Words + Pictures = Books

We have been excited to dig into our new math book over the past couple of weeks. E just started the Singapore Math program and so far she is finding it just right for her. She has been studying mass and equalities vs. inequalities.

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I like that each section starts with an example of the problems and answers. It seems to be what E needs to understand what she has to do and then get into the lesson.

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It was a rainy week and so we filled our time with trips to the library, rainy jumps and thankfully the occasional sunny breaks on the trampoline and we built a new reading fort in a poorly used closet under the stairs. First of all we pulled out the jumbled large items that were needlessly stored there and moved a few things to the donation pile. Then we collected some large cushions and extra area rugs to make a cozy nook.


We brought in a shelf and our big bag of library books.

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We hung up a couple of tablecloths for a door and to hide the remaining storage then created some artwork to hang on the wall and decorate the space. Voila! A new hideaway in which to read while the rain falls outside.


Of the fantastic books we are reading this week there are 3 that are so great I have to share!

1. Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes  – This is a great concept book without words!IMG_1580

Although you can leave your pre-readers alone with this book and see what they come up with; I found that sitting together and looking for the clues was an engaging process and that allowed me to see how much they could inference from the pictures. On the first page we see posters for the circus and then through the use of colour and light we notice a little girl coming to sit at the bus stop. Notice how she stands out from the others? While the other people are grey and immersed in their own activities, the girl is looking around and is amazed by what she sees! On every page there is an obvious picture and a more subtle or “hidden” picture. I pointed out the sign for the tightrope walker here and let my children draw the conclusions.


We all enjoyed this book so much that it’s really hard to highlight just a few pages but this has to be one of our favourites. If you look at the various people in the scene they are doing ordinary activities but their shadows are doing something rather different 🙂 I don’t want to give away all the secrets so please go check this one out at the library for yourself or order it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Sidewalk-Circus-Paul-Fleischman/dp/076362795X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366648183&sr=8-1&keywords=sidewalk+circus


2. Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex – this book grabbed me on the title page…IMG_1586

…I absolutely love this little clay picture of the author introducing himself!


From good to better, turn the page and we have the dedication and the author introducing the illustrator.


And then the opposing page shows the illustrator with pen in hand and introduces the main character! This book is so witty and unique that we thoroughly enjoyed reading and re-reading it. It is a great book for introducing the parts of a book and literature vocab like “author”, “illustrator” and “main character”.


I think this might have been my favourite page. I love the total departure from the story and the egotism, power struggle and general argumentativeness of this dialogue. I can hear my kids making their own version of this over and over again and I think we will get many years out of this one! At Amazon: /www.amazon.com/Chloe-Lion-Mac-Barnett/dp/1423113349/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366648687&sr=1-1&keywords=chloe+and+the+lion


3. A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton – I had to include this one because it was such a perfect fit with with our co-op study on South Africa and the global poverty awareness that we are building in our kids.


This book has lovely illustrations of children living rural life in Africa and even depicts one character with a prosthetic leg. There are great jumping off points for discussion here and it was such a timely book that we really enjoyed it. The final conclusion of this book is the children of the village receiving new shoes from an aid worker. As we have spent several co-op sessions creating products to sell to raise funds for Food for the Hungry, I loved that this book showed the end result of raising money to help those in the developing world.


And wrapping up a quiet week, Daddy recruited E to help him assemble the new BBQ Grill. She loves Mechano and Lego and is becoming quite skilled at using a socket set and a few other tools as well.



That was our week and despite the many days indoors – it was another great learning adventure! What do you like most about rainy days?

Secret Agents – Mission Possible

So our week was all about a certain middle child’s birthday! Happy 5th Birthday D! First up was his actual birthday celebrated with family and his big sister happy to make him a card and read all of the other cards to him.


He decided/ Mommy suggested we would have a Secret Agent party. This was a great theme and everyone got involved in selecting items for the goody bags,


…creating the goody bags by drawing and colouring our criminal masterminds on paper-bags,


…and setting up the decorations for a Top Secret Birthday Misssion!


Finally the day of the party and we brought an excited group of soon-to-be spies home. We were about to sit down for lunch we when found a Top Secret Memo on our table telling us that Secret Ingredients from our domestic laboratory had been stolen by a gang of nefarious Criminals. The memo said our Secret Agents had 20 minutes to find the clues and rescue the Secret Ingredients before the crooks could detonate the bomb they had set.


With great enthusiasm and focus our Secret Agents set off to find the clues hidden throughout our home base.


Each clue had a letter on the back and the final clue was a message explaining that their next task was to use the pattern clues on each letter card to spell out a word that would tell them where the secret ingredients could be found. Our young Agents did a fantastic job of spotting the matching patterns and our older Agent Trainers read the word and rushed to rescue the secret ingredients!


Mission accomplished!


Now that we had our ingredients the Agents washed up and prepared to assemble their own pizzas. Despite a large range of choices I believe almost everybody had Ham & Pineapple! 🙂


After lunch it was time for more party fun and we ran the agents through our laser training course. The course increased in difficulty with each round and culminated with the invisible white yarn pattern that was the most difficult level. Almost everyone was able to complete the course without touching the lasers!



Following the laser course we had the obstacle course with a plasma car drive up the hallway, chairs to circle in the kitchen, under the little tykes slide, over the couch, across the balance beam, 5 jumps on the trampoline and a race back to the beginning.



With more energy used up it was time to refuel and so Operation Cupcakes commenced! The children were given icing, sprinkles, and ninjas (licorice babies) to put on their cupcakes. They were also warned to be on the lookout for suspicious or unusual cupcake behaviour and sure enough…


… with further investigation they discovered treasure hidden inside their cupcakes!


They actually ate their cupcakes as well as the icing and because we had one coin that had a colour pattern on it, we were able to choose who got to give their gift to the birthday boy first.

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We kept our numbers down for this party with a total of  7 kids  (including mine) and it was a really fun day! All the kids were picked up happy and ready to do it again – I love a birthday without tears!!! 🙂

One down, two to go…

Getting creative and doing the Craft Factory

In co-op this week we talked briefly about South Africa again and the social inequality that exists there. To continue with our social justice/ global action project we set up our craft factory again to make felt accessories to sell.

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After working hard to create headbands, broaches, bow-ties and super hero wristbands it was time for a break and the kids played some favourite games outside for recess.


After recess we came in to do a literature lesson on making predictions. I had left a note in our circle area and when we gathered I read it aloud to the kids. “Dear Co-op kids, I came by to deliver a special parcel from South Africa that looks very yummy, but since you weren’t here I hid it somewhere for you. Ms. C knows the hiding place and will answer your questions to give you clues and help you find it. Happy Hunting. Love the mailman.” Before they could look for the parcel I told them we needed to practise our detective skills and see if we could make predictions using our prior knowledge. I had stapled several paper lunch bags closed with common objects hidden inside and a simple clue about the object on the outside. Each bag was passed around and the children were able to examine it by shape, weight and the clue to try and figure out what was inside.IMG_1554 IMG_1553

They wrote their predictions down in their journals then after passing the bag to each person we opened it up and revealed the item.

IMG_1366They loved the game and were so excited when I said that their detective skills seemed ready for the big parcel hunt. Apparently the “mailman” underestimated their sleuthing skill because one clue and approximately 3 seconds later they found a package of candy sent to us by our SA friends in a previous parcel!IMG_1370

So with a big candy finish that was our Monday at co-op!

Lamb, Lion, Saviour – Reflections of Faith

This is a departure from my usual format of school-focussed blog entries. As I was writing our March entry the metaphor below kept tickling my mind and heart and I just had to write about it 🙂

A final reflection on Easter and the explanation for my title. It is one of those years that Easter showed up in March but given the whole Lamb and Lion imagery used to describe March weather I think it’s a fitting metaphor for Easter.

At Easter we often talk about Jesus the lamb of God, slain to take away the sins of the world. I love this image of Jesus as heart rending as it is. It grabs my emotions and says “do not forget how innocent he was and how cruel his death was!” That being said, I think we need to see him as the Lion of Judah image within the Lamb as well. How brave and incredibly noble was his death! How bold his claim, and how deep his faith.

Jesus faced down a world of sins present, past and future and suffered unimaginably so that we could claim salvation. I don’t want to get into any debates with you about whether or not we are sinful – spend time with a 2 year old answer that one for yourself 🙂 The Father sacrificed his son for the rest of his human creation and yet time and time again we refuse this amazing grace! This gift freely given so that we might know true love. Why do we respond with cynicism and mockery? Why are we afraid to embrace this unfathomable truth?

As Easter is now past tense, we are even less likely to ponder on these things but in this tiny corner of the blogosphere I hope to encourage you and remind you that God’s love for us is AMAZING, AWESOME and AVAILABLE to all!

I serve a risen saviour,


Marching to the beat of our own drums!

We are going to do a summary of March as it flew by and now need to get back into school mode with April rolling in! We started off our month with an Irish theme learning about the history of St. Patrick and St. Declan and taking a class in traditional Irish dance with some friends.

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Next E participated in a drama camp putting on a musical production of the bible story of Naaman. The story in 60 seconds or less: Naaman, a great general who contracts leprosy and is out of medical options when a servant points him to Elisha, a prophet in Israel who has done great miracles. Naaman goes to see him, bathes in the Jordan river 7 times and is miraculously healed.

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The camp was really well organized and the kids had a great time learning their lines and stage directions as well as time to do crafts and play outside each day!

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And then the big performance! The families with children in the camp were encouraged to invite as many people as they could to use the story as an outreach. So before the performance the whole cast and crew bowed heads and offered all the glory of the night to God, that this play would be their worship and service to Him.


E was one of Naaman’s servants who accompanied him on the journey. She had quite a few lines and even a duet with her co-servant near the end of the play!


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With the weekend came some family time and a trip to our local historical fort. We love roasting bannock around the campfire, learning about indigenous people and animals, playing with the sheep and goats and panning for gold!


We’ve had some beautiful spring weather here so we spent as much time outdoors as we could. We went to the zoo…

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and the park…

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Then an Easter egg hunt with friends…

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E is always and enthusiastic artist and dedicated herself to making beautiful detailed easter eggs.


And to finish off the month we drove 14 hours north to see E’s great-grandparents on their working ranch. I have to say I LOVE road trips. The endless hours in the car are tiresome – I can’t deny it, but I love the deeper conversations I have with my husband, I love the freedom of the open road and the chance to veer off the beaten path once in awhile, I love listening to audiobooks with my family and enjoy hearing my kids role play out the stories with their action figures/ stuffies/ Barbies in the backseat and I love playing 20 questions with my kids. Which by the way, I actually managed to stump the scientist/ father-person on my turn. I chose a thing, it was dark out and I randomly chose the stars. It was hilarious watching him over analyze and logic his way through every combustible gas that is useful to humans before he finally gave up!

At the end of 2 days on the road we were there and the kids couldn’t wait to get dirty!  We spent lots of time outdoors with the sunny warm weather and the  animals.

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E and her brother discovered that soft spring snow doesn’t slide as well as mid-winter snow 🙂 They started getting their saucers out and heading outside first thing every morning to take advantage of the overnight dip in temp and better sledding conditions 🙂


There was also some art as we decorated cakes with a grown-up cousin.


And one of the highlights of E’s trips to the ranch is always going horse-back riding!IMG_1196 IMG_1225

We discovered that E is actually a really good farm-hand. She was enthusiastic in helping Great-Grandad with the chores, feeding the cows, tagging them and even watching calves being born! There seems to be almost nothing about animals that she doesn’t enjoy!

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We are so blessed to have great-grandparents to love on us and pass on their wisdom to this new-fangled, high-tech generation!


On the drive home we saw many wild and domestic animals; eagles, hawks, deer, cows, sheep, goats, llamas and horses but the most exciting animal spotting was these big-horn sheep that we saw by Spence’s Bridge. We stopped and watched them for awhile amazed at their climbing abilities and just enjoying watching these more uncommon critters!IMG_1334 IMG_1342

That was our month in a nutshell 🙂 Our schoolwork was mostly journalling our adventures and math on the go. E’s addition facts are totally tight now and her multiplication is getting much stronger!