Summer Lessons: Combining Masterly Inactivity and Structure

Oh Summer!

How we love your long, lazy days and lack of agenda and how we grieve over the quarrels and claims of “I’m booooored”.

It is certainly true that idleness breeds mischief eventually and  while a holiday can refresh, we do truly need to work.

When we lived in the South in made sense to school through the year in 6 or 8 week chunks. The children were younger then, and lessons didn’t take much time, and schooling year round meant that when the city baked in July we could be indoors in the cool doing lessons and free to enjoy the lovely weather of early spring and fall.

Up here when the weather is so often nasty for weeks in the winter and is pleasant almost the whole summer long it has seemed more reasonable to take the summer off and school during the less pleasant months.

There were definitely some drawbacks to this approach; the most notable being that the children seemed to think that a break from lessons eventually meant a break from any effort or labour at all and by midway through the summer the resistance to helping in the household and the cries of “I’m booooored” swelled in equal measure. I was able to offset those cries and encourage people to work by arranging various pleasant expeditions to swimming holes and parks and by taking several summer trips, but these also had their drawbacks from my perspective as they greatly hindered my goals of accomplishing projects during the summer.

This year, the virus added an additional impetus to returning to our former plan of year round lessons broken into reasonable chunks and since the children are older, we have adopted the English method of three 12 week terms with a month or so off between them. This provides us with three holidays: Summer in August, Advent in December (something we have done for many years), and Easter in April (or thereabouts depending on the date of Easter).

This week we began again with a different  set of lessons from last Term:

Copywork

There is a set of prayers that I would like the older three to be familiar with. They are called “Arrow Prayers” and are short , one sentence prayers for particular situations. I think there are around 50 of them in the St. Gregory Prayer Book that we use at home, so I am writing two of them on the board in cursive each day and the children copy them into their notebooks. They are written in liturgical English so they also serve to enhance the children’s vocabulary and sense of style as well as teaching them that prayer need not be long and involved but can be quickly uttered whenever there is a need for grace.

The younger two have plenty of writing in their phonics books and also may choose to trace their dictated Nature Study narrations so I’m concentrating on good writing habits and not assigning additional copywork.

 

Math

Here we simply continue on with MEP. Currently, we are using Year 1, Year 3, Year 5a, Year 5b and Year 9. It’s quite a stretch for me to be teaching beginning addition and subtraction, beginning multiplication and division, advanced multiplication and division, fractions and decimals (the two ends of Year 5), and Algebra. It’s neat too because I can see the scope of the whole curriculum and how what is learned in one year naturally grows into a new technique in the years following.

We also do mental arithmetic during Morning Time and Daisy astonished us yesterday by adding up this problem: 9+3+2+4+2+9+2+8 to get 39! She made a couple of mistakes but was able to correct them herself when told they were wrong.

The younger two also have a number of Montessori math works and do those several times a week.

Bible

We read the Psalm for Morning Prayer together and the older three are reading Acts and writing short narrations for each chapter. Little kids and I read from their Story Bible as we have been throughout the year.

Nature Study

Since the weather is nice and we have a big park nearby, I’m making an effort to really engage with Nature Study each day. The younger two are using Exploring Nature With Children and I have the guided nature journal to use as a reference, while the older three are doing something similar using Exploring Nature Throughout the Year. I really like these two guides for Nature Study as they are simple, yet allow for expansion and have ideas for expansion as well as art and poetry weekly.

Additionally we are growing a good garden this year so some days Nature Study looks like this:

 

 

 

Other Studies

We also have a few studies going in various areas where I think extra practice is needed or someone has an interest. Typing and Science for the older three, Composer Study for everyone, singing our way through the Easter section of the hymnal, and keeping up with Latin and French Vocabulary to name a few. Not everything is done every day and we aim to be done by lunch time, and then have the afternoon for individual pursuits that are (mostly) independent of me (masterly inactivity).

Striking a Balance

It’s an interesting balance to try to maintain: enough intellectual stimulation that the imagination is also stimulated and the mind has fodder with which to develop ideas (this is, by the way, the concept behind summer reading lists), enough physical activity (and some of it strenuous and requiring effort to continue to build habits of the will, opportunities for wonder and beauty and selflessness that will strengthen and grow the soul. I find that I, myself, also need this structure. To find a balance for mother that fills my soul and centers me so that I can nibble away at my various tasks and projects. I try hard to be available and interruptible and yet to pleasantly hold a boundary of ” Mom, is working and you can solve this problem yourself.”

If the goal is to raise children whose feet are set in a large room, then I think it is also important to help them to learn to navigate not only their physical spaces but also the life of their own mind and soul. Masterly inactivity combined with a structure to the day gives them the freedom to explore and try and the boundary within which to do so. Already, I can see that the children have a better idea of what they want to do with their time since there is a constraint on how much time they have. Purposeful use of their time leaves them feeling that they have accomplished something and the satisfaction of accomplishment leads to joy and contentment.

As I reminded one of them this morning, we were made for a purpose and because we were made for a purpose, we are not happy for long without one!

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Who Feeds The Teacher? Mother Culture Is An Essential.

“Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind.” Charlotte Mason

I have been thinking about this issue of renewing ourselves this week, as a succession of small things have wearyingly presented themselves over and over again. It is all very well, to tell the children to go out of doors and blow the cobwebs out of their brains and to quote Kipling to them but what is a mother to do?

We bear not only the burden of the daily tasks but also the burden of the emotional load of each person in the household- the teen who is anxious about his friend’s little brother’s possible exposure to illness, the proto teen who desperately misses her friends and yet refuses to make contact in the ways that she can, and the younger children who are enough effected by all of this that they are more quarrelsome and fractious than is their norm. Not to mention husbands who are trying to work from home and stressing about that and a mother’s own load of anxiety and concern. Each of us bears so much responsibility and it is hard to find out where we could and should lay that down and where we can find food for our own souls that will strengthen us for this journey.

There are many who will say , “Establish a prayer life and lay those burdens at the foot of the Cross.”  or ” Offer up this suffering.” This is good advice and when one is able to lay these things down and to hold to a strong prayer life there is great grace there. Often however we have no strength to stop and pray, or our attempts to do so seem to reach no higher than the ceiling. What then? We cannot feed our families from an empty cup.

I think first of all we must acknowledge the struggle. We must say in our spirit and aloud, “This is hard and I am ___ about it.” or similar words. And I think we must acknowledge that there is a grieving process here. Not just ” I am angry over these circumstances” but also ” I am grieving my lost plans, my lost time to be alone and quiet, my children’s lost opportunities at school or camps.” Grief is real in these days and when we add it to the uncertainty of wondering what will happen next, of being unable to plan beyond the next few weeks, of wondering if those vulnerable and dear to us will succumb, of wondering whether anything we are being told is as true as we are being told it is, then grief tends to produce anxiety and unsettledness in us! It can and does overwhelm us and we are only able to do the things that we must in order to live.

Dear mamas! How shall we live like this? From whence shall we get the strength and perspective to do “the next thing?” Who will feed us?

I think this is where habit is such a strength. It is the habit of feeding our families, and teaching lessons, and seeing that chores are done that protects us from complete inertia. We can go through the motions of life and in going through the motions we can begin to find a place for the Spirit to speak life back into our dried up places. Do we recognize these habits as the small things that point to the great ideals by which we live?

How often do we say to ourselves, ” Making meals daily is a work of mercy.” ” Helping the children to settle their differences is the work of a peacemaker.” ” Snuggling the anxious teen is feeding his soul.”? Do we see ourselves as virtuous? Do we name our acts as virtues or do we just drudge on through our days doing what must be done?

When I look at my social media feeds I see so many who are practicing great virtue in the small things that they do each day. I see creativity, practicality, beauty, and great love in a time of great stress. Yet I know that many of these mothers would say that they are not creative, that they are struggling, that their anxiety overwhelms them. So I think that we must all speak these words of life to one another and to ourselves until we hear them.

And I think that it is so necessary to carve out little acts of kindness to ourselves. Small oasis of time in which we can pause and hold those times and spaces as necessary as meals or sleep.

In this time of isolation we may not be able to take an afternoon and go to a library or coffee shop to think and plan, but can we manage 10 minutes here or there? And having taken that bit of time for a cup of tea (my usual break) do we have a notebook sitting nearby to sketch or write in? Or a book to read even for a just a couple of pages? Can we put a quote on the kitchen whiteboard to catch our eye for a moment? This is Mother Culture.

We may think that we must have a swath of time in order to feed ourselves, and that is wonderful and fills us quickly, but when we are starving can we not feed ourselves in bits?

Someday (hopefully soon) we will be able to graze again like sheep instead of browsing like goats, but browsing produces good milk too and should not be rejected!

So Mama, what acts of kindness can you offer yourself today? Make a list of small things that you can do.  What is your “large room” of the mind and heart?

How can we feed each other’s souls or help each other to  feed our souls in this time of isolation so that each in turn can feed the souls entrusted to her?

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Geography Begins At Home

Geography is the study of places, so we begin by helping the child to observe his own places and learn how they relate to him and to each other and to begin to see how they shape what he does in each place.  Geography is an important study because in it we learn that the physical shapes of places changes what we are able to do in them and we learn that some physical places can be changed to better suit us. By first studying the geographical features of the Middle East we are easily able to see that Ancient Egypt flourished as it did because there was no great struggle for physical survival thanks to the renewal of the Nile and that the Ancient Greeks were a seafaring people because the sea was easier to navigate for trade than their rugged mountains.

It is easy in our modern age to discount the wrestling that took place between our ancestors and the land in which they lived. Recently, I was reading Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie aloud to my littles and I noticed how much the Ingalls’ family migrations were tied to Pa’s desire to farm in a geography where he did not have to fight the land in order to survive. In the woods of Wisconsin, he had to first to cut down trees, then plow and plant around the stumps, removing what stones he could. All through the growing season he had to not only tend the crops themselves but also chops down the sprouts coming up from the stumps until they rotted enough that they could be pulled up and dragged out of the field.  His pleasure when he began to plow the sod in Kansas is such that Laura still remembered it decades later.

We tend to skip over the importance of that experience of geography because we don’t have the same struggles. In town especially we are isolated from the effects of climate and soil, as we are able to retreat into our homes and flip a switch to heat or cool them to our liking.  The study of geography helps to make us aware of the effects of physical features of the land in historic times and assists us to be more observant of our own physical surroundings.

Since we begin this study in the youngest years of formal schooling, it seems reasonable to begin with what the child knows best- his or her own place in the world- slowly expanding outwards as the child’s own horizon and understanding expands and at the same time adding skills and vocabulary with which to accurately describe what the child sees.

We begin with the home; asking the child to draw a picture of his own house and to tell something about it. If necessary to help him begin to tell we might ask a question like – “what color is your house?” but we are not looking for an accurate description here (how many rooms, what is each for and so on) but rather for what the child has allowed to make an impression on his mind or his imagination. What is important to the child and how does he make that importance known?  In these early years, we are learning the child as the child is learning to learn and we must be careful not to shape what the child is impressed by or loves by what we think a child of six should love or be impressed by.  “Children are born persons” and it is our task to recognize that essential personhood and gently guide the child to mold it through lessons, habit training, and home life so that when the child is grown he may indeed care deeply about the large room in which he has been set!

The child is studying the physical geography of his life and we are studying the spiritual geography of the child so that we can help him to “make the rough places a plain.” and we begin gently with a little lesson of ten or fifteen minutes. First a drawing in his notebook of his own home and then a little narration of his picture.  Later in the week we look at the picture again and he may add to it or do another picture to show other features that have been awakened in his mind by the first lesson. Or we might ask him to tell us about his home while we draw to his direction, which will probably produce much hilarity but also will begin his learning to describe accurately what he wishes others to understand. Again it is a short lesson but it stirs up the sediment of the brain to begin to look and to see and to tell.

“Education is the Science of Relations.”

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An April “Vacation”

I often take time over the Christmas Holidays to evaluate our current year and put some ideas on paper for the next twelve months for school and for summer activities and travel plans. This year, I decided that I was not going to make my annual trip to Virginia for the homeschool convention in June, but that instead we would plan to have lessons for twelve weeks from January to the end of March, take April off to do yard work and plant the garden and then have a summer term in May, June, and July for twelve weeks. August would again be  a holiday month and we would resume lessons in September before the Advent holiday that we have taken for the past several years.

My original plan was to do at least some of our summer term on Cape Cod. My family owns a cottage on a pond there that various cousins and relatives use as it suits them and I thought that June on the Cape might be very nice. Not yet crowded with holiday tourists and as we mostly hang out on our pond anyway there isn’t much need for events or other attractions to be open. Of course, with all of this virus stuff that part of the plan is off of the list for the moment although if things ease up we may still go.

So here we are halfway through April and we have been busily digging new garden beds and renewing the old ones as well as getting trash out of the yard and shop and generally tidying up the place. The furnace man has come and serviced the furnace, I have an electrician lined up to improve the electrical service to Stuart’s shop and am hoping to get someone in to replace the rotten siding and paint the place.

I’ve been going through the basement and putting books into their right categories in the library and learning materials into the their right totes since everything had gotten rather muddled when we had our basement flood and foundation building project last spring!

I’m also deep in curriculum development for Discovering History With Notebooks. The full  scope and sequence for 12 grades of History and Geography studies is all laid out and I am working on weekly lesson plans and sources for the various pieces and parts as well as sample notebooks for each level. I am drawing heavily on Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason for the order in which history is presented and the ways in which students and teachers interact with it so that Form One begins with themselves and their personal geography and history:

Form 1: Ages 6-8

  • Year 1: Geography of the Natural World
    • Term 1-My Home, Neighborhood, and Town
    • Term 2-My State and Region
    • Term 3-My Continent, Continents and Oceans, The Globe
  • Year 2: Land Forms, Maps, Seasons, Weather
    • Term 1-Land Forms, Map Making
    • Term 2-Maps, Compass, Distances, Scales
    • Term 3-Seasons, Weather
  • Year 3: World Geography
    • Term 1- North America – The United States 2 states per week beginning with the child’s state
    • Term 2- North America- The United States 2 states per week plus two weeks with three states
    • Term 3- Canada, Mexico, Central America

and by the end of Form Five (High School) students have a solid grasp of History in general as well Church History and the History of Philosophy and Theology:

Form 5: High School: The Making of the Modern World

  • Year 1: 1600-1800
    • Term 1-The 17th Century
    • Term 2- The 18th Century
    • Term 3- The 19th Century
  • Year 2: 1900-Present
    • Term 1- 1900-1950
    • Term 2-1950-2000
    • Term 3-2000-Present 
  • Year 3: The History of the Church
    • Term 1-Early Church to the Protestant Revolt
    • Term 2- Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Enlightenment
    • Term 3- The Church in the Modern Age, 1870-Present
  • Year 4: Philosophy and Theology Through the Ages
    • Term 1: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Paul
    • Term 2: Talmud, Church Fathers to Aquinas
    • Term 3: Enlightenment, Marx, Modern Criticism, Psychology

I am really happy about how the project is coming together- there are plenty of sources that are free to use or inexpensive so I hope that this program will be easy for people to use and bring a depth to study and discussion that will equip students for life.

I remind myself frequently of that wonderful word from Miss Mason:

“The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

The study of human action and Divine Providence that we call the Study of History  is surely a significant part of that “large room” and I hope to help families to see the Beauty and Wonder and ultimately the Truth contained in this study.

 

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Saturday Morning Musing

What a week!

Last week we were mostly home but still seeing some friends occasionally and getting out to parking lot Adoration at our parish where we could kneel out of doors and see our friends from a safe distance.

This week we have been almost entirely at home aside from one designated person running the necessary errands. Several days the weather was really crummy and the little children in particular seem to be feeling that they have not seen their friends in a week or more. We did try a virtual playdate for Daisy and Jack and it helped but didn’t really satisfy.

Lessons continue and the order that they bring to our days is so helpful! Some of them are done via Zoom with the friends with whom we were meeting prior to this and that little bit of interaction is also helpful. Some of the local moms and myself had a virtual Mom’s Night Out one evening also via Zoom and it was nice although some glitch at my end meant that no one could hear anything I said!

Since S is working from home for the foreseeable future, Mouse and I cleaned the master bedroom and rearranged it yesterday to make a better office space. We still need to sort through all of the stuff that was removed and is now sitting in the living room, but it still feels like progress!

Saturday mornings are my thinking times:

Things I am wondering:

The thoughts I am hearing from the professional statisticians and medical people I know make me think that this pandemic situation is going to ebb and flow for the next 18 months. This means that we won’t have the opportunity to return to “normal” until the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. I anticipate at the very least that we will be home quite a bit more in the next six months than we normally are and without the options for field trips, creek visits and so on.
 So!
 How do we structure our days? Should we take a spring break in April or May and double down on yard and garden projects before beginning a summer term of school? Should I stock up on projects and creative afternoon occupations.
How do we plan for structure in uncertain times?

I had begun mapping out a plan for schooling more year round earlier this year, with breaks between each twelve week term. Under that plan we would have a month long holiday in April – an Easter holiday to work on the yard and garden and enjoy the New England Spring! Then go back to lessons for a Summer Term in May, June, and July take August off, Autumn Term in September, October, November, December off for Advent as we typically do, and have a Winter Term in January, February, and March. With this pandemic business likely to drag on for a bit I am thinking that this is going to be a good plan to help us have structure and variety at the same time.

I feel as though I have been caught somewhat flat footed by all of this! But who has contingency  plans for a pandemic? I will take a good bit of my time over the weekend to plan and work out what we should do next and think about how to make us as comfortable as possible as we wait this out.

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Finding A Rhythm In A New Situation

In the midst of so much change and restriction it can be tempting to throw internal family structure to the four winds! After all, the children can’t go to their regular classes and activities, they aren’t getting the chance to play with friends and they will probably be happier if I just let them have an extended spring break!

Sadly, they will quickly grow bored and discontented without some structure to their days and we, parents, will also find ourselves frustrated as the whining and arguing tend to increase when the children don’t have a purpose for their hours and days.

The truth is that we all have a desire for order and purpose in our lives and uncertainty makes us anxious. As image bearers of an orderly God we imitate Him as we bring order to our lives and this is especially the case when outside circumstances are chaotic. So my Facebook and Instagram are full of decluttering challenges, people teaching classes on gardening or bread making, ideas for schedules for the children, chore charts… you can now find almost every kind of organizational scheme you can think of.

So how do we choose what is best for our own families and ourselves in this time? I think we try hard to stick to what we already had with some adjustments as needed.

For us that means that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are our “long” school days. We begin at 9 am and have classes until nearly 2 pm with a break for lunch and handwork and some time spent out of doors. The littler children don’t go as long, and the bigger children do some of their classes by Zoom instead of in person.

Tuesdays and Thursday are “short” days- Math, Bible, and copywork always must happen but the other lessons are the homework from the previous day and school takes about 2 hours if an effort is put into diligence. Then time may be spent in creative pursuits, running around or digging enormous holes in the backyard and so on.

I am still adjusting things a bit day by day as the outside situation changes but the structure of knowing what comes next comforts the children and I as we pursue our callings as students/disciples and mother/teacher.

What are you finding that you need to tweak in your daily routine?

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Homeschooling In A Time Of Pandemic

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been! I closed our co-op on March 12th with four weeks left in the term. At the time I assumed we would be able to open again in late April but I am feeling somewhat skeptical about that now.

We are staying very much closer to home than we normally  do and I am trying to move some of my co-op classes online so that we can finish out the year, and students can have some semblance of normalcy.

My little kids are feeling the pinch of not seeing their friends a couple of times a week, so we are trying out Google Hangouts as a way to have virtual playdates! Yesterday Daisy and a friend showed each other their Playmobil and Lego creations and today, Jack and a friend will try doing an art project “together” via the internet.

The bigger kids are going to have a virtual youth group meeting tonight. The freezer is stocked and Stuart just inventoried the canned goods so while the food may get weird at points I think we can go on for quite a while and not have to leave the house and yard.

These days I am mostly over on the Sticks, Stones, and Chicken Bones FB page and group, where I am doing live videos as well as links to Zoom meetings for virtual classes. I am hoping to also start a regular evening Zoom chat for moms as we need to socialize as well.

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation (9 months until Christmas!) so we will either have breakfast for supper (waffles are associated with the Virgin Mary?) or more likely a pizza to support our local pizza shop (owned by our neighbor a block over).

What are you doing to keep up morale and celebrate the joys in life?

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What We’re Learning: Form 2A and 2B Part 2

 

Mouse is 10 this year and primarily doing 6th and 7th grade level work. She loves  anatomy, drawing,  and anything crafty or artistic. She still wants to be a orthopedic doctor and has gotten some first hand experience this year as she has had a couple of episodes of patella subluxation (the knee cap sliding out of its groove and back again). She still struggles with sustained attention particularly with her less loved subjects, so we are concentrating on building that habit of attention as well as completing the academic work for this year.
This year I decided to separate her from Buggle  as much as possible. They are close in age, but very different in temperament and interests and those differences began to make difficulties for them towards the end of last year. She is not as  ready to work independently in any area as Buggle so she “fell behind” him (that attention thing again). Separating them makes more work for me, as I have to do an additional set of individual lessons and checking ,but has been much better for their relationship as they have fewer opportunities to for one upmanship and silly rivalries.

I have matched her with Bull in some areas which makes her  the “big kid” and builds her confidence. She has even taken to helping him with his math from time to time if I am busy – which is quite an unexpected move given how hard she has worked to convince herself that she isn’t good at math and dislikes it (this is totally untrue but math requires sustained attention). Developmentally she is still in a a fact gathering place more than an analytical one; so keeping her in classes where she is fact gathering and just beginning to analyse with guidance is more appropriate.

Subjects:

Anatomy– Having exhausted all of the elementary and middle school level anatomy that I can find we’ve moved on to a  high school course this year.  Mapping The Body With Art from The Basement Workshop is a wonderful course that taps into Mouse’s love of drawing by having her draw her way through human physiology from the water molecule to the structures of the cell to the bones and organs.  It is online but self- scheduled so she works on it twice a week for about thirty minutes with great attention.

MEP Book 4 and 5– continuing with MEP as it works well and gives a solid foundation. We do two pages per day and she maintains a steady pace.

Latin- we are about halfway through Latin For Children B and I expect to begin C mid- spring.

Drawing- this year year we have a drawing specific class at co-op as well as a photography club that meets once a month and Mouse is thriving in these areas.

Creative Writing- at co-op

Handwork- at co-op plus 15 minutes at home daily. She recently took up crocheting and loves to design and make dresses with her sewing machine and whatever fabric I have around and am willing to part with!

Recorder/Music – I am teaching her recorder and she is also singing in the church choir and our co-op choir.

History- she would rather read novels and dislikes having to narrate what she has read but with persistence her ability to read things requiring attention and narrate them back is improving. We have begun keeping notebooks together in the afternoons and she finds that needing to have something to add to the notebook helps her read with an eye to what she wants to record.

Memory is a favorite and she is flying through the poetry I selected for this year. The list is available for download here:  Sixth-Grade-Memory-Work.pdf (1187 downloads)

Catechism- is the Baltimore Catechism and is mostly self done. There are lessons to read and questions to answer which generate discussions from time to time.

English From the Roots Up- is not a favorite but I let her draw the meaning of one of the new words and I am seeing an improvement in spelling.

She is making good progress most days on the habits that make a good student and life long learner and I expect the mechanics of learning to be much easier by the end of the school year.

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What Are We Learning? Form 2A and 2B

When Mouse and Buggle were younger, I schooled them as if they were twins for the most part. Last year it became clear that they needed to move away from each other in pursuits and expectations both in academics and in life in general!  Boys and girls just mature differently and when you throw in their particular learning quirks and differences in interests they really need a year or two to do things on their own!

Since I don’t really want to teach five separate versions of everything every day- I’ve combined Mouse and Bull in some subjects and Bull and Buggle in others so that each has about an hour of work that they are the only student for and the rest is done with someone else (sometimes with the older child teaching the younger as they learn together).

Form 2A- Bull

Bull is 8.5 this year, and is moving into more and more independent learning with me just providing a framework and help as needed. He is capable of incredible focus and diligence but is somewhat lacking in confidence, so we are working on being willing to try something before wailing about it.  He still has some trouble with speech and articulation but Memory work and recitation is helping with that quite a bit.

On His Shelf:

I organized the children’s books on individual shelves this year, with the older children being able to read anything on the younger children’s shelves as “free reads” and no one reading above their own shelf.

Bull’s shelves have a mix of history, natural history, and free reads:

History:

Looking at Ancient History – R. J. Unstead

Ancient Construction- Michael and Mary Woods

Famous Men of Greece

Famous Men of Rome- Both from Greenleaf Press

A Picture History of Ancient Rome- Richard Erdoes

In Foreign Lands- Beth Hughson and Oda Gostick

Life in the Ancient World- Bart Winer

Nature and Science:

The Secret Life of the Forest- Richard M. Ketchum

A Picture Book of Nature- Samuel Nisenson

Rocks and Dirt – Ellen McHenry

The Story of Soil- Dorothy Holmes Allen

Free Reads-

The House of Sixty Fathers- Meindert DeJong

The Hittite Warrior- Joanne Williamson

The Aeneid for Boys and Girls- Alfred Church

The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy

The Golden Fleece- both by Padraic Collum

Theras and His Town- Caroline Dale Snedecker

Herodotus and the Road to History- Jeanne Bendick

Catechism and Religious Education

Baltimore Catechism No 1- He is doing about 1 chapter every 2 weeks, so there is plenty of time to memorize as well as read and answer the study questions.

Two Lives of Saints:

Saint Anthanasius- F. A. Forbes

Augustine- The Farmer’s Boy of Tagaste- P. De Zeeuw

and in order to help him understand the Mass more fully:

The Saints Who Pray With Us in The Mass- Archbishop Amleto Cicognani

Math is MEP Book 3 which I expect him to finish around Christmas time, and then move into Book 4 .

Latin is the last third or so of Song School Latin 2. He should finish that around Christmas as well and will begin Latin for Children Book A.

Music is covered by a piano lesson at co-op and singing during Morning Time. That is a very hard subject for him, since his ear is not terribly developed, but he enjoys singing and is gradually becoming more tuneful!

Memory is done for 15 minutes every day. This year I have given him a collection of poems like Jabberwocky which appeal to his sense of humor and fun and are fairly short as he does better with a quick payoff for the effort.

Fourth-Grade-Memory-Work.pdf (1374 downloads)

 

At this point in his school career, he does most of his lessons on his own, with the exception of math where he needs some encouragement in confidence and occasionally an actual explanation of a concept. Latin also requires a fair bit of input from me as he hasn’t quite gotten his mind around the how of learning a language and gets frustrated quickly. I spend about 30 minutes with him on those two subjects and then another 15-20 during the history block to listen to his narrations and give dictations.

Finally, he is taking Geology at co-op (I’m teaching using Ellen McHenry’s Rocks and Dirt which I highly recommend). He’s also taking a geography class based on the Holling C. Holling book, Seabird.

Altogether his learning this year is full of interests and creativity as well as the foundational work that will set him up for new interests and creative endeavors in future years.

Mouse is my Form 2B student but as this post is already quite long, I think I’ll have to publish a Part B!

 

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What Are We Learning?: Preschool and Form 1

Two weeks into this term of school and I wanted to share a bit about what the three and six year old are learning and will be learning.

Our terms run for twelve weeks so this is what I have planned for the fall- since Advent is a holiday season for us as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child.

Practical Life:

Daisy is now 3 and Jack is 6 which means that they can both participate in some of the same lessons. Three to six is a common age range in a Montessori classroom and I’m trying to implement many of the same lessons in practical life.

A big one is having them learn to cooperatively make their own snack about mid-morning. The big kids have lessons from 8:45-12:30 most days which makes lunch much too late for the little guys without a substantial snack. Last year I was able to stop teaching for a bit and make something for them- but this year I don’t have that luxury and with a little bit of work done before lessons start, they really can do it themselves.

During my kitchen work in the morning I prepare a tray:

I usually try to focus on one set of fine motor skills each week. In September they are working on cutting up cucumbers and other vegetables for dipping one week, and spreading the next. This was a spreading tray. They had lukewarm tea for their drink which I did have to pour as I need to get a teapot of the right size for them.  Yes, most of the sugar was eaten with a spoon!

I put the tray in the toy kitchen area of the kitchen.

After they are done with lessons and (usually) have gone outside for a bit, they come in and prepare their snack.

I do have to keep a little ear out for quarrels, but they generally do a decent job of setting things out, eating, and clearing the things back onto the tray.

The next step is to give a cleaning work of wiping the table and sweeping or mopping the floor. Daisy and I need to visit the local thrift store for a small bucket and I need to replace the child sized broom we had as the last one met an untimely demise!

There is a great sense of accomplishment in feeding themselves and cleaning up, and this is a better time for them to practice those skills than when one of the big kids is cooking breakfast or I am making supper and supervising my 4:30 Workers at the same time!

Other practical life work:

Jack has six regular chores every day:

  1. empty the trashcans
  2. empty the compost
  3. take out the recycling
  4. put away any shoes
  5. put away the prayer books and hymnals after Morning Prayer
  6. clean up his school things

Daisy generally jumps in and helps him or tries to beat him to some of the jobs. She is in a very orderly phase right now so we are trying to build good habits while they are still a pleasant desire of hers.

Additionally, I give her pouring practice or other practical life work while Jack is doing his more academic lessons.

Read Alouds

This year we are trying to get most of Jack’s lessons done before Morning Time at 8:45. The Form 2 kids (Bull in 2A and Mouse in 2B) need a bit more of my attention at the moment and Buggle (Form 3) has hit that stage of study in which we need to discuss what he is reading in some depth (so much fun by the way, this is why I teach the children to read!) so it really helps the flow if Jack is done by 9:30 or 9:45.

The little children and I gather at about 7:15 for Catechism, Memory, and Reading, first me to them and then Jack to us.

This shelf is full of the books we are reading this year. I generally read from a couple of different selections for 3-5 minutes apiece giving the children the opportunity to narrate back to me after each selection. Currently we are reading an Aesop Fable or two each day, a little chapter book called Three Boys and a Tugboat that I picked up at a book sale, The Book of Insects from Memoria Press, and then Jack reads to us from his Rod and Staff First Grade Reader and the little plaid storybooks that go along with that curriculum. They take turns narrating, Daisy first usually and the Jack fills in what she didn’t get or what he thinks was more important.

Table Work

Jack’s table work this term is mostly phonics, reading, and MEP (the math curriculum from the Math Enhancement Project)  He is flying through Book 1 in MEP and will start Book 2 in January. Two pages a day and he has a good grasp of how numbers interact with each other and can regroup by addition and subtraction with relative ease. We didn’t really practice much over the summer and while he is slightly slower than he was in the spring, he hasn’t really lost any of the concepts he learned.

Once or twice a week we also do some notebook work on Insects since that is his great love and science/nature study for the year. Daisy and he frequently go out looking for specimens to bring in a play with for a while before releasing them again. We are beginning to learn the songs for Song School Latin 1 then next term we will start to work in the book.

During Morning Time he finishes whatever writing he hasn’t done already- usually handwriting and some copying in phonics or reading, and works on coloring whatever picture he is working on for the week.

He also spends a little time each week updating his notebook for the Animals: Their Lives and Homes class he is taking at our co-op.

This is a MEP exercise in figuring out how many cubes are actually in a stack of blocks if you can’t see all of them in the drawing.

Daisy is doing MEP Reception this year, and is so pleased to be doing the book that she watched Jack finish last year. We only do it a couple of times a week (all that is planned for in the curriculum) but it is neat to watch her mind expanding.

Like most preschoolers with older siblings doing school she wants table work too, so we are slowly working our way through the Pathway and Rod and Staff Preschool books. No rush, and we don’t work every day. The other great thing is dot-to-dots at the moment, and I was very happy to find this book of simple ones from Dover Publications.

It is a fairly rich diet but only takes about an hour and a half or so. The rest of the morning is spent outdoors, in the sandbox, or hunting insects, or if the weather is really bad in the basement play area. They play very nicely together about 80% of the time, and I’m trying to work on having audiobooks or little craft projects available for the times when they need a bit of a break from the high intensity of their play.

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