November 2, 2012

Week Eight Wrap-Up

This year the light bulbs are turning on in regards to Charlotte Mason's aims in education. In just about every subject I am seeing more clearly how her methods can be implemented in our home school. Perhaps more things are coming clearer because the boys are older and I can imagine they can do the tasks she recommends or perhaps it is just that I am simply getting more settled in this thing called home education and am able to take in more than I was able to before. Whatever the reason it is exciting, tedious and freeing to be seeing so much more that can be improved and learned regarding her ideas and her aims in education. 

Last week I began to pray about how to eliminate the use of games, *treats and rewards in our home education. Not from our home entirely but from our lessons. I am fairly well convinced that Charlotte is right and that knowledge itself is a reward as the mind naturally hungers for it. The question was then how to go about eliminating them? I didn't have a plan in my mind except for one idea that came to mind while I prayed.  The idea was to let them know that rewards for space inspection and writing the Aesop's copy work perfectly the first time would be given as part of lunch and not when they had completed the work as was usual. So the reward was delayed which in a small way  began to ease into the ultimate goal which is to give not treats or rewards to motivate getting lessons done and done right. Those were the only rewards I give out regularly except for other game rewards which dropped also as I dropped off using all games in my games no treats. We have a game night once a week so all educational games can be played there. (*the treats and rewards I give are things like a dried apricot, or a small bunch of grapes. We stopped eating refined sugars several years ago. Three boys no cavities, no emotional issues Yeah.)

Their response was telling. My oldest seemed almost relieved as if the competition pressure was taken off of him. The other two, who are far more competitive, did what you might expect they began to nag me about the rewards, making sure I did not forget about them. I was hoping the delay would allow them to forget about them a bit. No such luck with the twins on this one. SO to nip the nagging in the bud I let them know that if they reminded me about the rewards before lunch time they would lose one then two as they so nagged. Done. The nagging was gone. But I still have not reached my goal. It will take some time as I have built into them a habit I now must patiently break.

One day we had a guest for lunch and they all completely forgot about the rewards! Yeah. Then one day the topic of rewards came up outside of lessons, and I felt a freedom to tell them why I don't think they need them any more for school work. The new skills and knowledge they were gaining was taking them somewhere good and that the ideas themselves are worth having and a great reward. They seemed to hear me at least in this moment. They understood there would be no more rewards or treats even at lunch, but would they be still entwined in the habit of getting the reward? Of course. Even though my oldest said, "treats of for kindergarteners!" there was still more work for me to do. Later in the week there was mutiny when they learned there would not be a treat for doing space inspection they had already been told but you know how easily things like that are forgotten. So I had to call in the principal to restore order. My husband 'reasoned' with them and the job was done. 

Now it was me who had to dig a little deeper and remind myself why this is all worth it. For when my boys revolted I had a strange sense of powerlessness and emptiness come over me. With treats and rewards I was in power I held the reward, they had to do as I said. Now what did I have...felt like nothing. It felt as if they would take over my ship and I had no way to stop them. Anger, fear irritation rose up. I was glad my husband was there to let me slip out for a bit and let the holy spirit guide my thoughts and feelings. I know now why I fell to using treats and rewards to gain powder to control their behavior and I too wanted to be free and find a better way. Then a verse came to my mind and a quote,
"Stand fast for I have not given you a spirit of fear but of love, courage and a sound mind. "(new Testament)
"Anyone might have found it, but the whisper came to me." (from preface of A Book of Discovery by Synge)
So I will stay committed. Our journey in this will continue for no love for knowledge yet has replaced the love for treats and rewards. But it has only been a week and I am not surprised it will take longer. I am prepared to run a marathon if need be. Slow, gradual, kind, but firm...and the unruly will follow in the end. 
"To travel hopefully is better than to arrive" says Stevenson.
Bible:  Acts over breakfast.

Stories of Faith: We continue on with our reading of The Adventures of Missionary Heroism. We read about many men who penetrated into the heart of the dark continent and one name kept coming up in just about every story and that was the name of Dr. David Livingston. Once we finish the Adventures of Missionary Heroism stories the boys asked to read a book about him. The version recommended by AO is slated for Year 6. However since they themselves are not reading it it may work for us. I am perusing it this week to check it out. This post by Linda Faye encouraged me to consider it. Am I off base to try it?


"The children look at this for some time, visualizing it as an aid to committing it to memory, and then say it through several times. The teacher then rubs out several figures here and there in the table lets the child fill in the gaps thus left. Then the while table is written out again with several gaps to be filled in by the pupils. The whole table is then said through again by each one." (Stephens, 1911 pg. 10)
Form a mental picture: First lesson, we listened to the skip count song for that table (X8). Then we added the numbers to our table we have been creating with the stickers.

Say the table through several times: The second lesson we listened to the skip count song again, and each took a turn to sing it. In addition they took turns answering story problems from Ray's Arithmetic regarding X8.

Several figures are erased for the child to fill in: The third lesson I prepared a blank skip count sheet with a plastic sheet over the top. I filled in some numbers leaving others blank. We listened to the skip count song of X8 once again. (see above photo)

The table is again written out but with gaps to be filled in: The fourth lesson the third lesson is repeated but with new numbers missing. In addition they took turns answering story problems from Ray's Arithmetic regarding X8.

Repeat the table aloud once more: The fifth lesson we listened again to the skip count song and each took a turn to sing it.

Our lessons on each of the days are still just 15-20 minutes long.

Lesson six, on project day, we read about Benjamin Benneker from Mathematician's are people too.

Ancient Greece:  This week we have begun to read and narrate In Search of a Homeland, The story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively. The boys are struggling a bit and tiring of narrating the story. Instead of stopping I have shortened the amount I read before they narrate from say a page down to a few paragraphs so they can grasp it and retell it better. This slows down the amount we can read in 20 minutes but it is worth it so the boys don't wear too thin. I was encouraged this week by a post written a while ago by Jennifer. She wrote of the idea of "going out on top". Jennifer says it best...

This one is a realization that opened up my world and allowed me to literally quadruple what my students learned in the course of a year.  I had struggled with how to maintain student attention long enough so that they were able to narrate well after a single reading.  I was also frustrated with myself and with my students because we did not seem to be able to read as many books (many of which were very difficult reading) as I had been assured was both desirable and possible.  Then I discovered that I was stuck in the traditional mindset that each lesson needs to last 30-45 minutes and have a definite resolution.  This had led me to think that we had to read an entire chapter in one sitting.  But this did two things.  First of all, it usually left the children tired, cranky, and unwilling to read anything else for a while because I had gone past their attention spans.  Second, it sometimes tied up the loose ends so that the children could feel finished with the book for a while.  Then the next day, students would trudge to the reading area with the knowledge that they were once again in for a reading session that would go beyond what was enjoyable.  This was bad!

Through my study of the volumes I realized that there is a very good reason for keeping lessons short.  In order to keep an activity enjoyable, you must go out on top; that is, you must stop at the point of highest tension (and attention) and leave your audience hungry for more.  Instead of reading a chapter, read 2-3 pages, stop at “just the wrong time”, and then go immediately into some quite different activity.  When you do this, the child’s mind continues to work on that story as he goes on with his day, and when the next reading time comes he greets the book with excitement and anticipation.  Since the session is so short, the child is not mentally exhausted by the end, so he can handle reading from four or five books per day instead of just one.  It also breaks the more difficult books, like those from Shakespeare, Bunyan, and Scott, into bite-sized pieces that are much easier to swallow and digest."

Thank you so much Jennifer! This little bit of advice is rejuvenating our history lessons.

Aesop Copy work: 

I tweaked this little lesson a bit this week as well. I realized that if the boys were to give their full attention to the job of copy work I could not be reading while they are working. So Just after we return to the bedroom table from our math lesson in at the orange table they get settle for doing copy work.  I  then set a timer for about 5 minutes. Plenty of time for them to copy the sentence even if they are going slowly being very careful as my oldest does. I found out he loves this new change. For the two things going on at the same time was causing him to divide his attention and it was a source of frustration for him. After they all are done with the copy work portion I check it and they color the picture as I read aloud from Aesop and the Aeneid.

Ancient History Notebooks: Using the pictures from the public domain story of The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy I made story cards for their notebooks. They slip nicely into the pocket they glued in last week with the map of Odysseus's wanderings on it. I only made cards for part two of the story, you can download them here if you find they can be useful to you. I read part of the story and they listened to the rest later into the afternoon. It was a story read for pleasure so we did not narrate it.

The boys are really enjoying audio books of late. Since they are outside for two or three hours before lessons I don't mind at all if the occupy themselves in their bedrooms with legos or paper airplanes while they listen to stories after the lessons are done in the afternoon. This week they have been listening to The Wind in the Willows, Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince (X3), A Basket of Flowers and the Adventures of Odysseus.

Science (Birds): The Tales of Rusty Wren by Arthur Scott Bailey. This is a delightful story. Personally I am loving it. :) It is just about the most perfect book for the boys to narrate. Each boy takes a chapter and narrates about every three or four paragraphs. They are quite short. and in 20-25 minutes we can read all three chapters...they are short also. We learn a lot and we "go out on top."

Nature Notebooks: Done, but sorry no picture this week.

Primary Language Lessons: We learned this week how to use two, too, and to, and we read the Aesop Fable the Lion and the Fox learning to read it beautifully and with feeling. Zak has a real knack for this. We also begin to memorize a poem entitled Lady Moon.

Elson Readers: Same routine, and I am seeing TJ starting to gain more fluency. It is so rare now if I have to correct a word he has read incorrectly. BTW I do my correction by simply placing my finger over or under the word needing revision and they know to go back and have another go at it. If they really struggle with it I may remind them of a rule, or remind them to start at the beginning and read only the letters that are there. It is the slowing down and attention to detail that makes them better readers in the end. My oldest who is such a global thinker is showing more progress in slowing himself down to get each letter. He is less emotional when new words appear, he simply begins to sound the letters out. Usually all at once in a random order. But  it is a clear picture of what is happening inside his head. To continually insist he take the first letter and then the second on down the line is how he is getting better. And Zak reads so quickly and with such accuracy he is beginning to read even his reading lessons with inflections and feeling. Oh how wonderful to be at this place!

Latin: Two days we spent listening to the dialogue on food glorious food, reading it aloud and translating it in our Minimus text. And two days we spent making flash cards for the vocabulary words.
Below is TJ's flash card for Miles guess from the picture.

Fifth day we made roman biscuits and ate them for dinner.

Art/Music: The first day of the week we listened to the story of the nutcracker though the ballet itself was pretty understandable it was fun to make sure the meaning was clear to the boys. For the other days left in the week I combined these two lessons so the boys could color a mini mural of the Sun painting by Paul Klee and listen to the story of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky at the same time. They were given four colors (red, yellow, orange, red/orange), and told they must try their best to not put the same color next to itself in the painting. Somewhat of a puzzle at times, but they did a fantastic job! It took three day in total to color the mural. Each day the boys each colored one panel of the mural and listened to first the swan lake story from Story Nory, then The Story of Swan Lake again From the Maestro Classics Swan Lake audio which includes more of the music selections from the ballet and then a short history of Tchaikovsky and a little song about swan lake and Tchaikovsky.


  1. There is so much to love when I read your weeks...but what struck me the most was the Klee activity. I think perhaps it is because I don't like Klee that much but I really like how theirs turned out...perhaps Klee bears a second chance. I am loving hearing about your wisdom about following CM's advise.

  2. I mentioned to the boys that you enjoyed their Klee mural, they were pleased. You have encouraged them. :)