That Agape Family

Live. Love. Learn.

Balanced and Barefoot

I started reading Balanced and Barefoot (affiliate link) by Angela J. Hanscom nearly a year ago, and I couldn’t put it down. It really spoke to my intuition that my children need to be outside. That the outdoors is an essential part of their development, and that I needed to be mindful of getting outside on a regular basis. And not only getting outside, but allowing them to explore with their whole body, mind, and soul.

I borrowed a copy from our local library, and devoured it quickly. In fact, Hanscom’s Timbernook forest play program was the inspiration behind a local forest free play group that I initiated after being a part of an established Forest school group, here in Toronto.  If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll have seen many  of our forest experiences that I’ve shared. I treasure our time in the Great Outdoors. It is calming, invigorating, energizing, balancing, and grounding.

Little Miss (4.5 years) and Sweet Pea (16 months)

The main focus of Hanscom’s book is that children NEED to be outdoors to develop appropriately, physically and psychologically. She noted that children today lack simple coordination skills because they aren’t given the opportunity to develop them. Simple things like walking on an uneven surface, rolling down a hill, and balancing on a log – things we enjoyed as children – are deemed “too risky” nowadays, depriving children of the opportunity to develop physiologically. The impact this has later on in life is remarkable. Did you know that children have started falling out of their chairs, while simply sitting in them, because they haven’t developed their core balance when they were younger? Children are more accident prone now than ever!

When children aren’t given the opportunity to “get messy and make mistakes” (thank you Miss Frizzle, of the Magic School Bus), they lack resilience later on. While we think we are protecting our children when they’re younger, we are actually putting up barriers for them later on in life.

The other component of Timbernook, and the reason I started a spin off group, was the idea of imaginative play. At Timbernook, the students are given the freedom to become pirates, astronauts, knights, and explorers. The only thing we bring to the forest is a bag of simple water toys. I have seen the children make a “hot tub”, bow and arrows, castles, etc.  When given time and freedom, children’s imaginations will blossom. and fun will ensue. We try to be as hands off as possible, allowing the children to understand their own limitations, and establish their own risk assessment. We also span a wide age range of 1 to 7 years.

I was truly inspired by Balanced and Barefoot. I highly recommend it to all parents and educators as an encouragement to make getting outside a priority. Our children will be better off for it.

Blessings,

Liz

How often do you get back to nature?

For the First Time in, Well, Ever!

We love the forest, if you couldn’t tell. We try to go every week, with a lovely group of friends. We have been joining this group for about two and a half years. In all this time, Little Miss has never ventured over “the tree”. Ever since we’ve been coming, there has been a tree that has fallen over there creek. It’s a large, beautiful tree that just begs to be climbed and crossed.

I consider Little Miss to be rather adventurous, and I’ve always assumed she’d eagerly climb it with the greatest of ease. However, in all our time in the forest, she never has. She would explore the exposed roots, and climb to the top of them, but never over – until this week.

We’ve had a few kids over the years who love to shimmy across to the other side, but it’s never had the pull that I thought it would with her. But this week, one of the newer girls she was playing with climbed right over – and she followed! It was really exciting to watch her try something new, and be guided by her peer. She needed a little encouragement on the way back, but she did it. I love watching children attempt something, of their own accord, and accomplishing the task. It’s so exciting!

I wonder how she’ll approach it next time…

What has your child recently tried and conquered?

Blessings,

Liz

When You Assume…

The other day, the littles and I were attending a birthday party. One of the parents was chatting with Little Miss, and asked if she knew when her birthday is.

But, before she could respond, the parent said “of course you don’t,” and turned to speak with someone else. I was flabbergasted. Little Miss is nearly 4.5 years old, and has known her birthday month for probably about a year. More recently, since this birthday party situation, she has also learned the day.

I’m not saying this to brag about her ability to know her birthday, but to ask folks to please not assume that kids don’t know. Children have varying talents, learning experiences, and interests. You never know what a child knows, unless you ask, and wait. Give them a moment or two to process what you’ve said, and formulate a response. You may be delightfully surprised.

When have you been surprised by a child?

Blessings,

Liz

The Forest is Changing

“The forest is changing…” was Little Miss’ observation this last week in the forest.

Here she is making her observations of what she’s seen, about a month ago:

(I thought her boots were in the car. I was mistaken… Oh well! I forgot my boots, too!) The giant tree tumbled down sometime during a fierce windstorm in the previous couple of weeks. When we returned a couple of weeks later, the tree had settled substantially lower, and left a beautiful mud hole for the children’s enjoyment:

The children spent a lot of time discovering the bugs that had made homes, or had their homes recently upturned. They investigated the effects of mud on boots (sluuuurp), and the month earlier, they explored the clay that had formed deep below the tree’s roots.

But Little Miss’ observation that “the forest is changing…” was spot on, and completely spontaneous. Although a month ago we were starting to see little buds all over, this last week it was so much more pronounced. And these beautiful Trout Lilies scattered the forest floor:

I can’t wait to get back out there this week, to see what else has sprung up.

What is “spring”ing up around your area?

Blessings,

Liz

On Hold with 911

Nearly a week ago, I posted this on Facebook, about Sweetpea:

“Now that things have calmed down, I’d like to share a bit more. PLEASE do not call 911 unless it’s an emergency.

F had a choking episode on Friday (which we think is related to the episode on Saturday that put her in the Critical Care Unit at Sick Kids). I called 911, but it was during the wind storm. I was on hold for 5 MINUTES while my daughter gasped for breath in my arms, because of the high call volume. I hung up and called my friend, who is a paramedic, because I needed to know what to do. 911 called me back a minute or so later. By this time, her breathing was returning to normal (thankfully). They sent an ambulance, but at 8 minutes it was redirected (because her breathing had regulated) and I ended up having to wait 25 minutes for an ambulance to come and check her. At this point she was fine, but it is terrifying to be put on hold while your child is gasping for breath. I am soooo thankful to God that it wasn’t the following night.

The next night, she had another episode, but it wasn’t clearing. We called 911 and an ambulance came right away (maybe 3 minutes) and the took her immediately and started to work on her. It was not good. She arrived Code Blue, and they immediately set to work. Thankfully it looks like she’ll make a full recovery but it was the most terrifying experience of our lives.

Please do not call 911 for non-emergencies. Friday night they were overwhelmed with calls about downed hydro wires. You have to call Toronto hydro for that. EMS and Toronto Police were asking people to stop calling 911 with these calls. When minutes, and even seconds, count you don’t want to be put on hold.

We are so thankful for all the work the nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists have done to ensure this healthy outcome.

Thank you to all of our family and friends for your outpouring of support and love. It means the world to us.

We are so thankful to God for His hand over us throughout this experience. He is good.”  He is good, all the time.

This is what caused the aspiration:

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. Sweetpea in now home, and doing very well. If you’d like to read or see more, our story was featured on Global News.

Blessings,

Liz

What a Load of… Oh?

When I was pregnant with Little Miss, 5 years ago, a friend of mine lent me a few books. This was one of them:

I remember, as she handed this book to me, she said “I barely had to change a poopy diaper after 6 months!” Well, the eager beaver that I was, I dove right in, with my little bundle of joy still growing inside.

I think I got to either chapter 3 or 4, and decided that it was “a load of hooey”. This might have been all well and good for a mama living in southern British Columbia, where they barely saw a snowflake, and the temperatures stayed well above 0 (celcius) the majority of the time, but for this Mama, that just wasn’t going to fly.

Well, fast forward to when Little Miss was just shy of 6 months, and I commented in my Crunch Mommy Group (it’s true, I joined it for the cloth diapering advice, and stayed for the overwhelming support and natural parenting techniques) that Little Miss tended to pee when I put her in the Bumbo Seat. I would regularly give her diaper free time, and found this to be the result. Someone commented that it was natural for them to pee like that, and that I should consider Elimination Communication (EC). Really? Well, sure. Why not? What did I have to lose?

Well, the next day, on the day she turned 6 months, we woke up, and I tried putting her on the potty (I sat down toward the back of the toilet, and put her between my legs), thinking that I looked ridiculous, and this whole concept is insane. Then, she peed. Seriously. 6 months. We gave it a go the next day and she pooped. I kid you not!

So, what was our technique? Well, I would give her a chance to go after each sleep (nap or night), as children naturally hold their pee when they sleep. Then, as she got older, I would pop her on whenever we changed her diaper. Gradually she started having more regular dry diapers, and by 2 years (minus 2 weeks), we went straight over to underwear, and had diapers for only night time (she’d been dry after naps for a while by this point). By this time, she was having a dry diaper at night a couple of times a week, too. A month after our switch, once she’d had a week or so of dry diapers, we got rid of our night time diapers, too. Interestingly, she would wake up to pee at night quite regularly, from at early at 12 months! I knew this because sometimes she would leak right out the side and all over me when I went in to put her back down. I tried putting her on the potty, but this groggy baby would have none of it, but I found the correlation quite interesting.

Did we eliminate poopy diapers for the majority of our diapering experience? Not quite, but she was regularly doing her business in the porcelain bowl by about a year. Did we train her? No. Really, it’s more so about training yourself, and recognizing your child’s cues. There is a lot more to this, but this is my Cole’s Notes version. Although I was a complete skeptic, I do recommend Diaper Free Baby. (affiliate link). Turns out, it’s not a bunch of hooey afterall! Please note that we were never forceful, nor did we ever shame or punish her if she didn’t go.

Was this a one time thing? Well, we’ve been doing EC with Sweet Pea since 3 month. Three Months?!? Yes. It all started one night when our typically easy going, amazing sleeper of a baby was having a particularly tough night. After nursing, and bicycle kicks, and anything else you would try at 3 in the morning to get a baby to settle, I thought “maybe she had to poop? Well, let’s see if this helps…” and I put her on the toilet. She didn’t poop, but she did pee, and thus began our EC journey. She’s now 13 months, and she regularly pees, and has gone #2 the last 2 days (although it’s not as often as I remember it being with LM). Hey, when it comes to cloth diapers and laundry, every little bit counts!

Here’s what I wrote back in 2014, as my Facebook status update: So, I started to read this when I was pregnant, because a friend loaned it to me with a bunch of other amazing baby books (thank you Carolina!) and I didn’t finish it because I thought I could never do it. But, after some encouragement from some other moms, girlie started using the potty at 6 months. Here’s the update: at 11 months, today she had 2 wet diapers, all other changes were dry, and she used the potty each time. I’m very excited over here, and wanted to let y’all know that this isn’t hippie craziness, but a very useful tool. We are still using (cloth) diapers, but I just get to wash less of them  — feeling wonderful.

So, you never know, unless you try.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. What do you think? Crazy hippy, or something to this?

What’s the Difference? – Math Concepts

Yesterday was Easter Monday. Unlike the school aged children in our area, who had the day off, I was drilling Little Miss making sure she was learning. Homeschooler’s don’t take a day off! Hahaha, OK, I’m joking. Well, kind of. We generally take a “learn anywhere, anytime” attitude, so it’s true that we don’t “take a day off”, but we are substantially more passive about our learning, as opposed to the lesson plans I was taught to prepare in Teacher’s College.

Yesterday, we decided to try out a few puzzles. Actually, my intentions were to purge that which we don’t play with anymore (I’ve been in a big clear out mood, lately), so I asked Little Miss if she was still interested in some puzzles. Confession: I LOVE PUZZLES. I can easily sit and do puzzles for hours at a time. One time, at a weekend church retreat, I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning, completing one of popcorn (we had a friendly competition to see which group could finish their puzzle first. They underestimated my addictive spirit). No, I didn’t regret that decision the next day, although I did get an XL Double Double.

Anyway, we started out by trying out the puzzle on top, which has 24 pieces. Little Miss whipped through that one in no time, which I expected because she typically does ones that are around 48 pieces or so, lately. Then, we worked on the puzzle on the bottom, which has 60 pieces. I tried explaining to her that the second one would be a bit tougher, but she didn’t quite understand why. We pushed through, as she got a bit frustrated about halfway through. We had already put the first puzzle away, but she wanted to do it again, so we did.

We looked at the size of the puzzle pieces, and saw that one was larger than the other. Then, we put them next to each other. I counted the number of pieces along the side of the dragon puzzle (4) and then of the Camp Candy puzzle (6) #throwback! Little Miss then had the idea to put one on top of the other, to further compare their sizes:

I thought that was pretty neat. I wanted to purge some stuff. I also wanted a few moments to myself, where I could read my book (you can follow what I’m reading on Goodreads, if you’re interested). But, instead, a moment was naturally created to explore various math concepts (size, number)! This is one of the reasons why I love homeschooling! We don’t have to learn based on predetermined expectations, but instead we can explore as we go. They will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. When learning is done in context, it has that much more meaning.

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Do you homeschool? Have you experienced a learning opportunity that seemingly came out of nowhere?

Canadian Opera Company – Free Concert Series

Have you noticed that I’m a bit thrifty? I love (and seek out) free activities! Today, we went to see the Canadian Opera Company (COC), for their free concert series with Little Miss’ homeschool children’s choir. Today’s concert was an excerpt from their upcoming opera performance of The Return of Ulysses, as well as some ballet. The COC runs their free series throughout the school year, and has performances both during lunch hour, and in the early evenings.

It’s a beautiful set up, and they whet your appetite for the upcoming performances. This is perfect for us, as the excerpt is an hour long, which is plenty for a four year old.

If you are interested in going, the seating is based on a first come, first served basis, and there is a line up. Try to get there an hour or so before show time.

They have a variety of performances as well, like latin music, jazz, ensembles, etc., so be sure to check their calendar to see if anything tickles your fancy.

Blessings!

Liz

Home Depot Workshops

March Break for homeschoolers traditionally means that we try our darnedest to hide away, while our usual hot spots (the Science Centre, swimming pools, and museums) become flooded with children enjoying their time off. This March Break, we decided to try out the Home Depot workshops, which Home Depot offers on the second Saturday of every month, and every day during March Break. Verdict: AMAZING! Now we can tick off “shop class” from our curriculum! Here is Little Miss working on her fully functional periscope:

We also worked on a fire station bank, with 2 compartments, one for “save” and the other for “give”.

You also get these nifty aprons, that I assure you are essential to the experience. After washing  Little Miss’ dress, after our first workshop, I asked her how she managed to get so much nail polish on her dress. It wasn’t nail polish… Pro Tip: Wear old clothes! And be sure to take advantage of those free aprons! You also get a spiffy pin for every project you finish. One girl had to have had over 25! It was pretty impressive.

The project for April is a window birdhouse. Sign up online through your local Home Depot to reserve your spot. This is a nation wide program, so it should be available where you are, as long you’ve got a Home Depot in your area. The recommended age is 5-12, but I have found that they are lenient with the age requirements, as long as you support your child as needed. We had a blast, and I’m sure you will, too.

Blessings!

Liz

Roll With It

The other day, we went to the park. There’s a lovely new park near our house, so with the warmer weather, we headed down. Little Miss was having fun on the various equipment there, when she noticed 3 children rolling down a hill (who needs toys, right?). Well, she marched herself up to the top of the hill, lied down, and rolled down the hill, making corrections to her direction as she went.

It may be hard to see in the photo, but there she is, in her purple sweater. Do you notice something? She’s the only child in the photo. You see, moments before I snapped this pic, the parents of the other children went over and scolded them. Granted, I think the main reason they were reprimanded is because at the top of the hill is a main street, but there’s a sidewalk in between, and they weren’t all that close to it, to be honest. However, there are many reasons parents discourage this type of activity. They may not want their child’s clothes to get dirty, or perhaps they think it’s a silly concept.

But, you know what? Rolling (and spinning around in circles) is good for a child’s development. In her book, Balanced and Barefoot, Angela Hanscom explains how the motion of spinning is key to proper balance development in children. Remember back in the day when we had those awesome merry go rounds? They were a good thing! Our park has this neat little contraption:

Little Miss loves going “faster”! Even Sweet Pea wanted to try this past trip, and she just turned one.

Let them roll! It’s good for them.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. What was your favourite piece of equipment on the playground when you were a kid?

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