Saturday, November 24, 2012

This Week's H/School Journal

In our homeschool these past two weeks...
...after all of my work on prepping for our Canadian wildlife unit study, the kids haven't been all that keen (so far).  We've started to learn about habitats and ecosystems and we've begun our journey into learning about woodland animals in Canada, but it's slow going.  The kids have, for the most part, been playing really well together over the past several weeks and after we've finished our regular schooling for the day, they've been more interested in playing (especially on the snow piles outside) than in learning about wildlife.   Given that I've been in one of my insomnia phases for most of this week, I've been perfectly ok with this plan because I've been terribly tired. the beginning of this week I decided that, rather than drilling down into new Math lessons for Matthew, we would review what he's been learning since our school term started in September.  I made a list of various things I wanted to review with him, and my goal was to assess how much he remembered.  We spent a chunk of Monday's and Tuesday's school time reviewing.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised; he remembered most of the things we've covered and with very little prompting.  The topics we covered included the following:
  • Telling time - analog and digital - I think he's got both nailed now - and guess what his main gift is going to be this Christmas!  shhhh! 
  • Temperature:  Freezing point; boiling point; room temperature; plus and minus; etc
  • Length/distance - centimetres, metres, kilometres - and when to use each measurement
  • Measuring capacity - litres and millilitres 
  • Measuring mass - kilograms and grams 
  • 2- 3- and 4-column addition and subtraction, including carrying over and borrowing
  • Money concepts - he knows all of his coins now, their value, can add and subtract money, and can make change up to about $10.00 as long as he has a paper and pen to help him!
  • He was pretty good at figuring out word problems, which last year were quite hard for him.  Example:  Bob has 149 marbles and Jim has 230; how many marbles do they have altogether; how many more marbles does Jim have than Bob.  If Bob paid $3.55 for his marbles and Jim paid $4.50 for his marbles, how much more did one spend than the other? etc etc
  • Perimeter and area calculation of 2D shapes
  • Checking subtraction answers by using addition
  • Rounding to the nearest 10/100/1000
  • Estimating and comparing to exact answers
  • Skip counting: 2s; 5s; 10s, 25s; 100s; 250s.
...I took a more casual approach to school with Seth and Lizzie for a chunk of this week.  Rather than crafting with letters as we've done most of the fall, I sat down with each of them at the kitchen table a few times a day.  First we reviewed the letters and sounds that they've already learned, and Seth was able to retain much of that knowledge this week (yay!).  Then, on two days, I showed them a list of the letters they hadn't learned yet (well, Lizzie knows all of her letters to name them, but is still learning the sounds) and asked them during their time with me which letter they would like to learn next.  They pointed and I taught and we practiced.  I also taught Seth how to write several of the letters - not because I think he'll remember how to create those shapes, but because he seems to be quite a tactile learner and it seems to help him a bit to remember what letter it is that he's looking at.  I had him draw letters on paper with pen, in a box of sand, and with a stick in the snow.  We'll see next week how effective that was!

...on Friday, with both younger kids individually, I wrote down the word "at" and helped them to sound it out.  Then I helped them figure out the various words that rhyme with that word, by adding letters to the beginning of the "at."  It took Seth several tries to figure out what I was trying to do, but eventually he started catching on and shrieked out the words we'd sounded out.  It's so interesting to watch how things sometimes connect with him - it's like his brain is just starting to understand that all of those letters and sounds that he is processing, and all of the words that I point to and read in our picture books, actually have a purpose and that that purpose is to make the words that he knows how to speak out loud.  It's fascinating in a completely different way than it was watching Matthew learning his letters/sounds when he was five.

Places we went and people we saw...
...we had a family over last weekend (ostensibly to watch football!) and munched on nachos and wings and salad - yum.  We also enjoyed playdates with two other families during the week, which the kids and I really enjoyed...the kids for a chance to play with some of their friends, and me to visit with a couple of my friends!

...the kids and I decided to change up our mid week by lunching out at one of our favourite places in the city:  A small German bakery.  We love to order their crusty bun sandwiches, followed by a tasty treat from the dessert displays.  We ran into a longtime friend of my sister's while we were there and we ended up sharing a table and enjoying a great visit.

...we enjoyed dinner out with my parents and sister/family on Friday night to celebrate my sister's birthday.  We collectively have a favourite Chinese restaurant, and the combination of ginger beef, garlic shrimp, wonton veg soup, deluxe veg, lemon chicken, schezuan noodles and the like hit the spot!

My favourite thing this week was... morning this week, as I was prepping something at the stove, Matthew came up to me and put his arm around me.  He leaned his head on me and simply said, "Mom, I love you."  Gotta tell you...that felt pretty darn good.  And a few times this week, when Seth wasn't looking, Matthew leaned in to give me a few big kisses, too...something he and his brother profess being grossed out by these days!

What's working for us...
...this is the 'slowest' school year yet over the past few years of h/schooling - mostly by coincidence of because things didn't work out.  The kids are all in music, gym class and Awana every week; Matthew also spends two hours/week in art class.  But due to my own negligence we missed the deadline to enrol in skating lessons and I never heard back from the swimming organization that I tried repeatedly to get some information from; no one would take Seth for indoor Soccer because he's only seven, despite many, many efforts on my part; I pulled them out of the theatre program because none of them wanted to do it and because in August it looked like we were going to have more than enough on our plates; and none of the kids wanted to do gymnastics this fall.  So it's been very quiet from a running-around perspective.  I've really enjoyed this, to be honest.  We've spent a lot of time at home this fall/early winter, and it's been good.  That being said, we will do skating lessons starting in January and I hope to get swimming lessons arranged for January, too; in addition the boys have expressed interest in karate and Lizzie in gymnastics.  So we'll see how things change after Christmas, but for now it's quiet and lovely! 

Things I'm working on...
...Lizzie's hair care regime...but that's a separate post coming out in a few days!

I'm cooking and baking...
...a yummy cinnamon/sugar loaf that takes only about 6-7 minutes to prepare before popping it into the oven.  It seems to take about that amount of time to disappear, too!  This coming week will feature pumpkin muffins.

...our favourite slow cooker Chicken Cassoulet dish.  Man, this is a good dish, with chicken, sausage, carrots/celery/onions/tomatoes and black/kidney beans in swimming in a tasty broth.  It's one of our top 5 favourite dinners, over brown rice. (specifically trout, this week)

I'm grateful for...
...sleep...there's nothing like the absence of it to make one appreciate it all the more.  Being an insomniac, I struggle with sleep regularly (on a cyclical basis, it seems) and this has been a hard week on that front.  A week ago I was feeling thankful to be in a fairly well rested position but I now find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum after numerous nights of very little sleep.  I am exhausted enough right now that I suspect I will break the pattern and sleep tonight (I'm hoping, anyway) and I will be ever-so-grateful for that reprieve.


  1. I'll be watching for the two recipes described here!! A

  2. Ah yes, Andrea, I can do that. Let me dig them up...check back here later this week!


  3. Hi Ruth,

    I was thinking that Seth might enjoy Mo Willems' books - if you don't know about them, which you probably do. They are just right for where he is in his reading/literacy learning - especially the Pigeon books and the Elephant and Piggie books. they are so funny. They would appeal to his sense of humour.
    You can definitely get them at the library. Just thought I'd mention them if you aren't familiar with him.
    Another thought I had for your work with him, would be to write some little pattern books with him that he can illustrate or take photos. Maybe about 5 or 6 pages each. With patterned sentences (for example: "This is my house", "This is my bike", "This is my brother", etc.... or "I like blue", "I like dogs", etc... whatever seems to make sense to you or he might have ideas. I would not make him print the text himself at this point unless he shows interest in it. You could type it out together. then I would keep them in a little basket and practice them with him. You could put his photo as the author on the back. Here are some examples of some that a first nations community on Vancouver Island are making for their children. Take a look at the one called "Big and Little". It will give you some ideas.
    Also there are so many beautiful alphabet books available at the library... he might enjoy looking at them with you (ie. multiple ways that different authors and illustrators have explored different letters).

  4. Jackie, as always, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your ideas and suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all have no idea how much I appreciate your insight and suggestions.

    FYI, I just ordered from amazon one of the books you recommended to me a few weeks back...for the life of me I forget the title at the moment. It's been shipped and I should have it within about a week!

    Again, many thanks. Some day I hope to give you a hug in person!