An Exciting Announcement!


It has been five and a half years since we moved to this property.

When we bought this place, the plan was to live in the little mobile home for a couple of years and then build an environmentally friendly home. But life has a way of throwing obstacles in one’s path, and that was certainly the case for us. After an aborted attempt to get started two years ago, and with the ancient mobile rapidly deteriorating before our eyes, I’m thrilled to announce that we are FINALLY building a house!!!

I have not been keeping up with my blogging of late, but now I will be reporting regularly on the build, documenting the process and the unique design of the home. What’s unique about it, you may ask?

Well, I noted above that I wanted an “environmentally friendly” home, but what that means has changed for me over the years. If there is an upside to waiting so long, it’s that I’ve had ample time to do my research into “green building” and I’ve changed a few things along the way. There are a few unique design elements in the plans, and in some ways I have ended up going against the grain of current thinking around green building practices. I’ll be happy to detail this in future posts and to document the success (or failure!) of our design in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, my life is about to get a whole lot busier! But I am so thrilled to finally be at this point, that no amount of work can get me down!


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If David Bowie’s voice isn’t running through your head after reading that title, you’re probably a lot younger than I am!


I’ve been thinking a lot about changes lately.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize that I’m entering a new phase in my life. The children are increasingly able to be left at home alone, and my mother has moved to our area and now serves as a handy (and free!) babysitter. This has opened up many possibilities that have been closed to us since we became parents almost 13 years ago, and I find myself marvelling at newfound freedoms after so many years of being needed at home with the children.

As I’ve thought about the changes this is bringing to my lifestyle, I’ve looked back on my life and realized that such changes have been occurring pretty regularly since the time I was very small. In fact, I can break it down rather accurately to a major lifestyle change approximately every 10 years. My goals, my responsibilities, and my level of freedom have changed with each decade and have brought with them a dramatically new lifestyle. I’m reminded of that saying “You can have it all, but not all at once“, and I’ve come to conclude that it describes my life quite well. This realization has brought a sense of deep gratitude and satisfaction. Each and every stage has been wonderful in its own way. Before I get tired of my life, I’m on to something completely different. It brings a colourful perspective to life, and a sense of adventure, too.


My 50th birthday is less than 3 years away, and as I approach my sixth decade I’m enjoying thinking about the five that have come before it:

The first decade of my life was childhood, with its utter dependence on my parents. Luckily, I had good ones. I had a good home and a safe and happy life. My lifestyle revolved around elementary school; the rest was either play or following my parents’ agenda (music lessons, vacations, etc). The second decade of my life was high school and university undergrad. My freedom and independence slowly grew (not fast enough for me most of the time!). High school had a tangible goal (to get into University), and University undergrad meant freedom from parental rules and total ownership of my education.

The third decade of my life was filled with graduate school (Masters and PhD degrees). I no longer lived with my parents, and I spent a good deal of my free time socializing with friends (parties and night clubbing) and enjoying my hobbies (horseback riding and hanging out at the barn). I look back on fondly on this time: the world was my oyster, I had total freedom, and I had no responsibilities for anyone other than myself. It was the All About Me decade!

In the transition between the third and fourth decade of my life, I launched my career as a research scientist and got myself into a position where I was basically set. I had established myself and made good connections in my field. Had I continued, I would have enjoyed a solid and respectable career. But as the fourth decade rolled in I met my future husband, got married, and had two children. It’s a cliche, but a true one: having kids completely changed my life. From the moment my daughter was born my entire focus shifted to my children. I was no longer the centre of the universe and I didn’t even care. I experienced a love so profound, and a calling to motherhood that was so strong, that nothing else really mattered anymore. I’d had the All About Me decade, I’d achieved my goal of establishing a career, and I was ready to move on to something completely different.

Babies and toddlers are all-consuming. For a while, I forgot what it was like to walk around without the weight of a child on my back or in my arms. My purses became covered in dust; instead, I kept a full diaper bag ready to go at all times. Leaving the house was a massive exercise in project management, and my days were filled with other mothers and babies and child-centred activities. I didn’t sleep much, I was exhausted most of the time, but my heart was full of a joy I’d never known before.

As the kids became capable of dressing, feeding, toileting, and washing themselves and more independent in their learning, my time began to free up somewhat. As my fifth decade progressed, I was able to read books again and I took up hobbies such as knitting, quilting, and sewing. We bought our acreage and I began studying and planning for a small permaculture-based farm. I even took on a part-time job but, as with all my newfound activities, it was based from home.


I’m now approaching my sixth decade, and I’m seeing some big changes ahead. Miss Em is completely independent at home and can babysit her brother during the day; at night they can go to my mother’s house. Mr. Boo is attending the learning centre 2 full days per week. This means that my free time can now encompass things that take place outside the home. I’ve been volunteering with a local non-profit organization and have recently taken on a leadership role. I’m really enjoying the interactions with other adults and working together for a common goal. I’ve started hanging out at our office one day a week to assist with tasks and sit in on a number of meetings that my role requires me to attend. I’ve been able to spend more time with Husband, sans enfants, which is also a pretty new experience for us. This newfound freedom is set to grow even further this fall, when Mr. Boo will be joined at the learning centre by his sister, and both will attend 3 days per week. For the first time since becoming a mother, I will experience what it’s like to not have children at home during the day (thankfully, they will still be around most of the week!).

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities for myself, and my changing role as a mother. Homeschooling has been such a big part of my job for the last 12 years, but I’m beginning to view myself as the mother of children who attend school part-time. I’ve enjoyed our homeschooling journey immensely, and I feel my children have been given a unique and wonderful first decade, full of unstructured learning, unconditional love, and emotional security. The next decade brings changes for all of us. But as with each new decade of change, I greet this one with excitement, enthusiasm, and gratitude. Bring on the next adventure!

goldfish jumping out of the water

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What Easter Means to Me


Today is Easter Sunday. Millions of church-goers are heading off to services, dressed in their Sunday best. The story of death and resurrection is an ancient tale that stretches back in time long before the Christian version, and my guess is that one would be hard pressed to find a culture from any period in our history that didn’t celebrate the arrival of Spring.

Five years ago, our family left big city living and moved to these 4 acres on a wooded hillside, nestled among the trees of the pacific northwest. For the first time, I was living close enough to Nature to start noticing and experiencing the cycle of life. We arrived at the end of February and, eager to get to know our property and the flora and fauna that lived here, I spent many hours walking in the forest and open areas around our home. I discovered vanilla leaf when I noticed dozens of shoots rising out of the forest floor like a tiny army of green sticks. I found wild nettles, and pacific bleeding hearts, and western trillium. I could not get over the birdsong that filled the air – sweet melodies from thrushes and sparrows, raucous raven calls, and the staccato laughter of the woodpeckers.


That first year, everything was new; but each year after that, as Spring came again, I found that some of the new had become the familiar. I saw the same signs of life appearing in the woods and trees. I began to understand how our ancient ancestors must have viewed the world and the passage of time. The notion of a circle, a cycle of seasons, became so much more vivid to me. I felt that sense of comfort in seeing the cycle begin anew each year. There was something reassuring and satisfying in seeing the same sequence of plants rising from the earth after the winter, to hear that the birds had returned safely from their winter journey.

After five years here, I still experience that sense of joy and excitement when I see the signs of Spring. In the winter, we turn inward and thoughts are of hearth and home. But in the Spring, the sunshine and warmth pulls us outdoors and we get to rediscover the plants and sounds that we’d not given thought to for so many months.


Today was such a day. I awoke to a gorgeous sunny morning, and I couldn’t help but grab the leash and take the dog for a walk right away. The birds were singing, and the sun felt wonderful on my face. I saw buds on the bushes all along the side of the open trailway, as though someone had sprinkled green confetti over the landscape. I saw trillium plants, and cherry blossoms, and the long, lush maple blossoms hanging heavy from the trees. I thought about Easter, and the countless generations of people who have lived closer to Nature than any one of us today, how much more powerful and comforting those signs of Spring must have been to them, and how much more a cause for celebration.

Growing up, I spent far too many Sunday mornings sitting in a church, bored and restless, to ever consider doing so of my own accord again. I often take a walk through the forest on a Sunday morning and think about how much more that feels like worship and prayerful connection for me than being within the physical and spiritual confines of a religious institution. The tall, bare trunks of the Douglas Firs rise like columns in a cathedral. The birds are my choir, the scent of the damp earth is my incense, and my heart feels light. It seemed a fitting way to spend this Easter Sunday morning.

As I walked, I thought about the seasonal cycle of Nature and how it stands in contrast to the way of manmade things. Cities and landscapes are always changing and growing. The house I grew up in is no longer there, replaced many decades ago by new homes that hold no memories for me. The tiny farm that sat on my street when I was a teenager, the last of its kind in that neighbourhood, long ago yielded to condos. My university campus has been in a construction boom for 20 years, and even those who still work there comment on how much keeps changing. None of these things ever go back to the way they were. And so I think we modern people tend to view life as linear, as a path stretching endlessly into the future, with no way back to the past and no way of predicting what it will look like in times to come.


But Nature isn’t like that. We get to revisit the past each year. The bleeding heart blossoms that dotted the forest floor last year were all but forgotten until I saw the leaves and buds the other day. I get to re-experience the tender green leaves of wild nettles, the thrill of waking up to a morning filled with birdsong after almost forgetting that such music could be heard. In this worldview, the future is not entirely unknown. I know that the trilling buzz of hummingbirds will become more frequent, especially when the elder flowers bloom. My magnolia tree is about to burst forth in colour. Our forest, which has been bright and open all winter, will close up as the branches fill with leaves and the grasses and shrubs cover the ground with a thick, tall mattress of growth. There is something comforting and reassuring about this perspective, and I understand why our ancestors centred their feasts and celebrations around the cycle of the seasons.

Easter is many things to many people, but for me it is about the celebration of Spring. It is the renewal of life after the death of winter. I can still remember the brackens turning brown and slowly tumbling to the ground last fall, and yet now I see tall stalks rising up, bright green and full of life and the promise of summer. But Easter is also a reminder that life can be viewed as a cycle and not as an endless line stretching ahead into the unknown. I love the connection to the earth that moving here has brought me, and so for me Easter is also now a celebration of thanks for that, for this place that has won my heart and to which I feel more connected than any other place I have lived.


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Good Times with my Big Girl


The positive effects of Mr. Boo attending his new learning centre twice a week continue to ripple throughout our family. One of the many great things is that now I have two full days a week to spend alone with Miss Em. We’ve been making the most of it, especially with this wonderful weather we’ve been having.

First, we set out for a walk and some geocaching. I used to go on woods walks with the kids when they were little, but when they got a bit older the whining started and I soon learned that if I wanted to enjoy myself and not come home drained and frazzled, I’d best go by myself! But lately she has decided that maybe walking isn’t so bad, and with geocaching she gets to enjoy the thrill of the hunt as well. One of the things I like about geocaching is that you get to see places you probably wouldn’t know about or go to otherwise. We found some lovely trails not too far from here, and logged 4 cache finds that day. Here she is perched on a large stump, tucked into the side of which was one of the caches we found.


The next day I took her to see a special concert by the Victoria Symphony that was put on for school-aged children. We arrived at the theatre to see about half a dozen huge school buses unloading hordes of kids. It was chaos! We homeschoolers also had a section reserved, and it was great fun to pass through the yelling teachers and children marching in line to get to our group. We were well represented, with two rows of seats taken up by homeschoolers! The concert was themed on Nature. Miss Em recognized Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Greig’s Peer Gynt (“that morning song”), and we especially enjoyed the final number: John Williams’ theme to Jurassic Park.

The day after that, Mr. Boo was back at “school” (despite the negative connotations that word has for homeschoolers, it’s the simplest way to refer to it) and me and Miss Em took a field trip to the Royal Museum of BC in Victoria. We went with a mother-and-son duo: I’m great friends with the mum and Miss Em is great friends with the son, so much fun was had! The kids wandered through the galleries, and the grownups followed – it’s the first time I’ve been there and been able to look at exhibits I’m interested in, even if my kids aren’t!

The photo below shows the kids at a photographic exhibit – this station asked them to come up with thoughts about what happened before or after the photo was taken. Miss Em ignored their instructions and drew a picture of a lion (since the photo had lions). I noticed that a few other kids had skipped the instructions and done their own thing on the papers provided. I thought it was funny: I think these “educational” activities are often rather contrived, and the kids saw right through it. It was fun to see a few other rebel souls doing their own thing with the exhibit!


After seeing the exhibits we watched an IMAX movie about the Mars Mission, then headed to a nearby Board Game cafe. I’ve never been to one before and it was very cool. They had hundreds of board games, many that were relatively new and modern, and for a flat rate you can stay and play as long as you want. It’s a great way to try out a game before you buy it, and there is a small cafe too. We dropped the kids off there and went to a nearby Oyster Bar for a “buck a shuck” special. I absolutely love raw oysters and it was a very special treat to indulge (another bonus of not bringing the younger child)! When we got back to the cafe, we decided to play Cards Against Humanity with the kids. Fortunately, both our families are very open with our kids about sexuality (as in, we answer any and all questions matter-of-factly) and while a few of the cards drew some blushes, we had a great time and many laughs (and Miss Em won!).

board game

I have to confess that the respite earned by having Mr. Boo at the learning centre has shown me just how difficult a task I was faced with trying to homeschool both kids. His limitations in terms of what he can tolerate, and my tendency to shy away from situations where he might act out in public, have affected our homeschooling in ways I probably wasn’t ready to admit. For Miss Em and myself, it has meant more time together, and more outings doing things that I would not normally be able to do with him in tow. This past week has been really wonderful, and I’m so happy to have these opportunities.


Categories: family life, Homeschooling, Miss Em | Leave a comment

What exactly is a Learning Centre, anyway?


In my last post, I talked about the new learning centre that Mr. Boo is attending. Some people might be confused about how a learning centre fits in with the concept of homeschooling, so I thought it might be helpful to discuss the role of learning centres in homeschooling.

Families who choose homeschooling are usually dissatisfied with the school system, and often try to avoid duplicating the classroom environment. However, as local homeschooling communities grow, they soon realize that having a place you can go – to hang out, learn together, do crafting or chemistry experiments, or listen to a local expert do a show and tell about something interesting – can be very handy. In my years of homeschooling I’ve been involved in several attempts to find such a place, and it can be challenging.

The facility needs to be available during the day, child friendly and preferably baby-proof since the families attending have kids of all ages, have tables and chairs that can be set up as needed, a kitchenette is very handy, and storage is an often overlooked need. It gets really tedious to cart bins of projects and supplies back and forth, and families have to shuffle them around when they can’t attend due to illness or whatever.

If someone has a suitable home, with enough room for everybody, that is a possible solution. But it puts a lot of pressure on the host family, and if they are ill or otherwise unavailable it can mean a cancelled day.

The next step up is to find a community space, but as anyone who has been involved in a non-profit organization knows, such spaces are usually costly. Parents may chip in for the cost, or if the families belong to the same funded homeschooling program (here in BC they are called Distributed Learning programs), that program may provide some funding for the space. Our DL program supported our community in setting up such a space a couple of years ago, but it lasted only one year due to rising rental and insurance costs for the facility, lack of other options in our area, and changes to the DL funding policies. It also required a huge amount of work on the part of the parents involved, and ultimately it folded.



Another challenge for homeschoolers often occurs when the children reach adolescence. While the younger set is happy to participate in family-oriented get togethers with children of all ages, the older kids like to be around other kids closer in age to themselves, with activities that are geared toward their interests. They also love a bit of independence thrown in, such as the ability to go across the street to a coffee shop to grab some pastries! We had a great teen group in our area that met in the centre of a small town where the kids could walk to nearby shops; the space was comfy and had a kitchen and was a great hang out for the parents and kids. Sadly, we lost the space and some of the families “aged out” and it hasn’t been put back together just yet.

The next step beyond a parent-organized space is a learning centre that is run by an organization. Such a centre might best be described a small private school that is geared towards homeschoolers, who generally only want part time programs, perhaps one or two days a week at the most, and who are not looking for school-style academic instruction, but support and facilitation for project-based and learner-directed learning. We are very fortunate in our area to have a number of such centres sprouting up here. They offer a wide range of programs, workshops, and activities for homeschooling families. Some require enrolment on a term-by-term basis whereas others operate on a drop-in basis. Some invite entire families to participate, while others provide full child supervision and parents can just drop the kids off and go.




Finally, there is the issue of homelearners with special needs. The incidence of autism is such that learning centres and special schools for kids with autism are popping up all over the place, it seems. There are two such schools in our area, though they are both a long commute away for us. Also, when I last enquired, they did not allow part-time attendance, which rules them out as desirable options for many homeschooling families. Because families in BC with children on the autism spectrum are eligible for funding from various sources, such programs are usually set up to accept direct funding from those sources.

The distinction between “learning centre” and “small private school” can get a bit blurry. I use the term “school” to refer to a program that runs 4 or 5 days a week, enrols children on a term or semester basis, is not set up for whole families to participate, and has a program of learning and activities that is set up by the administrators and in which full participation is generally required in order to attend. I use the term “learning centre” to refer to a facility that is set up for families to come together with children of all ages for activities related to learning, or a more school-like situation that is only available on a part-time basis (once or twice a week).

In summary, every learning centre is different. They range from programs designed and executed entirely by the parents for no other reason than they wanted to make it happen, to government-funded programs run by organizations that offer alternative educational opportunities. Learning centres can be a valuable way for local homeschoolers to come together and connect, to learn together and grow as a community. They can also provide support for homeschooling parents who are finding it difficult to keep up with their kids’ growing interests, or who need respite for whatever reason.


Categories: Education, Homeschooling, rethinking education | Leave a comment

Growing His World


Over the years that we have been homeschooling, I have tried taking Mr. Boo to any number of classes, activities, clubs, and field trip groups and we have always ended up dropping out. Gymnastics, swimming lessons, kung fu, clay, therapeutic riding, young naturalists’ club…you name it, we’ve probably tried it, and the pattern goes a little something like this.

“Hey, Mr. Boo, do you think you would like to do [insert activity here]?”

“Yeah, that would be awesome!”

At the first lesson or outing, he would be all excited and enthusiastic. By the third lesson he’d be lukewarm, by the fifth or sixth lesson we’d have constant battles just to get him out the door, and his behaviour would become really disruptive for the rest of the class/group. Eventually the stress of it all would get too much for us and we’d quit. I kept thinking that time and maturity would solve these issues, but the pattern just kept repeating.

Two years ago he started attending an after-school program for kids with autism at a local centre for people with disabilities. The staff there are amazing. When his behaviour became a problem, they saw it as an opportunity to learn how to better support him. He was always accepted, never judged, and always supported. Eventually we made it past the “I hate it” stage, and the battles to get out the door, and he began to enjoy going there. He made friends, and now he looks forward to seeing them each week.

He goes twice a week for 3 hours each time. They often go to the park or some local venue, and on days when the kids get out of school early for teacher training, they take field trips to fun places like the indoor playground in the neighbouring “big city”. I used to take my kids there and places like it when they were younger, and it was always a very stressful experience for me. I had to stick so close to Mr. Boo, when what I really wanted was to sit with all the other mums and socialize. Plus, when Mr. Boo inevitably would shove some kid down a slide or whatever, it was extremely stressful for me (I am a very non-confrontational person) and I often ended up in tears dragging my crying child to the car. With the after-school program, he got to have a blast at one of his favourite places and I didn’t have to deal with the stress (the staff, not being as emotionally involved as a parent, deal with this stuff as part of their job and handle it well).

With the success of the after-school program, I felt he was ready to expand his horizons a bit more, get out in the world more, but I was stumped. I felt like we had tried and tried and nothing seemed to work for him, and I was tired of the struggles and battles. It was slowly dawning on me that perhaps I was in over my head when it came to giving him “more”. Project-based homeschooling is great, and we’ve all got this life-at-home thing down pat; it’s relatively peaceful at home for the most part (given that we have two kids on the spectrum). But it has seemed clear lately that he is ready for more, perhaps even eager for it without knowing exactly what “it” is. It’s that parental instinct that tells you it’s time to move to the next level, that your kid is ready. But I didn’t know what that would look like, or how to do it.

The answer came in the form of a new learning centre in our area for kids with autism, which I learned about through one of my facebook groups. While they offer 5 full days a week, families have the option of attending as few as 2 days a week, which is about as much as we felt Mr. Boo could handle right now (and honestly, 5 days a week is just too much time away from the family for our liking). Turns out the lady running the program is a registered provider with our homeschool program’s special ed division and I was able to get feedback from other families in the program – it was all promising.

So last week, Hubby and I toured the learning centre and met the head instructor, a behavioural therapist with a resume a mile long. While her extensive years of work with kids and adults with disabilities was impressive, Hubby and I were much more impressed with the answers she gave to our questions and what we saw of how the program was run. It was apparent that this lady understood these kids and their needs as well as us parents do (and, in some ways, probably better). When I confided in her that our son can become physically aggressive when he is driven past his coping point, she confided to me that every child in the program had come with that same note on their file, and not once had they had any incidences of violent behaviours. She emphasized that their days are designed to give the kids plenty of breaks and opportunities to recharge (they have a sensory room, for example), so that each child meets their full potential. With only six kids in the program, and an assistant or therapist there each day with the head instructor, you can’t beat the adult:child ratio, and we loved that it was a small group.

For those of you not familiar with a learning centre and/or who may be wondering how that fits into homeschooling or unschooling, I plan to write a post on that topic soon. In short, this one is essentially a very small private school for homeschoolers, paid for with our autism funding. The educational philosophy is very consistent with our own – the kids do their academic work through project-based learning, in which the kids direct the project and participate to the full extent of their abilities. Some examples of current projects are: expanding the treehouse in the forest play area with the assistance of a licensed carpenter; converting a garden shed to a chicken coop, building a run, and raising layer chicks (the learning centre is on a 5-acre property); and putting on a play.

Hubby and I left the tour full of joy and excitement at the wonderful new world that is about to open up for our son. He had his first day this week and it went very well – he made friends, he participated in the group discussions and activities, he played, and he even made it through the afternoon martial arts class (they do a different class each afternoon: swimming, skating, and music are also offered). He is excited about going back tomorrow, and we are thrilled about all the new experiences that await him.

I do expect that there may be a transitional period where he decides he wants to quit, where we will struggle to get him out the door, and where he may try the patience of everyone around him. I am determined to make it through! But my gut tells me that it might just go differently this time. The instructor said the children are very supportive of one another, and Mr. Boo is now at an age where he forms meaningful friendships with other kids – perhaps enough to keep him motivated to stick with the group through the tougher parts of adjusting to new routines and expectations.

I’ve been thinking about the implications of our decision to enroll him in the learning centre, and what that means for us, or says about us, as homeschoolers. I don’t think these things are incompatible at all, and I’ll expand on that in my next post. But I’m also coming to accept that I need help and there is nothing wrong with admitting it. Raising a child with autism is no easy task (that’s a subject for yet another post!), and homeschooling such a child presents its own challenges. I’m responsible not just for making sure he is in an environment that is conducive to learning, but also for making sure that he has real world experiences. This is relatively easy for most homeschoolers: the number of activities, classes, clubs, and field trip offerings in our small community alone are impressive, and as homeschooling grows so do the myriad choices and opportunities for homeschooling families. But for me and my son, such opportunities come with particular challenges and I am ready and willing to admit that I am not always cut out for them.

I have much more to say about all of this, but for now I’m going to end by saying that my mama heart is very full this week. I’m so excited for Mr. Boo and all that awaits him. I feel blessed that we have found such good people to bring into his life, and that he is about to be part of something really special.


bring it on

Categories: autism, Education, Mr Boo | 2 Comments

Back to Knitting


One of the great things about quitting my job is that now I have evenings free. I like to sit down after dinner and watch Netflix while I knit. Not only can I make stuff, but keeping my hands busy prevents mindless snacking!

I’ve got more hats and scarves than I know what to do with, but one thing I can never get enough of is handmade wool socks. My feet get cold very easily, and I basically live in socks all through winter, even sleeping with them on. So natural wool is a must for comfort and breathability. Having them made by hand just makes them all the nicer.

I use patterns from the book Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. What I like about this book is that it gives patterns for each size of yarn, from fine sock yarn all the way up to chunky yarn. I don’t even have to think about guage, etc. I just flip to the right page and begin. The book also has details on the trickier aspects of sock knitting, such as the heel flap or picking up selvedge edges for the heel turn, and the Kitchener stitch for sewing up the toes, which I always need to review! Finally, it contains dozens of cable and lace patterns if you want to get fancy! I don’t have the patience for that; plus it makes it hard for me to watch a movie and knit as I need to focus on the pattern.

My favourite way to knit socks is two at a time on a pair of circular needles. But if I don’t have the right size I’ll happily use double-pointed needles, especially if it’s a simple stockinette pattern that doesn’t take too long (otherwise I suffer from single sock syndrome, where by the time you finish one sock you really don’t feel like repeating the whole process a second time!). If you are new to knitting or need a refresher, I recommend Very Pink Knits on YouTube. They have great tutorials for all kinds of knitting techniques, including this one for knitting two socks at a time on a pair of circular needles.

The socks below are a pair I just finished. I used a 2×2 rib and continued it on the top part all the way down to the toes. I don’t wear open shoes in the winter, so the extra bulk isn’t an issue for me. For the socks in the top photo, I just used a simple stockinette stitch because the striping pattern is more complex and I think it shows better without ribbing.


Categories: Crafting, lifestyle | 1 Comment

Catching Up

2014 2015

It has been a while since I last posted. Mostly I have not had time to blog, but I’m hoping that will change. In fact, I’m hoping a lot of things change this year!

2014 was an interesting, challenging, and somewhat difficult year for our family. There was a real slowdown for Husband in terms of paid work, and he decided to devote his time to learning a new trade, in a manner of speaking, by developing extensive networks in our community through volunteering, attending meetings, etc. It meant he received virtually no income last year and I took on a lot of the breadwinning with my work-from-home editing job. I really loved the work, but the deadlines began to take their toll on me and the pay was not great. I actually pulled a few all-nighters, which is not much fun at my age! I also began to really miss the kids (and their complaints about my frequent non-availability tugged hard at my heart), the state of the house teetered precariously on the border of chaos, and I grew more and more unhappy.

Fortunately, things have begun to pick up for Husband, and last month I was able to quit my editing job. I do miss working for my boss, who was a good guy, but I really do not miss the stress of having to drop everything to meet a deadline. And I’m loving being a full time homemaker again! With the holidays it took me some time but my house is now back in order. Today was my weekly housecleaning and it is amazing how much less time it takes when I’m not decluttering at the same time!

2015 is shaping up to be a great year for us. Last year was very difficult due to our income being dramatically reduced, but Husband has secured a great contract for the next few months, and there is talk of it being renewed after this project. To top it off, the time he devoted to networking looks like it may have paid off – he is the top candidate right now for a local job with our district that pays very well. If all goes as hoped and planned, we will be able to seriously consider building the (very much needed) new house on our property some time this year.

With my house in order and the kids back into a good homeschooling routine, I’ve freed up some time for myself during the evenings and on weekends. I’ve already knitted myself a new pair of socks and am working on another pair. I’m also making a quilt for my mother that I am really excited about. I’ll post more on those creations later. Plus I’m volunteering with my local Green Party of Canada riding as we gear up for a federal election this year. I’m really enjoying meeting new people in my community! I’m also hoping to now devote some time to this blog again and provide more regular posts. So stay tuned!


Categories: family life | 1 Comment

Animated Music Videos

Miss Em has long enjoyed making videos. Whether it’s live filming, Screen Flow vids of her playing online with friends, or animated drawings, her skill with editing grows noticeably each year.

Right now, her interest lies in creating animated music videos to go with her favourite songs (a very Tween thing to do, IMO – she admittedly describes it as “emo”). Not only does she create the animated images frame by frame, but she then must coordinate them with the music. There is a huge skill set she is building here, and it’s hard to deny that she is building expertise in an area that has much potential for a future career. Two ideas we are working on right now are creating a series of workshops for kids who wish to learn digital art skills and also leading an online conference on the subject in The Village – our homeschool program’s online hub.

Recently, she and her BFF decided to work together on a video. Each took a section of song and created images to go with it. I love that she is doing collaborative work: it is such great practice for her socially and emotionally as she navigates the potentially tricky waters of working with someone else’s creations. The clips below are part of a WIP (work in progress) that she agreed to share with me so I can provide an example of her work.

The first clip shows the video intro. HuskyDragonWolvez is her username, reflecting three of her top animal obsessions over the years. DragonWolf Productions is the name of her “company”, and Slenderchu Productions (a combination of two favourite characters – Slenderman and Pikachu) is her friend.

The next clip shows Miss Em’s portion of the video. While only a few seconds long, this represents hours and hours of work. She told me that she was unhappy with the limited options for text effects, and she figured out how to create some of her own by changing the text on a frame-by-frame basis. So those words that seem to pop out of the screen? Yeah, she did that. :-) And she also made the words move around and appear to fall down into the water. In fact, that drowning scene is one of my favourites, so full of emotion.

I’m so very proud of her and the hard work she has put into this (and her other projects). This is true passion, right here. This girl, who can barely sit still for busywork that is imposed upon her, spends hours and hours of time focused on the creation of these videos and her other artwork. That is the type of focus and passion that Sir Ken Robinson talked about in his book on creativity, and it’s difficult to truly nurture this without a good amount of unstructured free time. Yes, I admit, it is very validating for me as a homeschooling, freeschooling parent. But mostly my heart is filled with joy, because finding one’s passion is – IMNSHO – one of the keys to true happiness.



Categories: Miss Em, natural learning | Leave a comment

More paper game crafting


I recently wrote about Mr. Boo’s interest in paper crafting. In that post, I mentioned Joe’s Plush Adventure, his new project for Project-Based Homeschooling. What he built that day was a test level for trying out some ideas (I thought that was pretty farsighted for a 10 year old!). This week he started on the actual game.

In PBH, we are encouraged to use journals, and one reason is to document our kids’ ideas so that we can return to them later if they are stuck or just keep track of them for future reference. The first thing Mr. Boo asked me to write down was a list of “What we learned from the test level”. Here is a list of his Do’s and Don’ts, as dictated to me:

  • first worlds must be easy; our test level got harder as it went along
  • cubes (and any other 3D objects) must be drawn first
  • each level must be long (but not too long)
  • longer levels need more checkpoints
  • without a flag, the level is not completable (unless you have a boss, then you don’t need a flag)
  • floating platforms don’t work!
  • do not put too many box spawners

He also decided that his game would have multiple worlds, and each world would have multiple levels. Players begin at the World Hub (shown below) where there are portals to each world. World 2 and above are locked (as shown by the padlock symbols that cover the portals). World 0 is a tutorial level where the players can learn the moves of the game.


He hadn’t finished numbering the worlds before I took this photo. He also noticed himself that his “3” was backwards, and had me draw a “2” for him so he could ensure that one was done correctly.

World 0 will have 4 levels: ground movement, air movement, combat, and extra moves. Each level will teach skills specific to that area. For example, the ground movement level will teach: move, jump, slide, and jumpslide, and that’s the level he made this time around.



The image above shows the spawn point (the purple circle with a lower case letter j, for Joe, the main character). The player moves toward the blue circle and sees the X, which prompts the player to press X (I should point out that the player will be holding a Playstation3 remote, although it is not hooked up to anything, obviously). This produces the Jump move, and the player uses that to get up on the cube (making this cube was fun: he wanted it twice the size of the one in the test level, which he made using graph paper, and he was able to calculate himself how many squares to use for each side of the cube – yay for relevant math learning!). The player practices the jump move again by jumping over the river. The player is then prompted to press the circle button, which produces the Slide move, and the player slides through the tunnel.


After that is a second tunnel with an obstacle at the end (shown above). By now the player knows that Circle = slide and X = jump so he should be able to figure out to slide through the tunnel and jump at the end to avoid the small cube. This is the Jumpslide maneouver. The blue circle is the portal back to the Level Hub, where the player can choose to move on to Level 2 (which will be about air movements) or return to the World Hub.

Here he is, demonstrating this level in action!

I’m blown away by how rich and detailed this project is, and how well thought out and organized his ideas are. Often times it seems he is just randomly throwing things together, but he has clearly put a lot of thought into this. Hooray for project-based learning!


Categories: a day in the life, Crafting, learning is fun, Mr Boo, Project Based Homeschooling | 2 Comments

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