Monday, December 23, 2013

Pearls from Planning: Bible Studies

So I sit here, planning the next term. Yes, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. But I actually enjoy planning and my husband was home to corral kids today, so today it was!

I love having Ambleside Online's pretty plan to work with. Last term we didn't do the Bible lessons in the schedule. I decided I want to do AO's suggestions, at least for my kids in year 2 and year 4. (I'm still not sure on my eldest.) But I struggle to figure out the line between family devotions, personal devotions, and Bible knowledge as a school subject. When you homeschool everything just blends together.

I should mention I love the topical Charlotte Mason pages. I ended up on the "Knowledge of God" page, and found some real pearls.

Charlotte on a Child's Personal Devotions 
Doing Devotionals Regularly
It's important to develop the habit of regularity in devotional time. A mother may not always be with her children, but I've seen children who are more determined about doing their devotions on time when they're away from their mother because they know that's what she would want, than they are when she's with them. One four-year-old friend of mine said, 'Mommy, I always worship idols.' 'You do, Megan? When?' 'When I say my prayers to the chair.' It's wonderful for all of us to get into the habit of 'saying our prayers' at a specific time and in a specific place. Wherever that may be, it will become like a holy place for us. Whether it's a chair, the side of the bed, a little prayer table, or, best of all, the mother's knee, that place will play a major part in guiding the child's soul to develop a habit of devotion. While I'm on the subject, it's worth mentioning that children's prayers, even for school aged children, shouldn't be left until they're so tired that they nod off before they're finished. After evening tea [or dessert?] is a good regular time for prayers if it can be managed.
The Habit of Bible Reading
The habit of reading the Bible should be established when the child is young enough that his Bible readings need to be read aloud to him. This presents a challenge because the Bible is actually an entire library, and some of its books and passages aren't suitable for children. Many parents get around this by using little compilations of devotional Scriptures. But I'm not sure this is such a good idea. I think that a narrative teaching of the Scriptures is a lot more helpful for children than the isolated texts chosen to stimulate morals and spiritual devotion. The Bible Society publishes [at least, they did in 1904 when this was written] inexpensive copies of individual books of the Bible. Those are a nice resource for parents. A child who's old enough to enjoy reading for himself would probably love reading through the whole book of the Gospel of Mark or another book of the Bible little by little as part of the morning devotion, using a nice copy of the book. (Volume 3, Chapter 13)
So the habit of daily devotions is very important, Charlotte encourages us to:
  • Have a regular time, and not too late, so he isn't sleepy.
  • Find a specific place, a good place to start is on mother's lap.
  • Start young, before the child can read on her own.
  • Don't preach, rely on the narrative teachings of the Bible instead of pointed devotionals.
  • Have the child read little sections from a whole book, with a nice Bible to read from.
My Implementation: 
  • Andrew, my 7 year old, is listening to me read from the Golden Children's Bible. He started a Bible journal on his 7th birthday. Anna, who is 4, usually listens in.
  • Jonathan (11) and David (9) are much more independent. So far the Children's Bible Reading plan here (updated weekly) has been a success. David is reading Joshua. Jonathan was reading in Genesis, but has told me he wants to read Romans, so I'll have to either break it down for him, or show him how to break it down on his own. They also each have a Bible journal.
The issue right now is we need to make devotions an everyday habit, not a school day (aka a day that mother is organized) habit. But there are hints of progress.

On Teaching the Bible in Schools

Charlotte taught the younger students (6-12 year olds) both from the Old Testament (historical books) and the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke).
Between the ages of six and twelve, children [using Paterson's book] cover the narrative stories of Old Testament Biblical history, and the Prophets as they correspond to the lives of the kings. The teacher begins the lesson by reading the passage from Paterson's book that illustrates the scripture reading. For example,
'This story takes place on the battle field in the Elah Valley. The camp of the Israelites is on one side of the slope, the big tents of the Philistines are on the other slope. The Israelites aren't huge men, but they're agile and clever. The Philistines are huge brutes, stupid thick-headed giants. Samson used to play tricks on them and make fun of them long ago. Both sides are agitated,' etc.
There might be some discussion after reading this passage. Then the teacher will read the Scripture text and the children will narrate. The commentary merely serves as a background for their thoughts. Their narrations are usually very interesting. They don't miss even one point, and they add colorful touches of their own. Before the end of the lesson, the teacher brings out any new concepts about God or points of behavior that may have been included in the reading. She emphasizes the moral or religious lesson in a reverent, sympathetic way, and doesn't attempt to tell them how to apply it personally.
...[snip]... The New Testament has its own category. The same commentaries are used, and we use the same methods, reverent reading of the text followed by narration, which is often curiously word perfect even after a single reading. (Vol 6, pg 160-169)
So Charlotte recommends that a Bible lesson for the lower grades follow this order:

  1. Read the passage from Paterson's book. (It seems one could retell the story with vivid imagery and appropriate background information if the commentary was not available or desirable.)
  2. Discuss the passage.
  3. Read the text directly from the Bible. (Charlotte would have used the King James Version.)
  4. The children narrate.
  5. The teacher highlights something from the reading, such as a moral lesson or a new concept about God.

Other Religious Teachings from Charlotte
The Catechism, Prayer-book, and Church History are taught in a similar manner, using appropriate texts. They provide an opportunity to sum up the church's doctrine, which is covered by preparing for Confirmation and Sunday services at the student's church. (also Vol. 6)
 For more details on how Charlotte taught the Bible in schools, I recommend the After Thoughts blog, where Brandy has two excellent posts covering the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Now ...

I need to decide if I should combine the kids for our Ambleside Online Bible lessons. I'm sure the discussion would be helpful and we would all learn. But I'm really bad at getting group stuff done. On the other hand, last time I tried to split for Bible lessons as a school subject, I was overwhelmed and dropped them altogether.

One thing is certain, the more I read of Charlotte Mason, the more I am impressed by her insight.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

These are a Few of my Favorite Things ...

Sometimes I get discouraged, I feel like nothing is going right. What is frustrating is I may not have a specific issue I can ask my friends (local or online) about. What I need is a new outlook. I might also need to eat a satisfying meal, have a nap, or just give myself some grace. But before I can do those things, I have to address my attitude & outlook.

The first place to go is the Psalms. I memorized Psalm 1 last summer, and it has been a blessing to me. Reading the Psalms is a great way to get my head and heart back on the straight path.

But sometimes I crave more specific advise for my life as a homeschooling mom. I'm not worried about enemies bashing down my gates, I'm tired of trying to get kids to complete work in a timely manner, frustrated because my 5th grader suddenly forgot what 8-3 is, and pulled by the magical lure of program X which will cure all your ills and wash the dishes. Again, nothing I need help with - I know the answers. Don't over schedule, work beside the kids, be patient, and beware of hype. I just need to find internal peace, and focus on the important things. These are my favorite blog posts for that, and I hope they will help you as well.

  • Cindy Rollins on Homeschooling the Freeborn. Do I want my children to have the education of a slave (focused on conformity and practicality) or of a free person (focused on truth and ideas for contemplation).
  • Andrew Kern on Playing with the Puppies. Play with math, play with words, play with science - don't force definitions down the child's throat when they aren't ready and don't even care.
  • Linda Fay on Ten Habits of a Happy Homeschool. Our habits lay the tracks for our lives. How many things are done without thought? Are those automatic actions helping us? Going into the holidays this particular area is my current focus.
  • Colette Longo on Ten Ways to Simplify Homeschooling. This is one of the first posts that inspired me as a homeschooler. I was getting my feet wet and oh my, all the options. And I'm a book lover - I like shiny new words. Thankfully this post, my belief that small children should play a lot, and my small budget helped me to stay balanced.
  • Andrew Kern on Teaching from a Place of Rest (post from Sarah which includes a video interview). Another post from Cindy. Andrew has also talked about this at the Well Trained Mind forum in the infamous Circe thread, called "The Thread". It's very long. You've been warned. But this is the thread that answered my unasked questions. And it covers much more than a state of rest.
  • Sarah on Over-thinking Homeschool Methods. While I'm moving pretty solidly into the Charlotte Mason camp, I am so guilty of over-thinking. Oh, we need to learn math - which method, which program, spiral or mastery, hands-on or mental, etc. Look, it's time to start Latin - immersion or grammar based, whole lessons or half pace, should we supplement with A, B or both, etc. I would (and sometimes still do though I try not to) research things to death. I started with the world and sifting through everything, rather than starting from my principles, limitations and our personalities then ONLY looking at what fit into those constraints.
  • Brandy Vencel on Troubleshooting with Charlotte Mason. She simplifies this so beautifully, and so respectfully. And you can just pick it up, insert the current issue - even if it's very vague, and come up with some steps to take.
  • Auntie Leila on Order and Wonder (or what curriculum to use). I wish she would adopt me. Scroll down on the side bar for posts on where to start on your home, if that's part of the problem. (Raising my hand here!)
While I love the advice in the trenches from other homeschool moms, I especially prize the advice of those who have led the way and graduated children while remaining sane. :) So I read widely from Cindy Rollins and Auntie Leila. I always come away revived and ready to face my challenges with a smile.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Adjustments

We are currently working on week #6, nearly half a term down! There are always adjustments, plans have to change to fit reality. Other than formatting the boys' schedules (which will have to be another post), the adjustments so far have been fairly minor.

All the changes this year stem from one thing: independence. I need the boys to be as independent as possible. School cannot depend 100% on me. After much prodding from family, I've started to publish my books written during NaNoWriMo. So I'm moving to being a WAHM, and we've had to shift our schooling style a bit.

Without further ado, here are the losers (and replacement contenders) so far:
  • (Week 5) MEP math has been replaced by the review books from Math Mammoth (eldest two), and if MM continues to work I'll purchase the yellow/green series for them. My youngest will be returning to Miquon, I really think he needs the hands-on, manipulative approach. I feel so guilty about MEP, I'm always saying how great it is (which is still true). But the week we didn't do MEP dramatically shortened our school days, everyone was more relaxed, no one was waiting for me, and I was less stressed as a result. MEP, I love you, and you are a great program. I've learned a lot. But with three school-aged kids I just can't do it. I'm also planning to use these simple daily review sheets, since Math Mammoth is mastery based. Oh, for the teaching aspect I have the Kitchen Table Math books.
  • (Week 5) Van Loon's "Story of Mankind" for my eldest. There's just too much and I don't have time to help with background. My own education in world history is sorely lacking. He'll finish up "This Country of Ours" this term covering American history to the 1900s (he is doing a combo year 5/6).  I'd already planned to do modern biographies for terms 2 and 3: Beatrix Potter and Winston Churchill  I think that he and I will read "Story of the World Volume 4" by Susan Wise Bauer during those terms. So he won't miss any world history, it will just be delayed a bit.
  • (Week 3) Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons has been replaced by KISS Grammar. I will probably add in some more writing: Nano's Young Writer Program, letters to grandparents (and other ideas inspired by the Brave Writer Lifestyle), perhaps some progymnasmata modelled after descriptions by Brandy at Afterthoughts. And more written narrations. KISS Grammar is free, printable and fairly independent. With Serl I either needed to be there, or to spend more money to buy the workbook style PDF (which would have forced the boys to write a lot more).
  • (Week 2/3) Spell to Write and Read has been dropped [again]. It's good, and it has helped me as a teacher. But I don't have time, even combining the oldest two boys. Which really just makes them goofier and doesn't save much time. I think all the other homeschool moms who combine kids must be better disciplinarians than I am. Or they have a few kids that are calm. Youngest son will be following the Charlotte Mason reading lessons outlined by a wonderful blogger and the elder two will be doing studied dictation starting with Simply Spelling* (elder) and Delightful Dictation (younger). 
Other changes: I am adding a little bit of Greek with Bluedorn's Hupogrammon  starting next week. The older boys will alternate Greek with Spanish (The Fun Spanish). We do some Spanish as a group, and their Spanish curriculum lends itself to an every-other-day format, so I think this schedule will work out well. I am also using "Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children" with my 7yo. I abandoned it before because there was too much writing - more than I think Charlotte used (she kept a brisk pace of 1-2 letters a lesson). But I've decided not to worry about doing every line. I've planned to go through the basic alphabet covering about 4 letters a week, focusing on quality work.

And we can't forget the winners! In alphabetical order:
  • Ambleside Online - boys are in years 2, 4 and a 5/6 combo. So many lovely books!
  • BRIEM Italic Handwriting - my elder two boys are doing the remedial copywork sheets featuring Alice in Wonderland, and they seem to be making progress. Next term they will use the book CM recommended: A New Handwriting and (hopefully) a Commonplace Book.
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. While we haven't been as consistent as I'd like, due to me assigning lessons to certain weeks we've done better than usual. How's that for a positive spin!! I need a system to note which lessons were missed so we can do them on break weeks. And I've had to let go of perfection on this book, and just do our best. It's all about wonder and exploration.
  • Countryside Rambles - We've read the first two sections of "autumn" and I'm enjoying it. It's helped me see the beauty of fall that I would otherwise miss in my dread of winter.
  • SALSA Spanish - love the videos, but need to work on the activities more. We are trying to push Spanish hard before we go South again this winter to camp -- we hope to use a bit of Spanish down there.
  • Visual Latin. LOVE!!! 
  • Wee Folk Art Preschool reading list. My daughter loves the books, and I love that they are generally found at my library. The books are so good I am trying to think of an excuse to start buying them. Is it too soon to purchase them for possible future grandchildren?
Going forward, I want to work on our group time. This is very important to me, but it seems to be forgotten or pushed aside. I love it when we sing together, I love reading the Bible with all the kids together. I'm hoping to habitualize our mornings and do Morning Time more consistently. I'd also like to start having an afternoon Tea Time, and I'm considering putting my 9 year old in charge of that. (He loves having hot cocoa or lemonade, snacks and poetry, and he actually pays attention to little details like what time it is!)

There are always adjustments. They've taught me to over-plan less, and I actually look forward to the changes.

* Simply Spelling is difficult to find online, but can be had by emailing the author. You can email her shoelacebooks AT for information.

Friday, August 30, 2013

God Is Good

Sometimes He has to remind me. I'm a bit stubborn! Amongst other good things in the last day and a half, this is what my husband and brother saw on the way to the jobsite today: a brand new baby deer. Kevin (my husband) doesn't think it was even two days old.

The little guy had trouble following its mama up the other bank, and after seeing it stumble around on the road my brother had to pick it up and place it up on the bank on the other side of the road. When they returned the mama and baby had wandered off. Hopefully the little dude strengthens up quickly, since it's nearly September.

(They really didn't want to touch the baby, but he was too wobbly to climb the bank and they couldn't leave him on the road. Always remember animals can bite! And they might not let go. My husband rescued a squirrel from a dog as a boy, and had a hard time releasing it! I just don't want anyone to think wild animals are cute and Disneylike. They are wild.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

2012-13 In Review (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

Why This Post: First, to remember what we did. And second, to take a small step toward correcting a problem among homeschoolers: realism. So many times we post our plans - I am very guilty of showing only my best self. Then we post pictures of our cool nature walk or the project the kids made -- the good stuff. Which is good.

But I think we need a lot more posts of how those plans actually worked, the good, the bad and the ugly. And once in a while, I'd love to see posts covering "a day in the life of a real homeschool family". Where the phone dies so you don't hear your alarm, you discover you are out of milk which was a vital ingredient for breakfast, Edward punches Henry because "he was annoying me", your toddler dumps the flour all over the kitchen while you are teaching a math lesson, and then by noon - after 1 chapter read and half a math lesson total - you are ready to put a cartoon on for the kids so you can go beat your head on the wall while gorging on chocolate. Because I see forum posts from moms who believe everyone else has things together. And most of us don't. And yes, all those things have happened to me, even though the flour incident was a different day than the others. Names were changed to protect the guilty.

Overall: This has been a great year full of new things. I've learned that we love to sing together, that the old hymns and folksongs are worth learning. (And singing these hymns bring back memories, sadly our current church doesn't sing many hymns.) I learned that if it is on their list, it gets done. If I put it on a group list, it generally does not get done. (I'm working on that!) Oh, and I've increased my own knowledge about true education. In addition to pursueing the true, the good & the beautiful, and to playing with the puppies, I've deepened my understanding that it's not how much you know, it's how much you care.

A Choppy Beginning: We started with an undefined mix of things, and I was glancing often at Memoria Press. I didn't like their workbooks, but I loved their integration and their emphasis on recitation.

Then (cue dramatic drumbeats) Ambleside Online moved from a mailing list to a forum, and everything changed. I understand forums, and I can navigate them easily. Plus, there is zero guilt because they don't clog up my inbox.

So we switched to AO. The boys were 6 (Andrew), 8 (David) and 10 (Jonathan). Anna was nearly 3. I put my 6 year old in year 1 with my fingers crossed. He flourished. I started my 8 year old on pre-year 3 and my 10 year old on pre-year 5. While those combo years a very well done, they are a bit dated now and I started feeling like the history was too fast and that we were giving up too much literature & natural history. So after about a month I switched my 8yo to year 3 and my 10yo to year 4. I didn't catch up with every reading (we missed a few biographies and didn't get to all the poets).

Note: I'm not going to link the following books, if you'd like to look and possibly buy please visit Ambleside Online and use their affiliate link. (I've used books in Year 1, Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.)

What We Didn't Do or Only Partially Did: The schedule. We hit the right chapters in the right term, but ... yeah. AO has the new nifty & official chart schedules now, so I have great hope for next year. It's great to see all the readings on 1 page per term. Our mid-winter vacation to Nevada (after our late start this year) further cramped the schedule. The vacation was great - camping down South by Lake Mead instead of freezing in Montana. We hope to do it yearly, but we will have to do some school while there. Schooling in the hot August weather is ... too hot.

In the same vein, we also didn't stick to a scheduling program. This year I've used Homeschool Tracker Plus, Scholaric, Skedtrack, SCM's Online Planner, forms from Donna Young - especially her excel spreadsheet, Evernote, and various printouts or hand-written lists.

I know we only did about 3 chapters of "Parables from Nature" this year, we did read them as a family. (I think 6 are scheduled per year normally.) We did only a few stories from Shakespeare total (I think 2 from Nesbit and 2 from Lamb's). With my eldest, we didn't get to Plutarch or any "official" Shakespeare, though we did watch "Much Ado About Nothing" and went to a live performance of "Henry V". So we had positive exposure to the Bard.

We only did 1 term's worth of artist study, we went from singing the folksongs with printed lyrics to just listening a lot. We sang some, but it was harder knowing the words of the verses without them printed out. For composer study, we do recognize Figaro's song from "The Barber of Seville" and I'm trying to add another favorite "The Ride of the Valkyrie" to that list. We listened to a retelling of the Pilgrim's Progress instead of the real thing. But that retelling made a big impact on the boys, so we will be listening to the full dramatized audio this year.

We had huge issues with consistency in math. But I'm happy to say that teaching those MEP lessons finally seems to be falling into a groove. I've had a real love/hate relationship with MEP math, but the love side is winning. Plus, my eldest is doing year 6 this year, so next year he will go to pre-algebra and I'll only have 2 MEP lessons a day. Yay! However, we have been doing math all summer out of necessity. As a result, they all seem to grasp concepts well, but we need to work on mastery of facts (speed). So we will start doing as Charlotte recommended, and adding in a short, daily oral drill session.

I added some books from year 5 for my eldest son after Christmas. Of those, we didn't get to "George Washington's World". We did read most of the relevant chapters in a "Child's History of the World", but GWW was too much for me. I'm one of those kids who was good in school and had American history every year. And I don't seem to remember many details. Looking back, I/we should have read the chapters in CHOW first, as a general overview, and then tackled GWW. But hindsight is 20/20.

My eldest and I also missed "David Livingstone", parts of the "Storybook of Science", and the "Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5". I will have him use these for independent reading since we are progressing nicely with "Dancing Bears". I dropped "The Incredible Journey" as well. I'll post an updated plan for Jonathan's 6th grade year soon.

What We Did Do: BIble - with some trial & error. We tried AO's new Bible reading plan, but went back to the boy's choosing their own devotional readings. I did accomplish the year 1 readings with my youngest son, and next year we will follow the year 2 (Genesis & Matthew) Bible schedule, but do it as a family. It was just too much for me to add, especially since I was using Greenleaf's Guide to the Old Testament instead of the Patterson-Smyth commentaries, which meant I had more lessons (though they seemed to be shorter). I did discover JC Ryle's commentaries, so we will be using them for the gospels.

Masterly Inactivity / being Outdoors - The kids have done great. Our camping trip down South meant we missed much of the cooped up indoors weather, and they've been having a great time playing & building things outside. I need to get out more, which I plan to will do after this post.

English - Even though we didn't follow "the plan" in some ways, my older boys improved their handwriting (you can read it!) and everyone is doing a great job with oral composition (narrating). So I'm calling this a win. My older boys did do enough Latin to cover an adequate amount of English grammar. (I'm calling Latin a win too, even though we are changing programs on Latin for 2013-14.) Oh, and Jonathan is doing great with Dancing Bears. (Why didn't I buy it two years ago!??!?!)

We visited a museum devoted to the native tribes where we were camping (and I forgot both my sketchpad AND my camera!). We also experienced a completely different biome in the high desert of Nevada.

All the stuff we partially did in the previous section? It all went great. The real culprit was that lack of consistency, when added to a late start plus a longish mid-year vacation, made it hard to get everything done.

Year 1 - Andrew LOVED his readings. Especially "Fifty Famous Stories Retold", "The Burgess Bird Book" and "Pinocchio". We had an extremely good year, and I am especially pleased with his progress in narrating. Thanks to the BBB, he is able to give a good description of birds that he sees.  We got behind of 50F Stories, so we are still reading "Viking Tales". I've enjoyed reading stories with him.

Year 3 - David has really grown this year. He's my child most like me, so sometimes we butt heads. He is a great reader though, and it has been such a blessing to have him reading most of his own books. I had him follow along with Librivox for history books and "Heroes", so that he would hear the names properly. I gave him an MP3 player, so he listens to & follows the text with the "Jungle Books" (scheduled) plus other free reads. He and I will make it a point to read some books together next year, because I think it's important that I spend time with him. Plus, he tends to read quite fast, and a few of the books should really be read slower.

Year 4/5 - Jonathan is a strong auditory learner, and really does well with audio books. He (and I) have learned a lot about science and the process of invention. He loves "Robinson Crusoe" and still compares all other books to it. We've also enjoyed the biographies - many things "Ben Franklin" did my son would do as well - tinkering, making things, helping people. He's also enjoyed "Abigail Adams", and I think the perspective of a woman in the male-dominated time of the revolution was the perfect choice for AO's year 4. Instead of the biographies adding flavor to the history spines (like "This Country of Ours"), I find that the spines add background to the biographies. I wish I had read more biographies in school!

All things considered, we read a lot of great books, we saw new things, we played outside, and we enjoyed poems, works of art, music and the Bard. We had a good year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scheduling "The Story of Inventions" Second Edition

My book, which is the second edition of "The Story of Inventions", does not match the Ambleside Online schedule. I have 2 extra chapters, and the order of my chapters is different. (The book is also called "Great Inventors and Their Inventions". The author is Frank P. Bachman.)

Another person had the same issue, and made a forum post. But no one seemed to have an alternate schedule. Last year with my eldest we just read straight through, in a willy-nilly fashion. I decided for my next child, who will read independently, I needed to be more orderly, so I matched the second edition up to AO's 36 week schedule.

AO's schedule & order with second edition chapter numbers:
  • Ch 1 (2) James Watt and the Steam Engine
  • Ch 17 (3) Robert Fulton and the Steamboat
  • Ch 18 (2) George Stephenson and the Locomotive
  • Ch 2 (2) Invention of the Electric Engine and Electric Locomotive
  • Ch 5 (2) Invention of the Spinning Machines
  • Ch 6 (2) Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
  • Ch 7 (3) Elias Howe and the Sewing Machine
  • Ch 8 (2) Cyrus McCormick and the Reaper
  • Ch 9 (3) Henry Bessemer and the Making of Steel
  • Ch 11 (2) John Gutenberg and the Printing Press
  • Ch 12 (2) Samuel Morse and the Telegraph
  • Ch 13 (2) Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone
  • Ch 3 (1) Thomas Edison and the Electric Light
  • Ch 19 (1) The Wright Brothers and the Airplane
  • Ch 14 (1) Nikola Tessla, Guglielmo Marconi, and the Radio
  • Ch 15 (1) John Baird and the Television
  • Ch 20 (1) John Holland and the Submarine
  • Ch 21 (1) Goddard, Von Braun, and Rockets to the Moon
  • Ch 16 (1) The Invention of the Computer
  • Ch 4 (Not Scheduled) Enrico Fermi and the Atomic Age
  • Ch 10 (Not Scheduled) Henry Ford and the Automobile
Ambleside Online has this book scheduled over 34 weeks, and only 2 (relatively) short chapters are left out. Which should have been simple. Unfortunately, going in book order broke chapter 7 about Elias Howe over Christmas break, and caused chapter 13 on Alexander Graham Bell to be split between terms as well. To fix that I allowed two weeks for chapter 7, instead of three weeks.

Second edition, in book order, over 35 weeks.
  1. TERM ONE (weeks 1-2) James Watt and the Steam Engine
  2. (weeks 3-4) Invention of the Electric Engine and Electric Locomotive
  3. (week 5) Thomas Edison and the Electric Light
  4. (week 6)  Enrico Fermi and the Atomic Age
  5. (weeks 7-8) Invention of the Spinning Machines
  6. (weeks 9-10) Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
  7. (weeks 11-12) Elias Howe and the Sewing Machine (This chapter was originally spread over 3 weeks.)
  8. TERM TWO (weeks 13-14) Cyrus McCormick and the Reaper
  9. (weeks 15-17) Henry Bessemer and the Making of Steel
  10. (week 18) Henry Ford and the Automobile
  11. (weeks 19-20) John Gutenberg and the Printing Press
  12. (weeks 21-22) Samuel Morse and the Telegraph
  13. (weeks 23-24) Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone
  14. TERM THREE (week 25) Nikola Tessla, Guglielmo Marconi, and the Radio
  15. (week 26) John Baird and the Television
  16. (week 27) The Invention of the Computer
  17. (weeks 28-30) Robert Fulton and the Steamboat
  18. (weeks 31-32) George Stephenson and the Locomotive
  19. (week 33) The Wright Brothers and the Airplane
  20. (week 34) John Holland and the Submarine
  21. (week 35) Goddard, Von Braun, and Rockets to the Moon
I hope this can help someone. Of course, this isn't as nice as AO's schedule, where stopping places are marked. Usually a quick glance through the chapter headings will make a stopping place apparent, Since my second son tends to read quickly, like his mother, I'll probably place an over-sized sticky note to remind him to stop.

I'm almost done customizing the AO grid schedules for next year, I just have to put the finishing touches on David's schedule. I am so thankful that AO has their schedules both as a list and a grid. I find both formats helpful.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Catching Up" Ambleside's Geography Schedule

I've always wanted to use two vintage geography books: Home Geography for the Primary Grades by CC Long and Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason. They are charming and have a certain something modern books miss. A beauty, perhaps. But I could never figure out how to use them. Until now, because the wonderful people behind Ambleside Online have broken them up by topic, spread across years 1-6 in their new geography schedule.

I'm doing my heavy planning & finalizing in the next two weeks, and I'll have students in years 2, 4, and a combined 5/6/pre-7. So I've been looking at AO's schedule, trying to decide which boy needs what. I've basically decided each boy should review the previous year's topics, and that they will sit in the next younger child's lessons. Clear as mud?

I'll format these as AO does, so one asterisk means term one, two for term two, and (you guessed it) three for term three.

Andrew: Year 2
* Year 1 geography topics: 2 lessons from CM and 3 lessons from Long; 5 total
** Half of year 2 topics, stopping before 'day and night': 4 lessons from CM. 1 from Long; 5 total
*** Finish year 2 topics: 4 lessons from CM; 4 total

David: Year 4
Listen in on Andrew's geography topics.
* Year 3 topics: 10 lessons from CM and 2 lessons from Long; 12 total
** Half of year 4 topics, stopping before 'rivers': 3 lessons from CM and 6 lessons from Long: 9 total
*** Finish year 4 topics: 5 lessons from CM and 4 lessons from Long: 9 total

Jonathan: Year 5/6
Listen in on David's geography topics. All of Jonathan's readings are from Long's book.
* Topics from year 5, terms 1&2: 8 lessons
** Topics from year 5, term 3 and year 6, term 1: 6 lessons
*** Topics from year 6, terms 2&3: 5 lessons

I dislike posting anything about scheduling before I've done it, but my son David has the lion's share of the geography lessons, so I need to be careful with his time. I also need to not over-complicate my schedule, or I will freeze up. I need simplicity. So this is "Plan A", which may fail utterly and require a move to an as yet unknown "Plan B" (which I believe the Mythbusters have patented).

Ambleside's term schedules are 12 weeks each, so the plan* is:

  • On odd weeks I will read 1 section from Andrew's list to Andrew & David AND I will read 1 (or 2) sections from Jonathan's list with him.
  • On even weeks I will read 1 or 2 sections from David's list with David & Jonathan.
*All plans are subject to change without notice. :P

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Floundering through Norms and Nobility

I'm thrilled to have this lovely, costly book by David Hicks as an inter-library loan. My goal is to read through the first part before 10am Saturday, when it has to be in the return box. (I cheated and read some of the second part already.) Not only is this book part of the foundation of years 7-12 of Ambleside Online, it's a "must read" from both Andrew Kern and Christopher Perrin.

So I am drowning in chapter 5 "Saving the Appearances". It would help if I even understood the title. Anyway, I'm pushing through. Trying to get the big picture as recommended by Andrew Kern, and also a method recommended for tough books in "How to Read a Book".

The chapter starts on page 52. Finally, on page 57 I am tossed a life preserver, a sentence I understand, and have to suppress the urge to do cartwheels.
A science of numbers feeding on technological or commercial ambitions generates a new attitude concerning the nature of man and of his purposes: it flattens the vertical levels-of-being [aspiring to the Ideal type] conception of man and turns the flow of his curiosity away from the normative toward the analytical.
I thank Kern, again, because while I couldn't define 'normative' to save my life, I know it's the opposite of analytical, which is breaking things into little pieces then putting those pieces under the microscope. Perhaps we could say the normative is concerned with the whole and appreciating the nature of a thing, while the analytical is concerned with dissecting and explaining the parts of the things.

So I still feel like a little kid, standing on my tip-toes trying to see what's on the table. Kindly enough, Hicks throws me another gem on page 58.
Whereas the modern technocrat sees knowledge as a source of power giving him a manipulative edge over nature and over others, the ancients treated knowledge as a source of virtue challenging the individual to improve himself and to look beyond the appearances for truth.
Do you want knowledge & power, or wisdom & virtue? I know what I want.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Personal Growth: How My Views on Literature Changed Between My Eldest and Youngest Sons

When I think of how I've changed as a home educator, the biggest area is literature. I like to think I understand math, Latin and our English language better. I still believe history should be taught with living books and biographies, even if I waver on the best implementation. I think science is even cooler than before, and that's not all due to the Mythbusters.

But the biggest shift has been my view of literature: especially fairy tales, myths, Shakespeare, and poetry. I'm not claiming to know it all, or even to know much. Actually, the more I learn the more I realize that I don't know.

When my biggest boy was only five, I could not understand why you'd read those awful, violent fairy tales to a child. When I read a few booklist containing myths in second AND third grade, I wondered why they would focus so much on myths and false gods.

When eldest was about six, I read "Peter Pan" for the first time. I really didn't like it. But Ambleside Online and everyone else had it listed, so I tried to read it aloud to all the kids. It shouldn't have been a surprise that we didn't finish it.

That same year, also thanks to Ambleside, we took a stab at reading the "Just So Stories". Oh my. That book, in my not-humble opinion, was a work of torture. All the lil' 'tractions, and the best beloveds, and the svelts, I dreaded it. Due to a huge detour to work on some reading & language issues with my son, we didn't finish the book.

Fast forward to this year. I still haven't read all of Charlotte Mason's books, but I've read large sections of her books and many PNEU articles, plus a few books about her methods. I've seen this quote (often attributed to G. K. Chesterson) a gazillion times in various places:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
My older two boys and I read some Greek myths. I even read a few picture books about various myths & fairy tales to all three boys. I'm still not to sure about the relationships between the gods and goddesses, but we enjoy Theseus growing strong and lifting the stone, We cheer when Perseus slays the gorgon. I decide myths are kind of cool. Besides, I'm understanding those old Star Gate shows on Amazon Prime a lot better now.

I join in a huge Circe discussion on the Well Trained Mind. I listen to old talks on audio, trying to shift my mind and understand. I hear of a thing called "annotated books" from an experienced homeschool mom. My library has a few, I stick them on hold, the first one I get is Peter Pan. (Imagine my eyes rolling.) It sits on my shelf. Finally I decide I better look at it. I skim the first section about the author's life, and get to the story, fully intent on ONLY scanning the annotations in the margin. Whether it was the added time and contemplation on my part or the annotations, I start to read the storytext as well. I pull my first book binge in what seems like forever, and read the whole book, annotations and all, within twenty four hours. It's back on my "read to the kids" stack.

We also restart Ambleside Online, and I have another 6 year old boy. This one can narrate, but he is all wild, squirrelly, bouncy boy. I strongly consider skipping the "Just So Stories" -- in fact I delay them nearly a term. But the other readings are going so well (including the violent fairy tales, which we enjoy together), and I plunge in. My tongue is still twisted, but this time I start to like the repeating phrases. They are like lifelines. I read a little snippet that Kipling wrote the stories for his daughter. In one of the final chapters, about a cat, I am rewarded. I tell my just turned 7 year old that it's a long chapter, we'll read half. I note my eldest son, now 10 years old, is also staying in the area, listening. I start to read, expecting this to be like the other chapters - cute and good for the kids. I should say I love cats. We read the whole chapter in one session, myself and both boys. It becomes one of my favorite short stories. I anticipate reading it to my daughter in a few more years.

Today's blog carnival is about Charlotte Mason's teaching of literature. I've been struggling to figure out what to say. But she recommends fairy tales (real ones), fables and myths. She includes tough books like Parables from Nature and the Pilgrim's Progress. (Which we are starting this fall with a lovely dramatized audio version!) She has them hear the stories of Greece and Troy from Andrew Lang. Why?
The great tales of the heroic age find their way to children's hearts. They conceive vividly and tell eagerly.
Education is a relationship, development of a person. Literature has a profound impact, and we need to stop worrying about what the child can handle! We need to spread the feast, and trust they will take in what they can.

Why do I read these old stories - the old children's classics, myths and fairy tales? Because there is evil in the world - there are dragons. I want my children to know that dragons can be killed, that evil can be overcome. We need more heroes in our hearts.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Playing with Puppies -- Random Wanderings

I am going to attempt a post, even though my monitor is dying. To shorten a long story, I have black lines flashing horizontally across the screen. Which is making it hard to focus on individual words and check my spelling, punctuation and grammar. So please forgive any errors or typos!

Weekly Workbooks

So in a long winding rabbit trail typical of me, I started on the Well Trained Mind forums. Some moms there have been binding their workbooks by week instead of subject. So instead of a math book and a grammar book, they have the first math and grammar lesson in one book.

Hmmm, instead of big workboxes I fill daily, we could have a small portable booklet for the week, which I could make in advance. (I do well working a few hours on a project, it's the 5 minute daily tasks that I struggle on. So advance preparation is good.)

As the new owner of a wire-binding machine, I've already made books for math, Latin and handwriting. I'm able to get the bindings cheaply as well. I also  had great success the year we used the File Crate System,  I have everything I need.

So I was considering this approach for the next school year when I (again) realized how difficult it would be to separate Memoria Press' Latin by week, let alone by day. Then I remembered how much I dislike (re)buying a physical workbook at all, when I have a lovely old laser printer. So I started a thread on the WTM about Latin programs that are available as PDFs.

Visual Latin

I received several responses, including Visual Latin and I Speak Latin. Since I actually own the PDF of I Speak Latin, I've decided to actually use it. But back to Visual Latin, which:

  • Is a video and fits into my goal of more independence for the kids.
  • The worksheets are PDFs, which I can print for each child as they use the program.
  • It's a LOT less writing than First Form. My eldest is a trooper, doesn't complain, and he is mastering the grammar but ...
  • I want them to READ in Latin, not just decline it. Visual Latin's goal is reading the Vulgate, and it starts with simplified readings in lesson 1.
  • Plus it leads into Lingua Latina. My favorite program.
I think I read at least half of the entire archives of Visual Latin's blog, and most of the WTM posts about it. But I wasn't seeing enough real-world reviews to answer a few questions about implementing it. So I did a search for reviews and clicked on anything bloggy.

To my delight some of my favorite blogs topped the list: Afterthoughts and Ordo-Amoris. So I searched them for more posts on Visual Latin at Afterthoughts, and ended up on Brandy's Monday Musings. Which led me back to Ordo-Amoris (and Andrew Kern),

Play with the Puppies

Kern has a longer blog post here on the puppies, but with less gory examples. Maybe it's my mood - rather sad - my old kitty is not doing well, and I'm dreading what will come. But the word picture of the beautiful rainbow and the Christmas puppy is really sticking with me. (I'm trying to erase the lawn-mower part from my mind.)

So now I'm walking around, thinking about all the curriculum I have, and asking if it is (or can be) a puppy.

We need more puppies in our day.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Map Drawing Trial: South America

I decided to try my hand at map drawing before assigning it to the kids One of my goals is for us to draw decent world maps from memory as mentioned in The Core.  So I started with an easy continent and am pleased with the result. I know the boys will probably need to memorize a more basic outline first, with country names, but this is an encouraging, and free, resource. Later I'd love to be able to label some of the land features and a few cities. Download the PDF here (for free) from Globalmania.
posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Christmas in May!

Ambleside Online now has grid schedules (years 1-5 so far). The WHOLE YEAR on 6 pieces of paper! This compliments their redesigned weekly schedule pages. Go check them out!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What I Use for Curriculum

I've been asked by a Facebook friend what I use for my kids, and how much it costs. After fiddling with Facebook's chat system, I decided it would be easier to answer here, where I can have headings and make real links.

First Things

I am heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason (here, here, and here for some online information). I think checking your library for "For the Children's Sake", "A Charlotte Mason Education", or "A Charlotte Mason Companion" would be a smoother introduction to a woman who wrote 6 books on education!  I'm also inspired by the classical education talked about at Circe (Mimetic Teaching, and almost anything by Kern, is good to listen to; there are more here ). I'm rejecting the one-size, assembly line education, and striving to keep beauty and wonder before my children. I want them outside, enjoying nature. I want them reading uplifting stories and biographies of great people. I don't want our homeschool to be "sit down, don't talk, get your worksheet done".

It's actually funny to write this post now. We are easing back into school after our 3 week vacation, and it's been s*l*o*w getting back into the groove. We did almost zero sit-down school on vacation. Of course we learned about the desert, learned camping & nature skills, visited museums & parks, hiked, saw new animals, read about ancient peoples & saw how they lived, went to a hot springs, saw cool statutes (Romans! yay!) & displays (pirates & sirens) in Las Vegas, listened to several fairy tales & a dramatized retelling of the Pilgrim's Progress, made a lean-to, worked on swimming, read a few chapters of The Hobbit, and got a tan. So we learned a lot, but not in a "traditional" school fashion. All that to say I feel like a hypocrite, saying 'we do this', when we haven't done it for a month.

But I still have to answer the question.


For math we use MEP, a free program from the UK. I like how it teaches kids to really think about numbers, and not just compute. I mainly use the lesson plans (on my tablet, but I used to print them - yuck!) and the practice book (1 page per lesson). This blogger has some great posts on MEP.

MEP is teacher intensive, so if we are in a busy season I use Math Mammoth. You have to print it as well, but the little books are very inexpensive & everything is on the student page (I like simple).  I've also used Math Mammoth to fill in gaps in place value or subtraction with regrouping.

English / Language

For reading and spelling we use Spell to Write and Read. It's very complete, and my eldest son, Jonathan, needed it. It's overkill for some kids in my opinion (like David, who uses it because he likes having a spelling list to play games on Spelling City - which is free). I'm using it with Andrew because I'm used to its methods.

We attack writing from both sides: having something to say & the process of writing down words. For the first we do narration, and for the second, copywork (I started with Penny Gardener's book).  I'm really working with the boys to have nice handwriting, because we are going to start writing letters to their great-grandmothers. We do copywork & narration daily, and spelling on most days. The following programs are used 2-3 times a week.

We use Emma Serl's Primary Language Lessons (2nd-3rd) and Intermediate Language Lessons (4th-6th), which cover a wide range of English skills, including composition, grammar, and usage. You can read Serl's books free online, I bought the hardcover versions used on Amazon, and we tend to do a lot of the work orally. I am going to try having Jonathan type his answers next week. (He really does learn better if he does something with his hands, like copy/draw/write. If typing works out he can learn computer skills while learning composition.)

Jonathan has recently started dictation. We are doing it three times a week, and I want to switch this to typing as well. You can do dictation for free, but I decided for $15 over 2 years times 4 kids, I'd take the easy way. David is reviewing touch typing with Dance Mat (free), and I'll drop Spell to Write & Read next year for him when he starts dictation.

We also do Latin and use Getting Started with Latin (best book to start with - short, simple, inexpensive) and First Form Latin (for Jonathan, I like how it makes him think, and he remembers things better when he writes them down). I mention Latin because we don't do heavy grammar or any vocabulary work - you learn a lot of grammar with Latin. (For modern languages, we watch Spanish videos [SALSA, KnowItAll], and I'd like to add more Spanish next year. But it doesn't teach you like Latin does.)

I am testing out the McGuffey readers, as I notice the boys need to work on enunciation. I want to use KISS Grammar (hint: choose a "level" first, then under that level, choose a "grade" so the sentences will be appropriate/interesting for your child), but haven't nailed down how (independently or do it as a group). These would be 2-3 times a week as well.

(Almost) Everything Else

For almost everything else - we read. I use books from Ambleside Online as our base. I assign their biography, geography, literature, natural history and science selections for individual reading. I use their hymn, folksong, nature study, artist, and composer rotations for group work. (We aren't very good about the last two yet, but are working on it.) I choose from their poets, and we enjoy those as a group as well -- currently A.A. Milne and Alfred Lord Tennyson. And we read books together too. (Right now I alternate between Hatchet and At the Back of the North Wind; Kevin chooses a chapter from Fifty Famous People when he does bedtime reading.)

I also like this list (look at the literature selections), and many of these are on Librivox. I LOVE Librivox, with the kids understanding more than they can physically read with their eyes (especially with the older classics), Librivox bridges the gap and saves me time. I've heard from several homeschoolers that having the child follow the words while listening to the audio is good for reading fluency as well. We also memorize poetry (again, you don't need a program, but it makes little kids more independent to have the audio) and scripture. This (also here) is my aspiration for our group learning. (She also wrote this and this, which I love as well.)

I like Charlotte Mason Help's personal devotion selections, and Milestones Academy has a lot of good ideas as well (drawing, financial knowledge, foreign language, Plutarch & Shakespeare), though she seems to be rearranging the site, sometimes leading to blank pages. There are so many good ideas online, the problem isn't finding them, it's not becoming overwhelmed.

Hands-On Stuff

We spend time outdoors - walking, fishing, playing, or even sitting & watching. We draw, paint, and play music (we have a piano and several recorders). I have Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, which I'm trying to use more consistently. The kids do some woodwork/carpentry with their Dad, and we will be doing Leatherwork in 4-H, when I actually buy the book... (it's on my errands list).

What does it cost? 

Very little - I try to time major buying with my tax refund, and I pick up good deals on books year round. Math is free for printing, and I have a B&W Laser Jet (with off-brand toner). I've spent more on English, but if I had to I could teach for free to the younger boys. (I needed it for Jonathan, the boy has struggled on every step of reading. I don't know if he is dyslexic, but I know no part of it is natural for him.) I haunt used book stores when I get a chance, and trade in books I don't need for children's classics & language books. I finally joined the digital age, and am using both a tablet and an ereader. They make using PDFs and public domain books a breeze. They also make it so I don't have to print the lesson plans for MEP - I can use them from the tablet. I decided to move to the ereader when I totaled the cost of hardcopy books that are available free (on google books or amazon kindle) and found the ereader would pay for itself in one year.

I tend to avoid any programs requiring consumable workbooks that aren't available as a PDF (First Form Latin is an exception). I think homeschool costs (except learning challenges/disabilities) are very controllable, especially with access to the internet or a good library.

I'll try to be more exact. Last year I averaged $20/month on Amazon for books, but not all of them were for the boys' school, AND we restarted Ambleside Online, so I had to buy books at 2 levels (I had all of Andrew's), whereas in the future I'll only need to buy for my eldest child. (The local books I almost always trade for, but they would be sub-$5 online with shipping.) This year, since I have the ereader, I expect to spend far less on books. Of course, I bought a balance beam for science and need to buy a microscope, so that can drive up costs, but it's still not a true need.

My Main Sources of Information 

  • The Well Trained Mind forum. Just be careful and hold onto your wallet - this is a great place to ask about curriculum, but it's also full of people who love certain programs and will tell you how great they are, which you may not need but may sound really cool.
  • Ambleside Online forums. You need to sign up to read (for privacy I assume). They are starting a study group on Charlotte Mason's Twenty Principles, which I plan to participate in.
  • Lots of blogs - some are linked in this post, and many others linked from the signatures of the above forum participants. Just remember that 90% (myself included) don't get everything they talk about done every day/week. We all have cars that break, dogs that get loose, computers that refuse to boot, and kids that get sick. Real life with murphy's law in full force. 

Someday I'll do a "real day" post. But not today. Since it's 11 o'clock, we stayed up late last night, we have a house guest, Kevin didn't go to work until 10, and I haven't eaten breakfast (no worries, Kevin fed the kids).

In Conclusion ... 

I hope this is not completely overwhelming. I've been doing this for years, stumbling along, and I like to think I've learned something. And I've learned there is a lot I don't know.

I've been interrupted a gazillion times this morning, and this post isn't as polished as I'd like. I did reread it, and it seems to make sense. Haha!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Feeding the Mind of the Child, or Why "Focusing on the 3 R's" is Not the Best Approach

"Education is lighting a fire, not filling a bucket." 

When a homeschool mom has a struggling reader, she is often advised to let content subjects take a back seat while she works on the basics. As one of those moms, I tried that approach. But a basics only approach is lifeless. I found no joy, school was a chore to check off the list. Just like doing the dishes. Not only was the bucket not being filled, but the fire was in danger of being put out. Even I, the teacher, was dissatisfied. In one of my darker moments, I stopped and asked myself: what if my son never learned to read well? Or, what if he could read 'well enough' for life, but could never read the good and great books for himself? How long would I make him wait? And I knew - I had to find a way to open the world up, despite his ability to read on his own. You can't stay in emergency mode for long: it ignores the beauty of life.

Education is about growing the mind.
The way to mind is a quite direct way. Mind must come into contact with mind through the medium of ideas. (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
Books. That's how you connect to another's ideas: reading. But teaching a struggling child to read is not the most important thing. By all means, keep working on phonics and fluency, but skill work alone isn't enough. You need to kindle the flame, and then feed it. The food of the mind is ideas.

Some of my favorite speakers are "The Two Andrews". First I heard Andrew Pudewa (IEW) talking about how his son, who was unable to read, developed a wonderful vocabulary by listening to audio books. Then Andrew Kern (Circe) pointed out there are stages of reading. What we call reading, he calls independent reading, or "reading with your eyes". But before that is dependent reading, or "reading with your ears".

Around the time I was struggling to put this new information to use, God led me in a circle back to Ambleside Online. Many of AO's books were available in audio format, free, from Librivox. Many of the others I already owned. Due mainly to my personality, I wanted the kids in their own years. But I'm only human, not super organized, and I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. I didn't know if I could prepare and teach 3 different AO years. I'd been playing with another curriculum that required a lot of teacher involvement: I would have to learn first, and then present to my children. But Charlotte Mason's principles again came to my rescue.
If they do not, it is not for lack of earnestness and intention on the part of the teacher; his error is rather want of confidence in children. He has not formed a just measure of a child's mind and bores his scholars with much talk about matters which they are able to understand for themselves much better than he does. How many teachers know that children require no pictures excepting the pictures of great artists, which have quite another function than that of illustration? They see for themselves in their own minds a far more glorious, and indeed more accurate, presentation than we can afford in our miserable daubs. They read between the lines and put in all the author has left out.  (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
For Charlotte Mason, the teacher's job is to spread the feast before the child, then step back, and let the author speak. And she doesn't require busy work. No work is to be given except what the child can accomplish perfectly. So I wouldn't have to prepare, then give a lecture, then help them form answers to comprehension questions, then help them write out those answers. No, read the book with them (or assign it to them) and have them narrate. Perhaps a discussion afterwards, and some copywork or dictation for writing.
Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.  (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
How freeing. I estimated the time. I had a year 1 student, but he would only have 2-3 short readings a day. My year 3 student was a fairly good reader. My struggling reader I placed in year 4, and divided his work between reading with me and audio books. The test for him was "Robinson Crusoe", a very challenging book. He listened to it, and loved it. Together we read "Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia". He loved that as well, Ben the inventor and problem solver appealed to my hands-on son who loved to help others. My younger sons also enjoyed their readings. And I started to enjoy homeschooling again.

It wasn't just school time either. Ideas penetrate the mind, they are mulled over and become part of us, changing our thoughts and actions.
We receive [ideas] with appetite and some stir of interest. It appears to feed in a curious way. We hear of a new patent cure for the mind or the body, of the new thought of some poet, the new notion of a school of painters; we take in, accept, the idea and for days after every book we read, every person we talk with brings food to the newly entertained notion. 'Not proven,' will be the verdict of the casual reader; but if he watch the behaviour of his own mind towards any of the ideas 'in the air,' he will find that some such process as I have described takes place; and this process must be considered carefully in the education of children. We may not take things casually as we have done.   (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
My older son, Jonathan, would think of things Robinson Crusoe had done when we talked about camping. We talked about true friends after he listened to the second chapter of "The Jungle Book". When the Happy Scientist posted an eagle for his daily photo, and asked which founding father had wanted a different bird as our national symbol we could connect to why Franklin would have wanted a different bird.

My second son remembered "The Princess and the Goblin" when he saw other books by George MacDonald. We talked about the cruelty in "King of the Wind", and the root of that instance of cruelty: uncontrolled anger. I hope next time he starts to loose his temper, he will remember the pain caused to the horse, and control his anger. (No, he doesn't get angry at our horse - it's usually his younger brother. And yes, I had a hard time not over-moralizing the incident.)

And the benefits of an ideas approach to education continue. Not only the intellect, but the conscience is trained.
It is not only a child's intellect but his heart that comes to us thoroughly furnished. Can any of us love like a little child? Father and mother, sisters and brothers, neighbours and friends, "our" cat and "our" dog, the wretchedest old stump of a broken toy, all come in for his lavish tenderness. How generous and grateful he is, how kind and simple, how pitiful and how full of benevolence in the strict sense of goodwill, how loyal and humble, how fair and just! His conscience is on the alert. Is a tale true? Is a person good?––these are the important questions. His conscience chides him when he is naughty, and by degrees as he is trained, his will comes to his aid and he learns to order his life.  (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
Andrew Kern's favorite thinking question (perhaps something CM would use for the grand discussion) is "should X have done Y?" Should Bilbo have gone with the dwarves? Should Bowane have waited for each of his friends? Reading - stories - they develop the whole child.

Reading does open the world, and my advice is don't wait until a child can do it with their eyes! Read to them. Use CM's principle of short lessons: fifteen minutes of phonics, ten minutes to work on reading fluently, twenty minutes of math. In between, read with your child. Give them an audio book to listen to and narrate. Listen to fairy tales in the car or at breakfast. At quiet time let them use an MP3 player. Read aloud before bed. And read the best books: you'll be surprised what children understand.
As for literature––to introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child's intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.   (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Chapter 2)
My ultimate guideline for education is Philippians 4:8 "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

I know tough times hit, sometimes all you can do is tread water (I've been there). But when you think of "must do" schooling, include ideas - be they fairy tales, biographies or the wonders of nature. And don't let a lack of reading skill be a barrier to presenting the best books to your child.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beefing up my 10 yo's Books: Combining AO years 4-6 into 2 school years.

My eldest son, Jonathan, is doing very well with his readings. I'm pleased with his narrations. He is technically a 5th grader, but I started him in year 4 because I didn't want him to miss the history, I had most of the books, and I didn't want to push him to hard.

Now, I know that AO years != grade years. But I also keep hearing how cool Ambleside Online's year 12 is going to be. So if I want him to do year 12, I'll have to bump him or do a combo year at some point.

I decided to do it now. I looked at years 5 & 6, and made a few observations: we're currently reading The Hobbit (that's half of year 6's literature), year 6 has very little geography, while our current year 4 (because I decided not to use Madam How and Lady Why) is very light on science (which he loves) & natural history. I'm also not super worried about history. It's very important, but it's not the center of our homeschool.

So I added year 5's science books (not biographies or Madam How) to this year. And I'm going to read Minn once a week, finishing it this term, leaving term 3 open for year 6's book about David Livingstone, which DS should be able to read himself.

The rest of this year will have ~16 readings a week. I'm hoping to do 4 days for individual work, and 1 day for group study, so that's 4 readings a day. If that is too much I'll spread his readings over 5 days.

In case anyone is interested, here is my plan:

5th Grade (this year)

  • Bible (4 days a week)
    • (4/5) Greenleaf's Guide to the Old Testament (Samson to the Divided Kingdom).
    • (4) New Testament focus on Mark (2 terms)
  • History
    • (4) This Country of Ours, George Washington's World
  • Biography
    • (4) Trial & Triumph (match with history)
    • (4) Ben Franklin & Abigail Adams
  • Geography
    • (4) * ** Minn of the Mississippi
    • (6) *** David Livingstone (Term 3)
  • Natural History/Science
    • (4) Storybook of Science
    • (5) Wild Animals I Have Known (read aloud) followed by Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5 (transition to him reading)
  • Science Biography
    • (5) The Story of Inventions (some will be left for summer reading)
  • Literature
    • (4) Age of Fable -- stay on year 4's schedule
    • (4) Robinson Crusoe, Kidnapped, The Incredible Journey and the three short stories. Thankfully most of these have audio books.
6th Grade (next year)
  • Bible (4 days a week, but I'm not sure on schedule details)
    • (5) Finish Greenleaf's Guide to the Old Testament
    • (5/6) Life of Christ (48 readings scheduled)
    • (6) Answers in Genesis (year 6 history tales, which I don't want to miss)
  • History (modern)
    • (5) * ** This Country of Ours
    • (5) * ** Abraham Lincoln's World
    • (5/6) *** Story of the World volume 4 -- we'll probably extend this past the 'end' of the school year. We will use the MP3 version.
  • History (ancient)
    • (6) * Story of the Greeks - I might substitute a shorter book: Tappan's "The Story of the Greek People", since I don't want to overwhelm him.
    • (6) ** *** Augustus Caesar's World
    • (6) ** *** Story of the Romans (spread over 2 terms intead of 1)
  • Biography
    • (5/6) Trial and Triumph, scheduled to match history reading.
    • (5) * Of Courage Undaunted (because I love Lewis & Clark)
    • (5) ** Lilias Trotter OR Teddy Roosevelt
    • (6) *** Winston Churchill
  • Geography (I may only use 1 of Halliburton's books)
    • (5) Halliburton's Book of Marvels (I have the 2nd book, still searching for the first)
  • Natural History/Science (I may have to move some to free reading, I haven't seen these books)
    • (6) School of the Woods & The Sea Around Us
    • (6) It Couldn't Just Happen
    • (6) Secrets of the Universe
  • Science Biography
    • (5/6) Choose 3 biographies from years 5 & 6, one per term.
  • Literature
    • (5/6) Age of Fable - 2 readings per week.
    • (5) * King Arthur
    • (5) ** Oliver Twist OR Kim (other will be a free read)
    • (6) *** Animal Farm
What Was Left Out
  • Poetry isn't listed, but will NOT be left out - we will do one poet per term for Jonathan, but since we read everyone's poetry as a group, we will read them all eventually (and more than once), so I'm not worried.
  • Only 3 of 6 science biographies will be assigned.
  • Madam How and Lady Why is being skipped. (Because I just don't have the energy for it, and most people have mixed opinions. I'll try to read it with my 8yo when he reaches years 4 & 5.)
  • Year 6's Old Testament readings are the books of Genesis, Job, Exodus & Leviticus. I'm not sure how to handle those, but I haven't decided on Bible for the HEO years either, as I'd prefer to have DC do studies from Precepts, probably as a group (so it won't be in AO's order). But I will encourage DS to go through the books in his personal Bible time, and I may or may not use SCM's "Book of Doctrine's". I actually have a study guide for Genesis-Deuteronomy from Precepts on the shelf, if we go that route. I'll cross that bridge when we get there.
  • Year 6 has the "Story of Mankind" scheduled. I may or may not have him read from it. I imagine that SOTW4 is fairly complete.
  • Two (of 8) biographies will not be scheduled, but one of those is a WWII era book to be selected from the free reads, and DH is a WWII buff, so I'm sure DS will hear a few of those for bedtime readings anyway.
  • In literature, we are currently reading "The Hobbit" aloud (started before coming back to AO). And we will be reading "Tale of Troy" which is a retelling of the Iliad as a group. I would like to read the full version of the Iliad later on, perhaps during poetry time. The year 5 literature book that gets "skipped" will be a top-priority free read.

This may all change at any moment! LOL, hopefully not. I haven't seen the year 6 books, so I can't get a super accurate idea of how much reading to assign, and may have to move some to free reading / science shelf. I also don't know how much DS's reading skills will improve, but I've decided I cannot hold him back for one thing. I am completely willing to keep using librivox, purchase audio books for newer works, and read out loud as needed. He is loving CM's generous curriculum of living books, and I am so thankful to AO for having a frugal, high-quality program laid out.

I'm mainly posting this since I've put a lot of thought into it, and I want to have a summary stored online (because computers crash). I also find it helpful to read the ideas & experiences of others, and want to offer something back to the online homeschooling community. Enjoy!