Monday, November 16, 2015

Reading and Writing and Erasing

We just bought Explode the Code for K. She has been reading 3-letter words for almost a year, but we haven't had the 'aha' moment when it all gets easy. I attribute this to our too-early start.
At any rate, with a sudden surge in busy-ness, and now that she will be  6 (tomorrow) , I decided to buy ETC. She really likes it, so far.
Except... today she erased and rewrote the letter 'a' for about 10 minutes before I realized what she was doing. "It doesn't look right." she explained.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Picture Post!

Daddy on a rare day off
Rather than buying all the books on the Ambleside Online book list we're using for direction, we've been getting them from the library. We use the (simply fabulous) NB library app to order books at home, and pick them up at the library in one nice tidy stack. This keeps us safe from books with good pictures but bad plots (a serious hazard you face when your kids help choose books)! Clifford, anyone? 

E, adding glitter to her drawing. 

K's leaf to copy was green, but she painted her drawing red.
This week we combined nature study with art. Even baby O joined us, colouring away on his paper w enthusiasm.


My leaf
You may be noticing that I love to post pictures from Drawing Monday. It's partly because I love it so much, and partly because math and reading are not nearly so photogenic!  Imagine it with me:
"Here is a photo of K showing which hand is her right hand." "And over here, we have K counting beans. Notice the pinto variety..."
And reading, well, we do our reading after naptime, on the bed. K is usually upside-down or backwards or underneath a pillow.  "And here is a picture of my unmade bed; notice K under the pillow on the left..."

The girls have been sewing a little bit, too. I find it is a very good way to keep them from exploring the sewing box while I do my mending! If I add handicrafts to our curriculum, we'll probably start with something like this.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Midweek Math

We are about 7 lessons into our MEP math, reception year. I had reservations about this math because it was free. Download for free, online? Sounds legit. Hah.
This review from the afterthoughts blog helped convince me that it was worth a try.

So, I printed it off, and we've been doing a lesson every week. We're learning shorter vs taller, distances, shapes, and colours. It seems too easy for K, actually, but I'm afraid to jump over half a year. What if I miss some important step and cripple her mathematical ability forever?
 Maybe, when I'm a veteran homeschooler, I'll have the confidence to skip, but for now, we are just breezing through. Hopefully K doesn't get bored and hate math because of my fear of missing something.
 One issue that I have is that the math is as much work for me as it is for K. I had this idea that math should be set up so that you progress from problem to problem in a very natural, intuitive way. MEP is designed for teachers with a classroom full of learners, so it instructs me to "praise, question student 1, then student 2," etc. If MEP is like this all the way up through the grades, I might look for something else.
I think we would do better with a small amount of instruction at the beginning of each lesson, and then letting K work through things without constant feedback and what-to-do-next cues from teacher mom. Don't misunderstand me. I do the complete engagement thing with reading, because that's what you need at this stage in reading, but I just think it's not necessary for math. Plus, K is pretty independent, so hovering doesn't appeal to her, either.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning French

I've been thinking over what we are going to do about language study in our homeschool.
Teaching our kids the French language is very important to my husband, as he sees the bilingual way in which our New Brunswick economy functions, and also the workplace restrictions that being unilingual place on a person. And so, it has become important to me, too.
Loving the Charlotte Mason method as I do, my first thought was to find out what she would recommend. This is not as easy as it sounds, because there is no universally recognized and loved French curriculum among CM educators.
I did find some recommendations for the Pimsleur method, which looks really good to me.  This method teaches you a phrase (audio, so there is no confusion about pronunciation), and then another phrase, with review along the way. It felt very good to me; so good, in fact, that I looked up the price. *cough* I think it is more suited for older children. Older, rich children.
I kept on looking, and then found Speaking French with Miss Mason and Francois. This method seems to be very close to what CM recommends (this link goes to a blogger who has read CM, since I haven't, yet!).  I will be taking a closer look at this, even though it isn't free (I'm trying to homeschool for free this year, but that's another post).
A few things that I think are the important aspects of language learning for my girls at this point:
1. Correct pronunciation

"The child speaks with a good accent, pronounces correctly, when his nurse or his mother speaks with a good accent and pronounces correctly. Where, indeed, can he acquire a bad accent if he never hears any other than a good accent: How should he be likely to pronounce badly when he has never heard anything pronounced other than well?" (136)
Similarly, he claims, an improper accent may "falsify pronunciation" for good. (58)  As Miss Mason would say, a word spelled incorrectly creates an incorrect visual image in the mind that may never be undone. Better for a child to listen, listen, listen until he is ready to speak correctly:
"Talk yourself, talk continually. At the commencement let the pupil speak as little as possible; it is in his ear and not on his tongue that it is important to fix the word or the phrase. When the spring is abundant it will flow of itself, and the liquid supplied by it will have the advantage of being pure. Let us not forget that the little child listens for two years before constructing a phrase, and that he has possession of both the sound and its idea, that is, the spoken word, long before attempting to produce it himself." (140)
(Quote from  the 'CM recommends' link above)

This is easy for me, because I hope to have a native French-speaker teaching the initial lessons, with my role being review at home. That is, if she is on board with this method and book, because otherwise, I'll have to adjust to suit us both!

2. Being able to talk in French first. Learning to write in French is something for a few years down the road.

3. Learning sentences that have meaning to the child (sentences that speak about daily life, like "I love my daddy.") rather than learning random words (you know, like those books you get at Costco. Dog picture. "Chien." Cat picture. "Chat." "Yes! I am speaking French!!"  Euh, non. )
I realized, incidentally, that I know a lot of random French words, probably from that high school French course, as well as living in a partially French province. What I do not know is how to put everything together.

Looking at all the blog posts, sorting through the information, trying to find out what method is most effective for learning French, but also for keeping things simple and blending language study into daily life, I find myself really excited about this. I think I might learn to speak French, too. Just as a matter of course.  Awesome.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Winning Nature Saturday

Reading other people blogs about nature studying has been giving me an inferiority complex about the whole affair. All I do is put the kids out into the backyard. I'd like to call it masterly inactivity, but it is more like just regular inactivity.
And then, as we were hiking in Fundy this month, I realized, this qualifies! And we do it all the time! I'm winning!

I did adjust my actions a bit, once I had this revelation. Every time we go, I plan to learn one species from the informational placards on the trails. That way, if my kids ask, I'll be able to say, "Oh, yes. That? It's bladder-wrack. See what happens when you squeeze the pods?"

(Dixon Falls trail)

Just a helpful reminder that my homeschool doesn't have to look like so-and-so's homeschool in order to be properly educational. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

drawing monday

We tried something simpler this week, to get E re-interested. And it worked! Her attention span is still shorter than I like, but she is only 3, after all.

 Top picture clockwise from top: Nanny's, E's, mine, Charlene's (Nanny's current home care).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Drawing Monday

We have been enjoying drawing for almost a year, now. Our first sketch book is filled - or, in K's case, used up, because she ripped out every drawing she liked to share with her public.
I am enjoying the fact that we all can do this together, including Nanny, and her home care worker.
We had gotten into some fairly complex drawing, using the step-by-step method recommended by Monart.(drawing by myself)

(d rawing by K, age 5)
We also played with watercolors and oil pastels, which was fun. 
However, I found that E (3yrs) was acting a bit defeatist about the whole drawing thing, so I stepped back to try easier pictures. Here is a recent caterpillar; first K's, then E's. 

It has been such a pleasure to do this together.   
      If you look closely, you will see that the caterpillar is smiling. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

From for the family's sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

"Is it actually more valuable to push a pen on paper or buttons on a computer than to be expert in human life and its care? Is life more worthwhile because there is never time to pick wild blackberries and make a fruit crumble? Are things really more important than people? Will the warmth and wisdom of the expertise if caring for each other be handed on? Isn't this an amazingly interesting and complex life vocation on the one hand, and yet clear on the other?
I find it so. To me it seems an enormous privilege to be what my children call "Mum.""

Monday, July 13, 2015

Better Than Before

I've been reading Better Than Before; Mastering the habits of our everyday lives, by Gretchen Rubin. This about sums up goal of the book, which is also my goal as I build habits a la Charlotte Mason:

"As I reflected on the changes I'd seen in my habits and in other people's habits, it struck me that only rarely do we achieve a dramatic, picture-perfect before and after. Sometimes we do make a complete transformation; it's not an utter fantasy. But usually we end up in a place that's better than before. And that's enough."

A quote about habits

"There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as to practically not exist for his consciousness at all."
-William James, Psychology: Briefer Course

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day

 Mother's Day 2015. E made me a picture with 2 hearts on it. I slept in till 7:30, which threw off the morning and landed me at church flustered and frizzy.  E was wearing boots (forecast: 23* celcius), and KA was wearing a small green hat that kept sliding up on her head and making her look like a smurf.
I fought off a bad attitude for most of the afternoon, and was late getting ready for evening church.    O fell down the steps at church and scraped his face, and then I lost Kevin somewhere for a half an hour after the service.
We came home. I fed everyone again, and it took longer than usual. I put the kids in bed, but O wouldn't go to sleep. I had discovered molars and other teeth in his mouth earlier, so I assumed he was having trouble because he was teething.
It didn't surprise me. What a day.
 I asked Kevin to hold him for me, and he finally did, setting O beside him in bed. O obligingly went to sleep, straightaway.
I checked on KA. She had fallen asleep in less than a minute after giving up her fight to be up. E was snuggled down on my pillow, sucking her fingers, wearing KA's nightgown. O was snuggled next to his daddy, 2 big, orange bandaids on his head, soother in his mouth... so small; so tough, so tired!
I was, at that moment, overwhelmed with how beautiful life is.
 I am so grateful to God for blessing me with these babies. They are so precious to me!!
I know. Precious is a Hallmark word. I'm sorry. 
They just are.

Monday, May 4, 2015

moms love spring

I experienced a completely new emotion the other day. I call it, "Moms LOVE spring!" It's hard to describe the feeling. Part of it was relief at being done with "the worst winter in 75 years," as the Times and Transcript called it. Part of it was love that welled up in my heart as I saw my children's glee; playing outside without their coats. Part was gratitude to God, who sends the seasons. Part was surprise; I hadn't realized how much I wanted this!

Monday, April 20, 2015

CM E-Course

I've recently been thinking that I don't know enough about Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy. Oh, I know enough to teach my children, but not enough to impress people, when I talk about my homeschooling!
So, in order to become more articulate on the subject, I am taking a free Charlotte Mason E-Course. 
On the one hand, I wish this wasn't necessary, but on the other hand, having done one lesson already, I am finding that it has already improved our school time!
Katherine wasn't ready for math, but I was doing a bit with her anyway. This course reminded me of what was important in these early years (lots of time outside), and inspired me to completely drop the math and spend that energy on nature time!

Monday, March 2, 2015


Last week, in order to reassure kevin that we are do kindergarten right, I printed off a summary of what kids usually know by the end of kindergarten.
We are doing well in reading, using progressive phonics,  but had a little ways to go in math and in writing. The list didn't mention art, but I'm sure we have reached greater heights in that area than the average kindergartener.
Thinking it over, I decided to look up math curriculum. Nelleke at Education is a Life pointed me towards free MEP math, and we have begun our spiralling journey towards an understanding of maths.
 Somehow, however, between printing the standards for kindergarten and printing out the first bit of MEP, I found that Katherine could do simple addition and subtraction. Which was all I needed for kevin, anyways.

Monday, February 9, 2015

on (not) sleeping through the night.

I'm tired today. As I was yesterday. And the day before that. You see, I'm trying to teach O to sleep through the night. He's almost 1, and it's about time.
I remember doing this much earlier with my girls; there's something about having a third child makes me delay tackling the issues. I'll have to be careful to be aware of his character training. Sleeping through the night is not a big deal, but it would be terrible to delay tackling, say, an unkindness problem he could have.
Charlotte Mason managed character training with whole schools of children. I wonder... I expect she was just very organized.

I'm praying that he'll stay asleep (and not need rocking) soon!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Drawing Monday

I really like these kids. God is good.

Our drawing, using the Monart Method, has been progressing wonderfully.  We've been getting together with Nanny and her home-care worker every Monday and enjoying a drawing time.
Today, Katherine drew a fabulous parrot. Unfortunately for me, she gave it to Daddy to take to work.

The 'drawing tip' of the day was "Use the whole paper," because it looks more like art if you do that.


She's fascinated by biology. Skin, blood, teeth, what's inside your bones, where babies come from, and lately, milk bottles. Last week she told me that she "couldn't sleep well, because when people have small milk bottles they can't sleep well."