Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up, Week Fourteen ~ Some About Math

Math is continuing to improve for both children. Caiden is getting faster and more focused with his daily lessons, which means school is much less frustrating for him. Hailey is working on memorizing the multiplication tables by filling out a table daily. They are both working on learning to count by 3s and 4s right now, and we will move on to 6, 7, and 8 later. They already know how to count by the easy ones, 2, 5 and 10. They don't know how much this will help their multiplication and division!

Daily Math

The children have both finished up their daily math books, which means it is time for me to make some more. These books have the same pages which they fill in every day, practicing important concepts with different numbers. I pick what they are needing to work on currently, and incorporate it into the book.

Caiden's had a place to write a daily number, and most of the work was done with that. He has been writing the number in words, in numerals, in expanded form, and separating it out into expanded form.  He also adds and subtracts 1, 10, and 100 from the number. There is a section for writing the date, the day of the week, his name, and also a place to record temperature and time. He did this all every day.

Hailey's book was a little different. She still had a daily number, but she wrote hers in Roman numerals, and did some different equations with it, including multiplying and dividing by 2, and multiplying by 10 and 100.  She also recorded the temperature and time, and had a place for creating a word problem and drawing a picture for it.


The second thing the children do for math every day is drills. Hailey is working on memorizing the times tables. Her favorite way to do this is to fill out a table as far as she knows every day. Silly girl! But she is getting better and better!

Caiden is working on memorizing addition facts. Although he is good with addition, and pretty fast, I still have him working on it. I am gradually introducing the 'tricks' for some of the numbers, and this week he has been learning to quickly add nines.

Life of Fred

Both of the children are working their way through the elementary books in the Life of Fred series. There are 10 books in the main set with 3 additional books available for more learning before middle school. I have divided the books up, so that they will read a chapter or two a week, and then have activities corresponding to it on the other days. In that way I am using the books as a sort of spine.... it is the guide, but it isn't the only thing that we do.

On the off days, I use pages or kits from one of the many activity and workbooks I have bought from Scholastic over the last few years. I frequent their "one dollar day" sales, and love the fact that e-books are so simple to use with a printer. Hailey especially enjoys just using workbooks, and I have 3 or 4 that I use regularly for practice. Abby seems to be following in her footsteps and often asks to 'do math!' in her workbook.

In this way we have at least 3 different math things that we do each day. This helps us keep our lessons short, while still getting in lots of practice. The children seem to really enjoy having shorter lessons with more variety, and I am reassured that they are learning a lot of different concepts.

I still haven't figured out how to post the children's videos on here yet. They won't transfer into a new file format.... I really wish I could get them uploaded so if anyone has any advice I would appreciate it!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up, Week Thirteen (a bit about geography)

Oops! I just realized this never posted! Better late then never, I suppose?  

 The children have finished up their first term of school this year, which means....

Exam time! 

The kiddos love their exams, and it is just a fun chance to show off what they have learned. Because I have been recording their exams on videos, I decided to just post them on here. I have to edit them, and put the clips together, because I am slightly fanatic about things like that. But It is so fun to have the finished product, with their hard work displayed!   And usually lots of silliness, too. I have gotten Hailey's video nearly done and will post it this week sometime.


Today I want to talk about geography. The children have various geography books they use, as well as learning about the world through teaching lessons, most of which happen outside. However, I really wanted to kiddos to have more factual knowledge of the world, specifically, where these places are that they keep hearing about in their books.

I was wondering how to make the map and locations more real to them. I started chatting about mapwork, a very Charlotte Mason idea which I wasn't really confident on how to implement, on the Ambleside Online forum. I decided to steal an idea from one of the helpful ladies there, and so far it has been working better then I ever imagined.

Basically, every so often the children draw a new map from scratch. This is a huge change from what I was doing before, when I had them add things to an outline map I printed for them. They weren't really remembering much about their mapwork using outline maps, so I switched to having them draw them for themselves. Hailey's first map was a little difficult, as she was certain she wasn't able to do it. Since then, they have just gotten better and better. She has drawn 3 or 4 maps, starting with Italy and the Mediterranean.

Drawing the area around the Mediterranean Sea, from her book of Marco Polo.

And more...

In other news, Hailey has finished up learning about the Tudor era. She was fascinated with all of the various characters, and really connected with this period.  The Tudor family is such a cast of conflicting, ambitious, tragic, and selfish characters. They all seem like something more out of a television show then real life! Her favorite of the Tudors was Queen Elizabeth, so I am glad that our biography of her will continue on through the rest of the term. She wasn't ready to be done with them!

Caiden has taken up a new hobby of his own accord. He is collecting, categorizing, and identifying rocks. He has several that he is searching for, among them sulfur, and any crystals he can find. He has happily found a few small geodes, and they are among his treasures. He spends a lot of time outside, with a small hammer and bucket, and his rock books, searching for different specimens. His new must-have item is a rock pick!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The "Gap" Myth

The gap myth is the idea that a complete, thorough education has no gaps.... that is, the child knows everything they need to know, everything they "should" know, to continue on and succeed in life. There is some kind of idea that children given a quality education will have attained a certain level of learning-  he is standing on a platform of knowledge that he has reached through his education. The result of a high-quality education, the foundation of the platform is a solid stack of concrete blocks, supporting the mystical achievement. 

As the example would hold, a low-quality education is full of gaps, thus, many of the required blocks are missing from that platform called '5th grade", "12 grade", "bachelor's degree", or whatever platform that particular person has reached. When released into the 'real world', the foundation of the platform will crumble, revealing to the world the 'gaps' in his education. This is an example of the gap myth. 

While in theory this may sound good, it is in fact nothing more then a myth. This idea that out there somewhere, the 'professionals' (in some high-ranking government agency, of course). have a closely guarded secret list, with all of those needed blocks on it, is a myth. Although our government is trying harder and harder to create a "national standardized" program for schools, the gap is still just as much a myth as ever. 


Answer # 1: Why is the gap theory a myth? The biggest reason that the theory is a myth, is that it is simply impossible to know everything that needs to be known. The whole vast knowledge of the world cannot be taught to any one person. Although when it's put that way, it seems pretty silly, that is basically what the 'gap' theory is all about. "But what if he has gaps in his education?" He does, he will, and we all do. That is the simple truth. 

Answer #2: The second, almost-as-good answer to the gap question, is the diversity of people (and tasks) in the world. How can you say your child will have no gaps in his education, if you do not know what he will need to know? That mystical, all-encompassing list of a successful education does not exist, nor will it ever. What I need to know is different from what you need. Street sense is no more or less valuable then calculus, and that is no more valuable then Greek history or the ability to shear a sheep.

Can you name, without looking it up, 10 indigenous evergreen trees of the United States, and give me their family groups, scientific names, and locations?  Can you tell me offhand which medicine should be given as a painkiller to a 10 month old child that weighs 25 lbs and has a broken leg? Do you know how to draft the blueprints for a 3-story, 4 acre warehouse designed for climate-controlled food storage? Most likely, you don't need to know how to do these things. But someone does.  

It is impossible to know what your child will need to know to succeed in life. Not only because you don't know what life will bring him, but also because we live in a vastly changing world. The fact is, the tools and technology your child may be using in 20 years probably hasn't even been invented yet! So the child is destined to have gaps, because life will constantly be bringing him new things to learn. 

Answer #3: Is there not learning after school? As we saw above, no one is 'ready for the real world' upon attaining some magical, mystical platform of education. So that raises the question, when is one ready? After high-school? After college? Or maybe, is the idea of the 'real world' the true fallacy. 

In fact, children are living in the real world upon the moment of their birth. All of life is the real world. What one needs in order to 'live in the real world' is, as well, a myth. If you are not a hermit, if you don't keep your children locked up in your basement, if you go to soccer practice, grocery shopping, and church, that IS the real world, and they are already in it. They are not any more or less PEOPLE then the adults around them, therefor they are already in the real world. They learn as they go, and they will continue to do so. 

So what is the real answer? 

I think there are two different things people are talking about when the bring of the gap fear. They are very different, and in their own way, very valid concerns. But neither is truly expressed realistically using the gap question. 

What do they NEED to know?


Are they ready for the next grade? 

Those are two very different questions. And when they are put that way, it is easy to come to much better, carefully-thought through, realistic answers. Like everything in life, we are much closer to a solution when we know what the question is. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Second Grade Narrations

I was typing up Caiden's narration last week, when I noticed I had a few I hadn't posted yet. They really try hard to do their best when they know some of them will be 'published' for grandparents and other people to read.

Here is Caiden's narration on the Battle of Hastings (one of the most important battles in Western history):

The Story of a Pirate's Great Grandson
The Vikings sailed to one part of France and they stayed there for awhile, until one person wanted to take over England. So he could have the good land. And also there was lots of cattle and stuff like that. Then they really liked that land so he told this one man (Harold) that was going to be king of England next, that he was going to swear that he was going to make him king once he was going to be put king.

Then Harold broke his swear. And then William the Conqueror gathered an army and he went to take over the land. He started taking over! They made it seem like they were running away like they were scared, and when the English chased after them, they quickly came around and killed them. And they shot Harold King of England through the eye and he fell dead.

A few days before, the battle of Stamford Bridge was fought with his brother.

The End.  

Here is the story of Gilbert and Rohesia, the parents of Thomas a Becket, the king's chancellor.

 The Story of Gilbert and Rohesia
First there was a boy who got trapped away in a horrible dungeon. Except for a girl, Rohesia, met him before he got trapped away in the dungeon. The little girl came to him every night cause she and he were in love. But then one night she was breathing very fast and she had the key to let him free and she said, "I came to set you free!”

And he could hardly believe it. But then it was true cause she unlocked him and he was free! The man went to London where he was born and except for he forgot his promise. He promised that he would go there and then come back after he was done doing some things. But then she went to England where he was and all she said was his name, cause all she knew was “London” and his name. But then she finally found him. Then they lived happily ever after, and they had a son which was named Thomas a Becket and he was the king's adviser. Some people thought that it was just a fairy tale. But I don't think its a fairy tale.

Caiden Snyder, second grade
From Our Island Story, 9/16/13

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up, Week Eleven

Wow, where did the last few weeks go? I think I missed a few... there were so changed dates around their visitation with their dad, so we had to re-schedule some of their school. We got it all figured out, but I didn't get much blogging done. (Ok, lets be honest. I didn't get any blogging done. :) )

Week eleven already, next week is the last week of Term One! We are 1/3 of the way through this school year. And we are right on schedule. Thankfully, even through all the changes the last few months, we have stayed right on track.

Next week, the children will be finishing up a few books that are used only in the first term, and getting ready to start some new ones. Hailey will be finishing her biographies of Galileo and Michelangelo and starting new ones. She will also be finishing her literature book, The Princess and the Goblin. Caiden's literature book, Understood Betsy, will be finished up too. It is one of my absolute favorites, and I am glad I will get to read it aloud 2 more times in the next few years!

Hailey's narrations are getting exponentially better, and she is starting to narrate in a story-like form, instead of conversationally. Next year we will probably begin working toward written narrations, a huge, difficult step. Caiden has been doing better at his math. He has great math skills, he just doesn't enjoy the writing. Doing a daily math page everyday has helped him focus, stick to it, and push through.

The pictures are from our drive through the mountains. First, we waited in traffic for what ended up to be the filming of The Fast and the Furious number whatever-one-is-next. :) That was pretty cool for the kids to see. 

Later, we stopped and spent some time gathering "fairy hats" from the scrub oak and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. For the uninformed, fairy hats are the tops of the tiny acorns with grow on these bushes. The critters eat the nuts, and leave the tops hanging. The children gathered a bunch and hailey made a fairy trap with them when she got home. So far, no fairies have been caught. We think its because the trap wasn't secure enough and they escaped. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Narration on Bloody Queen Mary

Hailey did this narration about Bloody Mary, probably the most infamous queen in England's history. Mary was the oldest daughter of the also-infamous Henry VIII. During Mary's reign, she slaughtered more then 300 protestant Christians, imprisoned and executed many people for perceived treason, and kept her younger sister in the Tower of London, one of the most horrible prisons imagined.

Hailey has learned about the story of Queen Mary's life for several weeks, and in her narration she asked to do it all as one piece, and she told me to add the subtitles so that it is divided up pretty much as she read about them. Next week, we will be learning about the magnificent reign of Mary's little sister, who became queen after her death, and changed much about life in England during the Renaissance. This is the story of the family Tudor family. (There is on fact in here that Hailey has stated incorrectly, and that is that Lady Jane Grey was the 'rightful' heir of the throne. Opinions differ on that matter. :) )

Bloody Mary

Lady Jane Grey was the queen that was rightfully an heir. And then Mary started a rebellion to be queen. She got lots of people that wanted her to be queen, and they took over Lady Jane Grey, and she was very glad about that because she didn't really want to be queen. And so were the people.

At first.

And then Mary was so happy that she became queen that she was very nice to the people. And I say again, at first. But then suddenly she started being mean to the people once she felt that she was securely on the throne for good. And that nobody would take her away.
And then she started executing people, and then she executed Lady Jane Gray and her husband. As you can hear already, she was a very bad queen.

And then how she locked up the princess.
The princess was very ill. And Queen Mary decided to send men to the princess's house, I think it was three of them. And the men went to the house and the nurse came in a said, “people would like to speak to you.”

And she said, “tell them to come tomorrow, it is very late at night and I am very ill.”

And then her nurse said, “they said they are from the queen, you must come now.”

And she said, “tell them to come in.”

And they went in. And they said, “you must come with us now.”
She said, “wait till he morning.” So they did. And then they were off. To the Tower! And she had heard of many people who came to the Tower who had never come out alive.

And the princess was long in the Tower for many longtime. And every one was taken away but there was a little boy who always came and brought her flowers every morning. And then even he was taken away. Then she said, “I would rather be a peasant and be free then be a princess locked away in the horrible Tower.”

And then her wish came true. They let her go to a poor peasant's house and she was under house arrest.

How a candle was lit and never put out.
Bloody Mary got a husband and then when the husband came in everyone was not happy but they acted like they were happy. Now that Bloody Mary had her husband she decided to make the pope again the ruler of the church, and she thought it was a cruel thing of Henry VIII to fight with the pope. She tried to make very many people obey her and the pope. But they wouldn't give up their religion that easily, even though they had hated Henry VIII. Everyone that tried to go against her got put in prison and executed the very worst way- being burned alive. And life was horrible for the people.

As two people were being walked in to be executed they said, “there shall be a candle ever lit and it shall never be put out”, and even to this day it is still shining in a way.

And then her husband went away and she was very sad. And he only returned to get money to fight. And then part of the land that Mary rules was taken away and she was very sad. And she said, "when I die let the name of the land be on my heart." And that same year she (very happily) died, and the princess became queen.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Easiest Meatloaf Ever

My little ones love meatloaf and meatballs. But I absolutely hate crunching up bread crumbs. In fact, it is probably my second-least favorite thing to do in the kitchen (second to crumbling bacon... eww its so slimy!) One day, in desperation, I used stuffing mix for my crumbs. The rest, as they say, is history....

Easiest Meatloaf (or meatballs) Ever

1 package stuffing mix... chicken and turkey both work fine.
about 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
Chopped onion (I use dried onions, chopping onions is my third-least favorite kitchen thingy.) 

Mix it all well. If you have a stand mixer, throw it all in. Even easier! Add 2 lbs ground beef. Mix well. Tada! Meatloaf. No crumbling required. 

If you mix it for awhile in the mixer, the pieces of bread all disappear and the whole thing gets stickier.... best for meatballs. Mix it briefly and you have larger chunks of everything, and it is more solid. Perfect for meatloaf. Throw it in the freezer and you have it all ready for that busy day running kids to classes, working, or just organizing that back closet that you are sure will someday eat one of your precious little ones. 

Maybe next time I make this I will take a picture!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekly-Wrap up, Week Eight~ Narrations

This week I had the kiddos do some narrations for me to type and save. Hailey's got to be so long, that I will not be writing much else! Her first narration is about the American tall tale of Stormalong. This narration ended up being two fill-length typed pages! I am going to give you just a little bit of intormation on the purpose of narration, so you will understand why we do this. Keep in mind I am not a Charlotte Mason expert!  

Narrations are given after each school reading, whether read to the child, or by them. The narration is simply the child telling back what he knows, or 'got' from the story. There are a couple of things narration is, and couple that it isn't. Narrations isn't comprehension questions, although it is a way to test the child's understanding. Narration isn't testing on knowledge, like a history test, although it does tell you some of what the child knows. Narration isn't for the teacher, it is for the child.

At its most basic, narration is a way for the child's mind to DO something with the new knowledge he has been given. Our minds are not recording machines, simply copying down what is stuffed into them. Our minds have to DO something with that information to remember it. Connections to other information, and the process of the mind making those connections, is the process of learning and remembering. Narration gives that power to children.

It is important to know that narrating is hard work. The child's mind does a lot in order to narrate well, and after a few years of this work, the child will be ready to begin written narrations, which are basically the beginnings of writing essays. The work of narrating orally in the early years paves the way for written compositions. So you can see that narrations fulfill the work of several processes- learning to write, remembering what they have learned, making connections, and reading comprehension skills.

Caiden's narration was much shorter. Remember this is not a test, so hers is not better then his! They both told back what THEY got out of the story, what 'clicked' with them, and they both did a good job composing their thoughts and connecting with their learning. Success for them both, even though one was much shorter! His was also a much harder selection to narrate, from his history book.

No one really knows where Stormalong came from. Some people say that Stormalong came from a place that ends with and 'ig' or an 'oog' or something like that. But all we do know is that he lived by the sea. One day Stormalong got out but before he could even say anything he could tell a knot on a ship from a knot in his mother's yarn. When he could talk he told him mom “I want to be a sailor when I grow up.”

But his mother said, “too many people in this family has been a sailer. You can not be a sailer. If my husband had stayed on shore I would not have been a widow.”

Then he decided to make a boat for himself. He picked up an old house that he knew that nobody lived in and then he set in on the sea. And before he could count to ten that thing floated down. And then when he went back in a little later his mom said, “where is that house?”
And he said, “it sunk.”

And then his mom said, “people bought that house and were going to fix it up for a sea house.”

And then he said, “I think I should be going now that I sank their house,” and for once his mom didn't argue.

So his mom packed him up a bunch of lunch and got the ladder which was made just for that purpose and climbed up on the ladder and gave him a hug and a kiss goodbye. And then he was off! On his journey. And then he went a little ways and he saw people that were signing up for a trip to china. And he said, “I would like to sign up for a cabin boy.”
And then they said, “Okey dokey artichokey!” and then they signed him up.

But before they signed him up he said, “oh, look, your mast is crooked”, and then he lifted it up. Because, in case we didn't already mention, he was thirteen and very very tall, taller then a boat. And then, they were off!

And they sailed and sailed and sailed for a long, long while. And then, the ship was stopped. And one of the sailors said, “on no its a kraken!”
And then the captain called forth all the men and said, “who would dare to go under the sea to see what is holding us back?”

And then everyone except for Stormalong took two steps back. And then he said, “I will go! Except for will somebody get me a knife so I can go see what it is doing?”

And then he saw a monster down there and it had one long tentacle grabbing the boat except it had a claw on the end. And then he saw one eye looking out from the darkness of the depths of the sea and then he saw from a familiar head which had lots of other tentacles to it, with claws. And then he got the knife and started cutting at his arms but the first time it bounced off like rubber. And the second time it did the same thing. But the third time it cut it off but the monster quickly attached two more arms to the bottom of the boat.

And then he had an idea. He threw the knife down and tackled the first arm and tied it into a figure eight knot. Then he took the other tentacle and put it in another knot. And then it quickly latched on two more arms, and he kept making knots and knots until the thousand arms that were on it were all in knots.
But then when he went back up,he saw that there were giant waves and he caused the giant waves tackling the giant monster. Then he got up as slowly as he could, then everybody cheered and hoorayed. Then he decided to go back. And everyone was familiar with him except for the cook. Because she had to make barrels and barrels and barrels of soup for him, because he was a growing boy, and a big one too!
And then he decided he should go, and then he built himself his own ship at his home. And it was huge! It was so big that sometimes it knocked stars from the sky. So he made it that he could lower the masts down. And he was bored with just getting normal stuff so one day he saw a whale! And he decided to be a whaler. And if they were too small he would throw them off.

And then they would have to go through a little place that was only 30 miles wide. So he told the men, get some soap and scrub it everywhere. So they scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. And they scrubbed so much that all the barnacles slipped and fell off. And then they went straight on ahead. And guess what? They made it!

And since he was a whaler, if the whales were less then ninety pounds he would throw it back and say, “I better let that poor whale grow up some more before I take that one on again.”
And then he started getting worried about the new steamships that were getting bigger and faster every year that went on. And then one day he saw one go “whoosh!” right past him. And the next time he saw them go right past him, he said, “I will take you on if I have a good wind!”

And he said, “we don't need a good wind, we've got coal and gasoline!” And then it whooshed past.

And then the next day their sails started to flutter. And then they started to whoosh. And then a giant hurricane wind came and the people said, “lower the mast, lower the mast, it is going to tear our sails up!”

And he said, “no I will beat 'em!” And then they whooshed past the other little boat.

And people saw him laying on the wheel of the giant boat with the masts all torn up, and they saw him laying on the wheel. And then he thought that maybe his mother was right, maybe he was just supposed to stay by shore. And some people think that that wasn't the end of him. Because then at the same time there was also a farmer named Stormalong and they maybe thought that he was him because he was so amazing that when there was a driest drought he worked so hard his own sweat watered the plants.

The end.
Narration by Hailey Snyder, age eight

The Story of King Stephen
After he died, they refused to let Matilda be the queen. So they made Stephen the king. But then some of the people wanted to have Matilda, and they fought. Lots and lots of fighting. And some people put people in prisons. They imprisoned people and they really did not like Matilda at all. The country did not like it at all either. And they built a wicked castle to imprison all the people in. So they had a very long fight.

But eventually some soldiers went to guard Matilda cause she got prisoned too. Then some people dressed up as white and took her away almost like robbers. Then they took her to a castle and then the two men decided to make peace. And throughout the land it was peaceful for a few years. And they also decided to make when the king died they made the son of Matilda king after that.

From Our Island Story
Caiden Snyder, age 7

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up Week Seven

This week was busy! We don't have enough leeway in our school year to take the week off, so we were right back to school even though we are working on moving and just had a wedding! I did change up our regular math and reading schedules, though, as those are the most mom-intensive parts of the day.

For math the kiddos have been doing either fun worksheets that they can do on their own, or playing a educational website called ZooWhiz. The website is neat because it is really EDUCATIONAL, not simply a game with some letters and numbers added. I can set the kid's learning levels and subjects, and they have to do a lot of learning before they can earn coins, which they use to buy animals for their zoo. The 'fun' aspect is probably not engaging enough to keep them captivated for months, but it will work for a week or two!

The kids had a little trouble focusing on their history, science, and other readings, because life was so exciting... new house, new rooms, trying to get their stuff all set up.... it was pretty tough for them at times. :)

One of Caiden's favorite readings this week was the chapter from A Child's History of the World about castles. The chapter really lit his imagination, and after it was done I gave him a lift-the-flap book full of detailed pictures, explanations, and diagrams about castles.

I forgot to write down narrations for the kids, maybe next week?? I would also like to share how we are using the Life of Fred series to enhance our math studies.  Soon.......

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up, Week Six (And Details about Hailey's History)

Week six was a bit of a strange week. Week five was cut short, so that work got added to week six. :) So it was a full week, but fun. We were also working on moving, so that added to the busyness. The kids didn't do much nature study this week, actually they didn't do any with me there. Of course, they always do nature study on their own, especially Caiden who is always finding new bugs to inspect. But we were just too busy to do any focused journaling.

Hailey's favorite book this week was a literature story, an ancient Greek legend about Perseus which she just loves. She also enjoys her science book, Explore His Earth, where we have been learning about the layers of the atmosphere.

Caiden's favorite reading was probably the chapter from The Little Duke, a biography about a seven-year-old duke from Normandy. This is the single hardest book for this year, with old time vocabulary and the long, difficult to comprehend sentences. He does great and is captivated by the storyline.

Abby loves all her books, now that we stopped reading Paddington Bear. Her favorite is probably The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball that Floats in the Air. Yes, that's really the title. The longest in the world, I am pretty sure. ;) She loves these stories about little children in other cultures, and this one is a family favorite, not to be missed!

Last time I promised to detail Hailey's history for the coming year. Because we use Ambleside Online, our history is mostly planned out for us. Some things I edit or change, but the foundation is already done for me. It is such a time saver, and so much better planned then I alone could do! These ladies have years of experience, and combine their talents to make the curriculum, which is much more then boxed curriculum, designed by one person, can offer.

Anyhoo, back off that rabbit trail. Hailey's history. 3rd grade in Ambleside Online covers the years after the Middle Ages, to about the time of the American and French revolutions. The renaissance and reformation. from around 1400 to the middle of the 1700s.

Hailey is enjoying it more then last year, which was about the Middle Ages and had a lot of wars, battles that were hard to keep apart, and all the kings had the same three names. This year, the stories are more personal. There are fewer battles and political scenarios, and more personal accounts and stories. As history gets closer to our own time, the records are more personal and more detailed. She likes that.

Our main history book is continuing An Island Story, as most of the renaissance and reformation happened in Europe. This book is our spine, the backbone that carries us along from topic to topic, chronologically. I actually prefer to think of it as a trail.... the book is the trail that leads us through a time period. As we get to interesting stopping places, other books are added in to give more detail. These other books are A Child's History of the World (our favorite) and This Country of Ours. The latter book is very nearly a spine as well, detailing the American events that were coinciding with those across the pond. We read between one and three chapters a week from these books.

Along with all those history books, biographies are used to give details about VIPs from the time period, as well as a better look at what life was actually like. We are currently half done with our biographies of Galileo and Michelangelo. In the next two terms we will be reading biographies about Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, the pilgrims, and Squanto. Hailey doesn't really enjoy the book about Galileo, because the storyline is pretty complicated and includes little tidbits about many other scientists, which get hard to tell apart. What she doesn't know is that even when she says "I don't remember much!" she still gives excellent, detailed narrations, always several paragraphs long.

I think that I will start including typed examples of their narrations each week. It will be fun to read later, and the kids will love knowing their work in going up for everyone to read!

The pictures are of each child with their books for the year. Although they all have several ebooks that I couldn't really include, and I forgot 4 of Caiden's books, it still made for a fun picture. :) 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up, Week Four

Yes, I missed a few weeks. Oh well. The memories are still being made. :)

This was a busy week. We went camping (again!), this time with my parents. Jeff had to work so he missed out on the fun.

As for the rest of the week, we rushed a bit to get our school done so we could relax and play over the weekend. Hailey is still enjoying her reading lessons, although they don't hold the novelty that they first did. They still help her with those longer stories and unknown words, so we will keep at it. She is working on reading stories that are several pages long, and is reading words like "indignantly", and "comfortable". I am working to help her start reading those school books which are way over her reading level, but right-on as far as comprehension. They are tough for her, so we work through them together.

Abby is working on learning basic CVC words, in word families. She is studying each word family, and then building and saying them with word tiles. We are also working some with sight words. At this point I am not pushing her to KNOW all the sight words, I just want her to have an association with them. Later, when she starts first grade, she will be learning all the words. This is just an introduction!

Caiden's reading is going exceptionally well. He is working though the last part of his reading program, and although he doesn't enjoy the actual program, he does like reading, especially science books (of course!) on his own. He likes sounding out the names of different animals and plants, although most of the time he has trouble getting them right since they aren't phonetic.

This week we did our usual, biographies and history books are a big part of our curriculum. Hailey likes all of her books except Along Came Galileo, and she said that is because I make her read it herself. Silly girl. :) Caiden likes his books too, especially Pilgrim's Progress! I was surprised because that is one of the hardest books for this year. His other favorite books is also the other hardest book, Little Duke. This is a biography of a young duke of Normandy, written in old-style language with many hard to understand words. He does great with it! I can just see their minds growing.

That is all for now... next week I will explain all about Hailey's history for this year. No pictures for now, maybe I will add them later. They take so long to upload because I insist on editing them. ;)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekly wrap up~ Week One

Week one is done!  Well, week one-half technically. We are starting out slow so we did about half of our math and language arts lessons each day, and half of the weeks readings. Next week we will do everything. :)


Three kiddos and an aunt.

The kids were so excited to begin their new grades, although it really doesn't mean anything to them except new books. We only schooled for 3 days, because the holiday was on Thursday. On Friday, we headed to the mountains for a short camping trip. Our first week went great! The kids enjoyed all of their books, so far, and the new Charlotte Mason-style reading and spelling lessons were and overwhelming success. They said they like ALL of school now, because we got rid of those irritating phonics lessons with all that writing.

Instead of workbooks, we are doing spelling on the white board or a notebook. I simply pick a word from the reading lesson and together we think of all the words in that family. I write them on the board, and she attempts to place them into her visual memory by taking a 'picture' of each word. Then I erase the words and  she writes them from memory. The whole process only takes about 5 minutes. For Caiden's phonics I did away with the worksheets which were used for spelling practice, and instead we have spelling lessons every other day.

We do several lessons for language arts each day. These lessons are all short, and we don't do them all at once. Instead, working on the principle that brains get tired after too long on one subject, we do one and then go to something completely different before coming back to another lesson. Hailey and Caiden have a reading lesson two days a week, and spelling on the off days. We do copywork everyday.

As we left for the 4th of July parade, we saw three baby deer and two does having breakfast. I was so excited, I have been watching for them for weeks!

Tasting the flowers.

These twins were a little older, and trying a few bites.

Mama and twins. 

This baby was very little, so mama kept him pretty well hidden. He was still toddling when he tried to run. 

Waiting for the parade to begin. 

Later we headed to the lake to watch fireworks. The next morning we were on our way to the mountains... a whole 15 miles away, we stopped to camp in the National Forest. We finally found an un-occupied campsite, without anyone else (Or their dog) around. The kids learned how to set up the tent first. Later, they got to practice starting a fire and had some gun safety lessons. We took several hikes, but had to keep them short because we forgot the baby carrier. :)

Nature study was everywhere, of course, but we worked carefully to identify wildflowers. We found many different kinds, more variety then I have ever seen. Colorado columbines, pink and white paintbrushes, (which were new to me, ) bitter cress, orange sneeze weed was everywhere, pink elephants (Which I have wanted to see since I was a little girl, first fascinated with field guides), and toxic monkshood.  Soon the kids were calling out whenever they saw those dark purple flowers, "There's the poisonous ones! Stay away!" I was so proud. :) We brought several specimens home to press and mount, and they will know them forever. 

I love what I do. :) 

Reading Charlotte Mason's advice on "The Outdoor Life" for children, while enjoying the mountains... what could be more appropriate? 

Nature Study~ Wildflowers

Abby investigating a small 

Colorado columbine.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Charlotte Mason in 5 minutes

I have had several requests for a summary of Charlotte Mason's philosophy and ideas. Because I have a tendency to be very wordy and over-complicate things, I decided to write something that could be read in 5 minutes.  Most of these topics will apply to younger children, not those in High School.  I haven't had time to study that yet. :)

Charlotte Mason was an education reformer, teacher, and directer of a chain of schools in the late eighteen- hundreds. Many of her ideas were revolutionary then, and are still unique today. The first thing to emphasize is that Charlotte herself was opposed to her work being used as any kind of 'system'. She was adamant that a method, a philosophy, is flexible and useful, while a stringent system is constrictive. Charlotte also insisted that parents could teach their children as well or better then a school, and her first book is considered the original how-to book on homeschooling.

Charlotte believed children, especially young children, should spend the majority of their time outside. She recommended at least 6 hours outside each day! These hours were not spent just in idle playtime, but were used to teach and develop many things.  The habit of attention is learning carefully studying flowers. The ability to envision something in their heads, so important for learning to read, is learned by studying a scene and imprinting it in their minds. The ability to tell something back, describing it for others, which is the first step in learning to write well, can be practiced by describing that scene. Visual development is enhanced by having long vistas to focus on. And, of course, there is no where children are happier then outside!

Living books are a very important part of any Charlotte Mason method. Living books are simply REAL books, as opposed to textbooks. But living books are also more. The foundational idea behind living books is the importation of ideas. Children's minds are fed upon ideas, and books which only give facts, dry knowledge, and miscellaneous tidbits of information do not feed children's minds. Look for books that are the best of the best. They inspire, delight, and motivate. Not all good, fun books are living. Books that have depth and a heart and soul are important. Ambleside Online, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Winter Promise, Five in a Row and other literature-based curriculum are a good place to start in your search for living books Keep in mind that although these are good starting points, not nearly all of the books used by some of these are 'living' by Charlotte's standards. Also, the methods used by some of them are not in keeping with Charlotte's ideas. Our children deserve only the best ideas to nourish their growing minds.

HISTORY: History is described by Charlotte as a pageant of ideas. One of my favorite Charlotte quotes:

It is a great thing to possess pageant of history in the background of one's thoughts. We may not be able to recall this or that circumstance, but, 'the imagination is warmed'; we know that there is a great deal to be said on both sides of every question and are saved from crudities in opinion and rashness in action. The present becomes enriched for us with the wealth of all that has gone before.

She wants children to form their own relationships with the people, events, and locations of history. This is where her method differs from Unit Studies, which try to do the connecting for the child by planning all subjects around a central theme. This delightful study of history comes, of course, from living books. The influence of one great mind, the author, upon one eager mind, the child, is the transfer of ideas at its best. children learn history from learning its stories. The stories are what we all remember and is what makes history alive. Dates, events, and people are meaningless to children if not surrounded by the comforting and inspiring blanket of a story.

This does not mean children need watered down, juvenile adaptations for history. This means they need well-written, quality, non-fiction history books, which are by their very definition, already living. This means wonderful spines, the book which brings it all together into one 'pageant of history', along with life-stories, biographies that are well-written and inspiring, should be the children's history curriculum. Well-written, accurate historical novels can be added to feed the mind in events, lifestyles, and give them a sense of 'being there', always being careful to let young children know when they are reading a realistic novel, not a biography.

GEOGRAPHY: Geography is approached in a slightly different way. The best way for children to learn basic concepts in geography is to talk with them as they are spending their outdoor time with you. Learning mountains, hill, dales, and valleys, along with all the other landforms will inspire their minds to imagine greater and grander things in other places. Children can learn direction, the water cycle, and many other things outside through short, gentle conversations. These are not lectures, mind you! Just the gentle conversation which a mother should already have with her child, inspiring great ideas through little things.

SCIENCE: Science should be given to the children as a living thing. Nature study is the most important part of a young child's science development, and paves the way for harder things to come. Learning to really study, see, and remember the minute and great things they encounter outside, will develop the skills they need for harder science subjects later. Living books can also be added, helping children develop ideas about things they cannot observe on their own. Always taking care, of course not to over-feed the imagination with words when nature, full of the real things, lays right outside the door!

For the evil is, that children get their knowledge of natural history, like all their knowledge, at second hand. They are so sated with wonders that nothing surprises them

Charlotte also believed that is was important to give children beauty. Beauty is the inspiration, the hope, the imagination, of bettering the future. The child's natural appreciation for beauty can be easily squelched if it is not fed beauty on a regular basis. This is done through great works of are, great music, great literature, great poetry, and, of course, the great works of art of God himself, nature. My children regularly look at pictures by famous artists and listen to the works of the great composers. This is easier and less complicated then it sounds, and we do it in a few minutes every morning.

Developmental skills are also encouraged by this practice. Careful observation is formed by studying a picture for all its details and nuances. A listening ear is developed by allowing the music of great composers to take them away in imagination. Critical thinking comes as a child tries to dig the deeper meaning out of poetry- not for a literature class, but for his own enjoyment.

LANGUAGE ARTS: Language and writing skills can be taught in a developmentally appropriate and enjoyable way. The modern push to get children writing at younger and younger ages is meaningless until their mental facilities are capable. Writing down your thoughts is an incredible complex process, which should not be pushed until several separate abilities have been mastered.

The physical act of writing is one of these skills, and Charlotte taught this through copywork. First, the children learn their letters and how to form them. After that skill is mastered, copywork, and then studied dictation, is the next step. Copying the great writings of others, through poetry, prose, and Bible verses, teaches much more then just handwriting. It also teaches how the English language works, with its subtle nuances of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

The next step in learning to write well, is learning to order your thoughts and tell a story. The ability to write depends on the ability to think, create ineligible sentences and paragraphs, and use delightful language. Charlotte Mason taught this through narration. Narration is simply the practice of telling back what you have learned. For very young children, only a sentence or two is asked. As they mature, more details are required and expected. The skills learned through this practice are two-fold and vital.

First, the child learns to learn. He develops his mind and abilities to focus and remember. Charlotte went so far as to say "A reading not narrated is a reading wasted". The process begins when the child is young, talking about his observations in the natural world. It culminates in highschool with the ability to give long written narrations, although the spoken narrations are always used as well.

The second use for narration is the writing skills developed. The skills developed separately, through copywork, dictation, and narration, are then combined in the upper grades as the children begin actually writing, with pen and paper (or computer, these days!) what they have read. Creative writing is also encouraged.

Because you only have five minutes to read this, I will leave off here. The subjects of math and reading instruction are best left for more detailed articles, and more learned authors. I will end by saying, in my estimation, the methods of Charlotte Mason are as close as you can get to a perfect, mind-building, child-inspiring, idea-giving, life-breathing education as you can get. Yes, I am prejudiced. No, Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online are not for everyone. But for those of you who try it, even adding parts to your other curriculum, I think you will find it transforming the way you teach and learn.

If you would like to add some parts of these methods to your current schooling plans, I recommend starting with outdoor time and nature study. The addition of narration is the next step that can easily be added to any method and produces amazing results. Using living books, even if it is just for bedtime stories, will greatly enhance your children's learning and imagination, while adding an important element to your relationship. These three things, carefully used outside time, narration, and living books, I feel, are the foundational tools of the Charlotte Mason method.

For more information, visit the following links:

About Charlotte Mason and her methods

Getting Started

For Beginners

Charlotte Mason's Educational Philosophy

Charlotte Mason's writings in modern English paraphrase

A summary of Charlotte's 20 educational principles

Living Books

What ISN'T Living Books?

A Subject-by-Subject Charlotte Mason Series ~Highly recommended!


Imparting Living Ideas

The Art of Reading Slowly

Free Resources

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Make a Timeline Binder

My children have timeline binders which they add to year after year as they go through history.  Although we use Ambleside Online, a timeline binder could be used with any curriculum.  It would be especially nice to tie together unit studies.  Because the child adds things throughout his schooling years, it becomes a sort of treasured keepsake, and a story of what he has learned and how he has developed.

Here are some pictures of Hailey's timeline binder.  She has been adding to hers for about a year.  It is already special to her!

Here is what you will need for your timeline.  

Notebooking pages
Timeline pages

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I used Notebooking Pages for every part of my binders.  But you could use something else.  The important part is that you have timeline pages, notebooking pages on your topics, and some dividers.  Here is how I put my timeline together.  The first one was a bit tougher, because I had to figure out all of the time periods, how many pages I needed, how much to cover on each page, and all that.  Caiden's was much easier.  I just copied everything from Hailey's.

Timeline and book lists from

First, I used cardstock to divide the timeline into four periods.  This works well for us, because although Ambleside uses a 6 year rotation, the time periods are pretty general to most historical eras.  These are also the divisions that most Classical programs use, and the divisions used by Notebooking Pages.  The first divider is for ancient times.  Then comes Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and the final division is for the Modern age. Because these time periods are subjective, I used Ambleside Online's dates as a rough guide.  Here are my dates:

Ancient times: ..... to 800 AD
Middle Ages~ 800 to 1400 
Renaissance and Reformation~ 1400 to 1700
Modern Times~ 1700 to 2100

My dividers are labeled with the time period and the dates.  I print them on cardstock for durability.  Behind the dividers, I printed book lists.  We will add the books we read each year.  This will make an interesting record later.  

Now for the actual timeline.  I printed pages from Notebooking Pages.  I picked the format I liked the best, but feel free to do your own.  You should also be able to find other options online.  I printed one two-page spread for each century.  Here are the pages needed for each section:

Ancient Times: 
  10 pages, 1000 years
Middle Ages: 
  12 pages, 600 years
Renaissance and Reformation: 
  6 pages, 300 years
Modern Times: 
  16 pages, 400 years.
(Here I switched to 50 years per each 2-page spread for the years between 1700 and 1900.  I planned 25 pages for each spread for the last century. )

A note about ancient times: Because opinions differ and facts are hard to come by, I wasn't quite sure how to do this section. I just made 1000 years worth for now.  On the one hand, I love the idea of having all of the history laid out in the same format, one century per spread, so the vastness of history is obvious.  On the other hand, that would mean 40 pages, many of which would be blank.  And that is just to go back to a young-earth creation.  I will probably end up making a spread for every 200 or even 500 years, but this is something that I will worry about later.  
The best part about the timeline binder is the part that makes them truly theirs.  The part that makes them special.  At the beginning of the school year, or before each term, I pull up Notebooking Pages and refill my ink cartridge.  (Remember, many of these notebook pages could be found online in other places. Although I think that Notebooking Pages are the best and the easiest.  ;) )  I grab the kid's history spines (their main history books) and start printing.  

For first grade, I looked for the most important people and events.  I went through the books, and printed a notebook page for each event or person that seemed most prominent and influential.  I also printed coloring pages (which Notebooking Pages has for each time period) as well as some pages without a topic.  

For second grade, I tried to come up with at least one page for each week. Some pages have more, some have less, but that was my goal.  I stuck to pages that have a picture of the person or event, along with a place to draw a picture of their own.  I kept the writing lines to a minimum for both grades, as they are already doing other copywork.  For first grade, I often had her narrate to me while I wrote the words.  

These notebook pages go into the binder, right behind the century-spread they happened in.  We also mark the person or event in the timeline itself.  Every year, as we learn more, we add to the same binder.  So by the end of highschool, we may a little crayon drawing about the children's crusade on one page, while the next contains a detailed written narration about the captivity of Richard the Lionhearted.  What a treasure and wealth of information these books will become, if worked on diligently! 

However, we must be careful with the notebooking. The idea is not to have them doing extra work, the idea is to give them another way in which to connect with the stories and people.  It also gives them a framework of events and people which they can build on later.  Charlotte Mason was very clear about her opinion of busy work; that is, school work that is designed just to keep the child busy and does not give them living ideas.  We must be careful that our timelines don't turn into busywork.  It is not a chore for the child to do, it is not a test, it is not to see how much they know.  It is THEIR book.  They are designing it, they add what they like, what inspires them, what they want to remember.  It is theirs.  

Sometimes I will say, "Here's a page about so and so.  What would you like to do on it?"  This is because when presented with an enormous supply of blank pages and an enormous supply of living ideas, a young child may be overwhelmed and not want to add any of them.  I prefer to give them a starting place, and let them go from there.  But I never force them to write more on their pages then they want.  And if they get that look of "oh, no.  I am too tired to write more!" I offer to write it for them. This is not copywork (although if you pick historical selections, their copywork could go into their timeline).  This is a place for the child to make connections and memories.  

I don't know how "Charlotte Mason" the idea of notebook pages is.  I do know that young children didn't do written narrations in Charlotte's schools, which is why I am perfectly willing to do the writing for them. I also know that Charlotte's children had timelines, which they added events and people to, even in younger grades.  Hailey really enjoys looking back through her binder, and remembers well every story that she included.  It has really helped her retention.  

Do you think notebook pages go against Charlotte's philosophies? 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Colorado National Monument

A few weeks ago, during National Parks Week, we loaded up the kids, my little sister and brother, and the dog, and headed to Colorado National Monument.  It was free, and we had to be nearby that day, anyway, so we took advantage of the chance.

It was sunny but cool, and up on the edge the breeze was chilly.  We drove part-way through the park, and then turned around and looked for somewhere to hike.  The whole drive, from entrance to visitor's center, could take an hour or so, more if you stop to take pictures very often.  We didn't have a lot of time, so true to form, we chose to hike rather then drive.

We got out a couple of different places to walk a bit and look out over the edge.  The view was pretty, and the rock formations amazing.  There are lots of different canyons, cliffs, and other formations in the park.  We took our lunch when we set out for the longer hike.  We were hoping to see a waterfall, as there are several along that part of the trail.

We sat down on some rocks for lunch, and enjoyed the view.  We were about halfway t the waterfall.  Later we found out that the waterfall was just the "first pool", so the real waterfall must be quite a bit more spectacular.  It was another mile or so, and we didn't have time to go that far although the kids were all disappointed.  We will definitely have to go back some day with more time, and more water.  

We even got in a little nature study, as we found several varieties of wildflowers and these little caterpillers just crawling out of their egg sack.  They were living in a bit of silk which was spun around the end of a tree branch.  

We only saw a tiny fraction of the park.  It isn't as big as some, but still big enough that it needs a whole day or even a weekend to really see it all.  We had a great day exploring some places we had never been and spending time together giggling, eating, and enjoying each other.  I can't wait to go back again! 

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