Monday, April 24, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Audio Books

We went on a LONG car trip this weekend.  Unfortunately, the audio book we listened to was not really approved for all listeners (however, the concerning ones slept through the questionable parts). It was a fun and fairly spontaneous trip.  It did remind me how great it is to have lots of listening options on hand.  Here are some free or cheaper resources for audio books (many are in the public domain, some have volunteer readers which can be hit or miss).

Librivox - This is my go to location.  Most readers are pretty good - just listen for a minute before you download.  Your kids will memorize the little intro that goes with all of these recordings - but FREE.  If you looked at the Ambleside list last week and wondered what was available on audio - here is your connection.

Sparkle Stories - This is a free app that has stories for younger children (4 to 8).  They focus on stories that have cooperation and teamwork and stay away from scarier themes for children.  I haven't really listened (my kids like the scary stuff) but many friends recommend it.  If you are interested use the trial and see if your kids like the stories.

Lit2Go - This website also features primarily older books but most of them have some acknowledged literary value.  Ambleside records MANY things - this is a more curated (I can't believe I just used that word) listing of stories.  They also have it available in PDF and easy to read on screen as you listen - this might be good for kids who are just learning to read.

Of course, we all know about the wonders of your local library and remember that if your library has Overdrive you can use it to check out audio books without leaving your house!  Audible is the most well known pay service.  I have yet to use it but here are some tips for getting the most out of it (here, here and here).

I am sure that there are more services (and some that we used to use that I can't seem to find anymore - bummer).  I imagine there is a whole world of podcasts that deals with this subject too - but I haven't delved into it.  If you have places you like to go for free or cheap audio books for kids - let us know!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday with Words: Becoming a Man

Last week I met a veteran homeschool mom of nine!  She was a wealth of information.  I didn't even know the right questions to ask her - but she pulled out all kinds of stories that spoke directly to issues I have been pondering (not all things I wanted to hear).  As we were talking, she mentioned J.C. Ryle's book Thoughts for Young Men (it's an older book so download it for free).   I had heard of the author before because his Duties of Parents is free on Compass Classrooms website (where Visual Latin is sold).  I should probably re-read that one as well.

Well, he doesn't pull any punches or sugarcoat his thoughts.  He is serious.  He addresses the laxity of young men in attending church and addressing issues of the soul in the mid 1800's.  I guess some things never change!

His points are brief but well spoken. He touches subjects like sin, pride, habits, working and more.  I particularly like this image - I have been thinking about habits often lately.

I am also listening to The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle which discusses the factors that develop talent.  Deep practice over 10,000ish hours and cues in the environment that inspire to a long term desirable goal with frequent, well timed, reinforcements can help turn anyone into a super star.  Coyle provides the research and current scientific understanding of why this is true.  Every time we perform an action we are making that connection stronger - you might think of muscle memory - and that's what it is, except, now scientists think it is myelin or the coating that goes around the nerves.  So thoughtful habit development through short focused lessons on the edge of ability and a sense of community coupled with a clear vision of a desirable future life can go a long way.  Wow! Sounds pretty familiar to people who follow Charlotte Mason's ways.   Providing hope and a future.  The examples he provides are memorable although some of the information gets a bit repetitive.  My kids have been fascinated and my oldest has started practicing differently.  These are do-able things.

I am still working through Ryle's short book.  I think once my oldest is closer to 12 or 13 it is probably a good read for a father (or mentor) and son to do together - section by section.  That's how the mom I met recommended doing it.

Hope you are getting to read somewhere in the sunshine.  See what others are reading at Ladydusk.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Booklists!

Wow!!  I wasn't sure Easter would ever come.  Was that really only 40 days??  It is late this year so now everything seems like a downhill slide into the end of school.  I figure some of you planners out there might be thinking about what to do with your summer.

If you are looking for book suggestions here are some of my favorite resources:

Read Aloud Handbook - This is a classic.  I used it in middle school to find books to check out at the library and was gifted a new edition when I had my first little one.  Worth your time.

Read Aloud Revival - Here is her primary bookslist and thoughts about reading aloud (surprise) on this site.  If you haven't ever tried her podcasts - you really should.  She talks with authors, professors, moms and librarians about incorporating books into their lives.

Give Your Child the World - This book just came out last summer (and teamed with Read Aloud Revival for a summer reading challenge).  It looks at all of the continents and provides reviews of books that give you glimpses into life in that place.  The reviews are well done and offer age suggestions as well.   Totally worth having on your shelves.

Free online lists:

Ambleside Online - This curriculum is based on reading quality literature - and the whole thing is available for free, for your perusal.  You most likely won't follow the weekly outlines but to see the overview of the books they read each year click on a year on the left side bar and then click on the "YEAR ____ Curriculum, Basic Version" link.  You can scroll down and see the poetry, litearature and free reads they recommend.  If you look at the key of symbols after the suggestion you will see that MANY of them are available as free audio downloads from librivox or elsewhere.  Now you have books to listen to as you travel in the car.  Personally, I have found that many of these books might be a little tough for the age they are listed at - so it is worthwhile to look at the list of the grade your child is leaving - as well as the one they are entering.

Classical Reader  - This searchable database by grade, genre, level and author provides a great list of books.  They combine new and older books.

Sonlight Curriculum - A popular homeschool choice, it lays out all of its readers for each grade level on a variety of subjects.  After finding the "browse by grade" section, pick your grade and then hit the tab "What's Included".  Scroll past the teacher guides and just look at the books recommended and start picking what might work for you.

Beautiful Feet Books - They provide primarily history based reading lists (however they include horses, science and California history?).  I have linked to the page that has their book packages. Once you find a pack you like, click on it - then click on the picture shown so that you can get the list of books. I just look for ideas and then use the library or Half Price Books. You don't need the teacher's guide (they use a very particular interpretation of history) to find some great reads.

Wayfarers - You can see all her reading lists for the 4 different time periods and SCIENCE for FREE by clicking on the links.  She does a great job of using older books (like Ambleside) but also includes newer ones as well.  You don't need the day by day so the booklist at the beginning of the program will give you some great leads.   Once you download the PDF scroll past the first 20 pages or so (unless you want to read more about how to implement the curriculum she uses) and you will run into the bookslists - she has geography books (world and state) and history (by time period) and science (by subject area).  Your library is your friend!

We use her English Lessons Through Literature (which is excellent) program. You can check out her booklist for each grade level (just scroll down).  She does not have as many options as other lists but they are great (although not everyone is a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz series).

Memoria Press - Here are a few books for each grade level.  If you want books to help you teach the book - they provide them.  They offer only a few per grade but they are wonderful selections.

If you are looking for something more secular and school like you might want to check out the FREE Core Knowledge Sequence.  It is a long document but it outlines the whole scope and sequence and the table of contents is easy to use.  If you look in the Language Arts for each grade level you will see the poetry and literature chosen for that grade.  It includes the history areas studied in each grade but they have created their own "textbooks" to cover the topic (I did find one at goodwill once).  You can also get the "What your ____ Should Know?" series by E.D. Hirsch (I got all of these at Goodwill- people don't know what they have!).   He also wrote Books to Grow On.

I am sure that there are other great places and resources.  Share if you know some.  I hope that your days, weeks and summer are filled with great stories.  I spent all my time with Babysitter Club books and would have benefited from a bit more challenge!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday with Words: Prayer and Oswald Chambers

I am continuing my obsession with Oswald Chambers.  I have now read three of his books (they are short - well the ones I read).  He cuts to the heart of the matter and doesn't back down.  I finished If Ye Shall Ask . . . about prayer this weekend.  He talks about Jesus in the Garden praying - appropriate for this week.  He focuses on the great cost it is to Jesus for us to come before the King and Jesus' words to the disciples to "watch and pray".  His thoughts are timely:

 Man, I wish I understood this more when I was younger.  I still believed that I needed to do the work and prayer was secondary.  Chamber's emphasizes the point that prayer IS the work.  What if I had spent all that time watching and praying for my kids instead of running from event to event?  What if I had understood that this was a "watch and pray" season instead of a 'Go' and 'Do'.  Chamber's is not arguing that he never says 'Go' but rather that we often do the active without doing the prayerful.

Waiting, patience, standing under.  All of these things sound difficult.  That is why we need God to do them.  We need persevere and not faint (he jokes that fainting is easy for the person who does it - everyone else is all upset and concerned).  

Tell us what you really think?!   YIKES!!  In the end it is often true that worry is because it is going a way I don't want or don't understand instead of trusting that God is in control of EVERYTHING and he says that things will work to the good.  Do I live like I believe that?

There it is is.  Pride and personal ambition.  I truly don't want God's answer or even really His help.  I can do it, thank you very much.  I am certainly at the place now where it is pretty evident I cannot do it.  I need to stop being "too busy" and intercede in the areas he has given me insight into.  I tried to "Do" first and to little avail - lots of hard knocks and missteps.

If your child are little I encourage you to "watch and pray" and not feel the need to "go" and "do" all the time.  Man, I feel into that trap and am reaping some of the not so beautiful rewards of that.  The season will come but if prayer is the work that is something you can do wherever you are.

I pray you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Poetry

I just learned that April is Poetry Month.  Great timing because I was planning on talking about it anyway.  Poetry used to be pretty far down on my list of "important things" to teach my kids. However, as you read older books about education memorizing poetry is assumed and considered essential.  They talk about how crucial it is to kids understanding language, using their imaginations, memory, beauty and connecting with nature and history. Yes, poetry can do all this.  As you read the stories of older men - they knew their poetry and often wrote some themselves.

Poetry is truly a lost art.  Our kids rarely hear it.  Often, they read silly, playful poems (which have their place) but don't graduate to other poems.  I highly recommend just making sure your young child knows Mother Goose Rhymes.  I was shocked when my 2 yo was reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb to herself as she fell asleep the other day.  Knowing and remembering poetry can help overcome boredom, encourage bravery and do so in a much more memorable way than prose does. Poetry used to have clear "rules" and this actually encouraged great creativity.  Poetry requires precise and rich in vocabulary that help evoke great images.

What poetry should we read?  

Mother Goose Rhymes - sing them, say them, show pictures, draw pictures, tell them from memory - enjoy them!

Jack Perlutsky and Shel Silverstien (be warned not all his works are kid appropriate) are always fun favorites.  If you haven't read any Ogden Nash (this is the one we have)- my kids love his quirky poetry.

In the past, students were introduced to Longfellow, Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson and others at a young age.  There is a whole poetry rotation at Ambleside Online.

A. A. Milne, of Winnie the Pooh fame, also has some great poetry anthologies: Now We are Six and When We Were Very Young.  Casey at the Bat is a fun poem and you can get a musical retelling here.  Another poetry book for younger children is Hailstones and Halibut Bones which has color poems.

As your student hits 4th and 5th grade I highly recommend ballad poetry - the kind that tells of battles, heroic deeds, pirates, love lost and won.  Historic Poems and Ballads is the one that we are using.   It provides some background on the event and then the poem.  It is a reprint of an older book and some pages that is obvious but it hasn't interfered with our enjoyment. Another option is The Book of Heroic Verses.

What do I do with it? 

There are lots of ways to interact with poetry. Please don't just analyze it; enjoy it.  Don't kill yourself trying to memorize it - repeat the ones that you like over and again and you will learn it.  Some people recommend reading a poem three days in a row - adding a new one and repeating two older ones and then rotating.  You can also just read a new poem (or part of one) every day.  Consider having a tea time once a week where you share favorite poetry with each other over lemonade.  Share a favorite poem once a week for a few weeks and you will learn it.  Copy poetry into a place that allows you to keep lines that you love - either individually or as a family.  Maybe you would like to focus on one poet for a few weeks and get to know their work well and then move on to another.  Perhaps variety is more up your alley.  The main thing is to read poetry aloud in your home!

If you really want to make poetry memorization official you can try this program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Another option are the selections included in The Harp and Laurel Wreath. There are also compendiums of more well known poetry out there that you can use for reference:  Sing a Song of PopcornFavorite Poems Old and New, Random House Book of Poetry, 101 Famous Poems, 100 Best Loved Poems and Committed to Memory.

There is also a series of books called Poetry for Young People that gathers together the most well known lines of each poet from Robert Frost to Shakespeare to Maya Angelou to Rudyard Kipling. Each book focuses on one poet and has great artwork to accompany the lines they have chosen.

If your children are middle school and up and they enjoy poetry and you want them to learn more about analysis and poem construction The Art of Poetry or The Grammar of Poetry might help you out.  If you are looking for a poetry anthology these might provide some resources.  I am not a huge fan of their student workbooks - but it might fit your child.

I encourage you to add a bit of poetry to your life.  You never know what might happen!

Just for fun:

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.

So - -
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday with Words: Sermon on the Mount

A few weeks ago I realized that Oswald Chambers wrote more than My Utmost for His Highest.  I probably should have guessed that. I decided to look into one entitled Studies on the Sermon on the Mount. The source text is obviously incredible; however, Oswald's thoughts are to the point.  At less than 100 pages (and super big print) it is short but deep.  It was difficult to just pick a few quotes but here are a few of my favorites.

In keeping with what I am learning/ remembering from studying Charlotte Mason
The Holy Ghost is the only expounder of the teachings of Jesus.  
One of his primary contentions is that the whole Sermon is not understandable, or attainable, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In the natural man it produces despair.  Oswald asserts that
The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.  
This is not something we "try harder" to accomplish - it is a gift given and we work it out in our daily lives.  As he explains
but as you go on storing your mind with Bible knowledge, the Holy Spirit will bring back to your conscious mind the word you need and apply it to your particular circumstances.  These three things always work together - my moral intelligence, the spontaneous originality of the Holy Spirit, and the setting of a life lived in communion with God. 
Really, this is what CM discusses and calls us to remember as we teach our children.  The Holy Spirit should be their teacher and we should provide them with the Word.

Oswald goes through the text verse by verse.  Many of the thoughts in Utmost are in here as well - as you can imagine. Here are the two issues that struck me most

Ouch!  I don't intercede - I try to correct and often criticize.  He introduces this concept in the context of "judge not, lest ye be judged".  His thoughts are clear
A critical temper is a contradiction to all Our Lord's teaching. 
Oswald talks continually about how the life of faith is a life of obedience.  Is that what I am living out?

The second point starts with this thought:
Over and over again we blame God for His neglect of people by our sympathy with them, we may not put it into words but by our attitude we imply that we are filling up what God has forgotten to do. Never have that idea, never allow it to come into your mind. 
We try to do for them, take care of them, fill in.  Oswald continues:

Yes, if I would be faithful and disciplined in what I know, things would be different.  Not that it depends on me, but that God can work through me if I am doing what he has called me to do. I will be reading the sermon and this devotional for it again and again and again.  Letting it soak into me.

A few years ago we attempted to memorize it (at the time my oldest was probably 5 - yes, I am that crazy mom).  I used Ann Voskamp's guide and although I don't know it word for word (I eventually realized this wasn't happening as a group and I gave up) I do remember it's general outline.

I highly recommend this deep reading.  I had about 15 more quotes I wanted to share but these were the most impactful to me.

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Picture Book Biographies

I am a history buff and I LOVE biographies.  If they are well done, they provide a look into not only the life of the individual but the issues of the time and invite you to walk in their shoes.  Below are some picture book biographies.  Many of these are wordy and dense for a picture book- they are not meant for young children (although they can be read aloud well).  The picture book format was chosen for these stories because it allows the author to use images to further the story - not because the topics are childish.

Demi - Her works include Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Muhammed, Jesus, Saint Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Tutankhamun, Columbus and many more.

D'Aulaires - This couple created a series of picture book biographies - often using word carvings that were created into pictures.  Titles include Leif the Lucky, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill, Columbus, Pocohontas, and Abraham Lincoln.

Diane Stanley - Her books are visually inviting and detailed.  She delves into the lives of Joan of Arc, The Bard of Avon (Shakespeare), Leonardo da Vinci, Shaka, Good Queen Bess, Michaelangelo, Cleopatra, Peter the Great, and Saladin. 

Peter Sis - His books aren't strictly biographies - they are more about a specific time period or era.  They are really meant for slightly older children too - late elementary.  He looks at The Wall (Iron Curtain), Starry Messenger (Galileo), Follow the Dream (Christopher Columbus), The Tree of Life (Darwin).

Aliki - This author has written books on a number of themes but his historical books are not to be missed.  Their pictures are great as is the information he provides. Titles include The Medieval Feast, William Shakespeare and the Globe, Mummies Made in Egypt, A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver, The Story of Johnny Appleseed, The Story of William Tell, The King's Day: Louis XIV of France, and The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin. 

Jean Fritz - She has written lots of historical fiction and some are picture books and others are longer.  Her books don't have gorgeous pictures but there is quite a bit of meat to the text she provides for the age she is addressing.  Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?, Shh . . We're Writing the Constitution,  And Then What Happened, Paul Revere, George Washington's Breakfast, What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? and You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? and others are her picture books.  The stories with questions in the titles are for the youngest set.  She then has chapter books about Sam Houston, Teddy Roosevelt and others.

Although Robert Coles wrote mostly for adults about children, this is one of my very favorite biographies, The Story of Ruby Bridges.  It doesn't cover her full life but the episode it describes is powerful. He was the psychologist assigned to her as she helped desegregate Louisiana schools.  He is one of my very favorite authors, but I digress (try The Call of Stories).

I have not read ALL of these titles but I have read at least a few books by each of these authors.  I do encourage you to preview them because these are written about historical figures so they will all have some type of bias or approach. Older books tend to romanticize characters a bit more and newer books often have less of a "hero" factor in their presentation.  All of them have a place and provide a great opportunity to discuss perspective with your children.

Although these are picture books many will require more than one sitting to complete.  Remember to take your time and enjoy the story.  Do you have any other titles or authors you would recommend in this category?  Happy reading!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Freedom of Not Knowing

Watching my oldest learn to play violin has made me realize something about myself.  He just changed teachers in January and in the past three months has worked hard and improved significantly. His teacher knows his stuff and challenges my son well.  As I look at how far he has come and celebrate; I know that his teacher looks at where he is and focuses on how much further he has to go. This is rare for me.  I am often the focusing on his future instead of being with him in the present moment.  It is my loss.  

What is the difference? 

I trust the guide.   Between my in-laws (his patrons) and his teacher I know that they are making the best choices for him.  It puts me in the unique position (especially as a homeschooling mom) to sit back and celebrate with him.  I don't stress about what he "should" be doing and when - because I don't know.  I can't critique his work well so I just enjoy it for what it is.  I can see that he is improving in his own ways because I am not comparing him to some other standard in my head.  

What if I did this more with my children?  What if I focused on celebrating how far they have come instead of fretting over what I know they don't know - yet?  What if I just trusted someone who has been at it longer than I have and followed their steps - instead of constantly trying to create my own path?  What if I was more of a cheerleader instead of a fault finder?  What if I made choices out of love and joy instead of fear of what he is missing, or doesn't know?  

The truth is, in the end, I really don't know what my child's path will be.  However, I know the one who does.  Am I leaning into His wisdom and grace and love for my son?  Am I trusting that He is a good guide, so I can enjoy the journey?  Am I rejoicing in who this child is and how God has made him - uniquely - not in the snowflake way - but in the sense that God doesn't make mistakes and knows this child better than I do.  Do I trust too much on my own understanding (often founded in fear) to the peril of our relationship?  Why do I not trust the one who created him and promises a "good plan" - not an easy, happy go lucky one - but a good one in the truest sense of the word?

Sometimes, being in the dark has its advantages.  This has been a sweet surprise for me - the trying -to - retire - control freak.