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The Genial Hearth
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Archive for Reading

Shakespeare in Art

Later this year, we’ll be reading Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. Our copy is unillustrated (I believe the Baldwin Project has images in their version). I thought that it might be nice to find some art to look at as we read them (each one is only about three pages long). Thinking this might well take me a while (and being interested to see what was out there!) I started looking. In a remarkably short space of time, I came across this site. The creator has done a fabulous job of collecting and organising images associated with the plays—it will be a simple matter for me to choose two or three for each play covered in the book to look at as we read!

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:-)
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).
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:-)
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.
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:-)
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:-) )
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.
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.
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.
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:-)

He Can Read!

As I mentioned last week, I came across this post a while ago… but had just a bit of uncertainty as to when would be appropriate… I’d happily describe Puggle as a reader, but he’s not an independent one. A bit of further feedback from Suzanne (on whose blog I read the idea) led me to the obvious idea of asking Puggle whether he could read:-) He said yes, so Paddington and I decided today was the day:-)

We headed out on the bus and the train to get ice-cream:-)


Puggle took great delight in telling a couple of people that we were getting ice-cream to celebrate the fact that he can read:-)

(When it’s Bilby’s turn, we may need to come up with something other than ice-cream! She preferred the water!)

Planning for 2009

General stuff:-)
This probably seems like a fairly full on year, for what is essentially Puggle’s pre-school year (most of this is for Puggle, although I do have some plans for Bilby included). My plan though, is that we’ll start with this, and it will take as long as it takes. We’ll stick with the three term year, each being made up of three blocks of 4 weeks on, one week break (plus the Christmas block/term).

Language (Including Memorisation and Copywork)
For Puggle, I’m planning a second run through The Writing Road to Reading, actually beginning to focus on writing the letters. I’ll combine this with the sandpaper letter/phonograms, but he seems fairly interested in writing at the moment. This (and his name) will probably be all the copywork we do for the year. I anticipate using a timer (for somewhere in the order of three to five minutes), because he’s very keen on quantity—and in copywork time I’ll be more interested in quality:-) I’m hoping the second run will sort out the phonemes he hasn’t really grasped. We still have the Fitzroy readers, and I anticipate them being used fairly regularly:-)
We’ll be reading Complete Nonsense Poems by Edward Lear, and this year, I’ll be trying to encourage Puggle more in the direction of memorisation. We’ll be focussing on the same piece for a fortnight, which may help:-)
We’ll continue with the Latin nursery rhymes, but this year we are going to begin Song School Latin. It includes a number of songs, and some day-to-day phrases, so I’m not going to worry so much about using my own:-) We will attempt to continue with the French comptines, and I suspect that Puggle will listen in with Bilby’s French:-)
Over the year, we’ll be reading from The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki, The Orchard Book of Roman Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean and Egyptian Myths by Jacqueline Morley.
Bilby isn’t at quite the same stage as Puggle was two years ago (she’s effectively 6 months younger), so I don’t think she’s ready for everything I did with him:-) We’ll still do the Nursery Rhymes, and read the poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses.
She’ll join us in the Latin and French nursery rhymes, but this year, we’re going to try reading a number of (generally familiar) picturebooks in French:-) La Chenille Qui Fait Des Trous, Devine Combien Je t’Aime and Ours Brun, Dis-Moi for starters:-)

We’ve finally made the decision to go with RightStart. It’s a very hands on programme, which should appeal to Puggle (basically I think the manipulatives approach is a good idea for the early stages of maths).

English Studies (including Narration)
We’ll continue the Aesop’s Fables for Children with Puggle, and later in the year we’ll begin Fifty Famous Stories Retold. These will be where we begin paying attention to Narration. I might actually try some with him this year:-) We’ll also be reading The House At Pooh Corner, The Muddle-headed Wombat and The Loaded Dog, along with the Orange, Green and Brown Fairy Books. I plan to try Bilby out with Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales and the Blue, Red and Yellow Fairy Books, but these are where I think we’ll probably skip bits.
Obviously, we’ll be including other read-alouds as they occur to us, but they will include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, Doctor Doolittle, The Favorite Uncle Remus and The Wind in the Willows.

Health and Phys. Ed
We’re continuing with Waterbabies (swimming) this year:-) Or at least we’ll continue with Puggle for now. His class will probably collapse soon (they only take them until they are five), so then we’ll be looking at other swimming classes.

History and Geography
I’m looking forward to this a lot:-) We’re going to begin The Story of the World: Ancient Times. I’ve ordered the Activity Book as well, so we should be doing lots of stuff—I keep hearing good things about it:-)
We’ll also be reading Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary . I figure we’ll do a page or so each week, and I’ll print some colouring in pages for each word.

Unless Puggle has particular things that he wants to immerse himself in, I think we’ll be doing most of our science through the garden:-) I do hope to do Nature Walks more regularly (well, once the weather settles down a little), and I think this would be a good year to start recording the weather, but otherwise we’ll try and do a lot of planting and feeding and watering and seeing what happens. I’ve ordered The Tiny Seed and Une Si Petite Graine (one of the French picturebooks for Bilby:-) ) and I thought they should tie in nicely:-) I might pull out some of the How Things Work and Backyard/Kitchen Science books though, and leave them lying about, in case something appeals:-) (Edited to add: I’m also hoping that Keeping a Nature Journal will help inspire our nature observations!)

Art and Music
I’m going to try and be more regular about having family music nights:-) This year we’ll begin recorder (Bilby as well—because I don’t like my chances of doing it with Puggle and leaving her out:-) ). Our composers this year are Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt and Gustav Mahler/Anton Bruckner. And of course, we’ll sing:-)

I think I’ll probably repeat my art plans from last year… we didn’t really do much of them, mostly because I ended up putting the stuff away:-( I’m working on keeping art materials in a more accessible way. Our artists this year are Sandro Botticelli, Caspar David Fredrich and Vincent Van Gogh.

Technology and Enterprise
Cooking. By the end of the year, I’d like Puggle to feel confident about preparing one dinner:-) When he’s (quite) a bit more independent in his reading, I thought I might start letting him choose recipes to try:-)


Week 1, Block 6, Dorothea Term

We continued our focus on routine and habits (I don’t know that the strategies I’m currently employing can best be described as successful:-( ).

We did get to Mat (couch!) Time most days, so we did a fair amount of reading and singing… Puggle is proving fond of The Skye Boat Song:-) Bilby is choosing to come and sit with us on the couch for a portion of the time, which is nice. Up until now she has pretty much either ignored us, or wanted to nurse. But she’s now bringing her own books to have read:-) (She loves nursery rhymes!)

I’ve also introduced the dipthongs/digraphs I had planned. I’m not anticipating that Puggle will memorise them and start applying them completely, this is mostly a first introduction. When we see the week’s examples around, I’m pointing them out—although, he has pointed some out on occasion, and has sometimes suggested words that might use them. I haven’t done much more than show them to him (and encourage him to trace them—I did make them sandpaper versions… may as well make use of that), and introduce the sounds, and find examples in our reading. Later in the week though, he was asking questions (while they were colouring in), so I drew some pictures, wrote the words and the sounds and got him to match them up. It’s really hard to find concrete nouns (that are within my drawing capacity!) for each sound off the top of my head:-( I think I need to start making a list (perhaps just each week in preparation) so that I’m not trying to do it on the fly:-)

All in all, a reasonably productive week. Especially given Paddington was away and we were all somewhat on edge:-(

Book Meme

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (I have read most of the first, and I will get through the rest one day!)
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott (Loved this:-) The whole series:-) )
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (Enjoyed this far more than The Mayor of Casterbridge—but that wouldn’t be at all hard!)
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read an awful lot of them, but I know there are more I need to get to. Some I love, others I like, and others didn’t really appeal to me.)
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (I chose it for bookclub, and I still haven’t finished it yet:-( )
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot (I was given this for Christmas years ago, and I haven’t gotten to it yet.)
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (I can’t actually remember any details, but I do know I read it.)
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (I keep coming across references to this, so it’s getting to the time I’ll get around to it.)
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (Bookclub)
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (Bookclub)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery (I’m a big Anne fan:-) )
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (I had already read it, and then we read it for Bookclub.)
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding (Read it in about year 10 and hated it with a passion.)
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel (We got it for Christmas a couple of years ago, but we’ve lent it to my father-in-law.)
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (Bookclub. I hated it. The following year I taught a year 11 english class, and someone else had already set the booklist so I had to teach it. By the time I finished doing so, I was far more appreciative!)
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (Hmm… I’m pretty sure I have, although, once again, I can’t recall any details.)
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Really enjoyed most of them.)
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton (Haven’t read them in years, but I do have very fond memories.)
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (In French and English.)
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


In my last ‘progress’ post, I commented that Puggle hadn’t been using anything from the sewing cabinet. Today, that changed (for no reason that I can see… I don’t think I’ve drawn any more attention to it… I had been thinking that maybe I should do some sewing, but I hadn’t said anything!) This morning, he systematically went through four different activities! He began with the Moveable Alphabet (and spent the most time on that).

He began by writing ‘hug’! I think he was just putting letters down and happened to get that combination (except he’s obviously remembered the ‘vowel in the middle’ bit that we talked about when he was using it last time). He asked me what it said, and I encouraged him to try saying it.

His next word was ‘wez’. This time, he began to sound it out without prompting. So he changed wez to ‘webz’. Then, he began working on spider… ‘spidu’ which gave him ‘spiduwebz’.

Then he kept playing, and ended up with ‘spidukwebz’.

In speaking, he often seems to use ‘u’ for the ‘er’ sound—because ‘u is for for uncle’. It’s very australian to use ‘a’ or ‘u’ for ‘er’.
(He seems to have a surprisingly strong ocker accent… not quite sure where that comes from?!)


Week 4, Block 1, Boronia Term
It feels as though we’ve sat on the couch and read/sung quite frequently, but I think it’s mostly just been the TV cabinet stuff, as I think we only read one of the Aesop’s fables (whenever he brings the box of books over the fables book is almost always his first choice). He hasn’t done any of the sewing cabinet stuff (I think it needs clearing out a bit to make it more accessible).

He’s really paying a lot of attention to words. He was able to sound out and type ‘popcorn’ this week (although I had to tell him about the _r_), and was looking through the cake books and using the contents to look for page numbers, then reading the names of the cakes (based on the initial lettters). He was hampered a little bit because he doesn’t really know his numbers after 15 —and certainly doesn’t know which of any two numbers will be after the other (eg. will 72 be before 90).

This Week

Week 2, Block 1, Boronia Term
Introduce phonograms ‘d’, ‘f’ (sandpaper letters and sand tray)
o mea Maria (Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary)
Amabo te (Please)
Frère Jacques
Viens! (Come)

English Studies
A Lost Paradise‘ from The Lilac Fairy Book Andrew Lang
Great Claus and Little Claus’ from The Complete Illustrated Stories Hans Christian Anderson
Narration: ‘The Frogs and the Ox‘, ‘The Dog, the Cock and the Fox‘, ‘Belling the Cat‘ from The Aesop for Children Ill. Milo Winter (He’s really a bit too young for Narration, so I’m mostly going to be keeping an ear out for re-tellings, or incorporation in play)
Recitation: Buckingham Palace A. A. Milne from When We Were Very Young

Art and Music
Folksong: The Drinking Gourd
Composer: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Work: Scheherazade
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Work: Ginevra de’ Benci
Music: Loud/Soft (The Kodály Method 1 Lois Choksy) Hop Old Squirrel
Art: Watercolour
Painting a Wash (Art Ideas Fiona Watts)

A Beginning

Puggle is waking up to this…
School cornucopia (filled with the books we’ll be reading, a writing/drawing pad, new scissors, new glue, a watercolour pad, brushes and dinosaur counters),
and this…
Montessori Shelf (sand tray/sandpaper letters, limited Metal Insets, Moveable Alphabet, World Map Puzzle, paper—and you can just see the Art book open at the left… I need to re-think the layout of the art/craft materials),
and thisCabinet School… (the front of our TV cabinet… on the left door the Drinking Gourd, Ginevra de’ Benci [in black and white because I forgot to get it printed before hand] and Frère Jacques; on the right the French and Latin phrases, Corner of the Street, Bye, Baby Bunting, o mea Maria).

This Week

(I’ll update the sidebars very soon!)
Introduce phonograms ‘a’, ‘c’ (sandpaper letters and sand tray)
o mea Maria (Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary)
Amabo te (Please)
Frère Jacques
Viens! (Come)

English Studies
The Fairy Nurse‘ from The Lilac Fairy Book Andrew Lang
The Tinder-Box’ from The Complete Illustrated Stories Hans Christian Anderson
Narration: ‘The Wolf and the Kid‘, ‘The Tortoise and the Ducks‘ ‘The Young Crab and His Mother‘ from The Aesop for Children Ill. Milo Winter (at this stage I’m not going to focus particularly on narration:-) )
Recitation: Corner of the Street A. A. Milne from When We Were Very Young

Art and Music
Folksong: The Drinking Gourd
Composer: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Work: Scheherazade
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Work: Ginevra de’ Benci
Music: Loud/Soft (The Kodály Method 1) Bye, Baby Bunting
Art: Watercolour
Brushwork and Watercolour paints(Art Ideas)

Planning for 2008

General stuff:-)
As I was happy with the structure of our year in 2007, we’ll stick with the same thing in 2008. I have made a decision about the term names. This year we’ll have Boronia, Dorothea and Edith terms. They’re two great-grandmothers and one great-great-grandmother, covering three of the four branches of our family tree. We’ll start the week beginning January 13th. I have plans for a Cornucopia (as I believe they do in Germany at the start of the school year) containing coloured pencils, some new glue and scissors, more sticky tape, counters, and any other bits of stationery type things I think of to include.

Language (Including Memorisation and Copywork)
I have definite plans in this area, but I’m hoping to be able to keep a grip on myself! I’m planning to begin using Writing Road to Reading this year. I’m not necessarily thinking that we’ll use it as written, but I thought I would use their order to work through the phonograms, and aim to introduce them all this year… but mostly it will act as a resource for me—so I can look things up if I don’t know why phonograms make their sound (there were a surprising number I didn’t know when I read it a year or so ago!) As Puggle reaches the appropriate stages, I’m planning to be ready with I Spy, Moveable Alphabet, Object Boxes, Action Cards, and Reading Folders—the first two should be fairly immediate, the others I’ll work on making, so they’ll be ready when he is up to them. (I’m not going to link to all of the specific materials… I have posts planned when they’re made, or if you’re desperate to know (!) ask me in the comments:-) )
Otherwise, we’ll continue with Latin Nursery Rhymes (I have enough for two per Block!) and I’m going to add in some everyday Latin phrases (look, careful, listen, sit up etc.). We’ll start doing the same for French, so a nursery rhyme per fortnight, and everyday French phrases (I still need to sort out which comptines we’ll use).
For Memorisation, we’ll be using When We Were Very Young, by A. A. Milne. We’ll basically read and repeat a poem a week, and I’d like to pick one of the four (actually, I think it’s five per Block) to work on memorising. There are sufficient short ones that it should be possible from the start of the year.
We’ll begin Copywork properly this year. I’ll re-introduce the sandpaper letters when we do that phonogram, and I’ll also provide a Sand Tray for practice (still need to finish that). I also need to complete our ‘Metal’ Insets, which he can practice with. For these, he’ll use the ‘Lyra’ coloured pencils which are thick, triangular ones. Hopefully this will assist Puggle’s proper writing grip.

I’m basically intending a fairly Montessori style approach. I have a number of started Sensorial materials, (Pink Tower, Broad Stair, Square of Pythagoras), some completed (Red Rods, Geometric Solids—a Christmas gift, but still, ready to use), and plans to make some others Geometric Cabinet, Constructive Triangles, Binomial Cube, Trinomial Cube and Geometric Cards. I am similarly in progress with Maths materials, some complete (Number Rods, Sandpaper Numbers, Number Tablets and Number Cards), some almost complete (Spindle Box), and plans to make some of the rest.
My plan is to prepare the materials, present them as he seems ready, but just leave him to work with them as he sees fit. Obviously well also be talking about numbers as a normal part of our day (cooking, measuring and various number related books we read).
I also figured that my resolution to play more games can’t but help with maths:-)

English Studies
We’ll be reading all year from The Aesop for Children illustrated by Milo Winter. These are quite brief re-tellings, and this is the main place I’ll be working on developing Narration. I am hoping that we’ve both kind of got a grasp on it by the end of the year:-)
We’ll also be reading a selection of stories over the year from The Lilac Fairy Book, The Pink Fairy Book, The Violet Fairy Book and The Olive Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. As a family read-aloud (so, not necessarily in Mat Time, and quite possibly starting to be some before bed reading—depending on the story!) we’ll be reading selections from Complete Illustrated Stories by Hans Christian Anderson for the first part of the year, and all of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne for the last term (Edith Term:-) ) Essentially that will break down to three fables, one Fairy Book story, and one Family Read-Aloud selection a week—which I think should be do-able. I may in fact not do all the fables, but rather choose between them at the time. Certainly I doubt that we’ll be narrating more than one!

Health and Phys. Ed
We’re continuing with our weekly swimming lessons. I thought I might try introducing some yoga (through cards that he can do himself, once I’ve shown them to him). We’re working on making the ‘back’yard more contained, and we’re digging a hole for the trampoline. When he’s out there he rarely stops moving:-) I would also like to work (again!) on establishing regular Nature Walks.
(At his age I’m not seriously planning things here… But in the future I’ll need to consider this Learning Area, so I’m noting it now.)

History and Geography
We’re basically going to stick with geography for now. Puggle is really aware of maps, so we’ll make use of the Picture Atlas we have, and he got a pretty good world map puzzle for Christmas. I have plans to make a few more, plus some land and water forms (more of those Montessori materials!) We also plan to acquire a globe.

I intend (once again!) to work on including a weekly Nature walk. I’m not going to worry too much about it until the weather gets more pleasant (so, not until at least March), as I figure it’s one thing to maintain a habit when the weather drops off… but it’s much harder to establish it. We will do some more gardening. We’ll also begin observing the weather.
Aside from these, I’ve been working on various ‘Parts of Animal’ cards, and I’ll finish those, and I have plans for some of the Botany Cabinet stuff.

Art and Music
After my library find earlier this year, I was really excited to discover a copy of The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas (a single edition version of the book I’d found, plus its companion volumes) by Fiona Watts in a local shop just before Christmas. It became a family present:-) I’m planning to use this for the practical side of our art curriculum—for some years:-) I’ve decided to stick to a theme per term (at this stage, media), so I’ve pulled all the watercolour and wax crayon/oil pastel ideas out. My plan is to prepare the materials for the activity, and leave that with the book (open to the page) on the sewing cabinet. Hopefully Puggle will have the opportunity to attack the idea multiple times if he chooses. (They’re not really independent things, but it is about the process… and I’m happy to assist or inform when he wants… we’ll see how that goes.)
We’ll continue following the Ambleside Online Artist study schedule, so that means this year will be Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan van Eyck.
When I was at my last school, I was good friends with the music teacher. She was a real Kodály afficienado. She lent me The Kodály Method I: Comprehensive Music Education by Lois Choksy which I read with great interest. (I can’t follow it all yet, but I find it very inspiring.) I’ve since got my own copy so I can read and mull (and work on!), and that’s where my practical music programme is coming from—I was already planning on singing:-) We’ll continue with our Ambleside based Folksong plan, but I’ll be sure to include a range of nursery rhymes as suggested, and make sure that we talk about and experiment with the ten aspects of music that are introduced in the Preschool year plan.
We’re also following the Ambleside Composer study schedule, so Boronia Term we’ll listen to Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Aelexander Borodin and Modest Mussorgsky. Dorothea Term will be George Frederic Handel, and Edith Term we’ll listen to works by Camille Saint-Saens and Hector Berlioz.

Technology and Enterprise
(This is probably my least consisdered area… bizarre given that it’s what I taught! I guess there are a couple of reasons for that. I just don’t think as an eary it’s as important as some of the others, but equally, I’m fairly confident of my ability to wing it for a while… no need to plan at all at this stage. I do have an idea of developing a woodwork curriculum for junior primary homeschooled kids… when we reach that stage, so a little way ahead of me for now:-) )
He got a toolbox for Christmas… so we’ll start some woodwork:-) And of course, more cooking:-)

(I could never be an unschooler! But maybe I should re-read my The Latin-Centered Curriculum… this seems as though it may be a little over the top…)

In the next week before we start, I have quite a bit of sorting still to do:-( Arranging equipment/books so that they’re accessible and making sure that we have all the bits (music, still need Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, and the French comptines are proving challenging:-( ) we need. I also have a long list of materials I plan to make (or finish) in the first half of this year… I’m going to be quite busy:-)


I wanted to make sure I noted what I actually did with Puggle and the alphabet this year, as it’s not quite as I’d planned.

We did use a very laid-back approach. I had planned on a week per letter, with two weeks for the vowels. We did keep this pace. I chose to stick to just lower case letters as these are the most commonly found. I had intended to tie the craft activity to the letter—that only lasted about a month! I also planned to draw attention to that letter throughout the week.

Each week, I printed out a couple of pages of the weeks letter in outline. I had planned on using one of these (A5) sheets for the craft, and then the rest were for Puggle to draw on (A5 because at the start of the year he was basically only drawing a single line on any page… and I didn’t want a whole pile of full sheets with just one line:-) ). He has other paper as well, but I thought that if some of his pages had the letter in the background it would help him become familiar with the letters. I had thought that he’d just draw over it, but instead he would only trace the letter. As a result, I figured that I should probably show him how they were meant to be drawn so that he wouldn’t get into any bad habits.

In the end, I have been printing out one A4 page with two copies of the letter on it, and three or four A4 pages with four copies of the letter (see each week in the plans catagory for the letters). I had still intended on doing the craft, so that was one of the large copies. With the second, Puggle and I would chat about what words we knew that started with the letter, and I would draw them (well, the easy-to-draw concrete nouns… I can’t draw!) I would use one of the little pages to demonstrate how to write the letter, colouring in a bit at the bottom of the page to show which way around the letter goes, and putting a green and red dot to show where to begin and end writing the letter.

Last week we finished the alphabet.  This week he is typing his own YouTube search terms (when we spell them for him! Although for some simple words he can sound out at least the beginning of them if prompted…) He seems to mostly be able to handle both sound and letter name, although I try to be reasonably consistent with just the sound. He doesn’t really write the letters, aside from tracing them on the pages (and aside from his own initials:-) ). But I wasn’t intending for writing to be a focus at the moment. He certainly does recognise all the lowercase letters, and most of the uppercase letters. Probably he would have done even if I hadn’t done anything particularly—it’s been this year that he’s started paying attention to various alphabet books.

On Reading

Willa recently posted about her reading plans for one of her young sons. I’m particularly interested because she is taking a literature approach, which appeals to me.

She is using the Primary Reading and Literature and its accompanying Primer. She also includes links to Don Potter’s phonics site.

I am pretty set on Writing Road to Reading as our reading spine (for my phonics knowledge at the very least), but I’m starting to think about the actual ‘presentation’ of the information. Anything too formal seems somewhat over-done for home, but I’m not certain what it will look like. This post gives me some pointers.

(A little further down the track… Kathy has an interesting [and helpful] post on planning a reading programme—including pointers on numbers of pages and how to calculate how much to assign over a year.)

Sounding Out

Puggle is really paying attention to what he is saying, and regularly asks what starts with a given sound, or what sound is at the start of a word.
We’re also spending some time paying attention to how we form sounds. Since I’ve been printing the alphabet letters for him to draw on, he’s started asking what words start with that sound, or what sound does a given word begin with. And he’s been offering suggestions. Some of which are very accurate, but others remind me that he doesn’t have a complete grasp on all sounds (although, they are age appropriate still), ‘W’ for Wooster (rooster, I know ‘r’ is one of the later sounds—and in fact, he does occasionally say it correctly) and ‘P’ for bus.

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