Prayer for my Family After nine years of marriage and six years of mothering, I still haven’t gotten into a good habit/routine of praying for Jeremy and our children. And sometimes when I do pray for them I get a little stuck, wondering what exactly should I be praying for. It’s time for that to change. So I spent some time googling “prayers for your husband” and “prayer for one’s child” and compiled a little prayer booklet that includes some rich and lovely prayers. The plan is to say these prayers upon waking in the morning, or, after the baby arrives, when I’m nursing.
Having been at home with our children most of the last four months, I haven’t made many friends in the area yet. But now that we have a second vehicle and are moving closer to church and school, I’ll have more opportunities to meet and get to know other women. I tend to be a bit of a hermit, and am rather slow at forming friendships, but seeing as we’re planning to live here for the next 5-10 years, it makes sense to prioritize friendships! For this, I plan to attend the wonderful Mom and Tots group held at a local Catholic Church and begin getting together with other homeschooling families.
Everything Has a Place, and Everything in its Place
We’re moving mid-February and one of my goals after we move is to give all our belongings a set place. There are a number of ‘collection points’ in our home right now – the kitchen counter, the dresser in the living room – that house extra books, pages the kids have coloured, and other miscellaneous items . . . and this always leads to more and more things cluttering up the area. Hopefully having a spot for everything will keep that at bay!
Sunday Keeping Hour
I started reading several books from Ambleside Online’s Year 7 back in September, and began keeping a reading journal a few months later after reading Celeste’s blog post on the topic. It has been such a joy so far! I include quotes from the books, small illustrations, maps, lists of characters, even a small century chart tucked in the back! I’d like to keep doing this on a regular basis this year so I’m scheduling a Sunday Keeping Hour for making these entries.
Weekly Nature Walks & Nature Journaling
Our new home is close to a nature trail – hurrah! I’d like to get into a habit of weekly nature walks and nature journaling… though my guess is this will likely begin in the late spring, some time after the baby is born. I have a daybook set aside for journaling our ‘firsts’ of the year (first robin sighted, first crocus blooming, etc.) and I can’t wait to begin using this, too, once we move!
Word of the Year
I used a ‘Word of the Year’ generator and it gave me the word kindness. My stomach dropped when I read it, as I’ve been feeling convicted lately that the way I speak to my children is more cantankerous/snippy than kind/encouraging. So speaking kindly is another goal for the year!
Saint of the Year
I also used a ‘Saint of the Year’ generator and it gave me St. Bernardine of Siena. This man (whom I first mistook for a woman based on his name!) lived in the 1400s and showed great selflessness by tending the sick during an outbreak of the plague; joined the priesthood and spent twelve years in prayer (rather than preaching) because of a weak and hoarse voice; and then was healed and preached so fervently the pope called him a second Paul. Quite the life!
Check out this prayer to Saint Bernardine; it ties so neatly with the habit of speaking kindly (just had to include it in my prayer book): “Saint Bernardine of Siena, words were very important to you. You spent most of your life speaking the golden words of Jesus’ mercy and his Holy Name. And you abhorred words that were shameful. Please pray for us that we may always choose to speak Jesus’ name with reverence and choose words of love over words of shame. Amen.”
We had a wonderful Christmas break! And while I didn’t take too many photos, here are a few from the last few weeks . . .
First up, our Advent picture books. I purchased a bunch of books about Christmas and wrapped them up. The kids loved unwrapping them and reading our book of the day. A few of our favourites included:
– One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham – this book is a summary of the salvation story in the Bible. It hits many of the highlights (the creation, the fall, Noah, Moses, David, Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection) and has lovely illustrations.
– The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler’s Sons by Ruth Sawyer – a poor cobbler leaves home on Christmas Eve to complete some work for soldiers and while he’s away his sons have a surprising encounter with the goblin king. Such a fun book! The kids loved shouting, “Schnitzle, schnotzel and schnootzle!” while we read.
– The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – we didn’t actually finish reading this story, and it was way, way over the heads of our kids, but they still loved listening to it! And they were so excited to discover that Opa and Oma have a whole Dickens village set up at Christmastime, including a house with Scrooge and the ghosts inside!
A few more photos of the gingerbread house decorating. As you can see, June was the most excited of the bunch about it. 🙂
Oh dear, not the house’s best angle:
A little better:
We attended our first midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and it was glorious. Lots of incense, beautiful music and rejoicing in the birth of our Saviour! ‘Twas lovely! I’m so glad we went! I thought the children might fall asleep on the half hour drive to church, or during the service, but they stayed up the whole time. Alice was quite tuckered out the next day and needed two naps instead of her usual one… she just fell asleep on the couch. 🙂
Christmas morning gift opening:
June and Alice loved the Victorian doll house they received! (I found it at Value Village and spent a few evenings during Advent repainting it.)
Our Christmas feast:
On Boxing Day we drove to the Fraser Valley. June recently ditched her carseat for a booster seat and it doesn’t quite offer the same head-restability! She somehow slept like this for half an hour (despite attempts to recline her seat and otherwise make her more comfy)!
We had a wonderful stay with my parents (again)! The kids were busy with all sorts of toys and games, and even tried out some shuffleboard.
The whole family (except my brother Duane who was sick with the flu) got together for a Christmas gift exchange:
The kids opening their gifts:
The biggest surprise of the evening came towards the end when Jeremy and I were given “one last gift” that turned out to be a VEHICLE! I’ve been stuck at home with the kids six days a week for the last four months and just the thought of being able to attend our local Mom and Tots group, or go for a nature walk, or pop in to the grocery store for a last minute ingredient for dinner… well, I burst into tears. Pretty amazing! We are loving the freedom and flexibility this delightful gift has brought to us already, and I’m sure that will abound over the next weeks and months!
The kids loved playing with their cousins! June and Eden:
James and Austin:
Grandma’s basement and its many treasures is a never-ending source of delight:
And then James and June got sick with the flu. Thankfully June only threw up once, and James is now old enough to recognize when he’s about to vomit so he was able to make it to the bathroom on time. (I appreciate the minimal vomiting on carpet a lot!)
And then we had an ice storm that covered everything in a one to two inch coating of ice! It was incredibly beautiful. And incredibly slippery!
It certainly reminded us of our stay in February when the exact same thing happened!
We hunkered down at mom and dad’s for a few days. Because of the kids getting sick, our get together with Jeremy’s family was cancelled, so we just visited with his parents instead.
On New Years Day, Jeremy and I attended Mass, ate some olliebollen at John David’s, browsed a local book store, and headed out to the River House for a little getaway while my parents took care of our children. The yard and deck were covered in lots of snow, and the full moon was hanging low in the sky that night, and shining brightly on the river in the backyard. It was stunning!
We enjoyed some snacks and a board game and just as I was dozing off that night there was a thunderouscrash! I looked up groggily, and there was Jeremy, sprawled out on the bedroom floor, a broken glass lying in shards around him! Thinking he’d fallen, I called out to him, “Jeremy, are you okay?!” And when he didn’t answer, I asked him another dozen times, “Jeremy, what happened? Are you okay?! Jeremy!” After about fifteen seconds he came to – it turns out he had fainted while trying to get to the bathroom.
Yep, the flu bug had returned, and we spent our lovely getaway vomiting the night away! (In retrospect, it was quite a blessing not to have to take care of our children while we were so sick! Unfortunate but propitious timing.)
The rest of our trip we spent recovering from the flu, trying to avoid slipping on the ice, and removing subjects from this lovely home which will be ours in about six weeks!!! 🙂
Now we’re back home again to another foot of snow and a driveway that was cleared by our kind and thoughtful neighbours. Tomorrow Jeremy begins teaching again, and our homeschool picks up again, too!
Let’s start with the bad, shall we? And then end on a note that’s a little lighter. 🙂
I’ve been telling Jeremy lately that I am 90% convinced that this child is going to be a girl, as I distinctly remember being just as teary and emotional in my pregnancies with June and Alice. He is not taking me seriously and thinks this baby is a boy. (Tears! Just kidding!) But seriously, every little hiccup in life is taking a toll on my emotions these days. For example, the other day I went to the lab to have some routine blood-work done and the lab tech told me she couldn’t do the lab draw because of some little technical issue. I brushed away tears as I drove away grumbling, “How impossibly inconvenient!!!”
There are a number of things at play, I think. One, the weather. I don’t like winter. I don’t like being cold. I don’t like being stuck in the house all the time. And I really don’t like having the kids stuck in the house all the time! Two, my restless legs are acting up again (as they do every pregnancy) and I spend most nights tossing around for two hours before finally falling asleep at midnight. I don’t know about you, but a lack of sleep rarely bestows on me a sunny disposition. 🙂 PS – tips for combatting restless legs, aside from calcium-magnesium supplements and epsom salt baths are most welcome!
And three, I’m feeling homesick. It started with my mom’s birthday in mid-December; all the kids and grandkids were invited to come over for dinner that day, and I really, really wanted to be part of the celebration. But we have one vehicle, and Jeremy needs it to get to and from school, so driving three hours away to enjoy some family company didn’t make sense unless I wanted to strand him at work. In a fit of desperation I looked into the cost of taxi fares for Jeremy, or bus fares for the kids and me. In the end, I resigned myself to not being able to go, and then spent the day moping and crying. Seeing Tanya’s sweet video of Everly taking her first steps at the party only made the tears flow harder.
Well, my parents were planning to come out for a brief visit the week after my mom’s birthday, so I started focusing on that instead. The kids counted down the days and made big plans for snowball fights and other activities with grandpa and grandma. And then Kelowna got hit by a snowstorm, the Coquihalla highway closed down because of multiple accidents and treacherous conditions and my parents wisely decided to cancel their trip. More tears! It’s been a month of tears! Thankfully we’re planning to spend a lovely week during Christmastide in the Fraser Valley so hopefully that is a wonderful antidote to this season of pining.
Moving on to some (cell-phone) photos and other less dismal tidings…
Here’s a photo from the beginning of the month in which I’m 6 months pregnant and trying out a new hairstyle. I find I look rather serious/solemn/stern with this hairstyle and am quite often surprising myself when I look in the mirror. “Is everything alright, serious woman?” I think to myself when I catch a glimpse of my reflection.
One wonderful part of being Catholic is celebrating feast days! December 6th is Saint Nicholas day, so the children left their shoes by the door and were delighted when he showered them with Smarties, socks, undies and some new pajamas.
We also celebrated St. Lucia day on December 13th. It’s a tradition to have cinnamon buns that day, so we made some for breakfast.
We also assembled and decorated a gingerbread house sometime this Advent; the kids loved every moment of it. Much candy snooping ensued.
We’ve also been trying out a Jesse Tree during Advent. This involves a daily reading from Scripture, along with an ornament with a symbol that corresponds to the reading. The Jesse Tree represents Jesus’s family tree, so the readings begin with creation and end with the birth of Christ.
We made our ornaments using the templates from this website. I spent a really long time looking around for ornaments that would be both lovely to behold and something the children could be involved in making. These have beautiful works of classical art on one side and a scripture reference on the back, as well as a note saying when you are to read the particular passage. Advent ranges anywhere from 22 – 28 days in length, so this date reference is quite handy!
This first ornament is of Noah and the animals boarding the ark:
We’ve also been listening to Handel’s Messiah during dinner time. Just before Advent began, I won a free copy of “Awaiting the Messiah,” an e-book written by a fellow homeschooling mom. It divides up the Messiah into sections, and gives you YouTube links for the day’s selection. It has been so handy for us (and it’s been the first time we’ve consistently done music study this year)! Hearing the kids ask for their favourite piece afterwards (Every Valley Shall be Exalted for James, and But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming for June), or look at us excitedly during Mass because they recognize the Scripture reading as part of the text from the Messiah is pretty wonderful. 🙂
Jeremy taught James how to play Risk and it is now a Sunday tradition to play a round on Sunday afternoons. James won his first game and was utterly delighted. Sunday’s now his favourite day of the week!
This spacious Tupperware cupboard is a favourite with the girls. 🙂
June loves to beautify herself and the world around her. Dress + skirt + anklets = happy girl.
All ready for some winter fun!
June colouring a picture of a bird as we read the Burgess Bird Book.
James and June have begun making small books. James signs his name as “J.E. de Haan” because he wants to be a writer like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. 🙂 This story involved a knight on a unicorn and a war between Germany and Britain…
Jeremy and his fellow teachers celebrated the beginning of Christmas break with a staff party. Several of the teachers had been wanting to organize an outdoor scavenger hunt in downtown Kelowna for years and this year it finally came to fruition. We were divided into teams of 4-6 people and were given ten envelopes with various tasks. Easy tasks were worth 1 point, while very difficult tasks were worth 5 points. If you opened an envelope but did not complete the task, the point value was subtracted from your total. And with each task, you had to take a picture of your group doing the task and send that picture to the organizer.
We ended up getting photos on a city bus (4 points), from a really high vantage point (3 points), on a mythical creature – i.e., a statue of the ogopogo (2 points), in front of large fruit statues (1 point), and… most dramatically… a group photo of us up to our knees in Okanagan Lake (5 points). Yep, it was -5 degrees outside, there was snow all over the beach, and we had to chase away a crowd of ducks, but we got a photo in the lake! And our group won because of it! Such fun! 🙂
I’ve been getting a little bit of reading here and there. This comes from The Cloud of Witness, a book of poetry. I love this line:
Life is only bright when it proceedeth
Towards a truer, deeper life above.
Wishing you a marvellous Christmas celebrating the Nativity of our Lord!
June, after a wind storm: “Mom, I just want to keep the baby inside you in case the wind storm happens again!!!”
James: “Alice, you are as sweet as the North Wind is hard!”
We were listening to the Peterson “Birding by Ear” CD and the narrator described a bird as having a hoarse call. I tried to demonstrate what ‘hoarse’ sounds like and made a low, rumbling noise.
James: “Oh!!! You mean it has a sort of Russian accent?!”
James: “Mom, I am just crushed to find out that Captain Hook’s first name is James!”
After I’d been telling James about how June and Alice have been waking up most nights and climbing into bed with me, he offered to let them climb into bed with him instead; I thanked him for his kind offer.
James: “Can we talk further about this matter tomorrow?”
James, at bedtime: “I’m full, my heart is merry, and I feel I could sleep the clock round!!!”
We wrapped up the first of our three terms in Year 1 with an Exam Week. Rather than reading new chapters in our books, we spent the week reviewing what we’d learned up to this point. I explained our exam week to James like this: “We’re going to take some time this week to think back on stories, poems, and pictures we’ve read and studied over the past couple months. This will help you see how much you’ve learned already, it will help you remember things for a long time, and it will help me know what things need to be adjusted in our home school.”
I was a little nervous that James might not remember many details, especially from stories read early in the term. And while there were some sighs of frustration over the difficulty of remembering things from long ago, overall the exam week went well.
Here are a few highlights.
We read stories from the Old Testament this past term: the creation of the world, the fall into sin, the story of Noah and the ark, Moses and the burning bush, the entry into Canaan, and a few stories from the book of Judges.
Tell your favourite Bible story so far.
James: Samson was a very strong man. And he had big muscles… just like Mr. N. (our weight-lifting neighbour). And then he went down to the Philistines. And he saw a lady there and he wanted her as his wife. He went back to his mom and dad and said, “Get me that girl.” And they said, “No, no, no. That’s one of the uncircumcised or unbaptized Philistine’s daughters.” They said, “Fine we’ll go.” And so they went. Though it was because the Lord had a plan. And then they said, “Here’s the girl that you wanted.” And then he married her. And he killed a lion and ripped it open with his bare hands. Then when he turned, it was full of bees and there was honey. And so then he went to the Philistines and said, “Here’s a riddle. Out of the eater comes something to eat. Out of the strong comes something sweet. I will give you three days to answer it, and if you cannot answer it in those three days, you shall give me thirty royal garments, though if you can answer it I will give you thirty royal garments.” Then they said to his wife, “Tell us the answer to the riddle, or we will burn you with fire!” Though she did not know it. And she said, “I don’t know it.” Then she implored her husband to tell her what the riddle was, and he said, “Fine, it’s a lion and some honey.” And she told the people, “Oh it’s some honey and a lion, but don’t tell Samson!” And then she said, “Alright, there, I’ve told you the answer to the riddle.” And then Samson went back to them and they said, “Out of the eater comes something to eat – that’s honey. Out of the strong comes something sweet – strong, that’s the lion.” And then he went back in hot anger and said, “If you had not plowed at my field, you would not have gotten the answer.” And what do you think that means? And that means, if you had not made some plan against my wife you wouldn’t have found out the answer. He went back to a place where he killed thirty men and took their garments. The end.
We read many of Aesop’s fables, some delightful fairy tales, and several of Kipling’s Just-So Stories about how animals came to look as they do. We also read a few stories from Parables of Nature (as the title suggests, these stories are parables from the animal world) and two retellings of Shakespeare plays.
What kind of stories did Aesop write? Tell me your favorite Aesop’s fable, including your understanding of the moral.
James: Fables. Once in a dry spot where the birds could find very little to eat, a crow found a pitcher of water. He tried and tried and tried and tried to get the water, but he could not. Then he had an idea. He got some stones and put them in one by one and then when the water got higher he was able to have a drink. I don’t remember what the moral was.
Tell me one of the fairy tales we read this term.
James: The one about the prince and how he turned into a beast, with a snake’s body, wolf’s legs, boar’s chest, and lion’s head. There was this prince, his dad had died, he wasn’t very good after the fairy told him to be, she gave him a ring that pricked his finger every time he was bad and sometimes his finger would bleed. And then he was really angry at this girl, and then he went to the chamber where she was locked but she wasn’t there, and then he turned in fury on his tutor. And then he ordered him to be brought before him in chains like a criminal. Though he wasn’t. And then he turned into a beast when he went into the forest, and he was caught, and his tutor was the king for a little bit, and then he said, “I’ve got the crown but it’s not to rule it’s only to give it back to the prince when he’s back.” The beast was furious. He turned into a dog, and then into a dove, and then he was his proper self again.
We have been learning about British history and have been reading through 50 Famous Stories Retold and Our Island Story.
Tell the story of William Tell, or tell me what you remember about Cornelia’s Jewels.
James: Once there was a man, and he was very good at archery. And one day the emperor thought of cruel plan. He hung up his cap and made everyone bow down before it. Though William would not bow down to it. Then the emperor thought of a cruel plan against his son. He ordered that the son should stand in the middle of the square with an apple on his hat, and that William Tell would have to shoot the apple off his head with one shot, or the emperor would kill him. And he shot, and the son stood perfectly still and the apple came flying right off his head. And there was one more arrow sticking out from under his coat and the emperor asked, “What was that second arrow for?” And William Tell said, “That one was for your heart, if I had hurt my son.” And he went home and lived a long and happy life.
We’ve all been enjoying the delightful stories found in the Burgess Bird Book; apparently June has been paying close attention to these stories, too, as she jumped in with a forgotten detail when both James and I were trying to remember how a story had ended. We’ve also regularly read from Paddle to the Sea and we’ve read a few stories from James Herriot’s treasury.
What is your favourite bird we have read about so far from the Burgess Bird Book? Tell me all you can about it. Or, tell about the bully in the old orchard.
James: I’m definitely going to tell about the bully! He always, always fights! And then he was living in Jenny Wren’s house, he had stolen her house. Yeah! Is that right? And then Jenny Wren and Mr. Wren were going, “Tut tut tut tut!” They were scolding him with all their might. And then Mrs. Bully was sitting in Jenny’s front door encouraging her husband! And in the end they were both driven out.
Me: No, they weren’t driven out of Jenny’s home…
James: They weren’t? What happened again?
June: Remember, the cat came wandering by and broke up the fight!
I chose a few addition questions from James’s worksheets, and a simple word problem. James answered the questions quite easily. We also played several math games together over the course of the week.
I had James neatly copy his full name and the names of all his family members, as well as a line that read, “How the leopard got his spots.” His work was not as neat as it could have been, but he did get it done promptly and without complaining.
Picture Study Choose one of Peter Paul Ruben’s paintings that we’ve studied this term and describe it as well as you can.
James: Well, I choose to describe St. George and the Dragon. It was my favourite painting, even better than The Fall of Phaeton. So, St. George is on a horse and there is a lady by his side, and he has just run the cross into the mouth of the dragon and then “Arrrrgh!” There is a lady by him standing with a lamb by her, and the knight has all sorts of royal garments that are red and gold and red. And he has got some white stuff streaming out from behind his helmet. And the horse is like, “ooooh!” and his front legs are up in the air and he’s standing on his hind legs and he looks like he’s fighting fiercely. And the knight has his sword way up in the air. And the lady standing there looks like she really wants her knight to win! And that’s the end, the end.
Alice: St. George wearing flip-flops! (Haha, he is wearing sandals!)
Poetry Recite a poem you have memorized this term.
James learned several poems this term, and he chose to recite, “Bad King John” by Eleanor Farjeon. It’s from a lovely little book called Kings and Queens that is full of jaunty poems about the various kings and queens of England. James had randomly asked me to read one of those poems one day, and it immediately grabbed his attention. He memorized it on his own.
BAD KING JOHN by Eleanor Farjeon
John, John, bad King John
Shamed the throne that he sat on;
Not a scruple, not a straw,
Cared this monarch for the law;
Promises he daily broke;
None could trust a word he spoke;
So the Barons brought a Deed
Down to rushy Runnymede.
Magna Carta was it hight,
Charter of the People’s Right,
Framed and fashioned to correct
Kings who act with disrespect –
And with stern and solemn air,
Pointing to the parchment there,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said
“Sign, King John, or resign instead!”
John, John, turning pale,
Ground his teeth and bit his nail;
Chewed his long moustache; and then
Ground and bit and chewed again.
“Plague upon the People!” he
Muttered, “What are they to me?
Plague upon the Barons, too!”
(Here he had another chew,)
But the Barons, standing by,
Eyed him with a baleful eye;
Not a finger did they lift;
Not an eyelash did they shift;
But with one tremendous roar,
Even louder than before,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said,
“SIGN, KING JOHN, OR RESIGN INSTEAD!”
(And King John signed.)
There are some things that we need to work on: regular nature walks and nature journaling, listening to classical music, systematically working our way through the Baltimore Catechism, and getting into a good routine with our chores. I’m hoping the nature walks and chores will fall into place once we’re living closer to Jeremy’s work, and I have regular access to a vehicle and a dishwasher! 🙂
Four years ago, our little June Adelle was born! Her birth was fast, but oh-so-intense, and she’s got a lot of that same intensity in her personality! She’s also so fun, loves to laugh, and loves to be goofy. We love her so much!
June as a newborn:
During her chunky, teething stage. She was born with a little sparkle in her eye, and I love seeing it in so many photos of her!
Our little sunshine:
June’s 2nd birthday, in Hamilton:
June’s 3rd birthday, in Fruitvale:
One of my favourite pictures of her:
And her fourth birthday, in West Kelowna:
June’s 4th Birthday Interview
Mom: How old are you today, sweetheart?
June: Three! I mean, four!
Mom: And what sorts of things can you do now that you’re four?
June: Well, I can probably climb, and jump, and play with Josefina (her new doll), and put on clothes. And, are my feet big, mom?
Mom: Haha, they’re getting bigger, but they’re not as big as mine yet!
Mom: What are some things you enjoy doing?
June: Colouring, eating, and playing outside, and climbing trees, and swinging on the swing, and eating stuff in our den for pretend, and I really like looking at books. And I really like making branches and doors, and looking at doors, and playing in the snow when it’s wintertime, and HAVING BIRTHDAYS!!!
Mom: Oh, fun! Anything else you enjoy?
June: No, just birthdays.
Mom: Tell me a little bit about your sister, Alice.
June: She likes coming outside and playing in the snow with us, and she really likes jumping, too. Mom, this is what Alice does, I’m going to do something that Alice does (climbs onto the piano bench and then carefully climbs down like Alice does). And she really likes warming up in the blanket, and she really likes looking at toys and playing with toys, and she really likes looking at pictures and colouring, and eating stuff in our den, too.
Mom: Tell me a little bit about James.
June: He really likes playing warriors, and reading books to me – like readers, and Owl and the Strange Bumps and How Owl Let The Snow In. And he reads Frog and Toad, and Frog and Toad and the Lost Button, and he really likes reading books. And he likes playing with Josefina, too.
James: No, I don’t!
Mom: What do you and I do together?
June: We read books. And we go to the Mom and Tots group. And we put on bathrobes – I put on a bathrobe, and you put on a bathrobe, after sleeping. And we go to bed late!
Mom: What are some things that you and dad do together?
June: Dad likes looking at [videos of] how pants are made, and how pillows are made, and this is a new one that I made up – how shirts are made! (Jeremy and June were watching some How It’s Made videos on YouTube the other day.)
Mom: What makes you happy?
Mom: Ah, yes. What else?
June: Nothing, only you guys.
Mom: What is something scary?
June: That James is making monsters and showing them to me!!! (James had been drawing pictures of beasts and monsters around Halloween.)
Mom: What are you really good at?
June: Spying, like I said at the Mom and Tots group, “I spy with my little eye something that has glass and has windows! And it was a door!” My eyes are really keen!
Mom: And what do you want to do for a job when you grow up?
June: Flying airplanes, and making remote control stuff, and making airplanes. That’s what I like. I do. And I don’t know any other things.
Mom: What is your favourite song?
June, chanting: I love the Lord, the fount of life and grace / He heard my voice my cry and supplication / Inclined his ear, gave strength and consolation / In life and death, my heart will seek his face.
Mom: What stories do you enjoy hearing about?
June: Sleeping Beauty!
Mom: And why do you like that story?
June: Because I like it when she is cursed.
Mom: Oh, that’s a surprise! What other part of the story do you like?
June: Just that part.
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.”
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!
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…
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…
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!
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?!
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.