Sunday, February 26, 2012

Daybook: The 'We Survived our First Month in France" Edition

:Outside my window... Sunny and 52 F.  Warm enough after church that I didn't feel the need to put on my overcoat to walk home.  Spring is coming...

::Listening to... Kids entertaining themselves.  Loudly, in the other room.  I love how they are friends with each other and make up all kinds of crazy stuff to do.

::Giving thanks for... Fellowship and encouragement this week.  Last week I was feeling really discouraged because I was feeling like it was taking too long to get connected in our church and in the French community in general.   While I wouldn't say we've made a TON of progress with that specifically this week, God ordained several opportunties for fellowship with some of our missionary colleagues this week - one conversation with someone in the hallway at school, a playdate with another, and a ladies night last night - which blessed my heart, and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep on keeping on in this new and very different environment.

::Pondering... So, I still can't understand 80% of what is going on in a French church service, but I understood enough today to be convicted that I have been depending far too much on my own strength and not enough on His.  I can do no good thing on my own.  All is through His strength and for His glory.  Lord Jesus, help me to remember this as we jump back on the roller coaster this week.

::Living the Educational Life... You can see our 2 week school update here.  We've made it through our first 4 week term!  Balancing Michelle's school with mine has been challenging, but if nothing else it is helping me to be more focused in my time management.

::Preparing in the Kitchen... Okay, so this isn't going to turn into a food blog anytime soon, but we have frequently been asked what we eat when we're overseas.  So, for those who are interested, here is a week's worth of dinners from my French Kitchen:
      Monday: Chili (crockpot) served over rice with crushed corn chips, cheese, and creme fraiche
      Tuesday: Curried winter squash soup (squash purchased at our market, not sure exactly what variety it was), salad, bread from the boulangerie across the road
       Wednesday: Coconut Ginger Chicken (crockpot) over rice
       Thursday: Spaghetti (crockpot), salad, bread
       Friday: Roasted winter veggies with chicken topped with creme fraiche, bread, green bean salad 
       Saturday: Dan and the kiddos had leftovers, I went to a ladies' night out and had homemade pizza and too many cookies. =)
       Sunday: Roasted vegetable (zuchinni, tomatoes, onions, and mushroom) ravioli, bread

::Following These Links... Love the narration ideas here.   These cookies were super simple and super tasty.  Thinking we may try this as our nature study project this week.

::Turning Pages...I finally finished North and South.  Haven't started anything new yet. Sometimes after reading a really good book that I really connected with, it's hard to pick up something new.

::Finding Rhythm... Given that the season of Lent has started, I set out our Lenten Lights display this week. 

We don't really observe Lent in the same sense as those in a liturgical church do, but more as a way of preparing our hearts for Easter.  Several years ago I was convicted that we put far too much time and effort into our celebration of the Advent/Christmas season, and not enough into Easter...but really, isn't the death and resurection of Christ the central point about which our whole faith turns?  So, we've been working on bringing our celebrations of Christmas and Easter into more equal proportions to each other over the past several years.  As I set out this display yesterday, I realized this is the 4th consecutive year we've spent Easter in a different country.  2009 we were "at home" in Papua New Guinea, 2010 found us in Australia for the birth of Elizabeth, 2011 in the USA for furlough, and now here we are in France.  Lord willing by this time next year we'll be in Africa.  Kinda crazy, huh?   But at the same time, I found it kind of comforting to set out these same things - well, new candles purchased locally - but the paintings on the easel and the fabric runner laid underneath it all - in a new place.  Some things stay the same no matter where we go and what we do.  So very grateful for the underlying rhythm to our year even when the daily rhythm is rather offbeat.

::Kiddos this week...  So, when I came home Thursday evening, I came home to a special treat and a love note from my sweet hubby for our 9-years-dating-anniversary. (Yes, we celebrate our dating anniversary.)  While he was writing his note that afternoon, Michelle deceided she needed to get in on the letter-writing action too.   Her sweet letter read: "Love mama.  I miss you when you are at school.  I have a little something for you a special treat for you. I know you like that it is a stash for you. I know you would like it."   Melted my heart.  (If you are a FB friend, you can see a photo of the original over there.)

::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. And that we will be able to make some French friends, so we will have more opportunities to practice speaking French outside of our class times.

::Planning the week ahead... This is our off week for Michelle's school, so I'm hoping to have time to catch up on some things like our finance database and other correspondence.  (I know, I have a fantastically exciting life, don't I?). And planning for our next 4 week term.  And really, truly, maybe (??) we'll get to the library this week?

::Capturing a few moments... Reason Number 426 that I love the location of our apartment: we were right along the route of the Carnaval (think small-town Mardi Gras) parade yesterday afternoon and the kids were able to watch the whole shebang from the window. No coats, no shoes, no crowds.  (I sat back and drank a cup of coffee.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two Weeks in Review: 24 February 2012

Well...the way our life is going, I think doing a summary post every week is a little more than I have time to keep up with, so I think this is just going to naturally morph into an every two weeks kind of thing.   C'est la vie.   Oh, and sorry I don't have more pictures for you this week.  Everytime I think to take any I can't find the camera because Dan keeps taking it with him to school. =( But, without any further ado, here is what we have been doing in our homeschool these past 2 weeks:

- Scripture Memory: We are tacking Psalm 139.  Yes, it's long.  But, you'd be amazed how well these kids memorize.  I have often turned to Psalm 139 for comfort in trying times, so I thought that committing it to memory was a good idea.

- Hymns: Currently, How Great Thou Art

- Family Bible Reading: In the morning, we are reading the short, illustrated Bible stories contained in the ESV Seek and Find Bible (which we got for Michelle on her birthday when she turned 6. A lovely first "real" Bible.) and adding each character to our history timeline. In the evening, we continue to read a short passage out of the book of Mark each night, often buddy reading with Michelle.

Circle Time
- Poetry: Nursery Friends from France (English translations of French Nursery Rhymes with lovely illustrations and little cultural notes sprinkled here and there.)
- God's World News: Early Edition
- Calendar Time in French

Table Time (The Basics)
- Cursive: Through letter J, with several review and practice lessons in between.

- All About Spelling Level 1: Completed Step 13 - segmenting words with 4 sounds.  This was tricky for Michelle, but she has made steady improvement as we've worked through it.  Really helpful for her reading too - initial blends can still trip her up from time to time and this has definetely helped her to slow down and take apart all the sounds.

If you aren't familiar with All About Spelling, it is a phonics based spelling program that uses letter tiles before dictation and a mastery approach, as opposed to the 'study these words and take a test on them' workbook approach.  We've been pleased with it so far.

- Math: We continue to work through basic addition facts - through pairs that make 8.
-Copywork: We continue to do print copywork 2-3 times each week.

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.  Over these past two weeks we have read about: William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Balboa, Drake, and Ponce de Leon.

- Geography and Culture: Our stories about the explorers have leant themselves well to sneaking some geography in too - we've enjoyed taking our timeline figures and sliding them over the map as we read about their travels.   We also enjoyed reading and narrating chapters 3 and 4 of Collette in France and looking up places we read about online to see more pictures.  Did you know that there really is a bridge in Avignon? (as in the folk song "Sur le pont d'Avignon")

Science and Nature
Our Nature study for the first week was on twigs and branches in winter.   Last year in the US, we attempted to do a seasonal tree study - we stuck with it pretty well through the winter and spring, but once we hit the road and were moving so much through the summer and fall, it sort of petered out.  However, Michelle apparently took something away from this, because she was the one who noticed that the tree outside our window is covered with little red buds:

And wouldn't you know, the next challenge in our More Nature Study in Winter book was on twigs!  We weren't able to actually collect any twigs (didn't find any on the ground, and we live in an urban area so didn't think it would be a good idea to snap any twigs off a 'public' tree).  But we did go take a closer look at the trees outside and observed all we could about the buds to sketch in our nature journals.  Now we can be watching for those buds to open up as spring approaches.  Maybe this year's seasonal tree study will happen without much effort on my part? 

Our second week's nature study was on wool and sheep.  We had no real sheep to observe, but did take the time to examine some wool socks and describe how the look and feel, look at the fibers under a hand lens, and watched the YouTube videos linked here.  The kids were fascinated.

Art and Music
Composer Study: Debussy
Artist Study: Monet.   This week we took at a closer look at some of Monet's paintings using
Google Art Project.  We also explored this neat interactive website shared by another one of the moms over on the SCM Forum.  This sparked a lot more interest in our picture study to say the least!  Both kids were begging to look at more.

What the Littles Did
Okay, so I need to brag on James (3.5 - turning 4 in June) for just a minute.  One of his frequently chosen read-alouds is Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka Bake a Cake.  At the end of the story, they sing Happy Birthday to mother (for whom they have baked the cake).  It looks like this:

Anyhow, James has totally picked up on the fact that all of the words in that happy birthday section are the same, and thus must be the part where it says "happy birthday".  Yeah, I know he's not actually reading yet, I just thought it was interesting to notice the degree of print awareness that he's developed already...with pretty much no direct effort on my part.  I just read to him. A lot.  But that's it.  (Hopefully that might be encouraging to those of you who don't have time or energy or printer ink enough to do dozens of cute alphabet printables with your preschoolers.  Nothin' against cute alphabet printables....just not my thing!)

We also like to attend an (English speaking) playgroup for preschoolers hosted by one of our missionary colleagues when we are able to.  They read some stories, do some action rhymes and songs, and have some playtime.  Fun!

Family Reading
- Picture Books Highlights: Eloise Wilkin Stories (aka "Babies" - Elizabeth's name for this sweet book - many of the stories are about babies or children with baby siblings), Angus and the Ducks, Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka Bake a Cake, and Blueberries for Sal.  Michelle has gotten to be such a proficient reader that she often volunteers to read to James and Elizabeth!

- Michelle's Reading: Michelle reads daily from Busy Times, usually with Papa.  We have also returned to the Little House series and have started reading Little Town on the Prairie.  (We read through most of the others last year, and took some time off to read some of the new books we got at Christmas time.)

- Bedtime Read-Aloud: Sadly, we have finished all of Thomas the Tank Engine.  This was truly a family favorite!  Our new bedtime book is Mary Poppins.  The movie is one of the kids' favorites, we are enjoying comparing the similarities and differences.

Some Goals and Plans for the Coming Week
This coming week is our "off" week (as in 4 weeks on, 1 week off), which I admit I am looking forward to.  We will still do Bible, lots of read-alouds, a nature walk, and hopefully a library trip...but not in a particularly scheduled or structured way.  I also hope to take time to evaluate how this 4 week session has gone and make some plans for our next 4 week session.

For more details about the specific curriculum resources we are using, please visit the Goals and Curriculum link at the top of the sidebar.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daybook: The Freeze has Broken Edition

::Outside my window... I never thought I'd live to see the day in which I would say that sunny and 46F is downright balmy...but there ya go.

::Listening to... Kids entertaining themselves.  Quietly.  Except for the squeak of the wheels on James' lego truck.  And Michelle dictating a made-up list of nonsense spelling words to herself ( = 'playing school' )

::Giving thanks for... Warmer weather.

::Pondering... This insightful article.  While I absolutely agree that God has given us exactly enough time to do what He asks of us...right now I am having a difficult time discerning what exactly in my life is what God has given me to do, and what is the extra fluff. 

::Living the Educational Life... Well, I started to write what I wanted to say on this topic last night, and it quickly grew into an entire post of its own.  You can read it here.

::Preparing in the Kitchen... I tried the yogurt again this week using a thermometer to check the temperatures, and had much better results.  Yay!   And also, I love my Crockpot.  Love, love, love.

::Creating by Hand... They say a picture is worth 1000 words....

It's a blanket for her Pooh-Bear by the way...
::Following These Links... This was a very timely follow up to my thoughts on Living the Educational Life.

::Turning Pages... I will admit that I have have spent more of my limited time this week than I should have reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.  The plot is, in many ways, similar to the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, but there's more to it (it is set in the midst of the industrial revolution, so also grapples with issues related to workers and 'masters'.)  And I've seen the movie, so I know how it ends.  But I still can't put it down...

::Finding Rhythm... We are getting there.  Part of me feels like I am hanging on to a roller coaster for dear life...but the other part of me also sees how the kids really enjoyed spending time with their Papa this week...and he really enjoyed spending time with them.   Perhaps this whole language school thing is going to work out for us after all?

::Kiddos this week...  While changing Elizabeth's diaper last night, she looked up at me and said "I'm cute!"   She also informed me, while laying in her bed still wide awake last night, "I sleeping."  She's got some good one-liners for a little one not-yet-2!

::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.  And that we will be able to make some French friends, so we will have more opportunities to practice speaking French outside of our class times.

::Planning the week ahead... Getting back on the roller coaster!   And hopefully going back to the library, with some ID this time, so we can actually get a library card...

::Capturing a few moments... Mes petits Valentins...
We like excuses to patronize our neighborhood boulangerie/patisserie.  Please let us know if you have any special events we can celebrate on your behalf. =)

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Taking Breaks...

So, I started in to this new school year determined to be more disciplined about doing school with Michelle even when I didn't feel like it. Last year we took a lot of days off of school just because I didn't feel like it - I blamed it on our unsettled situation, our travels, and the fact that "well, she's only in kindergarten and can already read first grade level readers, so it's not a big deal if we don't do school today." And while some of that is legit, some of it was just my own lack of discipline. So, now that she is 6 and we are into first grade ('real school') I purposed to be more disciplined. But wowee, has it been hard some days. Given that I am gone at langauge school for half of each day, there are a lot of days that I'd really like to use that limited time at home for something else. But overall, we've pushed through and have been doing pretty well. Until today. I came back at lunchtime after my morning class exhausted only to find the kids all exhausted too. So, we took a break. We snuggled up on the couch and read stories together, everyone (Mama included) took a 'rest time', we planned a mini-virtual-birthday-party for far-away family members who have birthdays this week (read: gave ourselves a good reason to try out the little chocolate mousse cake thingys at our neighborhood boulangerie/patisserie =), and took some time to do some outdoor observations and a nature journal entry.  It turned out to be a really lovely afternoon. 

Part of me felt guilty that we didn't buckle down and 'do school' - no math or spelling or narration or copywork got done today.  But, I was reminded of something that I think Karen Andreola wrote about with regards to a succesful homeschool day: a successful homeschooling day is one in which the child was given something to do, something to think about, and someone to love. I think we covered those bases pretty well today:  we did make some nature observations and drawings, we did read some good literature, and we took the time to think about dear friends and family far away and celebrate their lives even though we can't be with them.   And probably even more importantly: we enjoyed each other.  One of our reasons for homeschooling in the first place is to develop a strong family culture.  This won't happen if we are always grating against each other as we fight to check off everything on the to-do list.

Most importantly of all: we are refreshed.  I am ready now to use the weekend to tie up the loose ends that we didn't get to this week and to begin anew our educational endeavors on Monday.  Yes, there is absolutely a place and time to be disciplined and push through a task even when we don't feel like it.  But there is also a need for balance and for sensitivity to what the Lord is prompting us to do in each moment.  I am so glad that I didn't give in to that feeling of guilt today but rather followed the nudge of the Holy Spirit today to relax and enjoy my family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How We Do History

This is the first in what will eventually become a series of posts looking a little closer at how we are tackling different school subjects at various ages and stages.   Because we recently got our history timeline up and running, I thought I'd start there for you this week.

Originally I had planned to start with Simply Charlotte Mason's History Modules this year.   But, when we realized that a) we were going to be in language school this year and b) I read numerous threads on the SCM Forum about families finding that their first graders didn't really connect well with some of the resources used in Module 1, I decided to hold off on these for a couple of years.  Currently, my plan is to start the SCM History Modules when Michelle is in Grade 3.  This still gives us time to go through all 6 of them by the time she finishes middle school, leaving our options for high school wide open. the meantime, I was looking for something simple that would lay a good foundation for future in-depth history studies.   And what I landed on was the Heritage History Young Reader's Curriculum (also a helpful review here.)  This is a good fit for us right now because a) it uses e-books which reduces the amount of books we have to move around with us during these next couple of transitional years, b) it is simple and very flexible, and c) does present a good overview of World and American history.  We plan to use this curriculum this year and next - which will get us through our major transition to Africa as well.

To begin with I have chosen to use Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans for American History, Thirty More Famous Stories Retold for World History, and The Book of Legends.  We read American History 2 days a week, World History 2 days a week, and Legends once a week.  Every couple of paragraphs, I stop reading and ask Michelle to tell me about what I have read so far.  At the end, I have her tell me something interesting from the story that she remembers.  (This is what Charlotte Mason called 'narration'.)  Then, when applicable, we color and add a figure to our timeline.  I usually do a little review and ask her about a couple of the people we've already read about each day too.  And that's it folks!  Simple.

This is our timeline. 

We are mostly using the Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures, supplemented with stuff I hunted up online when someone I wanted to include wasn't included in the set.  I printed these onto sticker paper (brilliant idea from one of the other moms on the SCM Forum!).  I went ahead and printed up all the characters that I thought we'd cover this year all at once which was a bit tedious, but now it's done.   I also did figures for the Bible characters that we'll cover through our morning Bible stories to add to the timeline as well.

Before we started reading our history stories we spent a week putting some foundational events onto it.   We went through the days of Creation for the "In the Beginning" page:

(There is so much controversy over the exact dates of early history, even among Christian, creation-based resources, that I opted not to use dates on events before 2000 BC - everything before that just goes onto the "In the Beginning" page.  For our purposes now, I think it is good enough to establish the fact that God is the one that created the earth in the Beginning, and that all the rest of history flows from that Beginning.)
Then we added our family (the kids, us, and their grandparents) into the AD 1900 and AD 2000 centuries:

Then we added The Birth of Jesus to the middle of the timeline.

We talked about how dates marked "BC" are events and people that lived before Jesus was born and that we count backwards from there all the way back to the beginning.  Dates marked AD happened after Jesus was born, and we count forward all the way up to now.   She has really connected with this idea, which surprised me because I thought it was a little abstract for a 6 year old.

After each Bible or history reading we color our stickers, and stick them up in the appropriate century. We count back how many centuries it takes us to get to a certain date, which gives us an idea of how long ago something happened. I'm not worried about her learning any exact dates yet, but I do want her to gain an understanding of the scope of history, and to be able to recognize names and maybe a few facts about key historical people.  These are hooks or scaffolding to help us build a framework for more in-depth history studies later on.

And that's it folks: how we are handling first and second grade history!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daybook: Waiting (a little impatiently) for Spring Edition

::Outside my window...Still cold.  No new snow, but some of the snow from two weeks ago is still there (it hasn't yet gotten warm enough for it to melt).  But it doesn't look pretty anymore.   The novelty of winter is starting to wear off for us...

::Listening to.... Michelle and James arguing over who speaks better French.  Which is funny because neither of them do, at least not more than a handful of words and a couple of folk songs.

::Giving thanks for... a relaxing weekend after an intense week.

::Pondering.... In some ways, going to a French church is frustrating.  You strain to try to understand the sermon, and if you're lucky you catch a snippet or two.  People come to chat with you, and you have to ask them to repeat their questions, and then stumble through your answers only to think of exactly what you should have said 5 minutes too late.  But one thing that I really enjoy, even now in this early stage of our langauge learning experience, is singing worship songs in French.  Many of the songs are French translations of songs we sing in the States - this morning they included "Blessed be Your Name" and "Here I am to Worship" - which helps in figuring out new vocabulary.  And because I am trying to figure out new vocabulary, I find I am truly thinking about what I am singing and not just going into to autopilot mode the way it is easy to do when singing familiar songs in English.   Even though I may not be catching much of the sermon, I still find my spirit refreshed just by pondering the words of these worship songs.

::Living the educational life... We are two weeks in to our first 4-week "mini-term" for our homeschool, and it is going well (but you can read all about that here.)  We are one week into our French classes which is going well, but feels pretty intense at the moment.  Dan and I tested into two different classes, which is helpful because our schedules don't clash and we can both attend every day.  But it makes for very full days.  I do feel like I am learning however, and was pleased with myself that I was able to use one of the grammar points brought up in class while making a market purchase yesterday morning.   The bad part is finding time to do teacher in particular seems to rather like assigning it.  When I'm home with the kids I like to be all there with them, and this is hard to do when trying to find time for homework....

::Preparing in the kitchen... Meet my new best friend:

This little baby came in the mail on Friday.  I've already used it twice.  And I'm planning to use it again tomorrow.  It is going to save our sanity this year.

In other kitchen news, we now have a source for real (raw) milk for only pennies more per litre than the UHT milk primarly sold in the supermarkets.  So, I attempted to make yogurt yesterday.  I've successfully made yogurt from milk powder for years, but this was my first attempt starting with fresh milk.  Came out pretty runny, but definetely cultured.   Still needs some tweaking...

::Creating by hand... Um, does it make me a really bad mom that I still haven't started that sewing project with Michelle?  Cuz, we still haven't.  This week, we will.  If you are reading this, pop me a message and remind me that I am promising to do this with her this week, okay?

::Following these links... This article totally made my day.  I am such not a super-crafty-hands-on-projects kind of homeschooling mama either (we like simple around here), and I was so encouraged by the reminder that that's OK.

::Turning pages... Just making my way slowly through the couple of back issues of World magazine that finally caught up with us, and what I'm reading with the kiddos.   Balancing school with being available for my family has sucked up much of my reading time.  I'm thinking that I need to do something about that.  I don't last long without at least a wee bit of reading time.

::Finding rhythm... Slowly getting there.  While part of me doesn't like being gone half of the day everyday, the other part of me is finding it much easier to be available and present with the kids when I am here - I want to soak up that time rather than taking it for granted.  I'm also finding it much easier not to waste so much time on the computer when my time at home is so limited....

::Keeping house... One of my intentions for the year was to more regularly have the kids help out in the kitchen.  This has sort of happened here in the last couple of weeks without much direct effort from me.  We don't have any countertops in our kitchen, which means all our food prep happens on the kitchen table....which happens to be just the right height for little helpers to come join in.   We sort of started alternating nights and voila, one of my goals has become reality with very little effort.  I love having that time with them.

::Kiddos this week...aren't liking it so much that Mama is gone for half of the day.  Nope, they aren't liking it much at all.  While they are home with Papa when Mama is gone, and not in a daycare situation, they don't really like the fact that Papa doesn't do things the same way as Mama does.

::Praying...that the kids will get used to this new routine, and learn to genuinely enjoy the extra time they get to spend with Papa while Mama is at school....even if he doesn't do things exactly the same way that I do.

::Planning the week ahead...besides all the normal language school, homeschool, and homekeeping tasks....we are hoping to visit our local French library this week and see what kind of resources we can find there to assist in our language learning endeavors.  And possibly inviting over some of our missionary colleagues to be able to get to know them on a more personal level.  (We're not quite ambitious enough to ask over any French-speaking folks yet...but we'll get there!)

::Capturing a few moments... Valentine's crafts...plucked from the $1 section at Target before we left:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Two Weeks in Review: 11 February 2012

We have actually completed 2 full weeks of school since we arrived here in France, but last weekend I wasn't organized enough yet to get a post up about you get two weeks at once.   We are doing a 4-weeks-on-1-week-off schedule this year, so we are already half way through our first "mini-term".   Now that we've got something of a daily rhythm going, I'll try to get a post up about our daily schedule sometime soon.   But in the's what we've been up to:

-Scripture Memory: Working on Joshua 1:8-9.  It seemed very timely and appropriate for our family right now!  We also continue to review previously learned verses, using a very slightly modified version of Simply Charlotte Mason's Scripture Memory System.

- Hymns: So far this year we have learned all of the verses of Blessed Assurance, and are now working on all of the verses of Holy, Holy, Holy.  We've known the first verse of it for awhile, and for some reason this seems to be a favorite of toddlers.  Both James and Elizabeth started trying to sing it before they could really even talk much!

- Bible Reading: In the morning, we are reading the short, illustrated Bible stories contained in the ESV Seek and Find Bible (which we got for Michelle on her birthday when she turned 6.  A lovely first "real" Bible.) and adding each character to our history timeline.   In the evening, we continue to read a short passage out of the book of Mark each night, often buddy reading with Michelle.

Circle Time
- Poetry: Nursery Friends from France (English translations of French Nursery Rhymes with lovely illustrations and little cultural notes sprinkled here and there.)
- God's World News: Early Edition
- Calendar Time in French

Table Time (The Basics)
- Cursive: Michelle continues to excel in Cursive.  We are up to letter I now.

- All About Spelling Level 1: We are part way through Step 12, which is halfway through the book.  Michelle flew right through the first half, but we are now getting to some more challenging material (spelling words with blends and constant teams), which was a little frustrating to her this week - she is used to sailing right through these.  I think it will reinforce her reading to work on carefully taking apart all the sounds she hears in each word...even if it takes a little more effort!

- Math: We continue to work through basic addition facts - we're about done with pairs that make 7, and ready to move on to pairs that make 8.

-Copywork: We aren't doing print copy everyday right now because of the cursive instruction, but do aim to do it a couple times each week (and will until we can switch over to doing cursive copywork).  We alternate between passages of my choice, passages of her choice, and copying a sentence that I have taken down from her oral narration (this often in our France book or nature journals.)   She loves being able to make an accompanying illustration in our new copywork notebook!

History, Geography and Culture
- History: We got our timeline set up last week (more on that in another post) and are now starting to read from some of our Heritage History selections.  This week we read and narrated about John Winthrop, Marquette, Christopher Columbus, and the legend of the proud king.  When applicable, we add figures to our timeline.

- Geography and Culture: For our France study, we are reading and enjoying the book Collette in France.  We read a chapter each week and add an illustration to our book about France.  We also look up on a map about any locations we read about, and this past week after reading about Paris we also looked up pictures online of the various Parisian landmarks.  We've also added various other things to our France book, such as a postcard we purchased of our city with a narration about some of Michelle's first impressions of living here.  (Her favorite thing about living here so far?  Going to the bakery to get bread!)

Science and Nature Study
Last week, we had a snowstorm so had an impromptu nature study on snow.  We read and enjoyed a picture book about snow crystals called The Story of Snow.  (James has repeatedly asked for it ever since.)  We also took a winter walk and used a notebooking sheet from here to record our observations about winter weather in France for our France book.

This week, I decided that we should do a study on pigeons since they are about the only wildlife we've seen here (I think in part because we are in an urban location and in part because it is so stinkin' cold!).  But go figure, the day we took our nature walk, we saw NONE.   All the way to the store and back and not a single pigeon!  Go figure.  Undeterred however, we explored some of the helpful links from here, printed and colored a coloring page, and pasted it into our journals.   So, all was not lost.  We've noticed them several other times as we've been out and about this week, so all's well that ends well.

Bottom line: I am enjoying nature study more than I ever have before, and finding it easier to be consistent.   This is a very good thing, given that at one point I despaired if we could ever get into it, as much as I loved the idea.

Art and Music
Composer Study: Debussy
Artist Study: Monet.   Over the past two weeks we've read through the book about Monet from the Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artist's series.  Honestly, I struggle with doing art appreciation and it's not Michelle's favorite either.  But, we're trying.

What the Littles Did
We've done school in the afternoon several times because of my school schedule and actually really like this because it means that the little ones are napping. =)   But when they aren't napping, they are right there with us....

Family Reading
- Picture Book Highlights: Eloise Wilkin stories and various books from the Frances and Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka series.  I am amazed that Elizabeth sits so still and quiet for the longer picture books.  She loves her "stowies".

- Michelle's Reading: We started into the first of the Pathway 2nd grade readers, Busy Times.  The stories are quite a bit longer than in the first grade reader, so we are splitting them over two days for now.  She is often reading with Papa when I am at school, but I've been pleased with the narrations she has given me later.  We are also reading an American Girls book set in 1853 New Orleans called Meet Marie Grace together.

- Bedtime Read-Aloud: The Thomas the Tank Engine Collection

Some Goals and Plans for the Coming Week
We've got our French calendar vocabulary more or less mastered, so it's time to kick our French study up a notch.   I plan to do a monthly theme to learn phrases and vocabulary around, so I hope to add that in to our calendar time this coming week.  I am also hoping we will have time to go visit our local (French) library this week and see what kind of resources we can find there to enhance our French language study.

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, February 3, 2012

Daybook: First Post from our New Home (for the year...)

::outside my window...Cold.  Gray.  SNOWY!  Michelle has been asking for weeks when we would get a snowstorm, and this week she finally got it.  We got several inches on Tuesday, and it has stayed cold enough that quite a bit of it is still there.  So pretty.

::listening to...Michelle and James coloring together.  I love it when they do things nicely together (which isn't always...but is often in our house.  I am so very grateful for this.)

::giving thanks amazingly smooth transition to this new place.  So much could have gone wrong that didn't.  We are so grateful for new friends on this side who have helped us get settled too.

::pondering...So, I had my first 'embarrasing language learning faux-pas yesterday: I accidently ended up in the 'card only' line at the supermarket when I wanted to pay in cash.  We had been warned that it can been a hassle to use an American credit card here, but thankfully I had it with me, and thankfully it worked.   But, I still felt pretty stupid, and by the time I got home was feeling pretty much like "we can't do this.  What were we thinking, coming here?"   I let myself get frustrated and discouraged over what was really a pretty little thing.  I realized later, however, that I should use these moments (since I'm quite sure there will be others!) as reminders that I really can't do this on my own, but that I can do ALL THINGS through Christ's strength.  When I am weak, He is strong.  

::living the educational life...We started back to school for the kids this week.  I'm going to try a 4-weeks-on-1-week-off schedule this year.  We have implemented our first grade curriculum almost in full this week and it has gone well.  I was a little worried that what looked reasonable on paper was going to be too much in reality, but we've been getting things done in good time.  I'm really pleased with Michelle's narrations also - I thought she'd have a harder time adjusting to this, but she's doing really well.  So, we are off to a good start there.  Next week Mama goes back to school...

::preparing in the kitchen...I have successfully started a new sourdough starter!  Yeah!   I have a bowl of sourdough crackers souring right now to bake in a little while.  Sourdough crackers are addictively good.

::creating by hand... Michelle is begging me to start our first 'real' sewing project: a blanket and pillow for her Pooh-Bear.  Guess we should get going on that this week.

::following these links... We were offline for a week and a half, so I am slowly getting caught up on my online reading.  However, I thought this was a good reminder about what is really important as we educate our children, even though I don't use the AO Curriculum.  I have also really enjoyed Renee's thoughts about the transition her family has gone through in the past year just as we have been going through major life transitions as well.  Alot of her thoughts have really resonated with me and I have appreciated her vulnerability in processing her thoughts and feelings online.

::turning pages... We recently watched the BBC miniseries Cranford and really enjoyed it.  It is actually based on several Elizabeth Gaskell novels, so now I am reading all of them to see which plot elements in the movie came from which books.   If you enjoy Jane Austen, you will probably also enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell (both the novels and the BBC movie productions of the same.)

::finding rhythm... We're getting there.  This week has actually been pretty good in that department, all things considered.  Next week, however, Mama and Papa start school which will add a whole new dynamic.  So, rhythm in our family is a work in progress.

::keeping house... Before we came here, we had been warned that our apartment was kind of old and laid out funny.  And it is.  But, we rearranged some furniture and are actually finding it pretty comfy - and spacious enough that we don't feel cramped.  And we have an amazing view. =)

::kiddos this week... Quote from Michelle: "Mama, why are you speaking French to everyone?"  Well, that's just exactly why we came to live in France for a year sweet girl.

::praying... that I will view the difficulties of learning a new language and culture as opportunities to depend even more upon the Lord, rather than as frustrations.

::planning the week ahead... We start language school this coming week!  Kinda excited, kinda nervous.  We go for a placement test/interview on Monday and won't actually know our schedules until Monday evening.  And then the fun begins....

::capturing a few moments...