Summer Learning Plans!

I can already taste summer and I'm just so excited! I can't wait to not pack lunches, to not rush out the door, and to have our kids home every day. This summer we won't have anyone in daycare, day camp, or any activities aside from their regular swim lessons, so it will be a lot of time together! And while rest is so key and just playing and swimming and frolicking to our heart's content is number one on our agenda, I am starting to plan ahead for way's to keep up with our kid's education over the summer.

Am I the most boring mom ever?! I hope not! I want our kids to have a marked break from the rigors of school, but I do want to keep engaging their minds during the summer months. Summer learning loss is a real thing, and since our kids are already at a disadvantage speaking a different mother tongue than they are learning in at school, I want to do everything I can to help keep their minds sharp as they're having fun in the sun.

Here are some alarming stats*:
  • 2.6 months of math skills are lost over the summer (!!!)
  • 2 months of reading skills are lost over the summer
  • Schools can only accommodate 6 weeks max of review at the beginning of each year (something isn't adding up...) 
  • As little as 2 hours per week of educational activities can combat summer learning loss.
Our kids speak English at home but go to French school, so already there is the language loss over the summer months. To combat that, I'm planning to organize play dates with our francophone friends from church and school, listening to French audio books, and reading French stories together. For English literacy, which is basically 100% learned at home for our kids, it'll be much of the same - books, books, and more books! Weekly trips to the library, audio books for down time (we are currently listening to free classics on Audible, and are in the middle of The Secret Garden), and tactile spelling games.

The learning resource teacher at Lily's school recommended wooden letters (Dollarama sells a set for $2, we bought two) in a large basket and playing word games as a fun activity. Sometimes kids get tired of pencil and paper but using new materials can make it interesting again. We've chosen random letters and asked them to find words, chosen letters when blindfolded and spelled as many words as they could that started with that letter, and just had them spell words on the carpet that they know. Our Letter Play board has been fun too. The kids have the small one in their room and they play with it every day!

We have also found a tutor for Lily that we're hiring for just a couple of hours each week to review math and French since her French wasn't as strong back in September. Imagine how many basic instructions one can miss when they're not fluent in the language of teaching!

We are also traveling a lot which is such a learning experience! When we're anywhere new we always try to soak up the local history, visit museums, and learn as much as we can about the culture. Last summer when we were in Iceland the kids became fascinated with Vikings, and basic activities like going to church or the grocery store provided lots of learning opportunities.

We will also be doing through catechism twice a day with our kids (I'll explain more in another post!) which will strengthen their memorization - a key to learning and retaining knowledge!

I absolutely love summer! We'll be at the local pool almost every day and visiting family and friends a lot. I'm excited for my kids to unwind and just be together, but now I also have a loose action plan for education, too. I suppose it's going to be a bit like summer homeschooling lite? We'll see! If you have any plans for stimulating summer activities, I'd love to hear them!


A Day In HER Life - Emilie Desjarlais

Hi I'm Em! I'm 28 years old and a mother to one year old Brook. My daily life the past year has changed A LOT. 

I started my parenting journey completely on my own and my daily life is very different then it was only few months ago. Let me explain:

In 2015 I left for Australia with a one way ticket. I wanted to experience travelling and was hoping to establish myself as an artist in Australia. Life decided differently. I was five months pregnant when I decided it was in the best interest of my daughter and I to come back to Canada. 

The first six months of Brook's life were spent in the countryside at my mother's place. Spending this time away from the city gave me the opportunity to rest and give the best start to my daughter without me having to worry about anything else. 

Back then, our daily life was definitely slow.  Exploring the beautiful eastern townships, going on coffee dates and doing some “cardio poussette” in between nursing sessions. Some days, I would get the time to be creative and do some art while my mother took care of Brook for an hour or two. That was a typical day for me at that point.

After those six months, I moved to a suburb not far from my home city of Montreal with plans to eventually place my daughter in daycare and find a job. The first three months were hectic because I had to install and unpack everything in the new apartment without much help. Managing a new apartment, breastfeeding  and trying to find time for sleep when she would allow made progress very slow . That's when I learned the meaning of “ what doesn't kill you make you stronger.” 

Our daily routine depends on each day, but I try to cook every meal from scratch and with organic ingredients when possible. Healthy food is very important to me.  Goodfood has been very helpful in my meal planning and I typically use it three times per week. I unfortunately don't have a dishwasher so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen playing catch up.

When I first moved, I was really bummed that I was not able to create art anymore so I started doing staged photos of Brook when she's asleep. It's funny because the sleep is definitely the hardest part with Brook. I often feel like those pictures are trophies for my patience to put her to bed. She looks so beautiful and peaceful.

 I have definitely learned to turn difficult situations into something beautiful. As I don't have as much energy to paint or to draw, these mini photoshoot sessions fulfill my desire to create and compensate for the paintings I don't have time to do. Maybe when she's older and I’m nostalgic, I'll use those pictures as a subject. I don't take pictures everyday but it's part of our weekly "schedule."    

It’s a very flexible schedule. Finding a daycare has not yet happened for me, so we go to playgroups two or three mornings a week. It's great because we both get social time and she gets to spend a lot of energy. After the playgroup, I usually walk around the village to put her asleep in her pram and give us some fresh air. I take advantage of that free time to stop for coffee and run errands. I'm very lucky because almost everything I need is walking distance from the house.

Judith Cossette Photographie
Once every two weeks I bring Brook to the public pool and it’s quickly become one of her favorite activities. In the beginning I only took Brook to the pool for her enjoyment, but I have grown to love watching her get excited just seeing the pool building as we walk over.

I recently met someone that is ready to share and commit to this whole parenting experience with me. My daily life of solo mom routine is slowly changing into a family dynamic and I couldn't be happier. 

The year and a half I spent on my own with Brook taught me so much and I would do it all over again the same way but I think the timing is right for a relationship. We are currently adjusting and planning to move in all together in the city.

My daily life is currently in transition: The end of solo motherhood and my return to work :)

Merci Beaucoup, Emilie! Quelle belle vie :)
Instagram - @brookeandpeony


thinking about trying Beautycounter?

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7 months ago I started using Beautycounter when I was searching for a cleanser and moisturizer that was safer than what I was using at the time. I had read enough to know that cosmetics and skin care are packed with harmful ingredients, but it was hard to adjust to a new brand, a new routine, and paying a bit more. I fell in love with the products though, and was amazed that they last months and months (literally the charcoal cleansing bar has lasted me four months and it looks almost new! I'm wondering if it'll last me the whole year!), so once I tried it, there was no turning back.

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Life, Lately (4/17)

It's been so long since I've done one of these catch-up posts and I really regret not having done more these past few months. They may just be little sentences jotted down, but they're memory keepers for me, and I want to look back years from now and recall these little things the kids are doing and saying at this stage. I have a terrible memory, so without this blog, I'd be lost!

 Right now, our crew are 3.5, 5.5, and 6.5. They basically all just passed their "half birthdays" so we are truly half way through their years. Oli is in pre-K at an English school, Lily is in grade 1 at the local French school, and Clover spends two days a week at a Forest School play group, and the rest of the time at home with me. This is our last year with a child in our home... it's so strange reflecting on that since I've had one (or all three!) home with me for almost seven years.

Chloe is such a strong spirit! Her talking has increased and improved leaps and bounds over the winter. She does still have delayed speech, but we are confident that she's improving and finding her voice... oh is she finding a VOICE. She is sarcastic, funny, and loud. The kids say she's the funniest person in our family and we have to agree. She's started making up her own songs about Jesus and it's the sweetest thing to eavesdrop on her singing something she's made up on the spot about how much God loves her. her laugh is guttural and hearty and we hear it often. Lately, her responses are always so affirmative (i.e. instead of saying "yes" or "no" she'll say "I do" "I will" or "I won't" "I didn't", etc.) It's so specific and interesting. She's officially diaper free and always trying to keep up with the big kids. She pretends to read and makes a folded piece of paper her "Bible" or her "phone" almost every day. She's still in love with the colour blue and penguins, but now has broadened her horizons to include purple, ponies and cats. She's such a hugger and shows affection really quickly to new people. Probably a trait from growing up in the church and always being around large crowds of people who love her :)

Oli is growing up so fast! I'm so glad we put him in the pre-K program at the local English school. He is so eager to learn and is thriving at school. A few months ago he saw Lily learning to read and wanted to join in, and within a couple of weeks he was reading grade 1 level books in English. No French for him yet, though. He reads to his class for "show and tell" and this month he's in his school's production of Beauty and the Beast. He recently asked me to buss his head so he could look more like Brad, lol! He's staying up later and later which is kind of hard on us because our evenings are getting smaller and smaller, but he truly needs way less sleep than the girls. With them all sharing a bedroom, we can't just have him read quietly in his room because he might wake the girls, so he's always the last one to bed.  He's really into Marvel superheros and still obsessed with all-things Lego. He's so quick to ask me to pray with him - if we see a homeless person, an ambulance, when we get bad news, etc. He split his chin open at swimming lessons a few weeks ago and barely cried - a huge stuffed Hulk was his prize for being so brave!

Lily is our courageous leader. Grade 1 has been so challenging with learning to read in two languages and all the new material and expectations that the grade brings. She's the youngest in her class and the only Anglophone, and yet she's still loving school and persevering in French. She is reading in French and is so committed to the class challenge of reading 100 books. As I type this, she's at 87 books this year - I'm so proud of her! She's started developing friendships with more and more kids who speak absolutely zero English which is just amazing to me. She has close friendships with girls from school, swimming lessons, and church where she never speaks her native tongue. I know how tiring that can be in my own friendships, but to her it's just second nature - so cool. Lily is constantly teaching and leading - sometimes we need to remind her "not to be the parent!" but she's just such a classic elder sister and leader of the pack. She's been losing teeth like crazy lately, and her smile is so beautiful!

I've been working on free-lance writing projects, selling Beautycounter, and maintaining this blog on my two free days but I'd love to expand on all fronts next year when Chloe is in school five days a week. I'm also starting up a Mom and Babies group in our church this month where moms (we have so many new mamas!) can come with their little ones for some community, coffee, and encouragement. My book club is starting the Anne of Green Gables series after reading heaps of Jane Austen this winter.

We are so excited for this summer's travels - we are off to Switzerland and Austria! This past winter felt really long... maybe because we spent the the last three weeks of summer in Iceland where it was +10 degrees? Brad just finished a really busy month with two conferences and a teaching stint out of town. I'm so thankful for my man. I'm always hesitant to brag on him on the blog because I never want to make it seem like my husband is better than another or that we have the perfect life - but he is so truly wonderful and God knew what he was doing giving him to me. He's strong in many of my weakest qualities, and vice versa. Plus, he mops the floors, so what can I say? I love you Braddy!