Monday, October 05, 2015

July/August/September Book List

I know I usually write a little blurb about each book but since this post contains three months of book reading, I'm obviously behind in parts of my life. And some of the books are no longer very fresh in my mind to say anything very stimulating or profound. I also started some Very Thick Books this summer and fall which I did not finish before the library callously expected them back in circulation. Life is harsh. Books have lots of pages. Reading in bed is dangerous. 

Favorite Picture Books

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Calvin Can't Fly by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Keith Bendis

Honorable Mentions

Odd One Out by Britta Teckentrup and Where's the Pair? by Britta Teckentrup

The H.A. Rey Treasury of Stories by H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

Chapter Books

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

The Girl of Limberlost by Gene Straton Porter

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Nonfiction Books

The Story of Buildings by Patrick Dillon, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

The Stick Book by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks

Classics and Other Such Books

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

a new season to admire

I stepped outside this afternoon for a quick break. It was dripping wet, but the air was almost summery and the breeze refreshing. I walked carefully and looked closely. There is always something to notice and admire which does the soul good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

teaching prep

I first worked on this post several weeks ago. I'm only getting back to it now. 

Last week as I dug deep into book schedules and chapter counts for both my Year 7 student and my Year 1 student, I had a passing memory of myself at that this same time of year, in almost another lifetime now, frantically cutting out laminated bulletin board pieces and other classroom decor. I grimaced at this memory and felt regret that I spent so much time on the window dressing and very little on thinking about the ideas I was to teach. Now this morning, I take time to read a recent Circe article by David Kern comparing teaching to preparing a meal.

 "There's no substitute for a teacher's quality preparation. Without preparation a teacher can't teach with purpose. This obviously refers to photocopies and supplies and crafting lesson plans, all of which are important. But it also refers to the kind of preparation that involves contemplation. A good teacher reflects on both the subject he is teaching and his role as a cultivator of wisdom and virtue; he doesn't lose sight of (or ignore) the purpose of his calling. That is, he doesn't allow contemplation of the lesson plans to keep him from preparing his own mind and soul for the act of seed-planting." ~David Kern

 In all my classroom preparation, I delegated hardly any time to contemplating the ideas and the virtues that I wanted to instill in my students. Yes, I knew what subjects I was supposed to be teaching and what books we were to be using, but I was woefully ignorant of how to lead and develop life-giving ideas from the materials that I was given to use. I simply over-relied on the workbooks and worksheets to convey any skills or meaning to my students. How deadening this all sounds. To me and to them.

"The child must learn, in the second place, in order that ideas be freely sown in the fruitful soil of his mind. 'Idea, the image or picture formed by the mind of anything external, whether sensible or spiritual,' --so, the dictionary; therefore, if the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has, by so far, missed its mark. Now, just think of the listless way in which the children too often drag through reading and tables, geography and sums, and you will see that it is a rare thing for a ny part of any lesson to flash upon them with the vividness which leaves a mental picture behind. It is not too much to say that a morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted, however closely the little student has been kept at his books." ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p.173

The amount of seed planting that needs to be done in both the minds of the teacher/parent and the student/child requires time set aside for content and contemplation. Both require that you build up an inventory of stuff to think about, which requires that you must stock the shelves of your mind with this said inventory. And stocking the shelves of your mind means cultivating a taste for reading, listening and doing that which is filled with goodness, truth and beauty. And because we live in a world created by a great and glorious God who is all of those things, we have inexhaustible storehouses of books, poetry, fellowship, stories, music, art, gatherings, nature, architecture, relationships, history, etc to dig into. So much to enjoy and think about, it makes all my classroom decor seem so tacky and pointless now. Who cares about the room, when it's the mind that needs furnishing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

these posts don't write themselves

Instead of talking about all the things I haven't posted yet and wanted to, like finishing our summer photos and summer book lists, I'm staying in the present and telling you about now. Or at least what is close to now. As I write, we have a sunny, windy, big blue sky kind of Monday after having two straight days of rain. Unheard of for us, well almost. And by this morning, early this morning, five:thirty this morning, when I was up running to help Laura get to the bathroom to make another stomach bug deposit, I could hear rain still. The forecast last night showed more rain for today. But it looks like the blustery winds came in and swept the rain clouds out the back door just about time I was getting into the shower this morning.

It is our first full week of lessons and this past weekend, I was burning the midnight oil (purely a figure of speech, I don't do anything truly productive usually past eight) of another Ikea JANSJO light bought last week. I have had one on my bedside table for months and enjoyed it's cheering presence, so I wanted one for where I do my planning work. Of course, Seth and Laura both needed one in their rooms for various reasons, so now we can burn the midnight oil together, until eight.
We only had two days of lessons last week between Labor Day, field trip day and dentist appointment-turned-errand day. I knew it was going to be like that, so I kept our plans light as we transitioned back into our Morning Time and lesson routines.

Last week, we noticed a tree growing these enormous green pods out by our parking lot, so we headed out before lunch break one day to investigate and bring back some samples of leaves and pods to examine more closely. After searching through two tree books, Seth found it in the old vintage one. It is called Common Catalpa or Indian Bean. The green pods dry to the dark brown as seen and then split open, allowing a bark-like cylinder inside to be exposed which flakes of seeds are loosely hanging on to. It is all very strange and tropical island like. The leaves are massive, dinner-plate size which only add to the mystique of this tree. Somehow I tricked the kids into drawing it in their nature journals which of course made me feel like the best homeschooling Charlotte Mason mother ever for about two seconds until they asked if I was ever going to make them lunch. How is it that lunch comes every day? I would just love to feed them lunch on Monday and not have to think about that one again until sometime on Saturday, preferably after lunchtime.

In other news, we harvested some of the rainbow carrots this afternoon before naptime, taking advantage of the rain-softened dirt to loosen a few from their underground dwellings. This is technically our second harvest, since I pulled some several weeks ago to roast as a test run.

These are my 'carrot girls', I didn't know I had any until Laura told me. How convenient for me.

It has not been an easy day, a certain middle child spent most of her time this morning going from one disobedient and dangerous activity to another.  I will conceal the actual faults, but it has been emotionally and mentally exhausting. But by God's grace, time spent together after lunch with a puzzle and a must-hold-my-hand walk out to the river bank to throw in sticks and collect acorns periodically whizzing past our ears, I felt my heart soften towards this wayward daughter of mine.
I do not think it will get any easier as she gets older, I believe the easy days were years ago when the girls were both in the toddler stage. That didn't seem easy then, but the compliance issues were virtually nil. If you care to, I would appreciate prayers. I don't have any answers and a few of my ideas have not been able to come to fruition. I know He cares for us and that keeps me going.
I hate to end on a serious note, but supper prep doesn't prep itself.  I assume you knew.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

kindred ideas

An idea is more than an image or a picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual gem endowed with a vital force -- with power, that is to grow, and to produce after its kind. It is the very nature of an idea to grow: as the vegetable germ secretes that it lives by, so, fairly implant an idea in the child's mind, and it will secrete its own food, grow and bear fruit in the form of a succession of kindred ideas.
We know from our own experience that, let our attention be forcibly drawn to some public character, some startling theory, and for days after we are continually hearing or reading matter which bears on this one subject, just as if all the world were thinking about what occupies our thoughts: the fact being, that the new idea we have received is in the act of growth, and is reaching out after its appropriate food ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education (p. 173-174, pink edition)

Ah, so that's it.
All these years and now I know why this happens.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

more summer vacation moments

Back to New Brunswick for some more vacation memories with my husband's family. We arrived in time to celebrate Laura's birthday with my in-laws which was very fun for Laura. My mother-in-law did everything from the cupcakes to the birthday dinner and it was lovely.

Shane's family takes croquet to almost the professional level. The competition is fierce, and the game is set up where ever the families congregate for summer holidays. My kids make valiant attempts to participate, but the grown-ups are really the ones who take it seriously, if you call trash-talking and knocking their opponents' ball into the most inconvenient places serious. If you hang around for even a few minutes, you will soon hear someone mention some version of a long-standing family joke of  "How about some croquet under the lights?" And then at any moment, they will be trudging off to claim their mallets and other fortifying weapons.

You are looking at the mountain I climbed in order to be surprised by a marriage proposal and ring presentation way back on a chilly November day.  We were visiting my future in-laws during American Thanksgiving while we were both still working in the States. I had no idea that he had plans to propose during this trip, the surprise was genuine. Immediately after slipping the ring on my unmittened hand, he urged me to put my mitten back on so that the ring had no chance of slipping off.
The views from the mountain and the main roads are still amazing. 

Our next stop was to spend the weekend with our long-time friends and their family. They have acquired a gorgeous spacious house which gives us all plenty of space to be their together without making our collective eight children be in the same room all the time. They have beautiful professionally landscaped areas around their home and then untamed areas in the woods behind their home. This deer wandered in one day checking out the fort no doubt as a possible meeting place for her newly formed Doe-Ray-Me Music Club. She found plenty to nibble on without any sense of urgency as she must have been contemplating her back-to-school plans.
We had a great time together and ended the last night with a magic show from primarily their oldest who has been learning card tricks since Christmas time and is truly very talented. It was wonderful to renew the friendship and relive some of our memories through much laughter and hilariousness.

Leaving our friends, we headed to some rural cottages to meet up with Shane's family. All four brothers and their families and his parents meet up every other summer to spend a week together. It was a beautiful site and a good place to be able to explore other surrounding beaches and rivers. Most of them spent one morning doing a canoe trip, while I stayed back and enjoyed an early and leisurely lunch by myself as my mother-in-law took Kate on some errands into town. That was an unexpected gift of alone time and I savored the quiet in my reading spot.

I do have quite a bit more vacations photos if you can stand it. I'm sure only the dedicated are still with me, but I'll take those five readers any day.  Oh, and the heat wave has subsided and it has been breezy and comfortable again. And I'm hatching plans for the school year. It's a good feeling.