Year 1, Term 1 In Review

We are just about to begin the last week of our First Term of Year 1, and I thought I’d reflect a little on what has worked and what hasn’t worked so far in our homeschool…

Bible & Breakfast

Our Bible readings went okay. At first I wasn’t sure how exactly to proceed. Ambleside Online schedules one Old Testament story per week that the child is to narrate (tell back), but these stories skip ahead at a brisk pace. For example, Moses and the Burning Bush is a scheduled story, but the Exodus itself is not. I wasn’t really sure what to do about this – just read Old Testament stories at my own pace? Have James narrate a Bible story every day?

The question of which version of the Bible to read also came up. Ambleside Online recommends reading the King James Version, but when I did, James would fret, saying, “I don’t know what it’s saying!” and he got stories quite jumbled up as a result. I tried using the Douay-Rheims version instead (a Catholic Bible with lovely old language like the KJV), but many of the names are different – Samuel’s mother, Hannah, is called Anna, and Peninah is called Phenenna. I found that confusing for myself. After thinking about things for a while, I decided to go with a version that’s more understandable – my first priority with Bible is to have our children become familiar with the stories of the Old and New Testaments, while an added bonus is to be exposed to beautiful language. So we’re using the RSV (Catholic edition) for now.

I also decided to separate our assigned Bible readings (that James has to tell back) and our daily devotional readings. So now each morning we read the next section of 1 Samuel, and during our school session we read our school Bible reading. This is working much better so far.

I’ve also been a bit unsure about our catechism readings. We’re working through the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, but at a pretty slow rate (maybe half a chapter per week). I re-read Celeste’s posts on religious reading, and I think we’ll follow her suggestion of reading one chapter per week, and then work on memorizing the questions and answers of that chapter the following week.

I’ve been wanting to include some more Catholic reading into our breakfast time as well, but wasn’t sure what to include. After doing some research online, I’ve ordered Mother Mary Loyola’s King of the Golden City and Marigold Hunt’s St. Patrick’s Summer. I’m looking forward to perusing these when they arrive and including one or both of them in our breakfast readings next term!

We usually sing our psalm and hymn at breakfast time, too. So far, we’ve learned several stanzas of Psalm 8, Psalm 116 and Psalm 136 (using the Book of Praise), and we’ve learned several hymns. James and June both loved singing “Be Thou My Vision.” The third stanza goes, “Be Thou my battle shield / sword for the fight / Be Thou my Dignity / Thou my delight…” They belted those words of battle imagery with hearty enthusiasm every single time (and Alice watched them with an amused sparkle in her eye)!!!

We’ve also included a simple calendar time at breakfast, where my script went something like this: “Good Morning! What day is it? What month is it? What is the date? What season is it? What liturgical season is it? What colour is Father wearing at Mass today? How is the weather today?” I found a simple app (Bravolol) that includes most of these questions and answers in French (except for the Mass question, of course! 🙂 ) and so we’re getting used to saying things like, “Quel temps fait-il?” and “Il y a des nuages.”

Tea Time

During Tea Time, we sing our folk songs and French songs, read and recite some poetry, do our picture study and get started on our AO readings of the day.

Our folk songs went okay. I wasn’t crazy about the songs AO selected for this term, so I chose some songs of my own selection for us to learn instead. I’d find a YouTube video of the The Skye Boat Song and we’d watch that daily till we learned to sing along with it. I found this worked okay when the kids were really into the song (as they were with The Erie Canal Song, for example), but didn’t work the greatest for songs they were ho-hum about. Then they’d tend to mumble along without learning the song well. And I found that I couldn’t sing most of the songs myself independently – I could just sing along with the music. So I think what we’ll do from here on out is just sing the songs independently…

Our French songs also went okay. I chose “Au Clair de la Lune” as our first song, but it actually doesn’t have that much repetition, and some of the stanzas are fairly complicated. James also started imagining English words in the song, so now every time he sings it he references a zebra!!! I’m trying to stick to simpler songs with more repetition so that we can learn them a bit better. 🙂

For our poetry, our poet for Term 1 was Robert Louis Stevenson. I had a lovely copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses that we began reading from, but after a week or two James began to resist reading this book. He’d plug his ears most grumpily and refuse to listen to the poem. It turns out the lovely Tasha Tudor illustrations gave him the impression this was girly poetry – and he was having none of that! So we moved on to another book of poetry we already owned (A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa) and we’ve all enjoyed reading a poem or two a day from it. I’m really looking forward to moving on to some AA Milne next term!

 

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Yes, I can see that these illustrations are perhaps a touch girly… 

I wasn’t all that happy with our poetry memorization this term. I had James write a line or two of a poem for his copywork, and he ended up memorizing the poem after reading it through again and again. But I’d like him to be more involved in the process, to choose his own poem to memorize, and to give June her own little poem to memorize as well (she’s happily memorized alongside James so far). And I really like Celeste’s idea of illustrating a poem once it’s been memorized and adding it to our Family Poetry Binder. So I should really make a Family Poetry Binder so we can get started on that next term! 🙂

Our picture study went fairly well this term. We started off with Rubens’s painting of St. George and the Dragon, with which James was immediately fascinated. He really enjoys studying the painting closely and then describing it for me while I look at it. I wasn’t really sure what to do during the second week of the painting. I suggested that James draw it from memory, but he is quite a perfectionist and found that there was far too much detail in a painting to even consider drawing it himself. Maybe next term I’ll have him describe the painting for me by telling me what to draw? We’ll see…

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I find that Alice gets very noisy and distracting during our Tea Time readings. I’ll have to be a little more proactive next term in choosing some toys for her to play with just during Tea Time…

AO Readings

Overall, our Ambleside Online readings went really well. James found most of them captivating, and June often listened to them attentively, too, and would chime in if James forgot a detail that stood out to her:

June: “But first he prayed, James! Don’t forget to say that!”
James: “Hey, no interrupting!”

50 Famous Stories: good! The stories are quite short and James found them very interesting.

An Island Story: the stories were longer (6-8 pages) and at first I read them all in one go and James wasn’t able to tell back much. So I’ve begun to have him narrate several times per reading. He isn’t crazy about this book, which is kind of surprising to me seeing as it’s all about battles and kings, things that naturally interest him.

– D’aulaire biographies – we read Leif the Lucky and James loved it.

Burgess Bird Book – James loved these stories and happily narrated them. We usually drew a picture of the bird we were reading about in our nature journals, or coloured a picture I printed off the computer. The kids really enjoyed this. I purchased a set of Sibley bird cards thinking those would be helpful reference cards, but the illustrations are teensy tiny and therefore of no use to us! We have a bird book with decent illustrations, and a Birds of Canada book with pictures of birds and these are good references. (I’m still on the lookout for a book with really large illustrations of birds of North America.)

Paddle to the Sea – James loves this book! My mom found a little carved canoe with a figure in it at a thrift store, and James loves to use it to narrate. Our accompanying mapwork is going well.

– James Herriot – James really enjoyed the two stories we read this term.

Aesop’s Fables – excellent for beginning narration!

Parables of Nature – long stories, but held James’s interest.

Just So Stories – quite liked these!

Blue Fairy book – good! Many of the stories are really long, so narrating every two pages works well.

– Shakespeare – James loved Shakespeare this term. I think what he really loved about it was acting out the story with little characters. I purchased a little set of finger puppets (cards with holes for your fingers) but it only has half the characters for each play, making it quite useless. Maybe we’ll need to get some little wooden figures and paint them? Just seems like so much work! But James loves having little figures with which to act out the story… maybe some little Lego people will do…

Little House and Redwall – free reads. James has heard most of the Year 1 free reads already, so we read the first Redwall book and are almost done reading Little House on the Prairie. He loves our free reading time, and does June!

Daily Delights

Math is going well. James is making steady progress and is enjoying his math lessons. He loves, loves, loves playing math games so we almost always play one after the rest of his work is done.

James’s copywork is going much better now. For the first eight weeks or so of this term, he was simply copying one letter at a time. I made a note of this and told myself I should read a bit more about how to do copywork properly because I was pretty sure he ought to have been copying words rather than letters. But I let it slide for a few weeks and then at the CM conference had several conversations with people about how necessary it is to do copywork word by word, rather than letter by letter. So, after the conference we made the change. I now encourage James to take a good look at the word, to form a picture of it in his mind, then cover the word and have him write it. Doing his copywork takes longer, but I think that this has made a big difference in his reading as well – it’s like he’s been forced to slow down and pay attention to the actual words. He used to just take a split second to look at a word and then would madly guess at it rather than taking the time to sound it out. Now he’s taking the time to look at words more carefully.

Speaking of reading practice, we’ve begun to use the McGuffey Eclectic Readers. We’d been working our way through Frog and Toad and other beginner readers, but James complained a couple times that they were too easy. He just finished the First Eclectic Reader and is getting started on the second one. And he’s LOVING them! The language is a little older, and the style is a tad preachy, but he doesn’t seem to mind that a bit. We might need to work on some more phonogram practice at this point, as some bigger and more complicated words are being tossed into the mix.

I wasn’t totally sure at the beginning of the term what to do for our Foreign Language study. I thought about teaching Dutch… but the resources were so scarce! I finally settled on teaching French, and then couldn’t decide which French curriculum to go with. I ended up getting the Cherrydale Press book and finally purchased the accompanying audio, too. It is (unfortunately) not very user friendly. I kept having to click to the middle of the audio to listen to the part I wanted to listen to, and then clicking stop so it didn’t keep going to a part I didn’t want to listen to. It was a small hassle, but a very annoying one… and I began skipping our French lessons to avoid fiddling around. So I looked around for a different program and found The ULAT. It is going so much better! The website is not very intuitive (or aesthetically pleasing) at first glance, but once you get used to it, it works really well. What I love about this program is that it is all oral – perfect for beginning language learners! James has been loving saying incorrect statements about us – “She lives in New York!” (while pointing at June) or “I did not make the bed!” Alice even said, impishly, “Il habite a New York” to Jeremy the other day!!! And when Jeremy looked at her and said that No, he doesn’t, she amended her statement: “Il habite a West Kelowna.” Haha!

For our handicraft this term, we finished our first toques. I must admit that James was very enthusiastic about working on them, which is why we finished them. He’d get up in the morning and want to get in a bit of knitting before breakfast. I have not been very diligent about taking out our second toques, so they are languishing half-finished in the dresser drawer. Part of the problem is that I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out of yarn, but I never feel like driving to Michael’s to pick up more… (And the theme here seems to be that I need everything to be in place in order to get things done!!) I’m thinking about making Jesse Tree ornaments with our wood-burning kit as our handicraft for next term… is that too tricky a project to do with a 6 year old?!

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Nature study: AWFUL! We have neglected this hugely. My kids used to naturally just go outside for hours every day when we lived in Fruitvale, but here they are not tempted to because of the lame backyard. I keep pushing this off, thinking that when we actually buy a house, then I’ll start going outside more! 🙂 For next term… well, we are planning on driving Jeremy to school every Wednesday so we can attend a Mom and Tots group, so I think we’ll plan on getting our nature walk and nature study in on Wednesdays.

The other challenge is that our library system is pretty limited. In Fruitvale I was able to request up to 20 interlibrary loans at a time (and I could do that from home) whereas here many of the books I’m looking for are not in the system, and I have to go to the library to request an interlibrary loan (only 1-2 at a time are permitted). So – I’m having a hard time finding good resources for nature study books. Still thinking of how to solve this problem… aside from spending several hundred dollars on excellent books! 😉

Timelines – okay. Some resistance to more writing – “But I’ve already done my copywork for today!”

Drawing – James draws regularly and loves it. Maybe begin formal lessons next term?

Geography – we’ve been doing the occasional GeoPuzzle and have gone through a few lessons from CM’s Geography book.

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Math Lessons

James has been working his way through RightStart Level B this past term, and most days he absolutely loves it. He says it’s his favourite subject.

There are a lot of options available these days when it comes to math curricula, and I thought about using a couple different programs when I was first looking around. Singapore Math is used in quite a few classical schools, so I considered it – but I really don’t like its cutesy graphics. I also thought about using Math-U-See because Mystie Winckler (homeschooling mom whose blog I’ve been following for years) really loves it. But I didn’t like that it was DVD based – at this point in James’s education, I’d prefer to teach him myself, rather than have him learning from videos. I ended up choosing RightStart mostly based on online recommendations (especially on the Ambleside Online Forum), and I’m really happy with it so far. I was looking for a program that keeps math both interesting and practical, and RightStart does both well.

The lessons are very clearly laid out. Each two-page spread in the book contains one lesson, and each lesson has clear objectives and a list of the various materials needed to do that lesson. So, when we’re ready to start our math lesson, I open the book, gather the supplies and we begin.

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I also like that it slowly builds on what a child has already learned. For example, the warm-up activity gets children used to thinking through simple addition facts. I’ve seen good, steady progress over the past few months in James’s mental math.

In today’s lesson, James was working on adding 6s, 7s and 8s to two-digit numbers. Charlotte Mason recommends keeping math lessons to 15-20 minutes when children are in Year 1, so if we don’t make it through an entire lesson (and we rarely do), I just put a little sticky arrow on the page and we pick up from where we left off on the next day.

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June loves keeping a keen and watchful eye on James during his lessons.

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One of RightStart’s advantages is that it integrates math games into the lessons, which really helps reinforce learning. James loves the games he’s learned so far! Here’s one example from a few weeks ago:

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This week James started learning a simple form of Solitaire.

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Gotta get a little bit of attention, too! 🙂

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Nature Journaling

I’m starting a blog post mini-series on what homeschooling looks like in our home. I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of how our days are spent, and how delightful learning at home can be!

Today we spent  much of the afternoon working on our nature journals. We’ve been reading the Burgess Bird Book for Children for the Natural History component of Year 1 and it has been a great delight. What I’ve appreciated the most about this book is how it makes us pay attention to the habits of birds – do they fly smoothly, or do they fly in a way that makes them look like a rabbit hopping through the sky? Are they neat and tidy, or messy homemakers? Why do some woodpeckers spend so much time on the ground instead of in trees?

This afternoon James painted a picture of a red-headed woodpecker.

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And June coloured a picture of a red-headed woodpecker. (She goes for colourful rather than accurate in her pictures and it drives her brother crazy!!)

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And I painted a picture of a northern flicker. James pointed one out to me the other day – it landed on the Douglas fir tree right next to the patio and we admired it with wide eyes (it’s quite lovely with that startling red bit on the back of its head!) for a few seconds before it noticed us and flew off. I don’t have an original bone in my body when it comes to art, so I focus on copying paintings or photographs found online. It’s working well so far.

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Life Lately

We returned home this past Monday from a most enjoyable weekend in the Fraser Valley celebrating Thanksgiving Day with our families. I’d been down there with the kids the week before to attend a homeschooling conference, and James, June and Alice were so thrilled to be going back to Grandpa and Grandma’s again in such a short time frame. (Definite advantage of living in Kelowna vs. Fruitvale!) Alice spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving keeping her ears open for any mention of Grandpa and Grandma’s place. If she heard the words, she’d run over, ask, “Go with you?” and “Get my shoes?” with an urgent look in her eyes. She was not going to be left behind!

Speaking of Grandpa and Grandma’s, James has lately mentioned several times, most mournfully, how disappointed he is that we actually found a home in which to live; he would have preferred living at his grandparents’ place. “We could have stayed there for a whole month!” he’s been heard sighing. While I share his enthusiasm for the enjoyments of Grandpa and Grandma’s home, I’ve very much relieved we have this lovely home in which to live! 🙂

Anyways! Thanksgiving weekend! Jeremy spent hours and hour marking. Then we got drenched in a monsoon on Saturday afternoon while attempting to enjoy a corn maze. And then we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my side of the family. The kids rode their bikes, played around in the basement and . . . well, I don’t really know what else they were up to. They were having such fun they just kept busy the whole time. 🙂 We enjoyed a delicious gourmetten feast, some rousing card games and some old, catchy Dutch music that transported us back to our teen years.

The next day we went to mass in Abbotsford, visited our hospitalized nephew, and enjoyed another round of Thanksgiving deliciousness with Jeremy’s side of the family. James tried a Wii for the first time and was quite thrilled with it; it was his favourite part of the evening. For the record, June’s fave: seeing her cousins again. And Alice’s: playing with Oma’s play kitchen.

And on Monday we returned home with the beginnings of colds for everyone. That’s made for a bit of a long week here. Alice has been coughing atrociously, and James and June are keeping me on my toes by shouting in alarm any time there’s a hint of a dribble from her nose. June’s just completed yet another round of antibiotics . . . and Jeremy had his first sick day at school (well, half day). Our neighbour had given us a free family admission to the local pool, so when Jeremy showed up at home after lunch, I bolted out the door with James and June. (Gotta use that van whenever it’s around!) It was lovely to get out of the house, and we thoroughly enjoyed our wet and splashy afternoon!

Jeremy also gave me a sabbath day from mothering today. Talk about speaking my love language! 🙂 After coffee time this morning, I headed out for the day; it was my goal to see something beautiful, to experience some quiet, and to go to confession. I started by visiting Kalamoir Regional Park, a lovely little area along Okanagan Lake. There’s a trail that runs along the water and through a bit of forest. It was so beautiful! There were two areas along the trail that were more heavily forested, and in the first area a group of black-capped chickadees (which I had just painted in my nature journal a week or two ago, and actually recognized on sight) was spiritedly chirping about, and in the second patch there were some cheerful robins bustling about. Our backyard is as dead as a doornail (too dry this summer), and our van is nearly always in use, so our nature study has been severely restricted since moving here. It was so refreshing to see a lovely, lively spot in the world again, and to spend some time observing the frolicking antics of those dear little birds!

After some time walking about outside, I found a quiet spot along the beach and prayed for a while. And then perused a used book store and found a lovely stash of books for a certain Redwall fan (shhhhh!), and then spent a couple hours reading in a comfy coffee shop. Then I went to confession, and headed home. It was a wondrously refreshing day! (Alas, the afternoon caffeinated beverage means I’m still awake at 1:30am! Mental note to self: do not drink caffeine after lunch!!!!)

I haven’t really pulled out my real camera since moving to West Kelowna, but the other day the light coming in the window was just perfect. I love these shots of my sweet and sparky little lass! (Going to have to take it out more often!) I’m also loving the fact that, despite my absolute incompetence in all things hair-related, June manages to walk away from a bath looking like we slaved over her hair for an hour. 😉 I can’t believe she’s going to be four next month!

Junie Adellie

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And here’s what we’ve been reading lately . . .

Me
The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason (for an online book club)

James
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

June
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The High Hills by Jill Barklem

Alice
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

I’d love to dive into another good work of fiction. After finishing The Lord of the Rings and marvelling over the exquisitely beautiful portrait of selflessness (Sam), friendship (Sam and Frodo), and a world in which things are as they should be (comfortable homes, noble kings, Gandalf responding to the destruction of the ring by talking less and laughing more), it’s been hard to muster enthusiasm for anything else. I’d love to hear your recommendations if you’ve read an excellent book lately!

Quotable Kids, October 2017

James: “Mom, I do declare that there is a faint, buzzing sound in the air.”

James to me: “Oh, are you about to make dinner? Well, here I am, your little scullion ready to help you!”

James to Jeremy: “I’m listening to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader right now, and I’m at the part where Eustace Clarence Scrubb is still such a beast!”

During a conversation about babysitters:
James: “Well, I would like to have Methuselah as my babysitter!” (A kindly old mouse in the Redwall series.)

James, while putting cheese on his toast: “Who wouldn’t let the cheese man in at the door? And all the good little children get double lumps of cheese!”

June, pretending to shoot her bow: “Alice, you’re Smaug and I’m Bard. Twang! Twang!”
Alice: <laughs>
June, affronted: “Hey, Smaug doesn’t laugh!!”

June, reading Frog and Toad to Alice: “And this is Frodo, and this is Sam.”

June, in a sing-song voice:
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.
Catch a mouse by its toe.
If it’s Reepicheep say hello!
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

June, holding up a copy of Cinderella: “Mom, what’s the name of this book again? Mozzarella?”