Monday, February 21, 2011

Next 10 Books

We're on to our next set of books in the reading challenge.  The last challenge almost wasn't completed, until there was a late surge at the weekend.  Dr John chose, as his prize, 10 nanos which are collectable 'things' that you get from the supermarket every time you spend 20CHF.  I have a 'secret stash' that I distribute at random times (particularly if I need a bribe, lol!) and Dr John chose to have 10 from the stash.  Strange really, as he will get them all anyway, and he could've chosen anything else within reason (I was guessing something from the lego Ninjago range).  Still, saves me money ;-)

So, what have we chosen for the next set?  A good mix I hope.  Some new stories, a couple of classics, a non-fiction and a French book.

T'choupi fait du vĂ©lo - Our first attempt at reading a French book.  I'm aware that he won't understand some of the words at first, but I'm using this as the starting point for learning the french sounds.  It may not work.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy - As requested by Dr John.

The Monster Gang - An Usborne Young Reading level 1 book.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit - I always forget that these books are longer than I think.

Freya and Heath are Home Educated - To balance up the American Home Ed book he read last time.

Jack and the Beanstalk - This is the version of the story where Jack collects the goose and the harp etc.

Key Words 5b - We have the whole set of these now, so I am going to try and include at least one in each challenge.

I've Won, No I've Won, No I've Won - A Charlie and Lola book.

Why Do We Eat? - An Usborne Beginners book, a non fiction offering.  Chosen mainly for his current interest in the body.

Chill Out Scooby Doo! - I bought this when we took a short trip back to the UK for my niece's birthday.  Its an interesting inclusion as the English isn't that great in it (a lot of casual language in it, e.g. "Like, shouldn't we be there by now?") but hopefully this will open up some discussions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Puidoux to Lutry hike

Today was our first family hike of the year. In fact, it was our first hike as a family of four. Pip was carried by Chris Evans in the backpack for the first time and at 11.30 we took the 9 minute train ride to Puidoux-Chexbres station.
Its a walk we've done before, but this time we took a picnic lunch and stopped at one of the picnic tables along the way.
Its a lovely walk through the vineyards, and I think it is really best done between January and April as I find it just too hot in the summer walking on the south facing slopes (I know, I'm a wimp when it comes to the sun!).
We took the scooter too so that Dr John could practice on the flat bits (we're hoping that he'll get his balance enough so that he'll want to tackle his bike in the summer).  As it turned out, my ligaments haven't completely sorted themselves out after the birth of Pip, so the scooter helped me home without the need for the emergency services!

We walked to the north of Cully, through Grandvaux and down to Lutry where we caught the bus home.  Chris Evans wanted to walk into Lutry to get ice cream, but I was done, so he went to the petrol station for a cone when we got home, and came back with some roses and an apple crumble from the bakery.  How romantic!

I never thought I'd say that I enjoy hiking so much.  We always have a great time, chatting away.  Sometimes we do have to ask Dr John to stop talking for a moment so the rest of us can get a word in edgeways, and on occasion he will do something dangerous or silly like climbing around a storm drain, which gave us a heart attack!
I'm really looking forward to warmer weather so we can do many more hikes through beautiful countryside.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What are we up to?

It has yet again been too long between blog posts.

Our days have settled into something of a rhythm.  Each day sees some reading, maths, and French, and if things have been going well (!) I encourage some writing.

Dr John is a little behind on his 11 books challenge, but he is becoming more confident with reading and is reading more to himself (lego catalogue, magazines etc).  He still will only do odd words outside of his 'official' reading, but to see him decide to read anything is a joy.

I have been teaching him how to tell the time.  I went way too quickly at first, not thinking that the correlation between minutes and the numbers actually written on the clock would be so hard.  Its a great chance for us to use a clock that I made in pottery class that I still haven't put up on the wall, particularly as we only have one other visible clock in the appartment, and thats the digital one on the oven.

French comes and goes in waves.  He had a lesson a couple of weeks ago that the teacher labelled 'fantastic' and declared that he would be flying in a couple of months.  Although not wishing to be too negative I did warn her not to get too excited, and sure enough the following week, although not a bad lesson, wasn't at the dizzy heights of the previous week.  He appears to understand an awful lot, but doesn't speak it.  I suspect this could be down to him wanting it to be perfect, almost the feeling that if he can't get it completely right, he'd better not attempt it at all.

I have still been trying to come up with more creative ways of encouraging his writing.  So last week I asked him to empty the tins cupboard and make a list of what was in there.  This has served several purposes: writing practice, a stocktake for me and then we can use the results to make bar charts, tally charts etc.

This week he has been to his theatre class and I think they have started practising for their spectacle in June. The teacher cam out and asked me what crevette means in English (prawn) so I dread to think what its about!
He went to his atelier too as usual where this term they are looking at exhibitions.  They are making a totem pole.  I love this place and will be very sad, as will Dr John, when he has to stop going in the summer.
He was meant to be going to rugby, which is inside for 6 weeks (only 3 weeks to go, and I'm sure the weather will get worse just as they go back outside!) but our neighbour has been taking him, and I didn't check my phone until just before they were due to leave, so missed the text saying that her son had hit his head and wasn't going to go, so we didn't go, as we would've turned up way too late (one of the downsides of not having a car).
Yoga was, as usual, manic.  Which seems a strange thing to say, but when they come out, they are all fired up, and then get to run around the play place for 30 minutes before we leave.
On Friday, as Pip and I missed her Kindermusik class on Wednesday as we went to look round a house, all three of us went.  Dr John had fun and was helpful and kind to all the babies, even though I could tell a lot of the mums were wondering what a 6 year old was doing there during school time, particularly one wearing an elf's hat!
In the afternoon we went ice skating with a friend who has just started at a montessori school after being home educated.  The school doesn't have sports facilities so has to give the children the whole of Friday off.

And so to the weekend.  This afternoon, Chris Evans is taking the children to the park and the supermarket so I can get on with some sewing without having a little lady pressing on the sewing machine pedal!  And then as the weather looks like it might be even warmer tomorrow, I think we are going for a walk in the vineyards.  Perfect.

When small things lead to danger

I've tried to copy and paste this in its entirety here, but for some reason I can't get the pics to appear, so instead here's a link to a snowshoe walk Chris Evans and Dr John did together:

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The complexities of life

Dr John asked us yesterday if someone could have two wives or two husbands by law. I replied that no, not by swiss law and inquired as to why he had asked that question. He said that he wants to marry E but she says that although she loves Dr John, she is going to marry N so Dr John thought he could solve the problem if they could both marry her.

So his parents proceeded to offer two different pieces of advice.
Chris Evan's? Play it cooler than N and she'll choose you.
Me? You have years until you have to solve this so I'd worry about it then.

I wonder what this says about our differing philosophies of life...

Friday, December 03, 2010

The 11 Book Challenge

After the success of the 10 book challenge, Dr John has asked to do another one.

So, I chose 4 books and he chose the rest and we discussed the suitability of all of them.  Dr John declared it an 11 book challenge as he couldn't cut it down to 10, which is my kind of dilemma!

So, we now have (with links to be added when I get time):

Usborne Spiders beginners book
The Musicians of Bremen
The Emperor and the Nightingale
Baba Yaga and the Flying Witch
Barn on Fire
The Ugly Duckling
Stories of Magical Animals
See Inside Ancient Rome
The Cuddliest Cuddle in the World
I am Learning All the Time
Commotion in the Ocean

No doubt, as before, the selection will change, but I don't think reading should be that rigid, should it?

The 10 Book Challenge - Complete!

Yes, the 10 book challenge is complete.  Dr John has really been motivated to read because of this (Okay, I realise that the 'prize' at the end was a huge factor, but still) and there has been a definite improvement in his reading.

Of course, Dr John wouldn't be Dr John if we hadn't had a lot of chopping and changing along the way, so not only did the prize change (he chose a lego advent calendar in the end, which we probably would've got him anyway, cheeky mummy!) but the 10 books too.

So he read:
The Leopard and the Sky God
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Michael Recycle
Green Eggs and Ham
Happy Hector
Lost and Found
The Little Red Hen
The Scaredy Cat
The Wish Fish
and The Gingerbread Man

A great selection of books, which all gave some challenges.  I'm very proud of my lad.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How do you have...

...two children, one 6 years old and the other 6 months old playing in the same room, when the 6 year old is playing with lego and all its associated small pieces, and the 6 month old is crawling and wanting to play with everything her big brother is playing with?

Pip is too young to learn to leave Dr John's things alone and of course his things hold so much more allure than her own, and to me it seems unfair that the onus is solely on Dr John to be careful with his things.

I know, I know, its hardly an earth stopping problem.  I just need other people to do my thinking for me at the moment :(

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Approach

As I mentioned a little while ago, we have slightly changed our approach.  Whereas before, Dr John had a chart with space for 20 tasks that he had to complete in a week, now we have taken that and the responsibility away from him.  We have explained (and simplified it) that at school he would have to do 4 hours of work a day whereas at home he only has to do 1.  Sometimes the mere mention of school can send him in a spin, and so during those times when he is showing a reluctance to do anything we use the 4 or 1 question - do you want to do 4 hours of work or 1? For some reason it seems to work. And so, if any charts are going to be kept, it is privately by me. 
I have tried to create a rough idea of what we would like to achieve.

There is the 10 book challenge which is going really well and he is even asking if some books can go in the next challenge.  So far he is onto his sixth book, and I think is beginning to see the benefit of reading, finding out what is going to happen next etc.

He either does a page from his math calcul sticker book or does sums on his magnetic board, eg 57+66 ones which he makes up and ones that I do.  Interestingly we discovered a few days ago that he can read numbers up to 1000 but doesn't really know what order they come in ie that 200 comes after 199 etc. so we have been working a bit on that and we are going to put up a (very long!) number line around the apartment to help. 

He continues with his weekly lesson and we have got the flashcards out again for vocabulary competitions although we do need to move on a bit to sentences and conversation so I'm going to bring out a poster we did a while back with j'aime, je n'aime pas etc and develop that a bit more with some verbs too.

In the last few days he has asked to do some of the kits that we have had knocking about for ages so they will probably form the basis of our science work complemented by resources such as Magic School Bus, The Way Things Work and lots of the fab Usborne books that I sell :) There is also a body book that a friend has blogged about that I would like to get. Its so important that the resources are readily accessible and ready to go so that when he asks to do one we have everything we need, unlike the water filter column kit he wanted to do yesterday and we've had to put off as we didn't have everything we needed.  In the end we did a colour mixing kit (I need to put links in this blog!) which will continue using a Light and Colour book I have.  I also bought some undyed wool from my lovely friend at NZ Wools which will be a nice ending to that topic.

Dr John is showing a real interest in cooking so I will sit down with him and go through our cookbooks to find recipes he'd like to do. This may lead on to a bit of geography too, as we have a round the world cookbook and we can talk about food miles too.  Already he has written out a recipe for chocolate muffins he likes doing and hopefully from that he will see the value of practising his writing as I suspect that when we next come to it, he won't be able to read what he's written!

Writing is a bit of a sticking point. His letter formation isn't too bad as long as you don't mind capitals but at times the size and overall appearance render it illegible.  As he is a child that doesn't like sitting down and doing workbooks I have been at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it.  So I asked him. We agreed that his writing needs some work but that he doesn't like doing it. So I am going to make up a story and each day give him a sentence or two to write. It has to have capitals and small letters and basic punctuation in the right places or he has to do it again. In reality this may be tricky to implement, but to be honest the alternative (as I've set it out) is letter formation repetition so hopefully he will choose the more fruitful and less painful approach.  If it doesn't work, then maybe we'll use Handwriting Without Tears or Getty and Dubay, but I hope we don't have to.

No firm plans on this one.  We tend to talk about physical geography when we go for hikes.  A copout answer is that it naturally comes up in day to day life.  Hmmm.

This is an area that I need to work on not dismissing, particularly as it was the subject I was least interested in at school. We have The Story of the World (+ activity book) so I think we may just read through that. 

Dr John is starting to draw more. He has never been interested before. I really don't want him to think that anything he does is wrong so I will leave him to get on with it unless he wants help.
There is however a Picasso exhibition on in Zurich so we will visit that and do some support work too. (Hmm, I wonder if there is a Djeco Picasso kit....)

After that, I may use The Usborne Book of Art to study various works. 
I would also like to introduce him to the camera.  For a long time now, I personally have wanted to do a photo study on graffiti, so talking about that (and doing it!), coupled with visits to the camera museum in Vevey and the musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne should cover that. 

This takes many forms. We have a cd about Beethoven so we will listen to that frequently and discuss it and YouTube some performances of his works.  I have bought a music theory book so we can start that and a beginners piano book so that we can move away from my crude colour coded keys.  

Other Stuff
I have a poetry book, I Like This Poem, from my childhood that we can dip into.  The first poem is the witches spell from Macbeth so we can also read Macbeth, doing a bit of re-enactment with glove puppets, and some art work depicting the scenes too.

It may seem like this is very structured but really it is only for my benefit. I need to have a plan and things to hand when required and I think this is the best way of doing so. 
It was clearly illustrated to me last week that he doesn't work well with knowledge of a plan.  On Thursday we achieved a lot of different things, including his french lesson and yoga, just by me suggesting things to do, and he was happy to do so, so on Friday I thought that we should have a list of things we needed to do before we went ice skating.  Not everything got done, and there was a lot of tension flying around.

(A list for me also helps to focus ME when I am floundering due to sleep deprivation which is quite often at the moment thanks to my beautiful daughter ;) )