Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let's Talk: Math

In the past we had a child who broke down over math because of feeling overwhelmed. We ditched the math curriculum for a few years & "flung" it with what seems to be dubbed "living math". We did not avoid math, but rather we learned in a non-conventional way. We immersed ourselves in games, books, & hands on learning never moving forward until one full concept was grasped. He learned to skip count by playing hopscotch or grouping shells on the beach. He learned to count money, make change, & estimate by playing store on a daily basis, setting up a restaurant in which he had to be both hostess & customer at differing times. 

We became really good with subtraction & addition by ridiculous stories I use to make up about our neighbour, a farmer, & the crazy things he often wanted to provide for his sheep but didn't know how many he needed. Dingos, kolas, roos, & other odd things often graced the stories. Our neighbors sheep were believed to need umbrellas, gumboots, & even woollen sweaters at times according to our insane stories, most of which were solved over bowls of porridge or ice cold smoothies.

Multiplication was introduced before borrowing & carrying. I presented it as "groups of" & we stayed there for weeks & weeks which became months & months. The game Ka-Ching which involved buying & selling stocks was the choice game for this skill, & the hours of fun we had with it too! We sucked many cousins into it's fun, not to mention countless adults. 

Borrowing & Carrying were taught with a dice & a game sheet within a week of each other when I realised that I'd forgotten to teach him these very needed skills! Then we jumped face first into multiplication as, well multiplication instead of "groups of". We mastered our 0, 1, & 10 facts in a day. Moved on to other simple ones like the 5 & 11 family before slowing down for the rest. We brought in a little programme called Times Alive! which incorporated song & story to help us master the final facts.

He earned basic fractions by cooking in the kitchen, & no one has quite forgotten the day he nearly graced our choc chip cookies with 1 Tablespoon of salt instead of 1 teaspoon. Thankfully the mistake was caught before it was mixed in! We discussed doubling recipes & halving them. All of which continued to help his skills grow, but more importantly worked on his self confidence. 

There was no fear of failure outside of the math books. There was no terror of getting it right. We were just playing & talking after all right? This was natural to them, to make mistakes & try again. They weren’t afraid of getting it wrong because it was a game and they’d get another turn, a story where the ending they could guess & see if they were right. Detectives attempting to solve problems & sometimes having to try again.

Math games strewn on our white board were a common occurrence, requested often over lunch or dinner. Favourite games weren’t the ones we’d spent good money on from the shop, but ones we played with a well worn deck of cards: Ten’s Concentration, Place Value Snap, & more. These were such common & well loved games they made many camp trips with us & were confused when people commented on how they were great math games.

My kids aren’t geniuses or pros, they were simply given the right environment to excel & grow confident in their new found skills. Here’s the thing though, while they were growing in confidence & loving every minute of it I was freaking out. Did I miss something? Am I messing them up for life? Can they do it in a math book?

And so from time to time I’d pull out a math sheet or a placement test from one company or another & I’d administer it. The results were always exactly where I expected them to be in each area. It kept me calm, it proved what I all ready knew: What we were doing was working, & well.

There comes a time, though, when things change. For us it was when our eldest was entering the 4th Grade. He knew about all the basic math operations, all though he wasn’t solidly grounded in division yet. He knew place value, perimeter, skip counting, multiplication, & more.  Yet, I wanted to be certain we had no gaps. That he could face a math curriculum & not freak out, that he could take a math test & prove to himself that he could ace it. 

I have the habit of looking my kids square in the face & saying, “You are good enough. You are amazing. You are special. I know, God knows it, & know it’s time for you to know it.” That’s where we were when we decided to enter the typical math curriculum world again.

And we did. It was relatively simple, but not without it’s own hiccups. I administered placement tests & my kids passed, so we tried another level & so on until we found where they needed to be. There were no tears over math, all though lots of sighs due to boredom. The curriculum we’d chosen is good in it’s own way, but the level we had for Morgan was far too simple & easy, & he quickly tired of it.

Slipping into a curriculum that first year felt somewhat freeing for me. I didn’t feel the stress of wondering if I was messing my kids up. Instead I was able to watch what I’d taught them be put to use. Occasionally they’d say, “He’s not teaching it like you did!” They are pretty passionate about that, or at least were.

We moved onto another one that is known for being more rigorous & challenging, which fit that bill but had an excessive amount of lessons per year thus leaving no room to drop many for book free math learning, spending time with the games they loved, or simply taking time off to really immerse oneself in a math topic that they aren’t confident & comfortable with.

It left me in quite a dilemma, I wasn’t sure I wanted to try more math curriculum or that I was doing any favors to my kids by swapping them around so much either. However, I also knew that what we’d tried wasn’t going to be a long term fit for us & I could either do something about that now or allow my kids to continue forward & possibly risk boredom or exhaustion from math again.

So we made our final switch. I say final because when we moved to the curriculum we now use I’ve yet to say, “That’s stupid & completely unacceptable to set children up for failure like that!” or “Why on earth would you waste time teaching it like that!” or other such comments that I’ve been known to speak when it comes to math. 

Here’s the thing, I’m not a math expert. In fact, if you had a long, or short, chat with my mother about my math days when I was homeschooled there’d be some tears & a whole lot of laughter over it. Math wasn’t my strongest subject by a long shot.

Maybe it’s because of that I’ve become snobby & picky about math curriculum. Maybe it’s because of that I’m determined not to present or dawdle in curriculums that ask trick questions or set my children up in some way to fail, even on one measly problem. 

What I do know is that math isn’t that big scary thing I use to freak out about, both in learning or teaching. My kids aren’t on equal fields when it comes to math. Meaning, one is stronger at it then the other, but they can both hold their own & are successful with what they need to do in it. They can apply what they’ve learned to real life situations & they aren’t afraid to talk it out or ask for help. 

Is this a direct result of the curriculum we are using now? No, of course not. Nor is it a direct result of the years I spent freaking out that I was messing my kids up. It all plays a part though, & the best way to get there is to remember: “You are good enough. You are amazing. You are special. I know, God knows it, & know it’s time for you to know it.” 

Thursday, August 29, 2013


There's been this battle going on in our house for over a year now in regards to which foreign language we'd study. The idea being that the more of us at one time that choose to study the easier it will be to communicate in it & use it as often as possible. Thus, hopefully, making it all sink in quicker.

In the state we lived in while in the USA it foreign language was pretty mandatory. Okay, it was was mandatory. That isn't the case here, despite the many times I've asked because I'm convinced I must be misinformed. Having said that, it hasn't stopped us from wanting to learn a few. Yes, a few.

In fact the many languages laid on the table were more then the people living in our home! I considered a live class at Currclick for Chinese, because it was one of the languages on the table. It was being debated when Mr S boldly stated that if we were going to learn a new language he felt Chinese was the way to go, mostly for political reasons. But, the classes on currclick were insanely expensive, laid out on US times which would have meant 3 am classes for us, & only lasted 1 US semester. We wrote that idea off & went back to the drawing board.

The argument resumed of which language we'd study. The languages now being debated were: German, French, Chinese, Japanese, ASL & then Jayden slyly said, "I dunno I'd prefer to learn the language they speak in the UK." We all just stared at him for a minute before laughing. It was obvious we were going to have to fork out for a foreign language curriculum & a choice was going to have to be made.

After chatting with a group of lovely ladies who always help me sort out my homeschooling issues {you know who you are, right?!} they heard my list of languages & suggested French. The idea being that 1, my children wanted to learn it & 2 it would be a less difficult language to have under our belt which led to 3, learning another foreign language is suppose to be easier after you get the first one under your belt. They also heavily suggested Rosetta Stone.

The only thing was, the sales they were able to obtain at that time didn't work for us due to our location. That's always a bummer. After chatting Mr S & I decided we'd wait until closer to the school year & see about getting it form one of the various places that would ship our way. It also meant I had more time to firmly decide if I wanted to learn French of not, it was not my top pick!

Last week a different friend shared that Rosetta Stone was currently on special for mega savings. As in the normal $400+ curriculum was currently on special for $179. That one stopped me in my tracks! I got excited, like jumping up & down kinda excited which made Mr S ask if there was a bee in the house. Then I explained the sale.

I wasn't sure it would work for me overseas & struggled making it work at first because it kept taking me to the UK site vs the USA site which is where you can select the Homeschool versions, but after a bit of fiddling I finally got the crazy thing to work! Talk about excited! I didn't get the free shipping offer that went with the sale because I chose to have it shipped directly to me in Australia. It's a bit steep at $35, but it's suppose to arrive in record time. We'll see if that happens. On the other hand, to have had it sent to our US address we would have paid over $17 in taxes so it made sense to just ship it here.

So here's the SALE link. Now, if you're not living in the USA &, like me, had issues getting it where you wanted try going directly to Rosetta Stone {make sure it's the .com address} & then enter in the PromoCode: rslms5199. Remember the discount will show up in your cart when when you tell it to apply the discount if you enter this in manually. A few people have mentioned that they were able to call Rosetta Stone directly to get the languages they wanted as they weren't showing up on the website. I don't know if calling them would make the promo code work if you can't manipulate it, or if the code works on the UK site.

In the mean time my boys are currently stalking the postie awaiting their new curriculum. Mr S, on the other hand, is most put out we didn't go with Spanish which, "I would have happily learned alongside you!" Ha, think if we start speaking in French he'll join us anyway? Naw, probably not.

All though, don't ask me who he'd practice his Spanish on around here, but I'm sure he would have found someone. In the mean time Im' pretty sure all of us can count to 10 in Spanish & ask for the bathroom, after that things get a little sketchy all though I can still understand a wee bit more of it then I can manage to speak. Which was really handy when we hung out with our Spanish speaking friends.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Jayden's passion for the World Wars, Civil War, & Revolutionary war that he learned about over the past two years is still pretty high. He was so delighted to spot some little soldiers he could paint himself & spent ages selecting which ones he wanted. Proceeded to spend his own money on them & then come home & set to work. It's kept him incredibly busy as he's worked away on them all though I think they turned out to be much smaller then he'd anticipated.

I looked last year to find him some little metal ones that he could paint up & would hold up to a few more years of play, but I couldn't spot any! We did locate some little wooden ones that were pre-painted which we bought for his birthday. He's really enjoyed using those Civil War soldiers alongside some paper ones he had, but I still hold out hope for some little metal ones for him.

And yes, those soldiers are quite mini in size. His finger, holding it still is practically covering the entire thing! One of the sets he picked was WW1 & the other was WW2. He's really eager to put a model together of a tank or WW1/2 plane as well, but he's not keen on the idea that those are mainly meant to be looked at & not used. I think that's what drew him to the soldiers. All though he estimates that at the pace he's moving it could take him a month to finish them.

Independent Learning

One of the new books that arrived is The Self Propelled Advantage. A fellow homeschooling Mama mentioned this book &, being intrigued, as well as personal goals for our children to be successfully learning on their own I decided reading through it would be fun. I couldn't find it in my local library system & decided I didn't really want a Kindle copy of it. So I waited it out for a regular old copy of the book.

Thus far, despite not being extremely far through, the book is an easy read but very meaty. I really like the idea & concepts behind those ideas as well. I can't wait to dig a bit deeper in the book & see if I can gleam some ideas to finish putting things in effect around our own home we'd all ready been aiming for!

I must say though, you'll want a highlighter handy when you read the book, & maybe a pencil or pen for note taking.. maybe even a pad of paper? Lots of good stuff!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Listening Together

One of the goodies in the package that arrived last week was the next instalment of Harry Potter. Until recently the boys had only been permitted books 1 & 2. We reread the first book over the summer & listened to the second one after that. Then we moved into book 3 & 4, both on audio in the evenings. When it came to book 5 I couldn't find my audio copy.

I pulled out the books on cd we'd brought from the US & the ones for this book were in pretty poor condition. Morgan was so desperate to hear the next instalment that he asked if we could try them anyway, which we did, but it sounded like Jim Dale had a combination of the worlds worst stutter compounded with the hiccups. So we picked up the UK version from our local library which is read by Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry may be a wonderful narrator when it comes to Paddington Bear & he may have the British accent which is so befitting to most of the characters within the Harry Potter series, but I'm afraid when Aunt Petunia sounds like a gruff guy it just wasn't cutting it for us. So we managed to find a set of book 5 on cd narrated by Jim Dale, which is the adored narrator we've listened to for the other books in the series as well. Then the boys had to wait until we were ready for a package to be sent our way.

We enjoy curling up in the later afternoons or early evenings together while everyone works on a small project & we listen to a good book. Mind you, this book reveals so much in this series, but I always struggled with this book no thanks to Professor Umbridge.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Week In Review: Week 25

What a busy week we've had full of all sorts of accomplishments! How fitting that it should happen the same week we've officially passed the halfway point of Term 3? Yeah, I know I said I wasn't keeping track, & I'm not entirely, but it's still cool to see how far we've come.

I think it's part of the whole "lists" issue I have. I don't sit around counting out the weeks & I couldn't honestly tell you what day our current term ends on, BUT I can tell you what week within the term we are on, what we hope to do on Term Break, & that the days are getting lighter longer. In fact, this week we actually saw the sun for several days & dried laundry outside in it.

For those of you on the other side of the world that probably means little because I know how hot July can get over there, but here it's wet & miserable & often feels like the longest month of the year. Anyway.. back to school..

Like Morgan's collection of coloured pencils? I did, so I snapped a photo. He was sharpening them all so they'd be fresh & ready for next week. There was a massive break down over only having 1/4 of a red pencil left & 1/2 a black pencil left. So I went & bought the kids each a new box of coloured pencils. A rare treat in the middle of the year as I prefer to stock up during back to school sales. Then when I went to put them in tins for each child, wouldn't you know Morgan found some erasable pencils he'd purchased ages ago & thought he'd lost. Poor boy, if his head wasn't attached at the neck I'm pretty sure he'd lose that too.. True story I'm afraid..

We finished off our last Shakespeare story this week: Hamlet. After we finished it the boys decided Shakespeare might have needed a wee bit more laughter & fun in his life considering the amount of people who seem to die in all his stories/plays. This book didn't have all of Shakespeare's stories in it, but it had the major ones & some direct lines from the plays. It was a lovely introduction to some complicated stories for sure.

Jayden is still working with his Jonah Bible study. The book is written as though he's a newspaper reporter & he's investigating the story. He's really enjoyed it. The book has ideas for how to mark your Bible based on how the words are being used in the passages you are studying. So far he's chosen just to mark those in his book instead of directly in his Bible. The passages are written out in the back of the books too, thus how he can do that.

We started doing our poetry & memory box over breakfast.  This might seem kinda obvious for some, but mornings are the one time of day we're all going in many different directions. We started a slightly new schedule this week though & everyone was really excited about it. Everyone, including Mr S, reads a poem from one of the books & then while Mr S scrambles to do last minute things before heading out the boys & I use the memory box. And yes, we still do the multiplication facts in our memory box. 

Morgan finished AAS Level 1 this week. Okay, so he actually finished it about 2 weeks ago, but when I did a final review with him he had one of those blank out moments where while he could tell me all the rules he couldn't apply them to 50% of the words. I'm not sure who freaked out more me or him! So we reviewed all the rules again last week with him, & then I did one more review with him only to discover that was the goal of Lesson 1 in AAS 2. Either way he was tickled pink to get his certificate! Now he's stalking the postie awaiting his Level 2 cards.

Not to be out done, Jayden finished his math book this week & was equally delighted to get a certificate for his efforts. In fact, he told Morgan now he might catch Morgan up in maths. I don't think he realised he had an entire book to finish before getting to the one Morgan is in, & Morgan is only about 3-4 weeks away from finishing his up too. We had a few good laughs over it, & Jayden took the news well.

Morgan is still plucking away with his science & enjoying it. He listens to a section of his lessons & then narrates to me what he read about, answers a few questions in his notebook, writes & illustrates some of what he's narrated to me, & does any of the vocabulary words on the crossword that apply to the lesson for the day. He's onto digestion & can't wait to draw the digestion cartoon.

Jayden really wanted to use one of the Apologia Zoology books & since we had 2 saved away for summer we pulled out 3 to use. He was most delighted until he didn't have an experiment on his first day. Ha! We just read a small portion each day & then he narrates, illustrates, etc. We read the lesson together taking turns reading. I want to be sure he understands some of the bigger scientific words, & he's keen to skip words he doesn't know or understand. This way I'm sure he's covered them.

Not sure why, but it seemed to take us half the term to move onto a new song. They still sing Advance Australia Fair each day, but we added This Little Light Of Mine. I have no idea what Morgan is doing in that photo, most likely closing up his song book, or singing Advance Australia Fair with much gusto, that's always a favourite thing to do.

We finished off The Journal Of Watkin Stench this week. The chapters were really short, but it still seemed to take us a while to work our way through. Morgan especially loved this book which was full of a lot of detail of what Australia would have looked like when the First Fleet arrived. It also told of some of the hardships & explorations that took place & ends after the 5 ships show up with more convicts & supplies to replenish the new colony with. The Historical Information in the back was really interesting to read & turns out that the main character of this book {a rat} was based on a real person with a similar name who commented on the excessive amount of rats on the boats. There's also a nifty timeline in the back of the book in regards to the boats that came & went in Botany Bay & Sydney Cove in case you're wondering about all the boats the rats mention that come & go. 

In Children Around The World we hit North America this week. We covered all of America & one day of Canada. CAW is set up as a 4 day a week study, & normally that's perfect for us. Next week, however, the boys have an Art Show & Golfing so we decided to use our 5th day at home this week to move a little ahead on next weeks studies.

Friday they coloured in their RCMP while I read to them a little bit about Canada & then we pulled out our Atlas so they could record some basic facts about Canada. Then they became quite awed that I'd been to Canada before. They also checked out various provinces on our map which led to a funny discussion about Anne of Green Gables, which I told them they really should watch with me. They listened to the book a few years ago, but probably don't remember it. But then I might have to read them Before Green Gables first, it would have been a cliff hanger had I not known the rest of Anne's story I must say..

Morgan started reading the Paddington Helps Out on kindle to me. I was trying to follow along in the hardcopy, but I looked away for a minute & he was reading so fast it took me a while to find my place. As long as we enlarge the print, considerably, on the Kindle he does amazing. He really struggles with that smaller font, & he's fighting the idea of needing to go back to the Eye Guy again. And why yes, my feet are propped up on our learning table.. My kids didn't notice or I'd have been asked why I could do it if they couldn't..

All in all a pretty full week for us. No swim lessons again as the pool is still closed, perhaps next week. Really turned out to be for the best as Jayden woke up with a bad case of the snuffles on Wednesday morning & was coughing by Thursday. I'm so over the winter colds! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Australian Story

Our review of Australian Story An Illustrated Timeline is up over at The Curriculum Choice if you're interested in reading it & seeing how we use it. I have to say that the book is amazing! I love that I can pull it off the shelf & use it to help me plan our next step in Australian History. Easy peasy & because it's Australian I was even able to purchase it locally!

Package Day

Last week was the week of packages, we were waiting on several from within Australia, Book Depository & a big one Mom had said she'd posted to us. The boys were crazy a twiddle with the anticipation & were doing some major postie stalking as they waited.

We ended up getting all our Book Depository stuff & the package from Mom on the same day! Yes, our table is covered with all the stuff from the packages & a bit more & the boys were insanely excited incase you can't tell.

The boys each received some lovely new clothes from Gram, they were seriously over the moon about it. There were also a few gifts for each of them from their Aunt that's in America. Morgan's clutching some of his items.

Lots of school goodies too. A Sonlight Markable Map with two sets of the wet-dry markers. Grammar Ace cd & School House Rock DVD, both of which are part of grammar for the boys next year. Jayden's new math book, which he'll start next week. A handful of new planners we were given to try out. And a few lovely personal items from Mom. And no, incase you're wondering, that is not a pile or rubbish on our table! I hacked up my photo because that was a letter that was mailed to us & took 3 months to return back to Mom and then it was popped in this package to get here.

As for our Book Depository books, those were equally exciting for some of us, especially Jayden who's new science book had arrived: Zoology 3! The first chapter spoke of Animal jobs which we read & then I asked him which one sounded most interesting while making mental notes of things he could do to propel himself towards those jobs. He looks up oh so seriously & says, "None really, I think I've decided to make Playmobil when I grow up instead."

It was quite amusing, but I suspect a fleeting phase. Last month he wanted to start his own animal sanctuary so he could hire people to scoop the poo & he could just deal with the feeding, exercising, & playing of the animals. Yeah, he keeps us laughing..

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Another Spelling Box

I whipped up another All About Spelling box this week. I was limping along with one box for both kids, but they really do suggest one per student. I kept reviewing the wrong thing with the wrong child & decided it was time to just go get more supplies to make a second box. It only took me about a half hour to measure it out & put it together.

I used clear tape to put it together with & then went over it with some fancier tape we had on hand so we could be sure to tell which box was which at a glance. It did mean ordering a second set of cards for the second box, but that's not a big issue as we can obtain them within Australia.

Which means Morgan is eagerly awaiting the postie's arrival, not that he needs to, I do have Level 2 cards in his box & he has a Level 2 chart to tick off as we go along, but he wants to wait for the new set. Whatever excites him about spelling, right?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kids Planners..

After recently shareing about my weekly planning page & Sherly asked:
So do you have one checklist for both boys? For example, under language arts- is that all for one of the boys? Or some kind of combination? Or do you have a checklist like this (for yourself) for each child? And then you transfer the info to a checklist for each of them? (I'm remembering a somewhat recent post where you showed a picture of their checklists.) I'm trying to figure out a system that will work for us. :)

The answer is slightly complicated. In Term 2 the boys had checklists, but when we started Term 3 it completely slipped my mind to print them out for them. Originally, to create those I cut & paste the information from the main planner page pertinent to each child onto their checklist & then printed it out. It made it quick & simple to accomplish.

The planner page I shared before was simply for me. I fit all that I want the kids to accomplish on those 2 pages. It's simply for me to look at for all the details. We know what books we are using each week, because we use them until we finish them. The question becomes which pages do we read today? That's the information on my Simple Planning page.

Which meant that sometimes when I cut & pasted it into the kids pages it was too much or not enough information. That frustrated them a little bit, but the overall goal of their checklists was accomplished by them knowing what they needed to do before their day was over.

However, I wanted to get something a bit more detailed going for them. We fiddled with the The Well Planned Day Student planners earlier this year, but didn't find our groove with them as well as I'd hoped for both boys. So I wasn't sure if I wanted to return to that idea or not when I was offered the chance to review the newest WPD Student Planner as well as something called My Student Logbook.

I chose to use the WPD for Morgan & the Logbook for Jayden. Both arrived in a lovely package from Mom this week {thanks Mom} & despite being towards the end of our week we started back in our groove of using a planner system for the kids. Now, I have proper reviews, as promised to the companies, coming for both of these products but they absolutely helped our days run so much more smoothly!

The kids knew what to do, when to do it, & if/when they were completely done for their day. I could rave like crazy about the Student Logbook, but I'll save it for my review. However, I will say that not only is it a win with me, Jayden loves it. He filled in his first day with it in pencil, simple checkmarks, but the following day he used stickers I picked up inexpensively at a local cheap shop. He loved being able to tick things off so for my least focused child it kept him on track all day.

Morgan still has a basic schedule he needs to work with in order to have time with me to accomplish a few things & to be ready when Jayden is for their Winter Promise that they do together. However, I find that sitting down with him & going over what he needs to do & what he hopes to accomplish as well works better for him, & helps him see how to fill out the planner himself as well.

For Jayden, I simply write down the schedule I want him to use. What I want him to accomplish & I encourage him to stick with it & tick things off as he goes. I do, of course, need to check up on him often to be sure he's on track & that things have been done "Mom Approved" as my boys say.

Out of the two items I really think that the Student Logbook, hands down, is the easiest & most simplistic of the two to use. I also don't think age matters in those regards. I don't want to say too much about it yet because we've only just started using, but what a lovely start we've had with it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Poem A Day

The kids & I popped into a local cheap shop today to pick up a couple of organisational things, which they didn't have, & stopped at a giant pile of books. We spent ages pilfering through the pile, & lots of time laughing at some of the funny titles. We turned to walk away & found our way blocked so I turned back to peek at the pile of grown-up books when I spotted this lovely title!

Read Me: A Poem For Every Day Of The Year. It's got some very lovely selections in it & it's perpetual! We cracked it open & read today's poem which was by Robert Louis Stevenson. Then we resisted the urge to read ahead or behind & save them for each day of the year, all though both boys begged to know what tomorrow's poem is called.

Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 Week In Review: Week 24

We are nearly to the halfway point of this term all ready, which is shocking because it really doesn't feel like we've been at it that long! Next week, however marks the 5th week which puts us exactly halfway through Term 3.

I'm not trying to rush through our year, but goodness I am looking forward to seeing the sun again soon! We've had so much rain this past week everything, including our road, has been flooded. I'm pretty sure that at the rate it keeps falling Mr S can give up biking to work & start rowing a boat to get there!

Needless to say I'm most looking forward to Term 4 for the warmer, & slightly dryer, weather. I rather miss sitting outside to do our studies while the sun warms our backs & toes.. As for this week, it was a whole lot of crazy so not many photos this week I'm afraid..

Morgan is still really enjoying his new Bible study all though it does pose the occasional problem as they use the NASB & we don't. It is interesting to read the same passages in another version, but it can cause the occasional glitch when the crossword is looking for a specific word over another.

Both boys are still progressing in their math books. Jayden was suppose to finish this week, but due to the craziness that was our life this week I only had him tackle one lesson instead of the last two. Mind you, it was probably for the best because he made several silly/simple mistakes one day & he was very frustrated at having to come back & rework problems over it. Hopefully, despite the frustration of it, it was a hard lesson well learned & we won't see that happen again.

Morgan is still a few weeks away from finishing up his book. I think he might manage it before the end of Term 3, but we'll see. It's certainly not a rush to get to the end, all though he's pretty eager for the certificate. In the mean time, I'm extremely happy with his progress & have been highly impressed with the MUS curriculum.

The boys had swim practice twice this week, as normal, but no lessons. During one of my absurd wondering moments I wondered what would happen if the Coach ever had to cancel a lesson & wouldn't you know that very day I ended up with an email from him stating that lessons were canceled for the week! They won't have any next week either as the piece on the pool that broke is apparently still not fixed yet. Jayden is extremely disappointed because he lives for swim days.

This week our studies found is in Greece. The boys tried writing their names in Greek which was quite interesting as the chart we used didn't have anything for j or g on it. Maybe greek is one of those languages that doesn't use that sound?! No idea, but it made it quite interesting when the boys tried to do their thing!

We also had a brief overview of Greek mythology, & were able to look at photos of some of the places Paul was when he wrote his letters to the various churches. This was especially exciting for Morgan as he was reading Titus with his Bible study. We had fun reading about the Ancient Olympics & figuring out which of those traditions have carried on to modern day olympics as well.

Both boys participate with our little group on Friday dressing up as a character from a favourite book & sharing about their story. Jayden dressed up as a Civil War soldier & had his costume picked out before his book. Then he had to decide between the many books we read last year about that time period. He went with Behind Rebel Lines because the main character, Emma, not only pulled off the disguise to look like a man & enter as a soldier, but she was also one of the best spies the North had. He's big on war stories so his selection was not a huge surprise. Morgan went as Paddington Bear. He had a small panic when we got there realising he hadn't reviewed, for sure, what he was going to say. I think he knew what he wanted to say, but had intended to write it down. Anyway, I assured him he'd be fine & told him to just go up & tell about his favourite part of the book. After their book presentations & some lovely cake for a birthday, they participated in science experiments too.. of which they have not stopped raving about either!

And that pretty much wraps up our week. We did listen to an entire 6 hour audio book in the car while driving to & from the hospital to visit Nana. With wet roads driving was extremely slow. We had a trip to the library, & spent a good chunk of one day moving Morgan's bedroom to another area of the house so he & Nana would have their own space when she came here. Our poor read aloud sat on the shelf rather unloved this week!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Let's Talk: Writing

When I mention that Morgan was going to work on creative writing over the summer or that he's doing non-fiction writing during the school year I get a lot of questions about getting children to write. Here's the thing, I don't have the answers you're looking for. I don't. It's that simple.

Morgan, much like myself, enjoys writing. I didn't come up with some lovely idea to make him enjoy the process. When he was little & we'd go on long car drives I made a family game when the boys got really fussy. I started a story & told three lines, then each person in the car had to take a turn to add to the story. Morgan often requested the game.

Morgan is the child who stays up later then he should telling stories to his little brother. These are not stories he's reading from a book, but stories he makes up on a whim. They might be inspired by something he heard or read, a picture from a book, or a simple desire his brother has. There's often a lot of laughter & retelling in the morning for the super ooey gooey bits they loved the most.

Morgan is drawn to books & he's not afraid to try new stories or different genres. He can easily handle listening to a more dramatic story & then switch paces to comedy. He, also quite like myself, prefers historical fiction or any story based on real events or people. That doesn't mean he'll snuff fiction, but rather befriend is & treat the characters like long lost friends.

He writes his own comic books, has mini books he's made squirreled into every spare corner of his bedroom, has notebook upon notebook that has a picture or story on each page, & finds great joy in pens that have many colours within them. {I know exactly what you're thinking Mom..}

When I ask Morgan to narrate to me he finds it an easy thing to do. He delights in it. He can retell a chapter or book so well that when you read the book you can see where he retold some sections word for word the way they were written. It takes no prodding or encouraging. Where once a blank paper frightened him to get started these days it only serves as a fresh start.

But how did I make this happen? I didn't. It's that simple. I had nothing to do with it. How can I be sure? Let me introduce you to Jayden.

Jayden despises writing. Copywork is second on his list of arch enemies {his words, not mine} second only to glue. Don't ask about the glue, they seem to go back a long way in their hatred for each other. While Jayden doesn't mind hearing a good story he knows exactly what he likes & isn't willing to quaver & try something new without a huge fight about it.

Oh the amount of times he's had break downs over us putting an audio book on he was sure he would hate are more then I can count. The amount of times he's fallen in love with the book we've put on despite those break downs is equally more then I can count.

Jayden would rather be outside in the sand pit, jumping on the trampoline, riding his scooter, or playing on the swing then anywhere else in the world. In fact, if I'm keen to pull up a quilt near any of these places & read to him he's in heaven, but if I insist that we sit down inside he's less likely to be interested in the reading at times.

When we go camping I'm often intent to be sure we have a book in our supplies, especially one I know he'll love, because it's the one time he requests, without fail, that I read. He loves to fall asleep while camping to me reading to him. All though I'm not sure what that says about the book or my voice..

While Jayden has a notebook here or there that he's written stories in they are only a page or so long. They generally involve the main character dying in some odd & unusual way bringing the story to an abrupt halt.  They are amusing, if not slightly disturbing, such as the story about the frog who kept mocking the little boy so the boy hit it with a baseball bat. That was the entirety of his story. He painstakingly wrote out every bit of it over a couple of days, then roared with laughter at the horror on our faces when we got to the end. Less you panic too deeply about the frogs he eventually wrote a sequel consisting of three sentences in which the frogs friends came back & bopped Jimmy on the head with the same baseball bat so he understood how mean it was to hit people with it. Thankfully, we don't own a baseball bat.

Jayden struggles with narration & the idea of complete sentences. He's not at all itching at the seams there to get into the writing book Morgan is using this year, all though he has no issue with Morgan reading his reports to him or telling him about this or that interesting thing he read about in his writing assignment for the day.

Writing is simply not his thing. In fact, if given the choice I'm pretty sure he'd rather poke himself in the eye with a pointy stick then be made to suffer the horrors of writing. Funnily enough Mr S completely agrees with him. He too is a man of few words, unless you count his dreadful Dad Jokes that we must laugh at or risk injuring his feelings.

Mr S once found on old school paper that contained a story he'd written in Grade 2 or 3 about a snail. It too had a miserable end to it's life when it was run over with the lawnmower. While Mr S found it funny in Grade 2 or 3 he now finds it slightly disturbing. Which means I should probably not mention to him what I do when I find snails in my strawberry plants!

I'm not saying writing isn't a valuable skill, especially for those going on to university level schools. I'm saying that for some people it comes easier then others. Some people are born to write & others have to work hard on those skills, & that's okay.

For some, like Mr S, it's a bad comment on a paper that turns them off to writing. While he's never been super fond of writing it was a note from a teacher on a paper he'd spend hours working on. Something down the lines of, "This is amusing.." when he'd not meant for it to be funny at all. For Jayden it's simply the fact of sitting still when there's so much in life to do. So much to see & so much to climb.

I try to make the blow a little less hard for him & at his age still let him gather all his ideas together & then spill them out as fast as he can while I type like crazy & Mr S stands there & wonders if the keyboard will catch on fire. {So far so good, if you're wondering..} I won't say that Jayden loves to write using this method, but he certainly doesn't hate it either. It allows him to get his thoughts on paper quickly before he loses them. We can rearrange them with cutting & pasting. We can edit it with the flick of a few buttons & then print it out allowing him to share something he's quite proud of.

Truthfully I use the same method with Morgan, allowing him to gather his thoughts & then let them tumble out all at once in the order he thinks they are best at. I'm more willing to give him suggestions along the way, once all the thoughts are on paper. Things like, "You've used this word several times, can you think of another word that means the same thing? Want to look in the thesaurus?" Or, "Do you think it's possible for this to happen before that? Tell me why!"

It works for us. I'm looking forward to a summer of writing for one & a summer of science for the other. They'll both be exploring things that they enjoy & that's totally okay with me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Simple Planning Pages

Will you be sharing your latest planning page?
The most simplistic answer to this question is no. It's not a blank form I write on each week & print out, it's a simple template I created on my computer that's colour coded for our family. It's laid out pretty specifically to the order of our day as well.

However, they are pretty simple to make. I made ours up in Numbers {an excel style programme on a Mac} many months ago & simply update it each week before I print it out.  While the left hand most columns don't change the content on the 5 following blocks does change each week. I simply change it to reflect what needs to be done in the new week. It takes me anywhere from 10-20 minutes to do it, unless everyone else in the house suddenly screams they need something.

I'm happy to explain, in detail, how I made it if that's what you'd like, but I suspect just handing out a blank form with a few strips of colour here & there would be pretty useless to most people. And don't panic if you're not familiar with the programme, it's pretty simple to use & very easy to work with.

The photo above is our collection of finished planning page. I stable the 2 pages from each week together & slip them into a clear page protector which is stored in the file box. Eventually they'll come out & be shredded or burned, but for now they go in the file box. I store the pages for the current week in my term notebook.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


We've spent a fair amount of time driving up the coast to visit Nana in the hospital. They didn't take her to the local one nearer our home, but that's okay because she's still close to family & she's not so far away we can't visit. The boys were delighted to finally get to go along for a visit on Sunday afternoon as she'd not been well enough before that for all their lovely excitement.

Of course they no sooner had her engrossed in some lovely conversation when a nurse bustled in to inform her of yet another medical procedure that needed doing. So the boys & I took a walk where they played their famous "Hello" game. They take turns waving or saying hello to anyone who passes them & if the person replies they get points based on how that person chose to reply.

I think Morgan won because the last person Jayden said hello to unlocked a door & slipped in it as though someone was hounding him down & attempting to steal his ID. Seriously, it was weird. Once he got through his locked door we burst out laughing, which startled someone walking down the hall. We decided to return to Nana's room before we got thrown out. When the nurses returned the boys decided to test out the various walkers that were in the room so they could suggest which one they felt was best for her rehab.

Not that their opinion matters. She has to use the silver one for now & owns the red one so will use it eventually. Sadly, Nana fell just over a week ago & broke the left side of her hip. It was quite the rocky adventure for those of us fussing & worrying over her for a while there. Of course now she has the long road of physical therapy to work through, but she seems to be coping reasonably well with it thus far.

In the mean time we visit daily, or nearly daily, & the boys seem to take some crazy surprise for her each time they go. They are desperate for her to get out so they can proceed with their idea of a pizza party for her birthday which she had to spend in hospital. Of course, what Nana didn't know was that Morgan was planning to ask everyone to dress in Toga's thanks to his study on Italy. Life is never boring around here!