Monday, July 18, 2016

Keeping Company: Pilgrim's Inn


Lucilla knew always, and Nadine knew in her more domesticated moments, that it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil.  But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended on their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood.   ~ Pilgrim's Inn, Elizabeth Goudge, p. 48 

This is the first book I've read by Goudge, but it certainly won't be the last.  What a beautiful writing, and such memorable characters!  And her descriptions of the Pilgrim's Inn and Damerosehay...  I so hope there are places like that in the world.

I'm trying to shore up my commonplacing habit this summer, and I've decided to take a cue from how I have my kids do some of their work.  If I plan to spend about 30 minutes with a "stiffer" book I'm reading, I break it up into about 20 minutes of reading and the remainder for writing in my commonplace.  I either write quotes from what I've just read, so I copy something from an easier book I am reading in the evenings.  I appreciate not having to find another chunk of time for just writing, and it makes the commonplacing much more likely to happen.

Currently Reading (by category)


Lighter Non-Fiction


  • A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell (because I am fascinated by bees and would love to have a couple hives someday)


Continuing Education



Fiction


Faith

  • Catena Aurea - The Gospel of St. John (I started this in January thinking it would be the year's focus...  but as I'm only about halfway through Ch. 5, I think I'll be working on it a lot longer than that!  But I love it, and I am so glad I'm continuing to read and ponder it)
  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (ok, so I haven't actually started this yet, but I will - soon! -  maybe even today!)




 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Year in Review: Y8 (2015-2016)

Before I start planning our new year, I like to spend some time reviewing this past school year, the materials we used, and the changes we made.  I'd like to share not only what I planned, but also what I ended up actually doing.  I think one of the greatest shortcomings in homeschooling blogs is that we're great at sharing all the wonderful things that we want to do and plan to do, but not so great at following up and sharing what actually worked, what we bailed on halfway through, or what sounded like a great idea but never really got off the ground.

My plan for my daughter's Y8 work owes a great debt to the work of the amazing women at Ambleside Online.  However, I departed in many ways from their programme in Y8, so I don't feel I can call this an AO review as I have with Y2 and Y4.  My changes largely reflect my desire to give more of the Catholic side of the story of the Reformation, to read and discuss a great work of literature with her, and to pick a few books that I thought would speak to her more than some of Ambleside Online's choices.

Here is the review of Y7 from last year.  I'll be using a similar format in this year's review.  Emma is still a part of all our family studies, which I've detailed in a previous post.

I asked Emma to share some photos of some of the things she has created over the course of the school year, and you'll see some different examples of her work below.  All the photos are hers as well.

Earring and necklace set

Daily and Weekly Subjects


Narration


Emma narrates each of her readings, generally between finishing her math and lunch and in the late afternoon while we are making dinner.  If we have an afternoon event, she will usually narrate in the car.  She writes one narration each day, although towards the end of the year that wasn't as consistent. There were a few books where I assigned written narrations, like Bacon's Essays, but for the most part she picked which reading she used for her written narration.

Towards the end of y7 we set her up with a private Wordpress blog and she writes all her narrations there, with the exception of her science ones.  The science narrations go in her science notebook, and they stay separate because they usually have a sketch or diagram to go with them.  On the blog, they  all tagged by book and nicely ordered.  It is password protected and my husband and I are the only ones who have access to it.  I get an email each time she posts a new narration, and this has made it easy for me to keep up with reading them.  I seldom find spelling or grammatical errors in her narrations, but I will occasionally ask her to add more detail.  Her narrations are generally a delight to read, full of big thoughts and well chosen phrases.

Writing


I have not done any formal writing program with Emma since we had a complete and utter fail with a progymnasmata program in 3rd grade (can I admit that publicly?).  Since then all she has done is narrate, narrate, narrate, and I am extremely pleased with her ability to share her thoughts in her writing and how she already shapes her argument and narrative.  Her writing is enjoyable to read, well worded, and worth reading.  Narration works, and it is for a very long time.

Occasionally I will ask her to revise and polish a narration, and this year I have started asking her to add supporting quotes to some of her written narrations.  In her written narrations for Bacon's Essays, I asked her to do things like make an outline of Bacon's argument, restate his argument in your own words, write a bulleted list of the pros Bacon lists about a subject and the cons, as well as the more standard written narration.  

This spring she's started writing a novel, and right now it is about 30,000 words into it and going strong.  And for the most part, the book is a delight to read.  There's a few parts that need some work, and she recognizes that and is willing to go back and polish when the time comes.  But that seems like that should be expected - after all, who writes a perfect first draft?

These earrings are her signature pieces right now, and she's sold quite a few of them.


Keeping


Emma should be writing in her commonplace, but is not.  I have not tried to make that a requirement, although I probably should.

I am requiring a weekly nature study entry, although I was letting her do this with photographs on her narrations blog for a little while.  I think that was a mistake, and I am now requiring a weekly nature journal entry from everyone - including me!

Emma has continued her Book of Centuries from last year, and is adding a couple entries a week.  I've also assigned her to create some timelines of people's lives or eventful periods (Galileo, English Reformation) and those were a mixed success.  Lack of inspection on my part was a real problem.

Emma keeps a science notebook, and adds sketches and diagrams as well as some narrating from her science reading a couple times a week.

Dictation and Grammar


In order to make dictation happen at least a little more often, I started using Simply Charlotte Mason's Spelling Wisdom Book 4 with Emma.  This has worked extremely well, and has had the additional bonus of introducing Emma to some new books.  We try to do dictation twice a week, but I think we probably averaged just a little over once a week.

For grammar, I tried using Our Mother Tongue again but just didn't find it working for Emma.  I ended up buying IEW's Fix-It Book 2 for Emma and I'm having her do for about 10 minutes 3-4 times a week.  She is not doing the copywork or the vocabulary aspects of the curriculum.  I wouldn't say it is the greatest thing out there for grammar, but it is working well for her where she is at and helping her to move forward.  As a principle I don't like having kids study things that are wrong, but I think she's old enough that the copy-editing practice is helpful.

Classical Languages


Last year Emma studied both Greek and Latin, but over the summer we decided to drop Greek.  We didn't have enough room in the schedule to do them both justice, and I decided Latin was the more important one for her to continue to study.  

She's continued to move slowly through Henle Book 1, working 30 minutes at a time, 3-4 days a week.  She has picked up speed this year, and is moving through it more quickly than in previous years.

A lovely scarf she knitted - she has an even more elaborate one on her needles right now


Spanish


Emma has continued to use Rosetta Stone for about 15 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week.  She also has continued to use Duolingo, doing 1-2 sessions a day.  In addition to this work, she is spending about 15 minutes three times a week on Spanish translation from First Spanish Reader.  She is also studying Spanish grammar by reading a section of Essential Spanish Grammar 1-2 times a week and writing a written narration.  

Math


Emma has been using the Life of Fred books for several years now, and they've worked well for her.  She is most of the way through the Algebra book at this point.  She's found the Life of Fred books very self-explanatory and only occasionally needs help from me.  I do check her work at each city to keep abreast of how she's doing.  During the summer she's changing gears and working through some of the Khan Academy Algebra materials.  She's enjoying the review and the different presentation of the material.  I'm not quite sure what we'll do in the Fall.

Geography


For Geography review, I have her using the TapQuiz Maps app two to three times a week.  I also have her look up locations for her reading, and she has a large map of Britain and Ireland next to her work area that gets a fair amount of use.  I also have her doing a map drill of the shires of England 1-2 times a week.  This is challenging work, but I think she's finding it helpful in her reading.  I should probably have started it a lot earlier.

Handicrafts


Emma is a handicrafts superstar.  This year she's started selling earrings that she designed, set up an Etsy shop, is learning how to make baskets, worked with clay, knitted, crocheted, sketched, painted, explored cartography...  the list goes on and on!  

Her first basket

The Booklist


Titles in Bold are books we used and finished all I had scheduled, books in Italics are books we abandoned or didn't even begin, and books in plain type are books we put in some work on, but did not complete as scheduled.  

*Books with asterisks are her favorites.  
+Books with a plus are ones I read as she was reading them.


Faith

A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture
*+Christianity, Pure and Simple
+The Family that Overtook Christ
The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

Additional Notes - In the third term I decided I needed something a little shorter and easier than The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, so I picked The Family That Overtook Christ because I think it is a must read.  It would probably be better as a Y7 book, but oh well.


History

+The Great Heresies (one chapter) by Belloc
+The New World (Churchill)
+Characters of the Reformation by Belloc
+Speeches/Docs as selected by Ambleside Online
+Pilgrim Journal
The Voyage of the Spanish Armada
*+1491
+Life of Francis Bacon
Everyman
*+Man for All Seasons
Coffin for King Charles
Charles II: The Last Rally
*+Galileo’s Daughter

Additional Notes -
  • Next time I would skip The Great Heresies.  It has some interesting ideas, but it was too complex and had too much assumed knowledge for Emma to get much out of it.  
  • Characters of the Reformation was a little uneven - some chapters were excellent, others were decent, and some felt like filler.  Next time I think I'll just assign some of the chapters rather than the whole book.  
  • Reading 1491 was a fantastic read for this year.  It was also fascinating to read the back story of what was going on in the Americas when the Pilgrims arrived, and to gain a fuller understanding of the New World.  This book sparked lots of great discussions!
  • I assigned (as usual) too much this year.  Thankfully I realized it early enough to pull some books so I could lighten her load.  It all was still probably a little too much, but it was much better than it would have been otherwise.
These are made out of Sculpy - aren't they amazing?


Literature

+Utopia
I, Promessi
+Come Rack, Come Rope
*+Faerie Queene

Additional Notes -
  • I moved I, Promessi to her free reads list because I needed to remove some books.  She hasn't read it yet, but I'm going to bring it up to her again soon.  I read it a few years ago and I thought it was wonderful!
  • I used a different version of the Faerie Queene than what Ambleside Online recommends.  We felt like it dumbed down the Faerie Queene, and added help that wasn't necessary.  We were also very interested to notice that some of the interpretations of the allegories that the editor gave in a canonical manner were quite different from the interpretations offered by the editor of the version I got from Project Gutenberg.  
  • Come Rack, Come Rope is a great book to read in Y8.  It gives a good view of the Catholic side of the English Reformation in a way that is very matter of fact and not incendiary.  The author isn't trying to make the Protestants out to be all bad guys, rather he's trying to tell the story of the people who tried to remain Catholic in a very difficult period of history. 


Geography

Geoge Morison's Columbus
Book of Marvels

Additional Notes - I decided to cut them both, letting the geography in our family reading and in Emma's other books stand in for this year's geography reading.


Science

Chemical History of a Candle
+Briefer History of Time
+William Harvey On the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood
+Adventures with a Microscope
*+The Sea Around Us
Brother Astronomer
+Microbe Hunters
The Great Courses:  Our Night Sky
The Great Courses: Experiencing Hubble
Assembling California

Additional Notes -
  • This was a tough year to plan science.  I had to get it planned before the new AO science recommendations were out, and ended up with a hodge-podge of books and resources.  I felt like it was an ok science year, but not a great one.
  • We did not do all of the experiments in A Chemical History of a Candle.  Having Kathy's study guide was great, but even still it was quite an effort to get Emma to do them...  and I wasn't sure how much I should take the lead in getting them done.
  • I had really wanted to use these Great Courses lectures, but it turns out that one course is all I can make time for, and Emma won't do it on her own.  I decided to prioritize the Dante course, which I think was the right choice, but I think these other courses would have been a great addition to the year.
  • I am really looking forward to going to Nicole William's science immersion at the CMI Western Conference in August!  I'm hoping it will make science a lot easier to plan and a much better experience for our family in the years to come.


Natural History

*Arctic Dreams

Additional Notes - I loved this book!  It was especially wonderful to read after having spent three weeks in Alaska last summer.  I highly recommend it.


Citizenship

+Ourselves
+Bacon's Essays
+Pepys
*+Whatever Happened to Justice..? 
+The Story of the Constitution by Tappan
How to Read a Book

Additional Notes - 
  • I've been having Emma read 15 minutes of How to Read a Book each week, but that isn't enough to get us to where we're supposed to be according to AO's schedule.  Oh well.  
  • Whatever Happened to Justice...? was one that sparked a lot of conversation.  Sometimes it is good to read a book that you argue with so you can hone your thinking.  We had a lot of good conversations about concupiscence this year, and how damaging it is...  as well as conversations about how we aren't made for this world, and we can't expect to be able to recreate Eden.  Reading Utopia played into these conversations a great deal too.  
  • The two Constitution materials were a last minute addition to satisfy a charter school requirement, and they left something to be desired.  But they were better than the textbook that the charter offered, so at least there's that.
And a note by Emma -

  • I have noted Whatever Happened to Justice as one of my favorite books; not because I agree with all of what he says, but I have marked it rather because... well, because I liked arguing with it (highly enjoyable and stimulating, if a bit warlike) and enjoyed discussing it with Mom.


Poetry

Grammar of Poetry (carry over from last year)
*+Inferno
*+Purgatorio
Paradiso

Additional Notes - I had scheduled out reading the Divine Comedy over the course of the year, but it was something where I needed to be highly involved.  We were supposed to watch a new lecture at least every other week and read and discuss 2-3 Cantos each week.  And there were some weeks when it just didn't happen like it was supposed to, so we gradually drifted behind.  But we had some wonderful discussions, and I think our study of Dante's Comedia was a highlight of the year.  We really enjoyed the Great Courses lecture series, it added a lot to our reading and study of the work.  (But please buy it on sale!!)  

Reading Dante's Divine Comedy, even though it was written earlier than the historical time period Emma studied this year, was such a wonderful complement to all our reading of schism and reformation.  Dante doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the corruption of the Church - after all, he has popes in hell! - but yet he has a vision of the Church that is greater than the corruption of individuals. And this vision, with the deep repentance Dante models in his poem, is a welcome antidote to all the worldly wars and power struggles that consumed the Western World during this time period.
This is a piece that started as a sketch, then she took a picture of it, imported it into a graphics program on her iPad, traced over it all and cleaned it up, and now has it ready to print or use in other ways.


Art

*+The Story of Art by Gombrich

Additional Notes - I'm so glad I happened to find a new edition of this book at the library book sale, because this new version has all color pictures!  That makes the book even more enjoyable.

Favorites from Emma's Reading


I keep a record of all of Emma's reading, and I asked her to look through the list and select some favorites.  She had lots of favorites this year!  Some of the books are re-reads.  None of these books were assigned, they were all ones she chose because they were on our shelves, were gifts, or were books I had downloaded.  She does check with me before she picks up a new book
, but I do not do much more than offer a lot of good books in our home and on our Kindles.

Tunnel in the Sky, Heinlein
Foundation Series, Asimov
Complete Collection of Short Stories, Twain
The Trees of Pride, Chesterton
The Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, Clarke
Persuasion, Austen
Emma, Austen
Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Tolkien (a re-read, and an all time favorite)
The Prince and the Pauper, Twain
David Copperfield, Twain
Pride and Prejudice, Austen
The Thurber Collection, Thurber
Laddie, Stratton-Porter
The Phantom of the Opera, Leroux
Moby Dick, Melville
Murder Must Advertise, Sayers
Sillmarilion, Tolkien (a re-read, and an all time favorite)
Strong Poison, Sayers
Have is Carcase, Sayers
The Resurrection, Tolstoy
Gaudy Night, Sayers
Busman's Honeymoon, Sayers
The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great, Merkle
Beauty, McKinley 
Anne's House of Dreams, Montgomery
To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee
Once and Future King, White
Along the Shore, Montgomery
Rainbow Valley, Montgomery
Rilla of Ingleside, Montgomery
Kilmeny of the Orchard, Montgomery
Order of the Phoenix, Rowling




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Year In Review: Ambleside Online Y4 (2015-2016)

Before I start planning our new year, I like to spend some time reviewing this past school year, the materials we used, and the changes we made.  As I've mentioned before, I used Ambleside Online as my guide for planning the school year.  I'd like to share not only what I planned, but also what I ended up actually doing.  I think one of the greatest shortcomings in homeschooling blogs is that we're great at sharing all the wonderful things that we want to do and plan to do, but not so great at following up and sharing what actually worked, what we bailed on halfway through, or what sounded like a great idea but never really got off the ground.

I also don't want to be duplicate or encroach on all the excellent work that Ambleside Online has done over the years.  Their dedication and service to the Charlotte Mason community is astounding, and such an enormous gift.  Please visit their site and take a look at the Year 4 program if you'd like to learn more about what they so generously offer.

This is Gregory's second year using Ambleside Online for the vast majority of his work.  The review of his first year can be found here.  I'm going to follow a similar format as last year.

You can also see what we study as a family here.

Gregory's cannon

Daily and Weekly Subjects


Copywork

At the beginning of the year, Gregory completed 10 minutes of cursive copywork each day, copying all of Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The poem is assigned for Y4, and I thought it would be a neat exercise and some nice cursive practice for him to copy the entire poem.  I printed the whole poem in a large cursive print, and he copied it into a notebook I made with my Proclick.  He enjoyed the project, and it was a good experience for him.  It took all of Term 1 and into Term 2 to copy the whole poem at that rate, and what a feeling of accomplishment when he finished it!

After finishing this, I wanted Gregory to start practicing copying from print into cursive.  I pulled out some 3x5 cards with various short scripture passages, quotes, and sayings printed on them that I had used with Emma ages ago and had him copy those into a notebook in cursive.  I also included his writing for grammar as copywork (more below) so his copywork practice was a mixture of the print to cursive and print to print.  I probably should be giving him more writing to do, but he tends to get pencil fatigue quickly so I try to keep that sort of work light for him.

Reading Practice 

Gregory reads extremely fluently and was able to read all of his own school books by himself this year (hooray!)  However, I still had him sit with me for about 10 minutes 3-4 times a to read aloud.  I particularly wanted to work on his enunciation when reading aloud as well as to help him to understand better how to read punctuation.  He read California Stepping Stones (a California history book that is interesting, but written a little more simply than the typical Y4 book) and Toliver's Secret.  I like reading books that are a little more simple than his typical school reading so that we can really focus on what it takes to read aloud well.

Math

Gregory continued with MEP, and finished Level 3 a few days before the end of the school year.  We work on math for 30 minutes each day, and I did not end up using the teacher's plans much at all.  I don't think this is a good thing, and I hope to include more activities from the teacher's plans next year.  I also started having him do the Calculadder drills in Term 3 to give him a little more basic math facts practice.  I recently started doing these drills orally rather than in writing because I felt that the time pressure was causing his handwriting to deteriorate.  I'm not sure I like this, but I do think he'd find his math a lot easier if he had the math facts a little more readily available.


Mapwork

In Term I I had Gregory look up the locations of his readings on our wall map and globe, but I found after an abysmal result in the geography portion of his first term exams that he wasn't retaining much of it.  In Term 2 I started having him do map drills with the maps I have from Classically Catholic Memory, and this was a big improvement.  I wouldn't recommend their program, but their large laminated maps are beautiful, sturdy, and nice to work with.  I don't use the stickers though, I made and laminated little name cards for Nathan and Gregory to use in their map drills.  Gregory worked on Europe with these maps, and I also had Gregory reviewing US Geography using the Stack the States and TapQuiz Maps apps.



Keeping

This year I had Gregory start a timeline in his binder, much like Celeste describes here.  This went reasonably well, although we ended up adding extra flaps to give him a little more space.  His handwriting can still be a little on the large size, and I was having him write the date as well as the name or event.  This wasn't for any particular reason, it just seemed like a good idea in the moment, although looking back on it I don't think I should have had him do that!

We were also much more consistent with our nature journals this year.  We did at least one entry almost every week, and while it got easier for him, it was not exactly a favorite activity.  In each journal entry I had him do a label, date, sketch and a sentence.

Nature journaling in the little meadow below our house

Latin

Gregory started Latin this year, using Classical Academic Press' Latin for Children Primer A program.  We didn't get that far in the program, because I wanted to make sure he knew the vocabulary and understood the concepts before moving to the next section.  We plugged away regularly at it, but it took awhile before he really started getting the concepts.  I ended up creating a lot more worksheets for him for practice because the workbook was no where near enough review.  I also set up a Quizlet deck with the vocabulary so he could review that.  The audio didn't end up being all that helpful and was quite time consuming, so we stopped using that after the first term.  I also tried HeadventureLand.com for review, but found that it entertaining, but not particularly effective.  The additional worksheets, vocab review with Quizlet, and reviewing the declensions and conjugations quickly during our morning time recitation worked a lot better.  At this point he's getting the hang of it and we're starting to move faster.

Foreign Language

I grouped Nathan and Gregory together to study Spanish, and this worked well.  I used Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François, and while we didn't get all the far in the book, we made steady and enjoyable progress.  In Term 3 I set up a binder much like Simply Charlotte Mason's Scripture Memory box and spent the first part of the lesson reviewing the different sections.  I have the book as a PDF, so it was easy to print out the pages individually and stick them in different sections of the binder.  This made our review process so much easier and more fruitful!  I also added our Spanish poems to the binder, as well as some of the additional memory work from the book.  We then ended the lesson with a song in Spanish.  By far their favorite was El Baile de Las Manos by Wistlefritz, probably because it has exuberant full body motions.  But we also played and sang some of the other songs from the Whistlefritz CD too.

Handicrafts

I tried origami in the fall, but between a bad time slot and not enough individual attention for learning it, it was a fail.  I really didn't do much more with Gregory this year, because I saw how much building and creating he was doing outside with his rafts, weapons, forts, and other projects and decided that I'd let that "count" as handicrafts.  He does have some interest in sewing, however, and we did a few small things over the year here and there.  We're planning on making some beach bags this summer which should be a fun project.

Piano

Gregory and Nathan both started piano this year using the online lessons from Hoffman Academy lessons.  I love that it is taught by a male teacher and that he has a real gift for teaching piano and making these video lessons work.  I am so impressed by what he has done to try and make piano lessons more affordable and accessible.  The boys have responded really well to the lessons and while we have moved slowly (in part my fault for not being consistent in introducing new lessons but also because I want them to be really solid in a lesson before moving on) they are learning and they are definitely enjoying it.

Grammar

Grammar started out as a total fail in Term 1.  We were using KISS Grammar and it wasn't making much sense to either of us once we got to the part about complements.  I didn't like that the terminology that this program used was different from what I've encountered when studying Latin.  After Term 1 I regrouped, remembered I had Winston Grammar on my shelf, and off we went.  The physical act of laying cards on the table to build out the sentence works extremely well for Gregory, and he finally started getting the hang of the basics of Grammar.  I also had him copying some of the sentences he had already built with the cards into his binder and marking them up as directed by the program.  I counted this as copywork and grammar.  The sentences aren't exactly what I'm looking for when doing copywork, but again I was trying to keep the amount of pencil work down for Gregory and it seemed like a good compromise.


Dictation

Gregory is not one of those natural spellers at all.  Even though he reads very well, spelling the simplest words was an extreme challenge for him.  I really wasn't sure dictation was going to be enough for him, and I was just about ready to buy a fancy spelling curriculum for him when I decided that I should at least give Miss Mason the benefit of the doubt.  I decided to use Spelling Wisdom Book 1 from Simply Charlotte Mason for our dictation this year and that was a very helpful resource.  I really appreciated not having to find my own dictation sentences and using something that was an open and go resource.  In working with Gregory, I noticed very quickly that while he could read extremely well, he had no idea about letter sequencing in a word.  I found it worked extremely well for him to study the sentence with our movable alphabet, pulling the letters out of the tray in the order they appear in the word.  After he had built the words and considered them, then I read the sentence word by word and watched him spell it out with the movable alphabet.  After he was comfortable with this, then we would write it.  It was rare that he would ever misspell a word after this process.  And he retained the spelling of words quite well, and started being able to figure out the sequencing of letters on simpler words on his own too, which was very exciting.  I am so thrilled with his progress in this area, because this approach has really worked wonders.

Studying the words in preparation for writing them as dictation

Other Subjects

Other subjects, such as recitation (memory work), music appreciation, artist and composer study happened (or not) in the context of our family time.  Plutarch also happened as part of our family time during lunch, and Shakespeare was studied with a group of other families.  Directed art was pretty much non-existent this year, except for our evening drawing practice.


The Booklist

Most of these books are from Ambleside Online's Y4 program.  Please see their site for the full schedule, extremely helpful weekly breakdown of readings, and lots of other helpful information.

Titles in Bold are books we used and finished all I had scheduledbooks in Italics are books we abandoned or didn't even begin, and books in plain type are books we put in some work on, but did not complete as scheduled.  *Books with asterisks are his favorites.

This Country of Ours
Poor Richard
Abigail Adams
George Washington’s World
California Stepping Stones - Read Aloud
*Rare Catholic Stories
A Little Book About Confession for Children - w/ Nathan
King of the Golden City
*Little Apostle on Crutches - w/ Nathan
The Cross in the West
The Storybook of Science
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding
Madam How and Lady Why
D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths
Bullfinch’s Age of Fables
Robinson Crusoe
Kidnapped
*The Incredible Journey
Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Paul Revere’s Ride - copywork
Rip Van Winkle

If you're familiar with the Ambleside booklist, you'll notice a few things are missing, namely:

Trial and Triumph - I decided I would rather focus on men who brought the faith to the Western United States like St. Junipero Serra and the noble men discussed in The Cross in the West.  Besides, I'm Catholic.  :-)

Bible Readings - We read and narrate the Mass readings just about every day in our home, so everyday the children are hearing and narrating from the Old Testament or Epistles and the Gospels.  I decided that since these readings aren't always in order, I would also read a Bible story book to give the children a better grounding in the chronology of the Bible.  I'm growing less and less happy with this solution, and I will probably change it for next year.

Minn of the Mississippi - We read this as a family the year before last, and I decided to have a more western US focus to our geography this year.  I used The Cross in the West as both a faith reading and geography, and this worked reasonably well.  

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas - Um, I overlooked this one.  Oops.

And in case your wondering what happened with the books we didn't use as planned, here's a bunch of excuses brief discussion:


Rare Catholic Stories - Honestly, I'm not sure why I scheduled this book for this year.  We read it last year, finishing it in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year.  I'm wondering if I actually meant another book, but picked up this one when it came time to read by mistake.  Gregory really likes the stories in this collection though, and didn't mind hearing it again.  it didn't get finished because the Confession book went long, and it is a longer book than what I had put in my schedule.  (Like I said, I think I meant to pick up a different book!)

BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding) - I'm coming to the conclusion that this book is more trouble than it is worth.  There are some good ideas for demonstrations in there, but the can require an awful lot of me.  I am glad I did some of them, like the section about the seasons...  but on the whole I'm not sure it is really the right way to go.

Madame How and Lady Why - This book drives me slightly crazy.  Some of the science in the book is atrociously wrong, and some of the things Kingsley says about people in other countries make me want to scream.  However, I think the distinction he makes between how and why are incredibly vital to the study of science, and I get why this book is part of AO's curriculum.  It is a book that requires censoring and paraphrasing, and once I came to terms with that, as well as the the purpose of the book, I felt a lot better about it.  We started it late though, and only ended up reading the first three chapters.

Age of Fable - I read the Preface to this book and thought, "there is no way this is going to work for Gregory!" so I decided we would read D'Aulaire's Greek Myths first before diving into Age of Fable. Had I read a little further and realized that the introductory material is much stiffer than the actual fables, I'm not sure I would have bothered.  We are about a term behind in this book.

Practicing turning wood on a lathe

Favorites From Gregory's Reading


I keep a list of everything the kids read (they have to put their finished books on my desk and then I log them and shelve them weekly) and I had Gregory look over the list and select his favorites.  Some of these books are re-reads, and some he read multiple times this year.

Books with a + before them were on his free reading shelf.

Harry Potter Series (He's only read books 1-5)
Redwall Series
Buried Treasure of the South by W.C. Jameson
A Smijj of Danger and Telmaja by Erin Manning
St. Katherine Drexel by Ellen Tarry
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
A Nose for Trouble by Jim Kjelgaard
+ Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes
Wyatt Earp: US Marshal by Steward H Holbrook
+ John Paul Jones, Soldier of the Sea by Donald Worchester
+ Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit
+ Pocahontas and Captain John Smith by Marie Lawson
They Flew to Glory by Robert Sidney Bowen
+ Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel C. Brill
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
The Secret of the Indian by Lynne Reid Banks
+ Stowaway by Karen Hesse
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
+ Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Year In Review: Ambleside Online Y2 (2015-2016)

Before I start planning our new year, I like to spend some time reviewing this past school year, the materials we used, and the changes we made.  As I've mentioned before, I used Ambleside Online as my guide for planning the school year.  I'd like to share not only what I planned, but also what I ended up actually doing.  I think one of the greatest shortcomings in homeschooling blogs is that we're great at sharing all the wonderful things that we want to do and plan to do, but not so great at following up and sharing what actually worked, what we bailed on halfway through, or what sounded like a great idea but never really got off the ground.

I also don't want to be duplicate or encroach on all the excellent work that Ambleside Online has done over the years.  Their dedication and service to the Charlotte Mason community is astounding, and such an enormous gift.  Please visit their site and take a look at the Year 2 program if you'd like to learn more about what they so generously offer.

This is Nathan's second year using Ambleside Online for the vast majority of his work.  The review of his first year can be found here.  I'm going to follow a similar format as last year.

You can also see what we study as a family here.

Nathan planting in the garden - we started these seeds in the spring and managed to keep them alive long enough to plant.  They are doing well in the garden, hooray!

Daily and Weekly Subjects


Copywork

Nathan completes 10 minutes of printing each day, using the Poetry for Kids copywork from Classical Copywork.  He should be using copywork from his reading, but this is a shortcut I used last year and decided to continue into this year.  I really like these copywork books because they are inexpensive, high quality, and with my ProClick, easy to put together into a nice little book.

Reading Practice (and Nature Lore)

At this point Nathan can read independently, but it is enough of a struggle that he still isn't particularly interested in doing so.  For reading practice, I had him read two of the nature readers by Arabella Buckley.  He enjoyed them and it was a nice two birds with one stone sort of arrangement.

Math

Nathan continued with MEP, and is about 2/3 of the way through Level 2.  We work on math for 30 minutes each day, and I did not end up using the teacher's plans much at all.  I don't think this is a good thing, and I hope to include more activities from the teacher's plans next year.  I also started having him do the Calculadder drills in Term 3 to give him a little more basic math facts practice.  I recently started doing these drills orally rather than in writing because I felt that the time pressure was causing his handwriting to deteriorate.  I'm not sure I like this, but I do want to make sure he has the basic math facts well established in his memory.

I really like these laminated maps!

Mapwork

I'm actually not sure that a Y2 student is supposed to be doing any sort of map drill now that I look at the Ambleside Online site again.  I was trying to help Nathan look up the locations of his readings on our wall map and globe, but I found after an abysmal result in the geography portion of his first term exams that he wasn't retaining any of it.  In Term 2 I started having him do map drills with the maps I have from Classically Catholic Memory, and this was a big improvement (although he still has trouble going from a flat map to the globe)  I wouldn't recommend their program, but their large laminated maps are beautiful, sturdy, and nice to work with.  I don't use the stickers though, I made and laminated little name cards for Nathan and Gregory to use in their map drills.

Experimenting with water colors in his nature journal - this was a surprise hit

Keeping

This year I had Nathan start a timeline in his binder, much like Celeste describes here.  This was probably his least favorite activity of the week, but we kept at it.  I think he found writing the names tedious, and because reading is still not something he does automatically, he wasn't seeing the connections.

We were also much more consistent with our nature journals this year.  We did at least one entry almost every week, and while it got easier for him, it was probably his second least favorite activity. In Term 2 I started working with him individually to help him break down what he was seeing so he could sketch it better, and that helped things considerably.

I also want to note that Nathan has become so much more observant of the world around him this year.  He's the one who found both of the California Silk Moths we got to see, as well as so many other finds outside.  It has been very exciting to watch him become so much more interested and curious about what's around him...  and his example has helped the two younger ones be much more observant as well.

Foreign Language

I grouped Nathan and Gregory together to study Spanish, and this worked well.  I used Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François, and while we didn't get all the far in the book, we made steady and enjoyable progress.  In Term 3 I set up a binder much like Simply Charlotte Mason's Scripture Memory box and spent the first part of the lesson reviewing the different sections.  I have the book as a PDF, so it was easy to print out the pages individually and stick them in different sections of the binder.  This made our review process so much easier and more fruitful!  I also added our Spanish poems to the binder, as well as some of the additional memory work from the book.  We then ended the lesson with a song in Spanish.  By far their favorite was El Baile de Las Manos by Wistlefritz, probably because it has exuberant full body motions.  But we also played and sang some of the other songs from the Whistlefritz CD too.

Piano


Gregory and Nathan both started piano this year using the online lessons from Hoffman Academy lessons.  I love that it is taught by a male teacher and that he has a real gift for teaching piano and making these video lessons work.  I am so impressed by what he has done to try and make piano lessons more affordable and accessible.  The boys have responded really well to the lessons and while we have moved slowly (in part my fault for not being consistent in introducing new lessons but also because I want them to be really solid in a lesson before moving on) they are learning and they are definitely enjoying it.

Handicrafts

I tried origami in the fall, but between a bad time slot and not enough individual attention for learning it, it was a fail.  In the winter I added handicrafts to his afternoon readings block and he learned to knit a doll's scarf successfully.  I was hoping to help him do some felt work and stitching in Term 3 in that same time slot, but that required more help than the knitting so it didn't work out.  I consoled myself with thoughts of all the building he and his brother were doing outside and didn't push it.

Other Subjects

Other subjects, such as recitation (memory work), music appreciation, artist and composer study happened (or not) in the context of our family time.  Directed art was pretty much non-existent this year, except for our evening drawing practice.

Rescued worms after a storm - we've managed to keep them alive, although they have moved containers several times

The Booklist

Most of these books are from Ambleside Online's Y2 program.  Please see their site for the full schedule, extremely helpful weekly breakdown of readings, and lots of other helpful information.

Titles in Bold are books we used and finished all I had scheduled, books in Italics are books we abandoned or didn't even begin, and books in plain type are books we put in some work on, but did not complete as scheduled.  *Books with asterisks are his favorites.

*Our Island Story
*Little Duke
*Joan of Arc (used the Avi version because we owned it already)
*Viking Tales  (carried over from last year)
Columbus
*Castle Diary (I wouldn't use this again except as a free read)
*Our Island Saints (carried over from last year)
*Rare Catholic Stories
*Little Apostle on Crutches
A Little Book About Confession for Children  (wouldn't use again)
King of the Golden City  (a favorite for me, if not for Nathan!)
Baltimore Catechism - selections
Angel Food for Boys and Girls - selections
*Tree in the Trail
*Seabird
Wild Life in Woods and Fields - Nathan read aloud
Wild Life in Pond and Stream - Nathan read aloud
BFSU
*Understood Betsy
*Brighty of the Grand Canyon
*Along Came a Dog
Bible Story Book
Pilgrim's Progress (as part of family studies)
Tales from Shakespeare
Trees and Shrubs 

If you're familiar with the Ambleside booklist, you'll notice a few things are missing, namely:

Parables from Nature - I just didn't like this book, largely because it seemed too longwinded and it didn't leave enough scope for imagination (Nelleke and I had an interesting conversation about it in the comments on her blog last year)

Trial and Triumph - I decided I would rather focus on English and Irish Saints and finish our Saints book from last year.  Besides, I'm Catholic.  :-)


Bible Readings - We read and narrate the Mass readings just about every day in our home, so everyday the children are hearing and narrating from the Old Testament or Epistles and the Gospels.  I decided that since these readings aren't always in order, I would also read a Bible story book to give the children a better grounding in the chronology of the Bible.  I'm growing less and less happy with this solution, and I will probably change it for next year.

The Wind in the Willows and Robin Hood - We love these books in our family and have listened to them over and over again.  I decided to pull a few books from the free reading list and schedule them to introduce Nathan to some new stories rather than reading aloud ones he already knows so well.

Poetry - I decided to study poetry as a family this year, and ended up picking two Y4 poets and one from Y8.  There's only so many minutes in the day...

Burgess Animal Book - I was reading this with Nathan and Gregory last year, and I needed a good long break from Burgess.  I read from Ways of Wood Folk during our family studies, and Nathan read the two Wild Life... books instead.

And in case your wondering what happened with the books we didn't use as planned, here's a bunch of excuses brief discussion

Columbus - I decided to hold this over to Y3.  I'm seriously considering doing an exploration based focus for the first part of Y3 and only lightly covering the Reformation.  I wasn't that happy with some of the Y3 selections last year, and I'm wondering if this could be a better and more interesting way forward.  After studying the Reformation with Gregory last year and then with Emma this year (in Y8) I can see how much more engaging and appropriate this is for the Y8 student than the Y3 student.

Rare Catholic Stories - Honestly, I'm not sure why I scheduled this book for this year.  We read it last year, finishing it in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year.  I'm wondering if I actually meant another book, but picked up this one when it came time to read by mistake.  Nathan doesn't remember all the stories though and is enjoying it...  it didn't get finished because the Confession book went long, and it is a longer book than what I had put in my schedule.  (Like I said, I think I meant to pick up a different book!)

Selections from the Baltimore Catechism and Angel Food for Boys and Girls - Now I'm probably in the minority here, but I just don't like either of these books.  The Angel Food books often feel forced, trite, and lacking in literary quality.  The catechism has little literary value and seems very limiting.  I also wasn't sure how to use it - should I drill the boys on the questions, reviewing previous chapters each week?  Do I just read and keep moving on, knowing that the lack of literary quality is making it hard for anything to stick?  Also, I was disturbed in our first term exams when I asked, "tell me about Angels" and all they could do was spit out the catechism answer, even though they knew so many stories about the Angels!  (And yes, I casually checked later, just to be sure)

Demonstrating the movement of the earth and why we have seasons


BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding) - I'm coming to the conclusion that this book is more trouble than it is worth.  There are some good ideas for demonstrations in there, but the can require an awful lot of me.  I am glad I did some of them, like the section about the seasons...  but on the whole I'm not sure it is really the right way to go.

Narrating As You Like It with Shakespeare Finger Puppets


Tales from Shakespeare - I think we were one short of the list we were supposed to read through the year.  No big deal.

Trees and Shrubs - This was supposed to be a guided nature study that I was going to do with Nathan, with readings and suggestions for sketching...  but after working with him in the first few weeks of the year I realized that this not appropriate for where he's at and too much of a stretch, so I dropped it without even starting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Year In Review: Family Studies (2015 - 2016)

Before I start planning our new year, I like to spend some time reviewing this past school year, the materials we used, and the changes we made.  I'd like to share not only what I planned, but also what I ended up actually doing.  I think one of the greatest shortcomings in homeschooling blogs is that we're great at sharing all the wonderful things that we want to do and plan to do, but not so great at following up and sharing what actually worked, what we bailed on halfway through, or what sounded like a great idea but never really got off the ground.

So, with that in mind, here's my synopsis of our Family Studies.

Subjects We Study as a Family


In our family studies, we tackle subjects together at set times during the day.  Some of my children will have additional readings or work in these areas, and some will do all their work in this area with the family.  Our family studies include:

  • Bible  
  • Natural History and Nature Lore
  • California History
  • Lives of Saints
  • Picture Study
  • Hymns
  • Poetry
  • Plutarch
  • Shakespeare (we studied Shakespeare with a group of other families in the fall and spring)
  • Drawing Practice
  • Memory work
  • Literature 
  • Nature Study and Journaling
  • Composer Study

They should also include singing instruction and folk songs, but those didn't end up in the schedule this year.

For composer study we read a composer biography, did part of the Baroque SQUILT guide, and studied Handel's Messiah during Advent.  I read the biography during our lunch time read-aloud session, the SQUILT study was done during morning time, and the Messiah was studied during evening time.  Composer study is a subject I've long had a hard time figuring out how to implement in our family and where to put in our day.  It didn't work particularly well in any of those blocks, so one of my tasks over the summer to try and figure out another place to put it.


Morning Time


As we did last year, we started our day with Morning Time at 8:30.  After the first term, Morning Time was simplified and shortened to create a little more breathing room in the schedule.  In our Morning Time we would:

  • Sing a hymn (some of the time *ahem* this was something I was good at forgetting)
  • Read something about the day's saint (if there was one) and discuss
  • Read, narrate, and sometimes look up maps or commentary for the Mass Readings of the day
  • Take turns praying for various intentions
  • Read a few poems
  • Do our memory work for the day (we're still using the review system as I described in last year's post

Poetry

For poetry this year we read Alfred Lord Tennyson in Term 1, Emily Dickinson in Term 2, and the Sonnets of Shakespeare (as selected by Ambleside Online) in Term 3.  For Tennyson and Dickinson I followed the three poem format where I would read each poem three times over a three day period.  For Shakespeare's sonnets, I read each sonnet a couple times each day for a week, then we discussed what we thought it meant at the end of the week.

Weekly Work


I lessened our weekly work schedule and only scheduled this twice a week.  We had one 20 min session once a week for picture study, and then I blocked off about an hour and a half for nature study and journaling on Thursday mornings.  We also had a monthly nature study outing on a Monday afternoon where we did nature journaling as well.  Really, this isn't quite long enough, but it was more than last year and somewhat sufficient.  

I found it worked well to have my older two, who are 14 and 10, walk down to the creek right after morning time.  They would make some observations and measure the flow of the creek, then perhaps collect a specimen or two for sketching.  Meanwhile I worked on plants or trees near the house with my 7 year old while keeping an eye on the younger two.  Nathan and I would start on our nature journal entries and be mostly completed by the time Gregory and Emma came back, and while they worked on their entries I would be doing reading practice or copywork with Nathan.  

This sounds a little scattered, but it separated Nathan and Gregory, which helped them to both be more observant and interested in the world around them and it kept me from having to haul small children up and down hills.

Picture Study Selections

  • Term 1 - Rodin
  • Term 2 - Degas
  • Term 3 - Hans Holbein the Younger
Of the three, Rodin was the favorite.  It probably helped that we got to go and visit the Rodin Sculpture Gallery and Museum at Stanford University so we could see many of his works in person.  

Lunch Time Reading


I moved last year's mid-morning read aloud to lunch to be a little more time efficient, and the change worked well.  I would either eat beforehand (if I was particularly on top of things that day - this didn't happen often!) or I would eat a bit while the kids recapped the last reading and then more while they narrated.  An unexpected bonus of this was that it encouraged my older kids to be more helpful with the youngers.  If there was a problem, they were expected to hop up and clean up a spill, get a refill or seconds, or help clean up a younger child so I could keep reading.  Previously that had always been my job, and I think practicing this sort of responsiveness to other people's needs has been good for them.

I use the app Reminders, as described in this post, to handle what we're reading on a given day.  The main change I've made is that I allow the child of the day to pick what we're reading off of whatever is currently available on the list.  A book cannot be picked again until a selection from all the books have been read.  With five kids, it works very nicely to delegate a child per day.  This child gets to light the prayer candle, pick the lunch reading, lead the Divine Mercy chaplet (if old enough) and do other little things on their day.  And it is extremely cute to hear my two year old pick Plutarch for the read aloud! 

In our rotation, we had six books.  Four or five would have been better, but I had trouble restraining myself.  We started the year with seven which was definitely too many.

Books in Our Rotation

Evening Time


We added in a more robust evening time this year, scheduling about an hour in a half in the evening on most nights for various activities.  On some weeks we hit our plan almost every night, and on other weeks we would only pray and perhaps read a few pages from a read aloud.  Our biggest impediments were parental fatigue or getting dinner on the table late.   

General Flow:

  • 6:45 p.m. - I take the littles - Justin (4) and Hannah (2) - and get them ready for bed while bigger kids (14, 10, and 7) finish cleaning up from dinner, get ready for bed, then read from their free reading shelf.  
  • 7:00 -  Nathan (7) would come up to listen to stories with the younger ones while the bigger kids would continue to read.  I would read nursery rhymes, poetry, and perhaps a picture book.
  • 7:10 - Gregory (10) would often wander up for fairy tales, then listen to the Bible story, Scripture reading, and short missal reading.  
  • 7:30 - I would pray with the littles and get them in bed, while Nathan and Gregory would go back downstairs and my husband would read to them.
  • 7:40-ish - Matt and I would pray with the older kids, then we would do an evening activity - Monday - Great Courses lecture, Tues, Thurs, Sat - Drawing Practice, Fri and Sunday - Game (I don't think we had a single week where we actually did all of these - this is the ideal)
  • 8:15-ish - I would read out loud from another literature selection
  • 8:30-ish - Bedtime for the kids (and generally my husband)

Books Read and Materials Used:

Favorites


And in case you're wondering, here's some of our family study favorites from the year:





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Shakespeare with a Small Group - Part 2: Guided Reading



In my overview post for this series, I outlined what I was looking for in a Shakespeare study for my older children.  In Part 1 I described our abridged performance and in this post I'd like to describe what I did for my second idea, the a guided reading of the play with a memory work and a small performance.

Format

  • Five sessions, approximately every other week
  • Location alternated between two homes
  • At each session, we began with prayer, then gave the kids an opportunity to share some sort of memory work with the group, then started on Shakespeare.  We would be started with Shakespeare by 1:30
  • The weekend following the 5th session, we had a family performance and potluck on a Sunday afternoon


Materials


I used the straight-forward Dover Thrift Edition of Julius Caesar for the kids, and I also used an iOS app by DodgePoint Software on my iPhone for our audio.  I really like these apps for our Shakespeare studies.  The audio is generally good, and having the text and the audio linked is absolutely fantastic.  It is extremely easy to repeat a speech, start in the middle of a scene, or go back just a little to hear something again.  The text is linked such that if you touch the name of a person speaking, the audio will automatically begin again in that spot.  They have twelve of Shakespeare's plays and the app only costs $1.99 for each play.

I prefer to use a very basic version of the text, like the Dover Thrift edition, in a class for a few reasons.  First, I want the students to realize that if we take it slowly, reading the text out loud or following along while listening to an audio recording and stopping for frequent narrations, they can understand a great deal of the text.  Also, I find that if they have access to a simplified version of the text (like the No Fear series), it can become far too easy to just glance over and see the paraphrase rather than put in the mental effort to try and figure it out.  Also, a version like No Fear Shakespeare or even one with heavy footnotes can reveal a little too much about the text - explaining some of the  innuendo that would have gone completely over the kids' heads otherwise.  Also, I want them to know that we don't need to understand every little bit of what we read.  It is ok to have phrases here and there that we don't quite understand - Shakespeare has so much depth we can get overwhelmed if we are trying to understand it all in one go.

I should note that I do think that a version like No Fear or one with a lot of footnotes can be very helpful for the teacher in her preparation, particularly if she feels weak in Shakespeare or intimidated by it.  If that's what it takes to get her going in teaching Shakespeare, then I think it is worth it.  But I think we have to be careful not to offer too much so the students are still being required to do the mind work and aren't overwhelmed with detailed explanations.

First Session


At our first gathering, I used the retelling of Julius Caesar from The Best-Loved Plays of Shakespeare to give an overview of the play.  I read it out loud, pausing frequently for narrations and to update the character map I was drawing on the board.  Each of the students had their own map they were drawing as well.
Finished Product
After reading through the retelling, we stepped outside and I introduced the kids to their group memory work.  We would all work on memorizing the first part of Marc Antony's funeral oration ("Friends, Romans, Countrymen...") together, and to help them I printed out the speech in large type across 14 pages, with each page having a few lines on it.  We ran through the first couple of pages several times, then went back inside for a little time with the play.  I used the audio from the app and everyone read along, pausing ever so often to narrate.  I asked the students to use their character maps to narrate the play to their parents as their homework.

Subsequent Sessions


The subsequent sessions were similar.  We listened to the play, narrated, and took a break in the middle to work on the memory work.  

At the second session, I spread out a selection of speeches from Julius Caesar and invited the students to choose one.  The speeches ranged in length from 8-16 lines or so and were from various parts of the play.  The speeches were to be memorized at home for our final performance.

I also had an additional assignment for the students.  Each family was assigned one of the principal characters of the play (Caesar, Brutus, Marc Antony, and Cassius) and they had to find three or more groups of short lines from the play that described the person's character.  They had to write these lines on index cards, and pick one person from each family to be that character on stage during the performance.

At the third session, we listened to part of the play, but we also watched the movie from a little after the death of Caesar until the end of the funeral narrations scene.  We all enjoyed watching the staging of the play, and enjoyed discussing how the actors matched (or didn't match!) our mental images of the characters.

In order to create a little randomness in who would do our narrations, I used two different methods to choose the narrators.  At first I assigned each person a number and rolled a die, but this proved to be a rather unreliable way of ensuring everyone would get a chance to narrate as frequently as the other students.  I found it worked better to write everyone's name (including mine!) on slips of paper and then drawing them at random, not replacing the names until every name had been drawn.  I also chose the names in pairs, so that they could help each other with narrations.  They particularly enjoyed having me as a narrator too, and I liked how that emphasized that we are all learning and enjoying Shakespeare together.

Family Performance


We met for lunch this time for our family performance, coming together at about noon, eating lunch, then having our performance at about 2.  We met at my house, and again I hung the canvas drop cloth from a beam in our living room and used that as a back-drop.  The kids came up with very simple Roman-ish costumes, such as white sheets and tunics and oversize white undershirts with leather belts and dark pants. (Oh, and play swords, can't forget the swords!)  It gave a nice feel to the performance, and was very easy to put together.

For our performance, we began by sharing our descriptions of each of the main characters.  I had one person come on stage to pretend to be the character, and then other students would come across the stage, say their short line(s) describing that character, then move off the stage.  It served as a nice introduction to the characters, and it was a good experience for the kids to have to dig into the play a little to find the lines.

After this, the students came on stage one by one and recited their memorized speech.  I gave a brief introduction to each speech, placing it in the context of the play.  I had the students come on in the order that their speech appeared in the play.  When it was time for the funeral oration, all the students came on stage and they spoke it in sequence, each student speaking a few lines in turn so that their speech would be more distinct.

What I Might Do Differently Next Time


I think it would have been better to have six sessions rather than five, but we couldn't get the scheduling to work for that.  It was a little tight in the last session, and we ended up needing to add on another hour to the final session so we could finish the play and discuss the performance.  We never even rehearsed the play portion, but it was very simple to stage and the kids did just fine with that. We ended up with seven students, which was a perfectly reasonable number, but we could have easily had a few more.

Amazon Affiliate Links to benefit Charlotte Mason West used in this post

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Schedule for Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles Live Online Discussion


Scheduling sign-ups are closed for this discussion, and I've come up with three discussion time slots that include just about everyone who signed up.  Each of these time slots can accommodate a couple more people, so if you're interested, please email me soon and I'll get you added.

Discussion Times:
4th Monday, 7 - 8 a.m. Pacific
4th Monday, 1 - 2 p.m. Eastern
4th Wednesday, 8 - 9 p.m. Pacific