An outdoor walk

It was a beautiful day today, and so, Andy and I decided to head out on a walk. One of the perks of living on the edge of suburbia is that a walk in the woods doesn’t require us getting in our car. We ventured to the northern edge of our still-growing community, then found ourselves on an ice path through fields and forests. We slipped and slid and laughed along the way, giddy with the permission to stay on the ice rather than off it. We marvelled at the many different patterns we saw in the ice: deep cracks beneath a solid surface, tiny craters, submerged bubbles of water…It was a wonderful way to while away the afternoon.


At about the 2.5 km mark, Andy started to get tired (reasonable, considering he’s a month shy of his fourth birthday). With at least another 3 km to go in this loop, I found myself with a 40-lb weight on my back, drudging uphill on the shoulder of a thankfully not-too-busy road.

I realized quickly that piggybacking wasn’t a sustainable option.

My first inkling was to see if Kelvin was on his way home and could swing by to pick us up. He was not. So, we had to improvise. We kicked around along the edge of the woods, trying to come up with a solution. We realized that the ice was so smooth, we could just slide along. And so, we found a stick, Andy took a seat on the ice, and off we went. After a while, I saw that it was maybe not the greatest for his snowpants, so it was back to piggybacking. But it was fun while it lasted.

5.5 km later, we were home, and we were pooped, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.



Some books are read for entertainment. Others are read as facts. And every so often, you come across a book that shifts the way you see the world.

When I first set out to read Tara Westover’s book educated, I was expecting a pretty linear story about a girl who had never had a formal education suddenly being given the privilege of one. I thought it would chronicle her journey of moving from uneducated to educated. And in some ways, this book does that. But, to say that that’s what the crux of the book is about, is to ignore the struggle that Tara experienced in coming to terms with these two vastly different worlds with which she simultaneously identified.


Hearing the abuse that Tara endured in her childhood and the manipulation that was ongoing in their family home, one might assume that it would be easy to leave. However, that’s not the experience that Tara shares. That made me realize that the circumstance we grow up in is often embedded in us much deeper than we know or realize. The norms and values that our family instills in us, the way we interact with and relate to others – these things are all taught and learned. There are things that we all do (or don’t do) that other may find strange or ignorant or rude, and we see glimpses of that throughout Tara’s book. We see also how fiercely one can hold to family loyalties, and how tough it is to cleave that from one’s identity. This has encouraged me not to make assumptions, and to seek to understand rather than to judge.

This book reminds me of how powerful our minds are, and how much control it can have over the course of our lives. The biggest gift that we can give to anyone is the gift to be able to choose and think for themselves. And in doing so, to craft their own education.


A Year of Reading

This year, I set out to read 25 books. With the end of 2017 just around the corner, it is timely to look back on a year of reading, and to consider what books I hope to read in the new year.

The Last Interview: Jane Jacobs (compilation)
Here be Dragons – AnnMarie Kelly Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh
Fahrenheit 341 – Ray Bradbury
Leaving Home – David French
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
Streetfight – Janette Sadik-Khan
Secret Path – Gord Downie
Wenjack – Joseph Boyden
Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon
The Boy who Dared – Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Mom Enough (compilation)
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Upstanders – Harvey Daniels & Sarah Ahmed
The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller
Quiet – Susan Cain
Flight of the Hummingbird – Michael Nicole Yahgulanaas
Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner
Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
At Home in the World – Tsh Oxenreider
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
The Only Necessary Thing – Henri Nouwen
The Program – Suzanne Young
The Treatment – Suzanne Young
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

Grit – Angela Duckworth
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl
How People Grow – Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Unfinished Business – Anne Marie Slaughter
13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do – Amy Morin


New year, new agenda

There’s something wonderful about starting a new year with a fresh agenda.

Around early December, I went out and purchased my usual planner – a Moleskine weekly format planner – and proceeded to begin inputting dates and appointments for 2017. I really like the weekly format, which allows me to see the whole week at-a-glance on the left, with space for notes and lists on the right. December is usually fraught with google imaging different agenda layouts to experiment with before I commit to one for the next year. About a week ago, my sister sent me THIS LINK, which started me down a whole bullet journal Instagram rabbit hole…many of which were beautiful, but necessarily replicable because they would just take way too much time.

Then we went to New York City. And we stopped into Muji.

Let me say first off that I love Muji. I love their pens, their inexpensive notebooks, their clear storage containers…and Kelvin has his eye on their bed frame. I happened to pause at their agenda display, and flipped one open. The layout isn’t dissimilar to Moleskine, but instead of a lined page on the right, they have grids. Plus there’s one month of overlap on either end of the year (December 2016; January 2018). Having quite a number of extra grid pages at the end of the agenda didn’t hurt either.

I’d already made my agenda purchase for the year, but I kept turning this planner over in my head. At roughly half the cost of a Moleskine, this would definitely be a more cost-effective planner moving forward. I hemmed and hawed throughout the trip, and when we stopped into a second Muji in the city, I decided to pull the trigger.


I’ve had the agenda for a few days now, and I am in love. The week-at-a-glance is split into 3 sections, so I use it for AM appointments, PM appointments, and tasks/notes. The right side I split into Life To-Do, Work To-Do, and Notes (miscellany). At the back of the planner, I have my goals, my chore tracker, and my reading log. I’ll add other things as necessary.

This is the happy medium I’ve been looking for between a traditional planner and a bullet journal.


Summer Plans

It’s summer! 9 weeks may seem like a long time, but between weddings, trips, and prepping for next year, I already know that these two months are going to fly by. In order to make the most of it, here’s what I’m putting into motion:

Setting a weekly focus

I have been following ANGELA WATSON‘s blog for a while and she wrote a post not too long ago called 6 SIMPLE STEPS TO THE BEST SUMMER EVER. I’ve followed her advice to create an end of summer vision and to assign a focus for each week. My three main goals are to (1) have my long range plans completed and an intro postcard/letter sent out to my students; (2) have a morning routine in place to maximize my day and ensure I have time for devos; and (3) have meal plans created for September. This week, my focus is on getting to know my curriculum expectations. I’ve taught all these subjects before, but I’m really hoping to do something a little different this year that allows for more authentic, integrated learning.

Explore something different every day

It’s easy for routine to become monotony when you have a toddler. So, we’ve committed to trying or visiting something different every day. Living in Kingston and in this part of Ontario, there is tons at our fingertips that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. We’re starting local, but we will definitely branch out as the summer goes on and as we venture to other parts of Ontario and North America. So far, we’ve visited a BERRY FARM, taken Andy to his first splash pad, and attended STORIES IN THE PARK. Tomorrow we are heading to the MUSEUM OF HEALTH CARE.


30 day fitness challenge

This last endeavour is three-fold. One, I have not been going to the gym nearly enough, and my diet has been subpar. Plus, throwing out my shoulder when I wiped out while cycling has been a disincentive to any sort of physical activity. Two, we are heading to Bermuda at the end of August. Three, I am teaching 4 classes of phys. ed. next year. In summary, plenty of reasons to get into shape.

Office essentials

One of the things that Kelvin and I like most about our current house is that it has a study at the front. This is our workspace, our think space…and more often than not, our YouTube/Netflix space. Alas, like many other well-intentioned spaces, it is also often a messy space, full of paper and miscellany that make working at all a difficult thing. 

That changed this weekend.

Thanks to a trip to IKEA, family visiting, and a holiday weekend (time off!), we made this room just a little more functional. I cleared off my desk (finding a professional magazine from two months ago…along with a number of statements that needed to be filed), and assembled this:

Prior, we had had a tall bookshelf in this space. It was white, but it blocked a fair amount of the light, plus it was full of books that we didn’t access often. Our files sat lined up along the bottom shelf, making any sort of filing a pain. 

The solution?

We bought and built a white GALANT file cabinet system (SO great…other than the really tricky lock which we decided to not install after having read a number of horror stories). It also gave us a good surface to house our printer (which had been upstairs in our guest room for the longest time). Third, we mounted an ALGOT to the wall, complete with three shelves. Now everything is clean and accessible. And I’ll know where to find it all!

Minecraft Adventures: Part 1

Gaming and I have an interesting history.

I am known to have quite a penchant for certain iPhone games. And in Grade 9, I played Tony Hawk Pro Skater so much during my exam period that I got blisters on both thumbs. Needless to say, gaming can be a bit of a black hole for me. Knowing this, I am fairly wary of the sorts of games that I introduce myself to.

Earlier this year, I started teaching in Kindergarten. And it just so happens that in my class, there is a small group of boys who absolutely love Minecraft. They talk about it all the time, and much of their writing revolves around Minecraft-related stories. I had very little idea what they were referring to, so I thought I might download a demo of Minecraft just to get a feel for it.

I hadn’t read much in the way of tutorials, and from what I could see, I had been dropped into a random world with nothing but my bare hands. I started chopping away at things aimlessly with no particular goal in mind, and before I knew it, the sun was starting to set.

This is where it got terrifying.

If I had read some of the aforementioned tutorials, I probably would have built myself a shelter really quickly. Instead, I spent a good chunk of time running from zombies, creepers, fire people…I kid you not, it was frightening. I don’t know how some of my students are playing this. Unless they’re on creative mode…which I know they’re not, because they talk about creeper heads all the time. Needless to say, I died and respawned half a dozen times before I smartened up and built myself a very small 2 x 3 abode to stay safe. It was very simple. No roof, no doors, just walls. I had to let myself out the next day by knocking down the walls.

A few hours passed, and I developed a basic Minecraft foundation thanks to the Minecraft Wiki. I made myself my first home, complete with crafting table, furnace, and bed, and I set out to conquer this virtual world. Here are a few shots of my virtual home.

I do have two additional shelters, both of which were created because I ventured too far from my home and I couldn’t find my way back. However, neither are as extensive as my main home. I’m not entirely sure I can locate these homes again, as the map is really big, but I’m hoping I do find them. I died by falling too far into a hole in one of them, and so I have a lot of items sitting at the bottom of a pit. It would be good to reclaim those.

Outdoor time

I really like biking. And I really like being outside. These are things that I hope Andy will come to like as well.

Andy’s too small for his own bike at this point, but I did want to take him with me on rides, so Kelvin and I decided to invest in a bike seat for him. We opted for the WeeRide Kangaroo Ltd. Centre-Mount seat, which I installed this morning. I do have to ride a bit bow-legged because of the angle of the posts on my bike, and it is significantly harder than cycling without the added weight, but we both loved it. On our first trip out, which was really close to Andy’s nap time, we didn’t even make it out of our subdivision before Andy fell asleep. I opted to turn around. After a trip to the library, and lunch at grandma and grandpa’s, we rode home. Again, he fell asleep. This made me feel really good about getting the seat with the padded pedestal/pillow :)


As for general outdoor time, we visit Lemoine Point regularly, and if we can’t make it down there, we go to our community park. Our backyard is currently nothing but a plot of grass (we don’t even have a deck, so if we opened the sliding doors from the dining room, we would fall straight down about 4 feet). Despite this, Andy and I sometimes spend our afternoon out there on a blanket, watching our neighbours’ dogs play. We also have snacks out there.

We’ve had some crazy cold spells over the last little while, but here’s hoping this spring-summer weather is here to stay.

Saying Goodbye

It’s a bittersweet time.

Today, Kelvin and I closed the sale on the first house we ever owned. It wasn’t a big home, nor a fancy home, but it was our home. And for that reason, it will always hold a special place in our hearts (okay, maybe a bigger place in my heart than in Kelvin’s…he is super thrilled with our current home).

That little home was where we hung our own artwork, and painted our own walls. It was where we hosted small groups and where we invited friends to stay with us. It saw many iterations of IKEA and Target furniture and linens. It’s where we started our family, and where we set up Andy’s first nursery.

Things I will miss:

  • the foyer (which we REDID)
  • the proximity to everything
  • the white walls (in our MASTER and our DINING ROOM)
  • the front door
  • the ceiling fans (Andy loved them, plus they were so awesome in the summer)

Things I won’t miss:

  • the orange/pink colour in the kitchen
  • the weird cut out in the basement wall between the main room and the storage room
  • hearing our neighbours through the walls
  • that finicky sliding door leading to the deck
  • the struggle of getting the lawn mower to the backyard

I moved into this house in October of 2011, just a few months out of school. I was working 3 different jobs to piece together an income, and I was just discovering what Kingston had to offer to those who were no longer living the student life. THIS is what the house looked like. 4.5 years later, a lot has changed, and though this little home will no longer be part of our everyday, we are grateful for the memories that we made within its walls.

Goodbye, house. It’s been so nice knowing you.

At the heart of it

I recently finished reading George Couros’s THE INNOVATOR’S MINDSET. It challenged me to think more deeply about why and how I do the things that I do, and to consider the small and big actions that I can take to bring about innovation in education.

I’ve always been someone who has loved learning. Conferences, professional reading, twitter, RSS feeds…I soak them all up. I’m keen to implement new ideas and to change things up as I learn. But something that’s been gnawing at me for a while now is this disconnect between my theoretical understanding of education and my day-to-day lived reality. I have these ideas brewing in my head, but I find that I so often lack the skills to bring them to fruition. And when I do begin to implement them, why is it that the results are so often different than what I had envisioned?

Reading through the book, one quote in particular struck me:

If you want to see the effectiveness of an educator, you do not look at what the teacher is doing but at the learners whom they serve.

And behold, the reason for my disconnect. In evaluating my own effectiveness, I have focused so much on what I’ve done, rather than on the children I work with. In my rush to transform myself into what I thought was a great educator, I completely forgot my reason for being. For that, I am deeply saddened.

Thankfully, the story does not end there.

I’ve known for a while that relationship-building is something that I struggle with (which I mentioned not too long ago in THIS POST). Some might say that I’m in the wrong profession if this is the case. However, I’m optimistic that this quality is something I can develop more each day. And I endeavour to do just that. George Couros reminds us in his book:

…we make a connection to the heart before we make a connection to the mind.

Here’s to striving for more of those heart connections.

The Joy of Partial Solutions

I’m someone who has a hard time getting to the gym. It’s a ridiculously short drive away (or a 2.5 km run), but the mental effort required to get me there is unreal. 

Enter: the partial solution. 

Last week when I was really not inclined to go to the gym, I decided to go for a run instead. It was just a short one, but I felt energized. I had done some exercise, and it had only taken up 20 minutes of my time. 

While on that run, I was listening to the Simple show, and it referenced the idea of partial solutions. Serendipitous much?

Anyways, all this to say that sometimes doing just a little bit of something is better than not doing it at all. 

The Trouble with Separation

In early February, as I was starting to think more about my return to work, I wrote THIS POST about my “education blog”. This being my personal blog, I didn’t think it fitting to talk to much about my work life here. My intention was that I would post all about the things that were happening in my classroom and school on my edublog, and that my learning-related reflections would be there.

But this is where I got stuck.

When I came across a new idea or something I learned, I found myself struggling with knowing where to post about it. Is it too personal for my edublog? Is it too “school-y” for my personal blog? Could I just post the same thing on both blogs? So many of the things that I learn in my work are relevant to my personal life. And so many of the things that I read or experience spark interest across a whole gamut of areas and cannot be contained to just my educator “box”. As much as I wanted to post weekly reflections or things I’ve tried in the classroom, I found that what I really wanted to talk about was learning. In and out of the classroom.

And so, in an effort to more accurately reflect the way thinking and learning works in my life, I’m going to start including my “school” posts here on this blog. Here’s hoping they’ll give you a glimpse into what my day job looks like, and that they’ll add a richness to the conversation that I’ve already started here around this thing called learning.