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The Genial Hearth
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Archive for Progress

He Signed!

I’ve been using signing (intermittently, it’s true) with Cygnet. He hasn’t seemed especially taken with it (I thought).

But this morning, he signed ‘More’ (completely unprompted… he likes his weetbix!) and ‘All Done’ (after I asked him if he was all done).

On reflection, he hit me on the chest yesterday when he wanted to nurse (the sign for breast is hitting your own chest!)

Another tool in his communication belt:-)

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:-)
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:-)

Five and Standing and Mixing Colours!

So yesterday, I sent Bilby to go and get three nappies to put in the nappy bag before we headed out. She came back to put them in, but told me she could only find two. I asked to see them and there were actually two! I quizzed her on a couple of other numbers, and she knows her numbers up to five… and most of her shapes (although, she hasn’t picked up ‘quadrilateral’ from Puggle’s maths:-) That got him a few raised eyebrows the other night at dinner:-) ). She has also apparently got most of her colours sorted—all except for black and brown, which Puggle still confuses…

Cygnet has decided in the last day or so that he’s ready to try standing! He’ll randomly let go of things, and although at first he sat pretty much immediately, now he’s letting go and grabbing hold again:-) Then he gets a look of such delight:-) Of course, it usually earns applause from his siblings, which requires even more grins:-)

Puggle has been colouring in and painting. He’s getting much better at staying between the lines. Today, he decided to use the watercolours to paint his History pictures, so I had a delightfully rendered Spartan Warrior—with carefully mixed purple (‘that’s the colour they get from snail shells’), after he collected the colour wheel to help him with his proportions (they are quite fond of the purples, so they’ve used up all that was on the tray:-) )


Week 4, Block 6, Dorothea Term

This has been a bit of a mixed week. Puggle’s done his boxes most days… but Bilby has missed Mat Time most days. Puggle has experimented with clay—and interesting progression from his beeswax work.

His reading is coming along in leaps and bounds. This week he was reading some of the Edward Lear limericks he’s only heard once. I can ask him to tell me things from recipes (although, I generally need to tell him where to look if I need the answer quickly!) He’s choosing to read a lot more often.

He’s making use of his timer (and I’ve got times listed for the first 4 things) so once he actually starts, he progresses through them quite steadily.


As a reward for that flurry of back-dated planning posts an Up-to-the-minute Cygnet Update! He’s 10 and a bit months old, and has eight teeth (as of about two weeks ago).

He can clap! He’s been doing ‘high five’ claps, with me for a couple of weeks, but he started banging some blocks together, and next thing you know… he was clapping!

In the last week or so, his random hand movements have turned into definite waves (still as likely to be towards himself, as to someone else).

Also, today we were at my niece M’s birthday, and she pushed herself onto hands and feet. Someone asked if Cygnet could do that, and I very dismissively said no. However, he’s just done that, too!

All while being miserable with a cold:-(

This Week

Our plans for
Week 2, Block 4, Dorothea Term

Chapter 9 ‘Review’ from Song School Latin by Amy Rehn
‘Chains of Love’ from The Orchard Book of Roman Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean
‘The Miser’, ‘The Wolf and the House Dog’, ‘The Fox and the Hedgehog’ from Aesop’s Fables for Children Illustrated by Milo Winter
The Muddle-headed Wombat by Ruth Park
‘Prince Narcissus and the Princess Potentilla’ from Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
‘The Jumblies’ The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense by Edward Lear
Copywork: Name, ‘n’, ‘p’
RightStart B

‘In the City’ from European Word Book by Richard Scarry
‘Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake’, ‘Davy Davy Dumpling’ from My Very First Mother Goose Iona Opie
‘Escape at Bedtime’, ‘Marching Song’ from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert L. Stevenson
‘The Master Thief’’ from The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisherby Beatrix Potter (I’ve borrowed a number of these on CD, and have found that’s helped a lot with reading them this time around!)
La chasse à l’ours by Michael Rosen

Caput, Umerus, Genu et Digitus
Veni! (Come!)
J’Entends le Moulin
S’il te plait (Please)
Folksong: The Rose of Tralee
Composer: Franz Liszt
Work: Piano Concerto No 1 (This is a link to a recording)
Artist: Caspar David Friedrich
Work: The Cross in the Mountains
Music: Long/Short (p. 24 The Kodaly Method I)
The Wishing Song
Art: Wax Crayons
Stained Glass effect (p. 74 The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas)
‘Geyser’, ‘Glacier’ from Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton
‘The Jewish People’ from The Story of the World: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer
Recorder ‘Semibreve Samba’ from Black Belt Recorder 1


Week 4, Block 3, Boronia Term

Well… owing to recovering from Swancon (and the short week that gave us), we really did very little (in fact, I think Puggle pretty much just did Weather Watch). Of course, he did play a number of games (fair amount of problem solving there) and played with numbers a few times… he’s quite taken with the idea of maths:-) Just as well next week is Break Week—I think I’ll plan on being a little more productive than usual to make up for it a bit!


Week 3, Block 3, Boronia Term

Not as much done this week as I would like to have achieved. We spent some time working on Puggle’s costume, and otherwise preparing for Swancon:-)


Week 2, Block 3, Boronia Term

I’m really struggling with establishing our second ‘learning’ session. I’m calling it the Afternoon Focus Time, and I’m tending to try and do it after I’ve put Bilby to bed for her nap, just as I’m about to settle Puggle for his Quiet Time. This is fine as long as the activity is basically reading… but there’s a range of hands-on things we’re just not getting to. (Well… I’m not always getting to the reading, either—we’re often both in need of Quiet Time when it comes to it!)

The morning time however is progressing nicely.


Week 1, Block 3, Boronia Term

Not bad. We hit most of the things I had planned. Maths is continuing to be a hit, as is Latin (although, I do need to be more particular about checking the activities ahead of time in case there are things I need to prepare). They’re both rather taken with When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again:-)


Week 5, Block 2, Boronia Term

Very relaxed:-) It actually felt quite different from our usual pattern—which hasn’t been the case in the past. We did sing occasionally, and Puggle (and Bilby:-) ) asked about Mat Time/Maths/Copywork (very cute, Bilby asking about ‘Dopyword?’).


Week 4, Block 2, Boronia Term

We did Mat Time and Table Time four out of the five days (which is all I’m really planning on). Puggle needed to write his name in a birthday card this week, and it was definitely much more consistent in size and the letters were far more controlled (that’s what he’s been doing for Copywork). He’s been very excited to do his maths each morning, and has been telling everyone he comes across about it:-) He’s continuing to be happy and excited by his Latin:-)

We didn’t actually do History this week… But the activity book arrived this week, so I was happy to leave it another week so I can line activities up for it:-)

I’m doing Science for Co-op at the moment, so we began Electricity… and we’ve also been managing not to kill things in the garden:-)

Bilby has had yet another language spurt! She’s singing a whole pile of songs that are distinguishable by the lyrics, instead of only the tune. She seems particularly taken with ‘Old MacDonald’—what I find odd is that it’s our Latin nursery rhyme at the moment, but I can’t think of the last time we sang it in English… and yet, that’s what she’s singing:-)

Six Months

Cygnet has been with us for six months now!

His siblings are still madly keen on him (if anything, they are even more keen than they were originally… now that he grins back at them!)

In the last day or so, he is able to remain sitting up (not with sufficient assurance that I’d leave him unattended, but he doesn’t require support). He’s been doing push ups (and getting into everything!) for the last week or so.

Still no teeth, though!

I find it amazing. Puggle has always been described as looking just like Paddington… Cygnet is the child most frequently likened to me—and yet it’s almost impossible (aside from eye colour) to distinguish between them in photos at the same age!


Week 2, Block 2, Boronia Term

This has been a good week. We’ve not been especially well, but Puggle has been doing a lot of incidental reading, and lots of writing (copying all sorts of things:-) ). We’ve made progress on most of the reading, and I’ve borrowed the Beatrix Potter stories on CD from the library, which has helped save my voice a little:-)

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