inicio mail me! sindicaci;ón
The Genial Hearth
I’ve just put the kettle on, join me for a cuppa and a chat.

Archive for December, 2009

Ch-ch-changes

It occurred to us yesterday, that Cygnet has finally made that transition. He’s walking. He still crawls, but it’s no longer his first thought for locomotion. He prefers to walk—and is really interested in shoes now:-)

Yesterday, we left the kids with their grandparents, Cygnet for a couple of hours and the other two overnight, so we could see a movie for our anniversary (7 years!). I left them with a bag of nappies for Bilby. They were delivered home this morning—with all the nappies still there! She apparently decided to stop wearing them (during the day), and was still without them when she got home! She was even dry during her nap! I’m still not entirely convinced that she’s trained, but she’s delivering a pretty convincing implession of it!

So we go into 2010 with everyone walking, and only one in nappies full time! It is indeed a different year to the last!

2009, the year that was

In spite of the evidence of my blog, it’s actually been a pretty productive year! But it was rather one of those ‘if you’re doing, there’s no time to be writing about it’ years.

I had (as has been the case the last couple of years) resolved to make more music and play more games. Although we sang a little less than we have been (basically in the last couple of months, although, I’m getting better again now), we did do occasional ‘Music Nights’, and I did a lot more recorder with Puggle (and Bilby:-) ) Thanks to Swancon, and their fabulous Gaming Stream, I played a lot more games than usual—sadly, I didn’t really maintain the momentum for the rest of the year…

I hadn’t ‘signed on’ for the Handmade Holidays challenge, but I did kind of decide to attempt it. I did pretty well when it came to kids presents! (I think) I basically made all bar 2—which were both a couple of days after Swancon. Certainly that was the case for other people’s children. I made some stuff for ours, but I’m not making books yet, and lego is still beyond me:-)

I didn’t do so well on regular blogging (obviously:-( ) But I am still thinking about it, so I anticipate returning:-) I took more photos, and managed to upload a number—haven’t managed our usual family photo calendar yet, but I hope to very shortly (it’s a great way to actually use some of the photos:-) )

Aside from the handmade presents, most of my crafting this year has been patchworking. B and M’s wedding quilt got me enthused enough to start a Virtual Quilting Bee. We’re in our fifth month now, although I’m still finishing block 3:-(

All up, it’s been a pretty reasonable year:-) It is of course a constant learning curve with the kids, just as soon as you think you have a handle on where they are, they go and change… but mostly it’s been good:-)

Educating Puggle 2009

Technically, this would have been his Kindergarten year.

Although I lost it in terms of blogging what we did, we did keep doing a lot. (The things I talk about below probably aren’t everything I could mention… they’re just the things that were a standout one way or another.)

Things that worked
Story of the World
Puggle loved this! I had heard good things about the audio version, so we got it in addition to the text, and I’m very glad we did! At random other times of the week Puggle has asked to listen to it, and grabbed the book and followed along (more and more accurately as his reading has improved:-) ) We haven’t done all the associated activities. This is our first time through, and he’s quite young yet (certainly not writing in any reliable way), so I’ve mostly just set him some colouring in. But he talks about what he’s heard, and he goes searching for food (like the nomads) or brings up new facts when related things are being discussed (and I really haven’t done a great job about noting those occasions—I can’t think of any now:-( )
Right Start Maths
This hasn’t precisely ‘filled his day with joy’, but he has worked happily with it, and has learnt a lot. It does work for him, but I am still developing strategies (and working on the timing) to allow me to work with him without the other two needing me:-) Bilby is better when she has her own tally sticks and abacus, but Cygnet is starting to require attention at this sort of time. Bilby likes to sing along with the songs as well:-)
Song School Latin
This has been a blast:-) Both Puggle and Bilby sing the songs, and Puggle has enjoyed working through the book. I really like the songs (well, with one exception:-) The Silly Sally one sets me on edge, but that’s not bad:-) ), and I love the range of sounds they’ve used:-) The activities have been nicely pitched (we’ve done a fair bit orally, especially at the start of the year, and used lines to join things rather than writing words out… but it’s worked well). He has been able to be somewhat independent with this. First day of a new chapter I’ve worked with him, but the rest of the week he’s managed on his own.
BlackBelt Recorder
I had not planned on getting anything for recorder. I can play a bit, and we have a couple of beginning recorder books. But we weren’t actually settling down to do it. A friend mentioned this, and I noticed it when I was at Wooldridges, and it’s only $10 (for the student book), so I picked it up. It has been great! I think a big part is the accompanying CD. I have the current tracks in our daily playlist, which means he hears them, and because they have ‘big’ instrumentation, it was actually still fun even when he was only playing 2 notes:-) Now that he’s playing actual songs (nursery rhymes), it’s a blast:-)
Workboxes
This is one of those posts I have meant to do for about the last 6 months, and haven’t got to. I would still like to put it in, with all the links I collected when reading about it, but I doubt I’ll finish the post I’d intended.
Earlier this year (about May), I came across some references to Workboxes, a daily organisation system that swept portions of the homeschooling community by storm. I read a number of blogs on the topic, and thought it looked quite workable, then read a friend’s copy of the book and decided to go for it. Unusually for me, i didn’t leap in all guns blazing, instead I used stuff we had, and printed off copies of other people’s ‘setting up’ sheets. I waited until the start of the next block, rather than beginning in the middle of one. And we gave it a go.
And it worked for me. So then, for the next block, I invested the effort to set it up ‘properly’, to make things look ‘right’.
Essentially, you have a given number of receptacles for each child (Puggle has 10, because we had inherited 2 sets of 5 drawers, and they seem to be of a suitable size, Bilby has 5, and i structure hers rather differently). In each draw, you put all the things that are required for one activity. Pretty much, Puggle starts every day with the same four boxes. Copywork (activity card, a pencil, timer, copywork sheets), Latin (activity card, pencil, Song School Latin book, any extras required for the day’s activity), Maths (activity card, pencil, workbook [sometimes], abacus, blocks/cards/tallysticks), Recorder (activty card, his recorder, my recorder, Black Belt Recorder book, pencil and sheet if there’s an activity I’d like him to do). The rest of the boxes are filled with other tasks for the day. This usually includes some independent reading, some read alouds (often beeswax to accompany them), it often includes a meal to cook, art or craft to do. Each day of the week has a focus for the afternoon, so those activities are in here.
I think it works so well for us, because it forces me to get all the little bits organised ahead of time (think about what food he might be able to cook for example, and then print out the recipe), and think about which of those activities need to be done at particular times, and which he might be able to do independently. All that means that he can get on with stuff himself.
Doing it strictly, the child is supposed to work through in order, and complete everything. I haven’t been particularly fussy about that this year, although in 2010 I expect that will probably change.
As I said, I haven’t done Bilby’s the same. I no longer number hers at all (mostly because Cygnet kept stealing the numbers, and Bilby ran off with the velcro that stuck them!) and I pretty much load them for the week. I’m not so happy with how hers worked, but when I stopped putting anything in them, she complained:-)
Activity Cards
The one thing I did take the time to do when trialling Workboxes initially, was to make up activity cards. I printed a pile of titles and images (clipart type) onto coloured paper (4 to a page), cut them out and laminated them. This means that I can write the relevant activity on them, and then wipe it out and write a new one. This has been really useful with the work boxes, but I would anticipate being able to use them just with books as well (like bookmarks).
French
Another post that hasn’t happened:-(
For a couple of years, another friend and I have talked about finding a native speaker to play with all our kids, in French. This year, she finally found someone! Unfortunately, scheduling difficulties meant that we gave up after two meetings. But when we decided to stop, we also decided that we would still get together (at a more suitable time, thus enforcing weekly French use). We pick a topic together, and brainstorm a list of related words (we started with Food, we’re currently doing a combination of (farm) Animals and Christmas, and we’ll go on to Wild Animals shortly after we return). We’re then taking it in turns to lead… we all sing to start, we do a bit of ‘conversation’ (asking everyone in the circle their name and how they are… the babies don’t generally answer:-) ), introduce the new words, move to the table for an activity, sing a song to end. We try to speak as much French as we can while doing the activity. We’re finding our school based vocabulary is not quite sufficient! We’re having to look up ‘glue’ and ‘sticky tape’ and ‘popsticks’:-)
We’ve been really amazed at the way the kids have not only picked up the words and can answer them when asked, but at the way they are choosing to use the words in their everyday lives—any fruit we have introduced is now pretty much only referred to by it’s French name (in our home). One of the reasons we think this has worked so well is because the kids of the two families enjoy playing with the words with each other:-)
We’ve only been doing this about six weeks (I think?), so we’re definitely still in the establishing phase, but so far, it’s an absolute delight:-) Part of that is the fact that we’re getting in a playdate (the kids play when we arrive while we get organised, we do French, then they play more) with friends… but part of it is how the kids are responding—and the joy of doing something we’ve been meaning to do for ages:-)
As a support to this, we acquired a copy of Little Pim. It’s designed as a language immersion tool. The little films are short, about 5 minutes, and there’s 7 in each set (well, I have to confirm that… we’re on the second, but the total thing seems to say it’s 30 minutes long… something in that maths doesn’t quite work). Each little film introduces a few words on each topic. The first is Food:-) They’re designed for 2-5 year olds. Bilby is bang in the target group. She loves them—and uses the words (there’s some overlap with the words we had been doing, but there are some which have only been introduced via Little Pim, and she’s using those regularly:-) ). Cygnet doesn’t do anything with the words, but he loves to watch. I am looking forward to hearing him starting to speak and seeing which of the words he starts using:-) Puggle still enjoys it, but where the others will watch it as often as I show it (and would like it more, as far as Bilby is concerned), he likes to watch it, but really he’s not so interested in repeated viewings (although, he has yet to complain about it being on!) He was the first to start using the words from the DVD.
One thing I’ve found really interesting is the way the kids control the language use at home. Most of the time, they don’t mind particularly what language we use (I try at times to use French through the week—when I feel I have the vocabulary:-) ). I’ve been surprised though, by the times that they (Bilby in particular) will call “Maman” instead of “Mama”. If I don’t pay attention and answer with “Yes”, she gets rather put out, and reminds me that she spoke in French. The same happens in the reverse (where I answer “Mama” with “Oui”), but less often:-) They will talk to each other and choose to use the French pronunciation of their names to signify that they are speaking French (their vocabulary is still fairly limited). And Puggle in particular has started playing with his animals in ‘French’. He moves them around and has them talk in nonsense syllables, but they are not ‘English’:-) (We have been reading picture books in French all year, so they do have a sense of the sound of the language, and they are reasonably accurate at identifying when non-English speakers are using French—although, they tend to default to non-English=French when in doubt).
All of this to say that French is finally happening in our house:-) And it’s fun, and the kids are using it in real ways:-)
Copywork
I’m taking this very slowly. Puggle’s fine motor control is what you’d expect of a 5 1/2 year old boy, and as such, I’m not anticipating rushing into lots of independent writing. We’re still working our way through the phonemes (it’s doing double duty at the moment, being the way we’re teaching sounds), and he’s tracing.
I made the decision (after some more reading, and talking with Puggle) to switch to cursive rather than print. I’m not going to bother with print, on the assumption that he will pick up printing as he goes, and if we’re going to invest the effort into learning to write, it might as well be cursive. One phoneme, a couple of times a day (two times generally, unless he makes a big error) seems to be working nicely. Because we started with print, that does tend to be how he writes when he’s working independently, but we’ve only been doing cursive for the last couple of months, and we’re still working through the basic letters.
Cooking
He’s been doing a lot of cooking this year:-) Most weeks (when we’re workboxing) he’ll cook dinner at least once, and he’ll usually help with another dinner as well. He’s also well and truly able to get breakfast and lunch for himself and Bilby (except for cutting the bread… he can do that, but the slices aren’t very uniform—and the remaining loaf is also somewhat hacked… so I prefer to do it until he’s larger). He is developing a recipe book, which contains meals he can cook independently. I still tend to chop the onions (hard and spherical makes me a bit nervous), but he’s moved this year to being able to light the (gas) stove, and cook on it. He has put things in the oven, but not lit it (it can be idiosyncratic) or taken anything out (they tend to be too heavy for him to manage with the added challenge of heat). His chopping is becoming more uniform, and his stamina to complete recipes is improving. The workboxes has been the reason I’ve been happy to have him do this. Because I set it up the night before, he can begin sufficiently in advance of the time we need to eat—he tends to need to start about two hours beforehand!
This will require a little tweaking in the new year. Since we moved French, it’s now on the day on which he tended to cook, and so he hasn’t done so much in that time. But that’s just logistics on my part:-)
Reading
He’s moved from strength to strength:-) Although he had reached ‘reading’, last year, he still required a reasonable amount of support, and on his own, he tended to look at books rather than read them.
Over this year, he has reached the point where he can’t help but read:-) We have a pile (30 or 40?) of early readers (about a dozen pages, with 4 lines per page, and lots of pictures) which will occupy him for some hours. He’s now able to read chapter books on his own, although, he tends to still see them as a bit too big to attack. Somewhere along the way I realised that he is able to read in his head. I asked him about it, where he’d learnt it, and he told me he’d watched Dada reading:-) It does mean I have to actually get him to read to me occasionally, to check he’s reading correctly (he still does the ‘guess based on the first letter of the word’ thing at times). But he is at a stage where he can read independently, and generally understand what he’s reading—and that’s a great thing:-) I didn’t assign him any reading this year, aside from as reading practice, but next year, I expect to be able to give him something to read, that we can then follow up. We’ve continued to read aloud to him though, and I expect this to continue. (I’ve also really enjoyed watching him read aloud to both Bilby and Cygnet:-) )
Swimming
Sadly, Puggle got too old for his previous swimming school, so we had to move. We’re now at StateSwim. While I wouldn’t say we love it (it’s certainly not as much fun, and not as personal as his original), he does enjoy it, and is progressing nicely. He started at the end of term one in Torpedoes, and is now a Dolphin. We do expect a longish stay in Dolphin, because the purpose of this level is to develop freestyle breathing. He is relishing this challenge, however!

Things that didn’t work
Blogging plans
When I managed to get my plans typed up (in WordPress) by the end of Break Week, I was able to blog them. What I found though, was that if I managed to type them up in the running sheet for the week, and get the workbox planner sorted, I tended not to get to blogging. In actual fact, I could largely copy and paste, but I do like to include links to the texts, and that’s the bit that tends to take the time.
Probably a start would be to improve the layout of the information I include. If I can just copy and paste, rather than switching the order of things between my planning documents and on the blog, that would help, then I could just have the links (which don’t change all the time) in one place and add them in. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’d like to keep blogging my plans… but it’s probably not one of my top priorities, because I do have that information elsewhere.
Blogging progress
This on the other hand, is something I do want to do. It fell by the wayside about the same time as blogging plans, but mostly I think, because I hadn’t mentally switched to ‘it doesn’t matter about the plans’, so it became one more thing in a large pile, rather than a separate thing that needed blogging. I don’t require myself to be very detailed, but I really do want to make a few notes each week about what we did, what we didn’t get to, and what developments occurred. I think I can probably manage that (I did in 2008!), but I need to slot it into my week properly.
Mat Time
The arrival of workboxes pretty much signalled the end of Mat Time as a regular thing. My idea of Mat Time was that it was things that were common to both Puggle and Bilby, with just a bit extra for each of them. Most of Puggle’s extra things ended up happening in his boxes and in the early part of Quiet Time. But the common things, and Bilby’s extra’s rather stopped. This is mostly about setting the rhythm for the day… and it obviously needs some work. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fix this yet… but it’s a fairly high priority.
Singing
This disappeared a bit with the end of Mat Time. And a couple of the folksongs that I didn’t know. I need to find another solution for the French nursery rhymes… they’ve been a bit hit and miss. Hopefully though, that will sort out as we go through in French.
Composer Study
My failure to source the tracks and add them to the daily playlist is to blame for this… I think it’s been the same problem as I’ve had before. I guess the answer is to make sure I source the pieces earlier in the year.
Nature Walks
We’ve done better at Nature Study, as Puggle likes to be outside and look around him, but Nature Walks continue to elude us. As seems to be a common theme with the things that haven’t worked, it’s all due to my scheduling—or lack thereof.
Art
With the exception of Watercolours (which have been a revelation! We use the dry pans, and Puggle can do all the set up required for he and Bilby, basically getting water, and the clean up. That means they can paint whenever they want to, pretty much!) art has been a bit hit and miss. I keep intending them to do activities from the Art Ideas book, but haven’t yet managed to arrange things in a workable fashion. I did get a large tray from IKEA just before the end of the year, and I’m hoping to set work out on it. Art is probably a good candidate for that.
Memorisation/Recitation
This hasn’t worked in any formal sense. I stopped putting the poems on the TV cabinet, and we stopped repeating them at different times. Earlier in the year, when Puggle was listening to the iPod during Quiet Time, and I had managed to find some of his pieces on Librivox, he was actually doing pretty well. I think this is should be solvable… It’s merely habits I have to reacquire—and I can now add a copy of the poem in one of his boxes. I do need to begin working with him on the Recitation aspect… he will happily let fly with something he’s memorised, but rarely at a pace (or volume!) that allows others to enjoy it!

Generally a good year—and the advantage of writing it all out like this, I can see the common themes:-)

Christmas 2009

A couple of years ago, the Advent season was when I started blogging daily (or nearly so). I maintained it until probably May-ish last year, and then a few times a week for about another 12 months. This year? I think I managed a couple of Food Posts through Advent, and that’s about it.

Mind you, this Advent has been lacking in a lot of my usual preparations! I have Ice Cream Plum Pudding in the house, because that’s essentially what I was doing for our family Christmas dinner. I have Gingerbread Dough in the freezer, because I made a double quantity when we made gingerbread houses at Halloween. I have the makings of Fruit Mince Pies (pre-rolled pastry in the freezer and a bottle of mince). We’ve read a pile of Christmas books. We made an Advent Chain. But that’s about as far as any similarity to previous Christmasses goes.

Before I get too disappointed though, I should point out that we have made quite a few presents this year! There should (I hope!) be several individual posts, once I download photos, but Puggle and I have been woodworking, and Bilby and I have sewn. Puggle made a small wooden boat for Cygnet, and a set of stilts for Bilby (as well as a pair of stilts for his Secret Santa, and he helped to sew an apron for Cygnet’s Secret Santa). Bilby made a woodworking apron for Puggle, five balloon juggling balls and a grab bag for her Secret Santa, and some Chocolate Coated Almonds for her grandparents. Me? I have finally finished the Pink Tower and (almost! still have to put the finish on) the Brown Stair. I’ve made (with some help from Puggle) several sets of Tree Blocks for some of the smaller children of our acquaintance. I have made three Bench Hooks (two to suit western saws, and one for japanese saws). And I’ve made a wooden forest (barring the dye-ing and finishing) (like blocks, but shaped like trees, rather than trees made from tree branches). I’ve sewn bags for the tree blocks (I still have one more to go, and a similar bag for the wooden forest), and three apron/chef’s hat sets… with accompanying bag. I’ve also been painting the IKEA abacus we got for Cygnet, to match the colours of the Right Start one:-) We did also make jam as part of our Christmas preparation.

I’m still anticipating doing our usual family calendar, and I’m hoping we’ll get to the cards—but obviously that won’t be happening by Christmas time!

So, a bit of a hit and miss. I keep reminding myself though, we can’t do everything! And we have been doing a lot of French during this time:-) Reminding me of more posts I have been meaning to write!

Hope your Christmasses were all lovely, and that the rest of your Festive Season is safe and joyous!

Song School Latin

He _loves_ Latin. SSL has been a good choice. We’ve done some of it orally (or mostly skipped the ‘copywork’ elements), but there’s a lot of circling and colouring and the like… that, combined with the songs makes it ideal for a kindy/preschool aged programme. I do plan to use it again when Lyra reaches this stage (at this point I’m thinking that won’t be until 2012—which is when she’d be the year before year one).(I got him to do everything in lead pencil, and we may well repeat the programme next year)

I’m still undecided about next year. I want to look at Lively Latin (even though it’s one of the slightly older early programmes). It seems to be high interest, so it might work in the meantime… Minimus might be gentle enough for a meander for a year. Or we could just re-do SSL, possibly with Lingua Angelica to supplement—basically to sing along with (I know, it’s more religious than Paddington would like, but supplementary materials are hard to come by in Latin! And singing is something that definitely works for us:-) )

It does have the Christmas chapter in the middle of the book (and uses that vocabulary to build on, so you can’t really reposition it), and is US-centric(you know, ‘fall’, and snow in winter, motto of the US… that kind of thing)… but that’s pretty liveable. But the songs are great, and they love to sing them just for fun:-) (Lyra regularly sings the Vale song:-) And I had to make a point of teaching her the English alphabet, when I realised she was singing the Latin song so reliably:-) ) The Student Book is self-contained (it includes the CD with all the songs in both Ecclesiastical and Classical pronunciations, and I really like the range of instrumentation and styles of the songs!)

The S word:-)

An article on that perenial issue in the Washington Times:-)

Food Post Friday

Food for the Week

Friday: Pies
Saturday: Slow-roast Pork Belly with Lentils
Sunday: Chicken Biryani
Monday: Vegetarian Lasagne (from last week)
Tuesday: Gnocchi with Roasted tomato and Capsicum sauce
Wednesday: at Grandma and Grandad’s
Thursday: Steak and Chinese Fried Noodle Salad

Meat: 4/5 (Almost certainly dinner with the folks is meat)    Vegetarian: 2    Fish: 0 (not doing so well at the moment)

Early One Morning

You can find out more about it here, along with a midi. And there’s an .mp3 here.

Early one morning, just as the sun was rising
I heard a maid sing in the valley below
“Oh don’t deceive me, Oh never leave me,
How could you use, a poor maiden so?”

Remember the vows that you made to me truly
Remember how tenderly you nestled close to me
Gay is the garland, fresh are the roses
I’ve culled from the garden to bind over thee.

Here I now wander alone as I wonder
Why did you leave me to sigh and complain
I ask of the roses, why should I be forsaken,
Why must I here in sorrow remain?

Through yonder grove, by the spring that is running
There you and I have so merrily played,
Kissing and courting and gently sporting
Oh, my innocent heart you’ve betrayed

How could you slight so a pretty girl who loves you
A pretty girl who loves you so dearly and warm?
Though love’s folly is surely but a fancy,
Still it should prove to me sweeter than your scorn.

Soon you will meet with another pretty maiden
Some pretty maiden, you’ll court her for a while;
Thus ever ranging, turning and changing
Always seeking for a girl that is new.

Thus sang the maiden, her sorrows bewailing
Thus sang the poor maid in the valley below
“Oh don’t deceive me, Oh never leave me,
How could you use, a poor maiden so?”