Our Second Year of Unschooling, In Review

homeschooling

The end of June marks the end of the school year for Canadians.

If Lydia would have been in traditional school, she’d be finishing up first grade right now. As most of you know, we unschool, so we just live life and learn along the way, allowing her to follow her interests and facilitating her education by providing a rich learning environment.

I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what we did over the last school year. I’ve divided things up into rough subject categories, though of course learning doesn’t happen like that in real life. (I did the same thing last year, if you’d like to read what we did during her “kindergarten” year).

We continued to mostly avoid anything particularly “academic,” since she simply wasn’t interested in it, and because my research has led me to feel it’s unnecessary at best (and harmful at worst) to push academics before the age of seven. We’ll see what we do next year.

(Psst: You can follow our homeschooling adventures on a regular basis by following my Instagram account. If you’re not interested in seeing my knitting/homesteading/sourdough-baking posts, the hashtag #quiringhomeschool will take you directly to all my homeschooling posts.)

Social Skills

homeschool group

I like to cover this one first, since this topic is one that folks seem to worry about most when it comes to homeschooled kids.

Lydia typically spent at least four days a week with at least one other kid besides her baby brother. Mondays were spent at her grandma’s with her younger boy cousin; Tuesdays and Wednesdays were shared with her best girl friend; and Friday mornings were spent with our large and diverse homeschool group. The kids got a chance to swim at the beach, play at different parks, and visit back yards and farms.

She also went to forest school and swim lessons at various times throughout the year. We went on a ton of field trips with our homeschool group, and did a Valentine’s Day exchange in February. I am so thrilled with the group we’ve found this year, I couldn’t ask for better.

Field Trips

field trip pioneers

Speaking of field trips: I felt like these outings were terrific both for learning opportunities and to nurture a general sense of community.

We went to a pioneer homestead on multiple occasions to learn about how life was lived over a hundred years ago. We went to a local marsh to learn about wetland habitats. We visited the local Historical Aircraft Association to see and learn about WWII planes. Again: I am SO, SO GRATEFUL for our homeschooling community this year!

Math

Math mostly took the form of everyday addition and subtraction. It was mostly explored orally, in response to real-life scenarios. (This is a fancy way of saying that when numbers came up in real life, we worked through problems aloud.) We briefly visited the concept of multiplication a few times, and I bribed her with chewing gum to fill out a 1-100 chart, just to prove to both of us that she could do it.

We also spent a few hours on the Khan Academy website, just to learn about written formulas. I feel we probably caught up on a full year’s-worth of lessons in about three combined hours. It helped me feel more relaxed about her math situation. She didn’t love it, though, so I kept it to a minimum.

One resource she loved was the book Amazing Visual Math. She spent a lot of time poring over the geometric shapes and movable charts. I highly recommend it. I think it will be very educational when she can read.

Language and Literacy

Lydia was still not really interested in learning to read this year, which is fine.

However, I must mention that one week in May, I got her to try the free educational computer game Teach Your Monster to Read, and she played obsessively for about three days. The progress she made was astronomical. She went from barely being able to name the sounds of individual letters to being able to read short sentences in less than 48 hours. Demonstrating, once again, that learning does not naturally happen in a linear or evenly-paced fashion. Most kids can probably learn in a few hours or days — when they’re ready and self-motivated — what they would traditionally be taught over the span of weeks or months in school.

But even though she didn’t want reading lessons, that doesn’t mean her literacy education was completely ignored! We spent lots of time reading chapter books aloud. In this way she learned things like vocabulary, sentence structure, and story structure; and most importantly, she is learning to love stories and language.

Some of our favourite read-alouds this year included:

(Notice a theme here? While she can appreciate more realistic stories like The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street or the Ramona and Beezus books, she definitely has more passion for fantasy. Just like her parents.)

Visual Art

art museum

Lydia is a natural-born artist, so I don’t need to do much here but make sure she’s stocked with supplies. She literally spends hours every day drawing.

We loved two books that I highly recommend: The Art Book for Children and Get Into Art: People. Both books introduce kids to influential artists in an accessible way. She can now recognize the works of Picasso or Arcimboldo thanks to these books, and they’ve inspired her to try new methods and materials.

Science

daphnia microsope(This is a daphnia under a miscroscope)

Our microscope got lots of use this year (I wrote a whole post about it a few months ago). We especially enjoyed looking at bacteria and fungus colonies; microscopic pond creatures; and snowflakes.

We did a bit of nature journaling during the warmer months.

I set up some science demonstrations, like creating sugar crystals, and using red cabbage juice to test pH levels (so cool! I wrote about it here!) She was inspired to try some of her own science experiments.

Music

Ummm . . . we listened obsessively to The Greatest Showman soundtrack? And she watched hours and hours of Lindsey Stirling’s videos on Youtube?

Whenever I brought up any kind of voice or dance lessons, she would say, “I don’t need lessons. I’m already amazing!”

She recently became interested in playing the xylophone, and was very proud when she taught herself to play Twinkle Twinkle on it.

Even though she’s already an “amazing” dancer, I’m thinking about signing her up for tap lessons in the fall.

History

museum jars

We read and really enjoyed the first half of The Story of the World, where we covered early nomadic cultures, through the Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires. She particularly enjoyed learning about the Egyptians, and was excited to see the Egyptian displays the the Detroit Institute of Arts.

(In this photo she is sticking out her tongue because she knows what gets stored in canopic jars!)

Physical Education

yoga

In the warmer months, she got lots of time playing unsupervised in the back yard, swinging and climbing. We also walk as a family regularly to the library, local restaurants, etc.

During winter she really enjoyed Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube.

Well, I think that covers all the big stuff!

Thanks for sticking around, and I wish you a relaxing summer!

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5 Things I Learned This Spring

Hi, friends! I’m joining with Emily P. Freeman and sharing a few things I learned this spring. I know there were many more things, but Felix hasn’t really let me sleep for the last two months and my brain is not totally functioning. Here are the things I could remember!

1. Red cabbage has magical properties!

red cabbage - natural dye

(I’m not talking about medicinal qualities, but fascinating scientific qualities!)

I learned this when we used red cabbage to dye our Easter eggs. Turns out, red cabbage (and the purple liquid you can boil out of it) change colour when introduced to different pH levels. Acids turn it a bright magenta; bases turn it a gorgeous turquoise. It’s quite stunning to witness.

red cabbage dye(These three glasses all contain cooked red cabbage liquid, but vinegar has been added to the cup on the far left and baking soda has been added to the cup on the far right. Magic!)

In fact, you can even make your own pH strips by soaking strips of coffee filters in the purple cabbage liquid and letting it dry. Then drip vinegar or baking soda onto the strips, and watch it change colour right before your eyes!

pH strips from reb cabbage(Both of these strips have been soaked in red cabbage water and dried, turning them purple. Then we dropped a few drops of vinegar [left] and baking soda water [right] onto the ends of bottom strip, creating these beautiful colours!)

We also had fun making little bowls of liquid change from one colour to the other and then back again, feeling like wizards in Potions class. (Check out this video I shared on Instagram to see it in action).

2. Knitting cables is not that hard!

knitting cables

I know they look fancy, but it turns out, cables are simple. If you know how to knit and purl, you can do cables, easy peasy. All you need is a cable needle to hold a few stitches to the front every so often, and the magic happens. I’m so glad I gave it a try!

If you’re a newbie knitter looking for a simple beginner cable pattern, I highly recommend this free one from Tin Can Knits.

3. Blocking covers over a multitude of sins.

blocking

Sorry that this is another knitting one, but I’ll make it quick.

“Blocking” refers to the very last step in knitting and crocheting, where you take your finished piece and shape it. There are a few ways to do it, but typically it involves soaking the piece in water, squeezing it out, and then stretching it into its proper shape and laying it flat to dry, generally held in place with pins.

Some people treat this step as optional, but I keep being surprised how important it is. I increasingly believe you should block absolutely everything. Not only does it make your piece look more tidy and professional, but you can adjust the size and shape. It helps to hide or even fix imperfections, too.

When I finished my first cabled hat, it was a little snug and tall, and many of my stitches were uneven. I was a bit disappointed. But during blocking I was able to stretch out the brim and flatten out the top, and as it dried the stitches evened out, to create a really nice-fitting, professional-looking piece! Another win for blocking!

blog

4. There’s such a thing as Messenger Lite.

I am eternally running out of space on my phone. (A natural consequence of always buying used/outdated phones). I am always needing to delete apps so that I can update the more important ones, which is a pain. (And I only use a handful of apps, mostly for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.)

When I had put off updating Facebook Messenger long enough that it no longer worked, I somehow discovered that there’s a “Lite” version that takes up much less space (and offers way less nonsense, like face filters and Facebook stories. Who even uses those??). I installed it and it works great, and I didn’t even have to delete the Weather Channel app from my phone.

5. Selfies get WAY more likes on Instagram.

sad selfie

I didn’t set out to figure out how to get more likes on Instagram. I just happened to post a few selfies within a short period of time, and I noticed the pattern (one that Laura Tremaine once described, but I hadn’t at that point experienced). Posts that include my face typically get way more attention than the rest!

And interestingly, the worse I look in them, the more positive the reaction (ha!). Okay, that’s not entirely true. I think folks just appreciate seeing an honest version of the people they follow on social media. One of my more popular posts is of my disheveled face and hair after a rough night. Another is the one I posted above, where I talk about my crappy Mother’s Day. BUT, folks also seem to like the nice ones, too, as long as it has an interesting caption.

So, selfie away! Your friends and followers want to see your face. Even (or especially) when it’s not perfectly polished and filtered.

That’s it for today! What interesting facts did you learn this season?

Spring Knitting and Crocheting (2018)

spring knitting

Here’s a philosophical question for you? What’s the point of having skills in the internet age unless you’re going to show them off to the online world?

Since I have a blog, I thought I’d share what I’ve been knitting and crocheting over the last couple of months. Please indulge me, because I love seeing other people’s finished crafts!

Most of these are wintery items, and that’s partly because we didn’t actually get real spring weather here in Canada until halfway through April. Knitting was a cheering activity when I was feeling miserable and cooped-up.

Fingerless Mittens

fingerless mitts malabrigo

Info on Ravelry here. Pattern from this book.

After I knitted Lydia a pair, a friend requested a pair as well. I ordered my first boutique yarn for the job — Malabrigo Arroyo, in the colourway Vaa — and it was positively dr-e-a-m-y to work with. Photos cannot capture the beauty of this marvelous hand-dyed yarn. The subtle variations of green — from emerald to lime to olive to aqua — shimmer like jewels in sunlight. I am completely in love.

Adult-Sized Fox Hatfox hat blog

sly fox hat adult

Info on Raverly here. Free pattern here.

After I crocheted Lydia a Sly Fox Hat, my little sister admired it so much I decided to make her an adult-sized version. (The original pattern doesn’t include an adult version, but offers some suggestions.) It took a couple of tries to get one big enough, but I finally managed it and I’m quite pleased with the finished product.

Chunky Cabled Hats

easy cabled hat

cabled hat red

Info on Ravelry here. Free Pattern here.

I really wanted to learn how to do cables, and I conveniently realized I didn’t have a nice winter hat for myself, so I bought some chunky merino yarn and knit myself a Northward hat. I added a faux fur pompom to make it super on-trend. (Because as you know, I am sooooooo trendy. Evidence: I am still writing on a blog in 2018.)

Then I knit one for my middle sister, so she wouldn’t feel left out of the homemade hat club.

Whimsy Pixie Bonnet

whimsy pixie bonnet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

….And finally, another pixie bonnet. Details on Ravelry here.

For some reason I just LOOOOVE this silhouette on young kids.

I had “inherited” some hand-spun, hand-dyed, fingering-weight alpaca wool from a friend’s grandma, and I didn’t know what to do with for the longest time. But I knew it was a really expensive, high-quality yarn that I didn’t want to go to waste. I finally landed on this pattern. I adore it. I’m a very slow knitter so it took me forever but it was worth it. And I finally had to learn how to make I-cord, and I’m a fan.

Juniper Bonnet

juniper bonnet flat

juniper bonnet

Details on Ravelry here. Pattern here. Okay, okay, one last thing. I participated in an Instagram knit-along and knit this lovely little bonnet. It was my first time knitting lace and it was a real challenge at first. But I’m delighted by the result!

Okay, that’s everything! Dang, I just realized how many new skills I learned over the course of the season. My kids definitely don’t need this much knitted headwear but I just love tackling new challenges.

Thanks for sticking around! And I always enjoy seeing/hearing about what you’re making!