Starting in November the Okanagan Valley becomes blanketed by low lying clouds, a phenomenon commonly known as the Okanagan Snake. As a result winter in these parts then to be a cloudy and mild affair. Sometimes I find the cloudiness suffocating, and I am desperate to see the sun shine and the snow glisten. So we drive up, up and up! The drive from our home takes about an hour. As we begin the journey there is but a dusting of snow on the ground and heavy clouds in the sky. Slowly as our altitude increases the unthinkable happens. The clouds break into wisps and then disappear altogether. An azure sky and bright yellow sun make their appearance as well as thousands of snow covered trees. It is breathtaking winter perfection.

Today was our first trek up to Nickle Plate Nordic Centre for this winter season and my children were very excited to ski. We have been cross country skiing as a family for about six years now and every year, as our children grow, it becomes a little easier. When we arrived at Nickle Plate we were all giddy with the excitement of skiing on sparkly snow. My two older children (now almost eight and six) were able to ski two longer loops and even managed to climb some challenging hills without much complaint. Our youngest tried skiing for the first time but spent most of his afternoon enjoying the comfort of the Chariot.

We plan on being regular visitors of Nickle Plate this winter. Our children will be taking ski lessons here throughout from December to February and I recently purchased a pair of skate skis that I will be learning how to use. I am already looking forward to our next day of winter wonderland.

Related Posts
A Lesson in Cross Country Skiing (2014)
Cross Country Skiing as a Family (2012)
Go Cross Country Skiing (2011)
We Did It! IceMan (2011)

Books and Movies
Remembrance day has been the main inspiration for the books and movies that we have been enjoying this month. I recently finished reading The Nightingale and have started reading The Book Thief. To my children I have been reading some of our favourite remembrance themed picture books: Rose Blanche, A Bear in War, A Brave Soldier, Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear and Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion. I always get emotional while reading these books and require numerous dramatic pauses to blink back tears. The movies we have been watching include Bedknobs and BroomsticksThe Sound of Music and Nanny McPhee Returns, all of which are set during times of war. As for more mature films I recently discovered O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a quirky musical about three escaped convicts which is based on Homer's Odyssey.

I enjoy a wide variety of music but every autumn I am drawn to the relaxing sounds of indie music and classical piano. A couple of my favourite playlists on 8tracks radio at this moment are When the Leaves Fall (Autumn Mix) and Rachmaninov. I was also surprised by Justin Beiber's recently released album Purpose: The Movement. Some of the songs and the accompanying music videos, which feature various forms of dance, are different. I never thought I would admit to enjoying his music but I find myself re-listening to Sorry, I'll Show You, Love Yourself an Life is Worth Living.

This month my children have discovered the magic of The Piano Guys (particularly this song) and the musical adventures of Classical Kids. They have been listening to Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, Mozart's Magic Fantasy and Mr. Bach Comes to Call.

The recent frost has put much of my garden to sleep and our meals have shifted to those comforting foods we crave so much in the winter. Apple-cinnamon oatmeal, hot bowls of tomato soup, delicious tray-baked chicken, chili and cornbread, cottage pie and bodacious beet and cabbage soup have been meals we have enjoyed in our home these past couple weeks.

Over the summer I completely purged my closet and drawers of clothing. This was largely the result of reading Lessons from Madame Chic. Then, because I really had no clothing left, I committed to purchasing several quality items that I could wear for the upcoming fall and winter. My criteria for selecting new clothes was that it had to be made in Canada and I had to love it enough to wear it weekly. I am quite picky about buying new clothing already, so adding these two criteria left me wondering if I would find anything to wear. Luckily, in my search for beautiful sustainable clothing clothing I discovered some great Canadian companies and designers. A few of my favourites include: Body Bag by Jude, Birds of North America, OÖM, MiikCherry Blossom Clothing and Second Clothing (Yoga Jeans). I also found a handy directory of Canadian designers.

Picture from
Books I recently finished

The Lake House by Kate Morton
It is the eve of summer solstice in 1933 and the Edevane family has gathered their friends at the beautiful estate of Loeanneth for celebration. The gardens are magically decorated and everyone is caught up in the festivities. Yet amidst the fireworks and champagne there are plans afoot and the next morning the Edevane family discovers that their youngest child Theo, has disappeared. The family is devastated and Theo is never found, dead or alive. Seventy years later, Sadie Sparrow is forced to take leave from her work as a police investigator. She decides to visit her grandfather Bertie in Cornwall and during her stay she stumbles upon an old desolate estate of Loeanneth. Sadie sets out to discover the secrets of Loeanneth and what exactly happened the night that Theo Edevane went missing.

Kate Morton spins a magical web of stories through the perspective of her characters spanning from 1911 to 2003. With her various twists and turns Morton keeps the reader in suspense making it very difficult to put her book down.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo 
Marie Kondo has been passionate about tidying from a young age. After much trial and error she has discovered a method of tidying that she claims works for all and has no rebound effect. Her aptly named KonMarie method of tidying is uniquely presented in an easy to read book that has peeked the interests of people worldwide. The premise of the KonMarie method is that everything in the home should bring you joy. If an item does not spark joy it does not belong in the home. I was often amused by the descriptions and personifications she attached to various household items. At heart Marie Kondo shares a message of appreciation and minimalism. Truly, a very enjoyable book to read for both people that love tidying and those that despise it.

Marie Kondo will be releasing a second book Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up in January 2016.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
When Isabelle and Vianne were young their father went to fight the Great War. He returned a changed man and after the death of their mother the sisters are cast aside. Now it is 1995 and one of the sisters receives an invitation to travel to Paris for a commemoration of the Nightingale. The sisters' experiences of loss and heartache that were the result by living in occupied France in the second world war come hurling back. It is finally time for these stories, so carefully hidden, to be told. Throughout the book the telling of survival and rebellion alternates between the perspective of Isabelle and Vianne. A heart-wrenching story or pain, loss, love and hope. A must read.

Books I am currently reading

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death itself this book follows Liesel Meminger, the Book Thief, a ten year old girl living in Nazi Germany. The story begins with Death and its shadow embraces and lingers over everyone as world war two plummets Europe into fear and loss. I am truly captivated.

Books I am planning to read

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Back in June I read the first three books or the Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet and Cress. I found these futuristic fairy-tale stories rather addictive and have been patiently waiting for the fourth installment to be released.

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin 
After reading A Year of Living Prayerfully and God Finds Us I have found myself being drawn to the spiritual practices of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I recently ordered this book and plan to start reading it soon.

This post is linked to Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit.
The beginning of the school year has already passed and we are well into on our third year our home learning! There are several changes for us this year, all of which are exciting and a little nerve wracking. One change is that I have been officially teaching two children, and two seems like a lot more than one. My eldest is in second grade and my daughter is in kindergarten. Figuring out how to meet the needs of both definitely make me feel a little overwhelmed at times but each day I am figure out our rhythm just a little more.

This year we have continued our enrollment with Island Discovery Learning Community distributed learning (DL) program and have registered with their part-classroom program. My two children attend a learning centre one day a week where they are free to inquire, explore and be engaged in discovery with a small multi-age group of home learning children. They have been so excited to participate in this program and I have to admit that I am equally thrilled for them. We are also continuing to take part in the Learning Circle when we are able to but scheduling conflicts in the last couple months have made taking part challenging. The Learning Circle has been an important part of our community and learning experiences in the last three years and we have had some wonderful experiences and made great connections with families in this community.

When it comes to home learning we continue to do prioritize many of the same things that we did last year. As I mentioned last year, I don't prescribe to any particular home learning philosophy but borrow from many. Eclectic home learning probably describes our family best. I value child-led learning, project-based learning and seasonally inspired learning. I want my children to have a strong foundation in reading, writing and mathematics. We love books, art and music. We use curriculum for some subjects, but not for all. This year we are using specific programs for language arts and mathematics and I have listed them below. As for French, science, social studies, art, music and physical and health education we draw our learning experiences from a variety or places, people, situations and resources. I will share some of my favourites for these topics over the next few months.

Felix: Grade Two
Reading and Writing
All About Reading 2 and All About Spelling 2
When my son completed the Primary Arts of Language (PAL) program last year we moved on to the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs. The All About Spelling 1 book was included in the PAL program and it seemed like a good next step for my son. The program itself is very comprehensive and focuses on developing a solid understanding of various sounds of the English language.

Singapore Mathematics 2A and 2B
After completing Math-U-See Alpha my son transitioned to Singapore Math 1B. He was much more interested in the Singapore math program because of the challenge of learning new concepts at a quicker pace.

Claire: Kindergarten 
Reading and Writing
Primary Arts of Language (PAL) through the Institute for Excellence in Writing
This is a very comprehensive reading and writing program for K-2. I used this program with my eldest for the last two years and now I will be using it with my daughter. I have a feeling that my daughter will move through the program at quicker pace than my son since she already seems to enjoy reading and writing. 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. Here is the link for the Canadian distributor.

Singapore Essential Math: Kindergarten A and B
After spending about a year-and-a-half using Math-U-See with my son I chose to make the switch to Singapore Math. There were elements of Math-U-See that I liked, such as the manipulative blocks and the lessons on DVD, but I found that it was quite repetitive and a little slow paced. I considered using Math-U-See for my daughter but in the end chose to start her with Singapore Math alongside her brother. So far, Singapore Essential Math seems to be a good fit for her.

Related Posts:
Home Learning 2014-2015
Shifts and Changes: Home Learning 2014-2015
We Are Home Learners
What is a Learning Circle?

Books I recently finished

Dead Cold by Louise Penny
Dead Cold is the second book of the Chief Inspector Gamache detective series. The story is set in the small fictional town of Tree Pines, Quebec and takes place among a cast of heartwarming characters. Despite the fact that cold-blooded murder has taken place in Tree Pines once again the town rallies together under the gentle yet firm leadership of the much loved Inspector Gamache. But while Inspector Gamache is trying to piece together clues to solve this strange murder he is dealing with his own enemies within the Surety of Quebec. Louise Penny has crafted yet another captivating murder mystery.

Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, Book 2) by Pierce Brown
After thoroughly enjoying Red Rising, book one of the Red Rising Trilogy which I reviewed here, I had high hopes for the second book. In the first book, Darrow, a Red miner, belongs to the lowest of society's caste, but forged by tragedy he is remade into a Gold. Now a Golden God he has one purpose: to start a revolution and save his people from slavery. The second book begins on a high note but only lasts a short while before tragedy ensues. The story continues to along a path of highs and lows as the beginnings of a revolution begin to unfolds. The second book did not captivate me like the first and I found the pace frustrating at times. I still hold out hope for the third book Morning Star which will be released February 2016.

Books I am currently reading

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe writes a zany book that answers absurd questions in a very scientific manner. Hilarious and educational all at once. This book is a fun read aloud.

Retrain Your Anxious Brain: Practical and Effective Tools to Conquer Anxiety by John Tsilimparis 
I have been reading this book on and off over the last few months. Eventually I purchased my own copy because I found myself drawn to its down-to-earth strategies and tools for working through anxiety. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with anxiety in their lives.

Books I am planning to read

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin
After reading A Year of Living Prayerfully and God Finds Us I have found myself being drawn to the spiritual practices of St. Iganitus of Loyola. I recently ordered this books from Amazon and eagerly wait its arrival.

The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
Kate Morton, author of The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper and The House at Riverton, has penned a new book which was released this month: The Lake House. I am thrilled because I thoroughly enjoy how she beautifully intertwines mystery throughout several generations.

This post is linked to Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit.

McMillan Creek Park is known for its meandering forest trails and grassy viewpoint overlooking the city of Prince George. We hiked through this park once last year with a group of home learning families and enjoyed the view. This time, however, we hiked through the park with two seasoned hikers, my brother-in-law and his father and made a very exciting discovery. There are several ways of reaching this unique spot and I will share the path we took.

To begin our hike we parked at the McMillan Creek Park parking lot which is located four-hundred and fifty metres down Hofercamp Rd, off Highway 97 North in Prince George, British Columbia. From the parking lot we followed the trail which goes down to Hofercamp road and followed the road for about one-hundred and fifty metres south before resuming again in the forest. Soon after resuming on the trail we arrived at a junction, to the left is 'the viewpoint' and to the right is 'the trail', we turned left and followed along until we reached a lovely grassy spot that overlooks the city. Up to this point the trail is a one kilometer long stroll and definitely stroller friendly.

The next section of the trail we followed is located to the very right of the fenced area. It is an unmarked trail which is steep and hangs treacherously over the cutbank. If you choose this path, proceed with great caution! My eldest (seven) scrambled up without help, my daughter (five) managed well with the help of her uncle and my youngest (three) screamed the whole way up as he clung to my hands. Holding on to his hands gave me a significant disadvantage on the way up and there were a couple times I nearly lost my footing. After a decent scramble upwards we continued to follow the trail along the edge of the cutbank for a ways before veering right back into the forest. As we continued to follow the trail downhill it reached another fork, at this fork we went left, back towards the cutbanks. We hiked along the trail which returned to the edge of the cutbank and opened up to a steep slope that carved through the cutbank. What fun!

At the top of the slope is a gnarled tree with a primitive swing attached to it. We all took turns swinging over the slope and it was a thrill! As we became more daring there were several decent falls but the soft sand below makes the landing tolerable. The slope is also frequently used by local athletes for training. At the bottom of the slope a small change area is located and at the top a short rope is attached for to aid with the last stretch. Running down the slope is exciting and almost feels like flying, scaling back up however is very challenging. It is possible to access the bottom of the slope on Pulpmill Road, but it is a difficult scramble to the top for very young children. Finally, after we were satisfied with the amount of sand in our shoes, hair and clothes we hiked back along the trail and took the left turn at the fork which brought us back to the viewpoint, from there it was easy hiking back to the parking lot.