Category Archives: Boys

Be Finished Grade Seven

Do you find your middles are always stuck in the middle? I thought that I would begin this sequence of blog posts by updating everyone on our middle guys journey over the last few years of this home learning life. Yeah for middles for adding spice to our lives.

CC moved out of French Immersion in grade four and came home starting in grade five. This was an influential time for him. His confidence was at an all time low as there were some boys that were very unkind and we realized that his learning changes were far beyond what we thought. He was receiving sporadic support at school, but nothing like he needed. He now receives weekly tutoring for one hour plus I work with him daily for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. In all areas of learning, his confidence has grown and he is seeing himself as a capable learner now. WHEW! We dodged a bullet on this one. We really didn’t leave the “campus school system” because we were unhappy. Our sole purpose was to create flexibility to travel with Sexy Neck and to take a “radical sabbatical” from the grind of everyday life. Here’s the full story! God really did have us in the palm of His hand, in more ways than one, when we started this in the fall of 2019, especially for our middle guy who’s life has been enriched by all the people who have loved on him, listened to him and shared in his learning over the last three years.

As CC finished off grade seven on June 10th, we realized that he had so much life and love POURED into him this year. He achieved his green belt in Taekwondo at Quest Martial Arts and now has his name on the wall as a member of the Black Belt Club with Mr. Rowe and family guiding CC in such a loving and disciplined way. CC was able to experience his first bus field trip when he went with Daddy and his international students to Vancouver. For fun, CC played soccer and basketball, did his first rail jam event up at Apex ski resort, and started refereeing in soccer. CC also did scuba diving, golf and swimming lessons this spring. CC LOVES his Goldendoodle 🐶, his new hat from Village Hat Shop in San Diego and every second with his brothers plus singing with his teacher Janel. He is very proud of the fact that he finished his first album “Sensation” containing 10 original songs. This guy really does love performing! He also staged a strike against a movie choice, strongly disliked our squid and eyeball dissection, as well as skied, skated, hiked and enjoyed every second learning in the world!

If you ever can’t find him, CC would be found working on his remote control cars or building one of his ideas in the garage using his hot glue gun or one of his daddy’s tools. It is a fun ride with this guy’s quick wit and super sense of humour. CC’s current goals are to be a truck driver, inventor or “puppy hugger”. As you will see over the next three blog posts, we definitely aren’t raising robots or mini-me’s. Helping the boys find their passions while exposing them to as many different situations and activities is our mission. This homelearning life has literally and metaphorically exploded since taking the boys out of a large box called “campus schooling”. We are grateful we were brave enough to give it a shot and grateful that our country allows choice for how students learn. Thank you Canada!

😘 Joanna

P.S. Sorry for the no photos. WordPress is really not allowing much storage on my ten year old ++ blog and I don’t want to stop this writing train now that I have gotten it started again. TOOT TOOT!

Be July of 2022

What happened after the “Radical Sabbatical in Europe” Joanna? I have been asked this question many, many times in the last 2.5 years. November, 2019 feels like a few months ago. So much has changed, hasn’t it? I wonder what has changed for you?

First, before we get into the newspaper headings from our lives, I want to send you a big hug with my eyes with the few more well-earned wrinkles around them. HUUUUUUG!

Second, here’s a few highlights since November of 2019 (and WordPress cut off my blog because I had used up all my storage!):

  • We are now on year three of our Radical Sabbatical and we are calling it “Best of Both Worlds”. After living at the ski hill for TWO, yes count them TWO University school years, we moved back to the city in May of 2021. We have been living here in the city and commuting on weekends to the ski hill, hence “Best of Both Worlds”.
  • The home learning life continues. We are going into year four of learning outside of a physical school setting and I truly wish that I had done it when the boys were younger. The boys are thriving and finding their true passions. The boys and I work together, as a team, each morning on specific learning mostly related to writing, numbers, French, Social Studies and Science. Afternoons are full of outside time, art, music, making things in the garage, hanging out with neighbours, classes and activities. It truly is a richer life than I could have ever expected. (Future blog post coming on the pitfalls and blessings of this type of learning!)
  • Sexy Neck has changed jobs! He moved back to the city where our house is to be one of the leaders in charge of a large 400+ student International Program. Coming from a program he led with 100+ students, this move has been a huge shift for him and our family. Yes, we are still happily married and we celebrated 25 years in May. WOOP WOOP!
  • In the spring of 2020, I was getting asked many questions about home learning and as a teacher, I felt called to head back into a school to help other families. Next year, will be my third year working with Heritage Christian Online School (HCOS), working with 15+ families per year (@40 students). I guide each student’s learning, meet with them, suggest resources and report on each child’s learning twice per year. I have done this job previously in 2015-2017 and I feel a real “calling” to be with this school, at this time, working with my exceptional, lovely, amazing, fellow home learning families.
  • Another questions I often get asked, are you still with Isagenix? Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am a lifer and we enjoy the #isalife every single day. My life sharing Isagenix looks a bit different now, as it fits in the corners of my days behind my faith, family, friends and teaching, BUT I will always be passionate about health, helping people with their goals and guiding people on how to use the Isagenix products. After doing 12 events in 5 years, I don’t see many events in my future, but one thing I have realized in these last years is that I truly love one-on-one contact with other human beings. At the events, I would have preferred to be stacking chairs or helping people register or wiping down sinks in the bathrooms that speaking or standing on a stage. I love these products and the people it has brought into my life. If you are one of those people that has asked me about Isagenix in the last 8 years, I am truly blessed that you asked, trusted me and shared your health journey with me. Yup, I am truly a lifer.
  • “The boys” are now going into grades 6, 8, and 10 in September. I cannot honestly even explain the growth that they have had the last 2.5 years. Our oldest is now taller than me! Our middle guy is going for his blackbelt in Taekwondo and our youngest is thoroughly enveloped in learning about Policing and being a Conversation Officer. They are such fun kids to hangout with too! More coming on “The boys” soon.
  • December of 2020, we introduced Winter, a goldendoodle, into our family of five. Winnie is truly each of the boys’ first love and they shower her with attention, walks, cuddles and lots of time together while they learn at home. (If anyone remembers our labrador, Summer, the name will make perfect sense!)

Lastly, tonight, I wanted to tell you that I will again be regularly blogging, sharing the journey that I have been on these last few years and also what’s coming. I realized the other night that often we talk about the pregnancy, baby and toddler stage way more than the teenager stage. Who remembers talking about breastfeeding, first foods, which diapers to buy, organic crib mattresses, milestones, toileting and so much more ad nauseam? As our second guy turns 13 this weekend and we are going to have two teenagers in the house, I want to use this energy they are creating by talking ad nauseam about this important stage in children’s lives. Strap yourself in folks, it is going to be a fun ride.

I love you all dearly, back soon! (well at least sooner than 2.5 year. HAH!)

xoxo Joanna

Be on a Radical Sabbatical from Munich to Milan

Munich.

Alps.

Milan.

Food and toilets too!

Travelling with these boys is ALWAYS fun!

Truly an amazing time. No social media fluff and puff.

Take a scroll through and see what we have been up to as we have wanders from Germany to Italy. Please leave a comment too!

November 10th

Munich.

Biggest toy store (and LEGO section the boys have seen).

Biggest beer.

Oldest central plaza in Munich (Marienplatz)

Walking everywhere on foot.

Seeing Steve at work!

This guy LOVES RC cars.
Yes, more handstands. We will have a whole blog with all of these.
We even made it to the City Hall at noon to watch the clock go round and round.
Hofbrauhaus – our waiter could carry 20 beer at one time!

With help from a friend, I was able to find gymnastics training for the boys in Munich. It was a cool experience for them and made them appreciate their gym back home even more.

After training, we were able to zip to where Steve was doing his Fair talking to families in the Munich area about his school district. We were very grateful to see what he does. CC bought a new jacket at H & M today which matched his Dada’s.

After the Fair, it was time to get back to the hotel, get packed as we had a 5 and a bit hour drive to Milan, Italy the next day.

November 11th

1 final shower in our bathroom/shower room. Have you seen this before?

1 hotel breakfast.

I loved this window where the tea sat.

1 shake for a boys who has eaten too much bread.

The rest of the family getting their breakfast.

1 more walk to Marienplatz.

1 more visit to the toy store.

Purchases of 2 Porsche’s and a German Shepherd figurine.

1 solo shopping trip to H & M for ME! I found some awesome Christmas gifts for the boys.

11:11 in Italy. Remembering.

1 final squeeze through the driveway from the hotel garage to the street. The rental car was beeping like crazy. Sexy Neck is a genius to work the angles to get our station wagon in and out of this garage.

5.5 hour car ride to Milan, Italy.

Through 5 countries.

From Germany to Austria, by Liechtenstein, Switzerland and then finally into Italy.

11 tunnels.

Clouds, snow and sun!

Switzerland

1 panic attack by ME! (The first 5km tunnel freaked me out and sent me into fight or flight even though cognitively nothing was wrong! It was a learning experience.)

1 very strange toilet. You pushed the toilet seat down to make it flush and the water to wash your hands went into the toilet. 🤪

Can you see the stream of water coming out of the wall? This is what you use to wash your hands. 😂😂

Another toilet for 50 cents.

5 amazing slices of margarita pizza, some gnocchi, a calzone and some gelato to end off this beautiful day.

1 awesome room at the Meininger Hotel/Hostel. (The same brand of hotel we stayed in in Brussels, Belgium).

This is how excited the boys get about a new hotel room!
This is mama asking them to sit still!

Steve is working hard to catchup on email and prepare for morning meetings. The boys are watching cartoons in Italian. I am doing laundry… Hence the huge pile by my feet!

Bongiorno from Milan, Italy!

November 12th

I had completely forgotten, or maybe I didn’t realize, how much Italians LOVE children. From the waiter ruffling our son’s hair and shaking their hands last night to the free metro rides and free entry to the museums, wow, I love you even more Italy.

Today was the day that our oldest son, twelve year old JC, has been planning for months. Tying in with his study of Ancient Rome, this would be as close as we would get. Milan. He rocked his negotiation of the metro system and got us everywhere he wanted to go. We even saw a movie being filmed by the fountain outside the Castle.

Today’s plan was a fun one! I love seeing my boys plan, take charge and speak with the locals along the way. Jackson even ordered our lunch in Italian and paid for it.

Parco Sempione (Park)

Castillo Sforzeaco (Castle)

FYI, we have run into these African men all over Europe trying to give you some string, that they then make you pay for. They were scary for the boys at the beginning but we have taught the boys to be very assertive.

Museum featuring the mind-blowing work of Leonardo da Vinci. Hallogram videos and sitting in the room he worked on for many years was incredibly awe-inspiring.

They said no photos… but I could resist taking these. It was a first person story of how Leonardo da Vinci came to be painting this corner of the castle in Milan.

Fried pizza for lunch. There was a HUGE line at Luini’s, so we knew it must be good. JC found this place on the internet through watching videos about Milan.

This young man was very brave ordering for our family in Italian.
Fried pizza. Was exciting but the boys didn’t love them.

Gelato in Gallerio Vittorio

Duomo Di Milano (Church)

Just wow!!!
Inside the church! I wish I had taken more pictures! The statue of St Bartholomew had us talking at dinner that night!
More prayers for Nana and Grandma in heaven. They have been ever-present with us this trip in so many ways. They had come visit us when we lived in Europe and we had travelled with them (and our two Papa’s) to many of these places.

Climbing over 200 stairs to the terraces of the Duomo.

FYI, this is on the Terraces is the DUOMO and they will blow a whistle and yell at you if you do a handstand!

A clean toilet in McDonald’s. (Probably the only reason I will take my boys there).

Meeting Steve spontaneously in between his meetings. (I almost hit him when he came up from behind and surprised us)

Love this picture… anyone know how to photoshop Steve’s eyes open? Reminds me of his Gramps. Xoxo

2 metro rides.

Many kilometres of walking.

Dinner back at a very Italian restaurant by our hotel in the Lambrate area. The boys declared that this was the BEST pizza they have had in their life. (Sexy Neck and I thought last night was better!)

And MORE gelato and a play at the park in the dark before we head to bed at 10:00pm.

November 13th

Cake and pie for breakfast. Sure why not! We are in Italy after all! This is how our boys started their day. We are finding our rhythm with a buffet breakfast between 8:30 and 9:30, then a mid-afternoon snack and then dinner around 6:30 or 7:00. We are all feeling GREAT and are truly eating our way around Europe.

The boys made Daddy’s coffee for him this morning. They are becoming quite the jokesters. It’s hilarious to watch. Look at CC and JC’s faces.

This is our second and last day in Milan before we head north to meet friends in the Swiss Alps. We have been asking the boys each morning what they would like to do and it was unanimous that today would include:

Heading back to the Parco Sempione, a stroll by the Duomo again, a stop at the largest LEGO store in Italy that just opened on the 11th, a visit to the main train station and dinner there too! And yes more gelato too! We even convinced Sexy Neck to take the boys back into the Museum to see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. He missed it yesterday when we went because he was working.

As the boys went back into the museum, I sat outside with a hot drink and got caught up on the blog. Now this is what a hot chocolate looks like:

It was hot and thick and absolutely delicious.

Ah my heart!!!

The boys wanted to checkout the largest LEGO store in Italy and along the way, CC decided to buy the Swatch Watch he had been looking at since we were in Brussels.

Lego, this is very cool! Which character are you?

We decided to head home to our hotel/hostel via the metro to cook dinner for ourselves. We had soup and salad. First, we went to our favourite grocery store, Lidl, to pickup some supplies.

One of the boys doesn’t like the metro noise!
What a man! A water man!
Dinner time!

A few handstands before bed doesn’t hurt! Right? JC attempting to walk around the room on his hands.

Ciao! Italy, it’s been a very fun couple of days. We want to own an apartment in Italy one day.

Next stop the Swiss Alps!

Be Handstanding on your Radical Sabbatical in Europe

Do you recognize any of these places?

Inspired by my boys love of gymnastics, their awesome team and coach back home 🇨🇦 and their love of having a goal.

Paris, France

Airport
Sacre Coeur
The Louvre
The Eiffel Tower (daytime)
The Eiffel Tower (2nd flood)

Subway gymnastics

Arras, France

Brussels, Belgium

Frankfurt, Germany (on a cement pillar)

Pillar handstand….
With a dismount!

In the most expensive parking garage in Europe (29 Euro per day in Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof)

Playground Gymnastics

Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany

At night
During the day outside the church

Munich, Germany

Marienplatz

Milan, Italy

Castello

And look what they were handstanding on…

Duomo Milano

This one involved a major head bonk by CC.

Duomo Terrace (We did get whistled at for this one!)

Parco Semiano

Climbing with Sexy Neck doing push-ups in the background.
Trying to walk around our hotel room on his hands.

Swiss Alps (Rigi), Switzerland

At the top of the Rigi in the Swiss Alps. (Looking North)
In hotel Kaltbad hallway.
Vitznau Car Park (Yes, we truly are handstanding our way around Europe)

Bodenseehof (Fischbach, Germany)

Konstanz, Germany

Lapertsweiler, Germany (Our beloved friends’ home)

Gymnastics class in Althausen, Germany

Be on a Radical Sabbatical from Vimy Ridge to the Armpit of France to Brussels, Belgium

WARNING: Nylons and short skirts are back in style over here (coming soon to North America), Canada Goose jackets are more popular here than in Canada, jogging is a huge deal over here, bikes and biking paths rocks and yes you can eat too many croissants. Cleansing tomorrow!

Monday, November 4th.

5 hours of driving, broken into two parts.

13,560 steps.

1 baguette.

1 shake.

2 bags of cookies.

4 yogurts.

2 bags of Whey Thin protein crackers.

2 E+shots.

1 bottle of water.

All used as sustenance for this day of transition.

From France to Belgium.

From past to present.

From past dreams to present-day dreams.

We left our cozy, sweet sixth floor Paris hotel room on Monday, November 4th to start out European road trip after picking up this sexy station wagon:

We had two special places we want to show our boys: Vimy Ridge and Harnes, France (which will be furthermore known as the Armpit)

First, Vimy Ridge. A place to remember. A place to learn. A perfect place to be in November (or any time of year!) We went through the tunnel and the trenches, soaked up the information in the new museum and had a private tour of the monument. God even gave us a rainbow, like He did on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Could you imagine living eight feet under ground?

When we lived in Harnes for one year, I used to come running on this land, given to Canadians from the French because of the significance of this Ridge during World War One. Being back in this place as a mother, I was touched by the Mother Canada statue at the front of the monument and all the mothers that have been affected by war. I am grateful for our country. 🇨🇦

After Vimy Ridge, we made a quick tour of the town where Steve and I spend our first year of marriage. Steve was playing professional volleyball for Harnes and I played a bit and coached ten year old boys volleyball. We found the gym with the cement floor and our old apartment across from the canal and coal excrement hill. I wish we had a video running as we drove into the village. At the time, we were surrounded by great teammates and didn’t realize what an armpit that we were living in. No train station. A little rough around the edges, a bit smelly and really in the middle of nowhere. An armpit.

Looking at the bar in the foyer where everyone would smoke and drink after the game, with their knee pads still on!
Our apartment was bottom left.
Harnes’ church in the top right. We took the photo and moved on!

We arrived in Brussels around 6:00pm. With time to checkin to our uber cool, mostly young person’s Meininger hotel/hostel and wander through Brussels and find an awesome Italian restaurant. We closed down the place!

Bonne Nuit sweet friends from room #401. (Every room number is an individual work of art here!)

November 5th

10,396 steps walk

A quieter day at our hostel hotel.

Buffet breakfast (9.50 Euros for each adult and 4.95 Euros each for the boys)!

Yes, we did have Belgian Waffles. The boys were very surprised there wasn’t any maple syrup.

We had a morning of math and writing in the common area then zipped to our old favourite discount grocery store, Lidl, to pickup food so that we could make lunch and dinner ourselves today.

The arcade games behind us have been a huge hit. Old school driving games and some pinball too.

From living three years over in Europe, we knew that concrete ping pong tables are at every school and almost every park. I tucked four paddles and some ping pong balls into our suitcase. We plan on many days of playing. We had this ping pong table one block away.

Today was CC’s turn to plan an activity and he researched and chose the chocolate store, Leonida’s.

CC didn’t find any chocolate that he liked!

These chocolates looked like a white mushroom with a chocolate, caramel filling. Wow!

We then walked and visited the famous Mannequin Pis. I hesitate to even post a picture because the surprise we received when we visited the statue….hmmm… maybe I won’t post a picture. Nah, I think I will leave the Mannequin Pis as a surprise for all of you.

After visiting the statue it was time for dessert before dinner – more Belgium waffles and some ice cream too!

We finished off the time in the city with a few handstands in the City Hall square and listening to some beautiful accordion music.

Evening was spent cooking together with four other multicultural groups and talking about a hilarious reality tv cooking show in a hostel where no one speaks the same language and there aren’t enough pots, plates or cups to go around. Plus, you are so tall that you keep bonking your head on the vent and one burner on the stove keeps randomly going on. After the hilarious and hot kitchen, dinner tasted good.

Goodnight from Brussels. What a spectacular view our room has looking across the canal towards the city and the lit up Ferris wheel.

November 6th

Our last full day in Brussels, Belgium involved wandering, waffles and a wonderful adventure to pickup our superfood nutrition from a friend of a friend who we had it delivered to. More room in our suitcases for presents for friends.

After saying “au revoir” to Daddy who will be working in Berlin and Düsseldorf for the next two days, we decided to try and find the Ferris wheel that we have been watching out our window in the evenings. We found the Ferris wheel plus stairs and concrete barriers to do parkour on, a construction site to watch and eat more Leonida’s chocolate at, a skateboard park, and many poles to “kong”. (To think I didn’t even know what konging was a week ago!)

It was CC’s choice for our meal today and he chose a waffle place. Imagine waffles with anything you want on them or in them. Our oldest had a smushed waffle sandwich with hamburger and cheese plus one with caramel for dessert, the other two had ham and cheese and then one with whipped cream for dessert. It was a memory making meal and a favourite for our boys. If you are travelling in Belgium or France with kids, Waffle Factory would be a safe bet for the family (as long as you aren’t looking for any fruits or vegetables!)

After our waffle meal, we went on a cross city journey to retrieve our super food box. This beautiful soul below received our package and allowed us to pick it up at her house. We are looking for partners in Belgium if you know anyone who lives there and is into helping people get healthy and wealthy!

We finished this day off with a hallway workout and a few more races on those old school video games in the common area.

Oh and I have to show you one of the bikes that captured my heart. I love this country for their biking culture: the trails, the bike shops, and the bike themselves.

This was a father who was going to pickup his daughter from school.

November 7th

Gooood morning from Brussels and goodnight from Frankfurt, Germany.

3 hour and 58 minute drive.

18 minutes in the Netherlands.

1 stop at the awesome “rest stops” on the side of the Autobahn. 50 cents for the toilet.

Side note: I was surprised at how many Burger King’s, Starbucks and McDonald’s are now available at these Autobahn rest stops. Twenty years ago, these rest stops were a highlight because of their uniqueness and you never knew what you were going to get.

We did get yelled at for not knowing that the ketchup dispenser had a foot pedal, so that kept things real for us.

Oh ya, on our way out of town, we had CC’s last choice for activity: Driving to a RC Car store, apparently the last RC car store in Belgium. The owner, Bernard, was THE BEST! We were able to hear stories about his story, his family, his businesses and all the trophies that lined the entire store. It was a blast. The boys were super happy and CC was pumped to walk away with a race car he can fix up.

After enjoying the RC car store and our Autobahn experience as well as seeing many churches in the distance, we arrived in Frankfurt!

We are pumped to be staying at Monopol hotel across from the Hauptbahnhof with a breakfast buffet, free mini bar, a bathtub and a hotel that has a door that swings out. (It’s the little things that these boys are finding interesting!!)

After checking in, we took a cruise across the street to the train station to have our first German pretzel and see what a train station looks like. It was as spectacular as I remembered. The book and magazine store was delicious. I loved watching people bustling around and the whooosh as the trains pulled into the station.

The boys were enamoured with this miniature train station in the huge train station.

Guten Nacht sweet friends. We love you ♥️ and if you have made it to the end of this entire blog post air hug 🤗 and high five!! Leave me a comment so I can send them to you!

Be surprised by a radical sabbatical

Do you like surprises? Have you ever been surprised so much that it makes you jump and shriek? (I used to love surprising my mama!)

I am jumping for JOY over this radical sabbatical right now.

As a volleyball player I was never known for my vertical, but I think I can fly right now.

The boys driving their “learning”!

I love seeing my boys happy.

Truly happy.

No more morning stomach aches before school.

I love living this small space, small refrigerator and no dishwasher life.

Hands in the warm water and our family working together to get cleaned up.

I love wandering with no direction.

Walking out the door, into the woods and then deciding which direction to head.

I love being so far away from town that I don’t pop anywhere.

At. Any. Time.

I love the relationships I have that are growing deeper through fascinating conversations and not just two minute fly bys in the school parking lot.

Facetime. Phone Call. Texts. They all keep us genuinely connected to those people who are embracing our radical sabbatical and supporting us on this journey.

I love perspective brought on by the time and space of stepping out of life’s routines and the mundane moments of life.

Time.

Space.

To do the work that I need to do to accept the death of people I have loved deeply, to accept the direction that my family of origin has taken, and to accept where I am right at this moment.

Acceptance.

I love learning acceptance.

I love less laundry. We wear pretty much the same thing every day, except when we go into town.

I love making a weekly meal plan, ordering my groceries, picking them up and sticking to it.

Like I mentioned, we don’t pop anywhere. Nothing is open at the ski hill right now, so we are flying solo or relying on the generosity of wonderful neighbours, if we forget anything from the grocery store.

I love our simple super food nutrition that gets delivered to our door.

I love saving money.

I love being stretched to try new things. Living a small refrigerator life has caused me to find an alternative to the gluten free Costco pizza crusts we used to devour. I have been making sourdough spelt bread and pizza crust from scratch. Can you believe it? And I love it. It is incredibly simple to do and takes only a bit of prep time either the night before or the morning of. Small spaces need simplicity and I am finding it through baking.

Our family loves to walk, no matter where we are in the world. We love to explore on foot and see what we will see. No agenda, no timeline, just walking, talking and seeing what is around us. We have noticed that there is a rhythm in the mountains that is more in touch with the seasons. There is a flow that reminds me of squirrels. Right before the season change in autumn, people were bustling around chopping wood and preparing their homes and cabins for winter. It was a beautiful thing where families worked together and often ended the day with time around a fire. The city doesn’t really have this flow. It seems that most people have similar routines and rhythms no matter the season. I encourage everyone, as you read about our radical sabbatical, consider the seasons of the year that exist where you live and what could those different seasons look like. I believe that change is a great things for human beings to feel fully alive, and noticing the seasonal changes can help us live in the present moment.

I love watching my boys learn and seeing where their learning takes them. I am surprised at how much they love learning. My boys previous love of schooling involved recess as the highlight.

Amongst ALL of these surprises the largest have been my absolute delight to step outside of the “school system” and the holiday of Halloween.

I am jumping and shrieking as I write these words.

Eeeeeekkkk!

These were scary to jump out of culturally, but oh so wonderful now.

The “school system”.

All Hallow’s Eve.

Schools are filled to overflowing with delightful teachers and parents as well as amazing kids. But anywhere that there are more than a few people gathered, there are bound to be systems in place to make things “easier”. A system meaning “procedures, principles or methods in which something is done”. These ‘procedures’ and individual teacher’s ‘principles’ often are there for the greater good of a class. From personal experience as an elementary school teacher, I know it is really hard to truly individualise learning in a school system and to really see our students every single day. Not every child’s needs can be met on a semi-regular basis. Teachers do need to have eyes on their students, so they can’t have them zipping around the neighbourhood or even the school grounds during class time. We are truly grateful to be outside of this system for this year of homeschooling. As I write these words, my eight year old is researching bakeries in Paris, my ten year old is learning about “Game Theory” in Math and my twelve year old is zipping around the online program IXL learning about Grammar. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. They are fully immersed in their learning. Soaking it up and working hard. The past seven years in the school system, I have 2 times per month, taken my boys out of school to ski or enjoy a day at home or to go visit relatives, but I didn’t feel good about it. There was this tension that they would “miss” something. As we have stepped fully away from the “school system”, I don’t feel that we are missing ONE. SINGLE. THING. Truly.

The boys meeting with their teacher.

My other huge surprise this fall has been realising the energy and thought that went into the holiday of Halloween for our family. How do you feel about Halloween? For me, it has always been a holiday with a spiritual ramification that I try to ignore. Is it a dark holiday that creates more bad than good? We may have to ask a law enforcement officer to answer that one. I don’t know the answer to this question because the optimist in me always creates good from every situation that I encounter. I have chosen to embrace Halloween because I love the opportunity it provides for my boys to be creative with their costumes and meet our neighbours. How often do neighbours get a knock from a child to say “hello”? Yes, my kids do love the candy too, but for me, I love the opportunity to say hello and get to know our neighbourhood. I wonder if my boys will miss it this year. We will be standing on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France on October 31st and most likely walking up the 674 steps. We thought this would be a fun alternative to Halloween this year! We did have our eleventh annual pumpkin carving get together with friends, which is always a highlight. Other than that, we are stepping aside from Halloween this year. Whew!

Jumping for joy.

Happy boys.

Small space living.

Less laundry.

Simple super food.

Saving money.

Shrieking.

Jumping.

Grateful on this Thanksgiving 2019 for this opportunity to be surprised on this radical sabbatical.

Be Living a radical sabbatical

What does this radical sabbatical actually look like and is Sexy Neck working? Are we divorced? Where are you? What are we doing? These have been the pervasive questions over the last month as we have lived this radical sabbatical. Some people have been inspired, some people have thought we are crazy and others have just looked at us with wide eyes as we explain how we are living.

5 people.

Yes, Sexy Neck and I are 100% in this together. (And not divorced)

900 square feet.

Condo living.

8 months.

On the top of a mountain.

At a ski hill.

With the cows.

Travelling to Europe and Asia.

Homeschooling.

Not volunteering for anything.

Taking a radical sabbatical from the life we previously knew in the city.

What does this radical sabbatical actually look like for our family of five?

The boys do formal schooling Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. This formal schooling involves the 3 R’s – reading, writing and math! And I am hitting them hard. Going over basic facts, teaching them grammar and helping them understand the basics of the english language. They are writing in a journal, writing stories and doing research. Our 12 year old is researching Ancient Rome and Tesla. Our 10 year old is immersed in simple/complex machines and robots. Our 8 year old learned everything he could about Bobcats. Did you know they pee in the water so that they don’t leave a scent? Previously, the boys have been in French immersion, so the older boys have been doing their math in french and our youngest continues to write in french. But, I haven’t been stressed about it. If we decide to dive back into french next year, we will do a bootcamp in the summer to help them get back up to speed. This year is all about filling in some educational gaps that I see and having fun learning about what they are interested in.

Now, to talk about Sexy Neck! Right now, he is in Mexico City sitting at a fair, promoting his school district to families considering international education. And he LOVES it! Sexy Neck isn’t taking a radical sabbatical this year, but we are one hour closer to his work, so he does have a shorter commute! We are looking forward to joining him on a few trips that he is going to be taking for work. Sexy Neck LOVES his job and couldn’t imagine leaving it. It is truly what he was meant to be doing: a combination of education, business, travel and working with people. His dream life! We are happy that our radical sabbatical works alongside his dreams and brings him freedom from his commute and a more relaxed mountain life. He also loves backcountry skiing, which he can do every day after work in the winter. Truly his dream life!

Everyone who knows us, knows our backgrounds in Kinesiology and our love for physical literacy. All of our boys have done gymnastics from very young to eight years old. After eight they could choose to continue in gymnastics and our two older boys have. They love the community of boys, their coach and being able to achieve their personal goals through gymnastics. Thus, our radical sabbatical involves two days per week commuting one and a half hours each way back to the city so that the boys can practice with their team. Other than gymnastics, our sporting life will involve exploring the ski hill we are living on and embracing every day of winter. The boys have a goal of skiing every single day of the ski season. We know it will be “Canntastic”!


Lots of people have been wondering about our daily routines. To recap, here are a few of our routines that we have established for this radical sabbatical:

The 3R’s Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. And yes the boys say it is hard. And yes, we do have a lot of fun and flexibility. The boys take a recess break when they choose and they also choose where they work within our 900 square feet. Sometimes it’s on the floor, on our bed, at the kitchen table and often it’s at their desk. Sexy Neck is teaching them guitar and I am doing the rest with their teacher and our friend, Michelle, from Traditional Learning Academy.

Sexy Neck is fully involved in his work as a Principal of International Programs. He continues to embrace his role working with his students, the homestay families, his amazing staff and of course travelling to promote his program.

The boys are continuing with gymnastics and loving every minute of it. It is very motivating and they love the goals they have set: our ten year old wants to do an 8 second handstand and our twelve year old wants to do a giant on the high bar all by himself. WOW!

Outside of these routines, I have been personally surprised by four different pieces of this radical sabbatical:

1. Our garbage and recycling has reduced significantly. From one large black bin of garbage per week, to one medium-sized black bag. To one large blue recycling bin every two weeks, to one medium blue Tupperware per week that I will sort at the recycling depot in about five minutes. This surprise feels pretty amazing.

2. It’s outstanding to see the people who have stepped up to support us on this journey. We know that it truly does take a village to educate our children. Not only did we take the boys to Barkerville, a town from the 1800’s to kick off the school year, we took them to Science World and the boys got a welding lesson from their beloved Papa in his beautiful garage. The two older boys learned to weld, drill, grind, sand, paint and create a rebar coat hook with their initial on it. This was really incredible to see!

3. Living in a condo with no balcony and no private outside space, I was worried about what our outside time would look like. If you know us, we spend a ton of time outside during a day, even when the boys were in brick and mortar school. The boys and I have LOVED the mountain life. We love the exploring on foot and by bike. We love the terrain. Sexy Neck has loved climbing to the top of the ski hill. Bring on the snow! I cannot wait to see what that life will be like covered in white!

4. As the daughter of a teacher and a teacher myself, believe it or not, schooling has always been a thoughtful, somewhat worrysome process. The interesting thing about homeschooling is that I am being more intuitive: watching the boys learn, seeing what lights them up and letting them lead. No yearly plans, just living in the moment and finding resources as I need them. No stress of the September startup: Wondering which friends they would be with and which teacher they would have. Throughout the boys schooling, I known the importance of a teacher and their influence on their students. We have been fortunate to have incredible teachers and we have grown through some excruciatingly inflexible and mediocre ones. I am incredibly proud and honoured to be my boys’ teacher this year for grades three, five and seven. We don’t know if we will continue homeschooling next year, but for this month, it has been magical. I have learned that my boys LOVE to learn. They have embraced all the new skills I have thrown their way, including making a meal (spaghetti and meatballs), taking them to my health and wellness conference (anyone need more energy, want to sleep better, perform better or get rid of your fluffy tummy I am your girl) and learning to sew (curtains for their triple bunk!) alongside those 3 R’s that I talked about. I have seen where my boys have gaps in their learning and I have been able to fill them: capitalization, divisibility rules, number patterns, phonics, oh my! My heart is full. And only two pencils have been thrown in the process by my ten year old! A boy after my own heart with his emotions right at the forefront. I feel very grateful for this time together. I am not surprised at how much I truly LOVE being their teacher.

On September 26th, we celebrate our youngest’s eighth birthday.

We celebrate one month of this radical sabbatical.

We sit atop this peaceful mountain and ponder the adventure to Europe in November.

The projects that we want to learn about and where our questions will take us.

I have always believed that the beginning of all knowledge is asking a question.

And I wonder where this radical sabbatical will take our family.

A band of brothers.

Sexy Neck.

A homeschooling entrepreneurial Mama

Walking on this path.

Every day into the unknown.

With routines, that are flexible.

With surprises along the way.

Watching who shows up.

What lights them up.

And what this radical sabbatical will look like.

I pray for more days like today.

Love.

Joy.

Peace.

Patience.

Kindness.

Goodness.

Dignity.

Grace.

Living our best days.

On this radical sabbatical.

xoxo Joanna

Be Starting a Radical Sabbatical

Our Radical Sabbatical – Chapter Two

And it begins… THIS IS day one! Truly, we really started two months ago when we rode away from school.  We rode away from a structured school system with times and schedules that often aren’t in the best interest of our children.  We rode away from preconceived notions of a 9 to 5 daily life.  We also rode into a life of the unknown, a life of exploring, a life where every day of the week can be similar or wildly different.  A new and familiar way.

Finding our rhythm.

Exploring new places.

Learning about our boys.

Closer to nature.

Closer together.

Our radical sabbatical.

As we stepped away from school, the first step was to find a distributed learning school that would meet the needs of each of our boys.  I phoned and emailed many schools. There were some that would send you weekly assignments and others where you could decide exactly what you could do with no teacher direction.  There is even “unschooling” where you don’t follow any curriculum and don’t work with a teacher. We chose something in the middle, partnering with the school that I used to work for before becoming an ‘accidental entrepeneur’ with the nutritional company that changed my life and I chose to partner with.  I am a trained teacher, but I know where I want my focus to be: Coaching my people to their best life and supporting my boys. The teacher we have the privilege of working with was my vice principal when I worked with as a Homeschool teacher and is also a very good friend.  Once we decided on the school, the teacher and I created a student learning plan for each of the boys.  These are individualized plans where myself, Sexy Neck and each of our boys would sit together and talk about our goals, and what are the strengths and needs of each of them.  It was rich!

Sabbatical schooling.

Personal goals.

Individualised plans.

Rich conversations.

Dreaming big.

Keeping things simple.

One wants a Youtube channel.

Another wants to complete a standing back flip.

And our youngest just wants to play with Lego.

Every child will be heard.

Every one of our son’s will get opportunities to lead.

We will get the opportunity to learn.

More about our boys.

More about their ways.

More about what fires them up.

More about what slows them down.

Sabbatical schooling.

Once we created a plan around schooling, we knew the next step was to find renters for our home so that we could live in a smaller space, closer to Sexy Neck’s work without having to worry about being away from a house for long periods of time.  We knew we were ready to live in our two room 900 square foot ski condo.  Imagine a hotel with two adjoining rooms, one with beds and a bathroom and another room with a kitchen and hide-a-bed. Eh viola, you have exactly the picture of what we would be living in.   We divinely found renters for our home through an old friend who reached out and said, “Hey, do you know anyone who is looking to rent out their home, my daughters are coming to university?”  Oh ya, we do!  We have know these daughters since they were wee ones and we knew that they were the perfect fit for our home!

The right people.

The right timing.

The right place.

Everything falling into place.

Unfolding effortlessly.

Without worry.

Without stress.

Walking out our dreams.

With this radical sabbatical.

In this small space.

With big dream.

Our radical sabbatical.

Once we had the school chosen and the house rented, it was time to declutter and start planning. And oh the decluttering we did. Following Dave Ramsey’s sage financial advice, we proceeded to sell more than $1,000 in clothes, toys and even a bed we weren’t using. I went through every single storage box in the basement and every cupboard and closet in the house. It was freeing! Stuff entangles me! Lastly, I went through all of my teaching boxes and found the resources that I knew I wanted to use. Four boxes widdled down to two boxes of treasures that I knew would help my boys learn.

Simplicity.

Freedom.

From stuff.

From clutter.

From chaos around us.

Freeing.

Simple.

As our radical sabbatical begun, the only thing left to ponder and pray about was what would we do to start the first day of school! We decided that a 1766 kilometres round trip road trip was in order. We visited two very special cabins for two nights each and ended up stepping into the 1800’s in Barkerville for the first day of school.

Stagecoaches.

Gold panning.

Old fashioned candy.

Cowboy boots.

Large hats.

Heavy guns.

Singing in the street.

King House B & B.

Three happy boys starting this first day of school in grades three, five and seven.

The Radical Sabbatical has begun!

Boys living their best lives.

Happy Mama.

Smiling Dada.

Dreams do come true.

Hold your visions.

As I hold mine.

Dream again if you haven’t recently.

Tell a friend.

And ask them to hold yours.

Radical Sabbatical.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh!