Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Five Things I Learned from my First Term of Homeschooling

1. I learned that my little children (age 5 and 3) are much better at memorization than I realized! We learned a couple of Bible passages and several hymns. One important thing I realized is that they really need to be able to grasp the basic meaning of what they are memorizing. I taught them the first verse of "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" at the beginning of the term (the Ambleside Online selection for that month), and it has not really stuck with them. By contrast, "There is a Happy Land" with its simplicity, short verses, and upbeat melody was much more enjoyable (and therefore more memorable) for them.

2. I learned that taking the time to develop even the simplest habits in my children makes my days much easier. My eldest child now automatically gets dressed before breakfast, has independent bathroom habits, and doesn't feel right about sitting down to teatime if he hasn't picked up his toys. (Though we're still working on speed and occasionally attitude in that last habit...)

3. I learned that it is worthwhile to at least consider what Charlotte Mason has to say, even in areas where she challenges my strongly held preconceived ideas. This happened in teaching SA to read this term. He has made so much progress, and it has been because I engaged his interest with interesting stories to read (and taught him the sight words he needed to learn to read them) rather than continuing with more and more pure phonics. We still do phonics, but it serves the purpose of learning to read more interesting stories.

4. I learned that a daily morning ritual of tea and poetry is calming and grounding for everyone. No matter how wild our morning has been, it will all be okay at teatime. To my surprise, this has become one of the most important parts of our day. Even if the boys learned nothing at all from the rich language of the poetry we read, Poetry Teatime would still be worth doing for us.

5. I learned how important plenty of outdoor play is for my children right now, during their young years. I started the term very eager to get on with reading and math (After all, I've been planning to homeschool for years now!). Slowly, as I read Charlotte Mason and blogs like 1000 Hours Outside, my priorities shifted. I am in less of a hurry to push the academics now (though we continue with our short reading and math lessons), and am making more of an effort to get outside every day, and for as much time as works for us.

I'm so thankful I began to blog before this first term began. I have recorded so many joyful memories of nature walks and reading lessons, of thoughts and sayings. It has been a happy beginning of homeschooling for us.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Commonplaces 5

A random collection of thoughts and happenings from my week.

Stephen's Testimony at the Gideon National Convention 2013
Stephen had the opportunity to give his testimony at the Gideon 2013 National Convention last July. We recently got the DVD's. I just discovered that it has been on YouTube as well since October. So here it is!

Christmas Baking
I made a number of new recipes leading up to this Christmas. These were my favourites.
Speculaas Spices
This is an essential spice mix for Dutch baking. This recipe is the best I've tried. It may have helped that this is the first year that I've managed to find every one of the ingredients. I couldn't find ground anise, but I crushed the whole seeds and used 1/2 tsp instead of 1/5 tsp, and that worked fine. I also used 1/4 tsp for each of the other ingredients that called for 1/5 tsp. 1/5 of a teaspoon is just too complicated for me to figure out! I used the spices in my kruidnoten (below) and in some fun shortbread owls.
Kruidnoten (Dutch "Gingerbread Nuts")
I made these for our homeschool co-op cookie exchange. I made a double recipe, and used 1 whole egg instead of 2 egg whites. I realized belatedly that the egg was for brushing on top, not for in the dough. They turned out excellent, though. I found the required coarse, dark brown sugar at Bulk Barn (I think it was called "Demarara style."). I skipped the orange zest, though it would probably have been delicious.
Raspberry Almond Thumbprints
The almond icing makes these special (I only used half of the icing recipe). I made it a little stiffer than drizzling consistency, put it in a bag, cut off the corner, and squeezed. The boys loved helping with these cookies: rolling little balls, making thumbprints, adding jam with a little teaspoon. I might make some with apricot jam next time as well.
Millionaire Shortbread
This is a rare case where my finished product looked as wonderful as the pictures on Pinterest. I had no corn syrup, so I substituted 1/2 tsp cream of tartar in the caramel. (Yes, really! Thank you David Lebovitz.) I substituted honey in the chocolate. I also used half the amount of butter in the chocolate...somehow 1 stick seemed like a lot for 8 ounces of chocolate. I went with my gut on that one, and it worked out well.

Outdoor Time
With Christmas being this week, we have once again fallen short of our goals. No matter, we will begin again next week!
Sun. (snowstorm) 0 hours
Mon. .5 hour
Tue. 1.25 hours
Wed. .5 hour
Thu. 1.25 hours
Fri. 2 hours
Sat. TBD

I am extremely proud of this accomplishment. I think I've mentioned before that I am not a "crafty" person. I made up a schedule of our day with notecards, pencil crayons, string, and clothespins. I got the idea from Bobby Jo over at Where the Blacktop Ends.
I even drew some little illustrations. Go me!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Commonplaces 4

A collection of random thoughts and happenings from my week.

Outdoor Time Log
We did better than the last two weeks, but still did not meet our target of 10 hours. We still have today, though the forecast is calling for 6-8 hours worth of ice rain. I'm hoping to clear a bit more snow before then, as the family vehicle is still snowed in since Wednesday's snowstorm.
Sun. Snowstorm, 0 Hours
Mon. .5 Hour
Tue. 1.5 Hours
Wed. Snowstorm, 1 Hour
Thu. 1.5 Hours
Fri. 2 Hours
So that's a total of 6.5 Hours this week. Hopefully I can bump it up to 7.5 today.

Adventures of a Baby in the Snow
MM is 17 months old now. It has been a real challenge for me to take him to play outside with the boys, and not just because the snow has been deep enough to bury him up to his neck the last few days. The child will not keep his mittens on. I put them on, he takes them off. I put them on. He takes them off. I leave them off, hoping he will notice his hands getting cold and want them back on. His hands get cold. He cries. I put the mittens back on. He takes them off. He cries more. This is not an issue a cord between the mittens will fix. True, the cord keeps him from losing them, but not from taking them off in the first place. So, being a mom of the 21st Century, I googled "keeping mittens on a toddler." And the solution is...(drum roll please): DUCT TAPE!!! I couldn't find any around, but I found a roll of Tuck Tape (the red kind). For our second time outside today, I put his mittens on, then taped around his wrists. It didn't quite keep him from taking his mittens off, but it sure kept him busy. It also took him a lot longer to get them off, so I could do more shoveling.

Anyway, with the "crying-because-my-hands-are-cold" off the table as an excuse to go back inside, he had to come up with something else once he was tired of being outside. And he did. About an hour after we went outside, he came and looked up at me.
"Pee-pee," he said loudly.
I looked at him. "Do you need a clean diaper?"
He deliberately nodded his head. Then, for good measure, he pointed to his diaper area and squatted.
I had a feeling I was being manipulated, but since it was getting dark as well, we went inside.

On Music
I watched a music documentary on Netflix last week called "Herbie Hancock: Possibilities." Now I'm not normally a jazz fan (Classical, folk, and blues are more my style), but I really enjoyed it. It's a documentary of Herbie Hancock's collaboration with a number of different artists, including Carlos Santana and Angelique Kidjo, Sting, and Paul Simon, and Christina Aguilera. My favourite was Annie Lennox singing Paula Cole's "Hush, Hush, Hush." If you are into music, you might enjoy this documentary. I love how really good musicians continue to grow and try new things as they age. People like Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, to name a few, just seem to get better and better.

Also on music, we have been continuing to watch Handel's Messiah on YouTube. Now that it's part of the routine, SA always makes sure we listen to our "Christmas music." Yesterday after we watched, I asked them if maybe they'd like to play the violin someday. SA had to think about it (Which one is the violin, anyway? No, Stephen and I have not been playing our violins enough in recent years.), but JJ was off like a shot to get one of Stephen's violins. I tuned it up and helped each of them hold it in turn. Of course it was much too big for them. SA produced the squawks and squeaks you'd expect from someone holding a violin for the first time. Surprisingly, though, JJ had amazing control of his bow hand, and not only had beautiful tone, but played each open string as he pleased. I still don't know for sure that he's not tone deaf (He doesn't sing on key), but if he's not, playing the violin may turn out to be something that comes easily for him. We'll see.

On Fancy
SA came out with something quite imaginative yesterday. I know many kids (especially girls?) have great imaginations, but SA isn't really given to flights of fancy.
"Mama, Mango (our cat) wanted to go outside, and I let him outside. I said to him, 'Mango, if you see a wolf outside, climb up into a high tree, higher than the wolf, so that the wolf can't get you.'"

On a Charlotte Mason Education
I have never intended to give my children a classical education. Classical homeschoolers have always intimidated me. The academic rigour, the trivium, the Latin and Greek...it all sounded like too much, and quite frankly, not my style. Give me Charlotte Mason, I thought...a gentle approach, yet one that is broad and rich and takes the child's personality and interests deliberately into account. However, I'm starting to realize that a Charlotte Mason education is a classical education. Last week I read this article by Andrew Kern on classical education and realized that all of the key attributes he claims for a classical Christian education are also true of a Charlotte Mason education. There are differences in the practicalities, but I think that the roots are the same.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

{Big Red Barn Reading Lessons} Lesson 4

Today's lesson was fun. It had some cutting with scissors involved, and some nonsense sentences causing giggles. In the end it went off on a bit of a tangent, but that was OK. Interest is a key element of our reading lessons, and when SA is interested in something to do with reading, I (usually) happily follow him there.

Lesson 4

I started the lesson by printing the words
"By the big red barn in the great green field
there was a pink pig who was learning to squeal."
in blue crayon on a white piece of paper. I was going to cut the words out, but SA decided he wanted to do that, so he did.

Before we started to have fun with the words, SA pulled out the word "learning."
"I don't want to use this word, Mama," he said.
"That is a long word, isn't it?" I replied. "I think we can still use it. Look closely at it. It says 'learning.'"
(We have not yet focused on the word "learning" or "squeal" in our lessons. I decided we needed a fun lesson today, though.)

I picked out a few words and arranged them in a sentence for SA to read.
"There was a pink barn."
He hesitated over the word "there," saying "three" instead. I simply corrected him, without making a big deal about it. This lesson is all about practice, after all. He should know the word well by the time we're done with it. He read the rest smoothly, smiling about the pink barn.
I grabbed the word "green" and substituted it for the word "pink." He read the sentence smoothly, but by this time he was ready for it to be a red barn.
"OK," I said. "You find the word 'red' and put it in the right place."
He did so, and read the sentence again. Wait a minute, it should be a big red barn. He hunted among the words, found the missing word, and put it in.
I had a trick up my sleeve. I took away the word "barn" and substituted "pig."
"There was a big red pig."
Giggles all around. While he looked for the word "pink" to put in, I grabbed the word "green," put it in, and got him to read it again.
More giggles.
Finally we got it right, and I scrambled up the words again.

I arranged a new sentence.
"There was a great big squeal."
SA read it correctly, but thought the sentence needed more. He found the words "in the red barn" and added them to the end. He looked around for the word "big," then realized we had already used it.
"Should we make another one?" I asked.
"Yes," he responded. So we did, and he put it in the right place.
"There was a great big squeal in the big red barn."

We continued in this way for about ten minutes, and our reading lesson was over for the day.

Or was it?

SA had the scissors again. He cut the "g" off the word "big."
"I want to make another word," he said.
"OK," I said. "You can write another letter on the paper and add it to make a new word."
I went off to do some dishes.
He came to me a minute later. He'd printed the letter "s" and added it to make the "word" "bis."
"What does this say, Mama?"
"It says 'bis.' That's not really a word. How about you try a different letter? What letter would you need to add to the end to make the word 'bit?'"
"No, I want to make the word 'biscuit,'" he said.
"Mrs. Koughan makes biscuits!" shouted JJ.
So I printed the letters "cuit" on a paper, cut it out, and added it to make the word biscuit.

The end. For today, anyway. :)

Big Red Barn Reading Lesson 1
Big Red Barn Reading Lessons 2 and 3
Big Red Barn Reading Lessons 5, 6, and 7
The Awesome Mystery of Growth in Reading

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Printable Outdoor Time Log

One of my biggest challenges as a Charlotte Mason home educator is and has always been spending the significant amount of time outdoors that she recommends. I've mentioned before that I'm not a Charlotte Mason "legalist", and we live in different times and places that may affect our ability to spend the four to six hours outdoors daily that she prescribes for young children. I think that we mothers must consider our own lives, and whether we can and should do better than we do in this area. For myself, I am convinced that the more time my children spend outside, the healthier they are. At the same time, the colder it gets here in Eastern Canada, the more I naturally tend to hibernate indoors.

I have decided to set my own goals for this winter. I am not as ambitious (yet!) as the ladies over at 1000 Hours Outside. (Head over there for exciting challenges and contests to get you motivated to get outdoors.) I've tried to set a realistic goal for my family of 10 hours per week, and perhaps once we've done that for a while, we can build on that. I have created an Outdoor Time Log to keep track of our hours outside. Feel free to print and use it if it's helpful to you.

I think setting goals and keeping track are going to be essential to our success in this goal, especially in these winter months!

How about you? How much time do your children spend outdoors weekly? Do you need to set some goals for outdoor time? What are some of your challenges in this area, and how do you overcome them?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

{Big Red Barn Reading Lessons} Lessons 2 and 3

We've had some bad colds at our house in the last week, and with some holiday busyness, we didn't manage to do much "school". We have done two more Charlotte Mason style reading lessons on the book Big Red Barn. Here they are:

Lesson 2

Objective: To learn the words "great", "green", and "field" by sight.
Method: I wrote each word in turn, telling SA what they said. Then I mixed it up, writing the words in different order and at different angles on a piece of paper until I was confident he knew each one by sight. Later, I pointed out each of these words in other stories we were reading, and he read them confidently.

I hadn't intended to do related phonics work until the next lesson, but SA brought it up himself. He noticed that "great" and "green" both started with "gr", and offered some other words beginning with the same blend on his own, without my prompting: "Grandma" and "grapefruit." I wrote these words down for him as well so he could see how they looked.

Lesson 3

Objective: To learn the "ink" family (in relation to the word "pink" in the story)
Method: I found a list of "ink" words in Phonics Pathways, and had SA sound them out. (I use this book as a resource. I do not really recommend it as a phonics program for young children...it seems more suited to remedial work. Sayings and humour seem more suited to older students. Lists and lists of words to read can be mind-numbing for children if you're not careful. There's a reason I'm using real books to teach reading, at least for the child I'm teaching now.)

Later in the day, SA found the Big Red Barn book, and read the first two pages on his own. Though we had not gone over the words "learning" and "squeal" yet, he read them confidently from memory. We'll still have to go over them so I'm certain he'll know those words anywhere, but next lesson I think I may make a puzzle for fun. I'll write out the first two pages on a sheet of paper, cut apart the words, and let him put them together correctly. We may also make other sentences using these words.

If you missed my introduction to these lessons, you can find it here.

Big Red Barn Reading Lesson 1
Big Red Barn Reading Lesson 4
Big Red Barn Reading Lessons 5, 6, and 7
The Awesome Mystery of Growth in Reading

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spontaneous Narration about a "Cookie Press"

C is coming over today to make cookies with the boys. She is going to bring her cookie press, so they can make wreaths and trees. They are pretty excited, though they really have no idea what a cookie press is. SA was thinking about it, though, and remembered a video he watched a couple days before. I captured his spontaneous narration:
"Opa has a cookie press in the bakery. He puts the cookies on trays, then they put another tray on top and put wood on it. They just slide it in the cookie press. They put the handle down, then the cookies are pressed flat. You have to be careful not to get them too pressed down."
JJ (as he realizes what SA is talking about): "Peter do that on the video!"
SA (knowing I've written this all down): "You should email that to Oma and Opa."

This is the video they watched on Monday:

So they still don't know what a cookie press is, but I guess they'll find out this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{Big Red Barn Reading Lessons}: Day 1

This morning SA asked me to read Big Red Barn to him. I looked at it and decided it would be a great book for his next reading lessons. While I can't claim to have put a lot of thought into this decision, there are a few reasons why I think it will prove to be a good choice:

1. It has a good mixture of short, three-letter words and longer words.
2. It has a bit of repetition, but not so much that it becomes boring.
3. It is interesting and fun for SA.

I have written before about using Charlotte Mason's approach to reading. To summarize our process here,
1. I choose books or poems that are interesting and fun for SA to read.
2. He learns the words of that book by sight so that he can recognise those words anywhere he sees them.
3. We base our phonics lessons on the words he has learned by sight.
I believe this summarizes the heart of the Charlotte Mason learning-to-read process. She gives specific examples of reading lessons in Volume 1 of her Original Homeschooling Series that are very helpful. I don't slavishly follow the mechanics of her process, (using loose letters and words) though I do this occasionally. Most of the time, I simply make use of a notebook.

My intention with this series is to give a concrete example of a reading lesson in our homeschool. It may be appropriate to note here that SA knows all his letter sounds and can sound out three-letter words quite easily. He reads some words quite confidently. For this reason, we started by finding out how much of the book he could already read. (I am starting to think it may be helpful to keep a notebook of all the words he knows so far. For now, this works, though.)

Lesson 1

SA and I read Big Red Barn together. I allowed him to read the words he could. Any time he hesitated, I smoothly supplied the word. I did not prompt him to "sound out" anything at this point. This read-through was simply to find out what words he already knows so we can focus on the ones he doesn't.

When we were finished reading the book, I pointed out to him how many words he already knows, and that it would be pretty easy to learn to read the whole book. He didn't say anything, but I'm pretty sure he's interested and looking forward to being able to read the whole thing.

Words He Already Knows: (He reads these words confidently, without hesitation.)

These are the words that need to be learned by sight:
(He is able to sound some of these out, but there was hesitation when we were reading through it, so they need reinforcement.)

Now that I look at it, that looks like a long list! I will start at the beginning, working through the book in order. As he can read the words, he will be able to read that portion of the book. Every other day, we will do phonics lessons related to the sight words he learns. For example, I anticipate teaching him the words great, green, and field by sight in lesson two. Then the next day, I'll make up a phonics lesson using the "gr" beginning blend. (Why choose that particular phonics lesson? I won't use "great" to teach other "eat" words, because "eat" usually sounds like "eet," not "ate". We have learned about "ee" before, so I won't go through that now. "Field" uses "ie" to say the "ee" sound, but the same combination can be used to say the long i sound (pie), or even the short e sound (friend). If he was familiar with the meaning of "wield" and "yield", I would teach him those words in connection with "field," but since he's not, I won't focus on it right now.) As you can see, my plan is highly individual to my own son.

As I usually do, I will feel my way along, deciding what to teach as I go along. This time, though, I'll blog through it. Maybe this will give me some insight into my own process.

Big Red Barn Reading Lessons 2 and 3
Big Red Barn Reading Lesson 4
Big Red Barn Reading Lessons 5, 6, and 7
The Awesome Mystery of Growth in Reading

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nature Walk Photo Dump

Last week Tuesday we went to Brudenell River for a nature walk. We've been there before in the summer, but this is the first time we've been there in December. It was surprisingly warm (Maybe 12 degrees?). There was no wind, and the water was still. We stood and watched a grey squirrel for a while. Then we walked along the beach until we reached the little "island" with the pioneer cemetery.

The next day we had a snow storm...cold, winds gusting to 100 km/hour, and snow. I guess we managed to take advantage of the calm before the storm!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Commonplaces 3

On Advent

Stephen and I have no tradition in our backgrounds of celebrating Advent, and I really didn't have any plans to change that. But then I stumbled across this idea of listening to parts of Handel's Messiah and reading the Scriptures to match in the days leading up to Christmas, and I couldn't resist. We have been doing that at the beginning of our poetry teatimes this week. At first SA was not too impressed: "Why are we listening to music at teatime?" (He likes things to stay the same.) But he seems to be coming around. We like the clean sound of the Christopher Hogwood version, and we watch it on YouTube. I find it retains the children's interest a little better when they can see it. YouTube automatically bookmarks where we stop watching, so we can pick up where we left off every time.

On "The Outdoor Life for the Children:"

We've been logging our hours outside this week at 1000 Hours Outside. One of the most challenging things about a Charlotte Mason education for me has been "the outdoor life for the children." She recommends that children spend up to 4-6 hours outside daily when they're little. I actually agree. I have found that the more time my children spend outside, the healthier they are, and the less they get sick. However, agreement hasn't always translated into action. I tend to hibernate when it gets cold.

I don't want to be a Charlotte Mason "legalist" and insist on following her 4-6 hour guideline to the letter. I think Charlotte would agree that the most important thing for me is to have a "thinking love" for my own children. How important is it for my children's physical and mental health to spend time outside? How is the air quality in our home? (We obviously don't have open fireplaces in our homes anymore, but other things cause air quality issues.) How much time do I have to devote to this? (We don't have servants as they often did in Charlotte's day. The dishes and laundry still need to get done.) Up till how cold is it safe to have children playing outside? (Canada can be a bit colder than the UK.) Considering all these things, and more, I have concluded that we haven't been spending enough time outside since it has gotten "cold". (Never mind that we will be embracing these temperatures as mild when they arrive again in the spring!)

In light of all of this, and inspired by the 1000 Hours Outside blog, I have decided to set my own goals for our outside time. I need to be challenged on this, as it truly is difficult for me to get myself motivated to get all three children's winter gear on, and my own, and go out into temperatures that are less comfortable than the climate inside my home. My goal is to go outside with the children every day, even if it is only five minutes (barring dangerously cold or windy weather, of course!). We will aim for 10 hours outside per week for the older two children (I may go out with them for a while, then come back in. I find that if I go out with them for a little while, they're more likely to stay out longer on their own, or go out again later.). I don't know how this is going to go, but I just have to try.

Here is a scene from this week's nature walk in Brudenell.

On Poetry Teatime

Since we have started doing our poetry teatime, we've occasionally had guests. Our first guests were SA's and JJ's aunt and cousins, who are about their own age. When we were visiting Opa and Oma in NB, we had poetry teatime there with the aunts and cousins. At home again, we had Mrs. D, who brought the boys a special book and read it to them. Two weeks ago, we had C, who made us cookies (with sprinkles!) and offered to come again for a baking session with the boys. Last week we had "Aunt" L, who the boys love because she always talks to them as though what they have to say is the most important, most interesting thing she has ever heard. Even SA bloomed and became a bit of a chatterbox with this special treatment. We love having guests at our poetry teatimes!

On Habits

Our November habit was neatness, and we worked on picking up all the toys twice a day, once before teatime, and once before computer time. I made up a little checklist, not for rewards, but just to keep track and remind myself to do it. I tried to train the boys from the start to do it promptly and thoroughly. It has gone very well, and I do believe it is a habit for them now. I tend to clean something up in the same room while they are picking up the toys. If they are slow one day, I cheer them on or notice things they have missed. I still have a bit of a problem in that SA (5) tends to do more of his fair share because JJ (3) is slower. I'm not sure what to do about that...I have tried getting them each to pick up specific categories, or getting SA to pick up and JJ to vacuum under the table. Let me know if you have better ideas!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

{The Three R's in Our Homeschool}: 'Rithmetic

I know it has been a while since the first installment of this "series." I also figure you haven't been waiting with bated breath for this, but I think I'll put it down for posterity now, before SA's first term of "Year 0" is finished. It will probably end up being something interesting to go back to when I'm teaching future children.

If you're a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you will probably be wondering what I'm doing teaching math at all while SA is not yet six years old. Part of the reason is that he is my first-born, and I have been planning to homeschool for years. I admit it. Sometimes I am too eager to get started. But the other part of my reason is that SA has always had an extra twinkle in his eye when it comes to numbers. Before the term started, and with little to no teaching on my part, he was counting backwards and forwards to 100 and beyond, doing the same by 2's, 5's, and 10's, and adding and subtracting in his head. He could also read numbers up to 1,000, and I'm fairly certain that he had a pretty good idea of their value as well. I'm not saying this to brag about his ability (OK, maybe a little bit...) but so you have an idea of why I decided to start teaching some math. A different child with different abilities and interests might have meant a different approach, or even no approach at all at this point. I should also make it clear that playing outside is still a higher priority than the three R's at our house, and I'm hoping to keep it that way for a while yet.

I've learned a lot about teaching math from Alice, our resident PEI homeschool math expert, who is very helpful to anyone who needs help in this area. I also worked through half of an online "How to Teach Math" course (I wish I'd had time to finish it!). And of course, I checked what Charlotte Mason had to say about math for young children.

Children need to learn to think, to figure out what operations to use to solve a problem. (As opposed to a "drill and kill" approach) "A child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first, although he may produce slatefuls of quite right sums in multiplication or long division." (Vol. 1, p. 254)

"Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort." (p. 255)

"...demonstrate everything demonstrable." (p. 255) Use manipulatives to learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Move from the concrete to the abstract. Use money to learn place value. Weigh and measure many things for a natural introduction to fractions.
We have chosen to use Miquon Math, with a bit of Family Math on the side. Miquon Math is a hands-on math program using Cuisenaire rods. Family Math is a manual for using everyday objects, games, and situations to teach math concepts.

While it's certainly possible to do what Charlotte Mason suggested without using a math curriculum (she includes very practical, step-by-step beginning math instruction), I decided to use a hands-on math curriculum. It takes time and mental energy to make it up as you go along (as I have been finding with teaching reading). These things are sometimes in short supply when you're a mother of three little boys aged five and under. I researched several programs, including Math-U-See and Right Start Math as well as Miquon. There are so many good options out there these days for every sort of homeschooling style, that sometimes you just have to pick one and stick with it. I chose Miquon because it was highly recommended by people whose opinions I trust, and because it is relatively inexpensive.

We have been enjoying Miquon very much. There is a bit of a learning curve for the teacher. The Lab Sheet Annotations are essential, and so, to me, is the First Grade Diary, which gives more of a picture of what doing Miquon Math looks like. I bought the workbooks as e-books, so I can print out what I need when I need it. (It also allows me to print out the same worksheet for JJ to "work on" and colour.) When it comes to concepts, we have not yet run into any that are challenging for SA, but that has been OK so far. There have been other challenges, such as getting used to using the rods and learning to print the numbers. I'm sure the challenging math concepts will come soon. I decided to go through all the concepts (though not necessarily all the worksheets) in order, so his foundation would be solidified and he would be confident in using the rods to figure things out. I try to keep the emphasis on playing with the rods, sometimes free play, but often games and activities from the First Grade Diary or ones that I make up. SA loves doing the worksheets, and can usually figure out what is required on his own and do it. We are working on addition and subtraction now.

Family Math is an excellent supplement for us, though I haven't done as much from it as I'd like. Most important to me is that it mixes things up. We may use beans instead of Cuisenaire rods, for instance. Or we may play a money game, or colour hundreds charts in patterns by 2's, 3's, 4's, etc. I think Charlotte Mason would approve of using variety in order to retain the student's enthusiasm and interest.

As SA told his Oma on the phone shortly after we began to do math together: "We play math!"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November's Changeable World

(I know I just posted a Nature Study post, but I've been working on this one for a few weeks, and since the month is almost over, I think I'd better post it while it's still November!)

The average temperature here on P.E.I. for this time of year is usually about 4*C (39*F). In reality, though, November is rarely average. We alternate between unseasonably warm and unseasonably cold. We have spring-like showers one day, and snow squalls the next. The first day of November was warm enough to go out with just a sweater. It got cold very quickly, though, and we had our first snowfall early in the month. Our nature walk the second week of November was quite cold (around freezing). The boys were not very happy at first, but soon I had them swinging their arms and walking fast to warm up. We walked through the woods in Victoria Park. Most of the leaves had fallen, though one or two trees still clung stubbornly to theirs.

We saw a few living things. JJ (3) seems to have the keenest eye. I believe he spotted both of these first. (I believe the little green insect is a Katydid, but I don't know about the butterfly.)

We also spotted some beautiful red berries with interesting leaves...does anyone know what these are?

Our third walk was beautifully warm, around 10*C (50*F), alternating sun and showers. Unfortunately, one of the showers caught us minutes after we started on our walk. Still, it was warm enough that I didn't feel we needed to turn back immediately, and the rain did let up a few minutes later.

I was amazed to see some green ferns, and some blooming water hemlock.

Then, surprise! The next day it snowed, and the day after that, the boys had fun playing in it.

Let's hope this love of playing in the snow lasts through December, January, February, March, and April!

I am linking up with Nature Study Monday at Fisher Academy International.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saturday Commonplaces 2

On "Virtuous Womanhood:"
My dryer stopped tumbling last week. I haven't had this particular dryer very long, (I bought it used) so my heart sank at the thought of finding a new one again so soon. Before I sank into despondency, I looked it up on google. There I found a lovely repair video using the very dryer model I own. Following the directions, I unplugged the dryer, opened it up, and retrieved the broken belt. Then I ordered a new one, and waited. The new belt arrived on Friday, and it took me about 15 minutes to install. A real repair person would have taken five minutes, but hey, I did it! I probably paid about $20 in the mean time to dry my clothes at the laundromat, but even with that included in the cost, it was less than $50. I'm sure you'll agree that if the Proverbs 31 woman had a dryer, she would have done the same.

On Homeschooling:
I finished reading Cindy Rollins' "31 Days to Morning Time" blog series this week. It was such an encouragement. Some of the topics covered (Plutarch and Shakespeare) were not applicable for my season in homeschooling, but I know I will go back to this series regularly throughout my homeschooling years. (Here's hoping she writes a book!) I especially enjoyed the last post in the series. It reminded me that though my life with little ones is sometimes crazy, I am doing something of value when day after day, week after week, I spend time every day reading Scripture to my children, praying with them, repeating the 23rd psalm with them (our current memory work), singing the same old psalms and hymns over and over, introducing new ones, reading poetry, drinking tea.

On Cuteness:
JJ was sitting on the couch "reading" Green Eggs and Ham. He did pretty well paraphrasing the content, with slightly more politeness: "No, I don't want green eggs and ham, please."

In Appreciation:
One of my favourite things to do is to sing, especially to sing with my choir, the Good News Singers. I am so thankful for Stephen, who makes it a priority to let me go and sing, and takes care of all the children while I do it. He's good like that...he thinks it's important for me to go to homeschool support meetings, too, and does his best to make sure I get to go. I think he's a keeper!