Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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

RileyAnn just finished her second 12-week term with Beautiful Feet's Intermediate Medieval History guide. You can take a peek back at her first term here. Today, I'll showcase the books and notebooking pages she worked on in the second term.

In week's thirteen through twenty-four, Riley covered a variety of topics, including the Magna Charta, medieval castles and cathedrals, 13th Century China, John Wycliffe, and 13th and 14th Century England by reading the following living books...

The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
Cathedral by David Macaulay
Castle by David Macaulay
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thompson
Crispin and the Cross of Lead by AVI

Riley has written many essays and research papers throughout this study, drawing from a variety of  websites and The European World 400-1450 by Barbara A. Hanawalt. She did have some trouble accessing the BF guide's suggested websites, but has been able to find subject material at other websites. Riley also watched the David Macaulay Cathedral documentary online. I had Ruben watch it with her after he read the Macaulay book as well.

Overall, Riley is loving the BF Intermediate Medieval History literature! The photo below shows a sampling of her notebooking pages for this term.

Monday, February 26, 2018

How I Avoid the Road to Homeschool Burnout....

I took this photo a month or so back after an eight inch snowfall. At first glance, it's beautiful with the fresh blanket of white and blue sky overhead. However, as you drive along, you start to notice the icy roadway with fifteen foot embankments. It quickly becomes very apparent that you must slow down or possibly lose control. This is also how I view creating my home education schedule.

You see, I'm a planner by nature. I love taking the big picture and breaking it into small parts. I actually prefer planning to teaching. For the first several years of home educating, I would spend my entire summer, and then some, planning each and every day right down to the "T". Then somewhere around year five, when I had three children working at three levels, including one with learning differences, I started to feel fried. My plan became my master. The beautiful scene I envisioned became an icy roadway and I found myself careening over the embankment.

After a couple of years of crash landings, I decided to slow down and take in the sights. I still plan, but at a much slower pace. I have reduced our schedule to only four days a week. What a difference this leisurely pace has made. This doesn't mean we are slacking in our academics. Quite the contrary. My children are finding time to pursue their interests. I have made time to enjoy the beautiful view, to pad the unexpected, to see my children as born persons.

Scheduling four day weeks allows us to live life. Because after all, as Andrew Kern says, education is about nurturing souls, not dumping facts. It's about fostering a love of learning.  In the past, I was more worried about my boxes than my people. I have come to see that was a detriment. There is no prize for checking the most boxes. Only love lost and hearts turned away.

February is a great time for scheduling, particularly here in WI where we've been shut in for several months with very little sun. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now is the time to see truth. If your schedule feels like a noose, loosen it up. Plan lighter for the next term or year. Make time to enjoy the view. You and your children will be much happier because when you slacken the pace, you create an environment more conducive to learning. Just ask me how I know....

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray...

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray is a book I've waited years to read. It's on many favorite lists suggested for study of the Middle Ages. Over the last couple of weeks, I finally got my chance.

Adam of the Road tells the story of Adam, an 11-year old son of a traveling minstrel in 13th Century England. Throughout their travels, Adam and his father acquire a horse, named Bayard, and a dog, named Nick. However, after a short time, Adam's father loses Bayard gambling and eventually Nick is stolen. Then while searching for Nick, Adam is separated from his father. The second half of the story becomes Adam's quest to find Nick and his father. Throughout which, he learns a few life lessons. I won't give away the ending, but will suffice to say, Adam of the Road is a worthy read.

Gray's tale gives a wonderful overview of minstrel life during the 1200's. It also gives a glimpse of time after the signing of the Magna Charta as England was beginning to establish and build the foundation for their modern day government. The portrayal of medieval culture and society is in line historically. Gray was awarded the 1943 Newbery Medal for writing Adam of the Road.

As mentioned, Adam of the Road is a suggested read on several lists, including Beautiful Feet, Memoria Press, Sonlight, and TruthQuest History. Our entire family enjoyed it as an evening read aloud.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Reflections on Home Education - Part V, Post 4 - Natural Philosophy, Geography, and History....

Carrying on with the fourth installment of Part V in Vol. 1 of Home Education by Charlotte Mason, you can find the previous posts here, Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.

Natural Philosophy

In Charlotte's day, Natural Philosophy was the study of nature and the universe. It began in the ancient world with Aristotle and continued throughout the 19th Century. It is considered the precursor to natural science, which can be divided into life science and physical science.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. And, natural is defined as existing in or caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind. So, in my mind, Natural Philosophy is the basic knowledge of all things created by God.

Charlotte wrote extensively earlier in Vol. 1, about the importance of children being out of doors in the younger years so that they can encounter and gain knowledge of Natural Philosophy by their own observations. At the beginning of this section, she reiterates and summarizes her position...
Of the teaching of Natural Philosophy, I will only remind the reader of what was said in an earlier chapter - that there is no part of the child's education more important than that he should lay, by his own observation, a wide basis of facts towards scientific knowledge in the future. He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why - Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him. Above all, when you come to the rescue, let it not be in the 'cut and dried' formula of some miserable little text-book; let him have all the insight available, and you will find that on many scientific questions the child may be brought at once to the level of modern thought. Do not embarrass him with too much scientific nomenclature. If he discover for himself (helped, perhaps, by a leading question or two), by comparing an oyster and his cat, that some animals have backbones and some have not, it is less important that he should learn the terms vertebrate and invertebrate than that he should class the animals he meets with according to this difference. (p. 264-265)
Charlotte goes on to recommend a couple of books for reinforcing her method of teaching Natural Philosophy. These being the Eyes and No-eyes series in Evenings at Home by John Aikin and his sister Anna Laetitia Barbauld and The Sciences by Holden. Regarding the use of books in education, Charlotte says,
The general plan of the book is to awaken the imagination; to convey useful knowledge; to open the doors towards wisdom. Its special aim is to stimulate observation and to excite a living and lasting interest in the world that lies about us. (p. 267)
Therein, lies an excellent definition of a 'living book'!

Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value; though not because it affords the means of scientific training....But the peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures. (p. 271-272)
Again, Charlotte recommends beginning geography through natural science and long hours in the out of doors. Keep in mind, Vol. 1 was recommended for the teaching of children under age nine. At this point, she does not recommend students learn the geography of any one particular country of continent, but rather places in their natural surroundings and ones they read about in their histories and well-written books on travel. She suggests children in Form I, between the ages of six and nine, have half a dozen well-chosen standard books of travel read to them.

In regard to maps, Charlotte states,
Maps must be carefully used in this kind of work, - a sketch-map following the traveller's progress, to be compared finally with a complete map of the region;.. (p. 275)
Once people and places have been introduced through a reading, Charlotte does recommend showing the child a big picture map and pointing out the location so they get a general idea of geography. However, this is only after the child learns the meaning of a map by drawing a floor plan of his bedroom or the school room or the neighborhood. This introduction of maps and their purpose serves as a base for later geographic knowledge.


I've written a great deal about the teaching of history in the past. Therefore, I will limit this section to a brief review and highlight any new quotes I've obtained here.
Much that has been said about the teaching of geography applies equally to that of history. Here, too, is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behaviour of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation. (p. 279)
The study of history was used in moral teaching and to develop self-governance in children. The main method of teaching history was through the use of  living books. Charlotte used biographies, about noble characters in history, such as Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionhearted, and Henry V to name a few. She despised what she called, "outlines or a baby edition of the whole history." Charlotte also opposed history books written specifically for children as she felt they were watered down and without literary power. Charlotte further recommended early histories of a nation or older books written closer to the time period vs. modern books that didn't recognize the 'dignity of history'. She suggested chronicles, at the rate of one per year. Many of which are used in Ambleside Online today, like Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, Chronicles of the Kings of England, and Asser's Alfred. Charlotte also purported teaching myths and legends, such as Tennyson's Idylls of the King. She called for original sources....
...wherever practicable, the child should get his first notions of a given period, not from the modern historian, the commentator and reviewer, but from the original sources of history, the writings of contemporaries. (p. 286)
She used books like Plutarch's Lives in preparation for the study of Grecian or of Roman history. In addition, she taught classic myths. Charlotte devoted several pages in this section writing about her ideal of history books and the importance of having the right books.

In addition, Charlotte mentioned the century chart that young children kept. It was a timeline of sorts, divided into twenty columns, each representing a century, where the child wrote names of people he encountered in history.  Charlotte also talked about the importance of children narrating each of their history readings, whether orally or by illustration. She closed this section mentioning the importance of playing at history when the child has been fed a healthy diet of living ideas.
The mistake we make is to suppose that imagination is fed by nature, or that it works on the insipid diet of children's story-books. Let the child have the meat he requires in his history readings, an in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint. (p. 295)
Here are a few more quotes on History and Geography taken from Charlotte's writings. Also, last January, I wrote a response to a blog post titled, "The Perils of Teaching History Through Literature" by John De Gree, of the Classical Historian, which you can find here.  I found Mr. De Gree's claims inaccurate in comparison to Charlotte Mason's teachings on the study of history. He used an exaggerated example to decry a method that works. I have been using living books for history teaching in our homeschool since day one, back in 2007. My kids are all very passionate about history and will tell you it's their favorite subject. Here is one area, I know Mason's methods work!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Book Bites - Marguerite de Angeli...

I am a self proclaimed bibliophile who’s built a home library containing a few thousand books. Anyone who enters our home can see we love books! However, I don’t love just any book as I admit to being a little bit of a book snob. To me, a book must be of high quality. I look for a story with excellent moral value. I want the characters to have character and depth. I tend to be partial to books written in the Golden Age of Children's Literature, which began in Europe in the mid 1800’s and continued into America until around the 1960’s. There was about 100 years, where children’s literature was at its peak. We have read widely in our home, but find the books written within that 100 year time period to be far superior.

Last Sept 2017, I gave a talk at the Journey: An Education for Life retreat in which I talked about Teaching Through Literature and Living Books. I received great feedback from families who wanted more information about the books I mentioned and their authors. This got me thinking about how best to present that information. As a result, I’ve decided to write blog posts that accompany Instagram Live discussions. The IG Live only remains for 24 hours, so the blog posts will serve as a more permanent record.

In these posts, I’ll be writing to showcase a variety of authors and their books. I will write about individual books, topical study books, series books, and authors. Today, I’m going to start with Marguerite de Angeli, who lived and wrote during that Golden Age of Children's Literature that I mentioned...

Marguerite was born in 1889 in Lapeer, MI, one of six children. Her father was an illustrator and photographer. In spite of living near poverty, Marguerite reported a happy childhood. She loved to draw and paint from a very early age. However, rather than drawing, she started her career as a professional singer after dropping out of high school to pursue voice lessons.

In 1910, Marguerite married a violinist, John Daily de Angeli. Together they had six children. Marguerite began drawing in earnest while her children were very small. Eventually, she showed some of her drawings to their neighbor, M.L. Brower, who was a well-known illustrator at that time. Brower encouraged Marguerite to continue drawing and within a year’s time, he sent some of her illustrations to his editor, of which, she received her first illustrating commission.

Marguerite continued to work diligently over the next few years illustrating stories, magazine articles and books for others. It wasn’t until 14 years later that she wrote her own first book, Henner’s Lydia, which is the story of a young Amish girl living near Lancaster, PA. Lydia is working on a hooking a small mat to take to the market. However, she is sidetracked daily by everything, but her work. Does Lydia finish her mat in time? I will let you read and find out.

Marguerite went on to write many more wonderful children’s books. She was one of the first authors to write about children of racial, regional, and religious minorities. Marguerite traveled and did on the spot research for her stories. Her book settings are very accurate. In addition, Marguerite's pencil illustrations are remarkable, just as good as the words she penned. I read that she used her own children as models for her illustrations, making them seem life like. Marguerite's books are wholesome as she believed children benefit from reading about happy homes. Her books are truly treasures and I would really encourage you to check them out from the library or to consider purchasing copies for your own home library.

I have collected a few of Marguerite de Angeli's books, but certainly don’t own them all. Many of Marguerite's titles were originally published in hardcover, but unfortunately, they are getting harder to find as they have become collectible and some of the prices are astronomical. Thankfully, many of the titles are being reprinted in softcover by publishers like Sonlight Curriculum, Herald Press, and Laudamus Press. The titles we've collected so far are as follows...

The Old Testament illustrated by de Angeli - This lovely rendition of the Old Testament is a delight for all ages to page through! 

Marguerite de Angeli's Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes - Again the wonderful illustrations, which alternate between black/white pencil drawings and color, make these nursery rhymes come to life and are extra sweet.

Copper-Toed Boots - an adventure story of a boy through a Michigan summer - I'll include some sample illustrations below. 

Henner's Lydia - story of a young Amish girl hooking a mat to sell at market

Yonie Wondernose - about a 7-year old boy who can't keep his nose out of trouble

Thee, Hannah! - 9-year old Quaker, living in Philadelphia just before the Civil War

Bright April - young black child growing up in Germantown, PA

The Skippack School - Eli immigrates to America and must attend the new school

The Door in the Wall - crippled boy who proves his courage, set in 13th Century England

Black Fox of Lorne - 10th Century Viking twin brothers, who vow to avenge their fathers death

The Lion in the Box - a beautiful Christmas tale, set around the turn of the century in New York City

The Door in the Wall and Black Fox of Lorne, both make an excellent addition to your Medieval History study. The first of which, is more common and readily available. However, the second is a do not miss in our opinion! The Amish and Quaker stories are great reads while studying Colonial History. And, of course, The Lion in the Box is a must read Christmas treasure. Below are some sample illustrations....

Copper-Toed Boots...

Little Bo Peep... 

Wee Willie Winkie.... 

Mary had a Little Lamb...