
  • Once bubbling slows down, do a taste test.  If you want more tang, leave it out a few more days then test again.
  • Move it to the fridge when you have reached desired taste.

 

Carrots:

  • slice carrots lengthwise into sticks or cross-wise into coins
  • pack tightly into mason jar or other containter
  • add a brine of aprox 1 tbs kosher salt to 1 cup of water, make more brine as needed to fill jar, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Veggies must stay below water level.
  • cover with lid or air-lock.
  • Leave on counter or place in cool dark place.
  • watch.  I left my first batch for 3 weeks but the next batch only for 10 days as we don’t have A/C and the mercury was rising.  Temperature affects the speed at which the bacteria multiplies. Most sites suggest that cool and slow results in a better ferment. I am still too impatient, but will try that approach as temperatures cool off.

So far, I am most in love with the carrots.  I tried a second batch adding dill, whole garlic cloves and green onions.  They are my fave and I love to drink the brine.  The green onions kinda soft so I probably won’t eat them, but the garlic is sweet and yummy.  I liked my cabbage too but will add more flavours next time.  I tried asparagus and failed.  I think it was too hot and I left it too long.  Trial and error. I have baby cucumbers in the frige that I fermented about a week. Not sure how I feel about them yet… I think I pulled them too soon fearing that they had gone soft but they had not, they were still crunchy.

I am affraid of mold. I also have a fear of eating strange foods so it takes great amounts of courage for me to taste the first bite!!!! So far, no major gross-outs, i even ate a couple asparagus but after they sat in the fridge they were not so crunchy and kinda slimy.  I am thrilled to be learning an ancient method of preserving and proccessing veggies though, because this momma, needs to start getting healthy again.

Have you tried making fermented veggis? Please share in the comments.

Going West – Planning the trip

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We have been wanting to take the kids on a Canada wide trip for a long time but it seemed so daunting.  As we were heading out on our trip to Key West last winter, James said we had better make it count because the dollar exchange rate was going to make southern travel too expensive next year, and sadly, he was right.  So, the time had come to explore our own back yard…. just not in winter, that would be ridiculous with four kids!

The date is now set and we are racing to lay out our plan so that we can begin preparing the “stuff” that must be prepared.  So how do we plan for such a long trip with kids?  In this post I will walk through a few steps we always take when planning an awesome  Fun Family aventure.

Gather Ideas

This is where I love Google and Pinterest. I have a Pinterest board named Next Stop and that is exactly what I use it for. I clear out all pins related to our previous trip (because we have been there, done that by now) and load up on cool looking pins about where we are headed and everywhere in BETWEEN here and there.  This part is done casually over many weeks or months.  I keep coming back to it when I have time.  then I Google the places I think would be a good fit for our family ( outside, educational, FUN) and read reviews on them all.  Some things I look for:  Is it super pricy(we are six people)? Will weather affect our enjoyment/view? Is it stroller friendly and can we bring in our own food?  Is there somewhere to park a 28′ motorhome (our only ride)?   I tend to look for natural wonders and unique attractions, things that are not just a local version of the standard cultural enrichment buildings that we have here in Ontario (like science centres and large museums).  There are always more points of interest than we will have time for. I don’t take too many notes just yet, this is just the selection phase.

Map it out

I use Google Maps to drops pins at our top pics and get a visual feel for how do-able the trip looks in terms of driving and time.  On this trip, I would have loved to take in the sand dunes of Athabaska Lake but as you can see, they are way out of our way at the extreme North of Saskatchewan! so that will have to be another trip, maybe a Northern Canada trip? Update: as I am getting this post ready for publishing, a major forest fire is devastating the town of Fort McMurry, near those sand dunes we wont be able to visit.  we will be following this story closely.  Perhaps we can help in some way.

visual map

Those sand dunes are too far

We struck gold and found this giant puzzle map (like this one here) for four bucks at a second hand store.  The kids and I assembled it then hot glued it first to foam board them to a display board (dollar store) and mounted it to the wall with 3M command mounting strips.  Now we can press push pins into it and use yarn to plot out different routes.  My 9yr old loved this part and could see the difference it makes when we hit destinations in different orders.  I Googled the destinations and found printable pictures to print onto photo paper and cut out.  This is our vision board for the trip and you could feel the excitement pick up for this trip once it was complete.  Will we have time to visit all these places?  Likely not.  Some will depend on weather anyways, so we will make some decisions on the road as we get near to each area.  In addition to these attractions, we need to find places to park the motorhome for the night and every second or third night must to be at a serviced campground or RV park so we can dump sewage and fill up our water tank. We only have two weeks to complete our trip.  Wish me luck.

thrift store puzzle map vision board

This thrift store puzzle map made a great vision board

Price it out

Most of the ‘Must See’ attractions have ‘must pay’ admission prices.  I look online for discounts, coupons and special ‘off peak’ pricing. Sometimes Costco.ca has discounted admission for popular theme parks.

Drawing of RV

Tiny easle drawing of the RV

In addition, I will source out some RV parks and get their average prices to  put into the equation.  We rarely decide on RV parks ahead of time unless there is a specific one that is a destination in its own right.  We like having the flexibility of just stopping when the family needs to stop for a day or moving on to escape bad weather, but a general idea of prices is good to have as some popular areas can be quite expensive.  If you are not traveling in an RV, you will want to know what to expect for hotel or campground fees.  Calculating the fuel expense is something the kids can have fun with, multiplying the kilometers to be driven by the average per km cost of our motorhome based on current gas prices. (That’s math class taken care of for this week)

So that’s basicaly how we plan our trip.  I find that if we plan it out too exactly we get frustrated when circumstances throw a wrench in our plans. Here’s a little experience we had. When traveling to Key West, we had set our hearts on a sea-plane ride to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas  National Park (thank you Pinterest). For the first time ever, the sea plane tour company had to cancel all flights for a day and a half due to fog around the island. We were so disappointed… to the point of choking back tears since my son loves airplanes and he had been looking forward to that flight for the entire trip plus we were scheduled to start our homeward drive the next day.  We were offered an open flight that was another two days away. It was a hard choice but we took a leap of faith and booked it, knowing the fog could still be an issue.  This meant dropping some stops we had planned for the trip home. Even the morning of, they were canceling flights but at 1pm we took to the skies. It was so worth it to get that tour in (knowing this would be our last southern trip for years) and we had a blast checking out more of Key West during that extra day.

So have a plan, but dont carve it in stone. Your adventure awaits…Happy planning!

next post: Going West-Preparing for the Trip where I will explain how I remember what to bring and how I prepare to make this trips educational value sink in.

Hello? Is this thing On?

Hooray!  I think I finally figured this Blog thing out!  Sometimes too much research comes back to bite you.  I spent so long trying to figure out how to start a blog, I got lost in the options.  I guess I do that with Homeschooling too sometimes:  I can spend so long coming up with lessons and making materials that the kids learn the skill on their own before I am ready to teach it.  Kids do that, you know…learn on there own.  Sometimes it thrills me and other times it bums me out, especially if I had a great lesson plan for that topic.  But I roll with it, more days are coming, and I have other kids to teach.

Introductions:

My name is Eleasha and I am a natural born teacher/motivator.  Married almost 18 years to a hard-working, fun loving man.  Mom to four munchkins aged 9,7,3 and 8 months.  Homebirthed them all, three in water. I am a baby wearing, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping zombie.  Coffee and I have a love/hate relationship.  The husband and I run a commercial cleaning business (okay, it’s mostly him running it these days, I do the bookwork and fill in on jobs here and there) and Homeschooling allows the kids to see what we do to support the family.  In pursuit of my own passion, I trained and certified as a Birth Doula through DONA International and as a Bereavment Doula through StillBirthDay.  I love seeing women take charge of their birth experience because it can set the tone for their start into motherhood.

 

The kids we are trying to raise/teach/enjoy:

(I’m new to this Blog thing so, for now, I will keep their real names out of these posts)

My Tiger is 9 and so very strong willed.  He is such a perfectionist that he is often reluctant to try new things for fear that someone might witness his failed attempt.  He needs to talk things out at length, usually at bedtime.  My Doula training has paid for itself several times over helping me to coach him through issues.  He loves being outside, rarely wants to come in, even in winter. He pretty much taught himself to read and reads very well. Oh, and he hates getting his hands dirty.

My Sunshine is 7 and leaves me in stiches daily! This kid is so funny, he doesnt even do it on purpose. His happy-go-lucky attitude and massive Smile light up the whole room.  However, he is hard to pin down, like, ever.  At our weekly meetings for worship, he still can not stay in his seat for more than 10 minutes.  If he does sit still, the energy exits his mouth! So learning to read and write has not been his strength.  He had some hearing and seeing difficulties that we are working on now.

My Princess is 3.  She is not afraid to inject herself into any activity or conversation. She has pretty much self taught herself the alphabet and counting to ten so I guess its time to start teaching her to read too.  I was hoping to put that off, but strike while the iron is hot, they say.

Juicy J is 8 months and is an Old Soul. That means nothing really gets a rise out of him, as though he has seen it all before.  Honestly, the most laid back baby on the planet.  He would even put himself to sleep by sucking his thumb!  Every fourth child should be like him, there would be more big families   He is just now, starting to make his presence known in the world and is crawling like a pro, so He keeps me on my toes!