November 24, 2012

Week Eleven Wrap-Up Postponed

I am taking a break from blogging about our lessons this week. Fill you in next time.
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 17, 2012

Week Ten Wrap-Up

Bible: Ephesians with my dh.

Stories of Faith: We took a little break from The Adventures of Missionary Heroism this week and next so we can read The Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret B. Pumphrey in celebration of Thanksgiving next Thursday.

Mathematics: We completed our times table lessons according the CM prescribed method found in Mathematics the Instrument of Living Teaching. The method has worked well for each of the boys. prior to the lessons when they recited story problems they were still figuring it out. Now, they spout off the answer as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Next week we will move along to something else that will further this acquisition of knowledge and sink init still deeper.

We read about Mary Fairfax Somerville from Mathematicians are People Too Vol. 2 on project day.

History of Ancient Greece: We read about Solon, Aristides, Themistocles, Cimon and Pericles from the Children's Plutarch by FJ Gould. Max was particularly impressed with Cimon for he was so generous to the poor.

Aesop's Copy work:

History Project: We are beginning what will soon be a rather long project of making paper mache' weapons and armor. We began this week by first choosing whether we were going to make roman or greek armor and weapons. Then we built the cardboard armatures for each of the pieces. Next week we will begin to applying paper mache'

Our rough materials
Their inspiration
Science Birds: We completed our reading of The Tale of Bobby Bobolink by Arthur Scott Bailey and began to read The Tale of Jolly Robin by the same author.

Nature Journals: My dh has purchased ten chicks to raise into laying hens. Now they are our subjects for nature study.

Pocket Full of Pinecones: We read six chapters this week as they are somewhat short and the boys are loving the story. We do not narrate this book we just listen and enjoy it.

Language Arts: We spent four of the five days this week on dictation from Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl. I am not yet happy with our current approach to it for there is al lot of anxiety on the part f the boys. So I am re thinking how we go about this lesson and hope to try something different next time this comes around.

Currently I have them copy the sentence we are about to dictate three times. Then they look at the sentence and visualize the harder words. This usually takes about 5-10 minutes if they all get to work right away. Then I dictate the sentence one word at a time. I read the whole sentence back to them and they check their work. Then with pens down they self check their sentence to see if it is correct. If there are mistakes more than one or two I have them rewrite the whole sentence, visualize the words and we do the dictation again. If it is one word or two they copy just that word a few times and visualize it before we go on.

The difficulty seems to be that they do not yet know how to teach themselves the sentence. Inevitably they think they know it until the dictation and then there are often tears. Earlier on when the sentences were easier they loved this exercise. Now I will need to do something so they begin to teach themselves the new words successfully.

We also did an observation/composition exercise on trees. This they found enjoyable. They still marvel that answering questions in a full sentence can add up to a short composition. I love it!

Evening reading: We are half way through Sea Star by Marguerite Henry. Our evening readings are not narrated and simply for enjoyment.

Latin: First day of this week I had the boys highlight all the verbs in the dialogue from our Minimus Latin Book. Then I reintroduced the -o ending and the -t ending. Then I introduced the -nt ending used for "they". They found it fun to discover that they had not noticed the -t and -nt difference. They were delighted to have it pointed out. I used inductive questions to led them to the discovery and it is working very well. :)

The rest of the week was spent learning a new dialogue.

Art: We began our drawing lesson with a practice drawing sheet from Art Projects from Kids. The boys had not done a drawing lesson since last year and thus did not know that they could do better this year. They were so encouraged with the results of the drawing sheets for they could clearly see how much easier they found it this time as opposed to last time. We practiced drawing laces on shoes and Wally the worm and his family.

Max's drawing of my hiker.
Music: We are wrapping up Tchaikovsky this week. To complete our study of this fascinating composer we listened to Symphony No. 1 in G minor and drew what we imagined onto a music appreciation notebook page as we listened.

We filled in the composer info in our composer lap book.

We Placed Tchaikovsky onto our timeline.

Have a great week end!

Trivium Pursuit Has Kindle Products!

The Bluedorn's are starting to put their books into Kindle format. Drop over to their site to see what they are up to and help to promote it and stop by and pick up a free kindle copy of Ten Things to Do With Your Child Before the Age of Ten.

November 16, 2012

The Best Work Is Not Visible

Via Tiny White Daisies Tumblr
"Miss Mason went on to say that the best work is not visible: it does not employ the reasoning here, the imagination there. It employs the whole mind, for the whole mind is a whole, not a parcel of faculties. One should not think that what is not seen does not exist: when the whole mind is at work, knowledge infallibly results." - Karen Andreola from A Charlotte Mason Companion pg. 149
Karen put this paragraph at the end of one of her chapters on narration. It was the idea that the entire goal of education is to nourish the mind and that the mind must be the one to do the work which recently has captured my interest. It was an idea I had up till now missed. Narration more than any other kind of lesson is a tool that uses the whole mind. We can not see how the mind is at work organizing the thoughts to put them in order to give a narration. As well, we can not see how the mind  is recalling names or dates or other specific info in the read passage. We are not allowed to interfere with the question it asks itself when narrating "What next?" In many ways this intrinsic necessity for our child's education is out of our hands and totally unseen. We can not quantify it or measure it as with other lesson types. But it does work. For the child must do the work to mine out the nuggets of nourishing knowledge he needs to feed his hunger by retelling it. We must trust him to do it, provide the opportunity, set the feast with nourishing foods and let him chew and digest it.

Via Tiny White Daisies
"The day the child begins using narration is the day he begins to become an independent learner....when we trust in a child's ability to become self educated with the use of narration and whole books, we are not expecting them to go it alone. We have great expectations that they will go it along with the help of the holy spirit and our direction." Karen Andreola From A Charlotte Mason Companion pg 127,129
Although it is a simple tool that Charlotte Mason commends in her method of education I have not found it an easy one to implement. Honestly, it takes time to do narrations. You simply can not lay it over the top of everything else and expect it to work well. It is foundational to Charlotte's method and it alone is enough to feed the hungry child's mind. For myself the rub came here, if narration takes of "x" amount of time then there isn't really time left for other kinds of lessons. You see, I am very fond of hands-on-learning as I am crafty and visual. I like teaching lessons which display information visually and require the student to be doing something with their hands. It is (art or visual presentations) a powerful way of communicating and idea, but I have discovered that through out Charlotte's writings that it is conspicuously absent when nourishing the mind is mentioned. Narration however is mentioned everywhere as the tool that uses the whole mind, thus producing true self education and nourishment for the mind.
"Another certainty presents itself, that we have not time for short cuts: The training of muscle and sense, however necessary, does not nourish the mind; and, on the other hand, the verbiage of a lecturer is not assimilated. There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected." Towards a Philosophy of Education pg. 224
I was crushed, but I was also relieved. I have had inklings already that the lessons we were doing were not producing what I was seeing in Charlotte's writings and results I wanted. I could also sense our lessons were more my work than their work. Narration, living books, and using the hands on methods she used I can change that.

As I scoured through her writings to understand her views I learned that Charlotte did include hands-on-learning in these subjects: handicrafts is an obvious one, nature study and nature journalling, math in concrete things before abstractions, geography; geo walking, in making maps and doing map drills, in artist studies when they drew the picture studied, history when they added a drawing to their museum books or book of centuries. So that is quite a lot of hands-on-type lessons.

Via Tiny White Daisies tumblr
However, as I read on I realized that her hands-on-lessons differ from mine in two respects: Firstly, her lessons are structured so that the child can do the work himself, not getting a predigested lap book and told to glue in the mini books and write what I or the lap book creator tells you. I am not saying that all lap booking does this, but that is how it went with my kids because the lapbook is a tool they cannot wield on their own presently. An older child may use this as a wonderful way to narrate in a written and visual form a certain bit of information. A nature notebook, a map drill etc they can do now. Secondly, my hands-on-lessons were replacing the act of retelling not in addition to narration. So my hands-on-lessons did not give them the knowledge they need, it simply worked the mind but it did not feed it. I needed to reschedule so that there was plenty of time allotted for nourishing meals of mind food to be served. Outside of that time we still do hands-on-projects the boys can do themselves.

Saving time is not one of my over arching goals, nourishing the hungry minds of children is. Time however can sneak in and persuade me to hurry up and then I  make decisions I regret later. However, putting this goal in front of me, to feed my boys good mind food, I have revamped my lessons to follow suit replacing time consuming busy work with time consuming lessons that nourish the minds of my boys. That inevitably includes narration of living books. I am loving the new focus and the disappointment I first felt is giving way to belief in the CM's methods as I see the hunger in my boys grow for more and more mind food and yippee skippy I am finally out of their way! They are educating themselves. Coincidently their joy regarding our lessons is taking off.
Via Tiny White Daisies
In making this switch there lies another potential pitfall. My children did not take to narrating right off. They balked, they dreaded the lessons and in short complained about how much work it is. The enjoyable hours we spent reading aloud together had now become work. This does not yet line up with what Miss Mason says in her writings about how children take to it readily offering copious retellings. This can give way to discouragement or disillusion. The pitfalls lies in returning to the easy path thus abandoning the ideal.

Via Tiny White Daisies
"Reaching our goal of having children acquire a wealth of knowledge and be able to to express it in good English seems distant-on some days utterly out of reach! Yet to have an ideal, to look onwards and upwards, is vital to our homeschooling endeavors."-Karen Andreola from A Charlotte Mason Companion pg. 144
I was encouraged to read that Karen's second daughter was a slow starter when it came to narration. Only is wasn't till after two years of hearing short, influent narrations that her daughter's narrating begin to really flow. That is good to hear, it is not something every child takes to readily or right off the bat.  So mine must be all right. I'll stick it out, keep the lessens short, go out on top, and above all trust. In our house I needed a good dose of patience and a firm hold on faith of the ideal applied daily to our lessons to continue along the way. After one year of beginning narrations my three boys have noticeable improvements. We began this year narrating one paragraph at a time, now we read three to four pages of good living books and they can do it. We are not yet like the children in Charlotte's writings but though I cannot see the invisible work that is happening in there, I embark on this journey into the invisible with a firm hold on the tiller of faith that Charlotte will be right once again and my boys will be getting the mind food they need and will enjoy their journey in self-education.
"Children brought up largely on books do better than those educated on fewer books and lectures. Wide reading produces children with generous enthusiasms, keen sympathies, a wide outlook, and sound judgement because they are treated from the first as beings of "large discourse looking before and after." They are persons of leisure too, with time for hobbies, because their work is easily done in the hours of morning school." Philosophy of Education pg. 305
UPDATE july 2013: more on Narration from Dr. Carroll Smith HERE. He is writing an entire series which is insightful and inspiring that you may want to read. In the post I linked you to above Dr. Smith discusses how to chose good living books for narration. Enjoy!

November 10, 2012

Week Nine Wrap-Up

Last week I wrote about our progress towards dropping the use of treats and rewards for lessons and I truly thought this week was going to be tough, however to my surprise the boys just slipped into line and followed my lead on this. I can count on one hand the times the subject of not getting treats was brought up and three out of the four incidents included the one who mentioned missing the treats to also remember we are not doing teats anymore and correcting himself. I am so pleased!

How could it have been so easy. I am not entirely sure, but a couple of things come to mind that I know were helpful. Firstly, I did eliminate treats for doing good work for their lessons but that did not mean I could not add in fun treats during our week just because. So I did. When I made a batch of strawberry ice cream in the morning before lessons to put away in the freezer I elicited their help to clean out the last bits in the ice cream maker. Spoonfuls of cool yummy ice cream just because. So I did not take good things away from them all together, I just reallocated them for a new purpose. They know I love to bless them when it is good for them, so they can trust me to be good and that the new change is ok.

Secondly, I realized this morning when I read a new post up over at Simply Charlotte Mason about too often the habit is a frustrater of the will, that I had a habit in place that was my ally not my opponent. 
"Habit is either the ally or the opponent, too often the frustrater, of the will." Vol. 1 pg. 326 
We have spent much of last year focusing on the habit of obedience, so this year when I made a change in the way I approached school they were already in the habit to follow me so the habit worked for their benefit and the switch was not so painful had it been if they were not already in the habit to just follow along. Yeah it is encouraging to see some of our hard work paying off.

The last of the flowers this year.
Bible: We are just about to finish up Acts our reading through the book of Acts, just a few more chapters left an we are onto read Ephesians. Both of these books go well with out study of Greece and Rome this year as many of the places mentioned are in Greece and Rome. In Paul's trips to Rome we are getting a new picture of the historical cities mentioned in our history lessons as it is told from the Bible and from the point of view of the Christians who wrote it and live during that time period.

Mathematics: Same as last week but with X9.

Stories of Faith: In The Adventures of Missionary Heroism we have been reading about John Horden, James Evans and The Riggs. They all working to share the gospel message to the indians of Canada and North America. We have gone from the hot places in Africa to the cold places in the Arctic. The boys like the stories but find the language and all the names of languages, people tribes etc very challenging. So we are taking the narrating slowly reading one paragraph or two before they retell it back to me. We could put the names on the board but they would still have a little trouble reading them just now, and it seems better at this point to be simply working on retelling the main ideas and not simply parroting back details. They are improving on this.

Ancient Greek History: We completed our reading of In Search of a Homeland by Penelope Lively on friday and will be moving on to The Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks by F.J. Gould next week. I am taking Charlotte's advice and spending five days a week giving the boys a feast of ideas depending only on the narration, living books, and their hunger to learn to be enough to feed their minds good "mind stuff," and thus educate them. Last year I did a lot of hands on narration type projects feeling all the while the lessons were more mine than theirs and wondering how I could get out of doing so much. By doing what I mentioned above I am out of the way and their minds are meeting daily with great writers more equipped than I to share with them the knowledge they hunger for.
"I soon perceived that children were well equipped to deal with ideas, and that explanations, questionings, amplifications, are unnecessary and wearisome. Children have a natural appetite for knowledge which is informed with thought. They bring imagination, judgment, and the various so-called faculties to bear upon a new idea pretty much as the gastric juices act upon a food ration. This was illuminating but rather startling; the whole intellectual apparatus of the teacher, his power of avid presentation, apt illustration, able summing up, subtle questioning, (perhaps even hands-on-activities instead of a narration) all these were hindrances and intervened between children and the right nutriment duly served (literary ideas in living books); this, on the other hand, they received with the sort of avidity and simplicity with which a healthy child eats dinner." -Vol 6 Book 1, part 3
Having said this we still do a day of projects at the end of our week. This is done after five days of nourishing meals of literary ideas much the way as CM did handicrafts in the afternoon. I am being careful to fill them up with ideas from a literary source and not to replace that feeding with activities. This is not to say that we all do not benefit in some way from a hands-on-activity or a questioning say in the socratic method, but we must be sure they are fed plenty of literary ideas for their minds to grow on and let them digest it on their own as they need it. As my children are growing older I can see they are preferring the 'mind stuff' over the other types of lessons we have done in the past which they often found wearisome. Not to say that they do not find narrating wearisome at this point too because they do, however not as much as cutting coloring etc we did last year. When we did hands-on-projects last year they begged to have something read as they worked. They are hungry for ideas.

Our history project this week was to do the armor of God hands-on-activity from The Homeschool in the woods New testament activity pack. To introduce the lesson I played The Full Armor of God You Tube Video and The Armor of God Song and this Armor of God Song while they worked. We also listened to this rendition of Ephesians 6:10-20 read by James Earl Jones.

Aesop's copy work: Another 'ping' for Charlotte Mason here. Last week I adjusted the lesson so that the boys had five minutes of quiet time to complete the copy work portion of the page. Thus having only one focus for their minds. Then while they colored the picture I read from Aesop and In Search of a homeland. This week while narrating from In Search of a Homeland Zak is called on to retell the passage. He looks up frustrated from his coloring and says, " I don't know! How can I do two things at once!" Caught. My desire to fit in all in has divided his attention. But I will give myself some credit here, for when I was first having them narrate last year I read the Ten Things to do with Your Child Before the age of Ten by the Bluedorn's and felt guilty because I wasn't allowing them to play with anything while we narrated. Have you ever been caught between two knowledgeable people who recommend mutually exclusive things and not known what to do? Well I had already been thinking it may not be a good idea to have them playing while we narrate, but wasn't sure. Zak gave me the final answer. On other readings they will start playing with something and if they do not narrate well they must drop whatever it is and just listen. With boys that means they begin squirming around in their seat, smacking their lips, moving all the time. I find it a bit distracting so I am praying again about just how to handle this.

Science, Birds: Our reading of The Tales of Rusty the Wren has been completed and we are onto The Tales of Bobby Bobolink by Arthur Scott Bailey.

Nature Notebooks: I began to read a little from A Pocket Full of Pinecones on the day we go outside to put an entry in our nature journals. I edit out some of the "teachy" parts written just for us mom's and just give them the story. Since literary sources for ideas stick best I am thinking that this little story may give the boys a fresh new idea about their nature notebooks.

Language Arts:  We spent most of this week memorizing the poem Lady Moon. Though we approached it much the same way as we have before I switched it up a bit for I thought the boys would memorize this one easier than the two before. So we began the week by reciting the poem aloud. First I read the beginning lines and they repeat. Then I read the beginning lines and the next section, there are four sections. We repeat this pattern until they have the whole of the poem under their belt. Then the following day they copied the first and second sections into their composition books and drew a picture. Same thing the next day with the third and fourth section of the poem. Then on the fourth day we orally recited like we did on first day. They had the poem down well. Even with funny voices and al lot of laughter it was well done. On the fifth day we did a simple exercise in Primary Language Lessons about was and were.

Latin: Our dialogue this week introduces verbs and the declensions for "I am" and "he/she is." So we spent most of the week listening to and reading and translating the dialogue. Once they had that down I asked them questions leading them to the discovery about when to use the 'o' ending for "I am" or the 't' ending for "he/she is" using inductive type questions used so often on our Primary Language Lessons.

On project day I read aloud to them the story of Pandora as the newest character in our dialogues is named after the Pandora in this famous story.

On a side note I was wondering if anyone has ever tried to learn to read Latin using the CM reading method. After all much of the use of latin in later years is to read the original text of those writing in Latin. I may try it next year with the boys.


Zak is busy cutting out and choosing three of his favorite art works by Paul Klee to add to his Artist's Notebook page below. Usually we use Dover art stickers but I did not have any for Paul Klee, so I made some and printed them off for the boys to cut out. They will be included in my newest Artist Helper for Paul Klee soon.

Below are two of the four pages we filled with Klee artwork. This is their art work Gallery. The idea for this was inspired by this post from Charlotte Mason Help. We use a three ring binder and plastic money collectors pages. Then I made the cards and they put them into the pockets as they like. If you would like a set of these they are here for FREE.

So this is our last lesson on Paul Klee. We go now to five weeks of drawing lessons.

In our lessons with Tchaikovsky we watched a you tube presentation of swan lake. It took us three lessons to finish the four act ballet. The boys really enjoyed it. They were ecstatic when the Prince went to the lake in act two with his cross bow. They have been reenacting that all week long. They couldn't wait to see the evil guy come in every scene asking when he would return again and again. It was cool they enjoyed it all the way through even some of the long uneventful parts. They asked lots of good questions like, "How do the girls get their skirts to stay up like that?" and "Are they really dancing on their toes!?"

Outside of school the boys are helping my dh to paint the wall around our porch. Zak takes his turn.

Hope you have had a great week!

November 3, 2012

A Peek into a PNEU Type Teacher Student Relationship

"I can still see people in my cozy sitting room: Stephen ensconced in a small fireside chair utterly entranced with "Watership Down". I did most of the reading and he took up the final two paragraphs of each chapter, managing passably well. Sometimes the whole hour was spent like this; sometimes I sensed that one chapter was enough.  On one occasion, "what next ?" brought the answer, "game of scrabble with moonlight sonata on the record player." Once they had got to know my range I let them choose what to do. I can see Alex on the floor by the fire making up her mind which song to have, "Sur le Pont" or "Au Clair de la Lune," singing softly to herself as she puts on a record. And Jimmy streaking in at the front door, and by the time I've turned on the hall light he's got two chairs drawn up to the fire with a copy of "101 Dalmatians" on each. We read the statuary chapter in the usual way. He snapped the book shut and went to the bookcase saying, "Now poetry. Two each," handling out large anthologies. We rearrange ourselves at the table and get on with the choosing. He seems a bit stuck. "what's the matter? Can't you find one?"
"The trouble is I've got THREE."

"We could have an extra, you know." And we're off, sometimes a verse a week each, sometimes each reading the whole of our chosen poem.

Later on he took to "A Puffin Book of Verse."

"Page 273," he said, "It's really good."

And what did I find on page 273? Psalm 23. By the last few weeks he'd decided we must stop this haphazard choosing and go straight through."
 From Marion Berry's book I buy a School

Marion Berry was a retired PNEU teacher that finding herself now retired from the role of headmistress at one of the PNEU school decided to take children into her home to teach them from lower incomes backgrounds. Marion had wisely been told earlier that all children need nourishing, all "are hungry."

I read this many years ago and was stunned. How could she get those children to settle in to do lessons and chose to do their lessons and with eagerness, joy and delight? How could she let go of the control of her classroom and let the children choose what to do, how much to do and when to do it? I was stunned, but also hungry myself to understand how this could happen. I wanted it passionately. But I really did not think I would ever get there. It seemed miles and miles from my own reality and my own understanding of teaching.

Today I read it again with new eyes. And as I looked into her school I discovered a few things I had missed before.  First of all she leans entirely on the faith that children are hungry to learn. That they want to learn and that they can learn on their own. Without this faith she could not get out of the way and let them interact with the ideas, the beauty, the words aptly put in their own way at their own speed and in what order they desired.
"Stephen ensconced in a small fireside chair utterly entranced with "Watership Down". I did most of the reading and he took up the final two paragraphs of each chapter, managing passably well. Sometimes the whole hour was spent like this; sometimes I sensed that one chapter was enough."
Is it not delightful to hear how well she reads Stephen's appetite. She can sense when one chapter is enough. She does not force feed him when his appetite is gone. She doesn't do the same lesson every day. She is personal, winning him over to a new world of the joy of books, poetry, music,  French, and Latin too is says later in the book. 
"Once they had got to know my range I let them choose what to do."
This phrase was planted into the soil of my heart when I first read this and I have been pining away ever since to be able to do this myself. I just love the masterly inactivity of it. I can gather a few clues from the passage itself  which illuminates how she did this. She enjoyed the children, she trusted their hunger to learn, she had experienced sureness, and she gained their trust by reading their appetites and not force feeding them. She won them over to enjoy a new world. 

                                                           Photo via Tiny White Daisies

In our homeschool I have aimed at achieving this idea. I think of it more like a pasture with fences that i build. I create the range or fence, and within the fence I allow them freedom to choose. CM did this in many areas of her education, in the use of the nature notebook for instance. She set a time, she gave the tools, she showed them how to do it, she modeled it and then she got out of their way and let them chose what to draw, how long to draw, how much to draw, etc. In this model the teacher is the master who choses to be inactive so the children can make their own connects or relations with the ideas they are encountering.

"And Jimmy streaking in at the front door, and by the time I've turned on the hall light he's got two chairs drawn up to the fire with a copy of "101 Dalmatians" on each. We read the statuary chapter in the usual way. He snapped the book shut and went to the bookcase saying, "Now poetry. Two each," handling out large anthologies. We rearrange ourselves at the table and get on with the choosing. He seems a bit stuck. "what's the matter? Can't you find one?"
"The trouble is I've got THREE."

"We could have an extra, you know." And we're off, sometimes a verse a week each, sometimes each reading the whole of our chosen poem.

Later on he took to "A Puffin Book of Verse."

"Page 273," he said, "It's really good."

And what did I find on page 273? Psalm 23. By the last few weeks he'd decided we must stop this haphazard choosing and go straight through."

The whole last portion of the passage is a shinning example of the choices she has allowed the children to make within her range. In my own experience this did not come very quickly. I don't know how MB established her range so they knew it, but I felt it was important for my children to first establish a habit of obedience and an appetite for good "mind stuff" before I should let them decide on books and/or lessons of their choice. Once my young students understood, or rather followed my lead in the school I began to allow bits of liberty. Like selecting the read aloud books, then later the living books related to history that were not spines, or which living books about birds we would read first from a pre-selected list of books.

However, in gaining their allegiance before they had a choice I was a student myself learning about them and choosing books, lengths of lessons etc that would win them to the love of good literature and music and art etc. It is only this year that I have been widening the pasture so to speak, last year we were developing a habit of obedience and a taste for good literature. Perhaps widening the pasture each year is suitable depending on the students and their developing appetite for good mind stuff and their willingness and success in governing themselves.
"In a school like this, the children belonged to a sort of family. They were continually in relationship with each other and the teachers. This wonderful, simple, and yet precious. The relationships endured- there was real caring, and the atmosphere of a community that lives, plays, enjoys and learns together."-Susan Schaffer Macaulay from When Children Love to Learn pg. 48 
What a beautiful picture this is of what a homeschool can be when we trust in their hunger for good "mind stuff," train them to love good mind food, give them mind food that is healthy for eating and let them eat until they are filled.

BTW: Linda Faye wrote a brilliant post here sharing tips on how she encourages her children to enjoy hard books.
And Simply Charlotte wrote a fantastic post here on Too Much Twaddle.

UPDATE July 2013: Dr. Carroll Smith writes about the delicate balance of listening to the child if he/she pushes away from a book and having the wisdom to give them quality books that will feed their minds for narration HERE.

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.