Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why I Haven't Blogged

I feel like I must apologize for not keeping up with this blog like I did in it's beginning. It's the usual excuses - busy, no time, bla bla bla...

Wait, no, I take that back. I don't apologize. I have been busy. I haven't had the time. But, there are no excuses to be made. I've been spending my time...

~riding bikes with my girls, Graedon in the baby seat smacking my back to make me pedal harder.

~reading ridiculously good books.

~putting away applesauce, pickles and veggies.

~baking pumpkin pie, cheesecakes and muffins.

~snuggling with my eldest who has been desperate for Mommy attention.

~watching my little guy grow up so fast, I can hardly believe it.

I'd apologize, but I'm not sorry.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne

I mentionned Charlotte Mason a few posts back, and here's an example of how we're incorporating her approach into our homeschooling.

Charlotte Mason is all about "living books". In laymen's terms, that means books that are well written, imaginative, use big words, and encourage moral/intellectual and character development. You know, books that don't suck.

I like books that don't suck.

I found a reading list of books, and joy of joys! We had one of them in our bookshelf. I present to you: Winnie the Pooh!

Please excuse the dog-eared look of the book. It is well-loved and voraciously read. Show me a new-looking book, and I'll show you an unloved book :(

This isn't your watered down, pop-cultured Disney version. This is the real deal. The book is filled with big words like "indeed", "wedged", "bonhommy" and "expedition". At first I thought the kids wouldn't understand the vocabulary, but they did! I like that about living books - they treat children as intelligent mini adults, not as little idiots.

The way the words are printed add so much to the story. Here, you can see the chapter where Pooh uses a balloon to float up to the hive. The words follow Pooh up the page. Ingenious! Artistic! Fascinating!

And the pictures! It's so nice to read a book to the kids that doesn't rely on flashy cartoons to keep their interest. The story itself is enough to cause them to ask for an extra chapter at bedtime.

As I said earlier, this isn't your watered-down Disney version. The author goes into the animals' characters in depth, and it's subtle enough for the kids, yet absolutely captivating for the adult reader. Remember what I said about treating the kids as intelligent little adults? It turns out that in the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Kanga and Roo are not native of the 100 Acre Wood. Actually, they just show up one day and Rabbit, Pooh and Piglet hatch a plan to get rid of them by - are you ready for this - kidnapping Roo!

There go all my fuzzy childhood memories. I love it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

First Field Trip

Our first field trip of the year with the Homeschool Group - Apple Picking! We bundled up against the wind, rain and cold, and drove to the orchard.

Some of the apples were nearly as big as Graedon's head...and he has a BIG head!

Eva practiced the proper way to pick an apple. You see, you must grasp the apple with the palm of your hand. If you use your fingers, you might bruise it. Then, twist ever so slightly to the left and upend the apple so that it is upside down. It should snap right off, causing little or no damage to the bud that is next year's apple. Whatever you do, don't just twist and yank!!

This apple picking stuff is complicated and serious business!

Back at the apple house, the tour guide showed us their set up. This is a machine that washes the apples, coaxes them up a conveyor belt, feeds them into a sizer and gets rid of all the smallish apples. The small ones are sold at rock bottom prices, or for deer and pig apples.

And, speaking of apples - we picked potatoes this week! Was that too subtle? French for apples is pommes. Potatoes are pommes de terre (earth apples)....I'll give you a minute for that one.

My lovely mother digging the potatoes up. Those branches in the ground are dead potato plants. That's how you know they're ready, I guess.

Each plant will give 6-8 potatoes. Considering it only takes about 1/4 to 1/2 a potato to make a plant, that's a pretty good turnout.

Mmmm...Jems! Eva was very into the potato picking. There was much squealing, clapping and pouncing on the spuds. Every once in a while, there would be a shriek, "Worm!!" and a stomping of feet.

She's so like her mother!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do It Right

My day begins the night before. I am making a habit of organizing everything that I'll need for school in the evening so that I will be ready to go when 8 am rolls around. Last night I didn't do my normal prep work. And today sucked. Big time!

If I am organized, I can eliminate the, "um, let's see" moments and the "uh, here, colour for a minute while I find the book I need" moments. If I have everything neatly stacked in the school drawer, then school time will flow from one subject to the other, the kids won't get fidgety, and Graedy will be properly supplied with snacks and toys and Mommy will keep her sanity.

Today, though, I am paying dearly for last night's lapse. The kids are in bed, supposedly thinking about how they can better behave tomorrow. I am taking deep breaths, trying to calm down. The kitchen is a mess...

It's a lesson well-learned for Mama. Don't skimp out on your work. If you're going to do it, do it well.

Now, where did I put my super-sized coffee mug?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Good Lesson Learned...

When it's very blustery (scary windy here in J-town), alway, ALWAYS stand upwind when you're pouring leftover soup into the compost pile.

One With Nature

We're eclectic homeschoolers. Okay, who'm I kidding? We're just plain old eclectic! When it comes to homeschooling, though, we use a mix of everything. Nature walks are very Charlotte Mason and with our table work done, we took advantage of the beautiful weather.

We went on a nature walk in the woods behind our house. The closer we got to the trees, the more nervous Eva became. Here she appears to be tip-toeing on the path so as not to awaken any bears. Especially the big ones.

I told them that if you sing loudly when you walk in the woods, it will keep the bears away. This is especially true of my singing :) In no time, the hills were alive with the sound of m-u-u-u-sic!

Graedon had priority seating. The goal of the nature walk was to collect things with different textures like soft, hard, rough, picky, smooth, etc. I knew those peach baskets would come in handy someday!

Back at the house, we sorted out our treasures and glued them to a paper that the girls labeled with the appropriate textures.

And VOILA!! The finished product.

Charlotte Mason was right on target with her nature walk idea. From this project alone, we did: Gym, Music, Penmanship, Science and Character Studies.

If I was Martha Stewart, I'd say it was a good thing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

School Readiness for Eva!

Something made Eva very happy yesterday.

Very happy!

Eva started School Readiness! A big girl of almost 4 years old, she has the same opportunity as her big sister did last year. She spent the morning with 9 other kids singing songs, playing games and practicing her letter A and number 1.

And she looked pretty cute, to boot.

She was even thrilled with the homework she had to take home! Hurray for Eva!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why I Homeschool...

I think most homeschooling families have a "Why I Homeschool..." list. Some of them keep it on their fridge, tucked into their Bibles, on the bathroom mirror or even in their heads. Every family's list will be different, but it's very helpful - maybe even essential - to have that list to look back on when the bad days come. Here goes!

Why I Homeschool (in no particular order)...

1) I want to nurture and celebrate my children's identities.

My girls are vastly different. They are day and night, black and white, yin and yang and all that stuff! Eva is a very affectionate, loving, motherly little gal. Maddie is reserved, nervous and very much a thinker. It takes Maddie a long time to warm up to new people and situations, whereas Eva makes friends with anyone and everyone. A couple years ago, a family member got very upset when Maddie wouldn't hug her on command. When I explained that Maddie wasn't a huggy person (like her Mom), she declared that I would have to "change her".
Looking back to my own childhood, and by watching the children around me, it's very clear that the different children are ostracised. They are picked on, ignored, teased, bullied. If you want to survive in the school system, you quickly learn to tone down or discard your little quirks. You learn to deny your love of anything "uncool". You don't participate in anything that might be corny or weird, even if you love it very, very much. I love my kids for who they are, and I want them to love themselves that way, too - silly quirks and all.

2) I want to foster family relationships.

You hear it all the time, "Enjoy your little ones! Once they go to school, you've lost them." Lost them? What? And it's true.

3) I want to keep God in all the areas of their lives.

I was shocked when my niece was in Kindergarten. Their school (and we live in the Bible Belt of NB) had forbidden the teachers to say "Merry Christmas" or even talk about Jesus. It's not so much that God is picked on or spoken badly about. It's that He is ignored, pushed aside and forgotten. If God is to be the centre of our lives, then how can it be that our children will spend 30 hours per week in an environment where He is discouraged?

4) I want to avoid labels.

Nerd. Cry-baby. Jock. Teacher's Pet. Juvy. Stupid. Slut. That first year, that first month, that first week will be the basis of what my child will be for the next 12 years. Once you're slapped with a label, it's almost impossible to shake it. If you make a mistake, it will be remembered. Worse, after hearing your label every day of school, you become that label - even if it wasn't accurate at first.

5) I want to encourage my children to decide who their playmates will be regardless of age/status/sex/etc.

What I love about the families that I know who homeschool is that they are very, very different from each other. There's the mom who wears long skirts and covers her head (admit it, that's what you think of when you think homeschooling!). There's the mom who wears 4 inch stilletos and dresses like a fashion model. They're all different - and nobody cares. Our differences are valued.

6) I want to tailor my children's education according to their needs.

As a supply teacher I was very upset that some of the teachers I replaced couldn't spell or conjugate verbs to save their lives. I regularly come across teenagers and High School graduates who can't read. Homeschooling doesn't guarantee a straight A student, but it's a whole lot harder to slip through the cracks when your teacher can count her students on one hand!

7) I want to give my family the time and freedom to discover their own interests and talents according to their personalities, not current fads.

It takes a lot less time to homeschool than it does to public school. When you subract the time it takes to bus to and from school, recesses, lunch, standing in line, tranfering classes, waiting for other students to finish, busy work, etc, you can usually finish school by lunch time. That leaves most of the day to develop hobbies, take classes, play and discover!

8) I want to encourage my children to develop their leadership/decision-making skills.

A student's life is dictated by many leaders - teacher, district, government, schedule, clock, recess bells, regulations, etc. It's hard to learn how to make your own decisions when you don't have the opportunity to practice. With large groups of children, it's essential that they all follow. If they tried to follow their own paths, it would be mayhem. At home, though, it's a good thing!

9) I want to teach life skills and work ethics through volunteering and true-to-life experiences.

Homeschool is flexible. You can very easily accomodate a part-time job for your kids or volunteering. It's tough to keep a job when you've only got a limited amount of hours after school, homework, family, and extracurricular activites.

10) I want to be personally involved in my children's education.

You know when you ask kids what they learned in school today? And they say, "Nothing." I want to be able to say it's something!

Homeschooling - it's not all roses and ponies. For us, though, it's what's right.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Day of School

Our first day in pictures:

Reading time...we do devotions, read books, talk about the day and week to come...

Maddie and Eva making Cheerio towers. They are comparing numbers and it helps to see how high their towers are in relation to the order of the numbers. For example, a 6 Cheerio tower is higher than a 3 Cheerio tower, and therefore greater.

Maddie really enjoys her Saxon math workbook. It helps her concentrate to stick her tongue out.

Decorating her Science folder.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Schools In!

So sorry! This update is long overdue. Our computer has been sick with a virus and we're still waiting for it to be fixed.

This past week has been pretty busy. School officially started for us on August 31st. Maddie and I had a special date. She wanted to get her ears pierced! Unfortunately, after the first ear was done, she clapped her hand over her unpierced ear and wouldn't let the piercer anywhere near her! So, Maddie has one pierced ear...which is just what she wanted (so she says). Eva, being the Monkey See Monkey Do, followed suit pretty quickly. The next day, we got hers done. Both of them!

We're slowly falling into a routine with school. Here's a quick rundown of what can be expected at my house on school days:

6:30 am - Mommy wakes, showers, checks e-mails, eats breakfast.
7:15 am - Kids wake (if not already), get dressed, eat breakfast.
7:45 am - Chore time! Yay!
8:00 am - School starts!

Usually, school begins with singing O Canada in english and french. Last year, I led the kids in singing songs. Eva loved it, but Maddie HATED that. This year, I've nixed the sing-a-long but I've been playing kids' tapes during breakfast. After O Canada we do our devotions, read aloud and talk about any news we have. Then, it's table time. Saxon math is first, which includes calendar and weather. Next, reading with Phono-Graphix. After that, depending on the day, we do Science or French. Crafts and extras are sprinkled in here and there.

Eva is doing preschool. I'm doing a Letter of the Week program with her. This week is letter "B". Lots and lots of butterflies!

Graedon runs around, makes a mess and creates a ruckus. He eats an incredible amount of snacks in my attempt to keep him quiet. I'm still ironing out the details on that one!

I'll post some pictures in the next few days...if the computer cooperates.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tough Cookie!

Poor little Eva. We went to Grampy's farm for a supper/campfire/hay ride and she had a pretty rough time of it. We all loaded up into the wagon for a trip around the field. The kids were loving it, and Grampy stopped the tractor by some old hay bales. We jumped around them, having a good time! Suddenly, Eva started to cry and yell, "Picky! Picky!" Thinking it was thistles, I didn't pay much mind until my dad yelled, "Hornets!" 3 bites to the face and limbs...

Later, as a special treat, Grampy brought the kids to feed corn husks to the cows. He told Eva repeatedly not to get too close to the electric fence, then, ZAP!! I heard her screaming all the way on the deck! Oddly enough, the fence hurt more than the bee stings.

She was fine after a few minutes, but I think she went to bed a little bit wiser that night.