Thursday, August 31, 2006

Next Year: Daily Routine

After trying to get into some sort of routine at regular intervals over the last six months or so, and failing equally regularly, this one (or something similar) has to stick! I'm motivated. I'm determined. I'm going to pull out every ounce of self-discipline I possess ...

7.00-7.30 Coffee / quiet time
7.30-8.00 Shower and dress / make breakfast
8.00-9.00 Breakfast / dress, make beds and tidy rooms (girls) / prepare for day, do a couple of chores from Motivated Moms list, dress Little Cherub (me)
9.00-10.30 Morning prayers / schoolwork (Mass / library on Tuesdays)
10.30-11.00 Snack break
11.00-12.30 Schoolwork (not Thursdays)
12.30-2.00 Lunch / free time
2.00-3.30 Schoolwork (not Thursdays)
3.30-4.00 Tea time / clear up
4.00-6.00 Free time or after school activities (girls) / computer time, more chores from list, make dinner (me)
6.00-6.30 Dinner (Angel has late dance classes on Monday and Thursday so will eat after the rest of us)
6.30 onwards Free time / activities / bed (Star usually goes at 8.15, Angel at 9)

Angel and Star have a fairly hectic late afternoon and evening schedule with dance classes, brass band and Brownies (Star). Fortunately the dance school is only ten minutes walk away (or a two minute drive) and Angel takes herself to her afternoon classes. We also lift share with a friend for brass band rehearsals and Star's Brownies (Girl Scouts for seven to ten year olds) is just round the corner, so transporting kids to and from classes is not too onerous.

How well this routine will work with Little Cherub in the mix, I'm not sure! I'm kind of hoping that I will be able to get her into a routine of having naps at 9 and 2. If she decides that isn't in her plan, then she will probably spend much of the day in a sling. The schools here start back for the year next Tuesday, so I'm planning a test run with a light schedule next week. We will be away for two weeks after that and will start our school year for real on September 25th.

Next Year: Character Study

I have been wanting to add some sort of character study to my plans for next year, but was at a loss where to start. I wondered about PACE (Program for Achieving Character Education) which is being enjoyed over at the Dumb Ox Academy but can't (so far as I know) get it in the UK, don't have the budget, and realistically don't have the time in our schedule for a full-blown program. But there is no doubt about it. My children - and myself, come to that - could certainly use some character training. Still, my mind was blank ... until this morning when I visited Sweetness and Light, found her post on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and had a lightbulb moment. So next year we are going to do a study of the Fruits of the Spirit. This is the plan ...

Although the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists twelve fruits of the spirit, we are going to look at the nine listed in Meredith's 4 Real Learning post: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. That way we can focus on each for four weeks. I'm going to pick a Bible verse and a song for each week, which we will include in our morning prayer time. For each fruit of the spirit I will choose a saint who displayed that characteristic to focus on. Then I can round it all out with quotations, short activities, readings and discussion. I only want to spend a few minutes a day on this, so it will all be short and sweet. I like the idea of fridge schooling - displaying certain items weekly for the whole family - and the Bible verses and quotations would fit nicely in this display (though our fridge wouldn't work, and I'm not sure where to put it!). I had some free time this afternoon while Angel and Star played with friends and Little Cherub slept, and have started putting together some ideas. I'm enthused! I'll share some ideas later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blog of the Week

I keep finding new blogs I like to read and thought it would be fun to share some. So ... ... here is my new Blog of the Week spot. I can't guarantee to remember it every week, but I'm sure I'm allowed a little poetic license in the title. My first Blog of the Week is ... ...

In a Garden of Love and Light

This glimpse into living and learning with a 3 year old and an 18 month old has me looking forward to the toddler and pre-school years again. I love the calm, fresh layout and the Monet painting in the sidebar. And she posts great photos!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another sling

Or to be more accurate, a wrap. I couldn't resist. This is my early birthday present from Tevye, in pink striped jersey. Cosier than the linen sling as the weather gets cooler. At least, that is my justification for a shamelessly slingaholic purchase. Little Cherub and I tested it out today on a trip to a children's farm. She slept. And slept. And slept. I take it she approves. And me? After carrying her for most of the day, not so much as a twinge. I'm impressed!

Monday, August 28, 2006

I finished it!

I started knitting this shawl when I was expecting Angel. I nearly finished it. I love knitting, but I don't love sewing things together. I ran out of steam part way through sewing the lacy edging onto the main part of the shawl. Angel was born and somehow I never got back to it. For eleven years it has sat in a cupboard unfinished. Before Little Cherub was born I found it, inspected it, decided there was very little left to do and I really ought to finish it ... and put it back in the cupboard. Last week I remembered it again and decided to see if I could finish it in time to use for her baptism. Do you know how long it took? A little over an hour. Eleven years in a cupboard for the sake of an hour's sewing!

For those of you interested in the details, it is knitted in two-ply yarn, very fine and soft. The main part of the shawl was simple enough. The tricky bit was the lace edging. This was knitted separately and then itself edged. Until it was stitched to the main part of the shawl and ironed it looked a holey mess, but once finished it turned out there was a pattern after all. Here is a close up:

More on hugs

I was sitting in bed with the laptop when Star brought me this note:

Just a little note to say I love you!
I love you when I'm happy,
I love you when I'm sad!
But the best way I love you is when I'm cuddling you!
by Star
Note to self. Again. Remember those hugs.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Guess what Little Cherub did today

She received the sacrament of baptism. Like her sisters she was baptised at home so that Tevye could be there. As always this was a bitter-sweet occasion for him - I talked about this a while ago when Star made her First Communion - but it was also a very enjoyable one, celebrating our precious little one's new life as a Christian with our closest friends and my mother. Amazingly she didn't yell during the service (Little Cherub is not a baby who takes anything even remotely objectionable quietly!). She started to grumble just before the actual baptism so I expected shrieks, but when Father started tipping water over her head she clearly decided it was an unexpected but welcome hairwash and produced a series of beaming smiles.

Welcome to the Body of Christ, Little Cherub!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Thinking about gathering in reminded me of a post of Elizabeth's at Real Learning on touch, which sent me to this article on Love, Learning and Touch by Ann Voskamp. How often do you hug your children? In particular, your older children? The article suggests we should aim for twelve hugs a day. I, for one, don't come close. Although I know little about "love languages" I would bet touch is the love language for both Angel and Tevye. It isn't for me though, so I have to make a conscious effort to remember those hugs and touches that they need to thrive. Even Star, who is less of a touch person, needs more hugs than she gets. What better way of gathering in could there be than to hug your children more?

Ha! To prove the point ... Angel just came downstairs to complain she had rolled over in bed and bent her finger back. In the absence of any better suggestions she opted for a hug better.

Self: Does that make it feel better?
Angel: No, not really ... but I love hugs!

Message received and understood.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Gathering in

This coming school year will be the first in which I have had to juggle a baby with homeschooling older children - when Star was a baby Angel was a preschooler, so that hardly counts. And all too soon I will find myself homeschooling with a toddler in tow (can't believe Little Cherub is eleven weeks old already!). I have been inspired by a couple of things I have read over the last week or so. First, a thread on the 4Real forums about homeschooling with a fifteen month old that talks about "gathering in" rather than "pushing away" - having the toddler on your lap if that is where she wants to be, even if it does mean more interruptions. Giving time and attention to the little ones and fitting schoolwork around their needs, rather than pushing their needs to one side in order to concentrate on "getting it all done" with the older children. For many people this means unit studies, but I know from experience this does not work well for us. With only two school age children, whose temperaments and learning styles are quite different and with a fairly large age gap between them, I find having them work separately is easier. So can I both "gather in" and have Angel and Star on separate tracks? I think I can, so long as I keep the idea of gathering in at the front of my mind.

The other piece of inspiration was this beautiful post on practical life activities with the young ones at A Garden of Roses and Lilies. Donna Marie paints a wonderful picture of her eighteen month old daughter and three year old son helping with household chores, Montessori style. How I would love to gather Little Cherub into the rhythms of daily life in this way when she is old enough. As Donna Marie points out, this takes patience and consistency on the part of the mother:

I find that my biggest obstacle to this is being consistent with my own chores working on the teacher is always a work in progress, but being AWARE that I need these precious teaching moments in my day makes me more apt to look for and find them and find time for training each of the dc. I do get rewarded for ds throws his arms around my neck in a huuuge hug and with a huuuge grin states..."I DID it Mom!...I am proud"! :o)

It may be a very awkward thing for an adult to SLOW DOWN and allow the very young to have a part in things. It may take longer to get done, but they need to know NOW how to do it. Your patience will be rewarded ten fold...and you will see your little flower blossom and feel your own contented feeling because you were there every step of the way....with little toddler steps...

Lots of food for thought here! Patience and consistency are not my strong points, and too often I am focused on my own activities while the teachable moments pass me by. I know none of this will happen naturally here unless I work hard on some of my own shortcomings, but I now have a clearer vision of how I want life to look as Little Cherub grows.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This week

This week a few small lessons have been learned ...

D-next-door: Do not kick footballs when there are stones around. A stone may fly up and specatacularly smash the glass in the patio door. If you are going to do this, do it on a day when your Dad acquires a very nice new laptop from his office. This makes Dad more equable when coming home to a smashed window.

Star and A-next-door: When going on an errand to the shop, wait for instructions. If you do, you will know that you need to collect money from both your mothers in order to buy the items you have been sent for. If you do not, you will find yourself being asked for £2.65 when you only have £1.

Angel and J-next-door: If you shriek and holler too loudly when playing Frogger on the Playstation, your father will not be able to concentrate on his work. He will then send you to shriek and holler upstairs where there is (a) no Playstation, and (b) no TV to play it on, thereby rendering the shrieking and hollering redundant.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Geography Games

Look what I just found ... lots of online geography games. Locate countries, learn capitals, explore geographical regions. Have fun! Off to see how many African countries I can put in the right place. (What do you mean, it's supposed to be for the children?)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A mathematical challenge

This morning Tevye, Angel and Star went to our local shop. Tevye offered the girls seventy pence between them for sweets "but only if what you buy doesn't add up to a number ending in three or seven".

Angel: [Highly indignant] But you're trying to make us do maths! And it's the holidays! Don't do it Star!!!!

Star: Ok. I won't. That's not fair. It's maths!

Tevye: Fine. You don't have to have sweets.

Angel: [Ponders ...] I know ... Star, if we both make sure what we get is even then it will be Ok.

Star: You mean ending in 2, 4, 6 or 8?

Angel: Or zero. That's right. Then [triumphantly] we won't need to add it up!

Nice to see that she is capable of creative solutions to mathematical problems [chuckle]

What is it with maths?

I have been enjoying reading the responses to my homeschooling meme. One thing struck me. What is it about maths? Why is it that for so many people the resource they wish they hadn't bought is a particular maths curriculum?

The Lilting House - Right Start Math
Karen Edmisten - Singapore Math
Cirque de Moi and Adventures With Books - Saxon Math
Dumb Ox Academy - MathUSee
Myself - Miquon Maths
... and most thoroughly, A Room of My Own's "vast collection of math curricula"

Perhaps I should have answered the "one resource you wish existed" question with a foolproof maths curriculum, guaranteed to be a good fit for all families.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Parenting lessons

One lesson I learned today ... do not attempt to spread strawberry jam when wearing a baby in a sling. Particularly not when your baby has a lot of hair. Baby hair is not meant to be strawberry jam flavoured.

This lesson is as but nothing compared to some of those learned the hard way by mothers over at the 4 Real boards. Take a look at this Motherhood 101 thread.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Next Year: Geography

For geography we have a world tour to finish. Three years ago we studied Europe, two years ago North America and last year South America, Australasia, Japan and China. This year we will visit the Indian sub-continent, Africa and the Middle East. We are also going to take a side-trip into mountains and volcanos (on the pretext of reaching the Himalayas).

The lack of good books with a geographical theme is a bugbear of mine. Compare the amount of good historical literature for children, both fact and fiction, with books about the world as it is now ... glut and famine! Yes, there are many books about specific countries, but very few are what I would call "living" books. They convey information, but rarely bring a country or a culture alive. Travel books form a whole genre of adult literature, yet there are hardly any written for children. I am gradually compiling a list of living books for geography studies, but there are still gaps - the biggest being the lack of any up-to-date narrative survey that would provide a good geographical spine (I'm thinking of a geography equivalent to history books like Story of the World or From Sea to Shining Sea.)

Angel and Star will be covering the same topics - more or less - but with books pitched at their own level. I will be browsing through a number of country specific books with Star, but Angel will be doing her own research on specific topics using reference books and the internet. These are some of the books I have in mind (picture books for Star are largely dependant on what is available through our library):

Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Lands and People
Ultimate Atlas of the World
Children Just Like Me (DK)
Country specific books from library


Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Mother Teresa by Elaine Murray Stone (part of her religion studies, but ties in with the Indian theme)
I is for India by Prodeepta Das
Geeta's Day by Prodeepta Das
Prita Goes to India by Prodeepta Das
Stories from India by Anna Milbourn
Premlata and the Festival of Lights by Rumer Godden
What's Their Story?: Gandhi by Pratima Mitchell
Mother Teresa by Demi

The Mountain Book by Brian Knapp
Volcano: the Eruption and Healing of Mount St.Helens by Patricia Lauber

Hippos in the Night by Christina Allen
Journey to Jo'burg by Beverley Naidoo
Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope by Beverley Naidoo
The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
African Journey by John Chiasson
Kizito, Boy Saint of Uganda by Elaine Murray Stone (if I can find a reasonably priced copy)
A is for Africa by Ifeoma Onyefulu
Bongani's Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a South African City by Gisele Wulfsohn
Nii Kwei's Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Ghanaian City by Francis Provencal
52 Days by Camel: My Sahara Adventure by Lawrie Raskin
Star of Light by Patricia St.John
A Saint and His Lion: The Story of Tekla of Ethiopia by Elaine Murray Stone

Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover
A Kid's Catalog of Israel by Chaya Burstein
Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights trans. N.J.Dawood
One More River by Lynne Reid Banks
? Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
Boushra's Day: From Dawn to Dusk in an Egyptian City by Khaled Eldash
The Librarian from Basra: a True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Heaven? It has to have a chocolate fountain!

I see I am in good company among bloggers with passion for chocolate. Lissa's absent beloved made sure to leave her an emergency supply, and I have just salivated over Karen E's doubly chocolatey chocolate fondue. After sampling one for the first time recently, I contend that nothing - but nothing! - beats a chocolate fountain. Just imagine, chunks of chocolate brownie ... or soft marshmallows ... or creamy profiteroles ... or luscious fruit ... all waiting to be coated with liquid chocolate. What to choose? Let me just imagine those chocolate brownies again. Is there anything better this side of heaven?

Back to the urgently required chocolate Tevye just picked up for me on the way back from taking Angel to band practice ...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Painting the weather

Exercising its typical inconsistency, our weather has turned nasty. After warnings that August would see a heatwave hotter than the one we sweated through in July reality is closer to this ...

I blame this entirely on it being Star's birthday yesterday. Her birthday has a long track record of having a depressing effect on the weather. An August birthday, we thought. Wonderful! Outdoor parties! Picnics! What fun we shall have! Think again. At least we have learned the lesson over the years and no longer plan anything that can't be done indoors. Maybe we will have better luck with Little Cherub's June birthday.

On the bright side, while checking out the weather forecast I discovered this wonderful online art exhibition, courtesy of the BBC: Painting the Weather. To view paintings of fog, snow, sun, rain, or whatever, simply click on the relevant weather symbol. Some of the pictures have an audio file with a meteorologist's take on the painting. How cool! (Ouch! Terrible pun!) There are even some colouring pages to print out. Enjoy!

Let's hope the weather will soon be back to something more like this ...

Aside: The place shown in this picture became the setting of a well-known children's book. Any guesses?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Homeschooling meme

After being tagged for the book meme and reading Lissa's curriculum posts over at the Lilting House I have been inspired to put the two together and introduce ...

Let's have some fun sharing homeschooling resources we love, hate, and hope are as good as they look! Here goes ...

Homeschool Open House by Nancy Lande. I love the peek into the daily lives of other home educating families

Our library cards.

Miquon Maths. I know many families love it, but I bought it for a daughter who wouldn't use manipulatives for maths. What was I thinking?

Artistic Pursuits, though we fell apart due to pregnancy and didn't get far with it. That means we can use it again next year :)

Maths 2XL CD-Rom (also available online as Conquer Maths). No more trying to explain maths to Angel. I hope.

Catholic Mosaic by Cay Gibson (and all the books to go with it!)

An up-to-date "living" geography book introducing children to countries and cultures around the world. It should have both vivid literary descriptions and vibrant photos. (Yes, that was in my book meme.)

Sonlight Curriculum. All those lovely books!

4 Real Forums

The Lilting House
Karen E
Dumb Ox Academy
A Gypsy Caravan
Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Book meme

She got me! I've been tagged by Cay at the Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks

Here goes ...

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay - my first introduction to Charlotte Mason

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge

The original book Scouting for Boys by Lord Baden Powell. If that doesn't teach me how to survive on a desert island, nothing will! And for reading pleasure, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis. I'm with Karen E on that one.

An up-to-date "living" geography book introducing children to countries and cultures around the world. It should have both vivid literary descriptions and vibrant photos.

The Antiquary by Walter Scott. I had to study it for an exam during my school days and have never been able to bring myself to read anything by Scott since.

Old Thunder: a Life of Hilaire Belloc by Joseph Pearce. Not getting through it very fast, though. Baby brain!

The Latin Centered Curriculum by Drew Campbell

Every Waking Hour
Sweetness and Light
Ecole Buissonniere
Family in Feast and Feria
Shari (don't think you get out of this just because you don't have a blog!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Little Flower of Lebanon

I have been desperately saddened watching the news of recent events in Lebanon and Israel, and Love2Learn's post about St.Charbel of Lebanon struck a chord. It also reminded me about another Lebanese saint whose intercession we could ask for peace in the Middle East - St.Rafqa (or Rebecca), the Little Flower of Lebanon. I would like to mention two particular intentions, one general and one personal:

(1) For the Lebanese and Palestinian Christian communities, caught up in troubles not of their own making.

(2) For Tevye's Israeli cousin Micki and her family. She is in London for the summer but her home is in Haifa, one of the areas suffering missile attacks, and her sons and grandchildren are all in Israel.

St.Charbal and St.Rafqa, pray for us!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Look what Little Cherub got today ...

... and we borrowed her first library book: That's Not My Teddy. She may not know what a teddy is yet, but she can appreciate nice bold, brightly coloured shapes when she sees them!

My tea mug

Just had to share this with you. Isn't it perfect?

Liberating the clutter

The decluttering continues apace. Conversation with the clutter monster (aka Mum) today ...

Me:What do you want to do with that old movie projector?

CM: It needs to be taken for repairs.

Me: Ah! What do you want to do with that old, broken movie projector?

So far this week I have "liberated" (released from her house and brought back to mine as a staging post on the way to a better home) a spare printer, the second desk, 200 or so psychology magazines, some books, a teach-yourself-Swedish tape ... and a broken movie projector. Wonder if there will be any takers for that one on freecycle?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How much was a beach hut?

For those like me who enjoy trivia ... in 1970 you could hire a beach hut in Sandown, Isle of Wight for between 45 and 75 shillings (now £2.25 and £3.75) depending on the season. A larger hut would cost an additional 10 shillings (50 pence). This included the hire of two deckchairs. Bringing your own chairs was strictly forbidden.

In those days the sun always shone on the Isle of Wight in August. I wonder if it still does?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Taming the clutter monster

Today I began taming the clutter monster. No, not the stuff that lurks in my cupboards and crawls out onto unsuspecting surfaces. The clutter monster is my precious, beloved mother. To my delight she has decided to sell her too-large house thirty minutes drive away and buy a small bungalow (single-storey house) near us - hopefully within walking distance, but certainly in the same town. This is a big relief as she is not in the best of health, is struggling with mobility, and is just too far away for us to be able to help her as much as we would wish - much of the time I don't have the car, so eighteen miles might as well be the moon. I'm so pleased she will be close by where we can provide whatever care she needs. BUT ... she is a clutter monster. Her house is jammed with stuff, and a good two-thirds of it is going to have to go. Last week we made a plan. Start by clearing big items so that we can reclaim floorspace and make the house look bigger and less cluttered before putting it up for sale. Today we began with her second desk. You can get the measure of the task in hand if I explain that I didn't even know she had a second desk. No surface area visible, you see. I am pleased to announce that the surface of the desk is now clear, and we are making good headway through the contents. Interesting finds include ...

  • Instructions for my 41 year old brother's orthodontic braces
  • A 1970 price list for beach huts (cabins)
  • Books of green shield stamps (you would need to be British to appreciate that one)
  • A letter I wrote to God, aged around eight (don't ask!)
  • An uncashed cheque from 1976
What a task this is going to be! All being well, the desk will be freecycled next week, along with various other items. Anyone want a dishwasher? Unused for thirteen years. Believed to work based on the evidence of crockery left in it by previous house owner. Any takers? Once I have dug it out from behind boxes of papers and from under heaps of assorted stuff, that is.

Seriously, prayers for her good health (she has struggled badly during our recent heatwave and has very little energy), for successful decluttering, for a smooth house sale, and for a suitable property to come on the market in the right place and at the right time would be very much appreciated.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

In the pink

Little Cherub tucked up in Angel's bed. Doesn't she blend in beautifully? I don't have the heart to spoil the Cherub's reputation by posting the picture of a major pout Angel took one minute after this one!

I have to admit the little darling at the Bonny Glen got to the pink theme first, and very fetchingly too.

I'm also thrilled to hear that the Quigley family at Family Centered Life will be enjoying the fun of lots of pink with their new little one, due in December. Take a look at these wonderful 4D scan photos of her. Aren't they amazing? Her seven brothers and two sisters must be melting already. And I wish I had looked half as good during pregnancy as her mother does!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Next Year: Religion

I have been dithering over this one. If there is one subject I really want to get right, this is it. Next year I will probably use the Level 2 (Star) and Level 3 (Angel) Mater Amabilis religious studies suggestions pretty much as written, but this year I want to fill gaps and - I hope - light fires. Last year we were reading the Golden Bible, the Lion Treasury of Saints, and Faith and Life books for catechism, with excursions into other things for Advent, Lent and Easter. We are only part way through the Bible and Saints books, so logically we ought to continue with them, but they are becoming a slog. I don't see them lighting any fires this year. We could also use a break from Faith and Life, which gets repetitive after a while, so I have a blank slate to fill. Tentatively, the result looks like this ...


For catechism I have opted for a "living book" for both girls. Adventure of the Amethyst is a classic, written in the 1930s and long out of print. I hit lucky and found a copy in a second-hand bookshop a while ago - copies I have seen on the internet have all been way beyond my price range. It is substantial both in size (400 pages) and content, with a detailed explanation of the Catholic faith wrapped up in a work of children's fiction. A rare treasure. I hope Angel will like it, but if not I will save it for another time and use Saint Patrick's Summer with her as well as Star.

Angel will be reading (or listening to) a biography of a 20th century saint each term. Mother Teresa, to tie in with our study of India; Maximilian Kolbe alongside World War II; and finally Pope John Paul II. I am hoping the new joint biography of both JP2 and Pope Benedict XVI that is due for publication in September will work nicely; if not, I'll have to look for an alternative. Beggars, Beasts and Easter Fire was a lucky find in a library book sale, with twenty nicely told saints' stories, just the right length for a lesson apiece. Star will draw and narrate a page for each, making her own saints' story book over the year. This book is also out of print, but rather easier to find than Adventure of the Amethyst.

My First Catholic Bible was recommended recently on the Family Centered Learning email group and I love the sound of it, though I haven't seen a copy yet as it is still in my Amazon shopping basket. It is a devotional Bible, with five stories each week taken from the New RSV Bible (real text, not paraphrased), a weekly memory verse, and "prayer starters". I am planning to read it daily as part of our morning prayers. I also want to make our own family prayer book for the year in advance. I always intend to add in appropriate seasonal prayers, and while I normally manage it for Advent and Lent, the rest of the year often passes me by. If I can choose a specific prayer or two for each month or season and have the whole thing printed out in advance I'm sure we will do a lot better.

Finally, if you haven't read Caryll Houselander's Catholic Tales books to your children yet, you are missing a treat!


Conversation with Tevye, looking ruefully at the heaps of books on the bedroom floor ...

Me: I did clear away that pile yesterday, but I started another one.

Tevye: No, you started two piles.

Me: No I didn't.

Tevye: Ah! It's one pile split in two ... (puts one heap on top of the other) ... OK. One pile.

Poor Tevye!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Moan, moan! Whinge, whinge!

Today is one of those days. I have mastitis. Again. I do not like mastitis. Not one bit. And to add insult to injury, a speeding ticket arrived in the post. In the last few years British roads have been taken over by nasty yellow boxes on poles with cameras to catch unwary motorists who break the speed limit. Yes, I admit it. I was going too fast. And yes, I know I shouldn't. But I was late ... and stressed ... and it was only a little bit (35mph in a 30mph zone). And I have already suffered the misery of seeing the camera flash and knowing it had got me. But why did they wait just long enough for me to wonder if maybe ... just maybe ... there was truth in the theory that the cameras don't always have film in? And why did the ticket arrive on a day when I have mastitis?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Next Year: More about the schedule

Re-reading my post on next year's schedule it sounds so complicated and, well, schooly. Part of the reason it sounds so complex is my painful attempt to write down in prose what looks much simpler as a table. Also, it sounds far more formal than it is in practice. In fact, forget formal, it just sounds more than I expect it to be once we get going. Remember, we are talking short lessons here. I love short lessons! They let us cover a lot of ground painlessly (OK, maybe Angel's maths isn't painless, but speaking generally). Let me talk you through how I expect our first day to look (we charge in full tilt rather than easing in gradually - seems to work better for us) ...

After prayers and a Bible story, I will check Star understands the assignments in the first page of her English book (pick out the nouns in 10 sentences, list names of three things that can be found in various places). She will work on this and then read a book of her choice while I work with Angel. I will read her the first section of Mother Teresa: a Life of Love by Elaine Murray Stone, which we will discuss as we go, and the first chapter of Gloria Whelan's Homeless Bird (we will be studying India for geography). After that we will read through the first comprehension passage in her English book - the section in Oliver Twist where Oliver asks for more. As literary comprehension is her weak point rather than have her read it to herself we will probably read it aloud, alternating paragraphs (she is an auditory rather than a visual learner). If we are on a roll and she seems to be getting it I might get her to answer the short set of questions on the passage; if not I will leave them until the next lesson and have her re-read the passage then. I will finish off by reading and discussing the first few pages of St.Patrick's Summer by Marigold Hunt with Star for her religion lesson. Then we will take a break for a snack and a bit of down time.

The next chunk of lesson time will start with Star going off to work on her maths (she prefers to work independently) while Angel and I learn about the origins of World War I for history. As we don't have a spine text for this we will dip into two or three resources - the Witness to History book on World War I, the newspaper style report in the 20th Century Day by Day and a history encyclopedia. We will look at a map of Europe in 1914 and print it out for her history folder. This will probably take around twenty to thirty minutes. Then it will be Angel's turn to work independently on a page for the current affairs diary I'm planning to have her keep. We will make a point of discussing the news with her over the weekend and she will probably use the BBC News website for information. After that she will watch a lesson presentation on her Maths2XL CD-Rom and do the first half of the worksheet for that lesson. While Angel works Star will start her study of India. I haven't found a good non-fiction "living book", so we will probably end up browsing through a library book and printing out a map for her geography folder. For history I will read the first section of Story of the World 2 to her. It is only an introduction, so we won't have any follow up work. That means history will take all of five to ten minutes. Finally I will read her a chapter of a story book - probably Premlata and the Festival of Lights by Rumer Godden, to tie in with the India theme.

After lunch Angel will go to her room to do some independent reading while Star starts her Latin book. The first section is a short and very straightforward Latin conversation which we will translate using the vocabulary given. Again, this shouldn't take more than ten minutes. We will look at an art lesson in Artistic Pursuits and get her set up with whatever she needs to do an art project. While Star is busy being artistic, Angel will do the first page in Skoldo 3 for French, which should take around twenty minutes. Then she will finish up her day by looking through the chemistry set she will be using, learning how to use the various items safely (with particular attention to the spirit burner!) and learning the standard chemical hazard symbols.

Writing this out, it still sounds more complicated than I expect it to be in practice! I know from experience what are reasonable chunks of work to fit into short lessons, and in planning them I try to err on the side of shortness. That way our days usually flow pretty well - so long as nobody has a crisis or meltdown. Is that all clear as mud?

You are what you write

Thanks to Michele at The Family-Centered Life I just tried a bit of handwriting analysis. My results:

*You plan ahead, and are interested in beauty, design, outward appearance, and symmetry.
*You are a social person who likes to talk and meet others.
*You are affectionate, passionate, expressive, and future-oriented.
*You are a talkative person, maybe even a busybody!
*You enjoy life in your own way and do not depend on the opinions of others.

There seems to be something of a talkative theme in there. Wonder why?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Book shopping

I have been book shopping. I had some vouchers that have been sitting around unspent for a while and decided to take Little Cherub on a shopping expedition. I had forgotten just how much longer shopping takes with a baby in tow! Decision making was therefore rather rushed, but I found three books I thought looked interesting.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is always an easy read (if you don't mind his occasionally near-the-knuckle style), and it will give me an opportunity to get back into the science reading I planned for myself at the beginning of the year.

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
A mystery set in Shanghai. Chief Inspector Chen investigates the murder of a prominent Communist party member. According to the blurb it "blends history, plenty of poetry and a compelling mystery".

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
by Terry Darlington
A humorous account of how a man, his wife and their dog sailed a narrow boat from England to the Mediterranean. This had the appeal of the familiar - I have both sailed a narrow boat and visited Carcassonne, so the title attracted me.

I'll report back when I've read them.