Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Exams: A Celebration of Studies

 


We split our year into 3 terms, each being 12 weeks in length. We have 11 weeks of regular studied in those weeks, with the final being our exam week. We love exam week! It is a celebration of all that we have learned and studied in our term, and our school days are shorter than typical. 

I'd like to share how we do exams, but before doing so, I wanted to share the purpose of exams. Exams for us are not for the purpose of giving grades. I don't assign grades to these exams. Rather, the purpose is to give me, their educator and teacher, an idea of how they are doing. I get an idea of where we may need to spend more time or where I may need to consider teaching in a different way or with a different book.

I largely follow the Charlotte Mason method, and I mostly follow her guidelines for exams as well. I will share links for resources at the bottom of this post, but before that, I will give a rough guide on how I write our own exams.

Instructions for Writing your own Exams:

1. I begin by looking at each subject we covered in the term, whether extensively or briefly. I make a list of each of these subjects.

2. If it's a subject we cover every day, we have a question on two different days, so I add that subject in twice. If it's a subject we cover several different aspects (such as in natural history, we have two different books- one more animal based and one more biome based... and in literature, we have two different books we go through at once), then I also add that subject twice to have two different subjects. And recitation, we sometimes have listed 3 times so that my kids can recite all of the works they've practiced every week.

3. We typically do exams in 4 days, though we can even do them in 3 days if needed. I split the different subjects between the 4 days, making sure that we never cover the same subject twice in one day.

4. Those are the basics! But to be more detailed, you can type your exams up in a packet, with lines ready for writing, maps needed included, etc. You can save your recitation and singing work for when Dad or Grandma or friends are around, and your kids can recite and sing for them. Or you can video record them, so they can watch it later or send it to someone! 

5. With multiple kids that I'm homeschooling, I try to keep many of their exam questions the same, if they are studying the same thing. Some subjects obviously call for different questions, though, and my older daughter has subjects that my younger daughter doesn't. I have a kindergartner who does some school work, but we do not start exams until first grade. When my kids are younger, their exams are primarily done orally (they answer the questions aloud). As they get older, they will have more and more exam questions that they write out.


For Examples and more Information:

* You can look at actual PNEU Programme exams, like Programme 95 here. The PNEU (Parent's National Educational Union)  was Charlotte Mason's parent organization, and she would send out programmes (curriculum) along with exams to all of them. You can go to worldcat.org and type "Charlotte Mason exams" or "cmdc exams" into their search database and find more examples if you're extra nerdy like me.

* Ambleside Online has exam questions for all of their years and terms here. These are geared toward their curriculum, but you can use the questions as a guide for you own homeschool.

*A Delectable Education has a podcast on exams that is informative that you can listen to here.

* A Delectable Education has an exam planner that you can buy for $20 here.

* Ambleside Online has a page that discusses exams here.


Notes and Disclaimers: I live in a state that doesn't require state testing or for grades to be turned in. It is one of the easiest states to homeschool in. If you live in a state that does require these things, you could still do exams like this for your own homeschool adventure enjoyment, or you could tweak these to make them fit your state's requirements. 

Of course, this is what works for our family. If you prefer not to do exams or if you have a way that works better for your family, then by all means, do what works for you and yours!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How I've Widened my Circle and Challenged my Stereotypes



One of the quotes that struck me most as a child was, "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes." I have specific memories of sitting in my fourth grade classroom thinking on it.

Then recently I read this quote from Justin McRoberts:


I think it's crucial to move past "us vs. them" thinking and to find the humanity in all people.

I've spent a lot of time this past year listening. I've had some of my core worldview, my deeply held beliefs, challenged as I learned to really listen... and believe what others told me. My worldview didn't change overnight, but in time it has as I continue to challenge myself to widen my circle. I haven't arrived, but I continue on this journey of finding and listening to voices different from my own.

Fighting the "us vs. them" mentality and prioritizing knowing people and viewpoints different from our own not only gives us a greater understanding of humanity, but it also gives us more compassion and distills fears. I can't emphasize enough how important I think it is that we invest in this endeavor.

This journey of understanding and widening my circle has included numerous avenues. 

1. READ/WATCH
I think the easiest and least intimidating avenue is to learn through books. While books are my favorite way to learn, this can include other resources such as documentaries, YouTube videos, and articles. Choose thorough resources, and when something feels foreign or especially challenging, keep pushing yourself to lean in.

For books, I think we can have our worldview challenged through both nonfiction and fiction books. Three of the main topics I have challenged myself in this year are racism, American history from the Indigenous perspective, and immigration. That means I have leaned into reading books by Black people, Indigenous Peoples, and immigrants. 

I learned a lot by reading two non-fiction books by Black writers: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi and I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.
I also loved learning about immigration through After the Last Border by Jessica Goudeau.

While I have read great non-fiction regarding Indigenous People's history in America, my favorite books that have been most impactful have been fiction: The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich.
There's a level of emotional connection that I think especially comes through fiction books, and I will always believe in the power of story.

Biographies are also so important! Two I love this year are I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass.

Beyond books, I was especially challenged this year by watching the movie "Just Mercy" (on the true story of a Black man put on death row for a crime he didn't commit), the documentary "13th" (on mass incarceration), "When Will They See Us" (on the true story of 5 boys wrongfully accused of gang-raping a woman), and “The Two Popes” (I’m ashamed how little I still know of Catholicism!)




2. FOLLOW
What an age we live in with the Internet! The world is at our fingertips. One thing I realized a year ago is that everyone I followed on social media was basically just like me. Primarily white, middle class, American, and Christian. A lot of homeschoolers and farmhouse dwellers. 

On instagram, I started following Black and Indigenous men and women, and one of the homeschooling mamas that I cherish most is a Black mama who I've learned so much from. I began following a homeschool mom who is a Muslim, and also a fashion designer and activist Muslim woman. I followed accounts on IG and Facebook that share multi-cultural books. 

On Facebook, I began following a local Black Lives Matter group as well as several people involved in the protests. Nobody in my circles were at or involved in the protests, so I really could only know and understand one side. Following these people (and meeting a few) helped give me an honest inside view of what was going on from their angle, as well as what their interests and passions are beyond being a protestor, and I was able to see them as a fellow human and not just a statistic or a stereotype.

I also follow blogs and articles that push me to consider viewpoints different from my own. 


3. BEFRIEND
I think the ultimate challenge to our worldview comes when we befriend people who are different from us. Not just an acquaintance. True friendships. In most ways, I think I'm still in the beginning stages of forming true friendships with people who are different from me. I think this is easier for some people than others. For instance, I live in rural Indiana, so I have to drive to the city to really interact with people different from me. 

This summer, I found a local organization called FIRM (Fighting Inequality and Racial Matters), and I was able to join this group for a bike ride and walk that allowed me to meet and hear from people different from myself. This certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I joined the group on my own, so I didn't know anyone the first time I went. Getting to know people different from ourselves won't be comfortable. It will challenge us to our core. 

Some of the local protestors, in a desire to share with the community that they are much more than just protestors, held a 4th of July fun event for kids at a park, and I was able to take my kids and meet them. I found out the main host of the event was just 18, and she had put in a lot of time to host such a thoughtful event for kids when she wasn't even a parent herself. 

More recently, I have begun volunteering with Food Not Bombs and, through this, have not only been able to spend more time with people who live in the city but also with homeless people and other people who are in a different class than myself. 


Dear friends, challenge yourselves. Challenge your stereotypes. Challenge your worldview. Widen your circle.

I know most who follow my blog are like me, so let me challenge you:
- If you are white, and most of your friends are white, ask yourself why and consider how you can change that.
-If you are middle class, and most of your friends are middle class, ask yourself why and consider ways you can know the lower class (nearly 1/3 of Americans are in the lower class).
-If you are Christian, and most of your friends are Christian, ask yourself why and consider ways you can get to know people of other religions.
-If you live in rural or suburban areas, and most of your friends also do, ask yourself why and consider ways you can come to know people who live in the city.

I have been changed as I ask myself these questions and pursue knowing people different from myself. A couple of years ago, I had no framework to understand some of the things that people said, did, and believed... just a lot of opinions of why they said, did, and believed those things. From personal experience, I will adamantly state that if you only know people like yourself, then your opinions of those different from you are inadequate and not fully informed. I can't say that I have arrived in understanding people, and I know with certainty that I never will, but it is a path that I will continue to pursue.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Homeschool: Grade 4, Term 1 (2020-2021)

 It's hard to believe I have a 4th grader, but I also LOVE having a 4th grader! We have so many great conversations, and I love seeing her become such a deep and individual thinker.


This year, Sophie began Form 2, which basically just means we lengthened time in some subjects, she has become a bit more independent in some subjects, and we've added a few new subjects. Here are the subjects we cover in a term:

Bible
Poetry
Math 
Reading
Copywork
Dictation
Grammar
American History
British History
Citizenship
Geography
Natural History
Literature
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation
Spanish
Singing
Recitation
Drawing
Handicrafts/work

We use the scheduling cards from A Delectable Education to schedule each of these subjects into our week, some being just once a week, and some being every day, some being 10 minutes, and some being 30.


Here is what we feasted on in Term 3:

Bible: We read from the actual Bible text, and we are read through Genesis and Acts this term. We read Genesis 1-13 and Acts 1-4. We read roughly 10-20 verses a day, seeking to cover one whole "episode" but not (typically) an entire chapter in a day. 

Poetry: We choose one poet to focus on each term, and for term one, we focused on Effie Lee Newsome. We used the book Wonders which is a compilation of her poetry for children. We read poetry every day, so we also read from A Child’s Book of Poems and Mother Goose by Gyo Fujikawa. 

MathWe love Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic. Book 3 is finally out, and it does not disappoint! Because we beta tested it, we already had a good head start on it before it was published, and we were able to finish it this term.We covered measurement of length, liquid measurement, and ended with multiplication and division review. I'm really impressed how much her knowledge of factors has grown, and she has committed multiplication facts to memory without it ever being forced!

ReadingWe no longer have a specific time for this in our school day. She reads on her own time, though. 

CopyworkFor copywork, Sophie typically copies two lines of poetry or from a book. The goal is to visualize each word before writing it so that she can write the whole word from memory. This helps her learn to not only be a good writer but also a good speller!

Dictation: Sophie also has started dictation- where she looks at a short passage for a few minutes, to make sure she knows all of the words, and then I read it and she writes it out, ensuring to have correct spelling and punctuation. 

Grammar: We started formal grammar this year! We are using First Grammar Lessons by Charlotte Mason which are free through Charlotte Mason Poetry.

American History: This year, we are covering American history from 1800-1900. I am using A Young People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn as our spine for the term. We are using Heart and Soul alongside it. For biography and fiction supplements, we used the following books:
Sisters Against Slavery by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner
- Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
- Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornellisen
Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost 

British History: We started British History this year and are really enjoying it! We are using The Story of Britain as our spine, and we also read The Story of Napoleon for a biography.

Citizenship: We will mostly use Stories from the History of Rome as our spine this year for this subject, but with the presidential election, I also wanted to spend time on it, so we read Electing our Presidents.

GeographyWe are studying South America this year. We used In the Land of the Jaguar: South America and its People by Gena Gorrell, and I really like this book. We learned about (and identified on a map) Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, as well as the Panama Canal. Along with this, we read The Great Snake by Sean Taylor and Fernando Vilela, which is a story of fun folk stories from the Amazon River.

Natural History: 
Book 1: We now have one day where we use Sabbath Mood Homeschool's science curriculum. This term, we used her Astonomy guide. This curriculum is excellent and really got us interested in the night sky! It was a bonus that Mars was so close to earth.
Book 2: We read about marshes and valleys in Madam How and Lady Why. My girls didn't love this book.
Special Studies Books: 
Our special study was tiny creatures, and we did something different and used technology. They watched Netflix's Tiny Creatures series, virtually visiting a different animal each week.
We also read Buster Bear for fun.

Literature: This term we read In The Days of Giants (Norse mythology). We also read fairy tales, which we always love to revisit. And we always have nightly read alouds. 

Physical Education (Drill/Dance/Play): We didn't do anything formal this term- just outside stuff like riding bikes, running around, and trail walks. 

Music AppreciationWe switched it up this term and studied The Beatles. We read a fun book about them called Fab Four Friends. We listened to "I Want to Hold your Hand," "The Yellow Submarine," "Great Balls of Fire," "Here Comes the Sun," and "Twist and Shout."

Art AppreciationWe studied Pablita Velarde. We printed the paintings off on a friend's industrial printer so that my kids each have their own set. We studied "The Adoration," "Winter Hunt," "First Twins," "Old Father Storyteller," "Deer Dancer," "The Turtle Dance," and an untitled piece.

Spanish: We did not excel in Spanish this term, but we did get a little in. We worked on introductions and greetings (as we've added in some younger kiddos), we watched a few Spanish videos, and we read Mis Cinco Sentidos and Abuela.If I've failed my kids in every other way with teaching them Spanish, they can at least say Hola Abuela, as they do often while playing.

SingingWe learned and sang the following songs over the term:
- "Get on Board: The Gospel Train"
- "Polly Wolly Doodle"

RecitationWe do recitation three times a week. The purpose of recitation is not memorization (though, that often happens over the term!); the purpose is to be able to read something beautifully. Sometimes we each read a line and share the recitation, and sometimes Sophie does it all on her own. This term, we did the following: 
- Benediction: May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you...
- Verses: Luke 1:47-55; Psalm 145:8-9; Isaiah 61:1-3
- Poems: Effie Lee Newsome's "The Golden Garden Spider" and "Young Birds' Mouths" (Brielle, grade 2, learned "Strange," and "Flakes and Drops.")

Drawing: We didn't do a lot of drawing this term, but when we did, we didn't follow a particular curriculum.

Handicrafts/WorkWe didn't learn any new handcrafts but did visit a few old handcrafts.


Brielle is in 2nd grade, and pictured below are the books we used with her. If you want more details of what we did in 2nd grade (with Sophie), you can go to my Homeschooling tab.






Sunday, July 26, 2020

2020-2021 School Year Plans

I never do a big write-up about our school year at the beginning of the school year because it's just not my style. Some people love to plan every minute of their year ahead of time- I am not that homeschool mama. 

Instead, I prefer to have a rough outline plan- I've wrote in depth about how I plan my school year on this post.

We plan to start our school year in two weeks, and I'm finishing up preparing. I wanted to share with you a few of the books and resources I have planned for this year. 


These are the books I have planned for my fourth grader for this year. My second grader will also go through many of these with us, though a few of her literature and geography books are different. My third daughter turned 6 this summer, and she will also begin to join in on some things with us. The books below include poetry, natural history, citizenship, literature, history, Spanish, and geography. We will also begin British history this year- that book isn't pictured, but we plan to use The Story of Britain by Patrick Dillon.


For math, we will continue to use Simply Charlotte Mason's Elementary Arithmetic series. My 2nd grader will finish up book 1 and move to book 2 this year. I will start doing book 1 with my 6 year old. And thankfully we got to be beta testers for the 3rd book, and I will finish that up this year with my 4th grader (the 3rd book is set to come out by the end of this year).


I got our artist prints for the year printed off last week. I am so excited about who we will be studying - Pablita Velarde, Horace Pippin, and Jean-Francois Millet.


I'm doing something a little different this year, and I ordered Handwriting Without Tears books for writing. In the past I have always just used blank lined paper, appropriately sized for their ages, and then have given them lines to copy from poems and books. I wanted to intentionally teach cursive this year and felt better equipped with a book, and I ordered Printing Power for my 6 year old. We never do workbooks, so they're excited about these books, haha!


I wanted to give you a bit of a look inside my brain. The sheet of paper on the left has my ideas for artists, poets, and composers for the year. I always like to have an idea ahead of time of who we will study each term. Occasionally I this changes, but usually I stick to the plan.

The second sheet of paper will show you my history planning process. I always take the book I plan to use as a spine for the year (this year it is A People's History of the United States for Young People by Zinn)- and I comb through it, figuring out where I want to have biographies (or historical fiction) placed and which ones I want to use. This gives me a rough outline for the year that we will follow. I don't plan ahead to cover a certain book on a certain day or a certain amount of pages a day- I just have our plan of what books and in what order I want to cover.


For geography we plan to cover South America this year and do a deep dive into that continent with books, maps, and youtube videos.

I still have a few things left to figure out and organize for the school year, but as someone who never has an exact plan, I am feeling almost ready! I love our summer break so much but find that when it's time to start the new school year, we are all ready and excited!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Homeschool: Grade 3, Term 3 (2019-2020)

In the Charlotte Mason world, I call the "grade" Sophie is in "Form 1A." But in trusty American talk, she is in third grade. This was our second term for third grade.

  
As mentioned in this post, these are the subjects we cover in a term:

Bible
Poetry
Math 
Reading
Copywork
History
Geography
Natural History
Literature
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation
Spanish
Singing
Recitation
Drawing
Handicrafts/work

We use the scheduling cards from A Delectable Education to schedule each of these subjects into our week, some being just once a week, and some being every day, some being 10 minutes, and some being 20.


Here is what we feasted on in Term 3:

Bible: We read from the actual Bible text, and we are reading through Joshua/Judges and Luke this year. We finished our Judges reading and read Luke 13-18. We read roughly 10-20 verses a day, seeking to cover one whole "episode" but not (typically) an entire chapter in a day. 

Poetry: We choose one poet to focus on each term, and for term three, we focused on Langston Hughes. We read A.A. Milne's The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh. We read poetry every day, so we also read from A Child’s Book of Poems and Mother Goose by Gyo Fujikawa. I hadn't planned to read from A.A. Milne this term (we covered him two years ago with Sophie), but the girls pulled it out one day and loved it, and as a rule in our house, we roll with things we love!

Math: We love Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic. Unfortunately, book 3 is not out yet, but we were given the opportunity to beta test book 3. It is wonderful and I hope will be available to everyone soon. We covered short division and began small long division problems. We continued practice with multiplication. And we covered time and the clock as well as months and days of the year.

Reading: We no longer have a specific time for this in our school day. She reads on her own time, though. 

Copywork: For copywork, Sophie typically copies two lines of poetry or from a book. The goal is to visualize each word before writing it so that she can write the whole word from memory. This helps her learn to not only be a good writer but also a good speller! Sophie also has started dictation- where she looks at a short passage for a few minutes, to make sure she knows all of the words, and then I read it and she writes it out, ensuring to have correct spelling and punctuation. 

History: This year, we are covering American history from 1700-1800. I used A New Nation by Betsy Maestro as our spine for the term. For biography supplements, we used the following books:
- Many Thousand Gone by Virginia Hamilton
- Mumbet's Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle
- Paul Revere's Midnight Ride by Stephen Krensky 
For historical fiction, we read Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Geography: We studied Canada this term. We used an old 1961 textbook called The American Continents. Old textbooks aren't typically great for geography, but I simply cannot find any great new books for children. Older books discussed more than just the land- they also talk about resources and the people and jobs. So I just updated where I needed to, such as population counts or new industrialization. We looked at the map and took time pointing out different locations. Along with studying Canada, we read and learned about Niagara Falls. We read Crossing Niagara by Matt Tavares.

Natural History: For Natural History, I choose two books that we will spend the whole term using, and then we have a special studies topic for the term (and sometimes two special studies), and I choose several books to cover that topic.
Book 1: A Day and Night in a Forest by Mary Adrian 
Book 2: A Walk in the Tundra by Rebecca Johnson
Special Studies Books: 
Our special study was dinosaurs! I wanted to use a book that Sophie could read herself as next year she will start doing more studies on her own, so we used Finding the First T. Rex by Kathleen Weidler Zoehfeld 

Literature: We have two days of literature.
Day 1: We read Legends of the Iroquois by Tehanetorens. We love this book!
Day 2: Mythology- We finished Tales of Troy and Greece by Andrew Lang. This is a retelling of The Odyssey. We loved this book. Upon completion, Sophie joined in with Brielle's literature time where we read fairy tales.

Physical Education (Drill/Dance/Play): We did some swedish drill, some exercises, some Cosmic Kids yoga, and a lot of free play.

Music Appreciation: We studied Hildegard de Bingen this term. Sophie wanted to study a woman composer. We read Hildegard of Bingen by Demi. We listened to Ordo Virtutum, O dulcis Divinitis, De Spiritu Sancto, O pastor Animarum, O virtis sapientie, and Ava Maria.

Art Appreciation: We studied Jan Vermeer. We again used the artist packets from Simply Charlotte Mason... they are great! The picture quality is incredible, and I love that they come with information on the artist and each picture. We studied The Geographer, The Art of Painting, View of Delft, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, View of Houses on Delft, A Woman Holding a Balance, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and The Milkmaid.

Spanish: We mostly used Little Pim this term. You can find their videos for free on Youtube.

Singing: We learned and sang the following songs over the term:
- "We are the World" (with motions)
- "Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Recitation: We do recitation three times a week. The purpose of recitation is not memorization (though, that often happens over the term!); the purpose is to be able to read something beautifully. Sometimes we each read a line and share the recitation, and sometimes Sophie does it all on her own. This term, we did the following:
- The Declaration of Independence 
- Verses: Numbers 6:24-26, Luke 11:33-36, Luke 12:22-34
- Poems: Oliver Herford's "The Elf and the Dormouse," "Foreign Kittens," and "The Milk Jug" (Brielle, grade 1, learned "A Thought," "Song," and "I Heard a Bird Sing.")

Drawing: This term, we mostly veered away from using this time as Charlotte Mason would have. I was influenced by Waldorf pedagogy this year and began keeping a book for each of them where they can color and paint the things they are learning in literature. Sophie has one for Tales of Troy and Greece and Narnia and Brielle has one for fables and fairy tales. We loved ending the year with these treasures!

Handicrafts/Work: We didn't learn any new handcrafts but worked on some we had already learned, such as embroidery, sewing, hand-sewing, paper folding, and baking. They also learned string art.





Brielle is in first grade this year. While we didn't do everything the same as we did with big sister Sophie, we have a general same outline. As I learn and grow as both a person and as an educator, I find better books or different ways of teaching things... sometimes because of a better grasp on the way Charlotte Mason actually taught the subject and sometimes because I'm dipping into other pedagogies that have beautiful insight as well. Brielle is a different person than her big sister too, and I keep that in mind. However, I'm not going to write out all that we did since I have already blogged before about year 1. You can look at the pictures below to see what books we used (sometimes only parts of the books... it looks like a huge stack, I know!). And you can click on this link to read the full posts of what I have done in past years/terms with Sophie: Homeschool Archives.