Category Archives: Yukon

Homeschooling in the winter – Yukon style

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We live in the Yukon, which means that in any given year winter can go from mid September until mid May… That’s 8 months or 8/12ths of the year or 66% of the year – ACK!

Last year we dealt with homeschooling during the winter by intentionally running away and it was GREAT. We travelled for 8 months and had a life of adventure that did not involve snow, other than a few incidental days. The ability to be outside most days is definitely a positive influencer on homeschooling options and our state of mind…

This year Hunter claimed that winter is his favourite season and he absolutely had to stay home to hang out with friends and snowboard. We, the silly parents, agreed (never again does he get a trump vote!).

While we have sprinkled our winter with intermittent adventures like heading to Tofino for Thanksgiving, Mexico and Houston for American Thanksgiving, Ecuador for New Years and California for spring break, we still find ourselves spending a decent amount of time here during a Yukon winter, which is challenging…

beautiful backdrop

beautiful backdrop

The saviour of our sanity is the local homeschool association – the Yukon Home Educators Society. Thanks to the efforts of these passionate parents, we have a broad array of programming, with something going on every week. This allows us to build a strong community and create connections – both for the kids and the parents.

first carving class

first carving class

Through out the winter we have group skating, dance, gymnastics and various arts programs. This year a small group of kids have started a first nations carving class that will run all winter long.

pre-season opening day

Mount Sima

We have also bought season passes to Mount Sima (our local ski hill) to help ensure that we get out and play as much as possible, even when it does feel cold and yucky. Hunter is taking part in a snowboarding program for kids each Saturday and this again forces us to ensure we engage with winter, whether we want to or not.

Making the most of what’s in front of us…

IMG_0406The last few months have been a learning experience for our house. Tim and I have learned that it was not our best parenting moment when we decided to stay home this winter because Hunter wanted to… WHAT WERE WE THINKING???  Who gives their kid the trump vote?? Hunter, who proudly claims that winter is his favourite season, doesn’t understand why we are not as thrilled as him when we wake up every day to a wintery world outside.

Since we are here, and winter won’t be leaving any time soon, we are trying to make the most of it… We hit preseason snowboarding at Mt. Sima in November, where they did a very impressive job building a terrain park on the bunny hill. We’ve never seen that many people on the rope tow! Tim and I have opted to go hiking instead of hanging with the mob of youth on the hill.

We skate with the Homeschool group for 90 minutes every Thursday and there are a core group of kids, Hunter included, that play an ongoing shinny game for the full 90 minutes. This has become Hunter’s new passion and we are often also at the rink on Wednesday afternoons for public drop in. The best part is that it runs from 3:00 – 4:15 so we often have the ice to ourselves!

We participated in speed skating lessons in November as part of a home school program with the local speed skating club. It was a fun learning experience for all of us and motivated Hunter to learn the skill of cross-overs.

We’ve had fun getting out on a local lake a few times with friends and playing boot hockey. The temperatures have been unseasonably warm (-5c to -10c) and that makes it much more fun to run around for hours outside. As part of Hunter’s new found passion, he’s the first on the ice and the last off.

This week Hunter started a carving class with the Northern Expressions Carving Studio. This is another homeschool program that we decided to organize based on the fun we had carving this summer. Day one was all about learning to draw the core first nation shapes. Eventually the kids will create paddles, bowls and inlaid plaques.

While it’s definitely not life at the beach with some surfing and biking sprinkled throughout the day, we are doing our best to be accountable for our own happiness and make active choices every day. I won’t pretend that it’s easy… it’s a conscious challenge that we are invested in!

homeschool day – from Caribou to Coffee

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We spent Monday with a group of energetic and enthusiastic Yukon Homeschool kids on two learning outings. It was a great way to start the week and luckily the weather was in our favour – big blue skies and only -8c when we started off.

YWP sign

Our morning was spent at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve where the kids participated in either the grade 7 program on Caribou or the grade 2 program on Surviving in the Winter.  I had the pleasure of being the parent support for the grade 7 program (a relative guidepost for homeschool kids – we had a range from Grade 5 to Grade 8) and it was fun to watch the learning in action.

After sharing a First Nation story about the spirit of Caribou, we all went off to the field and learned how to use atlatl’s, which were primitive spears used during group hunts. They definitely are not the tool you want for solo hunting as they aren’t that precise and the concept is to barrage the animal, knock them down and then finish them off with a knife or other sharp tool. We spent at least half an hour doing this and the kids could have gone on for hours…

caribou boots

Next on the program was learning to track Caribou. For this we got to go right into the Caribou enclosure, which was quite a treat. Everyone had to boot up to ensure that we weren’t bringing in any foreign substances on the bottom of our boots. Fortunately or unfortunately, a chunk of the Caribou herd happened to be up near the fence, which meant we didn’t really have to do any tracking so there was less learning in that area. The plus side was that we were within 100 feet of a number of Caribou and got to see some rack banging and herd management behaviour by the male Caribou.

We spent 45 minutes walking around in the Caribou enclosure, observing the animals from a distance, looking for signs of antler shedding, discussing traffic patterns and learning about animal poop…

learning in the enclosure

It was interesting how the animals were curious about us but certainly didn’t come close enough to make us feel uncomfortable. We were observing them and they were observing us. Overall we spent 2.5 hours learning about Caribou and probably could have kept going for at least another hour. The kids were engaged and curious – the benefits of a small group.

We took advantage of being at the Wildlife Preserve to check out some of the other animals. We got lucky and the Lynx family had just been fed so we spotted all 4 of them sitting out – most of the time they are tucked back into their rock enclosure or hiding under some logs. The Mountain Goats were also out enjoying some sunshine.

coffee bags

After a quick bite to eat our next stop was at Bean North, a small Fair Trade coffee roaster that is just down the road from the Wildlife Preserve. Michael, one of the owners, gave us an educational overview of where coffee is grown, the economics of it, why they support the concepts of Fair Trade and how important coffee is to the farmers that they work with. Geography, Food Science & Economics all rolled into one!

We were excited to learn that they grow coffee beans in both Mexico and Ecuador – places we are headed this winter. Maybe we’ll be able to check out a coffee farm on our travels and see how labour intensive it is ourselves. Michael shared that normally 8 hands touch a coffee bean before the bean makes it to him. We also learned that Kona, Jamaican and Costa Rican coffee isn’t necessarily better – it’s just more expensive because of the cost of labour in those markets and the marketing people have done a great job positioning it as a premium product to maintain profit margins.

coffee sealingOur last stop was the roasting area where we saw the roasting machines, the grinders and the sealers. Hunter was very excited to get to use the sealing machine and be part of the process.

When ever we get out and about to do learning in action it re-enforces for me all the benefits we experienced road schooling last year. It is so much more effective than sitting at home at a desk doing a workbook or reading a text book. I was thrilled to see Hunter asking questions and really curious about different components of the day. I’m excited about our travels to come this winter! We kicked off our Ecuador country study work today so we will be well informed and very curious when we get there in late December.

Today = why I love road schooling

IMG_2806Today was a picture perfect example of why I am loving road schooling and the direction our life has headed. Although we are not on the road full time this year, I’ve decided that our approach to learning best fits in the middle zone between “homeschooling” (replicating the school structure but at home) and “unschooling” (limited structure, go with the interests of the child). We are mixing structure for our core numeracy and literacy work and less structure by using 2-3 projects that touch on either key interests or our travels to cover off everything else for the year.

I was up early and enjoyed a peaceful hour of household administration and client work before heading out the door at 8:45 for a meeting. I arrived back at 10:30 to find Tim up and about and a quiet house.

Hunter slept until 11:00 am this morning. It makes me so happy to be able to support and adapt to the fact that he obviously needed that sleep. He stumbled out of bed and got started on his math activities right away – we are using ixl.com math on the iPad and it’s great for both he and I in terms of content, tracking and reporting.

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After a late breakfast/brunch/lunch we headed out the door for an afternoon kayak session while the sun was at it’s warmest. It was a beautiful day and so nice to be able to play when the weather is good. Everyone continues to work on certain kayak skills and it’s a nice mix of training plus fun plus family time.

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We made it back home again by 4:00 and Hunter hunkered right back down and tackled his spelling for the day. With the late start and the extended paddling session we didn’t get to our big project for the day but I’m OK with that. It’s not the end of the world to shift things a day or two here or there to account for life happening.

When I have the confidence to step back and think about the big picture developmental objectives that we fit into each day, I always breathe easy and find myself smiling. IMG_4923

Family trip down the Tatshenshini River

hunter Tat raft

We did a family trip on the Upper Tatshenshini River yesterday as part of the Yukon Canoe and Kayak club’s youth program. Thanks to the great folks at Tatshenshini Expediting, we were able to tag along with a commercial group and have raft support for the kids so they could raft some or all of the river.

The “Tat” is 2.5 hours south west of Whitehorse via Haines Junction and you end up being on the river for about 5 hours which makes for a very long day. While the surroundings are like postcard photos, it is a glacier fed river so the water is chilly and being smack in the middle of the Haines summit often results in cool and wet weather. It is a class 2-4 river with lots of variety and relatively fast moving water. It’s mostly a mix of class 2-3 with the major area being a section that holds 3 class 4 features, approximately 2/3 through the run.

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There ended up being 11 adults & 3 youth in the group plus Hunter in the raft. We went back and forth on Hunter paddling it but opted for the safe path of his first experience running it being in the raft. It was a combination of a number of things:

  • ever changing water levels
  • long day in cold water
  • he wasn’t all that excited about paddling it due to stories that he had heard (the joy of kid communication – he believed that the tat was fast cold water and that if you tip over you die…)

We have had a great summer of paddling with Hunter continuing to grow and improve, even to the point of deciding to participate in our upcoming local kayak rodeo event. With a full slate of winter paddling already planned, we decided to not push him. The rafts left first and when we came upon him 15 minutes later, the first words out of his mouth to both of us was “next time I am soooo paddling this in my kayak”! Hunter had the run of the raft and was actually paddling the oar rig by the end of the run on the lower section, which thrilled him to bits. He finished the day happy, warm and excited to come back again which was our overall goal.

Hunter raft2This was my first time paddling the river and I definitely had butterflies – although not worried about tipping over and ensuing death, I wasn’t certain about how fast and high volume the water was going to be and how much it would push my comfort zone. The first section of the run is on the Blanchard river which is pretty continuous whitewater (constant mix of class 2 and class 3) and lots of rocks to either avoid or Boof, depending on your skill and confidence level. The water is brown, which makes it really tough to see the rocks so you spent a lot of time river feature reading.

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When the Blanchard hits the Tat the water blurs even more and changes from brown to silty silver. You still can’t see a thing which I personally found ads to the stress of running it for the first time. As I’m working on being the pilot vs a passenger in my boat, I was constantly looking ahead and trying to find the ideal lines through the features vs just surviving it. Although, as Tim said to me, it is a good confidence builder just knowing what you can survive…

Overall I had a relatively good paddle with no swims and 2 clutch rolls in some big water. One was in the class 4 section just above a hole so it was a bit nerve racking (hopefully video to come). As I’ve also been learning to roll with my eyes open (new as of the last month) I was amazed at how dark it was under the water. When I first flipped over you could see the light and then it was just black thanks to the high silt content.

IMG_0818The YCKC volunteers did a fabulous job of leading the trip and keeping the kids safe and happy. Morning gear check and safety talk was rewarded with chocolate bars as was knot tying and safety talk #2 at lunch time. The kids were on a chocolate high all day. I think the last of it was eaten on the bus ride back to put-in.

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Overall it was a long fun day out on the water with friends. Hunter had a great day in the raft, I am happy to have now paddled the Tat (it wasn’t as hard or scary as I thought it would be) and Tim was able to get some play time in on the river as he didn’t have to worry so much about being the only safety resource for Hunter and I. Thanks again to the YCKC team for making it all happen!