Sunday, April 29, 2012

Daybook: The French Pastries will be the End of Me" Edition

Outside my window... Finally, after a very rainy month of April, the 'beau temps" have returned.  Sunny and in the 70's this weekend.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.

::Listening to... Sounds of all the people down in the street below our apartment.  This is unusual for 2 reasons.  1, the weather is finally nice enough to open the window.  2, there are actually people out there on a Sunday.  Usually it's super quiet on Sundays since everything is closed.  But today is the semi-annual "braderie".  Think, enormous, city-wide yard sale.  (PNG friends, it's like a "Top O' the Hill Sale" on steroids.)   Because of this, many of the cafes are open as well.  Living in France is never dull, folks.

::Giving thanks for... Increasing confidence in speaking the French language.  Many opportunities for fellowship.  Lovely weather.  Opportunities to connect with my hubby.

::Pondering... I have a sweet friend who gave birth to twins at 25 weeks back in November.  Amazingly, they both lived (although both are still dealing with residual issues related to their prematurity) and were recently discharged from the hospital.  I just read their latest update in which she shared that her life consists completely of feeding them, changing them, holding them, and trying to get them to sleep.  Long, tiring days, to be sure.  She shared how the other day she was starting to feel sorry for herself because of the sleep deprivation and all of that, and then realized that she shouldn't.   She is sleep deprived because God has seen fit to bless their family with two sweet children to raise for His glory.  He saw fit to allow them both to live (not something that you take for granted when you deliver at 25 weeks!)  She realized anew how she needs to savor and appreciate every moment she gets to spend with these little blessings that God has given them, even the ones that come in the middle of the night.   I was really convicted by that.   Thankfully, we are beyond the sleep-deprivation phase of parenting, but there are definitely other challenges that we do face in the stage we are in.  I confess that in the last couple of weeks I have been focusing on the challenges and not enjoying my children as I should.  Lord, help me to recognize that these little people in my home are blessings straight from Your hand, and the challenges along the way are opportunities to learn to depend more on your strength and wisdom.

::Living the Educational Life... School is going well from a "the kids are making progress" perspective, and not so well from a "mama is organized" perspective.   I think the next few weeks we are going to do 3-4 days/week rather than taking our traditional full week off, to make up for the vacation week we are going to take at the end of May.  Hopefully an "off" day each week will let me feel a little more caught up on life.

::Preparing in the Kitchen... Haven't MADE anything interesting lately...but have made several food related observations in the past week. First of all, how is one supposed to decide what to have for dessert when the dessert buffet looks like this?

(Confession: I couldn't decide.  I ate far more off of this table than I care to admit.  I paid for it in wacky blood sugar for the next 48 hours...but oh my, I almost think it was worth it....)

Second food related observation: only in France would you attend a barbeque where the hot dogs are served in baguettes instead of buns along with a little paper cup of red wine...

::Following These Links... Another fantastic, timely, convicting post from the folks over at Doorposts...
::Turning Pages... I really enjoyed reading Redifining Home last week.  I could relate on so many levels to the experiences of the author, although she lives in China and I've lived in PNG/France/Africa.   If you are a lady living cross-culturally - I'd recommend it.  And if you're not, but you'd like to better understand some of the challenges facing ladies living overseas...I'd reccomend it to you too.

::Finding Rhythm... I'm thinking we need to work more outdoor time into our rhythm.  This nice weather is calling to me...

::Kiddos this week... Well, actually last week...we had a project day.  We needed to push the reset button so, we did.  We had so much fun baking cookies, drawing in our nature journals, reading stories together, and painting.

::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.  Praise: I am going to a French ladies Bible study tomorrow night!

::Planning the week ahead... Well, we get our new schedule tomorrow.  And then Tuesday is a public holiday (French labor day).   And then back to the grind.  Need to find some study time and figure out the plus-que-parfait.  And organize my papers from the last month.  And run errands.  You get the idea. =)

Hope yours is a good week too!

Spring Tree Study

We've been keeping an eye on the trees planted in front of the shopping plaza outside of our apartment since we've been here in France.   It's changed a lot since we arrived in January....
End of January
mid-late February



Our nature studies this month focused on this tree, loosely following the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study Spring Tree suggestions.   We talked about how the tree had changed since winter, and what we thought might still happen in the month to come (Michelle says 'I think it will still get more leaves.")  She was also inspired to write a poem about it, similar to the one we wrote for our Pansy study:

My Tree in All the Seasons
Cold, Cold
Snowy, Snowy
Little, Little, Little Buds
Big, big purple blossoms
Teeny, teeny tiny leaves
Green, green leaves getting bigger all the time
(I guess we'll come back and write the verses for the summer and fall later. =)

Nature Journaling "event" - the little ones don't keep journals yet, but they do like joining in with us.  James' leaf drawing wasn't half bad, either.
We also got Papa to snatch a leaf off it for us so we could take a closer look at that and also see if we could identify the tree.
My sketch of our leaf

These are young trees (the shopping area was just renovated last year and new trees planted), and it is till early in the spring so the leaves are quite small.
We read the book Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Trees, and decided that the leaf shape most closely resembled a maple.  After a little more research in a local field guide and online, we think that our tree may be a Sycamore Maple.  I'm not great at identifying things, so we'll have to wait and see if we are right, but it seemed to be a good fit based on the leaf shape and the information given in our local field guide.  According to that, these trees are very common in our part of France and often planted along the streets and in parks.   So, we shall see!  According to this article, it should flower in we'll see if we are right, or if we need to refine our hypothesis. =)

So, that was our nature fun for this month!  The "beau temps" seem to have returned to this part of the world, so hopefully we'll have more opportunities to get out an explore in the month to come.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Daybook: The 'Where Did the Sunshine Go?' Edition

Outside my window... It has been a gray and wet week.  It is supposed to be a gray and wet week again this week.  Where did our glorious spring disappear to?  Come back spring, come back...
::Listening to... Quiet.  I think 3 out of 5 are napping.   The other one is messing around in the entry-way catch-all drawer.  Hopefully not getting into anything she's not supposed to...

::Giving thanks for... Multiple, confidence boosting French language experiences this week, including a successful trip to the doctor with Michelle and understanding the main gist of a French sermon.  Special time with my little-boy-buddy as we started 'preschool' this past week.
::Pondering... OK, here is the coolest story in the world.   Way back a long, long time ago, in a far away land called California, I transferred into a new school in the 5th grade.  If you can imagine the shyest, awkwardest girl in your fifth grade class, then that will give you an idea of me at that age.  Needless to say, it was sort of a rough year for me.  Thankfully, I had a really kind and understanding teacher who I connected with really well.   She helped push me along the road towards having greater confidence.  Easily, she would be among the top 5 influential people in my life. Over the years, we kept in touch on and off.   She even came to my college graduation, and was naturally included on our update list when we moved into overseas missionary work.   Somewhere in between the time that I was a student in that classroom and now, this same teacher came to know the Lord (as wonderful as she was, she was not a believer when I was a student in her classroom).  Recently, she became one of our ministry partners.   In a note she sent us this past week, she shared that we were an inspiration to her.   Funny thing is, I probably wouldn't be here doing this at all if she hadn't first inspired me to take those first tentative steps out of my shell all those many years ago.   Isn't it interesting to see the way that the Lord works...the people who touch our lives in and out of years....such a rich tapestry, isn't it?
Okay, so I think this picture is from fourth grade, and not fifth.  That's because all the scanned childhood photos I happen to have on the computer are the ones I chose to use in our wedding slideshow.  They skip from 9 to 13 because there wasn't a single non-embarrassing picture in between those ages that I cared to show publically...

::Living the Educational Life... A little bit rough getting back into our school groove this week, but looking forward to things being a bit better in that department next week.   We added James into our school time with about 15-20 minutes preschool work while Michelle finishes her math paper (after we start it together) and does her copywork.   He LOVES it.  I am finding he knows more number-letter stuff than I thought he did, but that's OK.  It's really more about getting some focused one-on-one time in with him than anything else, so as long as he's happy, I'm happy. =)
Somebody's just a little excited about starting preschool!

::Preparing in the Kitchen... Nothin' interesting this week.  Had multiple nights that I was wishing for a Chick-Fil-A handy cuz I just didn't want to cook at all.

::Following These Links... This was an interesting read, something to think about.  This had some practical ideas for wiggly-ones.  And SCM has just released their latest history Module.  I had intended to start in Module 1 when Michelle is in third grade, but all the wonderful new resources for Modules 5 and 6 are making me want to start there....we shall see.

::Turning Pages... Just starting a new book I just downloaded to my Kindle called Redefining Home.  Written by an American living in China, I am enjoying it so far because I can so relate to that funny feeling of not knowing where to call home anymore...  Also got the last two World magazines in a package from my Mom this week...and when I am particularly inspired I am very slowly slogging my way through Little House on the Prairie in French.   I emphasize slowly.   As in I started it a week ago and am only just getting to the end of chapter one. 

::Finding Rhythm... Took time last weekend to evaluate our schedule and finding things to be generally going much more smoothly this week. Whew...perhaps there's hope...

::Kiddos this week... To the lady living in the apartment below us: I promise that we really are trying to train our kids to use soft feet in the house.  Really, truly, we ARE trying!

::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... Same, same, same. But, that's OK.

::Capturing a moment... See...they can be still!  They don't always run around like elephants!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

How We Do Language Arts, Part 3

This post is Part 3 in a series that gives a snapshot of what Language Arts looks like in our home right now, with a first grader who is reading well.

You can find the other parts here:
Part 1 - Intro, Literature, and Narration
Part 2 - Handwriting, Copywork, Reading, and Spelling

Today's Installment - What we Don't Do, and Helpful Links

What you’ll notice we aren’t doing….

Creative Writing, or Tons of Written Work in General
CM didn’t advise much written work for young children.  Gaining ideas from living books (something to write about), oral narration (organizing thoughts and ideas), and copywork (the mechanics and conventions of writing) all lay the foundation for future written work, however.   Michelle often chooses to write on her own – letters, lists, etc – which I encourage, but I do not require at this stage in the game.   I like how in her book, Writing with Ease, Susan Wise Bauer has laid out a path to begin by practicing all of the skills of writing separately (through reading, narration, and copywork) and then gradually bringing them together so that by 4th grade or so the student has the tools to begin writing original thoughts on her own.  We don’t follow the suggestions from this book exactly (Susan Wise Bauer is writing from a classical education perspective, rather than a CM perspective, and her take on the purpose and method of narration are a bit different), but I found her sequence of 'baby steps' really helpful to see the big picture of the skills that a child needs to develop in order to become a proficient writer.  As per SWB’s suggestions, once a week or so I will record one of Michelle’s narrations and have her use a sentence or two for copywork as an introduction to putting her own thoughts onto paper.

CM also didn’t recommend a study of formal grammar for young children.  She maintained that grammar study will be more meaningful to a child who has already gained experience with reading and copying from good models.   As such, we won’t study grammar formally until 4th or 5th grade.  In the meantime, we take a few minutes each week to point out some simple grammar and mechanics functions in Michelle’s copywork selections:  when to use a capital letter, what all the different punctuation marks mean, etc.

More Resources for CM-style Language Arts
If you are intrigued by the CM language arts methods and what to read more in detail, here a couple of good links to get you started….

SCM Discussion Forum Threads on Living Books, Narration, Copywork and Composition, Dictation and Spelling, and English and Grammar

Wildflowers and Marbles Language Arts Series

Hope this has been helpful for those looking to implement a Charlotte Mason education in your home.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How We Do Language Arts, Part 2

You can find Part 1 (Intro, Literature, and Narration) of this series here.  Just to recap, this is a snapshot of what language arts instruction looks like right now with a first grader who reads well. Today's installment: how we approach handwriting, copywork, reading, and spelling.

Handwriting and Copywork
Michelle’s print handwriting is excellent, so we moved on to cursive at her request this year.  We are simply working our way through a workbook for that.  The main difference is that although the work book is set up for a page to be completed each day, we usually only do one line at a time, unless she is really keen to do more.  Charlotte emphasized quality over quantity and maintained that it was better for a child to do one letter perfectly than a whole page sloppily.   We are making good progress.  Once she has learned all the letter forms, we will transition slowly into doing all of her written work in cursive.
 In the meantime, we continue to do copywork in print several times each week.  Copywork is so much more than handwriting practice!   Not only is the child gaining practice in the mechanical art of writing, she is also internalizing good spelling, good style, good sentence structure, grammar conventions, etc.  Michelle usually copies 1-2 sentences at a time, depending on length.  Sometimes she chooses something from a books she has enjoyed and other times I choose.   At this point we do copywork 2-3 times per week, but when we are done with the cursive instruction phase, we will bring it back up to daily.

Michelle is already reading well (2nd grade level books pretty easily), so we are no longer doing formal reading/phonics lessons.    We learned to read with a combination of phonics and sight words which served us well (but is a whole other post for a whole other day….maybe soon since I get asked about it a lot.  We shall see.)   So for now, I encourage her to read out loud to me (or to her Papa) regularly – from her readers, from our God’s World News magazine, and we buddy read from the Bible.  This keeps me abreast of her progress and allows me to spot teach on any words or sounds that still cause her difficulty.   She is also starting to choose to read independently more and more.

This is the one thing that we personally do that isn’t really purely CM.  Charlotte didn’t teach spelling directly, arguing instead that a child who has had a steady diet of good books and copywork taken from good books will internalize correct spelling.   Older children (perhaps from 4th or 5th grade on up) in Charlotte’s school’s did dictation exercises.  I agree with the premise that children who have read widely are more likely to be naturally good spellers.  BUT…I also believe firmly in giving a child the tools she needs to figure out how to spell for herself.  I saw too many kids in my classroom teaching days that just couldn’t spell, and didn’t hardly know where to begin.   When Michelle started wanting to write more on her own and was asking me how to spell this and that every time I turned around, I knew it was time to start giving her these tools.   We use All About Spelling which is a phonics-based, mastery-based, multi-sensory program (in contrast to the ‘memorize these words for the test and forget them’ approach.)  I’ve been pleased with her increased confidence in both writing and reading since we’ve started using this program.   We will continue this up until 4th or 5th grade, as long as it seems beneficial to her, and then switch over to CM’s dictation approach for the middle grades.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How We do Language Arts, Part 1

One of the unique features of a Charlotte Mason education is the way that language arts is handled.  The CM approach to language arts is different from what most of us grew up with – it is very holistic, does not involve a lot of busywork, and can be integrated across the curriculum once you understand the methods.   Much has already been written about CM language arts methods already (I will link to a few helpful resources at the end of the series), so I won’t go into too much detail on that.   But, I do want to give you a snapshot of how we translate those methods into everyday life in our home, right now.  (I will revisit this post from time to time as we progress and things change.)  Currently I am teaching a first-grader who is already reading well.   This has turned into a monster of a post, so I will divide it up into a couple of parts.  So for us, this is what first grade language arts looks like….

Literature (including poetry)
Excellent literature is one of the cornerstones of a Charlotte Mason education.   In addition to literature to be read for its own sake, Charlotte advocated the use of ‘Living Books’ across the curriculum – for history, for geography, for science and nature, and so on.   That is not to say that there isn’t a time and place for textbooks, but when at all possible Charlotte encouraged the use of interesting, well-written, and appropriately challenging books to feed the mind with ideas, rather than dry lists of facts.
Currently, we are using literature as the basis for our history, geography, nature, and character studies (see the Goals and Curriculum Link in the sidebar to see our specific resources.)  We also read aloud from both chapter books and picture books daily – we have a story time mainly for the little ones right after lunch and also a chapter book going as part of our bedtime routine.
Charlotte also encouraged the regular reading of poetry.  I did NOT grow up with an appreciation for poetry, but by simply reading a quick poem at the start of our school time each day, my kids are gaining more of an appreciation for it than I had.  (We actually increased our poetry reading to daily at Michelle’s request!)   At this stage in the game we just read and enjoy – we don’t analyze, we don’t write.
  Narration is the cornerstone of CM education.   At its simplest, narration is simply the child telling back something that she has read (or had read aloud to her.)  Sounds simple enough, but in the act of telling back involves hearing, understanding, organizing the information in your mind, and then choosing the correct words to express your ideas.   Not as easy as it sounds!    For young children, narration is done orally.   Later on, as narration skills develop and the mechanical skills of writing become more natural, narrations can be given in writing.   Because narration is complex and demands the use of a lot of the brain, it is not recommended to require narration from a child younger than age 6.

Because of this, narration is still fairly new for us.   We are still working on building up Michelle’s oral narration ability.  She is not a natural narrator, but has been progressing nicely.   Right now, we narrate:
-          Aesop’s Fables: we are reading through Aesop’s Fables this year specifically because they are highly recommended as practice for beginning narrators.  They are short and usually amusing.   We read one just about every day, and after I’ve read I ask Michelle to tell me what happened.   Her narrations for these are usually quite good.

-          Bible:  I also ask her to “tell me what happened” when we read Bible stories.  Since these are often longer, I usually stop every couple of paragraphs to track what has happened in the story so far. Sometimes we 'buddy narrate' - this helps to model what I am looking for to keep the details in a complex story straight.

-          History and Nature: Our history curriculum this year consists of short stories taken from the lives of various famous people throughout history, both from America and around the World.  Since my goal for history at this point is simply to familiarize her with famous people and events I don’t expect terribly detailed narrations.  I usually ask her to tell me the most interesting thing she learned about ______.   The same goes for narrations from our nature-related books.

-          Geography:  For our geography book, I usually ask her “what was your favorite part of the story?".   I record this and she draws and accompanying illustration.  We usually look up pictures of the area in question on the internet when we read, and she uses these pictures as inspiration for her drawings.

-          Character Study: For our character development book, we usually walk back through the basic plot together, and then I might ask her to tell me what the character in the story learned.
At this stage we aren’t narrating literature, just because she is still a beginner and I like to keep our family read-aloud times more lighthearted.  But as she grows into reading more independently, I will expect narrations from literature selections as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Daybook: The "He is Risen Indeed" Edition

Outside my window... Sadly, the sunshine has disappeared.  It's been kind of a cold, gray, damp weekend.
::Listening to... Quiet.

::Giving thanks for... Increasing opportunties to have French conversations - we visited a different church this morning where the people were quite friendly and I was able to successfully converse with several of them...a friend is also organizing a conversation group which I think will begin this week.  Three day weekends.  Getting to go to a coffee shop all by myself for a little while yesterday.   Strawberries coming into season.   Outings at the park with friends.
::Pondering... Can you see that cross way, way up there on the hill?

I don't know what the story behind it is, but I get a good view of this hill on the route that I walk to and from school.  It is a good reminder that He brought us here and is with us here, even on those discouraging days that I think I will never be able to speak French and wonder just what we got ourselves into.

::Living the Educational Life... You can see our month in review here.  My school is looking up these days too - our class schedule worked out really well this month, and there are finally some other opportunities (conversation group, Bible studies, etc) opening up as well.  And I'm attempting to read Little House on the Prairie in French.  We'll see how that goes. =)

::Preparing in the Kitchen... Made Easter Eggs with the kiddos.  And tried a new recipe for a yogurt and fruit pie which is actually really good for a relatively "healthy" dessert. =)

::Following These Links... This was hands-down the best thing that I've read in a long time.  Extremely timely.

::Turning Pages... In between books right now...

::Finding Rhythm... Took time last weekend to evaluate our schedule and finding things to be generally going much more smoothly this week. Whew...perhaps there's hope...

::Kiddos this week... So, Michelle lost her first tooth this week.  On the same day she made her first attempt at a chapter book (Farmer Boy) and wrote a letter to grandma completely unaided.  My little girl is getting big too fast!

::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... Tomorrow's a public holiday here, so we'll take the day off - we may go to the park with friends if the weather is OK.  And then back to the school-and-home-and-homeschool routine. =)

::Capturing a moment... Park day with friends, enjoying spring in France....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Month in Review: 4 April 2012

I'm noticing a theme here.  A week in review was too much, so we did two weeks in review.  Apparently even two weeks in review is too much, so here is a month in review.  We school 4 weeks on - 1 week off so I think I should be able to stick with this.  I hope. =)   Anyhow, without any further ado....what we've done this past month with a few plans for our coming 4 week term....

(Oh and sorry about the wonky formatting in this post.  I am getting too frustrated to try and fix it anymore.  I attempted to do too much cut-and-paste methinks, and Blogger didn't like it.)
Bible and Character Development
- Scripture Memory: We are making good progress on our way through Psalm 139, about 2/3 of the way through.  I am consistently amazed at the ability my kids have to memorize.
- Hymns: We have learned "Amazing Love" and "Amazing Grace".  I love hearing my kids sing hymns as they go throughout their days..all the way down to the 2-year-old.
- 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 finished reading Mark (buddy reading with Michelle) and are now reading through Luke.  (Except for this week, we are taking time to work through our traditional set of resurrection eggs leading up to Easter.)  
- Character Development: We are slowly reading through Parables from Nature, a book of lovely nature stories that also illustrate a virtue such as faith or patience.

Circle Time

- Poetry: Nursery Friends from France (English translations of French Nursery Rhymes with lovely illustrations and little cultural notes sprinkled here and there.)
-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. (I will do a separate post on narration and our approach to language arts in general soon.)
- God's World News: Early Edition
- Calendar Time in French + French activity: sometimes a read-aloud storybook checked out from the library, other times a French preschool workbook I picked up last week.

Table Time (The Basics)

- Cursive: Through letter P, with several review and practice lessons in between.  Michelle is doing really well with cursive.
A recent sample page from her cursive book

- All About Spelling Level 1: Completed Steps 14-17 - spelling words with initial blends (such as stop), final blends (such as last), and deciding when you use c or k at the beginning of a word.  I am pleased with the way the that the phonics based, word segmenting approach is giving her greater confidence it both reading and writing.
Dictated word list and phrases from Step 17 of AAS Level 1

- Math: Well...we decided to make the switch to Math-U-See.  While math was not a huge problem now, I was becoming increasingly concerned with the way that Math Mammoth presented concepts and was having to supplement and tweak more than I really wanted to.  I didn't see MM continuing to work for us in the long run.  Math-U-See takes a very different approach to presenting the skills so I thought it would be better to switch sooner rather than later so we wouldn't have to backtrack too much.  We worked through the first 3 lessons during the last week of this term (there are 30 lessons in the book - designed to take a week or so each, depending on the needs of the individual child) - all of which were very easy for Michelle, but a good foundation to the methods and materials used in the curriculum.  All of the kids LOVE to play with the colored blocks used in the program as well.  When we get started again next week, we will dive in to addition facts and hopefully get those good and cemented.  I imagine we'll move through the lessons quickly to start with and then slow down as we hit areas that are trouble spots or fact families we had not yet covered in our previous curriculum.   We also implemented some math copywork/math drill sheets over the last 4-week term and that seems to be helping to in terms of aiding her memorization of the facts.  Sometimes she makes up math worksheets for me too - funny girl.

Enjoying their new Math U See Blocks
-Copywork: We attempt to do print copywork 2-3 times a week.  My goal is for her to do something of my choice, something of her choice, and something that I have transcribed from one of her narrations, but we aren't always hitting all of those.  Michelle's print handwriting is excellent.
Two page spread out of Michelle's copywork book

And here's a close-up.  This was copied from a portion of her narration from Aesop's Fables.

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 the past month we have read about George Washington, Benjamin West, and a number of inventors and scientists such as Gutenburg, Newton, and Galileo.

A sample of Michelle's narration + illustration of from Collette in France

- Geography and Culture:    We enjoyed reading, narrating and illustrating Chapters 5-8 of Collette in France and looking up the various places mentioned in the story online.  As a family we visited the city of Grenoble, so we also marked this on relation to our town on the map and recorded it in our Year in France book.
Riding the cable car in Grenoble
View from the top
Science and Nature

I posted in detail about some of our recent nature study projects here, so I'll let you read about that over there.  We have also been reading through the spring-related sections of Outdoor Secrets.

Art and Music

Composer Study: Debussy
Artist Study: We wrapped up our study of Monet.  We've tried to do artist study on and off in the past and this was the first time we were really successful.  Michelle loved Monet and enjoyed his paintings.   We're hoping to go to Paris sometime in the next couple of months, and I think she will enjoy seeing a real Monet painting in a museum.
What we learned about Monet in her own words.

Her favorite Monet painting - The Cliffwalk Pourville
In the last 4 week term, we have incorporated French study more intentionally into the kid's days.  We have been doing our calendar time in French as I already mentioned.  I also bought a French preschool workbook that we do a page out of a couple times a week (good for learning to follow directions, build vocabulary, etc.) and we now have library cards so we try to read a simple French storybook or 2 each day.   Additionally, Michelle has been working with The Learnables Level 1 software 3 days a week (working on Lesson 3 now), and watching these videos the other 2 days (we've watched 1-4).  The littles aren't required to do anything, but they are fascinated and they love following along with what Michelle is doing also.

Watching a French video on the computer

What the Littles Did
Well...not much. =)  Due to my school schedule, we have primarily been doing our school time in the afternoon, so Elizabeth is napping, and James is often also resting or playing quietly in his room.   Elizabeth napping during school simplifies matters a lot, but I would like to start including James more in what we are doing.

Family Reading

- Picture Books Highlights: Elizabeth got some new books for her birthday, the favorites of which are Honey, Honey Lion and the Mike Inkpen collection - a British author recommended by a friend.
- Michelle's Reading: Michelle's reading has really taken off.  She continues to read several times each week from Busy Times to either Papa or me, but she is reading a lot of things on her own too.  She often reads picture books to herself or to her siblings, has recently informed me that "Level 1 readers are too easy" and got into the stash of Level 2 readers I had intended to spread out over the year (mainly the remaining Frances books and several Amelia Bedelia's).  She's read about half of them in the past 3 days alone.  Yup, someone's been bitten by the reading bug...  I also continue to read outloud to her from Little Town on the Prairie several times each week.
- Bedtime Read-Aloud: At the start of our last 4 week term, we had just started Mary Poppins which we abandoned before we finished.  It turned out to be really, really bizarre.  Bummer.  Probably one of the only books about which I will ever say "just see the movie instead."  We moved along to The Betsy Tacy Treasury which we have all enjoyed immensely, James included.

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 think it is time to start including James a little more intentionally in our time, so I plan to start some Montessori style letters/sounds and number recognition activities with him.
- 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.
- I think if I want Michelle to be doing print copywork more regularly, I need to start choosing selections ahead of time.  When I'm not prepared, it tends not to happen.
- I have had the Put-On Chart and Study from Doorposts for quite awhile now, and after Easter I'd like to start working through it as a family.
- And some posts in the works: Our Schedule, How we do Language Arts, How we do French, more Nature Study and more Daybooks.

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, April 1, 2012

The "Whew, what a Week" Edition...

Outside my window... The beautiful, sunny spring weather continues.  I actually broke out the capris and flip-flops this week!

::Listening to... Quiet.  Michelle and James are playing nicely, Elizabeth and Papa are napping.

::Giving thanks for... Sunshine.  Opportunities for personal growth (Fun, no.  But good for me, yes.  So I'm thankful for them anyhow.).  Vitamin C tablets.  Another month of language school down. A chance to take a train trip to another city - getting out and doing something besides going to school and coming home.  Time spent with new friends.

Kiddos enjoying the train trip to a neighboring city.
::Pondering... I am realizing more and more that language learning requires a healthy dose of humility, diligence, and selflessness.  Humility: If I am going to improve my French speaking, I have to speak French.  And I am going to make mistakes.  I am not going to sound like I have my act completely together. This grates against everything in me.  I don't like making mistakes, and I like people to think I have my act together.  Diligence: Last week, I posted about feeling like the "honeymoon" was over.  While we are still enjoying the experience of living in Europe, we are also realizing what a difficult task language learning while caring for a young family is.  There have been days this week that I just didn't want to do anything, and some days that I gave in to that temptation to waste time rather than use the little pockets to make progress towards a needed goal.  I need to stand firm against that temption and keep plugging along doing the next thing, and then doing the next thing, and then doing the next thing after that.  Selflessness: Life here is a juggling act.  There isn't enough time in the day to do it all.  Sometimes that means making tough choices between what I want and what is best for the whole family.  I'm beginning to realize that perhaps part of the reason that God has brought our family to this place at this time is to refine these rough edges.  Fun, no.  But needed, yes.  I hope and pray that the experiences we have this year and the lessons we will learn from them will grow us to be more like Him and prepare us to serve Him in ways that we would not have been able to before.

::Living the Educational Life... We should have wrapped up our 4-week term on Friday but due to sickness and travel, missed a couple of days.  So we will wrap things up Monday and Tuesday and then take the rest of the week off.  Even with the on-again-off-again nature of the past couple of weeks, I am still really pleased with how our schooling is going.  Stay tuned for more school-related posts in the next couple of weeks.   As far as my school goes...well, it goes.  I enjoy my classes, but am definetely realizing how much that I still don't know.  It's discouraging sometimes.  (See thought on humility above.)  It is also very hard to find time for outside study time.  (See thoughts on diligence and selflessness above.)

::Preparing in the Kitchen... Nothing special.  But we did have our first European sidewalk cafe experience this week. It was interesting.  (See thought on humility above.)  But now we've done it and I don't think it will be as intimidating to do it the next time.  Also learned that French coffee is not for the faint hearted. =)  Good thing I like my coffee good and strong.

Michelle enjoying her fancy water glass.

::Following These Links... The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival and Handbook of Nature Blog Carnival were both inspiring this week.  I also recently came across this new (to me) blog - looks to have some good ideas for tackling language study as a family.   Look forward to incorporating some of these ideas into our home (perhaps will help with my lack of outside study time too?!)

::Turning Pages... I am reading the autobiography of Patricia St John, missionary, nurse and children's author.  I love biographies.  When I'm done, I'm thinking to tackle one of these suggestions from like-minded friends on the SCM Forum.

::Finding Rhythm... Well, rhythm was a fail last month.  But Monday starts a new schedule.  In some ways the ever-changing schedule drives me nuts, but I guess a positive spin on that is the new schedule = a fresh chance to try something different in the hopes that it will improve our family life.   I was home from church again this morning with Elizabeth who has been running a temperature, and took some time to evaluate the negotiable and non-negotiable items in our life, so hopefully that might help things out too.

Looking at the river in the neighboring city we visited this past week.
::Finding joy in...Funny things the kids say and do.  Signs of spring all around.  8 years of marriage!

::Kiddos this week... So, we didn't do school everyday this week.  On the days that we didn't, Michelle made up some school work for me (math and copywork).  She is also writing her own "Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka" book.  I love her creativity.

::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... Hard to plan in too much detail until we get our new schedule on Monday, so we'll see.  We will wrap up Michelle's school term, which means I'll take some time to evaluate and plan how we are going.   I want to find a local "field trip" of sorts too.   And maybe (maybe?) I might be able to find a way to have a personal retreat.  Haven't since sometime back in January...or even December?  Can't remember.  Besides, those sidewalk cafes are all calling to me...

::Capturing a moment... Playground Time with Papa