Monday, July 27, 2015

Considering Ambleside Online....

I'm officially in homeschool planning mode!!  Oh, I've been dabbling off and on since spring, but this past Saturday, I attended a Homeschool Planning Retreat.  It was so fun to connect with other homeschooling moms to talk curriculum and scheduling and it was just what I needed to jump start more deliberate planning.


As my study of Charlotte Mason's writing deepens, I've been looking more seriously at Ambleside Online.  I've used parts of Ambleside over the past couple of years, but haven't been diligent in using the plans whole hog.  Primarily because I really want to finish our first full history rotation as a family,   I remember initially, Ambleside totally overwhelmed me.  However, as I go forward, I really like the look of Ambleside, particularly in the upper years.

Last year, I used parts of Year 5 with RileyAnn and parts of the lower years with Ruben, kind of as a test run.  This fall, I plan to continue with Term 3 of Year 5 and Term 1 of Year 6, particularly the history portion, along with the biographies, for Riley because they align with our history time period, Civil War to Modern. (BTW, she'll be in 6th grade!)

At this point, my thought is to use the last two terms of Year 6 in her 7th grade year, along with other odds and ends, and then proceed from there...

Year 7 - 8th grade
Year 8 - 9th grade
Year 9 - 10th grade
Year 10 - 11th grade
Year 11 - 12th grade

This would give Riley another full history rotation from 7th -12th grade, using AO Years 6-11.  Year 12 of AO is an overview and I'm really not worried about her finishing high school in AO Year 12.  I figure I can pull a few books from it and plug them in here and there. 

I've also been looking at the Pre-Year 7, in which the Ambleside Advisory Board recommends reading certain books before starting in the regular Year 7 or any of the upper levels.  I want time to work toward accomplishing this so Riley would be ready for Year 7 as written.

I've read many reviews and things online regarding Ambleside and they tout the rigor of Ambleside Online.  Most will tell you the upper levels don't necessarily correspond with grade level....unless maybe if you've been using Ambleside all the way through.  As a matter of fact, it's been said that some of the upper levels correspond with today's colleges! 

One thing that bugs me a little about AO is every student works at a different level.  Since I have children close in age, I like to combine as many subjects as possible, especially in the lower grades.  However, as our kids mature, Charlotte advocated educational independence.  She suggested somewhere around 4th/5th grade, the student should be reading their own books.  Personally, I've noticed with the girls, 4th-6th grade being major transition years so I think aiming for complete independence by middle school is a good goal with average or above ability students. Although, I'm not yet sure what direction I'll head with Ruben.  I believe the upper levels of Ambleside literature will be too difficult for him to read independently due to his dyslexia.  Audio technology may be an option.  I'm still up in the air on this one.  

Are you currently using Ambleside Online?  Have you modified it in any way?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Findings: Algebra Based Physics, Grimm Tales, Distractable Minds, and The Poetry of Education....

Julie Brennan, owner/moderator of the Living Math website, recently shared Flipping Physics. This website offers Algebra Based Physics Lecture Videos that are entertaining as well as educational.

I LOVED this post by Hugh McGuire, titled Why Can't We Read Anymore?!  I laughed out loud, but realistically should have been crying since I'm addicted to checking e-mail in the middle of everything :(   This is part of the reason I don't own a cell phone and never have.  I know it would be just another magnetic field to suck me in.  I have a desktop only...which gives me added exercise by the way, since it's located in an addition on the back of our garage, not in the main living quarters :))

Kari Jenson was a woman after my own heart when she wrote the post titled Grimm Tales regarding the sorry state of children's modern literature or Disney renditions vs. the original.

Brandy Vencel also wrote a great post this week at Afterthoughts regarding ...the Poetry of Education.   It's one I wish to ponder and revisit. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Combining TruthQuest History and Beautiful Feet, A Match Made in Heaven...


There are a handful of frequently asked questions I get from readers regarding planning, scheduling, and combining various programs.  Today, I thought I'd take a minute to answer a comment from Tami.  She asks...

I'm curious how you meshed BF and Truthquest?  I have a couple TQ guides but feel as though I need more structure with it. I've purchased BF Early American history and am truly smitten by it.

Well Tami, I'm smitten with Beautiful Feet too!...and if you've been reading here a while, you know that I use Beautiful Feet history guides with TruthQuest History and absolutely LOVE the combination!   Although, I do believe both programs are definitely sweet enough to stand alone, marrying the two adds the cherry on top.  I also believe it's important to let your curriculum be your slave and not your master, therefore, I've adapted both Beautiful Feet (BF) and TruthQuest (TQ) to meet my family's needs.

Let me explain...

You can read more about my introduction to BF and courtship here.  Meanwhile, a few of years ago, I was also introduced to TQ and thought I'd like to give it a try.  However, after the first year I felt a little burned out by all the books we read....don't get me wrong, the books were wonderful, but due to my perfectionist/anal tendencies, I was overwhelmed with the choices.  I also had other things going on in the home and needed to simplify.   At that point, I started consulting my BF guides, among other things, to narrow my choices.  You can read more about those planning steps here

Once my books are chosen and my schedules made, the practical application begins.  In the newer BF guides, there is background information as well as discussion questions.  Both of these give me something to ponder even if I don't use them with the kiddos.  With the younger kids, I typically stick with oral narration after reading TQ books, but I do occasionally pull from the BF guides for questions, particularly if my kiddos don't seem to grasp some of the reading or for help with vocabulary....for example, I'm just about finished reading aloud Abraham Lincoln by Daugherty, which is a BF recommendation in The Western Expansion guide.  Prior to the reading, I looked over the questions.  One of the lessons suggested 4 vocabulary words...keelboats, languorous, horse-and-alligator men, and Creole.  Before reading that day, I wrote the four words on the board and we talked about them.  Both kids new what a keelboat was from former reading.  Our dd knew languorous from her Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts program.  They took a good guess at the other two words, I Googled them and found meanings, which we briefly discussed.  At that point, I read the assigned reading with both kids listening intently for the words we discussed.  They narrated upon completion and we moved on.  I did not make them write anything in their notebooks.  We did not do any comp questions that day.  However, some days, I do choose passages from the reading based on BF questions and vocabulary words, then I have them copy them into their notebooks.  This is just a few ways I've adapted the guides to meet our needs.    

BTW, the vocabulary method I gave as an example above is in line with the Charlotte Mason method of teaching.  Prior to reading aloud, she encouraged her teachers to briefly review the reading from the day before and note any new words, from the passage to be read, on the board.  However, this should take less than 5 minutes and I certainly wouldn't recommend any more than 3-4 new vocab words per lesson or it may become tedious.  

As stated, I really love both BF and TQ.  I've used TQ to build our personal library and to keep us on track chronologically.  I also read Michelle Miller's commentary, particularly if it's a section that I want to skim over and not choose books from.  I use BF for my background information, vocabulary, copywork, and Socratic questioning. 

Our older dd, who's graduated, used TQ Age Of Revolution III and BF US and World History for her 12th grade year and also loved the combination.  She read books chronologically from the TQ guide as well as the commentary, then used the BF guide for prompts in writing her narration and composition papers.  By using both, along with Commas are our Friends and misc. speech books, I felt warranted to award her a history and English credit.  

By this point, you may have noticed that I'm very independent and eclectic in my approach.  I've also used Time Traveler CD-Roms, History Pockets, and a variety of notebooking/lapbooking pages with our history studies.  However, great living books have always been the bottom line.  I feel TQ and BF mesh the best, offering a buffet of wonderful, solid books choices for our family.  And, often times, the BF books are listed in the TQ guides anyway.  One other resource that I absolutely LOVE for choosing living books is A Visual American History Timeline of Books created by Bonnie Anderson.  The Timeline includes many books from both TQ and BF, in addition to adding the visual piece that really solidifies learning. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Visual American History Timeline of Books....



It's finally here and I'm super excited to share today's post!!  For the last couple of years, we've been using A Visual American History Timeline of Books.   Recently, I teamed up with the author, veteran homeschooling mom Bonnie Anderson, to bring them to you!

I met Bonnie a few years back at a homeschool conference and I totally fell in love with her used book collection.  She's been instrumental in my love of living books and inspirational in the vision of our personal home library.  We've traveled to her home, three hours away, on several occasions to view her personal library and purchase books as we built our collection.  Here's her story....
During the years I was home schooling my sons, I began collecting history books. I have a personal passion for American history, having traveled with my family throughout the United States where we visited many historical sights. I enjoy collecting used and out of print books and learning about history from them. So instead of a textbook approach, we began loving to read history from “living books”. Thus our library began.

It is set up in chronological order – with biographies, famous events, historical fiction, and non-fiction books all together in the time they happened. Our library teaches us when events and people lived. It is a timeline of books and when questioned about an event or person, we can see it on the shelf and recall where it belongs in history.
Seeing this chronological arrangement of books, the idea of a visual timeline took shape. I have always believed in the importance of the timeline to retain historical information as it relates to special events and people. I know a visual picture has been easiest for me to remember. Thus I came up with a new approach to a historical timeline by choosing pictures of favorite books and placing them in chronological order.  My desire in creating this timeline was to excite both old and young in the beginning study of American history.
Included in this timeline are biographies, historical fiction, and historical non-fiction books. I have chosen a variety of old and new books that can be obtained in local libraries, inter-library loans, and from new and used book dealers. Some of these older books are now available in new reprinted versions. Many of the books show God's intervention in history.  You could even add your own favorites to make the timeline a family treasure.
Bonnie's Timeline of Books has definitely excited our household in the study of American History!!



There are two editions of A Visual American History Timeline of Books.  The Primary Level can be used with elementary age children.  Each century is defined by a different color horizontal bar in the middle of each page.   

Blue – 1600’s
Red – 1700’s
Green – 1800’s
Yellow – 1900’s

The Intermediate Level is an extension of the Primary Level and was intended for middle and high school age students.  Again, each century is defined by a different color horizontal bar in the middle of each page.   

Black - Overview/Early Explorers
Blue – 1600’s
Red – 1700’s
Green – 1800’s
Yellow – 1900’s

Each 17-page timeline is printed on heavy card stock and can be hung chronologically on a wall or hole-punched and placed in a ring binder, which is the way we keep ours. A bibliography has also been included, sorted alphabetically by page for your convenience in finding the books.  This is a great book sale shopping list!  

Below is a sample of the first page of each timeline:


Primary Level

 

Intermediate Level




We've read many of the books on each timeline and own copies in our personal homeschool library.  They are wonderful!  RileyAnn has the timelines memorized!  Some of the books used are listed in the TruthQuest History guides, some of them are used in curricula like Sonlight and Beautiful Feet, others are just wonderful living books that have been long since forgotten.   


A Visual American History Timeline of Books is an excellent supplement to your current history program, your living book library, or as a stand alone history spine.  Best of all, each timeline is only $25.00 plus $4.99 shipping and handling!! Where else can you get 400 years worth of American History for that price!  Buy yours here, now...


Level

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Findings: Stay Awake While Reading Aloud, Meal Planning on a Budget, Moms are Born Persons too,

I'm frequently asked how to stay awake while reading aloud.  After all, homeschool moms are often times exhausted.  Marie Rippel's post gives some great suggestions.

Need meal planning ideas on a budget?...check out I am THAT Lady.  Lauren has wonderful ideas for couponing and meal planning.  I especially appreciate her ALDI shopping lists and meal plans, since this is one of my favorite stores!

Moms Are Born Persons Too...so says Cindy Rollins in her follow-up post to The Mason Jar podcast.   This post is a good reminder to take time to refuel.  If we are going to put out, we need to put in.  Moms need pabulum for the mind as well ;-)

This week, the Farmer and I both celebrated birthdays.  We've had torrential rains, which made it difficult to finish our first crop of hay.  On the other hand, once we did finish, we were able to float down Drywood Creek and enjoy some summer fun....










Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Education is a Life...Providing Pabulum for the Mind...

Principle 5c & 8

Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments (the third of which is) the presentation of living ideas...In saying that "education is a life," the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied.  The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.

Over the past couple of months, we've studied two of the three instruments of education, Education is an Atmosphere and Education is a Discipline.  In the opening paragraph of our assigned reading this month, Charlotte writes,
We have left until the last that instrument of education implied in the phrase 'Education is a life'; 'implied' because life is no more self-existing than it is self-supporting; it requires sustenance, regular, ordered, and fitting. 
Education is a life.  Not as in we should be schooling every moment of our day, but rather providing pabulum for the mind.  Pabulum, (păb′yə-ləm), a new word for me, meaning, a sustenance that gives nourishment; food. [1670–80; < Latin pābulum food, nourishment =pā(scere) to feed + -bulum n. suffix of instrument]

Therefore, education is a life, a life requiring sustenance.  A life cannot live without nourishment...once we realise that the mind too works only as it is fed education will appear to us in a new light.   I saw the light!!  I've been rolling "pabulum" around on my tongue every since. 

Charlotte further explains the best kind of nourishment.  For the mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body...What is an idea?...A live thing of the mind... 

Just as we cannot live on a diet of sawdust, our minds cannot thrive on twaddle.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Instead, we need to provide pabulum for the mind, as in living ideas.  I equate this to the best living books and stories.   Living books that are well written with beautiful language will inspire ideas. 

Regarding these ideas, on page 109, Charlotte writes,
Education is a life.  That life is sustained on ideas.  Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.  Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer, as he makes use of only a small proportion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest.  He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs.  Urgency on our part annoys him.  He resists forcible feeding and loathes predigested food.  What suits him best is pabulum presented in the indirect literary form which Our Lord adopts in those wonderful parables whose quality is that they cannot be forgotten though, while every detail of the story is remembered, its application may pass and leave no trace.  We too must take this risk.
Just as Jesus taught in parables, we too must teach with stories.  We must provide a buffet of the best pabulum and let the child take from it that which he can use.  Keeping in mind, that it may not be what we think is best, but what is regular, ordered and fitting for the child.

Further down the paragraph, Charlotte cautions us against twaddle,
One other caution, it seems to be necessary to present ideas with a great deal of padding, as they reach us in a novel or poem or history book written with literary power.  A child cannot in mind or body live upon tabloids however scientifically prepared; out of a whole big book he may not get more than half a dozen of those ideas upon which his spirit thrives; and they come in unexpected places and unrecognized forms, so that no grown person is capable of making such extracts from Scott or Dickens or Milton, as will certainly give him nourishment.  It is a case of, -" In the morning sow thy seed and in the evening withhold not thine hand for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that."
Charlotte also advises us to be careful in offering our opinions to children instead of ideas.  We believe that an opinion expresses thought and therefore embodies an idea.  Even if it did so once the very act of crystallization into opinion destroys any vitality it may have had..  

She instructs us instead to give an idea clothed upon with fact, history and story, so that the mind may perform the acts of selection and inception from a mass of illustrative details.  It is not necessary to dumb down for the children's sake, but rather, Charlotte calls us to give them the facts.  Being born a person, whose mind is an instrument of his education, the child is able to digest what is honest, lovely, and of good report.

Now this is not a pouring in of facts for memorization.  It's offering a broad and generous curriculum, not in fits and starts, but at a steady pace so the child's mind can absorb and make use of these facts. 

Something else that really struck me about this reading was Charlotte's reference to composition.
We must disabuse our minds of the theory that the functions of education are in the main gymnastic, a continual drawing out without a corresponding act of putting in.  The modern emphasis upon 'self-expression' has given new currency to this idea; we who know how little there is in us that we have not received, that the most we can do is to give an original twist, a new application, to an idea that has been passed on to us; who recognise, humbly enough, that we are but torch-bearers, passing on our light to the next as we have received it from the last, even we invite children to 'express themselves' about a tank, a Norman castle, the Man in the Moon, not recognising that the quaint things children say on unfamiliar subjects are no more than a patchwork of notions picked up here and there.  One is not sure that so-called original composition is wholesome for children, because their consciences are alert and they are quite aware of the borrowings; it may be better that they should read on a theme before they write upon it, using then as much latitude as they like. 
Moms often ask about composition or the writing component of a Charlotte Mason education.  We know that Charlotte didn't advocate composition until around age 10 and then, beginning in the form of written narration only.  Original composition came much later.  However, brick and mortar schools begin this act of self-expression very early on, sometimes as young as kindergarten and first grade.  When being questioned, I was unsure how to articulate the importance of waiting.  Here again, after reading this passage, the light went on!

We cannot expect children to compose if they haven't been fed a steady diet of ideas.  Living books stimulate ideas.  In turn, ideas stimulate discussion, interest, and involvement.   In other words, we cannot pull out that of which has not been put in.

Sometimes, weeding through Charlotte's writing gets me in a tangled mess. However, I absolutely loved how she summarized the concluding paragraph of this chapter....
All roads lead to Rome, and all I have said is meant to enforce that fact that much and varied humane reading, as well as human thought expressed in the forms of art, is, not a luxury, a tit-bit, to be given to children  now and then, but their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods.  This and more is implied in the phrase, "The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum."
The importance of living ideas fed in abundance is very clear to me.  It's a significant part of the paradigm shift I'm experiencing through reading Charlotte's actual writings.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Deconstructing Penguins, Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by the Goldstones....


After listening to Sarah Mackenzie's Read Aloud Revival podcast with Lawrence Goldstone, I wanted to read his book, Deconstructing Penguins, Parents, Kids, and the Bond or Reading.  I'm thinking on starting a book club this fall with 5th and 6th graders so I'm gobbling up everything along the way to learn more.

Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone have been hosting parent/child book groups for years using great works of literature.  The title, Deconstructing Penguins, is based on their first book club discussion of Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  The Goldstone's quickly admit that first meeting didn't start so well and they've learned a lot since then.  They have come to the conclusion that every fiction book is a mystery.  They encourage their book club attendees to become book detectives by examining things like theme, plot, character, setting, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, and resolution.

In each chapter, the Goldstones exhibit dialog from various book discussions showing how they get participants to uncover the mystery.  The point being to figure out the author's point in writing...
The highlight of almost any discussion is the discovery of what the author has implanted at the core of the book.  Peeling away each layer - character, setting, conflict - and finally seeing the truth is probably the most satisfying aspect of reading.  (Chapter 6)
Why is it important to understand the author's point?, you might ask...
In a world where younger and younger children are bombarded by slogans, come-ons, and sensory assaults, it is vital to learn  to evaluate the various messages that advertisers, media programmers, and even peers are promoting.  (Chapter 6)
The Goldstones assert that this discernment will carry over to other aspects of the child's life...
The most important thing that has come out of these discussion groups is that when a child learns that he or she need not simply run through a book and chalk it up as having been read, but rather should delve into what the book means, a great leap occurs.  The children make connections to other books or other fields, and develop a context within which to approach everything - from what they see on television to how to stand up to a bully on the school playground.  This leap has been reflected in their schoolwork.  More than once, parents have told us that their child's teacher has commented at school conferences on their son's or daughter's increased ability to read, understand, and participate in classroom discussions.   (Chapter 13)
I especially appreciated their final thoughts in the last chapter.  The first two ideas are very much in line with Charlotte Mason's promotion of living books...

1. What children read is important.

Here the Goldstones discuss the fact that kids develop their self-esteem from the same source as adults: taking on something that seems hard at first and then doing better at it than you every thought possible.  They assert that children know when an idea is being dumbed down, and no child develops genuine self-esteem from being praised for something he or she didn't work at.  We should not be praising just the fact that they are reading.  We should be sure they are ready worthy material

2. Kids enjoy depth. 

Kids are capable of a remarkable level of sophistication regardless of their reading level.  I couldn't agree more!!  I've always read aloud higher level books and found the children are certainly capable of digesting them.  I am utterly convinced that this practice also aids in better vocabulary, reasoning, and logic. 

In addition, the appendix lists possible books to use with grades 2-6, along with a brief synopsis and ideas for discussion. Overall, I found Deconstructing Penguins helpful.  Though I don't anticipate starting a parent/child book club, I'm intrigued by the idea.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Variety of History Timelines....

I LOVE timelines and always start the year with the best of intentions.  Unfortunately, timelines are one of those things that usually falls by the wayside when we get busy.  However, I do think there is some importance in keeping a timeline if at all possible, particularly for younger students.  I think when we read about people, places, and events in history, they become compartmentalized.  I mean they all seem like separate things.  But when putting these people, places, and events on a timeline, you begin to visualize and understand how it really all fits together.  I feel like these connections have made history so much more fascinating.

Monday, I showed you my latest timeline creation, the Book of Centuries.  In this post, I intend to show you a variety of timelines and how we've used them in our homeschool in the past.

I first started with a Sonlight Book of Time back when RileyAnn was beginning her elementary education.

I like this book because it's neat and easy to store.  There seems to be ample space on each page for the timeline figures.  The Book of Time starts at 5000 BC and allows for 100 year increments on each page, eventually switching to 50 years, then 25 years, and ending in 2020 with 10 years on each page. One thing I didn't like about the Book of Time was trying to remember to cut and paste the time line figures.  If it's not done on a regular basis, the figures add up!

In 3rd grade, I used the Time Traveler CD-Roms to create a timeline for Ruben.






These accordion style timelines fold nicely into a 3-ring binder.  Most of the pages had ample room for timeline figures.  However, it can be cost prohibitive to print the pages and figures when you figure the cost of ink and cardstock.  Again, if you don't keep up with it on a regular basis, the timeline figures mount.   

We have also used notebooking in and of itself as a sort of timeline.  Last year, I streamlined the notebooking to composition books rather than 3-ring binders, which became thick and unruly by the end of the year.  
 

Each child completes copywork, written narrations, draws maps and a variety of illustrations in their notebook throughout our history study, which is chronological.  This serves as a diary of the time period studied.  You will find a variety of posts with samples of the kids notebook pages here.

A timeline that I love, but have no idea how to display or store is Adam's Chart of History.


This gorgeous timeline created by Sebastion Adams, following James Ussher's book, The Annals of the World, starts with creation and ends with late the 19th century.  It is published by Master Books with no evolutionary content.  Adam's timeline is eye candy!  However, it's size makes it impossible to enjoy.  There are 21 panels folded accordion style, which when opened up, span 25 feet.  Each panel measures 13 x 28 inches.  I don't know about you, but I don't have a continuous wall that's 25 feet long to hang a timeline chart...although, it's beautiful enough to pose as artwork.



I have one last awesome timeline resource that I can't wait to tell you about very soon!  As a teaser, I will tell you now, it can either go on the wall or in a binder and it has helped my kids learn history chronologically :) 

Do you keep timelines in your homeschool?  If so, I'd love to hear about them.  Feel free to comment below.

Recently, Lisa at Olive Plants Around My Table shared keeping "Century Charts", which is a timeline method I had not heard of.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Findings: David Hicks on Norms & Nobility; Cindy Rollins on The Mason Jar, Teaching a Person to Think, & Coming Late to Ambleside...

Earlier this week, I listened to two podcast interviews with David Hicks, one with Andrew Kern at CIRCE and the other with Matt who was filling in for Leigh Bortons at 1 Smart Mama.  I've been salivating over his book, Norms & Nobility for some time.  Unfortunately, it's grossly overpriced....even he says so...my mouth will run dry before I'm able to buy it.

It must have been a podcast week, because I also listened to Cindy Rollins reveal the launch of The Mason Jar.  This new monthly podcast series will feature guests exploring "the ideas, works, and influence of Charlotte Mason".

How Do You Teach a Person to Think?...this is a no nonsense response by Laurie Bluedorn to a commonly asked question.  I threaten to throw our TV on the rock pile on a regular basis : p

I've been dabbling in Ambleside Online for the past couple of years, adding parts and pieces to our schedule.  I'll be looking more seriously at it over the next year, as I contemplate whether or not to go whole hog with RileyAnn in middle school.  In the meantime, I really appreciate Carol's posts on how she modifies Ambleside to work for her family.  Today, she blogged a great post with links regarding Coming Late to Ambleside Online - some thoughts on the high school years.  Though this is not our particular situation, I know this question is on the mind of many families. 

This week on Drywood Creek...give toddlers chalk and a masterpiece will be formed....





Monday, July 6, 2015

Our Book of Centuries...with FREE Templates...

After reading The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater, I was inspired to keep a Book of Centuries (BOC).  I did some research online and couldn't find exactly what I was looking for so I decided to create my own based upon images in the Appendix of Bestvater's book. 

According to Bestvater, the original BOC began as a museum notebook, which was essentially for drawing artifacts found in the British Museum.  Here is Charlotte's reference to this...
I have already instanced a child's visit to the Parthenon Room and her eager identification of what she saw with what she had read, and that will serve to indicate the sort of key to ancient history afforded by this valuable book.  Miss G. M. Bernau has added to the value of these studies by producing a 'Book of Centuries' in which children draw such illustrations as they come across of objects of domestic use, or art, etc., connected with the century they are reading about.  This slight study of the British Museum we find very valuable; whether the children have or have not the opportunity of visiting the Museum itself, they have the hope of doing so, and, besides, their minds are awakened to the treasures of local museums.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, pg 175-176
Bestvater further alleges that in 1915, the BOC became part of the PNEU program.  The following are notes I made while reading The Living Page...

Each two page spread represents a century.  It consists of a lined and a blank page.  The last ten pages are kept for small drawings of maps and descriptions of history of the child's choice.  The BOC was chronological in nature.  Pictures were rarely glued in - acknowledged as the careful observation and consideration required in drawing - also, inserting pictures made the book too 'bulky'.  The lined pages opposing the drawing pages had twenty columns comprising of 100 years.  Entries were always done in ink.  On the blank page, children were encouraged to conduct a personal study of one particular thing or artifact and sketch it in the same place on each page of their notebook throughout the centuries.  Drawing the same thing, as it would be encountered in each century.  The BOC wasn't started until Form II when the child's handwriting and drawing skills were perfected.  Students were encouraged to continue the BOC throughout their life. 

Based on these notes, I created a couple of templates.  The first is a single line page, which was probably more in line with the original BOC.   The student would write a century heading at the top.  Then they would enter up to five events per line, of their choosing, each line representing five years.  I have also included a cover with this template. 


The second template gives a better idea of what each timeline page would look like throughout completion.  Again, the student would write the century heading at the top, but the five columns and five year increments are already provided.  Please note, there is a page with ascending and a page with descending yearly increments.  This represents time in BC and AD.  


Whichever template you choose,  I recommend printing it single sided on heavier paper, possibly cardstock.  When assembled, this will provide the student with a lined and a blank page for drawing.

One other note of interest from The Living Page is that the PNEU schools actually had BOC teas and BOC evenings where children displayed their BOC along with handicrafts and nature notebooks for friends and family to see.  The BOC was a very special book, which provided a record of the child's interest in history as well as recorded knowledge.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Findings: New CM Website, On Teaching Mathematics, Using Language Well, and What is Twaddle?...

Sheila Carroll of Living Books Curriculum unveiled her new website last week.  It is now called Charlotte Mason Homeschooling.  Here she offers a variety of homeschool help to those interested in utilizing Charlotte's methods.

Heather's 3 part series on Teaching Mathematics reaffirmed many things I've been reading regarding Charlotte Mason and mathematics.  This is a subject I hope to study deeply this summer.  I recently purchased Simply Charlotte Mason's new Living Math DVD to guide me.

Simply Charlotte Mason unveiled another new resource this week called Using Language Well.  The program was designed to be an accompaniment to their Spelling Wisdom series.  It is intended to teach "English usage, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and composition".  I downloaded the sample and am contemplating a purchase.  The special introductory sale price is good through July 16th...which happens to be my birthday.  Should I buy a new language arts curricula for my birthday?...hummm, I'll have to think on that one ;-)

A couple weeks back, Wendi Capehart wrote a wonderful post at Archipelago explaining twaddle.  It's quite lengthy, but worthy.  As I'm getting ready to plan our upcoming school year, I found it inspirational.

By the way, I have a really exciting announcement coming out later this month regarding a new living book history resource.  I'm about bursting at the seams!!...so stay tuned....

On the home front, our softball and baseball seasons have come to an end.  It's always bittersweet.  I love the game as much as the kids, but the running takes its toll.  Below are photos of our little sluggers...



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Narrowing the Fine Science of TruthQuest History Planning (Part 3)...

I've been reflecting on Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, as well as what I've learned in preparation for my third year of TruthQuest History planning.  There are many decisions to be made in creating your own history study based on a living book approach.  In Vol. 3, p. 20, Charlotte Mason reminds us, The effort of decision making is the greatest effort in life.  Though this is a huge responsibility, it doesn't have to be overwhelming.  Let's break it down....

Big Picture

Think about planning your family vacation.  Usually, you determine a destination as your first step.  This is not a time for details about how you will get there and what you will do along the way.  It's simply deciding where you want to go.  Planning your history study is like planning your family vacation.  First, what is it you hope to accomplish?  When your kids are finished with their history study, what do you want that "finished product" to look like?  Where do you want your students to go?  More specifically related to history, you might ask questions like, what time period will you start and end with?  Are you going to teach history chronological or random?  Do you desire Biblical Worldview or secular teaching?  In other words, begin with the end in mind.


Your Year

Next, decide what time period you will study in the particular year your planning.  What topics or units do you wish to study?  This fall we'll be studying Civil War to Modern Times.  In previous posts, I showed you my initial planning charts from the past two years, where I went through the TruthQuest guide for the time period we were set to study, typed the Table of Contents, and pulled out books of interest to me.  These books were possibilities for that particular school year.  I then use this chart as my road map.  It shows me different ways to get to my destination. 


Your Term

Now, I start to divide and conquer!  A typical school year is 36 weeks.  For the past few years, we've schooled in three 12-week terms, taking a one week break between each term.  There are many ways to divide up that 36 weeks, to which I will not get into here.  The point being, this is where you start narrowing your focus to get more detailed. 

When I look at the TruthQuest History American History for Young Students III, I see two natural divisions.  These being the Industrial Revolution and the World to Modern Wars.  Since we're beginning our year with the continued Civil War study from last year, this will give us three main topics to cover, one in each 12-week term.   It will look something like this....

Term 1 - TQ AHFYS II, sections 39-49 (end)
Civil War

Term 2 - TQ AHFYS III, sections 1-19
Industrial Revolution - Great Depression

Term 3 - TQ AHFYS III, sections 20-36 (end)
World to Modern Wars

I then look at the books from my chart listed under these sections and start picking, choosing, and culling.  I know from past years that we can read approx. 25-50 books per term depending on the amount of picture vs. chapter books.  This is where I'll look at other book lists such as Sonlight, Beautiful Feet, Veritas Press, Ambleside Online, etc., to see what their recommendations are for this time period.  I tend toward books with the greatest "popularity".  Usually, you can see patterns and pick out the "must reads". 

Your Week

Once you have some book choices narrowed by term, it's time to take a look at your weeks.  Divide the number of books you intend to read by the number of weeks, making sure that it's feasible.  I schedule anywhere from three to five books per week, again, depending on whether they're picture or chapter books. 

Your Day

Last, but not least take a look at how many days per week you intend to study history.  Then how much time per day you plan to study.  Will you have a family read aloud?  Will your students have individual history books to read in addition to your family read aloud?    I tend to get a little hung up on this last step because I think it really goes hand in hand with several of the other steps.  I showed you another chart in Post 2 that had books scheduled by chapter/page number daily.  I also shared how this cramped my style.  Some people like a daily plan, however, I find it too restrictive so I tend to get a general idea, but am not afraid to wing it depending on life. After all, life happens and I think it's important that our kids learn flexibility within reason. 

If you are following the Charlotte Mason method, a general guideline per lesson is as follows:

Grades 1-3: 15-20 minutes
Grades 4-6: 20-30 minutes
Grades 7-9: 30-45 minutes

Because history is our favorite subject, we tend to spend a little longer by breaking it into two sessions.  For example, we have scheduled history lessons for approx. 20-30 minutes per day, four days per week, during "school time".  This time includes their narration and notebooking.  In addition, last year, I started a history read aloud at bedtime, which the kids LOVE.  We do this as many nights as possible, depending on other activities going on.  It's typically 4-6 nights per week, usually greater in the dark, cold, Wisconsin winter months.   This extra reading allows us to cover more ground and read twice as many books!

So, there you have it.  This is how I plan our living book approach to history using TruthQuest guides.  TruthQuest history is not open and go.  It's not curricula in a box.  It is a guide to assist you in your literature-based study.  There is no right or wrong.  Michelle Miller has created an outstanding resource for a chronological living book approach, which happens to also include Christ-centered worldview commentary to help you see the hand of God throughout HIStory.  Keep in mind, there are no TruthQuest police.  Take it and make it your own!

How do you plan your living book history study?  Are you using TruthQuest History guides?  Please leave questions or comments below....