Kids Make The Best Teachers

My son's Lego battles

My son’s Lego battles

Last week the kids have been immersed in Lego. Lego heroes, Lego battles, Lego houses. They built Lego together. They built Lego separately, and then joined their worlds into one.

More Lego

More Lego

Lego Land

And more Lego


What did I do? Well, I just let them play. It was another lesson the kids were giving me about “letting go.”

I was letting that self doubt start to creep in. Questions, worries, uncertainties.

Are the kids learning enough? Are they learning? Are they having fun? Are the choices we are making adding and enriching their life or diminishing it? Am I making the right choices?

Of course when self doubt creeps in for me, it creeps into the kids and they show it in their own ways. Ways that are not always easy to manage if I’m not in the right mindset. They bicker, they have dramatic upsets, they complain. Their sleep is interrupted, the choices they make may not always be stellar. It’s the cycle that flows from me to them. If I am feeling uncertain and unhappy, of course they will too.

I have become better at recognizing the slippery slope and am able to either catch myself sooner, or pull out of it sooner. So I tried to let go and let them lead the way. They played completely focused and engaged for about 2 or 3 mornings in a row. Then with that space they asked questions, and explored.

I watched them. I read. I practiced yoga. At one point I was watching a video about Math that was focused on the growth mindset that we discuss a lot in our home education days. The kids would pause, watch, ask questions and then go back to what they were doing. The pauses became longer and the questions increased until they moved from their Lego into other areas of creation and math problems.
Their world kept growing and expanding out from Lego to working on tangrams and building shapes.

Building the puzzle

Building the puzzle


Finished putting it together.

Finished putting it together.


Another Tangram of many

Another Tangram Puzzle…one of many


Tangram Heaven

Tangram Heaven

They watched videos about the Fibonacci sequence and discussed where we can see the sequence in nature. They looked through a book on the works of MC Escher and tried to find the sequence in his art.

Getting push ups in between math problems and checking out the Escher Art Book

Getting push ups in between math problems and checking out the Escher Art Book

They visualized and encoded numbers, created patterns, and worked on various math problems.

And no, we did not end up getting to Origami that day

What do you see when shown a configuration of dots for a under a minute. How many dots are there? How do you see them?


What do you see when shown a configuration of dots for a under a minute. How many dots are there?

Everyone sees things in their own way. Each way may be different, but just because they are different does not make them wrong. 

They were engaged, and excited and each one had their own area of interest that they focused on a little bit more.

My daughter expands her knowledge of subtraction.

My daughter expands her knowledge of subtraction.


My niece built different patterns with small blocks. She changed the number of elements with each pattern.

My niece built different patterns with small blocks. She changed the number of elements with each pattern.


My son drawing out the different ways he sees the dot configuration

My son drawing out the different ways he sees the dot configuration *

Close-up of his work. What shapes do you see? How does it reflect the number of dots in the image you were shown?

Close-up of his work. What shapes do you see? How does it reflect the number of dots in the image you were shown?


He also worked on another math problem from the website

He also worked on another math problem from the website **


So back to my self doubt and uncertainty. Are they learning enough? Are they learning? Are they having fun? Are we making the right choices?

If they are still showing a curiosity and interest in learning and in the process- then yes they are. So the education continues. My education. Because sometimes I am their guide but really most times I am the student in this.


*The majority of the Math videos we watched and math problems we explored that week came from the website along with talks featured on the Ted Talks website. “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” is a favourite of the kids.

The Ice Cream poster problem that my son worked on can be found here.

**The dot configuration problem can be found in the Week of Inspirational Math (iMath) on the site.


Angle It

New season, new life, new change.

There have been so many great things happening. We have been enjoying the moments and I have not stopped to write about any of it. So like a new season, a new start, I am starting to post again.

This week has been what I call a week of math. I have not decided that. My kids have, of course. I just go with it.

A short while back my father-in-law introduced my son to angles. What they are, how they are different, and how we can measure them. He really enjoyed the impromptu lesson.

This week he decided that he wanted to learn more about angles and practice making them. So that is what we have been doing. As I am sure most homeschooling parents will find, homeschool is not a lesson for the kids as so much a lesson for the parents.

Geometry Fun

Geometry Fun

So here I am, enjoying geometry again because of my son.

He brought out his protractor and paper. (We could not locate a compass yet)

He drew lines and vertexes. I did the same. He measured them and learned how to correctly record the angles on paper with the angle sign. We talked about circumference, and how a circle is 360 degrees. He knew what a 90 degree angle was, but joined the connection of 90 degrees to 180 degrees to 360 degrees. He noted that once the circle was drawn 90 degrees divided it into 4 quarters.

Without a compass he used a cup to draw his circle

Without a compass he used a cup to draw his circle

And he kept wanting to go further.

We talked about and drew right angles, reflex angles, and obtuse angles. The difference between diameter, and radius.

Different Kinds of Angles

Different Kinds of Angles

He likes to make his angles into chomping crocodiles

He likes to make his angles into chomping crocodiles

We discussed geometry in nature. How a honeycomb fits together perfectly. All the cells are the same hexagon shape. Or the bearings on a compass. We use degrees to measure navigation, starting with zero degrees which represents North.

He wanted to expand into shapes and drew triangles, cubes, and pyramids.

3D sketches

3D sketches

I am refreshing my vocabulary. Equilateral triangles, isosceles triangles and scalene triangles. He drew each triangle and checked the sides and angles to make sure they add up to the correct amount. ( All 3 angles must equal 180 degrees in a triangle )

He also played with interactive triangles. The website has been a great interactive resource.

Triangles, Triangles

Triangles, Triangles

It was a math week for all

It was a math week for all. Zahra was focused on subtraction. 

This has been our last few days. And as I type, he sits beside me still drawing angles.


The Flow

Homeschooling is a different flow.

Some things work as planned, some things do not. Sometimes there are no plans, and the world flows naturally.

Some days are busier than others.

Both of my kids are active in various sports and activities. On the farm we are 30 minutes from town so on busier days we are usually home later in the evening. Because of this I try to keep busy-ness down to a bare minimum those mornings.

I am finding as I meet and talk to more and more homeschoolers a lot of the longer term homeschoolers are like this. Each year they better get to know themselves, better get to know their children and contrary to belief, instead of pushing them to learn more, learn faster, cram everything in and finish early, they instead slow down.

They enjoy their time with their children. They allow them to play, to explore more. They travel, they read, they surf, they ski, they build. They take it as a great time to build on their relationships. They go with the flow. 

How much am I going with the flow?

Yesterday morning my daughter asked if she could watch a specific video and then play a game on Brainpopjr. One thing that I am fairly strict on is the amount of screen/TV time my children have. This is not something I would usually allow first thing in the morning. But that morning I said okay.

Why not?

There was something specific that she wanted to see. Isn’t that why we do this? When our kids have an interest or curiosity, we let them follow it.

I let her watch and play on the computer. My son and I played chess. Then my son took a turn on the computer. 

It was actually a math game on number concepts, fractions, decimal percentages. Treefrog Treasure. I sat with both of them and we talked through some of the problems that were presented.

Which is bigger? 3/4 or  1/2? 

If you think of the decimal .5 as 50% where on the percentage line would that go?

When I was making lunch my daughter and I drew some fractions out. I would draw the “pie” and she would colour and then write out the fraction. My son soon joined us. We took out a measuring cup and compared the fractions on paper to where the fractions are on the measuring cup. 

It was a fun, quick, hands on lesson.

Remembering to just go with the flow.

We started playing chess using the Chess For Dummies board. It is a great way for young learners to understand and remember their pieces and how they move.

We started playing chess using the Chess For Dummies board. It is a great way for young learners to understand and remember their pieces and how they move. Ronan has now become an avid player. It is getting hard for me to beat him!

Learning fractions. Zahra's doodle sheet. Plus some play on words we were having fun with.

Learning fractions. Zahra’s doodle sheet. Plus some play on words we were having fun with.

Ronan and Zahra's fraction doodle sheet.

Ronan and Zahra’s fraction doodle sheet.


Patterns and Living History

One of my wonderful nieces is the same age as my daughter and she currently attends kindergarten twice a week. The other 3 days we are lucky to have her join us for homeschool. Today was one of those days.

Both girls wanted to paint their nails and toe nails. They chose their colours and met me in the kitchen. The had chosen 4 colours. 2 for their hands and 2 colors for their toenails. They had decided on a set pattern for both theirs hands and feet.

Before I painted their nails I asked them what their pattern was. They instructed me how the pattern should be painted. For example, their fingernails were to be orange, blue, orange, blue, orange, starting with their pinkie finger.

Pattern Fingernails

Pattern Fingernails

2 Element Pattern Toenails

2 Element Pattern Toenails

It was a great time to talk about patterns and what makes up the elements in a pattern. They both understood that each of their chosen patterns had 2 elements.

I also had nail decals for them. Unfortunately I only had 12 in total. I asked them if it was possible to divide the 12 decals in half, or into 2 equal parts so they both had the same amount.

They counted out 6 each. Their plans for decals on their fingers were twarted though when we realized their fingernails are too small for the decals I had. We decided to put a nail decal on each thumb and big toe instead.

After a Lego session and lunch they decided to go outside for the afternoon.

They were pretending they were very poor and have a plot of land that they have to live off of. They have to hunt for their food, build a home from what they have. Homesteaders. Historically this is how many people in this region started their lives just a few generations ago.

Two of the Homesteaders. Their Homestead house in the background. Ronan was off hunting for them with his bow and arrow.

Two of the Homesteaders. Their “second” Homestead house in the background. Ronan was off hunting for them with his bow and arrow.

They later told me that Ronan was hunting and they were cleaning to get ready for the mayor’s visit. The mayor was going to have supper with them and would determine if their home was clean enough. If it was clean enough they would be allowed to keep it. They were baking blueberry pie, cherry pie, and baked salad for the visit. (Yes, baked salad) Ronan was catching fish and prairie chicken for the dinner.

When they decided to come inside they continued their adventure. They fished from their "boat" using their Japanese wind socks they made at the Fine Arts Centre. Zahra played the fish.

When they decided to come inside they continued their adventure. They fished from their “boat” using their Japanese wind socks they made at the Fine Arts Centre. Zahra played the fish.

This is not the first time they have been Homesteaders. It is a continuous game that they play.

Living History.

I love that they have the time to play freely, create and imagine.

This is a link to our local provincial homestead history including original maps and records.




The Poetry of Math


I am not a Math person.

I have never been good at Math.

Math is too hard for me, I can only do the basics.

Have you ever said this? Have your kids ever said this?

I felt this way. I was a “good student”, and I did ok with Math, but it was a struggle for me. I had to put in a lot of effort when it came to Math class, and the concepts usually seemed to out of  reach for me to fully understand. They seemed to be just operations to memorize and perform, but not something I saw applied in my life. Give me history, an essay or a humanities topic any day instead.

As a homeschooling mom Math was the subject I worried about. If I am not a “math person”, how was I going to continue with math education for my children as they get to older ages?  If I have no belief in my math skills, how could I show my kids that they could? (It’s what you do, not what you say)

My homeschool journey has slowly changed this for me.

Becoming a parent that sees the benefit in freedom to play and learn, with no hard formalities in the process has been awakening. I started to see that we are all homeschoolers. I am just as much the student as my children. With curiosity, and engagement we are all learning what we want to know more about.

For me the poetry of Math is unfolding.

This week I had the privilege of attending a talk with my mother in law and another teacher from her school. We drove an hour to see James Tanton, a Mathematician that is passionate about what he does, talks with absolute excitement, lives in his creativity and surrounds himself with expression.

James Tanton describes his journey and work as mathematical play.

He stresses the importance of play and exploration in life, learning, and specifically in Math. “The nature of play – that is, intellectual exploration, intellectual curiosity, the pursuit of wanting to know – is innate to our true human selves.”

He himself loved playing with math as a child in his room – looking for patterns and geometric designs in the ceiling, inventing games and puzzles – but found no joy in the math classroom at school. He always wanted to know the “why” in math but in class this was often met with being told to just accept that it is true, and to move on to the next question. He did not find the “joy and liberation” in math until a certain class in university. He later went on to become a high school math teacher and now researcher and global educator. He does this because of his love of math, and because he believes math is accessible to all.

Ronan Pointing Out The Patterns He Sees In His Hundred Chart- Counting By 2's and 3's

Hundreds Chart, Counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s And Recognizing The Patters

Math education is changing. We hear about the Common Core changes in the US, and in Alberta there is a change in curriculum as well. Some people are happy with the change, others of course are not. What I appreciate is that educators are working towards change and keeping progressive.

Change has to happen, especially in education. Do we realize how quickly the world, primarily because of technology is changing around us? Life today for our children is nothing like how it was when we were young. Why would we keep educating our children in a style and with ideas that served a different society?

Math research, exploration and discovery is a big driver in the fast changes. Listening to James Tanton I realized that the mathematicians that are driving the fast changes are those that are the creative thinkers, and problem solvers. The mathematical thinkers, not the rote doers.

That is where math is moving, and that is where I am finding the beauty and poetry in math. In the past, as Mr. Tanton points out, math was focused on the skill and what questions. His work is to help us “find the wiggle room within the rigid system to begin to ask “why, “ “what if” and human questions”.

Why is that important?

Soon we will be visiting Mars. Who do you think is going to get us there?


Ronan Testing Out James Tanton’s Exploding Dots Lesson On The Explanation of Arithmetic And Algebra


He Loves It!



Check out the Lesson – Exploding Dots

Other great sites for math creativity and problem solving that we love:







One of the joys of homeschooling is the freedom that it allows. The kids are free to learn, free to play, free to engage in whatever route their curiosity takes them.

Yesterday felt particularly free.

Zahra woke up first and wanted me to read an Asterix and Obelix comic book to her.  Asterix and Obelix in Belguim was the chosen comic book of the day. ( Great old comics by the way. For us they always lead into discussion and research on history, politics and geography, plus explanations of satire, characters, vocabulary and language )

Ronan chose a book, The Class Trip From The Black Lagoon and read the entire book before breakfast. After breakfast the kids played. They let their imaginations take them away and create worlds and characters that they dressed in, renamed and acted out.

Freedom to read, freedom to play and freedom to learn.

After their play session Zahra decided that she wanted to do some math at the school table. We sat down and worked on that together. We talked about even and odd numbers. In her math journal Zahra listed even numbers by writing 2,4,6, 8, ..20..40.. She used the numbers on a ruler as a number line to help with her counting out by 2’s. We took out pencil crayons and she put them into even groups of 2. Using this method she decided if a number was odd, or a number was even. (Her idea after going through the definition of an even number) We looked at a hundred chart and chose random numbers to test to see if they were even or odd.

After that she pulled out her UmiZoomi Math box ( a gift from my mom that she loves as she is a huge fan of that program) and went through completing every book, activity and exercise. Then she pulled out another book from our “workbook” pile and started working on that. A book that I had first thought was beyond her current level, but that was where she completely proved me wrong. Adding large double digits, subtracting them, grouping by 10’s to count. She used her large stack of pencil crayons to help keep count and visualize her way through it.

We had a lot of fun working together.

When it comes to Math I am not a textbook, worksheet, testing -sit down and figure out exact equations type of parent/educator/homeschooler – whatever you want to label me. Sure we may have a few workbooks, but they are packed in a box combined with some math games and clipboards. We use a large amount of problem solving, natural application (a huge amount of cooking and games) and manipulatives in our homeschool math. If a project or curiosity takes us into math, wonderful, but I do not have a setup and assigned math time. Does this work for us? YES it does. How do I know? The answer for me is not complicated- my kids tell me that they “love math”.

They love math.

This day I felt that we were accomplishing what we set out to do with homeschooling. Making learning fun, making learning a regular part of life, and helping our kids know that as long as you have that curiosity and joy, learning can come to anyone, anywhere, on any subject or topic you choose. When I was a kid, I did NOT love Math.

As a homeschooling parent, I am re-learning.

Learning that “school” and “learning” can be different for everyone. It does not have to be the traditional approach.

Learning that regurgitating and memorizing the facts doesn’t necessarily mean you know it. It is about reasoning, application and flexibility. Really, isn’t that what the work world is really looking for in people?

Best of all, I am learning there are other ways to learn and approach math, and through that I am re-kindling my own love of Math.

There are some days that all Ronan wants to do is Math problems. Sometimes he will work on large math problems everyday for a week. Ronan never wants to do a Math worksheet or workbook.

That is cool with me.

This day he chose to read. That is also cool with me.

After completing that first book before breakfast he chose Flat Stanley’s- The Intrepid Canadian Expedition and read the entire book while Zahra and I worked together. It was nice to hear constant giggles coming from his reading chair.

Constant giggles from my son and big smiles from daughter. That is what learning is all about.

Having Fun With Math

Having Fun With Math


Geometry Anyone?


Math Class?




Learning on Halloween?

My oldest niece Barrett asked me to post about their Halloween. Seeing that I love the active interest my children and their cousins are taking in this blog, I gladly agreed. Not to mention that Halloween also provided so many opportunities for learning and creativity.

From a very early age each child has chosen their own costume for Halloween. It is great to see the thought that they put into each one, and how it reflects their individual style. This year between my 2 children and their 3 cousins we had William Wallace, a witch, Sailor Minnie, Queen Elizabeth 1, and a Sour Key Candy.

Ronan chose William Wallace after hearing his dad and uncle quote line after line from the movie Braveheart. With Scottish history in the family, and of course a chance to make and wield a sword it was a perfect costume for him. The sword was the part of the costume that he actually was the most interested in and researched the most.Finding out that the famous sword of William Wallace was quite large he was adamant his costume sword was to be as close to scale as possible. He had his own process for this. He found out the size of the sword and the size of William Wallace( William Wallace was said to be 6 foot 6 and his sword 5 foot 4). Knowing this he deducted how high the sword would have reached William Wallace. He then measured his body on a large piece of cardboard and sized the sword length from there. He found a site that showed how to design and build the sword he wanted and he finally finished the day of.

When he researched further he found that the costume from the movie Braveheart was not historically correct with what William Wallace would have actually worn. He still chose the movie version costume instead. This is how he looked when it was all complete. (We of course had to account for cold Northern Alberta weather).

Ronan as William Wallace

Ronan as William Wallace

Who says that the holidays are not a time for learning? That is the masterpiece of engagement and interest. It leads to extensive learning when given the chance to flourish. Learning is not assigned during a certain time of day, or only in a certain room or desk. Learning is not proven by a grade that you receive. Quite the opposite. Learning is active. Learning is hands on. Learning is empowering. Learning is creative, practical, fun and happens anytime, anywhere, even on any holiday.

My niece Barrett (who is in school) chose a costume that was of importance to her. She is fascinated with Queen Elizabeth 1. After reading a biography on her last year she has searched all she can to learn more. When I asked her why she is so interested in this historical figure she told me that she felt she was a good queen that supported her subjects. She felt she was courageous because she herself would ride out to battle to encourage her troops. She lived under a tyrant of a father that murdered the wives he didn’t like (including her mother) and who could not bear him the children he wanted. She felt she was a female historical figure that lead a life that really interested her. My niece is in grade 5. I would say she has a true interest in this subject and it has been allowed to flourish and grow thanks to a very supportive and hands on family.

What other areas do you see your children engaged and creating? How do you encourage this further in your home?

William Wallace, Queen Elizabeth 1, Sour Key, Sailor Minnie, and the Purple Witch

William Wallace, Queen Elizabeth 1, Sour Key, Sailor Minnie, and the Purple Witch