06 October, 2011

What to do with the Little Ones - Family Devotions

I plan to do a series of short blogposts on what to do with young children. These will serve both to help out others just getting started at homeschooling, but also help to remind ourselves to do these things with out little ones, even as our older girls get busier as they enter the high school years.

The first subject is Family Devotions.

In a Christian home, it should go without saying that reading the Bible to our children is the most important part of our homeschooling. However, sometimes with our younger children we are not quite sure where to start. Some passages seem too difficult for our children to understand. While I would like to encourage you to just "read the Bible" with children of all ages, there are some Bible reading plans we have found helpful with our young children.

Penny Gardner has put together a very helpful list of Bible "episodes" designed to give the children a good overview of the stories of the Bible. You can find it here.

Rod & Staff put out a lovely Bible story book which also has a companion
colouring book. We have used these at home, and in church Sunday school classes. These books are available in New Zealand from Geneva Books, and are very affordable.

Another important aspect of our family devotions has been learning a Catechism. We believe it is important to teach our children the truths of God's Word from an early age, which is when memorisation is so easy for them! Children as young as 2 years old can start learning the answers to the First Catechism, which is available as a little booklet, and is also free on the internet here. Our Sunday school has recently started using a curriculum called Show Me Jesus which is designed around the First Catechism. This includes short lessons with colouring pages, and review of the catechism questions each week.

Yet another great little book for teaching about the truths of God's Word through stories is Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt. This book tells about a Christian family who seek to witness to a neighbouring family, while learning biblical truths along the way. The book also utilizes questions from the Westminster Catechism.

Reading the great stories of the Bible and teaching your children catechism when they are young will give them a great start to later understanding of the truths of God's Word, enabling them to apply them to their lives.

14 September, 2011

Homeschool Meme

My new blogging friend, Chelle, at Last in Line, has tagged me for a homeschool meme. By the way, please have a browse through Chelle's blog. Chelle is a kiwi homeschooler using many of the same resources I am using with my children. I was thrilled to find her on the internet!

Here are the meme questions:

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:
The first "homeschooling" book I ever came across was Karen Andreola's book: "A Charlotte Mason Companion". This is a great indroduction to Charlotte Mason's methods and how you came implement them in your home.

2. One resource you wouldn't be without:
I think right now I would have to say the brilliant writing course by Andrew Pudewa: Student Writing IntensiveThis course takes all the mystery out of writing for our family.

3. One resource you wish you had never bought:

Hmmm, I am having trouble with this one. I am usually very careful about what I buy. We did try out Mystery of History, but after having already used Story of the World, we just went back to that.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year:

We enjoyed using Discovering Great Artists as a springboard for out art lessons.

5. One resource you will be using next year:

Well, it's not next year yet, but my oldest girls have just started working through Dr Jay Wile's Exploring Creation with General Science. So far they are enjoying it.

6. One resource you would like to buy:

I would LOVE to buy an e-book reader, for all those out-of-print or hard-to-find or just-too-expensive classic books that we have yet to read.

7. One resource you wish existed:

Some sort of reference for New Zealand poetry and literature suitable for children.

8. One homeschool catalogue you enjoy reading:

I have been browsing through the Institute for Exellence in Writing's catalogue, and would love to be able to buy some of their history-based writing lessons and poetry lessons.

9. One homeschool website you use regularly

Ambleside Online. This is a great resource based on the methods of Charlotte Mason and includes booklists for every grade in every subject area.

10. Tag six other homeschoolers:

1. Melissa, from Bugs, Knights and Turkeys in the Yard

2. Nancy, from Sage Parnassus

3. Narelle, from House of Bogwitz

4. Laura Lou, from Wasted Textbooks

5. Mel, from Sweet Blue Sky Days and

6. Jeanne, from A Peaceful Day (Jeanne's lucky - she's already done the meme, so I've linked you directly to her blogpost :-)

If I haven't tagged you, feel free to join in anyway, it's always great to read about what other homeschoolers are using and love.

09 September, 2011

Vive Les Roses!

We have just finished learning about the French Revolution in Story of the World 3: Early Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer.
One of the extra reading suggestions was "The Man who Painted Flowers" by Carolyn Croll.

It looks like a lovely picture book which I would love to purchase at some stage. Carolyn Croll has several of her lovely illustrations on her blog, which is well worth a look at.

I did however come across a very similar sounding book on
trademe. It is called "The Man who Painted Roses, the Story
of Pierre-Joseph Redoute". So I snapped up this book for just $2, thinking it was bound to have some of Redoute's paintings reproduced in it. I was a little disappointed when I received it as there were no pictures, other than on the front cover. What I did discover however, was a wonderful story of Redoute's life.

Redoute was born about 30 years before the French Revolution, into a family of painters in Belgium. His father longed for he and his brothers to grow up to be famous landscape or portrait painters. They were encouraged to leave the family home at the age of 13, and travel the country learning from master painters, earning their bed and board by assisting the master painters and by painting the odd potrait or religious painting for the local people.

Redoute learned much from this experience, but he never really wanted to paint portraits, he love flowers! He was constantly distracted by their beauty and began to sketch every flower he could along the way.

Eventually Redoute married and settled in Paris. Pierre-Joseph and his wife, Marie-Marthe, had two daughters, Josephine and Adelaide. Through the help of his older brother, Antoine-Ferdinand, and the contacts of various well-known French botanists, Redoute went on to be the official painter for Queen Marie-Antoinette, the Empress Josephine (first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte), the Empress Marie-Louise (second wife of Napoleon) and Queen Marie Amelie. If you can keep up with all the Maries, Louises and Josephines in the story, you are doing well!

Redoute published many botanical books on roses, lilies and many other flowers of the world. He lived a full life and died at the age of 81.

I learned more French history in this book than I have ever known!

19 August, 2011


The snow in our backyard on Monday night.

The snow was a bit deeper to play at a friend's place, closer to the hills!

We have been enjoying snow in our neck of the woods this week! Apparently it has been 35 years, some say even up to 80 years since snow has fallen in our town! We didn't get a lot at our house, but we took a drive around the local area and found some deep snow to play in.

28 July, 2011

On the Dunes

... where we spent our weekend.

16 June, 2011

Guest Post at Educating Mother

I have a guest post up at Educating Mother today, where I have shared about a few of our sewing and quilting activities.

24 May, 2011

A White Kiwi!

Check out this beautiful little WHITE kiwi chick. It hatched just this month at Pukaha Mt. Bruce. It is officially a brown kiwi!

14 May, 2011

Cartoon Drawing Workshop

We had a wonderful time at our Graham Braddock Drawing Workshop!
First of all, Graham guided us through drawing different cartoon facial expressions. We were encouraged to make the expressions ourselves, and study the person next to us to see what happens to their face.

Here are the results:

Next, Graham guided us through drawing three different types of cartoon characters. First, we drew "Mr. Cool", then "Mr. Tough" and "Mr Braddock":

The next session was all about cartoon figures. After watching a couple of students act out certain actions, we practiced with "Mr Stickman." We then transferred the same actions to "Mr T" (the Potatohead):
Last of all, we put some "surprise" action figures on paper as a "blob family, excited about the prospect of going to Disneyland":

Graham's workshops are so much fun, and he is such an excellent drawing teacher. Do go if you ever get the opportunity!

12 May, 2011

Cartoon Workshop!

We are looking forward to attending our 5th workshop with Graham Braddock. Tomorrow he will be teaching us how to draw cartoon faces and figures. Stay tuned for the end results!

Here are some pictures from our previous workshops with Graham:

And here are some of the lessons we have completed using Graham's instructional DVD, How to Draw Really Well:

19 April, 2011

A Living Bookshelf

A living book is a book that opens your mind, inspires you to read more, or to learn more about a person, event, or time in history. A living book will ask to be read again, or quoted from as you read through it. A living book will be re-enacted by your children in the backyard or the living room theatre. A living book will sprout ideas for a new project or writing lesson.

Many of you are aware of the great booklists - especially Ambleside Online's booklists. These lists have been the backbone of our read-aloud books over the years.

But we have also come across many books that are not on those lists. I would like to share a little bit about some of the books sitting on my bookshelf in the picture.

Nestled between the big Matthew Henry commentary on the book of Matthew, and one of the girls' Bibles, is a red & black book called "People in History" written by R.J. Unstead. This is what he writes in his introduction:

Every age has its heroes who stir the imagination and shape the lives of ordinary people. For a child in particular, tales of heroism and adventure, of high courage and achievement, are an important and essential part of his development, as well as his first introduction to history.

Unstead then goes on to "tell the stories" of many historical characters, from Boadicea, to William the Conqueror, to Florence Nightingale. The stories are accompanied by black and white, and some colour illustrations. Unstead has written many other books on different time periods, and they are always a delight to read.

Another book on the shelf - infact a set of books, are those by Arthur Mee. They are the red and green books, three of which are without dustjackets, toward the right hand end of the bottom shelf. One of them is called "The Wonderful Journey". This is Arthur Mee's introduction:

Here we will let imagination do its work; we will roam among the great sights of the world. This is no guide-book. It is a picture of things that a busy man has seen when he has found the courage and the time to say Good-bye to Little Treasure island, and to run over the hills and far away. It is a look-back to happy days and far-off things...

...from this hilltop [in Kent] with all its thrilling wonder, we may pass in not many hours to stand among the ruins of Time and her ancient empires. We can be in Egypt or in Rome. We can walk among the ruins of Pompeii, and look upon the monuments the Romans left behind. Within a week we can stand in the heart of a mountain and gaze on the face of Pharoah lying where his people left him long ago. We can see the shadows of their mighty walls creep across the sands of Egypt. Let us imagine we are there again. Let us go together on this journey through Time and some of her wonders.

"A Wonderful Journey" is another book that tells the stories of historical characters, but also makes you feel as though you have been to all the places and seen the characters!
Arthur Mee also wrote a children's newspaper, about all manner of different subjects. They were eventually published as "The Children's Encyclopaedia", which we have a copy of. The girls spend hours pouring over these books!

I always look out for these two authors, because I know they will not disappoint!

15 April, 2011

Autumn Haiku

I have often started my girls off with nature diaries, but they have never really taken off. Not that we dont' "do" nature study, but I've been a bit fussy about trying to find the "ideal" notebooks for the girls to use.

One of the other problems was the reluctance of one of my girls to draw, but after several drawing workshops with Graham Braddock, and some basic art lessons, she has gained a lot of confidence.

In our little co-op yesterday, we gave the girls their new notebooks and sent them outside to draw whatever they liked. Then with the help of our collection of NZ nature identification books we helped them identify their pictures so that they could label them in their books. In addition, inspired by "Poem in your Pocket Day", I had the girls write simple Haiku poems to go with something they had drawn. I found a helpful webpage here. Instead of announcing to the girls that I wanted them to write a poem, I asked them to write down a few little notes about the things they drew. Then we picked out several of the descriptive words and formed them into Haiku poems, which they wrote into their nature notebooks. Here are some of the results:

Purple Hebe growing
On the big green bush
Sunset Boulevard

The Red Robin leaf
On our hedge around the front
Growing very well.

Three heart-shaped leaves
Growing along the stone path
Oxalis flowers.

Red velvet petunias
Spilling over the sides of
A terracotta pot.

Very fluffy seeds
Dandelion on the lawn
blow the seeds away.

14 April, 2011

A New Zealand Poem for your Pocket!

In the US of A, it is Poetry Month right now. And today, is Poem in your Pocket Day. Click on the link to find out more, but int he meantime, here is the little poem that inspires "Poem in your Pocket Day."

by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

The little poem poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed


Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed

Here's a couple of little poems from a newly discovered(by me) New Zealand writer, Susan Dassler:

History Lessons

Of Great King Alfred this I learnt,
How carelessly some cakes he burnt,
Then William One arrived at Dover,
He brought us all ancestors over.
Charles the First, so I have read,
Became so vain he lost his head.
Elizabeth had golden tresses
And sported quite a thousand dresses.
Raleigh, traveller of note,
Spread in the mud his velvet coat.
Henry of the ample waist
In wives had quite a varied taste.
Bruce of Scotland saw a spider
(Had he been drinking ale or cider?)
Victoria was "Not amused"
To smile she steadfastly refused.
Of historical facts these are all I remember
Except we burn Guy Fawkes on the fifth of November.*

And here's another with a New Zealand flavour, that I just must share:

Love in a Shanty

Ere they were wed, he boldly said, he'd very little money.
Love in a cot would be their lot, with roses, cream and honey.
She didn't know the cottage would be just a lean-to shanty.
She didn't know the rations would at times be rather scanty.
She didn't know the cottage would hav eneither bath nor tub.
She didn't know the roses would be just manuka scrub.
She didn't know the cottage had a rough and splintry floor
She didn't know the chickens would be roosting round the door.
She didn't know the fences were all tumbledown and broken.
She didn't know the mortgagee had half the cheques bespoken.
She didn't know the bees would yield her nothing but a sting.
Of cows and mudand morgages she didn't know a thing,
But if she had known all these thing, 'twould just have been the same.
She didn't pine for comfort, nor for riches, nor for fame.
They're just a simple, loving pair, they're neither rich nor clever.
And though the shanty's crumbling fast, their love's as strong as ever.

~ from "From a Pioneer's Pen..." by Susan Dassler.

Susan Dassler married her love, Oscar, in 1806. The moved to a block of land deep in the bush of the King Country at Te Raumoa. The little book put together by her daughter, Grace Shaw contains many of her poems and anecdotes about life growing up in the bush hut, and subsequent years with her eight children, 44 grandchildren, and 99 great-grandchildren! At the time of publication, in 1988, Susan was still going strong at 95 years old. I am trying to find out more, but information is hard to come by.


For more "Poem in your Pocket Day" fun, see Barb's post here and Nadene's post here.

* This poem reminds me of one my daughter, Emily, wrote here.

Book Voucher Competition!

Stephanie is giving away a $20 Book Depository voucher over at The Broadroom. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment saying which book (other than the Bible or Shakespeare) you would like to take to a desert island.

Stephanie has a great website with plenty of helpful articles on Charlotte Mason's philosophy. Check it out here: The Broadroom.

25 March, 2011

This week at our house...

Here's a little bit of what we've been up to this week:

We are loving our Latin Primer lessons. On Monday we had a "pre-test" to see what we all needed to work on, and today we took our first Latin test - with pretty good results.

We continued with Story of the World, Volume 3: Early Modern Times. This week we learned about the Turkish attempted invasion of Austria, and how the Turks used tunnelling to try to get through to Vienna. The Viennese were warned to report any strange "tunnelling sounds" coming from underground. It was a clever baker who heard the sounds and alerted the German soldiers. The Turks were driven back via their own tunnels!

Legend has it that the Viennese bakers invented croissants in honour of their defeat of the Turks. The crescent shape on the Turkish flag had inspired the shape of the croissants! We also learned that the Turkish sultan at the time loved tulips. He had tulip bulbs sent from Holland and planted a huge tulip garden complete with streams filled with turtles carrying candles on their backs.

Our big girls, Bethany (12) and Emily (11) signed up for brass instrument lessons! Bethany will be learning to play the Tenor Horn, and Emily the Cornet. It was interesting how the tutor looked at the shape of the girls' mouths and teeth to decide which instrument would suit them best.

Instead of our usual art/nature study get together with friends, we decided to take a day to visit the Esplanade, which is a beautiful park near the bank of a river in our nearest city, Palmerston North. We enjoyed checking out the bird aviary, the greenhouse, and of course, playing on the swings and slides!

A Wild Banana plant. Don't those flowers look like parrots' beaks!

09 March, 2011

Education in the Industrial World

I have just read a VERY interesting post on education in our industrialised and increasingly, computerized world. It is long, but well worth reading for anyone concerned about the future of education and job opportunities.

07 March, 2011

Working on an Atmosphere

Charlotte Mason says that "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
An "Atmosphere...."

At first thought the word "atmosphere" conjures up pictures of the physical atmosphere of our home: Lots of living books on the shelves, artwork displayed on the walls, room to play and create, paper to draw on, toys for miles (lol!)...

But after reading Charlotte Mason's own words in her book, "Home Education", I realized that she meant much more, or even much different, to that image. Charlotte was talking about the atmosphere of relationships within the home. She was talking about how we as a family relate to eachother. What is the spiritual or emotional atmosphere in the home? Are the fruits of the spirit living and active, or are we harsh and critical of one another? Are our children respected as persons, born in the image of God, or are they treated like annoyances, or interruptions to our own selfish lives? Is the atmosphere one of encouragement, or harsh criticism? Are we patient with our children's childish faults, or do we constantly nag & berate them? Do we give them attention when they ask us a question, or do we give the quickest possible answer and tell them to go away so that we can get on with our "work"? What are we filling their minds with? Are we reading to them from good, living books or are we leaving them to be educated by the t.v. or video games?

There are so many questions that we need to ask ourselves about the atmosphere of our home. We certainly need to work on many of these!

In her book, "For the Family's Sake", Susan Schaeffer Macauley has a chapter called "Taking Time and Care to Create the Home's Atmosphere."

Susan talks about the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 as being the standard for the atmosphere of our home. Of course, none of us can develop these in our own strength. We need to be reading God's Word and praying for wisdom, grace and strength to develop the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. We need to be filling our minds with "good things" -- "whatever is true, whatever is noble, watever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

Whatever we are surrounding our children with will affect who they are. I want to use those two passages as the standard for the atmosphere in our home -- only by God's grace :-)

All the while, remembering that none of us is perfect, so we also need to make sure that forgiveness plays a big part in our home atmosphere, readily admitting our wrongs and just as readily extending forgiveness to one another.

24 February, 2011


You have probably heard on the news by now, about the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch on Tuesday. Christchurch is in the South Island of New Zealand, we live in the North Island. Although there are a lot of people we know in Christchurch, thankfully none of them have perished, although doubtless some have suffered damage to homes. However, it is still a terrible event and we are praying for the victim's families, the rescuers and all the people in Christchurch as they must deal with the aftermath.
Here is a good NZ news site if you are interested in learning more:

"Stuff" New Zealand News

22 February, 2011

Our Plan for 2011

I have posted a new page outlining our plans for home education this year. This is my "ideal" plan which I will attempt to keep up with :-). It is based on my own "special blend" of methods from The Well Trained Mind, Teaching the Trivium, and various books applying Charlotte Mason's philosophies.

11 February, 2011

Watercolour Sunflowers

These are the results of our watercolour lesson yesterday. We had a look at some of Vincent van Gogh's sunflowers and followed this lesson plan at Making Art Fun.
Posted by Picasa

03 February, 2011

10 Days of Homeschooling Party

Cindy at Our Journey Westward will be hosting "10 Days of Charlotte Mason". She'll be posting about Charlotte Mason and her methods each day, for ten days, from 7th - 18th February. I'm looking forward to reading her posts and learning more about Charlotte Mason.

28 January, 2011

Vermeer and Haydn Mini Unit

My planning for our 2011 school year is well underway. I hope to share some more detailed plans soon, but for now, here is our Artist & Composer plans for this term:

I will be doing Barb(Harmony Art Mom)' s Mini Unit on Johannes Vermeer and Joseph Haydn with the girls this term.

Click on the picture to check out this great "mini" unit. Barb calls it mini, but I think it's a bit more than that :-).

10 January, 2011

Booking it in 2011 with "Life as Mom"

I have decided to join in Booking it in 2011 with Jessica Fisher, at her blog, Life as Mom.

I am planning to deviate from Jessica's booklist, but plan to include some of her books in mine.

Here is Jessica's list, with the "due date for reading":

  • February 10 - The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

  • March 10 - Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

  • April 10 - Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois

  • May 10 - Finding your Purpose as a Mom: How to Build your Home on Holy Ground by Donna Otto

  • June 10 - The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

  • July 10 - Dancing with My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace & Joy by Sally Clarkson

  • August 10 - The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  • September 10 - Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

  • October 10 - Not your Mother's Casseroles by Faith Durand

  • November 10 - The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

Here is my own list for the year:

  • February 10 - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

  • March 10 - Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

  • April 10 - Desiring God by John Piper

  • May 10 - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

  • June 10 - The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

  • July 10 - Dancing with my Father by Sally Clarkson

  • August 10 - The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

  • September 10 - A History of the English-speaking Peoples, Volume 3, The Age of Revolution by Winston S. Churchill

  • October 10 - Hard Times by Charles Dickens

  • November 10 - No Other Foundation: The Church Through Twenty Centuries by Jeremy C. Jackson

  • December 10 - Home Education by Charlotte Mason

Most of these books are currently on our bookshelves - or available to me. I have tried to mix up the genres, and plan to be reading the heavier books throughout the year. If you're wondering why I'm planning to read Churchill's book - it's simply that I want to have a bit more background to the History studies we will be doing this year. We are working through Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times, much of which includes the Age of Revolution.

I plan to post a short review of each book here on the blog as I complete it!

As an aside, here is a list of some of the books I read in 2010:

  • Van Loon's Lives by Hendrik van Loon

  • Sense & Sensibilty by Jane Austen

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

  • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte

  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell

  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

  • Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmoore

As you can see, I was a little biased towards novels last year! This year I am attempting to read more books on Christian living and some History books. Van Loon's lives is a wonderful introduction to many historical characters. Read it if you can, you won't be disappointed!

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