Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fall 2017-2018 - Term One Wrap-Up...

We finished Term One of the 2017-2018 academic year a few weeks back. Today, I'm going to share some thoughts as to how we fared.

Year 8

Bible - Riley's working through AO's Year 7 Bible Reading Plan. She also continues to copy the Book of Psalms using Do You Journible? This seems to be a good pairing for her.

History - Riley's been diligently working independently on her Intermediate Beautiful Feet Medieval History study. I posted a review of her first term with that program here. In addition, she's been reading The Story of the Middle Ages by H. A. Guerber and In the Days of Alfred the Great by Eva March Tappan. Both of which are going well. The second of which, she writes a narration after each reading. She's also keeping a Book of Centuries.

Literature - Riley started the year reading the following lit books:

The History of English Literature for Boys and Girls by H. E. Marshall
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

I am reading along with her independently so we are able to have discussion. Approximately four weeks into the term, around chapter nine, we mutually decided to scrap The Once and Future King. Neither of us were enjoying it and it seemed like overkill with our other King Arthur readings. We are continuing the other three books much to our delight.

Poetry - Riley read 2-3 poems per week from The Oxford Book of English Verse by Arthur Quiller-Couch. She then translated one poem per week of her choice into modern English. This was a difficult exercise in the start, but became much easier as the term went on. She will study a different poet in the second term.

Grammar - Last year, Riley picked up Easy Grammar 8 from our shelf, after Jensen's Grammar failed. She's continuing it this year until it's finished.

Spelling - Riley's continuing with IEW Phonetic Zoo. I am noticing correctly spelled words carrying over into her narrations!

Penmanship - Riley enjoyed Prescripts by Classical Conversations last year so she is completing another book this year on Poetry. The books offer a combination of cursive and drawing, both of which are lovely.

Math - Riley is taking Pre-Algebra online with Jann Perkins through My Homeschool Math Class. This is a win-win for both of us!! I can't tell you what a relief it is not to have tears and a battle over math. Riley has really taken the bull by the horns and is doing great with this online class.

Natural History - Riley's using AO Year 7 science this year. She has read and notebooked through the following books this term:

The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp
Eric Sloane's Weather Book by Eric Sloane
Secrets of the Universe: Discovering the Universal Laws of Science by Paul Fleisher
The Wonder Book of Chemistry by Jean Henri Fabre
First Studies of Plant Life by George Francis Atkinson
Adventures with a Microscope by Richard Headstrom
Signs and Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy by Jay Ryan and accompanying Field Journal
Great Astronomers by R.S. Ball

Riley's really enjoying Lay of the Land and Adventures with a Microscope. Signs and Seasons has been somewhat of a bust. She started the year by reading it aloud to Ruben and working jointly. However, that didn't go over as well as I'd hoped so she is now working independently, albeit, very loosely from the plan. I think if we are to use that book in earnest, I would need to take the lead, but I just haven't found time. It may very well be a title we set aside for now. 

Handicrafts - Riley is knitting a scarf. 

Year 7

Bible - Ruben's working through AO's Year 6 Bible Reading Plan. In addition, I have him copying random passages from Proverbs. 

History - I settled on reading Famous Men of the Middle Ages aloud to Ruben this term. I read a chapter each Monday and Wednesday. He then notebooks a page each Tuesday and Thursday. This seems to be a good fit for him. He is also listening independently to What in the World?, Vol. 2 by Diana Waring. You can read more about Ruben's history study here

Literature - Ruben's literature works in conjunction with his history study. We read the following books in Term One:

The Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli

All of which were hits. The Black Fox of Lorne, I ended up reading aloud in the evenings to the entire family. It's a fabulous book if you can get your hands on a copy!

Ruben is also reading Watership Down by Richard Adams and Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott along with Riley and I. 

Penmanship - In addition to Ruben's Bible copy work, he's also working through Let's Write and Spell by Mary R. Johnson and Warren T. Johnson two days per week. 

Composition - Ruben's using IEW's Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons this year. He worked through the first eleven lessons in Term One. I'll be doing a separate post on the status of this program.

Natural History - Ruben read Whitetail and Major: The Story of a Black Bear, both by Robert McClung, which he greatly enjoyed. He tried Secrets of the Woods and School of the Woods, both by Long unsuccessfully. As noted above, Signs and Seasons didn't work for him either. We're still working through how to go about science for the second term. 

Math - We began term one, with Strayer-Upton Primary Arithmetics. Then switched to RightStart Mathematics the last week of the term. Given the games, I think RS is a better fit. We'll see how Ruben progresses in the second term. 

Life Skills - Ruben learned how to run the chain saw this fall. 

Morning Time

I posted a 6-week reflection on our Morning Time here. We are still progressing and nothing has changed since that time.


I haven't done much in the way of formal lessons with Levi up to this point. Most days, he listens in on Morning Time. We've read picture books, harvested the garden, picked apples, baked pies, canned, and made sauerkraut. He began writing his name and a few random letters. We worked on memorizing The Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge, as he's a Cloverbud this year. We've looked at various art prints and listened to a few classical music pieces. I did start reading Egermeier's Bible Story Book aloud to him. He also has a coloring book with Bible story pictures that he likes to color while I read. We've went on nature walks and he participated in a local Kitchen Chemistry Class, where he learned about cohesion/adhesion, physical/chemical change, acids/bases, and density through a variety of hands on activities and experiments. He might tell you this was the highlight of his term. Overall, his first term of Kindergarten has been pretty relaxed as far as formal academics are concerned. 

There you have it!...Our first term reflections. Truth be told, I've been feeling very guilty about Levi's education or the lack thereof. It seems I did so much more with the older kids when they were his age. However, in putting together this post, I was reminded of all the wonderful hands on activities he's participated in over the past twelve weeks. The photos show just a smattering of the totality. What seemed lost in the day to day, turned into a beautiful collage of living and learning experiences. I have come to see, this post has a whole lot of God's grace written all over it! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas 2017 Reflections...

We've been singing a new carol weekly throughout this Advent season and reciting Christmas poetry. The presents are wrapped and the cookies are baked. As we wait in anticipation for the coming of the Christ child, I'd like to share reflections our children sent to family and friends in this year's Christmas letter...

By: Levi
     I’m in Kindergarten this year and loving it! I participated in a 4-week science class where we learned kitchen chemistry. I like helping dad, Ruben, and Uncle Roger around the farm. This summer, I picked rock. I’ve also been feeding the cattle and getting wood. I like helping Riley and mom cook and bake too. This fall, I made apple and pumpkin pies. I just lost my two bottom front teeth. I hope new ones grow back. I really like our dogs. Their names are Elsa and Anna. And, I like to read books!

By: Ruben
     This year, I participated in archery, air rifle, and trap shooting through 4-H and received several awards. I’m in 7th grade. I work around the farm with dad and work off the farm helping neighbors. I enjoy fixing cars and 4-wheelers. I also love to hunt and fish. I would rather be outdoors than in. I went to Louisville, KY in January with my mom for a [CiRCE] conference. I saw the giant Louisville Slugger bat.

By: Riley
     I’m in 8th grade. This year, I played softball and shot archery. I entered some art work in the fair through 4-H for the first time and I received two blue ribbons. I have several jobs outside our home, including: rag weeding, babysitting, and house cleaning. I also help around the farm making wood, picking rock, and haying. I enjoy baking, watching the Packers, being outside, reading, and playing with my brothers. One of my favorite adventures this year was fishing and kayaking on Chequamegon Bay. 

May you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year!
Steve, Melissa, Riley, Ruben, and Levi

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Twenty-Five Christmas Picture Books....

I've posted Christmas picture books in the past, but it seems each year, we discover more. There may be a few duplicates from last year's list, but many are new to us. Here's this year's line-up:

From the Public Library

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
The Christmas Deer by April Wilson
Apple Tree Christmas by Tinka Hakes Noble
Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray
Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins
Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
We Three Kings by Gennady Spirin
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
The Carpenter's Gift by David Rubel

From Our Home Library

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
On This Special Night by Claire Freedman
The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes
The Nutcracker by Warren Chappell
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight
Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren
The Christmas Sky by Frankly M. Branley
My Prairie Christmas by Brett Harvey
The City That Forgot About Christmas by Mary Warren
The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke - some may not consider a picture book

Monday, December 18, 2017

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by McCaughrean...

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean  is a fresh retelling of King Shahryar's quest for love. When his first wife abandons him for another, he vows to kill each new wife before they can leave him too. After three years of killing a new bride everyday, the supply of young eligible maiden's in his kingdom is running low. In an effort to protect her, King Shahryar's trusted adviser, keeps his own daughter, Shahrazad, a secret. Eventually, she is found out and her time comes to marry the King. However, Shahrazad concocts a clever plan to tell the King a story every night before bed to spare her life. Her stories are so wonderful and exciting that the King must keep her alive until the next night to continue. This goes on for one thousand and one nights until Shahrazad tires and can no longer tell her tales. Will the King take Shahrazad's life? You must read this enchanting adventure to find out for yourself.

McCaughrean's One Thousand and One Arabian Nights is a part of the Beautiful Feet Intermediate Medieval History study. Only select chapters are assigned in their guide. However, you can certainly read more if you so choose. Ruben really enjoyed the tales I read aloud. I absolutely adored the beautiful ending, which made me want to go back some day and read the stories we missed.

Overall, I think McCaughrean's retelling is great for getting acquainted with these classic tales. They may not be as in depth as other translations, but certainly suitable for middle school or anyone looking to get a basic understanding for historical relevance.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reflections on Home Education - Part V, Post 2 - Teaching Reading

Continuing on with Part V of Vol. 1, Home Education by Charlotte Mason, let's take a look at what Charlotte says about teaching reading. You may go back and read Post 1, from Part V, on Kindergarten here.

To begin, Charlotte suggests the importance of learning to read, but acknowledges the opportune time to teach reading is an open mystery...
Reading presents itself first amongst the lessons to be used as instruments of education although it is open to discussion whether the child should acquire the art unconsciously, from his infancy upwards, or whether the effort should be deferred until he is, say, six or seven, and then made with vigour. (p. 199)
That first line above is of uber importance. "Reading presents itself first amongst the lessons to be used as instruments of education." Charlotte states the significant impact reading has on learning, suggesting that it's the number one tool or means of education. One must be able to read or to listen to the word in order to interpret knowledge. Now, this is not to say reading is the end all, be all. However, it is of highest importance in Charlotte's philosophy. The exact time of when this must begin is open ended because exactly how and when a child learns to read is unknown. What or when is that exact moment when one becomes cognizant of their ability to read? Does reading begin with spoken word or written word?
Many persons consider that to learn to read a language so full of anomalies and difficulties as our own is a task which should not be imposed too soon on the childish mind. But, as a matter of fact, few of us can recollect how or when we learned to read: for all we know, it came by nature, like the art of running; and not only so, but often mothers of the educated classes do not know how their children learned to read. 'Oh, he taught himself,' is all the account his mother can give of little Dick's proficiency. Whereby it is plain, that his notion of the extreme difficulty of learning to read is begotten by the elders rather than by the children.  (p. 200)
Charlotte even goes so far as to say that if tears are shed over a reading lesson, the fault rests with the teacher.  Rather than include a great amount of commentary and debate about the advent of reading here, I'm going to focus on notes and observations I made while reading each specific section on teaching reading. Keep in mind, Home Education is for the training and educating of children under age nine.

The Alphabet
As for his letters, the child usually teaches himself. (p. 201)
Apparently, it was expected that each child had a box of ivory letters and whenever that box began to interest the child is when reading instruction was to begin.
...learning of the alphabet should be made a means of cultivating the child's observations: he should be made to see what he looks at." (p. 201)
The teacher would trace the letters in the air and use a sand tray, in which the student would write letters.
There is no occasion to hurry the child. (p. 201)

Short vowel "a" with a consonant such as "t" forms the syllable "at", of which many other consonants can be put in front to form words like fat, cat, sat, bat, rat, etc. Charlotte reminds us to keep these exercises light and pleasant.
Exercises treated as a game, which yet teach the powers of the letters, will be better to begin with than actual sentences. (p. 202)
Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows. (p. 202)
Begin with short vowels and consonants making short three letter words. When the child is comfortable with this exercise and doing the lesson for himself, it's time to move on. Again, Charlotte reminds us not to hurry the child. However, I am under the impression that the alphabet and word making exercises could begin informally at a preschool age.

Word-making with Long Vowels, etc.

When short vowel lessons become so easy that it is no longer interesting, let the long sounds of the vowels be learnt in the same way. Charlotte advocates using the same method as listed above, but now adding a final "e" to the words, turning rat into rate and pat into pate. Be sure the child pronounces each word they make to take advantage of the full multi-sensory experience. (ex. moving letters - kinesthetic; reading word - visual; hearing/saying word aloud - auditory)
This is not reading, but it is preparing the ground for reading; words will be no longer unfamiliar, perplexing objects, when the child meets with them in a line of print. (p. 203)
Early Spelling
Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made. This is important. Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a word; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort. (p. 203)
Unfortunately, all English words aren't made by the same patterns...
But many of our English words are, each, a law unto itself: there is nothing for it, but the child must learn to know them at sight:... (p. 203)
Charlotte recognizes sight words and suggests this idea of learning to see the letters in each word as a way to read and spell these non-traditional words. Words like: the, I, for, said, and was, need to be memorized or visualized in the mind's eye. Again, Charlotte suggests making lessons interesting and keeping them light to engage the child.

Reading at Sight
The teacher must be content to proceed very slowly, securing the ground under her feet as she goes. (p. 204)
Charlotte uses Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in her example of teaching reading. She advises to make sure the child can read each word independently before allowing him to read it all at once.

The Reading of Prose

Charlotte continued citing her reading example from Twinkle,Twinkle..., suggesting the use of prose and poetry to teach reading right from the start, saying...
At this stage, his reading lessons must advance so slowly that he may just as well learn his reading exercises, both prose and poetry, as recitation lesson..... Even for their earliest reading lessons, it is unnecessary to put twaddle into the hands of children. (p. 204-205)
Careful Pronunciation
...another advantage of slow and steady progress - the saying of each word receives due attention, and the child is trained in the habit of careful enunciation. (p. 206)
A Year's Work

Charlotte continues to adamantly advise slow, unhurried lessons, suggesting mastery as the key to keeping the child's interest and desire for continued progress.

Ordinary Method

Charlotte suggests that other teaching methods bore children. Stating, it is likely the child will learn to read eventually, but most likely they will have a distaste for it.

Based on sample lessons as presented in sections above, it appears as though any type of phonics instruction could be considered pre-reading instruction. Once the child understood the alphabet as symbols with meaning, the teacher would introduce a few word families through word building exercises. From there, the child was presented a nursery rhyme, in which he/she could recognize a few words maybe based on the word family exercises. The child was then taught words in the rhyme by memorizing a visual picture of the word. Charlotte felt that teaching phonics or teaching reading on the sounds of the letters only hindered the child by causing mental confusion from analytic labour. Instead, she taught the whole word so the child could see the meaning and beauty of it as a whole, rather than its parts. It's almost as if she taught whole to part, instead of typical phonics instruction of part to whole. I would say Charlotte was fond of what we now call the Look/Say Method or Whole Language Method.
What we want is a bridge between the child's natural interests and those arbitrary symbols with which he must become acquainted, and which, as we have seen, are words, and not letters. (p. 216)
For more information or a curriculum on using Charlotte's methods of teaching reading, Simply Charlotte Mason has published Delightful Reading and Jennifer at Joyful Shepherdess created a series of blog posts.

In the next section of this part, The First Reading Lesson, Charlotte quotes two papers, which appeared in the Parents' Review, in an effort to make the reading lesson teaching method more clear. It's as though two mothers are discussing a reading lesson. In her example, Charlotte says, "spelling and reading are two things." and that a child must learn spelling in order to write. Based on her explanation, I feel as though Charlotte is likening spelling more to phonics, giving reading it's own rite. She advises beginning a new study on the child's birthday as if it's a privilege or a coming of age adventure.

In the footnotes, Charlotte writes,
Spirited nursery rhymes form the best material for such reading lessons. (p. 222)
- and -
It is desirable that 'Tommy' should not begin to 'read' until his intelligence is equal to the effort required by these lessons. (p. 222) 
Recitation and Memorization

Next, Charlotte touches on recitation and memorization, stating that the two are not necessarily the same thing. She cites Arthur Burrell's work, Recitation: The Children's Art as the best way to teach recitation. In regard to memorization, she recommends storing the child's memory with a good deal of poetry, but without labor. Charlotte gives two examples to support her method. One of which of a little girl learning a poem simply from hearing it at various times throughout the day, in play, while brushing her hair, etc. One day, the child was suddenly able to recall it with ease. The second was of a convalescent woman reading while bed ridden. She too was able to remember sections of the work after one reading because her mind was allowed focus with no preoccupation. To this Charlotte writes...
It is possible that the disengaged mind of a child is as free to take and as strong to hold beautiful images clothed in beautiful words as was that of this lady during her convalescence. But, let me again say, every effort of the kind, however unconscious, means wear and tear of brain substance. Let the child lie fallow till he is six, and then, in this matter of memorising, as in others, attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imagination. At the same time, when there is so much noble poetry within a child's compass, the pity of it, that he should be allowed to learn twaddle! (p. 226)
Reading for Older Children
The child who has been taught to read with care and deliberation until he has mastered the words of a limited vocabulary, usually does the rest for himself. The attention of his teachers should be fixed on two points - that he acquired the habit of reading, and that he does not fall into slipshod habits of reading. (p. 226)
Charlotte recommends the child reading for themselves to themselves as soon as they are able. Also, the child should be trained from the start to narrate each reading after a single reading, as this will encourage the child in the habit of attention. The child's books should consist of history, legends, and fairy tales. He should also have practice in reading aloud, particularly poetry. Lesson books must not be twaddle.
A child has not begun his education until he has acquired the habit of reading to himself, with interest and pleasure, books fully on a level with his intelligence. (p. 229)
Charlotte further suggests, once a child can read independently, reading aloud to them only at bedtime or on special occasion as a treat. Her thought was if the child becomes dependent on someone reading aloud to them, they would become lazy in their reading and not want to do it for themselves.

Direct questioning about the reading and vocabulary quizzing should not be allowed. Instead, the child should narrate each passage to show understanding. At this age, narrations should all be oral, no written. In regard to vocabulary, a child gets the meaning of a word only in the context of reading, not by quizzing according to Charlotte.

Short lessons are the key to perfect attention. Also, as stated above, the teacher must require proper enunciation from the start.
Provincial pronunciation and slipshod enunciation must be guarded against. (p. 230)
There you have an outline of Charlotte's ideas for teaching reading. Again, please don't take my word as the final authority. Go and read her writing for yourself. Then come back. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share in the comments below.

After the New Year, I plan to continue with Post 3 of Part V, covering Narration, Writing/Composition, Bible Lessons, and Arithmetic teaching for children under age nine.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Journey: An Education for Life 2017 Audios Now Available...

Journey: An Education for Life 2017 audios are now available for purchase! Your purchase includes a digital download of the following talks:

Is a Charlotte Mason Inspired Education Relevant Today?: (Melissa Greene) The keynote will include a brief introduction to Charlotte Mason. There will be highlights of several key principles of Mason’s philosophy as well as what a Charlotte Mason education is not. The talk will close with thoughts to ponder on whether or not a Charlotte Mason inspired education is relevant today.

Reflections on a Charlotte Mason Inspired Education: (Gretchen Houchin) Encouragement from a retired homeschool mom with practical examples of what worked and what didn’t. The focus will be on high school and older students, but will blend with methods used in the younger years to build the foundation for the upper.

Teaching Through Literature and Living Books: (Melissa Greene) Description and examples of living books, along with practical application on how to use them in your homeschool to cover a variety of subjects. Talk will also include ideas on how to use the methods that underlie Charlotte Mason’s principles with traditional and struggling learners. Book lists and suggestions will be shared.

Charlotte Mason in Real Life: Courage for the Long Haul: (Cindy Rollins) Find joy in the realities of homeschooling when the romance fades. Thoughts from a veteran mama of nine on what truth, goodness, and beauty look like in real life. Strategies will be given for the long haul.

Price: $35

Be sure to include your e-mail address with payment, as this is where the audios will be sent. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo...

Micheal Morpurgo's Beowulf is a wonderful retelling of this Old English epic. I first became aware of it through Beautiful Feet Books. It is included in their Intermediate Medieval History guide, which we are working through this year.

Morpurgo's Beowulf is easy to read and understand, yet doesn't dumb down the tale of the noble Scandinavian warrior. In his acknowledgement at the back of the book, Morpurgo gives credit for his understanding of the epic to Seamus Heaney, Rosemary Sutcliff, Kevin Crossley-Holland, and Micheal Alexander. The suggested reading level is ages 8-12, making it a very accessible retelling.

The story is written in three parts. First, Beowulf must conquer Grendel, a monster who consistently attacks the Danes. Then he must face Grendel's mother, the Sea-Hag, who comes to avenge her son's death. Many years later, after becoming King of the Geats, Beowulf decides to fight the Death-Dragon of the Deep in an effort to save his people. The dragon, who'd been asleep for over three hundred years, was awakened by a slave trying to steal a jeweled cup from his lair and has been blowing fire, burning the Geats' homes and land. I will not spoil the ending.

Beowulf is a classic good versus evil tale. It put me in mind of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Beowulf is a leader of incredible character. His strength, nobility, and virtue shine throughout the story. I highly recommend Morpurgo's retelling, particularly for 4th-8th grade or anyone looking to get a general handle on this epic. It has totally set the stage for Heaney's Beowulf, which I look forward to reading in the future.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beautiful Feet Medieval History - 2017-2018 First Term Review...

Riley finished her first 12 weeks of Beautiful Feet's Intermediate Medieval History today. So far, she has read from the following titles:

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
Queen Eleanor, Independent Spirit of the Medieval World by Polly Brooks
Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
The European World 400-1450 by Barbara A. Hanawalt

Only select chapters were assigned from Arabian Nights and King Arthur. However, since we decided to stop reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which was recommended by Ambleside Online, Riley opted to read King Arthur in its entirety. Also, The European World is a spine book, so select sections are assigned throughout the year. Overall, she has really appreciated the literature, though some of the assigned readings are long, taking well over an hour. Riley mentioned in particular, how helpful it was to read the Queen Eleanor book as background for Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, which we are also reading per AO.

In addition, Ruben and I have read Beowulf, Arabian Nights and King Arthur as part of his history study. Given the length of the readings, I will not be able to read all of the books suggested in the Medieval guide, but we are planning to keep up with several of the assigned titles. I especially enjoyed Beowulf much more than I could have anticipated, where good versus evil abounds. Ruben was entranced by Arabian Nights. He loved hearing each day's tales. I've also been thinking about the virtue and valor in King Arthur and how as soon as one man broke the code of chivalry, the round table fell apart. When Satan is allowed to creep in, sin destroys us. There were many life lessons and much to think about in that story.

Aside from the reading, Riley has also been completing the suggested assignments in the BF guide. These have included mapwork, vocabulary, and writing prompts. She mentioned a couple of times that there has been more research and writing in this guide than in the BF Ancient History guide she completed last year. One of Riley's complaints has been the lack of drawing or illustrating assignments in the BF Medieval History. She felt the Ancient History guide allowed her more creativity in drawing, which she relishes. She's hopeful, there may be more drawing in future weeks. In the mean time, Riley's been adding in extra drawing where ever she can. Overall, the Medieval study is going well and we plan to continue.

Below are photo samples of Riley's notebooking pages completed thus far...

Thanks Beautiful Feet for giving us the opportunity to review the Intermediate Medieval History guide! Though we were gifted the guide, all opinions expressed are my own sincere thoughts and observations of the program.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving of Remembrance...

Over the past couple of months, I've been reflecting on Cindy Rollins' talk, Charlotte Mason in Real Life: Courage for the Long Haul, at the Journey: An Education for Life retreat. In relation to Charlotte Mason's motto, Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life, Rollins talked about Freedom, Remembrance, and Contentment. I've been thinking mostly about Remembrance this Thanksgiving Season.

As Levi and I were cleaning out our gifted pumpkins, I was remembering a time when my grandpa planted pumpkins in his garden at the farm. The farm where I grew up was his farm, where my mom also grew up. Back in the 1980's, my family was living on that farm as my parents took over when grandpa and grandma built a new house and moved to town. However, every week day, grandpa would travel to the farm to tend his garden, help my parents in the field, cut wood, or whatever other task presented itself.

Then in the fall, he would harvest his pumpkins and take them to town to grandma. He would help grandma split them open, clean out the "guts", and peel them. Next, grandma would cook them down, puree them, and make pies, freezing any extra pumpkin to be used for pies at other holidays throughout the year. Sometimes, my mom and I would go to town and help. Of course, grandma would always send us home with a pie, which I'm sure my mom knew.

Not only were the pumpkins homegrown, but the lard for the pie crust was rendered from a hog that had been butchered. Oh, how I love pie crust from home rendered lard! Grandma would use the crust scraps to make "buckles". A process where she took the strips and sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, baking them into sheer pleasure and delicious goodness.

Now, it just so happened that I had a bit of that home rendered lard left in my freezer from days gone past. I figured there was no better time than the present to break it out and make pies with Levi. So we split open those pumpkins, cleaned out the guts, and peeled them. I then cooked them down and pureed them just like grandma did. We yielded eight pints.

Next, we thawed our lard and started in on the crust, of course, using grandma's recipe. We measured, poured, kneaded, and rolled. Throughout the process, I talked about grandma. Riley and Ruben eventually joined us. I told the kids how I loved to snitch the crust before it was baked and how grandma let me. I told them about the buckles. I told them about my mom and my grandpa, who have both since passed away before they knew them. The kids listened intently as remembrance passed between us. 

I am obviously no longer a child though it seems like only yesterday. Every year that goes by, I understand the importance of this remembrance. Our children long to know. They want to feel a sense of belonging. They need to be tethered. Sharing these stories and family traditions is so important, particularly in this narcissistic culture we live. After all, if you have no tie to the past, you can only think of self as you look to the future. 

On the eve of this Thanksgiving, I am looking back in thankfulness for days gone by. For a family with rhythm and tradition. I am thankful for a heritage of remembrance to leave with my children. Together, the kids and I cranked out three pumpkin pies and one dutch apple. We also froze six pints of pumpkin for future pies, just like grandma did. We can't wait to sink our teeth into those pies, but more importantly we remembered the past and created a memory for future. Hopefully, one day my children will look back and tell their children how grandpa grew pumpkins and grandma made pie. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Classical Academic Press - Review & Giveaway! Latin Alive 1

Today I'm hosting a guest post from Carol at Journey and Destination and giveaway from Classical Academic Press....

'Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained by being made to learn Latin and Greek.' 
C.S. Lewis

Some background
I’d always wanted our children to study Latin but, like many other home educators, I had no background in the language myself, unless the medical terminology I learned years ago counts. I’ve attempted Latin with all seven of my children but, like our French language learning, I spent quite a bit of money on curriculum that either wasn’t comprehensive enough, too difficult for me to teach or for them to use independently, or it was dull and lifeless. This was most noticeable around the ages of about 11 or 12 years when they were ready for a challenge, could handle the grammar, but also needed a creative, lively approach.

I started using French for Children by Classical Academic Press (CAP) with my daughter nearly two years ago just before she turned eleven & she loves it. She had also been studying Latin using some resources we already had, some of which were good introductions to the language, but as time went on she started to complain about the lack of explanations, that the material was boring, and that it all seemed rather pointless. This was the same scenario I faced with her older siblings. One day she said, “If Latin was taught like my (CAP) French I wouldn’t mind learning it.” Enough said.

Classical Academic Press kindly provided me with a free Latin Alive!1 bundle to use and review. This is our sixth week of using this approach and I’m very pleased with how much my daughter is actually enjoying Latin. Here are my honest thoughts on the curriculum and how we are using it:

Latin Alive! Book 1 by Classical Academic Press is the first in a series of three texts designed for about 7th to 8th Grade students and up. It is the next step after CAP's Latin for Children but it is also suitable for students with no previous Latin knowledge and the DVD’s allow the student to work independently. (see video samples on YouTube

My 12-year-old finds it challenging but not overwhelming. This is partly due to the grammar she has covered in her French studies and her ability to think more logically now that’s she’s older.

Classical Academic Press recommends that younger students follow one of two options, depending on their academic level (see their FAQ): 

1)      Complete all three Latin for Children Primers (Levels A–C), then start Latin Alive! Book 2
2)      Complete Latin for Children Primers A and B, then move into Latin Alive! Book 1.

I did consider using Latin for Children C before commencing Latin Alive! 1 and I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed when this curriculum arrived and I started looking through it. I thought perhaps I'd made the wrong decision. Latin Alive! is extremely comprehensive and chock-a-block full, but after going through the introductory section of the first DVD, it was much less daunting. Now that we’re six weeks in, I’m confident that it’s an ideal fit for my daughter.

Latin teacher, Karen Moore, shares her own story of learning Latin on the first DVD: she explains how her love of Latin developed after her mother made her take Latin in Year 7, and why the study of Latin is relevant to us today. This was so good for my daughter to hear as well as being an encouragement to me.

The Latin Alive! bundle:

•    36 weekly chapters - 29 of these contain new material, the others are review

•    A section is included at the back of the Student Edition listing vocabulary chapter by chapter and reference charts for declensions etc

•    Latin Alive! Level 1 Teacher’s Edition - 323 pages; includes the complete student text & answer keys. The answer key to each chapter is found at the end of each chapter in the Teacher’s Edition; Student pages directly correspond with the Teacher’s pages

•   Teacher's Extras in the back of the book contain various worksheets, projects and seven unit tests to be given after the unit review chapters are included

•    Latin Alive! 1 - DVD & CD set with over fifteen hours of teaching on seven DVDs. The audio CD contains unit review Latin readings so that students can practice proper pronunciation and accent. The DVDs use the Classical pronunciation and a streaming option is also available

What Latin Alive! looks like in real life:

•    Each of the 7 DVD’s in Latin Alive 1 contain between three to five chapters, and each chapter is about 30 to 50 minutes long.

•    We decided to cover one chapter per week over three days. This usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes per day, although some additional time may be added for writing exercises. My daughter also keeps a Latin Notebook where she writes definitions or other material she wants to remember. It might be better for some students to spread the lesson over the week but this works best for us at present.

Last week we completed Chapter 5 and this is how it looked:

Day 1: Watched a section of the video that went over new vocabulary and explained transitive and intransitive verbs. The video teacher directs the student to stop the video and complete exercises in the student book as they go through the chapter together. Wrote definitions in Latin notebook.

Day 2: Continued with the DVD, going back where necessary to review the previous day’s explanations. Learned about the accusative case and direct object and completed assigned exercises. Finished watching the video for the chapter.

Day 3: Chapter reading - these readings started in Chapter 4 and at the beginning consisted of short sentences in Latin about Greece and Troy. By the time the student reaches Chapter 7, the readings are about two paragraphs long. Read the Culture Corner, a short section to help the student learn about the culture and history of the Romans. Derivative Detective - found a derivative for amat, nautical and specta Collaquamur or ‘Let’s Talk’ - used some questions and responses to review nouns; used ‘eye’ Latin to try to identify words.

I asked my daughter to say what she liked about this curriculum and this was her response:

Well laid out 
It doesn’t assume you know all your grammar, but teaches you everything step by step
Good teacher, explains things well 
Teaches you how to pronounce words properly
Nice music

The Student and Teacher editions plus the DVD & CD set include everything you need for this course, although it is suggested that you have access to a Latin/English dictionary. Here are some free online versions:

Online Latin

A support page for Latin Alive! is provided on the CAP website.

The only negative comment I have to make is that the Latin Alive! 1 text has recently been revised but the DVD won't be updated to match the text until next year. I understand that this primarily affects Chapter 1 and that CAP has created an errata sheet for families to use in the meantime. This wasn't an issue for us as it was only a matter of page or exercise numbers and it only took a few seconds to find the correct one.

Classical Academic Press is giving away three Latin Alive! 1 bundles to entrants with a USA residential address. Enter the Giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below.

A 20% discount off the purchase of any Latin Alive product is available with the discount code LAJourney1 throughout the course of the giveaway for anyone to use.

If you order from CAP with the 20% off and then win the giveaway, you will be refunded.

Giveaway ends at midnight on December 5th. Winners will be contacted by email. Winners who do not respond by the deadline given in the winners’ email will be replaced by random drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Classical Academic Press, for supporting this Giveaway. Learn more about them and their excellent products at the Classical Academic Press website. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017-2018 Ruben's History Update - Year 7...

Now that we are nearly done with our first term, I feel it's safe to say, I've settled on something for Ruben's history. A combination of Famous Men of the Middle Ages by Greenleaf Press and The Middle Ages by Mike Corbishley, along with a variety of living books, seems to be just the right balance.

The titles pictured above are recommended literature in IEW's Medieval History - Based Writing Lessons, which I'm also using with Ruben. So far, we've read Beowulf, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. All three titles also happen to be Beautiful Feet books that accompany their Intermediate Medieval History guide, which Riley is working through. I love this because we are all reading the same books, in the same time period, which allows us great conversation, yet independently, honoring Riley's request for autonomy. In addition, I'm pulling titles from my Truthquest History Middle Ages guide.

When we're through with Famous Men of the Middle Ages, I intend to finish out the year with Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation, also by Greenleaf Press. Again, adding a variety of living books. In the meantime, our current schedule looks something like this...

Read two chapters from Famous Men... aloud, one on Monday, one on Wednesday. Then Ruben completes a notebooking page/narration on Tuesday and Thursday regarding each reading. I also read aloud a chapter a day from a particular living literature book. So each day, Ruben is doing history and lit, which are both related. Along the same vein, his IEW writing lessons also follow the same time period. This seems to be giving a nice overview, without overwhelming him. Below are some samples of Ruben's notebooking pages....

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reflections on Home Education - Part V, Post 1, "Is the Kindergarten the best training-ground for a child?"...

I've been thinking a lot about Kindergarten lately since I have a 5-year old. As a result, I recently posted some Thoughts on Kindergarten based on my experience. Today, I'd like to share some thoughts on Kindergarten based on Charlotte Mason's writing in Vol. 1, Home Education. We are currently studying Part V in my CM Study Group, which is broken into eleven sections. I aim to cover the first three sections dealing with The Matter and Method of Lessons and Kindergarten here.

It seems to me that we live in an age of pedagogy; that we of the teaching profession are inclined to take too much upon ourselves, and that parents are ready to yield the responsibility of direction, as well as of actual instruction, more than is wholesome for the children. (p. 169)
Miss Mason's opening words immediately resonated with me. So often when parents find out we home educate our children, they say things like I could never homeschool because I'm not good at math. My child has an excellent teacher and they are a professional.  Or worse, I couldn't stand to be with my kids all day the end of summer, I can't wait to send them back to school. Well, I suspect with an attitude like that, your child most certainly can't wait to go back to school either....ahem!

Interestingly, Miss Mason would be quite opposed to this modern manner of thinking as she goes on to say that home is the best growing-ground for young children and that mothers are the best Kindergarten teachers. Therefore, we ought not shirk our responsibilities, but rather, we must consider the three questions she poses:

1. Why must children learn at all?
2. What should they learn?
3. How should they learn it?


Just as we must feed a child's body, we must feed their mind. We must offer pabulum to nourish it, as well as "appropriate exercise".
...we learn that we may know, not that we may grow... (p. 172)
Lessons must furnish ideas...
The child must learn, in the second place, in order that ideas may be freely sown in the fruitful soil of his mind. "Idea, the image or picture formed by the mind of anything external, whether sensible or spiritual,' - so, the dictionary; therefore, if the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has, by so far, missed the mark. (p. 173)
Ideas vs. Information
...give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information; for the child who grows up with a few dominant ideas has his self-education provided for, his career marked out. (p. 174) 
We must provide the highest quality books. We should not talk "twaddle" or dumb down to the child. Charlotte gave four tests to apply to our children's lessons...
We see, then, that the children's lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate, and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure. (p. 177)
However, before applying these tests, she advised us to remember or review six points she previously considered...
(a) That the knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers (under direction) in the open air.
(b) That the claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child's right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation.
(c) That the child should be taken daily, if possible, to scenes - moor or meadow, park, common, or shore - where he may find new things to examine, and so add to his store of real knowledge. That the child's observation should be directed to flower or boulder, bird or tree; that, in fact, he should be employed in gathering the common information which is the basis of scientific knowledge. 
(d) That play, vigorous healthful play, is, in its turn, fully as important as lessons, as regards both bodily health and brain-power. 
(e) That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself - both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences. 
(f) That the happiness of the child is the condition of his progress; that his lessons should be joyous, and that occasions of friction in the schoolroom are greatly to be deprecated.  (p. 177-178)

What and How?

Miss Mason suggests that mothers have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, and culture to be the best suited Kindergärtnerin, which is German for infant teacher, kindergarten teacher, or nursery-class teacher. She further states...
Indeed, the machinery of the Kindergarten is no more than a devise to ensure the carrying out of certain educational principles, and some of these it is the mother's business to get at, and work out according to Froebel's method - or her own. (p. 179)
Charlotte goes on to say... the Kindergarten the child's senses are carefully and progressively trained: he looks, listens, learns by touch; gets ideas of size, colour, form, number; is taught to copy faithfully, express exactly. And in this training of the senses, the child is made to pursue the method the infant shapes for himself in his early studies of ring or ball. (p. 179
Charlotte further cautions us against a field of knowledge that's too restrictive, circumscribed by giving exact ideas rather than real knowledge. For example, telling or teaching the child about a tree, rather than letting them go out and explore it for themselves. By only reading a book about trees, we are giving exact ideas or telling him what to think about the tree. By taking him outside to see, feel, smell, and possibly climb the tree, he develops real knowledge for himself. This goes back to something Miss Mason said in Part II of Home Education, that a child learns through things, while adults learn through words, and that his sense of beauty comes through early contact with nature. We must allow our children those opportunities to assimilate real knowledge as much as possible in the early years without contriving.

Continued habit training, as in Part III, of Home Education, is also referenced in this section...
Training of a Just Eye and Faithful Hand the home a thousand such opportunities occur; if only in such trifles as the straightening of a tablecloth or of a picture, the hanging of a towel, the packing of a parcel - every thoughtful mother invents a thousand ways of training in her child a just eye and a faithful hand. (p. 180)
'Sweetness and Light' in the Kindergarten ...Do not treat the child's small contumacy too seriously; do not assume that he is being naughty: just leave him out when he is not prepared to act in harmony with the rest. Avoid friction; and above all, do not let him disturb the moral atmosphere; in all gentleness and serenity, remove him from the company of the others, when he is being what nurses call 'tiresome'. 
On the whole, we may say that some of the principles which should govern Kindergarten training are precisely those in which every thoughtful mother endeavors to bring up her family; while the practices of the Kindergarten, being only ways, amongst others, of carrying out these principles, and being apt to become stereotyped and wooden, are unnecessary, but may be adopted so far as they fit in conveniently with the mother's general scheme for the education of her family. (p. 181) 

After reading and re-reading this section, I sense a bit of wit and sarcasm in Miss Mason's writing in regard to society's reverent indebtedness to Froebel. For she says,
So far as education is a science, the truth of even ten - much more, a hundred - years ago is not the whole truth of to-day. "Thoughts beyond their thought to those high seers were given"; and, in proportion as the urgency of educational effort presses upon us, will be the ardour of our appreciation, the diligence of our employment, of those truths which the great pioneers, Froebel and the rest, have won for us by no less than prophetic insight. But, alas, and alas, for the cravings of lazy human nature - we may not have an educational pope; we must think out for ourselves, as well as work out, those things that belong to the perfect bringing-up of our children. (p. 185)
Charlotte calls us out as parents. She encourages us to study a variety of educational thought, in order that we may decide for ourselves what is right and just for our children, rather than letting government, state schools, and any one pedagogy rule the education of our children.

Charlotte further credits Froebel for raising an altar to the enthusiasm of childhood upon which the flame has never since gone out. She then warns us not to throw caution to the wind, pointing out some flaws in Froebel's philosophy...
Our first care should be to preserve the individuality, give play to the personality, of children. Now persons do not grow in a garden, much less in a greenhouse. It is a doubtful boon to a person to have conditions too carefully adapted to his needs. The exactly due sunshine and shade, pruning and training, are good for a plant whose uses are subordinate, so to say, to the needs and pleasure of its owner. But a person has other uses in the world, and mother or teacher who regards him as a plant and herself as the gardener, will only be saved from grave mistakes by the force of human nature in herself and in her child. (p. 186)
Let us not forget Principle 1, Children are born persons. Here, again, we see Charlotte advising us to 'preserve the individuality' of our children, remembering that they are made in the image of Christ, holding the highest form of life. She also says we should not 'supplement Nature', but rather to leave children as much as may be to Nature, and the Most High God. Later in this section, Charlotte calls 'Kindergarten' a false analogy because to figure a person by any analogy is dangerous and misleading, as there is nothing measurably equal with that of a person.

Miss Mason goes on to write...
...I am inclined to question whether, in the interest of carrying out a system, the charming Kindergärtnerin is not in danger sometimes of greatly undervaluing the intelligence of her children. (p. 187)
More than once in this section, Charlotte anticipates her audience wondering what is wrong with all the pleasant and happy things in Kindergarten. To this she says...
It is a curious thing about human nature that we all like to be managed by persons who take the pains to play on our amiabilities. Even a dog can be made foolishly sentimental; and, if we who are older have our foibles in this kind, it is little wonder that children can be wooed to do anything by persons whose approaches to them are always charming.
Most of us are mislead by our virtues, and the entire zeal and enthusiasm of the Kindergärtnerin is perhaps her stone of stumbling. (p. 188)
Many parents are sucked into this thinking. Kindergarten is cute. It's fun! There are bright colored plastic toys and games. There are other kids to play with. Therefore, kids will like it. Miss Mason also references the songs and stories often made up for children in Kindergarten as being twaddle and self-serving the teacher. She says, 'Everything is directed, expected, suggested.' Society says our children should attend kindergarten. Hence, they must need it. However, after reading Charlotte's thoughts, I liken Kindergarten to cotton candy. It is a delightful treat, but too much gives a tummy ache.
Even apart form this element of charm, I doubt if the self-adjusting property of life in the Kindergarten is good for children. (p. 189)
The bright pink fluffy charm of cotton candy is enticing at first, but after a period of time, it has it's ill effects. It's certainly not the best form of nourishment in the long run.

Keeping on with further lures to Kindergarten, Miss Mason brings up a very important point regarding socialization. This seems to be a main concern for folks pondering home education. I have heard many parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and the like worry over the possibility of home educated children being unsocialized. Charlotte addresses the idea of socialization negatively in respect to children spending day after day with peers, when they have not even begun, let alone to master, the task of self-government. She suggests that 'the society of his equals is too stimulating for a child.' I couldn't agree more. Instead of children being solely with peers day in and day out, she suggests....
The clash and sparkle of our equals now and then stirs us up to health; but for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors and equals, which we get in a family, gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development. We have all wondered at the good sense, reasonableness, fun and resourcefulness shown by a child in his own home as compared with the same child in school life. (p. 191)
Now, if the thought of home educating your child seems too much to bear, keep this in mind...
Here we come to the real crux of the Kindergarten question. The busy mother says she has no leisure to be that somebody, and the child will run wild and get into bad habits; but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a life as well as a discipline. Health, strength, and agility, bright eyes and alert movements, come of a free life, out-of-doors, if it may be; and as for habit, there is no habit or power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative. The resourcefulness, which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the length of a summer's day is worth more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervention on the mother's part, but of much masterly inactivity. (p. 192)
Mason calls us to sow opportunities and get out of the way, until a guiding or restraining hand is necessary. I would also encourage you to start educating yourself in the meantime. It's very empowering!...but that's for another post.
Mothers shirk their work and put it, as they would say, into better hands than their own, because they do not recognise that wise letting alone is the chief thing asked of them, seeing that every mother has in Nature an all-sufficient handmaid, who arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses. (p. 193)
In closing, I would like to say dear mama, you are your child's best early childhood teacher! Mothers are vested in their children. A mother knows and loves her child like no other. Taking the next step to begin formal education, can and should be a very natural process. Provide opportunities, give living and real ideas through Nature and natural play. Then step aside.

Finally, Charlotte makes an alarming accusation against American Kindergarten... is in America that the ideas of Froebel have received their greatest development, that the Kindergarten has become a cult, and the great teacher a prophet. (p. 197) 
If you are still reading, I thank you. I will leave you with the same final thought Miss Mason wrote on page 199, "Is the Kindergarten the best training-ground for a child?" I say not!