That Agape Family

Live. Love. Learn.

Tag: Learning (page 1 of 3)

It’s Not Polite To Stare

“Mommy, why did the woman say ‘it’s not polite to stare’ to me?”

“Who said that?” I asked.

“The woman pushing the wheelchair,” Little Miss replied. 

Ah. The moment of clarity. 

Today, we decided to head over to the Markham Fair. We had never been to this time honoured tradition, and we decided to give it a last-minute whirl. Folks, we had a great time! There was lots to see and do there. There were plenty of animals to see. We got to ride up in a cherry picker (the machine that allows the hydro company to work on hydro wires)! And, they had a demolition derby (that we unfortunately weren’t able to attend). It was great. 

Today was the first day of the fair, and there were lots of school children there. It was also “homeschooling day”, so we got to see some of our friends, too. There were also several people there with special needs. Fantastic! I have worked with individuals with special needs, and I know the need for these folks to get out and enjoy a community event. Wonderful! And, it appears my daughter (4.5 years young) was curious. 

We all have a natural curiosity to those who are “different”. It’s human nature. Children are trying to make sense of the world, and in this case, she was trying to understand why a person was in a wheelchair. I’ve been behind the wheelchair, dealing with the curious stares. You want your client to be respected. I understand that. However, I think that this could have been taken as a learning opportunity, rather than a scolding. 

My daughter did not know it was rude to stare. Again, she 4.5 years old. She did not mean to be rude, but it clearly came across that way. Instead of scolding her, the caregiver could have said, “he (or she) needs help to get around. That’s my job. They aren’t able to walk on their own, but they still want to see everything that you do!” Connection and dignity go a long way on this two way street. I also told Little Miss that the nicest thing she can do, if she sees someone in a wheelchair, is smile. There’s a takeaway that she can carry with her for the rest of her life, as opposed to being scared to look at the people around her. 

When I was in grade 6, I experienced a pivotal moment. I was doing a biography on a classmate, so she came over to my house. When her family came to get her, her brother came to the door. He had Down Syndrome. I suppose I asked something insensitive like, “why does he look different?” I really can’t remember. However, I do remember her explanation. 

We were in the gifted program at the time. She explained the situation that we (students in the gifted program) had an IQ of 101. Other students, in the regular stream, had an IQ of 100, and her brother had an IQ of 99. This was not (and I didn’t take it as such) an explanation that he was “dumb”, but that he thought and processed information differently. So, when I was speaking with him, I may have to choose my words more carefully so that he understood me. I found her explanation to come from a place of love and respect. 

As I grew older, and I took psychology courses, I learned that the IQ disparity was greater, however that didn’t change how I viewed those with special needs. They are people who deserve love and respect, and who are all too often underestimated. This is something I want to pass on to my daughters. I don’t want them to be afraid to interact with these individuals. This is an opportunity to show love and compassion! 

So, let me encourage you to view every day as a teaching day. Help those around you, especially these precious little ones, to make sense of what they see, through eyes of compassion and love. And I hope and pray that the next time she sees someone in a wheelchair she won’t avert her eyes, but meet those eyes with a smile. 

Blessings,

Liz

Oh Snap… I was Wrong

**Affiliate link**

Last year, around this time, I wrote a couple of blog posts. I titled them Snapdragon Fun and Snap Chat Continued.  Pretty witty of me, right? Well, I’m here to confess that I was wrong. I mistakenly identified those fun, beautiful plants as “snapdragons”, when in reality the orange flowered plant is “jewelweed” and the pink flowered plant is “Himalayan balsam”, both of the impatiens family.  I stand corrected. This photo is a card from the board game Wildcraft. Wildcraft is a cooperative board game that helps children learn how various plants can help heal us. From sunburns to bee stings, it is a fun reminder of the healing power of the plants around us.

And, guess what? They’re back in season! Yay! If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know why I’m so excited. These plants, also called “touch-me-not”, have these fun little seed pods that pop when you squeeze them. It turns out that these seeds taste like walnuts, and are super healthy! The flowers are good for you as well. Both the seeds and flowers are nutrient rich. Foraging the seeds can be a fun game, too! See if you can harvest the seed pod without it popping, and let the seed pods pop in your mouth, instead! Naturally, we gave it a go:

Little Miss (4.5) wasn’t a big fan of the seeds, but Sweet Pea (1.5) was. Granted, she’ll eat just about anything, but I enjoyed them as well. As we continued on our walk this morning, we came across another plant that looks very similar, however the flowers are pink in colour. As I mentioned earlier, this is the Himalayan Balsam. It turned out that this plant is an invasive species to our area, which led to a fantastic discussion about invasive species, endangered species (we’d recently learned about those, and Little Miss was trying to audibly recognize the difference), and habitats. We decided to harvest some of the Himalayan balsam, and see if our fine feathered friends, the ducks, might eat it. 

Before we got to the ducks, I asked Little Miss to develop a hypothesis, as to whether or not the ducks would eat the flowers. She doesn’t like to be wrong, so she decided not to guess. I hypothesized that they would eat them. Wrong again! Perhaps the flowers just weren’t exciting enough to munch on. 

So, if you’re by a ravine, and happen upon these entertaining plants, take a few moments. Try a flower or two, and see if you have the gentle touch. Let the seed pod pop in your mouth. It’s fun for the whole family!

Blessings,

Liz

Do You Feel Qualified?

Last summer, before we had even begun our homeschooling journey, a well meaning neighbour asked me “Do you feel qualified to teach her?” Beyond the fact that I am, indeed, a certified elementary school teacher, I still had a few lingering doubts. 

Was this the right choice? Does she need more peer interactions? Will I miss something? Will I be “enough”? 

I answered with my well thought through list of reasons that I had been rehearsing for whenever someone asks “why?”, but the question still nagged at me. There are plenty of parents who may not feel “qualified”, but they do a fantastic job! They are encouraging, inspiring, nourishing, kind, loving, and passionate. Who else can care more about your child than you? And the best part of homeschooling is that we often learn alongside our children, feeding our own curiosities as well! Learning is a lifelong venture, after all!

So, as we embark upon our second year of homeschooling, I want to encourage you. You are their first teacher. Whether they go to a physical school, or “school” at home, whatever that may look like, you are their first teacher. 

Yesterday, Little Miss (4.5) was drawing in the sand. She smiled and said “Mommy, look! A mineral butterfly!” I think we’re going to be alright. 

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?

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

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

Joyride 150 Indoor Bike Park

Did you know that Markham has an AMAZING indoor bike park? We didn’t either until a friend of ours tipped us off. One fabulous feature of Joyride 150 is that it is FREE for children under 4, after the one time $5 registration fee. Yes, free and unlimited. Free bike rental, and day pass – remember to bring your own helmet, though. They do have them, but those are available for rent. Helmets are mandatory for all riders.

When you walk in, you are greeted with a blue planked beginner area with pump tracks, narrow bike paths, and a little see saw.  Little Miss used a balance bike for the first time, and after about an hour of figuring it out (and some frustration), she didn’t want to leave! We spent about 5 hours there our first time, and she had so much fun! It’s great exercise, too. There is also an area with picnic benches for eating and relaxing.

As you go farther back into the facility (which is HUGE), you find additional paths, ramps, and half pipes. For the more adventurous, they have ramps that lead into foam pits, so you can try out all those crazy BMX tricks. There is also an outdoor dirt ramp portion, but we have yet to be there in the summer, so I haven’t seen them – yet. Another favourite part is the X-Country trail which winds through the whole facility.

Which leads me to my proud mama brag – she rode a 2 wheeler yesterday! We have been to Joyride about 5 times, and each time she whipped around on the balance bike, growing more confident each time. Yesterday was our first time in about 2 months, and she asked about a pedal bike. Daddy had the day off, so I had been pumping her up that he could help her learn, as it’s a little tough to do while wearing a baby, which is my usual attire. Anyway, Sweet Pea fell asleep in on the way, so Daddy stayed with her while we went on in. She started off on the balance bike, but seemed a bit bored with it. Anyway, long story short, we tried out the pedal bike, and she caught on very quickly. The most beautiful part, to me, is that she really did it on her own. Yes, we held the bike a bit to get her going, but she did it. And the look of surprise when she realized how far she’d gone without us was magical.

If you ask her, she’s “still practicing”, but we’re confident she’s got the hang of it. And I genuinely believe it is because of the experience she got at Joyride 150. Thanks for operating an awesome place, guys!

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Do you know of an awesome kids hot spot in or around the T Dot?

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