Monday, July 31, 2006

Next year: Schedule

Over the weekend I have been working on our homeschooling schedule for next year. After a fair amount of juggling I have managed to put one together that allows me to fit in almost everything I wanted to do without - I hope! - leaving us chasing our tails. I always start the school year with a schedule, but never intend to follow it slavishly. I use it to help us develop a routine, and also as a check that what I want to cover is realistic. If I want to do "school" stuff for four hours a day but have planned five hours worth of work I want to know this before we crash and burn. Rather than specific time slots my schedule works in time "boxes" - chunks of time during which I plan to cover specific subjects. (Now where did that idea come from? I have a feeling it was Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson.) I have written down the average length of time I expect to spend on each lesson to check I am being realistic, but within each box the timing and order will in practice be flexible. This year Angel and Star will be working entirely separately, so I have distinguished between work they need to do with me and work they can do independently - I don't want a plan that ends up requiring me to be doing two things simultaneously! So here it is ... the grand plan ...

  • Prayers / Bible story
  • Box 1 - Religion and English, read aloud to Angel, independent reading for Star
  • Snack break
  • Box 2 - History, Geography, Maths, Angel does notebook page, read aloud to Star
  • Lunch and free time
  • Box 3 - Languages (French for Angel, Latin for Star), Science, Art, independent reading for Angel
Within this there are some daily variations ...

Box 1 - the same every day except Tuesday. Each girl will work on English independently while I do religion with her sister, then Star will read to herself while I read to Angel. On Tuesday I will take one of the older girls to Mass, followed by a trip into town for coffee / hot chocolate / cookies and the library. I am going to alternate, taking Angel one week and Star the next, so that each of them gets some one on one time. Tevye works at home on Tuesdays, so the girl whose turn it isn't can stay at home with him.

Box 2 - Angel will do history on Monday and Wednesday and geography on Tuesday and Friday. She will do a notebook page on current affairs on Monday, history on Wednesday and geography on Friday, and copywork, map and timeline work on Tuesday. She will finish with maths (always best to leave this until last with Angel!) while I read to Star. Star will start with maths and then do history and geography on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and work on a book of saints on Tuesdays.

Box 3 - On Monday and Wednesday Angel will do science and Star art, then we will reverse this on Tuesday and Friday - the idea being that the artist can be doing her thing independently while I work with the scientist. Latin and French will be daily (except Thursday). Angel will have some independent reading time, giving me time to work with Star, and Star will have some free time.

On Thursdays Boxes 2 and 3 are free. Every other week we go to our Catholic homeschooling group, and the free weeks give time for visiting Grandma and to catch up if we have taken other time off.

As for timing, I think each box should last about one and a half hours - probably a bit less for the morning ones, so it should add up to about four hours a day. Of course, there is Little Cherub to add in to the mix which will be a challenge. I'm hoping that eventually she will get into a good nap routine that we can plan our day round. This may be wishful thinking! Also, I had to admit to myself that there was stuff that just wouldn't fit in. So far I don't have any slots for dictation with Star, and I had planned to do some history of science with Angel. That had to go if my Tuesday morning Mass plan was going to be realistic.

So ... I think it looks a good plan on paper. Whether it translates into workable reality remains to be seen!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Will I never learn?

Note to self: It is time I learned to think - really think - before I do things! In the interests of humility and providing a little entertainment I'll share this morning's moment of utter daftness.

Tevye very kindly made me breakfast to eat in bed this morning - a bowl of cereal, two slices of toast and honey, and a mug of tea. Star bought it up to me on a tray, sloshing some of the tea into the tray on the way. I put the mug on the bedside table and took the plate and bowl, one in each hand. Then I sent Star back downstairs with the tray. At this point I realised the bottom of both plate and bowl were dripping tea and I had nowhere tea-proof to put them. After some dithering the plate went onto a burp cloth left behind by Little Cherub - that would wash OK! That left me with a bowl with tea underneath and nowhere for it to go. At that point I had a moment of madness. After eating breakfast I would be going for a shower - I could wipe the tea off on myself. I would wash OK too! Unfortunately the only part of my anatomy that was conveniently not covered by clothes or bedding was my head. Very big note to self: There are very good reasons why no sane person ever attempts to wipe tea from the bottom of a bowl full of milky cereal on the top of their head. How on earth could it be that I only realised this once I found myself underneath a shower of milk and sultana bran? And I consider myself capable of home educating my children! I shudder for the poor darlings.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Next year: English

Angel: So You Really Want to Learn English Prep Book 1 (Galore Park)
Star: Haydn Richards Junior English 2; dictation
Schedule: Angel - four times weekly for 20 to 30 minutes; Star - Junior English three times weekly for 20 minutes, dictation twice weekly for 10 minutes. Copywork for both ad lib.

I am experimenting with three texts from Galore Park this year - Latin for Star, English and Science for Angel. The So You Really Want to Learn English book comes recommended by a friend who tutors teenagers in English. Although the book is intended for 10 to 12 year olds, she tells me it teaches to a higher standard than the National Curriculum for Key Stage 3 (11 to 14 year olds). I like the format, which lends itself to regular, short lessons. The book is divided into ten chapters. Each has a mix of comprehension, creative writing, grammar, vocabulary and spelling exercises. I have scheduled it to cover one chapter over three weeks: week one will be comprehension and creative writing; week two will be grammar; and week three the remainder.

The Junior English book is one I used a while ago with Angel. I dithered between Better English 2 (a text used by Charlotte Mason's Parents' Union School that we recommend in Mater Amabilis for UK students) and Junior English. Both are in many ways similar. They were both originally published in the 1960s and have been in print ever since (though I think Better English may have recently gone out of print in the UK), and both have a similar mixture of language arts activities. Better English is supposed to be self-correcting and includes creative writing; Junior English does not have creative writing, but I opted for it because it has a bit less "busy work" than the other book while still covering a good range of topics. I will also be doing some dictation with Star and both girls will do copywork. I'm not sure yet what I will have them copy - in the past it has often simply been anything they chose, but I'm thinking of giving them specific items to copy this year. I am also not sure quite where I will fit it into our schedule. I find copywork is one of those things that only happens if it is part of our regular routine. As our regular routine needs rebuilding from scratch next year, I will have to do some thinking on where to fit the copywork in.

Just because ...

... you can never have too many baby photos.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Next year: History (Star)

Yet again, I am in a muddle with history. Last year I set out to do ancient history with Angel and Star together, only to find that Angel had made a cognitive leap that stretched the gap between them too far for working together to work out. (Three and a half years is a very awkward age gap. Sometimes it works to combine them, though more often it doesn't - but the occasional successes make it tempting, especially as Angel is not good at working independently.) We made it through Egypt and a fair amount of Greece before falling apart under the pressure of health problems and pregnancy. This year they will be working separately and I have been dithering over what to do with Star. Last year we were hopelessly inconsistent, swapping around between books and never quite finding a good fit. This year I thought of using Hilyer's Child's History of the World (one of the books we dabbled in last year). I even drew up a schedule for it ... and then changed my mind. On second thoughts I opted for Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Vol.2, covering the middle ages and the Renaissance. It means we will skip Ancient Rome and jump straight into its collapse, but Star did learn something about the Romans when we were doing British history the previous year. This was another study that eventually fell apart part way through. Oh, the number of historical failures we have had in this house! At least the section on Romans in Usborne's Time Traveller was a hit so the fall of Rome will not appear in a complete vacuum. My thinking is that after this we can move on either to Level 2 of Mater Amabilis (British or American history survey, plus Greece or Rome), or continue through volumes 3 and 4 of Story of the World. My plan is for three history lessons of around 20 minutes each week, during which we will read Story of the World, make notebook pages and keep up a timeline. I will add in some supplementary reading as interest and time allows. This is my ideas list:

Term 1: Fall of Rome to the Vikings
Beowulf by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Medieval Monastery
by Fiona MacDonald
The Holy Twins by Tomie de Paola
Usborne Time Traveller: Viking Raiders
Viking Adventure
by Clyde Bulla

Term 2: King Alfred to the Wars of the Roses
Castle Diary by Richard Platt and Colin Riddell (we read this not too long ago, but it was enough of a hit to bear repeating)
Medieval Castle by Fiona MacDonald
St.George and the Dragon by Geraldine MacCaughrean
St.Francis by Brian Wildsmith
Saladin by Diane Stanley
El Cid by Geraldine MacCaughrean
Marco Polo (an old children's biography on my shelf)
The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff (story of William Tell)
Joan of Arc by Josephine Poole

Term 3: Ferdinand and Isabella to Elizabeth I
Meet Christopher Columbus by James de Kay
The Apprentice by Llorente
Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley
Shakespeare biography
Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Always be precise

... when dealing with children. We are still in mid-heatwave here, so Star and A-next-door asked if they could play with the hose to cool down. Fine, I said, just take the washing down first. A few minutes later I went to check whether they had managed to get the hose properly attached. What did I find? J-next-door staggering across the patio carrying the rotary washing line with the washing still attached, looking hopefully for somewhere she could balance the entire contraption.

Next time I will be more precise: "Please take the washing off the line and take it indoors."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Next year: History (Angel)

Oh the shame! Here am I, a professional historian (or was / would be if I didn't have another, more important job), and I have managed to raise two daughters who dislike history. (Nota bene: If you want historically minded children, do not marry a history-hating man - your children may take after him!) Another irritation is that I worked on designing a curriculum, only to find that I have to reinvent the wheel for my own children. By rights Angel should be starting Level 3 of Mater Amabilis. Realistically, being the hands-on, practical, non-literary person she is, it would be a disaster this year, at least for the more literary subjects. So, what to do?

Da, da ... I have a plan! Angel may not be interested in what happened long ago, but she does like to know how the world works now. I have decided that this year I will have her start keeping a current affairs diary, adding a page each week on whatever event most interests her. To tie in with this we will jump into twentieth century history. I thought about using Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Vol.4 as a spine, but decided it would not be a good fit for Angel. Instead we will look at specific topics over our three term year:

  • Term 1 - World War I and the Russian Revolution
  • Term 2 - World War II
  • Term 3 - The Middle East (Israel and Iraq)
I am planning for two lessons weekly (probably around 30 minutes each). On top of that Angel will do a notebook page each week on one of the topics we have looked at, and we will add in some historical fiction - I'm aiming for one read-aloud and one independent read each term. Anything else will be a bonus. We will not use a single spine text, but I have various resources lined up ...

General Resources
Witness to History series (pub. by Heinemann) - I particularly like this series. Each book gives a short introduction to a historical topic, illustrated by a well-balanced selection of extracts from historical documents.
The Twentieth Century Day by Day (pub. by Dorling Kindersley)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia

World War I
Witness to History: World War I by Sean Connolly
War Game by Michael Foreman
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Also planning a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London (where they have a recreation of a First World War trench) and to the Cenotaph (national war memorial) and the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey.

Russian Revolution
Angel in the Square by Gloria Whelan

World War II
Witness to History: World War II by Sean Connolly
Usborne Introduction to the Second World War
True Stories of the Second World War by
Dolphin Crossing by Jill Paton Walsh (story of the evacuation from Dunkirk)
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (set in Denmark)
Twenty and Ten by Bishop (Jewish children hidden from the Nazis by French children)
The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier (Polish children survive the war and try to find their missing parents)
Watch 1940s House TV series

The Middle East
Witness to History: The Arab-Israeli Conflict by Stewart Ross
Witness to History: The War in Iraq by David Downing
One More River by Lynne Reid Banks (a Canadian girl moves to a kibbutz in 1960s Israel)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hair pulling

Poor baby! It really shouldn't happen! There she was, dozing off happily in her crib, when it all went wrong. The contented dozing was replaced with frantic squawks. I lifted her out to settle her and realised why she was yelling. She had caught hold of a fistful of her own hair. The more she pulled, the more upset she got; the more upset she got, the tighter her grip became and the more she pulled. How do you detach a small hand from something it is determined to cling on to? After failing abysmally I ended up calling for Tevye, who managed to slide the fist off the hair. Poor Little Cherub. Once it stopped hurting she lay there looking both extremely cross and utterly bemused. An unexpected hazard of being a long haired baby!

Slings and things

As a new convert to slings I very much enjoyed this post on Rebecca's Babylove blog. I carried Star a lot, but using a Snugli carrier - a very old one inherited from my sister-in-law, not the Tomy ones available now. I was delighted when I managed to buy an identical carrier on ebay for the grand sum of ninety-nine pence, but realised that a carrier with two layers of thick corduroy might not be ideal in the summer. (Though little did I realise just how not-ideal it would be. See the post below!) I decided to try out a ring sling as an alternative and opted for one of these Freedom Slings. Nice cool cotton and no warm padding. After some initial bafflement - what on earth was I supposed to do with all that tail? - Little Cherub and I love it. I also like the fact that they are made as a home business by a mother of twelve. I can't recommend her service highly enough - prompt and helpful replies to queries, and she sent an immediate replacement when it became apparent that the first sling she sent had been lost by the postal service.

Now I have mastered both carrying and nursing Little Cherub in her sling, I have realised it would be much easier with proper nursing tops. Browsing yesterday I found Mamaway UK, a new internet based business run by a mother who started designing her own clothes while nursing her son. I like the clothes and her prices are reasonable; and again, I like supporting a small business. I think I'm going to try the Lucky Leaf polo shirt - looks perfect for nursing in a sling - and the spring twin set. I just have to decide on colours :).


Phew! Picture me as a grease spot slowly melting into the ground. We are in the middle of a heatwave here. I claim personal responsibility. I had a baby. Angel was born in March 1995 and we enjoyed(?) a scorchingly hot summer. Little Cherub's arrival appears to have had the same effect on the weather. Wednesday was the hottest July day ever recorded in England, with temperatures in the mid-nineties - beating a record set nearly one hundred years ago. Bear in mind that the UK is not set up for truly hot weather and you will understand why we are melting. Air conditioning is rare other than in commercial premises. Even outdoor swimming pools are few and far between as our more typical weather doesn't make them appealing! Mercifully our car has air conditioning, but at home we have all of two small fans - normally plenty as it is a naturally cool house, but this type of heat is out of their league. We postponed our planned trip to visit friends on Wednesday rather than take the risk of being stuck in an overheated broken down train. (The railways here have a long track record of failing to cope with extreme temperatures in either direction. We had visions of heat-buckled rails.) In any case staying indoors in the relative cool seemed far more sensible! Little Cherub has developed an intimate relationship with one of the fans - it receives lots of smiles! - and I'm glad to report hasn't been too hot and bothered. The heatwave is forecast to continue well into next week but with slightly lower temperatures. Today's high is forecast to be 84 degrees, which seems positively chilly in comparison. Just as well. A few more days like Wednesday and I would have melted completely. Ironically it isn't even the summer holidays here yet. How sorry I feel for all those children who have been stuck in classrooms with no air conditioning.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Life in fast forward

If you wonder why blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground around here over the last week or so ...

* Sunday - Mass, preceded by music group rehearsal (did you know it is possible to play the flute with a baby happily tucked up in her sling? Works better when the baby sleeps than when she decides to poke her head up to see what is going on!); extra dance classes for Angel who is preparing for dance exams; band concert for Angel
* Monday - day out at amusement park (see below)
* Tuesday - swimming trip for Tevye, Angel and Star; shopping trip for myself and Little Cherub
* Wednesday - hot and tiring day out at local safari park (think drive-round zoo); extra, extra dance classes plus a dance rehearsal for Angel
* Thursday - collapse on sofa to recuperate from earlier part of the week; trip to baby clinic to have Little Cherub weighed (she is now 7lbs 10oz and had put on 24oz in just over two weeks. Little Cherub is something of a piglet.)
* Friday - Angel's modern dance exam; visit from Grandma; another extra, extra dance class, clashing with Star's band practice and therefore inconveniently requiring us to be in two places at once (not good as we only have one car)
* Saturday - visit from Angel's friend to work on a dance for next week's choreography competition; Angel dancing at carnival in nearby village (which means missing yet another band concert and a homeschool group picnic / sports day); BBQ with friends who live in that village
* Today (Sunday) - Mass; extra dance class; drive to London to visit sister-in-law and family to show off Little Cherub to various friends and relations and for another BBQ
* Monday - Angel's ballet exam
* Tuesday - homeschool group field trip to a dairy farm
* Wednesday - visiting friends in Birmingham (an hour and three-quarters away by train)
* Thursday - friend visiting; doctor's appointment
* Friday - eighteen year old niece coming to stay for the weekend
* Saturday - free day apart from normal dance classes!
* Sunday - Mass (with music group rehearsal); choreography competition

And this is on top of the regular dance classes and band practices. And a small baby! I think that after next week life should revert to normal speed.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mid-life motherhood

Mid-life motherhood has its own peculiar difficulties. In my forties I've got used to having to remove my glasses to read small print. Even with vari-focal lenses, I still have a problem unless they are a brand new prescription. But having to take off my glasses to be able to focus on my baby is ridiculous!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Three girls and a computer

The caption says it all ...

Feeding the fish

A local country park is a favourite haunt of ours. Last night we grabbed French bread and hot chicken from the supermarket deli and went there for an impromptu picnic. After eating we strolled round the lake and fed leftover bread to the ducks. Unusually, the ducks were not that interested - but the fish certainly were! This photo is the closest I could get to the moment of a fish grabbing a piece of bread. These fish are very bold. Boldness is not a characteristic I would have thought of ascribing to fish, but having seen these lake dwellers on previous occasions literally snatch bread from under the beaks of the ducks I would say they have it in plenty. What humiliation for the ducks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little Cherub has made a discovery

She likes carousels! Tevye is taking some time off work this week to do fun stuff together as a family. Yesterday we went to Wicksteed Park in Kettering - an amusement park dating back to before theme parks were invented and still boasting an eighty year old "patent water chute". Just before we left we decided to ride on the carousel, a traditional one with horses, ostriches (why ostriches?) and a couple of carriages where you can sit with babes in arms and toddlers. After spending most of the afternoon dozing contentedly in her sling, Little Cherub woke up just as Tevye took her onto the carousel. She was mesmerised! Her little head swivelled in every direction, eyes full of wonderment as she took in the kaleidoscope of colours, lights and large gilded animals. Angel, Star ("I want to ride on a giant chicken!") and I were perched on ostriches immediately behind and had a grandstand view of Little Cherub's reaction. She made a couple of slightly alarmed squeaks and flaps, before deciding that it was fun and definitely not something to worry about. She relaxed, lay back in Tevye's arms with a series of beaming smiles and simply enjoyed herself. It was the highlight of our day!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Next year: Maths

Angel: Maths 2XL (Key Stage 3)
Star: Finish My Pals Are Here 3, then either My Pals Are Here 4 or Maths Enhancement Programme Year 5
(UK Year 5 is equivalent to US / Singapore Grade 4)
Schedule: Angel - two lessons weekly; Star - daily (4 days per week)

Maths with Angel is my bugbear. Every time we begin a new maths topic, virtually without fail, a blank look spreads over her face and she becomes incapable of remembering how to add two and two (that may be an exaggeration, but only a slight one). This would be less frustrating if she truly struggled with maths. In fact, she has a good maths brain once she stops panicking enough to use it. When we come back to the new topic a day or so later the trauma miraculously disappears and she discovers she can do it after all. You would think that over time she would learn that it is never as bad as it looks at first sight, but no. Over the years I have tried everything I can think of to try to overcome this maths resistance - carrots, sticks, flexibility, inflexibility, dropping maths for a while, and so on - all without success. Despite occasional forays into other maths programmes Singapore Maths and then the newer Singapore My Pals Are Here books seemed to work best with Angel in terms of more progress for less trauma ... until last year we finally hit an impenetrable wall somewhere in My Pals Are Here 5. We switched to a UK maths scheme for a short time until, thanks to maths trauma combined with pregnancy debilitation, I simply gave up and we took a break from the dreaded subject. Faced with maths my normally pleasant daughter turns into a temperamental monster; faced with the a temperamental monster I turn into a bear ... and I just did not (do not!) want to go there any more.

This year I have found the wonder-programme that is going to solve all our maths problems. OK. Dream on. I have enough experience to know that wonder-programmes are never quite as wonderful in practice as they look. What I have found is something sufficiently different to be worth a try, and that just might be the programme that will get us out of the trauma / reluctance loop. Maths 2XL is a CD-Rom covering the entire UK Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14) maths curriculum in over 250 lessons. An Australian teacher presents each lesson with an audio-visual demonstration; the student then completes a practice worksheet, and is required to score 90% or more before moving on to the next lesson. The explanations are clear, and the combination of the computer with an audio-visual approach should fit Angel's learning style better than the traditional textbook and workbook. Best of all, someone else will be doing the teaching. A computerised someone who will be impervious to emotional meltdowns.

Star is generally strong at maths and likes to work independently. Until now she has used Singapore Maths and My Pals Are Here in a laid back way - sometimes working through it quickly, other times slowly, and often jumping between topics in a different order to the book. We are currently jumping around in My Pals Are Here 3A and 3B. Next year I want her to finish these books, then move on either to My Pals Are Here 4, or try the Maths Enhancement Programme. This is a maths curriculum being developed by a UK university, based on a Hungarian maths scheme. At the level she would be using it is available freely online, so I am tempted to at least test it out. The challenge this year is not so much mastering the maths concepts, but working on Star's concentration - Charlotte Mason's "habit of attention".

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Poem: For the Fallen

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

Ninety years ago

On 1st July 1916 British and French forces launched the offensive that became the Battle of the Somme. After five months and over one million casualties on both sides (one million, just dwell on that for a minute) they had advanced less than ten miles.

The First World War strikes a chord with me, in some ways more than the Second. The Great War. The War to End all Wars (if only!). There is a particular pathos to the First World War. It marked the end of a world - the self-confident world of the Victorians and Edwardians, where it was possible to believe that history was a story of steady progress. After the slaughter of the Somme and Ypres and Paschendaele and all those other terrible battlefields in Belgium and France, after trench warfare and poison gas and shellshock and an entire lost generation of young men the world could never be the same again. And unlike the Second World War which was fought against a truly evil regime, the First War was political, fought largely because the nation states of Europe were jockeying for position.

The thought of all those men who signed up to fight "for King and country" out of patriotism only to be lost in the Flanders mud, the courage and sacrifice made by so many for so little gain, is a tragedy that still has the power to make me weep. I remember as a teen being gripped by the BBC serialisation of Testament of Youth, a young woman's autobiographical account of the First World War, punctuated by the heart-rending losses of her beloved brother and his three closest friends, one of whom was the author's fiance. All in their teens at the outbreak of the war. A lost generation. Every town and village in England has a war memorial engraved with the names of the dead of the two World Wars, the lists from the First War dwarfing those of the Second. Losses on this scale would be simply inconceivable to us now. Most poignant of all were the "Pals" battalions, where groups of men from the same town (or factory or football team) joined up together, fought together, and died together ... many at the Battle of the Somme.

Pause a minute and remember ... and say a prayer for the fallen.Eternal rest grant to them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Next year: French and Latin

Angel: French - Skoldo Book 3
Star: Latin - Latin Prep 1 (Galore Park)
Schedule: Four times weekly. Short lessons of 10-20 minutes.

I have had Latin and languages on my mind recently so that is where I am starting my series of posts about our plans for next year. I am more and more convinced that learning Latin has great benefits - not just for classical studies, but because it is an excellent way of improving English grammar and vocabulary.Despite this conviction I have decided to have Angel drop Latin and focus on French instead. Huh? you think. Where is the logic in that? It is in the need to tailor curriculum to the individual child. In planning for next year I am trying to keep constantly in mind that education is "for the children's sake" and look at which subjects and resources will best suit each child, rather than jump into the ones I find most appealing or blindly follow an educational "ideal". Latin may be the optimum language to learn, but any foreign language is good, so I am going to settle for the benefits of French along with a happier child and a less stressed mother.

Last year we dabbled in Latin, working through much of Latina Christiana I with friends alongside bits of Minimus, and then made a small start on Latin Prep I. With Angel it was like pulling teeth, and I have learned the hard way that trying to channel her in directions that appeal to my learning style and intelligences but not to hers is a recipe for disaster. If I were doing things over again I think I would have started slowly and gently with Latin earlier on, but from where we are now French seems a better option. Angel finds it more appealing, and we have already worked slowly but steadily through two levels of Skoldo French. Next year we will work slightly more quickly though Skoldo Book 3 before moving on to the the more grammatically focused Galore Park So You Really Want to Learn French Prep Book 1 the following year.
Note to self: Take advantage of Angel's musical intelligence by spending more time on the songs included in Skoldo, rather than skipping past them to save time!

Star, on the other hand, is going to do Latin. She tagged along with three older children last year and kept up surprisingly well. Often she grasped the concepts quicker than Angel, who tended to go into panic mode when confronted with Latin grammar. Latin Prep I looks just right for her. It moves in small increments, with short exercises that lend themselves to CM style short lessons. Star is a little young - the book is intended for age nine and up, and she will only be eight - but given that she already has a little Latin grounding I think she will cope. I'm hoping she will not only cope, but will thrive on the mental challenge ... but Star can be unpredictable, so who knows! We will work at it little and often, going as far as we can in the year but not expecting to finish the book. Star has also been doing French, and is about one-third of the way through Skoldo Book 1. She says she wants to carry on with it, but realistically I think two languages for her will be overload (for me, if not for her!) so I will put the French on the back burner. If it fits in, even on an occasional basis, then great. If not, then we can always add French in again later - with the benefit of a Latin background which should make it easier to pick up.

Another online quiz

... and I couldn't resist. This is worrying, given that the title of the quiz is How American Are You? I am not. Not even the tiniest bit.
Three quarters of me is 100% English - not even a hint of Irish, Scottish or Welsh in there so far as I know - and the remaining quarter is Russian Jew. But these online quizzes are kind of compulsive. And they provide some interesting revelations. I am, apparently, 34% American. Well I never!

Hat tip again to Theresa at Lapaz Farm Home Learning.

And to those of you who truly are American, in whatever percentage, a very happy 4th July :)

Rosaries for mothers ... and for children

A dear friend sent me the perfect rosary for a new mother. This one-decade memory rosary lets me say a decade, or two, or two-and-a-bit, as and when I can, then when interrupted - inevitably! - I know where I left off and can restart again later. The wooden beads move along the cord tightly enough that they stay put until deliberately moved back. I am keeping it by my bed to use when Little Cherub wakes at night. One of the forgotten pleasures of having a newborn is the opportunity for quiet prayer time during the small hours. (How I am enjoying rediscovering these forgotten pleasures!)

I am not the only blogger with rosaries on her mind. In this post Karen Edmisten links to a number of rosary colouring pages for children. These are not just pages with pictures of the mysteries to colour, but pages to use while saying the rosary - either to colour a bead as each prayer is said, or for the child to draw her own meditation on each mystery. I have a feeling that Star, and maybe Angel too, would like these.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Our intelligences

Thanks to Theresa at Lapaz Farm Home Learning and her multiple intelligence bonanza I have been exploring our various intelligences. Angel, Star and I all took the MI test with the following results:

Strongest intelligences - Maths / Logical and Linguistic, followed by Musical and Intrapersonal
Weakest - Interpersonal

Strongest intelligences - Musical, Physical and Interpersonal
Weakest - Naturalistic

Strongest intelligences - Musical and Physical, followed by Maths / Logical
Weakest - Naturalistic, Intrapersonal and Visual / Spatial

I'm not entirely sure where this leaves us, but it certainly shows yet again that my children (at least, the two old enough to answer questions!) have very different learning styles and strengths to myself. Also neither fit into the classic academic mould, where Maths / Logical and Linguistic intelligences come to the fore (yes, that's me!). Time to read up a bit more on multiple intelligences ...