Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A camping we will go

Recently, I booked us in for two camping trips this Summer at nearby Ontario Parks – Presqu’ile and Sandbanks. We haven’t been to either before but heard good reviews of both from several friends. Last summer we never made it camping. I guess just something about being sleep deprived at home didn’t make me jump at the thought of trying to sleep away in a family tent.

We had such a good camping experience two summers ago with B at Sauble Beach (where I spent many childhood summers and where we spent some of our honeymoon). We’re also planning on going back there this summer but we stay at a private campground which doesn’t require us to book that far in advance to get a site. I was amazed that pretty much all of the good sites were already booked for this Summer on the Ontario Parks reservations website.

I’m a little nervous about camping with the littlest fellow although I’m sure it’ll be fine!

Tips for camping with small children anyone?

Below are some older photos of our camping trip two summers ago - B was 2. Where does the time go!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On values - sharing your own and respecting others

This weekend brought with it a valuable life lesson for B - and for myself. On Saturday I took him to a classmate's birthday party. Long story short, when they sat down to eat pizza, his friend remarked "pepperoni is bad for you" in relation to B's pizza choice. B, who had never heard this before, called out to me, "Mom, friend (who shall remain nameless) says pepperoni is bad for me". My first inkling was to say - your friend is right. However, most of the other kids at the table were also eating pepperoni pizza and I didn't want to cause widespread alarm among the children or even worse, offend the parents of the birthday girl who had dared to serve this "unhealthy" choice - which in all honesty, they probably hadn't given much thought to since pepperoni pizza is pretty much a customary kids party food along with other things like (gasp!) hot dogs. So stuck in a hard place, I said... "well...." and at this point the friend interrupted and assured me that "Yes it is bad for you. My mom says it is." So I offered up the best response I could think of at the time:

"It is okay to have a little bit once in awhile..for B...but whatever your mom says is what is right for you."

So this weekend we learned the lesson that different households have different values and rules and that pepperoni isn't a healthy meat choice but in our family we think it is okay to have once in awhile.

At this point, I feel compelled to say that we don't eat a ton of meat at our house and I do tend to avoid processed foods. We don't have sugar-laden treats often or salty snacks or any other kids convenience foods in our house and this was something that I felt really good about (up until yesterday when another mom showed me up for letting my kid eat pepperoni) since there is so much pressure on parents to buy these foods and lets face it, it is so much easier to pull out a granola bar, fruit snacks, fruit cup etc. than to make up a plate of crackers and hummus or cut up fruit. I didn't actually allow B pepperoni on his pizza until he was about 2 1/2. Up until then, he always got veggie pizza. But when he started to take an interest in eating what other people were eating, I did what felt right to me and loosened up and allowed it. What is the balance between being too strict and having your kids eventually resent this and possibly rebel and the alternative of being too lax and not providing a good nutritional base for your child? I thought I had this balance pretty much in check. But when I thought about it, this issue goes far beyond merely addressing food choices. The primary goal of Montessori is to foster independence but is independence being fostered to a flaw when children are being taught to aggressively pursue their own (read - their parents) views and be critical of others? Furthermore, is independence being encouraged with stricter parental controls being in place?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Early Spring

All this past week the weather has been in the teens. Between 12-18 degrees C! We've been taking advantage of the nice weather and trying to get outside as much as possible although it has been busy with all the kids out of school for March Break. Now that B is a little older, he goes off on his own at the playground and plays with the other kids while I keep sand out of N's mouth play with N. For us, our neighbourhood park is such an important social space. We are so lucky to live so close. We can see the park from our house. The only problem we have been having is getting someone to go back home.

We also got out to the local conservation area where we walked, fed birds, and collected of us even got a nap in :) Nature is so calming for B. He is such an active kid but when he immersed in nature he is a very different little boy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Kindergarten

Schooling has been a tough decision for us in this household. DH grew up in the public school system. I also went to public school but was in the French Immersion program until grade 7 when my parents sent me to private school where I stayed until grade 11. In grade 11 I decided I wanted to attend public high school but hated it and dropped out after the first semester. I finished off my high school through "learn at home" Ontario curriculum courses where I just went to a testing centre to write exams and submit assignments. I then went on to do an undergraduate degree and am now almost halfway through a graduate masters degree. DH did some college before deciding he was better suited for a trade apprenticeship program. I think it must be easier for parents who had a shared educational experience because a certain choice may just more or less be a given.

With B turning 4 this Spring, we're faced with the difficult decision on what we want to do for his education. Up until now, he has been attending Montessori 3 mornings per week. We absolutely love the Montessori program, the school, and his progression. Although we could afford to keep sending him, it is expensive between $800-$900 per month to send him for full days and we feel that the benefits, although many, don't quite amount to the costs in comparison with public school which is free (I guess we pay for it in taxes but we pay these taxes regardless of whether he attends or not). We also have another child to think about too. If we keep B in Montessori then we'll have to follow suit with N which would double the cost. Furthermore, we want B to go to the same school as most other kids in the neighbourhood and public school comes with bussing to and from school. We also considered french immersion but in our area it doesn't start until grade 1. Homeschooling wasn't an option for us. 

Long story short, I called and pre-registered him for kindergarten at our local school. And like the type A person I am, I immediately did my research on the school - seeking the opinions of other parents; analyzing class sizes, enrolment, and extra curriculars; reading the meeting minutes of the parent council; and of course reading over the Ontario curriculum documents for kindergarten. Most recently, I came across the EQAO standardized testing results for the school. The results were far below the regional and provincial average. My immediate thought, like many other critical parents, was to see about registering B for an out of area public school with higher rankings. But then all the benefits of going to the local school would be lost. I then looked at other schools in the City and noticed that their rankings were all over the map and were not significantly correlated with income which I found surprising. After much deliberation. I thought...why should we send our child to an out of area school. Why shouldn't our local school just get their act together. I think this might be the problem with the public school system. All the people who are critical of the system take it upon themselves to find alternatives to achieve better outcomes for their own children, rather than advocating for improvements that will benefit everyone. This is what lets schools get away with less than stellar performance because they are left with parents who rightfully assume that schools are doing their jobs and don't question or parents who don't have the time (or perhaps the money) to stake out alternatives or assert pressure for change. I plan on writing a letter to the school principal asking him what actions the school plans on taking to improve their results and I also plan on bringing up this question at the welcome to kindergarten meeting in the presence of other parents so that the school knows that there are critical parents out there that will be holding them accountable.  

DH thinks I might be over-analyzing as he remarked the other day - "all the other parents will be able to relax because you'll have everything covered". 

Are others struggling over making education choices for their little (or big) ones?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Out of my highlights journal

After keeping a daily highlights journal now for three months, I have noticed some trends emerging which gives me good insight into what has been making me happy as of late. So, in no particular order:

1. Getting together and chatting with friends
2. Quality time over quantity time with family - yoga with N; skating/go-karting with B; date nights with R
3. Funny things B says
4. Giving and receiving random acts of kindness and engaging in conversations with strangers
5. Alone time and taking time to look and feel my best. I have found that when I take the time to take care of myself, even just showering and getting dressed in nice clothes, I feel better.
6. Savoury meals
7. Organization and productivity (not being rushed, finishing stuff ahead of time, getting more done than anticipated)
8. Sunshine
9. Saying yes to things I don't or wouldn't normally do (tobogganing, ladies night out)
10. Watching my boys develop new skills and seeing their relationship with each other grow

What things are making others happy these days?