Saturday, July 16, 2016

Order and Wonder: A Case Study

The idea and interplay of "order and wonder" was hit home to me today by a little incident with the kids. Last night on the way home from the beach, I gave Arden the map so she could track along with our route. Then she had the idea for a "craft" for school - she wanted me to print off a map so she could glue it on to a piece of cardboard and colour in the roads. Of course, I thought that was a great idea, and even though it was Saturday today, we set about to make her own little map. (This is part of wonder - of being receptive to the world and ways to learn from it every day.) 

Well, we had a glitch with the printer and I couldn't print off what I wanted to. But as she looked at the screen over my shoulder, she noticed for the first time that PEI was "completely surrounded by water!" (Yes, I'm sure I'd mentioned that before when we talked about what an island was, but today she discovered it for herself!) I then proceeded to get out the atlas to show the kids the map of Canada and where PEI was in the ocean. They were excited about this, but even more excited when I reminded them about the big puzzle of Canada that we had that we hadn't done in a long time. Filled with excitement and ready to explore some geography, we all traipsed merrily into the living room to get the puzzle when we were met with . . . a complete disaster. The room was a mess. And so was the music room/library beside it. 

To be fair, we'd been on vacation this past week, with family visiting from another province, plus the kids were sick a few of those days, so it wasn't difficult to understand why these rooms were such a mess of toys and activities. We were out of routine. We hadn't done our chores. And that meant there was literally no room anywhere to put together the puzzle. I tried to clear a path with my feet to the least messy spot. There was a game with its many parts spread all across the floor. I told the kids they needed to clean up that game before we could get out  the puzzle. Perfectly reasonable, right? 

Well, not reasonable to tired, out of routine children. What followed was an extended period of crying, complaining and general unhappiness. By the end of it all, the baby was hungry and crying, and the kids didn't even really want to do the puzzle any more. The moment was lost. 

Now, all of this is, as I said before, perfectly understandable given the circumstances. But it illustrated to me the importance of "order and wonder" when it comes to education. We had a moment of discovery and wonder - we are surrounded by water! This opened an opportunity for further exploration. I had the materials I needed. But, on this particular day, we were lacking in order. Our space was a mess. And because of that, we couldn't pursue the idea at the opportune time. It is just one example of how order actually opens the space for wonder. Order brings freedom to explore. Order brings peace. 

Later on we did end up working on the puzzle. The teachable moment is not lost forever. But order is so key to making the most of those moments when they happen. This is a good reminder for me. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

30 Ways We Homeschool Blog Party!

Today I am joining in on the blog party fun over at They Call Me Blessed for 30 Ways We Homeschool! There's a lot of great ideas and inspiration, so check it out! There's also a fabulous giveaway happening with tons of homeschool resources!

Here's my post: Cultivating a Life of Order and Wonder

If you are making your way to Little Hearth and Homestead from the blog party, welcome! This is where I share a little bit about our island life and homeschooling journey. My main blog, where I do most of my writing, is The Red Letters Blog. It's a quiet place where I write about finding God in the everyday, prayer, joy, parenting, and the beautiful news of Jesus. I would love for you to join me over there!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grade 1 Teacher Prep

I am really excited about this stack of books. This is what I'll be diving into over the summer to prepare myself for Grade 1. Most of these I have already read, but I want to re-immerse myself in the ideas.

From top to bottom:

Leisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
I read this a few years ago, on the recommendation of someone in the blogosphere, though I can't remember who! (Auntie Leila?) Since then, I've been reading and learning more about scholé from the likes of Sarah Mackenzie, Scholé Sisters, and Christopher Perrin. This time through, I'll be thinking about just what "leisure" (aka scholé) can look like in our family as we continue with home education. 

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
This is one I've heard about from many different people. I believe this book had something to do with the modern resurgence of Charlotte Mason. Our library doesn't have it, so I'm borrowing from a friend. It is basically a summary of Charlotte Mason's principles and how they can be applied in the home. I've dipped into enough Charlotte Mason to be familiar with most of the concepts, but I'm really enjoying reading through it and seeing the practical side of things. This is probably something I'd like to get for my own library. (It's on the wish list!)

Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
I read this last winter, but I'd like to go through it again now that we are further into things and that Grade 1 is on the horizon. I think it would be ideal to go through with a notebook and a friend! I haven't got the accompanying podcasts yet either, which I'd like to do, and really take my time with it all. She is encouraging on a practical level, but also inspiring on the level of ideas. The teaching from rest idea is connected to the idea of scholé as well. 

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
This essay is in that big book, along with The Weight of Glory, another of my favourites! I did read it a few years ago, but I'd like to refresh my memory. Lewis said we were in danger of creating "men without chests." Who wouldn't want to read Lewis's thoughts on education? 

The Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason
This one is not pictured, and I am still saving up for the hard copies, but I am reading selections on the Ambleside Online website. Currently I'm reading about habits (Vol. 1), and then I'd like to get into "masterly inactivity." 

Like I've said before, I need to get my big ideas in place before I tackle the details of curriculum selection, scheduling, and the like. (I do have my curriculum mostly picked out for the fall, though I'm still tweaking. More on that another time.) I'm looking forward to working through the stack! 


Monday, June 6, 2016

Kindergarten Overview

This is the "Description of Home Education Program" that I sent in to the Department of Education on PEI for Arden's kindergarten year. For me it was helpful in summarizing my goals for the year, without having to go into a lot of detail.

Though it may look rather official, what I put down is really just part of the natural, ongoing process of everyday learning at this stage! 


Friday, April 29, 2016

Finding Focus in the Online Frenzy

First gaze on a first book

Help! I'm getting stuck in the homeschool interwebs! In an online world of slick sites and shiny blogs, everyone's got a printable, an ebook, a newsletter, a podcast, a planner, or a curriculum that will be the one simple thing you need to either organize or revolutionize your homeschool experience! The homeschool universe is ever expanding, and there are enough ideas out there to keep you learning to infinity - and beyond!

The trouble is, I don't have till infinity. I have a few precious years with my children, and only so many hours in the day. There are many homeschoolers out there doing many wonderful things, and I have found inspiration and ideas from more than a few. But I find it all too easy to become dizzy and distracted by the plethora of options, which leads to comparison and second guessing at best, and panic at worst.

When I start to feel overwhelmed, I find it helpful to log off, sit back, and think about the core ideas behind our family's commitment to home education. I'm a person who needs to constantly reorient myself to the big picture, which focuses me and energizes me to then think about the details.

I remind myself of our underlying philosophy of education (thanks Charlotte Mason):

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. 

I remind myself of basic governing principles for our family life (thanks Auntie Leila):

Order and wonder. 

I remind myself of our own family's goals:

To raise children whose affections are ordered toward truth, goodness and beauty, who are growing in the wisdom and skills needed to follow Christ along the unique path he is leading them in life.

I remind myself of our chosen method of getting there:

Real Life
Living Books

When I consider these ideas, I can already feel my focus returning. (Maybe I'll expand on these in another post. For now, I'm putting them out here purely for my own benefit.) I can sift through all that good information out there and select the things that best fit our own approach to education.

Like I said, I'm energized by philosophy and big ideas. So for me, the websites I find most helpful are those that feed this area. I need my own mind and spirit fortified by truth, goodness, and beauty, and then I can handle how that gets worked out in everyday life. I get bogged down in too many details. For me, the details have to flow out of the big picture.


Having said all that, here are the websites that I'm personally finding helpful as we begin this home education adventure:

Like Mother, Like Daughter - Common sense education, Charlotte Mason style (Auntie Leila introduced me to Charlotte Mason, and I have been a faithful follower of her blog since my oldest was a baby)

The Read-Aloud Revival - Cultivating a family culture around books; fun and inspiring literary podcast, with book lists and other resources

Schole Sisters - A podcast for the classically inclined, big picture meets practical application (I also enjoy the blogs of the podcast hosts)

Ambleside Online - Free Charlotte Mason curriculum and living book lists, with links to Charlotte
Mason's works online

The Circe Institute - Classical education resources, blogs and podcasts

Education is a Life - Charlotte Mason the Canadian way, written by a friend and fellow homeschooler on the island

They Call Me Blessed - A blog by another friend showing the many sides of home education


Sunday, April 3, 2016

I Speak Joy: A Mother's Blessing

I am delighted to announce the arrival of our daughter, Ivy Joy, born on Good Friday! 

What follows is a blessing I scribbled out on the back of a piece of paper one night a few weeks before she was born. We didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl, but I had an inkling that I carried a girl. And I had more than an inkling that this baby was somehow connected to all I have been discovering about joy. Her very name is part of my blessing to her, and God's blessing to me. "Ivy" stands for faithfulness, and "Joy," well, it speaks for itself! 

My darling,

I speak joy over your coming. 
Joy as you grow, and bloom to bursting,
Joy as you waken to life in the wide world,
Joy as you are received into the arms of your family,
And joy as our Father laughs to behold His reflection in your eyes. 

I speak joy over our meeting.
Joy as we weave our bonds of love,
Joy as we learn each other’s names,
Joy through the sleepless nights,
And joy as we count each sunrise together.

I speak joy over your future.
The wonder-filled joy of discovery,
The riotous joy of whole hearted freedom,
The steadfast joy of a deep-held faithfulness,
And the fiercely won joy of the sorrowful night.

I speak joy over you.
Unspeakable and full of glory,
Fruit of the presence of God,
Fire bright and blazing beauty,
The strength of a hundred hind’s feet on the heights.

I speak joy as my mother’s blessing,
A gift of words and of heart’s desire,
A beseeching prayer for divine bestowal,
A promise kindled by heaven’s purpose,
And my song of praise overflowing. 

{This post was originally published on my main writing blog, The Red Letters Blog. For more about Ivy, parenting, prayer, joy and God, click on over!}


Saturday, February 20, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Desk Edition

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

My "desk" is a running joke between my husband and I. Since we've lived in this house (almost 6 years), my desk has been in probably 5 different places! Also, I keep changing physical desks! (There are 3 desks in our house that I claim as "mine." Usually there's only one in use at a time.)

The trouble is, I find I need a desk for everyday stuff like household organization and paperwork, bills, home education papers, etc., and then I want a desk where I do my more creative work of writing.

(You can find me writing over at The Red Letters Blog, where I write about God, family life, prayer, and Lent.)


No, this isn't my desk - it's the sideboard in the living room. These are the flowers my husband and daughter chose for me last week. :) I love tulips!

But I find when I want to do writing, I work best in a room that is clean and pretty! I have rarely sat at the same desk for writing. In the summer, when our upstairs isn't so cold and drafty, there is a very small desk set up by a window where I often go to write. In the winter, I find I drift toward the warmer rooms, like the dining room, and write at the dining room table (after I clear it off, of course).


Just in the last few weeks, I've decided to try a different set up for my "everyday" desk. I used to have a desk in the dining room for this sort of thing, but it would end up getting stacked up with papers and books and paraphernalia, plus my laptop, and I didn't like the look of that in the dining room. Also, with the bigger table Micah made, it was getting harder to squeeze a desk in around that. I ended up doing most of my household paperwork at the table anyway.

I do like to have a central place, where I'm not isolated from the kids, and where I can take care of things as they come up throughout the day.

(My real, official desk is actually in our office. But that is the room my husband works in during the day, so it's not really accessible when I need it most. Consequently, it just became a paper dumping surface.)

So, I'm experimenting (here is where my husband laughs) with a stand-up work surface in the pantry!

We have a walk-through pantry between the kitchen and dining room. (You can see the counter with the toaster to the right, and the dining room is to the left.) It's as central as it gets, while also being somewhat out of the way.

The "desk" itself is a cube shelf turned on its end. It is mostly full of the kids art and craft stuff, though I do get one little cubby for myself!

My current philosophy of paperwork is that the less space I give it, the less it will pile up! In other words, I will have to deal with it right away. I just got the wall file, which has three slots - one for unopened mail and bills to be paid, one for receipts, and one for home education and homemaking files. The little basket is for current books, my daily planner, my home education binder, other notebooks, scrap paper, and other current papery things. My laptop just fits here, where it can be plugged in. If I need to do something quickly on the computer, I just stand and get it done, and without a chair it is less tempting to sit and get involved in unplanned browsing.

Sometimes I pull a stool over. When I need to sit down and pay bills, or do something on the computer that requires a bit of time, I just take it over to the dining room table. I do the work, then do the filing and put the computer back here.

So far it seems to be working. It's helped me keep on top of paperwork, and I like the location.

It's all part of the puzzle of where in this house to have the homeschool stuff (the paperwork and then there are the books), the household stuff, and the kids arts and crafts stuff. Some of our "school" activities are done at the dining room table (all the messy work and art/crafts), but we have another library/music room where we do other "school" things. That's a whole other set up in progress! I'm sure we will figure it out some day.

This is a shelf in the dining room which has my home education resources and books on it. (Also, homemaking, homesteading, gardening, nature guides, etc.) I still do most of my home education planning in the dining room, so it's handy here.

So this, in a way, is part of my "desk area."And books look good in any room!


Cue more husband laughter here.

This is, technically, my official desk. It's lovely. It's also been covered in un-filed paper for months. The trouble is that it's in the office, so not readily accessible. Out of sight, out of mind, and out of order! I am actually now sorting through everything that's accumulated. (Part of the nesting! We are expecting our third child at the end of March!)

But it hasn't been working for me in here. Once the paperwork is taken care of and filed for good, I don't plan to use it for everyday paperwork at all. I think I might use it as staging place for my own little projects of a more creative or crafty nature.

My dream is to create a real creative writing space somewhere in the house, but so far I haven't been able to settle on a place that works. At least writing can be fairly portable!


We had some real winter temperatures last week (-22 C). It was enough to form a thin layer of ice over the river, which still a tidal river beside our house.

Winter has treated us fairly well this year! We had some rain the other day (not a fan of rain in February), but there is still some snow left. I am happy when we a have snow cover well into March. Here's hoping!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"School" This Morning: Birdwatching

"School" this morning:

  • Watching the birds at the feeder through the open dining room window (taking turns with the binoculars for a closer view)
  • Discovering the difference between the downy and hairy woodpecker with our Peterson's Birds of Eastern and Central North America
  • During snack, reading aloud from our Handbook of Nature Study: "Lesson 14 The Downy Woodpecker"
    • We learned that the Downy's fourth toe is turned backward as a companion to its thumb, and that the tail props the bird up like a bracket, allowing it to grip the tree. 
    • The beak can be used as a pick or a drill.
    • The Downy grabs the grub with its tongue, which is covered with little hooks.
  • Practicing lower case letters by starting a birdwatching checklist
  • Sending the kids outside for the rest of the morning to observe and play with Mother Nature

I love learning like this. It's natural, connected to nature and our daily lives, and we are discovering things together. I love the freedom we have to stop and watch the birds. I love the opportunity we have for the kids to go outside for as much time as possible. I love that the children are forming relationships with the real world right outside our door.

I hope to continue to create an atmosphere of learning in our home, where we are attentive to opportunities for discovery, where we have both the freedom and resources to explore real life and real ideas, and the disciplined framework upon which to hang moments of wonder. All of life is education. (I am absorbing and still learning from Charlotte Mason!) 

Books in this post:
(I am part of the Amazon Affiliates program. I only link to books we personally use and recommend. If you click through and end up purchasing, a small portion will make its way back to our family. Thank you!) 

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America by Roger Tory Peterson

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Learning About Snow

I have two little "snow scientists" on my hands these days! We've had fun learning all about snow in a variety of ways.

We've read books, made crystals, watched videos on snow (this is where the "snow scientist" idea came from), observed it up close, and, of course, played in it!

Arden made herself a backpack filled with things that snow scientists need - black paper, a magnifying glass, a printout of different snowflake shapes (that I stuck on cardboard and covered with clear tape to waterproof - click here to see what we used), a notebook and a pen, a bottle of water and a snack. She wanted to wear her bike helmet (like the snow cave explorers in the video), but it wouldn't fit over her hat!

These are two of the books we read and enjoyed and learned from:

This one had some beautiful and fascinating up-close photographs of individual snowflakes.
We spent a lot of time just poring over the pictures. 

The true story of the first man ever to photograph a snowflake.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Revisiting Kindergarten Goals and General Update

I've been too busy homeschooling and homemaking to be blogging about it! I've also been growing another child to add to the collection, and that has taken a bit of effort too. :)

But as we get back into the swing of things at the start of the year, I've been thinking about my kindergarten goals, and reminding myself of what I wanted to prioritize for this our first year of home education:

Habit Formation
Outdoor Play
Enjoying Good Literature

Habit Formation

  • Personal habits
    • Since September we've worked on obedience, attention, thankfulness, and now joy, or as we like to call it, "looking on the bright side." 
    • We've been using Sonya Shaefer's Laying Down the Rails as a guide for this. When we're in our routine, we might do 2 little "lessons" a week from the book, selected or tweaked for their young age (3 and 5). We usually do this at morning snack time. I've liked using this resource, as I've been able to learn what Charlotte Mason had to say about each habit, and then have the practical lessons pulled together for me. I've found that twice a week has been good just to keep us all focused on a particular habit. In no way would I say my kids have "mastered" any of the habits, but they are now aware of what these things are, why they are important, and how we can work together to keep forming them in our daily lives. (What we are calling "joy" is what LDTR calls "A sweet, even temper." We could all use work on that, I'm sure!)
  • Household habits
    • One of my big goals has been to get us all in some kind of regular daily routine. Not a strictly timed schedule or anything, but an underlying rhythm to our days. I have discovered I am the kind of person who is not naturally prone to regular routine (distracted by books! thoughts! sunny days! singing in the shower!), but I've also discovered that I NEED to be in routine myself in order to function well as a mother and homemaker, and to then create routine for the kids. 
    • Morning routine:
      • Breakfast, getting "dressed and ready for the day" which involves getting dressed, making beds, tidying up bedrooms, brushing teeth and hair, and washing faces. 
      • The better I am at getting ready and going before the kids, the better they are at this! My natural tendency is to drink coffee in my pajamas for as long as I can, but then my morning is far less productive and the kids are far less cooperative, so I am doing my best to be disciplined in this area. 
    • Chores:
      • Besides their bedrooms, we have "kitchen chores" that we do together each morning - clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, making sure the hallway is tidied. They each have a little part to play in this. 
      • A month or two ago I made a "chore chart" which has chores for the kids AND myself on it. Each day we essentially focus on a different "zone" - the kids have their work to do, and I have mine. This has worked well, since it's all laid out, with pictures for what the kids need to do. 
      • We don't give rewards for basic chores. Instead, I'm trying to instill in them the idea that we all need to work together to keep the house clean and tidy, that we all have a valuable part to play, and that we do it because we love our home and we all enjoy when things are "in order." If they don't do their chores, they don't move on to the next thing, which is usually a snack! 
      • The kids are more positive and productive now that this "habit" is getting fairly well established. It just becomes part of what we do, and so there is less resistance. 
    • We don't do things so much by the clock, as much as in a certain order. There are certain time stamps we try to hit though, to keep things going smoothly. For example. all chores must be done before morning snack, which usually falls between 10:00-10:30.

Outdoor Play
  • One of the big reasons I wanted Arden to be home for kindergarten was to give her (and Jack) lots of time to play outside. I believe that extended interaction and play with the "real" world of nature outside is one of the best things for kids this age! 
    • Personally, I tend to prioritize outdoor play over "school" time, at least for now. I am happy to see them playing outside, getting lots of exercise and fresh air, exploring our yard, and coming up with their own play. 
      • For this reason, on any given day, "schooly" activities will often be shortened or even skipped altogether if the kids are happy outside. 
      • When our morning routine is running smoothly, however, the kids usually have time to get ready for the day, do their chores, and have a good hour or so outside before we start "schoolwork." They often go out again in the afternoon. 
    • The kids are getting good at playing outside together by themselves within the boundaries we've defined. This gives me time to get other chores or things done inside.
  • Outside together:
    • We try to spend time all together outside too: walks in the woods (all seasons), playing on the swingset, exploring the riverside, having backyard picnics, bringing books to read outside on the front porch or on a blanket, bonfires with Dad
  • Working outside:
    • Helping Mom with gardening, helping Dad with chickens (all year) and pigs (summer), carrying small pieces of firewood, hanging or bringing in laundry from the line

Enjoying Good Literature

  • One of the "anchors" of our day is our read-aloud time, after lunch and before quiet time.
    • Usually the kids each get to pick a book, either from our shelves, the "learning basket" (books that cover a theme we may be looking at, everything from foxes to Thanksgiving to snowflakes), or the library basket, where we stash our weekly haul. Sometimes I will pick one too, or we'll do a whole bunch!
    • We have sometimes done chapter books in this time slot, but the kids still really love the picture books, and I am just fine with that. There are so many wonderful picture books out there! 
  • Chapter books
    • So far we've read Old Mother West Wind, The Hundred DressesThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (our 12 days of Christmas read), and now are about halfway through Paddington. (We started Little House on the Prairie, but ended up doing something else partway through.) I haven't found the ideal regular time to do chapter books yet. Sometimes we do them at regular read-aloud time, sometimes at bedtime. 
  • Poetry
    • We usually do poetry along with morning or afternoon snack time. 
    • So far we've read When We Were Very Young, skipped around various children's collections including A Child's Garden of Verses, and now we've settled into Now We Are Six
    • Over Advent we included poetry memorization along with our "together time" during school. We did "The Christ Child" by GK Chesterton, and it went over well, so I think I will keep including a short poem to memorize in that part of our day. 

"School Time"

Arden was quite excited to officially be starting "school" this year. So even though I believe our whole day is opportunity for education, and that we are continually learning from all of life, on most days we set aside time for our "schoolwork." I didn't want to spend a lot of time with formal, desktop learning, but Arden is ready for some short lessons of that nature, and enjoys our learning activities. (We are trying to follow a Charlotte Mason approach in general. I am still learning!)

We do our "schoolwork" in our music room/library. I wasn't sure how we would work this out, as we have a nice bright dining room with a big table, but in the end, we ended up in the other room. It has a piano and other instruments, bookshelves (with Mom's books, kids books, music books, homeschool books), a small table with 2 chairs (I pull up a stool) for the kids to work at, a comfy love seat for reading, and best of all, it's open in the middle with a lovely soft carpet. I think it is a calm and beautiful space for our learning. 

Our school time is basically divided into a few sections: Together Time and Table Time, followed by Reading Time or Rotating Activity Time. (It all sounds so official when I put it that way, ha!)

  • Together Time (we gather together on the carpet)
    • Memory verse (1 or 2 a month) 
    • Hymn (usually 1 a month, with learning 1 new verse a week) 
      • We each have our own hymnbook and sing without accompaniment, though on Mondays we play through the whole hymn with me playing the piano and kids accompanying on various instruments (hand drums, shakers, whistles, harmonicas, etc.). 
    • Poem (we did one for December, but I have yet to pick one for January!)
    • Prayer Time
      • Prayer cards (coloured index cards - each day of the week we pray for a different category (family, neighbours/friends, missionaries we know and our sponsor child, needs in our community, our church)
      • The Lord's Prayer (we memorized this back in the fall, and have continued to include it with our daily prayer time)
    • Bible Story
      • For  awhile we did this at the table, when the Bible story book I was reading came with pictures to colour. With the colouring, it took up quite a bit of time. We've switched to a Bible story book now without the colouring element, and we sit and read together on the couch.

    • "Exercises"
      • The kids love this part! We do stretching, jumping jacks (and practice counting to 20), and whatever exercises the kids feel like doing or making up (right now, lots of somersaults). They get all their wiggles out, and then we are ready to head to the table.
  • Table Time
    • Writing: Letter practice
      • So far Arden has been more motivated to write than to read, so we decided to get a book to work through for her to learn to form the letters properly. We are using the Getty-Dubay Italics program, working our way through the first book. (Usually one letter a day.)
    • Writing or Reading practice (alternating days right now)
      • Extra writing practice: copying a few words from our memory verse or hymn, writing out a few words we are trying to learn by sight, making a card for someone, or she will write a little story in her book while I tell her how to spell all the words. It may take 2 minutes or 20 minutes, depending on the activity!
        • We recently introduced a large, shallow plastic tub filled with rice for more tactile letter practice, and it's been a big hit. 
        • We also do "sky writing" where we practice writing the letters as big as we can in the air. 
      • Reading: We are taking a slow, fun-and-games approach to this. She is familiar with most letter sounds by now, and is just starting to get the hang of blending short vowels and consonants. Some things we do for fun:
        • I made up some simple letter tiles with cut up index cards (vowels are a different colour than consonants), and we've played around with these. 
        • Right now, a little chalkboard is a big hit, and we are just getting into blending sounds so she can read simple 2 and 3 letter words on the chalkboard. 
        • We also borrowed the first few "Bob Books" from a friend, and are practicing with these. 
    • "Schoolbook"
      • When Arden asks for her "schoolbook," what she means is one of our Rod and Staff preschool/kindergarten workbooks. I got some of these last year, which we did as an activity together. She knew another little girl who was doing those books for "school," and so that's what they became known as. We might do a page, or a few pages, depending on the day. Some days we don't take it out at all. We are in the 4th book right now. Much of this is getting too easy for her, but she still finds it fun. The other little issue is that the letter practice part of it doesn't quite match with the italics method we are learning, so I will adjust or skip over some of those pages. 
    • The 3 year old:
      • While Arden does her lessons, he has colouring books, other pictures to colour, a notebook to draw in, and a notebook to "write" in, where I trace letters for him to copy (he's been the one asking for this), scissor practice paper, look and find books, etc. 
After these language based activities, we may grab some books to read from the Learning Basket, or move on to one of our rotating activities.

  • Rotating Activities:
    • Music - I'll play the piano and they play other instruments, and we do hymns or other songs together. Sometimes we put on classical, folk, or fiddle music and dance and sing along.
    • Math - My basic approach to math for this year is that it is part of everyday life - counting, adding, subtracting, baking, recognizing numbers on signs, learning how to use a calendar, reading a clock, etc. Some days we will sit at the table for a "math activity," including:
      • Counting pennies to 100. We have a jar with 100 pennies we can count out, and put on a chart that has numbers up to 100. 
      • Coins. Different coins to become familiar with the values. 
      • Clock book. We look at a book with moveable clock hands to practice time telling.
      • Calendar - at the beginning of each month I have Arden fill in the name of the month and the dates on her own calendar page.
    • Nature Study
      • Fair weather: In fairer fall weather we took our whole "school time" down to the pond at the end of the road on Wednesdays, and did a version of things there, along with our official "nature study," which usually involved finding something interesting and drawing it, and perhaps looking it up in one of our handbooks. 
      • General resources: nature handbooks (birds, wildflowers, shells, shore life, trees), magnifying glasses, binoculars, books from the library, nature notebooks (for kids to draw in), and a natural sense of curiosity!
    • Games/puzzles
      • Various assortment!

In the afternoons when we are home, we have read-aloud time, quiet time (an hour where they can rest or play quietly by themselves), snack, and then either free play/outside play, or maybe another activity together (baking, craft). Usually one afternoon a week we go to town for shopping and errands, and we spend half the morning on Thursdays at our local library where they have a story time, so that day looks a little different too. 

So, that is a detailed update of what our home education life has been like! 

Overall I'm happy with our progress and what we've been able to do together. There are definitely days that drive me crazy, but lots of days where I am so thankful for this opportunity I have to be home with the kids. I've been able to identify some of my weaknesses and areas I need to work on as a mom/teacher, and that has been both humbling and challenging. The kids are thriving, and Arden has said on many occasions that she wants to homeschool "for all the grades," so I take that as a sign that she is enjoying things too. :) 

With a new little one arriving in March, I know that will definitely change the rhythm of our days, but I'm hoping we will have enough of a framework in place so that whether or not we get to all or any of our "school" activities, we'll be able to keep some stability. Our focus then will shift to learning about life with a new baby! 
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