Rambling homeschooling thoughts

I should really post some quilting and knitting photos but I’ll leave that for now because today I decided to turn my mind to the coming academic year. And that’s now left me somewhat confused and frustrated.

The problem is that I decided to just go look at the provincial curriculum to see what Freya might be doing were she going to school and whether what we are likely to do/have been doing relates in any meaningful way to that. I do this rarely (thank goodness) and every time, it makes me feel icky. At least this time I’m not feeling ranty (which is what happened when I looked at the mathematics curriculum documents for elementary school).

A side note: in Ontario homeschoolers are not required to follow the provincial curriculum. We also can’t issue high school diplomas, or not official ones anyway. People who care about official high school diplomas tend to do a lot of official online courses. The rest of us muddle through in a wide variety of other ways.

Homeschooling would be so much easier if I actually thought that what was in the provincial curriculum made sense. Or had some kind of clear principles behind it. Or something.

It’s not that it has no clear principles. I think it’s more that I see how random some of the organization is, or the choice of topics in history or whatever. For example, why is the university prep Grade 11 history course an American history course? And the World History up to the 16th Century is a University/College level course? The answer is, because they had to split it up somehow. Or I think it is.

What it’s made me realize is that maybe we need to think/talk more about what we want Freya to achieve over the next couple of years.

Which brings me to the other lingering problem: so much of education is discussed in terms of what comes next. I read this great article many years ago (by Barrie Thorne in the journal Gender & Society) in which she argued that most of the ways that we study children situate them in developmental time. In other words, children are always “becoming”. Education is obviously firmly in that mindset and influenced by the research in psychology and sociology that was the focus of Thorne’s article.

This is the question I’m really struggling with:

How do we think about high school education in a way that is not (solely?) about what is needed to get into whatever comes next? (I’m really hoping Ron weighs in on this actually. Here or on his own blog.)

This is where unschooling is really attractive to us. Not in the radical, no one ever sits down with a textbook way but in the pursuing your interests way.

Freya’s interests are primarily in the arts. She does a lot of music, takes art lessons, and does some drama. Her focus has shifted considerably from drama towards music and art, actually.

I make her do math but she is reasonably proficient, can teach herself from the textbook, and finds the habit of doing math every day acceptable. It’s not her favourite thing, but she doesn’t hate it. At least now that we are into the more conceptually interesting math, she doesn’t hate it. Arithmetic was not her favourite thing.

She’s worked through Jacobs Algebra and is half-way through Jacobs Geometry. She plans to finish that by Christmas and is looking forward to doing Trigonometry. (Book suggestions welcome, btw.)

She also has a good routine of practicing piano (and singing) daily. She does scales and sight reading along with her pieces. And this gave me an idea (back in June) about how we could approach other things.

I suggested that we focus on skills and that she treat other subjects the same way she treats music. Writing is something she is pretty good at but hasn’t really been doing a lot of and she agreed that it could come back into the daily rotation along with music and math. The content areas (e.g. history) can then be the basis for the writing.

What remains is self-doubt.

That periodic panic most of us feel that we are somehow failing our children.

  • That I haven’t got all the skills in there.
  • That there are things she might enjoy and be good at that she hasn’t even been properly introduced to.
  • That it won’t be enough in the eyes of someone down the road who has the power to prevent her from doing something she really wants to do.

Most days, I’m pretty sure things will be okay.

I just need to remember not to read provincial curriculum documents ;-)

Other farm news

We have also recently built a rainwater collection system on the back of the barn.

The barrels were purchased from the local Scouts who were having a fundraiser. SInce you need to get a bucket under the taps at the bottom, we built a platform. It's big enough for 3 barrels and made from mainly leftover wood we had lying around.

We live on the Canadian Shield. Getting those posts in the ground was not happening, hence the cement bases. If you had ground you could actually pound a post into, you could do it that way.

Putting eavestrough on the back of the barn was not obvious either but we managed.

We had to sort of gerry-rig a facia board to screw it to. And the barn and lean-to are not in line, hence the s-bend to drain water from one into the other.

We need to manually change which barrel the water flows into. I suspect one could figure out how to get the overflow from one to go into another but we were stumped and this seemed easiest.

These are located at the back of the shelter the pigs are sleeping in. We've put their drinking water container just off to the left of it so this makes it much easier to get water to the pigs.

Pigs are thirsty animals (one theory as to why many desert cultures have a taboo on eating pork) so being able to use rainwater is also a bonus. And this year we have had quite a bit of rain.

We plan to figure out how to put eavestrough on the front of the barn and where to collect that water. We were thinking we could run a gutter back to join these but now I'm wondering whether it makes sense to have another set of barrels at the front. I think the water coming off the back will easily fill 3 barells.

New pigs, with bonus duck

In other news, we picked up 3 little pigs this week.

Freya got a photo of them in the shelter but that's still on her camera so you'll have to live with the pics I took later.

These wee pigs are a bit shy. And their field has a lot of long weeds and grass in it so most of the time we have no idea where they are.

There are footprints in their food though, so we know they know where that is and come back for meals. This is pretty typical for pigs.

They are only about 6 weeks old so pretty small. I let the dogs have a look and a sniff before we let them out of the crate so they know they belong here. Norm (our labrador) is pretty fascinated and runs up to the gate to their field to see if he can see them.

While we were picking them up, we were offered a male duckling if we could catch him and put up with his mother's reaction. Mat did catch one. The mama duck whacked him hard in the shin but he kept him.

He's pretty cute, eh?

I was a bit worried about putting him in with the little chickens. I thought maybe they'd peck at him or something. But no. Apparently ducks are automatically higher in the pecking order. They were a bit scared of him at first and now all coexist peacefully.

And in case anyone is getting sentimental, Freya was absolutely right when she said “This may sound cruel, but he's just the cutest Christmas dinner I've ever seen.”

Pandora’s Box quilt Finished!!!

And I think I'm going to rename it Pandora's Flower Box because of how I chose to quilt it. But here it is:

and the back, with clever use of pieced strips to save on backing material

A close up of the flower motif quilting

A recap on how this quilt came to be

I started with a jelly roll of batik prints that I'd purchased in PEI when I was visiting a friend there in late April 2010. At the suggestion of Andrea, I picked up a book of patterns for jelly rolls at my local quilt shop and decided to try this one.

Later, I bought border and binding fabric to coordinate, knowing that I had enough leftover squares to do the stripes on the back. I decided to get enough binding fabric to incorporate some of that into the back, too.

Then it sat around for a long while. I had the fleeces shorn in 2012 made into quilt batting and decided to use that for this quilt. It took me a while to figure out exactly how to do that and in the process I wished I'd made the backing bigger. Or hand basted it. Or something.

There was some movement when sewing even with a walking foot (used to stitch in the ditch around all the squares and borders). And there are a few puckers as a result. Some of the edges got fudged a bit to ensure there was top and backing to bind.

But in the end, I looks great. It's a single bed size so it's on Freya's bed. Blitzen (one of the cats) approves, though he is generally a fan of quilts anyway.

I do have a hand wash cycle on my washing machine and I used that to wash it. The swatch experiment demonstrated that the regular cycle might lead to migration of wool fibres through the fabric. On the hand wash cycle that did not happen. And the puffy parts stayed pretty puffy though I assume the batting will felt a bit over time.

The Leafs didn’t choke

I’ve been writing this in my head for a day or so and thought maybe I’d share it. An attempt at humour. My grandmother was a huge Leafs fan so it is meant lovingly.

The Leafs didn’t choke.

I know it looks that way. 4-1 up with about 2 minutes to go in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs and somehow they lost.

But the Leafs didn’t choke.

They got carried away and then realized at the last minute and saved their Plan A.

No one joins the Leafs expecting to win a Stanley Cup. If you can remember a time when the Leafs hoisted the Cup, you are way too old to play hockey in the NHL.

No, the attraction of playing for the Leafs is you get to play for one of the oldest franchises in the league in a real hockey town. The stadium is always packed. Your fans will travel to games in Detroit, Ottawa and Montreal and plenty of Leafs fans winter in Florida so even away games often have a sea of blue and white in the stands, madly cheering for you.

They don’t stop coming to games if you lose. And boy, do they get excited when you win. Who wouldn’t want to play in front of a crowd like that?

The NHL season is pretty gruelling. It takes a toll on your body. The guys who get into the playoffs top that off with an even more gruelling and intense playoff season extending into June.

Golf courses in the Greater Toronto Area open sometime in April. The Toronto Maple Leafs is one of the richest teams in the league. They don’t need playoff hockey revenues, ticket sales and so on to keep the books balanced.

Leafs players get to play hockey in a great environment all winter and then when spring comes along they get to play golf. The way it was meant to be.

Now this year, the regular season was shorter. And spring was late so when it ended the golf courses weren’t open yet and the weather wasn’t really calling out “Let’s play golf.” They got into the playoffs.

They won 1 game away early on and then went down 3 games to 1. The weather was still not calling out “Let’s play golf.” so they picked up their came and came back to force a 7th game.

They were now on a roll. They were winning. They’d come back from 3-1 down to tie the series. People were excited. They kept playing well. They went 4-1 up. It looked like they were going to get through to the 2nd round.

And then someone — I have no idea who — realized what this would mean. They’d be playing hockey in the last half of May! The weather is now rather nice for golf. There’s a long weekend coming up. HOLD ON!!!

And they let a couple of goals in to tie it up and then lost it in overtime.

Phew. That was close!

Someone ought to handsomely reward whoever noticed and congratulate the team on figuring out how to lose a 3 point lead with 2 minutes left on the clock. Because that folks, takes real talent.

The Leafs didn’t choke. They realized, almost too late, that May is not a month for hockey.

The sun is shining. The grass is green. They are golfing. They way it should be.

Lambing season round-up

Sunday morning the last of our ewes lambed. Mat was actually watching as the 2nd one came out.

We started with 3 East Friesian/Lacaune ewes and 4 North Country Cheviots. 3 of those were yearlings, born here in late March/early April 2012. 1 of the 2 year old Friesians had not lambed last year.

All of the Friesians had multiples: 2 sets of twins (from the first timers) and one set of triplets. Mostly ewe lambs. 1 ram lamb.

The 2 yearling Cheviots had singles (one ram, one ewe). The older Cheviots both had twins (2 ewes, 2 rams).

Everyone lambed during the day (YAY!!!) and only one needed any help. We are even wondering if Mat was maybe a bit too keen for that one and she might have been fine on her own.

mosaic of lambing images

We now have 7 ewes and 13 lambs.

Our plan is for a flock size of 10 ewes. We think that’s about what will work on our available pasture (which we are still in the process of fencing and bringing back to proper pasture). We buy hay for the winter so keeping the flock size small makes sense on that front, too.

We will shear in a few weeks. I have plans for the fleeces involving sending them to Wellington Fibres for processing into yarn and then knitting sweaters.


Knitting news

I’ve finished Freya’s cardigan. The photos are on her camera though so you’ll have to wait.

I’m not sure that knitting a whole cardigan in 11 days is a good thing. I’m now without a large knitting project again. And I’d rather not buy another sweater’s worth of yarn.

So I got out the small stash amounts and made a few small things.

Another cowl:

This is the same pattern I used for the purple one. And I’m still not out of that grey yarn!!!

I’m sure I had someone in mind when I decided to do a blue version but darned if I can think of who now.


Baby hats:

I also pulled out the leftover yarn from the Fiddlehead Mittens kit I knit a few years ago. This is Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK. It’s superwash so suitable for baby stuff. (Though I tend to agree with the Yarn Harlot that you hand wash the baby… and you can just throw hand washable baby knits into the bath to soak after you take the baby out.)

Anyway, the mittens are long gone, due to a puppy (also now gone) who liked to chew on mittens but the colours were pretty nifty.

I decided to knit roll-edge stripy hats, making the colour progression up as I went along.

Of course I ran out when I got near the top of the 2nd hat (right at the end of that broad red band). Luckily I knew a friend of mine had been designing and knitting sweaters with this yarn so I tweeted her an SOS and she put some small amounts of her leftovers in the mail. I might even have enough left over to make some tiny shoes.

Friends of ours are expecting twins, so these have a good home to go to.

Update on the quilt

After watching the whole quilt part of a Craftsy class on quilting large quilts on a small machine, I went and got some invisible quilting thread and did a bunch of stitch in the ditch to stabilize the quilt.

I’m glad I did this as the spray baste didn’t really hold the wool batting very well. Note for the future (if I ever do this again).

Also, although I used a walking foot and was pretty careful, the batting is so poofy that it is hard to avoid the top layer moving a bit. There are a few places where there is a tuck at the end of a line. And I had to be really careful at the edged to make sure I still had 3 layers as I didn’t make the batting and backing that much bigger than the top (only a couple of inches on each edge).

Right now it looks like a poofy comforter. I’ve stitched around each of the squares, along the seam between the border and the main part of the top, and around the edges. As you can see in the photo, Donner thinks it is really comfortable.

I’m now thinking about what I want to quilt on the rest of the quilt. Today I started watching Leah Day’s Craftsy class on filler patterns (vol 1). I still haven’t located my Angela Walters book.

My thinking is tending towards a checkerboard approach: choosing 2 ways of quilting a block and alternating them over the quilt. Probably time to get out some paper and a marker and just doodle a bit.


And that’s not all…

I realized that I was really enjoying knitting sweaters. And then Freya and I were having a casual conversation in the kitchen about this lightweight cardigan she'd bought and wears all the time.

I'd seen a pattern on Ravelry that was a similar style, showed her and …


This is Woodstove Season knit in Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label Aran weight superwash wool, in colour Dove.

It's a fun knit and moving along nicely.

I’ve also been knitting

When I finished the red sweater I started looking through the stash for something to knit. The advanced search in Ravelry is fantastic for finding patterns for stash yarn. You can enter gauge, yardage, etc. and it throws up all kinds of options.

I had quite a bit of the grey wool leftover from my cardigan. Although I'd already knit a pair of mitts for Freya with it, I figured I'd get something else small out of it.

Well, that stuff just keeps on going.

I started with this cowl. On a project this size I don't knit a gauge swatch and it's a bit smaller than the photo in the pattern suggested but it fits Freya really well.

Then I tried this one. The pattern uses a yarn with long colour repeats for the dots and stripes but I was using stash yarn so I paired my grey wool with purple alpaca. I think it works out really well. It'll look even better when I've sewn in the ends and washed it.

I still had grey left so I decided some Fletcher mitts to go with that cowl would be a good idea. I made the first one with a purple foundation triangle and the second is the reverse. The cuff gets knit last so despite appearances, those mitts are actually the same size.

All of this isn't going to use up the remaining grey yarn, either. I have a few colours of that alpaca so I might just knit up a bunch of those stripy/dotty cowls.