Sunday, June 19, 2016

Planning Ahead: Loop Reading

I have been listening to the podcasts at A Delectable Education.  They are inspiring me to make time for wide reading. Since my oldest will officially be entering Form II - where we should start Plutarch and Shakespeare - I want to make it happen.   Meanwhile my younger one should be reading through Pilgrim's Progress.  Not exactly simple reading - but the type of work I want to do with my children. 

Here are my thoughts about scheduling all this reading - considering 3 out of my 4 kids can't read on their own yet.  I have learned that reading stories first thing in the morning doesn't work (for one thing, half of the mornings we are trying to get out the door).  So, we do much better at lunch or an afternoon tea time (they ask for it at this time of day).   

Daily readings: Bible, Spanish, poetry and some literature reading from ELTL daily (level 1 and level 4). These I probably will do as part of our "school day", morning basket type time.  I decided to do Getting Started with Spanish with my kids this year. 

Weekly Co-op Readings - assigned readings in history and English weekly through Artios.  I will read some of these aloud but my oldest will start doing some of his own reading this year! 

Weekly Loop Readings.  Here is some nitty gritty on loop scheduling.  I decided to pick the subject areas to cover - long term - and then I will fill in the titles as we go along.  I think these categories could be used year after year.  So, here is the subject loop for the week (and probably a little bit more). Some days I will read two together but most days we will have time to cover just one of them. Loop scheduling is all about grace and continuing to move forward - right!?  

Tales/ Literature - Bullfinch's Mythology, Black Ships Before Troy, etc. 
Math - Zaccaro, Geometry readings
Shakespeare - 2 or 3 plays
Plutarch - using Anne's study guides
Saints and Church Stories - Trial and Triumph  
Maybe Latin - Olim or CAP History 1 

There might be other subject areas that we add but these seem most crucial for us.  I am still debating if we should add a history overview like Child's History of the World or something similar.  But I might start that next year when we go back to Ancient history in Artios and my kids are a bit older. 

I am still trying to decide what exactly my oldest will read on his own this coming year.  I will probably assign specific days for each subject area.  

I look forward to reading all of these great things in the coming year.  What are you reading?  How do you schedule it? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wednesday with Words: The Tale of Despereaux

I was sad to skip last week but I just couldn't pull it together between a homeschool book sale and a mission trip to Mexico - something had to give.

I read The Tale of Despereaux too early with my kids.  A few summers ago (5, I think) we read it on vacation.  I loved it but it was WAY over their heads.  We listened to it this weekend to and from our mission trip to Mexico and it fit in so nicely (and unexpectedly) with the idea of being a part of a bigger story.  All of Kate DiCamillo's chapter books are redemptive stories.  As a result they all deal with pain, loss, forgiveness, waiting and other tough topics.  They aren't explicitly Christian but the themes are very familiar to our faith.  Her books are way deeper than just Mercy Watson!

Despereaux is all about the power of a good, ennobling story.  Unfortunately this cannot be captured well in a children's movie. Skip the movie (hubby says it is really bad) and love the book.

When we finished the book I asked my kids if they were listening to stories of light or of darkness? Could they tell the difference?  Were their lives going to be stories informed by the light and showing it forth or were they going to live in darkness?  I love this imagery because it is so basic, but true. Where one little candle flickers the darkness has to flee.  Despereaux believes the story of the knight and the princess and is called to do the impossible - and so he does.

Really, this is what the phrase "preaching the Gospel to yourself" is all about.  It is about remembering the one, true, big, incredible story in the midst of the dailiness, pain and uncertainty of everything else.  The story that you tell yourself and others will make a huge difference.  Kern always talks about the 66 chapters of story and then the law.  That's how God created us - why else would Jesus speak in stories or parables?   We need to keep telling ourselves and our kids God's story so that it will be their foundation and rock.  So that they can carry that story candle into dark places and proclaim truth and love.

So this summer I encourage you to find stories of light and love to pass on to your children.  Whether they are personal or old favorites or biographies or whatever.  What stories bring light and joy to your world?  What stories help shape who you are?  Your family?  Use stories to shine a light into darkness.

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Planning Ahead: Foreign Language

When it comes to languages I have backed myself into a corner.  I was so eager to start Latin.  So we have been pursuing it for 3 years.  I think we have covered most of what my under 10 year olds can successfully do with it (short of just memorizing tons of vocabulary aloud).  However, I realize now that I should have followed EVERYONE'S advice and spent my time orally on a more modern language.  We are actually going on a mission trip in Mexico this year where knowing a bit of Spanish might be helpful, Ah well.  


Let's review. As usual, I have gathered a gazillion resources for Latin (click Latin in the sidebar and you can see the collection - lots of google books) imagining that just owning them will teach my offspring and I Latin.  It hasn't happened yet - no osmosis around here.  We did use Memoria Press' Prima Latina but it was just a bit too dry for us.  We moved to Song School Latin 1 and listened without completing the workbook two years ago. This past year my oldest did the workbook, watched many of the videos and I hope learned some Latin.  Actually, the fact that the Penderwick's dad uses Latin phrases has made Latin much cooler in our house.  Additionally, we have been in Classical Conversations for 3 years - so there is that memory work.  

What will we do this coming year?   I have purchased Latin for Children A and I think I will have my oldest work through that.  With my younger ones I am going to slow down and read stories from Olim in Latin.  We will use the readers but not the workbooks from Olim.  I am debating trying to align some of LFC with Visual Latin.  I think my oldest would like the Visual Latin instruction but he would need something different to actually practice the concepts - more like what LFC does.  But, I am probably complicating things again.  For my 2nd kiddo we might try out I Speak Latin in two years.  Am I crazy - probably. 

I do want to study Latin at a deep level and our plans to stick with Artios (instead of CC) means that I won't have a community to learn Latin through.  (Although this weekend I did speak to a CC mom with graduates and she had lots of good things to say).  My oldest isn't quite old enough for Dwane Thomas' courses yet - but this might be a great option eventually.


I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and Senora Gallivan did an AMAZING job.  I actually got a 3 on my AP which meant that I didn't have to take a language in college.  I foolishly did not think Spanish had a life long benefit and stopped learning Spanish.  BIG MISTAKE - HUGE! However, I can still remember quite a bit and can read basic texts.  We'll see how much I really remember when we head south this summer. 

My next oldest is 6 so there is still time for lots of oral language input in Spanish for my younger children.  I read the books about incorporating Spanish at a young age but just never implemented ANYTHING.  I dug out The Fun Spanish and my 6 yo enjoys it.  The older one balked but it doesn't help when you introduce it in the last 4 weeks of school because you are going to Mexico. Whoops! 

I will also use the bilingual song book that I got and try to incorporate some of the stories and songs into our daily routine, especially with the younger kids.  

The other coop that I am participating in (more on that another day) will be using the SCM Spanish program.   After reading the rationale behind this method I feel much more comfortable using it.  

The Fun Spanish uses some similar concepts as CM but the sentences she introduces are silly - intentionally - to help the kids remember the words.  CM might call them twaddle but I think it is for a good cause.  It is not the "real life" conversation or series that Gouian and CM fully recommended. So this might be a good oral combination for the youngers and my older one will probably have to do copywork with it.  

In the end we will be pursuing two different languages next year.  It remains to be seen how heavily we will focus on them, but exposure is important.  I should take Dwane Thomas' advice and just listen to the Latin and Spanish Bible more often around here.  I just have to implement some of these things!  

What are you thinking about doing for foreign langauge next year? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Fun Reads

Thinking about summer reading?  I am too.  I liked this general thought of what to "feed" our 10 to 13 year olds.  I read lots of Babysitters Club and worse at this age.  I wish I would have spent time with more substantial works. 

Although this isn't "substantial" it is fun for the early elementary crew, the Julian series.  I actually remember being read this at school when I was that age.  I am a little disappointed that it appears the "early reader" labels have been stuck to it.  Our library has the older version.  My younger boys (4 and 6) love the stories.  Her writing mirrors the way kids think - making small things big adventures. It also offers up kids sized moral issues and the Dad is a great caring, funny character.

As the kids consider how "far" is too far on their bikes this is the conversation in Julian, Secret Agent:
"Look at it this way," Gloria said.  "We won't go to New York.  We won't go to Paris. If we find a criminal leaving for Tokyo, we just won't follow her.  So, we won't go far from home."
I thought about it.  I thought about accidentally going someplace Dad wouldn't like - and then saying, "Dad, we thought far meant Tokyo."  I didn't know how he would take it.  
I don't know if the early readers have been updated from the original.  Most of the Secret Agent book is about the kids criss-crossing town on their bikes.  I remember riding to my friends houses when I was that age (sometimes it was a pretty long ride too).  However, today our friends don't live close enough and even if they did it is hard to know if it wise to let them have that much freedom. This is why our friends meet at parks and let the kids play in "the woods".  We just finished the Penderwicks on Gardam Street and the kids are allowed to roam in that one as well.   It makes me sad.

By the way, my 3 boys LOVE the 4 girls in the Penderwicks.  Don't discount it just because the characters are different genders.  The first book is about summer vacation.

The second series - actually two by the same author, Gerald Morris are a retelling of King Arthur stories.  We are reading the younger series, The Knight's Tales.  I checked out the first book in the "tween" age series - The Squire's Tales - for my son.   He hasn't started it yet.  The Knight's Tales are well done, funny and unconventional stories about King Arthur and the Round Table.  Sir Lancelot becomes the incognito "Knight of the Pillow" when a lady accidentally shoots his hind quarters.  It's that kind of fun, kid humor without being crass.

The older series seems to be, well, older.  I haven't read it but it appears to be a more traditional telling but from the point of view of a squire.  There are 10 books in this series.  I am hoping to get him hooked so he will read through them this summer.  I like Riordan (sometimes) but we've had enough around here.  The author of these series writes as a side job - his day job is as a pastor.  He is not heavy handed but he does highlight chivalry without disparaging it.

One reason I recommend King Arthur is because I have been reading Chubb in The Teaching of English in the Elementary and Secondary School where he offers a detailed outline for composition and literature.  He suggests for the fourth and fifth graders they should read epics and ballads.
It is this literature of the distinctively epic type that will interest him more than any other, and be good for him. This is our best clew (sic). Adventure and romance, heroism and daring, the wonders and excitement of travel and exploration, of march and siege, —upon these we may feed him; and upon these, as sure foundations of the superstructure to be raised in later years, we may build.  
I recognized most of the epics (Odyssey, King Arthur, Norse mythology).  However, I was painfully unaware of any of the ballads.  This struck me especially after the thoughts Angelina Stanford offers about poetry and music at Circe's blog this week.   I plan to get to know some of the ballads that Chubb recommends.  His hope was that students would eventually develop a ballad culture - where students around the country had memorized these songs/poems and that this would be part of the common culture  Well, songs are common culture but they aren't ballads about heroic men of long ago.

In a later work he dedicates a whole chapter to how and why we should introduce epics at this age. He also comments on the role of the English teacher in general.
The teacher must be governed by an imperious sense of her task as that of developing character in the broadest sense, and of using Literature as she uses all other studies, — only more powerfully because of its greater emotional appeal, —to illuminate and enhance the worth and glory of life and living, while training the pupil to the correct and effective use of language as a medium of communication.  
What if this was still the case?  Let's just say that populating English classes with modern literature does not meet this standard of the role of story in the life of a student.

I like his estimation of the role of the parent in developing the reading habit.
Short of courting obvious danger, the child should have a chance to select its literary pasturage, unconscious of the peeping parental eye; browse at will, explore and taste, try and judge for itself. The best that can be done is to put the child by one means or another in the way of the best books ; to give him a sense of being (subject to parental veto in extraordinary cases) a free agent in the selection of them ; to open up suggestively new realms to him ; talk over his reading with him ; and enable him to possess those books he likes, among the really good ones, to re-read and read again, until he accumulates a select library of his own that has just the distinctive character of reflecting his deeper and more stable interests. 
It becomes a more delicate balance when you are the homeschool teacher trying to determine what is assigned reading and pleasure reading.  This was actually a recent topic on Read Aloud Revival. 

All that to say our summer reading will include more epics and myths and the like.  What are you hoping to read this summer?

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.