Monday, May 28, 2012

Month in Review: 27 May 2012

Okay...I know it's been longer than a month.  (Insert sigh here.)  Since my last "month in review" we have had approximately 6 weeks of school, with a variety of days off in between.  May was a bit of a strange month with 4 public holidays and we took a week of family vacation time as well.  But this coming week we get back to our daily grind again so it's time to stop and evaluate how we're doing....

Bible and Character Development
- Scripture Memory: We finished Psalm 139!  We have now been working on the verses that go along with each of the virtues covered in Doorpost's Put-On Study and have also picked up again the Catechism for Young Children.

- Hymns: We have learned several hymns - currently "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus"
- Family Bible Reading: I recently came across a new devotional guide called Long Story Short by Marty Machowski that we are really enjoying.  It walks through all the Old Testament stories with readings from the actual Bible (not a Bible Story book) with a brief commentary on how each story points to Jesus and some discussion questions.   We are really enjoying it!
- Character Development: We are working through Doorpost's Put-On Study (we do lessons from this on the weekend during our family devotional time since Long Story Short is set up for readings 5 days of the week.)   This goes through all of the virtues listed in Colossians 3:12-14.  We have covered compassion, and now moving on to kindness.  We spend about a month on each virtue.  Additionally, Michelle reads to me weekly from Hymns in Prose for Children - a lovely, vintage reader reprinted by the folks at SCM - which inspires thought of God.

Circle Time
- Poetry: Nursery Friends from France (English translations of French Nursery Rhymes with lovely illustrations and little cultural notes sprinkled here and there.)...although not as often as I like.  I either need to pick this up again, or just choose a different poetry resource....
-Aesop's Fables - read and narrate. These are excellent practice for beginning narrators to develop their skills in a non-threatening way. They are short and often amusing, so it takes only a few minutes to read them. I'm pleased with how Michelle's narration skills are developing.
- God's World News: Early Edition
- Calendar Time in French

Table Time (The Basics)

- Cursive: Through letter U, with several review and practice lessons in between. Michelle is doing really well with cursive.

- All About Spelling Level 1: Completed Steps 18-22 - spelling words ending in LL,FF,and SS, when to use -ck or -k at the end of a word, NG and NK and the end of the word, and compound words.  I am pleased with the way the that the phonics based, word segmenting approach is giving her greater confidence it both reading and writing.

- Math: We flew through Lessons 1-6 of Math-U-See Alpha fairly quickly, and slowed down when we hit lesson 7 - the +2  facts.  We spent a little extra time doing some simple games and timed-tests to get the +2 facts really solid. (I had avoided timed-tests for a long time...but turns out Michelle actually likes them! Go figure!)  We also covered lesson 8 - Solving for an Unknown and are mid-way through Lesson 9  - the +9 facts.  The more we go through this the more I really like the way that concepts are presented in Math-U-See and am seeing true understanding and fact mastery from Michelle.
-Copywork: At my last update, I was hoping to become more regular with our copywork and I am happy to report that we have been successful.  Because it is something that Michelle can do more or less independently, I have started assigning her copywork daily while I do a little bit of preschool work with James.  We rotate between copywork of my choice (taken from this Aesop's Fables copywork book or the Hymns in Prose copywork book), copywork from one of her narrations that I have written down, and something of her choice that she takes from something we've read.  She usually copies about 2 sentences.  We also talk briefly about grammar and mechanics as we come across them - why and when we use capital letters, the different types of ending punctuation, quotation marks, etc.

History, Geography, and Culture
- History: I am so, so pleased with how our History studies are going. Michelle seems to have really connected with the stories we are reading and even a week or 2 later can give me a sentence or 2 that she remembers about the characters we have read about. 
- Geography and Culture: We enjoyed reading, narrating and illustrating Chapters 9-13 of Collette in France and looking up the various places mentioned in the story online.  We also took a family trip to Paris!  More on that soon.  To prepare for going to Paris we used sections of this unit study on France....we may add in other bits and pieces from this study as we go on.
Science and Nature
I've posted about our nature study adventures here .   We've also done a dandelion study that I haven't had time to post on yet...most interesting little tidbit we learned from that?  Dandelions got their name from the French phrase "dents de lion" (teeth of the lion) because the ridged leaves look kind of like sharp, lion's teeth.  Fun, huh?  We have not been reading from Outdoor Secrets or any of our other nature books as often as I'd like.  Thinking about how to remedy that....

Art and Music

Since we've wrapped up our study of Monet, we are taking some time to focus on composer study for awhile.  We are using the Classics for Kids series on Debussy, and I also plan to do some guided listening activities.  More on that soon.
We continue to read French books from the library regularly, and watch an occasional French cartoon on YouTube.  Additionally, Michelle has been working with The Learnables Level 1 software 3 days a week (working on Lesson 5 now), and watching these videos the other 2 days (we've watched 1-10 so are repeating them now). The littles aren't required to do anything, but they are fascinated and they love following along with what Michelle is doing also.  
What the Littles Did
James started preschool!  I will do another post (hopefully soon!) about how we are approaching preschool with him, but suffice it to say that he is flying through his letter sounds (a, b, c, h, m, n, s, t, u) and numbers (we have mastered 0-6 and are working on 7-9).  Michelle likes to play "school" with him too, and she's not a bad little teacher. =)

Family Reading
- Picture Books Highlights: The Frances books (by Russell Hoban) continue to be perennial favorites.  They also love having French books read to them, surprisingly, and pick these often too.
- Michelle's Reading: Michelle finished reading Busy Times and has moved on to More Busy Times - several times each week out loud to Papa or I, depending on who is home.  On her own, she reads just about any of our picture books (often out loud to her siblings) and has also enjoyed the Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad series.  We finished Little Town on the Prairie and are now reading together from These Happy Golden Years as time allows.
- Bedtime Read-Aloud: We finished reading The Betsy-Tacy Treasury, which we all enjoyed, and also read Mr Popper's Penguins - another new favorite.  We just started reading Raggedy Andy Stories.

Some Goals and Plans for the Coming Month
Overall, school is going really, really well for us, so there's not a lot that I want to change. A few goals for the next few weeks however:
- I recently stumbled across this website which seems to have some really good language learning ideas. I'd like to take some time to read through things on this site a little more thoroughly and chose some of the ideas to implement into our French study...still need to follow up on this...sigh.   I also have a possible lead on someone who may be interested in doing a French-English language exchange with her kids that sounds like a fantastic possibility...we'll see what happens.
- I want to get more nature-themed reading into our school time.   I see some schedule tweaking in the works....
- Posts in the works: How we do Preschool, Art and Music Study, and our trip to Paris!
For more details about the specific curriculum resources we are using, please visit the Goals and Curriculum link at the top of the sidebar.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Daybook: The "I'm still alive, despite the fact that my blog doesn't show it" Edition


Outside my window... The weather this spring has been totally schitzophrenic.  One day it's sunny and 80.  The next day it's cold and rainy.  Makes it very difficult to plan outings or decide what to wear...

::Listening to... My sweet hubby scrubbing the kitchen.  Yes, it's true.  He has basically taken on all the major housecleaning to help lessen some of the home-load since I am in school 16 hours/week, still do most of the meal planning and cooking, and homeschool the kids.  I am a blessed woman.
::Giving thanks for... Increasing confidence in speaking the French language. Many opportunities for fellowship. The fact that there have been three public holidays in as many weeks this month, and that we are now on a vacation week. =)
::Pondering... Last night I went to a friend's house (one of our missionary colleagues, not a French friend) for a ladies' night.  In addition to the wonderful time of fellowship, it was also a time for some of the families that are leaving over the summer (sniff, sniff) to start cleaning out and passing along their things.  There were heaps of clothes and toys for the taking.  On the way home, I was chatting with my neighbor about cleaning things out, minimizing, discerning what is really important to keep and take with you when you are going to be living in Africa, being prepared for the possibility that you might have to walk away from everything, and how to help young children understand this.  I realized that one of the things that 10+ years of overseas living and 3 international moves in as many years has taught me is that we need to build our family culture around things that aren't tangible. We need to hold loosely to stuff...we need to hold loosely the never-ending to-do lists [thinking here about all the things I stressed about NOT doing to our house in PNG when we ended up selling it did any of it really matter in the end?] and focus on the things that are lasting - our relationships with each other and with the Lord.  Those are the things that will keep our world from crashing to pieces even if we have to walk away and leave our home and stuff behind us yet again.  Don't know if I'm making much sense here....but it was a powerful reminder to me of where my priorities need to be.
::Living the Educational Life... We've taken school at a much more relaxed pace because of all the days off this month and that has worked really well.  We are making good progress and having good fun.  James loves feeling more included in our time together.  My goal for our next "term" after our vacation is to start incorporating more French into what I'm doing with the kids.  I have lots of ideas...just need to implement them. (Check out some great Charlotte Mason inspired foreign language posts written by other homeschooling expat families here, here, and here.)  I hope to get a school-update post up soon.
::Preparing in the Kitchen... I have resisted for much too long planning our lunches.  I plan our dinner menus, we have a simple breakfast rotation that works for us, but lunch....sigh.  Sometimes I wish God created our bodies not to have to eat at midday.  Anyhow...I finally sat down last week and made a 4-week lunch rotation.  I didn't plan daily lunches because I never know if we will have leftovers or not...but rather chose 4 simple things to pick from on those days when I don't know what we should have for lunch.  So far, so good this week.  If the plan works out for us....I'll let you know. =)

::Following These Links... This was excellent - on raising children in Africa.  There was a lot of food for thought (on mission statements and knowing yourself) here too.
::Turning Pages... We started using a new devotional resource with the kids this past week and think I may have finally found a child-friendly devotional that I actually like.  Most of the others I have stumbled across are either just twaddle or still over the heads of my little ones.  The title is Long Story Short by Marty Machowski.  Basically it goes through all of the stories of the Old Testament - read from the actual Bible - and gives a brief commentary/related passages to explain how the story points to Jesus.  Apparently there is a sequel that goes through the New Testament coming out later this year.  It is written in such away that my 6 year old connects with it (and even the 3 year old, kind of), but in the lesson on Genesis 1 we've been doing this week, I've been reminded anew of the greatness of God, even the midst of a familiar story.

::Finding Rhythm... Ah...the ongoing quest.  Currently reworking my early morning routine.  Bottom line: I need to get up earlier.  And stay off the internet more. Sigh.

::Kiddos this week... Have been fun and helpful and enjoyable to be around, in general.  As much as I love little babies, I really love that mine are getting older.  I especially love that Michelle is old enough to be excited about going to Paris next week (yes, we are going to Paris!) to see the Eiffel Tower and a real Monet painting in a museum.   Toddlers just don't do things like that, ya know?
::Praying... For wisdom in evaluating my priorities and using my time well, and senstivity to the Lord's guidance as I go through each day. Praising the Lord that we've finally starting to have opportunties for French fellowship and language practice.  Praying that we can find someone who would be willing to help the kiddos likewise....
::Planning the week ahead... next week we are going on vacation. A real one - as in travelling somewhere just because we want to go there and playing tourist for several days and not for work, visiting family, speaking, medical reasons, or errand running. Shoot, we aren't even going to "play tourist" - we're going to be real-honest-to-goodness tourists!  In Paris, no less!  We travel, yes. But we don't vacation.  Hence why this is a big deal.   Watch this space for an update....
::Capturing a moment...