Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Rhythm of Fall

In the last month we've been getting accustomed to our new fall rhythm. The weeks have become quite busy with learning activities and fall festivities. Our learning community has been exploring the outdoors and learning about the bounty that this season brings. We've been enjoying those last delicious warm days of autumn as we enter into the last stretch of preparations for the winter. The kitchen has been filled with the smell of canned applesauce and pears and my boys have been busy stacking fire wood for the keeping our home warm. It is finally getting to that time of year where we can stand back and appreciate our well stocked pantry and large woodpile while acknowledging the hours of hard work that it took to get them filled.

As the frenzy of late summer and early fall begin to subside we are enjoying more time with friends as we feast together on delicious turkey and hearty soups. Last weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving with special friends and our zealous imbibing in various drinks resulted in some rather grand plans for the upcoming year of which I will share with you soon!

And despite the feasting and festivities that this season has brought I've managed to carve out some time for regular exercise. I am no exercise maniac but I do find that regular exercise is especially healthful for me at this time of year. You see, while there are many things about autumn that I am fond of, I have a difficult time adjusting to the shortening days of autumn and winter. During this time of year I tend to struggle with feelings of anxiety and sadness. Thankfully it seems that exercise makes a significant difference in boosting my mood and I am grateful that I am able to set some time aside for exercise this year.

I would love to hear how you and your family are enjoying the autumn season right now. Have you started raking piles of leaves for your children to jump in? Are you enjoying those juicy fall apples? I am curious to find out!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Indie Computer Games for Kids

There are many opinions about the risks and benefits of computer use by children but I am not about to discuss them in this post. My husband is a techie who enjoys computer games so it makes sense that computer games have a place in our home. Around here games are a privilege, and because my eldest enjoys games so much he works hard to have that privilege which is great. We don't allow gory or violent games and time spent playing games is usually limited to evenings when my husband is home. Computer gaming isn't my passion by nature, but loving a man that enjoys it so much has forced me to be more open to it. These days I would rather have my older children playing a good computer game than watching shows!

I asked my husband to help me compile a list of indie computer games that he thinks are appropriate for children (6 and up), please use your own judgement as always. The games listed below can be purchased directly from the game developers or from an online games distributor such as Steam, I linked to both.

Faster Than Light
Felix's favourite.

"In FTL you experience the atmosphere of running a spaceship trying to save the galaxy. It's a dangerous mission, with every encounter presenting a unique challenge with multiple solutions. What will you do if a heavy missile barrage shuts down your shields? Reroute all power to the engines in an attempt to escape, power up additional weapons to blow your enemy out of the sky, or take the fight to them with a boarding party? This "spaceship simulation roguelike-like" allows you to take your ship and crew on an adventure through a randomly generated galaxy filled with glory and bitter defeat." (Steam)

Another of Felix's favourites. Note that there are zombies. A great co-op game!

"Dig, Fight, Explore, Build: The very world is at your fingertips as you fight for survival, fortune, and glory. Will you delve deep into cavernous expanses in search of treasure and raw materials with which to craft ever-evolving gear, machinery, and aesthetics? Perhaps you will choose instead to seek out ever-greater foes to test your mettle in combat? Maybe you will decide to construct your own city to house the host of mysterious allies you may encounter along your travels? In the World of Terraria, the choice is yours!" (Steam)

Felix played this game a lot starting at age 4. I also have enjoyed this game.

"NightSky is an ambient action-puzzle game that offers a gameplay experience unlike any other—cerebral challenges fill uniquely designed picturesque worlds. The player must maneuver a sphere by using realistic physics to advance; each of these worlds is broken into different areas. The original soundtrack by experimental jazz musician, Chris Schlarb will further heighten the surreal experience." (Steam)

Fun but some parts are very difficult.

"Help! Everyone has been teleported away randomly! As the heroic Captain Viridian, it's up to you to find your friends, bring them back to safety, and save the universe! VVVVVV is a platform game all about exploring one simple mechanical idea - what if you reversed gravity instead of jumping? The game is designed not to artificially gate your progress. In VVVVVV there are no locks, no power-ups, no switches, nothing to stop you progressing except the challenges themselves." (Steam)

Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
A fun family game, that helps develop a sense of rhythm.

"Runner2 is a rhythm-music platforming game. Players will run through fantastic environments, using brand new moves, to brand new soundtracks as they run, jump, slide, kick, and soar toward the goal of tracking down the Timbletot and thwarting his evil plans to destroy not only our world, but every world there is." (Steam)

Dungeon Defenders
This game is better for older children, 8+, and best played cooperatively with friends and family.

"Dungeon Defenders is a Tower Defense Action-RPG where you must save the land of Etheria from an Ancient Evil! Create a hero from one of four distinct classes to fight back wave after wave of enemies by summoning defenses and directly participating in the action-packed combat! Customize and level your character, forge equipment, gather loot, collect pets and more! Take your hero through multiple difficulty modes and challenge/survival missions to earn more experience and even better treasure. Join your friends with 4-player online and local (splitscreen) co-op to plan your strategies together or compete in PvP Deathmatch." (Steam)

A fun game, that can be difficult.

"Gomez is a 2D creature living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is revealed to him, Gomez is sent out on a journey that will take him to the very end of time and space. Use your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct classic 2D perspectives. Explore a serene and beautiful open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures. Unearth the mysteries of the past and discover the truth about reality and perception. Change your perspective and look at the world in a different way." (Steam)

Trine 2 
Better suited for older children, 8+, and best played cooperatively. A beautiful game!

"Trine 2 is a sidescrolling game of action, puzzles and platforming where you play as one of Three Heroes who make their way through dangers untold in a fantastical fairytale world. Join Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight and Zoya the Thief in their adventure full of friendship, magic and betrayal. Trine 2: Complete Story fully integrates the Goblin Menace expansion campaign and the all-new unlockable Dwarven Caverns level into one mighty fairytale. All owners of Trine 2: Goblin Menace are automatically upgraded to the Complete Story edition." (Steam)

For older children, 10+, this is an incredibly difficult puzzle game and is not for everyone. My husband *loved* this game and it even has A Guide for Educators.

"Take on the role of a Reactor Engineer working for SpaceChem, the leading chemical synthesizer for frontier colonies. Construct elaborate factories to transform raw materials into valuable chemical products! Streamline your designs to meet production quotas and survive encounters with the sinister threats that plague SpaceChem." (Steam)

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Reflection on Teddy's Accident

A couple weeks ago Teddy had an accident. Over the last couple weeks I have retold the story of his accident many times but as time has passed my retelling of the story has become simpler, more distilled. Now, when asked about the cut on the side of his face I might simply say "he fell on broken glass" which is true. I wrote about Teddy's accident in great detail the day after it happened but I wasn't sure if I would share it our not. I know that there are far worse injuries and suffering that young children and their parents experience and I count myself to be very blessed that the injury was limited. I suppose I am sharing this story to remember the grace that came my way on a rather challenging Friday afternoon.

- - -
Written on September 20, 2014

I was in the kitchen blanching swiss chard. Teddy was sitting on a stool behind the kitchen island. He has been climbing up onto the kitchen stool on his own for some time now and has never fallen off. While my back was turned something happened. Teddy lost his balance and he fell. Was he reaching for the glass? I don't know. In the process of falling he knocked a glass that was on the edge of the island. In an instant they both fell, the glass shattering on the floor and my sweet child falling face first onto the shattered based of the glass.

The scream of pain was instant and as I turned around I knew that his injury was serious. It's strange what your brain does in these kind of situations. The first thing that came to my mind was PRESSURE. I moved towards him quickly, picked him up off the floor and covered my hand on the deep gaping wound that was gushing a great deal of blood. Somehow, I don't remember how, I got a rag which was quickly getting soaked. My husband wasn't home, blood was everywhere and I needed help fast. For a brief moment I wavered not sure what to do next. I knew I needed help but for some reason I felt strange calling the emergency line. Teddy was still bleeding a lot and I wasn't sure what the future held so I picked up the phone and called 911. I could barely hear the phone attendant while holding a howling slippery bloody toddler in my arms but the man on the other line was very helpful. Firm, direct and to the point. I felt like things were on the right track and it was nice having a life line. A blessing.

My two older children were strangely calm. I asked my son for more towels and he was a little confused that anything would do at this point. He got towels, found my cell phone, and turned off the stove without much fuss. He put on ear muffs to block out Teddy's screams and then went outside with his sister to wait for help. They didn't cry; they didn't hover. I think they were in shock. Either way their staying calm was another blessing.

My husband arrived home, eager to begin "beer-o'clock" but as he entered the house he was bombarded with what he called "a meat shop". The first responders from the volunteer fire hall were hot on his heals. I was so very happy to have them crowd into my kitchen. My father-in-law volunteers for the fire hall up north and it was as if he stepped into my house when they did. Still running on adrenaline I started to feel more calm in their presence. For a moment Teddy seemed to be fading and wanting to sleep. One of the first responders brought him a teddy bear which Teddy found very insulting but it worked to keep him awake. The bleeding finally started to slow down and he was stable. That is when we got a call from the ambulance saying they were overloaded. There had been an car accident at the very same time. Since the bleeding had finally slowed and Teddy was stable we drove him to the hospital. During the drive he sat on my lap and I pulled out my cell phone to distract him and keep him still. What would we have done without the sedating effects of a cell phone?!?

At this point I felt surrounded by grace, the injury, while deep and large, was limited to the right side of his face. His eyes were spared and he sustained no cuts on the rest of his body. I knew that he was going to be alright. My children were being watched by our lovely neighbours, and then later our good friends. So many blessings...

The hospital was busy but we were ushered to the first aid room right away. No one likes to have a bloody screaming toddler and his mother (also covered in blood) in the busy waiting area. We waited a while, the cell phone died and I distracted him with a small ball that happened to be in my purse - another blessing.

When the physician came in we quickly decided Teddy would need to be sedated to get fixed up. Everyone was impressed by Teddy's gash which isn't normally a good sign in the emergency room. We got whisked over to a critical care bed where we met the anesthesiologist and respiratory therapist. After the ketamine was given to him he went down hard and fast and was stitched up quickly (ten stitches). It was difficult for me to watch him in his sedated stated. My sweet boy was drooling, grunting and breathing strangely, all of which was normal but not fun to watch. I stayed close by and rubbed his feet. Everyone was supportive and kind and explained that everything was normal. I couldn't help constantly checking his monitor (worried mama-nurse = a bad combo). The doctor told me that I didn't have to watch, that he can't usually watch if it's his own kids and I thought this was kind of cute. I did watch though. Teddy's breathing regulated as the ketamine wore off but it took an hour and a half for him to wake up. When he finally did wake up he promptly returned to sleep. It was almost ten at night and we were finally able to go home.

Through the whole experience, as scary and unpleasant as it was, I felt God's grace and love close at hand. I think it will take some time for Teddy's wound to heal and for my heart to heal from the trauma of what happened but I am grateful for all the love and support that came our way on that Friday evening.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The FREEkn' Farmer

A couple weeks ago we participated in the Freakn' Farmer up at Covert Farms, but today we took part in the FREEkn' Farmer over at our friends' farm. You see, the Freakn' Farmer increased their child race admission prices considerably from last year and that dissuaded quite a few families in our group of friends from participating. Instead some of our friends planned their very own our farm obstacle race and appropriately named it the FREEKn' Farmer (because it was free!)! I didn't see the entire race but I can tell you that is started with a hilarious three legged race, was followed by intense wheelbarrow pushing and then there was lots of running through the farm. The children had to cross over a wicked mud pit and the race ended with a slip and slide. My children had great fun and after the race everyone enjoyed a feast of delicious fall inspired pies and lounged in the warm autumn sun. It was lovely day for fantastic fall festivities! (yay for alliterations!)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Looking Ahead: Home Learning 2014-2015

As you might have surmised, if you don't already know, we are home learners. Currently we are enrolled home learners which means we receive some money from the provincial government and in exchange we report to a learning consultant (a registered teacher) who supports us in our home learning journey. This year my eldest is a registered home learner in the first grade. My daughter isn't school age yet but as you can see in the pictures above she is very eager to "do learning" like her big brother.

Last year we were registered with Ascend Online, a Catholic distributed learning (DL) school, and it was a wonderful experience. This year, however, our situation has changed so we are registered with a different distributed learning school. The Learning Circle that we are part of has evolved and started a Learning Centre where our children will meet with two teachers twice a week. The Learning Centre isn't like a typical school, in fact much of their learning with the teachers will happen outdoors and it will continue to be child-lead and family focused. We have a space that can be used for projects when needed or as a blustery day back-up plan. Ultimately we are still home learners and as parents we are still responsible for much of their learning.

When it comes to home learning we will continue doing much of the same things that we did last year. I don't prescribe to any particular philosophy but borrow from many. I value child-led learning, project-based learning and unschooling as well as providing my children with a strong foundation in reading, writing and mathematics. We love books, art and music. I don't hoard curriculum but I don't shy away from a good curriculum that fits well with my child's learning style and needs. Since we are Catholic we celebrate feasts related to our faith and because we love the earth we celebrate it's seasons and solstices.

I often get questioned about the resources that we use so I will share a few of them below but please keep in mind that while I like these resource (and so does my eldest at this time) each child is unique and you as a parent know your child best.

Primary Arts of Language through the Institute for Excellence in Writing. This is a very comprehensive reading and writing program for K-2. I started this program with my eldest last year working on one lesson a week, broken up into five to ten minute segments over the week. My son isn't naturally drawn to reading or writing but despite this I am amazed by how well his reading and writing have developed since last year. This program incorporates a variety of ways to learn about reading and writing such as games and various activities. As the parent it takes some prep work to get organized each week but it was been well worth it. I am really happy with this program so we are continuing to use it this year. Here is the link for the Canadian distributor

Math-U-See We picked up the Alpha math book last year but didn't start using it until the beginning of this year. My son, like his father, is very mathematically inclined. There are things that I like about this math curriculum. There are blocks to use and a DVD that comes with it. My son and I watch the lessons together then go try out what was just learned. I like that it introduces words problems and basic algebra right away. However, I have been finding that it moves a little slow for my son and that he gets bored of it quickly. We rarely do more than a page of practice for each lesson and we move through the lessons quickly. I think that this math program would be well suited for a child who isn't as strong in math. Because there are quite a few thing I (and my son) like about it we are going to continue to use it for now. Canadian distributor.

Life of Fred books are quirky stories that explore math in a non-traditional way. At first my son wasn't really into reading them but then something clicked and now he can't get enough of them. These books are not a math curriculum in the strict sense. Some families use them as a supplement others use them as their only math resource. Either way I highly recommend them for math lovers and for the less enthusiastic mathematicians out there.

French. This year I am working hard to teach my children french. I tell you this is not an easy task! I do have curriculum for this that my mother-in-law, a retired french elementary teacher, has compiled for me. Unfortunately I don't have much to share at this point except for Tire Lire which is a French lending library through the BC Francophone Parents Association. Hopefully I will gather more resources in the months and years to come and please do share if you have resources that you use for french. 

These are the only curriculum type resources that we have been using thus far. For art, science and social studies we do them as they come. We read a wide variety of books that we get from the library, explore the outdoors and dabble in various art and crafts. I definitely have some favourites resources that I use for inspiration and I plan to share them with you very soon. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Being a Godparent

It is always a special honour to be asked to be a godparent. As parents I know how carefully my husband and I considered who we would ask to be our children's godparents when chose to have them baptized in the Catholic church. We wanted someone that would be there to support our children in their faith journey as well as support us in that journey as well. It was, and still is, important to us that our children's godparents love their faith and share love and joy with our children. When someone asks us to be godparents we hold ourselves to our own standard. We want our godchildren to know God's love through us and we want to support them in their journey however we can.

A couple weekends ago we became godparents to twins! A first for us! It was such an honour to take this special role in our friend's lives and we are so happy that we celebrated their babies' baptism with them. Now we boast six godchildren, each one a beautiful gift. I would love to get a picture of them all together, which might be a bit of a challenging when three live up north.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Garden Journal (yr 2 vol 11)

Welcome Fall! I have felt your steady approach, your gentle but firm embrace. We have yet to feel your frosty touch but the coolness that you carry along has slowed growth in my garden significantly. I have started to harvest more aggressively, trying to put away as much as I can before it is too late. I planted some bok choy and spinach a few days ago in the hopes of late fall harvest, or early spring harvest. There are still plenty of tomatoes and peppers waiting to ripen and it seems that there is still time yet.

Little hands have been discovering all sorts of delights in and around the garden: worms, pill bugs, slugs, and spiders (one of which was a black widow). How interesting it has been to collect seed pods and noticing that fallen seeds are starting to sprout. My children are helping to plant new seeds and then digging them up again right away to see if they have grown. Curious hearts.

A few weeks ago: Garden Journal (yr 2 vol 10)
This time last year: Garden Journal (vol 13)