Roadschooling Canada 2015

DSC_2683 We hit the road Friday when Eric finished work. Our first stop was a UNESCO world heritage site; Dinosaur Park, AB. We went for an evening hike thought the fossil laden hoodoos and canyons.

The landscape is like that of another planet. Unusual plants and animals including rattlesnake, bull snake and a variety of flowering cacti.

We hiked up and down the hills through the crevices as the bright red sun began to set on the cottonwood forest in the distance.

After that, the kids fell asleep in the back and we drove on. The next day was the city of Regina. We headed to the Royal Saskatchewan museum where we learned about the natural history and culture of the province.We then headed to Grasslands national park for a hike and a picnic.  In Saskatchewan there is more than meets the eye. It isn’t merely a flat prairie land but a place that is rich in bio-diversity and gentle beauty. I can also say now after being here several times that the people are so kind. We are always pleasantly surprised at how people go out of their way to help others and show kindness, everywhere we go in Saskatchewan.

 

A lot of people are hesitant to travel with children especially those who are very young. We find that road tripping is a great solution to all of the common concerns that most parents have. It is cost effective, and you can stop whenever necessary for washroom breaks, breastfeeding, diapers, picnics etc.

It also provides a sense of freedom. If you see a great lake the kids want to dive into, or a hiking trail, you don’t need to rearrange a firm itinerary, you just pull over. We have four soon to be five children, and they all travel comfortably in the van.

Another benefit is that seeing a destination point emerge puts it into context. When the kids watch the landscape change, learn about the history and culture of the communities along the way, it’s easier for them to understand how it developed and exists as it does today. The waves of immigrants from different parts of the world at different times,  the development of the railroad, industry booms and busts – these things are all discussed on the road. They see the remnants of times that came and went. It’s a much richer experience than simply reading about it in a textbook.

As wonderful as Saskatchewan was, it was time to move on. We were Manitoba bound!

 

 

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 19,20,21 & 22

DSCN9895 Courtenay – Chemainus – Sooke – Botanical Beach – Vancouver

We left Ucluelet and headed for Courtenay on the east coast of Vancouver Island. We stopped along the way for a walk through Cathedral park and then in Qualicum beach for fresh clams and oysters.

We stayed in Sooke which is a new favourite place on earth for me personally, and headed to Botanical beach to do some exploring and try to spot the Orcas. It was a misty grey day and we lucked out in finding heaps of colourful sea glass and sea creatures.

Our time in Courtenay was spent with family, sharing meals and spending days on Miracle beach and Saretoga beach. We visited Eric’s uncle’s horses which was a great treat for the kids.

Hana also attended a showing of Les Miserables at the Chemainus theatre which was a huge highlight for her.

 

Once back on the mainland we spent some time in Vancouver, going to Granville island and the Vancouver aquarium. It was hard to leave the close proximity to the ocean behind, but we knew that the time had come to begin our journey east.

 

 

 

 

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 11-18

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Ucluelet/Tofino

West coast Vancouver Island B.C.  is  paradise. Mountains, ocean beaches and lush old growth rain forests.

If you are a homeschooler, then you appreciate the level of biodiversity and the outdoor classroom potential right off the bat. Armoured with field guides of all kinds, we were set for the west coast.

Time seems to slow right down from the moment you step off of the ferry. People move at what I later learned was ‘island time’, and it suits me very well. I love the ocean, the mountains and the forests, and if I were to create a perfect place on earth, it would be Vancouver Island.

We hit all of the major beaches – Long beach, China Beach, Chesterman and Wickanninnish. We hiked the major trails and stood in awe at the feet of the towering giants that rule the forest there. We saw whales and  sea lions.

The kids loved the feeling of the icy salty sea, and tried to catch the biggest wave to ride back into the shore on. We went whale watching with a captain who told us historical tales of ship wrecks and the previous island inhabitants, and where their villages once could be found. We explored Tofino, and some of us took a surfing lesson.

Magic.

 

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 4 (cont.)& 5

IMG_0009Because the sun never went down, The fourth day of our trip went on forever. The earliest morning hours were spent driving the Dempster highway (last post), and then we headed into Dawson city to pan for gold. We drove up a treaturous, one way logging road on a cliff in the city of Whitehorse. There was a white tent pitched with rubber boots inside, and a log cabin with a weighing scale and some historical artifacts on display.The staff was amazing. They ran demonstrations and were very hands on and helpful with the children. They all found gold, and it was put into separate viles for them to bring home.

From here we headed back towards Whitehorse and stopped in the Takhini hot springs one last time. Then on to to Kluane national park.

When we got there the dim midnight light of summer turned everything a brilliant green. It had become early morning and the kids were all comfortably asleep in the van, so we decided to shut our own eyes for a few hours. We woke and started a fire for breakfast. The kids headed into the woods to build a fort, and Eric and I re-organized our stuff – a tote of clothes, a tote of food, a jug of water, a tent and our sleeping bags.The park was nearly empty but there were a couple of men on motorcycles up from the U.S., who came to  inform us that they feared their gas had been syphoned in the middle of the night.  It turned out one of their gas gages was broken.We went for a nice hike down to the lake and spent the morning there playing and exploring. The kids were enthralled in a game of make believe that they had to build a raft out of drift wood and sail across the lake to safety. River and I were mesmerized by the brilliant emerald colour of the water.

Soon it was time to head back to Whitehorse. We ate at the Klondike Rib & Salmon Barbecue. It was one of the best dining experiences of our lives. The atmosphere was warm and comforting. customers came up to the table to say hello or comment on the good behaviour of the kids. The service was wonderful. Hana was chilly so the waitress brought over a blanket and cozied her up. To top it off, the food was out of this world. We decided to order all of the recommendations and share – Elk Stroganoff, Reindeer stew, Ribs & Salmon, Arctic Char & chips,  Bison w Wildberry reduction.

After dinner it was time to head south. First we stopped at the river and let the kids play at the playground. We had a surprise for Hana’s upcoming birthday – she had wanted hazel wood necklaces from Taiga naturals (in Whitehorse) for her and her brothers for months, so we had them custom made under the guise of auto repair. We then wrapped them in a newspaper, and asked her to read us an article while we had cupcakes for dessert. Somehow we pulled it off – she had no idea, and was very happy.

It was raining while we headed towards the Stewart Cassier. We drove down it until we could drive no more. We pulled over beside a nice little lake, and fell asleep to the sound of the rain outside.

Friday Challenge: Always Something to Prove

imageI have been researching homeschoolers’ academic achievements lately to diffuse some expressed concern about what options will be available to my children later on. I am a public school supporter, and we are registered with the public board therefore I consider us “public schoolers”, and I don’t like comparing in-school students with home school students. There are brilliant teachers out there who benefit the lives of children everyday. Unfortunately, comparative analysis is the format within which I find much of the evidence that homeschoolers have a great chance of academic success. For instance:

  • Homeschoolers score 30-40% higher on standardized achievement tests than imagetheir peers. Homeschoolers score in the 89th percentile, while public schoolers score in the 50th percentile (“Homeschooling Works” and “Progress Report 2009”, http://www.hslda.org)
  • According to the U.S. department of education, homeschoolers on average test 1 year ahead of their peers. The longer they homeschool the wider the gap. By 8th grade they score on average 4 years ahead of their peers
  • The best schools in North America including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Berkley, MIT and Duke actively recruit homeschoolers. In Canada there are homeschool admittance policies for every school I looked into, including McMaster, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Brock university, WIlifred Laurier and Mcgill with the exception only of Queens. According to the “Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents”, Canadian universities also actively recruit homeschoolers
  • A higher percentage of homeschoolers graduate from colleges and universities than their peers, and once in college or university, homeschoolers maintain a higher GPA than their peers (“homeschool population report 2010” – http://www.NHERI.org).
  • In public school, socio-economic factors correlate with the success of the student. Not so in homeschooling families. The educational outcomes of homeschoolers do not correlate with factors such as parents education or income levels, (“Homeschooling: From Extreme to Mainstream”, http://www.fraserinstitute.org ).

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A great example of whats possible: The Colfax family.

For you veteran homeschoolers out there, this is old news. For the rest of us, inspiration.

Dave and Miki Colfax homeschooled their four boys through out the1980’s. As described by them, it was mostly self lead learning, ( similar to un-schooling), accompanied by hard work helping to build and maintain their farm. So, what became of them?

Grant Colfax graduated from Harvard medical school. He is an infectious disease specialist. President Obama recently named him the  director of the White house office of  National Aids policy. John Colfax earned his MA in biological anthropology as well as a law degree from the university of Michigan. He then earned his MD from Harvard medical school specializing in emergency medicine. Reed Colfax has an A.B. from Harvard, and a law degree from Yale. He specializes in civil rights litigation. Garth Colfax is currently a computer specialist, who works with the developmentally challenged.

There is a long list of notables who were homeschooled, or imagehomeschool their children including  but not limited to: Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Taylor Swift, Venus and Serena WIlliams,  Abraham Lincoln, Michael Bolton, Franklin Roosevelt, Leonardo Da vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Kristen Stewart, the Wright Brothers, Mozart, Hans Christian Anderson, Margaret Atwood,  Mark Twain, Robert Frost, C.S. Lewis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Katherine Hepburn, Kristen Stewart, Elijah Wood, Claud Monet,  Winston Churchill, Margaret Mead, Julian Assange, Leanne Rhymes, Justin Bieber, Agatha Christie, Michelle Kwan, Florence Nightengale, Thomas Edison, Louisa May Alcott, Condaleeza Rice, Hilary Duff, Tim Tebow, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dakota Fanning, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilara, Pearl Buck, Theodore Roosevelt and Virginia Woolfimage

Celebrity homeschoolers: Jada & Will Smith, Bill & Melinda Gates (while travelling), Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, John Travolta & Kelly Preston,  Lisa Welchel, Katie Holmes & Tom Cruise, Gwenyth Paltrow & Chris Martin.

The idea that homeschoolers do not take education seriously is perplexing. Whether we un-school or homeschool, we make that level of commitment and dedication because it is in the best interest of our children. We sacrifice time money and sometimes our sanity, because imagefor whatever reason, our kids would benefit from doing something different than attending public or private school. Sometimes the reason is autism, attention deficit or another special need. Other times a child needs extra attention in a certain subject. There could be time conflicts with traditional school hours and a parents work schedule inhibiting sufficient family time. Some people travel a lot, or want to study different material than what is covered in the common curriculum.There are language barriers that keep a child from reaching their full potential that wouldn’t exist at home. Some children are born athletes or musicians who want to focus their time and energy on nurturing their talents. Finally, Some families simply prefer learning together in the comfort of their home, and are able to do so.

Attending a public school is superior to home schooling for many reasons for many people. Academics is not one of them. I think that homeschooling is a viable option, and it is the best choice for us. I am convinced that homeschoolers such as my children have every future opportunity that children who physically attend the school do.  So for all of the people who have questioned the future opportunities of homeschoolers, I hope this helps ease your mind.

Block 2 or These Days

imageThe air has turned to that exhilarating cool. The one that fills you with a knowing that something is coming. The kids have been making leaf art, knitting hats, building forts and climbing trees at the park. There may not be the Maple and Oak trees that I ache for, but autumn here is a brilliant yellow dotted with the deep red of crab apples, both of which are nice markers before the starkness of winter.The chill in the air has inspired me to knit mittens, socks, hats, and a Christmas sweater for River.

Homeschool: 

These kids are insatiable. I have come to conclude that no matter the chosen methodimage of homeschooling, (Classical, Reggio, Montessori, Un-schooling, Waldorf, etc.) there are some things I must do to ensure their continued success and love of learning:

  • Keep in mind the type of learner I’m dealing with, ie: auditory, visual, etc.
  • Keep out unhealthy distractions
  • Fill their environment with high quality resources
  • Be outside as much as humanly possible
  • Set a good example*
  • Let them lead when possible
  • Be adaptable, and stop or change when things aren’t working

* This point doesn’t only apply to things like self dicipline and organization. I sometimes think that pursuing my own interests and passions can be selfish because it takes me away from necessary work, until I frame it in the context of their experience of watching their Mom achieve goals and be a lifelong learner. Then, it becomes not only alright, but necessary. Things like getting lost in a book, taking a course in Greek history, painting a picture or learning a new language  are all very valuable not only to me but to my children. I want them to live every moment fully, and not settle for the status quo. I hope to still be studying and learning new things when I am in my 80’s & 90’s learning along side my great grandchildren and my great-great grandchildren, sharing ideas about classic literature, politics and art.

imageWe have just begun our 2nd block, which is Math, Science, History/Geography & Spanish.

Math: Hana is doing a lot of review work of the four processes while Elijah is beginning to understand the value of each number. Throughout the day, he keeps running up to me saying things like: “I know what else six is – eight minus 2!”.

Geography/History: we are at  the time when hominids Left Africa, and we are mapping out where and when they went, and who “they” were at what times; Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Cro-magnun /Neanderthal or Homo sapien. To better understand how information is gathered about these ancestors, we have been modelling fossils and artifacts out of clay.

Spanish: We are currently beginning greetings and basic conversation, ie: “Hola, Buenas Dias”, and beginning basic vocabulary and numerals. Strangely, they don’t find it confusing to switch from French to Spanish as I thought they would. It almost seems as if it has made it easier. Even Avery is counting in three languages, understanding that it all means the same thing. Two, deux, dos.image

Science: we are exploring Autumns effects on nature, discussing anthocyanins, caratenoids and the loss of chlorophyll in leaves.

For our afternoon crafts we have done tissue paper stained glass, water colour, started a rainbow braided rug for circle time, and worked on our knitting.

Extracurriculars: Hana is currently in jazz ballet and acro, and Elijah is in karate. They would say their highlight of the month was sleepover night at a friends place in the middle of the week.

I LOVE the fall.

Self confidence, Socialization and Feminism

I read recently that the rise in homeschooling may correlate with a new wave of feminism. This wave however,  is about getting back to the basics of the movement, by exercising freedom of choice.

It is hard to imagine, that a generational trend towards becoming ‘domestic divas”, is any illustration of feminism, according to the brand some of our Mothers advocate. My mother thinks that any choice other than daycare and public schooling is a step in the wrong direction, and it is a slippery slope from there to servitude. Now, you can imagine what she thinks of some of my other choices – breast-feeding, homeschooling and cloth diapering being among the top of her list.

I feel that by learning skills such as being frugal in the home, gardening, knitting and sewing, that I am becoming more independent, and I am excavating my authentic self, so to speak. There is a lot to be said for driving the cost of living down, and how much money that really is worth. So, to evaluate how much my work is worth, it would be in savings. The difference between my income and expenses while working is substantially less than the money I save by being home.

I had never considered staying home, not to even mention homeschooling my children, and I didn’t at first. I have been a work outside of the home mom the majority of the time I have been a mom, and out of necessity, so I recognize that even though my work now is equally difficult and important, it is not always an option in this double income society we now live in. I also recognize that I have a special brand of husband, who supports my endeavors, whether they include bringing home the bacon or cooking it. I have taken a turn at being the sole income provider, and now he is taking a turn. He also takes part in the ‘domestic duties’, and does lesson blocks and extracurriculars with the children.

My daughter Hana is six.Although I stay at home, she will always know that she can do anything she wants to, because my example is not one of dominion and servitude. I am a politically active,  artistic person who contributes to her community. I have my own interests and ever-changing goals and pursuits. I try to be assertive and self-confident, (even if sometimes it is for her sake alone).

Homeschooling has forced her to be more extraverted in order to have an active social life, as well as achieve her goals, and I will give you two examples of this.

 While heading to the public pool, Hana approached two boys and asked them if they wanted to join her. They did, but once in the pool, they started playing basketball, a game that she didn’t yet know. This could have deterred her, but instead, she interfered with, “I want to play too! Which net do I shoot at?”,  and the fun pursued.

On another occasion, Hana was at the library and wanted to find a book on unicorns. Instead of asking me about it, she sought out the librarian and asked her how she could use the computer to search for the books she needed. The librarian gave her a little library orientation, and now Hana can independently navigate the library, searching for books, checking them out herself, the whole sha-bang.

Hana is becoming quite self-confident and independent. She told me that one of her goals was to overcome her shyness, and I am very proud to say that she is achieving that goal. Little does she know that it is a goal we share. 

She now has little trouble approaching other children and adults. This makes socializing easy, because she can bond naturally with the people that she gravitates towards.

Homeschooling was a choice for us, partly because we are very lucky. It is part of our lifestyle to teach the children at home for many reasons, including travel oppertunities. For some, the public option works best, and other people choose private schools for one reason or another.

The one thing I do know, is that we women should celebrate these choices we now have, and stop putting each other down for making them. We should support the working woman, and the stay at home mom, because they are both working equally hard, and exercising a right that was fought hard for. Let us teach our daughters that they can do either. The strong and compelling maternal instinct can prompt us to stay at home and care for our children ourselves, or to follow other pursuits outside of the home in order to support our children in another way. When we see that women have made another choice, we should be proud of them for making one, and recognize that many of us don’t have that option.

Also, a shout out to teachers everywhere! One of the most important, and I imagine difficult jobs out there.  A classroom of 20-30+ children  takes some kind of human!