Category Archives: Community

Birds of a Feather….

bird-count-button01Birds of a feather stick together. That’s right – the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society are asking families, students, and people of all ages to help make an important contribution to conservation. Come join the12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count(GBBC), February 13-16, 2009. 

“The Great Backyard Bird Count benefits both birds and people. It’s a great example of citizen science: Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education VP, Judy Braus. “Families, teachers, children and all those who take part in GBBC get a chance to improve their observation skills, enjoy nature, and have a great time counting for fun, counting for the future.”

Simply dust off those bird feeders and fill them up – then for as little as 15 minutes a day – observe the feeders and identify which species are showing up for a little winter snack. You can participate in just one or all four days of the count. Then record your sightings each day online at www.birdcount.org. GBBC provides many helpful resources, and Cornell provides a great online bird guide to assist those who may be without a good field guide for their region. For more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit their site here.

So go on, get out those binoculars, stock your feeders, empower your children and come join us in the count!

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Filed under Community, Learning, Nature, Science

Register or Enroll? What’s the Difference?

While recently attending a community based homeschool meeting, I was once again faced with the opportunity to witness someone in perpetual confusion about the difference between registering or enrolling. Our home learning environment can provide us with many options and varied choices when it comes to making this decision – and ultimately much confusion. While pondering this very issue this morning, I thought I’d share an article I wrote a while ago for our own community based website: www.vchs.ca.

The decision to register or enroll your child can be a confusing one. However if you wish to home educate legally in British Columbia, Canada, you will need to pick one.

Simply put, if you would like the most freedom to educate your child with out having to follow the Provincial Learning Outcomes, or do not wish to be burdened with handing in portfolios or weekly learning reports, then registering your child is probably the right choice for you. The BC Homeschool Association says this about registering:

Registered Home Schooler

The traditional approach to homeschooling under sections 12 and 13 of the School Act is in effect. Under this approach, students are registered and there are no accountability issues for parents. Parents provide their children with ‘a program’, but do so with no interference or supervision by a teacher and/or the Ministry of Education. The grant to the independent school for a homeschooled student amounts to $175.00 per student and $250.00 funded to a public school.

In addition, sometimes it is easier to register during your first couple of years of homeschooling, in order to get your feet wet. For instance, if your children are very young and you are very new to homeschooling, parent and child may find that registering allows them a little more freedom to explore home educating without any added pressure or deadlines. Parents of children with learning difficulties or parents of gifted children sometimes appreciate the ability to be able to choose how, what and when their child will learn certain skills or subjects based on their child’s abilities, readiness and interests.

The other option for home learners is to enroll. Enrolling your child is a good idea if you’re really not sure about the whole homeschooling thing and you think you may end up putting your child back in school. This would ensure that they will still be learning the same things as their public schooled peers. Of course enrolling is also a safeguard if you’re really not sure you can do this thing and the thought of having a home educating facilitator there to help you sounds appealing. The BC Homeschool Association says this about enrolling:

Enrolled Home Learner

For those parents who do not mind the accountability and prefer being under the supervision of a teacher, and whose home program will meet the prescribed learning outcomes in the required courses, students can be enrolled with a DL (Distributed Learning) program. The parent loses some freedoms in this program, but in exchange for the accountability there are increased resources, amounting to several hundred dollars. Additionally, the student receives regular report cards each year, up to and including a Dogwood Graduation Certificate. A public school program receives the base grant for students in BC. Group 1 independent schools, receive only 50% of the base grant. Religious materials are not permissible in any public education program in BC but may be used by students enrolled in an independant DL program, as well as by traditional homeschoolers.

Whatever you decide you can be pretty sure that parent and child, together, will ultimately figure out what works best for them. Many home educating parents have tried both options over the years. Homeschooling is a personal journey that ebbs and flows as the family grows and learns together. You may find that one approach that worked well for you for a few years may now seem lacking, and you may wish to change it -kind of like a favorite sweater, once full of familiarity, but now needs to be exchanged with something different.

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Filed under Community, Learning, Parenting

Science World Extravaganza!

Our summer holidays took us on a day trip to visit Science World, in Vancouver, B.C. This is an amazing place to take the kids and let them explore the wonders of science to their heart’s content. Pack a lunch and plan to spend the day here in order to explore all the fascinating science displays and interactive stations that are available. 

Occasionally, I like to sneak in learning– kind of like sneaking vegetables into the kids’ meals. The children have no idea of all the incredibly great learning that is taking place – they think they are just having fun. It’s neat to watch the kids in this kind of environment, as it gives a parent and idea (if you’re paying close attention) as to what kind of sciences naturally appeal to them. 

I also had an ulterior scheme motive, I must confess, besides subjecting the kids to a world of science. There is a Disney trip in our near future, and I had conspired thought that planning a full day of walking/exploring in Vancouver would give me a taste as to who might behave like what. This was indeed a very good experiment. It gave me an idea as to how many times people (big and small) got hungry, how many times they had to pee, how many times someone needed to sit down, how long we could walk, and ultimately: how sore everyone’s feet got. In the end it was determined that an afternoon rest and possibly a nap), a fanny pack full of snacks, a large bottle of water and much better walking shoes for everyone would definitely be in order! 

But I digress, so back to Science World. The kids had an amazing time. The favourite science room was the one on forces in motion. There were pulleys to play with, giant levers to learn on, and forces of air and water to wonder about. Ever hour on the hour there was also a live science show on the main stage – a highlight for the kids, and an opportunity for everyone to sit for 20 minutes. 

If you haven’t already, and you plan to visit Vancouver, BC, then consider visiting Science World with the whole family. Your kids will thank you for it (though your feet may not), and you may even end up covering a learning outcome or two for next year. Failing that, you’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two that you didn’t know before.

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Filed under Field Trips, Learning, Places To Visit, Science, Summer

Romancing the Raptors!

We wound up our school year with a final field trip that took us up island to the Pacific Northwest Raptors in Duncan, BC. Since we have been learning quite a bit about owls while reading The Guardians of Ga’hoole series (the author of these books has done extensive research about various species of owls and their corresponding behaviours and habitats), we thought we would tie in some of our learning with an up close and personal encounter with owls and other raptors.

For those of you who may not know, the Pacific Northwest Raptors specializes in:

  • training and working with captive-bred birds of prey
  • training their handlers
  • educating the public about raptors 

This is a great place to take the whole family to see these magnificent birds of prey up close, and a great way for the kids to connect what they may have read about to something visual. It’s one thing to read about how a falcon stuns its prey in the air, it’s another thing to actually *see it with your own eyes. The kids were able to see and learn about various species of raptors, including but not limited to: Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, and various species of owls. These birds were even able to put on a flying demonstration to woo the crowds. The children (and moms and dads too) were able to witness a falcon’s hunting techniques, view a Great Horned owl and his wing span, see some baby falcon and eagle chicks, and witness the majestic pass of the resident Bald Eagle Mahwe. Unfortunately, Mahwe was enjoying the tree tops a little too much to come in for a landing, but such is the way with the wild.

If you’re in the Malahat area of beautiful Vancouver Island, be sure to make the Pacific Northwest Raptors a place to visit. It’s an experience your family will be sure to remember.

*Here’s a little video of some of the falconry training that is available at the centre. Summer programs are available to children, and volunteers over the age of 13 are welcome.

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Filed under Field Trips, Learning, Nature, Places To Visit, Science, Summer

Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival!

The 10th edition of he Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival is just around the corner. Join in on the weekly tour across Canada, and visit a fellow home educator in another province! The 10th edition of the Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival will be posted Tuesday, June 24, with the deadline for submissions being Monday, June 23.

Next week’s theme is gardening. Are you a gardener? Tell us about your garden an/or how you may use it in your home learning environment. This is merely a suggestion though, and all posts are welcome. Simply read the submissions guidelines. Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Carnival, Places To Visit

Kids Got Imboreditis?

Things are winding downhere as far as formal learning and reporting goes. Real learning; however, never stops around here. No, we do not homeschool year round, so to speak – but informally, I guess we never stop. Even though our last portfolios have been handed in, year end conferences have been attended, next year’s curriculum has been acquired and year end reports are well underway, we still like to maintain a certain level of structure and learning.

The good news is, I’ve never had to listen to my kids say “I’m bored” over a spring or summer break – that is until recently. However; considering my eldest child turned eleven before I had to hear those words, I don’t think we’re doing too badly. One thing I noticed about home learning in our own environment, is that the children seem to function better when a specific level of routine remains consistent over the long summer break. If that routine is broken over the summer break, the children seem to develop what I call: Imboreditis.

The symptoms of Imboreditis include: persistent whining, the droning sound of I’m bored, lethargic lying about, the dragging of feet, and of course: lots of sighing. If you begin to hear the dreaded I’m bored, I’d encourage you to think creatively. Rather than passively allowing more computer or TV time, why not break into that science kit you’ve been holding on to until the appointed time. My kids have been eyeing an electronic work bench in our next year’s curriculum package. I fully intend on breaking it out of it’s cellophane and letting the kids play with it at the first opportunity. Try to refrain from doing what I used to do, which is keeping things hidden until the appointed learning time.

If you have been able to disguise school work as fun up until now, then thinking outside the box should come naturally to you. If your kids smell school work when you break out the science kit; however, you may want to try a more covert approach – perhaps playing with it yourself while the children watch you out of the corner of their eye (hehe), or perhaps involving the secondary homeschool parent as initiator.

Here is a list of attempts I’ve used successfully to ward off Imboreditis:

  1. Keep up weekly trips to the library during the summer (it’s air conditioned too).
  2. Participate in the Library’s summer reading contest.
  3. Schedule weekly physical activities – a weekly hike, or bike ride.
  4. Include weekly social outings: like a beach or park day
  5. Break out the crafts (they make great gifts, too).
  6. Crack open a new science kit that you’ve put aside for next year.
  7. Teach your kids to cook or sew or build something.
  8. Help the kids set up and run a lemonade stand in order to learn about earning money.
  9. Take them to Mom or Dad’s place of employment for the day, and have them volunteer.
  10. Involve them in service: helping at church, volunteering at an organization like WildArc, etc.

June can be a rather fickle month around these parts as far as warm weather is concerned – so why not think creatively before the real warm weather hits? The real hot days are not the days to break out the science kit. Those days are reserved for the beach or the much larger than anticipated pool in our back yard!

What do you do to overcome Imboreditis with your kids?

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Filed under Community, Encouragement, Home Economics, Learning, Life, Summer

What I wish I’d known my first year of homeschooling.

memeThe Friday meme over at Heart of the Matter is along the theme of – What I wish I’d known. I always make a point of not reading others posts on the meme before I write my own. I hope for originality- it’s more like  surprise. Like the grey hair I pulled out of my head yesterday. Or the lottery ticket I won. Okay, I made that one up – so don’t be calling pretending your my new best friend. So, without further ado, here’s my post.

Thing’s I wish I’d known:

1. Trust your instincts:  they’re right 95% of the time. Really. Honest.

2. Take cues from your kids!  Tears are bad – if there are tears then back off, go for a walk, try again later, but use a different approach.

3. If your kids aren’t getting it, this is a sign to change your approach. It’s up to the teacher/parent to find the right approach that helps the child make the connection. If you fail to do this, there may be tears. See #2.

4. Look for ways to incorporate natural learning situations whenever possible. This is the stuff that makes kids excited about learning. Nature walks, field trips, learning games, workshops, experiments. It generally isn’t the latest workbook – generally.

5. Make an effort to discover your child’s learning style. Most of us are made up of a little bit of each – but almost always, there is an inborn preference to favor one particular learning style.

6. Purchase curriculum that is geared towards your child’s learning style. This makes learning (and teaching) well, easier. See #5.

7. Don’t be a lone tree. Get plugged in to your homeschool community. Meet people and encourage one another. Whether you attend a virtual or community based  homeschool support group – make use of it.

8. Don’t get stuck on any one homeschool method – different methods work for different kids and different families. Most of us are somewhat eclectic in our homeschool approach. Be prepared for change. Homeschooling is like an old sweater. It may be your favorite and you may not throw it out, but then one day you decide your ready for something new and fresh.

9. Read, read read read. Read out loud, read for your own pleasure and encourage your kids to read as much as possible. Keep television, video games and comic books to a minimum – or do without. Reading forms the basis of writing, spelling, grammar. It can be used to teach beginning essay and report writing skills through narration. Penmanship and grammar skills can be improved upon through dictation.

10. Read good books to your children. Start building a library of good literature. Once your child is reading, move away from simple readers. Advance them slowly, progressing to well written literature. Well written books cause us to think deeply, question our moral values, and stir emotions inside of us. These are the books that get read over and over and over again – you’ll know when you see it.

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Filed under Classical, Community, Encouragement, Life, Meme, Reading