Sunday, December 15, 2019

christmas greetings 2019

Christmas 2019

Dear Family and Friends, 

Another year is nearly in the books. Time just seems to go faster and faster these days. We are doing well here, and enjoying this exciting stage of life with a preschooler. We are amazed at how Olivia has grown, not only in knowledge and stature, but also in confidence and independence. God is good!

Olivia had a number of firsts in 2019. After some practice over the winter in Beppe’s basement, she finally got to ride her tricycle outside this spring. She has since graduated to riding a bicycle and pedals all over the barn with it! In July, Olivia attended Vacation Bible School for five mornings at Beppe’s church. She loved all the activities and of course, the music! Olivia started gymnastics in September and has now progressed to the second level. In October, she hosted her first sleepover with cousins Molly and Lola. 

This fall, Mommy was thrilled to put her teaching skills back into practice when Olivia started her preschool year of homeschool. She enjoys learning a new letter each week and participates in a variety of activities teaching literacy and math concepts. Olivia’s favourite activities are music and making crafts. She has her own special “making things desk” in the kitchen, filled with craft supplies! 

Some things we did in 2019:
-Daddy and Olivia enjoyed the Easter egg hunt Mommy planned for them. 
-Olivia celebrated her 3rd birthday in June with an indoor party because of the rain. 
-Mommy picked lots of strawberries again this summer, although they weren’t ready in time for the party. We grew a bunch of our own veggies again this year, but were blessed to receive many extras from our farmer friends, the Van Grootheests and the Laundrys. 
-We attended the Waterfront Festival again this year where Olivia was big enough to go on a variety of rides, unaccompanied by a parent. 
-In August, Mommy and Olivia attended the Ameliasburgh Street Meet for the 3rd year in a row with the Dykmans. 
-We visited Campbell’s apple orchard with our friends the Moores. The kids loved the corn maze and wagon ride through the orchard.
-We enjoyed swimming in our neighbours’ pool several times a week all summer long. Mr. Ron and Ms. Gayle have become close friends and are like an extra set of grandparents to Olivia. -Mommy and Olivia also enjoyed half a dozen beach days yet in September.
-Our dear friend Randi-Lee paid us a surprise visit. It was a blessing to have her here, after having not seen each other for over four years.
-We adopted a Mama barn cat and four kittens in October. Olivia had the pleasure of naming them: Black & Orange, Smokey, Smokey, Girl Smokey, and Pumpkin Heads.
-We visited the Laundry’s pumpkin patch with the Broekema cousins, and also attended an open house at the local fire station. 
-Cowgirl Olivia enjoyed trick-or-treating again this year, but had to cut her time short because she was sick. 

This past year, Mommy spent a lot of time driving Beppe to doctor’s appointments and running errands for her after her stroke and subsequent fall back in March. We are thankful that Beppe’s brain bleed is fully healed and that she has finally been given the ok by doctors to drive again. Mommy continues to do housecleaning and organizing for one client on Thursday mornings. It is a blessing that Olivia can come along. Mommy also sells lots of items online. Whether it is her homemade preserves, things she’s found at the thrift store, or items on consignment for clients, she loves making a sale!

Daddy is still working as Senior Software Developer for clevr. He takes his role of provider very seriously. We are thankful that he was finally able to receive benefits through work last December. It has been a real treat to have coverage for things like dental, optometrist, chiropractor, and physio appointments, as well as little extras like massage therapy. We have certainly made it worthwhile this year! Over the summer, Daddy cut and split another eight cords of wood, and filled our garage for the coming winter. 

We hope this letter finds you well. We hope you enjoy a Merry Christmas and a have very Happy New Year. 

With much love,
Jared & Donna and Olivia Gryce

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

homeschooling adventures

In September, I started homeschooling our 3-year old for two mornings a week. We've been having lots of fun learning thus far. I'm thrilled to finally be able to dust off some of the old Kindergarten activities and curriculum I've saved over the years. 

Welcome to our classroom!  This is our primary work area:

Here's what a typical morning look like:

9:30 Morning Meeting
Calendar, Day Count, Weather Chart

9:40 Letter of the Week Activities
Letter crafts and stories, letter sounds song, intro to tracing/printing/creating letters. A combination of Letterland, Jolly Phonics, and my own research/ideas.

10:00 Fine Motor Skill Activities / Centres
Puzzles, play doh, sand, colouring, matching/memory games

10:15 Morning Message/Writing Journal
Following/using ideas from Building Blocks.

10:30 Math
Counting, number sense, sorting, patterning, shape activities and games. Using ideas from Math Their Way, and Making Shapes and Building Blocks: Investigations in Mathematics.

10:45 Music

Singing, movement, intro to rhythm instruments. Using ideas from Musicplay, Rhythm Instruments, and Wee Sing.

11:00 Creation Studies
Science, social studies, health, and seasonal/holiday themed stories, crafts, and activities, saved from my teaching days and extensive home library. 

One afternoon a week, we go to an introductory gymnastics class.

We've also done several field trips already (farm/pumpkin patch, fire station, apple orchard):

We love experiential/hands-on learning, and try to integrate learning wherever and whenever we can!

We've had an awesome autumn, and are now looking forward to Christmas-themed learning, and some wonderful winter activities.

Friday, May 31, 2019

little lost cat

Two weeks ago, I snapped my first picture of this girl. I'd previously seen her hanging around our place, which wasn't unusual as I've spotted a number of feral cats in the neighbourhood. (Lately, three different male cats have been making the rounds through our yard every few days.) Typically, though, whenever they hear to door to the house open, they  will take off running and no amount of coaxing or food will get them to come back. But this girl was different. She kept her distance, but didn't run. And once she realized I had food to offer, she popped right back out of the long grass and went straight for the dish. 

Now I know what you're all thinking....if you feed a stray, you'll never get rid of her.  But that was my point. The entire neighbourhood cat population has been decimated over the past few years. The coyotes, fishers, and other wild critters around here have found that outdoor cats make an easy dinner. For this reason, we haven't had barn cats for a few years, after the last one mysteriously vanished. 

Although we have two handsome indoor cats already, a barn just isn't a barn without a barn cat. So I'd been hoping to lure one  over (preferably a tough, street-wise male), and convince him to stay. But no such luck.

Once absorbed in her food, I was actually able to come over and gently pet her. Despite being very obviously hungry, she immediately began purring, stopped eating, and demanded more attention. I was able to pick her up in my arms, which was when I noticed she'd been nursing multiple kittens. Over the next few days, I spotted her a few more times and made a point of feeding her in the barn. I started leaving food out in the barn every day, regardless of whether I saw her. It was always gone the next day, although I wasn't certain she was the one eating it. And there was no sign of any kittens.

Well, on May 21st, she came right up to the house, meowing for food. She immediately followed me to the barn, ran over to her empty dish, and quickly gobbled up all the food I'd brought with me. Then she turned, meowed, and led me right over to the false wall in the hayloft where countless generations of clever Mama cats have hidden babies. After a few more chirps, imagine my surprise when not one or two, but FIVE kittens emerged from their hiding spot in the wall!

Over the past eleven days, feeding and petting these six has become part of our daily routine. The kittens are surprisingly friendly, for not having any human contact in roughly the first  six weeks of life. Obviously, Mama was someone's pet at one time. She is absolutely wild for human contact, and is affectionate with everyone, including our almost three-year-old. The babies are growing well, now that they are eating hard food.

In fact, Mama has to eat her food up on the beam, if she wants more than a few bites for a meal.

They are all SO, SO cute!

Welcome home, Mama!

*P.S. If anyone is seriously looking to adopt a kitten, 
I would be persuaded to let one or two go. 
So far, I've only confirmed two males (one black, one grey), 
and I'm hoping to avoid being overrun with kittens by this time next year.*

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

homeschooling resources

I have always been quite vocal about my support for homeschooling. My horrendous experiences teaching in the public board, plus the fact that private school is just not affordable for many of today's families, have only intensified this support. Since I am a certified primary teacher, with over ten years of classroom experience, it seemed like a no-brainer that I would eventually try my hand at homeschooling.

Our daughter will be almost 3 1/2 by September, and even though we are already busy learning, reading, playing, or crafting, I would love to start a more structured preschool program at home for her. Ever the planner, I've already spent a great deal of time sorting through my old resources that have been in storage since my sabbatical from the classroom. 

If you, or someone you know, are considering homeschooling your little one, here are some of my favourite helpful preschool/kindergarten/primary grade resources:


I attended a conference on Building Blocks back in 2006, which was instrumental in how I went on to build my kindergarten literacy program. One thing from the book that I implemented right away, was the use of Morning Messages. I definitely plan to do this with our daughter.

Someone gifted me this series, and I used it for both my JK and SK students to reinforce letter sounds and print concepts. Somehow in my travels, I lost the "q" book (any blog readers want to sell me a copy??) but I am excited to share the rest of the series with my daughter.

For teaching letter sounds, a lot of teachers are using the Jolly Phonics program. I used it briefly and liked the different songs and actions they have for each letter. I had planned to use it for my daughter, but ended up discovering Letterland instead.  We only have the books below, but found the songs, movie, and letter formation supplements are all available on YouTube.

Each letter has a story and character to go with it, plus a song for the sound and the letter formation. My daughter loves it!

Although I typically don't use worksheets for kindergarten age, (I'm an advocate for the play-based approach to kindergarten), one thing I like about this book is that it has letter sounds cut and paste activities which are great for fine motor skill practice. It also has food creation/snack ideas to go with each letter, which are a great addition for homeschooling families. I also love how it includes mini books for each letter sound, which are fantastic for learning sight words.

If you don't want to purchase any workbooks, but would prefer to go the worksheet route, offers free printable resources for preschool (and beyond), including this cute worksheet, which would be a great supplement for fine motor skill and letter recognition practice. 

In addition, has a ton of levelled reading resources for kindergarten and beyond. You do have to subscribe in order to access all the materials, but they do offer a 2 week free trial. It's a great way to find books that are at the correct reading level, in addition to allowing you to track your child's reading progress.

For older students (grade 1 and beyond), these resources were very valuable to me:

Finally, there are tons and tons of alphabet songs, activities, and craft ideas on Google and Pinterest that you can make use of.



The first book is dated, but it was my first available resource when I began planning my math program for JK. It has many large and small group lesson ideas, as well as ideas for organizing games and hands-on activities. Best of all, there are no worksheets, making it perfect for preschool and JK. I used the second book for extra lesson ideas, games, and learning centers, perfect for JK.

I followed this curriculum series when I taught SK math, and loved the detailed lesson plans as well as all the games and activities. There are some work sheets, but they supplement the games and activities. I look forward to using this again.

Although Jump Math offers kindergarten curriculum, I would prefer to exclusively use my play-based program. I am, however, considering purchasing the grade 1 workbooks, which are reasonably priced at about $12 each. Having worked with current Math Makes Sense curriculum in the past, I much prefer Jump Math.


All of these resources are excellent to get your littles singing, dancing, and moving!


I used all of these websites while I working as a tutor. They all offer great online games, based on age/grade level.

Current homeschooling parents, and primary teachers: What are your favourite resources? Leave a comment below!

*********The opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. 
Each family should choose resources and curriculum that is right for them. 
I have not been compensated in any way for promoting any materials listed in this post. *********