Homeschool Support

Let’s admit, the homeschooling movement is growing, but it is still a little off the mainstream path. People hear that you are homeschooling your kids, you get a few looks, or nods of agreement followed with a so, or but…..

But are you going to ALWAYS homeschool?

But your kids are so outgoing and social for homeschoolers!???

How do you know they are learning? Do you give them a lot of tests?

So now that you are back in Canada your are going to put them in school, right?

Sometimes I explain a day that we had, one that may seem quite different from a school norm and I just get a silent stare, although I see the wheels turning inside their head.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I am grateful to live in a country and province that grants us freedom to choose. Not only that, there is a large amount of support and options here for homeschoolers.

I am very grateful though to have a family that supports our choice and helps facilitate our children’s learning in anyway they can. My dad is always excited to hear about what the kids are doing. My mom is always purchasing books for my kids, art supplies, sending articles that reflect conversations they’ve had, encouraging their projects and encouraging me as a parent. Ronan published a book on ibooks, titled Living in Jamaica about his life in Jamaica. My mom, like only she can, worked her magic and had 3 copies printed and bound for him. (Apple makes it very difficult to print any ibook, of course) Ronan was more excited about having his book printed than published on an international platform.

One of our biggest supporters of all - my husband

Mom and Zahra

I also have a lot of encouragement from my husband’s side of the family. My mother in law is a Grade 4 teacher. She has taught high school as well, and she has just completed her Masters in Math Education. My husband’s parents homeschooled him and his brother for almost 5 years, halfway through elementary into junior high. They stopped when my mother-in-law decided to go back to school herself, complete her high school requirements, enter university and receive a double degree in Education and English. She is one of our biggest homeschool supporters.

My husband credits his homeschool upbringing for giving him the tools and ability to think outside of the box to follow a career path that he loves, writing. That, and seeing his mother follow her passions in life. As he quotes from an interview he did with screenwriter and film maker Margaret Nagle where she stressed the importance of role models for a young person (especially for girls and women), “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

With the internet and so much online, the homeschool community is growing and connecting more globally. It has made it easier to connect and build that community, not to mention providing greater tools and access to information.

Reaching out to someone, or to a community that is like minded is extremely important. It helps to have support, have a sounding board, gather ideas, or sometimes just to hear a few words of encouragement.

Who are your biggest supporters in homeschooling? What is important to you in the community?

My support network has helped me immensely – when traveling, resettling, looking for ideas, and with encouragement that I am not entirely crazy.

Or maybe that craziness is just a cool part of who we are.

Some of our Seoul Homeschool Family

Some of our Seoul Homeschool Family


One of our biggest supporters – my husband




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?




“Look! It’s The Whole Wide World”

The Whole Wide World

The Whole Wide World

“Look! It’s the whole wide world.”

These are my daughter’s words. She said this on her first morning waking up in Jamaica, standing on the upstairs balcony which overlooked a beautiful view of the bay and ocean.

2 Years ago we decided to make a change in our life. I took a leave of absence from my job, my husband jumped full in to his writing career, we took the kids out of school, and we moved to Jamaica.

We lived there for 6 months, and were planning to stay longer, but travel pushed us to move across the world to the Asian continent.

Today we are back in Canada, and after watching an interesting episode of Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown where he visited Jamaica and focused on an area that was essentially around the corner from where we lived, Jamaica is on my mind today.

Jamaica can be described as colourful in every way. The history, music, people, land, food. It all has a colourful vibrancy that really is unique to the small island nation.

My children learned a great deal living there. It was the start of our homeschool journey, it was the start of a new lifestyle for them, it was a change in food, culture, language and life. Even though I am half Jamaican, and we are close to that side of the family, my children so far were growing up in Canadian culture. Living in Jamaica of course brought a whole new experience.

Ronan Snorkelling - Reggae Beach

Ronan Snorkelling – Reggae Beach

In Jamaica Ronan’s love of fish and marine life flourished. We swam in the ocean almost everyday. He learned how to snorkel, we watched fish, crabs, urchins, were stung by jellyfish. It was an ideal place for him as a homeschooler to follow his growing passion and interest (Fish and Marine Biology).

My dad, who was born and raised on the island chatted endlessly with him about their concern over the spear fisherman, their unsustainable practices, and the loss of fish in the beautiful Caribbean Sea surrounding the island.

We learned about the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary which is taking an active role in working to replenish the coral reef and marine life population. My husband took Ronan with him to meet the person that is running the nonprofit. He met with them for 2 hours, telling them about the obstacles of getting started, educating the public on benefits, and other programs they hope to develop.

My daughter painted there endlessly. Being outside continuously, the warm weather and sunshine she was inspired. (She says that she loves the weather and that it doesn’t snow there.)

Zahra Immersed In Her Painting

Zahra Immersed In Her Painting

Even though my dad is with us in Canada a large amount of the time, they also both loved having time with their Papa there and time with that side of the family.

There is so much growth and opportunity in travel with our kids. The world is literally the greatest classroom available.

Not only has it built knowledge and love of the world, but travel has also given my children greater perspective, and empathy towards others because they better understand not only our differences, but also our similarities. It has encouraged our children to take risks.

If you are considering it- take the leap. You don’t even have to travel far. Check out what is a short drive outside of your area. A day, or weekend trip.

We are back in our home province of Alberta, Canada. I was reading an article from Australia in which the author listed 25 world travel destinations that turn the planet into the best classroom ever. Two of these places are right here, a few hours from home, and places I visited endlessly as a child, and still do. (The Rockies- Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Yoho, and Dinosaur Provincial Park)

What other ways can we bring travel and the world into the home?

Zahra and Ronan are happy to be back enjoying Canadian culture and their family, but they have brought up places that they want to see and learn more about. For Ronan it is Vietnam, and for Zahra, Australia. But of course, they both cannot wait to go back to Jamaica.

Do you or your children have a travel list of places you want to visit or learn more about?

What ways can you bring the world into your home?

There’s a whole wide world and classroom waiting.

Kids with their Papa checking out and buying a fishermans catch of crabs and fish - South Coast

Kids with their Papa checking out and buying a fishermans catch of crabs and fish – South Coast

Roadside Stop in St. James Parish, close to Montego Bay- catching Sea Urchins

Roadside Stop in St. James Parish, close to Montego Bay- catching Sea Urchins

Day of snorkelling in Negril. Hanging on the boat with Captain John.

Day of snorkelling in Negril. Hanging on the boat with Captain John.








Ronan And His Acorn

Ronan And His Acorn


Ronan wants this post to be focused on gratefulness.

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

What are you thankful for Ronan?

“I am thankful for my home, I am thankful for my life, and I am thankful for my food.”

What are you thankful for Zahra?

“I am thankful for the stuff that we eat, and my family. I am very grateful. And I love the house that we live in. Are you grateful for something mom? What are you grateful for?”

Joyful Zahra

Joyful Zahra

This is a powerful question to end and begin the day with.  I am extremely grateful to my son for reminding me of the power of gratitude. I am thankful for my family and thankful for the love that I experience from being surrounded by their presence and energy everyday. The amount that my children teach me in awareness is limitless.

The next time that you have 12 minutes free in your day, I recommend that you watch Shawn Anchor’s Ted Talk -‘The Happy Secret To Better Work’. Shawn’s research focus is positive psychology. His talk is not only laugh out loud funny, but may change your viewpoint on happiness. He also gives steps that he has found in his research that have actually trained brains to become more positive. One of these steps includes everyday writing down 3 new things you are grateful for.

“See what we’re finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

Emotional Learning. Whether you are a parent sending your child to school, or educating at home, emotional awareness is a foundation for learning. It guides our interactions, our thoughts and therefore our actions. It guides our entire educational process.  We, as parents create and lead the emotional atmosphere that surrounds our children.  Studies have shown that a child’s brain development and structure is affected by the emotional atmosphere they grow up in.

Are we angry and show this often on our face and through our body language? Or do we smile often? Do we express and show love and kindness?

Why not start with gratitude?

We all have our difficulties, our down times, maybe even sometimes feelings of dispair. But if how our brain views the world shapes our reality and happiness, why not make it positive?

Why not start with gratitude?

What will our school day look like then?


All With The Start Of A Book

There is one daily routine that our family does not give up.

Daily Reading.

My husband and I are both avid readers. We read exponentially more than we watch TV. We also read to our children. Everyday. It has become a habit.

The joy of homeschooling is that it gives us HEAPS of free reading time. Our one daily routine is that after breakfast the kids and I sit down and read together. I read to them, they read to me. The one rule is that THEY choose what to read. Not me.

Reading opens up so much for us. It stirs curiosity, starts new conversations, and sparks new ideas. It also creates a time for us to share, be close, cuddle, smile and laugh together.

This morning my son chose the book ‘Adventures of Riley Operation Orangutan‘. This is a fantastic fiction series about a boy, Riley, that joins his Scientist Uncle and Aunt on adventures to help animals and nature. It is loaded with a ton of facts on geography and animals. This book sparked a fantastic discussion on Orangutans, their habitat, other creatures in Borneo, and the area of Borneo. All because of a book.

We grabbed the map of the world and located where Borneo is and what other countries are close to it. This lead to other discussions that we have had on topics and locations like Tahiti (one of many places to visit on Ronan’s list), and what direction the characters Pi and Richard Parker from the ‘Life of Pi‘ took on their journey in the boat from India. Ronan then researched and found a documentary on the forests of Borneo and scientist’s quest to preserve the disappearing forest all the while exclaiming “I want to do this too!”  All with the start of a book.

My daughter Zahra has read ‘The Little Red Hen‘ quite a few times over. The other day I asked the kids if they were interested in baking bread for the family. Zahra excitedly exclaimed yes, and proceeded to inform me that we will be using the bread recipe from the back of ‘The Little Red Hen’ book. “That”, I said, “is a great idea.” All with the start of a book.

I cannot stress the importance of reading. Having our children see us reading, practicing reading with them, but most importantly, reading out loud to them.

Even if we take just 15 minutes a day to sit down and read together. The benefits are numerous, because really, not only does it lay an important foundation in learning, but it also gives us that extra moment with them to bond and share love.

Zahra In Her Reading Chair

Zahra In Her Reading Chair

Ronan Reading Time- animals are usually his top choice

Ronan Reading Time- animals are usually his top choice


Order In The Environment

I am normally a pretty laid back, go with the flow person. I am not one for a highly scheduled plan that has to be followed and executed to the “T”. I like change, I find uncertainty can bring excitement. Well, most of the time…..because I still like order. I still like to have a clean, fairly organized environment so that my free flowing mind can stay that way, flowing.

Homeschooling can get messy, and busy. It is easy (for me) to get busy, overrun, and let the mess take over. The kids almost always help out with making a meal and a daily chore, as well as weekly chores for allowance, but I admit sometimes I let those routines fall by the way side.

Now would be a perfect example of this time.

But really, is environment really that important for learning to take place?

I know there are arguments for both sides, with some saying that individuals will learn no matter what, and others that say that environment is a crucial element in learning. (Reggio Emilia approach is one example that stresses the importance of the child’s environment in learning.)

So does environment matter, and how important is it for my children to take an active part in developing, shaping and maintaining their environment?

For me, it is important, more for sanity sake than anything. A clean space helps to keep some order, and it may be in my head but I swear that my kids have more focus and calm when their space is clean and organized. Having them help maintain it also helps them to feel responsible for their space and better about themselves.

Each place we have lived and homeschooled Ronan and Zahra have helped set up and arrange their work space. They do not always work in this space as our homeschool takes us everywhere- the kitchen, outside, the deck, even the bathroom- but it is a way for it to become THEIR space. It gives them ownership on their learning.

Yesterday as I was started to feel overwhelmed I had to stop and look around. I realized that it was time to clean up and reorganize. With some encouragement and help from my husband I stopped and cleaned up. Reorganized. I felt better. I felt better, the space looked better, and the kids were happy. I also used some hints from another homeschooling mom that I wrote down on two pieces of paper for each of my children.

1. Put away one thing before moving on to another.

2. Put everything to bed before we go to bed.

They read each one aloud when I gave it to them and agreed to start immediately.

So far, so good.

Thank you to Kari Patterson’s blog and Simple Homeschool for the organizing tips.

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