Why I won’t wait until my kid is “old enough” to travel

Adult and child standing in front of Notre Dame in Paris on vacation

At the risk of sounding like a terrible human being, one of my first thoughts when I heard about the fire at Notre Dame in Paris was relief. Of course I was concerned about the safety of those in and around the famous cathedral, of course I was heartbroken at the loss of so much history; I just could not help feeling thankful that we had been lucky enough to visit the cathedral two years ago with our son.

There is a big question when it comes to travelling with kids: what’s the point if they don’t remember? Why spend thousands of dollars on something they won’t even care about three years from now? Why go through the tantrums, the headaches, the complaints of “my feet hurt” and “I’m bored” when you can stay home and listen to all of that in the comfort of your own home? They’re not going to remember anyway.

Because maybe all of parenting isn’t about the kids. I know it’s radical but stay with me here. Doing things for ourselves makes us better parents. And doing things as a family brings us together. Whether it’s visiting the museum that’s 5 minutes down the road or a multi-country European vacation, there’s value in going somewhere new.

Does my son remember seeing some old church? No. Does he remember the delicious brioche we ate on the park bench on the way over? No. Does he remember the sunshine and the smiles? Maybe not specifically. But I do.

I remember how he walked all over Paris with barely any complaints. I remember his eyes dancing as he watched his gelato being shaped into a flower as big as his head. I remember his nervousness and excitement at touring Marie Curie’s now decontaminated laboratory. Yes, I even remember considering not waiting in the long line to get into Notre Dame, because kids, but doing it anyway because Paris and making the wait fun. I remember watching him learning and growing as a human being. I remember watching the little pieces falling into place, shaping the adult he will one day be.

As much as he doesn’t remember the details, he learns something every time we venture somewhere new. Maybe I’m trying to justify my own selfishness, but I truly believe that travel changes us, even if we’re too young to remember in what way.

I know that I am so fortunate to be able to take my son places and give him experiences. I don’t take it for granted. Life happens– beautiful cathedrals burn and are forever changed, people die, and kids grow up. And waiting until my kid can remember it isn’t always an option. One day, he’ll go back with his own kids and that will be his moment to remember. Until then, I have beautiful photos to show him and fun stories to tell him. And maybe that’s selfish of me, but I’m going to cherish it.

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How to survive when your kid doesn’t sleep

I’ve tried it all. Sunlight and fresh air first thing in the morning. Lots of exercise. Lots of stimulation. But not too much stimulation. No screentime. Dark rooms. Sound machines. Oil Diffusers. A set schedule. A loose schedule. Nightlights. Early bedtime. Late bedtime. No bedtime. Bribery. Pleading. Eating only purple foods and sprinkling my child’s bed with unicorn dust.

So if you’re feeling desperate and sleepless, but your child is still bright eyed and happy and healthy on less sleep that a college kid writing their thesis, I feel you. Believe me. When your child needs less sleep than you need yourself, it can have huge impacts on your own mood and health. And while I don’t have any magical tips to make it go away, I can tell you how I survived this long.

I stopped blaming myself

For years I blamed myself. I thought I was a horrible mother who could not soothe her own child. And then something crazy happened: I rocked a friend’s baby to sleep. I almost cried. It took seconds. And just plop, asleep. It happened again and again with other people’s kids. And while I’m not saying that these babies went that easily for their own parents, it did make me realize that it wasn’t my fault. Kids don’t always want to do what’s best for them. And on top of that, my kid’s wiring is different. He needs less sleep. And as long as he’s happy and healthy and rested, then I am giving him exactly what he needs.

I found ways to sneak in sleep

This one may not work for everyone, but stay at home parents hear me out: you don’t have to entertain your kid 24/7. When my son was a toddler, we had a playroom that was completely baby proofed. I would put up a baby gate at the doorway and nap while he played quietly. Some days it was 20 seconds, but every once in a while I’d sneak in an entire blissful hour. When he was a little bit older, I would set breakfast on the kitchen counter for him before we went to bed, so that I could sneak in an extra half hour in the morning. And now that we have an Echo Dot in his room, he can listen to an audiobook to fall asleep instead of staying up all night reading, getting fuelled by his lamplight and “one more chapter.”

I coslept

Safely. In the early days I was so sleep deprived I could very easily have fallen asleep in the rocking chair or on the couch and smothered my child. Consciously choosing to cosleep was so much safer. Even now, when my kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night, he’ll saunter into my room and I’ll wake up with him next to me in the morning. It’s so much easier than being called to his room, and most nights I sleep through his wake ups.

I read up on second sleep

It sounds silly, but knowing that there’s a biological basis to nighttime wakings helped me be a bit more understanding of my kid. I’m not saying I was always as patient as I should have been, but at least there was a little voice in the back of my mind knowing that I was the weird one who could sleep through the night.

I got an e-reader

Some nights, no matter how little sleep I got, I found myself celebrating the freedom of a sleeping child by scrolling social media on my phone in my dark bedroom. I liked the dark. I liked the silence. And I wasn’t quite ready to turn in. I wanted to enjoy it. The problem with my phone however, is that the internet is a boundless supply of entertainment and before I knew it hours had passed and the cycle continued. But with an e-reader I could have dark and quiet and actually go to bed at a decent time.

And yes, I started drinking coffee

I’m not going to lie, coffee helps. I don’t drink it every day, but I do find on those days when I need a bit of an extra oomph, it helps me get through the day. And because I have the ahem, motivation, I’m more likely to do the things that I need to do for my own well-being, like exercise or meditate or journal– things that are difficult to do if you’re mentally and physically exhausted. I’m not suggesting you take up a caffeine habit, but I’d be lying if I didn’t credit it with my survival on the worst days.

I stopped trying to make sleep happen

I’m not saying that I gave in and pandemonium reigns, but I am saying that I stopped obsessing and trying to force it. Telling my kid, “Okay, you don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in your bed,” or letting him come sit with me on the couch for a bit when he’s been lying sleepless for an hour both have to happen sometimes– try as you might, you can’t force your kid to sleep. Sleep guidelines are just that, guidelines, and while sleep deprivation is a problem for us all; at some point you have to just live and let live if your kid isn’t showing any signs of lack of sleep. Which is a difficult pill to swallow when you’re a bit of a control freak like myself, but trust me, it makes life so much easier when you make like Elsa and let it go.

Sweet, sweet time

Of course, maybe none of these things actually helped, but they only coincided with gains we were going to make anyway thanks to whatever invisible growth was happening inside my kid’s brain. That’s the thing about parenting: you never really know if your crazy life hack worked! So if you’re reading this and thinking “I can’t do any of those things” then take heart, eventually your kid will move out.

I don’t want to say that it gets better all at once, because it doesn’t, but it does gradually. My kiddo no longer needs me to lie with him to fall asleep thanks to a good audiobook. Some nights he even makes it the entire night in his own bed. He’s old enough that if I really need a nap, I can go take one. These may seem like small wins to some, but for us, they’ve been tremendous strides. And believe me, I’m celebrating every little milestone.

Meme reads: I was going to give up caffeine and sugar but then I remembered I have a kid. I'll try again in 18 years. @lifeattiffanys

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Things I’m sick of hearing as the parent of a gifted child

Disclaimer: I am not an educator, psychologist, or any other professional related to giftedness or child development. I am just a former gifted child and the current parent of a gifted child, and these opinions are my own. Please proceed with a sense of humour.

Ask any parent what it’s like having a gifted child and they’ll probably tell you that it’s not all roses. Here’s a bunch of stuff that parents of gifted kids are tired of hearing.

(Okay, that I’M tired of hearing.)

“They all even out.”

Yeah because they’re bored to death and have stopped trying.

“Oh, like X character from blank?”

No, like the individual that they are.

“Oh, you have them trained!”

If my kid was trained he wouldn’t wake me up ever but here we are.

“If you let them learn they’ll just get bored.”

I’m bored talking to you and I’m surviving.

“Let them be a kid!”

Oh crap, there I go sending him off to the coal mine again. Oh wait no, I was just letting him do a math problem. Sorry, I got confused by your reaction.

“You have it so easy.”

This is exactly what every parent dreams of hearing, thank you.

“It’s because they’re an only child.”

It’s actually a neurological difference but ok.

“They need to be with kids their own age for socialization.”

Yes, because as a 31 year old I only ever socialize with other 31 year olds.

“I wish my kid was gifted.”

You’re confusing a special need with high achievement *loud whisper* it’s not the same thing.

“I know someone who skipped a grade, they hated it.”

That’s unfortunate, but research overwhelmingly supports acceleration.

“Don’t you want them to be normal?”

Define normal.

“Funding these kids takes funding away from kids who actually need it.”

We find room in the budget to fund huge companies, we can find a couple bucks to fund all kids and their needs because they all “actually” need it.

“How did you teach him to do that?”

I didn’t. YouTube did.

“They’re exhausting.”

So is hearing that.

“They’re such an angel!”

That’s because their perfectionism is so strong they’re hiding their real personality to please you.

“I can’t wait to see what they do when they grow up!”

I just want to see them reach adulthood without crippling anxiety.

“I know lots of gifted kids. None of them grew up to be successful.”

That’s probably because a high IQ isn’t necessarily indicative of success.

“We have lots of kids like them here.”

Statistically, you probably don’t unless you’re a gifted program.

“Socialization is so important. They need to learn to be around people who aren’t gifted.”

Considering 98% of the population isn’t gifted and I let my kid out of his closet sometimes, I think we’re good.

“They can’t be gifted, they don’t do x yet.”

Asynchrony is a characteristic of giftedness. Nice try though!

“They can’t be gifted, they have (ADHD, Autism, etc).”

It’s called twice exceptionality and it means they need extra accommodations for all of their needs and especially their giftedness.

“You’re just bragging.”

Umm yeah I thought that’s what we were doing here? Or are you the only one allowed to share cool shit about your kid?

“Where do they get it from?”

Okay, first of all, ouch. Second of all, apparently it’s genetic?

“They’re a genius!!”

Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Stephen Hawking are geniuses. My kid is just a kid.

“We don’t see issues while they’re here, so it must be trouble in the home.”

You don’t see problems because they’re bottling it up all day and bringing it home to me.

“They’ll be fine.”

Except they probably won’t be if their needs go unmet.

“Gifted programs are elitist.”

If you think equality is elitist.

“They’re so smart!”

Way to set them up for anxiety and imposter syndrome.

“You shouldn’t care so much that they’re gifted.”

Maybe parents shouldn’t care if their child is gifted, but not caring about the fact that they are gifted would be neglecting their special need and hindering their development.

“But their handwriting!!”

I didn’t know they were training to be a monk in the Middle Ages?

“We’ll accommodate them with depth and breadth.”

That’s useless for truly gifted children if it doesn’t also come at a faster pace with increasing difficulty.

“But they seem so normal!”

Umm… thank you?

“All children are gifted!”

All children are gifts, sure, but saying they’re all gifted is like saying “all children have brown eyes”– and it’s FALSE.

Parents: what did I miss???

Meme text reads: “What people think raising a gifted kid is like vs what it’s actually like:” and image is two side by sides of Mr Incredible. In the first he looks overjoyed and in the second he looks stressed and worn out.

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How to survive when a spouse travels

For the past four years my husband has been working three week shifts that require him to be away from us. It’s not all bad otherwise we wouldn’t have done it for this long, but I’m not going to lie, I’ll be excited when it comes to an end. Being “on” 24/7 for 3 weeks straight is exhausting. (Single parents, you are the true MVPs.) But luckily I’ve found a lot of little ways to help me survive.

Leftovers are my friend

I make a lot of items from scratch for a number of reasons. This means a simple meal can be a ton of work, so I discovered long ago the beauty of leftovers. I double recipes, plan to eat the meal twice, and freeze the rest. A stocked freezer full of soups and chilies and muffins and breads and cookies is a game changer.

FaceTime

I grew up with a dad in the military so I can tell you first-hand what a game changer technology has been. We FaceTime every night before bed as a family, and sometimes my son will FaceTime his father throughout the day if he’s missing him a bit harder than normal or if he has something exciting to share. It’s especially great for younger kids who may not always be the best conversationalists, but still benefit from their parent’s presence.

Have them help from afar

I know this isn’t a possibility in every situation, but if you can swing it take advantage. I hate making phone calls, so a lot of times my husband will make them while he’s away. He will also research things for our son and is usually the one who remembers what needs to be done around the house. Time to book a service appointment? My husband will usually ask me for dates and times and then call for me. It’s not always perfect (like when the dentist wouldn’t let him rebook the appointment he was cancelling for our son) but it’s a huge load off.

Online game apps

My husband downloaded GamePigeon into my son’s messages app. They play games of everything from Connect4 to Chess virtually. It’s an easy way for them to be together without physically being near one another, and it’s priceless.

Stick to a routine

Sometimes being on your own can be a bit of a time trip and throw you off your game. I also get worn down a lot more easily than when my husband is home, so keeping a routine helps me keep my momentum rather than being paralyzed by the to do list. And, it helps me be prepared for when something like sickness pops up. (Ahem, usually.) I have a grocery day and a laundry day and a cleaning day. It also helps quell tantrums from my kiddo because he knows that we clean Sundays, so it’s not a surprise that he needs to pick up his toys. Sometimes he’ll even clean without me asking because the expectation has been set. I’m recoiling as I write this because it sounds so… strict. But it honestly helps.

Know your limits

Cancel plans. Play hooky. Ask for help. If it’s been a particularly crappy week, don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. If you get stir crazy, then get out of the house and interact with other adults. I know I can get really focused on what needs to be done or what my child needs and can forget about myself, and then I wonder why I’m snapping at every little thing. I have days where I sit on the couch and write and read and knit. I have days when I lock myself in a room and do yoga or meditate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. I have days where I eat cookies in secret. And I have days where I say screw what needs to be done, let’s go have fun. Which brings me to:

Don’t hold off on fun

There’s a huge temptation on not doing fun things when my husband is home because I want us to do them as a family. And while I’m not suggesting planning a once in a lifetime outing without the spouse that’s away, delaying any and all outings just makes the days stretch longer. Go to museums and science centres and favourite restaurants. Go for a hike. Have friends over for brunch. Try to keep life going as normally as possible, otherwise there will be a gaping hole and make life even more miserable.

So while the distance can be hard, we do manage, because we need to. At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is make sure you both are there for each other for emotional support and know everyone is doing their best to make it work.

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How to own the stay-at-home-mom thing

Maybe it’s because of super moms on the internet. Maybe it’s because we went to school for 4 years and spent thousands of dollars on an education for a career that we no longer have. Maybe it’s because the default emotion of mom is guilt. (Or hey, super dads on the internet and dad guilt.) But for whatever reason, when you’re a stay at home parent, there is this need to do MORE.

That’s why so many of us blog and try to work from home and get trapped in pyramid schemes. You cannot JUST be a parent. It’s not even an outside pressure thing. It’s an ego thing.

I don’t know how many times I have sat down at the end of the day and said to myself, “I am pooped but I have no clue why… I have nothing to show for my day! The house is messier than when I woke up this morning, I didn’t even cook – I fed the child Mac and Cheese and leftovers. And I mean, I only have one friggin’ kid… there is no excuse for this!”

Shhhh….. listen to me, and listen to me good. Screw it. Screw all of it. Those super moms on the internet probably snapped fifteen hundred pictures all in one nap time and have been squeezing them out slowly over the past three months. That career will be there one day.  And that guilt? Chuck it. It’s useless. If you weren’t a stay at home parent it would be guilt about not being with your children and if you weren’t a parent well you’d have guilt from Aunt Lucy about, “When are you gonna settle down and have a family?”

So here it is. My 100% made up stay at home parent guide.

Don’t wake up with your kid

I’m serious. Nothing good comes from being “on” before your ready. Let the baby coo quietly in their crib. Let your preschooler spill cereal all over the floor (that’s why you got a dog after all isn’t it?). And if you absolutely, one hundred percent, must physically get out of bed, because I don’t know, Netflix is down and it’s the end of the world as we know it, sprinkle some little people or legos or whatever it is your kid is into across the floor and lay down and close your eyes and say things like, “mhmm. wow. yup. zzzzzzzzz.”

Leftovers are gold

No lie… I make a lot of shit from scratch. It’s a lot of work, don’t do it. But if you do… double everything. Muffins. Bread. Pasta. Soup. Making single chicken breasts are for suckers- you roast an entire bird and eat like a king for a week straight. Freeze whatever you can. I freeze pancakes. If my kid has pancakes for breakfast every morning for a week, it’s not because mommy has been extra attentive, it’s because she’s been nursing those babies so she doesn’t have to parent and make him eat a diverse breakfast selection.

Don’t do anything while your kid is asleep

That is your time. If you can’t get it done during “working hours” it doesn’t deserve to be done. I have been forced into this by necessity- my kid sleeps the same amount as me and doesn’t nap (SOS), but I’m wondering why I did laundry and cleaned while my kid was napping in the good ol’ days? Put on the radio, strap little ones to you and give bigger ones their own cloth for “dusting” and spend an hour giving the house a once over. Plop your kid in the middle of the laundry pile while you fold– or hell, don’t even fold! Then, after the four hour ordeal that is bedtime, put up your feet, eat the good snacks and zone out with whatever guilty pleasure you have until you pass out yourself. You deserve it.

Don’t do it all

People love to say, “you can’t do it all.” YES YOU CAN AND YOU CAN DO IT ONE HANDED.  I know that personally, I am surprisingly competitive and nothing makes me want to do something more than someone telling me I can’t. However, not doing it all doesn’t mean you can’t do it all, it just means you have badass time management skills. Think about it: the biggest CEOs don’t do everything themselves. Okay, maybe Elon Musk does but didn’t he sound a tad douchey after firing his assistant? I mean I get it, I am him- I refuse to delegate. If you want something done right, you do it yourself! But knowing that you have the option to delegate, and the option to say no, is very freeing. Think long term and ask yourself: is this worth it? If it’s not, ditch it.

Find the joy

I like to complain and make jokes about being with my kid all day everyday, but the truth of the matter is that it does have a positive side. There are times where I really genuinely like my kid. Not love him, because of course we all love our kids, but there are times when he’s my favourite person to be with. Allowing myself, or some days, forcing myself to find moments of laughter and happiness reminds me that it’s not about the food or the clothes of the perfect house, it’s about my time as a mom and his childhood. And it’s the best motivator.

So forget the parental guilt, it’s everywhere. And find ways to make stay at home parenting your own. You deserve it.

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Homemade walnut ink and quill

green walnut husks being prepared to be made into ink

I can’t be certain why or when the obsession began, but K has been asking for weeks to write with a feather. I was pretty excited by this obsession if I’m being totally honest, because this is exactly the kind of old timey activity that makes me really, really happy.

First, we did a quick google about different kinds of natural inks. He latched onto walnut ink, which was kind of perfect since it just happens to be exactly the right time of year for finding walnuts everywhere. We collected a few shells on a walk, (because surely it would be the black shells that make ink), only to realize once we got home that it’s the green husks that give the ink its colour.

Yes, green husks equal brownish ink. Go figure.

I also realized that making walnut ink can be quite the intensive process. There’s aging and time involved, and well, 4 year olds aren’t exactly heralded for their patience. Some time had already elapsed since the initial shells, and he had since found a turkey feather at the apple farm and was adamant about using it in walnut ink, so I made the executive decision to, umm, ahem, half ass it.

green walnut husks being prepared to be made into ink

First, we husked our walnuts. The husks went into the pot while the shells and nuts were smashed with a hammer. Then they were thrown into the pot as well for good measure.

I don’t know that smashing the shells was good for anything, but it was fun.

Then, I added just enough water to cover the mess, and set it to boil at medium-high (ish) heat for 30 minutes. 

walnut husks turning a sludgy brown on the stove

Just remember: if it looks like sludge and smells like sludge, you’re doing something right.

While it boiled, we set to work making a quill out of his turkey feather. We watched a fantastic Youtube video from How to Make Everything but the basics are this: cut the tip at an angle, cut across the top of that angle for the writing surface, then slit up the shaft to hold the ink.

Maybe just watch the video.

Then, it’s time to strain out the lumpy bits and get your ink. 

Every website I read said to wear gloves and exercise caution because walnuts stain. Like stain, stain. I, being the rebel that I am, and also having just overcome a half a bushel’s worth of grape stains, decided that I was too cool for gloves. I don’t like to tell people how to live their lives, but don’t be too cool for gloves. My hands are still stained, half a week later. I mean, I still probably won’t wear gloves next time either, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s a wonder that my bamboo counters and white farm sink came out unscathed.

After straining, I added a splash of alcohol to prevent mold. If you’re doing this as a one off and don’t plan on using the ink again you can probably skip this, although I did read that it helps the ink dry a little faster which I thought would be pretty useful for little ones.

We also used thicker art paper designed for ink because I thought it would hold up to the liquid ink better. Watercolour paper would also probably work well, although I’m a big believer in using what you have on hand, even if that just means scrap paper! I’m not going to lie, I had dreams of making our own paper too, but I also know my own limitations. Homemade ink and a quill are one thing, homemade paper is just crazy talk.

A letter that reads,

After we finished our letters to each other, we folded them up and sealed them with wax!   (Yes, I have a wax sealing kit. This is the kind of old timey nerdery I’m talking about. I am one breakdown away from going to Jane Austen conventions in hand sewn costumes.) My DIY brain wonders if you could carve a sigil in an old wine cork and stick it in some candle wax, but I am not responsible if that ends terribly for someone! On the other hand, if it works, let me know.

letters folded and sealed with wax

As you can see, we did this activity outside, because walnuts STAIN. I have to say though, that he was uncharacteristically careful. It was also a great activity for a reluctant writer. Personally, I found the quill a little difficult to write with so letter formation may not be great, but the novelty of it is such a great way to exercise those muscles needed for writing and bring enjoyment to a usually tedious task!

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Studying Fairy Tales: Jack and the Beanstalk

One of the things that is great about homeschooling is the ability to cater learning towards your child’s interests. My son asked if we could study fairy tales the first few weeks of school, and I have to admit, I was pretty excited. I love fairy tales and folk tales. I love the idea of stories being passed down year after year, generation after generation, until they are woven into the fabric of society.

He wanted to begin with Jack and the Beanstalk. We started by reading Joseph Jacob’s version and watching Mickey and the Beanstalk – a film I picked up on a whim of nostalgia from the library which my kiddo had been refusing to watch. Suddenly, he was all over it.

After we compared the story and the film versions, we started our discussion with what a fairy tale actually is. I love the explanation from the preface of Joseph Jacob’s English Fairy Tales:

As our book is intended for the little ones, we have indicated its contents by the name they use. The words “Fairy Tales” must accordingly be taken to include tales in which occurs something “fairy,” something extraordinary — fairies, giants, dwarfs, speaking animals.

The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is thought to be more than 5,000 years old, and as such, there are many reiterations of the tale. We read Molly Whuppie (also from Joseph Jacob’s) as well as the Grimm Brothers’ The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs (note to secular homeschoolers: we framed the devil as a mythical creature much like the giant and the ogre in the other tales). This left us with a lot to discuss!

Repetition

Many fairy tales and folktales repeat elements of their stories; the magic number is often 3 but it does sometime vary. Jack goes up the beanstalk 3 times, Molly returns to the giant’s home 3 times, and while the boy in the Devil’s Three Golden Hairs only goes to Hell one time, he passes three people who require answers for his crossing. We talked about how repetition may have been useful to storytellers to help them remember the stories since these stories were passed down orally until writers began collecting them in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s also helpful to note how each repetition often intensifies the drama of the story.

Stock Characters

Fairy tales rely on stock characters as they aid the listener in recognizing the character quickly, allowing the teller to dive into the action. Jack, Molly, and the boy all come across antagonists who are stronger, larger, and more powerful than they are, but they use their wits to defeat them.

Protagonist vs Antagonist

I am really pushing for a move away from “good guy” “bad guy” talk. I think it’s important for children to see that there are areas of grey, and of course it certainly wasn’t kind of Jack to steal from the giant! I explained it to my son in the simplest terms: the protagonist is whoever you are rooting for, and the antagonist is whoever is getting in their way. Written from another perspective, Jack or Molly or the boy could be seen as the antagonist! (Which could be a great writing exercise!)

Kindness and Prejudice

On that note, we talked about which of the characters were the kindest, and which were the least and why. We made note of who the helpers were and why. The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs also allowed for an excellent subversion of the stereotypes of kings and robbers: kings are usually expected to be good, kind, and benevolent leaders while robbers are usually expected to be sneaky and dangerous. I asked my son if he would rather meet a king or a robber, when he answered a king, I asked how well that would have worked out for him if he was the boy in The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs. Not very well, we agreed.

Applications:

One thing that sprouted (I couldn’t resist!) from our discussion about Jack and the Beanstalk was the question of how seeds grow. We collected what seeds we could from plants and fruits around the house, as well as some that I had saved. We talked about their differences, drew pictures of them, and watched this Sci Show Kids episode, How Does a Seed Become a Plant? We then placed a bean seed in a wet paper towel and sealed it in a jar so that we could observe the sprouting process. My son enjoyed it so much that he transplanted it into soil after it began to outgrow the jar, and has been taking care of it this past week. (Of course, we’ll see how much longer that lasts!)

At the end of our unit, we talked about what makes a “child defeats the ogre” tale and came up with what we felt were the most important parts. We decided that the protagonist must be a child who uses their smarts to outwit the antagonist: someone bigger, stronger, and more powerful than them. We also agreed that there should be a repetition of 3 events. We then each wrote our own tale based on the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. Because my son is still working on his handwriting, I allowed him to tell his story to me while I wrote it down, which was a nice way to take our lesson full circle: from oral tradition to written tale!

Learning about Fairy Tales in your homeschool? This unit focuses on Jack and the Beanstalk and similar tales.

 

Are you studying Fairy Tales in your homeschool? I’d love to see what you’re up to! If you like what you see here, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post. You can also find me lurking around the web on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Milling day at Morningstar Mill

Up until recently, Morningstar Mill has best been known to me as the place to park to get to Decew Falls. Sure, we have stopped in and checked out the mill quickly before or after our hike, and found it quite adorable, but I had no idea that they still operated the mill. And I certainly didn’t know that it was open to the public and that you could receive your very own fresh milled flour for a small donation to the mill.

Most people who come to Niagara Falls come for, well, the Falls. And I understand why. I love to ride my bike down during the off season when the crowds have gone home. It’s beautiful. But the problem with coming for the Falls is getting trapped in the tourist areas and never venturing out to see what the Niagara region truly has to offer. Niagara is a great place to visit by car: an original honeymoon road trip destination. And a car gives you the freedom to escape and appreciate the scenery. Places like Morningstar Mill.

Milling was posted to start at 11am, and we arrived just after, not certain what to expect or how long it would last. The parking lot was full but many were parking on the street- just be sure to look for no parking signs! The parking lot is on the small side so it’s always good to go early or expect to walk — even when it’s not milling day.

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The grist mill was rebuilt in 1872 and houses all of its original machinery. A fun fact that we learned while touring is that while the original sifter is up in the attic on display, they had to encase a new one (which looks to be much like the original, just that it’s encased) because flour dust is explosive! If you start on the main floor, you can see the grain coming down the shoot from the attic before you head downstairs to watch it come out of the sifter.

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The original sifting equipment housed in the attic

It was especially neat to see the turbine turning in the attached shed. The mill still uses the moving water to grind the flour, which my kiddo found fascinating.

On milling days the home of the Morningstar family is also open to tour. The house was completely restored, the only thing that was changed during restoration were the walls to accommodate the electrical work and sprinkler system. K and I had fun glimpsing historic versions of modern items.

The blacksmith shop was also open. I have to admit we spent the least amount of time there…. I think K was afraid he would get put to work making nails!

Before we left we had to come home with some freshly milled flour and bran! We were given a brochure with a few of their recipes to try out with our flour. K helped me double the bran muffin recipe and decided to add peaches, blueberries, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg to it while subbing half the sugar for maple syrup – talk about delicious! We made over 3 dozen, enough to share and freeze for another day.

The next milling date is September 23, 2017. Be sure to check their Facebook page as it is dependent on water levels. I suggest bringing cash so that you can leave a donation; $4 a bag of flour is their suggested donation.

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Yes, I’m homeschooling my kid. No, he’s not going to be a weirdo.

I get it. You love my kid and you want what’s best for him. Or hey, you’re a complete stranger who just likes sticking their nose in other people’s business. And yes, it’s one or the other, there never seems to be an in between.

It’s like a weird word association game where when I say “homeschool” you blurt out “Socialization!” “Homeschool.” “Socialization!” “Homeschool.” “Socialization!” You go on and on with word vomit about how important proper socialization is to a child as though it’s second only to the air he breathes. Do you want to ask me about that too?

Maybe you’ve never known anyone who homeschooled their kids before. Or you remember that one kid who started off homeschooled and then came to public school and they were a little bit odd. You know the one. It was totally because of the homeschooling too because I mean, absolutely none of the other kids who went to school their entire lives were ever a little odd, and definitely never you, you were never odd. You, you were totally normal all the time. No awkward stages. Not ever.

And I mean, maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I’m not being explicit enough. Maybe I need to start saying, “We’re homeschooling. But-don’t-worry-it’s-not-like-I-keep-him-locked-in-a-closet-all-day-we-sometimes-leave-the-house-like-go-to-the-museum-and-library-and-science-centre-and- we-love-to-hike-and-here’s-a-list-of-his-extra-curricululars.” Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m answering your question wrong.

If I seem sensitive, it’s because I am. From the second that stupid little pee stick announces that you’re carrying a little bundle of joy, the judgements start rolling in. “You can’t do that when you’re pregnant!” “Breast is best!” “It’s really selfish that you won’t give your baby a bottle so someone else can bond with him.” “You gave him WHAT as his first solid?!” “Those shoes aren’t nearly supportive enough.” “Where is your mother why isn’t she hovering over you? You shouldn’t be climbing the playground yourself!” “Stop being so overprotective, a little sugar won’t kill him.”

Enough!

And quite honestly, up to this point, my son hasn’t been cognizant of your concerns, so maybe that’s why it has stung, but not quite made me so rage-y. But your criticisms, sorry, “helpful advice” concerning my parenting choices are being heard and internalized by my child on this one. My child, who already feels he is missing out on a part of the collective culture that involves bells and desks and assemblies and after school activities, is going to grow up hearing how “weird” he’s going to be because he’s not experiencing such things.

(And no, those experiences are not worth the anguish that public school was, so please don’t go there.)

The mama guilt is bad enough without your help, thank you.

We chose homeschooling because it’s right for our family. It’s difficult. And exhausting. And quite frankly, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have chosen it if I didn’t feel that I had to do it. But you know what? I am so happy that it’s the road we’re on. I get to choose books and subjects that I know my kiddo will love. I get to help him learn the way that he learns best. I get to incorporate things like baking and an obscene amount of field trips. We talk about everything from politics and current events to money and household management to technological advances to a really silly joke that we just can’t stop laughing about. The possibilities are endless.


And that socialization you’re so worried about? It’s not like he’s homeschooled in a closet. Really, I promise. Have you seen how small the closets are in a 1960s side split? He’s in a number of activities with kids his age. We visit with family and friends of all ages. We go to parks and he makes friends with museum docents who are happy to answer his stream of questions for a few minutes to his complete delight. There are even homeschool programs. Heck, he spent two weeks in Europe! Not a day of school was missed. Homeschool is where you are.

And yes, maybe my kid might turn out weird despite my best efforts to normalize him.  Any kid that isn’t forced to conform to norms is probably going to have a few quirks. But I don’t see that as a bad thing. And honestly, at the end of the day, I’m his mom. I went to public school my whole life and while I can do a pretty good impersonation of a normal person once in a while, deep down I’m a big ol’ weirdo. Aren’t we all?? I’d rather him be able to own who he is then spend years trying to pretend, only to grow up and realize it’s the weirdos who end up happier because they don’t try to hide who they are on the inside.

So yes, I’m homeschooling my kid. No, socialization is not an issue. In fact, I’d argue he comes into contact with a wider range of people by getting out into the world than he ever would sitting in a classroom. And if he does turn out to be a weirdo, trust me, it’s not because of the homeschool. That’s 100% genetic right there.

Let’s be honest, homeschooling is not going to make my kid a weirdo. I’m his mom. He was doomed from the start. @lifeattiffanys

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Visiting Fort George

After complaining last week about how difficult of a time we were having getting back into the homeschooling groove, this week has been a dream! We’re back to breezing through Beast Academy (our math curriculum), we printed out this awesome puzzle of Canada from CBC Parents, and today we took homeschool out of the house to Fort George!

My favourite kind of homeschool is the kind that doesn’t take place at home. Grandma took K out for lunch, and then we all headed to the Fort together. This year, all of Canada’s National Parks are free for Canada 150, so if you haven’t gotten your pass yet, get it here! At Fort George you present the pass at the visitor’s centre and receive replica British shillings as your tickets to present to the sentry.

Kids can receive a special Parks Canada Xplorers booklet. It is full of fun and engaging activities to help keep them interested while visiting. I absolutely love when museums and parks have these sorts of things, because they really do work wonders!

On one page of the explorer's guide, kids can follow along with the musket shooting demonstration to order all 11 steps.

They even get a certificate and a prize at the end!

The interpreters are all so knowledgeable and friendly. I am the annoying nerdy person who strikes up conversations with them but seriously, you are missing out if you don’t. I have learned so much more from talking with actual people than I have from reading the plaques on the walls. I mean, still do that too, but take advantage of the humans!

K absolutely loved the tunnel at the back of the Fort. He also challenged an interpreter to a game of checkers and lost admirably. We tried cookies baked in their authentic kitchen from their authentic recipe. And he even found the musket demonstration entertaining! I was afraid he would be too overwhelmed from fear and the loud noises, but he loved it.

After our trip to the Fort we headed to the Niagara on the Lake SupperMarket. The SupperMarket is every Wednesday from 4:30-9:00pm throughout the summer season. There are food trucks and tents from local restauraunts, wineries, bakeries, breweries and even different local businesses. There is always entertainment and tonight there was even a bounce castle for the kiddos. It is a great way to get a taste of Niagara all in one spot if you’re visiting, and a great way to find your new favourite haunt if you’re local.

If you’re planning on visiting Niagara, I can’t recommend a day in Niagara on the Lake enough! And with National Parks being completely free this year, you cannot afford to miss a trip to Fort George.

 

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