Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Christmas Newsletter

Greetings to your home from ours this Christmas season!
2013 was a great year in our home!

We were happy to have dh’s mom, “Grammy” visit us for many birthdays this year and appreciated her and the aunties taking care of the children overnight so we could get away for a night in Niagara Falls – our first night away without children in 9 years!

In April, my family celebrated her grandmother Nanny’s 92nd birthday, and in October had a big scare as Nanny spent almost a month in the hospital. Nanny is doing much better now and we are so thankful for God’s kindness towards us in letting us keep her with us longer!

In July we celebrated a big birthday milestone for my mother. Since there are so many grandchildren, the party welcoming her to her senior years was held at Lil' Monkeys Indoor Playground!

In August we traveled to Hershey, PA for dh’s cousin’s wedding. Our road trip included a stopover in Corning, NY, where we visited the Corning Museum of Glass. dd was delighted to dance with her “princess” cousin, bride "L." Of course we also took in the Hershey chocolate factory tour a couple of times and brought some goodies home!

We were also able to enjoy some time at my mom’s cottage in Cobourg, where the kids enjoyed riding their bikes, building sandcastles, and swimming in the lake.

I completed my first year as the Senior Librarian at the L... Library, and was a speaker at the Ontario Library Association’s SuperConference, the Ontario Christian Home Educator’s Conference, and the Halinet Mini-Conference – all on the topic of homeschoolers and the library.

Dh continued to work part-time at the Home Depot and be the primary caregiver at home. This year he learned how to replace several dryer components and commented that he is now “way too familiar with dryer guts and dryer psychoses.”

We made the decision to change our educational model from homeschool to the public school system, and ds1 (Grade 4) and ds2 (Grade 2) began classes at the local elementary school this Fall. Due to his ADHD and dysgraphia, adjustment took a bit longer for ds1, but ds2 excitedly embraced his new environment and learning opportunities. Ds1 has a great support system, with a Special Education Resource teacher, an Educational Assistant, and a laptop with assistive technology. We are so thankful for the support we have received from the school system as we made this transition.

This has also allowed dh to spend more time with dd (JK) and ds3 (pre-school), and our current plan is to keep them home until dd is in Grade 1 and ds3n in JK (September 2015).

Dd, ds2, and ds1 also participate in AWANA and swimming lessons. Ds3 is eagerly looking forward to when he’ll be old enough to join them.

We are thankful for God's blessings and provision for us this year. We look forward to catching up with you so please drop us a line!

From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very blessed 2014!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's back to school day

If you want to share news quickly you can use the telephone, telegram, or tell-a-kid. There's a good chance that by the end of this afternoon information will be flowing through the homeschool grapevine about our educational choices.

We began our homeschooling journey in 2008, when DS1 was about to enter Junior Kindergarden. I had enrolled him in the local public school, however as the day grew closer I became more and more convinced that homeschooling would be a better alternative for him at that time. I had a sense that he wouldn't be able to sit still in class and that his little spirit might be crushed by the need to conform to the rules of the classroom. My husband and his 6 younger siblings having been homeschooled, I had his support and the encouragement of my mother-in-law. 

I was the primary teacher for DS1 & DS2 for 3 years, before returning to work full-time in Fall 2011. For the 2011-2012 school year, I had planned out the curriculum and all the lessons and DH implemented everything. In 2012-2013 we picked out the curriculum and planned out the year together. We found that the change in teachers worked very well for our sons, especially DS1. DH is much more intelligent than I am, especially when it comes to math, and worked very patiently with DS1. His full-time presence at home also helped a great deal with discipline. 

My work as a public librarian allows me to advocate for homeschoolers, provide programs to meet their needs, and increase the collection holdings on the subject. I have also had the privilege of speaking about homeschoolers and public libraries at several major conferences, including the Ontario Library Association, the Ontario Christian Home Educators' Convention, and the Halinet Conference. We feel that my working outside the home full-time in a job that I enjoy, that benefits others and my family, is a good arrangement for our family.

Grade 3 took a while to complete... in fact the math component of Grade 3 was only completed in mid-August. You can see a video of one of the better math lessons here - note the constant noise and movement.

After a family vacation, we began the 2013-2014 school year on August 26th. After a week, it was clear that this year was going to be no better than the last when it came to DS1. We were frustrated and had exhausted our resources in terms of finding new ways to try to engage him. Our DD was now beginning JK and we would have to keep 3 plates spinning as it were. 

DS1 had been asking to be sent out to public school and we agreed that it was time for a major change in our home. We made the decision to send him out to public school and his little brother also asked to be sent out. We told DS1 & DS2 they had to commit to staying out at school until the end of the school year, at which point we will re-assess. 

Cornerstone Home Educators' leader, Michelle Harding, encouraged us to create a "Why We Home Educate Our Children" document to remind us of the reasons behind our decision. She generously shared her own document with us and we liked it so much that we used some of her points verbatum. Our own document, which has been prominently posted in our dining room, lists these as our reasons for homeschooling:

  • We have prayed about it and believe it to be God’s will and design for our family.
  • We have the freedom and choose to exercise our right to teach our children the morals and values as taught in the Bible.  Our beliefs are not “mainstream” and we do not believe that mainstream education reflects our values as Christians.
  • We are teachers of our children from birth and see no reason to turn that job over to the government.
  • Allowing our children to grow up together and learn together helps them form a closer bond with their family members.  
How many people take the time to think about why they chose the educational method they chose for their children? I would say these are the reasons "Why We Public School Educate Our Children":
  • We have prayed about it and believe it to be God’s will and design for our family at this time.
  • We have equipped our children and taught them Biblical morals and values. They will continue to be taught these values at home, at church, and in weekly AWANA classes.
  • By keeping our children at home until Grade 1, we allow our children to grow up together and learn together, helping them form a closer bond with their family members.  
We are glad to have been able to provide them with so many years together at home and plan to keep our younger ones home until they begin Grade 1. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

We feel complete peace about our decision. Our goal has always been to homeschool "as long as it works." That is the same goal we have for public school. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

ADHD Resources

In June last year I wrote about my suspicions that my eldest son, then almost 8, might have ADHD. In April of last year I had started contacting psychiatrists to find out about having a psycho-educational assessment done to confirm (or deny) my suspicions. Since we were homeschooling, this was mostly to provide us with some guidance as to how we could best work with our son at home.

The assessments took place in July and August, and we received a 25 page report, with 20 recommendations, in September. This included a phone call to review everything, and the psychologist encouraged me not to "over-catastrophize." An additional learning we gained through this process was that DS1 also has dysgraphia. We immediately switched to scribing for him to reduce his frustration in getting his thoughts down on paper. We also tried letting him use the computer since he had completed a typing course, however he was too interested in experimenting with different font styles and sizes and would usually end up erasing part or all of his work.

We met with a pediatrician who specializes in children with ADHD and reviewed non-medicating options. We also went to ROCK (Reach out Centre for Kids) and someone met with us for 4 sessions. We identified what we wanted help with so she talked to us about discipline tactics. We also bought DS1 in for a session and she explained to him how his brain works and what he can do to help himself. 

Something we found that has been quite helpful is melatonin. DS1 takes this at bedtime and it helps him to calm down and sleep. And of course a good night of sleep (or not) has effects on the next day.

I found it difficult to find resources to truly support us as homeschoolers. At least with the official diagnosis, people could understand that he wasn't necessarily a naughty child, just that he has some challenges.

A year later I am hopeful. I see that as he grows older he also matures in some ways and develops some self-regulation. It was a good decision to find out what was going on and to try to develop tactics to help our son. It was also important that we learned about his struggle with dysgraphia so that we could support him. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Calvirio Boys' Home

My family is supporting a school/crèche in Rio de Janeiro. The Calvirio Boys' Home has been functioning since the 1990s and has seen many boys from precarious situations come through it's doors. The home has a capacity for 25 and is also a school for the poorest children in the neighbourhood. The school includes a creche and takes babies and toddlers, to care for many little ones who were left to their own resources.

shower doors

Last year we had the opportunity to send a financial gift and it was well used to provide gates, shower doors, and half doors for cupboards. Imagine a shower door being an unaffordable luxury.

Hallway Roof
When we had an opportunity again at the beginning of this year, our thoughts immediately turned once again to the Calvirio Boys' Home. For many years Calvirio’s roof has been giving problems and now leaks in every room! When the rainy season is on, Nov - Feb/March, water just pours in. Several attempts have been made to fix it, which worked for a while, but in reality it needs to be completely replaced and the cost is prohibitive and so has never been a possibility. Just recently one of the staff slipped on the wet floor and fractured her knee and everyone decided that somehow something had to be done. They looked around again and this time found a company who is prepared to accept 3 monthly payments, instead of the normal 30 days. The total cost will be nearly $12,000 USD.

Water Damage
I'm inviting you to consider supporting this project by making a donation at and designating it to this project. 

If you'd like more information or photos, you can contact me at bezrathashem.blogspot [at] gmail [dot] com

Friday, February 1, 2013

Empowering Home Learners

Today I had the privilege of speaking at the Ontario Library Association's SuperConference. This annual event bearings together library staff from across Ontario to hear from keynotes speakers and colleagues in the field. My co-presenter, Edna Latone, and I spoke on the topic "Empowering Home Learners." We started off presenting statistics from several studies on homeschoolers in order to provide some context on who homeschoolers are. We then shared the results of an Ontario-wide survey Edna conducted in December 2012 and January 2013 - very fresh data!

It was a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about homeschoolers and the role libraries can play in empowering them in their learning journey. Participants were surprised to learn that parents don't require teaching certification and were very interested in learning how to provide useful programs.

I'm excited to share next at the OCHEC convention in May about how homeschoolers can better access library services.