October 29, 2012

The Well Nourished Mind

There is an aspect of Charlotte Mason's method which resonated with me several years ago when I was first looking into it a way to go about our home education. It was the idea that we nourish the minds of our children on a banquet of ideas. I could understand feeding their minds because I was already very accustomed to feeding their bodies and to translate that skill towards education made perfect sense.
"Our chief concern for the mind or for the body is to supply a well-ordered table abundant, appetizing, nourishing and very varied food, which children deal with in their own way and for themselves. This food must be served au natural, without the predigestion which deprives it of stimulating and nourishing properties and no sort of forcible feeding or spoon feeding may be practiced." (Vol. 6  ch. 4)

A well ordered table implies that we don't skip around feeding them a bit of Egyptian history one day and some Renaissance history another, but that we have a sense of order to our presentation of ideas. Ideally they should build on, or rather link one to another. Line upon line precept upon precept may not be necessary for each subject but it implies the right idea, the presentation of ideas should flow easily from one idea to the next so the mind can follow a path to new ideas.

This idea of having a well ordered table also implies that the lesson we plan have a sense of rhythm or routine to it. I heard it once said that routine in a day is like a string on which to hang the beads of the events of our daily life. I can just imagine a beautiful string of beads all jumbled up and wanting desperately to arrange them so that they look lovely hanging there next to each other. It may be the arrangement is done via the colors, but perhaps also the shapes can be put in to order in such a way as to convey balance. CM suggests putting subjects in order in such a way as to give the brain rest on one task while engaging in a totally new task but is different from the last. Such as listening to a portion of history and narrating after doing mathematics. Each task engages the mind but in different ways thus not taxing but nourishing the child's mind.

Abundant suggests to me that copious amounts of ideas in literary form should be presented. It is up to the child to take from the abundance of ideas which surround him on a daily basis and make them into food for his hungering mind. He does the chewing, and the digesting. We as educators take the risk that he will feed himself and get the nourishment his mind needs to grow and develop into the person he/she was created to be.

This year I have begun to take this to heart and let go of many of our hands on lesson for living lessons based upon "living books". I read more aloud to them from literary sources and I commentate very little. They narrate and tell me what they have learned, and I stay out of their way. I can see such a change in them. The eagerness to come to be fed is tangible. No need any more for twisting of arms or treats to motivate them. They come because they are hungry to know. I have made it a goal to feed them more and have them put out work less.

Appetizing, what a beautiful word to describe lessons which are appropriate for the child at his age and level of knowledge acquisition. It paints such a fun picture of tasty, beautiful, rich, well cooked ideas that entices the child to want it. Lessons which are short, full of literary ideas, filled with pictures for the mind to engage with. Lessons which link together and build. Lesson that use beautiful language.

I can recall reading a picture book to my boys a few years back. It was a picture book of King of the Golden River. The pictures were beautifully drawn and complex. The literary value was beyond what I could read easily but the words painted a picture for the mind to dwell on. I read a few pages and began to get a little worried I had picked a book that was beyond them but they surprised me in asking the read the book and then again and again. When I grew tired of reading it to them they asked others to read it to them. The beautifully written words were appetizing to their minds and they longed for more.

A child's mind is fed upon ideas, says CM. Thus nourishing the mind would involve lessons which are full of ideas. Ideas that convey a picture to the mind seem to work best. Ideas not books full of facts or factoids but ideas found inside of a story/narrative. Ideas built line upon line. Even at my adult age I notice my mind still thrives best and learns most readily from a story. I recently read The Harbinger and was delighted to realize how the author had utilized this idea of a narrative to convey his idea to the reader. Luckily, there are many 'living books' in all topics which can be used for nourishing the mind.

Lastly CM suggests we give them very varied foods. Literary lessons from all subjects. From history, literature, music, art, geography, all branches of the sciences, language arts, foreign languages, and even in math we are enjoying learning about the lives of famous mathematicians from the Mathematicians are people too Vol. 1 and 2. The method that Charlotte developed educates a person towards feeding the mind and not filling a bucket. This implies that some information will be selected for use and other bits left behind. But the varied education allows a child to touch upon all areas of  life and find his place in it. As well it allows him to interact knowledgeably with others increasing his social ability.

This abundant feast is to be served au natural. No need for handouts with comprehension questions, or hands on activities to draw out a certain part of the info from the literary meal served. There is no need for commentary or questionings from the teacher. The literary meal is rich with ideas the child's mind will work on long after the lesson is complete. The digestion takes place during the free hours of play that the CM education provides.  He is full, well fed from the morning of well prepared lessons. His mind now receives during the afternoon of play and digests from the meal what his mind needs.

Last summer I read Children of the Summer with my boys just before bed. We only read it for fun and did not narrate it. It is a lovely "living book" which excites any reader to love the dear little insects Fabre spent his life learning about. It was simply a small bedtime snack for the mind. I did not know if they were or were not getting anything from the book, but I decided to trust CM and simply feed them. Later that summer several weeks after we had finished reading the book I left my kids to play outside with some other kids for the afternoon while I did some errands. When I returned the mom told me how amazed she was at how much my children knew about insects. She proceeded to tell me all they had said and I recognized their knowledge had come from Fabre's delightful book. They had received something from those bedtime snacks....sometimes it takes more than a day to digest it or find another soul to retell it to.

I still do too much spoon feeding and other kinds of lesson other than those that feed the mind. But this year I understand more fully that my children's minds need to be fed and I am praying about how to change my old habits for new ones. It is still and small this sweet voice of comfort I hear speaking to me in the stiller moments of the day. It keeps saying.....simply feed them Sarah That is enough.

UPDATE July 2013: There is a wonderful post by Dr. Carroll Smith HERE that talks in more detail about laying a feast of living books that you may enjoy reading.

October 26, 2012

Week Seven Wrap-up

Charlotte Mason says:
"I inferred that one of these, the desire for knowledge (curiosity) was the chief instrument of education; that this desire might be paralyzed or made powerless like an unused limb by encouraging other desires to intervene between a child and the knowledge proper for him; the desire for place, emulation; for prizes, avarice; for power, ambition; for praise, vanity, might be stumbling blocks to him...and eliminate that knowledge hunger, itself the quite sufficient incentive for education."Vol. 6 (towards a Philosophy of Education) chapter 3 
I have been reading through Towards a Philosophy of Education this past week and this idea stated above kept coming to me as I read on and after several times of reading it I began to think maybe I ought to address this issue in our homeschool.  I realized that treats, prizes, ambition and other things I have encourage have tainted the atmosphere of our lessons. I did it so the work would get done and so that the work would be done properly. I wanted to be positive and not penalize them but reward them for good behavior. It was the way I felt most able to manipulate the setting to reach the goals I had set for the lesson time. I haven't lost their hunger for knowledge, but I am losing some of the use of this "chief instrument" of education. Not completely, but the culprit is still there lurking and I now see it and I am praying about how to go about making changes. 

This realization has been helpful to me. I know what it is that I have been longing for. Also what I have ben sensing is missing in my lessons. I love to learn. I dreamed of learning things with my kids and basking in the inspiration of the ideas living books would bring us. I hoped they would catch the love I have for learning. They have to a large extent, but the discipline has gotten in the way or should I say the coercion to reach certain goals has gotten in the way. In my haste to reach such and such a place I have used methods of treats and prizes to get them to go along with me. In my readings of CM methods this week I have learned a better way. 

It is simple really.  I'll take the risk. I'll lay before them a feast of ideas rich and varied, in literary form which their minds love to receive. I'll step back and allow them to chew on it. I'll risk that in their  present place of acquiring knowledge they may miss something or they may see it in a false light such seeing the villain as a cool guy, but in the end I'll remain in the background risking they will eat what they need. That their hunger for knowledge will lead them. I'll rely on habits of obedience, attention and perfect execution to guide them on a straight path. By setting aside the prizes, the treats etc. I am counting on CM being right yet again and my boys will have a "sufficient (proper) incentive for education."
"This atrophy of the desire of knowledge is the penalty our scholars pay because we have chosen to make them work for inferior ends." (Vol. 6 chapter 5)

Bible: my dh is still reading through Acts.
Stories of Faith: Adventures of Missionary Heroism. We are reading about men who went to Africa.

Mathematics: We have reached X7 in the making of our Multiplication table. At this point I followed CM's ideas in a new way and began to show with manipulatives the why of each X7 fact. I didn't do this with the other tables because they already understood them and it would have been going over old territory and a bore.
"As each table is mastered examples involving its use and that of previous ones are given, always in the  nature of problems beginning with money questions as in addition and subtraction, and proceeding to the manipulation of pure number."
To accomplish this I simply had them use buttons to do 7X1, 7X2, .....7X12. Then I set up the Storm the Castle game and they answered story problems from Ray's Arithmetic starting form X4 on up to X7 and a little onto X8 to challenge and encourage them that they are ready for it. DOing this toke most fo the week.

We also read about a mathematician who did math while she slept.

Ancient History of Greece: We finished reading The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosmary Sutcliff. So on the last day of the week I read aloud to them part one from Padraic Colum's The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy as it is such a well written account of the poem and it ties the two stories we have read nicely together thus making for a interesting review. While I read the boys colored a small map tracking the trail made by Odysseus on his adventures. Next they glued it to a pocket and into their History notebook. Next week I plan to give them story board cards from part two of the book to color and put in order after they hear the reading of it. The cards will go into the pocket with the map of the adventure on the outside. Below is TJ's map/pocket.

Audio of The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy.

We also began map drill adding Troy and Ithaka to a map of Greece.

Aesops Copywork: Five more fables colored and copied.

Birds: We are still reading through the Tale of Turkey Proudfoot by Arthur Scott Bailey. and at the end of the week I introduced the boys to the parts of the bird for use in identifying birds from their field guide books. I simply copied the bird parts picture onto bright green paper. Then made a second copy in white. Next I cut it apart so they would need to piece it back together and discover the names of the parts of the bird. They also got out their field guides and spent a while looking at all the birds in it and remembering birds we have read about or seen. They marked the birds in the book they knew. It was clear watching them that this activity was a hit.

Nature Notebooks:  With just a jar and some freedom to be outside the boys easily found some foliage and a specimen to draw. They brought in their bug jars and drew them onto this fun mason jar template. Below are examples of TJ's and Max's drawings.

Language Arts:  Much of the week was spent mastering a few dictation sentences using the three forms of two, too, and to. They already understood the use of the three kinds of two but they had forgotten how to do dictation and it took a few times to copy the sentences before they were able to remember them correctly.

Reading Practice:  The boys are continuing to read two pages a day from the Elson Reader and they are getting better and better. I can't wait for the day when they feel two pages are so easy they volunteer to read more. Though I am looking forward to this day I am not in a rush. I am happy to see the good work they do each day with a happy and willing heart.

The cat book marks I found last week inspired me to give the boys a gift of a book I know they can read on their own. I printed out book plates for the front covers and pasted them in, and gave each one a book with  a bookmark in it. Zak was eager to get going and read 4 of the stories out loud to me through out the afternoon and evening. TJ read two and Max read none out loud to me but I saw him reading it by the light of his flashlight at bedtime. He gave me a hug the next day and thanked me for the book. Yeah!!!! a book of their own they can read. 

Latin: This week we had a new dialogue from our Minimus text book to translate and read aloud. The first day we translated what we could from the clues given to us by the pictures and words we already knew.  Then on the second day we listened to the dialogue and tried to read it aloud. Then on the third and fourth day we did the same but we also worked on getting a good solid understanding of all the words by tranlsting a few more words each day that we did not get on day one. On the fifth day we read aloud and tranlated each sentence.

Artist Study of Paul Klee: We did very little in our artist study this week for the lessons I had panned were foiled by a color printer that prints fuzzy images. We were going to add 12 paintings of Paul Klee into our Gallery notebooks. What we did accomplish was to create a cover for the gallery notebooks using old Montessori cards from last years study of some impressionist artists.

Composer Study: In three increments of 1/2 hour each we watched the BBC production of the nutcracker ballet from my computer using you-tube. The boys loved it!

...and lest I finish this post without citing this quote I'll do it now for it encouraged me deeply. It is from the SCM blog.

Hints to Teachers:
"Do not forget that the education of the child's mind is of infinitely more importance than the acquirements of reading and writing; these may be put off for years without injury to the child's career, but the cultivation of reason, imagination, observation and sympathy, cannot be put off without injury to its moral and intellectual development. Therefore, do not trouble yourself at all about the child's progress, but be very careful of its growth. Never treat its mistakes as faults, nor scold it for forgetting, but if it appears dull or inattentive revise your own method and redouble your efforts to interest it. Haphazard methods, hurry and worry, are the worst enemies of progress, but give the child a logical method and sympathetic attention, and it cannot fail to make as much progress as its intelligence is capable of."

October 22, 2012

Week Six Wrap-Up

A peek into a day/week at our house.

5:30 am I rolled over to open the drapes and let a little of the morning light in. As the gentle light shined on my watch I was in luck it is only 5:30 and I can sleep just a few more winks. I snuggled back in under my blankets and enjoyed the silence. Only the sound of the fan and the breezes outside in the tree could I hear. A few birds had begun to sing, lovely. "I love this time of day." I mused to myself and I wished it would last forever. Not likely. :)

6:00 am With a fresher feeling after my little doze and the chance to savor the morning stillness I get up and look forward to my correspondence with the outside world. I pour clean water into my favorite mug and add a bag of Eco Teas Tulsi Holy Basil tea. Into the microwave for a few minutes while I wash up in the bathroom. With mug in hand I walk down the hall to my office where I find my dh already at work at his computer across from mine. I kiss him sweetly and boot up my computer. Now for a half hour to get in touch with the outside world before all the daily life tasks begin.

6:30 am What to make for breakfast today. The boys have agreed to try to eat gluten free with me so I decide on making the almond flour pancakes they like so much from my almond flour cookbook. They call them cookie pancakes because in reality they taste more like cookies even though there isn't very much date syrup in them. Sincethey are so sweet no need for syrup just a little tahini. I'll make scrambled eggs to go with them and cut up some fruit. And how about some greek yoghurt to go alongside. The sun is just beginning to pour in through the kitchen window so I open the white curtains and the window to let in the cool morning air. The birds are in full song and I am so happy! The kitchen is always sunny on this side of the house. I must find the designer to tell him how sweet this makes my day. I take my time in the kitchen enjoying the brightness and the task of making a nutritious yet tasty breakfast.

7:00 am The boys are not yet up so I play some music to rouse them. They have chores to do before breakfast and the deadline is 8:00am so an hour gives them room to wake up and get it done without feeling rushed. My dh helps them take the compost out to the chickens and to keep an eye on attitudes and execution of the jobs. A whine or back talk could lead to no breakfast. The boys usually have little trouble getting the chores done, but recently we have seen them slacking hurrying to get it done but not done well. Max tries to run TJ over with the vacuum and the morning stillness has vanished for the fun filled sounds of life.

8:00 am Breakfast is on the table and we all sit down with the house cleaned up (except the kitchen because I do that next) and we sing grace. Anyone can begin it, Zak likes to beat everyone else to the punch and sing the song he likes best. Then my dh husband reads from Acts and we discuss it over the meal. The boys eat everything in sight and ask for more. Then they are off. They bring their dishes to the kitchen, change their clothes to grubbies for outside and out the door they go till 10:30am. The morning stillness returns and I get to work. My dh is working on resurfacing the wall that surrounds our patio so workers arrive and the boys are caught up in a world of cement and sanders. They love it!!

8:30 am I return to the kitchen to clean and prepare lunch. It doesn't take too long to get cleaned up because the boys helped with the dishes last night and I was free to clean up as I cooked breakfast. So, I decide to make a pot of lentil soup with brown rice on top.

9:00 am Exercise with Coach Powers. Shower and dress for the day.

10:00 am Before I begin anything I check my planner and scan and print a few things for lessons and lay out the books I need in order on my desk. I feel better  when I have had time to prepare and I find then that the lessons will flow more smoothly. Next I stop and pray. I find my favorite chair and I settle in. I thank God for His help, tell Him again I love Him and I am so glad he is going to help me with the lessons. I pray for the boys and the areas I notice they are struggling in school and thank God where I see them improving. I ask for wisdom. I enjoy just sitting there knowing I am not alone, that there is help at hand. He is faithful even in this unseen job where it seems that no on really knows whether I succeed or fail. I find His seeing eyes reassuring, I can sense He takes joy in me. He is that good.

10:30 am The boys emerge from the outside having spent energy and used all those gross motor skills they use so infrequently in school. They will be more ready to sit still, to write and to listen now. Due to the dirty nature of their attire they change again ad shower off the outside smudges and I hear all the stories of what they found, what happened, what they made. etc. Usually they are happy, looking more relaxed. They are ready to be inside. The best part is now I am ready for them too. :) They dress, and begin to organize their loft beds for the space inspector (me).

11:00 am  Lessons begin with reading  one of the stories of faith we have selected. It fell to TJ to select the next one and he chose The Adventures of Missionary Heroism a book we began last year but was a bit over their head so I put it away and now it is back and it fits perfectly. This week we read about James Gilmore who went to Mongolia and Jacob Chamberlin who went to India. Though it is an interesting book I am a bit disappointed to find that the real adventures written by the men these stories are about have been simply paraphrased for younger readers. There is a distinct feeling you are getting someone else's regurgitated view of the story and not the story itself. Happily at the end of each retelling in the book there is mentioned the book where the real story comes from. These may prove to be better reading in my opinion.

11:30 am Time for Math. We move from our comfortable chairs in the bedroom to the office and to the infamous "orange table." Here the boys have been making a multiplication table with small stickers.

I have been taking it slowly, because as we began I realized that the twins had a lot of misunderstandings as to how this chart worked. I mistakenly thought it was easily understood. First off they were confused with the chart itself and how they would know what number went into what slot. So by showing them that each row of numbers corresponded with the side and the top and was simply adding 1 two , then 2 twos, then 3 twos together they began to see what I had not realized they were missing. I did this by drawing a chart on a white board and doing each block one at a time for the X2 lines which went across and then down. They then followed and after that it was all clear. We have been doing one row a day, listening to the corresponding skip count song along with it so they can see how the songs we are learning helps them fill in the chart. The songs only go up to nine so they have a bit of figuring to do from 9 onto 12. But now  that it is clear that each space is simply adding one more of that number onto the number they just made they are doing the chart with ease. Learning the why of the table has made it more living.

At the end of the week we played "loot the pirate ship,"and read another story from Mathematicians are people too Vol. 2.

12:00am  Back to the bedroom where a low white table sits in front of a black overstuffed chair. I sit down in the overstuffed chair and read a fable or two from The Children's Aesop's while the boys color and do the copywork for one fable page in their copywork notebook. Last week Zak really went all out trying to complete three copywork sheets a day and began to lose quality in his coloring. Though he was doing good work in the copywork getting two out of three perfect on the first try, I decided to slow him down and allow only one a week to be completed so he pays more attention to the coloring part too. Though coloring may not seem as important as copywork one of our habit goals is perfect execution in all we do so on that reasoning I slowed him down.

Reading a  fable or two doesn't take too long, so I move on to our reading from the greek classic stories. We are reading The Wanderings of Odysseus this week. Though CM was not fond of picture books in general because if a story is well told one need not pictures to guide the imagination. However I make exception with these books for The pictures in it are stunning just the picture were in Black ships before Troy.

At the end of the week we filled in some of our mini books we placed into our history notebook/lap book last week. Take a look...

While they color I have been playing an audio recording of Jason and the Golden Fleece by Padraic Colum.

12:30 am More reading aloud. by now the twins are usually finished with their Aesop copywork but Max is still steadily working away. He is a slower more careful worker by his nature which lends to better work done in the end. He is doing so well this year not dawdling and staying focused. Yeah Max!!! I decided to help him out a bit. I had considered re-reading the Burgess Bird Book we finished last week and adding some fun hands on things with it to draw out the info but I realized that allowing Max time to work would be the better choice. I also am deciding to trust Charlotte's idea that children will take what they need from a reading and leave what they don't need behind and that id ok. Some of the hands on study really detracts from this. I am trusting that the feast I am laying before them is enough and that the narrating and their habit now to pay attention will put the info in them that they need. By doing this I am free to stay out of the way and allow their minds to continue the learning it has already begun. So we are reading a delightful tale this week from Arthur Scott Bailey who was a contemporary of Thornton Burgess and has a very similar style of story telling. The boys chose to read The Tale of Turkey Proud Foot which I already had downloaded in my kindle. They are enjoying it as much as they did the Burgess Bird Book.
"This was illuminating but rather startling; the whole intellectual apparatus of the teacher, his powed of vivid presentation, apt illustration, able summing up, subtle questioning, all these were hinderances and intervened between children and the right nutrient duly served..." (Vol. 6 Book 1 part 3)
At the end of the week we went outside and made yet another entry into our nature notebooks. This time I ask them questions about the objects they had chosen seeing if they were observing more details and trying to capture them. Max is catching on well to the idea of the nature study and looks for something new and interesting each time we go out. This time he selected to draw a lizard he saw on the bark of a tree. Not an easy subject to draw as it runs away, but his enthusiasm was beautiful! Soon his drawing will develop and match his interest.

1:00 pm LUNCH!  The lentil soup was yummy. And to top it off, we had dessert (on Thursday), so on Wednesday I tried putting a recipe for chocolate ice cream into my popsicle forms to make fudgesicles and it worked! My dh husband kept eating them and saying, "These are professional!"

1:30 pm We settle back into the bedroom around the low white table again. This time we have our copies of the Primary Language Lesson out and we are practicing oration with the story by Aesop, The Dog in the Manger. The first day we simply read it out loud each one taking a turn. Then I would read it out loud to them so they can hear the pauses etc.  The second day we read the story with the appropriate pauses and speed each again taking a turn to practice this reading it out loud to the rest of us. Third day we read each word correctly and with the appropriate pauses and appropriate speed. Fourth day we read it with feeling, each word correct, and with the appropriate pauses and appropriate speed. Fifth day we did an observation lesson about a kitten painting and drew a kitten.

2:00 pm  Still at the low white table I place out the cards to play concentration for the purpose of learning a few more animal names in latin. We have been using the other animal cards we began with last week and using the adjective cards until all the boys seemed to get a good grasp of the vocabulary. I am aware now more this year to not advance further in their lessons if a certain step is not yet mastered. I am finding that this little change is really paying off. There is less frustration for the boys and consequentially less for me as well.

We played charades: Each boy made up three sentences in latin using the animal, verb and adjective cards. Then the others read the sentences and acted them out for the other two to guess. I have not yet done any role playing or acting in our school so I wasn't sure how they would take to it. They LOVED IT! What a hoot to see them in action.

We played concentration: Each animal card is either masculine or feminine. They thankfully have left off the neuter tense as to not confuse them, I am so glad. SO in our game the animals were chosen so they would would match with the feminine or masculine adjectives. Half had -a endings and the other half had -us endings. The animals were placed on one side of the table the adjectives on the other. They picked from the animals and the adjectives and if there was a matched gender they could then translate the sentence into english and keep it. This proved to be the best game to learn the vocabulary for they really had a motivation to know the meaning of the word. After a couple of times playing the game they got it. Max was looking a bit lost the first time around so I spent a little time with him after school one day just going over the words again. Next time we played he smoked them all. It was so cool to see his confidence return. He obviously enjoyed the subject more when he was doing better in it.

2:30 pm Art and music are next. We spent two days on Klee this week and three days reading through Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet. It is another delightful book by Opal Wheeler. Though it says "and the nutcracker ballet" in the title the book is more about his later years, which tied up nicely our reading of A Day With Tchaikovsky. As we read this story about him the boys discovered when in his life the day story was taken. It references his writing the ballet which is a wonderful lead into our next weeks lesson which will include to watch  BBC production of the nutcracker ballet on you-tube.

Their Klee inchies project is complete. They each made 12 inchies of 12 different paintings and mounted the inchies like this. It was a lot of hard work doing a few inchies at a time, but I think it gave them a good feel for Paul Klee's interesting and colorful work. Here are a few close-ups:

3:00 pm Having art at the end of the day often allows for a good opportunity to steal someone away while the other two work so they can read aloud to me. We curl up in the papasan chair and I hear them read two pages a day. I love this time. TJ especially has been struggling this fall to sound out all the new words. SO he has more confidence if I hold the book and the book marker and he simply reads. I think it helps him stay focused and not to feel it is all up to him. Since we started doing this he is doing so much better. One day he will want to hold the book himself, but for now I am enjoying working together with him until his confidence arises. This week I found some adorable book marks I thought the boys would like so I stuck it into our reading book. They LOVE IT!!

Directly after reading lesson one of the boys will do a piano lesson with my dh. He knows how to play the piano, I don't, so I leave the teaching to him. I have no idea what he is doing in the lessons but he said they are doing well and bout ready to learn a little song. Max is the most enthusiastic out of the three to learn.

4:00 pm Lessons are over and we all sigh and do a little relaxing. I have lunch dishes waiting for me in the kitchen and a dinner to prepare but other than that I have a few hours to myself. My dh has been having free time in the afternoons so he has been playing games with the boys. Settlers of Catan is their favorite this week.

Today I decided to do some more work on the artist helpers I sell over at Currclick and published a Paul Gauguin Helper and Began one for Claude Monet. That was a delightful afternoon with no technical hiccups. Yeah!! While I was working at my desk I had prepped some cauliflower by slicing it into slabs and spreading a honey mustard sauce over it. It roasted in the oven and was ready to eat at dinner time. On other days I read, do some house cleaning, cook, or visit friends.

6:30pm  Dinner. I made teriyaki chicken tight, brown rice, and stir fried vegetables. The roasted cauliflower went into the vegetables. We ate one whole head along with other fresh vegetables without blinking an eye and I myself wanted more.

7:30pm Read aloud from Toad Triumphant. The boys play quietly on their beds while I read one chapter from our book. Then I play another audio story for them and then music and they are off into dream land.

8:30pm  And lest you think I am can do it all notice I go to bed at 8:30pm every night at the latest. I have always been a low energy person so I must begin my resting early or in the morning I can not wake up.

Good night. :)

October 12, 2012

Week Five Wrap-Up

The weather is cooler this week now that fall is finally decided to show up. We still have some green leaves on the trees making for some lovely shade in our garden which I adore. Before it gets too cold I still plan more outdoor dinners and time to take naps on the trampoline...makes for a great hammock!

We are just about finished reading The Blessed Child by Ted Dekkar and Bill Bright. It will be sad to end yet another heartwarming story to move on to the next one. We all have enjoyed this glimpse into God's miraculous nature that The Blessed child has revealed.

We are also completing our memorization of skip count song X6 about the monkey's in the jungle and will be learning X7 next week. I have been implementing more living math methods in our approach towards multiplication. So now that we have arrived at the X6 tables I am slowing down on how much new stuff I am presenting them to be sure they are really understanding the why of the table.
“The child may learn the multiplication-table and do a subtraction sum without any insight into the rationale of either. He may even become a good arithmetician, applying rules aptly, without seeing the reason of them; but arithmetic becomes an elementary mathematical training only in so far as the reason why of every process is clear to the child. 2+2=4, is a self-evident fact, admitting of little demonstration; but 4x7=28 may be proved." (Vol. 1 pp. 255, 256) 
So next week I'll explain how we did this. In the handbook Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching gives some guide lines:
“To help the children to see the rationale of the multiplication table, they at first construct each one for themselves with the teacher’s assistance, e.g., suppose it were 4 times, the teacher begins ‘I write down one 4 on the board with a small 1 above it, to show how many fours I have. Then I write down another four, how many have I?’ ‘Two.’ ‘How much have I now, two fours that is?’ ‘Eight.’ Put eight down underneath the second 4. Now write down another four, we have three fours or 12, similarly four fours or 16, five fours or 20, and so on to the end of the table, 12 fours or 48, until the whole table stands: 
(Stephens, 1911, p. 10). 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48

They will see ( I trust) how the skip counting helps with the table and how multiplication is a simple way to do addition.
Much of my time this week has been spent preparing a lapbook centered around The Iliad by Homer. We have been reading Rosemary Sutcliff's version (Black ships Before Troy) of this epic poem which is actually written in a narrative form. On our next pass through this fascinating portion of history we will read the poem written by Homer.

To prepare the lapbook I print off the pages, cut them out and assemble parts that would be time consuming and irrelevant to the point of the book. Some things by doing them the boys will learn more about the story, other things are just busy work, I save them that. So once the mini books are ready I put them into a plastic pouch and save them for the boys. This time I fashioned the lap book to fit into our spiral bound scrapbook.

Just a glimpse of the mini books all out of the pocket.

The boys spent time coloring the pieces that made up the two front covers before we pasted them onto the cover and then into the spiral bound book. We limited the colors used to just browns and yellows to see how the colors will tie the whole lapbook together visually. This was an unpopular suggestion on my part and though the boys did it, they asked that they could decide on the colors next time. So though it looks great this way it is theirs and next time you will see the colors they choose.

Here is Zak's completed covers pasted in the notebook. We now have a lapbook in a note book. I am not sure if we are lapbooking or notebooking but probably the former rather than the latter. Either way it is working rather well. :)

We did put the mini books together and into place, but we have not yet written in them, colored them or done any sort of real study using them. In the end we will have understood better who killed who, who fought with the Trojans and who fought with the Greeks. We will know the family tree of the Greek gods and which gods played a part in this story. And last put the story on the map.

More entries made this week in the Aesop copywork book. Zak really caught onto this assignment and though I require only one fable a day he has been doing two or three hoping to get more and more treats for good handwriting. Very cute!

The boys are all sad that the Burgess Bird Book is drawing to a close. They are counting the pages that are left and savoring them. I suggested we read the book again, for there are so many things you can do to compliment this book and dig a little deeper into the information he so wonderfully presents about birds. I am strongly considering this but have not yet decided. What would you do? The boys were intrigued. I mean really, who said you can only read a book once? And then there are the issues brought up in my mind regarding illustrations and CM's methods. I like this quote from this article and am pondering just what part adding more to the reading of the story will play in their minds.
Our senses, it seems to me, are some of the tools we have for taking in information, but they are not the primary tools for learning.  This is a major problem in much of the world of education today.  There is much talk about learning styles, and I suppose it is helpful to know one’s learning style, but the fact is, taking information in is not the same as processing that information, or, as Mason said, “labouring with the mind.”   This is the step that many children never get to take in their learning process.  This is the purpose of narration, which Mason called “the act of knowing” (p. 17).  In fact, we may have preferences as to which sense we prefer to take in information (visually, kinesthetically, aurally, tactically, or odoriferously), but this is not the same as owning new information.  Mason says, “We trust much to pictures, lantern slides, cinematograph displays; but without labour there is no profit.” 
I'll tell you what I came up with next week. 

Another thing we completed this week: Memorized the Poem "A Secret." We did it the same we memorized the first poem, with drawing pictures, copywork and lots of reading and repetition. Now we are off to do some dictation the boy's favorite exercises. No really, it is!

We are getting to the end of Toad Triumphant too. This week seemed to be a week of many endings.  Thus I am soooo excited for next week which will be full of beginnings. :)

We veered away from the dialogues this week to look into the grammar of Latin. It was just a peek. I printed off cards with nouns (animals), cards with adjectives. The first day we simply played concentration with the animals to learn their names in latin.

On the second day we together matched the adjectives with the animals according to their gender. SImply collectively making up funny sentences with just the nouns and adjectives.

Then on the third day I hand printed two cards for each with the verbs we know thus far, erit (will be) and est (is). They first took the pile of adjectives and separated the masculine ones from the feminine ones, then I gave them each an animal and they created sentences matching the gender of the noun with the gender of the adjective. Then they read out their sentence in Latin and translated it to us using the words to help sheet below.

The cards for the animals and the adjectives were from the Minimus Teacher's guide, but the Words to Help sheet I made myself in Publisher.

To enhance the Klee inspired 3-D cities we painted last week we added some black lines, wow, they look so much better. These are Max's paintings.

Mostly this week we have been working on drawing and coloring 'inchies.' of Paul Klee's art works. Each square is 2 inches by 2 inches. We plan to make twelve in all and so far the boys have made 6 each, so we are halfway there.

Last week we finished reading A Day with Tchaikovsky so this week we listened to Tchiakovsky Comes to America a production by Classical Kids. Now onto a long look at the NutCracker Ballet. The boys will love this!

Lastly this week we went indoors to add an entry into our nature notebooks. Is wasn't because the weather was bad, but that it seemed a good time to add in a little skill training to our nature observation. We used basic contour drawings to develop the eye and train the coordination between what you see and what you draw. 

We did go out to get something to draw and then we drew the contour or outside edges of the specimen we selected. Then on another sheet of paper we tried a blind contour drawing looking only at the specimen and not at our papers. I did it first to show them how silly it will look and so they would not be afraid to just give it a go. This technique develops the best hand eye coordination needed for drawing. It was hilarious, fun and relaxed us all. Then they drew their specimen having had a good look at it now adding in as many details as we could see.

Hope your week was a good one too!

October 5, 2012

Week Four Wrap-Up

"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life-the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one's "real life" is a phantom of one's own imagination." - C.S. Lewis
We have begun a new read aloud this week entitled The Blessed Child by Ted Dekker and I am soooo pleased how well it is enhancing our study of Acts. I did not plan this but followed the Lord in little decisions and it led us here. Both books speak of God's ability to be above the natural laws of science. Caleb in our story of the blessed child says it is simply putting things right. His story enhances the truth of the bible and brings the power from back then into the present encouraging us in this era to believe in Jesus as they did at the beginning of the first century.
"The great difference between present-day Christianity, and that of which we read in these letters (of the new testament), is that to us it is primarily a performance' to them it was real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code or, at best, a rule of heart and life. Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we could achieve what they achieved."-J.B. Philips in the intro to his translation of the New testament.
Skipping right along to our arithmetic lesson on skip counting. Reading Mathematics: An Instrument for living teaching this last week has encouraged me to add one more element to our current mathematics lessons. In Section two entitled: The teaching of Mathematics this quote by CM inspired me towards change:

“Therefore his progress must be carefully graduated; but there is no subject in which the teacher has a more delightful consciousness of drawing out from day to day new power in the child. Do not offer him a crutch: it is in his own power he must go. Give him short sums, in words rather than in figures, and excite in him the enthusiasm which produces concentrated attention and rapid work. Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting of seedlings in the spring” (Vol. 1, p. 261).
  The highlighted part gave me cause to think...my lessons are short, but are they in words rather than figures, and are they rapid  producing concentrate effort? I decided they were not, so I added in twice a week a new lesson where by I read out story problems from Ray's PrimaryArithmetic book that I used last year for addition and subtraction. We play at the number questions like a spelling bee one day and on another day using the Storm the castle game board. We play with the dodecahedron dice we made last year to keep them game moving and the lesson is still short. The challenging part is that the answers in both games must be given in a full sentence.

So our week of mathematics now looks like this:

Day one: Review and sing all the skip counting songs we have learned.
Day two: Review last two skip counting songs and fill in a skip counting sheet for the latest one this week it was X5. Look for patterns in the table.
Day Three: Play math-bee using Ray's Arithmetic  multiplication problems.
Day Four: play skip counting song X5 and preview X6.
Day five: fill out the multiplication table up to number 5. (Next week up to number 6) Look for patterns in the table.
Day six: Read from Mathematicians are people too Vol. 2 and play storm the castle with Ray's multiplication problems.

The Story of the Greeks we have finished, so I am beginning to read aloud to them from The Black Ships Before Troy a narrative version of Homer's poem The Iliad. There is a wonderful audio of Alfred J. Church's The Iliad for Boys and Girls which I play for them at night as they are going to sleep. We alternate now between The audio of The Wind and the Willows, The Burgess Bird book and now this one. A good story should be listened to again and again I think. :)

Here are some pages from our Aesop's copywork books.

Their handwriting is improving with the challenge of not having any scratch outs of mistakes on the first attempt to gain a treat. I love it!!

More pictures below of our scrapbook activity The Ancient Greek Olympics. The pages in the slide show are from various sources, but predominately from History Pockets: Ancient Greece.

I found a new resource to go along with the Burgess Bird book...videos of each of the birds mentioned in the book. Check it our HERE. The posts are in a backwards order beginning with the last chapter, but you can easily sort it out. The boys are still absolutely loving this book. They work extra hard during our reading of The Black Ships before Troy to finish up their Aesop copywork so they can just sit and listen to the stories spun by Mr. Burgess.

In our lessons with the Primary Language lessons we have been doing a bit of dictation this week and some preliminary work on a new poem called "A Secret." Below is a snap shot of Max's drawing and copywork form the first two lines.

The boys are reading on in the Elson reader book three. At night before bed I read aloud to them from  Toad Triumph the sequel to WInd in the Willows.
 "I am so glad the stories are continuing on mom," says Max. " I just love that little mole."

Latin with Minimus has been so much fun this year. I realize now that we have begun with it how easy it is to fit it into the CM method.  Keep the lessons short, begin with oral and move to writing, copy what is right and visualize the vocabulary etc. We learn the dialogues much as we might a poem by hearing it often and reading it together. This week we have been getting the nuances of the dialogue understood and retained by playing vocab-bees. 

We end this week with a project we did painting Paul Klee cityscapes in 3-D. One side is day and warm colors, and the opposite side is night painted with cool colors. The first day we paper mache'd an old printer ink cartridge box. We have a bunch lying around the spare room. Then we drew our city and painted it with warm colors. The next day we drew our city again and painted with cool colors.


An observation lesson using the willow tree in the back yard.

Have a good week!