Monthly Archives: April 2008


We have had over a week now of beautiful sunny days in the twenties.  The grass is greening, we have a few daffodils and star flowers with promises of tulips to come.  On the north side of the house, the snow bank is decreasing in size and could be gone entirely by this time next week.  We have signed up for softball and soccer.  Yes, I believe spring is here.  It may have come and gone, actually; it never stays for long.

Our schedule has been totally different this week as we have attended a Kiwanis Music Festival event each day.  We are over half way through now and the girls have performed beautifully.  Both spent extra hours practising over the last week or so and it showed as they competed in their various classes.  I have noticed a difference this year in their preparation.  Whereas in the past I was called on to listen, advise, count and comment, now they do that for each other.  I must admit they are better qualified to do so than I am.  They have encouraged and supported each other at home and at the events.

Both girls have received a gold and a silver place, with L13’s gold qualifying her to compete in the trophy class on Friday night.  Tomorrow they perform with the ensemble and on Friday they both have sight reading.   I was listening to a couple of violin mums talking in the foyer last night before L13’s class and one was saying that her son wished he was homeschooled so he would have more time to practise.  That is exactly what has happened here this week, the girls have appreciated having the flexibility to spend extra time on violin.  We were able  shift and  waive certain lessons to make it  possible.

Here and there

Yesterday I spent the morning teaching my two musicianship classes and then raced across town to attend the RVHEA conference. I have always enjoyed attending the yearly home educators’ conference but since I started teaching at the classes on Saturday mornings it has been harder to get to it. This year I was asked to co-lead a workshop on ‘Starting a Co-op” which I agreed to do during one of the afternoon sessions.

The workshop was attended by a small group of people who were happy to hear my experiences and those of my co-leader and then ask us questions. Although the other speaker and I had never met, it was great to see how well our presentations worked together. Her experiences were different from mine but between us we were able to present a range of styles and possibilities for co-operative learning groups both large and small.

After the workshop was over I spent an hour or so browsing in the vendor hall and catching up with friends I don’t see very often. Although I didn’t get to hear any of the other speakers I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours there. I ordered the MP3 version of all the day’s sessions and speakers so I will be able to listen at my leisure. I did get a chance to talk to a couple of curriculum providers about their products, particularly a revamped and extended version of the French curriculum which we have been using in Group of Four. I was assured that it provides all my child would need to complete highschool French. I am going to do some further investigating but it sounds promising.

This week is Kiwanis Music Festival week for us. We will be there every day for some event or another. Both L13 and A11 are competing and Stellae Boreales is performing in a non-competitive class. Hopefully we will squeeze in a little regular work as well.

Listening to

In addition to the comings and goings of our family that I write about on the blog, I also keep a record of the books we are reading. You can read that list by clicking on the link in the blog header. There is also a listening list which, on the whole, has been neglected. It is hard to update such a list so I have a new plan which might work. I will occasionally ask the members of the family who have mp3 players what is on their play lists and share that on the listening page. I probably won’t update it very often but at least you’ll see the strange and varied mix we listen to in this family.

A job well done

Our family is now home after a very busy, but very satisfying day. This afternoon Stellae Boreales had their second fundraising concert for the China tour. It was a wonderful concert, the musicians played to an almost full auditorium, which was very encouraging for them. Our family felt blessed to look around the room and see many of our friends. The group has been practising very hard to master some new repetoire for today’s concert, the most interesting piece being an arrangement of part of the Butterfly Concerto, a Chinese piece.

In the lead up to the concert, the girls have put in hours of practice. Andrew has been working hard keeping the website updated and preparing the program. This morning I was able to finish work on a scrapbook I am making which includes all the performances of the 2007-2008 season so far. I will keep on adding to it as they complete their Ottawa performances and then fill it with China photos and memorabilia when we return. All the families involved with the group worked very hard to make today a success. For weeks people have been procuring donations of goods and services for the auction which followed the concert.

After the last auction item was collected and the remains of the desserts cleared away, we packed up and headed to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, tired but very pleased with the day. Needless to say Andrew and I were very proud of our girls and very impressed with the group’s performance. Andrew recorded the concert, and it is playing as I write this. L13 and A11 have been sitting listening, commenting on the little things they noted as each piece was performed and reliving the whole experience.

Ottawa Historica Fair

We spent the day at the Canadian War Museum on Wednesday attending the Ottawa Historica Fair. It was held in the LeBreton Gallery, where the projects were displayed in front of the many tanks and armored vehicles. Over 100 students, from grades 4-9 were participating. L13 was one of the four homeschooled students competing.

Egerton Ryerson project

For the students the day was divided into three sessions. During one they were encouraged to visit all the other projects, to read the boards and talk to the students. Another session was spent in workshops creating morse code gadgets, clay sculptures or metal name tags. The remaining session was spent by their own project so they could be judged by two judges and answer questions from other visitors.

A11, B7 and I enjoyed wandering around the projects, seeing the many creative approaches and gathering ideas for next year. It was interesting to see the amount of laptops or portable dvd players which were incorporated into the displays this year. When A11 participated several years ago there were hardly any. I asked the children which projects impressed them most and they named those which had incorporated some kind of model along with their display board. The winner of the “Student’s Choice” award was a project on the history of the Giant Tiger chain of stores. I was not surprised as she had created an eye catching board, a fabulous model of a store and was very enthusiastic about sharing all her research.

Canadian History

In September we began a study of Canadian History. Over the years we have worked our way through Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, the Middle Ages, and last year the Renaissance and Reformation. We decided it was time to learn about the land we are living in. I knew very little about Canada’s history having only lived here seven years myself. Whenever I heard the phrase “the Plains of Abraham” or saw a reference to “the War of 1812” I knew they were significant but I couldn’t tell you why. That is changing as the weeks go by.

We have joined with another family and meet once a week to learn about the people, places, practices and events that have shaped and impacted Canada. As an outline we are using two books by Donna Ward: Courage and Conquest and Canada’s Natives Long Ago. Courage and Conquest provides us with a week by week order and an extensive reading list, both fiction and nonfiction titles.  I intend to go into a little more detail later about our methods and program, highlighting  resources that have been helpful and the activites that have worked well.

Last week we did not meet for our usual lesson as all the children were participating in a History Fair.  We joined with four other families and spent the afternoon listening to fourteen children talking about their particular area of research.  I was very impressed with the quality and variety of projects presented.  Secret Secretaries was an intriguing topic about one girl’s great grandmother who had been a decoder during World War 2.   The New England Planters introduced us to a group of people who moved into Nova Scotia to take over the farms left by the expelled Acadians.  They are  a group we had not read about in our history studies as they are rarely mentioned.  We learnt about the Air cadets, the McIntosh  apple, Tim Horton, Terry Fox, L. M. Montgomery, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as well as aspects of the fur trade and pioneer life.

As we have been working through our history studies, the children have completed some small research projects on famous Canadians and the changing lifestyle of those who came and settled here.  We decided to use some of that research as the basis for the History Fair projects.  A11 wanted to delve a little deeper into the battle on the Plains of Abraham and investigate General Wolfe and his British soldiers in more detail.  B7 followed the process of turning a forested lot of land into a productive farm and explained nine steps the farmers went through from the clearing of the land to the eating of the produce.  His display board was covered with pictures he had drawn of the processes, tools and methods used by the farmers of the early 1800s.  L13 started out researching early education in Ontario or Upper Canada as it was initially called.  She soon discovered that her topic was huge and narrowed it down to a study of Egerton Ryerson a Methodist Circuit rider who became a influential advocate of public education.

Three judges joined us for the afternoon and using a rubric provided by the Historica Fair organisers they gave everyone feedback on their projects and chose four people to advance to the Ottawa Historica Fair on April 9th at the War Museum.   L13 was one of those chosen so she will spend the day at the fair, present her project to judges once more,  participate in a couple  of history workshops and peruse the other projects on display.