Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Report 25 September - 30 September

I noticed that I have made several post in a row about homeschool and none about needlework. I have not picked up a needle in weeks, well, I have picked up needles: off of the floor, sticking out of the carpet, still stuck in the right shoulder of my shirts...

We have gotten quite a bit done this week. I am exploring several Charlotte Mason methods I am learning about from Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, and most importantly the 4Real Forums. I have been skipping around through Charlotte Mason' original series, and like many others, I am discovering her writings are quite different from what I had thought about "The Charlotte Mason Method." There are several blog posts around the 'net challenging the common assumptions about "gentle education." I find it very interesting, although I still find The Well-Trained Mind methods most appealing.

The most intriguing CM method is "slow reading." "Slow reading" or "savoring" appeals to me because I like to start many books, but it also goes against everything I have read or heard about reading! I always thought it was better to experience a book in as few sittings as possible.

This "slow reading" or "savoring" has given me new ways to incorporate extra books into our schedule. The emphasis is on the child having time to really consider what he has read as well as make connections on his own. I have spent much of my planning time going through all my resources on a topic, and noting all the page numbers of related topics. Now I am considering that finding the relations is the student's job, not the teacher's. In addition to our science studies, Nutmeg is independently reading and narrating other books twice weekly. Right now she is working her way through How and Why Wonder Book of Chemistry. Next I plan for her to read through The Mystery of the Periodic Table and It's Elementary:How Chemistry Rocks Our World. These books, I hope, will make a pleasant change from the 2-3 days a week we use God's Design Science: Properties of Matter and Properties of Atoms and Molecules.

I also feel much freer in our history studies. We use Story of the World vol 3 as a spine, and K12 Human Odyssey vol 2 for Nutmeg to outline and go a bit deeper. I worked hard over the summer to build a novel into almost every week; now I see the extra readings do not have to match exactly the readings from the history spine. If the children read or listen carefully, and narrate they should be able to connect information over time. This is the theory, and I am intrigued.

"Slow reading" has not worked in every subject. One recommendation I see often is for students to encounter a small section of Plutarch once a week. This appeals to me since we are preparing to study the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers who themselves studied and were influenced by Plutarch. A bit of Plutarch a week is plenty for Nutmeg and for me! But Shakespeare? Sometime soon I do want to read through some of Shakespeare's plays with Nutmeg, but for now we are going through the retellings by Charles and Mary Lamb. I found a recommendation to read 3 pages twice a week. This week Nutmeg obediently read 3 pages of the 12th Night retelling on Tuesday and Thursday. I later discovered that she had gone on to read the Othello retelling on Tuesday and another retelling on Thursday! 3 pages was just not satisfying to her! :)

Buttercup has been working hard this week as well. We finished reading Not Just for Ducks:the Story of Rain, and she continues to read aloud in her Christian Liberty Nature Readers. She enjoys reading her Seton Religion for Young Catholics 2, and this week we added a daily reading from Seton's Reading Comprehension 3 which contains bible stories. She is very pleased to read aloud from a "third grader book!"

Buttercup was less than pleased about our Nature Studies this week: Mushrooms. She is horrified by mushrooms! She wants them all out of our yard NOW! Nutmeg, who usually must be dragged outside, is enchanted by 3 mushroom growing in a triangle and wants to keep an eye on them. Something tells me Buttercup is going to destroy it if I am not vigilant! ;)

We did so many other things as well: studied drawings by Rubens and drew faces using pastel chalks, worked our way through a fascinating book about the adventures of John Smith, piano, violin, the art detective book, played with the boys next door...

Today we plan to make a model of the fort at Jamestown, make some autumn nature plans, and maybe sneak in a video about fungus. Who knows? maybe I will be able to coax the girls outside for some more fun with fungus! ;)


Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Report 19 September - 23 September

Jerry's parents came from "out west" to visit us this week. I am so thankful that our homeschool schedule allowed the girls to spend lots of time with their grandparents! I did not take pictures for some reason, but I believe the girls have many sweet memories saved in their hearts.

Very little school got done, according to legal requirements, but there was much enrichment. Both girls learned to ride bikes without training wheels in the past 10 days. Nutmeg has never been much interested in bikes. When she saw her little sister zooming about without training wheels, something clicked in Nutmeg's brain. While Jerry and I were at a wedding this past weekend, Nutmeg called us to tell us she had learned how to ride without training wheels on her sister's bike. Guess who has a new bike? ;) The secret, by the way, is finding a gentle, grassy slope, and letting the child learn what balance feels like.

Buttercup and I took a very wet walk and observed different forms of spider webs and different kinds of evergreens all bejewelled with rain drops. Buttercup also informed me of her desire to have an ant farm. I said yes, meaning a contained, purchased ant farm. Buttercup misunderstood, and I caught her heading out with a plastic container... Let me know if you have ant farm recommendations!

We also had an unusual Nature Sketch experience. I kept seeing these gorgeous sunflowers on the side of the road. I pulled over, and the girls observed and sketched...looking out the car window! I wonder what Anna Botsford Comstock would think!

The girls and I also sketched this cleome from our garden. Buttercup and I collected and scattered the seeds, but Nutmeg does not like to touch Nature these days.

Cleome is commonly called "spider flower," which reminds me of a story that I forgot to tell you, Mom. 2 weeks ago, while driving the girls from music, I heard gasps and sputterings from the back of the van culminating in the following:

"You have a spider on your head!!! AAAKKKKK!"

"Girls, that is not funny. You cannot play tricks on the driver!"

"We're not lying, Mommie! You have a spider on your head! Look in the mirror!"

Gentle Readers, I looked in the rear view mirror. There was a rather bulky arachnid on my head rest.

I switched into Super Mommie Mode. (Unlike that long ago day before children, when I just jumped out of the car and let the car plow through the garage door,) I waited calmly at the red light and then turned into a parking lot and divested myself of the wee beastie. Ick.

Composer and Artist Study got pushed back a bit this week. We still had last week's pictures displayed and listened to Corelli in the car, but we did not get to to the reading and narrating I planned. I can't be sad about an extra week of Rubens or Corelli though! We are doing picture study on the painting of this lady today.

The sun is shining this morning after a night of much-needed rain. I think Buttercup and I will read Not Only For Ducks: The Story of Rainthis morning. I learned about this series on this post.

I hope you all had enriching studies this week!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Report 12 September- 16 September

Weekly Report in Which Michele Justifies the Relevance of Certain Subjects

If you have ever mentioned that you homeschool, you will, no doubt, have been queried on that most pervasive bugaboo Relevance, e.g. "How is a dead language or the stories of Dead White European Males relevant to today's world?" Some may ask these questions merely to keep the conversation rolling. Others really want to know, "How will they earn money from knowing that?" Again and again I hear questions about the link between this or that language or this or that subject with future financial gain. Well, that is what tech schools are for: learning specific skills for a specific career field. But my kids are in 2nd and 6th grade, for crying out loud! Surely this is the time to explore all the world has to offer! As an English Major (we often speak of that as though it were a profession with its own Tech School) I could not be bothered with monocots and dicots (I learned about them last year with my daughters). Now is the time for my children to explore the oft-neglected corners of the world to discover their own interests.

Exploration and discovery are important in themselves, but they also provide the content that is organized and later written and spoken about~ the writing and speaking skills so often lamented in this country. At the top of my History syllabus, I have this quotation by Susan Wise Bauer,

History is the training ground where the student learns to organize and evaluate information.

My, my. Learning to organize and evaluate information~ in which field would that not be relevant? I think I will use that as my response to questions about what we do at home all day. "We learn to organize and evaluate information."

We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture. ~Charlotte Mason

Picture study and composer study are going great! I chose some works by Rubens and sent them to Shutterfly. I received my prints on Wednesday; some were 8 x10, but some would only print as 5x7. Nutmeg's exclamation when she saw this was priceless!

Both girls loved it immediately, and were happy to hear I would later hang it in the playroom.

Nutmeg and Buttercup studied the picture, then turned it over and described the image they held in their minds. They each colored a simple coloring page while I read from a truly timeless treasure: Amy Steedman's Stories of the Painters. I cannot find this book available in the public domain; sometimes I see a publication date of 1910 and sometimes a date of 1938. I found a copy on Amazon for $17. It is so beautiful I almost cried. It has Amy Steedman's wonderful biographies, color plates, as well as some black and white illustrations. Some of the pages were still uncut!!

The girls made narration pages, and the picture was placed on the kitchen table for the week.

Composer study has consisted of listening to works by Corelli, and listening to The Stories of Vivaldi and Corelli in Words and Music. Next week we will do biography readings and notebooking about Corelli.

If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development. ~ Aristotle

Back to my relevance soapbox: We study History. Yes, history, that stuff that happened thousands of years ago, last century, last week, 5 minutes ago. It matters. We jumped into the history cycle in year 2. When we reached the American Revolution in year 3, I realized we were studying the influence of Rome and Greece on American thinkers and architects without our having studied what the culture of ancient Greece and Rome was. That is just one "light bulb" moment I've had. Historical context is necessary for the understanding of current events. Now repeat that 3 times. :)

This week we continued to study the ravages in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. We discussed Iconoclasm in The Netherlands and its effects. We watched a Rick Steves travel video on Amsterdam complete with a trip to a "red light district." I now recommend pre-viewing it first. Ahem. Buttercup enjoyed Katje the Windmill Cat and Don Quixote and the Windmills. She narrated and illustrated both books. I do realize Don Quixote is a Spanish story. We were studying The Netherlands' independence from Spain, so I thought Don Quixote and the windmills was a perfect fit.

Nutmeg is working her way through a retelling of Don Quixote by James Baldwin. I am trying to convince her that the more challenging vocabulary and sentence structure are an antidote to the Star Wars books she is so fond of reading.

She has been also practicing 2-level outlines using a library book~ outlining and Shakespeare Study! :)

A language must die to be immortal. ~G K Chesterton

Latin happens where it happens.

We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. ~Charlotte Mason

How often have I driven down a road, desperately trying to get somewhere else, never knowing I was leaving these beauties in the dust?

I found these in the back of a friend's yard on a nature ramble with my daughters and hers. The girls sketched, while I looked through field guides for identification. I settled on tick trefoil, but I am not sure which one. "You have the best weeds!" I gushed while asking permission to come back later for seed pods.

I am looking forward to cooler weather and more nature rambles!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekly Report 5 September - 9 September

A quick word about last week: We went to the Georgia Aquarium last Friday. We spent our Science and Nature Study time on marine animals particularly beluga whales and rays.

One of my favorite animals we saw was this guy - he could be a lesson plan by himself!

We have gotten quite a bit done this week. We did only one chemistry experiment, but we did some nature sketching on the front lawn and read books about clouds. The clouds were amazing yesterday! We could really see their flat bottoms. O, you lucky clouds!

Nutmeg has been doing her K12 Middle School French consistently, but we have not been as consistent with Latin. I need to work on better scheduling for language.

Buttercup is reading everything she gets her hands on! I found 2 volumes of Veritas Press' First Favorites on my shelf, and I am letting her do them. I know they are for first grade, but she is enjoying them, and I bought them, so... She did her first official book report this week; it was a "literary narration" al a Susan Wise Bauer. We started Story of the World vol 3 which begins with the Spanish in South America so I choose The Magic Treehouse: Afternoon on the Amazon. Buttercup read it and narrated. I don't think that series is brilliantly written, but it is engaging and usually corresponds to some history or science lesson. She also chose an animal from the book to read more about and draw.

Both girls are also learning about St. Rose of Lima this week to go along with their history studies. I read from Ethel Pochoki's One-of-a-Kind-Friends, and Buttercup narrated and labeled Peru on her map. Nutmeg is reading this book, and we hope to do her literary narration this weekend. Nutmeg also completed an activity from a Weekly Reader Social Studies workbook that featured a lesson on the Amazon. I plan to implement Trail Guide to World Geography. I could just kick myself for letting it lie on the shelf for almost a year since I bought a used copy on the WTM forums! I read through it last night while Nutmeg danced her heart out. It consists of "5-minute drills" and optional activities to take things further. Once again, I had planned to keep geography so simple! I planned to only use these maps, with this post as my guide. Then I added Mapping the World with Art by Ellen McHenry. All I can say in my defense is Nutmeg loves geography, and the resources I have chosen are all fabulous!

Last year, I had great plans for music and art appreciation. They were so great, in fact, that they seemed impossible to accomplish. This year I have decided to try the neo-Charlotte Mason techniques that I have been reading about for years - they just seemed too simple! DUH! Simple is what I need!

It seems that Charlotte Mason recommended studying 1 artist or composer for 1 term to allow the child to become familiar with the artist's or composer's style. Parents say this enables the student to form relationships with the pieces and also to recognize works by the artist that they have not formally studied. This method aims for depth, not breadth. I avoided this method for years because "it doesn't cover enough." I am finally ready to admit I cannot fit everything in anyway I try!

I choose 6 artists and 6 composers from the time we are studying 1600-1850. I am already prepping myself to accept that the artists and composers will not always match the history curriculum and that that is just fine. Following a more condensed version of CM's original picture and music studies, we plan to study both a composer and an artist for 6 weeks. There is no particular connection to the pairings.

weeks 1-6 Rubens and Corelli

weeks 7-12 Anthony van Dyck and Vivaldi

weeks 13-18 Rembrandt and JS Bach

weeks 19-24 Vermeer and Handel

weeks 25-30 Gainsborough and Haydn

weeks 31-36 Edward Hicks and Mozart

I really am trying to keep it simple. Too many options keeps me (happily) chasing down rabbit trails, and (unhappily) not accomplishing learning time with my girls. Here are some of the links to blogs and other resources I have found informative and practical.

Dawn's blog has a wealth of information on artist and composer studies with book reviews and lesson plans.

Simply Charlotte Mason shows just how simple and effective picture and composer study can be.

Here is a great video introducing picture study.

Mater Amabilis also has a good explanation of picture study.

ETA: Composer worksheets

This is a series a friend introduced me to. I have listened to the Corelli cd, and found it very pleasant and informative.

I really enjoy downloading free books on my Kindle. There were so many great books written for children about art, music, history, science etc., and they are now in the public domain as ebooks or available to read online. Amy Steedman is a favorite for both saint stories and artist biographies.

When They Were Young! is a good one by Steedman that has many artist and composer biographies.

This week we studied this picture by Rubens. That worked well with our history studies.
I know nothing about art; I am so excited about learning along with my children! I really enjoyed picking out pictures by Rubens. Boy, was he handsome!

Is "keeping it simple" easy or difficult for you?