September 30, 2013

Character Lesson

I have put off doing this Charlotte Mason suggested lesson in the past because I just could not figure out a way to teach it in a way that agrees with me. Character studies can become tools with which to regularly be pointing out where we go wrong, it can be discouraging and self focusing. It is often a place where we look at the glass half empty and forget all that has been given to us. However, on the flip side I have always felt that this particular lesson "could be" a wonderful way to inspire my children to nobler and better deeds. Until now I have not discovered just how to teach it so it brings hope and freedom and not condemnation.

Let me explain my approach first with an example. Years ago I ran into an old friend and she and I were discussing a new diet method we had heard had helped many to lose the unwanted weight, fat. The diet begins with eating a specially designed nugget at different times a day. This nugget seemed to trigger the body to lose weight effortlessly and when you get to your ideal weight you stop eating this nugget and begin to eat real food and in moderation. You see you are set free from your weight, then you are encouraged to begin a healthy approach to eating diet.

Character study can be like most diets to lose weight, you first work to get rid of the weight then you rest, while the diet my friend and I were discussing sought to rid you of the weight then you work to keep it off. See the difference. In one approach you have the thin body you want so you appreciate the freedom from your excess weight and in turn this gratitude can lead to a willingness to do some work to keep it that way. In the other approach you are still burdened by more weight than you want or need hoping your hard work will make you thin.

When I was listening to my friend describe this new diet it reminded me of the freedom and hope I have as a Christian. You see I have been freed from the power of sin much the same way the diet freed those who tired it of the burden of weight. Because Jesus died 2,000 years ago and paid for all our sins it has nothing to do with my own efforts aside from the fact it will not be manifested in my life unless I believe it and try it out and see that it is so.  Jesus's death set me free from God's wrath and the need to be righteous on my own, much the same ay that the diet nugget sent messages to my body to drop the weight, it was effortless. In short, I am already clean and made new, I have dropped the extra weight. Because Jesus not only died but rose again, I have a new life, a life free of the extra weight of sin. So I can begin my day free and with ample power to do what is right. This is what I want my kids to know. I want them to realize what a trust in Jesus can do for them and how this trust can build in them character that is worth having.

So when we read the morally sound stories that inspire in us to nobel deeds and to honor and we talk about what good character qualities the characters possesses we remind ourselves that we have a way to obtain those traits too because of Jesus's victory for us on the cross. We also discuss how we could fail like many of the characters in our stories if we fail to believe we are free and have the power to resist or overcome the temptations in the world around us to be lazy or greedy etc. We remind ourselves also that Jesus's gift of salvation we have received is also a gift to have the power to please God and live right here on earth.  Somehow it is easier to remain free than to try to get free. If we are already free what could make us more free? Somehow the appreciation of knowing our burden has been taken from us makes us feel we never want to go back.

There is no absolute proof that Jesus's death 2,000 years ago has set us free from sin but when we face the decision daily to chose to believe it we are learning to receive by faith what is right, noble and true as our own. We find it is possible to be noble and honorable. In so doing our faith in this truth is proved  true time and again. The things we once believed had us bound to bad habits of wrong doing we are seeing are simply not that powerful and in truth they are really just lies we are learning not to believe.

We have two books we are reading through twice week; Created for work by Bob Shultz and The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett. I read from each of these books once a week then we narrate the chapter or stories and have the grand discussion about the ideas we found in them. In this discussion we talk about the truths I wrote about above. It is where we talk about our own lives and how we can apply the truth that we are free to do good, and that we have the power to do good. It is where we do not rely upon our own efforts to be good but remember Jesus's promise to be with us always. We discuss how we can include him more in our daily lives. We lean upon HIM for our goodness and worthy and virtuous traits. This lesson is simple but the discussions will last for a long time in our hearts. There are no lists, or reminders to be posted on the bathroom mirrors we simply invite Jesus to live with us in every moment and we drink in the ideas strewn about in the atmosphere of learning that has been carefully cultivated.

For further discussion on this topic I found Nancy Kelly's article entitled The Habits Pendulum inspiring and enlightening.

September 27, 2013

Science Lesson

Much to Max's Sheer delight our science topic this year just happens to be Oceanography his FAVORITE thing in the whole world. What a pleasure to teach something you can see someone simply drinks in every little thing you do. His appetite for anything science is voracious but he has a special love for all things regarding the sea. The twins can take or leave this class loving all things weapon, and war but they get plenty of that in our history lessons. This lesson is where Max thrives.

We are using a book from the Young Explorers Series by Jeannie Albright: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. For the first time since buying her books I am going to follow her straight through with only a few extra additions of living books where I have them and they fit in. Following can be boring and often the text in a given curricula just doesn't fit our plan but this year it does and I am not bored one bit I am enjoying the relaxation of letting another plan, research and deliver the lesson. She is by the way an excellent author and the text always gives glory to God which I appreciate. She includes so many fun and I must say simple experiments that the boys can do to understand more completely the sea creatures we are learning about.

I have laid out her chapters into individual lessons so I knew where the extra things I wanted to include could fit in and so I can know we will fit it all into the school year and at what pace we will be taking the readings and activities/experiments. Below is part of plan so you can get an idea how it works for us. We have a science lesson 5 days a week but the lessons vary so you will see.


105 lessons
Paddle to the Sea/map
book/map work

Chapter 1: Aquatic Animals
ECWZ Ch 1: Aquatic Animals Pg 1-7 narrate

Activity: Ocean currents Pg. 7
hands on

ECWZ Ch. 1: Aquctic Animals Pg 8-15 narrate

Activity: air pressure in a bottle Pg. 15
hands on

ECWZ Ch. 1: Aquctic Animals Pg 16-18 narrate

Activity: Ocean Box 
hands on

Experiment: cold and hot water
hands on

BSBFC:  ch. 1 -3 narrate

Chapter 2: Whales
ECWZ Ch. 2 Whales pg. 19-28

Activity: megaphone pg. 28
hands on

ECWZ Ch2.: Whales Pg. 29-32

Activity: freezing water pg. 32
hands on

ECWZ Ch. 2 Whales pg. 33-39

Activity: sound through water pg. 39-40 / put a whale in your ocean box
hands on

BSBFC:  ch. 3-6 narrate

Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin Treasure

Water Sky

In chapter one we began making our "ocean Boxes" but our idea was more of an "ocean board." We made wave shaped stamps from foam sheets and printed many waves onto a large cardboard board, then the boys added a cloud and a sun. Each chapter we select a sea animal and color it and place it onto the board. We just did the chapter on whales so that is all they have on their boards so far. By the end of the year it will be full of sea creatures they know.

I purchased Jacque Cousteau's DVD series to play on the weekends jut for fun.

On project day the boys still practice doing an entry in their nature notebooks. This year they can filling the scientific data portion in the upper left all by themselves by looking at past entries etc. to figure out how it goes.

...and that concludes our science lesson.

September 21, 2013

Latin Lesson

Latin is a breeze this year as I am letting Duane do the lessons via the Visual Latin curriculum.  Duane is a guy and that is a huge benefit as the boys relate to him far better than myself or another lady. It says something subtle and that is that Latin is for men. He is also silly and though his lessons are sound and clear they are fun for the boys. The lessons also fit into Charlotte Mason's principles of short, 20 minute lessons. Whether we are watching the DVD or doing the worksheets they never take much longer than 20 minutes. So it is easy, fun, meaty and we all are loving it.

Our lesson plans look like this:

Day 1: Lesson 1: grammar video with Duane
Day 2: Lesson 1: grammar worksheet reviewing the video lesson the day before
Day 3: Lesson 1: Sentence Video with Duane
Day 4: Lesson 1: Sentence Worksheet reviewing what we learned in the video the day before.
Day 5: Lesson 1: Reading Video with Duane
Day 6: Lesson 1: Reading worksheet reviewing what we heard in the video the day before.
Day 7: Review all three videos

Begin with lesson 2.

Before I made the switch to Visual Latin I had planned to continue on with the second edition of Minimus called Secondus. I had purchased the text for the boys and the teacher text for me, but somewhere along the way I lost it. When I went to begin planning for it I did not have it any more. I did have the Visual Latin DVD's and worksheets and as I looked at it I thought the boys would do better with this curriculum this year anyway and I sure liked the idea of having one less lesson to plan each day. I am so glad it turned out the way it did. If I ever find the Secondus I suppose I resell it, it is still in my humble opinion a fun way to learn latin.

September 20, 2013

Language Arts Lessons

 We try to adhere to the simplicity of Charlotte Mason's idea about language arts which leans heavily on narration and on copywork. By using CM's method language arts can spill over into many subjects as reading and writing are the primary tools in education, however, we also have specific skill building lesson to keep these tools sharp and ready for use. Handwriting, reading practice, and phonics we do in the morning just after breakfast in our Three R's Rotation.

Handwriting: We are transitioning from print to cursive. After doing some cursive only last year and seeing the boys missing some fundamental things I thought this book would help them see the little bits more clearly as well as to review each letter individually. I also like the Proverbs so Print to Cursive Proverbs was a great fit for us. The boys copy the proverb in print one day and then copy the cursive letters one by one in context of the verse. They also practice other words using that letter. As one letter is introduce every other day they get a good chance to copy and read the letter in in all the positions, first, middle and at the end of a word.

Phonics: We are still using a phonics book, Phonics Pathways. Seems we use a different one each year. I have been puzzling over why the boys simply don't seem to assimilate and use the phonics they have learned. They still struggle to know when to when to use the silent e rule etc. But I am learning to be content with slow progress and they are getting better and better at reading each year. I take them through a 5 minute lesson every day and then as they are reading or doing other things highlight that lesson in their real life language usage. Hope this gets it more home. I often wonder if it just isn't something they care about or their minds don't need this information just now, so it keeps getting set aside. One day as we continue to add this knowledge to their icebergs of knowledge it may come to the surface.

Reading: I don't know why we did this but we are reading through five different books one each day of the week. The books are very similar in difficulty and content so it doesn't seem to break continuity of we read three pages from one book, set it aside until the next week and pick up the next book to read three pages from it. The boys are reading the passages out loud to me as I work in the kitchen. I do very little monitoring except to be close at hand to correct a lazy reading or to help them when they get stuck on a new or difficult word. Mostly I am letting them be alone with their book and learn to develop strategies for working out how to read new words using the rules or knowledge they already have, ON THEIR OWN. They are enjoying this. I let many mistakes go by but in the end they have been stopping themselves to make it right as they want to know what the books is saying. What will happen next? This is why I love to read, and it has motivated me to read harder and harder books so I can get the knowledge out of them or to know about the people in them or how the story will end. 

After each reading I get to hear from them what they story was about. This is narration. We also do narration from book I read aloud to them in other subjects like history or literature, but they do very good narrations from reading to themselves too. In the future they will be doing more and more of this as their reading ability increases.

These are the books the boys chose to read from, you can find them all at Yesterday's Classics or ( From left to right: The Sandman His House Stories, Rollo At Work, Rollo at Play, The Sandman more farm Stories, The Sandman His Farm Stories.)

Grammar study/Poetry and spelling are three more language arts lesson we do during the week. CM does not suggest a grammar or spelling lesson per say but both of our books are CM friendly so they work well with a CM education. Three days a week we work through lesson in Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl which includes poetry memorization, picture studies with narration and dictation practice etc. I let the poetry lessons in this book take the place of a separate lesson on poetry just now as it meets our needs beautifully and simply.

Two days a week we also do a lesson from our Spelling Wisdom book. Spelling wisdom simply puts spelling words into a sentence which can be prepared by the student ahead of time for a dictation. By following the course Sonya has developed you will learn the basic spelling words but with an idea attached. Brilliant! and so much easier to remember than the old fashioned spelling list. We just began Spelling Wisdom this year so we are on book one. Also since the spelling wisdom gives the boys adequate dictation practice I skip the dictation exercises in Primary language lessons when they occur in the book.

Lastly under Language Arts is Literature, my favorite. Literature for us happens at the end of the day and I read aloud to the boys before bedtime. We don't narrate this lesson just enjoy the stories, so when I chose books for this lesson I keep that in mind. Here is our Literature list for this year:

Tales From Shakespeare by Charles Lamb
Ou Island Saints by Amy Steedman
The Lantern Bearer by Rosemary Sutcliff
Adam of The Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Traditional Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens
Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French
The Viking Adventure
Princess Adeline by Julie Sutter
Stories of Beowulf
Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters
Knight of the White Cross by GA Henty
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Selections from: Anderson's Fairy Tales
Selections from: Grimm's Fairy Tales
The Lion of St. Mark by GA Henty
Selections from: One Hundred and One Read-Aloud Celtic Myths by Joan C. Verniero 
Men of Iron By Howard Pyle
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
The Wise Woman and other stories by George McDonald
The Grey Wolf and Other stories by George McDonald

and, if we have time this year we will read the following, otherwise they will have to wait until next year...
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
Return of the King

Language arts is not the boys best subject but I am holding fast to Charlotte's advice regarding the reading lessons and resting in my own sort of contentment knowing giving them a secure foundation is more important than arriving at the finish line in a certain time frame.

"The teacher must be content to proceed slowly, securing the ground under her feet as she goes." from Volume one, page 204.

St. Patrick Lapbook

We have arrived at the Story of Saint Patrick in our history readings so even though it isn't St. Patricks day (march 17th) we idd a lapbook about Saint Patrick and some of the ideas that go along with the March 17th celebration.

We read about him from Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman, and did the mini books etc. I apologize for losing many of the links to the things we used in our book, if I find them I'll update this post.

The project that this image came from was not really designed to be a pocket but we made one by glueing the illumination image to another sheet of card stock and folding down the edges to make the flaps for our pocket. Much sturdier construction this way.

I lost the link to this vintage St. Patrick's Day greeting Card image. So sorry. Inside the boys wrote, "Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day."

I lost the link for the four leaf clover flip book. Inside the boys wrote down a sin or too they were thankful Jesus has given them power to overcome.

I lost the link for the cross mini book. Sorry. Inside we wrote down the facts about St. Patrick and his building of churches in Ireland. This came form our reading about him in Our Island Saints.

Zak is making his fairy coin box

At the end our project day we did a short treasure hunt for fairy gold.

Treasure hunt with Limerick clues and fairy gold


September 17, 2013

History Lesson

We are studying the Middle Ages this year. It is so much fun for it is full of castles and knights, and classic stories I have been wanting to read to my boys for years like Robin Hood and the Story of King Arthur. There is so much out there to make this year wonderful it was truly hard to pick and choose for fear something fun will be left out. See my pinterest board on the Middle Ages/Renaissance. My saving grace was the spine, Story of the Middle Ages by Christine Miller and Passport to the Middle Ages a hands on trip through this historical period by Homeschool in the woods. Between these to resources I have just what I need to flesh out the middle ages time period with fun activities, great books and with more ease and peace of mind than I first thought was possible.

Apparently we have the old out dated cover image. If you checked out the link to The Story of the Middle Ages you can see that it has been redone. I think I like our old version better. One of the best aspects of this book is the suggested book list in the back. It suggests living books that fit in with the story of the Middle Ages narrative. It also give you an idea just where they go in the flow of the historical story. So by using this suggested book list I was able gather together relevant living books and plan them out with the spine readings, and with the help of the SCM panner, I know it will all fit into the school year. Yeah!

Below is a portion of my master list of books and where they fit into the spine. I have not stuck to the 20 minute lessons here as my boys can absorb more so my readings are a bit lengthy. It is working for us but it may not work for you. See for yourself, maybe you can do more. :) I also supplement with audio books when I need a break. See my other post on the ones I found for free at Librivox.

SOTMA: Europe Long Ago-Ceasar in Gaul and Britain (one lesson)
SOTMA: Europe under the Romans-The 1st Martyrs (one lesson)
In God's Garden by Amy Steedman(7 lessons/days)*
SOTMA: The Patron Saint of France- The Early Germans (one lesson)
Children of Odin by Padraic Colum (portions of it in 3 lessons)
SOTMA: How the Franks Came into Gaul-The first Kings (one lesson)
The White Stag by Kate Seredy(two lessons)
SOTMA: Theodoric and Ostrogoth-The Bishop of Ireland (one lesson)
Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman chapter on St. Patrick begin lap book (two lessons)
Lantern bearer by Rosemary Sutcliff (11 lessons)
SOTMA: The Anglo Saxons-King Arthur (one lesson)
King Arthur by Howard Pyle (five lessons)
SOTMA:  The story of St. Augustine (one lesson)
Augustine came to Kent by Barbara Willard (six lessons)

* If the book has 14 chapters in it like In God's Garden, it will take 7 lessons/days to complete the book if I can read two chapters/saint stories a day. Some books will be shorter or longer so the days it will take to read each one is different. 

Following is the rest of the list of living books we plan to use for History.  

Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard
Story of Roland for Children by H.E. Marshall
Castle by David MaCaulay
DK: Castle at War 
Castle Diary by Richard Platt
Vikings by Janeway
The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French
The Viking adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla
Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
Dragon and the Raven by G.A. Henty
Illuminations by Hunt
Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
Cathedral by David MaCaulay
If All The Swords in England by Barbara Willard
God's Troubadour by 
Winning His Spurs by G. A. Henty
Magna Charta by James Daugherty
In Freedom's Cause by G.A. henry
Otto if the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff
The Door in the Wall by
St. George for England by G. A. Henty
Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cohen Illustrated by Trina Hyman (a favorite illustrator of mine)
Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley

You may have observed as you read through the list that some classic books noted to be good for this time period like Robin Hood and Adam of the Road are missing. I have scheduled them into our literature readings instead of our history lesson and they should correspond also with the flow of history as it moves through time in the middle ages. 

Passport through the Middle Ages is something we do on project day which is the last day of our week. Project day was instigated last year because we love hands on activities but we also value the simplicity of Charlotte Mason's methods. One thing I wanted to make time for in our school week was to include more living books to fill them with ideas, "a banquet of mind food", and I also wanted to limit our hands-on work so we could practice narration which stimulates the mind to work on the ideas gained instead of and activity which may or may not accomplish this. So Project day is the sixth day in our week and it is where we do the fun activities, games etc. that we enjoy without losing the great advantage of sticking closely to a CM method during the week.

This is TJ's notebook where he keeps his passport notebooking type activities. 

Sample of one of their notebooking pages describing the different class levels in the Middle Ages. 

The boys also keep up a time line as we go along.

The boys write fictitious newspaper articles.

And illustrate some.

Here is Max's passport to travel into the Middle Ages. 

Each week I also read from a tour guide about that particular time in history, it sets the stage for the activities. Sometimes there are audio tours as well as the readings. This last week we listened as a reporter interviewed different people about their role in the Medieval class structure.

Now and then we get postcards from historical people telling us about the event in history where they played a part. The boys then illustrate the front of the post card and place into their post card rack.

We also are creating lapbook mini books as we go along and at the end of the year we will assemble the whole lap book. It should make for a fun review of all the things we have studied. 

There will be recipes to make, things to make like a castle out of sugar cubes and a Robinhood hat. We will also learn about every aspect of Medieval life. More about all that as we go along. I also have found oodles of wonderful you tube videos that go along nicely with each weeks readings and activities which I will be showing the boys each project day. 

NOTE: Many of the titles below are not suitable for children. We got around this by downloading the video and editing it in a editing program. Then we can be sure they boys get the content that is worthwhile for them at this age.

Here is our list of Medieval history videos. You can find them all on you-tube:

BBC Rise and Fall of Rome Series
History Channel's "The Dark Ages"
Merchant of Venice
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Peasant
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Knight
Medieval Warfare: Castle at War
Who were the Vikings BBC part 1/3
Viking Trading Empire BBC part 2/3
End of the Viking Age BBC part 3/3
History Channel's : "The Real Vikings"
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Monk
Illuminations BBC parts 1-6
History Channel's "The Plague"
El Cid
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Kings
Terry Jones: The Crusades parts 1-4
Terry Jones medieval lives:  The Outlaw
Christina: a Medieval Life
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Damsel
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Philosopher
Terry Jones Medieval Lives: The Minstrel

Bye for now....Enjoy!

Math Lesson

Math lessons this year are more traditional, we are using Saxon 5/4 and lucky for me my dh is teaching it to the boys. I am so excited, and the boys are enjoying the lessons. I was afraid they would find the text book dry but the opposite is true, they love it! They love the variety of the exercises and I love that they are learning to read the instructions and follow them. This means their reading vocabulary is growing. Yeah, language arts in math who said school is not interdisciplinary.

Zak reluctant to get his picture taken.

When I say that they love the math it isn't that we never have tears or they are never frustrated, because we do have tears and frustration. Often the work is simply hard and long from their point of view. We still assign only what can be done in 20 minutes. Short lessons to keep the attention. But when all is said and done they feel they are "getting it". My dh is a wonderful math teacher and the Saxon math curriculum is very well laid out adding precept upon precept which appeals to the boys. So when I asked them if they liked our new text book for math they all shouted, "we love it!"

Though we are using a text book the math manipulatives are not forgotten. I learned last year that one thing that makes math living is if the child understands it. So often the boys use objects like monopoly money to figure out the right answers to the problems in the book. They are still 'getting it' and thus it is alive and living math to them.

We include math every day of the week in our Three R's Rotation. Because my dh is now helping me we can do this rotation. It works like this. I begin with one student to do some language arts practice as I am working in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast and beginning lunch etc. I have a little desk nearby where my student works on handwriting, reading aloud and a short phonics lesson. While I am doing this my dh has another student working on math near his desk in his office where he is doing his work. The third student is taking time on his bed to read from his bible and clean up his personal area, something we called space inspection last year. When my student is done I send him along to my dh and begin with the next student who was reading his bible and cleaning up his space. It usually tales us about 1- 1 1/2 hours to do all three boys through the whole rotation. It is the first thing we do each day.

I found out that the Saxon student manual for 5/4 FREE online here.
And the answer book FREE online here