Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Naptime for Abigail


We have two Literature Read Aloud periods scheduled in our day, with our Science lesson often incorporating Read Alouds from non-fiction books as well. I have just decided to take advantage of the longer (45min) Lit RA in our morning to include some poetry , more frequently and deliberately than we have in the past.

I bought The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist at the trade fair a few weeks ago and we also have RL Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (although our version only has 16 poems - it's a Little Golden Book edition - I am not sure whether this is the complete book or not). The kids love our poetry collections by AA Milne, When We were Very Young and Now We Are Six and I love a collection of Australian poems which I have had since I was a child, called Someone is Flying Balloons. I also have Once Upon a Time, a rather eclectic collection of the favourite poetry of famous kids' authors. My favourite book of poetry for all time, the hilarious Sister Madge's Book of Nuns by Doug MacLeod, also has sat on my shelf since I was in primary school. So I have more than enough collections of poetry to begin with.

My plan is to read a few poems each day and have one repeated each day (probably as the first of the day's set) until we have it memorised. Our first poem for memorisation is "Ducks' Ditty", which comes from none of these collections. It is from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, as composed by the Water Rat. Since we've been watching this on DVD a few times over the last week I have heard both Anna and Joshua using a phrase here or there from the poem in their play. Obviously, just from hearing it aloud on the movie they have already begun to learn it. I think seeing it on the screen has endeared it to their hearts in a way that my reading it at the dinner table several months ago did not, probably due to their age and comprehension. Such is life! Here is a snippet from the book, to show you the poem in its context:

The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song. He had just composed it himself, so he was very taken up with it, and would not pay proper attention to Mole or anything else. Since early morning he had been swimming in the river, in company with his friends the ducks. And when the ducks stood on their heads suddenly, as ducks will, he would dive down and tickle their necks, just under where their chins would be if ducks had chins, till they were forced to come to the surface again in a hurry, spluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him, for it is impossible to say quite all you feel when your head is under water. At last they implored him to go away and attend to his own affairs and leave them to mind theirs. So the Rat went away, and sat on the river bank in the sun, and made up a song about them, which he called

“Ducks’ Ditty”

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim –
Here we keep our larder,
Cool and full and dim.

Everyone for what he likes!
We like to be
Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above,
Swifts whirl and call –
We are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!

I loved this poem when I first read it, for the lyrical way it presents the everyday doings of the ducks and the onomatopoeic descriptions ("slushy green undergrowth"). The kids love the rhythm and pattern, which is due to the short lines, simple ABCB rhyme and the alliterative use of the [d] sound.

We may just follow this with "Toad's Last Little Song", from the same source, which has a completely different - but no less enjoyable - feel to it. Here it is, again within its context:

At last he got up, locked the door, drew the curtains across the windows, collected all the chairs in the room and arranged them in a semi-circle, and took up his position in front of them, swelling visibly. Then he bowed, coughed twice, and, letting himself go, with uplifted voice he sang, to the enraptured audience that his imagination so clearly saw:

The Toad – came – home!
There was panic in the parlours and bowling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad – came – home!

When the Toad – came – home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasles that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad – came – home!

Bang! Go the drums!
The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are saluting,
And the canon they are shooting and the motor-cars are hooting,
As the – Hero – comes!

Shout – Hoo-ray!
And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud,
In honour of an animals of whom you’re justly proud,
For it’s Toad’s – great – day!

He sang this very loud, with great unction and expression; and when he had done, he sang it all over again.
Then he heaved a deep sigh; a long, long, long sigh.
Then he dipped his hairbrush in the water-jug, parted his hair in the middle, and plastered it down very straight and sleek on each side of his face; and, unlocking the door, went quietly down the stairs to greet his guests, who he knew must be assembling in the drawing room.

As an aside from all this business about poetry, this poem provides an example of one of the things I don't like about adaptations. Anna has one of The Wind in the Willows, and it includes both of these poems. The first is pretty much surrounded by the same text, although apparently "it was all in good fun and eventually the Rat left them to get on with his own business." Not quite how the ducks considered the matter in Grahame's original text. The second of these poems is wrenched out of its original placement. Originally, Toad sang to himself and his imagined listeners prior to the banquet held in his honour, at which, and thereafter, he behaves with humble decorum. It was Toad's last hurrah - privately given but never the less heartfelt. Its position in the narrative is a sign that Toad is giving up his bravado. In Anna's adaption, Toad sings his Last Little Song while he is walking in the woods days after the banquet, and he is heard by the animals of the wood. This therefore becomes a sign that the Toad has not learned his lesson, that he is still unrepentant and proud of heart. This gives a very different ending to the two books. Coming from a Christian perspective, one which considers it important that Toad has at last been made aware of his sin and has openly repented, I cannot help but be disappointed with the adaption. Mind you, Anna loves perusing the black-line pictures of the adapted paperback novel, telling the story to herself. The hardback unabridged version, complete with illustrations by Robert Ingpen, is a bit big and unwieldy for that task.

One other collection of poems I have is Doing Bombers off the Jetty! (which, I am proud to say, is named after one of my own childhood poems which is included within it's covers). This book is actually a poetry-writing curriculum by Peter McFarlane and Rory Harris which provides models for writing poetry (often from child authors, like myself) and then gives suggestions for how to teach children to write their own poetry in a similar style. I had almost forgotten I had this book until I checked out my poetry shelves, and just writing this post I am becoming enthusiastic about using ideas from it with my children when they get a bit older. How surprised they will be to see my maiden name under a poem in a real book!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Wisdom and Eloquence

On Friday I babysat for the T family and borrowed Wisdom and Eloquence from Mrs T's bookshelf. Since she borrowed it from another classically homeschooling friend, I have to return it by Wednesday, when we have Bible Study together. So I've read through this 200-page book in three days, taking copious notes. This book is pretty heavy on the vocabulary. It helps to have a working knowledge of classical educational theory before tackling it, otherwise, prepare for some heavy going. Even given this, I would thoroughly recommend this book, especially chapters 1, 6 and 8 and appendix B. (It helped that we are all sick at home with sinus infections and tonsilitis, diagnosed on Saturday morning when we all trouped in to the doctor's office together. You might think that would make it harder to read, but the kids are more subdued than usual and have been happy watching The Wind in the Willows and The Willows in Winter on DVD, in between playing with Duplo, Lego and long afternoon naps.)

Wisdom and Eloquence, like Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson, takes a look at classical education from an institutional school's point of view. It was written by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T Evans, who are both heads of Christian schools which follow the classical tradition. Despite this point of view, I found more than enough ideas suitable for homeschooling that I kept my pen out, hovering over my note paper. In particular I appreciated the chapters which showed how to develop a curriculum plan top-down: starting with the end goals in mind and planning backwards from grade 12 to kindergarten. This approach makes sense. The authors showed what this might look like in general, across the trivium of liberal arts and the quadrivium of liberal sciences, and with a deeper look at a curriculum for teaching rhetorical skills through the use of the progymnasmata. (More on the progymnasmata later.)

I have found it to be a good co-read with Teaching the Trivium. While the Bluedorn's book promotes the value of studies of logic in the development of wisdom for individual action, Wisdom and Eloquence argues for the central need to teach students skills in oral rhetoric so they may influence their culture. Littlejohn and Evans present an effective case for the need to teach today's students not merely to convince (given the post-modern skepticism of the existence of ultimate truth) but also to persuade. They also argue that it is not enough to develop wisdom in out students - an ability to discern the most godly path and the self-discipline to follow it - but we must also seek to develop eloquence - the ability to persuade and inspire others to follow that godly path. The one thing largely missing from this book is the desire to develop in students compassion and a heart for service to others, so that they might influence their community through their deeds as well as their words.

The Bluedorns distinguish between the applied trivium (knowledge, understanding, wisdom; aka Dorothy Sayers' Poll-parrot, Pert, Poetic stages and the Well-Trained Mind stages of grammar, logic and rhetoric) and the formal trivium (language arts subjects of grammar, logic, rhetoric). Littlejohn and Evans reject the applied trivium, or at least reject the idea that the trivium is only to be understood as a description of teaching levels, and explain clearly the academic necessity of the classical academic subjects of the liberal arts (the trivium of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric) and mathematical sciences (the quadrivium). However, in the last chapter Littlejohn and Evans deal with what they call "modes of learning", and here they reference the three ways of learning that Mortimer J Adler described: acquiring new knowledge, critical interaction and meaningful expression. It is fairly obvious to me, as it was when I first read of them in Adler's How to Read a Book, that these three ways of learning are equivalent to the applied trivium of Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom described by the Bluedorns. While Sayers and Bauer and Wise placed the use of these learning methods in sequence, Adler, the Bluedorns and Littlejohn and Evans all contend that all three are necessary to varying degrees all the time, at all ages. I tend to agree with them.

The two books also take opposing views on appropriate education in the lower grades, although they agree on the value of memorisation. The Bluedorns recommend a more informal education before the age of ten with constant exposure to great literature and extensive memorisation of Bible passages in both English and the original languages and mathematics taught via familiar experiences. This seems somewhat reminiscent of Charlotte Mason's ideas. Littlejohn and Evans advocate a thorough grounding in the facts and rules of language/s and sciences early on. For the first time I read a cognizant and convincing argument for the early teaching of the rules of grammar. Consider the following two quotes:

"Mechanics and meaning do not have to be simultaneously grasped." (p43) This was written in the context of reading instruction, explaining that when teaching children to read (decode) via intensive phonics instruction, it does not matter that they cannot read in the full sense (comprehend) all that they can decode. As their vocabulary develops, so too will their comprehension of the passages they decode, and they will be "real" readers. (When we use tracework, copywork and previewed dictation with students, we allow them to write what they do not yet necessarily know how to spell; this is another application of the same principle but in reverse.)

"An interesting dilemma attends our theory of liberal arts learning: the earlier this instruction begins in a student's career, the longer it takes to teach; but the later we wait to begin the instruction, the less time the student has to incorporate each skill as an intellectual habit... Still, the value is self-evident, and a disciplined effort always pays off in the student's favour." (p110) This was written in a discussion of when to teach the rules of grammar, but likewise applies to teaching reading. It is true that a 4 or 5 year old will usually take one to two years to master the relationships of phonemes to graphemes that allow them to decode English writing fluently. It is also true that a 9 or 10 year old, or an adult, may be able to master these skills in one or two months. However, this quote exposes the price which late readers pay for their delay: they are often unable to internalise these skills sufficiently to ever become a reader who enjoys and flourishes in their reading.

When these previous two quotes are considered with regard to the value of early teaching of the rules of English grammar (through rote memorisation) versus late, we can see the value of teaching such things early. Early grammar instruction allows a student to habituate grammar skills, before they are required to use these skills in the critical analysis of the writing of others and in their own original writing, in such exercises such as those of the progymnasmata. At last! This is a rationale that I can accept for teaching the rules of grammar in the primary years, rather than waiting until the middle years of schooling.

One last comment on Wisdom and Eloquence: there are copious references throughout the book to the ancient authors who laid the foundation for the educational methods described in it. The more I read on educational theory and curriculum development, the more I appreciate knowing where the ideas originally came from. Littlejohn and Evans have, in the midst of their treatise on classical education, at last inspired me to tackle one of the first treatises on specifically Christian education: Augustine of Hippo's On Christian Doctrine. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Weekly Report 2008:27

First week back at work in second semester and all the talking I did with Jeff has definitely paid off. The kids are a lot happier and more willing to work with no changes other than a better organised schedule, a more conscientious mother and more work to do! Wonderful!

I thought I would begin this semester's weekly reports with a visual show and tell.

Based on our literature read aloud, The Frog Who Wouldn't Laugh:
Based on our Science study of Australian animals:Mathematics
We finished Lesson 18, the last introducing the numbers 11-20.
Mostly based on Play School activities.
Monday playdough:
Tuesday plastic drink bottle boats in the bath:Thursday a box bed for Sarah Ted:Friday get well cards for Granny:

Geography printables

I just found a free source of printable maps, available as bitmaps or as higher resolution pdf images, at the National Geographic website. You can customise the maps slightly, selecting locations (from world, to continent, to country) and determining the level of detail, including showing country borders or not.

Here it is:

I hope it is as useful for you as it was for me. We will be studying animals of the polar regions over the next three weeks in Science, and I have just made a simple do-it-yourself atlas page for the kids on Antarctica, using maps from this site:
I've been looking for something like this for ages.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Our family lullaby

Each of my children has had a special song, which, as babies, they have responded to immediately. As a 6-month-old, Joshua would stop crying mid-scream if he heard the first two words of The little green frog went "Galumph". Anna's song was a modified version of Wet washing, hanging on the line and Abigail always settled for Twinkle, twinkle, little star and Humpty Dumpty. Samuel's first lullaby was Jesus loves the little children, and at 20 months he sings along with Jeff, getting the tune somewhat right even if he's off with almost every syllable.

This afternoon, I heard Anna singing Amazing Grace to a crying Abigail outside. Since I started singing this to Anna when she was very upset a month or so ago, Anna has learnt most of the first three verses and Joshua and Abigail both ask for it to be sung to them as well.

Our firm family favourite however, when it comes to lullabies, is a very simple song that I made up for Samuel, but which all the kids love to hear whispered just for them. Here are the words:

Mummy loves you,
Daddy loves you,
And we know it's true:

Mummy loves you,
Daddy loves you,
Jesus loves you too.

Simple. Short. Sweet. And chock full of comforting truth.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

First two days of the new schedule

I am pleased to report the schedule has worked so far.

I have only had to make two changes, bumping our first session of Directed Play to 8am and cutting the Read Aloud time which follows to 30min rather than 45. I just can't get a load of washing on and myself through the shower in 15 mins. As I have three different Read Aloud times scheduled, though (one specifically for science), I'm not too fussed. And I love getting to 10am and sending the kids outside with a piece of fruit for the rest of the morning.

We have had difficulty with me teaching reading and writing to both kids at the same time and I am setting Anna to her writing while Joshua reads aloud and then they swap. The only problem comes when Anna has finished her writing and Joshua has not yet finished his reading. This happened today and I set him to writing while Anna read and he complained and complained until finally she was finished her book and he could read his aloud to me before going back, with a better attitude, to completing his writing. It will continue to be a fine balance, I think, but I don't want to have to teach them these things at separate times because that means I'll have to teach one of them either while the others are all playing or while the littlies are napping. That time is already scheduled for maths, science, Class Time and Mummy Time Out. Not giving the latter up! I'll just have to keep up with things and I think they'll settle down once they know what to expect.

I have also decided that on the mornings when they will be doing narrations from literature (once a week, I think), I will get them to do it while the others are having Individual Play Time (just before the reading/writing lesson). That way, I can take them one at a time to the study so I can type what they narrate, to print out for their folders. Then they can go back to IPT while another kid narrates. And the narrations will be printed ready for them to copy their first sentence when it comes to their writing lesson. It seemed to work today, anyway.

I have put together a double-page spread planner to photocopy and have spiral-bound at the local office supply store. I hope to get there Thursday night during late night shopping, or even tomorrow while Sam is in child care. It depends what we do with our last Wed excursion morning before BSF goes back next week. I am toying with the idea of heading to SciTech. I have also had time to set up a blank page for narrations with space for me to type at the bottom and three ruled lines at the top, one smaller (for me to write the exemplar) and two thicker (for the kids to copy their sentences). And another with space for their illustration above the same three line set for a caption. I hope to post pics tomorrow but for the moment I am not sure how to get the scanner going (still learning the finicky bits of having a Mac).

Narrations by Anna and Joshua

These narrations are for The Frog Who Wouldn't Laugh by Cecilia Egan, which we bought at the aquarium last week. I remembered this book from my childhood, and so did Jeff, so we decided to buy it. Any book that sticks in your memory for over 20 years (and is also still being published) has to be good.

By Anna (4y3m):
The frog who never laughed.
This is a story from the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Tiddalik never laughed. He loved everything but he wanted to drink every bit of water one day. So he made a plan with all his might and strength.
Tiddalik was a frog. A big giant frog, a giant. Tiddalik began to search. He looked over low trees, he looked over mountains, even some low clouds he looked over. He was as giant as a giant mountain.
Then he woke up and drank all of the fresh water. He drank so much water that the other animals could not find any water. He drank up a puddle, a billabong, a lake and a river. Oh dear – he drank up so much water that all the other animals could not believe it. “I can’t believe it!” said all the other animals. “What a mean, mean frog.” The trees and plants and grass and animals and birds could not find any water and started to die.
All the other animals begged, “Would you please open your mouth and let out the water?” But Tiddalik didn’t open his mouth.
Then a wise old wombat began to talk. He spoke to all the other animals and said, “If we could make Tiddalik laugh, he would have to open his mouth.” He told them his plan and he whispered it in their ears and they whispered in his ear. “The lyre bird will have to tickle with a feather last and all of the other animals will have to go first. I will see if Tiddalik laughs.”
“Yes,” said the other animals.
Then the kangaroo jumped over the emu. Then the kookaburra told all of his funny stories. Then the lizard walked on his high heels with his tummy sticking out. Then all of the other animals began to laugh. Even the lyre bird tickled Tiddalik with a feather. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t even smile. Oh dear.
Then the eel began to dance and dance. He tied himself in all kinds of funny knots. The frog began to shake and shake and shake.
All the water gushed out of his mouth like a fountain. None of the water was left in Tiddalik. The water went to the puddle and the billabong and the river and the lake and all the fresh water went back to everything.
Then, all the animals congratulated the eel. “Hooray! Hip, hip hooray! Hooray, hooray, hooray!”
The end.

By Joshua (5y5m):
Tiddalik was as big as a mountain. He looked over some trees and over some low clouds. In fact, he was not just big, he was humongously big.
Tiddalik one day when he woke up from his sleep was feeling thirsty. Not only that, he was humongously thirsty, gigantically thirsty. He drank up a billabong, a pool and a puddle. In fact, he drank up all the fresh water in the world.
All the Australian animals started dying and the plants and the grass and the trees did start dying and also the bushes started dying. The eels, the koalas, the wombats, the lizards, the birds, even the kookaburras (they were very funny), the kangaroos and the emus started dying. Tiddalik would soon be the only animal left in Australia.
They begged Tiddalik, “Please open your mouth and let out the water.” But Tiddalik stood there with his mouth closed and didn’t even open it to reply. He was swollen with water so much that he couldn’t even jump.
They started thinking. No one could think until a wise old wombat said, “If we make Tiddalik laugh, he’ll have to open his mouth.”
The kangaroo jumped over the emu. The lyrebird sang in people’s voice and the kookaburra told his funniest stories. The eel began twisting, the wombat clapped and the lizard walked on his hind legs with his stomach sticking out.
Even the lyrebird tickled him with a feather. Tiddalik sat there, swollen up with water, didn’t even laugh or smile.
The eel started dancing in slow, dignified ways. But danced faster and faster and faster and faster. And he was putting himself in the strangest of shapes and the strangest of all knots.
Tiddalik began laughing like a big rumbling was beginning from his tummy.
All the water that he had drank gushed out like a fountain and all the other animals congratulated the eel for being the only animal that could make Tiddalik laugh.

It is interesting to compare which phrases stuck in both of their memories, such as "gushed out ... like a fountain." It is even more interesting to consider where they each diverted from the original with their own interpretations; Anna added in extra conversation and Joshua added in some wonderful adjectives.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Circle Time plan for S2

I have organised my home-made Circle Time "curriculum" into four terms, but they don't go with the school terms except in a very rough way. From Christmas to Easter we study stories from the gospels; from Easter to mid-year we study stories from Acts (and in later years we will incorporate the letters and Revelation). Then the second half of the year is broken in two sections studying the stories from Genesis to Joshua and then from Judges to the Exile (including a few lessons on specific psalms and proverbs where they fit chronologically).

While we were on holidays, Jeff helped me to plan out our topics for these last two "terms" of Circle Time. In the following list, each line refers to a week's worth of lessons (4). It will take us up to the weeks of Advent when we'll begin reading the pre-Christmas stories again.

God's chosen people
Creation, Adam & Eve
Noah & the flood, Babel
Abraham & Sarah
Judah & Joseph
Moses & Aaron - Exodus from Egypt
Moses & Joshua - Wandering in the Desert
Joshua & Caleb - Into the Promised Land

God's promised land
Judges, Ruth
King Saul
King David
Psalms 1, 3, 8, 51
King Solomon
selections from Proverbs
Elijah & King Ahab, King Hezekiah & Isaiah, King Josiah, King Jehoahaz
Daniel, Lamentations, Esther - Exile!
Ezra, Nehemiah - The Return

Memory verses will be taken from these texts as we go along. For example, as the kids already know Gen 1:1, their first memory verse will be Gen 1:27. I also like to add in a few non-verse memory tasks through the year. Last semester the kids learnt the Lord's Prayer (in the version we say at our church). This semester, I'll be teaching them the Apostle's Creed. They love joining in with the congregation in the parts of the liturgy which are familiar.

I'm not sure yet which church songs we'll be learning, but we are loving singing Amazing Grace together at the moment, and occasionally we'll sing kids songs which relate to the stories we're reading.

School calendar 2008

In Australia, the school year follows the calendar year. The official term dates for my state are:
T1: Monday 4 Feb – Friday 11 Apr
T2: Tuesday 29 Apr – Friday 4 Jul
T3: Tuesday 22 Jul – Friday 26 Sept
T4: Tuesday 14 Oct – Thursday 18 Dec
This allows for 10 week terms with two week holidays in between and a six week holiday at Christmas time, which is our summer. At the moment, the only difference these term dates make to us is that I try and organise a play date during the holiday weeks with friends who have their kids in schools. It makes it a lot easier for the schooling families to find time to meet with us, and I don't feel like we should be doing something homeschooly at these times.

However, as Jeff is also a student and we are not yet required to report (and even then, I'm not sure the term dates are "compulsory" for homeschoolers), we follow Jeff's college dates more closely. Jeff has two semesters with a four week break in between, with roughly every fifth week off for a study break. He really needs to study during these weeks so we usually plan to take one day for a family excursion to the zoo or a nearby national park during these weeks but the rest of the week goes by as usual. Jeff's Christmas break begins a month before the official school break and ends about a fortnight later. This year, we started school gently in those two weeks while Jeff was at home at the beginning of the year. At the moment, we are not sure what will be happening with Jeff's employment and/or further studies at the end of this year, so we'll probably just finish our year when he finishes his exams to take advantage of whatever holidays we have.

Jeff is just about at the end of his mid-year break, and we basically stopped homeschooling as soon as he finished his semester 1 exams. This week, since we've been back from the farm, I've been easing the kids back into the idea of writing and reading something every day, although it hasn't been according to any particular schedule. I've just had them drawing things they've seen and writing captions; writing letters to family about our holidays; and reading titles for every short story about Thomas I've read aloud.

I also work around the BSF terms, and try to organise get togethers with other BSF ladies who have kids in the children's program during the non-BSF weeks. This is part of my plan to help the kids build a friendship group with kids from Christian families who are not from our church or family Bible study.

The other thing I am trying to do is to have Circle Time happen essentially year-round. However, we don't do it every day of the week because on BSF days and Sundays the kids have something else to concentrate on. If I get slack organising materials, or leave the memory verse card box on the shelf where we forget to review them, we might miss a few days but we just pick back up where we left off. This last term, I had planned to get through all of Acts, but we left off about half way through and we've just started a new term with Genesis, rather than worry about finishing every story I had planned. The kids are already very familiar with the stories of Acts from listening to the Bible on CD in the car a few times a week. Circle Time also doesn't happen as often (or possibly at all) if we are visiting family or family is visiting us, because some of our close relatives are not Christians and we don't want to create unnecessary friction between us over child-raising ideologies (Matt 7:6, 10:16).

That's what we've done this year. Depending on whether Jeff gets a full-time job as a minister with a new church next year or does further studies part-time while he works part-time at our present church, our year will be organised accordingly. At this stage, we just don't know what is going to happen, but it will at the very least follow the calendar year as this one has.

Writing task ideas

A list of ideas for writing tasks - I'll be choosing from this list and planning ahead a week at a time:
trace model letters, words or sentences
making words with alphabet blocks
collage spelling using foam letters
collage spelling using magazine title letters which they will select and cut out
writing on the Megasketcher
writing in trays of damp sand
transcribe model words or sentences
write a sentence from slow dictation, getting all help necessary to make it correct (eg spelling out words, reminders for punctuation)
writing a sentence (previously used for copywork) from dictation given at normal pace and expression; compare to model; re-write

A list of things to write in any of the above ways:
titles for narrations
captions for illustrations
labels for pictures
letters to family and friends
sentences from readers
sentences based on everyday situations
selections from read aloud literature
selections from read aloud poetry
Bible verses which have Dolsch list words
Memory verses
sentences based on Circle Time Bible stories
full name
our address
date of birth and of present day
General Knowledge lists eg days of week & months of year, names of continents & states

On alternate weeks, I will be using the same text (with Joshua) for the entire week and doing the following four lessons:
1. read the passage aloud and talk about any new words, then he will read the passage aloud
2. re-read passage; copy passage from model; mum to point out errors as he goes, for immediate correction
3. re-read passage; lesson on phonics/ grammar/ mechanics related to the passage (discussion)
4. re-read passage; copy passage from model; when finished, he will check with original and make corrections
These weeks, Anna will either not have any writing task or it will be assigned from a handwriting workbook I have. In the other weeks, I think Anna will do the same words/ sentence as Joshua, although she will do tracework while he does copywork.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Directed Play activity list

snakes and ladders
animal lotto
old maid
the Goodnight Moon Game
play dough
water colour painting
free drawing
bubbles in the backyard
cars on mat
building blocks
dolls house
farm house & animals

any other ideas?

Semester 2 Schedule

6:30am Adults' Bible study at dining table with Jeff

7:00am Kids get up. Dress kids.

7:15am Have a shower while Jeff feeds kids breakfast, then put on first load of washing

7:30am Jeff leads Circle Time (Bible story/Song/Prayer/Memory Verses) and I take over when he needs to leave

7:45am Directed Play*

8:15am Read Aloud

9:00am Get out school materials while kids have Individual Play Time

9:30am Big kids: Reading and Writing lessons / Little kids: Watch Playschool on TV

10:00am Morning tea, then Morning chores while kids play outside, if there's time go for a walk/bike ride with kids

11:30am Lunch

12:00noon Read Aloud / Sam begins his nap

12:30pm Quiet Directed Play* / Abigail begins her nap

1:00pm Maths

1:20pm Science

1:40pm Class Time (Alphabet and Counting recitations, Dolsch word list flash card drills, Map identification for Continents & Aust'n States)

[Anna can stay for as much of the Ma/Sc/CT as she feels like, then begin her next activity whenever she gets overwhelmed]

2:00pm Mummy Time / Big Kids: Quiet Time alone, looking at books, resting or quiet free play eg dolls or Duplo.

3:00pm Folding / Big kids: Watch Playschool on TV

3:30pm (Little kids up from naps) Craft, perhaps based on Playschool ideas, as researched prior on website.

4:00pm Tidy house and prep dinner / Kids afternoon tea, then free play outside

5:00pm Bath kids

5:30pm-ish Mummy Time / Kids play with Daddy

6:00pm Dinner

6:30pm Ongoing Read Aloud

7:00pm Jeff put kids to bed one at a time while I continue to read to others

Then: Evening chores, evening activities

9:30pm Adults' Bed time (except Mon and Wed - TV time)

* One evening a week (or perhaps Wed afternoons during Mummy Time) I will be planning out the week ahead of time. At this time I will be choosing which activities to do with the kids for Directed Play.

I've used some CM ideas in making this (short lessons, including lots of read aloud time) as well as things I learnt when I trained as a Children's leader for BSF (such as alternating physical activities with mental ones), common sense (working out when I could do my housekeeping chores alongside the kids' activities) and of course suggestions from my husband (compulsory Mummy Time during the little ones' naptime, having us both sit down together to do our daily Bible study, regularly scheduling craft time). I have high hopes for this schedule, but of course a schedule is only as good as the woman who follows it!

On Wednesdays we'll be going to BSF in the morning and so we'll just be getting ready and leaving straight after breakfast, with no Circle Time. We'll have lunch with Jeff as we did in first semester and be home in time for Mummy Time. We won't do Reading/ Writing/ Maths/ Science/ Class Time on Wednesdays, because the program at BSF involves listening and speaking skills and large and small movement, so they get their "school" time then. Once we get home, however, we'll be back to the rest of a regular day.

Home Ed reading list and a day in primary school

Having recently been to the HBLN trade fair and with Jeff on holidays, I've been reading quite a few home education books lately. Here's the list:
A Biblical Home Education by Ruth Beechick
The Three R's by Ruth Beechick
A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory and
Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn.
I haven't finished reading the last two, but I have read the last one before. I found the first less useful than I had hoped, but the second and third on the list had lots of helpful, practical ideas.

They've given me food for thought and Jeff and I have been chatting about how he wants our second semester to move along. It has been great to have his input because I can bounce ideas off him and he also keeps me on the straight and narrow, so I don't go off on any hare-brained tangents.

On Jeff's advice, I also took advantage of our friend Ros coming over to babysit a few days ago to pick her brains about what a day in school looks like for pre-primary (K5) and grade 1 students. She teaches one day a week with students in these grades at a local public school and is studying the rest of the week at Theol College with Jeff. Here's a summary of how her students' day goes:
Weather / Day chart / Date
30min Daily writing (Y1 1pg+ recount style writing, PP draw picture + sentence caption)
30min Further language activities (Y1 Phonics Patterns book, PP indoor activities with rhyming/opposites/matching jigsaws, copying patterns, sequencing pictures etc)
Sports eg ball skills outside
Recess/PP Fruit time
90min Maths (Activity then Y1 worksheet/PP oral work, PP indoor activities with colour matching, dominoes etc)
Construction eg meccano, lego, threading
20-30min Y1 quiet reading, PP rest & listen to stories on tape
20-30min News telling oral language practice then barrier games (following directions) building up to battleships
45min Science (PP do same concepts as Y1 without as much writing) [On other days this time slot would be taken with SOSE, Art/Music/Craft etc]
Pack up for end of day.

Hearing Ros talk about her day I realised that the kids at school do a lot of play-based activities designed to build reading skills, but there is very little time devoted to listening to stories being read aloud. Which is pretty sad, because who wants to go through the hard work of learning to read if they've never heard any wonderful stories to inspire them?

However, reading these books with the ideas on homeschooling methods as diverse as traditional, Charlotte Mason learning through literature, Ruth Beechick practical learning and classical, has given me many ideas to work with for the next semester. And having talked things over with Jeff, I now have a daily schedule which I think will help me to achieve all these homeschooling plans and still keep up with the housework and have time playing with the littlies as well! More to follow...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Words I loved to hear

"Mummy, I've done a poo in the toilet."
Three cheers for Abigail!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


On Wednesday, Sam was in child care while Jeff and I took the bigger kids to the aquarium. It was so much easier with only three kids and a second adult that the first time I took all four on my own. After we got home and had our naps, I went with the kids on their bikes to collect Sam from child care.

As soon as we left the house Anna spotted the beginnings of a rainbow. As we got closer to the child care, the rainbow got longer and then shrunk again so it was just disappearing when we go there. There was lots of discussion about it “glowing” and “growing”. After we had collected Sam, we went across the road to the big park for a play but it started to sprinkle so we decided to head home again. As we got back across the road, we turned for one last look at the park, and what did we see? The most magnificent double rainbow ever! The kids were just awestruck and despite the rain we stood there for several minutes admiring them, and naming colours etc. I asked Abigail whether she thought they were pretty. She said “no” very solemnly, and my heart dropped. But then she added, “They’re handsome!”

Then we turned around again (towards the sea) and looked at the sky that way. The sun was hidden behind dark clouds but there were brilliant sun rays above and below the cloud bank, and off to the right there was what looked like a tunnel in the cloud through which a whole stream of light was pouring out. Another simply magnificent sight! Joshua came out with the following appreciative comment: “God has made the sky beautiful for us.”

When we got home I had them all sit down and draw what the had seen. Joshua’s is great (rainclouds and all), and Anna’s is very well done also, especially as I didn’t give her any help other than talking her through remembering the colours.

Monday, 14 July 2008

We're back from the farm

We went to Granny and Gramps' farm in Albany last week and - despite most of the kids vomiting their way through the week - had a wonderful time. The day before we left, there was a huge gale and the power was off for over 24 hours. Fortunately, Betty and Ron have a rainwater tank that they could cart water from for us to drink etc and their stove is gas, so we could still have heated meals. In one morning, a dozen trees blew over on their property, with seven of them over fences, so Gramps had lots of work cut out for him when we left. Two trees fell over near the chook run. None escaped but it did make getting in to feed them and collect eggs difficult the next day. I took these pics the morning after the storm, when the kids went out to inspect the damage.

Of course, now that we're back from the farm Jeff has gone down sick with something similar to what the kids had, but we're gradually doing better.

While we were driving to and from Albany, and at various times while we were away, Jeff and I had some good chats about where he wants me to go with the homeschooling, scheduling our days better, and various other things. It was great to get his input. He would like to see a bit more of some things and a bit less of others, so there is change in the wind. However, having had a decent break, I am now - almost - ready to get back into things. Just a few more things to prepare and organise...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

"I know what Amazon is!"

I received a package in the mail yesterday, a large box from the US, my first ever purchase from (I bought the five sets of Bob Books so I don't have to keep borrowing them from my friend and also Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student for my own education.)

When I commented to Jeff that it was probably from Amazon, Joshua became very excited. "A box from Amazon? Wow! Open it, Mummy, please!"

I wasn't sure why Joshua would be all that excited. So I asked him, "What do you think it is?"

"It's a present from Amazon, Mummy. Open it!"


So I asked him again, "What is Amazon?"

"Amazon is a mighty, mighty, mighty gladiator. One of the lady ones. Open it Mummy, I want to see what she sent to you!"

Did I mention the kids love watching Gladiators?

A reminder for homeschoolers in Perth

Don't forget the trade fair is on this Saturday.

HBLN Trade Fair - Saturday 5 July 08

hosted by HBLN Inc WA

When: Saturday, 5 July 2008
Time: 10-1pm
Where: Osborne Park Community Centre
11 Royal Street, Osborne Park


An opportunity to buy books, books and more books!
Home Education Books - Learning Curriculum - Living Books - you name it!


PLEASE NOTE: There will be NO Eftpos available

Home Education Seminars:
1. Getting Started
2. Moderator Reporting
Both sessions are gold coin donation.

See you there?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Making tracks

Last week Joshua and I picked this up from the library for the holidays and we're very impressed. The text is very informative (I get Joshua to read the titles and I read the paragraphs). The best parts are the projects scattered throughout with instructions to build your own cardboard railway tracks, underframe with wheels scaled for the track, locomotive, caboose (brake van) and a load-bearing tunnel. So far Joshua has been working with Jeff to make the tracks and part of the underframe, and is pestering us every minute of the day, it seems, to do some more. I'll post photos when he gets further along.