Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Copywork of a different kind

Joshua drew Pollyanna for Anna this morning - right down to her freckles! If you're wondering why she looks so gormless, this is what he was copying from. It's the cover of Anna's copy of Pollyanna, which she received from Granny and Gramps for her birthday.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Who is the dancing frog?

Loving the new dress-ups from Granny and Gramps:Who is the dancing frog?It's Abigail!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

A Long Weekend at Pemberton

After Anna unwrapped her birthday presents and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her, we packed up the car and headed off to Pemberton, four hours south of our home in Perth. We've visited this township with friends once a year since we moved to Perth and found it a fantastic place to relax and get away from the hustle of everyday life. We stayed in one end of a 2br cottage and our friends the B*** family stayed in the other half with their three kids.

After lunch I fell asleep and Jeff decided to let his phone do the navigating... well, we got there, but I have to say the most direct route was not necessarily the fastest nor easiest on our Tarago. The system gave him directions via quite a few dirt roads, including some which are part of the Bibbulman Walking Track! The route was very scenic, although I could have done without the several huge trees which had fallen across the track in places necessitating diversions.

Anyway, we got to the cottages in time to sing Happy Birthday to Anna again, this time with cake:
The next morning we got to know the animals.
And played in the mud puddles. We walked to the Gloucester Tree and while the men climbed the tree, Mrs B showed the kids how to attract the locals, while I took photos.
When Mr B and Jeff got back down again, they wanted to meet some birds too.The next day, the adults took it easy while the kids played in the dirt.In the afternoon, the B family took Joshua for a 9km walk while Jeff checked out the local Fine Woodcraft Gallery and then I had my turn out, at the Lavender and Berry Farm.

This morning, Samuel was brave enough to get up close and personal with one of the sheep.And we picked out some new guinea pigs to bring home for pets. Guess which kid plans to call their guinea pig "Diesel 10"?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Teaching the rules of English

Recently I read a comment on a classical homeschooling email list which commented on the repetitive nature of structured Grammar texts. (For example Rod & Staff's Building Christian English series and the newer Growing with Grammar series by Tamela Davis.) If you compare the contents pages from one year's text to the next, there is very little that is new in any one year. I am just not convinced that I need to teach the same definitions over and over again (with ever-so-slightly more complicated exercises) every year of compulsory schooling. I don't think this approach to grammar is classical nor sensible, but unfortunately I know pretty much no grammar myself.

Now wrt the study of Mathematics, I am on surer ground. I know it is important to master new knowledge and skills before advancing, and also to systematically review earlier material (or make sure it is used often as part of the development of further skills). Of course, I was a high school maths teacher! I did get 18/20 for PES English in Year 12, but as my mother could attest, even then I could barely explain the difference between an adverb and an adjective, and my present formal grammar knowledge hasn't advanced very far.

I was long ago convinced of the strengths of copywork and narration in the early years, followed by a few years intensive writing teaching using programs such as Wordsmith Apprentice and then WriteShop I and II. Ideally I think I would like to spend the early grammar-stage years doing grammar casually (a la Ruth Beechick) and then have my children work through a few years of intensive grammar teaching around the middle school years. My problem is that most of the programs for grammar which I have seen are much more minutely incremental and spread over 10+ years, it seems. The only option I have seen which follows the approach I prefer is Junior Analytical Grammar followed by Analytical Grammar. According to Cathy Duffy's review of the AG books, "Grammar is taught thoroughly so students need not repeat the same material year after year, and it is taught in context so students are more likely to understand and remember it."

At the moment I am teaching Joshua the correct use of basic punctuation (from my own knowledge and reference to Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Fowler's Modern English Usage). Unfortunately, because my own grammar knowledge is inadequate, while I can research anything I want to, and then teach it correctly, I don't always know what to look up! Maybe I should just print out a copy of the chapter headings for one of these textbooks and use that as my guide, but again, what is the point of teaching the definition of noun 8 times over 8 years? What I need is a list that I can look at which gives a suggested sequence for teaching parts of speech et al that I can just progress through with appropriate review as I see it is necessary. Any suggestions where to find such a scope and sequence?

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Weekly Reports 2008:16&17

This weekly report covers all we've done and plan to do in this fortnight of "homeschool holidays".

Circle Time
I have found the words of In Christ Alone in the booklet from the 2007 Perth Women's Christian Convention and have started teaching the first verse to my kids... I use the term "teaching" loosely here because all I've done so far is sing it to them a few times when I put them down the bed for their afternoon nap.
Jeff picked up Gospel Light's Bible Story Coloring Pages #2 from Koorong the other day, which added a few pictures to our collection for studying Acts, some of the Epistles and Revelation. I took a few hours and planned out the study, including the stories from this period in our The Children's Bible. We will probably use the text on the back of the Gospel Light pictures for the stories that aren't in TCB. I have 40 stories planned to use, which should take us at least 10 weeks to cover (we do Circle Time each M, Tu, Th & F if we are being really diligent). I have tried to include stories that illustrate the vehement proclamation of gospel truth that characterised the apostles' ministries. Stories behind Peter's statements "Salvation is found in no-one else." and "We must obey God rather than men!", for example, as well as the story of Stephen's martyrdom (which also provides background to the story of Saul's conversion). Also stories of the miraculous power that testified to the apostles' authority, such as Peter's release from prison twice by angels and Dorcas being brought back to life. I have also tried to include at least one story of each of the most noteworthy people who accompanied (or met) Paul in his ministry - Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Lydia - and I plan to include Pricilla and Aquila also, but still need a suitable colouring picture. And I probably should mention Luke in there somewhere as well! At the end of our study we will read some of the promises of our future hope that are found at the very end of Revelation. I'm looking forward to working through this with the kids, especially because we've been so blessed by our studies from the gospels.

We went on several excursions this fortnight, to the Museum of Western Australia and to the Perth Zoo as well as down to the end of our street to watch some friendly workmen build us a lovely new footpath. Jeff and Joshua also competed in their Karate-Do gradings. Last night we had dinner with some friends of ours who are Sudanese, which was a great cross-cultural experience as well as being fabulous Christian fellowship!
I am really glad that I decided at the beginning of this "holiday" to get the kids away from the house and off to some of those places that we might just put off as too difficult. We went to the museum without Jeff and it wasn't totally impossible. It would be better to schedule our holidays for a different time to the public school holidays, but it seems to have worked anyway, and at least today Jeff was able to accompany us because it's one of his study weeks.
This weekend we're going to Pemberton with the B family which should be a lovely end to our fortnight of holidays. We've been there the last two years and it seems to be becoming our yearly family holiday destination. I just need to remember to pack the camera!

The one thing I have kept on with each day is Joshua's reading, although we've taken a break from the Bob Books and are reading one story a day from two Ladybird Phonics books called Splat Cat (which he's now finished) and Hot Fox. These are good books for reviewing sounds, but they're not nearly as good at the finely incremental phonics as the Bob Books.

Zoo Tuesday

Regarding the rainforest: Sizing up the zebras:Time with the Tortoise:
Mystery monkeys:

Monday, 21 April 2008


I've been reading a book about personality types, Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer, because it was the topic of my monthly mother's group last Friday. This is the first time that I have seen personality types (sanguine, choleric, melancholy and phlegmatic) explained clearly and all at once I can see that there is some benefit to this, even though in the past I have been sceptic to say the least. I need to be careful not to pigeonhole my kids in my mind, but listening to my friend Cherub speak and reading this book, I can see that looking at my children in this way can help me to understand what they are thinking and what they need from me in terms of discipline and discipling.

So here's a very quick overview of how I see my family through the lens of personality type:(The chart came from the book. The red bits are my artwork - Jeff has both sanguine and choleric traits.)

Being able to categorise these elements of our personalities will help me to deal with situations which Jeff and I were struggling to understand, I think. Obviously I need to read the rest of the book - and I know there are other ways of looking at things, such as through the lens of Love Languages (insights from that book really helped Jeff and I understand each other in the early years of our marriage) as well as the basic sex/gender differences. But I'm definitely intrigued.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

My Karate-Do champions

Just bragging here... Joshua passed his first belt grading, for 8th Kyu, today in the Go-Kan-Ryu system of Karate-Do. (He gets to wear a yellow belt now.)
And Jeff passed his 8th Kyu as well! Hooray!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Watching TV: when most of our brain switches off

Except Samuel's. He's still young enough to giggle at the cheerful music while the credits roll.

H is for Hippopotamus

Anna: "Abigail, do you know what word I've made? It's a H." (Placing blocks on head.) "H is for hat - it's a hat. Daddy, H is for hippopotamus! See my H?"And I had thought she was building a tower. I love these moments when things learned pop up unexpectedly.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Got stuck in the wwweb this afternoon

I spent some time this afternoon reading the few blogs that I check in on regularly and following a variety of links.

I found one site which appears to be a party-plan-cum-club thingy with ideas to build and strengthen family ties. It's in America, and even if it was in Australia I have neither time nor money to put into commit. But they do have some good ideas which I could probably explore even without the club.

I also found some links to history curricula and helps that I've been considering for next year or the year after that (not sure when we'll start our first history cycle because I want to focus on basic reading skills first).
Mystery of History (stories from history with ideas for related activities)
[It's either that or Story of the World]
History Through the Ages (timeline figures on CD to print and colour)

And a few more blogs that look like they could be interesting:
A Spacious Place
To Love, Honour and Vacuum and
The Nesting Instinct.

Another blog which I found recently and enjoy, especially as it's written by another Australian Christian whose husband is in ministry, is In All Honesty.

Also, Andrea at Heritage Academy has recently written a great post of "Confessions of a Rookie HS Mom".

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Museum of Western Australia

We visited the Museum of Western Australia today to see their dinosaur exhibit. Here the kids all are by the (cast of a) Tyrannosaurus rex skull. Also a Muttaburrasaurus - a bit like an Iguanodon - and something else I can't remember but all you can see of them is their feet.Did you know that Tyrannosaurus rex is the North American Tyrannosaur species and there is another species whose fossil remains have been found in Asia? It is Tyrannosaurus baatar aka "Tarbosaurus". But I was disappointed to see no mention of the similar Australian dinosaur, Allosaurus (remains of which have also been found in North America. They seem to have had all the good dinos there). In fact, I was quite disappointed overall, because I was hoping for an emphasis on Australian items in the displays and this wasn't the case. For example the Western Australia - Land & People exhibit has a life-size model Carnataurus dinosaur. Wonderful! Except according to the information presented next to the model, Carnataurus fossils have been found in South America, not Western Australia. So why on earth is it in this exhibit? Just because it looks good and occasionally roars to frighten little kids?

The kids, especially Joshua, really did not want to pose, but I made them anyway. Does that make me a bad homeschooling mummy?If you look carefully in the top picture you will see that, while they are all wearing the same style hoodie jumper, Samuel's has the numbers removed. I unpicked them this morning, and plan to take the others' off as well ASAP. This jumper is going to be part of their homeschool uniform, and I will add a small Equip Academy logo in the upper left side of the jumper. (If I put a large one on their back you'd never see it with their hoods hanging down.) We had a lot of comments on their clothes as we walked through the city today, mostly positive.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Weekly Report 2008:15

Another good week for homeschooling, the last of first "term".

Circle Time
We read three stories and have now completed the stories of the resurrected Jesus. We'll begin the stories of the early church (from Acts, Revelation etc) later this week, for our second quarter of the year.
I have successfully learnt 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 so we're moving on to a new memory verse; this one was more for me than them although Joshua has learnt most of it. The others will probably pick it up over the coming weeks as we review it. Our new memory verse is the Beatitudes, which we have just studied at BSF. I think this is one section that we might spend a while learning, making sure that the kids understand what each verse means in the greater context of scripture (eg "poor in spirit" means spiritually humble, those who understand their religious poverty before God).
Our Easter song is firmly embedded in their memories:

"Easter Friday, Jesus has died.
All his friends are sad and they cried.
Sunday morning, what a surprise!
Jesus has risen! Hooray! He's alive!"

I think our next song, which may well take quite a while to learn, will be In Christ Alone. Then we might even learn Amazing Grace for a change in tempo.

Joshua read four Bob Books and will finish the third set this week. I didn't feel he read these stories, with their longer words, as well as he read the previous set so we might spend the fortnight holiday reading a different set of readers and then re-read this third Bob set before moving on to the fourth set. Joshua completed three penmanship sentences also.

A week of picture books and the kids really enjoyed this. One was Mr. Bliss, a picture book JRR Tolkein wrote for his children, (although only publicly published in 1982,) from a facsimile edition showing JRR Tolkein's writing and pen and wash drawings. This was a very funny book, and I highly recommend it as a read aloud for kindergarten to early primary aged children. An excerpt:

He walked into the shop, and said: "I want a motor-car!"
"What colour?" said Mr. Binks. "Bright yellow," said Mr. Bliss, "inside and out."
"That will be five shillings," said Mr. Binks.
"And I want red wheels," said Mr Bliss.
"That will be sixpence more."
"Very well," said Mr. Bliss; "only I have left my purse at home."
"Very well, then you will have to leave your bicycle here; and when you bring your money you can have it back."
It was a beautiful bicycle, all silver - but it had no pedals, because Mr. Bliss only rode down hill.

and from later in the story:

Even Mrs. Knight began to wonder whether her bananas were worth all the trouble, when she saw how bluey-dark the wood could look. She thought "the dogs will look after us!" But the dogs thought: "It is one thing to chase bears out of the garden in the afternoon, and quite a different thing to hunt them in their own wood after dark. Where are our nice comfy kennels?"
Albert said: "Isn't it time you put on your lamps?"
Then Mr. Bliss remembered he had never bought any - as you will see if you look back at the pictures. He had only bothered about the colour of the wheels.
"Never mind," said Herbert. "There won't be any policeman out in this lonely place."
"I wish there were," said Mr. Bliss - "lots and lots of policemen."

Mr. Bliss is more exciting and thrilling than scary. But you get an idea for the humour that fills the book. The only criticism I have is that there are a few transcription errors in the text (I noticed two and I wasn't exactly searching for them). The text of the story is presented opposite JRR Tolkein's handwritten and illustrated originals and I noticed a few places where the typed version differed from his writing, for example Tolkien's handwritten "could" above in the second quote is rendered incorrectly "would".

We only did Maths on Friday, but spent a while on it that morning and even Abigail go involved in using a traced and cut out footprint to measure the front doorway with Grandpa's help.

Class Time
Went well for its first week, although we won't be doing it over the school holidays so maybe I should have introduced it with the second term, I hope they don't get confused with the change in organisation. Joshua is already improving with his sight words from the flash card practice, and everyone has the Days of the Week memorised from the beginning but we still need to work on knowing the order when you don't start with Sunday.

Nothing new this week, just review of sea creatures using a Steve Parish book I found on our shelves but had forgotten about, with lots of great photos of Australian sea creatures. Also, we spent a bit of time examining some posters on whales and dinosaurs that Grandad had posted to us.

Monday, 14 April 2008

An excursion down our street

This morning, it being the first day of "school holidays", we haven't done maths etc but we have had lots of fun. After Jeff left for college, we set off down the street to watch the workmen who are building a new footpath. Before we got to the workmen, however, we saw one of our neighbours, in her yard so stopped to talk to her. A is quite sick with poliomyalgia but despite this she is always friendly and happy to see us. I had a nice chat with her while my kids followed A's son H around the yard to look at their many pet birds (they breed them). Anna loved their little Bantam hen and was very gentle with her.By this time it was getting quite warm so we headed down to the corner to watch the workmen. The main group of men, who we watched first, were pouring concrete into the formwork.
Unfortunately while the workmen were all in shade, we were not, so we walked back past another workman, who was sweeping over the smoothed concrete to ensure that it would not be too slippery when it rains.
We stayed to watch him edging the concrete so it is neat where the formwork comes away.
Joshua and Anna had a lovely chat with this workman who was very polite and happy to answer their questions about concreting and all manner of other things. Joshua told the workman how wonderful it would be when he could ride his bike and I could push our pram down the footpath instead of in the street (and truthfully I am very thankful as well).

At one point Joshua asked if the man had a wife and when he said not, Joshua told him he should get married so his wife could stay at home and look after their children. Then Joshua wanted to know who would make him pancakes for breakfast. Lovely to know that Joshua sees value in what I do :) but also a little impertinent - and I have to admit it's Jeff who makes special breakfast pancakes in this house. I am starting to see a pattern here, I think.

When we had almost finished chatting Joshua asked the workman's name and told him that he would like to write a thank you letter for making the footpath and telling us all about it. At home, I asked him what he wanted me to put in the letter. After the thank you bit, he wanted to write, "and what can we do for you?" but I suggested Joshua make an offer of a specific kindness instead. Here's the final letter:
Sam and the girls are napping now so Joshua and I just walked down to the workmen to deliver Joshua's letter. The workman said it was "the nicest thing anyone has ever given me on this job!" and we're looking forward to delivering pikelets to all the workmen for morning tea tomorrow. I am so pleased my son has such a servant heart!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Matchmaker Joshua

Grandpa visited us yesterday on a flying visit for less than a day on the way home from Canberra to Banda Aceh, where he's working at the moment. Each time any of the grandparents visit we go through the same discussions about who is related how. Jeff's parents divorced when he was a young adult (before Jeff & I met) and Grandpa remains single. Joshua is getting closer to realising that Grandpa was once married to Granny, but I'm not planning to tell him unless he asks straight out, because I'm not looking forward to any questions that might come out of it.

But yesterday in the car on the way to lunch with Dad and Grandpa, Joshua had a different idea on his mind. This is what he told me:

"Mummy, if we visit Grandpa in Indonesia I can ask all the ladies there if they have husbands and if they don't I can ask them if they want me to introduce them to Grandpa and they can be his new wife!"

He seemed pleased as punch with his decision to play matchmaker for Grandpa... who wasn't convinced it could all work out that quickly and easily, I might add.

picture from stock.xchng

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Making homeschool more "schoolish"

A few days ago Jeff and I had one of our regular talks about how I'm going with homeschooling and any changes he'd like to see me make. I love these talks, it is fantastic to have Jeff working with me to see our children's education improve and meet their ever-changing developmental needs better.

A little background: recently we have seen Joshua battling with an unwillingness to submit to authority without huge arguments and whinging. Prior to this he has been quite a compliant boy, but right now he is finding submission to parental instruction difficult. He is also getting very upset when anyone else doesn't follow "the rules", and in certain other situations where he overreacts to a stressful stimulus (well, stressful for him, anyway; such as when we enter an elevator he becomes very concerned that the doors will shut and someone will be left behind).

So Jeff has suggested that we introduce a little more structured routine and group work where the two or three bigger kids are all sitting together on the floor listening to me read or reciting with eachother and with me ("Class Time"). Jeff's idea is that by training the children in a more formal, artificial situation to sit still, listen carefully to instruction, wait for their turn and recite together, we might see some flow on effects to more general discipline. Sitting on the floor rather than all crowding over my lap will give them an opportunity to choose to sit with self-control without anyone else wriggling into them and distracting them. Obviously there are other learning times when we will still sit together on the couch, or work together at the table, or whatever. Already I have noticed that Anna is holding up her hand and waiting patiently for me to ask her to speak in situations other than Class Time. Joshua has been a little more responsive to instruction - just a few minutes ago he was complaining about having to pick up all the building blocks in his bedroom before he could come in with me and do some box craft, but after a sympathetic cuddle and a short chat about how he could make less mess, or a mess that was easier to clean up, next time, he went to his room and cleaned it all up. Hooray!

So this is a reviewed and renewed list of our major learning activities throughout the week. We do not do everything every day! However, the order is roughly that in which they would be done throughout the day.

Morning Chores
Get dressed and make bed before breakfast.
Put breakfast utensils in the sink and clean face, hands and teeth after breakfast.

Circle Time
Bible Story + related colouring in.
Memory Verse Recitation.

Inside Play or Table Time
Fine Motor Skills (eg blocks, doll's house, play dough, jigsaws, etc).
Imaginary Play (eg dress-ups, story telling, etc).

Concrete activity (eg first part of Singapore Earlybird Maths lesson or Maths Mastermind).
Semi-concrete task (eg second part of Singapore Earlybird Maths lesson or Number Play).

Class Time
Recitation of the Alphabet (forwards, backwards, identifying random letters from alphabet poster).
Counting (later we'll add skip counting).
Recitation of the Days of the Week (later we'll do months and then seasons).
Flash Cards for words from the Dolsch list (2x in order, then 1x random; doing only 10 words at the moment, we'll add in more as Joshua masters these).
Map Identification of the States of Australia (later we'll do their capital cities, then the continents and oceans of the world).

Outside Free Play

Midday Chores
Put lunch utensils in the sink and clean face and hands after lunch.

Reading task (eg read one Bob Book).
Penmanship task (eg one sentence copywork).

Read Aloud from a chapter novel.
Read Aloud from several picture books.
Colouring in or own illustration.

Science and Geography
Read Aloud from a non-fiction book.
Colouring in or own illustration.

Afternoon Exercise
Outside Free Play.
Bike Ride or Walk around the block or to the shops.
Karate class.

Evening Chores
Put dinner utensils in the sink.
Put dirty clothes in the washing basket and have a shower or bath, get dressed for bed.

That seems like a lot but once again I will repeat, we do not do everything on this list every day!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Talking to tradesmen

Talking with the tradesmen who occasionally visit our house is a highlight in Joshua's homeschooling day. Today, we had two men come to replace a window that one of the kids broke ages ago. Since this window was broken (it's the fourth in about six months) Jeff has put plywood shields over the lower windows in this room (our lounge) and the dining room at the front of the house. They're not pretty, but they sure are practical... and they went back on as soon as the trandesmen left.

Joshua was very obedient watching from the recliner - he had a good view but wasn't going to accidentally kneel on any broken glass. Once the old glass pane had been removed, I let Joshua move onto the carpet but he still had to stay well back. He decided since I'd taken one photo, he wanted to take photos as well, so got out the Mega blocks and built himself a camera on stilts:
While all this was going on, the other three were asleep. Well, Sam had been crying in his cot when the tradesmen arrived, but he was fast asleep by the time they left. It was lovely peace and quiet for all of about 20min here this afternoon. Although I must admit I did have a cat nap when I lay down to cuddle Anna for her nap, before the tradesmen arrived. I love afternoon nap time.

Weekly Report 2008:14

Last week went very well in the homeschooling department.

Circle Time
After a week of just reviewing memory verses, we got back into reading stories and completing colouring pages for each story for our Make-Your-Own Story Bibles. Abigail has made a sudden leap in her colouring ability and is doing very well at colouring most of the picture, rather than just scattered elements. Anna spent the entire week flourishing her orange pencil.The kids are starting to recite 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 along with me, and I think I almost have it memorised.
I also spent a bit of time on Friday organising my materials for Circle Time for the next term or so while we read through some of the major stories in the book of Acts. I still need to determine the list of memory verses we will be learning to accompany the stories and write out the filing cards, but I am a little bit ahead. One other organising thing I need to do is find the words to "In Christ Alone", because that will be our next song to learn together. (We sang "Shout to the Lord" again at church last Sunday and the kids joined in, even Abi, and I am really enjoying seeing them able to participate more in church. Especially as the girls have been so squirmy the last two Sundays.)
In BSF we are studying the Gospel of Matthew, and the last two stories the children have covered have been Jesus' baptism and his calling of the disciples. We all learnt some memory verses on these stories a few months ago and the kids were very happy to share what they remembered in class - and the Children's Supervisor complimented me on their knowledge also, which is always nice!

Joshua completed reading through the second set of Bob Books last week and has already read the first three of the third set (which only has six stories). The words in this set are much harder because instead of introducing new phonemes or graphemes they are introducing multisyllabic words. I am not sure whether I like this order. Joshua is working his way through them okay(ish), but I am wondering if I should get him to re-read the set after he's read each story once. He might complain at that, but I know he could benefit from the reinforcement. Any which way, I've told him he can start reading Go, Dog, Go! to me again (he considers that to be a "real" book, so there is greater internal motivation), and he managed beautifully with the first few pages this afternoon. He has improved markedly in his fluency this year.
Jeff has asked me to make a few changes to the way we do homeschool (I'll write more in another post) and one is to work with him to recognise more words by sight. I'm happy to do this with him now that he knows the Basic Code. Part of the problem is that Joshua is at that half-way point where he cannot look at a word and immediately determine whether it is a word he must decode from scratch or a word he has already read many times and should recognise. I was assuming this level of automaticity would come with rpactice, but out of context practice at recognising words (eg using flash cards, a poster or a whiteboard, rather than in sentences) will help him to develop this automaticity quicker, I suspect.
Penmanship has continued well, with Joshua copying a sentence each day (eg "Joshua and Samuel had fun in the wet mud."), except those days when we have BSF - and I gave him Friday off also because he did a narration instead. Planning wise, I think this is a good balance, either penmanship or a narration, because they are both aimed at improving writing skills (in the long term) and I don't want to overwhelm the kiddo. On Saturday, Joshua convinced Jeff to help him make a story book about pirates, and it is indeed a fantastic collaborative effort. The story words are all Joshua's work, if you couldn't guess!

We finished Pinquo in four days and I haven't had the heart to launch into anything longer than picture books since. It was very sad, completely shook Joshua up, but really inspired some good questions and conversations. Joshua did a lovely narration (more for emotional catharsis than educational purposes).

We completed lesson 8 of Singapore Earlybird Mathematics 2A last week. We could be moving through faster as Joshua has understood everything well so far, but occasionally I get slack with this subject (which is pretty pathetic for an ex-HS mathematics teacher). This is the one area of homeschool K5 which I feel I am not moving as fast as I should reasonably be. In the other areas, when we go slower or skip that for a few days I am doing it for the right reasons, to let my kids relax and not put too much pressure on them. With maths, because both Anna and Joshua can cope with the concepts very well (so far), it's more because this is at the lower end of my scale of daily priorities. But then, perhaps that's as it should be, at this age at least.

Although we are still reading some fiction books based around sea creatures and sea events, we have begun read alouds on a rainforest theme. So far we've read a really good overview of rainforests, Voices of the Rainforest by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. We have also read a book on Chameleons which Anna kept asking me to read, and which I found fascinating. Did you know that different species of Chameleons vary in size from 2-3cm to around 90cm long? Also, they are usually coloured to camoflage with their surroundings, but change in response to temperature changes and also emotions such as fear or anger (although how they decided a chameleon was angry rather than afraid is beyond me, not like they could just ask it).
I'm trying to focus on a bit of knowledge of South America, but we also seem to be reading a lot about Madagascar.
One thing that is a tad bit annoying to me is that the vast bulk of books on the library shelves about animals are about animals which are endangered and are written from a very "please preserve me from amn's depredations" persepctive. Now I have nothing against educating my children about the need to be wise in our use of environmental resources and conscious of our impact on other species, but it seems to be difficult to find information on species which aren't endangered (well, other than bugs). It's a sort of zoo-mentality: only write about the species you would see at a zoo, animals which are placed in zoos because they're rare. So how can I develop an awareness of species before they become threatened, in order to inspire our children to appreciate the full diversity of species? Obviously I could resort to an animal encyclopaedia, but I'd prefer to sit down with a small book with lots of pictures that my kids can actually lift and carry to me to read, rather than some weighty tome that would kill them if it fell off a shelf on them. Grrr: frustrated!

Gratuitous pictures of my "baby"

Jeff fed Samuel some cheesecake last night for dessert:Samuel absolutely adores his father... but then, he loves anyone who'll feed him cake!Did you see those molars? We've been having a shocking time lately with Samuel crying at night with three new molars and at least one new incisor coming through as well.
Aah! Contentment is sucking the thumb after a good meal.