Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our First Poetry Smoothietime!


















We are so excited about starting Brave Writer this year!

(I will be writing more about Brave Writer (BW) soon. Also, keep watch for a BW giveaway coming soon!)

We all have those areas of homeschooling we are petrified just a little afraid to teach...poetry is one of those ares for me. I am a rather black and white person-- not exactly the abstract type. ;)

Up until this point we have covered poetry through whatever poems come up to memorize in First Language Lessons.

Our first week of the 2013-2014 school year, brought our first foray into the world of Brave Writer Poetry teas-- Teatime Tuesday. Well, we are not really tea drinkers (ducks and hides) and while I love the idea...I thought in order to hook my kids, I probably should offer them something that they would LOVE and get excited about-- smoothies it is!

Following the BW instructions I put a table cloth on the table (well, the closest thing to a table cloth I had!), a candle in the middle, broke out some of the poetry books we had on our shelf, made some smoothies, and called in the troops.
   
                           

The kids perused the poetry books (that they had never laid hands on before), and each chose one to read aloud. C chose for me to read his for him and I was ok with that. We read poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rosetti, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The one I chose was by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and we read some of the fun facts about her life in The Child's Introduction to Poetry.


                             


      


After reading our poems, we added our own twist to end our poetry "smoothie" time. BW suggests ending with a read aloud. However, going along with one of BW's Jot it Down writing projects we are doing, we plan to read a fairy tale to end our poetry time. Jot it Down has a fairy tale writing project where the kids write their own summaries of fairy tales and make their own books. So much fun! The kids loved reading the story The Snow Queen. It was a new one for all of us!

Our first Poetry Smoothie Tuesday was a success, the kids were begging for more! I love it! It may not be tea, and it may never again be on a Tuesday, but it it was great fun anyway!

I have always been so nervous about teaching poetry, but Brave Writer's Guide to teaching poetry, and poetry teas are such great starting points! I am finding that I myself an growing a great appreciation for poetry and am loving sharing that excitement with my little people!

Brave Writer has been a breath of fresh air in our homeschool.  I look forward to sharing more about Brave Writer soon!


Check out how the other Homeschool Help Series 
bloggers tackle poetry

Lucinda

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I call myself....Christian Classically Eccelctic

What do we do? How do we do it? Why do we do it? We all have a homeschooling style or method.

Yes, you do, whether you know what it is or not! ;) And yes, eclectic IS a style. I find myself pretty eclectic...but with deep roots in classical education.

I remember sitting in a classroom in college after having read The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis and The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers and within me, certain truths of education and learning took root. Along with an understanding of why things in public schools and society as a whole were so far from ideal.

I was amazed how the education classes I took at the same time as my Christian Studies classes...at the same school often in the same building...truly rivaled one another in theory and foundation. I sat in Christian studies classes that taught Biblical Worldview, Christian Doctrine, the Centrality of not only God's Word, but the written word, the necessity of absolute truth, of moral absolutes. Yet in another classroom down the hall I heard of classroom collaboration and facilitation. It seemed harmless until you recognize that those ideas were based solely on the acceptance that truth and knowledge are found within... you need only find it within yourself. Modern education philosophy is based in social constructionism-- the idea that society develops their own version of truth and ideals.

So, what was I to do? The ideas of collaboration and facilitation and other methods I was learning are not inherently evil...they are good ideas. Just foundationally incomplete. If we can collaborate to find truth outside of yourself..in God's Word...great! If you can facilitate learning by gently leading your children to truth and exciting them to find the truth...wonderful! The methods and ideas I learned were not bad. They were simply not enough alone.

Early in my homeschooling endeavor I read The Well Trained Mind by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, and it simply resonated with me. It supplied a road map for the theory of education I already believed in.

However, it is never my intention to place myself or my children in an educational box. I never plan to close off our techniques or learning desires because they don't fit my "style," but there are certain truths -- deep truths that govern my homeschool and curriculum decisions. Not so much WHAT we learn (content) but more HOW we learn.

This has led me to my own style-- Christian Classically Eclectic. A mouthful isn't it? :)



Christian

First and foremost, our home is Christian. Our education is Christian. We cannot separate our faith nor do we want to. We believe in the infallible inherent Word of God. We believe in absolute truth. We believe in imparting knowledge of God, His Son, His Word, His Creation, and His ministry, to our children. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the heart of who we are and what we do. He is the why. We homeschool ultimately to raise Biblically sound, Gospel proclaiming, righteousness seeking servants and warriors for the Kingdom of God. Everything we do...we do to this end.

Now, this doesn't mean we only use Christian curriculum or every page of our math has to have a Bible verse on it. As extreme and radical a goal we have-- math is math. We use resources. Christian, secular...it doesn't matter if it works to our end. If it goes against what we believe, odds are we won't use it...but if it remains silent and still meets the needs we have at that moment...it works. We teach from a Biblical worldview. WE do. Not our curriculum. Sure, often the curriculum helps, and I appreciate that, but I don't automatically count out something because of the publisher.

Classical

We are not classical homeschoolers for the sake of being classical homeschoolers. And honestly? When we wanted to study U.S. history this year, we did..regardless that it is not the "plan" outlined in the Well Trained Mind. To me, classical education is not about content. However, there are certain truths that ground us, certain roots of classical education that draw us in. It is these roots that hold us tight.

The Trivium

I believe in classical education-- the foundation of it. I believe there is merit in the understanding of the three stages of learning-- the Trivium: the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage. These developmental stages make sense to me.

Centrality of the written word

The importance of the written word is important to me. I am not saying we don't or won't use videos, interactive computer games, or technology...but the centrality of our educational pursuits is with the written word. We love books.

Systematic

I love the cycles of classical education. Chronological history just makes sense. Being language based and being rooted in the written word by studying grammar, spelling, and writing-- makes sense. It is through the written word that we express ourselves. Our ability to communicate efficiently and accurately is paramount to every area of life.

However, systematic, can be defined many ways. Even unschoolers can study systematically. You characterize and study topics if not whole years. This is not solely about content. I feel free to step outside of chronological history cycles or science cycles to meet our families needs. Being systematic often can be in logical reasoning about something...not a years worth of content planning.

Rigorous

I believe in challenging my kids. I believe in early education. I don't buy into the whole "it's just kindergarten" or "it's just first grade." I believe in enjoying the learning process. I believe in having fun, cuddling on the couch and reading good books. Rigor does not mean 8 hours of school a day. It means we are intentional about pursuing academic excellence.

Truth, Beauty, and Virtue

This may be one of the most critical elements of classical education for me. The pursuit of truth, beauty, and virtue. I can talk about this forever so I will be short here and expound upon it someday soon. Truth, beauty, and virtue are absolutes. They are not self defined... they are founded in God's Word and in God Himself. God is Truth. God is Beauty. God is Virtue. I desire to teach my children the meaning and beauty of these truths. How to look for them in others, themselves, and the world around them. I want to read a book and lead them to find the truth, the beauty, and the virtue within. To take time to discover, discuss, and recognize the importance of such absolutes.

Eclectic

My roots are in classical education. Not content, curriculum, publishers, or cycles. Those are all negotiable. As far as curriculum we find what works for us, with our end goal always in mind. Curriculum is a means to an end. They are resources. What works one year will not work another. What works for one child may not (probably won't!) work for another.

We want to facilitate a love of learning. Make curriculum work for you, not be a slave to it. This week my kids are enamored by the Hopi Indians. We spend a lot time making pueblos and Hopi scenes, playing Hopi children's games. My schedule, not a curriculum's. Next year, they won't remember much about our curriculum, but they will remember that Hopi children shot arrows through rolling hoops.

To Wrap it Up:

What we do is deeply rooted in certain truths, but the day to day execution of such truths is extremely flexible and eclectic. I may love classical education, but I love my kids more than any style or method. So, I take the truths of why I love classical education and apply those truth no matter what content we are studying. Teaching styles are all about what you believe in and why, and what and how you want to communicate that to your kids. It's personal, it probably will change! And ultimately it's not about methods for me, it's about some simple truths that can be communicated into any style we choose.


Check out what's the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers have to say about their homeschooling styles

Lucinda

Monday, August 19, 2013

Phonics Toss

Teaching a boy how to read has had me embracing my creative side! 

One fun activity we have found is what I call "phonics toss."

While others are buying pencils and paper for school supplies, I raided the Target dollar section for $1 beach balls. I stocked up! 

We started playing it last year with vowel sounds, new phonograms, words he was challenged by, and the few sight words we did. It was a huge hit! 

             


      

We just started our second phonics ball for new phonograms and he is no less enthrall we with the game. What a fun way to practice! 


You can use dry erase markers to reuse it but I found it can be a little messy. :) I just have been using sharpies and adding to the ball until its full and then starting over. As of yet I haven't carried over any sounds from the previous ball because after playing it a few times he has then down! 



                   

My kids love games, and I love games that take little to no preparation and no mess! :)

This game can be varied for so many different things: Bible verse review, math facts, Foreign language vocabulary, alphabet for little ones, history or science review...the possibilities are endless.

Make it fun, make it stick!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Our Home: A Training Ground

As I cleaned my house this afternoon after spending over 4 hours at my kids swim meet, I was very grateful for my little helpers. As they went to work alongside me, I resisted the temptation to go behind them and get the spot on the table they missed or the Cheerio on the floor that got missed by the vacuum...why? Because my house is a training ground. We have guests coming over later and guess what? My house won't be spotless. (No worries. It never is!)

I don't want to go behind them and redo everything (well... I WANT to) because that would minimize their help and contribution. I want them to know they are valuable and when they have done their best-- it is appreciated...even when their best is not perfect. Because they are little, we are still training them.

Our home is where they practice. We rotate jobs so things do get thoroughly done at least once in awhile! I am ok with it not being perfect, most of the time...it has been a process for me. I keep reminding myself it really is ok. A little self talk goes a long way! ;)

Our home is not only a training ground for cleaning and domestic tasks, but also for manners, behavior, and yes...education.

Many home educators have a spot in their home where the "action" happens. It might be a homeschool room or a kitchen table or dining room. We are very blessed to have a school room. I redid it last year and so other than a ridiculous amount of books being added to the shelves not much changed since then. You can see details and how it is organized here.


But truthfully? Most of the magic doesn't happen within those four walls. I love the space, we even use it regularly...but a lot happens ...

At the kitchen table...


In their bedrooms...


On comfy living room chairs...


On the climber in the play room...


On bean bags...


On the couch with friends...


Under the dining room table ... (sometimes a quiet place is hard to find!)


Or even at the pool...



Education happens where we are...wherever and whenever. Inside, outside, on top, down below...that's just geography. The heart of learning is when children are given room to learn-- to explore, to make mistakes, and to grow.

I must constantly remind myself that our home is to facilitate learning -- from laundry to multiplication -- to allow learning to permeate our lives. Learning doesn't only take place in the schoolroom-- it happens through life very day. This is a super hard lesson for this Type A mama! 



Check out what's new in the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers homeschool rooms! 




Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses-- It's New in Our School
Bernadette @ Barefoot Hippie Girl-- A Room of Our Own
Julie @ Highhill Homeschool-- Our SchoolRoom
Savannah @ HammockTracks-- The Learning Nook
Lucinda @ Navigating By Joy- 5 Steps to an Organized Homeschool Space



Also linking up with the Not Back to School Blog Hop on iHomeschool Network!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Homeschool Goals 2013-2014 -- Engaging Your Learners!

Each year it seems that God lays something on my heart to focus on with my children-- my homeschool goal for that year. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the refining it is for me! 

This year my homeschool goal is simple: Engage. 


                                           


One simple word, but yet full of meaning and conviction. 

From Dictionary.com:

en·gage  

/enˈgāj/
Verb
  1. Occupy, attract, or involve (someone's interest or attention).
  2. Cause someone to become involved in (a conversation or discussion).



So, let's break it down.

Attract

Have you ever been so excited about a topic or a curriculum only to be met with your child's glazed over eyes? Shocking right??? How on earth can they not be excited about Shakespeare or Martin Luther?!?!

Well, something along the line drew us into the topics and subjects we are excited about. Something ENGAGED us. Our ears perk up when we hear those topics and we seek them out. 

A love of the Rennaisance or the Reformation is not innate. It must be cultivated. I must demonstrate my love and passion, and then BE PATIENT with them as they develop their own loves and passions.

To attract my kids I need to be patient--they are turned off by my frustration. Yeah. duh. I know. 

Not everything is going to be fun and exciting...but I definitely need to make MY attitude attractive. 


Involve

Include Their Preferences

I don't always involve or include my children in WHAT we are studying. And I don't necessarily think that is wrong. We have to study Bible, math, grammar, spelling, writing, reading, science, history, etc. There are subjects I have deemed important for whatever reason. But I can involve them in HOW we study these subjects. My kids are crafty. I am doing what I can to give them every opportunity to color, cut, and paste to their hearts content. If it involved glue and scissors they are engaged! I involve their preferences when possible. It is amazing how art paper and colored markers will engage my daughter in writing spelling words. Or placing a mini chocolate chip at the end of each section of my sons reading page. Often, it is the simple things.



                                              


Discuss

I also need to involve them in the learning process. It's not just about "teaching" them or teaching "at them" or "to them." To engage them, I must elicit response and discussion. Engage the material. Talk about it, dialog, narrate. Make retellings and narrations a part of the learning process and not just a task to be checked off. My kids remember much more of what we discuss than just what we read. 

Narrower and Deeper

It is because of this fact that we shifted our history and science focus this year. Instead of a mile wide and and inch deep, we are going for a narrower and deeper scope. I would rather cover less, and have them ENGAGED. I am fully prepared to cross weeks off of our history plans because maybe the Pilgrims and Squanto caught their interest and we camped out there. I want them to be excited about what we are studying...in order to do that I need to allow them a higher level of involvement. 

Seize Learning Opportunities

I am a planner. I love plans, lists, charts...but the best homeschool plans are plans that can be changed. When we read The Red Sales to Capri, my kids were enthralled as we researched the Blue Grotto in Italy. It was so much fun. Mr. Popper's Penguins gave my kids a great interest in Antarctica and penguins. They may never be that interested in that topic ever again-- seize the opportunity-- take time to deviate and actually learn! 

Slow Down.

Engaging doesn't happen when you are box checking. I like to "complete" things. I hate skipping anything so I get how hard it can be. But in order to engage...a lot of the time less is more. Not less time invested, not less time learning...just less time doing that which is not sticking and more time engaging in that which is being embedded in their hearts and minds. 


Teach

I know this seems silly. (and yes, I know this wasn't in the definition!) So, duh, of course we are going to teach, we are homeschooling! What does teaching have to do with engaging? Well, maybe I am the only one to experience this but... You just deliver this wonderful math lesson (it's fully scripted so of course it was awesome!) only to present the worksheet to your child and then see their glazed over eyes staring at it like it is written in Greek.

ok, so of course you sweetly smile at your eager little learner and reteach the lesson in your most gentle and patient voice. 

No?

Yeah, not so much here either...All to often, I get FRUSTRATED when my darling little learners don't get it the first time. We know how to do it, I just explained it-- why don't they get it?!?!? 
This attitude is ridiculous--I know that. They are LITTLE and chances are this is NEW. 

Reality Flash: They may not get it the first time. (Why is that so hard for me to remember!?!?!)

Sigh. 

You mean we actually have to TEACH? Not just read the script and expect immediate retention? So, you can see why the whole "teach" thing is not such a given for me! ;) This year, I want to teach...not read scripts or lessons, but engage my learner until they...get this... learn. 


Enage. It seemed so simple right? I guess it is. It just takes time, patience, and flexibility. All things homeschool moms have an abundance of right!?!?! ;) 




Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Somethings Old, Somethings New: Curriculum Edition

A new school year is upon us!

Every year there is always that new curriculum that makes starting the school year just a little more exciting, and a few tried and true that keep you from losing your mind!

Entering our fourth year of homeschooling. I am finally settling in some with what I know works and what doesn't. We have "old faithful" curriculum that I don't even have to research at all, and others that alas, I  lost count of the hours spent in making a decision!

Somethings Old:

A few of our "Old Faithfuls" are Math Mammoth, Bible Study Guide for All Ages, First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease, All About Spelling, All About Reading, Handwriting without Tears.  It's a great line up!

I love it when I don't even have to look at other options.

I feel safe and secure with these tried and true for our family choices, but each year there is a subject or two that just needs a switch for a plethora of reasons. What works for one child does not always work for another...and what worked last year may not work this year. That would be way too simple! ;)

For example, last year, our writing curriculum for E was no longer working. I looked high and low for a writing curriculum to fit my natural writer who gets easily anxious trying to seek perfection....all to no avail. Everything seemed so formulated and forced. I wanted to integrate writing across the curriculum, but wanted a non-cumbersome guide to help.


Somethings New!!!

I read about Brave Writer on the Well Trained Mind Forums and took the leap and ordered the e-book of The Writers Jungle from The Homeschool Buyers Co-op.


I was hooked! The day to day focus on relationship and routine has resonated greatly with me.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in the last four years of homeschooling is to choose curriculum that will compensate for your weaknesses. I believe Brave Writer will do this for us this year.

Another new curriculum for us this year is history.  For the first time ever we are venturing out on our own completely in this area -- exciting but scary! We will be studying the first part of U.S. history and I can't wait to introduce my kids to the wonderful stories of George Washington, Pocahontas, the Pilgrims, and Lewis and Clark! 

One of the great things about homeschooling is as you go you learn how your kids like to learn and how you like to teach-- it was a good bit of work to put together our own history but I am thrilled with our schedule, coloring pages, notebooking pages, and timeline cards



Another new curriculum this year is science. We are so excited to be trying Education Exploration Physical Science this year. Interactive science on the computer with a kit containing everything you need. And we plan to do it with friends--even more fun! So excited that this plan actually might get done! :)



A little something new and shiny always brings a little excitement (and yes a little trepidation!) :) But I am so grateful for the tried and true curriculum that grounds me each year and keeps me from being overwhelmed. I love the balance of somethings old and somethings new! 

One of my main homeschooling goals for the year is to "engage" my children. To take time to dig deeper, to discuss, ask questions... engage...and LEARN. I think it's going to be a great year!

Check out what's new with the Homeschool Help Series bloggers! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

2013-2014 Curriculum

The hours researching, reading reviews, talking to friends, going to conventions... the headaches and worry all for this simple list. Crazy isn't it?!?! ;) And then of course there is the painful reality that not everything on this list will be completed. <GASP> or even make it into September <Horrors!> Just trying to keep it real! ;)

So ... here it is! The 2013-2014 Curriculum lineup!!! <cue drum roll>




E: 3rd Grade




Math: Math Mammoth 3B-4A




Language Arts-- 
     Grammar: First Language Lessons 3



     Writing: Brave Writer



     Spelling: Finish All About Spelling 4 and then Rod & Staff Spelling 4

     Handwriting: Write Through the Bible

     Reading: Sonlight Core D readers

Art: Mark Kistler online drawing lessons



Extras: piano and gymnastics


C: 1st Grade



Math: Math Mammoth 1B-2A
                                                    
Language Arts-- 
     Grammar: First Language Lessons 1

     Writing: Writing with Ease/ Brave Writer

     Spelling: All About Spelling (starting in the spring)

     Handwriting: Handwriting without Tears 1

     Phonics: All About Reading (finish level 2- level 3)



Extras: Swimming and Basketball

J: Pre-K 3



All About Reading Pre-level 1



Handwriting without Tears Pre-K



Extras: Gymnastics, Music Together

E, C, & J TOGETHER:

Bible: Bible Study Guide for All Ages Unit 3 




E&C TOGETHER

Science: Education Exploration Physical Science



History: U.S. History Part 1 




Foreign Language:

Song School Latin

Conversational Spanish


Pheww! That is a lot!!! We won't do all of it every day... in fact, I am pretty sure we won't do all of it at all! :) But we plan to work hard at learning and have a great time doing it! We are so excited to dive into all of these fun resources! 

Linking up with the NOT Back to School Blog Hop!




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