Sunday, November 20, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 5: Books, exams, more books


Don't tell anyone, but I think I might be in trouble with my husband for using the word "minimalism" and "books" in the same sentence. I might have him a bit worried... he would be quite happy if every book that came into this house would never, ever leave. I tried to relieve his mind last week by buying four new bookcases and eagerly attending a library used book sale. Seriously, though, despite our growing collection of books, I am still comfortable using the word "minimalism" in connection with books. To me, minimalism is about keeping the things we truly value and getting rid of the excess. That is what I intentionally try to do with our books. Some might not understand how people like us could possibly value so many books so very highly, but we truly do. The thing that makes me a minimalist despite this is that I am intentional about evaluating each book that we keep. He feels a little more comfortable with the term "curated collection" so maybe I'll just go with that instead of "minimalism," at least in his hearing...


We finished Term 1 of our Ambleside Online years 3 and 1 this week. I haven't counted, but it took a bit longer than twelve weeks. We'll take this coming week off, with the exception of an exam question at breakfast every morning.

I asked SA(8) an exam question this week about "When Mary visited Elizabeth." I got only silence until he finally confessed that he was confused about whether I was asking about the Bible or Our Island Story (Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots)!

We finished The Princess and the Goblin on Friday. We had a bit of a rough start with it at the beginning of the term. I was having SA read it on his own, and he found it hard to narrate. Then halfway through I decided I'd read aloud to him, and I think he fell in love with it. In any case, he picked up the sequel The Princess and Curdie and has been reading non-stop since yesterday. He had only two chapters left to go this evening. This makes me very happy, because it is still very rare for him to pick up a chapter book and just read. He may turn into a bookworm yet! (JJ, on the other hand, is already a bookworm.)


I'm reading Caddie Woodlawn and Robin Hood with the boys at bedtime. SA and JJ rush to get ready so they can be the first to put their vote in as to what we will read. MM(4) has figured out that if he's last he can be the tie-breaker, though, so he takes his time!

I'm reading Side by Side by Ed Welch, a book about how we need the Lord, and how we need each other. I'm also deep into the Iliad again in preparation for my study group, and I've begun reading Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, spurred on by Brandy at Afterthoughts blog. I also have a novel on the go: A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle. It's the second book I've read by L'Engle. The first I read was the fourth volume of her Crosswicks Journals. I'm starting on the opposite end than most people do with L'Engle (she is well known for her children's literature) but I am really enjoying these mature works. I will get to the children's books too someday.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Living & Learning Update #4: Flat Stanley, Shoeboxes, Scheduling App


SA(8) had a cousin from Saskatchewan send him a Flat Stanley. On Tuesday we went out and took a couple of pictures at Peake's Quay (where the Fathers of Confederation landed) and Province House (where the Fathers of Confederation met and Canada was born.). The tiny figure on the step is SA, holding Flat Stanley.

Yesterday SA(8), JJ(6), niece I(9) and I went to the Operation Christmas Child packing party at our church. In the last few years we've just packed our own boxes, but the party was great fun! 82 boxes were packed in just over an hour.


This week was much nicer weather than last for our #FallOutside2016 nature challenge! We are trying to get outside every day for at least 15 minutes this month. This week started out gorgeous. On Wednesday we even had lessons outside because it was so warm... it actually went up to 13 degrees (about 55 Farenheit)! We stayed outside almost all day that day. We didn't get all the schoolwork done, but it will probably be June before it's that nice again and we wanted to enjoy it.

MM(4) has been very earnest lately about trying things on the piano. He looks very carefully at his brother's piano book and tries to figure it out with his fingers on the keys. Afterwards he comes to me and asks if I heard him playing.

In other news, I have discovered a lovely app for my iPhone called 30/30. It seems perfect for scheduling Charlotte Mason-style short lessons. I put in my "Daily List" of lessons we do together as a family. For each item on the list I can add a specific period of time. When the timer rings, our lesson is over and it goes on to the next item (I have it pause at that point until we're set to go with our next lesson.) So far it has worked really well to keep us on track. Because that list is quite similar for us every day, I just make minor adjustments to the list each evening. This may even end up replacing my paper and pen daily checklist!

I have lists for each child for the work they do separately as well. That works a little less well because they work at different things at the same time. (SA does copywork while I read to JJ, for example). I may figure out how to make it work yet, though.

Has anyone else tried this app for homeschooling to-do lists?


In light reading, I read Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires this week. I loved it. She was the New York Times restaurant critic for a while and this book is about her various disguises as she did that.

In slightly heavier reading, I started Kathleen Norris' Acedia & Me. It seems very promising. I read her Amazing Grace earlier this year and found it very thought provoking and worth reading, though I come from a very different background and disagree with some foundational things she seems to take for granted.

With the boys I started Caddie Woodlawn for their bedtime reading.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 3: Origami, Fall Outside Nature Challenge


I have been greeted by this sight every morning for the last several weeks. SA(8) and JJ(6) are obsessed with origami. Earlier this fall at a yard sale I found what I thought was a package of origami paper for a dollar. This origami paper turned out to have folding instructions on the back of each page. The boys have been making their own square "origami paper" by cutting printer paper, and have been making many of the designs.

I am amazed at how skilled they have become. We did origami as our "handicraft" last year at some point, and it was very difficult for them at first. Now they are doing quite complex folds, making paper tulips and elephants and cranes. They have definitely left me behind! (This is making me feel better about myself, since I am failing to teach them a handicraft this term.) I must say, though, that the mess they create is terrible, especially since their instructions are loose-leaf and not in a book.

Fall Outside 2016 Nature Challenge
This "adventure" is put on by Dawn from Mud Puddles to Meteors. The challenge is to get outside in nature for 15 minutes every day of  this month. November can be so cold and grey (and it was, this week!)! I knew I needed the kick in the pants to get the children out every day. There was quite a bit of foot-dragging at the beginning of the week, but by the end the boys were getting used to the cold again and enjoying being out in nature. On Thursday we lit a little bonfire, and that was a huge hit. They stayed out for a couple of hours that day.

 We are also doing some little drawings on a calendar to chronicle our month with nature. I love MM(4)'s poplar leaf!

Here is my youngest book lover AJ "reading" The Gingerbread Man. His favourite book, though, is One Summer Day by Kim Lewis. It has a little boy of about his size who, like him, plays peekaboo, and likes to get his shoes and coat on to go outside.

In other reading news, I finished reading William Steig's Newberry Honor book Abel's Island aloud to the bigger boys. They loved it, and the pictures really enhanced the story for them. I enjoyed it, but I did find Abel a bit eccentric at times, and the story ended rather abruptly. William Steig is an interesting author. I don't like all of his children's books, and I don't find his art all that charming (children like it, though), but he has a few books I absolutely love. Amos and Boris definitely goes into my top 10 picture books of all time. Another one I love is called Yellow & Pink, which is a quirky parable about intelligent design.

In my own reading, I am almost through Elizabeth Goudge's Scent of Water. I am enjoying it, but not as much as I had hoped. My expectations were too high, and the deficiency is in myself. I can only explain the problem in MBTI terms. I am not "iNtuitive" enough for this book. As an ISFJ, I have put some thought into how I interact with other types. The "N" types are the ones most likely to mystify me. As in this case, this is usually in a good way (I stand in awe of the way someone sees the world and communicates about it.), but sometimes it is in a not so good way (I am completely mystified by the way someone thinks...they seem to be ungrounded in reality.) I think Elizabeth Goudge is an "NF" type. Her writing is very evocative. She does put a lot of sensory detail in her novels, but it is all about the feeling her description creates in you. Any attempt to recreate the scene (whether in a movie or in real life) would be disappointing, because it's not about the details, it's about the atmosphere. Does that make sense? Any other "S" types out there that get what I'm saying here, or does this sound crazy to you? The feelings I get as I read are lovely but nebulous, and they drift away from me. The truth that comes through sometimes in this novel is beautiful but almost always startling to me, as it seems to burst forth out of almost nothing (there is no logic, no natural progression to it). I'm not at all saying I didn't like the book, just that I didn't feel quite at home in it.

I should say that I think most of the best novel writers are "N" types, and very few of them make me feel like outsiders in the worlds they create. Marilyn Robinson is another very strongly intuitive type, and I think her books are wonderful. I am not like her Lila, but I love her and stand in awe. Even L.M. Montgomery, who speaks so much of kindred spirits, does not make me feel as though I am not one. (After all, she lets Diana Barry be one, and Diana does not "get" Anne all the time either.) Elizabeth Goudge creates a sympathetic world between her intuitive type kindred spirits --Mary, Edith, Paul-- and the ordinary people really don't matter all that much in her world. Perhaps this is why Goudge is so very loved...all the "N" type readers feel like the characters are kindred spirits, and her way of thinking and imagining feels like home.

So end my jumbled musings...