To Barbados and Back with a Family of Six

Right after Christmas we adventured to Barbados and back with lots of help from the grandparents! We explored Toronto beforehand and had an incredible time in Barbados, splashing in pools and waves, visiting family, playing lots of cards and experiencing a new-to-us corner of the world. Already dreaming about our next travel adventure…

Adventuring at the Royal Ontario Museum pre flight

Checking out the University of Toronto campus

About to experience Mother’s Dumplings in Chinatown

Waking up to sun and wind in Barbados

Nothing like running to the pool

Up on the windy cliff over the Atlantic

Enjoying the hammocks at Cutters restaurant

 

 

Grandpa Bill playing his clarinet like a pro at Cutters

Meme and Rose deep in conversation

Exploring with family on their land

Going down to the trampoline

Before the tractor ride

Pre-ride picture. Sandy and the older three rode in the front bucket and Lila and I rode in the cab

Across the fields and into the valley

Heading out the front door to the pool

Finding a secret place with cousins

I loved these tropical windows

A giant bonfire

Just dragging a giant leaf

This land reminded me of Kansas in many ways

A ride back to the house

The most beautiful pool at the Craine Resort

Enjoying the waves and sand at the Craine

Salt!

About to eat Roti

Checking out a flattened frog

 

Rose’s collection

Tired beach babies

We played a lot of tennis in the cool of morning

Balcony treats

A day to snorkel and explore on the quiet side of the island

A favourite seaweed side

 

Keeping up with art poolside

Playing the Three Amigos at the pool

A last family picture before we headed home

What we did in December 2018

Sandy and Luca went to a TFC game in Toronto

Luca (#7) and his buddy working on their soccer skills

Luca has been playing basketball every weekend

What most nights look like after the lights are out

The kids raised money for the Terry Fox run with lots of pink lemonade!

Remi turned 5! He asked for Lemon Meringue Clouds as his birthday cake

Pre-bedtime play

Just doing some evening scrubbing…

We are part of a wonderful homeschool book club. This month the cousins hosted with their book Fanny at Chez Panisse

 

 

This was the lovely menu. Designed by our cousins with options provided by all the book club families.

Off to the Post Office with these four

Remi trying out his birthday bow and arrow

 

All spruced up for our friend’s annual Solstice celebration

Stringing popcorn and cranberries – a family tradition that we always did with my grandparents

Christmas morning with these bright eyes

Christmas day run on the beach

Bedtime story – celebrating the life and loves of Sandy’s dad

 

What our life looks like 98% of the time

I come across blogs about other homeschoolers that are just so beautiful! The children are all nestled around the harvest table, lovely books spread across the old barn planks, a pot of tea, candles burn with a peaceful glow – in the background there is a shelf with nature findings, a globe, a succulent garden orb and books for every subject lined up by color. The many children round the table are each immersed in their projects – writing lovely characters on a real slate, drawing a detailed diagram of the water process, and one is even reciting poetry out loud!  Frankly the picture is a work of art. I have nothing against any of this beauty, but in truth these are curated pictures and no one lives like that all the time.  I will be the first to admit that I also curate my pictures. I adjust the color. I asked my kids to hold this or that and smile! And usually what you see in my pictures is just a tiny glimpse of our space – but just outside the frame is where I shoved the giant pile of laundry aside.  We are not perfect. No one is.  The following un-edited pictures are what our homes looks like 98% of the time. Enjoy and relax!

Seeds and Duct Tape

We started September off with a wonderful adventure out to a local lakeside park to gather seeds, write in our journals and enjoy the last days of summer weather near the water

The sides of the bank here are quite steep – Luca always wants to go down, but I had to watch from above with Lila as the kids practically slid down the side!

Here we are set up in the shade with our blanket, market basket full of pencils and journals and Phoebe tied to the tree behind us

These pretty pencils were a gift from Grandmama and Grandpapa – they were always so supportive of our creative pursuits growing up and now are supporting their grandkids in the same ways.  I often give thanks for my experiences growing up in an unschooling/life learning family – as we homeschool our own kids, I have a built-in support system in my parents.  I’m used to this way of life and I don’t have to worry that my family thinks we are crazy… but these are real struggles for a lot of homeschooling families.  I hope this blog and my friendships in my local homeschooling community can be a support for those finding their way.

A couple years ago I bought these thick blank art journals for Luca and Rose. Luca has been pretty good about organizing his entries, whereas Rose scribbled on every page! We’ve gotten about half way through them, even though Rose has to re-use all of her scribbled-on pages! We use them for copy work, drawings and diagrams, math, art and whatever seems to work well at the moment. It’s a lovely way to have a lot of their work together in one place and a sweet reminder of all of the good things we have done together! Here is Luca decorating his 2017 entry.

We gathered seeds and made a graph of the ones we could identify

Pencils, blanket, goldfish, journals and a baby! All you need for a fabulous homeschool adventure!

What September looks like in Ontario

Later we made this pretty circle display of our seeds with labels around the outside. Never underestimate the power of cardboard!

Luca finds a quiet moment

With my mom’s help, I set up one of my art tables in our living room for the kids to have another space to write, do art, and work on our latest projects. I’m so glad I did! We live in a fairly small home and having another space to spread out has been so handy! Rose has especially embraced this space and I often look over and see her perched on the stool immersed in drawing and coloring. Something I often think about is creating space for our kids to just be in – a cozy nook to read in, a fort to play cards and lego in, a table by the window…

This month we really enjoyed creating our own patterns with the help of a lovely guide on Design Sponge by Julia Rothman.

Luca colored his with Pixelmator

Rose used Procreate and the iPencil to color hers

I had to make one too!

Rose and Remi playing with the Beleduc human body puzzle

Luca and Rose had fun making number charts. It’s a great way to get in a little practice in repetition and lettering. Luca also had fun using different colors to represent different multiplication groupings.

This year Luca, Rose and Remi all submitted entries into our local fall fair. Rose and Remi painted rocks and Luca made duct tape gauntlets. We used a pair of old garden gloves and fabric for the base form and covered them with layers of duct tape. He was happy to get a second place ribbon!

I am forever grateful to kind friends that drop off art supplies, books and clothes at our door! Here is Remi playing with a great stamp set!

One of my favorite Lego builds this fall was when Luca and Rose created “Their Worlds”. I can’t now remember all the details, but they each had a little house, garden and vehicles and spent hours up in the bedroom creating and playing, totally immersed in their little lands.

Lila Wren looking her usual happy self after the bath

How many mornings look around here

How they look down under too

 

We went out to a shady place in the park and drew maple leaves and collected dandelions


We are part of a small group of alternative educators that join together for many wonderful outings and adventures, one being a weekly Kids In Nature program. Here we are gathered together in a sweet little circle of trees that looked just like Tolkien’s Lothlórien to me.  I spent my childhood growing up in the country, learning so much from the fields, prairies and woods of my parent’s hundred acres.  Since we now live in town, this is one way that I’m hoping to spark a love of the outdoors in my children. In that same vein, a couple of years ago we watched and loved the documentary All the Time in the World – disconnect to reconnect.  I would highly recommend it!

 

With this same lovely group we went camping (well some of us did) at Warsaw Caves Conservation Area

Luca builds a boat with duct tape

Rose builds one too!

Helpers on the woodchip pile

Hammering on his board of nails

Summer starts here

Although I’ve always known we’d be on the path to homeschooling, this year we really got down to business and made a commitment to this way of life and we’re so glad we did! Our kids Luca (age 8), Rose (age 5) and Remi (age 3) explore life and learn every day through reading, imagination, play, and time spent together and with our community. We are documenting our experience here. Enjoy!

The kids helped me set up my art booth at Salad Garden in Grafton in early June – they love being helpful and I love sharing the process with them

This month at Library Friends the fabulous David Newland came to play and sing songs about his arctic adventuring – what a treasure he is for us all in this community!  We also had Aunt Mary come by and share her love of clay with us!  The kids made some beautiful pinch pots and other clay explorations

Remi makes modern art with hangers at our June weekend at the cottage

Rose working on the perfect marshmallow

Rose took this shot – one more month to go!

This may be my favorite thing about the cottage – seeing the kids playing their enchanted games of childhood against the backdrop of woods and lake

Strawberry season is always a time looked forward to

Strawberry shortcake on the porch

Monopoly was the game of the month

The eggs are plentiful and this sweet girl is our chicken whisperer

Exploring the new iPad and Apple Pencil – Rose loves the coloring apps and Luca is loving Swift Playground

Rosie learned to ride a big kid bike this month!!!

Helping chop herbs in the kitchen

The giant Mega Blocks tower to the ceiling never gets old!

Family biking!

Luca is loving loving loving soccer this summer! So proud of his sportsmanship and hard work!

Remi’s St. Peter’s Preschool Graduation Party!  His bottom-teeth-only smile of late is hilarious!

Rose and Sandy attend the Father Daughter Ball!

Putting on Mama’s special necklace

Evening on the rock beach

The kids took the next few pictures – I always love their perspective

Three little monkeys all ready for summer!

 

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Flutterby May

Although I’ve always known we’d be on the path to homeschooling, this year we really got down to business and made a commitment to this way of life and we’re so glad we did! Our kids Luca (age 8), Rose (age 5) and Remi (age 3) explore life and learn every day through reading, imagination, play, and time spent together and with our community. We are documenting our experience here. Enjoy!

We celebrate May Day every year and part of that ritual of Spring and gladness is our secret adventuring around town delivering May Baskets! My dad always made a May Basket for my mom and later on all of us kids every year.  Later we kids joined in on the fun and left May Baskets secretly for our grandparents and friends.  I love carrying on this tradition with my kids – creating the baskets, filling them with flowers, loading up the car or bike and heading out to our deliveries.

I especially love watching the kids run up to their friend’s houses – on a secret and lovely mission

We led the Library Friends group with a May Pole dance – although the end product was mostly a wonderful jumble of twisted ribbon, it was the act of being outside together celebrating an ancient rite of Spring that felt so good.

Our theme this month was bugs!  We explored the life cycle of a butterfly and created lots of paper butterflies which we used to create some lovely displays.

Luca’s journal entry on Metamorphosis

Rose’s Journal

Remi’s butterfly mask creation!

And lastly, bug month wouldn’t be complete without a butterfly war! That’s what is happening here… later became very exciting!

Rose’s dance recital!

This is us trying to get a family photo…

As good as it gets!

The usual look of our living space

Rose creating her own iPhone

With a little help from mama… those apps are tiny! There is more visual detail on the front of an iPhone than you realize!

Rose coloring Easter eggs and May Day cards for her friends

Coloring on a board that we used to experiment with our wood router

Doing a bit of math in the Brain Quest workbook

Creating a map of our back yard for a future zip line!

Working on a medieval spear

Using Bingo Bugs and our Alphabet Poster

Luca’s latest Lego Mindstorm creation

Creating a world in Minecraft

Playing a new game from Grandmama – Engineering Ants

Learning Settler’s of Catan for the first time – he is a huge fan!

Sleeping Queens card games is still a favorite

Adventuring in the car

Peterborough park

Watching the baby ducks

Exploring an old railroad track – we found a snake too!

Enjoying the Silver Bean Cafe

Phases of the moon

Our deck in the spring time sun is our favorite place

Taking care of the seedlings

Creating a poster for the Library Friends farmer’s market!

“Salad” bags filled with grass and flowers for the market

Getting the register ready for sales

At the market… it was super fun, even though these guys look a little unsure.

Out at the courts!

Rose in her summer soccer gear

Luca got onto the rep soccer team this year and is loving it!

I spent a few months going to an art class – learning to paint more realistically which was a pretty drastic difference from my usual work.

“One Morning in Maine” as bedtime reading

Zonked

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April Adventures

Although I’ve always known we’d be on the path to homeschooling, this year we really got down to business and made a commitment to this way of life and we’re so glad we did! Our kids Luca (age 8), Rose (age 5) and Remi (age 3) explore life and learn every day through reading, imagination, play, and time spent together and with our community. We are documenting our experience here. Enjoy!

And suddenly April has come and gone like the wind!  Around here April is a birthday month, so there were lots of lovely celebrations going on – most notably Luca’s 8th birthday and my Mom’s surprise birthday celebration in Colorado that Luca and I travelled down to.  Sandy held down the fort with Remi, Rose, Phoebe and the chickens.  Easter was celebrated in Canada and Colorado and the Easter Bunny made the rounds!

Luca and Rose sorted our ever growing cupboard of board games and puzzles.  We have a vintage copy of Masterpiece, a wonderful art world auction game that was one of my favorites growing up.

We played Sleeping Queens card game in CO and it quickly became a favorite at home too – especially for Remi!  He has probably asked to play it every morning, after breakfast, every afternoon and before bed for about two weeks straight.  I may have hidden it for a brief period.  But it is a great game and with such cute illustrations too!

This month’s sewing project was a Jedi Cloak for Luca

Luca and his buddy Quin love creating these Jedi/Sith battles on paper – I love their squiggly creations! They will spend hours working on these layouts and playing the battles between good and evil.

Rose working on some Easter egg creations for her friends – she does a lot of these little friend envelopes… unfortunately not all of them actually get to her friends, but I think it the process of making sure each friend receives a little drawing and envelope with their name on it that she really loves.  Now it is my job to help them too follow through… that is the hardest part somehow.

Rose’s rain clouds

One lovely sunny afternoon the kids made a Nature Store out of the lemonade stand

While turning over straw bales in the garden we found a beautiful little toad

This month our read-aloud bedtime book was The Tale of Despereaux

Rose enjoying some quiet drawing time in the hammock while the chickens wait for worms to be tossed through their fence

This isn’t a very good picture, but this is Luca’s favorite climbing Variegated Willow beside our house. I love how he gets lost in it’s thin little branches and is in a world of his own making. It’s nothing elaborate, no giant tree, but just right for a young boy and his imagination.

Luca lost another tooth and found this little note with a $2 coin under his pillow

Remi was all smiles during his first haircut!

Having some one-on-one time with Papa

We attempted shaving cream and food color Easter eggs, but they were a little underwhelming. The best part was playing in the smooth cream and creating peaks and twists of foamy color

My beautiful mother had a fancy birthday this month and the family surprised her with an extravagant trip to Denver, dinner out at Acorn and a lovely night at The Brown Hotel! Isn’t she lovely!

Luca and I on our way to Colorado – It was a rare treat for me to travel with just one child!

Family dinner in the back yard at my sister Betony’s.  Betony is my sister-in-crime in all things homeschooling! And as often as we long to be just blocks away instead of hundreds of miles, we talk on the phone almost every day and share ideas, triumphs and tears of the day with 3 and 4 kids… and every moment I’m so grateful that she is my sister!

One of my favorite places – in the kitchen with my sisters Betony and Willow!

Betony and her fourth little one – all-smiles-all-the-time Arlo!

Luca putting together his birthday present – a Star Wars rebel ship

Easter morning with the cousins

Funny faces at an Easter egg hunt photo booth

The annual Easter egg dying

 

Documenting this fourth little person inside! About 28 weeks here

Growing up it was always a special treat when mom got out the Ukrainian egg decorating kit.  Delicate wee tools are used for scooping up bees wax, heating the little wands over a flame and then letting the wax flow out of the tip and onto your egg.  After every pattern of wax you dip your egg in dye and do another layer of wax.  After all the layers are done you gently heat your egg over the flame or in the oven and melt off all of the wax.  What’s left is so delicate and your whole house smells like bees wax!

My dad and Luca working through all of the levels of Camelot Jr. – a lovely little wooden strategy game where you try to make a pathway with the knight to the princess

The beautiful lobby of the Brown Hotel in Denver

Denver city art

On the grounds of the Denver Art Museum

Mask making display inside the museum

My dad explaining the evolution of life to Luca

Double Mocha Cake following our family tradition for my birthday – complete with a kid-decorated top!

Luca and little Harriet enjoying a quiet game playing time at the coffee shop

He is a monkey!

Last night in CO celebration with Old Fashioned Sodas!

Luca’s big bike birthday present!

Working on light saber favors for Luca’s party!

It was an epic birthday battle that lasted about two hours!

Little helper bringing out the cupcakes

Blowing out the candles on Apple Hand Pies – with sprinkles of course!

And lastly a goodnight picture – what many of our pre-bedtime evenings look like

 

 

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So long March

Although I’ve always known we’d be on the path to homeschooling, this year we really got down to business and made a commitment to this way of life and we’re so glad we did! Our kids Luca (age 7), Rose (age 5) and Remi (age 3) explore life and learn every day through reading, imagination, play, and time spent together and with our community. We are documenting our experience here. Enjoy!

In March we were all about Egypt! Ancient Egyptian games, weapons, attire, stories and enough bits and pieces to make it feel like something substantial without losing the spark.  And speaking of the spark…

I’ve discovered a few homeschooling mothers/pioneers that I just adore: The Homeschool Sisters and Julie Bogart. I’ve been listening to their podcasts and down-to-earth advice and guidance while fixing dinner or during our afternoon quiet time.  Listening to these women talk about their own journeys, the magic of childhood and the trials and joys of raising children has been incredibly helpful for me in these past few months of full days with three energetic children and one on the way.  Today I am especially inspired by Julie Bogart and what she calls “Enchanted Education” – which basically is this: giving our children space and pause in which to cultivate magic.  That learning does not necessarily fit into a box or need to look like education.  Following the magic, the enchanted path with your kids is all you really need.  As Julie says, “Sometimes the most sacred moments in our days with our children show no outward educational value.”

This video and live conversation about Enchanted Education is really wonderful!! The video clip has a bit of an introduction while she sets up and says hello, but when she gets going I absolutely LOVE her insights.

Watch it here

And so on to March…

Here is the gang painting away on arm bands and other Egyptian weaponry

I maybe had the most fun with the necklaces, getting lost in all those dots and dashes!

Luca’s arm bands

Rose modeling the necklace

Rose’s Egyptian eyes, which she decided she didn’t like at all and went instead for the pink princess look further below

A Remi Bat!

Luca with his god of the dead jackal mask and rose with her cat mask.

Luca painting his jackal mask – it really turned out great!

Luca always loves making swords, shields and anything having to do with armor.  I remember him saying that the Egyptian armor is “awesome!” and that it might be his favorite.

Rose coloring an Egyptian princess

One of our favorite books this month was a great find at the thrift store called “Temple Cat” by Andrew Clements

Playing the ancient game of Senet!

Senet was a lot more fun than even I had imagined it would be! So we decided to make our own board with Star Wars characters (of course!), but it is still in the works as I write this…

Library Friends is always a good time – one week in March was all about maple sugaring and the native names for syrup, tree and house.  The kids made a beautiful sugar bush forest with wee sap buckets!

Outdoor Adventures – this month the kids were able to join a nature mentor and a bunch of their buddies on the land of a good friend – exploring the forest, building a fire and generally having a wonderful time in the woods!

Bird watching from our window

Time to plant seeds!

They are up!

We love our weekly Art Hive afternoon! Free form art exploration and general playing (usually involving forts under the table) are always a great way to finish off the week!

Checking out the cool clear tape people at Art Hive

Luca is really enjoying the piano app

It is great to see them helping out each other on a sleepy morning

Nothing like a pop-up band and march thru the house!

Don’t ever throw out rubber bands or cardboard! They become so many creations complex and simple

Sandy and Rose adding in the little letters to our alphabet poster

Remi using the ipad to match letters on the poster

More color wheels happened!

We were invited to a friend’s house for a Literary Lunch! We were asked to pick a book and bring food corresponding to that story.  We chose one of the Little House books and packed a picnic of bread, butter, cheese and hard boiled eggs. But of course we had to imprint patterns on our butter just like Ma does! The kids found lots of great little bits and pieces to pattern with – mostly Lego!

R2D2 face plants

Rose’s pizza box drawing that I just can’t part with – pizza grease stains and all!

Going out to the compost bins

Rose’s Art

Poetry Teatime with Lazy Dazy Cake and poems about teapots

Playing a very looong game of Risk – can you see how tired we are! But the kids loved it!

All about the enchanted play…

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February is more than it seems

Although I’ve always known we’d be on the path to homeschooling, this year we really got down to business and made a commitment to this way of life. Our kids Luca (age 7), Rose (age 5) , Remi (age 3) and a wee one in the oven (due in July 2017) explore life and learn every day through reading, imagination, play, and time spent together and with our community. We are documenting our experience here. Enjoy!

February:

As I write this it is March and life in winter (in Canada) is looking up! March has that calendar date that says “First Day of Spring”, there is March break to look forward to when we get to see Sandy all day every day for a whole week, seed catalogues to dream through and hopefully some real warm weather before too long! But back in the midst of February we were all feeling a little like a ship lost at sea. The kids were bouncing off the walls or walking around like zombies repeating over and over “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored… “. I on the other hand felt deflated, uninspired and unmotivated to get us going on anything.  As a homeschooling mother this is a pretty hard place to be in.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to help our children be productive, to nurture their emotional state, to help them accomplish something worthwhile every day.  As homeschooling parents, we are accountable for not only the health, happiness and well-being of our children, but for their education as well.  We knew from the beginning that this was what we were signing up for and made that choice with a happy heart! But living with this choice on a day-to-day existence can be a pretty big weight to carry. I especially feel that weight if I’m feeling uninspired myself.  That in turn seems to easily transfes to my kids and our household.  When I’m in that place I try and remember that the hours upon hours of unstructured time are incredibly beneficial for the kids and that their free play is a huge part of their education of becoming a human.  The key (I think!) is attempting to maintain balance, while not beating yourself up for “unproductive” time.  This so called unproductive time may instead be a time of ideas germinating, ideas bubbling under the surface and a pause before the next flurry of production – and all of this is good and needed in our lives.  From these pictures I realize that we did more in Feb than I thought we did and I want to honor those those moments that felt so hard at the time.  We didn’t do much math, we didn’t do much writing or spelling in Feb, but we did plays games, make things and had many hours of freedom. It was a good month.

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Here is Remi trying out the interior of our Shadow Puppet Theatre. We led the Library Friends program for a week in February – our theme was Ground Hog Day.  We created this little box theatre at home, took it into the library and had a wonderful time making shadow puppets together.  All of the kids seemed really into it and it felt magical to turn off the lights and light up the little theatre and see their creations come alive. These are the moments that feel right.  There wasn’t a lot of direction (the kids were choosing body/animals parts for their puppet, adding extra arms or accessories, gluing them together on popsicle sticks and then heading across the room to check out their creations in the theater.  I’m always trying to find creative thinking projects for the kids that aren’t all about following directions and creating a cookie cutter experience.  This project seemed to be just right for creativity to flow.

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Here is Rose painting the Stage Right door

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Remi exploring the paint!

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Adding some column detail

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Whoa! They both fit inside!

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Trying out the puppets!

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Valentine’s Day crafting!

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We wove some Danish Hearts

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We also made Danish Heart Baskets with fabric

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And attempted paper roses… I had a vision of gathering a bunch of branches and decorating a table tree with the paper roses, but they were pretty delicate and rolled out of their shape easily.  Hopefully we will do this for another celebration – when I was little I remember making lots of these centerpiece trees celebrating birthdays or holidays.

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The kids and I made a fabulous snow fort in the back yard

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We played lots of games! This is the all time favorite Labyrinth 

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Rush Hour is one of our newest additions and Luca has already zoomed through all of the levels!

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Set was one of my childhood favorites and it is still wonderful!

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Just like his Papa, Luca is a Monopoly master

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Winter at the cottage was a highlight!

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Snowball fight in short sleeves!

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Always building Lego!

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Here the kids are putting their Sky Quilts together. For about nine days Luca and Rose documented the color of the winter sky and wrote it down in their journals.  We then found fabric to match their colors and made quilts out of their observations! I loved how there were lots of different levels to this projects – being outside and observing our winter skies, deciding on colors, writing down their findings, cutting and pinning together fabric and learning to use our sewing machine!

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