Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rock, Paper, Scissors...

...okay, not quite, but I do have the paper and scissors part covered thanks to Timberdoodle.   Recently, we were gifted Faber-Castell My First Scissors and Kumon More Let's Cut Paper! in exchange for an honest review.  Both of these items are part of Timberdoodle's 2016 Preschool Kit.

My First Scissors

I was a little skeptical of an ergonomic design scissors.  One of Levi's strengths is using a traditional style scissors.  He's been fascinated with cutting paper for a couple of years now and I wondered how he'd handle this strange looking cutting apparatus.  I needn't have worried.  He handled them like a pro.  The ergonomic design was very natural to him.

I don't have a left handed child, but my sister is left handed and always struggled with a traditional scissors. We still giggle at her early elementary report card that said, 'difficulty with cutting tasks'.  I believe My First Scissors would have been tremendously helpful to her, as well as other left handed children.  Because of the design, no matter which way you hold it, cutting is the same.

More Let's Cut Paper!

I used a few odds and ends Kumon workbooks years ago when we first began homeschooling.  Riley and Ruben were little then and quite honestly I forgot about Kumon until Timberdoole nudged my memory.   The colorful no nonsense designs were appealing to them back then.  More Let's Cut Paper! fell right in line with what I remembered.

This particular book is part of Kumon's First Steps Workbooks. In this series, there are four Let's Cut Paper books designed for ages 2 and up.  At the beginning of the book, More Let's Cut Paper! contains easy to follow step-by-step illustrated instructions for parents.  Then there are 39 student cutting pages to follow, as well as a "Certificate of Achievement" and "Reusable Drawing Board".  Parents are expected to remove cutting pages ahead of time and follow simple instructions to lead their child.  For example, cutting page one states:
Your child will practice cutting short lines with two scissor strokes.  First, say "clown" aloud while pointing to the word.  It is okay if your child cuts unevenly. 
Each student page has heavy gray lines with arrows indicating where the student should cut.  The pages progress in difficulty from simple straight to wavy lines, then curvy to circular, eventually leading to cutting out actual pictures and shapes, such as a bunch of bananas, grapes, an ice cream cone, a panda bear and dog face, etc.  The idea is to help your child develop fine motor control skills.  Here are several sample pages to illustrate the sequence in degree of difficulty...

Overall My First Scissors and More Let's Cut Paper! are great preschool products that Levi is enjoying.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reflections from Consider This - Introduction and Chapter One...

Our Charlotte Mason study group has begun a new study.  We are working through Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.  When Consider This was first published, I purchased it and downloaded the free Study Guide that Karen wrote to accompany the study.  The guide is broken down by chapter and offers discussion questions or writing prompts, an applicable quote from an outside source, and suggested alternative reading for further study.  We are using it to guide our monthly discussions.

I will be blogging through our Consider This study based on my notes and our group discussion.  My thoughts, opinions, and words are certainly not final or authoritative.  Rather, this is my way of working through the study, attempting to make sense of the Charlotte Mason method and the Classical Tradition in order to determine whether or not Charlotte Mason was in fact a classical educator, as well as whether or not it matters, and how it affects my homeschool.  I will most likely be posting here monthly regarding our study.

Now to begin...In the Introduction of Consider This, Glass gives a very brief introduction of Charlotte Mason as well as Classical Education.  She notes that "The very word 'classical' hearkens back to the ancient world of Plato - of Greece and later Rome."  Glass asserts that it's not just enough to look back at what they did in classical education, but why they did what they did.  Her assertion that it's more important to look at the principles behind the practices, put me in mind of a Schole Sisters podcast I recently listened to called Which Comes First? The Principles or the Practice?.  You might consider listening to make your own interpretation. 

In Chapter One, Glass explains that folks of Victorian England considered themselves "modern".  Apparently, the buzzwords of that time were "science" and "scientific".  Many of Charlotte's contemporaries were ready to be done with ancient ways of educating.  The question of her day seems to have been, "Should education continue to focus on the classical languages and literature as it had for centuries, or should it become more scientific?"  Why does this some how still seem relevant today?...ahem!  

Anyway, rather than reinvent the wheel, Charlotte decided to take a look at these ancient philosophies and methods.  She studied many schools of different thought and educated herself.  Based on her studies, she grew to understand the principles behind the practices and then began to develop new ways of presenting old ideas.  Charlotte then shared these ideas and knowledge with others at her teacher training school, House of Education, as well as the Parents' National Education Union (PNEU).

I have been studying and implementing Charlotte's methods of education in our homeschool for many years.  I've always marveled at Charlotte's insight and her apparent wealth of knowledge when it came to children and education, wondering particularly how she could possibly know so much having never been a mother or rearing children of her own.  I had an aha moment in reading Glass's words showing how seriously Charlotte took her teaching responsibility and how she made education a priority.  Glass points out how well read Charlotte was....
Her books contain references to such thinkers as Plato, Plutarch, Erasmus, Comenius, Milton, Montaigne, Rousseau, Spenser, Locke, Herbart, Pestalozzi, Arnold, Ruskin, James, and dozens more by name, and indirect references to many more besides, such as Maria Montessori, psychologist Theron Q. Dumont, and scholar Benjamin Whichcote.  She was familiar with a bewildering number of thinkers who span centuries.
She read and she read - widely, but with discernment.  She would have discovered that modern reformers were not the only ones who sometimes worked in apparent opposition to each other, but that the same was true of the teachers of the past.  In every age, in every generation, there is a sort of dissatisfaction with educational practices - a constant seeking to improve the methods and systems that were widely practiced.  Wise and conscientious educators envisioned something better and shared their ideas.  (p. 8)
..."wise and conscientious educators", this is what I am aiming for.  Charlotte Mason was a well-read, insightful woman who studied both ancient and contemporary writings in order to better understand the best methods of teaching children.  I have personally read very little in comparison, but have been feeling convicted to begin.  I am seeing the significance of reading multiple perspectives from different historical periods, including contemporaries, as well as ancient writings on education, in order to develop the best principles and practices in our homeschool.  I realize primary sources are best, however, it's hard to find ample time to study and adequately understand so many individual works in our modern culture.  After all, I am a wife and homeschooling mother first and foremost.

One book I've had in my Amazon cart for some time and am now more seriously considering is The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being by Richard Gamble.  The book holds original writings on education from the past 2000 years, organized chronologically all in one place.  What a great way to dive in!  It looks to be a good compromise.  When I make the plunge, I will certainly be reading Mystie Winckler's The Great Tradition series of posts alongside.

To conclude, I don't think it's possible to read only contemporary musings on education and expect to get a complete understanding. Charlotte Mason was a well-read, insightful woman because she studied both ancient and contemporary writings in order to better understand the best methods of educating children of her time.  If we are to understand the classical tradition and be wise, conscientious educators, we must do the same.

By the way, since initially drafting this post, I read Everything New is Old Again by Brandy Vencel and can't help but see the relevance here.  I have not yet read Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, but look forward to Brandy's series of posts, as well as the Charlotte Mason's Mothers' Education Course she and company are preparing for Ambleside Online.

If you are interested in reading Consider This along with me, start by downloading Karen's free study guide. Our next reading assignment is chapters 2 and 3, in addition to reading p. 257-267 in Charlotte's Volume 2, Parents and Children.  Feel free to begin a conversation in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weekly Reflections - Week Six...

At Home 

The corn is harvested and the Maples are shedding.  It's hard to believe we're half way through our first term of the 2016-2017 school year.  Fall has settled in and we had another crazy week here on Drywood Creek.  Monday, I was appointed guardian of our elderly neighbor through the court system.  Tuesday, I took Riley and Levi to Sea Life Aquarium for Homeschool Week.  Ruben chose bonding time with dad instead.  Wednesday, brought appointments with our neighbor and Ruben had to work.  Thursday, Riley and Ruben had choir.  Friday, I ran a couple of errands, worked on laundry, got the oil changed, and the kids caught up on academics...UFFDA!

Speaking of academics, Riley is loving her Beautiful Feet Ancient History study!  I'll be posting a progress blog with notebook photos soon.  Winston Grammar is working well for Ruben.  I love the combination hands on/workbook approach.  Ruben studies grammar two days a week.  I typically teach the concept on Monday with the cards.  Then he completes the corresponding week's worksheet on Thursday.   He has not whined so far and actually seems to look forward to grammar.  The program moves fairly slowly and allows for plenty of review.  We began by covering articles and nouns.  This week we started learning about personal pronouns, which were a bit confusing for Ruben, but I'm confident with continued review, he'll get it.

Also this week, I tried a new recipe.  I first spotted Easy Smoked Sausage Skillet in a magazine ad and thought it looked good.  It seems I make a ton of potato or pasta dishes, but lately, I've been wanting to incorporate more rice dishes. Easy Smoked Sausage Skillet was a good addition.  It was quick and easy to prepare.  The Farmer, Riley and I thought it tasted great.  Unfortunately, the boys wouldn't even try it....and no, they didn't get a yummy piece of the warm apple crisp and cream that followed.  Even so, I've added Easy Smoked Sausage Skillet to our recipe collection and will make it again.

Around the Web

Truth be told, I haven't been online much this week with all the running we've done.  I've also been so busy listening to upcoming book club books on audio that I haven't listened to any podcasts.  But, I do know that Schole Sisters has been plugging away broadcasting some fabulous ones that I intend to savor in the upcoming months.

On My Shelf

Speaking of book clubs, I've been preparing for three coming up in the next week.  I would normally never schedule three groups in one week, but due to scheduling conflicts, it just so happens to be the way it fell this time around.

Sunday evening, my Schole Sisters group will meet to discuss the final chapters of The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.  This book has been a bit controversial for the group so I look forward to a lively discussion.

Wednesday afternoon, I'll facilitate the first Middle School Socratic Book Club, where we'll discuss The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Finally Friday evening, our Charlotte Mason book study group will meet to discuss chapters 2 and 3 of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.

I must confess, my brain is a little overwhelmed with the amount of reading I've done over the past couple of weeks and yet, I'm so excited to have to opportunity to read and discuss such great books with friends, my kids, and other homeschool students.  I'm sure it will bring about some blog posts ;-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Golden Bull...

Last week we finished reading The Golden Bull, A Mesopotamian Adventure by Marjorie Cowley.  I've found it extremely difficult to find a worthy book set in ancient times that is appropriate for children so I was intrigued with Heart of Dakota's Creation to Christ Mesopotamian pick. Upon finishing, I was not disappointed.  It was a great read!  Not only was the book appropriate, but it was clear that the author did her homework, making it appear authentic.

The Golden Bull is a story of parental love and sacrifice, of sibling rivalry overcome, and history in a culture over 5000 years ago.  When a severe drought ravages the land, a father sends his children to an ancient city to survive.  The children, Jomar and Zefa, quickly learn of the dangers that await them.  Not only is there historical value in this story, but character lessons for modern day.   The Golden Bull is a touching story of survival.

Cowley's action adventure is written at a relatively low reading level, yet packed with a multifaceted story that even held my adult attention.  Ruben was interested right from the beginning.  I was not only pleased with Cowley's story, but the logistic layout of the book.  The thirty-three chapters are short, making the story move quickly.  There was ample white space in the margins and a larger font, making it easily readable.  Due to the layout, when we read The Golden Bull at bedtime at the end of a long day, it did not tire my eyes.

Overall, I recommend The Golden Bull when studying ancient history with elementary students.  It is a book that we will keep on our shelf for future readers.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Weekly Reflections - Week Five...

At Home

We had our first frost of the fall this morning here in West Central WI...and man, was it cold!  Our house was 64-degrees inside when my toes hit the floor.  To warm the house, I decided to bake an apple crisp for breakfast.  Turning the oven on always helps heat things up.  Levi helped me slice apples and add ingredients.  He enjoys participating in the kitchen.

Academia went fairly well this week.  Everyone was cooperative for the most part.  Ruben and I finished The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley, which, by the way, is a great book, and will start Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosick Jones next.  RileyAnn had her first math test through her online math class and it looks like she did exceptionally well.  Overall, it was a good week.

Around the Web

I participated in my first online webinar/chat this week with Mystie Winckler of Simply Convivial and others.  I was extremely nervous, but it was fun!  Hopefully, you had a chance to register ahead of time.  If you weren't able to attend, you can watch the replay link here.

Beautiful Feet Book is an advocate for reading aloud even after your child can read themselves, as am I.  In When Should I Stop Reading Aloud to My Children? Rebecca Berg Manor explains why....and I couldn't agree more :)

Fall Pinterest Fails and the Messy Real by Megan Andrews made me teary a good way.  What a great reminder of the importance of real life!

I've always been in awe of beautiful handwriting.  I used to practice as a young girl, hoping to improve. Unfortunately, with so little time these days and arthritic hands that don't always cooperate, it is something that I've long given up on.  However, Instagram images of modern day bullet journals definitely do bring me delight. Recently while reading How to Improve Your Handwriting, I was brought back to my youth and those days of practice gone by.  The precision of those beautiful words on the page is a lost art that is still worthy of admiration.

Last, but not least, This Teacher Taught His Class a Powerful Lesson About Privilege came across my inbox through Pinterest and I'm sharing here because I'd love to hear your thoughts...

This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Middle School Socratic Book Club....

The book club is back!  Last year, I facilitated a Socratic Book Club for homeschooled 5th and 6th graders.  We studied seven great works of literature based on the method presented in Teaching the Classics by Adam and Missy Andrews.  This year, because my kids are older, we'll be continuing the club with 6th through 8th graders.  I learned a great deal last year and have made a few changes.

This year, our group will study only five books total, rather than seven, four novels and a Shakespeare play.  Given the breadth and depth of the works studied, seven was just a few too many.  Also, I've condensed the study into a shorter time period, beginning in October, a month later, and ending in March, a month earlier.  These are not only less busy times for my family, but six of the most unfavorable months to be out of doors in WI.  There is nothing like snuggling in with a cup of hot chocolate and a great classic novel during those pesky winter months.

Another change this year is the addition of a Shakespeare play.  I've never studied Shakespeare with a group before, but thought it was a fabulous idea.  I've read several posts written by Nancy Kelly and Mystie Winckler regarding their Shakespeare teaching experience and this year decided to take the plunge.  My current plan is to meet five consecutive weeks in March, studying one Act of Julius Caesar per week.   I'm looking forward to group discussion and possibly acting out the scenes each week within the group.

Lastly, I'm adding a writing component to the group.  I'm requiring each student to write a narration either of the entire story or of a particular chapter/scene of interest.  We currently have seven participants and if time permits, I will ask each student to share their narration with the group.  The students will also be required to keep a Commonplace Book. I'm asking them to choose at least two passages from each book to commonplace. Again, they will be asked to share their passage choices with the group.  I will not be critiquing any of the writing or assigning grades, but rather encouraging the students to deeper engage with the story.

The books we will study are scheduled as follows...

October 2016 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
November 2016 – Ann of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
January 2017 – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
February 2017 – Call of the Wild by Jack London
March 2017 – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

In addition to narration and commonplacing, throughout the club study, we will discuss the five elements of fiction including, conflict, plot, setting, character, and theme using the Socratic method of discussion, again based on Teaching the Classics as mentioned above.  Overall, I think it's going to be a great year. Ruben is already blowing through Huck Finn.  I'm pleased with the number of participants and look forward to each of the prospective books being studied.  I intend to write a follow-up post after each meeting with a book review.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Weekly Reflection - Week Four....

At Home

Fall is here.  A few weeks ago, I noticed a change in the sunrise. This week we've had some really cool mornings and a tremendous amount of starlings hovering in the yard.  The picture doesn't do justice, but take my word for it; there were hundreds!

We had a little bit of a weird week.  Some how, the schedule got way off.  Monday and Tuesday went OK, but then one of my children got a bee in their bonnet on Wednesday  Honestly, all it takes is one to create crazy....not to mention the phone was ringing off the hook with one catastrophe after another.  We were all out of whack!  I thought maybe we could correct on Thursday, but between choir and swapping kids with a friend for an overnight, we not only lost Thursday, but Friday as well.  After ten years of homeschooling, you'd think I'd have it right by now.  However, the longer I'm in this, the more I see some things really are out of my control.  I'm still learning to flex and roll with it.

Today, I'm happy to report, that child has since kicked it in gear and is making an honest attempt to get back on track.  I really love having the three day weekend built in as a correction point for times like these.  And honestly, does it matter if we school Monday through Thursday or Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday...not in the big picture!

Around the Web

This week, I didn't spend much time online. Yesterday, while working on paperwork, I did manage to listen to Homeschool Snapshots Podcast #35 with Pam Barnhill and Ainsley Arment.  I'm so intrigued by Wild & Free.  I loved what Ainsley said about trusting your instincts and the natural process of learning.  It was just what I needed today after our wild week.

How to Think Like Shakespeare is a must read!  It's a little long, but worth it.  I love this quote....
As Michel de Montaigne put it:
"The bees steal from this flower and that, but afterward turn their pilferings into honey, which is their own. … So the pupil will transform and fuse together the passages that he borrows from others, to make of them something entirely his own; that is to say, his own judgment. His education, his labor, and his study have no other aim but to form this."
The honey metaphor corrects our naïve notion that being creative entails making something from nothing.
By the way, if you missed Tuesday's announcement, click here to read it.  I'm participating with Mystie Winckler and others in a Homeschool Planning Chat.  You can also click here to register.


I've been reading aloud The Golden Bull, A Mesopotamian Adventure by Marjorie Cowley and I was struck this week when I read the following passage...
Sidah paused before answering, "I had just lost Abban when I met your father.  I was moved when he told me how much he would miss your skills and energy after you left the farm."  Sidah's eyes misted.  "He said he would miss your company most of all."
"My father said that?  I didn't know he felt that way about me."
Sidah seemed to struggle with himself before speaking.  "I'm glad I told you," he finally said.  "I made the same mistake with Abban.  I told him how proud I was of his skills, but not that I loved him as a person, as a companion."   The Golden Bull p. 136
RileyAnn stayed overnight at a friend's house this week and I suddenly realized that I missed her company dearly.  It made me stop and think about how quickly these fleeting moments with our children pass.  I know there will come a day when she will fly from this nest, but I was struck by the ache of my loneliness after such a short time.  The whole scene brought perspective to the week.

Socratic Book Club

I'll be kicking off another student book club soon.  This year, I'm including homeschool students in grades 6-8.  We're only reading four novels this time around, but I'm adding a Shakespeare play.  Stay tuned for a future post explaining my plan for the class.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homeschool Planning Chat...

I'm excited to announce that I'll be joining Mystie Winckler, among others in an upcoming Homeschool Planning Chat next Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. Pacific (3:00 p.m. Central, which is my time).  We will be discussing how to communicate your homeschool plan to your children as well as how to flex pre-made plans when the going gets tough.  Please join Mystie Winckler of Simply Convivial, Kortney Garrison, Dawn Garrett, Virginia Lee Rogers, and I for an afternoon of encouragement.

Click here to register.....and no worries, if you're unavailable at that time.  Once registered, you will be sent a replay link at the end of the webinar.  So join our free upcoming chat about homeschool planning, expectations, and living out those plans:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Weekly Reflection - Week Three...

At Home

Our third week of school brought the start of a few more extra-curricular activities.  RileyAnn started Fall Ball last Sunday.  Also, Riley and Ruben both kicked off the first semester of choir.  It was great to see friends and get back into the swing of things.

Academics went a bit smoother this week. The kids are starting to get into a routine.  Ruben was excited about starting choir and seeing friends so he worked extra hard to complete his studies.  Their student planners are helping them stay on task.

Wow, did we ever have rain this week!  Wednesday night local rainfall ranged from 5-11 inches in a few short hours.  Several roads, culverts, and bridges were washed out including a road running parallel to our property.  Thursday morning, we found ourselves in a traffic jam while enroute to choir.  A four-lane state highway was reduced to one lane with several inches of water running across.  We were delayed by twenty-five minutes waiting in the two mile back-up to get through.  Thankfully, the predicted rain since has held off giving the initial blast a chance to subside.

Around the Web

Early in the week, I listened to Homeschool Snapshots Podcast 34 with Pam Barnhill and Missy Andrews.  The first half gave much needed encouragement and inspiration.  The second half reinforced teaching from good literature.  It was a great pick-me-up and just the boost I needed to jump start Monday morning.

I actually don't think I've listened to a podcast all summer so I'm a bit behind, but it's OK because WI winters are really long!  Wednesday morning, I went back and listened to BiblioFiles Episode #2, The Great Conversation, in which the Andrews family discussed the meaning of the Great Conversation.  There was also a bit of a squabble as to whether or not modern movies and lit can or will become part of that conversation.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to leave a comment below after listening to the discussion.

I also read Assigned reading, free reading, and raising readers by Mystie Winckler and Old Enough to Bless Others by Brandy Vencel.  Last year, I assigned Riley and Ruben to read to Levi daily, which was great for all involved.  Riley and Ruben got practice reading aloud and Levi benefited from being read to.  It was a win/win!  Unfortunately, it ended with the academic year and I failed to schedule it this year.  I'm still thinking on this one, whether or not to schedule.  I'd like to see it become a habit, not a chore.  The Farmer and I are both readers so hopefully our modeling excites and ignites that fire for our children.

Teacher Training

Our CM study group met last night to discuss Chapter One of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.  It was great to be back together!  The camaraderie was fabulous and we had some new moms, bringing our total to nine.  I do intend to blog through the book as I did with Charlotte Mason's A Philosophy of Education so stay tuned for future posts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Habit of Orderliness, Helping Students Stay Organized....

In an effort to help my kiddos stay organized, for the past few years, I've created student planners.  You may remember from Planning Your Homeschool Year that I am primarily a paper/pencil planner. I've tried digital planning unsuccessfully...mostly because our computer crashed that year.  I've since created my master plans in Word, but print hard copies to work off of throughout the year.  

RileyAnn has always been fascinated by my lesson plans. Back in 4th grade, she wanted a system to keep track of her own assignments.  She's very motivated and has been striving for independence in her academics for some time.  You may also remember the paper/pencil Term Checklists I posted back then.  Riley is my lover of box checking so she loves the checklist system.  
The habit of regularity is as attractive to older children as to the infant.  The days when the usual programme falls through are, we know, the days when the children are apt to be naughty.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p. 132
This year, I thought about doing away with the checklists because I wanted to try a new system as I felt Riley was ready for the entire lesson plan.  However, Riley begged for them and we compromised.  I gave her the desired check boxes as well as the lesson plans.  It was a win, win all the way around.  

Below you will see Riley's Term 1 Daily Checklists.  This year, I've scheduled all subjects in a four day week, leaving the fifth day open.  In the past, I've scheduled a lighter fifth day, but never left it completely open.  I wasn't sure it would work and was open to the idea of carry over if four days got to be too much.  However so far, it's been wonderful!  

This week we do start choir, which requires travel time and usually errands when we head to the city.  It's also typically a day to have lunch, shop, or play at the park with friends.  The kids now have the option to complete their school work on that day after arriving home or saving it for the fifth open day.  My goal was to create more time for leisure and contemplation.  Over the past couple of weeks on their fifth free day, the kids have done such things as helping me work our thrift sale, an art tour, baking, building, free reading, spending time out of doors, etc.  So far, it certainly hasn't been a wasted day.  Each of them now has built in time to cultivate other interests and hobbies.  

Following the Term Checklist is Riley's At-A-Glance Term Lesson Plan Chart.  I've modeled this after the Ambleside Online Printable Charts.  When it says Jungle Pilot on Day 1 of her Checklist, Riley can go to the Term Lesson Plan and see that she's supposed to read Ch 1-2 that day.  When it says Natural History on Day 4, she can cross reference to see that she is to read Ch 1 of Keeping a Nature Journal.  These two types of charts have not changed over the past couple of years.  Riley liked this system so we will continue.  I've decided if it's not broke, don't fix it!

The change I did make to Riley's student planner this year was due to her request for more independence.  I actually handed over the entire lesson plan to her.  For example, I made a copy of the AO Year 6 Old Testament Bible reading plan, the Beautiful Feet Ancient History pages with the lessons on them, a plan for mapping her geography, science lesson plan, and a sample of what her rhetoric assignment should look like in her notebook.  I then used my ProClick Binder to bind it all in one as you can see below.  You may want to check out Riley's 2016-2017, Homeschool Plan for 7th Grade for a better understanding of her schedule and assignments.  

Next there's Ruben, who hated the checklist system and was confused by all the boxes.  As an alternative, last year I created a table with a list of daily expectations.  I then printed it and placed it in a sheet protector which he added to his 3-ring binder.  Rather than ask me what he needed to do each day, he simply took out his list and was able to see for himself.  It looked like this....

Ruben Daily Schedule Year 5 2015-2016
Nature Study
Church History
Church History
Daniel Boone
Free Reading
BF History
BF Science
BF History
BF Science
BF History
Oliver Twist
Scrub Floor
Incredible Journey


Read to Levi
Read to Levi
Read to Levi
Read to Levi

Ruben liked this daily expectation chart, but because it was simply a printed table, it wasn't fluid to changing assignments.  It didn't allow me a written way to assign page numbers or chapters to be read.  This year I really wanted something with more detail to promote independence for him. Yet, it needed to be simple, straight forward, one page, with little on the page.  Last year, I also tried giving Ruben a Term Lesson Plan like Riley's shown above, but it was confusing for him.  I knew the checklists didn't work and I knew he would be overwhelmed by the entire lesson plan.  

Then I remembered reading How I'm Using Spiral Notebooks to Simplify Homeschooling by Sarah Mackenzie and wondered if a spiral notebook system would work for Ruben.  About the second day of school, I decided to try it.  I picked a plain old 19-cent spiral bound his favorite color, of course. 

Because we chose Heart of Dakota Creation to Christ this year for Ruben, there was not a lot of lesson planning involved on my part.  Each day has a two-page spread in the teacher's manual showing that day's lessons. 

However, because I subbed out some books and chose our own language arts and math, the plan doesn't list those items.  This is where Ruben's student notebook comes in.  Every evening, I look over the next day's HOD plan.  From there, I make a total list of assignments in Ruben's spiral notebook.  Again, looking at Ruben's 2016-2017 Homeschool Plan for 6th Grade will give you a better understanding of his assignment schedule. 

In the morning, Ruben can work through the list and know what's expected of him. As Charlotte Mason said, children desire regularity. They thrive when adhering to a schedule or routine.  Ruben loves knowing what he has to do before starting his day and now that we're in our third week of school, I like that he can check his list each morning, pick out some independent assignments and begin working.  

There are a few books that he still prefers me to read aloud to him, but I do see him slowly gaining confidence, which is creating more independence in his studies.  For example, this morning I left the "school room" to put a beef roast in the crock pot for supper.  Upon my return, Ruben was lying on the couch reading his science text.  It was a beautiful sight! 

Overall, our new student planners are working great!  Riley and Ruben are both happy, as am I.  The new system is helping each of them to stay organized. We have found a routine and are building the habit of orderliness. 
Let all things be done decently and in order. - 1 Corinthians 14:40
Do you use student planners?  I'd love to hear about what works for your family.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Weekly Reflection - Week Two

I have this cute little boy who loves all things "school".  I also have a handsome big boy who despises all things "school".  The irony is the one who doesn't need formal lessons wants them and the one who needs, wants nothing to do with it.  This is the conundrum week two of our 2016-2017 school  year brought me.

Early on in the week The Farmer and I divided and conquered...well, sort of, divided yes, conquered, we're still working on that.  Monday, he worked with Ruben and I with Riley.  This gave him some perspective on the programs we're using and Ruben's progress.  From there, I made a few more modifications to Ruben's curricula and am in the process of re-thinking his plan.  After reading Back at the Beginning Again, I'm trying to decide what does Ruben need most and what is frosting for me...ahem.

Ruben and I finished Dinosaurs of Eden by Ken Ham, to both of our delight.  Some of the content was good, but overall, the book was preachy with too many bible verses shoved in between.  Not to mention, neither one of us is really interested in dinosaurs.  In its place, we started The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley.  I've decided to switch things up a bit and moved Ruben's read aloud to bedtime.  He really liked this and as long as he got to bed at a decent time, like before I was falling asleep and feeling the book hit my face, I enjoyed it as well.  Ruben is reading the DK Illustrated Family Bible on his own and listening to the audio CD What in the World? Ancient Civilizations and the World by Diana Waring independently.  This is going great!  As a result he's been able to narrate and have meaningful discussion.

RileyAnn started an online math class this week using Lial's Basic College Mathematics.  Since she's never done an online class, I sat with her for the first class and just may continue in the future so we can stay on the same page.  The class is weekly and you pay by the month, which I love for a couple of reasons.  One, the student is not tied to the computer daily.  Two, paying monthly is more financially feasible than a lump sum.  Also, you are free to cancel or stop anytime if it doesn't work.  But, I must say, so far, Mrs. Perkins is fabulous!  And, I really like having that extra support for middle school math.

Because our week was a little busier with appointments and because of some issues with Ruben, Levi didn't participate much this week.  He did do some coloring and I introduced the Play-Doh, which was a huge hit.  Something I'm disappointed in is the fact that I didn't read to him as much as I wanted to this week.  We literally have shelves of fabulous picture books, but I need to come up with a way to pull out a few and have them on hand in a pinch.  It's an organizational issue more than anything.  I added it to the list of things to do.

Lastly, the kids started back to youth group at church this week.  Levi has not traditionally participated as we felt he was too young.  However, we're trying it this year on a week by week basis.  He had a bit of a behavior issue so we've decided to take a week off and see how it goes.  Riley bumped up a level this year so her program lasts 30 minutes longer than the boys.  This creates a lag time with not much for them to do.  It lasts until 8:00 p.m., which pushes bedtime later.  This is a challenge in and of itself.

Around the Web

Today, I listened to Schole Sisters podcast #10, Which Comes First? The Principles or the Practical.  Pam Barnhill's narration example made sense and helped me to see the point.  I had been practicing Charlotte Mason's method haphazardly for years, but after finishing our study of A Philosophy of Education, I was convicted by her principles to carry on more wholeheartedly with the practices.

I also read Mystie's post on How to lesson plan so you're never behind.  It sounds wonderful in theory, but since I'm a paper/pencil planner, I wonder about organizing the lists.  I did link this post in my OneNote for future reference.

Schole Sisters Update and Charlotte Mason Book Club Announcement

After finishing Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, my Schole Sisters group decided to continue by reading The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.  I am nearly two-thirds of the way through.  It was a book I read in high school as assigned reading for 10th or 11th grade English.  It's interesting to re-read through an adult lens.  I'll be sure to post in the future when I've finished.

After taking the summer off of academic/teacher-training reading, I can't wait to get back with my Charlotte Mason Study Group.  We have decided to read Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.  We meet next Friday to discuss Chapter One and I'm really looking forward to it.  It looks like we will have a couple of new members.  We will all be about 3-5 weeks into the new academic year and I'm sure there will be much discussion on what's working and what's not.  I love having these like minded women to bounce ideas with.

If you haven't already, I highly encourage you to find your sisters.  Having homeschool support friends is a must!  ...and, if you're looking for great books, either for yourself or your student(s), be sure to check out our Updated Book Lists with Index!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Updated Book Sale Lists with Index....

I've been frantically updating book lists, adding new books and deleting sold books, hopefully, just in time for the new academic year. There's tons of great new living books available, including selections from Ambleside Online, Beautiful Feet, Sonlight, TruthQuest History, Veritas Press, and Visual American History Timeline of Books.   Below, I've created an index by subject of the most current lists of books we have for sale.  Please feel free to ask questions or send requests via the contact form on the right.  I accept PayPal and ship media mail within the U.S.

Thanks so much for your consideration,