Monday, August 29, 2011

Books & Things and Some Mother Culture

Someone teased me the other day and commented that my weekends were always full of birthdays and events.  This weekend was no exception.  We had a Baptism celebration Saturday evening and another wonderful birthday get to together on Sunday.  What can I say?  I'm very blessed with close family and very treasured friends. 

I was also very fortunate to be part of a great gathering earlier in the day on Saturday.  I was very excited to share part of the day with nine other moms watching the Simply Charlotte Mason Books & Things DVD Seminar.  We all successfully watched the first two discs before breaking for lunch.  The ladies were very excited about what they were hearing and learning.  I keep realizing that part of the wisdom behind Charlotte Mason's philosophy, as many moms reinforced, was that it just makes sense. We also realize that very inadvertently many of us already use some of her methods and yearn to include others.  We just didn't know that this wonderful lady took the time to write it all down with such care.  If you have a genuine interest in how your children learn and you want to provide the best learning environment for them using the best literature and experiences; then yes she certainly uses common sense. 

It doesn't surprise me that once you are teased just a little by one her methods you long to do more.  I envy those moms who are just starting their home school journeys and can absorb themselves with this philosophy.  They won't have a learning curve or paradigm to shift. From the beginning their children will be on their way to a wonderful education.  I have had to gently change the way I approached my childrens' education because I was just unsure in the beginning.  I am blessed to have discovered that I can teach them all in this fashion and they are still relatively young.  We have many years to learn this way.

Listening and sharing with the moms this weekend I don't feel that I wasted those beginning years at all.   Many of the moms mentioned that we already do some very important Charlotte Mason things in our home schooling, without knowing we did.  If anything the more I read about her, the more I learn how to improve what has been almost instinctual in educating my children.  Learning more about Charlotte Mason allows me to put all those wonderful ways of educating into a logical thinking process so that I can guide my children through this journey.  When our children are regarded as more than just little people needing to fulfill a requirement for that end of the road piece of paper that acknowledges they are valuable; then we can start looking at them as persons growing in the splendor of God's world waiting to discover all that is great and good.  I don't know what the future holds for them, but I do know that I feel better equipped at ensuring that I will raise good Godly men and women ready to conquer challenges put before them.

I'm sure that each of the ladies that got together on Saturday will have a different journey than the next, but we all do share something in common.  We are all genuinely concerned about how we educate our children.  Naturally, we all strive to it in the best way suitable for our homes.  I'm just glad we've all had a little taste of who Charlotte Mason was and what her philosophy is all about.  We, of course, would like more than just a taste so we are excited to start this support group.   I look forward to seeing where it will take us! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty Composition Notebooks

We've come close to completing our first week and it has gone very smoothly.  I am pleased so far.  We did run into one little annoyance.  Some background first.  My third grader is very much a girly everything pretty type of person (just like her mommy).  I always have composition notebooks for my oldest to do any written work in so I let my younger daughter do the same last year.  Unfortunately, I think having regular lines without that middle dotted line did not help her writing.  (I know I should have gone with ruled paper from the beginning.)  Now, I need to work on forming the habit of nice neat printing from her.  I found the Mead Primary Composition notebooks with those lines at my local Target and was thrilled.  I purchased them for her to use this year.  One problem they look like this:

She didn't appreciate the look at all and immediately wanted to get the prettier ones instead.  In order to accomplish my goal and please her I've turned them into this:

(Sigh) Much better!  Here is how I did it, in case you like pretty things too ; )  You will need  the notebooks, your pretty paper, scissors and I used the Elmer's X-treme glue stick.

Step one:  Cut the paper to fit the outer covers of the notebook ( I made mine to fit up to the black binding tape because we wanted to keep that look.)

Step 2:  Place some glue on the cover and line your paper up.  I try to line it up as a right angle so I only need to trim from one side, in case the paper happens to be too big.  Try to leave the corners free from glue for the final step.  Press hard and let it sit for about a minute once your happy with the position.

Step 3:  Cut the corners or any excess paper on top or bottom of the notebook.  Then add some more glue to secure the corners at this time.  Repeat the steps with the other side if you wish.

The final look. It's so pretty.  She's happy and we will have nice neat writing all year.  BTW, This also saves me from printing my own StartWrite blank ruled line paper all year long for her ; )  I'll reserve my printer for actual copywork pages : )  I picked this up some where online, some one's blog; but I honestly can't remember who it was or I would link you to it too.

Edited To Add .... I found it, notice the pretty spiral notebook in the middle.  If you like pretty notebooks, read Jen's post.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Counting Butterflies

This has been a birthday weekend.  We celebrated our oldest God daughter's birthday on Saturday.  She is such a sweet girl, very much a princess.  I'm super excited about the fact that her parents decided to homeschool earlier this year.  I've enjoyed sharing my humble journey with them.  Their oldest is a month younger than my third grader.  Back to our sweet princess, though.  She turned four!  Which means she will begin some preschool learning and do school with her brother.  I thought I'd help her out a little and give her a nice gift so she can practice her counting a la Charlotte Mason this year.

I sewed a set of ten bean bags with all kinds of very pretty fabrics and included just a little lavender in them to wake up some senses.  I thought the book, Counting in the Garden by Kim Parker, was just absolutely adorable and so feminine.  Not to mention all the nature included in the book.  I hope she enjoys it.  Now, I have to go buy some more masculine fabric to make some for my boys.  Our last set, which I used to help my now kindergartner to learn counting, is pretty much scattered all over the house.  We need a new set!

Where do the butterflies come in?  Well, her mom is such a creative lady that when we got to the party my kids were more than thrilled and excited.  We didn't know what to expect, but had a hint from the invitation.  There was a merry go round and we guessed that one...But there was also a butterfly pavilion.  My kids were ecstatic.  We have been going to the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum since we started home schooling.  This was the first year we didn't make it out there.  And for several weekends now I've missed having my camera with me when we've seen these beautiful winged creatures.  Including at the party.  Our friend never seizes to amaze us.  As we were leaving she hands each child a party box and warns me of its contents, so be careful.

We get home and each one gets to open their, two, three, four, five, six...beautiful monarch butterflies in our house!!  The kids quickly get their butterfly tent and a clear container with a colander on the top.  They rush outside, mind you it is dark by now, to cut some flowers and leaves.  "Oh, no we don't have any milkweed or lantana in this yard," says my oldest.  "We have to ask Poppy to bring some tomorrow, Monarchs like those plants," she continues.  "Dandelions, we have those,"  and off they go to cut some. Quickly our favorite butterfly books get pulled out for inspection and review. 

In case your wondering these are some of our favorites:  Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost, The Butterflies Come by Leo Politi, Butterflies in the Garden by Carol Lerner, Where Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder, and Magnificent Monarchs by Linda Glaser.  Can you guess which is the most common butterfly we see around here? ; )

Ah, yes we did celebrate another birthday on Sunday, but not before the kids took out the watercolors.  Then they had fun releasing them and watching them flutter away.  It was a wonderful weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Upcoming School Year in Focus: Math & Language Arts

How did these two end up being my last subjects?  Well, both for very different reasons.  Let's start with Math.  I followed a recommended true and tried program for two years.  It was clear after a struggle the first year that we were sinking at the beginning of the second year.  It completely makes sense to me (I went as far as Calculus in H.S. and then a pre-med science background in college meant more math.)  Well, my very voracious literary child doesn't quiet feel the same about the subject.  So I did the one thing we home schoolers can do:  stopped and completely switched math programs in the middle of the school year.  I had to analyze who this child was and what her strengths were.  She is a reader!!  I decided to try Life of Fred Fractions; she loved it.  But I still felt she needed a little more, so I added Math U See Epsilon.  After Life of Fred she was just to watch the MUS DVD and work on a test per lesson (we didn't bother with the student book at all).  My goal was to have the two programs supplement each other and compliment her learning style.  I think this a perfect fit for her.  It's made us both happy ; ) We will continue with two days of Life of Fred and two days of MUS for Decimals.  I honestly don't know where to go from there, I'll keep researching.

where my older three kiddos work,see the MUS
After reading Volume 1 Home Education, I also evaluated how my younger children were dealing with math.  Now, I know that they are all in the beginning stages so math is pretty simple and straight forward.  What I wasn't doing with them was letting them really work with manipulatives and real life scenarios, it was just a workbook style.  To my surprise Life of Fred has come out with an elementary series.  We are excited.  My third grader will start working through Life of Fred Apples and MUS Delta pretty much the same way as her older sister.  For my little boys I'm excited to try the Queens Homeschool Math Lesson for a Living Education.  I love how it is set up as a story and inter woven with ordinary simple manipulatives through out the lessons.  We'll work on this four days a week. Monday through Thursday.

Notice we have one day of the week left where I didn't schedule from the math books.  The goal is that Friday will be Family Fun Math day.  I plan on using of course, Family Math and Family Math for Young Children through out the year.  This should be fun for all the kids.  I'm looking forward to it.  I've mentioned this before, but educating within the Charlotte Mason philosophy has and continues to be a transition.  This is a subject in transition.  I would love to use the Living Math Site, but I'm not ready to incorporate it yet.  I have lots of time and hope to use some of its concepts soon.  I just wanted to mention it for reference sake. My goal for math this year is clear understanding and involvement without the stressful spend way too much time on a subject get frustrated and loose the joy!

the little boys area: ready for letters!
The second subject I left for the end is Language Arts.  I'm not avoiding it, but if you've noticed I tried to incorporate this subject within every other subject will be doing.  My focus is transitioning to fully following the methods of copywork, narration and dictation.  I will include some grammar & writing for my oldest this year.  Again, this is a subject that has been a complete transformation for me and includes some very important methods taught by Charlotte Mason.  If you have a chance, read my favorite posts on Language Arts by Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles.  This is only one of six I believe, so if you like it look around for the others.  I also enjoyed reading the Simply Charlotte Mason book Hearing and Reading, Telling and Writing: A Charlotte Mason Language Arts Handbook.  I enjoyed the separation by grade levels/ages at the end of each chapter to make sure you reflect on your approach for each child.  It has been my experience, that this is the one area where I've really had to let go of old paradigms and trust Ms. Mason.  I haven't been disappointed, rather, I'm encouraged to master this for my children's sake.  These are the programs that will help me along with this process for at least the next two years (some even longer):

Spelling Wisdom Book 1 & 2 from Simply Charlotte Mason.  My oldest will have two dictations per week.  I will let her copy a selection one day and will dictate the next.  I'm going to start this process with my third grader as well.  She will just do one dictation per week.  I love the index in the back of each book!

Primary Language Lessons and Lingua Mater from Hillside Education are scheduled for every other day twice a week and are meant to supplement our other efforts.  I also like that the girls will get some picture study from these programs.  I didnt' schedule that this year because I knew we were using these books. 

I have also scheduled my oldest to read one chapter per week from a very quaint living book called Grammar Land.  Her sister can listen to the story, but is not required.

Delightful Reading from Simply Charlotte Mason.  I started teaching reading pretty much how Charlotte Mason describes before this kit was available.  Since I have three little boys that still need to go through this process I was thrilled to get it.  The handbook is great for mom and the tiles are just what they need.  I did add magnetic tape to the tiles and will have the boys use this magnetic table top easel.  Each will work at his own stage of course.  I'll post my first graders readers at the side bar through out the year. 

StartWrite program.  This has been such a great tool.  I have so many kids that still need a lot of writing practice.  I just kept getting discouraged thinking how many copywork type books I'd have to purchase for each one.  With this program I'm able create pages as we go along and even if it's just print the page with the lines for my third grader, it has been helpful.   I did get a little nervous with her cursive and decided to get the Pictures in Cursive Primer and Book A to get her started.  I'll be making my own pages for cursive once she's done with those two little books.

our reading area, the couches are very comfy
There you have it, my whole year in focus.  It has been great to dissect each subject we are covering.  The process has allowed me to put my efforts into perspective.  Much of what I'm doing will be new but the transition over the last few years has made me very comfortable in planning this year.  Charlotte Mason believed in giving children a true liberal arts education by providing them with an abundance of rich subject material.  In the process they build meaningful relationships by being allowed to make their own connections from all the experiences and great living books they are exposed to.   The goal is to create a love of learning in each of them by introducing them to wonderful ideas.  I've seen those connections made and relationships built by my children in the past.  I hope that I've created a banquet for them this year so they can continue to flourish in God's world.  Blessings to you as you start your new school year!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Upcoming School Year in Focus: Arts & Language

I have been very relaxed with these particular subjects because my children are younger.  My goal has mainly been exposure and appreciation.  We did start our Shakespeare Fridays last year and it was a success, so we will continue with the Bard.  My oldest will start her third Memoria Press Latin program, but I've added a few things to make it seem less out of the box curriculum for her.  There are also a few programs we are trying for the first time so we can do together as a family.

hidden in this cabinet are all our arts/craft supplies & cds

Monday: This will be our Music Appreciation day.  We are following Harmony Art Mom's plans for Study of the Orchestra.  Included in our study will be the Story of the Orchestra, The Instruments of Classical Music and a few of the Classical Kids Music CD's.

Tuesday:  The girls will continue to read one poetry selection per week. My oldest will copy the entire poem in her poem notebook, my youngest will do a stanza and a drawing in her notebook.  They will read Emily Dickinson the first term using Poetry for Young People.  My oldest will additionally read A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson.   (This might spill into term 2, so I'll wait to choose another poet for the remainder of the year).  The younger boys will be read a selection from A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young.  My first grader will have a line of copywork from the weeks poem.

Wednesday:  I purchased the first Artistic Pursuit curriculum.  My goal is to do this as a family, one lesson per week.  It's in the mail, but I plan on playing the Lingua Angelica CD in the background while we work.  For now, it's just to enjoy and appreciate.

Thursday:  My girls will have choir practice.  This will also be an introduction to Latin for my third grader (my first grader is welcomed to listen in).  I'm trying Minimus Latin with the CD just for fun and as an introduction.

Friday:  This will continue to be our Shakespeare Friday.  This year we will use Lamb's Tales of Shakespeare as our main text.

 Now, Latin for my oldest.  Her schedule will be as follows:

Latina Christiana II on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  We have the DVDs and highly recommend using them with this curriculum.  It really helps to hear and see the instructor pronounce correctly.

Lyrical Latin is a CD with familiar tunes to specific Latin lessons.  She will just listen to a song per week for the purpose of review on Tuesdays.

This is my favorite find;  Mater Anserina: Poems in Latin for Children.  Knowing how much I enjoy Kate Greenaway, I had to find a place to use this lovely book (it features her illustrations).  She will copy a poem in Latin once a week on Thursdays and listen to the CD as she works on it.

I hope that by adding the listening and copywork portions, she will enjoy and appreciate the subject a little more.  I think it was becoming a little repetitive and dry for her.  The goal is to add a spark ; ) 

A tag along: Earlier in the summer I talked about habits and virtues.  Here is a recap of that post and what will be using. Just one more post I promise ; ) Next, the subjects I've completely changed my approach on ... MATH and LANGUAGE ARTS!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Upcoming School Year in Focus: Science & Nature

I would be lying to you if I said these aren't my favorite subjects ; )  Regardless of what curriculum we've followed in the past, we always have enjoyed exploring and deviating due to all our Nature Study time.  I have found that these subjects blend so well and compliment each other that it is hard not to talk about one without the other.  Nature study and nature journaling is always done as a family. Now science as a subject pretty much gets divided by abilities.  Unfortunately, I didn't start combining siblings on this early on.  I also introduced formal science to my oldest from the beginning and she is quiet over our heads on this subject.  I am, however, going to start the practice with my other five children.  Keep in mind Charlotte Mason didn't advocate starting formal science in the younger years so the things I've selected hopefully will be a gentle approach.  With much of it being observable in the natural world through out the year.

on a wall at visitor center near Mono Hot Springs, camping trip 2011
 Monday:  Nature study/journaling day.  It's always been on this day because my husband has the day off and we use it to either go on small walks, hikes or hang out in the backyard while he works.  My oldest will also start her science week by following her own schedule based on the Fleisher books: Secrects of the Universe. I purchased all five books, but will not be using Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.  I put together a journaling notebook for her which contains vocabulary, narrating pages, copywork, timeline page, and lab pages.  She is scheduled to work four days a week and each day has an assignment.  This is the schedule for the first 8 weeks (I've created something similar for two of the five books so far.  I plan on doing the same for the other two we'll be using):

Tuesday: Now my third grader, first grader and kindergartener will follow with me Queen's Homeschool A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie one lesson per week. This is the first time trying this product.  After working on the schedule for the Fleisher books, I really needed something simple and laid out for me.  Believe me I played with the idea of other things, maybe next year.

Wednesday:  Work through some of the labs in Elemental Science: Intro to Science  once a week. This is another program I'm trying for the first time.  I'm pretty sure the boys will appreciate hands on activities.  I purchased the kids journaling and lab kit.  It looks gentle enough and flexible too.   Remember these two programs will be tools for me and not a must do every single thing as instructed more stress on me or kids curriculum. 

Thursday:  We will read aloud from Burgess Animal Book for Children (this is meant for the little boys), no narration is required; but they usually tell me about it.  The little boys can draw in their science notebooks if they like. This day my third grader is also scheduled to read independently from Ways of Wood Folk by William J. Long.  My oldest will also be reading by William J. Long School of Woods.  I will ask for oral narrations from each of them.  These books fall under their Natural History readings*.

Friday:  This will just be a catch up day for any readings or work we may need to complete like demonstrations and labs. If there was no written work done during the week, I'll select some copywork for them too.

Along with these books we have many many picture books and field guides that we refer too when something catches our attention and we want to learn more about it. 

*I love that the girls enjoy their natural history selections so I'm thrilled that they will continue with them this year. I don't have a timeline for these but I do have the Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson lined up for my oldest when she's done with the School of Woods.  For my third grader I'll let her continue reading through the Long series with Wilderness Ways and Secrets of the Woods.

I don't think I forgot anything.  I hope you're not overwhelmed yet.  I'm actually excited writing all this down.  It has really helped me tremendously to put the school year into perspective. Next post I will combine all our Arts including Languages.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Upcoming School Year in Focus: Faith & Religion

My oldest has been using the Faith & Life series for the last four years.  We have enjoyed the series in the past but she asked if we could try something different this year.  All of our selections are new to us, with the exception of the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism.  I've tried to make choices that will be appealing and heartfelt by each of them.

Monday:  Each of my older four children will read one lesson from their catechism book per week.  The girls will read from the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechisms 1 & 2.  The little boys will follow the Illustrated Catechism for Little Children with me; I'm so excited to have learned about this one.  It's just perfect for my boys.

Tuesday:  At breakfast time I will read a story from Angel Food for Boys & Girls Volume 1 & 2 that corresponds with the catechism lessons.  I'll close with a poem or prayer from either A Child's Book of Prayers Illustrated by Michael Hague or A Child's Book of Prayers edited by Linda Yeatman (both are beautifully illustrated, the second one has a greater selection of prayers, psalms and poems).  These are both such sweet books that I actually intend to read a selection from one every morning.  I hope we can use this time for reflection before starting our day.

Wednesday:  This will be their copywork day.  My selections will be from prayers and/or the weeks readings. Nice and short lesson, remember I'm looking for perfect execution.  How much gets written will depend on each child.  My first grader might just do one line of Our Father each week, but my third grader might accomplish the whole prayer in one session.  My oldest will concentrate her writing efforts on Wednesdays in her SCM bible study journal (readings scheduled for Thursdays).

Thursday:   This day will be an individual time for everyone.  My oldest will be working through Simply Charlotte Mason's Jashub's Journal, An Old Testament Law Story (using her own new bible).  My third grader will be reading Child's Bible History.  My oldest read this in second grade and needed a lot of help from me, so I've held off having my third grader read it.  This might not be the best selection for her and if I can find something else I'll consider switching it, but I do appreciate introducing her to this.  My younger boys will listen to bible stories from Tomei DePaola's Book of Bible Stories picture book;  he is a  favorite author around here.  My third grader will orally narrate to me from this reading selection once a week.  The younger boys can choose to make a drawing in their copywork notebooks after a story is complete.

I don't set a specific time for hymns because both my girls are members of our Parish's children's choir which meets once a week the entire school year.  I love to hear them praise once a month at our 9:00 o'clock mass and at any special events or masses through out the year.  There is always one new hymn they delight in.

I brought this Mary & Child back from our Guatemala Trip.
I'd also like to continue our Feast and Holy Day Teas.  For the last few years we have very much enjoyed celebrating the Liturgical year with a small tea time.  I always pick a nice picture book about the Saint or Liturgical time we are celebrating  to go along with a themed gathering.  I have to admit, our selection for St. Valentine earlier this year required a whole weeks worth of tea time.  In the end the kids enjoyed the story and the different pastry selections ; )

This is a subject that is very much a part of our living education.  Our faith is strong; we want our children to appreciate, recognize and be raised by it.  Just a few more posts ... Science & Nature next.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Upcoming School Year in Focus: Geography

I'm really excited about this subject.  I few months ago I couldn't decide if we should do this as a family or let each child do their own study.  I decided the book recommended for my oldest could wait and chose somethings we could do together.  My girls had such a good time with U.S. geography last year that I really wanted to preserve that a little longer.  Their notebooks look so great too; really a keepsake.

Monday:  We will start this when the we get more involved with a particular continent.  I plan on following map drills as described in the Simply Charlotte Mason Seminar.  I will give them a blank map of the continent and let them fill out as much as they remember.  We'll repeat the following week.

Tuesday: The girls will read through one section of A Child's Introduction to the World.  They enjoy reading to each other and I enjoy their narrations afterward.

Wednesday:  Our family read aloud day.  We decided on Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World.  I'm so bummed that I didn't discover this book a year ago.  I think the girls would have enjoyed reading about the U.S. from Mr. Hillyer.  I've decided to cut those chapters and tag them at the end of our year so that we can concentrate on a more global perspective first.  I really do expect that we will go through the summer reading this wonderful book.  I'm not planning on rushing through it since my little boys will be included in our readings.  (BTW my copy did not cost that much, I'm sure you can find it cheaper on another site.)

Thursday:  This will be an independent reading day for the girls.  My oldest has chosen Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.  I've given her all year to read this, sticking to just one chapter a week.  There are 37 chapters total.  For my younger ones I've picked Around the World in 80 Tales.  My hope is that my third grader will read this to her younger brothers (at least the first grader).  I really want to start getting her used to reading aloud to others.  I know she enjoys listening but I want her to develop the reader role as well.  I will be near by in the beginning to help her through this.  I won't expect a narration, but I'll be all ears if they choose to tell me about it ; )

Friday:  Language arts day, they can work on their geography notebook.  I'll make sure they have some copywork from the week's readings; and they can choose to add a drawing, facts, maps, or clippings to their notebook. 

I understand that sometimes reading through an older book like Hillyer's means that there will out of date information.  For this reason I've chosen to have a few atlases available for the children to look up information.  Our choices include:  Reader's Digest Illustrated Great World Atlas, DK Children's Illustrated Reference Atlas and a Picture Atlas that I picked up at our markets book bin. 

There you have it, short and simple.  Up next: Religion & Faith.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Upcoming School Year In Focus: History

I've been debating on the best way to write this post for myself and anyone who might be curious about what we're doing this upcoming year.  The reason I've struggled with it is because it has become clear that there are subjects in which I can and do combine siblings.  So, rather than explain each child's schedule, I'll break it up into a few posts about subjects and attempt to define who will use what materials within them.  I'm still working on this so please keep in mind that I may peel layers if things don't seem to be working.  I also apologize if it seems a bit confusing but hopefully you can at least enjoy looking through some of the links to the books will use.  I'll pick the meatier subjects first, the posts will get smaller ; ) .

Top of one of the Ancient Ruins in Yahxa, Guatemala;  from our April trip.
 We'll cover Ancients this year.  My goal is to get us to maybe early Romans.  I won't hold my breath, we want to savor.  I will have a very involved & advanced 6th grader,  a young 3rd grader, a 1st grader, a young kindergartner and a couple of preschoolers (thus the picture book & craft days).  I'm not expecting much from the younger four, I really just hope to fill some enjoyable time with them. 

Monday:  As a family, I will read aloud from A Picturesque Tale of Progress as a weekly starting point spine.  I love the illustrations for the younger audience and the language/content for my oldest (be warned there may be some n*dity or bear bre*sts).  Also, since my oldest is a voracious reader and a middle schooler, she will on her own read as a spine Dorothy Mills' The Book of the Ancient World and The Book of the Ancient Greeks

Tuesday:  For our craft Tuesday we will work our way through some History Pockets: Egypt, Greece, Greek Myths, Ancient Civilizations and my friend is letting us borrow The Story of the World Activity book.  On Tuesday we will also read  from Modern Rhymes about Ancient Times by Susan Altman while they work on their craft.

Wednesday:  We're calling it Picture Book Wednesday.  I've picked one book a week relating to our readings for our term 1 (I still need to work on term 2 & 3).  I'm sure one of those terms will pretty much be covered by D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales.  I should mention that my oldest will have several appropriate middle school age books to choose from as well;  she's not required to listen to our picture books, but she usually does. She enjoys picking from the list I give her and will likely get through at least 12 additional books on Ancients. (Through out the year I'll post on the side bar her current read.)  These are our term 1 picture book choices, some really intended more for my 3rd grader:

Picture Books
Term 1: Ancient Egypt

Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3:
Week 4:
Week 5:
Week 6:
Week 7:
Week 8:
Week 9-11:
Thursday: This will be our language arts day; a time slot set aside for them to work on any written work. My oldest will continue with her Book of Centuries, one oral and one written narration is required per week from her for this subject.  We'll have group narrations on PToP after reading on Mondays, but the younger ones will keep a copywork notebook they'll work on this day.

Friday: Friday's I've set aside for a family fun read aloud, for term 1 it will be Boy of the Pyramids (yet to choose term 2 & 3).  This will also be our DVD day for those lazy after park day afternoons.  Our choices:

DVD’s to Watch:
Joseph: King of Dreams
Prince of Egypt
Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs (IMAX)
Nefertiti Resurrected
Time Life’s: Lost Civilizations
The Mummy: Quest for the Lost Scrolls

Now here is something I'm playing with and I'm not sure yet where to fit it in.  I really want to also cover a second strand of National History.  I know this is something Charlotte Mason encouraged.  My thoughts are to pick a few D'aulaire biographies and some picture books to schedule around certain holidays.  I'm still working on this schedule.  I envision having a U.S. History basket which will include our selected books and readings.

Whew ... that's history for the family!  Up next, will be Geography.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections of Summer

Shaver Lake, CA 2011 camping trip
Oh where, oh where did our summer break go?!  I purposely did not sign up my kids for summer activities (with the exception of a two week swim class).  I wanted the summer to feel relaxed not rushed with time commitments.  I think we accomplished that.  Our summer break had lots of fun in the water, many more hiking trail nature studies than usual, one camping trip, relaxed summer readings, even relaxed math work, lots of playtime in our yard by ourselves and with many friends over, many out of the blue gatherings with family, lots of walks around our neighborhood, several park days, and just quiet time to reflect (mom anyway). 

getting ready for hike near Mono Hot Springs
We've always started school sometime towards the end of August.  My goal was to start mid month this year, but I'm really contemplating giving the kids one more week before starting a new school year.  I realized that even though our summer was relaxed my kids did a lot of unschooled type work.  We covered some astronomy and seed studies.  We learned about many flowers and insects.  The kids picked up their watercoloring and nature journaling techniques.  My little ones kept working on letter recognition and numbers.  My now first grader kept working on his reading skills, with I Spy Books mind you. 

Kids splashing on their camping trip
I got a chance to really focus on my Charlotte Mason readings and learning by talking to some good friends about methods and philosophy.  Now, I have to admit, I only got as far as Volume 1 (still reading through part V).   There are so many wonderful ideas to process in her writing that it is taking me longer to get through her original works.  I'm not discouraged at all.  My goal is still to read them, but it might mean a longer time frame than I originally thought.  I'm also reading Karen Rackliff's Wild Days Creating Discovery Journals, can you believe I had missed reading that one.  How did that happen ? I also had a chance to watch the Simply Charlotte Mason One Day Seminar including Laying Down the Rails and we are scheduled to watch The Books & Things seminar in a few weeks with some wonderful ladies.  Let me throw in that I started watching Eve Anderson's Teacher Training Tools dvds too.

near campground
I have to say that I am glad that I've been able to savor this first volume.  The information I have found in it has been invaluable to how I plan on approaching the early years with my boys.  As a result we have spent a lot of time outdoors just enjoying and observing. I have also started focusing my attention on having more manipulatives around the house for them.  My plan for math and beginning reading has also changed.  I don't think I really understood before how Charlotte Mason approached these years or maybe I didn't understand the reasoning.  My goal for them will be to introduce some very important habits and skills, rather than loading them with school subjects and expect any kind of mastery.

San Joaquin Valley Bridge
I hope to have some posts about our plans for the new school year soon. I loved getting ready for them.  For the last year or so I've enjoyed reading Jen's very thorough and detailed posts about planning and just CM in general over at her blog; Wildflowers and Marbles.  She is a wealth of knowledge and information.  I also enjoyed using the Simply Charlotte Mason Planning Your CM Education, an extremely helpful tool. 

I've enjoyed sharing our summer break with you.  Now,  I'm off to finish loose ends and get ready for the new school year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Little Mouse Inspires Watercoloring

Right before lunch time today my kids finished their summer read aloud:  A Nest for Celeste.  I first heard about this cute little mouse over at Nancy's Sage Parnassus.  We had just finished a few weeks of some wonderful readings about Mr. Audubon, enjoyed some of his paintings, my oldest two had visited the Camarillo Bird Museum in CA and had gone on an all day tracker field trip on birdwatching.  I knew they would enjoy this book too.

Late in June I decided this would be the read aloud for the younger boys.  My seven year old daughter immediately decided she wanted to be part of our readings. Great!  Then by chapter 15 my oldest decided she liked this too.  It sounds familiar.  By midway, I was no longer doing the readings.  My oldest had taken over.  She is a great reader; she even changes her tone in parts and with characters.  I love to hear her read!

What I really didn't expect was that this little book would end up also inspiring my kids to watercolor painting.  My four year old one day had caught a little moth butterfly and had placed it in a mini butterfly tent.  The immediate reaction was to take out our watercolors and start drawing.  Since then we have picked several flowers and insects to draw.  My quiet observer can catch them for us and we are inspired.

After several sessions of this, I was inspired to do a project of my own.  I kept cutting our watercolor paper into little squares just for our drawings.  Then I realized I had the perfect tools to create little watercolor books for the kids.  So I cut lots of 4x6 140lb watercolor paper, I used chip board for the backing, decorative paper for the front and my Zutter binder to wire bind the booklets.

A good friend recommended a few good tools to use for those very unlikely spills of water cups.  I love them.  I purchased the Aqua-flo Brush set for my little ones and a few of the Niji for myself and my oldest.  I am still tempted to purchase a how to dvd but it's not a priority yet.  I decided my little ones are still too little and it's best to just enjoy.   We certainly are practicing a lot lately!

I did purchase the Eve Anderson's Teacher Training Tools on Nature Study after reading about it in Marcia's guest post at Educating Mother.  I enjoyed it and it was helpful to see beginning tips for dry brushing technique in relation to nature study; especially since given by a CM teacher.

All this to demonstrate how one good living book can bring about such an inspiration, energy and connection to many subjects.  My kids certainly enjoyed a very sweet tale about a cute mouse and I loved to see the relationship they created to Mr. Audubon, birds, nature, friendship and painting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nature Study: Summer Trails Part 4

We were on the trail again.  Early Monday morning we headed to our neighboring city and hiked one of their trails.  I wasn't sure what to expect, since this was our first time at this location.  We had no agenda other than to enjoy our hike so we decided this would just be a photo nature study.  If the trail looked promising we'd be back with some more focus and nature journals next time.  Memo to self: there is always something to draw in a journal, never leave home with out them!  I should know this, but I was thinking about all the errands we had to do after the hike : (

It didn't take us long to figure out what subject this would be great for: GEOLOGY.  The kids were mesmerized by all the wonderful rocks and rock formations.  Geology is not a subject we have studied very much yet, so our discussions were mostly tid bits that my husband and oldest daughter knew about.  A good friend and my oldest daughter's Godfather is a geologist so from trips with him they had both picked up a few things here and there.

They talked a little about sedimentary rock layers, weathering, bedding,  erosion, earthquakes, and different types of rocks like gravel vs. sandstone.  O.K.  so maybe not just tid bits, but certainly more than I knew. 

I humbly have to admit:  dad can lead some nature study too ; )