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!


  1. I love the felt bird ornament and the felt frog and pillow. You get a lot accomplished in your weeks.

  2. As I read your thoughts on narration and how Eve Anderson conducted hers, I was reminded of this article by Dr. Carroll Smith "Is Sequencing and Ordering the Curriculum Important for Scaffolding Learning?" A long title, but he sums up narration well and describes what he calls The Grand Conversation (elsewhere I've heard him refer to it as the Good Conversation so as not to be confused with the Grand Conversation of Classical Education lingo.) If you have not already seen it (and Tammy Glaser's great article in the same publication about how this looks in her own home), you might enjoy it!

    Karen in Kansas City

  3. Thank you Karen a very good read. I like this part of which you commented about, the grand conversation. It was the first time I have read anything so very specific about it. Thanks for the encouragement. Here is a snippet for anyone else who may need a nudge to read this fun inspiring article.

    The Grand conversation by Carroll Smith

    At the end of the narration, there needs to be what I call a grand conversation. (I cannot remember where I have heard this term, grand conversa- tion, but we used it at the school where I was principal years ago.) That is, following the narration children need to be able to share their reactions and ask questions — their reactions and questions.

    Following the conversation they have had with the author through reading and narrating, the children now need to be able to have a conversation with the teacher and their fellow students about what the author said in the text. Here, the teacher talks with the students and not at the students. It is this social interaction of children sharing their reflections (“It wasn’t fair that President Jackson made those Cherokees leave their land!”) or asking
    their questions (“How could they be so mean to Jane Eyre?”), discussing the text or story with each other and the teacher that enables children to understand ideas or issues that might puzzle them. Questions that one child asks will help another child deepen her understanding. With the teacher acting as the facilitator between text, child and community, the child is then able to bridge her zone of proximal development, reaching to the next higher level of thinking. In this way the teacher, text, child and community (fellow students, teacher) are working together to build the next level of scaffolding needed for knowledge building bricks.

    My comments:

    It were these kinds of questions that led me to begin the grand conversation with my boys because I could see and remember how a burning question can divert you from a reading and you would miss what was coming next. I also simply love knowing what they are thinking about, helps me to know them better.