Monday, October 31, 2016

Boy of the Pyramids...

As part of Heart of Dakota's Creation to Christ, I recently finished reading aloud Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones to Ruben.  I first read Boy of the Pyramids six years ago.  It was a Simply Charlotte Mason recommendation at that time for grades 1-3.  I remember RileyAnn and I both loving it.  Ruben didn't remember the story so it was fun to re-read with him.

Boy of the Pyramids tells the story of Kaffe, a wealthy ten-year old Egyptian boy and his slave Sari.  It is a mystery set in Ancient Egypt.  Aside from the mystery, there is historical value in which we learned about different aspects of Ancient Egyptian life, including building of the pyramids, the flooding of the Nile River, transportation, geography, pharaohs, slaves, and servitude.  There is mention of Ancient Egyptian gods and certain beliefs about death from that time period, but it is not sensationalized, nor the heart of the story.

I love Jones' book because, like The Golden Bull, it's simple and gentle enough for young children studying Ancient Egypt.  Yet, it's not at all dumbed down.  Boy of the Pyramids is a great example of a living book that I anticipate reading a third time with Levi when he studies this time period.  It is also a TruthQuest recommendation for grades 3-8.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Weekly Reflections - Week Eight....

At Home

I took these photos a few weeks ago and absolutely love them!  The bottom photo was the view out my bedroom window.  These are the days I cherish.  They are the epitome of my ideal.  Unfortunately, this week has been anything but.  The temporary guardianship of my elderly neighbor has consumed me.  I was at the nursing home four days this week and fielded what felt like hundreds of phone calls.  Our homeschool did not live up to my ideal. 

RileyAnn did manage to keep up with her academic load.  Ruben, not so much.  We have covered the basics of reading, writing, and math in addition to history, which is a favorite that we usually don't miss ;-)  I also started reading Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson aloud, though we didn't get far because it's our bedtime read aloud, but we've been watching the World Series instead...ahem! 

The next couple of weeks don't look much better as we have daily appointments scheduled.  My friend reminded me that there is nothing wrong with simply reading and discussing.  She is absolutely right! I keep telling myself...
These are the days we simply read and discuss, read and discuss, read and discuss. 
These are the days that we read and discuss and that is our learning.  
In the midst, I did manage to share a Beautiful Feet Intermediate Ancient History review here.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your homeschool.  Feel free to share how it's going in the comments below....

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beautiful Feet Ancient History Review, Week Eight....

Riley is just finishing up week eight of her Beautiful Feet Intermediate Ancient History study and is loving it. So far, she has been reading from the Book of Genesis, Streams of Civilization, Tales of Ancient Egypt, The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, and Pyramid.  She's enjoying the books, as well as the activities.

Riley's completing two lessons per week.  The lessons are a bit long so we've split each lesson into two days, giving her a total of four days per week for history.  I am including photos of Riley's notebooking pages below in order to give you an idea of the types of assignments included in the guide.  Aside from reading, there are bible verses to copy, essay questions, map work, illustrations to draw, and topics to research.

Riley also loves notebooking.  As you can see, she's completing her assignments on pre-printed notebooking pages.  At the beginning of the year, I created file folders of misc. notebook pages, some are specific to ancient history and others are generic.  As the assignments present themselves, she chooses a notebook pages and completes it.

Riley is completing history this year independently.  While Ruben is studying the same time period with me, she is working on her own.   However, Riley does present oral narrations to me of the books she's reading and I do periodically read her notebook pages.  I actually miss Beautiful Feet this year and am thinking about giving it a go with Ruben next year.

Upon completing a notebooking page, Riley collects them in a folder.  We intend to bind them at the end of the year for a keepsake notebook.  I will use my ProClick Binder to do this.  My kids love looking back at their notebooking pages from years gone by.  They've become treasured keepsakes.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Schole Sisters: The Grapes of Wrath....

The people came out of their houses and smelled the hot stinging air and covered their noses from it. And the children came out of the house, but they did not run or shout as they would have done after a rain. Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men - to feel whether this time the men would break. The women studied the men's faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained. The children stood near by, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes, and the children sent exploring senses out to see whether men and women would break. The children peeked at the faces of the men and women, and then drew careful lines in the dust with their toes. Horses came to the watering toughs and nuzzled the water to clear the surface dust. After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and there was no break. Then they asked, What'll we do? And the men replied, I don't know. But it was all right. The women knew it was all right, and the watching children knew it was all right. Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole. The women went into the houses to their work, and the children began to play, but cautiously at first. As the day went forward the sun became less red. It flared down on the dust-blanketed land. The men sat in the doorways of their houses; their hands were busy with sticks and little rocks. The men sat still - thinking - figuring.  (The Grapes of Wrath, p. 6-7)
So ends Chapter One of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Women watching their husbands and children watching their parents, Steinbeck writes something to this same effect several times throughout the story.  Is this part of our relational nature?  We wait and watch for the reaction of others...not just others, but loved others, anticipating their reaction so we know how to react or what our future holds.  I was very intrigued by this notion.  Ironically, in the end, Ma Joad takes charge and acts more the head of household than any man in the story.  Ma Joad leads the family through cooperation and unity rather than a more typical seat of male authority and control.  When the men get down, she lights fires to keep them alive and going....
Take a man, he can get worried an' worried, an' it eats out his liver, an' purty soon he'll jus' lay down and die with his heart et out.  But if you can take an' make im' mad, why, he'll be awright. Pa, he didn' say nothin', but he's mad cow.  He'll show me now.  He's awright. (Ma Joad, The Grapes of Wrath, p. 481)
The Grapes of Wrath was our most recent Schole Sisters read.  It was controversial to the group.  As a matter of fact, five women started and chose not to finish.  Six women finished, most with some reluctance.   However, the debate over whether The Grapes of Wrath is an important piece of American Literature or crude propaganda is not a new debate.  This Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner has outraged since it was originally written in 1939.  It was the best selling book of 1939 and yet this most widely read novel was also publicly banned and burned.  Interestingly, Steinbeck accomplished exactly what he set out to do...
I am not writing a satisfying story....I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags.  (John Steinbeck in a 1939 interview with Pascal Covici)
Steinbeck's epic is set during the Great Depression.  It follows the migration of the Joad family, Oklahoma tenant farmers displaced by foreclosure during the Dust Bowl.  Throughout the novel, the reader travels with the Joads through several states and hardships on their journey to California, where they hope to find work and begin life anew.  However, upon their arrival, the Joads find several workers available for every job posted.  With little work and virtually no money, they wander around like the Israelites searching for the so called "promised land".

There are several biblical parallels in The Grapes of Wrath, much to the chagrin of my Schole Sisters, who also happen to be Christians.  Most in the group couldn't get past numerous profanities, including freely using our Lord's name in vain, and crude sexual discussions, including a preacher confessing to taking sexual advantage of his followers when they were "full of the speret", to see the parallels, especially after one member shared some of Steinbeck's political views.  On the other hand, I was intrigued by his use of biblical symbolism, particularly for a man who resisted doctrine throughout his life, beginning at a young age.

I was first introduced to Steinbeck through The Grapes of Wrath in my high school English class and since have read other Steinbeck novels including East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, and Tortilla Flat.  Each of which has a sort of spiritual quality for lack of better term.  There are many biblical references in Steinbeck's characters, titles of his books, and his passion for the underdog. You can almost see him wrestling with his faith throughout his writing.  Please don't get me wrong, The Grapes of Wrath is not a Christian novel.  I just so happen to find Steinbeck's biblical parallels interesting in what appears to be his humanist view point.

As mentioned, The Grapes of Wrath was assigned reading in my high school English class, as is common.  I was now anxious to re-read the story through adult eyes.  In the beginning, I was seriously questioning whether or not this was an appropriate title for high school reading.  Upon completion, I have decided there is definite value in Steinbeck's novel.  Overall, I would categorize The Grapes of Wrath, along with Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as great American literature.  It is for that reason, I would recommend reading The Grapes of Wrath potentially in the very late high school years (11th or 12th grade).  However, it's a book I find imperative to read and discuss along with your student.

Steinbeck actually toured the Dust Bowl ravished region and traveled with migrants to California in his research shortly before writing The Grapes of Wrath.  Whether you agree or disagree with his Worldview, I believe there is importance in understanding that period of time in the history of our nation as well as the many cultural references found in the book.

In spite of the criticism of my Schole Sisters, I really enjoyed reading The Grapes of Wrath with them.  We plan to continue with another title in the future, possibly something by C. S. Lewis.  For now we will break for the next couple of months as I continue to facilitate a Middle School Socratic Book Club and our Charlotte Mason study group, in which we're reading Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass, in addition to homeschooling and the many other tasks of motherhood.... so many great books, so little time.  Ironically, several of my Schole Sisters are also my Charlotte Mason cohorts :)

I am linking The Grapes of Wrath to the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge in the Re-Read a Classic from School category.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Reflections - Week Seven...

At Home

"Boys with Toys"...Ruben started working off the farm this summer and continues his employment one morning a week.  Homeschooling allows him the flexibility to do this.  In the interim, he'd been saving his summer employment money and dreaming about upgrading his 3-wheeler.  His hard work and perseverance has finally paid off.  He recently sold his 3-wheeler and combined the cash, allowing him to make his upgraded dream purchase, a 4-wheeler.

This process has provided a fabulous education in many respects.  Ruben has developed a hobby and interest in ATVs.  He has learned the value of hard work, as well as the value of a dollar.  He worked through the process of beginning at the bottom and building up. In the mix of selling and purchasing, Ruben dabbled in advertising, practiced patience and negotiation skills.  He also learned to budget and balance his money throughout.  

I share this to demonstrate the fact that homeschooling can bring out a variety of educational opportunities aside from strictly pencil/paper learning.  Even when you're struggling with academics, there are still life lessons to be learned.  As a matter of fact, some of the best learning happens in the day to day in this thing called life.

Around the Web

What would classical preschool look like? by Mystie Winckler is a fabulous post regarding early childhood education!  She writes...
What is education?

Quintilian is clear: he is speaking of a literary education, an education full of good books, good words, and good ideas.

- AND-

The “poll-parrot stage” is not a time to cram facts and chants, but to build habits and dispositions that will help him advance more surely and steadily when he does take to his books.
Oh my...this is good stuff!! I'm looking forward to purchasing my own copy of The Great Tradition by Richard Gamble soon.  See why here

Brandy Vencel also convicted me this week.  Everything New is Old Again fell right in line with our Consider This CM Book Study.  I love it when the stars align and everything you read comes together, intertwining like food coloring in water.  Once it's mixed, there's no return.

On this Blog

It was five years ago yesterday, October 21, that I began this blog with a simple introductory post. A lot has changed since that time including the flying of the oldest two from the nest and the hatching of the youngest.  I initially planned a big ta-da for the five year anniversary, but other obligations since have taken priority.  At this point, I will suffice to say that Reflections from Drywood Creek will most likely be getting a new look very soon and possibly even a new location.  It is my aim to make the content here more accessible and user friendly.  Please bear with me in the process and stay tuned for more information.  In the mean time, thank you faithful readers.  I am humbly in awe that you care enough to log on.  May the good Lord allow us to continue the next five years and beyond...

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...

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.