Sunday, August 24, 2014

Individual Skill Building Work - Part 3 of our day

As I continue to outline our day I come to our last "planned" segment.  The first one is our morning read alouds - pretty much the same material every day (Bible, poetry, memory work, etc.).  The second segment is our daily subject read alouds.  We average 2 subjects a day for about 15 to 20 minutes each spread throughout the day.  Really, those two parts are where we are exposed to great ideas, connect with the past, and enjoy literature and poetry.  In most schools these areas have to take a back seat to more skill based work.  For me, at this age, this is where lots of the real learning is happening.  Now we will talk about the third element, the one we automatically think about when it comes to school, reading, writing and arithmetic.

This year I have increased my almost 8 yo's work in this area and so far he has mostly risen to the challenge (with some whining).  Here is what he is expected to cover everyday.  Instead of using page numbers, we try to spend a certain amount of time on each subject.  Some days are better than others with this approach. Without further ado, here are our skill areas:

25 minutes a day (15 to 20 minutes reading and 5 to 10 minute response time)

For reading we rotate the subject read and how we respond to it.  Most days he does some type of narration for what he reads and might have an additional response.  Here is what he is reading right now: 

The Bible - soon this time will also include our Pilgrim's Progress book from Sunday School

Science - Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Book 3 - he has been drawing diagrams and writing down one key idea from what he has read (labeled an ant and wrote a flies life cycle so far)

Literature - This year we are reading through the 3rd grade literature suggested by Memoria Press. However, we aren't using the reading guide - just the composition guide.  Here he is instructed to summarize a short passage in three sentences.  I typically write down his "final" draft and then he does it as copywork.
Right now we are reading Farmer Boy which is the only one we haven't read in the Little House series so he was excited to get to read it.  Likewise, we are using CC grammar and the grammar "catechism" found in Living Memory by Andrew Campbell (it ties in nicely with a comparison of English and Latin grammar). Once in a while we will start working on poetry here as well.

History - We are reading from Lives of the Presidents Told In Words of One Syllable.   He has a notebook where he writes down the name of the president and the length of his term.  I also pick out one or two sentences for studied dictation.  This is the first time we've done this and it is tough, but good, for him.

Reader - Once a week I also have him read from an old reader.  Right now he is working from a reader that I honestly don't know the name of.  EEK!  I printed it out last year - it says level 3 and the stories come from old folk tales, norse mythology, etc.  It's a good one and I will try to figure out where I found it!

I am finding that he probably reads too fast and isn't really comprehending.  This is the first time he has ever had to do this.  So, I probably need to have him narrate smaller sections and just encourage him to slow down in general.   He comprehends reading aloud just fine - but reading for himself and narrating is tougher than I expected it to be for him - good skill to learn!  Really, this is the main skill we are learning this year - using a variety of texts and methods.

20 minutes

This year we are doing the two 3rd grade books associated with Miquon math (yellow and purple books).  He really enjoys these books and he just "gets" math.  I don't think my middle one will use this series - he needs much more structure.  These books cover a variety of math topics in no particular order.  I allow him to pick a section or topic to work on in the book but he has to start with the first page in that section and work through it.  So far it has been working well - he feels more in control but really he is just learning/ reviewing lots of different math concepts.  I expect at the end of the year we will begin to use a more "traditional" program to make sure we haven't skipped any concepts.  Maybe we'll use MEP or the Math Mammoth that I already have one hand. We'll see.

20 minutes

We are currently taking Suzuki lessons.  So he practices old songs, learns his new ones and has about 5 minutes of theory every day.  Really, grandma takes care of this and I just oversee his progress.

10 minutes

This year we are doing spelling as a separate subject because he REALLY needs it.  I started at the very beginning (with 40 words a week) and am working my way up.  I am using Reading Lessons Through Literature by Kathy Jo Devore.  I do have Spell to Write and Read, but the RLTL program is so much easier to use and with my younger sons it uses the Elson readers to help them learn to connect reading and spelling together.  

I am also pleasantly surprised at how copywork and especially studied dictation is helping him to learn some more complicated (and probably more age appropriate spelling words).   For now this is a good combination - making sure he has the basics (seriously - the word "you" is on his list this week) and some challenge in spelling.  

Grammar - Latin and Primary Language Lessons 
15 minutes

Originally I planned for him to work on both Latina Christiana and Primary Language Lessons daily but realized that was going to be too much.  So, instead I consider these both Grammar and he does them each 2 or 3 times a week.  I want him to complete both books in about 3 semesters (or 4 or 5 trimesters).  Right now he feels that Latina Christiana is too simple because he learned how to do first conjugation last year - but it picks up quickly (he hasn't met a declension yet) and I think it will be a good challenge for him. Primary Language Lessons has more writing than my son is used to so it is a good stretch for him.  In the past he was just doing copywork and now he longs for just copywork!  Cracks me up.

I typically allow him to choose the order of his work and just help set the timer and stick around to help out with questions and reminders to stay on task.  So although this supposed to be "individual work" we aren't there yet.  I do keep him on task.  Sometimes we will have a snack and read aloud in the middle of this work to break it up and still get "work" done.

We try to cover these subjects in the morning before lunch.  However, we have a regular commitment coming up for his education that might mess that schedule up.  It has been great to regularly have school (except for maybe a read aloud or 2) done by noon.  Fortunately we have had some great afternoon activities and fun with friends.  We'll see how this continues now that "regular" school is in session and with my middle one starting his preK program.  I guess there is one more element to our studies - our "car" studies - basically things that we will listen to on CD in the car.  I will cover that another day.

Again, hopefully this will give you an idea of resources available, different ways you can use them to your benefit and ways you can structure your time with your kids.  There is no one "right" way but it always helps me to pick up hints from other people about how they are structuring their time and studies.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Marinades and Meatballs

Over the summer I pretty much gave up on cooking.   Fortunately we weren't home much so eating the same few things didn't seem so bad.  We had lots of sausage because it requires NO prep time.  Something about fall does bring out the cook in me though.  I know we aren't quite there yet but as I think about our schedule and trying to get dinner on the table I think I have found two standards that are easy prep, have tons of variations and my family will eat - marinades and meatballs.  Since casseroles are typically better with some type of pasta or bread I don't often choose them first.


I tend to collect marinade and rub recipes but then never actually use them.  This fall that will change.  With a couple of different spices and oils/ vinegars you can easily prep the night before or morning of and then cook them right before dinner.  Seriously, why don't I do this more often.  Part of the reason I like to cook is the "research" aspect - looking for the new recipe.  We often don't eat the same thing twice (unless we really like it).  This would still allow me to search (find a new marinade) but keep it simple.  Honestly, I don't know why I think I have all this time to search out recipes.  

If you have leftovers they are easy to toss into a casserole, stick on a tostada or tortilla (if you eat them) or just eat plain.  This also works for pork and chicken (and probably some other meat I don't cook with as often) which makes it easy to vary the meat a little bit.


Now that my middle one will be going to school I was searching for some easy lunch ideas for the gluten free, mostly paleo diet.  I happened upon meatballs - a WHOLE TON of them.  This is a fabulous idea. You can hide lots of good for you things in them (if you are so inclined), they are smaller size so people who aren't so hungry or don't like that particular type can just take one.  They can go into sandwiches, wraps and on top of noodles or spaghetti squash, etc.  If you have them left over you can eat them as is, change them up with one of the previous additions or break them up and put them into a casserole, etc.

Early this week we tried a thai meatball recipe and everyone liked it!  Again, you can make them the night before or morning of and then just store them until you are ready to cook them.  I have taken to putting them on a rack that is on top of 9x13 pan so that they don't settle in their own drippings - but that is just personal choice.  You can also make meatball muffins if you are so inclined.

From my few minutes of looking at meatball recipes I found about 8 - so that's 8 weeks of the same basic prep but it feels like a different meal.  Of course there are Italian, but also Thai, Hawaiian, Mexican, etc.  The sky is the limit.

So that's my offering to you today of two easy make ahead meals that might make your day run smoother.  I realize I am REALLY behind the times on these things.  Of course you can also freeze meatballs and marinades pretty easily as well - if you are a planner.  Maybe someday I will be!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Circle Time, Part 2 - Read Alouds

Since most of my children are on the younger side I keep our morning circle time short.  We do however try to read throughout the day, normally in conjunction with food or playing with building toys.  This might become more complicated as we add in more commitments throughout the semester - but for now it is working well.  I really like the Latin Centered Curriculum idea where you focus on one (okay, I do two) subjects a day and read aloud/ narrate from that subject.  I like the concept of loops - but have found that assigning specific days and leaving extra cushion on Friday works better for me.  I also have 4 potential times I can read aloud any day- morning snack or break, lunch, afternoon snack or handicraft time and then dinner.  I might even try bed time (more for catch up in Bible if needed).  

I also add in literature - in the past we have had literature scheduled 3x per week with English Lessons Through Literature, but we are taking a break from that curriculum this year.  I just read a chapter of our literature books chosen from Ambleside as the kids request it (we are reading Caddie Woodlawn and Brighty of the Grand Canyon right now).  I am not doing Ambleside's main literature works this term because they are scheduled elsewhere for me - so I picked ones that reflect American history since that is the CC history focus this year.

Monday - Science/ Literature (see above)

Pagoo - once the boys heard it was a hermit crab they were hooked - we have 3 of them!

CC's focus is on anatomy this semester so we are probably going to grab facts and information from this print out a friend of ours passed along (it is a free PDF but it takes a while to download).  I did think about trying out the Sassafras Science curriculum on anatomy but decided it just didn't fit the budget or time schedule this year.

Tuesday - The Classics 

D'Aulaires' Greek Myths - we are reading this according to the schedule outlined in Introduction to Classical Studies 

Shakespeare - My son has already listened to many of the stories from Tales from Shakespeare and I know that it is scheduled in the curriculum we will use next year for literature, so I am doing something different this year. A while back I got Shakespeare's Storybook which is a collection folk tales that he might have known and have similar themes and plots to his own stories.  We read the first one last week and my son keeps quoting me the main line "soft words and a gentle touch" - OUCH!   I am reading and thinking about the suggestions from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.   I am also thinking about reading the bard myself - crazy, I know!  I also found a book called The Children's Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit. I can't tell if it is the same as Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare or something separate.  I need to investigate more.  I have it checked out from the library but haven't read it.  If I like it we might read that next semeseter.

Wednesday - American History and Geography, Artist/ Composer

States and Presidents - Since CC is focusing on US history and geography this year, we are reading aloud fun books about these two areas to help give them an overview of history.  We are reading Smart About the Fifty States, Smart About the Presidents, Don't Know Much about the Presidents and Don't Know Much about the 50 States.  Honestly, much of the information is duplicated but my kids really like it.  I wanted to use something that was accessible to the almost 5 yo.  My oldest is also reading about the presidents on his own as part of his reading/ composition time.

Artist/ Composer - We are following the Ambleside suggestions for that this year (in the past we have used the art incorporated in English Language Lessons Through Literature - similar types of selections).  I did decide that we like medieval art and Fra Angelico has some interesting depictions - so I got the set of prints (not the whole book) from Simply Charlotte Mason.  I just ordered them so they haven't arrived yet.  We also have

We also checked out the composers' CD from the library and my husband is looking for it on Freegal. Honestly, we will listen to it in the car and I might tell them a little about the history.

Thursday - Ancient History/ Geography 

Famous Men of Rome is what we are reading this year following the outline in Introduction to Classical Studies.  I decided not to get the workbook, just the text, because we are going to narrate it.  I do like having the weekly outline in the book because it helps highlight key characters, places, themes and helps us pace our readings well.  The suggestion is to read these three works for three years.  However, I plan to tweak it - keep the basics - Bible, Ancient History, Mythology - but change the works that we use (Sutcliffe, Men of Greece, etc.)

We are following Marco Polo using the handy week by week text provided through Ambleside online. This text reads more as an adventure story than anything else - I will have to make sure I do try to focus on the geography a little bit.  Today, though we reviewed quite a few places we learned last year in CC which was nice.

Friday - Literature

We read more chapters from our literature books than what is "scheduled" because the kids enjoy them. Plus, it's a way to calm them down when they are rowdy and it is 98 outside!  Although I do try to remember the caution to not read too fast (thus the reason for two books at a time). But, I have it on the schedule in case we get really busy.

The Wrap Up 

In the end, this might be too much for us to actually remember the stories well.  I have weighted Tuesday and Thursday with the "older" subjects because those are the days my 5 yo will be at preschool.  I don't think he is ready for Greek Myths or Famous Men of Rome yet.   So far, he mostly plays with his little brother or eats when we read these anyway.   Once he starts "back to school" (I picked the most playful preschool I could find) my oldest and I will probably read these while the youngest sleeps (hopefully) - a new (5th chance) time slot for reading aloud.   Again, each day we are really talking about 20 to 30 minutes of concentrated read aloud time. Since I often have 2 subjects in a day I will break it up - read one at morning snack and one mid afternoon.   If the day is really hectic, when my husband comes home, he takes the younger ones (to a bath usually) and I cover what we haven't read with the oldest.

Writing it out like this made me realize that I need to be more intentional about reading books that are at my almost 5 yo's level.  We have been reading aloud from 20th Century Children's Book Treasury (many of the stories we have elsewhere, but someone gave us this collection).  I need to pick a few chapter books like Paddington Bear and Among the Farmyard People (etc.) and some Beatrix Potter and read it aloud to him.  I'll work on that :)  Really, I just need to pick a reading plan from Pathways (it's a free list of good literature, in a schedule, for PreK4 and 5) and put it in our schedule.

This year we are doing dual track history, in large part because CC is doing American history.  We'll see how that goes.  My son is really interested in the myths so it's not hard to get him to engage in that part of what we are doing and I have kept the American history reading light and fun.

So this is the second "element" of our day.  We have our daily read aloud work (morning circle time) and our rotating read aloud work (as it fits into that day).  This is where the "ideas" come from, the story, the connection to art, history, music and more. The last part of our day is individual work. This is where he is developing skills (all the -ings and math/ Latin) as he "imitates the masters and moves towards mastery".  I will cover that in another post!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Christian Education (aka Sunday School) - Pilgrim's Progress!

You might recall that the past two years I have been in the two year old CE class.  It has been fun watching those little guys grow into 3 year olds!  However, this year I needed a change so I moved up to 3rd grade.  I am excited to be with kids who can carry on a discussion.  I will only be in the class for a semester since I am due in December.

Today I was OVERJOYED to learn that we are using a curriculum that goes through Pilgrim's Progress with 2nd through 5th graders.  I started clapping my hands and squealing I was so happy.  I hope that was encouraging to our children's director!  I have just quickly reviewed the materials but it seems that the bulk of the class is spent reading the abridged version and discussing it.  Each chapter helps you connect with the spiritual truths that are contained within.  There is even an audio dramatized version and each child (I think) will get their own copy of the book.  How awesome is that!  Later this week we'll actually get the materials and I'll probably tell you more then.

I hadn't thought too much about it when I accepted the age group, but I do get worried about older elementary grades in CE.  Honestly, many of these kids might almost be overchurched and just going through the stories that they already know is boring.  So, introducing a work of classic Christian fiction is a GREAT idea in my opinion.   At our house we have already read through two versions of the story and I am glad that my son will finally get to share it and talk about it with others!

Settling into the new building with our classes will also be interesting.  It truly is as close as you can get to a basement in our city - but it is ours and we don't have to take things up and down!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Circle Time - Part 1, the plan

Well week one went well.  Basically we did our work in the morning and played all afternoon - soaking up the last rays of summer (it was 102 most of the week - so we were in the pool or indoors).  After such a good week of solid morning work I wonder why we are adding in all of these other morning responsibilities! But, alas, they do seem to serve a purpose.

The main difference was reading aloud.  We really didn't read aloud at all this summer because we were playing and I didn't really feel up to it.  We listened to lots of books on tape though.  We started back with our morning time readings that typically occur while my kids get breakfast.  This includes:

Watts' Family Vision for Education and Key Ideas for Life - The first is basically our mission statement for education (mostly cobbled together from what I have gathered from those who are older and wiser than myself). The second is a series of 8 quick phrases that I want my kids to understand about our relationship with God and others.  The concept comes from 24 family ways.  I don't have the book but somewhere I found her list, prayed about it for us and this is what I use now.  We do one a week and talk about it from different viewpoints.  This week we focused on "The Big Story: Creation, Incarnation and Recreation".  It fit in really nicely since we were reading the Creation story this week.

Last year we also talked about a core virtues (the four cardinal virtues and then the three theological virtues and added in the few suggested by N.T. Wright's After You Believe - chastity, humility and patience (or LONG SUFFERING).   I would try to focus on how these are developed in community (not just one hero) and how we need God to really guide us into them. This year we are NOT doing it (yet) because it seems like overkill and stories do a much better job.  At some point (middle school) I will probably use Jenny Rallens' (her 2014 talks was AMAZING) approach and then have them trace these through the literature and history that they read (a la Mortimer Adler 103 great ideas).  I still refer to them as appropriate (without trying to moralize) when we are reading stories together.

Bible (following the suggestions from the Golden Bible Book found in Introduction to Classical Studies),

Prayers - I ask the kids if they have any specific prayer requests - often they revolve around Grandma's, legos and friends. We then do two set prayers. This term it is the Collect for Guidance from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (this is from prayers and reading you could do every morning - no wonder those who do it know their Psalms!)

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our 
being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by 
your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our 
life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are 
ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

and the Lord's Prayer in Latin (which is being reinforced in Latina Christiana). 

Bible Memory work 1 Corinthian 13:4 - 8, Psalm 1 a few verses from Proverbs 21 (2, 3 and 23).

Motto: Have communion with few, be intimate with one, deal justly with all, speak evil of none. 
I found this in an old hymnal/ prayer book - no idea where - but I really like it.

Latin - Some mornings I try to read Latin.  I am POSITIVE I am pronouncing it wrong but oh well!  Last year we read aloud the translation passages from Visual Latin (that follow the Bible) but this year I am going to try the first history reader from Classical Academic Press that focuses on Roman history - which is one of our interests this year.

Poetry Memorization - There are poems we will get to through Memoria Press's Poetry for the Grammar Stage and Primary Language Lessons (we won't memorize all of the one's recommended there).  I decided that I wanted to work on a long poem because my oldest really does memorize pretty well.  I also wanted to keep it fun (knowing that Hiawatha might be next - but I didn't want to start there).  So, we are doing Casey at the Bat by Lawrence Ernest Thayer.  I was surprised that we both got the first stanza this week.  Today at the library I picked up the Maestro's Classics series that focuses on this poem - it is a fun way for him to listen to it again and again.  I'll probably keep it in the car.  

Poetry - We are also reading The World of Christopher Robin.  In part because I got it for 25 cents this summer and because my youngest is OBSESSED with Winnie the Pooh.  So, I put this at the end and try to draw him back in as we close with a poem or two.  

If the boys are still with me I try to read the book from Proverbs that matches the date.  The oldest isn't quite 8 yet, so I don't push it too often.

This whole process probably takes about 20 to 30 minutes depending on spilled food, whining for more food, if we get involved in a conversation, etc.  So we have this covered by about 8 am!  I am blessed because my husband is home to help take care of the food while I focus on the reading.  I also try to remember to dismiss, as many have mentioned, with "The Lord be With You" and "Also With You."

It worked well this week because we didn't have anywhere to be in the morning.  It might fall apart when we need to leave the house by 8:30 or so.  This week we did this until about 7:45 and then the kids played (often outside, while it was only in the mid 80s) and did their morning round up (chores, teeth, beds, clothes, etc.).  We started our individual work around 9:00.

We are doing Classical Conversations this year so I might add in a few of the memory components here - but I haven't really thought through that yet.  Probably do it mostly in the car like we did last year.

This is circle time - part 1 - later in the day we pick up other weekly readings and oral work - typically in conjunction with a snack or lunch (it helps keep the youngest one occupied).  I'll talk more about what else we are reading in another post.  This year my oldest is having to do more individual work - mostly writing - he tried to put up a little fight, but was fairly easily overcome.  Again, we can talk about that at another time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Day and a poem

I am not sure what happened over the summer.  Much of it I was feeling pretty yucky so I just tried to do the basics.  We also visited a ton of friends and family so I enjoyed them instead of thinking about my online life. Actually we were out of town 6 weekends in a row!  So, we fell out of touch with pretty much all of our normal life.  We are getting it back though.

I am nesting like crazy and it might drive my husband over the edge - but the house looks nice!  Our first day went much better than expected.  Actually all three boys are ASLEEP - after school work (in their swimming gear) and a pool party (in 102 degree weather).  I have some thoughts I'll post about planning and organizing soon (I have spent ridiculous amounts of time on pinterest because I didn't have brain power for much more).  Not that pinterest helps when you just look and don't act!

I did promise a poem - one to remember for this year:


Muffle the wind; 
Silence the clock;
Muzzle the mice;
Curb the small talk;
Cure the hinge-squeak;
Banish the thunder;
Let me sit silent,
Let me wonder. 

A.M. Klein 

I do hope that this year I will allow more time to wonder. I even added the concept back into our saying about what our family education looks like.  I hope that all is going well for you as summer flits away and school begins.