Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Unhurried Homeschooler....

In preparation for the GHC, I'm making my lists and checking them twice.  In the fall, I'll be 'teaching' 4K, 6th, and 7th grade.  This morning as I was nearing hyperventilation stage at the thought, I listened to Homeschool Snapshots Podcast 28, Unhurried Homeschooling with Pam Barnhill and Durenda Wilson.  I so appreciate perspective from veteran homeschooling moms like Durenda.  She has eight children ranging from age 11 to young adult homeschool graduates, a couple of which are married and carrying on the tradition with grandchildren.  After listening to the podcast, I felt better and would love to get my hands on a copy of her book, The Unhurried Homeschooler.

In poking around her blog, Simple Nourishing Home, I came across a video interview Durenda did with her third child, Jake, who, at that time, was a 19-year old college student.  In the intereview, Jake shares his homeschool experience and encourages homeschooling families.  I find it very reassuring when I hear homeschool graduates adamantly profess the power of homeschooling and their plans to continue with their children.  The Interview with Jake is a great testament to homeschooling.  There's no need for hyperventilation ;-)

Monday, March 28, 2016

I'm Going to a Great Homeschool Convention!!...

I can hardly contain myself!  The Great Homeschool Convention is something I've dreamed about attending for a couple of years and this year that dream is becoming reality.  I've been attending the MACHE conference every year since I began homeschooling eight years ago, which is a great conference to cut your teeth on.  However this year, I wanted to spread my wings so two other local homeschooling moms and I are heading Ohio.

I'm excited about this for a couple of reasons.  First, there will be a variety of speakers that don't normally come this far north, including Andrew Kern, Dr. Christopher Perrin, and Martin Cothran, to name a few. Judging by the list of speakers, it appears at though the GHC is geared for classical educators, which totally peaks my interest.

Secondly, I really look forward to community.  Some may say that in this generation of webinars and podcasts, you can listen to many of your favorite speakers online, in the comfort of your own home, and often times free.  This is true.  However, there is nothing like building face to face community.  My favorite part of MACHE last year was networking.  I loved hanging around exhibit booths like Simply Charlotte Mason.  It was here, that I was able to bounce ideas, touch, smell, and feel resources to get a better sense of whether or not they may work for my family.  I also met other like minded families that became fast friends.  The GHC offers a huge exhibit hall, again, with many vendors that don't normally come my way, such as Beautiful Feet, CiRCE Institute, Classical Academic Press, Queen Homeschool Supplies, Inc., Royal Fireworks Press, and Veritas Press.  I can hardly wait to check out their products in person!

If you are thinking about trying a homeschool conference this season or would like pointers to get the most out of your conference, consider Preparing for a Homeschool Convention.  Also, Pam Barnhill did a great follow-up video to the GHC in Greenville, SC, that was super helpful if you're planning to attend a conference.

Lastly, if you are going to the GHC in OH, let me know in the comments below.  If you happen to see me in OH, please do stop and chat.  I would absolutely LOVE to meet some of my readers and online blogging friends :))

Monday, March 21, 2016

Were You There, When They Crucified My Lord? A Break for Holy Week....

I aim to take a mini sabbatical from blogging this week in honor of Holy Week.  I will have a new post ready for you next Monday, God willing :)

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite hymns for this time of year, which we sang in church yesterday...


May you have a blessed Resurrection Season,


Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Findings: Civilization Suicide, What's Affecting Our Elections, ADHD, Portrait of a Graduate, and a Little Laundry Secret....

This week has felt like a whirlwind!  I've been on the road more than I've been home and this makes me a little cantankerous.  You see, I actually like being home where I can see my piles dwindle instead of accumulate.  Sadly, the next couple of weeks will be more of the same.  Hopefully, in the long run, it will balance and all be worth it :)

On the web, have you read Our Schools Are Committing 'Civilization Suicide'?  At first glance, it seems a little harsh, but I think he has an excellent point and may it be a wake up call.

After reading the above article, I did some further snooping around on the site and found a couple more intriguing posts...

Americans Don't Read...And That's Affecting Our Elections - this is definitely food for thought!

Are We Misdiagnosing Immaturity for ADHD? - I have actually wondered this in the past.  Also, the fact that kids are not allowed to be kids, romping and running in the sunshine, I believe, is a huge contributing factor.  Sadly, I just heard a mom share that her son was misbehaving in school so he will have to stay in for recess to complete lagging school work.  These sorts of stories break my heart as this little boy needs to burn some energy more than anything.  I fear taking away that outlet, recess, is only going to exacerbate the issue.

Lastly, I love what Mystie says in Portrait of a Graduate about educating ourselves so we can be good imitators for our children.  I actually think it goes right along with a couple of the above mentioned posts.  If we expect a love of learning from our kids, then we need to be committed to continuing our education and modeling that attitude.

Do you know about Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap?  It's a little old laundry trick that keeps my sanity because we're in the middle of good old Wisconsin mud season here and the boys are loving it...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I didn't know much about Sterling North, nor his book Rascal when we began reading as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study.  But, once we started, I was delighted to learn the story took place in our native Wisconsin and was based on a true story.

Rascal is a coming of age story about Sterling North in his boyhood.  Sterling's mother is deceased and his father travels a great deal, leaving Sterling to fend for himself.  One day, Sterling and his friend Oscar find an orphaned baby raccoon and decide to take it to Oscar's house, where his mother nurses it with a wheat straw.  Oscar's parents don't allow him to keep the raccoon so Sterling ends up taking it home.  He names him Rascal.

The story covers a one year period and is primarily concerned with Sterling's adventures with and love for Rascal.  As Rascal grows he becomes more of a nuisance and Sterling has to decide whether or not to keep him.  There's so much more to the story, but I don't want to give it away for those who've not yet read it.  I will suffice to say, that it's a wonderful book for boys, as well as your nature and animal lovers.  Though some history is involved since the story takes place at the end of WWI, I thought there was just as much or more science involved.

After reading the book, we did watch the 1969 Disney DVD.  Unfortunately, the book and movie are totally different.  Of course, the book was better and I would highly recommend reading it before watching the movie.  On the other hand, the film is great for family movie night.  It really was enjoyable for young and old.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Contemplating Classical Education: Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning...

As part of my classical education study, I've been reading Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson.  You may remember from a former post, Wilson piloted Logos School in response to Dorothy Sayers' essay, The Lost Tools of Learning.  At the time of penning his book, Wilson had ten years of experience with Logos School.  He advocates for Christ Centered and Classical education.

Over the weekend, I also listened to a free MP3 podcast Defending Sayers' Insight, in which Wilson defends, or maybe clarifies is a better word, Sayers' essay.  Wilson states the heart of Sayers' essay is taking the Trivium and dividing it up into the stages of learning.  He says, "Her argument is that the Trivium should be applied in a foundational way, giving the kids the tools of learning.  After which point, they can go on to complete the seven liberal arts in their study of the Quadrivium.  So the Trivium comes first.  Grammar first, then dialectic, then rhetoric, and then you can go on to study the Quadrivium."

Wilson goes on to admit, in the beginning, not knowing anything about the Trivium except from what Sayers' wrote, of which is the method he applied at the start of Logos School.  He states, "We began from a position of ignorance...We were just taking what we could from Sayers and putting it into practice....and the practical results from this were just astonishing."  As time went on and they put this method into practice, Wilson states they also furthered their study of classical education.  He is quick to add that Sayers stated in her essay she is confident that no one would ever attempt what she was writing about.  I believe she had no idea how much lower public education would fall and how desperate we would become....ahem!  

Wilson goes on to speculate about Sayers' intentions in writing The Lost Tools of Writing,...
A lot rides on whether we describe what Sayers was advocating as her historical explication of the medieval practice, or instead of this, describing it as the Sayers' insight.  Is this Sayers recounting and interpretation of what the Medieval's did, or is this Sayers saying look what the Medieval's did and I'm suggesting that we apply it in a new and unique way?  So is this Sayers' explication or is this Sayers' insight?  
Wilson proceeds to reference and quote from the book, Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans, "The historic application of the Trivium was not done on the Sayers' model."  I will leave you to decipher the rest of the podcast and will suffice to say, it was excellent and cleared up some misconceptions I personally had about Sayers' essay. I was very intrigued by her confidence that no one would take it all that serious.  By the way, the essay was originally presented as a speech at Oxford in 1947.

In regard to Wilson's book, he advocates for educational reforms from phonics instruction to requiring proficiency in certain basic subjects.  At the beginning of Chapter Seven, he writes,
In modern America, the fast-food mentality has penetrated the realm of the mind.  The modern student has a mind full of McThoughts.  Information comes to him processed and prepackaged, and he does his duty as a consumer.  This does not mean that intellectual activity has disappeared, but having your mind full of mental "stuff" is not the same thing as thinking.  
Wilson goes on to explain how the Trivium is applied at Logos School.  However, the book was written in 1991 and the MP3 speech referenced above was given in 2008.  I have a few pages left in Wilson's book, but it does appear that some of his philosophy has changed slightly since he wrote it.  I suspect this is due to aforementioned further study of classical education.

I personally respect and appreciate Wilson's thoughts on Classical education, but find myself filtering it through a Charlotte Mason lens.

In poking around on the AO Forum, I came across a couple relevant posts by Brandy Vencel:

Classical Education: Is Dorothy Sayers the Only Way?

Is Charlotte Mason Classical? {A Follow-Up} 

I would highly encourage you to read the comments after reading each of these posts.  There's excellent food for thought there!  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Findings: The Book Most People Have Lied About Reading, Homeschooling with Dyslexia....

Spring has sprung on Drywood Creek and the calves are coming.  RileyAnn helped her dad pull one earlier this week as the first calf heifer was having some trouble delivering on her own.  There's nothing like a little hands-on science ;-)

I don't have many links this week because I haven't had much time on the computer.  I spoke to a mom's group Tuesday, so spent last weekend prepping.  I also signed the kids up for baseball/softball this week and with Lenten season at church, art, and choir, we've been on the run.

I did get a chance to listen to this fabulous podcast between Pam Barnhill and Marianne Sunderland. Sunderland's insight on homeschooling kids with dyslexia is so helpful...and her kids have accomplished some fascinating feats in their young lives.

A friend sent me This Website Shows You What It's Like Trying To Read When You Have Dyslexia.  Watching the animated JavaScript actually makes me crazy!

Have you ever lied about reading a book?  Apparently, people do.  Check out, The book most people have lied about reading - and it's not War and Peace.  I found this very interesting.  I won't give away the book, but it was a bit unbelievable.  I wonder what prompts folks to lie about it?  Riley laughed because she recently really did read the book most lied about.

I do have some crazy boy pictures for you this week.   A couple days before the snow melted, this was a favorite past time...YIKES!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Do You Really Know Charlotte Mason?, Reflections on a 101...

I had an opportunity to speak to a group of homeschooling moms yesterday about Charlotte Mason.  I felt blessed to be able to share and hope that someone else was blessed by hearing about her philosophy/methods.

It's really hard to put Charlotte Mason in a nutshell.  I had eight pages of notes!  Thankfully, a couple of gals spoke before me, introducing Charlotte and giving an overview of how they use Ambleside Online.  It allowed me to cut part of the introductory stuff.  Today, I thought I would share some links I used as the basis of my notes....

Who was Charlotte Mason? 

What was her philosophy/method of education? 

I also highlighted what I felt were some of Charlotte's key principles:  

Principles 5-8 – Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.  (PNEU motto)


The goal of narration is the composition of thought. 

What a CM education is not

A Charlotte Mason education is not fluffy, light, nor tiptoeing through the tulips.  Check out this List of Attainments.  

How is it relevant today? 

How to apply Charlotte's principles/methods in your homeschool.

Habits are an important part of a Charlotte Mason education, as is parenting in general. 

Just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril.  It follows that this business of laying down lines towards the unexplored country of the child’s future is a very serious and responsible one for the parent. (Vol. 1, p. 9)

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. All day she is crying out, 'Do this!' and they do it not; 'Do that!' and they do the other. (Vol. 1, p. 136)

Focus on one habit at a time - may take weeks or months per habit 
Motivate by using living examples – find person who exhibits the character quality you’re working on

1. Charlotte’s top three habits: attention, obedience, and truthfulness
            Habit of Attention
-       Use short Lessons - beginning around age 6
-       Set time limits taking child’s attention span into consideration
-       Grades 1-3 15-20 minutes
-       Grades 4-6 20-30 minutes
-       Grades 7-9 30-45 minutes
-       Vary order of lessons - Lessons should range a large variety of subjects altering between concentrated intense subjects and less intense subjects including those that allow for physical movement - Using different parts of the brain allows for better attention span and concentration
-       Don’t repeat yourself
-       Play games that foster attention
-       Develop the habit of best effort by encouraging quality not quantity – you will be able to accomplish much in a short amount of time
-       Charlotte Mason used the best books, the best music, and the best art possible
-       Never give a command you don’t intend to see fully carried out
-       Expect obedience – use natural consequences and encouragement
-       Don’t pester child with excessive commands (Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.)
-       Plan ahead for transition times
-       Require exact facts without omission or exaggeration
-       Avoid qualifying statements
-       Don’t use excessive language for common situations
-       If needed, have daily lesson in truthful reporting
2. Living Books
-       Stands the test of time – you want to read again – usually written by one person
-       Touches emotion; you develop a relationship with characters; “finishing the book is like saying goodbye to an old friend”
-       Gives you ideas; sparks imagination & creativity; makes you want to further your study
-       Avoid “twaddle” – talking down to the child; diluted; light/fluffy; promotes laziness of the mind; liken to junk food (snack before supper)
            -    choose books with substance

Charlotte’s method incorporates many core subjects including history, geography, Bible, math, science, foreign language, reading, writing, spelling, grammar, art, music & hymn study, literature, poetry, and handicrafts.  I broke down some of the methods used in core subjects.  

History - Living books, biographies, autobiographies, narration, Book of Centuries

Geography - Living books, biographies, autobiographies, travelogues, narration, map drill 

Bible - Read directly from the bible (King James version), narration, memorize and recite scripture, commentaries

Language ArtsThe goal of language arts is be able to use language proficiently in order to communicate an idea.  It includes everything that relates to listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  Charlotte Mason's methods included: copywork, narration, prepared dictation, grammar, beginning reading, reading for instruction, recitation, and poetry.  Through these methods, she taught the language arts skills of handwriting, composition, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, sentence structure, vocabulary, how to read, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and public speaking.

Math - Manipulatives, a firm understanding of why, mental math

Science - Nature study and notebook, living books, narration

What curricula/books work well with the CM method?

Sonlight Book Lists                                                                  Heart of Dakota
Lifetime Books & Gifts                                                            Queen Homeschool
Lamplighter Publishing                                                              Nothing New Press
Bethlehem Books                                                                     Five in a Row
WinterPromise                                                                         TruthQuest History
Yesterday’s Classics                                                                Beautiful Feet
Mott Media – Ruth Beechick books & website                         Greenleaf Press
Ray’s Arithmetic                                                                       Math-U-See
RightStart Math                                                                        Apologia Science

How to modify the CM method for struggling learners? 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What Then, Shall We Read?...Modern vs. Classic

I love making connections, forming ideas, building knowledge.  Most recently, this idea of reading older, classic works of literature versus new modern works and bestsellers has been on my radar.  The more I read classic works, the more value I see in them.  I rather enjoy older novels for their rich language and deep thought.

Last week, in Friday Findings, I linked The Modern Place for Older Books written by Wendi Capehart at Archipelago because I loved Charlotte Mason's idea of reading books written in a certain time period as you study that period in history.  Of course Archipelago is the blog of Ambleside Online, a free Charlotte Mason curricula utilized primarily by homeschoolers.  Many of the books used in AO are older classic works.

Yesterday, I read Punctuation in Novels, which gave an interesting visual comparison of punctuation in a William Faulkner novel and a Cormac McCarthy novel.  Not only has the language changed over the past century, but the punctuation and length of sentence as well.  (Unfortunately, this linked post has an expletive in the middle, which definitely does not aid the reader in understanding.)

Also, in preparation for our CM Book Study I read sections from Charlotte Mason's Vol. 4, Ourselves this week.  Last night, we specifically discussed a quote from pages 10-11, in Book II, which states....
We are safest with those which have lived long enough to become classics; and this, for two reasons. The fact that they have not been allowed to die proves in itself that the authors have that to say, and a way of saying it, which the world cannot do without.  In the next place, the older novels and plays deal with conduct, and conduct is our chief concern in life.  Modern works of the kind deal largely with emotions, a less wholesome subject of contemplation. 
I found it interesting that Charlotte likened older novels to conduct and modern novels to emotion.  Ironically, Charlotte Mason lived from 1842-1923 so much of what she considered modern is now classic to modern society.

Lastly this morning, I read The 6 Risks of Reading Older Books.  Betsy's post and reasoning made me sad.  I was disappointed that she appeared to mock books like The Secret Garden, Understood Betsy, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  I wondered if she's actually ever read those books. And, I couldn't disagree more with her "Risk #6".   I believe our children will learn to be more discerning from a classic work that regards conduct than a modern work that plays on emotion.

As for me and my house, we will continue to read a variety of books with emphasis on classic literature.  I believe many of those classic titles foster truth, beauty and goodness.  How about you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Do you prefer modern or classic lit?  Feel free to comment below...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Findings: Plutarch's Lives, Dyslexia, Nature Study, and More...

Oh, it's Friday again!  The weeks seem to be flying by.  Tonight is our CM Book Study.  We're studying Principle 19 and I look forward to gathering.  I don't quite have the reading done, so I will be working through it today.  We are reading excerpts from Ourselves, which will be a change of pace from A Philosophy of Education since Charlotte wrote each of these books for entirely different purposes.

The kids have been plugging away with their studies.  We finished Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula this week.  We also finished reading Aemilus Paulus last week, our second Plutarch's Lives. As previously mentioned, we used Anne White's AO study guide.

Speaking of Anne White and Plutarch, I highly recommend listening to Pam Barnhill's podcast, A Conversation with Anne White.  Anne gives a 101 on how to implement the study of Plutarch's Lives into your homeschool regimen.

Regarding dyslexia, How widespread is dyslexia? gives a great visual of this learning difference.

Brandy wrote a fabulous post this week titled, Are Narration and Discussion Interchangeable?  It's something I've thought about in the past.  I highly recommend reading the comments section after the post.  There is a lot of meat there.

With spring just around the corner, posts of nature study are in the air.  This week, Celeste at Joyous Lessons wrote Nature Study Outing: First Wildflowers and Early-Leafers and Cindy West at Our Westward Journey wrote Nature Study IS Science.  Both posts bring something different to the table.  I find Celeste's organic approach refreshing.  However, if you're new to nature study or just can't seem to get started, Cindy offers a guide to get you out the door.

Lastly, I really appreciated Mystie Winckler's Hits & Misses in Our Homeschool This Year post.  I love it when bloggers do follow-up posts to let us know how it's going or how it went.  I especially liked Mystie's post because it referenced resources and ideas I've been pondering for fall.  It gave me more food for thought.

Even though it's been a bit cooler this week, the snow continues to melt.  We are looking forward to unseasonably warm temps in the 50's again this weekend...which means more clothes on the line :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Miracles on Maple Hill....

We read Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen for the February 5th/6th Grade Socractic Book Club discussion.  It was a much easier read than some of our other choices, but a delightful story just the same.

When her father returns from the war, a POW suffering from what appears to be PTSD, Marly's family retreats to Maple Hill.  Her grandmother's old house in the country and her mother's childhood haven, look to be the perfect place for father's recovery.  Upon arrival, they are met by Mr. Chris, an old neighboring farmer who believes the first miracle of the year is sap rising and maple syrup making.  Over the course of the year as the seasons change, miracles do happen on Maple Hill.

This delightful coming of age story will warm your heart.  It's set in rural Pennsylvania, post WWII.  The flora and fauna of Maple Hill aid in father's recovery.  Miracles on Maple Hill is a reminder of hope and the importance of family and friends in times of adversity.  The making of maple syrup is also a perfect fit for a great spring read!