Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Teaching Jess to Cook (looks different than teaching Josh)

by Belinda Letchford

Last week I wrote the process we are going through to help Joshua be a better cook.  I thought I’d share, just quickly, what this skill looks like for Jessica.  Last week she was my cook’s helper.

Jessica has a much bigger repertoire of recipes that she can call her own than Joshua does.  She can open a recipe book and give it a go.  She still has questions occasionally but if I wasn’t in the house then she’d work it out.

The task I gave Jess for the week was to write up the weekly menu – using what is in the freezer and pantry.  We had built up an overflow and I like to have the occasional week where we buy very little and make do with what is in the cupboard.  Sometimes it means we have to be inventive, other times we just dig in our recipe file to find something to make with the ingredients on hand.

She was also responsible for Daniel’s birthday dinner main course as I was out late afternoon at Netball with Nomi.

As we train our children in life skills we need to be constantly on the look out for ways to continue to develop their skills.  Cooking the family meal gives opportunity to learn far more than just cooking skills:

  • Plan the menu and shopping list
  • Plan a menu using what is on hand
  • Plan a menu to a budget
  • Consider nutrition when planning meals
  • Cook a two course meal and have everything ready at the right time
  • Understand freezer meals or crockpot meals that can be ready for busy times, or ready to give to those in need
  • Plan a celebration meal – cook a celebration meal (include setting the table decoratively)
  • Understand and cook for various allergies
  • Consider how the food looks on the plate, experiment with garnishes and cake decorating

So if you have kids who excel at chores around the house is there an aspect where you can stretch them, teach an additional step or skill, or lift the standard of ‘well done’?  There is always more to learn.

April 27, 2012

Assigned Reading Lists

by Belinda Letchford

photo credit:

Each year I aim to give my children an individualised reading list.  My purpose in giving them assigned books to read is to expand their exposure to different topics and genres.  It is also to give them an opportunity to learn things that we don’t cover in our study time.  I want to teach my children that they can learn anything by reading.

In the past I have chosen a years worth of reading (5 books in each category).  But this year, for Nomi and Daniel I have decided to choose just one book for each category – when they’ve read those we’ll look for another set.

My children love reading and I have noticed that unless they purposefully and intentionally think about what they are reading, they read just to enjoy the story.  And there is a place for that, but the purpose of these chosen books is that they learn something.  They have to engage their brain as they read.  To help them do this I have set three stages

  1.  Discuss with mum the purpose of reading this book, what is the theme  in this book, what do you know about that theme, what do you not know.  We just have a quick conversation before they start reading the book.
  2. Keep a reading journal.  A reading journal is a place to write quotes, questions and summaries as they read their books.  I encourage my kids to write as they read (as this is the way I read) but they generally prefer to read a chapter and then reflect and write in their journal.
  3. Write about the book.  I expect my children to write about each book once they are finished.  They have a wealth of ideas and references in their reading journal (or should!!).  Once they finish the book, they talk to me about the book, sharing thoughts that they’ve had and discoveries they’ve made.  If they can’t decide what to write about I generally set a topic based on our conversation.

We have a reading time after lunch most days (4 out of 5).   It should last for an hour and it includes reading and then writing.

Daniel’s list:

History – The Small War of Sergeant Donkey by Maureen Daly

Australian History – The Donkey of Gallipoli by Mark Greenwood

Science – A Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

Literature – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Naomi’s List:

History – Ben Hur by Lew Wallace

Australian History – Soldier Boy by Anthony Hill

Science – Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati

Literature – Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Christian – Being a Girl who Leads by Shannon Kubiak Primicerio

Another aspect of recording is to keep a reading log.    Naomi and Daniel are just picking this up now – which means we’ve not recorded a lot of books they’ve read (oh well!!).    I have them record each book that they read – they connect a category to it (History, Science, Literature, Christian, Family Read Aloud, Recreational).  They record the topics covered in the book (as per back cover or our discussion), and they record the topic they write about once they have finished the book.   I’ve included a starting and finishing date as I want the kids to recognise how quickly they can get through books if they stay focused, or how long and tedious a book becomes if they don’t stay with it.

Read more about Reading Lists

Intentional Reading Plan

Joshua’s Reading List 2012

April 25, 2012

Nature Journaling with Photography

by Belinda Letchford

It has been with regret that we have never connected with nature journaling.  I don’t know why – I’ve tried – it just never really gelled.  But that is okay.  We like being outdoors and I’ve tried to encourage the skill of observation and enjoyment.  We do all enjoy photography though so I’m combining the two.  Last week when we set out to our waterhole I sat the kids down and talked about a few things they could consider when taking a photo (I basically shared these tips).  I then issued a challenge to take a photo of a tree while we were out.   Here are our photos.

by Daniel

My plan isn’t so much to have photography lessons but rather to look at good photography, to discuss what makes it ‘good’, to experiment ourselves, to reflect on our own photos and to consider what we could have done better.      Little by little I think we’ll get to know our cameras and take better photos – eventually.

April 23, 2012

Time for a Homeschool Review

by Belinda Letchford

During the last 3-4 weeks we’ve had sickness and school holidays/study break.  It has given me a lot of time to reflect and think about where we are at with our homeschooling.  There are things that I’m not really happy with.  So I’ve put myself back on a study regime to find some answers.

Some things I’m not happy about

  1. Nomi and Daniel don’t delight in learning.  They learn with a good attitude but there is no enthusiasm and no ownership
  2. Nomi is not being extended – and has coasted for a long time.
  3. There is no ‘thinking’ going on – just acceptance of what I say.  No digging deeper, no connecting the dots

We could keep going like we are – and the kids would get a good enough education but that has never been my expectation.  I am not aiming for them to be brilliant academics but I am aiming for them to be lifelong learners, who are curious about the world around them and who can think about how God’s word applies to life around them.  We are a long way from this goal at this point.

Things I am happy with

  • This year I have simplified our study routine by integrating language arts into our other subjects – this is consistent with Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick and Notebooking
  • I have brought Nomi and Daniel together for more of their studies – this has given me the opportunity to be involved more in their learning, and to create an atmosphere where we discuss things (we’ve managed the first transition – we are learning together, but conversations are more like monologues from me at this stage)
  • I’ve started to look at whole books, living books, read alouds for the basis of our learning.

These are all good things and I believe choices that head us in the right direction.

Whenever I see something that I’m not happy about in my life, in the life of my family or in my home I first diagnose (like I have above) and then I set to and learn all I can in order to find solutions.  This is being intentional about my role as mother and homemaker.

I have chosen the following books to read (re-read in most cases)

  1.  For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer McCauley – this was one of the first books I read in my homeschooling journey.  As I read through this there is so much that connects with my heart, I can see the foundation that this book had in my thinking.  Though I have kept Charlotte Mason at arm’s length in some ways, I can see that the principles she lays down are the principles I want to build on.  I need to think more about separating practices I see and the principles Charlotte Mason wrote about.
  2. A Biblical Home Education by Ruth Beechick.  Once again, this is a favourite and I was half way through this earlier in the year – I need to finish it.  I expect this to be particularly helpful for Nomi and highschool aspects.
  3. Notebooking Success E-book by Jimmie from Notebooking Fairy
  4. The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach by Robin Sampson from Heart of Wisdom

So slowly we’ll start to change things around here.  I don’t expect the structure of our days will change much.  There are just some little tweaks needed.  I don’t feel bad for the situation I find myself in.  To me it is about growing and learning with your family.  There have been many times where I have had to re-evaluate and tweak over the years – it isn’t about recriminating over the past, but rather taking hold of where you are at today and stepping forward.

April 20, 2012

A morning outdoors – Valentine Springs

by Belinda Letchford

I have decided that this year we will make a concerted effort to go out and enjoy the outdoors more often. Today we packed up morning tea and lunch and went to one of our favourite waterholes. We invited some of our friends to join us. The kids hadn’t caught up with each other for ages.

My friend and I sat on the edge with the baby and just chatted. Josh took one of the younger boys for a walk and explore upstream, Daniel and the other young boy played together (but the photo will not upload), the girls chatted, swam and took photos of each other!

Our friends left around lunch time but we stayed on for a bit longer. The girls and I went for a swim – or a float. It was a nice time just to talk and catch up.

As we packed up we had a big discussion about peer pressure and feeling awkward in social situations – would that be enough to make you take “just one” drink, smoke or some sort of drug?

As I took this photo I was thinking of

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
nor stands in the path of sinners
nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord
and in His law he meditates day and night
he shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water
that brings forth its fruit in its season
Whose leaf also shall not wither
and whatever he does he shall prosper.


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