Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Quiet House

Sat night and I'm home alone. The house is quiet, apart from music in the background. No demands, nothing that has to be done. My kids thought I was missing out when they went to the car rally with the junior youth group tonight. (Dad's driving) They were lovingly concerned about Mum being left behind.


A cup of orange red bush,

and a good book....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Week 4

Four weeks into term and we are starting to see a settling into the year, an expectation and a sense of fun. Finding the balance between fun and learning seems to be a challenge for us. Slowly I'm finding the patience to work towards balance and towards the end of this week could see some positive changes.

My Artist managed to dig herself back out of some of the bogs that have been developing in maths and writing. As long as we manage to talk through a lesson before we begin she has a good lesson and manages to get through her work confidently. When we don't umm :-(. Her writing program is a bit like that as well. By the end of the week we had a good rhythm of talking through the lessons before we began and she did well. She definitely wants to step up to the mark and to do well and its encouraging to see that. She finished the first year of Henle 1 last week!! So now we are back to verbs, I've missed having to think through what form of the verb to put in a sentence - strangely.

The Engineer - well he made it through his morning subjects in the end - and for him that is a good week. I'm hoping that his confidence in doing school also grows. I can see him enjoying the increased freedom in our afternoon studies, especially if he gets to read more and write less.

And the Naturalist - he had a fun week. I've finally let him loose on CW Aesop and he's having fun. He is such a contrast to his siblings, so structured and focused. He's my only kid that can seem to play around all morning and still turn in all his school finished first.

For Me - 4 months after we started re-decorating, I'm up to date with my girl in terms of Latin (Yep Mum finished the first year of Henle this afternoon.) and Greek. So now I can find my own rhythem to the day wihtout being overloaded. Its strange after years of trying to design the perfect schedule or routine I'm finding that having a lot more flexibility and some daily goals to be easiest. Just a list of things to acheive and keeping the decks clear enough that I'm not interuppted with distractions. Maybe there is more than a little trace of my Engineer's wandering nature in me not that I want to admit it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

A Bookworms paradise - handmade books 1830's style

The Books Arrived

After several weeks of trying to get me head around history and literature this year - we might, maybe have a solution. If we have I like it. Really like it. Its simple, it involves them tailoring their learning. It gets them reading, and I get to explore my own personal rabbit trails again.

Simply - They each read on from where they are notebook what they are interested in - keep a time-line and share with each other at the end of the day what they are learning. The Story of the world is to be our spine, or base book. From there they have each grabbed a history encyclopedia/ text and I'll feed them a steady stream of living books to keep it interesting/ provide maps to fill in and grab out any Veritas projects or source documents that seem appealing. So far I have steered away from ordering the activity guides. Mainly because we enjoy good stories, notebooking, and thinking activities but colouring sheets and questions we can do without. The kids like to organize thier own hands on projects and I like the idea of being able to turn some of the thinking over to them.

Literature is an easy maybe you want to try this as we traavel along. When life calms down I can add in read alouds but not yet. Maybe just wet day stories.

If it works I'll share the best of what they come up with, if it doesn't I'll rethink this again next week.

The photo is from one of the first mission houses in NZ - we did a lot of early history while in Northland over summer. The earlier one at the printers was the Catholic contingent. Both brought literacy to the Maori people either in terms of Maori bibles or local history.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It must have been a good day!

My husband commented tonight that I couldn't be feeling well....


I didn't manage to burn the rice!

Its been a long time since I have had the leisure time to enjoy cooking without being sidetracked.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Yesterday we headed off for a walk to the nearest piece of native bush only to discover a mass of blackberries along the edge of the reserve. When we finished our walk we returned to the car for bags and spent the afternoon braving thorns to pick blackberries - it was fun! At present they are simmering with some green apples, when they are done I'll strain them and add sugar and look forward to enjoying blackberry jelly and fresh bread tomorrow.

3 rd Week ....

Last week was one of those one step forward one step back kinda weeks. Planning for the next week leaves me with a sense of yes now I know where we are heading, but in terms of the week everyone of us managed to throw a spanner in the works. Enough said.

Highlights - I gave in and ordered the set of Story of the World books as our history spine. The boys will bounce of these into their own sidetracks. My older daughter will use them as a base for essay/ thinking topics on each major event. I think this is my compromise for sidestepping the Veritas omnibus. (I should write a post on that one sometime).

The Naturalist made it through one Aesop lesson in one week and is finally discovering full stops. (The frustration of an 8 yr old who can tell you what case each noun in a sentence should be but capital letters and full stops are a mystery he sees no reason to delve into.) He finished Elementary Greek II as well and is celebrating his success.

The Engineer had one of those upside down inside out weeks. By the end of the week he has sorted out wanting to do his work - at least between 3 pm and dinnertime... I wish I was kidding but he really does seem to fire at that time, and loose it in the morning.

My Artist survived maths, enjoyed Latin and Greek and hopefully discovered that it really is better to ask for help, or even to discuss the lesson before you start it. Independence is something she has yet to master although she would dearly love to.

Tommorrow starts another week....

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Week 2 in Review

Its our second week for the year, and I figured it would be nice to sit back each week and see what we have achieved:

I think - (but then I thought I had it before) we are settling into a routine.

  • Mornings for those skills based subjects - Maths, Latin, Greek Classical Writing, Copywork and Dictation
  • Afternoons for block courses of Science, Literature, History, Biblical and Art. Over the ten weeks of a term we get to do two blocks in each subject.
My Artist, dd has put her best foot forward - she's coped with a week of Maths, and Classical Writing, and Apologia. YES! The first chapter of Apologia General Science is hefty. She's trying so hard to get through the reading, understand it and rise to the occasion. I'm so proud.

My Engineer is still mucking about but at least in a positive way. It will take a while for him to settle down and do his work, but at least he is now enjoying it. He's trying and that's a big start. He even managed to get through the first 2 chapters of swimming creatures as a block course in the afternoons.

My youngest is still in holiday mode. He enjoys the school that he does, but he's very much aiming at getting finished before the afternoon starts. Excuse of the week - the heat got to him. Incidentally his attitude improves if I hand round the jelly dinosaurs.

The temp. has finally dropped from an average of 29 oC which is way too hot when you don't have air conditioning and are trying to think.

This is what we should probably have been imitating last week. :-)

Around the question again

I've been debating the together or apart thing for the last wee while, each day I think I have it sorted out, then I get swayed again by the options. Or maybe it is just comparing the dream of a neat home-school experience with what we actually are meant to be doing - learning.

Together seems to have so many advantages - apart we seem much more settled. It's just mum that needs to get her head around it.

But as we finish of the science units which we started independently and which I simply don't have the heart to combine - I can see each of them learning at their own pace, getting excited in their own ways.

So once again we are aiming for separate studies, hopefully this time it stays sorted.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Clearing the decks

We finally finished our first week of school yesterday afternoon. Finally because I had only intended to work a 4 day week and have Friday - Waitangi day off down at the lake.

But the way things worked out we needed a couple more days to work out that I wasn't going to spend this year rescheduling every month or so. (Or maybe I needed to see that I could be a happy rested home-school mum, or a stressed home-school mum who had home-group at her house with baking for supper and lead worship in the second service at church each week.)

I have so enjoyed getting my life under control during the holidays, seeing myself relax, my kids happy, and spending the first part of the week enjoying working with them and teaching them. Truly there were enough hours in the day to run the house, teach and have fun. We finally have heaps of fun relaxed happy pictures of my middle child! My kids are playing with each other more and having less power struggles in doing so!! This summer was good!

Playing catch up on Friday and Sat brought its own stress. Stress that went fairly soon if I could enjoy coming beside the kids and working with them, but sat around if I worried about what else I had to do, or why we weren't relaxing and recharging the batteries for the next week.

Enough stress to tell me that if I added in a weekly evening commitment for home-group and several hours of evening or school time preparation for worship well the glue that held our family together would definitely disintegrate. Which isn't my idea of fun. (I've spent enough years stressed out to realize that any chance to avoid this should be grabbed with both hands.). Add in that both Tony and I want to work on being more hospitable and enjoying the Sunday lunch with guests thing and I could see disaster on the horizon.

So my beloved made the phone calls that were needed to say that I couldn't do those things that term. Which may or may not mean this year. In the freedom that followed I can see that almost all of them put our family's need on the back burner, not always for a positive trade off. Given that leading worship used to be the thing that put a spring in my step its interesting to see the relief that I currently feel in having that commitment drop from my shoulders.

So now we have clear decks to see what God has in store for our family this year...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feeling Nostalgic

As we started this school year I had some decisions to make. What level my dd studied at and whether we spent the year in one time period with lots of read-alouds or three with lots of independent work.

It wasn't an easy choice.

For background I have three children all two years apart, the artist (12) struggled with reading and in lots of ways lost confidence, the engineer (10) struggled with school and the youngest 8 is a get on and do it seriously independent learner.

The pluses of keeping them together are

  • Its easier on me - only one period to research and think about, one set of books to pre-read.
  • Much easier to just pick books up as read alouds and go for it,
  • easier selecting family read alouds,
  • and the kids can play with each other acting out scenes from battles, or events in history.
  • and Great discussions with the kids.
  • More flexibility to make it a family thing, and include field trips etc into learning.

The pluses of keeping them separate,

  • It eliminates competition, and trying to live up to other children's expectations.
  • It lets me allow my artistic daughter to delve into art more while my engineer gets into the inner workings of a matchlock rifle or ship.
  • The youngest doesn't always feel like they are behind - and homeschooling they don't necessarily get that 2 years older means I can do more than you.
  • If one child has a bad week, or month everyone doesn't stall.
At 7th grade or similar the work changes significantly and keeping them all together looks like it will be harder than running separate courses. Stepping everyone up to Apologia General science, or Daddy's computer based science course isn't quite as useful as it might be. Having the my daughter separate and the boys together well that doesn't seem fair either.

But the main reason is probably my youngest - was seeing my very bright 8 yr old (he's up to the third year of Elementary Greek and half way through LC II tell me that he feels stupid.) Part of that is his strong will coming out and that he wants to be the leader in the family, but part of that is that he can see each day that his older siblings draw better, and write deeper. On separate tracks he is so much happier and relaxed and his work is more about what he is learning. He stops trying to achieve and starts relating to what we are learning

It takes the pressure off my engineer as well - he isn't being pushed to keep ahead of my youngest and feeling a failure - because being in the middle he gets that their is a difference in two years and he should be ahead of his brother.

There are other reasons and I would love to hear where others have got to as I am still a little undecided. Or rather a little sad that the afternoons crashed out on the couch as a family with a good book are ending.

Well that was one way to start a term

We started school for the year on Monday, and despite feeling tired from the heat, the kids good attitudes kept up and we had a really good first day back. We still have a few things - like not interrupting people in the middle of discussions and putting away books, but it was a good start.

So Tuesday morning, same promising attitudes, mum multitasking in the kitchen , making yogurt and explaining decimals, kids crowding a little close. An being careful, I pull the newly filled yogurt incubator away from the edge of the bench so it doesn't catch the kids ... and pour near boiling water down my left hand. I've been in bandages ever since - no dishes, limited cooking, no laundry, very little writing, or until now typing - yep left handed Mummibear.

What it has done is meant that we take not interrupting a little more seriously.

The kids have been great at picking up the lose ends and doing extra cooking and cleaning.

An it pushed forward a move towards a more relaxed home school which has been great.

And that discussion on Classed about making yogurt in the crock-pot certainly has my attention

Yogurt Recipe

Tweak to Yougurt Recipe