Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Commonplace Book...Jean Henri Fabre

Sheltered by a clump of juniper-trees, Uncle Paul and the three children await the grand spectacle they have come to the top of the hill to see.  In the east the sky is getting lighter, the stars turn pale and go out one by one.  Flakes of rosy cloud swim in the brilliant streak of light whence gradually there rises a soft illumination.  It reaches the zenith, and the blue of day reappears with all its delicate transparency.  This cool morning light, this half-daylight that precedes the rising of the sun, is the aurora or morning twilight.  In the meantime a lark, the joy of the fields, takes wing to the highest clouds, like a rocket, and is the first to salute the awakening day.  It mounts and mounts, always singing, as if to get in front of the sun; and with its enthusiastic songs it celebrates in the high heavens the glory of the day-bringer.  Listen: there is a breath of wind in the foliage, which stirs and rustles; the little birds are waking up and chirping,; the ox, already led to work in the fields, stops as if thinking, raises its large eyes full  of gentleness, and lows; everything becomes animated, and, in its own language, renders thanks to the Master of all things, who with His powerful hand brings us back the sun. 

And here it is: a bright thread of light bursts forth, and the tops of the mountains are suddenly illumined.  It is the edge of the sun beginning to rise.  The earth trembles before the radiant apparition.  The shining disc keeps rising: there it is almost whole, now completely so, like a grindstone of red-hot iron. The mist of the morning moderates its glare and allows one to look it in the face; but soon no one could endure its dazzling splendor.  In the meantime its rays inundate the plain; a gentle heat succeeds the keen freshness of the night; the mists rise from the depths of the valleys and are dissipated; the dew, gathered on the leaves, becomes warm and evaporates; on all sides there is a resumption of life, of the animation suspended during the night.  And all day, pursuing its course from east to west, the sun moves on, flooding the earth with light and heat, ripening the yellow harvest, giving perfume to the flowers, taste to fruit, life to every creation. - The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre, p, 269-271

I LOVE Fabre's description of the sun rise!  Read slowly and soak it in.  Or, better yet, close your eyes and savor someone reading it aloud to you :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Defining Charlotte...Morals



Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom
First Known Use: 14th century

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, morals concern or relate to what is right and wrong in human behavior.  Morality is sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgement.  Ethics is a branch of philosophy, an area of study, dealing with what is morally right or wrong.  Looking at the Latin origin or morals, a custom is an action or way of behaving that is usual and traditional among the people in a particular group or place.  Therefore, being of high moral character is to conform to a standard of right behavior, or the repeated practice (custom) of doing what is right. 

Let's look at what Charlotte has to say on moral training...
Morals do not come by Nature.––No doubt every child is born with a conscience, that is, with a sense that he ought to choose the right and refuse wrong; but he is not born with the power to discern good and evil. An educated conscience is a far rarer possession than we imagine; we are all startled now and then by the laxities of right-minded neighbours in matters the right and wrong of which is patent to ourselves; but probably our own moral eccentricities are equally startling to our friends. The blame rests on our faulty moral education, which has hardly made us aware of fallacious thought and insincere speech; we believe that Latin and Greek must be taught, but that morals come by nature. A certain rough-and-ready kind of morality, varying with our conditions, does come by heredity and environment; but that most delicate and beautiful of human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example.
Children born neither Moral nor Immoral.––It is curious how educated people are still at sea as regards the moral status of children. Some time ago I was present at an interesting discussion, among the members of an educational society, on the subject of children's lies. It was interesting to notice that the meeting, consisting of able, educated people, divided itself into those who held that children were born true and those who held that they were born false; it did not occur to anybody to recall his own childhood, or even to reflect on his own condition at the present moment. The question lay between children being born moral and born immoral. Nobody reflected that every human being comes into the world with infinite possibilitiesfor good; and, alas! infinite possibilities for evil; possibly with evil hereditary tendencies which may be rectified by education, or with good tendencies which his bringing-up may nullify.
Moral Teaching.––We need go no further than the Ten Commandments and our Lord's exposition of the moral law to find corrective teaching for the spasmodic, impulsive moral efforts which tend to make up our notion of what the children call 'being good,' and nowhere shall we find a more lucid and practical commentary on the moral law than is set forth in the Church Catechism. It was the practice of a venerable Father of the Church, Bishop Ken, to recite the 'duty towards God,' and the 'duty towards my neighbour' every day. It is a practice worth imitating, and it would not be amiss to let all children of whatever communion learn these short abstracts of the whole duty of man. (Vol. 3, School Education, p. 129-130)

The Bible, the great Storehouse of Moral Impression.––Valuable as are some compendiums of its moral teaching, it is to the Bible itself we must go as to the great storehouse of moral impressions. (Vol. 3, School Education, p. 175)

We are aware of more than mind and body in our dealings with children. We appeal to their 'feelings'; whether 'mind' or 'feelings' be more than names we choose to give to manifestations of that spiritual entity which is each one of us. Probably we have not even taken the trouble to analyse and name the feelings and to discover that they all fall under the names of love and justice, that it is the glory of the human being to be endowed with such a wealth of these two as is sufficient for every occasion of life. More, the occasions come and he is ready to meet them with the ease and triumph of the solvent debtor.
But this rich endowment of the moral nature is also a matter with which the educator should concern himself. Alas, he does so. He points the moral with a thousand tedious platitudes, directs, instructs, illustrates and bores exceedingly the nimble and subtle minds of his scholars. This, of the feelings and their manifestations, is certainly the field for the spare and guarded praise and blame of parent and teacher; but this praise or blame is apt to be either scrapped by children, or, taken as the sole motive for conduct, they go forth unused to do a thing 'for it is right' but only because somebody's approbation is to be won.
This education of the feelings, moral education, is too delicate and personal a matter for a teacher to undertake trusting to his own resources. Children are not to be fed morally like young pigeons with predigested food. They must pick and eat for themselves and they do so from the conduct of others which they hear of or perceive. But they want a great quantity of the sort of food whose issue is conduct, and that is why poetry, history, romance, geography, travel, biography, science and sums must all be pressed into service. No one can tell what particular morsel a child will select for his sustenance. One small boy of eight may come down late because "I was meditating upon Plato and couldn't fasten my buttons," and another may find his meat in 'Peter Pan'! But all children must read widely, and know what they have read, for the nourishment of their complex nature.
As for moral lessons, they are worse than useless; children want a great deal of fine and various moral feeding, from which they draw the 'lessons' they require. It is a wonderful thing that every child, even the rudest, is endowed with Love and is able for all its manifestations, kindness, benevolence, generosity, gratitude, pity, sympathy, loyalty, humility, gladness; we older persons are amazed at the lavish display of any one of these to which the most ignorant child may treat us. But these aptitudes are so much coin of the realm with which a child is provided that he may be able to pay his way through life; and, alas, we are aware of certain vulgar commonplace tendencies in ourselves which make us walk delicately and trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues. (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p. 58-59)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History...Christmas in Februray

It was like Christmas in February when our box arrived all the way from California!

I'm excited to announce, we'll be trying the NEW Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History course!   Just look at all these great books....

....don't they look fabulous!  The study covers 1860 to modern times and is geared for 5th-8th grade.  I plan to spend over a full year on this program beginning now, 2014-2015 school year, as we'll be studying the Civil War in our third term, and continuing next school year, 2015-2016, when we'll finish our first complete history rotation in modern times.  Since I'm stretching the study, I do plan to add books and some commentary from the TruthQuest American History for Young Students III guide.  Nearly all the BF books shown above are listed in TruthQuest's AHYS II & III, which makes them double delicious!  ...Even Levi is excited ;-)

Are you beginning to plan your 2015-2016 school year?  I'd love to hear about it.  Please consider leaving a comment below....

Friday, February 27, 2015

Term Two Review - Including Book List 2014-2015

It's hard to believe we're two-thirds of the way through our school year!  We took a little time off from our book studies this week.  However, the kids were still busy with enrichment activities including LEGO Club, Knitting Club, Keepers of the Faith, Choir, Art, and Piano Lessons.  They did continue math throughout the break and I had a read aloud going.   Speaking of which, here is our list of Term 2 2014-2015 History Read Alouds...

Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg
Jed Smith: Trailblazer & Trapper by Frank Latham
The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard - We read the first five chapters and decided to stop and read the following book instead.
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork by Ann Whitford Paul 
The Erie Canal by Peter Spier
The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal by Cheryl Harness
Trail of Apple Blossoms by Irene Hunt
The Story of the Santa Fe Trail by Judy Alter
Along the Santa Fe Trail by Marian Russell & Ginger Wadsworth
Young John Quincy by Cheryl Harness
Andrew Jackson by Clara Ingram Judson
Who Let Muddy Boots Into the White House by Robert Quackenbush
Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
Kit Carson Mountain Man by Margaret Bell
Quit Pulling My Leg: A Story of Davy Crockett by Robert Quackenbush
Susanna of the Alamo by John Jakes
Amistad Rising: A Story of Freedom by Veronica Chambers
Nettie's Trip South by Ann Turner
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Zia by Scott O'Dell
Jessie Benton Fremont: California Pioneer by Marguerite Higgins
Patty Reed's Doll by Rachel K. Laurgaard
Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi

Overall it was a good term.  I did switch a few things up that weren't working from our original 2014-2015 curriculum.   With mixed feelings on my part, Riley dropped Latina Christiana I.  She was struggling with this course and is also using Michael Clay Thompson's Town Level, which includes Caesar's English, a study of Latin stems.  I do want her to have some exposure to Latin, but maybe both programs at one time were too much.  She also dropped Logic of English Essentials and went back to All About Spelling.  And, I'm afraid we've grown lax in our Plutarch study, but I aim to get back at it soon.

I'm still using Bible Study Guide for All Ages, however, I changed the way I'm using it.  It just felt too classroom oriented.  I now simply read the recommended passages, the kids narrate, and we discuss.  Occasionally, they complete map work or an activity, but I'm not requiring all the busy work.

After finishing God's Design for Heaven and Earth, Our Planet Earth first term, we were scheduled for Our Universe second term.  However, rather than read it from start to finish, I chose various sections to study, supplementing with Master Books New Astronomy Book by Danny Faulkner.  The full color photos and more up to date information was pleasing. 

Ruben started a new online math program.  ST Math is currently running a pilot for homeschoolers and he was able to sign on for the second semester.  ST (spatial-temporal) Math is game based instruction designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning.  It was created from neuroscience research.  I was sold after watching ST Math's TED talk by creator, Matthew Peterson

Ruben has also started cursive writing using Logic of English's Rhythm of Handwriting.  Here again, I'm not using the program as written.  I've modified it to meet Ruben's needs.  We've been working through it slow and steady.  If he can give me 2-3 samples of his best writing of 3-4 different letters per day, I call it good.   After learning some new letters, we build words, writing on the chalk board, using the letters he's learned.  For example, after learning how to write "the swing letters", i, t, u, s, j, p, r, and w, we put the letters together, forming and writing words such as it, sit, pit, us, just, etc.  From this approach, he's starting to take note of cursive when he sees it.  The other day, Ruben read a cursive word on the back of a semi while I was driving on the highway.  It's very exciting to see the kids apply concepts they're learning to every day life.  This is one of the many blessings of homeschooling!!

As mentioned above, we've picked up choir, art and piano lessons the last couple of weeks of second term.  These enrichment activities will continue into third term.  We are blessed to have wonderful, organized, extra curricular homeschool activities in our area. The kids are enjoying it and I look forward to time spent with other like minded moms while we wait for our kiddos :)  It's a win, win!

How's your school year going?  I love comments!  Feel free to leave kind words below...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Island of the Blue Dolpins & Zia....BF History of California...

After reading aloud Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, the kids wanted to follow up with the sequel, Zia.  Both books are part of the Beautiful Feet History of California study.  I read them at bedtime for a combination of history and literature.  We used the BF guide for discussion, however, I didn't require any notebooking on either book.

Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of Karana, a young girl who is abandoned on her native people's island off the coast of California.  The book presents the story of her life in isolation there for 18 years, where Karana shows undaunted courage.  Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on a true story.  The kids really enjoyed the book.

As noted above, Zia is a sequel to Island of the Blue Dolphins, so naturally the kids wanted to read more.  Zia started and ended strong, but there was a lag in the middle where I lost interest and felt a bit confused.

Zia is the fictional niece of Karana, who attempts to rescue her from the island.  Zia lives at the Santa Barbara Mission.  The book gives a good overview of life at the missions for indigenous California natives.   I won't give away the story, but will suffice to say the ending is bittersweet...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Patty Reed's Doll...The Donner Party

Patty Reed's Doll by Rachel K. Laurgaard is the story of the "Donner Party", a group of pioneers stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter of 1846.  The party was traveling west from Springfield, Illinois to Sutter's Fort, California when they were trapped by heavy snows for months without food.  Many of them died, but little 8-year old Patty Reed survived.  Patty secretly carried a special friend along the way, a tiny wooden doll she called "Dolly".  The book is Patty's story as told by Dolly.

Patty Reed's Doll is a wonderful account of the true life experiences pioneers faced.  Laurgaard pieced together Patty's story from letters, journals, and stories told by the Donner survivors.  I learned, laughed, and cried.  There were many moments where the kids sat on the edge of their seat waiting to see what would happen.   There is a map at the beginning of the book that we copied and pasted into the kid's notebooks so we could follow along on the journey.  There is also a photo of  Dolly, who today, sits in a glass case at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, California. 

I highly recommend Patty Reed's Doll if you are studying the Donner Party, Westward Expansion, California, or just looking for a good read.  The book is recommended reading for Beautiful Feet's History of California guide and TruthQuest history.  Below are samples of the kid's notebook pages that accompany Patty Reed's Doll....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Defining Charlotte...Character

As I'm reading through Charlotte Mason's six-volume series, I'm finding many new and unfamiliar words.  Our language has changed much over the last century.  Being a lover of lexicon, I find it unfortunate that we've lost so many great words from our everyday vocabulary.  In my educational quest, I usually read, noting words I'm unsure of, and then look them up later to understand the full meaning.  I believe this is key to understanding Charlotte's writings in context.

At our last CM Book Club discussion, several words came up with similar meaning.  Words that we often use interchangeably, like character, morals, virtue, habits, and ethics.  I've decided to start a series of posts attempting to define some of these words as Charlotte wrote them.  Obviously, I cannot read her mind and unfortunately, I cannot contact her for clarity.  However, I hope not only to give meaning for better understanding to those interested in learning more about Charlotte's methods, but to prompt others who may be unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason's methods to study her writings.

Our first word is....



Middle English caracter, from Latin character mark, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch
First Known Use: 14th century

Charlotte wrote an entire volume on the "Formation of Character" (volume 5) so I believe this is a good place to start.  Volume 5's subtitle is Shaping the child's personality.  This gives us a good indication of  Charlotte's meaning of the word character as it relates to personality.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, character is the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves : someone's personality.   A further definition is one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.   When consulting the same online reference, I found the word personality to mean the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people. 

I'll leave you to ponder some of Charlotte's thoughts on character....

But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will.  We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character; conduct may be arrived at, as we have seen, by indirect routes, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character.  (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, p 129)

Let us take it to ourselves that great character comes out of great thoughts, and that great thought must be initiated by great thinkers; then we shall have a definite aim in education.  Thinking and not doing is the source of character.  (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, p 278)

Disposition and Character. - If heredity means so much - if, as would seem at the first glance, the child comes into the world with his character ready-made–what remains for the parents to do but to enable him to work out his own salvation without let or hindrance of their making, upon the lines of his individuality?  The strong naturalism, shall we call it, of our day, inclines us to take this view of the objects and limitations of education; and without doubt it is a gospel; it is the truth; but it is not the whole truth.  The child brings with him into the world, not character, but disposition.  He has tendencies which may need only to be strengthened, or, again, to be diverted or even repressed.  His character - the efflorescence of the man wherein the fruit of his life is a - preparing  - is original disposition, modified, directed, expanded by education; by circumstances; later, by self-control and self-culture; above all, by the supreme agency of the Holy Ghost, even where that agency is little suspected, and as little solicited.  (Parents and Children, Vol. 2, p. 22-23) 

Here's how one homeschool mom teaches character in her home.  I think it's in line with what Charlotte was suggesting....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

John C. and Jessie Ann Fremont, California Pioneers...

We recently finished reading Jessie Benton Fremont, California Pioneer by Marguerite Higgins as part of the Beautiful Feet History of California guide.  The Fremont's were instrumental in California's admission to the Union.  John C. Fremont was a pioneer, explorer, and statesman.  His wife Jessie Ann penned his exploration journals of the West.  She showed great courage and strength time and time again through adversity. 

The Fremont's were an interesting couple.  Their deep love for each other, as well as their country shined through.  Higgins book was well written.  However, the chapters were a bit long to read in one sitting, especially for younger children.  Next time around, I may split them in half. 

Below is a photo of RileyAnn's notebooking page....
I was gifted a copy of Jessie Benton Fremont, California Pioneer in exchange for a review.  However, all opinions are solely mine based upon my experience with the book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Commonplace Book.....Henryk Sienkiewicz

It seems that in these times virtue has no reward and the procurer makes more money than the one practicing virtue.  -Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis?

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Study of Geography....

...But the peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures.  Herein lies the educational value of geography. - Charlotte Mason

How do you incorporate geography into your day?  

This was the question in a recent conversation on a Yahoo Group.  I thought I would include my response with some explanation here since this is a common question.   It seems we often set geography aside thinking it's one more thing to add to our day.  Quite the contrary, geography should not be a separate subject, but should fall naturally into your other studies. 

First off, take a look here at what Charlotte Mason wrote about teaching geography.

Next, let's define geography.  According to an online Google search, geography is the study of the earth and its features and of the distribution of life on the earth, including human life and the effects of human activity.  In other words, geography includes not only physical features of the earth (i.e mountains, oceans, plains, etc.), but also the cultural ways of various people groups.  Therefore, the study of geography is two fold. 

Now, to the question at hand.  I teach geography by reading great literature, misc. historical works, and biographies.  Then studying the maps/places/cultures from the setting of the story.  I've found meaning in putting people and places in context.  This promotes long term knowledge.  While studying the Bible, we learned about ancient civilizations/places...Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. as well as the Nile River, deserts, and the Mediterranean Sea.  As I'm reading, either before or after, I take a few minutes to discuss and show the setting on a map.

Travel is another great way we study geography.  Our family was fortunate to take a vacation out west a few years back, covering nine states.  Seeing mountains, rivers, and an ocean first hand was the perfect way to inspire geographical awe in God's creation.  However, you do not necessarily need to take a family vacation to be awe inspired.  Introduce your children to natural geography be stepping outside your home.  Take a look at the landscape.  What do you see?  Maybe there's a mountain range or a wetland.  Whatever it may be, take advantage of it!

In addition, some resources I've drawn from over the years for geography are...

Sonlight -I used Core A/K Introduction to World Cultures when the kids were young.  It was a wonderful year of reading about misc. people and places. 

Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason - This was our first official "geography book". 

Galloping the Globe by Pettit & Mullins - We spent two years studying many countries and cultures by reading living books, cooking regional/cultural recipes, notebooking, and interacting with artifacts from different regions around the world. 

A Child's Geography of the World by V M Hillyer - Great living book!!

Maps, Charts, Graphs - I did use this workbook series one year hoping to teach map reading and compass skills.  Though the kids liked it well enough, I don't know that they really gained anything from it.  I found the best way to learn map reading skills and directionality is again, by hands on experience.  We do not have a GPS.  When we travel, we use an atlas or I print maps from MapQuest.  When the kids ask "How much farther?", I hand them the map and they plot our course.  It's a great distraction to that most annoying question and they're learning while they're at it! 

Beautiful Feet Geography - We're currently using the guide and the Holling C. Holling books in addition to our history reading.  I'm planning a future post reviewing this wonderful set. 

At one point, I had a map of the world under a plastic see through table cloth on the dining room table.  This made an excellent conversation piece at dinner.  Sometimes, we would also have the nightly news on in the background and the kids were locating places mentioned on the news while eating.  This sparked many interesting discussions.  

Material World and Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel are great living books!  Our kids love to page through them and then locate the places on a map. 

This blog post from Simply Charlotte Mason explains my preferred method of teaching geography.  It's not a quick method, but I believe it lasts....

Though, we've referenced many maps and drawn maps, we haven't officially incorporated "map drill" in our homeschool up to this point.  I'm researching this option for future years.

What are your favorite geography resources/living books?  Please leave comments below....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Eve Drama....and Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud

The kids were busy making paper hearts this morning... 

I encouraged them to lay low after the drama we had here last night.  The boys were "playing" and Ruben fell backward, hitting his head on the corner wood trim.  We ended up in ER at 10:30 p.m.   He received six staples... 

It's one of those things you fear as a mom, praying every day to either be spared or for the courage to endure if it has to happen.  Surprisingly, I endured.   I'm the girl who panics at the sight of blood and let me tell you, head trauma is not for the faint at heart.   I am utterly convinced my Lord was there with us every step of the way!!

On this Valentine's Day, as I reflect, I'm thankful for that kind, loving and merciful God.   I'm also thankful He delights me daily through The Farmer and our children.   In closing, I'm including a clip of one of my many favorite songs.  It's reminds me of a beautiful never ending love...   

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout...

February seems to be burnout month.  I know winter has been looooonnnggg here in WI and we're all more than a little stir crazy!   So today, I thought I'd post some links with helpful tips and encouragement on beating those burnout blahs...

1.Brandy Vencel at Afterthoughts has been posting a series of blogs called Preventing Homeschool Burnout.

2. I loved this post by Pam at Ed Snap Shots on The Ten Best Things You're Not Doing for Your Homeschool! You might say, now wait a minute Melissa, I'm burnt out and your including a list of things for me to add to my homeschool!  Actually, Pam's list is everything I find comforting about homeschooling.  By following these 10 easy steps, you will be set free from the daily grind.  I see it as simplifying :)

3. Does math got ya down?!  Take a break from the textbook and try some Real Living Math: A Fresh Approach to Teaching.  

4. Lori Lane, from The End in Mind, does a wonderful job of describing homeschool burnout with a symptom checklist.  She has some great tips for coping as well as prevention here in Homeschool Burnout: Rising from the Ashes.   She's also currently airing of series of podcasts over the next five weeks on Avoiding the Homeschool Blues

5. And last, but not least, I watched the following webinar today that Jimmie Lanley, from Jimmie's Collage, shared on behalf of Bright Ideas Press.

So what have you been doing to prevent homeschool burnout? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave comments below...