Friday, July 31, 2009

Resources I want to use

Here are just a few notes on resources I want to use, but have not yet placed into the program.

  • The Wealthy Paper Carrier
  • The Wealthy Barber
Ground School
  • From the Ground Up
  • Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends - Mally
  • Preparing Sons to provide for a Single Income Family - Steve Maxwell
  • The Mystery of the Periodic Table - Benjamin D. Wiker

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Update on Polite Moments

Just to let everyone know that I had no problems ordering Polite Moments in Canada. I phoned them, and they had to figure out the shipping.

[update - we received the book very quickly.]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Winter Fun

This probably seems like a wierd subject to bring up in the middle of the summertime - but it does seem to be a question that comes up about now with new homeschoolers in Canada who have discovered Charlotte Mason, and realize the amount of outside time suggested.

How do you get outside enough in Canadian Winters, where it might be -40 (C or F) or even colder for days or weeks at a time? (Some of these ideas may be adapted by people who can not get outside in their summer because of the extreme hot temperatures...)

First off - I say that sometimes it is tempting to stay inside, when the weather is still fine for going outside. I figure if it is in the guidelines here for the Public Schools to go outside for recess (for 15 minutes), that we should definately be able to go outside for at least as long.

From people who HAVE to go outside, I can say that proper clothing is vital. "Long Johns", good pants (wool if possible), shirts, sweaters, snow suits, a baclava with neck warmer (Better than a scarf and hat) 2 sets of mitts, and good boots make a huge difference. (I have heard from a homeschooling mother who is on a farm with animals. When the weather is super cold, they are probably outside LONGER because of the work that needs to be done. They bundle up, and the children learn to keep moving.)

Things to do outside:
  • if snowing, catch some snowflakes on black material and look at them.
  • go skiing, sleding, skating, walking.
  • make a snowman or have snowball fights. make snow angels

If you really feel that you can't go outside, there are things you can do inside for Nature Study...
  • mount flowers/leaves that were collected in the summer/fall and have been drying that long
  • make an indoor conservatory in an old fish tank
  • grow carrot tops / apple seeds / other things from food....
  • look through old nature journal entries and remember
  • read good nature books - maybe watch outdoor shows on TV (animal planet (watch content), zaboomafoo, etc)
  • visit a conservatory if there is one nearby - they are warm happy places in dreary wintertime with plants all around
  • visit a planetarium and enjoy a star-show
  • in our museum, there are some full-sized nature diorama's that can be fun to explore
  • study and draw your pets or houseplants for the nature journal
  • study parts of the human body.... really look at that foot or hand... look at a hair under a magnifying glass or microscope. do fingerprints. (we are nature!)
And - to get the wiggles out...
  • put on some music and dance!
  • If you move the furniture back, or go in the basement, could you have room to jump rope?
  • if you can get hold of an exercise-mini-trampoline - let the kids enjoy jumping on it
  • setup a little obstical golf course (soft balls)
  • setup a little treasure hunt
  • or - go to the Y and swim, play in the gym or playstructure

As a final note - don't ever "throw the baby out with the bathwater". That is - don't decide not to do Charlotte Mason schooling just because you feel that you could never get the kids outside enough. Do the best you can, and your kids will benefit, even if you don't hit the "ideal". (Also note that the amount of outside time often quoted as being needed for CM misses the part that CM suggested that time from April to October)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Year 1 Supply List

Well, School Supply lists are starting to appear in the stores - so I think I will work out our supply list. These are the things I think will be needed as well as the actual books we will be reading.

This is a rough guide - I make no claims to this being all inclusive...
  • 1 Lined Notebook (divide into 3) for drawing/dictated, narrations, etc for "Polite Moments", Literature, drawing practice
  • 1 Lined Notebook (divide into 3) for History. (Canadian/Family/World) and Geography
  • 1 Lined Notebook for Science
  • 1 (or 2) blank notebook/sketchpad for Drawing and Naturestudy
  • 1 4x6 photo album with space beside each picture for writing - for picture study
  • 1 small binder to put in handwriting/copywork pages.
  • 1 small binder or other for the MEP Math Workbook pages (I keep the pages not being worked on in my main MEP math binder - but will put out a few weeks worth in the small binder)
  • 1 large binder and a set of dividers for mom's MEP Math book. (Lesson plans, workbook pages, overheads, "posters", etc)
  • Large Scale "graph" paper for math (squares big enough to write in for your child) - OR regular lined paper
  • (more binders/ duo-tangs/ portfolio book binders, or whatever binding supplies for binding any books printed instead of bought)
  • Printer Paper (probably lots!) for printing
  • Pencils, Pens, Pencil Crayons, glue, scissors, drawing pencils, watercolours, post-it's, and/or other misc supplies as needed.
  • Adhesive dividers to divide the journals

Note that generally, I recommend good quality, hard bound journals for the notebooks - to encourage using careful good techniques. These books may still have room in them for Year 2, as most of the child's work in the early years is oral. However, narration might be done with drawing at times, and the mother might write a sentence or two of the child's narration.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Just a few more thoughts on Geography...

For most of geography, we use a black-line outline map of the country or other area. This should be an outline map that includes the borders of state/provinces. Add in major features, and important cities. Let the student examine the map for a few days. Then you can give them a map with features missing, or the names gone (just a few at first), and let them add them back in. Continue this until they can do the whole thing.

Some of the rotations have living books that feature the country. This would include books like "Paddle to the Sea". We follow the journey or story on the map of the country. Also, if real places are featured in other books, we would find and label these on the appropriate maps - even if we are on a different geography area.

On a Canadian Note - we play "Stompin' Tom Conners" song about the provinces all the time for our kids. It goes through the provinces and capitals. "Does anyone know the capital of.... Alberta? - Edmonton!" Even our 3 year old yells out the answers!

Hope this helps.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Been Busy

Sorry, things have been pretty busy here, so I haven't posted as much as I would like....

I will have Year 1 Term 3 schedule done soon.

I could use suggestions on questions I could answer.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009/10 Family Rotation Schedule

Get Rotation Schedules

Picture Study

Term 1
  • Robert Bateman (pick your favourite 6, or do the extra during a break)
  1. Giant Panda
  2. The Return - Bald Eagle
  3. Power Play - Rhinoceros
  4. Watching Siberian Tiger
  5. Wolf Pair in Winter
  6. The Challenge - Bull Moose
  7. Ice Berg and Hump Back Whale (the style on this is a bit different)
  8. Polar Bear Profile.
  • Raphael Sanzio (pick your favourite 6, or do the extra during a break)
  1. The Knight's Dream
  2. St. George and the Dragon
  3. Galatea
  4. Young Woman with a unicorn
  5. Sistine Madonna
  6. The Miraculous Draft of Fishes
  7. Ezekiel's Vision
Term 2
  • John Singer Sargent
  1. Oyster Gatherers of Cancale
  2. The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
  3. The Breakfast Table
  4. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
  5. An Artist in his Studio
  6. Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
  • Norman Rockwell (pictures TBD)
Term 3
  • Claude Monet
  1. Terrace at St. Adresse
  2. Women in the Garden
  3. Jean Monet on His Hobby Horse
  4. Woman with a Parasol: Madame Monet and Her Son
  5. Tulip Fields in Holland
  6. The Waterlily Pond
  • (TBD) - I intend this to be a religious artist.
UPDATED: 3 Nov 09

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thoughts on Reading Instruction

I have found it very difficult to explain Reading Instruction and adding it to schedules - for the simple reason that learning to read happens very differently for each child. A few children seem to almost magically learn to read on their own, or "take off" on reading after only a couple of lessons. Other children are given lessons for years, and still don't seem to get it - or find it is so much work. And both are normal.

I was one of those children that took off on reading. My older sister played school with me one day, and I was off and reading. This occurred at such an early age, that I have never had any memories of not being able to read. This made it very difficult for me to figure out how to teach my own children.

I originally figured that pure phonics was best - and read a couple of books on that. I started my oldest 2 children, Delta and Echo (then 4 and 2) on "How to Teach your child to read in 10 minutes a day" by Sidney Ledson. It uses very short lessons, and games to teach. My children did very well to start, and would ask to play the games - but I did find that they started to not like the main game very much. I modified it to just reading little cards. I went a lot slower with the Echo, and we have had a lot of breaks in the reading. Delta got to the point that he could read with a lot of effort, but didn't want to put in the effort. So I paused on the instruction to consider. At their ages, I didn't want to do anything they didn't enjoy.

I got very cheaply a book called "Teach your Baby to Read" - which used Flashcards. This method sounded interesting, as it used extremely short lessons several times a day. (reading 5 words and that was it.) Of course it is using sight reading - but this seemed like a good way to break into fluency. I talked to a couple of relatives who were teachers about reading instruction, and gathered that a combination of phonics and sight reading seems to work better. So I started using computer generated flash cards - picking words that Delta and Echo would be most interested in. I also started some with Foxtrot, using the suggested order for babies. All 3 children loved the computer flash cards - with the older 2 loving the computer generated voice. (For Foxtrot, I said the words.... I don't want a computer accent.) I also created a couple of very personal books for Delta and Echo with the words they learned. They loved this.

Not long after, Delta started reading some words spontaneously. For instance, I would look on our TV's program guide, and Delta would say "There is Caillou" (which we do NOT watch - and darned if I know how he figured out that that was the name of that show with the weird spelling...)

Then I discovered CM and AO - and read on CM's reading instruction suggestions. And they make sense. I found the Treadwell and Free readers, and printed the Primer off. They are good literature stories, with a lot of repetition. Although we haven't read them regularly, Delta has read the first 3 stories, with just some assistance on "harder" words like "thresh".

In all, I think the combination of all 3 things I have done has worked out fairly well, although the process took longer than I originally thought it would.

Delta is on the brink of fluency, and should do well with continuing the Treadwell Readers.

Echo is at the point on "10 minutes a day" that she is learning by reading sentences, but has to really work at each word. Delta was at this point for quite a while. I haven't done as much work on the reading instruction with her after having found out about CM - but expect to have her asking to do more once the "school" year starts with Delta

Foxtrot is of course just learning to talk. She seems to recognize that print is something interesting - and anytime she has a board book, she spends a long time looking at the pictures (and maybe reading it?) and never tries to eat them, or tear them.

As for the age of reading instruction. Apparently CM didn't give an exact age for reading instruction, although the couple of examples she gave, the children were age 5, and 6. It does seem a very controversial matter in CM circles (and other circles too.) My opinion, as long as the lessons are short, the students enjoy them, and important play and outside time is not missed out on, I see early reading as beneficial. Many others disagree. I leave it for you to decide for yourself.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More About Shakespeare

I have been asked to tell more about how we do Shakespeare.

Charlotte Mason has said that it is important not to get in between the student and the book. So we don't use any commentaries or translations.

For our study, students in years 1 to 3 are in one study rotation, and older students are in another. They younger students just read short summaries of the play, as they are not yet ready to handle the readings of the play themselves. We use "Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare" by E. Nesbit.

Students in years 4 and up do read from the plays themselves. We do the following:

Students that need it - especially in years 4 to about 6, depending on the child, read the story in a summary first. We use "Tales from Shakespeare" by Charles and Mary Lamb if it has the story. This could either be done with all the students working on the play together, or if needed by only 1 or 2 of the students, it can be done individually before the family starts on the play.

Next, we read the play itself. We often assign different roles to the students to read outloud, with Mom reading the rest of the roles. The older students can be assigned the main roles, and younger students can be assigned smaller roles. Of course, this may be more from the reading ability rather than age - or in any other manner you desire. Children that are experienced might have a couple of roles.

Then we listen to a play in original language by professionals, or watch the play on a video (again in original language.) If we are lucky, we will watch a live performance. (In fact, we will change the family rotation if we know there will be an opportunity for a live performance.)

Optionally, we will occasionally pick out a scene or two to memorize and/or act out. If you are involved in a homeschooling co-op doing shakespeare, you could even be ambitious enough to do a whole play. If you do that, however, you may want to scale back a bit on some of the other subjects, or move some of the work from other subjects to another term.

In the high-school years, we add another play for the students to read on their own.

In the earlier years, I don't expect the students to understand everything they read in shakespeare - but they will get a lot, and their understanding will grow.

I hope this has helped!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shakespeare Rotation

Shakespeare provides students with good classical tales. The language can be challenging, but the works are entertaining and well worth the effort. A lot of cultural information is contained in the plays as well. Who doesn't understand the reference to Juliet on the balcony? Doesn't it mean even more having read the play?

Shakespeare can be done as a family, with different students reading different roles. Some scenes can even be memorized. If you are very motivated, you can form a co-op with other homeschooling families and do a full production of a play.

Students in the very years are not ready for the complex literature of Shakespeare directly, so we use "Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare" by Edith Nesbit. After Year 4, Shakespeare is read directly.

Years 1-3 (Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare)

2 stories are read per term

Rotation 1:
  • Midsummer Night's Dream
  • The Tempest
  • As You Like It
  • The Winter's Tale
  • King Lear
  • Twelfth Night
Rotation 2:
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • All's Well that Ends Well
  • Cymberline
  • MacBeth
  • The Comedy of Errors
Rotation 3:
  • The Merchent of Venice
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Measure for Measure
  • Much Ado about Nothing
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Years 4-12

Ambleside Online does 3 Shakespeare plays a year (1 per term). However, because of some of the other items used at Maple Hill Academy that are not used in AO, we will be doing 1 play a year. As I graduated from high school having done a total of 3 shakespeare plays in school (plus 2 that I read on my own) - I do not feel bad having my children *only* study 9.

I am not going to provide a list of plays to study here. Select plays that interest you... I do recommend seeing if any will be performed in your area and selecting one of those.

Why German

One might ask why Maple Hill Academy starts with German for our first foreign language, instead of French, which is our other national language, or some other language, like Spanish, or even Japanese.

I did debate for a while which language I would like my children to know. I found this to be a bit of a personal choice for our family.

The main options we looked at was:

French: A very good choice as it is our other national language. There are a lot of resources available (including in our neighbourhood library). Many of our movies have a French soundtrack and we have a couple of French TV channels. There is a french community where we live. And with it being an official language, knowing it can be very important in some careers. Both Mike and I know a bit of it. However, I grew to hate French in school and neither of us are fluent. I didn't enjoy the thought of doing French - although we will in later years.

ASL: I considered American Sign Language, as I took a number of courses years ago. In fact, I used ASL baby signs with my children, and they have taken some ASL based sign classes for pre-schoolers. They do enjoy it, and they do know a lot of words. It is helpful at unexpected moments. However, ASL can be an inconvenient language at times. And as it has no written component, it is somewhat limited for education. I do plan to informally keep them using ASL however, as there are times when it CAN be very convenient (when silence is important), and it is enjoyable.

Spanish: We also considered Spanish as an option, as there are quite a few Spanish speaking people in our church that we could use as a resource. With the number of Spanish speaking people in the United States, it could be very beneficial to know it. Some of our movies have Spanish soundtracks. However, no one in the family currently speaks Spanish, so it would be a big learning curve.

German: The main consideration for German is that Mike lived in Germany for several years, and is fairly fluent. (Although admittedly not with child topics). There is a German community here. Mike has an attachment to the language. So although I do not know German, it still seems like the best choice.

We are using the Powerglide course for Children for German mainly because I was given it. I have a hard time arguing with free! Delta has done a couple of the lessons as a trial, and seems to have remembered a bit. This course will not be all encompasing, but it is a good start.
Update - Powerglide did not work well for us, and it took a lot of looking to find something that is working for us. We are now using "First Steps auf Deutch" and it is a much better fit, with short (15min) lessons. Find the link in the (new) Year 1 schedule.

About Charlotte Mason

Information about Charlotte Mason is easily available by doing a search on the internet. But here is at least some of what I understand about her and her methods.

Charlotte Mason was born in 1842 in England. She grew up to be an educator, and did a lot to revolutionize education in England. She had schools following her methods, but she also provided information for people that were teaching their children at home in a type of correspondance school.

She wrote 6 books about Education, which are available here.

Whenever I read Anne of Green Gables, or watch the movie (with Megan Follows), I am reminded of Charlotte Mason's methods as would be seen in the classroom. Of course, I'm talking about the part where Miss Stacey is the teacher - having the class out on nature walks, reading interesting plays, doing exercises outside, and other enlightened learning activities.

It is hard to do a decent summary of the Charlotte Mason (CM) methods in just a few words. There is so much "meat" to it.

CM involves keeping the lesson period very short. For the first years, say about 1-3, most lessons should be about 5 to 10 minutes. 15 minutes on the outside. A lot can be accomplished when the student has his attention to the subject at hand. Daydreaming and inattention, which occurs when lessons are longer, just waste the time of both student and teacher. I have also seen the advantage of stopping a lesson while the student still wants to do it - it makes them eager to tackle the same subject the next day. Working on a subject until the student no longer wants to do it causes them to not want to start it up again the next day.

CM feels that students should learn from "living books". For literature, that would mean good literature (mostly classical, as the classics have proven their worth). We are talking about the type of book that you don't want to put down. "Twaddle" should be avoided - that is the type of books that talk down to children, or provide no challenge in reading. Subjects like History and Science should be approached with living books too. Either books written during the time - or written by someone with a passion for the subject. Textbooks should generally be avoided (although there may be some better textbooks today than in CM's time.)

CM felt that math should be "hands-on" in the earlier years, and I believe that she would agree that understanding how math works, and what you would use it for would be very important instead of memorizing math rules by rote.

Handicrafts should be useful, or of a quality to be kept (for art) - instead of the paper crafts that are destined for the garbage within a few days. (after discussion, a number of people following the CM method do feel that some of the work that a year 0 student would be doing would be a pre-handicraft practice.... learning to cut, draw, etc.) Things like knitting, sewing, wood-work, needlecraft, weaving, etc can be learned a lot younger than we tend to think. (My mom, for example, started knitting at the age of 3....)

Students should put forth their best efforts at all time - striving for excellent. It is better to get 3 or 4 perfect strokes (in handwriting practice), than lines and lines of illformed ones. Remember that this is easier with the short lessons!

Children should have a lot of time outside in nature. In today's world, this needs to be scheduled in. This is especially important with Year 0 children, but is still important even with older children. I personally feel that this is even more important for us to plan as the habits of our society have changed in this area. Even when I was a child, many of my days were spent outside playing with other friends. In my parents time, children spent almost all their free time outside. Today it seems rare for children to play outside at all.

For raising children, it is important to instill good habits. Habit training can become a habit with the mother. The better habits you have given your children, the easier time you will have as a parent. If you find that you keep having to tell your children over and over to do something, then there is a habit that you wish them to have that you have not trained them to have. I must admit that this is an area on which I need more work!

I am sure there is a lot I have forgotten to mention. There is a lot to consider. However, I do feel that working on implementing these methods help make the homeschool an enjoyable place, and a place where children love to learn!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

High Tech Learn-to-Read Tool

So, what if I told you that there was a high-tech device that could help teach your child to read - and that you probably already have it in the house?

This tool is - the dreaded TV.

Ok, I do limit the amount of TV watching that my children do. There are definate rules that they follow, and I do restrict the amount of watching. I also am very choosy about the shows that they watch.

That said, they do occasionally get to watch TV. I add just that little bit to the educational value of the TV by turning on the Closed Captioning. Almost all modern TV's, VCR's, DVD players, etc have a means to turn on the Closed Captioning - the words that appear on the bottom of the screen to tell deaf people what is being said. This makes the TV similar to listening to a book they are "reading" on a CD or MP3 player.

To increase the learning, once your children are starting to read a bit, let them watch a show with the volume off but the Closed Captioning turned on.

I had read a book that mentioned how almost all the children in one city in Europe were almost all fluent readers when they started school, because all their TV was in another language, with subtitles in their language. To watch TV, they either had to get very good at reading, or become very good at the other language.

I wouldn't say that this should ever be your only reading instruction - but that if your children are going to get to watch a TV show anyway, they may as well benefit that extra little bit.

Paper "Fireworks"

I hope all the Canadians had a good Canada Day yesterday, and I wish all our American friends a happy 4th of July in a couple of days.

I have a simple craft that my children and I have done the last couple of years - we made paper fireworks. It isn't a true lasting handi-craft, but I think it is worthwhile as it is something that they do get to use, if only for a day...

You will need (for each one):
  • 2 straws - of DIFFERENT diameters. (see test below)
  • paper
  • tape
Test straws - Take the 2 straws, and put the smaller one inside the larger one. put the big straw in your mouth, and blow a quick blast of air (pointing upwards) - the small straw should shoot up into the air. If this doesn't work, you will need to find a different combination of straws.

  1. Trim the smaller straw if it is longer than the bigger diameter straw - if it is poking out the bottom when done, younger children will tend to blow on it instead of the bigger straw.
  2. take a small piece of paper and cut a fringe in it by making parallel cuts up to, but not quite to the edge. You only need a couple of cm of paper (an inch or so.) (Note that if you have too much paper on the straw, it will not shoot into the air very well.)
  3. Roll the paper on the small diameter straw so the fringe is hanging off the end - tape to the straw. bend out the fringe in various angles.
To Use: Put the small straw inside the bigger straw, so the fringe (fireworks) is poking out the top. Blow quickly on the bottom of the bigger straw, and the fireworks will shoot up out of the straw and fall to the ground.

Note that with smaller children, there will tend to be some spit in their blowing, so after a while it doesn't work anymore. I don't have an immediate sollution - I think it works ok again once it all dries out - but that is usually after the need to use the fireworks is over. You may want to make a few of these for them.