Monday, September 30, 2013

Rudolf, Charlotte and Maria - Part One

We are an inspired homeschool family.

Inspired by a whole bunch of people.

This is the first year of homeschooling where I really feel like we have developed a path, are thriving on this path and can see the path lead us in a direction where there is light at the end of it instead of uncertainty.

Over the summer, I was nose-in-book.  I was really searching for something more for our family.  I found our homeschool becoming too school like and I wasn't thrilled with that.

One thing I knew that I was looking for was a way to bring more spiritualism and calmness to our daily activities.  And by spiritualism, I don't mean religious spiritualism.  I mean a sense of self, a sense of connection between us and the world around us, and a sense of being. 

The other thing I knew I wanted was to incorporate were stories and singing.  During the last year of homeschooling the song had left our family and we rarely made time for stories anymore. We were a bleak bunch!

Next up, nature.  The kids thrive in nature so I wanted to make sure that it was a huge part of our lives.  I didn't want to be stuck at a table when the sun was calling us outside.

And lastly, I really wanted a focus.  Not a schedule, but something that would keep us gently moving in the right direction, but not make me feel all stressy and hassled and a slave to check lists and goals.

I found most of my answers with Rudolf, Charlotte and Maria.

Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and creator Waldorf Education.  (If you are wondering where the name Waldorf comes from, Steiner was approached by the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette company to create a school for the children of his workers. Tada! The first Waldorf school was created.)

Charlotte Mason, an educator who believed that children were people and should be treated as such, and who believed that children should be taught facts through stories instead of just the dry fact based text books.  Sign me up!

Maria Montessori, a doctor and educator, who's main focus started with children who had special needs.  Her educational philosophy is very scientific and based largely on providing manipulatives and sensory exploration for children to develop specific skills.

These are just loose descriptions of these wonderful people.  In the next few blog posts I will outline in more detail each educator's philosophy and the bits and pieces that we have adopted for our homeschool.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School Tomorrow

Well, looking at the clock, really, it is today.

The summer has flown so quickly.  I'm sitting here and the breeze coming through the window has some very chilly fall undertones to it. 

But still, when I looked at the calendar this morning, I couldn't help saying WHAT THE WHAT????

How can it be September already?

And tonight I find myself awake with anticipation over tomorrow.

Tomorrow we fully immerse ourselves in a new way of learning and family life and I'm so excited, I can't sleep. 

I'm hoping the routines and rhythms we create together will help us to connect again, feel relaxed again, and most of all, have fun again! We've started some and I have noticed a marked change in our day to day interactions already.

So here is a basic outline of what we'll be doing in the coming weeks.

Wake, eat, dress, walk dog, all the nitty gritty that happens every morning.

Next up, morning circle.  This is where stories will be told, songs will be sung, games will be played, and it will be the basis of the main lesson work that comes next.

At each circle, stories and songs will focus on specific topics. Tomorrow we'll be starting with phonics for my little lady, and I have created a story that I will share while drawing pictures at the same time that incorporate the letter a and words that being with that sound.  The next day we'll stay with the a theme, read a story called Mouse and the Great Big Apple, and focus on math by talking about, and using a real apple, sharing an apple.  For Anna we will focus on the number one (each person gets one piece) for Alex I'll focus on beginning to learn times tables through grouping. Then the next day we'll go back to A and the next we'll do math again. Right now we are only going to be doing circles four days a week.

After our morning circle, we move on to working on our main lesson book.  This is the extent to our table work this year, will be short and sweet and focus on what was discussed during our circle.  Tomorrow, Anna and I will draw things that start with Aa and practice writing the letter. Alexander will work on "a" word patterns, drawing pictures and spelling the words beside them. 

Alexander will also be doing JUMP math, because he was sad to have completed his math workbook and not have something to continue.  And he will also read aloud each day from a reader of his choice.

We'll also have time to continue our project work.  Each of us currently has a project we are working on that we focus on for a period of time each day.  These are things we chose, and are available for us to work on whenever and however long we want.  Alexander right now is working on knitting, Anna is making a robot out of recyclables as well as making puppets out of felt with me and I try to write when I get a chance (but really, any time one is working on a project, I take that time to keep the house from looking like a bomb exploded.)

Geography we'll do through History which will be told through stories.  Right now we are reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, as well as looking through the History of Canada and how European's settled and lived when they first came to Canada. Later this month we'll be visiting Crawford Lake Conservation Park and see a longhouse and learn about First Nations heritage.

For science we'll mostly be working on observing the natural environment and study what the kids show an interest in.  This will happen more incidentally, but will also make it's way in to morning circles. 

But most importantly, what we'll be doing is singing.  My kids love to sing.  They love to hear me create songs on the fly, silly poems about mundane things.  They love finger plays and nursery rhymes and we'll be doing a lot of those all day long. 

I'm excited!  And I really should be getting to sleep so I don't feel like a zombie tomorrow...

Happy first day of school, how ever you plan to celebrate it!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's a Pioneer's Life

Alexander is a history buff, just like his mama. 

When at the library, he skips the picture books and chapter books and goes straight to the non fiction shelves in search of the perfect next book about a time far away from our reality.

It is the one things we totally bond over. 

He and bond over many of his interests.  He can talk to me endlessly about his Legos, or pirate drawings, or obstacle courses he's created in my livingroom, or plans for his club house. And I enjoy those moments.

But over history, we BOND. We bond on the level that he bonds with Peter when they get creating something with wood and nails or starting a fire or tinkering with the car.  It is a pure interest that we both share that provides endless hours of discussion with out any of it being forced or false. 

A few days back my mom helped me with the kids for the day so I could dig my house out of the homeschool planning mess of the century, without the kids "helping".  She took them outside and they played happily in the front yard while I cleaned inside.

After about three hours, my mom called up the stairs asking me to come down to see something.  This is what she wanted me to see...

My little man had spent the entire morning "fishing" (represented by the bark on the plank), then seasoning and smoking the fish on the plank across the green bins.

Beside the "hearth" hang the spices he is drying.  On the ledge, the spices he has collected from the "field" and is preparing for use as a seasoning on the fish. 

He even found a long curved stick with a Y at the end that he used to stoke the fire between the green bins and "breathe air in to it" by pretending the stick was a bellows. 

What gets me is up until now he has been really interested in the farming practices and building methods of pioneers, and that has been the focus of all our long talks about pioneers.  Even when we go to check out Pioneer Village, he checks out the fields and flowers and the structure of the houses. 

He picked all this up incidentally during our visits to villages and picture books from the library. Mom was totally floored by the preciseness and detail he put in to every move, making sure it was as authentic as he could make it.  He even, at one point, requested suspenders for Christmas, because "pioneer pants don't have 'lastic and can't stay up on their own.".  What the...

He's my little man.  A history buff in the making :)

Oh, and the fish he was smoking?  They are now salted (with chalk of course) and hanging by their tails ready for the long cold winter ahead. 

Just in time for us to start reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I wonder what he will come up with next.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Six Things I Learned This Summer

We start our third year of homeschooling in a few days.  While we did some educational activities during the summer months to keep our minds fresh (reading words in the latest LEGO catalog counts, right?), we mostly took this summer off.  

At the end of the "school year", I felt that something wasn't working.  Something felt wrong with how I was teaching and how my kids were learning.  To look at it, everything looked great.  Alexander was thriving and Anna was enthusiastically learning anything she could from Alexander's lessons.

The kids were doing great.

But still, I had this unsettled feeling that something needed to change.

It wasn't until after a few weeks of relaxation and leisurely afternoons in the garden ,and a step away from doing any school-like work, I realized that the pacing of our lives, our daily rhythm, was off. 

In all honesty, we didn't really have one.

We were very busy this year, with group trips, group classes, gymnastics, play dates, park dates, you name it, we did it.  At the beginning of each season, I would swear up and down we weren't going to do as much, but then so many opportunities came up that our calendar got just as full as the last. 

On the education front, I had the same feeling.  I had so many resources and book marked web pages bogging down my brain, a million projects on the go, a zillion things I wanted to do, and even though Alexander was doing really well, I really felt like walking in to another year of it was going to wear me down.  

So I thought. And sat.  And drew charts and check lists and wrote and sat and thought, and by the beginning of August I had a plan. 

I needed to scale down the school year, make things more simple, and really focus on what I wanted to accomplish.

In the process I learned these six things:

1. I'm picky, and I'm okay with that

There will never be any educational resource,  curriculum, or theory that will ever be perfect for me and my family.  To this point, I've been putting together a hodge podge of resource books and self created curriculum, and while it has worked really well for Alexander, I know I can't keep doing it like this forever.   Well, I can. I just don't want to.
 So after belly-aching for weeks about the fact that I wish I had the time to create the perfect curriculum, I did it. Yep, crazy old me sat down and created my own curriculum.  I don't care how long it takes us to do it. I didn't create a schedule, just a general plan and method. But the relief I feel going in to the next year shows me that it needed to be done.   A picky person like myself will never be happy with anything other than what works for my family. Period. 

2. I don't fit in to a box, and I'm okay with that. 

 Along the lines of lesson number one, I have perused and flipped through countless complete curriculum kits.  Everything from classical to Montessori, Waldorf to Earth School.  Because REALLY, why reinvent the wheel when someone out there has already done it for me???  

Well, apparently not. 

My problem with curriculum sets is this: they are either too heavily based in a particular faith or spirituality, or are way too ridged and school like (or with the case of classical, way more work than typical school and who the heck wants to sign up for that). I really only ever fall in love with 1/16th of it and the rest I can do without, thank you very much. 

And, as I've said before on this blog, I love the idea of unschooling/child led learning/learning from life experiences learning.  But I'm way too anal for that amount of freedom.  And quite frankly, so is Alexander, ha ha. 

3. I don't like to be told what to do, and I'm okay with that.  

This was possibly the most life changing (well, homeschool changing) realization ever.  

Shocking, I know.  

Anyone who knows me is currently laughing at the obvious. After all, you don't become a homeschooling family by doing what other people tell you to do.  I've never really been one to go with the grain just because that is how it's done, so I don't know why this came as such a surprise to me. 

But, apparently, when you tell me the who, what, when, where, why and how of teaching my kids, I'm all, "YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!".  

In summary, I love the concepts behind all different theories of education, just not the actual content and method of delivery.

4. I CAN do it, it doesn't have to be perfect, and two steps backwards isn't going to hurt anyone.  

What I eventually ended up doing is taking all the bits of everything I love about different educational theories and pedagogies, and creating something that works for our family.  It is a work in progress, but isn't everything?  

What I created is full of nature, singing, stories, books, drawing, painting and a whole host of other things the kids love to do. It will grow with us, it will change, it will become what it has to become to be effective for us as a family. 

But most importantly, no more trees will die because of my photocopying. 

5. I need to say NO to activities more often than yes, and that includes planning activities for groups.

I'm already having difficulties with this one, seeing as I'm in the midst of planning a few things already.  This one is going to be harder for me than anything else.  

6. I need to create a rhythm and stick to it.  

I knew this already, but ignored the fact. 

My main goal for this year is to become more in tune with each other as a family. We seem to have drifted apart this summer, our unit is not as tight at it was before. My kids thrive on routine and while we have had a great summer, I can see that all the freedom and constant change in schedule has really worn on them. We haven't been spending enough time just BEING with each other. 

I know it sounds crazy, but my kids are actually asking to do school work and settle in to a routine again, and I know it is because they miss the closeness of my attention during those times in the day.  That tells me that I haven't been giving enough of myself to my kids, and their unrest and attitude towards me shows it. 

I'm actually looking forward to starting the school year now.  That feeling of dread and oppression has lifted and been replaced with excitement and anticipation. 

The kids are getting excited too because they see things changing already.  They see I'm much more engaged, much more here, than I was before. 

And really, that was the biggest lesson I learned of all ( I guess I need to change the title of the blog to seven...). 

7. The more I give my kids, the more they give back. 

When I'm engaged with my children for periods of time during the day, they spend the other times of the day engaged in their own tasks, and I don't always feel like I'm drowning in their constant need for attention.  It isn't about quantity, it is all about quality.

They got my attention, their needs are fulfilled, and now they are allowing me to attend to my needs. 

Sounds like a plan to me. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Funny how things evolve...

I was looking at my blog today and started to think about it's name and how the blog has gone through such an amazing evolution but still the name stands strong in its meaning.

I initially AGONIZED over the title of my blog.  Literally.  It took me DAYS and DAYS to find just the right title.  I was stressed out because I was stressing out.  As a person who used to need everything "just so" before she would embark on any journey, the title was a huge sticking point for me. 

After weeks of painstakingly obsessing over this one detail, the title Twelve Months of June was created in reference to June Cleaver.  The ultimate matriarch of the ultimate family.  I was embarking on a year long journey/challenge of finding my inner housewife, perfecting the art of keeping home, and in the process organizing the house room by room, one month at a time.

As the months passed, the blog became a sounding board for my thoughts beyond the dish rag.  A place to talk about my family, my life , my interests and invariably, things that just out right baffled me. And I started to see the title of my blog as more a title of the life I was enjoying.  You see, I see June as the ultimate month of the year.  Not too hot, not too cold, everything is in bloom, the grass is still green and soft (instead of grey and crunchy from the seemingly endless heatwaves of July and August) and there is still that freshness in the air before the city gets bogged down in smog. During this time in my life, everything was going really well, I was laughing on a daily basis and it really felt like I was enjoying a year of June freshness.

Now, as I blog, my focus is still on home life, but more so on homeschooling, and the title STILL works (my awesomeness amazes even me sometimes).  Through the homeschooling lens I see June as a month where in the school system, teachers begin to relax.  More field trips are planned, more hands on / fun activities are created for the children explore, more outdoor time is added to the schedule to escape the oven of the school interior, classes that are normally taught inside are brought to the school yard and children sit with books on the grass, delighted in the change of scenery.

School in June is exactly what our homeschooling looks like year round (yes, I'm a slave driver and we learn all year round). Lots of variety, lots of outdoor time, lots of books in the grass.

I sometimes wonder if my soul or spirit knew ahead of time the twists and turns of my life would take and how this title would be appropriate for the long run.

Good thing too, because me needing things "just so" has evolved in to "meh, it'll do" and if I had named the blog Rags and Dishcloths, I can guarantee it would still be called that today. Just the thought of transferring posts from one blog to the next, or creating a whole new blog with a new fancy name makes me want to shut down the computer.

I'm far too busy (lazy) for that.


Friday, February 8, 2013

What do you do all day long? - Math and Numbers

On this episode: Math.

We rarely have a day where we get everything done all at once.  Typically we have a day that focuses on either reading or math as our main table work.  Today was a numbers sort of day.

Little Lady, up first (always).

We do lots of sorting and counting right now.  Here I just grabbed a scrap paper and made circles for her to sort the bears in.  I don't have any type of plan for her, we just kind of go with the flow.
 photo IMG_0773_zps3546c555.jpg

Cutting was up next, another favourite activity.
 photo IMG_0778_zpsc45681d6.jpg

And cutting wouldn't be any fun if you couldn't paste it to something!
 photo IMG_0781_zps1d0ee6d6.jpg

While she was doing that, I made a tally chart for her.  I grabbed a random handful of bears from the tin and gave them to her to sort.
 photo IMG_0779_zps6f2cbbb2.jpg

She placed them on the chart...
 photo IMG_0782_zpsc720fddb.jpg

And then we looked at them to see which one colour had more, and then we counted them. She really enjoyed this activity.
 photo IMG_0785_zps0b93a70f.jpg

Then ballet called and she felt the need to go dance, so I set her up in a different room with a cd player a wand and she was off.

Little Man is next!  We did our site word flash cards of the week and our reading first, as always. Then I started him with the same tally chart, only he got a bigger handful of bears and had to count the bears and stamp the chart based on how many bears of each colour.
 photo IMG_0787_zpsfdda61fa.jpg

 photo IMG_0788_zpse6675bb0.jpg

 photo IMG_0789_zps78d757cd.jpg

While he did that, I made this.  He picked "one representative from each colour" (his words, not mine) and put them on the appropriate circle. In this picture he is actually telling me to stop taking pictures and give him the paper already so he could get started.
 photo IMG_0790_zpsd1a02a1b.jpg

He didn't like that there wasn't one "winner" colour that had all eight, so he added some to his pile and did the whole thing over again, but using the worksheet the way his sister had.
 photo IMG_0793_zps4fbcaad8.jpg

And then he said enough with the pictures already.

While he was re-doing his activity, I threw together some addition questions.  He floored me today because he didn't use counters, he just added everything up in his mind.  The number line across the top is so he can check up on his numbers if he is unsure as to which way they point.
 photo IMG_0795_zps3ff3881a.jpg

Some other things we do for math type work is building.  It is really more of a problem solving skill, but I like to call it math, ha ha. Our Lincoln Log, blocks and Tinker Toys are three toys, besides lego, that get the most play in our house.
 photo IMG_0721_zps24676249.jpg

Here Little Man drew a picture of a castle and then used the blocks to re-create it. It is kind of hard to see on the picture because it is in pencil, but the drawing even has the block shapes on it.
 photo IMG_0286_zps82d509ce.jpg

Building a bridge.  We had actually built two other ones before this one that were too weak and didn't stand up, and then the kids figured out how to make it stronger by adding more sticks.  But I couldn't take pictures of the first two because my battery was charging.  This is the final product.
 photo IMG_0261_zps55c605da.jpg

 photo IMG_0260_zpsbbe8c8e9.jpg

So that in a nutshell is what a "Math" day looks like.

Now we are going to play in the snow (for the third time)!

Enjoy the wintry weather!!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013



The kids were wanting to watch a DVD this afternoon so I obliged.  We had finished our school work, had been for a very wet, puddle jumping filled walk with the dog, and all our house keeping chores were complete.  

And really, it isn't that hard to convince me to watch a dvd on a rainy afternoon.

The kids picked a DVD and I put it in but it kept on skipping. So I pulled it out and looked on the back.

It was covered in about four little finger prints.

We have a BIG rule in the house that the kids are not allowed to touch the DVDs or DVD player.  So these teeny tiny finger prints were a sign that someone isn't following the rules.

The kids both denied it, repeatedly saying "REALLY!  It wasn't us!"

So I decided to teach them about a little thing called fingerprint lifting.  

Yes, I'm ready to turn any event in to a learning opportunity. 

So I got out the superfine cocoa powder and our camel hair paint brush, dusted the fingerprint on the back of the DVD, lifted it with tape and stuck it to an index card. 

Then we got out the magnifier and the kids were in total awe over what they saw.  We went over the different kinds of finger prints, I printed off a bunch of pictures from the computer and we talked about how no two finger prints are the same and that everyone has their own set that is totally unique. 

Then I showed them how they could take prints of their own finger prints. Each took an index card and a stamp pad and made fingerprint cards of their own.  They. Were. Amazed. The excitement was so wonderful to see and they spent a good twenty minutes comparing their prints to each others and talking about how they are different.  

Then, we compared these to the cocoa lift from the DVD, one by one, trying to find the culprit.

But none of them were a match.  

Then they pulled over MY finger prints. 

And apparently, those pesky finger prints are partials of my pinky finger.

Excuse me while I blush a bit.  

I found myself trying to defend the placement of those finger prints, explaining that it must have happened because i place one finger in the center and my finger must have grazed the disc.

They weren't buying it.  Their exact words?

"Mommy!  Maybe you shouldn't put DVDs in the player anymore if you can't be responsible. That is one of my favourite movies.  Wouldn't want it to get damaged!"


So I said yes, I obviously need to be more careful and that I would try to make sure it wouldn't happen again. The kids offered suggestions that I could always wash my hands before touching the discs, that maybe I should use the salad tongs to pick them up, that maybe, it would be a good idea if my oldest made us a "disc putter-inner-inator" so that I didn't have to actually touch the discs and risk damaging them.

I distracted them by making stove top pop corn and then went to put the nice clean disc in the player.

"Mommy, did you wash your hands?"


Homeschooling can be such a humbling experience sometimes. 



What do you do all day? part deux

Since I started homeschooling, I've found the biggest concern people have for my kids is their social lives.  The question I get asked most often is "How will they make friends?"

Followed by, "Won't they get lonely? They won't have anyone to interact with."

And finally, "How will they learn to live in the real world if they never have to deal with people?"

All valid questions, and honestly, they focus on an area that my husband had the most concerns about.

See, we initially started homeschooling because I felt really strongly that my son wasn't ready to go to junior kindergarten.  He was very shy, had a lot of anxiety, and was very stressed out about going to school.  Really stressed out.  When we went to fill out the enrollment package, his hands were shaking, and when we got home half an hour later, he started to talk about his concerns and threw up he was so upset about it.

So I talked to my husband about keeping him home for junior kindergarten, and while he wasn't thrilled with the idea, he agreed that he wasn't ready for school, and we started on this wonderful road to homeschooling.

My husband's main concern was that our son wouldn't have any friends and that he would be seen as odd or weird by people.  Especially since he was so shy already.

So I asked him this question: "When did school become about making friends?  Isn't it supposed to be about learning?  How many people from school are you actually friends with now?", "When did we start caring what people thought of our family decision" and a host of other questions to prove my point.

I will admit that behind my bravado, I had the same concerns.  But after a year of homeschooling, the way I see things is so different.

School, to me, is a very contrived environment.  There are 20 kids mostly the same age in a class, all mostly at the same stage in development.  All are there based on their age because the system works better that way. And for many kids, this system works well.  I'll even venture to say for MOST kids this system works well.

But that doesn't mean that those same children wouldn't thrive in a mixed aged setting.  Just because something is the norm, doesn't always mean it is the best way.

Think of the skills that can be learned by having a group of children that are of different ages.  And I'm not talking about a combined junior and senior kindergarten class.  I'm talking about a room full of kids aged 3-12.  A room where the older kids interact with younger kids, lead them in games, help them.  And where younger children observe the behaviour of the older children, learn from their example.

Aren't taught social skills, but they learn them by example.

I'm not trying to paint an idealistic vision of what can be.  I know that when kids get together they aren't always like that.   And yes, I know that children will learn undesired behaviour from each other just as quickly as the desired. But what I'm saying is, that kids learn better from other kids, and I have seen first hand the good that can come of that kind of environment.

One thing I remember most from my time as an ECE working in the toddler room is when I heard another teacher saying to a parent when a child bit or hit another child "Don't worry. It is a toddler room, it is bound to happen".

And it is bound to happen.  It is bound to happen because in a room full of children the same age, children have less opportunity to learn from each other and it become the teacher's job to teach social skills.

My view is that maybe social skills are easier to learn from a setting where they can observe the interactions of other, older children and learn from their example.

Okay, off my soapbox and on to the point of this blog.

So how do we combat the social aspect of school?

We leave the house.

No, seriously, we really do.

Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers do a variety of things other than stay at home and school!

We have participated in a host of activities in our year and a half of homeschooling.  I started a co-op last year, and while it didn't really get off the ground we met so many wonderful families who continue to participate in activities that I plan.

We participate in nature programs in High Park, go on regular play dates, join group trips to parks, pioneer village, art workshops, the ballet and plays, hiking and music classes.  We recently went to a weekly drop-in free play time that the kids loved.  And on top of all that, the kids have cousins that they play with at least twice a week and both are enrolled in weekly gymnastics classes.

And yes, I am always there, where ever they are.  My kids just feel safer knowing I'm there.  My oldest hangs out a bit while he gets comfortable with new situations, my youngest goes right off and does her own thing, coming back frequently to say hello or tell me about what she is doing. And I cherish the times we are at a program with an instructor because for those two sweet hours, I get to be just the parent while my kids go off and enjoy the knowledge of someone else!

We are social. Sometimes I wish we didn't have so much to do!

So that's that in a nutshell.  We aren't recluses.

The Bouviers don't live here.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What do you do all day long?

"What do you do all day long?"

That is the standard question I get when I tell people I homeschool.  Well, that and "Aren't you worried that they won't have any friends?".  A few readers have recently asked me how I homeschool, so I thought I would create a series of posts that reflect what we do during "school".  I use that term loosely, and you'll see why as you read on.

Firstly, I don't follow one theory or method or curriculum.  We are a hodge podge of everything and anything I can get my hands on that looks like an interesting way to learn something.  I create a lot of my own materials, use a variety of teacher resources, and more often then not, just muck about until we've learned something about something.

I'm not an unschooler, although when it comes to history, geography, science, art and music, we could technically be called unschoolers, because what my kids are interested in is what we are learning about when it comes to those topics. Right now we jump from topic to topic, based on interest.  Next year when my oldest is in "grade one" I intend to follow a more classical approach to these topics.

But I'm not a classical education guru either.  I do love the structure of learning in a classical education, and I  I use many of the ideas.  Mostly though, I like how classical method structures learning through history.  If you follow history like a story, starting from the beginning and working toward the present, you can cover many topics in detail.  And because it is chronologically presented, everything ties together and makes a lot more sense for kids.

One thing that I AM a stickler for is reading and math.  Those topics are what make up table work at our place.  My biggest focus this last year and a half has been to get my little man reading.  We have done this through phonics worksheets and simple reading books.

And today, that was the main focus of our school time.  While we always start each day with some reading, today's focus was all reading and writing.  We don't have a schedule, we don't follow a plan, and i don't have a checklist.  Today, my little man felt like reading. Tomorrow will be something else.  The next day might be everything.  What we do really depends on our mood.  But we ALWAYS do some reading.

Here is what we did today! (We didn't have any outings planned today, so it was just us.)

My little lady started off the school day today.  Her schooling has been her own choice.  She wants to do everything her big brother does. So I got her a collection of dry erase books and some basic preschool activity books, and we work on counting and colours with toys, blocks and legos. She also knows most of her letter sounds already because she is a sponge and picked it up from little man last year.

Here she is doing some colour matching.

Her favourite activity is cut and paste.

Doing some mazes.

And, back to cut and paste.

Then, she was done for the day.  And it was little man's turn.  They are almost always at the table at separate times.  
Start off the day with reading.


These are the books we read for school.  He REALLY enjoys them and the illustrations and basic text are great for emerging readers. I'm really amazed at how quickly he is working through them, and how he is really picking up words independently now.  






Next up: Sight words.  

These are little booklets that we cut out and put together, each focusing on one sight word.  He really enjoys doing them, and I like that each book gets him to read the word, write the word and look for the word in a word search, plus it exposes him to other words with a picture cue. 

(I have no clue why this silly picture will not centre, and after five minutes of cutting, pasting, clicking and cursing, I'm giving up.  Annoying, isn't it?)

Sight words have been a sticking point for my little man, because it really annoys him that words don't follow the phonics that he has been taught.  His exact words were "Well then why did you teach me the letter sounds then!?!".  He brings up a valid point.  Many homeschoolers aren't bothered with phonics and readers and teaching reading.  They allow their children to develop the skill on their own through time and exposure to written word, and I really admire that ability to let go.  

I can't let it go.   

I need to know that he is learning to read.  I'm anal like that. And I feel that learning the letter sounds provides a strong base for literacy, because even if it isn't a phonetic word, if you sound it out you can sometimes make out what the word is.  Regardless, we've done it, and despite his initial grumps and groans when it came to sight words, he is really enjoying it now because it helps him read books other than his Bob readers. 

By the way, while this is going on at the table...

This is going on in the living room:

Legos have taken over our home.  It is an addiction, and one that I am happy to let them indulge in. 

And lastly (for table work anyway) he did his picture and copy work. 



This involves him drawing a picture of anything he wants (this time he needed a bigger page than the box at the top of his working page because he was drawing an Angry Birds scene), and then he tells me a sentence about it, I write it out and he copies it.  Simple stuff.

And in case you were wondering, while he was doing this, this is what was going on in the living room:


Apparently she felt she wasn't done with work yet, so she found some colouring activity books and started doing those. Mazes are a bit of an obsession of hers now.  

That was the "school" part of our day.  Then we threw on our snow suits and spent the afternoon playing in the snow!  Three hours actually.  My legs are still frozen. 


And we learned a lot playing in the snow.  It wasn't the best snow for making snow balls, so we got the spray bottle out and sprayed some so it would become packing snow.  This evolved in to a whole conversation about the making of snow and why sometimes it is sticky and sometimes it is fluffy or powdery, which then carried the conversation over to lake effect snow and what that is, and then a big conversation about skiing and snowboarding and sledding and the types of snow that would be best for those sports.  

See? We learn a lot more away from the table then we do at the table.  

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You really are learning all the time!

After I finally convinced them it would be nice if Mommy could save at least one leg from frost bite (to which they said I should get warmer snow pants.  They seem to have an answer for everything these days.), they settled in with some hot chocolate and a DVD while I made these for dinner: 

Cookie cutter pancakes!!!  

They may look cute, but they take forever to make.  Whew!  Almost there. 

After dinner (just when you think we couldn't cram anymore learning in to the day), my little man found a book about bridges and wanted to make some with his toys.  We pulled out the tinker toys and away he and little lady went, building and taking apart and rebuilding, trying to make the structure as strong as he could.  He came to the triangle answer all by himself, "They are the strongest, Mama.".  And after describing each of the models he made based on the pictures in the books, he came to some very good conclusions and observations. I was impressed with the thought process.  

And after bath and a book, they are asleep.  

A day well spent in my books.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slow Start to the Year

Anyone else dragging their feet this year?

I know we are only a few weeks in, but my house can't seem to get out of vacation mode.

We were all sick with the flu from just before Christmas to New Years.  Just when we got better I got hit with another wave for the last few days of 2012.  So much for a rip roaring new years eve.  I went to bed at 10pm. And that was pushing it.

With all the sickness, we were sleeping until 10am each day, sometimes later, going to bed early, lazing around on the couch.  The kids played with new toys, watched new DVDs, played new Wii games, did crafts.  Just a generally quiet, peaceful, lovely holiday.  With the husband home too, which made it that much more blissful (well, as blissful as you can get with throw-up buckets in every room).

And then the regularly schooled kids went back to school.  So we attempted to get back in the swing of things as well.  It just didn't quite work out that way.

We are still sleeping in until around 8:30 each day, not getting ourselves out the door before 10am on a good day.  We've at least started homeschooling again. When the kids started asking to do school and pulling out their workbooks and readers last week, I figured that was a bit of a clue.  Time to get my bottom in gear.

But I'm still dragging my feet.  I don't fee blue or depressed or sad.  I don't even feel lazy.  I just really like curling up on the couch with a good book, my littles, a blanket and reading the afternoon away.

I know that many homeschoolers love the flexibility homeschooling provides.  The ability to make your own schedule, take longer vacations, relaxing and learning naturally.  But we are just a family that thrives with structure and routine.  We are struggling with the added freedom, getting cranky, a bit short with each other and generally not getting along all that well this week.

I guess I'll be setting my alarm tonight for a 7:30am wake up call.  I still hold fast to the "never wake a sleeping baby" saying, and while my kids are far from babies anymore, it still pains me to think of taking away our 8:30 sleep ins.

I weep at the thought.

What sane mother does that????

Well, my sanity has always been questioned.  I guess this'll give 'em the answer.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year, New Focus

Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here.

Heck, fancy meeting ME here!

It has been a long time.

Last week someone asked me for the link to my blog.  After sharing it with them , I took some time to flip through it myself. I read through the many blog posts, looking at the pictures of my littles and oooing and ahhing about how tiny they were.

One thing that really struck me about my posts is how much they weren't about organizing at the end.  They were more about the time I spent with my kids, and it was really nice going down memory lane.

And then I started questioning why I stopped blogging.  I really enjoyed my time blogging.  I love to write and fancy it my hobby.  So why, why, WHY did I stop blogging??

Then I vowed to start blogging that night.  I went to create new post and read through the tutorial (apparently when you don't blog for a long time they change everything as punishment for not blogging. Meh.)

And I started typing my very first blog post in a year and a half.

But then my youngest little woke up and had to go pee.

Then my dog needed to go pee.

Then I needed to go pee.

Then got totally side tracked until I went to bed and saw my computer open in my bedside table.


That's why I stopped blogging.  Life kind of got in the way.

I started homeschooling my oldest.  My youngest decided to join us.  I started babysitting.  Life just got really busy.

But things have settled now, and so here I am.

This blog won't be about organization or finding my inner housewife. That part of my life is done.  I'm organized, I'm happy with my house-wifey status and job description, and I homeschool.

Life can only be so organized when school happens every day at your dining room table.

This time, it is going to be about my family.  All the fun, un-fun, crazy, laughable moments we have together.  Our homeschooling, my baking, my sewing, Lego Challenges.  Everything.

The focus in our family.

But first...

I have to pee.