Category Archives: Out-of-the-Box Families

Homeschooling Resources – What We’ve Used This Year

I’m often asked whether I use a curriculum or  other resources in my homeschooling. I thought it was high time I wrote a post about how we homeschool.

Firstly, it’s important to know that I don’t identify strongly with any one particular type of homeschooling. I consider myself a flexible homeschooler. I do follow a curriculum for certain things, but if there is a life experience available, we set the books aside for a while and go live life. I think it’s extremely important for children to live in and interact with the world around them, instead of being restricted by four walls and senseless testing or rigid mandates.

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Homeschooling Resource List – Early Childhood

 

In my attempt to get my house purged and cleaned out, I’ve been running across some old stuff that I had written down a long time ago, that I didn’t have time to do anything with, and that is actually pretty useful.

When I was first researching homeschooling (a long, long time ago), I wrote down a list of resources I wanted to check out for Early Childhood Education. Then I forgot all about that list, and used different resources instead. I still haven’t tried most of these, because I found other resources that are serving my needs. I think I’ll still check some of them out, though, considered I still have a kindergartener and a preschooler.

Have you tried any of these resources? If so, could you leave a comment letting me know what you think? Thanks!

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Homeschooling Items that Make My Life a Little Easier

 

Even before I had children, I already knew I wanted to homeschool. There are a number of reasons for this, which I’ll write about in a future post. Homeschooling is a lot of things. It’ fun, interesting, joyous, and often exhausting. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Keeping myself organized (or at least trying to) can help curb homeschooling exhaustion. To that end, I buy a lot of “essential items” for homeschooling online. Because we have a very active homeschooling community in Kingston, I already drive to a lot of places with the kids, so minimizing the amount of driving I need to do is one of my priorities when it comes to planning. Purchasing things online helps with that. Certain items that I need to buy in bulk are also often cheaper online (even with the shipping fees). Here are some items that we use frequently, which I now no longer go anywhere to buy (thanks Amazon!):

1. Notebooks – Lots and Lots of Notebooks

I love notebooks of all kinds, and with three kiddos at home, plus a Mama who can never have enough notebooks, buying in bulk just makes sense. And if you’re buying online, you might as well get all the notebooks you need at once and save on the shipping fees. If you don’t use all of the notebooks this year, you just save them for the next. This 24-pack of 70-page notebooks covers all the bases. Here’s what we use our notebooks for:

  • Checklist Notebook
    • Each day, I write a checklist of the tasks that need to be completed. Each kid has their own notebook for this. I help the younger ones check off theirs, while my oldest girl reads the items and checks them off independently.
  • Free-flow Notebook
    • All three kids have notebooks in which they can do anything – draw, doodle, write, etc. For K-girl, my oldest, who loves to draw, I’ve gone through several notebooks in the last couple of years (which is why buying in bulk is sort of a necessity).
  • Math Notebook
    • My 7-year-old has a notebook on which we do some math problems and projects. We use Right Start Math, but I also develop my own word problems and projects, depending on her interest and ability level.
  • Writing Notebook
    • I tried and tried to find calligraphy notebooks in town, but never did find them. I was looking for the ones with the lines that help kids to differentiate between lower and upper case letters, etc. Well, since I couldn’t find these (or at least none I liked), I went through the painstaking process of making my own by hand. I just used  a ruler and two different colour pens and made my own lines in a plain notebook. I personally like the spiral notebook for this, but if you can’t be bothered to make your own, there are alternatives. Here’s a “tablet” for handwriting that has coloured lines also. It uses a landscape layout and is not spiral bound, which is why I don’t use it; however, if you don’t need the spiral, it could be a good option. And, if you have a doodler like I do, I finally found a writing notebook with “primary rule” lined pages that also has a space for drawing. This may well be the next purchase after K-girl is finished with my current homemade notebook.

We have other notebooks as well, but the above are the ones for which we use spiral notebooks. We also use exercise books that have lined pages with a blank space above the lines; mostly we use this type for science. That way, we can make pictures of our experiments and then write about them as well as answer questions below the picture, on the lined pages. Here’s an example of this type of notebook.

2. Pens – lots and lots of pens

With a daughter who loves to draw and will use any writing utensil in her reach to do so, plus a household full of people who don’t live by my motto of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” I’m constantly losing pens. So I bought an obscene amount of them in the hope of curbing the great mystery of the disappearing pens. I love to write too, so having a lot of these is never a bad thing. These are my favouite.

3. Plain old regular paper plates

My 7-year-old daughter loves crafts, and it’s always nice to do an activity the whole family can enjoy – her siblings can join in on paper plate crafts. Unfortunately, I can’t find plain old flimsy paper plates anywhere in town! Not only are the only ones available more expensive, they don’t work that well for a lot of crafts. So off to Amazon I went, and I found the ones I was looking for! These paper plates are great for all kinds of crafts. Beware that they are flimsy and thin, so I personally recommend them for crafts but not for actual use as food plates – it’s worth investing on the sturdier ones for that (or better yet, use reusable plates). Check out my Pinterest boards for some ideas for paper plate crafts.

4. Foam Sheets

Keeping with the craft-theme, foam sheets come in really handy for a lot of the creations my daughter decides to make. I’ve purchased them at the dollar store before, but because she goes through them so quickly, it actually ends up being more expensive. The craft store’s packages are far too expensive as well, so once again, I turned to purchasing them online. We got this pack. Be aware that these are thinner foam sheets than some folks are used to, but for our 7-year-old’s crafts, they work just fine.

5. Modge Podge

Again with the craft stuff. My daughter has become slightly obsessed with My Froggy Stuff videos – and I don’t blame her. This woman can do insane things with cardboard boxes and scrapbook paper. Her videos are pretty amazing. But I have found myself in the position of needing to buy things I had never even heard of to satisfy my littler girls’ love of crafts (have I mentioned I’m the least crafty person on the planet?). Mod Podge is one of these things I hadn’t even heard of before we discovered My Froggy Stuff. It is, however, a really great tool for crafts of any kind. It’s basically a glue and sealant at the same time, so it works for a lot of different things.

6. Electric Pencil Sharpener

This is probably one of the items I’m most thankful for purchasing. With three kiddos who love to draw and colour, I was getting irritated with the amount of times I needed to be sharpening pencils – the two younger ones don’t quite have the coordination to do it themselves yet. I was fortunate enough to find an electrical pencil sharpener at Dollarama, of all places. It cost $3.50 and it works just fine. If you haven’t been as fortunate with your bargain finds, here’s one that’s a bit more expensive, but looks pretty good, too. Personally, for home use, I wouldn’t fork out any more than $20 or $30 for one of these, since the less expensive ones work just as well. If you’re buying one for a classroom full of several kids, though, you may want to consider the heavy duty options.  I highly recommend getting one with a cord (because batteries are a pain in the behind). There’s also options with USB connections now, but I didn’t see the need for this. My inexpensive one that I can plug into any outlet works well for my family’s needs.

These are some of the items that make my life easier as a homeschooler, especially since I don’t have to get out of my house to buy them. Online shopping for the win.

What items do you consider essential for your homeschooling?

This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you decide to purchase an item, I’ll receive a small commission. This has no extra cost for you.

Family Bike Touring – 5 Families Who Cycled Way Further Than We Did

familybike

 

We had such an amazing time during our family bike touring adventure, we’re already dreaming about the next one. Travelling by bike is both a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty around us and to learn some wonderful life lessons. Whereas we’re in love with life on two wheels, however brief, not everyone shares our enthusiasm – though most people were very positive about our choice of self-propelled travel.

We encountered all kinds of reactions about our bike trip, but the common thread was amazement that we’d cycle that far with three children aged 6, 4, and 2. In our experience, family bike touring is a mode of travel unparalleled by any other, and we saw things on our bike tour that we would never have experienced if we were driving down the 401. Plus, as I keep telling people, it’s a lot easier to travel with young children by bicycle than by any other means. Instead of trying to entertain antsy kids while stuck in traffic, you get to get off the bikes and play tag, visit a playground, or simply lie down on the grass when the kids need to burn off some energy or are tired of being on the bikes.

Although some people were pretty impressed with our little adventure, as far as family bike touring goes, we put in very few kilometers (it was still lots, considering we had zero experience). There are families out there who have done incredible bike tours, and they inspire us to get back on our bikes and see more of the world. We don’t have any solid plans for another bike tour yet, but it’s definitely on the back of our minds to go on another tour next spring. We’re being inspired by several families who choose self-propelled travel. Here are five of these families.

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Awesome out-of-the-box families who inspire us

If you follow he blog, you know that my family and I went on a big adventure this summer. We cycled from Kingston, ON (where we currently live) to London, ON – a 557 Km cycling trip along beautiful Lake Ontario and highway 2. For some, our decision to hit the road on bicycles with three very young kids may look like a mid-life crisis, but really, it’s more like a mid-life awakening. Wait, actually, it’s not a mid-life anything, since I intend on living to 100, and thus, I’m nowhere near mid-life just yet. But I digress.

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Live life on your terms

I have an amazing life and I know it.  Even in my most dire financial times, I never wanted for food, shelter, or water.  I am blessed beyond belief.  Every time I feel like complaining, I remind myself of these three things: food, shelter, and clean water.  And not just any food, shelter, and water, either.  I can afford to eat healthily and to indulge in treats.  I live in a wonderful home with 3 flush toilets (yes, that is definitely a highlight), a comfortable bed, and even a bathtub.  I also have functioning modern appliances that mean I don’t have to slave over a wash basin to do the piles of laundry that 5 people undeniably create.  I have clean water that comes out of any tap inside my house – I can actually drink water from anywhere in my house without filtering it first (even if it does taste like chlorine sometimes, which is why we use a filter in the kitchen – oh yes, I can afford a filter!  Another blessing).

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5 Lessons Learned from 500 Kilometers on bicycles (with 3 children 6 and under)

At the end of May 2016, my husband and I decided (somewhat spontaneously) to go on a 560-kilometer cycling trip with our three children (ages 6, 4, and 2).

My husband and I are adventurous people, but there’s no denying that adding children to the mix puts a bit of a damper on how adventurous people become. Recently, my husband and I started thinking, however, that this damper is imposed by society, rather than by any real circumstances.

After all, people all over the world live without the luxuries and routines to which we have become accustomed, and their children seem to fare just fine (as do the parents).

So, despite negativity from some, we packed up our things and set off on the road. It was a wonderful adventure, and we learned a great deal.

Here are five life lessons learned from 557 Kilometers on bicycles (with three children six and under).

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Cycle Touring with kids in beautiful Prince Edward County

Cycling beautiful Prince Edward County

One of the most rewarding things about setting out on a cycling adventure with my family was seeing the beauty of the natural Ontario world, which escapes us when we drive down the 401. We live next door to gorgeous Prince Edward County, but rarely take the time to visit it or to truly take in the beauty of Lake Ontario.

Me, my husband, and three children (ages 6, 4, and 2), left Kingston, Ontario, on May 28th, and started riding our bicycles. On May 28th, we cycled from Kingston to Bath, On, and enjoyed the little town of Bath on May 29th, before continuing to Picton, where we spent the night.

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Small town markets and pirate playgrounds – Bath, ON

 

As most of you know by now, me, my husband, and our three children (ages 6 and under) set off on a cycling adventure on May 28th, 2016. We decided to see how far we would get, with a possible lofty goal of getting to London eventually. The reason doing a trip like this never stressed me out of overwhelmed me is that I looked at it as a 30 kilometer outing. Then the next day, I looked at it as another 30 kilometer outing, and so forth.

It’s now been 17 days since we set off, and we’ve cycled about 375 kilometers. We have seen some wonderful sights, learned some great lessons, and met some amazing people. I’ll be writing a post later on about all the lessons learned, but for today, I thought it was about time I wrote a little bit about the places we have visited thus far.

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Minimalist Packing for a Cycle Tour With Kids

On May 28th, me, my husband, and my three children (ages 6, 4, and almost 2) set out on the road for a 700-kilometre cycling adventure. We had never done any cycle touring in our lives, did not plan this trip out very well (on purpose), and are having an absolute blast nevertheless.

On June 9th, we rode through Toronto and decided to stay at a hotel, since a house that can accommodate 5 cycling tourists downtown Toronto is sort of non-existent. We stayed at a fairly nice little hotel apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, so we did enjoy some freshly cooked dinner (we’re basically surviving on tortillas, canned food and protein bars (plus more junk food than I think I’ve eaten in my whole life put together at this point, but hey, it’s all good. You gotta live a little).

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