Thursday, December 19, 2013

Craftier than I thought

I'll blame it on our internet connection going down the week before Thanksgiving.   When the internet goes down you start actually taking stock of your time and surroundings.  I realized that I have way too much fabric around my house and so I started to sew again.  Christmas always gets me in a sewing mood.  Most of the people I know have just about everything they could ever want or need so taking some time to sew them something is special.  Plus, it's fun to actually finish a project and make something useful or beautiful.

So since just before Thanksgiving I have moved things all around my house to help myself and the kids to get more organized.  Husband doesn't feel a need for organization because he feels responsible for his clothes, toiletries, books and videos, and sometimes his tools.  My kitchen makes more sense and I was able to move all my sewing, crafty stuff into one spot.  I have way too much for someone who hasn't sewn in a year or two.

I am trying to decrease my stash. So, in the past month I have made five mason jar Christmas cozy's (teacher gifts), two baby quilts, 4 kid messenger bags and helped make one full size quilt.  My husband is happy that I have a hobby beyond looking at curriculum.  I am now in the process of making "pillow shields" for my sons, especially since they have repurposed all of our boomwhackers into swords (not to mention their light sabers).  I am also going to attempt to make quilts for their beds out of materials they like in hopes that it will sort of help their room look more complete and give them inspiration to make the beds.  One can hope.   I am also attempting to crochet my youngest's stocking - but I am not following the pattern very well so we'll see how it turns out.  That is probably why I prefer making things out of granny squares instead of following a pattern.  We might have to revert to that.  I'll work on posting a few pictures soon.

This also  means I have spent way more time on pinterest than I should have but we are all taking a break around here.  After that nasty cold spell the temperatures are up into the 60s and 70s again so we are going to a park a day and enjoying really nice, but not so Decemberish weather.  I am glad we are just reading and reviewing over Christmas I hope it relaxes and refreshes us for the new year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weekly Resource - Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This past week my boys and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  We read the version we had when I was younger (it has my name stamp that I put in everything when I was little).  My oldest son LOVED it.  He couldn't get enough of the Herdmen's.  We ended the week by going to the local children's theater with a bunch of friends to see a production of the show.  The kids loved it and I think all of the mom's shed a few tears.  It is a great book about the Christmas message without being preachy.  So, if you haven't read it may I recommend it to you this season.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday with Words - The Long Winter

For our winter break we are reading The Long Winter aloud.  This seems appropriate with our current weather situation.  The fact that it is below freezing this far south is AMAZING.  My boys still don't want to put on layers but they are learning.

But the politicians far away in Washington could not know the settlers so they must make rules to regulate them and one rule was that a homesteader must be twenty-one years old.   None of the rules worked as they were intended to.  
Anybody knew that no two men were alike.  You could measure cloth with a yardstick, or distance by miles, but you could not lump men together and measure them by any rule.  Brains and character did not depend on anything but the man himself.  Some men did not have the sense at sixty that some had at sixteen.  And Almanzo considered that he was as good, any day, as any man twenty-one years old.  

This is when Almanzo reaveals that he is only 19 but said he was 21 to get the homestead.  I asked my boys what they thought about this situation.  My older son thought it was okay for the reasons that Almanzo outlines. My younger son is very black and white and was adamant that this was not okay.   It is tough when most of the people I am around feel like they must measure the un-measurable in order to get funding, show their worth, etc.    This is also why we homeschool as education seems to be all about measuring not against a standard but against one another.  Those who compare themselves by themselves are fools.  We'd be wise to remember that.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weekly Resource - Poetry

It seems appropriate to follow up the Andrew Pudewa talk with one of his products - Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  I have thought about getting this for a while and after listening to him recite poetry (he does the poems for the CD) I think that alone might be worth the investment.  He approaches poetry memorization much like Suzuki approaches violin - as I mentioned in my last post.   However, that is not a bad thing when the aim is to help students get the language and learn it by heart.  This is not about analyzing poetry and critiquing it.  It is about memorizing and enjoying it as the art form that it is. By exposing children to these more complicated and concise ways of expression you are helping build their writing arsenal and vocabulary.

Actually, I just bought Memoria Press' Poetry Package for late elementary grades.  I think we will stick with that for now.  At some point I could see introducing the poems found in IEW's materials- it really is for all ages.  Again, one reason I appreciate the Language program we use is that it does have a poem a day so that I don't have to hunt and look for exposure to poetry.  I know that she outlines a way to memorize the poems but we haven't been faithful to that.  I am changing that come January.

I can only remember having to memorize one poem in 4th grade.  It was traumatizing because I copied it incorrectly and left out a whole stanza.  Instead my head is filled with lyrics to 80's song and every television jingle known to man.  I expect my boys to aim higher and know MUCH more than I did.  I also have them listen to Poem's Every Child Should Know on librivox sometimes.

Of course, Michael Clay Thompson also includes a poetics book as a part of each year of his program.

I know this concept of introducing phrasing works because my four year old is currently copying phrases he hears on his current favorite quite time listening, the Jesus Storybook.  He has also taken some phrases from Peter Pan.  It is funny to hear him try to figure these things out and use them correctly.  Earlier today he was telling me all about the "terrifying Captain Hook".  In the midst of our sickness and cold weather we watched a stage version of Peter Pan yesterday and he loved it.

Poetry, learn to love it!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Andrew Pudewa Live

Yesterday I was blessed to see Andrew Pudewa speak.  He was updating a talk that is currently on his website.  The main theme of the talk was "What would I tell a new parent about developing their children's language skills?"   Two things - read aloud and memorize (especially poetry).

I listened to the earlier version of this talk so I was familiar with most of what he was discussing.  I am fond of encouraging parents to not stop reading aloud once their children can read for themselves.  The Circe Institute has a posted about this phenomenon as well.  That's one thing I love about Charlotte Mason, the emphasis she places on reading good literature.  Many of the blogging mom's I like best encourage this as the core of a great education.  Last night Mr. Pudewa asserted that if you just spent a whole year reading aloud for 3 or 4 hours a day your kids would probably look back and say that was the year they learned the most. Good thing this is one of my favorite things to do with the kids.  The grandparents often wonder at the 4yo's vocabuarly - it's because he listens to everything we read aloud and he follows it well.  Last week as we read part of The Long Winter he was pacing and came close to asking me to stop when they got lost in the snow storm - the tension was too much for  him.

As to memorization this is not even considered a good educational technique by most educators today. What value does it have when you can google it?  Well, it grows your brain, gives you forms for writing and expressing yourself in more complicated ways and can provide great entertainment for you and others.  He mentioned that when you read old books they talk about "saying their lessons".  Earlier this week we learned that Laura had memorized the 4th reading primer (I am assuming McGuffey).  Memorized it!  No wonder she is a great writer - she had a great store in her head to pull from and experiences worth sharing.

Mr. Pudewa's background is in Suzuki violin - where you memorize your repertoire.  What stuck out to me most was the need to review constantly what you have already learned.  I am not always good about doing that.  With Suzuki he talked about "every piece every day" and he advocated the same for poetry - until it gets to be too much and then you can alternate or rotate the pieces you practice.  This made me realize that once again, less is more. If you can't review it regularly then you are probably doing too much and it won't stick anyway.

I also appreciated his recommendation of looking for gross, funny, and violent poems to help attract boys to the form and then from there move into what he called the "Girls" Garden of Verses.  He recommended Hillaire Belloc, Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstien.   He especially like Belloc which bolstered my decision to use his poem "The Frog" as our first poem next year.

Once he posts the updated talk on his website I will let you know.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Weekly Resource - Caesar's English

This is a resource that I have considered many times but have not bought.  Now that it has been updated to include more pictures and history I think it looks fantastic.  The only reason I hesitate to get it is that I intend to teach my children Latin, not just Latin for the sake of vocabulary.

Caesar's English is from Royal Fireworks Press and is part of their overall English program.  It is an impressive combination of resources that many people truly enjoy.  There is a good chance that at some point we will use their four level sentence analysis workbooks.  Back to the point.  This new edition tries to tie together Latin based vocabulary with English and Spanish connections.  Living in Texas, it is always helpful to tie in Spanish.  It focuses on root words, prefixes and suffixes so that your students are getting the most bang for their buck.  From their online overview it looks simple enough to implement.  It introduces 5 new words a week.  If I got it, I might actually use a word a day approach during morning time.

From the beginning, this series uses composition to equip students to write research papers and essays.  I guess most do teach this in the end but it is the very explicit goal of this program because it is the type of paper most commonly written in college.   I am not sure I like this approach as much as others, like the progym, but if you want a great essayist this is one way to go about that.

This series is meant for the upper elementary school student and it introduces vocabulary in a way that will prepare your students to better analyze words and read classical literature with more understanding.   If you are not committed to studying Latin but want a taste of it for the sake of vocabulary this is probably a great fit for you.