Looking Back: Our 2017-2018 Homeschool Year

Our subjects for the past year included: biographies, art, Bible, composers, copywork, foreign language, free reading, geography, handicrafts, history, literature, math, music, natural history, nature study, picture study, poetry, reading, recitation and timeline. We used Ambleside Online as our curriculum, and you can head on over there to read all about Year 1!

Here’s how things went with all those subjects this past year . . .

American/Canadian History Biography: we read a number of delightful biographies this past year. We read D’Aulaire’s Buffalo Bill and Columbus as free reads, and then I scheduled in Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence for our third term. I’ve only just recently figured out what I’m doing, big picture-wise, with Canadian history, and I added this book in before I sorted that out – and it was a flop. Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence is a lengthy picture book with lovely language, quotations from Cartier’s own journals, and compelling illustrations – but half of it sailed over James’s head. I’d recommend it for Year 3 or Year 4 students instead.

Art: We tried some art instruction this past year, but it was crushing to my little perfectionist student, so we left it alone. He enjoys free-hand work (treasure maps, drawing pictures for his aunts’/uncles’/cousins’ birthday cards) but has a really difficult time drawing things he sees or finds in nature.

Bible: we read a Bible story 4-5 times a week. We used the Dore Bible Illustrations book as a guide, and covered many, many OT stories. We also regularly read the Bible after supper as part of our family devotions. This year, we read through Revelation, Maccabees and the gospel of Mark.

Composer: our favourite composer study this year was Handel’s Messiah. We listened to it over Advent using Genie Shaw’s Awaiting the Messiah e-book – I heartily recommend this resource! We listened to our daily selection, and then the kids would ask for their favourite pieces. June loved “For He is Like a Refiner’s Fire” (so passionate!), and James loved “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” and “Glory to God.” A few months late, I still caught them singing little snippets. We also listened to some selections by Dvorak in Terms 2 and 3. Maybe I’ll have to get back into listening to classical music at dinner time, because without a set time I find it’s something that easily gets skipped.

Copywork: For copywork, I chose poems or selections of beautiful and/or interesting passages from James’s school readings, and he copied one line a day. While this was never his favourite part of the day, I did see progress in neatness and accuracy over the school year. Hurrah!

Foreign language: we studied French this year. To be honest, I don’t like the sound of the French language and was not very enthusiastic about learning it, and looking back I’m afraid that showed. We started out using the French with Miss Mason book, and did not get far. The audio tracks did not work well for us, and my pronunciation is too poor to repeat the series without guidance. We also tried The ULAT (online video series), but the verb conjugations totally confused James. So we settled for listening to and learning some French songs. We’ll be switching to Dutch next year and I’m very, very excited! My parents are Dutch and I grew up hearing them speak the language to one another, so at least I know how it’s supposed to sound. There aren’t a lot of resources out there, but James will at least be able to practice by chatting with his grandparents via FaceTime!

Free Reading: reading together remains one of our favourite things to do! I really appreciate the AO selection of free reads; we loved each and every one of the books from their list! Over the course of the school year we read:

Peter Pan by JM Barrie
King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
The Red Fairy Book by Arthur Lang
The Grey Fairy Book by Arthur Lang
St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pocahontas by the D’Aulaires
Redwall, Mossflower, and Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques
My Book House #6
Buffalo Bill, Columbus, and Pocahontas by the D’Aulaires
And lately we’ve begun reading Greek Myths by the D’Aulaires which is very entertaining. And of course we’ve read many, many picture books as well.

Geography: we read Paddle to the Sea and mapped Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes. I found James’s narrations of the events in Paddle mediocre, but he seemed to really enjoy thinking about Paddle’s journey as a whole, and the Great Lakes are like familiar faces on maps now. 🙂

Handicrafts: James knit two toques in the first term, and he made a potholder on our potholder loom during our second term. And since Leo was born, we’ve focused more on household chores, like unpacking the dishwasher, emptying the recycling bin, and vacuuming.

History (early history from 55BC – 1066AD): one of my favourite parts of homeschooling this past year was reading the wonderfully descriptive and moving stories of saints in Britain from Our Island Saints. What a beautiful book, and what beautiful, holy men and women! We also read about world history from Our Island Story (chapters 1-21), Fifty Famous Stories Retold (nearly all the stories) and Viking Tales (first half). James narrated these stories well.

Literature: we read many Aesop’s Fables, four plays from Shakespeare (Lamb’s children’s version), several stories from the Blue Fairy Book, and most of Kipling’s Just So Stories. James LOVED Just So Stories! He howled while I read them and gave very dramatic retellings afterwards, and often asked if I could read the stories again. We also read two stories from Parables of Nature, which he also really enjoyed. Excellent narrations.

Math: we got half way through Right Start Level B before switching to Math-U-See. Switching was a good choice for us! Math-U-See really emphasizes place value and it’s been great to see James understand that concept better. On the recommendation of someone on the AO forum, I also purchased an Extreme Dot to Dot book; these books have puzzles with 600-1200 dots. James loves these and will chant the numbers aloud as he connects the dots: “One hundred ninety-eight, one hundred ninety-nine, TWO HUNDRED! Mom, I’m at two hundred already!” These puzzles have helped him develop a stronger number sense, improve his understanding of place value, and have helped him recognize some of the number reversals he was making.

Music Appreciation: we learned a new folksong every month. I really didn’t like how using YouTube videos for our folksongs became a crutch; we didn’t really sing the songs unless we were singing along to the music. We’ll have to figure out a better way to sing the songs independently next year. We also learned several new psalms and hymns. I started a routine where we sing one psalm and one hymn before we eat breakfast, and that worked really well; we rarely missed a day!

Natural History: we read James Herriot’s Treasury, as well as many stories from the Burgess Bird Book. James will sometimes perch on the couch and watch birds from the living room window and narrate their activities to me. He was very ticked off to find robins eating cherries from our cherry tree; “Robins. That’s why they have their name! They’re ROBBing us of our cherries!”

Nature Study: our structured nature study was quite often pushed to the side this past year because I didn’t have a vehicle, and because of all the snow, and because of the newest member of our family being born; but, on the upside, the kids loved seeing what was going on in our new backyard this past spring. They’d dash inside saying, “Mom, the rose bush is blooming! Come see!” or “The first little cherry is on the tree!” James drew some pictures of birds this year that corresponded with our Burgess Bird Book readings. He also drew a few things he found/saw in nature. Mostly he got really, really frustrated with his drawings not matching his expectations.

Picture Study: we studied the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer and the gorgeous paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo. We also read Michelangelo by Diane Stanley. I loved picture study this past year! One of my favourite school activities!

Poetry: we read a poem daily. We read RL Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, Now We Are Six by AA Milne; and many poems from Favourite Poems Old and New edited by Helen Ferris.

Reading Practice: For the first half of the year we used the McGuffey Eclectic Readers (lovely books from the late 1800s that begin with simple stories and increase in complexity) for James’s reading practice. They’re a bit preachy at times, but they’re also wholesome and fairly interesting. This past term James started reading various books from our shelves aloud to me, like The Boxcar Children, Billy and Blaze, and The Adventures of Tim. And just recently he’s become interested in reading for pleasure and I’ll sometimes find him on his bed, perusing a book from his bookshelf. (As an avid reader, I’ve been waiting for this moment!) Books he’s enjoyed so far include easy readers like Owl at Home and Sam the Minuteman, and some more complex books like The Book of Indians by Holling and Trolls by the D’Aulaires.

Recitation: James learned a good number of poems off by heart this year – mostly ones I wasn’t trying to teach him. He especially loves the poetry in Farjeon’s Kings and Queens and Heroes and Heroines, and can be heard waltzing around saying, “Henry was a wild lad, fond of fun and fooling / When he was the Prince of Wales he made a hash of schooling” and then adding little asides about how he is also wild and fond of fun and fooling. Ha! I’m looking forward to reading those poems next year as we dive into British history after the Norman invasion. James also learned several parables by heart and was able to recite them clearly.

Timeline: we made every-other-weekly entries in James’s timeline binder. He did not enjoy the extra copywork, and I did not enjoy the timeline being tucked away in his binder; I’d prefer it to be out in the open where we can see it regularly. Still trying to decide where to put it . . .

Overall, it was a pretty great year! I’m really looking forward to what Year 2 has to offer!

Advertisements

Goals for 2018

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.

Reading Journal-7

Blustery Thanksgiving Day family photo taken by my sister, Kristi.

Making Friends
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.

Reading Journal

Reading Journal-2

Reading Journal-4

Reading Journal-5

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!

Reading Journal-8

Reading Journal-2-2

Reading Journal-3-2

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.”

St Bernardine

Christmas Break

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!

Christmas

Christmas-2

Christmas-3

A few more photos of the gingerbread house decorating. As you can see, June was the most excited of the bunch about it. 🙂

Christmas-5

Christmas-6

Christmas-7

Oh dear, not the house’s best angle:

Christmas-8

A little better:

Christmas-9

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. 🙂

IMG_5036

Christmas morning gift opening:

Christmas-10

Christmas-11

Christmas-15

Christmas-13

Christmas-14

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.)

Christmas-12

Our Christmas feast:

Christmas-16

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)!

IMG_5037

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.

IMG_5044

IMG_5047

The whole family (except my brother Duane who was sick with the flu) got together for a Christmas gift exchange:

IMG_5052

The kids opening their gifts:

IMG_5053

IMG_5054

IMG_5055

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:

IMG_5071

James and Austin:

IMG_5050

Grandma’s basement and its many treasures is a never-ending source of delight:

IMG_5051

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!)

IMG_5063

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!

IMG_5062

It certainly reminded us of our stay in February when the exact same thing happened!

IMG_5072

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 thunderous crash! 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.)

IMG_5079

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!!! 🙂

IMG_4970

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!

 

 

Year 1, Term 1 Exam Week

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.

Bible
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.

Literature
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.

History
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.

Natural History
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?
Me: Uh…
June: Remember, the cat came wandering by and broke up the fight!

Math
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.

Copywork
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.

KandQ

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.)

Closing Thoughts
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! 🙂

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!

 

swing

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…

st george

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?!

IMG_4160

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.

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.

IMG_4576

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!!)

IMG_4577

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.

IMG_4578

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

Junie Adellie-2

Junie Adellie-3

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!