Friday, December 28, 2012

Beautiful Handwriting

Charlotte Mason used a book called A New Handwriting for Teachers, by M. M. Bridges. It contains a few pages of instructions, and then "ten stiff, thick pages" for the children to copy from. 

Since I am trying to remove workbooks/printouts from my life (I solemnly swear that paper breeds!), I decided to see how Ms. Mason used the program, and if I could recreate a sequence for it. I went through programmes 90 - 95 (one programme is one term or 12 weeks of schooling) on Ambleside's archives, and copied the assigned sections. I choose these terms because they are continuous. I copied the relevant sections here. Happily, I found an easy to use sequence, assuming that some of the 8s are really 3s. (I have read a lot of old books, and many times some of the letters and numbers are unclear. Also, common sense says Charlotte would not have assigned card 8 to children still learning their letters. But I could be wrong!)

  • Use card 4, covering basic strokes and lowercase letters according to stroke or shape.
  • Focus on either the right half or the left half each term.
  • Two terms:
    1. Left-hand half of card 4 (straight lines;letters i, t, u, r, n, m, h, p, f, l, b, v, w)
    2. Right-hand half of card 4 (curved lines; letters o, c, e, a, d, q, j, g, k, s, x, y, z)
Form IB (around 1st grade)
  • One letter to be mastered each lesson. (Teacher to study instructions.)
  • Write, or print, letters and words from dictation as well as from copy. (See Home Education, page 234 - scroll down to "Writing").
  • Use card 3 (lowercase) and card 5 (numbers & letter combinations).
  • Three terms:
    1. Card 3, Lines 1 & 2 (letters a-n; 20 letters including variations)
    2. Card 3, Lines 3 & 4 (letters o-z; 19 letters including variations)
    3. Card 5, Lines 1 & 2 (numbers 0-9); Card 3, Line 5 (8 letter combinations or variations)
Form IA (around 2nd & 3rd grades)
  • Two letters to be mastered each lesson. (Teacher to study instructions.)
  • Transcribe (copy) from reading books. Write words and short sentences from dictation.
  • Three terms:
    1. Card 1, Lines 1 & 2 (letters A-K); Card 3, Lines 1 & 2 (letters a-n)
    2. Card 1, Lines 3 & 4 (letters L-T); Card 3, Lines 3 & 4 (letters o-z)
    3. Card 2, Lines 1 & 2 (letters U-Z); Card 3, Line 5 (letter combinations & variations)
Form II (around 4th to 6th grades)
  • Practice card 3 (lowercase).
  • Use card 6 as a model.
  • Two perfectly written lines a day, transcribed from favorite passages of Shakespeare or poetry.
Form III & IV (around 7th to 9th grades)
  • Use card 6 as a model.
  • Choose & transcribe passages from poetry, Shakespeare, and other books.
Notes from "Home Education:

  • Children started at the blackboard, then moved to a pencil and finally to a pen.
  • Children using the blackboard should rub out any letter that doesn't meet their standards, so that only a perfect word (the objection of early lessons) is left.
  • Start with a medium size for letters, not small. Don't make the child 'labor' on large writing. (CM says it is easier for the small hand to become a scrawl, and bad habits are to be avoided. Older children use small hand.)

So I will be using card 4 for Andrew,who is 6 years old and full of energy. I believe Charlotte uses the example of six perfect strokes, so that is what we will do at first. I know his frustration level will go down, because the work will be shorter and simpler than what I asked him! I will have him use the whiteboard. 

My older boys have been doing Penny Gardener's "Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children" (again, a great program, I just don't want more worksheets), so they should be able to transition to this slightly fancier style, especially if I print properly lined paper for them.

For my 8 year old, David, I will use cards 1 and 3. He pays good attention to detail, and I think he will like the simpler, freer method. I will also do some dictation with him - he could use the challenge.

My 10 year old, Jonathan, is a big picture guy, hard worker and easy going. I will probably have him study cards 1-3, and then have him decide what letters he needs to practice. When he feels confident, we will move to card 6 and two perfect lines a day.

I plan to use the 12 Rules of Good Handwriting as well (I can't find the regular page, but has a copy). I'm not sure if I will turn it into a catechism (question & answer), add it to their memory work, or just print a copy (with all the blinking letters, LOL) to review often.

I'm very excited to see what Charlotte used in her schools (simple, but deep), and I hope it will be a help to someone else out there!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Drawing Shakespeare: The Tempest

My 6 yo (Andrew) and I had our second reading from Nesbit's book: Shakespeare's Stories for Young Readers today. I used a lovely idea I've read about on a few blogs / mailing lists: making a cheat sheet for the story. I made mine as we went along, not the smoothest perhaps, but it did have my son interested. He kept wanting to make Ferdinand 'bad' before we read of his character. Once Miranda loved him, my son decided Ferdinand was 'good' and we gave him a smile. Notice my "spirit" Ariel. Oh, and Caliban, who is described as a monster.

Hopefully it's readable! Doesn't everyone love my drawing skills? LOL. So, here's the key we used:

  • Smile face is a "good" guy.
  • Frown face is a "bad" guy. (Even though our villains changed to good at the end, I didn't redraw. Perhaps I should have.)
  • Boys/men have pants (aka 2 lines) and girls/women have skirts (aka a triangle with legs).
  • Kings (and queens, if there had been any) have crowns.
  • Arrows show two sets of brothers, and three parent/child relationships.
  • Hearts are for devotion (Gonzalo) and love (Ferdinand and Miranda).
  • X eyes mean the person is dead.
  • Sycorax is a witch, so Andrew said she needed a pointy hat!
We added the chess piece just because we like chess. Andrew also wanted to add the ship in, so I sketched one. Overall, he really paid attention. I'd need to smooth out my drawing - it interrupted the reading too much, but we did okay. Since this is my wild child, I am pleased at the involvement he had with the story.

I am also glad I put him in his own year. For many people, combining the kids works wonderfully. But I am not one of that group. I really enjoy the one-on-one time to focus on each child.

And yes, I restarted school the day after Christmas. The vacation has driven me nuts! I need a little routine, and they do better without an all day free-for-all. In my defense, we'll mainly be reading for the rest of the month. We'll write some thank-you letters for English, and putter with a few other things, but we won't go full swing until we start Term 2 mid-January.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Poem, and Opening Thoughts

I love this poem, and am currently memorizing it:

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter
by J. R. R. Tolkien

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

So many thoughts about this little poem, but only time for two right now. First, it holds the hope of something better. Isn't that the beautiful thing about poetry? Instead of an essay or a book to cheer others, only a handful of words, but the perfect words. Short enough to be memorized, and thus, always available when needed. Life has not been easy recently, it's been very hard. Those two verses embody the hope I have, despite the fact that no one else believes in us. (And I'm not talking about hope in the government or some other person, I mean the hope that comes from God, and the hope that comes internally from small steps taken in the right direction.)

Second, this is what I want to give my children: deep roots and hope; wisdom and virtue, rooted in God. I want to show them they are never alone, to help them find faith in God. We are learning math and spelling, of course, but the main thing in our home and school is to grow as persons. To nourish the imagination and the soul, while training the will. I've been loving the Circe podcasts I've been able to listen too, and I keep thinking of truth, beauty, and virtue. On one of the lectures the speaker notes that "knowledge with power" is terrifying, instead we should pursue "wisdom with virtue". The first stanza of the poem requires wisdom and virtue, mere knowledge and power are not enough. Self-doubt will rise, and no one is perfect, we all fail. But wisdom and virtue are rooted outside of self, springing from the love of God.

So this might not be a very practical homeschooling blog, and it might be move musings than plans, more philosophical than practical. I'm not promising to make sense, or to answer my own questions. But this is the start of a new journey for us, and a new direction. The time is right.