Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where's All The Homework?!

Over the summer, when we were talking about back to school, part of the conversation was about homework. Both of my girls were looking forward to it. We're all a little odd here, but I used to love homework too. I loved all the ruled lines, colourful graphs, and neat rows.

Now that Kee is in grade one, she is finally going to have homework. She's been waiting for so long. When Beege started bringing home worksheets and projects, Kee would sit down with a colouring book or paper so that she could work alongside her. Last year, she took to reading the dictionary so that she could "prepare for all the homework in grade one!"

We decided on where homework would be done, and thought of some strategies to help stay focused. We agreed that a snack would be provided, and that assistance would be available. We bought new pencils to have ready and waiting. 

Sadly, we're in week three, and still nothing. For either of them.

So we've been trying to fill the time we'd earmarked for all that homework with something that seems homeworkish. We've been watching some great movies, and coming up with activities to do surrounding them.

The Lorax is a particularly good one for this, having many themes to discuss; loyalty and friendship, the importance of environmental protection, the slippery slope of greed. Also, it's got some really great songs. We've come up with offshoot stories, drawn our favourite parts of the movie, and talked about the ways that the Onceler could have "biggerred" his business while avoiding destroying the land.

Netflix has a great selection of recommendations this month for getting conversations started.

For the big kids:

And for the little guys:
(My nephew is particularly fond of Signing Time and Thomas and Friends, while my girls still have a soft spot for Super Why.)

Hopefully, some actual homework will start coming home soon, or I'm going to have to start making my own worksheets.

Which actually sounds really fun.

Oooh... I'm going to go do up some comprehension questions...

Friday, September 12, 2014

New School, Week Two; Post Mortem.

Remember how anxious I was about school? Seems like it was unnecessary worry on my part - at least as far as the girls are concerned.

Kee loves her class. She thinks it's fantastic that she gets to bring a lunch and that the drinking fountain in her hallway has a special spigot for filling water bottles. She has three new best friends (Although, they will never replace her old house best friend), and a new arch enemy (who totally does replace the old one). She can't wait to borrow books from the library. She was thrilled to tell me that she got to go read a story that she wrote to the principal, and even received a particularly handsome fuzzy frog sticker as a mark of achievement for it. She won lollipops three days in a row for remembering to bring everything she needed to school. (Although, technically, those lollipops should be mine, since I packed the bag... but I digress.)

Beege has made some new friends, none of whose names she can remember. She has even found someone with a shared love of Pokemon and Minecraft to chat with. She has joined the cross country team (they ran past the front window during practice today!), and signed up to be a library helper. She has plans to try out for basketball. She is totally stoked that she gets a locker this year, and over the moon to be learning French. She has forgotten one item in each classroom that she's been in, but she didn't seem to see that as a bad thing.

We've had no homework for anyone yet, so I'm curious about how that will go. The notes I got home seem to imply that most of the homework will consist of making sure that they both read for at least 20 minutes a night, either alone or with an adult; which will not be an issue, considering Beege has read 3 novels this week, and Kee is on her second re-read of Jedi Academy*.

I haven't gotten to meet the teachers yet, but that's coming up with Meet the Teacher night.

On the whole, I'm feeling pretty good.

Now if I could only get the one to actually get out of bed in the morning, and the other one to stop spending an hour in the bathroom so no one else can get in there, we'd be set.

 How about you? How did your back to school go?

*There are two in the series so far, by Jeffrey Brown. She is in love with these books, and we can't wait until there're more of them so we don't have to keep reading the same two with her over, and over, and over, and over...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Just Ignore Me.

From about the second week of summer vacation, I will admit, that I was looking forward to sending the kids back to school. Don't look at me like that. At least half of you were thinking the same thing, and the other half? Well, you've either got more patience or more laid back children than I have.

My kids love each other so much. They're the first to rush to the other's defense, the first to make sure that the other is getting her fair share, and the first to bristle at perceived slights to the other. They are also, unfortunately, the first to poke at the other til she cries, the first to grab things out of the other's hand and run, and the first to tease the other until she snaps and gets in trouble.

There was a lot of that this summer, as I'm sure there was at your house. It seems to be the way of siblings, doesn't it?

This morning, they fidgeted as I braided their hair. They admired their new lunch bags. "I'm a grade now, Mummy! I stay for lunch too!" Kee said, stroking hers admiringly. They posed for the obligatory pictures.

It's a whole new school for my kids this year.

Beege went right up to the first official looking adult she found and introduced herself. She found out where she was supposed to go and looked out for "the teacher in the red dress... she's mine." She wanted us to stay with her until she went in. There were kisses and hugs.

Kee found her lineup and went to stand by herself, the only sign of her nervousness the way she was chewing on her lip as she looked around. She rolled her eyes good-naturedly when I yelled, "bye baby! Love you! Have a good day!" Apparently grade one is not too early to be embarrassed by your mum.

We dropped them off at their separate entrances, surrounded by new kids and teachers I'd never met. And I worried. Because that's what I do. Will they meet some nice kids? Do they have enough for lunch? Will they be too hot? Will they be able to find the bathroom?

I walked home with Husband, fighting tears and trying not to be an idiot. He didn't get it. Not only do we not know anyone - they don't know us.

Her new teacher won't recognise that the stubborn jutting of Kee's chin that really means that she's nervous or uncomfortable. Her new teacher might not think it's charming that Beege sometimes hums and nods at the ends of sentences, and doesn't always remember to look at the person she's talking to.

They don't love them yet.

I'm sure they will. My kids are charming, and interesting, and lovable. Just like most other kids, when you get to know them. But they don't yet.

And so, today,  I'll worry.

I'll sit around in my pajamas and watch YouTube videos instead of doing anything that might take my concentration off of the girls and hoping their day is going well. I'll be there ten minutes early to pick them up so that they don't have to spend a second wondering where I am. We'll order pizza and I'll get as much as I can out of them about their days. I'll ask about teachers, and classrooms, and other kids. I'll ask about the library and the music room. We'll play a game together and then get everyone ready for bed.

And tomorrow, most likely, I'll worry a little less.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stymied Summer Adventures.

This summer has not been awesome so far as adventures go.

Let me re-phrase that.

This summer has not been awesome so far as kid-type adventures go. As far as grown-up adventures go, it's been pretty epic. It's not every day you buy a house, move your family, have to find new routes to work, transfer services, take care of your yard, pay property taxes...

Other than the moving part, though, most of that is grown-up stuff. Not even so much "adventure" as much as just... new.

It's one of those things where I feel like I let them down, but they seem fine.

I have this vision (the dreaded, un-live-up-to-able vision) of what summer should be for my kids, and this was not it. There was no camping. There were no day trips. We didn't explore any woods or caves. Heck, we didn't even get out much. 

This time, I'm going to feel bad for five minutes, tell myself that they're perfectly happy playing in their new playroom, and then just let it go.  The move highjacked the summer*. End of story. Hopefully, next summer's story will be a bit more interesting.

While we've been sitting around being boring (aka: unpacking and setting up our house), I've been letting the kids share in the adventures of some of these guys. 

1. The Adventures of Tintin
2. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
3. Tad: The Lost Explorer
4. The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure
5. National Treasure
6. Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure

The number of pirate maps, scavenger hunts, and secret codes I've been asked to assist with has dramatically increased.

How about you? Any big summer adventures this year? Tell me all about it, so I can live vicariously through you.

*Although we did get to take a couple of weekends off from the work to watch some of our people get married. Congrats again, Juls! You too, Mack!

Friday, August 15, 2014

I Think I'll Name It Chuck.

Let's not talk about boxes today. Oh, okay, one quick whine about the boxes. This is my view from here:

Alright. That's out of the way.

So. I haven't mentioned it, because I've been too busy whining about the boxes, but I have a new love in my life.

I have always preferred a paper book, so much that I've resisted getting an e-reader. There's something about physically turning pages that I appreciate. I am an enormous fan of the public library and always have been. At our old place, the library was a quick walk away, and I was there at least twice a week.

Here, the library is a not so quick walk away; and while I know my kids could totally do it, whether they could do it without whining and arguing is another matter. Suddenly e-readers are looking more appealing.

So I was thrilled when my friends at Staples asked me if we'd like to test out a Kindle Fire HD.

It was fairly easy to set up, once I realised I needed to set up an Amazon account (even if you only ever plan to use it for free apps...), and I'm about as tech savvy as a pencil.

You'll also need an app for downloading books. I went with Overdrive, which thankfully has many step by step instruction pages out there (here's one). I also had to set up an Adobe account so that I could read the books once I had them. Phew.

Once I had all of that set up, I went straight to the library website and managed to download three copies of the same book because I couldn't find it on my "bookshelf". (I've gotten better since then.)

It's not entirely intuitive, especially the book borrowing, but once you've got it, it really is pretty easy. I've found there is quite an extensive collection of both e-books and audio books to choose from, and you can even place holds on downloads. 

I also put Netflix on it. The screen is amazing. I've watched movies on my iPad, and I'll tell you, the Kindle (while smaller) was much clearer. The sound on this thing is fabulous too, not the least bit tinny.

So I've found my new best friend. I was sick in bed for a couple of days, and I was not bored once. I read a book, played some games (Temple Run 2 is super fun) and chewed through season three of Downton Abbey (Waiting for season five is going to kill me).

I love the idea of having it loaded up with books for everyone. We're the type of people who like to have a nice variety of things to read at any given time, and having one small item rather than a bag of heavy books is so nice that I'm wondering why I resisted for so long.

I've even let the kids use it.

Of course, now there's a new problem. Whose turn is it to use the Kindle?

*Staples Canada provided me with a Kindle Fire HD for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Totally Called It.

He caved.

(Of course, it's been raining for two days, so our lawn still looks like wilderness; but soon, neighbours. I promise.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Rose, By Any Other Name, Still Needs an Accurate Label.

You know what seemed really funny at two in the morning the night before we moved? Labeling boxes like this.