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.




Life Lessons

The month of February has brought many winds of change and life lessons to us.

Life is not a constant stream of perfect rainbows.

We faced two deaths in a matter of two weeks.

One of a long living great, great aunt from my side and the other of an unexpected suicide of a dear cousin to my husband. These deaths have brought room for many emotions, conversations and reflection for everyone.

Questions and thoughts on age and aging, physical health, mental health, depression, life, love and family.

It doesn’t seem right to post about our various homeschool activities without mentioning the impact that this has had on everyone.

Times like these can bring sadness and questions, but it also gives space for reconnection. It was wonderful to see the children reconnect with family that they had not seen in a long time and have the time to get to know others better.

They strengthened bonds and built new ones.

That’s what “socialization” is really about, is it not?

Rest in Peace Archie.

Rest in Peace Aunt Velma.

Great Great Aunt Velma

Great Great Aunt Velma




So much has been happening since our last post before Christmas.

With January come and gone, so has our half year review with the school that we are registered with as homeschoolers.

The school review always has me at odds to start with.

This year we are registered with a wonderful, independent school in Edmonton. Progressive Academy. They are very helpful, informative, and supportive to our open style of homeschooling. Our province of Alberta thankfully provides a great amount of freedom, options and support for homeschoolers. I say this based on our life in Jamaica, South Korea and the experiences told to me from homeschool friends from various countries.

When it comes to this time of year so many emotions run through me. First, as with so many things, I leave it until the last minute. So there is always the stress of time crunch.

Then comes the next question. Are my kids learning enough? As much as I understand that we do a lot, and the kids are continuously learning, there is still doubt that can creep into my mind.  I have been conditioned by so many years of traditional schooling and what is acceptable by the mainstream that going away from the traditional approach is not easy. (But it is fun)

February Snow Fort in -30 Celcius

February Snow Fort in -30 Celcius

Then we get down to work. I try and go through it with my son (my daughter cannot be registered until she turns 6) but it can be a huge time intensive process, and with the volume of information he has a hard time sitting through the whole process.

Volume of information.

I say this because when I do get down to it, my worry about “do we do enough” changes to “Oh my god, there is SO much that we have done!”

But the big thing that happens each time I do their portfolios is that I question why am I doing this? Does this really matter?

Part of the reason why we homeschool is to have the freedom to choose. Choose what we like and feel is best for us. Without having to measure up to imposed standards.

So inadvertently, the process brings me to a new space that allows me to re-look at why we homeschool and how we are homeschooling. Re-evaluate the reasons and meaning it has for our family.

Freedom, space and love.

Spending time with my family. Really getting to know my children.

Freedom to travel and learn more about the world.

Signs of Spring at our Seoul Apartment

Signs of Spring at our Seoul Apartment

Signs of Spring at our Seoul Apartment (and some breakfast too?)

Signs of Spring at our Seoul Apartment (and some breakfast too?)

Giving our children the space and freedom to truly have fun and enjoy the learning process.

In the end, my children are happy, they enjoy learning, and have freedom to do so.

They are travellers and have already experienced many places in the world far different from their home country and culture.

They are voracious readers, are curious, ask endless questions and love learning.

They are not stuck in an endless circle of school social status, narrow measurements, or limitations on creativity and exploration.

That’s what matters to us, and that’s what we are doing.

Yes, the process has been beneficial in every way.

Drawing and Creating

Drawing and Creating

Gymnastics Pose in the Snow

Gymnastics Pose in the Snow

Reading By The Fire After Playing In Their Snow Fort

Reading By The Fire After Playing In Their Snow Fort






What I Missed

Last week I felt like I was missing something. Like we were missing something in our school days.

Something that I know we all enjoyed, that we still do from time to time, but in different ways and not to the extent that we had been in Jamaica and Korea.

Now I understand that maybe it is just the natural progression of learning, but I still miss this activity. 


The creation, study and appreciation of art.

I spoke with my kids about how I was feeling and asked their opinion. They agreed.

So during our morning reading time that we always start our day with the three of us looked at a book my mother-in-law had lent me about Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

Last year in Korea we had done artist studies on Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Gauguin. Both Gauguin and Picasso had featured exhibits, the first at the Seoul Museum of Art and the other at the Seoul Arts Center(SAC) so they were timely artist studies. 

Gauguin did not capture them as Van Gogh and Picasso did. (I admit, I am more of the Gauguin fan) Their favourite paintings are Starry Night, and Starry Night on the Rhone, but they were fascinated with the story behind Picasso’s Guernica. 

So last week we looked through the book Picasso’s Guernica – History, Transformations, Meanings by Herschel B. Chipp. The book is a bit intensive for younger readers but offers excellent detail on that particular painting, showing the research, planning, photographs and sketches that went into the large piece. 

We talked about the details and the small parts that really came together to make it (Guernica) whole. We talked about the sheer grand size of Guernica. 

Then Ronan announced, “okay, I’m done, I want to draw now.” Zahra declared she was going to paint, told me the materials she needed, and they both set themselves up to create.

Starting Out

Starting Out

Beginning Painting

Beginning Painting

Ronan was very adamant that he was creating only what he wanted to, his ideas that he currently had in his mind. I just helped them with materials set up and left them to work. 

Ronan worked for a hours. Drawing, taking a break, coming back to it, cutting, talking about his ideas and sharing them with me as he worked. He took the entire morning on his piece. 

Part Of The Process

Part Of The Process

Cutting Each Design

Cutting Each Design

Placing and Pasting

Placing and Pasting

Zahra sat and painted until she was done, no breaks in between and promptly wanted to display her work when she was finished. 

The Painting

The Painting

Zahra's Finished Piece

Zahra’s Finished Piece

Both pieces were beautiful and unique to each person. 

Ronan's Finished Piece

Ronan’s Finished Piece

As I watched the kids work I remembered what I was missing about our art days.

It wasn’t necessarily the actual pieces that we were creating that I missed, but it was what those art days created for us. A chance to express our thoughts, ideas and emotions in another form. A chance to express something we had learned in a colourful or abstract way. Most importantly, what I missed was the beauty and calm that the process creates for us. 


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:






Power Outage

Yesterday over breakfast Ronan asked me, “mom, was there civilization when you were a kid?”

Now, I am 37 years old. Things are different now from when I was young, no internet, definately no facebook, no cell phones, but we had civilization. It brought a little giggle from me, but I remembered that every question is worth asking and is asked to solve a problem or find an answer.

After thinking about this I realized that his question was brought about from what happened the night before.

The rural community we are in lost power. The family was all together, all 5 kids and 6 adults, but no power.

It was -25 degrees celcius.

The power went out at 5pm and stayed out for 12 hours. We brought out the candles, finished cooking dinner by flashlight, ate by candlelight, started the fire and sat in the dark together giggling, telling stories and playing.

Of course the stories we told were stories of the “old days.” What Great Grandma’s family did growing up with no power. How things would have been different in the evening when it became dark. How Grandma truly lived off the land when she was young growing up in a family that was homesteading. How my dad drew water from the well for the family in Jamaica.

Would storytelling have been a bigger tradition with no TV, computers, internet, cell phones to distract us? Only candle light to read by?

We also reflected on how quiet it was.

The absence of light and noise was actually quite beautiful.

For the 4 of us, just coming back from Seoul, South Korea, a city of over 20 million where everything is accessible 24 hours of the day, the difference in noise and constant artificial light was very apparent to us when we first returned.

But because of the power outage we realized we were starting to take these things for granted again.

For the first few weeks we would stop before bed and watch the stars light up the sky, the way we could not living in the big city. Or sit and listen to the silence (minus a few coyotes and barking dogs at times) that was otherwise nonexistent in Seoul.

During this forced power outage the kids did turn on the ipads for a minute, but sensing a time where everyone was there and very present, devices that had battery life were turned off. We enjoyed the time together.

The next day my kids were happy that the power was back on. We were thankful that we had a warm place to come into from the winter cold, we had lights to see our way, and yes, that we had power to charge our electronics.

Even still, we spent the day reading, making crafts, playing and cooking.

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Monday Omelet- Ronan’s Creation



Sometimes it takes us to go without, to remember how much we truly have.


Zahra Writing To Great Grandma (GG)

Zahra Writing To Great Grandma (GG)

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Ronan Working On His Homemade Christmas Cards