December 21, 2012

Week Fifteen Wrap-Up

We would be half way done with this year but we plan to school the whole year round with a month of in May and part of June. So our halfway point is really in Feb-March. At that point we switch to Ancient Roman history and the study of Insects. I can't wait! But for now we took another day off to celebrate Max's 9th birthday!

Happy Birthday Max!

Bible: We are finishing up Genesis this week and moving on the the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

Stories of Faith: We finished This Way to Christmas as well this week and Have begun to read The Christmas Porringer.

Math: We have completed the Usborne math skills Multiplying and Dividing Puzzles and will begin to work through Everyday Number Stories in rotation with The Multiplication Matrix. We did work through Everyday number stories last summer but I know that this year now that we have had some good work on multiplication tables and division that the book will be much more beneficial. 

We are continuing to read about Albert Einstein from Kathleen Krull's book entitled Albert Einstein (Giants of Science series)

Ancient Greek History: We are reading Alexander the Great by John Hunter.

Geography: Our Little Spartan Cousin of long ago by Julia Darrow Cowles.

Science the Study of Birds: We are reading Reddy the Woodpecker by Arthur Scott Bailey this week. I am thrilled. The living books we have been reading about birds is igniting an interest and the boys are doing a lot of looking up birds on their own. Yesterday was a typical day in this area as Max had out the large volume of Birds the definitive guide by DK and finding birds he knew. Birds from Winged Migration a movie we watched umpteen times when he was only three-six years old or so, Birds from our readings, Birds form our yard and neighborhood. As he poured over the pages looking at flight migration paths and where each bird can be found he felt as if he was looking at old friends. At the same moment the twins were playing the birds of America concentration game I picked up at Good Will this summer and naming all the birds they "knew". Earlier this week I found them all three out in our yard with their binoculars searching the skies for birds and looking  up in the trees for nests. TJ finds the littlest birds nests often after they have fallen out f the tree where they were perched. We think it is the warbler who is making them.

And look what we found 'stealing' grain from the chicken pen.

I also found a handy link to many living nature books by Thornton Burgess and Arthur Scott Bailey over at

Nature notebooks: This week we learned to draw an owl.

Langaue Arts: We completed lessons #35-38 in Primary Language Lessons which includes work on has and have, a little dictation, an oral lesson about cows and milk where I focus on having the boys answer the questions in complete sentences. The lesson was about milk so we made homemade marshmallows and hot chocolate for a lunch time snack!

Afternoon Audio book: Narnia, The lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian several times over.

Reading aloud: Elson Reader Book Three, still working on two pages a day for each boy. They are getting much more fluent and it is more and more of a pleasure to hear then read.

Latin: This week we learned a new dialogue using adverbs and verbs. We have spent the week learning the new verbs and adverbs as vocabulary and as parts of speech and how they are used in Latin and in English. How to identify them and how to use them ourselves.

Art/Music: Drawing lesson #15 evolved into a multimedia painting. The lesson was about drawing ellipses which create a bowl with fruit in it. So their were examples in our drawing book of different fruits and how to draw a bowl. The boys practiced drawing a bowl and then I showed them this picture that I found on pinterest:

The foundation of all painting is drawing so it seemed an easy step to take our bowl drawing and make a painting out of it. Our source picture was created by Mrs. Anderson for her art class but there were no instructions on the website were it was pinned from on how to do it so we just winged it and had some fun. 

We began by mixing acrylic paint to get the color Mrs. Anderson had in her background. Then the boys painted that color onto a canvas panels. These are wonderful, They are much less expensive than a real canvas but it gives the feel and look of a canvas when painted. I love them. While the paint was still wet, with the back of our brush we drew swirls and designs into it. Then we set it aside to dry.

While the background was drying I printed off some paper with words on it. Any print will do. Then the boys drew fruit with pencils using the ideas from the drawing book to guide them. It was hard to think to draw the fruit big enough to make a presence on the painting but they got it in the end. Once the fruits were drawn they got out their gauche paints (opaque water colors) and painted them. Then those were set those aside to dry while the table top was draw and painted as well on printed paper.

Once all the printed fruits and table tops were dry the boys "glued" them onto their now dry backgrounds. done for the day.

The next day as we listened to Chopin the boys painted on the black outline of the table, the fruit stems and leaves, the q-tipped white dots (you can use the back of your brush too) and signed their names.

Merry Christmas!

December 15, 2012

Week Fourteen Wrap-Up

What a fun week we have had.  It wasn't a fun week because we did anything particularly exciting or new, or that all went really perfectly. It was fun because we were together and our lessons are finally gelling into place. I have made quite a few adjustments this year that I did not think I would be making but I am ever so happy I did. This week was fun for me because I did not adjust much of anything and have been riding along on the plans we have already made. I can see some of results of handing over my way of doing home education to Charlotte's wise advice and it makes those elusive smooth and easy days seem more tangible. Not that there were not trying moments in our week, for there were melt downs and discipline was still applied, but trusting in an idea and just hanging on until you see results gives a measure of peace and rest. In my own mind the days are smoother because I know where I am going, I know how I will handle it and most importantly I know why I am doing it.  I love this quote by Louisa May Alcott and the lovely way that Emily McDowell has rendered it in this poster. It sort of sums up why my week was so much fun, I am now enjoying the waves as they hit against my ship.

Bible: Genesis with Dad over a tasty breakfast. I made a huge (because I have a new range in my kitchen that is bigger than the one I had before) batch of granola with medjool dates which we all love. Makes starting a new day even sweeter. :)

Stories of Faith: We have begun a fun Christmas story called This Way to Christmas. It was part of the amazing deal I purchased last summer from Yesterday's classics. They are doing it again just now before Christmas too! I have always adored their selection of vintage books but with so many free online it was hard to pay for a printed book and feel good about it. I use my kindle a lot so when they offered their entire kindle collection for only $50 I snatched it up. This way to Christmas was in the package deal and we are now enjoying this heart warming tale.

Math: Much to the chagrin of the boys we are still doing a rotation of The Matrix and the Usborne Math puzzles book, we call it the caveman book. They are enjoying the math puzzles but they are getting weary of doing the Multiplication Matrix. So I read to them what the author of the matrix said about why he made it and we looked at some strategy to learn how to fill in the table faster and easier. Seemed to help. Here is a quote from the author:
"The history of this matrix goes back to the ‘70’s when my wife and I operated an individual learning center teaching reading, math, and English, K – adult. We used a lot of programmed-learning materials and audio-visual aids, computer, etc. Students beyond third-grade (even adults) were found to be shaky in their multiplication tables, which affected their insights into numerical relationships and their work in the higher operations. “The Matrix” became a standard drill until they could do one correctly in 2 minutes or less, three days in a row."
Our best time is 6 minutes so we are almost there.

We read about Albert Einstein in Mathematicians are people too Vol. 2 and began a longer book about the same guy by Kathleen Krull. This book is part of her giants of science series. We read her book about Isaac Newton last year and really enjoyed it, and we are enjoying this one too.

Ancient Greek History: Alexander the Great by John Gunther is our text this week and the boys are doing so much better at their narrations. They are better at summing up what the main ideas is and adding supporting details to explain that idea better. This is such a great tool for beginning to write. I am so glad they get to do this orally before they have to struggle with the mechanics of writing. Getting ones thoughts clear is such and important skill to have. Not only for writing but for basic good conversations with others. i count narration as I think about socialization skills etc.

It is still a great temptation for the little ones especially as they are not global thinkers to parrot back the information detail by detail. I think the open ended questions I have been asking after each narration  has helped. I do this because I watched a DVD of Eve Anderson a PNEU teacher who visited a CM school in Texas do this. She had pre-read the passage and thought of other information to add to it. She did not repeat information the children were to have retold but as one might do in a conversation she asked further questions about the information and added information that led to a wonderful discussion. I was a bit surprised as I have read that the teacher is not to interfere and she didn't she added more richness. I want to do this more too.

As we have been doing this the lessons which include narrations take on a different feel. They are less mechanical and more like a conversation aided on by help of the book. We add our thoughts about the passage and ask questions the passage brought up in us and we learned out loud you might say what the book is telling us. None of us are experts though I know more than they do they have good insights and I love giving them the chance to express them, question them and hear insights of others. I think this sort of dialogue makes the books more interesting and while they are interested they are learning to learn from a book and also to think about what is said. They get to participate. I also keep a good handle on etiquette for narrating and responding. They practice waiting ones turn, interrupting politely etc. so they participate with a measure of self control. All great skills for future conversations with others as well.

Geography: We are enjoying Our Little Athenian Cousin this week, also from the Yesterday's Classics Kindle package.

Aesop's Copy Work:

The paper Mache' armor has been put on hold as our original designs are not working. So after the holidays I think we will try again using some plans and ideas from this website, storm the castle.

Science Bird Study: This week we completed reading Blacky the Crow by Thornton Burgess and  have begun to read The Tale of Reddy Woodpecker by Arthur Scott Bailey. I am so pleased with these books. The stories are giving them more than just information about birds but more than that they instill a sort of reverence for living things and practical ways to care and respect them. In Blacky the crow Farmer brown's boy discovers a hunters duck blind near the big river. he discovers it is not only a blond but that the hunter has been baiting the ducks to come to this part of the river just before his blind with corn. Each afternoon he has been spreading the corn then after a few days and the ducks sense no danger he waits for them with a gun. Farmer brown's boy is outraged and decides he must do something to stop this unfair kind of hunting and devises a plan of his own. You will have to read the story to see just what he does. teaches the boys some right and wrong ways of dealing with the little feathered folk in our lives. I am loving reading these to them each day. :)

I found a fun website with patterns for making felt bird ornaments. All of the birds she has patterns for are well done and very close to realistic. Not to mention a great way for a beginning hand sewer to begin as the projects are small and can be completed in about 30 mins to an hour. We began with the robin and each of the boys has selected another bird to do next, results next week.

Nature Notebook: This week we stayed inside to learn to draw a cardinal and read a little from A pocketful of pinecones.

TJ drawing his cardinal and the photo of a cardinal in the background from DK Bird the Definitive visual guide.
Max is drawing his cardinal.
Max's final drawing and the drawing steps he used to draw the cardinal.
Language arts: This week was spent entirely on dictation. This is no longer their favorite lesson. I have decided to begin stretching them in this skill and have been dictating the whole sentence only once instead of dictating word by word. I also challenged them more so after dictating each sentence once I  then dictated all three at once. They did very well and on their first try they missed only one word each, but it was nerve racking for them to try it. Zak just about hyperventilated himself onto the floor. :)

Reading aloud still in our Elson reader book three.

Bedtime read aloud: We are again celebrating another Christmas with Laura and Mary, Pa, Ma and little Carrie and now baby Grace in On the Shores of Silver Lake. It fits nicely into our Christmas time readings.

Latin: We completed out letters written in Latin last week but not or rings and seals. So now our project is complete. Below is TJ's Letter to his grandma in Oregon. We sent her and Grandpa this note to see if they could dicipher it and they did! I am so were the boys.

The directions for making these was in the Minimus Teacher's guide. I enjoyed having time to do some hands on projects without missing any of the good mid food in our daily readings and narrations. Perhaps we are discovering a way to fit them in after all. :)

Art/Music: We completed I Can Do All Things Drawing Lessons #11-14 drawing ellipses. And we are still enjoying reading about Fredrick Chopin and hearing his music.


Max's Felt frog on His felt pillow.

TJ's felt travel pillows.

Hope your week has been a good one!

December 9, 2012

Week Thirteen Wrap-Up

HI, something we have been enjoying lately....

Bible: Genesis

Stories of Faith: Grandpa's Box

Math: Same old same old this week in the Matrix Caveman Rotation, except that the boys are upping their accuracy and their end time on the matrix. TJ has the current best score of 6 min 66/67 correct. The other tow are getting 100% however they are taking more time to do it. It is working really well to have them try to beat their own score, for it has eliminated some of the competitiveness that was destructive between them. Conversely they are enjoying doing the math and finding it more interesting.

We learned about another female mathematician named Sonya Kovalesky in Mathematicians are People too Vol. 2.

Ancient Greek History: We have begun two new books this week relating to history. Firstly, I added a lesson right after lunch because we were regularly ending school at 3 pm an hour earlier than I have scheduled for. This is happening because the boys are really getting better at following directions and just getting their work done without a lot of moaning or complaining. Amazing how much time is lost here. I intend it to be a geography lesson for I realized that we already have several books that would lend to this kind of lesson and I saw that schedules for one so why not try it. It would be more food for the mind. So we have begun to read My Little Macedonian Cousin by  as it relates so well to the other book we started which is Alexander the Great by John Gunther. It was a tremendous fit and the boys adore it so we are still on schedule and getting more mind food served. Cool! Charlotte says,
"Our aim in education is to give children vital interests in as many directions as possible-to set their feet in a large room..." Vol. 3 pay. 231
Aesop's Copy Work:

Max's Aesop copy work.
Science the observation of Birds: We continue on this week with Blacky the Crow by Thornton Burgess. I also mention a fun game we picked up at the local Goodwill store this summer. It is a memory game of 100 photos of birds. I introduced the boys to the game one night  a few months ago and they have been playing it themselves oft and on, more recently as they have been listening to the bid stories we read in our lessons. They have decided that the Red Tail Hawk and the Big Horned Owl are the best and most desirable to win their other favorite is the wren. This year they are able to read the names of the birds on the cards and so without me they are learning. I love it!

Nature notebooks:

Language Arts: This week the boys wrote a composition about a rabbit family and what they did in their free time, completed some sentences that asked the question when? and they did dictation with sentences that distinguished there from their.

TJ's composition "What I do in my free time..."

Bed Time Read-Aloud: We all felt sad that Jack died in our new read aloud On the Shores of Silver Lake the next book in the Little house series. We all cried when Pa tried to wake him so they could travel west together. I am aiming at reading two books of the series each year so On the Shores of Silver Lake will be our last one until next year. Last year we read Little House on the Prairie and Farmer boy.

Latin: Our lessons last week pertained to a dialogue about Julius and Flavia in writing class with Corinthus. As the dialogue was about writing we have been doing some exercised involving roman or old latin writing. We wrote a message in latin script, we completed a worksheet about roman numerals, we translated some latin verbs into english and we made our own seal stones and a letter written on a thin board like they did way back then.

Art/Music: In drawing lessons this week we drew circles, snowmen and completed a drawing practice sheet.

And we continue in our rotation of reading about Chopin in his early years and listening to his piano music.

Have a great day!

December 8, 2012

Christmas is Coming

Via Fifth and State Blogspot
Today as I am writing this we have taken a day off of school. One of the many things I love about homeschooling is that lessons can harmonize with life and you get the best out of both. This week we have been busy with company already and we all needed a day without the pressure to get something done to simply digest life, spread our wings and follow our interests without a schedule. It is more likely me the free sprit who wanted the day off but I was listening when Zak had a melt down day before yesterday. One of the things he said as he cried and used his amazing vocabulary (thanks Charlotte for the narration practice) to describe how he felt was that he feels a lot of pressure on him and it never seems to let up. Thus a day off. I am enjoying it immensely. :)

It has been several years now since I heard about the wisdom of slowing down during the holidays instead of ramping up, and I intentionally slow down in many ways. Last year we took the whole month of December off and did fun crafts, read vintage christmas stories, and cooked together. The boys also had oodles of free time to play. I purposely shop early for Christmas presents. I read more, take long walks, and cook fun and nourishing treats for my family and friends. I plan little and fly by the seat of my pants for one month out of the year. I do not over decorate but simply do the tree, and the nativity and a few other things. This year we are still doing school 6 days a week because we plan to travel in the spring so I am fitting Christmas in to the already existing schedule and I am still intentionally aiming to keep the holiday a holiday for us all.

Photo by Faletiz
But what I do that helps me the most is to remembering that it isn't the amount of material I get through in a year because "education is not to give a technical skill but to develop a person. " Charlotte Mason said this in Vol. 6 pg. 147. So many things can develop a person and each family has the privilege of choosing that for themselves. For us we keep life simple during the holidays.

Because we are continuing on with our schedule this year and not taking a month off I am slipping Christmas into the framework of it knowing that schedules can be tools for relaxation too. I am  replacing a book here and a book there and adding a project that will enhance what God is saying to us this year about who He is and what He wants us to remember about His coming. For our stories of faith lesson we are currently reading a delightful story about God's plan of redemption beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden of eden and on through to revelation. It is called Grandpa's Box. The story like many vintage books we love the story is told via an ongoing discussion between Grandpa and his two grandchildren Marc and Amy. In the past we have read One Wintery Night written by Ruth Graham Bell for it tells to whole biblical story too which I find so good to review each year at Christmas.

Once we finish with Grandpa's Box I have several vintage Christmas stories the boys can pick from.

Good Stories for Great Holidays compiled by Francis Jenkins Alcott (This one is a huge anthology of short Christmas stories that are all good. We read through it last year and it took us a while. But is was fun to read so many heart warming stories one after the other.
The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin This one always makes me cry and the boys say "oh mom!"
This Way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer We have not read this one yet.
Why the Chimes Rang by Raymond McDonald Alden Another tear jerker.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause by Amelia Houghton This one we have read three Christmas's in a row and I wonder if the boys are tired of it yet.
The Christmas Porringer by Evaleen Stein We have not read this one yet.
The Pajama Elves by Hayden Edwards Just found this one on pinterst a week ago, looks fun.

We will also sing some Christmas hymns and do a few crafts.

My men are not too fond of sweets so the one special thing I make for them every year is a homemade cheese ball. I may attempt homemade crackers to go with it since the boys just bought me a new range for Christmas and I am unwrapping it this week. (smile)

Have a Happy Holiday!

December 2, 2012

Week Twelve Wrap-Up

Bible: Last week we read through the end bit of Ephesians, started and finished Colossians, and this week we are at the beginning in Genesis which fits really well with our reading of Grandpa's Box.

Stories of Faith: Grandpa's Box is a delightful story written as an ongoing conversation between Grandpa and his grand kids, Marc and Amy. Everyday after school as the children help him in his junk to treasure shop He tells them the story of the Bible. Behind each story is the backdrop of the war between God and Satan and how we play a part in it. Marc is especially interested in battles so although he knows the bible stories he is fascinated by Grandpa's war analogies. The boys are loving this book and like Marc though they know the bible stories Grandpa's analogies and unique point of view brings up for them a new take on God and what He has done for us.

Last week we completed The Stories of the Pilgrims right on Thanksgiving day!

Math: We have completed our lessons which took us through the multiplication table, table by table and learning some patterns in each number table, and through out the table. We learned skip count songs for each of the numbers and we did all of the multiplication story problems in Ray's Primary Arithmetic several times over. So last week and this week we have been doing a new lesson rota. I began with introducing the boys to The Matrix, a tool I found over at Don Potter's website for getting the math table facts down quickly. Then we work a page or two in The Usborne Math Skills book called Multiplying and Dividing Puzzles.

The Matrix is a set up so the child works all of the math facts from 2X2 up to 12X12 as is done on the multiplication table however all the duplicate problems have been removed. So, 3X4 in the 3's table is not re introduced again as 4X3 in the 4's table. There are then 67 problems to complete. The table is filled in and timed. Once the boys have completed the table I mark down how long it took them to do it and how many out of 67 they did correctly. I post their best times and they try to beat themselves. Thus far the best time is 8.5 minutes with 2 mistakes (65/67). The goal is to do the problems until they come so easily that you simply are racing to write them down. This could get old day-in and day-out so in between doing the Matrix challenge I give them some fun math problems to play around with from the Usborne puzzle book.

Our rota is three days a week The Matrix, two day Usborne, then the next week it would change to three days a week Usborne two days a week The Matrix.

The mathematicians we read about on project day are Neils Henrik Abel and Ada Bryron Lovelace.

Ancient Greek History: We are still reading The Children's Plutarch by F. J. Gould and working on our paper mache' armor.

And we put a few things in or History notebook...

Armor of God pages. The one on the left was drawn by Nadene from Practical Pages.
Zak and TJ completing a map drill
Aesop's Copy work: I used to have to give out treats to get them to aim for making no cross outs or mistakes, however now that I have stopped doing that they still aim for it themselves and do their best in the coloring because it is good to do it even without the treat. TJ especially hates to make any mistakes and works very hard to get it right. Zak is wonderful at the handwriting but this year he has lost all interest in coloring or drawing etc. But my shinning example really is Max my oldest. Last year he was such a dawdler and I wondered just how I was going to deal with it and for how long because it really bugged me. However this year he is such a different student. It is plain he does not like some of the work I assign but he willingly makes himself get it done. In addition he has become my advocate as he encourages the other two to stop their whining and get with it. Those are his words not mine. :) "It takes less time if you just obey and do what she says," he tells Zak, "She'll make you do it later on your free time if you don't." They both shudder and get to work. I think their understanding and value of time has been the incentive to work it through. As they have grown older and have more ideas of their own they want to work on then their time is more valuable to them. Natural consequences have paid off no nagging needed!

Science/Birds: After reading all the way through The Tale of Jolly Robin by Arthur Scott Bailey we are reading Blacky the Crow by Thornton Burgess.

Nature Notebooks: 

After reading from A Pocket full of pinecones the boys headed outside to find something to draw. Max and TJ both found a lizard and TJ was so excited! "Mom it had yellow on its back see I drew that in!" I was so pleased. For the last few weeks when he looks for something to draw he comes back with the same leaf...but not this week.

On project day we made some bird feeders from old paper towel rolls, peanut butter and birdseed for the winter birds.

Language Arts: Our lesson in Primary Language Lessons was to memorize The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson. We took four days to do this. Day one, orally go through the poem reciting the first stanza then the first and second etc until we are saying the whole poem altogether. Day two, the boys copied 1/2 of the poem and drew a picture. Day three, they copied the second 1/2 of the poem and drew a picture. The fourth and last day the boys orally recited separately the entire poem, then they recited it al together. It is so amazing how they memorize these verses so easily. And how adorable they sound as they do it.

Max's copy work.
Last week they wrote about what they would do on vacation. Here is Zak's composition and drawing.

Read-aloud before bed: Gentle Ben, On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Latin: Minimus dialogue and verbs and adjectives.

Art/Music: Drawing Lessons # 3-#8 in I Can Do all Things

TJ's Wally the worm in the garden, a lesson on forshortening
Max's drawing.
Zak's drawing
We began reading Chopin the Early Years by Opal Wheeler last week. I read from the book one day and then on the other day we listened to his music ( 99 most essential Chopin Masterpieces) and began to color a page from Opal Wheeler's book.

TJ's work in progress