I'd been hearing about The Penderwicks,
a new-ish series of books aimed at late elementary and early middle school
aged girls. The first three have been published and two more will be
released in the next couple of years.
Obviously it will be years before Olivia is ready for these books, but I had the hankering to read them, so I did.
I've read repeatedly that the author's goal was to create old-fashioned-yet-current books about a family, much like Little Women or The Railway Children were in their time. And there are certainly similarities. It focuses on a family of four girls with only one parent; the girls' personalities are different and fun, of course, and not one of them is the "star" of the series.
I did like them, definitely. They are fun to read now, and I would have thought they were fun to read when I was ten. The girls have adventures; they make idiots of themselves; they seem to befriend everyone around them; they are fiercely loyal to each other and very much consider it a code of honor to take care of each other (which entails a lot when the youngest is four). And the girls are well-educated; they casually refer to things they've read about (like Cair Paravel) or to the Latin they're taking at school, but then it's also not a big deal, which is awesome. They obviously find this learning enriching, but they're not geeks; they play soccer and that's every bit as important to them. And half of the characters have unusual names and no one ever bats an eye. :) I didn't like them unreservedly, though, and so I won't hand these books to Olivia when she's seven or eight. I'll wait a bit longer. The girls have secret club meetings where they swear to keep secrets from their dad (except for very extenuating circumstances), wonderful though they think he is, and they hold certain adults in contempt. (There are admittedly pitiful adults in the book, but the girls are still too disrespectful to them.) Also, there's more boyfriend-kissy stuff in the books than I want. The Penderwicks' perspective on romance and marriage is just different than ours is. Compared to the entire huge shelf of "paranormal teen romance" at Barnes & Noble, I know what's included in The Penderwicks is pretty minor stuff, but at the same time, I don't want to put a few of the ideas conveyed in them onto Olivia's radar before they've already made it there some other way (and we've already discussed them at least a bit). Also, in one of the books, a man didn't know that he'd fathered a child (it was in a marriage that soon ended in divorce), so if your daughter doesn't yet know how children are fathered, it might prompt a few questions. :)
So. Read them yourself. They're not perfect, so check them out if you're concerned. You'll probably enjoy them, and chances are you'll let your daughters get their hands on them. Have fun!
Today I found a great website by a piano teacher, for piano teachers.
Ninety percent of me is really glad I found it; the other ten feels a little crumbling feeling inside as I see the things that an experienced piano teacher could be providing to my kids that I can't. That would mainly be more knowledge and better technique, but this piano teacher is also pretty creative, and that's cool, too.
However, I am trying to push down that 10%, because by teaching them at home myself during this time we cannot take lessons, Michael will have been playing for three extra years and Jake (very sporadically) for about a year and a half.
And three years of mediocre that actually happened is much better than three years of great that didn't materialize.
And...the rest of us have not been sitting in the car during other people's lessons. I still can't tell you how happy I've been about that.
If you are teaching music in any way, this site might be helpful for you. Free printables, ideas for games, and also discussions on different piano teaching topics (such as what to do in the first lesson, the importance of teaching intervals, and whether to have students memorize their performance pieces).
Hi! I taught the kids in our Story of the World/Classical Conversations co-op about Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed that week and I think they did, too. It was easier than most weeks, which was nice, yet it was a very important week for all of the kids, I think. Beforehand, my own kids knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and in some respects, they still know very little--we didn't get into the political and many other ramifications of it--but they know what is most important about it.
When Michael learned to read as a little guy, I thought, "Who-hooo! Now I'm off the hook for reading to him! I'll read to our other two kids, but this guy is checked off!"
But now I read to him. I probably read aloud to him more now than when he was three or four.
I could say that it was books like The Read-Aloud Handbook and Honey for a Child's Heart that changed my perspective on the importance of reading aloud to kids (including kids who are capable of and do read to themselves), and to some extent that would be true. Those books were helpful to me. But I think more important was a friend's passing comment that he loved being read to, even up into middle school. This guy, who now has a Ph.D. and was probably perfectly capable of reading to himself well before middle school, loved it when his dad read aloud to their family.
It had never really occurred to me that kids might prefer listening to books, even ones they could read themselves. To me, listening to books is back-up; I'm more of a visual learner and would rather hold a book in my hands. Plus, reading silently is faster. Silent reading is the hands-down winner, right? But, nope, this guy loved having his dad read to their family.
Another thing: I realized there are just some books that my kids are either intimidated by or just not interested in enough to pick up themselves. (The Read-Aloud Handbook was very helpful to point out how different a child's "reading level" and "listening level" are, and how much they'll miss if they're only experiencing things they are capable of reading to themselves, even if they are strong readers.) I could make them read those harder books, and there'll be enough of that as they get older, but for now, why not draw them into those books by reading them together?
So for the last couple of years, we've been reading aloud. First it was just Michael, and then we added in Jake. Today Olivia tagged along, too, although I don't think she'll be a fixture yet. We read in spurts; lots and lots during the summer and the other times we have fewer scheduled activities. CC is now taking a break for the winter, so we began Winnie-the-Pooh again today. Jake requested it.
My kids used to sit in my lap. I think it helped them to see the words go by. Their minds weren't as likely to wander. After a while, they often chose to lollygag around the room while I read. I was impressed that they could listen while having nothing else to occupy them.
Lately, though, I've gone a bit "backwards" and begun deliberately occupying them. While they listened to the Story of the World chapters we've been reading for our class, they often worked on a coloring page of something related to what we're reading (a Viking longship, for example). There are oodles of coloring pages for almost any topic if you just Google it. If you're particular like me, you might copy the image into a Word document so you don't have the web address at the top of the page, but either way, it's easy enough to do.
And today they colored pictures of Winnie-the-Pooh while listening (well, Michael chose a world map instead). Since there were three kids listening, I think that was pretty key; I only have two sides, you know, and three kids trying to sit on one couch around one mom can...really...drive you...insane! (As we see each morning during our Bible study time.) But when they're stationed around the coffee table, coloring away...that is much better for everyone.
Long ago, when I used to listen to more things of my own choosing in the car, my husband introduced me to Grammar Girl's podcast. Have you heard it? HERE'S a link.
I haven't listened much in the last two or three years, but it's a pretty great podcast. Listeners submit grammar questions and Grammar Girl addresses them in short spurts (which is great when you're talking about grammar).
I like her because she obviously knows and cares about grammar and reassuringly refers to numerous style guides as she answers questions, but on the flip side, she is not a curmudgeonly stickler who follows rules just for the sake of following rules. She understands that languages change and seems reasonable about how that might happen.
Check it out! Even if you're not into grammar, you might be surprised to see topics that interest you and then click on the short answers that come with them!
This has nothing to do with teaching your children, but as I can't seem to stop reading these books, it seems I can't help but post about them here.
The Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse.
They are fifteen or so light-hearted, very witty novels about Bertie Wooster, a rich, dumb British artistocrat in his 20s and his servant, Jeeves, who is significantly smarter than him. Jeeves is always helping Bertie get out of embarrassing scrapes.
The books are a lot of fun. :) They're subtle, but they're fun.
The first one is The Inimitable Jeeves, and they get even better a little further along as the author really hits his stride.
These are not big things for us. (Well, not the first two, anyway.) But still! They help.
(1) When my kids are skeptical about the food I'm giving them, I give them a little bowl of grated cheese that they can sprinkle all over it. That's gotten my kids (and occasionally visiting kids) over the hump of trying out several new foods.
(2) When trying to explain the idea of multiplication to kids (even if it's just quickly referring to it in everyday life before they ever reach it in their math curriculum, such as when you give three kids two gummy vitamins apiece), it seems to make more sense to them if you first say it this way:
100 is ten ten times.
2 vitamins 3 times is six.
100 is ten times ten.)
2 vitamins times 3 is six.)
And, of course, after they've caught on to the concept to some degree, I start saying it both ways back-to-back, using the terms interchangeably. When they later get to in their math curriculum, they already understand the concept.
(3) When one child in my house wants something another child has, they must ask for it (as they must in your house, I'm sure). The child who already has it only has two options for an answer: "yes," or "in a minute." They may not answer "no" (except in rare occasions or with the few toys that are off-limits to others).
And I don't regulate how long "in a minute" is. There is no mom standing there with a timer trying to arbitrate between two kids (and probably inadvertently giving the kid who had it first the shaft). They just have to give it to their sibling when they're done. And I'm amazed how often they just give it to them immediately, anyway.
This is how adults do it, right?
"Can I use the computer for a minute?"
"Sure, just let me finish one thing first. It'll be about five minutes."
My kids still squabble over things plenty. But once you return it to the person who had it first and have the "wanter" properly ask for it, it is soooooo helpful for a "no" response to not be an option!
How Do You Lift a Lion? We have another book in this series called What is Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?because I needed something that could begin to explain molecules to my little Abecedarians (kids 4-6) a couple of years ago at CC. It's good, and there are others in the series, like this one, that I'd like to get. _______________________________________________________________________________
Equate game Well, uh, this doesn't actually look fun...maybe some people would think so...I'm listing it here in case we ever have some of those people within our own household. _______________________________________________________________________________
Hands-On Trigonometry Proofs from EAI I never understood trig. I don't just mean that I had trouble with some calculations; I mean I never understood the overarching meaning of what we were doing. I think we will need these someday. _______________________________________________________________________________
Hands-On Equations from EAI This may be redundant if they've done the Balance Benders books shown above, but good to know they exist. _______________________________________________________________________________
Four Pan Algebra Balance from EAI Ditto from above, but the blurb on the website says this balance can physically show how -1>0. What!?! Show me how! This might be a cool thing to have someday... _______________________________________________________________________________
Algebra Tiles from EAI I don't know...maybe these would be helpful when we someday get to algebra. They're only $2, so if I was already ordering something else from the site, I'd probably grab these, too. _______________________________________________________________________________
Beast Academy This math curriculum is pretty new and looks interesting. Really interesting. It's in graphic novel form and the problems are supposed to really make kids think outside the box. However, it's not that cheap, and considering that it would probably only be a supplement to Singapore Math for us and that we have other places our money needs to go, it is going to suffer the fate that the Life of Fred books have for us:
It'll be good if we can get a few someday, but for now they remain quirky math books that might be a cool supplement but aren't necessary. If you've got a kid who either really needs the quirky or really needs the extra-challenging, though, this might be a great place to look.