Class Dismissed


Some of you know us well enough to know that up until very recently, we were pretty die-hard city mice. One of the toughest parts of our decision to leave city life behind was leaving our beloved Waldorf school. Our whole family loved the place and I was so looking forward to sending Noah there too when the time was right.

We weren’t able to find any favorable alternatives to public school when we moved to the country in July of 2013. This is why we decided to home school our kids until a better solution presented itself, or until we were ready to travel the world as a family (our long-term dream). The role of teacher fell to me, while Nekky and Sarah both work at their own jobs full time. Fast forward eight months, and the time has come to assess where we are at with our plans and our goals. We aren’t ready to take on the world just yet, so what’s the plan for September?

I’ve really enjoyed our homeschool journey, and the freedom and flexibility it has offered us. However, there is so much that I can’t give the girls that they are missing out on. Trying to balance life, work, school, toddler-rearing, is truly exhausting, so I find myself just focusing on the basics in our classroom – covering the most rudimentary subjects, leaving little time for more creative pursuits or games. The girls get two lengthy outdoor recesses, and they are terrific playmates for one another, but it’s just not the same without classmates. They miss their peer group, and I miss the school community too. It was nice interacting with other humans each day, and I miss assemblies and parent nights.

Also, any parent knows that children behave much differently at home than they do when there is a teacher to impress, and classmates to surround them. Our girls are great, but managing their quirks and challenges became really taxing. I would never in a million years sign up to become a teacher in the conventional sense, I don’t have the patience to handle so many little personalities all at once. In fact, handling two is taking all the gumption I’ve got, and I adore those two people!

If we were travelling, if there were no other options to consider locally, I would continue on with homeschool in the fall, learning from the mistakes we made this year. We’d make sure there were extra curricular activities where we could make new friends, I’d change our scheduling to focus more on each girl for longer stretches, and I’d devote one day per week to games and creativity. I’d do a lot of things differently, but we found a very interesting school in town, and so we’re going to give it a shot in the fall.

These days, homeschooling is bitter sweet. I know the end is in sight, for now anyway, so I’m trying to really enjoy the time we have, and I’m trying to relax more and make sure the girls enjoy each day. Part of me is also looking ahead to a life where my focus shifts again to other work, and finally an opportunity to focus on my writing in a fresh new way. There are lots of things unfolding here, and it feels right on so many levels.

This time with my children has been beautiful, and so valuable – as challenging as it has been rewarding. I’m so grateful that we tried this, and I hope that the next time we open the books on homeschooling, we’re living on a beach in Thailand.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from what you thought was the best plan. We’re meant to bend and stretch and grow, and something better always lies around the bend.

Teaching Tortoise and Hare


There are so many moments, like the one I’m having right now, where I sit at my desk in our cozy little classroom and I can’t believe my life. If you had told a twenty-two year-old me that I would be a stay-at-home mom who was homeschooling three kids in the middle of the country, I would have laughed. Sure, we have dreams that we’re working towards, but this really is some kind of Utopia I’m living in.

Homeschooling has proven to be an incredible challenge. There are days where I, and my pupils, have all cried in frustration. There are days where I can’t believe the immensity of the job. There are nights when I lay awake wondering if I’m doing right by our kids. Ultimately, I know that there are no other circumstances where they would receive such a quality, hands-on education, but it’s an enormous responsibility, and sometimes I shudder at the weight of it.

My daughters are opposites. This isn’t news to me, but applying this knowledge to our classroom has really proven to be my greatest challenge. Siblings, especially those close in age, are so naturally competitive.  I’ve found the girls continually trying to outdo each other, even though they are quite aware that they are in different grades. Their learning styles are so very different too, which is equal parts amazing and frustrating. Hannah, our ten-year-old is deliberate and careful and meticulous. She’s a gifted artist, and she spends vast quantities of time on a different plane, we think. This makes her very dreamy, romantic, and empathic. She’s a born nurturer and humanitarian, and her imagination is vivid and epic. As her teacher, my greatest challenge is drawing her back to the here-and-now, and keep her on point and focused. I also struggle to keep her working efficiently and completing her tasks in a timely manner. Ayla, our seven-year-old is whip-smart. She often grasps the concepts (particularly in maths) that I’m trying to teach her older sister long before Hannah does. She is wickedly funny, spirited, out-going and sassy. She’s the kid with the answer for EVERYTHING. My challenge with her is to keep her from getting bored, because that’s when she starts to get disruptive and naughty. She races through her work, often sacrificing neatness and care, and so I must always work to slow her down. If she doesn’t immediately grasp something, she gets lazy and frustrated and wants to skip on to the next thing to race through. You can imagine trying to balance both of these kids at one time is a bit mind-numbing. I don’t rightly know how teachers handle classes with multiple kids!

I forget sometimes the freedom that homeschooling, and my unique lifestyle offers. When I lean on these realities, great things can happen. Here’s how I’ve decided to approach my girls individual needs, and keep our classroom a happy, inspiring place.

I’ve turned our schedule on it’s ear. I’ve decided to work with one girl at a time, switching off between Monday and Thursday. The girl who isn’t in class spends the day “at work” with my man, who runs our family business from our home. The kid in the classroom gets a full day of one-on-one attention. This almost totally eliminates any issues of focus or behaviour. The kid “at work” learns all kinds of valuable skills, gets to contribute to our family business, and gets lots of one-on-one time with Daddy. We still do morning recess, lunch, lunch recess and afternoon snack together, and each working day ends at 3:00. Then the girls will do a household chore and relax into some screen-free playtime, as we try to only do screens on weekends.

This week was our first foray into the new schedule. I think I should mix it up, so they do get some time together, and so we can have some more opportunities for play, which I feel we may be lacking. Our new twist seems to be going very well. Once again, creativity and risk-taking prevails!

How do you handle difficult sibling dynamics?

Creating a Space for Learning – Part 2

As promised, and long overdue, some photos of our homeschool classroom! You can see the ‘before’ photos at the bottom of this post from August. Thanks to all of the helping hands (Mamma S, Chacha, Nanna, and the girls) we’ve really got something special here! 


Mamma S is the reigning queen of the chalkboard drawing. This is her first, Ayla’s Math Squirrels.


This is some of the bounty from our first nature walk in September, which happened in our own backyard!


Re-purposed baker’s racks from our Toronto kitchen provide open shelving, complete with Noah-friendly toys.

We started out with a communal table, but now thanks to Nana, each of the girls has their own proper desk and chair.

We started out with a communal table, but now thanks to Nana, each of the girls has their own proper desk and chair.


Lunch on our first day of school. We invited the nursery school to join us.


Our nature table for the month of September.

Creating a Space for Learning – Part One

How, how, how can we be approaching the end of August? I am so not ready to begin our homeschooling! I’m only halfway through familiarizing myself with the curriculum, and our classroom doesn’t exist! Thank god we have the freedom and flexibility of keeping to our own schedule!

I wanted to share some of the inspiration I found for our classroom space, and some of my ‘before’ photos with you. Our room was originally intended as a formal dining room, but we’ve never used it as such because we have such a lovely space in our kitchen where we can eat and look out over the field and forest. The dining room is lovely with gorgeous hardwood and a working fireplace, I just think the color is a bit dark and dramatic for a classroom. I’m hoping with some of Mama S’s talent we can transform it to a very soft parchment color. She’s game for this even though it took her something like ten coats of paint to get it the current deep red many moons ago. Once it’s painted, I just have to hang our black boards, and get everything unpacked and put away.

The room currently has a bit of overflow from the move – some extra furniture that doesn’t belong in there, and some musical instruments and photos from before we moved in. The plan is to empty the room of all of the things that don’t belong, take down everything on the walls, prime and paint, and then install the blackboards and our map of Canada. We don’t have a free weekend from here until god knows when so I really don’t know how this will get done. Somehow we always find a way, so I’m trying to stave off panic.

There are three educational styles that I love; Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio. All three focus on the whole child, and try to foster a passion for learning instead of ‘teaching to test’. All three also have some common ideas about classroom spaces that really make intuitive sense to me; everything should have a place and everything should be easily accessible by the children, each room should be looked at from a child’s perspective and created with their needs in mind, children should have access to the best quality materials and art supplies you can afford, children should be surrounded with as many natural materials as possible. Here are some images of classrooms that I love:







And here are my ‘before’ shots of our own classroom:

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

Wish me luck!

Create Great Theatre With Kids

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and took a crash course in driver’s ed. I was in class every day from Monday through Thursday from 9:00 until 2:30. I wanted to leave the girls with something engaging and fun to do, so I made a list of what I called ‘Boredom Busters’. 

The activity that most appealed to Hannu and Aylu was creating a play. Hannu has been devouring the McEldery Greek Mythology book, so I had the girls select a story and create a play complete with props and costumes that they would stage for our close friends and family. They chose the story of Arachne, who is turned into a spider after challenging the goddess Athena to a weaving competition.

It turned out that the girls eventually felt a little overwhelmed about committing Hannah’s sophisticated adaptation to memory, so I spent a couple of hours with them and worked through the story. When I broke the story down into parts in a “what happens next” series of questions, both girls knew almost all of the lines. We decided I would read the part of the narrator, to help out Hannah who already had three roles to portray.

They seriously blew my mind and we had so much fun with this. All I did was jog their memory and suggest some very basic staging. The rest is all their steam and attention to detail, and they were so proud and excited to present their creation. I’ve included a link to the very simple video we shot, but like all stage shows the real magic was in watching the live performance.

Some tips for creating theatre with children:

  • Let them choose a story that they are inspired by and excited about. Stick with classic tales from mythology and folklore because they tend to be very simply written. Have them create a ‘script’ based on the story.
  • Keep a well-stocked dress up box for your kids and replenish frequently with thrift store finds. Think beyond commercial characters and try to find costumes for classic characters and archetypes. Sometimes the ‘ethnic clothing’ section of a thrift store can be a gold mine!
  • Don’t hold them to memorizing lines. Instead, help them remember the story arc and the key characters. If they can re-tell the story to you, then they can create a play that brings the story from the page.
  • Encourage them to play multiple characters by changing simple costume pieces. It’s great fun for kids to explore the ways different characters move and speak.
  • Create pride in their work by having them make hand made invitations that they can issue to friends and family. Turn the play into an event they can look forward to.
  • Help them rehearse by working with them on annunciation, volume, and simple staging. Resist the urge to over-direct them or turn into a rabid ‘stage mom’. Prompt them to consider how lines might be delivered, or how their characters might feel about what is happening.
  • Get involved by helping with props, costumes, set design, but don’t take over. You’ll likely be amazed by the scope of your kids’ imagination!
  • Document the event. Make sure you get video so you can play these when your kid wins their first Tony or Oscar.