Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Reflections on IEW Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons...

Late last summer, I did a curriculum preview, in which I shared that I would be using IEW's Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons by Lori Verstegen with Ruben. Today, I want to follow-up on that post with an end of year reflection.

First, a little about IEW...

There are nine structural models of writing taught in the IEW writing programs, which will take you from the early primary grades through high school writing. These include:

Note Making and Outlines
Writing from Notes
Retelling Narrative Stories
Summarizing a Reference
Writing from Pictures
Summarizing Multiple References
Inventive Writing
Formal Essay Models
Formal Critique and Response to Literature

Within these structural models, IEW has created lessons to guide the student in practice of different types of writing. The main essence of IEW is their Levels A, B, and C with continuation courses. As mentioned in the past, we dabbled in IEW Level B the year before and I was ready to branch out and try the History-Based Writing program. Each lesson in the History-Based Writing course is designed to take one to two weeks of study.

In addition to the nine structural models, IEW gradually introduces a variety of stylistic techniques to help the student develop more sophisticated writing. These include things like: dress-ups, sentence openers, and decorations. If you are not familiar with IEW, this most likely doesn't mean much to you. In order to teach IEW, you really should watch and participate in their Teaching Writing: Structure & Style course. As I mentioned in my former post, I did this many years ago, when I first began home educating.

I was on the fence about using IEW when I first learned about it, particularly with the girls. Angel learned to narrate as an older student, but did fine with it and the transition to writing. Riley's been narrating from day one and was an excellent oral narrator. She has also done fine with the transition to writing. I didn't want their writing to become formulaic by worrying about structure and style rather than their thought process. Ruben, on the other hand, has struggled with narration from day one. And, I'm not sure why. Sometimes, he does great with oral narration, but then sometimes not so much. There's no consistency. When we tried to transition to paper, there were major meltdowns and it just wasn't happening. This is what led me back to IEW. I felt he needed some structure to compose his thoughts. After testing with Level B, I knew we were on to something.

Next, a little about our experience...

Last fall, Ruben started really strong with key word outlining and retelling or summarizing narrative stories in the Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons. IEW offered a model of writing and then a way to break it down into manageable parts, which can then be reconstructed into a whole. This seemed to be the piece that Ruben needed. He worked the early lessons with ease and even starting improving in his oral narrations, which we continued along the way.

I also used the IEW suggested book list, tying together his history and literature study. This worked beautifully as most of the passages he was studying in his writing lessons were reinforced by story in the literature. The suggested books were as follows....

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo
1001 Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
The King's Shadow by Elizabeth Alder
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden
Marco Polo by Demi
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI

We did not read The King's Shadow as I didn't own it and wanted to substitute something else, but we did read all the others. Many of which became new favorites. A couple of the books Ruben even picked up and read on his own!

We did run into a snag toward the end of our journey around structural model six, Summarizing Multiple References, which does take a higher level of skill. We continued into structural model seven, Inventive Writing, until it really became a fight. Somewhere around lesson 23, we decided to call it quits. I then had Ruben focus on simple written narrations for the rest of the year. 

Overall, I feel our experience with IEW's Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons was successful. I thought the IEW models and literature were excellent and gave Ruben a great spring board for his writing. I do plan to continue with IEW's U.S History-Based Writing Lessons in the fall, as this will again match our time period of history. This will allow Ruben the opportunity for more practice with the early structural models of writing and should provide some review and repetition, which is needed for mastery. I will also have him continue with oral and some written narration as well. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Reflections on Ambleside Year 7 Science and Nature Study...

RileyAnn completed AO's Year 7 Science and Nature Study list of books this year. Yes, she was in 8th grade, but I don't fret over assigning certain books in certain grades. I look more for content and interest. Are the books I'm choosing going to meet my end goal? In this particular case, I was aiming for scientific literacy. Some of you may remember this post I did last summer on Scientific Literacy, in which I explained what it is and why it is important. With that said, the AO Year 7 suggested books held the variety of content I was looking for in order to foster scientific literacy at the middle school level. I want my students to have the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes that allows them freedom in personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. I want them to be able to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. I want them to stand in wonder and awe of God's creation. I believe Riley's experience this year in AO science has given her that freedom.

The AO Year 7 Science books are living, making science come to life and allowing the student to make relations or connections within their own mind. I would even be inclined to read several of them as an adult, so I was certainly not worried about assigning them to my 14 year old.

After studying the way Charlotte Mason taught science in her school, as well as the way science is studied in other countries around the world, I was anxious to combine the various branches of science in one year. It was kind of an experiment to see how RileyAnn liked and learned from studying multiple streams of science at one time as we are in the decision making process for high school.

The books Riley read from and studied this year were....

Eric Sloane's Weather Book by Eric Sloane
The Social Life of Insects by Jean Henri Fabre
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
Great Astronomers by R.S. Ball (Intro, Ptolomy, Copernicus, and Brahe)
Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp

One thing about doing science by use of living books that I like is the fact that there's no workbooks. There is no comprehension, true/false, multiple choice questions. No preconceived notions, no one right answer. It's simply the student's mind dancing with the penned ideas of the author. In order to further develop these ideas and nurture relations, I do require my student to notebook as they read. Here's what that looked like for Riley...

At the beginning of the year, I gave her a schedule of the readings, which was roughly from two books per day since we schedule our school on a 4-day week. I then requested she complete one notebooking page per day based on her reading. That was it! Riley was free to choose which book she notebooked on and the topic of her notebooking page. To me, this was one written narration per day based on her science reading. Riley could write, draw, illustrate, copy a passage, or whatever else struck her that day. At the end of the year, I bound her pages into a book and I found the results quite amazing! Here is just a sample....


This may seem like a lot of pages, but it's only about 6 out of 36 weeks worth of work. What strikes me about these pages is the diversity. Riley covered many streams of science including: biology, botany, animals and their habitat, astronomy, weather, physics, and chemistry. She didn't do a single stream per term, but rather, intermingled throughout the year. I'm really pleased with her level of competence. Riley's notebook pages far exceeded my expectations and I really believe she enjoyed the creativity she was afforded. We are still in the planning stages of high school, but I'm sure we will continue some measure of living books and notebooking throughout. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Beautiful Feet Medieval History - 2017-2018 Third Term Review and Wrap-Up

Riley Ann completed her third and final 12-week term using Beautiful Feet Book's Intermediate Medieval History guide. You can read more about her first term here and second term here.

In the third term of her study, Riley covered Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Joan of Arc, Johann Gutenberg, 15th Century Poland and Christopher Columbus, among others using the following books:

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, adapted by Barbara Cohen
Joan of Arc, Warrior Saint by Jay Williams
Fine Print, A Story about Johann Gutenberg by Joann Birch
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster

Riley is a fan of Genevieve Foster's work. She appreciates the fact that Foster can take one person from history and weave the story of what's happening around the world at the time of their life. Riley said she enjoyed each of the books she read this year, but her three favorites were The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Kite Rider, and The Trumpeter of Krakow.

Beautiful Feet Books sells a World Map to accompany their Ancient, Medieval, and Modern US & World history studies. Although, we didn't buy one. Instead Riley created her own map by drawing the world freehand on a piece of tag board....

Riley commented at the end of the year how much congestion there was in Europe on her Medieval map. She also asked if she could add Columbus' journeys and of course, I agreed!

Throughout the year, Riley created a series of notebooking pages. Most included research essays and biographical sketches of the people, places, and events she read about. She did not complete any of the hands on projects suggested in the BF guide. Here are samples of her third term notebooking pages...

Overall, Riley had a great year studying Medieval History using Beautiful Feet Books! We wholeheartedly recommend studying history with their literature guides. However, Riley will not continue with BF next year in 9th grade, as she has already read most of the books used in the BF Early American and World study. On the bright side, I will be using the BF Early American Primary set with Levi. It will be my second time around with that guide and I'm sure I'll be blogging about it throughout the year as I'm looking very forward to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Middle School Introductory Chemistry Wrap-Up...

I remember all too well the struggle Angel had in Chemistry her 11th grade year. We were using Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry. A combination of understanding the Periodic Table, math equations, vocabulary, atomic and molecular structure proved to be too much information all at one time. As a result, I vowed to do things differently with my younger students. My aim was to introduce these ideas at an elementary level in order to build a base for upper level Chemistry.

In looking at a variety of resources, I knew I wanted to stick with living books. Ambleside Online offered some suggestions in their Year 6 and Year 7 Science selections, one of which I actually ended up using with Angel once we scrapped the Apologia text. She enjoyed it so I thought it would be a suitable book for our middle school introductory year, where we focused on the elements of the Periodic Table. This week, we wrapped up our Middle School Introductory Chemistry and I'd like to share a few things we used and what I learned.

First off, a confession, I never had Chemistry....ever! I managed to escape it in high school and it wasn't required in college so I didn't volunteer, ahem! One of the many advantages of home educating is the recovery of my own education. There's no better way to develop understanding, compassion, and a love of subject than to study it yourself. For this reason, I decided to include a Chemistry study in our Morning Time (MT). This allowed me the ability to participate and learn with the kids rather than try to find extra time to pre-read or study the subject independently.

For our Morning Time Introductory Chemistry study, I chose The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker and The Elements by Theodore Gray. Wiker's book gave a wonderful introduction to the Periodic Table and how it was discovered. We learned about many alchemists and scientists of the past. Gray's book gives an absolutely stunning look at each individual element. There's a two page spread for every element with photographs of the actual element as well as items made from the element. It's a beautiful book! (Side note - while reading The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly for history, I was making all kinds of connections and gaining ideas from reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table. Although it wasn't planned, the two books complimented each other.)

The Mystery of the Periodic Table has 18 chapters so I read aloud a different chapter every other week throughout our 36-week academic year. On the off week, we studied 1-3 elements from Gray's book, using a schedule I found through Ambleside Online. I then had the kids notebook a page about each element we studied. They also charted each element on a blank Periodic Table. I personally charted and notebooked on each element along side them, as well as taking a few notes on each chapter or Wiker's book.

Overall, we had a great study! I know I personally learned a good deal about the Periodic Table. My one regret is that we didn't read about and complete a notebooking page on each element, or, at least all the naturally occurring elements. Not to say that we couldn't go back and finish it at some point, but we most likely won't. When it's time for Levi to work through an Introductory Chemistry study, I will have him spend more time on each element. As noted above, Gray's book is extremely visually appealing. It's well laid out and notebooking through the elements was one of our favorite parts of the study. Riley agreed that we should have covered all of them. Here are some samples....

I gave a little preview of our MT study in a blog post back in October, of which you can find more sample notebooking pages. In addition, Riley also read The Wonder Book of Chemistry by Jean Henri Fabre independently. She's decided she's not crazy about Fabre, but she was able to add to the MT conversation, making wonderful connections along the way.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How I Read Along With My Upper Level Students...

As Riley and Ruben get older, I have stopped reading all their books aloud to them for obvious reasons. This has been bittersweet. Some days, it's a relief not to have to strain my voice for hours. On the other hand, I greatly miss those times of snuggling up and the discussions of our reading. This year, I found a solution, which has afforded me the best of both worlds. I scheduled Riley and Ruben to read some of the same books. Then I adapted their list as my own personal reading. Given time constraints, I'm still not able to read everything they read. But, overall, our new system went well. I was able to encourage independence in their studies while still engaging in their education. I call it read along instead of read aloud.

We use a multitude of media in order to make our reading possible. Given Ruben's dyslexia, he reads some books traditionally and listens to some on audio. Our library system offers certain titles on a gadget called a Playaway. Playaways are small MP3 devices containing an individual audiobook. There is no download or WI-FI necessary. We simply add a battery and our headphones. Because of their size, smaller than a deck of cards, they are very portable. And, since they are pretty much foolproof, Levi (age 5) has enjoyed several books on Playaway as well. We have also used books on CD, Audible, and Librovox to aid in our reading since not every book is available on a Playaway. These various types of media have allowed me hands free reading while I'm cooking and doing laundry. I also use audio versions in the early morning or late evening, when it's dark and my eyes are tired.

This year, the three of us finished reading several of the same books independently through use of above mentioned mixed media, including:

Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Riley read a hard copy
- Ruben listened to CD
- I used a mix of Playaway and hard copy

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
- Riley and Ruben read a hardcopy
- I listened on Librovox

English Literature for Boys and Girls by H.E. Marshall
- Riley and I read a hardcopy

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
- Riley and I read using a mix of hardcopy and Audible

The Daughter in Time by Josephine Tey
- Riley and I read hardcopy

In addition to our mixed media, I did still read aloud certain titles. In our second term, I threw in a couple of bedtime read alouds as winters are cold, dark, and long here in Wisconsin. There's no better time to gather round a great book than December through February. These titles included Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli and Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle.

I also slipped a few read alouds into our Morning Time that I wanted everyone to be exposed to at one time. These were:

How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
Citizenship by Charlotte Mason - select readings
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury
Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin
The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker
The Elements by Theodore Gray - select readings
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler - select readings
Macbeth by Shakespeare
The Story of Painting by Janson
Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt

Lastly, Ruben and I read many of the same books Riley read for her Beautiful Feet Intermediate History study, albeit on our own time schedule. Some of which, I read aloud to him, often times, reading alternate chapters individually, particularly toward the end of the year as Ruben became stronger in his reading ability and started gaining a desire for independence. It got to be a game where he would sneak the book and read ahead of me. I wholeheartedly played along, stifling my excitement in his inclination toward self-sufficiency.These books included:

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
Robin Hood - Ruben and I read a different edition than Riley, but we were still able to compare and discuss
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

When I look back at the list, it seems like a tremendous amount of books, but we weren't reading them all at one time. I find much can be accomplished with a chapter a day over a 12-36 week period. Also, reading living books is our primary means of education. We don't use much in the way of textbooks for things like history, literature, and science.

Using mixed media to read along with my upper level students has allowed me to continue to participate in their education, while fostering their independence. At the same time, I'm thankful for a chance to recover my own education with the use of so many great books! I will definitely continue the read along method throughout their high school years. Reading together as a family is super important to me, whether it be by read aloud or read along. It has opened a wealth of wonderful conversations within our family and has provided for intimate wit in a variety of social settings. I believe a family that reads together, stays together.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Trumpeter of Krakow....

Ruben and I finished reading The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly this week. Riley also read it a couple of weeks ago through her Beautiful Feet Medieval Intermediate History study. Kelly's 1928 historical fiction novel won the Newbery Award in 1929 and I can see why.

The Trumpeter of Krakow is a dramatic adventure set in the city of Krakow in Medieval Poland. It is also a coming of age story of young Joseph, a 15-year old boy, learning how to protect his father's 200 year old family secret. Kelly's tale left me longing for so much more information. Was there really a Great Tarnov Crystal? Was the Heynal a real song and is it still played today? Was the Church of Our Lady Mary a real place and is it still standing today? As it turns out, the answer to all of these questions is yes!

The legendary Tarnov Crystal, was more commonly known as the "philosopher's stone" as far back as about 300 AD in Greek history. It was an alchemist's substance, which could supposedly be used to turn base metals into gold or silver. For many years, it was the most sought after substance. The Crystal is also known as the "elixir of life", as it's believed to be useful in achieving eternal life. Some say, the stone dates back to Adam in the bible, who received knowledge of it directly from God. That knowledge was then passed down through the biblical patriarchs and was the reason for their long years of living. Either way, the stone's history intrigued me and I think The Trumpeter of Krakow would also be a wonderful living book to read for science/chemistry purposes.

It turns out the Heynal is a real song and is still played today with the broken note, out of all four windows, every hour, just as described in the story. It is a five note Polish anthem. The song is still played with the broken note that stemmed from a Mongol invasion in 1241. Legend has it that the trumpeter in the sentry tower was playing the anthem to sound the alarm of invaders, but the Mongols entered the city before the gates were closed and shot the trumpeter in the throat, causing the abrupt ending of the Heynal. His inability to complete the Heynal resulted in the broken note. The broken note is still observed today as a way to commemorate that 13th Century trumpeter.

I really enjoyed reading Professor Carol Reynold's piece on The Trumpeter of Krakow and watching the YouTube video she linked, showing the modern day Heynal player. For those that don't know, Professor Carol leads European tours for the Smithsonian Institute. She is a retired university professor of music history, who has also written/produced home education courses on music history, and culture. She's a wonderful speaker!

Lastly, the Church of Our Lady Mary is in fact, a real place. It is better known as St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow. The main part of the church as it stands today was completed in the 14th Century. Although, the foundation was laid in the 13th Century. The original church on that foundation was destroyed in the Mongol invasion. It is a Brick Gothic church situated next to Marian Square, the main square of Krakow. The interior images are absolutely stunning! On every hour, the trumpet signal (Heynal) is played from the top of the taller two towers of St. Mary's. I would love to travel there someday and see it.

For me, The Trumpeter of Krakow was definitely an example of a living book as the story caused me to want to dig deeper. I was sad to see it end and yet, I loved the ending, although, Riley and Ruben disagreed on the conclusion of The Tarnov Crystal. The story's end allowed for lively discussion. The characters were rich. The setting was of interest. The history was very intriguing and there doesn't seem to be many books written about medieval Poland for students. Overall, I highly recommend reading The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly as part of your middle or high school medieval history study!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Importance of Poetry...

Over on Instagram @charlottemasonirl, they're talking poetry this week. So, today I thought I'd share here some things we've used for poetry study over the past few years as a supplement to my IG post. I'll try to answer some of the questions they posed.

What is the purpose of poetry?

Poetry teaches us to speak beautiful words in a beautiful way. It originated as a way to pass on history and stories from one generation to the next through tales and epics. It was a means of enabling remembrance. In Vol. 5, Formation of Character, Charlotte Mason says....
Poetry takes first rank as a means of intellectual culture. (p. 224)
There are many benefits to studying poetry. Poetry is rhythmic. There are patterns of sound in it's iambs and meters. Even very young children who may not always understand the meaning of the words in a poem, can feel the rhythm and beat of a well-read poem. I read somewhere that poetry is the most kinesthetic of all literature. I believe that's why nursery rhymes are such a wonder to children. And, rhyming is actually an important early reading skill. Poetry also builds vocabulary. It encourages thinking. As students get older, analyzing poetry to find the author's intent can be very rewarding. Poetry can help us to understand the abstract. It puts words to feelings through imagery and personification. Sir Philip Sidney, an Elizabethan poet, said, "The purpose of poetry, is to instruct and delight."

How do we learn it?

In Charlotte's schools, poetry was read aloud and enjoyed frequently. The students narrated occasionally, but not after every reading as in other subjects. A variety of poets were studied, perhaps one, for a period of time - "at least a year". The children memorized and recited poetry each term. Poetry was used for copy work and dictation. Charlotte believed the students could deepen their character from studying heroic and noble poems. Charlotte also qualified Shakespeare as part of her student's poetry study. We have studied poetry through a variety of ways in our homeschool, including a simple reading, recitation, narration, illustration and re-writing. 

What resources do you use?

In the preschool years, I love to read aloud nursery rhymes. In early elementary, books like A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and A.A. Milne's When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six were favorites. Once Riley was old enough to read poetry for herself, we started following Ambleside Online's poetry rotation, studying a different poet through each 12-week term. For this, she used the Poetry for Young People... series. Riley also completed one year of Micheal Clay Thompason Language Arts by Royal Fireworks Press in which she completed a more formal Poetics Program, learning about the elements of poems and such things as patterns of sound, meter, stanza, figures of speech, poetic techniques, and meaning. This year, in 8th grade, Riley used the The Oxford Book of English Verse ed. by Arthur Quiller-Couch, reading approximately three poems per week. She then chose one of those poems to re-write in modern English. 

I have used some of the same resources listed above with Ruben in the early years. However, last year, he studied Robert Frost for the entire year. Each week, he read and illustrated a different poem. He then copied a verse to go with his illustration. 

Somewhere around 5th grade, Riley read Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. Last year, I studied an actual Shakespeare play with Riley and Ruben, reading Julius Caesar. First we read it using the Oxford School Shakespeare edition. Then we watched the movie with Marlon Brando. This year we are studying Macbeth, much in the same way. First, I read aloud Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare story. Now, we are reading the play from the Oxford School Shakespeare, taking turns reading the parts. When we are finished, I will most likely find a movie edition to watch. We typically spend one 12-week term on the play. We do not cover Shakespeare every term, but rather, one play per year. I like the exposure and flexibility this schedule affords us. 

One other source of verse we have used in our homeschool is poetry as history and biography. Marilyn Nelson's biography of George Washington Carver is written in a series of lyrical poems. We read it as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World study. Also, in 8th grade, my older homeschool graduate read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, as part of Sonlight's Core 100. Out of the Dust is a story that takes place during the Dust Bowl. It is written from the 14-year old protagonist's point of view as a series of "free-floating" verses, much like the Oklahoma dust. I remember my daughter really loving the story. We have also read retellings of The Iliad, The Odyssey and Beowulf. These retellings are the original source of poetry that I mentioned above used as a means of remembering history. They are the key to understanding cultures of the past. 

Memorization and Recitation

I have coached my children in recitation throughout the years in fits and spurts. Angel and Riley have both participated in public speaking events where they recited poetry. At one point, we gathered with another home educating family and the kids took turns performing their recitations. It has since fallen by the wayside, but I aim to pick back up and do more of this in the future. 

My Favorite Poet

Lastly, one of my favorite poets for children is Eugene Field. I remember Wynken, Blynken and Nod being read aloud to me before bed as a little girl. It's probably my all time favorite poem because of the memory it sparks. I can still recite verses from it even though I was never asked, nor required to. It is a poem, my older daughter memorized and recited in a 4-H competition many years ago. Ruben and I studied the poetry of Eugene Field a couple years back. I personally love poems that rhyme and/or poems that tell a story. 

When I think back, we have already studied more poetry and Shakespeare than I set out to or ever seemed possible. Be encouraged as these are not things we do all at one time, but rather, a little at a time. They have provided a slow progression in building a love of poetry for my children. I believe spreading the feast over the years makes for a beautiful well-rounded education. Slow and steady wins the race!