Life As It Was - April

So this was our first full month of being socially-distanced, working from home and schooling from home. After 2 weeks in March spent figuring out this new normal, April was the month rules were defined and routines established.

Schooling at home best practices: 
  • Established wake up times and bedtimes for the girls. They set alarms for when to get up on their ipads and understand that this is a weekday requirement
  • Created and printed out a weekly schedule for their schooling. This schedule incorporates the work their getting from their teachers as well as the work I'm assigning to them from our list of homeschooling resources (See here, here and here). The schedule runs from 9:30 to 4:30
  • Schedule in some free time as well as time to video call with friends so relationships are maintained.
Family Time: 
We're spending more time outside with regular bike rides and walks.


Potty training was an all-hands-on-deck affair with the girls being very enthusiastic and helpful about helping their little bro use the potty. The result is Mr.Boy is day and night pee trained. We're diaper-free. He's still not comfortable pooping in the toilet so we're still using pull-ups. I know Spice had that trouble transitioning as well and understand it's more a psychological/emotional issue than a physical one. We'll be patient in pull-ups until he's ready to make that final leap. 

Homeschool Resources - Coding, Art, Languages

This is Part 3 of my collection of homeschooling resources and focuses on supplementary skills and subject resources viz coding, art and second languages.

Coding

The world of teaching kids to code has come a long way from the BASIC computer language classes I attended in grade 6. Here are some of the online resources helping to grow the coders of the future.

Scratch
This Massachusetts Institute of Technology project has been an explosive success among parents and kids alike. It's especially designed for kids from ages 8-16 to get a foundational knowledge of coding. One bonus is that this website is so popular, it's easy to find complementary project idea books for the kids to use. I only wish it came in an app like the junior version. I just transitioned the girls to this website last week and they love it. Sugar has already built and published 3 games. Spice has struggled with understanding the site and would prefer to continue using the Jnr version but her sister is helping her out. I may buy them this book if they run out of  project ideas.


Homeschool Resources - English, Science, Math

While the first part of this series focused on general resources, in this post I'll be listing subject-specific resources for elementary school primary subjects (English Language Arts, Science and Mathematics)

English Language Arts

Storyline Online
Features videos of celebrities reading children's books. Each book reading includes a recommended grade level and run time.

ReadTheory
A free K-12 reading comprehension resource. My kids were introduced to this in grade 4 and became instantly addicted.
Sources of free books

  • The free section of Amazon Kindle library
  • Your public library (usually has an Overdrive or Libby app for ebooks). The twins have enjoyed accessing their favorites like Babysitter's Club series. 
  • Any Little Free Library near you (PSA: Wipe books, wash hands!)
  • Bonus: The Harry Potter At Home portal is for fans. Apart from fun activities, it also highlights the Harry Potter book that is available for free on (audio and ebook) on various platforms. 

Science

National Geographic Kids
Here you'll find free videos, games and nature-themed information. If your kids is really entranced by this site, take things a step further and gift him/her an annual subscription to the National Geographic Kids Magazine (currently selling for $7 for 6 bimonthly copies) Spice is going through a giraffe-loving stage and spend HOURS on this website. 


US Forest Service Kids Section

Canadian Online Atlas from Canadian Geographic
Explore Canada by themes like rivers, ecosystems, natural resources etc.

NASA for Students

Mathematics


Topmarks: Website for math games across the ages

Mathframe: Another website that teaches math through games

Splash Learn: Math apps for grades K-5. The school actually recommended this and the girls like it so far. If you don't want to download the apps, the website can be accessed directly.

Prodigy Math Game
I signed the girls up for this in January and I'm quite glad I did. There's a premium-paid access but for now we're using the free app. I like that the game's difficulty level adapts to the kids abilities and a breakdown of the different areas is displayed in the parent dashboard. With the report from the dashboard, I'm able to identify where the girls are struggling in their math studies.


Kumon Workbooks
I'm a big fan of workbooks and my favorites are the Kumon workbooks. For the grade 4 math curriculum, I have ordered the books on fractions, division and geometry to help the girls with the areas that haven't been covered in school and they're obviously struggling with.

Free Worksheets
Printable math worksheets for grades k to 12. Here's an example of the 27 page grade 4 worksheet.





Homeschool General Resources List

As I alluded to in my previous post, this era of social distancing has led to me (and most parents in the world) to try our hand on serious homeschooling. In the past, I have accessed several resources to teach the girls but this was a supplement to the primary learning they were receiving from their schools and teachers.

With all the unknowns of the initial lockdown, I had to revise my role to that of primary educator. In that role, I struggled with finding decent, reputable resources for teaching older elementary kids (grade 4). Sure a quick Google search will yield some results but I found some of the resources to be too commercial, flaky or poorly designed for my use. Some were also good. In keeping with the objective of this blog to "Learn and Share", I'm going to highlight all the homeschooling resources that I think are worth accessing.

This post quickly grew to be a loooooooooooooooooog list so I'm going to break it down into sections which I'll keep updated as I find new goodies.



Learning Styles.

Before attempting to educate your kids formally, it's worth it to have a decent idea of how they learn best.

Life as it was - March

I confess, when I chose the word "HOME" as the theme for the year, I really did not envisage that the world would be in full pandemic mode and our family of 5 would be spending the whole day at home... together... like 24 hours.

To be honest, it's gone way better than I could ever have imagined. I thought our house was too small for 5 people but we've managed not to go stir-crazy or get on each other's nerves. All in all, things have been going splendidly and I feel lucky and blessed. On to the updates
  • Staycations: We haven't ventured too far out of the house but we did manage to sneak a few walks through the neighbourhood and to the park while maintaining appropriate social distancing. Calgary is on a social distancing advisory and not lockdown. 

  • Family Time: My baby turned 3 this month and also potty trained himself for the nighttime. He now stays dry through the night and in the morning, we make a mad dash to the toilet. He does have a potty chair but I ditched that in favor of the potty seat which takes up less space and is easier to keep clean. I think he may be ready for daytime potty training but I'm not ready :) 

Life as it was - February

Well Happy Leap Day to you. Keeping with the theme for the year, here are the highlights of our 29 day February.

  • House: Decluttered the one small but very messy corner of the garage. More baby steps! Bought a dining table from Pier 1's closing down sale. The dining table we had at home was actually inherited from the previous owners of our home. I never liked it but it was useful enough that I always procrastinated about replacing it. My ideal dining table was one I had found on the Pier 1 website. Once I heard that Pier 1 was going out of business, I dashed to the store and was able to snag the dining table with matching bench (at a good discount) from the second store I visited. Finally adulting in the home decor department of life. 
  • Staycations: On valentines' day, we headed downtown for the Calgary Winter Glow Festival. This was the inaugural session of the festival and it was so perfect for a mid-winter break. It makes me feel so proud of my city that little initiatives like this are still coming out in spite of our economic woes. 

  • Family Time: I've finally succeeded in one aspect of sleep training BabyBoy. It's the part where I put him in bed and walk out of the room without him crying for me to come back and watch him sleep. Now I have a critical hour of my evenings back and can revive my bedtime routine with my girls. With that being said, we're now reading through the story of Moses in Exodus and the girls are finding it so engaging. My premise for choosing that was we have a DVD copy of The Prince of Egypt movie in the car which the girls love. It's easy to start discussions around what happened in the Bible version versus the movie adaptation. I wasn't sure if the girls were mature enough for us to read an actual bible instead of a book that was a collection of bible stories but so far so good.  
TIP: If you want to get your kids reading the bible, choose a version that's written in contemporary language. I am currently a fan of the New Living Translation version of the bible

Finding Childcare in Calgary

REUPPING AN OLD POST

I've been navigating the childcare terrain in Calgary since moving here in 2011 and we're not done yet. With 8+ years of this hustle in the bag, I thought I'd put a few guidelines together.




Childcare Choices in Calgary

The first step is to determine the childcare choice that is most attractive to your family. The options that are available include dayhomes, daycare centers and nannies or au pairs. Each option comes with it’s advantages, disadvantages and costs.

Childcare Costs in Calgary

Dayhomes: In this situation, the provider is offering childcare in their own home. The province regulates the number of children that can be taken in at any one time. This is usually the cheapest childcare option available in Calgary and costs run from $150 to $500 per child per week depending on the provider's qualifications, location etc. There are also a handful of Dayhome Agencies that take care of licensing and regulating a number of independently-owned dayhomes.

Daycare Centers: These are centers that provide various childcare services. They are more expensive than dayhomes and their prices are typically fixed based on the age of the child with infants being most expensive. Most centers charge upwards of $1000 a month with some charging up to $2900 monthly for infants. Centers located downtown are the most expensive.

Life as it was - January

So barely two weeks ago, I shared that my word for the year is Home and my goals are centered around that theme. Here's the first of what I hope will be a monthly progress report.

  • House: Almost bought a home that was perfect for us but the inspection turned up some flaws we could not ignore. Decluttered the guest room closet. 
  • Staycations: Participated in the Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary's Chinatown. It was freezing cold and BabyBoy was not impressed by the dragons trying to get up close and personal but all in all, it was a decent first attempt at enjoying our city. 
  • Family Time: The girls are eager to learn how to cook and I'd love to use their eagerness to get them to try more new things. So this month, every Friday we had little "mommy and me" kitchen sessions. We made orange juice (and for the first time, the  girls actually drank and enjoyed orange juice), lemonade and apple sauce. I chose super-easy foods/drinks to start with and plan to go into the more complex dishes as time goes on.
  • Body: Ate less meat and more vegetables. Exercised a little more. I made baby steps but progress is progress. 
Every year, on my birthday month, I place an order with Sephora to combine my must-have beauty splurges with their birthday gift. This year, I got two serums -  vitamin C and hyaluronic acid - from The Ordinary brand. So far, I'm happy with both and will repurchase once they're empty.
Dragon getting up close and personal

I bought: 
Two weighted blankets. One for Spice and one for myself since we both seem to have similar sleep complaints. I got the kids' weighted blanket off Amazon for Spice and was able to buy mine from Costco (can't link because it's no longer showing up on their website). I had to go online for Spice's because it's hard to find kids' weighted blankets in stores. For mine, I found blankets in several stores but eventually settled for buying Costco's because it was price competitive and their return policy is very generous. 

Verdict? So far so good, Spice has not woken up once to complain that she didn't get any sleep. WIN!
For me, the good part is the blanket is so heavy and warm, I've been able to use it alone instead of the 4 layers of blankets I used to resort to. However, I'm still waking up at night and unable to fall back asleep. I hear it takes a month or so for any visible sleep pattern changes to be noticed so I won't call this a fail just yet. 

Raising a Girl Child - Reading List

I just noticed that I have a folder of bookmarks on my browser that's labeled "Girl Child". It's a collection of articles hosted on fairly reputable websites that share tips on raising girls in today's world.

In no particular order, here's my collection of resources on raising girls


Just sharing these links made me go back and check some of these resources are. They're really good and worth reading and re-reading ever so often.

2020 - Home

I always like to spend the months of December and January taking stock of several aspects of life, reviewing what worked in the past year and setting my directions for the next year. I don't consciously have a "word" for the year but I do have a theme that reflects the life goals.

If last year's theme was "SIMPLE", then 2020's theme is "HOME". In so many different definitions for the word Home.

HOME

noun
a house or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family or household
verb
to proceed or direct attention towards an objective
adjective
operating or occuring in an area that is a base of operations or headquarters
adverb
to a vital sensitive core

What Worked for Me in 2019

I didn't blog for almost all of 2019 but I was still out there, still doing my thing. Consciously or unconsciously, my life theme for 2019 was "Simple". I chose the simple life over and over again. I had so many balls in the air, I knew that the best thing for my mental and emotional well-being was to simplify as many things as I could.

So what did I simplify in 2019? Here's a concise summary of what worked for me and how I used the concept of "SIMPLE" to influence almost every facet of my life


5 Types of Goals Worth Setting in 2020

Happy New Year Everyone!

It's that time of the year where resolutions, goals and theme words ooze out of every media platform. As a compulsive list-maker and goal-setter, I have no complaints about this trend. I'm an ardent believer in the setting of goals, not just every New Year but as a tool to be used every time my life needs to be redirected.

On to the actual content of this post, here are 5 types of goals (with examples) that I will be setting this year to define the life I want to live in 2020 and beyond.

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